Published Oct 21, 2009These days - and just generally in the world of punk/metal - louder is perceived to be better. Even bands who don't seem all that extreme still manage to rattle windows and destroy dish ware via thunderous albums thick with distortion and overbearing, redlining volume.
It takes a brave band to do what other can't: turn down.
Yet that's exactly what Toronto-based punks Hostage Life have done with third album Centre of the Universe released through fresh independent Juicebox Recording Company.
Revered for the enthusiasm and boisterous hardcore-meets-pop/punk of 2004's Sing for the Enemy and 2006's Walking Papers, vocalist Colin Lichti admits that Hostage Life's latest takes an intentional step in the opposite direction.
"One thing we wanted to do was stop relying so heavily on distortion for this album," Lichti admits to Exclaim! in an interview. "Our older material had a very big polished sound, which was awesome, but it was a sound that a lot of bands, particularly in our genre share; one that most of the dudes in the band are tired of."
So while turning down - at least the distortion - was essential, he also notes that in order to fully achieve a unique sound on Centre of the Universe, the band took some very drastic measures.
"[Guitarists Hai Vu and Patrick Mathers] didn't even use their own amps," he explains. "Instead, they turned down the gain and played through a one-tube custom made amp built into an ammo crate. We actually got a little obsessive about guitar tones and ended up recording them for every song three times."
Lest one worry that the crew (completed by bassist Shamus Mathers and drummer Paul Miller) have got soft in the pre-30-somethings or that such dire variances have affected Hostage Life, rest assured: the move is a bold statement at proving just how raucous an outfit can be without saturating every song with grit. Lichti's voice is front and centre, while the band support him with an original, biting attack.
"We were going for less polished, less distortion but still brash. I think it worked out," he beams. "'Nuclear' is the only ballady song, in my mind, and it turned out, like, by accident. Originally it was a much quicker song but when we laid down the drums it was unintentionally slower.
"That kind of things happens in the studio. You work at getting a take for so long that things all sort of blend together. No one noticed really until we got to the vocals. We were going to try speeding it up before we added singing but decided it worked at that tempo and stuck with it. I think it fits nicely as a kind of break from the more upbeat tracks."
Centre of the Universe is out now digitally via Juicebox and can be downloaded for free here. The vinyl edition is due out on November 17, with Juicebox already accepting pre-orders here.