Sick Of It All – ‘When The Smoke Clears’

By William Scott

Three decades ago Queen headlined Wembley, the M25 Motorway opened and, in the brightest city in the world, Sick Of It All joined a thriving NYHC scene alongside the likes of Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags. Since then the band have spent 30 years changing the face of Hardcore Punk by releasing records that will forever be remembered in punk rock folklore, such as ‘Built To Last’ and ‘Call To Arms’.

The thing is, what do Sick Of It All have to offer in 2016? Are they still relevant? Are the kids that went to that matinee CBGB shows still listening or did they all grow up to buy Range Rovers and sell home insurance? Well this EP proves that the Queens legends are still writing as bigger anthems as they were 30 years ago.

The lyrics on the EP’s namesake opening track summarise it well: “we will survive the test of time,” which they have well and truly done. ‘Black Venom’ opens with a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 90s nu-metal record before it crashes into an onslaught of huge gang vocals and beefed up breakdowns.

The problem with a lot of releases like this is that they can sometimes sound flat and repetitive and they struggle to offer little more than the same old thing. It is baffling how they’ve managed to give us a fresh sounding record without changing the formula but somehow they have (although it’s hard to sound repetitive when your songs tend to be no longer than two and a half minutes).

The highlight of the release however is ‘Doomed Campaign’ as Lou Koller spits venom with his songwriting to create a track that has a sense of involvement, a call to arms, a battle cry, like you’re joining a movement. The closer, ‘Fortress’, launches itself out of the speakers in typical Sick of It All style before leading us into a singalong that you could imagine being screamed in any basement by the couple of hundred people who have shown up to be punched in the face by noise.

After 30 years on the road most bands would have grown stale, gotten bored and moved on but not Sick Of It All. They’ve given us an EP that is well produced, well crafted and sounds like they actually give a damn.

WILLIAM SCOTT

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