If you looked up integrity in the dictionary, you wouldn’t see a picture of Sick of it All because dictionaries don’t have pictures, but if they did there’s a pretty good chance they’d make it in. Thirty years into their career these New York City punks have never once sold out or even dipped a toe over the line. Their hardcore is still as fast, abrasive and easy to chant along with as it ever has been.
To celebrate those thirty years, they’ve released When The Smoke Clears a five track EP accompanied by a coffee table book. If you’ve paid the slightest bit of attention over that time, you’ll know what it sounds like.
‘When The Smoke Clears’ opens with a marching beat and the gang vocals come in straight from the start. It’s a big foot-stomper that is begging to be shouted along with. We then barrel into ‘Black Venom’ which is a slower affair and brings the heavy. Unfortunately, ‘Blood & Steal’ does feel like Sick of it All by the numbers. It’s never bad, and fans will lap it up, but you can’t see it going down as a classic. Thankfully, ‘Fortress’ sees things out nicely, and the all together sing along of ‘when your world goes wrong, these walls will never fall’ feels like it should be being screamed back at the band already.
The music here is outshined by what accompanies it, though, and it’s in the book that you’ll find the real treasures. Packed full of photos from that 30-year career it is a must have for any fan. It’s also proof, as if anyone needs it, of just how extensive Sick of it All’s influence is. Everyone from Dennis Lyxzén (Refused) to Chuck Ragen (Hot Water Music) write about the effect their music and the various members of the band have had on their lives. It’s a loving tribute to a group that deserve it more than most.
When the Smoke Clears isn’t for the person who is getting into Sick of it All for the first time. If you are in that spot, go back and explore those thirty-years before you get to this. For everyone else, whether that be hardcore fans or the casuals, this is a timely reminder that Sick of it All are one of those bands that inspire greatness and a few nice tunes to go along with it too.