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American Gods "Chariot the Ghost" 12"

Posted on Monday, February 28th, 2011 @ 6:52am » permalink

American Gods - Chariot the GhostMemphis, TN's American Gods was formed by Dead City guitarist Phillip Marfoglio, but don't expect anything closely related to metallic hardcore, as the band's debut EP, "Chariot the Ghost" (released by Withdrawal Records), heads in an entirely different musical direction. I guess you could call their somber yet memorable songwriting loaded with plenty of melody a fusion of post-hardcore and shoegaze? Expect pulsing basslines, lush clean passages, swirling guitar textures, and subdued, softly sung vocals mixed right into the thick of the instrumentation. Occasionally they'll even blend in some samples or smatterings of electronics, but for the most part it's fuzzed out guitars and dense bass running the show. I'm not sure if it's the vocal style, or perhaps the overall tone of the recording, but even the catchier or somewhat harder hitting moments generally have a relaxed kind of feel, which actually works out quite nicely. I'm fairly inexperienced when it comes to the whole "shoegaze" thing, so I can't make a particularly educated assessment here, but all that matters is I like it, and I definitely want to hear more…

American Gods "Soleil Noir"

The 12" is limited to 500 copies (300 on swirled gray/black/white, 150 on swirled yellow/orange/red, and 50 available directly from the band on swirled red/black), and each one includes a digital download. You can also grab the tracks directly from iTunes…

Purchase:

@ Withdrawal Records (12")
@ iTunes (mp3)

Integrity "Harder They Fall" flexi 7"

Posted on Friday, February 25th, 2011 @ 7:09am » permalink

Integrity - Harder They FallAnother Dwid-related reissue (this one more unexpected) sees Organized Crime Records pressing Integrity's 1989 "Harder They Fall" demo onto a clear flexi 7" limited to a mere 150 hand-numbered copies, with the cover art of the original demo enlarged to fit. What the hell can I say about Integrity that I haven't already said? I've probably written about the band like 50 times now, in each instance pointing out that they're one of my all-time favorites (and have been for well over a decade), etc., etc. I'm not really one to sit and agonize over the minute differences between varying recording sessions. Maybe portions are a little faster or a little slower than non-demo editions or whatnot, but one thing you'll notice here is that the recording on these three classic Integrity tracks – "Live it Down", "Dead Wrong", and "Bringing it Back" – is actually a bit heavier than the versions of the songs that appeared on the "In Contrast of Sin" 7". Most notably the basslines are clearer and more audible, which is definitely awesome. And who could complain about an old demo being reissued on a badass format like a flexi? Especially given the fact that it's pretty incredible to think that it's been 20+ years since this material was recorded!

Integrity "Live it Down"

As mentioned above, this release is limited to just 150 copies (each comes with a download code), and I believe the only place you can get it is direct from the label. I wouldn't be surprised if they sold out any day now, so… you'd better act fast if you'd like to give one a home in your collection of future rarities!

Purchase:

@ Organized Crime Records

Roses Never Fade "Fade to Black" LP

Posted on Thursday, February 24th, 2011 @ 6:46am » permalink

Roses Never Fade - s/tIf you're unfamiliar, Roses Never Fade is an international project spearheaded by infamous Integrity frontman Dwid along with T from Vegas; with guitar contributions having been delivered by Pale Creation members Nick Brewer and Matt Shack, alongside appearances from Adami (acoustic guitar) and Stephanie VH (vocals, mbria piano). I've written about "Fade to Black" three times now: First when it was originally released by Rock Vegas in 2006, again exactly one year ago (when it was reissued with bonus tracks by Belgian label Neuropa Records), and now that it's seeing its first stint on vinyl thanks to A389 Recordings. The primary difference here is that two songs, "Don't Let the Hell Come Down" and "…Fear for You", have been omitted (Perhaps due to time constraints? I'm not sure.), so the result is a well-focused 10 tracks in about 33 minutes. Narrowminded hardcore purists have scoffed at this material, but there's simply no excuse for such reactions, as this outlet really is the strongest to have born Dwid's name outside of the almighty Integrity. Walking the line between a dark, acoustic-based sound somewhat reminiscent of Integrity's sorely underrated "Heaven Inside Your Hell" and flirtations with "apocalyptic folk" (or whatever you'd prefer to call that Death in June type of sound), there are even some borderline spaghetti western-inflected atmospheres present throughout. Despite relying almost solely on acoustic guitars and whispered vocals, it's an intriguing listen where some tracks come across as more melodic while others feel further abstracted/manipulated, and there's plenty of variety explored through assorted layering techniques and such. I also enjoy the effectively stripped down rawness to aspects of the recording: There are a couple of little areas where you can hear things like chairs creaking or other subtle background noises resulting from mic'd acoustic guitar playing that are pretty curious. A number of the tracks demonstrate some seriously amazing songwriting, too.

Roses Never Fade "Fruition Revisited"

It has been through an uncertain manner that my only device has turned to vice and fully enveloped my being. I no longer see, nor feel as others do. I have done my best to convince my fears that this is evolution, this transcends what others have grown too content with, but I still harbor reservations…

Each LP comes with a download code, and collectors should note that there are still some clear vinyl copies leftover from the pre-order phase. Those less concerned with holding something in their hands can purchase the album digitally for a mere $5, too…

Purchase:

@ A389 Recordings (clear vinyl)
@ A389 Recordings (black vinyl)
@ A389 Recordings (mp3)

Resurrectionists/Battle of Wolf 359 split 10"

Posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 @ 6:52am » permalink

Resurrectionists/Battle of Wolf 359 - splitAnother scorcher from 7 Degrees Records (this time in cooperation with a slew of other labels: Asymmetrie, Moment of Collapse Records, Parade of Spectres, and React With Protest), this split 10" sees Germany's Resurrectionists teaming up with UK act Battle of Wolf 359 for about 16 minutes of material. Resurrectionists unloads five short tracks of seriously intense, grinding hardcore that I've seen referred to as "Bremen worship" at least once, and I'd agree. There's great dual vocal interaction between guttural growls and absolutely ripping screams, and they effortlessly switch things up from blasting speed and chaotic, over the top riffing to slower, more discordant chord phrasings and pummeling heaviness. It's definitely go for the throat type of stuff, and it flies by fast enough to leave me wanting to hear more from this band immediately. Awesome. Battle of Wolf 359 then follows with three songs that sound to me like crusty hardcore/punk with an unexpectedly screamo sort of edge. The vocals are basically relentless screams, and some of the music has that straightforward, driving sort of D-beat rhythm with distorted pulses of bass, but then they'll blend in some jangly clean passages and more angular riffing – giving off an entirely different vibe. The guitar sound as a whole is pretty raw and textured as well, which really does play towards the whole emo/screamo kind of aesthetic, but… whatever you want to call it, it works. It's heavy and intense without trying too hard, but there's also some melody tucked away in there. Plenty of frantic energy, too. Good stuff. Another damn fine split from 7 Degrees…

Resurrectionists "Traumtänzer"
Battle of Wolf 359 "Rimba"

In addition to the links below, you can contact 7 Degrees Records directly to see about getting your hands on a copy…

Purchase:

@ Asymmetrie
@ Moment of Collapse Records
@ React With Protest
@ Parade of Spectres
@ Vitriol Records

Vestiges "The Descent of Man" CD/LP/CS

Posted on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 @ 6:47am » permalink

Vestiges - The Descent of ManSelf-released on a whopping three formats, "The Descent of Man" is the lofty debut full-length from Vestiges, who have curiously enough already mapped out their discography (which is to include two more releases, an EP and an LP), as well as plans to work with a filmmaker to further express the concept behind their work, which is as follows:

"The Descent of Man" follows the creation, the evolution, and the eventual annihilation of mankind. Today, we find ourselves hoping to reverse the damage that we have done and struggling to sustain what little earth we have yet to rape repeatedly. We validate this existence with stories that justify our behavior and our role in the natural world. The promise of salvation in a land we have yet to see has clouded our judgment in a land that is right before our eyes. Industrialization, militarization, overpopulation, theism, speciesism, and nihilism are regarded as evolution and progress. Our greed and ignorance have been celebrated and our past has been forgotten. We were meant to be a part of nature. We were not meant to conquer nature. We were given life and we have done everything in our power to bring death upon everything in our path, including ourselves. There will be horrifying consequences for what we have done.

Bookended by chilling dark ambient soundscapes (the latter of which contains some reversed music and indecipherably manipulated spoken passages), you're left with five lengthy compositions (titled simply "I" – "V") that combine a driving sort of crusty hardcore/punk with black metal and touches of "post-rock" influences. The guitars have a weird, jangly dissonance to the distortion that really changes the overall vibe of the music, though, so even somewhat straightforward, D-beat inspired rhythms end up with a bit of a head-scratch effect. And for that matter, some of the black metal runs could just as easily be tagged "screamo"!? Overall there's a good amount of frantic intensity alongside bits and pieces of churning heaviness, but there's a lot of melody present as well, with some slower, largely instrumental passages that start messing with lush clean guitars and chilled out segues. You really don't hear these types of influences combined all that often, and I know the very notion can be frightening to imagine, but… there are definitely some bands out there who can pull it off in a way that actually makes sense, and Vestiges is among them. You can check out the entire album below via Bandcamp:

On top of the three physical formats, the band has been generous enough to offer the album as a free download, too!?

[DOWNLOAD] Vestiges "The Descent of Man" (@ Bandcamp)

Of course, if you like what you hear, "The Descent of Man" is available on CD (limited to 300), LP (100 on black, 100 on clear with black haze, and 100 on red with black haze), and cassette (limited to 100) through the band's website, so… do the right thing!

Purchase:

@ Vestiges

Pain Runs Deep "Whispered Truths" 7"

Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011 @ 5:09am » permalink

Pain Runs Deep - Whispered TruthsThe latest from The Essence Records sees Pain Runs Deep dropping their first recorded output since reforming in 2008 after a lengthy hiatus (their debut EP came out way back in 1998). And an impressive return it is, with four new tracks of inventive metallic hardcore said to be "inspired by their favorite early-90's jams like Conviction or Burn". I wouldn't say either of those influences is too obvious (the end result actually reminds me of Edgewise with a little more creativity and more consistent songwriting), but if you're gonna draw influences from somewhere, that's a damn fine place to start. Expect lots of winding rhythms and cool post-hardcore dissonance (without abandoning chunky riffs or aggression), and some great interaction between differing guitar parts. I'd love to hear more bass in the mix, 'cause it sounds like they're doing some interesting things in that department as well – alongside the energetic drumming. What strikes me the most, though, are the unique vocals that actually have their own recognizable character that stands apart from the norm. It's really refreshing at this point in time to hear a hardcore vocalist that actually has an individual identity. Very cool. I wasn't familiar with Pain Runs Deep before now, but I'll have to track down their other EP, 'cause this shit rules.

Pain Runs Deep "Locate Your Enemy"

In addition to coming with a download code, the 7" packaging also includes an awesome essay by former Burn/Orange 9mm frontman Chaka Malik, which is another nice touch, so be sure to pick one up while you still can if you're into it!

