Status…

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008 @ 12:00am » permalink

Next week's probably gonna be another dead one, as I'm slated to go out of town this weekend and therefore won't be getting any reviews done. So, until I return, I leave you with this curious photo of an ancient relic that someone emailed me a few weeks ago:

Integrity: x Straight-Edge x

Overcast "Reborn to Kill Again" CD

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008 @ 7:11am » permalink

Overcast - Reborn to Kill AgainFirst off, I wrote about the classic "Begging for Indifference" EP here a couple of years ago, so I'm not going to delve into the "where are they now" aspects of the Overcast lineup again, especially since everyone reading this probably knows already anyway. Having been a huge Overcast fan back in the day (and still today), I couldn't quite decide what to make of the fact that they were regrouping nearly 10 years after their breakup to re-record a bunch of old tracks (as well as a couple of new ones) for "Reborn to Kill Again" (on Metal Blade Records). And, truthfully, I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it!

For one thing, Overcast always seemed to do a decent amount of re-recording/re-releasing tracks on different releases when they were around as it was, and the only things the band ever recorded that actually sounded pretty crappy were their first 7", "Bleed Into One" (the title track of which appears here), and the track on the "East Coast Assault" compilation. I still think 1997's "Fight Ambition to Kill" sounds pretty damn good, so it's a bit of a bummer that about half of these 13 tracks are taken from that album – which only had nine songs in the first place! Do the re-recordings sound better? In some ways, sure. And there are definitely some added little flourishes and cool intricacies that either weren't there before or just weren't apparent. And at least they included "Filter of Syntax" and "Styrofoam Death Machine", some of the better compositions from said album, but… still. It's the tracks from "Expectational Dilution" and "Begging for Indifference" that might've benefited most, and are the most welcomed inclusions: "Diluting Inertia/Grifter", the fusion of "As a Whole/Two Degrees Below", "For Indifference", "Fate's Design", and "Bleed Into One". However, to be totally honest with you, I'll always prefer the original recordings. For all of the aforementioned flourishes and intricacies that start to surface here, there's just some dark, chilling, atmosphere and vocal character lost – especially in crucial tracks like "For Indifference". I'm also stunned that they included "Fate's Design" as opposed to the far superior "Forecast", which was always one of their strongest tunes in my opinion. But, hey, you can't please everyone, right?

As for the two new tracks, "Root Bound Apollo" may sound familiar as it shares lyrics and its title (and I think a few compositional shreds) with an old Shadows Fall song – it would've fit in quite well on "Fight Ambition to Kill", actually. "Reborn to Kill Again", on the other hand, sounds quite different – flirting with a lot of post-hardcore elements and a shorter, more focused and memorable approach than most of Overcast's work. It'll probably remind many listeners of Shadows Fall, but that's really only due to some of the vocal work. It's an atypical track for Overcast, but for me it's the better of the new songs.

In the end, I'm still on the fence, but I can definitely state that this CD will serve better to introduce new, younger listeners to Overcast's material. Longtime fans of the band won't likely deem this an essential purchase, which is in some ways unfortunate, but perhaps that wasn't the point in the first place? Either way, Overcast was an incredible band whose back catalog should remain significant for many, many years to come with regard to its impact on the roots of the true "metalcore" genre. The old show flyers included in the center spread of the booklet are proof enough of the band's massive crossover appeal at the time – having performed with everyone from Madball and Slapshot to Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death, the Cro-Mags and Leeway to Neurosis and Into Another, among numerous other acts from all-over-the-place genres.

So, yeah… no disrespect here. Not a bit.

Overcast "Root Bound Apollo"
Overcast "Bleed Into One"

Purchase:

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

Rise of Caligula "Libretto" CD

Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 @ 7:03am » permalink

Rise of Caligula - LibrettoMaryland-based 187 Records is another label that seems to have an interesting roster as well as a flare for eye-catching graphic design work, and "Libretto", the debut EP from California's Rise of Caligula, caught my ear with its diverse brand of technical metalcore – which fuses an array of more jarring and chaotic influences with pummeling death metal riffs and powerfully discordant atmospheres. I tend to be incredibly picky about these particular types of more contemporary metalcore, but Rise of Caligula keeps things tightly wound with seven tracks in about 20 minutes, and efficiently blends their influences in a manner that keeps things interesting. Rather than blaze through loads of fast-paced noodling and blurs of riffs, they keep the explosive bursts of unhinged riffing under control with the chunkier death metal aspects, and the slower, more tangible elements switch it up from meaty, breakdown-oriented rhythms to more melodically textured fare that's actually really fucking killer. And, unlike the vast majority of these bands, they do still break into the occasional power chord run that actually still bears some resemblance to hardcore, which is pretty cool. There's just a good sense of energy overall that really gets the job done. I don't have the lyrics, but the recording and artwork are pretty solid, and I don't really have any complaints here. I'm actually really curious to hear what'll come next, because the more I listen to this the more I realize how much potential they're sitting on. Not bad at all…

