Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Strife Finds Strife Amidst Its Rebirth

There must be a growing void in hardcore punk when a band that busted up a decade ago can play a few reunion shows, support a few full revival tours, and then head off to Brazil to cut their first alum in eleven years. The latest incarnation of Strife did exactly that.

Witness A Rebirth is not the best album ever put out by Strife, but it is one of the better hardcore albums put out this year. In making it, the band mostly dialed back the date and played as if their 2001 Angermeans never existed (or anything put out by anyone else since then).

Witness A Rebirth is brutal vintage hardcore made fresh. 

Expect some mixed reviews for this album. There is plenty to argue about because it cuts both ways. The lyrics are so straightforward that they're almost disposable. The production is clean to the point of being sterile. And it mostly doesn't sound like the Los Angeles band that anyone remembers.

And yet, for any problems that come with any attempt to resurrect the angst from days long gone, Strife does a decent job convincing most people that this is what no frills hardcore punk ought to sound like. In not lending anything new but not disparaging the old, Witness A Rebirth doesn't carry the same aggression of the past but it does convey the longing for it. 

The fire fueling the record is exactly that. The band stepped into the studio with something like a strategic plan to produce a straight-up hardcore punk record by making it hard, fast and in your face. Guitarist Andrew Kline has said as much. 

They didn't write songs about the stuff that inspired hardcore. They wrote about hardcore. Torn Apart, specifically, addresses the negativity and violence that sometimes bleeds into the scene. Kline lays it out that the outcasts this subculture was meant to embrace can do nothing or stand up and not take it anymore. 

Simply put, that is the essence of the album. The entire theme is centered on a rebirth — not of the band but of the hardcore community. There is nowhere they prove it more than on stage, where Strife always sounds its best. Like most hardcore bands, it's the fans that fuel the musicians. 

This time out, Strife had plenty of help to make it happen. In addition to Kline, Rick Rodney (vocals), Chad Peterson (bass), Todd Turnham (guitar), and Craig Anderson (drums), the album includes guests like Igor Cavalera (Sepultura), Billy Graziadei (Biohazard), Scott Vogel (Terror) and Marc Rizzo (Soulfly). Some of the Terror influences are especially noticeable, given Nick Jett produced it.

Some of the standouts from the 12-track album by Strife.

Although not everyone will appreciate the differences between songs, standouts include Carry The Torch, Show No Mercy, In This Defiance, No Apologies, The Burden, and Never Look Back. The latter isn't talking about the band either. It's about not looking back once hardcore regains its footing.

Of those, Show No Mercy is the most likely to pick up a brick with its underlying heavy riffs and thrash closing. The Burden is likely to inspire a sense of nostalgia for 90s hardcore with its similarities to the band's previous outings. And after its dizzying opening, No Apologies has a solid chug section.

All of them are designed to get people off their feet and be the change they want to see, much like Torn Apart plainly states the alternative: "Our fight — did it mean something? I stood and watched it all fall apart but did nothing." And once again, herein lies where Strife deserves the most credit.

After touring and playing for the hardcore hungry, they want to reset the standard and give the genre a place to relaunch itself. Sure, they want to continue touring and Witness A Rebirth will refresh their set lists when they take it on the road. But more than that, they want to inspire a new generation to carry the torch.

Witness A Rebirth By Strife Shakes 7.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

When so many bands are mostly interested in refreshing their careers, there is an almost noble quality of what Strife really wants to do with this album. As a hardcore standard, they accomplish it. It's hard not to give Witness A Rebirth a spin and feel a sensation that hardcore isn't played out. Not everything needs to evolve to remain relevant.

Witness A Rebirth by Strife is available from Amazon or download the album from iTunes. You can keep on their touring schedule via Facebook. The live performances are where this album will pay the most dividends. The experience of hardcore can be as important as the music.
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