Friday, March 30, 2012

A Message From Your Author - March Review

As March comes to an end I realize that every now and then I won't be able to do my total 3 reviews a day. It happens. You may have noticed a couple times where you got 2 reviews (or none at all), and I am deeply sorry. But never fear, my commitment does not wain!

I just may be taking the blog a little more organically from now on, in that I review things as they come to me. I've had a policy from day one to try not to review stuff I can't stand. This blog could be totally full of releases that are total crap, having me slam them for their unoriginality and such. However, I really want to aim at reviewing stuff that I can honestly say something good about. "Quality or quantity..a choice you have to make."

March has been a good month though and here are my top picks for what I've reviewed in these past 30 days of abnormally high temperatures:

Best Practices - The EP LP. Making melodic punk with that hardcore influence. Very 90's, almost like Jawbreaker meets Assfactor 4.

Code Orange Kids - Cycles. It took me a while to jump on board and see what the hype was about. The band is good and pretty original.

Beau Navire / Republic of Dreams - split 7". I found myself enjoying Republic of Dreams much more, but Beau Navire is no slouch.

Dirtdrinker - S/T. I am a sucker for that off time, Botch-esque sound. This provides that, though I wish the recording was better.

Damaged Goods - Demo. If you're 15 and making hardcore like this then I can't wait to see what you're doing in 5 years.

Fess Elliot - Real. The folkier stuff on this release has an authentic, natural sound that I really love.

108 - Threefold Misery (Classic Review Of the Week)

In the mid 90's one can say that "Krshna-core" was at it's full swing. There were a good deal of bands identifying as Hare Krshna at the time and this may have been due to the fact that some of the more popular values in the hardcore scene (straight edge, animal rights) seemed to have commonalities with some of the principles in the religion. I never subscribed to Hare Krshna, though will admit to my 17 year old self buying a copy of the Bagadva Gheta out of curiosity, only to come to the conclusion of dissatisfaction with it's teachings.

There was one band in the Krshna-core movement that set themselves apart both musically and lyrically. 108 had lyrics that, although may have originated from a spiritual or theological base, came to be accessible to people regardless of whether they subscribed to Hare Krshna or not. Songs like "Killer of the Soul", "Arctic" and "When Death Closes Your Eyes" are so universal to the human condition that even a staunch atheist like myself was singing along.

"Threefold Misery" was the last album 108 released before they broke up (originally broke up) back in 1997. It was a great farewell though I didn't have enough time to fall in love with the songs until after the band had said farewell. Fortunately for me, they got back together in 2006 and I had the pleasure of tearing my hair out screaming along to these songs.

Musically "Threefold Misery" is a perfect combination of chugging guitar, controlled feedback and fast hardcore. The vocal placement is perfect in moving the dynamics of the songs and the heavy handed drumming adds an extra punch to the record that the band's past releases lacked. Walking bass lines (like the one on "Mantra Six") characterize the smooth bass style that can also very to a dirty, distorted mess of aggressive notes when needed.

"...die a jolting phone, cataclysmic in the bone marrow night, I need a blanket to warm me from the chill, of my emptiness, where is sleep to hide me from the fact that you're so absent from my heart? Where is sleep to hide me from the fact that I'm too dead to even care? Hollow are the bones of lonely..."

Late Bloomer - Demo

Late Bloomer is from North Carolina and describe themselves as "2 guys that love 80s/90s indie rock, punk, and grunge and 1 guy that is old enough to have lived through it. Using the old guy as our guide we seek to create original tunes that could have fit nicely in 1993."

I could sort of see the 90's alternative rock influence here as Late Bloomer seems to lean heavy on a upbeat melodic soundscape that carries an off key, droney vocal to keep it from getting too poppy. The melodic guitar work here keeps things interesting with it's airy sound and hanging notes. One could definitely wish for better recording quality here though, as some of the clarity and dynamics are not translated as well as they could be.

Songs like "Disappear" and "Brother" introduce us to the band and help us get acquainted to their mid gain, upbeat sound. There's some interesting vocal melodies here if you're into that effect laden, dual track vocal sound. "Man In Your Head" breaks the upbeat formula to introduce a waltz tempo, mostly headed by a walking bass line. The steady guitar over moving bass that begins around 2:40 is pretty excellent and creates a wonderful dramatic effect, making me wish they would have taken it further into an all out jam. The band closes up shop with "Reality" that brings us back to the upbeat neighborhood, however leaning more on lower gain guitar strumming here. It's well executed and pretty much sold me on this band. Good stuff.

Take a listen here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cop Problem - S/T

Cop Problem have been spreading their politically potent, d-beat influenced hardcore throughout the Philadelphia are for the past year or so. They've done a good job of distinguishing themselves with their busy drumming, speed picking guitar and angry female vocals.

The production on the record is very thick. The band sounds a little bit more on the heavy side on tape than I've seen their live show coming across. The mix presents all the instruments in a balanced light, I don't think you'll be complaining about levels here.

This record provides us with 3 songs, showcasing the band's brand of high speed, angry composition. "Monuments" starts off with a slow, drone that pops into some d-beat style raging. It's broken up by some nice breakdowns, but still maintains the pace. "Along For The Ride" shows the band using more of a guitar lead angle to accent the fast pace. "Blinded by Power" takes on more of a melodic flavor in it's presentation, creating a somewhat epic and introspective feel. The song's fast pace is broken up by a clean guitar interlude, layered with some spoken word vocals. The interlude builds up into an introspective explosion of dual vocals and melodic guitar leads.

All in all a great presentation of what this band is all about. For fans of d-beat and thought provoking hardcore. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bird Calls - Demo

Bird Calls are about to gear up for a tour of the Eastern coast of the United States, so I figured now was as good a time as any to review their demo. They've had some other releases come out since then, but I figured I would start at the beginning here.

What this band does is pretty interesting in terms of sound. We're getting a mostly upbeat melodic sound that has some very small elements of a Dischord Records sound to it, similar to Rites of Spring. The vocals carry a grit to them that's not exactly on key, but has it's own sense to it that has the ability to create some catchy melodies, similar to The Pixies or The Great Unraveling at times.

Musically this band keeps things pretty creative. The tempo changes and textured chord work on the guitar are constantly moving. The tones are pretty spot on here along with a good, but raw, production mix.

Have a listen to it here.

Dying - History of Nothing

Dying is a new vegan straight edge band from Philadelphia. Their sound is similar to bands like Chokehold and Abandon, but perhaps works in a bit of Catharsis at times as well. The production could use a little brightening up, but you can get a good feel for each instrument pretty well.

