Striking Distance - March To Your Grave (Cover Artwork)

Striking Distance

March To Your Grave (2001)


If you're one of the people who were smart enough to pick up Striking Distance's self-titled EP, you were probably wowed by the band's ability to invoke the spirit and vibe of original, first-generation harDCore. However, as everyone knows, one good hardcore EP never ensures a subsequent great LP; if the average hardcore band is lucky enough to make it that far, they usually do so in a weak, diluted state. Just this year American Nightmare released an LP that paled in comparison to the band's earlier EPs, and countless other groups throughout hardcore's history have followed up scorching debut EPs with relatively flaccid full-lengths.

Well, Striking Distance have proven themselves immune to this trend, and what's more they've done it without meticulously replicating the aesthetic of their earlier work. March to Your Grave is a giant leap forward for the band in nearly every respect. In terms of sound quality, the low-fi sound which was one of the best and most defining attributes of the band's debut EP has been replaced by tighter, yet still uncompromisingly powerful (after all, this is the man who brought you Cave In's early work) production from studio wizard Brian McTernan. Similarly, though the band's earlier work was pretty much straightforward thrash, March To Your Grave incorporates so many different speeds and styles that it's almost difficult to believe this is the same band who recorded the earlier EP. Even the songs that have been re-recorded from that session take on a whole new, more vibrant life.

The guitar solos at the end of "Ready To Die" or the strange intro to "Rumble" (which sounded like a less weird version of Rudimentary Peni's "Teenage Timekiller" the first time I heard it) show the band's remarkable ability to assimilate new sounds and still sound like hardcore. Individual parts that would otherwise never fit into your standard, straight ahead (pun intended, if you get it) hardcore song are worked seamlessly into a decidedly cohesive aesthetic, the center of which is singer Dave Byrd's tortured growl.

Byrd really comes into his own on this release, both in terms of lyrics and vocal performance. His vision of a world that is bleak, confusing, and unfailingly hostile is surprisingly clear throughout the record. The generic "you" that most hardcore bands sing to/about is usually a fuzzy and ill-defined, and in the end it's probably just a typical reactionary response to the writer's own stereotype rather than something that exists in the real world. However, Byrd's songs seem like a real person speaking about real events, and if the words aren't enough to make you see the world through his eyes, the vocals themselves sound as negative and world-weary as anything I've ever heard on a hardcore record. Byrd even does the unthinkable, nearly replicating Henry Rollins' perfection of the psychotic front-man pose in "Damaged I" with "Total War," clearly the climax of the record.

Striking Distance's first EP was great because it did such a great job of transporting the listener back to a time when s/he probably wasn't even alive. However, March to Your Grave isn't backward looking; it will likely be one of the records that defines the 2001 hardcore scene for future generations. For my money, Striking Distance is the best, most consistent currently active hardcore band in the world. Buy March to Your Grave or miss out.

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