South East straight edge outcasts Firm Standing Law follow up last years Unforgiving X demo with a new 7” entitled UNASHAMED on Carry The Weight Records. With a veteran lineup that boasts former (and current) members of Cold World, Repentance, Coldsnap, Never Again and many more, FSL may come with a nigh on flawless pedigree of straight edge hardcore but with that also comes the burden of expectation.
Unashamed takes very obvious inspiration from early 90’s West Coast hardcore. I’m talking about stuff like Undertow and Deadwait but most specifically Chorus Of Disapproval. Hell, even Firm Standing Law’s clunky moniker is a direct xChorusx reference. All of this is wonderful news to me, because I fuckin’ luuurve xChorusx. When I was 17 I had a tape with Chorus Of Disapproval’s ‘Truth Gives Wings To Strength’ LP on one side and Integrity’s ‘Those Who Fear Tomorrow’ on the other. I would listen to that tape over and over as I walked to Thanet College every morning, bracing myself for another day of bullshit. For those who don’t know/care about such things, Chorus were like California’s answer to Judge. Their songs were ludicrously over the top and militant and had lyrics that took bizarre influence from old proverbs. They carried a baseball bat around with them called The Ugly Stick and they even had a 7” where the band ranked their top five professional boxers of all time on the lyric sheet. Who does that mate? And whilst I don’t think FSL have quite reached those awesome levels of cheesemongering with Unashamed, they’ve certainly had a decent stab at it.
Opening track Illusion Of Strength kicks off with a brooding bass line that sounds like something off the good Mouthpiece album, before stepping on the gas and colliding into the anthemic breakdown closes the deal. Dan Mill’s strained and impassioned vocals are perfectly suited to this style of hardcore and he throws in the right amount of vocal nuance that will put a grin on the face of any student of the genre. The Blood takes the best elements of the Judge 7” and welds them onto a chassis of vintage Strife build’em up/smash’em down dynamics. Former Coldsnap/Day Of Rights vocalist Roman Schnecker adds his formidable lungs to a guest verse providing a rugged contrast to Dan’s vocals. It’s an immediate banger and hits the right combination of nostalgia, arrogance and defiance to guarantee hoods up, finger pointing and stage dives. Sure, Unashamed is not breaking any new ground but with this type of hardcore I think that’s kind of the point, to serve as a reminder of why all those years, miles and blood poured into something as strangely ephemeral as hardcore ARE important. And whilst the last five years have been a definite watermark period for UKHC it seems that straight edge has once again become the red headed stepchild. How timely then, that Firm Standing Law have arrived to remind us all of the power of the unforgiving X