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Llorah and Seven Bowls of Wrath…

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2007 @ 9:19am » permalink

Llorah - s/tAmong the first releases from French label Atropine is the impressive self-titled debut EP (which is basically their demo) from Llorah – another quality French act helping to solidify the country's stance as a superb provider of this form of dry, churning, pounding material. A totally killer recording with a crisp, natural sense of texture and density highlights the badass rhythm section and its crushing low-end throbs and percussive bursts; while the guitar work ranges from slow, sludgy, menacing power chord rhythms to faster and more mangled riffing that lets more of the grit and dissonance shine (as do the sick vocals, which are sort of a strained lower-midrange sneer/scream). There are also a few more stripped down and atmospheric clean passages that represent the most obvious incidences of the subtly melodic accoutrements that are scattered throughout, as do some of the ringing "post-rock" tendencies that creep into place on occasion. There may only be four tracks, but the total running time pushes 27 minutes, so there's damn sure a good hunk of material here, and though there are indeed some familiar influences and approaches at work herein, Llorah certainly manages to explore a few unlikely twists and turns to keep things interesting. The disc is also beautifully packaged in a brown chipboard "envelope" type of thing, screenprinted with black and white inks, so… this is a great little release all around, and a fine introduction to yet another promising new act.

Llorah "Echos"

I'm not seeing this one available anywhere in the US at this time, so the label's distro is probably your best bet for the time being. Definitely look into this shit if you like what hear:

@ Atropine

Seven Bowls of Wrath - Salt Your WoundsAlso from Atropine – apparently set to become another consistently awesome French label – is the five-track EP "Salt Your Wounds" from the sadly defunct German act Seven Bowls of Wrath, who apparently called it quits in late-2006 after a mere two-year existence. This succinct 16-minute CD collects the band's material from their split LP with Achilles (which I assume was the only material they recorded), and holy shit is this some punishing work. As with the Llorah disc above, the recording here is very warm and natural, which truly benefits the thundering percussion and massive pulse of the basslines, but this is a much more menacing and aggressive slab of material all around. There are loads of thick, churning power chords and eerie little dissonant textures alongside powerfully burly vocals; while the generally short, furious tracks also touch on that grinding form of contemporary metalcore that explodes forth with intense speeds and in this case some uniquely noisy lead riffs or borderline chaotic surges of unhinged acerbity. But they don't take things too far, they always keep a grip on the reigns and maintain a sense of control. Plus… a lot of the slower, dingier rhythms hit like a fucking ton of bricks! Great shit.

Seven Bowls of Wrath "Salt Your Wounds"

Same story here, I think you'll have to hit the label's distro to get your hands on this one for the time being, but hey: It's worth it. A damn shame these cats called it quits already, but at least this document of their time together hits the mark. Make the grab:

@ Atropine

Violator "Chemical Assault" CD

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2007 @ 8:52am » permalink

Violator - Chemical AssaultFucking finally! I had been wanting to get my hands on some material from Brazilian thrashers Violator for quite some time now, but it can be hard to find their releases here in the US. So I was psyched as hell when last week I stumbled across their debut full-length, "Chemical Assault" (on Kill Again Records), and picked that shit up immediately. I'm telling you right fucking now, the whole "retro" thrash thing may be somewhat "trendy" right now, but Violator fucking rules. Of all the contemporary bands that are making a decent run at recapturing that mid- to late-80's thrash sound, Violator is the best of the bunch, and they seriously shit all over pretty much everyone else in terms of the sheer quality of their riffs and songwriting. 'Cause hey, you can break out the jeans, high-tops, bullet belts, and jackets covered head-to-toe/front-to-back in patches all you want – and yes, Violator does – but if you can't truly capture that legendary old school thrash aesthetic and write a good song, well… you're dead in the water. But trust me, these motherfuckers nail it on ever possible level: Completely badass classic-looking logo; sweet cover art; songs about nuclear warfare, moshing, toxic waste, political corruption, injustice, etc.; and an unending stream of perfect riffs – most heavily influenced by the American side of things, though there are of course some German-sounding influences and stuff happening in there, too. This shit is totally raging all over the place – crunchy rhythms and blistering solos alike – with a relentless sense of energy and absolutely awesome vocals. Seriously, this dude is hands down the best vocalist of any thrash band I've heard that formed post-1991. Then again, this might be the best thrash record that's been released since 1991, too! I'm not even kidding. Every fucking half-assed "thrash" band that pops up these days talking all big and making outrageous claims about their sound should be handed a copy of this CD and promptly sent packing. There's just no competition. I'm completely blown away by this album. It's that good, and that true to the classic sound of what defines "thrash" in my eyes. I simply can't rave enough about this shit. Amazing. Fucking amazing.

Violator "Lethal Injection"
Violator "Atomic Nightmare"

Buy this shit and buy it now. These guys kick ass and deserve your support, and I'm almost certain this thing's gonna sell out again pretty soon:

@ Hell's Headbangers

Doom Day, Only Attitude Counts, and Hate xxx Edge…

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2007 @ 10:16am » permalink

Doom Day - Count Your Useless HoursAmong the latest and greatest from Germany's Superhero Records is "Count Your Useless Hours", the debut full-length from Doom Day. The album seems to have been quite an undertaking, what with the lineup crossing international borders in the UK, Germany, and Bulgaria with current and former members of Devil Inside, Jaylan, Vendetta, English Dogs, and The Prodigy (Huh!?), among others – not to mention a fucking slew of guest vocal performances from members of 25 ta Life, Ryker's, Sworn Enemy, 100 Demons, and Hate Squad. The result is 12 tracks (plus four bonus cuts from the band's 2006 demo) of in your face and energetic metallic hardcore with your usual dose of burly vocals, crunchy midpaced breakdowns, and chugging fast-paced power chord rhythms. However, while the core of the material is indeed rooted in the typically expected tenets of this style, there's a cool sense of dissonant melody that creeps into some of the chord phrasings to give the songs a slightly different sort of aesthetic that's unexpected and helps to differentiate the band from the norm. Plus, there are fuckin' loads of blazing lead runs that shift from metal-based tapping and explosive bursts of speed to the borderline rocked out bends of raw, chaotic punk. Speaking of which, on rare occasion there's just a little bit of a punk rock sort of vibe to some of the chord progressions and vocal arrangements, too (think The Exploited circa "The Massacre" or something). It's cool, though, because these differing influences all come together to form a cohesive whole, and the guest vocal spots actually add to the record as well – as opposed to making things feel disjointed. Hell, even the demo tracks fit in perfectly with the rest of the album, as they sound like they're basically the same recordings, just with different vocal contributors. I'm not sure if this is a one-off sort of "project" thing or not, but it's a damn solid offering and I'd certainly be glad to hear another record from 'em at some point, so… I guess time will tell!

