By: Sam “Germ” Rees
Holy shit, where do I even begin with this EP? I promise you, dear reader, that this is a good holy shit, not a bad holy shit like when you walk into your apartment to find out the landlord has stolen your furniture and now wants you to pay for a new one after claiming you’re the one who stole it! …sorry venting some personal issues there. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, LIV.
Living In Victory (previously abbreviated to LIV) is an old school hardcore/Oi! band from LA’s South Bay formed in 2012. Their raw speed and aggression is only matched by their kickass vocals and ability to generate as much hype as possible. Their recently released “Freeman” Ep, consisting of four tracks (Freeman, United Stomp, SBS, and Kingdom Come) is a buzz bomb that brings back a lot of memories of other old hardcore bands.
Due to its drumming style and vocal delivery, along with the fact the EP only lasts 8 minutes and 39 seconds, the tracks remind me a lot of bands like Minor Threat, as they’ve gone down in history with famously short songs. This goes along with a no nonsense attitude that comes from the band’s lyrics, which sing about freedom, rebellion, and being yourself. These things call back to the era of straight edge hardcore youth crew, and I think it’s an EP that older listeners will really like for nostalgia’s sake. It’s still so fresh and raw that it will draw in a younger crowd who will also find something they can enjoy on it. FYI, I’ll probably be mentioning Minor Threat a lot in this article because the EP sounds like a mixture of them and the crossover thrash band Municipal Waste.
The first track on the EP is the titular song “Freeman,” an explosion straight out of the gates with a great riff and beat matched by some pretty good old school vocals. As much as I enjoyed this track I did find that it suffered from the problems I often see in modern day hardcore. The vocals, while solid, did sometimes come across as a little whiny, with the pronunciation of the track title “Freeman” being pronounced as “Freemaayynn.” Luckily enough there were broken up patches that allowed for lower pitch sections that worked really well. I also found that the song has the problem prevalent in a lot of old hardcore songs; the lyrics sing about concepts like “freedom” and being “unfulfilled,” but they just use these terms as if they are something to be ticked off on a list of stereotypes. They manage to use so many phrases but not actually say anything. At the end of this track I walked away feeling that I knew nothing about how the vocalist really feels. I got in contact with Living In Victory and they told me that the song was about finding actions you do that you don’t like and calling them out, which made a lot of sense, but I wish I could have gotten that through the song itself.
The only technical problem I could find was that the vocals had been cut up in editing and laid to interrupt themselves in the switch from verse to chorus. See this isn’t really a problem, it’s just more of a pet peeve of mine. This tends to make things a lot more difficult to perform live to the standard people are expecting. That being said, Minor Threat used this all the time, but that was due to the fact they were working with fairly basic equipment at the time. Despite all my criticism, the track still kicks total ass.
The second track (United Stomp) instantly gives me the feeling of when I was 18, being driven around in my bandmates car at 3 AM, fucked up in every way possible, and listening to “The Art Of Partying” by Municipal Waste. It’s got the rhythm and the right vocal delivery, and a nice change in guitar pacing from just the standard hardcore continuous playing. There’s a secondary vocalist included on this track, due to a lack of information I can’t say who it is, but I feel they definitely need to be used a little more. While the lead vocalist has much more range, this secondary vocalist on this track has a much more brutal tone to their voice. The song kind of becomes a clone of the previous track towards the end, which is something I’d suggest the band try to avoid. Apart from that it’s a pretty solid track.
The third track, “SBS” or “Scums of South Bay,” is the song on the EP where I find it most obvious that Living In Victory has been heavily influenced by a lot of Oi! punk. After contacting the band they told me one of their major influences was the English Oi! band 4skins. This influence becomes obvious when the song’s chorus kicks in and we get an almost football hooligan-esk chant of the song’s title. This along with the song being about where the band’s from and applying a working class attitude to the lyrics, you can clearly see where the song has taken inspiration from. The only problem (which I can’t even really warrant as a problem), is that I personally don’t like Oi!, and that’s just my preference. This to me means that I’m not really fit to judge this track, but if I’m judging it as an old school hardcore track, I’d say it’s not too bad but could do with some work as it comes across a little flat.
“Kingdom Come” is the fourth and final track on the EP, and it’s kind of a fusion of the crossover trash vibe I mentioned earlier, with an Oi! song. I’m not sure how I feel about it. There’s nothing wrong with the track itself, but when you get to this point in the EP, it starts to feel like the band is just hitting the same note over and over. The tracks seem to blur together and can’t be distinguished from each other.
It just seem like there’s skill there–the band knows what they are doing and they are talented musicians. They need to change things up a little bit, experiment with their sound. If they want to keep just playing old school hardcore and Oi!, that’s totally fine, if it’s what they enjoy playing. Part of me might even argue the idea that they’re enjoyment is more important. But if they want to make something great, they need to see what else is out there, what they can do and make.
At the end of the day this is a pretty good EP. The first two tracks are fantastic, but, for me, after that it’s just more of the same. I hope I do see more from these guys in the future. As I said they’re good musicians. I just want to see more experimentation from them with different sounds.
“Freeman” is a definitely a track I’ll be revisiting, even if only to show friends who I think will also enjoy it. I just hope there’s more to Living In Victory. I want more damn it! It’s a pretty solid EP and I’m giving it a 3.8 out of 5.