It is not a good thing when I am dissecting the songs on a hardcore album to find anything that may make the music stand apart from the pack. The first reaction should always approximate "holy shit!" When it doesn't, you've got problems. It's not that BLACK MY HEART's "Before the Devil" is a bad album, it just feels like one capitalizing on right elements (riff chunks, shouts, and breakdowns) without ever really putting anything together that I want to return to again and again.
There are no stinkers, but none that get much better than a slightly above average song called "We Weren't Brought Up Right" that mainly succeeds because the tempo changes are effective, even if the shouts of "This is our family!" sound cliché. Hey, I'm sure the sentiment is sincere, but I'm not feeling it. The same can be said about the shouted mantra on "Thick as Blood" — "These are my friends, I have their backs! They are the closest thing to blood that I have." That's great and I understand the value of the unbreakable, but damn man it just rings hollow here. Finally, lead throat Wheeler's bark is forced and weak. It seems petty, but it bugs the shit out of me when I'm not getting that command-presence vibe from the front man. It's a necessity in hardcore.
If I were a betting man, I'd put up a few bones that "Before the Devil" will go over a storm with the new breed of hardcore kid (maybe it already has…it's been out for a bit now). I can't say that I could fault them for it either. As for me, "Before the Devil" just doesn't convince. So why a 5? Because it's ho-hum, not complete crap.