The Fire Still Burns
Keeping Hope Alive
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Despite having formed in Summer 2004, The Fire Still Burns have the feel of a hardcore band that has been around since the genre’s heyday. The members are veterans of the New Jersey scene (Lifetime, Ensign), so they aren’t merely new kids to the block, and their time playing and touring in those other bands is abundantly evident on their six-song EP, a promising introduction for a “new” band.
Bands often do the best job of describing themselves when they’re looking for new members, and here are the qualifications the band seeks in a new bassist: “must be able to play fast melodic hardcore in traditional tuning w/drop D.” Drummers, meanwhile, are encouraged to have been cut from the cloth of Kid Dynamite’s Dave Wagenshutz, Blink-182’s Travis Barker and/or Black Flag’s Bill Stevenson. While The Fire Still Burns doesn’t particularly sound like those bands, the description is apt, with the addition of an emphasis on “melodic” over “fast.” This isn’t optimal piss-off-the-parents music, and it bears almost no resemblance to the “RUHHHH!” hardcore sound that is prevalent on labels like Victory. While many of his peers dwell on the painful past and all the wrongs inflicted on them therein, Alf Bartone prefers to sing about a better (if unsure) future. The lyrical content informs the music, or vice versa, and Keeping Hope Alive is more adult and introspective and world-weary than the norm. In this reviewer’s parlance, that all equates to “better.”
The big question that emerges from the EP is whether The Fire Still Burns can maintain momentum throughout a full-length. Even by the close of the final (sixth) song here, the band feels slightly stuck within their own template. The first two songs (“Insert Motivation Here,” “Good As New”) are the best, tapping into classic veins while still making the melodies sound fresh and sincere. There are echoes of these tracks throughout the others, making it difficult to ascertain whether the later songs lack the same punch because their hooks aren’t as sharp or whether it’s simply a matter of the allure wearing off a bit when given out in large doses.