Blackened - This Means War (Cover Artwork)


This Means War (2009)

Think Fast!

From the ashes of the youth crew-influenced Fastbreak and sharing both current and ex-members of the Distance and Hatebreed, Blackened could have sounded like a variety of different things. Every member of the band is a veteran of hardcore, having connections to several eclectic hardcore bands throughout the New England area. They could have easily succumbed to sounding like any of the previous bands they served time in. Yet, they have a much heavier disposition than Fastbreak, are more unrelenting than the Distance and lack the repetitiousness of Hatebreed. Blackened is sort of like a blend of metal with the sound of New York hardcore. Not wholly original, but with a band having such a diverse background, it comes as quite a surprise.

Not at all being a fan of Hatebreed, I was definitely weary about how much I would like this. So has it, several members have been peppered throughout the seasoned history of the hardcore juggernaut of a band. Thankfully, Blackened has a deeper, more inspired sound that resonates with you within the first minute of the album. They don't really have the same mentality of a band of Hatebreed's pedigree. Blackened comes off more humble and a lot angrier. Needless to say, they won't be coming out with a coffee table book any time in the near future.

The album wastes no time building up suspense or warming you up with an intro. "Tirade" opens, seemingly, right in the middle of the vocalist howling a furious diatribe backed by heavy guitars and a thundering rhythm section. It starts off quickly but slows down a bit to let the listener catch up. Their metal influence is showcased in songs such as "Let Them Drink Venom" and "Unfinished Business," with the former being one of the highlights of the album. They show their `80s hardcore influence the most in the seventh track, "Unscathed," with its simplistic intro having just a simple drum beat leading into a deep bass line. The song is probably my favorite on the album and it should please anyone with an affinity to earlier hardcore, complete with lyrics about being "the last man standing."

The album does suffer, however, from overproduction. I find the vocal effects, like the ones found on "The Great Sorrow," unnecessary. They wouldn't be out of place on a nü-metal album that'd be for sale at your local Hot Topic. It is a bit distracting as well, since they seem so out of place and seemingly pointless. Though the nine-song album isn't extremely short time-wise (for a hardcore album), some of the songs could use some trimming.

Overall, however, the songs are delivered with perfect precision and brimming intensity, no doubt because of all the experience driving the band. Blackened's debut is a welcome one and makes a great addition to Connecticut's excellent and constantly burgeoning hardcore scene.

The album is streaming here.