If you enjoy(ed) Aversionline, please check out No Echo, a new music site I co-run. Updated daily.

Hennes Siste Høst "Høst" CD

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008 @ 8:08am » permalink

Hennes Siste Høst - Høst"Høst" is the rather fucking stunning debut full-length from Minnesota's Hennes Siste Høst on Init Records, and I have to say that I was really quite shocked to see this material coming from a label that I'd never have expected to delve into the black metal realm. Of course, I was initially unsure of what to expect, as the visual aesthetic (impossible to read logo and all) certainly suggests black metal, but three-and-a-half-minute opener "Jevndoegnet" consists solely of sparse piano and whispered vocals with subtle little glitches of distortion and such, so I thought for a second there that this might be one of those experimental noise artists that simply flirts with black metal imagery. But thankfully (though the introductory piece is quite nice) the remaining six tracks explore some truly creative, atmospheric, and above all moving (though honestly I find the lyrics to be incredibly lacking considering how impressive everything else is) black metal in about an hour's time.

The work is the vision of primary member Zander Ness, who handles basically all of the writing duties, as well as the vast majority of the performances on record (live he does the bass and vocals), and should appeal to fans of Weakling, early Ulver, early Agalloch (And those are loose reference points, okay? I'm trying to make the point that this is melodic, has a lot of emphasis, and is fucking awesome, got it?), and any brand of cold, furious, Scandinavian-influenced black metal that explores a lot of spacious, textured riffing and fiercely screamed vocals – with a good balance of moderate tempos and even some unexpected time signatures and almost jazzy/progressive riffs that remind me of bands like Clockhammer or something!? That may sound completely strange, but trust me when I assure you that it all sounds fully logical and cohesive within the confines (or lack thereof) of these compositions. The variety never strays too far, and the quality of the riffs is just fuckin' insane. I can't speak highly enough of the guitar work or how surprised I am by the general nature of the effectiveness of the songwriting here.

But now the part where I have to be brutally honest, which I haven't had to do in awhile. Lyrically there's a theme, and certain passages aren't bad, but then there's shit like this, which just totally obliterates any potential the lyrics might have had for me:

I draw the shades, and pull my switchblade. We fucked on manes, the floor, their graves. We went all the way. She sucked me dry under the stars… She sells sex by the sea. She sells sex straight to me…

I mean, I can't really understand a damn word of the actual vocal performance on the album anyway, so it doesn't disrupt the listen in the least, but I mean… what the fuck!? That shit's cheesier and more irritating than a lot of the usual satanic junk that comes along with this genre. Certainly a letdown considering how fucking top-notch the riffs, performances, songwriting, and musical feeling of the album are as a whole. I was really hoping for some lyrics that had a more personal touch, something that I might be able to identify with in any way, since the music is so far beyond what the vast majority of black metal has to offer.

But that's what really matters at the end of the day anyway, and from a musical standpoint this an absolutely outstanding album that's definitely one of the best black metal records I've heard in several months. I think it was released in 2007, though, otherwise I'd have speculated that it'd easily be among the best black metal releases of 2008 – even this early in the year. So, overall: Superb. Most recommended.

Hennes Siste Høst "Desember"

Purchase:

@ Init Records
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Fight Amp "Hungry for Nothing" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2008 @ 7:41am » permalink

Fight Amp - Hungry for Nothing"Hungry for Nothing" is the debut full-length from New Jersey's Fight Amp (formerly known, more "officially" perhaps, as Fight Amputation, which does have a little less of a ring to it, I guess) on Translation Loss, and this is definitely the band's finest work to date. Everything's really falling into place now, from the killer recording and the tightness of the performances, to the balance of styles and influences and the way everything meshes together within compact timeframes (the entire album's just eight tracks in about 32 minutes). Whereas they started out with a lot of obvious His Hero is Gone types of influences, now all of those reference points are much more general, and they're coming into their own by diversifying quite a bit – but without losing a sense of cohesion or anything like that. They still possess that dark kind of hardcore/punk undercurrent, with a gruff multi-vocal attack and some chugging rhythms and massive, plodding basslines, but then there are also some dissonant post-hardcore types of textures and noisier Amphetamine Reptile types of twists and turns that come as a little more of a surprise, while still blending perfectly with the general landscape of what's going on here. It's cool, because while there are similar bands out there, in a lot of ways it kind of feels like Fight Amp's not trying to be the "heaviest", nor the most "rocked out", nor the most "experimental"… they're not trying to be "the most" anything, really. And that works, because everything comes naturally and they can just do what they do best, which is write strong songs and capture them with an excellent recording. Great artwork, too. Good stuff all around. As usual I'm left feeling like I should say more, but… hey, it's a slick record and I'm hoping the track below will encourage some of you to go and pick it up for yourselves.

Fight Amp "Dumb Luck"

Purchase:

@ Translation Loss
@ Relapse Records
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

Starkweather "Into the Wire" CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 @ 6:45am » permalink

Starkweather - Into the WireA little over a month ago when I asked for recommendations, a few people suggested I start posting about some of my all time favorites, so… here's one of 'em – and mid-week, because, well, it's been that kind of week. I've posted about Starkweather in the past, and I'm sure I'll do so again in the future, but "Into the Wire" is absolutely among my top five favorites ever in the history of life (probably more like top three, really). I don't think I first picked this one up until '96 or so (it was released in '95), and I remember at first I didn't quite "get it", nor do I remember exactly when it did finally hit me. But somewhere along the line, I did fucking get it, and now every single minute of this release from start to finish is just like some kind of insane cathartic release of pent up depression, rage, and general insanity. Seriously, there are multiple moments throughout this album that just make you see red and send chills through your spine as you kind of blank out in a hypnotic trance or something, it's just that fucking powerful. I'm fairly certain I've furiously damaged or destroyed my own property at least a couple of times in my life while any number of these tracks were playing. I'm not saying I'm proud of that fact, but… to me, that speaks incredibly fucking highly of this material.

Plus, the last few months have been one of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden times I've ever endured for some twisted fucking reason, and when those times sink in, this album always seems to get some airtime. I don't know what it is, but when you feel like you've got a vice around your head/neck and glass in your stomach, and everything around you just seems kinda fucked, something about this album just fits. It's fucking perfect. I'm not poetic enough with words to even begin to do justice to the level of absolutely unparalleled brilliance these songs achieve, but everything falls into place so damn amazingly here that it just blows my mind time and time again. It's such a heavy task for me that it's almost like I'd have to sit here and spend five hours citing specific riffs and passages song by song, there's just too much mastery too go around. I mean, shit, even the opening minute of feedback that kicks off "Shroud" is fuckin' sick… the way the drums kick in (this record marks possibly my favorite drum performance ever, by the way), the way it transitions into the first chord… all gold… all gold. And don't even get me started on the generally raging badassedness of the riffs (just the weird coldness of the guitar tone, the feeling, etc.) or the absolutely unstoppable vocal performance (probably the most unique, primal, and genuinely emotional vocals ever recorded, in my personal opinion).

Like I said, I can't do this shit justice. Not even close. I can barely even decide what songs to post (they're all utterly amazing), much less keep myself from getting distracted while I sit here trying to type as I listen to 'em. These have definitely been some of the most moving songs out there for me over the course of my life…

Starkweather "Shroud"
Starkweather "Into the Wire"

Oh, and you simply can't talk Starkweather without talkin' lyrics. Here are a few quick gems from this disc:

Spent years deadening my nerves, turn violence inward…

Sifting through remnants of what you left behind. Reopening scars to see what I find. Dignity torn, ripped to shreds, innocence lost, nothing remains. Sifting through remnants of what you left behind. Dignity torn, ripped to shreds, open wounds never mend…

Spare me the pain of love. Each day I reach a new low. I took the low road to zero. I know you're just like me, you bear the mark, the stain. I know you're just like me, together we'll share our misery…

I believe Candlelight's gonna reissue this one at some point, but it's still out of print at the moment. You can pick it up used at Amazon for a few bucks for the time being if for some unfortunate reason you're still without it, though. I know Starkweather's one of those love/hate bands, but… man, get on board, people. For the love of all things sacred, this band deserves your respect and admiration on every possible level…

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com

Battletorn "Terminal Dawn" CD

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008 @ 6:41am » permalink

Battletorn - Terminal DawnBattletorn has been around for several years now, and while I'm sure I've heard their work in the past, I'm fairly certain this is the first time I've heard an entire release, and I must say I'm quite taken aback by the result. Even on CD (with tracks from the "Burn Fast" 7" included as a bonus), "Terminal Dawn" (released by Mad at the World Records) blazes through a whopping 22 tracks in less than 18 minutes, so… do the math, folks: There are only three songs on the entire disc that pass the minute mark. I've never been a fan of the band's crude artwork, but I admire the fact that they have an immediately recognizable and consistent visual aesthetic of their own. And that's where the whole "taken aback" thing comes in, 'cause when you see these awkwardly drawn record covers and the logo with the swords and shit, I mean, come on, you're immediately expecting some kind of full-on metal-based attack – shtick or otherwise. But that's not what this band is about at all. A duo of just drums and guitar/vocals since late-2005, I really don't think I could call this metal. There's certainly a metal influence present here and there, but the overall approach is one much more rooted in fast, in your face hardcore/punk. That's really all there is to it. The writing consists almost entirely of blasting drums, dense, fast-paced power chords, and over the top shouting/yelling vocals. There's a certain sense of explosiveness to the speed, brevity, and aggression of the whole thing that kind of has an almost powerviolence-esque quality to it somehow (with regard to the recording as well), but I wouldn't necessarily go there either, you know? It's strange, but it's cool, because it throws you for a loop, and you have to respect that. Because they're almost making you expect this, like, generic thrash metal lowest common denominator or something, and then you pop the fucker in and they beat you in the face with a bunch of dirty, blazing hardcore. And it's fucking good, too!

Battletorn "Cutthroat"
Battletorn "Throne"
Battletorn "Hellbender"

Purchase:

@ Mad at the World Records
@ Interpunk

Six Feet Deep "The Road Less Traveled" CD

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2008 @ 6:48am » permalink

Six Feet Deep - The Road Less TraveledApparently Six Feet Deep was relatively significant/influential in the early christian hardcore scene, which was news to me, and back in the day I actually never even really knew this band was so far into the whole christian thing for a long time, I guess because I had been somewhat lazy about paying attention to some of their lyrics. And no, I'm not into that stuff, nor am I a fan of "religious" hardcore (or metal, or anything), but if I'm gonna listen to Deicide and countless death/black metal bands spout off a bunch of satanic nonsense that I don't give two shits about (not to mention legends like the Bad Brains, or all those krishna hardcore bands, among which you could arguably include one of my all-time favorites, the Cro-Mags), I see no reason not to listen to badass bands who happy to have lyrics pertaining to Jesus or whatever. So… yeah. Point made. Thus ends my discussion of that aspect of Six Feet Deep's background. (Okay, almost, I think I'll end up mentioning it one more time, but such is life…)

Six Feet Deep was formed in the early-90's in the Cleveland-ish area of Ohio, and many Integrity/Clevo hardcore fans probably remember them for their track "Angry Son" on the "Dark Empire Strikes Back" compilation in '94 (see below as a bonus, that version of the song fucking kills). "The Road Less Traveled" was their second and final full-length for R.E.X. Records, released in 1996 right around the time the label apparently went out of business, thus kicking off the unfortunate dissolution of the band. While their early work was more "chugga" oriented, and that angle was maintained to some degree herein, these songs were much more melodic and developed, and I always loved the shit outta this album, which was my first real exposure to their work (I only grabbed a used reissue of their first record off of Amazon.com a few days ago!). I assume I originally picked this one up because of that track on "Dark Empire Strikes Back", but I honestly have no recollection whatsoever of how I stumbled onto this record, because I don't think it was really carried by any smaller hardcore distros or anything back then. I really just can't recall.

But whatever the case, something about the songwriting always seemed perfectly balanced to me. There's a lot of meatiness to the guitars, with just the right amount of subtle groove and chug to the rhythms, the hardcore influences are rarely obvious, but the metal-based riffing isn't overly blatant or anything either, the melody is occasionally up front but never straddles that "pseudo emo" line that so many bands were walking at the time (although I never really thought that was a bad thing), the vocals sound pretty unique… I don't know, it's just a great fuckin' record. Even the "ballad", "Broken Tree", complete with chorused clean guitars and singing, is just an incredible fucking song – even if its lyrics are what originally tipped me off to the band's, ummm, "leanings", what with some line about "in Christ…" something or other. But still… awesome fucking song, seriously. Great music is great music, that's all there is to it, and this band was always severely underrated in my opinion. I'm guessing that a lot of the people who read this site aren't going to be too familiar with this album, and if that's the case, hopefully some of you will appreciate it. This shit totally stands the test of time, in my opinion.

Six Feet Deep "Purify"
Six Feet Deep "More in Sorrow…"

And, for the aforementioned bonus, from the " Dark Empire Strikes Back" compilation:

Six Feet Deep "Angry Son"

You can't get this one for a penny either (Two in a row!?), but you can get it for less than a buck, so… I highly recommend it. Highly.

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com
@ Amazon.com (a later pressing, in case the cheap prices at the first link run out)

Arson Anthem "s/t" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008 @ 7:31am » permalink

Arson Anthem - s/tArson Anthem features quite a fuckin' lineup, what with Mike Williams on vocals, Phil Anselmo on guitar, Collin Yeo on bass, and Hank III on drums, so I'm not even gonna sit here and list off the members' other exploits, because there's a serious problem if you're not already aware of the vast majority of 'em, yeah? The band's debut eight-track EP on Housecore Records was released a few days ago and runs but a mere 11 minutes, ripping and tearing through some absolutely scathing old school-influenced hardcore/punk with little tinges of crossover and some of those generally warped Superjoint Ritual-esque guitar textures thrown in for good measure. Expect loads of blasting beats, plenty of speed (but not without some breathing room), a few dead-on classic 80's hardcore breaks, distorted vocals, a hint of sludge, and a whole lotta dirt 'n' grime. It doesn't sound that bad, but it really is kinda like a hardcore version of "Transilvanian Hunger" from a production standpoint. Initially I definitely found myself wishing that the recording was just a hint more "polished" (for lack of a better term), but now that the songs are growing on me, it's not really an issue. I'll say this, though: They may be aligning their "direction" (in one way or another) with Negative Approach, Poison Idea, Void, etc., but this shit is definitely 10 times harsher, nastier, and more in your face than that style of hardcore/punk. No song hits two minutes, the general vibe is pretty damn unhinged, and they pretty much take care of business and then pack up with no bullshit. The cover art pretty much blows, though, I must say. I don't really give a shit, because there are some raging tunes present (Music first!), but I definitely could've gone for some typical looking black and white Discharge-styled art or something (even if it has been done to death). I dunno, fuck it. This is good stuff in my book, so I'll be looking forward to hearing more and seeing where this project heads down the road…

Arson Anthem "Wrecked Like Clockwork"

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

Landmine Marathon/Scarecrow split CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 @ 6:42am » permalink

