When it comes to hardcore/punk music scenes, South Florida (or even Florida as whole for that matter) is never really at the forefront. More hardcore fans know of the NYHC sound and scene or the SoCal sound or Midwest hardcore scene. Due to its location and infinite influx of different cultures, South Florida never really had a hardcore scene or sound per se. The better known hardcore/punk bands to come out of the Sunshine State include As Friends Rust, Hot Water Music, Shai Hulud, Floor, and a few others. But of the bunch, especially in the 90’s, Strongarm would probably be one of the bands that defined the SFLxHC sound if there were to be one. And that’s “South Florida Hardcore” by the way.
Strongarm formed in 1993 and got the attention of many in the hardcore scene. The band released their first album, Atonement, on the Tooth & Nail label. The record pushed them forward in the hardcore circles and gained them a larger following outside of their SoFla home. Even though the band was pigeon-holed as “Christian Hardcore”…and surely so since the member were outspoken Christians and lyrically the music dealt with faith-driven issues and ideas…the band was embraced by many and all. It wasn’t until 1997’s The Advent of a Miracle that the band cemented their place in the local Florida scene but also being one of the more innovative and unique-sounding bands in hardcore bands at the time.
The Advent of a Miracle was also released by Tooth & Nail. It quickly became a benchmark for hardcore bands who were also not afraid to deal with more intensely personal matters in their lyrics, but also, as in Strongarm’s case, express their Christians views and thoughts without alienating others. Their sound was unique and at the time, only another band, Shai Hulud, also explored non-standard hardcore sounds. Plus they also shared a member in Steve Kleisath on drums. The similar sound was not missed by anyone and “One of the reasons for this fact might have been that Joshua [Colbert, guitars] had played with Shai Hulud’s guitar player Matt Fox around 1991 in a band called Planet X. They discovered that hardcore didn’t necessarily have to mean powerchords… they experimented with other kind of chord arrangements and melody that led to the sound that distinguished both Strongarm and Shai Hulud from the hardcore scene at the time.”
The record quickly went out of print and much sough-after by fans and collectors alike. Fast forward to February 2010, and the Blank Page Empire label announced that they had finally secured the rights to repress The Advent of a Miracle. Pre-orders were taken. And then the waiting game began. After a few obstacles encountered, including waiting on updated artwork, the label was finally able to make the repress happen and it’s making its way to fans’ hands and turntables.
As far as repressings/reissues, this was definitely not half-assed. I do not have an OG Tooth & Nail copy to compare it to, but the BPE repress is very well-done. From the artwork, inserts, colors, to the sound, this exceeded any and all expectations I may have had.
Right from the pre-order announcement, it was made known that three colors would be available in a total press run of 500. It was nice to see that the colors did not change with time as we have seen some labels do with their releases from the initial announcements.
Black with White “Haze” – a total 100 hand-numbered were done. The “haze” looks more like a streaking and even marble, hence the “haze” in quotes.
Maroon – 200 total. It’s a more clear maroon with a slight darker haze or smoke effect inside. Very reminiscent to the maroon of Shai Hulud‘s Hearts Once Nourished With Hope And Compassion (pic here). I’d like to think that it’s an homage to that release of a SFLxHC brethren.
Dirt Brown Mix – 200 total. This is a more solid-looking brown/maroon with also a smoke effect. At first on quick glance easy to confuse with the maroon color but on closer inspection the differences are evident.
Overall, this repress turned out superb. A great deal of attention and care was paid to make sure that it was near-perfect. Along with Converge‘s Jane Doe 2xLP earlier this year and Integrity’s Those Who Fear Tomorrow LP (check out my friend Marcus’ blog for a detailed write-up), Strongarm‘s The Advent of a Miracle is definitely one of the best reissues of this year.
I was lucky enough to have been around when Strongarm were active and caught their live shows plenty of times. They always left a positive impression and only time will tell if a reunion will ever take place. I’d like to keep hope alive.