FYI: New York crossover is once again in da house. Yes, the Gothemic institution of Pro-Pain is poised to release another angry screed against the powers that be, crying out from their scummy concrete jungles with a back alley trash dumpster sincerity that cannot be denied. Since forming in the early 90s from the wreckage of hardcore legends Crumbsuckers, Gary Meskill piloted this thrash/punk/hardcore hybrid along a very consistent course, mixing seething rage with simplistic but accessible writing as the band addressed all sorts of current events and socio-political themes. They’ve had some great albums (their Foul Taste of Freedom debut is perpetually on rotation here), and some that felt a bit too safe, but none were dull or worthless. Album fifteen, Voice of Rebellion is the quintessential Pro-Pain platter in many ways. It’s really pissed off, acerbic, aggressive and heavy as steel girders. There are the expected traces of Biohazard, Agnostic Front, Life of Agony and Pantera in the sound, but at the end of the day, Pro-Pain always sounds like Pro-Pain. And that’s why they’re the Budweiser of New York crossover – always tasting exactly the same, comfortable and familiar but capable of knocking you on your ass.
This is a typically aggro outing, and the opening title-track is a true gem of steroidal vitriol. It has the classic heavy hardcore swagger and a punky bounce that belies the oppressive crunch of the riffs. The oft-repeated refrain of “consider this a warning shot, motherfucker” virtually guarantees it will become a staple for heavy dead-lift day playlists at gyms nationwide and it’s hard to resist its knucklehead street thug charm. I’ve been spinning it way too much and feel a bit dumb blasting it in my truck since I’m too old to be this fucking gangsta.
“No Fly Zone” opens with a gritty rap that sounds a lot like Ice-T (who did in fact grace their The Truth Hurts album back in 94) before going all NYC on you with thick, crunchy riffs and testosterone-riven bellows from our man Meskill. It’s so simple in delivery, but the drumming and solos are surprisingly technical and the complete package hits the reptilian spot in the brain that craves “tough guy” anthems. The brass knuckle hits keep on coming with stormers like “Take it to the Grave,” and the extra catchy “Belle Morte” which could have appeared on their debut. “Blade of the Cursed” almost sounds like Rob Dukes era Exodus, but Meskill is much more convincing as a vocalist. “Hellride” stands out for the wild guitar pyrotechnics running over the top of the caveman riffing and it makes quite a potent earbomb. And let’s not forget the dainty nuance of closer “Fuck This Life” which could be the musical companion piece to S.O.D.‘s “Kill Yourself” when you’ve had a truly shitty day.
With fourteen tracks on offer, they’re bound to be lesser moments, like the somewhat throwaway rumble of “Crushed to Dust” and the mindless fury of “Enraged.” These aren’t bad songs per se, but they don’t particularly register or hook you in either. The bigger issue is the tendency of the songs to bleed together into a raging stew of machismo and bicep flexing, and by track 11 or so I have no more fucking hostile to give the cause.
Production-wise, this thing is a hammer. The mix is big, burly and bruising and the guitars have enough force to ruin your sheet rock and drive off even the most loyal girlfriend. Despite the low DR, it sounds surprisingly balanced and satisfying and exactly as this kind of music should.
As always, Garky Meskill’s vocals are a one trick anger pony. His raspy bellow conveys all the displeasure one could want and for whatever reason, I never get tired of hearing him shout, scream and blather on about injustice, unfairness and inequity. Unlike many bands of this ilk, the cuffs are off guitarists Adam Phillips and Marshall Stephens, and they take full advantage with wild solos that sometimes seem out of place amid all the mob mentality rhythmic destruction. This gives Pro-Pain a little more identity and along with some interesting drumming by Jonas Sanders, keeps the relatively simple songs from getting boring.
Voice of Rebellion is a big, pugnacious slab of New York attitude, ready to climb off the disc and bully you into a corner. It’s pit-ready, parent unfriendly and has enough breakdowns to send Dr. Fisting into hiding for a month. Listen to it and get all Long Island on your neighbors.