When The Smoke Clears [EP] Review

artist: Sick of It All date: 11/10/2016 category: compact discs
Sick of It All: When The Smoke Clears [EP]
Released: Nov 4, 2016
Genre: Hardcore, Hardcore Punk
Label: Century Media
Number Of Tracks: 5
After hitting the milestone of their tenth studio album a couple years ago, Sick Of It All mark their 30th year as a band with their new EP, "When the Smoke Clears."
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 8
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overall: 8
When The Smoke Clears [EP] Featured review by: UG Team, on november 10, 2016
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Revving their career back up at the beginning of the decade with 2010's "Based on a True Story," Sick Of It All have been riding a new wave of momentum strongly into new landmarks for their tenured run. After releasing 2011's "XXV Nonstop," which marked the band's 25-year anniversary with a mix of new material and revamps of their classic songs, they would later hit album number ten in 2014 with "The Last Act of Defiance," which showed the band venturing back to their classic NYHC sound as opposed to the heavier sound of their previous few albums.

Following the release of their tenth album a couple years ago, Sick Of It All celebrate another milestone - their 30th anniversary - with the new EP "When the Smoke Clears." As opposed to the crossover thrash flavor of "Based on a True Story" and the extensive uptempo used in "The Last Act of Defiance," Sick Of It All ease up on the high gear this time around, only utilizing it in "Blood & Steel" and in the couple fits of fleeting double-time in "Fortress." Instead, the EP shows the band investing in an energy based on midtempo grooves, heard in the bouncy choruses of "Black Venom" and the staccato stomp of the opening eponymous song, and makes a bigger appeal to harnessing melody to emphasize a positive demeanor, heard in the sarcastically cheery hook of "Doomed Campaign" or the sincere pick-me-up singalong in "Fortress."

// 8

Lyrics: It comes as no surprise that frontman Lou Koller would write lyrics pertinent to the political shitshow of the USA's 2016 presidential election, and though his messages against prejudicial rhetoric in "Black Venom" ("Pick a target, ostracize it / Fool the people to despise it") and against jingoism in "Blood & Steel" ("Let us be remembered / Not for the wars we waged") are easier to surmise as being a shot at Donald Trump, Koller clarifies his opposition to whomever will be elected and what bleak potential they'll live up to in "Doomed Campaign" ("Too bad this is serious, too bad this is real / Too bad it's our future that gets the raw deal").

Despite that lack of hope, Koller's positivity expressed in the rest of the EP stems from his foundation in the hardcore scene, and with "Fortress" being just as much a love song for a significant other as it is for his fellow NYHC brothers-in-arms ("When your world goes wrong / These walls will never fall"), he also properly celebrates the 30 years he and Sick Of It All have given and will continue to give to the music scene they helped build and will always care for in the eponymous song ("In the game / Of our own creation / In it / From the start / With the values / Forever in our hearts"). // 8

Overall Impression: One could make a fuss about how Sick Of It All didn't roll out a full-length album to mark their 30th anniversary as a seminal hardcore punk band, but for all intents and purposes, "When the Smoke Clears" does a good job with what it brings to the table. In its subtle direction of being less speedy and more melodic, it keeps itself from sounding like run-off material from the band's previous couple of albums and still captures the hardcore spirit the band have championed for three decades. // 8

- Sam Mendez (c) 2016

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