In This Defiance

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This is where Strife finally hit everything just right. Their sound is big and full, yet almost clinically tight; the tempos are brisk, sometimes headlong. Singer Rick Rodney bellows in the time-honored hardcore punk style, utterly incomprehensible and completely compelling on songs like "Blistered" and "Stand as One (Redemption)." The lyrics are still strangely vague -- the songs are all adamant, but not always about anything identifiable (lines like "The future is dead for many of those who have fallen refusing to let it go" and "Search inside and you will find the answers lie within the reach of those who try" are long on emotional resonance and short on specific meaning). But that doesn't make the music any less powerful. "To an End" may be one of the most galvanizing hardcore rants ever committed to tape, and everything else on this remarkable album is almost as good. A stunning achievement. (Caveat emptor: the disc begins with three minutes of horror-movie sound collage and ends with another sixteen minutes of the same thing, which means that it only contains 28 minutes of actual music.)

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