Since its inception, punk rock has pretty much been about one thing: expressing yourself without conforming. Some groups used punk to "stick it to the man" and others used it as somewhat of a social commentary. Nowadays, punk rock has, for the most part, been either watered down into whiny my-girlfriend-broke-up-with-me anthems or mixed with some pop and/or electronica to create some sort of hybrid punk. Of course, there are those who do well with their new brand of punk, so it's not all bad. Facedown Records is home to one group who takes punk rock and blends it with some hardcore, in the vein of artists like Stretch Arm Strong and Rise Against. They're called Take It Back!, and their new album Atrocities does honor to the spirit of punk rock.
Lead vocalist Nick Thomas is 100% non-conformist, and it's proven throughout the ten tracks that make up Atrocities. Early on, "New Empire" speaks about not wanting any part of our world's corruption. It mentions horrible things such as homelessness and single parents being shunned in church, which leads to him saying, "And I think to myself, what a world we live in, where people use God's name to expand their empires. They say it's just the way it is, that I should just learn to accept it." It's followed shortly by a plea for action ("I won't tread lightly, and I won't go quietly, and I won't speak softly, I won't let you get the best of me. This has to end here. This has to end right now. No longer can we wait for things to all work out"). "What We're Fighting For" has a good message about standing up for your convictions. Not only that, but it's about standing up for your convictions when other Christians have convictions different than your own, "My convictions lead me, so this won't be a waste of time. For me this is exactly where I need to be. Right now... So why does a difference in opinion mean that I am wrong? Clear eyes, clean heart, and a mind that won't forget where we came from... It's not that you were wrong, but your life's not for me." Our brothers and sisters in Christ sometimes seem to be our worst enemies when it comes to the slight differences in beliefs between us. It's sad, but true. But this song, though not a direct encouragement to anyone, does have the ability to inspire us to stand up for ourselves and just join together regardless of the differences, because we're still "fighting on the same side."
Overall, Atrocities is one big call to action. While Thomas talks a lot about the things the Church needs to improve on and the things in the world that need to be fixed, he presents an urgency to not only think about it all, but to do something about it. The music does a great job of adding to that urgency, too. There's nothing like some fast-paced, loud and frantic punk rock to get a point across and get the listener motivated. "The Beginning. Nothing." starts off with some powerful riffs and Thomas' urgent vocals, leading perfectly into the frantic skate punk "New Empire." Then there's "Hollow Eyes," which starts off with intensity, both musically and vocally, and hardly takes a break until the song's end. "A Reason To Scream" follows suit quite nicely, as does "What We're Fighting For," which also includes some straight-up singing throughout a good portion of the song, as well as some actual screaming (as opposed to the yelling usually heard from Thomas). And, of course, no punk album is complete without a track like "Minneapolis," an ultra-fast, who-cares-about-length, mayhemic rocker.
From beginning to end, Atrocities is a solid punk rock album. Though the genre does have a built-in fault (forsaking rhythm and/or harmony in the vocals), it's still a fabulous genre. Because it can be a rather easy genre to do, it's attempted by many, many bands in today's culture, including some who just shouldn't even mess with it. But in the hands of the right people, the finished product can come out sounding great. Take It Back! appears to be one of those that can do punk rock justice. They have intensity, a message and a passion for that message, and they get it out there with music that speaks to people. And while there's certainly nothing inherently wrong with pop punk "girlfriend" songs (for which I'm usually a sucker), Atrocities is more for people who want something to chew on.- Review date: 11/10/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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