Album Review: Authority Zero – “The Tipping Point”

If Dying Scene were in the business of incredibly short reviews, this one would read, “great album; go buy it.” Because Authority Zero‘s new record “The Tipping Point” is simply that: a dozen really enjoyable punk tracks served straight up.

The opener, “No Other Place,” welcomes listeners by crescendoing into a driving guitar lick and some frantic drums, hearkening back to the West Coast sounds of 1990s Bad Religion and a little bit of “Smash”-era Offspring. The track’s bridge has some simple chants of “hey” that will likely be a fun audience call-and-response at the band’s future gigs. Following this is “Undivided,” which is a little more melodic but still pounds. Think Pennywise if you want to keep up the So Cal comparisons.

Most of the album keeps up the same energy, with a few breaks to slow things down or, in one case, play with genre. “Today We Heard The News” is a little powered-down, but still an excellent track. There’s a horn break in the middle, and the vocal line stays mellifluous throughout. There are moments that make me think back to the early-to-mid-2000’s, and for better or worse, bring out the image of driving around my college town listening to the super-cool-at-the-time Incubus and 311 CDs I kept in my Ford Focus. Judge all you want, but that’s where the harmonies are. AZ does a much better job at keeping the song interesting and avoiding cheesiness, though.

While still pretty hard, third track “For the Kids” gets a bit poppy. It pulls back with restraint but without losing the uptempo vibe of the record. Between the lyrical content and the shout-along possibilities of the chorus, the track is anthemic in nature. The guitar solo in the middle and building crescendos, this track is a real gem on an overall fantastic record.

“Struggle” plays with the band’s reggae roots a bit. Appearing roughly midway through the album, it’s a nice little break from the driven hardcore melodies found elsewhere. Kind of like pausing to walk in the middle of an intense running workout, the song lets you catch your breath. It still has its own merits of course. The vocal line cycles between smooth and choppy, with catchy rhymes and rhythms. There’s a little instrumental twist in there to grab onto. And it’s a much needed little breather, as well. “On the Brink,” which follows, jumps right back into the spirit of things, with a fast beat that’s both poppy and hard at the same time.

Overall, this record is dynamic and exciting. It’s a great introduction to the band. For anyone, like me, who has been vaguely aware that Authority Zero exists but hadn’t paid much attention before, it will definitely grab you and pull you into fandom. A band that has been around for the better part of two decades could easily get complacent and stale, but “The Tipping Point” is anything but that, with attention-grabbing energy and solid use of the band’s reggae and West Coast skate-punk influences.

4.5/5 Stars

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