February 21, 2008 | | 3.5

Once Nothing, First Came The Law

These self-described “blue-collar metal” Pittsburgh natives certainly have a knack for expressing themselves in a fashion that can only be described as hardened. Their sound, especially for a debut album, has that of a weathered veteran band. Mixing crushing hardcore and metal with a southern flare similar to Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Once Nothing has created a groove oriented bit of music that makes for a great listen every time the disc is playing.

Vocalist Todd Lowry is a talented front man with great range and abilities. His primary means of delivery is a mid range growl, but has the uncanny capacity to reach melodic tendencies within his screams and even showcases his talent with cleaner portions throughout the disc. The dual guitar attack of Josh Branas and David Burkes provides for moments of technical precision and raw talent as they combine for some memorable riffs and leads. The rhythm section comprised of bassist Steve Lucarelli and drummer Giuseppe Capolupo provide an energetic base for the rest of the band to build off of, mixing grooves and blasting devastation with ease.

The Intimidator
The opening track starts off with a great rock fueled riff as the vocals kick in. Lowry’s vocals are effective in a mid range scream with highlights that feature clean shouts and calls. The hooks on this one are simply infectious. There’s a nice breakdown at the 2:25 mark that’s got a decent bit of brutalness to it.

Avoid Me Like The Plague
A chaotic feel to “Avoid Me Like The Plague” gets the momentum moving along showcasing the band’s versatility. Layered vocals give this one some nice depth and a new facet to the band’s sound. There’s a great southern fried bit of guitar work at the 1:25 as Lowry hits with the chorus.

Juliet Or At Least What’s Left Of Her
Melodic guitar work gets this one going with a big scream. There’s a nice mixture of hardcore elements with smooth metalcore guitars toward the beginning of this one. Infectious hooks and plenty of vocal shifts highlight this track as a standout bit of musicianship.

Gunfire Is The Sound of Freedom
Driving drums and guitars open up “Gunfire Is The Sound of Freedom” with a quick pace. Lowry mixes up several vocals techniques including a deeper guttural growl and clean enunciation while delivering his lyrics this time around. The chorus on this one is pretty slick.

The Dust Of A Town
The fifth song starts off with some guitar work that reminds me of Sponge’s “Plowed” from back in the day — but with a bit more aggression and reckless abandon. There’s a good deal of energy in the guitar work on “The Dust of a Town” to accompany a great group shouts.

My Sweet Medusa
I’m all for a band showcasing their versatility with a variety of musical presentations, but as far as “My Sweet Medusa” is concerned, I could certainly do without it on this album. It just doesn’t fit in the scheme of the album’s scope. In fact, it sounds like a blatant attempt to cash in on a sound that Staind established at the start of the decade.

Columbus Wasn’t Looking For America
Thankfully Once Nothing don’t explore their “softer” any further than that last track and get back into whoopin’ ass with this next track. The opening riff is dark and has a malicious edge to it as the rest of the band kicks in with high paced metal.

Then There Were Nine
SLightly clean vocals and a little cowbell action gets “Then There Were Nine” going along nicely. There are some decent riffs and hooks throughout this one, along with a slightly more southern tinge.

All My Heroes Are Cowboys
There’s a little bit more of a religious message in the lyrics behind “All My Heroes Are Cowboys” which is to be expected on any release from Solid State, yet it’s far from preachy and presented with creative drum work and memorable riffs. The chorus sees an interesting mix of vocal delivers that has an odd affect on the overall sound of the song — neither good nor bad, just different.

The Truth About Me Or Someone Like Me
A catchy bit of southern tinged guitar work gets this one started with thundering drums in support. Lowry mixes in clean vocals at just the right spots on this one, giving an added punch to his message.

Whiskey Breath
I absolutely love the guitar and drum work at the beginning of “Whiskey Breath.” Lowry’s opening vocal work compliments the music perfectly at the onset of this one. There’s some beefy riffing and heavy handed drums at the 1:25 mark followed by excellent an excellent hook and thick bass lines.

…And Then Came Grace
The final track on this debut is an instrumental that has softly played keyboard work, lightly played drum beat and distant guitar work. It’s an alright way to end the track, but I would have rathered the band ended as aggressively as they had played through its length.

~ ~ ~

Once Nothing’s youthful defiance in the face of several genres combined with their touring work ethic are nothing but refreshing and a welcome presence in the metal scene. Their blend of hardcore, metal and southern fried rock works to great effect on this impressive debut album. First Came the Law is certainly a valued addition to anyones musical library.

Favorite Tracks:
The Intimidator
Avoid Me Like The Plague
The Dust Of A Town
The Truth About Me Or Someone Like Me

Additional Notes: