Cease to Exist "s/t" CS
Posted on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 @ 7:18am » permalink
This self-titled affair is the first recorded output from UK hardcore act Cease to Exist (released on cassette by Disposable Culture Records), and its four tracks in less than eight minutes are delivered through one of the most intentionally raw, grimy recordings I've heard in quite some time. Expect short, furious bursts of unexpectedly blackened metallic hardcore that jumps from sludgy, discordant riffing to blasting percussion and dirty tremolo picking, not to mention crunchy breakdowns aplenty and loads of completely blown out distortion that decays into feedback on numerous occasions. If you can imagine '92-era Burzum covering Celtic Frost with a tone and ferocity much more akin to bands like Rot in Hell and Gehenna (US, not Norway), you'll have a decent idea of what to expect here (with some totally warped clean passages and general weirdness ala Mayday thrown in for good measure). That might sound like bullshit, but I'm serious. I'm looking forward to hearing more from these cats. Eight minutes ain't enough…
Cease to Exist "Ye Souls Depraved"
The cassette is limited to a paltry 40 copies, and in the band's words: "When they're gone, they're gone. No repress or download." Act now…
@ Disposable Culture Records
The band is also looking for someone to release their forthcoming nine-song full-length on vinyl, so get in touch with 'em if you're interested or can lend a hand in that realm…
Wrnlrd "Death Drive" 10"
Posted on Monday, December 20th, 2010 @ 6:59am » permalink
The latest from Arlington, VA's experimental "black metal 'cause there's nowhere else to put it" troupe Wrnlrd (once more via Flingco Sound System), the "Death Drive" EP was largely formed using outtakes from last year's "Myrmidon" album. That being said, like all other Wrnlrd outings to date, there's evident shape-shifting growth and progression here, and it's gotten to the point now where the "What the fuck!?" moments are more commonly induced by increasingly concrete riffs and prominent basslines (How about that opening of "Grave Dowser"!?) crawling forth from the bubbling mass. And in this case that "bubbling mass" includes the expected doses of dizzyingly panned clashes of abstract riffs and textures alongside operatic female singing, ambient blips and drones, death march synths, faux horns, accordion, and then some. For example, "Midnight Ride" bends vocal contributions from Integrity frontman Dwid Hellion into the same ascending/descending spirals of Wrnlrd's bizarre guitar work, while making pedal steel guitar sound more like warped and manipulated 60's pop music. And the chilling piano interlude "Luster" goes from sounding like the eeriest hotel lounge music on earth to the soundtrack of an incredibly somber and depressing nightmare reality.
I've had a number of email conversations with the core member of Wrnlrd in the past month or so in which he's raised the question as to why parallels have yet to be drawn between these works and Celtic Frost's "Into the Pandemonium", but I don't really see it. There's no "Mexican Radio" cover here. No "I Won't Dance". No weird, pseudo-industrial tr(h)ip-hop mixes. No, if portions of a Wrnlrd release are fucked up and disjointed and don't seem to make sense, it's intentional. There's a reason and a purpose, and it all flows into the "grand scheme".
Wrnlrd "Grave Dowser"
Don't even bother listening to the album if you're not going to conduct at least a cursory investigation of the accompanying "Operator's Guide to the Death Drive of Wrnlrd": A 14-page .pdf littered with an assortment of handwritten notes; lyrics; peculiar sketches; and small, evocative photographs. This booklet is actually what draws me in the most. "Death Drive" is said to be the second to last outing from Wrnlrd, and if that is indeed the case let me be the first to call for a posthumous full-length book that outlines the group's entire recorded output – nay, it's very existence – in this manner. Outstanding.
In the grin of a sickening moon we will waste our lives spinning wheels of alien need…
@ Flingco Sound System (10")
@ Flingco Sound System (mp3)
This Time it's War "Terror Plots" CD
Posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010 @ 7:08am » permalink
"Terror Plots" is the self-released debut full-length from This Time it's War, from right here in Richmond, VA. I'm scarcely into this form of contemporary "metalcore" that does the whole screaming/growling/singing thing, but I wrote about This Time it's War's rather impressive demo back in 2007 and this material displays quite a bit of growth from that time (including the two songs from said demo that appear here in re-recorded form). Whereas they came across as more of a melodic Swedish death metal-influenced act on the demo, they're now much more technical, and there are several elements of straight up progressive metal floating around, too. They're certainly more of a full-on metal band than anything, but those super dense, churning midpaced breakdowns and other such characteristics of "metalcore" are definitely present, so… maybe imagine a Misery Signals meets Darkest Hour with a smattering of Meshuggah type of approach? Whatever you want to call it, top-notch riffing and absolutely scorching solos are the key factor. It's so rare to encounter guitar solos that are specifically composed these days, and the guitar tone is so damn fluid here that it just makes all of the accent melodies and leads sound fucking great throughout the album. Also expect loads of slick hammer-on/pull-off/tapping runs; thick, dissonant chord phrasings; crunchy staccato rhythms; emphatic melodies galore; and even some subtle dustings of keyboards adding additional atmosphere in the background. I'm not really into the lower, grunting/growling vocals, though, which feel too forced and somewhat out of place. The midrange sneers that drive the bulk of the material are certainly the most comfortable and fitting, but the singing passages are surprisingly solid as well. I'd also like to hear the bass given a hint more presence in the mix, 'cause I dig the way the basslines weave in and out between the guitars and percussion, but they often start to get lost amidst the (rightfully) prominent layers of dizzying guitar work. These are minor points, though. These dudes have so much damn potential. I can't speak highly enough of the guitar work here, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the band's songwriting progresses moving forward. Good stuff…
This Time it's War "The Shift of the Ages"
@ This Time it's War (CD)
@ Interpunk (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ Bandcamp (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)
Dead Meat "The King" 7"/"Early Recordings"
Posted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 @ 7:04am » permalink
Another keeper from Flingco Sound System's ever-expanding musical palette, I believe "The King" is the first proper physical release from San Francisco trio Dead Meat, and it comes with the nine-song, download-only EP "Early Recordings" (which is also available separately) – containing all of the band's recordings to date. The label states that Dead Meat has "adopted the asphalt drag of primo-era Touch & Go/AmRep bands with a concise and direct delivery all their own", and I must confess that while my experience with such niches is rather limited, that's where my initial impressions are leaning as well. It's kind of a strange blend of the angular riffing, roving basslines, gritty textures, and half-spoken/half-sung vocals that I tend to associate with "noise rock" and some of the dry production values and loose, jangly performance tactics of indie rock (before "indie rock" carried the negative connotations it tends to bear these days). On one hand it's sort of relaxed, but on the other hand that droning, laidback vibe is quite dark and somber, and all the while the material is kind of "catchy" and energetic (in a mangled punk rock way). Then you've got song titles like "Burger Bash" and "Rubber Snake"… I mean, what's to be made of all this, exactly!? It's fuckin' weird. But sometimes weird is damn fine. I dig it.
Dead Meat "Fuck Amsterdam"
The 7" is limited to just 500 copies, and as mentioned above the vinyl comes with a download code for the digital album. Those unconcerned with physical product can purchase the digital download direct from the label for a mere $4.00, and you just can't beat that shit…
@ Flingco Sound System (7")
@ Flingco Sound System (mp3)
Planks "The Darkest of Grays" LP
Posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010 @ 6:58am » permalink
"The Darkest of Grays" (released by Per Koro Records) sees Germany's Planks taking their hard-hitting brand of surging, sludgy metallic hardcore in a few slightly new directions. Each side of the LP acts as one portion of the concept as a whole ("Passages" and "Fatalities"), both introduced by light washes of ambient drones and samples. As with their last outing the recording is absolutely awesome – with perfectly natural, resonant percussion setting the foundation for warmly-textured guitars and bass to lock together alongside burly vocals that are super powerful and in your face without falling out in front of the instrumentation. I'd say the core of their approach is still largely based around that His Hero is Gone style of surging hardcore/punk power chords accented by forceful, dissonant melodies, but there are now some unexpected transitions towards harshly acerbic guitar textures, chilling clean passages, and even a handful of riffs that have a frenzied black metal type of aesthetic going on. As is often the case it all boils down to killer riffs and strong songwriting in the end, though, and I think that's the main "difference" here. The band's past efforts were indeed strong, but everything comes across as more… well, I hate to say "mature", but… yeah. Everything comes across as more mature here. It's heavier, more emotional, and there's more thought behind both the lyrics and the musicianship. Here's a taste:
Planks "Fallen Empires are Ruling"
A few weeks after the release of the LP, the band decided to make the entire 42-minute album available as a free download as well. You'll not only get high-quality mp3's, but also .pdf's containing the lyrics and background information on the concept of the album:
[DOWNLOAD] Planks "The Darkest of Grays" (@ MySpace)
Of course, I always encourage you to show some support with a purchase if you like what you hear. The LP (which is limited to 500 copies, of which 150 are on white vinyl) doesn't seem to have any distribution in the US at the moment, but you can still purchase online using the links below, or get in touch with the band directly. A CD pressing is said to be in the works, too.
