Review: The Dream is Dead “Hail the New Pawn” CD

I had been told that this full-length was quite a step forward from the band's last EP, which really didn't do much for me, so despite my skepticism I have to say I'm pleased to report that such claims are in fact true. It's also quite a different beast altogether, to be quite honest. They rhythmic and abrasive metalcore influences are definitely still playing a big role, but they're wrapping all of that stuff up within occasional waves of Scandinavian crust and ripping contemporary grindcore, among other influences, while the vocals are all over the place between various levels of yelling, shouting, and screaming. Oh, and did I mention that a little over half of the songs are only around a minute or two each!? Imagine All Else Failed and Benumb in a massive catfight while Skitsystem gets drunk and blasts Black Flag as they stand by and watch (that was cheesy, I know, but it fits). It's in tracks like "Deuce" that the band really nails it with some chugging picking patterns and winding little rocked out metal runs over completely frantic drum fills and jarring shifts that somehow manage to stay in check and hold a memorable thread in line. Opener "Who Rules Bartertown" is a massive blast of grinding crust that sounds somewhat unlike many of the other tracks, and that crusty edge carries over into the dissonant midpaced surges of "Promotional Copy", which also interjects some classic sounding grindcore speed for good measure. Among the longer tracks, "Fuck Fair Fighting" drops a killer midpaced break midway through that borders on being a little sludgy in its use of chugging odd time signatures - which is a pretty strong contrast to tracks like "Redefining Progress" that lose some steam when explosive bursts of grindcore-esque tremolo picking can't carry along all of the typical pull-off runs and caustic guitar work. The production was handled by Alex Newport and sounds pretty good for the most part. I think it needs a little work in terms of giving the drums more of a natural warmth, as well as allowing the basslines to have more room to move around, but the guitars and vocals sound pretty good. For the most part the distortion is crisply textured yet well controlled, and the vocals are clear and up front without overpowering the music at all. Were they able to get that warm emphasis on the rhythm section happening I do think it would benefit them greatly, but I'm not complaining. The layout's done entirely in black, white, and red with shitloads of dirty textures and some gloss overlays for added effect, so it actually looks really damn nice. Also impressive are the song explanations, which truly and sincerely exhibit a lot of genuine anger and intensity in cooperation with the almost overly straightforward lyrics. You can't really make out many of the words within the songs themselves, which is almost a good thing, because I tend to feel that, while not bad, some of these lyrics could stand for a little more artistic expression since the explanations do such a great job of getting the point across in as pissed and blunt a manner possible. As the artwork and song titles often suggest, much of the content is socio-political in nature, with a number of tracks attacking certain facets of the hardcore scene in terms of commodification and horseshit marketing tactics: "Towns reduced to strip malls, downsize this community. Just another unproductive unit in this global economy. For freedom, for justice. I sing this resistance song. For those who resist the mark and refuse to follow along. More empty promises. All troubles to be swept away. Another campaign slogan. Same boss, a different day. Real solutions excluded. I guess things will never change..." In the end this is absolutely a step in the right direction for the band. Hell, it's really more of a leap in the right direction, as this CD is way better than that last EP. Some of the more typical chaotic metalcore trappings do test my patience on occasion, but they keeps things nice and succinct here, so there's not much time for stagnating, and the diverse and energetic nature of most of the songwriting carries the weight well. I won't be surprised if their next outing really seals the deal.

[Escape Artist]
Running time - 29:20, Tracks: 11
[Notable tracks: Who Rules Bartertown, Promotional Copy, Deuce, Fuck Fair Fighting]
Escape Artist Records -