Burn - Do or Die (Cover Artwork)


Do or Die (2017)

deathwish inc

It’s not often a band can create an enduring legacy without having laid down at least one full-length record. Yet, New York City’s Burn have done just that. Experimental and progressive to their core, Burn have been a lasting presence in the heavy music world on the strength of four EPs. Until now, that is. Nearly thirty years after they first got together, Burn has offered us their first proper LP with Do or Die.

The LP itself is cohesive and dynamic. True to the style that sets them apart, Burn do not adhere to any particular hardcore paradigms on Do or Die. Rather, they go with what got them here in the first place. The record is loaded with driving rhythms and full-bodied drum work tucked behind Chaka’s consistently unique vocal patterns. Couple that with some great guitar leads and topically prescient lyrics, and Do or Die adds up to a strong release by any standard.

The second track, “Ill Together,” sets the tone for the LP as a whole. Balancing choppy start/stop guitars in the verses with more melodically driven riffs in the choruses, the song offers quite a lot to the listener. The bridge, driven by jazzified drums and introspective lyrical delivery, pushes the listener into the more experimental side of the band. Overall, the song moves the listener through a variety of musical moods only to crescendo with a sure fire sing-along to close things out. And this is largely the story of the record. Expose the listener to all sorts of sonic tones, somehow keep things cohesive, and end powerfully.

“Dead Identity” is a great song for the more straightforward hardcore listeners here too. It moves at a quick pace and draws on the structural repetition that most hardcore songs employ. And yet, even within this song Gavin’s guitar work shines through. It’s the little things that matter here, and his use of subtle harmonics throughout the song elevate it quite a bit.

The record’s title track is also its strongest. It is symbolic of everything that makes Burn so important and influential. The chorus is chaotically melodic with Chaka creating a frantic vocal juxtaposition with the gang vocals. It is also on this song that drummer Abbas Muhammed shines most brightly. Thunderous opening aside, the song is kept together by the balance between his pummeling tom beats and the more tightly-woven snare beats. “Do or Die” the song rocks with energy and confrontation, and it does so with the ability to appeal to hardcore moshers and indie wallflowers alike.

If there is any sort of letdown to be taken away from Do or Die, it’s that the record doesn’t necessarily jump our at the listener. But after a few spins, I actually like that characteristic. You have to sit with this record. You have to listen to it. And what else would one expect or hope for out of a Burn record? Look, we’ve been waiting for a Burn full-length for upwards of twenty years now. That’s a lot of time and even more expectation to deal with. Gavin, Chaka and company have handled that as best they possibly could. Do or Die is a great record. Listening to it only reminds us why their EPs, from S/T and Cleanse to From the Ashes, are still unique in the hardcore and heavy music world. Do or Die is a continuation thereof. It’s a full-length that moves with the precision, progression, and experimentation that make Burn the standouts that they are.