Katatonia "The Great Cold Distance" CD

Posted on Friday, April 28th, 2006 @ 11:24am » permalink

Katatonia - The Great Cold DistanceThis is not a "review" of Katatonia's latest Peaceville release, "The Great Cold Distance"… and I am somewhat insane… and this post will probably reveal that on several levels. Oh well. Lately I find myself joking around a lot about the fact that I might actually hate anyone who doesn't like this band. That's an exaggerated and ignorant statement, I know, though of course it's in jest, but at the same time… there's a certain illogically functioning portion of my brain that truly cannot fathom the possibility that there are actually people out there that find no value in Katatonia's music. It should really come as no surprise since I feel that the vast majority of human beings are worthless, but what can I say? Over the last 10 years (I didn't discover them until "Brave Murder Day") Katatonia has steadily grown to become my favorite contemporary band, in addition to securing a firm position in my all time top five. I've undoubtedly listened to these guys more than any other band in the past couple of years, and I've listened to this record at least once a day almost every single day since I bought it (the day it was released, of course). That's quite a feat considering that I have one of the worst attention spans in the history of existence, and it is extremely rare for me to find a band that I can listen to so frequently without burning out on 'em.

I'm not posting any full tracks from this record because there seems to have been an oddly tight grip on the promotion of the release and I don't want to piss anyone off, so I'm attempting to use rather brief snippets of a few tunes to win some of you over since there are simply too many amazing songs herein – and the first single, "My Twin", while damn good, is not at all the best track on the disc. In fact, I'm not even really going to talk much about the music, because the production and everything is just flawless, I'm just going to let the samples speak for themselves to those of you unfamiliar with the band, because I don't even know how to describe them at this point. Sure, they're a "metal" band and it's "dark" or whatever, but… there's just nothing aside from listening yourself that accurately portrays this music with the proper magnitude. Upon my first listen "Soil's Song" and closer "Journey Through Pressure" were the only two tracks that really killed me ("Soil's Song" is still easily my favorite, and ranks as one of the band's finest moments to date), but within a few days' time it became increasingly clear that there are a number of incredible tracks here – they just take a little time sink in. It's just all about the feel with this band, there's something about the emotion and atmosphere of their music that hits me like no other band whatsoever. Everyone should listen to this band at least once. Everyone.

Katatonia "Soil's Song" (excerpt)
Katatonia "Journey Through Pressure" (excerpt)
Katatonia "July" (excerpt)

Now, Katatonia is insane on many levels – beyond that of being insanely awesome – and one of these is their tendency to relegate inconceivably brilliant material to B-sides on singles and whatnot. The fallout of this unfortunate (but ultimately tolerable) circumstance results in various collection sets that are jammed full of unnecessary album tracks rather than putting out one ultimately comprehensive (and affordable) compilation of all of the band's non-album B-sides and rarities or what have you. And sadly (though, again, ultimately tolerably), I have to profess that in my opinion the most grievous sin of all has been committed with the first single EP ("My Twin") from "The Great Cold Distance", because the B-side track "Dissolving Bonds" is one of the most masterful compositions in Katatonia's history and absolutely should have been on the album itself. The single is worth its price for this track alone, and here's another quick sample to prove it:

Katatonia "Dissolving Bonds" (excerpt)

I really think Katatonia should be fucking huge, because non-metal fans could be all over this even more so than many traditional metal listeners. So buy the damn album:

@ The End Records

And if you enjoy the "Dissolving Bonds" sample (How could you not?), buy the single as well, which also has another unreleased track and a "remix" of sorts:

@ Amazon.com

I have this borderline nonsensical expression for certain bands where I say that they make me feel like I want to live and die at the same time, which, as weird as it might seem, is pretty much the highest compliment I could ever pay them. There are only a handful of bands that I've experienced in my lifetime that have hit that level, and Katatonia is right up there. I'm not even kidding when I say that at this point in time if I had to pick only one band to listen to for the rest of my life, Katatonia would be it.

Maximum Penalty "Demo '89 & East Side Story" CD

Posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2006 @ 11:52am » permalink

Maximum Penalty - Demo '89 & East Side StoryAwesome. It looks like I Scream Records strikes again with another badass re-release from a relatively underappreciated act in Maximum Penalty's "Demo '89 & East Side Story". Admittedly I've never been much of a Maximum Penalty fan. I saw them live once or twice in the mid-90's around the time of their first full-length and thought they had an energetic and individual sound, but I never really looked into their recorded material for whatever reason, so it's great that this disc has allowed me to see the error of my ways…

One thing about this band is that I'm always surprised when I learn new facts about 'em. I was pretty stunned when I first discovered that their unique (and talented) vocalist Jimmy Williams (perhaps best known to some for his contributions to Skarhead's "Game Over") had actually once drummed for anarcho/crust punk legends Nausea, and now with this re-release I've learned that the band actually started up in the mid-80's, which I never knew. Since their first proper release didn't come out until 1994 I've always associated them more with that whole era. According to the I Scream website, Maximum Penalty recorded three demos between 1986 and 1989 before that first proper release, which was the "East Side Story" EP – appearing on this CD along with their 1989 demo. However, the brief liner notes (lyrics are also included, which is a great touch) almost make it sound like the '89 demo was the band's first, so I'm a little cloudy on the actual facts in the early Maximum Penalty timeline.

That's no big deal, though, because the important thing is that this is more than likely some of the band's strongest work. While they blended their hardcore with somewhat more of an open and rocked out/melodic direction during portions of the 90's, the 1989 demo maintains their unique vocal flare with a harder-edged attitude, and the music is chunkier and significantly more metallic all around – flirting with hints of the type of crossover flavor that one might expect given the time period. Apparently some of the material from 1994's "East Side Story" EP was leftover from the 1989 demo, but musically and vocally the band's development is very much apparent, with an eerier melodic tinge to the delivery of the singing as well as more variation in tempo and melody in the riffing (expect a little post-hardcore dissonance, for example). Very cool all around.

