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Ape! "Tall Ships/And We Wait" 7"

Posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

Ape! - Tall Ships/And We WaitThe latest from Ape! is a two-song 7" EP released by SRA Records. I can't really pin down Ape!'s sound other than to say they're a "heavy rock band" – "heavy rock band" being a very generic and potentially misleading phrase, I realize. There's a good amount of thick, heavy riffing with a tinge of sludginess happening; nice, subtly distorted bass runs; sparse vocals tucked right into the mix alongside the instrumentation; and super fuzzy, rocked out leads that border on being somewhat chaotic, really. The core of "And We Wait" actually reminds me of Only Living Witness, though, which is in fact a very fucking good thing. That being said, the entire EP runs less than seven minutes, so it's over in a flash and I'm not really sure what more to say here. You probably ought to just stream both tracks below and make the call yourself!

In addition to the physical copies, the tracks are available as a name-your-price download on Ape!'s Bandcamp, so you can't lose there…

Purchase:

@ Ape! (7")
@ Ape! on Bandcamp (mp3)
@ SRA Records on Bandcamp (7"/mp3)

I Stared Into the Forest "Society Discontinued" CD

Posted on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

I Stared Into the Forest - Society DiscontinuedFrom Fading Halo Records comes this six-song, 15-minute EP from Romanian act I Stared Into the Forest. To my ears this feels like kind of a weird fusion of "screamo" and grindcore. The vocals are gnarly, strained snarls (with a few distant spoken passages buried in the background from time to time) while musically they're dealing with a lot of dissonance and peculiar arrangements. Expect dense, churning chord progressions loaded with atypical note choices and noisy, angular textures; tremolo picking with quick bursts of blasting percussion; and – perhaps most importantly – some unexpected dashes of somber melody that add an entirely different dimension to the mix. I Stared Into the Forest definitely strikes me as one of those intriguing bands that manages to create a familiar sound that can't be immediately pigeonholed into one genre or another, and is actually not very straightforward at all. I've not seen a physical copy of the CD firsthand, but based on the photos it looks to be housed in some old school DIY packaging consisting of a screenprinted chipboard sleeve with one xeroxed insert for each song (containing lyrics and explanations). Good stuff. Stream the entire album below and see what you think:

CD's are available for just 5€, and all involved parties have been kind enough to throw the EP up as a free download, too, so… there's no excuse not to give this a shot!

Purchase:

@ Fading Halo Records (CD)
@ Fading Halo Records (free download)

Now Denial/Get Laid "Hungrier Than the Wolf" split 7"

Posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

Now Denial/Get Laid - Hungrier Than the Wolf - splitFrom Get Young Records comes this split 7" from two Massachusetts bands, Now Denial and Get Laid. Now Denial kicks things off with two tracks of… well, I don't know what the hell you'd call it. Weird hardcore/punk/rock with unusually stripped down production values. There's barely any distortion at all, and I'd actually say the vocals are the most aggressive element. "Wasted Lives" definitely has more of a driving hardcore/punk feel with its faster pace and catchier vocal arrangements; but it, too, has its moments of generally uncategorizable something-or-other. It's a good match, really, for Get Laid's self-described "thrashy weird punk", which first impressed me about two years ago. Their three tracks seem to be gravitating towards an even more angular and noisy form of "thrashy weirdness", with a fast-paced core and a raw, loose playing style that adds some discordance and grit to their delivery. Now Denial is probably the oddly heavier of the two, while Get Laid is… just… oddly odd, maybe? I don't know. I really like 'em, though. Stream the entire split below and see what you think. The first two songs are Now Denial, the last three are Get Laid:

Vinyl purchases include a digital download, and the physical copies are limited to just 300 copies (100 on black, 100 on red, and 100 on clear ).

