Sick of It All - Call to Arms (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Sick of It All

Call to Arms (retro review) (1999)

fat wreck chors

Call to Arms was Sick of It All’s first full-length in their post-major label era, and the first of many releases they’d have on Fat Wreck Chords. Frankly, there was a sense of impossibility for this record only because of how absolutely powerful their two major label albums, Scratch the Surface and Built to Last, were. What Call to Arms was to end up being was an admirable but somewhat forgettable effort in the catalogue of one of hardcore’s most important and enduring bands.

Ironically, the best song on Call to Arms was one that appeared on an EP of the same name previous to the full-length’s release. “Potential for a Fall,” the third song on Call to Arms pounded with Craig Setari’s signature low-end bass line to open, seguing into an infectious choral sing along, all anchored by great guitar harmonics and drum beats. The song was also a great introduction for the punkified fans of Fat Wreck Chords who picked up Call to Arms simply because it was a release on Fat Mike’s label.

“Sanctuary,” the record’s eighth track, was another standout on this release. The song recalled some of the great melodies found on Built to Last, but it also had the more traditional nuances of even earlier Sick of It All releases. The song clocked in at under two minutes, and wove thudding drum beats with horse-hopping verses and sing-alongs aplenty. “Sanctuary” was to be one of the few songs from Call to Arms that the band would continue to play live as well.

Ultimately, it would be the backdrop to Call to Arms more than the record itself that was to be most memorable for Sick of It All. They were the first of the heavy hardcore bands to break into the West Coast punk labels. In an era when Warped Tour was still decidedly punk and East and West coast bands were still largely enmeshed in their own circles label-wise, Sick of It All signing with Fat Wreck was big news. Once again, the band was to stand at the forefront of progression in their genre. As a release, Call to Arms doesn’t necessarily stand up to some of the other full-lengths in Sick of It All’s catalogue. But don’t mistake that for an insult. Theirs is a catalogue like no other in the hardcore genre. They’ve released more full-lengths than almost any other hardcore band, they’ve maintained a relevance in the genre unlike any other band, and they’ve harnessed consistency like no other band. Sick of It All is probably the single greatest and most prolific band the hardcore genre has ever seen. That Call to Arms wasn’t their strong effort is hardly an issue given what the band has done musically and culturally.