Vicious Circle-Split This Open album review by Mark J.. FFO: Breathtaking Old School Hardcore with some new tricks up their sleeve.


Vicious Circle-Split This Open album review by Mark J. FFO: Breathtaking Old School Hardcore with some new tricks up their sleeve.

These hardcore kings have been blazing a robust hardcore trail since 1983 and their influence on bands and punters has been massive. This writer personally was hooked the first time I heard this incredible band on 3PBSFM radio with the track Price of Progress. The progression, energy and solid lyrics were what always set them apart from their peers. They have toured heavily (USA, Europe and Asia) and have played with pretty much every classic hardcore band; just to name a few; MDC, Christ on Parade, Attitude Adjustment, Raw Power, Life Sentence, Descendents, Final Conflict, DRI, Agnostic Front and GBH, like wow!. Split This Open is their ferocious debut album for 1054 records and not only one of the year's best hardcore albums but one of the band's greatest-ever releases.

Each album adds to the solid catalogue, but in the more modern era, the last two albums (2015's Never Give In and 2017's Born to Destroy) and this new album is the band at full aggressive strength. That is not dismissing the older catalogue because I worship 99 % of those killer releases. The last two are simply lethal and Split This Open is nuclear fucking powered. Let's dive in.

Unbelievably this is album number 16 and it is easily one of their best-ever albums. The opener Split This Open literally does what the label says, with a scorching axe to your face. Paul's vocals are so on point and mix this with Yeti's forceful riffs and a super confident and competent rhythm section and you know this is one absolute no bullshit, no technical wankery, just perfect fast straight-up hardcore that is catchy as hell. Loved the DC hardcore vibe at the end. 

Mind Pollution is next, and it's a solid trip to the past here, this raging masterpiece wins you over with fast vocals, combative guitar and bass, prickly and warlike drums, plus Yeti's backing vocals are fiery as hell. Two tracks in and this release is super vitriolic already. No Guts No Glory is one of the best tracks on this release and is a mix of classic VC with a subtle TSOL and D.I. vocal vibe. This just has that glorious West Coast hardcore, but also a very early Dropkick Murphys/Street Dogs style regardless of the varied influences, it's a sensational punk anthem. Anger Betrays is a tempestuous gem as well, reminds me of my most played VC early tracks, love how the guitar captures those early stylings so well. Like every track, this is well written and a result of experience and clever structure. Guitar riffs and vocal aggression are the heart of this machine(plus a laser-accurate bass/drum backing that makes this band sound so forceful)-case in point is Nothing to Gain-anyone else may have messed up the precise mayhem and dominant riffs in this great song. 

Repetitive riffs and crushing vocals for the absolute win. The first five tracks are very much all excellent and standard(be that an extremely top tier level many never reach) tracks for this legendary band, but at track six we get what or why Vicious Circle has lasted so long and is still relevant. They add some assured flavour of various hardcore eras and other genres to the mix, and this is quite different to jumping on trends etc. Incorporating new sounds keeps the music and indeed the creative process fresh and dynamic. Cast Aside is the first of these changes, the very clever momentum is ageless but the subtle or not-so-subtle structures utilise everything from modern hardcore harmonic choruses to bass breaks and it also has an almost rock sensibility at times. 

An impressive start to the second half of this wicked release. Bloodshed will certainly keep you on your damn toes with more gravelly vocals and incensed guitar tone(and a cracking solo also). This is a live gem as you would expect. Expect more high kicks to the face and audio choking with the berserk beast that is Anti-Human. The pace was like necking a slab of Red Bull or 20 coffees. 

Now comes my second absolute fave off this album, New Age Zombie and it is like classic Cro-Mags with downright demonic pace, intelligent tempo changes, rabid breakdowns and riffs that remind me of Mindsnare. Hence I worship this track deeply. Essential on every hardcore playlist. Defiance keeps your head nodding and your legs two-stepping like a maniac, it is anthemic, a little melodic but a raging classic that helps us not catch a breath before the album closes. Thanks you fuckers, I was reaching for my asthma spray multiple times over this release. Then we have a sick cover of Bad Brains Don't Need It, which works so well as the whole band is on showcase with this banger be it cheesy riffs, monstrous vocals and bombastic bass/drums.


An absolutely essential album for any hardcore fan and one of Vicious Circle's best-ever releases. Support this band well because they are hard-working and lovely chaps!

Out tomorrow:

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