Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stressed Out - Dudes Don't Die

Stressed Out was from New Brunswick, NJ and featured members who went on to play in Dystrophy and Dethroned Emperor. Though, on these songs you'll hear those guys playing something that is less of the death metal persuasion and opting to be in more a neighborhood of something like Pulling Teeth mixing with Suicide Tendencies. Don't get me wrong, the death metal is still there (just listen to the Slayer-esque guitar solo at the end of "PxMxAx" for proof).

The first two tracks "PxMxAx" and "Disney Kids" set a great tone for the release and give you a pretty filling taste of what Stressed Out was all about. The songs bring elements of death metal, thrash and even some mosh-laden hardcore."Brunswick Cops" shows the band pretty much abandoning the death metal influence for a little while and borrowing from the classic punk/thrash rule book.

Lyrically Stressed Out addressed a gambit of subjects like positivity, commercialism, police interaction and atheism. Their live show almost always featured vocalist Richard giving a well spoken and sincere explanation on some of his favorites. I mainly reviewed this selfishly because I would hate for this band to be forgotten..not only for their music, but really for the ability they had to spread ideas to a basement full of punks and promote some sort of dialogue within oneself.

Get the songs here.

A Mountain Far - Sovereign Songs Compilation

A Mountain Far is a label from Toronto putting out some great music as of late. They recently posted this compilation on their bandcamp page to familiarize people with the bands on their roster.

The tricky thing about a compilation is usually that every band has different recording quality. I found myself having to turn the volume up and down between bands to compensate (perhaps with some mastering this would could be fixed).

There's quite a mix of bands on here and to give a detailed review of all 18 songs would be quite the task for my week. Instead, I'll give you a list of what I thought were the stand out bands: Brain Fever, Mahria, Ravachol, Todos Caeran, Book of Caverns, Lizards Have Personalities, The Discord of a Forgotten Sketch, Suffix and Creeper.

I'll be reviewing individual releases by all of these bands in the near future. A Mountain Far is doing some great things here and I look forward to delving further into some of these bands.

Listen to the compilation here. Find out more about A Mountain Far here.

Altered Boys - Demo

Altered Boys is from New Brunswick, NJ and play "Boston 80's hardcore". Much like Ugly Parts, Four Fingers and many other bands, these songs are are fast, angry and straight forward.

The production on this is pretty good and the high gain guitar sound is a nice modern touch to make this a little bit more tolerable to folks like me who don't want to hear the 80's redone by yet another band.

"Ask A Punk" starts the record off on an enthusiastic note, and the band exhibits the ability to write some catchy hooks into the song structure. The placement of group vocals adds to the fast moving feel and catchiness. They continue the demo with a mix of fast hardcore and mid temp two-step choruses.

It's not bad musicianship by any means, but much like other bands in this genre, there is nothing that's really grabbing me and drawing me in. The guitars and bass seemed to be mostly mirroring each others notes, never deviating from one another. I feel this is a missed opportunity, since they already have some great high gain tone; some deviation and creative fret work would really set this apart. There are some spurts of creative drumming though, and that lends itself to breaking things up a bit.

The highlight here is the lyrics, with some honestly written words commenting on punk subculture, medicating anxiety, depression and religion. There's no abstraction, vocalist Geoff is telling you how he feels and being very up front about it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Teen Wolves - Demo

From New Brunswick, NJ, Teen Wolves is among the many bands you can hear at your weekly basement show playing fast, thrashy punk. I find the name slightly deceiving, since I think all of these folks are in their twenties by now. Musically it's everything you'd expect from a fast punk band, however this team will throw a few curve balls into the mix with some parts that have more of stop-start feel to add some dynamics and emphasize some of the vocal work.

The production is very muffled, and while the music is played well, it doesn't have me raving about it. Where I found the most inspiration from this band was in the straight forward lyrical style. Teen Wolves leave abstraction and tip-toeing behind. This band wants you to know how they feel, and quite frankly they want you to know they are fed up.

"Epic Failure" was my favorite track with lyrics like "You preach about unity, Brotherhood and respect. Well it's a bunch of bullshit when i hear your homophobic slurs and disrespect towards women. Respect, you'll never get from me. Exhausted from all your excuses you try to justify." You may see it as straight forward, and I don't think that's a bad thing. The concept that hardcore/punk is "preaching to the choir" is being tested here and I feel Teen Wolves is here to emphasize this notion.

The mood can also go lighthearted with songs like "Never Forget Your Root(s)..Beer" (a song about their love for root beer) and "T.W.P." which carries an anthemic sing along about youth.

Check it out here.

Unrest - Demo

Ok, so I take back anything I ever said bad about Oklahoma. This is the third band this month I am reviewing from there, so they must be doing something right despite their red state status and bad cowboy boots.

Unrest is a vegan straight edge hardcore band. Lyrically they focus on issues of Earth liberation, the problem of religion and competing with apathy.

Musically I could picture Unrest fitting very well back in the days of the 90's hardcore with bands like Earth Crisis, Chokehold (they do a cover by them) and Birthright, but I'm glad to see people playing this music now. The chugging guitars never let up as they soar above the mid tempo drums. There's even some pinch harmonics and metal harmonies thrown in for good measure. However, there are a few exceptions. On the song "Denounce" the band opts to take us to melodic grounds for a few moments. "Apathy Never" shows us the band can also execute some faster hardcore without sounding too traditional as well.

The vocal delivery is mostly brought to us with a powerful scream which breaks every so often for some spoken word parts. The spoken parts are typically used in pauses or buildups to create a dynamic before jumping back into the intensity.

The recording quality could use a little brightening up. I found the bassiness of the overall mix stifled the effect just a bit. But, over all you can get a picture of what this band is going for. I'm interested to hear more in the future.

Listen to Unrest here.

Old Wounds - S/T

Old Wounds is a band from the Jersey Shore who play music influenced with some spastic hardcore that's anything but traditional.

Taking influences from bands like Converge and Breather Resist, Old Wounds shows that the Jersey shore can do heavy and chaotic. There's some noteworthy guitar and drum work here. Particularly nice is how the guitar jumps into some higher fretwork but still maintains a powerful sound. Feedback rings through every pause to communicate that dirty, noisy vibe. The drumming is very tight and interesting, but never too flashy.

Vocally, Old Wounds seems to have some variation. When the scream is blazing with intensity it works well. However,the voice drops into elements of sassiness often that just seem a little out of place. Perhaps it's the execution, or maybe just that the scream sounds a lot better.

"Bourn To Mourn" is the standout track here. It begins the record on a strong note and takes you through some good examples of what this band can offer us musically, from chaotic guitar to smooth mid tempo transitions. The breakdown 40 seconds into "Hellbent" is an impressive use of dynamics. I could have done without the cover of "White Rabbit" in exchange for another original song.

Hear more from Old Wounds here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Message From Your Author

Hi there. So, we're closing in on three weeks of steady record reviews. Thanks to everyone who has been interested in reading and anyone who has sent anything in for review. It's been a lot of fun for me and a great way to hear new music.

That said, I didn't expect the response that I received in result to doing this blog. I've been asked to do guest reviews for other blogs and have been sent quite a bit of music to write about.

