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Cro-Mags "Revenge" CD

Posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2005 @ 9:39am » permalink

Cro-Mags - RevengeLike many, I used to be the kind of person that, once a band strayed too far or sort of wore out their welcome, I wouldn't pay an ounce of attention to anything new that they did. So even though I always fucking loved "Alpha Omega" when I was a kid (an album that is widely condemned as the death knell for the Cro-Mags), and still do to this day, I never really listened to anything the band released after that. Of course, playing into that was the fact that the lineup drama that was going on was totally confusing, and admittedly "Near Death Experience", the follow-up to "Alpha Omega", is simply not a very good record (though make no mistake, I own it). But above all, the fact of the matter is that "Revenge" came out in the year 2000 – more than a decade after the band's last acceptably good album (by "popular standards"), "Best Wishes", and seven years after "Near Death Experience". So… who gives a shit, they're "washed up", right?

Wrong.

Here's the thing: A few years ago, quite some time after "Revenge" had originally hit the streets, it hit me… the Cro-Mags are one of the greatest fucking bands in the history of mankind, and I am obligated to own everything they've ever recorded. Period. End of story. The next thing you know, "Revenge" is mine, for the whopping grand total of about $2 – shipping included. And what do you know? I fuckin' love this thing. Sure, sure, there are some immature lyrics that are a little hard to swallow, and yes, this is but a pale shadow of the band responsible for legendary hardcore benchmark "The Age of Quarrel". You can't look at it that way, though. The band name's the same, but it's not really the same band, you know? And at the end of the day, the songs are still really good, so who cares if it sounds totally different? There are still some fast hardcore tracks that flirt with their earlier days, even though most of the stuff is much more melodic. Plus… shit, man, "Without Her" is so god damn catchy… I just can't ignore that kind of songwriting mastery. And yes, those are the blazing leads of ex-Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George that you hear all over the place. So how can you go wrong? I listen to this CD all the time, seriously. It's really fuckin' energetic.

There was a time when you could find brand new copies of this disc for a buck literally all over the place, as I guess it suffered from a lot of people maintaining the same narrowminded opinions as I did prior to my grand reawakening. You can still grab it for next to nothing though, and if you're a cheap bastard and you keep scouring eBay you'll surely find one for a dollar or so from time to time. But if I knew then what I know now, I'd gladly have paid full price. Don't fall prey to the trap of what is and is not "cool" to listen to:

@ Half.com
@ eBay.com

Systematic Death "Step" 7"

Posted on Monday, April 25th, 2005 @ 10:41am » permalink

Systematic Death - StepFirst off, I definitely do not own an actual copy of this extremely rare gem. Released in an almost criminally low run of 300 copies (never repressed) in 1988, this fucking goldmine of Japanese hardcore brilliance was actually given away for free according to all of the information that I've encountered. In my narrow and limited opinion, I view this 7" as quite possibly the best Japanese hardcore/punk release of all time. Regardless, the title track, "Step", is definitely the single greatest Japanese hardcore song ever. No questions asked. I defy anyone to play for me a better song. Their overall still may be your basic blast of fast and endearingly raw hardcore, but the songs are just super fucking catchy and energetic, so you just can't get enough of it. All of their material that I've heard is solid, but this particular EP is the cream of the crop and I love all 10 minutes of it. The only reason I have the songs is thanks to a bootleg CD called "For the Punx and Thrashers" that I picked up from good ol' Vacuum distro many years back. As usual the bootleg has some incorrect song titles and is a relatively shoddy affair (it also didn't have their flexi on it, just the two other EP's, the LP, and some compilation tracks), but shit, I tend to take what I can get with this stuff, you know? I've also seen this EP referred to as the "Muryo Haifu" 7" instead of the "Step" 7", but I'm not really clear on what the deal is there. Either way, the fucking songs kill. Eat up:

1. "Step"
2. "Sink You"
3. "T.O.K.I.O."
4. "Read on Speed"
5. "Gamble"
6. "Bad Boy"

Split Lip "For the Love of the Wounded" CD

Posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2005 @ 10:32am » permalink

Split Lip - For the Love of the WoundedBe not misled by the mildly unfortunate band name, as moshy hardcore is something that this outfit never offered (thankfully), despite what such an initial moniker may suggest. No, in fact this Indiana band is responsible for a few of my favorite records of all time when it comes to the general spectrum of emo/indie rock. What started out as a somewhat typical (Straightedge?) hardcore band that was mediocre at best quickly blossomed into something so much more. Their debut full-length, "For the Love of the Wounded", solidified them as an incredibly talented group, whose use of melody, emotion, and a very creative sense of songwriting (comparable to none, in my opinion) kept them only at the loose peripheries of the hardcore scene – making for what is definitely an underrated classic of the emo genre in the process. Their second effort in 1995, "Fate's Got a Driver", was a bit more popular in its slightly more laidback and rocked out style. An absolutely brilliant album, no question, but I'll never forget how blown away I was by "For the Love of the Wounded", which remains my favorite to this day.

At some point post-1995 they re-recorded some of the vocals and guitars and reissued "Fate's Got a Driver" under the more fitting band name of Chamberlain (in my opinion the Split Lip version of the disc is better, though), signaling significant changes to come. I caught the band live sometime after this initial spark of change and was absolutely horrified by what had become an extremely John Cougar Mellencamp sounding direction, and over the course of a few more albums and some lineup changes they definitely lost me along the way. Though I have to admit, I still own every one of their records, and with time I've grown to appreciate 'em all. At the same time, however, those last few years of activity under the Split Lip banner were absolutely stunning, and remain among my most cherished listening moments. Every song on both of those records is a keeper, which is definitely saying something considering the variety exhibited throughout.

Split Lip "Show and Tell"
Split Lip "Division Street"

Luckily this one's still really easy to grab. If you do, worth noting is that there are tons of fuckups in the layout. The song "Box" that's listed in the booklet and on the traycard isn't on the CD, nor is the song "Hat" whose lyrics appear in the booklet but is absent from the tracklist, but there is an amazing untitled (and unlisted) acoustic instrumental, so screw it:

@ Very Distribution
@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Realm "Suiciety" CD

Posted on Monday, April 18th, 2005 @ 12:10pm » permalink

Realm - SuicietyDespite what many may choose to believe, thrash metal is, has been, and always will be my absolute favorite genre of music. And when it comes to the technical, progressive side of the genre, few gems have gone as overlooked throughout the years as Realm's sophomore effort, "Suiciety". In addition to boasting one of the best album titles ever, it's also a killer record that's chock full of flamboyant riffing, ridiculous leads, more than ample complexity, and the kind of generally over the top approach that has made so many of these albums stand the test of time – much like their contemporaries in the slightly better received Toxik (who I'll undoubtedly honor here at some point in the future). I don't know much about Realm, though. Their seemingly brief run yielded only two records ("Endless War" in '88, this one in '90 – both on the almighty Roadracer division of Roadrunner Records), but beyond that… who knows? I'm not even sure I care, because despite an oddball recording in which the bass is almost louder than the guitars (which is sort of cool since the bassist is a fucking madman), this is simply a classic record – far better than their debut, I don't care what anyone says. And that's all I need to know! "The Brainchild" is simply among the best progressive thrash metal songs ever. Period. And look at that classic logo, that obviously-this-is-thrash cover art… you simply can't go wrong. Sadly, both of Realm's CD's are way the fuck out of print, so you can't really find them for fair prices. I overpaid for both of 'em because I'm a nerd and once I set my sights on something, mine it shall be. Although, if you prefer vinyl, chances are you can scour eBay for cheaper copies of the LP's from time to time. Happy hunting.

