To an old hardcore ear, the new Strife is not as surprising as it’s hyped up to be. Sure the L.A. quadraphony has dabbled in cross-breeding the destructive nature of hardcore and the serial amplitudes of punk with the steel structure of metal, but Strife’s first album after regrouping from four years of disbandment ends up simply sounding like echo from fellow Victory band Snapcase. This of course may not be so bad …
This new album, aptly titled Angermeans, boasts a cover art not-so-subtly depicting soldiers on a battlefield. The music does convey the picture’s message, though, and it certainly makes for a very patriotic piece of weaponry, despite the band’s counter-military persona. Nonetheless, Angermeans carries its tune, for the rallying measured beats of drummer Aaron Rossi march parallel through Strife’s heavy-cast chords. Coupled with Andrew Kline’s mature, deep guitar riffs the songs sound shell-shockingly live rather than bandaged up and dressed clean. Furthermore, vocalist Rick Rodney serves his troops well with enough firepower and intense onslaughts of emotion.
One drawback to the album’s musical formula, however, is a prevalent distortion in the music, where the song’s lyrics are so drowned out that not even a desensitized hardcore disciple can distinguish them. A stark exception to this is the title-track in which the tempo is drawn-out and vocalist Rick Rodney carries oblong notes that stretch to near emo-pop proportions. The maneuverability in Rodney’s voice and the effects he applies helps him stand out above the noise, as most evident in track No. 7, “Staring at the Sky.”
Strife’s sound is extremely hypnotic, and the guitar player, Andrew Kline has an almost over-bearing effect on the album – his strumming is just plain cool. Kline plays with a creative style that shuffles from one track to another, sometimes changing mid-song, peeling off tempos or vamping down to the plucks of solitary chords.
In contrast to Strife’s guitar lead and drum meter, bassist Chad Peterson can be deemed virtually MIA. His bass never leads anywhere and on the off chance one ever feels its presence above the general drone, it is faint and feeble.
For a noble attempt at the resuscitation of a dead soldier, Strife’s comeback has some battles yet to be fought before it can claim victory. For any hardcore enthusiast though, the live experience is what determines a group’s triumph or failure.