Get the Balance Right: Judiciary refuses to compromise when it comes to their craft

Get the Balance Right: Judiciary refuses to compromise when it comes to their craft

- By Ramon Gonzales

The practitioners of Texas heavy detail the timeline of the last four years and how their sophomore record, 'Flesh + Blood' is as much a tribute to patience as it is power.

Over the course of the last decade, the creative pace of Texas powerhouse Judiciary has progressed like a locomotive. Less about speed and spectacle, the band's trajectory relied heavily on consistency, clear focus and a sonic heft intended to land with knockout power from the very start.

Their recorded introduction arrived in 2016 with the The Axis of Equality EP. Instantly resonating with an audience that understood the kinship between hardcore ethos and the combustion of crossover. Judiciary asserted a modernized take on the genre, rooted in their old school pedigree and Texas lineage. A year later, Judiciary found an ally in Canadian hardcore collective Mortality Rate and released a split EP that further endeared the band to the greater heavy music community.

While the band's recorded output was less than prolific, they wisely understood the virtue of patience as practitioners of the craft. Rather than rush the process, the band refined their sound, amping up their metallic intensity on record and emphasizing quality rather than quantity. The result is a body of work that sticks to the agenda set from the very beginning - crush.

It wasn't until 2019 that the band saw it right to make their full length debut - an unconventional move that could be misconstrued as strategy, but was more likely about the band's hesitance to rush their work. Exercising forethought to maximize their potential, Surface Noise saw Judiciary ascend from promising prospects to proven practitioners - a band that had built a brand synonymous with uncompromising sound. Clocking in at all of 27 minutes, the collection asserted a nuanced balance of metal prowess and hardcore conviction that was as much Cro Mags and Integrity as it was Black Breath and Power Trip.

Given Judiciary's pattern and approach, it makes sense that four years would pass before the band would be ready to introduce their sophomore full length. Less about resting on their laurels, the extended stretch allowed the band to sharpen their tools, work through some personnel changes and better engineer the wall of sound that they sought to make from the start.

Flesh + Blood is set to arrive March 10th via Closed Casket Activities, the second full length record from a band that has been diligent for a decade. The 10-track presentation serves well in showcasing the band's blended heritage of hardcore and metal, but more importantly underscores Judiciary's ability to temper their assault. Rather than riding the momentum of Surface Noise, the band had the artistic wherewithal to show restraint, regroup, and better refine their craft, even if it meant taking the extra time to do so. The final result speaks for itself.

Paired with the confirmation of the album, Flesh + Blood, the band has debuted the scorching first single, "Engulfed" and while literal years have passed, Judiciary has seemingly picked up right where they left off. Bassist Kyle Calfin and frontman Jake Collinson detailed the collective headspace poured into the project, the continued merger of hardcore and metal, the kinship with producer Arthur Rizk and how getting the music right has always been more important than getting new music out.

Four years is a relatively long time between albums, but these last four years have likely seemed like an eternity. Was the stretch between albums something deliberate or was the time more a byproduct of circumstance?

Collinson: I would say it was a mix of both. The way our lives and the world changed over the past few years made putting this together a lot longer of a process overall. However, it was deliberate in the sense of trying to get the best possible album that we could front to back. From the meat of the music to the smallest aesthetic detail, we left no stone unturned. We tried our best to not sacrifice quality for the sake of expediency.

Calfin: We’ve never been a band that felt rushed to do anything, and we definitely wanted to do this record on our own terms and timeline, so taking our time was intentional, but COVID definitely created a lot of roadblocks. The world changed, our lives changed, we had lineup changes, and logistical challenges with members out of city/state. I think during this time a lot of people realized the importance of really going for what you want to be doing, and this record reflects that.

The commentary of 'Surface Noise' seemed to foreshadow the kind of conflict that was all too prevalent in 2020. For a band that already operated with a healthy awareness of corporate greed and political posturing, how difficult was it to sit idle while the world went to shit during the pandemic era?

Collinson: I think I shared a similar view to a lot of people during the pandemic: 'This is insane. How do we take care of each other at a time like this?' It also felt like a lot of people were watching the world burn while simultaneously lighting more matches. For good or bad. That’s exactly what the lyrics to the last song on the record “Eschatos Hemera” are about. My viewpoint to what felt like a metaphorical judgement day.

Calfin: It definitely provided a really clear picture of how fucked up things are, but also how important community is. The corruption played out exactly how it always does, finding new ways to profit off tragedy. I think we are going to continue to see the social, mental, and economic impact for a long time. The pandemic definitely put a lot of the corruption front and center and showed that if we don’t lookout for ourselves and loved ones that no one else is going to.

The world has changed plenty in four years. Even moreso, the landscape of heavy music has drastically changed. Genre lines are blurred, division among scenes seems to be less and less. How do you feel about the growing alignment of hardcore and metal?

Collinson: I think that it’s a tide that raises all ships. I feel that the blurring of genre lines allows for more creativity and new ideas to be brought to the table. I love many different genres in the heavy music world. If there are ways to bridge those gaps to expose new music and culture to people, we should be doing it.

Calfin: Most of my favorite metal comes from bands influenced by hardcore, and it’s always been that way. I think the lines being blurred is great and allows bands to grow and expand. I do think it’s important to learn about the roots of where different influence comes from though. I don’t think that’s limited to hardcore or metal, but life in general. I hope people continue to dig and learn more about the stuff they care about or what excites them. That’s more important to me, and that’s what helps keep this thing going.

