söndag 29 juli 2012

FCK YR NSRCK: BLCKLSTRS

Blacklisters - BLCKLSTRS
2012, Brew

Since I'm a huge fan of Unsane, Helmet, The Jeus Lizard and Dazzling Killmen, it wasn't much of a stretch to figure that I was going to be into what these Leedsians are doing musically. What I didn't expect though, was that I was going to be completely friggin' floored by it. But, damn this album is sweet! It's one of those grating, jaggedly constructed pieces, where we get enough 'rock' structure, fucked up time signatures and repetitive staccato riffs, laden with noises and feedback to sate the Helmet-lover in us, but also tons of dissonant, wandering guitar 'melodies' ontop of massive basslines along with lots of unhinged, drunken, mic-half-way-rammed-down-his-throat David Yow-esque vocals. In fact the vocals are a huge part of why I like this band so much; they're as varied and as brazenly in your face as the rest of the music. I fucking love the screams on the chorus of opener Clubfoot By Kasabian, which is, possibly, the most vicious, energetic rock song I've heard this year, with a distinctly grungy quality that reminds me of Handsome for some weird reason. Being labelled a noise rock band you'd think these guys would steer clear of any sort of melodic elements but in fact they do incorporate loads of melody into their music, but they do so more along the lines of bands like, say, Nomeansno or some of the post-punk, industrial rock bands that came in the wake of Ministry's intitial success in the late eighties (think Lead Into Gold, Pigface, Chris Connelly's solo work etc), where the melodies are darker, colder or, simply, more 'gothy', if you wish. One thing that makes Blacklisters such a blisteringly entertaining band is the complete unpredictability of their songs. With little or no nudging -nor warning- they suddenly veer off into Whisky Tango Foxtrot-territory, where they construct these weirdly balanced structures, add oddball vocal parts and angular melodic patterns that shouldn't work together - like your grandma's over-sized dentures that shouldn't fit in your mouth but somehow do anyway.  But it's not all goofiness and hey-look-at-me-my-dick-is-hanging-out-my-pants kind of music, where the silliness and eccentricities of the music become an obstacles to enjoying it. There's still enough of a solid 'proper' musical backbone to this records to make it a solid rock album . But it's also plainly obvious these guys don't really care about rules about what 'works' and what doesn't. Which is when the magic often happens in music. Free your mind and your ass will follow and all that. But, enough with the words! Go here to listen/buy/download.

lördag 21 juli 2012

Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape

Primate - Draw Back A Stump
2012, Relapse

I think I'm spotting the beginnings of a trend with these grizzled old hardcore/metal/grindcore dudes reclaiming their long lost punk roots in their middle-age, with the likes of Aaron Turner - of Isis-fame - churning out psychedelic d-beat craziness in Split Cranium, Vic Bondi of Articles Of Faith doling out vicious old school hardcore in Dead Ending and Brutal Truth's Kevin Sharp spitting toxic Poison Ideas via Venomous Concept. And now he's at it again with Bill Kelliher from Mastodon on guitar and Mike Brennan, Shayne Huff and Dave Whitworth, all from The Despised (and other acts as well) on guitar, drums and bass respectively. This time it's straight up hardcore with a bit of singalong punk and some crusty melodic d-beat hurled into the mix for good measure. There are times when we get some bordeline grind -notably in the awesomely titled grumpfest Get The Fuck Off My Lawn and closer Reform?- but this is basically a hardcore/punk affair, with tons of attitude, great riffs and lots of high paced, skull-shattering fun. Sharp's voice is one of the best in the business in my opinion; it has great variety, lots of range, a simian burliness as well as a wicked snarl that makes it a perfect fit for this type of 80's-US-hc-meets-metallic-japcore.
     This extended ep (or whatever you want to call it) is a reworking of the self-released ep from last year with some added tracks and a general polishing soundwise. Everything is nice and audible and has a dirty backdrop of distortion that adds some ruggedness to the songs and all the elements are given their proper space to breathe. Though I prefer the original and less dense version of the tite track from the original ep, I'm completely and utterly floored by crustcrusher Global Division, the midpaced crossover avalanche of Hellbound with its infectious solo-licks and headbanging singalong chorus and the awesome Black Flag cover of Drinking & Driving. And from thereon it's all equally stellar material until the very end, with enough variety in both pace and intensity to keep everything fresh and dynamic. The little solo flurries and sparse but effective melodic elements adds another layer of complexity to these songs, but they also make them even more memorable. Fuck what you call punk rock. We need more shit like this and less Offspring, Gaslight Anthem and Green Day. Monkeys rule!


fredag 20 juli 2012

That's youth, that's all

Cerebral Ballzy - Cerebral Ballzy
2012, Williams Street Records

Cerebral Ballzy is one of those bands that were born way too late. They seriously sound like they have just stepped out of the mid eighties DC hardcore scene, transported somehow across the temporal gulf by some otherworldly machinery, complete with scruffy Vans, ripped denim, self-made band-tees and bandanas tied around the legs. Everything they do reek of american hardcore in the vein of Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Void, Negative Approach, SOA etc. They even manage to capture that rough but warm, vaguely metallic, distorted sound of the era, where there bass is just a tad too high in the mix (which I love) and the vocals sometimes peak into the red (yes, there's love there as well), where there's just enough clarity to hear all the elements of the music yet nowhere near enough to be considered -by any standards- pristine or overproduced. Think Out Of Step-era Minor Threat mixed with Bad Brains on the ROIR cassette and you roughly get the idea. Like the many of legendary bands that came before them in the eighties, these guys aren't out to change the world, they're not here to save the whales, free speech or free abortions; they're not here to set right the myriad of injustices in the world - their goal in life is not to bring forth the revolution that will finally bring this whole corrupted peice of shit we call a society down. In fact they have no other aim than to write cool songs about shit they know and feel and have fun while doing it. Hence titles like Junkie For Her, Insufficient Fare, Sk8 All Day and Puke Song. Of course there's some sort of social commentary in these songs as well if you choose to see it that way, but I for one, don't need to take everything so seriously all the time and neither do Cerebral Ballzy. They're punks and they know it and don't give a shit if you like it or not.
     I'm way too excited about this album, I think. Maybe it's because this is like a long lost piece of my youth rediscovered; this is the way I wanted hardcore to sound when it veered off into Posthardcore-lala-Land in the early nineties and sloughed off most of its youthful rage and fury and moved into shitty hiphop-punkrock (Mucky Pup, I fucking hate that band!), crushingly boring and formulaic, paint-by-numbers, Epitaph/Fat Wreck-Chords emo/pop punk, bland, alternative, shoegaze rock and postwhateverthefuck. This is the sound of kids not giving a shit what you think or what you want them to be. Awesome!


måndag 16 juli 2012

In the meantime: Go Whores!

