“Do Or Die”
May 13, 2014 - Rock Ridge Music
The majority of reviews you’re going to stumble across regarding Sworn Enemy's new album will include some amount of commentary about the band’s adherence to musical homeostasis. There will be many poking much fun at the New Yorkers and how they supposedly haven’t taken a single step outside of the blueprint they laid out for themselves after forming 15 years and seven releases ago. However, the truth of the matter is that as far back as 2006’s The Beginning Of The End, the bruising outfit’s then-guitarist Lorenzo Antonucci employed his meticulous study of—and love for—thrash metal, particularly classic Metallica and Kirk Hammett’s soloing style, in creating at least three records that had the band gnashing out at naysayers from the corner that streetwise hardcore likes to keep its proponents painted in.
Antonucci left the band sometime after 2009’s Total World Domination, taking his devotion to the more metallic side of things with him. Six-string duties these days are handled by Jeff Cummings and Matt Garzilli—two dudes who are less Kill ’Em All and more Sick Of It All—and result is Living On Borrowed Time’s easing up on thrash-metal hallmarks like galloping and pedal riffs and delectably phrased, yet still wailing, leads as the now-quintet hearken back to the blue collar, feet-on-the-pavement hardcore days when they were releasing EPs on Jamey Jasta’s label.
While very obvious references to the golden age of thrash metal remain (leadoff track “Do Or Die” features a killer “For Whom The Bell Tolls” meets Seasons In The Abyss-era Slayer feel), the move is decidedly toward their roots. The guitars offer a clinic on accented quarter-note downpicking, providing quick and speedy melodies with NYHC written all over them that, when not sounding like volleys of cannon fire, bounce off tribal beats and rhythms pulled straight from the means streets of the concrete jungle. Hell, vocalist and lone original member Sal LoCoco even spouts off with a vitriolic "never let the bastards get you down" spoken word bit in “No Apologies.” There may not be much in the way of innovation backing the likes of “Never Forget” or “Hard Way,” but they are robust and powerful slices of hardcore destined to get the usual suspects doing the usual hardcore dances.