Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2012 @ 6:06pm » permalink
For what I think is only the second or third time in a little over 12 years, I'm going to take a hiatus from the site. It's been a tough decision because this time it feels like it could end up being a permanent thing, but I need a break. On the one hand, I don't really want to quit, so I might surprise myself and miss it, but it's also felt like more of a chore lately, which has been frustrating. I'm well aware that as my quantity has drastically decreased over the years, the quality has diminished to some degree as well, so lately I've started to realize that this site is essentially "just another blog" now, and unfortunately I don't have the time or energy to make it "something special" again. I've always kind of assumed I would just keep going and going, but longevity alone isn't necessarily worth striving for. I just need to step away for a bit and see what happens.
That being said, I'm grateful to everyone who has ever submitted something for review (even if I didn't write about it), sent me an email (even if I didn't have time to respond), posted a comment, or just come back and read what I've had to babble about for so many years.
Rot in Hell/Integrity "Black Heksen Rise" split 2×7"
Posted on Saturday, February 4th, 2012 @ 12:00am » permalink
At this moment in time I can think of no better combo for a split than Rot in Hell and Integrity, compliments of Thirty Days of Night Records. I mean, this must be right up there with the Integrity/Mayday split in terms of absolutely perfect, wholly appropriate pairings. Rot in Hell kicks things off with the crunchy rhythms, droning lead melodies, scathing vocals, and scorching solos of "Erebus"; before a stark change of pace via "Life Becomes a Desert Around You" – which utilizes faint singing underneath a repetitious lull of acoustic guitars, violin, and sparse percussion. Surprisingly epic. They never fail to impress, and these are two of their finest tracks to date, without a doubt. Integrity then follows with "Waiting for the Sun to Burn Out My Eyes", which transitions seamlessly into "Black Heksen Rise". Both compositions see the band's trademark sound permeated by somewhat more of an obvious Japanese hardcore influence (more so in the former) through raw, driving power chords; explosive solos and crazy tapping runs; pounding midpaced breaks with just the right amount of eerie melody; etc. These concise and explosive EP's have found Integrity cranking out some of their fiercest and most powerful material as of late, and I'm all for it.
The records are housed in a black and white gatefold 7" sleeve with an 11-page booklet secured to the inside of the right panel. The last two pages contain lyrics and such for the Rot in Hell and Integrity tunes, while the remaining nine consist of a cryptic, essentially text-free "comic book" of Dwid's trademark illustrations and obscured, textured graphics. The second 7" is billed as "a caustic narrative of the book read aloud by Dwid Hellion", but it's really so much more than that. Its three tracks/11-and-a-half minutes strike me as a combination of Roses Never Fade and early Psywarfare with some additional twists. First up is an alternate recording of "Waiting for the Sun to Burn Out My Eyes", which adds whispered vocals and faint wisps of distortion to the acoustic version that appeared on the "Thee Destroy+ORR" CD. "Process of Prayer" then follows with lightly distorted spoken passages mixed right in against ominous, faintly melodic low-end drones. The flip side contains the 7+ minute "Where Does the Fire Come From", consisting of half-whispered/half-spoken vocals amidst lurching dark ambient swells and crunches of distortion, not to mention barely audible acoustic guitar and assorted other abstract textures. Excellent.
Before I was finished with my first complete listen this set had already worked its way into being one of my favorite splits of all time. It's just that good. Here's a little proof thanks to YouTube (check out snippets from the second 7" through Amazon.com or iTunes):
After a lengthy pre-order phase, just a few copies remain (directly from the bands). I'll be shocked if they don't sell out soon, so you'd be foolish to sleep on this. For everyone else, it's also available digitally…
Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Trip Machine Laboratories comes this vinyl reissue of Most Precious Blood's six-song demo from way back in 2000. The digital download also includes the band's cover of Slayer's "Necrophobic", the original version of "So Typical My Heart" (their last recording with Tom Sheehan on vocals, from early-2003), and a 33-minute live set recorded at CBGB's in 2002. The core of the release is the demo, which contains six short songs (all under two minutes) of unique metallic hardcore that draws from a wide range of influences – where you've got tracks like "The Knot", with its slightly more discordant take on fast-paced traditional hardcore; the midpaced post-hardcore dissonance of "Carry the Lantern High"; and the rhythmic grooves and winding bass runs of "Song of Siren". "So Typical My Heart" is my favorite track, though. A little more melody but still really heavy, raging energy… it's just an incredible tune. As expected the live set has pretty raw sound quality, but it's fairly listenable considering. When they're running full-on the guitars can get lost a little bit, but it's not bad. The set consists largely of Minor Threat covers with about 10 minutes of Most Precious Blood material towards the end. The sleeve contains old photos, lyrics, and brief song explanations for the six tracks from the demo, plus some liner notes by Tom Sheehan, reflecting on his time with the band. Good stuff. I hadn't listened to Most Precious Blood in a while when this showed up, and I've been reminded that I should really pull out their albums more often…
As mentioned above, the vinyl includes a digital download with tons of bonus material. The 7"s are limited to 1,000 copies in various combinations, and clear/black haze and straight black vinyl are still available…
Posted on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
"What a Plague You Are" is the debut LP from Providence, RI's Weak Teeth (released by Flannel Gurl Records and Tor Johnson Records), offering up 11 songs in about 24 minutes. I guess you could refer to this as weirdly aggressive melodic hardcore with emo/"screamo" leanings. It's interesting because there's something about this material that really does possess that early- to mid-90's D.I.Y. emo/"screamo" vibe, but there's more to it than that, and the more I listen to it the more unsure I am of how to accurately describe it. After "With Love, From the Great War" (a pretty epic intro with acoustic guitars, samples, and spoken vocals), for the most part the tracks revolve around fast-paced and high-energy chord progressions with some loose/jangly riffing here and there, while the vocals tend to stick with strained yelling. Almost every song runs less than two minutes, but then closer "Blue Skies, Shit Life" all of a sudden shifts to 9+ minutes – combining the band's usual fare with slower, plodding instrumental passages and more musical exploration. Despite the often sarcastic song titles the lyrics are always serious, and the band definitely comes across as sincere and heartfelt. Whatever you want to call it, it's really, really good. I'm not saying enough here, but… listen for yourself and see what you think. I, for one, am glad that bands like this still exist in this day and age.
We are completely alone. Trace the end in our fossils, nothing to blame but our need to fuck over and feed. Fiending, buying, occupying. You're dead already, walk around. You're suicidal and depressed. Convince yourself you're not a mess, you're nothing. We are animals thinning out the herd. Non-biological germs. Man is a virus as far as the earth is concerned.
The LP is available on green or black vinyl, or you can grab mp3's for just $3…
Posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
This relatively quick 26-minute split LP (Which I believe was self-released by the bands?) sees Salt Lake City/Provo, UT's Maraloka (featuring current and former members of God's Revolver and Parallax) teaming up with Denver, CO trio Cannons. Maraloka kicks things off with three tracks of generally somewhat sludgy, slightly rocked out, essentially "metal" (but not in a particularly traditional sense) material with strained shouting/yelling vocals. The tracks are built largely upon solid riffing with just the right amount of melody, but I'm especially excited about the awesomely dissonant "Thechne", which heads in a different direction that strikes me as comparable to a more restrained and straightforward Parallax (anything even remotely reminiscent of Parallax is a very good thing). Awesome. Cannons then follows with four tracks that fall into sort of a noise rock meets "screamo" type of approach. Expect loose, angular riffing; a hard-hitting and dense bass presence; plenty of tactfully hectic percussion; and vocals that combine shouting, screaming, speaking, and arguably little hints of singing. I'm not very historically informed regarding this general approach, but it's something that always catches my ear when done well, and as far as I'm concerned Cannons' take is absolutely top-notch. Both bands utilize similarly rugged yet balanced production values that work quite well for their respective deliveries, so that's another plus. As usual I'd definitely like to hear more from both bands, so I'll have to keep an eye out for more down the road…
The vinyl is limited to only 220 copies, so act fast if you'd like to get your hands on a copy. Or, you can just score mp3's for a mere $5.
Posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From A389 Recordings comes "End of Time", the debut EP from Montreal, Canada's Enforcers (featuring former members of A Death for Every Sin and Final Word). Expect six tracks of unstoppable metallic hardcore that seems to be highly influenced by the late-80's/early-90's golden age of NYHC. Gruff vocals over chugging midpaced rhythms, fast-paced power chords and thrashy picking patterns, a few flashy leads and the occasional clean break, etc. The finest moments kind of come across with a "Best Wishes" meets "Urban Discipline" kind of vibe (and obviously that's fuckin' great), with a more straightforward and modern vocal approach, and of course contemporary-styled production values, too. Everything's clean and crisp, with super crunchy guitars and an absolutely massive bass tone. Good stuff. As with many bands of this nature they're clearly not trying to break new ground, but if you can nail the formula this well and so effectively capture such a classic sound, there's no reason to potentially fuck it up with experimentation or outside influences. I'm sold.
If for whatever reason you're not interested in a physical copy, it's just $2.50 for mp3's from the label, so… get to it.
Posted on Monday, January 30th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
The latest from Finland's Throat (released by Kaos Kontrol) is the two-song "Pee" 7" – offering up about eight more minutes of their superb and sinister noise rock. Expect dense, winding bass runs; "skronk"-laden riffing with just the right amount of odd melody/dissonance; dashes of searing feedback; lightly distorted vocals that veer from snarled shouts to fairly aggressive screams; etc. As with all of their releases the production is aptly rugged and nicely accentuates the texture and atmosphere of their approach, while the cover art has a really strong visual aesthetic as well. I hate to keep it so brief, but there are only two songs here and I've written about this band a few times in the past, so what more do you need? Longtime fans of this style should really flip out over this band, man. You just can't lose with these guys. The first two tracks below are samples from the 7":
The vinyl's limited to just 330 copies, so don't sleep on placing an order if you're interested…
Posted on Friday, January 27th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From a whopping five cooperating labels (Ash From Sweat, Carucage Records, Lilla Himmel, Ödebygd, and strictly no capital letters) comes this succinct split 7" offering up one track apiece from Wits End (Norway) and Perfect Future (Maryland). Wits End kicks things off with the nearly six-minute "Wounds" and its loose, jangly, angular riffing and frantically shouted/screamed vocals coming from all directions. The production is even rawer and more stripped down than their past efforts, with a slightly thin, distant ruggedness to it. Perfect Future then follows with an untitled five-minute piece of their own, which is shockingly similar in both style and production values. The vocals toss in a hint more variety (a little bit of singing, etc.), but both of these bands are basically as authentic as you can get in terms of nailing that classic "emo" sound of the early- to mid-90's. You know, the bands that were bursting blood vessels from screaming so intensely at 12 people in a filthy concrete basement in the middle of nowhere, selling unmarked black 7"s with nothing but a screenprinted piece of cardboard out of the back of a busted-up van after the show. If you have fond memories of those days, you should totally flip out over this stuff. I'm always looking forward to more along these lines…
The vinyl is limited to a mere 350 copies, so make the grab while you still can…
Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
"Moonchild" is the self-released sophomore EP from Stockholm, Sweden's Morito Ergo Sum, unloading four lengthy tracks of moody doom in 31 minutes. It seems a little strange to name an EP after a cover song (the title track is an interpretation of a King Crimson tune), but… hey, whatever works, 'cause this is some very promising material, and I really dig the overall sense of balance the band achieves. The compositions are built around slow, pulsing tempos without crawling along at a snail's pace; the production's got a good sense of warmth without relying on that 70's kind of sound/influence (great bass presence, too); everything feels nice and heavy without coming across as forced or oppressive; and the somewhat restrained, monotone singing doesn't go the over-dramatic route, either. There's something very natural about the atmosphere of the whole affair. Toss in some tactful added strings (Violin?), chilling clean passages, and sleek melodic leads (which get surprisingly energetic on occasion), and you've got yourself a winner. Nicely done…