Rise of Caligula "Stillborn"

Purchase:

@ 187 Records

D.E.R. "Quando a Esperança Desaba" CD

Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 @ 6:52am » permalink

D.E.R. - Quando a Esperança DesabaI believe "Quando a Esperança Desaba" may be considered the first "full-length" release from Brazilian grinders D.E.R. (on Cospe Fogo Gravações), but even with 16 tracks this is more like a 7" EP at a mere 13:34 in length! Expect nothing but raw, in your face, old school grindcore with shitloads of blastbeats and tremolo picking, plus barked vocals that sound like they have a hint of dirty distortion happening. Seriously, it's rare that a song tops one minute, and they just tear straight through with no remorse. Sometimes you can't even tell that one song ends and another begins! Every now and then they'll toss in some high screams to back up or contrast the core vocals, and on rare occasion they'll ease up on the speed just a tad, but… these cats do not do breakdowns. It seems to be all about speed here, and the entire disc's over in a flash. I don't have the complete package, so I'm not sure if any lyrics or translations are included, but with song titles that I was able to deduce translating to phrases such as "The Fall of Your Dogma" and "Thus is the Will of Social Justice", it would seem that D.E.R. means business with their content as well, which is always a plus when it comes to raging grind.

D.E.R. "Eu Decido Quem Vai Morrer"
D.E.R. "A Vitória e o Fim"

If you're in the US, there's only one copy left in stock at Crimes Against Humanity, though their mp3 download store does have the album for just $6 if you're interested…

Purchase:

@ Cospe Fogo Gravações (CD)
@ Crimes Against Humanity Records (CD)
@ Crimes Against Humanity Downloads (mp3)

Die Young "Through the Valleys in Between" CD

Posted on Monday, August 25th, 2008 @ 6:45am » permalink

Die Young - Through the Valleys in Between"Through the Valleys in Between", released by Italian label Still Life Records, collects several previously released EP's from Texas metallic hardcore outfit Die Young, for a total of 19 tracks in 34 minutes. Included in reverse chronological order are the "Loss" 7" (2008), split 7" with Invade (2007), "Survival Instinct" CD EP (2005), split 7" with 7 Generations (2005), and the 2002 demo (also re-released as the "Songs for the Converted" 7" in 2003). The bulk of the material is relatively straightforward metallic hardcore with vicious vocals (still possessing that Catharsis-esque edge, especially on the demo material) and socio-political leanings in short burst of less than two minutes apiece, not unlike what the band offered up on last year's "Graven Images" full-length. On occasion they'll spice things up with an unexpected lead break or some more creative guitar work that flirts with a hint of melody, though, and the "Loss" 7" actually takes a lot of these influences farther into a more creative direction that experiments with a lot of different textures and influences – thus making me quite curious to see where the band's going to be heading in the future. But there are other standouts, too: For example, "Asco Puro" (which is Spanish for "Pure Disgust") is a clever take on the old One Life Crew track, flipping the lyrical content to convey the opposing message of, "U.S. corporations you must get out! Don't use third world countries for slave labor!"; while covers of Trial's "For the Kids" and Gorilla Biscuits' "Degradation" are nice surprises as well. Despite variances in the recording quality everything sounds solid and plays through without issue, and the layout looks pretty damn slick as well, so this is another impressive release from a band that I missed out on for far too long. Very cool.

Die Young "Last Recourse"
Die Young "There is No Rest"
Die Young "The Tortured Role"

I gave my all and to no avail. A withered soul of so few years, a youth becoming stale. The weight of failure and disenchantment, the albatross around the neck. As I gaze into the abyss, it stares right back. Pacing, seething like a beast in captivity, scowling out from within the cage of this society. Clawing, gnawing until claw and tooth grind thin, trapped inside this culture fighting wars that I can't win. I confess: I dream of eternal rest. When all of this madness ceases to be, at last I'll be at peace…

Purchase:

