In 1990, The Casualties formed to resurrect the sound of true street punk, a sound that they thought was abandoned in the mid eighties. It’s an important task that the band took on, attempting to keep alive the spiritual successor to the Ramones and Black Flag, the sound that laid the foundation for much of American rock and metal during and after the Cold War. To that end, The Casualties are on a one band crusade to keep that image alive and they’re returned with another studio album of to-the-core gritty punk called “Resistance.”
There’s an awful lot to like about this album, not the least of which is the feeling that this is punk, pure and clean, the way the innovators of the genre expected it to be. Each cut, from the authentic “My Blood. My Life. Always Forward,” to the gang-chorused sing along “No Hope” rings with the very essence of punk that makes The Casualties a worthy name in the pantheon of America’s history with the genre.
Amidst all the rabble-rousing and old-school carousing, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a sharp, in-tune and professional record. The production is clean and crisp, each guitar tone a stand-alone idea that doesn’t slur into the others so much as pair with them. Guitarist Jake Kolatis demonstrates a solid versatility, transitioning with ease between skilled soloing (“Life on the Line”) and an unadulterated buzzsaw riff (“Modern Day Slaves.”) His ability to craft and change rhythms and riffs is the focal point of the album and its strongest asset.
Three minutes be damned; three minutes is a decadent, elitist luxury. Only one cut on this jam-packed ride is over that threshold. Everything else plays hit and run around the two-minute or two-twenty mark, occasionally running to two and a half for something important. The bite-size songs artificially keep the listener’s attention focused and high, like a glossy action movie that moves from one set piece to the next.
Not as noisy as punk has become in the modern (and capable) hands of bands like The Ashers, The Casualties are trading in a long-lost commodity; rock-influenced punk that keeps form intact and mercilessly cuts out the fat while stepping on the gas. It’s a throwback so refreshingly rare that it evokes images of a hermit monk in a Hong Kong kung-fu movie who enters a tournament and wows the crowd practicing a forgotten or abandoned art.
What must be noted here is the connection between this style of street punk and the beginnings of American heavy metal. To hear The Casualties is to hear an echo of the prototype that formed the mold for “Kill ‘em All,” “Fistful of Metal” and roughly any of the first six Overkill albums. It’s the combination of crunchy riffs and playground lyrical attitudes evidenced here that led to so much of what metal holds dear, especially on this side of the Atlantic.
And it’s hardly just metal that borrows from the legacy of what The Casualties are emulating. Just listen to “Constant Struggle” to hear a song that back in the day might have inspired a young Dexter Holland to put pen to paper. The sounds aren’t so far off. The same goes for every hardcore band ever formed.
There’s not a lot wrong with “Resistance” other than the fact that if you don’t like old-school punk, you won’t like this. This is a strong album, propelled by the foundations of punk rock in its infancy, including the throaty, popped bass lines of Rick Lopez (see: “Warriors on the Road,”) themselves reminiscent of Rancid’s best work.
If you’re a fan of old school, honest punk, hardcore, thrash, speed metal and maybe even death metal, you should spin this record. It’s really good. That might sound simple, but it’s irrefutably true.