Scorn "Vae Solis" CD
Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2009 @ 7:03am » permalink
Legendary former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris formed Scorn in the early-90's with original Napalm Death bassist/vocalist Nic Bullen, but to be honest with you I've never really explored much of Scorn's work because what I heard first came from the band's later, more experimental years (which I wasn't quite prepared for at the time), so I'm disappointed that no one has ever recommended their debut full-length, "Vae Solis", to me before. Having pulled out some old Optimum Wound Profile and Pitchshifter in recent weeks, subsequent reading online brought up mention of Scorn on numerous occasions, so I decided to check out what was available on eMusic, and this album really struck me right off the bat. Released in 1992 on Earache Records, "Vae Solis" works from much more of an industrial metal base, unloading 75 minutes that fuse live and programmed drums with pulsing basslines, gritty electronic textures and samples, and Justin Broadrick's massive, churning guitar work (I believe this is the only Scorn album to which he contributed). In some ways, Broadrick's presence lends this album the aesthetic of a more industrialized Godflesh, but at the same time the material isn't overly driven by a lot of what comes to mind when the term "industrial" is involved. On some level it's quite comparable to what other Earache artists such as Godflesh, Pitchshifter, and a little later Meathook Seed and Blood From the Soul were doing in the early-90's, though the pedigree of Scorn's lineup certainly plays a role in developing the powerful atmospherics that give this album its own space within these realms of "extreme music". The second half of the album definitely starts to branch out just a bit more – starting with the subdued drones, throbbing bass, and goth-tinged vocal delivery of the eight-minute "On Ice"; and then introducing more of a focus on drawn out instrumentation, grating guitar textures, and samples in tracks like "Fleshpile (Edit)", or the stripped down ambient hums throughout "Orgy of Holiness". I don't know, maybe there are a lot of other people out there like me who weren't aware that Scorn started out so strong, but I definitely feel like this album should've gotten more attention over the years. I would've loved this shit in the early-90's, so it's a damn shame I didn't finally check this out until recently. Better late than never, though!
Scorn "Deep In – Eaten Over and Over" (excerpt)
@ Earache Records (CD)
@ Half.com (CD)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
Goldust "Noir" 7"
Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2009 @ 7:17am » permalink
Germany's Goldust is already back with their latest EP (a split release between Apil Records, My Fist Your Face Records, and Break x Out Records), the "Noir" 7", which unloads six new tracks in just nine-and-a-half minutes. For the most part the material picks up right where "Axis" left off, though the recording is definitely a little crisper, which helps the material "pop" a bit more, so this is absolutely the best the band has sounded to date. Interestingly enough, however, while they keep the running times more consistently short and to the point here, they're also branching out just a touch – retaining the core of their straightforward metallic hardcore sound while amping up the overall sense of energy with true feelings of rage, as well as a hint more diversity in a few instances. So there's a little more explosive speed overall, but then you've also got segments like the opening intro, "M", which slowly builds into "Aevum" with an epic feel that's built around clean guitars and feedback as well as forceful power chords and samples. You'll still find a blend of crunchy power chord rhythms and tactful metal influences with some scorching lead breaks, but everything hits a little harder and feels more cohesive now, which is great: Not only is the band quite productive, but they're continuing to improve with time. What more could you ask for?
Apil Records is the only source for ordering online at the moment, so I'd recommend getting in touch with the band and all of the labels on MySpace using the links above to inquire about further ordering information, potential US distribution, etc.
@ Apil Records
Believer "Gabriel" CD
Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 @ 7:16am » permalink
Anytime a band gets back together and releases their first record in more than 15 years, it's hard not to be at least a little skeptical – even if it's a band as creatively respected as cult legends Believer, who have done just that with "Gabriel" (released by Metal Blade Records), which is their first studio album since 1993's "Dimensions". But with about an hour's worth of music, including some of their longest songs to date, I'd say they've actually pulled it off pretty well here. Sure, it doesn't match the speed or aggression that was present on "Extraction From Mortality" and "Sanity Obscure", but I wouldn't expect it to, and there are still a hell of a lot of chunky thrash riffs to be found herein regardless. Plus, to be completely honest with you, while adding a keyboardist/programmer to the band sounds like a truly terrifying move, it actually works out just fine – to the point where I could even argue that some of the weird atmospheric breaks and quirky little oddball layering twists of "Gabriel" are more tactful and cohesive than those of "Dimensions".
