One of the most solid bands that blessed this scene is back with new material. No doubt this was the most anticipated record of the year for me. Now when it has finally dropped and after a considerable amount of time spent nodding my head to these tracks I know this will be high on my best of 2018 list. Straight off the bat, I think it’s their strongest release since Class War. They hooked my ass after just the first track and there was no letting go till the final.
Wisdom’s core sound stayed the same and Nothing… fits well with the overall evolution of the band, but the album is somehow a return to form after disappointing The God Rhythm. For sure it’s way heavier and sharper. Over the years they moved from the aggressive in-your-face style of their early work into a more vibing sound that takes from diverse styles like punk rock, oi! or even straight up rock. No way this made them sound weak, but on the previous record, man, they took a few strange turns that made me skip through some of the tracks. This time the focus is on intensity.
Already Dead and Duck Down Stay Down are the hard stuff. On the other side of the spectrum are Slow Down and Turn My Back, both have a nostalgic feel to them that gives you a chance to contemplate that hard life of yours. Why do bad things happen to good people? Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil. These odd elements and moods flow together perfectly. With all the diversity on this album, you must be crazy not to find something for yourself.
Special props to Mad Joe cause he must be the best lyricist in hardcore right now. Dude can write painfully real stories so rooted in life that if they don’t click with you then what’s wrong with you? If you’re caught up in the daily struggles trying to keep trouble from the door you can relate. This is grown man trying to make sense of this chaos. No fake thug posturing or cliches, just honest perspective on the world today without having to make shit up.
This album is all pro. I have listened to it maybe a hundred times already and it is one of those albums I can just put on and feel the same way about every time. Cop this shit and let the music diffuse all the tension.
It's been 5 years since the previous Take Offense record, United States Of Mind, which is like forever in the music biz. They were on top of the game back then but then, disappearing for that long usually means line up changes or other drama that tend to make good bands go bad. So TO dropping new music now makes you think if they still got it? After few listen I gotta say hell yeah they do. I don't know what's the story behind them being lost all that time and why they're not on Reaper anymore, all I know Tensions On High don't suck. Definitely not a half-assed attempt to cash in on the old material but a legit heavy hitter.
Tensions On High is built more or less on all the elements that made TO famous. By that I mean taking a deep dive into 80' grittiness and putting their own mark on it. The band's progress is about expanding their sound within that arena. So apart from straight up crossover sound on A-side tracks you get nostalgic short instrumental Ometeotl that serves as a build up to epic Just Because You Believe. This last song is a stand out with a mid-paced groove and hard rock riffing that will haunt your ass for days.
It's a short ep with 4 tracks in total but each one of them delivers sheer density and force. There's no ego in their delivery, instead they keep it raw and keep it loose. Take Offense always had tons of badass ideas going to the studio and technical prowess to pull them off, but they never overcomplicate their shit and make sure these records have real balls.
First time World Of Pain caught my attention was when they dropped that split cd with Xibalba and Ruckus. All three bands sounded killer back then if metallic hardcore is your thing. Since then World has been steadily putting new material that I had fun listening to and I hoped No Utopia would be just as good.
Truth be told, I had to suffer through first two tracks, Knee Deep and Internal Warfare, cause this is the slowed down, double bass heavy shit that annoyed me too many times already. These two just don’t move me at all. The guitars sound artificial and the groove is absent. To me it is just the complete opposite of all the elements that made Bulldoze or Next Step Up so ruthless and moving. But, despite the record’s lousy beginning, it is not an ordeal and next tracks offer a glimmer of hope Leech is nice with an old school beatdown feel to it opposed to the double bass slam of some of the previous tracks. This is the type of shit this world needs more of. Definitely my favorite one on the album. Apocalypse Now is aggressive and raw, Losing Sight hits you hard with tight groove and sharp riffs and Buden is slow burn teror with the meanest vocals. "Set me free from this war inside of me / face your demons, face yourself. Conquering / no utopia, not on this earth." Hard as nails!
Lyrically it goes from personal stuff to ranting about the corrupt and hypocritical system. Whatever the topic, the vocals enforce the message in a manner that’s far from subtle. It might not go down in history as the defining voice of how fucked up the world was in 2018 but still sounds strong without going too dramatic.
It’s not often that I’m confused by my feelings for a hardcoe record. I thought this album was merely alright when I first heard it, but it has since grown on me. It’s slightly held back by few tracks that don’t rip, but all in all No Utopia turned out to be more killer than filler.
If you were raised on a heavy dose of Hatebreed and jam Lionheart on a daily, this record is for you. The cover, the band's name, the track titles like Grind My Teeth or Reign Supreme should give you idea what’s it all about. Definitely they were aiming for that Lionheart, Terror or recent Madball sound. Heavy on chugga-chugga but light on finesse, and with an ugly ass cover art. Technically, everything from guitars to rhythm section is solid, but also very calculated and they don't go too crazy with their sound. The production is thick and heavy, making it a case of recording budget well spent.
