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Cro-Mags "Alpha – Omega" CD

Posted on Friday, December 22nd, 2006 @ 8:34am » permalink

Cro-Mags - Alpha - OmegaIn my opinion the Cro-Mags are one of the greatest bands ever to have set foot on this ridiculous planet, and I stand firmly by every single record they've released (okay, admittedly a little less firmly for "Near Death Experience" than the rest). "Alpha – Omega" marks the second completely underrated post-heyday Cro-Mags album that I've ranted and raved about on this site, and is perhaps their most "controversial" effort in terms of all the rumors and drama surrounding its creation. But throughout all of the lineup changes, the accusations of who wrote what, arguments over who sang what, and all that other shit, all I can say is: I don't give a fuck. Sure, if some of that mess is actually true then people were slighted along the way, and that sucks, but shit happens… and at the end of the day this album fuckin' rips, so as a fan that's all I really care about.

Call it metal. Call it metallic hardcore. Again: I don't care. The songs are just amazing, man! Yeah, it's basically a total metal record complete with ripping solos and thrashy picking patterns with wicked riffs galore and nary a hardcore break in sight, but those hardcore breaks are there, as are such influences lyrically and in terms of the overall attitude. And laugh all you want at the fact that a couple of the tracks have some record scratching and loosely hip-hop-inspired vocal arrangements (namely "Eyes of Tomorrow"). First off, it was fuckin' 1992, not 2002; and beyond that, the shit doesn't even sound particularly cheesy anyway! And the breakdown about 1:28 into "Eyes of Tomorrow" is without question one of the greatest breaks in the history of all living things! You just can't fuck with that, I don't care what anyone says. Every song on this record kicks ass, and I still flip out over this shit just as much today as I did when I was a 15-year-old kid.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say this album is on par with the historical significance of the band's golden age. "Age of Quarrel" is an indisputable classic and one of the most important hardcore records of all time. But when a band reaches such classic status with an album like that, the rest of their catalog – especially records that come years after the fact with lineup changes and loads of drama in tow – is all too easily disregarded or overlooked, and especially by hardcore "purists" who shun most forms of "progression" or deviation from that central foundation. So all I'm saying is, I know there are a lot of motherfuckers out there who've refused to listen to this record over the years, as well as numerous youngsters who probably don't even know or care of its existence, and that ain't the way to go out, people. Give these jams a shot. I totally love this record and listen to it all the time to this day. By far one of the most criminally lambasted albums of all time. I just don't understand how people can be so insane…

Buy it. Just fucking buy it. You know it rules, you know you love it, and you know it deserves a home in your collection. Correct the problem and pick one up:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Pulling Teeth and Cobra Noir…

Posted on Thursday, December 21st, 2006 @ 11:23am » permalink

Pulling Teeth - Vicious SkinOh yeah! "Vicious Skin", from Maryland's Pulling Teeth (on Chainsaw Safety Records), cranks out a concise 11 tracks in a raging 14-and-a-half minutes. It's basically straight up metallic hardcore, but it's sort of a unique blend in that despite its blatant heaviness and frequent forays into all out thrash metal riffs, the hardcore aesthetic is never overshadowed. It's clearly more metal than most hardcore bands, but at the same time it's far more hardcore than most metallic hardcore bands, if that makes any sense at all. On occasion they'll even toss in a sludgy sort of undercurrent to some of the more metallic textures, not to mention a few borderline grinding blasts of speed, and of course there's also the fact that they bust out shitloads of chaotic, Integrity-esque leads, so… combine all of that with a slew of tempo changes and an unyielding sense of energy and you've got yourself a fuckin' winner, man. Only a couple of tracks break the two-minute mark, and several are less than a minute, so you're left wanting more… which is always a good thing. Keep an eye on these fuckers, 'cause this is good shit.

Pulling Teeth "Prepare For the Worst"
Pulling Teeth "Rot Forgotten"

Don't be an ass, pick this shit up if you're into it:

@ Chainsaw Safety Records
@ Very Distribution

Cobra Noir - BarricadesAlso from Chainsaw Safety Records is "Barricades", the second full-length from Canada's Cobra Noir. This one drops eight tracks of rugged hardcore/punk in a little under a half-hour. The warm, dirty recording adds quite a bit to the overall attack here, with a dense mix dominated by the aptly gritty guitar tone, followed by percussion and some absolutely wicked vocals. There's a little bit of a His Hero is Gone/Tragedy thing going on here in terms of the way they piece things together and bring in some octave chords or quick little lead runs to provide dashes of melody, but this is neither as heavy nor as involved as either of those bands, so it's a much more stripped down framework. A few tracks hit on a cool sort of sludgy rock vibe as well, which – if memory serves – was a little more prevalent on the band's debut, but I can't quite recall. All I can say is that I definitely enjoy this album more than the last, there's just something about it that feels more cohesive and forceful right off the bat. I do think the vocals are a little more pissed and powerful than the bulk of the music, but tracks like "Come Crashing" branch out just enough to really point to bigger and better things from these dudes. Not bad at all…

Cobra Noir "Come Crashing"

Downloading is for suckers, so support the band and label by buying a copy if you dig the track:

@ Chainsaw Safety Records
@ Very Distribution

Sunrise and No Heaven Awaits Us…

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2006 @ 11:31am » permalink

Sunrise - Cursed Not AloneThe first release from the great Polish label Lifeline Records was a rather impressive one from Sunrise, one of Poland's most legendary vegan straightedge metalcore bands (who sadly called it quits earlier this year). "Cursed Not Alone" combines the band's first two releases, "Generation of Sleepwalkers" and "Child of Eternity" (from 1998 and 2000 respectively), on one handy CD for a total of 16 tracks in nearly an hour – reminding those that missed out and others who may have forgotten that Sunrise were indeed at the forefront of developing the style of ultra metallic metalcore that's become so common today. The two releases appear in reverse chronological order here, so "Child of Eternity" starts things off and immediately caused me to realize that I had indeed forgotten how blatantly metallic this band's early material really was. It's been years since I've heard any songs from these two records, but this EP was just jammed with melodic Swedish death metal riffs and raging tremolo picking runs with loads of sneering vocals and memorable arrangements. Hell, the title track is even a pretty fuckin' amazing acoustic instrumental!? "Generation of Sleepwalkers" was rawer and a bit more brutal both musically and vocally – slightly more in line with what I tend to envision when I think of Sunrise – but again, the ferocity of the tremolo picking and the overall energy of the material certainly possesses more of a death metal lean than I was expecting. The great thing about all of these tracks, though, is that the songwriting is generally rock solid. They do fall into a few common traps associated with this style from time to time (more so on the debut, of course), but for the most part the speed of the riffing is efficient, and the occasional presence of eerie clean riffs alongside the overall sense of force provide examples of traits that the modern age of this niche of the metalcore genre too often lacks. Here's one track from each release:

Sunrise "Stolen Lives"
Sunrise "Head Against the Wall"

As stated several times by now, hit up the label on MySpace for ordering information if you're interested, and hopefully they'll have some distribution set up here in the US for 2007!

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

No Heaven Awaits Us - Irony of Pure HatredYet another from Lifeline Records is "Irony of Pure Hatred", the debut release from No Heaven Awaits Us. The cover art may falsely lead you to believe that this Polish metalcore act takes the more contemporary road and perhaps even utilizes some emo/screamo sorts of influences, but knock that notion right out of your head, 'cause these cats don't fuck around with that mess. I was a little surprised myself, but the truth of the matter is that these seven tracks are simply jam packed with crushing midpaced rhythms, sick chugging picking patterns, vicious breakdowns, and burly vocals. It's definitely far more metal than hardcore, and as a result there is somewhat of a modern edge to the material, but some of that comes from the crispness of the recording. I'm not entirely thrown back to the 90's style, but that's cool, because they're striking a good balance between that moshy kind of midpaced churn and a faster and more energetic side that doesn't venture into death metal territory or rely on any uninteresting fits of tremolo picking or anything like that. The fact that the band lists their key influences as Shattered Realm, Fury of Five, and Bulldoze is no surprise, but by blending in Bolt Thrower-esque runs and a more jarring sense of aggression they're able to do their thing without sounding even remotely like a carbon copy of the bands that laid the foundation. Not bad at all. Keep an eye on these dudes…

No Heaven Awaits Us "Hateback"

If you dig the track, hit up the label on MySpace for ordering information.

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

Process of Guilt "Renounce" CD

Posted on Tuesday, December 19th, 2006 @ 10:30am » permalink

Process of Guilt - Renounce"Renounce" is the awesome debut full-length from Portugal's Process of Guilt, making for quite an impressive first release from the new Portuguese label Major Label industries. With seven tracks clocking in at over an hour's time (the shortest track is just shy of eight minutes) this fucker's chock full of absolutely supreme melodic, atmospheric doom/death. I honestly haven't encountered an album of such impressive overall quality from this niche of the metal world in quite some time, so I'm really blown away by this material. I wouldn't say they're striving for utmost originality or anything as all of the staples are in place – from the crushing rhythms and forceful vocal dynamics of My Dying Bride to the droning lead melodies of Paradise Lost or early Katatonia, accented by sparse clean passages or energetic melodic sensibilities reminiscent of prime Anathema – but when the songwriting and emotional tone of an album reach this level of excellence, originality is of zero concern to me. And there are some interesting twists and turns herein that are somewhat atypical. For example, on occasion they'll break into an aggressive dirge that sounds like classic Bolt Thrower, and that really adds a different dimension to the writing that's a bit unexpected. I hate to keep throwing out so many loose comparisons for reference, but let's face it: These bands are all top-notch entities that make fine company, so having such comparisons drawn to your work is no small compliment! I have nothing negative to say about this record whatsoever. I was hooked from the moment I first sampled Process of Guilt's work online, and the full album solidified those sentiments and then some. A great recording and great layout simply round out the package, making for a complete winner for all involved. Superbly well done, and highly recommended. I'll certainly be curious to see what comes next for Process of Guilt, as well as anticipating future releases from Major Label Industries. Remarkable.

