Perhaps the quality I value most in traditional punk rock, at least in terms of its limited sonic spectrum, is when I can hear a true sense of urgency in a song. Bands that are able to make me feel like a freight train is about to fly off the rails and crash through my stereo speakers are often among my favorites. The Rebel Spell are one of these bands who deliver that sense of urgency with their frantic, hard-nosed, no-bullshit punk rock. Hailing from Vancouver, they embrace the DIY ethic and are one of the rare bands left in today’s landscape of old-timer reunion shows and colossal destination festivals who you might find playing at your town’s local dive bar for five dollars. After being won over immediately by a live performance in one of these said dive bars, I picked up their 2011 effort It’s a Beautiful Future and having been waiting for the new album to drop ever since.
Hoping The Rebel Spell would continue to use much of the same sound heard on their last record, I was more than pleased as soon as I hit play on Last Run. Crunchy riffs, fast beats and booming vocals take charge of the listener’s ears on a ride through 12 modern, punk n’ hardcore rippers that send messages along the likes of social change, routing for the underdog and not backing down. The title track begins with a piano intro and then transforms into one of the hardest hitting songs I’ve heard in a while with its chorus of “Don’t blame the wolf, don’t blame the seal, if it will help you can blame me!” The bangers keep coming with “Pride and Prejudice”, “Ten Thousand Years” and “All This Costs”, showing a good level of technical prowess that would likely get the nod from fans of Strike Anywhere or A Wilhelm Scream. The band also shows a bit of range in the later portion of the record. The mid-tempo track “I Heard You Singing” presents some uplifting vocal harmonies that I wasn’t expecting at first, but continue to dig more each listen. Deciding to push the five-minute mark with a punk song can often be a mistake, but the group tackles “The Tsilhqot’in War” quite well; lyrics describing events from the 1860’s battleground hold my attention to the point where I forget the song’s run time. The album closes with one more ripper called “Fight For The Sun” that ferociously brings the rumble to the very last note.
In an era where the DIY ethos of punk rock as been a bit diluted with legendary bands from the 1990’s heyday of Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords deciding to come back (or in some cases deciding to never leave), it can be tough for some of us to find new bands who really bring it. I don’t like lo-fi garage rock. I’m not into acoustic solo projects. For me, when I discover a band like The Rebel Spell it is something special. Efforts from bands this true to what punk rock is about deserve a higher than average score, even if they never get featured on the latest Warped Tour compilation. Last Run delivers everything I want a punk rock album to be in 2014 and is without a doubt contending for top spot on my year end list.