Thursday, May 31, 2012

We Were Skeletons / MNWA - split 7"

We Were Skeletons sounds a bit more aggressive on this one than I've previously thought.  There first track "Wolves" belts out in 53 seconds and gives you a non stop raging of screaming and powerful chords.  They return to their more familiar ground with the 4 minute noodly and melodic compisition of "The Ghost of Jean Glam".  The song carries more of the dynamics you've come to know from this band, taking things from waltzy and open to a more concentrated technical barrage.  Of particular note here is the epic ending which crawls and screams with feedback as the slow drums bring us to a close.

MNWA remind me of a lot of the screamier bands I was hearing in the early 2000s.  The recording is a bit harsh, and although I tried my best, I don't seem to hear any bass or low end present.  Perhaps they are just comprised of drums and guitar.  There are dual screams here that take you way over the top with some throaty and vivid growls. Musically you get some feedback laden guitar keeping things on the dicordant side while busy drums hold up the backbone.

Have a listen here.

Itto - S/T

Itto is from Chicago and remind me a bit of early Capsule due to their technical, mathy work behind the instrumental wheel.  There's a good amount of off time, noodly guitar and spazzing drums.  This is not without some nice, melodic interludes that even things out and create some nice dynamics. Vocally things don't get too over the top, but they communicate a good amount of desperation.  There's a nice balance between some spoken word type delivery into the more aggressive side of things.

Music like this inspires me and I really can't say enough about how a band like this really shows the potential of where some tasteful musicianship can take a song.  I can see how this might be a bit to "prog" for some, but the band's use of some of the more inventive time signatures is pulled off with power and aggression to make this seem less sterile.

I'll have the pleasure of seeing them play next month and I'm most excited.  Definitely some good stuff here.

Check it out here.

A Brief Pause....

I took a brief pause from the blog to work on some other things I've been doing:

Blow The Scene Guest Reviews - I was asked to start my own column on Blow The Scene so I'll be guest writing for them on a regular basis. You can read my first review of Hot Water Music's "Exister" here.

Happy Cow - Happy Cow has always been a useful resource for finding vegan/veg places to eat, so I started contributing to them as well.

Capacities has two releases due out next month and a bunch of shows coming up.

The weather has gotten unusually hot and my cat needs to be brushed everyday. He's a hairy cat, so it takes time. My day job as an IT technician also got a bit busy, so my free time for goofing off became slim.

Rorschach at Asbury Lanes 2 years ago
In other news I recently saw Rorschach play their last show of their ongoing reunion.  I was a little surprised that they played to 30 people in their home state, but so it goes.  It didn't seem to bother the band one bit as they played their songs with extreme precision and passion.  The band seems to have had a lasting effect on the realm of experimental heavy hardcore and I felt the need to point out their obvious influence on some of the more celebrated bands today.

Ok, so let's get back to reviews. This is my first day back, so bare with me as I get back into the swing of things.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Maggot Brain - Demo

At first I thought Maggot Brain would be just another d-beat band among the large number of bands playing this style by the book.  So you can imagine my surprise when 2 minutes into the first song "Breathe" this band slowed things down with some metal influenced hardcore and speed picking. 

The production is very dry. It's clear and clean...but maybe a little too clear and clean. There's also some weird guitar tracking happening at times when the "lead" parts come in.  Through all that you can still get a good deal of what's happening.

There's a large metal influence to both of these songs, with some very iron maiden-esque single note guitar parts.  The gruff scream over top has a deep growl which seems to fit the low tuning well. The crawling end of "Silence" seems to give a good home to the vocals. In each song you get a good change up of tempos and this keeps things moving along nicely.  Check it out.

Have a listen here.

Tragedy - Darker Days Ahead

Tragedy seems to be a band with universal appeal for some reason.  I'm not sure I understand it myself, but they seem to draw crowds from several different facets of hardcore. My experience listening to this band is pretty limited.  In fact this is the first time I've ever listened to an entire Tragedy album from start to finish.  But here goes.

