The Classic Struggle - Feel Like Hell - Metal Blade Records 2005
12 Songs
Running Time: 56:03

I'm pissed. Practically livid, in fact. How exactly does a band like South Carolina's The Classic Struggle sneak three demos past my radar, only to bludgeon my senses with what could be the best hardcore album of the year?

The militant pummeling of 'Death March' is deceiving, and nearly had me thinking "Oh Christ, not another Hatebreed-lite.", but that's only until the flesh-rending thrash at the two-minute mark set this band firmly out of the followers crowd and into that of those actually struggling to find their own sound in a time when not encouraged to do so by the mass media. Sure, you could make references to The Crown or Ten Ton Diesel Head when discussing Feel Like Hell, but if you dig deeper, what you have is an album of intense battle metal slammed against passionate hardcore, and not only living through the crash, but thriving in the wreckage. 'Amen To Artillery' begins with a near-doom riff, only to blast into the first verse, then drag you down through a Bleed For Me-styled interlude - and we're only thirty seconds into the song. Make no mistake about it, The Classic Struggle should kneel and give thanks to the inventor of the breakdown, because if you take those away, it trims this album to about half of its extended playing time. Still and all, when the vocals bleed such passion, when the music comes from the heart and not the desire to pad the wallet, it's hard not to subscribe to The Classic Struggle's take on things. Lamb Of God riffage and a more static style of chording place this band firmly in the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal camp, as opposed to the more fluid chops of their European counterparts. One of the shortest songs here, 'Burn The Fallen', uses its 3:36 to cement this fact, rarely falling below warp speed, and clearing a path for 'Storm Of Swords', which is my favourite on this disc. On 'Storm...', TCS's Tyler Solnosky follows some oldschool tremolo action with off-time rhythm while managing to inject a straight rock pattern into the attack (1:42-1:50). 'Claim Your Own' is another high point of an album filled with many already, machinegun snares strafing the fleeing and fallen while Zlinsky's vocals rage with the urgency of someone who's just swallowed a grenade.

Released through the partnership between Trevor Phipps' (Unearth) Ironclad Recordings and heavyweight Metal Blade, Feel Like Hell will prove that there's more to the hardcore scene than that which comes from Massachusetts. Clocking in at just under an hour (the long album being a death sentence for a band without the chops to back it up), The Classic Struggle have released the first metalcore album of the year that can bear the name with pride instead of embarrassment.

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