Control, Combative Alignment, and Narcotic Dreams…

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 @ 9:22am » permalink

A handful of people have lodged complaints with me over the past month due to my lack of experimental noise coverage since transitioning out of writing "traditional" record reviews. While the amount of such coverage will indeed decrease (that's life, folks), I assure you that despite periodic lulls in my interest with that realm I still plan to cover all of the same styles of music here as I have in the past (much to the displeasure of those of you who prefer it "rock-based"). So here are a few noise selections that have been winning me over as of late. Hopefully those who complained will enjoy, and those of little interest will open up and give 'em a shot…

Control - The Means to an EndFirst up is "The Means to an End", the latest full-length offering from Control on Eibon Records: Totaling damn near an hour of death industrial/power electronics from this infamous outfit. Perhaps not as blatantly over the top as some of the project's earlier forays, for my money the increasingly obsessive attention to detail and overall range of aesthetics within this material really pays off big time. Look for loads of persistent rhythmic pulses and controlled outbursts of distortion, occasional fits of raging vocals buried under heavy effects, oppressively bleak dark ambient undercurrents, and the cutting of the reigns for enough of a chaotic edge to leave a mark when necessary. The atmospheric tonality of the pieces leaves a little more to the imagination than some such projects, and Control has reached the point where such an approach is flawlessly executed. Furthermore, since Control's own Thomas Garrison is the mastering technician of choice for so many in the noise scene, the sound quality of course kicks ass with a loud and clear (Did I mention loud?) mix that utilizes plenty of sizzle. Also nice is the gloss-coated packaging, which boasts a generally atypical appearance for this style and also includes the succinct lyrics within the booklet (a rare occurrence for this genre indeed).

Control "Execute"
Control "The Survival of it All"

So, if you're a fan of flesh-searing hatred and pessimistic landscapes of miserable depravation, make the purchase:

@ Malignant Records

Combative Alignment - ...And Outside Glows the Red DawnCombative Alignment's first full-length CD release, "…And Outside Glows the Red Dawn", which is also my first exposure to the German project, comes to us from the fine folks at Malignant Records. The disc contains six relatively lengthy selections (titled simply "Part One" through "Part Six") running six to 10 minutes apiece and exploring just the brand of brooding dark ambient soundscapes that I enjoy: Occasional sparse percussive textures and expertly manipulated samples within a core of vast expanses of cascading midrange and low-end rumbles, while eerier tinges of melody lend light musical touches to the sinister atmospheres conjured within. There are a couple of slower moments later in the disc (the vocal manipulations in "Part Five" are a bit of distraction, for instance), but the tracks run together seamlessly and the 47-minute duration actually plays out very well – with some fairly relaxing moments considering the general tone. Within the rather minimal looking digipack are a few scattered English translations of excerpts from poems by German satirist Heinrich Heine, which I assume are suggestive of the inspiration for the material, but whatever the case this is a fluid listen that starts out strong:

Combative Alignment "Part One"

Since the label that released this puppy is also the home of the finest experimental noise distribution service in the US, grab it straight from them if it's your cup of tea:

@ Malignant Records

Narcotic Dreams - ShatteredLast but certainly not least, the newest from the collective record label 804noise is the debut full-length and first proper release from Narcotic Dreams. "Shattered" contains nine tracks in a little under 50 minutes jam packed with relatively minimal dark ambient soundscapes built largely around spiraling wails and cascading ethereal textures that all have a rather tortured sensibility happening. As it should be, this effort marks a bit more of a cohesive affair than past recordings from the project, though not without a few distinct increases in volume and intensity – and the first several tracks actually slip past before you know it! I'd say this material is also a hint more subdued than Narcotic Dreams' live performances due to the apparent absence of vocal work (unless I'm mistaken), so it should be interesting to see how future recordings might more obviously document that aspect of his work. The curiously illustrated artwork remains relatively free of text, making for a nice little package at a mere $8ppd in the US. This is definitely an unfortunately unknown project that I'd hope to see get a little more attention in the future, as this is Narcotic Dreams' strongest document to date.

Narcotic Dreams "Deicide"

As stated, this one's only $8ppd straight from the label, so snag it if you're down:

@ 804noise

Jasta 14 "s/t" 7"

Posted on Tuesday, November 29th, 2005 @ 8:48am » permalink

Jasta 14 - s/tThis Connecticut band (apparently named for some reason after a German WWI air unit) is of course most known for being Jamey Shanahan's pre-Hatebreed outfit, though I honestly never really understood why he reverted to calling himself "Jamey Jasta" since he didn't sing on this 7" – the band's only official release. Go figure. I've only seen old live videos from Jamey's days in the band that suffer from abominable sound quality, so it's hard to gauge where they were coming from at that point in time, but this 7" is fucking excellent regardless.

The second release for Centrifuge Recordings in 1995, I only found about these guys when my college roommate brought this record back from a show of theirs that he had caught in Baltimore, which was probably sometime in 1996. He talked up a storm about the band but didn't have a record player, so we dubbed it down from a friend and I was pretty impressed myself. This is actually a fairly unique sounding 7" for its day, aside from loose similarities to Burn in some of the riffing, so I really wish the band had done more afterwards. Expect a good mix of abrasive screaming over dissonant post-hardcore melodies and lots of dynamic shifts, with some fluid clean passages and fucked up rhythmic twists for good measure.

The tracklist on the back cover is actually wrong, listing the songs on side A in reverse order, while what's tagged as "Life Expectancy" on side B is actually "Frankenstein", as indicated on the lyric insert (this track also appeared on the "Psycho Civilized" compilation CD). All four songs kick ass, and even the unfortunately titled spontaneous instrumental "Pud" is a winner.

1. "Geek"
2. "Scaffold"
3. "Frankenstein"
4. "Pud"

This is of course out of print, but it never seemed to be in high demand or anything. For whatever reason it seems like few ever really caught onto these guys, or at least maybe few outside of Connecticut, so you can probably still dig up a copy in old distro leftovers or score one from a trade list or something.

From the 7" lineup, drummer Todd Zullo is now in some reggae/hip-hop (or whatever) act called the Alchemystics, and guitarist Mick Barr is now in Orthrelm (I can't believe I never knew of this connection before) after a stint with Crom-Tech in the late-90's. Bassist Greg Burns went on to Still I Rise and Last World's Fair, guitarist Rich Neagle was in the punk band Broken for a couple of years, and vocalist Kyle Mullins went on to Esperanto and Boiling Man. I've only heard Orthrelm and Broken, so I can't really speak to much of what any of these cats have been up to in the years since Jasta 14 folded.

I also seem to remember reading way back in the day that several of the band members started another group with a female vocalist soon after Jasta 14's demise and released a couple of live tracks on some compilation that I never got around to picking up. Anyone? If you've got any news there or can hook me up with Jasta 14's demo material, get in touch, because I'm really curious to hear all of that stuff. Thanks.

Down My Throat "Through the River of Denial" CD

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2005 @ 10:50am » permalink

Down My Throat - Through the River of DenialI have Full House Records and Down My Throat to graciously thank for introducing me to the rather impressive metallic hardcore scene in Finland over four years ago with the band's debut full-length release, "Real Heroes Die". It's been far too long, but they're finally back and as strong as ever with their new sophomore effort, "Through the River of Denial". Down My Throat has actually been around for nearly a decade and provides a great representation of one of the staple contemporary hardcore sounds in Finland: Severely burly vocals over crushing midpaced breakdowns and speedier metal riffing that keeps the Scandinavian melody largely under wraps in favor of late-80's/early-90's thrash metal with a modern twist. This is a slightly more melodic affair than the band's past work, not to mention some of their Finnish contemporaries, but it's certainly no less lethal, and still exhibits both powerful and memorable songwriting aplenty – with strong production values and a nice looking layout to complete the package.

Down My Throat "Kiss it Goodbye"
Down My Throat "Lost in the Darkness"

I'm telling you, if you enjoy this style of hardcore you're seriously fucked if you're not into the Finnish scene yet. I've been ranting and raving about the premium quality of the locale's metallic hardcore for almost five years now, and Full House Records has definitely dropped some of my favorite albums from the area. I highly recommend their recent discs from St. Hood, Bleeding Heart, and Cutdown, as well as older gems from Security Threat, Bolt, and Morning After, among others. But there are also plenty of other damn solid bands over there, like Scalping Screen, Worth the Pain, Canvasion, End Begins, and many more. In my opinion Finland really does have the best scene in the world right now for this style of extremely heavy hardcore that doesn't totally turn its back in favor of metal, so if you dig these tracks definitely use the Full House label as a springboard to explore more such bands out of Finland, and absolutely pick up Down My Throat's first CD as well, because "Burn" is still one of the best metallic hardcore tracks ever put to tape!

"Through the River of Denial" should soon be available from Interpunk in the US, but until then you can score it straight from the label, so get to it, boys and girls:

@ Full House Records

Doughboys "Crush" CD

Posted on Friday, November 25th, 2005 @ 8:50am » permalink

Doughboys - CrushOh boy, I can hear it now: All the 90's metallic hardcore fanatics who frequent this site moaning in agony and running for the hills, cursing my name until another burly moshfest hits it home. Tough luck for the weekend, kids, you know I'm a sucker for the catchy shit, and this fucker's about as loaded with hooks as you can get.

Formed in Canada in the late-80's by John Kastner after he quit the Asexuals, the Doughboys released their debut, "Whatever", in 1987, with Kastner bringing along what I believe was an entirely new lineup for "Home Again" in 1988. I don't own everything the band recorded, but their third full-length, "Happy Accidents", is damn solid material, I must say. But that's not the point…

After that it was time for the majors, and so our story really begins with 1993's "Crush": One of the best albums I've ever spent less than $3 on in my entire life, without a doubt. On this record the band somehow exploded out from their melodic punk rock roots into an absolutely perfect blend of pop-punk and total pop rock – taking all that catchiness and tossing in little bits of what could be tagged emo/indie rock or whatever, but the bottom line is that the songs are fucking impeccable, I don't give a fuck what you want to call it! Tell me I'm wrong and I'll tell you you're deaf!

Their stint on the majors ended with the downfall of the band after 1996's "Turn Me On" – a record which one would have expected to kick some serious ass considering the pure mastery of "Crush", but I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. This album was damn near impossible to find when it was first released, and after years of searching, I eventually had no other choice but to pay an inflated import price, so needless to say I was appalled by how incredibly dull the follow-up was by comparison. Trust me, the early shit = pretty good, and "Crush" = fucking phenomenal, but stop there. I've owned "Turn Me On" for probably six or seven years now, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually listened to it. What the hell happened!?

As with some of the other major label wasteland selections I've posted in the past, this classic gem is one of the easiest to find used CD's in the history of existence, despite its officially out of print status. Over the course of the last 10+ years I've seen used copies of "Crush" ranging from $1 – $8 in damn near every record store I've ever frequented, and you can find it literally everywhere online as well. I have no clue why, I guess maybe this shit's too "poppy" for all the chump motherfuckers out there who have to be all hardline-D.I.Y.-underground-all-heavy-all-the-time, but I say ease up on the testosterone, nerds, 'cause this shit is amazing. And who in their right mind could pass up those absurd $0.01 prices!?

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Cortez "Initial"CD

Posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005 @ 4:31pm » permalink

Cortez - InitialThe French label Radar Swarm is without a doubt one of the best labels out there right now – sort of like the European equivalent of Hydra Head at their best in my eyes – releasing consistently excellent records with great looking artwork, etc. Their latest tasty platter is the debut full-length from Cortez, which should certainly appeal to fans of Radar Swarm's quality roster, not to mention those longing for more jams akin to some of Hydra Head's finer moments in acts like fellow Swiss bashers Knut.

