Kicking Cancer’s Ass, Hardcore Style!

stig

May 24th: A Benefit for Justin King featuring Stigmata, Wisdom in Chains, Born Low, King Nine and Cheech at Bogies.

by Jay Frost

I’ve never been prouder to be a part of the Albany Hardcore Scene.

On the evening in question, Bogies was host to a packed house and a stacked line-up .This event, organized by Buddy Armstrong and Upstate Black ‘N’ Blue Productions, was held as a fundraiser for the King family. Justin King, who lent his six-string talent to a number of area bands (including Bulldog Courage), has been living with late-stage cancer for some time now. In an effort to alleviate some of the financial burden associated with medical expenses, a percentage of the door proceeds were donated to King. Additionally, special-edition event shirts bearing the names of the bands on the back, the front emblazoned in bold-block letters, “We Take Care of our Own!”, were printed and sold at the show.

When I arrived at 7:30 that evening, the club was PACKED! It was a veritable “who’s who” of the Albany scene. So many familiar faces – old and new – greeted me with warm smiles, hugs and handshakes. It felt like the Old Days – they even had the courtesy water-jug out! I haven’t seen such a high turnout this early in the evening since I was a teenager, and as openers Cheech weren’t scheduled to play until eight. This can only be seen as a testament of how far the 518 will go to help a brother in need.

All of the bands on the bill had a sound firmly rooted in the hardcore tradition, though none of them sounded alike. Boston’s Cheech was perhaps the most traditional, reminding me at times of NYC acts Killing Time and Sick of it All. Blending four on the floor punk-styled drum beats with metallic guitar riffing, straight-ahead passages and – of course – danceable breakdowns. Cheech began their set with some newer material, and later on broke out the oldies. Those in the know sang along or set it off in the pit. Incidentally, Cheech provided one of the highlights of the evening, at least on a personal level: as part of a double encore, they played their rendition of Sheer Terror’s “Here to Stay”. At this point, I had no choice but to participate in the ensuing sing-along.

Long Island’s King Nine and Reaper Records recording artists Born Low had a similar take on the hardcore sound. That is not to say that they sounded the same, however, but both drew on more metallic influences than the other bands. With King Nine, I heard a great deal of Sworn Enemy (the vocals) and Madball, but with a brutal stomp beat akin to Xibalba and the Acacia Strain. Born Low was a bit more traditional, but still heavier than Youth of Today, Judge and Gorilla Biscuits. Though they frequently play Bogies, tonight was my first opportunity to see Born Low, and I have to say that they impressed the hell out of me. Where much of the newer Albany bands have gone the way of metal or “metalcore”, it’s good to see an Albany band like Born Low flying the HC flag.

Next on the bill was Pennsylvania’s own Wisdom in Chains. Having never seen them live, their set was particularly enjoyable to me. Originating as a cross-Atlantic collaboration between members of the Dutch band Daredevil and PA bands Krutch and Mushmouth, Wisdom In Chains recorded one album with this line-up, only to reform years later. Perhaps one of the most unique bands on the bill, WIC’s sound took the best from the old and the new school: melodic Oi!/punk with infectious sing-along parts, Terror-style hardcore breakdowns, and careful attention to musicianship. Like so many of their peers around the globe, every member of Wisdom in Chains worked in collusion with each other with little show boating – save the occasional, appropriately placed guitar lead – to produce a rock-solid wall of sound. Fans of Terror, Sheer Terror, Blood For Blood and The Bruisers would love these guys.

As if the supporting line-up wasn’t enough to satiate the tastes of the average hardcore fanatic, tonight’s main event was nothing short of a milestone: the return to the stage of local legends Stigmata after four years of inactivity. Featuring the classic line-up of Bob Riley (Murderer’s Row), Mike Maney (Ill Remembered, Dead Rabbits), Jay Sunkes (Burning Human, Dead Rabbits), Buddy Armstrong and Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall, Burning Human, and now Anthrax), Stigmata began releasing demos under the names Displaced Aggression and Cranial Abuse in the mid-eighties. Adopting their present moniker with the release of 1991’s The Call of the Just, Stigmata is universally recognized as one of the founders of “Troy-Core”, a style that blended Slayer-esque guitar riffing with the traditional hardcore sound. The band went on to release five full length albums, the last of which – Do Unto Others – was picked up for distribution by Victory Records.

As the room went dim, the haunting, synthesized strains of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange theme poured from the sound system. Smiling ear to ear, Riley shot us all the bird and gave a brief dedication – as all of the acts had – to King before the band broke into their classic set, kicking the madness off with “Life for a Life”. From the stage to the bar, Bogies was as densely packed as it could be: the typically wide-open dance floor was full of spectators, who closed in to form a narrow “horseshoe of death”. The pit had been in full-swing since King Nine, but now the floor was no longer a safe place for the non-confrontational. Yours truly even caught a forearm to the head!

With the exception of a few songs from Do Unto Others, the majority of Stigmata’s set list consisted of material from their third full-length, Hymns for an Unknown God, the album considered by many to be their finest work, as well as Bittner’s debut as their drummer. Though they hadn’t played together in years, the band didn’t miss a beat – it was like stepping through a wormhole into 1996! The intense double-bass attacks of songs like “Nothing But Enemies” and “Ignorant and Wired” were just as crushing as they were when I was a kid, and the sheer heaviness of “Murder of Life” and closer “Burning Human” solidified once and for all their timelessness. Unfortunately, if you didn’t make it out tonight, the likelihood of catching Stigmata on stage any time soon is slim to none – not for lack of desire, just conflicting schedules. If you did, consider yourself lucky to witness such a milestone.