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Blut Aus Nord "Mort" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2006 @ 8:59am » permalink

Blut Aus Nord - MortThere may have been a time when French oddballs Blut Aus Nord were considered a black metal band, but that time seems to have passed, and their latest full-length, "Mort" (Candlelight Records), is without a doubt one of the most bizarre creations I've ever encountered within the "metal" realm. Clocking in at nearly 50 minutes broken into chapters "I" through "VIII", the album creates a strange avant-garde brew consisting of endless strings of twistedly discordant guitar lines that clash and weave together over industrial-tinged drum programming, while obscured vocals that rest deep in the mix – either sneered, snarled, or masked by cold, wispy effects – sputter forth on occasion and add to the puzzling mystique of the material. Overlooking the subtle segues between "chapters", things definitely play out like one large composition in terms of overall character and atmosphere. Interestingly enough my ears almost tend to lean towards the drum programming on occasion as well (which I quite enjoy), perhaps as a result of the almost overwhelming dissonance of the guitars (though I have to admit that I'd wholly prefer a more natural sounding guitar tone, as something about the fittingly cold textures of the guitars still suffers just a touch from certain characteristics of the effects, creating qualities I'd associate with a direct line recording – regardless of whether or not that's actually the case). Writing-wise I'd say there's most definitely an experimental and improvisational thread throughout, which is quite curious considering that there is structure to the mangled and brooding pulse of the material. The lyrics are entirely in French, so I can offer little insight there, though there is a quote on the back of the booklet that one would assume is suggestive of the thematic elements of the record, taken from Kenneth V. Lanning's 1989 FBI report on occult crime:

The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, and Mohammed than in the name of Satan. Many people do not like that statement, but few can argue with it.

And I have to say that I really dig the layout here: It's a great match for the overall aesthetic of the disc, and the cover looks fuckin' great.

Blut Aus Nord "Chapter V"

So make the grab and experience for yourself what is undoubtedly one of the most "What the fuck!?" albums of 2006 and beyond:

@ Candlelight Records
@ The End Records

He is Legend and Destroy the Runner…

Posted on Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 @ 8:45am » permalink

He is Legend - Suck Out the PoisonWhat the hell!? I can remember a few years ago when I first heard North Carolina's He is Legend they were a somewhat jumbled metalcore band that I thought had potential, but they couldn't seem to decide what they were going for. Well, I haven't heard any of their releases between then and now, but somewhere along the line they clearly made their decision, because they've tossed out a lot of extraneous influences and (thankfully) abandoned all traces of generic metalcore, because there's basically nothing but heavy, metallic rock to be had here. "Suck Out the Poison" is the band's latest Solid State full-length, dropping 14 tracks in damn near an hour, and it's pretty fuckin' good, too. It's sort of a unique blend of influences they've got going on. There's a little bit of grit and sludge happening in terms of both the riffing style and the tonality of the recording, but there's also a lot of melody in there, which makes for both some catchy elements and some dissonant sort of post-hardcore textures. Vocally I don't mind the screams that pop up from time to time, but the dude's got a great singing voice, and the character of his delivery really works well with the overall vibe of the songwriting. I have to say, though, despite the rock-based nature of the material, it's not what I would call straightforward, because there's a lot of diversity happening, and you can pick out a lot of little layers where there's some experimenting going on with different sounds and textures to spice things up, so… they've shed the excess, but they haven't necessarily stripped down, you know? I'm stunned by the growth these cats have undergone since those early days. Good stuff.

He is Legend "Dixie Wolf (The Seduction Of…)"
He is Legend "Stampede"

As always, downloading is a load o' crap, so make the purchase if you're into the tracks:

@ Solid State
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Destroy the Runner - Saints"Saints", the debut full-length from San Diego's Destroy the Runner, may be a fairly typical dose of modern metalcore, but what can I say? I've tended to be a general fan of the quality of the Solid State roster and visual aesthetic over the years, and I dig this album. Screaming and clean singing? Yep, yep. Some chunky riffing that never really sheds the melody? Of course. Super polished dual guitar melodies that are a little more Iron Maiden than In Flames? Indeed… fuckin' tons of 'em. Like I said, it's nothing original, and I wouldn't exactly spin this on a regular basis, but for the most part I like it, and I could see these kids doing something a little more powerful/creative down the line based on the overall quality of their riffs/musicianship. As with all such bands they could stand for a little more diversity, though oddly enough on rare occasion I have to admit that when they branch out there are relatively mild elements of the songwriting here that sort of feel too pristine in terms of leaning towards a huge, almost major label-sounding kind of heavy alternative radio rock or something, which is sort of weird since I don't really get that vibe from the overall album. Part of that association probably stems from the nature of the recording, which is pretty damn slick (and I like that), I don't know. It's a decent record, though. And as always from the Solid State camp the layout looks ridiculously great, so I've gotta throw that in there.

Destroy the Runner "My Darkness"
Destroy the Runner "Thoughts in Reverse"

If you like it, buy it:

@ Solid State
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

108 "s/t" CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 28th, 2006 @ 8:45am » permalink

108 - s/tI never would've seen it coming, but I was pretty damn psyched to learn that 108 was getting back together to work on some new music, and I jumped on picking this shit up as soon as it went on sale. This disc's a limited edition demo (numbered of 1,008 copies) that contains seven brand new tunes, covers of "The Bars" (Black Flag) and "Coptic Times" (Bad Brains), and a 1995 demo recording of "Blood". In terms of songwriting character there's a little bit of everything here, so the band is basically back in action like they never went away: Fierce screams over chunky rhythms and chaotic bursts of intense, noisy riffing and caustic textures, occasional excursions into energetic and slightly more traditional hardcore chord progressions, etc. The lyrics are as strong as ever, too:

I stare at the ground, there's no hope today but you, you can't wash life away. Distract until the clock has circled all the way. You'll settle for anything, anything to make it go away. When do we reclaim ourselves and all that lives within our hearts and in our head? Stop waiting for a sign when all of the answers are right in front of your face, all of the answers are right in front of your face.

Being a demo, the recording's got an appropriate rawness to it with a natural warmth and density that lets the pulsing bass tone really play a focal role in the core of the mix right beside the guitars, and that works out nicely. A couple of the tracks are slightly rougher around the edges than others, but nothing distracts from the force of the songs themselves. Several of the tracks are a hint looser and noisier in structure than some of the band's past efforts – though not without a sense of control – but the last two new tracks, "Strength or Fear?" and "(Walk?) Their Path", are both absolutely fucking incredible. If that's any indication of what's to come, then fuckin' sign me up, and put 108 down for one of the best reunions ever. I can't wait to hear another proper full-length from these cats…

108 "Strength or Fear?"

$10 is a hint steep for a demo, but these CD's do look to be pro-pressed discs, and the full-color insert is top-notch quality as well, so… you know me, I always encourage you to show your support and make the purchase when you're a fan. Get on it:

@ 108

XRepresentX and Suffocate Faster…

Posted on Monday, November 27th, 2006 @ 9:15am » permalink

XRepresentX - True at All CostsThis is my first exposure to XRepresentX, an Erie, PA straightedge band. I believe "True at All Costs" (1981 Records) is their debut full-length, and everything about this shit – right down to the lyrics and artwork – is in the vein of the 90's style of chugging metallic hardcore. That's all there is to it. They're not reinventing the fucking wheel at all, they just shift from straightforward three-chord hardcore bursts to absolutely pummeling slow to midpaced breakdowns with vocals shouting along all the way. The result is 12 relatively brief tracks in less than a half-hour, but despite the fact that it's nothing new, you don't hear but so much of this stuff these days in terms of keeping it simple and straightforward to the roots of the sound, not to mention that the straightedge bent of the lyrical content has definitely dropped off in the last 10 years, so I can definitely appreciate where this material's coming from. The recording's nice and thick as well, with just the right amount of bass presence and a good snap to the percussion. Good stuff.

XRepresentX "Live it Up"
XRepresentX "Written in Blood"

Make the grab if you dig the tunes:

@ 1981 Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Suffocate Faster - Don't Kill the MessengerAnother recent full-length from 1981 Records comes in the form of "Don't Kill the Messenger" (which I think is the band's second effort) from Cincinnati, OH's Suffocate Faster. Not terribly far removed from XRepresentX above, this is more straightedge metalcore with loads of chugging mosh breaks and fierce, sneering vocals, but the overall aesthetic of this material is a little slower and leans more towards the metallic side of things. Faster rhythms do present themselves, but the vocals are more aggressive and over the top, and there's somewhat of a sludgy vibe to some of the riffing in terms of both density and dissonance (which reaches for a Crowbar-esque level at its best), with the tracks bulking up to slightly longer lengths due to the pacing. Another relatively thick recording is present as well, though there's some room for improvement in terms of providing some separation between the bass and guitars and trying to get the percussion to feel a bit more natural to better blend in with the crushing rhythms that are running the show. Not too shabby, though…

Suffocate Faster "A War Within"
Suffocate Faster "Taste My Steel"

As always, make the purchase if this is your thing:

@ 1981 Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Dead City and That Was Then…

Posted on Tuesday, November 21st, 2006 @ 9:04am » permalink

Dead City - The End of CommunicationOh shit, I can definitely hang with this! The cover had me pretty curious because I've always been fascinated by prison tattoos, and sure enough this shit is right up my alley. Dead City hails from Memphis, TN and cranks out three tracks of absolutely vicious metallic hardcore on "The End of Communication" EP (Keep it Core Records). In some ways their attack is a fairly standard dose of thick power chords and shifts in tempo from throbbing mosh breaks to moderately fast power chord rhythms, but there's a darker than average edge to the atmosphere, and the density of the recording has somewhat of a sludgy undercurrent to it that really works. It ends up creating a fairly unique sound for the band, which is more diverse than most in terms of riffing character and the way they manipulate their metallic sensibilities in an atypical fashion. At times it's somewhat reminiscent of a stripped down Bloodlet without the oddball time signatures and all that, which you won't find me complaining about. I also love the drumming – a lot of the fills and patterns really accentuate that 90's styled sense of groove, and I don't encounter that too often these days. I can appreciate the bitterness of the lyrics as well:

I can't save you from yourself, the years you spent inside hell. Make a choice, plot your escape, break the chains of past mistakes. Alter life, it's not too late. Face the ones that bleed you dry, begin again, shed your disguise. From the ash phoenix rise, resurrect, redeem this life.

I think these guys have a CD collection of earlier demos out as well, so I've gotta look into that while I eagerly await their forthcoming full-length. This shit makes me wanna smash faces, I'm lovin' it. Note that the below track is damn near 11 minutes long, which is pretty much double the length of the other two on the disc, but it never loses steam. Nice Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski sample at the end, too. Awesome, awesome stuff…

Dead City "Goddamned"

I'm not seeing this one for sale online for some reason, but I highly fucking recommend it, so contact the band via their website (above) or MySpace to see what you can do about getting your hands on this gem. The band is also actively searching for a label to work with on the aforementioned full-length, so hit 'em up on MySpace or email [email protected] if you're interested… and someone damn well should be!

That Was Then - Troublemakers"Troublemakers" is the latest EP from That Was Then (another Memphis act) on Armada in Flames, including six relatively short tracks of melodic old school styled hardcore in 17 minutes. The overall style here is nothing new – you'll basically find a mix of midpaced to moderately fast chord progressions with slick, pulsing basslines and intermittent melodic accents fronted by straight yelling – but that's not a problem for me, because the songwriting's solid and there's an obvious sense of sincerity happening lyrically that does come across in the music.

We pacify our minds with alcohol, religion, and TV. Go ahead and pick your poison, many choose all three. Waiting impatiently for this sleeping giant to awake and turn this question I've been asking myself into a statement: When will enough be enough? Enough is enough…

I wasn't familiar with these guys prior to this, so I'd be curious to hear a full-length effort from 'em sometime down the road. I could definitely see these cats branching out just a touch and starting to turn some heads. Not bad at all…

That Was Then "Treading Water"

As always, support the band and the label with a purchase if this is your thing:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Wolverine Brass and Coliseum/Young Widows…

Posted on Monday, November 20th, 2006 @ 9:29am » permalink

Wolverine Brass - Wicked WitchThe water in Louisville, KY must be polluted with awesome, because there have been so many fuckin' great bands from that place that it just doesn't make sense. "Wicked Witch", the debut full-length from Wolverine Brass, is another fine example of said locale's might from the stellar Auxiliary Records. Apparently this band features former members of Elliott, Lords, and The National Acrobat, among numerous others, but I'm digging this significantly more than most anything any of those bands did. This is really hitting the spot because I've been a little tired of the heavy/aggressive shit lately, and this is more laidback and sort of dark – not unfamiliar per se, but definitely different, and something you don't get to hear so much these days. I'm having a really hard time pinpointing their general sound, so I'll do something I almost never do and quote the label as a reference point since they state that the band is "following the lineage of hometown forefathers like Slint, Bastro, and Rodan while channeling the spirit of the early 90's influence via Unwound, Sonic Youth and Nirvana". I wouldn't rely too heavily on that statement, but it does give you an idea. It's definitely more Slint and Rodan than Sonic Youth and Nirvana, but it's not lifting too directly from any of those acts, so… I don't know. I love the songwriting, I love the vibe and the atmosphere, I love the natural warmth of the recording, and I really love the vocals. I don't know what it is, there's just something about their placement in the mix and the character of the dude's voice that totally works for me. I wouldn't have expected it, but this record's become a quick fuckin' favorite of mine. I'm way the hell into it… so just listen for yourself:

Wolverine Brass "Percolator"
Wolverine Brass "Leviathan"

I do not like people who never buy records, so if you dig the tunes, put your money where your mouth is and make the grab:

