I remember the first time I ever saw Black Flag’s iconic logo. I was reading an article in 1998 about a New York band who were gearing up to release their second full-length for Roadrunner Records. The singer was wearing a white T-shirt with the now-legendary four bars printed in black. That band was Vision Of Disorder and their album was called ‘Imprint’.
As a teenager, that was a significant moment for me. At that time, Sick Of It All’s Scratch The Surface was the most extreme punk record in my collection. Now I was being presented with a band who took that sound to a heavier and much darker place. Vocalist Tim William’s T-shirt was a history lesson in itself – a window to the past that led to my discovery of early US hardcore bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. It wasn’t just veteran groups that sparked my interest either; my ears were now open to VOD’s metallic contemporaries. Bands like Earth Crisis, Snapcase and Strife pushed the hardcore genre into aggressive new territories. I couldn’t get enough of what I heard.
What made Imprint a gateway record can be attributed to Roadrunner’s influence in the rock press. In the ’90s, the label was home to some of the biggest names in metal. Bands such as Sepultura, Machine Head and Life Of Agony found great success in partnering up with the label and Roadrunner became tastemakers in their field. Vision Of Disorder were no longer just another punk band; their fusion of metal and hardcore made them become regular fixtures in rock magazines.
It’s fair to say that Imprint was the first successful metalcore album, especially when you consider the components of their music. The band were heavily influenced by punk acts like Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front. The Long Island five-piece cut their teeth in the New York hardcore scene and injected their aggressive, fast-paced style with the groove and heaviness of bands like Pantera. Tim William’s vocals would range from all-out screaming to sung melodies – a tool of the metalcore trade since developed by bands like Killswitch Engage and Trivium. While these artists would later polish the sound and establish a formula for heavy verses and melodic choruses, Vision Of Disorder maintained the abrasive nature of their hardcore roots and without sounding too soft or mainstream.
William’s diverse vocal performance on this album is backed by Mike Fleischmann’s thundering bass guitar; Brendon Cohen struck a balance between groove and pace with his drumming on this record and never overplayed his parts, while Matt Baumbach and Mike Kennedy’s mix of thrash guitar lines and metal riffage captured their ferocious live sound perfectly. It seemed Texan giants Pantera approved of this genre fusion, with lead singer Phil Anselmo providing his trademark guttural screams to fourth track, By The River.
Vision Of Disorder disbanded in 2002 and would reunite six years later. Their most recent album, The Cursed Remain Cursed was released in 2012 through Candlelight Records, yet Imprint remains the most enduring and influential album of its genre.