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Electro Quarterstaff "Gretzky" CD

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 @ 12:15pm » permalink

Electro Quarterstaff - Gretzky87 years from now, some wise sage just may point out that, "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth onto all continents shredding instrumental metal, conceived in three-guitar harmony, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal…" Because, you see, Electro Quarterstaff is a special breed of band. A breed of band whose shredding instrumental metal demands the creation of catchphrases such as "I see your Gretzky is as big as mine." (which, unsurprisingly, works just as well, if not better, with their self-released "Swayze" EP) as much as it demands respect, admiration, and the proverbial "throwing of the horns".

Yes, the time of "Gretzky", the all-too-long-awaited Willowtip-released debut full-length from Electro Quarterstaff, is finally upon us – bringing with it eight tracks and more than 50 minutes of unrepentantly sweaty and vocal-free heavy metal. As stated in the booklet: "This is an uncircumcised recording." As stated by the label: "One of the greatest instrumental metal albums of all time." As stated by me: "An album so man-esque, even your lady-friends will grow a pair upon experiencing the brute man-ishness of its testosterone-fueled manhood." For with "Gretzky", Electro Quarterstaff proves that all you need are three guitars, drums, and approximately six hundred and sixty-six riffs per track – only a scarce few of which are appropriated from 1986 – 1988 era Metallica or prime Thin Lizzy. Sure, an insanely impeccable recording meatier than the rack of ribs that tips over the car during "The Flintstones" intro doesn't hurt. Nor does the bizarre yet awesome artwork. And Canadian bloodlines may or may not be mandatory for the equation to complete itself, I'm not sure…

But whatever the case, it's true: This is one of the greatest instrumental metal albums of all time. Therefore, I refuse to further dishonor their supremacy with such pedestrian gibberish. It's time to rock:

Electro Quarterstaff "Neckwrecker"

Some bands call themselves "thinking man's metal". Well, sorry ladies, but this is "manly man's metal". This is "Chuck Norris' beard metal". And I fucking love it. You know what I'm sayin'? These dudes are supreme badasses of the highest order, and any self-respecting disciple of the riff owes it to themselves, and to the sheer might of the band, to purchase this record:

@ Willowtip

L'Esprit du Clan "Chapitre 2: Reverence" CD

Posted on Monday, October 30th, 2006 @ 1:12pm » permalink

L'Esprit du Clan - Chapitre 2: ReverenceTwo words: Fuck yes. And finally. I have to give huge respect to Hong Kong label God's Child Music for making this happen, as well as thanks for sending one to me! This is the long overdue Asian and American release of "Chapitre 2: Reverence", the second full-length and third overall recording from L'Esprit du Clan – one of the most badass French metalcore acts out there, and without a doubt one of the most unnecessarily obscure and underrated European metalcore bands of all time – at least in terms of their presence here in the US. This shit came out a year-and-a-half ago in Europe, and would've cost something like $35 to get straight from the band via some kind of fucked up bank transfer or something (believe me, I looked into it), and their first two records remain practically impossible to find. I'm so damn psyched to finally own this album!

L'Esprit du Clan's style is a violently brutal and ultra slick Merauder meets early Machine Head (but better, in the case of the latter) sort of thing, with a sick dual vocal onslaught delivered entirely in French – and in my opinion the overall tone and delivery totally communicate the bitterness of their message even if you don't speak a lick of French. It's much more metal than "metalcore" at this point (and remember – we're talking about the form of crushing 90's metallic hardcore that was king when this band formed in 1995), with plenty of chugging modern thrash and scorching lead breaks with just the right presence of occasional melody. And the fucking huge sounding production with a perfectly balanced mix? Shit, that's certainly not hurting anyone, you know? This shit sounds totally golden, it's just insane. On this particular edition you'll also get two bonus tracks from the "Chapitre 1" CD, as well as two CD-Rom videos. You can't lose, man. It's 55+ minutes of complete annihilation, and I'm lovin' every damn second of it. Awesome.

L'Esprit du Clan "Reverence"
L'Esprit du Clan "Le Venin"
L'Esprit du Clan "Compact"

Buy this shit. L'Esprit du Clan rules. God's Child Music rules. Please support their efforts so that they, and other labels, will continue to take chances on these types of projects:

@ Very Distribution

Bloodlet "Entheogen" CD

Posted on Friday, October 27th, 2006 @ 9:03am » permalink

Bloodlet - EntheogenFlorida's Bloodlet was another band thrown the "holy terror" tag that, aside from the ties of the label (yes, there was a time when the majority of the Victory Records roster was top fucking notch), had little to nothing in common with hardcore – especially from a musical perspective. I guess I'll mention that they were also referred to as "evilcore" on numerous occasions, but I always fucking hated that term, granted this is some sinister sounding shit. But these cats were at the fucking top of their game in 1996 on their first proper full-length, "Entheogen" – unloading 10 masterful cuts in nearly 50 minutes, which was pretty damn epic given the circumstances of this particular niche.

Boasting some of the most unique vocals and lyrics of their day over winding rhythmic pulses and intricate time signatures driven by a completely badass rhythm section made up of slick as fuck fretless bass runs and jazzy percussive textures, Bloodlet was without question one of the most innovative and original acts around during the height of the 90's metalcore boom – not to mention one of the most technically proficient. Some have argued this point with me over the years, but I always found Bloodlet to be one of the single most excellent live bands out there at that time as well. They'd basically take the stage, play their entire set straight through without stopping, and disappear without uttering much of anything to the audience – other than perhaps a succinct, "We're Bloodlet."

This album is just a complete fucking classic, and one that's all too painfully underrated these days. But, man, everything about this shit was insane in 1996 – the cleanliness of the recording, the atypical cover paintings (some of Aaron Turner's finest), the musicianship, and just the fucking sound of these guys. I mean, bands just didn't fucking sound like this back then, and really there's never been another band that has very directly compared to what Bloodlet created throughout their existence.

Bloodlet "Brainchild"
Bloodlet "Something Wicked"
Bloodlet "One and Only"

Perpetuate the sin of the fifth nothing is holy nothing is sacred begging the demons to surge kiss them on the mouth as the martyr is forgotten ascension through sacrilege forgotten benediction glorify embrace as all the angels in heaven weep take me away from here a man most abhorred to the gods my fists clench teeth grit I have witnessed your savior's demise I have watched you slice his throat and I have laughed bathe in infamy lust hypocrisy wretch.

Vocalist Scott Angelacos is currently in Hope and Suicide, which is probably the most known post-Bloodlet outlet, while bassist Art Legere currently explores more of an electronic/drum 'n' bass direction in a project called The Amen Brothers, and guitarist Matt Easley has a new band called Daisie Cutter.

Unlike many of these "holy terror" selections, "Entheogen" is still easy to get your hands on, so make the grab if you were unfortunate enough to have missed out on these dudes:

@ Interpunk
@ Very Distribution

Bolz'n "Spalt>funktion" CD

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006 @ 10:21am » permalink

Bolz'n - Spalt>funktion"Spalt>funktion" is the debut full-length from insane German grinders Bolz'n, released by Repoman Records (which doesn't seem to have a website). This CD pressing is actually a remastered edition of an LP released shortly before, and both are limited to just 500 copies. Like the band's first 7" EP, this material is both frantic and punishingly heavy in its strangeness, but these tracks are far more unhinged in terms of explosive bursts of sheer chaos and blaring, caustic noisiness. It's not sloppy, but it can sound that way at times (I don't mean that in a bad way, mind you) since the time signatures are just fucked in many cases, as are the dissonant phrasings of the chords and note textures employed throughout. They've actually got a pretty strong recording in place that once again benefits the excellently off the wall drumming and keeps the at times appropriately biting edge of the guitar tone in check with plenty of rugged density – much of which comes from the completely brutal vocals – which remain some of the most impressive female growls, shrieks, and grunts I've ever encountered. The tracks range from an average of less than two minutes to as many as nine, with some of the longer compositions actually exploring some literal experimental noise segments with glitchy electronics and ambient hums and such – which actually fits in quite well, believe it or not. Overall it's a generally brief 30-minute jaunt that roams through just enough of the band's slower, sludgier playing to give the listener some breathing room and spice things up. I think I'd like to hear them bring a little more of that element back into their writing – as on the 7" – to really counterbalance their over the top attacks and better demonstrate their cohesive force, but whatever the case, this is certainly an intriguing outfit, and that are doing their own thing in the world of D.I.Y. grindcore.

Bolz'n "Totstellen"
Bolz'n "666 Hektopascal"

If you're into the tracks above, I'd suggest contacting the band directly on MySpace for more information on how to get your hands on a copy. They're way into keeping the underground spirit alive, which I totally respect, so please do support them with a purchase if this is your thing!

Dead Weight, Dance Floor Justice, and Ignite the Will…

Posted on Wednesday, October 25th, 2006 @ 9:22am » permalink

Dead Weight - We've Seen Better Days"We've Seen Better Days" (on Double or Nothing Records) is the debut full-length from Florida's own Dead Weight, and with such burly vocals, punishing power chords, and forceful breakdowns within their massive onslaught of crushing metallic hardcore, one might suspect that this is somewhat of a toughguy sort of band or something along those lines, but nothing could be further from the truth. The band is comprised of current and former members of All Hell Breaks Loose, 24 Hours to Live, Target Nevada, and Dance Floor Justice, and their lyrical message – while furious and at times blunt – tends to fuse straightforward anger with calls to bring the message back into the music with regards to the hardcore scene, even utilizing occasional socio-political overtones. Don't get me wrong, they're definitely not rewriting the book, but that's not the point either. The songs are heavy as fuck, relatively basic and in your face, the recording is super dense and has a pretty damn impressive feel going on, and the songwriting travels through just enough variety to keep things interesting as well as cohesive. In the end they bust through 12 tracks in about 31 minutes and I'm definitely digging this shit. I haven't heard but so much of this form of 90's-ish metalcore as of late, so this one certainly hits the spot.

Dead Weight "Parasite"
Dead Weight "Fairweather"

As always, purchase the disc for yourself if you're into it:

@ Double or Nothing Records

Dance Floor Justice - Breaking the SilenceAs mentioned above, Dance Floor Justice, another Florida-based act, bears lineup ties to Dead Weight, as well as Until the End, Where Fear and Weapons Meet, and All Hell Breaks Loose. "Breaking the Silence" (also on Double or Nothing Records) is their first "full-length" effort, granted they tear through the generally short 12 tracks in but a mere 21 minutes and change. Despite having taken their name from a Project X song and the appearance of minimal straightedge-inspired lyrics, Dance Floor Justice is not a straightedge band, but they do play a generally straightforward form of hardcore with a slight dash of added heaviness to keep them from sounding like a rehashed old school outfit. The recording could use a little work in terms of thickening up the rhythm section and evening out the mix a touch, but the vocals sound pretty damn solid and the minor issues don't really affect the songs coming across to the listener, so that's cool. Not a bad debut, and – along with Dead Weight – another strong example of what's going on in Florida these days.