Whores. - Ruiner.
2011, Brutal Panda Records

Sometimes being stuck in the past isn't all that bad. This Atlanta trio sounds like they slept through the latter part of the final decade of the last century and the better part of the first one of this century and just woke up bobbing their heads to the Helmet and Jesus Lizard tunes still ringing in their ears. Because that's exactly what they sound like. A brew made up of equal parts Unsane, Lizard and Helmet. In my book that's awesomeness beyond all awesomeness. We get the syncopated, start-stop-start-stop staccato riffs, the gruff raspy singing, the winding guitar melodies ontop of earth-shatteringly heavy basslines, bristling with noise and feedback. And we get great songs, recorded with just the right amount of noise and dirtiness to scare away any Nickelback-loving mainstream fuckheads and yet enough clarity and immensity to give the music that proper roaring, revving muscle-car engine kind of feel. This is a short album, merely five songs, of which only two move past the four minute mark. This means everything is tighter than hell and free from any excess fat. We get quick, riff-laden metal, with lots of stomping sometimes, angular time signatures and an attitude steeped not so much in the ambiguous machismo of heavy metal but in the snarling, vaguely self-destructive, finger-flippin', I-don't-care-if-you-beat-me-up punk attitude of underprivileged, urban youth. I'm not sure if these guys are still active but if they are, I hope they'll get something new recorded soon and get it released properly, because this shit beats ninetynine percent of anything else that's out there. Go Whores!

söndag 15 juli 2012

Punkrockacademyfightsong: Dead Ending EP

Dead Ending - Dead Ending EP
2012, Alternative Tentacles

"Oh great, here comes another goddamn punkrock supergroup!" may have crossed your mind when you heard that Vic Bondi of Articles Of Faith had teamed up with people from Alkaline Trio, Noise By Numbers and Rise Against to record tunes under the moniker Dead Ending. What crossed my mind was, "As long as they sound like early Articles Of Faith I couldn't give a shit if it's a 'supergroup' or a band of bearded lesbian acrobats with herpes". And to my surprise that's basically right on the money (not the lesbian herpes bit). This ep, released by hardcore stalwarts Alternative Tentacles, has that rough and raw, yet warm recording of mid-eighties hardcore, the speed and ferocity of AOF but also a bit of the melody of its' later incarnation. We get no re-invented wheels here, no new complicated theorems to fuse hardcore/punk with shoegaze, ragga, free-form jazz or dubstep or anything else; no convoluted attempts to bring anything new and 'exciting' into the genre. What we get is your basic bread and butter hardcore staples: righteous anger and lots of it (listening to the fury in Vic's voice on Wasted makes me wanna toss furniture around the room, punch the walls  and bitchslap some of the idiots I encounter on a daily basis), quick-paced frenetic songs that are pure 80's-throwback, built on fast, simplistic riffs, roiling, razorsharp basslines and fierce, agitated rythms. Nothing fancy, no stadium punkrock, no bs. Just old school, bouncy, semi-melodic hardcore. Five songs in roughly eleven minutes and we're done. Simply brilliant. It seems the guys are busy recording new material, so hopefully we won't have to wait too long to hear some new jamns from them.

onsdag 11 juli 2012

Skin Graft At Seventy-Five Miles Per Hour

Retox - Ugly Animals
2011, Three One G

Released in 2011, this puppy slipped right past me while I was busy looking at  funny pictures on the internet of cats with hats and rabits with pancakes on their heads or something equally retarded and listening to something completely different and -more than likely- not even remotely as fucking amazing as Retox's full length debut Ugly Animals. When I realised that the band featured people from among others grindcore weirdos The Locust it became obvious to me that this was going to be a wild ride indeed. One that would leave welts and burn blisters all over.
     Ugly Animals is made up of eleven songs of intensely jarring music; like a sonic equivalent of something straight out of a crazy person's paranoia-fuelled, horrifying fantasy world. The album is like an epinephrine shot mainlined straight into an artery of a coding heart patient, only with sound (i.e it wakes you the fuck up). These guys have noisy, highly structured hardcore chaos down to a goddamn science. I hear lots of influences at work here, but none of them ever get the better of these guys' writing skills; what they grew up listening to is integrated into the songs, but always tempered with a personal touch and a rock solid sense of direction and emotion.
     Right off the bat it's obvious these guys don't give a shit about pleasing any sort of mainstream aesthetic. They're not at all interested in conforming to any sort of artistic norm, nor do they care one jot about trying to restrain even for a moment the most unhinged side to their music. It's like when author William Gibson says he often tries to put off any casual reader of any of his books during the first few pages, making them incredibly dense and self-referential, almost unreadable, to weed out the assholes who do not deserve to read his books. After those few handful of pages of literary murkiness and convoluted phrasings it's usually smooth sailing. Only here, with these guys, it never really gets any easier as time goes by. That doesn't mean, though, that there aren't top notch punk rock hits aplenty in this shrapnel tornado of an album. After the bruising opening with The World Is Ending And It's About Time, we get the completely fucking amazing Thirty Cents Shy Of A Quarter, which brings to mind bands like Unsane, Black Flag and Every Time I Die with it's aural pummeling and even some Dead Kennedys in the jangly oddball surf melodies towards the end. In fact, I hear alot of DK's in Retox's music but I also hear tons of Nomeansno, Pig Destroyer and more Black Flag. But it's all tossed into an extremely effective mix where the same riff or theme are rarely, if ever, repeated for more than a few bars, which gives an explosively schizophrenic character to the songs. It's something I often find in the work of Scott Hull (Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Pig Destroyer) and something that often just turns everything into a blur of sounds that quickly loses any coherence and meaning. But Retox manages to steer clear of that particular musical IED and even though everything is chaotic and unhinged and an impossible hardcore gumbo soup of screamo, grindcore, noise rock, punk rock, black metal and whatever else takes their fancy, Retox manages to almost always keep their feet right on the razor sharp edge of the meat cleaver they're balancing on. Fucking impressive if you ask me.

tisdag 10 juli 2012

Still not loud enough! Still not fast enough!

Antigama - Stop The Chaos ep
2012, Selfmade God

Polish grinders Antigama are at it again and this time they've mixed their patented technical ultra-grind with a huge dose of thunderously heavy but less shredding caveman grind, a la Brutal Truth. In fact vocalist Lukasz Myszkowski (Seriously, do you need that many consonants in a name? Juszt aszkin'.) has, at times, even taken to emulating Kevin Sharp's weirdly timed and bluesy singing style and he does it fucking brilliantly. Stop the Chaos is like a amalgam of old school Antigama and the aforementioned Brutal Truth as well as a big pinch something more metallic in structure and riffing, that reminds me of Burnt By The Sun. It's a short ep with only a handful of songs but they manage to get the point across beautifully in around fifteen minutes or so. Opener E Conspectu is hands down the best song this band has ever wrtten. It manages to incorporate both an unusually crusty heaviness and over-the-top grinding speed as well as some complexity in structure without being overly technical or descending into any sort of mathcore wankery. From there on it's all fucking grindcore armageddon. But in a really, really good way.
     In some ways I find this style of music is best presented in this kind of, shorter, format, where otherwise the sheer number of songs of a full length (whatever the hell that means today) often overwhelms you and rapidly destroys any chance of appreciation of the album in it's entirety. I often find that even the awesomest of grindcore acts rarely write albums where the songs don't run into each other and start to blur after the first dozen or so. It's an inherent part of the style, I guess: it is supposed to brutalize you, it's supposed to blur into a whirlwind of sonic fecal matter, it's supposed to destroy your sense of good taste and remove any lingering shreds of artsy pretentions or musical decency in the listener. Grindcore's supposed to be like the rock equivalent of a really horribly bad date with someone, like, say GG Allin (if you're a woman; Lindsey Lohan, if you're a guy), where everything turns, really fast, into a nasty, bloody, shit-slinging, fist-punching drug-fest, that you probably will recover from, given enough time, but one you hopefully won't remeber too much of. So, yeah, there's that... Where was I? Oh yeah. Here, though, everything is fresh and crisp and memorable and packs a fucking nuclear punch that hopefully sets the course for Antigama in the future. Good sztuff guysz.

måndag 4 juni 2012

In Crust We Trust: Split Cranium

Split Cranium - Split Cranium
2012, Hydra Head Records

Considering the extremely diverse musical output of Split Cranium's four members, it's something of a surprise that their debut album is as easily digested as it is. Consisting of folk with heavy psych, freeform noise, metal and post-rock/metal pedigrees, Split Cranium's sound could easily have gone in a completely different direction. But I guess that was the whole point of Split Cranium: to combine the efforts of these four avantgardists and create something truly primal and basic, albeit with an unusual twist. What we get is a sort of brutalist take on Scandinavian/Japanese 80's crusty dis-core. At least for the first quarter of the album, which is pretty straight forward with lots of memorable metallic riffs ontop of ruthlessly powerful d-beats and the deep raspy screams of Aaron Turner (Isis, Mamiffer, House Of Low Culture etc). But then, about a couple of songs into the album, something quite different starts to happen. After the vaguely Minor Threaty (or possibly Negative Approachy?) opening of Blossoms From Boils - built on a furiously bouncy and poppy-as-fuck riff over a fast paced beat and a meandering bassline - we enter Weirdo City where the song morphs into something completely unpredictable, with boogie-woogie-fuzzy ZZ Top guitars, like something straight out of La Grange, and chanting, vaguely Indian-sounding vocals duelling with Turner's deep barking growls. After a while it becomes almost ambient and quite lulling in its repetetiveness. It returns briefly for a second or two to the hardcore riffs from the beginning before abruptly ending, leaving me wondering what the hell just happened.
     After this we're treated to the Killing Joke/Ministry-esque opening verse of Scepters To Rust and the following crusty d-beat bridge, which then moves into a Die Kreuzen/Bad Brains-styled double-snare gallop on the chorus. And then back again - rinse and repeat. Black Binding Plague starts off with a a minute or so of glassy guitar noises and then erupts into  an awesome midpaced Suicidal Tendencies/crossover pastiche, complete with clean, but at times slightly out of tune, Mike Muir-like vocals and a vicious mishmash of barbwire metal and hardcore riffs as well as some great fucking bass runs underneath it all. Yellow Mountain mixes clean, serenely melodic vocals and midrange aggressive barks layered into a midpaced slightly metallic Discharge-like tune, where the vocals carry the brunt of the force of the song. Not counting the digital-only bonus track where Daniel Menche remixes Sceptre To Rust (a fairly forgettable droning whirlwind harsh noise track), the album closes with Retrace The Circle which starts off innocently enough, sounding like something out of the old school eighties hardcore play book, with a blazing, though monotone, Motörheadish riff over a fastpaced double snare-tapping punk beat. But after just a few bars the song moves ever so slightly out of the comfort zone, with Turner's raspy voice and a serpentine chanted chorus taking alternate turns over the music and just as on Blossoms From Boils earlier, Retrace The Circle attains a certain droniness after a while, where the repetition turns everything a bit blurry and soothing, even with Turner's growling voice breaking through the haze now and again. About four minutes in, fizzing noises, distorted clicks and whirrs starts to drown out the music with a wall of abrasive sound, leaving the droning vocals and the odd guttural scream as the only sounds, beside the droning waves of distortion. This goes on a for a while until the music all of a sudden breaks through the wall of noise and abruptly restarts, almost as if someone bumped into the record player and pushed the needle back a bit.
    This is indeed an odd album. But never so odd it becomes an obstacle to getting through it. In fact there's a certain flow and weird logic to the album that makes the transitions between the songs quite smooth and after the initial what-the-fuckness of the first sitting, you get used to it and start noticing all the little details and nods and winks that are buried in the music. It is an outstanding piece of music we get here, but it's definately not for everyone. Alongside the new Old Man Gloom album (yet another one of Turner's projects) this is one of the few truly unique and way-out-there albums so far this year.

lördag 2 juni 2012

Midnight Madness and Beyond: WILD//TRIBE

Wild Tribe - Endless Nights
2012, Rescued From Life, Punkalive, Under The Surface

Wild Tribe is a six-piece out of Fort Worth, Texas, created out of Unit 21 and Tolar, which were basically combined into one huge-ass  hardcore juggernaut.The preview streams on the bandcamp site of their debut record (collectively released on Rescued From Life Records, Punkalive Records and Under The Surface Records) had me all worked up and itching to get my hands on a copy and now that it's finally here, I can say without a doubt in my mind, that this piece of vinyl is one of the best hardcore albums released so far this year. Combining a metallic sound with aggressive, simplistic d-beat style hardcore is nothing new in any way (Anti-Cimex, Totalitär, GISM etc), and neither is having dual vocalists duelling and doing a call-and -response-type singing, but what these guys do is way way beyond that, even if the basic structure to their style owes alot to Swedish and Japanese hardcore. Alot of the power from their music comes from the fact that they simply fucking rock! And they aren't afraid to let their metal influences shine through, either. They play with an intensity that hooks you from the first few bars of the opening intro and they write really catchy hardcore with lots of memorable vocal parts and riffs. I keep hearing shades of RKL, Broken Bones, Rancid, Christ On A Crutch and World Burns To Death in Wild Tribe's music, as well as tons of Motörhead or Diamondhead-style riffing, often laden with quick guitar licks tossed into the mix whenever possible. The production is close to fucking perfect here, all the elements are given lots of space and everything is clearly audible, which is awesome because it lets us hear those amazing bass runs that would otherwise be lost in the cacaphony. The really cool thing about this  record is that it captures so many of the good things about hardcore that is often lost in other bands/recordings: we get aggression and speed without the muddiness of shitty recordings, we get the complementing dynamics and force of dual vocalists (both of whom have really distinct and personal voices), we get the melody and catchiness of hardcore/punk while never losing any of the intensity and we get alot of truly rocking singalong-parts and the youthful exhilaration and rush of honest, passionate and well-played rebellious music that defiantly extends two middle fingers to the powers that be. Shit does not get any better that this.

Stream parts of the album from the bandcamp site here.

måndag 14 maj 2012

Scum Will Rise: Heartless

Heartless - Hell Is Other People
2011, Southern Lord

Their selftitled seven incher from 2010 was my first encounter with Philly ragers Heartless. It was a seething mess of fast and heavy blackened hardcore that promised great things to come. Their music was heavy, uncompromising, furious and sweaty, like some old lost  Slap-A-Ham power violence album. But with better production. A re-released demo and a split with The Blind later (I may have the release chronology completely wrong here, but this is the order in which I heard them) they released Hell Is Other People on Southern Lord last year and, not even a minute into opener Clean Slate, I realise all of my expectations were set way, way too low. I knew the band had potential, but this was ridiculous! Hell Is Other People is possibly one of the top ten full length debuts I have ever heard. Ever. Thirteen songs clocking in around twenty minutes leaves no room whatsoever for any sort of masturbatory Steve Vai-wankery or pointless repetition. All the excess fat has been stripped away here, leaving a cadaverishly lean beast, where no element is kept running any longer than absolutely necessary. This makes Heartless' music ferociously hectic and dynamic and, at a first glance, often chaotic. Almost all of the songs are riddled with sharp turns and neck breaking twists and just as you think you've figured out the structure of any one particular song, it instantly whirls away in another direction.
     This could easily be frustrating to an uninitiated listener, were it not for the bands' excellent song writing skills. Where many groups would leave a muddy, tangled and convoluted impression, Heartless does not. Even in the midst of the confusion and fury there is almost always a hook to which you can latch on, that makes the songs memorable and ... well, almost catchy. Stylistically this is a boiling stew of d-beat crustcore, grind, metal, screamo and old school hardcore, with a side order of dirty-as-fuck sludge and alot of noisy textures and feedback thrown into the mix. I could easily draw comparisons to contemporary bands like Nails, Trap Them and Forfeit, or even Brody's Militia, as well as to long gone legends such as Neanderthal and Infest. I even spot a bit of Melvins or 16 in the four minute epic Cop Out, with its simplistic plodding, doomy, heavy riffage and some truly depressing, life-hating EyeHateGod in closing sludge-apocalypse Hard Feelings.
     Another cool thing about this record, beside the excellent material, is the earlier mentioned short running time: it positively gags for repeated spins. This could, in retrospect, be one of the better releases of last year. Some of the earlier Heartless releses are available free of charge at their bandcamp site, so there's no reason not to check them out.

söndag 13 maj 2012

Fuck Your Bar Culture: Sectarian Violence X 2


Sectarian Violence - Sectarian Violence 7''
2012, Grave Mistake Records
Sectarian Violence - Conflict Of Interest CS
 2012, Carry The Weight Records

Sectarian Violence is five guys from the US, UK and Sweden playing a slightly updated version of old school straight edge hardcore. Their two releases so far have garnered quite a bit of attention and praise in the 'scene' and quite well-deservedly so. What we get is no frills, no bs fast hardcore with slight power violence leanings here and there. None of the songs move past the two minute mark and there are hardly any solos at all, except some quick metallic licks in some of the transitions and in the middle of the closing dirge on the tape, No End To The Violence.
     The brunt of the songs are fast and angry and to the point - but without ever coming off as simplistic or in any way sloppy. In fact their shit is tighter than a camel's ass in a sand storm and always maintains a sense of direction throughout each song and release. I keep thinking of hardcore legends Go! and Sick Of It All whenever I listen to Sectarian Violence, mainly because of the obvious sincerity of the songs but also because of a vague tendency towards incorporating jagged little metal hooks here and there in their songs, as well as a burliness to the vocals. The styles on these two releases don't differ much, even though there's a stronger dose of heavy breakdowns on Conflict Of Interest. They both contain short, effective songs built on both speed and heaviness. There's also a slight difference soundwise, where the selftitled ep has alot more clarity and depth - while on the other hand, the demo tape captures the ferocity of the band better, as well as having a more pronounced bass guitar. I think the tape is sold out but as far as I can tell the ep is still available here . This should appeal to any fan of  Negative Approach-style 80's fast and pissed hardcore.


söndag 6 maj 2012

Given To The Rising: Mares Of Thrace - The Pilgrimage

Mares Of Thrace - The Pilgrimage
2012, Sonic Unyon

The Mares return here with their dual sludge attack of vocals/baritone guitar and drums and the new album is actually even better than their excellent debut, The Moulting. To call their music sludge is possibly something of an over-simplification, but it's still fairly accurate in terms of giving a newcomer at least a vague idea of what's in store for them. The Pilgrimage is a seething mess of sweaty power violence-like hardcore/metal and roiling bluesy sludge and off-kilter, abrasive, slightly mathy noise rock. We're thrown, like ragdolls tossed in a dryer, from attacks of neck-snapping, boiling, off-the-rails bursts of aggression to slowly simmering, feverish undercurrents of barely restrained fury. All of it drenched in a dark, violent mood and an equally dark sense of humor, seasoned with a few pinches of electronic noises and sqeals. Thérèse Lanz's aggressively intense guitar work unleash a barrage of continous haymaker riffs, interspersed with Botch-like twisting melodies and dissonant passages, all the while working in tandem with the pummeling yet precise, drumming of her sister-in-crime, Stefani MacKichan, to create a rock-solid rythm section. Lanz's vocals are incredibly heavy, be they guttural growls or distortion-laden banshee shrieks. Sometimes I can hardly believe that Mares Of Thrace is a mere duo, considering the cacaphonous complexity of their music.
     The brunt of the songs on The Pilgrimage are slow but often contain numerous interludes and separate parts, some of them with very different rythmical structures and themes. The album contains ten songs (one of them a short blistering rythmic noise track), all of whom are very individual entities, with their own very definite personalities and quirks and though it may take some time to get to know them it's worth it in the end. After the initial shock wears off one starts to notice the little details littering the Mares' music; the structural complexities and hidden melodies within the songs and you're starting to see how they relate to each other and sometimes create segues from one song part to another, or indeed, from one song to another. I get the feeling the order of the songs on this album was chosen very carefully to create a seeming whole, an entity larger perhaps than its constitual components. There's a flow to the music on The Pilgrimage that's truly impressive, and though the all the songs are  memorable, a few of them stand out a bit above the rest; especially opener Act I: David Glimpses Batsheba, the monotonously jangly yet rumblingly heavy The Gallwasp, the brutally broken and splintered The Perpetrator with it's amazing chorus and Act III: A Curse Falls On The House Of David, with its brief charge of violent, hardcore murder-sludge.
     Towards the end of the album we're treated to a slight shift in sonic intensity and the final two songs are a tad mellower, more somber and also less feverish, especially the lulling calm of the  instrumental post-metal/stoner number The Three-Legged Courtesan... which morphs into ...And The Bird Sturgeon, with it's Neurosis-esque flow of  epic melody and heaviness. If there are any weak points to this album, I most definately haven't found them yet, after several dozen sittings. The Pilgrimage is an absolutely astounding album and it will almost definately be on my Best Of 2012 list.

lördag 5 maj 2012

... and let slip the dogs of war

Masakari/Tempest - Split 7''
2012, Replenish Records

Masakari is possibly one of the most interesting hardcore acts around today. After a only a handful of releases they have quickly established themselves as one of the genre's most progressive and forceful entities, both willing to, as well as eminently able to, blend metal, crust, grind and hardcore in uniquely inventive ways that very few, if any, other band today can duplicate. Their music is so forceful it's unbelievable, there is an edge and an exactness that is razor sharp in all aspects of their music. There is nothing half-assed to anything they do. There are shades of Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone and Discharge bringing both melody, aggression and dissonance to their sound; as well as huge doses of Entombed-styled metal, fleshing out the writing with battering metal riffs, barely contained chaos and a sludgy, implodingly dense heaviness. Here they contribute two versions of the same song. It is a previously unrelesed track, X.Pain Concieved As A Tool, recorded during the The Profit Feeds album sessions. They come in both a studio and a live version. It is a quick rager with lots of bouncy d-beat aggression and a nice Tragedy-like guitar melody weaving in and out of the chaos. The live version is obviously a bit rawer but works really well, both as a track in and of itself but also as a contrast to the fairly polished studio version and displays quite well the ferocity of the band's live performaces.
     On this ep they team up with Canadians Tempest, whose style differs quite a bit from Masakaris', but they are nonetheless one of the more interesting bands coming out of this whole dark hardcore style that is evolving out of metal and hardcore today. Their style is extremely dynamic and is moored in lots of chaotic raging black metal-colored aggression, Botch and Converge-like chaotic twisting guitars and monolithic Neurosis-influenced post-hardcore. All of it coated with  depressively dark crust-like melodies, infusing everything with an oppressive sense of hopelessness and desperation. Just as with Masakari's contribution, they deliver a live version and a studio version of the same track, titled Death Rattle (off their 2010 Passages album). Death Rattle is one of the bands slightly more accessible songs, where at first dense chaotic riffs and howled/shrieked vocals, goaded on by galloping, fairly complex drumming, all of it drenched in dark atmospheres, batter you with a chokingly heavy attack, but goes on to open up somewhat, with emerging melodies and guitar lines that eventually moves on to a fairly serene ending. It's a complex and also quite beautiful song, in its way, and a nice introduction to the band's music. The live version comes off as slightly more chaotic, no less dense but a bit more brittle than the studio version, but otherwise it's very well executed.
     This ep is a benefit release, whose proceeds will go fully to two non-profit canine shelters, one in Cleveland and the other in Vancouver, each band's respective hometowns. You'll find a downloadable version of the ep at the label's bandcamp site here.

torsdag 3 maj 2012

There will be blood before it is done: Burn Everything

Burn Everything - Hollow Victory 7''
2012, Dullest Records

This short ep by Rochester quintet Burn Everything has quickly become a recent favourite of mine and one that I've spun more times than I can count now and every time I am blown away by how a band with musical chops like these aren't better known. They should be written up fucking everywhere! But for whatever reason there seems to be very little coverage of them so far (or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places). Anyway, this is the band's third ep so far. They play a mix of slightly complicated (or 'mathy' if you prefer) hardcore and metal with faint touches of grindcore, sort of in the same way Converge does, minus the more overtly chaotic parts.

     There's an insane amount of intensity to their music; with lots of blistering speed and a few instances of full on blast beats, loads of fast hooks and really energetic, dynamic, snaking and twisting riffing; awesome heavy breakdowns, lots of extremely dense, monotone guitar passages, sometimes accompanied by smattering double bass drums. I keep thinking of Burnt By The Sun - for many reasons, not just because of some minor details in some of the songs or because of the very similar vocal style and patterns of Burn Everything's vocalist Matt Dalberth; but also the fact that their songs, like those of BBTS, maintain a strong metallic core while obviously integrating loads of influences from various other styles, such as old school hardcore, grindcore, mathcore, thrash and death metal etc.

     There's also a brevity and sense of real urgency to these four short songs that appeal to me. The band manages to write brief, extremely dynamic songs that never really sit still for very long, though without ever becoming exhaustingly chaotic. And they're also really memorable from the get-go, which is always a bonus for those of us with ever-shortening attention spans. There's also alot of melody infused into the songs, underneath all the aggression and ferocity, that lend Burn Everything's music yet another layer of complexity. Beside the fact that these guys write fucking amazing songs, I am hugely impressed by the vocals on display here. Raw, raspy and covering lots of range, but never falling into clichéd boring guttural growls or high, monotonous shrieks, Dalberth display a vocal talent that is all too rare in heavy music these days. All in all, a truly immense ep, that is impressive as hell. I urge anyone into bands like those previously mentioned, as well as Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Code Orange Kids etc, to check Burn Everything out. Their previous eps are available for free download at their bandcamp site, as is this ep for merely $4.

måndag 23 april 2012

Fuck your punk rock #4: The Greenery

The Greenery - Spit & Argue
2011, Prosthetic Records

This review has been in the works for quite some time now. I've been meaning to do this for ages, but for  various reasons it never happened. Until now. The Greenery is a band from Long Beach and they released this puppy last year on Prosthetic Records, and it is chock full of tight, aggressive, yet melodic metallic hardcore with loads of heavy breakdowns and galloping frenetic speeds. Their music is rooted mainly in early nineties hardcore with lots of heavy, chugging metal style ríffs and a vaguely crossover-y feel - like a slightly slowed-down DRI or a less thrashy Crumbsuckers. There's lots of dynamic, melodic guitar work going on, that, alongside an almost constantly changing pace, brings a sense of constant forward momentum to these songs. The band avoids the common trap of making shit overly complicated and instead gives the music a sense of direction, enough complexity to keep it interesting and a sense of urgency without losing the listener along the way. The Greenery aren't breaking any new ground on this release, but it's fucking tight and solid and the songs are infectious and fun, and their vocalist has a really cool raspy midrange snarl that remind me a bit of Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die. I also dig the - admittedly few - power violence vocal trade-offs in some of the songs. I'm a sucker for shit like that. For fans of Minor Threat, Every Time I Die, The Bronx, Youth Of Today etc. this should be a nice fit.

söndag 22 april 2012

The best of 2011 in the rearview mirror: Unrest - S/T

Unrest - ST
2011, Rising Riot Records

Unrest's self titled ep was, in my opinion, one of the better crustcore records to be released last year. Coming out of Münster, Germany, these guys play crusty, melodic hardcore , a la Tragedy, with a big  infusion of metal. This isn't groundbreaking in any way, but it is earth shatteringly good and bleak as hell and the guys do inject a bit of a death metal vibe into some of these songs which gives them an even heavier metallic slant as well as some really messy, but cool blast beats. The ep, consisting of four tracks, varying from shy of two minutes to almost five, was released on Rising Riot Records, who graciously has offered this release as a free download here. I do urge you to pick up a copy of this though. What else if there to say? This is a stellar hardcore record with a great sense of melody and aggression, done by five guys who know how to write really great cohesive songs. And it's free. Go, stupid!


onsdag 18 april 2012

Bedtime For Democracy: Pick Your Side

Pick Your Side - Let Me Show You How Democracy Works LP
2012, A389

Boasting a lineup of people from old school heavies Haymaker and grinders Fuck The Facts, these Canadians deliver one of the better old school hardcore albums so far this year. It's old school hardcore with a twist, though. The pedigree of it's membes shines through so there's a ton of grind elements and lots of solid melodic crust thrown into the mix, but there's very little metal here, except for some scatterings of chugging heavy riffage in some of the crushingly heavy breakdowns. We get something akin to a mix of Tragedy, Haymaker and Sick Of It All, with a bit of a power violence vibe going, adding some sporadic but furious blast beats here and there. All the songs are short and quick (except for the dirgy doomy crust-killer Ham Sandwhich, which is by far the longest song on the album) and display lots of dynamics for such a musically limited style as hardcore; with lots and lots of tempo shifts and loads of starts and stops and spectacularly memorable riffs. The obvious talent of everyone involved is easily one of the best assets of PYS; with that amount of talent and experience in the game, the songs become much more fluid and have a natural progression that makes them both complex and memorable. Lyrically this is raging, political old school hardcore dealing with issues like global warming, the monetary system, religion et cetera. Jeff Beckman's raspy, barbwire voice lends everything a sense of urgency and rage, while the general tone of the songs isn't quite as depressive as one would expect. The production may be a bit on the rough side and a little bit muddy, but this isn't necessarily a problem, since it serves to capture the energy and rage of these songs alot more effectively than a slick production ever could. This is the band's first full length, but their equally awesome debut seven incher is still available.

lördag 14 april 2012

Misanthropic Agenda: Harassor - Hater Of Man

Harassor - Hater Of Man CS
2012, Husk

After their 2011 selftitled debut lp, Harassor return with their primitive take on black metal with a limited cassette release  on Husk Records. Comprising of three dudes with an inordinate amount of dislike for humanity, Harassor play a style of old school black metal that incorporates lots of influences from the mid to late 80's; from raging thrash tempos and simplistic death metal riffing, a la Hellhammer, to crushingly heavy doom metal. There's a bit of a sloppy punk vibe going on at times, bringing to mind acts like Bone Awl, but these guys write way better songs. But the main focus here is simplicity. There are no solos, no over-complicated song structures, no unending jerk-off intros or excess song lengths. Of the eight songs merely three move beyond the three minute mark and only on the epic closing track The End Of Your World are we treated to some lengthy droney doom jams that run just over eleven minutes - but none of these songs feel long. We get fast, heavy and to the point, hateful blackened death/thrash, with lots of unexpected melody and dynamics yet with no pretentions of virtuosity. Not that these guys are horrible musicians or anything, but they just don't give a damn about anything other than writing great, blistering songs full of images of death, hate and pestilence. The production is raw and lacks some low end but it's almost become what's expected of raw retro-ish black metal. These recordings are from 2006 and I'm guessing the band has progressed somewhat since then, both musicallly and technically so it'd be cool to hear something more recent from them. Free stuff available at their bandcamp site here.

måndag 9 april 2012

Single Bullshit Theory

Countdown To Oblivion - CTO Discography 12''
2012, A389

Countdown To Oblivion was a fairly short lived hardcore project (1998-2000), consisting of folks from all over the Canadian hardcore and metal scenes. A supergroup of sorts, where the musical influences were as diverse as the band members' past and contemporary bands; members had previously been in or were still in bands like The Swarm, Anti-Flag, Holocron, Rammer, One Blood etc. CTO only released a handful of EPs and splits during it's brief lifetime, and then, after a single proper tour and a few local gigs, decided to call it quits. Now, thanks to Dom at A389 Recordings, the band's musical legacy has been compiled and released in this impressive discography, chock full of band art, photos, flyers, liner notes and lyrics. The layout is fucking sweet and I love the liner notes by Chris Colohan, that manages to be both comprehensive and funny and yet concisely convey the tale of CTO's rise and demise.

Consisting of six members, including Chris and co-vocalist Stephe Perry on dual vocal duty (often using a call-and-response sort of style) CTO was a melting pot of musical styles. Being a fan of both Cursed and Burning Love (Chris' previous and current bands), I had an incling I would probably like this album alot and, having listened to it a dozen times or so by now, I do - but this is definately not the album I was expecting. There is almost none of that rocked out, chaotic thrash of Cursed going on, nor any of the less intensely rabid, melodic hardcore/punkrock of Burning Love. Neither is this your typical old school hardcore unit, where d-beat velocity and simple riffs create the main bulk of the songs. This is instead alot more metal than one would expect. The riffs are a mix of pure thrash metal - often mimicking Slayer or downright stealing from them - lots of melodic black metal tremolo picking, the odd twisting, discordant screamo riff/melody and - to a lesser extent - some more traditional hardcore riffing, with simple but effective chord progressions.

Most of the songs are relatively fast, but rarely is this the main driving point of any song. There is an absolutely stellar - and, to me, totally unexpected - dynamic to CTO's music, where mid-to-high paced rythms, driven by thrash riffs and black metal melodies, break down into slower but equally intense parts, with tons of brief stops and starts in between and short chaotic bursts of extreme speed (theres almost a kind of power violence vibe going on at times). Add to this some angry, darkly funny and politically caustic lyrics ("What do we do when the cause of the week nolonger fits on a patch?" and "Quick, fetch me my soapbox, I feel a revolution coming on!" are typical of the septically ironic style of the band) and the intense and highly structured dual vocals, where the two intermingling voices call and respond to each other and/or join and reinforce each other and you have a unique kind of metallic hardcore that's as furious and dark as it is tongue-in-cheek entertaining and dynamic.

There are some slightly annoying drops in volume on some of the earlier songs, off the band's Death Rattle demo, but it itsn't enough to mar the listening experience. The production is otherwise decent, with lots of heavy low end and an open, clearly audible midrange. This is one of the better hardcore releases so far this year and A389 is maintaning an impressive consistency in releasing killer records by new (and, as in this case, old) bands.

söndag 1 april 2012

A steady diet of Dischord: Black God - II

Black God - II
2012, No Idea Records

The guys in Black God are back with their second ep, simply titled II, and this time their sound has been scaled down somewhat. It's not so much a reduction as it is a refinement. There is still alot of that scathing punkrock vibe from the first ep going on but also a tad more clearcut posthardcore vibe to the material. Seeing as the band has members from Coliseum, Endpoint and Young Widows and that most of them were together in Black Cross, it's not so hard to understand the progression. These guys are some of the biggest swinging dicks in the genre and they can write infectious and melodic, yet aggressive, punkrock in their sleep and here they do it really, really well. The music of the band is rooted less in 80's hardcore and more in the later 90's era where artists were broadening their musical pallettes and it's easy to see the influences of bands like Fugazi and Dag Nasty. There's a cool Rites Of Spring feel to many of these songs, which are all catchy as hell and also alot of llittle things that remind me of Down By Law. But there's also a frantic, really primal Black Flag-ish kind of riffing style utilized in the majority of these short songs, that's as brutal as it is simplistic and keeps everything from becoming too emo for it's own good. The production is a bit drier than on it's predecessor and the guitars not as jangly as before and while I'd prefer a rougher, more jagged-edged, sound it never really hampers the music. There's nothing new per se going on here, just great punkrock with lots of heart and lots of drive. This is one of the better eps to be released so far this year. You can stream both of the band's records at their bandcamp site here.

lördag 31 mars 2012

Fuck your noiserock pt.1: Unsane - Wreck

Unsane - Wreck
2012, Alternative Tentacles

This is going to be a short review. For several reasons. The main one being this: Unsane has been around for over two decades now and have consistently released fucking killer albums, all of them shit-you-pants-intense and megarockingly groovy, in a style I sometimes refer to as stripteasecore (there's a sexy, sweaty, swagger to almost everything they do as well as let's-get-shitfaced-inducing vibe to their particular style of - yeah, I know, there's that shiatty expression again - noiserock) and if you don't know them, shame on you. Seriously. Shame on you. The second reason is this: Wreck has some of the band's strongest material to date (possibly as good as Visqueen) with a close to perfect recording and great songs that keeps growing all the time; and the fact that it's released on Alternative Tentacles is darn cool as well. Third reason: they cover Flipper's amazing, seminal slowcore anthem Ha Ha Ha! What more do you need?

onsdag 28 mars 2012

Can't slow down, I've got a date with the Devil

The Love Below - Every Tongue Shall Caress
2012, A389

Wow, this threw me for a loop on the first time around. There's nothing ordinary or even remotely clichéd about The Love Below. I was half expecting something along the veins of Frightener, Nails or Full Of Hell (not that any of those bands are clichéd in any way), knowing the label's penchant for that whole area of dark and sludgy hardcore, but instead I'm completely blindsided by possibly the most unhinged, on-the-verge-of-flippin'-the-fuck-out kind of music I've heard in a long time. Basically this is heavy and, at times, fast hardcore punkrock, with a sort of frenzied, chaotic, noisy attitude that I'm instantly drawn to. All the songs are short, only a couple of them are more than three minutes long, so we are in no danger of getting bored here. Musically TLB sounds a bit like a mix of The Stooges, early Black Flag, the slower side of Motörhead, some traces of G.I.S.M. and a bit of Poison Idea. Sort of... We get awesome super-catchy punkrock riffs; some really cool straight up hardcore based on middle-to-high tempos; lots of audible, heavy rocking basslines; some heavy, almost metallic, breakdowns and tons and tons of rocking hooks.

But what truly sets these guys apart, except for a knack for writing short, instantly memorable songs, are the vocals of Jerry Wayne Woolbright Jr. (yup, that's apparently his name). I can't remember when I last heard someone so totally out there, someone so completely off the rails in his vocal delivery. To simply state that he screams is to do him injustice. He shrieks and howls - somewhere in the middle to upper register, often to the point where his voice cracks - almost seemingly out of control and yet does so with both conviction and clarity. How his voicebox is intact is beyond me. Lyrically there is some truly pissed-off, caustic shit going on here, but much of it written in a non-linear sort of ambiguous way, while hinting at a certain social and moral pathos that is interesting. But even though the lyrics, more often than not, are open to interpretation (which is fine by me), there's also the directness of songs like Nazi Uniform with it's snarling rage against police-brutality and abuse of authority ("You have the right to remain paranoid and afraid") and disdain of religion in Holy Dose ("Overdose on the love of God, choke on the light that shines so bright") to counteract the vagueness. Overall this is a great punkrock/hardcore album - and an outstanding full length debut - with lots of good points to draw you back for further spins. Get their previous releases at their bandcamp site here.

tisdag 27 mars 2012

Among the ruins: Doom and beauty

Lycus - Demo CS
2011, Graceless Recordings

This amazing demo by Lycus is one of the better heavy doom releases of last year and possibly even of the last handful of years or so. It features only three songs but they are of such a quality and execution it's hard to do them justice. Lycus plays a slow, dirgelike and crushingly heavy kind of doom metal with such fantastic emotional delivery I was blown away the first time I sat through it. The riffing is some of the very best I've heard in recent time, the melancholy, solemn melodies are simply beautiful and so charged they make the hairs on my arms stand up. There are aspects to their music that are close to, or draw their influences from, traditional heavy metal (only alot slower) as well as post-metal/post-rock; and while the song structures are traditional in the sense that they use tension build-up and release there is nothing traditional to their songwriting. There are no verses and no choruses as such. Even the vocals feel secondary to the music. And save for the deep guttural growling this has nothing to do with sludge either - this is pure doom, with the exception of a brief blast of black metal aggression and speed on the final track. There is a monastic quality to some of the dirgy clean vocals and harmonies, which lend everything yet another layer of complexity and depth. Often the melodies remind me of the those of Ride The Lightning/Master Of Puppets/AJFA-era Metallica, with lots of somber emotion and majestic themes. Even though we only have less than a handful of songs here the total playtime of this demo is almost thirty minutes, which means that all three songs get the time to build and expand and develop organically in their own respective ways. I can't properly describe how eminently fucking awesome this cassette is. You NEED to hear this! It's too good to miss out on. This cassette version is all sold out but the vinyl version is available from Flenser Records and the band's Bigcartel webstore here. And if you don't want a physical copy it's avaliable as a pay-what-you-like kinda deal at their bandcamp site.

måndag 26 mars 2012

Here comes the messenger / Black crow on a tombstone

Young And In The Way - Amen
2010, self-released

The opening track of Young And In The Way's debut album Amen is called Hell Is Other People. It is definately a sentiment I can relate to sometimes (hell, most of the times, to be honest). It's a short number, more like an intro of sorts, but a heavy one, with sludgy overtones, massive down-tuned guitars alternating simple melody and heavy riffs ontop of a pulsating bass. It slowly builds, leading the way towards the sudden explosive pace-change of Dark Seed, where an unrelenting mix of sloppy punk and dark hardcore moves into near-blast beat territory, with screamed, pissed-off and desperate-sounding vocals. The attack here is as varied as it is uncommon in its blend of styles with a closing mix of crusty sludge fading into an ambient drone. Only a couple of minutes into the album and I'm already impressed as hell.

