Sick Of It All - Wake the Sleeping Dragon! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Sick Of It All

Wake the Sleeping Dragon! (2018)

Fat Wreck Chords

What the hell is going on with Sick Of It All? If they were professional athletes playing at this level more than three decades into their career, we’d have to assume they were on steroids. What’s the musical equivalent of steroids? These guys are definitely taking some kind of performance enhancing substances. The statistics don’t lie - 32 years, 12 LPs, a couple of live albums, a buttload of EPs, 75% of the original lineup still in tact, and still making raging hardcore.

2014’s The Last Act of Defiance was a wonderful late career record. Wake the Sleeping Dragon! is even better. It makes me question whether or not SOIA is actually in the late part of their career. They seem ageless at this point. I see no reason why they can’t go on indefinitely. As I mentioned earlier, they’re not just surviving, they’re thriving. A lot of aging hardcore bands make records where they attempt to sound like younger versions of themselves. They often come across as caricatures. That’s not the case here. Sick Of It All feel fresh and vital, with a wisdom that can only come from experience.

I assume anyone reading this knows what New York hardcore sounds like. The vocals are shouted and there are plenty of sing along choruses. The lyrics are both personal and political. The guitar riffs are metallic with chugging breakdowns. The drums alternate between pummeling speed and slower grooves. SOIA are the embodiment of that sound. (They may not have been around for quite as long as Agnostic Front or Cro-Mags, but they’ve been more consistent over their 30 plus years.) Wake the Sleeping Dragon! Sounds like you expect it to, but still seems dynamic.

Opener “Inner Vision” starts things off on high note. The energy doesn’t really subside until the last note of the 17th and final song. It’s nearly 34 minutes of blistering NYHC. A personal favorite is “Bull’s Anthem”. It features vocals by fellow Fat alum Tim McIlrath, and is about as melodic as anything the band has done. Bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against could learn a thing or two from SOIA about how to do political punk without coming across as condescending.

Other highlights include the tribute “Crazy White Boy Shit”, the topical “Robert Moses Was a Racist”, the defiant “To the Wolves”, the seething title track, the ponderous “Beef Among Vegans”, the timely “Deep State” and “Work the System” and closer “The New Slavery”. A great example of Sick Of It All’s hardcore mastery is “Always With Us”. It’s a song for fallen friends. In the hands of lesser band it could easily come across as cliché. Here, it flat out rips. The truth is, there is not a dud on Wake the Sleeping Dragon!.

SOIA continue to be the hardcore standard bearers. Wake the Sleeping Dragon! is not sensitive, subtle, nuanced singer songwriter fare. It’s aggressive, angry and in your face. In other words, it’s exactly what hardcore should be. The cool, classic movie monster artwork is worth noting too. Sick Of It All have made another career and genre defining album. I sure would like to know what their secret is. Maybe playing hardcore is their fountain of youth. Don’t sleep on Wake the Sleeping Dragon!