Today is one of those days where the hardcore world can breath a sigh of relief. Today is the day 96 releases their full length debut album, and let’s just say they’re doing hardcore right. No silly, redundant breakdowns. No over the top tough guy persona in the lyrics. Instead you get groovy guitar licks, solid lyrics (although I nearly pissed myself laughing at one of the tracks… keep reading for more), and short length songs to really bring out the punk side of hardcore. 96, who reside in New Jersey, have a few EP’s and demos under their belts, but Caught In The Grips is sure to catapult them closer into the spotlight.
Caught In The Grips starts off strong with “Had Enough” which really gets your blood flowing and ready for what is a fun, yet crazy adrenaline rush. At 2:49, this track happens to be one of the longest ones but certainly gives you the kick start needed to get your headbanging. Corey Donahue, vocalist, really brings back that old hardcore vocal style that everyone grew to love back in the day before people thought mixing death metal and hardcore was a good idea. Marc Gurducci and Pat DeFrancisci wield axes respectively and really bring a groovy swing to the band and some nifty leads in some tracks (i.e. “Fast Money”). Giavonni Escamilla brings the low tones with the bass and does a great job keeping up the tempo with Marc and Pat. (By the way, check out the track “16 Inches” if you love bass as much as me, Giavonni tears up a sweet bass break in the beginning!) Behind the kit, the listener gets to hear Steve Cieri help Giavonni keep the tempo up with those thrash-like beats that I ooze over.
The next few tracks literally fly past you as quick as they came but they certainly leave their mark on you. “Losing Grip” and “Darker Days” last almost 3 minutes between the two of them, while “Hard Luck” and “Culture Shock” do the same a few tracks later. One small thing that I kinda made a face at however was a lyric at the end of “Stray Dogs.” At the end during a breakdown, the lyric repeats a few times saying, “Will I ever make you proud?” and maybe I’m just overreacting but I thought it was pretty cheesy to be honest. But in my small little whining moment, “Dried Up” hits with a THUNDEROUS guitar riff before speeding back up… faith restored! Oh and one of the few breakdowns of the album comes at the end of this same track and it’s not your dumb, same old breakdowns you here nowadays.
So on first play through, “Iced Tea” was one of those “uhhh really?” moments. But listening through a few more times, I just laugh hysterically at it because I now realize how much I love Iced Tea without ice in it! This song is now going to be played in my head every time I take a trip to the store and get some Arizona brand iced tea (or maybe an Arnold Palmer)! Honestly guys, it’s like you know me better than I do! As I finish that statement, I got to hear the gang vocals on the closing track “Rise Up.” This is just another one of those things in music I cannot get enough of: Gang Vocals. It doesn’t only get everyone in the band involved, but when performed live, the whole audience gets into it too. That is what can make a good performance become a GREAT performance. Write that down new bands out there, Gang Vocals are a must!
Overall this album was a definite breath of fresh air that the hardcore genre desperately needed! Caught In The Grips may not be from a world re-known hardcore act like Biohazard or Sick of it All, but isn’t it nice knowing that there is a fresh group of young guys that want to make similar music to the legends? I feel like this works the same way for the new thrash bands you see out nowadays as well! Back to the guys in 96 though, this is certainly only the beginning and I am sure they will be going far with their traditional sound that a lot of the Hardcore scene forgot about. Thanks go out to Cibrano Media for the tip off about these guys from Jersey, seems like a lot of good bands are coming from that direction (see my review on the latest releases from IKILLYA and Hung). Now excuse me as I go do the Milano Mosh in my mother’s living room.