Over the following three tracks, which feel like a single continuous one, we are served the same kind of unpredictability and seething rage where no one element is too out there to explore. We get high speed rage followed by dirge-like doomy sludge; we get punk riffs, double bass drum smatterings and d-beat charged metallic hardcore. There are some black metal influences at work here (I keep thinking of Satyricon for some reason) but also the jangly slightly jarring guitarwork associated with screamo and noiserock (yep, there's that aweful word again). The voice of Kable Lyall has a caustic, swaggery hardcore/punkrock edge to it, as well as a snarling black metal vibe, which he utilises in almost anthemic vocal patterns that are quite memorable right off the bat.

Track number five, White Light, suddenly breaks the furious pace and restless momentum with a dream/nightmare-like atmosphere where simple but effective toms create a rythmic cadence over shimmering guitar tones, alongside repeated monotonous riffs over a throbbing bassline and spoken somber vocals. This is in the realm of postrock/postmetal but not quite and this abrupt change of both tone and pace is as brilliant as it is surprising. The oddities continue on the closing track. Another odd man out in this already oddball congregation, titled The Becoming, it is a thirteen plus minute Neurosis-esque epic, moving from the same kind of melancholy dreamlike shoegaze-shimmering, almost lullabyish guitars as on White Light, to a series of pulsating crescendoes of violins, driving tribal midpaced rythms of sludgy post-hardcore melodies and screamed vocals. This is probably my favourite song on the album, even though it's by far the longest one.

This is an impressive album, indeed - and one not so easily categorized. There's enough here to sate the hardcore fans as well as the postmetal/sludge crowd. Though I'm not quite sure if the black metal influences are trve enough for the quasi-suicidal, self-cutting, corpse-painted juggaloo ubercvlt hordes, but to me it's a non-issue. Taken all together this is a damn fine peice of hardcore and my first proper introduction to the band - and as such it is an outstanding one; I really feel a need to delve further into the band and their discography. Very much recommended for any fan of (slightly) progressive metal-influenced hardcore that offers more than just the genre staples. Amen is available at their bandcamp for free as well as a double vinyl package (with the also previosly selfreleased album I Am Not What I Am) reissued by A389.

söndag 25 mars 2012

We are the rats and we run this town

Gallows - Death Is Birth
2012, self-released

Brittish punk act Gallows return with some sorely needed new material, this time with new vocalist Wade MacNeil (ex-Alexisonfire) and a slightly different twist to their modern take on hardcore/punk/whatever. These four new songs are more direct than the band's previous material and definately more punk in both tone and attitude. In part, this is due to the the new vocalist; the mid-to-high range rasp in his voice and his distinctly punkish delivery and enunciation, but also has to do with the fact that these songs are crisper, shorter and more to the point than their earlier material. Opener Mondo Chaos is an old school sing-along midpaced number with a great, instantly memorable - and sweary - chorus and an awesome faster-paced UK Subs kind of feel to it. Of course there are lots of metallic hooks and riffs but the overall feel is that of snotty punk kids flipping you the finger and kicking your teeth in, just for the fuck of it.

lördag 24 mars 2012

The end is Nigh

Nigh - Nigh
2012

This great short ep showcases some impressively atavistic metallic hardcore blended with a definite old school death/thrash vibe. There's some great riffage being dsiplayed here, with an early Slayer meets Hellhammer feel, alongside some really tasteful, almost covert, NWOBHM flairs thrown in here and there, as well as some really cool Discharge-like fast runs. The production is decent with lots of heavy low end and lots of breathing space for all the instruments to move within. My only gripe is that, sometimes, the drums sound a bit dry and wooden compared to everything else, especially in the, admittedly not very frequent, blast beat parts. This sounds as if it could have been released in the late-eighties, early nineties and I'm thouroughly impressed. Had they been released back then, I guess they would've been labeled as metalpunk or some such nonsense, a label as good or bad as any, I guess. These three songs are over in a heartbeat and that's another great thing about the band's music; they write short to-the-point songs that feel complete and never rushed. There's lots of movement within the tracks and yet they never sound overly complicated or technical. This band needs to be on a label, like right now! Download.

fredag 23 mars 2012

Kill Theme For American Apeshit: +HIRS+

+HIRS+ - Worship 7''
2012

Wow! Just, frikkin' wow! For some reason I'd never heard of these guys before and I can't understand how the hell I could have missed them. They do the same thing Agoraphobic Nosebleed does, only less obviously self-medicated. I rarely use hyperbolic phrases suh as 'face-melting', 'shredding' or 'ultra-brutal' but in this case I'll make an exception, because this shit is insanely fast and vicious, and densely fucking heavy to boot. This is crazily constructed drum machine grindcore (something I generally stay as far away from as humanly possible) with lots and lots of odd twists and turns, time changes and weird fills and lots of thunderous low end guitars and howling, shrieking insane-person vocals. There's lots of dissonant riffing going on to make everything feel more than just run of the mill technical grindcore/deathgrind as well as a power violence vibe to the way the songs are constructed (not to mention all the samples thrown into the songs, which are great by the way). All their material is available for download at their bandcamp site. What the fuck are you waiting for?

torsdag 22 mars 2012

Built for brutality: Eddie Brock

Eddie Brock - Brand New Day 7''
2012, A389

Eddie Brock was the name of the burly, Belgian Blue-muscled supervillain Venom, from the Spiderman comics and though I'm unsure exactly how that relates to these guys, it's somehow fitting when considering the music these guys play. It's loud, fast and most importantly, it's heavy, with a furious power violence vibe which in itself has a burly muscle-y kind of character. This ep is brief but delivers plenty in its short runtime. We get five tracks, only two of them moving beyond the minute mark, of unrelenting Slap-A-Ham-styled hardcore with lots of whirlwind flurries of high speed blasts, raging memorable riffs, loads of dirty heavy breakdowns, raspy "I-smoke-two-packs-a-day" barbwire-vocals (with some cool dual and guest vocals going on as well) and some truly vicious and angry lyrics (and some bitterly funny ones as well). This is one of those ep:s you spin repeatedly because it's just engaging enough to hook you instantly but also complex enough to warrant several listenings in a row. What's also, paradoxically, refreshing to me about this ep is the fact that the band in no way tries to reinvent anything here or inject anything new into this style, pioneered by bands like Spazz, No Comment, Neanderthal and Lack Of Interest. It's just well-written, well-played, no frills, no bullshit power violence/hardcore. That's more than enough for me. Compared to their earlier self-titled ep (which is available for free at their bandcamp site here) this is alot heavier and dirtier and the power violence influences more in your face. Highly recommended.

onsdag 21 mars 2012

No cure for poisoned minds: Empire of Rats

Empire Of Rats - No Peace
2012, Get This Right Records

These guys mix vicious tough guy hardcore (think burly NYHC leaning heavily on heavy chugging mosh parts) with some old school Sick Of It All-like sensibilities as well as huge doses of a slightly darker more metallic side. The opening intro track has a biting satrical message, hinting at a social awareness that I find refreshing. The following five songs are solid and fast paced with lots of ultra heavy breakdowns and some really impressive song writing, with a great raspy midrange vocal delivery that sits perfectley in the middle of everything without being too up front in the mix. There's a definite Slayer presence in some of these tracks, both in the machine-gun style riffs and the way they blend melodies into the guitar parts, as well as in the drumming style. I also get a huge Integrity-vibe off the material, so of course I'm loving the shit out of it. More please.