Each song seems to do pretty well at showcasing the bands ability to use varied tempos and dynamics. Within each compisition is a package
of fast parts mixed with some interesting breakdowns, melodic guitar work and some moshier riffs. "In Cages" and "Waxwings" even show the band employing some blast beats and speed picking guitar.

Lyrically the band covers a good deal of ground. Animal rights, atheism, earth liberation and death are all touched on with some pretty well written words here. ere. A great first batch of songs from this new band.

Find out more here.

Chest Pain - S/T 7"

Chest Pain are from Texas and have a knack for creating very short hardcore songs that blast in and out with anger and precision. Bordering on "power violence" but there's a bit more here than usual. The music has a bit of a lower gain feel than what's typical of this genre, but at times it works to their advantage when the guitarist is playing open chords.

The first thing about Chest Pain I noticed was the vocals; I couldn't stand them. Maybe it's just that the opening track allows for them to be the forefront of the song, but it's almost intolerable at first. Once the record blasts off they seem to fold into the mix a little better and become more a part of the music. I take that back, I can't stand the vocals on the first song.

If you're a fan of some fast, aggressive hardcore then Chest Pain will give you everything that your heart desires. They leave for a West Coast tour of the United States this summer, so check them out.

Check it out here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

War Emblem - Demo

War Emblem is from Philadelphia, featuring ex members of tons of Philadelphia bands like Pink Coffins, Off Minor, Kill the Man Who Questions and more. War Emblem's sound seems to take from a few different pools. There's a definite New York hardcore influence (The opening riff to "Spoils of War" reminds very much of Helmet) but there's also some early 90's Ebullition era sound here that reminds of bands like Downcast. A few of the airy guitar leads also have me thinking of more of a d-beat flavor at times as well.

The vocals have a strained shout that carries much of the New York hardcore influence throughout the songs. Musically you're in for a good deal of fast hardcore that's played with some attention to detail and transitions. The breakdowns are sparse, but inserted in a pretty stylish manner.

The production quality is pretty raw, and maintains that edgy sound that is pretty suitable for this style of music. There's no lyrics up on the bandcamp page yet, but I would be interested to delve into them and see what this band is all about.

Check it out here.

Landscapes - Reminiscence

Landscapes have that modern hardcore sound that carries some high gain guitars coupled with an interesting vocal style that lends itself to creating a more dramatic effect. There's traces of Have Heart, Modern Life is War, Verse and some other bands that tend to lean on the more melodic side of the spectrum.

The production here is done very well. It has that large room sound on the drums, featuring a snappy bass drum and reverb heavey snare. The guitars and bass have a nice balance to them, just beneath the scream/shout vocals.

From the start of "Overcast" you can hear the similarities to the band's I mentioned earlier. The aggressive, yet melodic intro of the song seems to cover that ground pretty well before it goes into a
more traditional drum roll seq-way into some fast hardcore. The band gets you familiar with their sound, taking you through a few different tempos and soft/loud transitions.

There's some great dynamics created here emphasizing parts that are filled with dramatic movements (see "Take Me Home" for it's palm muting pause). "Silhouette" also has a great waltz timing in it's beginning that breaks the mold from the previous time signatures and bass outro. There's also a interlude here with the title track "Reminiscence", which employs an instrumental buildup featuring voice samples over top. It leads right into the closing track "Love Alone"
pretty seamlessly. They close things up on the track with an introspective, melodic breakdown that has some pretty spine chilling dynamics.

Have a listen here.

Hirs - The First 100 Songs

Think you can sit through 100 songs of relentless metal? Well, to make the challenge a little less intimidating I'll tell you that each song is less than a minute long. The only exception to this being the Pantera medley that runs about 3 minutes.

This is a duo from Philadelphia who utilize drum programming and guitar to create these short bursts of heavy chaos. Word has it they just tour Australia. No, for real, they did.

Check it out here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sleater Kinney - Dig Me Out (Classic Review of The Week)

Within "Dig Me Out" is an indie rock gem that only maintains it's wonderful shine with age. I picked this record up in Boston while I was on tour in 1997. It was new, exciting and catchy. I think there are two aspects to this record that grabbed me.

The first being the guitar work. With the lack of bass player there is a challenge to this band to keep things full sounding but not sacrifice musical competence by just having one guitar ride a root note. Sleater Kinney manages to intermingle their guitar parts in a way that creates texture and melody while filling the entire canvas.

The second characteristic here is the vocals. There's a powerful lead vocal hear that is very distinct and commanding. The second,"backup", vocal has a "matter of fact" speaking tone to it that contrasts the almost operatic lead vocal. The parts where these two intermingle work very well. It's almost like the guitar and vocals take on that same duty of swirling together with a great result.

The band can engage in their upbeat songs like "Dig Me Out", "The Drama You've Been Craving" or "Dance Song 97'" and have the dance floor moving. There's a pop sensibility here in the verse/chorus song structure, however maintains it's raw and authentic sound. The band also has the ability to write some beautiful, introspective sounding songs like "Buy Her Candy" and "Jenny", where the slowness can't help but create a thought-provoking composition of music and lyrics.

Get it here.

Daido Loori - Laika

Despite having a really strange name, Daido Loori is actually pretty good. They come to use from Montclair, New Jersey and dish out a duel vocal attack of screaming over some midly chaotic music. I suppose I feel the restraint is largely resting in the fact that the guitar is very clean, almost no grit or distortion to it. It's great for clarity and note recognition (there's some creative playing here) but keeps the band from sounding all that intense musically.

The drum work is very interesting, always providing some good fills and creative, subtle action within the beats. The production could use a little work, however things only get muddled when the band is in the all out blazing mode of chaos. During the quieter parts the band is translated pretty well in terms of mix and sound. Musically, here's definitely some elements of the more noodly faction of the screamo genre here, similar to bands like Kidcrash or Raein. However, vocally, the male/female duel vocals take things more over the top, adding to the more chaotic side of things.

I'd be interested to see this played live as I see a huge potential for these songs to really come to life in an intimate show space, like a basement or smaller venue.

Listen to it here.

