Melodic hardcore often gets a bad rap.
Of course, there’s no denying that the music that makes up the genre does exactly what it says in the description.
But when most people think of hardcore, they think about it in the original context: the idea to take the established punk rock sound and make it harder, nastier and much more nihilistic than the preceding bands.
Still, it’s important to remember that there were bands who came out of the initial wave of hardcore that grasped the concept, but still loved singalong choruses (think of 7 Seconds gleefully borrowing from Sham 69).
And that led to three separate roads opening up: one for pop punkers, one for alt rockers (a la Husker Du) and one for the likes of Leatherface, who still held true to the template set by the likes of 7 Seconds.
Over time, this mutated and mutated until it became a deliberate formula in itself: throat scouring vocals for the verses, and then singing for the chorus.
The obvious disconnect between the two was often mined for commercial purposes, and became a bug bearer for many.
Certainly, the likes of Code Orange have been very successful in blending melodic elements into their adrenalin fuelled sound without ever once sounding like they want to pander.
So, faced with the likes of this, melodic hardcore can often seem like a relic from a different period.
But when bands do it correctly, their albums and gigs can be joyous, life affirming affairs: Gnarwolves, Have Heart, H20, Bad Religion and Shutdown.
Comeback Kid never entered this group for me, simply because their music often sounded like the formula I have described. I certainly didn’t hate anything I heard, but nor was I inspired to dig deeper and find out more about them.
However, a change of label (Nuclear Blast) and an arresting cover (I like how the two painted lines make it look like a real life version of Pong) has encouraged me to give the band a chance.
Beginning with the title track, the listener is treated to some galloping guitars and bassline.
It neatly builds to a drum intro, when Andrew Neufeld’s vocals appear and take the song on the forward momentum it had been building to. His vocals are intense enough for the hardcore crowd, and audible enough to shout lyrics back at him while stage diving.
As an opener, it’s tough, concise and enjoyable. By beginning with the title song, it’s clear that there will be a theme of “the outsider” running through the songs in some shape or form, giving the whole record more of a narrative than just 12 songs banged out in rehearsal before going into the studio.
‘Surrender Control’ goes into ‘epic’ territory with a chorus that soars out of the speakers with both bitterness and optimism, and a moody intro that gives way to a choppy riff that forces you to do the ‘punching the midget’ dance. Solid stuff.
The presence of the “Ermahgerdimsozanyandprogressivelol” Devin Townsend on ‘Absolute’ fills me with some trepidation, but the track is another winner. Gotta love the end of the fretboard riff going on here. ‘Hell of a Scene’ packs speed and melody to winning effect in it’s 1:50 running time.
Despite talk in the press notes about how the band “… has built a career on progression and evolution…”, ‘Outsider’ is very much a Comeback Kid album.
Soaring gang choruses are very much in place. Harsh, but melodic guitars rule the roost and the lyrics speak of positivity and overcoming obstacles.
It’s certainly not one of the best albums of the year, but it is one that’s made me sit up and take notice of Comeback Kid.
Although I doubt I’ll be blasting this record a lot, I’ve got to admit, they’ve got a good sound and they know how to use it to their advantage.
2.5/5 – Christopher Owens ::: 10/09/17