Reaching Forward – Complete Discography 1998-2000

Reaching Forward
Complete Discography 1998-2000

If there is one thing that has tainted more music than anything in the world, it would be excess. Indulgence has always been a staple of the music world, encompassing everything from Celine Dion’s albums full of sappy, ‘heart-wrenching’ 9 1/2 minute ballads to Pearl Jam’s recent excursions to release double live CD collections of all of its concerts within the last year. Even worse than ‘excess and indulgence’ is the branched-off ‘too much, too fast’ theory, in which a band gets in way over its head with material or success way too quickly, and as such, the good qualities are somewhat leeched out of the music by the negativity involved with the sheer volume of the music.
It seems the previous scenario applies to the latest release by the now-defunct straight-edge, hardcore act Reaching Forward. It’s not that the material here isn’t worthy of a spin or two in the old CD player, because there’s a lot of really good music to be had within this ‘discography’ of sorts. The problem isn’t in the music at all – it’s more in the fact that after 32 uninterrupted tracks of deliberate, thrashing hardcore marches, both the outstanding and the bland really tend to run together into one big blur of hardcore.
In all fairness, it should be pointed out that when a band puts out a ‘complete discography’ of material released over a three-year span (such as this disc), it’s most likely aimed at an audience that the band has already amassed (as a chance to collect an established body of work), as there aren’t too many folks who would actually collect everything a band has released before they had actually heard the band.
That fact in and of itself somewhat redeems Reaching Forward for this collection, which spans three 7-inch records, a full-length, and a complete live set. The material itself doesn’t carry much variation here – it’s all loud, fast, and confrontational, which does tend to get a bit musically tedious in 30+ track doses. One thing the discography does have is an overwhelming sense of lyrical positivity, something that really does give the disc a slightly more tolerable air to it.
All truths being told, there really isn’t any redeeming value to the ‘complete live set’ of material tacked onto the end of this release. While the production quality is decent enough, and the songs technically ‘sound’ all right, they’re really nothing more than straight re-hashes of songs that are already presented within the first 24 tracks here.
The studio tracks are another story altogether. Reaching Forward’s rhythm section is always tight (no matter how fast or complex the drumming gets), and the band’s ability to stop on a dime and change directions with a rhythm track is commendable. Taken in smaller doses, the material on this discography would be downright brutal. “Your Downfall” flops around with a controlled thrash that’s as concise and well thought-out as it is destructive, while tracks like the 45-second “New Direction” and the 75-second “Speak Our Minds” are fresh enough to send out an adrenaline rush without buzz killing the feeling by sticking around too long.
The stop-and-go guitars and throbbing bass that open “For the Cause” are infectious enough to almost be deemed catchy – that is, until the band remembers it’s hardcore and proceeds to brutalize the opening with a chugging riff and some double-time drumming. The opening half of “Desire to Live” is based around some unexpected, slightly off-time drum rhythms that actually add a bit of depth to the band’s sound.
Probably the best stuff here, though, starts up around track 17, “Donkey Shot,” and runs through the end of the studio material. Production-wise, it sounds a bit older; musically, it plays a bit more raw; vocally, it’s a bit more frenzied and screamy; overall, these seven or eight tracks just come off a bit more energetic than the other material here. Though the songs themselves don’t make themselves stand out in an individual sense, the overall vibe they give off seems to embody ‘hardcore’ in the truest sense.
This discography is like watching a gigantic game of tug-of-war — on one side, 32 tracks of no-frills, slim-variety hardcore is really a lot to choke down (especially considering that the live tracks are a big hinderance); on the other side, Reaching Forward’s studio material really is listenable, and in spots, downright good. However, the good loses its lustre when tracks start to bleed together in a mess of hardcore guitars, as some of the tracks are honestly indistinguishable from each other without paying full and complete attention to the music. Folks that are REALLY into the hardcore thing would most likely get a kick out of this collection as a whole, but for the most part, it would probably be a better bet to check out the band’s website and grab the (much shorter) full-length or one of the original 7-inch records. Sometimes, there is such a concept as too much of a good thing.