Complacency is one of the greatest threats to hardcore's continued vitality. Many bands fail to grasp the importance of taking risks to produce a fresh sound. Even more frustrating are lyricists who allow hardcore to become insular. On their Tramps Like Us demo, Ramparts make certain they are committed to fighting stagnation. What struck me first about Ramparts was how different they sound from current bands. They don't fit neatly into a niche subgenre and this is incredibly refreshing in a time when many bands are content to perfect a stylized sound without doing anything to push hardcore forward. On this demo, Ramparts appear determined to not just push, but fucking shove and fight in order to ensure hardcore remains vital.
The first track, "No Jazz Before the Rumble," opens with an ominous melodic intro that beautifully sets up the crushing riffs that follow. The riffs remind me of those found on parts of the first Baroness album, while the overall tone of the song has the energy and aggression of classic Black Flag. The fusion of the metallic riffs with the driving rhythm parts is well executed and the breakdown followed by the guitar solo is punishing. Vocalist Sammy Winston's ad-libbed grunts and screams are subtle touches, but they add a level of rawness that cements the power of the song. This track is my favorite and if they deliver an album in this vein, I could easily see it topping best of the year lists.
"John O'Brien" and "Words Fail Me" are both fast hardcore punk songs that showcase guitarist Anthony Anzaldo's ability to write compelling riffs and deliver breakdowns that are heavy without being overdone. Interesting guitar leads punctuate the breakdowns and "John O'Brien" builds to a furious crescendo. Ramparts' talent allows them to convey aggression in a much more subtle manner than many of their contemporaries. The placement of breakdowns and changes sound natural and as a result fiercer than the forced formulaic breakdowns that are all too common.
Sammy Winston's lyrical prowess serves to further distinguish Ramparts. Winston's lyrics have a literary tone that coincides well with the vibe created by the music. On "No Jazz Before the Rumble" he delivers the following haunting passage:
I've been staying alive since '75 or just taking my time to die. And the moon hung low, with nowhere to go, just like me. Swallowed pride and coughed up blood for every goddamned song I've sung. I held my breath for a rebel's death, but it's too late to die young.
In the course of writing this review, Spiderghost Pressgang has put up a pre-order for the band's first seven inch. They promise songs that will blow the demo away and sound like The Murder City Devils covering Black Flag (or vice versa). Given the strength of Tramps Like Us, I predict this release will be widely talked about in the months to come, so do yourself a favor and get in on this early.
9.0 / 10
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