Fixation were four Philly dudes who formed and quickly lit up the hardcore scene with their intense live shows. From 2017 – 2020, they spat out five releases: three demos and two 7” EPs, on WAR Records, who are about to put our their first full-length, The Secrets We Keep.
“Oh man, I am overly stoked for this LP to be out,” says guitarist Mikey Bifolco. “We recorded it like two years ago, maybe more. Covid and other bullshit just got in the way. So, to everyone (in the band), it just seemed like this was never gonna see the light of day. It’s been a pretty wild journey, honestly. We decided to replace our old singer with Philadelphia’s recording wizard Wyatt Oberholzer (who also produced the LP), probably a couple months before Covid hit. I remember the day we put out the 2020 Promo (the first release with Wyatt), I was in the hospital with Covid before they even knew what Covid was. Then, after I escaped from the hospital, we recorded the first full LP. It seemed at the time like we were recording a record that no one was ever gonna hear or see live because it felt like the world was ending. When shows came back, we started playing here and there. But, it honestly felt kind of weird playing only new songs off the LP that no one ever heard before. So, we decided to lay low till the record came out.”
Fixation’s early sound with the ex-vocalist was more straight forward stomping, gritty hardcore. Think bands like Philly peers, PLEASE DIE!, 86 Mentality, or UKHC like Violent Reaction and Arms Race. On The Secrets We Keep the sound has expanded and been molded with a more creative bend. Oberholzer’s vocals are more screamed than growled, conjuring a more 2000’s approach. The riffs, two-step rhythms and fast parts align perfectly. Upon pressing play or dropping a needle, the tracks quickly beckon comparisons to American Nightmare, especially, but also Right Brigade, Panic, Count Me Out, and Blacklisted. These influences are boasted proudly by Bifolco. “Those are definitely some huge influences. As the guitar player and the person that wrote 95% of the guitar parts on the LP, a lot of stuff I was listening to at the time of the recording was: AFI –Shut Your Mouth, Open Your Eyes; Nerve Agents-Days of the White Owl; American Nightmare- Background Music; Samhain- Unholy Passion.”
The different sound sits on the same foundation but adds extra layers. Bifolco states succinctly, “The sound was definitely just an organic growth. We never wanted to put out the same sounding record. This is just where we felt our sound should go.”
And it goes there. There are longer songs, tempo changes, and more melodic lines with texture. “Toledo” (upgraded from Promo 2020) and “Motion Sickness” are written with thought, showcasing separate sections, times changes, and a production approach that creates space and a full sound. The instrumental intro which follows to transition into “Purgatory” establishes a similar feeling. Other stand out tracks are “The Art of Playing Dead,” “Violence,” and “D.I.D.”
The lyrics, expressing a new vocalist’s perspective, have also changed.
Bifolco confirms, “With Wyatt now on vocals, the lyrical content has definitely become more personal and darker.” He quips, “Honestly I’m not really too sure what the old lyrics were even about.”
The icon pic on discogs of ex-vocalist (Matt Green) flashing an X on the hand or being on Andrew Kline’s (Berthold City, Strife) label doesn’t equate to SXE. Bifolco offers, “I have never ever in my life played a Fixation set even remotely sober. Drugs and alcohol aren’t for everyone. But, they definitely play an important role in this band.”
Oberholzer swung double duty, as vocalist and producer. Now that he is a member, the vision of the record was stabilized internally. “Recording the Fixation LP with Wyatt (now on vocals) felt very natural almost as if nothing’s changed. We’ve worked together so many times before. But, we’ve been friends for such a long time that it just felt like we’re doing a record ourselves. We knew exactly the kind of record we wanted to make and that’s just what we did.”
The Secrets We Keep results in a focused band. Caustic, bitter, and ferocious. The eleven tracks race through eardrums in protest and spite. Waiting to share these tracks must have been excruciating.
As far as playing live, Bifolco shrugs, “We got some things in the works but ya can always contact us if ya got any wild ideas…”
Stream The Secrets We Keep in full here:
Photo courtesy of Ian Shiver