@ Auxiliary Records

Coliseum/Young Widows - splitHell yeah, this is a great looking and raging just-shy-of-11-minutes split CD between a couple more of Louisville's finest: Coliseum and Young Widows. This one was pressed up in a limited edition for the two bands' summer tour, also by Auxiliary Records, and it's a surefire keeper. Coliseum kicks things off with two tracks of their burly hardcore/punk complete with all the energy and warm, raw attack you'd expect. I've liked everything I've heard from these cats to date, but I have to say that these two cuts are even better – cramming in more variety, more chaotic dissonance, more subtle melody, and more ferocious (if not damn near catchy) energy. Awesome, awesome stuff. I'm all over this shit. The rhythm section in this band fucking crushes, and their songwriting is definitely progressing nicely. Totally badass. Young Widows follow with two slightly longer tracks of their own twisted, mangled discordance and pummeling rhythms. This band formed from the ashes of Breather Resist – who I was never that big on – but this shit is pretty fuckin' cool. There's a definite Amphetamine Reptile sort of thing happening in terms of the noisiness of the riffing and the spaciousness of the recording, and the bulk of the heaviness rests solely on the shoulders of one of the most prominent and devastating bass tones I've heard all year. Fuckin' right, man. If you play bass or drums and are into this kind of thing then this split will blow your mind repeatedly. No joke. I'm sold. Oh, and the disc is housed in a sweet chipboard sleeve that folds together – screenprinted in black with some red foil stamping to accent the always killer Auxiliary design work. Yep.

Coliseum "White Religion"
Young Widows "Baritone #3"

Sadly I believe the CD pressing is (unsurprisingly) out of print now, but there is an equally slick 7" pressing from the Relapse folks, so you can grab that in absence of the digital format:

@ Auxiliary Records
@ Relapse Records

Converge "No Heroes" CD

Posted on Friday, November 17th, 2006 @ 10:19am » permalink

Converge - No HeroesAdmittedly I've never been a huge Converge fanatic. A longtime fan, yes. A respecting supporter, sure enough. But Converge is one of those bands that has legions of borderline worshippers out there, and I've just never fit that bill. More than a decade-and-a-half down the line, though, and these fuckers are still cranking out extremely solid and undeniably valid material. But that being said, I almost don't even want to write about this record just because I feel like everyone on the planet has already done so – and many in a much more gushing fashion than I will – so it almost feels like there's nothing more that can be said about "No Heroes" (Epitaph). The fact of the matter is that it does, however, warrant the attention.

Now, I was sort of disappointed by "You Fail Me". I don't think I've even listened to it since the first couple of weeks when I bought it (which was right when it came out in 2004). So, by comparison, "No Heroes" absolutely obliterates that record in every way. The recording on this thing alone gets me drooling like an idiot: The warmth of the rhythm section; the dingy, smoldering grit of the guitars and vocals; the raging thump of the prominent and well-defined basslines; the balance of the mix… it's all just awesome. Some of Ballou's finest work, and probably the strongest and most consistent Converge has ever sounded. From a songwriting standpoint I wouldn't call this a huge departure or anything like that, but something about the overall record feels… I don't know… more listenable to me? The complete brilliance of the recording definitely carries over into how the songs themselves come across, but beyond that there's perhaps something to be said for what might be a greater attention to how the dynamics transition into one another. But you'll still find plenty of searing acerbity (some of which borders on an almost thrashy presence in terms of aggression and pacing) and chaotic (yet controlled) energy – with some slower, darker atmospherics seeping in on occasion – not to mention some of the band's most fucked up and twisted "skronk" to date. And I love how damn short many of the tracks are. Areas of the album just fuckin' blaze right through. For example, you pop this thing in and before you know it you're on the fifth or sixth track! Of course, midway through is the mammoth 9+ minute epic "Grim Heart/Black Rose" (which is actually my favorite track herein), with lead vocals courtesy of former Only Living Witness/current Raw Radar War frontman Jonah Jenkins, so… like I said… dynamics and refinements.

I don't know. It's weird. I'm definitely not saying this is Converge's best record. But then again, I don't really know what the hell I think the best Converge record is. "They Stretch for Miles" is still my all-time favorite Converge moment, but… I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I guess "No Heroes" could be pretty high up there. It certainly crushes the last album, and overall I think I like it more than "Jane Doe", too. Fuck it, I don't know. The recording is pure gold, and song-wise there are a number of total rippers on this thing that would easily stand up against mildly comparable work from the group's "back in the day" years, so… yeah. The end.

Converge "Bare My Teeth"
Converge "No Heroes"

Downloading is for loser assholes (Though, if you really want to, you can score these jams from iTunes, but remember: No lyrics + no packaging = crap.), so show some love and make the buy if you dig the tunes:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Born From Pain "War" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 16th, 2006 @ 9:23am » permalink