Just Die - A Momentary Lapse in Positive Thinking

Just Die is a hardcore band from North Carolina. In their own words: "Without a doubt, this is our best, and shortest album to date. Written over the course of the past couple of tours these songs represent a lot of the stuff we've had to shovel. From songs about not being so posi to rediscovering our innocence and sense of wonder, this album is the closest we can come to letting you really get to know us without coming over and hanging out. We're super proud of this and we hope you guys love it as much as we do. We recorded this with Evan Bradford and a ton of our friends in Asheville, NC."

For the most part, Just Die remind me of that modern Boston/Bridge 9 style of hardcore that is very angry. It takes some of the traditional tricks from hardcore's past and adapts them with a new modern sound. They also seem to have songs on here that abandon all that and try to run with more of a Kid Dynamite style of fast and melodic hooks.

The production on here is very well done, translating a big sound. I'm not totally floored here, but it's not bad by any means.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stockpile - S/T

Stockpile play dark,fast, political hardcore that keeps up the pace throughout. The vocals are a deep growl, almost bordering on that death metal style, however keeping a little bit of coherence. High gain guitars and fast drums take up the backdrop, playing something not all that unfamiliar to fans of bands in the crust genre. The music is gritty and harsh, with a raw, unpolished feel to it. I would almost call this d-beat, though there are moments in here where the band can show some signs of bringing things to a mid tempo pace quite effortlessly.

Side B starts with "Tongues" showing the band's slower, mid tempo side for just a moment before a brief stop and a launch into their d-beat attack. The raging guitar shrills in "Your Trap" don't last too long but provide just a small break. You'll have to forgive my little knowledge on the customs of this particular genre, but I feel like my best comparison here would be to call this a less heavy His Hero is Gone.

Lyrically, Stockpile is addressing a good variety of social and political conditions in a very smart way that articulates their position well. Songs about government structure, nuclear energy, consumerism and class distinction are written with a lot of thought here. I have this mental picture of this band wearing all black and playing to a bunch of crust punks holding forties. However, by the lyrics, I'm made to think this band is capable of much more than that. Interesting stuff from Destroy Me Records.

Check it out here.

Ten Thousand Leagues - Demo

Ten Thousand Leagues are from California and play a melodic form of hardcore that could possibly get filed in the "screamo" cabinet. However, this has a very raw sound and I think I could best compare mixing Lord Snow with Touche Amore, then dashing a bit of 90s hardcore on top.

The production here is raw but you can hear everything pretty well. There's a very warm sound to the mid gain guitars that translates a perfect level of brightness without sounding tinny or abrasive. The vocals go back and forth between a strained shout and an over the top scream. There's some tasteful use of violin or viola in "Timepiece" which accents the momentary clean intro.

These songs, for the most part, are a great exercise in chaos, speed and precision. There's fast changes that keep you on your toes. "Forfeit This Routine" starts out on the heavy end of things and shows the band's ability to break out of the melodic chaos that they've proved to be proficient at.

Lyrically, the band seems to keep things somewhat abstract, though the song "Blank Scripture" is clearly taking a stance against organized religion. They're very well written and well placed through the songs. I hope to hear more from this band.

Have a listen here.

Avoider - Mountain of Spite

Remember back in about 2005 when that band The Darkness came out and brought high pitched glam vocals back to the mainstream? There was this huge surge of people saying "Holy shit! That guy's voice!". Almost like we all forgot what glam rock sounded like. I suppose when I put on "Cut My Teeth" I had a similar reaction, mostly because I didn't expect to hear something like this from ex-members of Northern New Jersey ska-metal captains, Folly.

Nonetheless, Avoider sounds like glam rock, but without the guitar solos. It has some of the hardcore/punk sensibilities that make it sound like a group of hardcore musicians playing glam rock though. At times the singer even breaks character and lets out some aggressive yelling over the stomping two step nature of the music. There's also some moments of all out screaming that come out of left field.

The production is very good on this, with every instrument at a very balanced volume. So, if some Sick of It All riffs with Brent Michaels singing over them sound good to you then teez your hair, thrown on a pair of leather pants and enjoy.

Listen here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Call It Arson - The Animal Strings

Call It Arson are an indie rock band from Connecticut who have been around for quite some time, with intervals (sometimes years) of inactivity to regroup. This release just recently came out via Red Scroll Records and is a pretty find indication that the band is interested in making a full comeback to activity. This, very beautiful, gate fold record contains 6 songs that display the band's musical venture pretty well.

"Eliza" opens the record with a beautiful dual vocal acoustic composition. It has a grit to it that keeps it from sounding to overproduced and translates a nice bit of authenticity. "The Unmanagable Surperstate" has a rock and roll vibe (complete with harmonica solo) that is broken up with some uber political lyrics, eerie feedback and quivering strings. The vocals harmonies are delivered pretty flawlessly here and could probably make a fun of even the most straight laced top 40 listener. "Animal Strings" starts off on a slower note, but soon shows the band taking things upbeat, at times reminding me of 90's alternative rock. The song culminates with a "breakdown" of sorts which relies heavily on some fuzz-laden guitar.

Side B kicks off with "On The RUn" which continues to remind me of the 90's alternative rock; here I can't a Gin Blossoms comparison out of my head. "Places" starts of with a deceptively upbeat, peppy guitar riff that leads the band in on a slower, powerful groove. The song takes us for a journey, more so than the previous songs we've heard so far. There's a good deal of tempo and part changes here, that take the band out of any kind of standard rock formula here. "Hoopin and Humpin" takes the record to a close with a lyrical ode to various towns in Connecticut, talking on a very folk/country vibe to it.

Take a listen here.

Marnost / Seeds in Barren Fields - Split

Marnost comes to use from the Czech Republic and contributes a 13 minute epic to their side of this split. The song has quite a bit of time to run a gambit of tempos. Marnost is giving us something very similar to bands like Ressurectionist, Gattaca and Remek. The soundscape is very dense with a heavy melodic over tone. I suppose one would put this in the "doom metal" category for it's song length, speed picking-to-sludge transitions and deep, airy vocals. It seems this style has two speeds: blast beats and sludge. They contrast each other well and it makes for some interesting layering when the guitars are playing slow while the drums blast away.

Seeds in Barren Fields are from Sweden. They "out time" Marnost with their 16 minute track (if we were comparing the two for "most epic" award here). Marnost has a bit of a clearer sound in translating their brand of heaviness. There also seems to be a little more room for mid tempo parts in their cannon as compared to Marnost. The melodic, dark mood is still there though. The vocals are a bit more of a throaty scream which reminded me more of some melodic metal vocal styles I've heard. There's the same attention to speed picking here, but it also is used over some mid tempo and d-beat style drums which add some nice dimension. We even get a nice spoken word part in the middle, around 9 minutes that has a very 90's hardcore vibe to it.

