There are moments in life that are filled by split second interactions, chance encounters, random conversations and throwaway advice that change everything and forever alter your perception and the path and direction that fate was originally taking you in. For me, it was bumping headlong into the New York Hardcore scene at the tail end of 1986 when, having read a review of the band in Metal Forces, I picked up Break Down the Walls by Youth of Today in my local(ish) record store. It was, at the time, a hideously expensive import, but I didn’t care because the twenty or so minutes of music that were locked into its grooves changed everything. From that moment on, I sought out and devoured as many NYHC records, demos and live tapes as I could and even though it would be another six years before I finally made it to New York and could experience the scene I adored first hand, for me, New York Hardcore was everything.
Given that, and given how integral a role he actually played in shaping the NYHC scene during its foundling period and early years, it was always kind of odd that I never actually got around to picking up a record by Raymond ‘Raybeez’ Barbieri’s band Warzone until I stumbled across Open Your Eyes sometime in 1988. While most too long in the tooth scenesters will tell you about how they lost their minds to Don’t Forget the Struggle, or if they’re really, really old, the Lower East Side Crew EP, for me Warzone was always about Open Your Eyes. This was the record that made me fall for the band big time, it’s the album that’s still a vital part of my regular playlist and it’s the Warzone record that makes me want to dance my arse of in a pit of one and sing-a-long with each and every time I hear it. Because you never forget your first time; your first time is special. And Open Your Eyes, was my first time and its still, and always will be, special.
It’s here, on Open Your Eyes that the band really learned to play and started combining their burgeoning musical proficiency with the sort of insanely catchy, all too brief anthems that they’d made their name with on their previous releases. This tempered, more focused approach combined with Razbeez clarion call lyrics and charged, emotional howl spoke, and still speaks, volumes. It’s the sound of a band, and a scene, finding its voice and its feet and really taking its first tentative steps into a bigger world, and in all honesty, I think it’s Warzone’s finest moment. They never sounded this focussed, tight or together after this, they were never as on point both musically and lyrically as they were on Open Your Eyes. It’s a seminal NYHC record and a testament to the power of music and its ability to, over the course of ten songs, change the world, one mind at a time. Packaged with all sorts of incredible extras, Tony Rettman’s liner notes, photos and more, Open Your Eyes is the definitive Warzone release and even if you only have a passing interest in New York Hardcore, you need to own it. Some records change your life. Open Your Eyes is one of them… Tim Cundle