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Sworn Enemy - Gamechanger Award winner

Sworn Enemy
by Leanne "Metal Maiden" Evans at 02 December 2022, 8:46 PM

Anyone who appreciates the sentiment behind hardcore and thrash understands that rule-breaking and unconventionality is the name of the game. We can’t abide societal ‘norm’, we’re unafraid of going nose-to-nose with the establishment, of standing out, rising up and being counted, which is exactly why I’m rebelling, and reviewing SWORN ENEMY’s sixth opus, “Gamechanger”. Back in April 2019, the NYHC veterans released another crushing addition to its catalogue of metallic hardcore. It seemed to have a mixed reaction amongst critics: not being hardcore enough for the hXc connoisseurs, and not thrashy enough for the insatiable thrashers, resulting in several unfavourable – and unfair - scores. Let me tell you, my peers were WRONG.

Nailing hardcore crossover is a fine art and striking the balance between all the bruising aggression hXc delivers and fast, fat riffing of thrash takes guts and gusto, something that SWORN ENEMY delivers without compromise or apology. Long since the days of the band’s debut back in 2003, “As Real as it Gets” – and with Sal LoCoco the only remaining original member of the line-up – there’s been a very organic maturation in their identity, morphing from a group of embittered lads to a full-blown crew of pissed off men. Just this year, SWORN ENEMY – along with the inimitable MUNICIPAL WASTE - supported ANTHRAX’s 40th Anniversary Tour in the UK (of which I’m proud to have been in the thick of the Birmingham show) and delivered a scathingly blistering set, including tracks from the latest release. For this reason and having personally witnessed just exactly HOW fucking crushing these New York filthpots are in the flesh, I feel my service to the realms of hXc crossover should be honoured by promoting just how magnificent “Gamechanger” is and chugging its bounty of crossover nastiness down your throats once more.

Whilst the beginnings of SWORN ENEMY are rooted in the purveyors of hXc AGNOSTIC FRONT and MADBALL, “Gamechanger” – whilst retaining the same level of punky aggression of the hardcore kings - challenges the band’s audial inception, hauling itself into the sort of thrash crossover territory of ALL OUT WAR and STAMPIN GROUND stand for. The intro lays a firm thrash foundation for “Gamechanger” in an oldschool-style bloody instrumental, bursting into the unrelenting “Prepare for Payback” with a noxious attitude that spills over into the chugging, spitting “Seeds of Hate”, bellowing with antagonistic riffs, pulverising solos, gnarly breakdowns and vocals pumped with aggression.  So, with all that swelling brutality in mind, the genius move that SWORN ENEMY play – a divisive one at that amongst my fellow critics – is the stripped back bare vulnerable acoustic of “Coming Undone”. It’s easy to see why this might be lost on a few folk; after all, you don’t get a fat lot of syrupy acoustic going on in this territory, but this is EXACTLY why “Gamechanger” is, well a gamechanger. The parameters and notions of genre conformance is met with flagrant disregard, and it works; especially when the track unfurls into an apoplectic monster of bludgeoning drums, remorseless aggression, and thick chugging grooves.

Sincerely, the beauty of this record is that it’s unapologetically hard-nosed (just like you’d expect) and a pure call to arms for all the die-hard fans of both hardcore and thrash, the ardent aggressors with an affinity for metallic bloodiness, and those with an appreciation of all the hardest, most violent aspects of hXc and thrash melded together. Take “Justify”, a true crossover track that lays down everything from some nasty spoken narrative to even nastier, more brutish vocals, killer drum fills, temporal switches, and gang chants. Or perhaps you’d like to saviour the d-beat influenced charm of “DOA” or “Fragments of a Broken Life” with an all-out punkier vibe? Maybe the hardcore “The Fall of Modern Man” will whet your appetite? The virulence of this record is beyond compare, with beginning to end causticity that melts your face and deeply earworms with bitter refrains and hostile riffs. “Selling a Dream” delivers audial irony in spades, brimming with uncompromisingly surly hardcore attitude in a pure thrash assault on the ears, with “The Consequences” and “Integrity Defines Strength” offering swarming barbarity in a similarly savage vein.

Variety really is the name of the game in “Gamechanger” and the charm it carries is quite simply down to the middle finger it shoves in your face at what you THINK you should expect from SWORN ENEMY. The production so too goes against the grain on this record, with MACHINE HEAD’s ROBB FLYNN in charge of delivering a clean, polished sound, with a resounding visceral appeal firmly rooted in “Gamechanger’s” rambunctious attitude and integrity to its origins. If you want something infinitely bloody, bruising and bold, pick up “Gamechanger”. And if all their metallic hardcore hits the spot, you can catch SWORN ENEMY on 9th December in LONG ISLAND (full details on the band’s socials) joining legends LIFE OF AGONY and MADBALL

Songwriting:   9
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:     10

5 Star Rating

1. Intro
2. Prepare for Payback
3. Seeds of Hate
4. Coming Undone
5. Justify
6. DOA
7. Fragments of a Broken Life
8. The Fall of Modern Man
9. Selling a Dream
10. The Consequences
11. Integrity Defines Strength
Sal LoCoco – Vocals
Jeff Cummings – Guitars
Matt Garzilli – Guitars
Mike Pucciarelli – Bass
Taykwuan Jackson - Drums
Record Label: M-Theory Audio


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