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The Despised and Dead Leaf Echo…

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 @ 10:01am » permalink

The Despised - Punk, It's Not For Rich Kid$ Anymore!The Despised, from Atlanta, formed way back in the mid-90's and released a few 7"s before calling it a day in 2000, but they regrouped in 2005 and this is their first full-length release: "Punk, It's Not For Rich Kid$ Anymore!" Expect 14 tracks of generally short, fast, aggressive punk rock that's heavier and more hardcore-oriented than you'd likely expect. It's sometimes humorous, sometimes socio-political, always bitter 'n' pissed. While they don't particularly sound like any of their individual influences, you'll hear bits and pieces of Poison Idea, The Exploited, and that kind of thing going on – but, as evidenced by their unexpected cover of "Just Can't Hate Enough" by Sheer Terror, there's definitely a wider range of influences at work. To my ears, the gruff vocal delivery and fast-paced lyrical arrangements bear the most in common with straight up, pissed off punk; while the driving power chord rhythms have a heavy, hardcore sort of attack built around more of a punk rock sense of energy – accented by plenty of noisy lead breaks and hints at overt metal riffing on rare occasion. And the recording's thick as fuck, with an absolutely mammoth fuzzed out bass tone, so despite some borderline unbalanced ruggedness from time to time there's a pretty damn solid punch happening there as well. Not too shabby!

The Despised "We're All Fucked"
The Despised "Loose Change"

Punk shouldn't be for down(free)loading scumbags either, so step up and buy the CD if you dig the tunes:

@ Interpunk

Dead Leaf Echo - Faint Violet Whiff"Faint Violet Whiff", the debut EP from New York city's Dead Leaf Echo offers up five tracks (and one remix) of dark, moody sorts of "new wave" rock in just under a half-hour. This is the kind of thing that I definitely tend to appreciate, though being in the obvious minority of what I generally listen to I'm not the most "educated" resource to speak on such topics. The band cites among their influences U2, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure, and Echo and the Bunnymen, among numerous others, so… while I don't hear but so much of said acts in here, those with ears more trained in this niche may draw parallels. There's a good amount of repetition and plenty of droning types of reverb effects, with the tempos ranging from slower, ringing dirges to midpaced yet energetic waves of surging basslines and increased guitar layering – all fronted by somewhat monotone singing vocals. The layout definitely doesn't do justice to the music, but despite the fact that certain elements aren't really my thing, the overall atmosphere of the material does indeed get my attention and make me curious to see where the band will go from here. Certainly an interesting debut effort…

Dead Leaf Echo "Poison Lips"

As usual, support the band with a purchase if this is your thing:

@ Dead Leaf Echo

World Collapse "Deutschland, Deutschland! Into the Night" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2007 @ 8:39am » permalink

World Collapse - Deutschland, Deutschland! Into the NightThe long-awaited debut EP from World Collapse (on Reaper Records) sees the German outfit treading a path that's sure to incite intensely mixed reactions from listeners – from the music, to the artwork, to the band's image… and everything in between. That the group's lineup contains ex-members of the mighty True Blue should be in no way indicative of World Collapse's approach, as this EP bears a style far removed from even their tracks previously available online in years past. The odd (if not frightening) phrase, "Hardcore spirit with new wave decadence.", can be found amidst the band's biographical information, and to be honest with you that's actually a fairly accurate assessment in many respects. The overtly melodic framework of the compositions relies on singing vocals with catchy arrangements and memorable choruses, though there is a metallic edge to both the core rhythms and the solos. But the tracks are also littered with significant amounts of synths and electronic textures, which occasionally unite with the guitars to lend an industrial vibe to some of the material – whereas programmed drums and keyboard-based melodies/textures damn near come off as Depeche Mode-esque during tracks such as "Into the Night"!? Sparse appearances of pounding, chunky breakdowns or faster-paced chord progressions more associated with the hardcore roots of the members' backgrounds do present themselves on occasion, so it's a rather diverse EP – bizarre as it may be! But I have to say, questionable imagery/aesthetics aside, you can tell from the lyrics and such that there's a lot more at work here. Whatever the thought process, there are genuine and sincere motives going on behind the scenes, and all of the decisions surrounding this front are obviously intentional, so… keep that in mind. I know a lot of people will turn their noses up at this shit based on the music, which is to be expected, but despite minor hitches along the way I'm actually looking forward to hearing more from these cats. From a songwriting standpoint this is a promising debut, indeed.

World Collapse "Heavens"

Pick one up if you're open-minded enough to agree:

@ Reaper Records
@ RevHQ

Freya "Lift the Curse" CD

Posted on Monday, February 26th, 2007 @ 9:00am » permalink

Freya - Lift the CurseApparently Freya comes closer and closer to Earth Crisis with each release, as having added drummer Dennis Merrick to their ranks they're now operating just one member shy of the final Earth Crisis lineup. Go figure. But continued lyrical variances aside, from a musical standpoint I actually could've also seen "Lift the Curse" (Victory Records) having followed "Breed the Killers": Its 10 tracks in barely under a half-hour are much more streamlined and stylistically direct than Freya's debut full-length. Only two tracks top three minutes, one of which is a cover (what must be the umpteen millionth take on "War Pigs"), and the overall approach is a more straightforward and aggressive one – only flirting with melody to varying degrees of creativity on occasion.

If the world learned one thing from "Last of the Sane" (or "Slither", for that matter), it's that Karl Buechner simply can't sing. Sorry, fact. So thankfully, for the most part, this time out he doesn't. Until the seventh track, "Lilith", that is – though admittedly his limited range is manageable therein, so it's no big deal. The aforementioned "War Pigs" foray brings forth the only other "singing", but – while problematic – the real issue there is that the track is more than double the length of every other song on the album and, let's face it, far from the most interesting Sabbath tune – especially at this point of having been covered (and in many cases butchered) by any number of other bands. So, yeah, there are some questionable moves in rare instances, and minor improvements could be made to the recording, and the artwork could be more interesting… but whatever. Contrary to many Earth Crisis fans, I actually really liked Freya's debut, but this is a more concise and – for the most part – consistent outing; so I think its heavier, more linear direction could win back some of those listeners that bailed out the first time around. Give it a shot.

Freya "Lift the Curse"
Freya "Suffer Not One"

Make the grab if you dig the tunes:

@ Victory Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Atrophy "Socialized Hate" CD

Posted on Friday, February 23rd, 2007 @ 9:47am » permalink

Atrophy - Socialized HateAmong the amazingly impressive array of classic old school Roadrunner Records releases recently reissued by Polish label Metal Mind Productions is "Socialized Hate", the 1988 debut from Arizona's highly underrated Atrophy. I had been wanting to get my hands on Atrophy's two CD's for years and years, but could never catch them on eBay for a fair price, so being among the few of the Metal Mind reissues that I don't own the original pressings of, this is one of the first few that I decided to pick up. With lyrics ranging from the typical socio-political content that was popular with thrash bands of the time period to the lighter fare of "Beer Bong", it's no surprise that this is relatively standard late-80's thrash jam packed with chunky riffs, strong solos, and just a vague hint of melody. There's not a great deal separating Atrophy from many of their other worldwide peers in the lower-tiers (and that's not a derogatory comment) of the late-80's thrash metal realm with what basically amounts to straight yelling vocals (ahhh, the good ol' days) and midpaced to moderately fast rhythms: They were neither the fastest nor the most aggressive band on the planet, nor were they terribly melodic. But solid songwriting, solid production, and solid performances were all on display, so as a diehard fan who grew up on this kind of thing I'm all over this shit. Three tracks from 1987's "Chemical Dependency" demo are added on as a bonus, and there's also a bootleg CD-Rom video tacked on, too. I'm not entirely sure why they opted to include the video as opposed to the entire "Chemical Dependency" demo, but I don't really care aside from the fact that they didn't include "Suicide Pact", which is the only track from the demo that wasn't re-recorded for the album itself. Go figure. As with all of these re-releases the disc is packaged in a nice digipack (numbered of 2,000 copies) and contains an old band bio, brief liner notes, photos, and lyrics. So… definitely a well-handled and long overdue effort in the end. Hey, since Roadrunner's too fucking pathetic to do it themselves, I'm glad someone finally stepped up!

Atrophy "Product of the Past"
Atrophy "Socialized Hate"

These discs can be sort of pricey, but there's really no way around that. I greatly respect and admire the label's move to get all this killer shit back out there, and I've already been having a damn hard time getting my hands on a few of 'em since they've been selling out relatively quickly, so… with that in mind, make the grab while you fuckin' can! This one seems to be in stock at least for the time being:

@ The End Records

America's Dirty Thirtys and A Warm Gun…

Posted on Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 @ 9:07am » permalink

America's Dirty Thirtys - Movement For TomorrowOn Yellow Dog Records comes "Movement For Tomorrow" from California's America's Dirty Thirtys (who have since changed their name to the more fitting Attack Disarm Takeover, or simply A.D.T. for short) – a band said to play "UK styled D-beat hardcore mixed up with The Exploited". And I'd say that's a pretty good call, as these 12 tracks of solidly performed and recorded hardcore/punk clock in at less than 25 minutes and take the straightforward punch and attack (but not the heaviness) of the contemporary D-beat style and toss in a more rocked out punk undercurrent with some quick, acerbic lead runs and zippier arrangements that do sort of remind of The Exploited's earlier work – just with slightly gruffer vocals. As is often the case with this niche of hardcore/punk, there's really nothing new here, but hey, it sounds strong, the songwriting is solid, I dig the force of the vocals, and there are at least minuscule little bits and pieces of what these dudes are doing that keep it from being a one-sided listen or what have you. So… a short but sweet and enjoyable listen, when all is said and done. Oh, and despite the fact that complete lyrics aren't included, there are some promising snippets in the booklet, too.

Can you weep and still be a man? Watch the world cry and understand…

America's Dirty Thirtys "No Fucking Way"
America's Dirty Thirtys "Roll Against the Power"

You know how it goes, so show your support and make the grab if you dig the tunes:

@ Yellow Dog Records
@ Interpunk

A Warm Gun - Panic in the Face of TimeAlso on Yellow Dog Records is "Panic in the Face of Time", from Baltimore, MD's A Warm Gun, who I had never heard of before. They blaze through 13 tracks of short, fast, furious hardcore/punk in less than 20 minutes – with a grinding metallic edge that amps up the heaviness and gives the album a different sort of vibe as a whole. Only one track passes the two-minute mark, but they're definitely building upon an array of influences, from old school NYHC sounding power chords to straightforward fast blasting rhythms or the occasional tinge of sinister dissonance. The lead vocals also have a unique sound to 'em, with an aggressive sort of snarl that doesn't take things over the top – granted there are also some fierce high-end sneers (and sparse low growls) that, when present, definitely lean more towards a grindcore sort of aesthetic. I don't really care for the cover art at all (the material deserves something a bit more… I don't know… fitting, I suppose), but the recording is nice and crisp and the writing/performances are right on the mark. I have no idea if this is the band's first "full-length" or what, but I'll be curious to see where they end up. Not bad!

A Warm Gun "Opposing Views"
A Warm Gun "No Guidance"

Downloading is for losers, so support the band/label if you dig the tunes:

@ Yellow Dog Records
@ Interpunk

V/A "Harder They Fall: Tribute to Integrity" compilation CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 @ 9:28am » permalink

 V/A - Harder They Fall: Tribute to Integrity - compilationFor someone like myself who's a massive, massive fan of Integrity (they're among my top five favorite bands of all time, if that matters), the prospect of listening to the long-awaited "Harder They Fall: Tribute to Integrity" collection from Escapist Records can be a daunting one – because there's always the possibility that you're going to hear 21 different bands (a number of which I wasn't familiar with) massacre 21 different classics from one of the greatest hardcore bands in the history of all existence, you know? Thankfully that's not at all the case here. Of the 21 artists included, worldwide locales such as Belgium, Japan, Poland, New Zealand, and the UK are represented (among others). It does seem a little odd that there are four bands from Florida, three from Texas (neither of which are the home states of the label itself, which might've made a hint more sense), and three from The Netherlands, as opposed to shooting for as much global participation as possible, but fuck it.

Of course, one of the biggest problems with compilations is often the various levels of recording quality put forth by the participants due to budget limitations and whatnot, but despite expected inconsistencies and minor weaknesses here and there that's not a real issue here, as the vast majority of the tracks all sound fairly solid, and even the worst sounding offerings are still quite listenable. I'm also thrilled that this isn't "The 'Those Who Fear Tomorrow' Show": Damn near the entire "Humanity is the Devil" EP is covered, as well as scattered tracks from the other two full-lengths and various other inclusions such as "Eighteen" and "Kingdom of Heaven" (here renamed "Kingdom of Hell" by Belgium's Rise and Fall). The tracklist is wrong seeing as Lie and Wait's (Texas) take on "Abraxas Annihilation" and The Phantom Pains' (Ohio) truly shocking delivery of "No Time For Sudden Glances" (What the fuck!? A track from "Closure"!? I mean… whew… that takes balls!) appear in each others' slots, but you'd have to be a fuckin' moron not to figure out which track is really which, so… no big deal.

I'm not gonna do a song-by-song rundown or anything, but some standouts: XEye of JudgementX (The Netherlands) kills it with some sweet acoustic guitars and super crisp leads in their rendition of "Armenian Persecution"; despite what's probably the worst recording herein On Thin Ice (UK) gets kudos for their unexpected selection (and super pissed cover) of "The Screams"; and These Days (California) nails the intimidating task of taking on the highly coveted "Micha: Those Who Fear Tomorrow". And… some (admittedly nitpicky at times, so I'm not downing any of the bands) "disappointments": Evil Priest (New Zealand) opts to close the disc with a less-than-two-minute instrumental medley from "Jagged Visions of My True Destiny" that, while strong and quite promising, is a crushing letdown (and a bit of a copout) considering that's one of my personal favorites from the Integrity canon; Alcatraz (California) inexplicably bogs down their otherwise scorching cover of "Hollow" with weird and wholly unnecessary 25-second hip-hop intro/outro segments; and Die Young (Texas) failed to realize that the song titled "ATF Assault" on "Seasons in the Size of Days" is actually the song "All is Lost" (As did everyone else involved with the layout!).

But that's not to discredit any of the other bands – Creepout (Japan), On Our Own (Florida), Force of Change (California), Incarnate (The Netherlands), Know the Score (Florida) Human Demise (The Netherlands), Damien Done (Florida), Nothing Sacred (Pennsylvania), Your Mistake (Texas), Crowd Deterrent (Ohio), Daymares (Poland), and Dance Floor Justice (Florida) – or any of the bands, really, as this is definitely a solid outing. Obviously some tracks are better than others, and there are other standouts/minor "disappointments" than the three of each called out above, but at the end of the day this is a fitting tribute to one of the most important and influential bands in the history of the genre… and a band that will never truly be able to be done proper justice given their true value and significance.

XEye of JudgementX "Armenian Persecution"
On Thin Ice "The Screams"
These Days "Micha: Those Who Fear Tomorrow"

As always, make the grab if you're intrigued:

@ Escapist Records
@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

Grayceon "s/t" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 @ 8:57am » permalink

Grayceon - s/tAnother in a recent string of rather unusual releases from the always unpredictable Vendlus Records is the self-titled debut full-length from Grayceon – a curious San Francisco trio featuring members of Amber Asylum, Giant Squid, and Walken that utilizes just electric cello, guitar, drums, and male/female vocals. The mere four songs herein range in length from four minutes to 20 minutes and explore all kinds of influences – from weird jazzy passages to quirky metal riffing that often winds all over the place through some oddball "math rock" sorts of rhythmic twists. And of course there are lots of somber yet intricate clean melodies as well, while the generally sparse vocals range from soft to loosely operatic singing styles to shouting to monotone half-speaking. The recording's great as well, and perfectly accentuates the space between the instruments with a nice sense of warmth and clarity, so you can really get a feel for how the musicians are interacting with one another and pick up on some of the more technical aspects of the playing. Cool stuff.

Thankfully unrelated to the music itself, and I hate to go there, believe me, but the only thing about the record that I absolutely fucking hate is that under the CD tray is a completely random photo of the band members dressed up wearing wigs and holding beers – looking like a bunch of hippie fuckin' grunge loser funk metal idiots or something – referred to on their MySpace page as their "hesher alter egos". This is a completely stupid decision that totally clashes with everything else about the album (including the otherwise tactfully simple layout printed entirely in metallic silver ink). At least they went to the trouble of making the tonality of the photos match the visual aesthetic of the rest of the packaging, but… why!? I mean, what the hell does that goofy shit have to do with the serious tone of this music? Nothing! Stupid, stupid, unnecessary move. So annoying. Bands, please, don't do shit like that. Please.

Okay, end rant.

Grayceon "Sounds Like Thunder"

You know how it goes. Buy it if you like it:

@ Vendlus Records

Minsk "The Ritual Fires of Abandonment" CD

Posted on Monday, February 19th, 2007 @ 9:19am » permalink

Minsk - The Ritual Fires of Abandonment"The Ritual Fires of Abandonment" is the sophomore full-length and Relapse Records debut from Minsk – undertaking a six-track, hour-long journey with three shorter four- to six-minute pieces and three much longer compositions that top 13 to 15 minutes apiece. And as with their prior work, it's impossible not to draw rather distinct comparisons to Neurosis. I hate to do that in some ways, as legions of bands have almost created this sort of "like Neurosis" genre over the past decade; but musically, vocally, lyrically, visually… there are just several threads here that all remind me of "Enemy of the Sun" and "Through Silver in Blood" era Neurosis on some level. But that's not to discredit Minsk at all, nor to pin them down as some sort of copycat act, because that's not it at all. This album certainly takes a less direct path – one that's less overtly "heavy" and in some ways more stripped down, adding in additional fluid yet dreary "post-rock" (I still don't really "get" that tag, but I think most people do at least understand what sort of sounds it references) excursions and experimenting with a lot of layering and delicately shifting dynamics. The recording's pretty great: Extremely dense and textured, with a killer sense of natural warmth and contrast between the borderline muddy overdriven tones and crisp, clear atmospheric passages – some of which are quite sparse. Headphones are definitely mandatory to really appreciate the depth of what's going on sonically and atmospherically, though – both with the more traditional arrangements and in terms of the careful implementation of electronics and such. There's this tribally sort of hypnotic focus going on that can get lost without headphones containing the sounds and channeling them straight into your ears. Awesomely intricate layout, too: Complete with subtle metallic gold ink and a die-cut front cover, while the lyrics are inspired by (and at times derived from) the works of Lebanese American artist/poet/author Kahlil Gibran:

In my darkest hour my blood runs free, I've come to lie on the fire, I've come to stare at the sun, where two bleed as one, it is time the sun arrived to burn away the numb, in the flesh denying the eyes of time, make me nourishment for the blazing flame, make me food for the sacred fire, tide cast aside open mouth wide, the sea cried for me, dead spirit part of me, I left you by the sea.

Minsk "White Wings"

As always, pick one up if it suits your tastes:

@ Relapse Records
@ The End Records

Warzone "Don't Forget the Struggle Don't Forget the Streets/Open Your Eyes" CD

Posted on Friday, February 16th, 2007 @ 8:54am » permalink

Warzone - Don't Forget the Struggle Don't Forget the Streets/Open Your EyesDespite having seen them live numerous times in the mid- to later-90's (hey, come on, I was like 10 when their debut LP dropped), I was never all that much of a Warzone fan. They were great live, and some of their post-peak records were alright, but I never really cared about anything beyond their early works. But what continues to blow my mind to this day is just how fucking pathetically rare that material is to this day, especially if you prefer the CD format. This particular CD collects the band's first two LP's on one disc and was released in 1994 by the now defunct Another Planet Records (who also gave this 2-on-1 treatment to the almighty Cro-Mags and Leeway, among others). "Don't Forget the Struggle Don't Forget the Streets" originally hit the streets in 1987 on Fist Records; with the lineup of former Agnostic Front drummer and core Warzone visionary Raybeez on vocals, Paul and Crazy "Jay" Skin on guitars, John "Omen" on bass, and Luke Abbey from Gorilla Biscuits on drums. It was re-released by Caroline a year later, and I believe they stayed with Caroline until hooking up with a pre-emo Victory Records a few years later – where they remained until the legendary Raybeez died (long before his time) of pneumonia on September 11, 1997 (R.I.P.). "Open Your Eyes" came out a year later in 1988 and featured the same lineup, except that Eric "E.K." Komst played drums.

As one should likely expect, even if you've never heard the band, this is 22 tracks and 52 minutes of absolutely fucking classic New York hardcore on every level. From straight-up hardcore/punk with basic power chords, moderately fast pacing, and shouted vocals; to subtle metal influences coming into the crunchier midpaced runs and soloing. Every song's a keeper, loads of the tracks are memorable as hell, and the vibe shifts seamlessly from genuinely passionate, to angry and aggravated, to lighthearted and fun. I don't even know what else to say, man. Having only heard bits and pieces of these LP's over the years, when I finally got my hands on this CD and was able to hear them in completion I was fucking blown away by how awesome this material truly is. The ripping basslines, the attitude, the diversity… it's just fuckin' great. And it really pains me that it can be so hard to expose yourself to this material these days. There's just no damn excuse. These jams are totally archetypal NYHC. What the hell, you know!?

Warzone "Crazy But Not Insane"
Warzone "As One"
Warzone "In the Mirror"
Warzone "Dance Hard or Die"
Warzone "Racism – World History Part I"
Warzone "Deceive Us – No More"

Like an idiot, I passed on buying this disc a few times when I was younger since it just wasn't a priority, and then it became too late, as this fuckin' thing's just impossible to find for a reasonable price now. So I was extremely lucky that my man John at Live Fast was parting with his last year, so I grabbed that shit without a second thought. One look at the utterly absurd prices on Amazon.com as well as Half.com should give you an idea of how rare this collection is at this point. If you're down with vinyl, you can always check eBay, but this CD rarely pops up there. It's a true fucking crime that these classics aren't readily available anymore, but I don't even know what kind of red tape would be involved in remedying that situation. A damn shame… as this shit should definitely live on for ages to come.

Oh, and pre-Victory Records, Warzone also released their self-titled "metal" LP in 1990, but I've never heard it. It was said to have been renounced by Raybeez, but I mean, as mentioned, there are damn sure some metal-ish rhythm breaks and solos on these first two LP's, and I love that shit, so… if anyone has mp3's of that LP, please, by all means hit me up! (Edit: Got it. It blows. I'm stunned.)

