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Time of Cholera and Drop Dead, Gorgeous…

Posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 @ 8:58am » permalink

Time of Cholera - Demo 11.6.06A couple of years ago, the debut full-length from Time of Cholera (formerly Love in the Time of Cholera) was one of the most promising metalcore albums I had encountered in recent times. Since then, their more recent "Collapse of the Forsaken" EP has slipped past me, but this late-2006 demo recording solidifies (if not strengthens) my opinion of the band's talents, and proves once again how little justice there is in this wretched world – as any number of half-assed, mediocre-at-best metalcore acts have stumbled onto mild to moderate "success" in that time, while Time of Cholera continues to search for proper label support. I'm not saying that what they're doing is particularly inventive, because that's not really the case, but these three tracks in just about 12 minutes (the fourth track is just a brief ambient outro) provide a very solid listen that sees the band focusing their diverse range of influences into a more consistent listen. Perhaps a touch more aggressive than their debut, smatterings of discordant melody still seep into place – but don't get the wrong idea, as this is quite tactful, and I would actually guess that some of those who weren't fans of the band's earlier work would start to gain a greater appreciation for them now. In a genre that's plagued by hundreds – if not thousands – of bands that are all doing exactly the same thing, it's acts like Time of Cholera that, at least for me, set themselves apart through two very important characteristics: 1. quality songwriting, and 2. excellent recordings. I mean, sound-wise this one-day demo session easily stands up against anything you'd hear from a Trustkill- or Ferret-sized label, so what gives? There's just no reason for these cats not to have been scooped up by now. Who knows? Maybe it's the fact that they all look like normal, respectable dudes who don't do the whole bad-hair-and-way-too-tight-clothes thing… but labels that go for that shit all deserve to be burned at the stake anyway, so… I guess the quest for justice remains unending… at least for now.

Time of Cholera "Waterlunged"

I don't think this is an "official" demo per se as there's no packaging or whatnot, but you should hit these dudes up through their website or MySpace about getting your hands on some material if you dig it. And if you run a label that doesn't suck, hey, maybe you can even help 'em out?

Drop Dead, Gorgeous - In VogueSpeaking of metalcore bands that do the bad-hair-and-way-too-tight-clothes thing, I'm shocked that I can even tolerate a band called Drop Dead, Gorgeous, but "fashion", cheesy song titles, and expectedly silly lyrical content aside, I do actually sort of enjoy a good chunk of "In Vogue" (Rise Records), believe it or not. Original? Hell motherfuckin' no. Expect the usual dose of scathing screams vs. high-pitched singing; surprisingly fierce fits of caustic dissonance and churning, chunky rhythms; and melodic smatterings bouncing around in between. The vocals can get mildly irritating on occasion, but for the most part the songwriting keeps things coming in short bursts that can hit on some cool energetic runs, and some of the technical-ish melodic metal stuff is actually pretty damn promising. No, they certainly don't really need to have a keyboard player since he relies almost entirely on piano-sounding patches and barely-audible ambient textures that don't serve the songs and only sparsely appear as it is, but such is life in the world of contemporary metalcore, eh? They're one of those bands that has it in 'em to do some damage, but they're pretty fuckin' young, and need to stray from a few more of the genre's sundry pitfalls to really maximize the end result. Not too shabby, though… it definitely has its moments.

Drop Dead, Gorgeous "Knife vs. Face Round 1"
Drop Dead, Gorgeous "In Vogue"

Feed your shame:

@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

Dawnbringer "In Sickness and in Dreams" CD

Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 @ 9:10am » permalink

Dawnbringer - In Sickness and in DreamsDawnbringer's prolific key visionary Chris Black is also known for his involvement with Pharaoh and Superchrist (and formerly Nachtmystium), which may have something to do with the fact that "In Sickness and in Dreams" is the first release in six years to bear the Dawnbringer name (and first for Battle Kommand Records). To call this outing a "full-length" might be a stretch, as despite the fact that the tracklist includes a whopping 14 songs, none of them hit the three-minute mark, and most are fewer than two, so the total running is actually just under 25 minutes. In many ways the bulk of the riffing herein is driven by loads of New Wave of British Heavy Metal-influenced runs that fly the flag of traditional heavy metal, while more of a snarled vocal performance and a zippy sense of speed/tremolo picking attack lend a darker, more modern/aggressive tone to the end result. The appearance of the tracklist seems to be divided into three segments, with the counterparts "11:58" and "Midnight" falling smack in the middle of the disc. These are also the only two tracks that contain a "singing" vocal approach that falls somewhere along a midrange Halford/King Diamond fusion that – to be totally honest – sounds too forced and simply "not quite there" to be very effective. So many odd moves certainly make for a strange yet curious release, but while I personally disagree with some of the decisions made (the aforementioned brief shift in vocal technique and the fact that the two tracks ending the opening/closing phases of the album both end with sharp cuts to silence, for example), this is indeed an enjoyable listen that tends to grow on me with each subsequent spin. I've read numerous complaints citing that the album is somewhat disjointed and inconclusive, but I disagree. As shockingly short as they are, I actually find the individual compositional elements of the album to feel surprisingly effective in terms of "completeness", and even those minor areas that rub me the wrong way seem to be wholly intentional choices on behalf of the artist, so… it's peculiar, and in some ways suggestive of greater capabilities not necessarily demonstrated in full herein, but it's also a good record. That's the bottom line.

