måndag 27 juni 2011

Hardcore cluster bomb pt 3: Time For The Resurgence of Female Fronted Metal and Hardcore?

Oathbreaker - Maelstrom
2011, Deathwish Inc.

For some reason women rarely feature in the bands I listen to, which is perhaps not so strange considering the testosterone levels of most of the music within the metal and hardcore scenes. But it's always been there at the back of my mind: why is it that only a handful of the acts I listen to with any degree of regularity have any female members (Landmine Marathon, Despise You and Detente comes to mind)? Don't they rock as hard as their male counterparts? Of course they do.
Do they somehow lack some prerequisite ability or obviously male-only metal/punk talent? Of course they don't.
Perhaps it's just a matter of female musicians having a hard time penetrating the heavily guarded walls to the Boy's Club of Rock n Roll and proving themselves? Probably.

Either way, Oathbreaker vocalist Caro (a member of that supposedly weaker sex), doesn't need to prove shit to me. She's more than welcome into the Boy's Club. In fact, she'll probably kick most of their asses. Rarely have I heard a vocalist perform so fucking outstandingly well in this specific genre. Male or female. Her unbelievably harsh midrange screams fit perfectly as a counterweight to the density of Oathbreaker's music. At first I thought her vocals would get a bit stagnant since they rarely ever stray from that almost panic-like sense of vicious desperation and anger, but I soon realised they're fucking perfect for what the band does. And once you scrutinise the lyrics a little bit closer, that realisation only stenghtens.

Oathbreaker does that whole metallic hardcore thing, and they do it really well, with tons of tempo shifts and breakdowns, moving from upper midtempo to sludgy almost Sabbathy riffage without sounding contrived or unfocused. They're slightly closer to the metal end of things than most of their contemporaries but this fits their style to a t. They're also alot heavier than many of the bands I'd usually tag as metallic hardcore, but they in no way come off sounding as an Integrity or Ringworm clone. In fact it's only by default and a lack of a better genre descriptor I'd even call their music metallic hardcore as these guys (and gal) have done what precious few bands ever do, which is to perfectly meld punk and hardcore aggression and simplicity with the complexity and higher level of musicianship of such diverse bands as Slayer, Converge and Ministry (minus the industrial parts).

This is the band's sophmore release, follwing their self titled debut from 08, which blew me away a couple of months ago. On Maelstrom they've sharpened their collective tools a bit and brought out an immense heaviness that wasn't quite as apparent on the debut ep. Still present but slightly less obvious than before are the touches of melody the band manages to pour into the gaps and cracks of the songs, fleshing them out without bloating them. Production-wise this is top-of-the-line shit. I wouldn't change a thing. Everything is exactly where it should be in the mix. There's enough density and warmth to add to the heaviness of the songs but still with a sense of space and clarity. This is definately one of the best hardcore/metal releases so far this year.

fredag 17 juni 2011

Humanity Is The Devil

Withdrawal - Faith, Flesh & Blood
2011, A389 Recordings

Withdrawal makes writing good music seem easy. They pull it off so effortlessly and painlessly it seems like second nature to these guys to hammer out anthem after anthem of massive and emotional metallic hardcore. I've been eagerly awaiting this ep for a what seems like quite some time now, though it's probably only been a few weeks since I first heard of its impending release. I immediately fell in love with the music of these Canadians after hearing their Unknown Misery ep and I just couldn't wait to get my hands on more material by them. Because of the truly magnificent song writing the band so consistently displays and the sheer force of their metal-infused hardcore, Withdrawal (in my mind at least) stand way above the brunt of their contemporary peers in this particular genre.

Their last ep was one of the best examples I have ever heard of the modern style of hardcore that blends different flavours of metal with traditional punk/hardcore structures, bringing to mind such classic acts as Integrity, Lash Out and Rorschach and the like. But, what Withdrawal does, is to take that particular style of hardcore and make it their own, bringing their own set of inluences into the mix.

This last effort is no different. On FF&B they clearly continue on the path set upon on Unknown Misery: the melodies are there, but slightly more up front and apparent, the dry machine gun-like Slayer-ish riffing more solidly integrated into the songs, supported by short vicious solo licks and great, heavy, midpaced drumming, solidly placed into the heart of the song structures and the vocal lines always a bit more metal than hardcore: I keep thinking Swedish old school d-beat influenced death metal for some reason.

The production here is several notches above that of their previous release; it's way heavier and much clearer, as well as having a distinct feeling of cohesiveness, where all the elements meld together into something much more solid. I can't say enough good things about this release; I only wish it could have been a tad longer, because what these four tracks do is only to whet my appetite for more. Maybe it's time to consider writing a proper full length release, guys. Oh and I really enjoyed that awesome nod to Tragedy's Conflicting Ideas in the drum intro to Blood Law.

tisdag 14 juni 2011

This is the pattern cut from the cloth / This is the pattern designed to take you right out

Touché Amore - Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me
2011, Deathwish Inc.

Since I'd never really properly sat down to actively listen to an album by Touché Amore (as opposed to just idly letting it play on in the background), I only really had the vaguest of ideas what to expect. I knew words like 'post-punk', 'screamo', 'emocore' and such had been tossed around in various configurations in online blurbs and reveiws that I'd scanned quickly, but more often than not it's really difficult to get a proper grasp on what a band sounds like from those kinds of descriptors, if not downright impossible. The tracks I'd heard previously had left no lasting impression in my long term memory, so I basically had no clue to what was going to erupt from my speakers as I hit the play button.

What did erupt, starting with the enigmatically titled ~, was something both intensely melodic and emotional and yet raging and furious and untamed. With elements of aggression and intensity taken from hardcore/punk and the melodic and more complexely structured elements from emo, Touché Amore's music is an extremely diverse affair. I find myself drawing comparisons to such different bands as Converge, Quicksand, Dag Nasty and Fugazi. There are tons of stuff going on all the time; little melodies weaving in and out of the mix, quick tempo shifts and short breaks, sometimes with a slight dissonance, but almost always melodic. The clean crisp guitar tone works pefectly with the material; any more distortion and a lot of the subtle nuances in the songs would be lost. In fact, there's so much going on in these songs that it would be a difficult task to stay focused for any length of time if it weren't for the bands stellar song writing and the the unique style of the band's vocalist, whose mix of screaming, singing and speaking, sort of all at the same time, really give the songs an added sense of urgency and emotion.

Another amazing thing about this records is the fact that only one of the thirteen songs pass the two minute mark and still the band manages to cram the songs full of shifts and breaks and melodies and somehow not make them feel 'mathy' or chaotic. I'm fairly new to this particular style of screamo, post-hardcore or whatever kind of pigeonhole you wanto to put Touché Amore in, but this album has really opened my eyes to the genre and I feel that I definately have to go back and check out the band's earlier work more thouroughly. This is awesome stuff. Chalk up another great release from Deathwish Inc.

Opening track ~, or Tilde, below:

lördag 11 juni 2011

Splitsville pt 1: Shock and awe

Converge/Dropdead - Split
2011, Self released, distributed by Deathwish

I've always been a fan of the split single concept, where two bands share the running time on a record, almost as if in a duel. Preferably a seven inch vinyl single (yes, I have a thing for vinyl eps). When it works, as it does in this case, it is, by far, my favourite format, because there are none of the drawbacks of a full length release. The two bands ensure that there is no risk of boredom if they're stylistically well matched: not too similar but equally not too disimilar. The brief running time equally ensures there will be no risk of shit dragging on indefinately. It also ensures that the bands are at their very best and that their material is top notch. This little gem is short but fairly intense. It features one track from Converge and Dropdead respectively. The sound quality is excellent on both tracks, even if I've yet only listened to the songs in their digital form; distinct and warm but with a slight dirtiness. The Dropdead track is slightly less heavy on the bass end of things and a bit more metallic but that's only natural considering the style they play. Converge opens up with the utterly raging, yet still emotional, Runaway, sticking to the weirdly catchy but aggressive note they struck on Axe To Fall with tracks like Dark Horse and the title track. Choppy, fast-paced and with that bouncy structure that's almost danceable, with added bursts of blast beats and violently shrieked vocals. As I said, it's catchy in an odd Converge way: there are lots of twists and turns in the song, from blasts of speed to short choppy breaks to midtempo rages and with hints of searing discordant melodies deep in the mix. But the song never gets uninspired or unstructured. It's only two minutes long, but it's definately one of the better songs I've heard from the band.
Dropdeads track, Paths Of Glory, rips right through you in just over ninety seconds but it does so with an amazing feel for fast hardcore punk with a bit of eighties sensibility. There is not even a hint of power violence or fastcore on this track; instead they get a more traditional hardcorepunk vibe going, which probably works better in this context. There is more than enough aggression going on to balance the hints of melody buried underneath. I get a distinctly anthemic World Burns To Death feel from this track, which is no bad thing. All in all a very wonderful little record.