Rival Schools - United By Fate (Cover Artwork)

Rival Schools

United By Fate (2001)


"United By Fate" walks a very dangerous line in underground music: the fine line between making a really well-produced, awesome sounding post-hardcore/post-emo record and making a cheesy, very major-label radio rock record.

For background (and those keeping score), this is the new album by New York hardcore legend Walter Schreifels. He was the principle player and guitarist in Gorilla Biscuits, and formed and fronted the legendary Quicksand as well as produced and basically wrote the first CIV album, "Set Your Goals" (read: the good one). The other three members, Sam Siegler, Cache Tolman, and Ian Love are also part of the incestuous New York hardcore scene, with each of them playing in many notable bands (Judge, Shelter, GB, CIV, Youth of Today, etc.) before.

However, don't expect anything hardcore. Don't expect to hear anything that sounds like Quicksand either. "United By Fate" is melodic, driving, and catchy post-hardcore. Start by thinking Hot Water Music with cleaner vocals. Add some cool dual guitar play, but then produce the hell out of it so it sounds like something off the new Fuel album. "Used for Glue" and "Travel By Telephone" are two perfect examples.

But then RS can dip into some more expressive territory. For more comparisons, "So Down On" is akin to early Weezer, "World Invitational" cruises with a reggae bassline, and "High Acetate" could have been a Nirvana song.

However, this is not to accuse Rival Schools of being too comercial. Unfortunately, the trend of studio tinkering and the layers upon layers of guitars and vocals makes one yearn for the days when punk bands would get into the studio, plug in, and destroy.

"United By Fate" suffers not because the songs are bad--far from it--but that it tries to be TOO good. The album is interesting from top to bottom, but the production makes it sound like all the other post-emo/hardcore bands coming to the scene via Victory, Vagrant, and Epitaph.