Standing in a VFW hall in Fulton, New York, the middle of June, with a hundred and fifty kids crowded around the band, singer Ted AB drops the mic to the floor. He leans back, digs deep, and screams "CONTINGENCIES" so loud it can be heard in Buffalo. “Rotting” has begun, and from that point through the rest of the set, there is no stopping the train of passion and intensity coming from the band. This is the sight I have been so fortunate to see time and time again, this is the secret that the city of Syracuse has somehow been keeping from the world.
With the release of Mill City, that secret can be contained no longer.
It’s fury, it’s conviction, it’s intelligent, it’s everything that hardcore needs to encompass this day and age. It stays away from clichés, it stays away from most of the pitfalls and redundancies facing similar bands, all amounting to, though it’s only August, the best hardcore record of the year.
The themes in this record are not unlike that of Modern Life Is War’s Witness. While the bands sound little alike, both Ted and MLIW singer Jeff Eaton have an eloquent way of storytelling, one that gives a great vantage point to their mindset during the writing process, and thus, making each word just that much more powerful. “A Tragic Hero” combines Ted and How We Are/Achilles frontman Rory VanGrol's voices to exemplify both the previously mentioned conviction and insightful lyrical matter.
"What do you expect me to be? Some kind of Shepard for the fucking sheep? / You’re looking in the wrong direction, I never claimed to be any more than what I am." Simple, but so effective, and when you throw in the driving rhythms and relentless drumming, it’s a package that just keeps delivering. Not to mention how good, and how fluid the manic screams of VanGrol sound when added into the mix, it’s the highest degree of organized chaos. The band has a vision, and no matter how crazy things get, the songs stay centered and cohesive not only in their own context, but in that of Mill City as a whole. There’s fifteen songs on the album, and all have their own identity, all have a unique and amazing feel. “Deisel and Gunpowder,” one of the album's longer songs, starts off with some clean chord progressions before everything slowly pieces together around it, giving off an epic and devastating feel all at the same time. Slowly progressing, everything fades out but some quiet riffs, to clear way for Ted to scream “Have you ever been so afraid, that you might not have the strength?" and I immediately feel chills run through me. Before having any time to catch my breath, things pick back up with a short and dynamic instrumental passage, with the vocals coming back in once more to close to the song in just as passionate a manner as it began.
Changing things up again is “Orange,” a bit slower song than the band is accustomed to playing, but with the groove and dynamic of it being as solid as it is, it perfectly adds to the ebb and flow of the album, and gives the vocals just that much more of a chance to be a force. It’s also the longest song on the album, at over 4 minutes, but it doesn’t even feel it. “Anchors” is an extremely powerful song about the strength and impact that even one relationship can have, and not in a “brotherhood and vigilance” sort of way, but an honest connection between individuals. Again, a simplistic theme, but so eloquently and powerfully worded that you cannot help to be drawn in. The combination of stellar writing and driving hardcore on every single track does nothing if not keep a steady amount of energy.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again, but I consider myself an extremely lucky individual to witness first-hand this band growing to what they’ve become over the last two and a half years. Getting better and better with every show played and every song recorded, Mill City is the culmination and payoff of all that hard work and conviction. The music is amazing in its own right, raging, dynamic, and in your face for the album’s duration, but when you put Ted’s words in context, it becomes so much more.
With Mill City's release, the world will finally be able to experience first-hand how unquestionably incredible this band is. Their time has come.