Ambitions "Question" reviews
The truly great hardcore bands are the ones that make you feel like you're watching them front and center when in reality, you're glued to your headphones, caught up in some mundane function of human existence. Three bands that have consistently done this for me over the years have been H2O (even during the Go years), BANE, and IGNITE. I haven't had the good fortune of seeing AMBITIONS live yet, but with their debut release, Question, I know for sure that with their sharp music and fantastic lyrics, they will fit into this grouping with total ease.
To backtrack for a moment, AMBITIONS is a bit a of a strange project. Comprised on record of a line-up that is entirely made up of members of WITH HONOR, the group stylistically reverts back to WITH HONOR's harder direction on Heart Means Everything, and away from the more punk rock edge that predominates the band's most recent release This Is Our Revenge. If you wanted to know where the "core" went on Revenge, perhaps Question is the late-coming answer. Notably, AMBITIONS plays live as a five piece, sometimes including the illustrious Matts of SHAI HULUD, Matt Fox and Matt Fletcher. Question is seven songs of absolutely blazin' melodic hardcore that is rife with every necessary songwriting device out there -- gang vocals, two-step dance parts, and crucial breakdowns. Momentum and energy just burst from the EP and every vocal hook sung by Jay Aust sounds strikingly familiar. Aust's vocals come close to the range of IGNITE's Zoli Teglas, but without the operatic flair. His voice immediately takes root and it's practically impossible hold out from singing along. AMBITIONS may not toiling or tinkering with a new formula for hardcore, but they have certainly perfected matters of execution.
While the entire Question EP is a total blast, the first two tracks together form a rather amazing pairing. "Uphill Battle" finishes with huge shouts of IT'S IN OUR HANDS / IT'S WHERE WE STAND, and as your catching your breath, "Neon Lights," woos you with a mid-paced, dark intro, before breaking apart into a frenzied song about self-doubt, regret, and figuring out how to move on. Lyrics are an extremely solid part of AMBITIONS, and the band offers up a mission statement in the insert sheet that sets up the tone for Question -- "It's so easy to get caught up in routine that you don't realize how quickly the time is passing. At a time in our lives where we are supposed to be settling into a direction, it feels like we're still searching... I think hardcore, and music in general, should be about pushing your boundaries. About putting a piece of yourself out in the open for the world to see. About not being afraid to own up to your feelings, aspirations, and failures." It's hard to make a bold statement in a mere 16 minutes of music, but AMBITIONS does just that -- and the title track, sums it up beautifully -- "If you have a little faith in yourself, before you listen to someone else, you're entitled to your own say, and the right to live your own way.". A must own.
Ambitions' music is electrifying, exciting, explosive and energizing. And what less would one expect from a melodic hardcore band that features Jay Aust, Jeff Aust and John Ross of With Honor and (since recording Question) Matt Fox and Matt Fletcher of Shai Hulud? Add to the experienced lineup a killer vocal presence and it's hardly a surprise that such a powerful repository of "e" words describes Ambitions' sound.
The band pens ultra precise, ultra concise melodic hardcore that, although reminiscent of With Honor's first pair of releases, has enough distinguishing qualities to make confusing the two groups nearly impossible. Jay Aust is a truly impressive vocalist -- as both a fuming screamer and more collected singer -- and he bellows loads of liveliness and sincerity into Question. His soaring, clean singing is comparable to that of Ignite's Zoli Teglas, but Aust exchanges note-for-note perfection for a slightly rougher performance. It renders Question an immediately recognizable record and makes for some unforgettable hooks.
While Question's seven songs generally clock in between one and three minutes, the Aust brothers brave the brevity and tightly pack each track with carefully layered guitar parts. Sure, there are traditional, racing chord progressions, but the duo stays downright busy by incorporating melodic picking arrangements and frequently weaving in and out of different parts. The rhythm section warrants praise for its precision and subtle technicalities, and rounds out Ambitions' rather complex musicianship.
Ambitions goes above and beyond. The band muscles their way out of the standard hardcore mold but, at the same time, maintains a focus on the genre's traditional elements. Question may last a painfully short 16 minutes, but it's a mountainous showing of promise, tact and hopeful thinking. 8/10
When most people think Hardcore, they usually think of something that's just brutal and pounding, and to some extent I suppose that's true, but Ambitions debut disc Question is may very well change the face of Hardcore as we know it. Questions is a disc that rocks with unbridled fury, with great lyrics on top of it. And to top it all off its catchy as fuck! Summer is coming to a fast end, but Ambitions is living up to their name and making sure the fall season is off to great start. I doubt this will be last we hear from these guys and if this disc is any indication we are in for one hell of a ride in the years to come! Kudos boys!
