2008 was a sad year for the melodic hardcore scene in that its brightest beacon, Modern Life Is War, announced their split. Despite this piece of news, one band really managed to mark themselves out this year as the most musically and lyrically impressive contemporary band in the genre, as well as one of the hardest-touring: Verse.
Aggression is a logical and mature progression from Verse's previous two outings, both filled with raging melodic hardcore. To my ears, Sean Murphy's brilliant, wordy delivery stands out from that of other hardcore frontmen, perhaps due to the fact that his talk-shouting style has echoes of Zach de la Rocha and Cedric Bixler's angrier moments on At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command. Lyrically, he has a tendency to direct his anger outward in political lyrics, the theme of resisting the hand of oppression and thinking independently being a recurring theme not only in the brilliant opener 'The New Fury' but throughout the whole record. At times it can get a little preachy (have a look at the words to 'Old Guards, New Methods' - "What about the overcrowded projects where desperation calls? What about the lack of education and the lack of love? But most of all: what about the innocent in rooms with bars and three walls?") - something that is particularly noticeable at their shows where Murphy has the tendency to rant slightly, and they're the only band I've known to include a reading list in the insert of their album's packaging - but the overall quality of the lyrics and music means that unless you are easily irritated by politically concerned music, it doesn't really matter.
Especially when you've got a centrepiece like 'Story of a Free Man' on your album. While the rest of the album is consistently great, this three-part song sees Murphy take on the role of storyteller and it really makes the album. He narrates the tale of a boy whose father went off to fight in a war, only to come back, as Murphy harrowingly puts it, "in a body bag". The boy receives no solace and comfort from his family, and, as an attempt to escape from his reality, slips into addiction. Finding himself homeless and at rock bottom, he eventually decides to sober up and start afresh, eyes now wide open to the cruel nature of the world that put him in that position in the first place. Thanks to Murphy's brilliant lyricism and delivery and an excellent instrumental performance, the song is an epic that could easily stand next to even the finest jewels in the aforementioned Modern Life Is War's crown as one of the best moments in hardcore to date.
Having made a huge impression on hardcore fans everywhere, Verse have proven with Aggression that they are something very special. Be sure not to overlook them - listen to the album, read the lyrics, go to a show, and discover one of the most important hardcore bands in today's scene.
No more control. No more rules. They try to make you and me live life by their design: No free thought. No free speech. No peace of mind. They make a move to confine. But they’ll never silence me as long as I can breathe.
-Verse; The New Fury
Verse - Aggression