Endpoint "The Last Record" CD

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2009 @ 8:13am » permalink

Endpoint - The Last RecordI've been reading the absolutely recommended "Burning Fight" this week, and it's been driving me to revisit a bunch of 90's hardcore that I haven't listened to in awhile (or ever, in some cases). While I didn't get into the band until shortly after their time had passed, and (regretfully) haven't listened to them very often lately, I've been a huge Endpoint fan ever since discovering them around 1996/1997. Widely regarded to be one of the most important bands ever to come from the highly influential Louisville, KY scene, I honestly don't like Endpoint's early material very much at all. It seems that their third album, "Catharsis", is generally considered their best, but I wholly disagree (in my opinion it was simply their first truly solid release). The increasingly diverse and more melodic leanings of their final full-length, "After Taste", and aptly titled last EP, "The Last Record" (released by Doghouse Records in 1993 and 1995, respectively), are where the band's powerful and emotional fusion of influences really shines.

In the segment of "Burning Fight" about Endpoint there's a part where one of the band members basically mentions that he can understand how a lot of the their fans weren't into "The Last Record" at the time, since it was even more of a musical departure than what they had started to hit on a few years earlier with "After Taste", but both releases clicked with me right away, and have always stood far above and beyond all of their prior work as far as my listening preferences are concerned. In a sense this EP just takes the wide-ranging songwriting style of "After Taste" and kicks it up a notch with a totally killer recording that's full of warm, natural tones that have just the right amount of loose ruggedness balanced with a brighter, clearer, and more balanced mix than any of their other releases. Shit, the bass presence alone makes such a huge difference in this material.

It is really diverse, though, now that I'm thinking about it. You've got the heavy opener, "Chalk", which fuses chugging rhythms and harmonics with discordant basslines and winding post-hardcore riffs, followed by the outfuckingstanding "Pencil Break" (probably my favorite Endpoint song ever) and its more somberly melodic approach. Then there's the much slower "Strings", blowing up into an energetic burst of those badass little arpeggiated riffs that were so popular back in the 90's before gradually easing into straight string-scraping guitar noise; while "Mather's Point" sort of takes everything the EP's offered so far and pushes it somewhere a little darker. And what about the more hopeful delivery of closer "Brown County", which is accented by acoustic and slide guitars for an almost – yes – "country" kind of vibe!? I'll let the debate over whether or not Endpoint was "emo" or still "hardcore" at this point in time rage on, 'cause I just don't care. At their best they were fucking brilliant, and in just 21-and-a-half minutes this EP most perfectly exemplifies why.

Endpoint "Pencil Break"

And, thankfully, it's still easy to come by. So if you like what you hear, buy it. I absolutely recommend "The Last Record" and "After Taste" without a second thought. Work backwards with these guys…

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (CD/mp3)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Profan "The Bestial Awakening" CD

Posted on Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 @ 8:22am » permalink

Profan - The Bestial Awakening"The Bestial Awakening" (released by Bubonic Productions) is billed as the "debut album" from Portugal's Profan, but seeing as it's limited to a mere 200 copies, I'm not really sure what makes it potentially more "official" than any of the preceding limited edition CD-R's in the band's (seemingly prolific) discography to date – especially since this does indeed mark my first exposure to their work. Apparently the band formed in the late-90's as a black/death metal group, and then sort of broke apart until 2004. Since that time a few lineup shifts have taken place, and Profan is now exploring a doom/drone oriented approach that's actually quite impressive. To be honest with you, in the years since "drone" has started to become recognized as somewhat of its own genre, my tolerance for/interest in such outings has rapidly decreased. I just find most "drone" bands to be extremely boring and unmoving. I'm not exactly sure what it is about Profan that captured my interest, but I could immediately sense that there was something different about this band, and they won me over right off the bat.

