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90's hardcore compilation bands I'd like to know more about: Vol. 1

Posted on Friday, July 31st, 2009 @ 6:46am » permalink

For awhile now I've been meaning to write about a bunch of badass bands from old 90's hardcore compilations that I've been wanting to hear more from, but can't find anything about. I just haven't had time to put together one mega-post about all of 'em at once, so I'm just gonna do it piece by piece as time permits. Going down the list alphabetically, these are the first two bands that I've been unable to find any information on whatsoever. I don't even know where these guys are from since I don't have the CD's in front of me, and these are the only songs I have (that I know of) from both of these groups, so I've got very little to go on… especially seeing as the band names are pretty much useless for searching online. I've been relatively unsuccessful in such posting attempts in the past, but… it's always worth a shot! And if nothing else, hopefully these succinct write-ups will introduce others to some great obscure music that they had never heard before.

The first is from a band called Alert that appeared on the "Over the Edge Compilation Vol. I" in 1993. It's an absolutely killer metallic hardcore tune with tons of those slick little melodic riffs that I love to counterbalance all the crunchy palm-muting. There's actually somewhat of a later Turning Point vibe happening musically with this one. This is one of my favorite styles of "metalcore", and it's one that's unfortunately become extremely rare these days:

Alert "Penance (That Song)"

Next up is Arcane, and this track is from "The Tie That Binds" compilation (1996). Being from the mid-90's, it's much more metallic and possesses many token characteristics of the time period, right down to the (awesome) plunky basslines, tolerably muddy mix, and one of those distant "snaps" to the snare. I would assume these guys were big Chokehold fans. There's some subtle variety, though, with surprisingly energetic little bursts amidst the plodding, midpaced, chugga-styled breaks – while the aggressive sneers also appear alongside more of a spoken approach from time to time:

Arcane "Malefactor"

If anyone has any information on either of these bands, most specifically potential discography information, please do post a comment or email me. Thank you!

The Horror "Spoils of War" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2009 @ 6:16am » permalink

The Horror - Spoils of WarAnother relatively new one from Grot Records is "Spoils of War", the latest full-length outing from UK hardcore blasters The Horror. Expect 15 fast-paced cuts that generally run less than two minutes apiece and tear through nothing but fierce, raging hardcore/punk with super pissed shouting vocals and raw lead bursts. They cite amongst their influences Discharge, Negative Approach, and SS Decontrol, and you can definitely pick up on such classics herein, so… you know where these cats are comin' from. Granted, The Horror certainly benefits from a little more outright explosive rage in their attack! And of course there's an aptly rugged recording that makes sense given the band's straightforward approach to hardcore/punk, but it's totally solid and you can actually hear the bass pounding away in the heart of the mix at all times, which is always a plus! Are they trying to do new and exciting things with the genre? Fuck no. But they plow through the whole set of tunes in less than a half-hour and provide just enough subtle variation to keep things interesting, and I can guarantee you they don't give even half a shit if this style of hardcore isn't your cup o' tea. There's no bullshit here, and that's all there is to it…

The Horror "Bringing the War Home"
The Horror "Work and War"

Purchase:

@ Grot Records
@ Interpunk
@ RevHQ

City of Ships "Look What God Did to Us" CD

Posted on Monday, July 27th, 2009 @ 7:00am » permalink

City of Ships - Look What God Did to UsThe latest from Translation Loss Records is "Look What God Did to Us", the debut full-length from City of Ships, whose curiously unique and impossible to pigeonhole approach remains firmly intact. And that aspect of this band's music is so interesting to me, because even though "metal" is such a broad term these days, this doesn't really sound like "metal". And there's sort of a "prog rock" kinda thing going on in there as well, but then again there are almost no stereotypical elements of that style present either! And sure, of course it's "experimental" in many respects, but it doesn't sound completely off the wall, it's really quite tangible. Genres are unimportant, I know, but everyone is guilty of classifying bands, so I find it really curious when groups like this manage to create something that's so familiar yet so elusive. I'm still amazed by how well these guys utilize all those swirling textures/effects and "post-rock" types of influences. I could tolerate that whole niche for about six months before too many bands started throwing such tidbits into the mix and I got sick of it, but with City of Ships everything's not so damn "shimmery", and appears sandwiched amongst dense surges of chunky power chord rhythms that are surprisingly heavy while still tending to carry a constant thread of melody. Then they'll also weave in sleek clean/acoustic passages, strange bends/harmonics, and some really weird hammer-on/pull-off riffs (most notably during "Praise Feeder"). The recording's very organic, though, boasting a great bass tone/presence throughout, with a number of wildly roaming runs and loads of crisp pulses through a smidge of fuzzy distortion. I wouldn't particularly refer to the songwriting as "catchy" at all, and the structures certainly aren't all that linear, but the excellent vocals really help to maintain the overall emotion and atmosphere of the material – fluidly transitioning from lightly gruff singing to more of a yell that tends to retain just a touch of melody. I don't know, it's really hard to effectively describe what they're doing. There's a lot going on, but it's all very cool and certainly worth investigating. I've been intrigued by everything I've heard from City of Ships thus far, so I'll always be looking forward to seeing what they come up with next…

City of Ships "Wraiths in Flight"

For some reason the label's store is still only offering the CD/t-shirt pre-order combo, but the disc officially hit the streets last week, so… if you're not satisfied with the purchasing options currently available, it should be filtering out to a wider range of sources soon.

Purchase:

@ Translation Loss Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Mayday "Staplegun" 10"

Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2009 @ 1:45am » permalink

Mayday - StaplegunOddly enough, what I would refer to as the two most criminally underrated hardcore bands of the 90's – Lash Out and Mayday – both had "prominent" (or at least "important") releases on killer German label Stormstrike Records. It's really inexcusable that I've never written about Mayday before, but despite the fact that they were from right here in Virginia, I really don't know a ton about 'em. Maybe that's just as well, though, as they seem to have remained somewhat of a mysterious unit, and the almost total lack of information about the band out there on the web just adds to the intrigue of the recordings they've left behind. But I've been loving all their old records more than ever lately (bordering on worship), so… better late than never.

Probably best known for their "Les 120 Journées de Sodome" split 7" with Integrity, while everything they recorded was fucking outstanding, their final release, "Staplegun" (1995), remains my favorite of the bunch. I'm not sure if Mayday was ever actually referred to as having the "holy terror" sound back in the day, but they most certainly did – right down to the visual imagery and lyrical content – and were significantly ahead of their time in terms of pioneering a completely dark, twisted "metalcore" sound that falls somewhere between the chugging rhythms and abstract subject matter of Integrity and the eerie atmospheric dissonance and sick vocal sneers of Starkweather – and without sounding like either of those bands, I might add. There are just a lot of pulsing rhythms with super thick basslines interspersed with clean passages often accentuated by subtle little noise textures and general weirdness buried deep in the mix… not to mention the maniacal vocal work.

If you've never heard the band before you can't possibly understand how far ahead of the curve they truly were, nor properly determine what to expect. It's just a really creative and powerful sound that puts Mayday in the company of a very select few, so rather than bothering to continue with my fanboy gushing it's probably best for me to shut up and let you hear the goods for yourselves. You can find these tracks online in various spots out there, and I'm pretty sure all this stuff is basically out of print, so here's the whole record:

[DOWNLOAD] Mayday "Staplegun" (@ Mediafire)

Forefathers were not saved for meat is craved man's will with mighty quill will enlighten his own grave through your power I was able and in your showers cradled to die for worship sky for tell me tell me anoint me this sickness disappoints me…

At the time of this recording the band consisted of Lance McLeod (vocals), Rod Melvin (guitar), Gary Fitzgerald (guitar), Carl Sorenson (bass), and Christian Rygh (drums), and I have absolutely no idea what happened to any of these guys after Mayday called it quits. Apparently Lance now owns Devotion Tattoo in Florida, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine. I don't know if anyone went on to perform in other bands or anything. If anyone knows – hell, if anyone has any cool tidbits about this band – please post a comment.

Surprisingly, as of 2004, Stormstrike Records still had copies of this 10" available, but I'm not sure if that's the case today. If you're interested in a physical copy of the vinyl (and you should be), shoot 'em an email from the site first and see what's up.

