The Pledge - Distress (Cover Artwork)

The Pledge

Distress (2006)


Hardcore started in the 1980s in DC as an outlet for the anger that societal misfits had toward society. They expressed their rage by dancing a way no one did and asserting their disgust with the world. Other kids who felt "out of step" around the country harnessed this energy and hardcore took off in a more radical direction in the New England area where gangs of vehemently straight-edge kids created violent youth crews around their brand of hardcore that was heavily influenced by metal. People in the know began to label this more violent and masculine form of hardcore: moshcore. Bands like Slapshot, Bold, and Youth of Today were the forefathers of this subgenre and played extremely aggressive music that no one could have foreseen. Hardcore lost its unique sing-along potential as it was replaced by overtly gory and cheesy lyrics screamed out gutturally like a vocalist in a metal band. The simple beauty of the bar chord was replaced with dropped C tuning and chugging metal riffs. Anything of the brilliant simplicity and blunt rage that hardcore had in its beginning was completely swallowed up by the mainstream movement in hardcore today (the culprits usually being Eulogy, Ferret, and Victory Records).

Hardcore buffs are getting tired of the moshcore and are harkening back to some of the great hardcore bands of the `90s (In My Eyes, Lifetime, Quicksand, Ignite) and `80s (Bad Brains, Gorilla Biscuits, Minor Threat) and merging those styles with more inventive guitars that showcase a maturity level higher than just listlessly playing bar chords and double kicking drums and just repeating things that have already been done. This rebirth of hardcore is taking place in some of the areas in New England where kids are getting tired of moshcore and in the normal areas where you find musical progression (California, Chicago, New York, etc.) and in the hardcore meccas of Philadelphia and DC. The Midwest is surprisingly lacking in these new wave of hardcore bands, however one of those few is the Pledge out of Dayton, Ohio.

I will strive to be free
No one would guess that this would be a line on a hardcore 7" but that is what separates the Pledge from the rest of the hardcore bands out there. This is a striking antithesis to one line I found randomly from the latest Hatebreed album:
I've taken this vow of hatred, Take the Vow.
A promise to myself to never be my own defeatist
This is my hatred, this is my vow
Never to be broken"
The Pledge, known to some as Stephen Colbert's favorite hardcore band, also has another side to it. They add intricate post-hardcore guitar parts that drive the songs along at a slow pace until the song finally kicks into gear and drives to a powerful end. Lead singer Erik's assertive voice can get pretty boring at times but that's just because he needs to learn to leave his monotone vocal persona at some points to find a more appropriate vocal styling that adds more feeling to the Pledge's songs. His voice is amazing on "Amendment," "Freedom Rings," and "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" but it falters on some tracks ("We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident" and "Do Something").

Distress overall is a strong album that goes where few bands in hardcore go in terms of their lyrics and sound. Erik and crew address the rights we have as citizens and the concerns we should have about how things are run today. The final product ends up being a good 7". Despite the few tarnishes one would expect from a self-released effort Distress is a surprisingly good release out of an area not known for hardcore. The Pledge are looking for distribution for Distress after a label that was interested pulled out. We can only wish them the good luck that they truly deserve. The Pledge is riding the new wave of hardcore and I don't mind being taken for a trip.