Lyrically Seas Of Misery is a mix of depression, pain and anger, but also strength and perseverance. Again, think Hatebreed and Lionheart put together. I don't know how much of it is their real life experiences and how much is making shit up cause you gotta have lyrics. On tracks like Reign Supreme or Dominate & Control they make no secret what they can do to people crossing them. Everyone having problems with, you know, being a stand up dude can listen to this shit and learn to straighten the fuck up and handle their business like a man should. And all the girls who want to bad ass can also get a lot from this album.
The latest release on Demons Run Amok is UK's Balance. I don't know if I got the press release right but this is marketed as UK's response to Turnstile. I couldn't tell, I don't listen to Turnstile. To me this sounds like a classic hardcore punk except it's more complex than average. Not too complex though. The band starts with that classic sound as a base but messes with it a bit and somehow makes it work.
The guitar work is nice with some weird stuff thrown in and melodies I can vibe to even though I'm too proud to admit it. I like that the more open minded stuff is never out in the front but rather smoothly mixed with the rest of the music. Not every band can play it straight but still keep it that varied. And what's best, they do melody but there's also a lot of chugging grooves in here. And yeah, they try to sneak in some alternative rock influences from time to time but it's well hidden and don't bother me that much.
After a short intro no one really asked for the first track hits it hard and there couldn't be a better start. The band even gets melodic on this one but it doesn't offend my manliness at all so I can hang with it for the most part. I dig the next track as well. Made For Living is short and in your face and they play it like they mean it. The next track is called Spill and is also solid. At that time I am pretty ok with all the nasty things they do to their guitars only because the music is still sharp enough to avoid the corny basket. The forth track is Out Of My Head and it's tolerable. Only the last track, Outro, doesn't do it for me, the lo-fi guitar thing sounds too soft for my liking.
While this demo is not the type of hardcore I fuck with on daily basis, it's still a good ride. I was expecting the worst but it's not that bad.
Debut album from UK's Climate Of Fear. The name of the band sounds familiar and to be honest I was hoping this one to be along the vibe of early Bitter End albums. Can you blame me? Turns out that was misleading cause the band's focus is more on heavier mid-tempo stuff than pure aggressive and reckless hardcore goodness. The two opening tracks are whatever but it gets better in the second half of this short album. Holy Terror is solid as hell, while Entombed sounds fucking great and is a definite stand out. The dramatic intensity of this latter track goes from menacing mid-tempo vibe to slick faster part and this combination is musical equivalent of timebomb.
You can hear they were aiming high when it comes to technicality and complexity in the music, doing what they could with the skills they have to make these tracks engaging and complex. This leads me to question some of their stylistic choices. There are just too many slower parts and 99% of them don't do nothing for me. I could have done without all those basic ass breakdowns they felt they need to do every 30 seconds of each track. That way otherwise brilliant songs, like already mentioned Entombed, don't flow like they should. I guess it's their weird way to show they can play but no one ever asked for that shit.
The production is crisp and clean, it's not bad but I miss the dirt and grime and reverb. Hardcore does not need to be overly produced.
All in all, despite me bitching about some stuff, it's still a solid record. Next time they just need to drop their ego and get rid of that metal wankery and stick to that more straight forward stuff.
Another dope record from Straight & Alert recs. Rage hails from Australia and their sound brings to mind the rawness of SSD, old Agnostic Front or No Tolerance but they also worship recent UKHC like Violent Reaction or The Flex. I won’t stand here and pretend I am the biggest fan of new wave of British hardcore but I’ve seen Flex live and shit was epic. These dudes are juggernaut in this game, the set was just them grinding everyone in a room to dust.
But back to Rage and this ep. I knew S&A always delivers quality so I was down from the get go and after few spins it didn’t disappoint this time as well. Feel The Burn is 5 tracks each deserving respect for the intensity of aggression it delivers, hitting hard with musical swiftness and the meanest vocals. That band takes it back to the basics so expect no silly shit, this is straight up in your face hardcore. If this crazy ass dude from Wolf Creek started a band that would sound something like this. The tracks to the end of the record are the hardest. Constant Static sounds fucking epic, they same goes for No Hope. These two tracks alone make me feel like I've already gotten more than my money's worth. Grab this now and get stomping.
Straight & Alert, 2017
Slope is a new hardcore band outta Germany and this is their new album on BDHW which does not sound like what you would expect from this label. No breakdows, no snapbacks, no tough guy posturing. It’s more on that hardcore meets alternative rock vibe that’s been so hyped since Turnstile did it. Can’t say I’m much of a fan, but neither a hater. It’s just not my shit. Any day I pick the worst Madball song over best Turnstile track and it’s still a win. To each his own.
