Biohazard is one of those bands I've been a devoted follower of since their earliest days. I bought the infamous self-titled CD on the widely despised and properly defunct Maze Records. I listened to it endlessly. It was like nothing I had heard before, even in the world of New York City Hardcore. I still remember seeing them, quite fondly, at The Rage, once famously known as the World Stage in Rockland County, NY back in 1992. Ironically, a little-known band at the time was opening the show named Life Of Agony. It is a show that has stuck with all these decades. So when Billy Graziadei, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the aforementioned Biohazard puts out a new record, I listen intently.
Biohazard, as we understand, has not broken up. Rather the band is on hiatus and is still reeling a bit from the departure of original bassist and vocalist Evan Seinfeld. You might also know him from the HBO surrealist drama Oz where he played Jaz Hoyt. As Biohazard decides its next move, Graziadei, under the moniker BillyBio has decided to continue on his own path. Leaders And Liars is his second release under the BillyBio moniker and while it isn't Biohazard, it is definitely worth checking out.
The heyday of Biohazard was 1990 through 1994 with the original lineup of Graziadei, Seinfeld, Danny Shuler on drums and Bobby Hambel on guitars. The records Urban Discipline and State of the World Address were lightning in a bottle and it would be unfair to make comparisons to those NYHC classics. The old-school Brooklyn attitude comes through in every one of the tracks on those records and I'm happy that this same attitude still shines through on Leaders And Liars in songs like the opener "Black Out," as well as "Fallen Empires" and the title track. They all are sequenced as the first three cuts on the record and set the tone for the blistering experience that is a BillyBio record.
In fact the first five tracks on the record are a lot like Biohazard, sans the dual vocalists, but with a slightly more West Coast spin. The guitars and rhythms are just-so-slightly more punk than hardcore or metal and the tempos are more reticent of SoCal hardcore bands like Death By Stereo than '90s NYHC. In fact, Dan Palmer, Death by Stereo guitarist extraordinaire appears on the record as does Ra Diaz of Suicidal Tendencies. Think of this record as more Long Beach and less Brighton Beach, which still surprises me a bit as it's hard for me think of Biohazard members existing outside of a 10 mile radius of Kings Plaza in Brooklyn. Other songs like "Deception" a a bit more removed from the New York days and can fit on a West Coast comp quite easily. I'm not sure "Deception" works that well with it's pop influences as it hovers between two worlds. "Generation Kill," on the other hand is written like a unmistakable punk anthem and it sounds much more complete. Same with "Looking Up."
There are two songs that absolutely stand out to me and the first one is the brilliantly introspective "Turn the Wounds." This has everything you could ask for from Graziadei – self-introspection, building of character, facing fears – all over a slamming main riff and a classic-style chorus.
The other one is the ultra-catchy "One Life to Live." That chorus is amazing and the gang vocals are welcome for those of us who remember the 90's in the hardcore scene. Not so sure about this video though.
While I love the majority of the songs on this record, my main issue with the record is that there are some tracks that just don't belong, beginning with the closing song, "Cyanide." Billy shines, it seems, when he's all in on a hardcore style song or punk song. When it's something other than that, the composition just isn't as strong and that's the problem with "Cyanide." It's more hard rock than anything else and it's fine to experiment, but it doesn't fit on this record. Two other songs "Remission" and "Just in the Sun" are atmospheric tracks also don't fit. Those two along with a third instrumental "Sheepdog" might be better appreciated on an EP of their own under a different name.
Overall, BillyBio delivers a solid record and at least 10 tracks that make it worth a purchase.