With Honor- Boundless (Album Review)

Sept. 8, 2023


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Thanks in part to festivals like Furnace Fest, the past few years has seen a lot of reunions within the hardcore scene.  Bands that have been inactive since the early or mid-2000s have reappeared, often sounding just as energetic as they were two decades ago.  Connecticut’s With Honor is one of those bands, as they disappeared following 2005’s This Is Our Revenge and 2006’s The Journey compilation.  In the span of three years they had quickly built a name for themselves through their albums and tours, but it wouldn’t be until 2021 that they would reappear with a remixed and remastered version of their debut Heart Means Everything.  This renewed activity has resulted in album number three, Boundless, which feels like it picks right back up on the melodic hardcore and more straightforward hardcore riffs of its two predecessors.  It’s a quick, punchy effort that comes in with strong hooks but knows when to move onto the next idea, and with songwriting that feels like a balance of the first two albums it’s clear that With Honor has returned in a big way.

The most impressive part about Boundless is that it doesn’t sound like a band that’s been largely inactive (minus a few one-off shows here and there) for seventeen years.  While the production values reflect some of the more polished and modern approaches to the genre, this album could still easily have come a year or two after This Is Our Revenge and it’s clear With Honor have picked up from where they left off.  Compared to their previous material, Boundless strikes an even better balance between melodic hooks and hardcore intensity, and the added clarity of the production allows the riffs to soar and pummel as needed.  Songs like “The Weight” and “Nonviolent Redemption” go for blistering speed and weave in some melodies over top of this heavy hitting foundation, while “Open Hands” and “Love Is All” use their slightly longer lengths to mellow out a bit more and explore some softer textures.  With only one song approaching the four-minute mark and the rest sticking around two to three minutes, With Honor comes in fast and doesn’t stretch things out to the point of repetition, which works in their favor.  The songwriting also shakes up the balance of aggressive and melodic riffing regularly, which results in quite a few sections that stand out over repeat listens and makes it so Boundless doesn’t blur together in the way that a lot of melodic hardcore albums tend to.  Personally, I like the all-out blistering pace of tracks like “The Weight” and “Sovereignty of Soul” the most, though the melodic leads on “Open Hands” and “No Escape” have also stuck with me.  The only thing I’m not crazy about is ending with “Grown and Gone”, which goes for a slower and softer approach and leans significantly into the melodic side.  It’s not a bad track, but it feels just a bit too mellow for the last song on the album and I would’ve preferred to close out with a bit more of a bang.

Singer Todd Mackey hasn’t lost any intensity in the almost two decades that have passed since With Honor’s last album, and he easily transitions from screaming/yelling over to singing that soars over the recording.  It’s that perfect balance that melodic hardcore needs, and no matter where his pitch goes Mackey’s performance still has the right amount of bite to keep the energy at a high.  You get some gang vocals and backing singing on some of the songs, with “Love Is All” even featuring contributions from some of the member’s children, which contributes some additional variety throughout Boundless.  But even if these additional nuances weren’t included Mackey would still stand on his own, and there are quite a few sections that sound like they’re sure to have the audience screaming or singing along.  “Rank & File” brings in FAIM’s Kat Lanzillo towards the end of the song, which adds some much harsher and in your face screaming.  There’s a lot to like about the vocal work, and With Honor’s only gotten more intense in the time they’ve been away.

After nearly two decades, With Honor’s returned and they’re arguably stronger than ever.  They still have the same type of high energy riffs, but the hooks are even better and showcase how the band has grown during their time away.  If you’re a fan of melodic hardcore, this is an album to check out as it may just end up being one of the better efforts in the genre you’ll hear in 2023.  Hopefully this reunion isn’t short lived, as it feels like these guys are ready to gain a whole new generation of fans.  Boundless is available from Pure Noise Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg