"some music was meant to stay underground..."

108 - "18.61" (CD)

108 - "18.61" CD cover image

"18.61" track listing:

1. God Talk (1:04)
2. Crescent Moon (1:28)
3. 18.61 (2:22)
4. Reduced (2:20)
5. Relentless Masters (2:20)
6. Fallen Angel (1:47)
7. Mannequins (2:01)
8. Ashes/Dust (2:12)
9. Forever Is Destroyed (2:49)
10. Early Funeral (5:10)

Reviewed by on April 17, 2010

"The slower melodies may turn off the die-hards who want their hardcore music to be frantic and hot-headed, but the tight song lengths, coupled with a few eye-raising tracks, makes for a rich album."

A hardcore band that bases their inspiration on the Hare Krishna mantra, 108 has just put out their fifth studio album, and second since reuniting after a decade hiatus, “18.61.” With a new drummer in tow and a sludgy approach, the band strips down their songwriting to its bare essentials and delivers a strong follow-up to their 2007 comeback album, “A New Beat From A Dead Heart.” The slower melodies may turn off the die-hards who want their hardcore music to be frantic and hot-headed all the time, but the tight song lengths, coupled with a few eye-raising tracks, makes for a rich album.

With “18.61,” the band has honed in their sound and cut out the excess waste. The album clocks in at a short 23 minutes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all hardcore ferocity from start to finish. While the first two tracks, “God Talk” and “Crescent Moon,” are straightforward blasts of hardcore, the rest of the songs explore different sonic plains. “Mannequins” slinks along with a sly bass lead that transitions repeatedly from spoken word diatribes to sharp bouts of fury. The dirty opening riff to “Ashes/Dust” has an infectious twist to it and “Relentless Masters” features a guest spot by Jacob Bannon of Converge fame.

The lyrics continue to explore the metaphysical and spiritual topics that have been prevalent on previous albums. The imagery is vivid on several tracks, where the prime emotions are ones of contempt and succumbing to destiny. “Wheeling planets waste my mind into paste” and “Sinew threads tie me to my fate” give off a feeling of hopelessness to the title track. Vocalist Robert Fish screams and yells these lyrics like somebody that has just been stabbed in the heart, painful yelps that strike all the right chords.

However, Fish trades in his harsh tone for a lighter approach on closer “Early Funeral.” A low-key acoustic ballad, the grim undertones are supported by Fish’s hollow clean vocals that are buried deep in the background. While the band has added influences from Indian music in the past, there is nothing more than a few acoustic guitars and soft percussion at play here. It’s an effective closer that may surprise quite a few people in the hardcore community.

While the first few tracks are pure, unadulterated hardcore, the rest of the album avoids the faster tendencies of the genre. The band seems more constraint, saving the explosive energy for select moments. “Fallen Angel” is one of these moments and is perfectly placed right in the middle of the album; almost a break from the rest of the mid-paced material. The band hardly stumbles with maintaining this pace, though “Forever Is Destroyed” doesn’t really go anywhere with the three minutes it takes up. The strong rhythm work makes even the lesser songs stand out. Drummer Michael Justian is the standout performer, bringing an urgency to the music that was evident in his previous work with Trap Them and Unearth.

“18.61” is a good album that doesn’t break any new ground for 108, but is punctual and sharp with its methodical songwriting. The most compelling question that comes out of this album is what the future holds for the band, with the recent shakeup in the lineup. Losing frontman Robert Fish will have a lasting impact on the band and “18.61” could possibly be the last chapter of this era of the band’s career. No matter what direction 108 heads in, “18.61” is a strong continuation of their last album that isn’t content with sticking to the expectations of the hardcore genre.

Highs: Slower approach to their signature sound, haunting acoustic ballad "Early Funeral," deep spiritual lyrics.

Lows: A few more speedy tracks would have been welcomed, "Forever Is Destroyed" meanders along aimlessly.

Bottom line: "18.61" is another deep album from 108 that goes for a methodical sonic assault.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)