Sound: Crime In Stereo, an intensely creative hardcore band, has outdone themselves with this genre bending album. Having toured for three consecutive years band members began pursuing their respective fields and moving away from the music scene. Their previous release The Troubled Stateside having been critically acclaimed as "As ambitious as modern hardcore is likely to get. by All Music Guide lead to a successful tour behind acts like Brand New and the Warped Tour. Unfortunately as band members grew apart after the tour the band itself seemed to be dissolving.
After three years of heavy touring the band was tearing itself apart with feelings of dissatisfaction with the current state of the band. Guitarist Alex Dunne within a week found a job as a political consultant successfully managing campaigns for the New York Democratic Party from Long Island while simultaneously battling Diabetes until it reached the point at which he would have to self administer doses into his stomach every day. Co-founder/Bassist Mike Musilli gained employment as a teacher in his hometown at the high school he and Dunne had graduated years before. Time continued on and as band members pursued their careers separate from the band Mike commented, "For a minute there it realy looked like Crime In Stereo was dead." But after a few months the band reemerged stronger than ever touring the east coast with Glassjaw. Drummer Scotty Giffin and Dunne began working on songs in Dunne's basement which would later become the framework for Is Dead. Meanwhile vocalist Kristian Hallbert continued to broaden his vocal capabilities with vocal training. Hallbert's singing would spark the flame that would eventually become Is Dead. Songs like XXXX (The First 100 Years of Solitude) are the band at their most power driven, chaotic states of madness. Nixon satisfies with the band's familiar sound and Animal Pharm proves the band has a sense of catchiness in a genre dominated by the counterculture mind-set. Hardcore and punk influences are meshed together along with thematic lyrics that go beyond your usual hardcore band. In the process they create a sound that doesn't sound entirely like any other band. // 8
Lyrics: The thing that really stands out on this record is the immense improvement upon the skills of vocalist Kristian Hallbert. His voice has a dark reverberous tone to it that ranges from screams to falsetto on occasion. Intelligent critiques of the social Darwinism dominating the U.S. and politics set to a backdrop of hardcore music that can't quite be as easily catergorized as their contemporaries. When listening to (and later reading) the lyrics to the album a wave of anger, sadness, and most prominently reflection rush over you. It is poetry in its own right and speaks volumes in the sentimentality it provides. The opening line "We returned to heaven to confront our resurrected horrors, they'd restlessly started a horrible revolt," sets the mood for a dark, troubling tone that remains throughtout the albums entirety but never becomes tiring. The ideas though all similar become revitalized each time they are presented in the fresh, energetic way they shown. Reading lyrics like "We wade out into it. Dawn of the century. We're way out, we raise up our arms and wave them in disbelief. And like brothers we march each other right off, torches lit on the shore," you have to be wondering what was going through their head as they wrote this. The track that really struck me was Orbiter, the second to last song on the album. It feels like a perfect climax to this sonic journey. Right before the fitting resolution Choker it sends you into this brief but powerful path into your own inner demons strangely offering comfort and empathy. // 9
Overall Impression: Hardcore, punk, both genres defined by angry youth, lack of technical skill, and simplistic lyrical output are completely transcended by Crime In Stereo's Is Dead. It proves to be an album of passionate technical fury upstaged by deeply emotionally evoking lyrics. This album when really listened to is a gem that can be considered above the mainstream and average underground band. Crime In Stereo received critical reception for Is Dead as well most notably cited as their most "musically and lyricallly ambitious," album to date. As much as the band will you have you thinking there is a future full of surprises, both good and bad, for this band. Despite the odds against them they beat odds and win hearts with this album even realizing their own fortune, and the musical treasure they have created. They really swing for the fences on this album and as far as hardcore or punk goes they make it. The album ends with the closing line, "We seek a love visible yet unseen. We seek our love in such strange speech." Truer words may never have been spoken. // 8