For one thing, drums and vocals are present, which is a plus. Let's face it: Rumbling instrumental guitar and bass drones get old fast. But more than that, there's a lot of true diversity across the board here. For example, the compositions aren't massively long just for the sake of being big, oppressive, marathon songs – of the seven tracks, some are three or four minutes, some five or six, some 10 or more (for a very tasteful total running time of about 46 minutes). More specifically, some pieces come across more like experimental noise – true "drone" – utilizing synths, vocals, and unidentifiable sound sources to create eerie dark ambient excursions; while others actually play out like "real" songs – moderately slow and relatively streamlined, sure, but with an actual sense of structure and purpose as opposed to the often haphazard and/or improvisational characteristics that I tend to associate with this type of thing. There's definitely a bit of an improvisational element at play here, whether it be found in layers of Godflesh-like feedback or throbbing low-end hums, but the use of percussion and vocals tends to help create more substance and focus. Furthermore, the vocal delivery ranges from your usual black metal-esque snarls to obscured whispers and deep, moaning chants, as well as an almost Joy Division-like croon!? There's just a hell of a lot more going on here than most such bands that I've encountered, and it really works well to create a chilling atmosphere that holds your interest throughout.

Profan "Sea Curses" (excerpt)
Profan "Howling" (excerpt)

I'm not clear on ordering information for this one, so I'd contact the band on MySpace or send the label an email to see what it takes to get your hands on one of these while you still can. As far as "drone" goes, Profan is certainly deserving of significantly more praise out there…

One Hidden Frame "Giant Steps" LP

Posted on Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 @ 12:29am » permalink

One Hidden Frame - Giant StepsThe third release from Thug Free Records is also the third full-length from One Hidden Frame ("Giant Steps"), and the band and label are also both from Lappeenranta, Finland. Unlike most of the Finnish bands that I cover, One Hidden Frame has a pop-punk/melodic hardcore sound with singing vocals over loads of midpaced rhythms, octave chords, and some of that more technical, 90's era Fat Wreck approach – such as dissonant chord phrasings, hammer-on/pull-off riffs, and zippy picking patterns. I reviewed their debut album about four years ago and thought it had some potential, but they've improved greatly over the years, and this is easily their best release to date. The production values alone make a huge difference here, with a crisp mix that provides just the right amount of breathing room for each instrument, but the songwriting is also light years ahead of what they were doing back then. There's a good balance of tempos and overall variety, and while they do throw in a few more contemporary riffing styles that hint at a modern "emo" sort of undercurrent here and there, the material's catchy without taking it too far in that direction. It's cool, because it's not overtly complex, but there's definitely some musicianship happening here, you just don't necessarily notice it since the songs are so punchy. They're definitely doing a lot with layered/panned guitar parts, though, and I'm really enjoying the way they're fusing an assortment of influences from the past 20 years in a way that sounds current. I feel like a lot of bands of this nature tend to stagnate in the sense that if they start out kinda so-so, that's just how it's gonna be. Thankfully that hasn't been the case with One Hidden Frame at all: Their growth is obvious, and it's really paying off for the listener.

One Hidden Frame "Race to the Moon"

I'm not sure what kind of distribution this release has at the moment, but I'm not seeing it in any distros, so contact the band and/or the label via the MySpace links above to inquire about getting your hands on a copy of the album…

Edge of Sanity "Crimson" CD

Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2009 @ 12:46am » permalink

Edge of Sanity - CrimsonI can't believe I've never written about this album before, as Edge of Sanity's "Crimson" is one of my favorite metal records of all time, and without a doubt one of those albums that – though loved by many – really does deserve a great deal more accolades. I can't really recall how I came to discover "Crimson", but I remember buying it off eBay sometime in the late-90's, and hearing this record is almost certainly what gave birth to my complete and total worship of musical genius Dan Swanö. Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth does make a guest appearance here, doing some vocals and lead guitars, so I bet that's what initially led me to pick it up, as Opeth was among my favorites at the time. Whatever the case, released in 1996 on Black Mark Productions, "Crimson" was the incredibly ambitious fifth full-length from Sweden's Edge of Sanity: One single song running 40 minutes. No track separations, nothing. One song. And it's an absolute masterpiece of progressive, melodic death metal from start to finish. You'd absolutely expect such an effort to get a little dull at moments, but it never happens. Not once. It's so good, I bought every Edge of Sanity album right after hearing it, and I can state with absolute conviction that, no matter what anyone else says, this album utterly demolishes every other contribution to the band's discography with ease.