Process of Guilt "Becoming Light"

Please support the band and label with a purchase if you enjoy the track. I really haven't said enough about this stellar release, but I feel that the music does most of the speaking for itself. This is truly impressive work that deserves significantly more attention than many underground endeavors are capable of achieving:

@ The End Records

PC Deathsquad "Eternal Ignorance" CD

Posted on Monday, December 18th, 2006 @ 9:19am » permalink

PC Deathsquad - Eternal IgnoranceWhy the hell did I not find out about this band until like a week ago, and totally at random nonetheless!? Sure, there are some elements of (largely intentional) cheese here, and I tend to not like humor in my music at all, but PC Deathsquad is the latest over the top outfit helmed by the one and only John Lockjaw – infamous for his involvement with Pitboss 2000 and, of course, formerly of One Life Crew – and, shit, I've gotta say: This EP completely rips. There's some serious M.O.D./S.O.D. action going on here – and it's not wholly due to Lockjaw's Billy Milano-esque size, attitude, and persona. In case the faux Destruction cover art didn't tip you off: This is fuckin' thrash, my friends. True, it's rooted in complete sarcasm and at times immaturely embellished humor, but for the most part said humor is actually amusing here (read: there are basically no annoying "skits" that break up the listening experience), and the riffs… my god, man, the fucking riffs! All I can say is that most every contemporary metal band that claims to play thrash should be completely fucking ashamed that the best and most authentic thrash riffs I've heard since 1991 are on a 14-minute self-released EP by what basically amounts to a "joke" band. And I say that meaning absolutely no offense whatsoever to PC Deathsquad, because it's clear that these motherfuckers listen to and understand how to write real thrash – lighthearted or not. Every damn song on this thing's a keeper, from the ripping vocal arrangements and lead bursts to the ridiculously awesome mosh breaks and intensely chunky picking patterns. A label needs to step the fuck up and throw these bastards in the studio for a full-length (with Ed Repka cover art, no less), 'cause at this rate they could almost effortlessly match "U.S.A. for M.O.D." or "Speak English or Die". I love it.

PC Deathsquad "Fuck the Word Amazing"

The pro-duped CD-R's are just a tad bit pricey, but I'm telling you, this shit is fuckin' gold. The sheer quality of the songwriting has made the purchases worth every penny for me, so hit these cats up on MySpace and enjoy the thrash!

Age-9 "Gross Times" CD

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006 @ 10:57am » permalink

Age-9 - Gross TimesIt's been awhile since I posted some good ol' fashioned New Jersey metallic hardcore, so here's another underrated gem from way back when. I know pretty much zero about Age-9 other than the fact that "Gross Times" was their sole full-length – the first release on Resurrection A.D. Records back in 1996. I don't think they released anything else, but I could be wrong, I just remember seeing ads for this disc all over damn near every fuckin' zine out there 10 years ago. While certain aspects of straightforward mid-90's metalcore are prevalent within these tracks, the band actually had their own take on it – opting for more subtly rocked out rhythms (and occasionally some not-so-subtly rocked out lead breaks) and dissonant melodic tinges as opposed to midpaced chug and whatnot. The basslines stand out a hell of a lot more than most acts of the time period as well, drawing attention to some of the rhythmic flare that the percussion was messing with too. Some of the vocal patterns sort of play into that aesthetic as well, so the end result possessed a different type of energy than much of what was going on at the time, though without sounding particularly "out of place" being tied to the hardcore scene. There's a heavy, chunky vibe to elements of the material, but they certainly weren't going for that brutal breakdown kind of thing at all. I'd be curious to hear where they would've gone beyond this album for sure…

Age-9 "You're the Man"
Age-9 "Rejection Injection"

This one's out of print and can be pretty damn hard to find these days, but you can actually buy the tracks via iTunes and that kind of thing, which I hate, but… I guess in cases like this it's better than nothing, eh? Other than that, check eBay and shit like that.

I wish I knew more about these guys, but I just don't have a clue on this one. If anyone reading this knows something more, shed some light!