While there are no shortage of bands championing the old school in their sound, Judiciary has always shown respect for their stylistic predecessors. What are some of the bands that remain foundational to identity of Judiciary - bands that you aspire to be like either in style, substance or both?

Collinson: I personally feel that we have always followed a similar formula of 'past and present metal and hardcore fusion'. In musical style I think it’s a melding of legacy hardcore and metal bands like Slayer, Machine Head, Merauder, Cro-Mags, Sepultura, Celtic Frost, etc. We also draw a lot of music and ethos inspiration from our peers and the Texas bands that came before us like Power Trip, Iron Age, and Bitter End. Aesthetically we pull from many different directions art, film, and design we enjoy which formed the world we wanted people to visualize while listening to Flesh + Blood.

Flesh + Blood by Judiciary

Presumably, the goal for bands is to find a balance between maintaining their creative identity while still scratching that creative itch to progress, evolve as artists. Given that, how has Judiciary grown different from Surface Noise - more importantly, in what ways was it crucial to remain the same?

Collinson: We tried our best to aggressively change while being authentic to what we actually like as people. What we figured out is that even if we try to create something very evolved and different, we will still naturally churn out a Judiciary record that will feel like Judiciary. We created different musical references than past albums, we had different art done that isn’t similar to anything we’ve done before, we changed our logo, etc. Every change we have made has been for the sake of making something that really speaks to us and what formed our tastes of music and art.

Calfin: We definitely tried to put more of our personal influence into this record. We knew it was still going to sound like us no matter how wide we swung so we just tried to draw from what we were actively into. No matter what we pull from though, something we all share is wanting to sound huge. I think that’s always been a goal of ours, more so than trying to be heavy, or fast. We definitely wanted to keep that going on this one, and take it even farther.

You talked about how Riley Gale had long encouraged the band to work specifically with Arthur Rizk. How has his role as producer taken the band to the next level? What do you think Riley saw in terms of the kinship between the band and Rizk and did you think you realized the full potential that prompted Riley’s suggestion?

Collinson: Riley was always a wealth of advice and knowledge for us and helped us a ton when he really didn’t have to. Riley and Arthur worked together several times and I think Riley saw the value that someone like Arthur could bring to a willing and open band like us. Riley always advocated for Arthur's creative mind. That potential that Riley saw between us and Arthur was absolutely realized on this album. He shaped our songs and musical aesthetic into exactly what we wanted. I personally feel that he pushed me to another level vocally. He heard me out when I had an idea and built upon that to make it even better. He also had ideas that completely made some of the songs we did vocally. That was a common theme throughout the entire process with Arthur - constantly giving and taking.

Calfin: Riley just loved bringing people together. He always wanted to shine a light on everyone and put everyone on to everything. Arthur was definitely one of those people. He’s been part of, or involved with some of my favorite records of all time. I think a lot of stuff he’s worked on will stand the test of time and we’re lucky to have been able to do this with him. Arthur is pretty non-conventional and I think that’s a super power of his. Arthur would suggest something that I would never have thought of, or heard, and then we’d do it and it would sound like it was meant to be that way. He has an incredible ear.. No ego, no drama, just the best.

What are the common denominators of Flesh + Blood? You have mentioned how musically the album showcase old school flair with modern energy - but what does that sound like in terms of thematic weight? What motivated the band to find that next level of extremity?

Collinson: We didn’t want to make the same record twice. We wanted to elevate ourselves in every way. The way we found to pull that off was to pull musical inspiration from bands that formed our tastes and mix that with the intensity from the modern hardcore and metal scene. That was the common denominator: mixing older with new. Even production wise we tried to follow that pattern. Arthur’s sound brings out a classic and familiar tone, while Will Putney came in with sharpened and polished modern mixing and mastering that created the hybrid we wanted.

Texas puts on for heavy music in a way that few other regions can make claim to. How important is where you are from to the core of Judiciary? Do you carry a sense of pride in being part of a lineage that includes bands like Iron Age, Creeping Death and Power Trip just to name a few.

Collinson: Judiciary is originally from Lubbock, Texas. We wear that on our sleeves and it’s a huge part of our identity. We had to work hard to get our music out of the middle of the panhandle and we take great pride in that. Part of that process was in part to the supportive Texas hardcore culture. To join the lineage of Texas bands and carry that flag alongside those bands is a huge responsibility and honor.

Calfin: I think being from Lubbock really shaped how we came up. There was a period where we booked almost every single show we played, and in a lot of instances lost money on. Bigger scenes like Dallas or San Antonio felt like totally different worlds compared to Lubbock, and we really looked up to all the Texas bands so it’s super cool for us to even just be considered when people talk about Texas, and to have played so many cool gigs with Texas legends.

Flesh + Blood drops March 10th via Closed Casket Activities. Pre-order the album - HERE

Judiciary is slated to perform in Louisville, KY and Chicago, IL later this month as a part of the record release shows for Inclination which features Isaac Hale of Knocked Loose. Next month, Judiciary will then trek to Tacoma, WA to participate in Just Another Gig Vol.4, joining comrades like Comeback Kid, Mindforce and Gridiron for the two-day event.

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