In addition to loads of top-notch "melodic Swedish death metal" that doesn't really sound like what "melodic Swedish death metal" has come to represent are some of the most beautiful, haunting clean passages you'll ever hear; superbly moving lead work; occasional spurts of harsh, dissonant, borderline chaotic wails of tremolo picking and blasting percussion; and sparse fits of slow, sludgy doom riffs – not to mention Swanö's impeccable singing (and his/Åkerfeldt's harsh growls to boot). The lyrics tell a story, and the arrangements of the riffs follow suit, occasionally returning to variations (or literal revisitations) of earlier riffs throughout the piece, so in addition to the outright diversity, there are quite a few subtleties at work beneath the surface as well. So, while I don't give two shits about "fantasy" lyrics, the delivery of the material is so fucking powerful here that the lyrical content doesn't even matter, 'cause at its best, there's so much force and feeling present that it, well… it just kicks ass. Seriously, I can't think of any other album that urges the listener to headbang, fist pump, sing along, play air guitar, and feel some sort of emotional gut reaction – separately or all at once!

Seriously, this shit absolutely defines "epic". The fusion of death metal and melody on "Crimson" operates in an entirely different realm than any other band I've ever heard, and the best of the best riffs herein are, simply put, among the finest riffs I've ever heard in my life. Period. I'm not exaggerating. I've been flipping out over these riffs for at least a decade now, and the overall songwriting talent present is totally mindblowing. I mean, 40 fucking minutes! One song! And it's somehow one of the greatest songs in the history of all living things!?

I could gush about this for hours, but that's just scratching the surface, and none of it matters in the end. Just listen to these excerpts for yourself, and buy this CD immediately if you don't already have it. Every metal collection is incomplete without it!

Edge of Sanity "Crimson" (excerpt I)
Edge of Sanity "Crimson" (excerpt II)

Thankfully, unlike some of Black Mark's other old classics, "Crimson" is still relatively easy to come by – digitally or as a physical CD – so… like I said, this is absolutely mandatory for any metal fan. So good.

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (CD/mp3)
@ Century Media Distro (CD)
@ Relapse Records (CD)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Robots and Empire "Color Touches" CD

Posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2009 @ 9:53am » permalink

Robots and Empire - Color TouchesThe latest from Robots and Empire is the four-song "Color Touches" EP (once again on the great Trip Machine Laboratories label), which delivers more of their extremely awesome yet wildly peculiar blend of thick, sludgy, occasionally rocked out rhythms and winding, melodic post-hardcore textures – not to mention great vocals that really lend a different, more memorable feel to the material. The songwriting's perhaps a little crisper this time out, too – taking less than 15 minutes to get the job done and bouncing around between the varied influences with even more ease. Initially it starts to come across like it's a little catchier and more balatantly melodic, but then you're greeted with plenty of those unexpectedly dense dirges laced with little fits of feedback – reminding you that, yes, there's a hell of a balancing act going on here. And it's fucking cool!

Now, sometimes people get pissed off at me when I harp on the little things like this, but… I swear I mean well, and it needs to be said, again, that… uhhh… the visuals… I mean, this shit is ugly. Yeah, yeah, "don't judge a book by its cover", but you know damn well that everyone does it anyway, and Robots and Empire are definitely in an extremely select minority of bands whose CD's look like they're gonna blow, when in truth they're actually very good. It just doesn't work that way 99% of the time. I'm a big fan of this band, and I sincerely believe that consistently releasing tacky looking records will in fact give off the wrong impression and create a barrier between the music and potential listeners. So… I go off like this because I'm a firm believer in bands that deserve more attention and support actually getting said attention and support! Artwork matters!

End "rant". I once more fully recommend Robots and Empire, and if you like what you hear below, you simply can't beat the 2-for-1 deal the label is running right now where you can get this EP and the "Omnivore" full-length for just $8

Robots and Empire "Rush at Burnt Siennaville"

…but if you (wisely) already have "Omnivore", this EP's still only $4!

Purchase:

@ Trip Machine Laboratories

Eibon "s/t" CD

Posted on Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 @ 7:55am » permalink

Eibon - s/tReleased at the very end of last year by Aesthetic Death, this self-titled, two-song EP marks the debut solo release from French doom/sludge act Eibon, after a split CD with Hangman's Chair in 2007. Both compositions, "Asleep and Threatening" and "Staring at the Abyss", top 10 minutes and are packed with pulsing, pounding rhythms that keep things interesting with creeping undercurrents of dissonance and aren't so slow that they crumble into drones or become stagnant. Combined with absolutely vicious, scathing snarls it all amounts to a surprisingly powerful 22-and-a-half minutes that really does hold your interest quite nicely. Some very effective little atmospheric elements are buried in the mix amidst all of the low-end throbs and crushingly distorted power chords as well, from beautiful acoustic passages and subtle ambient hums to eerie feedback swells and melodic leads. As I've stated in the past, I'm not a huge follower of this particular scene simply due to the fact that it's lower on my priority list in terms of all the different music out there to try and keep up with. But that being said, I can still recognize when a band really delivers the goods, and this EP is an extremely promising effort that absolutely hits the mark. I have a shitty attention span, and there aren't a ton of bands out there that can get me to sit through back-to-back 10+ minute tracks without getting bored. Eibon succeeds, and rather effortlessly, I might add. Great feeling, great songwriting, great recording… what more do you need?

Eibon "Asleep and Threatening" (excerpt)

Buying from the band will be extremely pricey if you're outside Europe, but thankfully they seem to have at least a couple of stateside distributors, so… make the grab if you like what you hear. And if you're a doom fan, I can't imagine that not being the case!

Purchase:

@ Eibon
@ All That is Heavy
@ Red Stream

Make Do and Mend "Bodies of Water" CD/one-sided 12"

Posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009 @ 8:11am » permalink

Make Do and Mend - Bodies of WaterOriginally released as a free download before being wisely snatched up by Panic Records, "Bodies of Water" is the second six-song EP from the absolutely brilliant Make Do and Mend. I don't know why, but their debut, "We're All Just Living", was a huge grower for me, and when I wrote about it on the site last year I had minor little complaints. Well, over time all of those complaints completely vanished, and "We're All Just Living" ended up being one of my favorite releases of 2008. As a result, their song "Insomniac Jams" is now one of the two most played tracks in my iTunes library, and I'd probably rank Make Do and Mend as my favorite new band of the past several years. Period. I've completely fallen in love with their totally heartfelt and sincere blend of emo, indie, and pop-punk influences, and there's absolutely no fucking argument whatsoever that these guys are among the finest songwriters out there right now when it comes to this particular niche. Unlike many such bands there's no shred of cheesiness here at all, nor do they flirt with any potentially irritating "emotional" posturing that comes across as trying too hard. No, everything about Make Do and Mend's music feels completely open and natural, from the driving chord progressions and layered melodies, to the gruff, honest vocals (and lyrics, for that matter), to the looseness in some of the playing that adds a little rawness without being sloppy. Obviously I'm barely even touching on the true character of this material, but it doesn't even matter, because everything gels together in the songwriting, and the songs are where this band shines. So… I'm hoping my enthusiasm makes up for my lack of detail here!

Make Do and Mend is one of those bands that should absolutely be huge, but I sort of get the feeling that they might never be. They seem like completely modest and down to earth guys that sell their merch for cheap and are much more interested in simply expressing themselves and getting their music out there to the listeners, as opposed to any of the extraneous bullshit that tends to go along with what it often takes to "make" a band "huge". And that's exactly how it should be. Exactly. Fuck money, fuck the "right" look or the "right" tours – the quality of this music and the connection it creates with the listener is so far above and beyond any of that shit, and that's so rare yet so important. I just hope that others will appreciate what these guys truly have to offer and support their efforts. This is the second Make Do and Mend release that I've gotten for free, and the second Make Do and Mend release that I've purchased anyway. I really can't speak highly enough of this band…

Make Do and Mend "Shambles"

I don't believe in anything worth fighting for, worth dying for. I don't believe the clouds are hiding much more than a reason to downpour. So what would you do if you were me? Give up, forget, go back to sleep…

If you like what you hear above, please buy it… and buy "We're All Just Living" as well, if you don't already have it!

Purchase:

@ Make Do and Mend (CD/12")
@ Panic Records (mp3)

Drift "Stalkin' Like Killers" CD

Posted on Thursday, May 14th, 2009 @ 10:05am » permalink

Drift – Stalkin' Like KillersThere were actually a surprising number of absolutely raging hardcore albums coming out of Europe in the early part of this decade, and "Stalkin' Like Killers", from Germany's Drift, remains an incredible disc that never really got the attention it deserved. Released by Alveran Records in 2002, I believe this was the band's sole full-length – the follow-up to a split CD with Copykill that, if I remember correctly, wasn't nearly as forceful (but I need to buy that shit again to make sure, I can't find my old copy). With "Stalkin' Like Killers", though, they absolutely hit the mark, cranking out eight tracks of crushing metallic hardcore plus a cover of Integrity's "Diehard" in just a half-hour. The songwriting offers an excellent (and seamless) fusion of fast-paced hardcore with thrashy picking patterns and punishing midpaced breakdowns, as well as some more dissonant chord phrasings and such that add a touch of variety throughout. The grooves combined with the burly vocals definitely give the band that European type of sound, but they also flirt with little hints of added metal (especially the clean guitars and melodic leads of instrumental "… In Recurrence") and brief melodic flourishes here and there that, in retrospect, really give me the impression that these guys might've been somewhat ahead of their time. I can definitely hear a lot of elements here that have since been further explored by a number of loosely comparable bands worldwide. Admittedly those little creative aspects take a backseat to the more traditional and in your face metallic hardcore attack that dominates the album, but I think that's what makes it such a great record! In addition to a killer recording, these are fuckin' great songs that benefit from coming across as a little more simplistic than they really are. I guess it's just the band's limited output and relative obscurity that kept this disc under the radar, but… it still deserves more respect!

Drift "Enemy Grounds"
Drift "Downtonone"

I have no idea what happened to Drift, but I definitely wish they had stuck around a little longer. Maybe some of the guys are in other bands these days, but I have a pretty hard time keeping up with that stuff. Thankfully, to my surprise, it's still really easy to get your hands on this album, so… definitely check it out if you like what you hear. I think I have an even greater appreciation for this material now than I did back when it was released…

Purchase:

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

Bolt "Behind Obstacles Lies Truth" CD

Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 @ 6:53am » permalink

Bolt - Behind Obstacles Lies TruthIt's been an astoundingly long six years since the last full-length release from Finland's Bolt, but "Behind Obstacles Lies Truth" has finally seen the light thanks to the always solid Full House Records. I haven't kept up with the Finnish scene as much as I probably should have in the last few years, but there's simply no doubt that Bolt remains among the best of the best, and this album is everything I'd hoped for. Expect plenty of the band's traditionally-based metallic hardcore rhythms and pounding grooves with gruff, bitter vocals (including some completely badass guest spots) – all delivered through an excellent, tight-knit recording that boasts plenty of crunch and just the right amount of pulsing low-end. However, branching out just a touch, this time around you'll also encounter subtly technical and/or dissonant metal influences as well as some really slick little melodic characteristics – somewhat reminiscent of fellow countrymen Down My Throat and underappreciated American acts like the Rag Men, respectively. They've achieved the perfect balance between a number of different styles of hardcore in a manner that gels perfectly, and this is exactly the kind of sheer force that made me fall in love with this niche of the Finnish scene in the first place. This really is an incredible album that's packed with killer songwriting and sounds fuckin' great, so it certainly comes highly recommended, and I'd be thrilled to see Bolt carry their currently 12-year existence on into the next decade. Awesome.

Bolt "Stabbing Nation"

I'm not seeing this one in any distros here in the US just yet, but you can generally find Full House's releases at Interpunk, so keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks if for some reason you don't feel like ordering this gem from Europe…

Purchase:

@ Full House Records (CD)
@ Full House Records (LP)

Casting Curses "Heartificial" CD

Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 @ 7:29am » permalink

Casting Curses - Heartificial"Heartificial" is an extremely brief two-song "teaser" EP from Syracuse, NY's Casting Curses (released by Tuned to You Records) that flies by in a mere five minutes. Expect that contemporary hardcore type of sound that blends moderate heaviness and yelled vocals with some melodic bits. Everything tends to fall in the midpaced range with these two tracks, and the approach feels neither overly aggressive nor blatantly melodic, with a little bit of experimentation with light effects and dissonance that doesn't take things too far. It sort of comes across as a slower take on a sound comparable to bands like Defeater, Verse, Modern Life is War… that kind of stuff. It's not entirely in that vein per se, but to my ears a lot of this type of hardcore kind of blends together. I guess in some respects Casting Curses feels like they're pushing for the more artistic vibe of the aforementioned bands, but without losing a certain sense of simplicity, and I can definitely appreciate that element of their delivery.

Casting Curses "Change the Lights" (excerpt)

The disc is limited to just 100 copies and is available from the band for only $4. Be sure to check out the rest of their webstore as well, though, 'cause all of the prices are very solid, and you can even get this CD with a shirt for less than $10!? That's a great deal…

Purchase:

@ Casting Curses

Unreal City "Masks" CS

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2009 @ 9:33am » permalink

Unreal City - Masks"Masks" is a limited edition cassette (you read that right) containing six new tracks from Pittsburgh, PA's Unreal City in a little under 20 minutes. The overall approach is very similar to that of their "Ephemeral Subsistence" full-length, which is to say that the songwriting is heavily influenced by Integrity and Cleveland hardcore in general, with lots of chugging midpaced power chords and quick little explosive solos. However, the recording is much rawer and more stripped down here, with a distant feeling to the vocal placement and a little bit of a muffled thump to the percussion, etc. But that's not a bad thing – it actually really works to lend a "classic" aesthetic to the material, and doesn't detract from the force of the songs or the listening experience at all. They do suddenly change things up at the end, however, with "The Mortal Sermon": An eight-and-a-half-minute experimental noise piece that layers ambient hums and whirs with assorted samples – predominantly some sort of reading of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" (which, I'm now assuming, is where the band got their name). A nice touch that certainly lends something of a "Humanity is the Devil" vibe to the EP as a whole… and, as usual, you just can't complain about that! Here's a taste of what to expect:

Unreal City "Changeling" (excerpt)

From what I understand this tape is limited to a mere 50 copies and will only be available at the band's upcoming shows. So, if you're a fan and you want to get your hands on one of these, I'd highly recommend attending one of the first few shows, 'cause, ummm… 50 copies ain't gonna last long!

All State Champion "Is it Nothing to You" CD

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 @ 9:08am » permalink

All State Champion - Is it Nothing to You"Is it Nothing to You" turned out to be the sole full-length from Canada's All State Champion (released by Five One Inc. back in 2003), and while I wrote about it on the old site all those years ago, I still feel it deserves more attention. Since I had pulled it out for another spin in recent weeks, I decided to go ahead and revisit it for the blog to see if I can't get a few more listeners interested in its mix of assorted emo/indie rock types of influences – especially since the album's still easy to come by. You can pick up on everything from the DC/Dischord thing to a San Diego/west coast vibe amidst all of the angular rhythms, jangly open chords, tasteful discordance, melody, and a mix of predominantly singing vocals backed with the occasional screams. The singing is great, and remains a strong point for me – straightforward and to the point with a few subtle harmonies or a little layering, which fits the music nicely. But the songwriting is also strong: Memorable and at times catchy, without utilizing any "poppy" elements or anything like that. They constantly mesh the melodic with the caustic, and it works perfectly in my opinion, never leaning too far in either direction. There's always a good blend of driving rhythms, moderate tempos, post-hardcore tinges, and frequent shifts in dynamics. Also incredibly beneficial is the fact that the recording is so natural and warm, with a stripped down sort of approach that really lets each instrument hold on to its own area of the mix with just the right amount of breathing room. Maybe it's just that I can't keep up with everything, but for my money there's been somewhat of a void for this style of high-quality "emo" (or whatever the fuck you want to call it) since the late-90's, so… this is a really enjoyable disc that I'd still wholly recommend to fans of the genre.

All State Champion "Work is Killing Me"
All State Champion "Curse of the Northwest"

Long way down I've bound myself. And it's been two years but I've a way to go. And I guess that's why I'm still sinking. This time around I swear I'll swim. At least I was there when I said. Don't you know? This time around I swear I'll swim. At least I was there when I said. Don't you know?

