01. God Talk 02. Crescent Moon 03. 18.61 04. Reduced 05. Relentless Masters 06. Fallen Angel 07. Mannequins 08. Ashes / Dust 09. Forever Is Destroyed 10. Early Funeral2010 Deathwish Inc.
The last few months have proven to be a tumultuous period for 108. Right on the heels of their latest record, 18.61, the band announced their break-up as a result of frontman Robert Fish's departure. A mere week later, guitarist Vic DiCara delivered the news that the band would continue to push on under the same moniker, albeit without Fish. Thus, we're left with a record from a band undergoing a major personnel shift, making it difficult to say what the future form of 108 will look like, and whether or not this new material will be sent to a very early retirement. An odd scenario indeed, but thanks to the high level of creativity and experimentation heard on 18.61, all of this news takes a back seat. This is the most unique hardcore record since last year's Paranoid Delusions | Paradise Illusions from Pulling Teeth, a fact that is all the more impressive knowing how long 108 has been a staple of the scene. In addition to all of the Hare Krishna influences leading to lyrical themes that are far more intelligent and inspired than your average hardcore offering (I've never been one to seriously pay attention to lyrics, but I can appreciate the intellectual lean here), the instrumentation and songwriting are flat-out exceptional. The ten tracks of 18.61 collectively showcase a shift more toward all things atonal, as abrupt shifts in tempos, oddly placed passages with eerie undertones, and angular guitar lines are the norm. "Mannequins" is the stand-out here, thanks to sudden shifts between a bass driven section with chant-like vocals and spastic bursts of noisy hardcore. "Forever Is Destroyed" sports a slower tempo with big, dissonant riffs and an excellent period of screams over a sparse drums-only backbone. Both "God Talk" and "Crescent Moon" are more manic in nature, showcasing the same jarring absence of melody, only at a much faster clip (neither break the 90 second mark). There are still some more traditional moments on 18.61 -- the record's title track locks into a familiar groove that bands like The Hope Conspiracy have adopted on more recent releases -- so it's not an unlistenable behemoth by any means. And at no more than 25 minutes in length, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Even with a five minute closing acoustic track the album doesn't feel cut short; each of the nine previous tracks are concise and memorable, helping justify the record's brevity. (Some will remember that I knocked fellow hardcore boundary breakers Pulling Teeth for having too short of a full-length -- I don't get that feeling here whatsoever). The simple fact is that, despite the band's longevity, the members of 108 are still more capable of creating intelligent, creative hardcore than just about everyone else. Bottom Line: Releasing a record that almost directly coincides with a major band member change is certainly unfavorable, especially for a seminal group like 108. But the fact that 18.61 is so well thought-out -- in everything from thematic elements to brilliantly atonal instrumentation to album cohesiveness -- completely cancels out any skepticism associated with personnel shifts or questions regarding the group's current relevance. This album is a no-brainer for a spot on the best hardcore records of 2010 list.