ALBUM REVIEW: Rotting Out – Ronin

Release Date: April 10th 2020
Label: Pure Noise Records


The return of San Pedro hardcore heroes Rotting Out has been one of intrigue and redemption. Following a sudden break-up in 2015, not long after the release of their ‘Reckoning’ EP, things got murky when frontman Walter Delgado found himself incarcerated on a drugs charge.

Since serving his eighteen month sentence, the band have reformed and gone on to tour extensively, even headlining Sound & Fury – the iconic LA hardcore festival.

Now, over seven years since their last full-length, the band have delivered easily the most potent and emotional offering of their entire career. Delgado‘s time in prison allowed the hulking, power-lifter to put everything into perspective, even enrolling in a Cognitive Behavioural Thinking program to help unravel issues stemming from childhood trauma, and going so far as to say that going to prison was one of the best things to happen in his life.

All of this is paramount when delving into the lyrical subject matter of ‘Ronin’, which deals with weighty and ever prevalent themes of poverty, addiction, depression, and both domestic and child abuse. If these sound like tough topics to digest, it’s because they are.

‘Last Man Standing’ explores the desensitisation to everyday occurrences of growing up in a poverty stricken area such as overdoses, muggings, and murder, but is more concerned with the perseverance of surviving such an environment. There’s a constant underlying message of hopefulness, with Delgado reminding himself that the hardships endured are worth it for the people we love, even ourselves. This is highlighted on the ode to his mother, ‘Still Her’.

The lyrics are often at odds with the bare-bones, oldest of old school hardcore punk that the group excel in. Gang vocals, chunky riffs, hooks, and breakdowns are all in effect, yet handled with expert knowledge and precision.

Closer, ‘Boy’, serves as a triumphant, defining statement. The chilling refrain of “Here I am, roaming alone / Every step filled with shame, Ronin: unknown” is steeped in immense torment, while the image of the wandering ronin is cast into a new light, with Delgado seeing himself as the spent warrior with no master or purpose.

It’s sincere, earnest, and one of the most powerful hardcore performances of the 21st century. In short, ‘Ronin’ is an immediate classic, just waiting to gather dust.