This bassless Swiss trio's self-titled demo had potential, but didn't quite win me over. Well, thankfully they've gone and obliterated their prior work with "Initial" (complete with re-recordings of all three demo songs in place). This is wholly ferocious material with just the right amount of cacophonous guitar textures and perfectly subdued melody to provide an eerie sort of undercurrent and keep the material memorable amidst all the scathing screams and dissonant rhythmic pulses. They don't really need a bassist, but I wouldn't be complaining if they had one, as the recording takes some adjusting to on this thing. The drums sound excellent and do a great job of thickening things up, but the guitars could definitely stand for a little more of a dominant crunch to balance out the caustic sort sheen of they've got going on. But fuck it, with songs ranging from 17-second blasts of pure chaos to 10-minute epics that ebb and flow all around, whether they're cramming a lot into a little (see the absolutely superb "Néant" below) or taking their time exploring different avenues, these cats have plenty to work with.

Cortez "Néant"
Cortez "l.M.T.v."

My intense hatred for downloading music is only strengthened by this CD's spectacular looking six-panel digipack with excellent photography and very little text, not to mention a massive 16-page booklet – all of which features a satin finish and little hints of metallic silver ink (all of the lyrics are in French so you're on your own there). It doesn't seem to have hit US distributors just yet, but you can grab it straight from the label or get in touch with them for more information. I imagine it'll be available from Stickfigure or Crucial Blast (among a few others) by early-2006, though. But for now, snag it from Radar Swarm…

@ Radar Swarm

There are just so many killer bands and labels outside the US that are still getting pretty heavily overlooked here, and that's bullshit, so cut it out!

Penfold "Our First Taste of Escape" CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005 @ 12:23pm » permalink

Penfold - Our First Taste of EscapeFor my money, the general genre of emo/indie rock was absolutely at its peak in the 90's, and has suffered a pretty drastic downfall since that timeframe. However, there are occasional outfits that come along and really recapture the affecting power of those classic days, and Penfold was without a doubt one of those select few bands that kept the true aesthetic of that niche alive into the present decade – and created a downright incredible album in the process.

Formed in New Jersey in 1997, Penfold played an incredibly beautiful yet dark, textured form of what I've always referred to as "emo/indie rock" simply for lack of a better term. Technically that is the category that this music would fall into, but it's so much more than that… On the band's sole full-length, 2002's "Our First Taste of Escape", the song structures seem basic on the surface, but there's a great deal of subtle detail and layering underneath. Guitar lines weave together against flighty basslines and fluid drum patterns, moods shift from calm and somber to energetic and oddly catchy, two amazing vocalists seamlessly trade off lead duties without a hitch… it's just wonderful material. Some of the rhythms border on heavy post-hardcore grooves; sporadically a jagged or discordant chord progression will make an appearance; and of course there are tons of smooth, flowing clean passages (at times layered with acoustic guitars or keyboards). You just can't lose, and the gorgeously flawless production and highly impressive packaging simply seal the deal. If you're a fan of related genres this is an essential release, and easily ranks among the finest such records in the post-90's age.

Penfold "The Secret Nine"
Penfold "The Opportune Moment, Fate, Confidence and an Encounter"
Penfold "Our First Taste of Escape"

Unfortunately, Penfold called it a day in 2003, and both their debut "Amateurs & Professionals" EP and the full-length have been extremely hard to find in recent years. I used to get loads of emails about where to get this stuff, and while both CD's were available from CD Baby at one point (they'll allegedly be "coming back in stock soon"), for now? Good luck.

Three of the band's former members went on to form The Morai – who, again unfortunately, just recently broke up after releasing their debut EP (which I still need to grab). What can I say? I really hate the fact that so many amazingly talented bands simply fall apart for whatever reason. This is the hideous world that we live in. At least we have some recorded documents to remember them by.

Killing the Dream and Blacklisted…

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2005 @ 11:42am » permalink

Killing the Dream - s/tI've been sitting on two of the latest from the always quality Deathwish Inc. label for quite awhile now, so I guess this is as good a time as any to give these a shout. I wasn't blown away by Killing the Dream's self-titled CD (which also included their demo), but after another EP that I never got the chance to hear (that being the "I Rewrote It" 7", which was released earlier this year, and three of its four tracks appear here in re-recorded form) this California act really seems to be coming into their own on "In Place, Apart". Though it clocks in at less than 26 minutes, this is the band's debut "full-length": A solid offering that certainly marks a step forward towards greater things, and the Kurt Ballou production certainly doesn't hurt! Expect a slew of raging vocals over a heavily melodic riffing style that flirts with hints of traditional hardcore and plenty of aggression – all crammed into quick songs that average less than two minutes apiece. I've gotta say, the vocals sort of make this band for me, the dude just sounds so furious, and the more in your face and pissed off moments certainly hit the hardest:

Killing the Dream "Sick of Sleeping"
Killing the Dream "Where the Heart Is"

If it suits your tastes, pick it up:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Blacklisted - ...The Beat Goes OnAnother debut "full-length" (I guess less than 24 minutes counts, too?) chock full of short ass tracks comes from Philadelphia's own Blacklisted in the form of "…The Beat Goes On". Blacklisted is a pretty damn consistent band that has yet to disappoint, and this is my favorite material to date from these guys. Look for super pissed metallic hardcore with plenty of chunky midpaced breaks contrasting speedy old school nods that basically all stays true to the classic face of the style – but with just enough of a dissonant edge to slightly differentiate the band from some of their peers. But there's no lack of originality to complain about here, because this shit pounds just like it should with a strong sense of energy and flow, not to mention a bitter attitude that really works for me:

Blacklisted "How Quickly We Forget (Again)"
Blacklisted "Do You Feel?"