@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

Ironside: Discography

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2008 @ 12:00am » permalink

Ironside: DiscographyA few weeks ago I made a quick post in search of some material by Ironside, an early-90's UK "holy terror hardcore" band that I recently discovered thanks to Am I Mean?. I vowed to do a proper post on the band once I got my hands on all of their material, so… here it is! Several people got in touch with me to lend a hand (many thanks, one and all), and among those who contacted me was actually Ironside frontman Richard "Arms" Armitage, so I asked him to provide a little rundown on the band since I've been very sadly in the dark all this time and have very little background to work with here:

Ironside started in 1992 in Bradford with a bunch of longtime skate punks. Our first gig was with Sick of it All at the 1 in 12 Club the first time they ever came over – imagine them playing an anarcho collective. We played a lot around the UK, either with touring US hardcore bands or more importantly with new UK bands like Kito, Solace, Wartorn and Voorhees – all of whom have members still active in hardcore today. We did a couple of Breakdown- and Sheer Terror-influenced demos, then got the "holy terror" thing nailed once Integrity did "Darkness" on the "Only the Strong" 7" compilation.

We played in Belgium later in '92 and blew away all the '88 straightedge kids there, which laid the foundation for the H8000 thing. No one was doing slow, chugging metal with deep vocals and no recognizable straightedge lyrics at the time, except Ironside.

In 1993 we did the "Fragments of the Last Judgement" 7" – our four career best songs. Then a few of us started drinkin' and some original members left for various reasons. I played guitar and sang for awhile, until we got a couple of metal guys in on drums and rhythm guitar. We took the Paradise Lost/Cathedral influences a bit too far and did the "Damn Your Blooded Eyes" 7" in 1994 at Academy Studios, where a lot of the northern doom metal bands recorded back then – My Dying Bride, Anathema, etc. The back cover photo is hilarious: A collection of nightclub bouncers, circus strongmen, and vampires.

Then we went to Europe for a month with Chorus of Disapproval, also in '94, which was the biggest mismatch ever – us listening to Sabbath on the booze, and them not. Good times, but when we got back it was over. I played guitar in Voorhees afterwards, and now in The Horror. It's always cool when people bring up Ironside when I'm touring.

I must agree that the "Fragments of the Last Judgement" 7" (Subjugation Records, 1993) is the band's finest work, but that's not to slag their other output in any way. In fact, I'd argue that the demos (collected on the "Ecstatic Ritual" CD in the mid-90's along with the aforementioned 7") sound even more like early Integrity, right down to that totally Clevo-sounding guitar tone! They definitely seemed to come into their own on the "Fragments…" EP, while "Damn Your Blooded Eyes" 7" (Stormstrike Records, 1994) is indeed more of a drawn out excursion towards doom metal (though it's not entirely a stretch to have envisioned such a progression, really).

I'm still just astounded that I had never even heard of this band prior to this. I mean, seriously, Ironside should totally be mentioned more often in the same breath as Integrity or Mayday or any of those bands that were doing this kind of dark, metallic hardcore in the early-90's, when the whole "holy terror" sound was still in its relative infancy, really. Absolutely criminal. This must be one of the single most underrated bands in the history of all living things, so I really hope this post gets the word out, 'cause I know there are a shitload of people like me out there that would flip over this material if they knew it existed! Here are a couple of tracks to give you a taste, if for some twisted reason you're not sold yet:

Ironside "Fever Pitch"
Ironside "Smothered Conviction"

If you like what you hear, the band's complete discography, which is all out of print and rather hard to come by, is available below:

[DOWNLOAD] Ironside discography (@ Mediafire)

Enfuckingjoy…

Also thanks to Tom for the following comment on my last little Ironside post, with some more "where are they now" tidbits:

• Arms (singer) went on to play guitar for Voorhees and now plays guitar in The Horror.
• Nick (drums) sang for Unborn (also on Lifeforce Records), played in various Sore Throat lineups, and played in Cracked Cop Skulls (with Napalm Death and Ripcord members, I believe).
• Doug (bass) went on to form Iron Monkey, who did some records for Earache. Last time I saw him he was managing bands like Funeral for a Friend and Raging Speedhorn, or something like that.
• Jim (guitar) went on to form Iron Monkey with Doug, as well as the amazing Hard to Swallow. He now plays in Geriatric Unit with members of Heresy.
• Tom (guitar) played for Baby Harp Seal (Fugazi/Hoover type stuff), who also recorded for Subjugation Records (Ironside's first home); relocated to Germany and played with Battle Royale (toured the US in '05); and now in plays in Cold War (Deep Six Records).