Also, Mayday is without question one of the unsung bands most deserving of a proper discography CD. I know I'm far from the only one who would love to see that shit happen one day…

Hail of Bullets "Warsaw Rising"

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 @ 7:27am » permalink

Hail of Bullets - Warsaw RisingFor some insane reason I've yet to pick up last year's debut full-length from "all-star" Dutch death metal outfit Hail of Bullets, but I'll have to remedy that problem soon, as its follow-up EP, "Warsaw Rising" (once more from Metal Blade Records) continues to impress with its powerful blasts of "old school" death metal (three new tracks – one of which is a Twisted Sister cover – and three live cuts from the full-length). These guys clearly fucking love death metal. I mean, the lineup has also been involved with Pestilence, Asphyx, Thanatos, Houwitser, and Gorefest – and that's only citing the most notable of their exploits! They basically keep things simple with pounding, meaty uses of speed countered by loads of thick, churning, midpaced riffs – as well as some warped soloing and of course the fiercely snarled vocals rasps of the always incredible Martin Van Drunen. The recording is also super crisp and clear, which really accentuates all the gritty little textural nuances of the amazing guitar tone (and the vocals, for that matter) – which has sort of a Bolt Thrower meets Sunlight kinda thing goin' on. Excellent. And while I typically have just about zero interest in live recordings, the three songs herein sound fuckin' killer: To the point where I probably wouldn't even have noticed that they're live performances were it not for the applause/banter between songs. I don't know if it's their wealth of experience, pure talent, or sheer love of the music, but this band has just the right energy and atmosphere to unload classic, kick-ass death metal even in this day and age, without sounding too modern or like a complete throwback. I'm lovin' every minute of it…

Hail of Bullets "Warsaw Rising"

I'm not entirely sure, but this might be a digital-only release in the US, as I can't find mention of physical copies for sale anywhere (and the only mention I see of physical copies in Europe is a 10" limited to just 500 copies). Either way, it's fairly inexpensive and delivers the goods!

Purchase:

@ Metal Blade Records (mp3)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Ills "Black Dog" 7"

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009 @ 7:31am » permalink

Ills - Black DogAfter debuting last year with an impressive demo, Finland's Ills are back with the "Black Dog" 7" on German label Let it Ride Records. With lyrics revolving around "depression, isolation, and the general selfishness and negligence we have for each other every day", the title of the record was inspired by Winston Churchill's "battle against the 'black dog' of depression". For the most part this material picks up right where the demo left off, with a good balance of fast-paced power chords and chunkier midpaced rhythms alongside hints of post-hardcore dissonance. You can tell they're starting to diversify just a bit though, maintaining their core sound while tossing in very subtle bits of metal-based discordance or careful melody without losing the cool sense of groove that their songwriting tends to carry. For the most part the vocals are yelled in a slightly higher pitch than your average metallic hardcore band, which helps differentiate Ills a bit, and they're actually blending that approach with an "almost singing" from time to time (most notably during closer "King Nothing"). The recording's just a little more polished this time out as well, making for a great EP that shows just the right amount of development. Good stuff…

Ills "Hole to Hell"

Motherfuckers ain't got no clue. I'll still run around for answers even if you disapprove. But I never realized the lengths I’d have to go. All the darkest corners of a sense I didn't know. I've got to climb the highest mountain just to be alone. To reconnect this body with my wandering soul…

As far as I can tell this one hasn't hit any distros just yet, but you can contact the band and label from the included links to inquire about worldwide availability, or just order directly from the label for the time being. I imagine the band should have copies of their own within a week or two as well…

Purchase:

@ Let it Ride Records

Hard Response "Weaponize" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 @ 7:13am » permalink