Purchase:

@ Get Young Records (7")
@ Bandcamp (7"/mp3)

By My Hands "No Hope, No Escape" 7"

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

By My Hands - No Hope, No Escape"No Hope, No Escape" (released by Purgatory Records) is my first exposure to Glasgow, Scotland's By My Hands. The 7" offers up three tracks and is crammed with about eight minutes of absolutely awesome metallic hardcore in a straightforward 90's style. Expect essentially nothing but chugging midpaced rhythms with just a little bit of moderate speed, brutal breakdowns, gruff vocals, and so on. I guess you could say their approach leans ever so slightly towards a "beatdown" type of angle, but they're not really as over the top as most bands of that nature. In terms of aggressive, metal-influenced hardcore that doesn't venture into full-blown metal territory, it doesn't get much better than this. Are they breaking new ground? Nope. But who gives a shit!? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? I'm all over this, and would love to hear more from By My Hands. I'll have to check out their prior releases for sure…

This one's not available for sale just yet, so keep an eye on the label's webstore. Pre-orders should be up any day now with an official release date slated for next month…

Cape of Bats "Transylvania" 7"

Posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

Cape of Bats - Transylvania"Transylvania" is the debut 7" from Cape of Bats, limited to just 500 copies (200 on yellow vinyl from Holy Terror Records and 300 on black vinyl from Grim Winds). Described by the labels as "four tracks of vampyric punk black metal hailing from the forgotten glens of Ireland and the depraved outskirts of Philadelphia", I was unsure of what to expect here, as my only previous exposure to the band was a Danse Macabre cover on the "No Peace/War" compilation. That being said, the whole punk/black metal fusion description actually makes sense to me. The super raw production values and pounding midpaced rhythms with ringing, dissonant chord phrasings certainly say "black metal" to my ears (there are some of those nice, crawling discordant runs and a few dashes of raging speed in there, too); while the overall energy and the snarl of the vocals have a little more of a hardcore/punk type of feel (and there are a few explosive chord progressions throughout that lean more towards that whole angle as well). The packaging has a cool visual aesthetic and the inner sleeve contains an essay by Dr. Robert Curran about Abhartach, one of the earliest recorded vampire legends whose grave is believed to reside in northern Ireland, so… there's definitely a theme here. Good stuff. If the idea of rugged, (musically) traditional black metal infused with a little primal hardcore/punk seems like a good idea to you (And why wouldn't it?), definitely give this a shot. You can stream both sides of the 7" on Soundcloud and see what you think:

Side A
Side B

Purchase:

@ Holy Terror Records (yellow vinyl)
@ Grim Winds (black vinyl)

The Canyon Observer "Chapter I: The Current of Her Ocean Brings Me to My Knees" CD

Posted on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

The Canyon Observer - Chapter I: The Current of Her Ocean Brings Me to My KneesFrom Kapa Records comes "Chapter I: The Current of Her Ocean Brings Me to My Knees", the debut EP from Slovenian act The Canyon Observer. Expect four lengthy tracks in about 30 minutes of brooding, post-rock influenced metal that builds upon lots of pulsing bass and shimmery clean passages. It's interesting to note that the heavy segments aren't so much louder and more aggressive than they are just thicker – it's like they're utilizing a really full, gritty density instead of oppressive distortion to achieve the contrast, which is kind of an interesting touch. Vocals are somewhat sparse, but when present they're generally gruff, guttural screams obscured by light effects. A little bit of droning, monotone singing appears in the background from time to time as well. "Our Universe, Written in Blood" is the standout track for me. Something about the transitions weaves this piece together more fluidly and accentuates the ominous atmosphere that lingers throughout the EP. This is a solid debut from yet another promising Slovenian band. The scene over there really seems to have a lot to offer…

Purchase:

@ Bandcamp (CD/mp3)
@ Moonlee Trade Center (CD)

State of Mind "Knowledge of Self" 12"

Posted on Monday, January 9th, 2012 @ 3:00am » permalink

State of Mind - Knowledge of SelfThe latest from Take it Back Records is "Knowledge of Self", the new six-song, 20-minute EP from State of Mind (from The Netherlands). This is my first exposure to the band and their style of heavy, lightly metallic hardcore that's also balanced out with plenty of rocked out, post-hardcore melody and groove. Expect a lot of surging midpaced rhythms accented by cool little winding dissonant riffs (check out the start of "The Quest", especially) and really unique vocals that present an unexpected combination of yelling and singing that doesn't really sound like either yelling or singing, if that makes any sense at all. It's a quirky approach, and somehow there's even a bit of a grungy type of vibe to the overall aesthetic of the material. (The more I listen to it the more it starts to remind me of Hard Response, too.) Not having heard the band's prior material I'm not sure how this compares, but it's certainly an interesting direction, so I'll be curious to see where they run with it moving forward. Good stuff. Stream the entire EP below and see what you think:

As should always be the case, vinyl purchases include a digital download, so… pick one up if you like what you hear!

