Thursday 25 October 2012

Strife - Witness A Rebirth Review + Interview

First there was hushed muttering amongst the hardcore faithful, then songs started appearing, then record release shows started being booked. I'm talking about the reformation of US hardcore institution Strife and the release of their first record in 11 years, Witness A Rebirth. This feature takes a look at the new album and features an exclusive interview with guitarist and primary songwriter Andrew Kline.

1. Torn Apart
2. Carry The Torch
3. Show No Mercy
4. No Apologies
5. The Distance
6. Never Look Back
7. In This Defiance
8. The Burden
9. Look Away
10. Face Your Failures
11. End Of Days
12. Life Or Death

This is hardcore done properly. If ever there was a band that could blast the pretenders out of the water and show them how it's done, it's got to be Strife. After a long silence, coming back and being able to unleash an album like Witness A Rebirth shows you that they never let go of hardcore and that it was still coursing through their veins.

They enlisted the help of some good friends on this album too. Sepultura/Cavalera Conspiracy drummer, Iggor Cavalera recorded the drums and as you'll read in the interview below, they brought in a whole host of guests to help them along the way.

The album opens with the ripping Torn Apart. This really is a call to arms for hardcore fans. It's got crunching riffs, uncomplicated but blasting drums and those vocals from Rick Rodney are huge! Carry The Torch begins with a thrashing intro before the passionate scream of "Witness A Rebirth" which heralds in the song. Don't expect overblown, beard stroking songs here as they isn't what you'll get. It's pure heads down hardcore, with a metal tinge. They don't abuse breakdowns and any instrumental sections they do have in songs are well put together.

Show No Mercy (not the Slayer song), does what it says on the tin. The gang vocals are especially spine tingling when they come in during the chorus. No Apologies is one of the most up-tempo songs on the album, thanks to the galloping riffs and drums. The vocals too are more vicious on this song than they have been up to now, and fit it perfectly. It does settle into more of a groove toward the end and features some awesome metallic, melodic guitar. The Distance follows in exactly the same vein. So far it seems that the further you get into this record, the faster and more pounding it gets. It's certainly has an awesome momentum to it!

Never Look Back begins with a heavy, mid-paced riff that sound epic and really positive lyrics that accentuate the bands beliefs. The vocals from Billy Graziadei of Biohazard add serious bite too. Strife's thrash influence shows again in the intro to In This Defiance. It's a real rousing track again and the drum solo in the middle is a nice touch, with the riffs and rhythm section sounding as pure as hardcore can be! The lead part in this song comes from Marc Rizzo from Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy and gives the song that metal edge.

The vocals in The Burden are pure, gargled evil, but somehow stay audible, thanks to the brilliant production of the record. That's a point worth mentioning, the production has that modern sheen that makes all the parts sound clear and concise, but it doesn't sound over-produced either, which is a good thing. It helps the record fly out of the speakers like they are live in your front room! Look Away is a minute of pure hardcore hatred, featuring a guest slot from Terror vocalist Scott Vogel. By the time closer Life or Death comes at you, you've got the inevitable neck ache from headbanging the whole way through. The album is quick and precise, with no messing around, which I really what you want from a hardcore record. What a comeback and surely a real contender for album of the year!

Episodes 1 and 2 of - The Making of Witness A Rebirth can be viewed below:-

Strife were also good enough to do an interview for me and you can read it below:-

First of all, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. You’re about to release a new album “Witness A Rebirth”, which is your first in 11 years. What has the reaction been like since you announced this new record?

So far so good… A lot of kids were excited from the get go. It has been a very long time since we recorded an album, and I think a lot of people were just excited to hear something new from the band. At the same time, I think some people were sceptical about what “Witness A Rebirth” might sound like so many years down the line. We released a few songs on the Internet, “Torn Apart” and “Show No Mercy”, and showed that Strife is back, true to form. “Witness A Rebirth” picks up right where “In This Defiance” left off, and fans of hard, fast, and in your face hardcore will not be disappointed!

The record is being released by 6131 Record in the US and Holy Roar Records in the UK. How did you decide which labels you wanted to work with for the record?
We made a conscious decision to work with smaller labels on this album. We wanted to work with labels that were really connected with the current hardcore scene, and labels that worked with some of the best up and coming bands in hardcore right now. 6131 was an obvious choice… They are one of the best up and coming hardcore labels, and they are based out of LA.  I am a big fan of Rotting Out and Alpha Omega, so it is great to be on the same labels as these bands as well. Other labels releasing the record are Dogfight Records in Australia, Caustic Records in South America, and Townhall Records in Korea.

How do you feel about the current climate of metal/hardcore? How does it differ to when Strife began?

