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Arkangel "…Is Your Enemy" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2008 @ 6:54am » permalink

Arkangel - ...Is Your EnemyHonestly, for some reason I've lost touch with what GSR Music has been pumping out for the last year or so, and thus didn't check out the latest release from Arkangel until last week, when I started pulling out a bunch of my old Belgian metalcore CD's for the first time in a few years. I think this disc hit the streets back in the summer, but I didn't really pay attention for some reason – I think there was a part of me that just didn't expect Arkangel to still be vital. They've been noticeably less prolific than some of their fellow Belgians over the years, but god damn if they haven't somehow managed to be the only band from that scene that's never released any weak material in 10+ years, because just like 2004's "Hope You Die by Overdose", this shit is absolutely fucking vicious. They haven't lost an ounce of their power: From the inimitably scathing vocals to the increasingly dark and textured metalcore underneath – complete with plenty of the speedy, death metal-infused riffing they birthed in the late-90's; sickly churning midpaced rhythms accented by slow, sinister dissonance; and even some piano and acoustic passages! It's extremely fucking rare to see songwriting quality improve over time for bands of this nature, but that has absolutely been the case with Arkangel, as these last two full-lengths easily surpass their late-90's output in terms of balancing overall ferocity and relentless intensity with tangible feeling and memorably explosive emotion. What can I say? I'm absolutely impressed. I was a moron to overlook this album, even if just for a few months…

Arkangel "13th Hour"

Huge props to GSR Music as well for getting their releases up on iTunes (iTunes Plus, no less), which is where I grabbed these jams. More labels need to make that shit happen, man. It's so much faster, not to mention cheaper, than dealing with international mailorder. Awesome.

Purchase:
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Dead Vows "Bad Blood" CD

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 @ 6:53am » permalink

Dead Vows - Bad Blood"Bad Blood" is the debut album from Sweden's Dead Vows (released by the Italian label Refoundation Records), unloading 11 tracks of rather interesting hardcore/punk in a half-hour. What's curious is that the band's approach can't be easily pigeonholed amidst the genre's current landscape, which is actually pretty damn cool. The material's not particularly metallic at all, but the crispness of the production values definitely lends a more modern sound to the album as a whole, as do the super tight performances. Of course, some of the more dissonant textures and subtly chunky picking patterns also possess a more contemporary feel, as does the fact that the vocals are pretty much just straight up screaming, but… I don't know, there's still a hint of "dated" old school influence seeping through as well (though little of said influence is very direct). The songwriting covers a good range of tempos (though they could probably stand for just a hint more speed from time to time), dropping a number of more rocked out sounding rhythms that contrast the darker aspects with unexpected bursts of energy, but despite obvious aggression, their delivery isn't over the top, and lacks that "heavy" sort of pounding sound. And that's not a complaint, either, just another peculiar trait that exemplifies the wide span of influences at work here. What more can I say, really? It's good stuff.

Dead Vows "Strep Throat"
Dead Vows "Dark Red Water"

…roll me to the water, a gigantic dark black sea. Push me into the water, push me into the sea. So now I'm thinking as I'm sinking: Why did I get involved? But I know it all too well, I have to let it go. These teeth have been grinding stones before. They know it all. Throw me to the rattlesnakes.

Purchase:

@ Refoundation Records

Gods and Queens "s/t" LP + CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 @ 4:49am » permalink