Dawnbringer "There and Back"
Dawnbringer "End of Earth"

Buy it if you like it, 'cause that's the only way:

@ Battle Kommand Records
@ The End Records

Under Pressure "Come Clean" CD

Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2007 @ 8:51am » permalink

Under Pressure - Come CleanMan, I suck. I don't really listen to vinyl very often at all anymore, so I haven't really kept up with Canadian hardcore/punk masters Under Pressure since a lot of their output in the last few years has been on 7"s and whatnot. But thankfully last year's "Come Clean" full-length recently showed up in the mail on CD from Germany's Yellow Dog Records to remind me of just how awesome this band really is. This material sees the group continuing to branch out and fine-tune their atypical yet classically-influenced brand of hardcore/punk for a killer set of 10 tracks in about 35 minutes. There's somewhat more of a rock 'n' roll vibe happening to some of the chords and riffs these days, with a slightly slower overall drive that helps to highlight the power of some of the dissonance that creeps into place from time to time. But beyond that, there are also some longer compositions that experiment with a little more melody and texture, diversifying without lacking a connection to where you know the band is coming from at its core. Very cool. Plus the recording – aptly warm, a little dry, somewhat restrained, but 100% natural – gives the perfect presence to the oomph of the percussion and the killer thump of the basslines. And of course I still love those amazingly unique vocals. Great lyrics, too:

Self-destruction has never been so slow and clean. I get this feeling like waking from a dream. Every action just a fraction of some grander scheme, of some movement I can't see. But I'll make it through this hell, all faculties employed. Who gives a piece of themselves to watch it be destroyed? And sure as the morning you'll be asking how I've been. If not numb and automatic then I'm just feeling mean. Not keeping busy, not keeping clean. But you'd be best not to see me divide myself, all faculties employed. Reach out a hand for help. Scream for change into a void. "You expect nothing, you're never disappointed. I was a fool to have expected anything from you."

These dudes just kill it every single time. I simply can't say enough good things about this band and how much I respect the manner in which they handle their artistry.

Under Pressure "The Crawl"
Under Pressure "Come Clean"

Absolutely recommended, so make the grab if you like what you hear:

@ Under Pressure
@ Yellow Dog Records
@ Crimes Against Humanity Records

She Said Destroy "Time Like Vines" CD

Posted on Friday, January 26th, 2007 @ 8:54am » permalink

She Said Destroy - Time Like VinesHaving never heard of She Said Destroy before (and thus ignoring the potential Death in June reference), and seeing that this release was handled by Candlelight Records in the US, I initially missed the tiny Nocturnal Art Productions logo on the back cover of the disc, so upon my first listen I was expecting this to be mediocre, screamy, third-rate-at-best metalcore. So imagine my complete and utter shock when I was greeted by these Norwegians' impressive attack of completely uncategorizable metal! It's a thickly layered concoction that sees roving basslines and totally sick drumming with just the right amount of jazzy flare laying the foundation for some truly unique guitar work built largely around dense, rhythmic, dissonant chord phrasings whose twisted arrangements often give way to high-speed death metal influences that have a technical, progressive sort of undercurrent. A few slick solos pop up on occasion, and there are some softer atmospheric clean passages and such involved as well, though such attributes are indeed in the minority here. Meanwhile, the powerfully aggressive vocals are damn near as layered as the music itself, gelling surprisingly well with their unique approach to melodic instrumentation. And though they rarely (but occasionally) sound alike, She Said Destroy's distorted guitar tone sounds quite close to that of Anacrusis' almighty "Screams and Whispers" album – which is a rare and esteemed comparison in any regard – so this is definitely a rather curious outing… if not at times a downright strange one!

Vision: the sound of our infant bones crushing between her divine hands the pools of blood and the filthy black smoke the vision of bodies upon bodies and the never ending rain – it chases me unendingly she said destroy at the coming of nightfall she said destroy as an answer to betrayal joy to the world vision of our absence the rain shall wash away our rot and joy shall overcome the world joy to the world vision: the coming of Kali.

She Said Destroy "Swallow My Tongue (IV)"
She Said Destroy "Time Like Vines"

I've heard very little about these dudes, so maybe I'm not the only one thrown off by the band name/visual aesthetic of the record, but this is highly recommended for anyone looking for something a little outside the norm for metal these days. Pick one up if you fit the bill:

@ Candlelight Records

Inhale Exhale and It Dies Today…

Posted on Thursday, January 25th, 2007 @ 8:59am » permalink

Inhale Exhale - The Lost, the Sick, the Sacred"The Lost, the Sick, the Sacred", the Solid State debut from Inhale Exhale, is indeed yet another metalcore record that blends harsh screaming and soaring singing over a musical backdrop that runs a gamut of influences – from the dominant presence of chunky rhythms and lead lines that never shed their penchant for melody to a subtly post-hardcore sense of dissonance, occasional forays into a slightly sludgier attack, and even some thrashy picking patterns with more of an openly metallic edge. It's nothing particularly inventive, but good songs are good songs, and I can still appreciate this kind of thing under the right circumstances. And hey, there aren't really any melodic Swedish riffs happening, so that's at least one check in the "on the right track" column for these cats. But I actually find a number of the songs to possess a really strong sense of energy, and even though the singing passages might be a little too "glossy" for some, I dig the vocal harmonies and all that, and since I don't find the screaming to be irritating either the vocal performance works out fairly well. True, they could push for a little more variety from track to track, but the songs tend to be around three to four minutes apiece, with a total running time of less than 40 minutes, so it's a decently paced listen when all is said and done. Of course, as is generally the case when Solid State is involved, the recording is super pro, with a balanced mix and slickly polished tones that lend a modern sense of oomph – and an arguably "mainstream" tinge – to the delivery, which is fine by me because, as I said: Good songs are good songs, so a solid recording ain't hurtin' anyone in my book. The layout's pretty awesome, too – another staple of the Solid State catalog. Not bad. I like it.

Inhale Exhale "By Grace"
Inhale Exhale "A Call to the Faithful"

Make the grab if you're not afraid to admit that you can get into this kind of thing:

@ Solid State

It Dies Today - SirensMore such metalcore comes on "Sirens" (Trustkill), the sophomore full-length from It Dies Today. Ignoring the band's "fashion-y" look that I just can't hang with, I did think their first record had some potential (though in hindsight its incredibly weak and irritating recording wasn't all that needed work), but thankfully this album totally eclipses their debut in every way. The recording sounds like a million bucks by comparison – with a clear, punchy mix; plenty of low-end behind the dense crunch of the guitars; and an overall polish that really works well for this style of metalcore – like it or not. Writing-wise they're still operating within the same general niche of blending blatantly melodic riffing with super moshy breakdowns and, of course, both hoarse shouts/sneers and singing – high-flying vocal harmonies and all. However, they've focused much more attention on writing cohesive, catchy material – which means they've erased a good percentage of the melodic Swedish death metal riffing that littered their debut. Such influences still play a role here and there, but it's far less blatant, and that pays off big time with regard to the overall listening experience. Again, it's nothing I'd refer to as original or what have you, but it's a good record, and the songwriting is among the better that I've encountered from this more "friendly" area of the genre. Of course, it was just announced a few days ago that these dudes lost their vocalist, so… I'm not sure if his replacement will pull it off, but… who knows?

