Thieves and Assassins - Martyr Brigade (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Thieves and Assassins

Martyr Brigade (2007)

Iron Pier

Thieves and Assassins' first full-length, Martyr Brigade provides a hearty dose of punk rock-anchored melodic hardcore and a thumb planted squarely on the pulse of social and political consciousness and critique. All claims made on press materials and from the band themselves regarding their influences/potential comparisons don't lie, either; Thieves and Assassins sound like mid-`80s Dag Nasty and early-`90s Bad Religion brought together with Lifetime's late `90s heartfelt touch.

Even at a mere nine songs standouts abound almost every minute of the way. "Substance Abuse" is one of the best songs the band has written to date, a vague but vehement calling out of ill-intentioned bands within their community and/or scene ("'Merch don't sell itself, you know'") with fluid changes and a sense of sound sincerity. While its intro sounds oddly similar to that of AFI's "Third Season," "Tax and Tribute" is easily Thieves at their most intense. Vocalist Duncan McDougal angrily rallies the troops and, after commanding "just stand in line," leads absolutely punctual, compelling shouts of "--and / wait!."

Moving forward, there's "All at Once," a song that builds and builds and would absolutely explode multiple times with McDougal's line of "find your own way" if only his voice was louder in the mix; it's a little frustrating, but still a great song. Wrapping it up back-to-back is the excellent "20YearsNGone," a heartache-addled track with a fairly self-explanatory title and McDougal inducing goosebumps his delivery's so earnest, and the title track that seems to take the interesting perspective of a terrorist, with the cleverly repetitive line of "'All praise to Allah,' he said."

McDougal has actually always been my point of contention with the band, but he sounds more confident in his delivery than on any T&A's previous EPs despite the aforementioned mix being so consistently flaky with him. He's still noticeably nasal, but his range has improved and he pushes his voice more with strained, affected shouts.

Martyr Brigade might be short on quantity, but it's notable because of its solid focus on quality, with a number of powerful, inspired bursts of passionate punk rock.

Substance Abuse
All at Once