Hard Response - WeaponizeThe "Weaponize" EP is the latest release from Delaware's Hard Response since reuniting in 2006 and dropping the "Hostile Environment" full-length a year later. Apparently this thing actually hit the streets towards the end of last year, but I wasn't aware of it, so I'm glad the band happened to hit me up with a copy last week. The brief distro description of the disc mentions that it's "drawing influences from old school hardcore/oi reminiscent of early Biohazard and Blood for Blood", and I'd definitely agree with that, as I'm noticing a little more of a gruff, stripped down kind of Blood for Blood vibe in these tracks. With four songs in just 12-and-a-half minutes this thing's over in a flash, but the band's still cranking out chunky, 90's styled metallic hardcore that retains subtle threads of that token Hard Response sound by sprucing up the rhythms with roving melodic basslines and quick little hints of post-hardcore dissonance in the guitar work. They even close things out with a great cover of "Ashes, Ashes" by Sheer Terror! I don't know what else to say, really. It's great to see bands of this nature reunite and remain active without rehashing their past efforts, especially a band like Hard Response that's clearly doing it just for the love of the music…

Hard Response "I Despise" (excerpt)

Purchase:

@ Hard Response (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Tournament "Years Old" CD/LP

Posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009 @ 6:48am » permalink

Tournament - Years OldThe latest release from Forcefield Records is "Years Old", the debut full-length from New York's Tournament and the perfect follow-up to last year's killer "Swordswallower" EP. This material is perhaps coming from a little more of a "noise rock" base, loaded with absolutely awesome, hammering basslines and bursts of quirky riffing, while the shouting/yelling vocals fall a little farther back in the mix and fight their way forth through the instrumentation. They're really able to transition effortlessly from caustic, noisy textures and surging feedback to energetic rhythms alongside more restrained riffing that flirts with darker atmospheres (check out the amazing "All This Light", which is probably the band's finest offering to date) and a little subtle melody here and there. And then there are the again unexpected little "stoner rock" runs in "Big Box Opportunity" to add yet another dimension to the band's rather diverse approach. An excellent recording certainly plays in a role in how badass the bass presence is throughout, keeping the tones warm and natural while balancing the mix so you can always hear everything that's going. Combine all of this with oddly catchy songwriting and it makes for an extremely well-focused 10 tracks in 32 minutes. I'm once more left looking forward to hearing more from these guys. Good stuff…

Tournament "Snuff News"
Tournament "All This Light" (excerpt)

The items are listed as pre-orders in the Forcefield Records store, but I don't think that's the case anymore, so orders should be shipping now. And the vinyl comes with a download card, which is the way it should be! Awesome…

Purchase:

@ Forcefield Records (CD)
@ Forcefield Records (LP)

Clockhammer "Klinefelter" CD

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 2009 @ 7:11am » permalink

Clockhammer - KlinefelterI've been so busy lately that preparing even three posts a week has been tough, so today I'm re-posting about the first CD I ever wrote about in the blog way back in early-2005. I have my old pal Drew "The Fucking Man" Johnston from Electro Quarterstaff to thank for this mighty gem, as his recommendations are always stellar. He threw the name of this record my way, I found it online for a buck within a couple of hours, and a few days later it was mine. Needless to say, I love it. I'm stunned that the band seems to have been criminally overlooked in their day, despite having a fairly respected reputation as musicians that seems to have stuck around, since I'm far from the first to champion their efforts some 15+ years after the fact, but that's almost always how it goes, isn't it?

"Klinefelter" was the Tennessee trio's second full-length, released in 1992, and their final output with their original lineup of Byron Bailey (guitar and vocals), Matt Swanson (bass), and Ken Coomer (drums). For anyone who cares, Coomer went on to play in Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, but for my money the buck stops with the Clockhammer material. Byron Bailey later reformed the band with an entirely new lineup (as a four-piece) and released one last record, but I haven't heard it since I'm not particularly interested without Swanson's ridiculously awesome basslines or Coomer's slick fills. Some reports had the reformed incarnation of the band residing in my hometown of Richmond, VA, but I'm not sure if that's completely accurate or not. Who knows?

