Still Alive are a four piece hardcore punk and reggae band from Chicago. The band, who are influenced by bands such as The Suicide Machines, The Flaming Tsunamis, Leftöver Crack and Choking Victim, are one I previously became aware of following the release of their 2015 album Choices. Now, going through the Bandcamp discoveries section, I found a new EP from Still Alive named Assemble which I was very keen to check out.
Assemble begins with the track Path To Collapse. This track definitely focuses on the hardcore side of Still Alive's sound. Beginning with some heavy guitars and hard hitting drums that get you headbanging immediately. When the vocals come in we are treated to some intense but clean vocals that are harmonised by the more ferocious, growling style. This really grabs you. As the song progresses it morphs into a skacore song before reverting back to an extremely heavy drop. This little ska break in the middle of the song was welcome and I kind of wish it went on for a little longer. Up next is the song Black Mirror. This track does fulfil my need for ska punk. It quite brilliantly mixes hardcore and ska. Starting out in a relentless manor, it's a circle pit opening start to the song. Things soon switch to the ska and you can hear the Leftöver Crack influence. The song is about missing days gone by where all communication wasn't done via your phone and you actually spoke to people face to face. The third song, Schedule One, is a superb hardcore track. Hardcore isn't really my punk genre of choice but I loved this song. It filled me with energy and had the usual mild mannered and calm Colin really wanting to charge around in a mosh pit. The ska guitars during the song's opening pull you into the song before the track hits you like a tornado and by its finale you are well and truly spent.
Static is another track that is almost all heavy hardcore fun but Still Alive use the ska element to their sound brilliantly to create a breakdown before building the song back up to its furious best. The track is about how the media portray the news to the consumer in a certain way that isn't always the way Still Alive feel like it should be. Jumpstart is a proper crack-rocksteady song and is my favourite on Assemble. Compared to the harder nature of the previous tracks on the EP, Jumpstart almost feels summery. It treads that fine line between feeling quite relaxed and also hitting you hard. I'm not sure how this is possible but Still Alive have pulled it off excellently. It's one of the more catchy songs on the EP, you'll quickly be singing along with the chorus with some passion. The penultimate song is the EP's title track, Assemble. This is another really strong song that jumps between relentless hardcore and wonderful skacore. I loved how seamlessly the two styles are linked up on Assemble, as if it's the most natural thing in the world. There is just so much passion and energy in the song that it's hard not to get swept away in the song. The track's message is a great one, it's about a community coming together and fighting for what they want. Finally we have the song Blueprints, finishing the EP off with a slower, more melodic song about going away and starting again with a better plan. It's a politically charged song filled with passion and anger. There is a finality to the song that also manages to leave you wanting much more.
I don't often review hardcore for CPRW, there are other members of the team who enjoy the genre much more than me. However, throw in a bit of ska and I absolutely love it. Still Alive aren't the most well known band here in the UK but based on the strength of this EP I can see their fan base growing this side of the Atlantic.
Stream and download Assemble here: https://stillalive.bandcamp.com/album/assemble
Like Still Alive here: https://www.facebook.com/StillAliveChicago/
This review was written by Colin Clark.