Sound — 9
This is Hell is one of a new generation of bands which brings a more modern, edgy sound to traditional hardcore punk. The band occasionally relies on certain elements, such as chanted vocals or steady palm-muted rythms will sound familiar to anyone acquainted with the genre, but these tried and true techniques are combined with diversified singing techniques and noodling guitar riffs which give TiH a sound fresh, unique sound all on its own. Instrumentally, the fast paced drum work and edgy guitar licks convey mood all on their own. From aggressive, high gain riffs, to clean, reverberating chords arpeggiated at the end of a song, This is Hell excels at using instruments to set the mood of a song before the singer even gets started. It's hard for me to talk about the band's sound without touching on lyrics, so I will limit myself to saying that the vocals of the songs work quite well with the instrumental work to create a strong sense of atmosphere, mood and tempo with each song on the album. While you have the pervading air of defiance and protest that seems omnipresent in hardcore music, the subtleties of emotion conveyed in each song are much richer. Themes such as depseration, remorse, anger, and bitterness are expertly communicated.
Lyrics — 10
As far as this album goes, the lyrics are easily my favorite aspect. I keep finding myself sharing especially clever lines with friends or just admiring the way a small story is told within a song. It's lyrically that I think This is Hell are masters of hardcore punk. The band uses the fast paced, aggressive tone of hardcore music and creates verbal expression to match it perfectly. Incisive observations are presented concisely: single lines in the song are presented in a way that you find yourself thinking about them long after they've come and gone. Take for example the opener of the album, "Retrospect." "If ever we were innocent/that time came and went/Looking back we'll hang our heads and say/'All things change.'" Within seconds the message of the song is made perfectly clear, as is the underlying tone of retrospection and cynicism in the album. Other songs such as "Polygraph Cheaters" begin in a similar way. The first verse of the song is very short, ending with the bitter yet only-too-valid line: "Sometimes villains deserve your applause/cause our heroes are tragically flawed."
Overall Impression — 10
This is an album that will appeal to any fans of hardcore punk, from fans of other modern hardcore bands such as Modern Life is War to fans of NYHC bands like Sick of it All. This is Hell knows it roots, but at the same time they're not afraid to branch out. Especially memorable songs for me were "Retrospect," "Here Come the Rains," "Polygraph Cheaters," "Nobody Leaves Without Singing the Blues," and "Epilogue." All in all, this album provides a very progressive take on a genre that can definitely start to sound to familiar after a while. This is an album that demands a continuous listen, and if you get started it commands your attention immediately and keeps you amazed the whole way through.