"You make it easy, they tell you, they feed you, they breed you/You need it, you want it, can't live without it/You make it easy, they change it, they hide it, they flaunt it/Control it, they got it, you know you want it/You make it easy, they sell you, they buy you, they trade you/They take you, they fuck you, and then they discard you/You make it easy, they train you, they fit you, they cane you/With false truths they rape you, and you let it happen!/They dish it, you take it. YOU'RE FUCKED."
- "Good Morning America"
Quite ironically, despite its highest popular peak ever, hardcore as a whole has probably never been through a worse time. Hordes show up as followers rather than individuals, nowadays, making an outlet for angst and fury a place of trends and conformity.
Hardcore may still be a healthy place for ideas, if one is willing to look beyond the bands blandly capitalizing on its current popularity. It is still a forum for the incendiary exchange of information, especially with gents like Death By Stereo hanging around the amps, but in this very vital time of corrupt American government, American terrorism and increasing repression of wealth and liberties from the American people, those healthy hardcore crowds may also be becoming a place of dead ideas.
In his distinctly snarling, roughly melodic voice, Efrem Schulz sings, "I never fit in anywhere/and now I don't think I fit here," on Death By Stereo's fiery hardcore punk song "The Plague," one of many very solid slammers from the group's new Into The Valley Of Death.
"With 'The Plague,' it is an all out attack on the fashion victims that have infiltrated hardcore," Schulz said. "They have sucked the individuality out of the shows. I remember a punk or hardcore show being a place where it didn't matter what you looked like. Now it has been looking like a fucking fashion show. I never fit in with all the kids with expensive clothes and nice cars and shit, I never had that shit. I went to punk shows and left that world to them, now when I am at shows, sometimes I feel like they have taken over. If that is what hardcore is, I don't want it. Hundred dollar jeans and a haircut to match? Fuck that shit. That is why our band chooses no label. We are here for all and any who will listen, punk, hardcore, metal, whatever.
"There are a lot of kids out there missing the message, not just in hardcore and not just in our band. I love and appreciate everyone that comes to our shows. There is a group of people, however, that write me letters, quite often pushing religion. 'Hey, your band is cool but your lyrics are messed up,' then I see the same people singing along at the shows. They are completely ignoring the message and blindly following. If you don't agree with me that is fine, but think for yourself."
Another brilliant piece of musicianship from Death's new album comes on the more personal "Wasted Words," a track that parallels the sentiment of "The Plague."
There, Schulz begins the song, "Follow sheep and move along/Come on kids let's sing along/Do you realize what I'm saying?/...All these wasted words/I spill my guts for you."
Later, on "These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things," Schulz spews, "I've got a mind of my own/Here I stand without a place to roam," in a shot against pop-culture music, but in such a way that also mirrors his feelings on the style of music that feeds him.
While Schulz is heartfelt in these moments, for those who are listening, one would also be natural to wonder how such a scene of music as naturally anti-conformist as hardcore could be doing itself good by being in conflict with itself?
Death By Stereo still troop along, though, with fiery accusations against the higher power, extending their whiplash wrath beyond their own audience. As is becoming delightfully commonplace among their arsenal, Death throws sharp elbows at the recent unearthing of religious molestation ("Shh, It'll Be Our Little Secret,") the medical industry on "Let Down And Alone" ("It is about cancer and how the medical industry is full of shit," Schulz said,) and, of course, against good ol' America.
On the incendiary "Beyond The Blinders," a track destined to be a fiery staple in an already explosive live show, the group jab at "the land of the free," portraying it as "a country that was built on lies/and murder from the start."
For the finales, wrapping up an invigorating and empowering package of truth and power, Death By Stereo unleash "Flag Day," ("No, the red is for the blood/No, the white is for the few/No, blue are the tears we spew,") the humorously titled "You're A Bullshit Salesman With A Mouthful Of Samples" and the soulless American way of business on "Wake Up, You're Dead."
So, what exactly is wrong with America?
"The fact that we live in a place where there is no value placed on life," Schulz said. "It is all money based. I have no problem with being successful but it's how you get there. People will step on anyone to get to the top and it's completely fucked. Our government and society encourage this. We live in a place where you can get beat up for not speaking English. Melting pot? There are so many things, I could go on for hours.
"If you are familiar with our music I think you pretty much have a grasp on how I feel about American politics. We all know Bush is a fucking idiot. I truly think our vote does not count and things will change when every one starts thinking for themselves. We are letting them kill us by letting us kill each other. We are in such a poor state right now. The right wing is so strong and we have to turn that shit around. It was really interesting to see how 'punk' people really were after 9/11 when all these people had their little flags on their cars that they could hide behind like a fake patriotic shield. We played a 'punk' show awhile back all dressed like boy scouts and we had little American flag patches with X's through them and so many people were mad about it! They said 'this is not the time for that man.' Well when is the time? When you feel safe again? It's only cool to be punk when it is safe."
"I just want to be heard and have a chance to share my experiences with others," Schulz said. "I have made a lot of great friends doing this and I have been all over the world and fortune was never the reason. I think I am very wealthy. I have a great wealth of friends, memories and love. I would love for my ideas to be remembered and I hope that through my music I will never die!"
Hopefully, then, some will listen . . .
By Bill Whiting-Mahoney