For all intents and purposes, American hardcore is dead. Sure, old-guard leaders like AGNOSTIC FRONT keep on plugging away to the group's faithful, but it's been a hell of a long time since VOID, ADOLESCENTS, GERMS, AGENT ORANGE, YOUTH OF TODAY and MINOR THREAT played this scene. The latter year 'core revival came in the sway of Steven Blush and Paul Rachman's loving 2006 docufilm "American Hardcore", yet the modern sound became less about salad days and more about enforcing militant mandates over personal conduct. Hardcore's ethics became more strong-arm and exclusionary. In quick fashion, they became boring once it set a staple flow of agro music configuration as predictable as the saccharine smiles of passengers and staff alike on "The Love Boat".
We're not going to flag the offenders, because the intent of the American hardcore rebirth was right, even if the execution and ideals were grossly flawed. There wasn't a single album, save for any of those delivered by REFUSED, AMEN and IT'S CASUAL, that could stand in the intimidating shadow of BLACK FLAG's "My War", or, from the UK where hardcore was at its finest, SUBHUMANS's "Worlds Apart". Once the dratted 'core breakdown was instituted and replicated to the point of soullessness, the offshoot metalcore genre was germinated. Depending on your point of view, here is where American hardcore lost its cred.
Within the wake of the omnipresent query, "Where the hell's UNEARTH these days?" we turn to Spanish-bred youngbloods: WE RIDE. First and foremost, let's give vocalist Mimi Telmo a hand and a cheer on for her courage. It's tough enough being a female player in a metal-based act, even for a mezzo-soprano leading a neoclassical death-prog unit. Telmo has virtually no flowers sifted into her high-pitched grizzle-growl. Her ivy-choked woofing mimics her male contemporaries, and though her delivery may lack dynamics, her passion more than makes up for it. She's either going to be rewarded or scorned by a testosterone-laden tribe—those who are left—so let's lend her our support. The lady has a fight on her hands, and not just in the pits.
WE RIDE's debut album, "Empowering Life", doesn't bring anything new to the scene other than a female lead and some much-needed juice. Songs like "Voices", "Self Made", "Time Is Now", "Endless Hopes", "I'mpossible" and "Summer" gallop and pulverize just fine. Brais Lomba's tom thwacking is suitably rambunctious and the riffs dumped by Borja Trigo, Nuno Alves and Bastian Rodriguez are grimier than the side of a child's pant leg. Expect the gang-tag choruses, expect the breakdowns (though WE RIDE are smart enough to use them sparingly) and expect a whole lotta accusatory mayhem. The only difference from what you already know about this music is a femme barker, and you know what? It does make a positive difference.
Lyrically, WE RIDE have plenty to say, even if many of its well-intended outcries mirror those who stood with straight edge X's marker slashed upon their paws long before them. Despite the war protests of "Hands Off" and "Time Is Now", despite the spit-slung indictments against posers in "Voices" and "What You Are" (the latter featuring an appearance by JJ Peters of DEEZ NUTS), there's still an idyllic sense of hope once you get to the upbeat reminiscence of "Summer". Then the self-empowering "I'mpossible" is going to stand as WE RIDE's endearing rally pact to the band's fans. Most impressive is the wistful lyrics splashed throughout "Do It All Again" that speak to pragmatic wisdom gained by millennial punks, and already fostered by their never-say-die elders gathered en masse at NAKED RAYGUN and DAG NASTY reunion shows.
As it's becoming hip of late to put your own artistic spin upon the "Black Lives Matter" movement, WE RIDE dishes the sobering "Everybody Matters". This cut rages instrumentally like aural anarchy, yet Mimi Telmo's vociferous yelping (copped in pentameter from just about every New York male bulldog who's prowled the scene) still conveys a levelheaded here-and-now plea for social change. Given the current political turmoil in the United States, this stuff is a necessary evil. It can be said that Telmo and WE RIDE are just the band for the job, bringing fresh vigor and a give-a-damn conscience to the table. As declared in the final line of the album, "More love and less bombs for a better world."