Most underrated albums of all time?

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008 @ 8:48pm » permalink

What are they? In your opinions? Post some comments letting me know. I'm feeling like discovering some new (old) shit.

Thanks.

Wrnlrd "Oneiromantical War" LP

Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008 @ 5:50am » permalink

Wrnlrd - Oneiromantical War"Oneiromantical War", the sixth (and most widely available to date) release from the always intriguing Wrnlrd is also the first release for sure-to-be-curious new label Flingco Sound System. In many ways no two Wrnlrd releases are particularly alike, but right off the bat with this one (which comes hot on the heels of "Pentagon") things feel more pointed and powerful to me. Numerous twisted abstractions are still in place from the start – from rumbling dark ambient tones to sprawling layers of chaotic guitars over sparse percussive bursts – but the recording is obviously more defined this time around, with a very crisp guitar tone and a relatively clear mix, which really pays off. It's not until the third track, "Silent Command", that obscured vocals make their first appearance – gurgling forth from beneath a mass of blasting drums and raging guitar riffs – but just a few minutes later they're gone; and by the time "Haxanic Stairway" rolls around you're treated to some unexpectedly bright snippets of acoustic guitar over some of the most eerily moving (in an emotional sense) dark ambient textures I've heard in years (seriously). Quite awesome. And then there's the epic 20-minute closer, "War", which kind of traverses through all of the other elements of the album in its own fluid manner. You can never quite be sure what you're in for with Wrnlrd, but that admirable unpredictability doesn't seem to have hampered him thus far in the eyes of listeners. That being said, if you've not been impressed by what you're heard from the project in the past, I'd always encourage you to keep checking in from time to time, because there are true moments of brilliance tucked away in releases like this that really raise the bar. I'm confident in stating that "Oneiromantical War" is Wrnlrd's finest work to date – musically, sonically, visually, etc. Nicely done…

Wrnlrd "Silent Command"

This one's only available on limited edition LP (a one-time pressing of 500 on 180 gram vinyl, no less) or as mp3 downloads (and the LP's come with a download code, so you'll get both if you buy the LP), though I'm not entirely sure if anyone other than the band/label has physical LP's in stock just yet. The price for a single LP seems a little steep, but I believe the label's going to be offering some cool package deals or something along those lines, so you might want to wait until they get their website fully up and running in the next week or so to check into that. I'm guessing you could buy one off the man himself for a decent rate as well, should you take the time to do some digging.

Purchase:

@ Flingco Sound System (LP/mp3)
@ The End Records (LP/mp3, though not yet in stock)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Gardenian "Two Feet Stand" CD

Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2008 @ 5:51am » permalink

Gardenian - Two Feet StandMelodic Swedish death metal may have been pretty played out for some time now, but back in the mid- to late-90's there were some really incredible bands out there, and I still feel like Gardenian kind of got the shaft, especially compared to many of the other bands associated with the Gothenburg scene and all that jazz. Maybe it was partly due to the fact that they were fairly young and didn't get together until 1996, I don't know, but their first two albums still hold up extremely well today, and their 1997 debut, "Two Feet Stand" (Listenable Records), seems to have become a little rarer than I would've expected. Sure, their style was quite similar to the likes of In Flames and such acts, what with plenty of those zippy dual guitar harmonies and slick acoustic passages, but I always felt like their songwriting had a hell of a lot more character to it than a lot of the bands that sort of came up right in the middle of the whole "melodic Swedish death metal boom". There was a little more of a chunky heaviness to some of their rhythms, the melodies were a bit more emphatic and intense than those of many of their contemporaries, the songs themselves tended to be very catchy and memorable without any of form of the cheesy "power metal pep" that sometimes follows certain characteristics of hooky songwriting (and in fact they often managed to succeed in such areas even when their compositions became rather dark), etc. I randomly picked this disc up in a used bin a year or two after it hit the streets, and I've been a fan ever since. If you've never heard 'em, I'm sure you have a ballpark idea of what to expect, but I highly recommend both "Two Feet Stand" and "Soulburner" (the latter of which is much easier to find, and even better, I just happened to feel like writing about this album for whatever reason), so… if you like what you hear below, definitely dig a little further.

Gardenian "Awake of Abuse"
Gardenian "The Downfall"
Gardenian "Murder…"

To my surprise, I can't really find this disc for purchase out there. There's a whopping one copy on eBay right now, and Amazon has a few for ridiculous "import" prices that no one will ever pay, but… other than that? I'm not really seeing it. Very strange, and rather unfortunate, too. This really is a great record.

Sacrilegious Impalement "s/t" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 26th, 2008 @ 6:57am » permalink

Sacrilegious Impalement - s/tRecently released in the US by Enucleation Records is the debut EP from Finnish outfit Sacrilegious Impalement, offering up four relatively lengthy tracks of raging black metal in a little under a half-hour. There's nothing inventive here (and I have absolutely no problem with that when it comes to tried and true black metal): Lots of tactfully employed tremolo picking, blasting percussion, distantly thudding basslines, pulsing midpaced breaks, and of course some of those crawling, discordant riffs that any fan of this genre should know and love – with sneering/snarling/growling vocals along the way. The recording's got a great bite to it, with just the right amount of grating texture over the guitars, as well as surprisingly crisp sounding percussion and fluid low-end tones. There's just a fiery warmth to the whole thing that really benefits the overall delivery well. I hate to keep it so brief, but I really don't know what more to say. Like I said, when it comes to black metal, I tend to prefer it when bands stick to the basics, and that's exactly what you can expect here. It's quality material, I have no complaints.

Sacrilegious Impalement "Eternal Agonies" (excerpt)

The EP's only $6, so pick one up if you like what you hear.

Purchase:

@ Enucleation Records

Braindead "No Consequences" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 @ 6:18am » permalink

Braindead - No Consequences"No Consequences" is the debut full-length from New Jersey/Pennsylvania hardcore act Braindead (released by the band and Burn Bridges), who I had never heard of before, but holy shit is this an absolutely awesome record. 10 energetic tracks of contemporary melodic hardcore with a great balance of speedy bursts with plenty of those octave chord accents and sweet little arpeggiated riffs that always grab my attention, as well as slower breaks that never really let up on at least some sort of subtly melodic undercurrent. I haven't heard much in the way of this niche of hardcore in awhile, so this shit's really hitting the spot, 'cause the tracks are catchy without lacking force, and they're not "poppy" either (although, "Guilt and Shame", the one track that flirts with singing, is actually among my favorites). The vocals are pretty much straightforward shouting/yelling, which adds some intensity and actually matches the emotional type of tone of the music quite well. The recording's a touch too muddy, but the super dense bass tone and overall heaviness that are bringing some of that on are definitely nice flourishes that tend to give these types of bands that extra kick, especially given the melodic nature of the songwriting. Is what they're doing terribly innovative? Nope. But every god damn song's a keeper. These dudes know exactly what the fuck they're doing, and they do a great job of it. I'm all over this. Highly recommended…

Braindead "An Exercise in Bad Taste"

Purchase:

@ Burn Bridges (CD)
@ Burn Bridges (LP)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)

Appollonia "Among Wolves" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 @ 5:55am » permalink

Appollonia - Among Wolves"Among Wolves" is the self-released debut full-length from intriguing French trio Appollonia, and I know I've used this line before, but this really is another band that would fit in well with the overall sounds of French labels like Basement Apes and Radar Swarm. Combining a foundation of roaming, plodding basslines and colorful percussion amidst dense guitars that shift from pounding rhythms to looser, dissonant waves of texture, what does separate these guys from the pack of similar artists in their particular scene is their penchant for frequently adding space to their material – either through peculiar riffing shifts, unique clean/acoustic passages, or utilizing influences generally deemed "post-rock" or "post-metal". What's interesting, though, is that they do all of this in a rather atypical fashion, so they never start to come across as commonplace. Similarly, while they rarely stay in one place for very long, the material doesn't feel chaotic at all. The songwriting could stand for a little more focus when all is said and done, but you can tell that they're keeping a tight hold on where things are going. The recording is also insanely crisp and clear – perhaps in part because the band's a trio – so you can really hear the different interactions between the instruments and get a real feel for the band's use of space and texture. I don't know, there's just a really cool sort of strangeness hovering over the album, you know? There are enough influences swirling around and commingling to where you can't really classify the end result with any blanket genre classification: It's heavy and subdued, abrasive and melodic, rhythmic and abstract, flowing and noisy… all over the place without falling off the map, basically. They also seem to have a strong, consistent visual aesthetic, and from what I can tell the lyrics are a solid mix of the personal and tastefully political, so they're clearly putting thought and effort into every aspect of the band, which means they should only improve over time. It should be interesting to see what the future holds…

Appollonia "In Virgin Dirt"
Appollonia "Passing Lights"

Purchase:

@ Appollonia

The Death of Her Money "Spirit of the Stairwell" CD

Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008 @ 7:02am » permalink

The Death of Her Money - Spirit of the StairwellWeird band name, weird album title, weird artwork, weird song titles… but this shit is fucking awesome. "Spirit of the Stairwell" is the debut full-length from UK trio The Death of Her Money (released by the band, SuperFi Records, and Rat Patrol Records), which drops a mere six tracks in a whopping 50 minutes. This is seriously some of the most uniquely monolithic material I've ever heard. Sure, you could point to a few similarities or influences here and there, but the end result is pretty damn creative. There's some nasty feedback and a dense, destructive, fucking massive sense of crushing heaviness, but most of the riffs and rhythms are colored up with bizarre chord phrasings and incredible uses of abstract melody that really kick into some powerful, emotional surges throughout. I'd say the bulk of most of the tracks is made up of drawn out instrumental passages, but the occasional absence of the distant, hoarsely shouted vocals does little to deter the band's intensity or sense of feeling. The recording kicks ass, too. The bass is, of course, super dense – fluidly pulsing about beneath the surface – while the percussion is crisp and warm, and the guitars range from grungy, harshly overdriven textures to looser, jangly sounding clean tones (obviously accented by some of the looser playing/picking patterns) or swirling layering effects with dissonant swells of movement. I had no idea what to expect from this album whatsoever, but I was hooked in right off the bat. Great work, and definitely one to watch. I'm really impressed…

The Death of Her Money "Scandinavian Accent"

Purchase:

@ The Death of Her Money
@ Rat Patrol Records
@ SuperFi Records

Asphyx "The Rack" CD

Posted on Friday, June 20th, 2008 @ 5:51am » permalink

Asphyx - The RackI was never a big fan of now legendary Dutch death metal outfit Asphyx as a kid 'cause for some insane reason Martin Van Drunen's vocals bugged me. But years later I eventually found a few of their CD's for dirt cheap and came to the realization that, yes, Martin Van Drunen is fucking awesome, and at least the early Asphyx material (I never really paid attention to their post-Van Drunen work) – especially their 1991 debut, "The Rack" (on Century Media) – contains some absolutely classic material. I mean, shit, one listen to "Vermin" (the first "real" song after one of those silly "eerie" intros) should hook you in, as that shit's pure fucking energy – one of the greatest death metal tunes ever written. There's just something about the band's filthy guitar tones (a great match for Van Drunen's patented snarl) and penchant for jumping from thrashy, straight ahead death metal to dingily pounding, discordant, doom-laden rhythms and melodic leads that just does the trick, you know?

I don't even know that much about the band's history, since it took me so long to wake up and start appreciating their heyday. They formed in 1987, had a bunch of lineup changes throughout the recording sessions for a handful of demos, hooked up with Van Drunen after he left Pestilence, recorded two albums and an EP with him, then continued on through the mid-90's – and I don't think any single founding member consistently appeared on every Asphyx release. Then they kinda-sorta changed their name to Soulburn in the late-90's, but by 2000 had released another Asphyx album. Now Van Drunen's back in the band with founding drummer Bob Bagchus, and, well… who knows!? Like I said, I haven't really kept up, to be honest with you. What's important, at least for the purposes of this post, is checking out a couple of these early jams:

Asphyx "Vermin"
Asphyx "Pages in Blood"

This one's still available in reissued form, and if you're not averse to buying mp3's you can get the entire album (plus live bonus tracks) for pretty damn cheap all around, so… enjoy.

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (CD)
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Ruina "s/t" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2008 @ 6:26am » permalink

Ruina - s/tI'm not entirely sure when Cospe Fogo Gravações released this self-titled full-length debut from Brazil's Ruina (The dates on MySpace say 2006, but the label's website and such seem to indicate that it's a newer release from this year?), but I was quite impressed by the band's three-song demo in 2004, and this material continues in a similar vein: Thick, driving metallic hardcore/punk with that His Hero is Gone/Tragedy sort of edge to it, and perhaps a hint more variety these days in terms of utilizing some drawn out instrumental passages that slow down a bit and get into some darker uses of plodding basslines and feedback, more spacious rhythms, occasional clean breaks, and some melodic lead lines to contrast the more explosive solos heard elsewhere. The recording is nice and warm, with efficiently dry tones and a very cohesive mix that keeps all of the elements closely bound without losing any detail, and while the overall approach here isn't exactly breaking new ground, that still doesn't hinder them in the least. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Ruina has had a firm grasp on this niche of hardcore for several years now. They write powerful songs that carry a sense of emotion and feeling and cover just the right amount of stylistic ground to keep things interesting, and you can't complain about that. Good stuff…

Ruina "De Olhos Vendados"

Unfortunately I'm not seeing this CD around at any distros here in the US right now, though the label is supposed to have some distro through Crimes Against Humanity Records, so… you might try checking back there from time to time. Otherwise I'd go straight to the source and see about buying one from the band or label directly using any of the links provided here.

Purchase:

@ Cospe Fogo Gravações

Wedard "Einsamer Winterweg" CD

Posted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 @ 5:51am » permalink

Wedard - Einsamer WinterwegAfter two obscure limited edition runs starting in 2006, what is technically the debut full-length from Germany's self-described "depressive and melancholic black metal" outfit Wedard was re-released a third time last year, in somewhat wider scale (and with far superior artwork, which looks absolutely awesome), by Regimental Records, and I just happened to pick it up last week when the label was running one of their ever-popular $5 CD sales. I refer to this as the band's "debut" because their other 2006 full-length was just a proper release of their final demo (of which their were many during the band's early years). The overall approach here isn't particularly unexpected in terms of utilizing discordant melodies through lots of moderately paced tremolo picking, sparse clean breaks, and driving percussion – at times accenting the guitar parts with generally tactful (though still unnecessary, in my opinion) keyboards – while the vocals sway from distant shrieks or somewhat hushed screams (if that makes sense) to flirting with some borderline annoying wails here and there – though for the most part things do thankfully remain fairly tolerable in that realm. All of the lyrics are in German (and aren't included in the booklet), but with song titles that translate to phrases like "Winds of Despair" and "Walking Along the River of Time", not to mention occasional intro samples of howling winds and rain, etc., it would seem that the not uncommon themes of nature play a role in inspiring the general tone of the contents here (which also makes sense given the "grim"-looking winter landscapes throughout the packaging). The recording's pretty cool, though. It can take some getting used to on occasion, but something about the blatantly muffled distance of the drumming and the reverb lingering over the guitars and vocals creates some very fitting atmospheric characteristics. There's room for tightening up here and there (with regard to both the mix and the performances), but overall I find this to be an enjoyable listen that does indeed meet the "depressive and melancholic black metal" tag. Main member Sternenfrost is now handling all Wedard duties himself (I believe a session drummer was utilized during these recordings), and a new album is due out soon, so it should be interesting to see how the project progresses moving forward.