Realm "The Brainchild"
Realm "Cain Rose Up (Scream Bloody Murder)"

Two bands, two mysteries: Struggle Within and the Rainmen

Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2005 @ 10:46am » permalink

Alright, I'm a sucker for 90's hardcore. Get over it. I love that shit. In my opinion "East Coast Assault" and "East Coast Assault II" were the best compilations of that entire decade when it comes to ridiculous metallic hardcore. Yeah, there were some weak bands here and there, but there were also some completely overlooked contributors that blew me away only to vanish without a trace. To this day some of the bands on "East Coast Assault II" are absolutely fucking awesome, though it remains a mystery as to whether or not some of them ever made it past this double-CD collection. (You can now buy both of the first two ""East Coast Assault" compilations as one 3xCD set from Very Distribution, among others – pass on "East Coast Assault 3", though.) Among them: Struggle Within and the Rainmen (both from New York). I had never heard of either of these bands when I got this compilation in 1997 and I've never heard a word about them since. Contrary to many jokes made at my expense, I still say that both of these bands were incredible, and I'm dying to know if they recorded anything other than the few songs they tossed onto the first disc of "East Coast Assault II". To me, Struggle Within's brand of metallic hardcore with just the right amounts of rock and metal sounds sort of like Bold circa "Looking Back" meets Turning Point circa their split with No Escape – you just can't lose there, folks. All three of their songs absolutely rule. On the other hand, the Rainmen are just a catchier version of straight metallic hardcore with raspy vocals at times reminiscent of early Cro-Mags material. "At All Cost" is somewhat mediocre, but "Inside" is a stellar tune from start to finish. See what you think. And if anyone knows anything about these bands… please, please please fuckin' email me, as I have searched endlessly for years and come up with squat. Did they ever record other songs? Did any of these dudes end up in other bands? Anything? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Struggle Within "Doldrums"
Struggle Within "Longer Than Life"
Struggle Within "Leave it Behind"
Rainmen "Inside"
Rainmen "At All Cost"

Chinchilla "101 Italian Hits" CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2005 @ 9:54am » permalink

Chinchilla - 101 Italian HitsI'm changing things up a bit with this one, but I fucking love this band so I hope that at least one god damn person will get into 'em as a result of this. Chinchilla was an all-girl group out of San Diego in the mid-90's and released a few EP's followed by their one and only full-length, "101 Italian Hits", in 1996. Their style was somewhat tied to a little bit of what was going on in that general vicinity at the time, but in my opinion their brand of twisted and eerie indie rock is entirely original and comparable to very few, if any. I don't know what it is, but I really like the way they use every instrument as an individual piece of the larger puzzle, and everything falls together perfectly in the end. But for whatever reason, in my experience: No one ever knew who the fuck this band was, no one liked 'em, and only one person that I've played them for in nine years has agreed with me that they absolutely kick ass. Maybe it's the fact that they were an all-girl band and ignorant fuckwads were less open to that at the time? Maybe it's the fact that they ended up on the Crisis Records division of Revelation Records at a time when it was considered "cool" for hardcore purists to despise the label for branching out? I don't fucking have a clue. But this record is amazing. Bottomline. I've been made fun of for liking this band on many occasions, but I wholeheartedly stand by my claims.

Sadly, I can offer little insight as to where the band came from or where they went. I know that some of the members had previously done time in Prader Willies and Drip Tank (if anyone knows anything about Prader Willies please shoot me an email, 'cause I can't find shit), and the former drummer's website is here, but that's all I've got. Let me know if you happen to know anything else, I'd appreciate it.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite tracks from the full-length:

Chinchilla "Tall"
Chinchilla "Sqeeze Machine"

If you like it, buy that shit. As with most overlooked gems you can find it for dirt cheap because people are simply dense:

@ RevHQ
@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Cold Blood "1987 demo"

Posted on Friday, April 1st, 2005 @ 9:50am » permalink

Completely unrelated to the last post but coincidentally tied by name, you can download the entire 1987 demo from Cold Blood thanks to this cool Hirax fan site. Any fan site that goes to such lengths gets two thumbs up in my book, period. I don't know much about this band other than the fact that the majority of their lineup was culled from dudes who played on the early Hirax records, but it's thrash metal from 1987, what more reason do you need? And with classic song titles like "Malicious Violence", which could never be mistaken for anything but an 80's thrash song, you simply can't lose. Let the games begin:

1. Disillusioned
2. Engines of Progress
3. President Elect
4. Malicious Violence
5. Mercenary

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