Maximum Penalty "Time Flies Fast"
Maximum Penalty "Distressed"

I'm all about these kinds of releases and I hope I Scream continues down this path from time to time. More people need to start digging up overlooked classics like this and throwing 'em back out there, for sure. Well done. Definitely pick this shit up if you're into it:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Boris "Pink" CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 @ 12:08pm » permalink

Boris - PinkI'm no expert on Japan's prolific and always unpredictable Boris, but I've always felt that I enjoy their earliest work a little more than anything else (granted there are a number of records in their rather extensive discography that I haven't even heard). I think a part of that has stemmed from the fact that when it comes to the sludgy, drone-centered kind of thing there's only so much I can take without getting bored – I just have a terribly short attention span. So, while I still feel like my favorite Boris material came at the start, I was pretty shocked by the diverse and much more lively direction that they're taking on their latest Southern Lord release, "Pink", which plows through everything from relaxing cascades of melodic drones coupled with monotone singing to grittily pulsing 70's psych rock with a twist. The prevalence of so much vocal work alone comes as a shock (As does the fact that on the other hand some of the coolest songs herein are instrumental – or close to it!?), but the fact that several of the more rocked out tracks are practically straightforward in their stripped down attack is certainly not what I had in mind. None of this is to say that they've abandoned a certain degree of ragingly fuzzed out noise or throbbing low-end pulses, but the end result is 11 tracks in just about an hour that range from fewer than two minutes to more than 18 minutes. So, while there are a couple of less interesting moments, there are also some true winners that hold your interest while proving that the band's constant experimentation with their delivery can and will strike gold.

Boris "Blackout"
Boris "Woman on the Screen"

This disc isn't officially out until mid-May, but the label's already selling it. All the diehard fans probably already knew that, but for everyone else:

@ Southern Lord

Procer Veneficus and Manes…

Posted on Monday, April 24th, 2006 @ 1:42pm » permalink

Procer Veneficus - Ghostvoices"Ghostvoices" (released by God is Myth Records) is my first exposure to Procer Veneficus, and I know very little about this project other than the fact that the sole member calls himself Night and is apparently based in California. However, despite the fact that the band seems to be tied to the ethos of black metal in some way (Perhaps some of Procer Veneficus' past musical exploits were more in that vein?), this entire record is based entirely around soft acoustic guitars, strained whispers, and resonant dark ambient lulls that you'd more likely expect to hear coming from some bleak, distant Scandinavian forest or something – as opposed to California!? A cover of Velvet Cacoon's "P.S. Nautical" is included, and though I've never heard the original I'd assume some liberties have been taken since the performance herein fits in perfectly with the style exhibited throughout all of Procer Veneficus' original material. This really is quite a quiet disc, which fits, and considering the literal contents of each composition it really couldn't be much louder regardless, but you'll definitely find yourself turning things up more and more to maximize the atmosphere of the listening experience:

Procer Veneficus "Greengrey Waters"

I don't stumble across much of this stuff but it's surprisingly relaxing in some of its chilling aesthetics, and I can really appreciate the stripped down simplicity to the guitar melodies, etc. If you feel the same way, look into picking one up for yourself:

@ God is Myth Records
@ The End Records

Manes - ViewThe "View" EP on Aural Music is the latest release from Norway's Manes, who have taken somewhat of an Ulver-esque road from their primal black metal roots to their more dynamic and open present, in which spacious electronic smatterings mesh with more organic instrumentation behind intriguingly dramatic singing that often drives the melody of the material. This particular EP seems like somewhat of a stopgap in that it only includes two wholly new Manes tracks interspersed with three remixes of "Terminus a Quo/Terminus ad Quem" from "Vilosophe" (one from DJ Don Tomaso, two from Cordell Klier), the opening 16 Horsepower cover ("Cinder Alley" – I've never heard this original either but this treatment is absolutely awesome), and another track indicated as having been "somewhat inspired by Duran Duran" – to the point where the credits almost seem to treat it as a partial cover song. The result, however, is seven cuts in a little over a half-hour, so there's definitely plenty of substance. Of course the core Manes material carries with it the real strength here, and I'm at the point where my interest in remixes tends to be dwindling unless they're extremely high quality, so… while the three contributions herein are certainly decent (I'm not sure If I prefer Tomaso's more musical stance or Klier's sparse and glitchy ambience), they're neither as interesting nor as forceful as the original works. Though in all honesty the band's truly excellent cover of "Cinder Alley" is actually my favorite track herein!

Manes "Cinder Alley"

I was quite blown away by "Vilosophe" when I first discovered Manes, so I imagine I'll always be following their future work based on my respect for their curious experimentation alone. And I feel that those open-minded enough to appreciate their forays beyond the realm of black metal should do the same. This EP is limited to only 999 copies (Huh!?), and given the nature of these things I'm certain it will sell out at some point, so… don't sleep on it for too long or that might be all she wrote:

@ The End Records

Occupied Territory (DMS: The Prequel.)

Posted on Thursday, April 20th, 2006 @ 11:54am » permalink

Occupied TerritoryWhen I posted about Dmize awhile back all of the comments that came in got me digging around and I was actually able to track down a demo and a live set from Occupied Territory, who was cited in those comments as having truly been the first DMS band, a few years prior to Dmize. The band was fairly short-lived (I'd estimate somewhere within the span of 1986 – 1988 based on what facts I've acquired, but I'm not entirely sure of a specific timeframe) and recorded three demos, none of which were widely circulated, and two of which weren't technically "released" at all. The first demo was recorded boombox-in-a-basement style and was basically only distributed through friends, while the third and final demo was completely unreleased. The second demo, from 1987, was called "A Start", and that's what I was able to track down, though I don't know any recording details. I spent hours splicing this into separate tracks and cleaning them up as best I could (and that all goes for the live tracks as well, which actually seem slightly more balanced), but it's still quite raw. Hey, what can you do, you know? (Note: I took all of the song titles from the live set, so the opening demo track, "Intro", may be improperly titled. Edit: The song titles below are correct, though both the demo and live set mp3 tags will need minor corrections if you're as picky as I am!

1. "Intro"
2. "Number 1"
3. "We Ain't Complaining (N.Y.C.H.C.K.)"
4. "Peace One Day"
5. "Things That Are Real"
6. "Grandma's Angry Garage"
7. "Nothin' But Lies"
8. "Babylon"

The live set was recorded on WNYU radio, and I'm guessing it was sometime in 1988 since the band sends shout outs to Raw Deal and Outburst before the second track ("Number 1"). I believe Outburst started in 1987 and Raw Deal started in 1988, though it's possible that this was before Raw Deal had recorded their demo, so there's a chance the live set could be from sometime in 1987 as well. Again, I'm not entirely sure. In that same segment of the set, vocalist Eddie Mergan (aka Gyro, who also sang on the "A Start" demo above and was the band's second frontman) mentions "the crew at 145", which is an early reference to what became the DMS crew, as 145 refers to the school park at IS145 in Jackson Heights, NY where they would all hang out at the time.

