Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Killing Time - "Three Steps Back"

If you thought it was an oxymoron or if you thought it was a myth, think again. If you thought it was something that could never happen, forget everything you know. It’s right here: Literate NYHC. And it’s nothing new. Killing Time have been at it for 20 years now.

Killing Time, formed in 1988 as Raw Deal, have at one time or another throughout their history featured members of Judge, Token Entry, Sick of It All, Breakdown, Inside Out, Uppercut, Electric Frankenstein and Maximum Penalty, among others, and been on hiatus at least four times in two decades. Going steady again since 2005, Three Steps Back is the band’s first release since 1997’s The Method. While generally what one would expect from New York hardcore musically, Killing Time is perhaps a shade more melodic and with lyrical development that far exceeds the majority of their brethren. While some songs were penned by vocalist Anthony Comunale, some are credited to bassist Chris Skowronski, while the bulk of the lyrics were written by drummer Anthony Drago.

The catchy hardcore of “24” stands far out in the track list with its not-so-subtle hooks and a warmth that few NYHC bands ever capture, with the exception of maybe Sick of It All and H2O. According to an interview with Drago, the lyrics detail “a time in my life when I was forced to make certain decisions that would affect the rest of my life and the anxiety and depression that came along with that.” That decision would seem to be Drago’s choice to put Killing Time on hold and become a police officer based on the lyrics: “Not much left of me on the inspection line / They breached my heart and ransacked my mind […] Arms at your side and get that chin up high / Boy, hold that piss ‘til you’re dismissed.” There are a few other somewhat melodic tracks on Three Steps Back (“Mingus,” “Crouch,” “AKB”) but for the most part, Killing Time uses their time to beat and batter their way through the album with crunching guitars and punishing rhythms. Occasionally, a spiraling metallic lead will find its way into the fold, as in the opener “Flight Plan” or “Half Empty,” which self-professes, “I am the lone gunman / I am the bombardier / I am the silent warning all you fuck-ups need to hear / Serving both sides like St. Sebastian stuck on high / Abusing my body to free my mind.”

The decade of dormancy hasn't stolen anything from Killing Time. Their dynamic riffs, compelling rhythms and urbane lyricism combine to produce a stellar effort in Three Steps Back.

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