David Galas "The Cataclysm" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007 @ 8:47am » permalink

David Galas - The Cataclysm"The Cataclysm" is the outstanding solo debut from David Galas (on Vendlus Records), perhaps better known for his various stints with renowned darkwave act Lycia in the mid- (and again in the late-) 90's. Galas began working on this album after Lycia called it quits seven years ago (they've since reformed), so the material was carefully crafted over the lengthy span between June of 1999 and November of 2005 – resulting in a whopping 19 tracks and over 70 minutes of music. My exposure to Lycia's discography over the years has been quite limited (in fact the only "Lycia" album I own was actually recorded under the banner of Estraya – which David Galas was not involved with), so I won't bother drawing parallels other than to say that significant elements of this material definitely dwell within that "darkwave" sort of realm. This obviously makes for a very somber, melancholic album built upon a deep, dense resonance that surrounds the bulk of the recording. A thick sense of layering is generally present amidst the consistently slow-paced compositions, where relaxed acoustic/electric strumming hovers over sparse yet warm percussive textures and all sorts of tactfully employed synths – while the well-defined tone of the awesomely plunky basslines allows them to weave seamlessly between the other instruments. And then there's sort of a deep, monotone, almost "plain" vocal style (and I don't mean that negatively) that alternates between restrained singing and a half-spoken delivery – often utilizing various effects to shift (or accent) the vibe. Sweeping currents of restrained dark ambient lulls or texturally droning lead/rhythm guitar work highlights the hypnotic sort of character that the album possesses as a whole. It kind of sucks you into this cozy, laidback framework that has a subtle aggression at work – and one that does occasionally surface within a few heavier and more literally intense passages. I have to admit that 19 tracks/70+ minutes is one hell of a sitting, but – at least to my ears – it's impossible not to appreciate that this is such a unified and thought-out piece of work, and the cohesion between the tracks does help to carry the concept throughout. Very nice.

David Galas "American Melancholy"
David Galas "September"

Please show your support with a purchase if the music interests you:

@ Vendlus Records
@ The End Records

Rwake "Voices of Omens" CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 14th, 2007 @ 9:13am » permalink

Rwake - Voices of Omens"Voices of Omens", the latest from the mighty Rwake, is their debut outing under the Relapse Records umbrella, continuing to tread their downtrodden path of inventively sludgy, melancholic metal while harnessing a tighter sense of overall focus and presentation. This is easily their best-sounding work to date, as the warmth and pristine clarity and tone of the recording really help to highlight some of the absolutely chilling acoustic passages – often accented with superbly handled ambient electronics and samples – not to mention the totally badass drumming, which never stagnates and seems to rely solely on the feel of the surrounding elements, which I'm always a huge, huge fan of. As with the band's past efforts, the vocals swap off between all forms of sick, grating midrange snarls and high-end sneers; while the core riffs range from twisting, winding dual guitar runs to dense, churning rhythms – all of which is constantly weaving in and out of dissonantly melodic undercurrents. Damn near every track tops seven minutes (making for an hour-long trek when all is said and done), and there are obviously still a wealth of powerful dynamic shifts within each composition. It's really no great departure from the stance that Rwake has come to be known for, it's just a naturally progressive venture that's still among the most creative pieces of work you're gonna encounter these days from the various realms of metal associated with terms like "sludge", "doom", etc. There are some pretty awesome paintings throughout the layout as well, with a "booklet within a booklet" type of treatment that folds out to reveal the lyrics – often coming across as somewhat more direct and personally-based this time out:

And in the great finality of it all there should always be something to learn but sometimes everyone gives up on you or you drive them all away and you have nothing but your own life to take but will you do it right or screw it up suck up one last breath and say goodbye to the world as you turn your back on it…

Rwake "Inverted Overtures"

Great, great shit, as always. This one's not officially out until next week, but you can order it now, so why wait? Make the damn grab:

@ Relapse Records
@ The End Records

Scraps of Tape "This is a Copy is This a Copy" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 13th, 2007 @ 9:13am » permalink

Scraps of Tape - This is a Copy is This a CopyAnd yes, the great Avi from It's a Trap! has struck again, hitting me up with another amazing CD from an excellent Swedish act in the form of "This is a Copy is This a Copy" – the sophomore full-length from Scraps of Tape on Tender Version. This one's loaded up with 10 tracks and nearly an hour's worth of what seems oft-deemed "post-rock", which in this case amounts to largely instrumental compositions that fuse soft 'n' somber yet beautiful melodies with gritty, pulsing throbs of heaviness. A crisp, warm recording allots plenty of breathing room for each individual piece of the puzzle, making for an engaging listen that's both rocked out and memorable and emotionally gutwrenching depending on the various twists and turns that the compositions undergo in the process. Ringing clean guitars and swirling effects; dingy basslines thudding away in the distance; crashing, distorted power chords; and fucking powerful, at times almost frantic drumming… it's all gold. And then there are the soft, sparse appearances of vocals, or even unexpected accents of horns, violin, piano, etc. in a few areas throughout the album. There are even some loosely experimental elements that are more textural than anything – "noisy" without being all that abrasive per se, though at times things can get rather aesthetically intense and aggressive. The disc is handsomely packaged in a matte six-panel digipack to boot – with not one but two booklets: One a full-color six-panel foldout covered on both sides with collaged photos of the band, the other an eight-page, stapled affair that matches the visuals of the digipack and includes brief snippets of lyrics. Great, great stuff. I'm all over this shit, I love it.

Too many hands have tugged at my throat. All of these clouds and years. Mile after mile. Bearing down on me. How your heart gets thrown. How good it feels to turn my back on you. All of your clouds and fears. Line after line. Folding in on you. How your heart gets worn.

Scraps of Tape "Pickpockets Vow"
Scraps of Tape "Since All the Birds Are Moving, Shouldn't We"

This gem's not out until February 20th, but you can pre-order it now – so buy it, buy it, buy it, just fucking buy it:

@ It's a Trap!

Strangers and The Wrongmen…

Posted on Monday, February 12th, 2007 @ 9:31am » permalink

Strangers - HoldingFrom Action Man Records comes the latest output from New Zealand's Strangers (formerly known as Guest Stabs Host) in the form of this absolutely raging four-track CD-R demo, "Holding". The band's style is a curious blend of harsh, chaotic, dissonant metallic textures with an energetic backbone of fast-paced hardcore/punk rhythms – all fronted by blown-out shouting/screaming. And it's honestly more creative than that description might indicate, because these dudes pack a shitload of riffs into short, energetic compositions that just burst forth and never let up. You'll find everything from subtle hints of melody and grinding picking patterns to post-hardcore textures and sludgy/crusty levels of density, among other influences, and the songwriting totally kicks ass. Plus, the recording is solid and the packaging totally rules. The disc is housed in a simple six-panel sleeve printed with a sepia toned aesthetic on matte brown paper, with a clean layout and nice photography to boot. Hell, even the lyrics are fuckin' great:

I walked the wrong way home the other night and found a friend in the corner of a lane, wounded pride and gutterfucked in the rain. He was hungry and he followed me home. And I was overjoyed for I'd always been alone. Strangers. We saw the pain of life reflected in the light. Seraphs wandering doleful at no great height. Weeks had passed. He grew strong and I was loved again. But desperation! He'd want more but I had none, I saw frustration stir his stance, we parted ways, he took the food and I was left without. But it was fine for I was not alone. The next night I begged him not to let me starve. And he sneered and leapt and tore, all the while he laughed. So I lay bleeding with saliva on my throat. His shadow beckoned over me, and I thanked god for I hadn't died alone.

Strangers "Teenagers"

This shit is seriously fuckin' awesome, and I can't wait for a full-length. The demo's limited to 200 copies, and I believe most of 'em were sent out as promos, so… if you want one (and you should), don't sleep on it:

@ Strangers

The Wrongmen - Den of VipersAlso from New Zealand and Action Man Records is the debut EP from The Wrongmen, "Den of Vipers". On some level comparable to Strangers above, The Wrongmen deliver short, caustic tracks jammed with loose, chaotic riffing that combines Botch- or Converge-styled metalcore textures with jagged hardcore/punk and a little bit of a rocked out vibe – occasionally flirting with slower, darker atmospheres (best exemplified by the departure taken during the massive 13-minute closer, "Bacteria Disguised as Men"). As suggested by the rawness of the sound, the entire EP was recorded live, overdubbing only the vocals. For the most part such an aesthetic works out fine, and certainly fits, but I do find myself yearning for a little more density and punch from the production here. It sounds alright, and you definitely understand what the band is going for, but a number of these tracks would certainly benefit from the added punch/power of a hint more crispness or added volume to the low-end pummeling. Not bad, though. And as with the Strangers demo the packaging looks cool and I damn sure dig the lyrics:

I saw a dog rolling in its own shit just the other day and it reminded me of you and how you'll do anything to get paid or fucking laid. Soulless motherfucker. Artless motherfucker. Shameless motherfucker. Hey, this is all we have, and, it ain't so fucking bad. This could be so damn good. You never understood. Never did, never will. Never will.

The Wrongmen "Brainchaos"

I say it every time, and always will, so pick one up if this is your thing:

@ Interpunk

Vectom "Speed Revolution/Rules of Mystery" CD

Posted on Friday, February 9th, 2007 @ 9:34am » permalink

Vectom - Speed Revolution/Rules of MysteryAnother recent reissue of obscure thrash metal comes from Stormspell Records in the form of this two-on-one collection CD from Vectom – a German band that I had never heard of in my entire life… and I would assume that few people have heard of this band!? Included are both of their full-lengths, "Speed Revolution" (1985) and "Rules of Mystery" (1986), which were originally released on the equally obscure labels Intercord and Scratchcore respectively. While not as aggressive as what Germany's "big three" (Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom) were doing around this time period, the material is fast, aptly rugged, and certainly competent thrash with no frills. A little dirtier and more in your face than the standard metal fare with its sneering vocals, oft-chaotic solos, avoidance of melody, and generally speedy pacing, there's still a good dose of traditional heavy metal at work in the songwriting itself, which makes for some punchy, memorable arrangements that provide a good level of energy and help to carry the listen through. As would be expected from the "development" shown on any sophomore effort, the compositions making up "Rules of Mystery" are slightly longer and more diverse in terms of tempo changes and riffing styles (i.e. some melody does start to present itself) – though not terribly far removed from the debut per se. The vocals do lean more towards actual "singing" in some ways, while the leads possess a hint more control and the overall feel of the tracks lacks the same raw intensity of "Speed Revolution" (which I do prefer), but I don't find that to detract from the validity of the material at all. The booklet contains lyrics and a photo of each band member along with the two original album covers. No recording information or liner notes are included, and the tracklist seems to be missing the song "Elixir of Death" (though it is on the CD), but that's not a big deal. In the end you're in for over an hour's worth of solid old school thrash that should appeal to most any diehard fan of the genre's heyday, and I'm always amped to see these kinds of reissues surface, so I damn sure commend the label's efforts on this one!

Vectom "Day of Execution"
Vectom "Too Fast For Hell"
Vectom "Outlaw"

Show your support and purchase the album if you're into it:

@ Stormspell Records
@ The End Records

In other (at times) thrash-related news, the latest print issue ("The Shameless") of the mighty Lamentations of the Flame Princess is out now, and in it James "The Man" Edward "I Am Completely Insane" Raggi IV supplies what is quite possibly the longest record review in the history of all time… and it just happens to cover the Formicide CD I released late last year. You can read the review here. It's pretty wild, and will definitely be the longest, kindest, and most rambling review the CD will ever receive. Period. Plus, the new issue has some of the best writing (read: ranting) ever to grace the pages of LotFP, so please check it out if you're so inclined.

