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The Warriors and Casey Jones…

Posted on Friday, June 30th, 2006 @ 9:53am » permalink

The Warriors - Beyond the NoiseWow, yeah, holy shit… despite its minor setbacks I knew from the moment I first heard The Warriors' debut album that the band had something special to offer, and they're certainly coming closer to fully realizing that vision on "Beyond the Noise", their latest full-length offering from Eulogy Recordings. Aside from the unique vocals and a few chunky metallic hardcore rhythms this material sounds very little like The Warriors of old. Make no mistake though, that's actually not a bad thing, they've just kind of morphed into this much more developed unit that's dealing in far more of a post-hardcore sort of territory – one where surging rhythms and the intense layering of dissonant melodies and lightly caustic guitar textures lay the foundation for intriguingly arranged vocal patterns that continue to differentiate the band from their contemporaries. Though in all truth, at this rate they're not going to have many "contemporaries" left, because few others are really doing this kind of thing at the moment.

It's cool, too, because in a lot of cases "post-hardcore" is almost like code for "wimpy" on some level, you know? Admit it, even if it's great, most bands that are deemed "post-hardcore" are tagged as such because their music is "hardcore, but not that hard", right? But this record is still pretty damn hard in many respects, there's just no denying that it's on another level, and I'll be damned if the nature of the good majority of these riffs wouldn't have put this album more at home in the mid-90's alongside Orange 9mm and company (but that's not a comparison, just a point of reference). Oh, and it's also worth noting that these days the band's sounding fuller and more efficient in the production realm as well, and the recording on this outing is indeed another impressive step forward. Slick layout with handwritten lyrics and all that, too. This is just a damn well done album all around, to the point where I'm actually really fuckin' curious to see what's gonna come of it. I was seriously shocked when I first popped this thing in. Great work… I'm impressed.

The Warriors "Dice Game"
The Warriors "Re-Vital-Eyes"

If you dig the tracks please support the band and the label by buying the CD for yourself:

@ Eulogy Recordings
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Casey Jones - The MessengerAlso from Eulogy Recordings and also a shocking improvement is Casey Jones' newest record, "The Messenger". I'm not gonna lie, I liked "The Few, the Proud, the Crucial", but I don't know if I even have that disc anymore because it didn't hold up but so well over time, and in most cases I can't really hang with "humor" in my hardcore. There's still a degree of lightheartedness hanging around on this album, but it's a little more blatantly bitter and sarcastic this time around. Plus, from a musical standpoint this is a mixed bag that jumps from the crunchy and relatively straightforward metallic hardcore of old to some crazy melodic riffing that borders on having a Fat Wreck sort of pop-punk edge to it (in a good way). And believe me, there's more melody and catchiness than not on this thing, so… it's a pretty damn shocking change of pace, but damn if I'm not all for it.

Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same, so lyrically speaking the material's still pissed as hell and pulls no punches, with plenty of unrepentantly straightedge anthems and all that stuff. The older I get I'm finally starting to get a little bored of straightedge tunes, but at the same time I'm still surprised at how few bands there are currently keeping that whole niche alive, so I definitely hold an appreciation for those who choose to keep flying that flag. I kind of wish the recording was slightly more polished up around the edges, but it sounds pretty strong, and I'm digging the bulk of the songwriting enough for it to win out in the end. Hell, the entire disc's only about 27 minutes long, so… they keep the energy moving for the most part. Some of the riffs on this record are completely badass and totally up my alley, so I'm pretty psyched in that regard. Hopefully this is indicative of the direction the band will continue to explore in the future. Well done…

Casey Jones "1 Out of 3 Has an STD"
Casey Jones "Time's Up"

Hopefully a few other people will be as pleased as I am with the progression this band has made over the years, so if you're one of 'em then I wholly encourage you to pick up the disc for yourself:

@ Eulogy Recordings
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Claustrofobia and Expose Your Hate…

Posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2006 @ 11:40am » permalink

Claustrofobia - FulminantI think it's been about four years since Claustrofobia released their last full-length, but the Brazilian thrash act is finally back with "Fulminant". I reviewed the band's sophomore effort, "Thrasher", about three years ago, and while I really liked it, something about the material didn't hold up quite as well over time for some reason. Well, whatever the case, I'm pleased to report that "Fulminant" is a stronger album across the board. The recording is a little more organic and well-rounded, the songwriting is more memorable and diverse, etc. Claustrofobia's overall sound is one of early- to mid-90's thrash metal in that you can hear leftover riffs from the classic vibe of the 80's heyday, but the general presentation is heavier and has just the right amount of tactful groove in place. This time around they're also introducing some sick dissonant textures and a few weirder lead breaks and time signatures to further break away from any accusations of a "retro" approach, though aficionados of the good ol' days should still find plenty to smile about on this album. It's cool because the band has finally managed to perfectly blend the old and the new in a manner that remains fairly energetic and in your face, and unlike many such acts flirting with these particular areas they do so without relying on death metal riffs or tangible melody, which is great. The end result really does start to put Claustrofobia in a league of their own – and I honestly wish more bands could find it within themselves to follow suit, because there's not enough of this kind of thing out there these days! Oh, and "Eu Quero é Que se Foda" below even features a guest solo from the one and only Andreas Kisser, just so you know.

Claustrofobia "Reality Show"
Claustrofobia "Eu Quero é Que se Foda"

As with many relatively obscure bands from South American countries, it might be a little tricky to get your hands on this CD here in the US, though steps are being taken to improve that situation. For the time being you can email the band about ordering a copy directly from them, or try to get in touch with [email protected] if you need some help acquiring the disc. There are currently only two online vendors carrying/slated to carry the CD (the latter is in North America but probably won't have the album on hand until August):

@ Submarino
@ Profusion – Le Metal Store

Expose Your Hate - HatecultI also reviewed a demo from Brazilian grinders Expose Your Hate around three years ago, and a couple of those songs have been re-recorded here on "Hatecult" – their debut full-length released by Black Hole Productions. For those unfamiliar, these guys crank out some raging death/grind with socio-political lyrics that attack religion, the media, ecological issues, and then some. The vocals on this outing are still all over the place from sneering screams to lower growls, but whereas the demo was a little more straightforward in its speedy delivery of rather traditional grindcore, this record brings in a lot more of a death metal vibe from a musical standpoint. The riffing maintains a largely high-speed attack, but they'll also throw in the occasional dissonant break or a few slightly harsher and more chaotic angles as well, and that variety helps to add interest and keep things moving. Although, at the end of the day they're still plowing through 17 songs in barely over a half-hour, so there's not much messing around to be had here… and when it comes to grindcore that's how I like it!

Expose Your Hate "Corrosion of Truth"
Expose Your Hate "Appreciate the Dying Planet"

It's a shame so many bands from outside the US can tend to have such a hard time getting listeners to take notice over here, but I think Expose Your Hate has a lot of potential to please fans of straight up grind that tend to prefer acts with a contemporary edge that aren't just rehashing the true classics. So pick this one up if you're into it, and spread the word:

@ Black Hole Productions
@ Razorback Records
@ Relapse Records

I'm glad to see so many people enjoyed the power of "The Juice" yesterday. I can only wish said "Juice" was mighty enough to have prevented me from ever returning to work. I really need to start playing the fucking lottery…

Askance and Contagen…

Posted on Friday, June 23rd, 2006 @ 9:27am » permalink

Askance - You'll Never Be the MannequinI probably won't update the site again until the end of next week because I have a bunch of days off work and don't want to spend them on a fucking computer, so I'm gonna drop a double shot of obscure old bands from my area in the meantime. First up is Askance, and I don't really know much about this band at all since I didn't get this 7" until several years after they folded. I was just starting to really get into hardcore in the early-90's anyway, so by the time I was even aware that Askance had existed the EP was already pretty damn hard to find. Aside from a couple of compilation appearances in 1992/1993, "You'll Never Be the Mannequin" was the band's only release, which came out on the Catheter Assembly label in 1993. For anyone who cares, Catheter Assembly was started by at least one member of Avail, and 13 years ago the label's P.O. Box was coincidentally in the same post office where I've been receiving mail for like 10 years now… so there's some useless trivia for you.

Askance was definitely a unique sounding band (largely due to the vocals), but musically the material does have that recognizably "90's sound" where it's not straightforward hardcore, but it's definitely not metal, nor is it particularly emo, even though influences from all three genres can be picked out in the dissonance of the riffing. The drumming on this record is fuckin' stellar as well, there are loads of slick fills and a lot of the playing is based solely on feel, so it's flashy enough to really make a difference without going over the top. I also always loved this style of guitar work, and still do: I can't wrap my head around the fact that almost no damn bands have carried this vibe over into the present. What gives? Lyrically this stuff was definitely dealing in the socio-political realm, though the personal insight element was driven home by loads and loads of explanatory text within the packaging. Hopefully some of you will appreciate this, though I imagine the younger crowd might turn up their noses to all this stuff. I apologize for the number of little vinyl "pops and clicks" in the tracks, but hey, it's a 13-year-old 7", what can you do, you know?

1. "We Stole This"
2. "Clench"
3. "In Theory and in Treatment"
4. "Premeditated"

The band members were only credited by their first names in the 7", but as far as lineup connections go I believe guitarist Matt Rankin had played on Four Walls Falling's self-titled 7" a year earlier, while he and vocalist Jimmy Anthony later formed Contagen (see below). If any collector types are interested in tracking down a copy of this 7" for themselves, there's actually one fairly inexpensive copy on eBay right now. But once that's gone? Good luck! This was one of the harder EP's I ever persisted to obtain in my day, so…

Contagen - DioromaI don't know all that much about Contagen either, but their sole album, "Dioroma", was recorded in mid-1994, so I assume Askance sort of morphed into this band with a couple of lineup changes at some point. This one was on Watermark, but I'm not sure if it was actually released in 1994 or 1995. Either way, at the time I bought this simply because the band was local and I knew basically what kind of music it was going to be. It was actually because of Contagen that I learned of Askance and started searching for the above 7", and if you want more random bullshit information: After I bought "Dioroma" I realized that I had gone to high school with Contagen's drummer. Go figure.

Anyway, Contagen sounded very similar to (though in my opinion better than) Askance, just a little more diverse musically (heavier and darker, I guess you could say), while the lyrics were a little more abstract and intricate. There are actually some great lyrics on this album, come to think of it. The vocals had also become even more distinct at this point in terms of the "Into Another factor" (that's not a comparison, just a general reference to high-pitched singing that's somewhat of an acquired taste), so I'm sure a few people checking out these tracks are gonna bitch about that. But for me the only minor setback here is that I always wished the recording on this record was a little stronger. The mastering is pretty damn quiet for one thing, and the bass tone is overly dense. I really dig the presence of the basslines in the mix, but since they lack clarity it kind of messes with the overall balance. It's about what you'd expect from this kind of thing with regard to its age, and it actually does sound fairly decent all things considered, but I've often wondered if this material would be better received were the production slightly different… because at its best this album nails the fucking songwriting. There are a couple of absolute gems on this thing that have really stuck with me over the years – namely the impeccable title track.

Contagen "Dioroma"
Contagen "Deserving"
Contagen "Graded Earth"

I actually didn't think it would be all that hard to find a few used copies of this CD to link to, but damn… I'm not really seeing anything out there from a source I'd feel comfortable recommending!? Oh well, I guess this is a rarer find than I would've expected these days. I'm suddenly quite glad that no unfortunate circumstances have befallen my copy over the years…

Nachtmystium and You in Series…

Posted on Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 @ 9:42am » permalink

Nachtmystium - Instinct: Decay"Instinct: Decay" is the latest outing from "kvlt" USBM faves Nachtmystium on Battle Kommand Records, and some of what I've read about this album deems it somehow "progressive" – which perhaps by black metal standards it is, though personally I question whether or not a few spacey ambient interludes or reverberatingly layered solo passages are truly "progressive" to the degree that some would have you believe. But in no way is that an attempt to discredit this material whatsoever: In fact, I enjoy several aspects of this release a little more than what I've heard from Nachtmystium in the past. I just don't want people to get the wrong idea, because there's still plenty of raw and fairly traditional black metal going on here – it's just that rather than tagging it "progressive" I'd simply refer to it as a refusal to stagnate. Basically, this effort sees the band taking that same brand of eerie, dissonant riffing and those same sneering screams and developing them further by introducing a greater number of tempo changes and minor variations in architecture. So yes, the occasionally intriguing clean passage or numerous appearances of resonant lead melodies (or caustic lead textures, in some cases) do indeed work to separate this album from the pack, but anyone listening to this material will still immediately recognize it as black metal through and through… and oddly enough there are actually a few areas that are surprisingly stripped down and in your face considering the overall growth of the songwriting.

Also worth noting is that the recording is a little stronger than some of the group's past efforts as well. For the most part the production maintains a thick and tactfully rugged atmosphere where the vocals are excellently mixed deep in against the instrumentation, but whereas some prior Nachtmystium recordings displayed a rather biting guitar tone, the rhythm guitars are much more controlled this time around – leaving only the leads to carry some of that harsher bite here and there. Again, make no mistake, this is not what I would call a "polished" sound, even by black metal standards. It still follows the general tone of the genre's classic aesthetic, it's just that noticeable improvements have been put into place. I'm admittedly quite fond of black metal's oft-relied upon black and white imagery, so I'm not really feeling the layout on this one (though the outer packaging is alright, and I do commend the decision to ignore those conventions), but I do find the lyrical snippets included within the booklet to be pretty damn promising – not to mention very atypical of most of the black metal that I come across:

Inner complacency, Reliving illusions once immense, Hidden from the sheep, The sanity of the isolated is my salvation…

This is certainly a step forward, and one that leaves me quite curious as to what Nachtmystium will deliver in the future.

Nachtmystium "Eternal Ground"
Nachtmystium "Abstract Nihilism"

As usual, downloading is bullshit, so don't be an ass. Buy a copy of the CD for yourself if you're into it:

@ Battle Kommand Records
@ The End Records

You in Series - Outside We Are FineIn the interest of extreme diversity, here's something that basically has absolutely no correlation to the above album whatsoever. "Outside We Are Fine" is the first full-length from the relatively young You in Series, and I'd probably have to say that the packaging on this release doesn't necessarily suggest that it would be as good a record as it is. So beyond that, this is yet another in a long line of quality Equal Vision releases that does the trick for the lighter side of my listening habits. You in Series is actually a pretty curious outfit in that their material's sort of emo-ish, kind of post-hardcore-esque, and in some ways has a few "alternative rock" (or whatever) elements in place as well… but then, I could also argue that some of the more involved riffing has a light dash of metal wrapped up in it as well, though the vibe of the album isn't particularly aggressive or anything. It's "heavy" in that it's very well recorded and the rhythm section has quite a bit of punch in the mix, which is great, but this isn't what I would consider a "heavy" band. Yet, oddly enough, as melodic as much of the material is, it's not wholly laidback either, so they're working in an interestingly balanced environment – one that's neither overtly technical nor overly basic by any means either. I must say that I'm way into the vocals on this one, too. There's nothing particularly unique about them per se, but in terms of singers with relatively high voices this guy fuckin' nails it – I don't find the singing to be irritating at all, and some of the soaring vocal lines and harmonies are totally great. I don't know, it's kind of a weird album because on the one hand it sounds a little different to me as compared to the bulk of what falls into these niches, but it's also not so out there that it comes across as unfamiliar, you know? Oh, and these guys seem to have a little more lyrical creativity than most of the acts within this general realm as well. So, I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but Equal Vision has a damn good knack for snatching up these kinds of bands, and rarely misses the mark in terms of my particular listening tastes.

You in Series "See Not What You Want, But Who You Really Are"
You in Series "The Watcher"

Make the grab if you like what you hear:

@ Equal Vision Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Souvenir's Young America and Disappearer…

Posted on Tuesday, June 20th, 2006 @ 9:32am » permalink

Souvenir's Young America - s/tSeeing as Souvenir's Young America is from the same city as I am, I had heard a bit about the band (of mixed opinions) before I was actually able to check out their self-titled Underadar CD release for myself. From both what I've heard and what I've read, Souvenir's Young America has been compared to shitloads of different bands, from Zombi and Explosions in the Sky to Neurosis and Godflesh, not to mention Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Red Sparowes, among others. Well, no offense to any involved parties, but most of those comparisons are absolutely laughable, not to mention outright misleading in some instances due to their inaccuracies (in particular, comparing this material to the sheer might of Godflesh is deeply offensive on some level). Pretty much the only parallels that connect Souvenir's Young America to any of the aforementioned artists are the facts that they're an instrumental outfit and that they do offer a good breadth of dynamics that at times flirt with some prog rock-ish overtones. But just because something goes from quiet to loud to quiet to loud and so on, that doesn't mean it sounds like Explosions in the Sky, you know? And to be totally honest with you, I'm fucking glad this stuff doesn't sound like Explosions in the Sky. They're a great band and all, don't get me wrong, but I'm getting kind of tired of that style, it's extremely tired right now and far too many groups are borrowing from it. That being said, the progressive rock influences that seep into this work aren't blatant either, so you can pick up on them, but they don't sound like 70's throwbacks or anything, which is also nice. There's a weird sort of spaciness going on with the keyboard work, which is actually the driving force alongside the drumming in many instances, so… guitars surprisingly tend to take a back seat in many cases. Had I known in advance that keyboards were so central to this music I would have probably (unfairly) expected to totally hate this, but that's not the case at all. While I wouldn't particularly call what they're doing "experimental", it's certainly not traditionally formulated either, so… it's something different. I kind of wish they had a bassist for some reason, though. The percussion sounds fucking great and the various keyboards hold down the low-end just fine, but… I don't know, I still find myself missing bass!?

Souvenir's Young America "Letters From the Earth"

This one's pretty damn cheap, so I wholly encourage you to make the grab if you'd like to hear more:

@ Underadar
@ Stickfigure Distribution

Disappearer - s/tAnother instrumental act to recently pass my way is the Massachusetts trio Disappearer (featuring members of There Were Wires and Doomriders), who recently issued a self-titled EP on Trash Art!. The last two songs on this release actually come from a limited edition EP that came out back in 2004, but whatever the case you'll get a total of three tracks in over 35 minutes, so these are some real whoppers. Some of the material does flirt with a few of those effects and transitions that I've mentioned several times lately as being a little overdone these days, but I like the fact that they keep things relatively open and spacious rather than trying to beat you into the ground with oppressive heaviness, and as far as the somewhat "typical" elements are concerned, they do fit, and you can tell that these guys are coming from an entirely different direction than most of that stuff. The openness of the sound especially benefits the basslines, as they're quite prominent in the mix and play an extremely significant role in laying the foundation for the material as a whole. Really the entire rhythm section kicks ass – basically holding things down while also adding energy and color. The guitars kind of wander around and do their own thing, reuniting with the bass and drums on occasion to lock into a more straightforward rhythm. It's heavy, melodic, and dissonant all at once, while also combining naturally rigid structures with looser and more relaxed playing styles. Oh, and the packaging is printed entirely on vellum for some nice transparent effects! Good stuff.

Disappearer "Crownfire" (excerpt)

I would've posted a slightly longer clip for these guys, but I didn't have time to fix one up this morning, so I just jacked this one from the label's site. You should get the idea. And you know how it goes… buy the shit if you dig it:

@ Trash Art!
@ Very Distribution

Art of Burning Water and Gantz…

Posted on Monday, June 19th, 2006 @ 9:42am » permalink

Art of Burning Water - The Voyage of the Pessimistic Philosoph: An Ode to Believers of the Prevailing Law of SodI've been trying to get this post up since last week but things have been crazy busy, and there's probably more of that on the horizon. But anyway, the incredibly oddly titled "The Voyage of the Pessimistic Philosoph: An Ode to Believers of the Prevailing Law of Sod" is the first I've heard from UK trio Art of Burning Water in the years since their three-way split with American Heritage and Foe. As with that split, this disc comes to us from House of Stairs, though oddly enough the label's website doesn't seem to have been touched in three years!? Whatever the case, this album cranks out 10 tracks in about 27 minutes, so you should generally expect quite short compositions offering a largely instrumental attack of winding riffs and twisted dissonance over pulsing midpaced rhythms that bounce back and forth with somewhat of a math metal type of swagger through loads of tempo changes. But occasional fits of maniacally sneered vocals tear into the picture and add an air of unhinged chaos to the band's presentation as well, so there's plenty of sheer madness to go around (seriously, these vocals are completely fucking sick, I love 'em). I'd definitely cite this as an improvement over their prior work, especially with regard to the sound quality. Everything was recorded by the band, and while raw, personally I think the recording is pretty fucking badass. It's really dry and there's a completely natural vibe to everything, to the point where it almost feels like you're in the room with the band (especially in terms of the percussion). And yet it still somehow boasts a clear and balanced mix, so I've got no quarrels whatsoever. Hell, I really dig the artwork on this thing, too. Nice and spacious with atypical visuals and very little text (no lyrics are included, so I have no idea what the hell could possibly be going on behind some of those completely insane song titles). Well done all around.

Art of Burning Water "Standing Jubilantly Beneath the Sword of Democles"
Art of Burning Water "Like Two Pigs Rotting (Last Guys Finish Nice)"

I'm not sure what to expect from this album in terms of its future distribution reach, but for the moment it is at least available for purchase straight from the band, so please do show them some love by placing an order if the above material is something that does the trick for you.

Gantz - La Chambre Des MortsGantz has actually been around for awhile now, having released several albums, splits, and compilation appearances. But "La Chambre Des Morts" is my first exposure to the French outfit, and it gets off to somewhat of a misleading start with a four-minute track of lulled instrumental ambience. While those elements do play a significant role in the band's approach, especially when the songs run five to eight minutes on a regular basis, most of their work balances out the lighter side through plenty of pounding midpaced rhythms and harsh screaming vocals more akin to what I'm used to hearing from the mighty Radar Swarm label. But there are some unexpectedly melodic tinges within a number of the riffs as well – even a few of the more biting and acerbic areas can flirt with such traits – whereas the dynamics of the compositions tend to shift from pulsing heaviness to flowing clean passages that almost combine an emo/screamo element with a strange sort of prog-meets-post-rock lean on those shimmery kinds of instrumental breaks. Interestingly enough the recording tends to go easy on the distortion in terms of leaving plenty of breathing room for the percussion and vocals, so they're not trying to be over the top heavy, and thus some interesting textures result in the guitar work. But I do find myself wondering where the basslines are, so amping up the low-end a little more could indeed secure some additional impact in the mix. The lyrics are delivered entirely in French, but some English text explanations suggest a slight socio-political edge to the content, though it would seem that everything is tactfully wrapped in personal perspectives, which is always a plus. There's not really any one song on this album that properly represents the entirety of what Gantz has to offer, but this particular example does provide a solid range:

Gantz "Noircir La Porte de sa Maison"

I've been raining praise upon Radar Swarm's excellent work for years now, and I don't see that trend waning anytime soon since I'm already eagerly anticipating their next release from Year of No Light. So definitely pick this up if the above sample gets you curious, and be sure to check out more of the Radar Swarm back catalog as well if you're not yet familiar with their superb offerings:

@ Radar Swarm
@ Crucial Blast

I-Spy "Perversity is Spreading… It's About Time" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 14th, 2006 @ 11:19am » permalink

I-Spy - Perversity is Spreading... It's About TimeAfter literally years of slacking it is about time I fucking finally picked up "Perversity is Spreading… It's About Time" recently in order to condense as much I-Spy material as humanly possible onto one convenient CD. I've been a big fan of this band for about a decade now, and seeing as this collection was released something like eight years ago there's really no excuse for my insolence. I-Spy was from Canada and only existed from around 1994 – 1996. The band is probably best known these days due to their vocalist/guitarist Todd "The Rod" Kowalski, who later went on to Swallowing Shit and is currently in the almighty Propagandhi (listening back to this stuff you can definitely hear what his writing has brought to 'em since he joined). I-Spy is certainly viewed as a pretty significant band by many, but I still think they're pretty damn underrated and deserve more attention all around.

While not exactly a complete discography due to certain songs being lost (or perhaps intentionally "misplaced") over the years, this is basically everything the band ever put to tape. The end result is 26 tracks from various releases plus assorted rarities. The core of the CD is the "Revenge of the Little Shits" 10", the split 7" with …But Alive, and the absolutely superb tracks from the I-Spy/Propagandhi split (a true classic in my book). So basically it's a shitload of minute-long songs (some are longer but none hit three minutes) of socio-political hardcore/punk with a really unique sense of dissonant melody and relatively identifiable vocal characteristics. They always had a good blend of fast and borderline harsh material against their catchier side, but the songwriting always comes across with a pretty high energy level regardless, and there's a definite edge of crunchy metal going on with a lot of the picking patterns and stuff, which totally rules (I refuse not to say "progressive thrash" somewhere within this write-up, and now I've done it). And, like Propagandhi, they've got a great sense of humor that doesn't conflict with their undeniable sincerity, which is always a plus. See what you think. "Remain" is easily one of the best hardcore/punk songs of its time. Complete and total perfection.

I-Spy "Remain"
I-Spy "Appliances and Cars"
I-Spy "You'll Never Smash the State"
I-Spy "More Than a Joke"

This is yet another selection that gets me wondering why bands like this don't really exist anymore? Oh well… at least the material's still in print and available, and that's the most important aspect of all. This disc is very much recommended, so vastly improve the quality of your collection and make the purchase if you enjoy the tunes:

@ G7 Welcoming Committee

Rosesdead and Juniper Sky…

Posted on Tuesday, June 13th, 2006 @ 10:25am » permalink

Rosesdead - StagesI found a few CD's yesterday that have been sitting here for quite awhile but got shuffled aside, and I was practically disappointed to rediscover "Stages", the debut full-length from Rosesdead (on One Day Savior), because it reminded me that I had been intending to buy a full copy of this CD over two months ago (Damn to hell the use of promos without complete packaging!), but I never did… and then I forgot about it. So I guess I'll finally pick one up later this week, but I wanted to go ahead and get this shit up on the site since it's been collecting dust since late-March!

