Entropy "Ashen Existence" CD

Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011 @ 12:33am » permalink

Entropy - Ashen ExistenceHere's another mind-shatteringly awesome discovery I made on YouTube recently. A band so fuckin' incredible that I'm absolutely certain they would've gone on every single mixtape I ever made as a kid had I discovered them when they were actually active. Entropy formed in Ontario, Canada in 1990, and after a demo the following year they only released two albums: "Ashen Existence" in 1992, and "Transcendence" in 1995 (both on Inazone Records). While they stripped down a touch for their sophomore effort, 1992's "Ashen Existence" (which only contains seven tracks but still runs over 50 minutes) is an impeccable fusion of technical thrash and death metal so impressive that it's inconceivable to me that not a single soul has ever so much as mentioned this band/album to me before. How is that even possible!?

If you took a few other albums from that general era – let's say Dark Angel's "Time Does Not Heal", Exhorder's "Slaughter in the Vatican", and maybe Gorguts' "Considered Dead" – and threw them in a blender, I really do think the result would be something pretty damn close to "Ashen Existence". The vocals range from thrashy snarls and wailing high-end shrieks (somewhat reminiscent of Ron Rinehart from Dark Angel) to singing, growls, the works – while the vocal patterns range from a thrash-styled delivery to super high-speed crossover tongue twisters, to groove-based runs perhaps suggestive of where the band would head in the years that followed. Musically it's a mixed bag of top-notch thrash/death with more of an ultra thick, early-90's Morrisound type of recording, which definitely aids in the death metal vibe surfacing throughout. Expect everything from lush dual guitar harmonies and absolutely gorgeous acoustic passages to flashy solos and, of course, tons and tons of meaty riffs. Plus, the songwriting actually flows and has some really memorable (if not catchy) elements as well – all the more unexpected when you're dealing with compositions that run six, seven, nine minutes or more. ("Psionic Dissection" is the one true oddball herein: More of a straightforward death metal piece complete with over the top growls, Carcass-esque leads, etc. It also has entirely different production values than the rest of the album, which makes it stand apart all the more as somewhat unusual. I've never heard the band's demo, but part of me wonders if perhaps this track was leftover from the demo sessions?) Overall, the different influences that are being combined feel pretty logical and fairly related to one another, but the end result still comes across as intriguingly diverse and full of unexpected twists and turns. They were definitely onto something, and I'd have to argue they were ahead of their time on some level. It's a damn shame this material has been drifting in obscurity for almost two decades now…

Entropy "Ashen Existence"
Entropy "Necrothon"
Entropy "Darkness Weaves"

And, sadly, this is another album so rare that you won't even find it listed on Amazon, etc. However, the band's guitarist recently got in touch with me, and he has copies of both Entropy CD's for sale at very reasonable prices! You can shoot him an email at [email protected] to inquire about getting your hands on these gems.

Even more insane is that when trying to dig up some information for this post, I found a few cryptic mentions that Entropy has reformed and is supposed to be releasing a new album this year!? Check out their Facebook group for all the latest news on that front!

Joe 4 "Enola Gay" CD/10"

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 @ 7:01am » permalink

Joe 4 - Enola GayFormed in 2008, Joe 4 hails from Zagreb, Croatia, and the "Enola Gay" EP is their first "proper" release (they did a demo in 2009) from French label Whosbrain Records. I'm no expert on the whole Amphetamine Reptile/"noise rock" angle, but this is exactly what I associate with that type of sound, and when I do run across it I feel like I generally appreciate what I hear. They're a trio and the guitars don't utilize a great deal of distortion, so the basslines play a huge role right there in the center of the mix. In fact, the rhythm section as a whole probably drives this material even more than the guitars, which is rare but awesome. The vocals sort of walk a line between speaking and shouting; while the guitar riffs range from straight up abrasive textures to sparse chords/notes, angular patterns, and unexpected little melodies – all treated with constantly shifting levels of distortion. The recording is absolutely perfect for this style as well. Everything sounds totally warm and natural, and while there's a certain fitting sense of dated ruggedness to it, it's quite crisp and balanced, too. Man, there are a lot of great bands in Croatia. This is an awesome EP, and I really think that listeners who have more of a history with this style of music should completely lose their minds over this stuff. Very cool…

Vinyl purchases come with a download code, and the mp3's are available as a name your price download, so there's no excuse not to pick this up if you like what you hear!