And, ever the instigator, ol' Jim's now taking pre-orders for a new "Fuck Commercial Metal" t-shirt design. "Controversial!" Rumor has it that several "upper-ranking" members of the Roadrunner Records staff are threatening to sign more bands like Nickelback, release more completely hollow and unnecessary "Best of…" albums, and re-release more money-grubbing less-than-a-year-old CD's with "bonus" DVD's in 2007 in direct response to this t-shirt. But I can't back that up with "facts" or anything, so…

Once We Were "Contra" 2xCD

Posted on Thursday, February 8th, 2007 @ 8:51am » permalink

Once We Were - ContraWell, it seems I once again have Avi from It's a Trap! to thank for kindly introducing me to yet another amazing Scandinavian act that I had never heard of before. This time it's Once We Were, from Sweden, and what I believe is their debut full-length, "Contra", a double-CD released by Tender Version. The discs are labeled simply "A" (recorded in the summer of 2005) and "B" (recorded in the spring of 2006), housed in a slim yet sleek digpack with full-color printing and a glossy finish. Disc "A" contains six tracks in just under a half-hour and runs the gamut from gorgeous melodies and shimmering clean guitars to thicker, grittier tones – as well as faint smatterings of keyboards and other eclectic add-ons that aren't as familiar to these ears. The bulk of the material is of the more laidback variety, creating an odd synergy between bright, fluid musicality and a more somber atmospheric undercurrent. Vaguely "heavier" (though certainly noisier) passages really only creep into "Cut Corners" to provide a significant shift in dynamics midway through the disc, while restrained vocals make a surprise appearance towards the latter chunk of closer "By Number and Skill" and amplify the overall feeling of the track. The recording is crisp and clear, allotting ample breathing room for all of the instrumentation, which helps to highlight all of the interaction between dual guitar lines and the bass runs – not to mention accentuating the general warmth and tonality of the band's aural aesthetic. The same can be said for disc "B" (as with the fact that its closing track, "It All Came Down", is the sole provider of vocals), which contains another six tracks and another half-hour's worth of music, though of the more experimentally structured persuasion. Gorgeous acoustic guitars present themselves on occasion, while the percussive work is more textural and to some extent abstract – as are many of the guitar parts, which can be built using layered repetitive loops and such. There's somewhat of a denser and more resonant reverb to the effects as well, which makes for especially smooth, droning low-end. The crazy thing is that I actually find the compositions on disc "B" to feel somehow more moving and emotional. I wouldn't have expected such, but these less conventional tracks are truly mesmerizing – an impressive feat, indeed. What can I say? This is just awesome, awesome work. Certainly recommended.

Once We Were "Carnival"
Once We Were "Cut Corners"

Please show your support and pick up the album for yourself if you enjoy the tracks. It's a Trap has the band's work for sale in both tangible (always preferred around these parts) and digital (if you must) formats, so there's no excuse:

@ It's a Trap!

Keitzer and Pisschrïst…

Posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2007 @ 9:05am » permalink

Keitzer - Suicide AnthologyAnother from Yellow Dog Records is "Suicide Anthology", the sophomore full-length from German grinders Keitzer, which also includes their debut LP, "…To Destroy the Planet Earth", tacked on as a bonus. The result? 25 tracks and just over an hour's worth of absolutely punishing grindcore with all the staples: Blistering speeds loaded with blasting percussion and fierce tremolo picking riffs, a range of high/low vocal assaults, subtle shifts towards more moderately paced breaks for added intensity, etc. While there's always at least a tinge of a hardcore/punk undercurrent at work beneath all quality grind, Keitzer definitely leans more towards the metal realm, and separates themselves from the pack with an added sense of dissonance and a borderline chaotic edge – though never without some semblance of control. The new tracks tend to be just a tad longer than those on the first LP, but they're also much more intense across the board: Tighter, more focused, and with a stronger recording that achieves a greater sense of clarity and punch – though not without an aptly rugged aesthetic. They definitely seem to be coming more into their own and developing a truly crushing attack, so keep your eyes peeled for more down the road…

Keitzer "Suicide Anthology"
Keitzer "This is the End"
Keitzer "Inhabited by Mankind"

Dig it? Then pick one up and destroy the planet:

@ Yellow Dog Records
@ Interpunk

Pisschrïst - Nothing Has Changed"Nothing Has Changed" is the debut full-length from Australia's Pisschrïst, again on Yellow Dog Records. As if you couldn't guess from the frivolous umlaut in the band name or the look of the cover art, here we have 13 tracks and 23 minutes of straight up D-beat styled hardcore/punk with just the right pinch of understated Motörhead-esque rock. It's nothing new, of course, but it looks good, it sounds good, and it gets the job done. So expect your usual dose of driving midpaced to moderately fast power chords with pounding basslines, raging blown-out vocal shouts, and the occasional lead burst – all delivered with an aptly rugged recording aesthetic that perfectly suits the rhythmic punch of the material. Several tracks aren't much more than a minute long, but a few damn near catchy moments pop up on occasion to provide enough variety to keep things interesting, so this is good stuff. That's about all there is to it, I guess!