1. "Peace One Day"
2. "Number 1"
3. "Nothin' But Lies"
4. "We Ain't Complaining (N.Y.C.H.C.K.)"
5. "Babylon"
6. "Things That Are Real"
7. "Grandma's Angry Garage"
8. "Eightball"
9. "Blunt"

Apparently most of the former members of Occupied Territory have been relatively hard to come by since the late-80's, so I don't think they were involved in any other bands afterwards.

I don't know the name of the kid who hooked me up with these tracks, but many thanks to him for helping me out, and thanks to Al DMS for taking the time to hit me with some background information. If anyone by any chance in hell has the cover art for this demo and can send me a scan, please let me know. Thanks. Edit: Huge thanks to Hilary Neloms for the cover scan!

Enjoy… I'm not posting again until Monday because I just threw over 30 minutes of music up here and I don't want my bandwidth to absolutely die!

Angel Eyes and Rollo Tomasi…

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2006 @ 1:56pm » permalink

Angel Eyes - Something to do with death.I've been coming across a surprising amount of misleading material lately in terms of what appear to be short EP's turning out to be mammoth full-lengths chock full of some pretty punishing material. That can definitely be said of the Underground Communique debut from Angel Eyes, "Something to do with death.", whose mere four tracks clock in just shy of a whopping 50 minutes! The Chicago quartet does its damage without a bassist, but one member handles keyboards and samples to fill out the sound – though honestly the thickness of the recording and its totally natural sounding mix really work well to mask the absence of bass guitar, so I hadn't noticed at all (It actually sounds like there is bass at some points!?). There's only one song fewer than 13 minutes long, and a good portion of the material is instrumental, where plenty of spacious clean sections build into pulsing distorted rhythms with an overwhelmingly sinister aesthetic (though one that's not without its tactful melodic attributes) and loads of twisted feedback swells. But when those sick screaming vocals do kick in, deep back against the instrumentation, they definitely make their mark. I can also appreciate the bleak, straightforward lyrics: Passages such as "I wish life was like a movie; two hours and it's fucking over…" certainly fit the tone of the material quite nicely. I really think this band should definitely do the trick for many of you… this is just some seriously tortured sounding shit, I'm really into it.

Angel Eyes "By the time he was my age, Orson Welles had made Citizen Kane." (excerpt)

The above mp3 seems pretty damn loud to me, and I'm not entirely sure why, though I did use different means than usual to create it, so… if I screwed something up then "oops" or something? Whatever the case, you know how it goes. If you like it, please buy it:

@ Interpunk
@ Relapse Records
@ Stickfigure Distribution

Rollo Tomasi - Work Slow Crush FoesAnother Chicago outfit on Underground Communique, "Work Slow Crush Foes" is the first full-length from Rollo Tomasi, following their debut EP. This is some pretty interesting material that blends a hint of angular and hard-edged indie rock type of stuff (in more of a DC-ish or Amphetamine Reptile way than what most people are going to think of as "indie rock") with driving post-hardcore rhythms and some unexpectedly catchy and more openly melodic or rocked out moments that almost remind me of Seaweed at times. Those chunks of memorable riffing and vocal work really hook me into this album, because upon the initial listen I really wasn't expecting many of those moments to present themselves, but the songwriting's quite effective in that regard. And it's also worth mentioning that these guys have somewhat of an individual approach going on as well, because even though several reference points are immediately noticeable, the end result is still sort of sitting on its own playing field. This is also another that boasts an excellent recording that's clear as shit with a great bass presence hovering just behind the aptly crunchy and dissonant guitars and the warm percussion – allowing them to get just noisy enough when they want to, but without sacrificing any sense of cohesive control from a performance standpoint. I'm all over that guitar tone, which is just perfect for what they're doing. I also find these cats to be working with some well written lyrics that have sort an abstract flow. The contents are clear enough to let the listener glean meaning, but even the socio-politically tinged material has an open-endedness to it that really works nicely. Good stuff.

Rollo Tomasi "Advanced Automation"
Rollo Tomasi "My Limbs"

Same as always. If you're into the tunes, purchase the disc for yourself:

@ Interpunk

Subtera "Apocalypsed" CD

Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2006 @ 1:59pm » permalink

Subtera - ApocalypsedI hadn't heard anything from Subtera (Brazil) since their debut CD, "Discord" (which was released in 2001, though I didn't hear it until around 2003), which was an album that I honestly didn't care for very much. But having released the "Nothing and Death" album somewhere in between, they've come a long way in the five years since that debut, and I'm pleased to report that their most recent third full-length, "Apocalypsed" (self-released by the band on their own Dezerto Music label), is actually quite good. They've streamlined their approach to become far more focused and consistent, and in a way their current sound sort of defies categorization beyond simply being "metal", because they're using a lot of grinding blastbeats while the guitars tend to be more midpaced and centered around pounding rhythms that accentuate the gruff vocal shouts, so it doesn't really sound like grindcore very often. It's the drumming that really drives the majority of the speed of the material, which is sort of an interesting contrast since the guitars and vocals rarely feel as fast as the percussion sans a couple of thrashier moments here and there.

This record also boasts a much better recording than their debut, which is a very good thing. They're a trio, so there's some good breathing room in the mix, and since everything was recorded and mixed entirely analog the sound is warm and efficient overall. I wouldn't mind hearing a little more bass in the core of the mix, though! Hell, even the cover art looks nicer this time, so it's an all around improvement over their early years, and that's always a good sign. I definitely think the more cohesive approach has paid off big time in songs like the title track, which is probably the most powerfully promising piece of work herein.

Subtera "Apocalypsed"
Subtera "Deadly Medicine"

I wish I could provide a little more background information on these guys but their website is currently going through redevelopments so there's not a ton of information out there at the moment. I imagine this CD's going to be relatively hard to find outside of Brazil, so I'd suggest contacting the band directly if you're interested in getting your hands on this one. I believe their first two CD's are basically out of print at the moment, so I imagine this one's on its way as well. I know these guys are looking for labels to work with outside of Brazil, so if anyone's interested get in touch with them for that as well!

