Sound — 8
In its relatively short history, hardcore has birthed many, spin-off genres that took the style further away from its punk roots. The outside influences spread wide and covered such unlikely flavors as classic rock and even hip-hop. But heavy metal has made the biggest impact on hardcore. The lines between the two have grown increasingly blurred throughout the last five years. When it first made its mark, hardcore took many of its musical cues from the more primitive instincts of its forbearer, punk. These days, when you listen to bands like Earth Crisis and Full Blown Chaos, it isn't hard to point out the more technical, metal tinged parts. With such a shift in style, obviously, there has been a backlash from the (often) older, more purist sector of fans crying out for hardcore to return back to its roots. Philadelphia, PA's Blacklisted is the answered prayer for anyone longing for hardcore's salad days. Listening to their new album, Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God should leave no doubt about that. These songs embody the spirit of bands like Cro-Mags, Void and Judge in feel and attitude. This is unadulterated hardcore filtered of everything but the barest essentials. Vocalist, George Hirsch is monster of a front-man, tearing into the lyrics with wild abandon. The guitars of Jon Nean and Dave Foster buzz saw their way through the eleven songs on the album, proving that fret board gymnastics aren't the only way to pummel intensity across. Their bruising, yet tasteful riffs come together with Dave Walling's bass lines and Shawn Foley's propulsive drum patterns leaving the ideal foundation for Hirsch's vocal outbursts.
Lyrics — 8
When an album starts off with the lines, "Peace is just a warm gun away, It's deeper than where's there's a will, there's a way," it's a safe bet that things, at least thematically, are heading into murky waters. It turns out, that is an understatement when it comes to Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God. This album is collection of one negative fit after the other. But what makes these songs so truly potent is that Hirsch is pointing his disgust and frustration inward. His self-awareness is unforgiving and makes for an intensely compelling listening experience. This guy makes Henry Rollins sound downright peppy! He questions the institution of marriage on the scathing Matrimony, dismissing it all together. The last lines of the song say it all, I just want to love myself, want to love myself. It's not often, or ever really, that you find a hardcore band touch this subject, let alone attack it with the fervor Hirsch does. He also takes innovative risks with his wordplay. On Wish, he hopes for a Chan Marshall eulogy, name checking the elusive singer of Cat Power. Now, that's a name you would never expect to hear on a record like this!
Overall Impression — 8
Along with Cursed and Life Long Tragedy's latest records, HTHLTG has quickly jumped into my essential hardcore for 2008 list. If you are even remotely a fan of this faction of music, you simply can't go wrong here folks! From the acidic lyrical twists of songs like Circuit Breaker to the steamrolling aural attack of Stations, Blacklisted lays their dramatic flair on thick. Even the photographs included in the CD insert lend the album another layer of emotional weight. Its dejected and thought-provoking nature brings to mind the mighty Unbroken (look them up) and even Joy Division's arresting visual output. The album cover is a photo of a man ready to plunge into what looks like, his suicide, off of a pier. As brutal as it is, I couldn't think of a more fitting image to help represent the album. Kurt Ballou (interviewed by U-G here) turns in another stellar production job here letting these tracks sound as live as possible but still lending them some sheen. He's got the bass and guitars sitting in the perfect spots in the final mix. They come down like mallets songs like Canonized but not in a Madball way. These riff-monsters have more in common with Black Sabbath and B'last than they do with tough-guy hardcore. But despite the older sonic touchstones, the record never sounds dated. If you threw this album into a time capsule and didn't excavate it until 30 years from now, it would sound just as vital. Make no mistake, Blacklisted have unleashed one for the record books here!