Hardcore icons SICK OF IT ALL are back with their first album in four years, not counting the 2011 "Non-Stop" compilation. "The Last Act of Defiance", like many of their albums, is over with as soon as it gets rolling, even at fourteen songs. God bless these guys, because they waste not a single second in this loud 'n proud effort.
You can't ask for a rowdier opener than "Sound the Alarm". Built for speed for most of the way, SICK OF IT ALL plunges the accelerator and tosses out gang shouts galore behind Lou Koller's gravelly hollering. A brief slowdown stomp toward the end of "Sound the Alarm" keeps the song from exploding as the band switches between speed and slower mosh rhythms on "2061". Here Lou Koller issues an indictment aimed toward corporate gluttony plus his projection of a societal and economic collapse in the not-so-distant future.
Armand Majidi's clobbering beat, Pete Koller's enormous riffs and Craig Setari's dangling bass rolls "Road Less Traveled" through a mostly moshing course as the band woofs about hardcore as lifestyle. Business as usual, suffice it to say. Subsequently, "Get Bronx" is dished as a mid-tempo, teeth knocking street anthem where Lou Koller summons SICK OF IT ALL's fans to stay hard and defy oppression, NYHC style.
None of this litany is different than what's come before "The Last Act of Defiance". In fact, the recurring messages of scene sustenance, self-empowerment and righting the wrongs against the disenfranchised become subordinate after a while. The key lure to this album is hearing SICK OF IT ALL grind things out short and mostly fast. Since the late Eighties, this band has remained true to its New York hardcore roots. In 2014, it's a blast hearing SICK OF IT ALL not only continuing to give a damn, but running to the line on nearly every song. The cacophonous clatter of the 1:27 "Act Your Rage" is self-explanatory and well-pushed to the limit, even with a brief slowdown to the mayhem.
"Part of History" trundles through a medium-paced stomp, but some wicked snare blasts and random tempo spikes from Armand Majidi bring extra heat to the cut. "Losing War" is a whirlpool starter with its brisk shakes following the parading intro. Craig Setari, one of the best bassists in hardcore history (along with former CRO-MAGS member Harley Flanagan), rocks this album all over the place, not only standing out on "Road Less Traveled", but "Never Back Down".
The crew calls rattle everywhere on "The Last Act of Defiance", at times coming off imposing, other times like harmonious punk mantras. Both modes are evidenced on "Facing the Abyss". "Beltway Getaway" is a tuneful jam stocked with yells, croons and declarations of being up shit's creek, all in the spirit of cajoling a loud and puerile sing-along. This before SICK OF IT ALL again employs the speed and slam scheme on "Sidelined". The band waits for the closing number "DNC" to whip up the "oi" chants along with gang rumbles that collectively sound like a punker's block party.
The ferocity of "The Last Act of Defiance" is its selling point. A SICK OF IT ALL follower knows what to expect from these guys and thus has a new of tunes to practice at lungs' capacity in front of dresser mirrors. This in anticipation of the live environment, where fans are expected, not merely encouraged, to pour the lyrics back at Lou Koller. SICK OF IT ALL pounds the snot out of their instruments on "Outgunned" while hollering about the world testing the mettle of their scene, despite overwhelming odds. That's the hardcore ethos broken down to its simplest memorandum. Consider yourself served once again.