Stop the count — the prize for 2023’s best breakdown is already wrapped up. Incendiary’s “Echo of Nothing,” featured on their new album Change The Way You Think About Pain, culminates in a build-up and release of colossal magnitude, buttressed by the explosive line: “Every window deserves a brick.” This lyric is the key to unlocking the four-piece’s explosive new LP. These 10 tracks are a rallying cry to smash external, political oppressors, as well as the internal, ego-driven forces that hold humanity back.

Incendiary’s previous full-length, 2017’s Thousand Mile Stare, is something of a modern cult classic. Its heavy grooves and quintessentially New York charisma made it an immediate hit with fans of hardcore punk, both young and old. However, the Long Island act’s latest release ascends to new heights of visceral heaviness. Rife with dark textures, relentless breakdowns and searing lyrics, Change The Way You Think About Pain is an incendiary (for lack of a better word) example of everything that contemporary metallic hardcore is capable of.

Read more: Every Metallica album ranked: From worst to best

We caught up with Incendiary’s frontman Brendan Garrone to discuss the album’s punishing sonics, the state of the hardcore scene and the influence of Buddhism on his lyrics.

Firstly, because it’s so striking, what's the idea behind Change The Way You Think About Pain’s cover art? Is it part of a narrative? 

I know what you mean. It’s like a scene, right? So we’d been following Daniel [Danger, artist] for a while. We gave him the album and all of the lyrics and said take a crack at it, without giving him any direction. The final design was his original inspiration of how the lyrics hit him. We felt like it fit the mood of the album really well. A lot of that is his vision, as it pertains to his reaction to the album. 

This album comes out six years after your previous full-length. Why was the gap so long in relation to the gaps between your previous releases?

I think the two years of COVID didn't help. The driving force of our band is to play live shows. That's what we feel like we are designed to do. The second thing was that we wanted to make sure that if we were going to put out another LP, it was true to our sound. Brian [Audley, Incendiary guitarist], in particular, over COVID was hit with the bug and developed a vision from the musical side. I have to hand it to Brian. It all started to feel right and materialize after he had that initial spark.

In the time between these releases, what kind of changes have you noticed to the hardcore scene, both locally to you and also globally?

That's a great question. For one thing, post-COVID, the hardcore scene seems to have had this wave of popularity, potentially driven by social media and the amplification of the documentation of live shows. It feels bigger than ever, and I've been involved in it for a very long time.

The other thing is that I feel like there's more of a tolerance than ever in hardcore to have a different style and sound. In the late ’90s, there were a lot of mixed bills and things like that. Then the scene became very genre-fied. But over the last couple of years, it’s melded again. You have these extreme mixed bill shows, and a lot of bands are deliberately focused on doing things differently. Plus, it's so much more diverse. From a musical perspective, but also from a people perspective. 

Now that it's finished, does Change The Way You Think About Pain resemble what you had imagined when you were writing and recording it?

No, not at all. I remember hearing the final version and thinking, “This is dark.” We knew from a musical perspective we wanted to get more aggressive. We also knew that with a fourth LP, people were expecting us to do something different, explore stuff as artists. But it came out much moodier and more aggressive than I had expected. That's the best part of making an album — you don't really know where things are gonna go. 

So the album’s production has this amazing weight and physicality to it. Can you talk a bit about what producer Will Putney contributed to it?

We had Thousand Mile Stare under our belt with Will, so the level of familiarity was already there. The biggest difference this time around was that he convinced us to spend a lot of time on pre-production. I think it helped a lot. He also knew that we wanted to use more guitar tones. That was one of the things that we felt we didn't nail on the last album. I’m really happy with how the production turned out, particularly the low end.

You have always been half-compared to Rage Against The Machine, in part because your vocals have a rap-like quality to them. Do you agree with this comparison, and is hip-hop something you’re interested in?

It was, for sure, in my earlier years. But I've always pulled from vocalists who have a certain flow. One of them is Tim Williams from Vision Of Disorder. I’ve also always made all of my lyrics rhyme. Which, sidenote, makes writing lyrics 10,000 times more difficult, but it’s just something I like the sound of.

As far as the Rage thing, that one's funny because we obviously sound nothing like them, musically. We all love them, though, and Zack De La Rocha is just an icon. He’s the definition of the phrase “walking the walk” and impossible not to look up to as a frontman. If I'm going to be compared to him, I’d rather be compared to him as a lyricist instead of a vocalist. 

In terms of the themes covered on this album, it seems they can be split into the personal and political. To cover the latter first, what concerns are you tackling here?

A lot of the lyrics are written from my perspective as an observer. One of them is on the track “Lie Of Liberty.” It’s about the rise in the polarization of political society, particularly in the U.S., and these fake, libertarian, “don't tread on me” people. These people are rooted in anger and are bastardizing the term liberty to account for the fact they’re a shitty, self-centered person. I think you saw that post-COVID, people are so in their own head, they are unable to be a part of society. That was my perspective, seeing an increase of these people in my life.

The more introspective themes are prominent on the track “Santosha (Illusion Of The Self).” Can you elaborate on the meaning of that title?

Santosha means “satisfaction.” A lot of the lyrics over the last two albums are my personal journey of exploring mindfulness meditation and Buddhist philosophy. The album title is designed to play with the notion of how people, including myself, are unable or unwilling to face any sort of pain. “Santosha (Illusion Of The Self)” is about how everyone lives in their own heads 24 hours a day. It’s about watching people be slaves to their own mind and ego. Our internal narratives are very interesting to me as I grow as a person and try to zoom out of it. 

To combine these two things, do you see pain avoidance as being the root of our contemporary sociopolitical struggles?

That’s exactly it. The lack of meaning provided by modern life manifests as anger and frustration. It’s like people rooting for their respective sports team. They’re looking for an outlet, anything to distract themselves, instead of fixing what’s right in front of them. When you meet a psychotic sports fan, it’s usually a way for them to channel their external frustrations. If you swap “sports team” for “political party,” it’s the same thing. Our inability to focus on ego dissolution and personal evolution are being vented elsewhere, and the political forum has become the perfect place for it.