I wasn’t expecting this one to hit like it does. It’s raw, forceful, and honest; personal but socially conscious, and it blends street punk energy and repetition with so-called “beard punk sensibility.” In many ways, it reminds of American Steel’s self-titled debut, putting a rough persona atop more emotionally-driven content.
Starting with the gruff vocal tradeoffs of “Choke,” there’s an immediate impact to the All Broken EP. Whenever the fury feels like it might begin to wade, instead there’s a big breakdown and some chant-along vocals to catch breath before kicking into a big final verse. It’s a strong song and it makes a statement about both Epic Problem and the record. The band, just formed in 2010, includes former members of Blitz, Dangerfields, and Dead Subverts. It’s both fist-in-the-air and singalong ‘til your hoarse punk. While it starts big, it does lose some stream as the 6-song short-player progresses. The songs themselves don’t let up—drummer Greg Boulton is a beast—but the frequency of backing vocals ends up hurting things as the record continues. To put it delicately, the voice is an acquired taste that somewhat reminds of the secondary vocals in Against All Authority, a band who might also be a decent reference to detail the pacing of this record. The clear strengths come from lead vocalist Jake McCullough, as in the opening verses of the record and then again in “All Broken.” There is a strong sense of melody within the gruffness that emotes well without losing that rough edge.
They also mix up tempos and tones well. While, as mentioned earlier, the drumming is relentless, the guitars are willing to slow it down, not just for a breakdown here and there, but into mid-tempo terrain as in “Short Circuit.” There’s a tendency to put the group singalongs in place whenever the speed is reduced, using a kick bass to pump up the energy at those times. The second guitar nicely layers some texture underneath the chord-driven work.
All Broken is a strong record, coming as a total surprise out of the promo bin. The band would be stronger with a blend of vocals that was maybe more along a 75/25 split instead of the 60/40-ish area between McCullough and the rest of the group, as further listens tend to make the non-McCullough songs feel weaker, but Epic Problem is definitely a band to watch.
8.3 / 10
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