I know what you're thinking: "Man, that band name's a little, uhhh… 'geigh'." While I can't disagree there, I can wholly recommend that you look past such an oversight. I simply cannot comprehend why I'm not hearing more about these guys, because the quality of this release should be garnering way more attention that it seems to have received thus far. The band hails from Canada and released an EP a couple of years ago, but this is my first exposure to their work, and I'm fucking impressed. Aside from the fact that on rare occasion (out of 40 minutes we're talking, maybe… five or six minutes tops) they'll venture into played out Swedish styled melodies or tremolo picking nonsense, everything about this disc is top-fucking-notch contemporary metalcore that blows through shitloads of killer riffs and dynamics with no remorse. Chugging staccato breakdowns, caustic textures and dissonant chord phrasings, fluid clean passages and droning interludes, technical metal flare… it's all here, and the end result is actually cohesive – it's not a jumbled mess of riff after riff after riff. Basically this is another band that's coming close to the level and overall aesthetic of what Misery Signals is doing (in fact Rosesdead is probably the closest of any other band I've encountered to date), and that is no small compliment at all. This is easily one of the best metalcore records I've heard all year, and it's worth mentioning that the recording is pretty damn good on top of the intense songwriting. Were they to toss those few crappy Swedish trappings they'd be completely golden. I can't help but worry about the lyrical content a little bit due to the band name being somewhat silly, but I'm hoping for the best there. Hey, as far as the packaging's concerned, I dig the cover art if nothing else.

Rosesdead "The Structure"
Rosesdead "Night Danger"

I'm damn sure looking forward to more from these cats, and I'll be buying one of these myself within a day or two. You should do the same if you're into it:

@ One Day Savior
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Juniper Sky - Don't ForgetHere's another CD that I got a couple of months ago and found under a bunch of other crap the other day, and yes… it's from another fairly painfully named band. Juniper Sky is from New York, and "Don't Forget" is their debut full-length on Textbook Music. This one's not gonna be for everyone, but I like the bulk of what I'm hearing, and with a little extra push I think this band could actually do some great work. For the most part this is some form of emo with tastefully high-pitched singing and a surprisingly metallic edge that counters the melody in a way that doesn't really change the overall feel of the material. It's really nothing particularly original per se, but the songwriting is solid, and I really like it when emo-ish bands have a crunchy sort of metal edge to their approach. They try to mess with some smatterings of electronics here and there, but while perfectly fine (most of the time, in a few areas they do go overboard with that mess) I just don't really see the need for it – it's not like it adds anything to the material, nor does it really come across as "creative" or whatnot at this point. At times the pacing can drag a touch, so I'd like to hear them speed things up and get a little more energy moving around on occasion, but there's sort of a somber kind of moody crawl to a lot of this stuff that does work with many of the tempos, so that's cool.

Honestly, what would help this band the most is a stronger recording. The vocals are a little overpowering in the mix (which might draw undue hostility from listeners who aren't as acquainted with this niche), and that's largely because the instruments aren't full enough to dominate the overall flow. The guitars need to be warmer with crisper, clearer basslines across the board, and the percussion needs to follow suit. Right now the drumming almost sounds programmed on occasion (not from a performance standpoint, I'm speaking strictly with regard to the actual sound and tone of the percussion), and that just feeds into the fact that the singing is punchier and more dominant than anything else herein. It sounds okay, though, and some of the songs definitely suggest bigger and better things to come. I could definitely see this stuff getting fairly "popular" under the right circumstances.

Juniper Sky "All For You"
Juniper Sky "Forever"

For some reason the label's not selling copies of this disc themselves right now, I don't know what that's all about. But it's definitely out and around in the distros, so pick it up if this is your kind of thing:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

The First Step and Icepick…

Posted on Monday, June 12th, 2006 @ 9:30am » permalink

The First Step - What We KnowThe First Step is from North Carolina and plays straightforward old school hardcore with no frills. The kids seem to eat this shit up and I guess that's because this band seems to be one of the few out there right now that literally follows the late-80's "youth crew" sort of straightedge aesthetic almost 100%, right down to their album layouts. They're not the most productive band on earth in terms of recorded output, but "What We Know" is their long-awaited debut "full-length" (though it offers up 12 tracks in only 19-and-a-half minutes) on Rivalry Records. Only one track hits two minutes, otherwise everything is short and to the point midpaced to moderately fast three-chord styled hardcore with token breaks and shouting vocals – nothing over the top and absolutely no metal. This is the kind of hardcore that's conducive to fingerpointing and pile-on sing-alongs, you know what I mean?

I'd say there's a little bit of a weird recording on this one (the "boxy" snap to the snare damn sure took me some getting used to), but the overall warmth carries it through, and I definitely feel like the songwriting on this effort is more diverse and energetic than the band's past material. Of course, when it comes to such traditionally based hardcore words like "diverse" only go so far, but The First Step is one of those bands that has a very distinct vision of what their sound entails, so that's what you can expect them to deliver. And hey, they do it right and come across as sincere, so I see nothing wrong with looking to the past under those circumstances.

The First Step "Get Wise"
The First Step "No Good Reason"

I know that a lot of people who are way into this form of hardcore are also big time vinyl junkies, and this one's available on vinyl as well if that's your thing. So pick it up if your ears never tire of "those days, those fuckin' days…":

@ Rivalry Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Icepick - GoldrushThis one came out about a year ago, but I only recently grabbed it and the band seems to be being slept on in the US, so I figured I'd go ahead and write it up. "Goldrush" is the debut EP from Icepick (not the band with Jamey Jasta and Ezec, this is the Icepick from The Netherlands) on Not Just Words Records, which is coincidentally the label that just released The First Step's "What We Know" LP in Europe. I've mentioned in the past that some of these European bands have done a pretty damn good job of channeling an oddly intriguing take on a Cro-Mags kind of feel that's neither "retro" hardcore nor particularly metallic (though there are a couple of quick solos here). As a result, these guys in particular remind me quite a bit of True Blue, who were among the best of this style (which they admittedly probably pioneered in Europe). It might help to add some beefiness to the rhythm guitars, but the mix is even and clear, and for the most part they've got a nice and crispy recording with a great bass tone. The vocals can get a little weird sometimes, there's a little bit of a strain in the delivery on occasion, but once you get used to it that's not really an issue… and I certainly haven't encountered many vocalists that sound like this dude! From a songwriting standpoint Icepick stays just barely ahead of the common pitfall of sticking with too much of a consistently midpaced tempo, so even though the drummer does seem to rely on pretty much the same patterns throughout, the overall pace varies just enough to keep things moving along with the riffing changes. More speed wouldn't hurt, but they're on the right track. This is a strong start and I'm very curious to see where the band heads in the future, so hopefully they'll stick around longer than True Blue did in their day.

