I never thought I’d see the day when major record labels were hunting down bands like Sworn Enemy. However, after whiffing success with the principal proponents of hardcore-influenced thrash metal, Hatebreed, and seeing said group’s main man, Jamey Jasta, front MTV’s revamped Headbanger’s Ball, The Suits clearly sense there’s money to be made from music that lies in the extremities.
Whatever the whys and wherefores of this situation, it’s good news that such bands have their profile augmented and get their shot at 15 minutes of fame. The major label debut from New Yorkers Sworn Enemy is not going to make its way into the collections of any pop, indie, dance or even most rock kids, but it should see them reaching out beyond their Queens neighbourhood.
Those immersed in the hardcore scene like to think of themselves as one big family and so it’s not exactly a shock to learn that As Real As It Gets is produced by Jamey Jasta himself. Unsurprisingly, Hatebreed (and therefore Slayer) are very obvious reference points which means you get paint-stripping guitars, drums that sound like a battering ram and vocals from Sal LoCoco that sound like he’s been gargling battery acid instead of anti-bacterial mouthwash.
Unfortunately, being similar to Hatebreed also means that As Real As It Gets suffers from a problem seemingly endemic to heavier hardcore acts, namely that one song template fits all. However, the passion and aggression with which Sworn Enemy unleash their aural missiles mean that they can just about get away with a lack of diversity – at a little over half an hour long, there’s barely enough time to get bored and by the end you’re left feeling like you’ve just been watching one of the bloodiest boxing matches of all time.
Where Sworn Enemy really score Brownie points is with their lyrics. Given the ferocity of the music and the reputation of the hardcore scene one might have expected them to simply spit bile, anger and hatred. There’s certainly a bit of that – the eponymous first track about “the horror, the tragedy of 9/11” features the already infamous lines, “The sight of you I despise / I’ll help you meet your Maker and I won’t think twice.”
However, beneath the belligerent exterior, Mr LoCoco is clearly a sensitive soul who’s searching for Truth. Final track, These Tears, for instance, contains lyrics that Sir Cliff Richard would struggle to match in spirituality stakes:
“I am not some figment of your imagination
The life I led was pure and true…
Watch me suffer upon the cross
Your sins are what I die for.”
Perhaps those Slayer comparisons weren’t so accurate after all… Worth a listen.