For Fans Of
I love hardcore music, I really do, but when records like ‘Bad To My World’ come along, I get disheartened and feel somewhat jaded about the genre. Not because the state of hardcore in 2017 is in dire straits or anything so bleak but because, and to excuse the rather low-hanging pun, this new NYHC-worshipping, barely 20-minute-long record from Backtrack is simply a passable yet mere backtrack of hardcore and their own prior works. One that wallows in the sounds, ideas and progress of its two predecessors as well as it’s wider genre. Now, that isn’t some cardinal sin in of itself, no, yet nothing is done to make said stylistic norms and repeated ideals that interesting, different or engaging.
‘Bad To My World’ is – when you get right down to the very core of it – just another meaty, crossover-tinged dose of mosh-loving, circle-pitting hardcore. The very kind that this Long Island outfit (and their many peers) have offered up countless times before in this decade, the previous one, and well before the turn of the 20th century came around. All of their usual distorted three or four chord progressions are accounted for (see: the album’s entire guitar work). So too are the group’s typical half-time and double-time sections (see: the title track) as well as those classic Backtrack breakdowns and stomp sections (see: ‘Gutted‘ and ‘Crooks Die Slow‘). As for the album’s mix and production, while natural sounding, instrumentally well-balanced and definitely not subpar by any means, does lack the necessary feel and sense of impact at times. Elsewhere, frontman James Vitalo’s pissed off lyrics and angry vocal delivery about the failings of both himself and the external world drive the song’s forward fine enough, yet there’s just the same kind of one-note scream over and over again. Not only that, Vitalo’s vocals do begin to grate after a few songs in as there’s just no real range in his voice, weakening some of the emotional lyrical input in the process, sadly.
One would have thought and suitably hoped that a three-year hiatus would’ve done Backtrack’s collective creative juices and songwriting skills a real freshening up, but no, that’s just not the case here. Instead, we’re merely left with a bare-bones, middle of the road hardcore record that, while being above the scum line of mediocrity, only does what’s required and expected of it and nothing else.
Oh, and this album’s goofy fucking front cover artwork doesn’t help matters either. I mean, come on, just look at the damn thing:
If you listen to this record’s ten songs while doing literally anything else to occupy your time – like reading that book that you swore you’d finish months ago, drive your car, walking your dog, or whatever other daily mundane shit it is that you do – you’d be forgiven for thinking that these are the exact same songs repeated ten times. And that’s because they are, in fact, the same ten songs more or less, with very little variety or dynamic in terms of individual tracks and the records wider flow. Well, other than how long each individual song runs for but that’s hardly a major change-up or a saving grace.
Now, of course, the mission statement for a group such as Backtrack isn’t to innovate their sound too much nor for them to redefine what hardcore is, has been, and will be. However, at the end of the day, maybe that’s the real issue here – a lack of greater purpose beyond writing their comeback record and just doing what we all thought they would do. It is such an exciting time right now in hardcore, yet this new Backtrack record only reminds me of why the genre is changing in more interesting, better and more subtle ways. Not because it exemplifies that growth but due to it showing exactly why the hardcore is changing to begin with.
If you’re a fan of Backtrack and/or all you want is a short, familiar-sounding, straight-up hardcore record that’s got some crossover elements up its sleeve, then ‘Bad To My World‘ was tailor-made for your ears. But hell, even then, maybe you should just chuck on Incendiary’s ‘Thousand Mile Stare‘ instead.
I often find that a record is often as strong as the environment in which it was written and released in. As such, ‘Bad To My World’ is nowhere near as heavy, as aggressive or as violent as the likes of Nails, Jesus Piece, Cursed Earth or Hopeless. It’s nowhere near as poignant or as musically interesting as the works of Code Orange, Vein, or Employed To Serve. It’s not even close to being as hooky or as memorable as Comeback Kid’s ‘Outsider’ nor it as straight-up fun as Turnstile’s and Angel Du$t’s respective material. Also, at the risk of making it a superficial matter, Backtrack just do not have the hype or love around them that a newcomer like Knocked Loose has or even that of a veteran band like Converge.
Truthfully, Backtrack’s latest LP, while not bad per say and while not awful, is just sort of there; yet another bare-bones, middle of the road hardcore record to chuck on the ever-growing pile of such records. Who knows, maybe that’s actually worse than being outright bad…
2. One With You
3. Bad To My World
4. The Deep Is Calling
5. Dead At The Core
8. Crooks Die Slow
9. Never Ending Wed
‘Bad To My World’ is out now, stream it below: