Released Jun. 25th on Epitaph Records
Transplants’ first two albums, 2002’s Transplants and 2005’s Haunted Cities, were a mish-mosh of the members’ interests. With Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, Blink-182’s Travis Barker, and rap-influenced frontman “Skinhead Rob” Aston all in the mix, the records blended hip-hop, punk rock, and sometimes dub into an interesting mix. On In a Warzone, their first album in 8 years, they’ve stripped things down in favor of a back-to-basics punk rock sound. The album comes off sounding like a Rancid record with Aston singing leads, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not as interesting as their prior efforts.
The opening title track immediately establishes the album’s punk direction. It’s a straight-ahead hardcore number with Aston and Armstrong trading off leads, belting out anti-establishment lyrics. Both it and later song “Completely Detach” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Rancid’s 2000 self-titled record. Other tracks like “See It to Believe It”, “Back to You”, and “Exit the Wasteland” are built around Armstrong’s Clash-influenced populist punk familiar from so many Rancid records. Single “Come Around” is a standout, with its acoustic jangle and soulful melody. “Any of Them” is another straight-ahead punk rocker with typical us-vs.-them lyrics: “No I don’t give a fuck about you or any of them”.
Some rap moments pop up here and there, but not nearly as much as on the group’s previous records. The most hip-hopping tracks on In a Warzone are the pop-oriented “Something’s Different”, featuring Bun B and Equipto, and “It’s a Problem” which features Paul Wall and is built around a Dick Dale-inspired surf riff making for an interesting musical twist. Rancid bassist Matt Freeman plays on the latter track, and his skills should’ve also been utilized on “Silence”, where a bass solo pops up that’s so obviously not his that it makes you wonder why he’s absent from it. Not that Kevin Bivona—who plays bass on every track but “It’s a Problem”—isn’t capable, but “Silence” is so obviously going for a “Maxwell Murder” moment and just doesn’t quite get there.
If you’re a Rancid fan, or liked the more aggressive tracks on past Transplants albums (think “Romper Stomper”, “Tall Cans in the Air”, and “Not Today”), then In a Warzone is likely to please you. But if you favored the band’s more pop-oriented and genre-blending efforts (“Diamonds and Guns”, “Crash and Burn”, etc.) then it might disappoint.