Loud, fast, raucous, in-your-face punk rock with a chip on its shoulder made from parts of Motorhead, GBH, and Exploited…if that sounds good, just do yourself a favor and go pick up Self-Destruction by Fight Before Surrender (FBS). This third full length has been a long time coming as those that have followed the band know and the end result is not only a great addition to their catalog but can serve as a good introduction for those new to the band.
Once upon a time there was a ska/punk band from Ohio called Five Bucks Short that involved some of the members of Fight Before Surrender, including Josh Detty and Charlie Jackson. Those who are paying attention may notice some commonality between the two band names and back in 2003 Fight Before Surrender (FBS) emerged as a punk rock band out of failed projects. The first two FBS albums were released on Wounded Records, with They Hate You coming out in 2005 and Fight Before Surrender in 2007. During their career, FBS has earned a reputation as one of those hard-working bands that never fail to bring the energy to live shows and do everything in an all-out, no compromise manner, hitting at least 42 of the lower continental US states in the process. Their effort to get Self-Destruction released exemplifies the tenacity of the band and their relentless refusal to stop moving forward. The vinyl version comes with an entire sheet detailing the various travails involved in the recording and releasing of the album which starts back in 2008. The story is more than crazy and to provide perspective the last paragraph of the story is a high-level summary:
Hundreds of shows within 9 tours, 3 vans, 6 drummers, 2 marriages, 2 cross-country moves, 2 record labels, and hours and hours of writing, practicing, thinking, plotting and planning, this album is finally out and on your record player.
This time around FBS had Jonathan Hape of national Audio Preservation Society record and mix and Sef Idle (of False Idle) master the tracks at Simpul Studio. All songs were produced by the band and notably the band includes a cover of Motorhead’s “Black Leather Jacket”. Those who have seen FBS live know the set usually includes “Ace of Spades” at some point (also on their Live Grenade ep) so given their sound, Motorhead influence, and fondness for motorcycles and black leather jackets, it all makes perfect sense.
Self-Destruction kicks off with an instrumental intro track that to me serves as a nice warm up, immediately letting the listener know what is to come and as the feedback fades out, the bass of Nate Shumaker comes in to kick off “Hammerfist Rock and Roll”. For me this song brings back memories of “All I Wanna Do (Is Rock and Roll)” off their first album, but in this case the song has more of that sense of the band’s drive to carry it along and really sums up the philosophy of the band when it comes to the music…”Got the pedal to the floor geared up like a maniac, white knuckling the wheel ain’t never looking back. Drive all day just to rock all night, drop the hammerfist, gonna do this right!”
One thing that will become apparent with FBS on this album is that the songs tend to start out with a fast bass line, either alone or with some drums behind it, and this structure is something that really works for the band and their sound. On “Gods or Men”, “Consumed”, and “Head Hunter” the drums of Ryan Evans come in during the bass intro and add a counterpunch to the bass rhythm that helps give the songs some added identity. Songs like “Standoff” make great use of the contrasting vocals of Josh Detty and Nate Shumaker. Josh handles the majority of the vocals on FBS songs and has the gravelly rough sound of a younger Lemmy that makes their cover of Ace of Spades and Black Leather Jacket so convincing and powerful. In contrast, Nate’s vocals have a much cleaner tone, but still carry the no-nonsense, chip on the shoulder tone that fits so well within the context of the songs. Just like on previous albums, FBS features two guitars with Josh Detty and Charlie Jackson handling the duties in this incarnation of the band and having the two guitars does provide more options in terms of song construction and more overall depth and driving heaviness to the guitars that works really well with the FBS brand of punk rock.
Overall this is an album that goes pedal to the metal from the opening all the way through the end, intensity never lifting. For those with the Live Grenade ep, the songs “Live Grenade” “Standoff” and “In Your Blood” reappear on Self-Destruction and the difference is quite substantial as the new versions are cleaner, faster, and more intense, showing how the band has grown over time. From a subject matter, the songs focus on the struggles and battles in life and can almost be read as one person’s story of betrayal and their work to overcome the anger eventually coming to the realization that the betrayer will have to pay the price for their actions. Music can be therapy and situations like these make for great punk rock albums.
Written by John Jacksom
02. Hammerfist Rock and Roll
04. Until Death
06. Gods and Men
09. In Your Blood
10. Live Grenade
12. Black Leather Jacket (Motorhead cover)
Josh Detty – Vocals, guitar
Charlie Jackson – Guitar, vocals
Nate Shumaker – Bass, vocals
Ryan Evans – Drums
Record Label: Independent, June 2015
Video for ‘Hammerfist Rock and Roll’
Video for ‘Apocalypse’