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Despite being released some weeks before the tragedy in Paris, reviewing a record entitled ‘Personal War’ from a notable French band, was always going to be difficult given recent world events. This site certainly isn’t a platform for political grandstanding, and that’s best left to the experts and a more suitable forum. You know, like every single person that you probably have on Facebook, who’s read the headline of one news article, and now feels like they’re ready to take on global instability and the future of nation states… And for most people it’s hard to put emotion into words, but fortunately for us, that’s what music is for. So be kind and excellent to one another, and on with the review.
‘Personal War’ is the latest release from hardcore punks Birds In Row, and comes to us three years after the release of their well-received, début studio record, ‘You, Me & The Violence’. Straddling that fine and often blurry line between enraged hardcore, raucous punk and unhinged, 90’s influenced screamo, Birds In Row have made a name for themselves throughout Europe and abroad with their fast-paced rhythms and frenetic live show – and ‘Personal War’ offers up tasty new slabs of this winning formula. Clocking in under 18 minutes, this isn’t quite the full-length follow up fans may have been expecting and at best, it’s only five minutes longer than the stand out closing track, ‘Lovers Have Their Say’, off their last record. However, this EP release delivers seven tracks that stick close to Birds In Row’s signature sound, with just enough sonic deviation to keep things interesting.
Kicking off with the self-explanatory track ‘Intro’, the French three-piece bring back the camp fire sing-along melodies featured on previous tracks like ‘Cottbus Outro’ and ‘Last Last Dance’, building the record’s tension from the very first notes, as the vocals, drums and guitars crash and swell together, rising in sync to an inevitable breaking point. From here, the EP kicks into high gear with the explosion of ‘Torches’, a track that makes no excuses for its intensity in chord progression, holding attention with a vice grip and has Birds In Row at their most rousing. ‘O’Dear’ is probably as close to a love song as this band can get, with pained vocals, frenzied drumming and lyrics that lament “running away” right to very end – a triumphant tear-jerker. With a preference to burning out, rather than fading away, ‘Weary’ sports a jangly guitar line over some layered vocal chants before erupting in concussive drums for a beautiful finish. The pace slows down briefly in ‘Worried’, for a moody dirge, and then swings right back into the blistering hardcore of ‘Snakes’, drenched in feedback and rage. The release sounds off with ‘Marathon’, which could almost evoke its namesake from the four minute running time, being twice as long as any other track on the EP, juxtaposing their fury with finality in equal doses.
Raw, short and stripped back, ‘Personal War’ sees Birds In Row drawing from their back catalogue and sticking to their strengths, with an infectious, angry and melodic release. These seven tracks never over stay their welcome, and are sure to please devoted fans and provide a convincing argument for anyone new to the group or on the fence. This reviewer definitely has his fingers crossed for a full-length follow up in the New Year.