Dance Floor Justice "Teenage Wasteland"
Dance Floor Justice "Exploiting the Masses"

Make the grab if you're down:

@ Double or Nothing Records

Ignite the Will - Words FailAnother Double or Nothing Records debut – just not from Florida (Iowa this time, believe it or not) – comes in the form of Ignite the Will's "Words Fail". Like the above two releases, this is a generally short affair of just 29 minutes, jam packed with loads of midpaced to moderately fast metallic hardcore crunch and strained vocal yells. But, again, while this is a fairly consistent album in terms of the songwriting and overall aesthetic of the music, from a lyrical standpoint these cats are definitely digging a little deeper in terms of the socio-political content given an intensely personal touch, which is definitely cool.

Something has changed from the time when we were a country born of dissent. A nation created with a revolution in its heart. It didn't take long for these ideas to fall apart. Will it fix itself? Will they hear their own plea to be a part of it? When you open your mouth do you feel that the air has been lobbied out?

It took my ears a few minutes to adjust to the sound quality (which is actually pretty solid), but there are definitely some pretty punishing breakdowns happening on this thing, and some of the slightly faster chord progressions are very well placed in terms of providing added boosts of energy. Not too shabby… and "Drowning" is a fucking badass track. If these dudes start hitting that level more often they'll have me totally fuckin' hooked.

Ignite the Will "Drowning"
Ignite the Will "Passing the Time"

You know the drill, so if you like it, buy it… don't be an asshole:

@ Double or Nothing Records

Sonores "Elefanten" CD

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006 @ 9:08am » permalink

Sonores - ElefantenBeautiful. I had been looking forward to "Elefanten", the third release and debut full-length from Swedish outfit Sonores, since early this year when I first encountered the group through their It's a Trap mp3 release, which was somewhat of a preview for the album itself (which was just issued by the Structures Sonores label). The chief songwriter for Sonores is Jonas Odhner, who is actually better known in Sweden as a DJ with a background in hip-hop music, though you'd never guess such from the brilliant atmospheres created on this exceptional album – where Odhner is joined by numerous other contributors. The end result is a rather moving – if not chilling – display of musical influences seamlessly fused together in what the label calls "traces of classic progressive rock blended with a jazzy feel for pop sensibilities". I'm not sure I fully agree with that assessment, but I don't really listen to much of this sort of thing, so my vocabulary regarding such attributes is limited, and I certainly don't disagree. It's just that what Sonores is doing is so defiant of categorization that there's really no clear place for them, which is perfectly fine, of course, and really quite admirable. Reverberated clean guitars and bright, airy synth melodies; dry, folk-ish acoustic guitars; scattered electronic textures and subtle yet intricate nuances; resonant percussion and dense, roving basslines; among other instrumentation… it's all quite wonderful. The approach is one perhaps comparable to fellow Swedes Paatos at times – notably when the amazing female vocals are present – though these compositions are much more experimentally textured and assembled, and in my opinion more intriguing and emotionally powerful. I don't know what more to say other than I find this to be a truly outstanding CD, and I fully recommend it to anyone interested in curious music that has a chilled out, ambient sort of atmosphere that still carries with it a great deal of impact and feeling.

Sonores "Jonathan"
Sonores "Elefanten"

Please support these artists with a purchase if you enjoy the music:

@ Structures Sonores
@ It's a Trap

Twelve Tribes "Midwest Pandemic" CD

Posted on Monday, October 23rd, 2006 @ 9:02am » permalink

Twelve Tribes - Midwest PandemicIt has long been my opinion that Twelve Tribes is one of the single most criminally underrated bands out there right now, and while I appreciate Ferret Music for trying, stickering the front of their latest album, "Midwest Pandemic", with "For fans of: Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and As I Lay Dying" probably won't do the band much good, because such comparisons are absurdly inaccurate and to even utter the name of Twelve Tribes in relation to As I Lay Dying is both insulting and offensive – thus a grievous offense against the very band you're attempting to "pitch". You see, to infer that Twelve Tribes is a simple "metalcore" band is to create a cheap and misleading representation of what the band has to offer – which is actually far more inventive and individual than they're often given credit for. While the foundation is probably what I would consider to be post-hardcore in its use of intense rhythms and discordant guitar textures mixed with forceful slabs of intricately woven melodies, their attack is definitely more aggressive than the bulk of what's been tagged "post-hardcore" over the years, and despite some amazingly powerful and downright "catchy" elements, these dudes can certainly get pretty fuckin' vicious with their chaotic and abrasive bursts from time to time. The vocals are equally comfortable unleashing harsh screams/yells as they are singing or walking the line between the two – switching up between all such deliveries with ease. Similarly, the energy of the songwriting is held in place through fluid arrangements that relatively seamlessly weave through dynamics and influences, and since the bulk of these tracks are surprisingly succinct, the listening experience moves along quite well. Another superb recording and a brilliant layout (their best visual presentation to date) round out the complete package, so… I don't know what else to say. Contrary to what some would have you believe, Twelve Tribes is in fact one of those bands that's hard to properly do justice with words, so it's best to let the music speak for itself:

Twelve Tribes "Pagan Self Portrait"
Twelve Tribes "History Versus the Pavement"

If you enjoy the above two tracks, I heavily encourage you to purchase this album, as well as 2004's "The Rebirth of Tragedy" (which remains the band's masterwork to date) have you not had the great pleasure of experiencing it. I can't believe more people aren't into this band, and I truly hope they start to achieve the respect they deserve in the near future. Make the grab:

@ Ferret Music
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Ascension "The Years of Fire" CD

Posted on Friday, October 20th, 2006 @ 8:57am » permalink

Ascension - The Years of FirePerhaps lesser-known during the "holy terror" wave of the 90's, Ascension (from Cleveland, OH – probably the "holy terror" capital of the world simply due to Integrity's presence) was another band whose relationship to hardcore was fairly minimal from a musical standpoint, as their riffing was very directly influenced by straight up thrash metal – while still retaining a certain level of that undeniably effective 90's chug. And believe me, they more than earned their status under the "holy terror" banner through a raging assimilation of awesomely apocalyptic artwork, bitter lyrical themes, and even by quoting Anton LaVey on the back cover of this CD, "The Years of Fire", which was their 1996 debut. While both of the band's records were great, there's a certain level of unhinged energy and aggression on the debut that always stuck with me a little more, and the opening track, "Transit", is an outright fucking classic – easily the band's finest hour. Seven tracks, barely under 30 minutes… they just tear through and leave it at that. It's a quick listen, but one that still deserves a nod even today.

The putrid hate encompasses a million bleeding eyes, This is your way to kill the face of decay, With wounded lips, no voice will carry. And to the grave, corruption will take the blackened souls away. Wrapped up in the beautiful cedar boxes. The force had its way. Pollution of body and soul, the whole world is dying. Pollution of moral sin, there is no denying.

Ascension "Transit"
Ascension "Chestnut"

Ascension guitarist Matt DeVries and bassist Jason Hager later went on to Chimaira (though Hager only played on their first EP), while the latter is currently in a band called Years of Fire with former Ascension frontman Chris Wood (though I actually haven't really checked out their record yet). "The Years of Fire" is of course out of print, and Toybox Records doesn't even exist anymore, so… sadly the CD seems rather tough to come by these days. It does still seem to be available as a 10" from Interpunk, though, and you can find their sophomore full-length, "Abomination", on Amazon.com (incorrectly credited to the band name "This Ascension"), among other sources.

Versoma and Unlucky Atlas…

Posted on Thursday, October 19th, 2006 @ 9:09am » permalink

Versoma - Life During Wartime"Life During Wartime" (released by Robotic Empire) is the debut EP from Versoma – a new band featuring an impressive lineup whose membership has formerly been active in Anodyne, Turmoil, Lickgoldensky, Hot Cross, and Orchid, among others. The noisily aggressive nature of said groups certainly plays a significant role in this material, but there's a much darker element at work in terms of a cohesive sense of morose melody that manages to create a memorable sense of energy within the compositions. The songwriting really does a great job of blending rather intense, caustic bursts and forceful melodies, not to mention a wide array of musical influences, and I also enjoy the way the recording places the vocals deep in the heart of the mix so that they're sort of fighting their way forward over thick layers of droning effects and gritty textures. It takes a little time to settle in, but I was quite intrigued by the end of the first listen, and even the lyrics really do the trick for me:

There's a loss that I feel when these days grow short I want to feel the iron grip of "alone" I wish I could see the time pass before me I wish I could feel what it means to want like late at night I sink between the hours in an empty room time feels like a weapon sometimes alone is the best that I can do…

Versoma "Come in Alone"

Very nice. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these guys for sure. Pick it up straight from the label if you dig the track:

@ Robotic Empire

Unlucky Atlas - s/tIn the note accompanying this CD, a member of Unlucky Atlas referred to the quartet as "all older ex-hardcore kids", though you'd never really know it considering the credited instruments herein are mandolin, six and 12-string guitars (most, if not all, of which are acoustic), fiddle, cello, autoharp, and of course vocals. But don't get the wrong idea, this isn't some weak, folked-out hippie bullshit at all, and in fact the combination of brooding melodies and at times subtly socio-political lyrics can be quite moving/powerful. Seven tracks appear in all, several of which are brief instrumental interludes, with three of the four remaining compositions all topping seven minutes without a second thought, flowing through densely layered instrumentation that crosses some pretty involved ground in terms of interaction between differing instruments/melodies, as well as more sparse and stripped down segments – some of which let some exceptionally awesome vocal work shine through. Both male and female vocals are present at various points, and each singer has a great voice, so I think I'd like to hear them harmonize with one another a bit more often and really milk their talents to some degree. It's pretty damn cool when a band can test the waters like this and come up with something of their own that sounds nothing like their influences, thus coming across as creative and original without losing its musicality or intrigue in a murk of experimentation. It seems to be relatively early on in Unlucky Atlas' recorded history as well, so with time I could envision them really nailing the emotional impact of the already curious niche they're exploring.

The new American century waits and weeps to dream, not all a dream, a new frontier. The wrath of the lamb. Our days among the dead have not passed, tenuous and tense. The giant despair. The forward presence. The wrath of the lamb.

Unlucky Atlas "Numbers"

Oh, and it's also worth mentioning, of course, that this professionally pressed CD-R comes in a great looking chipboard digipack printed in green and metallic silver inks, with a color insert for the lyrics and whatnot. Nicely done.

If you're interested, I'd recommend contacting the band directly via their website or MySpace to inquire about getting your hands on some of their material.

The Neon Hookers "Calling All Creeps!" CD

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2006 @ 9:12am » permalink

The Neon Hookers - Calling All Creeps!Okay, so… The Neon Hookers is not a good band name, we know that much. And the style of the cover art on this thing combined with a band name like The Neon Hookers, well… it doesn't exactly get the ol' hopes up, does it? The thing is, despite the fact that there's something about the look of this record that could probably pass for some sort of techno DJ's booty-bass CD, the contents are anything but… and these cats are actually pretty fuckin' good! "Calling All Creeps!" is the Massachusetts outfit's relatively succinct debut EP on Cabal Records, which drops seven tracks of moderately paced metallic hardcore that's damn well written and contains just the right amount of dissonant melody and a few sparse, subtle little rocked out flirtations. They're certainly not rewriting the book on heavy, pissed off hardcore, but they know what they're doing and they certainly do it well – complete with a damn solid recording to boot. Trust me, I can remember when this band initially contacted me that my first non-musical impression was that this wasn't gonna be my thing at all, but these dudes definitely deliver, so it's sure to take a number of you by surprise. Good stuff.

The Neon Hookers "Be Careful What You Wish For"

Please support the band and the label with a purchase if you dig the track:

@ Cabal Records
@ Interpunk

Gaza "I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die" CD

Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2006 @ 9:23am » permalink

Gaza - I Don't Care Where I Go When I DieGaza's "I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die" (Blackmarket Activities) is one of those records I can't totally make up my mind on since I'm generally not that into the whole over the top abrasive/chaotic metalcore thing, but I have to give these cats credit for developing a truly fucked up sound that actually takes this style to different levels – which is pretty fuckin' rare. Yeah, you'll find fairly normal doses of scathing screams and harsh, snarling yells over whacky hammer-on/pull-off runs and acerbically noisy guitar textures, but there's a hell of a lot more going on than that. For one thing, these guys really push the limits of those caustic guitar sounds, experimenting with some truly severe textures. However, they actually form riffs out of that shit, which ain't exactly easy on the ears, but is pretty damn interesting. They also counterbalance the speedy blitzes and frantically shuffled change-ups with some pulverizingly crushing slow to midpaced sludginess – at times even dropping back to some sparse clean passages or truly eerie melodic dissonance – and it's these elements that bear the most promise for me, hooking me in and keeping me interested in what the band truly has to offer.

But there are other elements working in Gaza's favor, too. Amidst the churning density, the recording's pretty damn crisp and lets the bass presence make a good mark on the material, not to mention the fact that the drums sound pretty damn great, highlighting a strong performance that's one of the more consistently impressive attributes of the musicianship. And despite minor little issues, the layout looks pretty awesome. I'm loving the photography, that's for damn sure. 43 minutes may feel a bit steep in terms of the total running time, and the band hasn't quite mastered their attack, but I believe this is their first full-length outing, and it's still early. At its best, "I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die" really strikes gold (check 2:27 and beyond in "Hospital Fat Bags", that shit's god damn amazing), so I'm hoping for an increased balanced from the darker, more powerfully atmospheric side of Gaza's approach in the future, 'cause they could do some serious fuckin' damage – and already do!

Gaza "Hospital Fat Bags"
Gaza "Calf"

Make the grab if you're down:

@ Blackmarket Activities

Overcast "Begging for Indifference" CD

Posted on Friday, October 13th, 2006 @ 10:37am » permalink

Overcast - Begging for IndifferenceWhile at some point next year Overcast will probably become best known for their reunion, for the last several years they've been most often talked about as the band that was initially the home of current Shadows Fall vocalist Brian Fair, Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D'Antonio, and Seemless guitarist Pete Cortese. It's rather ironic that said reunion's first result will be a set of re-recorded tracks from the band's rather scanty discography, because I always though their recording quality was pretty decent compared to other such bands at the time, and their last record in particular sounded pretty fuckin' great by mid- to late-90's indie label standards. But that's not the point.

Prior to their 1998 breakup, Overcast was among the "metalcore" elite (again, before the genre's name was such a dirty word), boasting a truly unique sound of their own that, alongside select peers, took the chugging midpaced aesthetic of the east coast's staple formula and headed in a much more metal-based direction – going so far as to drop some blatant death metal riffs here and there. While not exactly "technical" per se, there were certain "complexities" happening in terms of the interaction between instruments and the way the songs were arranged – plowing through significant shifts in tempo as well as stark contrasts between surprising fits of melody versus base, outright brutality. While their material always fell on the darker than average side of the genre, I'd also credit Overcast with being one of the earlier bands within this niche to combine an array of different vocal styles, and when you unite all of that with their at times vicious lyrics (while not as "apocalyptic" in content as their contemporaries), they did indeed receive the "holy terror" stamp from time to time.

A toxified embrace holds me up as my suicide increases and my life skids out of control, shouting back in my face, as I lose control of my hands and mind, as I reach for my peace, I claw at my eyes because insensitivity is looking away, just like a raped mother to her child I hate you just the same…

Just shy of 20 minutes, the "Begging for Indifference" EP (which includes two tracks recorded in 1995 and two from 1993's "Stirring the Killer" 7") was always my favorite Overcast release for some reason… there's just something about the overall vibe and the consistent force of the songwriting that's always hit me the hardest. This shit's out of print, of course, and I assume they've re-recorded some of these gems for "Reborn to Kill Again", so I'll go ahead and post the whole EP:

1. "For Indifference"
2. "Fate's Design"
3. "Grifter"
4. "Forecast"

I'm definitely curious to see what all the Overcast reunion will hold, 'cause these guys were the shit in their day. If only bands were still able to achieve their own individual sounds like this, you know?

Spitalfield "Better Than Knowing…" CD

Posted on Thursday, October 12th, 2006 @ 10:52am » permalink

Spitalfield - Better Than Knowing Where You AreI've said it before and I'll say it again (well, at least until it happens): This band should be fucking huge. In typical fashion for the ridiculous and unjust world in which we live, Victory Records has bands that eat shit selling hundreds of thousands of records, and yet by far the best emo/indie/rock band they've ever had on their roster, Spitalfield, has yet to really even touch on that "status". What the fuck? Seriously. What the fuck!? Sure, they suffered a slight "sophomore slump" (though it was still a decent record), but son of a bitch am I psyched to report that "Better Than Knowing Where You Are", the band's third full-length, is back for the attack – rivaling the almost absurd levels of over the top catchiness and energy possessed by the band's outstanding debut, "Remember Right Now". Any album that's still cranking out immediately head-bobbing and memorable sing-alongs five tracks in is a serious fuckin' keeper and my book, and this is one of 'em, man. Hell, there's really no stopping, every song's a keeper for the most part! There are even some unexpected post-hardcore textures happening here and there. It's just good shit, what can I say? These dudes kick ass. The shit's not cheesy or anything, they just write great tunes, that's all there is to it. Well, that and the fact that the recording is once again totally pristine – perhaps even a touch more polished and "big time" sounding than past efforts – and certainly a tad more involved in terms of layering and subtle little intricacies that tend to go unnoticed when the songs are so damn catchy. And the layout's cool, too.