It Dies Today "Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur)"
It Dies Today "Sixth of June"

Same deal, pick one up if you're a real man (or woman) who can admit that some of this stuff does the trick:

@ Trustkill
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Celeste "Pessimiste(s)" CD

Posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 @ 8:42am » permalink

Celeste - Pessimiste(s)"Pessimiste(s)", a split release from Alchimia Recordings and Purepainsugar, is the debut EP from Celeste, a French act featuring former members of Mihai Edrisch. You could draw parallels from this material to early Isis and early Cult of Luna on some level (mainly in terms of the presence of both crushing heaviness and softer atmospheric elements), though the compositions are shorter/more focused, and the Mihai Edrisch connection brings in a frantic edge that shifts the vibe into a more caustic and jangly direction on occasion. Vocally expect nothing but fierce screams, though… they're not fuckin' around in that department at all. The overall aesthetic of the material is loosely comparable to other acts within circles of the French scene (as well as that of Switzerland), but while I was into what Mihai Edrisch was doing, I dig this a lot more, and there are some truly powerful moments within these 18 minutes that already help to differentiate Celeste from their peers – even at this early stage in their development. The packaging is cool as shit on this thing, too – with some amazing looking landscape photographs and an outer booklet printed on vellum that contains all of the text. Good stuff. I'm already looking forward to more…

Celeste "Diluons Nos Souvenirs D'enfance"

You know how it goes, make the grab if you're into it:

@ 29 North Records

This one's gonna be available on vinyl from a third label sometime in the future as well, and it'll probably look equally as slick, so… if you're into that sort of thing, keep your eyes peeled for that one.

The End and Car Bomb…

Posted on Monday, January 22nd, 2007 @ 9:20am » permalink

The End - ElementaryI've never been huge on The End, but "Elementary", their latest Relapse Records full-length, shows quite an impressive degree of growth. As I was generally on the fence about the fast 'n' chaotic metalcore of their debut (though I could cite its potential), I actually never even heard "Within Dividia", so I'm unsure as to where it falls along the line of progression demonstrated on this album, but compared to those early days this strikes me as an almost entirely new band. Remnants of those speedy, discordant metalcore bursts still linger, but they've been usurped by rhythmic post-hardcore dissonance and darker atmospherics revolving around somber drones and ringing guitar textures that create something of a "spacey" quality. There's a lot of layering going on, and certain degrees of complexity are still evident throughout the listen, but there's a far greater emphasis on actual songwriting now, so a much wider range of tempos and dynamics are present – in a fluid manner, mind you – and for my money that really pays off. Additionally, the vocal performance is now dominated by singing (which can be awesomely emphatic at its best), reserving fits of aggressive screaming for only those areas that truly call for it – again demonstrating the group's newfound attention to the compositional "big picture".

Elsewhere, the recording is fucking great, with a super crisp mix that really lets some of the subtler details surface throughout the album. The rhythm section alone sounds like a million bucks, with the massively dense basslines resting just beneath the core while the natural warmth of the percussion runs circles around the center – never "flashy", but always tactfully breaking out when it makes sense to do so. The softer, almost ambient soundscape leanings that occasionally creep in for added effect sound slick, too. The disc is then packaged in a handsome digipack with some very cool artwork that ties into elements of the lyrical imagery. The band photos are rather silly and have much more in common with today's ever-popular "fashioncore" niche than The End's music ever will, which certainly won't do the band any favors in the eyes of less open-minded fans confused by their continued shift in approach, but then… there was probably no hope for some of those listeners anyway, right? I'm not saying I'm totally floored by this material, but this is the best music I've heard from The End to date, and I'm very curious to see where they're gonna go next. It's always a good thing to see a band separate themselves from the morass of an overpopulated niche of the genre in favor of a more artistically creative outlet…

The End "The Never Ever Aftermath"
The End "Animal"

As always, make the grab if you dig the tunes. This one's not out until the first week of February, but you can pre-order it as we speak:

@ Relapse Records

Car Bomb - CentraliaAnother much-improved act who just recently made their way onto the Relapse Records roster is Car Bomb, whose debut full-length, "Centralia", is a 32-minute mindfuck of blistering speeds and acerbic bursts galore. That's not all they have to offer, however, as there are some slick jazzy breaks and dingy midpaced churnings interspersed within the generally chaotic framework to add variety/breathing room. All three of the tracks from their demo appear here in re-recorded form, so they're still operating in the same general space, they've just become a tighter, stronger, unit – which takes the intensity to new heights. What I like the most about this album is that significantly large chunks of wild 'n' crazy metalcore are mashed 'n' mangled into a more ferocious and grinding beast: We're talking loads of absolutely wild time signatures, insane vocal shifts and patterns, and riffs that jump from tangibly chunky to pure and total noise in a manner that's respectably listenable – which I actually find to be somewhat of a rare trait when it comes to this kind of thing. A stronger recording benefits their approach as well, drawing the elements in for a cohesive core that gives the raging bass tone a much more focal role than on the demo. And the drumming! The fucking drumming, man! Fuck, I mean… this dude is a god damn machine. Tight as fuck and completely off the charts… I love it. While I wouldn't particularly compare the two overall, I'd at least cite that some of the individual characteristics happening here should appeal to fans of the mighty Discordance Axis, so Car Bomb should indeed be one to watch as things unfold.

