When I first heard of the band Twitching Tongues, I was 21 years old, living with five other weirdo punks and metalheads in a four-bedroom house with busted AC just outside the capital city of South Carolina. Among my many roommates was a wayward piercing-apprentice from Iowa, and with his help, I’d finally taken the plunge into the deep waters of hardcore punk after spending my formative years more engaged with heavy metal and the bastard crossover subgenres birthed by it’s early union with hardcore, such as thrash, grind, and metalcore.
Thanks to my Iowan friend’s connection to the Midwestern hardcore scene, my other housemates and I were keyed into a tour coming through our neck of the woods headlined by Expire, a Milwaukee-based band who he had recently turned me onto, thanks in no small part to the bleak photo of Robert Johnson gracing the cover of their merciless debut EP, Grim Rhythm (Expire would go onto to greater things, such as their Bridge Nine-issued album Pendulum Swings, which remains one of my favorite modern hardcore albums).
Three other bands were traveling with Expire on this expansive tour, all of them from Central and Southern California. Santa Barbara’s Minus were the co-headliners, and the most notable band at the time apart from Expire. Opening for them were two dark horse bands that I’d never heard of before, Soul Search from SoCal, and a band based out of Los Angeles called Twitching Tongues (weird?).
After several abrupt, last minute venue changes, we found out that the show would be taking place at a VFW hall off the beaten path, but not too far from our place. A metallic hardcore band from Charleston called Medicine Man opened the show, and did a swell job (their members are now in several different, better bands). Their brand of “bleeding edge for it’s time” dark hardcore did not prepare me for what was to come next.
Twitching Tongues took the stage after them, and when they began, I was immediately confused, yet deeply intrigued. At the time, they were touring off their demo and a three-song EP called Insane & Inhumane, which starts slow on most tracks, and includes several that are almost just straight up goth-metal ballads, however, that is only a fraction of the story. The first thought that came to mind was “Wow, this really reminds me of Type O Negative”, a band who I was first shown to by my very goth friend from high school, who was an opponent of the average hardcore punk, more into The Misfits and White Zombie than Minor Threat or Cro-Mags.
Not a single person in the hardcore scene that I’d known at that point had ever mentioned Type O, except maybe my Iowan friend, but then again, he was super into Warren Zevon and lots of other random stuff. The befuddled members of the crowd only confirmed that they’d probably never heard of Type O. I was lucky to have befriended a goth in that regard, because it gave me a point of reference to more properly place the Twitching Tongues palette, therefore making their unique sound much easier to swallow for me. Had I not been introduced to Peter Steele’s raunchy, doomy, gothic punk, I’d probably just wrote Twitching Tongues’ crooning and swooning off as a joke.
I was rapt by the gradual build of their EP’s title track, as echoed clean picking precluded a heavier, patently catchy doom riff accompanied by a grungy, melodramatic type clean-singing that I’d later learn was informed by high school musical theater (which makes perfect sense in retrospect). I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but once the huge, heart-wrenching chorus relented to a sudden gang-vocal mosh call who’s breakdown hit harder than anyone could have ever expected, I knew then that I definitely didn’t hate this band.
I had to respect any band capable of tapping into that sort of aggression without breaking in tone, or sounding as if they just slapped the heaviness on as a random gag. There was a genuine riff beneath that mosh part, and once the singing came back into the mix, I knew that this band had something going for them. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them for the rest of their set, and even though I can’t say that all of their material at the time resonated with me, I knew that I’d keep checking in on them to see where they took their approach.
The rest of the show went well. Soul Search were a bit more conventional but great performers none the less. Minus and Expire followed and incited some friendly violence from the crowd. It was a great night overall. But once I got home, I was still perplexed by Twitching Tongues. We were all talking about them, trying to figure out if they were good, just okay or awful.
Over the course of the next four years, I kept peeping in on Twitching Tongues’ work like I’d planned, and over that time I watched them evolve before my eyes. Each release had more songs that I liked on it, and their sound began to slowly take a more refined shape. Their first full-length Sleep Therapy was comprised of mostly fresh material aside from “Voluntary Confinement”, and the song that made me fall in love with them,“Insane & Inhumane”. Along with excellent re-recordings of the EP’s best songs, a few of the new tracks showed some promising advances, such as the alarmingly named “Astigmatism”.
Once 2012’s In Love There Is No Law came out, it was apparent that Twitching Tongues had really figured out their sound, and were now in the process of mastering it. With some members changes, the band had found cohesion, making their heavy parts heavier and more plentiful, embuing them with as much catchiness and emotion as the “ballad” parts.
The songs got faster and more concise, showing that the band’s members really paid attention to how the crowd responded and to what aspects of their sound. They evolved to be weaponized, growing more aggressive in tone without sacrificing their love of melody and choruses, and never edging in the direction of their more “stylish” contemporaries who similarly attempted to fuse clean vocals and melody with metallic hardcore riffs. Twitching Tongues set themselves apart by avoiding the traps of hyper polish, or trying to become more accessible by means of poppiness, while remaining super catchy none the less.
The first three songs are each distinct but cohesive, and the band takes the listener to all the places they did in their past work without making it seem as if they are being jerked around in a bunch of different directions idea wise. Each song from the opening salvo could stand out as a single, with “World War V” and the later track “Feed Your Disease” becoming popular crowd favorites.
At the core of Twitching Tongues are the Young Brothers, Taylor and Colin, two of the busiest people in the modern hardcore scene. Apart from being the primary vocalist and lyricist of Twitching Tongues, the younger brother Colin plays guitar and does vocals for the obscenely heavy metallic hardcore outfit, God’s Hate. Meanwhile, the elder Taylor, guitarist and songwriter of Twitching Tongues, also does vocals for the equally brutal band Disgrace, while also playing drums for the most infamous powerviolence/grind band in America, Nails. While balancing these three acts, Taylor also manages to be a full-time producer, running his own studio, fittingly named The Pit, where he’s helped engineer, mix, and master some of modern hardcore’s best bands, including Code Orange, Soul Search, Minus, ACXDC, and Rotting Out, just to name a handful.
Following a couple years of touring in, and with various bands, concentrated writing, road testing material, and the release of an excellent live album, World War Live, Twitching Tongues have recently returned to the studio for their third full-length album, Disharmony, which was released in stores on October 30 (close miss on what could’ve been a strong goth move), through the storied Metal Blade Records.
The release of this album has made me very grateful that I’ve stuck it through with Twitching Tongues up to this point, and thanks to Disharmony, I can finally say I’m completely sold. I love Twitching Tongues. The reasons for my prior reservations was no fault of theirs. I just had to figure them out, and Disharmony helped me do that better than any of their prior work. I just didn’t get it, but now I do and I’m sorry it took me so long.
Not only did Colin Young figure out how to bring gritty clean singing back into metal and hardcore in a way that I can actually stomach, but he didn’t let nay-sayers influence his approach, he just got better on his own terms. Similarly with Taylor, taking the band in a heavier direction over time without letting go of his love for moody, infectiously melodic licks, with a finely refined mix of mosh and melodrama.
Sure, it’s theatrical, and over the top, but a lot of great metal is, and has been over the decades. And Twitching Tongues takes it over the top without making it seem like it’s completely tongue in cheek. Maybe a little whimsical, but also sinister, heartbroken, and macabre.
Twitching Tongues is a hardcore band at heart, and their song writing is aimed at eliciting the most aggressive and enthusiastic crowd response possible, but they do this often by means of riffage borrowed from metal and repurposed for the sake of two-stepping and crowdkilling. There are several homages paid to late 80s and early 90s thrash and death metal, as well as groove metal (ala Pantera), a consistent theme in a great deal of the Young brothers’ collective works.
As a whole, Disharmony is easily the heaviest and most “extreme metal”-influenced release by Twitching Tongues, and that sits just fine with me. Guitar solos and circle pit riffs are whipped out with a sneering smirk, every note containing an underlying attitude and aggression aimed outwardly. Mosh parts are unleashed as punishments, designed specifically to conjure violence in live crowds, to drive the listener to demolish whatever room they are in.
Disharmony is a great album in my opinion, but I don’t mean to say it’s somehow perfect. It has a few moments that make me feel disengaged (“Arrival”, the first half of “Cruci-Fiction” before the groove riff), like, in some places they lay the “dad metal” vibes on a little too thick, and the licks are just kinda bland. However, Disharmony did succeed in making me realize that I actually love Twitching Tongues.
They’ve passed the point on this album where I like the majority of the songs on the release, which is rare for full length LPs in my case, and it’s at that point I can say that I’m a fan. But it’s more than that. I’m still fascinated by Twitching Tongues because they still manage to take me off guard, surprise me, and make me headbang to things I didn’t think I’d find myself headbanging to.
I don’t know any other bands really combining the ideas that Twitching Tongues manage to so easily and seamlessly fuse, or playing them in the context that they do (which is important). Disharmony succeeded in teaching me to be patient with Twitching Tongues’ earlier works, to find the glimpses of greatness that eventually culminated in Disharmony, which in turn, is causing me to come to appreciate the slower, goth rock parts that I didn’t really understand before.
I can say that Twitching Tongues is a band that I never thought I’d end up liking as much as I currently do. Even if you’ve never liked them before, I’d still say give Disharmony a listen, because it has the potential to shift your opinion on them. It’s not so much a change in direction as it is an “a-ha” moment where the collective parts finally click and fire on all cylinders consistently and cohesively. Twitching Tongues have managed to drag this many words out of me because they challenge my sensibilities, and I respect that in art and artists, especially when it keeps pulling me in the way they have. If you want to know what it’d sound like Glen Danzig did vocals for Wolverine Blues-era Entombed, and freaking killed it, then check out Twitching Tongues. I know that sounds weird, and that’s why it’s great.
You can catch Twitching Tongues on tour this fall with the industrial-leaning metallic hardcore outfit Harms Way on the Disharmonic Rust 2015 Tour. Dates can be found on their Bandcamp, where you can also stream and buy Disharmony.
Source: Album Art
Emory is a RVA-based writer, hard femme, and heavily-tattooed queer who’s always on the look out for a house show where she might crash the mosh pit and discover her next favorite band. When she’s not over-analyzing pop culture, you can find Emory with her head in the clouds, brain-storming her next creative endeavor, or just staring blankly into space.