There are many, many things in this world that I don’t understand: how the pyramids were built, correct syntax of the French language, where babies come from, and how five totally disparate individuals can manage to get together and make a record that’s both this searing and punishing and also this consistently fucking catchy. Modern Life Is War somehow manages to utilize the operatic, mid-tempo hardcore template that bands like Tragedy and From Ashes Rise have perfected over the years—but they’ve also built on it, expanded on it—the last thing you’re going to find on Witness is anything resembling musical hero-worship or stylistic rip-offs. The best thing that Modern Life Is War has going for them on this record (apart from its inherent musical seamlessness and power) is the fact that vocalist Jeffrey Eaton is penning some of the best lyrics I’ve read in fucking years regarding class issues, the Iraq war, small town economics, desperation, hope and more—and he’s in a hardcore band, and he’s pissed off but you can hear every goddamn word he’s saying. Ten points right there. So when you couple smart, engaging, furious and discernable lyrics with music that is unremitting, merciless, yet also so goddamn hook-laden that you’ll have a hard time doing anything else but listen to the record when you put it on—roll all that together and you’re coming close to what this band has accomplished with Witness. Easily one of the best records put out this year.