What you're going to get here is two bands that are on a journey to achieve that perfect epic doom metal compisition. If you hunger for the long songs and dramatic melodies, check this out.

Check out Marnost here.

Check out Seeds in Barren Fields here.

Southside Stranglers - Too Much TV

Like I've said before I don't really care much for current bands playing the 80's hardcore/punk style. There's a few exceptions from time to time, likes Classic of Love, for example; who insert their own unique style into their playing.

Southside Stranglers plays a very formula based version of 80's hardcore that I can't really distinguish from other bands in the genre. There's mid gain power chords, mid paced/steady drums and some reverb ladden vocals.

"Which Way's The Door?" was the standout track for me due to it's darker sound and catchy hook chorus. If you're a fan of this genre then this may be just for you.

Listen to it here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beau Navire / Republic of Dreams - Split 7"

Thanks to Petr for sending this over! I've been seeing these two band's names get thrown around quite a bit lately, but until now have never had a chance to check them out. This is a first for me.

Beau Navire is from Oakland, California and play a bright sounding take on the "screamo" genre which has a good attention to noodly guitar and melody. There's some great transitions in here that take the more chaotic parts and land them into some mid tempo driving beats. The band can take things down a notch (see various parts of "ghostlike") and show some execution and attention to more of drawn out sound. All in all, I can't find too much to be upset about here. Definitely interested to check out a bit more from this band.

Republic of Dreams is a band spread out over Poland and Germany. I would imagine this would hinder the band's activity but has not put a stop to their determination in keeping the band producing solid material. With some extremely fast and relentless drum work, these songs hit very hard. There's a great balance of bright guitar combined with some crushing bass tone. The vocals have a great scream to them and are mixed just beneath the music. Republic of Dreams mainly jumps between very discordant to some sadder melodies. There's nice dynamics though, even though the band seems to favor the more hyperactive and chaotic end of things. The urgent close to the record on "A Refuge Becoming a Utopia" featuring some blast beats that create a great amount of tension. It left me excited to hear more.

Check it out here.

Death First - Trapped

Death First is a hardcore/punk band from Brooklyn that holds a mostly d-beat sound in their style; though contrasted with some urgent, shouted female vocals. Due to the vocals, I can't help but compare this to I Object, as the vocal delivery and cadence is very similar. The guitar is very bright and up front in the mix here. It's a little different from the darker, sludgy sound you usually here in this genre. At times the drums get a little buried, but the overall feel and tempo is maintained.

Lyrically, Death First stays in the social and political realm, but with a very straight forward style. There's no abstraction or psuedo-academic resolve to these words. They are straight forward and honest about what they observe. "Fuck Your Art" is a simple, yet concise evaluation of the state of the punk scene today. "Country Bleeds" seems to be a commentary on the contrast between the pre and post 9/11 condition in the United States. "Scratch the Surface" (not a Sick of It All cover) begins with a change of pace. Clean guitar builds the band into a mid tempo ring out of melodic chords. It's done well and transitions into the classic crust sound with no awkward stops.

I've had a chance to see Death First a number of times and I feel this recording translates the band's live sound very well. There's a rawness and intensity to it that makes the bright guitar sound work. All and all, not a bad record.

Listen to it here.

Iron Hand - Usurper Divine

Iron Hand come to us from various parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts. They feature some ex-members of They and The Children and Schematic of a Walking Life. The delivery here seems to be similar to a band like Tragedy or His Hero is Gone. It's a dark sound that stays on the fast side of things, but all the while avoids the discordance in exchange for some melody that wains to the serious side.

The production here is pretty solid. The guitar tones are very well rounded out and the drums carry some nice roomy echo to them. There's an interesting line of guitar work in the beginning of "Phobia" which later morphs into a guitar solo that had me thinking of something that sounds like Bad Religion being mixed with some Motorhead; in that, the melody is there, but the solo seems to stick to the harmony exclusively, not trail off into some inane, showy mess of scales. "Short Sighted" finally shows the band breaking the d-beat style for a moment to let off a two step intro. Now that I hear it, I find the one complaint I have to this record is the lack of variation at times. They bring the two step back with a Majority Rule sounding guitar lead over top later in the song and even add a palm muted stomp after the fact. It works so well that I scratched my head wondering why this band isn't doing this more.

Lyrically Iron Hand address their personal condition in regards to social situations, self esteem and working. With the exception of "Usurper Divine", most of the lyrics are written in a pretty
non-abstract way, making it pretty simple to connect with some of the sentiments.

Check it out here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dirtdrinker - S/T

A busy, but awesome weekend has only left me time to do 2 reviews today. I apologize, I'll be back on track tomorrow!

Dirtdrinker is from Scotland. They play some interesting and experimental hardcore that had me thinking of bands like Botch, Anodyne and Breather Resist.

The recording production could use a little cleaning up, but the heaviness of the delivery comes across well. The vocals seem to have a distortion effect on them that adds to the blown out, fuzzy sound of the production.

"Plaguescape" takes a note from the Botch handbook with it's downtuning about three quarter way through the song. It makes for a crushing ending despite the obvious similarity. There's some pretty explosive drum work throughout these songs and "Wastewalker" will take you through a range of impressive drum runs with some nice guitar work to compliment things up front. "Husks" finishes up strong with a crushing breakdown about halfway through. The end fades out with a sample giving some background into the issues discussed lyrically I suppose.

Check it out here.

Swallowed Up - This Is, and Goddamn Is It

Swallowed Up is sadly no longer a band, but this record still holds up even in their absence. The formula for this band is very unique. Upon first hearing them I felt like someone had take the guitar tone of Ampere, the hardcore sensibilities of Carry On and the vocal style of some older, raw punk and put all these influence together.

These 11 songs have a nice play of tempos and styles. The blazing, fast parts almost have a Portraits of Past feel to them, perhaps due to the melancholy melody of the chords and minimal notes in the progression. But don't think it stops there. Swallowed Up seems to enjoy their two step parts providing a very traditional hardcore stomp (see "Inadequate") and tastefully placed gang vocal chants. You'll also get moments of quiet, clean guitar (see "No I Do Not Welcome The New Year").

Members of swallowed Up have since played in Host, End Of Year and Troubled Sleep. These songs are a great documentation of a moment of time that shouldn't be passed up.

