The earliest material from the band was their 1995 demo entitled "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" which was self-released on cassette. I've managed to track down several copies over the years but it is still quite rare from what I can tell. The band was centered in the Slippery Rock, PA area at the time due to several of the members attending college there. I've heard many tall tales of their shows from this era from everyone ranging from scene vets to substitute teachers at my high school. There was a much different line-up on this early material than what most of you have come to know from their final few offerings. While Shaun Below was always the drummer for No Retreat, this demo features "Mike" on guitar, "Steve" on bass and Cliff Dean on vocals (who also appeared on their infamous split with Passover). Being the original drummer for PAHC legends Krutch, Shaun Below brought an obvious influence over from the other side of the state for the early years of No Retreat. While No Retreat has always retained a somewhat similar style over the years, this earliest material has a sound moreso focused on the signature break-beat drumming made famous by the one and only PAHC. While the band was done playing these songs by the time I was starting to see them, I have visualized quite a bit of mental mosh to these tracks if I were to ever see them played live. The true beauty of the demo is that on the insert, it gives an e-mail address for contact purposes, but notes that it will only be checked between the months of September and May due to it being a school e-mail address. E-mail was quite luxurious back in 1995 apparently.
Next up for the band was the legendary split with Passover. I have actually already written up an article on this release earlier in the blog's history. While the blog primarily focuses on the Passover section of the split, you can view it HERE. As for No Retreat's contribution, it is essentially in the same vein of the 95 demo, but with a slightly heavier sound due to the addition of a second guitarist and a new bass player who would be responsible for writing most of the Rise Of The Underdog full length. Possibly one of the rarest CDs I've tried to come across, I have also managed to track down several copies of this release. Don't ask for one, though ... they're in the archives for all eternity.
Somewhere after this split release, several of the members exited the band, leaving Shaun Below and JC Moran to continue on with the project. JC's brother, Tommy, was brought into the mix as the guitarist while Frank Piontek was found as the new vocalist for the band. These new members brought an entirely different dynamic to the band and it was shown on their never-released-until-now demo they put together in 1998. I don't think this was ever officially released in the same manner of the 1995 demo. If my informants have given me correct information, this essentially served as a sort of pre-production for the Rise Of The Underdog full length. 4 out of 6 tracks on this demo re-appear a year later on the debut full length. The main difference in the demo and the full length however was the addition of a second guitarist. Codename: Diggums.
While No Retreat was preparing for the release of their Da Core Records debut, the other hardcore staple from the area, in the form of Built Upon Frustration, was in the process of breaking up. Guitarist Derek Kovacs joined up with No Retreat just in time to finish out the writing and recording of the Rise Of The Underdog full length. Recorded by Eric Klinger of Pro-Pain fame in his living room, this album proved to be the breaking point for No Retreat; finally reaching the crown of Kings of Pittsburgh Hardcore.
There isn't a person today (who still pits) in Pittsburgh that wouldn't speak highly of Rise Of The Underdog. One of the few albums (along with Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire) that could be moshed to in its entirety, No Retreat essentially wrote the book on beatdown hardcore as it stands today. With drumming that rarely reaches above mid-pace speed accented by death metal influenced guitar chugging that rarely reaches above the middle of the fret board, the album is destined for pit brutality from the first note of Facewreck. Featuring guest vocal spots by Chris Henzel of Mushmouth and Karl Krutch, the album is a mosh pinnacle in the PAHC history books.
The split release with Krutch was released not long after Rise Of The Underdog yet showed significant improvement in the song-writing and precision aspect of the band. Presumably credit for this can be given to now lead song writer Diggums. Vocalist Frank Piontek started to experiment slightly with more interesting vocal patterns that would eventually become essentially the trademark sound of the band. It would be on their next full length album that he would fully recognize and utilize his seemingly hip hop influened vocal patterns. 5 tracks were offered from both bands and saw its release on Thornz Records. Krutch served up possibly their finest material on this split as well.
As previously stated, the band would play out literally every other weekend and I was literally at every single performance. This trend continued for a few years until several of the members moved, got married and/or had kids and the band stopped playing out. The band had been placing new songs into the set gradually over time for the few years after Rise Of The Underdog had been released. Almost simultaneous with Hatebreed continually delaying the release of Proven, No Retreat had been promising a new album for several years before it actually came out.
Regretfully the Pray For Peace album was not released until nearly a year after No Retreat had unofficially disbanded. Most of the songs had never been played out live and still remain in this same state years later. The second full length shows much more musical diversity than on Rise Of The Underdog. I really feel that if the band had played out live on this album as much as they did in support of their first full length, these tracks would be every bit as legendary, if not moreso, than their predecessors.
Regretfully the world will never get to see a No Retreat reunion according to some sources. Claims that the time simply isn't there is the common reasoning amongst the ex-members who still mostly preside in the general Pittsburgh area. The one question that remains ... which of the four intros found on this discography would you mosh hardest for?
DOWNLOAD - Part 1 (1995 demo, Passover split, 1998 demo, Rise Of The Underdog)
DOWNLOAD - Part 2 (Krutch split & Pray For Peace)