Integrity "Palm Sunday" CD/DVD

Posted on Monday, April 17th, 2006 @ 12:21pm » permalink

Integrity - Palm SundayAs a general rule of thumb I do not like live records at all, but when it's coming from the heyday of one of my favorite bands of all time, Integrity, and it includes a bonus DVD of the same performance? Fucking sign me up. As soon as I learned that Spook City Records was working on a CD pressing of the "Palm Sunday" release, I suddenly stopped caring that I had missed my chance to buy the limited edition (and rather expensive) vinyl pressing from UK label Aurora Borealis.

This 10-track live set was recorded way back in 1992 at Peabody's (Cleveland) with the lineup of Dwid, Aaron and Lenny Melnick, Chris Smith, and David Nicholi Araca; and given the time period the setlist was of course jammed with classics from the first 7" and full-length, as well as "Rebirth", which was a newer song at the time. This is also the somewhat legendary (and rumor-inducing) show where some troublemaking Columbus kids pulled a knife and cut the mic cord during the first song, allegedly stabbing a kid in the process. They then waited outside the club to pull more shenanigans after the show, but took off upon recognizing the fact that they were massively outnumbered by the locals. This is briefly represented at the end of the DVD with a snippet of chaotic footage filmed by some kids in a car of various bodies running by as gunshots are fired.

This material is 14 years old, so both the sound and video are understandably raw, but as picky as I am I really do find them to be quite tolerable (I've seen far worse in my day), and these songs are so embedded in my brain that everything comes across just fine – made all the better by loads of Dwid's antagonistically smartass banter between songs, such as, "This next song goes out to a pussy-ass chump tryin' to cut the mic cord. Quit 'scaring' Cleveland with that kind of activity, you fuckin' geek. Go the fuck back to your college town…"

Integrity "Rebirth"

I'd gush more since Integrity is one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time, but I don't have much time at the moment. I imagine all their longtime fans will be picking this one up, and that's the right move:

@ Spook City Records

"Those Who Fear Tomorrow" was also recently reissued on CD yet again, but I haven't seen it yet. I've already got a million different versions of that album, but the newest edition is supposed to have a pretty chunky booklet with loads of old photos and whatnot. If you listen to any form of metallic hardcore and don't own that record there's something very fucking wrong with your existence on this planet.

Generation of Vipers "Grace" CD

Posted on Friday, April 14th, 2006 @ 11:38am » permalink

Generation of Vipers - GraceI decided to make this one today's post at the absolute last minute because I'm a little surprised by how much I like it, and I generally tend to favor helping new and/or lesser-known bands get the word out over anything else, so here you go. Generation of Vipers is from Tennessee, and their debut full-length, "Grace", is the first release on Red Witch Recordings – which may or may not be the band's own label, I'm not sure. The disc offers four songs that flow from one to the next in over 40 minutes, the longest of which is the mammoth "In the Crushing Fists of God", which tops 18 minutes without a second thought. If such running times start creating certain visions in your mind, you might not be surprised that these dudes are sure to draw comparisons aplenty to the Neurosis/Isis breed (with a side order of doom), though this is actually significantly more interesting than most of the numerous acts out there toying with this type of sound.

Now, as usual, I don't want that kind of a statement to pass as hailing the band as "original", because that's not exactly the case, but there are some variances at work here. Their material isn't necessarily more stripped down per se, but despite a good amount of layering the fact that they're a trio does pay off in the sense that they don't overdo anything, and I really enjoy that on several levels. First, the general tone of the music is a little more ominous, and comes across as something that moves me much more than a lot of this style tends to do in its use of pounding rhythms and surging abstract melodies or droning pulses (not to mention the excellently bitter shouting). And secondly, those dynamics are housed within a recording that has a lot of natural depth and breathing room – so while there's a hint of room for improvement (more distinction to the bass perhaps), this is a well-mixed outing in terms of creating a resonant wall of sound without feeling busy: What gets "lost", or at least obfuscated, almost feels like it's supposed to be fighting to be heard.

There's just something very genuine and emotional about the way this material comes across, and that really hits me. I enjoy this CD quit a bit. Hopefully this massive file won't destroy my bandwidth…

Generation of Vipers "Blood in the Belly"

The CD isn't listed for sale on the band's site just yet, but they have mentioned its availability on MySpace, so get in touch with them about ordering information.

Zootic/Sannyasin and Fight Amputation/Exosus…

Posted on Thursday, April 13th, 2006 @ 11:04am » permalink

Zootic/Sannyasin - splitRegulator! Records is a new label in Portugal, and their first release is an impressive split CD between two great Portuguese hardcore bands: Zootic and Sannyasin. Zootic starts things off with four tracks offering a cool mix of hardcore/punk sounds that combines a midpaced melodic side that has some DC-ish tendencies and a slightly faster and more energetic side that still maintains a certain element of dissonance to the riffing. The recording has a nice balance to its aptly rugged atmosphere, and lyrically the band uses both English and Portuguese to express a relatively positive and hopeful message that has a slight socio-political slant. Overall they're a pretty unique sounding outfit and I really dig the vibe of their work. Sannyasin follows with five tracks of shorter and more hardcore-oriented material that still has the punchy melodic energy and catchiness that I love, and when you couple that with a similarly crisp recording that still has a fitting air of roughness you're in for a definite set of winners. The lyrics are all in English and carry a similar message to Zootic's tracks in terms of searching for the most out of life and trying to maintain a sense of hope and whatnot. Great stuff. I'd love to hear more.

Zootic "Ciclo"
Sannyasin "Nailwork"

This is a damn solid debut for this label, and the bands pair together extremely well. Get in touch with the label for ordering information and look out for more from these two acts in the future:

@ Regulator! Records

Fight Amputation/Exosus - splitAnother quick split comes from Kordova Milk Bar Records, who recently released a CD from Fight Amputation (New Jersey) and Exosus (Maryland). Fight Amputation starts things off with three well recorded tracks that are a little fiercer than their last EP, pulsing along with a crunchy brand of hardcore/punk with plenty of twisted dissonant riffs and just the right amount of metal to pad things out without losing its true roots. These guys are still leaving me hungry for a full-length, too! I'm tired of only getting to experience the band two to four songs at a time! Upon first impressions I wasn't that into the Exosus tracks for some reason, probably because a few of the riffs have that melodic Swedish tinge, and I just don't want to hear that stuff sometimes, but with time I'm actually digging their two tunes as well. The scathing vocals are pissed as fuck and the writing has a good sense of rocked out flow, and I have to admit, the Swedish sounding riffs are really good for what they are. Plus, their closer, "Four Riders", is much darker and more punishing in terms of a driving metallic crust kind of vibe, and you can't complain about that!

