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96 - "Caught In The Grips" (CD)

96 - "Caught In The Grips" CD cover image

"Caught In The Grips" track listing:

1. Had Enough (2:49)
2. Losing Grip (1:40)
3. Darker Days (:38)
4. Fast Money (2:11)
5. Hard Luck (:51)
6. Culture Shock (:58)
7. Stray Dogs (1:43)
8. Dried Up (3:03)
9. Walk About (1:06)
10. 16 Inches (1:25)
11. Iced Tea (:25)
12. Last Part (1:46)
13. Rise Up (3:12)

Reviewed by on February 25, 2013

"New Jersey has always had a great underground hardcore/metal scene, and 96 is one of the bright talents to emerge from it with 'Caught in the Grips.'"

New Jersey hardcore act 96 came into my line of sight with two EPs, “The Blizzard” and “D.O.T.D.” These two releases were very strong, showing a youthful energy that avoided the perils of being a breakdown-heavy mess. Rough around the edges, the EPs provided a foundation for 96 to make the most out of in a LP format. With “Caught in the Grips,” it’s clear that the years refining their songwriting paid off. Twenty minutes of throwback, yet modernized, hardcore is what comes from “Caught in the Grips.”

Contained within that 20 minutes ranges from a mid-paced groove in “Rise Up” to wild theatrics, like the guitar solo that opens up “Culture Shock.” Only two songs pass the three-minute mark, and they are some of the weaker tracks on “Caught in the Grips.” The band excels when lengths are kept to a minute or so, allowing space for their exuberant riffs to go from a category five tornado to a fist-throwing bounce.

Playing shows alongside legendary acts Cro-Mags and Suicidal Tendencies seemed to have worn off on 96 in ways that weren’t evident on their previous EPs. The latter band comes out on several shorter tracks, including the whiplash-inducing “Darker Days.” There’s even a metallic mood built into “Had Enough,” and the crossover thrash mechanics are not far from “Rise Up” and “Losing Grip.” 96 has their hearts in the early days of hardcore, right as the genre was beginning to welcome in more thrashier components.

Though there are some reflective lyrics, “Caught in the Grips” is not without its humorous moments. “16 Inches” plays off the numbing job of a pizza delivery guy, doing the same thing so much that quitting appears to be a superior option. The former track was originally on “The Blizzard,” but sounds way better on this studio album. The few tracks that are taken from the EPs (“Hard Luck,” Stray Dogs”) are given stellar treatment on this album. “Iced Tea” is a blazing tune about the cold drink, over in under half a minute with reckless appeal.

New Jersey has always had a great underground hardcore/metal scene, and 96 is one of the bright talents to emerge from it with “Caught in the Grips.” There’s an undeniable pull that this band has on a listener, whether you’re a fan of hardcore music or not. They come out with a fireball of acceleration, and keep it going for long enough to not be weighed down by filler. A general lack of one-note breakdowns and cheesy gang chants, along with a wiry sense of humor, all benefit 96 on their frantic debut full-length album.

Highs: Catchy hardcore, the occasional wild guitar moments, twenty minutes is a perfect length

Lows: When the band gets past three minutes on a few songs, the results aren't as strong.

Bottom line: A great debut from 96 that works off the potential heard on their previous EPs.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

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)