It's difficult to write a review that heaps praise onto a CD without it sounding like the sugar-coated gilded one sheets I get with the albums I receive. I must say though, that Ambitions effort on Think Fast! is superb. 3/5 of the members of Ambitions have full time gigs in With Honor, but to call this a side project would be a misnomer. Ambitions stands on its own two feet. The guitar work is obviously Jay and Jeffrey Aust, but they are more solid and less hurried than they are in With Honor, which makes the songs not only more accessible, but better songs period. Complexity is sometimes the thorn in the side of good songwriting. There are seven songs and 15 minutes of rock on this bad boy – which only leaves you wanting more. The vocals are mostly sung in a Ray Cappo/Zoli sort of way. No whining here. There's an occasional yell thrown in here and there, but not in an effort to feign intensity. It's funny how you can tell when a band really cares and feels what they're doing. This is honest and unlike most things being released these days. No open chord breakdowns, no tough guy stances, no AP endorsement here, just good punk/hardcore.
Ambitions are indeed living up to their moniker—three members are of With Honor infamy while they have used lineups in live settings that have included multiple members of the revered Shai Hulud. Melodic hardcore punk vocals with breakdowns that blister and bubble to the surface with abrasive agony. Fast and furious drum parts that are interspersed with sparse guitar crunches and agonizing hooks that are incredibly catchy. But perhaps their best assault is via the percussion which just drops big bombs of snare riddling hits and tons of cymbal crashes amid a torrential downpour of awesome agonizing hardcore punk.
Ambitions is a brand new band from CT. I believe they may have EX members of With Honor but you wouldn't belive me if I told you. This is the first cd I've gotten this year that I go out of my way to recommend to friends. There is a level of songwriting and musical depth that is evident immediately. Taken a page from bands like Turning Point, Ignite, H20,Champion and other melodic bands, yet with a sense of character that gives it more substance then your average "melodic hardcore" band. The key to this ep is their catchy choruses and hooks that live in your head long after you turn the music off. With enough rock sensibilties that make this almost too good to be true Ambitions mesh the catchy tunes with some serious force without going over the top or coming too harsh. You have a perfect balance here and its honestly the catchiest fucking thing I've heard in forever. Now please don't mistake these guys for being another Set Your Goals, they have a sound that doesn't reek of pop culture garbage, its more or less a progression of today's hardcore with some of the best elements of the post hardcore sound of yesterday. Its impossible to discredit their writing abilities and the recording flawlessly backs up the hard work. I can see this band getting huge or falling upon deaf ears, I just can't tell which it will be. Its hard for me to be so gung ho about a record but this is seriously a mind blowing masterpiece. One of the many great surprises this year and certainly one that may expand your musical tastes.
When I first caught word that Ambitions was a side project involving members of With Honor and Shai Hulud, I figured their release would end up coming off like Heart Means Everything and That Within Blood Ill Tempered thrown into a blender.
Man was I wrong, and I’m glad that I was.
It turns out that Ambitions consist of the Aust brothers and John Ross of With Honor fame. Apparently some of the guys from Shai Hulud lend their skills as members of Ambitions when they perform live.
Musically, Question sounds like a stripped down version of the sound With Honor had on their last release This Is Our Revenge. The EP is completely devoid of unnecessary breakdowns, but still manages to mix up tempos quite a bit. For its duration it really straddles the line between punk and hardcore. There are plenty of old-school push-mosh songs chocked full of appropriate, well-integrated breakdowns, but there are just as many mid-tempo songs that are almost reminiscent of Fugazi, or even Rival Schools.
While the instrumentation and general sound was surprising enough for me, the vocals were a definite shock; Jay Aust is holding the mic on this album, and you have no idea what you’re in for. The opening track “Uphill Battle” opens up with some pretty high-end mediocre shout/screams... but then, what’s this? Oh dear lord, he’s singing…and it’s…really, really good.
Seriously, the only thing I can compare Aust’s singing voice to is that of Shawn Stern on the Youth Brigade album To Sell the Truth. Again, the shouts are a little weak, but the singing is so good that it hurts to think that With Honor had a more impressive option to fill their former vocal void all along.