You know that shit beats ass, so grab a copy:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Spinewrench "Heeldrag" 7"

Posted on Friday, November 18th, 2005 @ 2:17am » permalink

Spinewrench - HeeldragProbably best known for the artwork he's done for Napalm Death over the years, English artist Rob "Mid" Middleton has been in a handful of killer bands in his day as well. First it was Deviated Instinct, now it's Bait, and in the early- to mid-90's it was industrial/metal act Spinewrench. The band started out as a trio in 1991 and later stripped down to a duo using a drum machine (to solid effect, I might add) around 1992/1993. Their final release hit the streets in 1995, and they called it quits a year later.

I bought this 7" on a whim almost two years ago because I really liked the name Spinewrench, it just has an awesome ring to it, but being the maniacal jackass that I am, I actually procrastinated and never even listened to the EP until last week! That's what happens when you spend so much time writing god damn record reviews, you become a fucking moron and don't even find the time to listen to the shit that you buy! And holy shit am I a huge moron, because this thing rules! Their third 7", released in 1994 on After the Bomb Records, this material offers up a style perhaps comparable to a mix of other UK acts like Godflesh and Optimum Wound Profile, using plenty of jarring textures and a nice acerbic bite to the vocals and guitar tone, not to mention some truly memorable and damn near catchy songwriting. I really need to get off my ass and track down their other work, because if everything they did was about as strong as this EP, then someone needs to step up and release a Spinewrench discography CD pronto, because I can't imagine there's any damn reason for this band to have been so ignored over the years. See for yourself…

1. "Heeldrag"
2. "Green as a Dying Whore"

And as a true example of just how absurdly swept aside this band seems to have been in their day, this 7" is actually still available after all these years for a mere $3:

@ Crimes Against Humanity

Apparently my copy of the Social Decay 7" that I posted earlier this week came without an insert, which truly infuriates me to an immeasurable degree considering what I paid for the fucking thing (and we all know what a neurotic stickler I am about record packaging), so if anyone out there can provide me a decent sized scan of the insert that I can print out, please let me know! I need that insert!

With Honor, Ringworm, and The Audition…

Posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2005 @ 12:03am » permalink

I checked my P.O. Box for the first time in a little over two weeks on Monday (which I think is the longest I've ever gone without checking my mail in the eight or nine years that I've had the damn thing) and was stunned by how much mail I'm still getting. What's more: A damn good chunk of it's actually good, if not great, and at this rate I already have enough shit to post for like six months! So I'm gonna try to start giving posts like this a shot in an attempt to figure out a way to cover a few more records within three to five days a week. Hopefully my abysmal workload at the day job (not to mention my bandwidth) will permit it, but I've been trying to get this shit up all week and it just didn't happen… so who knows?

With Honor - This is Our RevengeFirst up in the better chunk of Victory Records' latest batch of releases is the latest full-length effort from Connecticut's With Honor: "This is Our Revenge". Like their split CD with The Distance, the material herein is more openly melodic, and actually quite reminiscent of the pop-punk infused hardcore of bands like Strike Anywhere, and the songwriting kicks ass to match. I totally love this brand of fast paced, high energy melodic hardcore with all the dissonant little arpeggiated riffs and shit like that, I just eat it up. While I wasn't quite as into that last split CD as I was their earlier work, I'd rank this as the band's best release to date. The kids really seem to fucking love these guys and I can tell why, because there's just something sincere about how they come across, and with these memorable tunes they're really striking the perfect balance between their heavier and more traditional hardcore influences and all of the overt melody they've grown increasingly fond of over the years. Great stuff, it's as simple as that.

With Honor "Like Trumpets"
With Honor "Elevens"

If you like it, fucking buy it:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Ringworm - Justice Replaced by RevengeRingworm has always suffered slightly from being a less than prolific outfit, and when your band releases a benchmark classic like "The Promise" eight years prior to your second full-length, it's no small feat to return to form. But they delivered the goods with "Birth is Pain", and here we are a surprisingly long stretch of four years and a few lineup changes later and they're still cranking out valid material with "Justice Replaced by Revenge". To be wholly honest I can't say this is the band's best material, though my main gripe is simply that the recording suffers from overly prominent vocals/drums and a guitar tone that needs a heavier dose of crunch and additional volume, but I'm loving that fuckin' cover art and the songs hit the mark in terms of blending Ringworm's ripping brand of Cleveland metalcore with a few speedier and more traditional sounding hardcore breaks – all the while with Human Furnace's inimitable vocal presence. Anyone who knows me can tell you that, skepticism aside, I'm always a pretty staunch loyalist to any band that comes from the early- to mid-90's heyday of the Cleveland scene, so you'd be hard-pressed to hand me a Ringworm record that I wouldn't be excited to hear. They're still keeping that era alive, and we need more of that these days…

Ringworm "God Eat God"
Ringworm "Justice Replaced by Revenge"

Now pick that shit up:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

The Audition - Controversy Loves CompanyI'm getting to this weird point in life where I'll occasionally feel like an idiot listening to bands whose members are significantly younger than I am, and the fact that there are a damn lot of those bands out there doesn't do me any favors. Of course, it doesn't really help matters when it's a pretty typical contemporary emo band like The Audition (yet another group that hails from Chicago, which is apparently the mecca of emo), whose sound on "Controversy Loves Company" is pristinely polished and radio friendly. But what can I say? I'm an absolute sucker for a super catchy, well written tune with strong production values. Throw a load of competently executed vocal harmonies in against a good mix of distorted chords and token clean breaks, with the big sing-along choruses, of course, and I'm hooked as long as the energy level tends to remain in the upper echelons. Say what you will, I'm not ashamed, and I even agree with some of the attacks launched against this particular niche of music, but when it all boils down to the songs, I can get into some of this type of material. I haven't really been in the loop with what's "popular" as of late, so I'm not sure where these guys stand on the hype scale, but based on the strengths of this debut album I have to say I'd be surprised were they not to do pretty well for themselves over the next few years. Like any young band's first record there are some lulls here and there, but for my money there's not a truly bad song herein, and at their best they've basically perfected the formula. Yeah, fuck it, this is a good disc.