I suppose it was my error in not being able to foresee this response, but I failed to lay down criteria for music being sent to me from the start. Here's some quick things to take into account:

First and foremost, if your band has lyrics or artwork promoting violence against women, homophobia or racism I will not review it. This should be common sense. I don't care to hear about how you're being 'artsy', 'ironic' or 'controversial' with offensive language. It's not interesting or 'cutting edge' to me. Your band most likely sucks and I would have given you a bad review anyway. "That's like...censorship..maannn" is the inevitable response I'll get from this criteria. However, this my interpretation of punk and hardcore, so fuck off. If you want to do some G.G. Allin worshiping bullshit, start your own blog and pretend punk shock value is still cool.

Second, send me your lyrics. If they're on your bandcamp, that's great. If I already own your release then there's no need. But, if we've never met and I have no idea who you are then I'd like to get to know you better; and reading your lyrics will help me do that. There's a few reviews I've done where I can only comment on the vocal style because I have no lyrics and I would much rather be able to paint the whole picture. Sometimes, this is my fault, I review bands I like but have no access to their lyrics. It's an imperfect world.

Third, take anything I say in a review about your band constructively. I'm not in the business of clowning people or crushing their artistic dreams. I am one person and it's only my opinion. Links are provided for the reader to make their own judgement and let's hope they do. The main point of this was to share music, not be the final word on the validity of anyone's talent.

Fourth, if you like something please considering supporting the band and buying it from them. Or, perhaps track the release down at your local independent record store.

Well then. I'm glad we got that all out in the open. Onward!

Sonic Youth - Dirty (Classic Review of the Week)

For me, 1991 was a memorable year to be 14 years old. The media coined it "grunge" but we all thought that was such a silly way to describe this phenomenon of bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney becoming popular. Out was the glam rock, eyeliner, spandex bands of the 80's and in was this raw, new teenage angst for MTV to gobble up. Many words have been written by my much more experienced writers than I on this subject, so I'll spare the personal details. All the while, Sonic Youth had been crafting this style of music, right over the bridge in New York since the mid 1980s. One might say Sonic Youth was wearing flannel shirts and playing jazzmaster guitars before those things became in vogue, and with that you can expect some more insightful, mature musicianship from them when it comes to the alternative rock genre. It spoke to me because it walked that fine line between absolutely genius while still being so accessible that you could start a band that sounded similar (just not as good).

This is probably the best produced Sonic Youth album, in my humble opinion. The guitars have such a great tone and there's good sensibility to the mix. This can prove difficult with more noise oriented tracks, but they pull it off great here. My only complaint here is that on some tracks the drums are a little dry sounding. They don't carry a huge "roomy" sound on all the tracks. When it's applied though, the extra reverb on the drums goes a long way (Check out the song "Wish Fulfillment" for an example off both the feedback guitar and roomy drums).

The record starts off slow with "100%" which almost has a "let us introduce ourselves vibe" in which the listener is not hit full blast yet. "Swimsuit Issue" comes in after and gives the listener more of what they may expect in this album with upbeat tempos and superb distorted bass. This is the first of bassist Kim's vocal leads, which are extremely well done on this recording. On other tracks like the deliberately forceful "Drunken Butterfly" and more subdued songs like "Shoot" or "On The Strip" her voice compliments the music perfectly. As the vocal duties switch between Kim and guitarist Thurston, there is still consistency. Mainly I would attribute this to the fact that they maintain the same mood.

"Theresa's Sound World" is a standout track for me on the album. It carries a beauty within it's constant buildup that is filled with textures of guitar melodies while the drum and bass maintain a great foundation. When the drums go full tilt into their blast beat frenzy it's quite powerful.

The other standout track I'll discuss here is "Chapel Hill". The melodies and guitar leads in this song sound so infectious to me. They get stuck in my head and never want to come out. Thurston's voice matches the mood and lyrics perfectly here. After the second chorus the band takes us on an instrumental journey filled with upbeat twists and turns. They detour from the conventional song structure to visit some classic Sonic Youth noise making, but only for a moment before the drums take us back to the wondrous guitar solo introduction.

There's not much I miss about being 14 years old, but I thank Sonic Youth for this memento. The inspiration and excitement I had as a beginner guitar player when I heard this record had me up late writing songs and motivated me to approach a microphone (for better or worse).

Troublemaker - Moratorium

Troublemaker is a straight edge hardcore band from New Jersey. They offer some angry and aggressive music with some equally angry lyrics to match. This band is presently close to calling it quits, but don't let that stop you from indulging yourself in some interesting hardcore that will most likely make your bad mood even worse.

The one thing I can't get passed on this recording is the snare drum sound. It's very bass heavy and flat. There's times I think it's a rack tom and I shouldn't be thinking that. Other than that I have no complaints.You get some very dark bass and guitar tones that emphasis a sludgy, dirtier atmosphere. You can make out the lyrics pretty well, but the vocals are not holding back.

Musically Troublemaker maintains to inject their angry mood into a multiplicity of blast beats, sledge parts and guitar chugs. The drumming puts emphasis on each chord well with an arsenal of bell hits and precise bass drum. This is especially apparent when the band wraps up a chord progression by ringing out the last note and letting it simmer. Some tracks featuring bruiting parts that lend themselves to a vibe reminding me of Kiss It Goodbye (see "Mjolnir") while others keep things speedy with a whirlwind of pauses and changes. The band also breaks with two instrumental interludes on this record ("i" and "ii"). They are pretty uneventful musically, I get the impression they're more for mood and atmosphere with their droney soundscape.

On parts of "God Breath" the drum work was reminding me of Slayer with it's quick ride cymbal work. A cover of My Bloody Valentine features bassist Kwame taking vocals and having the band stay true to the songs original structure.

Download it here.

Ugly Parts - Demo

The minimalist 80's hardcore sound seems to be the popular trend these days. Admittedly, this genre doesn't really do much for me, so keep that in mind. I'm sure there are some that just love the style and want to replicate it. Regardless, Ugly Parts is about the 10th band this month that I've seen boasting the label "for fans of 80's Boston hardcore".

Ugly Parts features members of tons of New Jersey bands, Filthy Habits and Bible Thumper just to name two. The music is filled with upbeat drums, fuzzy bass, low gain guitar and throaty vocals. It's not recorded too well, but it adds to the effect of the early 80's motif that they have going on.

For the most part you're getting a high speed assault of punk, but at times they can bring down the tempo. "Closing In" exemplifies more of a slow sound for a few moments with it's fuzzy bass and stomping drums. Similar to how I felt about Four Fingers, there is nothing wrong with the musicianship here (in fact, the band is quite tight on this recording) but I'm not really drawn in quite the way I'd like to be. Ugly Parts manages to replicate a particular sound but I don't know what I would say is really making these songs distinguishable from the many other bands who have in the past, or who are now, fostering this style. I can see this band going over very well at future New Brunswick basement shows.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Millions of Them - Failures

From Belgium, Millions of Them were one of the best surprises of my tour of Europe last summer. They had a pummeling live sound and powerful presence. Fortunately for us, "Failures" does everything right in translating this band's live sound.

If you're a fan of bands like Botch, Breather Resist and The Minor Times, then Millions of Them will have your senses fulfilled. The frantic drumming on this record is totally on point. The high gain guitars go from aggressive power chords to intricate, yet discordant, high end noodling. The bass is overdriven and provides that perfect "wall of noise" tone. Vocally this record never lets up with a very powerful scream that fits so perfectly on top of the rest the music.

