I’m still convinced that on paper, Only Crime is one of the greatest supergroups in existence. But whether or not it is still considered a supergroup is open to discussion. Only Crime seemed like an actual band on To the Nines, not just some collective of musicians for a one-time affair.
The new album Virulence showcases an even higher bond of melodic hardcore than before. The album starts off with a fury in “Take Me,” a vicious combination of harmonious vocals and guitars perfectly mirrored against disjointed distortion and speed. It is fast, politically and sociologically smart, and dear me is it punk. More so than the last album, Virulence oozes a punk mentality, whatever that may be. But it does so in a way that reminds you why the genre, when done right, will always remain relevant in the musical world.
The hardcore roots of all the members in the band come through much more this time around. There are more screams and howls from the peanut gallery, more breakdowns, more guitars, more everything. When Only Crime gets heavy, it gets real heavy, almost uncomfortably heavy. But it is also done so in a smart way -- not some meatheaded mosh riff breakdown, but a way that fits the intelligent lyrical overtones of Virulence.
Once again though, Only Crime goes the route of a couple songs being completely infused to the core with pop-punk melodies. “Shotgun,” a very catchy song, almost feels out of place, especially when set up against the musical intensity of the opening track. It is nice to see that Only Crime can hit this musical diversity on the album, but the melodies on “Shotgun” are a bit too much at times. And putting this song on the same album with tracks such as “Xanthology” that are led by oddly-timed guitar riffs screeching and wailing all over the place just seems a bit weird.
Virulence is a damn fine record, but it is also a damn fine record that I am afraid will be quite forgettable in the long run. I loved To the Nines, but when it came time to do my top 10 of the year, it was nowhere near the list. As good as Only Crime is when it comes to the realm of melodic hardcore, there is only so much you can do within the genre's constraints. Virulence covers it all and showcases why Only Crime is one of the best, but in the end, it is really nothing new -- not that that is a bad thing all together. The band is just doing what they know, and they are doing a very good job at that.