Download it here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Religion - Against The Grain (Classic of The Week)

When speaking on Bad Religion, many people will contest that "Suffer" is the proven classic. However, for me, it was all about time and place when choosing which Bad Religion album would get the "classic" status. I was 14 years old when this album threw me off my seat and it's hard not to listen to that first guitar solo on "Modern Man" and not feel the same way today.

Perhaps the first band to help me expand my vocabulary, Bad Religion has become something of a benchmark to me in evaluating the standards on how bands write political and philosophical lyrics. I came across Bad Religion in the pages of Thrasher magazine. As a young skater, interested in all things rebellious, the imagery of the cross buster had my curious gears grinding as the band seemed so blatant in it's communication.

This led my journey to purchasing "Against the Grain" at the franchise store at our local mall. The music that accompanied this controversial imagery was perfect. It's fast, dark melodies took on an urgency to me that made punk sound like something totally different from what I had heard before. Upon delving into the lyrics, Bad Religion was informative in a way that made you want to go out and research these things they spoke about.

My 14 year old self used these songs as somewhat of a guide to start some critical thinking on issues of the environment, religion, government and social interaction. It became clear that this album was addressing heavy topics that I could barely wrap my head around at the time. The world is a fucked up place and this record was tearing away the blindfold.

From a musician's standpoint I was totally drawn in by the speed and character of the chord progressions. The lead guitar work on songs like "Modern Man", "Anesthesia", "Flat Earth Society" and "Faith Alone" seem to have a voice all it's own that complimented the melody so well that it gives one chills. The bass tone is full, carrying a great mid range without compromising low end (see the bass solo in "Turn On The Light"). It would be wrong to speak of these compositions without mentioning the distinguishable vocal delivery that is unique to Bad Religion. The melodic, matter of fact-ish tone that spits these well formed concepts out in smooth, rhythmic prose has yet to be copied successfully by anyone. This is truly a classic that has stood the test of time.

Lord Snow - Sovngarde

I reviewed the Lord Snow debut back in January. This is their follow up called "Sovngarde" and it doesn't disappoint at all. If you're not familiar, Lord Snow is from Chicago and play a brand of hardcore that is reminiscent of Ampere, Mahria and For Want Of. You can call this "screamo" I suppose, but there's definitely more happening here that supersedes the label.

Compared to their debut, the production on "Sovngarde" is much brighter and intense. There's a bit more clarity in terms of hearing the full instrumental scope. There's some impressive musicianship here laced with noisy feedback and chaotic screaming.

The first track, "He's Clearly Made the Most of It", doesn't follow the Lord Snow formula we've come to know. The introduction is a bit subdued and the delivery more traditional. We don't see the song take flight until about 45 seconds in when the chaotic drums and noodling guitar start going at full speed. "Oh, How The Wine Talks" follows up with it's half spoken/half screamed vocals that follows the dynamics of the ringing guitar pretty well.

The speed picking of "The Dastardly Halves" seems to take on some metal influence but applying it to the band's melodic style. The song flies by quickly, but not without a good display of songwriting. "Alas, The World Stops Spinning" closes things up as the longest track on the release. The song takes all the aspects of this band's musical cannon and applies them pretty seamlessly. It's a great journey of chaotic, off time runs mixed with some more subdued guitar work that let's the vocals take center stage. The drum work on this track are off some particular note for their creativity.

Listen to it here.

Parasitic Skies / Losing Skin - Split LP

Losing Skin takes on more of a modern metal/hardcore crossover influence, at times sounding like it could fit in with Suburban Scum, Terror and bands of that genre (see "Time Crawling By Me" for the best example of this). There's also some darker hardcore influence that borders on d-beat at times (see the beginning of "Depressor").

The production quality is a little dark. With a bit of bright mastering I think the guitars would shine through a little more. The tones are pretty thick though and overall it sounds very full. The vocals are an intense scream that seem to fall a little on the tougher sounding side of things.

Parasitic Skies is a vegan straight edge band from Seattle, Washington. They follow suit with a more modern hardcore/metal crossover sound as well, but perhaps leaning on the hardcore side a bit more. Throughout these 2 songs you'll get an attack of chug ladden guitar riffs. There's really no deviation, as the guitar remains in the "moshier" realm of things for the duration, with no higher register playing. Though, the melodic sensibility in "The Throat of the Sleeping Sun" added some variation and perhaps more of this would help to break things up a bit. You can sample "The Void" and "The Throat of the Sleeping Sun" on the their bandcamp page. The record is not out yet, but will be up for pre order soon via Headfirst Records.

Listen here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Code Orange Kids - Cycles

I've been seeing this band's name everywhere so I figured it was time to sit down and give it a listen. Code Orange Kids play a brand of heavy hardcore that encompasses some interesting song structure and transitions. It's refreshing in that it's not the traditional fare in terms of song writing, and in fact had me thinking of a band like Trenchfoot due to it's unconventional style. The vocals have a desperate, high pitch sound to them, which also adds to a more chaotic sound.

Songs like "Cycles" and "Walls" bust in and show the band pulling off a dirty, heavy soundscape. "Salavage/Fold" breaks things up a bit with a clean guitar interlude before things go back to the fast, trashy, Converge-like "Give". I wasn't a huge fan of the lower growling vocals that kicked in about halfway through. "Talk" finishes things up as the band's 4:29 opus. It goes through a range of styles and dynamics, starting off slow and sludgy, leading to a clean interlude with strained vocals, reminiscent of some Touche Amore material, actually. The song unconventionally stops for a vocal break and then allows the guitar to take the band back in. It's a strange sequence and I give them credit for going out of the box here.

I'm definitely impressed with what I'm hearing. It's varied and exciting hardcore that doesn't seem to follow any formula. I'll have to catch them live and see how this translates.

Check it out here.

Fess Elliot - Real

Fess Elliot is a solo artist, putting together songs that can sound like traditional folk and indie, but other times incorporate electronics to the composition. I found myself enjoying the tracks that leave the electronics behind and just display the raw songwriting. The release came on a flash card (a usb device the size of a credit card) but contained no lyrics which I thought was a little unusual.

The soft chords and smooth vocals on "Everything" open things up and I found myself wishing the track was longer. "Little Lies" has a quiet, but powerful way to it that falls more into the traditional folk neighborhood of things. We see this same style adapted again later on "Sweetly" ,"Dickless Boy" and "Dogs" where it's pulled off with little to no effort.

