Some people argue that writing a review about a band you love is a conflict of interest; I'm not sure why that would be, after all, the biggest fans are usually the harshest critics, but nonetheless, it should be clear that your humble writer is a fan; not just of their last, TVT release, A Place Called Home, but of their triumphant Revelation-era releases, and even beyond that. Ignite is a band that has managed to write increasingly memorable releases and over a lengthy career, to define themselves as a band of both ethical and music integrity and overwhelming talent, and these are scarce and valuable resources.
The band has jumped from label to label, previously landing on TVT in the post-Dookie signing frenzy and being overlooked by a label without the capacity to understand their music; thankfully, the recent signing to upstart hardcore/rock label Abacus seems as good a place as any for them because Ignite is -- despite Zoli's operatic range and the band's technical proficiency -- a passionate hardcore band, and one of a the best around.
The album opens with a one-minute intro, something that can be a little unnecessary but works rather well as a lead-in to "Bleeding," a track that manages to thoughtfully attack one of the dominant themes of the album: fear and freedom. Accompanied by full gang vocals, Zoli tackles the issue with a lyrical nuance and restraint not usually expected from this music. The second track, "Fear Is Our Tradition" continues to look at the subject matter, and acts as a real showcase for Zoli's talents, with intricately layered vocal harmonies and the other "theme" of the record: hooks. Ignite may be an angry, powerful band, but they want you singing along.
Interestingly, the band's opening few tracks are more mid-tempo, while the band hits full speed for the second half; the positively ripping "Are You Listening?" takes a few seconds to get going, but when it does, it's not just relentlessly catchy, but a showcase for the incredible amount of musical talent throughout this band. The next track, "Three Years" actually had my jaw drop at one point, when Zoli really stretches his range and while I can't imagine he's going to be signing it live, the bridge in the track is quite spectacular.
The most "traditional" Ignite track is perhaps, "Know Your History," which -- aside from Cameron Webb's production -- could have appeared on the best of the band's Revelation catalog; just straightforward, fast, metal-free hardcore. The final two tracks on the album may be a surprise to some, the first: a tasteful and aggressive cover of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday," which is a live favorite and for good reason.
The last is the risky, but occaisonally great acoustic closer; while Zoli occaisonally sounds like a slightly more adept Eddie Vedder, the track works in the context of the album. After tracks that consistently up the ante for speed and vitriol, the hopeful closer acts as a nice bookend to the album and resonates even after the CD stops spinning. Was it not for the earnestness of the performance and the integrity of the band, it might not have worked, but as expected, Ignite pulls it off.
With Our Darkest Days, Ignite has ended a nearly six-year absence from recording, and has delivered a record worthy of the wait. This is hardcore and it is great.