“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger/It only makes this misery longer.” This declaration, courtesy of vocalist Andrew Langhans, is what precedes the breakdown on “Tear Me Down,” the opener of Joy’s debut EP, Of Nothing. Flanked by frowning guitar on both sides, the aggression defines the essence of dismantling a hardcore song into its quickest, harshest bursts. “Tear Me Down” is actually the longest song on Of Nothing — a 2016 release which packs a void of feedback and thrash drones into just under 10 minutes — which makes the North Carolina band’s meeting with veteran Between the Buried & Me producer Kris Hilbert all the more surprising. There aren’t prog-rock explorations here, just tailends of burning intensity. On “Shame,” medieval chords serve as the link between a decaying, downtuned rhythm section in 70 seconds. “Lose Myself” punches out a relentless hardcore punk attack, with Kody Masteller’s double-time ride cymbal and tom-tom breaks to match. Even the arrangements that get more room to breathe, like the droning nu-metal flirtations on “Cut to the Nerve,” explode with the same ferocity and urgency. It’s clear that Joy is intent on traveling from A to B on the quickest, most unforgiving path possible — only if their smoldering chords don’t overturn their vehicle before they reach their destination.
Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Joy’s dynamics — whenever most present — aren’t drowned out by the band’s punishingly loud stabs. (The best example of this is on “Cut to the Nerve,” where the rhythm section exposes a more diverse palette so speakers aren’t just violently thrust into madness.) The pressing, cut at 33 1/3, holds virtually no surface noise, so the obscuring of the action here — specifically “Shame” and its quick-firing energy — is moreso the nature of Joy’s unrelenting focus, and not an error in the cutting room.
Inspired by DIY punk’s subversion of standard 7″ packaging, Of Nothing sports a double-sided booklet matching the record’s first-pressing variants: black and pink. The booklet’s inner left repeatedly shows off the EP’s title is grungy sans-serif. Reprinting Langhans’ lyrics here would’ve left the visuals at a considerable advantage; instead what’s printed is a minimal, nostalgic statement.
Of Nothing is available for purchase on 7″ vinyl, CD, and cassette via Blood & Ink Records.