I'm told this is much slower than their previous material.  If their older material was predominantly comprised of d-beats then I would agree with this analysis. It has a slow feel, that focuses more on the heavier, hard hitting power than the speed.

"No Cemeteries Here" keeps with it's powerful display of 6/8 timing, though, the effects on the clean guitar sort of threw me for a loop.  The vocals on "Close At Hand" seemed a bit unprepared and perhaps not sorted out as well as they could be.  It stays in a mid tempo stomp until breaking down to a pretty epic guitar lead. "The Grim Infinite" takes on another 6/8 waltz, but this time doubling up the snare and utilizing the ride bell to create more of a metal sounding texture...and then finally, the die hard d-beat fans get what they've been waiting for as the band rapidly jumps into a tease of about 15 seconds of fast paced d-beat action before returning to their waltz. But don't worry they give it to you one more time before the song's end.

As the record continues you see more songs that seem to variate between the 6/8 timing and a more traditional mid tempo beat.  The vocals remain gruff and the guitars break from their dirty chords for a nice harmonic lead once in a while. It's not that I think this is really all that bad, but perhaps Tragedy is something you to experience live to truly understand.  I found myself a little underwhelmed here, but noticed that the music does have a quality that could be appealing. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kaddish - S/T LP

Kaddish is from Scotland and have an intense screamy hardcore sound that uses some dark melodic tones to create a foreboding sound.  There's some similarities here to bands like Envy, Funeral Diner and Caught in the Fall.  The musicianship here is pretty well executed and keeps things interesting.

The production could use a boost in volume perhaps, but other than that it's pretty audible in terms of hearing the overall mix.  The mid gain guitar sound switches to a bright clean on a regular basis to create some nice dynamics.  The bass has a pretty clean to it, provide a nice backbone to the chaotic drumming.  An over the top screaming voice tops things off and adds to the intensity.

Of some note here is the guitar work that can range from large, strummed chords to some more noodly technical work and even a good deal of speed picking coupled with blast beats. The talking vocal cadence that appears in the middle of "...There Grows The Hours' Ladder to the Sun" is a bit of a risk, but it seems to break up the existing composition in a nice way. There's definitely an epic feel to some of these tracks. Every song breaks 3 minutes, with some going past the 5 minute mark.  It's a long ride, but worth the trip.

Listen here.

Breaking Ground - Let The Young Minds Think

Breaking Ground is a hardcore band from Bremerton, Washington that have a sound that seems to call upon Chain of Strength and Moutpiece for their influences.  Compared to most bands today, this has a more positive sound to it in that there's no tough posturing going on here. There's alot of bands playing a style similar to this, but not with this type of feel to it.

The recording quality is pretty nice, though the vocals are a little louder than I would prefer.  High gain guitars rage over the fast drumming while a strained shout desperately belts out some very matter of fact lyrics.

I'm not totally astounded by this, but at the same time it does bring up a bit of nostalgia for me to a time when bands weren't concerned with sounding tough or inserting moshy dance parts at every whim.  If you're interested in some fast, positive hardcore, this might be a good things to check out.

Listen to it here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Glass Hits - Pioneers Get the Arrows, Settlers Get the Land

When I first heard Glass Hits I couldn't help but picture some mid 90's bands like The Great Unraveling or Harriet the Spy mixed with a voice similar to Drive Like Jehu. 

This is very well recorded, with some nice attention to the instruments.  There's a brightness to it without sounding weak.  The vocals have a reverb on them to further project the very mid 90's sound of the vocals.

For the most part what you're getting here is some pretty powerful drumming teamed up with a very prominent bass.  The guitar stays in the discordant range of things, adding a bit of a D.C. sound at times.  The vocals seem to take the forefront though and strangely find a nice melodic home among all the discord. 

Take a listen here.