Opening with the song "Vow" Millions of Them has us thinking for a moment that they may just be offering some straight thrash, but it's not long before they launch in time an off time whirlwind of blast beats and breakdowns. They can also bring things down to a more sedated intensity, like on "Dramatize Revolution" in which the drums remain slow underneath driving guitar and bass.

The entire back cover of this record is reserved for the lyrics. Explanations are nicely provided for each song. Millions of Them do a great job of providing commentary on social and political issues. A clear picture is painted about the state of corporate greed, capitalism and war. It can all seem very grim, and rightfully so. There is a break from the them with "Rome", which addresses the idea of taking negativity and trying to do your best to use it productively.

Zhenia Golov - Proscription

This is the band that brought me back from anti-social life to return to New Brunswick basement shows. Unapologetically political, musically interesting and nice people to boot, I had good reason to start going back to the low ceiling confines of the basements.

The snarling bass tone stands at the forefront of this record, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It works in translating some heavy sounds to tape and, in a strange way, the low gain guitar and drums are complimenting it well. Zhenia Golov threw their hand in approaching a variety of hardcore styles on this record. It goes everywhere from rapid blast beats to slow, drawn out sledge, and even walks on some experimental ground (see parts of "Pole of Inaccessibility").

"Proscription" opens the record with a fast paced rev of hardcore and punk that breaks 44 seconds in to drop down to a nice double track vocal spoken word ring out that sounds right out of 1995. From there, the band takes us on journey addressing a myriad of topics and experimenting with everything in the hardcore and punk playbook. The music breaks for a spoken word track entitled "Fortune Smiled" which is backed by some unsettled feedback to emphasize the discomfort of the words. They revisit the spoken word approach on "I'll Still Be There" and at the end of "Privilege/Honor". I can't help but be reminded of 90's hardcore when they go this route. "Fulmination" brings you back to the intensity with it's quick drums fills and stomping mid tempos. The song even gives you some melodic sensibility to end the tune. "Damnatio Memoriae" begins with the band entering a balancing acting between a melodic/introspective verse and some classic rock style guitar noodling. The song brings the record to a close, sticking to the melodic end and presenting with something similar to Tragedy mixed with Majority Rule.

This was the last release by the band and one hell of a way to make an exit before splitting up. Members of this band went to start Black Kites, Natural Law, Host and a slew of other bands.

Have a listen here.

Viduus - Fearfully Awaiting the End

When I reviewed Partners last week I couldn't believe there was a band from Oklahoma. Well, maybe the Midwest has a few more surprises.

Viduus is from Oklahoma City and play dark hardcore with a little something different thrown in to keep it interesting. In addition to your standard d-beat parts there's also some nice breakdowns and melodic interludes. Think of bands like Furnace or They and the Children mixed some more traditional work like Tragedy.

The recording quality is less than desirable here, and I can only imagine how intense this would sound with some nice production. Particularly, the drums sound like they have potential to translate monstrously with proper recording.

These guys not only throw down some great music, but also deliver some great critiques and ideas to go with it. Lyrically, I interpret these three songs as addressing superficial youth cultures, the dysfunction of religion and the abuse of American power on the global landscape.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Raein - Sulla linea d'orizzonte tra questa mia vita e quella di tutti

Recently Raein broke a brief silence and released this new album online for free (with an option for donation) prior to having it's physical release pressed. In the words of the band, "This record is completely self-produced, and for us it is a tribute to that way of thinking and acting, the 'do it yourself' way, that was our fundamental constant during the last 10 years, because there is no other basic need apart from the will to do things. This is an easy thing to say and also an easy one to put in practice, and during this time we found out that self production can be something more than just a starting point." On that note, I knew I was in for something good, mainly because a band going on ten years is still showing so much intensity and attention for what they do.

For those not familiar, Raein come to us from Italy and bring us their own brand of screamy, melodic hardcore. This record follows suit on Raein's previous work and kicks off with driving guitars, emotional melodies and desperate screaming vocals. The tones on this record are wonderful and translate the haunting melodies perfectly. The second track, "Nirvana" breaks character and brings us a spoken build up before launching into a driving field of rocking beats and painful screams. At times the guitars are so rich that they can sound like a classic orchestra, check out the end of "Trasparenti oscure viru'" for an example of this.

On this record I found Raein delving into some Sonic Youth/Smiths territory in terms of instrumentation (listen to "Oggi ho decisco di diventare oro" for this). "Costellazione secondo le leggi del caso" also brings you through something representational of a post rock hodge podge only broken by an occasional chorus of aggressive drums, taking on a Portraits of Past feel.

Raein has always been an impressive band to me and this record solidifies their place in my head as a very original, intense and consistent band.

You can download the entire record here.

The Grains - Stone Street

I was sent this record by the guitarist of The Grains, Scott. He described this New Jersey outfit as a punk rock'n'roll band with some former members of the Measure [SA]. I'm not sure that I really hear any punk influence; rather, this seems more of a case of Bruce Springsteen meeting some Rockabilly style. In other words, perhaps it's some guys who used to play in punk or hardcore bands and have since opted to play adult music that your friend's cool dad would probably be into.

Within the 10 songs on this record we get clean, tremelo guitar laced with a hint of reverb occupying the front and center. Steady drums and walking bass lines provide the backbone. There's some subtle keys and what sounds like a theremin adding to the support.

When The Grains keep things slow, like on "The Lift" or "Mercenary Pallbearer" I tend to enjoy it more. Those tracks come off as the most natural and honest to me. They seem to trade off the vocal duties making some tracks work nicely, while others appear very off key (listen to "Bourbonomics" or "Mio Secolo" for the off key examples). This tends to make the consistency and momentum of the album sort of hard to follow. The faster material will have you picturing yourself riding a motorcycle through some back country Southern road. If that's your thing, than put on your headphones, hop on a Harley and go to it.

Check it out here.

Worker - Neurology

This record was recommended by Eric Scobie of Great Reversals. These six songs are based on one of the person's life-long struggle with Tourette's Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This makes for an extremely honest snapshot lyrically and I found myself, as a person living with an anxiety disorder, relating fully to a song like "Back to the Clinic". There's very little abstraction in the lyrics and the experience is communicated very clearly. This dynamic makes the record really stand out for me.

Musically, Worker takes a very traditional hardcore sound, though it seeps with melodic undertones and would be very much at home with bands like the aforementioned Great Reversals as well as Have Heart and Comeback Kid. "Back to the Clinic" opens the record with more a New York hardcore sound. Featuring guitars that stop and start in rigid timing, they do a great job of emphasizing some of the more desperate lyrics. The song "Sturdy Pulse" shows a great representation of their melodic hardcore sound. Throughout the record the drums create a nice dynamic, never too busy, but always on point. The guitars stick to a cohesive model, but at times, like in the track "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder", they can show a little noodling that adds an interesting melody. Closing the record with the song "Clearest Light" the band begins taking us in with a clean guitar riff that almost translates a feeling that is forcing us to look back on what we just heard, to stop for a second and take it all in.

An interesting listen for lovers of hardcore and anyone dealing with mental illness in any capacity. Check it out here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thou - Summit

I first saw Thou last Fall when they came through New Jersey. They've been around for quite some time and I am only now just getting on the boat. Their live show presented a very heavy down-tuned soundscape that was the perfect mix between sledgy and interesting. I've never really heard much about hardcore from New Orleans, I must admit it's rare to see being nested up here in the Northeast.

"Summit" brings us 6 songs but clocks in at about 52 minutes. Some of the guitar work here reminds me of bands like Baroness in that it's sludge has a melodic noodling mood to it. The song "Grissecon" has some great examples of this. I hear some extra instrumentation behind the guitars such as keys, horns and perhaps, violin. There's not many places for the drums to go, as the music is extremely down tempo most of the time. However, the drummer manages to add some great fills, double bass and accents to keep things from going what I would call "the Pelican route". The vocals never really veer too far from the standard set forth in the first song. It's an over the top, incoherent scream that lends itself well to the droning power of this music.

Lyrically though seems to bounce between abstract ground and very frankness, addressing both personal and political matters. "Prometheus" boasts a bit more of a straight forward approach: "Three things only do slaves require: work, food, and their religion. Those callous-kneed ringer-kissers. The eyes of providence are blinded to the suffering that surrounds."

The record is produced very well. Every instrument is very well heard and the mix lends itself to translates the band's powerful live sound.

Big Eyes - Hard Life LP

Big Eyes was from New Jersey. After some member changes and a cross-country move, now they call Seattle home. Recently I've been seeing that this band is doing a lot of touring and getting some recognition for their hard work on the road.

This band has something that sounds like a mix of Screaming Females and Iron Chic. At times they are representing a full-on up beat and catchy pop sound, and at other times delving into more experimental grounds. There's something just a bit off key and monotone with the female fronted vocals and I suppose this adds that bit of indie charm that I hear in some bands like this.

When the songs take a serious and gruff vibe like on "I Know You're Wrong" or "Pretty Sure" I can almost picture a young Joan Jett vibe where this song is played in some rowdy, smokey club. They can also bring you to that pillow-soft, cutesy-pop landscape with songs like "Why Can't I" which almost sounds like the Ramones on a slower speed.

The musicianship is pretty creative and has a way of setting the band apart. Noodling guitars and exploratory bass lines give the songs their own character. This is all backed up by some good foundational drumming. I think that may be the bands strongest characteristic. I would look forward to hear a better recording from these folks.

Don't Wake Up - Demo

Don't Wake up are from New Jersey and feature members of Bible Thumper. This band has been around for quite some time, but reformed last year with some new members and some new songs. This is the first release since they got back together.

While this band mostly stays in the fast hardcore neighborhood they stray a bit to other parts of the hardcore trick box by adding some breakdowns and floating beats (the end of "Night Terrors" will show you what I mean). There's even some spacey guitar effects thrown in once in a while. The guitar and bass carry a very fuzzy sound, and I can't tell if this on purpose, or just poor production. The recording quality hinders the overall power of the music and I found myself thinking that it could probably translate a little better with some good production.

Vocally, Don't Wake Up has that tougher, shouted sound that at times almost borders on very loud talking. This makes some of the lyrics pretty articulated and comprehensible. They also throw in an instrumental track which to me sounds like a fuzzed out garage band playing a Slayer riff.

Take a listen here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Takaru / A Light in the Attic - Spit LP

What's with all the San Francisco reviews today? In 2002 my roommate at the time, Sean Andrews, packed up his van and moved there to enjoy the season-less 68 degree weather. Along with fellow east coast transplant, Josh Stein, he started a band out there called Takaru. They quickly made a lot of friends and proceeded to produce some of the most memorable hardcore I've heard to this day. This is the first record that Sean and Takaru made when he got out there. These songs still inspire me so I figured why not review it.

A Light in the Attic have a very over the top discordant sound which, at times will remind you of Reversal of Man meeting Ruheda with some possible influences of Washington DC post hardcore. What steals the show here is the drumming; it's a non-stop barrage of percussion madness that is so precise and accented that you may find yourself focusing on just that. The bass and guitar tones are very complimentary to the screamed vocals. They rip through these five songs without letting you breath with the exception of the small melodic detour at the end of the song "Even Plagues".

Takaru brings a bit of a heavier, darker sound to this split laced with political lyrics (topics ranging from body image to healthcare) and multiple vocals. Musically you get a broad spectrum that ranges from bands like Botch and Disembodied to more traditional straight forward fare. While this band rips through some aggressive hardcore with songs like "160 lbs of Fury" and "Torrential Reigns", they can also bring things to a more melodic and introspective place, which is exemplified in "1849 Revisited" . You can hear that young sound in that this is the first batch of songs the band wrote together. It screams with a rawness that is not so often captured on tape. Screeching guitars, double bass and intense vocals make these songs a perfect blend of heavy hardcore with a melodic sensibility. I miss this band dearly and will no doubt be writing a review for their other releases in the future.

Have a listen here

La Corde - 7"

La Corde is from San Francisco. They are delving into that experimental punk domain that sometimes sounds like Joy Division and other times sounds like Flock of Seagulls. The guitar is soaked in reverb and the drums are more in the straight-forward/unwavering school of technique. Vocally I'm hearing what I can only explain as Robert Smith if Robert Smith decided to break character and start shouting.

I typically don't really like this style of music, but this is put together pretty well. You can almost picture this being the background music to some 1980's John Hughes film where the the "alternative" crowd at high school is talking to Molly Ringwald. With all the bad 80's hardcore revival bands happening now, I'm glad someone opted to revive 80's new wave here instead to change things up.

Listen to La Corde here.

Mean Man's Dream - Demo

Matt Swift is a guitarist from Massachusetts who, to me, has been overlooked as one of the best hardcore musicians today. Matt's work includes Relics, Vaccine and now, Mean Man's Dream.

Also featuring Therrien Dolby of Relics and Wasteland, Mean Man's Dream is a sludgy adventure of anger. I'm hearing a mix between Neurosis and Kiss It Goodbye here and I can't say that I'm disappointed. There are detours from the sludge however, and when this band executes a mid tempo two step or some spazzy botch-inspiried off time goodness, they do it with ease. The guitar and bass tones are beastly and occupy the mix so well.

Vocally I'm hearing something like Kiss It Goodbye meets Verse. The scream is overwhelming powerful and angry. It seems we are getting an abstract mix of personal and political lyrics that are rich with thoughtfulness.

I hope 2012 treats this band well. It would be a joy to see a band like this get recognition for such good music.

Check it out here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Unbroken - Life. Love. Regret. (Classic of the Week)

Ok, ok, I know. If you've met me in real life you're probably saying "Geeh, Tom, could you be more obvious?". It's true, far be it from me to go the predicted route, but today I was feeling sentimental. Perhaps it was that Christmas of 1995 when I asked my Mom for an Unbroken shirt; and to my surprise she went to local record store, looked through the racks and found a sweet, size large, black "life. life. regret." t-shirt that I wore to death for the next 4 years. Or, perhaps it's that this record still sounds amazing to me.

When this record first touched my ears I was 16 years old. I was on that border between my self-absorbed teenage years and the maturity to recognize the mess of staggering, unimportant superficiality I dealt with on a daily basis. Lyrically this record covered everything I was thinking and feeling at the time. From a point of view I actually split this record into two lyrical spectrums. The first being a very straight forward, but articulate ride through the emotional turmoil associated with loss, whether that be in a relationship sense or recognizing the finality of death. The second being a lyrical manifestation of the 1993 film "Swing Kids" which is set in a post World War II Germany about a group a teenagers finding rebellion through swing music. There was truth in both spectrums. These songs spoke to me in a way that weren't pretending to offer solutions, but just merely acknowledged the mess and confusion associated with these feelings.