Fight Amputation "Half a Holiday"
Exosus "Four Horses"

As is often the case, the above are not my favorite tracks on this split, but it's so brief that I don't want to give away any more than what the label's using. This is another damn solid little split release, so show your support and pick it up if you're a fan. It's only $6 or $7:

@ Interpunk
@ Kordova Milk Bar Records

The Casket Lottery "Survival is for Cowards" CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2006 @ 11:24am » permalink

The Casket Lottery - Survival is for CowardsI don't have much time today between work and getting massively hooked up with loads of rare material from upstate New York bands (like Stigmata, Withstand, and End of Line), so of course I'm going in the completely opposite direction with today's post – since I like to mix it up and all. The Casket Lottery is neither an unfamiliar name nor one that dates back but so far, but despite having been relatively popular in their day, in no way did they get enough attention, and they're certainly not really brought up enough these days either – especially considering that it hasn't even been that long since their "breakup". (For the record, at this point the band won't cite anything as official, so they're not technically "broken up", but aside from some unexpected live performances earlier this year, they're certainly far from "active".)

"Survival is for Cowards" was the Kansas City trio's third and final full-length for Second Nature Recordings, released four years ago in the first half of 2002. However, this was not their final release by a long shot, as the band boasts a rather extensive discography for having only been in full swing for around five years. While the project initially started when the lineup still had ties to the not-at-all-similar Coalesce, The Casket Lottery quickly became its own beast, and I was hooked soon after initially discovering the band (which was admittedly a touch later than I would've preferred since I was never a big Coalesce fan at all).

But for me, this is one of the most brilliant emo albums of all time (yes, let's call it what it is, most of you are old enough to remember what "emo" really is, so stop whining about the modernized perversion of genre tags). It's simply outstanding on every level – from musicianship and recording quality to artwork and lyrics. There's all kinds of shit going on, too. Gorgeous clean guitars and lush layering with lots of nice singing, heavier moments with a little bit of screaming/shouting, killer drum work and pounding basslines all around, etc. This is by far my favorite of their releases, and the memorable songwriting is a good deal more intricate than it might seem, not to mention far more artistic and involved than the vast majority of such "emo" expeditions. The entire album is solid gold, but these two tracks in particular kick my ass every damn time:

The Casket Lottery "Code Red"
The Casket Lottery "Since You"

This one's still an easy find, so if you need a break from the "brutal" and happened to have missed out (and I know for a fact that there are loads of people who have missed out on this gem), then I suggest you remedy the dilemma:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Unearthly Trance and Facedowninshit…

Posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 @ 10:09am » permalink

Unearthly Trance - The Trident"The Trident" is the third full-length and Relapse debut for New York-based Unearthly Trance, after numerous limited edition EP's. This is actually my first solid exposure to the band aside from a compilation track, and they've been recommended to me by numerous people (over the last two years especially) – often those who noticed that I was a fan of Thralldom, one of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky's other projects, whose track "Crown of the Unearthly Trance" actually gave this band its name. I can definitely see why people were suggesting I look into this outfit, as despite an ominous core of sludgy doom, this material really can't be pigeonholed. For example, a number of the riffs take that grimy tone into faster territory that builds into a gritty hardcore/punk vibe (at times tossing in some black metal-esque dissonance for added character); and there are also some plodding, droning sorts of musical landscapes that have a looser, almost ambient atmosphere on occasion. It's not like we're talking about 10-minute tracks that crawl along with pounding rhythm after pounding rhythm at all. In fact, the longest track is just over seven minutes, and the nine tunes only amass a tactful 45 minutes altogether – which, when coupled with the diverse range of tempos, makes for a much more lively and interesting listen than the majority of what falls under similar genre associations. Oh, and the crispness of the recording also allows for some intriguing bass work on occasion; while the cryptic lyrics provide a fittingly curious match for the breadth of moody snarls and clouded whispers that are going on vocally.

Unearthly Trance "Permanent Ice"
Unearthly Trance "Wake Up and Smell the Corpse"

So if you're a fan of creativity without a lack of the ever-present adjective brutality, pick this one up:

@ Relapse Records

Facedowninshit - Nothing Positive, Only NegativeAlso a Relapse debut is "Nothing Positive, Only Negative" (great album title, hot damn can I hang with that sentiment) from North Carolina's own Facedowninshit, which I believe is also their third full-length offering. I haven't kept up with these guys over the years, and in fact I don't think I've heard much of their work since their debut "Concrete World" LP about five years ago. Whatever the case, they're still hanging onto their brand of rugged, filthy, southern-tinged sludge. But don't let all the dirt-related descriptors fool you, because the recording's actually pretty damn good in terms of sounding clear and warm without losing a sense of rawness. While there are still some faster hardcore/punk influenced chord progressions throughout the album, I'd say the band has streamlined their sound a little more towards the dissonantly mangled attack of the feedback-soaked pangs of Eyehategod and fellow North Carolinians Buzzoven – but the general character of the riffs isn't generic, so thankfully their material doesn't sound like the hordes of copycats that have existed since "In the Name of Suffering" hit the streets in the early-90's. And when they nail it, they nail it: "Association of Known Undesirables" is by far one of the band's most vicious yet memorable tracks to date (though sadly I won't be posting it as it's not one of the two the label have pumped out for promotion, so… use your imagination).