Spitalfield "The Only Thing That Matters"
Spitalfield "Curtain Call"

I'm telling you: This band should be fucking huge. Stop pretending you're too hard and buy this shit:

@ Victory Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Landmine Marathon and Graf Orlock…

Posted on Wednesday, October 11th, 2006 @ 8:57am » permalink

Landmine Marathon - WoundedA relatively big "extreme" music magazine recently reviewed "Wounded", the debut from Landmine Marathon (on Level-Plane Records), and completely trashed it – suggesting that it was sloppy, chaotic, muddy sounding, and generally worthless. All such suggestions are completely and entirely false, and said "reviewer" either suffers from irreparable hearing damage or has become a severely jaded old fuck who hasn't actually listened to grindcore since the late-80's or something. The fact of the matter is that "Wounded" tears through nine tracks of furious grind in 23 minutes, drawing from both the old and the new with plenty of blasting speeds countered by powerfully churning midpaced breaks, plus completely ferocious vocals. The fact that the band cites "old Earache releases and hardcore/punk" as influences makes it no surprise that a few Bolt Thrower riffs are indeed borrowed on occasion (probably the only accuracy to be found within the aforementioned review in said relatively big "extreme" music magazine) – granted they're usually played at two to three times Bolt Thrower's top speed – but no one said originality was the purpose, did they? Because it's not. Complete devastation is. Level-Plane may seem an unlikely source for such, but for my money this is one of the best grindcore releases of the year. I'm definitely on board.

Landmine Marathon "25th Hour"

If you're on the same page, pick this shit up from Level-Plane's rather large distro, whose service is top-notch:

@ 29 North Records

Graf Orlock - Destination Time YesterdayAnother recent debut full-length from Level-Plane Records comes in the form of Graf Orlock's "Destination Time Yesterday", which blows through 16 tracks of frantic and somewhat chaotic grind in 27 minutes. Despite the chaotic edge, the bulk of the playing is pretty controlled (especially the drumming), and the dual vocal attack is one of the more unique and effective I've encountered as of late. I wouldn't call the riffing straightforward as far as grind's concerned, either. It's not really out of the ordinary or anything, but the overall vibe tends to stray from the traditional old school style and keeps away from the throwback angle with plenty of contemporary dissonance as well as a few quick sludgy runs and even a couple of unexpected dashes of slight melody here and there. And, in addition to plenty of samples from various flicks, these cats take it one step further in that most (if not all) of the lyrics are assembled from movie quotes, with tracks dedicated to "Predator" and "Falling Down", among many others, which is a pretty interesting touch. Cool, fitting layout, too. It's been dubbed "cinema-grind", and they've definitely covered all the bases with this one. I mean, "Point Break" samples? Hilarious. And awesome.

Graf Orlock "50 Year Storm"
Graf Orlock "A Chat With the Pentagon"

As above, make the grab from the label's distro if you're into it:

@ 29 North Records

Fear Before the March of Flames "The Always Open Mouth" CD

Posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 @ 9:49am » permalink

Fear Before the March of Flames - The Always Open MouthHoly shit, I love it when something like this happens, though it's rare. But Fear Before the March of Flames may have just placed themselves within the "Most Improved Band of All Time" category. I very specifically remember that I practically hated their debut CD a few years ago, and I got a few angry emails regarding a couple of lines from my review of said debut, such as, "I am sick of listening to/watching a bunch of hipster fucking losers with bad haircuts and tight clothes squirm around like Mick Jagger in withdrawal screaming and squawking like fucking chickens," and, "the musicians in this band should seriously consider beating their singer to the ground with no remorse should he refuse to can the squealing." Hey, give me a break, it was an annoying CD, alright? I didn't mean they should literally beat the guy!

But thankfully none of that matters anymore. Their second record was a minor improvement, and "The Always Open Mouth" (Equal Vision Records) proves that the third time's a fucking charm, because this barely even sounds like the same band anymore, and completely eclipses everything about their past efforts across the board. I can't remember the last time I went from hating a band to finding them awesome, but that's the case here, no doubt. 15 tracks ranging from one to five minutes and covering all sorts of ground from crushingly heavy and borderline caustic intensity to atypically arranged chord progressions that fuse melody and dissonance to bizarrely spacious riffing and layering that creates sinister atmospheres reminiscent of Converge or Cave In during their most formidable years, but given strangely avant-garde facelifts. Plus, there are plenty of dark rhythmic pulses and noisy excursions accented by dense smatterings of tactful electronics, and the vocals are all over the place from layered shouting, singing, and spoken passages to whacked out effects and whatnot – all of which is far more effective than their past efforts. It's somewhat of an impossible task to categorize this band now, and that's very cool. This is an excellent fucking record.