Gods and Queens - s/tIn their own words: "Gods and Queens is a three-piece band from Brooklyn/Philadelphia, who tried in vain to blatantly steal riffs and song patterns from some of their favorite bands, like Hoover, Rodan, Angels of Light, June of 44, Lowercase, Spaceman 3, Lungfish, and lastly, the best band to have graced the planet earth, Unwound… but failed on every attempt." Now, I'm not saying they sound identical to any of those acts by any means, but they've certainly not failed. At all. In fact, their debut release on Robotic Empire (which comes on slick colored vinyl in a gatefold sleeve that also holds a CD of the material) is quite fucking good, and does indeed resemble certain elements of the aforementioned bands' assorted styles. Its seven untitled tracks (What an odd move!?) in 27 minutes and 27 seconds explore an array of efficiently cohesive approaches, from dry, jangly rhythms and moving "clean" passages (which are always just a touch "messy" in terms of tone, and that's a good thing) to pulsing rhythms and more aggressive fare that's occasionally drowned in cascading waves of effects (that thank fucking christ do not sound anything like the overwhelmingly trendy "post-rock" sounds that are becoming far too prevalent in recent years, I don't care what anyone says), alongside gruff singing that really works out well – before closing with a nearly 10-minute beast that builds from faint ambient throbs towards increasingly loud, repetitious riffing with booming percussion and distant, droning vocal textures. They're also one of those bands that makes absolutely fucking excellent use of the fact that they're a trio, utilizing a superbly crisp, natural recording that gives the pounding basslines a very central role, while perfectly accentuating both the cleaner and more melodic aspects of the material and the harsher, noisier outbursts. Great work…

Gods and Queens "(untitled)"

Purchase:

@ Gods and Queens (LP/CD)
@ Robotic Empire (LP/CD)
@ Interpunk (LP/CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)

Alea Jacta Est/Fat Ass split CD

Posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 @ 7:01am » permalink

Alea Jacta Est/Fat Ass - splitThe latest from Nothing But a Beatdown Records is a split CD offering six tracks apiece from French acts Alea Jacta Est and Fat Ass – two bands that I had never heard prior to this. Alea Jacta Est kicks things off with a thick, chugging style rooted in the niche of "beatdown" metalcore you'd expect from the label, though it's not all bass drops and mosh breaks by any means. There are actually a number of faster and more traditionally-based metallic hardcore rhythms, while a few subtly thrashy picking patterns or Slayer-esque metal riffs increase the variation to keep the songwriting interesting. Sure, expect gruff vocals with huge gang backups and loads of straightforward power chords that lean towards a simplistically chunky approach, but there's actually a lot going on beneath the surface here, so the material's not as stripped down as you might initially perceive it to be. Fat Ass then follows, and while I typically would not expect to enjoy a band with a name like "Fat Ass", I have to say that they're pretty god damn solid. As anticipated their approach isn't terribly far removed from that of Alea Jacta Est, placing a lot of emphasis on pounding basslines and chugging rhythms, granted their vocal delivery is more over the top (I could absolutely do without the sparse "urp urp" pig squeal moments, though, I hate that shit) and the compositions do tend to be a little more straightforward "beatdown" oriented. Their guitar tone boasts a little more texture, however, which actually lends a pretty interesting twist to their overall aesthetic, and really pays off when they unload some intensely discordant chord phrasings (check the intro to "The Devil's Rejects", which is incredibly fucking promising). This is the second straight release from Nothing But a Beatdown Records that's high-quality, in your face European metalcore, so I'll damn sure be looking forward to hearing what they drop next, without a doubt…

Alea Jacta Est "Leave No Man Behind"
Fat Ass "The Devil's Rejects"

You can also download the 2007 demos from both bands (and loads of other material) through Nothing But a Beatdown's digital label, so check that out as well if you like what you hear above.

Purchase:

@ Nothing But a Beatdown Records

v/a "Inside Front: The Compact Disc." compilation CD

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2008 @ 12:00am » permalink

v/a - Inside Front: The Compact Disc. - compilationI've been pulling out tons of old 90's hardcore compilations in the last few months, and I finally got around to this one earlier in the week. This awesome international collection came with issue #8 of the once mighty Inside Front magazine back in 1996, and also includes some of the tracks from the "Point Counterpoint" and "No Exit" compilations that previously came with issues #6 and #4, respectively. Opening with two One Life Crew (OH) jams that were later re-recorded for "American Justice" (say what you will about their retarded politics, but they were a great fucking hardcore band), followed by the always sick Blood Runs Black (NY) with "No Return", from the all-too-rare "Cast Into Eternity Within Duration of a Moment", there's just a shitload of killer material to be found here: 20 tracks and 66 minutes in all.

