Friday, August 29, 2014

Coma Regalia / We Had a Deal - split 7"

Coma Regalia offers three new songs on this split record that stay in a similar camp as their earlier stuff. Though, the band applies some more intensity and perhaps a bit more contemplation evident in some of the slower intro moments and mid paced melodic interludes.  Don't fret, there's still that blistering, high speed scream fest that you've come to know and love from the band included as well.

We Had A Deal take a more heavy hardcore route on their first song, which at times reminds me very much of some early 00's bands like Taken or Codeseven. Other times the band has a more melodic edge that might have you comparing it to some early Modern Life is War or even Verse.  By the second song the band is still keeping you guessing with their clean intro, but somehow pulling it off in a totally seamless way.

Two different bands that totally work together on this one.  Check it out here.

Youth Novel - Turned Around Abruptly Beside a Mirror and Jumped at My Own Reflection

Youth Novel has that young sound that makes me feel like I'm listening to a bunch of guys who haven't yet been destroyed by the pessimism of the world around them.  Maybe I'm projecting a little, but this material just makes me feel like it's 2001 again.

This music has a get up and go quality to it that I'm really enjoying. Melodic guitars with screaming vocals and exciting drums give these songs a feel similar to early Envy material perahps mixed with some On The Might of Princes and Funeral Diner, but with a characteristic all their own.

They recently did a great interview with Open Mind / Saturated Brain, which gives some insight to the band's approach and mentality toward playing music.  Interested to see them in a live setting.

Check it out here.

Crows-An-Wra - Kalopsia

If Germany's Monocrhome had taken a more aggressive approach it would sound something very similar to Crows-An-Wra.  The coherent vocal style and melodic guitar work gives this band a very accessible quality which is mixed with some more interesting screamy chaos.

There's some excellent moments of creative musicianship here which spotlight some 'out of the box' song writing style.  I can't help but be impressed by how well these songs are executed.

Nice sensibility is shown as the guitars switch from dreamy and reverb heavy, to a more focused and aggressive onslaught of full chords. I also hear this pattern in the vocals which lend themsleves to being a great judge on when to amp up the intensity or bring it down.  The female vocals on "Heavy Heads" and "Blossom" are executed beautfully as well (and give this another point in the Monochrome direction).

Check it out here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Watership Down - S/T 7"

This came out back in 1997 or so.  Listening to it now, it sounds like what some of the newer emo bands today are trying to do, except that this is much better than most of those bands.

The melodic/screaming vocal back-and-forth device works for me on this mainly due to the rawness of the delivery and recording. There is an unrefined quality to it that avoids the perfection of today's studio magic and trades it for a sincere capturing of the moment. 

What you'll get here is some melodic hardcore that runs some nice dynamics between quiet and loud in a very effective way.  Close your eyes and picture yourself watching this band in a sweaty basement out in Long Island during the late 90's.

Lost Spirit - S/T

After a long, stressful day you might want to take it easy, put your feet up and listen to Lost Spirit.  This quartet instantly calms my nerves with their subtle and haunting style of indie rock.

Dreamy, reverb guitars swell over restrained drumming while the vocals stay so low key it almost feels like someone is just speaking behind the music at times. It's the soundtrack for sleepy afternoon, but in the best possible way.

Take some of the distortion out of Pity Sex, the more mild vocals from Our Lady and perhaps some guitar work from somber 80's pop music such as the Smiths or The Jesus and Mary Chain.  A good listen for sure.

Listen to it here.

Writing About Myself Shamelessly, Part 3: Instil

I met Justin and Jamie from Instil at a show that Sevin  played in Pennsylvania.  For some reason they thought Sevin was good and we became fast friends.  Sevin was invited to play a house with Instil not far from my hometown.  Instil pretty much stole the show that night.  Jamie's drumming was super solid and hard hitting.  Justin was an excellent frontman who had energy and passion.  The songs themselves were the extremely straight forward, verse/chorus/verse/chorus formula.  However, the way the band played them translated an excitement and energy that was seldom seen.  I guess the best description I could muster is if you took the basic song structure and emotion of Undertow and added the melodic approach of Endpoint, then you would get an idea of what early Instil was putting forth.

Sevin played a bunch of shows with Instil and the two bands became a tight circle of friends.  Within the year I was asked to join Instil as their second guitar player.  This was like a dream come true for me at the time.  The open E chord riffs of Sevin were becoming tiresome and I yearned to play in a band that put forth the emotion and rawness that Instil was doing.  After playing a couple shows and practicing with Instil my mind was entirely done with Sevin.  I moved onto Instil and started heavily playing shows and writing with them.

My second show with Instil was a 3 hour drive to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvannia to play with Grade, Seven Years War, Backlash and some others. It was snowing once we got into the mountains and I had only had my driver's license for 2 weeks at that point.  Driving my station wagon through the snow up steep highways was my introduction to the band's dedication to playing.

After playing the show in Wilkes Barre, a small label called Keystone Ember Records from up there asked us to be on a compilation they were soon putting out that would benefit a domestic violence prevention program in their community.  Jamie had a friend who put us in touch with an extremely inexpensive studio engineer who (I think) was named John (though my memory is hazy on this).  We made arrangements to record with John and arrived to see his makeshift studio in his parents basement. It seemed like John had never really dealt with a band that sounded like us.  He had a great head of teased and feathered hair that reminded of Bon Jovi circa 1986. There were posters all over the wall of Megadeth and Poison.  We recorded one song that day entitled "Lost".  Our guitar player, Rob, got sick halfway through the recording and was puking the whole way home. We sent the song off to Keystone Ember, though never heard anything about the comp (years later a friend of mine showed me the comp, which was a burned cdr in a brown lunch bag).

A great deal of melodic riffs and parts had been building up in my writing.  I started to introduce them to the guys from Instil and we quickly ran with it.  At the time there was a large influx of slightly heavier emo bands like Empathy, Infind, Autumn, Inkwell, etc.  Bands like that we're having a huge influence on us.  As I started introducing these new songs to the band, the older songs began to fall away.  The band's sound was molding into something different and everyone seemed pretty excited about it. The song structures were still very straight forward, but perhaps more focused.

We were playing quite a bit in New Jersey and a small label called Spiritfall Records took notice.  They had just released a friend's band (XBoundX) and approached us, asking about what our plans were.  We were ecstatic and quickly booked time at Third Studio From The Sun in Wayne, New Jersey to record four songs. It was a rainy day and we were running late to get to the studio. We took three cars up to the studio and followed each other closely.  Perhaps, too close. Jamie slammed on his breaks to avoid running a read light.  Jon was driving behind him and followed suit, just barely missing Jamie while sliding.  I slammed on my brakes and slid right into the back of Jon's car, busting my headlamp and Jon's bumper. Not a great way to start out a recording.

We finally made it to the studio and recorded/mixed all four songs in about eleven hours. We were extremely proud of it and couldn't wait to get it pressed. Jamil from Spiritfall Records had come up with this idea to have our name printed on the jackets and then burn a hole in a separate piece of paper so that the name would show through.  It came out in a timely fashion and was met with some positive praise.

Later that year we met and played with a band called Grey Before My Eyes from Orlando, Florida.  They were very nice people and doing a similar style of music, though they seemed to have a more subtle style that included lots of building up from extremely quiet guitar parts.  We thought it was impressive and so did a label called Trackstar Records. Trackstar asked us and Grey Before My Eyes to share a split LP.

Four more songs were written in which we tried to expand on our previous efforts and break out of the straight forward formula.  We totally abandoned the verse/chorus/verse/chorus writing style and I pushed myself to include more sounds and genres into one song.  I was influenced to do this after listening the Cave In side of their split 7" with Piebald, and later the Converge "Petitioning the Empty Sky" 7".  The influence of heavier riffs didn't sit well with some of the members and a line began to form between two parties of the band as to where the style of the music should go.

Those last four songs were recorded, again in about eleven hours, at Third Studio.  We sent them to Trackstar Records, but by the time the record would come out Instil had imploded.  The interest in pursuing different musical styles and the lack of properly communicating ideas had torn the band apart.  We played our last show at the Manville Elks Lodge in Manville, NJ with Endeavor, Ensign, Shift and a few other bands. Some of the material on those last four songs would lay down the blueprint for Justin, Jon and I to form a new band soon after which incorporated a more diverse range of genres.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Vein - S/T

Where did Vein come from? How is this band around and not garnering more attention?  Questions for the ages.

Vein play a brand of angry hardcore that is explosive and varied.  The screaming vocals carry a great power and desperation to them that easily sold me on the band from the beginning.

Musically it seems they're taking some notes from noisier hardcore like Breather Resist.  There's a great mix of noisier grooves coupled with some more straight forward moments.  The balance makes this more accessible to me.

I probably could have done without the third untitled noise track, or perhaps if it was just half  as long and served as more of an interlude.  Also, not sure what the nu metal breakdown at the end of "While You Weren't Caring" is all about.  If you can look past these transgressions you'll find some crushing tunes.

Check it out here.

Yearbooks - See you Next Year

Yearbooks is a Northern California quartet that plays a melodic brand of screamy hardcore not unlike some of the bands the region's past (Under A Dying Sun, Beau Navire and Staircase come to mind).

There's a nice contrast between the low gain guitar shimmering underneath and the screamed vocals; all while the aggressive attack of drum and bass provide the foundation. The band kicks it up a notch at the finale in "We'll Always Have Paris" when the guitar distortion comes up fully for a three chord progression.

If Touche Amore lowered their vocals to a reasonable volume and stopped making every verse'd get something that sounds a little similar to Yearbooks. Enjoy!

Check it out here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Film in Color - To Scale A Mountain

This instrumental trio is from New Jersey and deliver a huge, full sound.  It's sort of like the soundtrack to a very emotional movie with tons of dramatic moments that would have you thinking deeply about your existence.

Delay and reverb soak up the canvas while a nice, huge bass holds a steady backbone together.  The drums are steady and take on a cavernous sound. What the band seems to want to translate here is a huge sound,  and they do it successfully.

You only get two songs, but it clocks at a total almost 22 minutes of music.  Not too shabby by any stretch.

Check it out here.

Anger House - Asleep

To be real, Anger House is kind of sloppy musically.  On a positive note, they make the sloppiness sort of feel right at home and make it work to their advantage.

Here's five songs that fall somewhere between all the Kirsh inspired bands with a hint of early Dag Nasty/Rights of Spring DC sound, and perhaps some Planes Mistaken For Stars. By the time I got to the fifth song I had made up my mind that is pretty genius.

Shouted vocals fall over top of melodic guitars that forego any poppy characteristics for a more a angry and introspective sound.  Drums and bass keep it upbeat and hard hitting.  This band has the potential to promote mass appeal for their ability to subtley encompass a few different styles into one.

Check it out here.

Writing About Myself Shamelessly, Part 2: Sevin.

Right around the time that The Underminded came to an end I was developing a growing interest in the new crop of metallicly influenced hardcore music that was getting popular at the time. Some of the bands that caught my eye were Snapcase, Strife and Earth Crisis.  These bands were probably the most popular of the bunch due to the continued press hype of Victory Records.  I was to find out a few months later that much better and more interesting bands like Groundwork, Unbroken, Threadbare and 108 were out there.

An old friend of mine that I had met through skateboarding was playing guitar for this band called Sevin. They had this metallicly influenced hardcore sound. Apparently they were called Tension at first but had to change their name due to a band from Florida already taking it.  It was explained to me that Sevin was an acronym that stood for "Straight Edge Vegan Information Network".  Bare in mind, my friend who played guitar for them was neither vegan nor straight edge.

They asked me to join the band as the second guitar player. With the exception of my friend who asked me, the other guys in the band were all vegan straight edge, and a bit older than me.  I was 16 at the time and these guys were in their early 20's. Not much of an age difference mathematically, however in terms of life priorities it might as well have been 20 years. It was clear the only reason I was asked to be in the band in the first place was because I was straight edge and vegetarian.

Shortly after joining the band my friend (who had originally asked me to join) parted ways with us.  It was awkward, being this 16 year old kid who didn't really know these older guys. However, it educated me further on the concept of veganism and within a month I had adopted the diet and lifestyle (something I still do to this day).  I'll be forever thankful for that.

This band was my first experience with touring.  Growing up in a middle class New Jersey suburb my whole life, touring to destitute punk houses located in poverty stricken neighborhoods of the mid west was an eye opener.  It made going back to high school and hearing people yammer on about the drama of football games and proms a total joke.

From a guitar standpoint I had to completely change my playing style and tone to better fit this music.  I had no idea people got so much mileage off of a palm muted open E chord. I wasn't extremely thrilled on the limitations of this particular genre and as a musician I tried my best to to make it as interesting as it would allow (which was not very).

I met a lot of people who were claiming "Hardline", which was some sort "back to the earth" philosophy that melded veganism with homophobia, anti-technology and pro life.  I was open to the discussion and, at times, even found myself agreeing with some of the pro life aspects of it through young, impressionable 16 year old eyes.  Though, in the next year I would come to understand that the world was not black and white..and certainly something that was too complex to sum up in the lyrical content of a 3 minute hardcore song. While I still subscribe to both straight edge and veganism, the anthems of those early bands lacked a perspective to consider individual circumstances and situations. I guess that's why they call them anthems. Thankfully, the Hardline movement pretty much faded out of existence after the 90's.

Before coming to an end Sevin played a show out in Pennsylvania one day with 108, Mouthpiece, Abnegation, Endavor, Channel, Introspect, Canon and Arcane.  We made some friends that day who were playing in a band from New Jersey called Instil.  Eventually I would leave Sevin after being asked to join Instil as their second guitar player.    

The band recorded 3 times during the year that I was part of it:

Proving Ground Demo tape/Stones to Mark a Fire compilation
Final Solution Demo Tape
S/T 7" on Militant Records

Here's a bandcamp link to the songs that I could find from those recordings. They're not very good, even by 90's standards, but there they are.