Label: Self released
Date: August 18th, 2023
When it says in the press kit that the band in question comes from California and performs hardcore punk, there really is no need to convince me further. The two terms are stamped together deep in my brain. Not even the early US thrash metal, also stemming from California, is tied as much. Not in my book.
However, Last Leg are there to clear up whatever shady space the above stated might leave. Sound wise, first and foremost. Turns out, my ties to Californian hardcore are strictly related to that trademarked style of melodic, skate, “pop” hardcore punk. Stopping to consider this debutant fourpiece (trio on the album apparently), there really is a possibility that one can live in California and play something other than the mentioned distillate of No Use For A Name, Ignite, Bad Religion and their likes.
Now that I have that option figured out, I must admit I can hear a bit of a “homeschooled backdrop” on “Trendsetter”. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not writing about some cheesy melodic line. I’m thinking of the intensity on display at the angriest moments of Pennywise or Bad Religion. In other words, the pieces of their legacy not commonly associated to them. Other than that, Last Leg relies mostly on the other side of the continent for inspiration. Specifically, I’m thinking of a sound that swerves from New York’s Gorilla Biscuits, through Baltimore’s heroes Trapped Under Ice, southbound to Washington’s own Minor Threat. There’s more from Baltimore, but more on that later on.
Anyway, Last Leg performs wrathful and (naturally) socially conscious hardcore with all the might and power the genre requires. On the flipside, the band portrays a mid-tempo, stomping punk, thus coming to the mixture that is most definitely not unique, but effective nonetheless.
Except when they are not. For some reason, the boys decided they need a part that is decidedly death metal in the final twenty seconds of “Parasite”. Piece that is not necessary, nor does it help anything. It doesn’t make the song standout. It doesn’t make a difference other than to pointlessly confuse the listener. I take it as an experiment that didn’t quite need to be there and I hope that it would either bring along a connotation in the form of some future improvement, or be left as an attempt of an episode.
Contrary to the previous step outside the box, what follows closely is the opening of the very next song, “Wallow in the Haze”. I actually had to check if that one was a cover. Turns out it is not, but that gave me a strange feeling of yet another weird hardcore superstar from Baltimore, Maryland. You certainly guessed it, Turnstile. Not in the sense that the music style is too similar, but the song has a certain flow and the sense of freedom of expression that reminded me of the famed ones. A significantly more successful experiment than the one I pointed out before.
At close to four minutes long, almost twice as long as any of its predecessors, the track guides you through a sentimental introduction and a melancholic, emo segment, to a straight-forward hardcore nutcracker, only to repeat the whole process once again. The middle of the track is downright atmospheric metal in its root. The one to make you feel, definitely. Plus, the poetry on this one is way deeper than on any of the other four songs. The voice, too. It goes through a few phases that are quite expressive and offer a full range of needed emotions.
Under thirteen minutes of “Trendsetter”, all together, gives us a picture of a young band that seems to have started with a clean view of what they want, but somewhere along the line went in an unpredictable direction. I dare say, “Wallow in the Haze” came naturally to them. Naturally and unexpectedly, from a series of writing sessions, as a result of what a combined effort of Last Leg’s members brings along. What’s more, I believe this song might just become what Last Leg is ultimately all about. While the other four are neat enough, they are fairly canonical hardcore we all know and adore. The one to end this debut EP is the one that can bring a distinct identity to Last Leg with many listeners.