Blood Fountains "Floods" CD
Posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 @ 7:49am » permalink
I've only recently started listening to experimental music again after a three- to four-year hiatus, but nothing would have kept me from checking out "Floods" (released by the very intriguing Utech Records), the long-awaited debut from Blood Fountains – which is the current musical outlet of visual artist Stephen Kasner, who just happens to be my favorite artist of all time. Said to be "initiated in the idea of transforming images into sound – a soundtrack extension of painting", the material certainly works to invoke appropriate visual components from the imagination – though of course standing on its own as well. Kasner works with several collaborators throughout the 40-minute excursion – most notably the hypnotic, chillingly abstract, chant-like vocals of Bloody Panda's Yoshiko Ohara, which work surprisingly well to complement the overall atmosphere of the misty whirrs and rumbling dark ambient hums that drive the bulk of the compositions. Guitars accent said foundation by offering both shimmery passages that almost border on tangible "riffs" and waves of subdued drones and feedback, while quite nice spurts of distant, melodic bass color the background. For whatever reason, I typically dislike traditional instrumentation being a recognizable sound source in experimental music, but that's actually not the case here at all. I'm sure a part of that is because the avant-garde nature of Blood Fountains' work certainly expands beyond the bounds of "noise" by further developing such textures into something more musical, thus the overwhelmingly improvisational nature of the collaborators' approach still somehow retains a sense of structure and arrangement. Hear for yourselves…
Blood Fountains "Hemming" (excerpt)
Apparently the pressing is limited to just 750 CD's, which I imagine will sell out at some point, so… if this type of thing interests you, don't sleep on it for too long…
@ Blood Fountains
@ Utech Records
Maximum Penalty "Life & Times" CD/LP
Posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 @ 7:31am » permalink
"Life & Times" is the first new Maximum Penalty release in about seven years (thanks to Reaper Records), but though it comes some 20+ years after the band's formation, there's absolutely no reason to fear some lackluster reunion. Despite having seen these guys live a handful of times in the mid-90's timeframe, I was never a true Maximum Penalty fan until a few years ago when their 1989 demo and the "East Side Story" EP were re-released together on one CD. The band's sound had taken on a somewhat lighter and more rocked out tone on their post-"East Side Story" releases that – while fairly solid in retrospect – still can't match the impact of their earliest work. And that's what makes "Life & Times" so impressive, because over a decade later a band that has such an extensive (not to mention underrated and overlooked) history is back in action with 15 tracks that completely recapture the harder edge of their original vision. This is easily their most diverse (and probably best sounding) effort to date, and while there's a clear metallic hardcore base, Maximum Penalty's simply incapable of sounding the least bit like generic NYHC – maintaining a unique blend of crunchy rhythms, melodic post-hardcore characteristics, and some of that catchy, rockin' punch they've always played with. Hell, there are even a few riffs that have a thrashy crossover kinda vibe! And of course you've got the soulful feeling of vocalist Jim Williams' immediately recognizable, one-of-a-kind delivery. I don't know if there's any luck or right place/right time involved or if it's just Maximum Penalty's true sincerity and inventiveness, but I wish more bands had the ability to release such killer albums at this point in their lifespans…
Maximum Penalty "Truth & Consequence"
Crazily enough, the band's lineup (which still features two original members and their longest-standing drummer) has gotten even better since the recording of the album, with Rey Fonseca (formerly of two of the greatest bands ever, Elements DEC and Agents of Man) coming in on second guitar and Jonathan Buske (formerly of The Promise, Another Victim, Terror, and shitloads more) now handling bass duties. I'm sure it'll be awhile, but I'd be psyched as hell to see 'em get that current lineup in the studio with more new material!
@ Reaper Records (CD)
@ Reaper Records (LP)
@ Interpunk (CD/LP)
@ RevHQ (CD/LP)
Grown Ups "Songs" CD
Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2009 @ 7:42am » permalink
I was recently contacted by a great little label called Kid Sister Everything to check out some of their releases, my favorite of which was the "Songs" EP by Indiana's Grown Ups, so I've obviously chosen to write about that one first. As far as I can tell this is the band's only release at the moment, containing four songs of absolutely superb emo/indie rock in 15 minutes – the likes of which I very rarely encounter anymore. I'm talking heartfelt singing with plenty of gang backup vocals and loads of winding riffs that layer different guitar parts together (including some nice acoustic runs), with super dry production values that leave the guitars very stripped down without much distortion at all – thus making for lots of jangly riffing that lets the rhythm section have plenty of breathing room. All of this makes for memorable, sincere songwriting that doesn't need to go the super catchy route to leave a mark, and I'm loving every minute of it. I can't wait to hear more from this band, so I hope I get the chance!
Grown Ups "Open Sesame"
Limited to a mere 100 copies, hand-packaged in some sort of screenprinted origami contraption, this one's already sold out, so the label has kindly given me permission to post a download link for the whole EP:
[DOWNLOAD] Grown Ups "Songs" (@ Mediafire)
I was told they may do another pressing of this disc as well, so keep your eyes on the Kid Sister webstore if you'd like to get your hands on a physical copy. It looks like they do a lot of really slick D.I.Y. packaging, which is always a nice touch…
Kowloon Walled City "Gambling on the Richter Scale" LP+CD
Posted on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 @ 10:33pm » permalink
As before, when I wrote about their "Turk Street" EP, a lot of other sites are already saying a lot of good things about "Gambling on the Richter Scale" – the first full-length effort from Kowloon Walled City (released by The Perpetual Motion Machine). And rightfully so, as these eight songs/37 minutes expand on their brand of thick, pounding rhythms and dingy, grimy (yet well produced, mind you) textures with smatterings of somber clean passages, subtle little bits of melody, and loads of great little winding riffs that offer up some warped dissonance that I'm all over. And all the while they've maintained the balance with slower and more spacious areas while also taking sludgy standards to even heavier depths than before. And seriously, this thing sounds fuckin' amazing. Recorded in their rehearsal space!? Incredible! I totally love the fact that the basslines play such a huge role in the material. Killer. If you've foolishly remained in the dark about these cats, remedy that problem immediately. That's all I'm gonna say…
Kowloon Walled City "Paper Houses"
Once more the band has taken the most admirable road of making the entire album available as a free download via their website, so… you can always grab that here:
[DOWNLOAD] Kowloon Walled City "Gambling on the Richter Scale" (@ Kowloon Walled City)
However, for a mere $11 you'll get a colored vinyl LP (housed in a gloss varnish full-color jacket, no less) and a silkscreened sleeve-packaged CD of the album. So, yeah, in case you're not so good with the math, that's an unfuckingbeatable deal. Insane.
@ The Perpetual Motion Machine (LP+CD)
Torn Apart "s/t" 7"
Posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 @ 7:49am » permalink
The latest from Grot Records is the self-titled debut from ripping UK hardcore act Torn Apart, which absolutely tears through seven songs in a little less than five minutes. I'm generally not a fan of this type of hardcore that's super fast and intense and just blasts away almost nonstop, but Torn Apart does it right with fierce vocals and a hyper aggressive recording that matches the furious delivery of the material without losing the hammering presence of the basslines. Opener "Self Loathing" starts out with more of a midpaced pounding, and I definitely think a little more of that aspect could amplify the band's power factor, but… with most songs running about 30 seconds apiece, it's not like you're gonna get bored, you know? There's actually somewhat of a power violence thing goin' on here with the way the EP just bashes your face in and calls it a day, and I think that provides a good bit of promise for what these dudes might crank out down the road. I'll be curious…
Torn Apart "Alone"
As with everything else on Grot Records, the price is pretty damn cheap at just £3, so… make the grab if you like what you hear.
@ Grot Records
Infernal Stronghold "Godless Noise" LP/CD
Posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 @ 7:37am » permalink
New from Forcefield Records is "Godless Noise", the second full-length from Philadelphia's Infernal Stronghold (released on CD by the seemingly obscure KVN Records). I had never heard of this band before, but they've released several demos, a few splits, one EP, and the prior full-length since 2003. I'm sure there are many purists who would point fingers and frown "false" upon this band, but fuck that, 'cause long hair is overrated and corpsepaint is goofy anyway. Even though there's a song called "Crashing Trucks Into Churches" here, this shit is completely ripping black metal that totally nails the overall vibe that I prefer from the genre, with 10 relentless tracks in less than 27 minutes. They've got a perfectly rugged recording that's neither easy on the ears nor overly abrasive, which lends itself perfectly to their hyperactive approach – where sparse thrash-tinged breaks and frenetic arrangements unload frenzied tremolo picking and crawling dissonance aplenty, thus making for riffing similarities to old Darkthrone and Gorgoroth (among others). I, for one, see no reason to complain about such a thing! The atmosphere is there, as is the furious energy, and therefore, the songwriting quality, so… I'm sold. This is great shit, and I look forward to hearing more.
