Review Summary: A solid enough album
As one of the forerunners of the hardcore punk scene, one would expect nothing less than the best from US band Biohazard. A near unique band, they have, across their years, released nine studio albums, each one showcasing their blend of hardcore punk, thrash and rapping, to create some extremely powerful songs, influencing many of the earlier nu-metal and rap metal bands, and selling a huge amount of albums along the way. Their first four albums, Biohazard, Urban Discipline, State Of The World Address and Mata Leao, are widely considered to be classics in the US hardcore scene, with Urban Discipline and Mata Leao frequently being elevated to the position of their finest achievement. However, there is one often overlooked chapter in their discography that is often maligned, in which the band kept their signature sound whilst adding in various guest appearences of artists from bands they either inspired or bands that they had an affinity for. The album was Uncivilization.
Released in 2001, Uncivilization was subject to much debate amongst hardcore punk fans, many of whom felt the guest appearences were, for the most part, unnecessary, and that the production was weak, as well as the majority of the riffs being lacklustre when compared to earlier albums. To some degree, all of these facts are true, but the main problem with this album is one that has never cropped up in a Biohazard album before. On previous releases, when the band has been singing, yelling, screaming or rapping, they have never felt weak, with their powerful lyrics creating an imposing presence that is near unmatched by their counterparts. However, at times on this album, the vocal work feels very weak. This is not the case for much of the album, but there are one or two moments throughout the album that really do drag it down, in particular the intro to Wide Awake, which is strangely one of the best songs the band has ever put out. During those first few screams and rapped lines, the band feels very underwhelming and whiny, which truly is a disappointment to come from a band as illustrious as Biohazard.
The media's criticisms of this album were not entirely unfounded, but were, for the most part, hugely exaggerated. The production is neither as weak as their earliest albums, nor as cutting edge as what a listener would expect from a high selling artist. Every instrument is more than audible, but at times it all mashes together into a wall of sound, but is still very much listenable. The instrumentals are no weaker than earlier releases, and at times exceed these albums. The bass work is still as tight as ever, and the guitars still lay down solid groove riffs, with the killer solos expected from Biohazard frequently displayed across many of the songs. However, it is the drumming where the band has really stepped their game up, laying down some complex patterns and creating a nice beat on which the rest of the music can build.
The vocal delivery on here, despite its minor blips, is still as good as the hardcore punk scene has to offer, with some nice group vocals that are so typical of the genre found among the occasional singing and frequent screaming. As with past releases, the rapped vocals are constantly found across this album, although not so much as their other albums. The actual lyrics behind this rapping are, as always, very powerful, giving the universal message of not letting anything get to you, whilst occasionally dipping into political topics. The lyrics have always been the focus of Biohazard, and they are back, as strong as ever before, packing a lot of anger, and a lot of energy.
The guest appearances on this album crop up frequently, starting with track 5, Unified, and continuing throughout many of the songs. These are very hit and miss for me, with many of them truly adding to the songs, in particular Corey Taylor's appearance on Domination and Phil Anselmo, of Pantera fame, when he appears on the song HFFK. These are nice guest spots, that really do give a new feel and a lot of variety to Biohazard's sound, but one of the songs is utterly ruined by these appearances. Andreas Kisser of Sepultura and Biohazard working together should sound like a match made in heaven, right" Wrong. Both Kisser and band mate Derrick Green are featured on the track Trap, and they detract so much from the songs. This is a case of guest appearances not working.
Tracks one through to four, Sellout, Uncivilization, Get Away and Wide Awake, may well be some of the strongest the band has ever put out, each one being a powerful number in its own right, with the opening song and Wide Awake packing the largest punches. These are essential songs for any hardcore fan, or anyone looking to break into the genre, as they are the perfect introduction whilst still being incredible songs in their own right. Unfortunately, Trap and Cross The Line are two bland, useless songs, that both contain completely unnecessary guest appearances that detract from their songs instead of adding to them as a guest appearance should.
This album is something of a mixed bag, with it being strong enough for the most part, but having several critical flaws. If it were a little shorter, without the poor quality guest performances, then this would be the best in the band's discography by some way. However, when stacked up against Urban Discipline, this falls way short of the bar set on that album. This is still a refreshing blast of hardcore, that deserves a listen , if only for the first four songs. 3.5/5