The HIRS Collective stands strong in the face of oppression with ‘We’re Still Here’ 


“The HIRS Collective exist to fight for, defend and celebrate the survival of trans, queer, POC, Black, women and any and all other folks who have to constantly face violence marginalization and oppression. We are a collective of freaks and [expletive] that will never stop existing. Infinite and never ending. No one is going to kill us, we are going to live forever.” 

That is the mission statement found on the website of Philadelphia hardcore band The HIRS Collective, a duo consisting of members JP and Esem. Their new album, “We’re Still Here,” could not have arrived at a better time. As lawmakers throughout the United States introduce legislation to outlaw abortion, remove books from classrooms and essentially attempt to erase transgender people from existence, a rage-infused hardcore album addressing many of these urgent issues feels more necessary than ever.  

The HIRS Collective are not alone in their fight. “We’re Still Here” features an all-star cast of guests spanning the heavier side of music including Japanese noise rock band Melt-Banana, Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance, hardcore punk group Soul Glo, grindcore outfit Full of Hell and many more across 17 songs spanning just over 31 minutes. 

“We’re Still Here” embodies the word “heavy.” Just take the opening title track, for example. Right from the first second of the album, listeners are bombarded with guttural cries, blast beats and heavily distorted guitars. From the face-melting double kicks on “Judgement Night” to the dirty, detuned guitars in the introduction of “Waste Not Want Not,” the instrumental palette of this album is purely violent.  

But that doesn’t mean this album is lacking in variety. In the second half of “A Different Kind of Bed Death,” the addition of glitchy electronics compounds the song’s madness. Meanwhile, “You Are Not Alone” offers a short break from the album’s insanity with an ambient spoken word section. There’s even a rap segment in the amazingly chaotic “Judgement Night.” 

The numerous musical guests add a great amount of subtle variety, but “We’re Still Here” is remarkably well-ordered and fluid. Songs transition seamlessly into one another, and the album’s progression feels natural.  

At its core, “We’re Still Here” is a punk album, meaning potent and evocative lyrics are placed at the forefront. The title track acts as a manifesto, highlighting marginalized groups’ existence as an act of rebellion, and when those in power in America are seemingly doing everything they can to oppress and silence those groups, that statement is not really an exaggeration. “Sweet 

Like Candy” touches on society’s unreasonable standards of beauty: “If I tell you I’m ugly, will you sell it back to me?” 

“Burn Your House Down” targets people such as landlords who treat housing as a commodity to hoard and sell rather than a human right. Meanwhile, the 25-second “Public Service Announcement” criticizes the police and their unfair treatment of people of color. “Apoptosis and Perfection” asks why transgender people, among other groups, seem to need to justify their existences to others: “No meaning to being but being.”   

And then there’s the stellar closing track, “Bringing Light and Replenishments.” The lyrics are devastating: “We’re tired / We’re tired / We are so tired.” The song feels like a natural response to constant attacks. The spoken word break backed by a cello midway through is also heartbreaking, highlighting the struggle to love in a society that rejects such love. Finally, the album comes full circle in the end beautifully with “We’re still here” being repeated.  

Besides a couple slight duds in the track list, “We’re Still Here” is a potent triumph in the face of adversity. It’s hard-hitting, emotional, powerful and the best album I’ve heard all year. 

Rating: 8.5/10 

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