Landmine Marathon/Scarecrow - splitThe latest from Level-Plane is a six-track, 32-minute split bearing three tracks apiece from Phoenix, AZ's Landmine Marathon and California's Scarecrow. Landmine Marathon's up first, and I had somehow forgotten just how vicious their brand of totally Bolt Thrower-esque death/grind truly is, with its churning midpaced rhythms, dense melodies, and of course the absolutely seething vocals topping it all off. They tend to keep things fairly consistent from track to track, which suits me just fine, and for the most part their writing tactics really do strike me as classic Bolt Thrower with a hint more speed here and there (and of course a different and more diverse vocal approach), but they do what they do incredibly well, and I need to go pull out "Wounded" again and revisit that shit sometime soon! Scarecrow then follows, and though their lineup features members who've also worked with Exhumed, Dekapitator, Repulsion, Noothgrush, Vicious Rumors, and Cut-Throats 9, among others (many of which can be attributed to guitarist/vocalist extraordinaire Matt Harvey, who proves increasingly diverse in his talents here), don't expect a super extreme, grinding counterpart to either Landmine Marathon or some of the members' other acts. Instead you'll get three surprisingly long tracks (all running from five to 7+ minutes) of thrashy old school metal that's rife with galloping picking patterns, guitar harmonies, and slick lead breaks – all fronted by straightforward vocals that are kind of like a strained yell with vague hints of singing going on. It's an interesting mix of influences, because on the one hand a lot of the stuff does sound a lot like classic Bay Area thrash from a riffing/songwriting standpoint, but then at the same time there are a lot of melodies and dual guitar harmonies that have more of that NWOBHM kind of thing going on, and that kind of shifts the vibe a little bit. The recording sounded too thin to me at first, but as my ears adjusted to it I actually started to like the production. It does still kind of feel like a little something's missing, but the guitar tone's got a nice crunch to it, there's a lot of clarity, and even though the mix is a little on the thin side, you can hear the basslines and everything feels pretty damn balanced, so… maybe just giving the percussion a little more oomph and cleaning things up around the edges just a little would help out? I don't know. I'm intrigued by this band, though, because the songs are really cool, and it's just kind of unexpected overall, so it feels like there's a lot of potential here.

Landmine Marathon "Skin From Skull"
Scarecrow "The Scum Also Rises"

The disc is only $6, which is pretty damn cheap, even for an EP, so… make the grab if you like what you hear.

Purchase:

@ Level-Plane

Army of Flying Robots "Life is Cheap" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 @ 6:49am » permalink

Army of Flying Robots - Life is Cheap"Life is Cheap" is the debut full-length from spastic UK outfit Army of Flying Robots on SuperFi Records, after a rather prolific run of splits and such that were collected on an early discography CD that I covered here last year. And to their credit, Army of Flying Robots is still not an easy band to categorize, as they simply cover so much ground. Their tracks range from one-minute bursts of explosive, grinding chaos to 4+ minute excursions through slower, more melodic territory that also touches on some darker, more dissonant riffing that has a more sinister, menacing undercurrent happening. As I mentioned in my last write-up on the band, I still hear some of that "chuggingly frenetic" Catharsis style (and this time around I'd probably toss a little Gehenna in the mix as well), along with a good dose of that "wild 'n' crazy" Acme riffing, and I can't not mention "screamo" with regard to the sheer intensity of the vocals, but also in relation to some of the caustic yet eerily melodic guitar textures that creep into tracks like "Embodiment" or "Fimbulvetr". The material is often heavy and chugging, but without coming across as something I'd comfortably classify as particularly "metal". But you certainly can't deny the presence of an obvious hardcore influence in many of the chord progressions and structural backbones, even if that influence is delivered in a rather mangled and nonstandard fashion thanks to the complete ferocity of the textures and noisiness of the delivery. It's curious shit, though, with – as usual – killer artwork, cool lyrics, and succinct song explanations that get to the point and put things across in a manner that I can really appreciate (even the socio-political messages are dealt in a sincere and personal fashion that really works). 11 tracks in 28 minutes, and there you have it. Normally my ears can be kind of picky about this particular style, but there's something about this band… they must really know exactly what the hell they're doing, because everything seems to fall right into place. Well done.

Army of Flying Robots "Tamerlane's Example"
Army of Flying Robots "Fimbulvetr"

Purchase:

@ SuperFi Records
@ Crucial Blast
@ Mad at the World Records

Best. Blog. Ever.

Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2008 @ 10:13am » permalink

I don't know if people actually check out the links in my sidebar over there or not, but anyone who has ever been a metal fan (and really anyone who has a good sense of humor period) simply has to check out this Metal Inquisition site. That shit has gotta be by far one of the greatest blogs ever in the history of mankind. I only discovered it a few weeks ago, and since then I've literally gone back and read every single post they've made, which I pretty much never do for any blog. The videos and random shit they dig up is all just pure gold, and their commentary is borderline genius on many occasions. Absolute entertainment. I could seriously read that shit all day, and I can't fathom why they aren't getting loaded up with comments. Some of my personal favorites:

Wikipedia fascists deleted my entry on WIGGER SLAM METAL

Glen Benton Has A Webcam

And these two are related. For some reason this dude made me laugh out loud, at work, uncontrollably. I have no idea why, but I was dying:

Cemetary gates

File under: Who gives a shit.

