Reduced To Equality
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a major retro trend going on in music. Modern indie-rock has gone all ’80s gothic dream-pop, and everyone seems to love it. What better time, then, for iconic ’80s punk label Mystic Records to emerge from 20 years of retirement? Fortunately for Burning Sons, old-school hardcore never really went out of style; despite various attempts to evolve punk during its brief history, the genre always comes back to a handful of guitar chords and naked aggression. The Sons’ new full-length, Reduced To Equality, builds on last year’s slightly more pop-like Masquerade 7-inch, and it’s a vital blast of timeless, angry noise.
It should come as no surprise that the production team of Shane Hochstetler and Justin Perkins have returned triumphantly to Howl Street Recordings’ bread and butter. The album’s sound is clean but abrasive, showing off Dillon Hallen’s gravelly growl as well as the occasional piercing lead guitar of Carl Steinhagen. “American Survival” has that classic-album-opener feel, akin to The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat,” and the music doesn’t slow down for a second. There are occasional bursts of metallic influences (à la Steinhagen and drummer Dan DuChaine’s old band, Speedfreaks), but overall, these guys stick to pure, brutal punk—Black Flag by way of Motörhead.
It’s not just the music that’s harsh to the point of militarism. The lyrics touch on obscure themes from World War II and the Vietnam War (“Ritual Suicide” and “Dinky Dau”), and violent imagery abounds. The record puts forth a very bleak vision, but it’s still an invigorating listen, right down to the unlisted cover of “Cocaine Blues.” (No, not the Johnny Cash tune—the Reverend Gary Davis folk song, of which the UK Subs recorded a version of in punk’s early days). Burning Sons cut a menacing figure, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They’ve bashed out a thoroughly enjoyable album that compares favorably with the legendary Mystic catalog.
The band celebrates the release of Reduced To Equality Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. at Rushmor Records.