Playing Enemy

With Keelhaul and Lick Golden Sky. Sunday, September 15, at the Grog Shop.

Math-core seemed like a wild, wide-open field when it first emerged, with such bands as Cave In, Coalesce, and Botch taking hardcore in blisteringly complex new directions. Of course, as with any genre, limitations were present from day one, and eventually they became apparent. Over time, clichés began to take hold: Indecipherable screaming vocals, caffeine-fueled drummers with Neil Peart fetishes, guitar solos that sound like video games gone berserk.

All these elements and more are present on Cesarean, the debut album from the Seattle trio Playing Enemy, but don't discount these guys just yet. They're ex-members of Rorschach and Kiss It Goodbye, so they've got pedigree. And the music they're making now has plenty to recommend it: Their songs are jagged, intricate, and loud as a jet engine next to your head. Cesarean is actually painful to listen to, and that's a good thing. It works to make this band -- in the absence of the recently defunct Botch, and with Cave In turning into prog-emo mush -- about the best thing going in contemporary post-hardcore stomp 'n' scream. Let 'em work you over.