Posted on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
I believe "I Want Nothing" is the debut EP from Lowell, MA's My Fictions (released by Flannel Gurl Records), blending a number of different influences amidst its five tracks in 20 minutes. I guess you'd say they're building upon a base of melodic/metallic hardcore with a pretty significant "post-rock" edge and some "screamo" tendencies. There are a few surprisingly chunky rhythms; bursts of frantic speed with hectic drumming; shimmery tremolo picking with light effects; and some dark, somber clean passages. Three of the four band members contribute vocals, most of which are various degrees of screaming, at times layered for added effect. As a whole this material is certainly more crisply recorded and tightly performed than most bands that flirt with a "screamo" type of aesthetic, however. "Fortune Teller" even cranks out some of that zippy alternate-picked riffing that always catches my attention, though opener "Same Grave" is by far my favorite of the bunch. They're working with a good sense of energy and emotion throughout, and those are always the most important factors for any band operating within this general realm. Very cool. I look forward to hearing more…
The 10" is limited to about 150 on black and about 50 on grey, and vinyl copies include a digital download. If you don't care about physical product it's available as a free download, too, so… definitely give this a shot!
Posted on Friday, January 20th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
"Tear Up the World" is the sophomore full-length from Synarchy (released by Tutl Records). I don't typically write about stuff like this, but I have to say, were it not for Synarchy's extremely isolated locale (the Faroe Islands), I can't help but think their Soilwork meets Lamb of God type of approach would be incredibly successful. The writing does lean pretty heavily on the melodic Swedish style, though they don't fall back on the bouncy dual guitar harmony thing too often, which is a plus; and while I'm not a keyboard fan their presence herein works out just fine as far as I'm concerned. And as a whole this is incredibly well-played and tight, with great production. I mean, this album really does sound just as high-quality and professional as anything In Flames or any of those bands have released in recent years. The only minor downside is that the songs are generally too long. It's a 10-track album that runs just over an hour, so… they're averaging six minutes apiece, and a few songs run more towards seven to nine minutes. I'm certainly not against long songs or anything, but were they to trim the fat and keep things moving the energy level would remain at a higher level throughout, and the overall impact would probably be more significant as well. They've got a real knack for fusing staccato rhythms with flashy technical runs and melody, and the way the sneering vocals veer into a half-sung delivery for a lot of the choruses is also just great. I don't really keep up with a lot of what's going on in terms of the bigger metal bands these days, but, fuck… get these guys on a label like Century Media or Nuclear Blast or something. They should be much more known than they appear to be at present. This is very promising material…
I'm assuming it's somewhat complicated to get your hands on an actual CD here, so it's great that the band has made the album available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp. Awesome…
Posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
The latest from Ape! is a two-song 7" EP released by SRA Records. I can't really pin down Ape!'s sound other than to say they're a "heavy rock band" – "heavy rock band" being a very generic and potentially misleading phrase, I realize. There's a good amount of thick, heavy riffing with a tinge of sludginess happening; nice, subtly distorted bass runs; sparse vocals tucked right into the mix alongside the instrumentation; and super fuzzy, rocked out leads that border on being somewhat chaotic, really. The core of "And We Wait" actually reminds me of Only Living Witness, though, which is in fact a very fucking good thing. That being said, the entire EP runs less than seven minutes, so it's over in a flash and I'm not really sure what more to say here. You probably ought to just stream both tracks below and make the call yourself!
