Hardcore and punk increasingly become difficult genres to write about. There is a certain complacency within these genres that above all out, no matter how generic the record may be, passion can carry it to the top. After all, it was a founding principle of the genres and is still basically true. A hardcore record without passion is no hardcore record. It falls flat, becomes boring, and feels like some lame attempt to try and forcefully market to a counter culture that was never made to be marketed to.
The second issue with writing about hardcore is that the fans are ravenously passionate. While you may not be feeling the record and deem your score fair, others aren’t quite so understanding. Mediocrity is not only tolerated, but almost encouraged as innovation and any deviation from the norm is considered too showy for hardcore’s bare-knuckle approach. But, let’s be realistic for a second, and accept that hardcore has always been showy. You don’t get a man who flings his own shit or a bunch of kids drawing x’s on their hands without being a bit showy. As much as hardcore fans hate to admit it, part of the fun of hardcore is the image. The bands who can amplify that image while still subtly sneaking into musical territory, such as is the case with Greek hardcore band Sarabante.
Realistically, Sarabante isn’t bringing anything too new to the table in terms of innovation in hardcore in the past 20 or so years. For the most part, the record thrives on fairly straightforward, crusty hardcore reminiscent of bands such as Tragedy. However where the band thrives is how they utilize that sound. Sarabante takes the first cliche of hardcore, the passion, and uses it to their full advantage. Greece is in crisis right now and the band fully channels their frustration as Greek citizens. Every riff, drum beat, and vocal line is delivered with such forcefulness that even being a half a world away, a listener could still tell things are pretty shitty. This makes the whole thing feel very authentic and in that sense helps Poisonous Legacy succeed as a hardcore record.
Despite their passion though, Sarabante still struggles a bit to fully establish their own identity musically. Through out the record bits and pieces of a truly unique sound can be heard. Often they come as slight deviations in the otherwise steady onslaught of neo-crust hardcore, such as the spacey-er feel of “Ισοβιοσ Φοβοσ”. And, following this track, the listener does get a bit of a peak into more of what they can do. The tracks become a bit more melodic and less focused on the d-beats, helping to break up the overall tempo of the record. It’s more engaging and feels a bit more anthemic as if their anger represented in the first half of the record is now being used for a complete overthrow. Sadly, however, it is too little too late and makes the first half of the record feel a bit out of place and lack luster in comparison. It’s almost as if you sat and listened to Doom for a while then out of nowhere, BAM, someone put on Fall of Efrafa. Both bands are good in their own respect but also have a totally different feel and the transition would undoubtedly feel awkward.
Perhaps the best way to end is to simply examine Sarabante through the lens of another similar (albeit more popular) band. With the band Oathbreaker, Maelstrom provided a firm jumping on point for many who were completely new to them. Oathbreaker hinted at their black metal influences and the musical range they were capable of but for the most part stayed within the confines of the typical crust-hardcore record. Maelstrom, while most definitely not a bad record, also felt disjointed as if there were too many ideas and no clear way to organize them. By the time the band’s next record ,Eros|Anteros, came out Oathbreaker were more coherent with their ideas and it made for an altogether more interesting listen.
With that in mind it is very easy to see Sarabante heading in a similar direction. Poisonous Legacy shows the foundations of a great hardcore record with all the passion in tact, but leaving a bit to be desired musically. The ideas are there but at times feel disjointed and broken and ultimately make for an awkward transition about half way through the record. This is not to say that Poisonous Legacy is in anyway unlistenable or stale however. It is far from it, but just needs a bit of polishing. If you’re looking for a punishing, powerful slab of neo-crust hardcore this record is still most definitely a recommended listen.