Regardless, open-minded listeners should be all over Clockhammer's fusion of progressive rock and jazz that almost borders on "pop" writing sensibilities. After all, as quirky and fucked up as some of these riffs are (at a stretch you could cite a few ties to math rock or loose flirtations with metal), the material's pretty damn memorable. They've got a really smooth flow going on that tends to be kind of laidback even when it rocks out, and across the board they sound totally unique to me. I wouldn't really compare them to anyone by name. As if the gorgeous playing wasn't enough, I'm in full support of the recording, be it the appearances of beautiful acoustic guitars or just the right amount of raw bite to the distortion, or the warm resonance of the rhythm section. They definitely made damn good use of space as a trio, and some of the more prominent bass runs are quite incredible. While I'm guessing their style might take some people a few listens to truly appreciate, there's not a bad song on the entire record, and trust me – it's worth every penny. If I knew then what I know now, I'd gladly have paid full price for it, but thanks to the ignorance of the majority you tend to be able to find this gem for dirt cheap all over the place. The same goes for their debut, which I bought shortly afterwards. Don't judge 'em by their cover art, which was admittedly on the weak side. The music is impressive as hell. Not for everyone, I guess, but… give 'em a shot.

Clockhammer "Greying Out"
Clockhammer "Nullify"

You can indeed still score this fucker for but a few bucks, and there's currently one copy available for just a penny:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com

Argharus "Pleištas" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 @ 7:29am » permalink

Argharus - Pleištas"Pleištas" is the debut full-length from Lithuanian black metal act Argharus, released last month by Inferna Profundus and distributed digitally by MetalHit.com. I had never heard of this band before, but the somewhat atypical cover art got me curious enough to check 'em out, and I liked what I heard. The record consists largely of relatively long songs (eight tracks topping 51 minutes) that combine those cold, winding, dissonant riffs with tactful doses of straightforward blasts and gnashing tremolo picking, but really catches your interest with the peculiar little twists and turns that add some intrigue and spice up the listen – from relatively common but still cool uses of warped chord phrasings/bends (accentuated here by subtle panning/layering techniques) or quick, frantic bursts in the arrangements to chunky, alternate-picked thrash runs and stripped down clean passages. There's actually a little bit of a (newer) Shining-esque vibe going on in terms of the overall crispness of the recording and the way that some of the vocal work is handled (combining a number of shrieks, snarls, screams, and growls for an at times "dramatic" delivery), though they admittedly lack the overall songwriting power that Shining has most recently started to achieve (granted the superb "Viskas Perniek", one of the only tracks running less than six minutes, comes pretty damn close). Not to take away from Argharus, though, as this is an extremely solid album from a promising band that will likely continue to push themselves to take this foundation into even more interesting directions down the road. I'll look forward to hearing more when that time comes…

Argharus "Viskas Perniek"

I'm not seeing physical copies of the CD available at any of my usual stops in terms of US distros, but you can score the mp3's directly from MetalHit.com (or Amazon.com) now. It should hit a number of other larger digital retailers in the next few weeks, if nothing else.

Purchase:

@ MetalHit.com (mp3)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

Sofy Major "s/t" one-sided screenprinted 12"

Posted on Monday, July 6th, 2009 @ 7:26am » permalink

Sofy Major - s/tThe latest from French "screamo"/post-hardcore act Sofy Major is this excellent one-sided 12" (with screenprinted artwork on the other half of the vinyl) released by Communication is Not Words and Emergence Records. And while there's just four tracks in 17 minutes, it's also the band's most diverse and aggressive work to date, having expanded their approach with much darker atmospheric undercurrents. This time out the recording utilizes an oppressive mix that really thickens up their attack with loads of surging heaviness and pulsing basslines against whirring layers of electronic noise and a few tactfully placed samples, while the scathing screams and some of the more caustic guitar work fall back into the distance a bit. The songwriting continues to demonstrate a lot of growth here, as the band continues to refine their tactics and achieve a greater sense of focus at the same time as tossing in the aforementioned new textures, while briefly flirting with other outside influences such as the thundering percussion and spoken vocals of "Satan", or the unexpected yet awesome "stoner rock" riffs towards the end of " Meurtre à Lezoux". Some of this material is actually starting to remind me of what Isis was doing on their first two EP's, but Sofy Major's not really coming from a metal-based background, so the end result has a little more going on beneath the surface. This is another great release from a curious group that's getting better and better. They've always been deserving of more appreciation, but now more than ever…

Sofy Major "Meurtre à Lezoux"

Purchase:

@ Sofy Major
@ Communication is Not Words
@ Interpunk

Hellwitch "Syzygial Miscreancy" CD

Posted on Friday, July 3rd, 2009 @ 9:09am » permalink

Hellwitch - Syzygial MiscreancyFlorida's Hellwitch formed in 1984 and recorded demos (plus one 7" single) for six years prior to finally releasing their debut "full-length" (granted it contains just seven tracks in about 26 minutes), "Syzygial Miscreancy", on good ol' Wild Rags Records in 1990. Recently reissued by Displeased Records, the album now comes completely remastered with all of the band's early demos tacked on as a bonus. I'd heard the name Hellwitch many times over the years, but had honestly never actually heard the band until a few weeks ago when MetalHit.com (who's digitally distributing the reissue) hooked me up with the tracks for review. I'll also confess that I looked up "syzygial", 'cause I wasn't even sure it was a word!? (It is.) Apparently these cats were big on the "fancy" language, though, as evidenced by song titles like "Viral Exogence", "Sentient Transmography", "Mordirivial Dissemination", "Pyrophoric Seizure", etc. If I ever encountered this album when I was younger, perhaps the relatively cheesy artwork would've disinterested me at the time, but while I wouldn't classify "Syzygial Miscreancy" as a particularly groundbreaking effort, it is an excellent piece of classic death metal in the early vein, meaning that it's tempered with loads of thrash overtones. The material's aged very well and brings with it a frantic vibe that combines blazing tremolo picking and fast, raw thrash with borderline catchy midpaced crunch alongside blasts of warped, kinda fucked up riffing or chaotic leads. And as opposed to any guttural grunting, the vocals are in that killer style of harsh, strained shouting/screaming that I totally love. A couple of badass little acoustic passages pop up on rare occasion as well. I'm diggin' it. The band released another EP, "Terraasymmetry", and one final demo before calling it quits in the mid-90s, but has (surprisingly) resurfaced in the last few years with a new full-length on the way. I'm always a big fan of underappreciated material like this getting the proper reissue treatment and becoming readily available once again, and this is absolutely worth checking out for fans of this style of old school death/thrash. Good stuff…

Hellwitch "Purveyor of Fear"
Hellwitch "Nosferatu" (demo)

This one doesn't seem to have hit iTunes, Amazon.com, or eMusic yet on the digital front, but it should soon. However, you can grab the mp3's straight from MetalHit, or keep the "old school" theme alive with a physical copy of the disc!

Purchase:

@ CMDistro (CD)
@ Shadow Kingdom Records (CD)
@ MetalHit.com (mp3)

Reign Supreme "Testing the Limits of Infinite" CD

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 @ 6:33am » permalink

Reign Supreme - Testing the Limits of Infinite"Testing the Limits of Infinite", the debut full-length outing from Reign Supreme (again released by Deathwish Inc.), pretty much picks up right where "American Violence" left off with 13 tracks of straightforward, no bullshit metallic hardcore in about 36 minutes, loaded with pounding midpaced rhythms, chunky breakdowns, and fierce shouts/screams. The recording's a little thicker this time out, but retains a subtle yet interesting bite of texture to the churn of the guitar tone that helps to keep the density of the guitars from devouring the basslines in the mix. There's arguably a smidge more carefully approached melody buried in there from time to time (the quick two-minute instrumental "Waiting" and "To Live and Die (In Vain)" are the only pieces that get blatant, the former with some slick clean guitars over shimmery "post-rock" textures, while the latter features some brief musical similarities as well as some faint singing from a guest vocalist), but overall I'd say the band's definitely getting heavier, and they're actually doing it without adding more of a metal-influenced riffing style to their writing. That thick, 90's styled chug is definitely still the dominant attack throughout the album, it's just the production values and the overall aesthetic that are packing more sonic punch. As is often the case, I feel like I should say more, but… what more needs to be said? If you're a fan of the band's past efforts, I see no reason why you wouldn't dig this. They keep things fairly focused, consistent, and to the point, so you should know what you're in for here. Good stuff…

Reign Supreme "And Come What May"

Purchase:

@ Deathwish Inc. (CD)
@ Deathwish Inc. (LP)
@ Deathwish Inc. (mp3)