In addition to the physical copies, the tracks are available as a name-your-price download on Ape!'s Bandcamp, so you can't lose there…
I Stared Into the Forest "Society Discontinued" CD
Posted on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Fading Halo Records comes this six-song, 15-minute EP from Romanian act I Stared Into the Forest. To my ears this feels like kind of a weird fusion of "screamo" and grindcore. The vocals are gnarly, strained snarls (with a few distant spoken passages buried in the background from time to time) while musically they're dealing with a lot of dissonance and peculiar arrangements. Expect dense, churning chord progressions loaded with atypical note choices and noisy, angular textures; tremolo picking with quick bursts of blasting percussion; and – perhaps most importantly – some unexpected dashes of somber melody that add an entirely different dimension to the mix. I Stared Into the Forest definitely strikes me as one of those intriguing bands that manages to create a familiar sound that can't be immediately pigeonholed into one genre or another, and is actually not very straightforward at all. I've not seen a physical copy of the CD firsthand, but based on the photos it looks to be housed in some old school DIY packaging consisting of a screenprinted chipboard sleeve with one xeroxed insert for each song (containing lyrics and explanations). Good stuff. Stream the entire album below and see what you think:
CD's are available for just 5€, and all involved parties have been kind enough to throw the EP up as a free download, too, so… there's no excuse not to give this a shot!
Now Denial/Get Laid "Hungrier Than the Wolf" split 7"
Posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Get Young Records comes this split 7" from two Massachusetts bands, Now Denial and Get Laid. Now Denial kicks things off with two tracks of… well, I don't know what the hell you'd call it. Weird hardcore/punk/rock with unusually stripped down production values. There's barely any distortion at all, and I'd actually say the vocals are the most aggressive element. "Wasted Lives" definitely has more of a driving hardcore/punk feel with its faster pace and catchier vocal arrangements; but it, too, has its moments of generally uncategorizable something-or-other. It's a good match, really, for Get Laid's self-described "thrashy weird punk", which first impressed me about two years ago. Their three tracks seem to be gravitating towards an even more angular and noisy form of "thrashy weirdness", with a fast-paced core and a raw, loose playing style that adds some discordance and grit to their delivery. Now Denial is probably the oddly heavier of the two, while Get Laid is… just… oddly odd, maybe? I don't know. I really like 'em, though. Stream the entire split below and see what you think. The first two songs are Now Denial, the last three are Get Laid:
Vinyl purchases include a digital download, and the physical copies are limited to just 300 copies (100 on black, 100 on red, and 100 on clear ).
Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
"No Hope, No Escape" (released by Purgatory Records) is my first exposure to Glasgow, Scotland's By My Hands. The 7" offers up three tracks and is crammed with about eight minutes of absolutely awesome metallic hardcore in a straightforward 90's style. Expect essentially nothing but chugging midpaced rhythms with just a little bit of moderate speed, brutal breakdowns, gruff vocals, and so on. I guess you could say their approach leans ever so slightly towards a "beatdown" type of angle, but they're not really as over the top as most bands of that nature. In terms of aggressive, metal-influenced hardcore that doesn't venture into full-blown metal territory, it doesn't get much better than this. Are they breaking new ground? Nope. But who gives a shit!? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I'm all over this, and would love to hear more from By My Hands. I'll have to check out their prior releases for sure…
This one's not available for sale just yet, so keep an eye on the label's webstore. Pre-orders should be up any day now with an official release date slated for next month…
Posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
