Sincerity goes a long way. There is much complaint in the punk rock world about “fashion-core”—bands that spend as much time on their haircuts and clothing as they do writing songs. While that is true in almost any musical genre, it is held to much more scrutiny in a punk scene that still holds its morals close to its heart. Thus, when you hear a band as brazenly fresh as Above This Fire, it’s a reminder that punk/hardcore music can be relevant, important, and inspiring.
Musically, the band isn’t pushing any envelopes. Guitarists Rick Sans and LT Magnotto lay down ten tracks of metal-tinged, old-school punk rock riffs that, though catchy, are hardly inventive or original. The compositions are also fairly predictable, varying little from the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown motif to which much of this style adheres. Thankfully, the band also avoids delivering the requisite, watery ballad that seems to appear on almost every punk record nowadays, and instead provides ten solid tracks of punk rock fury. However, the one factor that puts the group heads above their musical colleagues is the voice of lead singer Andy Hoffman. His clear, precise vocals, that are largely yelled and occasionally give way to well placed screams, lead Above This Fire with confidence and flair.
Lyrically, Hoffman treads ground that has already been picked bare. Tough and defiant, yet positive and hopeful, even the darkest of Hoffman’s lyrical clouds have a silver lining. “The Deceiver Within” starts with the words “I am nothing more / Than a ghost in your eyes” while ending with “I will not turn back there will be no regret”. “Reaction” is similarly positive, finding its narrator searching for reasons to continue in the face of hardship, concluding with “And I will make it out alive / Right now I will take the first step / And start changing my life”. The power of these deceptively simple lyrics are augmented by choice use of a six person backing chorus that adds relish to the mosh pit breakdowns. Though the lyrics are somewhat clichéd, Hoffman’s earnest delivery is refreshingly palpable. There is no denying that he feels and believes every lyric he’s singing.
In Perspective is a strong, but predictable debut. Veteran hardcore and punk fans probably won’t be buying the record, but will respect the vigor Above This Fire bring to their disc. However, younger audiences, looking for something different and undeniably honest from the superficial crap on MTV2 will find much to admire. Above This Fire are the kind of band that will benefit from word of mouth, and will build their audience slowly but surely. To that end the disc, though released on the independent Life Sentence label, has been given a leg up with distribution from the legendary Revelation Records. It may take a little while, but don’t be surprised if Above This Fire become a household name among punk rock enthusiasts.
// Notes from the Road
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