Antpile - For Me, This Is Heaven

Antpile is from Cleveland and play a melodic hardcore that seems to still be in it's developing stages. Why do I say "developing stages"?  Well, that lies mostly in the vocal placements.  Musically the band seems to have a good handle on their individual instruments.  But vocally, there tends to be a lack of confidence in the sound and placement. 

If you can get past the painfully out of key and oddly placed melodic vocals (see "Those Fake Smiles"), there's some pretty well played music here.  The screaming vocals work most of the time though and fit the music well. There's definitely some aspects reminding me of all the "newer" bands here, but there's also something in the more straight forward style that reminds me of a more mid 90's sound at times.

There's three songs here, the shortest coming in at 3:35, while the other two both break five minutes. "You Said" actually even shows the melodic vocals getting a bit more confident and on key. I couldn't really find myself liking "Melodica Song" at all really, as it tended to lean on the weaker aspects of the band's arsenal. 

Listen here.

Kilgore Trout - Split with False Flag

This is the Kilgore Trout/False Flag split, though I can only seem to find the Kilgore Trout songs at this point.  I like them this much that I'll forgo the complete release and just review their three songs.  For a band to name themselves after one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut characters and then to be able to play some good music...they have earned their way into my heart.

Kilgore Trout play an intense and screamy melodic hardcore that would probably remind me of One Eye God Prophecy at times.  The recording quality here is not very good which is unfortunate because these songs would probably sound great with some nice production.

"Visita Interiora" was my favorite track due to it's clean guitar interlude which adds a nice diversity to the song structure. Once again, I really wish this was properly recorded.

Have a listen here

Friday, May 11, 2012

Channel - S/T (Classic of the Week)

Ever wonder where Converge got the idea for the part in the middle of "The Saddest Day" where everything slows down and speeds up again?  Well, it was from this record.  Ironically, Nate from Channel would join Converge ten years later. Go figure.

Channel was a hardcore band from Virginia Beach, Virgina in the mid 1990's.  I caught a set of theirs at a school gym some time around 1995 or so and they totally blew my mind. They had a great live presence to them that was captivating (Unfortunately Nate's next band Jesuit wasn't nearly as good).  Channel was important to me because they added to small number of bands back then who were playing music that heavy and intense without being some generic tough guy mosh music. There were talented musicians playing some interesting and well crafted music that was pretty emotionally transparent. That and...well this record is quite frankly perfect.

What you'll get here is some heavy riffs above some very frantic and precise drumming. At times I'm reminded of Deadguy, but perhaps with less bruiting and more attack. There's even some blast beats in there at times.  The screaming vocals are a great touch to add to the intense sound. There's a heaviness here that most of those "mosh" bands back then weren't even coming close to. 

Download it here.

Not On Tour - S/T

Is this pop punk? Is this hardcore? well, it's a little bit of both and it's done really well.  Not On Tour is from Atlanta Georgia and play a female fronted style of aggressive pop punk that varies between very poppy to a more rough around the edges style. 

The creative musicianship adds to the overall presentation, as there's much more than just power chords over some fast drums.  The single note interludes and dynamics make these songs work even more powerfully than they usually would.  This adds to the variation I spoke of earlier and keeps things interesting, rather than just a handful of pop songs.

The production here is bright and ear catching, perfect for what the band is trying to accomplish.  With the weather getting nicer out, this is sure to get some rotation on a windows down car ride to the beach. 

Take a listen to it here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Elder - Reflect

Elder was a three piece band from Philadelphia that consisted of some ex-members of Towers and Balboa. This record came out about three years ago, but I recalled it catching my attention back then and figured it would be a good one to spotlight here.
 The sound here sticks to more of the melodic side of things, but can tend to go the fast paced route to keep things from seeming to slow. This contrast is shown as the first track "Empty Lots" rips out of the gates only to give way to the slower, more subdued intro of "Ninos". 

In terms of production the record is very clear and has a very large, layered guitar sound.  The dynamics are captured quite well, helping us to experience the band's plans for their quiet-to-loud transitions.  The dual vocals break things up a bit, with one vocal on the higher pitched/screamy side of things and one lying more with a gruff melodic sensibility.

Tracks like "Empty Lots" and "Evasion" were my favorites here, mainly because I think this band's ability to do the upbeat, melodic composition is much stronger.  I also prefer the higher pitched vocals here as they generated more of a mood of desperation.  All in all, good stuff.

Take a listen here.

Old Gods - S/T

Does anyone think it's funny that just about every band these days is claiming to be "inspired by the Jesus Lizard"?  Is this some new phenomena that just popped up out of nowhere?  I'm not hating on the premise here, but how did the Jesus Lizard all of sudden become the cornerstone of post hardcore? I'm a little baffled. Nevertheless, I'm hearing slow breakdowns and some mildly chaotic guitar work that sounds like a less technical version of something Botch would do.

Old Gods is a bunch of ex-members of bands I've never heard of, with the exception that one of the guitarist was a late addition to the Dillinger Escpae Plan. The production on the record is noisy and dirty, translating an unpolished feel which works pretty well for this style of music. It's mixed nicely, allowing the screaming vocals to sit within the mid gain guitar.  The drums have a pretty big sound, with just a touch of reverb, while some fuzzy bass adds to the foundation of things.

The only track that seems out of place is "Shock Corridor" which tries to do some type of sassy garage rock sort of thing that seems to fall short.  The rest of the tracks are pretty solid if you're looking for something heavy and dirty.  It's nothing new or groundbreaking, but it's done well.

Listen here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hop Along - Get Disowned

This is the newest effort from Hop Along, an indie trio from Philadelphia who have some folk influence in there composition at times, but other times have a larger alternative rock sound. Their female lead vocal is on pitch but maintains a rawness not unlike Ani Defranco at times due to it's quivering characteristics. I find myself enjoying both formats here though mainly because it's done pretty thoroughly with a good deal of thought and planning.

The production is done well, though, the drums have a lot of low end thump to them. I'm not sure if this was done purposefully, but I think the snare could use some brightening up.  Other than that, I really don't have any complaints.

With a few songs breaking the 5 minute mark, these tunes can tend to take you on a bit of journey which break free from a typical verse/chorus formula at times.  There's some beautiful moments on here that left me with chills.  "Tibetan Pop Stars" and "Kids on the Boardwalk" were the standout tracks to me here due to how their lyrics and melodies mingled with the music so powerfully to create such a strong statement. The subtle piano work on "Laments" is worth some noting here for it's contribution to the intensity of the verse.  Definitely some good stuff here.

Check it out here.

Driveway - South Ossetia

Driveway falls into that melodic indie/emo/post hardcore/whatever you call it genre.  They're from Ireland though I couldn't detect any accent within the music unfortunately. 

There are times that Driveway annoys me and other times when they are doing things in a way that makes this melodic style unique and interesting. Most of the parts I don't like fall when this band is keep things more subdued, using their borderline nazzley vocal over some clean guitar.  When things pick up though we get a very nice, warm blanket of distorted guitar that melds with the vocals a bit better.

There are three songs here that give you a taste of what this band can do.  At times the musicanship here reminds me of Mineral a bit. Vocally they have a more modern feel, think something like modern bands such as Balance and Composure. The production is done well and maintains a little bit of rawness to keep this band from sounding a little too polished.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ruined Families - Untitled 7"

Ruined Familes are from Greece and remind me quite a bit of the mid 2000's band Bleeding Kansas. There's a very mid tempo, straight forward hardcore sound here, but perhaps more crushing than usual. The big production and reverb soaked mix carries a large sound with it that may sacrafice a little bit of clarity.

What's presented here is some high gain, hard hitting hardcore that is not without it's variation.  "Voidealism" gives you an interesting melodic detour that comes out of nowhere but still manages to fit in.  "You Will Become Like Your Father" has an intro littered with speed picking and blast beats before it drops back to the bands mid tempo breakdown formula.

