Strife – Witness a Rebirth (2012)

Posted: December 18, 2012 by Anthony in Album
Tags: , , , ,


Strife was and is a band that held a lot of meaning to a lot of people in the hardcore scene in the 1990’s, namely the straight edge community. As far as names in hardcore go, Strife are regarded as one of the big three of the 90’s Victory Records bands (along with Snapcase and Earth Crisis) and carried a straight edge ethic with them that really brought people together after Judge had the last of their run in the very early 90’s. One Truth and In This Defiance were two records that really left a mark on me when I was a teenager in a Long Island high school that was dubbed “The Pharmacy” for its accessibility to drugs. I could have just as easily fallen into a lifestyle of substance-hedonism with the rest of my peers, 11 years later after claiming straight edge, some are still addicted and congregating in small circles, or even dead. However, I feel that it was finding hardcore and straight edge at that stage of my life that may have helped me transition into a healthy adult – bands like One King Down, Bane, and to really drive the point home – Strife.

It didn’t bother me so much when I heard all of the news that Strife had broken edge by the time Angermeans (2001) came out after their brief hiatus. It would be a brief resurgence because the band broke up again shortly after they released that record. I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s shared opinion that Strife’s essence really wasn’t captured in Angermeans as much as their two previous full-lengths. Even after Strife was done for good, I still spun the hell out of those two records and they’ve held up surprisingly well, even for a band that no longer claimed the straight edge lifestyle as a collective unit. Every straight edge kid in the 90s is encapsulated in One Truth and In This Defiance as were the ghosts of Strife. Even after Angermeans, it would have been an honorable time to call it quits – but old passions have a funny way of festering inside of us, even if they aren’t relevant anymore.

Fast forward about an entire decade. After a string of confusing reunion shows and scattered tours, Strife announced that they were in the works of writing and recording a new full-length album. A good friend of mine recently told me that no band had let its fans down more except Metallica, and with a heavy heart I have to agree. I was 50/50 about the release of a new record and 100% debating what sort of relevancy Strife could have in 2012 – a band that was no longer straight edge, the central-focus of what their band meant and still means to so many people. Strife could very well have put out a truly innovative and fresh new album, but to make it work, they would need an urgency greater than their last records. However, aside from the music itself, everything leading up to its release left a sour taste in my mouth that a torrent of meteoric lemons couldn’t achieve on their own. From the corny “making of” documentary (though it is no secret that they had DVDs on Victory) to endorsements from a major guitar company, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when I read the final title of the album and come to the assumption that this all seemed like an elaborate hardcore cash-in–Witness a Rebirth.

Let me just say that it isn’t the musicianship of this album that strikes me as offensive. This is probably the tightest and most-polished you’ll ever hear Strife, but in a way I feel that’s the problem. The album plays out like a weird caricature of 90’s hardcore, rather than being created by veterans of such a vibrant time period. The riffs seem uninspired, and perhaps trying a bit too hard to recreate the mood and atmosphere of In This Defiance. Imagine my bewilderment when I discovered that a track I was listening to was actually entitled “In This Defiance”. I listened to this record begging to hear some sort of raw urgency, from a band that truly used to stand above the others in terms of importance. However, Strife just does not seem relevant in 2012 and I can’t stress that enough. Hardcore for the sake of hardcore is an attitude that’s best left behind us, and it has nothing to do with puffed-out chests and preaching loyalty – hardcore needs room to grow.

Witness a Rebirth is an odd record to observe from a distance. In a sense, even though it’s a shameless throwback to the 90’s, it oddly seems more inspired by contemporary hardcore acts in its delivery. It’s almost as if this record is trying to emulate the trend-sound in today’s scene (dare I mention ‘hardstyle’?) Or did it have to do with the production end of this record? To me, these are all very important speculations and I write with such passion because Strife is a band that means a lot to me. This is by no means to knock bands from the 90’s getting back together and writing new records either. By the same token, I was extremely skeptical when Earth Crisis got back together but they managed to put out 2 comeback records that were both great and relevant in 2012. 108 and Starkweather are two more examples of bands that got back together and wrote some crushing and relevant records. The difference with all of the bands mentioned is that these efforts seemed natural. It felt organic, they picked up exactly where they left off, and all without being disingenuous or seeming like an obvious re-lighting of a dead, damp torch.

Let me break this sour news by giving credit where credit is due. A band’s music is their own personal property, and a band should by no means write a record for anyone else but themselves. Even if I’m dissatisfied with the content of the record, it’s certainly their right to write whatever they want. If this is truly what they wanted to come from writing a new record, then hats off to them in that respect. However, my last and final argument is that perhaps a new record from the members of Strife would have been more powerful had it not come from Strife. Some ghosts are better left laid to rest if there is nothing left to wring from it, and I strongly feel that’s what happened with this record, and with Strife.

The verdict: (Witness a) new coaster for my frosty glass of orange juice. If you’re looking for 90’s hardcore by 90’s hardcore personae that are still killing it live and on vinyl, pushing our scene forward without looking back, I’d suggest a few bands and records. Between Earth & Sky (current-members of Trial) put out a great record last year that didn’t look to Trial for inspiration. Narrows is another great band from the same area that features members of Botch and Unbroken who put out an awesome record. If you’re looking for contemporaries who play with the same urgency as their 90’s predecessors, I would urge you to keep an eye out for bands like Foundation, Axis, Deathbed, Hollow Earth, and Discourse–just to name a few. Otherwise, this record is a lifeless paper doll of all of the things that are stagnant, non-provoking, and regressive in hardcore. If you’re so inclined though, you can stream the entire album for free. Regardless of this review, it’s important that you make the call for yourself.

1/5 kegs


– Anthony John Czerwinski

  1. strife says:

    fuck you pussy – strife

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