Whatever your take, it's undeniably Believer, though. You've got a foundation of tautly chugging midpaced to moderately fast thrash and those strained, sneering vocals complemented by strange chord phrasings and arrangements; tasteful grooves; warped, jazzy solos; glitchy electronic interludes; and an overall feeling that's generally quite unique to the identity that Believer alone has created. And all of this is wrapped in an intriguing recording that combines a perfectly thick, crunchy guitar tone with crisp, prominent bass and tight drumming under what feels like an occasional sheen of textured distance that washes over everything to create a sense of, just… weirdness… but it works! Certain facets of the songwriting could use a little more punch, but you simply can't fuck with the back-to-back attack of "The Need for Conflict" and "Focused Lethality" (just past the midway point of the record), as both songs are absolutely awesome and easily stand up right alongside Believer's early-90's classics. That's not to suggest that the band was aiming to repeat the past, though, because I don't think that's the case at all. As stated earlier, this is just Believer: This is what they do. This material marks another logical progression in the Believer timeline, and I'm fairly confident that "Gabriel" as it stands today would've made just as much sense had it been released back in 1995/1996. But seeing as it is indeed 2009, this is an incredibly respectable and welcomed return…
Believer "Focused Lethality"
@ Metal Blade Records (CD/mp3)
@ The End Records (CD)
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
Savage Land "Honor Among Thieves" 7"
Posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 @ 6:53am » permalink
"Honor Among Thieves" is the first proper release from Virginia's Savage Land, as well as the first release from the drummer's new label, Tension Head Records. Included are four furious tracks of straightforward hardcore with ragingly pissed off vocals and a good amount of tempo changes from pounding midpaced power chords with roaming basslines to moderate speeds with some raw lead breaks and quick little dissonant riffs thrown in here and there for good measure. The recording's nice and thick, which adds a definite sense of heaviness to their attack while still retaining a little bit of ruggedness through the use of such natural tones. I hate to keep it so short, but at just nine-and-a-half minutes long that's about all there is to it. This is yet another hardcore band from around here that's definitely got the right idea, so I'll be looking forward to seeing where they take things down the road. Good stuff…
Savage Land "Spiritual Healing"
To order directly from the band/label, use the link below to shoot 'em a line about PayPal ordering information. Or, just pick it up from one of the other distributors that currently has it in stock…
@ Tension Head Records
@ A389 Recordings
@ Grave Mistake Records
@ Six Feet Under Records
Bodychoke "Cold River Songs" CD
Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2009 @ 6:44am » permalink
Sadly I had never even heard of Bodychoke prior to reading about this recent reissue on Relapse Records a few weeks ago, which proves how very correct the label is in referring to the band as "criminally underrated and underexposed". Formed in the early 90's by members of power electronics legends Sutcliffe Jügend and Whitehouse, "Cold River Songs" was the band's third and final album, originally released in 1998. Admittedly I've never been an enormous fan of Sutcliffe Jügend or Whitehouse, but the concept of a "true" band utilizing traditional instrumentation to craft "real" songs formed from the base of those two units is incredibly intriguing to me, and sure enough these sinister, spacious efforts create the perfect union between gothic atmospheres and tastefully grating, pulsing noise rock. The bulk of the compositions center around throbbing basslines and crisp drumming alongside short, simple vocal lines that are delivered through everything from hushed whispers to intense shouts/shrieks – accented by surprisingly frequent (and efficient) appearances of cello, while the guitars tend much more towards noisy textures and waves as opposed to tangible riffs. This reissue also includes three outstanding bonus tracks taken from the odds and ends collection CD-R "Completion" that the band released posthumously, which I believe were recorded around the same time as the sessions for the album, thus making for about an hour's worth of music across nine songs total. Apparently there's also an entirely new layout that includes (potentially "controversial") lyrics for the first time in the band's history, but I can't really speak to that since I bought the mp3's off Amazon.com. Contrary to what some have stated I think the new cover art kicks ass, though, and from what I can make out of the lyrical content things are a bit more tactful and appropriate for the general tone of Bodychoke's presentation, as opposed to an over the top power electronics type of attack. What more can I say? Very interesting, indeed… and I quite hope I can track down the rest of Bodychoke's output!