The vocals have a mid level scream to them that never goes to over the top. Lyrics seem to focus on not fitting into society in general and feelings of defeat. "Quiet" was the standout track to me for it's intense, melodic ending.  Definitely liking this quite a bit.

Listen to it here.

Calculator - The Roots Grow Deep

Calculator is from California and carry a mid 90's melodic hardcore sound to them.  At times it reminds me of bands like older bands like Julia, Indian Summer and maybe a little bit of Frail (but not much).  They also incorporate a little of that twinkly, noodly guitar sound once in a while.  If you're not familiar with the sound, what you're getting is mid gain guitar over some pretty varied drum work.  The vocals range from a shout to a full on scream and seem to use their dynamics well.

The production quality is a little rough around the edges which I believe adds more to the 90's presentation of the whole package. It varies between sets of tracks though since this seems to be a collection from various recording sessions and releases. You can hear everything pretty clearly on each song, but there's a very untouched and dry sound here. 

This is 14 songs documenting two years of this band's recordings and showing some interesting song dynamics and structures. They have a pretty good knack for keeping the songs moving and active. As expected, you hear some change within the band's development among these two years, so you find yourself liking some more than others. Lyrics seem to stick in the personal realm with some abstract prose. I'd be interested to see these songs played in live setting. 

Listen to it here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Last Letters - From Her and Here

Last Letters is a band from New Jersey that play what one would probably categorize in the "screamo" file cabinet, however this is a bit more on the melodic/emotional hardcore side of things due to it's straight forward tempos. There's a bit of Pianos Become The Teeth/Touch Amore vibe happening here, particular in some of those moments that use some reverb and delay guitar effects.

The production is pretty well executed and professional. All the instruments come through pretty clear.  The vocals may be a touch too high for me, but they seem to be showcased here much in the same way bands of this type have been known to do.

For the most part the band is keeping things mid tempo, however there are a few detours.  The fast beat in "The Future is Fading/The Past is Still Begging" is an interesting break.  Still, the band keeps the mid tempo speed without sounding repetitive or boring.  The dynamics are in all the right places and the guitar melodies do a great job of heightening the urgency and emotion. There's some solid drum work here that also hits in all the right places to convey the songs path. I can see the vocal placement here harvesting a good deal of crowd participation. 

Impressive stuff here.  Have a listen.

Conspire - Demo

Conspire is a new band from New Jersey that play a fast, angry style of hardcore that could probably be "power violence" if the songs weren't so long.  But we we have here is something similar to the recent crop of bands like Full of Hell and others who are playing this dirty style of fast hardcore mixed with super slow breakdowns. 

The production is a bit heavy on the low end and sacrifices some of the clarity in that regard.  You get some pretty angry, strong vocals over high gain guitar riffs, backed by some pretty full sounding drums.

Overall though, this is not a bad package. All the right parts are in the right places to give you an end result that sounds presentable and likeable. There's not much experimentation or musical chances being taken here, but for what it is it's done pretty well. 

Listen to it here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Portraits of Past - 0101010101 (Classic of the Week)

I realized the greatness of Portraits of Past long after they disbanded. These guys came about from the Bay Area of California in the late 90's, at first making music that wasn't all that distinguishable from others in their field. Towards the end of their tenure as a band they peaked and produced something special.  This record is one of those things that comes along, happens once, and never happens again. It's a snapshot of innovation, greatness and perhaps just a case right place at the right time.

Perhaps it's the contrast of bright, clangy guitars playing some dark and harsh (yet melodic) fast hardcore (later adopted by bands like Ampere and Raein) backed by distored bass.  Perhaps it's the steady, but impressively solid drumming.  Perhaps it's the way the lyrics lay upon the tracks.  All the pieces come together here and make something that I can't really compare to anything before it. The song structures here carry an introspective mood to them, where every note has you doing some self reflection.

