The first Hardknox track I heard was their remix of the Crystal Method’s “Keep Hope Alive.” A friend of mine put it on and said “I think you’re gonna like this!” After a bit of a laid-back kind of beginning luring me into a false sense of security, the beat kicked in. My jaw dropped to the ground. The only thing I could say was: “THIS IS HARD!” Now, a few months later, I’ve purchased their debut album and again, the only thing I can say is that it’s HARD… really, really HARD.
The first track immediately let’s us know the reason why Hardknox makes so much noise and calls it music: “Coz I Can.” It opens with vocals proclaiming “There’s no school tougher than the school of Hardknox.” Damn right, this is some of the loudest music I’ve ever had the pleausure of listening to. The second track, “Fire Like This,” has a really weird drumbeat and a vocal sample of kids singing “Nahnahnahnahnaaah, We’re gonna rock you!” After which, a harmonica melody gets the track going. All in all a weird track, and not one of the best ones on the album.
After this follows the second best track of the album, “Come In Hard.” Featuring a vocal sample of Schooly D whipping things into frenzy, the track starts out with a very simple beat, but explodes after a few minutes into one of the most danceable tracks on the album. It also features the longest drumroll I’ve ever heard on any song.
“Coming Back With A Sword” is a not quite danceable track until almost halfway through, when a really good beat kicks in. The vocal samples are cool (I can already imagine 200 people in a club going “Coming back with a sword.…..WITH A SWORD!”) and the thing that has to pass as a melody (although maybe background noise is a better name) makes the track sound a lot tougher. Track five is called “Just Me and You” and is a breather between all the frenzied tracks before and after. It sounds quite good (again with a lot of background noise in lieu of a melody) and stays within the now-established Hardknox tradition of tough vocals (“Just me and you, motherfucker, just me and you”). It’s not very danceable though, and is one of the only “listening tracks” on the album.
Next up is the best number of the album. It’s a track with attitude titled, appropiately enough, “Attitude.” And DAMN, does it rock!!!! Imagine a dance track you can pogo to. I know what you’re thinking: “No way, it can’t be!” EEEEEEEEEEH, WRONG! Some kind of metal-guitar riff coupled to explosive beats and great vocals make this track harder and better than all the things happening in metal country at the moment. (OK, so I’m biased since I don’t like metal, but even some friends of mine who only listen to metal and punk thought this track rocked.) The remix at the end of the album is OK, but the original kicks its ass.
In between the two version of “Attitude” are four varied tracks called “Who’s Money,” “Resistance is Futile,” “Psychopath,” and “Ain’t Going Down.” Two of these I already had on other CDs (“Psychopath” is on Fatboy Slim’s mix CD On the Floor at the Boutique and “Who’s Money” was on the Skint album Brassic Beats, vol. 6). Both of them are pretty danceable numbers, again boasting some impressive drumrolls on “Who’s Money” and cool beatboxing on “Psychopath” (I know, I know, beatboxing is way out of fashion, but it still sounds cool on this track). “Resistance is Futile” and “Ain’t Going Down” are fairly downbeat tracks, but still very good and “Ain’t Going Down” even gets a drum ‘n bass kind of beat near the end.
All in all, one of the best dance albums this year, and like I said before, even some friends of mine who don’t normally listen to dance liked some or most of the tracks (“Attitude,” especially, was a big hit). Hardknox: Come in Hard, Come out Deaf.
Written by Jorrit Polane.