Born From Pain - WarDutch metalcore bruisers Born From Pain have started to sound more and more like Hatebreed to me over the years, but they've also been getting better and better, so not only is "War" (Metal Blade) their strongest offering to date, but I actually enjoy this album significantly more than the latest Hatebreed effort – so it's almost like one of those "the students have become the teachers" scenarios. The recording is fucking flawless on this thing (Tue Madsen has finally nailed it), with massive guitars, thundering percussion, well-placed vocals, and ultra dense low-end gelling together into a cohesive and crushing whole for which I have zero complaints. I'm loving it. And from a songwriting standpoint, this is both a touch more memorable and diverse than the band's prior efforts – retaining plenty of the straightforward chugging breakdowns and fast hardcore elements while adding in more focused and thought out instances of sinister melody as well as more consistent variations in tempo. So one minute it might be a two-minute blitz of raging metallic hardcore, while the next it's a four- to six-minute slab of thick, sludgy, powerfully metal-oriented riffing intertwined with basic power chords… and of course relentless shouts, with various guest vocal spots throughout the album from Lou Koller (Sick of it All), Barney Greenway (Napalm Death), and Jan-Chris de Koeyer (Gorefest). It's not necessarily a departure from the band's tried and true foundation, but it's definitely enough of a progression to leave a mark, and in doing so Born From Pain seem to have grown to the level that few of their contemporaries have been able to achieve. Very cool. There's some great shit here…

Born From Pain "Stop at Nothing"
Born From Pain "Scorched Earth"

Pick it up if you're into it:

@ Very Distribution

Hirudinea/Watchmaker split CD

Posted on Monday, November 13th, 2006 @ 9:09am » permalink

Hirudinea/Watchmaker splitThis raging split from Bestial Onslaught Productions offers up a total of 11 tracks in 35 minutes from these two raw, fierce Boston metal acts. Hirudinea kicks things off with four tunes that plow through everything from blistering power violence-esque grind to borderline black metal intensity in terms of speed and dissonance, so one minute it might be thick, twisted, discordant slow to midpaced poundings and the next blazing, caustic chords tearing away with no remorse. The multi-vocal attack offers a range of grunts, snarls, screams, and yells that's actually very fucking cool, and aids in creating the surprisingly tangible (if not memorable) vibe that this material holds. I'd never expect such mangled and uncompromising tracks to be so damn energetic, but these cats are definitely onto something, and I'm into it.

Watchmaker follows with seven shorter, faster, rawer songs that are of course jammed to capacity with their token brand of completely insane and over the top chaos. This is definitely some of their most grimy and abrasive material to date, complete with a super fuzzy bass tone that's damn near louder than the searing guitars. The vocals are as maniacal as ever, shrieking and screaming their way through various degrees of lunacy with plenty of backing shouts and yells to aid in the attack. They basically blast through track after track with nary an inch of breathing room (just some of the most vicious and piercing feedback I've ever fucking heard – no shit), at times breaking down into fits of damn near complete caustic noise and random vocal torture – leaving the drums and bits of bass to hold down most of the "structure"… before suddenly taking a turn towards rugged old school thrash for closer "Destroyer of Heaven and Earth"!? Madness. Utter madness. These dudes are just nuts…

Hirudinea "Just Kill Us"
Watchmaker "Nuked to Ashes"

I'm not sure where the hell you can get your hands on this thing as none of my normal stops are stocking it, and there's not even a mention of the release on the Bestial Onslaught website!? I'd recommend contacting the bands directly via their MySpace pages (see links above) as they're most likely selling copies on their own, if nothing else… so hit 'em up!

Siege "Drop Dead" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 9th, 2006 @ 9:34am » permalink

Siege - Drop DeadAhhh, Siege. This is yet another (official, of course) re-release of the entire recorded output from this scorching Massachusetts outfit, this time on Deranged Records. Included is the band's demo as well the "Cleanse the Bacteria" compilation tracks, all of which were recorded in 1984, totaling just 9 songs in a mere 17 minutes. And don't let that running time fool you, pretty much all of these tracks are less than a minute or two: It's the seven-and-a-half-minute onslaught of chaotic, mangled noise in "Grim Reaper" that beefs up the length. Other than that it's nothing but short, fast, furiously raging hardcore/punk with quick, frantic leads and totally unhinged vocals. Great, great shit – not to mention completely classic, as these cats played a huge role in influencing the birth of grindcore… even despite their short-lived status and scarcity of recorded output. More than two decades later and this shit's still gold, too…

Siege "Drop Dead"

As always, pick it up if you're into the track and missed out on these guys the first few times around. It says "pre-order" on the label's webstore, but that's just leftover from earlier in the year. The CD's out and shipping now:

@ Deranged Records

Castle and Back When…

Posted on Wednesday, November 8th, 2006 @ 9:17am » permalink

Castle - Electric WolvesOh yeah. "Electric Wolves" is the debut EP from Castle on Init Records – dropping a mere three tracks of pulsing, dissonant Neurosis-via-earlier-Isis poundings in about 19 minutes. This is great shit, too. Well recorded, well played, and well written – offering up a focused amalgam of straightforward crushing walls of power chords and harsh yells, discordant melodies, and subtly noisier undercurrents, among other attributes. It's a pretty quick listen, even considering that each track runs five to seven minutes, so there's not a great deal to say here, but I'm definitely left wanting more. I really dig the bleakness of the lyrics as well:

Reach into the heavenly openness. Swallow my stride. I am the weak follower. No point can be made when there's no one left to follow. We are already dead. Sow, reap, repeat. Better to start with what will already be. Stabbed, wounded, and waiting in hell. This is my light, this is your day. I will be your shadow of chagrin.

Castle "Violate"

This shit's limited to 500 copies and is only $6 straight from the label, so pick one up if you're a fan of the track:

@ Init Records

Back When - In the PresenceAlso new from Init Records is the "In the Presence" CD from Back When, which collects an assortment of tracks that provide insight into the band's progression from the relatively standard chaotic, noisy metalcore of their earliest EP to the sludgier and more artistic direction explored from the "We Sang As Ghosts" full-length to the present. Included are songs from the "Swords Against the Father" 7" and the split 7" with The Setup, as well as an unreleased demo, remix, and Jerome's Dream cover. The result is a series of two- to three-minute fits where dense rhythms and droning clean passages start to seep in amidst frantically acerbic jumbles of riffs and shouting/screaming – until said acerbic characteristics start to dissipate and compositions begin to top five to seven minutes of much more dynamically fluid transitions and emotionally moving atmospheres. I'm still not a particular fan of Back When's earlier material, but the growth they've exhibited since then is extremely impressive, admirable, and promising; so this disc is a great document of that growth and very clearly demonstrates just how far they've come. I'm very much looking forward to hearing some of their forthcoming new material…

Back When "Fraud of Scribes"

This is another cheap one at $8 from the label, so make the grab if this is your thing:

@ Init Records

Lion of Judah "Universal Peace" CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2006 @ 8:57am » permalink

Lion of Judah - Universal PeaceI had been meaning to check out this somewhat mysterious Washington, DC act for awhile now, and I'm kicking myself for sleeping on their first EP. "Universal Peace", their debut full-length on Youngblood Records, is what I would best describe as "progressive" hardcore, and it offers a pretty damn impressive blend of influences that comes across as significantly more inventive than the vast majority of the hardcore you'll come across these days. Even the traditionally based chord progressions and straightforward hardcore energy are layered with everything from technically sound riffs ala Burn or Turning Point to strangely rocked out runs that remind me of later Leeway, with a few noisy leads on occasion and plenty of those ringing DC undercurrents that create a great sense of melody. Some of that may also be due to the fact that the album was recorded by Don Zientara, so there's a nice, dry sound with a lot of natural texture to it – highlighting the punchy basslines and generally interesting rhythmic flow all around. It's weird, because as creative and forward-thinking as this material is, there's an odd sort of "dated" quality to it, but in a really bizarre and interesting way. I can't quite peg it, and I sort of feel silly making the comparisons I've made – reference points or not – because these cats seem more often to garner loose comparisons to more significant "classics" like the Bad Brains or something, which is probably an influence, but… I don't find their sound to make that apparent. Whatever the case, this is a pretty amazing record, and I highly recommend this shit. Awesome.

Lion of Judah "Mousetrapped"
Lion of Judah "Astral Master"

You know my shtick, so don't be an ass, show some support and make the purchase if you dig the tunes (and you should). It's listed as a "pre-order" on the Youngblood site, but it's officially out and shipping now:

@ Youngblood Records
@ RevHQ

Arsis "United in Regret" CD

Posted on Monday, November 6th, 2006 @ 11:03am » permalink

Arsis - United in RegretI fucking love Arsis. Great guys, great band. That's all there is to it. I'll admit that portions of the advance tracks from their latest masterpiece, "United in Regret" (another winner from the ever-impressive Willowtip), seemed a little more standard to me in terms of melodic death metal influence and riffing stance, but I tried not to concern myself with that as it's basically impossible for me to conceive of being disappointed by these guys at this point. And sure enough, the bulk of this album offers up the same top-notch brand of scorching, energetic, technical, melodic death/thrash that's come to be expected of Arsis… with some improvements, of course. For one thing, the drumming's gotten much livelier this time out, with loads of explosive fills and quick shifts bouncing around within its patterns – thus providing a better balance to match the similarly flashy guitar work; which is jammed with sick picking patterns, super tight interaction between varying guitar lines, and, of course, fuckin' blazing solos worthy of the 80's heyday of the Shrapnel Records roster. To my ears the songwriting is very much in line with the band's past work in terms of sticking to a generally speedy pace with well-placed midpaced breaks strewn about to amplify the overall force of the tracks. And it certainly speaks to the band's talents for composing and arranging that they've taken Depeche Mode's "The Things You Said" and morphed it into a barely recognizable slab of churning power chords and dissonant melodies that's actually one of the standouts of the disc. Impressive.