There's a bit of melodic singing tastefully placed within the darkness too.  You can hear this on pieces of "Bang Yer Head" and "The Control Freak". Standout tracks that had the biggest influence on me have to be "Bang Yer Head" and "Something Less Than Intended". It's nothing short of brilliance here and the dark, melodic style that incorporated pulled off notes and eerie rung out chords were something that instantly permeated my guitar playing.

I imagine putting this record on when I'm in my late 60's and enjoying every bit as I do right now, and every bit as much as I did 16 years ago.  

Download it here.

Martial Roles - 2012 Basement Sessions

With all the readily available, inexpensive digital recording gear out there, why do bands still insist on putting out sub par recordings for public listening?  It's a shame too, because through the bad recording quality you can hear some very promising musicianship. 

Martial Roles play a chaotic, yet melodic style of music that would fit right in among For Want Of, Ampere and Funeral Diner. The drum and guitar work here is very impressive and definitely gives the band a sound that is interesting and attention grabbing.  At times you can hear the guitar taking on that noodly style off pull off notes and twinkly high fret work. The drum work seems to be based in some jazz influence, incorporating a soft to loud dynamic (see "That Tent Was A Bad Idea" for an example of this).

With harshly screamed vocals and quirky song titles, Martial Roles seem to show a lot of promise with these 5 songs.  Maybe they can get it together to get a decent recording quality soon because I think these songs are going to really shine on a proper release.

Listen to it here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Message from Your Author, April Review.

April has seen the blog have a little less activity, mostly due to the fact that I've been playing music quite a bit and also have been asked to review for a couple other blogs (more info on that soon!).  But never fear.  I still have the itch to write and get some music up here on a regular basis. 

Here's what moved me in April:

Joyce Manor - ST
This record took a moment to grown on me, but once I got it I really dug the dirty style that falls somewhere between old Against Me and some of the more creative noodly melodic bands of today. 

Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After
I feel like Pianos Become The Teeth refined their sound, leaving out some of the tedious drone and flashy effects work. This album is more stripped down, but delivers a raw power that I prefer.

Basement - Songs About The Weather
This is just plain good, melodic punk done very well.  You can't mess with it.  It's got all the right moves.

Birds In A Row - Cottbus
After seeing them twice in France and falling in love with their live show, Birds In A Row deliver something similar to Yage and Amanda Woodward with youthful energy and some nice attack.

Ostende - Ciudades De Mimbre
Like Reversal of Man having a baby with Orchid, Ostende do some over the top stuff here.  This is good stuff for fans of chaotic hardcore and interesting to see how a band from Argentina interprets this style.

Nation On Fire - Demo 2012

Nation on Fire is a new band from New Jersey that plays a relentlessly fast style of hardcore, topped with screaming vocals and high gain guitar.  There's moments here that remind me of Assfactor 4 and other times the band is sounding a bit more on the traditional side of things. When they take chances they do it just right and it really brings the band into their own.

The production is pretty nice in translating a desperate mood.  The vocals sit just right in the mix, translating some nice power and not overpowering the music.  The drums have a good amount of body to them and carry the backbone of the production well.

The standout track here is the opener entitled "The Cause". It's fast tempo and discordant, yet melodic, guitar line is catchy and distinguishes this from other bands playing this style.  I didn't find the same characteristics in all the tracks, but let's hope it catches on. "Recycled Graves" shows the band taking a mid tempo, more pedictable style, however the vocals stay as screamy as ever.  It creates an interesting contrast. There's a nice play on dynamics with "AWOL" where the slow beginning guitar sits above upbeat drums.  The song develops to a plot of blast beats before culminating to a mid tempo stomping drum lead.

The band closes up shop with "No God or Man" which seems to be a nice combination of all of their different styles stitched into one song.  Sadly, there's no lyrics available on the bandcamp page, which makes the experience a little less exciting for me.  With the titles of these songs, I would imagine we are in for some interesting social and political commentary from this band.

Check it out here.