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December 10, 2003

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The weapon of choice for most hardcore bands is a bludgeon of some sort – a thuggish baseball bat, a primitive club or a mace wielded with the cruelest of intentions. With a furious smash and crash, hardcore acts assault with the sort of force that can barely be controlled, let alone restrained.

From Ashes Rise Delivers a more controlled, focused brand of hardcore. While Nightmares is still as heavy and violent as anything in the genre, the Portland band sets aside the clumsy bludgeons of over-amplified guitars and non-stop tempos for a sound that doesn’t need to hide behind ear-splitting volumes to be tough. One part So-Cal hard punk in the vein of label mates Strike Anywhere and one part Chicagoland hardcore that alludes to the pre-pop days of Victory Records, From Ashes Rise mixes an ear for blistering melodies as well as a sense of space that’s rare in hardcore songwriting.

It’s actually the restraint that leads to the melodies and variegated tempos that make Nightmares work out. Make no mistake about it, the band doesn’t lay either on too thickly: Singer/guitarists Brad Boatright and John Wilkerson still whip their larynxes like they’re rented donkeys while they wrestle leaden riffs out of their six strings as drummer Dave Atchison keeps things cruising along at a nearly breakneck pace. Then again, From Ashes Rise doesn’t always rocket along with pedal-to-the-metal speeds, and underneath all the twisted metal guitar figures and screams, there’s a subtlety that sets From Ashes Rise apart from many of its brethren. “The Inner Beast” moves from introspective, metal-ballad guitar figures into foaming-at-the-mouth hardcore that makes its heavier ends sound even more ominous. The mid-paced burner “The Final Goodbye” slowly morphs from a heavy, near-metal plodder into a furious slab of focused hate, while were it not for the screamed vocals, “Bloodlust” could pass for a So-Cal skate rocker.

The differences between From Ashes Rise and typical hardcore aren’t immediately obvious, but they’re there. Nightmares has no need to batter your skull – rather, its use of twin-guitar interplay and tempo shifts makes it a much more dangerous weapon than that of the typical hardcore battering ram.


Will Stanford