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01. Sworn Enemy
02. One Way Trip
03. As Real As It Gets
04. My Misery
06. Fallen Grace
07. Time Heals No Wounds
08. Days Past
09. Innocence Lost
10. These Tears
Not even halfway through the first track, the puff-chested, tougher than Rick Ta Life "Sworn Enemy," I begged two questions. First, how the hell isn't Sworn Enemy's debut full-length on Victory Records And second, who in the hell convinced the major label machine of Elektra to go out on a limb and sign such a thugcore band And by thugcore, I mean music that inspires you want to beat the living piss out of the next unsuspecting person who walks in the room, which is definitely not to suggest that Sworn Enemy are thugs themselves. They are actually very nice, friendly boys from Queens who respect their moms but will administer a beatdown if necessary. But the band's music is definitely "crewcore" that will attract the "tough guys" in droves.
Then I remembered just who Sworn Enemy has in its corner. None other than Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. He signed the band to his own Stillborn Records, took the band on tour, and introduced them to his management, which hooked them up with its label deal. He also went on to produce "As Real As It Gets." Having Jamey on their side is a plus, but Sworn Enemy doesn't rest solely on its associations. "As Real As It Gets" doesn't succumb to any major label pressures. Full of Madball/Skarhead/Warzone style riffs from the old school, singer Sal Lococo spends all of his time screaming unmelodically over those simplistic riffs. Sworn Enemy is a full-on nod to HxCx, not metalcore. This is VFW-hall hardcore to a "t."
"As Real As It Gets" feels like a throwback to the mid 90s when Madball were the kings of the hardcore universe. "Sworn Enemy" (which references the 9/11 tragedies), the title track, and "Labeled" could cause massive circle pit carnage with the sheer force with which guitarist Lorenzo Antonucci pounds out chords. If the phrase "knuckle sandwich" had a sonic counterpart, it would be Sworn Enemy. "As Real As It Gets" moves at a quick pace and doesn't get mired down in the muck of trying to be too poignant, too political, or too deep.
You'll want to spend time with "As Real As It Gets" because at first, you might feel as I did and think the album is a little thin. But it grows on you and reveals more irresistible charm with each subsequent listen. You know you'll have a fantasy about yourself, singing along to the lyric "Sworn Enemy / Of The Human Race" in the mirror, pretending you're in a mosh pit.
Bottom Line: Sworn Enemy hardly possesses the brutal quotient that Hatebreed has a lock on, and you can't help but wonder if the band will be able to survives living in the shadows of Jasta and company. No doubt scenesters will be quick to consider Sworn Enemy a poor man's Hatebreed, but that's a hasty judgement, since Sworn Enemy, sonically, is less "metallic" than Hatebreed. "As Real As It Gets" remains true to classic, NYHC sounds, and check the communal vocals on "Fallen Grace" for proof. While this sound has "scene" its heyday, Sworn Enemy injects just enough adrenaline to help revive the style.