Like I said, I fuckin' love these dudes. And so I continue to worship at the altar of Arsis. I mean, shit, man, I'll be 30 years old in a few months, so it's rare for me to feel like playing air guitar, you know? But I'll be damned if I wasn't wailing along to this disc all over the place… and even for the rhythm guitars! Yes!

James Malone… Michael Van Dyne… I salute you. Still one of the finest and most talented metal bands out there.

Arsis "United in Regret"
Arsis "Lust Before the Maggots Conquest"

A plague upon thee and those you hold dear should you download this record rather than supporting the band and the label with a purchase. I always encourage shopping directly through Willowtip, as their service is fast and prices cheap. Buy now:

@ Willowtip

Formicide "s/t" CD

Posted on Friday, November 3rd, 2006 @ 9:13am » permalink

Formicide - s/tBefore anyone gripes about it, I'm just taking a week off from the whole "Holy Terror Fridays" thing because I obviously have to do what I can to spread the word about my own endeavors here, and I'm psyched that the first Due Process release is finally out. Yeah, it's technically the second catalog number (that's a long story), but whatever. As a diehard fan of 80's thrash metal, which is what I predominantly listened to growing up and still holds a special place in my heart, it's quite fitting that the first release on my label is from such a criminally underrated thrash act as Formicide, from Boston.

Pathetically enough, I myself still don't really know much about this band at all, but their aforementioned underrated status combined with the fact that they only existed from July of '87 until June of '89 probably has a lot to do with that. Whatever the case, these cats seem to be pretty well revered in the New England area (and rightfully so) – as a band and as people – and the general consensus seems to be the same: Why the fuck didn't these dudes get signed back in the 80's, and why the hell did it take so long for these demos to be properly released on CD!? Hell if I know, but I was hooked from the moment I heard the bursting intro to "The Omen", the opening track from the band's 1987 demo, which gets stuck in my head constantly.

With all of the second- and third-rate thrash that was getting scooped up by labels in the late-80's/early-90's, it really is inconceivable that a band as strong as Formicide was relegated to the demo stage, especially given the admirable sound quality of their first two recording sessions. For the bulk of the band's tenure the lineup consisted of Roy Costa on bass, Steve Reppucci on vocals, and brothers Kevin and Eric Stevenson on guitar and drums respectively. In February 1989, Craig Silverman replaced Kevin Stevenson on guitar, and the band sadly called it a day a few months later – leaving behind three demos (the third of which I don't believe was viewed as an "official" demo) and a total of 15 tracks. That final demo was in part re-recorded sans one track (the awesome "Platten #2") after Silverman joined up, with the three remaining songs getting vocal/lyrical facelifts as well (which resulted in "Nocturnal Justice" morphing into "Scientific Alternative").

Formicide's brand of thrash was of the generally straightforward and aggressive variety – less melodic and slightly more in your face than some of their east coast counterparts, but with no lack of badass solos and crunchy, memorable riffing – not to mention tight performances. The resulting songwriting bears a slight lean towards faster pacing, but given proper time to sink in there's some seriously "catchy" shit to be found here. The final two recording sessions sounded significantly rawer than those for "Demo I" and "Demo II", which is somewhat unfortunate given the noticeable progression in terms of songwriting quality, but personally I can get past the rugged production values since I dig the tunes so much. Master tapes were unavailable, so we had to work under less than optimal circumstances since no one in the band even had a copy of the original four-song version of the third demo, but thankfully everything the band recorded is here, so it's a complete document of their top-notch, true-to-form thrash.

Formicide "The Omen"
Formicide "Frozen Death"
Formicide "Scientific Alternative"

For trivia purposes, after the breakup of Formicide, the Stevenson brothers and Roy Costa formed Only Living Witness with Jonah Jenkins, and somewhat ironically, former Formicide guitarist Craig Silverman once again replaced Kevin Stevenson on guitar a few of years later. Only Living Witness is finally getting a little more love these days what with Shadows Fall covering them on that "Fallout From the War" CD, as well as Century Media releasing a pretty killer double-CD discography earlier this year (I've actually been meaning to write that thing up, but time's been tight), so, yeah… there were several lineup ties happening there.

