Down By Law – Champions at Heart

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Down By Law

Champions at Heart - DC Jam Records

Down By Law hit their peak back in the 90’s when they were releasing a brand new album every other year or sooner through Epitaph Records.  Since then, the aging punk rockers have scaled back considerably, releasing one album of new material over the past decade before settling down for a brief hiatus.  But as the saying goes, you can’t keep a good band down.  Four years after breaking their hiatus, the band returns with their seventh studio album, Champions At Heart. 

As one might expect from a band having made a career of living outside of the spotlight, not much has changed since the 90’s aside from their aging outlooks.  Much like fellow alumni act The Bouncing Souls,the most notable difference is a more relaxed pace.  With front man Dave Smalley somewhere in his 40’s now, the urgency of youth has been replaced with the steady hum of nostalgia.  Songs like “Punk Rock United” reminisce fondly upon a career of touring and the global friends and fans making up the punk rock community.  “Every tattoo, every show, it’s a way of life we call our own, one life, one fight, one future tonight” Smalley sings with pride.  For better or worse, the band revisits this sentiment both in “Warriors United,” “Rebels and Angels,” and “Misfits United,” which are clearly aimed at their early audience.

Generally the band plays a safe set with a few standout exceptions.  For instance, “Homicide” plays like anything lifted from a classic Pennywise record, “Tiny Answers” combines graded pedal work with acoustic guitars and steady rhythms, and “Perpetual Sorrow” marries a rougher vocal style with an emotively in tune message.  While not particularly innovative, they certainly do “pop” from the framework across the course of the disc.

In the end, Down By Law follows the same formula they always have, making Champions At Heart a solid, albeit predictable entry in the four-piece’s catalogue.  With the songs emphasizing early 90’s melody, the album runs its course as an easy listen.  So while Champions At Heart might not leave too much of an impact, and all the songs aren’t terribly memorable, it’s certainly fun while it lasts.