Purchase:

@ Take it Back Records

Amulance "Feel the Pain" CD/LP

Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Amulance - Feel the PainI have no idea what the hell an "amulance" is (if anything), but Aurora, IL's Amulance released one full-length, "Feel the Pain", on New Renaissance Records in 1989 before presumably fading into obscurity (it was re-released on CD in 2006, and they released a new EP in 2010, so I guess they've reunited). I had never heard of the band before, but a few weeks ago a friend (who had also just discovered 'em) sent me an email and suggested I check out this album. And I'm glad I did, 'cause this is some outstanding traditional heavy metal that reminds me of something like a ballsier (Dickinson-fronted) Iron Maiden with less pomp. Expect strong singing with plenty of soaring high-end wails, superb riffs and melodies, slight thrash leanings, scorching solos, and a killer bass presence – all balled up within a generally high-energy songwriting framework that can do no wrong. I hate it when I keep it so short, but I don't even know what else to say, you know? This is the real deal: Straight up, no bullshit heavy metal that's authentically anthemic and catchy. If you're a fan of classic, old school metal that embodies all the traditional aspects of the genre in fine form, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this record. Highly recommended…

Amulance "Violent Victory"
Amulance "Holocaust"
Amulance "Schizophrenia"
Amulance "Feel the Pain"

As is so often the case with such underrated gems these days, you can't really find physical copies for particularly reasonable prices. Thankfully, the album is available digitally all over place (as is "The Rage Within: And the Aftermath" collection, which compiles their 1986 demo with six otherwise unreleased tracks) – an act I wish all comparable bands from the good ol' days would follow!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ eMusic (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Anne "Dream Punx" LP

Posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Anne - Dream PunxA389 Recordings switches it up a bit with "Dream Punx", the debut full-length outing from Portland, OR "shoegaze" act Anne. The nine-song, 31-minute album includes five new, unreleased songs (one of which is a re-recording) alongside remixed and remastered versions of the band's favorite tracks from their 2010 mixtape and demo recordings (which I've yet to hear at the time of this writing). As I've mentioned here a number of times in the past, I've never been particularly knowledgeable about the whole "shoegaze" thing, but when I encounter it done well my ears definitely seem to perk up. Anne's take on the niche of course presents the staples of fuzzy guitars and soft, distant singing loaded with reverberating effects, but occasionally accents the standards with surprisingly prominent washes of lush, droning synth melodies. I can't say I find "Dream Punx" to be the strongest album title in the world, and a song title like "Punk Bike" sort of rubs me the wrong way (though I can't decipher the lyrics, and it's actually a damn strong tune) in that both almost suggest something of a lighthearted or sarcastic attitude, but… trust me, nothing of the sort comes across in the music whatsoever. The only reason I'm even pointing this out is because, if you're like me and can have overly critical initial reactions to stuff like that, you should absolutely not allow such assumptions to turn you away from this material. It can get a little bit jangly and ever so slightly "poppy" here and there ("Perfect Teeth" definitely has some catchiness to it), neither of which is a bad thing, but as a whole Anne creates excellently somber, moody, slow-paced atmospheres that totally hit the spot. There's certainly a swirling "dreaminess" to the whole vibe, so I definitely get that aspect of it. Just expect a nice, chilled out ambiance, great songwriting… it's really, really good is the point I'm trying to make here. There have been a surprising number of incredibly solid bands exploring this style as of late, and I'm all for it. Longtime "shoegaze" fans that have more of a history with the genre should be way the fuck into this, too.

