Sunday Old School: Sick Of It All
This week's edition of Sunday Old School is a slightly strange one, in that we've already covered our focused band before, in one of the very first Sunday Old School columns. However, given that it only looked at one song, it seemed unfair to give so little attention to one of the greatest hardcore bands in the history of the legendary New York hardcore scene. So this week, we'll be taking a closer look at Queens' own, Sick of it All. Sick of it All were formed around 1985 by brothers Lou and Pete Koller, who sang and played guitar in the band respectively, along with bass player Mark McNielly and drummer David Lamb. They began performing regularly in the local music scene, where they rapidly improved their sound and demonstrated their ability to write memorable hardcore tunes. After Lamb and McNielly left the band, the Koller brothers recruited bass player Rich Cipriano and former Rest In Pieces drummer Armand Majidi to record their first demo in 1987, with a self-titled seven inch record following later the same year. In 1988, the band signed to In-Effect Records and released their first full length album, "Blood, Sweat and No Tears" in the summer of 1989.
The album was a hit in the hardcore scene, and received favourable reviews from music critics, and led them to tours with other highly respected hardcore bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Agnostic Front. They followed, "Blood, Sweat and No Tears" with an EP named, "We Stand Alone" in 1991, which featured two new original recordings, as well as a cover of the Minor Threat song, "Betray" and nine live tracks, before releasing their second full length album, "Just Look Around" in 1992. "Just Look Around" was another success for the band and this time allowed them to tour internationally, taking them to South America, Europe and Japan.
Sick of it All then took something of a controversial step when they signed to major label, EastWest Records, then home to such acts as Dream Theater. Despite the initial wariness of fans, the band released one of their strongest albums to date, "Scratch the Surface" in October 1994. It spawned two music videos, one for the title track and one for, "Step Down," the latter of which was featured on the hit MTV show, "Beavis and Butthead." The album was also notable for being their first with new bass player, Craig Setari, who joined after Cipriano left in 1993. The growing stature of the band kept the band on the road for some time, and it wouldn't be until 1997 that they released their fourth album, "Built To Last." The album proved to be well worth the wait and featured several songs which are still performed regularly today, including the title track, "Good Looking Out" and the anthemic, "Us vs. Them." Although the album featured a slightly more traditional punk sound, it led them to tour with some of the biggest names in extreme metal, such as British grindcore heroes, Napalm Death and Brazilian thrashers, Sepultura.
"Built To Last" marked the end of their contract with EastWest and the band decided to sign to Fat Wreck Chords, owned by NOFX vocalist Fat Mike, and released their first album for their new label, "Call To Arms" in 1999. The album spawned one single, "Potential For a Fall" (which had been released as an EP the previous year) and featured more future live staples such as, "Let Go" and the excellent title track. They quickly followed, "Call To Arms" with another album, "Yours Truly" in 2000, which wasn't as well received as their previous records, despite featuring some very strong songs. Lou Koller believes the album's strange artwork contributed to the negative press. More releases came thick and fast however, including their first home video, "The Story So Far" in 2001, as well as a live album entitled, "Live In A Dive," before releasing their seventh studio album, "Life On The Ropes" in 2003, which featured Cro-Mags vocalist John Joseph as a guest vocalist on the track, "Paper Tiger," as well as an animated music video for the opening song, "Relentless." The next year, they released what would be their last record for Fat Wreck Chords, "Outtakes for the Outcast," which was made up of covers, b-sides and even a bootleg track, namely an alternative version of "Just Look Around," which featured hip-hop act, House Of Pain.
After leaving Fat Wreck Chords, the band signed to Abacus Records, a subsidiary of Century Media Records, for their next album, which was eventually released in 2006 under the name, "Death To Tyrants." The record received heavy promotion and helped to raise the band's status even higher, earning the band strong reviews from critics. The album featured some more top quality songs such as, "Uprising Nation," "Die Alone" and of particular note, "Take the Night Off," which has become a regular in the Sick of it All setlist since it's release. The success of the album, much like that of, "Scratch the Surface" kept them on the road for a long time, during which a tribute album was released, featuring Sick of it All songs covered by the likes of Hatebreed, Pennywise, Napalm Death, Sepultura and Madball, before the band broke their record of the longest gap between albums by unleashing their ninth studio album, "Based on a True Story" in 2010 through Century Media. The album once again received critical acclaim amongst the music press, was met well by fans and took them straight back out on the road, including two appearances at Belgium's biggest heavy music festival, Graspop Metal Meeting. In 2011, the band released, "Nonstop" a collection of older material which had been re-recorded by the band to give it the sound they claim they had always wanted. Some versions of the record also featured, "The Story So Far" as a bonus DVD, marking the first time the film has been released on this format. Currently, the band are hard at work on their tenth album, which will most likely be released next year and fans and critics alike are expecting yet another classic from the hard working quartet, to add their catalogue of essential hardcore music.
Sick of it All - "Injustice System!"
Sick of it All - "Scratch the Surface"
Sick of it All - "Us vs. Them"
Sick of it All - "Potential For A Fall"
Sick of it All - "District"
Sick of it All - "Take the Night Off"
Sick of it All - "Death Or Jail"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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