Every new hardcore album released last year was something of a delight.
Each album was comparable to a spaghetti dinner. Sure it's just spaghetti,
sure you get a lot of it and usually at regular intervals, but it's always
enjoyable, always filling, always satisfying. Having said that, there is a
debut hardcore album releasing January 15th that takes last year's spaghetti
and adds a little something extra. Once Nothing: the band. First Came The
Law: the album. Think huge, glorious meatballs.
It seems as if these guys (hailing from Pittsburgh, PA) just came out of left field -
which just means that they cropped up outside my own myopic
gleanings of the scene. Their sound is gritty, raw, hard but not without
that sense of punk whimsy and inspiration. Case-in-point: It's the first
time I've heard a lead singer say the words "Aww, swing it!" in a hardcore
tune. Once Nothing is self-described as "blue-collar metal," which from
what I gather from their MySpace page basically means they're a band with a
dedicated, hard-working work ethic.
They're a lot more 'youthful' sounding than some of their hard
contemporaries - bands like Becoming the Archetype, August Burns Red and
Norma Jean. Once Nothing is in between serious-sounding acts like that and
more melodic/emo/nu-metal groups like As Cities Burn, Haste the Day or
Chasing Victory. The whole album has energy and vitality and does not lack
in sweet breakdowns and hoarse screams.
Many of the songs, "Avoid Me Like The Plaque" and "The Truth About Me Or
Someone Like Me" to name a few, have surprising changes that almost make you
feel like the track has changed, and none of the selections grind on
endlessly without offering variety. Very few songs have the typical long
bridge parts that inevitably return to the same chugging choruses. One of
the closing tunes, "Whiskey Breath," has a fabulous southern rock intro that
makes me think strongly of John Fogerty. In fact, there are snippets of
intros, choruses and breakdowns throughout that have a very southern metal/
retro southern rock feel to it. You can almost hear Lynyrd Skynyrd or
Creedence Clearwater Revival in the melodies... At least I can.
Not one piece from First Came The Law disappoints. "My Sweet Medusa" is the
appointed ballad or soft song. It's an acoustic piece, and usually I skip
soft songs on albums like this, generally dismissing them as throwaway. Not
so here. It's truly lovely, reminiscent of Dashboard Confessional's "And
Then I Go Unnoticed," if lyrically simple. And again, the band adds the
southern spice with a bit of harmonica.
Even the album's end, an instrumental piece called "...And Then Came Grace," is a bit shocking.
Instrumentals on these sorts of albums have become token songs,
usually lacking inspiration and are something I listen to once and never
come back to again, with very few exceptions. Masterpieces like Metallica's
"Orion" or Becoming The Archetype's "Night's Sorrow" come to mind.
Technically, "...And Then Came Grace" is only a pseudo-instrumental, because
there is some vocalization, but it has the rest of the album at its heart
and is at the same time a good song, much like Project 86's "Twenty-Three," the
pseudo-instrumental album closer from Drawing Black Lines.
The younger crowd already loves Once Nothing, and their sound definitely
appeals to the live show hardcore kiddies. But as an album, First Came The
Law has plenty for seasoned metal-heads to dig, even the most seasoned
metal-snobs who never find anything original (the "I've heard that riff" and
"It's all been done before" people) will find plenty to love here.
- Review date: 1/14/08, written by Sean Lex