4 out of 5
Produced by: Kurt Ballou
A stunning response to growing older, Modern Life is War is the rare hardcore album that makes its statement without resorting to the usual tirades: eff you statements; rallying against authority symbols. Vocalist Jeffery Eaton’s struggles are internal, but with tendrils reaching out to first try to incite further fury for his frustrations, then to bond over times past, and then, finally, to relent; to gather people around to mourn giving in; giving up. It’s intense, personal stuff, but that makes it all the more affecting to a listener: it’s a story many of us can relate to that we’re not forced to via singalong choruses and cliched victory cries. Backing Eaton’s journey on this are a pummeling set of thrashing guitars, a pitter-patter thump of bass, and rumbling, thundering drums, played up by Kurt Ballou’s production. The group segues between slower, more grinding screamfests and punky blasts, broken up in the middle by those good-time memories of when there was hope: the upbeat, fist-pumping D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S. Prior to this, volatile tracks like Martin Atchet and John and Jimmy portray the mentality of someone returning from a war abroad – the war of real life, perhaps – and finding themselves pissed at the decay of their environs; after the midway point, I’m Not Ready and Young Man Blues drop the posturing, and question the Point Of It All.
Because the entire album is amped up, the concluding sentiments of Hair Raising Accounts of Restless Ghosts (AKA Hell Is for Heroes Part II) fall a little flat; the album could perhaps have achieved (in my mind) perfection by juxtaposing all of its noise with a bit more reservation on its ending track. Nonetheless, Witness, nearly 15 years on at this point, is a notable achievement in the scene, delivering one of the strongest lyrical and musical impacts to date.