Old News Out of Albany #3: Biohazard, Sworn Enemy, Born Low and Peaks

This one’s a bit more recent than my other  “Old News” postings, but as it’s reaching you over a month after the event occurred, I found it appropriate to lump it in that category.

Anyway, without further ado…..

Monday, June 17th: Biohazard, Sworn Enemy, Born Low and Peaks at Bogies

By Jay Frost

One of the things I love about Bogies is that there’s always something going on nearly EVERY day of the week. Whether you’re seeing Ringworm on a Monday, Soulfly on a Wednesday or Agnostic Front on a Thursday, Upstate Black ‘N’ Blue Productions is famous for pulling big-name weekday line-ups that would blow most other promoters’ weekend acts clear out of the water.  Monday, June 17th is a perfect example, as Albany was hit with a double dose of streetwise, metallic hardcore from the almighty Biohazard and Queens, New York’s Sworn Enemy.

As always, the best of the local scene was represented by the openers – Before the Betrayer, Trife Life, Peaks and Born Low. Due to my late arrival, I only able to catch the latter two, but the energy and brilliance with which they performed affirmed to me the assertion I’ve been making for months now: that the Albany scene is indeed experiencing another “Golden Age” like that of the mid-nineties.

Peaks took the stage at 8:30 that night. This four-piece does what so many in the genre have done; that is, they combine their own respective influences from the metal world (mostly grind and noise-core, from what I could hear) with the urgency and stripped-down punk-rock ethic that defines hardcore. Imagine Kiss it Goodbye and later Neurosis at twice the tempo and you have something close to Peaks.

Peaks unique contribution to the hardcore sound is built on break-neck tempos that occasionally grind down to a crushing stomp beat. Guitar work is straight-forward, minimalist but profound as their sole axe-man lays down lightning-quick rhythms and chunky breakdowns. Peaks’ lead vocalist and the guitarist share the vox responsibility, and deliver an aural razor slash that is as relentless as a drove of killer wasps. Fans of Nails, Insect Warfare and early Pig Destroyer will dig the fuck out of Peaks’ destructive blitz, and those who prefer that old abrasive sound that characterized the early days of hardcore punk will appreciate their traditionalism.

As is the custom during change-over, the considerable Monday night crowd dispersed, trading the heat and humidity of the dance floor for a cold one at the bar or the refreshing summer evening air outside. Typically, there is enough time between acts to cool off, grab a smoke or a slice from the corner pizza parlor. I did both, but was mindful of every minute for one reason in particular: Albany Hardcore heavyweights Born Low.

This would be the second time seeing Born Low in less than a month, so I wanted to pay careful and close attention to their set tonight. From what I’ve gathered, Born Low has in recent years become one of the most successful hardcore acts to come out of Albany since Brick By Brick. Though I know very little about the band itself, I’ve certainly not been ignorant to their enormous presence in the scene – take a walk around Albany sometime…from the College Ghetto to the Greyhound Terminal, it’s nearly impossible NOT to find one of their stickers or a flier bearing their name plastered to a wall or the back of a street sign, and with good reason: these guys pound!

Born Low keep it old-school and in your face, bringing to mind the likes of Sworn Enemy and Merauder. Each slab of brutality these guys put down is held together by intricate, menacing guitar riffs that would make Slayer proud. As unpredictable as a feral animal, Born Low will throw a breakdown at you when you least expect it. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, either be prepared to join in on the mosh or take cover… you will get knocked!

Born Low’s latest offering, Reincarnage, is available online from the Reaper Records merch store or at any show they play. If you love old-school, metallic, bone-crushing hardcore, DO NOT sleep on these guys!

The excitement reached its peak when Queens powerhouse Sworn Enemy took the stage. Another frequent visitor to Bogies and constant touring partners with Brick By Brick, Sworn Enemy unleashed its brutality upon the world in 1997 under the name Mindset.  2001 saw them donning their present moniker and the release of their debut, Negative Outlook, through Jamey Jasta’s Stillborn label. An instant classic in both the hardcore and metal scenes, the band gained notoriety and name recognition, and in 2003 they released their second full-length, As Real as it Gets, on Elektra Records – a feat that has eluded many of their deserving peers. Along with the I.D.S. EP that fell between these two albums, Sworn Enemy has released five full-lengths to date, the last of which, Total World Domination saw the light of day in 2009 on Regain Records.

The moments before the melee were like the proverbial calm before the storm: the band most certainly felt at home and were just as excited as their fans, who were now stacked five deep in front of the stage.  Kicking it off with “As Real As It Gets”, Sworn Enemy was in the zone. Through forty-five minutes of classic brutality, including gems like “One Way Trip”, “Sworn Enemy”, “I.D.S.” and their monster of a middle-finger to the face of Top Forty pop-metal,  “We Hate”, which they prefaced with the introductory riffs of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”. From beginning to end, the floor was a flurry of fists and feet.

The evening ended with an absolutely incredible performance by the one and only Biohazard, the band that brought the gritty sounds of the streets of Brooklyn to the masses. With a sound that crosses a number of genre barriers without sounding contrived, it is hard to pigeonhole Biohazard. To those in attendance, this was inconsequential, and the pit raged on for yet another classic set. Excluding their latest single, “Vengeance is Mine”, Biohazard delighted Bogies with an eclectic mix of old favorites: “Shades of Grey”, “Urban Discipline”, “Five Blocks to the Subway”, “Retribution”,  “Punishment” and “Tales From the Hardside”, just to name a few. New bassist/vocalist Scott Roberts is a perfect addition to the otherwise-original line-up of Billy Graziadei, Bobby Hambel and Danny Schuler, so much so that it leaves you asking “Evan Who?” Grazaidei exemplifies what a frontman should be: humble and passionate. He even invited an inebriated fan who interrupted one of his pre-song monologues with chants of “Greatest Band Ever!!!” on stage for “Black and White and Red All Over”. Success has not changed him, nor has it turned him into an arrogant, self-absorbed rock star.

As a band, Biohazard is wicked tight, and have no problem reproducing what you hear on studio releases in a live setting. Albany raged that night in the pit, and I sustained my standard head injury during their set – the true testament of a good show, as I am fond of saying. Wrapping the night up with “Hold My Own” , Biohazard killed it that night, and I hope they make it back to the 518 soon!

Biohazard flier

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