Final Fight - Half Head, Full Shred (Cover Artwork)

Final Fight

Half Head, Full Shred (2008)

self-released / Gobias Industries

Final Fight, for the most part, plays a modern take on fast melodic hardcore sometimes sounding like Comeback Kid but with a clear influence of their home state of California always present. In fact, sometimes I hear a bit of Fat Wreck influence in the faster parts that bring to mind Screw 32 (there's a name from the past for you). Regardless, when you hear this band you're sure to hear lots of octave guitar leads and galloping drums that usually lead to a heartfelt climactic slower part.

Their first full-length, Under Attack, was a highly competent release that was enjoyable and easy to listen to but certainly nothing groundbreaking. Half Head, Full Shred sees the band sticking to their core sound but branching out with some odd time signature riffs ("Hidden") and more creative use of complex chords ("Machine"). I especially enjoy the guitar playing; it makes sense that a record titled Half Head, Full Shred (whatever that means) should be guitar-centric. Also of note is the bass playing, which deserves special recognition for not just following the guitar riffs the whole time -- especially in hardcore, where bass players are often just failed guitar players, it's nice to see someone do something with the instrument.

The vocalist in this band doesn't have the best natural voice I've ever heard but he does an admirable job with it. In fact, I think that in hardcore a less than pleasing or irregular voice can be an asset, especially with all the screamers in the swoopy-haired metalcore bands all sounding EXACTLY the same. Furthermore, this dude sounds like he means it and as we all know that's not entirely the norm.

What really sets Final Fight from the pack is their knack for complete songwriting. They aren't pushing any genre boundaries, but they don't conform to the same few song structures that hardcore bands usually stick to; rather, the songs flow beginning to end, usually climaxing near the end in a very satisfying way. They do this in a lot of these tracks, but it works great for them.

While I dig the songs and playing I don't quite understand the production on this release. The engineering is high-quality, but the final product sounds unmastered and has a slightly unfinished kind of quality to it. I also don't think there is much digital editing on this, which I appreciate, but this band was tailor-made for high-quality perfect production. Then there are the bass drops. You know, those low booms often found in hip-hop. I've heard a few hardcore bands using these lately, but there are 10-15 on this record alone and I think it's too much. It can be useful, but likely in a few years I think this trick will be considered a relic of this era.

Ultimately, Half Head, Full Shred sounds like the product of a band just playing the music they want to without much regard to anything else. They hit quite a few peaks and have succeeded in making a solid melodic hardcore album that many people could get into.