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Off With Their Heads

Epitaph Records, 2013

http://www.facebook.com/owth42069

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/28/2013

If you had to single out a current band as the best example of modern-day punk rock, Off With Their Heads should be at the top of most people's list. Spearheaded by Minneapolis native Ryan Young and his formerly rotating cast of band members (though the lineup has been firm for a few years now), OWTH have put out more records than just about anyone, slept on floors during countless tours, and for many of those years, despite their greatness, lived in relative obscurity. Slowly—and then not so slowly after jumping on board with indie super label Epitaph—people realized that Young and company were barking great things, and their brash and powerful anthems of self-loathing moved them from the opening band you might go early and see to the band you specifically went to see. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fortunately for us, the success of OWTH hasn't watered down their sound at all. Home leads off with some of their fiercest material to date, musically explosive and melodic with Young's gravelly vocals sounding more urgent and angry than ever, his stories even more of a big middle finger to himself.

The first five tracks here are nothing short of perfection. “Start Walking” starts things off in familiar territory—Young's biting, Viking-like vocals bringing forth his inner resentment and the searing guitars and ultrafast melodies sounding better than ever. "Shirts" follows with "woah, woah, woahs," an old punk-rock trick but one that doesn't wear out its welcome when done right, and continues the raspy, charged melodica. “Nightlife,” the third track, is when the disc goes from fantastic to absolutely necessary. Though it starts out buzzing and lightning fast, it calms down as Young offers an explanation for his personal demons before the song shifts to the full-throttle chorus. The music is energetic, loud and full of life even as Young is discussing his existence dissolving around him, and when he calmly sings—and I mean actual singing—"I've Never Felt Worse In My Whole Life," you know he means it.

The second half of the album is where the band throws us a curveball. The two slower, almost ballad-like songs show another dimension to OWTH, “Don't Make Me Go” and “Stolen Away” offering a nice change of pace from the fury of the rest of the album. While most of the album warrants being played at max volume and just might get you riled up enough to sweat while your pulse races, these calmer moments allow you to recover and catch your breath.

Home is mostly about self-analysis that often transforms itself into scathing diatribes. We can empathize with whatever struggles Ryan Young goes through—I mean, we've all been there at one point—but it sure does produce some incredible music. This here is the real deal. No eye-liner, no Hot Topic haircuts and heavily pierced faces, no aspirations of being the next Fall Out Boy. Zero flash, all substance and one of the best records of 2013, punk and otherwise.

Rating: A

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© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epitaph Records, and is used for informational purposes only.