Strife - Incision (Cover Artwork)


Incision (2015)

War Records

Strife has been my favorite hardcore band ever since I saw the music video for “In This Defiance” on the Cinema Beer Nuts VHS tape back in 1997. I was only in the eighth grade and I’d never seen that level of ferocity and righteous anger in a band before. I went right out and spent my allowance on In This Defiance at the local record store and for weeks I listened to it probably six times a day. Once I started playing in my own bands, we would always keep a Strife cover in our repertoire. When the band dropped Angermeans in 2001, I was a little put off by the high level of experimentation, but I wore my copy out nonetheless because I still loved their intensity so much. And when they broke edge, I didn’t care, but when they broke up, I was devastated. It took until 2012, but Strife got back together and (mostly) returned to form with their comeback LP, Witness A Rebirth. The record was good, but it was no In This Defiance. Then again, few things are.

So my interest and excitement were piqued when I heard Strife was set to release a new four song EP that boasted – of all things – a Cleveland hardcore inspiration. Riff-wise, Strife always had some basic similarities to early Ringworm and Integrity, so it seemed a good idea in theory. But in execution, Strife’s newest, Incision, leaves a lot to be desired.

My biggest problem with Incision is its sluggishness. The riffs do sound “Clevo-fied,” but not in that breakneck speed, Hell On Earth sort of way. Most of the record plugs along at mid-tempo, sacrificing speed for heaviness. But the heaviness never really comes. There’s a simplicity to these songs that doesn’t feel genuine. I’m loathe to say it, but it makes Strife sound they’ve run out of song ideas. By the same token, three originals and an out-of-left-field Black Flag cover doesn’t do much to dispel this notion either.

There are a few bright spots on the EP, aside from Rick Rodney’s always-incredible vocals: Clevo-hardcore alumni Human Furnace (Ringworm) and Aaron Melnick (Integrity, In Cold Blood) make vocal and guitar appearances – respectively – on the title track. And Igor Cavalera (Sepultura) plays drums on one of the songs, but I couldn’t tell which one. Strife aren’t strangers to this type of collaboration. In the past, Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill have appeared on their records. I did enjoy the guest spots, but they would have felt less gimmicky if the band had turned in a more engaging EP.

Strife will always be my favorite hardcore band because I connected with their music at the perfect time in my life. I spent many an hour picking out their guitar riffs by ear and even more hours channeling their influence into my own bands. I’m not proud of my lukewarm response to the band’s newest recording, but this doesn’t make Incision any easier to enjoy. Here’s hoping Strife still have another full-length in them somewhere. If that record is ever released, I know my desire to hear the same desperation and rage I heard on In This Defiance will have me listening with an unbiased ear.