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... The Beat Goes On
Deathwish Records

Contemporary hardcore punk more closely resembles Korn than it does old-school leaders like Agnostic Front or D.O.A. The sound of barre chords sliding up guitar necks has given way to the crashing thunder of drop-D-tuned quasi-metal riffage, as exemplified by such bands as Hatebreed, Bane, and American Nightmare. On its debut album Blacklisted offers no challenge to this remodeling of the hardcore sound, delivering 13 tracks without much deviation from the current blueprint. It's a respectable debut but ultimately an undistinguished one, and by the end ...The Beat Goes On has taken on an unintentionally ironic meaning: it goes on, and on, and on. Given that the album runs only 23 minutes, this indicates a rather limited imagination on the part of the band.

Things begin strongly, with early tracks that explode out of the gate and end quickly. "Bruising Serenade," at track three, sets an early peak with a punishing riff and intense vocals, although its troubling lyrics hint at domestic abuse without effectively establishing a persona separate from the singer himself; without such a distancing device, the song risks coming off as uncritical in its depiction of masculine violence. While I doubt this was the band's intention, it mars an otherwise powerful song. "I Refuse" follows this with a negative manifesto, which again delivers sheer sonic power but falls flat lyrically, with very general sentiments of moving beyond a blanket refusal toward, well, something. It's literally that vague: "I need to be moving towards, Something/I need to be screaming for, Something." Hardcore is a young person's game, and it may not be fair or reasonable to expect philosophical profundity at all times, but this is still pretty vague. Later tracks maintain this generality: "I'd say something if I had something to say," goes "Old Friend," in a telling moment. "What's Wrong With George?" seems to be an attack on the President, but it's again sufficiently fuzzy as to leave doubt.

Blacklisted hardly stands or falls entirely on the weight of its lyrics, though. In other departments the band reaches mixed results. Its guitar riffs effectively mine the modern hardcore songbook; while far from innovative, they bash out formidable doses of musical anger. On the percussive front, however, the drummer (the insert offers no information on individual band member identities) taps out mostly standard-issue hardcore beats without much variety or noticeable virtuosity. Altogether, ...The Beat Goes On falls short of standing out but invites no harsh criticism, with the exception of the ridiculously bland four-minute instrumental "Mother Theresa," which spells "padding to elevate a 19-minute EP to LP status" while misspelling the poor woman's name. Hardcore fans might find interest in Blacklisted as a marker of where the scene is at right now (though they presumably already know), but not as signpost as to where it's headed; this is following, not leading, the pack.

-Whit Strub

Track listing:
1. Tourist
2. Wolves At My Door
3. Bruising Serenade
4. I Refuse
5. Life Moves On
6. What's Wrong With George?
7. Old Friend
8. Brightest Son
9. How Quickly We Forget (Again)
10. Do You Feel?
11. Coming Clean
12. Good Grief
13. Mother Theresa

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