Review Summary: Five Pounds of breakdowns in a two pound bagFirst Blood
, a band from California that is signed to Trustkill, oh, what’s that you say? Their Singer played in another already established, band? (he played bass in Terror) I’ll just start this off the bat that I am sick to death of that phenomenon. So you have these guys that leave established bands, or just feel like playing in two bands, and they basically get to call up a record label and be like “hey this is so and so from: (insert name of former project) and I started this new band like two weeks ago, so go ahead and book us the biggest festivals, the biggest bands around for our first shows/tour, get us some time booked with a good producer…etc, etc, etc. I must admit, I was beyond biased when I heard about this band. The reason I ended up buying Killafornia
, is the tidbits of the song “Conspiracy” that were preceding other videos on “On Demand” made me think twice. Now that I’ve finished listening to the CD front to back for this review, I think that my original instincts were correct. This album is a shining example of tasteless song writing.
Let’s start with the albums strong points because it won’t take very long to list them all. The production is very good, or I suppose, standard for a band signed to a big indie label. The Drums, particularly the kick drum, has a ton of punch, the guitar tone and levels sound really good, and the overall mix is very good.
Carl’s vocals have a very unique tone to them, at least compared to other screamers I’ve heard. They would be easy to pick out of a crowd. He also uses some vocal patterns that don’t sound too generic. His lyrics are all pretty good as well, (save a line from track one that I’ll get to later) from near as I can tell they seem to be politically charged “Let us ask the real questions for the victims who died” or “Political necessity when justice has been denied. TERRORIZED for crimes that often go untried. SPREADING FEAR throughout their victims, ultimate sacrifice. CRITICIZED for killing any hope for peace.” The lyrics overall aren’t bad, but they’re not great.
I enjoyed the drumming on most tracks of this album; I think the drummer has a lot of potential waiting for some better riffs to work with. As far as the guitar work goes there is a good deal of potential in some good fast ‘core riffs, and two step riffs notably on the beginnings of track four, “Suffocate”. “Victim” has a pretty cool intro and some slayer style riffs at the beginning, and “Conflict” I found to be the second best track on the album with some slick tempo changes, some more technical fast riffs, and cool drum and bass parts.
Track three, “Conspiracy”. The reason I bought this album was because of this song. This starts out with a blasting drum beat, with a really cool staggered chugging guitar riff, and then breaks down into a thrown time, or possibly odd time riff that’s breakdown paced that is just not seen in tough guy hardcore. This kind of tough guy tech music was what I hoped to hear from start to finish on this record, but I was wrong.
The albums woes start right from the opening bell with the lyric “Next time I see you, your f*cking dead!” I heard this same line used by a lot of people…. in junior high. This was usually targeted at a classmate that shared most if not all of the aggressor’s classes. In other words, it was guaranteed that the next “seeing” would happen within probably 20 minutes. Needless to say, all of the people that I know of that heard these threats are alive and well. It’s too bad to have this skid mark on an otherwise respectable lyric sheet.
Now there’s a lot of debate about breakdowns, and the overuse of them nowadays. I’m going to give my blurb about breakdowns. To start with, I love breakdowns. I think it adds hooks and heaviness to hardcore; the genre would not have come as far as it has without them. There are three kinds of breakdowns when it comes to song structure. The first kind is when you take a riff and you start it at one pace and then change the drum part to a broken down feel while the guitar is pretty much playing the same thing. A pace change like this can keep a particular riff from getting monotonous. The second type, is used as a main hook of a song, in either a verse or a chorus, it just happens to have the half time, head banging feel to it. This type of breakdown also (or should at least) transition smoothly into other parts of the song. The third kind is the most delicate and care must be taken to use it tastefully and sparingly. This is the breakdown where you put the brakes on a song, do a long dramatic ring out or intro, and vocalists get to call the crowd pussies, or say “front to back, side to side” or whatever else they think of. The idea is that when this part comes up live, stuff gets broken people leave on stretchers, you get the picture. This third kind of breakdown appears at least 3 times in eighty percent of the songs on this disc. Even the most die hard scenester fan boy or tough as nails “crew” member could not have the energy for all these mosh call outs. They completely drag down songs that otherwise might not be that bad. These breakdowns are all pretty brutal when you look at them by themselves, but they’ve got enough of them for two more albums packed into ten songs.
Beyond the overabundance of breakdowns, the cd just has a lot of forgetable riffs. Half way through "First Blood" I had completely forgotten the first riff of the song. Beyond that, the structures are just predictable as all get out, alot of the breakdowns start to sound so similar that you can't tell most of them apart. It may sound like there are about as many good things about the album as bad, but i personally feel that the flaws that this music sufferes from stems from a band thats trying harder to sound tough than they are to write good tunes.
The bottom line, if you don’t care how well a song flows, and can listen to egregious breakdowns, then buy this record. The songs with good riffs that aren’t breakdowns are unfortunately fraught with just as many mediocre riffs, and just when you think "this song has got potential", they’re going to stop everything and do another breakdown anyway. Hopefully in the future this band can focus more on the song as a whole, and use breakdowns more sparringly. This band is not without potential, but their current formula just makes this stuff close to impossible to sit through. I'm giving this a "2.5" because the mojority of these songs are unbearably predictable and oversaturated with breakdowns, enough so to make a breakdown enthusiast such as my self sick of hearing them. My recommendation, download “Conspiracy” and “Conflict” but leave the rest of Killafornia
on the shelf.