For example, you'll also get "As Life Takes the Knife to its Heart", the opening track from the alfuckingmighty Lash Out's (Norway) "What Absence Yields" full-length – an obvious standout here, as they're simply one of the greatest bands in the history of existence, and probably the single most underrated band from the 90's hardcore scene. Period. If you can't hang with Lash Out, I seriously fucking hate you. (Sorry.) Then there's Brother's Keeper (PA) with an alternate recording of "The Gift (As the Colors Fade)", which was redone for "The Continuum"; "Self Assured", a completely badass track from Backlash (Straight outta NJ, where else?) that has me kicking myself in the fucking teeth for having never searched out more from this band; one of the better recorded offerings amongst what I remember of Timescape Zero's (FL) brand of crunchy metallic hardcore; "Tribe of Man" from the always superb Atlas Shrugged (NY); and two tracks from Abhinanda (Sweden) that were re-recorded for the "Senseless" album. Not to mention solid offerings of the more metal-based variety from a few bands that I'm still not terribly familiar with, like Aftershock (MA), Quarantine (CA), and Refuge (CA); plus respectable cuts from Spirit (NJ), Trial (WA), Tension (FL), and Line Drive (GA). It all closes out with the 12+ minute "Chamber of the Centipede", an exclusive composition from Dwid's old noise project Psywarfare (OH). Good stuff.

Hell, literally the only shitty track in the bunch is from Otis Reem (NC), which starts out decent enough but quickly deteriorates into an unfortunate blend of metalcore and… ska!? Ouch. But hey, had they tossed the horns and the bullshit ska breaks that one would've been solid, too. What can you do?

So, without further ado:

[DOWNLOAD] "Inside Front: The Compact Disc." (@ Mediafire)

And as a surprise bonus, I just so happened to find this link to download the entire issue of the magazine as well (thanks to the Punks is Hippies blog), which includes interviews with Gehenna and 25 ta Life, plus loads of other stuff:

[DOWNLOAD] Inside Front #8 (@ Mediafire)

Enjoy, motherfuckers!

Early Graves "We: The Guillotine" CD

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2008 @ 7:55am » permalink

Early Graves - We: The GuillotineAnother one that I slept on for a little too long is "We: The Guillotine", the debut full-length from San Francisco's Early Graves on Ironclad Recordings. I couldn't tell you why I set this disc aside as something that I might like to check out when I had a little more time, but I did, and again I'm wishing I hadn't waited quite so long, as this is easily one of the best full-on "metalcore" records I've encountered as of late. The material falls amidst that rare breed that efficiently blends the more grinding, chaotic, and discordant metal riffing and constant change-ups with surging, meaty rhythms while still maintaining tangible hardcore influences here and there, not to mention some actual lyrical substance ('cause let's face it, there are just a shitload of bands of this nature out there whose lyrics simply don't matter). I don't know, it's diverse without at all coming off as all over the place, so the songwriting maintains a strong sense of cohesion that easily places the band's work above much of their contemporaries. And I think this is the best damn thing I've ever heard from Steve Austin's production duties, too. In the past I've not been a big fan of a lot of his work in this realm, but for the most part this record sounds fuckin' great: Heavy as hell but with a good amount of distinction between the guitars and bass, crisp percussion, and a really fuckin' powerful vocal sound that accentuates the delivery very well. What can I say? I tend to be pretty picky about this whole niche, especially within the last year or so, but this is an incredibly solid effort that gets me curious to see where they'll go from here…

Early Graves "Safety Net Acrobats"
Early Graves "Borrowed Teeth Borrowed Claws"

Purchase:

@ Metal Blade Records (CD)
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

Bison B.C. "Quiet Earth" CD

Posted on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 @ 4:32am » permalink

