You can’t fault Transplants for the gap between ‘Haunted Cities’ and ‘In A Warzone’ when taking into account the workload of the individual members in other projects.
Tim Armstrong with Rancid, but even more so these days with his alter ego song avalanche Tim Timebomb & Friends. Rob Aston and his Death March hardcore project and Travis Barker with his solo stuff and his role in that little band Blink-182 nobody’s ever heard of. Besides, Transplants was never a full time gig anyway. Though never really clear whether they officially broke up or not, the band has gone on hiatus after every release, at one point cancelling a whole tour with Pennywise following the release of ‘Haunted Cities’ and a spot on the Warped Tour (back when Warped Tour was still, you know, good).
So eight years isn’t a hell of a long time when all that is taken into account. Eight years is eights years though and you’d be forgiven for wondering if a gap just shy of a decade is going to have an affect on the band’s sound. And the answer to that is no, not really.
While ‘In A Warzone’ doesn’t have that party hardy feel that made the Transplants’ first release so fun and addictive, it does sound a great deal like 2005’s ‘Haunted Cities’’ punkier moments. There’s nothing as ambitious (and, frankly, God awful cheesy) as ‘What I Can’t Describe’ or as balls out electrifying as ‘Madness’ on this record, but it has plenty to satisfy fans of both older releases.
‘In A War Zone’ is, typically for this group, a very versatile wall of sound. The sunny pop grooves of the album’s first single ‘Come Around’ give way to a guitar and piano interaction that recalls ‘Diamonds and Guns’ in ‘Something’s Different.’
Elsewhere, ‘It’s A Problem’ plays with electronic instruments, thick hip hop drum beats and features a twisted Egyptian guitar line slithering around in the back there somewhere while Rob, Tim and a guest spit fairly obvious lyrics that observe ego fuelled excesses and the dangers therein. It sounds deeper written down that it does coming out the boom box.
‘Completely Detach’ is a lyrical horror movie set against hardcore skin thumping and heavy, buzz saw guitars chewing through the tape deck. It actually doesn’t sound a great deal different than the kick off song ‘In A Warzone.’
‘Gravestones and Burial Plots’ is another hard hitting, stripped down hardcore song that features more lyrics that wouldn’t sound out of place on Danzig’s next record, if Danzig replaced all his white teeth with gold ones and strung some hefty bling around his massive neck muscles.
‘Exit the Wasteland’ is a hell of a way to cap off the record, as it’s one of the best songs in the whole bag. Catchy, bouncy, freight train fast and clocking in at just under two minutes. Whatever you feel about the rest of the album, you’ll come away from it all on a high note solely because this is the last song you’ll hear.
With such a wide range of sounds and flicks of genres in every release, one thing a band like Transplants will always have working against them is the failure to please everybody and undoubtedly disappointing somebody. People that like the hip hop, electronica stuff are going to be disappointed that ‘In A Warzone’ is punk heavy. People that like the harder, punkier stuff are going to be disappointed that there are still hip hop songs on the record. People that like it all, well, like it all. They’ll love this puppy. Besides, the Transplants don’t strike me as a band that really give a flying frying pan whether you like them or not. Take it or leave it folks. Something tells me these boys will still be able to afford to buy socks at the end of the day (is that Fructis I smell?)
‘In A Warzone’ is, more than anything, just a pure slice of energy. Tim doesn’t sound nearly as bored here as he did on the last Rancid album, Travis sounds like he’s hitting the skins harder than he has in years and Rob just gives it 110% 100% of the time. It isn’t nearly as fun as the band’s fantastic first record (self titled), but it feels more focused and unassuming than the hip hop heavy ‘Haunted Cities.’
There are even a handful of songs that sound like they came off of all three members’ other projects:
Rancid: ‘Back To You,’ ‘Any Of Them’
Travis Barker (solo): ‘Something’s Different,’ ‘It’s A Problem’
Death March: ‘Completely Detach,’ ‘Gravestones and Burial Plots’
(Thankfully, Blink-182 is not represented on this record).
At the end of the day though ‘In A Warzone’ just sounds like what it is: a dark, hard hitting party record featuring three very talented musicians having a good time. Can’t wait to see these guys on the road this summer.