Wedard "Winterdepression" (excerpt)

Purchase:

@ Regimental Records

Haust "Ride the Relapse" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 @ 4:23am » permalink

Haust - Ride the Relapse"Ride the Relapse" is the debut full-length from peculiar Norwegian outfit Haust (on Fysisk Format), who lists amongst their incredibly diverse list of influences Darkthrone, The Locust, David Bowie, Rudimentary Peni, and The Jesus Lizard. And that rather twisted range of artists actually makes some sense after you experience Haust's own brand of mangled, well… "rock", for lack of a better term. They blaze through 13 relatively brief tracks in just about 24 minutes, and the overall backbone is made up of massive, pounding basslines and energetic chord progressions, but there's just a shitload of filthy, gritty distortion all over the place. And the vocals… the vocals really do sound like some kind of fucked up, Converge-esque take on weird, noise rocked black metal – just twisted, maniacally scathing sneers, yells, and wails with – yet again – some faint distortion hovering above. And that's just the beginning! Where things get really interesting is in the more discordantly textured riffs, which shift from looser and more indie-ish little twists to crisper, darker takes on the types of winding riffs more associated with the black metal of Haust's home country – granted all of these characteristics often tend to be delivered in a tightly rhythmic, subtly technical manner that tosses in yet another dimension to the band's overflowing melting pot of sounds. It's definitely a heavier, more explosive, wholly different take on this particular leaning, and the unique nuances that they're exploring certainly pay off, 'cause this is a really cool album that certainly leaves you wanting more. See for yourself:

Haust "The Filth"
Haust "Desperate Living"

Unfortunately this one's not distributed outside of Norway just yet, so you'll have to see about getting a copy straight from the band or the label (try them at the MySpace links above, or the online shop linked below). This one literally just hit the streets, though, so hopefully it'll start filtering out to more distro sources in the coming months.

Purchase:

@ Tiger Records

Fall of Efrafa "Elil" CD

Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2008 @ 7:03am » permalink

Fall of Efrafa - ElilThe CD pressing of "Elil", the second full-length from UK act Fall of Efrafa, was released late last year by a trio of international labels: Halo of Flies (US), Sound Devastation Records (UK), and Alerta Antifascista (Germany). This is my first exposure to the band's work, which is apparently "based loosely around a re-imagining of the mythological and political overtones in the book 'Watership Down', by Richard Adams". I'm not familiar with the book, but the band's bio outlines more specifically how their records (which are part of a trilogy called "The Warren of Snares") are tied into some of its concepts.

There are only three songs on the entire album, but be not misled, because each track surpasses the 20-minute mark, and the band certainly has it right when stating that they "write very long, epic, heavy, melancholic, melodic songs; taking influence from post-rock, post-metal, D-beat hardcore, etc." It takes nearly seven minutes for distortion to kick in for the first time, and they really do transition effortlessly from driving His Hero is Gone-esque hardcore/punk rhythms to more dissonant and spacious twists ala Cult of Luna or more recent Burst, etc. – and from there to softer clean breaks or plodding, bass-centric runs, the occasional use of samples, and even a few beautiful acoustic passages. There are definitely quite a few lengthy instrumental segments in the tracks, but I have to say that the songwriting is far stronger than you'd expect given the sheer length of each composition. They make great use of the time, and manage to keep things interesting throughout – and they generally do so without making each 20-minute song feel like just a bunch of shorter songs strung together, you know? There's obviously a lot of thought and effort being put into how all of the different atmospheric elements piece together, and thankfully they stray from most of the typical characteristics of "post-" genre influences. You can certainly pick up on some of those elements, but the band keeps most of their tones warm and stripped down, favoring a more natural sense of texture and space as opposed to dousing everything in effects or what have you. And it is pretty epic shit, I must say. There are some really powerful buildups and I'm really liking what's going on here as a whole. This is an intelligent band that has something to say, and they're doing so in a pretty curious manner.

Fall of Efrafa "For el Ahrairah to Cry" (excerpt)

Man built god creates the veil. It hangs before us all and waits. Those who choose its warm caress, dignify this empty fate. Angelic mythos cracked in the kiln. Shards embedded in the mouths of liars. Charged nature as unfit, disfigured the sanctity of love, tore down all that is good, all that is whole…

The disc is packaged in a simple gatefold digipack that includes the lyrics and song explanations, as well as a decent-sized foldout "poster" of sorts, and is also available on double-LP (with alternate artwork, I believe). Very cool. I'll have to keep an eye out for more from these guys for sure…

Purchase:

