Berthold City, When Words Are Not Enough (WAR Records, 2022)

Having been on the giving end of some undisputed classics, the accomplished members of LA’s Berthold City know a thing or two about crafting a dynamic full length.

After a 2017 demo and subsequent double hit parade of the Moment of Truth and What Time Takes 7-inches, the straight edge unit has arrived with their debut long player.

I’m here for no other reason than to assure you, it’s essential. Alongside celebrated vocalist Andrew Kline (Strife, World Be Free) are Dennis McDonald (Internal Affairs), drummer Adam Galindo (Abrasion, Twist of Cain), bassist John "Eightclip" Jenkins (Allegiance), and guitarist Dave Itow (A18, The Mistake).

The release is being lovingly handled in-house, courtesy of the aforementioned Kline’s WAR Records. Home to a jaw-dropping grip of releases, the label sports a stable that includes Fixation, Reserving Dirtnaps, Miracle Drug, Piece By Piece, and Enforced.

Since their inception, Berthold City has already decimated local stages alongside scene stalwarts Sick of It All, Youth of Today, and Agnostic Front. The band’s otherwise busy agenda has seen them crisscross both coasts, doing short runs with the likes of Scowl, Regulate, Change, and Terror. Having an established sound that pairs as well with lifers as it does up and comers, calling to mind everything from the Revelation catalog to the golden age of New Age, and the modern titans at Triple B, the city of Berthold has no area code. It’s everywhere and it’s fucking timeless. 

Still replete with all of the hallmarks of the band’s anthemic hardcore, everything on When Words Are Not Enough is ratcheted up considerably with an even sharper take on their already considerable sense of song craft.

Opener “Only Truth Wins” is the sort of rousing and urgent opener that plays like the modern template for this particular strain of hardcore. Much like the remainder of this taut and all-too-brief collection, they throw laughably great riffs atop each other with deft agility.

The metallic Youth Crew riffing of Judge and their own dazzling resumes is well explored, but Berthold City has the distinct ability to build instant drama. Peep the minute mark. I can scarcely imagine a part more designed to incite a post-pandemic pile on. From some players responsible for laying the foundation for this shit, it feels like a victory lap or perhaps the beginning of an altogether new wave. 

Elsewhere, the band rampages through their myriad talents. Of the album’s many highlights is “The Pharmacist.” Launching into being with an impossibly gnarly bass tone, it vacillates between the speedier terrain of Cause for Alarm-era AF and something a bit more mid-paced, all in service to a scuzzy low end. The pugilistic and pacing stomp of the song’s coda plays like a prize fighter’s disdainful look down upon the fallen. Menace rarely feels this good.

“Empty Faces” sports some of the album’s best melodic leads, finding them digging into the catchiest material this side of Kline’s work on 2016’s GB-inspired The Anti-Circle. Bolstered by some sparingly used but perfectly placed gang vocals, it borders on straight up skate punk, albeit a more frenzied or, perhaps, blistered take on the genre. 

Photo: Dan Rawe

The lightning fast quartet of “Turn It Around”, “Break the Chain," "Flashing Lights," and “A Better Way” sets an absolutely blazing standard for Side B, as it were. This late album run of stunners is built around exceptional drum work which, at times, borders on blast.

Recorded and mixed by at Jet to Mars Studio by Nick Jett of Terror (who sometimes subs in on guitar for Berthold City for live dates), it’s fitting that the man behind the kit landed on the perfect drum sound. From the dizzying blitz of the fast shit to the intimidating thud of the song’s more epic buildups, it’s the rhythm section that owns the album’s second half. With each entry of this “fourtet” clocking in South of a minute, it still manages to be chock full of singular ideas.

With a crystalline and muscled sound solidified by Audiosiege’s busiest Brad Boatright, this shit hits with a wall of sound immediacy like Keepers of the Faith. If that prospect doesn’t excite, check your pulse, my friend. 

Clearly Berthold City has never heard of “going out like a lamb.” Instead, they nail us with back to back bangers, both curiously clocking in at 2:33. Timely coincidence aside, they’re both textbook examples of roaring 90’s influenced metallic hardcore that legitimately birthed a renaissance in Florida half a decade ago.

Despite their well trafficked sound, this is a decidedly modern proposition made by a group that has this shit running through their collective DNA. Lyrically, it’s an inspiring set that marries impassioned pleas for logic to prevail and doubling down on commitment to a sense of resiliency that comes only from being one of few left standing. The collection is a taut 25 or so minutes of perfect hardcore with literally no fat to be trimmed.

Let’s go to WAR. 

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