Purchase:

@ Five One Inc. (CD)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Hiretsukan "End States" CD

Posted on Monday, May 4th, 2009 @ 8:57am » permalink

Hiretsukan - End StatesI was a big fan of Hiretsukan's debut EP, "Invasive//Exotic", when it hit the streets in 2002, but the band broke up shortly thereafter, so when they reunited a few years later for "End States" (released by G7 Welcoming Committee in 2005) it went under the radar and I foolishly kept forgetting to pick up a copy. I eventually grabbed it from eMusic, but I've yet to write about it here on the site, so… I'm finally doing that now! Somewhat rawer and slightly more abrasive than the EP, these 10 tracks in just over 26 minutes lean more towards the underlying "screamo" vibe of "Invasive//Exotic". It's clearly a more diverse and dynamic outing, though. I'd say there's definitely more melody seeping through the discordant riffing and jagged rhythmic patterns, some beautiful little clean passages fall into place here and there, and despite the appearance of some soft singing throughout much of "19 Year Barrier", the primary vocal approach is still that absolutely fierce screaming. Even more forcefully and efficiently than before, Hiretsukan strikes the perfect balance between explosive aggression/acerbity and powerful songwriting/emotion. There's always a strong sense of true feeling in the delivery (musically and lyrically) that really creates a huge impact and makes their work far superior to many comparable groups. All too often bands that can even remotely be associated with the term "screamo" are just fucking irritating on some level, so I want to stress that Hiretsukan is simply above and beyond any of that bullshit. This music really hits you at the core and strikes up an emotional response, and that's always a rare characteristic that should absolutely be held in high regard.

Hiretsukan "Manual Function"
Hiretsukan "Click and Repeat"

This picture was painted by numbers. This promise was drawn from lies and mistakes. I'm thinning out my outlook while you're turning action to inaction in disguise. Can you speak your mind, does it come out like a story or forced through a sieve? Your scars hold more than history. Fight like you mean it, like you mean to end it all. The world keeps turning and handshakes and shaking are going full-circle.

Purchase:

@ G7 Welcoming Committee (CD/mp3)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Damn the Machine "s/t" CD

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009 @ 8:08am » permalink

Damn the Machine - s/tI wrote about Damn the Machine's lone self-titled CD many years ago on the first version of my site (in fact, if I'm not mistaken, one of the "reviews" on Amazon.com lifts what I said word for word), and as far as I'm concerned it still remains one of the most criminally underrated albums that's ever been released. If you didn't know, Damn the Machine was formed by Chris Poland (with his brother Mark on drums) several years after his departure from Megadeth, and this disc came out in 1993 on A&M Records. One of my best friends introduced me to this band shortly after the album was released, and I distinctly remember that despite his raves, I hated it. I bought a used copy of the CD for a couple bucks, but I couldn't stand the vocals and just didn't "get" the overall tone of the music. It's heavy, but it's not really metal, and I guess teenage me just didn't know what to make of it at first. But the disc stayed in a "limbo" box, and I revisited it every six months or so. Then, at some point within the following couple of years, it finally clicked.

Listening to it now, I honestly don't know what the hell I was hearing back then, 'cause I love it. I guess I can still understand how the vocals might take some getting used to, and there are definitely some quirky little oddball riffs to be found here and there, but… everything about the entire album is fuckin' incredible. It's just this weird fusion of jazzy progressive rock with hints of metal thrown in. And the recording's a little strange, too! The hard-panned guitars each have their own unique tones throughout, pretty much always playing off of one another and additionally interacting with the plunky and prominent bass runs, and the blend of unusual tones/textures creates this odd, "naturally unnatural" atmosphere that really works with the creativity of the arrangements. But for all the artistry and complexities (both subtle and overt) that are present, the record's also packed with solid songs. The quality of the musicianship yields some absolutely beautiful clean passages and fluid soloing, not to mention loads of killer vocal harmonies and memorable hooks.

While I wouldn't call the album wildly diverse as a whole, it's far from one-sided, and the band would've had an impressively wide range of styles to continue exploring had they pressed on. But sadly, an apparent lack of label support led the band to call it a day all too soon. According to Wikipedia they toured Europe with Dream Theater, which makes sense, but… hitting North America with Voivod, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Excel? In 1993? That's… perhaps a little wacky, and probably didn't do the band any favors. But hey, that's life, I guess, and regardless, this is such a great record. I know there are still more people out there that need to check this shit out…

Damn the Machine "The Mission"
Damn the Machine "Countryside"

I can't believe this thing isn't even available on iTunes or anything like that!? But as is often the case with out of print unsung classics, you can find used copies on Amazon.com for a few bucks or less, so grab one while you can if you like what you hear. I won't be surprised if it never gets reissued, and one day it'll probably be sought after enough to fetch unreasonable prices…

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com

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