Anyway, if you dig the Formicide stuff, the CD's are $10ppd in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and $12ppd everywhere else. The D.I.Y. in me wanted to try to sell them a bit cheaper, but increasing postage costs plus PayPal fees are sort of brutal, and I'm really hoping to keep the label thing going for some time, so… if you dig the tracks and have the cash, I'd appreciate the support! I haven't had time to explore much in the way of distribution options yet, but I've been hitting the post office daily to mail orders, so… as an impatient bastard who hates waiting for mail, I'm definitely not slacking in that department! Thanks…

@ Due Process

Leper and Host and Parasite…

Posted on Thursday, November 2nd, 2006 @ 12:14pm » permalink

Leper - Embarrassed to Be HumanI'll go ahead and open by stating that I'm not really into the artwork on this CD, but that's mainly because it just doesn't properly represent the quality of what this band is doing. Leper is a Canadian trio, and "Embarrassed to Be Human" is their first full-length release on their own Creepcore Records – including 21 new tracks plus a good amount of bonus material, made up of live cuts, cover songs, and re-recordings of tracks from prior releases when the band was called The Suits. The end result is a whopping 34 tracks and over an hour's worth of grinding crossover hardcore/punk that the band has dubbed "Creepcore Anarcho Ska Crust". It's a pretty diverse blend of material that actually comes across as cohesive, combining a catchy and energetic sense of vague melody with raging basslines, tight drum work, and punchy guitars – while the vocals are all over the place. There's even a little bit of token sarcasm within their generally pissed socio-political commentary. On rare occasion they'll stumble into a looser and more "chaotic" direction – mainly meaning that they'll sort of experiment a bit much and lose sight of their strengths – which results in a few throwaway tracks that I could do without, but for the most part this is extremely well executed material, and I certainly have to complement the band on boasting one of the best D.I.Y. recordings I've heard from a self-released punk record. The visual presentation may need some work, but the sound quality is fuckin' great. Good stuff overall.

Leper "No Originality"
Leper "Mind of Yer Own"
Leper "Won't Back Down"

If you dig the tracks, contact the band via their MySpace page for ordering information.

Host and Parasite - s/tThis is another one with some slightly misleading artwork. Host and Parasite is a new band from Albany, NY, and this four-song demo is their first offering of vicious metallic hardcore with a grinding, chaotic sort of edge – but one that never goes too far or lacks control. Expect bashing percussion, harsh vocal shouts, plenty of ringing dissonance amidst pummeling basslines and churning guitar work, etc. They're not trying to reinvent the wheel, they're just pissed. End of story. I know this is brief, but I'm really not sure there's much else to say here. They plow through the whole shebang in a mere six minutes and leave you wanting more, so it's over before you know it, and there's no fuckin' around in sight…

Host and Parasite "True to Life Berzerker"

You can check out the rest of the demo on the band's MySpace page, and they're giving hard copies of these things away for free, too. Though, if you want one, you'd be a stand-up cat if you at least sent them a couple of bucks to cover postage, you know?

Know the Score and Passion…

Posted on Wednesday, November 1st, 2006 @ 9:04am » permalink

Know the Score - All Time Low"All Time Low" (on Eulogy Recordings) is Know the Score's second CD release, though at 18 songs in just about 15 minutes, I'm not sure if they're tagging it a "full-length" or not. What I do know is that this shit kills. We're talking pretty much nothing but fast, aggressive, pissed off, in your face hardcore that's heavily influenced by the early- to mid-80's US style in terms of songwriting, though the recording is 10 times heavier and more crushing to give it that modern edge. Think "Crime Ridden Society" or something like that, just faster, with shorter songs (many of which are less than a minute long), and sans the bullshit politics, of course. I don't even know what else to say here. I've got no fucking complaints. I'm all for this shit.

Know the Score "State of Disgrace"
Know the Score "Ex-Members of I Don't Give a Fuck"

Make the grab if you're down:

@ Eulogy Recordings

Passion - The Fierce Urgency of NowI believe "The Fierce Urgency of Now", the latest release from Passion on Goodfellow Records, is my first exposure to the band's brand of vicious and energetic (though also melodic) metallic hardcore. These guys have been compared to the CrimethInc. sort of sound, but I don't really agree with that when looking at the big picture – though I will admit that some of the vocal arrangements and the occasional appearance of a caustic, chaotic edge do bear some resemblance to Catharsis' later work. The disc is generally rather speedy and dominated by relatively harsh yelling and a fairly constant bit of dissonance in many of the guitar parts, with a few more openly metallic riffs – from dual guitar runs to blazing, borderline grinding tremolo picking – and they'll occasionally unload an unexpectedly burly slab of crushing midpaced chug. It's not exactly groundbreaking, but you do get a sense of urgency and sincerity (both musically and lyrically), which is crucial when you're going to go so far as to call your band Passion, you know? And the riffing absolutely hits on a number of the types of zippy picking patterns and curiously discordant melodic riffs that tend to catch my ear, so within a few minutes of my initial listen it was clear to me that this is a band to watch. I do feel like the recording needs a touch of work in terms of desiring a more natural warmth to the percussion and perhaps a more distinct bass presence in the core of the mix, but for the most part everything's alright – it's just that there's a slightly overbearing quality to the overall mix that doesn't really fit the true nature of Passion's material. The cover art on this thing definitely looks pretty awesome, though! Yeah, keep an eye on these dudes…

Passion "Me"
Passion "The Natural"

Pick up a copy for yourself if you dig the tunes:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution