We are living in an exciting period for music. While there’s much evidence for the contrary, boundaries are being broken; genres _are _progressing and young kids _are _beginning to think outside the box, accessing previously uninhibited well’s of creativity with uninhibited fervour. You can blame it on *Pop Idol *spurring the smarter younger generation to pick up a guitar (as opposed to a plastic karaoke mic) but whatever the instigator, things are starting to get interesting again. Heck, even hardcore’s getting interesting again, as anyone brave enough to check out this latest full length, from the scene’s newest underground stars, can attest.
An explosion of exuberance and highly dexterous fist-swinging moves, South Carolina’s *Stretch Arm Strong *have created a thrilling album that throttles the hardcore genre clean of any stagnating features whilst introducing a new sense of freedom and expression to the fray. Formed in 1993 this quintet have been honing their craft over three full lengths but it’s on _‘Engage’ _that their powerful juxtaposition of melody and sweat-breaking hardcore aggression reaches an all-time high.
It isn’t textbook hardcore (I can’t think of anything more dull) but passionate, engaging, advanced, and possessive of a special kindred vibe more commonly associated with classic sing-a-long acts like *Give Up The Ghost, Good Clean Fun *and *H20 *– indeed, I don’t think I can let this review go without a comparison to Toby Morse in ‘Miles Apart’ _and _‘The Calling’.
And it’s with similarly invigorating energy that vocalist Chris Mclane literally sets fire to these tracks, the likes of _‘Rising Again’ _giving a respectful nod to fellow innovators Poison The Well *through it’s soaring melodies, delivered over a driving groove more akin to stalwart hardcore veterans *25 Ta Life.
It’s all rounded off superbly with probably the stand-out track of the album, a funk-metal straightedge slam dance that incorporates some quality RHCP-style hip-hop raps that surely signal a future move into more disparate musical waters that’ll entertain their creative tendencies much more suitably than the boundaries they’re currently demolishing.
Summing up then, this is a perfect example of progressive hardcore and a band burning with a fresh, fierce energy to takes things forward.
10Mat Hocking's Score