Gorilla Warfare – “Trial by Combat” ep


Trial By Combat _ 2014Heavy old-school hardcore is in somewhat short supply these days with even the term hardcore now meaning something completely different to a new generation.  At one time, the term was reserved for the likes of Agnostic Front, Slapshot, Sick of It All, and similar bands, many of which hailed from the East Coast, especially New York and Boston.  These bands are actually all still somewhat active with Sick of It All actually still touring like madmen and completing a 25th anniversary tour a couple years ago, which means they’ve been touring as a band longer than most of the current crop of “hardcore” bands have been alive, but I digress.  Gorilla Warfare is a band from Tennessee that is keeping the flame of hardcore going as is readily apparent from the very opening of their new ep Trial by Combat.

As a band, Gorilla warfare goes back to 2004 and have never strayed from their East Coast style hardcore sound.  From the beginning their songs and artwork have incorporated military imagery, something this faith-based band can relate to first hand with more than one member having served their country and one still active in military service.  They take these experiences and use them in a symbolic manner to describe the daily battles we all go through.  Their first full length, The Battlefields,  came out in 2007 on Wounded Records and was followed by an appearance at Cornerstone Festival and tour throughout the south and Midwest.  Between late 2007 to 2013, the band recorded and gave away a demo cd and recorded three other songs that have gone on to be on a number of different compilations.  After weathering lineup changes, record label collapses and all sorts of other drama, they released their second full length, Fall of the Serpent in June 2013 straight to digital with physical cds now available.  Never a band to sit around, they have recently released a 4-song ep Trial by Combat featuring again some lineup changes since Fall of the Serpents, but ending up with a heavier sound in the process.

Four songs on a hardcore ep goes by fairly quickly and surprisingly Gorilla Warfare cover quite a bit of ground in terms of style and influences in this collection of songs.  The ep literally explodes straight into “Cursed Be”, which is one of the more heavy, groovy, metallic songs on the ep, reminding me a lot of All Out War’s For Those Who Were Crucified.  Guitar certainly carries the song and the gravelly tough shouted vocals mesh perfectly with this music, but the song is not as one-dimensional as one might expect in this genre.  Around the middle of the song there is slower section with basically a bass solo, that provides a good intermission before the second half of the song picks back up.

Fast snare drums kick off “Trial by Combat” and set the tone for the song that speed is going to be a factor.  “Trial by Combat” has that song structure that instantly feels familiar to hardcore fans, fast verses ideal for charging up the circle pit and then slower, shouted chorus sections ideal for taking a breather and piling on everyone near the front of the stage to shout into the mic.  Showing some of their punk influence, the song even has a guitar solo in one of the slower sections that isn’t out of place at all.  Given the title, one would certainly expect some military-themed/battle lyrics here and they are certainly present as the band uses that imagery for their message that life is a battle…”Trial by combat, let the ancient laws decide, trial by combat, let sword and spear divide.”

“Call of the Hellhounds” slows things down a bit and again, the song structure and style is a bit different than the other two songs, with the verses featuring the growling hardcore vocals shouted over a nasty guitar riff.  Eventually the song gets into a chugging, breakdown-like section before launching into a guitar solo and back to the nasty guitar riff that started the song.

The ep closes out with “Police Corruption”, which is a remake of the song originally found on the Fall of the Serpents album.   I can’t help but think of “Chamber Spins Three” by Biohazard when I hear this song,  as in terms of style and structure, this song is very much along the lines of old Biohazard.

Overall, there is a lot to like here and a lot that makes me wish there were more songs.  Production is a little rough, but overall sound is very good and full.  Vocals are perfect for the genre and the musicianship with the bass and guitar solos is very strong as well.  If you like old-school hardcore, especially the heavier varieties from the East Coast, you’ll want to pick this up.

Note:  The John Jackson who plays bass now for Gorilla Warfare is not the same person or related to the John Jackson who wrote this review.  The reviewer has never played bass but does like playing some Gorilla Warfare songs from their first album (The Battlefields) on guitar.

Rating: 7/10

Written by John Jackson

1. Cursed Be
2. Trial by Combat
3. Call of the Hellhounds
4. Police Corruption

Band Members for ep
Brett Wade – Vocals
Jamal Pookie – Drums, bass guitar
Matt Lawrence- Guitars

Current band lineup
Brett Wade – Vocals
Matt Lawrence – Guitars
John Jackson – Bass guitar
Lael Joubert – Drums

“Fall of the Serpent” [2013]
“Trial by Combat” ep [2014]

Record Label: Independent, Jan. 2014

Weblinks: Bandcamp / Facebook

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts