"Prepare for the free fall..."
It was 2001 and I was driving around Daytona with my friend Mike in his beat-to-shit Honda Civic. We'd been listening to Poison the Well, or something equally awful, when he popped in another CD.
First there was nothing. Then distant feedback. Then a single word, repeated:
"unite... Unite... UNITE... UNIIITE..."
Throwdown's You Don't Have To Be Blood To Be Family was one of those records I loved from the get go. The band had such a unique sound - a ridiculously low-tuned, unrelenting, ballsy groove. Family was leaps and bounds ahead of the band's 1999 full-length, Beyond Repair, as well as 2000's Drive Me Dead EP.
But it was a high point the band never seemed to reach again.
2003 saw the release of Haymaker, a good hardcore record, but with an uncharacteristic Pantera tinge. This time around, vocalist Keith Barney switched over to guitar giving his spot to Dave Peters, who - as of 2014 - remains the band's singer. Haymaker's a fun listen, but it doesn't pack the same punch as Family.
The remainder of Throwdown's discography ventures further and further into the realm of Pantera-worship. I don't hate the band's latest stuff, it just leaves me feeling underwhelmed. And I always missed Keith Barney's vocals.
When Monument To Thieves originally got together in 2008, I wasn't privy to their existence. At the time I was on a bit of a musical sabbatical. Regardless, it's hard for me to understand how I let a band containing former members of Throwdown and Adamantium, among many other Orange County hardcore greats, slip by me.
At the time I was aware that Keith Barney and Ken Floyd of Eighteen Visions had put together a side-project a few years earlier in the mid-2000's called XRainX. The demo tracks had that undeniable Throwdown Family vibe, but a proper band never materialized. Looking back, XRainX could be considered the proto-run for what became Monument To Thieves.
Originally, Keith Barney only played guitar for Monument To Thieves. Their first two 7"s, The Apology and Anyone But You, are fun listens. But it was only when Barney took over the vocals that the band really became something special.
Monument To Thieves' 2010 self-titled full-length is a modern hardcore masterpiece. Not only does it rip by today's standards, when I listen to it I get that same feeling I got from You Don't Have To Be Blood To Be Family. Monument's one and only proper record is incredibly heavy and polished, but it still contains the signature, unique groove of old Throwdown.
What really sets Monument apart, however, is their lyrical content. On the full-length, Barney tackles a variety of societal issues like gay rights, the media, and corporate greed. Between almost every other song is a sound byte relevant to the topic. He even went so far as to include a digital booklet with the record download containing song explanations and further sources to check out. Perhaps this commentary is partially a response to Throwdown being relegated to meathead, joke band status for so many years. Whatever the reason, Barney's sincere lyrical approach is inspiring.
I'm not sure when the band called it quits, but it wasn't long after the digital release of their full-length. A few years ago, the band had all their music available for free on Bandcamp. As of today, their site doesn't exist anymore and I just think it's a shame that people can't listen to these songs.
I've taken the liberty of uploading Monument To Thieves' two EPs and one full-length (booklet included), as well as the five XRainX demos. Hopefully, I can keep it available as this is some of the best metallic hardcore of the past ten years.