In 2021, Pure Noise reissued With Honor’s seminal 2004 debut album, Heart Means Everything. That record had originally established the Connecticut hardcore band as true stalwarts of the scene, but after 2005’s follow-up, This Is Our Revenge, life took over. There were the occasional shows here and there, including a fundraiser after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in their home state. But it was when the five-piece—vocalist Todd Mackey, guitarists Jay and Jeff Aust, bassist Jack Caron and drummer Jon Ross—reunited to play Furnace Fest in 2021 (after a number of delays due to the pandemic), that the seed was sown for the idea of making new music. Given how feral and visceral their music is, it was perhaps a risky decision given that they’re all older than they were when This Is Our Revenge came out, but, buoyed how they’d felt playing again, as well as by the re-release of Heart Means Everything, they forged ahead with determination and zeal.
They’ve pulled it off perfectly. In fact, if you didn’t know better, the twelve songs on Boundless could easily have been made right after that last record—they contain, incredibly, that same fiery passion and youthful energy that defined With Honor back when they first started.
“After we played Furnace Fest,” says Mackey, “we did some shows in New England and in New York, and the energy was super high and it was awesome. But the physical toll is legitimate. I mean, it was back then, so add 20 years to that. But it’s wonderful to reconnect with something that was so foundational to us. And there’s something really powerful about integrating seasons of your life–like having my kids and Jay’s kids hanging out with us when we were playing shows—and Jay’s as well on stage when we were playing shows—and it just felt like there could be new stories of this. For them to see it and experience it and have a sense of what that meant to us, it became kind of a no-brainer to just continue what we’d started and from where we’d left off.”
Boundless was recorded at Silver Bullet Studios in Burlington, CT, which is run by longtime friend of the band Greg Thomas (Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, The Risk Taken) and Chris Teti from The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, and while With Honor managed to bottle all that energy they’d re-found playing live again, it’s interesting to note that the band took their time doing so. It might sound like one frenzied burst of energy, but the writing process was more considered—With Honor wanted it to sound organic and natural—in other words, true to who both who they are and who they were—rather than forced and contrived.
“When the question about writing new music was raised,” Mackey says, “the environment we were in because of the pandemic and also just our personal lives allowed for it to be a possibility. So, we started it began just by writing a few tunes and demoing them and saying, ‘Hey, what’s here?’ And it felt great. “To The Mourning” was the first song we recorded and finished and sort of saw in its fullness, and it felt awesome. It felt really fresh and alive, and so then for me, from a creative standpoint, regardless of where were went from there, it was just so encouraging and I wanted to keep writing.”
Though that song now sits in the middle of the record, the result of the enthusiasm writing it spawned can be heard all the way through. From the breakneck melody of opener “My Anchor” and its commanding opening declaration of ‘I’m grounded by my ghost’ to the assured self-examination of closer “Grown Up & Gone” and its confident vulnerability, this is a record that pulses with the self-aware joy of being alive and of being present, but also with the knowledge that none of this lasts forever. You can hear that—and, perhaps even more importantly, feel it—in the frenetic surge of “Trees”, in the blistering rage of “Nonviolent Redemption”, in the empowering blast of “Love Is All”. That last song references both Harriet Tubman and Mahatma Gandhi in its lyrics, and features Mackey’s son and daughter (who are also both referenced elsewhere in these songs), Jay’s son, and John’s son singing together at the end of the song. It’s something that further outlines the purpose and passion, thought and intention, that went into the making of this record, and cements the tussle and tension between past and present that courses through it. For while the energy levels are as high as they ever were, there’s a new perspective present within it. That’s something that was prevalent in all of their minds when they were writing this album, but especially in Mackey’s.
“At this age, I realized that for a lot of people, anxiety or worry is forward-facing, but a lot of it is backward-facing, where challenging energy that nostalgia, or even very good memories, can create expectations which can hold us back from really just sitting in a moment and having it all in that moment. From my personal perspective, I was going through a transition, going through a divorce, and seeing my family shape change dramatically. And making this has been a process for not only just understanding and acceptance, but also removing some of the expectations that become cumbersome today, whether they might come from hopes for some sort of future or regrets over some sort of past—or anywhere in between.”
Ultimately, though, what this record does is take that friction and tension and transforms it into something positive, something to look forward to, rather than backwards at. That way, there’s always hope for the future. That’s the very essence of this record, something captured precisely and concisely by its single word title.
“We named the record after it was all done,” Mackey says. “The whole idea that there’s no limit just resonates all the way through this record. There’s a lot of observing nature healing itself and then believing in that for yourself—and as a result you’re kind of unlimited in that way. And so having the title Boundless just felt the way we wanted it to feel, which, in so many ways, is what this record is all about.”