Backtrack - Bad to My World (Cover Artwork)


Bad to My World (2017)

bridge 9

Three years have passed since Long Island, NY’s Backtrack released their Bridge 9 debut, Lost in Life. Not that they’ve been dormant. Backtrack is one of hardcore’s most consistent touring bands. In fact, they’ve logged hundreds of shows across the US and Europe since Lost in Life’s release. Now, after holing up in the studio with longtime producer Nick Jett of Terror and Dean Baltulonis, Backtrack are, well, back with Bad to My World.

The clearest nuance felt on this third full-length from Backtrack is the progression for frontman James Vitalo. While his thrashy Outburst-inspired vocal style remains intact, he’s certainly upped his projection a lot here. By harnessing his scream a bit more, he’s added a new dynamic to the record. For “Crooks Die Slow,” a song that opens stunningly fast, Vitalo’s scream somehow manages to speed the track up even more only to accentuate the slower grooving breakdown and bassline that close the song. The vocal progression on Bad to My World serves to improve the record overall too, especially in avoiding the punch-in/punch-out recording tactics that tend to make hardcore vocals sound artificial.

The record’s sixth track, “Cold-Blooded,” is a particular standout. The ominous guitar ring-outs and pounding bass line open behind thudding tom beats only to speed up for viciously aggressive verse sequences. And as the rhythms focus on a simple but vocal-friendly conclusion, a masterful guitar lead, faint and also ominous, bubbles to the surface for just a moment before the song fades away. The overall songwriting here is what makes the track itself so strong. It showcases a band confident enough in their collective identity to offer their listeners something truly new.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t some vintage Backtrack stylings on Bad to My World. The record’s title track offers up mosh-ready sing-along parts galore. Drawing on the days of Guns Up! and No Warning, the track leans most heavily on popping drums and a bass line that stomps through the song, daring the listener not to bang his/her head to the beat. Yet again, Vitalo’s more-screamed-but-still-thrashy vocals elevate this song’s energy as well. Similarly, “Never Ending Web” offers up an archetypal Backtrack sound. The guitar work here though is really well executed. There is a great balance captured between the blisteringly fast rhythms and the subtle guitar leads that echo from just beneath the surface of the song. If not for these subtleties, “Never Ending Web” would’ve sounded like a facsimile of most songs from earlier releases. Indeed it’s the little things that make the big difference here.

Simply put, Backtrack has offered us yet another excellent hardcore full-length. Their consistency as an energetic and captivating live band is dwarfed only by their consistency in writing and recording great LPs. Bad to My World not only picks up where Darker Half and Lost in Life left off, but it also manages to progress into newer and more discerning musical layers. We’re not simply getting another fun Backtrack record here. We’re getting a full-length that reveals a maturing and confident band. That maturation is felt throughout the music and lyrics too. Consequently, Bad to My World will, even at this eleventh hour of 2017, find its way onto top-ten lists for hardcore releases of the year.