Icepick "This Time"

This one's probably not that easy to come by in the US, but it's still in stock for the damn fine price of just $7 at Surprise Attack's webstore, so grab it if you're into it:

@ Surprise Attack Records

State of Conviction "A Call to Arms" CD

Posted on Friday, June 9th, 2006 @ 8:48am » permalink

Hell yeah, I'm so damn glad to finally see this thing available again. This record brings me back to a time when I was doing websites for like half the fucking bands in Cleveland or something – to the point where I got emails on a daily basis from people who assumed I was from that area. State of Conviction's "A Call to Arms" was recorded back in 1996/1997 and originally came out on Dwid's old Holy Terror label in either '97 or '98, I can't remember, but this remastered/repackaged reissue is out now on frontman Jason Popson's own Fractured Transmitter label.

I loved this band from the first moment I heard them back in the late-90's, and always felt like this album was way underrated. Perhaps that happened because their sound is definitely unique, and especially at the time when this album was current a lot of listeners had a habit of ignoring or insulting any aggressive music that couldn't be fairly easily pigeonholed into one subgenre or another. While this band builds upon elements of both hardcore and metal, it's not really all that hardcore-oriented aside from general mindset and certain elements of the lyrical content – but then again it's not exactly something that strikes me as blatantly metal either, it's definitely an odd yet innovative blend of the two. They've often been lazily compared to other Cleveland bands, but I just can't agree with that because it cheapens their level of creativity and creates an inaccurate picture of what the band truly offers. Maybe the focal role of a distinct bass tone and occasional appearances of slap bass highlight the groove-laden nature of the material too much for some, but these guys handled those elements expertly, and that tactful groove was a lot of what helped separate them from anything else that was going on at the time. Plus, while not as rare a breed as today, original sounding vocalists were already harder and harder to encounter back then as well, and Popson's performances are always immediately recognizable as his own.

This edition of the CD boasts an improved layout that finally includes lyrics (I really dig a lot of these lyrics, and some of them are damn hard to make out on the album, so this is a great addition) as well as a couple more live photos… though the layout neglects to list the band lineup!? There are also fewer samples on this pressing (likely for legal reasons), but I actually think that's a good thing, because the record really does flow better without 'em. The only minor drawback in my opinion is that the new mastering seems thinner somehow. I still listen to my original copy of this album fairly often and feel like that first pressing sounded heavier. The band's bassist Craig Martini is fuckin' awesome and his basslines are gonna be prominent no matter what, but it feels like the remastering has stripped out some of the density – probably in trying to get things a smidge clearer, I guess. It doesn't detract from the quality of the songwriting or anything, but should the album ever come back around for a third visit I'd definitely like to see some of that beefiness return – the dude's a great god damn bassist, so if his playing fights for space with the guitars, so be it! But regardless, this record has been unavailable for far too long, and a lot of those who missed out the first time around should give it a shot now.

State of Conviction "Brink of Extinction"
State of Conviction "Convictions"

Apparently State of Conviction is actually back together, which I was totally unaware of until this morning. There was a time when Jason Popson was in like three or four killer bands at once, so it's about time he got back in action with a band of this nature (cough, cough, now if only In Cold Blood would miraculously reunite with the "Hell on Earth" lineup, ahem). This one comes very much recommended and I damn sure hope the reunited group does indeed stick around for a second full-length. Pick this shit up, kids:

@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

v/a "It's a Trap! Reader's Companion Volume Two" compilation CD

Posted on Thursday, June 8th, 2006 @ 12:44pm » permalink

I don't think I've covered any compilations since switching over to the mp3 blog format, so I'm going to keep this one fairly short since it's a no-brainer in my opinion. I've mentioned a number of times in the past how fond I am of the It's a Trap website, which caters to Scandinavian music and has introduced me to a number of extremely incredible artists since its inception – a number of which are from outside the realm of my normal listening range. Well, the site has recently released its second compilation CD: The aptly titled "It's a Trap! Reader's Companion Volume Two", which contains 17 tracks and over an hour's worth of music for a mere $6 – which includes a handy jewel case and some rather nice looking designs printed on matte stock and everything. Amongst the smattering of songs herein are a number of previously unreleased tracks – a damn nice touch that happens to include contributions from a few artists such as The End Will Be Kicks and The Grand Opening that I'm already a fan of thanks to the site, as well as a strange ambient piece from Plain Fade (one of the few such acts that I actually found out about directly from the band as opposed to It's a Trap). I won't hide the fact that there are a select few tracks on this thing that kind of fall into a quirky, "hip" sounding vat that doesn't really suit my tastes, but there's a very wide variety of material on this thing (quite admirably so, in fact), and as usual I have to thank It's a Trap for turning me onto some great new music that I never would've heard otherwise – not to mention forcing me to lay off the "heavy stuff" for awhile! You'll find everything from generally unclassifiable flirtations with emo/indie rock to acoustic singer/songwriter styles, weird and atypical "new wave" sounds, unexpected excursions into an ambient niche of experimental noise, or even just kind of, like… straight soft rock or something, I don't fucking know, man… there's a song or two on this thing that could conjure visions of some laidback Fleetwood Mac or Bob Seger shit! But yeah, yeah, I'm a hardcore and metal guy, so what the fuck do I know, right? Well, I know that I like a lot of these tunes, and I appreciate the chance to surprise myself with what lighter fare can actually do the trick for me. Here are a few examples of songs that I wouldn't expect myself to like, but most certainly do:

Moonbabies "Take Me to the Ballroom"
Viola "Invisible Revolution"
Tiger Lou "Nixon"

I'm already looking forward to "…Volume Three"! And look, people, this fucking thing is only $6, which is probably barely enough for those responsible to even entertain the feeble notion of breaking even on this gem, so I highly, highly encourage you to support them with a purchase if you're curious… and buy the first volume of the series while you're at it, because it's only $5! And please keep in mind that the above three tracks are not indicative of all that these collections have to offer in terms of particular genre(s). So go, now, do it:

@ It's a Trap

Music Hates You "Send More Paramedics" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2006 @ 12:11pm » permalink

Music Hates You - Send More ParamedicsIf I'm going to be totally honest with you, I didn't think I was going to like this band when they first got in touch with me. Being so finicky about certain things I'm sort of weird sometimes, so I can be very pre-judgmental of bands based on various non-musical attributes – for example a band name that I'm not wild about or, say, a website that looks like it was designed in 1997. Unfair, I know, but let's face it: People behave this way all the time, it's not like I'm the only one. If nothing else, thankfully I don't let those types of initial assumptions solidify my opinions, because once you actually hear these guys' music you're just kind of like, "Huh, okay, yeah… I can dig this."