Car Bomb "Cielo Drive"
Car Bomb "Pieces of You"

As above, this one doesn't officially hit the streets until early-February, but you can go ahead and pre-order the madness:

@ Relapse Records

This Et Al "Baby Machine" CD

Posted on Friday, January 19th, 2007 @ 10:31am » permalink

This Et Al - Baby MachineAs someone who listens predominantly to metal and hardcore and that sort of thing, it can be sort of a bitch for me to keep up with/find out about bands that I would appreciate from outside of that core listening realm, so I'm incredibly grateful that This Et Al contacted me out of nowhere about their debut full-length, "Baby Machine", because this album is absolutely fucking outstanding, and has quickly become one of my recent favorites. The UK outfit lists among their influences My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Interpol, and Joy Division, among numerous others; so I'll let that list speak to an idea of where their dark, moody rock is coming from since I'm not learned enough in these realms to suggest any categorical placements of my own. Interpol feels the most familiar of the aforementioned artists while listening to this work, though This Et Al covers more ground in terms of both dynamic range as well as pacing and riffing styles – which certainly speaks volumes of their songwriting talents. Despite carrying a somber sort of tonality from start to finish, there's a wealth of energy to be found, as well as some surprisingly infectious bursts that really pull you in. Quirky indie rock riffing and time signatures mesh with subtly heavier rhythmic shifts to add diversity to the types of softer bass pulses, droning synths, and noisy guitar leanings one might expect. I'm not even sure where else to go with this one – the recording is great, I love the singing and the unique vocal arrangements, the snazzy percussive work is totally badass, I dig the curious lyrical excursions… it's just a killer, killer album. Every song's a keeper and I'm truly fucking impressed by these cats – to the point where this record would've made my "Best of 2006" list had I found the time to check it out in December. Completely and absolutely recommended on every level…

This Et Al "Can You Speak European?"
This Et Al "Wardens"

I know for a fact that a good number of people reading this shit are gonna be all over this, so please, please support the band with a purchase! You can pick up the disc from their website or MySpace page, and even though I hate downloading, if you're lazy and prefer that sort of thing you can find the record on iTunes as well… so there's no excuse! And spread the word, too! These bastards should be waaaaaay more known out there! I can't get over how awesome this disc is…

Détente "Recognize No Authority" CD

Posted on Thursday, January 18th, 2007 @ 8:47am » permalink

Détente - Recognize No AuthorityIt should be common fact by now that I'm an immense fan of reissues in general, but especially thrash reissues, so I was psyched as shit to see "Recognize No Authority" – the sole 1986 full-length from Los Angeles' Détente – recently get the remastered reissue treatment from seemingly out of nowhere. The band is possibly most known at this point for having been the early stomping ground of future nu-metal producer Ross Robinson (who played guitar, and whose involvement with this gem makes it almost forgivable that he produced early efforts from both Korn and Limp Bizkit – ouch), if not for the presence of one of the fiercest female metal vocalists of all time in Dawn Crosby (later going on to Fear of God), who sadly passed away from liver failure over a decade ago (R.I.P.). But this record damn sure stands the test of time as a killer slab of textbook mid-80's thrash, with plenty of meaty riffs and blazing solos that retain a good deal of traditional heavy metal energy and force – while Crosby's absolutely ripping vocals really help to define the band's identity. The overall vibe was pretty straightforward and typical of the era, but the songwriting was an above average blend of memorable hooks and sheer aggression that remains a keeper. As one would expect the sound still has that dated rawness to it, which is something that I find to be an admirable quality of all the classic thrash from during the 80's heyday. I never had an original pressing of the record so I can't really draw any comparisons between the two, but I'm definitely digging the punch of the basslines here, so I don't have any complaints there. They included all of the lyrics and some old photos as well, so there's nothing much more you could ask for, really. Except, well, okay… since the album's only 35 minutes it would've been amazing had they been able to tack on some obscure material from the band's demos, but seriously, fuck it… this shit rips, and I'm super appreciative that the time has been taken to preserve the release for a new generation. Kudos!

Détente "Russian Roulette"
Détente "Shattered Illusions"

This fuckin' album has been hard as hell to find – especially on CD – for far too long now, so having been trying to track down a CD copy myself for several years now, it's great to be finally be able to score the goods – and for a reasonable price, no less! So don't fuck around, support the release with a purchase:

@ The End Records

Mehkago N.T. and Protest…

Posted on Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 @ 11:48am » permalink

Mehkago N.T. - s/tThe self-titled debut from Florida's Mehkago N.T. cranks out five tracks in less than 15 minutes and is sort of like the hardcore equivalent of "war metal" (an aesthetic that carries right over into the high contrast imagery of the layout): It's raw as fuck, it's generally fast and somewhat abrasive, and there's a certain degree of unhinged ferocity going on throughout. Obviously this means that there are more influences at work than with your standard hardcore band, and metal's certainly a driving force, but despite that fact there's an undeniable hardcore aesthetic throughout the vast majority of the compositions. And hell, I'm all for the occasional foray into twisted dissonance or sludgy midpaced riffing, so this is a great introduction to these dudes for sure. There's a blown-out character to the vocals that works well against the rugged guitar tone and the pounding thuds of the basslines, so even though the recording could use minor touching up, I'm guessing they'll always try to retain this sort of edge (and with good reason). When all is said and done they're not rewriting the book on any given genre, but there's something interesting about what's going on here that gets my attention and makes me wonder where they're going to go with this stuff…

Mehkago N.T. "Siafu Attack"

It's a little pricey for a professional-looking CD-R in xeroxed packaging that's limited to 100 copies, but this is good shit, and I'll be psyched to hear more from this curious outfit in the future, so pick one up from the band's website if this is your thing.

Protest - The Truth Enslaves Us"The Truth Enslaves Us", the debut EP from Protest, finds the Texans unloading five tracks of surprisingly taut late-80's/early-90's styled thrash fused with an air of chunky metallic hardcore. There's room for improvement of course, but overall this is a strong debut, right down to the recording, which is well-balanced and consistent – certainly better than average compared to the bulk of the self-released efforts that tend to cross my path. I'd like to hear the basslines brought forth a hint more, but other than that everything's on the right track in that department. Expect loads of meaty riffs and picking patterns across a range of tempos, with burly vocals and even some darker, Bolt Thrower-esque uses of melody here and there. It's a pretty curious blend overall, what with the chaotic Slayer-meets-early-Megadeth style of lead playing over thicker and often more moderately paced rhythms. And while the thrashy elements have more in common with the last decade's "hardcore" than anything, the metallic hardcore edge rests more in the background here, allowing the chugging heaviness to create a different sort of vibe in large part. Not bad at all.

Protest "Fueled by Hate"

Contact the band via their website or MySpace for ordering information, and keep your eyes out for more down the road. The best should be yet to come…

Blinded Colony "Bedtime Prayers" CD

Posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 @ 12:24pm » permalink

Blinded Colony - Bedtime PrayersIt's funny, mere hours before I first popped this disc in for a listen, I reminded myself just how sick I am of melodic Swedish death metal as I sampled yet another mediocre album from said genre. Then I finally found the time to check out "Bedtime Prayers", the sophomore full-length from Sweden's Blinded Colony on Pivotal Rockordings, and what do you know: It's pretty god damn good! Proving yet again that there's still life to be heard in the realm of melodic Swedish death metal – and most of that life is – logically – still coming from Sweden itself! Of course, that's not to say that this is an original album, because the band's approach is rather comparable to more recent excursions from In Flames and Soilwork (tossing in some of the thrashy energy of The Haunted for good measure) – both in terms of general riffing and song structure as well as utilizing sneering screams and singing. However, amidst the relatively standard harmonies and arrangements are some truly powerful moments, and I'd easily rank the admirably consistent quality of the songwriting right up there with the biggest names in this niche of the genre. The aggressive vocals sound genuinely ferocious, I'd say the singing is a bit stronger than even some of the most notable of the band's contemporaries, tasteful smatterings of keyboards don't disrupt the dominance of guitars throughout the disc, and the recording is excellent. Restricting the album to just nine tracks in 36 minutes is also very commendable, because such brevity keeps things moving and leaves no room for filler. I really didn't expect it, but this is an incredibly solid offering that should easily place Blinded Colony alongside the other Swedish "greats" playing this style of metal. Nicely done!

Blinded Colony "My Halo"

As always, I wholly encourage you to buy the album for yourself if you're into it:

@ The End Records

Capital and When We Fall…

Posted on Monday, January 15th, 2007 @ 9:15am » permalink

Capital - Signal CorpsEvery now and then a CD gets temporarily lost in the shuffle at my place and ends up sitting around collecting dust for months before I even pop it in for a listen, and unfortunately "Signal Corps", the debut full-length from Long Island's Capital (on Iron Pier), falls into that category. I have no idea how it happened, but thankfully this gem did turn up, because this shit is fucking awesome. Following in the footsteps of a few other Long Island notables, this outing sees Capital cranking out nine tracks of super catchy and energetic melodic hardcore in about a half-hour – spicing things up with subtle hints of dissonant post-hardcore or Fat Wreck-styled pop-punk riffing along the way. On occasion I'm reminded of a more modern-sounding Dag Nasty with slightly more aggressive vocals, which is fine by me. There are lots of killer little riffs and picking patterns going on, while solid basslines beef up the sound and slick percussive accents color up the overall flow. For the most part the songwriting is fucking flawless in terms of maintaining a punchy energy level and a memorable framework, and it's been getting rarer and rarer for me to encounter such qualities as of late, so I'm totally all over this. Very much recommended, and I can't wait to hear more…

Capital "Snake in Disguise"
Capital "Early Nineties"

Show 'em some love and pick one up if you dig the tunes:

@ Iron Pier
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

When We Fall - A Cry in DespairTalk about misleading cover art! This thing was just screaming, "Mediocre metalcore awaits!" But in fact, When We Fall (from Gothenburg, Sweden, no less) is a solid melodic hardcore act without too much of a metal influence seeping into their sound at all. This edition of their first EP, "A Cry in Despair", is a re-release on Panic Records containing five fairly short tracks of energetic hardcore chord progressions and melodic accents that follow a straightforward sort of approach that will probably sound familiar to many. They do toss in a few clean passages on rare occasion to add additional dynamics and whatnot, but even though it's not particularly original I do enjoy the songwriting quite a bit, and the vocal performance definitely comes across as sincere in my book. They've got a solid set of production values happening too, so this is a good start that bodes well for the future of the group. I don't hear too much of this stuff coming from European shores, but there's definitely an audience for this style in North America, and some of these riffs are right up my alley. Don't let the artwork fool you… though I still hope the band will work with something a little more representative of their music the next time around, heh! Good stuff.

When We Fall "No Retreat No Surrender"

This one's a mere $5 straight from the label, which is an incredibly fair price, so be sure to make the grab if you dig the track above:

@ Panic Records

Palehorse, Death Before Dishonor, and No Turning Back…

Posted on Friday, January 12th, 2007 @ 9:12am » permalink

Palehorse - Amongst the FlockI somehow managed to never hear Palehorse prior to "Amongst the Flock", their first full-length and debut as a part of the coveted Bridge Nine roster. How? I have no fucking clue, because this is some ripping metallic hardcore with absolutely scathing vocals that lend a very Ringworm-esque twist to their gritty and in your face attack. Upon initial listens I felt like the recording was a little weird, and I still sort of feel like the guitars need more "oomph" so to speak (though cranking up the bass might do the trick), but overall it sounds pretty damn good as the ears adjust – and the vocals are so fuckin' sick that when combined with the churning fury of the riffs this shit really hits the spot. While the bulk of the writing is based around the thick power chords and basic breakdowns that make this niche of hardcore what it is, the metallic aspects of the riffing are definitely a little outside the norm – both in terms of layering and note choices – which adds some nice little unique twists to the tracks along with the bursting drum fills and whatnot. At just under 26 minutes in total length it's a very concise, focused, and energetic listen. These cats must certainly be among Connecticut's finest in this day and age, not to mention that this disc is one of the most powerful releases to date from the Bridge Nine camp. Definitely recommended. I'll damn sure be looking forward to hearing more from these dudes…

Palehorse "Consuming Me"
Palehorse "33 Degree"

Don't be an ass, buy this shit if you dig it:

@ Bridge Nine
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Death Before Dishonor - Friends Family ForeverAlso new from Bridge Nine is the reissue of "Friends Family Forever", from Boston's own Death Before Dishonor, this time adding the three cuts from their split 7" with Black Friday '29 as well as a six-track live set from CBGB's recorded in July of 2006. In other words, it's just a bigger and better edition of what was already a raging EP in the first place. It sounds like they might've tweaked the sound just a tad for this reissue as well, though I'm not entirely sure. I definitely still feel like the songs would've been even more crushing with a slightly more rounded out guitar tone, but the bass sounds great, the mix is pretty damn full, and the songwriting is memorable and energetic enough to where it doesn't really matter. We're talkin' loads of brutally relentless breakdowns; occasional forays into over the top metal riffs that possess a hint of a 90's European sort of edge; plenty of speedy power chords (you know, the staple of any metallic hardcore record); and fuckin' bitter, pissed off lyrics delivered with a snarling shout as well as some pretty badass vocal patterns that have an uncommon rhythmic bounce happening here and there. The split 7" tracks may have been recorded about a year-and-a-half after the original EP, but the sound is shockingly consistent between the two sessions, so this fucker really does play out like a proper full-length now (looking at the live tracks as a bonus add-on, of course). Good stuff. I can't wait to hear some more new shit from these cats, man…

Death Before Dishonor "Walk Away"
Death Before Dishonor "Curl Up and Die"

Downloading is bullshit, so show some support and pick one up if you're down:

@ Bridge Nine
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

No Turning Back - Holding OnAnd yet another new one from Bridge Nine is the third full-length from Dutch metallic hardcore outfit No Turning Back, who've certainly lived up to their name by having replaced 3/5 of the band's lineup since the release of 2005's "Rise From the Ashes" EP. And this time around it's basically more of the same, for the most part: 14 tracks and 25 minutes of heavy, NYHC-styled jams. The vocals are as blunt and forceful as ever, while – as opposed to crushing breakdowns and lots of moshy sorts of influences – they seem to have shed just a little of their groove in favor of a slightly faster and more straightforward take on heavy, no-nonsense hardcore. Make no mistake, there are still plenty of midpaced breaks that lean towards a bit of a chugging presence, but there's nothing too overtly metallic happening. I'm not sure if the lineup changes are responsible for that subtle shift or not, but I will say that this one took a few listens to start growing on me simply due to the fact that I find myself hankering for a smidge more variety. Not that any of these types of bands are particularly known for switching it up too much, but as short but sweet as all of these songs are, I still find myself losing steam in the midst of the 14 tracks – granted a few well placed explosive bursts such as "Nothing Changes" definitely pick up the energy level and keep things movin' (as do some badass guest vocal spots). Not bad. I don't dig this as much as "Damage Done", but they've weathered another storm and dropped another solid record. Oh, and the booklet on this thing folds out to reveal a full-color six-panel piece of art that looks pretty fuckin' slick. Good stuff.

No Turning Back "Nothing Changes"
No Turning Back "This World is Mine"

You know how it goes, make the grab if you're into it:

@ Bridge Nine
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Misguided "Fuggets: 1981 – 84" CD

Posted on Thursday, January 11th, 2007 @ 9:24am » permalink

Misguided - FuggetsAhhh, how I love collection CD's like this. Here we have Mad at the World Records offering to the world over an hour's worth of early New York hardcore/punk through a whopping 35 tracks from the Misguided. Included in chronological order are four demo sessions interspersed with four live recordings (all spanning 1981 to 1984, as the title would suggest), with the band's two 7"s – "Bringing it Down" (1982) and "Options" (1983) – tacked on at the end of the disc as a bonus. What's it sound like? Come on, do the math, man! It's raw, basic hardcore/punk with simple chord progressions, moderately fast tempos, and shouting vocals that aren't all that aggressive but certainly can't be classified as "singing", ha! At times it's crudely played, on rare occasion it gets downright sloppy, sometimes it's sort of catchy, sometimes it leans towards the noisy side, etc. They later added a second guitarist and the songs became longer and somewhat more rock 'n' roll in some ways – though not without that same sense of raw energy and aggression. Surprisingly enough, especially considering the age of the recordings and the fact that all of the material was mastered from old cassettes, the sound is quite listenable – even many of the live tracks sound pretty strong given the circumstances, which definitely pays off in terms of the continuity of the listening experience (Though it seems a little weird that the two 7"s are a "bonus" appearing as the last thing on the disc!?). Sure, they're not the most historically significant band on the planet, but that's not the point! This is a great document of an energetic bunch of kids blowing off steam and having a good time bashing out some tunes at a time when no one could have possibly known what was to come… But hey, I was fuckin' seven years old when these guys called it a day, so I certainly can't pretend that I know what the hell was going on, either!

Misguided "You Bore Me"
Misguided "Take Your Money"
Misguided "Product of Our Time"

You know how much I encourage people to support releases of this nature, so pick one up if you're into this kind of old school documentation:

@ Mad at the World Records

Get a Grip/Hammer Head split CD

Posted on Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 @ 9:05am » permalink

Get a Grip/Hammer Head - splitThe latest from Strike 3 Records sees Richmond, VA's Get a Grip and Delco, PA's Hammer Head joining up for this 22-minute split CD (with some pretty damn cool looking artwork, I might add). Get a Grip kicks things off with five tracks of chunky and moderately paced metallic hardcore with some pretty burly vocals that match the bitterness of the lyrics quite well. It's a pretty intriguing blend in that it's somewhat slower than most such hardcore, but it's not as moshy or grooved out as the 90's era of metalcore often was. There's a certain rawness to the recording that's pretty interesting as well – certainly benefiting the vocals – though I could almost see 'em taking it a step further. For instance, were these tracks given a rougher, more fiery aesthetic (such as, say, Integrity's "Systems Overload") the results could be fuckin' vicious. Hammer Head then follows with six tracks of their own, which are actually a damn close match to that generally midpaced style and aesthetic exemplified by Get a Grip, though the vocals possess a higher sneer and the basslines seem slightly more active on occasion. There are also a few little lead breaks and such that almost lend a weird rock vibe to the slow-paced power chords, but barely. I wouldn't mind hearing both of these bands pick up the pace a little more often to offer some differentiation between some of the compositions, but this is a solid pairing, and it's cool that you can tell they're doing something a little different from the norm.

Get a Grip "Unconsciousness"
Hammer Head "Gang Mentality"

Downloading is for suckers, and this shit's cheap as hell, so show some support and pick one up if you dig the tunes:

@ Strike 3 Records

The Assailant "Cólera" CD

Posted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2007 @ 9:10am » permalink

The Assailant - CóleraI'm not entirely sure, but I believe "Cólera" is the debut "full-length" (though most of the tracks are less than three minutes apiece and the total length is only 26 minutes) from The Assailant (on Rome Plow Records), upon which the Seattle outfit tears through nine tracks comparable to defunct hometown heroes such as Kiss it Goodbye or Botch. Expect loads of frantic pull-off riffs and meaty, dissonant chord phrasings alongside ferocious yelling, with some quirkier fare – eerie clean passages, hefty rhythmic bursts, and some jangly "skronk" – seeping in to provide some diversity. In the end these tracks boast just the right amount of chaotic acerbity – given a slightly more grinding, metallic edge than many of the band's influences. I like this material far more than the band's self-titled EP from a few years back, as there's much more atmosphere involved in the compositions, and the general sense of pacing and structure seems more balanced in many ways. The material still lacks variety to some degree, but there's a greater sense of power and ferocity here, and it's more than evident that they're starting to branch out and push for something more, which is awesome. I'll certainly be expecting bigger and better things to come from The Assailant now. Oh, and the thick matte digipack housing the CD looks sweet, too!

The Assailant "24"

Be sure to make the grab if this is your thing, 'cause I know there are a shitload of people out there who eat this stuff up:

@ Rome Plow Records

Saros "Five Pointed Tongue" CD

Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2007 @ 10:11am » permalink

Saros - Five Pointed Tongue"Five Pointed Tongue" (Hungry Eye Records) is the debut full-length from Saros, one of San Francisco's new breed metal acts (featuring drummer Blood Eagle, formerly of the mighty Weakling, for those interested). A rather diverse outfit that blatantly defies specific categorization, there's a significant dose of "traditional" metal influence to the thrashy riffing and soloing, while unique melodic twists and atypical chord phrasings shift towards a different vibe altogether (at times somewhat reminiscent of Arghoslent – strictly in terms of the music, of course). Generally snarled, distant vocals then add a blackened edge – surprisingly easing up for some excellent singing on occasion as well. Beyond that, there are also a few Schuldiner-esque flashes of technicality and time changes, with select eerie clean/acoustic breaks that segue nicely into the band's trademark aggression. Hell, there are even some totally rocked out 70's styled dual guitar runs that come completely out of nowhere in sparse instances – all of which makes for some rather adventurous twists and turns throughout the generally lengthy compositions (the mere five tracks clock in at damn near 45 minutes). This is certainly a group to watch…

Saros "Collapse of the Tower"

You know the drill, buy it if you like it:

@ Hungry Eye Records
@ Interpunk

Clown Alley "Circus of Chaos" CD

Posted on Friday, January 5th, 2007 @ 9:06am » permalink

Clown Alley - Circus of ChaosFrom seemingly out of nowhere comes this obscure reissue from Southern Lord. Ignore the fact that the band name and the cover art might suggest otherwise, because "Circus of Chaos", the lone full-length from San Francisco's Clown Alley, is quite a solid slab of oft-quirky thrash with crossover leanings. Just to get all of the quick background info out of the way, this album was originally released on LP only by Alchemy Records in 1987 (the label's first release). Clown Alley vocalist David Duran was previously in Jerryz Kids (not to be confused with the better-known Boston act Jerry's Kids), while bassist Lori Black and guitarist Mark Deutrom both went on to play bass for the Melvins at various points in time. For the most part the songwriting builds around a combination of relatively fast, straightforward crossover thrash metal and peculiar dynamic shifts that branch out into slower fits of unexpectedly dissonant melodies and borderline "alternative" (for lack of a better term) sounding guitar/vocal textures. Certainly inventive in its own right, I'd definitely place it more in the "metal" realm than anything else, as the crossover-related hardcore/punk influences are fairly minimal from a musical standpoint, and many of the songs are considerably longer than most crossover standards: Routinely topping three to four minutes with lots of lead breaks and meandering into the aforementioned outside influences. All of which is fine by me, of course, as there are indeed a number of quick, explosive bursts that pack a nice punch.

The material was of course remastered for this edition, and while I obviously haven't heard the original, the CD sounds pretty damn solid. They more than likely beefed up the low-end a bit, so while it certainly has a dated ring to the guitar tone, I dig that aesthetic as it is, and the overall sound definitely holds up in my book. Tacked on as a bonus are a handful of understandably raw (though tolerable) live tracks recorded in 1986, plus an unlisted radio "interview" (if you can really consider 10 minutes of completely random humor and smartass sarcasm to be such), making for a nice little release when all is said and done. I do kind of feel like the packaging is a little lacking coming from a label as established as Southern Lord, though. Don't get me wrong, it looks nice with the slick metallic bronze ink and all, but no lyrics or liner notes are included or anything, so you basically get nothing more than a photo of each band member and minimal recording credits – which leaves a ton of wasted space considering it's a six-panel booklet, you know? But hey, no big deal. I love thrash, and I especially love obscure reissues that bring well-deserved attention to long-forgotten or underrated bands, so… I back this shit 100%.

