Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Is Biohazard the most successful hardcore band ever? Think about it. They were on Roadrunner Records, they toured the world on some of the biggest tours (notably the inaugural Ozzfest), their frontman Evan Seinfeld was a legitimately successful actor appearing as Jaz Hoyt, leader of the biker gang, on HBO's Oz for much of the series. Their song with the rap group Onyx on the Judgement Night (1993 movie with Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr) soundtrack was the standout track.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Biohazard formed in 1987. The band spent the first few years trying as hard as they could to impress Peter Steele. That's not casting shade. That's what members of Biohazard said to deflect accusations of racism on their early material (notably the song "Master Race" off their 1988 Demo). They dropped their debut self-titled album in 1990 on Maze Records. The album is good but often unsung. Discussion of the self-titled album is often the mark of a die-hard Biohazard fan. The album is still a 'figuring-out' period for the band but displays much of the promise that would be realized on Urban Discipline. Once Biohazard stopped trying to sound like Carnivore and the other crossover bands that made up late 1980s New York and started to loosen up and be themselves (which they began to do on the self-titled), they were able to hit their stride.

A lot of people will say Sepultura's Chaos AD is the progenitor of groove metal. I don't agree with that. I think the 1992 release Urban Discipline has more of what would be going on in groove metal later. It has a lot of hip-hop influence to it, a lot more focus is paid to the rhythm section, and you can just plain dance to it. Urban Discipline is as raw as it is catchy. The dramatic introductions and breakdowns on its songs incite a level of aggression that many bands have never captured. When Billy Graziadei hits the first note on "Punishment" and holds it, something changes. Very few bands are able to write something that can change the entire complexion of a room with one note. That's "Punishment". When that guitar hits, the room explodes. On the eponymous "Urban Discipline", you are taken on a tour de force of what Biohazard actually is. There's Evan frantically rapping the chorus, telling you about life in Brooklyn, only for Billy to abruptly take over with a riff. Billy's riff on the breakdown of "Urban Discipline" is something else. Literally. There's nothing on that song that tells you it's coming. It is not a refrain of the intro. When it hits, the question is not "can I move to this?" The question is "how fast and how hard can I move to this?" The band goes along with it and, with gang vocals, they tell you in a whole new chorus what life in Brooklyn is about. That's what about Biohazard was about in the early going (until State of the World Address). It was something real. The music sounded like it had seen some shit. The vocals, with the subtle nuance that most rappers bear, told you all about their lives and the world they live in.

State of the World Address is more of the same, albeit old hat. It isn't a bad album. It is quite good. It was just Biohazard trying to make Urban Discipline happen again. There's some standout tracks that definitely reach the quality of its predecessor (most notably "Tales From The Hardside"). What happened to Biohazard after that is the success caught up with them. Self-awareness, buying into their own stock, etc. Tale as old as time in the realm of aggressive rock. Biohazard has an even grimmer spin on it because of the impact success had on Evan Seinfeld himself. He lost his mind. Aside from Oz, Evan married porn star Tera Patrick. This paved the way for Evan to enter the porn game himself, which he loved, a lot. How much did Evan love porn? His porn star wife left him because he wouldn't give it up. Put that in perspective. Eventually, Evan would be kicked out of Biohazard (the band is still going today without him).

Much like a good relationship that went on too long and eventually waned to bitterness and an unceremonious ending, that's Biohazard. We'll always have the memories though. Included is their debut self-titled album, Urban Discipline, State of the World Address, and the 1988 Demo.

No comments:

Post a Comment