Facedowninshit "NPON"
Facedowninshit "Countless"

I read somewhere that the band doesn't like the artwork on this thing, and it's apparently not what they submitted or something of that nature. I'm not sure what the deal is there, but I think it looks pretty good, so… weirdness of that whole circumstance aside, this is an all around success for Facedowninshit. Buy it if you're down:

@ Relapse Records

Crime in Stereo, Counting the Days, Set Your Goals, and Changing Face…

Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2006 @ 10:24am » permalink

Crime in Stereo - The ContractCrime in Stereo's "The Contract" (on Blackout! Records) has been sitting here for quite a long time but I think I was lazy about listening to it because I'm not too wild on the band name, and I'm really weird about shit like that sometimes. Plus, it's only a four-song/nine-minute EP, and I rarely listen to EP's, so I kept putting it off for far too long like an idiot since I really didn't know what to expect. Well, this is actually really damn good overtly melodic hardcore that almost has a pop-punk sort of edge to it that's chock full of the kinds of dissonant little arpeggio riffs and thrashy picking patterns that I totally love. Really energetic and catchy songwriting, too. This band actually reminds me of The Movielife on some level, which is perhaps no coincidence seeing as they're both from Long Island, it's just that the music here has a little more of that classic era Fat Wreck kind of sound happening with some of the riffing. I guess the recording could use a hint more brightness, but that's not a problem, these songs totally rule and I'm certainly going to be tracking down more from these cats.

Crime in Stereo "New Harlem Shuffle"

It often surprises people that I like this kind of stuff, but holy shit am I all over it when it's done right, and I don't think I've heard it done this right in awhile. I believe Crime in Stereo has a new full-length coming out this month on a bigger label, so I won't be surprised if they start making some noise, and I'll definitely need to pick that one up soon. If you dig 'em I suggest you do the same, and in the meantime you can grab this killer EP for a very fair $5 or $6:

@ Blackout! Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Counting the Days - Finding a BalanceThe Strike First Records roster seems to be kind of hit and miss with me, but what I believe is the debut full-length from Maryland's Counting the Days, "Finding a Balance", is one of the best albums I've heard from the label. It's a quick one, 12 tracks (plus an unlisted song that I imagine is one of the band's earlier works) in about 31 minutes, and only one track tops three minutes in length, but a promising start for a band that's been around less than two years at this point (they started out under the name Black Out sometime in 2004). They're basically taking a modern edge to traditional hardcore, so expect basic chord progressions and moderate speeds with strong midpaced breaks given a more contemporary sound with a pretty over the top form of yelling/screaming vocals and just the right amount of dissonant melody. Honestly it's nothing new, but I really enjoy this style of hardcore, and as is generally the case with such bands the material has a certain level of energy that works for me, and that's what leaves a mark.

Counting the Days "Nowhere to Turn"
Counting the Days "Flatline"

I'm into it, and for whatever reason this one seems to sell for a bit cheaper than I'm used to seeing these days, which is always awesome. So make the grab if it suits your tastes, too:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Set Your Goals - ResetFor whatever reason I was expecting almost straight up old school hardcore from San Francisco's Set Your Goals, so I was pretty surprised when I tossed in the "Reset" EP from Eulogy Recordings and, not unlike Crime in Stereo, was greeted with blatantly melodic hardcore that has that pop-punk sort of edge happening. The riffs are pretty straightforward with this one, and there is a decent amount of relatively traditional hardcore given a modern facelift, whereas these dudes tend to throw in loads of octave chords as opposed to getting into many varying picking patterns or whatnot. There are a couple of rough spots in terms of the performances and the recording, but barely, though tightening things up just a smidge could pay off in the future. Some of the vocal tradeoffs (which almost sound like guest spots at times) and harmonies seem a touch overbearing, however, which isn't a big deal, but I actually find that approach to distract from the flow of the songs at times. "Latch Key" is a fucking killer song though, and this band could probably be pretty huge if they wrote more material that hit on that level of catchiness. They even close with a great cover of Jawbreaker's "Do You Still Hate Me?", which is good stuff, I wasn't expecting that. Apparently this EP is basically a re-release of their demo, so I'll really be looking forward to their forthcoming full-length.

Set Your Goals "Latch Key"

I didn't know this wasn't out yet, but I guess tomorrow's the big day, so… all I can do for now is provide a link to the label's online store, where you should be able to grab this disc tomorrow if you're into it:

@ Eulogy Recordings

Changing Face - Our Last ChanceAnd if the above selections offer too much melody for you, perhaps Changing Face (another California act) might do the trick with their debut EP, "Our Last Chance", on Escapist Records. This is seven tracks in just under 20 minutes of raw and in your face metallic hardcore with no frills whatsoever: Just blown out shouting and chunky power chords with a couple of slightly faster breaks. The recording needs a little cleaning up in terms of balancing the vocals against the music, but I'm sort of torn because I really like the subtle dirtiness in the guitar tone even though I find myself wishing the crunch were a bit more fluid. Some of that ruggedness is probably related to the performances rather than the actual tone, but these cats could definitely do some damage as they continue to grow. This is a solid debut, and it's always nice to see bands sticking to this 90's style of metalcore.

Changing Face "Dead End"

If you dig it, pick it up, and keep an eye out for the tribute compilation that Escapist Records is currently putting together for the almighty Integrity:

@ Interpunk
@ Very Distribution

Amenra and Knockdown…

Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2006 @ 11:06am » permalink

Amenra - Mass IIII first heard the Belgian band Amenra a few years ago from their debut recorded output, "Mass I". Since that time I've missed "Mass II" and a few other split or EP releases, but "Mass III", their latest output recently issued on CD by Hypertension Records, is certainly a much stronger effort than their debut – which was already a promising example of the band's atmospheric poundings of Neurosis/Isis-esque material, it simply suffered rather drastically from an inefficient recording. Well thankfully that's not an issue here at all, as the production boasts significantly more density and a nice, warm mix that really benefits the moody ebbs and flows of the material – where the average running time is about seven minutes per piece. It's just a great sounding effort all around, with excellent artwork as well, as visual accompaniment seems to be quite important to both the band and the folks at Hypertension.

For the most part Amenra generally sticks with midpaced bashings that place lots of emphasis on surging rhythms and a strong sense of flow that builds riffs up and breaks them back down as things move along – shifting through softer, more serene passages as well as numerous forms of harsher and more aggressive attacks. I love how the fierce shouting is mixed deep in against the music, too. Sure, it's not really the most original thing in the world, but the band clearly has a distinct vision, and they've grown into communicating it quite expertly in my opinion.

Amenra "The pain it is shapeless. We are your shapeless pain."

