1. High Stakes
2. Sinking Ships
3. Stay Hidden
4. White Knuckles
With a name derived of a 90s beat ‘em up video game, it’s no surprise that Streets of Rage’s self-titled EP is bringing hardcore punk back from the dead with a brutal bang.
The band’s name serves twofold. Whilst invoking the DIY era of the New York hardcore scene, it connects temporal themes of social upheaval to the eerily similar qualms of many Hongkongers in the modern day.
A visceral release of pent up anger towards the status quo, Streets of Rage encapsulates the zeitgeist of a city- and a world- on the edge.
First track High Stakes is a punk-infused thrash metal anthem. With a darkly dramatic intro evocative of arena rockers Metallica, it’s everything you could want from an EP opener: grandiosity, melodic riffs, and high-octane aggression. The band establish their propensity not only for scuzzy guitars and rapid, haywire drum tracks, but for retaining the idiosyncratic attitude of hardcore. Even the production value of the EP itself can be characterised by its deliberately raw grit, the sound not dissimilar to a cassette tape being played over a beaten up car radio. It’s fast, it’s angry, and it immediately drags the listener down to a basement club in Brooklyn circa 1991.
Scream-sung vocals truly shine on Sinking Ships. In a moment’s breath we are launched into the grip of heavy guitars, followed closely on their heels by vocalist Danny. Whilst featuring a breakdown, it does seems to come out of nowhere. Indeed the whole song feels very condensed, unrelenting with little in the way of build-up. Again though, this pace is emblematic of the mood and affect which Streets seem to be gunning for- a brash, unexpected, unbridled torrent of rage which is diluted only by the melodic guitar work.
“There’s no easy way to die; don’t matter how you cry,” growls Danny fresh off the bat in Stay Hidden. Musically this track is reminiscent of heavy metal titans Avenged Sevenfold’s earlier work- the middle of “Lips of Deceit” from Sounding the Seventh Trumpet springs to mind. Compared to its predecessors, Stay Hidden could be reckoned as a touch more aurally dynamic and interesting, with pronounced tempo shifts and moments of jagged silence to generate contrast.They seem to experiment with their post production tools, applying vocal distortion and fadeout effects, the guitar track being boosted more than other instruments at times. This shows a degree of playfulness amidst the chaos of Streets’ work, showcasing their ability to temper hardcore punk with subtle modern day touches.
White Knuckles might be the shortest track, but it definitely packs a gut punch. Slamming in with a breakneck zero to 100 approach yet again, the chorus hits home with a thudding groove. The slow, chugging breakdown is the stuff of mosh pit legend, each brutal strike on the guitar and drums drawn out with a sense of dirty and rough urgency; at one point you even can hear an obviously stray note being played by accident. Again, this works for Streets by feeding into that DIY approach. It is a reminder that before it was a recording, this music was being played live.
And what’s the best thing about live music?
It’s happening now, in the moment. Just like this EP, it’s imperfect at times, unapologetically flawed and intentionally obtrusive. You won’t forget it in a hurry- what’s more hardcore than that?
Stream Streets Of Rage on Bandcamp now!
– Jasmine Gould-wilson