"Shake Me" is made up of strummed power chords, forgoing the typical folk picking guitar style. It creates a bit more urgency and anger which is translated throughout the song. "Real" carries that same upbeat style, but has a brighter sound to it, featuring a very catchy hooked chorus. The formula didn't work as well for me on "Explode With Happy, Man" where the verse seemed to take the Nirvana qualities a little too far.

"Go Pink" takes a detour to use a more airy sound, featuring reverb ladden vocals and guitar. The melody itself is stretched out to add to the effect. There's times here, about 1:50 or so, where I'm getting a Tori Amos vibe here. The song is definitely a standout from the rest of the record, but works well.

The "remix" tracks didn't really work for me as much. There are some great moments on them though. "Real Remix 2" and "Fingerprints Remix" were the highlights of the batch for me. Perhaps it's that the tracks have more than just electronic drums, but also add extra instrumentation and small pauses to create dynamics and emphasis.

You can check out some of the tracks here.

Damaged Goods - Demo 2012

I saw Damaged Goods play a few weeks ago and was pretty impressed with the potential that the band had. This two piece band from New Jersey are very young and appear to be very enthusiastic. At the show the guitarist was playing out of a small combo amp though, which it made it a bit hard to hear and took away from the overall power.

The recording clears up the problems with the guitar and translates some heaviness. While the production is not perfect, it's definitely aggressive and shows what the band is capable of. I'm digging this mainly for it's use of a variety of speeds, sounds and styles within the song writing. There's some songs that take a more traditional hardcore sound ("Necessary Violence") and others that have a more varied sound of power violence mixed with some tasteful breakdowns (see "Retrospect" and "My Beliefs"). "Super Bunny and Wonder Kitty" was my favorite track for it's chaotic intro and catchy two step landing. The grueling breakdown that finishes up "J.C.E." brings the demo to a close as it fades under some ambient noise.

The lyrical style is reflective of the age of the band members; meaning the songs are written pretty basic. Though, the ideas of maintaining self respect and ideals are present and important to this band. I'm impressed with their honesty and delivery here. This is the first "young" hardcore band I've been excited about in some time.

Listen to it here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Something About Death or Dying - S/T

I recently was informed of this band's existence because they'll be appearing on the One Hour From Anywhere compilation coming up in a few months. Something About Death or Dying are from Jersey City, New Jersey and play a heavy brand of hardcore that seems to take influence from bands like Coalesce and Botch.

The vocal delivery here is the only thing I'm not completely sold on. I can't help but be reminded of those mid level metal/hardcore crossover bands like Lamb of God or something like that. It's the kind of vocal style I'm not terribly fond of.

Besides that, the music is heavy and lively. Tempo changes and interesting segues are applied on a regular basis. The only exception tot his being the final track "Lone Wolf" which stays pretty mid tempo the entire time, create more of an epic, bruiting soundscape. The guitar tone is a nice change because it lacks that over saturation that many heavier bands of this genre fall victim to. Instead, you get a pretty full sound with bright bass tone and glowing guitar.

Listen to it here.

Coyote - Demo 2012

Coyote is an interesting name for a hardcore band. I keep thinking of the Road Runner cartoons from when I was younger. This band comes to us from Winninpeg and play a heavy style of hardcore full of angry breakdowns and intense shouting.

For the most part you can hear every instrument in the mix and everything is pretty well represented. The vocals seem to have alternate between higher and lower. I can't tell if it's one vocalist or if there is some sort of trade off happening here. It breaks things up though and makes a bit of a dynamic. There's no lyrics availableon the bandcamp page, I would be interested to know what this band seems so angry about.

Musically you're going to get 6 songs of hardcore that remains mostly in the mid tempo neighborhood, though has a way of keeping things from getting mundane. There are some exceptions (Check out "Masks/Mirors" for some faster material). It's very modern sounding at times and almost falls into that tough guy sound once in a while. Luckily the interesting part changes and blown out vocal style save this from going that route.

Check it out here.

Restorations - S/T

Restorations sort of reminds me of when Jawbreaker broke up and ex members started Jets To Brazil. It has some of the gruff, moody melodies that I love about that era of punk, but it's slowed down to a more rock and roll sound, almost radio friendly at times. Maybe picture a slowed down Gaslight Anthem and you'll start to get an idea of what we're dealing with here.

The production quality here is great. The bass tone is subtle and hard to notice at first, but it's quite strong and well done. The lyrics here seem to fall upon personal topics but they are very well written. The prose have a storytelling vibe to them that conveys honesty and authenticity. It's very similar to the Weakerthans in it's delivery at times.

I can't say whether I'm totally buying in to this, but it's not bad by any means. There's something that's keeping it from crossing the threshold for me, but I can't put my finger on it. Have a listen though, and see what you think.

Listen here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Potty Mouth - Dead Air Session

This is the first I'm hearing from Potty Mouth, an all female indie band from Massachusetts. The sound is very smooth, melodic indie that has some punk sensibilities. I kind of wish the recording was a little brighter, as the guitars could probably pop out just a bit more.

The first two tracks, "Harzardville" and "Drip-Dry", show an up beat smooth style with some very interesting guitar work and steady, powerful drumming. The vocals glide over the music and create some extremely catchy hooks. "Superfriends" takes on that 90's riot girl vocal style that I found to be grating and uncomplimentary; which is a shame because the music itself lends out some excellent chord progressions. The band gets back on track with "Kids" and despite the intermittent yelps on "Dog Song" the vocals pull off an amazing chorus, emphasized by some great lead guitar work.

The band closes up with "Girls XL" which keeps the upbeat tone and haunting melodies up to par. All in all, I enjoyed this demo quite a bit and would be interested to see how these songs come across live.

Listen to it here.

Bearfoot - Culture of Fear

Do yourself a favor and skip the Intro track. After that this gets to be enjoyable. Bearfoot play angry hardcore that is typically pretty fast and done before you know it. There are a few exceptions here though and the band can add some experimentation and crushing breakdowns to throw you for a loop.

The lyrics had me a little confused, as some songs come off very serious and others not so much. Perhaps there's two people contributing to the writing, or maybe they're just showing off their versatility. Either way, songs like "Is Lost" and "Outcast" work a lot better lyrically.

There's some interesting guitar work happening here that sets this apart from your typical power violence/thrash fare. It's refreshing and adds that little something that makes this special. It's short, fast and sweet. You might like it.

Check it out here.