The disc also contains two tracks from "Mass II", which fit in fairly well against the new songs in terms of recording values – they're just a little more dissonant at times. "Mass II" was a one-sided LP, so I'm not sure if these two cuts represent the entirety of that release or not since I've never seen it for myself, but they bring the total count for the CD pressing of "Mass III" to six tracks at more than 45 minutes. I'm not sure if Hypertension has any distribution in the US or not, but I haven't seen much of their material over here yet. I'm not sure why, though. It's all gorgeous, and let's face it: They pressed up a fucking Starkweather double-LP (which is, unsurprisingly, available from Deathwish Inc. in limited quantity)! If you like what you hear you can order this disc straight from the label for now, and they're all very great and trustworthy people, so never fear:

@ Hypertension Records

Knockdown - s/tYoungblood Records recently dropped this self-titled CD from Knockdown, which was a relatively short-lived straightedge hardcore band from Philadelphia circa 2000 – 2002. As is occasionally the case with hardcore bands, this is an extremely brief discography CD that contains their demo, self-titled 7", and two unreleased tracks for a total of 14 songs (plus an unlisted Negative Approach cover) in just about 17 minutes. As you might expect it's relatively fast and in your face old school hardcore where almost every song's a minute or less, and that's that. Shit, there's a four-second song called "Step Off!", so how can you lose? They basically stick to the traditional format and get the job done. Works for me.

Knockdown "Step Off!"
Knockdown "Stand Clear"

Apparently some former members of the band ended up in No Warning, Shark Attack, Violent Minds, and American Nightmare, but I have a hard time keeping up with that stuff so I don't know any specifics. They were also called Full Contact when they started out and released their demo, but they changed their name upon request from DMS. (Apparently there was at some point in time another band called Full Contact? I'm not entirely sure what's up there.)

But anyway, the disc's only $8 right from the label, so fans of good ol' fashioned hardcore sans bastardization should surely have at it:

@ Youngblood Records

Grimple "Remember…" CD

Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2006 @ 1:02pm » permalink

Grimple - Remember...I mentioned this one was coming last week, and I really do often forget how great this band was, but every time I pull out this disc (the "Remember…" collection) I'm quickly reminded of their supreme awesomeness. So anyway, Grimple started up in New Mexico way back in 1990 and relocated to Oakland, CA within a year, where they fell in with the whole "East Bay" punk sound and whatnot. But somehow this band managed to perfectly balance being pissed yet fun while also fusing pop-punk styled melodies and energetic catchiness with aggressive speeds and a raw punch. The result? Everything they did was great, especially the LP, which totally rules.

This disc is basically a discography of the band's three proper releases (which don't even total an hour): The "Get Me Out of My Van, I Have No Key Phil" 7" (recorded shortly after the band moved to Oakland), 1992's "Up Your Ass" LP, and 1993's split with Logical Nonsense – the latter of which featured Grimple's take on "Dethroned Emperor" by Celtic Frost. That cover song, combined with a couple of crunchier metal-tinged riffs on the split material, was a sure sign of things to come, because I remember catching these guys live during their late-90's reunion (I can't remember who the hell they were touring with for some reason) and I was absolutely floored by how insanely brutal some of the material was. Seriously, having seen that show made it much less of a surprise when the band's former vocalist Pat Vigil, drummer Ira Harris, and guitarist Greg Valencia turned up in Watch Them Die a few years later. You won't really be hearing any of that wicked thrash in the tracks below, though they still kick ass…

Grimple "Grimple Up Your Ass"
Grimple "Walls of Shit"
Grimple "Please Come In"
Grimple "Crucified"

I've owned various forms of all of this stuff over the years, but despite its (somewhat significant) flaws this out of print collection on Liberation Records is the handiest edition of the bunch. Prank Records has reissued both the LP and the 7", and their much better looking CD version of "Up Your Ass" does have the four 7" songs on it, as well as three bonus tracks from the "Stoned" demo, but I think they should've made it a complete discography and tossed those split tracks into the mix. They'll finally be reissuing the Grimple/Logical Nonsense split in full this year, but still… This Liberation Records pressing only contains 23 Grimple tracks out of a 28-title tracklist, which is all fucked up. The last chunk of the tracklist has some songs out of order, and a bunch of the tunes don't even appear on the CD (despite having lyrics included), as it seems they included Logical Nonsense's tracks from the split as well!? Go figure.

Edit: I checked when I got home and figured out what they did. The original CD pressing of the split has an incorrect tracklist as well, with a couple of songs out of order and Grimple's tracks listed last when they're actually first. So apparently the geniuses at Liberation Records took the last nine tracks off the original disc and missed five Grimple tracks in the process. Ridiculous. Who the hell has that poor of an attention to detail to press up a disc without catching that shit!?

So, yeah, if you dig it, pick up the Prank version and look out for the split to be back in print soon.

@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

Solid Ground and Bleed Into One…

Posted on Tuesday, April 4th, 2006 @ 1:32pm » permalink

Solid Ground - Get Used to ItI was psyched as hell when this package showed up because Germany's Dead Serious Recordings has put out some killer shit and I had been wanting to check out more of it for quite some time now. I popped in Solid Ground's "Get Used to It" first and I'm not sure if I've ever heard a band of this nature from Switzerland before. They're calling this their debut "full-length", but I have to respectfully disagree on that one, because not only is the disc just over a mere 21 minutes long, but there are only eight new tracks – one of which is an intro that leads into the three tracks from their split 7" with Never Enough, which close things out, so…

However, with that being said, this band absolutely fucking rages, and this is some of the absolute best heavy and super pissed hardcore I've heard in awhile – right up there with American bands like Allegiance in terms of its overall furious energy (not to mention superb vocals that have their own identity happening). I just eat this shit up, there really aren't enough hardcore bands out there that can write songs that actually cut to the chase and really convey a convincing sense of anger and emotion that I can identify with like this, so I have to commend these guys on a job damn well done. Excellent recording, too. Crunchy as fuck and with a nice, clear mix to boot – plus the three tracks from the earlier recording session sound shockingly consistent with the new tunes, which rules. This is the kind of shit that seriously makes me want to crack heads and fucking destroy all living things, I totally love it.

