Favorite tracks: Trip at the Brain, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow, If I Don't Wake Up, Sorry?!, The Feeling's Back
My kind of metal. It just might be the punk/metal hybrid. This is what Join the Army should’ve sounded like—live, loud, and alive, to quote Loudness. The vocals sound more confident, the guitars grind, and the drums pound. Mike Muir’s introspective lyrics cry out in desperation, yet maintain a positive undercurrent. In the chorus of the closing track, he exclaims, “I’m gonna fight, I’m gonna live!” as if his life depends on it. Maybe it did. The rest of the band rocks out like their lives depend on it, deluging the record with some of the best riffs Metallica never wrote.
Hell, before I heard this album, I held up Ride the Lightning as the metal album for riffs, but not anymore. How Will I Laugh narrowly beats it not only because of the consistently exemplary riffing, but because of the overall songwriting. While I’ve always enjoyed Metallica, I relate more to ST’s lyrics than I ever did to Metallica because Muir writes songs about insecurity, alienation, and angry. And though Metallica delivered the anger in spades, Muir’s brand of anger’s inner-directed. Unlike many other metal singers/writers, Muir isn’t afraid to expose his vulnerabilities. His literal lyrics read more like sentences ripped from his journal than “proper” stanzas, but this works in his favor because when combined with the manic energy of the music, it gives the songs a desperate quality. I’ve never been one for grandiosity or pomposity—the more down to earth, the better—and Muir/ST don’t put on any airs with their music here.
I don’t think I can say much more without stepping on what Mark Prindle already noted in his review of this album. I’d like to second what he said about the album’s mix: Muir’s vocals and Rocky George’s lead guitar are mixed alongside the backing/rhythm tracks instead of being mixed on top of them. I like how this aspect of the mix allows the solos/vocals to be heard without overshadowing the other instruments. I know of few other albums with this sound. Blue Oyster Cult’s first LP had it. That’s the only album I can think of. But above all, I dig this album. 9/10.