2004 Bridge Nine Records
01. Promises Kept
02. Looking Back
03. Next Year
04. Decisions Made
05. Miles To Go
06. The Truth MP3
09. The Decline
10. The Break
11. Different Directions
12. Every Word
Many people who frequent this website know that musical trends are easy to identify and come and go quickly within the hardcore/independent music community. Within the past year or two most have probably noticed that the amount of melody placed within all of hardcore has increased with the same speed as the spreading of the trend. From bands that we would not have expected to fall to trends, to those that did not exist when this trend began.
As this musical glut reaches a fevered pitch, other musical genres such as the burgeoning "metal-core" and old-school hardcore scenes have also picked up steam. Granted, bands like In My Eyes and Bane have always kept their collective "eyes" peeled for the next crucial mosh or circle pit; however, the adoption of these trends has led to only limited mainstream notoriety. Now, with bands and labels like Terror, Bridge Nine, Rival promoting old school hardcore, in addition to the return of everyone's favorite, Madball, old school is back for a much needed revival.
Seattle's Champion, although begun with a very unoriginal band name, have ended up creating one of the most premiere records of this style in the past few years. After drafting more than one demo and EP, Champion committed to making their band a household name by developing a work ethic that is untarnished as well as refining a live show that is reminiscent of the greats of yesteryear, like Gorilla Biscuits and Dag Nasty. And this feat has come all from a band who has released only two EPs.
For its debut full-length, one might expect to hear an unpolished band who are attempting to get used to the idea of translating their ideas onto tape. This is not the case for Champion. After spending a great deal of time touring, the band became conditioned for the demands of the studio in addition to refining their live performance. By employing the recording talents of Kurt Ballou, Promises Kept feels much more like a natural, organic record rather than something that has been over-processed by pro-tools. The drums sound natural (which is always Kurt's strength) and the guitars sound warm and cutting. Oddly enough, there is no real evidence of the stereotypical Champion "anthem". Bands of this nature are usually typecast, known forever by that one song that they will never be able to phase out of their set (ie: Sick of It All "Clobberin Time" and Over My Dead Body "Over My Dead Body"). While some may view this as a hindrance, I would counter and say that Champion doesn't need to write that type of song in order to get noticed, they simply need to continue to produce the good, finger-pointing songs whose creation they have already mastered.
The guitar work of Chris Williams and Aram Arslanian strikes me in ways that are reminiscent of later Turning Point, who retained a hefty dose of melody, but never sacrificed it for the sake of a cheap mosh. Songs like "Next Year" and "Miles to Go" showcase that same ability. Lyrically, Jim Hesketh provides issues and material that is standard fair but does it in a manner that is contemporary, meaningful and passionate. In "Decisions Made" Hesketh states, "Chasing down regret from the night before, but every night your back for more;" It is not difficult for one to identify and empathize with every word uttered.
Bottom Line: "Promises Kept" is the epitome of a great hardcore record. While there is enough mosh to hold the interest of those looking for that release, the record is also backed up with enough intelligent musicianship and lyrical quality to make you feel like you have actually taken away something from the record rather than just letting it happen to you. No one can expect bands to stay this good forever, but the road Champion is on appears to lead to a bright future in this scene, as well as others, with this landmark record.