Doom Day "Sea of Hate"
Doom Day "Love is Dead in Metropolis"

Unfortunately, I'm not seeing this rager in any US distros yet. Interpunk and Surprise Attack Records have carried the label's releases in the past, so maybe they'll be stocking it within a few months, but for now email the label or hit up the band on MySpace to check on ordering information.

Only Attitude Counts - Return the FavourReleased sometime last year, again by Superhero Records, "Return the Favour" sees the return of longstanding Austrian hardcore act Only Attitude Counts – whose name I've heard numerous times over the years, but I believe this may be the first time I've ever actually heard their material. It's good shit, too. Nice, heavy, NYHC-styled hardcore with thick production and a good dose of Madball and Agnostic Front influences. They tend to focus on memorable, energetic tracks built largely around fast-paced power chords fronted by gruff shouting, interspersed with solid midpaced breaks that catch some nice groove without coming across as forced or particularly "moshy" or what have you. It's angry and aggressive, but they're not beating you over the head with anything, which is a perfect fit for the niche of hardcore that they're operating in. I will say that something about the cover art sort of gives off the impression that this might not be a very good record, but nothing could be further from the truth. There's definitely nothing mind-blowing here, they basically stick to the formula that they know and do so well, but that's fine by me. There's really not much more to say, they tear through 11 tracks in just under a half-hour and call it a day, so… hey, fuck it, it's good stuff. I'm really surprised that I haven't encountered any recordings from these guys prior to this. Go figure!?

Only Attitude Counts "Purify"
Only Attitude Counts "Right Now/Right Here"

This one's only $8 from Surprise Attack, so make the grab if you like what you hear:

@ Surprise Attack Records

Hate xxx Edge - On FieldBack to the newer Superhero Records releases, "On Field" is the debut "full-length" (though it's only about 20 minutes long) from Germany's Hate xxx Edge. Surprisingly enough, they don't really sound anything like One Life Crew, but I bet they're fans on some level, because they're certainly not out to make friends or feign "political correctness" with tracks like "Motherfuck", "Bloody Violence", or "Suck My Dick", eh? After all, they are called Hate xxx Edge, right? So, as expected, it's heavy hardcore rooted largely in the old school style with little added dashes of metal here and there, as well as the ultra burly vocals often employed by European bands. There's actually somewhat of a street punk sort of thing going on under the surface in rare instances where minor hints of melody or subtly rocked out power chords pop up, but for the most part it kind of strikes me as similar to some of the earlier Madball stuff but with lower, gruffer vocals and less groove/feel. They're basically on the right track with this stuff across the board (I love the great bass presence in the mix), but I'm not entirely sold just yet as it sort of feels like something's missing. A thicker, harder-hitting crunch would definitely help the guitars, but it's really more of a songwriting thing. The pieces of the puzzle are on the table, but they haven't quite nailed it yet in terms of energy level and overall impact, so there's nothing particularly memorable at the moment.

Hate xxx Edge "Face Up to It"
Hate xxx Edge "Real Side"

As with Doom Day up above, I'm not seeing this one in any US distros yet, so email the label or contact the band via MySpace if you're interested.

2 Headed Chang "Deliver Us…" CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 @ 8:09am » permalink

2 Headed Chang - Deliver Us...I believe "Deliver Us…" is the sophomore full-length from Washington state metal act 2 Headed Chang, who I wasn't familiar with before they contacted me. And I'll be honest with you: That band name? Not feelin' it, and I really didn't think I was going to be into their material as a result. But despite a few lyrical and such "immaturities" (for lack of a better word) – insinuated by track titles like "Fuck Your Core", "Candy Ass", and "Skin Her for Dinner" – I've gotta say: These cats could do some serious fuckin' damage, because this shit sounds fuckin' great. They've got sort of a Pantera meets Throwdown thing happening in terms of combining chugging, contemporary neo-thrash riffs and an Anselmo-esque vocal approach with fucking punishing breakdowns – occasionally littered with ever-so-subtle death metal undercurrents or what have you. It won't be for everyone, and there's minor room for improvement here and there, but for the most part the songwriting's pretty damn solid, and this is extremely well-handled for a self-released effort. The layout's competent and all, but the recording's total gold across the board. I mean, shit, the guitar tone alone is fucking amazing and totally crushes even those of a few bands that are working with major label budgets these days, so… these dudes definitely seem to have a handle on exactly what to do in the studio in terms of getting a crisp, punchy sound.

In terms of what I'd say they need to work on… it's kind of touchy in a way. For example, on rare occasion there are a few little elements that sort of bring Slipknot to mind – which isn't the worst thing in the world, but still… I just feel like the heart of what these guys are doing is separate from that kind of thing, you know? I don't necessarily want to say that I think they need to develop a slightly more "mature" presentation or whatever, but there's a fine line between having a good time and delving into unnecessarily cheesy trappings like giving all of the band members "nicknames" like Kurt "Sparkles" Caron and Brian "Black Velvet" Valentino (or jokingly saying, "Yeeeaaah, bitch!", at the beginning of a song, for that matter). And I don't want that to sound like I'm downing these guys at all, because that's not the case, I just truly believe that this is a more credible album than a lot of people would give 'em credit for based on the aforementioned scenarios and some of the overly-blunt lyrical content. I'm very pleasantly surprised by the bulk of this material, and I could very much see this band making a dent down the road. There's a hell of a lot of promise here…

2 Headed Chang "Bonded With Vengeance"
2 Headed Chang "Fuck Your Core"

I'm not sure what's up in terms of buying this thing as it just came out at the end of last month and the band doesn't seem to have purchasing options in place just yet, but I'm sure if you contact 'em via MySpace they can hook you up with ordering information. Get to it if you like what you hear…

District 9 "Schoolahardknox Revisited" CD

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 @ 7:36am » permalink

District 9 - Schoolahardknox RevisitedHell yeah is it great to see a release like this put some rare District 9 shit back out there, and with loads of bonuses to boot. I dropped a fortune on the Japanese CD version of the "Schoolahardknox" 7" (which was originally released by Striving for Togetherness in 1995) many years ago, so when Dignified Bastard released "Schoolahardknox Revisited" a few months back I slept on picking it up for a bit, but finally remedied the situation last week. For those unaware, District 9 was (though they're back in action now) a diverse New York act whose lineup has had various ties to bands like Skarhead, Warzone, and Fahrenheit 451 (among others) over the years. This collection includes the "Schoolahardknox" 7" (plus another track from the 7" sessions that ended up on the "It's All Good" compilation), the 1991 demo, a live set recorded on WNYU in 1995, and a live cover of Warzone's "As One" recorded at a reunion show at CBGB's in 2006. I don't think it's a complete discography since they refer to the 1991 material as the "second demo", but it's gotta be pretty damn close to "complete", and you get the impression that they're lucky they were able to get their hands on the demo/live material at all, so… be grateful!