tisdag 20 mars 2012

Queens of the Sludge Age

Mares Of Thrace - The Moulting
2010, Arctodus Records

Stripped down and violent, detuned and hauntingly beautiful, melodic yet chokingly dense and constantly bristling with rythmical intricacies and passionate, raging guitar work, The Moulting is an intriguing album. I found it rather by chance, surfing the shallow depths of these interwebs, and I'm really glad I did. Being a duo, Mares Of Thrace consists of only a drummer and a guitarist, and it blows my mind that two people can create both such an intense, almost frenzied sludgy atmosphere and such sonic complexities and yet manage to bring to it such devastatingly beautiful textures. Their music reminds me alot of other very stripped-down-to-the-bone kind of bands, who also utilize alot of winding, sometimes dissonant or melancholy melodies and rythmical complexities in their writing; bands like fellow Canadians Nomeansno, Jesus Lizard and of course Black Sabbath (Ward's jazzy drumming, the somber, melancholy melodies of both Geezer and Tony Iommi have always had a swampy kind of blues-feel to me).

There is an impressive amount of detail to be found in the music as well, be it the often deceptively technical drumming of Stef MacKichan, the brief but constant melodic colorings thrown into Therese Lanz's often densely heavy riffs or the intermingling flurries of electronics thrown into the mix. There's enough metal here to warrant a 'metal' label on the Mares' music, but there's more to it than that, of course. Having done stints in loads of other musical constellations - Exit Strategy, Kilbourne and KEN Mode among them - these ladies know the ins and outs of the heavier, extreme styles of music like the backs of their hands. This means there are huge doses of other influences than just mere metal at work here. There's an obvious jazzy, winding noiserock (I fucking hate that word) feel to much of their music, but there are also monumental, tribal influences going on here, along the lines of Isis or Neurosis, where dense, melodic riffs, driven by awesome, primal, warlike rythms shatter everything in their path. And ontop of everything else there's also a visceral snarling punk attitude coating everything, adding yet another layer of ferocity to the music. Therese's emotionally charged vocals, sometimes sung in a clean voice, more often screamed in a deep, resonant, growl (how the hell does she do that?) are hugely impressive and tend to work rather as an added layer of instrumentation than a mere conveyor for platitudinal inanities. It's not always easy to decipher the lyrics, and though I'm convinced they're just as well-written as the music, it doesn't really bother me not knowing what she's singing. The music as a whole is so impressive and emotional the lyrical content becomes less of a concern to me. I'm really looking forward to the Mares' upcoming album, The Pilgrimage, where they hopefully have expanded on the musical ideas and themes on The Moulting. Watch the live clips below if you need any further convincing.



måndag 19 mars 2012

Massive Killing Capacity: Black Breath - Sentenced To Life

Black Breath - Sentenced To Life
2012, Southern Lord

Holy shit YES! It's just as good as, if not even better than, I was hoping it would be! These dudes write some amazing crust-influenced hardcore/metal that is at the very top of modern heavy music today. Black Breath should be as big as (insert name of hip, overly and undeservedly lauded inane indie label metal/hardcore act here) and they should be given lots and lots of money so they can tour the shit out the world. Their last effort, Heavy Breathing, was one of my very favourite albums of 2010 and it truly opened my eyes to the effortless genious of their music, and Sentenced To Life cements that impression even further. Black Breath rakes everything down in their path with raging hardcore tempos, double bass drum smatterings, d-beat dis-core, Old School Swedish Death Metal guitars and thrash-injected riffs and solos. Imagine tossing in all that was good about nineties death and thrash metal and modern and metallic japanese hardcore into a tumbler and shaking the shit out of it. Pour it into these five guys and you have an extremely dense, heavy and caustic style of hardcore that blows everybody else into the dust. If you're a fan of such disparate legendary bands as Discharge, Dismember or Disclose, you'll fucking love this. If you don't, you quite simply, need to be killed.

söndag 18 mars 2012

Serving time in the middle of nowhere

Seven Sisters Of Sleep - ST
2011, A389

Everybody were raving about Seven Sisters Of Sleep when this album came out. People everywhere seemed almost taken aback by it and the reviews were glowing. Me, I just couldn't get into it. For some reason it just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was the longish name, maybe the generally slow plodding pace or the sludgy esthetic of their music in general, or perhaps I'm just retarded sometimes. It isn't that the music of SSoS is in any way difficult or overly challenging, I just didn't, for whatever reason, click with the tunes on the album, they just drifted past me without sinking any hooks in. I recently went back and sat through the album again and all of a sudden I got it. How I couldn't before is beyond me. It's almost impossible to describe SSoS's music without using the words Black and Sabbath so I'm not even gonna try. Suffice it to say, this is some amazingly well-crafted, heavy dirty metal with nods to sludge-masters Eyehategod as well as the previously mentioned precursors of all that is heavy in metal. It's not all slow all the time - in fact there are more than a few moments of ferocious hardcore velocity - but the pervading sense is that of desperation and dread and crumbling landscapes frozen in time. The much needed sense of urgency and release in the faster-paced parts serve as a momentum breaker that infuses a definite sense of dynamic into the album. I keep thinking of Eyehategod, circa Dopesick when I hear this but with a punkier attitude and less suicidally inclined. The vocal style on display here would fit perfectly on any d-beat charged hardcore album and this works really well within the context of these songs. Everything reeks of desperation and rage, from the vocals to the constricting, dense atmosphere of the music itself, and while all the songs are short and never even get the chance to be long-winded, they're also never leave you with a sense of being unfinished. In fact, the best song on the album, Swamp, isn't even two minutes long. The band apparently features members from The Arm And Sword Of A Bastard God (whom I have both heard of and heard - got a tape somewhere) and Tafkata (whom I have never heard of). Grade A stuff.

lördag 17 mars 2012

I am the one, Orgasmatron/The outstretched, grasping hand

Lord Mantis - Pervertor
2012, Candlelight

Since I had never heard of the band before (yeah, I know, I'm a moron), I dove into Lord Mantis' latest album with a clean slate and no preconceptions (which is a rare thing these days, when info overload at times tend to remove your ability - and, to some extent, even the need - to make up your own mind what to think and feel about things in general, and music, art and movies in particular). Maybe this fact made it easier in a way to ingest the music and consider it on it's own merits rather than some pre-colored notion of what to expect. After a bit of research I found that the band features some rather illustrious people within the metal community, from bands such as Nachtmystium, Von and Indian. Which, in hindsight, probably explains the truly stellar music we get on Pervertor, I guess. Either way, Pervertor is a beast of immense proportions in all of it's aspects, from writing to production and execution. It is steeped in sludgy riffs, varied but often slow, rumbling tempos and a rather eighties-feeling kind of doom metal that I loved from the very first instance. These songs are catchy as hell, especially considering the style of music presented here. What we get is filthy blackened sludge/metal with lots of tremolo picking, rumbling double bass drums, wicked rocking hooks, earth shatteringly heavy riffs and venom-spitting, snarling vocals almost as ferocious as those of Steve Austin of Today Is The Day. There's actually more than a vague resemblance to TITD in the general progressiveness and tone of Lord Mantis' music, though they're never drawn towards the same kinds of extremes as TITD. A few key aspects that sets the band apart from the brunt of their contemporaries are the brilliant, inventive drumming and the mind blowing, almost Cobalt-esque, winding riffs and melodies, alongside the fact that all of the songs keep evolving, never ever becoming stagnant or repetitive. Songs like Levia and Septichrist has me smiling like an imbecile every time I hear them, because they're that goddamn catchy and good! Oh, and the main riff on closing track The Whip And The Body is the greatest Motörhead-riff Motörhead never wrote. We have some Album-of-the-year-contender shit right here, folks. Dig in.