Infernal Stronghold "Destruction of Life… Unworthy of Life"
I swallow the land and the oceans, the skies and the stars, I consume what's near and what's far. I swallow your faith and regurgitate distortion, triggering flashbacks of pain, leaving you emotionally broken. Unleashing purest rage directed at your ancient scripture, tear the books page from page, forcefully taking away the crutches from man. Unspiritual land, unblessed water, unoccupied skies, in their true form. Despite the death of your king, the sky stands still.
@ Forcefield Records (LP)
@ Forcefield Records (CD)
Muck "2009 demo"
Posted on Monday, October 19th, 2009 @ 7:38am » permalink
Muck is a promising young band from Reykjavík, Iceland whose style flirts with the "skronk"-laden attack of noise rock buried amidst the more pummeling and abrasive side of 90's "metalcore" in a way that kind of reminds me of bands like Ire. They seem to have progressed quite a bit from the similar foundations laid on last year's "Vultures" EP, as these demo tracks are much shorter and more focused, and on this outing they utilize an aptly muddy recording with really raw, stripped down tones that thicken up the mix while still providing a lot of breathing room for the different textures created by the at times loose, angular riffing. Expect a good amount of hammer-on/pull-off runs and all kinds of discordant chord phrasings that allow them to effectively fluctuate between pulsing rhythms and much more frenetic fare – all fronted by that blown-out vocal style that sounds like the dude's just obliterating his throat with truly strained, howling screams. The whole thing flies past in a mere 10-and-a-half minutes, and the more I listen to it, the more I want to hear from these guys. Hopefully a full-length's in the works!
I'm not sure how you can get your hands on this material, so I'd recommend getting in touch with the band via the MySpace link above to investigate further if you like what you hear.
Dead City "Goddamn the 21st Century" CD
Posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009 @ 7:14am » permalink
I originally posted about "Goddamn the 21st Century", the long-awaited debut full-length from Memphis, TN's mighty Dead City, last summer when they were still looking for a label to release it. Well, I'm pleased to report that Thrashed! Records had the presence of mind to make that happen, so I'm re-posting about this total gem once again, as I simply can't recommend these guys enough. I've been raving about how fucking great Dead City is ever since I first heard 'em back in 2006, and that fact has only been continually solidified with each subsequent recording they've sent me. There are a lot of bands out there getting a lot of hype for unloading merely decent tracks that are heavily influenced by the classic 90's style of metallic hardcore, so I simply can't fathom why the hell Dead City is still flying under the radar without getting more well-deserved appreciation. I hope that will finally start to change now that the album's out, because rather than falling back on all of the NY staples that everyone knows and loves, Dead City's dirtying things up (in the best possible way) with more interesting and atypical influences more along the lines of what bands like Bloodlet and Cutthroat were doing "back in the day", right alongside some 1993-styled Entombed and Crowbar to add some texture and dimension. So the end result is still largely along the lines of early- to mid-90's "metalcore" (remember kids, it wasn't always a dirty word), but the fucking songwriting is far darker, far more pissed, and far more powerful than the vast majority of the aforementioned bands that are reaping serious benefits from the hype factor right now. I've always been one to champion the "little guys", but I'm fucking tired of seeing all the "little guys" that crush the competition getting set aside or ignored because of insignificant (often aesthetic) bullshit that has nothing to do with musical quality. This is Dead City's strongest effort to date, and is very possibly the best release of 2009 as far as I'm concerned. Please spread the fucking word if you're among those who agree with me. And if not… well… I just don't fucking get it…
Dead City "Carry the Fire"
Dead inside. I feel nothing. I don't fucking care. For those I loved an absent stare. Sick of playing games. Day after day, nothing's at stake…
It's only $8 from the label, so no excuses…
@ Thrashed! Records (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
Gull "The Thin King" 7"
Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 @ 7:09am » permalink