Bodychoke "White Light Killer"
If that's not enough to convince you, stream the whole thing at Last.fm. This is an excellent album and truly was a perfect candidate for such a reissue. I can only hope that Relapse will eventually do the same for the band's first two efforts, "Mindshaft" and "Five Prostitutes" (the latter of which was recorded by Steve Albini, which is exceptionally curious), as they're painfully hard to find by any means, and when you do track down a CD copy the prices are generally absurd. If anyone out there happens to have copies of those discs that you'd for some reason be willing to part with, please do let me know!
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ The End Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
My Heart to Joy "Seasons in Verse" LP
Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2009 @ 7:10am » permalink
The last time I wrote about this Connecticut act they went by My Heart to Joy at the Same Tone, but for their debut full-length (compliments of Asbestos Records) they've apparently trimmed it down to simply My Heart to Joy, and with the shortened band name comes a more focused and emotionally moving sound that leaves some of their "screamo" characteristics behind in favor of a tighter and more fluid emo/indie centered approach. The end result suits me just fine, and is without question the band's finest work to date – which should absolutely appeal to anyone who's ever been a fan of this particular style, especially during its 90's heyday. The recording utilizes warm, natural tones and a perfectly balanced mix that lets pulsing bass runs hold down the center while bright, hard-panned guitar lines mingle back and forth throughout, allowing some of the subtle intricacies of the musicianship to shine. For the most part the songwriting deals more with harnessing energy and feeling than catchy choruses or anything from the "poppier" side of this niche, so they haven't completely shed their more aggressive tendencies, they've simply reigned them in and streamlined their approach into a more cohesive and consistent whole. Keep in mind, though, that just because it's not necessarily "catchy" certainly doesn't mean it's not memorable, because while I enjoy the band's prior work, something about this minor shift in style really does hit you with much more immediacy right from the start. At 11 tracks in just over a half-hour I'm already left wanting more, so I really hope the band continues their productive output rate. The progression from their first recordings to this album are outstanding, and I firmly recommend this LP. There just don't seem to be a great number of bands effectively exploring this sound anymore…
My Heart to Joy "Empty Homes"
The LP is slated for release early next month but can already be pre-ordered, and should start shipping any day now. It'll be limited to just 500 copies on four different colors, so… act now while you still can, before this band starts to garner the amount of attention they truly deserve and the vinyl sells out!
@ Asbestos Records
The CD pressing will be available for pre-order on March 20th via Topshelf Records.
L.I.G.H.T.: Anyone remember this band?
Posted on Thursday, March 12th, 2009 @ 7:37am » permalink
If anyone knows anything about the band L.I.G.H.T. please post a comment and let me know. The only song I have of theirs is this track from "The World is Yours" compilation that was released by Uprise Records in 1996. It's not an outstanding track, but it is pretty cool. Musically it's got a Snapcase meets Empathy thing happening with some weird vocal patterns and whatnot, and it's interesting enough for me to want to check out more (if they ever did anything else, though something tells me they did). However, since the band name is literally impossible to search for without a little more information to go on, I can't find shit online anywhere.
L.I.G.H.T. "Good Solution"
Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!
v/a "MMIX: Deathwish/Malfunction/Six Feet Under" sampler
Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 @ 7:49am » permalink
Call me stubborn, but I typically hate samplers and almost never listen to 'em. But I don't get as much mail as I used to and I'm really growing increasingly disinterested in the vast majority of new music that's hitting the streets these days, so I don't spend nearly as much money on music as I used to either. That being said, I've been running out of current releases to write about lately, and Deathwish/Malfunction is one of the few labels that still holds my interest on a regular basis, so when they recently started promoting their new free digital sampler (for which they also teamed up with Six Feet Under Records), the contents had me hooked right off the fuckin' bat. Including 19 tracks (15 of which are previously unreleased, and only two of which had I heard before) plus two videos for over an hour's worth of music, the fact that there are new tunes from Integrity and Rot in Hell alone had me extremely curious. Toss in additional new songs from Pulling Teeth, J. Bannon, Reign Supreme, and 108, to name but a few, and you've got a surefire winner. Integrity's contribution is a perfect follow-up to the "Walpurgisnacht" 7" and would've fit in perfectly alongside said material; J. Bannon's "Heavy Blood (Empty version)" pulses along with a hypnotically repetitious throb that really hits the spot (in a Jesu-leaning manner, no less, which rules); Rot in Hell and Pulling Teeth both crank out the fury with plenty of their "Melnick-ian leads" (the latter also branching out into a much darker, more somberly melodic direction, however); Reign Supreme delivers the goods as expected; I was impressed by a couple of bands that I hadn't heard before (Lewd Acts and Mother of Mercy); Coliseum reminded me that I really need to stop forgetting that they're a damn good band; and Ressurection (yes, that's how this particular band spells it) sounds better than I remember in the past (I've owned and sold the "I Refuse." CD twice. Go figure.), so I think I'm looking forward to that discography CD after all! I'm not even gonna bother posting any sample mp3's to hook you in here, 'cause the whole thing's free and there's no reason you shouldn't download this immediately, if you haven't already:
[DOWNLOAD] v/a "MMIX: Deathwish/Malfunction/Six Feet Under" sampler (@ Deathwish Inc.)
