Strike Anywhere - Dead FM (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Strike Anywhere

Dead FM (2006)

Fat Wreck Chords

Hardcore is a very fine line to walk as a band. Generally, a good band will release a great EP and/or LP, and then slowly fizzle out. Progression is too-often criticized to the point where it becomes an unachievable goal. To some, Strike Anywhere were just another band on the same path. After a great start with their first EP, Chorus of One, came the instant classic, their first full-length Change Is a Sound; the followup, Exit English, seemed to be the beginning of the end in the eyes of many. Another hardcore band with a decent run, but their time was over, nothing left to say.

So is Dead FM a redemption album? That really depends on who you ask. Some will say the recent signing to Fat Wreck Chords only verifies the tendency to write more listener-friendly music to a wider audience. Others, including myself will say they've only gotten stronger, tighter and more focused. Dead FM is the band taking all of their previous sounds and blending it into a deep mixture of melody, aggression and intellect. The album opens with "Sedition," a track that perfectly demonstrates the musical ideas portrayed across the entire album, along with some very personal lyrics touching on the grandfather of frontman Thomas Barnett's unwilling involvement in the Manhattan Project, and its eventual genetic impact on Thomas and his father. All of the key elements of the group's past efforts are present; deep drum beats, Thomas' melodic screams, the trashing riffs and thunderous sing-alongs. But a subtle new factor is introduced: increased harmonies. To the casual fan, it's not a big difference. But I beg you to pick up a copy of any of their last three efforts and examine this carefully. You'll see exactly what I mean.

The trend exists throughout the entire album. Noticeable in standouts like "Prisoner Echoes," "The Promise" and "Instinct" is a general direction based on using harmony and melody that gives the songs a varying contrast from their heavier counterparts of past albums. But, we also find out this isn't just a hardcore band anymore. Tracks like "Two Thousand Voices," "Hollywood Cemetery" and "Allies" display a stronger punk influence, with the constant three-chord mid-tempo riffs and deep sing-along choruses.

Fear not conventional hardcore fans, there's also a generous offering of your traditional Strike Anywhere, most recognizable in the up-tempo/drum-breakdown/scream-together tunes like "Iron Trees" and "How to Pray."

So are you sick of hearing the words "harmony" and "melody" yet? I'm tired of typing them, but that really is the main emphasis of this album. Combined with Thomas really challenging himself to be more a singer/songwriter, and using more traditional song structures and arrangements, the end result is a mature album that allows the band to reach further into their punk/rock roots and influences.

What does a band do when they've accomplished so much in such a short amount of time? Then again, seven years in hardcore can be a lifetime. Luckily, if Dead FM is any indication of what life is still left in Strike Anywhere, seven years isn't even comparable to dog years.