Bought by Rich for Rob
Beatdowns? Check. Gang vocals. Check. Machine gun guitars? Check! My perfect mid 90s style hardcore album… sadly released in 2004.
I love hardcore. It’s a great community, it’s self aware, it’s political, it’s challenging and it has the ability to piss off a wide variety of people - including those who like other forms of punk or metal. It fills a niche it made for itself and isn’t ashamed of this. It’s fantastically unpretentious and never likely to have a huge mainstream appeal. It’s also a scene that I believe has had its heyday. Earlier this year Bane released what is arguably the last great hardcore album of bands of this era before they too disappear to the footnotes of history like many bands before them.
One such group that disappeared in this way is the clunkily monikored Where Fear And Weapons Meet. Control was the group’s final release in 2004. A six song EP that felt nostalgic at the time but that in retrospect signals a desire to return to a simpler, more pure form of hardcore and away from the increasingly metal tinged approach taken by many of their peers (Converge, The Hope Conspiracy etc). Indeed the influence of pioneering New York City veterans Sick of It All is apparent - perhaps a little too obvious though.
This was always one of my concerns with this release. WFAWM should have had the same level of influence as some of the bands around them. They had a fantastic pedigree featuring members of Ska-Core legends Against All Authority and hardcore pioneers Poison the Well. So it’s a real shame this release wasn’t a landmark similar to another Florida groups 6 track EP, As Friends Rust, and it’s this that highlights the main issues with this release. Late 90’s hardcore was inventive, creative and likely to surprise. Releases by the aforementioned As Friends Rust, alongside Boysetsfire, Grade and more traditional hardcore groups such as Bane, Faded Grey and Stay Gold allowed for ideas to penetrate the genre and groups produced arguably their finest work over this period. It’s disappointing then that WFAWM never became more than also-rans at the time because with the personnel this should have been a great swansong. Instead it felt dated on its release and it hasn’t aged well at all. Take the production. It sounds like it was recorded live, which is great; but sadly it sounds like they were playing at the bottom of a swimming pool.
Lyrically it treads typical hardcore ground: positivity, unity, friendship and betrayal, all delivered with vitriol and anger, and it’s a blast, at around the 15 minute mark it never out stays its welcome. Whilst the music is fairly engaging the second half of Judgement Call is a real highlight, breaking up a song that is one long beatdown with some nice guitar work, whilst stand-out track Other Face is a perfect example of a simple hardcore riff and song structure being turned into what would be no doubt a superb song to witness live.
In the end this is what it is; a collection of songs, released by a band at the end of their time together, that harks back to a more sedate era of hardcore; although it’s nowhere near as important and memorable as releases by their contemporaries, it’s fun, angry and most important of all hardcore!
When Rich said he’d found me a great 1p Album Club release, I knew instantly it was going to be something punk or hardcore related. He didn’t disappoint, as Where Fear and Weapons Meet are straight-up, no-frills, hardcore.
They’re also, fortunately, a name I’m familiar with. During university I used to pick up samplers from the likes of Equal Vision, Revolution, Initial and Eulogy Records. At about £3 a pop they were phenomenal value and you’d occasionally strike gold (Elliott, Saves the Day, The Stryder, Keepsake and Christiansen, plus many more, were first discovered on these records) – yet you had to wade through a huge amount of prosaic hardcore or unlistenable metalcore to get there. Where Fear and Weapons Meet were on at least a couple of these samplers – and, while by no means the worst of what was on offer, I never felt the need to investigate further.
So this EP, recorded right at the end of their career, is a chance for me to re-evaluate my view on a band I’d dismissed on the strength of probably two songs and try and perhaps finally find some joy in listening to a man bark maniacally over some monstrous riffing.
While not a massive fan of hardcore, at least this EP keeps things short and sharp. Six songs, averaging about 2 and a half minutes each (one about a minute more, one 30 seconds long), it’s mercifully brief, meaning it doesn’t try the patience or become too much of a trial.
There’s also enough interesting moments to ensure it at least remains listenable throughout. I mean, they’re far from original and clearly not in the same league as Sick of it All, American Nightmare/Give up the Ghost, Bane etc., but there’s a great beatdown moment on Turning the Tide, while Judgement Call even has a bit of a melody (and a rather great riff).
Is it enough to make me re-evaluate my view on Where Fear and Weapons Meet? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s probably validated my opinion and made me realise that overall, I do have fucking phenomenal taste in music (for everyone reading this who doesn’t know me, you can read that last sentence with a heavy sense of irony – Rich, you can read it as 100% fact)…
I always feel like I’m an outsider when listening to this type of hardcore – simply because the lyrics ALWAYS sound like an instruction manual on how to live your life. It’s cheap, easy, rabble-rousing nonsense and I find it impossible to buy into it. On End In Sight there’s some monotonous barking of “YOU’RE STRONGER” that masquerades as a chorus. Stronger than what is never specified (or if it is, it remains indecipherable), but it makes me want to bang my head on the nearest hard surface in frustration. Sure, the message is a good honest one, but it still sits uneasily with me.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag really. If you like hardcore of this ilk, then you might like it. For me, I’ll pass. I’m stronger…