Biohazard – Urban Discipline / No Holds Barred: Live In Europe (2CD Set)


When grunge hit in 1991 and sent metal out for the count, those of us with a penchant for heavy music had to look elsewhere for our fix. Many found a spiritual home in the hardcore scene, especially in the punishing sounds of Carnivore, Cro-Mags and, of course, New York’s hardest, Biohazard. Their ‘92 album for Roadrunner Records, Urban Discipline, found them at a pinnacle and its visceral blast echoed throughout the following years, reverberating with both metalheads and spiky tops alike. The band’s reputation was built on a ferocious live show, and that’s where the second disc comes in. Recorded in Germany, No Holds Barred: Live In Europe hit the streets in ‘97 and, as this scribe can attest, was an authentic live document. The two albums combined make for an explosive listen, and one guaranteed to melt your stereo.

Disc One: Urban Discipline (1992)

When Biohazard formed in Brooklyn 1987, New York was far more Taxi Driver and its enclaves of bombed out, condemned buildings had an apocalyptic air, and that’s precisely the aesthetic that Biohazard tapped into for their sophomore album Urban Discipline. Hitting the listener like a bullet ‘twixt the eyes ‘Chamber Spins Three’ was the album’s incendiary opener and over thirty years later, it still smokes like fresh kill. While bands such as Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags had started to incorporate metal into their hardcore sound, the line between the two was never walked with the panache displayed on this album. Evan Seinfeld’s bass and Danny Schuler’s drums entwine to deliver a constant one-two dropkick while guitarists Billy Graziadei and Bobby Hambel largely eschew solos to deliver razor sharp riffs that cut like steely knives. It’s the musical equivalent of a brutal beatdown, and it set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the album.

Punishment’ was the track that broke Biohazard to a wider audience via a video that was played to death on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, and its grinding rhythm was a war cry that won the band countless converts. However, it was the mosh pit inducing promo for ‘Shades Of Grey’ that really captured the band’s ethos, the lyrics from which (along with cuts such as ‘Black And White And Red All Over’) brought an anti-racist street suss that had yet to explored in the genre. This message could have blown up in the band’s face, but it’s to the credit of metal’s masses that they welcomed Biohazard with open arms. Of course, that acceptance was partly due to the band’s delivery and throughout Urban Discipline both Billy and Evan provide vocals, and when they’re both in full throw (‘Man With A Promise’) they can’t be touched. Even when the band take their foot of the pedal (‘Tears Of Blood’) they’re still crushingly heavy but it was closer ‘Hold My Own’ that was the ultimate mission statement and rendered Urban Discipline a stone cold classic.

Four bonus tracks present cuts that would later appear on Urban Discipline in embryonic, demo form and while they’re not a million miles removed from the final versions, they do add a nice raw edge. I actually prefer the grittier ‘Business’, but unlike some bonus tracks that are cobbled together for reissues, these versions don’t detract from the album, and make this the definitive version of Urban Discipline.

Disc Two: No Holds Barred: Live In Europe (1997)

Following the success of Urban Discipline Biohazard were snapped up by Warner Bros. and went on an amazing journey that found them veering further into rap territory (collaborating with Cypress Hill and Onyx) whilst touring the globe. But 1997 found them back on Roadrunner, for their first ever live album, No Holds Barred: Live In Europe. Collating tracks from their self-titled debut to the (then) current Mata Leao, this live album reads like a “greatest hits” collection, only with the added oomph of being played live. As with their studio releases, there was no pretence when it came to a Biohazard gig, and with little warning No Holds Barred immediately gets its hands dirty with ‘Shades Of Grey’. Both the amplifiers and energy levels were cranked up to the max and, like four characters overdosing on speedballs, they proceed to give an advanced lesson in high-octane stagecraft that throws in a few surprises (a neat cover of Sabbath’s ‘After Forever’, for one).

Unlike Urban Discipline, No Holds Barred wasn’t going to win the band legions of new fans, rather it was meant as a souvenir, a time capsule that would forever immortalise their frenetic live show, and on that account, it ticks every box. I had the pleasure of witnessing Biohazard on the smallest and biggest stages (including a memorable Donington appearance in 1994 when they brought the whole event to a halt) but whether sticky-floor venue or festival, they always turned in a spit n’ sawdust show and that vibe soaks through every note of this disc. As the band power through classics such as ‘Victory’, ‘Blue Blood’ and ‘How It Is’ you can almost see waves of stage divers in mid-flight and boots in the air as crowd surfers are upended. By dint of its no-thrills production, No Holds Barred captures the pure essence of a Biohazard show. If you were there, you’ll know what I mean. If not, here’s your ticket.

Biohazard would later be usurped by those who followed and repackaged their hardcore/metal/rap fusion for mass consumption. And while Biohazard would never again scale the creative heights found on these two releases, both of these albums are yet to be equalled, and aren’t likely to be.

Track List:

Disc One: Urban Discipline

  1. Chamber Spins Three
  2. Punishment
  3. Shades Of Grey
  4. Business
  5. Black And White And Red All Over
  6. Man With A Promise
  7. Disease
  8. Urban Discipline
  9. Loss
  10. Wrong Side Of The Tracks
  11. Mistaken Identity
  12. We’re Only Gonna Die (From Our Own Arrogance)
  13. Tears Of Blood
  14. Hold My Own

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Business (Demo)
  2. Urban Discipline (Demo)
  3. Loss (Demo)
  4. Black And White And Red All Over (Demo)

Disc Two: No Holds Barred: Live In Europe

  1. Shades Of Grey
  2. What Makes Us Tick
  3. Authority
  4. Urban Discipline
  5. Modern Democracy
  6. Love Denied
  7. Business
  8. Tales From The Hard Side
  9. Better Days
  10. Victory
  11. Survival Of The Fittest
  12. Blue Blood
  13. Black And White And Red All Over
  14. Victory (Reprise)
  15. How It Is
  16. After Forever
  17. Tears Of Blood
  18. German Lesson #7
  19. Chamber Spins Three
  20. Wrong Side Of The Tracks
  21. Waiting To Die
  22. These Eyes (Have Seen)
  23. Punishment
  24. Hold My Own

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Shades Of Grey
  2. Punishment