The Phantom Tollbooth
Artist: The Blamed
Label: Grrr Records
Time: 12 tracks/42:23 (4 minutes or so being silence)

The Blamed makes a comeback with this third effort, continuing with their practice of changing the lineup and sound for each album.  ...Again falls roughly in between the old school punk of 21 and the thrash of Frail, with a pretty standard hardcore sound (okay, and a couple of straight punk tunes). They mix the harsh Tooth & Nail, West Coast hardcore with the smoother, more forward-moving East Coast sound. The vocals are shouted, strained, spoken, and understandable only half the time, but thankfully don't grate on the ears as much as most from this genre.  The production and playing is competent, but for a comeback this is a bit of a letdown.  Nothing really catches my attention except for a few bits in the middle.  Some warped leads in the back of the mix and experiments with the vocals (the zombie-children choir in "Deny" rocks!) are cool, but aren't utilized enough.  Strict hardcore fans could possibly dig this, and The Blamed has enough intensity to possibly put on a good show (especially the drummer), but I'm not impressed...again.

By Josh Spencer

Old school punk with some metal touches hits the ears as this album immediately impacts the listener with its energy and attack. The half-shouted vocals are impassioned, although they grate on the ear of this reviewer, not used to this genre.

These guys are certainly tight, abounding with heavy guitar and solid bass work, even adding in the occasional lead guitar part. All the musicianship is solid--even if it doesn't sound particularly technical. The lyrics touch on a number of themes, and are actually fairly poetic, as I noticed when I came to read the lyric sheet.

I find after a while, however, that this album is too samey for my tastes. If you're into this kind of punk rock it may appeal to you, but for those looking to explore the genre for the first time, I wouldn't recommend this.

By James Stewart

A long while back, a dedicated metal-head (me) went to a used CD store to see what he could see. While there I found a copy of a CD by a band called The Blamed. The album was called Frail. Not being a fan of hardcore, and having heard that The Blamed played hardcore, I was hesitant, but at only $5 I decided it was cheap enough to take a chance on. As I popped it into my newly bought portable CD player (with cassette deck adapter), two things happened: First, I realized that this band was something special, and second, I became addicted to buying used CDs. I eventually got The Blamedís first CD, 21, but never really liked it much.

Frail, to me, is an exceptional album. It is brimming with passion and emotion, and very well-written, musical songs. Some fast and furious parts, some slower anguished parts with pleading screams, and the stuff in-between which brought them all together. This album made me rethink my view of hardcore. Unfortunately, hardcore in general has my views back where they started, but there are exceptions, and Frail is a big one. It isnít even that itís closer to heavy metal in style, itís just some musical and emotional quality that surpasses genre.

Well, at some point the members of The Blamed went separate ways and the band was thought to be no more. All of a sudden now, they've popped up with new members and a new album. Jim Chaffin is still on drums, and Bryan Gray, who played guitar on Frail, is still with the band. Two new members, guitarist Jeff Locke and bassist Johannes Hansen, complete the lineup. Whoís not in the band you ask? That would be Jeremy Moffet, who was on vocals, and Gary Ottosi, who played bass.

Grrr records says that ...again is, "musically similar to Frail, [and] is guaranteed to". I agree to some extent. Some of the guitar tone and playing style resembles what was done on Frail. Parts of the drumming are also very similar to the previous album. Another likeness is the musicality of the songs--they're not just a bunch of power chords and shouting. In spite of these familiar bridges to their past sound, to me there are more differences than similarities. One major change that keeps this from being a worthy follow-up to Frail is the new singer. Jeremy Moffetís vocals on Frail were full of passion, and really added a lot to the effectiveness and power of the songs. The new guyís voice is much different. Itís smoother than most hardcore singers, and seems to lack a certain amount of power. He sings well, and it fits with the music, but it has definitely taken the intensity of this release down a notch. Another area where this album doesnít match up to Frail is song writing. There are some great songs on here, and some mediocre songs, but none of them seem to move or really effect me, for the most part. Frail was pretty much non-stop energy and emotion, and ...again just doesnít hold up to those standards.

In general, the lyrics are very up-front about the band's faith in Christ. A variety of topics are dealt with, including the pain that life brings us all, the struggles we face as imperfect people, and the truth about Jesus Christ and what it means to the Christian and non-Christian.

As a "bonus" they included one of those annoying "hidden tracks," buried eight minutes into the last song. I donít generally like "hidden tracks" even if they are good. Where's the logic OR fun in wading through a bunch of dead space to arrive at whatever surprise is in store for us. If they are cool, then why canít they just put them as the last song, or even separate them with maybe 15-30 seconds of dead air, but 4-10 minutes? That is annoying. Anyway, enough of my soap-boxing! This hidden song is just a short instrumental jam. I am at a loss as to why they would put this jamming on here. It isnít especially fast or technical or musical or anything. Itís just there, and I doubt many people would have missed it if it was left off.
I realize this review is heavily biased, based on the previous album, but I figured that it is a valid bias that many people may have. All on its own, ...again is a good album which should appeal to fans of hardcore and heavier modern music, but it really isnít anything that I get excited about.

By Chris King (8/14/98)