As much as the adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to music, it’s hard not to go into a blind listen of BillyBio’s Feed The Fire and think that it’s going to go ignored. The fact it’s being released right at the end of the year doesn’t help (as well as the matter of that artwork that doesn’t do much to inspire confidence), but it’s not as though there’s been much a demand for a solo album from the frontman of Biohazard, especially when early indications have been yet another hardcore album that doesn’t deviate too much from his dayjob. Still, it’s not like Billy Graziadei has mellowed out over time in terms of his political firepower, and if some of that could be channelled here, Feed The Fire could at least be passable, if a bit derivative.

Thankfully, while Feed The Fire is definitely derivative, especially of a lot of Graziadei’s past work, it’s certainly not a bad album, and for meat-and-potatoes hardcore which hasn’t shifted in intention or execution by a single inch, there’s still a good number of thrills that are quick and easy to gravitate towards. Even so, comparing this to an album like Sick Of It All’s Wake The Sleeping Dragon! – arguably the best example of politicised New York hardcore released this year – it’s a bit easier to see where the cracks in Feed The Fire begin to come through. While both albums are rooted in similar ground of calling for revolution to rise up against the political firestorm, there was a wit and dynamism about how Sick Of It All approached it that made it stand out; Graziadei, on the other hand, favours the blunt, functional approach, and while it undoubtedly hits hard when a track like Freedom’s Never Free is the introduction to it, that flavour that’s so crucial in keeping things fresh is greatly missing. There’s a bit more intuitiveness on a track like Generation Z in its veneration of the power and potential of young people to incite great change, but otherwise, Feed The Fire feels as though it’s surging towards its goal with as little time for subtlety or nuance possible, and that can do a fairly large number to its replayability.

In terms of a swift metallic hardcore battering though, it’s not as if Graziadei doesn’t already know his stuff, and it’s handily translated to Feed The Fire with minimal quibbles. Here, at least, it’s easier to get away with that lack of variety, particularly with the sort of rampaging guitar tone as on a track like Rise And Slay, or the vein-bulging, animalistic presentation of a frontman on the likes of the title track or the hip-hop influenced Untruth. And of course, as a hardcore album, it’s all kept remarkably tight and streamlined, leaving the possibility to strip away the two perfunctory interludes or the extended outro of Disaffected World on the table, but never having it feel like a necessity. Again, it’s hardly revolutionary, and much of it draws from Graziadei’s work in Biohazard above anything else, but what could’ve easily been a phoned-in, lazy attempt at launching something new in a way that many have done before feels like a fairly natural extension of pretty much all of his previous work (even if it’s not extending that far out). Plus, it’d be remiss to not mention the firepower at play for an artist in his late forties, and how slowing down or mellowing out is very clearly not on the agenda.

And that’s definitely a good thing; Graziadei’s main draw is his ability to get his points across with efficiency and a palpable sense of rage, and while said points can feel a bit barebones without a necessary amount of detail behind them, the music ultimately speaks for itself in this case. Granted, it probably won’t launch BillyBio into the same camp of hardcore stardom in the way that Biohazard has already done, but it makes a good entry point into this heavier, harsher world of conscious hardcore, and that definitely counts for something. Maybe that’s all it’s really good for, especially when there are so many bands who aren’t only doing this sort of thing more intelligently, but have been for years, but regardless, Feed The Fire does enough to earn BillyBio at least a fighting chance.

6/10

For fans of: Biohazard, Sick Of It All, Madball
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Feed The Fire’ by BillyBio is out now on AFM Records.

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