The Audition "Dance Halls Turn to Ghost Towns"
The Audition "You've Made Us Conscious"

Don't lie, you're not that hard, you dig it, so drop the cash and grab it:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Social Decay "Life's Not Hard… You're Just Soft" 7"

Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2005 @ 12:01am » permalink

Social Decay - Life's Not Hard... You're Just SoftSadly I don't know much of anything about this sorely overlooked New Jersey hardcore act, so if anyone has some accurate information about these guys, please hit me up. Pretty much all I can tell you about Social Decay is that they released this awesome 7", "Life's Not Hard… You're Just Soft", in 1990 on a New Jersey label called Eightball Productions. The end. My copy is missing the insert, so all I've got to go on is the band photo on the back, where they don't even list the lineup or anything. They recorded in May of 1990 at D.A.C. Studios and their sound is somewhere between the heavier, Madball-esque side of traditional NYHC and a slightly more metallic crossover edge both musically and in terms of some of the vocal patterns. The songwriting kicks ass, too (check out the chorus of "Truth in the Proof").

Being 15 years old there are some rough spots to the recording, and I could've probably cleaned this rip up a little more if I had a few spare hours, but… I don't, and it still sounds pretty damn good for its age, so… check this shit out. This record is hard as fuck to find and I had to basically track someone down that had it on their trade list and make them an attractive offer to snag one for myself. Hope you dig it as much as I do.

1. "Dreams or Reality"
2. "Rotate the Tables"
3. "Price of Life"
4. "Truth in the Proof"
5. "Stepped on My Pride"
6. "All I Feel is Pain/Exit"

I once read on some weird Japanese website that this 7" contains a cover song by Locked Up in Life (one of James Ismean's pre-Fury of Five bands) with Ismean handling some backing vocals, but there's no indication of that anywhere on the packaging and I'm not hearing any backing vocals that sound even remotely reminiscent of his later work with Fury of Five, so… the truth is in the proof! If anyone has any information on this speculation, or any further information regarding Locked Up in Life, you know the drill… let me know! Edit: I've got an insert, and this has all been verified as true!

Mindrot "Soul" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2005 @ 11:20am » permalink

Mindrot - SoulI always forget how far back this band goes, but Mindrot formed in California in 1989, coming from somewhat more of a hardcore/punk background and eventually developing a punishing brand of midpaced material that was doomy without being doom. With plenty of thick power chords in tow, contrasted by soft clean passages and distant ambient soundscapes, the band provided just as much vocal variation in terms of singing and speaking working with hoarse low-end shouting or tortured screaming (check out the end of "Nothing" below). Often compared to Neurosis, which is mildly accurate both in terms of general dynamics as far as certain textural similarities with some of the vocal work and song structures and with regards to their darker outward growth from their hardcore/punk roots, the loads of bleak melody and direct lyrical content in Mindrot's material always achieved far more of a personal element for me. So while those comparisons are worthwhile, and also confuse me as to why Mindrot was never more appreciated in their day, they were absolutely their own entity.

In the latter half of the band's existence they dropped two killer full-lengths, "Dawning" in 1995 and "Soul" in 1998 (both on Relapse Records), the latter of which boasts my all time favorite Mindrot track: The brooding masterpiece "In Silence". Sadly the group called it quits very shortly after this record came out when their fucking amazing drummer Evan Kilbourne quit the band to join a horrendously terrible ska act by the name of Save Ferris. Remaining members John Flood and Adrian Leroux were to do some sort of project afterwards, but I'm not sure what happened there, if anything. Thankfully the other ex-members, Dan Kaufman and Matt Fisher, formed Shiva, which morphed into Eyes of Fire – a band that I highly fucking recommend since they basically continued right where Mindrot left off. Check this shit out and tell me these cats shouldn't have been more known seven to 10 years ago, eh?

Mindrot "In Silence"
Mindrot "Nothing"

I wouldn't have expected it, but I guess this disc is out of print? Even Relapse seems to be out of "Soul", and there aren't but so many used copies out there either. So… if for some odd reason you never picked up on these guys, you should grab one while you can:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Does anyone have the early Mindrot demos or 7" material? I never could find any of those over the years. Get in touch if you can lend a hand. Thanks.

Black Crucifixion "The Fallen One of Flames" CD

Posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2005 @ 8:37am » permalink

Black Crucifixion - The Fallen One of FlamesSo this Black Crucifixion CD EP, "The Fallen One of Flames", shows up from Paragon Records (it's on a different label in Europe) when I'm in the midst of a major black metal frenzy, but my insanely finicky nature almost gets the best of me when I open the booklet only to find stupid lineup names like "Blacksoul", "Fornicator", and "Sodomatic Slaughter" – not to mention some of the most retarded band photos I've ever laid eyes upon. Needless to say, I almost refused to listen to this as a result. But after a few days I figured, "Shit, it's black metal… you often can't escape that cheesy shit." So I popped it in. And what do you know? This is actually fairly enjoyable midpaced to moderately fast, raw, old school black metal.