Purchase:

@ Whosbrain Records (CD/10")
@ Bandcamp (10"/mp3)

Born to Expire "Prisoner" CD

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 @ 6:49am » permalink

Born to Expire - Prisoner"Prisoner" is the latest EP from Auburn, NY's Born to Expire, which drops seven tracks of sludgy metallic hardcore in about 23 minutes. Since their last EP they've gotten a new drummer and one of the guitar players has taken over the vocal duties, but the lineup changes haven't really altered their approach. The vocals are very comparable gruff shouts, and the musical foundation remains intact – they're just moving towards slightly longer songs with a touch more variety. To my ears the riffs aren't as blatantly sludgy this time around (in the "southern groove" sense), but when the band emailed me about the EP they hinted that there's more of a Crowbar type of influence herein, and I agree (especially circa "Odd Fellows Rest"). The songwriting's driven by a core of thick, churning riffs that possess an energy similar to Crowbar's faster-paced material, as well as utilizing some of the crawling dissonance and intense dual guitar harmonies that I associate with Crowbar's finer moments. The recording's just a hint crisper and more balanced than that of their debut as well (and though not as up front in the mix, the basslines still have a very audible presence), so I'd say they're progressing nicely across the board. I'm not suggesting that they're some kind of copycat band with all the Crowbar talk, but the more I listen to these tracks the more that influence jumps out at me. I fucking love Crowbar, though, so… personally I'm a big fan of where these guys are heading!

They're currently selling the EP digitally or as a limited edition CD (only 100 copies made), with hopes of a vinyl release sometime before the end of the year. Make the grab if you like what you hear…

Purchase:

@ Bandcamp (CD/mp3)

Deviate "State of Grace" CD

Posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011 @ 6:43am » permalink

Deviate - State of GraceIn addition to all the thrash I've been listening to lately, I've been reminded of a number of European hardcore bands that I hadn't listened to in a good bit of time. A few Deviate tracks keep popping up on my iPod lately, and "State of Grace" has always been my favorite of their albums. The band formed in Belgium circa 1991, and this was their fourth full-length (they dropped their fifth and final album in 2002), released in 1999 by I Scream Records (Too Damn Hype released it in the US a year or so later). While a number of their other albums are worth acquiring, for me this is the one record where the stars aligned and everything came together perfectly: The production, the songwriting, the energy and atmosphere, etc. They weren't exactly breaking new ground, but this is a perfectly balanced slab of metallic hardcore. You've got your chugging grooves and gruff vocals; your stripped down, fast-paced hardcore; your thrashy picking patterns with just a little hint of a death metal lean (as opposed to some of the other Belgian bands that utilized much more blatant death metal influences), etc. But there are actually some really fuckin' catchy hooks on this thing, so you get all the best qualities of bands like Madball or Biohazard, but wrapped up in a darker and more metal-influenced approach that still remains firmly rooted in hardcore. While I don't hear Deviate mentioned all that often these days, I believe they reached a very decent level of popularity in their time, and they certainly remain deserving of attention even today. I know I'm not really saying much here, but the whole point is to simply introduce people to bands they may have missed out on "back in the day", so… check out a few tunes below and do some more digging if you like 'em.

Deviate "State of Grace"
Deviate "Dawn of Mankind"

While no longer readily available, you can thankfully still score cheap used copies (or mp3's) via Amazon.com, so… pick one up while you still can if you've been sleeping on these guys for the last decade or two!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)

Setting the Woods on Fire "Ruins" CD

Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 @ 6:25am » permalink

Setting the Woods on Fire - RuinsIt's been barely over two years since I last wrote about Polish trio Setting the Woods on Fire, and "Ruins" is their latest EP (this time coming from the perhaps more known Engineer Records roster), which sees the band taking their stripped down, classic emo aesthetic in a few new directions throughout four tracks/20 minutes. There's still a good amount of restrained, fuzzy distortion and a combination of relaxed singing and shouting/screaming vocals, but they're now flirting with some subtle textural effects and melodies that could probably be tagged with the whole "post-rock" thing (not in a bad way, though). This time around the recording also gives the basslines more oomph, and is a bit heavier in general, so you can start to discern more of a noise rock influence happening. I think the biggest difference, though, is that they're putting more energy into the songwriting, which covers a wider range of emotions – from the somber and chilled out angle that was most prominent on their debut to both catchier and more aggressive moments herein. It's great to see the band showing signs of progression and starting to garner more attention, and I'm once again looking forward to hearing more…