Musically, Unbroken was like mixing Metallica and Sonic Youth and getting a traditional hardcore vocalist to provide the a throaty, but coherent, scream. The guitars are high gain and provide all the ingredients of great metal-influenced hardcore (dual harmonies, chugs, pinch harmonics), but there's a noisy feedback behind it all that creates a rawness to this. This is all complimented with distorted bass and choppy drums that aren't always super tight, but have just enough urgency to convey what the songs need. Being a huge fan of noisy, alternative rock in my teens, I think this record made my transition into metal-influenced hardcore a lot easier. This would lead me to find bands like Channel, Jihad, Converge and others.

From the first slamming note of "D4" to the final feedback-induced jam of "Blanket" this record presents some of the best hardcore ever captured on tape. The honesty is in the lyrics, yes, but also in the way the tracks were put to tape. The musicianship here doesn't seem to be concerned with the precision of each note, but seems to take the mode of improvisation to capture the moment in time.

Check it out here.

Partners - Jamme

Partners is a two piece hardcore band from Oklahoma. Wait. What? Oklahoma? Yes, Oklahoma.

Despite being from a place that no one has ever desired to move to, they deliver some pretty amazing music. For a two piece it sounds pretty full, but it borders on that spot where you can almost tell something is missing. For the most part this is fast paced, dual vocal music that can go from a nice, fast melodic groove to a slow, sludgy, delicous treat. When this band executes it's faster parts the music can really grab you and spin your head.

The guitar work is pretty stellar here. With tons of pull-offs, melodic chords and quick fret work, the music is kept pretty interesting. Despite it's frantic nature this never sounds sloppy or forced. The drums sit well in the dynamic and provide a great backbone. You can almost see in your head, a drummer who has great timing and solid hits.

Definitely a must hear for fans of Ampere and Refused. There's even a bit of a Bullets In/Torches to Rome vibe happening too. Between these guys and Child Meadow, 2 piece bands are stepping up their game and showing us how great music can be made simply.

Listen to the tunes here.

Grin and Bear It - Demo

Grin and Bear It have a cute name in contrast to the massive thrash/grind destruction that their music can be characteristic of. They are from Cleveland, Ohio and feature members of Antilles.

This is a band that never slows down. From the beginning of the first track you get a non-stop marathon of intense and fast-moving hardcore. The vocals seem to range in a few different directions from deep growls to higher pitched screams. It's a great variety and I think it fits the music well.

Musically Grin and Bear It are interesting. Their guitar and bass tones are considerably twangier than what you would normally hear in this style of thrashy grind. However, it works in creating a punchy, brightness that hits you just that much harder. The drum work is superb here. It's a collage of blast beats, cymbal catches, drum rolls and off time beats.

Track 2 is called "Truly Ugly" and is one of the longest on the demo at 2:43. It strikes me as a few "mini songs" strung together and creates a pretty nice musical narrative. I could almost picture myself in the studio with them as they start and stop, climbing through the beast of a song. Track 4, "Scared", is the only place you'll hear this band take a breath. The plotting bass intro falls back to give the band time to refuel, until about halfway through when they take you back on full blast.

If you like thrash, but hate the predictability of most bands in the genre, then Grin and Bear It will be just for you.

Check it out here.

Real Good - Is This Good?

Real Good is a three piece indie band from Jersey City, NJ featuring ex-members of Rapid Cities. Now, calling your band "Real Good" is a risk for anyone...I mean, even if you are "real good" it might be crossing the line to announce so in your name. Though, I suppose it's better than calling yourselves "Kind of Good". But then again, they named this release "Is This Good?". So I guess it's up to each of us to sort out this difficult question for ourselves.

For the first five tracks you get something that reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie mixed with Mid Carson July. It seems the bassist and guitarist switch off on lead vocals, so each song can have a very different character from the one before it from a vocal standpoint. For the most part, Real Good sticks to super clean guitars and restrained drumming. I think with a better recording the instruments would shine better and lend themselves to a more powerful sound., as it is I find it a bit hindering.

Then came track number 6."Sysiphean" is the track that worked out for me the most. The opening riff brings the drummer out of hiding and shows that this guy has some chops. The guitar work is much more enthusiastic and serious on this track and the vocals are not messing around either. The melodies are on key and delivered wonderfully. I found myself comparing them to Ethel Messerve and Benton Falls here and I loved it. By the end they are closing the song with a build up into a poppy, upbeat explosion. Is This Good? If every song they had sounded like a variation of this one I would say yes.

Listen to the whole thing here

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Waxahatchee - American Weekend LP

Joe from Don Giovanni Records got in touch with me and sent over a bunch of releases for review. Thanks so much Joe! This is the first one from the batch.

Waxahatchee is Katie Crutchfield, a Brooklyn (of course) resident. These songs are acoustic and recorded with that vocal style that has just a bit of reverb to add some grit to it. You can almost picture this album being the soundtrack to some new Zoe Deschanel movie. But trends aside, this is some great, honest songwriting. You're mostly going to experience some slow moody folk here, it's extremely relaxing and soothing. Though, there are a few detours on the album.

"Luminary Blake" takes a different turn and adds some drums to convey a sort slamming effect with the song's rhythm. It's different than the rest of the album, but not in a bad way. The opening guitar to the song "Bathtub" sort of reminds me of the Pretenders "Back on the Chain Gang", but I'm willing to let this slide because Katie takes us in a great direction of lyrical and melodic dynamic. The album finishes with a piano led song called "Noccalula", which features some breathy vocals over the waltzy key strokes. As a listener I was left with a great impression of this album from start to finish. An Excellent addition to the soundtrack for some future late night drives.

Furnace / Relics: Split 7"

It's hard to believe that this record is four years old, and though I first heard this back then, I felt the need to review it because it still rings with excellence to me.

Furnace is from Boston, Massachusetts and are one of those bands that, despite being around for quite a while, still produce some of the most creative and heavy music in the genre. While you'll hear some straight forward d-beat style thrashing here, Furnace does a great job of adding their own sludgy dynamic into the mix and changing things up. There's a bit of melody here too that will have you hearing something similar to Titan or Buried Inside at times. The vocals are strained screams that fit quite nicely over this brand of chaos. There's two songs and a cover of Dropdead's "Those Who Deny".

Relics joins their friends from Furnace on this release. At the time of this recording the band operated as a four piece (before vocalist Meghan left the band). Featuring ex and current members of Ampere, Vaccine and Wasteland, this band always amazed me with their huge live sound and technical precision. Relics brings a very interesting mix in that it has elements of heavy thrash and sludge blended in well with some melodic chaos, like that of Ampere or For Want Of. The first track "Inert" will give you a great idea of how this band can from some punishing sludge to a full speed attack of off time blast beats. There's two songs and a cover of "Dead Stare for Life" by No Comment.

Download the whole thing here.

Iron Chic - Split N Shit

Although Iron Chic present an easy-going and uncomplicated musical sound scape, there is something underneath here that communicates a bit of melancholy on the part of the songwriters. Similar to Not the Bees (which I reviewed yesterday), there is that maturity to this brand of pop punk that comes off very listenable.

The record starts out with a beautiful twinkly guitar riff and sets off on a melodic course. Vocally these guys never really go off key, but there is an unpolished reality to them that is relate-able. The melodies here are very spaced and straight forward, accented by some tight drumming that never gets too showy, but always brings you to the right place. Guitar leads and dual vocal harmonies provide that special layer of goodness that will get these songs stuck in your head.

There's three original songs and one Bikini Kill cover on here. I could have done without the cover. Check out the whole thing here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not The Bees! - Knees

Not to be the old man...but "back in my day" (picture Grandpa Simpson here) it wasn't that uncommon to go to a show and have a band like Gameface playing with Snapcase at a VFW hall. Genres seemed to mix a lot more back then and I was exposed to a more accessible and down to earth version of pop punk that carried the same approach to music as many hardcore bands at the time.

Not the Bees! reminds me of that gruff pop punk sound from back then. It's sort of like mixing Gameface with Jawbreaker and topping it off with some of the expected light hearted pop punk guitar riffs. The vocals go slightly off key at times, but I think it adds to the character of what is created here; this is not polished, nasaly pop punk for middle schoolers. Despite the happy go lucky feel of the music there is a maturity that allows for a more "rough around the edges" style of going about things and I think it distinguishes this band from others in their field.

The lyrics are pretty typical of this style, lots of references to cigarettes, drinking, low self confidence, feeling anxious and of course...you couldn't have a record like this without a song about new jersey. With all the hooks and catchy melodies, you'll find yourself being able to sing along to these songs pretty easily.

Check it out here.

Barren - Western Sahara

Featuring ex-members of Germany's Zann, Barren is a vegan straight edge band that plays hardcore reminiscent of the 90's chocked full of guitar chugs, pinch harmonics and china cymbal. I'm reminded of bands like Undertow, Threadbare and early Snapcase when listening to his. If the recording quality was a little better I think maybe more of the intricacies would shine, none the less, you still get a good idea of what's happening here.

"A Sharp Line" opens the demo with some relentless guitar chugs. It's not long before the harmonic lead guitar kicks in. The bass break in the middle creates a great dynamic foundation for the build up. "Not Fading Away" has a nice discordant guitar riff with some spoken vocals, before changing the pace and dropping the beat into a nice, straight forward and powerful chugging guitar part.

The vocals remind me a bit of early Desperate Fight Records bands likes Abinanda and Shield. They're screamed, but not totally over the top, though, screamed enough to be a bit incoherent. It compliments the music well and I can only see it being more powerful with a better recording.

Have a listen here.

Resurrectionists / Lich: Split LP

I got to see both of these bands last summer while on tour in England. Both bands had an excellent live performance. A reminder was placed in my head to find some music by both bands as soon as I got home. To my convenience, these bands share a split LP.

Resurrectionists is from Germany and play a spastic, non stop onslaught of heavy grind. The speed picking guitar never stops. The melodies created are more along the lines of what you'd hear from One Eye God Prophecy, Orchid or Kaospilot, but the drumming is a flare of bass and snare hits going at full blast. The dual male/female vocals provide an interesting contrast and really provide a great dynamic. The recording is perfectly mixed and translates the power of this band well.

Lich is from England and feature members of Battle of Wolf 359. They follow Resurrectionists in terms of presenting a dark hardcore sound but, Lich takes a different approach. Straight forward rhythms and fast paced drums create a more groove-oriented brutality here. The guitar melodies are similar to Resurrectionists but Lich lets out a bit more versatility ranging from bruiting chugs to all out grind to mid tempo fast parts. The changes are done very seamlessly and sound very natural. My only complaint with this side of the split is that the recording quality is not nearly as good as the Resurrectionists side. It's a little dirtier and keeps you from hearing some of the brightness of the guitars.

You can check out two songs from the Lich side here and some of the Resurrectionsists songs are here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Fingers: Summer Demo 2011

I was contacted by this band and asked to review this release. Hopefully this will become a trend.

Four Fingers are from Northern, New Jersey and have been a band for what seems to be five or six years now. This complete demo does not break three minutes. These three songs are very short and fast, the shortest being 28 seconds.

Upon first listen I felt like I was in middle school listening to the Circle Jerks on a cassette tape that I just stole from the mall. It has that same vibe and recording quality as some of the faster 80's California punk both lyrically and musically.

I'm not a huge fan of this style, but if you are, then you'll like this. Check it out here.

Run With The Hunted: S/T

Remember a time when hardcore bands didn't have to print up 17 different shirt designs to be well known, when their lyrics screamed with desperation about issues of human rights, when they opted to play a basement in your town rather than the big club on some 5 band package tour? Run With The Hunted remember this time and gives the rest of us hope that perhaps we can soon return to a time when hardcore was approachable and belonged to all of us.

From Phoenix, Arizona, Run With Hunted play some very heavy, in your face hardcore that has a strong lyrical focus on human rights, not fitting in to mainstream society and creating community.

Musically I have heard many people compare this band to the Hope Conspiracy. There's a good deal of dancy-chuggy guitar riffs happening here, broken up by some very discordant fast parts. There's a great deal of dynamics giving way to some very pronounced anthem-like lyrical chants. The mix is very nice, all the instruments are complimentary to each other and the vocals sit just right at the place where they are not above the music.

Bottom line, you're getting some urgent hardcore here, with great lyrics, guaranteed to bring even the old guys out of mosh retirement to find their way up front for some mic time. Listen to it here.

For Want Of: S/T

Coming to us from Austin, Texas, For Want Of will have you comparing them to bands like Ampere, The Saddest Landscape and We Were Skeletons. Though, there are some very clear, defining characteristics that will set them apart.

Musically, they do a great job of replicating the intense moodiness of some of the late 90's/early 2000s "screamo" bands. At times the riding chords will remind of you Portraits of Past and Funeral Diner. However, the guitarist can kick into high gear with some strenuous fret work. Listen to the first song "The Orchestrated Decay of Self Sufficiency" for a great example of this. The song structures here are excellent and emphasized by some top-notch drum work that puts accents in all the right places.

Vocally I'm hearing less of the "over the top" intensity that is customary for this genre and more of an articulated shout in which every word is pretty well received. Lyrically things are kept pretty abstract. Even when I detect that the lyrics are focusing on social issues they are still written in a personal manner. The placement of the vocals lends themselves to some great catchy sing alongs.

Check it out here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Subhumans - The Day the Country Died LP (Classic Album)

Every Friday I will try to pick a record that is a classic to me. This could from any time in my life and will span my musical experience. This Friday I decided to go to my middle school years and highlight one of the first punk bands that introduced very substantive musical and lyrical material to me .

I was introduced to punk with the standard fare of the Sex Pistols,The Ramones, The Misfits, etc. My 14 year old self loved the power chords and upbeats. But, lyrics about monster movies, partying and being offensive for the sake of being offensive just came off sort of empty to me. If people asked me why punk was rebellious I had no other answer than some purely superficial fashion statement to defend.

Along with the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat and The Subhumans I was introduced to a very articulate and insightful brand of 80's punk. "The Day the Country Died" was an album that forced me to question everything around me. It had great melodies that were easy to sing along to and, compared to the standard punk fare, had some more creative song structure.

If you're interested in some 80's style British punk with great lyrics and catchy song structure, then maybe this could be up your alley. For me it captures a certain time and place in my life that was exciting and fleeting.

Stand out tracks like "Minority", "Nothing I Can Do", "Big Brother" and "No" still retain their powerful narrative to me all these years later.

Check it out here.

Easy Rider - Demo 2011

Though, the second song on this demo, "College" does ring with some honest truth, if this demo had more thought provoking lyrics it would be absolutely perfect.

I think they're trying to go for a classic punk/oi aesthetic here (and they've achieved that lyrically), but what my ears are hearing musically is something more reminiscent of Rites of Spring, Embrace, Torches to Rome and some mid 90's Ebullition Records bands.

The melodies on these songs are super catchy and the guitar leads are perfect. Vocally there is the gruffness of Hot Water Music and Planes Mistaken for Stars. Just close your eyes and picture cooler artwork...and maybe, make up your own lyrics.

Do yourself a favor and listen to this now.

Veloz - Sleipnir

Veloz recently called it quits. I was very upset as they are one of few bands that I found myself very excited by. Featuring ex and current members of Furnace and Host, Veloz created some amazing hardcore that had a perfect blend of melody and rage.

These 5 songs shine with technical drum and guitar work which turn what would be your average d-beat song into a much more interesting soundscape of off time fills and melodic guitar runs.

"Wake the Plague" opens with some "get up and go" drum work just before the guitar launches in to some Botch-influenced noodling. It's a strong way to start off and had me hooked. "Killer Fiction" begins by taking you to a more traditional place with a drum and bass d-beat intro before bringing you a great example of how Veloz can turn the d-beat repetition into something so much more fulfilling. "Second Nature" closes the record with a great, tasteful palm muted breakdown.

The vocals are on the deeper side, but without the growl. You can hear the breath being pushed out of this guy with every word. It compliments the music very well.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Great Reversals - To The Ends of The Earth 7"

Great Reversals come to us from Detroit, Michigan. They're a five piece hardcore band that wear their heart on their sleeves. When I saw them play in Michigan a couple summers ago they blew me away with their honesty and intensity. These songs mean a lot to this band and when they play you can see it.

These four songs are an excellent representation of what this band brings to the table. If you're a fan of bands like Have Heart, The Effort and Verse, then Great Reversals will sound like an old friend to you. They do a great mix of aggressive hardcore with dramatic sing along choruses. The guitar work keeps things very interesting and create some great hooks that get stuck in my head. The vocals have that "shout" to them, bordering on the style of Bane. Various members of the band contribute with some vocals that take the urgency over the top. This mix is great and provides some nice emphasis to the song dynamic.

Lyrically this band is very serious and articulate. The track "Open Wounds" is an amazing summary of the drummer's son having autism and the struggle involved with fatherhood in such a situation. There's nothing more amazing to me in hardcore then to see a struggle like this bring life to a song in such a way.

Check out the track "Open Wounds" here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Landverraad / Sloth split LP

Landverraad and Sloth are two bands from Holland. The artwork (to the left) may have you a little confused and not taking this split too seriously, but never judge a book by it's cover. The songs on this split are angry and well articulated.

Landverraad has a very pissed off hardcore sound which ranges everywhere from super fast to slow and bruiting. The vocals are a bit high-pitched and very relentless. Lyrically you get a good idea of what this band is about with lots of focus on critiquing religion, politics and institutional oppression. "Darkest of Thoughts" is an interesting lyrical detour, focusing on mental illness and instability, it's done quite well.

Sloth brings you some heavy down tuned hardcore that is reminiscent to me of some 90's hardcore mixed with a bit of something darker. I like the way this is mixed and recorded. It has such a dense sound to it which adds to the "piledriver" effect of their music. The bass tone is especially nice. Lyrically, Sloth doesn't pull any punches. There is no abstraction here...they want you to know what they are about. The track "Go Vegan Go" is a brief, but concise example of how this band can lay out it's stance.

I found myself enjoying the Sloth side a bit more here due to the darker and denser sound. I definitely hope both of these bands have a long future in front of them.

Check out the Landverraad side here.

Check out the Sloth side here.

Ampere - Like Shadows LP

Last night I came to the realization of what makes a band great. Trends come and go, and the fickle legions of musicians and showgoers will sheepishly subscribe to the flavor of the month. Hell, entire bands start and break up within a year to grab the trend. How superficial this can be. What makes a band great is their immunity to this cycle. When a band looks at how the trends are going and just says "no thanks, we're going to do what we do best", and...they end up producing material that blows away all the flavor of the month bands. Ampere is showing us how it's done with "Like Shadows".

Ampere is one of those bands that has a very specific sound. There is only one Ampere and when you hear a song by them you instantly know it's them. This band has carved out a reputation of winning over even the most fickel brand of scenester with their short, blasty brand of melodic chaos.

This record follows suit with the band's previous releases, but I might say it's goes a step further in perfecting their craft. "Of Nightmare and Reality",one of the few songs breaking the one minute mark, gives you an idea of how the band can stretch a part out and put a riff to work in comparison to their usual style.

"The Submerged Tenth" is another stand out track to me. I love the guitar line and how the off time drums and bass float behind it before blasting right back in to some technical chaos. The last song on the record "Tiny Victories" even manages to provide some anthem-like sing a long material to break up the chaos and end the record on a very powerful note. At just over 13 minutes you get quite a whirlwind of song structure, frantic musicianship and deseperate vocals within these 15 songs.

Take a listen here.

Dystrophy / Dethroned Emporer - Split Cassette

My knowledge of death metal, and all metal for that matter, is very limited. Like many people I was restricted to the outer shell of metal that the mainstream presented on mtv and rock radio for most of my adolescence. In a strange twist of fate, I started listening to Slayer when someone told me that some Earth Crisis riffs had been lifted directly from "Reign in Blood"(As I typed that sentence I almost hear the cry of a thousand metalheads sreaming "noooo"). After seeing through the aesthetics and really giving bands like Crytopsy and Slayer a listen, I found that their technical guitar work and double bass drum expertise was quite literally music to my ears. Though, admittedly, I'm still not a fan of the vocals.

Dethroned Emporer is a duo from New Brunswick, consisting of just drums and guitar. Despite the lack of bass, this music doesn't sound very empty. Perhaps it's the fact that riffs are very intricate and fast moving while the drums seemed to have a non stop assault of very fast bass drum work. They deliver 8 quick tracks, none of which break a minute and a half. They also included a cover of Crytopsy's "Benedictine Convulsions". The vocals are your standard death metal growls, but it sits just right in the mix that it's not distracting or overpowering. I wouldn't mind hearing a little better recording production on the drums because I have a hunch this drummer is doing way more than what's coming across on tape. While the members of this band would consider this death metal, I'm also hearing some straight up, raw grind in the song writing. It's a relentless arrangement of songs that doesn't ever stop pushing you. If you're in a bad mood then these songs will probably fuel your rage.

Dystrophy bring a versatility in their interpretation on metal here. They bring your frantic guitar runs and double bass, but they also leave room for some melodic breaks, and at times, also feature some acoustic guitar. The recording is done well and you get a great emphasis on the intricacies of each instrument. The vocals don't adhere to the standard death metal growl throughout. There's variation between parts vocally, which I find pretty thoughtful. The breakdown and solo at the end "Demise" stood out to me; it just seems pretty perfectly executed. The dueling guitar harmonies and speed picking are layered throughout these songs and really shine with technical proficiency. Compared to Dethroned Emperor, Dystrophy seems to have less emphasis on the chugging guitar and blast beats and sit a bit more with the high end melody aspect of things. The two bands compliment each other well on this split. If you're a fan of metal this will be a good way for you to hear two very different bands on one split.