This is actually the Finnish band's 1991 demo, remastered by the band with liner notes reflecting upon the time period. It's basically three tracks with "Intro"/"Outro" ambient selections performed by Holocausto Vengeance from Beherit. A decent chunk of what I've read about this band cites them as an influence on Beherit, but that doesn't really make much sense since Black Crucifixion played their first show opening for Beherit (Among other notables like Impaled Nazarene, Sentenced, and Amorphis – what a first show!), and the liner notes indicate Beherit as "an inspiration and a help in the beginning". Who knows? I prefer the slower and more atmospheric end of the material on this demo, namely the awesome 7+ minute "Flowing Downwards", but since that takes up a huge chunk of the EP I'm not posting that track since I want people to actually buy records.

Black Crucifixion "Goddess of Doom"

Make no mistake, though: Someone should still smack whoever put the fuckin' lame band photo on the back cover of this thing, as it destroys the otherwise tactful aesthetic of the outer packaging. The band even admits in the liner notes that they were "not the devils that they portrayed themselves as" (no shit, just look at the hokey pictures), which is actually a refreshing confession, I respect that a lot, but… shit, man… don't nail the point home at the expense of visual impact, you know?

If you're into this kind of thing, pick it up:

@ The End Records

Apparently the band has a couple of other releases (one of which is also posthumous) that I should probably look into as well. Ahhh, black metal…

Mönster "Death Before Disorder" CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2005 @ 12:36pm » permalink

Mönster - Death Before DisorderWith a lineup that boasts current and former members of Insuiciety, Highscore, A Thin Red Line, Born Dead Icons, The Black Hand, and several others, Mönster is a hardcore/punk band based mainly in Germany – and the umlaut's not all they borrowed from Motörhead. Sabotage Records recently sent me the band's debut CD, "Death Before Disorder", and not knowing what to expect from the interesting slipcase sleeve, I was quite pleased to find a ferocious brand of hardcore/punk with well rounded production values and short, memorable songs. Everything I've read about the band seems to draw the Sweden/Portland parallel, and that does hold pretty true for this form of traditionally crushing D-beat styled material. They've got just the right amount of melody to counterbalance their dirty grit, while messing with a couple of outside influences to give themselves a little more of an identifiable sound (granted nothing that really qualifies as "original"). But hey, sometimes the formula works, and remaining just barely within those confines is what these folks do best.

Mönster "Failed"
Mönster "Warrant"

I haven't been able to find any distros in the US that are carrying this CD, so if anyone knows of a source, do let me know. In the meantime, contact the label if you're interested in picking this one up. Good stuff.

Confusion: 1990 – 1994

Posted on Monday, November 7th, 2005 @ 12:12am » permalink

Confusion - Taste of HateFinally! My first exposure to this brutal yet criminally underrated early-90's metalcore band came from the "East Coast Assault" compilation a few years after it hit the streets. For a ballpark idea of Confusion's sound just think sick chugga rhythms and a sinister atmosphere that leans towards way more crunchy metal than hardcore, with pissed off vocals that really fit in perfectly with the feel of the music. I've been trying to get my hands on this extremely rare "Taste of Hate" 7" (which was released in 1992 on Hardway Records from France) for about seven years now. I radically intensified my search a couple of years ago, and after losing a few sparse auctions on eBay I finally lucked out and won a copy about two months ago for a reasonable price. Coincidentally, the seller just happened to be Inhuman vocalist Michael Scondotto, who I had been in contact with on and off several years ago. Like a true jackass, I didn't realize until looking at the 7" insert that Mike was also the bassist in Confusion! So of course I emailed him right away, and the result is this awesomely detailed account of Confusion's four-year existence. You can check out the tunes at the end of the post…

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to Andrew Aversion for giving a crap about a long dead Brooklyn band that had the nerve to mix NYHC and death metal long before many had even thought of it.

Confusion started in the summer of 1990 as the second wave of NYHC was coming to a violent end. Bands that had initially inspired Confusion (like Killing Time, Breakdown, Sheer Terror, Outburst, etc.) were either breaking up or changing their sounds, and the CBGB Sunday matinees were gone by the fall of 1990. It was also during this time that Brooklyn forged its own scene outside of NYC at places like L'amour and the infamous Crazy Country Club. The bands that made up the Brooklyn scene were Confusion, Patterns, Lament, Merauder, Life of Agony, Darkside NYC, Nobody's Perfect, Judgement Day NYC, and non-Brooklyn bands like Subzero, Dmize, and a bit later bands like Starkweather, Next Step Up, and All Out War.

I don't think by any means that Confusion invented "deathcore" or the idea to mix real hardcore with death metal. One could say that in NYC Sheer Terror may have done that as early as 1985 on their first demo. But by 1991, Confusion had become pretty obsessed with bands like Obituary, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation, Entombed, Death, and Deicide. So much so that NYHC was no longer a part of our sound, but only in our roots and attitude. We were a metal band completely by 1992, hardly even playing the songs on our 1990 or 1991 demos.

In the spring of 1992 we recorded our first and only 7" EP called "Taste of Hate", with the cover art hand drawn by our friend John from Patterns, who went on to become Candiria's guitarist many years later. Candiria was around back then too, but they were a satanic death metal band that didn't even play with hardcore bands until 1994, after Confusion called it a day! The record finally came out in the early fall of 1992. Only 1,000 were pressed and it didn't even sell all that great initially since the band didn't tour and "distros" hardly existed!

Confusion played both hardcore and metal shows, but by 1993/1994 the metalheads were embracing us much more due to how heavy we had become. We were quite popular in the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey due to the fact that outside of the five boroughs of NYC, those were the only places we played. The best hardcore shows for Confusion were the out of state shows and those that we played with our friends' bands in Brooklyn or NYC. But the biggest shows as far as attendance goes were death metal shows. We played with Cannibal Corpse, Disincarnate, Cancer, Unleashed, Incantation, and countless others. I remember one show in 1993 with Deicide, Dismember, and Vader in front of 600 kids in our hometown of Brooklyn at the defunct club L'amour. Glen Benton told us how much he liked us and the Hoffman brothers smoked weed with the band backstage!

