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.