Warzone (band)

Warzone was a hardcore punk American skinhead band from New York City.

Skinhead frontman, Raymond "Raybeez" Barbieri, was the group's only consistent member between its formation on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1982 until Barbieri's untimely death due to pneumonia on September 11, 1997. A U.S. Navy veteran, he was receiving treatment that many fans and friends have claimed was shamefully inadequate in a Veterans Health Administration facility when the illness damaged his liver and took his life at the age of 35.

Raybeez's small but loyal following accompanied the former Agnostic Front drummer from the nascent days before the "Youth Crew" era in hardcore punk, on and off of three record labels, before finally turning out en masse for two sold-out benefit shows following his passing.

He is often cited as one of the seminal influences in the genre, as well as one of its first major losses. Unlike the larger body of punk music, the highly youth-oriented hardcore music had previously felt very few such outpourings of grief. In the days after his passing, a sign hung from the awning in front of CBGBs that simply said "R.I.P. Ray." For more than a year following his death, every release on the Victory Records label was dedicated to his memory, as well as two independent compilations. Like the benefit shows following his death, these albums raised funds for several not-for-profit groups Ray had worked for which helped at-risk youth.

During the band's fifteen years and countless line-up changes, their primarily hardcore sound was flavored by influences ranging from oi! (they toured several times with The Business and played a cover of "The Real Enemy"), to traditional punk rock, and even an ill-received heavy metal phase (on their self-titled LP, Warzone). Their fan base, though, was equally diverse. Warzone shows were usually populated by skinheads (both racist and anti-racist), straight edge teens, metalheads and punks of all ages. It was a rare, and sometimes volatile, combination.

Warzone and racism

Though the band featured several members of non-caucasian backgrounds through its history, and Raybeez sang lyrics urging racial unity and spoke out strongly against anything that divided the youth of America against itself, their shows were often marred by violence. For this reason, Raybeez rarely performed from the stage. He sang out in the crowd. Often huddling with a multitude to shout the lyrics, he used it as an opportunity to stop fights before security could respond. This tactic often cooled tempers more quickly than stopping the show might have and prevented fans from being escorted out of the show. His position in the crowds rather than elevated on a stage also endeared him to fans in a way few other performers in the genre have ever achieved.

Warzone fans were not simply encouraged to sing along. They often dictated the band's entire set list and even decided how long the group would play, with some sets lasting until Raybeez could barely speak.

Few of the band's critics were able to claim they were anything but inclusionary with songs like "Under 18," which decried the age-based discriminatory practices at many venues that demanded IDs for entry, "War Between Races," which demanded an end to racial violence and prejudice within the scene, and "Brother and Sisterhood," which encouraged young women and girls to become active in traditionally male-dominated hardcore punk. However, reviews still frequently maligned them simply as "a skinhead band," implying that they were racist (which they were not) or violent.

Discography

* "Lower East Side Crew" (1987) - EP
* "Don't Forget The Struggle, Don't Forget The Streets" (1988) - LP
* "Open Your Eyes" (1989) - LP
* "Warzone" (1990) - LP
* "Live at CBGBs" (1993) - live EP
* "Old School to New School" (1994) - LP
* Split with Cause for Alarm (1995) - split 10" EP
* "Lower East Side" (1996) - EP
* "The Sound of Revolution" (1996) - LP
* "Fight For Justice" (1997) - LP
* "The Victory Years" (1998) - partial discography LP


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