Playing in the hardcore/punk genre usually spells a fate of one of three things for bands: evolution, break-up, or roots loyalty. Spend a few years in the hardcore/punk scene and you'll see band formation and break-up is like a bad case of ADHD. However, bands like Victims have managed to keep their feet on the ground, the tunes cranked their beers full with their latest release, Sirens.
In terms of crust, if you haven't heard the Nyköping, Sweden born Victims you might be unfamiliar with the genre, and you've been missing out on some of the best crusty d-beat since their 1997 inception. Having put out six albums since then, the band hasn't released a tired or worn out feeling album. Victims nails a sense of urgency and desperation, like an emergency alarm screaming out on a stormy night. Sirens does tread down a somewhat different path though.
A Dissident was the last we heard form the band back in 2011, a fantastic, melodic piece that sounded like something Tragedy would turn out. Siren is a different beast than what you'd expect from a band that was in hibernation for the last five years. There Discharge-esque d-beat attitude is still there and songs are still crust as hell, but the tempo has actually taken a shift back a bit. Not for the whole album but at large. The intro track “Walls” pushes that punk attitude and the band is committed to the melodic aspect that they focused more on in A Dissident.
In short, and you may have already heard, Siren is more mature. Songs are more than three or four chords strung together with a killer rhythm. Tracks like “Storm” and “Turn” play more with melody and leads than they do with making anyone's neck ache. “Turn,” one of the album's best tracks both in composition and lyrics, also features some excellent backing vocals that aren't just the standard shout/echo. It's more like a shouted hum that actually gives more precedence than you'd think, cheesy as it sounds.
Any crustie might feel a bit jaded by reaching this paragraph. Victims haven't lost touch with their older works. They still sounds they were born out of the 80s and their approach is still defiantly old school. Tracks like the abrasive “Errors” and the circle pit opener “Heal” prove that in spade (or clubs I suppose). The energy isn't lacking, the band's approach has just gotten more interesting and refuses to stay stale. If nothing else, this album continues on in the traditions of Tragedy and Disfear.
Sirens is a good album and a great addition as Victims' sixth full-length. The band remains solid on all fronts and manages to craft another album that will be fun to slam beer and mosh to. Cliche as that is, that's simply the facts. But if you were looking for a more aggressive return to the front, well, you might find yourself a little disappointed by that. That's okay, take some time and let this one sink in. And if you can't do that, come back to its siren call in a few years. Victims are still a ragers, they're just now more focused, better songwriters and aware of their age.
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