Fear Before the March of Flames "Drowning the Old Hag"
Fear Before the March of Flames "The Waiting Makes Me Curious"

The packaging on this thing is fucking ridiculous, too. And I mean that in a good way. The booklet is huge and contains tons of metallic silver ink that creates some interesting layering effects, and the cover is printed on transparent acetate to continue the whole layering thing. Insane. Very, very recommended. I'm totally shocked and impressed. Pick this shit up:

@ Equal Vision Records
@ RevHQ

Khoma "The Second Wave" CD

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006 @ 8:49am » permalink

Khoma - The Second WaveA little over two years ago when I first encountered Khoma (who were without the "h" in their band name at the time), I completely flipped out and immediately fell in love with the Swedish outfit's brand of dark, brooding, metallic rock – which tends to avoid basic categorizations in favor of a moving, emotional approach that a wide range of listeners should be able to appreciate. I'll be forever indebted to Avi Roig at It's a Trap for introducing me to this excellent band, and I can only hope that my efforts to sing their praises has in turn brought their music to yet another audience. This particular album, "The Second Wave", having been released on a much larger label (the UK division of Roadrunner Records) than their debut, seems to be garnering a bit more press, which is a good sign, but I can't help but think that Roadrunner's a bunch of complete fucking idiots for not releasing this outstanding piece of work here in the US. They'll try to rip us off with repackaged reissues of year-old albums and completely worthless "best of" collections, but they won't make a meager investment to try to promote a lesser-known European band on American shores? Pathetic.

But enough about that. The point of all this ranting and raving is that Khoma is a truly outstanding group, and I certainly encourage everyone reading this to at least give 'em a shot. The sweeping dynamic shifts of their songwriting add/subtract layers to find softer passages of droning guitar tones and robust percussive textures building up to explosive bursts of pulsing low-end and powerfully energetic guitar work where intermingling melodies and dense chords piece together behind soaring vocals to create an almost epic sensibility at times. Thankfully some of the best tracks from "Tsunami", their relatively obscure debut, have been re-recorded herein, and the production values are absolutely outstanding – perfectly accenting the manner in which Khoma's material ebbs and flows throughout. Also excellent is the satin-finish digipack, which includes a booklet containing all of the lyrics in handwritten text alongside some very nice photography that provides a fitting aesthetic match for the music. I have to say that "Like Coming Home" is one of the band's most amazing compositions to date, and one of my favorite songs of the last decade, without question.

Khoma "Like Coming Home"
Khoma "Medea"

Briefly going back to my rant about the Roadrunner cats being fuckin' idiots and all that, sadly it is not easy to find this CD in the US for a reasonable price at all. After months of searching, I finally got fed up and paid about $23 (including shipping), which was the cheapest price I could find. I wouldn't trust buying it on eBay because there are way too many sketchy sellers pawning off shitty slipcase promos for full price with flimsy item descriptions. I got mine through the Amazon Marketplace. I'd recommend using the seller "cdzone_co_uk", as that's who I went through and I had the disc in my hands in less than 10 days. Don't use "caiman_com" because they're full of shit and don't have most of what they list in stock, and even if they do actually have it they take too much time to get the merch to you anyway. I love this band and fully encourage the purchase of their music, but god damnit Roadrunner needs to get on the fucking ball and release this shit over here, too. Morons.

All Out War "Truth in the Age of Lies" CD

Posted on Friday, October 6th, 2006 @ 9:06am » permalink

All Out War - Truth in the Age of LiesAnother band that had the "holy terror" term thrown their way on rare occasion almost a decade ago due to their apocalyptic lyrics and overtly metallic sound was All Out War, who put out their most recent (and still awesome) record in 2003 and are currently working on new material. All Out War formed in the early-90's, and after a few demos, 7"s, and compilation appearances finally released their debut full-length, "Truth in the Age of Lies", in 1997 on the German label Gain Ground. The band's revolving lineup and on again/off again status over the years has made them somewhat less productive than most bands of their age in terms of recorded output, but they've never done a bad record, so fuck it. Jam packed with their brand of thick, moshy riffing and thrashier than average picking patterns (we're talking vicious chugging here), All Out War's sound combined the density and crushing aggression of the east coast's staple metallic hardcore sound with an intense dose of some serious metal. Other bands associated with the hardcore scene were dealing with comparable levels of metal at the time, but All Out War was definitely one of the originators as far as taking that influence to the next level, and their particular riffing/writing style combined with Mike Score's sick vocals has always given them an identifiable sound of their own. I personally feel that these guys have never been given the credit they deserve, either. Their songwriting, especially on some of these earlier tracks, really possesses a lot of qualities that have been sorely lacking in the genre's recent years. You just don't find many bands taking tactful grooves and implementing them into this type of framework with such an intense result anymore, and that's a shame.

All Out War "Resist"
All Out War "Cross of Disbelief"
All Out War "After Autumn"

There shall come a time when this Earth shall cease. The end of mankind. This world will be at peace, brought on by greed. This day will soon be here. From this hatred we're free. The hand of doom is now near. Great wall of fire. Who shall live, who shall die? No escape from the fire. Our existence is a lie. Point out who's to blame. No answer, it's too late. Man's destiny up in flames. Look around, we're all to blame.

Sadly this one's out of print and harder than expected to find these days, but according to the band's website they're going to be reissuing it with some bonus material at some point, so that should be fuckin' great. Keep an eye out…

Faulter "Darling Buds of May" CD

Posted on Thursday, October 5th, 2006 @ 9:13am » permalink

Faulter - Darling Buds of MayAhhh, yet another CD whose title and cover art just scream, "I am so not gonna like this." And yet… I do. I really do. Faulter is from the Orange County-ish area, and this is their first record – impressively self-released in its initial run, and now seeing a re-release via Abacus Recordings, which is somewhat surprising in that I could totally see this shit coming from a major label. I mean, they're basically taking the catchy, poppy emo of bands like Armor for Sleep and Spitalfield (both of whom I fucking love, no shit) and giving it an even more pristine, somewhat "mainstream" sheen. How the hell they were able to get this thing sounding so polished and perfect at a time when they had no label backing is beyond me, but they damn sure did. I get made fun of from time to time over the fact that I listen to this kind of stuff because people just can't understand how I can go from listening to "radio friendly" rock music to Gorgoroth or whatever, but I don't give a shit, man. If I like it, I like it, and I'm not gonna pretend otherwise, because I've got no one to impress. These songs are super catchy, and I can appreciate the writing, so that's all I care about. I'm into it. Do I identify with the lyrics or find great meaning in the content? Nope. But I don't identify with bands singing about defiling dismembered corpses or glorifying the dark legions of Satan either. Good music is good music, it's just that different people have different tastes.

