What a great year for Rivalry Records.
First Another Breath, then Verse, now the First Step. Three incredible hardcore bands, all occupying different enough niches within the genre to not blend in with each other, instead, each has their own identity, each has their own sound.
The First Step represents the youth crew contingent, and they play the style flawlessly. Everything, from guitar tone to vocal delivery is a perfect representation of what a youth crew hardcore album should sound like. Passion, intensity, and simplistic and universal lyrical themes -- it's all here. Vocalist Stephen St. Germain is a madman on the mic, often sounding like a much more intense version off With Honor vocalist Todd Mackey on This Is Our Revenge, and accounting for the real driving force between each of the record's twelve tracks.
Some offer a bit more speed and intensity than others, but even the slow moving, bass-fronted tracks like "No Way to Live" are instantly catchy, lines like "Taking and taking, when you have such a chance to give / That's just no way to live!" becoming instant sing-along opportunities. The gang vocals on this album are full of energy and enthusiasm, providing a bit of a boost to whatever song may be lacking. The songs aren't reliant on that, though, as the riffs dealt out by Aaron Chrietzberg rage without any sort of relent, and drummer Isreal Soriano is not much of a slouch himself. "Pursuit of Happiness," in only a minute and a half, portrays perfectly everything that this band is about. Going at breakneck speed, St Germain still is able to perfectly articulate every word as clearly and angrily as the last, and only for the short bass bridge does the band slow to catch their breath, launching right back into the intensity once it's over. "As It Is" may not bring quite the speed that the previous song did, but anything lacking is made up for with the rousing gang vocals that so often are found at the point of attention.
You like youth crew hardcore? You will like this record, there's no middle ground. Rivalry is having a hell of a year, and this is just another jewel in the crown.