Confusion as a band didn't really get along all that well. We fought a lot and there was even a time when I was kicked out of the band for like two weeks, ha, ha! Our lead singer Mike was going off to college in Florida and in the summer of 1994 we decided that we would end the band at the end of the year. Our last show was in December at L'amour with the mighty Deicide, and it was a good one.

In the summer of 2002, original Confusion guitarist and founding member Frank Collins was killed in a motorcycle accident in Brooklyn. A benefit to raise money for his mother was organized by Rich from Darkside NYC and myself and was held in January 2003 at CBGB's. Confusion reformed for the night and played for one time in honor of Frank. It was a sold out show that also reunited Darkside NYC, our "deathcore" brothers. The lineup also included All Out War, Next Step Up, Shutdown, Bulldoze, Subzero, Kickback, Most Precious Blood, Inhuman, and many more. It was Confusion's first time on stage in nine years and it was a lot of fun, but there was no talk of an actual reformation.

Here is an official discography of what Confusion put out. All of these are out of print:

1990 "Four the Force" demo (100 made, possibly less)
1991 "Distorted Visions" demo (200 made, possibly less)
1992 "Taste of Hate" 7" on Hardway Records (1,000 pressed)
1992 "Beheaded Cadaver" compilation cassette (a death metal comp.)
1993 "East Coast Assault" compilation CD on Too Damn Hype Records
1995 "A Call for Unity" compilation CD on Back ta Basics Records

Many people have asked me over the years when a Confusion discography CD would be made and I have no answer. If a decent record label cared enough to offer up the money to get it done, I would do it in a heartbeat and it would have everything on it, including live performances of the songs we wrote but never recorded, which was among our best material. I personally do not have the means to do it myself, if I did it would have happened years ago.

Here is a brief Confusion "Where are they now?"

• Frank Collins (guitarist 1990 – 1992): Became an NYPD detective in the mid- to late-90's and was sadly killed in a motorcycle accident in 2002 at age 28.

• Ralph Canovic (drums 1990 – 1994): I literally have no idea. I haven't seen or heard from him since 1996. He didn't even play drums at the 2003 reunion show. Our friend Dennis played drums.

• Mike Price (guitarist 1991 – 1993): The man who wrote some of the sickest material for the band. Mike lives in New Jersey and still does music on the side. I haven't heard from him in at least a year or so.

• Mike Fried (vocals 1990 – 1994): Lives in Brooklyn. I haven't seen or heard from him since the reunion.

• Pete Melucci (guitarist 1993 – 1994): Lives in Arizona, great friends with North Side Kings and has helped them on recordings.

• Michael Scondotto (bassist 1990 – 1994): I started the hardcore band Inhuman in 1995 as the vocalist and the band is still here. After Confusion, I wanted to return to my musical roots a bit and play NYHC again. I still love all things death metal and black metal and one day the world will hear me sing for a death metal band… I've been threatening that for like five years at least.

I'd like to again thank Andrew for his interest, as well as everyone who ever cared about Confusion in any way. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the bands Confusion or Inhuman, or anything related to the glorious early-90's Brooklyn, NY scene.

Sincerely,
Michael Scondotto
[email protected]
http://www.myspace.com/inhuman
http://www.inhumanlegion.com

So without any further ado, enjoy this killer 7" and give it some of the well deserved appreciation it's been missing over the last 13 years:

1. "Confusion"
2. "A Fatal Infection"
3. "Distorted Visions"
4. "Early Frost"

Huge thanks to Mike Scondotto, both for selling me the Confusion 7", and for the killer write-up. I've tracked down 7"s from other Brooklyn bands mentioned above like Judgement Day NYC and Lament over the years as well, so I'll be posting some of that, as well as some Darkside NYC, in the future… at some point!

Deviant "Larvaeon" CD

Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2005 @ 11:45am » permalink

Deviant - LarvaeonI recently realized that I don't really own as much death metal as I thought I did, and most of what I've held onto over the years falls into the early-90's classics of the scene's heyday. But every now and then a contemporary death metal release will still catch my ear, and Deviant has done so with "Larvaeon".

Deviant is a relatively young new Swedish band that's only been around since 2002, and "Larvaeon" is their debut release – a full-length for The Spew Records – after a self-titled demo CD in 2003. What you'll find here is a good chunk of raging death metal with plenty of blasting speed and low vocal growls, but no shortage of memorable riffs, and many of the songs hit in bursts of fewer than three to four minutes apiece to keep things moving along. The quick lead breaks and generally intense nature of the material certainly points to the old school death metal classics, but they throw in dashes of frantic technicality or fleeting melodic flirtations more at home in the modern age as well – alongside some slower tempos and thick dissonance that really hits the spot with me. So overall this record achieves a strong balance that should appeal to a wide variety of death metal fans.

Deviant "Immaculate Rancidity"
Deviant "Larvaeon"

Dig it? Then buy that shit:

@ Relapse Records
@ Willowtip

Stompbox "Stress" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2005 @ 10:13am » permalink

Stompbox - StressFor some reason it's pretty damn hard to dig up much information on this defunct Boston band. Formed in 1991, they released a set of recordings called "Travis" a year later (I've seen this referred to as both a demo and an EP, I don't know the deal there), and their sole full-length, "Stress", dropped in 1994 on Columbia Records. Within a couple of years or so, vocalist Eric Thaler quit the band and the remaining trio allegedly changed their name to Slower. Members have since gone on to perform with Milligram, Placer, Chevy Heston, Juliana Hatfield (Huh?), and even… the Blue Man Group!? Go figure.