@ Halo of Flies
@ Sound Devastation Records
@ Alerta Antifascista

Full Court Press "Live Life Large" CD

Posted on Friday, June 13th, 2008 @ 5:58am » permalink

Full Court Press - Live Life LargeFull Court Press was a relatively short-lived Belgian act that existed from 1998 – 2004 (though their final release was back in 2002) and was constantly referred to as "the European E.Town Concrete", which isn't exactly a comprehensive assessment of what the band had to offer, but it's probably safe to assume that most any fan of E.Town should definitely be down with these cats, too. And anyone who's been reading my site since those days should recognize the name, 'cause I definitely had many a kind word to say about Full Court Press when I first got my hands on "Live Life Large", their lone full-length, in early-2003, probably six months or so after it hit the streets. And to this day I still think this is an absolutely awesome, totally underrated record, and had these dudes been from the US I bet they'd have been way more popular. (I'm not saying that's how it should be, but unfortunately that's the reality of the situation sometimes…)

After 1999's "Ghetto Style Fiction" demo, the band officially debuted with more of a straightforward, almost "beatdown" style of metallic hardcore in 2000 on "The Art of Warfare" split with Crawlspace, followed by four songs on the "Step to the Plate" compilation the following year (I never did get my hands on this compilation, so if anyone can hit me up with high-quality mp3's of that shit, please do let me know. Thanks!), but by the time this record came out in 2002 their delivery had grown quite a bit. The hip-hop influences in the vocal patterns had definitely become more obvious (though still pretty subdued, especially when held up against a band like E.Town Concrete), but the music was far more intricate and melodic – while still retaining plenty of the simplistic, chugging midpaced breakdowns and straightforward aggression of their earlier days. What always killed me about this disc, though, was just the sheer quality of the riffs and songwriting. Every song's a keeper, and more than half the album's just jammed with incredibly powerful – not to mention memorable – guitar parts and vocal arrangements, in addition to the types of impressive rhythm section flourishes you'd expect when even a marginal hip-hop influence is present. I mean, shit, the chorus to "Lesson Learned" is just fuckin' sick, while "All That Remains" is just all-out for six minutes straight. It's rare that bands of this nature actually hit on such an emotional type of feeling, as opposed to just outright aggression and rage or whatever. I don't know. Great band, great record… and I wish they were still around.

Full Court Press "Lesson Learned"
Full Court Press "All That Remains"
Full Court Press "Broken"

This one's not as easy to grab as I thought it would be, but there are a handful of used copies on Amazon right now, and it looks like you can still get it (from Europe) from the label as well if you dig through their online catalog.

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com
@ GSR Music

State of the Union "To the Bitter End… a Discography" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 @ 7:01am » permalink

State of the Union - To the Bitter End... a DiscographyThis nearly 80-minute disc (released by Profane Existence) collects the entire recorded output from the sorely overlooked State of the Union in reverse chronological order: Their final five tracks from 2000 (intended for a 12" that was never released), their self-titled full-length, and the "Rez-Erection" and "God of Another Faith" 7"s. State of the Union formed in Rapid City, SD in 1992 (they relocated to Seattle a few years later), and I have to say that this material is far different and more intriguing than I remember (it's been years since I gave their LP a spin). Distinctly removed from the more crust punk/anarcho direction that tends to come to mind when Profane Existence is involved, this material has much more in common with another of the label's Seattle standouts, Christdriver – longer songs, occasional industrial-tinged forays into samples and experimental noise textures, eerie clean breaks and darker atmospheric elements, etc. However, their approach is incredibly diverse, so they combine all of that with a strange twist of assorted forms of 90's metallic hardcore, even accenting their riffs with math metal-esque time signatures and sparse hints of sludgy, almost rocked out sounding rhythms. It's almost like a strange fusion of bands like Bloodlet and Dystopia, if you can imagine what that might sound like – chunky and aggressive, sinister, technical, yet still raw… The production values vary fairly significantly between some of the sessions and never quite do the band full justice, but killer bass work and intense vocals round out the already impressive stylistic shifts, and everything basically gets the job done. For some reason there's not much of a mastering job (the final tracks are way quieter than the rest), which is unfortunate, but… what can you do? I'm definitely surprised by this collection as a whole. It's a shame that the odds somehow stacked up against this band over the years in terms of preventing them from reaching the true number of listeners that would've appreciated what they were doing, but hopefully this discography can still introduce them to new fans long after the fact. Better late than never…

State of the Union "Nate 666"
State of the Union "Ragin'"

A shockingly cheap $7.50 for 80 minutes of music? You can't lose…

Purchase:

@ Profane Existence
@ Hardcore Holocaust
@ Interpunk

This Et Al "The Figure Eight" 10"

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 @ 6:58am » permalink

This Et Al - The Figure EightThe latest from absolutely fucking incredible UK outfit This Et Al is "The Figure Eight" EP, recently released by On the Bone Records, and I have to say that I dig this band so damn much that I bought this shit off iTunes the very morning it was released. They're just that good. Outside my normal listening realm, yeah, but without a doubt one of the best bands (if not the best) I've discovered in the last few years. On MySpace they deem it "Rock/Shoegaze/Indie" and list amongst their influences My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, The Smiths, and Interpol – to name but a few – and I'll let that suggest what they may or may not sound like, as I still don't really know what the hell I'd call it. All those sorts of influences are definitely swirling around in there, but at the end of the day all I care about is the songs, and I'm consistently blown away by just how many completely awesome songs this band has written to date. Dark, melodic, catchy, atmospheric, moving, on occasion loosely experimental… they do it all, and they do it fucking brilliantly. I know I've turned several people onto this band and I hope I continue to do so for as long as they continue making music… and I hope that's for quite some time to come. I know this isn't really a "review", but I don't give a shit. Just check these guys out, and if you like what you hear, check out everything they've done. Everything.

This Et Al "Ice Age" (excerpt)

Purchase:

@ On the Bone Records (10")
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Smoke & Mirrors "Flash Thunder" CD

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 @ 6:43am » permalink

Smoke & Mirrors - Flash ThunderFeaturing former members of Brother's Keeper, Shockwave, Thick as Thieves, and Problem Solver Revolver, among numerous others, Smoke & Mirrors is a relatively new band out of Erie, PA whose debut release is the "Flash Thunder" demo CD. With six tracks in 20 minutes, the general approach of the material is a nice blend of classic metallic hardcore with subtle (and occasionally more obvious) melodic twists and a hefty dose of rhythmic, bass-centric post-hardcore texture and dissonance – not to mention a few unexpected fits of borderline rocked out riffing. The vocals (predominantly sneered shouts with vague hints of pseudo "singing") are taking a little getting used to for me, but musically the diversity and focus pay off, and the recording's surprisingly killer for a demo. The mix is excellently balanced, and the crispness of the rhythm section (great bass tone and presence) really helps to emphasize the surging post-hardcore oriented elements of their influences. The disc is handsomely packaged in a handmade, D.I.Y. sleeve with screenprinted two-color artwork on thick colored stock and a xeroxed centerfold with lyrics and such stapled inside. Most of the content is a solid mix of the personal and the tactfully political, and overall you can tell this band means business and really takes every facet of their output seriously, which is always an indicator of great potential. This is a strong start, so we'll see where things go from here…

Smoke & Mirrors "Gem City Trauma"

The demo's limited to just 300 copies, so make the grab while you still can if you like what you hear…

Purchase:

@ Surprise Attack Records
@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ
@ Very Distribution