Lake of Blood "Heed the Primal Calling" CD

Posted on Thursday, August 7th, 2008 @ 6:03am » permalink

Lake of Blood - Heed the Primal CallingThe latest release from Milkweed Records is "Heed the Primal Calling", the debut EP from Lake of Blood, a promising southern California black metal act that I had never heard of before. Like many contemporary black metal acts, Lake of Blood doesn't exactly offer up much in the way of innovation: Their visual and lyrical aesthetics are quite similar to the rest of the genre (though the use of color on the front cover is a bit of a shift) in terms of dealing with a lot of bleak, murky forest landscapes and whatnot, and musically comparisons could be drawn to a number of other American/European acts within this realm. However, the songwriting certainly boasts an air of quality, and there are a number of very cool little riffs that, while comparable to some other artists, do tend to fall into the minority when it comes to what's most commonplace from the black metal genre as a whole. While present throughout, tremolo picking and blastbeats take a back seat to atmosphere and feeling, and that's always a plus, so you're more likely to be greeted by throbbing midpaced rhythms, driving chord progressions, melodic lead lines, intricate picking patterns, or even a few tactful keyboard intros (believe it or not). The only minor setback in my mind is that they need to do a little work on the recording quality. I don't mind the rawness at all, that obviously comes with the territory, but there's a little bit of "swooshiness" hovering about at times (and no, it's not due to the mp3 compression), and – more importantly – there's some separation between the elements in the mix, which can leave things sounding a little hollow. I can't really make out any of the basslines either, which could also be contributing to some of that. This is a very solid EP, though, and I think this band will have a lot to offer as they tighten things up and grow a little more into their own. Not bad at all. I'm quite curious to see what comes next…

Lake of Blood "Nameless I Arise"

Through this path ends existence. Through this path ends all boundaries of life… where rain falls eternal, cold as my heart. Through the mist I tread, past pillars of dying wood, to bring forth the journey's end into absolute darkness. Into infinite, incomprehensible black.

Purchase:

@ Milkweed Records

Pull Out an Eye "s/t" CD

Posted on Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 @ 6:38am » permalink

Pull Out an Eye – s/tThe debut self-titled, self-released CD from Belarusian outfit Pull Out an Eye cranks out 11 tracks of fast 'n' furious hardcore/punk in less than 12 minutes. Expect loads of blazing tempos, blasting drums, and straight-up shouting vocals, as well as cool uses of rocked out chord progressions and subtle melody in addition to loose, jangly playing styles that allow more texture and feeling to shine through. Oh, and very little (if any) breathing room in between songs! They pretty much tear straight through and call it a day, which really adds to the already high-impact energy level of the material. The recording's awesome, too. Super warm and gritty guitar texture, a totally raging bass tone with a smidge of that same grit pounding away literally right alongside the guitars (and dropping some impressive runs in the process), natural sounding percussion, and a mix that keeps the vocals fighting forth right from the heart of the music. The disc is housed in a nice, satin-finished digipack with slick, simple artwork and an insert that provides some English insight into the band's background and the generally socio-political contents of their material (which seems to be delivered in a simple, heartfelt manner). As usual, I'm left feeling like I should say more, but this one's over in a flash! Very cool. I'll definitely look forward to hearing more from Pull Out an Eye when the time comes…

Pull Out an Eye "Tochka Zreniya – Prestuplenie"
Pull Out an Eye "Vezde Lishniy"

Definitely get in touch with these guys to see about getting your hands on one of these discs if you like what you hear. They're a great band that's really staying true to the D.I.Y. way of doing things, and you've gotta respect that.

Execration "Syndicate of Lethargy" CD

Posted on Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 @ 5:52am » permalink

Execration - Syndicate of Lethargy"Syndicate of Lethargy" is the debut full-length from Norway's Execration (on Vendlus Records), and my first exposure to the band – who are apparently among the finest purveyors of absolutely crushing, true-to-form death metal out there these days. Not terribly unlike Dead Congregation in some ways (though indeed quite different in others), Execration seems to have been inspired by the best of the best that old school death metal had to offer, and have swirled those influences together into a fierce attack that still sounds current and fresh, despite being largely rooted in the past. There's a really good balance of straightforward speed and light technicality with slow, plodding rhythms that accentuate the band's penchant for mangled chord phrasings and discordant textures, so despite achieving a very consistent approach, this is not a one-sided album in the least. Obviously numerous staples of the genre are in place – tremolo picking and pinch harmonics, blastbeats, guttural vocals – but such aesthetics don't exactly dominate, what with the almost doom-esque tempos so prevalent throughout. Not to mention that the tracks range from concise three-and-a-half-minute bursts to the whopping 11+ minute closer, "Clinging to Existence", which even eases into an eerie atmospheric break with whispered vocals over clean guitars, bass, and sparse piano – making for one of the more epic tracks on the disc, even with all of its strange little abstractions! The production's great as well, with a nice sense of clarity and a really thick, monstrous sense of space. The vocals are never overpowering (nor are the drums), the guitars create a huge wall of sound but you can still make out that slightly fuzzy, oppressive bass tone, etc. No complaints here. There doesn't seem to be a ton of information out there regarding Execration, which strikes me as odd, but hopefully that's all going to change once this album starts filtering out a bit more. This is great shit, right here.

