Remembering a hardcore band that changed everything without the world knowing it

Remembering a hardcore band that changed everything without the world knowing it

We will never know who comes to our funeral, or even if we’ll get one. The Showbox in Seattle, Washington is a fine place for a eulogy; room enough for 1100 souls to pay their respects and howl sadness until the bar runs dry. Almost seven years ago to the day, on June 15 2002, Botch played their final ever show there, the last time they would carve murder from guitars, bass and drums and inflict aural war on anyone lucky enough to be within earshot. It’s the final resting place of a bunch of guys who started out as a hardcore band but who ended up redefining heavy music entirely.

Their magnum opus, the staggering ‘We Are The Romans’ was released almost a decade ago but remains a set text for anyone who remains unconvinced that hardcore can be beautifully ornate or anyone who wants a lesson in progressive music. For over 50 minutes it batters and pounds and pummels and eventually overwhelms, but the intelligence and precision of its assault is, frankly, astonishing. It’ll make you feel like you can walk through flames and tear down walls, like pure liquid energy is pulsing through your veins, like God is laughing with you and not at you, like the universe was created just so you could reach this moment and hear this music. They took the base elements of a none-more-dogmatic genre – punishing riffs and gut-punch percussion, a vocalist with acid for saliva and a scream that could terrify a velociraptor- and blended them with cut-up rhythms, erudite and baffling structures and an adventurousness that sees them cited alongside Refused as true pioneers. But they never had anything as catchy or palatable as ‘New Noise’ that they could ride to widespread (relatively speaking, anyway) acclaim. Botch remain something of a hidden treasure, partly because of their limited discography – Converge, for example, followed up ‘Jane Doe’ with a succession of equally loved records, Dillinger Escape Plan started slowly but have become an unstoppable hurricane of power, Thrice were always more accessible – but probably because there is nothing even remotely close to compromise in their music.

In early-’90s Tacoma, Washington, Tim Latona, Brian Cook, Dave Verellen and Dave Knudson formed Botch because they wanted to play Helmet covers at Tim’s house. After a few years of releasing seven-inches, low-key splits, a lengthy US tour with Ink & Dagger and a short Canadian tour with Dave’s dad driving, Hydrahead picked them up and put out ‘American Nervoso’ in 1998. By now they’d built up a reputation for being the perfect black marriage of technicality and brutality, but it was the emergence of the songs that would go on to comprise ‘We Are The Romans’, released in 1999, that launched them into a lot of people’s faces.

Dillinger Escape Plan took them to Europe for their first tour in 2000 and they were meant to tour the US with Murder City Devils in 2001 but pulled out. On February 2nd 2002 Dave Knudson let it slip at a show that they were calling it quits, the news was confirmed a day later. In October after June’s final show the ‘An Anthology Of Dead Ends’ EP was released, featuring the stillborn songs that would have blossomed into a third full-length. Four years later the DVD of their final show, ‘061502’, emerged. The end.

Except Botch will never die. The enduring power of ‘We Are The Romans’ simply can’t be underestimated, and it will stand for years to come as a truly essential document of the possibilities of four dudes and some instruments, let alone a hardcore band. Minus The Bear, Russian Circles, Narrows, These Arms Are Snakes and Roy all contain former members. But they’ll always be The Romans. We Are The Romans. We Are The Romans.


Originally published in issue 7 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2009

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