For the most part you could describe District 9 as a hardcore band, but there was a hell of a lot of variety tucked away in there, so it's definitely not that simple. There were some bits and pieces of metal happening, but not a whole lot aside from some hard-hitting breakdowns or note-based palm-muting riffs here and there. On the more straightforward side there are some speedy, traditionally based, old school-ish chord progressions, but they also got a little darker from time to time with some slick clean breaks and some cool uses of melody – with lots of tempo changes throughout. There are some minor instances of hip-hop inspired vocal tactics as well, but that's definitely not what's going on within the majority of the band's recorded output herein. Whatever you want to call it, they definitely had their own style going on, that's for sure. Everything herein's been remastered and sounds about like what you'd expect from recordings that are predominantly 12 years old or more, so… no big deal. The live material's understandably rough around the edges, but perfectly listenable, so… I've definitely heard a shitload of WNYU sets that sound way worse than these seven tracks, trust me. The disc's housed alongside a thick booklet that includes all of the lyrics, which is a nice touch, because while tracks like "Payback" definitely have that hardass sort of angle happening, most of the band's lyrics are actually far more introspective, occasionally even hitting on some socio-political types of themes:

Here we go again, another brother shot dead in the street. Police say it was drug-related, all in all that's what they believe. What about his mother? She's gonna live off her life in pain. See 'cause that was her only son, is this what our future brings? It was a shotgun blast, that's all we heard, so we paused and no one said a word. Then we saw people running up the block, so we ran to find that Bobby was shot. Bobby never bothered anyone, what I mean to say is he was cool. What a way to go out in life, not knowing that the next one's you. Tragedy running through my head, one minute he was here and the next he was dead…

District 9 "Payback"
District 9 "Pushed to the Edge"

Good stuff. And any label with a debut release like this damn sure has me curious as to what'll come next, so… pick this shit up if you missed out back in the day, and keep your eyes peeled for more:

@ Dignified Bastard
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Police & Thieves, Four Days to Burn, The Endless Blockade, and Nuclear Winter…

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2007 @ 9:18am » permalink

Police & Thieves - s/tI owe an absolutely massive apology to Washington, DC's Police & Thieves, who sent me their self-titled debut 7" (on Higher Conscience) a long time ago. Better late than never, I guess, but shit… I'm late, so I'm sorry. Anyway, the band features former members of Worn Thin and Four Letter Lies, among others, and cranks out four quick tracks of melodic hardcore in less than 10 minutes. Citing their influences as "early Dischord" while having been compared to Rites of Spring and Dag Nasty should give you some point of reference for their sound. I definitely hear some Dag Nasty in there myself, and that's never a bad thing, but while they may be looking to DC's past for influence, they do manage to capture that overall vibe without sounding dated or anything like that, which is great. Solid recording, solid layout, 7" pressed on opaque bright yellow vinyl… I don't know what else to say, really. It's such a short record, and I'd definitely like to hear more from these guys, so… hopefully I'll get the chance at some point!

Police & Thieves "Harbors"

This EP's supposed to come out on CD with a couple of extra tracks at some point, but the 7" is still available for all you vinyl junkies, so pick it up if you like what you hear:

@ Interpunk
@ Very Distribution

Four Days to Burn - s/tMassive apology #2 goes out to Dada Drumming, who sent me a couple of killer 7"s almost as long ago as Police & Thieves, but they got set aside and shuffled around and, well, I forgot. Oops. But the self-titled debut 7" from Texan sludge merchants Four Days to Burn certainly impresses with its two tracks in about 11 minutes. Excellent organic recording, totally badass southern-fried grooves with plenty of pulsing low-end and distorted grit, pounding midpaced rhythms countered by faster bashings and a certain chaotic sensibility, and a wicked dual vocal attack of absolutely raging sneers/snarls. Great shit, really. The 7" comes in a thick sleeve with a nice looking layout, and the first 500 are pressed on absolutely fucking beautiful pink vinyl with red splatters (a great match against the color scheme of the sleeve), so… well done!

Four Days to Burn "Lieutenant" (excerpt)

Make the grab straight from the label if you dig the snippet above:

@ Dada Drumming

The Endless Blockade - Come Friendly BombsAlso from Dada Drumming is the "Come Friendly Bombs" 7" from The Endless Blockade, and it's interesting that both sides of the three-panel sleeve are adorned with the artistic talents of Watchmaker's Brian Livoti, because these uncompromising Canadians seem to be becoming somewhat of the hardcore/punk equivalent of Watchmaker on some level. 11 raw tracks in just under 11 minutes with lots of explosive speed, chaotic vocal shrieks, and quick blasts of tangible hardcore/punk force or sludge-laden grooves amidst a rather power violence-esque core. This is a hint more fierce and aggressive than what I've heard from the band in the past, but that's a good thing, and they do a great job of cramming loads of different influences into succinct yet cohesive bursts. The sleeve's printed on thick matte stock and the first 300 records are on clear vinyl with red splatters, so… another great looking release from Dada Drumming.

The Endless Blockade "Therapy Through Violence"
The Endless Blockade "I Don't Give a Fuck About You"

As above, if you dig the tunes, make the grab straight from the label:

@ Dada Drumming

Nuclear Winter - Abomination VirginbornThis absolutely awesome 7" from Blast Beat Mailmurder hasn't been sitting here for too long yet (I'll have some more releases from Blast Beat covered here in the coming weeks), but I figured I should get to it now while catching on up on these other vinyl releases, otherwise, well… you know what would've happened, right? So, even though it was recorded way back in 2003, everything about the "Abomination Virginborn" 7" (which is actually a vinyl re-release of the band's final demo) from Greek death metallers Nuclear Winter looks and sounds old school as fuck! And I love every minute of it! Three tracks in 12+ minutes of thick, chugging, early-90's styled death metal with fucking excellent vocal power, slick melodic leads, the works… It just kicks ass, plain and simple. It's sort of like a faster and less melodic Bolt Thrower in many instances, but the vocals lend a certain sense of primal aggression to the tracks that I fuckin' love. Incredibly perfect recording for this niche, too. I'm sold. The sleeve looks killer as well, though. Everything about this EP just nails it. Oh, and I forgot to mention that these tracks were recorded as a fucking duo! Impressive. It's a damn fucking shame they called it quits after this demo, but both of the guys are now in a band called Dead Congregation, so I need to get on that shit pronto.

Nuclear Winter "Crucified Animal"

Unfortunately I can't seem to locate this 7" in any distros here in the US, so get in touch with the label directly through MySpace to see about getting your hands on this fucker. It's a keeper, trust me.

Hot Rod Circuit "The Underground is a Dying Breed" CD

Posted on Friday, April 20th, 2007 @ 8:25am » permalink

Hot Rod Circuit - The Underground is a Dying Breed2007 has already yielded a surprisingly high number of massively over-hyped albums that, while decent, have ultimately failed to deliver. But then there's "The Underground is a Dying Breed" (on Immortal Records), the latest gem from Hot Rod Circuit, which I had no idea was even on the horizon, and was actually out in stores for a few weeks before I even learned of its existence!? And what's more, this is by far the best CD I've bought all year, further solidifying in my mind the fact that these guys must be one of the most overlooked bands of the last decade. I first stumbled upon their extremely unique brand of emo/indie rock/whatever the hell you want to call it a couple of years ago after buying their 2004 release, "Reality's Coming Through", on a whim for no particular reason. Well, that damn thing probably didn't leave the CD player in my car for a fucking month (and that almost never happens), and in less than a week's time I've already listened to "The Underground is a Dying Breed" 10 times more than any other CD I've bought so far this year, so… the trend continues, and this band remains a sorely underrated force that should, by all means, be hugely fucking popular.

I mean, they basically write relentlessly catchy albums chock full of memorable, melodic rock songs – and when I say catchy, I mean fucking catchy. Emo, indie rock, whatever, yeah… but it's more than that. It's not that cheap, simple, poppy bullshit, you know? There are elements of a certain "poppy" aesthetic to some degree – killer vocal harmonies and hooks that you can sing along to within a couple of listens (though they get stuck in your head immediately) – but… I don't know, from a songwriting standpoint it's not super stripped down or anything, there's a hell of a lot going on in terms of layering and dynamics and technique and all that shit… so I fucking dare you to claim it's generic in any way whatsoever, 'cause it's simply not. Plain fact. Hell, if nothing else, just the fact that they occasionally (and effectively) employ keyboards and pedal steel to lend a "country"-ish twang to some of the riffing separates them from damn near all of their contemporaries. It's there, it really is. But I fucking despise country music and love the shit outta these guys, so… don't get the wrong impression, okay? I don't know, just check 'em out for yourself and see. Gorgeous production, amazing songwriting… vocalist/guitarist/chief songwriter Andy Jackson is basically a fucking genius. Hats off, my man. There's no way in hell this thing's not gonna be one of the best releases of the year. Love these guys. Love 'em. End gushing.

Hot Rod Circuit "Stateside"
Hot Rod Circuit "Battleship"

You might suck if you don't like this band. I'm just sayin'. So if you do like it, please buy it… 'cause the last thing I want is for yet another extraordinarily awesome band to wither away before their time because they can't make motherfuckers "get it" or whatever. Purchase:

@ Immortal Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Helcaraxë "Triumph and Revenge" CD

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007 @ 7:53am » permalink

Helcaraxë - Triumph and Revenge"Triumph and Revenge" is the impressive debut full-length from New Jersey's Helcaraxë, which was recorded back in 2005 before finally being released earlier this year on Regimental Records. Formerly known as Minas Tirith, the duo (which has since added a third member) had only released a prior two-song demo in 2003, which makes the force of this album all the more admirable. Inspired by common influences such as Tolkien (their new name was lifted from "The Silmarillion") and Norse mythology, the band has referred to themselves as both "heathen metal" and "viking death metal", but call it whatever the hell you want, because it's pretty damn good! To be honest with you, I actually enjoy this material far more than any of the albums I've ever heard from Amon Amarth, Unleashed, and other such (rather overrated) acts often associated with such tags. There are a scarce few passages where the playing's a touch raw, but for the most part this is an absolutlely massive slab of death metal that's both churning and guttural as well as melodic or even "epic" to some degree – thanks in large part to some gorgeous acoustic passages and borderline doomy clean runs. Burly growls, thick power chords, and brighter dual guitar harmonies are all present, but the end result is so much more than that. For one thing, there are loads of fucking raging bass work – in addition to tons of tempo changes and "atmospheric" elements within the diversity of the riffing – but it's still a completely consistent and coherent listening experience. And the really weird thing is that most of the songs are less than two minutes apiece!? Of the 16 tracks only five of them top three minutes, among them one at a "normal" five minutes, and just a single 10-minute epic, so… I mean, that's just shockingly rare for death metal. Beyond that the recording is perfectly dense and textured, which highlights some of the subtler dynamic interactions between the instruments. And yes, the bass tone is completely awesome, which certainly helps bring attention to the extremely active role that the basslines play within these compositions. There's still room for improvement there overall, but fuck it. Beautiful packaging, too: Printed entirely in metallic bronze ink with a matte finish on a marbled sort of tan stock. What can I say? I don't know what the hell they've done exactly, but there's definitely something a little different and "special" about this album, and that's a great, great level of achievement within this genre. I'm impressed.

Helcaraxë "Revenge"
Helcaraxë "The Dread Helm"
Helcaraxë "The Hammersmith"

You will not beat the label's own price on this disc, as they sell their shit for insanely cheap (this one's on sale for just $5.55 right now, I shit you not), so there's no fucking reason not to pick one up if you like what you hear:

@ Regimental Records

In unrelated metal news (or "opportunities", if you will), it has apparently come to light that Decibel magazine's review of Dawnbringer's "In Sickness and In Dreams" contains no less than eight factual errors – quite a feat considering it's a mere 271 words. So, the ever-pesky Lamentations of the Flame Princess is co-sponsoring a contest along with Dawnbringer's Chris Black: Correctly cite five or more of the eight errors and win yourself a copy of the CD. Not too shabby, eh? Here are the full details, so take a shot… and shit, I hope my write-up on that disc didn't fare so badly!

This Time Next Year, Pandamonium, and Next on the List…

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 @ 7:44am » permalink

This Time Next Year - DemonstrationProbably taking their moniker from The Movielife album of the same name, California's This Time Next Year unloads five tracks of melodic hardcore meets pop-punk in about 15 minutes on their first demo – titled simply "Demonstration". The CD-R in a somewhat crude xeroxed sleeve may not look like much, but the audio housed within is quite competent on all levels – from the crisply balanced recording to the textbook framework of the songwriting. Expect relatively high-pitched singing over plenty of zippy power chords and simple melodic lead lines layered with chunkier palm-muting riffs and octave chords with just a little bit of underlying dissonance. It's nothing I'd call original, but I'm generally a fan of bands of this nature (like, well, The Movielife) that add a dash of heaviness to their guitar tones to really walk that line between "melodic hardcore" and "pop-punk". It's definitely overtly melodic and catchy, but it's not particularly "poppy" in my opinion, because they're not really laying it on too thick or heading in a sappy direction or any of that shit. I know it won't be for everyone, but I can hang with this stuff for sure, and would definitely be down for hearing a full-length from these cats.

This Time Next Year "Silver Springs"

You can grab a copy of the demo for just $3 on the band's MySpace page, so make the grab if you like what you hear, and keep your eyes out for a proper release later this year.

Pandamonium - Ling LingI'll be honest with you: The odds me of getting a demo CD-R called "Ling Ling" in the mail from a band called Pandamonium packaged in a bright yellow xeroxed sleeve with pictures of mating pandas all over the front cover and actually listening to it? Slim to none. But I looked at the back cover and saw someone playing a Flying V and got the general impression from the photo of the vocalist that this was probably a hardcore band, so I figured what the hell. Then I popped in the disc and a slip of paper fell out of the sleeve dictating that the band contains current and ex-members of Bodies Lay Broken and Hope You Choke, and what do you know? It ain't bad! Five tracks of short, fast, furious, and fun hardcore/punk in barely over five minutes, and that's about it. Expect a raw yet fitting recording that keeps things sounding natural and unpolished; loads of straightforward three-chord hardcore with a minimal amount of slightly slower breaks; yelling vocals with lots of gang backups; and lyrics about being pissed off, breaking shit, setting shit on fire… and zombies. Yep. (No panda lyrics, thankfully.) What more is there to say, really?

Pandamonium "No Expectations"

This one's also a mere $3, so get in touch with the band via MySpace if you're into it.

Next on the List - Promo 2006Another less-than-stellar-looking-though-in-reality-not-bad CD-R demo in a crude xeroxed sleeve comes from French grinders Next on the List, who tear through seven untitled tracks in less than 13 minutes. The recording needs some work in terms of the bass tone sounding a little muddy and the guitars just lacking the meaty force that this particular niche requires (honestly if they'd just fix that damn guitar tone they'd be in pretty good shape), but they've definitely got the whole guttural growls and indecipherable snarls thing down, and I dig the way the writing blends a hardcore/punk backbone with the more aggressive and mangled attributes of contemporary grindcore. It's not just speed, speed, speed, there's a range of tempos present and some of the slower, sludgier rhythms are actually the most promising. There's also a quirky, dissonant edge to some of the riffing that definitely gets me curious as to what these guys are truly capable of. Hopefully they'll start using song titles in the future though, because with no lyrics and no titles, there's really no way in hell to get an idea of what their material's dealing with… though I suspect that they do at least have something to say, as this doesn't give me that senseless gore/violence nonsense sort of impression at all. Not too shabby. We'll see where they take it from here!

Next on the List "Song 4"
Next on the List "Song 7"

I'm not sure how much this one'll set you back, but it's probably pretty cheap on the D.I.Y. tip, so contact the band through MySpace if you're interested.

Charge and Crowns of Kings/Price of Pain…

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 @ 8:13am » permalink

Charge - Who's in Control?!"Who's in Control?!" is the latest EP from New Jersey's mighty Charge, this time on Reaper Records, and once again the band delivers a concise yet diverse blast (five tracks in 14 minutes) of material that sounds little to nothing like most of what's going on out there these days. Expect plenty of surging midpaced power chords and intricate bass runs making up the core, generally accented by a sense of ringing dissonance and little bits and pieces of melody scattered throughout. I definitely still hear a lot of similarities to Burn/Orange 9mm, both in terms of some of the rhythmic vocal arrangements as well as a few more technical riffs or post-hardcore textures happening here and there, but I fuckin' love both of those bands, so I'm all over such influences, and Charge takes these sounds to different levels throughout. Little bits of reggae creep into the instrumental "Logan's Run", and there are even some surprisingly rocked out little runs to be found on occasion, so… you've almost gotta hear it for yourself to get a true picture of what's going on. There's a little room for improvement in terms of the recording, but that certainly doesn't hinder their energy or mask the quality of their writing skills. I'm digging the great looking comic book-styled cover art that's definitely different from the norm, too. Having heard so much about these guys over the years it's a damn shame that they haven't dropped a full-length yet. And shit, it's been like three years or so since the "Universal Tribe" EP dropped, so… they've yet to disappoint, and continue to leave me wanting more. Check 'em out:

Charge "Souled Out Souls"

Support the band and the label with a purchase if you like what you hear, motherfuckers:

@ Reaper Records
@ Surprise Attack Records
@ Very Distribution

Crowns of Kings/Price of Pain - splitAlso from Reaper Records comes this split between two promising Death Threat-related metallic hardcore acts to keep an eye on down the road. First up is Connecticut's Crowns of Kings, who knock out four quick tracks (less than two minutes apiece) of textbook metallic hardcore in about six minutes. The band features Death Threat guitarist Wes Fortier on vocals, and he holds his own damn well over a backdrop of heavy power chords with a good balance of tempo changes that lean on traditional hardcore with that slightly more contemporary sense of aggression. It's basically that 90's kind of style, though – and everyone knows I love that shit, right? Massachusetts' Price of Pain then follows-up with four tracks of their own 90's-esque "metalcore". Their take provides longer and more metallic songs, so expect lots of chunky midpaced grooves with scarce bursts of speedier power chord rhythms or the occasional drop of a chugging Euro-styled metal riff – all fronted by the unique stylings of Death Threat vocalist Aaron Knuckles. Believe it or not there are some occasional dashes of melody tucked away in there too, and such shifts actually pay off tenfold, because "Thanks for Shit" comes across as somewhat darker and more memorable – a fuckin' excellent track, for sure. As with many such releases both bands could probably use a little more oomph in the recording department, but the songs make the fucking point, so I'm not complaining. I dig both acts and will damn sure be looking forward to hearing more. Good stuff.

Crowns of Kings "Same Old…"
Price of Pain "Thanks for Shit"

Fuck the "digital age", buy a good ol' fashioned hard copy if you dig the tunes:

@ Reaper Records
@ Surprise Attack Records
@ Very Distribution

All Out War "Assassins in the House of God" CD

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2007 @ 7:57am » permalink

All Out War - Assassins in the House of GodWhew, you know, of all the bands that were around during the 90's honing this brand of metallic (to the point of basically being straight metal) hardcore, I really wouldn't have expected All Out War to be among the select few still putting out records some 15+ years later. But holy fucking shit has their persistence (not to mention their consistency) paid off, because "Assassins in the House of God", their fourth full-length overall and first since 2003's "Condemned to Suffer" (again on Victory Records – apparently still willing to put out a record that's actually as vicious as the shit they were focusing on 10+ years ago), may just be their strongest outing to date. I mean, shit, to these ears it sounds a hell of a lot like their 1996 debut, "Truth in the Age of Lies", just with a much stronger recording and a greater sense of focus and force within the songwriting. I swear, minutes after popping this fucker in for the first time I was literally laughing out loud (out of sheer glee, mind you) at how true to the band's past this material remains. I'm talking loads of sick, chugging power chord rhythms, ripping picking patterns loosely reminiscent of thrash/death metal, their burly take on those Slayer-esque hammer-on/pull-off riffs and discordant note-based runs, crushing breakdowns, plodding bass and thundering percussion, Mike Score's inimitably bitter sneers… it's all here, and I love it. It really is totally in line with the band's past efforts, just better, because I feel like the energy level stays amped up for the bulk of the record, thus making the tracks a little more memorable and in your face. Plus, there's a killer guitar tone and a super dense yet clear and balanced mix, so I've got no complaints. Even the lyrics are completely reminiscent of what we've all come to expect:

No one is innocent. We shall burn in their cries. Cursed with damnation for we ignored their shattered lives. We are drowning in ignorance and drowning in our fear. Tribulation will be upon us and our final judgment is now near. In damnation we shall fall upon our knees. Praying for mercy for our sins against the weak, but there is no redemption for this time has now long passed, There shall be no salvation, what's done is done the die's been cast.

I'm sold, that's all there is to it. Kudos, gentlemen… and hopefully we won't have to wait another three to five years for album #5!

All Out War "Curtain Call For the Crucified"
All Out War "Drenched in Defeat"

Make. The. Fucking. Grab. Now:

@ Victory Records
@ The End Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Strife "One Truth" CD

Posted on Friday, April 13th, 2007 @ 7:41am » permalink

Strife - One TruthI decided this week that, as far as I'm concerned, Strife's "One Truth" is one of the greatest hardcore records of all time. Period. Not to mention a true classic from the golden age (pre-emo cash cow, of course) of Victory Records. Sure, the recording's too thin (hey, it was 1994), but from a songwriting standpoint this shit's gold. I was all over this record when I was 18 or whatever, but even today I can still listen to these jams and want to scream until my face explodes. I don't care whether or not you're straightedge; I don't care that the band "sold out" "the edge" years afterwards; and I don't care that this album, their debut, was pretty much 10 times better than any of their other output (sans one standalone gem of note – see below): If you're a fan of hardcore, you should own and love this record. (Unless you're in/past your late-30's and refuse to listen to any hardcore that came out after 1989 or whatnot, ha.) Hell, looking back on records like this makes it a little easier for me to understand why I don't get too excited over much hardcore these days.

Upon a foundation of standard power chords and those super plunky basslines that were so prevalent amidst the hardcore of that era, the band added just the right amount of metal: Lightly chugging rhythms, some slick lead breaks, badass little palm-muting riffs… and, yes, even a straight up "ballad" ("Slipping", and I always loved that shit). They were probably big fans of Judge or something – also developing bits of that west coast style (at least on this album) that was also being honed by their contemporaries in Outspoken and such along the way. And, man, Rick Rodney's vocals were just the shit: Totally pissed, at times unhinged, and yet quite convincingly emotional (in a good way). There were even subtle hints of melody in there too, so his singing wasn't half bad either (Just check out that fuckin' metal shriek near the end of "Question Mark"!). He was a great fuckin' frontman all around. Great band, too. So I'm just gonna shut up. Listen for yourself:

Strife "Through and Through"
Strife "Lift"
Strife "Still Rise"
Strife "Slipping"
Strife "Question Mark"

Unlike so many other 90's hardcore jewels, this one remains readily available (Victory Records is still good for somethin'), so if you missed out 13 years ago, you know what to do:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

As for that "standalone gem" mentioned above, "Untitled" – which was on the soundtrack to that movie "Godmoney" (never saw it) that Rick Rodney was in – absolutely crushes everything else Strife did post-"One Truth", and is actually my single favorite Strife track ever. It's one of the most ragingly furious songs I've ever heard in my life, and totally makes you feel like beating the shit out of everyone on the planet. Unsurprisingly, the video's on YouTube, so enjoy… and try not to kill anyone, eh?

God damn, that shit actually gives me chills. The way his voice drops off the first time he screams, "Someone just take me out…", (around 1:58 above) makes me fuckin' lose it. Amazing. Fuckin' amazing.

The song was later released on Strife's "Truth Through Defiance" collection, so buy that shit, too. It's worth the price for this track alone, I shit you not.

Nothing today…

Posted on Thursday, April 12th, 2007 @ 8:29am » permalink

Hopefully tomorrow.

'Nuff said.

v/a "Dave Parasite Presents: Pop Punk's Not Dead" compilation CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 @ 8:02am » permalink

v/a - Dave Parasite Presents: Pop Punk's Not Dead - compilationI don't know who "Dave Parasite" is (other than, I assume, a member of the Parasites – the final band on this CD), but kudos to him for putting this thing together (with the help of Go-Kart Records). I haven't followed all that much pop-punk in the last decade, but as a guy who still loves his old NOFX and Lagwagon albums, the prospect of a compilation featuring 30 tracks from 30 such bands (nearly 50% of which happen to be "The" bands: The Spinoffs, The Leftovers, The Scissors, and so on…) in a whopping 71+ minutes is a curious one indeed. And I have to say: Despite the rather unappealing cover art or whatever (it's just not my style is all), this fuckin' thing really does deliver. The United States, Italy, Australia, Japan, England, Belgium, Germany, Canada, and The Netherlands are all represented, with the bulk of the inclusions representing more of an early- to mid-90's kind of sound that I haven't stumbled across from any contemporary bands in quite some time – though apparently The Queers and Boris the Sprinkler are both still active – which is news to me, as I haven't heard those names since, like, 1997 or something! But yeah, expect a healthy dose of simple power chords and punchy bass runs with a bunch of those basic single-string lead melodies and plenty of vocal harmonies – with varying degrees of that snotty/nasally sort of sarcasm present from time to time. Several acts lean more in the direction of a poppy "punk" take on classic 50's/60's rock 'n' roll riffs and vocal arrangements, while a very select few start to get a little "heavier" in terms of guitar tones or integrating some subtle dissonance into their chord phrasings and stuff like that, but there aren't many frills happening here: The title basically says it all. Sure, sometimes a number of the contributors can start to sound rather similar to one another, what with every track being around two to three minutes long (three-and-a-half minutes tops) and all of the bands working with similar building blocks, but some tracks are faster and more energetic than others, some recordings are a little rougher around the edges (i.e. less effective) than others, etc. I'm a fucking sucker for catchy songs, though, and while not every track's a true keeper here, there's not a bad tune in the bunch. Any compilation containing so many songs can be a chore to conquer in one sitting, and this one's no different in that regard, but it does play through pretty solidly, and there are absolutely a handful of bands herein that I'd damn sure like to hear more from, so… mission accomplished!

The Leftovers "Camel"
Guff "Change"
The Unknown "Seven"
Bambix "Little Less Drunk"

Hey, it's only $8 straight from the label, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as well, so… if you like what you hear, fuckin' buy one:

@ Go-Kart Records

Cassius and Since the Flood…

Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007 @ 7:46am » permalink

Cassius - I Am Jim JonesRecorded way back in November of 2004 but not released until earlier this year by Lifeforce Records, "I Am Jim Jones" is the debut full-length from Cassius – another band from here in Richmond, VA that I wasn't familiar with, though I believe some of these guys were in a band called This Present Darkness in the late-90's that I saw live a few times back before I swore off going to shows. In which case they've come a long way, as this album displays a much improved brand of diverse yet cohesive contemporary metalcore that blends chugging midpaced breaks and grinding picking patterns with speedy bursts of chaotic dissonance and subtly abstract guitar textures; while most of the vocals are scathing shouts/screams, with the occasional appearance of some surprisingly guttural growls. In a way it sort of sounds like Zao meets Converge (sort of – that's just a loose reference point), but heavier and with a more in your face sense of density, which isn't but so surprising given the current climate of this niche of the "metalcore" realm, so there are definitely a few death metal-leaning accoutrements (very few of which resemble the melodic side of the whole Swedish boom). However, there are a few instrumental interludes throughout the album that explore a more experimental direction in terms of bringing in an array of loose electronic textures (be they harsher distorted sounds or more chilled out ambient tones) against clean guitars, heavily manipulated percussion, etc. – so there's definitely more to it than that. Certainly a promising debut: It's one of those things where you can't necessarily deem it "original", but you can tell that they're pushing for something a little left of center, and they break into some pretty fierce moments in the process. Not bad at all…

Cassius "Funeral March"
Cassius "Home"

As always, I encourage you to buy the album for yourself if you like what you hear:

@ Lifeforce Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Since the Flood - No CompromiseIt's somewhat of an odd reality that some of the better releases I've heard from the Metal Blade Records camp in recent years are from bands like Since the Flood that are more aligned with hardcore than metal, as "metallic" as some of their influences may be. "No Compromise", the band's first outing for said label, is actually much better than their decent yet ultimately flawed debut – taking their brand of relatively straightforward metallic hardcore and presenting it with a punchier recording (though there's still room for tweaking) that gives the basslines a nice, thudding presence and makes for a more pissed off, in your face, and powerful delivery overall. It's basically built around a core of Madball-esque NYHC groove given a more "contemporary" sounding Terror meets Hatebreed attack in terms of the ferocity of the vocals and the recording textures, not to mention the metal-based aesthetic of some of the riffing – little of which strays too far from the 90's form of "metalcore" that I personally adore, aside from a few scarce hints at subtle melody throughout the disc. So, yeah, expect few "frills": It's 12 tracks in about 32 minutes, with loads of fast-paced power chords and thrashy, chugging picking patterns scattered with pit-inducing breakdowns and viciously burly vocals that have definitely stepped things up a notch this time. I can't complain… this is pretty good stuff.

Since the Flood "Listen"
Since the Flood "At the End"

Downloading is cheesy. Pick it up if this is your thing:

@ Metal Blade Records
@ RevHQ

It Prevails "The Inspiration" CD

Posted on Monday, April 9th, 2007 @ 7:38am » permalink

It Prevails - The InspirationHaving never heard of Portland, OR's It Prevails before, and not being very familiar with the Rise Records roster, I wasn't really expecting much from "The Inspiration". But I have to say, as soon as I popped this fucker in I was relatively shocked, and hooked from the start, as the band cranks out 10 concise tracks of the best possible form of contemporary metalcore in a mere half-hour. Stylistically quite reminiscent of Shai Hulud (one of my favorite bands of all time) and Misery Signals, there's a ton of tactfully technical riffing that utilizes lots of interaction between dual guitar parts as well as roving basslines, so expect a good number of time/tempo changes and shifts between lightly chunky rhythms and loads of intense melodies. And aside from one or two quick moments late in the disc (which are guest spots anyway) there's no singing, just straight up screaming or shouting vocals that actually possess a real sense of sincerity – so there are no "emo" sounding choruses or any of that commonplace bullshit. It's just truly powerful songwriting that results in a great example of passionate, energetic metallic hardcore. Aside from the fact that the layout's not all that engaging (perhaps another factor in why the album's contents far exceeded my expectations) they've basically got everything nailed down: The recording's nice and crisp with a great bass presence and just the right amount of burly heaviness to counter the constant melodic backbone of the compositions, the vocals sound super fierce without losing feeling, and the lyrics carry just the sort of explorations you'd expect given the character of the music:

And we strive, to survive. We can't grasp the concept that we will die. We throw stones at the beckoning hands that will one day wash us away, we shove them down our throats with water two times a day. Because we're surrounded by things that always die, we can't comprehend anything infinite. That this world will carry on without us. But our resents will lift, our burdens will disappear, and our consciousness will fade.

Great shit. I'm all over this record and can't wait to hear more from these cats. I don't know if this is their debut album or what, but I'm sold. Awesome.

It Prevails "Explanation: Content"
It Prevails "An Anomaly"

Absolutely recommended, so make the grab if these jams hit the spot:

@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Merciless Death "Evil in the Night" CD

Posted on Friday, April 6th, 2007 @ 7:56am » permalink

Merciless Death - Evil in the NightI picked up "Evil in the Night", the debut from California thrash trio Merciless Death, on whim since the Ed Repka cover art is fucking awesome. That's a good sign, as I haven't bought many albums for the cover art alone since I was a little kid first getting into Iron Maiden or whatever, but still, I had my doubts as to whether or not it would deliver. I believe this is the first release for the relatively new label Heavy Artillery, and you just never know, right? Well, I'm pleased to report that this whole "thrash revival" thing finally seems to be paying off, as more and more bands are taking the steps necessary to adhere as closely as possible to the 80's thrash aesthetic, and Merciless Death is damn sure one of those bands. I mean, shit, they even wear jeans, jean and leather jackets, and white high-tops; and there's a huge photo collage on the inside of the booklet that looks so old school I can't believe it. Seriously, these kids just look 80's… it's fuckin' weird!

As for the music, look for a succinct eight tracks in about 26 minutes that keep things pretty consistent in terms of moderately fast tempos, sneering vocal yells, and quick, often mildly chaotic lead bursts. Much of the riffing reminds me of a "Show No Mercy" era Slayer with more of the raw aggression of the "Hell Awaits" period, though the more in your face vocal approach helps to keep them from sounding too much like Slayer or anything like that. Plus, they're not really going for "catchy" songwriting or anything, so despite some solid, "hooky" riffs here and there where they briefly ease up on the speed, they pretty much go for the throat with a slew of fast riffs, basic vocal arrangements, and classically oriented early-80's thrash compositional tactics. No frills, really, and that's fine by me. Hell, just look at the lyrics:

Masses chant an evil spell, Raising souls from which they fell, Sadistic force of unholy rule, More souls into deadly hell, Under… the executioner's command!

The recording is of course on the intentionally rugged side, but I have no quarrels there. They give the bass just enough room, the drums sound pretty dry and natural, and it's a fairly balanced approach given the niche of dated appeal that they're shooting for. And I've already mentioned the badass cover art, so… they've covered all the bases here. I'm impressed, and already looking forward to more. Hear for yourself:

Merciless Death "Ready to Kill"

I believe the label's next release is going to be a new record from Avenger of Blood, which is fuckin' great, so I'll be keeping an eye on their future output without a doubt. Definitely support their efforts with a purchase if you like what you hear:

@ The End Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Said and Done and Heartfelt…

Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2007 @ 7:47am » permalink

Said and Done - EverydayFormerly known as Stab Back (whose sole EP, "Breaking Out", I never got the chance to hear), this Dutch outfit is now operating as Said and Done, and I had been looking forward to hearing their debut "full-length" (12 tracks, 25 minutes, good enough), "Everyday" (on Shield Recordings), for awhile now. And sure enough, it delivers in full, with loads of diverse yet still relatively straightforward hardcore – complete with token power chords, plodding bass runs, punchy midpaced rhythms, and even some nice little lead breaks. Inspired by the likes of the Cro-Mags and Bad Brains (among others), oddly enough they sound not so similar to either of those bands, but rather a number of other worldwide hardcore acts in recent years who are also inspired by said legends. They're rockin' a relatively dry recording that gives the bass just enough room to roam around, opting for a natural sense of depth and texture as opposed to overly crunchy "heaviness" or anything like that. This is especially beneficial for the vocals, which have a pretty unique vibe happening in terms of shouting/yelling in key or however you want to describe it. I don't know, for whatever reason I just love the vocals, and they really help to additionally build upon the band's own identity, which is great. It's cool, because for the most part this is fairly traditionally-based stuff, but it doesn't sound like some retro old school throwback at all, nor is it particularly "metallic", so… hey, fuck it, listen for yourselves. I'm way into it.

Said and Done "Reflections"
Said and Done "Use Your Head"

Unfortunately I don't think this one's available from any US distributors at the moment (if I'm wrong, please correct me), so contact the band and/or the label for ordering information. Hopefully they'll start garnering some more attention soon, though, 'cause this is definitely one of the best European hardcore records I've encountered as of late. Great work.

Heartfelt - Take It or Leave ItAlso from The Netherlands and on Shield Recordings is Heartfelt, whose latest outing, "Take It or Leave It", cranks out 14 tracks of energetic melodic hardcore in just 24 minutes. They definitely keep things short but sweet (no song hits three minutes), so expect plenty of fast, old school-influenced hardcore breaks accented by occasional forays into octave chords or subtly more "technical" melodic riffing – flirting with a scarce amount of post-hardcore dissonance here and there. The vocals are basically straight up yelling, but there's a faint tinge of melody tucked away in there that goes right along with the music. As a four-piece they keep things a little more stripped down than some of their contemporaries, which could work either way depending on how you look at it. I'm certainly not complaining, but I will admit that I could envision the band hitting on a little more creativity and melodic force with two guitar players – especially if they started layering some of their more involved riffing over the standard rhythms. Regardless, it may not be particularly original, but fuck if I care. They leave no time for getting bored, simply tearing right through and keeping the momentum going, so this is a very solid offering that bodes well for Heartfelt's future output. Good stuff.

Heartfelt "Architect"
Heartfelt "Deceased"

As above, I'm not seeing this one around at distros here in the US yet, so contact the band or the label to see about getting your hands on the disc.

Insicknia "Now Entering…" CD

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 @ 7:42am » permalink

Insicknia - Now Entering...Originally formed in 1995 under the name of Utopia and weathering numerous lineup changes (and another band name in Torn Apart) before resurfacing as Insicknia for this self-released debut full-length, this Danish outfit exhibits a rather promising blend of modern extreme metal on "Now Entering…" – reminiscent of a more stripped down and rhythmically charged Darkane meets Soilwork, with scattered hints of The Haunted or even Extol for good measure. That is to say that you'll find bits and pieces of midpaced "new school" thrash and plenty of thick, dissonantly melodic riffing that's sort of a Machine Head-esque take on the melodic Swedish style – not to mention loads of chunky power chord grooves and some excellent melodic solos, as well as the obligatory vocal sneers so prevalent within such niches these days. There's room for improvement of course, I mean, for example, I'm not wild on the artwork, and the production suffers (albeit mildly) from some of the standard pitfalls that often come along with the budget constraints of self-released recordings, but overlooking these minimal shortcomings it's quite simple to imagine what this band would be capable of with a little more support from some sort of label or a hint more of a financial boost in the studio somehow. There are any number of loosely comparable bands currently signed to the Nuclear Blasts and Century Medias of the world that possess less potential than Insicknia in terms of quality of riffs and forthright songwriting arrangements alone, so… hey, like I said, there's room for improvement, but there's also some great shit happening here that really does show some real potential. It's not the most original thing in the world, but I'm less and less concerned with that sort of thing at this point in time. As long as there's something at work that hits me on some level, I can appreciate it, and there are some damn solid riffs on this album, so I certainly wish the band all the best in their future endeavors.

Insicknia "Prophets of the Burning Bush"
Insicknia "Lesson One"

Get directly in touch with the band for ordering information if you like what you hear. You can try to contact 'em via MySpace as well. Not bad.

Sofy Major "s/t" CD

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2007 @ 8:04am » permalink

Sofy Major - s/tThis self-titled EP (on Argghh!! Records) is the impressive proper debut from Sofy Major – yet another promising French act that delves into the noisier realms of metallic/post-hardcore with loads of caustic guitar textures and clashing chord phrasings, harsh vocal screams, and a solid rhythmic core that drives the bulk of the songwriting. The material's certainly not devoid of melody, however, as even some of the lightly distorted basslines carry a certain tinge of melody beneath the surface; while the presence of some softer passages that utilize glitchy electronics and fluid ambient undercurrents – as well as some socio-politically oriented samples – creates a darker sort of atmosphere that's very effective in the grand scheme of things. I'd certainly classify their sound as one that would fit in nicely amongst the rosters of excellent French labels like Basement Apes and Radar Swarm, that's for sure. The recording also has a dry, stripped down sort of feel to it that fits the tone of the music rather well; while the nice, simple artwork with entirely handwritten text rounds things out alongside the often cryptic lyrics:

I awoke from a total sleep blind by sorrow lost in panic. You turned me out nothing to hold me up your trouble came for me. I've never felt that yet, my disgust forms lips on my face. Rubbing my hands over my eyes to keep it far away. Sorry to have fallen where hours hushed up. Sorry to have fallen in a decline among many. Too sick to laugh and no place to flee.

In the end it's seven tracks in just over 31 minutes that create an artfully suggestive (while still abstract) document of Sofy Major's present sense of experimentalism. I'll definitely be curious to hear more from this band in the future…

Sofy Major "Is There Any Way Out?"

I don't think there's any distribution in the US at the moment, so the CD EP is available direct from the band – as is the 12" edition on transparent red vinyl – so definitely make the grab if this is your thing:

@ Sofy Major