Execration "Syndicate of Lethargy"

This one was supposed to be out on August 1st, but I'm thinking that got pushed back until later this month since the label's apparently on vacation and not filling any orders until August 18th. I don't like posting about stuff before it's able to be purchased, but shit happens, and I was psyched about this disc when I first checked it out, so… if you like what you hear, make a mental note and check back at the Vendlus Records online store to see when this beast arrives in stock!

Said and Done "Endless Roads" 7"/CD

Posted on Monday, August 4th, 2008 @ 6:52am » permalink

Said and Done - Endless Roads"Endless Roads" is the latest EP from unique Dutch hardcore act Said and Done, recently released by Shield Recordings. Included are six tracks in a little under 20 minutes that pick up where their full-length left off and continue to build out from a base of largely midpaced and lightly metallic hardcore. The songs are a little longer this time out, but still focus on pounding basslines, tactful grooves, and little smatterings of melody or rocked out influences creeping in on occasion. And the vocals are definitely continuing to progress quite nicely, with more hints at a subtle form of gruff singing that really sets Said and Done's overall sound apart from many of their contemporaries, and achieves a great sense of feeling that fits in surprisingly well against the band's musical backbone. The layout's really cool this time out as well, with tour photos appropriate to the themes of the lyrics throughout, as well as brief song descriptions and other such explanatory text that comes across as truly genuine and inspiring with zero pretension, which seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days, so I really have a lot of respect for what they have to say here. I'm already looking forward to hearing some more new material, too!

Said and Done "Into the Distance"

I'm not seeing this one in any US distros yet, but it should start popping up here and there within another month or so I'd guess. The 7" pressing only has four songs due to time constraints, but if you buy the vinyl from the band or label you'll also get a download code with it that will include all six songs in mp3 format. Good stuff!

Purchase:

@ Said and Done (CD)
@ Said and Done (7")
@ Shield Recordings (CD)
@ Shield Recordings (7")

Misery Signals "Controller" CD

Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2008 @ 5:55am » permalink

Misery Signals - ControllerWhile I quite liked, "Mirrors", the last effort from Misery Signals, I really haven't listened to it very much at all since it was released, because their debut, "Of Malice and the Magnum Heart", was just so fucking good that I'd always prefer to listen to it instead (realistically, it'll always be their best, it's just a fact). That being said, "Controller", their brand new album (again on Ferret Music), seems to strike me as a hint more of a return to form of sorts – but without looking backwards, per se. Right off the bat the extremely intricate arrangements and technical riffing of their debut is there, complete with loads of energy and emotion, shifting effortlessly from chugging breakdowns and octave chords to totally incredible melodic attributes and loads of discordant textures with tons and tons of layering, creating all sorts of subtle little complexities. Some of the more spacey sounding textures and effects heard throughout "Mirrors" appear here as well, but they're far more restrained and well-integrated into the core sound the band developed on their debut, so they don't come across as stale or generic in any way, which is awesome. But they also push those types of influences further in a few areas, leaning towards a truly "progressive" sound with a number of bizarre yet gorgeous clean passages and weird little effects accents that almost touch a Cynic-esque level here and there (And that's pretty much never a band thing!). I know that a lot of people bitch and moan when bands of this nature switch it up with some singing vocals here and there, but there's barely any singing here, and I really like those vocals during the few instances that they do present themselves, so… shit, more of that down the road could prove quite interesting. And Devin Townsend's production job certainly doesn't hurt the overall impact. Everything sounds pretty god damn huge, but with a great sense of clarity that really lets the interplay between the various guitar and bass parts shine (Through some great panning, too!). Misery Signals has definitely been among the very top "metalcore" bands out there for that past 4+ years, and with this album they've certainly solidified their post right there as possibly the best still active band operating within this particular realm of the genre right now. You just don't hear this impressive level of musicianship and emotive songwriting quality together very often. Period.

Misery Signals "Parallels"

Purchase:

@ Ferret Music (CD)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)
@ Very Distribution (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

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