REVIEW: First Blood – Rules [2017]

Artist: First Blood

Album: Rules


We live in a society designed to keep us line—hell-bent on holding us in neat, organized little rows, bound tightly by regulations and guidelines that are made to keep us “happy” and “productive.”

But productive for who?

Certainly not for ourselves—not even for society in the truest sense of the word, but for the all-seeing, all-governing one-percent. We aren’t “happy,” we’re complacent, blinded by distractions and frivolities of contemporary living. The regulations and guidelines that dictate our day-to-day lives are shackles, binding us. We are oppressed by a series of cold, unfeeling Rules—and First Blood are back to break every single one of them. With their comeback release, Rules, First Blood are out for their namesake, using punchy, pummeling breakdowns and raunchy, raw riffs finished with fantastic, gleaming and ever-so-slightly gritty production that will make new fans fall head-over-heels and old fans fall in love with the group all over again. Rules is a no-bullshit anthem for heavy music’s revolutionary and disquiet side—and it will not stop until it’s heard loud and clear.

First Blood are a crushing coalition of noisy, aggravated and aggressive hardcore—no frills, nothing fancy, just boundless fury so infernal and intense the listener can feel it flooding through their headphones. Rules sees the band bringing back that raw, powerful sucker-punch-to-the-face style that won them a ravenous fanbase with albums like Killafornia more than ten years ago. Drummer Bobby Ponte is the band’s foundation; fast and pissed, dropping two-step after two-step with the energy of eleven caffeinated energizer bunnies. “Rules of Sacrifice” sees him roaring along at a pace that makes bullet trains look slow, while the next track, “Rules of Government” is a more straightforward and churning, thrash-tinted anthem that will have the listener punching craters into drywall and throwing bricks through windows without warning. Right there alongside Ponte’s punchy percussion is bassist Daiske Shibamori, doing precisely what a bassist in a hardcore band should be doing: adding depth and groovy, gut-twisting impact to the most intense and unbearably heavy parts of Rules, all while keeping things fluid and fast on their feet. While Ponte is picking up the pace on songs like “Fuck the Rules,” “These Are the Rules” or “Rules of Sacrifice,” Shibamori is right there with him—yet when things get slow and sinister during First Blood’s rampaging breakdowns, Shibamori explodes with low, lurid plunking tones that crack bone and bludgeon flesh. Where things go from heated to infernal, however, is when guitarist Johan Vesters’ fretwork comes into play. In keeping with the remainder of First Blood—and the First Blood we all know and love—Vesters doesn’t do anything fancy. Instead he brings pure, powerful and visceral anger to every second of every song, keeping things at a constant, almost-insufferable blaze. “Fuck the Rules” is an excellent example where Vesters does just that, setting fire to the listener’s ears with catchy, quick riffs that have enough dancy candor to get a quadriplegic up, on their feet and into the pit.

Where the band’s instrumentation is aggression incarnate, things only get more filled with fury when it comes to the brazen, bold vocals and bitter lyrics of frontman Carl Schwartz. Schwartz’s strong, abrasive shout roars above the rampant ruckus of Rules‘ ruthless instrumentation. Case in point, the opening (and, again, aptly named) track: “Fuck the Rules.” Schwartz keeps up with Vesters’ lead, throwing subtlety to the wind from the first syllable. This continues with “These Are the Rules” or “Rules of Life.” Meanwhile, Schwartz’s vocal stylings are catchier than the common cold when it comes to “Rules Meant to be Broken,” with a refrain portion that will have venues reduced to rubble in a mad clamber for the microphone. Schwartz brings animation and life to First Blood’s fever-inducing, hyper-heated style of heavy-handed hardcore. Creating anthem after anthem, Schwartz is consistent and energetic without coming across as samey or dull—creating an almost-forty-minute-long experience that (albeit narrowly) avoids vocal monotony, which is something bands with even more veteran status than First Blood struggle with.

First Blood remind the listener what its like to truly listen to a raunchy, rebellious war. With explosive percussion, bombardments of bass and grisly, razor-sharp guitars that serve as a soundscape for the hail of bullets that is Schwartz’s voice, Rules is the call for uprising that has, truthfully, not been as relevant in the past fifteen years as it is now. Fitting the voices of the many against the staunch supremacy complex of the over-privelidged few, Rules is a heavy-hitting, harder-than-nails wake up call to hardcore and to the hardcore community, combining politics and powerful, gimmick free musicianship for an audience that truly needs to hear it.



For Fans Of: Madball, Terror, Death Before Dishonor, Agnostic Front

By: Connor Welsh