Before the term got applied to every Weezer-lite band with guitars and a singer in nerd glasses, emo was an offshoot of hardcore punk (see Rites of Spring, early Fugazi, etc.). The short-lived Saetia, whose demo tape, single, LP, and one compilation track are collected on this 23-track, 73-minute disc, never forgot their history, and A Retrospective is emo at its purest. The band mixes hardcore aggression with stop-on-a-dime shifts in dynamics and time signatures, easily shifting from passages of post-rock complexity to pure bash-it-out aggression and back. Think Joan of Arc with considerably more rock muscle behind it. (Drummer Greg Drudy is particularly impressive.) Over this, singer Billy Werner alternately howls and moans lyrics that mostly stay on the right side of the most common emo pitfall -- overblown words that sound like the sort of thing pretentious high school kids who read too much Kerouac would think was cool -- but occasionally slip over. Aside from that, however, A Retrospective is a powerful slab of emo, and both an excellent starting point for newcomers to the genre, and an essential document for fans.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason