Based On A True Story
Released July 12, 2011
1. Death Or Jail
2. The Divide
4. A Month Of Sundays
6. Bent Outta Shape
7. Lowest Common Denominator
8. Good Cop
10. Watch It Burn
11. Waiting For The Day
12. Long As Shes Standing
13. Nobody Rules
14. Dirty Money
Based On A True Story media
Based On A True Story reviews
Fat Mike of NOFX often jokes that he is open to all musical styles because he likes both kinds – punk and hardcore – and it would seem that Sick of it All subscribe to the same line of thought. Generally speaking, the only thing that changes from one Sick of it All album to the next is the ratio of punk to hardcore, and most fans would have it no other way. Despite this predictability, though, the band did go through a rough patch during their time with Fat Wreck Chords. For some reason, those albums just seemed to lack the conviction and fire of earlier releases. They eventually made up for the lull in quality with their back-to-basics approach on Death to Tyrants, an album that retuned them to the forefront of hardcore by featuring the best production of their career and by being unrelentingly heavy.
While Death to Tyrants left the band standing on top with virtually nothing left to prove, they still had never trumped their 1992 release Just Look Around. It’s doubtful that they started into this album with the intent of topping that release, but that’s pretty much what they have accomplished. Based on a True Story is easily their most diverse and catchy release to date, and it also retains the powerful production of its predecessor. There are a few different elements that have helped the band achieve this feat, but varying the tempos and adding a powerful groove are the main two. In addition, they’ve successfully integrated enough melodic punk influence to make the riffs more memorable and diverse than is usually the case. The biggest thing that they’ve accomplished with this release, though, is that they’ve managed to add an element of fun that could catch some fans off guard.
The slightly more melodic riffs have a little to do with this new “fun factor”, but the main source comes from the gang shouts. A majority of the gang shouts have received a small dose of melody that have made them appealing in a way that almost forces people to yell along to the songs. Despite the subtle melodic punk influence and the catchy nature of the gang shouts, though, the band’s roots are still firmly planted in hardcore. No matter how upbeat or fun a track seems to get, it is still going to be predominantly aggressive and heavy. It should be noted that some fans are inevitably going to reiterate the fact that the band tried this formula during the Fat Wreck days and largely failed, but this time they’ve done it right. Thanks in large part to the production and the band’s focus on intensity and heaviness, they’ve pushed past the issues that occasionally plagued them in the past.
As great as it was to see the band make a full comeback with Death to Tyrants, this album is even better due to the diversity and fun factor that they’ve injected into their formula. With Based on a True Story, Sick of It All have not only proven that they still have what it takes to play intense hardcore, but that their best days still might be ahead of them. After almost eighteen years the band have finally topped their magnum opus, Just Look Around, in terms of diversity, appeal, and all around excellent song writing. If this is true then it should be safe to say that Based on a True Story marks the bands new peak, but that’s not going to happen any time soon because nostalgia is a bitch. 4/5
In the fickle world of underground aggressive music and specifically that of hardcore, there are bands that transcend being just another band or just another name. There are bands that represent entire ideas and movements within those scenes. They are icons of what was and what is. Sick of It All is one of these. Along with NY hardcore greats Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Madball, Breakdown, Youth of Today, and many others, Sick of It All encapsulates NY Hardcore.
New York hardcore represents its namesake city well. Direct, and to-the-point in its delivery. Chaotic, loud, and even violent in its expression. All the while, NY hardcore never lets you forget where it comes from and what it means to the loyal members of her church. Sick of It All is a patron saint to those who ascribe to the gospel of hardcore.
Fellow New York Hardcore contemporaries, the Cro-Mags were one of the first bands to really breakthrough in the hardcore scene with a very metal/thrash influence. Sick of It All carries on this crossover tradition combining the collectivism and inclusionary nature of punk music, with its skank beats, gang-vocals, catchy melodies, memorable choruses, with the heavy handed dissonant, crunch and groove hard edge of metal. No doubt, Sick of It All’s new album is soundtrack for circle pits, stage dives, pile-ons, and hard pitting.
Musically, Based on a True Story is what one would expect: a smearing of punk here, a smattering of metal there, with simple chord progressions and predictable song structures. Thrash riffs, up-beat tempos, power chords galore, half-time breakdowns and climactic lyrical catch phrases. These are the ingredients in any hardcore album released in the last 10 years. And they are indeed all here. As with most hardcore, what you hear is what you get. And in this simplicity, is the appeal of hardcore. The connection a band has with a listener is not always from some tangible, stylistic aspect. Out of the simplicity and accessibility of Sick of It All’s sound comes a timelessness and uniqueness that is difficult to index or describe. This is inexplicable elegance of hardcore. Ultimately, their success musically is really dependent on the connection it creates with the identity of the listener. It’s simple: you’ll love it, or you’ll forget it.
This band hasn’t been made soft by time. Sick of It All is still anti-establishment, distrustful of authority, and critical of society. Based on a True Story provides social commentary and perspective from a band that has seen a quarter century of existence. Their message and anger is still is relevant. Perhaps it is discouraging to realize that all the broken things kids were pissed off about in 1986 are still broken, and still pissing people off. Hardcore gives voice and place to those who feel like their lives have been disrupted by the failures of society. It is the cathartic anthem of the disaffected and cynical, those who are disillusioned with the promises of modern society and its institutions. Perhaps this is idealistic and even naive in the face of the dominating superficial hipster aesthetics of modern “counter-culture”. Sick of It All remains true to this calling while avoiding overwhelming negative. Based on a True Story is confrontational and expressive in its frustration, but still resolved in its optimism.
What makes Based on a True Story enjoyable is the ability of Sick of It All to navigate between the fun and whimsical melodies of early punk with the raw and aggressive fist-swinging energy of hardcore, all the while providing an intense and kinetic experience, compelling your body to move and your voice to join the chorus. Based on a True Story isn’t an attempt to reinvent the band or their sound. There is a security Sick of It All displays in the album in this way (though some might call it a complacency). They aren’t trying to prove their relevance or place in hardcore mythos and legend. The nearly 25 year old band is still doing what they love, playing what they love and have remained timeless.
Hardcore music, as a genre, has undergone a variety of changes over its lifespan. Going back to the days of Minor Threat, to Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, and H20, to the more recent days of bands like All Out War and Embrace Today, east and west, straight edge and not, hardcore has seen its fair share of changes. In some cases, it became a scene-within-a-scene. Given the changes, both good and bad, however, it's good to see a band like Sick Of It All still around, delivering consistently solid, posi-hardcore. Based On A True Story, SOIA's first studio release since 2006's Death To Tyrants, and their ninth studio album overall, delivers some of their best material to date.
I was first introduced to Sick Of It All by a friend back in early-1995, just after "Scratch The Surface" came out. What I found in that album is what I find again in Based On A True Story. The album is steeped in positive messages that are relevant in the hardcore scene, but true in life as well. I remember the passion I felt for the genre when I was first introduced to the band, 15+ years ago. And while time has passed, and the scene is more blurred now than before with the crossover of metal, hardcore, and punk, Sick Of It All continues to do what they do best; old-school sing-a-longs, HxC breakdowns, and solid lyrical content.
Musically, what you know of SOIA is what you're going to get here. In some cases, that's not the best thing, but in their case, it's amazing. The album's solid production, headed by Danish producer Tue Madsen, is a testament to the way a hardcore album should be done. It's clear that high quality without over-production was the goal for this release, and it continues the reputation the band has for releasing albums have a solid sonic feel without sacrificing their roots.
The band tackles a variety of topics on Based On A True Story. Whether it's recalling the days of CBGB's on "A Month of Sundays", analyzing the political arena in the age of Obama in "Good Cop", or talking about crossing over the positive hardcore attitude into "real life" as one grows older in "Lifeline", SOIA gives it to you straight, void of BS or pandering.
Based On A True Story is bound to make a believer out of any hardcore naysayer. If you're already a fan of the band, what you're sure to find here is more of what you love: positive NYC hardcore that makes you want to clutch a mic and scream along.
