Verse is a defiant band. Not only have they defiled the rule that says hardcore bands can’t release three great LPs, they’ve upped the ante and released their most urgent, impassioned, and challenging album to date. In a scene were the demo is the best, or the bands are lucky to make it to two albums, Verse’s Aggression is a rare case where the two previous albums have set up the band for such a powerful declaration. Start to finish, Frontman Sean Murphy is screaming like he has nothing left inside, yet he involves a dynamic that adds more emotion and power to the musical backdrop that is a powerful, melancholic and monumental testament to the unrestratined greatness of modern hardcore.
Aggression starts off with a calm, melodic and disarming guitar instrumental. With no notice, the entire band, Murphy included, come crashing in screaming “They’ve got themselves a new spin on the story.” Following with a verse that is an arrhythmic, shouted verse, Murphy almost resembles a hardcore singer transforming into a spoken word artist gone mad crossed with Zack De La Rocha. You’re given no room to breathe and it sets the table for what’s to come.
Lyrically, Verse is restoring something that is inarguably lost in the hardcore scene- they’re challenging and they’re specific. It’s confrontational. Murphy stated, "You used to go to shows and you couldn't escape the tables with animal rights and leftist literature, the different flyers, distros, and a strong sense of action & interest as a scene. It's almost like kids choose to avoid reality. No one says anything on the stage and it seems like kids try not to listen. We don't beat the message over anyone's heads, but it's very important to us that we provide reading lists in our records & other outlets for information because it's that same thing I had growing up-that level of awareness was there and undeniable."
While on previous albums, Verse always had the anger expected from hardcore bands, Aggression answers the time old question “what are these bands so angry about?” Unlike the mid-90s, we actually have a destructive war, a foreign policy disaster, and an economy that is failing daily. Verse takes these urgent issues, but they channel that feeling beyond the here and now. What’s here is an album of 12 tracks that channels abstract and personally distant ideas such as the current war, disconnect with the domestic political landscape, and the failing social structures of our nation- and Murphy connects these broad, sometimes unfathomable themes and makes it a personal relationship. Murphy stated, “I have watched people go through some real hard times. I feel like I'm trying to not only speak for myself, but anyone that might feel the way I feel.” And every last theme on this record, from the clear meaning of “NO WAR” at the end of “Old Guards, New Methods,” to the more diverse imagery used in songs like “Suffering To Live, Scared of Love” the message is expressed in diverse ways, and at the most literal levels-it avoids the common pitfalls of simple political sloganeering.
Musically, Aggression is a challenging album and it proves that if you take risks and succeed, the rewards are tenfold. The slower, mid-tempo songs aren’t concentrated to where they drag, and the fast hardcore ragers are spaced so they don’t blend together. At their most melodic, Verse creates a wall of power that recalls elements of Deftones or Failure-but it works (“Earth And Stone”). Perhaps the most astounding achievement on this al um is the six and a half minute epic song “Story Of A Free Man.” Hardcore bands do not write conceptual songs in three movements that push the seven minute boundary IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ALBUM. Following the story of depression, addiction, family decay and the ultimate liberation and empowerment-the album fires back with “Blind Salvation” which is a 46 second jolt to the veins that follows all the way through “Sons and Daughters” which is, unequivocally, a memorable closer. Verse steps outside what was safe and expected of hardcore bands, and by doing so, they’ve established themselves as their own creative force which demonstrates how hardcore is still viable and still powerful.