The '90s era in hardcore was a period of proliferation for shows and bands and releases. Some from this era would go on to huge success, others to moderate but long-lasting success, and of course many would simply fade away, lost from the ever-growing encyclopedia of hardcore history. And yet for some bands, their mark would remain etched on the margins of that encyclopedia. One 4 One, formed in New Jersey around 1994, seems to have found its way into that group. And their first full-length, In Search Of, released on Back ta Basic Records in 1996 remains a bit of a long-lost gem of that time.
Another mark of the '90s in hardcore was the explosion of record labels. Everyone had one. And like many bands of the day, for every label whose roots grabbed hold countless others would whither after a release or two. In a time before the rise of online accessibility, having a label made recording and touring a possibility. And, at that time, Back ta Basics was a label on the upswing. Remember, this was the '90s. So releasing music from Indecision, 25 ta Life, E-Town Concrete, and Krutch among others made the label highly appealing and on the DIY level. For his part One 4 One’s singer, Dan Murray, keeps his perspective clear on the label, “We were kids that wanted to put a CD out and tour, and it was very exciting…Granted I’m not saying a foul word about Back ta Basics because they got us out there. We made zero dollars from this recording, but we didn’t care. I think we got caught up in the mix of the scene at the time as well.” And so One 4 One’s In Search Of would be released on Back ta Basics to much fanfare and acclaim, no matter the relationship between the band and label. It was certainly a good enough fit at the time.
One 4 One had already built a solid and devoted fan base with their Beyond Hate demo and I Won’t Lose 7”. And one of the band’s greatest assets was their crossover appeal. Mixing a strong punk influence with the heavy hardcore sound of the day, their sound allowed them to play shows across genres. This was a band you could see with Hatebreed and Biohazard one weekend, and with Blanks 77 the next. For Pat Gerity, long-involved in the New Jersey scene, that was big. “One 4 One was always one of those bands in NJ that could play with anyone, which is why I think I always liked them. Punk shows, heavier shows, didn't matter. They had a great mix of punk and hardcore to their sound which made it easy for me as a kid to get into them considering I was a fan of both genres.” It was that very mix that also made In Search Of a great record.
As a complete record, In Search Of combined many of the best elements of punk and hardcore. It had fast-paced horse-hop riffs, heavy enough breakdowns, sing-alongs, and politics. Murray remembers, “We wrote what we wanted to, and really didn’t care who liked it or not because it was ours. Andy and I were super into bands like Life’s Blood, Absolution, Last Resort, and Side by Side, and we really identified with their lyrics. So In Search Of, to me, is a great time in my life.” Those influences are readily felt on some of the album’s best songs like “Unfold” and “Voice of Reason.” While they reflected the '90s hardcore scene, One 4 One still had a sound of their own. And Dan’s unusual vocal delivery coupled with Andy’s frantic guitar rhythms and Seth Meyers’s crashing drum beats served to make In Search Of both an immediately palatable and original record.
Lyrically, the record covered topics that harkened back to Murray’s aforementioned influences. From straight edge and political dissidence to personal reflection, In Search Of was very much a mirror into the disillusionment and conflict at hand for Murray and the many who so related to One 4 One. Contrasting the hyper-personal “Control” and “In Search Of…” were songs like “Stand” and “Unfold” both of which offered hardline and even antagonistic lyrics on respect and friendship. But there were also the re-recorded songs in “No Mistake” and “What Went Wrong,” the former offering a scathing indictment of mainstream culture and the latter presenting a similarly acidic commentary on non-vegetarianism. And the record closed out with a cover of Agnostic Front’s uber-political “Discriminate Me.” Influences abounded throughout, and that thread served to strengthen the record as a whole.
But with all the luster surrounding One 4 One and In Search Of in their time, they have indeed suffered from the unforgiving selectivity of hardcore lore. For all of the great success and popularity they accomplished in their time, the band isn’t mentioned nearly enough when considering the stamp that the '90s left on hardcore to come. And that’s due in no small part to the record label whirlpool they fell into. The only label they worked with that survives to this day is Triple Crown. Gerity, who runs RTF Records in New Jersey, actually re-released their 1994 demo a few years back and understood the power of the band’s first full-length, "In Search Of is a staple of NJHC albums and it was an honor to be able to re-release their demo Beyond Hate on RTF Records.” Indeed the record is a staple, and deserves that credit and more.
One 4 One would continue to develop and move to heavier sounds on their two subsequent full-lengths, Trust is Lost and Seven-Year Cicada. While both are strong releases in their own right, neither is quite what In Search Of was and remains. For their own parts, most members remain musically active. Dan sings in a punk band called South Class Veterans, Andy sings for Burden and lives in Massachusetts, and maybe most interesting of all Seth and bassist Mike are part of the newly resurrected 25 ta Life with Stickman on vocals.
At the heart of the matter though is that like many bands from the nineties hardcore era, One 4 One recorded a great LP for a now long-defunct label. It’s out of print, maybe available used somewhere on the internet. And that’s the problem. In Search Of deserves more attention some twenty years after its initial release. It should remain in our collective conversations about that era and beyond. Just give it a listen. I think it’ll grab hold.