@ Per Koro Records
@ Denovali Records
Four more songs were recorded during these sessions, and those should see the light as a one-sided 12" EP with an etched B-side early next year, so keep an eye out for that as well…
Low Places "s/t"
Posted on Thursday, December 9th, 2010 @ 7:39am » permalink
Los Angeles' Low Places wrote me awhile back and asked if I'd be interested in writing about their "Violent Hunger" cassette. However, when I finally got around to doing so, I realized they'd already released a brand new self-titled EP that includes re-recorded versions of all the songs from that tape (plus three new tracks), so… I'm writing about that instead! Expect a completely vicious blend of hardcore/punk and grind that's jam packed with sneering vocals and high-speed blasts countered by slow, sludgy dirges and pounding midpaced rhythms that lend a much appreciated powerviolence vibe to the material. Every now and then some droning feedback or even the occasional sample creeps in to change up the atmoshpere just a touch, but everything's fairly straightforward and to the point otherwise, and I'm way the fuck into it. As always, I hate to keep it so short, but these dudes rage through six tracks in a mere 11 minutes here, so… that's all there is to it, really!
Low Places "Malcontent"
I'm not sure if physical copies are planned or not, but the band has been cool enough to make the entire EP available as a free download. Enjoy!
[DOWNLOAD] Low Places "s/t" (@ Bandcamp)
Echoes of Yul/Guantanamo Party Program/Sun for Miles split CD
Posted on Monday, December 6th, 2010 @ 6:59am » permalink
Another intriguing release from Polish label We are All Pacinos, this three-way split CD sees Polish acts Echoes of Yul, Guantanamo Party Program, and Sun for Miles teaming up for an hour's worth of damn fine material. Echoes of Yul gets things started with four new tracks of their top-notch doom/drone/sludge, and this material is even better than their self-titled full-length from last year! Expect thick, pulsing drones and crushing power chords accentuated by eerie clean guitars, swirling ambient noise textures, industrialized percussion and arrangements, and superbly utilized samples that tend to feel like vocal contributions. There are some actual vocals present this time out as well, and despite their sparse appearances the styles include both strained, grunted shouts and spoken/sung passages – all lightly filtered and manipulated with assorted affects. And of course there are all of the subtle melodic elements that really add an extra level of emotion and intensity to the compositions (best exemplified by excellent closer "The Stand"). If you can imagine Godflesh/Jesu, Isis, and Pitchshifter thrown into in a blender, the result would probably be fairly close to this, and it's fucking awesome. Guantanamo Party Program follows with two lengthy tracks offering up a more stripped down, aggressive, and riff-based take on similar influences. Angular guitar textures, dissonant melodies, ethereal hums and drones, and occasional samples are all present, but the core of their attack is very heavily centered on pounding power chord rhythms and gruff vocals. Killer riffs and powerful soft/loud transitions work wonders for this band, though, and I'd quite like to hear more of what they have to offer. Sun for Miles then closes things out with three similarly lengthy instrumental compositions that combine the stripped down and riff-centric approach of Guantanamo Party Program with Echoes of Yul's looser and more repetitious structures – adding in slick, roaming pulses of bass and swirling guitar effects that lend more of a tactful "post-rock" atmosphere to some of the softer moments. Don't let that fool you, though, as the bulk of their work here is crushing, in your face, and loaded with the kind of awesome discordant riffs that are right up my alley (granted the final track is a full-on dark ambient noise piece). This is an outstanding split when all is said and done. Highly recommended for fans of this particular niche of metal.
Echoes of Yul "The Stand" (excerpt)
Guantanamo Party Program "Six Feet Under (alt. version)" (excerpt)
Sun for Miles "Barb of Sorrow" (excerpt)
@ We are All Pacinos