Let me say this right off the bat: this album is perfect. Modern Life is War has created a record that, at least to this reviewer, ranks right up there with Bane's Give Blood and American Nightmare's Background Music. The sound is actually remarkably similar to Background Music, however not in any way that My Love, My Way wasn't.
I purchased Witness mere minutes before seeing Modern Life Is War at CBGB's. And after their stellar set, I was sure the recording couldn't possibly live up to the live show, but I was wrong. I had seen Modern Life Is War before, but I had also seen other bands try to perform a lot of new songs at shows and kids were not receptive. Modern Life Is War had the crowd literally flipping and jumping off the walls. Witness is only about a month old and everyone already knows the words and loves it. And the reason for this, obviously, is that it is truly a great record.
"The Outsiders (AKA Hell Is For Heroes Part I)" starts the record out and is strong as hell with the question "So what the fuck are you going to do, kid?" The song finishes with "this is it, kid - this is your last chance," and goes into the next track without skipping a beat. Flawless.
"John and Jimmy," yet another emotion-filled, hard-hitting piece of perfection from Witness was described by vocalist Jeffrey Eaton as being a response to opening up the newspaper and seeing a picture of a childhood friend holding a gun in Iraq. The conflict between biting one's lip trying not to say anything offensive or insensitive, and not really knowing what to say at all - that's a tough subject to tackle. Eaton handled it beautifully in "John and Jimmy" with the words "Say a prayer for us the passive sinners. I bite my tongue. I shake your hand. Yeah I'm still playing in that stupid band. Cause we all do what we gotta do, boys. We're all doing whatever we can."
The record even has a semi-poppy, feel good song on it. "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." is a fun sing-along that is completely relatable; much like all of Modern Life Is War's other songs. It is upbeat, fast, melodic, and closer to punk rock than anything else on this epic hardcore record. Seeing that song performed live was honestly what got me psyched about listening to the record, and these recordings truly live up to expectations.
A step forward from My Love, My Way, Witness breaks boundaries and surpasses dreams hardcore has not even had yet. It is eloquent and beautiful in every way. You will get choked up the first time you hear it, you will get choked up the hundredth time you hear it.
There are undoubtedly many of those who claim that hardcore is a dull, stagnant genre in serious need of a quick, timely death. It's easy to see from where they draw their argument, because hardcore is a hugely popular genre that has simply refused to evolve for far too long. Fortunately for the hardcore aficionado with discerning taste, there have been a handful of bands taking the style and putting their own unique twist on it, sometimes rendering it beyond recognition. Modern Life is War's 2003 masterpiece, My Love. My Way., took the established genre, tore it to pieces, and filled in the rest with unfiltered power. With loads of gang vocals and two-step tempos, it could immediately be recognized as hardcore, but categorically felt more inspired, intense, and emotional (while of course eschewing the hyper-cliche "emo" tag) than virtually any band in the genre. Witness sees Modern Life is War further digressing from the conventional hardcore sound and becoming even more inspired, intense, and emotional: a feat I might have never thought possible.
The opener "The Outsiders" sets a ridiculously high standard for the rest of the album, with its highly effective slow pace, full-sounding guitars, and Jeffrey Eaton's fantastic, cathartic vocals. It is as perfect an intro, if not better than, "Breaking the Cycle" of My Love. My Way., and in my book, that's saying quite a lot, because "We're taking back what they stole! PREPARE YOUR SOUL!!" is one hell of a hard line to beat for introducing the rest of an album. "Martin Atchet" definitely plays the "Late Bloomers" role on Witness, following the slow intro with a more upbeat song containing the catchiest chorus on the album (dig the melodic picking). "John and Jimmy" addresses the ubiquitous issue of the war in Iraq without resorting to preachy protesting or blind nationalism; instead, it is a song of sincere admiration of the soldiers: ("John and Jimmy") courage and a realization of how easy we civilians ("the passive sinners") really have it. The unconventional "Marshalltown" is another one of the Witness's highlights, containing what is perhaps the coolest line on the album: "the smoke from hell's exhaust pipe/ lingers above the cheap rent in the dark night." Badass.
"D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." is another one of the album's faster, more anthemic tracks. An ode to the long-forgotten punk rock lifestyle ("we're not pretty and we're not rich/ we're gonna hafta fucking work for it") with a catchy, climactic coda (do I get points for alliteration?) which I've made a point to experience live before I die, the song will no doubt register with those who have ever had to sacrifice in doing what they love for a living. With its shuffling drums and minute duration, "Young Man on a Spree" is an oddball; perhaps a tribute to the Smiths' oft-considered infamous short takes on rockabilly ("Shakespeare's Sister," etc.). The last three tracks sum up Witness perfectly, especially "Hair Raising Accounts of Restless Ghosts," inspired by a mixtape given to Eaton, his first exposure to many of the bands that have changed his life. Even at five and a half minutes, the song is consistently thrilling and probably the band's most dynamic offering yet: a fitting coda to a jaw-dropping record.
9.55 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
Modern Life is War are flirting with a backlash. Plenty of people hated Witness despite the fact that it upped the ante on My Love. My Way. like a gambler ...
The problem with the hardcore scene is that its music has become so immersed in repetition, unoriginality, and generality, that people are beginning to lower their expectations to the pits ...
Posted May 19, 2015, 10:08 a.m.
The Fest 14, taking place in Gainesville, FL from OCt. 30-Nov. 1, has announced another wave of bands including Modern Life Is War, Smoke Or Fire, Big Wig, Riverboat Gamblers ...
Posted April 10, 2014, 7:53 p.m.
The 13th annual Fest in Gainesville, FL has launced its website and begun announcing headliners, notable Descendents, though the first wave also includes numerous noteworthy bands such as Lifetime, Strike ...
Posted Aug. 5, 2013, 6:26 p.m.
The recently reunited Modern Life Is War has set a release date for their first record since 2007's Midnight in America. The new album will hit stores and the ...
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