It’s hard to believe the Koller brothers and Sick Of It All have been playing for a quarter-century. I watched them play in a tiny club 15 years ago that was packed so deep you couldn’t even turn around. It hasn’t just been dives for Sick Of It All: they’ve opened for Slayer; released albums on tiny labels and majors and toured the world multiple times with few creature comforts. They’ve also released benchmark New York hardcore albums like Blood, Sweat and No Tears and Scratch the Surface.
While their latest effort Based On A True Story doesn’t rise to their career highlights, it’s nonetheless a nostalgic and sometimes melancholy walk down memory lane. No, the Kollers haven’t chucked their trademark hardcore for something sweet, but they show a little more of themselves on this album, including an acute awareness that they are getting older.
In the bittersweet “A Month Of Sundays,” Lou Koller sings about his memories of growing up in the New York hardcore scene, at one point talking about how time is like “a thief in the night.” “Dominated” hints at the resilience and strength needed to “deal with the everlasting shitstorm.”
Sick Of It All’s style hasn’t changed, but then again their approach hasn’t changed much after decades. The riffs are still simple, the sing-a-long choruses are still effective and the energy is still palpable. What sets Based On A True Story apart from some of the band’s lesser albums is the Koller’s ability to write poignantly about how their lives are changing yet sustained by their memories and roots.
Trends within the hardcore/punk rock scene continually come and go. But while change is a constant within the scene, Sick Of It All have remained true to their sound, and more importantly to their loyal fans, which has earned the band a reputation as a leader, rather than a follower.
After a lengthy four-year gap following the band’s last album (2006’s Death To Tyrants), Sick of It All are back with their ninth full-length album, Based On A True Story. If there’s one band hardcore fans have been able to rely on time and time again, it’s SOIA, and as you would expect, the band’s first release for Century Media Records is no exception.
The album gets off to an explosive start with the blasting “Death Or Jail,” with the fire within the band evidently still present within the four piece act. The song itself still retains the metallic edge that gave Death To Tyrants it’s edge, while Lou Koller’s vocal performance is as aggressive and biting as ever.
The fast-paced/gang vocal enhanced “The Divide” follows a similar path of the opener with its huge riffs and heavy breakdowns, while the big grooves and thick sounding guitar crunch (courtesy of producer Tue Madsen) within the anthem-like “Dominated,” “Watch It Burn,” “Nobody Rules” and the fast-paced “Bent Outta Shape” further reinforce the band’s continued heavier direction.
But while the album has its heavier moments, it boasts plenty of variety as well, with tracks such as the sing-along effort “A Month Of Sundays,” the menacing “Lowest Common Denominator,” the chaotic “Good Cop,” the infectious “Waiting For The Day,” “Long As She’s Standing” highlighting a greater punk influence within the band’s hardcore song writing framework.
The only track that comes across as being a little out of place on the album is the short instrumental “Braveheart”. After playing the song live for years, the band decided to lay it down for the new album. But while it’s a great piece of music (the kind of song that builds with its huge booming drums in preparation of huge release with the start of the follow on song), its placing around the one-third mark of the album makes it sound wasted. As an opener, this really would have work. But as it stands, it’s kind of lost within the album. But given this is the only fault on the album, this mistake can be easily overlooked.
They’ve may have been around for close to 25 years, but it would seem that time has not wearied Sick Of It All one bit. Based On A True Story is one strong album and testament to strength within one of the New York hardcore scenes finest. 8.5/10
The Metal Observer
Punk and Hardcore fans the world over have been anticipating SICK OF IT ALL’s ninth studio album for the past four years, and with 2010’s “Based On A True Story,” their wait has ended in a flurry of gang shouts and circle pits.
Spanning a quarter century, the career of SICK OF IT ALL is an energy-fused ode to the landscape and attitude that stacks the alleys and avenues of the New York Hardcore lifestyle. If this volatile Queens-based quartet does any one thing well, it’s how they fluidly merge the aggression of Hardcore and the fun of no-frills Punk.