Ambitions may not be what I signed up for when I picked up Question, but I don’t care, I want more. This EP is a boon to hardcore in general. It’s raw, unpolished, and honest. It’s the kind of material that makes you want to crawl over kids to get closer to the mic. It’s a nice break from the standard swing-your-arms-like-a-propeller-during-the-eleventh-breakdown-in-the-first-song type of hardcore. Here's to hoping these guys put out a full-length like you (and I) wouldn’t believe. 4/5
AMBITIONS is a fitting name for a band that promotes ambition in the purist of senses. Their vehicle, of course is DIY hardcore that harkens back to the most influential time of hardcore…the 80’s. Not just the overall 80’s hardcore/punk days but more of the D.C. variety that laid the groundwork for everything we know about hardcore/punk. AMBITIONS aren’t just a hardcore band going though the motions of hammering out breakdown after breakdown they instead focused on the progressive side hardcore with course riffs that abhor melody and grace. The tonal coating was gruff and sonically deviant while the a tonal naturalistic vocals spew forth lyrics about overcoming your fears, standing up and becoming the person you were meant to be. If it was at all viable for you to mesh together DAG NASTY and MINOR THREAT you would have what AMBITIONS has accomplished in this blazing hardcore CD. From second one to the bitter end your ears are being assaulted with cunning guitar hooks and splashy, technical drumming. Throughout the disc you are invited to indulge in what many would state as being a true representative of hardcore punk. They did it right, they did it well and lastly, they did with style and intelligence.
Here's an oddly coincidental story. Stop me if you've heard it. I went to the End of School Jam in Lawrence, MA the other day. I was really psyched to see Betrayed and Have Heart. Verse is always a plus in my book too. So I'm just chilling around when I see Jeff from With Honor. I had met him a while back during one of the Bane/With Honor tours. A really stand up dude. Always chill and up front getting down. He then hits the stage and starts setting up his gear. I ask around a little, "With Honor is playing this show? ..." Nope, turns out he is also in the little band called Ambitions on Think Fast! Records. I just never knew.
So the band plays a great set. 6-8 songs. I was really impressed. Later, I start talking to Jeff about the band. He is psyched that I was psyched, and he offers to grab me a cd. I say, "yeah, that's awesome." But since we weren't standing next to the merch table, I didn't want to be that guy who approaches the band for a "free cd." Not my style. My head is not swelled enough for that.
Mitch picks up the cd, and we listen to it the whole ride home. It sounds so good. We try and come up with comparisons. Ignite is thrown around, Dischord era harDCore is mentioned. We even bat around Dag Nasty and Swiz. In my head, it still comes off as a cross between Ignite's Past Our Means and H2O's F.T.T.W. Whatever comparison you want to make, just know that the album is dope.
Anyway, the work day on Monday comes and goes. Another day of debugging code before our big release. When I get home, I greeted by a welcome surprise. A Think Fast! package. And in that package? Why, it's ONE cd. Ambitions - Question. DOPE. Maybe it's karma? I don't know.
This album comes out on September 19, 2006. You may want to consider camping out at your local merch table. Lines will probably start forming soon.
Ambitions takes the classic stripped-down and streamlined punk rush and adds a little texture and melody to the mix. It makes for a CD that has the raw appeal of punk and old school hardcore while also having a dash of audio color to up the interest factor for listeners. Ambitions grafts some songwriting sensibilities onto its punk-rooted sound, creating something that is punk yet more than punk. In the end, it's simply some melody-tinged rock-and-roll. Pure and powerful.
Even before the release of their debut EP “Question” there was a big buzz surrounding CT‘s AMBITIONS. Formed by three current WITH HONOR members, there is no doubt this band is up to something special. And yes, the 7 songs on “Question” are a true revelation!
Even though AMBITIONS have their own soup cooking, “Question” should instantly grab the ears of everyone who enjoyed the more melodic approach of WITH HONOR’s last album. For all a song like “Neon Lights” could’ve easily been on “This Is Our Revenge”, still AMBITIONS stick to a way more traditional hardcore sound, not unlike UNITY, UNIFORM CHOICE, NO FOR AN ANSWER and other old melodic hardcore-peers. The main trademarks of AMBITIONS’ music are fast beats, extremely melodic dual guitars and Jay Aust’s stellar voice. Much like IGNITE’s Zoli Teglas Aust accompanies the powerful music on here for most parts with real singing and the result is amazing in every aspect. The few parts where he delivers his vocals in a more classic shouting-style aren’t less gripping and only add to the already boiling energy-level of this disc. Still I’d say the most outstanding about this EP is the fantastic guitar-work, that comes along with a crazy amount of catchy leads (a lot like THE KILLING FLAME). Pretty much every song on here features an irresistible melody or a hook to die for, no matter if “Uphill Battle”, “Still Dreaming” or “About Face”. The latter also includes a HIGH HOPES-like middle-part, but this very short trip into pop-punkish grounds fits absolutely well. The smart lyrics and the extremely appropriate production (Greg Thomas/Silver Bullet Studios) complete the already impressive picture - it’s impossible to find just one negative spot.
As mentioned the members of AMBITIONS are no strangers to the hardcore-community, still the overall-quality of “Question” is more than surprising. Armed with great music and hardcore-spirit AMBITIONS will soon become one of the most measuring acts around. Can’t wait for a full-length!