Anne "All Your Time"
Anne "Virginal Plight"

As usual, vinyl copies include digital download cards, and the LP's are pressed on black or marbled purple/white vinyl (which, from the photos I've seen, looks gorgeous alongside the album sleeve). Plus, mp3's are available for just $5.00 from the label, so why go anywhere else?

Purchase:

@ Anne (LP)
@ A389 Recordings (black vinyl)
@ A389 Recordings (purple/white vinyl)
@ A389 Recordings (mp3)

Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire/Nesseria split CD/LP

Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire/Nesseria - splitReleased on CD by Trendkill Recordings and on LP by both Throatruiner Records and Wooaaargh, this vicious split sees Denver, CO's Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire teaming up with French act Nesseria to offer up four tracks of uniquely gnarly grind apiece. Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire starts things off with 14-and-a-half minutes that perfectly balance slow, dingy, crushing heaviness with just the right amount of high-speed, frenzied chaos. I'm pretty sure this is my first exposure to the band, and I can't help but feel like this is what a fusion of Eyehategod and Terrorizer with any top-shelf power violence 7" would sound like. "Wrinkled Claws" has gotta be one of the heaviest songs I've ever heard – an absolute masterpiece. They refer to their style as "funeral grind", and I think I'm actually buying that. It sort of makes sense. There's more to it than that, of course, it's not that literal. There are a lot of sick, brilliantly dissonant riffs thrown around, for example, but… whatever the case, it's great. As for Nesseria, I've been impressed by their work in the past, and this 13 minutes of material continues that trend. There are a number of bands from France that have kind of mastered this dark, heavy, diverse style that utilizes a lot of hard-hitting rhythms and discordant textures; but Nesseria takes that approach into new directions by adding in frantic, grinding speeds while somehow retaining more of a recognizable (and slightly crusty) hardcore/punk edge (without diving into any D-beat territory or anything like that). As with many of the splits I've encountered lately, these two bands are a perfect fit: Similar in overall aesthetic, but still individual units that have something a bit different to offer the listener. Well done. See what you think by streaming the entire album below:

Both the CD and the LP are limited to 500 copies each (the vinyl breakdown is 300 on black and 200 on white), but the split is also available as a name-your-price (or free) download, so… there's absolutely no excuse not to give this a shot!

Purchase:

@ Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (LP)
@ Nesseria (CD)
@ Nesseria (LP)
@ Trendkill Recordings (CD)
@ Throatruiner Records (LP)
@ Wooaaargh (CD/LP)
@ Bandcamp (mp3)

Roses Never Fade "s/t" 7"

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Roses Never Fade - s/tThe latest from Roses Never Fade is this limited edition, self-titled, three-song 7" from Neuropa Records. This outing sees the collaborative project debuting a new lineup where Nick Brewer and Matt Shack from Pale Creation are joined by Nathan Opposition from Ancient VVisdom. One of the band's most somber tracks to date, "When the Light Dies", opens with finger-picked acoustic guitars and soft, monotone singing with subtle lead melodies tucked away in the background; "The Lilies and the Lions" utilizes strummed acoustics with some light delay and softly spoken lyrics consisting of a slightly modified passage from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The White Company"; while "Once Upon a Time" (which is longer than both other tracks combined) builds on a crawling acoustic riff combined with pulsing, lightly distorted chord progressions and distant, squealing drones/feedback – shifting the delay effects over to Nick's trademark vocal approach. Overall, this 11-minute journey represents a slight change in direction for the group – in some ways even more stripped down and minimal, but equally impressive. As always, I'm quite looking forward to hearing more. Very nice…

Roses Never Fade "When the Light Dies" (excerpt)

Then, as the sun burns away the day, I envision the sky in flames. I am captured by the life, illuminating inside, where one is left to find that the shadows decide when the light dies…

The records are housed in a spot-varnished sleeve and available on three colors of vinyl (250 on black, 125 on white, and 75 on grey), so… as usual, don't sleep on placing an order if you'd like to get your hands on a copy!

Purchase:

@ Neuropa Records

Ringworm/Mindsnare "Your Soul Belongs to Us…" split 7"

Posted on Friday, December 16th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Ringworm/Mindsnare - Your Soul Belongs to Us - splitAnother relatively new one from A389 Recordings is this killer split between Cleveland legends Ringworm and Australia's Mindsnare. The label refers to the Ringworm tracks as "two new/unreleased crushers from the vaults", and while I don't really know the specifics behind that statement, I will say that these songs hit me a little harder and more immediately than some of the band's most recent efforts have. Expect crunchy rhythms and fast-paced, thrashy riffing with a frantic edge – as well as Human Furnace's classic and immediately recognizable sneers, of course. Both cuts are short and right in your face ("One Day" barely topping a minute, in fact), so there's definitely no fucking around here. Damn good. I had never heard Mindsnare before and didn't really know what to expect, but for whatever reason I was really surprised by how metal-based their approach is. It's practically full-on thrash metal – complete with vicious, snarling vocals; a little bit of dissonance; and some explosive lead bursts. Their approach herein is actually a great match for the vibe of the Ringworm tracks in terms of offering up rugged, aggressive metal with just a tinge of hardcore crunch buried in there. The entire EP runs less than 10 minutes and definitely leaves you wanting more. All of the tracks have made their way onto YouTube, so you can stream the entire EP below:

Ringworm "Leviathon"
Ringworm "One Day"
Mindsnare "Gather to Decompose"
Mindsnare "Twist and Burn"

The first pressing comes packaged in an eight-panel comic book insert illustrated by Ringworm's Human Furnace, and vinyl copies include a digital download card. I haven't seen the comic book, but the music certainly rips. But, if you'd prefer, mp3's are available direct from the label for a mere $2.50, so… get on it!

Purchase:

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

Parallax "Mediums & Messages" LP

Posted on Thursday, December 15th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Parallax - Mediums & MessagesThe last time I wrote about Parallax's "Mediums & Messages" was in 2009 (and it's rightfully become one of the most popular posts in the blog's history), so this makes three. The occasion being that Kitchen Now! Records is reissuing the long out of print CD on vinyl, and for its release the band is actually playing one final show (a benefit for the Blake Donner memorial scholarship) this coming Saturday, December 17. They'll be performing with vocalist Jeff Jensen, who sang on their final three (sadly unreleased) recordings, and opening up will be The Hi-Fi Massacre and Despite Despair. The show is taking place at Muse Music (151 North University Ave. in Provo, UT) around 8:00pm and will cost a mere $6. If you're in the vicinity, you should damn sure go. If I wasn't 2,100+ miles away, I do believe I'd be there myself. The LP will be for sale at the show, and it's packaged in a matte gatefold sleeve with new artwork, all of the lyrics, brief explanations of the tracks, etc.

What follows is essentially recycled from my previous write-up, 'cause my feelings about this masterpiece (which has basically cemented itself as one of my all-time favorites) haven't changed a bit, and there's no way I could express myself any better now than I did over two years ago…

I first encountered Parallax in early-2004 on a mediocre compilation, but later that year they officially blew my mind with their "Widely Unknown Indeed!" demo and the "On Dead Tracks" 7", which showed the band's true power and potential. There's no doubt that there truly are a number of messages within the Parallax medium, and that medium is one that showed consistent progression time and time again, making "Mediums & Messages" all that I ever hoped it would be in terms of improved sound quality, tighter performances, more dynamic songwriting, etc. – so the overall impact of the material is overwhelmingly intense and emotional (in the best possible way). It's "contemporary metalcore", yes, but it's that rare breed of such metalcore that operates on an entirely different level of magnificence that so few bands could ever even dream of reaching. In the past I've compared elements of Parallax's music to both Shai Hulud (one of my favorite bands of all time) and Misery Signals, which are no small compliments coming from me, but Parallax was among the select few able to harness a frenzied sense of chaos that's jammed with so many powerful riffs and arrangements that they really take hold of the listener and refuse to let go.

