Reviews: Abolitionist – Bleeding Kansas EP

What happens when the future of your band is uncertain? Write a new EP, of course! That’s exactly the conclusion that Dustin Herron came to when the line up for Abolitionist was up in the air and he wasn’t even sure if the band would progress forward. So, over the course of almost a year, he went into the studio and laid down all the instrumentation for the Bleeding Kansas EP himself. The result is a rawer form of the sound developed on their previous full band LP but with all of the inherent substance I’ve come to expect.

Abolitionist keeps drawing me in with their lo-fi yet well-orchestrated approach to punk rock. Fuzzy, buzzing guitars and pounding rhythm a la Sub Pop or Dischord that’s been mixed with a dose of Dillinger Four serves to highlight the uneasiness and bleak scape created by the lyrics. Well, maybe you don’t care about the depth of lyrical content on this EP. You’d be missing out, but if you’re like Paul Ryan and prefer the feel of a record over it’s substance, then you’re still in for a treat because the music is killer and Dustin Herron has done a great job of performing all the parts.

While It Used to Rain told a tale set in a fictional dystopia of a worldwide water shortage and the resulting fallout, Bleeding Kansas is an interpretation of the historical events of an abolitionist uprising that precluded the Civil War.

Herron describes his lyrical inspiration as such:

“In October of 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led twenty-five men – composed of former slaves, fellow abolitionists, and his sons – in an ill-fated raid on the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. His idea was to steal its weapons, arm the town’s slaves, and lead them into the surrounding hills to wage an insurrection against the institution of slavery. It was a failure and John Brown was subsequently executed. His actions, however, confirmed to the slave-ocracy that it was under attack by the supposedly anti-slavery Northern states and the first American Civil War began soon after. The rest is history. Blood-soaked history.”

Pretty dark stuff, huh? Well, that’s our nation’s fledgling history. Despite being based on a little known event, there are lyrics on this EP that are chillingly apt in modern America. Lines like “We are all the same here, all kept in line by the violent fear that the rich men lie about” in the song “What We Need is Action” or when, in the title track, Herron sings “United States of America. No North, No South, just one land for us all”, it’s hard to think that much has changed. With hyperbolic rallying cries from both sides of the beltway, it’s amazing we’ve even made it this far. Perhaps by examining the events that drew us apart in the past, Herron hopes to highlight the folly of this repeating history of division and the desperate acts that maligned people find themselves perpetrating so that, maybe, people from both sides can come together before irreparable choices are made.

Don’t worry, faithful listeners, Abolitionist isn’t going anywhere. There’s another LP in the works that’s slated to be released in early 2013 with a full lineup of Chad Miller on bass and Jeff Carey on drums for which Keith Rosson has already designed the album artwork. In the meantime, go download the Bleeding Kansas EP to hold you over until then. It’s a pay-what-you-want download (so it can be picked up for free) but don’t be a cheap-o jerk. Throw a few bucks Abolitionist’s way so they can keep putting out such interesting, quality punk rock.

Check out the new EP on their Bandcamp site from the link below!

Bleeding Kansas


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onTheWeb: Abolitionist | Abolitionist Facebook | Abolitionist Bandcamp

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About Ross Hostage

Ross Hostage

Album Reviews Editor, Lead Contributor, Musician, Punk Rocker.