Solid Ground "Get Used to It"
Solid Ground "No Easy Answers"

If you listen to any hardcore beyond the year 1995 and don't like this, you're a complete idiot, plain and simple. Stop fucking around and buy this shit immediately:

@ RevHQ

Bleed Into One - Birth. Struggle. Death.One of the latest releases from the Dead Serious crew is the sophomore full-length from their fellow Germans Bleed Into One, "Birth. Struggle. Death." These dudes churn out metallic hardcore that blends a base of relatively traditional chord progressions and slightly slower breaks with some unexpectedly rocked out little bursts as well as occasionally metal-based riffing that has that European edge to it. There are a couple of areas where the vocals sort of do a strained-sneering-in-key kind of thing that's not quite singing but sort of comes close, and along with the sporadic clean break or tactful melodic snippet offer plenty of variety to make for a pretty solid listen all around (also be on the lookout for lots of wacky bass "pops" ala Turning Point). The recording's pretty crisp but I do wish the guitars were heavier, though turning up the bass would probably do the trick for sure (but they'd have to kill those "pops" to keep them from being way distracting, which would probably be a good idea since most of the basslines are pretty sick and definitely have a Cro-Mags feel going on). It sounds pretty damn good, but with a little extra punch they'd absolutely benefit. I'm digging the cover art with the almost Pushead-esque illustrations and metallic bronze inks and shit, though. Good stuff.

Bleed Into One "Build the Sky"
Bleed Into One "Rest in Peace"

A lot of hardcore fans in the US still have a tendency to ignore bands from overseas, but I'm telling you, "metalcore" may be an extremely dirty word in America right now (with good reason), but over in Europe there are a lot of great bands still playing a 90's sounding blend of genres that really hits the spot. So pick these jams up if you're down, and remember that there's a whole world of music out there to explore:

@ RevHQ

Reds, Sinaloa, and The Fiction…

Posted on Monday, April 3rd, 2006 @ 10:07am » permalink

So I recently found yet another batch of CD's that have been sitting around here for an embarrassingly long amount of time (over six months in this case) that I never got around to, and it actually took me about two weeks to find the time to write these three up for a post. While not the kind of thing that I listen to very often, I really respect Waking Records and think they put out some really nice looking/sounding records within their particular niche, so I wanted to make sure I finally gave these a shout.

Reds - Is:MeansFirst up is "Is:Means", the debut full-length from Brooklyn, NY's Reds, who I remember from their demo a year or two ago (and all three of those songs appear here in re-recorded form). This disc continues along the same lines and kind of takes a jangly and borderline chaotic style of screamy indie rock and adds the energy of raw hardcore/punk. It's not particularly heavy in either delivery or the literal tonality of the recording, so I do find myself wishing the guitars were a little brighter and had a hint more of an edge to the distortion, but I like that the vocals are just kind of yelled as opposed to being the over the top screams that often go hand in hand with this sort of music. The riffs jump around a lot but the material is fairly consistent in overall atmosphere, with a good blend of melody against tactfully loose performances that maintain control over their caustic leanings. The rhythm section is actually pretty impressive, and this is one of those rare cases where the drumming actually seems to play a huge role in driving the energy of the tracks (though of course all of the vocal layering and tradeoffs don't hurt, either). Most of the tracks run right around three minutes and keep the tempos rather punchy, though they do toss in a few slightly darker or slower/softer areas, and I might like to hear a bit more of that actually. Nice artwork and lyrics as well. It's a fairly simple layout printed on matte stock with handwritten lyrics that tend to be longer than average and tackle the kind of honest socio-political subject matter you'd expect, given a very sincere personal touch that I definitely respect.

Reds "Lost Tapes From the Federal Sessions"
Reds "Now is Liberation is Now"

As is the case with most D.I.Y. labels these releases are very respectfully priced at $9ppd, so pick this up straight from the label if it suits your tastes:

@ Waking Records

Sinaloa - Footprints on FloorboardsNext is Sinaloa's "Footprints on Floorboards" CD. This is the second full-length from this bassless trio (using two guitars, drums, and a multi-vocal approach) out of Massachusetts, but I had never heard them before. For the most part this is similar in style to Reds, but I'd say it tends to lean more towards the indie side of things as far as the tempos and overall feel are concerned. Once again I dig the relatively dry vocals which are basically just yelled, they're not going for anything over the top there. And really the whole recording is pretty dry, which is actually quite well handled since I don't find myself missing the bass at all. There's a lot of cool dual guitar interaction that winds around nicely thanks to the panning in the mix, too. This stuff doesn't strike me as particularly melodic in most instances, however, so I certainly feel like the strongest tracks herein (see below for examples) are able to connect with the emotional elements of the lyrics much more directly using more dynamic approaches where light melody presents itself. Yet another nice looking layout printed entirely with a matte finish on this one, where the lyrics are also similar to those of Reds, but include heartfelt song descriptions for a general direction that comes a little more from an introspective sort of viewpoint – perhaps more "dramatic"?

Sinaloa "With Our Ears to the Soil"
Sinaloa "Words Through Wires"

All of the profits from the sale of this album are being donated to the Sheila Brodie Zetlan Breast Cancer Foundation, which is quite an admirable move. So definitely snag this one if you're into this particular style:

@ Waking Records

The Fiction - NamesLast but not least is The Fiction with "Names". This is another New York act (and another trio) that actually features the guitarist of Reds. I had never heard these guys before either, but apparently this is their second and final full-length since they actually broke up during the latter chunk of 2005. Once more these jams are fairly similar in style to the above two discs, though the recording is definitely brighter and more balanced, so the overall punch of the material is a touch heavier (due in large part to the way the production really places emphasis on the basslines), and the vocals have a harsher edge on occasion as well. It's pretty insane what a difference that slightly crisper sound can make, and it definitely pays off on some level. These songs have a pretty good energy happening with most of the tempos, despite the dissonance going on in a lot of the riffing, but the band is not without their variances. Therefore, as with Sinaloa, I find that the more diverse tracks tend to hit much harder with this one (see "Reset", for example, which is easily the most impressive track of the disc with its somber atmosphere). Oh, and the lyrics are considerably more abstract and open-ended with this stuff as well.

The Fiction "Reset"
The Fiction "Kevin Jones"

Like it? Same story: Grab it right from the source…

@ Waking Records

My vastest apologies to the kind folks at Waking Records for taking an unprecedented amount of time to finally get these discs covered!

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