Crunchy, heavy, and relentless, “Based On A True Story” is much more Hardcore than it is Punk. Typical breakdowns and gravel-toned shouts march heavy and flatter the music without ever sounding too preachy, allowing the non-fans of Hardcore to listen without rolling their eyes.
Punk, however, remains a prevalent fixture. Frenetically paced, songs swing and speed in rapid succession with carnival ride enthusiasm – it looks and sounds dangerous as all hell, but you know it’s gonna be fun.
If “Based On A True Story” was any heavier, it would undoubtedly be labeled with the stigmatized tag of the Metalcore genre. And even if it was, SICK OF IT ALL are the four people least likely to give a fuck.
Honest, thrashy, and in-your-face, “Based On A True Story” is a righteous return to form for SICK OF IT ALL. Well-executed and sharply produced, each song carries punchy weight and melodic sensibility that evenly balances the catchy with the grimace.
“Death Or Jail,” “Good Cop,” and “Long As She’s Standing” are fiery proof.
It seems there’s no stopping these NYHC veterans! With a respected reputation for cutting the crap through their no-nonsense straight-talking approach, they’ve racked up almost 25 years as leaders of the pack. While they’re not going to re-invent the wheel with album number nine, ‘Based On A True Story’ sees a much heavier line of attack. Opener ‘Death Or Jail’ is a brutal and massive hoof in the chest, with Lou Koller’s caustic vocal revealing a tragic chain of true events that led to the death of a friend while ‘Lifeline’ is as gritty as it gets. As Sick as ever, these legends are very much on form. 9/10
Four years after the monumental Death to Tyrants, New York hardcore punks Sick of It All have returned with Based on a True Story.
Based on a True Story reminds me quite a bit of Rise Against’s Revolutions per Minute; as it’s distinctly rooted in hardcore roots, but consists of enough melody to keep fans of fist-pumping melodic hardcore happy. The gang vocal choruses in ‘Good Cop’ and ‘Dirty Money’ will undoubtedly become your new national anthems.
Having more breakdowns than a 1980 Ford Cortina, SOIA continue to deliver their trademark start-stop-crunch sound on songs such as ‘Dominated’, ‘Lowest Common Denominator’ and ‘Nobody Rules’, which we’ve all become accustomed to and grown to love. Lou Koller, in particular, shows that he hasn’t slowed down with age, as he rips up the mic with some of the harshest, face-pounding lyrics heard this side of the equator – brutal and raspy!
One thing you can say about SOIA is that they’re consistent. They crafted and oiled their sound in 1986 and haven’t succumbed to any other transitional musical fads or influences since. While Based on a True Story isn’t really bringing anything new to the genre, it will undeniably keep circle pit junkies entertained for years on end.
Hatebreed may be the biggest hardcore band in the world (and to be fair, of all time), but for more than two decades New Yorkers Sick Of It All have possibly been the best and most consistent. Despite brief flirtations with major labels and the mainstream, the immense boom afforded so-called hardcore during the past five years (not that you're likely to see too many show-pony hardcore dancers at a Sick of It All show anytime soon) and whatever other trends have come and gone, the band have remained steadfast in their dedication to the music they believe in. And this love is once again flowing right through the veins of Based On A True Story, the band's ninth full-length album.
Based On A True Story clocks in at a mere 33 minutes and no song runs in excess of three minutes. This record doesn't boast an anthem of the stature of 'Step Down', 'Just Look Around', 'Built To Last' or 'Take The Night Off', and isn't as hard a kick in the face as its predecessor. Regardless, there isn't a dud track in another remarkably consistent effort. There are no songwriting risks taken, but this is Sick Of It All at their purest - intense and in-your-face, yapping away like a punk rock puppy whose been kept on the leash and treated like shit for far too long. Little deviation from their well-worn template could breed laziness, but the songs still burst with energy, urgency and clever doses of punk-infused melody than many cynics will give the band credit for. 'Dominated', 'Bent Outta Shape', 'Waiting For The Day' and 'The Divide' all boast infectious gang shouts, bruising riffs and Lou Koller's distinctive, yet charismatic shout.
