If you were a fan of the post-hardcore boom of the 90s and early 00s, you’ll know that there were countless different flavours to sample.
For many, the main draw of this kind of music was the balance between melody and noise. Some bands would tip that balance heavily in one direction or the other, and one band that loved their screaming were At The Drive-In.
Having reformed in 2012 after an acrimonious split a decade before, they toured to a hero’s welcome before threatening new music.
Unfortunately there were was one sad observation to be made about Cedric Bixler-Zavala – he can’t really scream any more.
Compare this 2012 live footage of ‘Arcarsenal,’ one of the most powerful songs in punk history, to the album version.
Okay, so sometimes there are vocalists who simply can’t do onstage what they can do in the studio. Screaming can be extremely taxing, especially if you aren’t trained; Henry Rollins ruined his voice that way, and wasn’t even the only Black Flag vocalist to manage that.
In December, the first new music from ATD-I emerged, ‘Governed By Contagions.’
Not a great deal of harshness there either. The guitars still skitter away from melody at a moment’s notice, but the vocals are all clean. Just this week, another new song followed, ‘Incurably Innocent.’
Admittedly, this is a much better song. Some of the velocity of their heyday is there, the drums flail, the guitars shriek, the vocals don’t, but luckily, the lyrics really do.
As a vocalist who so often obfuscates his lyrics behind bizarre imagery (‘an abortion that survived/a lineage of bastard mastication’ anyone?) Bixler-Zavala here covers an enormously hot button topic; child molestation.
Highlighting such a sensitive issue is a brave move from a brave band. They may not be as heavy as they used to be, but if the only boundary they can push is lyrical content when so few people are able or willing to do so, maybe we are still lucky to have ATD-I around after all.