Despite Despair are a Utah-based hardcore band with a distinct metallic edge and deep existentialist themes, residing within their lyrics.
Despite Despair may have been around for ten years already but it wasn’t until 2016’s GEIST when they’ve truly mastered their sound and created a beautifully orchestrated record that’s powerful, melodic, dark, and thoughtful at the same time. It seems that the band has taken a serious amount of time to put their creative talents in such a good use. Ten solid hardcore bangers that defy genre norms while maintaining a constant sense of urgency and desperation are packed between the instrumental intro and outro tracks. In its entirety, GEIST is a mature record that possesses great dynamics and guarantees you’ll be exploring new bits of interesting music and ideas in each new spin.
Another great feature on the album are Brett Barett’s vocals. They hugely vary from song to song in an unusual way for a hardcore record. It’s surprising to have such a variety in a genre which already has become so standardised in terms of the ways singers do their job. What’s even more amazing is that Brett performed these vocals for the first time since the band’s creation, while also playing most of the guitars, the drums and even wrote the lyrics in GEIST.
Lyricwise, GEIST revolves around existentialist topics inspired by the immense weight of our brutal world, filled with an all-encompassing social isolation, pain and despair. Forget about simply absorbing certain opinions and not questioning it any further. GEIST is a daring attempt to engage the listener to question socially imposed dogmas while also exploring your own vulnerabilities and fucked up life choices. Instead of going insane or embracing the most reactionary type of nihilist attitude, GEIST offers a path to transformation. It’s about the desperate search for meaning and purpose in an otherwise lackadaisical world.
In that sense, recently I came to a great interview with Maïa Stepenberg about her unique comparative study on Nietzsche and Dostoevsky’s attitudes toward nihilism.
“I’d like to add that there is something undeniably hideous about the way the world is turning: something deeply wrong and sick in our failure to inculcate true values, support living institutions, nourish each other in true fellowship. There is so much that is wrong in the world today that no one can fail to recognize it. The question is, can anyone still feel enough love or energy to change it? For the flip side of nihilism is always apathy and despair.” ~ Maïa Stepenberg
Whether it’s about Nietzsche and Dostoevsky’s contribution to philosophy or contemporary art expressions of any kind, we need to place the recurring themes of reactionary nihilism and enduring a lifetime of violence and despair at the forefront of any current political and social struggles. And this is just what talented illustrator and Despite Despair’s guitarist Derek Ballard is doing at the moment besides playing with the band.
Derek Ballard and Brighton Ballard (at Neuer Geist studio, the name is no coincidence) have an action based art project called DISARM The Systems of Oppression focusing on immigration and human rights, police brutality, the prison industrial complex, and disarming those in power for the benefit of a more free and just humanity. Their art project is currently on display in Salt Lake City and features works by various artists across a wide range of media. The pinnacle of the exhibition is a brick wall with the names of people whose life was taken away by the border patrols while crossing the US border. For a donation of $10 or greater, a brick is being removed.
It’s been already two years since GEIST was released on Seattle-based hardcore label Panic Records, but they did an excellent job with this painfully underrated record. The USB format is surely an interesting medium to release a record in our digital age, although I would gladly have this on vinyl as well. Despite Despair is a top-notch band!