Setting the Woods on Fire "December Decay"

Purchase:

@ Engineer Records (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Seminary "The Bow"

Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011 @ 6:34am » permalink

Seminary - The BowI believe Seminary is a one-man Canadian grind assault from Cold Craving's Ryan Kennedy, and "The Bow" is a self-released EP that unloads eight incredibly short, fast tracks in a mere six minutes. It sounds like it's nothing but vocals, guitar, and drums, but that's all it takes to get the job done here, because the riffs are absolutely awesome. Amidst the frantic blasts and high-speed tremolo picking, caustic bends, and sparse chugging there's a ton of twisted dissonance and warped, chaotic texture reminiscent of bands like Ulcerate – and you don't stumble upon that kind of character very often in 25-second songs. Something about the guitar tone has a faint industrial tinge to it as well, which is another cool bit of atmosphere working in the material's favor. This thing really flies by in a flash, so I'm not sure what more to say!? The recording's quite appropriate for the style, the lyrics are suggestive but abstract enough for interpretation, and the band logo possesses a perfectly classic old school vibe that totally kicks ass. Listen for yourself and see what you think:

Like invisible walls. Like a shamanistic identity. The clothes become a birthmark that you'll take for granted. Blame is our favorite toy – that's why you haze the lens, and instead of making the world a better place, you build a cell wall. You thrive on the voyeurism it creates, it serves you still. Modern life as ethical virus. Modern life wants you to be invisible. Modern life divides us. Modern life makes us fail to empathize.

The EP's available via Bandcamp as a name your price download, so there's no reason not to give it a shot if you like what you hear…

Purchase:

@ Bandcamp

Terminus "Creations" CD

Posted on Friday, August 12th, 2011 @ 6:43am » permalink

Terminus - CreationsYet another obscure gem discovered via YouTube. While perusing through assorted thrash clips I stumbled upon this absolutely badass underground death metal from 1994, from a band so obscure that I think even the Encyclopaedia Metallum is wrong about 'em. According to their data, Terminus released "Creations" through a label called Stinkfist Records in 1994. That much appears to be accurate. But they cite the band as hailing from Stockton, CA, with another EP called "Victim Culture" being released in 1995. However, the lone eBay listing I can find for the "Creations" CD (with no artwork, sadly) states that the band was from Detroit. And while the five tracks that the Encyclopaedia Metallum lists as being "Victim Culture" appear on a MySpace page for the band, the Amazon listing for said EP only contains three (different) songs. From what I can gather, there was another Terminus from California that was more of an industrial metal band, so this Terminus was more than likely from Detroit – releasing "Creations", an EP of unknown title, and probably calling it quits at some point in the mid- to late-90's. (If anyone has more information about this band, please email me! Edit: They were from Stockton, CA after all. See this comment.)

"Creations" drops seven tracks averaging about six minutes apiece, for a total of 40 minutes of churning, midpaced death metal that's loaded with thick, chugging rhythms; some weird, semi-technical dissonance; and a lot of unexpected twists that flirt with some discordant tinges and melodic bass runs that really give the material an interesting feel. It's cool, because in some ways it comes across with this straightforward, in your face meatiness, but there's this other side that blends in influences you'd never anticipate, so they end up with a darker and more atmospheric edge that doesn't detract from the blunt aggression and heaviness at all (a combination perhaps best exemplified by the instrumental title track). They actually kind of remind me of Demented Ted (especially the vocals), which is somewhat fitting as I guess that's another relatively obscure reference. I don't know, all I can say is that I saw the album cover on YouTube, thought, "Damn, that looks promising!", and proceeded to flip out when I sampled my first track. I really wish I could dig up some more information on these dudes…

Terminus "Life Beyond"
Terminus "Isolate the Sick"
Terminus "Creations"

Unfortunately, this is another case where your chances of scoring physical copies of the band's material seem highly unlikely. I can find no trace of anything beyond "Creations" out there at all, and the aforementioned eBay auction (sans packaging of any kind) is all I see for this album (It's not even listed on Amazon!?). It's definitely getting harder to track down rarities…

Red Forest Hunter "s/t"

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 @ 6:43am » permalink

Red Forest Hunter - s/tThe debut outing from Nashville, TN's Red Forest Hunter is a four-song demo/EP that drops about nine minutes of excellent emo/indie rock type stuff (for lack of clearer terms) that focuses on energetic and memorable songwriting that's catchy and melodic without lacking a certain edge. There's definitely some punch to it, and nothing that really leans towards the "poppier" side of things. Three of the four band members make vocal contributions, so there's a good dose of variety there, from the relatively straightforward singing to a gruffer approach that hints at more of a shout. Musically it's an interesting blend of influences – including the aforementioned emo and indie rock tendencies amongst post-hardcore, punk, etc. – and I'm honestly not entirely sure where you'd properly classify it. The overall vibe definitely feels familiar to me, but I'm drawing a blank as to who I might compare it to (which is probably just as well). It's well-documented that I'm a sucker for a good song, though, and these dudes can damn sure write a tune. I'm way the fuck into this, and really look forward to hearing more from this band. Awesome.

You can download the entire EP for free if you like what you hear, so get to it!

[DOWNLOAD] Red Forest Hunter "s/t" (@ Bandcamp)

Wits End "s/t" 7"

Posted on Monday, August 8th, 2011 @ 6:25am » permalink

Wits End - s/tWhen a member of Norway's Wits End first emailed me about their debut EP (released by Adagio 830), he referred to it as "a four-song 7" of mid-90's emotional hardcore made by old farts that were actually around back then listening to stuff from Ebullition, Old Glory, and Gravity", so I somehow knew this would be a solid outing. I can't sit here and pretend I'm intimately familiar with the rosters of those labels, but I do get the association, and sure enough, everything about this material represents what I think of as being connected to that "true" form of emo that was born in the 90's: Jangly guitar tones that utilize fairly restrained distortion; plunky basslines; strained, yelling vocals (and backup vocals) that have just a hint of "singing" buried in there; etc. And of course the songwriting, which falls to the more ruggedly melodic side of things (as opposed to the more angular and abrasive style) and flows along at a midpaced stroll while possessing a a genuine sense of emotion and atmosphere. This is another one of those situations (which I always find quite impressive, really) where you could throw this up on some random blog and label it an obscure, out of print 7" from 1995 and I'd believe it. Hear the evidence below:

The 7" is limited to 500 copies on black vinyl with silk-screened covers, so pick one up while you still can if this is your thing…

Purchase:

@ Bis Auf's Messer Records and Gallery

Dyoxen "First Among Equals" CD

Posted on Friday, August 5th, 2011 @ 6:21am » permalink

Dyoxen - First Among EqualsIf you follow my occasional senseless babbling on Twitter for one reason or another, you may know that I've been on another obscure thrash kick lately. This time so obscure, in fact, that I didn't even know this album existed until last week (which is a damn shame). I've been searching for things like "obscure thrash" on YouTube and having my mind blown by the sheer number of compilation videos containing short clips from excellent thrash bands that I've never heard of in my entire life. Dyoxen is one of those bands. Formed in Montreal, Canada in 1985, they released a couple of demos before unloading their lone full-length album, " First Among Equals", on Cargo Records in 1989. I've spotted other posts online about how criminally underrated this album is, and it's a fact. It's loaded with meaty, galloping riffs and flamboyant leads comparable to some of my all-time favorites like Forbidden's "Twisted Into Form" (granted Dyoxen's songwriting isn't quite as memorable), as well as some completely fucking awesome melodic riffs and dissonant chord phrasings along the lines of other favorites like Cyclone Temple. It's certainly more technical than average, too. Probably not as wildly in your face as bands like Realm or Toxik or whatever (partly due to the fact that this material is simply heavier and the vocals less over the top), but… yeah, there's some pretty intense musicianship happening here, and "First Among Equals" would've likely been a longtime favorite of mine had I discovered it back when I was a kid.

