Reviews

Be Well, Be Well (Equal Vision Records, 2019)

I needn’t waste any time extolling the countless virtues of Equal Vision, the long-running Albany institution. December 4th saw the first release from recent signees Be Well. The 7” has been a consistently welcoming blast of righteous hardcore affirmation, helping to counter the emotional pummeling that typically accompanies winter. 

Their lineage, however accessible and traceable, is a dizzying resume that feels more like a round of hardcore “Who’s Who?” than it does a lineup. With members having spent their formative chunks of time in Bane, Darkest Hour, and Fairweather; their fantasy draft DNA is here on full display.

Alphabetized collective resume aside, Be Well is the beating heart around which they now all gather. Admittedly, I’m a lifelong Baltimore resident, so the esteem in which I hold Battery, whose front person Brian McTernan again plies his wares behind the microphone with Be Well, is damn near unquantifiable. As owner of Baltimore’s Salad Days recording studio, he’s twiddled the knobs for an unreal amount of landmark records in every punk and adjacent genre for decades now.

Even if you don’t immediately know McTernan, I promise your turntable does. 

As an opening gambit, their S/T EP is an outstanding yet all-too-brief blast of melodic hardcore that only whets appetites for an impending full length. Side A (as I’m forever wont to classify a two-song 7”) features the speedy “Strength for Breath," a hyper melodic blast that, though it barely tops the two minute mark, tours the listener through various hardcore landmarks. They condense bits of straight ahead Youth Crew, brief flurries of two-step, breakdowns, and aggressive lead rhythms into a concise burst.

All done with the requisite amount of energy and verve of past projects, Be Well. Though there are certainly bits of the Bane/Battery two-pack, they also lean on endlessly catchy vocal melodies that waffle from Mantra era Shelter or Lifetime to the exposed-fangs approach of Carry On and their ilk. 

McTernan sounds more up front, self-assured, and as impassioned as ever. Whether slinging well-aimed barbs at the devil that is self doubt or playing self-help via Hardcore, there are top shelf affirmations to be found here. Equally comfortable occupying the melodious and the sneery, there a bit of Strike Anywhere in both the hooky but breathy screams and the unguarded dare of optimism. They even manage to shoehorn the harmonious propulsion of Ignite’s splendid return LP. 

Photo: JC Carey

Elsewhere, the flip side offers “Frozen," a nuanced chiller that explores slightly more mid-paced terrain. It’s here that their more varied through lines show up, as both their DC and LIHC leanings appear. Owing as much to Rev Summer as it does to the Rev catalog, they manage an agonizing yet triumphant break on the song’s back end that’s not a million miles from Thursday and their LIHC adjacent acts. As a B side, it’s strength is in eschewing the urge to play “sound alike” with “Strength for Breath," instead it feels like the moodier yet no less urgent cousin of the pair. From Lifetime to emocore, they’ve clearly absorbed everything along the way. 

Be Well sidesteps the long bemoaned “vanity project of hardcore old heads” in that it feels decidedly contemporary and celebratory, a meeting of the minds of people that have given this music their lives. They’ve simply updated a template they helped create years ago and it sounds fiery and restless. Much like Berthold City or Bystander, this is an essential new band that only happens to be comprised of members with superlative discographies. 

Check JC Carey’s No Echo feature from September for additional goodies on Be Well.

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