Review Summary: After the no-frills approach of Death to Tyrants, Sick of it All return with one of the most diverse and memorable albums of their career.
Fat Mike of NOFX
often jokes that he is open to all musical styles because he likes both kinds – punk and hardcore – and it would seem that Sick of it All subscribe to the same line of thought. Generally speaking, the only thing that changes from one Sick of it All album to the next is the ratio of punk to hardcore, and most fans would have it no other way. Despite this predictability, though, the band did go through a rough patch during their time with Fat Wreck Chords
. For some reason, those albums just seemed to lack the conviction and fire of earlier releases. They eventually made up for the lull in quality with their back-to-basics approach on Death to Tyrants
, an album that retuned them to the forefront of hardcore by featuring the best production of their career and by being unrelentingly heavy.
While Death to Tyrants
left the band standing on top with virtually nothing left to prove, they still had never trumped their 1992 release Just Look Around
. It’s doubtful that they started into this album with the intent of topping that release, but that’s pretty much what they have accomplished. Based on a True Story
is easily their most diverse and catchy release to date, and it also retains the powerful production of its predecessor. There are a few different elements that have helped the band achieve this feat, but varying the tempos and adding a powerful groove are the main two. In addition, they’ve successfully integrated enough melodic punk influence to make the riffs more memorable and diverse than is usually the case. The biggest thing that they’ve accomplished with this release, though, is that they’ve managed to add an element of fun that could catch some fans off guard.
The slightly more melodic riffs have a little to do with this new “fun factor”, but the main source comes from the gang shouts. A majority of the gang shouts have received a small dose of melody that have made them appealing in a way that almost forces people to yell along to the songs. Despite the subtle melodic punk influence and the catchy nature of the gang shouts, though, the band’s roots are still firmly planted in hardcore. No matter how upbeat or fun a track seems to get, it is still going to be predominantly aggressive and heavy. It should be noted that some fans are inevitably going to reiterate the fact that the band tried this formula during the Fat Wreck
days and largely failed, but this time they’ve done it right. Thanks in large part to the production and the band’s focus on intensity and heaviness, they’ve pushed past the issues that occasionally plagued them in the past.
As great as it was to see the band make a full comeback with Death to Tyrants
, this album is even better due to the diversity and fun factor that they’ve injected into their formula. With Based on a True Story
, Sick of It All have not only proven that they still have what it takes to play intense hardcore, but that their best days still might be ahead of them. After almost eighteen years the band have finally topped their magnum opus, Just Look Around
, in terms of diversity, appeal, and all around excellent song writing. If this is true then it should be safe to say that Based on a True Story
marks the bands new peak, but that’s not going to happen any time soon because nostalgia is a bitch.