October 22, 2018 The Casualties – Written in Blood (Album Review)
The Casualties. Their name is synonymous with heavy-hitting, unapologetic Street Punk and colorful mohawks, and their latest, Written in Blood, arrives to your ears this Friday, October 26, 2018, thanks to Cleopatra Records.
Punk until the day they die, The Casualties were formed in the Big Apple (that’s New York, yo) in 1990. By 1997, they were making their full-length debut with For the Punx, which would kick off a successful string of eight additional albums – including 2004/2005’s On the Front Line/En la Línea del Frente and 2016’s Chaos Sound – over the next nineteen impressive years. This, of course, does not include the band’s compilations, singles, live offerings, EPs, or their multitude of Vans Warped Tour appearances. They’ve been a little busy! Sure, line-up changes have occurred – there are currently no original members left in the band’s lineup – but the colorful mohawks and sociopolitical mayhem have ensued for a triumphant two decades and counting.
It’s been an admittedly long road, but now The Casualties – Vocalist Dave Rodrigues, Guitarist Jake Kolatis, Bassist Rick Lopez, and Drummer Marc Meggers – are poised to unleash their tenth full-length studio offering, Written in Blood. The fifteen-song offering goes haywire with frenetic energy, a ball of dragon’s fire aimed toward the social and political injustices of our modern times – be they authoritarian or issues that stem from our own cycles of fear.
Written in Blood begins with sirens and a thrumming rhythm section that explode into “1312,” a stomping yet melodic indictment of the police (ACAB: “All Coppers Are Bastards”) that alternates between English and some fierce Spanish. A brutally short suckerpunch, “Fucking Hate You” is in-your-face with irrational anger because, well, they really don’t like you, okay?
A celebration of the world burning down and taking a triumphant stroll through those flames, “Ashes of My Enemies” uses anthemic guitar work and melodic gang-vocal calls to weave a truly catchy vengeance. It sets the stage perfectly for the frenetic Oi! pace of “Demolition,” which goes for the throat, jack-hammering the Punk straight into your bloodstream. With fists raised toward the future, this is guaranteed to be a chaotic sing-along at the band’s high-energy live shows. Similarly, this no-holds-barred Punk stomp continues into “Guard Dogs,” which feels like the perfect partner to its predecessor.
Crunchy bass opens the attack of album namesake “Written in Blood,” which meanders through the motions to come to some melodic vocal calls that serve to promise that this band’s ethic has been etched in, well, gooey red stuff. (No shock there!) Next, they mix things up and start off with ominous piano work on “Feed Off Fear,” building into mass musical pandemonium and those ever-present, sing-along gang-vocal chants. Here, they discuss the cycle of hope-filled ideas and the search for a peaceful society that, thanks to the inherent flaws in humanity, become a cycle of mistakes and fear. In fact, similarly, the following track, “Final Expense,” points a finger at all of us for the ills of our current world.
A very pertinent question in 2018, next The Casualties ask why is there so much hate in this world? The aptly-titled “So Much Hate” goes for a catchy, rasping reminder that there’s no need for the racism and fear. It’s simple and impactful, and a perfect example of when Punk does the sociopolitical perfectly! They return to Spanish for “Ya Basta” (“Stop” or “Enough Already”) a perfectly catchy, rocking follow-up to “So Much Hate,” before going into a full-throttle rage on “All Out War.” Sick and tired of watching the world burn, The Casualties approximate a whirling dervish of sound in the name of frustrated, angry commentary.
While they spend time breaking stuff on “Smash,” there is a tender moment where they dial it down on “Lost,” a promise to carry on the memory of a fallen loved one. Not to get too emotional, they immediately dial it back up and go catchy drum beats and one killer guitar solo for the anthemic punk-rocker “What I Want.” Ultimately, The Casualties go out with an infectious bang on “Borders” (“Fuck your president and fuck your wall”), another sociopolitical glance at the world around us that is spot-on.
Written in Blood, as with the bulk of The Casualties’ oeuvre, is full of an intensely frustrated angst and rabid attitude, a challenge to blind belief systems, sociopolitical injustice, and the ills of our modern world. With an intensity of spirit and unapologetic Punk attitude, the quartet challenge listeners to open their minds before their mouths. Lyrically, they explore a world full of hate, a president who builds barriers instead of knocking them down, and question the powers that be along with a population who stand idly by while our world implodes.
It is a hard-hitting, truly modern epic that raises many questions and sounds deliciously Punk Rock while doing so. With the power emanating from the people, what could be more Punk than some angry dissent? For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Casualties’ Written in Blood 4 of 5 stars.