Boy Sets Fire – Before the Eulogy: Reissues, Odds and Ends, Rarities

Boy Sets Fire
Before the Eulogy: Reissues, Odds and Ends, Rarities

Boy Sets Fire (or, as the band currently likes to be known, Boysetsfire) started as five Delaware teens nearly 10 years ago for the same reason kids start a band: just for the hell of it. At the time, the band was as DIY as you can get, making two demos and pressing copies whenever there was some spare money, begging for spare change while touring, and wondering if a label would ever sign them.

These guys were idealists, to say the least. When the band’s monumental debut full-length, The Day the Sun Went Out, was released on Initial Records in 1997, the liner notes were filled with heartfelt angst, inspirational quotes, and professions of hardcore sincerity. In a rant about hardcore as a “youth-oriented movement,” the band writes, “…it is important that we formalize our beliefs and ideals as relating to the bigger picture before our eyes become blurred with the reality that we will eventually become part of that picture.” Now, all grown up yet still striving as an independent band that hopped labels with almost every release, the band keeps honest to its routes, noting, “We poured our anger, pain, and yes joy into the writing and recording of our fourth full-length, The Misery Index: Notes from the Plague Years. The record was born from intense frustration, anger, and tears.”

But before releasing that album on Equal Vision, the band offers Before the Eulogy, a collection of demos, EPs, and rarities that is required listening, especially for fans of the band’s earlier material, as I am. The four songs from the band’s first demo showcase a band equally influenced by riff-heavy metal as much as hardcore. These songs are full of throat-wrenching screams and powerful guitars, hinting at what is to come. “Parasite Candy” first showcases the mix of singing and screaming that defined the band’s sound, but “Harlot” may be the best track here. On the second demo, Premonition.Change.Revolt, the band comes into its own. “Vehicle,” with its chorus of “I am someone, I am something” repeated like a mantra, then “I am no one, I am nothing, God please help me!” shouted out shows the band’s conflicting emotions and heartfelt sincerity. “Consider the Numbers,” from the band’s Consider 7” is about as crazy hardcore intensity as this band ever got, and I love ‘em for it.

Released after The Day the Sun Went Out, the band continues its political and personal intense lyrics with In Chrysalis EP, here in its entirety, and this has long been one of my favorite hardcore releases. “Truth is truth is lies,” the band sings on the brilliant “The Tyranny of What Everyone Knows.” “Cavity” is a an even better example of what made this band so good, with gorgeous singing and throat-wrenching screams creating the trademark dichotomy of styles that resulted in brilliant hardcore. The cover of Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday in Cambodia” is a wonderfully true rendition as well. The Suckerpunch Training EP features some pretty guttural hardcore from the title track, while “Rocket Man” shows the band’s more polished style. The album finishes up with four rarities from compilation albums. “No Time Safe” is a nice, moody, yet intense track, and “With Cold Eyes” could have been the band’s most personal and moving track ever, if not for horribly muddled production. And the album closes with “Fashion as a Weapon,” which, with acoustic guitars and gentle singing, is about the last thing you’d expect, and it still works.

As Boy Sets Fire changed labels (moving from Initial to Victory to Wind-up Records), the style began to conform to the emo-core style of those labels. You hear more singing, more precise instrumentation, better production – and somehow, something was lacking. After the Eulogy (Victory) was a decent enough album, but I was disappointed with Tomorrow Come Today (Wind-up), and I almost gave up on the band. Now, Before the Eulogy reminds me why I loved Boy Sets Fire so much. I have yet to hear The Misery Index, but here’s hoping that, after 10 years, Boy Sets Fire is still relevant and still passionate.