In 2000, I was working part-time at the closest thing Watford had to a record shop. Virgin Megastore (RIP) may have been lacking in fashionable underground releases but they made up for it with the metal shelves, which were fairly well-stocked with the latest punk bands’ releases. This is largely because, as an employee, I’d make bold attempts to guarantee indie record labels like Epitaph, Fat Wreck, Revelation, and Victory had as much presence as the majors.
These smaller labels would release low-priced compilation CDs showcasing up and coming releases – a sort of ‘try before you buy’ scheme before MP3s came along and flooded the music industry. Victory Records’ series of budget comps were named Victory Style and usually delivered crushing hardcore from the likes of Earth Crisis, Snapcase and Integrity. The fourth compilation in the series was discernible for featuring a raw and passionate band that acknowledged memorable guitar lines and catchy hooks. This was the first time I’d heard of Delaware’s BoySetsFire. Their song Rookie instantly grabbed my attention and my excitement wouldn’t abate until I bought the album, After The Eulogy.
Released in the summer of 2000, their second album is a deeply emotive and politically aware contribution to the post-hardcore genre. What made this album stand out for me was the way in which the lyrics dictated the tone of the music. The album’s opening track, After The Eulogy, is a blatant call to arms, launching with the gang chant “Rise!” over a metallic guitar breakdown. It’s fast-paced and raucous and builds with the line, “Where’s your anger? Where’s your fucking rage?” repeated over and over, which incited a small revolution within me.
Elsewhere on the album, My Life In The Knife Trade is a contrast to the brutal onslaught of the album’s title track. It’s a melancholy tale about betrayal and survival, stating, “All the worst enemies are somehow always friends that used to be”. The quiet guitar parts and heartfelt melodies are more in tune with the emo sound of the late ’90s than the aggressive hardcore that introduces the album.
The album’s anthem Rookie, the song which drew me to the band, sits somewhere between the two. A driving beat and simple bass line allows Chad Istvan and Josh Latshaw space for their guitars to harmonise before making way for a massive chorus. Without a doubt, this is the album’s highlight and of BoySetsFire’s career as a whole.
This mix of different genres may sound confusing on paper, but their diverse musical styles are well-balanced throughout the recording. Yet at Connecticut’s Carriage House Studios, they used just two guitar tones: clean or distorted. This simple production technique creates a uniform sound that ties all the songs together, while singer Nathan Gray’s passionate vocal delivery never wavers; in particular, his raspy scream sits beautifully next to his singing on tracks like Twelve Step Hammer Program.
After The Eulogy is filled with every emotion from love to hate and the 14-track album made a huge connection with hardcore fans around the world. To this day, the demand for them to perform songs from this release has never weakened.