Brown Jenkins "Angel Eyes" CD

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2008 @ 7:15am » permalink

Brown Jenkins - Angel EyesHaving never been a Lovecraft fan, I was originally unaware that Brown Jenkins was named after a spirit in the short story "The Dreams in the Witch House", and I allowed my distaste for the band name to severely color my willingness to explore the project's work – despite the fact that I had read many positive accounts of both of Brown Jenkins' first two proper releases for Moribund Records. I can be a narrowminded asshole about these things, I admit (though I can't exactly explain it), but I finally realized that I simply needed to get over it. This overdue concession was helped along by the fact that Brown Jenkins' lone member, Umesh Amtey, was also the key visionary behind somewhat comparable (though instrumental) Texan act Starshine prior to branching off into this more developed direction, and I was always quite intrigued by Starshine's work. Much like Starshine, the material on "Angel Eyes" is "black metal" in general texture and atmosphere, but also more than that, so… still not exactly black metal, if that makes sense. Vocals (which are deeper and more doom/death oriented than the types of scathing screams more linked to these styles) certainly take a backseat within these seven tracks and 40 minutes of largely instrumental washes of cold, dissonantly winding, occasionally abstracted riffs and gritty, rugged textures over subdued, simplistic drumbeats. But it seems, at least to me, that this is precisely the type of eerie, spiraling, midpaced instrumentation that Umesh excels at – and similarly structured and melodically inclined passages creep into place throughout the album. There is no tremolo picking. There are no blast beats. The feeling and character of the guitar riffs is the focus, which carries the listen surprisingly well. In fact, the entire album passes by surprisingly quickly all things considered, and I'm still not entirely sure why!? But this is what it's all about: The music, the feeling, and emotion.

Brown Jenkins "Pale Conqueror"

God seek through blood release beneath the surface we hear the pulse of life you cannot deny us death forever funerals fate fails like your love black becomes white killing you birth becomes death your world inverted forever funerals killing god inside you.

Curious parties (of which there should be many) can download both Starshine and Brown Jenkins demo material from archive.org. Very cool.

Purchase:

@ Moribund Records
@ The End Records
@ Relapse Records

Absolution question…

Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2008 @ 5:20pm » permalink

Does anyone happen to have the correct tracklist for the old Absolution "Complete Discography" disc? I just realized that something about shit doesn't seem right. Am I wrong? Anyone?

Transistor Transistor "Ruined Lives" CD

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2008 @ 6:58am » permalink

Transistor Transistor - Ruined Lives"Ruined Lives" is the latest full-length from Transistor Transistor (on Level-Plane), and this band really has gotten better and better over the years. Much like 2005's "Erase All Name and Likeness", the backbone here is made up of noisy, rocked out power chords with some of that more angular and jarring indie riffery, while the vocals charge through varying degrees of intensity via lightly distorted shouting, screaming, etc. There's just a great sense of energy throughout that really places this material above many of the band's contemporaries for me. This is their most diverse outing to date as well, as there are also a couple of slightly longer tracks that get a little heavier and more aggressive/grating with some feedback-drenched swells and fiercely pounding rhythms; while the awesomely dark "The Ghost Hand" takes a stripped down approach with just guitars, bass, piano, and quietly restrained vocals. And as usual the Kurt Ballou production totally fucking rules, too. It's just so damn perfect for this style – achieving a great balance of natural warmth, crisp clarity, and subtly dirty/gritty texture throughout. Good stuff.

Transistor Transistor "Letter of Resignation"
Transistor Transistor "Brass Bones"

Purchase:

@ Level-Plane

Hod "Cry and Piss Yourself"

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2008 @ 6:49am » permalink

Hod - Cry and Piss YourselfThe debut demo from Texan act Hod, now receiving distribution through digital label MetalHit.com, tears through three tracks of furious, thrashing black metal in 17 minutes. Normally I'd be somewhat averse to a release titled "Cry and Piss Yourself", as it creates somewhat of a goofy expectation, but… there doesn't seem to be any humor involved in the tracks whatsoever, and the band's penchant for combining straightforward tremolo picking with raw, energetic old school thrash and the occasional foray into some of that cold, "grim" riffing certainly does the trick for me. The band features members who've played with Thornspawn, Necrovore, Exulcerate, Pillcrusher, and GG Allin, which doesn't mean a ton to me, but it might for some. But like I said, this shit works for me, man. They're not breaking any new ground, but the playing is pretty tight, the recording is a great blend of tactfully rugged tones and a crisp mix, the riffs and writing are solid, etc. Straight to the point. Apparently the band recently signed with Ibex Throne Records, so hopefully a full-length is in the works.

Hod "Demoralizer" (excerpt)

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

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