In 2008, Hostage Calm released a truly unique hardcore album. Lens was both punishing and intelligent, melodic and intense. It was the kind of record that united a scene and seemingly pushed the boundaries of what hardcore music could be. After a respectable amount of touring and countless shows in Connecticut, fans, especially us locals began to eagerly anticipate new material. When they signed to Run For Cover Records, a label known for releasing punk rock pointed towards the poppy end of the spectrum, it was evident Hostage Calm was altering their sound. The subsequent release of the first single Affidavit confirmed that the band was indeed trying something totally new.
At their next Connecticut show, the band closed with the Lens finale, "Pushing the Paradigm". The song might be my personal favorite track off of their debut as it builds up to a last minute of pure hardcore punk glory. The band ripped through the track with an undeniable tightness and right as the breakdown was about to hit, the band switched over to ska mode and closed the track with a musical interlude more apt for a Specials show than a Hatebreed concert. Singer Chris Martin smiled and laughed, “Now you can’t hurt each other!” he quipped. A room full of would be moshers looked on in confusion and bewilderment. Clearly, the band was done with hardcore, and they had no problem making it public.
On April 18, a new Hostage Calm song hit the internet. I heard about “Ballots/Stones” through a Twitter feed and I instantly became giddy. The two previously release new Hostage Calm tracks, the aforementioned "Affidavit", and "Jerry Rumspringer" were different, poppier and much more accessible than the tracks off of Lens. But both tracks are very much Hostage Calm songs at their core. "Ballots/Stones" legitimately sounds as if Tito Puente were writing riffs for Quicksand. The latin vibe is unmistakable and caught me so off guard that my first reaction was indeed laughter. Groovy doesn’t begin to describe the track, I cannot get through all two minutes and twenty eight seconds of the song without bobbing my head, playing desk drums, tapping my foot or even getting up and shaking my hips. Towards the end of the song, the band builds up to something that seems as if it may be somewhat reminiscent of a hardcore song. When the moment comes, you are treated to a guitar solo, something that sounds like an early Weezer outtake. Pinkerton era Rivers Cuomo would certainly be proud.
As much as I loved the song initially, I was worried that Hostage Calm had abandon their sound entirely. As I sit on my laptop playing the song repeatedly I have quickly realized that this song contains everything that I have come to love about the band. The guitar work is sharp and intricate, the rhythm section is powerful and drives the track, and Martin’s lyrics are as smart as ever. The tight song writing is complimented by Martin’s much improved, nearly pitch perfect vocals. As excited as I am to hear how this track translates live, I am even more interested in hearing the final product of this album. The three tracks we have are really next level stuff, here’s to hoping the whole album will be too.
Listen to the track HERE
Enough is Enough is a benefit compilation for marriage equality. It is split into 4 volumes. "Ballots/Stones" is on volume 3, which will be available for download HERE soon. Volumes 1 and 2 are available now and a donation is optional.