Label the Traitor
The Battle of the Common
posted on 8/2005 By:
It’s almost a relief that bands like this still exist. Label the Traitor play a brand of hardcore that, well, actually sounds like hardcore punk, and it’s a sign of the times that such makes them somewhat notable. They aren’t devoid of modern influences, but most of what’s to be had here is fast, power-chord-heavy, thrashy punk-derived ‘core. In fact, were the band to rely exclusively on their old-school roots, Battle of the Common could indeed be a highly enjoyable and energetic listen from start to finish. Unfortunately though, Label the Traitor seem to feel themselves duty-bound to employ certain modern hardcore genre foibles, and it’s here that they stumble. Every time any sort of momentum is generated by the band’s angrier punk side, it seems that the effect is utterly dispelled by some shoddy breakdown or clean vocal segment.
Take, for instance, opener “Burned at the Stake.” The band opens up with thrashing, straightforward American Nightmare/Suicide File-type throwback hardcore, and just when the speedy tempos and gang shouts are getting the ol’ blood pumping, it all drops away in favor of…an attempt at a catchy clean-sung chorus. I almost hate to harp on clean vocals, as it seems to be the cool thing to do amongst reviewers just as using them is the cool thing amongst hardcore bands, but this shit just doesn’t fly here. Vocalist Steve shoots for a gritty sort of Strike Anywhere charm to counterbalance his basic howl, but the sudden melody and even-more-simplified guitars destroy the song’s aggressive flow. The band gets on track for most of the song’s remainder until the up-tempo continuum is again broken, this time by…well, I don’t know whether it’s supposed to be a modern stompy breakdown or a trad dance part, but either way that stuttering palm-mute nonsense is inarguably flaccid. So it goes for the duration of the album; for every moment of sweaty, racing hardcore goodness (“Bleeding Out,” “Tied to the Dime,” “Your World Reduced”) there are little songwriting glitches that range from questionable, like the clean singing on “Until the End” and “Common Man’s Revenge,” to embarrassing, like virtually every breakdown Label the Traitor plays. These aren’t the kind of botched parts that you can tune out or fast forward through. Rather, this breed of inconsistent songwriting will destroy entire songs, which is particularly aggravating in light of how good some parts of Battle of the Common are.
This record really doesn’t need to exist. Bands like The Hope Conspiracy and the aforementioned Suicide File have produced masterpieces in this very vein, and Label the Traitor’s awkward melodies and heavy-handed political lean can’t really hold a candle to that sort of quality. Surely the band will garner some fanbase amongst hardcore devotees, but those with broader tastes are better off investing in Label the Traitor’s influences rather than in their product itself.
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