There is a question at the heart of every art form, but it is especially poignant with regards to performance artwork. With music, the question comes up when a band dissolves or when band members who have been part of monumental projects try to go solo: where do you go from here? Our case today concerns one Billy Graziadei, known primarily for his involvement with and status as the most consistent member of the Brooklyn hardcore outfit, Biohazard (even moreso than Evan Seinfeld!) He was most recently involved with his other band, Powerflo, a band fronted by Sen Dog from Cypress Hill. Now he’s back with his first proper solo album under the moniker of BillyBio, Feed the Fire. Let’s see if we don’t need no water after all, shall we?
Level with me here: anyone expecting anything but often hardcore-tinted (old school) punk from this man needs to get their head examined. This is what he is famous for, this is what he does and this is what he offers.
Sound-wise, BillyBio isn’t that far away from Mata Leao-era Biohazard. Having shared vocal duties in that band as well, fans will have no trouble settling into the world of fast-paced punk rock, raised-fist, socially conscious (“Fuck the world and the upper class!” says Graziadei on Generation X, how much more punk do ya even want in 2018?) and uncompromising in its aesthetics.
The one thing that stands out about Feed the Fire more than anything else on it, is the squeaky-clean production. It’s a good mix, a dynamic sound, and although it may be intentional, it feels a bit stripped down. It’s polished, to be sure, but lacks bite. In fact, that sentence applies to the entire album content-wise as well: the songs that come and go feel a bit too close to Biohazard comfort and their stripped-down, bare-essentials sound feels muted, impotent and insufficient. The riffs, the bass, the dbeat drums and the throaty vocals belting out the usual tales we’ve come to expect don’t offer anything new… or anything particularly exciting.
The issue however isn’t what’s on offer, as, like I said, it’s what we should expect. Except it feels so… basic. Here’s another word: dated. This might’ve been hot back in the 1990s or the very early 2000s, but now it just feels like it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. I think this is partially because music kept evolving and musicians, too, had to up their game in order to both stay relevant and to offer something challenging, something that engages listeners on more levels, better sounding, more complex, etc. etc. BillyBio plays it as straight as it gets and as a result, feels limp and powerless. Feels hollow.
Credit where it’s due, however: there are moments that point to something a bit different lurking beneath the surface. Generation X‘s rockier leanings and jovial tone, when coupled with the endless (and endlessly boring) tracks like STFU or Sodality is somewhat refreshing. The instrumental interlude of Trepidation too, with its rather uncharacteristic psychedelic tendencies provides a nice distraction (even if it ends up in a garbled mess at the end…) But other than those, it’s just more of the same.
The thing is, you can’t help but pay respect to someone like Billy Graziadei, that much is certain. That’s why it’s even worse that Feed the Fire feels like a half-baked vanity project. Those interested in Graziadei’s work outside of Biohazard should, and I imagine did, check it out. Others are better off looking elsewhere.
Billy Graziadei – guitar, vocals
Ra Diaz – bass
Simo Perini – drums
01. Freedoms Never Free
02. Feed the Fire
03. No Apologies, No Regrets
04. Generation Z
05. Sick and Tired
08. Rise and Slay
13. Disaffected world