Purchase:

@ The Essence Records

Stats "Crowned" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011 @ 6:43am » permalink

Stats - CrownedMany years ago I reviewed a demo by a band called Stay Fucked (which was an incredible band name, by the way). Somewhere along the line they changed their name to Stats, dropped the vocals, tightened up, and from what I can tell started taking themselves more seriously (if nothing else their visual aesthetic is much more mature and intriguing these days, granted that old demo did have an admittedly hilarious cover). "Crowned" is their latest EP (compliments of The Path Less Traveled Records), and it contains a handful of lengthy instrumental cuts of various forms of "rock" all fused together into one seamless ball of ass kickery. Math rock, prog rock, indie rock, noise rock… all that and more, all present in scattered bits and pieces that don't sound nearly as disjointed as my "writing" would likely suggest. It's caustic, it's melodic, it's kinda funky, and it's kinda catchy, too. The recording has a "live in the studio" type of vibe happening, with just the right amount of rawness and bite, and as is often the case with trios there's plenty of breathing room for each instrument to shine in its own space. It's all solid, but I must admit it's the completely badass bass runs that totally steal the show for me. Very cool. You can check out the whole EP below thanks to Bandcamp, so I'll let the music do the god damn talking:

Purchase:

@ The Path Less Traveled Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Sofy Major "Permission to Engage" CD/2xLP

Posted on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 @ 6:32am » permalink

Sofy Major - Permission to EngageAfter a number of splits and EP's, French act Sofy Major has finally prepared their full-length debut (released in cooperation with no less than five different labels: Atropine Records, Basement Apes Industries, Bigoût Records, Odio Sonoro, and Prototype Records), offering up 10 songs/50 minutes that continue to head in an increasingly dense and aggressive direction. Whereas much of their past efforts could at least partially be described as bearing "screamo" influences, I'd no longer throw that term into the mix. If nothing else, the vocals are burlier and more diverse now – harshly shouted or half-spoken under assorted effects – but they've also reigned in just enough of the frantic acerbity, so the remnants land in a darker, sludgier atmosphere. I suppose you could now compare this approach to the whole "Neur-Isis" style in some ways, but (thankfully) there's no "post-" bullshit present whatsoever, and despite the recognizable increase in heaviness the character of the riffs is still rather angular and unique. This is indeed the band's hardest hitting material to date, though, and it's very cool that they actually let the basslines carry the bulk of that weight. The guitar tone doesn't really go for that crushing, in your face attack – instead it's warmer and more well-rounded. And when present, the subtle electronic textures, samples, etc. are handled quite masterfully, so you can tell that a lot of careful attention to detail has been paid in the mix. Having been a fan of the band for about four years now, it's cool to suddenly realize how much they've been slowly shape-shifting with each subsequent release. Stream the entire album below via Bandcamp:

The double-LP is limited to 500 copies on clear splattered with red and black/clear splattered with black and white, so vinyl junkies should make a move sooner than later. Those unconcerned with physical product can score the mp3's via Bandcamp as a name your price download (awesome).

Purchase:

@ Sofy Major (CD)
@ Sofy Major (2xLP)
@ Basement Apes Industries (CD/2xLP)
@ Prototype Records (CD)
@ Prototype Records (2xLP)
@ Bandcamp (mp3)

Throat "Adult Situations" 7"

Posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 @ 7:08am » permalink

Throat - Adult SituationsThis all-too-brief EP from Turku, Finland's Throat (released by Kult of Nihilow) throws down a mere two tracks/10 minutes of high-quality "noise rock". Driven largely by pulsing, lightly distorted basslines and crisp, natural percussion, the harsh shouts and mangled singing fight their way forth from the back of the mix amidst guitars that offer up everything from swirling layers of feedback, repetitious rhythmic churns, and weird bends, to the types of surging, angular riffing you'd expect from this particular niche. My knowledge of this style is not what I'd like it to be, so I'm not really sure what parallels I'd draw here (not that it's necessary), but the band seems to draw comparisons to 16, Unsane, and Fudge Tunnel more often than not. I'd lean harder on Unsane than anything else in that list, but… it probably doesn't really matter, right? The bottom line is that this is an awesome 7" and it certainly leaves me hungry for more, which is what any good EP should do!

