‘Never Had A Choice’ hits hard

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Detroit-based hardcore punk band Freedom has returned with another EP, Never Had A Choice. Following their first attempt at an LP, which fell a bit flat and suffered from a healthy amount of fluff, Freedom has delivered five scorching tracks clocking right under 11 minutes. They take heavy influence from the golden age of New York hardcore punk in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Right out the gate, Freedom hits hard with opening track “Never Had A Choice.” Every fast part is relieved by a groovy break but only for a second. The guitars sound thick but gritty, backed by a sharp rhythm section, and a mean, articulate vocal delivery. This continues throughout the rest of the EP with some breaks in speed but no breaks in aggression.

Since their debut in 2014, Freedom has been a band that followed the straight edge lifestyle.This lifestyle includes abstaining from drugs and alcohol and has gone hand in hand with some aspects of hardcore punk since its inception in the early 80’s. Freedom has had multiple songs on previous projects having to do with being straight edge, including “Anti-Poison” and “My Choice.” On this new EP, they seem to stray a bit from the straight edge anthems, but choose to focus on relationships and what impact drug use and alcohol had on the relationship instead.

For example, on “Retrace the Lines,” a relationship has been strained to the point where it needs to be reconsidered. “I think the time has come for you and I to retrace the lines / It’s clear that we will never see eye to eye / I pull your weight, stay out my way,” the vocalist grunts out before some punchy guitar chugs. Also on “The Alleyways,” the vocalist issues a call to action with a stop and start break in the lines, “The choice is yours / Take or be taken / You’re running out of time so make up your mind / Don’t be mistaken”.

The overall vibe of this EP is tough. This is partly because of the production style, which makes the fast parts hit just as hard as the slow ones. The toughness also comes from the calculated songwriting of this EP. They make a great effort in emulating the sound of New York hardcore bands such as Madball while separating themselves and cementing exactly how they want to sound. Some idea of their sound was lost on their LP, but it seems like they have taken the songs that worked and molded it into a formula they can use to move forward.

Taking the straightforward approach at songwriting might seem like an obvious choice for hardcore punk, but it takes effort to make it work and takes even more to make it stylish. Freedom has done that with this EP.

Verdict: Freedom makes Never Had a Choice short enough to make the listener want more with lyrics that are straight to the point and easy to recite back after just a few listens. These quality songs are a great start for someone who has never taken the time to listen to hardcore or punk.

Grade: A

Best Songs: “Never Had A Choice,” “Carry the Name,” “Victimized”