Review Summary: Perfection.
Take a minute and reflect upon your life. No, really, take a good look at how your life got to where you are right now at this exact moment; the ups and the downs, the mountain top highs and the valley lows. Has life treated you well? Has it catered to your needs and answers to your demands? Does it willingly bend its will to coincide with yours? Maybe you’ve had the opportunity to glide upon the wings of luck since the inception of your birth. Or maybe whatever god it is you pray to have deigned it necessary to leave the hardships of life out of yours. Maybe you’ve been catered for since day one, a golden child among billions. Sure, we all have our times of great joy. Those moments we cherish beyond anything else; the memories that we keep with us for decades in times to bitter anguish. But has life truly been kind to you? Surely, it is a capable and easy yoke to take upon your shoulders. If you agree with any of these statements, if you find yourself nodding your head in agreement to any of the aforementioned questions then quit reading right now. This is clearly not the right album for you and your time of coming back down to earth will have to wait another time. Just stop right the fu
This is for those who know what life is truly like. It is not a simple task. It is not a downhill sprint. Nothing is handed to us and everything costs something. Life is a constant struggle, an uphill battle, times where we often take two steps forward and wind up three steps back. It’s a war. And in this day and age it daily threatens our lives, holding our fate strands bunched together over an open knife, threatened to cut loose. We may not see it every day, but life is a demanding and poisonous mistress that serves as our test, our ultimate purpose for our times on this earth. For those of us who relate to this, we know that we use music as a form to cope with this reality. While only lasting for a limited amount of time, small town hardcore group Modern Life is War touched upon the average individuals struggles with life and their sophomore album, Witness, became an album that not only touched the hearts and souls of every listener it graces, but became a genre defining album that helped shaped the face of what modern hardcore is to this very day.
'So what the f
uck are you going to do, kid?'
Unlike prior hardcore albums, Witness doesn’t grab you by the balls and screams for attention. Opening track ‘The Outsiders’ invites the listener in with one simple question, ‘What the fu
ck are you going to do?’ It sets the mood to an album that brims with the feelings of teen angst, bitter souls and discontent. It broods, ebbs and flows, counter to the straight laced sonic assault felt on so many other albums in the genre Modern Life is War is privy to. Whether causally led by the hand into songs like ‘Martin Atchet’ or finally blowing up in the listeners ears like ‘John and Jimmy’, Witness walks the fine line that separates passionate emotion and bland musical creativity. The end result is an album that grabs the listener not by countless dissonant chords or a frenetic front man, screaming his lungs off into nothing, but an open invitation into what is in store. ‘Marshalltown’ is an entire album fitted into one song. Its atmosphere that it sets resembles the cold hard lessons that life throws at each one of us and transforms it into sonic form. A fairly quiet and restrained song, on paper it might seem like a relaxing sound to kick back to, but in reality it is quite the opposite, an intense and powerful song that keeps the listener on their toes and anxious for what else is to come. Much like life today, the trials that we go through might seem blasé and dry to some, but for those who’ve experiences first hand, it slowly kills us more and more.
‘Death is more perfect than life’
‘D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S’ is an enigma to Witness. Where the album is low key, border lining on lo-fi in its audio assault, this track is the opposite. Tuned to the standard of E and a slight feedback as if in anticipation to the music, ‘Deadramones’ is not so much a standout track as it is a throwback song to the beginning days of hardcore. Full of passion and intensity, it represents the times when all a hardcore song was, was just four chords played loud, fast and in your face. The lyrics represent the toil of life on the road, something that every band from every genre faces, and the joys and bittersweet memories that come with it. Whether it is bunk beds, locked doors, hardwood, sweat, guts, skateboards, cold war bomb basement screams, no sleep, or good dreams, Modern Life is War proves that the life they lead is worth it for the sole reason of having their fans by them. The memories are unique to them and any band out on the road, those who’ve played twenty eight shows in twenty eight days, will find themselves relating to the rigors and hard work found in the touring life.
'Sometimes the boys that should be your best friends become strangers with familiar faces'
In retrospect, many consider ‘I’m Not Ready’ to be the proper ending to Witness. It truly is hard to dispute, featuring a reverb heavy chord progression and an atmospheric tone that radiates the epic nature to Witness. The lyrics touch upon redemption and the drive to start over again in the face of opposition, “In this life there are no clean breaks/ But starting again is a chance you can take”. Representing of life in general, though it can be unforgiving and intolerant we still have the choice of starting fresh and new again, even if we find ourselves not the sixteen year old kid but the twenty three year old man. So while the track itself is a proper closer to the album, the following two tracks are really what solidifies Witness as from being just a stellar album into a masterpiece. Following ‘I’m Not Ready’, ‘Young Man Blues’ picks the tempo back up and crescendos with the finale ‘Hair Raising Accounts of Restless Souls’ and essentially the ending of ‘Hell is For Heroes’ saga that was started off in the opening track, ending Witness just as it began, with a whisper, a hint of life to come.
‘They can never truly kill us and we can never truly die’
Life isn’t fair. We all figure this out one way or another. Life has its temptations and its down-in-the-dirt moments. Witness isn’t just an album as so much as it is a metaphor that this life is. Full of angst, trying times, yet beautiful in its persistence, tales of redemption, love and lost. Modern Life is War is the embodiment of a genre, the precursor to acts that take direct influence from this album, that try to copy an itch to the light that Witness shined upon the genre. We bleed and die the same, every one of us; and Witness is the album that takes these feelings and channels them into musical form. A true masterpiece that deserves all the praise that it is handed.