Seriously, when a blog's "tags" are even comedy gold, you just know you're onto something. This site is totally the shit. Completely brilliant.

Shift "Spacesuit" CD

Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008 @ 7:51am » permalink

Shift - SpacesuitNot that I've ever had many friends who were into much of the same music as me (or "many friends" at all for that matter), but I've never really known many people who were into Shift, and that pains me, because when I think about it, I've actually always been a really, really huge fan of this band. I saw them live at least one time way back when – I can't for the life of me remember who with – but it was a fucking dead zone, without a doubt one of the worst "crowds" I've ever had the great displeasure of being a part of, and I distinctly remember feeling so shitty and uncomfortable for the band. Because they were so fuckin' great, but they were playing to a half-empty room of ingrates that wouldn't have known good music if it crawled directly into their ears and fucking died. But hey, I sincerely enjoyed it. I think I bought a shirt, though my memory sucks. But I know I had a Shift t-shirt from the time of this album, and I know I wore it so much that I sadly no longer have it because it deteriorated to the point of being unwearable, which has only happened to me a handful of times in my entire life (I'm pretty sure I still have my Cynic "Focus" shirt somewhere, and I'm pretty sure I could still wear it somewhat comfortably if I really wanted to).

Yes, I'm rambling, but barely anyone reads this shit anyway. I lost 25% of my readers when they saw this post's album cover, another 25% when they figured out that this one isn't metal or hardcore (probably because the album is non-aggressively titled "Spacesuit", which is simply not "tough" in any way), and another 25% when I just openly admitted that this one isn't metal or hardcore (because they hadn't figured it out yet – and the metal fans saw Cynic mentioned, so they were hanging on out of curiosity). Or maybe I've just been missing the open-mindedness a little lately, eh?

Point is, as usual: This band rules, and more people should appreciate their work (albeit posthumously).

"Spacesuit" was Shift's debut full-length on Equal Vision Records, released in 1995 (the year following their just-shy-of-equally-awesome debut EP, "Pathos"), a time when post-hardcore and emo/indie rock gelled together perfectly and just kicked ass. 10 tracks in less than 45 minutes makes for a well-focused display of those trademark dissonant rings, pounding basslines and percussive work, and super unique vocals that really helped to separate the band from the pack (though admittedly their overall riffing style always had a little more color and variety to these ears, despite obviously utilizing similar grooves and textures). The songwriting, though, I mean… shit, vocalist/guitarist Josh Loucka is a flat out fuckin' genius all around, 'cause the dude's material is consistently gold. Shift rarely stumbled (on this record "A Thousand Times" is the only minor hitch, and were it not six minutes long it wouldn't affect the continuity in the least), his post-Shift outfit Big Collapse was totally amazing ("Prototype" is a fuckin' 10, no shit, get it. Now.)… I just don't know how the hell people can pull it off. Impressive. I'm not saying enough, which is how it always goes lately, but… such is life.

To me, this is absolutely a "post-hardcore" classic.

Shift "Picturesque"
Shift "Spacesuit"

I'm not sure if bassist Brandon Simpson went on to any other acts or not (the band's MySpace profile doesn't say, but you can check that out for a little more "history"), but as mentioned Loucka ended up in the excellent Big Collapse, while drummer Samantha Maloney went on to play with both Hole and Mötley Crüe (Believe it!), among others. Nuts! Apparently Josh is working on something new as well, so… I for one can't fucking wait for that shit, 'cause I was beyond bummed when I heard that Big Collapse broke up.

And apparently I've broken the cycle, because miraculously you can't get this album for a penny at Amazon.com! You can get it for a couple bucks, though, so that's not too shabby. And it's on the ol' iTunes if you wanna go that route, too, so… I just hope someone out there enjoys it as much as I do.

And if not… you're all crazy!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com
@ iTunes

Hellshock "Shadows of the Afterworld" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2008 @ 7:44am » permalink

Hellshock - Shadows of the AfterworldI couldn't tell you why, but I just haven't been keeping up with much of the "crustier" side of hardcore/punk at all recently, though Portland's Hellshock is among the few bands that can still rope me in pretty easily. Their second full-length, "Shadows of the Afterworld", was originally released on vinyl by Black Water Records back in 2005, and this CD pressing hit the streets in the latter chunk of last year from Crimes Against Humanity Records. I pretty much never listen to vinyl anymore (Go ahead, turn up your noses, see if I care!), so I actually hadn't heard any of this material prior to the CD hitting my mailbox, but as expected the eight tracks tear through loads of heavily UK-influenced chugging, midpaced, metallic hardcore/punk in a little over a half-hour. I'm picking up on some of the Bolt Thrower musical influences a little more often these days, there's not very much blatant, basic D-beat styled hardcore/punk at all (which is fine by me), and the general songwriting sensibilities still revolve around fucking killer riffs when all is said and done. The uses of atmospheric acoustic passages layered with slick leads and prominent, Amebix-esque bass runs (check out the start of "Fathom Unknown") are more melodic than ever now as well. Good stuff. The recording's still on the fairly well balanced side of "rugged", so that nothing's polished up, but things are also far from grating. There's a faint crispness to the guitar tone that gets accentuated during some of the solos, the percussion sounds pretty dry, etc. But for the most part there's a solid chug driving the core rhythms, and the mix is evenly distributed. I still wouldn't mind hearing these guys with one of those "bigger", more fluid types of sounds (like what Amebix had on "Monolith"), but I guess they're content with writing completely badass metal-based riffs, just as long as their sound doesn't get too metal or something. I don't know. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I'm just saying… could you imagine what these guys' material might sound like with those "Monolith" production values? Pretty insane.

Hellshock "Welcome the Void"

Purchase:

@ Crimes Against Humanity Records

Tournament "Swordswallower" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 @ 7:57am » permalink

Tournament - SwordswallowerThe latest from the always intriguing Trip Machine Laboratories is "Swordswallower", the debut EP from Brooklyn, NY's Tournament, which breaks off five tracks of extremely diverse hardcore/punk meets indie/noise rock in 16 minutes, and makes for another fucking stellar release that really took me by surprise. You immediately notice the raw, natural warmth of the recording, which has a great sense of ruggedness to it that really works perfectly with the overall aesthetic of the material (not to mention excellently accentuating the killer vocal work) – actually adding pieces to the puzzle when you look at the big picture. The majority of the songs are short but sweet two-and-a-half-minute bursts of energy, be they driven by rocked out hardcore/punk power chords and distant, furious yelling; sludgy, 70's styled dual guitar runs (believe it); high-speed, borderline chaotic riffing; or even some truly gutwrenching uses of melody and atmosphere that really come at you out of nowhere from time to time. Take, for example, the completely unexpected Interpol meets Planes Mistaken for Stars vibe of the much longer and darker "Traveler", which falls smack in the center of the EP. So… there's a lot going on here, and it's all fucking superb. The disc is housed in a nice, simple screenprinted chipboard digipack with a big matte insert (that also looks screenprinted) for all of the lyrics, so that rounds things out nicely and seals the deal. I'd gush some more, but… just check out the damn track and see for yourselves:

Tournament "The Bad Word"

This one hasn't made the rounds at all the distros yet, so… if the link below's not good enough for you, keep checking around or contact the band/label at the links above for direct ordering information. It's a cheap EP (especially since I'd guess the packaging was on the costly side), so… show some support if you like what you hear. This is great shit…

Purchase:

@ Interpunk

Spearhead "Decrowning the Irenarch" CD

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2008 @ 6:47am » permalink

Spearhead - Decrowning the IrenarchThe band's name may immediately bring to mind fellow UK death metal act Bolt Thrower, as may (to a lesser degree) the album's brief instrumental intro of choral synths over samples of marching feet, clashing metal, and oddly futuristic gunshots, but aside from the fact that the songs' lyrical content is in fact driven exclusively by themes relating to war on some level or another, that's basically where the similarities between the two end. "Decrowning the Irenarch" is the sophomore full-length from Spearhead (on Invictus Productions), and marks my first exposure to the band's heavily Angelcorpse-esque take on the genre. (And, hell no, that ain't a bad thing!) Expect loads of furious tremolo picking and rigidly blasting percussion (though not without a sense of purpose and energy), Helmkamp-like vocal snarls and grunts, and a few slower passages with some solos and the like.

I can't ignore the fact that the backbone of the material is absolutely comparable to Angelcorpse at their peak, but where Spearhead starts to draw some distinction is in the use of a hint more variety and breathing room. Yeah, it's true that speed does tend to dominate the bulk of the compositions, but the lead playing tends to slow things down a hint more often to toss in a little more melody and feeling as opposed to taking the explosive and chaotic road, while the slower breaks tend to strip things down to the roots and provide some space to keep the blasting speeds from beating you over the head too persistently. So, in case I'm not making it clear, I'm not trying to take anything away from Spearhead here. I'm a huge Angelcorpse fan, and these guys are doing enough with this particular niche to where they're not falling into the literalness of "Carcass clone" territory or anything like that, you know? (But even then, think how many of those "Carcass clone" bands over the years have kicked some ass, too, you know? In many cases innovation is quite overrated.)

Lyrically the tone is kind of a mix between a more historically-based take on the Bolt Thrower style of straight-up war, blended with – you guessed it – some Angelcorpse-ish similarities in terms of taking these types of ideas and forming them into much more lofty and philosophical notions, so… it's definitely not your basic blood, guts, hellfire kind of thing at all. And the production's not bad, either. It feels like it's missing just a little something (which, as usual these days, I can't quite seem to put my finger on), but I dig the fact that you can hear the basslines peeking into the back of the mix, and for the most part everything gels nicely and feels full and cohesive. It's a solid outing, no doubt about it, and certainly one that should appeal to fans of Angelcorpse and certain niches of "war metal" (though I've never been much for that term, myself). See what you think:

Spearhead "When the Pillars Fall"
Spearhead "Decrowning the Irenarch"

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find this disc at many of the label's US distributors yet for some reason. So you can also check out sites like Hell's Headbangers, Nuclear War Now!, and Moribund Records in the coming months, or contact the band/label at the links above for more information.

Purchase:

@ Red Stream

Blood From the Soul "To Spite the Gland That Breeds" CD

Posted on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 6:40am » permalink

Blood From the Soul - To Spite the Gland That BreedsHere's another long lost gem that I've been meaning to post about for quite some time now. I mean, am I the only one that ever liked this damn band or something? 'Cause it always seemed like very few people even knew this duo existed, and that always confused the shit outta me. Formed by Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury (who handled all the music) and Sick of it All vocalist Lou Koller, Blood From the Soul was what I guess you'd classify as an "industrial" side project, and this was their sole release. (Though rumor has it there's going to be a second, very different, album at some point, with Mirai from Sigh instead of Lou. This does not interest me in the least. Maybe that makes me an asshole, but sometimes I can live with that.) Released by Earache in early-1994 (within the same general period that Mitch Harris did the first Meathook Seed album with some of the Obituary guys, which I posted about a couple years ago), I never really knew much background information about what brought this album to fruition, but it didn't matter! I was probably about 16 years old, Napalm Death was still riding the wave of what remains my favorite of their albums to this day ("Utopia Banished"), as was Sick of it All with the absolutely classic "Just Look Around" (not to mention that they were probably my favorite hardcore band, period, at the time), and that was all I needed to know. I was sold.

I wasn't a huge fan of "industrial" music (never really have been), but I dug some Ministry stuff, and actually thought this material was even better by comparison. Perhaps because it wasn't going for that grating kind of "crispy" distortion sound or anything, but still employed some of the staple samples, sparse electronics, and drum programming. Whatever the case, there's a lot of cool shit happening in terms of unexpectedly dark, twisted riffing, plenty of tempo changes, and generally gnarly atmospherics that fit the whole vibe of the album fairly well. I feel like a lot of side projects these days leave me feeling quite unsatisfied, but both of these guys really kind of stepped outside of what they were thought of as doing at the time, and the end result doesn't particularly sound anything like what Napalm Death or Sick of it All were known for back then, though it should appeal to open-minded fans of both (which is why it always blew my mind that so few people seemed to know about this album). Shane Embury really displays some fucking talent on this one too, 'cause there are just loads of killer riffs all over the place, and there's a real sense of feeling and emotion to the style of the compositions that colors things up nicely and catches your ear in a manner unlike any other band I can think of, which is pretty damn intriguing – even after all these years. Such an underrated record, this one… I just can't make sense of the world.

Blood From the Soul "The Image and the Helpless"
Blood From the Soul "Suspension of My Disbelief"

Cold and indifferent. A state of burnt offerings. Above it all I lie condemned. Confused and isolated. A thousand lost souls. Their only guidance? No guidance. No guidance at all. Force-fed the notion. Like an impure dream. Refined, dissected, rejected. Just a smile secures my innocence in pursuit of the ideal lie… the ideal lie.

And what's an Aversionline "classic" if it's not available at Amazon for a fucking penny!? It never fails, man! It never fails…

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com

Unseen Force "In Search of the Truth" CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 @ 7:51am » permalink

Unseen Force - In Search of the TruthI was super psyched to learn of this Unseen Force reissue from Vicious Circle Records and Grave Mistake Records, because not only am I a big fan of reissues in general, but it's even cooler when those reissues cover local bands that you were too young to catch the first time around! The "In Search of the Truth" LP was originally released in 1986 as a self-released run of 500 copies on Turbulent Records, and this comprehensive CD reissue also includes live tracks recorded in 1986 on a California radio show (among them a handful of previously unreleased songs), plus the 1984 demo from pre-Unseen Force band 2000 Maniacs (when they were living in State College, PA before relocating to Richmond, VA to form Unseen Force). For the most part the music is straightforward hardcore/punk with just the right balance of a chaotically noisy (though controlled) edge and a faint hint of loosely metallic crossover subtlety happening. It's hardcore "thrashy", but not metal "thrashy", you know? There's a good dose of speed, but it's not in your face fast with no breathing room, there are plenty of those quick little lead breaks, the vocals are straight-up shouting, and every now and then there are some unexpected and fairly non-standard riffs that are probably fairly in keeping with "the Richmond way", so to speak. Every song on the LP is less than three minutes long, and though the live tracks obviously sound a little rough, the unreleased post-LP songs actually show some curious developments in terms of often stretching on for longer lengths, despite building from a similar base as far as tempos and riffing styles go. The 2000 Maniacs material, on the other hand, is basically short, fast, and to the point. Few songs top a minute-and-a-half, and a couple even fall under 10 seconds. The sound is surprisingly thick at times, but the overall writing style is just stripped down to the basics. The booklet includes a collage of a shitload of old flyers and photos, as well as the lyrics to the LP tracks, plus some brief liner notes providing some background information on some of the material's origins, so it's a well-rounded release when all is said and done. And for possibly the first time ever in the history of life, the onesheet that came with this release was actually incredibly interesting and informative. If they're not sending those out to the people that order the CD's, maybe they should!

