When talking about Detroit, the city has a proven and impressive track record for producing awesome, angry-as-fuck hardcore punk bands. Since the 1980s, bands like Negative Approach and the Meatmen have done a fantastic job of perfectly encapsulating the feelings of frustration, desperation, and nihilism that threaten to take over the local youth when, let’s face it, the economic situation seems completely hopeless.
What was true in 1983 when NA’s John Brannon sang of being “Tied Down” is true today — create an environment of distress for a city’s youth, and they’ll need a release. Guitarists will need to thrash down on their instruments hard and heavy, vocalists will need to scream bloody murder, drummers and bassists will need to raise holy hell with their noise, and everybody else will just smash shit up. It’s the way of the world, and it’s the way of Final Assault.
This angriest of the new breed, composed of guitarist Chris Hamilton, vocalist Jason McGregor, drummer Tony Pratt, bassist Wayne Ginell, and guitarist Daniel Boustany, formed seven years ago out of the ashes of other local punk bands. “Jason was in Pub Life, and Wayne was in a band called Heresy from the 1980s,” says Hamilton. “They grew up together in the Waterford area. Sometime in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Wayne moved away and then came back. Wayne was kind of on the fringe of re-forming Heresy, but they wanted to do something new and that’s when he got a hold of Jason. Then Beast from H8 Inc. got the ball rolling, got them together, and got it going. They brought Daniel [Boustany] in from UDI to play drums, and me to play guitar. A few years later, we kept going and put out a couple of demos and two 7-inches. Daniel moved to second guitar, and we brought in Tony from Anguish to play drums.”
While other bands were fusing genres, Final Assault wanted to create pure and direct hardcore music. “The influences are on the Discharge side, and a lot of Swedish and Finnish bands that came out of the early 1990s,” Hamilton says. “We love Discharge, but also bands that were influenced by Discharge. That’s what drove us to bring the style. It felt like a lot of bands were crossover or a blend of this, that, or the other. We just wanted to be straight ahead, no frills, this is what it is, it’s gonna be short, sweet, and to the point.”
The band’s lyrical themes tend to cover things like the woes of society, war, and how people mistreat each other — typical hardcore fare. Final Assault isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, but the guys did realize that the wheel needed pulling out of the shed and giving a bit of spit and polish. Still, Hamilton is happy that the current Detroit punk-rock scene is healthy.
“I’m not the best person to ask because I’m not as young as I used to be, and I don’t get to all of the shows that I’d like to,” he says. “But there are a lot of bands out there, and a lot of them are really good. It’s diverse, and that’s a nice thing about it. There’s not one style or genre that’s dominating right now. It’s everything from the old-style thrash skate bands, then you have the crossover bands like UDI. There are younger people doing it, but then you have the veterans like Hellmouth. Right now, it’s one of the better times we’ve had in quite a while as far as diversity and the amount of bands. It’s hard for me to keep up with all of them, to be honest. There are so many great bands. It’s a high point for me, personally.”
Naturally for a band that balances on a line separating chaos and, well, order, Final Assault has played a few bad gigs. “Emery Kethley from Cold as Life — he passed away suddenly so everyone did a benefit for him at the Majestic Theatre and there were 10 or 12 bands,” Hamilton says. “We were just starting out, and it was just an off night for us that didn’t gel. I broke a string and Wayne was out of tune. That was definitely one of the worst shows, not just because of how we played but because we couldn’t get it together to help out a friend.”
This weekend, Final Assault plays on a bill with veteran Italian punk band (and the very Detroit-named) Raw Power. Hamilton is psyched. “I book them,” he says. “They’re from Italy, and they’ve been around for almost 30 years now. They’ve been to the United States a few times in the past. Back in the mid-1980s, they played here in Detroit on Cass Avenue, Heresy actually played with them, and the show got shut down by cops. What happened was, it was a DIY venue — I guess a blind pig. The cops came in, and there was a mini riot with police helicopters above them with a spotlight. Heresy actually played that show, so when they came back last year it was a big deal for me to get them on the bill again just to relive history a little bit. Luckily, no riots this time. It went off great, and that’s why they want to come back again a year later, because they have a new record out.”
The show features a whole host of similarly minded bands. “It’s Raw Power from Italy, Warton from Minnesota, who we’ve toured with before,” Hamilton says. “They’ve been around about 10 years too. Then we’ve got Hellmouth, who as a weird coincidence, the guy who’s booking the tour for Raw Power put out Hellmouth’s first 7-inch. That’s how they got on the bill. Then Final Assault, UDI, and then Nuke, which is a metal-punk kind of band. They’re really good and worth checking out.”
As for Final Assault, what do these noisy bastards have planned after the show? “After this, we’ll be going into the studio to record two more 7-inch singles and maybe an EP,” Hamilton says. “We’re hoping to do that at the end of August at a newer place, I think in Hamtramck. Then maybe get the record out by the end of the year. It takes longer than we’d like it to, but it is what it is. We’ve been offered a few shows, but we want to get the recordings done first. I have a few big out-of-town bands I’m hoping to get in.”
Final Assault then — the last word in brutal Detroit punk rock.
Final Assault plays with Raw Power, Warton, UDI, and Nuke at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3 at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; $10.
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