"Transylvania" is the debut 7" from Cape of Bats, limited to just 500 copies (200 on yellow vinyl from Holy Terror Records and 300 on black vinyl from Grim Winds). Described by the labels as "four tracks of vampyric punk black metal hailing from the forgotten glens of Ireland and the depraved outskirts of Philadelphia", I was unsure of what to expect here, as my only previous exposure to the band was a Danse Macabre cover on the "No Peace/War" compilation. That being said, the whole punk/black metal fusion description actually makes sense to me. The super raw production values and pounding midpaced rhythms with ringing, dissonant chord phrasings certainly say "black metal" to my ears (there are some of those nice, crawling discordant runs and a few dashes of raging speed in there, too); while the overall energy and the snarl of the vocals have a little more of a hardcore/punk type of feel (and there are a few explosive chord progressions throughout that lean more towards that whole angle as well). The packaging has a cool visual aesthetic and the inner sleeve contains an essay by Dr. Robert Curran about Abhartach, one of the earliest recorded vampire legends whose grave is believed to reside in northern Ireland, so… there's definitely a theme here. Good stuff. If the idea of rugged, (musically) traditional black metal infused with a little primal hardcore/punk seems like a good idea to you (And why wouldn't it?), definitely give this a shot. You can stream both sides of the 7" on Soundcloud and see what you think:
The Canyon Observer "Chapter I: The Current of Her Ocean Brings Me to My Knees" CD
Posted on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
From Kapa Records comes "Chapter I: The Current of Her Ocean Brings Me to My Knees", the debut EP from Slovenian act The Canyon Observer. Expect four lengthy tracks in about 30 minutes of brooding, post-rock influenced metal that builds upon lots of pulsing bass and shimmery clean passages. It's interesting to note that the heavy segments aren't so much louder and more aggressive than they are just thicker – it's like they're utilizing a really full, gritty density instead of oppressive distortion to achieve the contrast, which is kind of an interesting touch. Vocals are somewhat sparse, but when present they're generally gruff, guttural screams obscured by light effects. A little bit of droning, monotone singing appears in the background from time to time as well. "Our Universe, Written in Blood" is the standout track for me. Something about the transitions weaves this piece together more fluidly and accentuates the ominous atmosphere that lingers throughout the EP. This is a solid debut from yet another promising Slovenian band. The scene over there really seems to have a lot to offer…
Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink
The latest from Take it Back Records is "Knowledge of Self", the new six-song, 20-minute EP from State of Mind (from The Netherlands). This is my first exposure to the band and their style of heavy, lightly metallic hardcore that's also balanced out with plenty of rocked out, post-hardcore melody and groove. Expect a lot of surging midpaced rhythms accented by cool little winding dissonant riffs (check out the start of "The Quest", especially) and really unique vocals that present an unexpected combination of yelling and singing that doesn't really sound like either yelling or singing, if that makes any sense at all. It's a quirky approach, and somehow there's even a bit of a grungy type of vibe to the overall aesthetic of the material. (The more I listen to it the more it starts to remind me of Hard Response, too.) Not having heard the band's prior material I'm not sure how this compares, but it's certainly an interesting direction, so I'll be curious to see where they run with it moving forward. Good stuff. Stream the entire EP below and see what you think:
As should always be the case, vinyl purchases include a digital download, so… pick one up if you like what you hear!
Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink
I have no idea what the hell an "amulance" is (if anything), but Aurora, IL's Amulance released one full-length, "Feel the Pain", on New Renaissance Records in 1989 before presumably fading into obscurity (it was re-released on CD in 2006, and they released a new EP in 2010, so I guess they've reunited). I had never heard of the band before, but a few weeks ago a friend (who had also just discovered 'em) sent me an email and suggested I check out this album. And I'm glad I did, 'cause this is some outstanding traditional heavy metal that reminds me of something like a ballsier (Dickinson-fronted) Iron Maiden with less pomp. Expect strong singing with plenty of soaring high-end wails, superb riffs and melodies, slight thrash leanings, scorching solos, and a killer bass presence – all balled up within a generally high-energy songwriting framework that can do no wrong. I hate it when I keep it so short, but I don't even know what else to say, you know? This is the real deal: Straight up, no bullshit heavy metal that's authentically anthemic and catchy. If you're a fan of classic, old school metal that embodies all the traditional aspects of the genre in fine form, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this record. Highly recommended…
As is so often the case with such underrated gems these days, you can't really find physical copies for particularly reasonable prices. Thankfully, the album is available digitally all over place (as is "The Rage Within: And the Aftermath" collection, which compiles their 1986 demo with six otherwise unreleased tracks) – an act I wish all comparable bands from the good ol' days would follow!