The funny thing is, I really didn't think that bands like this existed anymore. Music Hates You hails from Athens, GA and "Send More Paramedics" is their self-released debut album – which reminds me of a style that kind of rose in the mid-90's in the wake of grunge and Helmet. Like Stompbox, for example, who I've covered in the past. They seem to take that kind of a general vibe and get a little more unhinged with the vocals while tossing a dirtier kind of rock 'n' roll energy into the mix to give the tunes more kick. They're probably not going for anything in particular, this is likely just the sound that comes out when these cats plug in and get down to business, but whatever the case I like what I'm hearing.

There's a great fucking recording on this thing, there's simply no denying that. The impeccable distorted bass tone perfectly fills out the mix between well-rounded and natural percussion and a warm, gritty guitar distortion that's plenty thick in its own right. While a minuscule element of the vocal performance can get a little irritating and screechy, for the most part the dude's got an awesome style that's a perfect blend of singing and yelling with just the kind of gruff texture that the overall attitude of this material demands – fitting into place regardless of whether the band's doling out a pulsing midpaced rhythm, a faster and more frenzied back and forth attack of staccato textures, or perhaps even a slightly more spacious and melodic passage. Not bad at all.

Music Hates You "How Do I Get Him the Fuck Out of My Living Room?"
Music Hates You "Fingerprints for Every Man, Woman, and Child"

There's actually a song on this thing called "Rock and Roll Ape Sex and Hell", and that might say a lot more than it seems, so throw these guys $10 for a CD if you dig the tunes so they can buy a couple of beers and keep on truckin':

@ CD Baby

Tragedy "Nerve Damage" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 6th, 2006 @ 8:46am » permalink

Tragedy - Nerve DamageBut anyway, I don't think I need to bother going into any background information on Tragedy at this point, but I have to say, even as one who can wholly understand and respect their principled disregard for most forms of commerce as related to the band, holy shit can it be frustrating trying to find information about these cats when they've got new material out! I mean, shit, a couple of weeks ago when I first heard about their self-released third full-length (entirely at random via email, mind you), I couldn't find one distro that was carrying copies. I also couldn't figure out the name of the record, had no idea how long it had been out, had no idea what formats it was available on, etc. Hell, someone even told me the other day that they saw the band perform fairly recently and they weren't even selling copies at the show!?

Luckily I was able to track down a copy not long ago, and it seems to be filtering out to more and more sources at this point, so… what's the verdict? For me personally, perhaps the most interesting aspect of "Nerve Damage" as a whole is that the opening salvo of the first track, "Eyes of Madness", is complete and total Bolt Thrower worship on every level. But don't get the wrong idea, while little snippets of metal have played a significant role in much of these guys' material since long before Tragedy even formed, this album is about what you'd expect in terms of cranking out 11 tracks of the melodically aggressive socio-political hardcore/punk for which Tragedy has become synonymous.

Is it a rehash of past efforts? No, I wouldn't say that at all. The recording seems to balance the thicker punch of "Vengeance" with the rawer grit of the band's debut quite perfectly, while the songwriting is similar though more diverse in terms of branching out into just a handful of additional riffing styles/tempo variations beyond those driving power chord rhythms and their dissonant accoutrements. In a few instances I'd say the material is barely more melodic and perhaps has more of an energetic burst to its attack, whereas a few of the tunes actually strike me as somewhat darker than Tragedy's past efforts – for example the chilling piano that lays the foundation for the untitled instrumental that separates the two halves of the album.

It seems to take a little growing time to achieve its full effect for some reason, but as usual I'm more than pleased, and Tragedy is certainly the best out there at what they do – practically embarrassing most any band that has dared attempt to recreate this unique niche of hardcore/punk that Tragedy has assimilated and refined from decades of past influences. Excellent, of course.

Tragedy "Eyes of Madness"
Tragedy "Under the Radar"

Sick lyrics as well:

I'm no bastard's slave scarred at birth, bloodstained. Never sold, thrown away. On the surface we appear to comply only because that makes us harder to detect…

Oh, the irony of using the dreaded technological means to promote a band that's neither fond of technology nor the least bit interested in promoting themselves… but what can I say, I'm just a lazy complacent fuck, I guess. I like music and I buy records… and I think you should, too:

@ 29 North Records
@ Interpunk
@ Relapse Records

This is Hell and The Break In…

Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2006 @ 11:38am » permalink

This is Hell - Sundowning"Sundowning" (released by Trustkill) sees This is Hell continuing to hone their brand of lightly metallic hardcore that's got a forceful sense of aggression to it that's wrapped in both blatant melody (not wholly uncommon for their Long Island residence) and an obvious sense of sincerity – comparable on some level to a number of other contemporary bands within this scene that fit into this particular niche in one way or another. However, This is Hell seems to be adding a slightly more post-hardcore sounding spin to their take on this direction, which is a nice touch. I do sort of feel like the recording on this outing comes across as a smidge too thin (there's a lot of midrange in there), there's not quite enough crispness to the low-end, so a little bit of the clarity and balance can suffer. More punch to the rhythm section (especially the drums) could've really given this material an extra kick in the ass, but nonetheless I really like these songs a lot and feel like this is a logical progression from the band's earlier work – retaining that basic framework and the sheer intensity of the screaming vocals while adding in significantly more melody to the riffing and achieving a broader focus that lets the songwriting come across as more diverse and "mature" (for lack of a better word), but also more memorable. With 13 tracks in but a little over 28 minutes the impact of the energy level never really has time to slip either, and that's a great place to be. This is their first full-length recording and the band seems to be fairly young, so if all goes well they should have a long and fruitful run ahead of 'em…

This is Hell "The Polygraph Cheaters"
This is Hell "Nobody Leaves Without Singing the Blues"

Make the grab if it suits your tastes:

@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

The Break In - UnbowedDamn if "Unbowed" isn't one of the best Surprise Attack releases to date, and it happens to be the US pressing of the first "full-length" offering (though it's only about 25 minutes long) from UK hardcore act The Break In. I honestly don't seem to hear all that much of this particular style from the UK, but whatever the case this is pretty furious metallic hardcore that takes the standard foundation of chunky power chords and moderately fast tempos littered with thick midpaced breakdowns and then tosses in some odd dissonant riffs that add an extra tinge of metal while also keeping things from sounding totally standard on a musical level. They also go with a nastier than average guitar tone that's got a dirty yet efficient texture to it, which actually works quite well against the over the top intensity of the vocal performance – which actually adds a rather Ringworm-esque touch to the material, so it should appeal to fans of that whole niche. Something about the busy textures of the layout printed on matte stock with differing shades of brown ink catches my eye for whatever reason as well, so this is good stuff across the board. It's a relatively straightforward attack when all is said and done, and definitely an aggressive fuckin' release, so I'll look forward to hearing more from these cats at some point.

