Said to be the album of year so far by many, Modern Life Is War's new LP Witness reminds listeners that it's still nigh on impossible to find a band that sounds like them today. Sometimes, a band's supposed uniquity is its downfall. Their attempt to be a band different from the rest can fail miserably, resulting in a contrived and uninteresting sound far too commonplace in the humdrum popular music scene today. The likes of From First To Last and Eighteen Visions could be said to fall into this category, going for something new but ending up with a rather dull and formulaic blend of all the cliches characteristic of their genre. Modern Life Is War, however, are a truly individual outfit, incomparable and peerless. Their breed of slower, more melodic hardcore interspersed with occasional and appropriately placed moments of bristling fury is an exciting mix.
A suitable word to encapsulate this band's sound would be 'epic'. No song on this album, or any off their previous releases, was without the necessary anger and evident effort poured out by every musician. Each instrument does its job and in the case of the guitars, they surpass what's expected. Instead of playing bog-standard powerchords repeatedly, the guitarists use a variety of dynamics and techniques, varying in timbre and urgency, testament to the extraordinary musicianship of these guys. Even so, despite the innovative playing on behalf of everyone involved, I'd still say that the most important aspect of Modern Life Is War are the vocals; an impassioned, emotive and drawn out roar. It's not especially hard to put your feelings to paper but to display them in the way that the singer does is a spectacular feat. On each song, his capabilities are used to full effect and complement the rest of the band's playing perfectly. I always imagined this album to be a soundtrack to a storm at sea: a relentless, fervent show of raging emotions, with I'm Not Ready being the eye of storm where all is calm, well hardly. To use a cliche, Witness' cathartic sound still is evident throughout. There isn't a single bad track on Witness. It's 31 minutes of completely listenable material.
The whole of the album actually has quite a downtrodden feel although it wouldn't do such a great album justice to call it that. It's more of an overwrought and jaded sound. On the whole, it's anything but upbeat although standout track D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S. certainly is, with a driving rhythm and a chant-a-long chorus. Still, most of you will be thinking: "what does this album have to merit 5 stars that other albums of the genre don't?" Frankly, the nature of Modern Life Is War is, as I've said, extremely challenging to sum up with mere words. Originality is often sadly scarce in hardcore, and punk for that matter. However, Witness is still surprisingly accessible to those who aren't big on hardcore. It's not purely 'noise', as critics of the genre may snidely remark while not being mundane and watered down. Modern Life Is War tread a narrow path between being something new, superbly grandiose and honest and being boring, overhyped and self indulgent. If I had to choose between Witness and My Love, My Way, I simply wouldn't choose. Each album is near perfect and excitingly avant-garde. Hardcore never sounded so reinvented and just plain inspiring.
this album is PERFECT. It is one of my favourite albums of all time.
I can't believe I missed them off my 10 heavy albums list!
Good review too, as you've said, MLIW are extremely challenging to sum up into words, but I think a little bit mroe analysis on the songs would have bee good;
'The Outsiders' for me sums up all the energy and emotion in this band. THAT riff, THOSE screaming, almost crying, heart-felt vocals, THOSE lyrics; "SO WHAT THE FUCK?! ARE YOU GOING TO DO KID?!"
While 'Martin Achet" is it's faster-paced counterpart.
I did however particuarly enjoy your analysis on the instruments and how well they are used. Because they're not overtly technical like most bands try to be, but they use much more subtle techniques to keep it interesting and most of all, alive.
simply amazing live too, probably the best band I've ever experienced.