Comeback Kid – Heavy Steps


Along with Hatebreed, Comeback Kid are one of the few hardcore bands on the Nuclear Blast roster. The Canadian quintet formed twenty years ago and are now on their seventh album after a five-year gap in recording. As a former artist signed to Victory Records, you can expect an adrenaline-fuelled punk riot from the Manitobans, but they’re not afraid to incorporate a ferocious strain of crossover thrash into their songs, either. Fans of Employed to Serve should be salivating at the mouth.

You’ll hear more Anthrax than Agnostic Front in the sensational title-track opener, but Andrew Neufeld’s hysterical rage vocals are pure hardcore. See if your throat can withstand the grinding bass notes and rapid snare shuffles. This is violent punk with a glimmer of At the Drive In to restore your balance. “I’m caving, not worth saving/ The song’s faded but I’m deadpanned waiting for an avalanche,” roars Neufeld in a high-range voice that sees his bandmates lock in on the last word in classic punk fashion. It’s a great platform for ‘No Easy Way Out’ to blast through the speakers in a whirl of metallic hardcore riffing that could share a stage with any of the legends from the New York scene of the 1990s.

At times, you wonder if Comeback Kid are more interested in gaining the attention of a metal crowd with their emphasis on thick chugging riffs and devastating breakdowns. ‘Face the Fire’ is what AFI used to sound like in the late 1990s but with a modern dose of aggressive palm-muting. Look no further than ‘Crossed’ if you want an example of the impressive guitar work on this record. Gojira’s Joe Duplantier makes a guest appearance in the chorus, but it’s the blend of early Machine Head and Merauder that’ll beat you into the ground like a grain of sand under the foot of Godzilla.

Seldom do Comeback Kid ease off the pain accelerator, yet they’re as thrilling in psychopathic mode as they are in a more melodic form of attack. The way ‘Everything Relates’ incorporates post-hardcore screamo harmonies with mid-range chord changes will make you wonder why you listen to so little punk music. It’s successor, ‘Dead on the Fence’, reminds you that hardcore can be as uncompromising as extreme metal. The latter is a bone-crunching jack boot of a song that could give the latest EP from Great American Ghost a run for their money in the heavy stakes. ‘Shadow of Doubt’ contains that hardcore idiosyncrasy that metal bands could do well to copy – switching the drum rhythms without changing the riff. Is there anything more exciting than hearing a sudden modulation to a d-beat when the vocals enter the mix?

Music as urgent as this can never fail to satisfy. The average song length is less than three minutes, and the compositions see no wisdom in perplexing you with a wide range of emotions. This is a lesson in righteous fury, where no ambiguities can prosper. Heavy Steps might not be the most inquisitive album you’ll hear this year, but it packs a punch and should find it easy to appeal to the headbanging thrash addict as much as the straight-edge two-stepper.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/01/2022

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Heavy Steps, Crossed, Dead on the Fence

Suggested Further Listening: Bailer – Disposable Youth (2021), At the Drive In – Relationship of Command (2000), Snafu – Exile // Banishment (2021)