Sunday, August 15, 2010
Back in 1997, I went into CBGBs for my first Sunday hardcore matinee. I looked pretty out of place: 140 lbs of long hair and black clothes, amidst all these short haired bros spin-kicking in their camo shorts and wife-beaters. Apparently my love for hardcore and the fact that I was straight-edge wasn't enough to ingratiate me to the NYHC scene of the time: long hair equaled metalhead, end of story.
Luckily for me, playing that night was All Out War, whose first album Truth in the Age of Lies seethed with slow riffs straight out of the Obituary/Bolt Thrower playbook, and palm-muted fast parts worthy of the best Bay Area thrash bands. I didn't know it at the time, but we were at the very beginning of the zeitgeist: hardcore kids using their love for Slayer and a circle pit-inciting breakdown to push the boundaries of hardcore. NYHC bands always had breakdowns of a sort, but metalcore breakdowns were different, owing more to the downtuned staccato bursts of Sepultura and Pantera than the simple chord progressions of Youth of Today or Judge.
All Out War never reached the mass acceptance that similarly metal-influenced bands like Hatebreed and Converge did, but their second album, For Those Who Were Crucified bears witness to a hardcore band both ahead of their time and rooted in classic thrash and death metal. For my money, it's an under-rated classic of that era of hardcore. And that was the last anyone heard from them until 2003, during which time the metalcore paradigm changed with younger bands who recycled At the Gates riffs and added saccharine choruses, with or without guyliner.
Since then, All Out War has made it a habit of releasing an album, disappearing, and then re-appearing to do it all over again. Case in point: the brand new Into the Killing Fields, which finds our heroes at their very best, with headbanger fast parts, and the toughest of tough guy beatdowns. All Out War have stuck to their guns in the most laudable way: they've eschewed the clean choruses and arena rock tendencies of the Hot Topic crowd, as well as avoided any attempt to "metal up" their sound, despite the fact that with a few dive bomb solos and some white hightops they'd be "in" with the American thrash revival that's in full swing.
It's tempting to think of this new album as All Out War's way of calling out every mallcore band that's littered the scene since they've been away. Every screamed vocal, every thunderous riff invokes the same simple message: Daddy's home, and he's pissed.
[Or as the band themselves so succinctly put it back in the day:
ALLLLL (chugchugchugchugdana) OWWWWWT (chugchugchugchugdana) WAAAAAAAARGHH!!!!!]