Check out the Dystrophy side here.

The Dethroned Emperor side is not online, but you can hear them here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Were Skeletons - S/T LP

We Were Skeletons are a three piece band from Lancaster, PA. If you're a fan of the late 90's and early 2000's "screamo"(I hate this term, but how else could I really define it?) genre then you will love this. It done quite well, without any of the sassiness or pretension that bands of this genre displayed back in their hay day.

The musicianship on these songs is way above the bar and really shows that these guys know their way inside and out of the instruments. It makes you wonder how the guitarist and bassist are both singing and playing while holding down such complicated fret work. The drumming is extremely well executed and never falters or sounds rushed.

They have a knack for being able to pull off great song dynamics as well. There are some great stops/starts that bring the intensity back in full blast along with some tasteful instrumental interludes to emphasize the oncoming vocal assaults. For a good example of their full spectrum check out the song "Kids".

Listen to the whole record here.

Cloud Rat - S/T LP

I caught Cloud Rat two summers ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There live show blew me away. Personally and politically they embodied everything I love about DIY hardcore.

Their sound is tough to put a finger on. There is ton of blast beats beneath some very chaotic guitar and bass work. It maintains a somewhat melodic undertone, without losing any of the aggression that the screamed female vocals put forth. The song "Mouse Trap" is a standout track for me. You get some quality sledge parts and palm muted upbeat rhythms in addition to their usual grind onslaught.

There is a break to the chaos with a spoken word/instrumental track called "Yama". It has a very dark feel to it and sits very well in context to the rest of the record. They revisit the clean guitar darkness on the track "Faint Hearted", another standout track, later on in the record. The record closes with an excellent track called "Complex to Break" winds down with an excellent exercise in sledge done right.

You can learn more about this band's ethics and ideas at the blog and also follow their plans for an upcoming east coast tour. Check it out here.

You can listen to the LP here.

Secret Lives - Land of Nod/Fiend

I left the Jersey Shore when I was 18. At the time, 1998, there wasn't really anything going on down there in terms of punk or hardcore. It seemed like the moment I left a huge scene sprung up down there. Go figure. Since then the Jersey Shore has been churning out plenty of punk and hardcore. Secret Lives is a pretty good representation of the brand of hardcore you'll find down there.

Secret Lives sound to me like if you mixed Black Flag with some newer Bridge Nine hardcore. The slower parts really make me think of Carry On quite a bit. The music has that total two step hardcore vibe to it but the vocals take you to a different time and place, more reminiscent of 80's hardcore.

Lyrically these songs seemed to be centered around topics of personal despair and hardship. The vocals are pretty well articulated so I can see this being very easy to sing along to, fostering some traditional hardcore pile-ons. You'll find three tracks on their Bandcamp page. It seems the track Land of Nod is recorded much better than the Fiend material.

Have a listen here.

Disobey - Human Suffering in Five Movements.

If Disobey is any indication of what the younger generation of hardcore has for us, then the future looks quite nice. These guys are young, but seem to have a full grasp on the proper ingredients to execute some filthy hardcore.

A mainstay at many recent New Brunswick basement shows, Disobey has developed their brand of dirty, chaotic hardcore over the past two years. Their sound is reminiscent of His Hero Is Gone and From Ashes Rise, however they throw some noisy breakdowns in to keep from the predictable monotony of your standard d-beat band. It works well. The double bass could use a little tightening up, but on this recording it doesn't take away from the effect. I found myself enjoying the vocals. They have that deep sound that most bands of this genre take on, however, they maintain some grit and urgency, bordering on a more screamy sound.

The recording has just enough rawness to it which translates that dirty sound, however the mix is just right and the guitar tones really stand out.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Triggers: Delafield

Little Triggers is a new band from New Brunswick, NJ featuring members of hardcore outfits like Troublemaker and The Mongloids, however, these boys are showing their sensitive side here. Hearing the first song instantly reminds me of 2002 and hearing the Dashboard Confessional for the first time. I'm also hearing some slower Texas is the Reason influence at times.

The vocals are a little grittier and don't carry that annoying nasal twang that bands from this genre are commonly prone to. The guitar work is very layered and has some reverb effect work happening to create that large, swirly vibe.

The second track, "Save You", is more upbeat and takes me to more of late 90's place in my head, ala- Get Up Kids and Chamberlain. The recording on both songs is very bright and could probably use a little bit of extra bass, but you can get the idea of what this band is doing very well here.

Have a listen.

United Nations: Never Mind The Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures.

This is the second effort from New York's United Nations and I think this release is more streamlined and powerful. Featuring members of Converge and Thursday, this recording is a constant barrage of drum fills and dissonant guitar chords.

Hearing this makes me think of bands like One Eye God Prophecy and Jeromes Dream...except with a much cleaner recording sound and fuller production.

The vocals are screamed with a good amount of intensity, but every now and then you'll hear a Geoff Rickly melody thrown in there. It's done in just the right manner that it comes across as tasteful, and livens up the soundscape, rather than take away from the screamy intensity of the majority of the songs. There are a couple of instances here where the songs open up to sweeping bass solos and I can't help but enjoy the tone and playing there.

At about twelve minutes, you get a pretty good look and feel for what this band is about.

You can get it here.

Bible Thumper - Demo

I've been following the musical work of Steve Hackett and Mike McGauren for some time now. Between the two of them they have amassed quite the resume of New Jersey hardcore and punk. Their newest band, Bible Thumper, is a two piece band from New Brunswick, NJ consisting of bass and drums.

Hackett runs his bass through a guitar amp as well as a bass amp and does some tricky pedal switching to fill out the sound. The vocals are split between both members. This is great since they have two distinctly different voices, McGauren more on the deeper end of the spectrum.

Musically, Bible Thumper sticks to the aggressive, fast, thrash formula. There's no surprises here. It's straight forward and angry. There's some Motorhead influence going on in here mixed with some of your more traditional fast hardcore/punk. Think "almost d-beat" but still leaning a little more towards the faster punk side of things.

I've seen the band play live a number of times and unfortunately I have to admit that this recording doesn't really capture their live sound. The vocals are a little high in the mix on this one and McGauren's power house drumming is not heard as well through the fuzzy bass sound. Go see them live to get the full picture.

Listen here.

Deathbed: For the Few 7"

Deathbed is a straight edge hardcore band from Atlanta, GA. Taking their name from a 108 song had me interested and they by no means disappointed me. If you're a fan of 90's hardcore in the vein of old Earth Crisis, Chokehold, Downcast, etc...then you'll love this.

There is some serious double bass going in that emphasize the chugging guitars. Once in while the strings throw in some nice metallic harmonies. The tempo changes keep things interesting and added just the right amount of dynamics to keep a raw, yet, well engineered song structure.

I caught them on their most recent tour and I have to say these guys can translate the power of the music in their live show perfectly.

Deathbed takes me back to the days when heavy hardcore was less focused on masculine posturing and more interested in this style of music as a cathartic exercise. There's a desperation and vulnerability behind the heaviness here, as if this band is just baring everything they are and not concerned with judgements.

Have a listen to it here.