For as much as I love, cherish and appreciate brutal, crushing heavy metal, the first music that ever made a genuine, lasting impact on me was punk rock. It might sound stupid, but I don’t care: “Superman” by Goldfinger was the first song that I ever remember falling in love with, and that feeling hasn’t left me. Punk has shaped who I am as a person, politically, socially and musically and Ignite are one of the forefathers that blossomed the kind of melodic hardcore that sets my soul alight into the mainstream. On their new self-titled release, change comes to the band, but their fighting spirit is only that much stronger.
Formed in 1993 in Orange County, California, Ignite have been putting in the work since day one. 2000 saw them finally break through with the essential A Place Called Home, but by that point they had pretty much been writing and touring nonstop, winning over fans in over forty countries. In true punk fashion, the band’s music has always carried a spirit of radical politics and environmentalism, with money taken in by the band donated to organizations such as Earth First, Doctors Without Borders and Sea Shepherd. Holding down the fort and providing much of the band’s lyrical direction for more than twenty-five years was singer Zoli Téglás, who decided to step down in 2020, leaving the band in an understandably precarious position. How do you replace your frontman of over two decades and keep the drive alive? Apparently, the answer comes from unlikely places in the form of Eli Santana, guitarist of heavy metal mainstays Holy Grail, who comes in guns fucking blazing to pick up the mic and bring the band into their next era. Musically, Ignite shows the band hasn’t lost a single ounce of momentum. In fact, while Zoli’s tenure in the band absolutely cannot be undersold, Ignite sounds practically reinvigorated. They clearly found the best way to move forward while still respecting where they came from.
Obviously, the place to start talking about Ignite is how Eli’s vocals fit. It’s not going to be a very nuanced, both-sides discussion though: the guy has a fucking set of pipes on him, he executes to the absolute highest of degrees and he seamlessly matches the energy of the rest of the band. His delivery is, unsurprisingly, very similar to Zoli’s, but he does manage to put his own particular spin on melodies (see “The River” and “The Butcher in Me”). Bringing him into the fold feels like a natural, obvious fit, even though I had no idea he was such a talented vocalist and charismatic frontman to boot. The songs on Ignite run the usual gamut of political critique and collective organization, but also feature a significant number of personal topics dealing with loss of friendship and confrontation. Musically, the rest of the group is lockstep and brings the fire (pun intended) evoked in their earlier material. “Anti-Complicity Anthem” sounds like it was ripped from the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I’m being dead serious when I say that this is basically the Medal of Honor in terms of compliments I could pay a song. Stompers like the aforementioned opener, “Call Off the Dogs” and “On the Ropes” bring equal parts melodic passion and hardcore fury to the table, all wrapped up in the requisite chant-along choruses and gang-vocal shouts. This is punk for the old-school aficionados as much as it is for a new generation of pissed off kids.
Ignite is exactly what I have been missing from punk music. A tragic number of bands that started at their caliber have either outright sold out or at least flirted with the idea. Of course, there is plenty of good coming out of the new generation of kids picking up their instruments, but it’s nice to know that there is one band from my generation that has always and will continue to always consistently put in the work, no matter what changes may come their way.