Glass Rivers - Demo 2012

Glass Rivers has a very subdued sound that never really gets too out of control. I guess you can say this has some elements of shoe gaze but perhaps with a little bit more focused song structure.

The recording production is pretty well done and compliments this style of music well. The vocals have a very droning quality to them that mixes into the reverb ladden guitars as they stretch out across the songs.

"An Ordinary Place" opens with gritty guitar chord progression leading the way. The vocals abruptly charge in, off key but tolerable, with the drums not far behind. Things stay pretty mid tempo throughout and the band presents it's mild form a song writing to you with this first 4 minute effort. I'm not floored, but it's not bad by any means.

"In Time" is carried for about 3 minutes with just guitar and vocals. It's segued with an e-bow feedback break before the drums anticlimactically draw in. The song does a good job of building though from this point and we get a good idea of the band's quiet power here.

Listen to it here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meneguar - I Was Born At Night

I'm reaching back a few years here, but it's well worth it. Meneguar came to use from Brooklyn and played a brand of melodic indie rock that had some catchy sing alongs and interesting musicianship. Bright, jangly guitars are highlight atop some dirty bass tone. I wish the drums had a little better production here, but the playing still shines through. There's a grity, off key vibe to the vocals that keeps this from sounding polished. It fits well and provides a nice charm. There's an 80's new wave vibe at times, but ultimately had me thinking that this sounds like Jawbreaker, Sonic Youth and Cap'n Jazz having a baby together.

"House of Cats" starts things off on the upbeat note and infectiously gets stuck in your head. Right off the bat you get an idea of how this band uses melodies and swirling guitars to create some very powerful dynamics. "A Few Minutes In An Hour" shows the band slowing things down for a bit. The quieter, more subdued sound is pulled off nicely and seamlessly leads to a larger sounding chorus.

The catchiness of songs like "The Temp" and "Christmas Isn't Christmas" will have you repeating listens. Things are rounded off with the more subdued "Wounded Knee" which relies on a catchy guitar line to carry it through. All in all, you're getting some quality indie rock here that makes me wish I had gotten a chance to catch this band live back then.

Get it here.

Tempest - Solace

The second I hit the play button this band pummeled me. Tempest has a hard hitting, dense, dark sound that is so thick and heavy it almost knocked me over. The production on this is pretty spot on to convey some nice, full sound.

Tempest is from Vancouver and play some dark hardcore that seems to have influences ranging from Tragedy to Buried Inside to One Eye God Prophecy. The presentation is epic and grand, using some very foreboding melodies to translate further their dark sound. I enjoy the guitarists use of octave chords at points and it almost has me recalling some Orchid material.

Delay effects seem to be tastefully inserted to some of the guitar work to create a more textured and layered sound over appropriate parts. The vocals have an incoherent scream that sits just inside of the mix, where I like it. "Solace II" features a clean guitar interlude about 3 minutes in that builds up nicely, bringing in distorted guitar and drums with some unconventional tactics. Overall an impressive display of musicianship and song structure here.

Check it out here.

Sorry Excuse - S/T

There's not much I can say about Sorry Excuse. It's not bad at all. It's well played. It's fast, 80's style hardcore. There's no frills; no experimentation, nothing out of the ordinary. That being said, I don't have much else to say about it. You might like it though, if you're into that sort of thing.

Listen to it here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lincoln - S/T

It was 1994 and I was mainly listening to either fast hardcore like Youth of Today and Uniform Choice or heavier hardcore like Undertow and Unbroken. Lincoln was the first band that I heard that positioned hardcore in a light that used noise and discord to translate their sound. It was almost like taking the alternative rock of the 90's and making raw and accessible.

The two songs on this record opened the door for me to get into bands like Frail, Elements of Need, among others. The very distinguishable characteristic of this band for me was the vocal style. I was immediately drawn to the higher pitch of the scream, though it still carried melody. Back this up with some great drumming, creative guitar work and excellent bass tone..and you had a recipe for success.

Unfortunately I couldn't find these songs hosted online anywhere, so I temporarily uploaded them for your consumption. The link will be active until March 16th. So get it now!

Click here to download.

Vultures - Alaska

Vultures are from Australia and play a dark brand of hardcore that has some d-beat influence. Despite the reasonable lengths of these songs, they still come off as epic in their formation. It's perfect for those folks that love the epic sound but aren't exactly thrilled with 11 minute songs.

The production on this translates the band well. The high gain guitars and pounding drums are very present. The vocals could come down a notch, but the throaty scream carries a great urgency to it that brings some enthusiasm to these dark soundscapes. There's some great use of higher register guitar work to add that melodic feel, and I suppose this adds to the epic style a bit.

For the most part we're sticking to faster, upbeat stuff here, similar to Sled (who I reviewed last month). Every now and then the band has a few tricks up their sleeve. The track "11:11" features a driving breakdown that culminates into some melodic singing. It comes out of left field but works well in the context of the song. "Circles Above" follows and shows the band pulling of a completely mid tempo composition that had me thinking of some early Buried Inside or even Modern Life is War. There's great attention to the dynamics here that make for some interesting moments.

Check it out here.

Ghee - Demo

Ghee come to us from the United Kingdom and play an interesting blend of fast, angry hardcore that has moments of grind and experimentation. The mix is very dirty here and adds a fine layer of grit to the overall presentation.

In under 6 minutes these 3 songs fly by pretty quick, but each are pretty memorable in their own right. The overdriven bass stands out, blending with the high gain guitars. The vocals have a strong and foreboding yell, reminding me almost of a band like Deadguy at times.

The parts move quickly; there's no extended jam happening here. Each part seems to get 4 or 8 measures at the most before the band goes launching into a different time signature or segment. I'm interested to hear more from this band.

You can check out the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Weak Teeth - What a Plague You Are

Weak Teeth is another band that, for some reason, I'm just hearing about now, thanks to Jeff from Best Practices. Maybe it's something in the water of Providence, but damn, this is the second band I've heard from there that has got me excited.

This band seems to throw away attention to any specific genre and simply play what works best for them. There's a great deal of fast hardcore here, but it has some great melody laced with moments of off time chaos. The vocals have a vicious scream to them that seem to trade off between two people. My only complaint on the production is that the vocals are a bit on top of the mix here (though, the title track "What a Plague You Are" seems to be mixed with the vocals in just the right place for some reason).

The guitar work here takes the standard fast hardcore formula out of it's place with some interesting chord arrangement and lead playing. It carries the sense of melody throughout even the most aggressive parts. I'm way off, but I could compare it a bit to the work of a band like Propagandhi in a way.

