If there’s one maxim that will always apply to the world of hardcore, it’s that it will never let you down. Long tied to notions of unity and loyalty, both within the actual music and surrounding scene, the bands who live by this creed know how to deliver the goods and rarely make mistakes. New York quartet Sworn Enemy are one such band and with their new release Living on Borrowed Time (Rock Ridge) they are eager to remind everyone what hardcore is all about.
In case you were wondering, hardcore in this case seems to be about sticking as rigidly to convention as physically possible. The early Slayer influences that peppered the bands’ early work have largely been flattened out in favour of adherence to a rigid, almost militaristically enforced formula of racing Sick of It All style riffs n’ chugs, divebombs and of course the ubiquitous breakdowns that give all the tough guys in the pit a chance to show off their kung-fu skills. Make no mistake, it’s a largely effective formula as tracks such as ‘Broken Hope’ and ‘No Mercy’ push all the required buttons with ease; they’re catchy, full of beans and will have you up and two-stepping in no time at all. But is that enough in this day and age?
Put simply, Sworn Enemy is the archetypal hardcore band. They have no interest in variety or innovation, they invoke images of muscled neighbourhood toughs posing with pitbulls, getting inked, jumping around in the pit as seen in early Agnostic Front videos. The lyrics are all about respect, staying true to yourself and similar well-worn clichés. The truth, as so often is “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and the only thing broken here will be bones in the pit when the songs from this record are dropped live.