Sic semper tyrannis

By Jesse Peterson

Sick of It All

Death to Tyrants

Abacus Recordings

Four out of five stars

I’ve always wondered what types of music famous people prefer (the dead ones especially).

Gandhi would probably enjoy Mariah Carey’s voluptuous?pop. Shakespeare: porno soundtracks. Lao Tzu: The Dead Kennedies. But what about John Wilkes Booth-the actor, madman and assassin? Did he ever listen to hardcore?

After killing Lincoln, Booth shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis” (“thus always with tyrants”), mirroring the philosophy behind Sick of It All’s ninth full-length album title, Death to Tyrants.

But does that make Booth a hardcore junkie?

Death to Tyrants is 33 minutes of brutal kicks in the mouth, with a few Chuck Norris roundhouses thrown in for good measure. It’s hard hitting, with fast tempos, high levels of intensity and in-your-face politics. The band turned down the guitars on this release, which makes the experience even heavier.

Sick of It All is still sick of everything, and they’ve filled Death to Tyrants with so many middle fingers, I guarantee other popular hand gestures such as the thumbs-up, the V-sign, the Spocker and its rhyming cousin will be nowhere in sight.

Death is relentless and straightforward: The lyrics ring with pure hardcore simplicity and an ironic effect that is too simple-minded to go unperceived. Nominally speaking, this is what makes Death to Tyrants most generic.

Nevertheless, what’s most remarkable is that Sick of It All, after 20 years, has somehow taken the most stereotypical hardcore elements and made them

relevant to today.

Unlike Booth, Sick of It All is attempting to explode heads with music, not bullets (and it will, with the music loud enough). I guess that’s why Booth wound up with a bullet in his own skull-thus ever to tyrants.

On second thought, he must not have liked hardcore at all.