Criminal Instinct - Fever (Cover Artwork)

Criminal Instinct

Fever (2014)

Solid Bond Records

Atlanta’s Criminal Instinct are a band brimming with fury. Fever, their latest release on Solid Bond Records, is seven songs long and clocks in at ten minutes in total. And it is, if nothing else, a testimony to the bitterness and often hostile energy of the hardcore punk genre.

In sound, Criminal Instinct seem to draw on the bare and aesthetically straightforward riffs of bands like SS Decontrol as well as the rock n roll parody similar to Sheer Terror or even The Suicide File. While this is certainly a sound necessary to the genre and one that makes for a great live set (just check out Criminal Instinct shows on YouTube) I do wish they incorporated some layered guitar tracks and leads on this release. The band suggested at some melody on “Slow Roll” from their 2012 demo; however, that melody did not really find its way onto Fever and the record loses a bit as a result.

The most promising song on Fever, “75S,” does well to showcase both the energy of the band as well as what could make Criminal Instinct great: a bit of sensible harmony, especially in the rock n roll influenced guitar tracks. But that is really the only evidence for this on the entire record. The bass sound has just the right amount of distortion to complement the vocal angst. “Reason to Hate” also has a great rhythm to it, mixing fast horse-hop riffs and brief guitar leads that make for a well-written and aptly delivered hardcore punk sound. Yet, other songs on the record are musically austere and bare at best, giving Fever an unbalanced and unpolished sound overall. And so, musically, Fever comes up a bit short because there just seems to be something missing in the guitar work. Whether it’s the need for a bit more rhythm and harmony in the guitar tracks is more up to the individual listener, but it’s certainly what I left craving.

Vocally and lyrically Fever is every bit the angry, pissed off, raging, and on and on, exemplar one would expect from band with their sound. Josiah does a highly effective job in translating the animosity often found only live shows onto the record. In fact, this vocal malaise might be Fever’s strongest attribute. From a lyrical standpoint, the content reflects the emotional output perfectly. Consider “Coward’s Run” and the thematic look at the socially inept weaklings Josiah confronts. And his suggestions at violence in the title track “Fever” reveal a young man at his wit’s end with the world. I know these topics are ever-relevant but I do wish the word choices in the lyrics themselves bore out a bit more thoughtfulness. The greatest of the angry and disenfranchised hardcore bands were elevated because of their lyrical delivery, just consider Paul Bearer’s lyrics for instance. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with being angry to the point of outrage, but I was hoping for a bit more depth in lyrical quality.

Overall, Fever is a record that has left me a bit torn on Criminal Instinct. It is certainly packs a great energetic punch and does well to give the listener insight into what is a great live act. But it also needs refinement and an attention to some musical sensibility. The clincher here might be that it’s available for a mere four dollars on the band’s website. At the price, you should download and decide for yourself.