Released: 2008, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Rewind, if you will, back to 2002 and picture an always devastating Slayer show, only with two hardcore bands opening for them: Hatebreed and Sworn Enemy. At the time, I was thoroughly familiar with Jamey Jasta and his wrecking crew but Sworn Enemy was completely new to me. What I saw was a no-frills NYHC band embracing every cliché of the genre imaginable. To sum up the lyrics of a Sworn Enemy track from their then-new CD, AS REAL AS IT GETS: look at us the wrong way and we’ll beat your ass to a pulp.
Skip ahead five years and from out of nowhere comes MANIACAL, the new CD from Sworn Enemy and much to my surprise, the band has almost abandoned their former thug-core stance and evolved into a stellar thrash metal band. Granted, a few vials of the ol’ hardcore aggression are still running through their veins but the meathead factor has thankfully been toned down. The new sound of the band is not unlike Chimaira mixed with newer Agnostic Front and some Exodus, so anyone calling these guys “metalcore” is sadly misinformed. Sal LoCoco uses his venomous rasp to spit out his lyrics with plenty of conviction and the guitar tandem of Jamin Hunt and founding member Lorenzo Antonucci unleash wave after wave of shredded bliss. As I Lay Dying’s Jordan Mancino handles all the drumming on MANIACAL and as he does in that band, delivers in spades here, as well. The production job of Joey Z (Life of Agony) and Tim Lambesis (As I Lay Dying) is top-notch, highlighting the razor-tipped guitars and an atomic bottom-end that really stands out. All in all, Sworn Enemy’s Century Media debut has all the ingredients for a new lease on life for this band as this is clearly their finest moment.
Without wasting a second, “Ignorance” goes right for the jugular by diving into a moshpit-ready opening salvo. The battery of drums and guitars will draw many comparisons to Exodus, as will the gruff vocals and screams. “Time To Rage” (a certain live favorite) and “A Place of Solace” never let up, going from a turbo-charged aggro-fest to mid-paced brutality accompanied with barely-there guitar squeals on a dime. Slayer-isms pop up on the blazing intro of “Weather The Storm” and a few riffs here and there definitely owe much to the King/Hanneman catalogue. Likewise, “No End To This Nightmare” is pretty similar to what Chimaira has done on their past two records, combining dark riffing with thick grooves. Long-time fans will be pleased to see the band’s hardcore roots showing through on “Destroyer” and “Talk Is Cheap” as the chugging groove and gang-style vocals in the choruses hearken back to the crossover style of Agnostic Front. Album closer “Said and Done” wraps up everything Sworn Enemy has become in one song with thunderous double bass, a crushing breakdown, dynamic shouted vocals and screams and a dark, atmospheric outro.
To say MANIACAL was a major surprise is an understatement. Honestly, I had not given Sworn Enemy a second thought after that Slayer gig back in 2002, basically writing them off as another in a long-line of tough-guy hardcore bands out of The Big Apple. For others who share a similar sentiment, it is time to drop those preconceived notions of where Sworn Enemy is circa 2008 and take note of the group’s progression. Touring with everyone from D.R.I. and Slayer to Slipknot and Unearth, the modern and classic influences come together to create an ass-kicker of an album that never fails to bludgeon or get necks snapping and adrenaline pumping.
KILLER KUTS: “Ignorance,” “Time To Rage,” “A Place of Solace,” “Weather The Storm,” “No End To This Nightmare,” “Said and Done”