Only a few things in life can outmatch the smell of fresh air, the sip of a nice black coffee, and the sound of anti-authoritarian Hardcore Punk in the morning. As I was listening to the latest album from Chicago-based punk rockers Voice of Addiction, I couldn’t help but think of how and why lots of people claim punk is dead. Most if not all of my rhetorical questions have been answered on the album entitled “Divided States”. First and foremost I would love to highlight how brilliant the cover art is, and how political satire like this hasn’t been around in popular music for a long time. But then again, Punk was never “popular music” was it? In terms of sound, this record doesn’t play it safe by any means. It’s easy to diverge from the main genre when it has (no pun intended here) many offspring. I will try as much as I can to break the album’s strengths and weaknesses down.
The album kicks off with the track “Division Complex” which felt like an ode to bands like Rise Against and The Exploited, except for the somewhat melodic chorus. The second track “Bad Decisions” wasn’t melodic per se, but rather anthemic. I loved how the thunderous snare drums accentuate the verses and anthemic chorus. Then the song surprised me with a tempo change to a slower part with clearer vocals near its ending and a different chorus. I already knew this album was not gonna be all about showing off and heaviness. These guys must have some wild mosh pits in their concerts with such a brand of punk rock. On the third track “Shinigami”, we hear a cool intro that goes with such a cool name. The chords played on the verses sound melodic on this one and they’re a breath of fresh air in the middle of the hard-hitting hardcore stuff on the other tracks. It almost felt like I was listening to The Ramones because of the catchiness of the chorus.
My favourite track on the album, and one of its milestones, is the fourth track “Corpocracy” which starts with relentless heaviness and killer vocals. I was amazed at the subtle details of the bassline and how I could hear it over the fast-paced drumming in the first half of the song. The second half was a little slower and had one more of those anthemic choruses which I totally dug. The following track “I Hate It” brings the bass more forward, and is the first song to have an actual guitar solo which was a nice surprise. It’s another modern-sounding and melodic track. Track six “We’re Not Free” feels like it was entirely composed around the bassline, and that arrangement reminded me of a Dutch band that not enough people know called Heideroosjes. Some of the album’s most clever lyrical moments and anti-US ideology are here on this track. The seventh track “Bought and Sold” didn’t really appeal to me, although it shows a cooler side of the band and has some funky writing it didn’t feel as angry and ferocious as previous tracks. The eighth track “Great Mistake” reminded me of why hardcore is considered the progenitor of Thrash Metal. The track is bone-crushingly heavy and the vocals are screamed at the top of the Lead vocalist’s lungs which gave me the right amount of hype, especially with the album’s lyrics being the socio-political satire they are. The ninth track “Prison Food ” is another short one that’s straightforward and to the point. That point being pure punk rock that’s equal parts melodic as well draining heavy chord progressions that strike you like a huge wall of sound.
The tenth track “Eraser” begins with a chord that makes it feel like a continuation of the previous track. A nice exchange occurs between the lead and backing vocals, but other than that the track’s first couple of minutes were pretty predictable. At the two-minute mark a speech that sums up the album’s lyrical themes, and hence the problems of living amongst corruption in the USA. This speech felt like it would’ve been a great ending to an album to end its coherent ideas and concept. But there were three more tracks, named “Darwin”, “Where’s The Freedom”, and “Wrong Turn”. Out of the three “Darwin” was the only one which felt like it brought a new touch to the album, which was the nice licks that the lead guitar plays throughout the verses. I understand why this song is essential to the record because it’s the only one with such riffs rather than chords or basslines. As for the latter two tracks, which are two minutes long each, they had great musicianship but felt like they made the album drag a little longer than it needed to get its idea across. I would’ve preferred to see them as bonus tracks or B-sides.
In conclusion, I would like to pay my respects to the whole legacy and history of the punk genre, which is far from dead. Maybe what dies was the purists who refused to innovate, and in the case of these angsty and politically-charged dudes, they made a record that’s overflowing with creativity. It doesn’t shy away from melodies and modern-sounding phrases and leaves no unmet expectations. This is an all-around solid record, and this is coming from a metalhead whose arch nemeses are supposed to be the punks. But jokes aside this album managed to make me comprehend and like genre tropes that I’m not entirely used to, and that in itself speaks volumes.