Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to take a step forward. It’s taken 5 long years for Queens New York Metallic Hardcore crew Sworn Enemy to make “Gamechanger”, an album that is produced by Robb Flynn of MachineHead and engineered, mixed and mastered by Zack Ohren, famous for his work with Suffocation, Fallujah and Warbringer. It wouldn’t be the first time that the band have had a frontman in the chair, with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed famously producing the bands debut album “As Real As It Gets”, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
As you would expect from a band like Sworn Enemy “Intro” is a 78 second breakdown in triplicate to set the tone before “Prepare For Payback” kicks in. Blending Hardcore Punk with Metallic riffage and that crosses over band back, it’s simple and effective, like a hammer in a bar fight. There is something of the older heavier Sick of it All material in here with plenty of bounce and aggression. “Seeds Of Hate” sees frontman Sal Lacoco delivering some cut glass barked uncleans over some Thrashier tones while there is plenty of two step breakdown action. A fine solo launches from the hardcore punk side at pace and it’s clear that the band are not only back, but in fine fired up form. A mention should also go to the whammy bar action at the end of the tune.
After something of a classical melodic acoustic guitar opening that shows some serious talent while acting as a pallet cleanser “Coming Undone” comes in swinging with the kind of lyrical themes that Biohazard are famous for. The gangchant of “Living my life undone” brings home the bacon while throwing in a few newer touches to that classic old school sound. “Justify” uses a tight spoken word introduction to get across its political message. The government and its officials are corrupt and weak and and they justify their lies. Jeff Cummings and Matt Garzilli bring the breakdowns, some tasteful pick slides and the kind of attitude that gives the necessary bite to back up the message of the lyrics. Lacoco also delivers one of his finer vocal performances with a real aggression in his wet growl to accompany those gritty lyrics. Talking of stand out performances “DOA” sees Tykwuan Jackson deliver a killer slab of kit work that is given a fighting chance by the sheer quality of the mix. The gangchant again shines and makes for what should be a great live song. Having heard about the time to begin again with “DOA”, “Fragments Of A Broken Life” then talks of the pain of a collapsed existence. There is no doubting the integrity of the lyrics that provide an insight into the anxiety and pain of Sal Lacoco’s mental health and the torcher of living with the past. Cutting off the along mid flow by fading out what promises to be a ripping solo before it can really take hold is a bold move.
Flipping th script “The Fall Of Modern Man” talks of the here and now and the failings of twentieth century society over the sort of riffs that will make a host of bands jealous. The unrelenting quality doesn’t let up at any point, which is a true testiment to a band who should have nothing to prove but after a five year absence clearly feel the need to pull out all the stops. “Selling A Dream” takes a more positive outlook, by encouraging you to do the right thing, lifting things from their Beatdown Hardcore roots and delivering plenty of Mosh parts. Positive Mental Attitude continues with the Sick of it All esq whoa’s and hey’s at the start of “The Consequence” though to continue the sentence “of our demise”. The song is lifted by an incredible crossover Thrash solo and highly energetic pace while slowing things down in the latter part gives a real pummel effect. The title pretty much says it all with “Integrity Defines Strength”. Though it might surprise older fans to hear that it’s a reworking of “IDS” from 2000’s “Negative Outlook” album. The new version benefits from 2019 production value and a mix which was sorely lacking on the original, even if it did have an incredible drum sound.
Overall, “Gamechanger” sees Sworn Enemy come back to take back their hardcore crown after a 5 year absence in new material which may have left many wondering if they still had it in them. Well, it’s pretty clear that the fire still burns and the band rage on [7/10]
2. Prepare For Payback
3. Seeds Of Hate
4. Coming Undone
7. Fragments Of A Broken Life
8. The Fall Of Modern Man
9. Selling A Dream
10. The Consequence
11. Integrity Defines Strength
“Gamechanger” by Sworn Enemy is out now and available via bandcamp.