Thursday, 10 March 2016

Album Review: First Degree "Street Justice" reviewed by Dave Wolff

Band: First Degree
Album: Street Justice
Released: Jan 5, 2015
Label: Slam Worldwide
Genre: Beatdown Hardcore
Location: Anaheim, California
Reviewed by: Dave Wolff

Track list:
2. Burn Slow
3. Buried Deep
4. Bloodshed
5. Suppressed
6. False Valor
7. Slipping
8. Deadbeat
9. Out Cold
10. Street Justice

Fans of All Out War and Merauder will appreciate the controlled fury First Degree bring to the table. This recording is dreadfully, relentlessly heavy, like a Sherman tank running over an iPod. Released in 2015, Street Justice is the California band’s second full length, following up 2013’s Califormia Beatdown. I’ve been involved in the hardcore scene since 1986, when crossover started and metalheads started going to shows. There were isolated incidents of someone with long hair being jumped, but for the most part you could attend a show without having to periodically look over your shoulder. Crumbsuckers and Ludichrist from Long Island appeared at CBGB on a regular basis and were accepted by the skinheads as much as the HC bands. I read lyrics by Token Entry, Bold and Youth Of Today and found them meaningful. I prefer those lyrics to the “tough guy” approach of latter day hardcore. But this was a time when bands were pushing for unity, so I’m inclined to be fair even if I don’t completely agree with a band’s lyrical approach. I’d prefer to think First Degree are about weeding out troublemakers in the scene as opposed to throwing one’s weight around, so I can appreciate them on that level. This band personify art imitating life, and make it clear that stupidity is not tolerated at shows. A quote introducing CABD from someone (apparently a band member) confirms this, putting across the idea that if you cause trouble and can’t face being called on it, you shouldn’t be there. There’s a fine line between this and violence for its own sake, but from what I’ve seen the general purpose is to strengthen the local scene. The intro precedes an album of agonizingly slow guitars, ferocious mid-tempo beats, even slower breakdowns and vocals that sound like they’re just barely keeping all that aggression in check. Listening to these songs makes you want to join the pit before much time passes, and there is definitely that element allowing you to release pent up frustration that doesn’t waver until the album concludes.

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