Hardcore is in a great place right now… There are a ton of great bands, and I feel like there are a lot of kids that are carrying on the DIY spirit by booking shows, starting bands, doing zines, and putting out records. Bands like Incendiary, Rotting Out, Bitter End, Xibalba, Alpha Omega, Soul Search, and Down to Nothing are what keep me excited about hardcore right now.

Iggor Cavalera (Sepultura) recorded the drums on “Witness A Rebirth”. Was it an easy decision choosing him and what has he brought to the record?

Iggor is one of my all time favourite drummers and one of my best friends…. If Iggor wants to play on your record you do everything in your power to make it happen! And that is exactly what we did. I flew down to Brazil with Nick, who produced the record, and we tracked all of the drum tracks in Sao Paulo. He is a very solid and hard-hitting drummer, and he added a lot to this record. He knew exactly what kind of drumming these songs called for, and he added enough of his signature fills and flair to make it cool without overplaying.

Are there any other guests appearing on “Witness A Rebirth” that you can tell us about?

We have a few other guests on the album. Billy from Biohazard lends his vocals to a song called “Never Look Back”, Marc Rizzo from Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy plays a lead on “In This Defiance”, and Scott Vogel sings on a track called “Look Away”. I really like collaborating with other musicians, and all of these guys did an amazing job on the record.

Have you got any touring plans that you can share with us, to support the release?

Right now we are gearing up for a few record release shows. We play Aladdin’s in Pomona on Nov 17 with Bitter End, Piece by Piece, and Xibalba, and then Gilman on Berkeley on Nov 18 with the same bands. Then we head to the East Coast to play two shows at the End of November. Connecticut with Supertouch and Death Before Dishonour, and Philadelphia with Down To Nothing, Suburban Scum, Mother of Mercy, and Soul Search. The majority of our touring will start in 2013, and we hope to hit all corners of the world to support this record.

A limited Zine of the same name was released recently, to wet people’s appetites. Not many other bands do that type of thing so can you tell us a bit about the process and thought behind it and what it means to you?

Witness A Rebirth is about carrying on the true spirit of hardcore… To me this means the stage dives and the sing-a-longs, but also the community, and the DIY spirit. Putting on shows, putting out records, making a zine, starting a band, and just getting involved to make this place bigger and better for everyone. We worked with our friends at Dethkills (an art collective from LA) to create this ‘Zine to not only talk about the new record, but also the beginning of the band. We interviewed people that played a major part in the band’s early years: Mike Hartsfield from New Age Records, Dave Mandel from Indecision Records and Fanzine, and Ray from The Macondo (a small DIY club in Los Angeles).

I’m genuinely interested to read you point of view on this but if it seems too    contentious, you don’t have to answer it. You guys went from being a straight edge band to a non-straight edge band, have you found that you’ve been treated differently as a band because of that? I for one prefer to focus on a band’s musical output before anything else; do you find that other people are the same?

Straight Edge was a big part of the band in our early years… It was a movement we all connected with and a philosophy that we all stood behind… But one thing that we always preached was about breaking down the barriers that separate us… This music is for everyone regardless of the way you look, the music you listen to, or what you do in your personal life. As time went on, we all went our different ways, and people made the decision to no longer be straight edge. This is not something that we tried to hide from anyone… We were very clear went we started playing that we were no longer a straight edge band… I think some people were disappointed, other let down, but there were also a ton of kids just happy to have us back playing music that we love with a strong or powerful message. A lot of people talk about being “True Til Death” and to me, I would rather have someone be true to themselves, and live the life that they want to live instead of living to uphold a commitment they made when they were 16 years old… We all respect the Straight Edge lifestyle (I am still Straight Edge), and we are happy that we played a positive influence in many people’s lives.

Beyond the promotion of Witness A Rebirth”, have you got any future plans?

We are just excited to get this record out and start playing… It has been a long time in the making, and we are all very excited with how the record came out. It will be refreshing to play some new songs in front of some new kids! Other than that, we will just take everything day by day, and continue to play as long as we are still having fun doing it.
I ask every band this question. Are you in touch with your local scene and are there any bands that you think people should check out if they haven’t heard of them already?

     Of course… I am still really involved with the hardcore scene… Check out Take  
     Offense, Nomads, Rotting Out, Alpha Omega, Sleepwalkers, Soul Search, and    
     Xibalba. There are the bands that will “Carry the Torch” and keep the hardcore   
     spirit alive! Thanks for the interview, and we hope to see you on tour soon!

     Now, as Strife mentioned in their interview, you can pick Witness A Rebirth up 
     from the following labels, depending where you are in the world:-
     USA - 6131 Records -
     UK/Europe - Holy Roar Records -
     South America - Caustic Records -
     Australia - Dogfight Records -
     South Korea - Townhall Records -
     I've pre-ordered a copy of sumptuous White/Red vinyl from Holy Roar Records.  
     Make sure you pick up yours!

     Also, head over to Strife's official Facebook page at below - 

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