You can’t ignore the origin of the individual even though I don’t believe in any bloodline or nation heritage shit and stuff. But the place you are born and mostly the place you’ ve been raised is probably one of the most important criterion that human shapes his or her character and defines its course. As you can’t ignore Time, in terms of the era you are born and lived. No matter what color your skin is or the god you praise -or not-, if you live in a small village somewhere in India, you may have never the chance on hearing death metal or celtic folk music, I guess. But livin’ in NY City in the 80’s, one way or another you would end up crawling in wild streets searching for a bad ass music to become your urban-style soundtrack. Leeway’s members grew up in Queens, NY in the 80’s when rap, punk, thrash and hardcore were on outburst and affecting each other. So, this perfectly mixed combo of hardcore and strong thrash metal riffing that Leeway delivered us before almost 30 years was a kind of unidirectional path for them. The band recorded the Enforcer (1985) demo with only one guitarist (A.J. Novello) but the result was shouting for extra power and effect, so after the recordings Michael Gibbons joined. 2 years after ‘Born To Expire’ was recorded in November of 1987, but it didn’t come out till the beginning of 1989. The band had a contract with the producer Chris Williamson (who was the premier promoter in New York scene at the time) and recorded the album for his Rock Hotel label. In the 2-year gap the band was searching for a major label to unleash the album but nothing was moving until Profile Records was interested (in this period the band wrote the material of their sophomore album, something that may explain the more aggressive turn and the complicated frustrated sound). In fact the label had a contract with Williamson (that ended some months after the release of the album). As you imagined their label was no helping the situation even though Profile Records was a major label that had some big names in its roster like Run-D.M.C. while its parent company is Sony. Unfortunately, Profile Records is just a rap label that signed three hardcore bands (Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law and Leeway) in the late ‘80s just to experiment and nothing more. Low budget, no promotion bad distribution. You don’t need more to fail no matter how good material you have in your hands.
Musically speaking using pretty simple riffing, based around a lot of power chords, and not so complicated song structure but brilliant strong solos and a common Marshall JCM800 for guitar amplifier, Leeway created a characteristic personal sound. You may have heard some bad rumors about their producer Chris Williamson and probably these are true. But it concerns management issues and not something about his production. Nevertheless, Tom Soares -the album’s engineer that worked in Normandy Sound studio back then- was a huge help for the guitar duo in order to get the best out of them. A lot of the other NYHC outfits (Killing Time, Sick of it All, Cro-Mags, etc.) went to Normandy Sound making it’s sound a trademark of New York. What you get from the very first notes is -heavy influenced by Cro-Mags- NYHC at its best, and top-notch Thrash in the veins of fellow New Yorkers Anthrax. And yes, the album is guitar-driven but the rhythm section isn’t at all second to the guitars. The drumming wisely doesn’t use double bass and has this hardcore feeling, while the bassline is clearly audible and certainly groovy. Lyrically once again the street vibe is here. The vocal lines are well written and perfectly executed by Eddie Sutton, not just shouting or the pissed off spitting the lyrics but well sung with true attitude and a Heavy Metal’s singer tint.
Leeway were leaders, not followers. Many forget that Leeway brought metal sound into NYHC. Cro-Mags were into Motorhead and the rock ‘n roll but Leeway were into Kill’ Em All and Metallica hard-sounding drums and heavy guitars, still with street-oriented beat and hardcore/punk style lyrics, despite the fact that its members were influenced by rap too. You can hear some funk and rap elements on ‘Catholic High School (Girls in Trouble)’ for example. Outstanding tracks such as ‘Self-Defence’ and ‘Tools of War’ are full of energy, ‘Rise and Fall’ and ‘Unexpected’ have some excellent and memorable riffing and shredding solos, while one of my personal favs are ‘Defy’, ‘On the Outside’ and the 2 1/2-minutes long ‘Be Loud’ that makes me think of a punky Belladona. Generally, there a connection to Agnostic Front’s ‘Cause For Alarm’, Crumbsuckers’s ‘Life Of Dreams’, Anthrax’s ‘State Of Euphoria’, Cro-Mags’s ‘Best Wishes’ and ‘Born To Expire’. Get yourselves a present all you that don’t have a copy of this album. If you want your Thrash urban-groovy and East side, it can’t get more crossover than this!
Belgium’s Reality Records reissued the album on 2016 with bonus 9 track recorded live at CBGB in 1986, but you can also search for Moshroom Records cut from 1988, the 25th anniversary Brazilian Marquee Records cut from 2014 and finally the 1996’s one via Another Planet.