Once upon a time (2004 to be exact), five guys, including ex-members of BIGWIG and STALEMATE, got together and combined the aggression of hardcore with gang-chorus-infused street punk. A self-produced demo soon followed. Here in 2005, the band releases its full-length debut, "The Battle of the Common", an album that's heavy on hardcore/punk delivery and melodious songwriting. A good deal of track-to-track variety and a rock-n-roll injection give LABEL THE TRAITOR a degree of individuality that is lacking in so many of today's so-called "hardcore" and "punk" bands.
In addition to lead vocalist Steve Gulbin, that each of the other four members is given backing vocal credit tells you about the brothers-in-arms sing-along factor here. It's big and it's loud. The melody lines range from street punk shouts to a style similar in some respects to the harmonizing heard on an AFI album (mainly on "Common Man's Revenge" in the latter case). There's nothing poppy about any of it though. Raging hardcore instrumentation is the common thread and it's not strictly punk-rock-paint-by-numbers songwriting either. The arrangements are allowed to breathe and many of the breaks (not breakdowns) are refreshing. The lead vocal tradeoffs between Gulbin and guest Mad Joe Black on "Destroy" are a nice touch.
Lyrically, the topics include political rants, HC scene issues, dickhead bashing, and drug abuse. I mention this because the band has taken the time to write a short explanation of the ideas behind each set of lyrics. Most appealing to me was the damnation of religious-right fervor in "Burned at the Stake". In this case I didn't need an explanation, as lyrics like "Fuck your theocracy" fall on the self-explanatory side of the line.
On the downside, Gulbin's hoarse-throat vocals have a tendency to get on the nerves and can be outright distracting. While most of the tunes are fairly catchy, there are a few moments where the melodies don't quite hit the mark, leaving me trying to determine what it is that doesn't sound right. It's bothersome enough to knock off a half-point or so. Still, showing versatility without rendering a musical genre unrecognizable isn't easy. On "Battle of the Common", LABEL THE TRAITOR make great strides toward striking the balance.