"The Thin King" is the debut release from Gull (on Molsook Records) – a project from here in Richmond, VA that offers a quite literal representation of "one-man band" by performing guitar, drums, and vocals at the same time (see YouTube for details). And it's actually really fucking cool, too. It's funny, 'cause the label's website says that "anyone that's been living in Richmond, VA for the past few years will tell you that you're bound to eventually witness the sounds and sight of Gull", and I guess for once that's actually true, as I was walking around at the river a few days ago and the dude was playing out on the rocks under a bridge!? What a weird coincidence! You might assume that a man's mere four limbs would create a limited palette of sounds, but that's not the case here. The four tracks herein fluidly transition from tangible riffs and song-like structures where sparse, twangy vocals creep into the background of the mix behind light washes of reverb to improvisational fits of percussion, grating guitar textures, and howls that have more of an avant-garde kinda vibe happening. All 13 minutes is a really peculiar outing that certainly grabs your attention. I wasn't sure I was gonna be into this one, but I find it to be pretty damn interesting, so I'll be looking forward to hearing more. Nicely done…
Gull "Chain Saw it Coming"
Each 7" (which is limited to about 500 copies) comes with a download code for mp3's of the release, which is always awesome, so definitely make the grab if you're curious…
@ Molsook Records
Eye for All "s/t" 7"
Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 @ 6:56am » permalink
Another winner from Finland is the debut 7" from Eye for All, which is also the debut release from The Hood Took Us Under Records. Four tracks/10 minutes of that in your face metallic hardcore you'd expect is what's in store, complete with a little old school flavor and some sweet bass breaks amidst the chunky rhythms that tend to drive this style of hardcore – not to mention some unexpected lead breaks that have a Biohazard-esque kind of sound happening. The vocals are also higher-pitched and carry more of a bitter sneer than the burly gruffness that so many European hardcore bands favor, so there are definitely little bits and pieces here that keep the band from sounding like a carbon copy of any of the wealth of other acts making up the Finnish scene right now. As usual there's not much more to say about 10 minutes of straightforward, 90's-styled hardcore, but I love this stuff and am always psyched to hear it done right, so… it's as simple as that.
Eye for All "Dark Days"
I'm not really seeing this one out there in the distros and such, so contact the band and/or label via the MySpace links above for specific ordering information to get your hands on a copy of the 7"…
Jakartah "In the Nervous Lights of Coincidence" CD
Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009 @ 7:10am » permalink
"In the Nervous Lights of Coincidence" is the debut full-length from intriguing Canadian trio Jakartah, and though it seems to have been released a year-and-a-half ago, the band is still promoting it fairly heavily. Perhaps that's because their label, Torque Records, has no mention of Jakartah anywhere that I can find on their MySpace page, but I'm not really sure what's going on there!? Regardless, the band emailed me about checking out the album, and I liked it, so… here we go. Apparently these guys have been compared to a lot of bands or styles that they feel have no real bearing on their sound or influences, and I fear I'll likely continue that trend, but what can you do, you know? To be honest, though, the only band Jakartah reminds me of is another odd contemporary outfit that I've written about in the past, and that's Robots and Empire. Both bands have this strange overall aesthetic that combines post-hardcore leanings with lightly prog-ish, almost "stoner rock" sounding characteristics – though Jakartah's take often heads in a more angular direction. (For the record, I still fucking hate the term "stoner rock", and it can be misleading, but I'm strictly referring to its textural musical qualities, nothing to do with subject matter or imagery.) Here fuzzy chord progressions and weird little rocked out riffs with underlying noise rock types of arrangements weave around dense basslines and subtly filtered vocals that are mixed a little farther back than usual, which creates an interested aesthetic as it is. But then all of this is punctuated by indie-esque clean passages and emphatic melodies, creating a truly unique approach that defies categorization in the best way possible. I'm really preferring to let the music do the talking lately, so here's a taste:
Jakartah "Reactions Begin Grinding Gears Tonight"
In an effort to spread their music to as many listeners as possible, the band has also made the album available for free download through their blog:
[DOWNLOAD] Jakartah "In the Nervous Lights of Coincidence" (@ Mediafire, via Blogspot)
However, if you like what you hear and wish to support Jakartah's efforts with a purchase, which is obviously encouraged, here are but a few sources to get you started…
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ RevHQ (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)