Ignite - Our Darkest Days
Ignite - Our Darkest Days Abacus Recordings - 2006 Like a true hardcore band going against the grain, Orange Countyâ€™s Ignite made it clear from the get-go with 1995â€™s Call On My Brothers that they would not be another metallic-infused bringer of mosh, but instead a revivalist of West Coast melodic hardcore punk. As skilled and as passionate as Ignite were upon arriving in the mid-90â€™s, the sceneâ€™s fast and melodic era influenced largely by the works of Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, and 7 Seconds had faded into its more ambiguous descendant, post-hardcore, whose more memorable bands included Quicksand, Into Another, Orange 9MM, Helmet, CIV, Only Living Witness and Handsome, to mention those I recall and still enjoy. At the same time, a tighter, angrier, and metal-influenced sound emerged from the suburbs, proving to be the new embodiment of hardcore for the 90â€™s. But well into the new millennium, the old sound has faired better than in the previous decade, as young bands attempt to honour the roots of hardcore, and new discoverers of the hardcore scene given no choice but to accept that. Still Ignite refuses to conform to this new (old) trend, composing meaningful melodic hardcore punk with messages championing environmental causes including Sea Shepherds, Project Blue Sea, and Earth First and humanitarian ones like Doctors Without Borders and Habitat for Humanity. How many other active hardcore bands with a respectable fanbase also have an acceptable awareness of the world, both local and abroad? The song Fear Is Our Tradition speaks not only for the North American population at large, but also for a hardcore scene that has become visibly tougher and more physically aggressive with itself and other factions in the underground; a well-known by-product of being fearful of something, displaying a once resilient hardcore scene lying helpless under the media-transmitted blanket of sociophobia. Fearless, expressive, and possessing the ability to smile in bio pictures, Ignite takes its music and causes seriously rather than posing and posturing as the angriest kings of some narrow sub-genre. Punk has always been smarter than hardcore. You can go into a punk pit, move around, and sing about significant issues, or you can go into a hardcore pit, get murdered, and bark about being stabbed in the back if the former doesnâ€™t happen to you first. Different strokes for different folks granted, but in this regard, Ignite clearly falls under the umbrella of punk; however with Our Darkest Daysâ€™ sheer epic proportions in rock-infused songwriting, the band could become one of those that transcends the punk scene like so many before them have. And it wouldnâ€™t be the worst thing either, since they have a whole lot to say about whatâ€™s wrong with the current state of affairs. New guitarist Brian Balchak joins longtime bassist Brett Rasmussen to compose an extremely focused and tasteful album not too far removed from Igniteâ€™s first stab at a comeback, 2000â€™s A Place Called Home on the badly mismanaged and now defunct TVT Records (the label also responsible for Vision of Disorderâ€™s dissolution, having botched the promotion of 2001â€™s From Bliss To Devastation). On Our Darkest Days, Ignite remain concentrated on pleasing their fans with burning sing-a-long verses and gang vocals, although their ability to infuse each song with catchy melodies is showcased more than ever thanks to a handful of slower tracks. Poignant touches like the smooth melodic bridge in Three Years display Igniteâ€™s impressive attention to detail. Using one of the go-to producers in the more aggressive variants of punk, Cameron Webb, who has recently worked with Motorhead, Social Distortion, and Sum 41, enables Ignite to go from rock song (Let It Burn, My Judgment Day), to blazing punk statements (Are You Listening, Poverty For All, Strength), to a classily-done cover of U2â€™s Sunday Bloody Sunday (originally released on the European version of A Place Called Home), and the touching acoustic album closer, Live For Better Days. Their song about communist regime change in Hungary, Poverty For All, addresses the problem first-hand as singer Zoli originates from that region; being that my grandparents fled the country under those exact circumstances, Iâ€™ve already attached to it a heightened degree of significance. Confrontational lyrics such as â€œWhere is your belief, can you save yourself?â€ from Save Yourself, and â€œYou said youâ€™d make a change, instead you let the days pass you byâ€ from Are You Listening abound on Our Darkest Days, as Ignite point the finger directly at the listener rather than into the sky, ensuring the songs donâ€™t get swept away by the next monthâ€™s over-hyped and politically-void â€œold schoolâ€ hardcore album. The albumâ€™s real throwback song, Know Your History, is the simplest yet at the same time most urgent song and plea, cautioning the listener â€œYou better know your historyâ€, because itâ€™s clear in 2006 that so few people do; sorry, they know the history of the Sopranos or Sex And The City seriesâ€™, depending which gender weâ€™re discussing, but not of the world or even community they live in. And Igniteâ€™s conviction cannot be put into question, as Zoliâ€™s contention that â€œmy family lived through both regimesâ€ puts an end to any unwarranted credibility questioning. Much like the U.S. government salivates at the opportunity to seize and rape new oil fields, major record labels like Epic/Sony are descending upon Orange County and snapping up the prettiest, whiniest, and most politically indifferent bands making the rounds in whatever you can call the hardcore scene today. Eighteen Visions, who were once a heads-down metal bands featuring Bleeding Through frontman Brandon Schieppatti on guitar, are now attempting to fill the void left by Stone Temple Pilots, while Avenged Sevenfold are succeeding in mesmerizing the masses with their tattoos and nu-power metal. While those bands have embarrassingly altered their sound and image to bag a wider audience, Ignite, in signing with respectable Century Media-subsidiary Abacus Recordings, are wisely using the opportunity to gain better distribution, promotion, and tour support for a timeless and urgent sound that has been only minimally altered over the last decade. While the hardcore sceneâ€™s increasingly dubious image undoubtedly improves each time the mighty Ignite releases a new album, Ignite unmistakably has loftier goals for Our Darkest Days than to peddle these highly-memorable anthems to tiny clubs in the year ahead. This is an album of epic proportions which is surely already on many top-ten lists.