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JFH Staff Review

Once Nothing
First Came The Law

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 12 tracks: 58 minutes, 23 seconds
Street Date: January 15, 2008

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


. Record Label: Solid State Records
. Album length: 12 tracks: 58 minutes, 23 seconds
. Street Date: January 15, 2008
. Buy It:

  1. The Intimidator
  2. Avoid Me Like The Plaque
  3. Juliet Or At Least What's Left Of Her
  4. Gunfire Is The Sound of Freedom
  5. The Dust of a Town
  6. My Sweet Medusa
  7. Columbus Wasn't Looking For America
  8. Then There Were Nine
  9. All Heroes Are Cowboys
  10. The Truth About Me or Someone Like Me
  11. Whiskey Breath
  12. ....And Then Came Grace
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