Twelve Tribes, A Hardcore Metal Band

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A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to interview Twelve Tribes, a hardcore metal band that had just released its most recent album at the time. It is impossible to know what to anticipate from an interview, particularly from a band with the intense hardcore edge that permeates the music of Twelve Tribes. Preparation for such an interview can be as nerve-wracking and fear-inducing as a first experience of the band’s music. But what Twelve Tribes delivers is a sense of humor and a surprisingly friendly feeling of human connection. Or maybe that’s not so surprising after all; their sound may be rough but their message is one of our human interrelatedness.

Coming in to their own during this era when national crises and psychological difficulties rock the minds of people from Albuquerque to Zimbabwe, the Ohio-based progressive hardcore band produces music which reaches in to the soul of this monster of monstrosity and brings it in to the light where it can be grasped and perhaps obliterated. Twelve Tribes’ last, Midwest Panic was released in 2006 but is still current today. It puts its finger on the pulse of the average anxious citizen and demands that the blood there do more than just simmer.

You can love this music or you can hate it, but you can’t listen to it without an opinion. In hardcore fashion, the vocals are a symbiosis of screaming expressions of pain and bursts of melodic relief. The music creates a sound that supports the changes in the vocals. And the lyrics are intended at every turn to catch your attention. But when you rip yourself away from the insistent provocation, what you find there is talented music and a long-reaching message.

At first glance, the title track, with its attacking voice and lines like, “In the war between God and man, we are both in contempt”, can come across as abrasive to all but the greatest purveyors of the progressive hardcore sound. But when stripped of its ability to cause heart-racing fear, the song boils down to a mother’s love for her son and sends the message that we must attend to today’s social issues in order to protect those we love.

Likewise, the violent emotional attack of “The Nine Year Tide” which includes the lines, “you were the archetype of my disgust, yours were the arms that weighted me down”, is merely an expression of the emotional complexities that exist between humans. The music alternates between loud, vibrating chords and growing crescendos of acoustic display to support the song’s core message that feelings between people are fluid.

The band may address major socio-emotional issues, and it may do so in a manner that is intense and causes tremors in the minds of those for whom fear is something best left un-discussed. But the men behind the music embody the same good-intentioned soul as the messages at the foundation of their music. Hardcore music has changed significantly since Twelve Tribes first formed, and the band has changed with the times, constantly pushing themselves to be truly progressive in their approach to both their lyrical content and their musical composition. They surpassed the stage of needing to shock their fans to get attention and learned to instead focus on their own potential for development.

The band doesn’t seem to be active at the moment but they’re a talented group of guys so I wouldn’t be surprised if they emerged again in a new form. That said, their music remains current and cutting edge even though it’s been a few years since their last release. It’s something worth looking into if this is a type of music that appeals to you.

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