I suppose there was not enough room on the Nuclear Blast roster for two traditional hardcore bands, so Denmark's BARCODE went after releasing a slamming album called "Showdown" and AGNOSTIC FRONT stayed. Now on Italy's Scarlet Records, BARCODE returns with its fifth album, "Ahead of the Game", a meaner, if somewhat less memorable, disc than "Showdown".
BARCODE remains one of the world's most underrated hardcore bands, at least on this side of the Atlantic, and it's time that fans of classic hardcore stand up and take notice. I doubt that SICK OF IT ALL's Lou Koller makes another appearance on a BARDCODE album simply because he's being nice (he does guest vocals on the short basher "Course of Action"). In all likelihood, it is because he knows that the Denmark crew is the real deal, paying homage to bands like Koller's, as well as former label mates AGNOSTIC FRONT. Even a new vocalist (SS GRAVEYARD, ex-DEMOLITION, INC.) does nothing to stop this freight train from barreling down the tracks. In fact, his brutal bark is rather similar to that of the former vocalist (Butch). Tue Madsen's production is once again a good fit for the band, bringing out the thickness of the bottom, including a sharp drum sound, as well as making the riffs of Dr. J (HATESPHERE's and ALLHELLUJAH's Jacob Bredahl) and Panter fat and nasty. Song-wise, you get 13 songs of in-your-face hardcore violence, the highlights including the less than subtle "Fuck What You Say", "All Out War", and the anthem-esque "Emo Nation".
"Ahead of the Game" is quintessential old school based hardcore that makes no apologies. There may be better hardcore releases out there, but not too damn many. A lower score than "Showdown", which got a 7.5 here, is based only on the fact that "Ahead of the Game" does not have as many of the aforementioned memorable songs. Regardless, it is a wonderful fist to the face for any fan of vintage hardcore.