Hitch and Bilk…

Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006 @ 10:51am » permalink

Hitch - We Are Electric!Hitch is a Belgian indie rock outfit that's apparently become fairly well known in Europe during their 10-year existence, touring heavily and cranking out numerous releases along the way. "We Are Electric!" is the band's fourth album, their first through Moonlee Records, and it's a fuckin' great one, so I can certainly see why they've achieved a certain level of visibility worldwide (granted this is unfortunately my first exposure to their work). Shockingly enough, Hitch is the second band this week for whom I'll draw comparisons to the DC/Dischord scene, the Chicago "noise rock" skronk, and the Amphetamine Reptile bite, among others – though the group's overall songwriting aesthetic is somehow very fluid and tangible despite some of the jarring shifts and chaotic tendencies that seep into play on occasion. They never shed an undercurrent of melody, whether it's being carried by the throbbing pulse of the basslines, brightly ringing guitars, or the superb vocals; or whether its character is of the catchier and more energetic variety, or following a darker and more somber edge. The fact that the production kicks ass and really emphasizes a level of clarity and space between the elements, not to mention the warmth of the rhythm section, is certainly an important factor in the full impact of the record, but the bottom line here is definitely songwriting quality. In my experience few artists are able to mesh these types of influences in a manner that's this friendly on the ears, and in the case of "We Are Electric!" the end result could appeal just as much to fans of Quicksand and Fugazi as to those of The Jesus Lizard and Failure. Very well done…

Hitch "Last Man Standing"
Hitch "(This Shallow Heart)"

As always, I very much encourage you to make the purchase if you dig the tunes:

@ Interpunk

Bilk - This Bilk is RadioactiveBilk is a strange Croatian trio whose first album, "This Bilk is Radioactive" (Moonlee Records), contains eight instrumental tracks that completely and totally defy categorization – at least as far as my ears are concerned. Synths play a larger role than guitars and are often the focal instrument overall, so there's a significant degree of "electronic" character involved, but I don't even know how the hell to begin to describe it. And countering the electronic aesthetic is a badass rhythm section that locks in perfectly and sees oft-jazzy bass and percussion fluidly weaving together with varying degrees of flashiness to create a warm and inviting foundation for the more "artistic" (read: bizarre) elements to roam upon. Sometimes they're joined by saxophones or other additional instrumentation to further throw the listener for a loop, sometimes the bass moves into the focal role with a harder-hitting and distorted tone, sometimes the pieces of the puzzle unite to create an almost soundtrack-esque quality… let's just say that despite similarities and consistent characteristics, no two tracks are truly alike here. Melody and repetition are quite well employed throughout the record, though the latter isn't relied upon to the point of redundancy at all, so it's a generally enjoyable listen… just one that'll keep you scratching your head. Curious, to say the least. You won't find many other acts like Bilk out there!

Bilk "Gone to Texas"

You know the drill, so buy it if you're down:

@ Interpunk

In Twilight's Embrace and Fall Behind…

Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 @ 10:59am » permalink

Before I dive in today, how appropriate that on the lucky 13th (Chuck Schuldiner R.I.P.) you can check out my list of "2006's Top 10 Reasons Not to Blow Your Face Off" as a part of the daily "Top 10's for 2006" series from the always great It's a Trap website. That is all.

In Twilight's Embrace - Buried in BetweenIn Twilight's Embrace is a Polish metalcore act that's been around for a few years now, and "Buried in Between" is their first album for Lifeline Records. While the base of the band's sound is fairly commonplace modern metalcore with roots in Europe's 90's heyday, I have to commend them for achieving a pretty ripping sense of energy through their gravitation towards death metal aesthetics that don't fall back on overbearing melody. It's not exactly original, but the vocals are ferocious, the recording sounds fuckin' great, and the riffs are quality – which all pays off. While the genre as a whole may be somewhat tired right now, solid riffs and relatively powerful songwriting can go a hell of a long way for a band, and that's what grabs my attention here. Sure, there's room for improvement, but this is a very competent debut on every level, so I could definitely see these cats doing some major damage down the line. This is also another glossy digipack with a pretty tight layout, so Lifeline Records clearly spares no expense in their work. There must be some pretty sweet studios in Poland, too, because I can't believe how much better this album sounds than most of the comparable metalcore from the US!?

In Twilight's Embrace "The Darkest Crime"
In Twilight's Embrace "Buried in Between"

Contact the label via MySpace for ordering information as they continue to search out some distribution channels here in the US.

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

Fall Behind - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea"Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" is another release from Lifeline Records – the debut full-length from another Polish metalcore act, Fall Behind. Their style is another fairly straightforward dose of contemporary metalcore that takes the metallic lean of the 90's European style with its blend of tremolo picking riffs and midpaced chug and brings in some melodic Swedish death metal elements. The vocals aren't as harsh as most such acts these days, though, which works well over some of the more melodic riffing that feels like it has a little more substance to it than the standard fare from this niche of the metalcore realm. There's more of a socio-political element to the lyrical themes as well, which is indeed more welcome than the types of content that so many of these bands are content to deal with. Of course I feel that the songwriting definitely needs that extra push to really separate the band from the pack, and perhaps a bit more emphasis on certain aspects of the recording could help to push that along, but there's potential brewing beneath the surface. The production does sound quite good, and the disc is housed in the slick digipack presentation that I've come to expect from the label, so this is a decent start for a young band that's still getting their footing.

Fall Behind "In Colours"

As mentioned above, get in touch with the label through MySpace for ordering information.

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

Ultra Dolphins "Mar" CD

Posted on Tuesday, December 12th, 2006 @ 11:38am » permalink

Ultra Dolphins - MarHaving not expected to dig the Ultra Dolphins when I encountered their last CD release, I was pleasantly surprised, though ultimately undecided. Thankfully "Mar", their first full-length outing (still via Robotic Empire), sees the group continuing to develop their brand of caustic and frenetic yet rhythmic and angular material with a growing sense of dynamics – be it the increased use of subtle melody or unusually memorable and energetic bursts, or even oddball experimentation that doesn't necessarily alienate the listener. It's a weird set of tunes at times, but the overall vibe of the songwriting has improved quite a bit in my opinion, and wins me over in the long run. Another dry recording excellently benefits the natural vibe of the band's delivery by letting the basslines pound through the center of the mix while spastic percussion, jangly guitars, and perfectly suited vocals fill things out. There's a stripped down rawness to it that totally fits, and I love the aesthetic of the production in relation to the tonality of the music itself. The packaging is killer, too. The disc is housed in a matte chipboard digipack that folds out from both sides – one to hold the disc, and one to hold the booklet. All of the printing is done entirely in dark brown and cream-colored inks, with the booklet on matte stock that's a little "yellower" than the digipack itself. Great stuff. There's a lot to be heard within this compact half-hour, including a DC/Dischord sort of thing, some Chicago-ish "noise rock", plus an Amphetamine Reptile sense of acerbity, among numerous other influences… so you've gotta respect their progression to date.

Ultra Dolphins "Ship to Shore"
Ultra Dolphins "If You Will"

Pick it up straight from the label's online store if you're down, and vinyl fanatics note that this one's available on a few different colored slabs to boot:

@ Robotic Empire

Manslaughter and Elma…

Posted on Monday, December 11th, 2006 @ 11:43am » permalink

Manslaughter - Through the Eyes of InsanityManslaughter is the impressive Los Angeles-based duo of Elizabeth Schall (guitars, bass, and vocals) and Mike Caffell (drums and backing vocals), whose debut EP, "Through the Eyes of Insanity", cranks out a raging four tracks and 21 minutes of death/thrash that walks the line between the two genres better than much of what I've encountered from such realms in quite some time. I'd say the true roots of the songwriting rest in late-80's/early-90's thrash, with a more contemporary sense of speed and dissonance lending a more "modern" angle to the material – even flirting with some black metal-esque blasts and dense chord phrasings on rare occasion – though the meat of the riffing sort of has a classic death metal vibe, just delivered with a thrashy feel to the picking patterns and the guitar tone itself. They utilize just the right amount of technicality and melody to keep things interesting (the latter of which occasionally creeps in via clean passages or lead breaks), adding in some creative discordance and unique note choices here and there to add unexpected twists to the riffs and arrangements. I've probably listened to this thing 10 times in the last week, and I don't do that very often these days, so I'd be psyched as hell to see these two get signed and drop a full-length with a bit more of a budget behind it. This is a great debut, and one that's certainly indicative of better things to come…

Manslaughter "Cursed"

This fucker's just $7ppd in the US, so grab one from the band's MySpace page and get in touch for pricing if you live elsewhere. Good stuff. Keep an eye on this band for sure…

Elma - s/tAnother four-song debut EP (released by Amplitude) comes from Elma, an instrumental unit located in Brazil that herein drops four succinct tracks of twisted math metal-sounding material in a mere nine minutes. The scope of these surprisingly brief tracks is rather wide in its penchant for jumping from dense, rhythmic sludge to dissonant layers of noisier guitar textures, frequently easing up on the distortion to take a different approach to the grating, mangled sort of edge that a lot of the riffs possess. The crisp recording is probably most beneficial to the drums, which sound fucking phenomenal throughout the entire EP, though the rather strange texture that resides in all of the guitar tones employed within is pretty damn intriguing in its own right. The packaging is a real trip, too. The disc is housed in a matte black gatefold digipack with the band's logo die-cut out of the front cover, which allows the metallic silver printing from the outer pages of the booklet to show through from both sides. The booklet then folds out to reveal four pages of strange yet awesome geometric shapes and patterns. It's pretty simple in some ways, but it looks amazing, and I bet it cost a shitload to pull off! I'm floored by how damn short this release is, but it leaves me extremely curious to see where these cats are gonna go in the future. There's a lot of potential here…

Elma "Primeira"

I'm not sure where you can get your hands on this disc, so I'd recommend getting in touch with the band on MySpace to inquire about such information if you dig the track above. Show your support!

Planes Mistaken For Stars "Mercy" CD

Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 9:10am » permalink

Planes Mistaken For Stars - Mercy"Mercy" is the latest from the mighty Planes Mistaken For Stars, and their first output under the Abacus Recordings banner. While on some level this material represents a fairly significant growth from the band's past work, they haven't branched out but so far from their staple sound. The overall aesthetic of the album still retains that heavy, angular sort of indie rock undercurrent, while highlighting some of the sludgier rock riffs and integrating a much more recognizable post-hardcore quotient. There are still plenty of caustically noisy areas, as well as those venturing into much darker and more somber territory, they just seem to be widening their scope a bit while evening out some of their dynamic shifts in a way. Without eclipsing a few of the band's past glories, the songwriting here is a little more melodic and memorable overall, which I believe actually makes "Mercy" my favorite Planes Mistaken For Stars effort to date when looking at the big picture of the complete record.

The production was handled by Matt Bayles, so of course it sounds excellent, especially with regarding to the pounding basslines evident throughout the album. Granted, the slightly increased level of "polish" (and I use that term loosely as this is of course a very warm and natural sounding record with plenty of texture) does gloss over some of the hoarse character of the vocals that I enjoyed so much on their last album. That's not necessarily something I'd view as a complaint, though, because the dude's voice is so truly fuckin' unique no matter what, so… I'm more than willing to sacrifice a little of that hoarseness in favor of how killer this shit sounds as a whole. It fits. Great, great fuckin' cover art, too. And I'm diggin' the lyrics once again to boot:

Boy you held your head a bit too high, and what'd you get? Cut off at the neck, and what'd you get? Cut off at the neck. Boy you held your head a bit too high, and what'd you get? Cut off at the neck, and there is a line of angels eight miles high just waiting to shit down it. I was told (the doctor said), "Dry out fast or drown slow." I said, "I know, I know, you should call a priest. I do believe I'm about through breathing." I've turned on everyone I've loved and everything I knew. I've done turned blue…

Another winner from a rightfully revered outfit. "Never Felt Prettier" fuckin' kills me. That jam is fuckin' gold, man…

Planes Mistaken For Stars "Never Felt Prettier"
Planes Mistaken For Stars "Little Death"

Make the purchase if you enjoy the tunes, and this puppy's on sale for a mere $7 right now for the ol' holidays straight from the label:

@ Abacus Recordings

Vuneny and Chang Ffos…

Posted on Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 @ 11:40am » permalink

Vuneny - V2"V2" is the sophomore full-length from Bosnian trio Vuneny, a band that I wasn't familiar with beforehand, on the great Slovenian label Moonlee Records. This lengthy affair (14 tracks in about an hour) proves to be an incredibly unique and intriguing set of songs that superbly mesh all sorts of electronics and programming with guitars and sparse vocal manipulations to create a vastly experimental and atmospheric tone that really does defy categorization in my opinion. Despite the heavy use of electronics as a central element, there's something about the pieces that feels much more organic than one might expect, and to my ears this doesn't come across as typically "electronic" at all. I love the ethereal qualities often achieved by the textures and the melodic attributes, especially when the tracks start to lean towards a really hypnotic sensibility that sort of takes hold. Despite the bulkiness of the total running time the album actually passes by quite fluidly, and that's always a plus. Some of the compositions are remixes or re-workings of tracks that were originally performed live or written for films (the final four tracks on the disc were originally intended to be the soundtrack for a yet-to-be-completed film), which further indicates the artistic rationale of the group. "V2" also boasts an excellent recording and odd yet appropriate design work, so… another curious release from the always interesting Moonlee roster. Very cool, I'm really diggin' this…

Vuneny "Lullaby (St. Etienne Version)"
Vuneny "Ideal Panic Density"

If you really want to, you can buy this album on iTunes thanks to Moonlee's increasing distribution, but in the interest of keeping the tangible format of the album alive, I have to encourage you to purchase a hard copy of the disc if you enjoy the tracks. Either way, please support the efforts of the band and the label:

@ Interpunk

Chang Ffos - Trust This Arcane DeviceAlso new from Moonlee Records is the latest from Croatian outfit Chang Ffos. Even though these guys have been around for over a decade, I wasn't yet familiar with their work because "Trust This Arcane Device" is actually their first full-length. The label describes the band's material as "Neurosis' heaviness, Converge's energy, Today is the Day's craziness, and the atmosphere provided by Kyuss", which does give you somewhat of a hint as to where they're coming from, though I'd leave Converge and Today is the Day out of it myself. Vocally and in terms of the density they're shooting for with the natural warmth of the recording I can definitely pick out a Neurosis influence; and I could see the pulsing, fuzzy grit of the textures and the subtly rocked out vibe of some of the riffs tied to a Kyuss sort of sound; but they're tossing around so many influences that it's not that simple – which is of course a good thing. It's not that rocked out, for example, and the moody heaviness isn't particularly over the top – it's the kind of "heavy" that's both sonic and suggested, as far as the overall aesthetic of the album's concerned. There's a good dose of relatively straightforward rhythmic pounding and repetition, with ample shifts within the compositions that do at times roam into slightly more discordant or chaotic territories, but the end result feels quite unified. Much of the explosive energy comes from the drumming, which I have to mention is absolutely badass – the dude just thunders away and cuts loose into wicked fills and grooves all over the place, so you can tell he plays based solely on the feel of the surrounding elements. I dig that cover art as well: I can barely read that fuckin' text and it still looks totally rad!

Chang Ffos "Iron Icon"
Chang Ffos "The Throne of Sasquatch Ascending"

As stated above, you can go the iTunes route if you're into that sort of thing, but for my money the good ol' fashioned CD itself is always the way to go. Pick one up if the music suits you:

@ Interpunk

I've got a few more from Moonlee Records that'll be popping up here in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out. It's always so cool for me to get the chance to check out bands and labels from "obscure" countries that a lot of us don't get exposed to very often, so I hope some of you appreciate it!

Arkangel, Alienacja, and 13th Draft…

Posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 @ 9:57am » permalink

Arkangel - Prayers Upon Deaf EarsFuck yeah. Here's a re-release of the first Arkangel EP from 1998 on the great Polish label Lifeline Records. Many would argue that "Prayers Upon Deaf Ears" remains the finest hour for one of Belgium's most renown metalcore acts, and I'm not sure I would disagree. You get nothing but six tracks and 20 minutes of absolutely destructive European metalcore, chock full of crushing midpaced rhythms, sick Slayer-ized riffing, and completely apocalyptic lyrics delivered through some of the sickest and most over the top snarls you'll ever find within this niche of the genre. This reissue is housed in a glossy full-color digipack containing a booklet with all of the lyrics and whatnot, so it looks killer. I don't even know what else to say here. This one's short but sweet and if you've slept on this release for the last eight years, you should fuckin' remedy that problem and pick this shit up!

Arkangel "One Standard, One Ethic"

We forge this world into a hell. Industrial madness consumes gaia. Witness the demise of life under the siege of inhumanity. Breathless mother, helpless she dies…

It doesn't appear that Lifeline Records has any distribution in the US yet, but that should definitely change given the fact that every damn one of their releases is housed in a slick glossy digipack that looks top-notch. So please do contact the label directly via MySpace if you'd like to purchase any of their CD's or if you can help them out with distribution over here!

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

Alienacja - Blades Shall SpeakAnother from Lifeline Records that's not terribly far removed from the Arkangel school is "Blades Shall Speak", which is the second full-length from Poland's Alienacja. I think this is the first time I've ever heard this band, and I have to say this is some pretty badass death metalcore that takes that whole 90's European style and cranks it up to an even tighter and more ferocious level. Think loads of blasting speeds that border on a loosely chaotic edge and plenty of sick, grinding midpaced chunkiness – with ripping vocals jumping all over the place from midrange snarls to low growls and then some. I have to say, this is a pretty hard style to do right, because I tend to find that bands within this realm will utilize far too much tremolo picking and sort of fall into the trap of one-sided songwriting. But Alienacja seems to have a great grasp on this shit, because they walk that line without lacking any energy. It's fast and explosive but you can still catch some groove in the guitar work and the flashy drum fills and whatnot, so there's a good sense of energy throughout – in addition to some damn solid riffing. Sure, all things considered they could probably stand to shorten the tracks up a bit from time to time (every song is four to five minutes, give or take) in order to harness their power into more focused bursts, but fuck it… the recording's incredibly solid for a smaller band on a D.I.Y. label, and this is good shit. The disc's got another outstanding layout in a full-color digipack with a nice, thick booklet and everything as well… I don't know how the hell the label can afford to do this stuff, but kudos for that, too!

Alienacja "Fire That Burns"

Hit the label up on MySpace for ordering information, and hopefully they'll get some American distribution hooked up sometime in 2007!

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

13th Draft - Where Do We Go From Here...?Also from Lifeline Records is "Where Do We Go From Here…?", the debut EP from 13th Draft. This is a relatively young Polish metalcore band that follows a more contemporary style in terms of utilizing quite a bit of melody, so their writing tactics actually border on somewhat of an emo/screamo angle since they do mesh singing and screaming as well as branching out into some clean passages and things like that, but… it's still basically metalcore at the end of the day. As with any debut effort from a young band, there are some kinks to hammer out in terms of slight tuning/performance issues that make elements of the recording sound a little more acerbic than was probably intended (granted some of the riffing does intentionally hit on a few caustic areas), but for the most part the sound quality is pretty good given the circumstances. A little more warmth and a slightly more fluid guitar tone would help, but this is a good start to provide an example of what the band is going for. I actually really like a lot of the riffing and feel that the general direction of the songwriting is quite promising, it's just that some of the vocals don't really do it for me in terms of the screaming seeming a little overbearing on occasion and the singing not being strong enough. What's curious is that it appears that the band has gained a new frontman since the recording of this album, so I'm interested to see how that works out considering my feelings on the topic. It's a little rough around the edges, but I hear definite potential in the songwriting, and the packaging looks fucking awesome, so… we'll see what the future holds!

13th Draft "Dead or Live"

As stated above, please contact the label directly via MySpace if you'd be interested in buying their releases or can provide a helping hand on distribution in the US, etc. I've got a bunch of other releases from Lifeline to cover in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out…

Lifeline Records releases are now available through Interpunk:

@ Interpunk

Gentle Veincut "Concrete Landing" CD

Posted on Monday, December 4th, 2006 @ 9:14am » permalink

Gentle Veincut - Concrete Landing"Concrete Landing" is the latest release from the absolutely awesome German outfit Gentle Veincut on French label Whosbrain Records. I'd really suggest reading my review of their prior self-released CD-R for a more in-depth description of their sound, as well as some background information on how I almost missed out on their incredible material (I was a bit harsh, but the intentions were only the best for these folks). But thankfully all of that's beside the point these days, so on with the show…

I'm not sure if they're billing "Concrete Landing" as a full-length or not, but it's only six tracks in 21 minutes, so it's an EP in my book. But it's also a fucking great EP that's jam packed with a continuation of Gentle Veincut's unique approach that I'd best describe as falling into the Amphetamine Reptile pool of discordant "noise rock": Complete with roving basslines and warm percussion, aptly rough-around-the-edges guitar textures, and fuckin' awesome female vocals that shift from straight yelling to harsher shouting and spoken passages that all work great to communicate the strangely narrative elements of the lyrical content. There's just something about the songwriting that this band delivers that totally hits the spot for me, which is interesting since I was never that big on this whole niche. But whether they're breaking down into a caustic and chaotic assault or easing into a more somber and melodic undercurrent, the fact remains: Gentle Veincut rules. This release leaves me fuckin' starving for more, and that's a great, great sign.

Gentle Veincut "Porthole View (For Ivica)"

While damn solid, that's not the strongest track on the disc, but it's such a short EP that I don't want to give away anything that the band and label don't already have out there (even in the interest of spreading the word), and they seem to be saving the best of the best for those who buy the disc. So please, please, please contact the band via MySpace or their website for ordering information if you'd like to get your hands on some of these jams. It's a damn shame that such excellent music can go so unnoticed here in the US (and elsewhere, for that matter), but such artists deserve your support!

One King Down "Bloodlust Revenge" CD

Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2006 @ 9:51am » permalink

One King Down - Bloodlust RevengeFor whatever reason, lately I've been pondering the fact that 10 years ago there were so many fucking straightedge bands out there (vegan/vegetarian or otherwise) that it was pretty much insane – especially considering the fact that these days there's barely a shred of that whole scene left, especially in the US. That train of thought got me jamming "Bloodlust Revenge", the second EP from Albany, NY's One King Down, which was their first release for Equal Vision Records in 1996. This record shits all over everything else the band did in my opinion, and remains way underrated in terms of the whole 90's straightedge boom. There's just a great balance between ripping metal riffs and energetic bursts of crunchy hardcore, which was typical of the 90's, though on this EP One King Down was damn sure above average in terms of songwriting quality. There's some sick groove to the drumming and pulsing basslines, the vocals were fierce as fuck, and guitar-wise this shit is fuckin' riff city, man!

Musically you can hear elements comparable to west coast acts like Strife and Outspoken in this stuff, but the east coast angle keeps things significantly more metallic than many of the band's contemporaries of the time period, though not necessarily venturing into full-blown metal. Although… there are some guitar solos and acoustic passages, so… who knows!? There's sort of a European lean to it in ways, but the songwriting was much more melodic and inventive, not to mention more energetic, than much of the European metalcore of the day, and that pays off big time – especially given the length of many of the tracks. The only minor setback to this release is the recording, as it's a little thin, so the guitars aren't as powerful as they should've been and shit like that. It's no big deal, because it sounds pretty solid, but, I mean, can you even imagine if this shit had a tonality more akin to Earth Crisis' "Destroy the Machines"? Fuck… we'd be talking complete and total carnage. But regardless of all that it's still 6 tracks, 28 minutes, all gold. "More Hate Than Fear" is a fucking classic, and to this day still makes me want to smash motherfuckers…

One King Down "More Hate Than Fear"
One King Down "Absolve"
One King Down "Bloodlust Revenge"

Surprisingly enough this one's still cake to get your hands on, and pretty cheap, so pick this shit up and crush:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution
@ Amazon.com