I'll be the first to admit that Boy Sets Fire's lone release with Wind-Up Records was, to put it mildly, a letdown. Tommorow Come Today had really lost the fire that the politically-minded fivesome had been most noted for. It wasn't awful, but I just couldn't feel the passion in it, which had never been an issue while listening to a BSF album before that. This is a lot of the reason I was so excited to get a copy of Before the Eulogy. Combining demos, rarities, and some old reissues, these 20 songs show the Boy Sets Fire of old.
The album is comprised of the band's first two demos, two EPs, the Consider 7", and some rarities, going in chronological order of release, allowing for anyone who listens to really chronicle the progressions the band has made musically since the release of that first demo ten years ago.
Obviously, a lot of the demo tracks are going to be a bit more rough around the edges, but they also provide some of the most loud, angry, passionate material the band has ever recorded. Nathan Gray's screams sound positively hellacious, as "One Subject Notebook" makes perfectly obvious. This was a much more angry, much more volatile Boy Sets Fire than is currently around; everything, from the heavy chord progressions, pounding drum fills and thick bass work, it all screams conviction. The rest of the songs from this first demo continue in that similar vein, save for "Harlot," which integrates some of the singing parts that would later become a staple, only in a much poorer sounding manner.
The tracks that opt for the much more straightforward, aggressive hardcore sound are where Boy Sets Fire truly shines. "The Burning Of" is a raging, fervent example of the power the band is able to display when they throw all their qualms to the wind. When there's no sung vocals to be worked into the structure, Gray is able to let go and explode into a veritable supernova, with his vocals really showing their grit. Two of the best tracks are straight off the band's lone 7'', and they're able to truly show what they can do. The dueling guitarists both rage through the song's duration, flying on Nathan Gray's wings while the drums and bass anchor it all. When the guitars break for a quick interlude to let Gray catch his breath, they come back into the fold twice as powerful as before. Those buzzsaw riffs tear through anything in their path, and the screams are literally seething with vehement ire. The Chrysalis and Suckerpunch Training EPs are both packing plenty of punch, but a few of these songs integrate some singing that bog down the intensity to a dull roar. "The Tyranny of What Everyone Knows"' maniacal vocals and thunderous drum fills don't leave room to complain, but the following "Loser of the Year Award" drops the intensity for some misplaced melody. It's clear everyone has toned it down a bit, and it hurts the overall flow.
The last few tracks don't quite match the intensity of the first two demos, but there's still sporadic bits and pieces of greatness. Boy Sets Fire has come a real long way, and after the last album it seems they're headed in the wrong direction. With a new album forthcoming early in the next year, I'm excited too see what's around the corner, but before anyone hears that album, I think it's plenty important to check out the past.