Dyoxen "First Among Equals"
Dyoxen "Contaminated"

Apparently a couple of the band members quit after the album was finished, and Dyoxen had broken up by the end of 1991. Founding guitarist Michael Sanders is now living in Los Angeles and playing with One Tribe Nation – described as performing "a unique and explosive blend of rock, funk, and afro-latino music". Who would've thought!?

So, where can you buy "First Among Equals"? Good luck with that. There are two used copies on Amazon starting at the completely unreasonable price of $79.99, and not even one search result on eBay, so… from what I can tell, it's pretty damn rare. What happened to the good old days where you could buy used copies of an overlooked and underrated gem like this for $5 or less!? Yet another argument for why every band/record label that has ever existed needs to have their music available digitally via iTunes and other such outlets. The sheer volume of out of print gold out there is simply painful…

Pala "We Don't Exist" LP

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 @ 5:31am » permalink

Pala - We Don't ExistI must admit, lately I've recognized that I've grown tired and disinterested in the fact that so much "heavy music" is starting to blend together into an indistinguishable mishmash of assorted influences that can't really be prominently categorized one way or the other, so it's often just generically referred to as "metal". That's not to say that I find specific categorization necessary, but there's a certain (dominant) brand of "often just generically referred to as 'metal'" – one that tends to utilize characteristics referred to as "post-[insert genre here]" – that I find utterly boring (despite the fact that it's apparently quite popular, as a growing number of bands are falling into said mishmash these days). What does this have to do with Pala, you ask? Well, to my ears, Pala fits the aforementioned criteria, but with one critical exception: They're good. Really good.

"We Don't Exist", their debut LP from A389 Recordings, is indeed an enigma. While the band is likely more personally attuned to hardcore, this music certainly doesn't sound like hardcore. And though quite heavy, the album does not represent something that would be obviously referred to as "metal". A little bit of that shimmery, dissonant, textural "post-something-or-other" stuff is present, of course, but no… a "post-" genre is no home for this material. There's also discordant, angular riffing; chilling clean passages; excellently sludgy runs; spacious experimental layering; and then some. And what about the vocals? Gruff yells, midrange shouts, burly grunts, a range of singing. Not to mention the fact that the running times range from less than two minutes to more than eight; the atmospheres from frantic, high-energy bursts to brooding, midpaced rhythms or even quiet, somber contemplations. I really have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on here! This is the second A389 release I've heard in the past month that really takes some time to sink in and grow, and this album in particular has reminded me that the uncategorizable "mishmash factor" doesn't have to be a bad thing: It can be done with creativity and force, and it can be memorable/make an impact.

Pala "Don't Ever Think You're in Control"

Purchase:

@ A389 Recordings (LP)
@ A389 Recordings (mp3)

Mongoloid Village "Folly"

Posted on Monday, August 1st, 2011 @ 6:36am » permalink

Mongoloid Village - FollyPortland, OR's Mongoloid Village is one of the few bands I've written about for which I've actually managed to make a consistent effort to check in on from time to time in the hopes of some new material sprouting up. Well, almost three years later they've finally got some new jams! "Folly", currently available digitally through some sort of association with Made in China Records (though I can't really tell whether or not physical copies are in the works), unloads seven tracks in 32 minutes and sees the band maintaining their foundation of peculiar yet hard-hitting and sludgy rock, while increasing the head-scratch factor just enough to keep you on your toes. As with their last outing, expect a good dose of chunky, angular riffing and pounding rhythms layered with loads of weird effects and noisy, dissonant textures; swirling, spacey melodies; totally badass, super prominent bass runs; and killer vocals that possess a really unique blend of singing and semi-shouting. For some reason, the strange quirkiness of this material is starting to remind me of Mr. Bungle or something like that, but with much more listenable songwriting skills in tow. Maybe I'm losing my mind, I don't know. You can stream the entire album below via Bandcamp to decide for yourself, and then score the download for a mere $5 if you like what you hear:

Hopefully it won't take another three years for these guys to kick out some more tunes, 'cause something about this stuff always keeps me wanting more!

Purchase:

@ Bandcamp (mp3)

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