I just can't figure out why this record never caught on at least a little more, either. It was heavily promoted at the time – you couldn't go to any damn record store without getting loads of Stompbox sampler tapes/CD's, stickers, etc. And hell, it sounds pretty much exactly like Helmet at their peak, just with more of a rock 'n' roll flare – thanks in large part to the uniquely gruff vocals. Do the math: A lot of Helmet, a little grunge, the mid-90's… what was the problem? I don't know. Helmet had blown up two years prior, so maybe Stompbox just missed the boat on the whole super staccato rhythm thing. Fuck that, though. These songs are totally solid and the production on this fucker is pristine: Perfect for that ringing sort of textbook post-hardcore dissonance, not to mention a killer bass presence.

As with many other wrongfully shit upon records relegated to major label wastebaskets, "Stress" is one of the cheapest used CD's in the history of mankind, and has been for quite some time now. If you can't find this disc for significantly less than $5, you're not looking very hard. I don't know what the fuck would possess someone to sell a CD for a measly .31 cents, but… you know my mantra: People are stupid. So eat up, boys and girls:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Detonation "Portals to Uphobia" CD

Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005 @ 9:39am » permalink

Detonation - Portals to UphobiaHere's another that I've been meaning to give a shout for a couple of months now since it really took me by surprise. Osmose Productions is a label that has never consistently impressed me by any means, so when a CD from such a source shows up with rather typical "mystical" looking abstract artwork, a lame band logo, an extremely plain band name, and a rather nonsensical album title… it's hard not to expect the mundane, you know? But thankfully that's not at all the case here.

Formed in 1997 in The Netherlands, Detonation really struts their stuff on "Portals to Uphobia", their second full-length effort, with a rather excellent set of tunes that brandishes a great mix of melodic death/thrash influences with top notch dual guitar harmonies and just the right amount of technical flare to keep you on your toes. It's nothing particularly out of the ordinary at its core – expect fairly standard snarling vocals, fits of tactful tremolo picking blended with classic thrash picking patterns within ample tempo changes, and a Scandinavian knack for intriguing chord phrasings and melodic trappings, not to mention various characteristics of several other Dutch acts as well – but it all boils down to powerful songwriting, and that's what places this band far ahead of the pack.

Detonation "Into Sulphur I Descend"
Detonation "The Source to Delve"

These guys seem to be drawing many comparisons to Dark Tranquillity, but that's inaccurate, so don't let that fool you. They're not leaning too heavily on the Swedish sound at all, and only warrant ties to that niche based on its massive prevalence within the metal landscape these days. I've seen Detonation getting a fair amount of rightfully positive reviews for this album, so hopefully they'll start to get a little more concrete attention to boot. The disc's only $11 from the US distributor, so have at it if you like what you hear:

@ The End Records

And here's another one for you…

So, I bought the new Subzero record a couple of days ago (it's good shit, of course, look into it) and it comes with some sort of Stillborn Records "Hardcore Street CD" sampler or whatever. Well, lo and behold, there's a fucking damn solid Bloodclot track on the thing!?

Bloodclot "Revolution"

Now what the hell is that all about!? How can the almighty Cro-Mags' own John fucking Joseph (and more than likely a damn strong backing band) go and record a track without a peep of information out there to be found about their activities!? No website (their URL is just a damn placeholder page), nothing. I can't find a shred of information about this band or what they're plotting, and I need more. So if anyone knows anything, hit me up.

Also, fucking Deathwish Inc. sold out of their mere 100 copies of the god damn Integrity "Palm Sunday" live LP in one fucking day, so I missed my shot. I've spotted it in a couple of overseas distros, but I don't know how reliable they are, so if anyone knows a trustworthy source where I can buy this stinkin' LP, please do let me know. Thanks. Inanely limited edition vinyl drives me nuts.

Turmoil "Staring Back" 2xCD

Posted on Tuesday, November 1st, 2005 @ 1:11pm » permalink

Turmoil - Staring BackFor whatever reason, I was never a Turmoil fan. I guess I could probably chalk it up to my finicky ears often having a tendency to (at times unfairly) hold less-than-stellar recordings against solid songs, I don't know. There was a time when I owned their debut full-length, "From Bleeding Hands" (in fact, I've owned it twice), but I sold it for the second and final time many years ago and never looked back. But when this double-CD discography (plus three brand new tracks) from Abacus Recordings showed up a month or so back, something funny happened: Turmoil finally hit me.

These Philadelphia bruisers started out more than 10 years ago, and this retrospective actually marks my first exposure to 1999's "The Process Of…" (their final full-length release at the time), which is chock full of fucking awesome tracks and a slick set of production values that smokes their earlier work by a landslide. Though, admittedly, there are some killer tunes throughout the band's back catalog (in all these years I've never forgotten how raging a moment it is once the vocals kick in during the intro to "New Media"). This heavy and discordant form of metalcore with smatterings of post-hardcore melody and minimal flirtations with the more angular and chaotic side of the genre is honestly very Deadguy-ish to my ears, so I can't exactly call it the most original thing in the world, but I have to confess feeling like an idiot for having overlooked the quality of this material in the past. These dudes have demonstrated some great songwriting that manages to pull plenty of feeling and atmosphere into the mix, and that's where most bands of this nature tend to fail:

Turmoil "The Locust"
Turmoil "New Media"
Turmoil "Pinstripes & Neckties"

And you know the drill, fuckers. If you like it, buy it. Two CD's for $11 – $13, so how can you lose?

@ Relapse Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Start looking for the blog to (hopefully) be updated on a more regular basis starting now. I know it's sort of halfassed as opposed to writing actual reviews, but it's a lot easier (read: less time-consuming) and a lot more fun to do write-ups like this and post a few tracks for people to check out and comment on (At least sometimes, you slackers!) than it is to spend an hour writing an overly thorough review that I'll never hear a peep about. For the time being I'm not writing any reviews for the regular site, so I'll be mixing up the old and the new here in an effort to give a shout to some of the best shit that's crossed my path lately that I had originally intended to review more fully on the main site before I smacked the wall and burned the fuck out. Such is life…

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