Pisschrïst "Fight Back"
Pisschrïst "Who is to Blame"

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

@ Yellow Dog Records
@ Interpunk

Damiera "M(us)ic" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 @ 9:05am » permalink

Damiera - M(us)icHot damn, yet another winner from Equal Vision Records! "M(us)ic" is the debut full-length from Damiera, cranking out a zippy 10 tracks of super energetic and at times catchy indie rock in just 32 minutes. While relatively inventive and identifiable as its own, especially at this point in time, to my ears there are definitely elements of this material that are reminiscent of At the Drive-In meets early Further Seems Forever, though Damiera's brand of surprisingly technical riffing definitely seems to draw from a range of influences that's pretty uncommon within these realms. There's just something about the overall character of the riffing that sounds fairly unusual, and it's pretty damn cool. There's just a shitload of intricate dual guitar (and bass) interaction going on, not to mention the fact that there are some rhythmic "math rock"-isms happening. But they pull that stuff off in a way that doesn't sound stale or detract from the songs – in much the same way as there are "progressive" elements herein that don't come across as stupid noodling or artsy bullshit or anything like that. It's quite awesome when a band can take such complex runs and morph them into compositions that are so memorable and easy to listen to. I mean, if you listen closely, some of these riffs are seriously fucked up in terms of the speedy jumps and quick shifts that are happening all over the place, but there's a fluid sense of ease and melody that carries everything along, so it's kind of a unique experience. I don't know, but I fuckin' love it regardless. This is great work…

Damiera "M(us)ic"
Damiera "Via Invested"

As always, pick up a copy for yourself if it catches your ear:

@ Damiera
@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

Orthodox "Gran Poder" CD

Posted on Monday, February 5th, 2007 @ 9:02am » permalink

Orthodox - Gran PoderAmong the latest from Southern Lord is "Gran Poder", the debut full-length from mysterious Spanish trio Orthodox, who deliver five tracks in a massive 61+ minutes – exploring the types of slow, pulsing, pounding doom for which the label is still best known. Hell, opener "Geryon's Throne" is damn near a half-hour long on its own, taking the first 10 minutes to gradually build up through spacious chord progressions, wandering bass runs, and sparse percussive bursts before the warbled vocals finally kick in – for a few minutes that is, before the track decays into a mass of twisted and mangled drones and feedback that occasionally become rather chaotic when joined by frantic percussive fits. That pretty much sets the tone for the album as a whole. There are a lot of loosely structured passages, though everything (not necessarily including vocals, which are utilized very sparingly) does unite on rare occasion for a more energetic and rocked out attack, and in general the drums are either barely there or run circles around the other instruments, bouncing from completely unhinged outbursts to almost jazzy patterns or sheer rhythmic bashings. Granted, the bonus cover of Venom's "Genocide" does counteract some of the band's own methodologies, ha! And the recording is fucking outstanding on this thing. The drums alone sound about as huge and resonant as possible – with a warm, crisp, extremely up-front sound that sort of dominates the mix without overpowering the other elements. Meanwhile the guitars and bass are perfect equals, each acting as "lead" instruments and treading similar ground with just enough differentiation in character to stand apart from one another. Awesome layout, too. A very cool outing when all is said and done.

Orthodox "Arrodillate Ante la Madera y la Piedra"

Make the grab if you dig the track:

@ Southern Lord
@ The End Records

Massappeal "Nobody Likes a Thinker" CD

Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2007 @ 9:02am » permalink

Massappeal - Nobody Likes a ThinkerExcellent, excellent, excellent reissue here from Relapse Records. Massappeal was (though they've since reformed and are working on new material) a perhaps vastly underrated crossover act from Australia that formed in the mid-80's and whose sound apparently diversified somewhat over the course of their three full-lengths into the mid-90's. This disc collects all of their pre-full-length debut recordings and tacks on five live tracks from a 1987 live set opening for D.R.I. to boot – making for a grand total of a whopping 24 tracks in 77 minutes! Included is the "Nobody Likes a Thinker" 12" (1986), the "Bar of Life" 7" (1987), a 1988 compilation track, and the "Young, Dumb, and Naïve" demo (the band's first recordings from March of 1986). Musically speaking it's fairly standard crossover with loads of fast hardcore/punk power chords and snotty yelling that combines your typical sense of pissed anger and sarcastic, smartass fun. It's not an all-go-no-slow kind of thing, however, as there are a good amount of midpaced shifts and whatnot, and many of the songs run into the three- to four-minute range, making them a bit longer than what generally comes to mind when this form of thrashy hardcore/punk is involved. The packaging has been absolutely expertly handled as well, with shitloads of liner notes, photos, and some lyrics – all with an absolutely incredible "old school but better" look that totally fucking rules. I mean, that cover art, man! Fucking outstanding! This is absolutely 100% dead on how a reissue should be handled in every regard, so I must commend all involved parties for acing it all around. I'm jealous as hell!

Massappeal "Fun Again"
Massappeal "Rat in a Hole"
Massappeal "No Seduction"

As always, show your god damn support and pick one of these fuckers up if this is your thing:

@ Relapse Records

The world sorely needs more releases like this, and in fact Massappeal's debut full-length, "Jazz", has also been reissued by Chatterbox Records in Australia (the same label that handled the "Nobody Likes a Thinker" 2xCD reissue over there), so I'm curious to look into that one as well!

Theriomorphic "Enter the Mighty" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2007 @ 9:08am » permalink

Theriomorphic - Enter the Mighty"Enter the Mighty" is the debut full-length from Portuguese death metal act Theriomorphic on Exorcize Music. While only on their first proper release, the band has actually been slugging it out in the underground for about a decade now, which may speak to the overall quality of the album. For the most part Theriomorphic's style remains rooted in the base aggression of death metal, with powerfully snarled vocals and a good dash of speedy tremolo picking riffs and chunky chord phrasings, but there's also a surprising amount of melody present, and while comparable to elements of the Swedish scene, I'd say Theriomorphic is pushing for something more unique than the standard. There are plenty of great lead passages interspersed throughout, as well as a few instances where clean breaks add additional atmosphere to the compositions. In fact, a lot of the parallels to the aforementioned country's various brands of death metal actually possess the density of the early Swedish classics – opting for a darker, heavier edge and staying away from the more polished and "upbeat" angle. But whatever the case, across numerous tempos and through sundry forms of memorable guitar work the band really does a great job of meshing their influences into a compact, focused record that has a killer sense of energy. Not bad at all…

Theriomorphic "…And the Sorrowy Night"

As always, pick one up if you enjoy the song above:

@ The End Records