Unseen Force "Fear"
Unseen Force "Reason to Live"
2000 Maniacs "I Hate to Hate"

Purchase:

@ Grave Mistake Records

Audiopain "The Switch to Turn Off Mankind" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 @ 6:40am » permalink

Audiopain - The Switch to Turn Off MankindI've basically been on the fence about Norwegian thrashers Audiopain prior to this point, but "The Switch to Turn Off Mankind" EP (Vendlus Records) is finally starting to fully win me over with improved songwriting that's both a hint more streamlined and energetic, while also just diverse enough to keep things interesting for six tracks and 27 minutes. For the most part things fall on the moderate side of fast and employ lots of galloping alternate picking patterns with a little bit of that rocked out type of groove. There's not a great deal of technicality or overly excessive extremity happening, so it's that brand of thrash that's definitely hanging onto the tried and true old school heavy metal influence and throwing in little bits and pieces of contemporary flare here and there. For instance, there are some twistedly dissonant out-of-nowhere riffs that flirt with black metal towards the end of "Holy Toxic", and the latter portion of closer "Cobra Dance" similarly busts out an unexpected (and awesome) distorted bass break. The recording's driven by a nice and crispy guitar tone that's actually a very even match against the upper-ranged sneer of the vocals, whereas the basslines just barely start to peak through in the background over the rugged warmth of the percussion. That's not to insinuate that anything sounds flat, though, as the overall aesthetic is actually pretty damn balanced and effective for what they're offering musically. They're still not the catchiest or most memorable band on the planet, but they're certainly stepping up their delivery, and it's cool that they're not really trying to capitalize on any kind of "resurgence" or anything like that. Their style feels very natural, as does the fact that they have their own visual aesthetic, etc. It's a solid listen, and I think it'll grow on me even more with time, so I'd like to see what's next for Audiopain for sure.

Audiopain "The Switch to Turn Off Mankind"

Purchase:

@ Vendlus Records
@ The End Records

Garrison "A Mile in Cold Water" CD

Posted on Friday, February 1st, 2008 @ 8:09am » permalink

Garrison - A Mile in Cold WaterIf memory serves, this was one of the first promo CD's I ever got eight years ago, and it was because I had a friend who was "in" with Revelation Records, so she somehow got me added to their promo list before I actually started writing reviews and stuff. But back when this album was released sometime in 2000, I did review it during the first year of the site's existence. I'd dig that review out from the archives on my old computer for the hell of it, but I guarantee you it would be at least 10 times worse than any of the bullshit I put up here today, so I'll go ahead and save myself the embarrassment. 'Cause I never really knew much about this band, anyway. Thus reads the rather brief bio on their inexplicably still living website (which hasn't been updated since 2005, and the band called it quits in the summer of 2004):

Garrison was a four-piece band from Boston/Brooklyn. Started in 1998 by Ed and Joseph, and ended in 2004 by Ed and Joseph. Between those dates they made loads of records with J. Robbins, Kurt Ballou, Andrew Schneider, Brian McTernan, and Ethan Dussault, and toured all over this country and many others.

They never traveled in what you would call style, but have had several intimate moments with other people's floors. They all now do new things, but remember Garrison fondly because it was something exceptional.

Sooo… yeah. I'm not really offering much insight here, am I? But I guess that doesn't really matter. I'll just do what I always do and rant 'n' rave about the music.

"A Mile in Cold Water" was Garrison's debut full-length in a sea of predominantly EP's and splits (Which reminds me that after all these years I still need to get off my ass and pick up some of that stuff!), and it took some time to grow on me. I don't know if maybe I just wasn't feeling that much indie rock type stuff back when this record came out or what, but I specifically remember being absolutely blown away by opener "After the Fight" (which is still one of the best songs I've ever heard from this genre – a true one-in-a-million gem) upon first listen, but initially thinking the rest of the album was kind of so-so. I always hung onto it, though, because the opening track was just so fucking perfect, and slowly but surely, the rest of the album started to pick up steam for me, too.

And then last year it happened (apparently last year was a big year for me in terms of properly "discovering" albums that I'd already known about for years): I realized that, sure, the first song is fucking amazing, but damn near every other track on this album is absolutely awesome as well. There's just a great balance of catchy, rocked out energy and the brighter, moodier, emo type stuff that sways from sing-along styled choruses to darker and more "atmospherically" layered guitar work, not to mention quite a few token post-hardcore elements. It's just a damn solid record through and through. I've been listening to it more and more in the last few months, and I'm certainly wishing it had hit me this completely eight years ago, because there are a couple of tracks herein that definitely start flicking those switches, you know? The gut reactions and emotional connections/responses that so little music is truly able to hit upon. I fuckin' love that…

These two tracks are the finest examples for me. Both just kick my ass all over the place, and in completely different ways:

Garrison "After the Fight"
Garrison "Fuel"

Aaaaaand yep. As with so many other records that I love dearly, you can find this on Amazon for a fucking penny. I mean, what the hell is wrong with people!? Seriously!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com