Hardcore was not metal in the early 1990s, and FACE VALUE was a hardcore band. They busted ass, toured till they bled, and represented Cleveland, Ohio to the underground, delivering hardcore that could hold its own against any of the more-hyped bands from the coasts. They grew, showed their rock and roll roots a little, got shit on for it, and ground themselves to dust in the usual sad stories of disagreements, drug busts, poverty and the shifting tastes of the fickle scene. But their legacy, preserved here in an almost-complete discography and a DVD of fan-filmed live stuff, documents how they paved the way for the hardcore to come, in Cleveland and beyond (INTEGRITY, RINGWORM, HATEBREED, you name it).
And the shit stands up on its own merits, too, especially the old jams. This is positive, ferocious hardcore with neck-breaking beats, furious riffs, and the manic ball of spitting energy known as Tony Erba on the microphone. His yelping delivery and wrestling-inspired "flair for the theater of the absurd", as he puts it in the liner notes, gave the band even more distinction in a homogenous scene. The energy and heart in the tracks from 1990's "Coming of Age" 7" is as potent after two decades as it was when the wax was fresh. Their 1991 "The Price of Maturity" full-length is an unheralded classic, already showing some of their then-frowned-upon rock and roll influence via slower tempos and (gasp!) guitar solos, but still venomous and full of amped-up fury. By the time of 1993's "Kick It Over", the band may have lost the plot a little — rappy vocals on "Born a Bastard" and the needless noodly jamming of "My Brother's Keeper" are the most dated-sounding bits on this collection. But the CD closes with their 1989 demo, a raw, filthy basement-tape punch to the gut that rekindles the fire with scrappy, scorching performances from the band's formation (including a ripping "Holding the Grudge" that may even beat the 7" version).
There's a whole lotta people who owe FACE VALUE a debt of gratitude for making what they've done possible, and many of them will never know it. They didn't invent hardcore, or even the "rockin' hardcore" of their later life, but they went at it with a furor and enthusiasm that few could match, and they lived it, wrecking their lives in the name of rock and roll and in service to kicking it over, for themselves and for the audience. Pick this up and pay some respects, whether you've ever set foot in Cleveland or not, and know your roots.