Faulter "Remember"
Faulter "Sixes & Sevens"

Don't be ashamed, make the grab if you enjoy the songs. No one has to know…

@ Abacus Recordings
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Demo Roundup #3: Cathedrals and Tigershark…

Posted on Wednesday, October 4th, 2006 @ 9:23am » permalink

Cathedrals - In the Event of a BlackoutI believe "In the Event of a Blackout" is the first recorded output from Cathedrals, and what an awesome little demo this is. 11 tracks, 13-and-a-half minutes, and that's all she wrote. But, whew, their combination of crushing heaviness and burly His Hero is Gone dissonance with energetic bursts of hyperactive and lightly melodic hardcore makes for a memorable listen that definitely leaves you wanting more. The contrast of such explosive bursts of tactful speed and such a dark, dismal midpaced crunch may seem somewhat odd, but believe me it works (as you'll hear below), and I'm pretty god damn surprised that these cats haven't been scooped up by a label yet. This disc is so damn short I really don't even know what else to say here. This is intense, powerful, open-minded, creative hardcore… and I'm damn sure all for it. Check this shit out:

Cathedrals "Citation"
Cathedrals "Inspiration Could Strike at Any Moment"

I'm not sure how much this puppy's selling for, but it's probably extremely reasonable, so hit the band up on MySpace for ordering information or what have you. I can't wait to hear more from these dudes. Great work.

Tigershark - DemoSomewhat of a good match alongside Cathedrals above, Tigershark is from here in Richmond, VA and this is their first demo – which drops six very solid tracks of rugged hardcore/punk with a good, sludgy throb of dissonance, feedback and dingy riffing to keep things from sounding typical. The recording's got a muddy throb to it, but that actually sounds kind of cool given the generally meaty tone of the riffing here, which does a fairly good job of straying away from direct genre classifications without losing its identity. There's somewhat of a looseness to some of the playing (as well as the distortion itself), and that can make for some interesting textures here and there amongst some of the more discordant runs, and I'm pretty into a lot of those aspects. Also, The D.I.Y. packaging includes a spraypainted digipack and a rather cool looking color booklet for the lyrics and such that's a nice touch. I don't get many demos anymore and I get the feeling that a lot of bands are too lazy to take this route in this day and age, so it's nice to know that there are some folks out there keeping demos alive. This is another band that I'll be curious to hear more from down the road.

Tigershark "Uspridge"

You can pick up a demo for about $6ppd from the band's MySpace page if you like what you hear, so show some support if you're into it!

She Killed Poetry and Thumbscrew…

Posted on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:54am » permalink

She Killed Poetry - Shut Out the SilenceAmong the latest from Imagine It Records is "Shut Out the Silence", the debut full-length from Texas metalcore outfit She Killed Poetry. The band's overall approach is pretty standard in terms of blending brutal heaviness and melody as well as various forms of shouting/screaming and some singing, but they're definitely hitting on pretty much every possible form of riffing that the genre tends to deal with. From Americanized melodic Swedish styled runs and 90's-esque chugging breaks to borderline chaotic dissonant textures and quick change-ups between death metal tremolo picking or some clean/acoustic passages. It's sort of a strange mishmash at times in the sense that some of the most restrained areas almost have a "radio rock" sort of quality happening, but then on the other hand the most aggressive moments are pretty damn fierce. It's not what I would call particularly original, and there's definitely room for minor improvements here and there, but I will say that their songwriting's already in a pretty good position, and there are a couple of more technical riffs that have a really cool vibe that touches on some of the picking patterns and melodic attributes that tend to catch my ear the most (check about 2:16 into "She's Living Just Like You"). Not bad.

She Killed Poetry "She's Living Just Like You"
She Killed Poetry "Our Passing Moment"

This thing's on sale for just $5 right now, which is pretty insane, so pick it up if you like the tracks:

@ Imagine It Records

Thumbscrew - Within Hearts of RedemptionAlso new from Imagine It Records is the latest EP from Thumbscrew, "Within Hearts of Redemption" – a title whose acronym (when followed by "EP"), as the side of the traycard would suggest, is "WHORE". Of course the lyrics follow said theme, and I'm not really interested in them at all, but such is life. I'm still not able to make up my mind about this band's utterly caustic and over the top take on the whole chaotic metalcore thing, either. I definitely admire their abilities, and if nothing else the songwriting on this EP feels a touch more balanced in terms of slowing things down with ample heaviness a little more often in an effort to counterbalance all of the wacky guitar acrobatics and harsh speeds/arrangements. The last track, "Title Song (A Little Black Heart)" is actually my favorite to date from Thumbscrew – utilizing spoken and eerily sung vocals and a midpaced pulse for its duration, which is something I'd like to hear them explore much more often. But then there's the fact that the preceding track closes with six minutes of dead silence, which is pretty annoying in terms of the listening experience. I'd love to post "Title Song…" as an example of these guys' true capabilities, but this disc's so damn short that I don't want to deviate from what the label's already giving away. Now, if only their lyrics will start making some minor advancements along with the music, eh?

Thumbscrew "Maliscent"

If you're down with these guys you can't really lose, as this one's on sale for $4 at the moment and the regular price is but a mere $5 anyway, so make the grab:

@ Imagine It