Looking at the front cover and seeing the video they did for Goodbye Mr. Dand everything was off to bad start. The band seems to be comfortable in the corners of the mind I don’t like to go. Meaning really abstract shit. I like when hardcore sounds like it could be a soundtrack to Rocky or Die Hard, but Losin Grip feels more like a backdrop to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The song names are all weird and I got no idea what they try to convey with titles like Goodbye Mr. Dandy. Some of this stuff seem unconvincing and if hardcore doesn’t sound sincere then I have problems having that emotional connection with it. At first I was forcing myself to go through some of the tracks because of that. I just felt at the back of my head something ain't right.
I am aware this review is going into negative direction but in reality it’s just me bitching. There are moments that I enjoyed. Musically, they do keep it sharp and there’s fair amount of fine riffing and tight groove to keep my head nodding. Like I said, fans of Turnstile should check it out, but also if you like Leeway, Burn and generally more creative NYHC sound I recommend giving it a listen.
Overall I think these dudes know they craft and I suppose there will be plenty people into this album. No need to put them down since there are tons of bands that are seriously whack, like Wolf Down and all their spin-offs. Slope are only guilty of being on a vibe different than mine but they seem like good dudes. Just with awful taste in clothes and there’s too much abstract shit going on in their heads. If they get their shit together and listen to right amount of Sheer Terror I am convinced their next record will be a killer. This one is still decent though.
Incendiary’s rose to fame was with their previous full length Cost Of Living which as you know I heavily backed. Even if hardcore fame doesn’t mean much in real life, they still deserve it cause it was beast of a record. And it’s coming from a person who don’t get that whole 90’ new school nostalgia happening now. Truth is, many bands are jumping on the bandwagon and most of them suck. Not the case here, Thousand Mile Stare sounds like these dudes been on heavy steroids doses when writing this shit.
Cost Of Living was solid, but Thousand Mile Stare is a marked step up. Everything that was good about that old record is even better here. If you remember bands like Indecision, Earthmover or Earth Crisis this album sounds comfortably familiar, but it’s not like they act like last 20 years in hardcore didn’t happen. You can sense they put much thought into shaping these tracks as they use tons of different elements. The band turns in a quality performance with heavy ass chugging riffs and massive stomp parts with maximum effectiveness. When it hits right it’s powerful and ferocious, but there are moments that feel overlong or too complicated. I’m too basic for some of that but I guess it’s what 90’ new school is about.
A separate salute should go to the vocals, not only because of his on point delivery, but also things being said on the record. Maybe not the strongest voice in hardcore, but he’s putting 100% into it. That I respect. And the lyrics are highlight here. The older I get, the more I appreciate stuff that makes me aware about shady shit going on in this world. Fuck apathy, you gotta keep your mind sharp! The political edge in hardcore in recent years has been either absent or reduced to some butt hurt drama over what Gorilla Biscuits said. Or joke bands like Wolf X Down. Incendiary brings more common sense with their politics and it feels the lyrics are based on actual research not tumblr. Whether dealing with topics like how profits rules everything and our lives reduced being to numbers, the lyrics always express devotion to being aware of the forces that be. The key message is that things are looking bad for this generation and it’s going to be even worse for our children. I’ve been telling the same for a long time and it’s good to know other people are feeling the same about where we’re heading. Too bad today’s youth is too stupid to figure this out. Maybe if they weren’t so busy filling pockets of the same people who shipped their very jobs to little kids in Asia, like Steve Jobs. I know he's dead but fuck him and fuck them too. There’s no hope for humanity.
Solid hardcore is of plenty nowadays but only few of the newer bands are able to resonate with my inner self to the point of provoking deeper feelings and thoughts. Be it the fury of Manipulate, social skills of Crowd Deterrent or world commentary of Bitter End, I am always down for taking the path of self awareness through slick riff, loud drums and antisocial tendencies. Naysayer fall into that category and since the demo they've been known to deliver heavy hitters with grit and dirt levels of epic proportions. That landed them a deal with Reaper for the debut ep. Any random band from the street can't just walk up to that label's CEO and have their shit released. One LP and two EPs deeper into their career and they haven't been dropped yet, which shows how steady they are with quality of their output.
Not that much changed with how they go about their craft. This new ep Nation Of Greed is little more metallic than Laid To Rest but still hits with a familiar crunch. It’s 7 tracks in about 12 minutes, and no moment is wasted. There are lot of creeping mid to slow tempo parts, driven by slick, thrash guitar work and just nasty groove. I sense something seriously sinister about the tracks like Can You Feel it? or Face The Fantasy that gives me goosebumps. Lyrically it’s pessimistic as it deals with lower depths of society and what it takes to stand your ground in face of all the madness around. The delivery is straight in your face though. If you’re looking for abstract poetry and souls searching this ain’t one.
Summary: both the music and the message and the mindset behind the band makes me believe we have the same outlook on hardcore and live in general. This is something I respect and look for in other people. This ep got my sincere recommendation.