No Roses - Hell or High Water (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

No Roses

Hell or High Water (2005)

State of Mind

In case you haven't noticed, hardcore punk is making a bit of a resurgence this year. In 2005 we've seen a groundswelling of previews of great things to come. Chalk up Philadelphia's No Roses as the latest to join this ever-growing list.

While something like a more melodic Hope Conspiracy might come to mind, it's abundantly clear the band has been studying up on all the emotional, more experimental moments of Give Up the Ghost's We're Down 'Til We're Underground. It's clearly the biggest influence running through this record (shit, the last two seconds of closer "Fete de la Victoire" is a dead ripoff of the same to "Love American"), but pretty nice all the same to see that someone else is trying to expand upon the genius subtleties of that record. Either way, it's great hardcore punk in that vein with a consistent theme of destructive (sub)urban imagery running through its all-too-short timespan of just under 9 minutes. Lines like "we're dropping bombs on this fucking block," "this city should have crumbled around me years ago," and "shoot down the satellites / crash all the power lines" adorn the band's songwriting left and right. Other similarities that may come to mind are Paint It Black, as the band carries on with a fierce and unrelenting yet melodic intensity with plenty of well-executed stop-starts throughout to mix things up. Vocalist Jon Hunt barely gives himself a chance to breathe, spouting out his words so quickly they often seem to overlap each other.

Standout "Snapshots" proves you can creatively address relationship turmoil and make it sound more sincere and endearing than the seventy-thousand bands currently making up a genre because of said lyrical content. There's an excellent, emotional pause by the guitarists in the early goings before they quickly launch back into the song with Hunt confiding in his audience singing "it's safe / to say we nearly lost ourselves / it's safe / to say we nearly lost it all." The resounding buildup of "Hell or High Water" culminates in the band's appropriate usage of gang vocals, a climax here reached with the fierce, broke loose yells of "NO! ONE!" ("the song we sing / means everything").

Hell or High Water is, albeit notably short, an outstanding effort. It definitely shows a band willing to mix things up a bit in an otherwise stagnant style, and it's only the beginning of what I'm sure is many exciting things to come.

Hell or High Water