Bison B.C. - Quiet Earth"Quiet Earth" is the sophomore full-length from Canada's Bison B.C. (released by Metal Blade Records), who I had never heard of before, but will certainly be looking forward to hearing more from. I sat on this one for a few weeks because for some reason I feared it might be rather generic "stoner rock" (Maybe it was their logo? I don't know.) – a genre that I've always been fairly picky about – but something about the aesthetic of the cover art intrigued me, so I gave it a shot. And hot damn am I glad I did, because this shit is fucking great. There is a certain degree of that whole "stoner rock" influence happening (mainly due to some fiery leads and the occasional foray into straightforward dual guitar harmonies), but for the most part we're talkin' eight tracks of doomy, sludgy, hardcore/punk-infused rock in a little under 45 minutes, and this shit's way more diverse and high-energy than the vast majority of bands operating in and around this particular realm. It's heavy as hell but super crisp, with an absolutely stellar bass presence, and the quality of the riffs is top fucking notch – not only faster and more aggressive than most such acts, but weaving in sparse discordant textures and even some old school sounding metal rhythms that's all just a hell of a lot more creative than what you'd expect, which pays off big time. Very cool. I'm quite surprised I'm not seeing more mentions of these guys out there as of late, 'cause this is a killer set of tunes.

Bison B.C. "Dark Towers"

In the belly of the beast, bastards bloated from the feast. Walking through this land of death, are we wasting our last breath? We hear the prophets call, when the profits fall. All will soon be gone.

Purchase:

@ Metal Blade Records (CD/mp3)
@ The End Records (CD)
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Vegas "Never" CD

Posted on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 @ 5:36am » permalink

Vegas - NeverRecorded back in 2002 – 2003 and originally released by Superhero Records in 2004 as the "Wake" CD (for which you can read my more detailed archived review here), "Never" is the recently issued Frequency Deleted Records re-release of the debut full-length from the ever-intriguing and unpredictable Vegas. Bookended by dark ambient experimental noise pieces (the latter of which was supplied by Never Presence Forever), the bulk of the album's 14 tracks in just 38 minutes are based around Integrity's "holy terror" brand of metallic hardcore, complete with short, intense bursts of raging shouts/screams and explosive solos – while darker and more adventurous experimentation comes by way of a few Death in June-esque "apocalyptic folk" compositions (which are quite fucking well done, I might add) – not unlike vocalist T's later excursions with the Roses Never Fade project. I can't help but feel like the raw and somewhat inconsistent recording quality still hinders some of the band's true potential, but even still, 4+ years after the fact the power of their vision still stands.

The re-release supplies similar though subtly improved artwork, though the complete and total lack of any text within the booklet is somewhat of an odd choice given the group's curious lyrical content and the various combinations of musical contributors throughout (among them appearances by Dwid and former Pale Creation guitarist Matt Shack). The tracklist on the back cover is also almost entirely wrong, correctly identifying a mere four of the 14 songs (the actual sequencing is the same as that of the 2004 "Wake" release) – granted, when it comes to Vegas, that could've been some sort of inexplicably intentional act of obscurity!? Also included as a new bonus is a cryptic black and white video for an alternate version of "Becoming the Night", from the recently issued split 7" with Moutheater, which is a nice touch. So, minor little issues aside, for the many who likely missed this album in its original incarnation, this is indeed worth investigating. And here's to hoping that more long overdue new material from Vegas will see the light sooner rather than later!

Vegas "Wake"
Vegas "Fruition"

In this stillness I wear a careless glance, destiny unfolded, no words could explain, when the caring's gone, purpose stands sour, echo of silence has exceeded its powers, delirium's realm, through ignorance and error, destroying the balance, no savior for my sakes, deprived of the duality, entertained with solitude, severed from all reason, until the very end of me.

Purchase:

@ Frequency Deleted Records
@ RevHQ

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