Release date: 10th July
Rolling through the sun-soaked streets of Miami, the heat bending the pavements and crawling out of the sewers like ants deserting their crumbling nest and swarming over their queen, the sweat chases down your back and snakes down your forehead. You turn the air-con to full and check that the windows are fully-wound down. They are. But the heat is too much, it’s making you light-headed and the warmth is ironing out your chest, flattening it, flooding it with husks of the afternoon sun. You need a drink. You pull over. You get out.
You head into the nearest bar, men with camel-tanned faces of Miami days and grizzled wrinkles ridged with the familiarity of Miami nights are huddled around chinked and worn wooden tables murmuring between themselves outside the bar. As you pass, they sit up and watch you as you enter the bar – as if they’re wary you’re going to blast them all away with a sawn-off. You enter the bar. Cool, quiet, with a middle-aged couple sat at the back in stony silence. They face away from each other. Different lives, same story, different drinks, same story. Tony Bennett croons over the chilled air but no-one’s listening. The barman’s got his attention stuck into a newspaper, circling advertisements as he pulls on his cigar. He doesn’t even look up as you grate a stool over the stone floor. Neither does he looks up when you ask for a Bud. The only reason you finally get his attention is because you’ve grabbed him by the collar and spat your order in his face.
The Bud is put in front of you, and you down it.
And then another.
And now Tony Bennett is irritating, so irritating in fact that you wander over to the jukebox and look for something else, something that you’ll actually feel something while listening to it. The categories fly by until the Local category catches your eye. Thick as Blood, you ask yourself? Yeah, got to be better than this old boring bastard anyway.
You put a song on and the whole bar descends into chaos. Kids run in from outside, kicking over chairs and smashing tables. Downing beers. Guzzling rum. Showering in whiskey. The barman is tied up and left in a corner while the beer is drunk dry and the breakdowns from Thick as Blood even get the old misers sat outside to get down and dirty with the pounding of the bass-string.
OK, this actually never happened. But it may be the start of my next novel. See how it goes. I used Miami as a backdrop because Thick as Blood hail from there, and listening to their music is similar to the bar scene. You just want everything to descend into chaos and everyone to let themselves go and fuck everything up. The band has been making people feel like this since their 2007 debut, Moment of Truth, and also their follow-up in 2009, Embrace. They’ve toured with the likes of Every Time I Die, Emmure and Terror and have shed their 7-piece image to a more refined, focused 4-piece and, for the love of Captain Blackbeard/Holden Caulfield/Shirley Bassey, this more focused sound rings true on this album than ever before and just makes you wanna go and get shoot a really big gun or smash a thousand bottles of beer over your head.
Full Measure incorporates a riff that tears and rips away at the surface of the vocals, as it rides up on its back legs and tramples all over the drumbeat which soon grabs it by the throat and shoves it to the ground, not prepared to be bullied into submission. The vocals are angry and relentless, unknowingly making you grit your teeth and move your head along to the track. The riff continues to staccato through the track, even when a breakdown kicks in, which shows the band are more than just a beefed-up, all-out hardcore band. They know what they’re doing, too.
The Outsiders opens up with some lovely high-end feedback before vocalist Gino Vento tells us that we are the voice of the voiceless before a nasty, snapping riff comes into play and the drums demolish anything in their path. The china-cymbal was lucky to leave this song in one piece – it’s hammered into the next century without the drummer happy to feed it some more pain. The track ends with a monstrous riff and the repeated lyrics of we are the voice of the voiceless embed the band’s anger into the listener.
Headaches has a marauding bass-line and hammered drums which lend the jarred guitar a kind of sinister you’d be fed on a Ted Bundy diet. The breakdown will crack skulls and bloody noses at live gigs; it’s enough for parents to not allow their kids to go to a Thick as Blood gig if they heard this riff, for the sake of their flesh and blood’s health.
Damned Nation is an uncompromising, aggressive finish to the album. The riff is so deeply set into the groove of the track that even when it’s not biting at your heels, you can still hear it in your head. The pattering drumbeat allows the structure of the track to shine through, and when the breakdown kicks in, the feeling of satisfaction that the end track isn’t just a filler pays respect to the album as a whole. The song may be heavy, but the band know exactly what they’re trying to achieve.
Living Proof, on the surface, may seem heavy and in-your-face, but underneath it’s actually an intelligent, creative piece of hardcore that will allow the band to feed off for their next release. A great, fresh effort from the Miami boys.