Transplants - In A Warzone (Cover Artwork)


In A Warzone (2013)


Without a doubt, the Transplants are one of the most divisive bands in modern punk rock. Legions of mid—1990's Rancid fans cried foul when frontman Tim Armstrong decided to explore a fusion of hardcore punk rock and hip—hop by teaming up with all—star drummer Travis Barker of Blink—182 and rapper/shouter/intimidator "Skinhead" Rob Aston. Their first two albums, a self—titled in 2002 followed by Haunted Cities in 2005, saw the band try their hand at a varied mix of songs and styles, perhaps maybe too varied. The direction wasn't clear and the band became inactive as Armstrong and Barker returned to their other projects.

Fast forward to 2013 and the release of their latest album, In A Warzone. Even though I was a bit cautious with the idea of a new Transplants album after their period of inactivity, I was pleasantly surprised that the unfocused direction of the previous two albums has been replaced with a ferocious, slash and burn, banger after banger barrage of hardcore punk with the occasional dash of hip—hop. Clocking in at a very lean 30 minutes, this selection of songs is concise and to the point. The title track, "In A Warzone", is a battle cry that should pump adrenalin through the veins of anyone who considers themselves a punk rocker. Aston's gruff vocal style and Barker's innovative beats both remain a constant. The ventures into hip—hop have matured into a dash here or there; Paul Wall, Bun B and Equipto appear as guests but their presence doesn't pull anything away from the hardcore punk base of the album. The sound production is excellent. It has a rough and rugged feel (think Rancid 2000) but the clarity of the harsh vocals laced on top of the buzz saw guitars and thundering drums is one of the best I've heard in a while. The lyrical content is violent, dark and thuggish at times ("Silence", "Completely Detach", "Gravestones & Burial Plots") but I feel it suits the delivery and presentation of what this album is about. However, I will admit that this same content will likely distance listeners who may prefer more positive or inspiring lyrics.

There are three main reasons why I think In A Warzone goes the extra mile and stretches beyond what would be considered a good album to instead, a great album. First, I find that this record has come out in a time where punk rock bands have been getting less reckless and less dangerous with their sound; it's been a while since I've felt like wanting to smash inanimate objects around my house and this album gave me that feeling again. Second, Armstrong and Barker are both accomplished musicians and financially stable with other, far more successful projects. I sincerely respect their desire and passion to create a commercially unappealing album with no artistic compromises; they are playing these songs not because they need to but because they honestly want to. Third, there was a time when punk and hip—hop came from the same place and it was not uncommon to see punk acts and rap acts on the same bill. Although these times have passed and the majority of today's punk rock fans cannot stand a second of rap, I am truly impressed with this album's successful integration of an unlikely and forgotten sound in the current landscape of flannel shirts, acoustic side projects and PBR: the sound of hip—hop.