The genre of pop punk has stood the test of time, stemming from several 90s acts: MXPX, NOFX, The Ataris, Pennywise, and many more were definitive to the high school experience of many (Editor’s Note: Myself included.) The tracks being put out in that era by record labels like Epitaph and Drive Thru Records were fueling huge summer festivals like Warped Tour. The genre was perfect for the youthful, the passionate, the hopelessly romantic. That was perfectly represented in many’s high school experience.
And yet many grew up to still love and embrace the genre well into adulthood. It was a great mystery how that genre could have the staying power that it does, one that seems to be made up by youthful optimism.
Then you put on From Zero 2 Hero and you remember all the reasons that you loved the aforementioned bands to begin with. You instantly smell the shredded grass and overpriced hot dogs of Warped Tour spilling through the speakers of your choice as you progress through each track of their debut album, “Heroic Tendencies.” With its catchy guitar licks, solid drumming, and a vocal delivery that has gone far and beyond the norms of the genre, that sense of nostalgia takes you back to those teenage years. You start to wonder: “why did I ever give that up?”
We gave the entire album a listen, and it’s not just good: it’s god damn great. There isn’t a track that feels like filler, it all completely the experience. A heroic experience, one that doesn’t stick to one formula. The one-two beats of the drums that defines the genre’s groove is there, but so are the hardcore double kicks and the precise placement of the cymbal hits. The bass doesn’t deviate from this rhythm section, it drives the tracks and gives the guitars the freedom to wail.
And wail they do: the tracks are driven by a very exciting guitar section, one that isn’t afraid to break it down or shred it up. For the live show art, it is a crucial set-up to excite the crowd. What’s surprising is how well it translates to a record. You really get the sense that you’re in the middle of the Chain Reaction in downtown Anaheim. It’s an in-the-pit feel, loud and brash. The backing vocals of “Dragonface” Clay are reminiscent of bands like Autumn to Ashes and Atreyu. And when you combine his rhythm section with the energetic leads of Ruben Crash, you get the blend of sounds that makes this punk blend work.
Of course, we need a vocal and lyrical section that is relatable and dynamic. This is where lead singer Enzo Fuentes shines: this guy screams, he sings, and if you have the pleasure of seeing them live he does all of this while jumping around the stage with insane amounts of energy. The concept of Zero 2 Hero is most closely captured in his words: the lyrics embody empowerment, and overcoming all odds to save the day. The subject matter, from failed relationships to betrayal, is belted to perfection.
It’s a rare kind of album that combines the extremes of melodic and screamo so liberally, and yet retain its own feel without compromising it’s virtues. You can’t deny the energy, the feel, the message, and the sound. From the chugging main riff of the title track “Heroic Tendencies” to the circle pit energy of “Villain” you never lose the driving ideas and feelings of the group. When it finally wraps up with the final acoustic ballad, you have been on a certified journey back to the 1990’s. The hard part, it seems, is coming back from that golden era back to real life when the record is over.
It’s a rare thing to have this blast-to-the-past feel in music, one that doesn’t feel cheesy, forced, or manipulative. This isn’t a cheesy “I Heart the Punk 90’s.” This is a full blown time capsule straight to the best parts of the genre, from the late 20th / early 21st century and on. You suddenly remember bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Silverstein. You remember the how cool it was the hear harmonized guitars and a drum beat for a mosh pit. It’s hard to find this in the now, at least done as well as is done in “Heroic Tendencies.” To that end, it is an important listen in 2017. It proves the genre still has staying power. Let’s hope they have much more material to keep it field for years to come!
Their debut album, “Heroic Tendencies,” will be available from Awfully Good Records on April 20th. It can be purchased on iTunes, and you can pre-order it now. Having heard the whole thing, we can say with confidence that if you have any interest in pop punk at any point in your life, then you will most certainly be thrilled with the contents of the record.If you’d like a preview of the album, here’s a great video to get your started. Check out their debut video “Villain.”