Ensign – “The Price of Progression” (tour edition)

One of the “problems” I seem to have is finding time to sit down and listen to my newly purchased vinyl.  This is a function of a somewhat busy life, a wife who doesn’t always want to listen what I want to listen to (for example, hardcore), and, frankly, my habit of continuing to buy more stuff even when I still have other stuff I haven’t listened to yet.  And I don’t want to turn listening to my new acquisitions into some kind of chore, though I am mildly compulsive enough to want to sit down and plow through as much of it as I can, as quickly as I can.  But that’s dumb, because then I won’t really be enjoying it, just listening to it.  These are the trials and tribulations of my life.  Feel free to throw me a pity party if you want to.  Maybe someone should make an after-school-special about this.

So we came back from Iceland Airwaves with tons of vinyl and CDs, and we’ve been enjoying the process of working our way through them.  There are lots of different genres represented – punk, rock, psych, pop, industrial, and even big band.  But I also have a small stack of forlorn looking records that I bought before we left on our trip that I still haven’t gotten to… plus two more that are in the mail as we speak… and I still need to buy a digital copy of Berndsen’s new Planet Earth…  With that in mind I figured I’d take advantage of Holly being out of the house for a few hours to put on one of the punk records I bought at Easy Street a few weeks ago, Ensign’s The Price of Progression.

I normally don’t buy punk records without putting them on at the listening station for at least 30 seconds or so.  I’m not looking for the insanely hard stuff, and it’s usually pretty easy to tell from just a couple of songs if I’m going to hate it.  But The Price of Progression was more of an impulse buy, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I put it on this morning.  What I got was one of the best records I’ve heard this year.

This version of The Price of Progression was released in conjunction with the band’s fall 2001 tour.  It’s in a plain, yellow paper sleeve with just black printing and is numbered on the reverse (mine is #53 of 200).  As an added bonus it’s on blue vinyl.  It looks like there are at least two other “special” versions of this record, a European tour release of 300 on blue, and a tan vinyl release of 500.  Sometimes punk bands flat out confuse me with all the different versions available of the same record.

Hailing from New Jersey, Ensign has been described using a number of different genres and micro genres, the seemingly most common of which are hardcore punk and metalcore.  Call it what you want, but right from the opening track, “The Spark,” I knew I was going to dig The Price of Progression.  The songs are just fast enough to qualify as hardcore, but Tim Shaw’s vocals are still clean enough that you can hear what he’s saying – this isn’t just a growl or scream fest.  There certainly are elements of a somewhat more metal sound here, but the core is still punk rock.  Good pace changes and strong, funky, loose bass lines keep it all moving forward.  “While the Iron is Hot” is my favorite track, though it may also be the most metal sounding song on the record so that may be as much about my tastes as how good the song is.

The Price of Progression should appeal to both punk and metal fans, as well as those of bands like Transplants and Endless Dark.  I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for other Ensign titles in the future.

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