The American Dream is in the shitter. If you don’t think so, you’re either rich or comatose. Most of us work at jobs we can’t stand for low pay, have health insurance policies that don’t cover anything, are buried under a mountain of debt and lead largely unfulfilling lives that are subject to the whims of a government run by a bunch of wealthy, over-privileged scumbags that couldn’t even be bothered to piss on us if we were on fire. In many other countries, these same conditions would spark a full-scale revolt, but Americans are far too complacent, too content to keep eating shit until they die from it.
But for all of us that are content to ride atop the avalanche of feces that was once the American Dream all the way to the bitter end, there are a few that are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. Steve Austin, mastermind behind Nashville-based power trio Today is the Day is one of them. But what does a musician with a large collection of high-powered firearms and a penchant for creating some of the most intense and abrasive metal/rock known to man do when they’ve had enough? Instead of going postal, Austin has channelled his rage against the dying of the light into a hellishly harsh rock ‘n’ roll record called Pain is a Warning.
Yes, you’re reading that last sentence correctly. Pain is a Warning is first and foremost a rock ‘n’ roll record. In fact, it’s probably the most rocking album Today is the Day has ever recorded. It rocks hard and heavy. It rocks like a goddamn motherfucker. It also sounds like it wants to rip your head off and shit all over the bloody stump, and that might be what really separates Today is the Day from 99.999% of the bands currently professing to play rock music. This isn’t limp-dick radio rock about doing coke and banging sluts. This is real anger, real hatred, real emotions harnessed into pure negative energy and unleashed through guitar, bass, drums and vocals.
Music this brutalizing needs the right production to help it along in getting the point across. For Pain is a Warning, Austin wisely chose to enlist Converge’s Kurt Ballou to sit behind the boards. The result is Today is the Day on steroids. Never has the band sounded so crushing, so ready to come through the speakers and grab you by the throat. Bringing in Ballou has also allowed Austin (who usually also produces) to turn his attention completely towards crafting the music itself, resulting in the most consistent, focused and visceral Today is the Day album in years. While there are a few subdued moments, such as the psychedelic “Remember to Forget” and the almost-country “This is You”, Pain is a Warning is mostly an ultra-noisy hard rock inferno with nods to metal, punk and hardcore. Tracks such as “Death Curse” “Wheelin’” and “Samurai” are violent and pummeling, but also rife with hooks and barbs that will lodge themselves in your memory, forcing you to press the play button again immediately after the album has ended.
Pain is a Warning is every bit as gnarly lyrically as it is musically. Austin sounds so intense delivering lines like “I’m so broke / I can’t feed you / It’s cold / I can’t heat you” and “iPhone iPod iPad PS3 / My life my heart bleeding endlessly” it’s almost as if he has been revitalized by the crumbling of the American Dream. Of course, one could argue that a brand new band lineup (featuring Curran Reynolds and Ryan Jones of Wetnurse on drums and bass, respectively) and a new record label might have something to do with it, but the truth is that Austin has always been this way, he simply needed to have the other pieces in place for Today is the Day to be fully realized in such an effective manner.
Hard times often breed great music. I can’t imagine them getting much harder than natural disasters, a corrupt government, a tanked economy, rampant unemployment, holy terrorism and not even being able to get on plane to escape from it all without potentially having to go through a full body cavity search. With Pain is Warning, Today is the Day have delivered one of the strongest albums of their career, while the doomsday clock ticks ever closer to midnight for the good ol’ US of A. Steve Austin and Co.’s brand of homicidal smash-mouth-super-rock might be too caustic to inspire revolution in the God, guns and government-fearing masses, but it will surely add some fuel to the fire for the chosen few.