Review Summary: Perfection.
Mankind: “There’s no such thing as a perfect album.”
Propagandhi: “Hold my beer.”
Ahhh, Propagandhi. What a band. Despite the slight divergence between Propagandhi’s political opinions and my own (in spots), I hold no bones in admitting the band are one of the greatest punk bands to have ever existed. These guys aren’t to be taken lightly; this isn’t some cookie-cutter band screeching cringe, vapid platitudes with a side glance, hoping to get a pat on the back for saying the things everyone wants to hear (Ministry). Propagandhi don’t give a fu*k what you think, and more importantly, they hold absolute conviction in what they believe in. Furthermore, this is intensified when you stack up Hannah’s articulate lyric writing with the band’s incredible versatility and musicianship. Of course, this wasn’t properly realised until 2001’s Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
– the band’s third album – which saw the band tearing themselves away from the more traditional American-styled punk doing the rounds in the mid-nineties, for a far more aggressive sound that combined metal, thrash and punk. This could be accounted to the arrival of Todd “The Rod” Kowalski after the release of their sophomore record, but nevertheless, the band took a capricious turn in the space of five years.
I was always a metal and rock kind of guy, but friends of mine were always into NOFX, Green Day, and bands of this ilk, and while I found this sound mildly enjoyable, it didn’t quite connect with me in the way I wanted it to. However, once Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
entered the fray, everything changed. Having got into the band in between Potemkin City Limits
and Supporting Caste
, I had the advantage of hearing their evolution in sound and being utterly transfixed by their work from Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
and beyond. Though the band humbly denounce their incredible skills, there are few in this game that can pull off solos like “Purina Hall of Fame”’s face-melting exit. Nevertheless, eye-bulging solos aside, every member of Propagandhi brings an awe-inspiring virtuosity to their contributions that feels effortless, thoughtful, chaotic, melodic, and very different to anything their peers are doing.
Yet, in spite of the reverence I have for all of their work since 2001, Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
seems to be the one I always go back to. It’s such a ferocious record filled with punishing instrumentals, scathing vocals, and diversity in style and composition within the confines of such a short time frame. Which is why, hearing the news that Propagandhi were reissuing this album to mark its twentieth birthday, I was quite surprised. What surprised me more after a little research, is I discovered Chris Hannah condemned the album on the basis its initial production failed to meet the band’s satisfaction, and felt a remaster was warranted. Before DIR EN GREY’s Uroboros
remaster, I’d have said these things were all cash-grabs that bring nothing to the table. However, after hearing what a remaster can offer an album, and knowing Propagandhi don’t release crap, I have to say I was pretty excited for this version. And in typical fashion, the band didn’t let me down. While Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes (2021)
doesn’t feel quite as immediate as DIR EN GREY’s Uroboros [Remastered & Expanded]
, there is a very noticeable difference here, for all the right reasons.
Admittingly, Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
never had a botched production in my opinion like Uroboros
did, but the adjustments bring an ungodly power to the music. Jason Livermore did a sterling job of bringing a rounder, fatter, more dynamic mix to Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
, and the results are pretty phenomenal. In comparison, the original mix feels much freer and rawer, whereas the 2021 mix feels more tight-knit and focused: the drums in particular really pop and pound, decimating the playing field when you get to things like “Bullsh*t Politicans”’ blast beat assault or “Fu*k the Border”’s crazy tom rolls; as well as the bass, which sits in the mix perfectly and slithers with acrobatic grace around the intricate drum work, Hannah’s vocals, and the shredding guitar riffs. The omitting of “Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An” and “Purin Hall of Fame”’s introductions has a surprising amount of weight behind their removals as well. Though these things sound superfluous, they do a surprising amount of good to the momentum of the record, and deliver an even harder experience as a result.
The only disappointment comes from the bonus tracks which feel a bit pointless, in all honesty. But let’s be honest here; the new mix is that
good, the extra content doesn’t even feel necessary. All I wanted to do was blast the album out again in its new form, and didn’t feel undersold by the demos and original mix tracks. Today’s Empire, Tomorrow’s Ashes
was always, easily, in my top 5 best punk albums of all time. With this fresh mix, I’d argue it’s now the definitive punk album, second to none. Even if you’re not into punk music and lean more towards rock and metal, this album deserves your attention. Very rarely do I come out with sentiments of perfection, but I think Propagandhi have actually done it.