Published Apr 03, 2019Sworn Enemy formed in 1997, playing as Mindset until getting picked up by Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta's Stillborn Records for their infamous and menacing 2003 debut LP As Real As It Gets. The group have since toured alongside Sepultura, Dying Fetus, Biohazard and on Ozzfest.
Later releases from the band welcomed elements of thrash metal and punk into their pulverizing formula, but to less-than-stellar results and reception. With last year marking the 15th anniversary of their debut, younger hardcore audiences began to appreciate their early catalogue, but at this point, they would certainly benefit from something along the lines of their new album's title, Gamechanger.
Produced by Machine Head's Robb Flynn, founding member and vocalist Sal Lococo remarked that Gamechanger is "savage as fuck" in a press release, and while moments of the release certainly reach that point, it is not always a consistent pummeling. "Seeds of Hate" displays off-putting nu-metal whining over enticing groove riffs, breakdowns and guitar solos, but Flynn's production stains what could have been really fun moments of Sworn Enemy's second coming. The following cut, "Coming Undone," is welcomed with an acoustic guitar, sounding like the cutting room floor of the disastrous new Machine Head record, but once Lococo and company meander into Biohazard-esque hardcore madness, it seems to meet at a mediocre compromise.
"Justify" follows with a chilling spoken word intro that will excite most listeners, but the lyrical tone of the track — touching on America's political climate — feels vapid. By the time the group reach "The Consequence," they enter full-blown festival-core territory: woah's, hey's and more Rob Flynn bullshit throughout. The song is generically thrashy, with a rambling riff salad. To call this track Dollarama's answer to Hatebreed would be generous.
Gamechanger's middle section is far more redeeming. The band are at their best on "DOA," the strongest track here. It is short and sweet at less than three minutes, but looming in its fast-paced riffing and vicious mosh parts — nothing more, but absolutely nothing less. "The Fall of Modern Man" is a positive and rewarding result of the band's continuous attempts at anthemia, but nowhere near as exciting as "Selling a Dream," Sworn Enemy's ode to PMA and their beatdown-ish New York hardcore roots.
This is likely to be a pre-ordered favourite for older fans longing to relive glory days of the heavy pockets of NYHC culture. Those infantile Sworn Enemy listeners curious about whether this is the true sequel to As Real As It Gets will need to practice some patience and wait for the choice moments of Gamechanger. (M-Theory Audio)