Among their peers in the vast New York hardcore scene, Sworn Enemy always had that extra bit of heaviness to their sound. When you listen to Negative Outlook and especially As Real as it Gets, Sworn Enemy just has that extra dose of negativity and aggression that makes them (along with Incendiary) one of my favorite bands from the scene. As the 2000s wore on, though, the band's sound took a definitive turn towards Slayer-esque thrash metal. Not that this is a bad thing… this is a metal site after all. But I thought that 2008's Maniacal had perhaps gone one step too far and made them sound a little too much like every other metal-influenced hardcore act out there. Still, they are a great band who can make some positively crushing music. So it was with a sense of cautious excitement that I chose to review their new record, Living on Borrowed Time.
On their latest release, Sworn Enemy has taken a self-conscious step back into their hardcore roots. Still, the album is peppered with King/Hanneman-style-riffs, divebombs and guitar solos. This is perfectly understandable, as it would do the band little good to simply wind their mental clocks back to 2003. Sal's voice has changed a bit too, or at least he's stopped screaming as high, probably so he doesn't blow his voice box out. There is a stubborn consistency to the music that leaves little room for unpredictability. But this isn't some super progressive, artsy soemthing-something-something-core band, this is Sworn Enemy.
And when I talk about consistency, I definitely don't mean to say the band is simply repeating their last two records here. In fact, I think the new members have breathed live back into the riffs, something the band definitely needed. On songs like "Do or Die" and "Never Forget", the band's metal influenced are much more balanced and better executed than they were on Maniacal and Total World Domination. In other words, they've figured out how to play metal and still sound like Sworn Enemy. And I especially love the breakdown at the end of "Never Forget", a brutal punch in the face reminiscent of classics like "Innocence Lost" and "Fallen Grace."
In a recent interview, Sal made it clear that this record is a big "do or die" moment for the band, and the album cover makes that abundantly clear as well. For fans of metallic hardcore bands in the vein of Hatebreed, Earth Crisis and Integrity, Living on Borrowed Time should be an easy sell. And with a spot on this year's unbelievably awesome Black and Blue Bowl (it's as if they're competing with Maryland Deathfest for most jaws dropped…they got Discharge AND 7 Seconds to play it!!!), Sworn Enemy is well-placed to keep doing for a long time.
Favorite Songs: "Do or Die", "Hard Way", "One Eye Open", "Never Forget"
(I also like the name of their record label, Rock Ridge because it reminds me of Blazing Saddles)