Mil-Spec’s ‘World House’ is a bold, ambitious melodic hardcore debut LP
I was born in 1980, which means I was the right age for all the big underground-breakthrough moments of the ‘90s: Nirvana, Green Day/Offspring, UK club music. Before that, my first love was ’80s rap. The Canadian media being what it was back then, I rarely heard much beyond the pop-crossover commercial stuff like Fresh Prince, Young MC and Tone Loc, but still I was hooked right away because it was so obviously not of my own culture.
That’s what made it fascinating — like getting messages from another planet where people wore cooler clothes and spoke a cooler dialect of English and were more fun-loving and full of life than anyone in my orbit of stiff, laconic, rural white central Canadians. The thing to keep in mind about Canada is that it’s incredibly small and, at the institutional level (government, school, media, etc.), it’s incredibly provincial and insecure. Milan Kundera has this thing about the literary cultures of small nations (which also holds for their musical cultures): “Small nations hold world culture [and especially U.S. culture] in high esteem but feel it to be something alien, a sky above their heads, distant, inaccessible, an ideal reality.”
[...] You’re not allowed to be in the mix, basically, if you come from a little pissant country like Canada. But that has never seemed to apply to Canadian punk and hardcore bands. The good ones — from DOA and SNFU to the Doughboys to Fucked Up and No Warning — didn’t see themselves as obligated to play the navel-gazing hometown-hero game. They sought out and were granted international respect. They’re in the canon. I think a lot of us up here have been inspired by that. “Heroes” wouldn’t be the right word for them, but I definitely see Mil-Spec as trying to follow in the footsteps of those bands.
[Mil-Spec's Matt LaForge for Hard Noise]
Toronto hardcore band Mil-Spec have been on the rise since issuing their first demo in 2016 (and a series of increasingly good EPs/singles since then), and they've just recently released their first full-length, World House (on Lockin' Out Records), which is easily one of the strongest melodic hardcore albums released this year. "We all dream of making a hardcore LP that joins the tiny pantheon of greats," guitarist Matt LaForge told (BrooklynVegan contributor) Fred Pessaro in a recent Hard Noise interview (which is also excerpted above). "We all want to make our White Album or Vol. IV. On that scale, World House is roughly equivalent to an early Local H album. Not bad."
The album includes re-recordings of "When The Fever Broke..." and "Counter Culture" from their 2017 single, alongside six new songs, and it's clear that Mil-Spec approached World House as a complete full-length album, a more ambitious piece of work than their already-great singles/EPs. The album still pulls from a lot of the same influences as their earlier releases (Revolution Summer, Turning Point), but it also pushes Mil-Spec's sound in a few different directions, like on the slower, brooding, '90s-style post-hardcore of "Colony," the bright guitar work and mid-tempo rhythms of the title track, and the hauntingly atmospheric, clean-sung "Parade," which would fit snugly within the emo/art rock crossover movement. It's an album that stretches the definition of hardcore (in a good way) and can't be judged by just one or two songs. It's also so full of raw emotion and great songwriting that it's a thrill to listen to again and again, and it just gets better every time.
Along with the album, the band also put out an 88-page book with lyrics, influences, stories about Power Trip's Riley Gale and Iron Age's Wade Allison, a eulogy to Skip from Turning Point, and more. In that Hard Noise interview, Matt called it "part fanzine, part literary journal, part expanded liner notes for the album, part print podcast." You can pick it up from Shining Life Press.
Stream World House below. Any purchases made on Mil-Spec's Bandcamp "will be donated in perpetuity to Black Lives Matter Toronto and Unist'o'ten Legal Fund."