I can't remember the last time I wrote about a zine, though I do still encounter them on rare occasion, but this one damn sure stands out enough to warrant the coverage. It's a shame that my first exposure to At Both Ends is also their final (double) issue, but… such is life, I suppose. I had never seen this magazine before, so I'm not sure how older issues compare, but this fucker's 148 full-size pages bound like a paperback book. The covers are full color, and rather than cramming all of the content into one massive issue, each issue starts from its own half of the zine. So, when you finish #9 in the center, you flip it upside down and go back to the other front cover and start over again. Included throughout are solid interviews with Anchor, Excursion Records, Greg Bennick, Shai Hulud, Shook Ones, Sick of it All, To Kill, Verse, and several others; in addition to retrospective write-ups on Sparkmarker and Brand New Unit; Bane's South American tour diary; and cool little segments on random topics like Bill Stevenson's custom tour truck, vinyl mastering, etc. There are also a hell of a lot of reviews, but that's the only real weak spot for me, as they're incredibly brief, and in this day and age with as long as it takes to put together a zine of this magnitude, they're pretty dated as well. Otherwise, pretty much all of the content's very well done, not to mention laid out nicely. Shit, I even enjoyed looking through all the ads and stuff, since this really feels like a super high-quality version of the types of zines I grew up with, so it really made me feel nostalgic for those days where ads were actually how you learned about and mailordered records!
Of course, another huge factor here is that the double-issue comes with a double-7" featuring two songs apiece and 25 minutes of music total from Bane, Grade, Unrestrained, and Between Earth and Sky. I know that Bane and Grade are both pretty popular bands in certain circles, but I honestly hadn't listened to either of 'em in years prior to this, so I was pleasantly surprised to really enjoy their contributions here. Bane kicks out one new track and a re-recording of "Struck Down by Me", each demonstrating their brand of heavy yet melodic and heartfelt hardcore that's probably been a massive influence on a lot of the newer bands operating in this general space. Apparently these are Grade's first new songs since 2001, and I dig this version of their catchy, emo-tinged melodic hardcore way more than I remember. In fact, I feel like I hated their last album, but… I don't have it anymore, so I can't remember! Either way, these tunes are awesome. Unrestrained's material continues in their 90's-inspired vein of top-notch acerbity and harsh vocals blended with just the right amount of midpaced chugging. They still remind me of Harvest, and that's not a bad thing at all. They're tightening up with time, and I'm still looking forward to hearing more. I was probably most excited to check out Between Earth and Sky, a band that features former members of Trial, Strain, By a Thread, and Catharsis (all bands that I quite enjoy), and they don't disappoint. The tracks combine heavy, surging hardcore with somber acoustic passages and intense melodies, while vocally shifting from straightforward shouts to a good number of Greg Bennick's spoken word jaunts (which I've actually really come to appreciate). Two tracks doesn't feel like enough to go on, either!
Here's a quick medley of what's in store from the 7"s:
Bane/Grade/Unrestrained/Between Earth and Sky medley
I know the total price with shipping here can seem a little heavy, but you've gotta keep in mind how expensive it is to print zines, press vinyl, and ship that shit out. It ain't cheap, and you're essentially getting two zines and two records here. Remember that these efforts really deserve to be supported, and pick one up if you're interested…
@ At Both Ends (single copy)
@ At Both Ends (set of three vinyl variations)