Would an ‘80s Victory Records comparison be accurate? Quite possibly. The cover’s got a bunch of people clutching each other in the pit, everyone’s either groping one another or, like, possibly so lit up in this incredible moment of kinship that they all just had to sing the next chorus together. Thank God the camera was there to capture such a candid moment. Given the cover and the title of the record, I was mentally steeling myself for some thickneck, tough guy brocore (Brocore: Subgenre of “hardcore” punk rock, with a lyrical focus on: friendship, crews, never giving up, getting back at those who have stabbed one in the back, staying true to something, watching one another’s back—presumably so it won’t get stabbed—etc., etc.). Thankfully, That Was Then steer way clear of that whole shtick by actually being pretty positive, or at least avoiding a lot of macho posturing, something that I totally associate with music like this. There’s isn’t a single threat to “get” somebody on this record, a breath of fresh air in a genre that oftentimes relies a fuck of a lot on antagonism and gang mentality. That Was Then pull out the expected stops here: tempo changes, group vocals, muted guitar riffs, fast breakdowns, all of it. It’s not the freshest or most groundbreaking record to come out, musically speaking, but they certainly know what they’re doing, and they get some points for not taking the easy road lyrically—shit, they’re tackling the death of a parent, the need to not marginalize women in hardcore, and pulling Malcolm X sound bites in the last song. It’s not the kind of music that moves me that often, but these guys deserve credit for tackling topics that don’t often get discussed, and doing it in a way that’s smart as hell and inclusive. Nice work, guys.
–keith (Armada In Flames)