The catch, when it comes to trying to be in a good melodic hardcore band, is that trying to navigate the waters of punk rock is fraught with risk because the region is so over-populated. Unfortunately, there are lots of “melodic hardcore” bands which aren’t particularly melodic (read: the singer can’t carry a tune on his back) and aren’t exactly poster boys for hardcore either, for that matter (I could fill this review with those names but, really, anyone reading already knows who their favorite guilty parties are here). In the end, while bands like NOFX continue to rightly deserve to be called a great melodic hardcore band and there are others too, they are simply the tallest markers around which swarms of second-raters (or worse) crowd themselves for security. That’s kind of unfortunate but, happily, when a band like This Means War comes along flying their colors high and proud, it sounds so good that all the pretenders seem a little paler by comparison; when they step up (as they do here), everybody else knows it and clears the way out of respect.
As soon as a needle sinks into the A-side of the This Means War! EP and “Sailing Anarchy” begins to play, the results lay in and listeners know what’s coming for them right away. There, among grinding guitars and a simmering beat, singer Bert Van Dyck growls out a true and genuine call to arms as he tells listeners to stand up and raise their collective voice and show the world they’re here. There’s a certain cleansing sensation that listeners will be able to feel as the track washes over them and, by the end of its two-and-a-half-minute runtime, they’ll be sold and ready for another salvo straight away.
After “Sailing Anarchy” sets both the tone of the EP and a couple of hooks deep into listeners, “Those Were The Days” seals the deal by sprinkling a bit of nostalgia and “been this way for years” spirit onto listeners. In much the same way “Sailing Anarchy” did, “Those Were The Days” intertwines spirits of melodic hardcore and street punk and just blasts them full-bore at listeners to leave them reeling and dizzy as both the song and the side rail to a close – shuttled along hard and fast by gang vocals – and it totally guarantees that those who start with the A-side of the EP will be ready to follow the band onto the B-side as soon as the songs lets out.
True to form too, the B-side keeps the exact same energy levels as the A-side featured up and, while “Keep The Home Fires Burning” doesn’t exactly feature a monumental return for the group, it at least lives up to its name in that it keeps those who were engaged by the EP’s A-side keyed in to continue.
After that, Defend What We Stand For” walks the same line as its predecessor with roughly the same results (it’s hard to not like a “we’re all in this together” punk song) but then “Use It Up” locks into the best melodic hardcore arrangement on the entire EP to close it out, and really leaves listeners begging for more.
There, the band sort of lifts the general idea of NOFX’s “Juicehead” (gang vocals, tight melody, similar chord progression) but kicks in a healthy dose of testosterone with deeper voices and thicker guitar tone to really crank it up before the band leaves; guitarists Robbie Jennekens and Hugo Geerlings stick tightly together and deliver a chord progression which can really feel like it’s kicking listeners in the head on the right day, and the rhythm section of bassist Andre Lemmers and drummer Dries Van Dyck lock into a rhythm which can only be described as invisible as they slam and batter their way through unrelentingly for two minutes and two seconds before just stopping dead to watch and see what damage they’ve done.
It works perfectly, of course – the hard stop at the end of the song is so blunt that it threatens to smack listeners who were following too close square in the face – and listeners will be sold in that end; for thirteen and a half minutes, This Means War! CRUSHES any and all possible expectations that ANYONE (whether they be existing fan or new) may have held, and then just gets the hell out to let listeners try and collect themselves.
If and when they do manage that, it’s likely that those who just went front-to-back with this EP will immediately go hunting for another fix of music from the band and, when they don’t find one (this is This Means War’s debut release), they’ll immediately come back and set the black disc spinning again because it is that good.
(Pirates Press Records)
This Means War’s debut EP is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records: www.piratespressrecords.com/store/10-inches-c-1_5/new-this-means-war-selftitled-10-ep-p-1068.html