by Nathan Cardiff
What is that feedback in the distance? The squeal of distortion closing in on us? That creeping sensation shaking your spine with excitement? Oh fuck yes, it’s a new Black On Black EP. If you haven’t been following these guys live this year, regret has surely wrapped itself around you. Thankfully the band continues to record material for fans to enjoy any and all the time (even for fools like me who haven’t seen them in 2014).
Firebrand, their fourth(!) EP in two years, has all the characteristics you love about Black On Black: the punk sound, the aggression, the underlying pop, the breakneck pace (five tracks spanning just eleven minutes), the brutal vocals of Wade Kelly. The band knows if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But what sets Firebrand apart from their previous releases, is how they’ve embraced that pop sound. Black On Black is a catchy band. Listen to the “oh-whoa-ohs” of the chorus on “Nothing Complete.” The staccato emphasis on “Cover It Up.” The fuzzy guitar on “Butcher’s Block.” And before you toss me out in the street, I don’t mean to imply that ‘pop’ means Black On Black have softened their sound. Firebrand opener “I Dreamt I Died” is a flurry of fists in the air with a buzzing bass guitar hitting so hard it’ll shake your bones. The drums lunge at you. Then those vocals become a scream just as the track closes. Kelly’s lyrics are as vicious as ever (“I wanna die like an animal” he sings on “Butcher’s Block”). And listen to that whirring guitar solo at the end of “Unbelievers.” I’ll say it again; fuck yes.
But even “I Dreamt I Died” (the EP’s most raucous track) takes its last thirty seconds into the pop realm before Kelly’s howl. Black On Black have always done a great job blending hardcore with a pop sensibility. With all of Firebrand’s snarl, it still features their catchiest tunes to date. Fans new and old are in for a treat.
Favorite Tracks: “I Dreamt I Died,” “Butcher’s Block,” & “Unbelievers”
by Nathan Cardiff