There is something to be said about keeping things simple. Nashville, Tennessee hardcore outfit From Ashes Rise play a ferocious brand of punk rock that finds much of its power in its stripped down presentation. Ripping through 12 songs in just over 30 minutes, Nightmares is a vicious beast of an album. From Ashes Rise keep the songs short and simple, but these pared down tunes don't skimp on power.
The crushing sound of Nightmares can be credited to producer Matt Bayles. The mastermind behind metal and hardcore acts such as the Blood Brothers, Isis, Mastodon, and Botch, Bayles's clean, yet thick production greatly enhances the compositions of From Ashes Rise. The drums thunder, but it's the guitar work of Brad Boatright and John Wilkerson that shine here. Like galloping horses, they enter the speakers screaming, tightly reigning in these ferocious songs.
From the opening notes of "Reaction", From Ashes Rise lay out the course for the next half hour. Blistering guitars and raw vocals will be par for the course. Though this territory has been covered excellently by legendary bands His Hero Is Gone and Tragedy, From Ashes Rise still manage to sound vital and relevant. Where these bands rarely deviated from their two-minute framework, From Ashes Rise admirably try and change things up from time to time.
"The Final Goodbye" has an excellent minute-and-a-half introduction that quickly segues into the speed punk From Ashes Rise do so well, before moving into an excellent closing third act. At just over four minutes, it is From Ashes Rise's longest song, but almost one of their most well thought out. "The Inner Beast" nicely plays with some intelligent quiet-to-loud dynamics; "The Mandate" finds guitarists Boatright and Wilkerson offering up some of their best guitar interplay and the band even offers up a brief instrumental with "The Interlude".
Lyrically, the band addresses the state of the world, and lay their frustrations bare. "The Final Goodbye" scathingly critiques blind loyalty to one's religious beliefs: "The claim of the priests and the holiest clerics is that god is a master to serve without / Question or real consequence / So they forge their weapons / And they hammer their plowshares into swords / Waiting for the final goodbye". "They spin in the sky their web of wires / They launch their toys to be the new towers / They send their children to scorch their brothers / And all is done by the fortunate sons as they unleash the dogs of war", the band screams on the self-explanatory "They".
When From Ashes Rise signed to Jade Tree, they received a fair bit of criticism from the punk underground. If anything, a larger budget has allowed the band to record an album that is crisp, yet relentless. Their politics remain intact, as the entire record is an unblinking, unforgiving look at political structures. My early music listening days were bred on likeminded hardcore and punk bands, and Nightmares is classic in sound, yet contemporary in feel. Fans of abrasive and thoughtful punk rock need to go out and make Nightmares a part of their record collection.