01. The New Fury
02. Old Guards, New Methods
03. Suffering To Live, Scared of Love
06. Story of a Free Man - Chapter One: the End of Innocence
07. Story of a Free Man - Chapter Two: The Cold Return
08. Story of a Free Man - Chapter Three: Serenity
09. Blind Salvation
11. Earth and Stone
12. Sons and Daughters
2008 Bridge Nine Records
Verse are without a doubt among the premier hardcore bands active today. Their first two albums stood out, even against the incredibly strong stable of hardcore acts their label, Rivalry Records, had amassed in a relatively short period of time. On their third album and first for hardcore's biggest brand name, Bridge Nine, Verse deliver enough of the same to satisfy the fans and a little bit extra. While their brand of hardcore has always been adept (if not entirely original) and subtly melodic (though never at the expense of intensity), Aggression is perhaps their most ambitious album yet.
For the last few years, every hardcore band that wanted to prove their "growth" has slowed things down and moved away from tradition. It's certainly true that Aggression is Verse's slowest album overall, but it's still very much a hardcore record. Sean Murphy's lyrics have matured from the impassioned hardcore cliches of Rebuild and the railing against social injustice of From Anger and Rage into something far more sophisticated. Everyday struggles are examined through the eyes of three-dimensional human beings. Even the recommended reading list (yeah, that might be a bit pretentious...) has become fleshed out significantly from Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky to a far more diverse and slightly less obvious bunch of lefties.
The album is divided neatly into three parts by the three track, seven and a half minute epic "Story of A Free Man." The first twelve minutes or so clearly outline the band's take on class warfare in modern society with a good bit of variety within the course of five tracks. "Story of a Free Man" paints a compelling portrait of a man whose life was turned upside down by the loss of his father in an unnamed foreign war. The disc's final third is slightly less focused, alternating between ruminations on religion and defiant calls to arms. Verse are most consistently successful when they stick to bread and butter hardcore, but moments in tracks like "Earth and Stone" and "Sons and Daughters" definitely reach a level of brilliance above anything the band has done before.
This is Verse's best sounding record to date. Production duties were handled this time around by Jay Maas (The Carrier, Soul Control) and there's nothing to complain about except for an odd cymbal sound towards the end of "Old Guards, New Methods." The album's layout is more utilitarian than striking, but I did appreciate the simple and easy to read lyrics booklet.
Bottom Line: Fans of Verse will undoubtedly welcome another fine addition to the band's impressive catalog. If you're into hardcore at all, or even just want to hear the best the genre has to offer, Aggression is well worth your time.