108 – A New Beat From A Dead Heart

3 out of 5

Label: Deathwish

Produced by: Kurt Ballou

Hm, as usual, I think I’m missing some historical context here that might make this a more exciting listen, but without that context, my ears hear a hardcore group trying very hard to sound extra tuff – listen to that ground up low-end! and non-stop shrieking! – and extra relevant, with lead singer Robert Fish’s / Rasaraja’s lyrics pushing hard on a political agenda that is maybe most easily exemplified by a song title like “Bibles + Guns = The American Dream?”  I could make an aside about how this was more relevant during the time of release – 2007 – but it’s 2020 and though there are other things to sing about right now, it’s still relevant enough, so I’m not knocking the focus, rather just that I’m not sure these songs bring much more than anger to the conversation.

Now with some context, my contextless take still doesn’t sound too far off: that 108 were heralds of a splinter of hardcore that’d be known as “metallic hardcore,” giving way to a lot of those groups who’d later find their home on Deathwish… making 108’s appearance here rather fitting.  Between now and then, though, a couple of rebirths had happened for the group, including a spiritual awakening into Krishna Consciousness which seemed to get pretty overt and divide their fanbase to a certain degree, 108 called it quits-ish in the mid-90s.

And now (in 2006 / 2007) they’re back!  Sans the extreme Krishna-ness, and with a million bands in their wake who’ve copped their style and evolved it to modern day hardcore.  So, yes, despite discussing ‘A New Beat From A Dead Heart’ as a non-reunion disc – i.e. 108 wants this to be taken on its own terms – it’s hard not to hear some try-hard efforts in how bracing everything seems from the get-go, with Kurt Ballou giving this his gutsy production once-over and the group hitting on a punchy delivery that, unfortunately, for all its gusto sounds like your “average” hardcore band, inspired by groups like classic 108.  The political screeds maybe don’t help, as although they’re honestly rather intelligently put together, there’s no new ground there.  Meanwhile, lyrics like on opener Declarations On A Grave are a bit more interesting; they could very well be about the same general concepts, but they’re also more open to interpretation and seem to bring in a note of experience which the group would definitely have…

Oppositely, when the group stops trying to sound new and edgy, things really start to click.  There’s a moment which sounds more like classic Discord hardcore and feels more comfortable, and more natural, and closer Repeat doesn’t try to barrel us over with speed and riffs and, again, just has a more organic vibe that’s enjoyable.

Overall, I suspect this is cool if you were a 108 fan, but comes across as, unfortunately, rather average amidst the current (in 2007 or now) crop of Deathwish offerings.