Throat "Soft Rogue" (excerpt)

The 7" is limited to just 330 copies, so be sure to pick one up while you still can if this is your thing…

Purchase:

@ Kult of Nihilow
@ Kaos Kontrol

Yersinia "Efter Oss Syndfloden" CD

Posted on Monday, February 7th, 2011 @ 7:44am » permalink

Yersinia - Efter Oss SyndflodenReleased by Black Star Foundation, "Efter Oss Syndfloden" is the debut full-length from Swedish act Yersinia, who quite impressed me with their two prior EP's of contemporary metalcore meets "screamo". As with the band's past efforts, expect loads of chaotic, technical riffing; an awesomely discordant edge; surprisingly brutal, chugging breakdowns; tactfully grooving rhythms; interesting melodic bits and angular arrangements; etc. And unlike most bands of this nature you can actually pick out a number of more straightforward and explosive chord progressions that remain tied to traditional hardcore. The vocals tend to stick with absolutely vicious, scathing screams alongside a few half-spoken passages, but there's not really any singing. They don't go for the whole "catchy chorus" thing, and that's a nice change of pace from the norm, because the songwriting is still really memorable. That's what makes this their strongest offering to date: There's just an excellent sense of energy throughout, and a lot of passages that jump out and grab your attention. Awesome recording, too. The mix nicely balances the biting acerbity with the churning heaviness, while retaining enough clarity for a lot of little textural details to shine through. It's an intense listen, as they pretty much keep charging forward for the entire 11 songs/40 minutes, but I'm impressed. Good stuff…

Yersinia "Ensamhetens Lov"

Purchase:

@ Black Star Foundation (CD)
@ iTunes (mp3)
@ Klicktrack (mp3)

The Platoon "Birth to Box" 7"

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 @ 7:16am » permalink

The Platoon - Birth to BoxGerman act The Platoon is back with four new tracks of brutal, no-nonsense metallic hardcore on the "Birth to Box" 7" (released via Save My Soul Records). Expect loads of 90's-styled midpaced chugging, massive breakdowns and a tasteful sense of groove, burly vocals, as well as a handful of directly metal-based influences such as quick little lead melodies and a few thrashy picking patterns. As with most bands of this nature they're not really trying to break new ground, and that's totally fine. The songwriting is top-notch, and I'd say they've pretty much mastered this form of hardcore. Absolutely awesome production, too: Nicely polished without venturing into overly-pristine territory. They've got an amazing guitar tone but you can still hear the bass, the drums are well-rounded with a great snap to the snare, etc. What more needs to be said? I'm all over this. Highly recommended.

The Platoon "Scornmaker"

The 7" is limited to 300 total, but the first 50 pre-order versions are already sold out, so… don't sleep on picking up one of the remaining copies. Each 7" comes with a download card, so you'll be all set…

Purchase:

@ Save My Soul Records

Theme of Laura "2010 demo" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 @ 7:18am » permalink

Theme of Laura - 2010 demoHere we have five tracks and about 20 minutes of excellent emo/screamo from French trio Theme of Laura, and I'd say the band would've been right at home in the 90's, before "emo" and "screamo" became such "dirty words". The material is driven predominantly by jangly guitars with only faint traces of light distortion and vocals that fall into that half-spoken/half-yelling middle ground. There's just the right amount of catchy energy to the songwriting, balanced with relaxed atmospheres and the tactfully jarring/chaotic influences that one would tend to expect from this traditionally loose, rugged approach to the genre. Also utilized is an appropriately raw, stripped down recording that lets every element play an equal role in the mix – from the highly active pulses of bass to the dry, natural percussion. Everything about this demo feels really natural and honest, though, and that's an important characteristic for this classic style of "emo". I'll let the music speak for itself. I'm really looking forward to hearing more from this band…

Theme of Laura "Maitriser l'Impermanence"

Physical copies of the demo are available in a limited edition of 100 with screenprinted covers, so get in touch with the band if you're interested in acquiring one. Otherwise, they've been generous enough to make the entire demo available as a free download:

[DOWNLOAD] Theme of Laura "2010 demo" (@ Bandcamp)