Hostage Calm - Lens (Cover Artwork)

Hostage Calm

Lens (2008)


Like many genres, hardcore's biggest strengths are often its biggest downfalls. While its goal is often to be as heavy and punishing as possible, hardcore bands often ignore melody when, in fact, touches of it are what turn an average hardcore band into a great hardcore band. Whether it is in the guitars or the vocals, it is this lack of melody that turns off many would-be listeners. Luckily for listeners that demand melody in their punk rock and hardcore there are bands like Connecticut's Hostage Calm. Mixing a hardcore foundation with touches of smart melodic tendencies, they have created an accomplished debut LP.

A major strength of the band is the skill level apparent in each member. The guitars are always interesting, mixing power chords with melodic textures, and the bass tastefully takes the lead in "(I'm Left with All These) Holes," but it is the drums that stand out the most. They're not flashy, but are perfectly recorded and performed, lending the band a natural urgency.

Lyrically, the band eschews the search-for-self-styled lyrics so prevalent in east coast hardcore and instead explores the political and social issues of modern society. Tackling the U.S.-led forcing of democracy on the world, vocalist Chris Martin (not that Chris Martin -- I bet he's sick of hearing about that…) posits, "Both sides of the aisle have us assuming that only under [the] shadow of our flag can you be human." He closes the album in "Pushing the Paradigm," "So you can let the lights of your plastic society radiate against the nighttime smog convinced this world is brighter. But if we only learn to chase the dollar and all the evils that every dead president gladly welcomed then may good fortune follow us into the fire." It's a refreshing reminder that there is more in the world than just your own inner-struggle.

Beyond the lyrics, Martin utilizes a melodic shouting delivery that is stylistically reminiscent of Dag Nasty-era Dave Smalley and Propagandhi's #2 vocalist/bass player Todd Kowalski, mixed with the sound, oddly enough, of Jesse Michaels during his time fronting Operation Ivy. It's a gruff delivery but he manages to throw in a good amount of melody to what are mostly hardcore-styled vocals.

Hostage Calm has produced a highly intelligent hardcore record with the just right amount of melody and interesting lyrics to be a solid product the whole way through. Bridging the gap between mid-`80s post-hardcore and modern sounds, this is a band that should have widespread appeal in the punk and hardcore communities.