[DOWNLOAD] v/a "MMIX: Deathwish/Malfunction/Six Feet Under" sampler (@ Mediafire)
Depending on how things go over the next few weeks, I might just start doing more posts about whatever albums I happen to be listening to on any given day/lately, rather than focusing mostly on "new" material, so… we'll see!
Swamp Thing "In Shame" CD
Posted on Monday, March 9th, 2009 @ 7:56am » permalink
"In Shame" (released by 6131 Records) is the debut full-length from Swamp Thing, another incredibly solid hardcore band from here in Richmond, VA that I had heard in bits and pieces, but I clearly slacked for way too long and hadn't yet picked up their previous EP when this CD showed up in the mail. Expect 13 tracks averaging a minute or two apiece (never topping three) of generally fast 'n' angry hardcore with just the right amount of variety to keep things interesting – be it absolutely raging blasts of speed, slightly more midpaced rhythms that provide some breathing room, subtle hints at melody, or tinges of (barely) rocked out chord progressions. The vocals are also much more snarlingly bitter than a lot of the hardcore that I encounter these days, which certainly lends a more vitriolic sense of furious energy to the material and helps to separate the band from some of the more typical approaches that tend to be found out there. That's not to say that what they're doing is completely unfamiliar, but there's also no need to rewrite the book on this niche of hardcore if you know what you're doing and have a good handle on songwriting, and Swamp Thing obviously meets that criteria. The performances are tight, the recording's great, the layout looks awesome… what more do you need? I'm sold.
Swamp Thing "Crush"
Close my eyes and lean back. Just fall into the gray. A coward's escape, but I can't fight today. I'll let the white noise win and pretend to die. It will all be done someday. Fade to numb, to remain silent and sick again.
@ 6131 Records (CD)
@ 6131 Records (LP)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
Samiam "Clumsy" CD
Posted on Friday, March 6th, 2009 @ 8:00am » permalink
Samiam formed in California in 1988, and having released their most recent material in 2006, from what I can tell this longstanding group is still kinda/sorta active (I think?), though certain members are now performing in other bands as well. Despite having read about Samiam in shitloads of different zines when I was a kid, for some absolutely inexplicable reason I never actually checked out their music until about three years ago when a couple of people who follow this site strongly recommended 'em to me in the same week. Needless to say I was hooked right away, and bought up a handful of their albums immediately thereafter. And as has been the case with a few bands I've written about in the past, my favorite Samiam album just so happens to be their first and only major label outing – their fourth album, "Clumsy" – which was released in 1994 on Atlantic Records. The band seems to garner a shitload of comparisons to Jawbreaker, which isn't completely off by any means, though I wouldn't necessarily make that comparison myself. I'd say most of the connection comes from the fact that both bands have a unique sound that bounces around between a few comparable styles, thus making them harder to pigeonhole into one genre or another. Is it emo? Indie rock? Pop-punk? All of the above? None of the above? I don't really know, nor do I care, because these guys have written some absolutely incredible tunes, and while I'm sure some ignorant listeners would argue against the quality of this album solely due to its major label source, I think "Clumsy" all comes together perfectly: From the crisply polished (but not overly so) recording and the overall feeling of the performances to the downright impeccable songwriting. "Capsized" has gotta be one of the greatest songs ever written, and should be all you need to be sold, but a number of other tracks on this disc fall right behind it in terms of blending catchy choruses with emphatic melodies and actual emotional substance. So great…
For some strange reason this seems to be the only Samiam album that's not available digitally, but thankfully you can easily grab the CD for a great price new or used. And since you can get it for less than a buck in the used department, you know this is one of "those" albums that must just be criminally underappreciated. So if I can return the favor and introduce even a handful of listeners to the greatness of this band through this post, then my work is done…
Cold Inside "The Things I Failed to Tell You" LP
Posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2009 @ 7:23am » permalink
The very first release from Harm's Way Records is the debut full-length outing from Finland's Cold Inside, who I had heard good things about based on their "Ends, Starts, and Broken Hearts" 7", though I never got around to picking up that EP. Apparently that was a big mistake, because these 10 tracks in 23 minutes offer the perfect combination of Cleveland and New York hardcore via a more contemporary filter comparable to top-notch bands like Bitter End. Expect sparse Integrity-esque lead bursts alongside driving Clevo power chords and tactfully chugging midpaced grooves, and even some unexpected excursions into a gruff singing style reminiscent of Sheer Terror's later days!? So it's definitely not a one-sided effort, and they actually branch out further in other areas, such as the two instrumental pieces that open and close the album with somber clean/acoustic passages, and the especially interesting "It's Okay, Babe, I'm Only Dying", which explores a hint more dark melody and dissonance in its riffing. The only such experiment I could definitely do without is "Hardship Blues (Between Two Miseries)", the acoustic "blues" interlude that kicks off the second half of the album, because to be honest with you the delivery, while decent, just doesn't match the quality of the rest of the album, and such a divergence from the band's core approach doesn't really make a ton of sense. No big deal, though, because everything else herein is very solid, right down to the recording, so I'm definitely on board with the big picture. Absolutely.
Cold Inside "Tragedies in Minutes"
The LP includes a digital download coupon for mp3's of the tracks, which is always the way to go in my mind. It wouldn't be a bad idea for the label to also consider selling the album as a standalone digital download at a cheaper rate, but either way this is a great set of tunes that will certainly have me looking forward to future efforts from Cold Inside.
@ Harm's Way Records
Losing Sleep "Jam Damage"
Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 @ 8:05am » permalink
"Jam Damage" is the first release from Arkansas' Losing Sleep, and what a fuckin' great debut it is, offering eight short tracks in a mere 10 minutes. No song hits even two minutes in length, and the band's style is an unexpectedly unique fusion of surprisingly thick 'n' chunky metallic hardcore/punk with loads of dissonant post-hardcore textures, grinding bursts of speed, and aggressively snarled vocals. I'm honestly not sure how the hell these cats pull this off so damn well, either! It sort of sounds like there are a lot more influences at work than the end result would suggest on the surface, and typically it's pretty hard for a band to fuse all of these comparable yet differing styles into a whole that remains cohesive, but Losing Sleep does so with apparent ease. The material's heavier and more metallic than straightforward hardcore/punk, but it doesn't particularly come across as either metal or hardcore/punk. There's a definite undercurrent of a rocked out vibe in there, but they don't sound like one of those bands that blatantly bites off Motörhead at all. I mentioned the prevalence of those post-hardcore textures, but they sound nothing like a post-hardcore band. And despite some instances of pure grinding fury, they're absolutely not a grindcore band. Like I said, I have no idea how they throw all that shit in a blender and come out with a consistent niche of their own that actually makes sense, but they do… and it totally kicks ass! Excellent work.
Losing Sleep "Rat With Wings"
And bonus kick-ass points for the fact that this EP is available as a free download, too! Highly recommended and free, so… there's just no excuse not to give this one a shot:
[DOWNLOAD] Losing Sleep "Jam Damage" (@ Mediafire)
Envision "2009 demo"
Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 @ 8:34am » permalink
The debut demo from Bellingham, WA's Envision unloads three tracks of that dingy, more sinister brand of 90's styled metallic hardcore in about 13 minutes. Expect a suitably raw recording with lots of warm space and dry textures to deliver sludgy, grating rhythms that combine a driving midpaced chug with some looser, noisier dissonance and feedback, fronted by absolutely sick vocals that have a major tinge of that European vitriol reminiscent of bands like Arkangel and the like. The songwriting definitely carries with it a sense of plodding darkness that gives this band a much different sound than a lot of what comes to mind when associations are made with the 90's scene, but that's simply due to the fact that their influences and approach are rooted in a less typical niche of that era, which suits me just fine. This is a killer demo through and through, and I'd already love to hear a full-length from this band…
Envision "Homo Sacer"
Physical copies (CD and cassette) should be available shortly, but the entire demo's currently available for free download, so definitely check this shit out:
[DOWNLOAD] Envision "2009 demo" (@ Mediafire)