Released: 2011, In At The Deep End Records
I remember the first time I saw Stampin' Ground perform "Officer Down" to a packed out club. The punters may have assembled in principal to see then-rising stars Amen, but when the London metalcore ensemble broke out their signature tune, The Mean Fiddler played host to some of the craziest dancefloor hi-jinx seen since the days when Pantera could incite a riot by simply showing up.
Unfortunately, Stampin' Ground never quite got round to spreading their bruising message to the rest of the world, and so it's good to see former cohorts, Adam Frake-Simes (vocals) and Ben Frost (bass), keeping the faith in Romeo Must Die. Christened after the Jet Li film of the same name, but packing considerably more punch, HARDSHIPS IN SEASON takes a slight sidestep away from the patchy melo-core of their debut EP (2008's DEFINED BY ENEMIES) and offers a significantly more balanced take on modern metal - think Lamb of God after a 48-hour Biohazard bender and you're getting the idea. This approach fits their strengths like a fur-lined slipper, an observation that becomes vividly apparent when "Let Them Hate" kicks off the album. Like the majority of what's to come, it's big on riffs, big on aggression and boasts a chorus that's catchier than a case of chlamydia.
The business end of proceedings only truly kicks in past the halfway mark however, when "15 Minutes of Shame" makes all before it appear timid by virtue of a ferocious combination of gang-vocals and good old-fashioned grooves. That HARDSHIPS IN SEASON never quite manages to traverse its lofty peaks again, isn't a criticism as much as an encouraging sign of what may possibly await on future outings. By all accounts, a highly impressive debut.