Interview with vocalist Mike Score | By Hutch
All Out War are an institution. For 25 years, they took the breakdowns and spirit of NYHC, and injected the fury of German thrash. Unapologetically, vocalist Mike Score and his crew infused metal into hardcore and helped define a quickly changing landscape of music. Popping up on Gain Ground Records and Chord/Too Damn Hype Recordings compilations like East Coast Assault II, Philly Dust Krew, and A Fistful of Hardcore in the ‘90s, the band also released a demo and their scorching debut, Truth in the Age of Lies. Now, after finishing a four album deal with Victory Records, which traversed from the classic 1998’s For Those Who Were Crucified to 2010’s Into the Killing Fields, All Out War are back. After five years—and a return to the band’s 1998 lineup—Score is peddling his pissed off hardcore again in the form of the Dead Gods EP out now via Organized Crime Records.
“The …Crucified lineup drifted apart around 2003,” Score explains. “But, in 2013, Joe Hardcore asked us to play This Is Hardcore Fest. That other lineup was moving out of music. So, I asked the […Crucified] line up. Here we are.” After a decade of separation, Score and bassist Eric Carrillo, the only other constant, report feeling energized by the reunion. They were only going to play the fest, “but then, another offer came in, the A389 Birthday Bash with Integrity, Infest, and Ringworm” among a score of other hardcore and metal legends.
Reiterating Agnostic Front vocalist Roger Miret’s opinion in a recent interview, Score pushes to avoid rehashing old tunes. “We didn’t want to be living off of what we did in the past,” he says. “We said that if we were doing shows, we want to do something new.” To hone the focus of the old members, they toured Europe, played shows with Xibalba’s U.S. tour, and did some West Coast shows. “It felt fantastic. We are hitting it hard.”
With synergy fused and energy throbbing, Score and crew jumped into the studio. To round out the resurrection, All Out War grabbed …Crucified producer, Steve Evetts, as well. With over 100 discogs producer credits, Evetts has spent his decade working with varied acts like Deadguy, Vision, Cause For Alarm, Lifetime, Sick Of It All, Turmoil, and dozens more. Score states, “It was great. Steve Evetts is a taskmaster. He pushes you; makes you work, bring it out of you. He is on top of his game and a great guy.”
Dying Gods grew out of the desire to have a demo to shop. “It’s still the idea. Have people know that we are back and writing and on the road,” Score explains. “But we’d been friends with [Organized Crime Records’] Clint [Billington]. He worked at Victory and the Bulldog store. He said he would release it. We worked with him in past. He is a great friend.” Lauding Clint’s work ethic, Score describes him as “a hard worker. He puts out great releases. He pushed us to do a video teaser and promote. There was no doubt that it would be a great experience.”
Score reflects, “Writing this one was much easier. I enjoyed all lineups. Eric and I have been together continuously since 1992. But with this lineup, it’s easy. The members know what we are about as a band. We all draw from similar influences. Leeway, Carnivore, Kreator, German thrash. There was a smooth transition in writing. There was no disconnect. This feels like being in a band when we started. No real pressure either, because we aren’t trying to do world tours or live off of it. We all have day jobs and families. Dying Gods was a laid back vibe. We write stuff because we love it, like when we were kids. The process is natural, no pressure.”
All Out War’s lyrics have always been violent and vivid. Apocalyptic visuals and fatalistic themes paint environments of catastrophic outcomes. War and pollution are byproducts of human greed and ignorance. These savage landscapes become more surprising when you learn that Score is a high school teacher.
He has taught freshman and sophomore World History in Newburg, N.Y., for 13 years. Teaching seems inherently optimistic, educating future minds.
“I don’t use a textbook, except to get them to read,” Score explains of his approach. “I teach with primary sources, analyzing what the person is saying. You want them to think for themselves, use primary sources. Then, ask them, ‘What did the author think? Why? What shaped them? What aspects of society and outside influences impacted their thinking?’ Hopefully, they voice their opinion and will use that opinion to have discussion and not be stubborn, unbending people.”
The old adage of punk designating the problem and hardcore presenting the solution comes to life. Score’s embodies that ethos in his teaching. There is always more work to do. Progress is slow and presents additional obstacles. Score continues, “The thing that shocks me about [youth] is how socially unaware they are. It’s bizarre. In the 1980s and 1990s, we knew what was going on. They don’t know current events. They have no idea. It strikes me as strange how they have no depth with social issues, even the music they listen to.”
Dying Gods hopes to alter that mentality. “The apathy is unbelievable,” Score laments. “It’s at an all time high. There have always been kids who don’t care, but now, it’s the majority.” Now that the issue has been identified, it can fuel the powerful expressions of these five dudes to help solve the situation.
Score explains that the title, Dying Gods, points to religion and celebrities and governments misleading their followers. His goal is to break these kids free of inherited adoration and blind allegiance. Score concludes, “It is a challenge. But, if you can provide a spark and get them to think about reality outside their world, you’ve accomplished something. You cannot dwell on the ones you cannot reach. If you dwell, it is depressing and misses the positive.”