The Break In "Coffin Dodger"
The Break In "Iron Hammers"

The label's selling copies of this thing for an inconceivably cheap $5 apiece, so if you dig the tunes you'd have to be an idiot not to buy it straight from them – not to mention you're a seriously cheap motherfucker if you pass on picking it up for such a cheap price:

@ Surprise Attack Records

Apartment 213 "Cleveland Power Violence" CD

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006 @ 11:12am » permalink

Apartment 213 - Cleveland Power ViolenceFollowing last year's four-song demo of the same name, "Cleveland Power Violence" (brand spankin' new on Retribute Records) sees Apartment 213 unleashing their first full-length record since the band's formation way back in the early-90's… and it's about damn time! Perhaps best known for the legendary "Vacancy" 7" on the one and only Dark Empire label, or their split EP's with Benümb and Gehenna (all of which were collected on a massive and long overdue early discography CD in late-2005), the band is now back in action after breaking up in the late-90's and they sound better than ever – which is to say that they basically sound exactly like they did in their heyday, just with better recording quality. But that's not to say they've polished things up. Far from it, in fact. As expected the sound is still rough around the edges, and there's a live vibe to the production for sure – it's just clearer and thicker, with a more balanced punch and an even mix that lets the bass fill in right between the sludgy grit of the guitar tone and the warm snap of the percussion.

Despite what some would say, no other band sounds like Apartment 213 to me. The vocals are especially inimitable and immediately stamp the material as Apartment 213, and for those unfamiliar with the band's past efforts: Please don't let the term "power violence" scare you away. You have to remember that, in its infancy, "power violence" was actually good. It wasn't always a bunch of 80lb little suburban douchebags playing as fast and raucous as possible while barking lyrics about either goofy little bullshit that's not actually funny or crafting lofty socio-political diatribes that would've never made a damn difference in the world anyway. This is the real deal. It's not a blur of speed at all, and truth be told a good chunk of the material is actually churning and midpaced – with a riffing style that alternates between bludgeoning power chords and twisted squeals. Sure, there are plenty of speedy moments that flirt with a straight hardcore/grind sort of feel, but the overall aesthetic is one that you don't really get the chance to experience too often these days, because there have only been a handful of bands in the last decade that have been able to properly harness this sound. And since Apartment 213's roots rest in one of the earliest waves of the "power violence" style, that's why they can still deliver the goods without fail.

Apartment 213 "Decay"
Apartment 213 "Headache"
Apartment 213 "Down Syndrome"

Aside from a couple of noise tracks (one from frontman Steve Makita's Lockweld project and one a collaboration between the band and Eric Wood from Man is the Bastard/Bastard Noise), most of these songs run about a minute or two in length. I believe the only re-recorded tracks present (not including those from the 2005 demo sessions) are "Decay" (from the split 7" with Benümb), "Severed" (from their demo), and "BTK" (a.k.a. "The Track Formerly Known as 'John Wayne Gacy'", from the "Vacancy" 7"). So by far and wide you're in for predominantly new material on this outing, and there's more on the way. Since this disc just recently hit the streets it hasn't made the rounds yet, but you can order it straight from the label for $13ppd, so get the fuck to it:

@ Retribute Records

The End Will be Kicks "s/t" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2006 @ 11:42am » permalink

I don't think I have the complete packaging with this one, so by my neurotic standards I technically shouldn't be covering it. But the promo sleeve actually looks nice and feels somewhat complete, so… since I can't afford to drop the cash for a finished copy right now due to been buying too many CD's lately as it is, I'm gonna let it slide, because this is an excellent album that deserves to be heard. The End Will be Kicks is from Sweden and features former members of Him Kerosene and Breach (sadly I've never been able to track down much from Him Kerosene), and this self-titled affair is – yep, you guessed it – the band's debut full-length on Chalksounds. This one unloads 10 tracks and about 40 minutes of jangly and melodic indie rock that blends catchy sensibilities with an efficient sense of rawness that lends a slightly dated sounding edge to the overall tone. To some degree there's a "hip" tinge of rocked out darkness that has a "modern throwback" effect, if that makes sense, but for the most part the songwriting is very memorable and I really dig how they take a discordant and lightly noisy attack and counterbalance it with gripping melodic attributes. I'm guessing there are a number of bands along these general lines out there that I simply have no clue about because I don't get exposed to this kind of material as often as I'd like, so some might scoff at my take on it, but I can definitely hear some riffing in here that has a DC-ish kind of emo/indie ring to it (you know, the real deal stuff), while some of the occasional excursions into ringing reverb effects and whatnot sound more akin to a style of playing that's more "popular" these days. But the end result doesn't really have a lot in common with either of those influences, and, at least to me, this band has an overall aesthetic that's familiar yet still fairly original. Regardless of all that, I just really love the writing here, and when you break it down there are some slick little winding riffs and lots of intricate interactions between the instruments that are pretty damn involved considering the catchy punch that often results. Nicely done.

The End Will be Kicks "Don Johnson"
The End Will be Kicks "Lights of Planes"

As is often the case with these little Scandinavian gems, your best source in the US is probably going to be the magnificent It's a Trap webstore. I'll probably end up dropping the $13 for a fully-loaded copy of the album myself at some point, and so should you if the above tracks catch your ear:

@ It's a Trap

This CD came to me in the exact same type of sleeve as the one above, so maybe I don't have the complete packaging with this one either, but I really can't tell!? Either way, Aerial is another Swedish act, and yes, I do believe that "Black Rain From the Bombing" is indeed yet another debut release (this time from the No Method label). Apparently these guys draw comparisons to Sonic Youth and Mono, but I hate Sonic Youth and don't particularly think this sounds like Mono either – aside from some relatively long songs and a few drawn out instrumental breaks that do the ebb and flow thing while utilizing some droning effects. It's mainly dark and moody indie-ish rock with soft singing mixed very deep back against the instruments. Musically there are lots of brightly ringing riffs that spiral around the vocals and percussion, alongside fuzzy distortion that does at times decay from rigid power chords and jangly riffing into intense wails of relatively abrasive noise and feedback – which can hint at the gratingly obnoxious level of Sonic Youth, but fits into the overall feel of the material more logically and therefore actually makes sense. There is a degree of repetitiveness in place as well, but that doesn't really bother me, even in the case of the tracks that top 10 minutes in length. It actually comes across as a relatively concise little outing, this one. I'd like to hear more from this band in the future to see what happens, because there are a number of angles that they could choose to further explore.

Aerial "Time is on Fire"

This one sells for only $8, so they might be billing it as an EP since there are only four songs (granted the total running time is over 35 minutes), I'm not sure. Either way the same notion applies and It's a Trap is a great resource, so make the grab if you're into the material:

@ It's a Trap