If the music of New York City is any indication of what’s ingrained in the hearts of its people, Brooklyn’s own MERAUDER epitomizes the underbelly of inner-city America at its grittiest and most fearless. While rebellion-hungry suburbanites and wannabe gangstas fall victim to current trends and faux tough posturing, the true warrior spirit that is MERAUDER remains the genuine article after nearly two decades.
Armed with a knuckle-dragging, heavy as shit, hardcore-meets-metal ferocity, MERAUDER’s sound has always reflected the band’s native Brooklyn upbringing and hard earned lessons in survival. Emerging from New York’s hardcore scene in 1990, MERAUDER released a pair of demos, gigged constantly with the likes of Sick of it All, Sheer Terror, Motorhead and Morbid Angel, and contributed a track to the now legendary 1992 hardcore compilation East Coast Assault. While the band claimed its turf in the NYC underground shortly after its formation, it wasn’t until 1995 and the recruitment of vocalist Jorge Rosado (Ragmen, Ill Nino) that MERAUDER’s threat came to lethal fruition.
Shortly after the addition of Rosado, MERAUDER inked a deal with Century Media Records. With the release of the band’s first full length, 1996’s Master Killer, MERAUDER unleashed a defining moment in metalcore and set new standards for metal and hardcore bands that would follow in their wake. Like their predecessors the Cro-Mags, Carnivore and Leeway, MERAUDER possessed a street-born spirit that shattered the sonic barriers of traditional hardcore. By incorporating thug-infused beats and death metal grooves into the hardcore punk battle cry, MERAUDER solidified itself as a menacing force and locked down one of the most terrorizing musical backdrops to urban blight ever recorded.
In the years following the success of Master Killer, the band scored an opening slot on Fear Factory’s ’96 US tour and in 1998 headed to Europe with Bohse Onkelz. 1999 and 2003 saw the release of Five Deadly Venoms and Bluetality, respectively, both of which continued in the revolutionary style of the band’s debut. Despite this seemingly unstoppable momentum, MERAUDER would soon endure numerous lineup changes, label woes, and the death of original guitarist Javier “SOB” Carpio (RIP) in 2006. The future for MERAUDER had been put on hold indefinitely.
Enter 2008. Driven by a manifest urgency to perpetuate the natural evolution of what was started nearly 20 earlier, Rosado resurrected MERAUDER with fresh blood and renewed fervor, assembling the most cohesive lineup since the band’s inception. While embarking on tours throughout Europe and Japan alongside metal giants Obituary and Exodus, MERAUDER caught the attention of current manager, Obituary’s Frank Watkins, and later, renowned extreme metal label Regain Records. The undeniable chemistry between Drew Smerdon (Bass), Dave Stafford (Guitar), Darian Polach (Guitar), Bobby Blood (Drums, ex-First Blood, Crematorium) and Rosado proved to be a fertile union for birthing an unholy beast of a record as only MERAUDER can: God Is I.
The most focused recording since Master Killer, God is I (June 2009) finds MERAUDER in perfect form. Melding the band’s roots with a modern bite, the intent becomes immediately clear within seconds of the album’s suckerpunch opening riff; “Until” hones in on its listener and the chase begins. Runaway freight train grooves, mid-paced stomps, seething gang vocals and death metal drenched riffs all find themselves vying for supremacy amidst their patented NYHC delivery. From the punishing hooks and wailing solo on “Built on Blood” (featuring guest vocals by fellow Brooklyn Bastard Mike Scondotto of Inhuman) to the eviscerating Latin tongue of “Ahora,” the powerhouse vocals of Rosado single-handedly carry and crown the massive weight of MERAUDER’s latest.
Beaten up but never beaten down, God is I pushes MERAUDER to the forefront of modern metal alongside heavyweights Lamb of God, Hatebreed and Shadows Fall. A true testament to the “never say die” New York City sensibility, God is I carves a new path for MERAUDER in 2009, demanding redemption once and for all for metalcore’s unsung pioneers.
The one line summary: More metal than core, these pioneers raise their genres bar on brutality.
Yeah I know…NYHC…metalcore, all names you’ve heard to describe Merauder and blah-blah not your thing, but seriously, just shut up and listen to this album closely. There is more metal on “God Is I” than on many “metal” bands albums this past year! (You can fill in your own blanks, I get myself in enough trouble) Merauder, like all ____core suffers the same dilemma of not much room to roam, but the band do create what is the best balance of metal and hardcore in recent memory. Merauder nod to their influences of metal and hardcore days gone by and say “I’ll take it from here”. They’re not asking.
I didn’t get the cover of ‘See You In Hell’ with my copy but I can assure you track by track, it’s all worth listening too. Opener ‘Until’ let’s you know right off you’re in for a furious fusion of metal and hardcore, and providing a chant worthy chorus of “Crush, Your Enemies!”. ‘Built on Blood’ is a great example of what Merauder are all about these days, ‘Gangsta’ is catchy as hell, and ‘Ahora’ which is in Spanish so I can’t tell you shit about it other than that (Is that Castro in there?). The whole album is loaded with strong musicianship, focused songwriting, lyrics grounded in reality that everyday mere mortals can relate to, and a serious sense of purpose. The funny thing is, I have little in common with the hardcore crowd in most any way, but the things hardcore and metal have always shared is rage and a fuck you attitude. This bond has never been more evident than it is on “God Is I”, the album says “I’m gonna kick your ass and you’ll like it….bitch”. Merauder have things in common with their peers, but they aren’t trying to be like their peers, instead they focus on fully representing who they are, where they came from, and why you’d better get out of their way. All without any regard as to whether anyone likes them or not.
Guitar solos, real ones, with bite to them…didn’t expect me to say that about this album did you? Well guess what, they’re good! The guitar playing in general by Darian, Dave and and bassist Drew helps keep things interesting throughout and prevents it from feeling like just another hardcore album. Same with the drumming, where Bobby adds some amperage by leaning heavier into metal than I’ve ever heard him play before. The production providing added punch. Of course, Jorge Rosado (ex-Ill Niño) gives us his rancorous roar that goes from hardcore to guttural in range, and he sounds fuckin’ pissed. Despite line up changes (and losses), “label woes”, and other problems, Jorge has steered the beasts from Brooklyn to what is honestly one of the hardest hitting and most highly rated – but poorly promoted – albums of 2009. “God Is I” does what this music is supposed to do, it makes you want to fuck shit up. Period. Merauder have been around, and have influenced a great number of bands themselves, now a whole new generation are discovering them and the band can take credit for giving new life to a genre that really, really needed it.