Lyrically, Weak Teeth are fairly unhappy with the world around them. There's some specific subject matter pertaining to elements of the human condition. They are well written and add to the depth of the band.

The band breaks character with it's closing track "Blue Skies, Shit Life" which has a run time of 9:22. It takes on a different life with it's multiple extended clean guitar interludes that break up the chaos. The song is quite a journey and could manage to be the whole side of a record just by itself.

Check it out here.

Anti Venom - Too Sick To Save

Anti Venom comes to us from Boston and play some angry hardcore, however, not for lacking creativity or dynamics. Heavey, chugging guitars and angry vocals take up the soundscape here. The roomy drums and overdriven bass provide a good backbone. As a result this recording ends up sounding very full and open.

The songs go by fast, seldom breaking 2 minutes, but always delivering a wide range of tempos and textures. They include three segue tracks that seem to be strategically placed at times during the recording. For most part these are just feedback or notes that are ringing out, but they seem to provide something of a flow to the record.

"Proof of Pain" is one of the longer tracks that showcases the band doing some more upbeat material while seamlessly transitioning into some creative breakdown strategies. When you think they've finished it off, they take it up a notch and send things to a fast speed, thrashy hook. "Dead Weight" closes the record up with a 3 minute look into some of the band's best work. I appreciate the times when this band opts to not to go all out and just let the guitars ring and the drums take center stage. There's a bit of a 90's hardcore feel at times due to these moments and I think it does well in creating more emphasis on the bruiting breakdowns.

Lyrically, Anti Venom stays angry with songs about dredging up the past, abusing substances and depression. I have to say, the vocal placement here is a big part of the band's execution. There's some great emphasis on this held out screams that accentuate the desperation well.

Listen to it here.

Motivator - S/T

Motivator is not unlike many, many other bands. They play fast hardcore/punk, blazing with power chords and fast drum beats. Still, for some reason this caught my ear as having a sound above the rest of the bands of this genre that I've heard over the past year.

Perhaps it's the screamy and desperate delivery of the vocals that sets this apart. The music is almost like early Minor Threat meets some more modern sounding hardcore. The high gain guitar and vocal style add that modern twist to it that keeps this from being yet another 80's rehash band.

The drumming here comes off extremely solid and well done. Perhaps it's the power and precision there that has me enjoying this a bit more than usual. There's no lyrics on their bandcamp page, but I'd be interested to hear what this guy is screaming about.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Low Places - Spiritual Treatment

Low Places are from California. They play a style of hardcore that mainly has two speeds: super fast or super slow. There's some mid paced moments but they are few and far between.

They open the record with a slow droning instrumental, spanning 7:36. Once they get down to business the songs drastically shrink in size. The production quality here translates the power well and the droning parts tend to pop out at you nicely.

I enjoyed the fact that this band stays with some higher pitched vocals rather than opting for the low growls common in this style of music. There's also that bit of rawness featuring overdriven bass and feedback ladden guitar that is pushing this into more of the hardcore territory. This is a good band for those of us who like our "doom metal" to be more on the hardcore side of things.

Take a listen here.

Small Brown Bike - Our Own Wars

I remember when this came out in 1999 a friend of mine described it as "The album that Hot Water Music should have written". Perhaps back then that was a pretty applicable description. Many years have passed since then and today I find myself hearing this without seeing it through that lens. The record holds up on it's own and though we can still make comparisons to early Hot Water Music, this record seems to have developed it's own life over the years.

What Small Brown Bike offers you on this record is some interesting melodic hardcore that has some perfectly placed pauses and dynamics to emphasize the great dramatic effects of the music. The gruff vocal style keeps this from getting too pop sounding and maintains that "rough around the edges" style. In some ways I think I could compare this to Jawbreaker at times for it's driving melodic style when the band delves into some more upbeat territory.

There's some very subtle technical drum work happening all over the record. It mixes in well (check out about 2 minutes in to "Running, Swimming & Sinking") to the point where you don't necessarily even notice it upon first listen.

Burn Idols - Theodicy

Burn Idols is from California and play a brand of crust/doom hardcore with dual vocals, not unlike Ressurrectionist. The recording quality leaves a lot to be desired here as it doesn't really translate the band's power very well.

The first track opens with a 2 minute instrumental featuring some nice reverb ladden clean guitar. The slide guitar work here emphasizes the relaxing feel of the piece and I thought it worked very well. However, the intro ends and the band begins their venture into their more chaotic and heavy fare.

At first listen it's pretty unimpressive. Perhaps it's the low, growling vocal, which doesn't do much to jump out at you. As the tracks go on and the higher vocal is blended into the mix, you begin to get a better idea of how this picture is supposed to be painted. By the time track 4, "It Fosters a Disconnection", comes along I was thinking that things were starting to make sense. The barrage of blast beats and chaotic guitar all started to fall into place. The music is good but just suffers from some production flaws.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Best Practices - The EP LP

Best Practices are the type of band I haven't heard in some time. I'll do my best at describing their sound as overdriven-melodic. The soundscape is intense and biting, while still maintaining it's melodic sensibilities. Perhaps it's the shouted vocal style or the fullness of the instruments, but this really drives some power across the tape.

These 5 songs are short and to the point (only one song breaks 2 minutes). In the brief time we get to spend with these folks they manage to win me over with their brand of gritty melodic hardcore. It's upbeat, happy and fun but without all the crap that usually goes along with being upbeat, happy and fun.

The artwork is pretty bad, but try to look past that.

Listen to it here.

Native - Wrestling Moves

I've seen this band's name around lately, but haven't had a chance to sit down and give it a fair listen until now. I'm impressed by the musicianship and the recording quality, though the vocals are a bit of a weak point to me.

Native takes on a bit of the noodly, effect driven style guitar sound which may remind you a bit of Minus The Bear or Algernon Cadawalder. Other times the band gets more straight forward and fills the space with big, strumming chords. Of much note is the drumming on this record. It's precise and exciting, but never sounds forced or rushed. The record lends itself to a large, roomy snare sound, which benefits the overall attack.

With average song lengths over 4 minutes, Native incorporates a good deal of twists and turns into these 10 songs. There's no verse/chorus format happening here; this is a labyrinth of parts that build off each other. There seems to be quite a bit of instrumental showcasing, where the vocals take a break for extended periods of time. This parts work due to the intricate playing and at times I found myself liking those aspects better.

Listen to it here.