It’s been a long road for Sal and Sworn Enemy. The Queens New York hardcore band first came onto my radar via the Stillborn Records release Negative Outlook, pushing a pure NYHC style with attitude and thrashy overtones. Those thrashy overtones would continue with the Jamey Jasta produced As Real as It Gets which thanks to Elektra records, saw plenty of spins on Headbanger’s Ball and landed them many cross over touring opportunities. While labels and lineups changed several time, it’s clear Sal has no signs of slowing down the band and him and his new crew have plenty left in the tank in this refreshing new album Gamechanger.
Sal has pretty much maintained this current lineup since 2012 and for good reason, it’s a talented and passionate group of players and Gamechanger reflects that heavily. Produced by Robb Flynn of Machine Head, at times you can hear throwbacks to his earlier style of Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes a bit in the production and feel on early tracks in the album. That being said, it’s quite the lethal combination, and of course there’s plenty of thrash styled hardcore on this; reflective of previous efforts with that little bit more. That little bit more comes in way of some more advanced guitar playing that falls more on the thrash metal side than the hardcore with some great solos in songs like “Seeds of Hate” thanks to Jeff Cummings great guitar work.
The hardcore side is not to be denied as songs like “DOA,” “The Fall of Modern Man” and more fill that void. Noting the hardcore/thrash blend it almost seems like a more refreshing taste here than other hardcore bands I think mostly due to that edgy New York touch not a lot of other bands can claim. The album ends with a classic “Yours is/Ours is,” where they redo their own song “I.D.S.” here as the album’s closer “Integrity Defines Strength” although the lyrics still shout out the original hardcore crew “Instant Death Squad” it was originally named for. Not really sure why they re-did the song, but I guess a more fresher version sounds better, although I always dug the “ignorant” drum sound of the original on Negative Outlook.
Overall I feel like this album puts them back in the league of, if not betters their 2003 effort ‘As Real as It Gets’. I wouldn’t necessarily label this as a game changer for hardcore, but it certainly is one for them. Don’t let their longevity fool you; this is definitely not a hardcore record to sleep on.
Notable Tracks: Seeds of Hate, Prepare For Payback