Clown Alley "Envy"
Clown Alley "Pet of a Pig"

Don't be a douchebag, fuckin' support these types of endeavors with a purchase in the interests of the continued resurfacing of out of print rarities:

@ Southern Lord
@ The End Records

Martyr "Feeding the Abscess" CD

Posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2007 @ 12:24pm » permalink

Martyr - Feeding the AbscessIt's almost inexcusably ridiculous that it's been six years since Martyr released their last full-length – the impeccable technical death metal classic "Warp Zone" – so to refer to their third album, "Feeding the Abscess" (Galy Records), as "long overdue" is an understatement to say the least! Of course, as is often the case with such long-awaited efforts, said passage of time can create unduly high expectations for an album – which, following a masterpiece such as "Warp Zone", was no small task from the start! So despite the fact that I don't enjoy this offering as much as I did "Warp Zone", I do want to throw it out there that Martyr is still among the finest technical, melodic death metal acts of this day and age. Still in place are plenty of wicked picking patterns and a slick sense of dual guitar interaction, not to mention amazing solos and some truly creative uses of discordant melody, though one could perhaps argue that the band has reigned in the over the top complexities of their approach just a tad in order to streamline certain facets of the songwriting – but I don't view that as a negative statement, mind you, especially given the obvious fact that this is still a very technical album.

In terms of areas that I'd like to see improved upon, the recording, for example, is rather crisp and clinical – which actually helps to allow the vocals to settle in amidst the music a bit better than on past efforts. But the basslines – which are quite ripping when evident – are all too absent throughout most of the album's mix, thus leaving somewhat of a "thin" sheen to the end product that feels like it needs some filling out. There's also not exactly a ton of variety from song to song (though this has also been the case with the band's prior albums), so you can lose interest at points over the course of nearly 50 minutes. But beyond that, I mainly miss some of the lush clean passages and such, as the band has exhibited some impressive talents with those dynamic shifts in the past, and the sparse appearances of violin and whatnot on this particular outing just don't capture that same vibe in my opinion (though thankfully the four-part "Dead Horizon" does at least touch on some of those finer atmospheric elements of the band's repertoire). All that being said, there are definitely some killer tracks here, and it's awesome that they close things out with a cover of Voivod's "Brain Scan" in memory of Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, complete with Jean-Yves "Blacky" Thériault on bass!

Martyr "Feast of Vermin"
Martyr "Havoc"

This one seems to have been selling out pretty quickly from several US distros, which comes as little surprise given the six-year wait and all, so make the grab while/when you can, otherwise you might have to wait even longer!

@ The End Records

Now let's just hope another Martyr record hits the streets before 2012, eh!?

Parlamentarisk Sodomi, Anarchsphere, and Ahimsa Theory…

Posted on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 @ 9:27am » permalink

Parlamentarisk Sodomi - DemoTwo words: Fuck… yes! The artwork may look quite crude and suggestive of less-than-greatness, but the debut demo from Parlamentarisk Sodomi cranks out seven tracks of absolutely raging grindcore in a mere 12 minutes, and it's all total fucking gold! This is classic, textbook grind of the "World Downfall" caliber: Blazing blasts, ripping guitar riffs with just the right amount of looser and more chaotic leanings, powerful vocals that rest in the lower midrange for the bulk of the material while jumping over to scathing sneers here and there, and memorable songwriting that keeps it short but sweet – never even hitting the three-minute mark. All of the lyrics are in Norwegian, so I can't offer any insight in that department, but I'm guessing there's a socio-political bent happening there. Whatever the case, this band fucking rules, and a fitting label needs to hook these dudes up, like, now.

Parlamentarisk Sodomi "Vakl, Folkevalgt"

There's not a great deal of information about these cats out there on the net at all, so hit 'em up via email to see about getting your hands on this demo… and hopefully they'll have some new material out soon! I can't believe how badass this shit is. Great work!

Anarchsphere - 2006 SamplerThis three-song, 17-minute sampler is a quite promising display from Australia's Anarchsphere, whose style is somewhat of a blend of classic early- to mid-90's Florida death metal with a smidge of added technicality that's counterbalanced by a contemporary sense of groove that keeps the tempos shifting back and forth all over the place. I love the fact that there's not a fucking shred of melodic Swedish death metal to be heard within any of these compositions, too! They generally stick with thick, chunky riffs; occasional little lead breaks; slick percussive textures; and moshy sensibilities that aren't overly simplistic or stripped down – so there's certainly enough happening within the songwriting to keep things interesting. While there is room for minor tweaking, I must say that for a self-released sampler this thing looks and sounds quite good, with the crispness of the mix really letting some of the drum flare shine. I'm not able to make out much in the realm of the basslines, but the guitar tone is pretty damn nice, and that helps to accentuate some of the more complex runs and thrashy picking patterns throughout the tracks. Given the general climate of the metal world these days I'm pretty surprised these guys haven't been signed yet. Go figure!?

Anarchsphere "Scene of a Homicide"

Get in touch with the band via good ol' MySpace if you're interested in getting your hands on one of these samplers, and hopefully they'll get picked up by a label to drop their first full-length in the not-too-distant future.

Ahimsa Theory - We Screen For Thieves"We Screen For Thieves" is the latest release from Oregon's Ahimsa Theory, upon which the trio drops three tracks of contemporary emo/indie rock in less than 10 minutes. However, despite the extremely brief running time, it's clear that the band has made great strides in the songwriting department since the time of their debut full-length. The tracks are more varied in terms of tempo changes as well as riffing texture, the vocals are more emphatic, the choruses more memorable, and so on. The recording is nice and clear, too – working with the stripped down nature of the three-piece lineup to allow the rhythm section plenty of breathing room, especially beneath some of the looser and more spacey-sounding guitar work. There's still room for improvement here and there, such as some minor tuning issues in some of the guitar parts, but I'm quite pleased with the progress these guys are exhibiting on this EP overall, and could easily see them striking gold down the road. I'm honestly somewhat surprised that they're still without label support, so hopefully 2007 will bring some luck for the group in that department!

Ahimsa Theory "We Screen For Thieves"

I know this isn't the kind of stuff that most people checking this site listen to, but hey, I dig it. The disc's only $4, so definitely hit these guys up if you're into it:

@ Ahimsa Theory