I always love getting the chance to review bands from North Carolina. Growing up, I loved bands like Within Reach, IcedxOut, and even Deathblow (yeah, that Deathblow). Nowadays, the scene and the sound have changed, but North Carolina still consistently bangs out some of the most innovative, brilliant hardcore on the East Coast--if not the who country. Retina takes cues from Vestiges, but rounds out the sound a little more, and presents us with one-half gybe!, and one-half vicious hardcore.

Always treading the thin line between pure, unbridled, sludgy hardcore anxiety and somber, cathartic introspection, Retina's demo is three tracks that total up to a crushing 26 minutes. The vocals are vaguely reminiscent of Evergreen Terrace's from "Burned Alive By Time," which is sweet as hell, but even raspier and more vitriolic.

"One" is a great opener to the demo, introducing their elements to the listener and hooking them in with 5 and a half minutes of sludging, brooding hardcore. Solid starter. But more importantly, it opens perfectly into "Two."

"Two," unlike "One" is executed with force and grace--like a musical Nietzsche. With brilliant guitar work that both rages through hardcore punk and slows down for intricate, clean picking, Retina is at the top of the game. The drums are timed incredibly, and the bass takes free reign over the length of the track--complementing and even over-shadowing the bold guitar lines, at parts. Sick as hell. 15 minutes, and I never got bored. Somber as godspeed, and furious as bands like Young And In The Way, this track is a great symbol for the evolution of hardcore and metal music. And I dig it.

"Three" is a bit lackluster, but, with the pressure of following "Two," anything would be. Still, though, the song is a fitting closer. It rumbles and shreds through 5:31 of high-intensity, crunching hardcore.

I wish "Two" could've been renamed, and been the closer. Which is a bummer. But the album is a solid, innovative debut. Great demo. Get it for free from the band!