Published Jul 17, 2009It's not uncommon for members of hardcore bands to cut and run from one group and end up in another. Case in point, former Blacklisted vocalist Jay Pepito, who went from one Philadelphia hardcore unit to another: Reign Supreme. Since their first demo was released in 2006, their full-length, Testing the Limits of Infinite, has been a long-time coming, with Reign Supreme's style being a Doppelganger of Blacklisted's. Now, don't be confused, Pepito isn't running a tribute band; he was the brains behind crafting Blacklisted's demo and first EP, Our Youth Is Wasted, and their split with First Blood in '04, hence the similarities. Testing can best be described as metallic hardcore, but Pepito sees their sound as metalcore in the truest sense of the word; they're hardcore in terms of their ethics and approach but their music is closer to Pantera. Reign Supreme haven't put forth another Vulgar Display of Power or Far Beyond Driven; it's just the metal influence shines through on tracks like "Apostle" and "Saving Grace." Testing is, and sounds, larger than life, with its fervid pace and anthemic vocals, chugging, crunchy guitars, breakdowns and unrelenting rhythms.
Testing the Limits of Infinite is the band's debut full-length. What were the band's intentions for the final product?
Pepito; We intended to write a heavy, anthemic, metal-influenced hardcore record. I think we accomplished that; I wanted to write my generation's Age Of Quarrel but it didn't end up happening - not sure why, just didn't get it together. I still think it's a pretty solid LP.
Was there any kind of pressure for you, personally, or for the band while recording this album?
Not really. There was a lot of personal pressure behind the scenes; I had to commute up to NYC a few times a week to record and I had to balance that with trying to work and pay all my bills that Reign Supreme doesn't. It was tough but we got it done with the help of a few good friends. There were no real expectations for this record; I feel like the next LP will be much more anxious for me - people will expect us to either improve or fail. If we fail, then good, we suck. And if we don't improve then we fail. So it's really lose, lose. Possibly maybe win; sophomore efforts are always tough.
It's fair to say Reign Supreme are a metallic hardcore band; where do you draw your influences from?
They're all over the place. Metal bands that are really influential on us are the classic '90s Roadrunner bands [such as] Sepultura, Machinehead, [and] Pantera, etc. But more so, we are a heavy band that draw influences from all styles and types of music: Joy Division, New Order, Nirvana, GVSB, the Breeders and Led Zeppelin. Those bands are just as influential on us as Madball and Merauder.
You spent some time playing with Blacklisted. Tell me about your experiences with the band.
I wrote all the music for the demo, the first EP and the split with First Blood; it was a great learning experience and a good chance to make some friends and do some touring.
Would you say that your time spent playing that style of hardcore has been an influence on Reign Supreme?
Yeah, I mean, I'd kind of have to say so, otherwise I'd sound pompous. That "style" of hardcore is my style; I wrote the early Blacklisted material so it's very similar to the stuff I've written for Reign Supreme. To deny that is silly but that stuff is also ancient and I wrote it like, seven years ago. The stuff I write now is much heavier, much darker and much more mature.
Reign Supreme have released a couple EPs. Was there anything different or difficult about recording a full-length?
No, it just felt like writing a longer record, which is exactly what it is; it was a little more difficult to arrange to have our desired effect, since it's more material. But that's just sort of expected, I think.
How did working with Will Putney help shape this album?
A lot. He produced it, so he helped with songwriting ideas and all sorts of recording issues. He really helped us a lot; he did a lot more than I expected him to do. He shaped a lot of the record.
You guys use a lot of hardcore staples (group chants, really fast drumming) yet you don't overuse breakdowns. Is that to steer clear of the ever-popular metalcore tag?
We are a metalcore band, but in the truest sense of the term, I think, like the same way that the Hope Conspiracy and Merauder are. Those bands are hardcore, in terms of ethics and approach, but sonically we are far closer to Pantera than Urban Waste. So, ultimately, I have no problem calling us a metalcore band.
A lot of your music has an anthemic feel.
I like hardcore that evokes a feeling from the listener; I want the people who hear our record to think that it's this larger than life, totally engrossing experience. Too many bands write riffs, mediocre lyrics and throw them together with a lame layout and call that an LP. I'm not saying our record is better or worse but I will say that it was carefully constructed and a lot of heart and thought were put into it. I want the listener to know that, and I want them to know that hardcore still makes me feel like every lyric is an anthem to my disillusioned youth. (Deathwish Inc.)