Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ignite - Our Darkest Days [Ltd. Tour Edition]

Ignite - Our Darkest Days

Storming out of one of the wealthiest and most populous suburbs in California, the infamous Orange County, come Ignite. Formed in 1993, the band first gained recognition for their politically charged brand of punk with a series of EP’s, a full length and an almost inhuman touring schedule.

Following a lengthy tour across Europe, the band returned with their second album, 2000’s A Place Called Home, a commercial breakthrough after which the band took some time off to work on side-projects (Lead-singer Zoli Teglas briefly became the Danzig replacement du jour for the Misfits reunion band, before joining bassist Brett Rasmussen in California United). In 2004, Ignite came back from their hiatus, playing shows together in the U.S. for the first time in two years. Shortly afterwards, the band began recording their third album, Our Darkest Days. Released in 2006, the album represents another strong effort from one of the few true ideologues left in mainstream punk.

The first thing any listener will likely notice will be the unique, almost operatic singing style of vocalist Zoli Teglas. Teglas’s unusually high cries can be either an intriguing addition that boosts the levels of melodic harmony the band works with so well, or it can be off-putting, detracting from the excellence of the music. However, beyond the gimmicky appeal of such vocals is the way Teglas complements the music perfectly, melding with the higher chords to further accentuate the passion and excitement of each musical crescendo. Teglas belts his lines with conviction and urgency, railing against the short-sighted cultural dogma he sees around him. Topics include the realm of global politics, with songs concerning the tumultuous Iraq War (“Bleeding”), and the American political climate of fear (“Fear is Our Tradition”), as well as more personal songs dealing with the trials of the individual in such a climate (“Strength”). The band seems truly troubled by many of the directions they see their country taking, and this is capped off in style with a cover of the U2 classic (U2’s only classic, as far as I’m concerned) “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. Originally about the ongoing 'sectarian violence' in Northern Ireland, when placed in the context of the rest of the album, the song turns into a more general condemnation of the results of war and the ultimate destruction it causes.

Is this the death of liberty?
Is this the price that life has come to mean?

While the topics presented are neither terribly original nor profound, they don’t have to be. The strengths of Our Darkest Days lie in the execution of these ideas, as the band works well within the concept suggested by their album title to create an atmosphere of hopelessness and embittered defeat. What surprises is how they manage to both envelop the listener with their disillusioned take on modern society, as well as create a phenomenally catchy punk album, akin to something you might hear from Rise Against, Bad Religion or any number of melodic radio stalwarts. The music is relentlessly appealing, contrasting with and overshadowing the bleakness of the subject matter in the process. But should it be any surprise that the music takes center stage here? Few straight-up punk outfits can pull off the technicality and ingenuity of Ignite, especially when working within such a traditionally restrictive genre.

Successfully utilizing a number of creative riffs and song structures, the band often tiptoes between their faster, hardcore roots, and the slower, more melody-obsessed leanings of their later works. And, with the possible exception of the acoustic final track, “Live for Better Days”, not a minute of filler is to be found here. The songs are well-written, well-executed, and hold within them just enough originality and variety to appeal to even the most jaded of punk fans. Never do the guitar riffs seem recycled, but they manage to blend together well enough to make this a completely cohesive and enjoyable listen. With Our Darkest Days, Ignite have managed to string together 36 minutes of unbridled punk passion, mixing musical harmony with lyrical fury to make an album that appeals to fans of both hardcore and mainstream punk alike.

(This version of the album was originally released while the band was touring Europe, and contains two bonus songs: the bonus track "Last Time", and a demo version of "Bleeding")

we built this all
our darkest days


gabbagabbahey said...

um... 'civic disrepute' in Northern Ireland? I think you meant to use a different word, possibly two different words, there. but you're probably right about U2's only classic. Have you heard Saul William's cover of it?

don't really know anything about this band, but you make them sound good, so I'll give this a listen some time.

cretin said...

whoops... must have been thinking dispute but wanted a bigger and therefore better word for it. mebbe 'sectarian violence'? that sounds big and important too...

just checked out the Saul Williams version on youtube, and it's pretty good (I also found a version by Paramore... that was somewhat less enjoyable). you can definitely hear Trent Reznor's influence as producer shine through, which is cool as a NIN fan.


the best way I could sum up Ignite is that they do what they do very well. so if you like that cleaner, Epitaph-influenced style of punk, then you should like this, as they're vastly superior to the majority of their contemporaries.