Reborn In Defiance

Written by: AP on 31/03/2012 20:53:33

Biohazard are acknowledged as one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore punk with heavy metal and elements of hip hop, as well as one of the most influential crossover bands in the world alongside Suicidal Tendencies. "Reborn in Defiance" is their first album in 7 years, and the first in 18 years to feature the original line-up of guitarists Bobby Hambel and Billy Graziadei, drummer Danny Schuler and bass-toting vocalist Evan Seinfeld, so understandably it comes with a certain level of expectation. Sadly, shortly after its completion in 2011, Seinfeld announced that he would not be continuing further with the band after all, so his contributions to the album are now handled live by Scott Roberts, who stood for lead guitar on the "Kill Or Be Killed" and "Means to an End" albums.

It should come as no surprise that the music presented on the album is strictly old school, and played with the kind of professionalism and knack one would expect from a band with 25 years of experience behind them. Opening track "Vengeance is Mine", which follows the oddly titled intro "9:IIIX6.941", represents the band's ideology well, boasting an archetypical hardcore punk riff assembled on top of thrash influenced drumming and coarse shouting that sounds as much like James Hetfield in his younger years as it does like Mike Muir. Had it been written by a younger band, cries of plagiarism and lack of original ideas would surely have resounded from every direction, but given that Biohazard have a genuine claim to the sound as its proprietors, it instead bristles with authenticity. Following close on its heels is another retrospective piece, "Decay", which exposes the band's the hip hop influences and pop sensibilities by mixing furious barking with a unifying call-to-arms chorus sung cleanly.

There is little else to be said about the characteristics about Biohazard's sound here, as they happily subscribe to the recipe they wrote 25 years ago across all 13 tracks. But unlike so many current hardcore bands which shamelessly idolize and reinterpret Biohazard and their kin and produce music that is dull at best, a song like "Reborn" packs a wealth of instrumental detail that, when dissected, roots upward even to a band like Machine Head (see, for instance, the excellent ballad "You Were Wrong"). Indeed, never do Biohazard settle for simple chugging or breakdowns to enforce their message; there is always an element of complexity, intrigue or novelty to afford the songs a unique personality. Still, even though such an approach no doubt satisfies the needs of the band's fanbase, Biohazard have never been ones to truly challenge the listener, and this I feel continues to hinder the band's music from a critical standpoint. No doubt a song like "Killing Me", with is enormous sing-along part and blistering thrash solos, will prove fine gig fodder, but listening to it casually at home, it leaves merely a solid impression.

It might of course be my natural aversion to tough guyism or unbeneficial simplicity, but it seems to me that most songs on "Reborn in Defiance" suffer from a common symptom: they are not exactly memorable (though there are exceptions: "Vows of Redemption", with its warm bass licks and agressive rapping, and the following, slow-burning Crowbar/Down influenced "Waste Away" are both fine pieces of music). Where it does shine, however, is conviction, as time after time I find myself wondering why it seems so difficult for modern straight-up hardcore bands to write songs with a greater purpose than to provide ample moshing opportunities. Songs like "Countdown Doom" and "Come Alive" may not be instant stickers, but when imagined blasting out of the speakers in some intimate, packed venue, their carefully honed gang shouts and fist-pumping moments make infinite sense. So while "Reborn in Defiance" might not rank among the best albums this year, it certainly marks Biohazard as torch bearers in a genre that too often settles for mediocrity.

Download: Vengeance is Mine, Decay, Vows of Redemption, Waste Away, You Were Wrong
For the fans of: Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, Suicidal Tendencies
Listen: Facebook

Release date 20.01.2012
Nuclear Blast

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