Producer Tue Madsen has again worked his magic, giving them a punchy mix that also doesn't detract from the band's natural charm and vitality. The guitars have a ton of crunch but there's not too much polish as to neuter them. If you're not already into Sick Of It All, grab this, Scratch The Surface, Death to Tyrants and their classic installment in the Live In A Dive series while you're at it. Based On A True Story won't change much if anything, either in the musical or political environment, but like every one of their records it's a healthy reminder that genuine hardcore still remains and will continue to do so despite trends. Nothing has changed in the world of Sick Of It All, but in a strange way, that's what is so refreshing and exhilarating about it.
Weight: This is the band's ninth studio full-length, not counting demos, 7", promo singles, their home video, and a recent covers album.
Significant Findings: Whether you have been involved in hardcore for six months or twenty-five years, there are no two ways around it: You have heard the unforgettable name of this band. Maybe you have not heard the sound but you are aware that when people speak about SOIA, they speak much the same way as historians would about the Coliseum or the Parthenon. Unlike fad bands of the past like the Cro-Mags, No Warning, Blood For Blood, and pretty much any band that has left a dent in the records of hardcore history, SOIA are still hammering away into time and smashing it to pieces each time. They have left much more than merely a dent; they've drilled themselves deep into the grooves of history. And in the process, these dudes have outlived vinyl, tapes, the CD, Beta Max, VHS, DVD, film photography, and will probably outlive mp3s too by continuing to be a relentless force that is always ahead of the pack.
Possible Diagnosis: I am not a huge fan of NYHC but time sweetens the deal with bands like Madball, Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All. These are three bands that are still rolling while everyone else has come and gone. Name any other city that has kept it true, consistent, and up to date. The Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, and the FU's are cool but half a decade isn't much of a career when you've got dudes who have been here longer than presidents, multinational corporations, and regime changes. This album is yet another blow to time. If you have followed the latest release this one is yet another example of why everyone gravitates to them. Remember that any band you are into right now is merely another load into a sheet of Kleenex, forgotten along with other loads you have squirted out. No matter how cool or hip these one hit wonder hardcore bands are today, Sick Of It All will still be here tomorrow, while that band you love so much will be bitchslapping each other because one member borrowed the other one's eye makeup or stole their favorite camo shorts. Sick Of It All will continue doing what they do, which is play hardcore; not fight over the name, who wrote what, touring with hired guns, and living on twenty year-old hype.
Recommendation: Based On A True Story is a MILF, a cougar: It will fuck you good and hard, and won't pussyfoot around like all these prick teasers we call hardcore bands today...and in the past, like Cro-Mags, No Warning, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Blood For Blood...and anyone else from 1980 until today.
Let it never be said that Sick of It All lack dedication. After almost 25 years of recording and touring, the New York hardcore legends are still going strong on their ninth studio album, Based on a True Story. Despite time moving on, Sick of It All’s dedication to their music finds them releasing an album that’s as aggressive as anything they’ve done. Even from the opening moments of “Death or Jail,” you can almost feel the heat of a sweat-soaked mosh pit, re-creating that feeling of fighting through the heat and violence to lend your voice to the gang chorus, with every fist-pumping word creating an instant brotherhood. It’s not just the aggression that they’ve managed to keep up, but also the intensity. Songs like “Good Cop” and “Watch It Burn” are stuffed full of d-beat fury and cathartic breakdowns, all driven forward by Lou Koller’s relentless vocal rasps. Based on a True Story has everything that fans will have come to expect from the band after a quarter-century, making this album a kind of old-school hardcore comfort food for punk rockers. While Sick of It All may not be reinventing the wheel, they are showing that they’re still making the same high quality wheel they’ve always made, and if you’re in a rush to get to the nearest circle pit, accept no substitutes.
July 12, 2011
Cover and layout: ErnieParada.com
Photos: Cindy Frey
LP formatting: Ryan O'Connor
- 150 white w/ black swirl
- 350 grey w/ black swirl
- 500 black
Under exclusive license from Century Media