Take one look at this record cover and you should have a good idea of what it sounds like: fast mid-era hardcore that eschews breakdowns, save for the kind with a palm-muted chord progression and tom-heavy drum beats underneath simple lyrics detailing a need to “break free, right now, break free, from the chains.” This is a competent release for the genre, but is essentially void of any new ideas.
Playing hardcore and hailing from Belgium in today’s hardcore landscape will likely to lead to expectations of similarity to either Rise and Fall or Justice and ultimately One Voice sounds like a less interesting version of the latter band. While I am not particularly a fan of the recently disbanded Justice, I respect the fact that they displayed a certain style and originality that separated them from not only other European bands but also contemporaries in North America.
Missing the mark on this part of Justice’s overall package, One Voice delivers a perfectly by-the-numbers straight-edge hardcore record. From the front cover font to the pictures inside (X’ed up hands prominently displayed) to the predictable songs and lyrics, they definitely nailed what they were going for. On a positive note though, the songs are well-played and the production is strong.
As an American listening to a non-native speaker expressing himself in English, I appreciate the fact that vocalist Jack Shit has a good delivery, sometimes reminiscent of a DYS-fronting Dave Smalley, and functional command of the English language that allows him to make his lines rhyme. However, as we have seen with other non-native bands singing in English, there exists a breaking point of how much you can get away with. It can be difficult to always say things that make sense (Millencolin’s early releases had some serious English flubs), but I would gladly take more language missteps in exchange for the unrelenting unoriginality of the lyrics found on this release. Not only are the topics generic, but the lyrics are riddled with clichéd phrases that a more seasoned writer would not touch. Take the song “Wall of Pride”: “Your head in the clouds, but you’re stuck in a dream / You’ll never bow down, because you think you’re supreme/ ... / But behind your wall of pride you hide a shadow of lies.” I normally cut non-native English speakers some slack, but those lyrics are asking for too much.
I often like bands that take a straightforward approach and I by no means hate this release, but I find its flaws to be too overwhelming to enjoy as anything more than novelty. Perhaps One Voice will remedy their flaws in the future, as there is a strong history of European bands making their mark on this side of the Atlantic. Take Refused -- they were pretty generic at first, too...