CLASSIC ALBUMS REVISITED: Quicksand Released “Manic Compression” 25 Years Ago

Post-Hardcore is a sub-genre that gets tossed around today as commonplace, but in the early 1990s, it was a new little brother that the older sibling was not ready to cede attention to. As Hardcore Punk mutated into other offshoots, post-Hardcore started to gain ground. In New York City alone, the epicenter for many new waves of hardcore music, a lot of bands crossed over (see what we did there) and bands started to absorb elements of both with Prong, White Zombie, and Biohazard were all leaning more on metal vibes, Quicksand formed by members of ex-hardcore legend status bands we’re pushing towards a new sound. Heavy, but not in a tough guy way, vulnerable, but smart. By the time the members of essential musical outfits Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Beyond, Bold, Burn, and Collapse formed an anti-supergroup, released demos and the amazing Slip (Polydor) album, and toured tirelessly, fans in the scene could feel they were building to something huge. They walked in both worlds of Punk and Metal but were also world-building themselves at the same time.

Manic Compression (Island Records) dropped in late February of and the album was a shock of fast, urgent tracks that hit with immediacy and power. Each track had different moods but could kill you with a buzzsaw riff or a chilled out part, building drama with dynamics. It was expertly produced by Wharton Tiers (Laurie Anderson, Helmet), the band and Don Fury. The music was life-affirming, like a new color that had never been seen before. The group was soaring at both college radio, with the critics, and even MTV (both Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes) all repped singles or videos for ‘Divorce’, ‘Thorn In My Side’, and ‘Landmine Spring’! Although not indicative of all of Quicksand’s output, “Thorn…’ with its insane riffs and dizzying bass and drums seemed to scratch that itch that captured all their fans at once.

It’s the deep cuts that really make this album and cast a lasting shadow over the last twenty-five years of modern music. After ripping lead track ‘Backward’, fans often cite ‘Skinny (It’s Overflowing)’, ‘Simpleton’, ‘Blister’, ‘East 3rd St.’, and ‘Brown ‘Gargantuan’ as some of the best material the band ever made. Every member seemed to make the other elements of the music stand out, not subtract from it. Walter Schreifels’ incredible vocals, the great guitar interplay between him and Tom Capone, the slick bass of Sergio Vega (now of Deftones) and the tasteful drumming of Alan Cage all formed a musical Voltron that represented, went hard, respected their fans, didn’t put on airs of most NYC bands had back then. They had much more intelligence and style than the moshpit meatheads in brutal bands of the day, but metalheads still repped them.

The hype was definitely captivating worldwide and the band got offered to appear at the very first Warped Tour (they would play the final edition of the fest), and ‘Thorn…’ seeped into the cultural zeitgeist in Beavis and Butthead ( via the ‘Delusional’ video) on the soundtrack to the popular Empire Records film. But the band finally collapsed just eight months later, leaving one of the most soul-crushing breakups of a legit great band ever.

The reformed and toured over the years and gave us the excellent Illuminant album on Epitaph Records in 2017. At one of the last shows ever at Brooklyn’s House of Vans in 2018, at co-headline show with Converge, who shouted out the band as an influence, Quicksand leaned on this album for nearly half the tracks, playing a sick show and reminding fans why this band and this album were so vital in the first place. 

KEITH CHAHCKES