I still listen to this album quite often, and I also still regularly think about the band's vocalist, Blake Donner, who tragically passed away in August of 2005, about a year before "Mediums & Messages" was released – never even getting the chance to hear the final, mastered material. I never had the pleasure of meeting Blake and had only encountered minimal communication with the band during their early days, but his death has absolutely had more of an impact on me than any other musician. While it's probably far from the reaction that someone like Blake would desire, I'm not a "look on the bright side" type of dude, so I can get really bummed out and depressed when I think about what this band's music means to me and realize that someone who played such a large part in it is no longer out there. I'm one of those people who overthinks everything, and here was a guy several years younger than I who passed away while simply trying to experience life – someone who was known to be a generous and caring individual with an admirable outlook on life. Fucked up situations like that where there's just no sense to be made really dig at me, and it makes some of the song explanations for this album (which were written by the remainder of the band) hit that much harder.

I never express myself as well as I'd prefer with shit like this, but I do still truly believe that Blake would be pleased to know that his work continues to inspire others in his absence, and it always will…

Parallax "Momentum"
Parallax "Contemplating the Contemplated"
Parallax "Surgery Without Sutures" *

I'm not aware of any online purchasing options for the LP yet, so contact the label via the Facebook link above if you're interested in getting your hands on a copy. It's great to see this gem getting another shot at reaching new listeners, and I again encourage you to seek this out if you've been missing out on Parallax for all this time.

*The lyrics and vocals on this track were contributed by former Trial frontman Greg Bennick, and while I initially didn't particularly care for this song, it's really started to speak to me over the years. Despite having been written/performed by someone that wasn't a Parallax member, it perfectly sums up the types of thoughts and feelings that this album as a whole represents to me… the types of thoughts and feelings that come to mind when I think of Blake and his passing… the types of thoughts and feelings that fill me on a regular basis, just dealing with… life. Get the lyrics and read more about this song here.

Battle of Britain Memorial "The Aftermath of Your Bright Beings" CD

Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Battle of Britain Memorial - The Aftermath of Your Bright BeingsI believe "The Aftermath of Your Bright Beings" is the (Self-released?) debut from French act Battle of Britain Memorial, delivering a combination of intense "screamo" with "post-rock" flourishes. (Or is it "post-rock" with intense "screamo" flourishes?) Most of the compositions are dominated by slow, spacious clean passages with tactful uses of those "post-" types of shimmery effects/picking patterns and gradual builds from soft to loud; and in addition to the screaming vocals there's also some faint singing, spoken passages, samples, etc. The harsh, frantic screaming is absolutely excellent, though. To be completely honest with you, I think the songwriting needs just a little more oomph and aggression here, so were it not for those vocals I think the softer passages and slow builds would be a little too drawn out to leave a mark. The bass tone is fuckin' great, and I really like the way they allow the basslines to hold down a pretty good chunk of the low-end in the mix, but the "loud" portions of the songs aren't quite heavy enough to provide a real payoff. Typically with this really gradual, patient songwriting style the "loud" half of the equation really explodes forth and hits you pretty hard, but that's not really the case with this material. And that's fine, I'm not suggesting that every band needs to follow some pre-existing formula, but some added punch or density could work wonders here. So, yeah, I do feel there's room for improvement, but at the same time, there's something about this band that piqued my interest and drew me in. I'm generally not a big fan of the whole "post-rock" thing at all, so whether it's the intensity of the vocals or perhaps the more somber edge to the atmospheric nature of their work, there's some real potential here. The nine-minute epic, "Midnight Blue", is especially promising. Its samples are brilliantly integrated, and its darker tone carries with it a more gripping sense of emotion that separates it from any "post-" associations and places it in some other uncategorizable realm that I'd love to hear the band explore further. I'll certainly be curious to see where Battle of Britain Memorial heads from here, as there are a number of different possibilities. It's clear that they have a genuine vision at the heart of their work, and I definitely do admire that…

If you no longer care about physical product, the album is also available as a name-your-price download from Bandcamp, so you can't lose there!

Purchase:

@ Battle of Britain Memorial (CD)
@ Bandcamp (CD/mp3)

Bastard Sapling "Dragged From Our Restless Trance" Cassette

Posted on Monday, December 12th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Bastard Sapling - Dragged From Our Restless TranceAnother excellent band from Richmond, VA, Bastard Sapling's latest – the four-song, 40-minute full-length "Dragged From Our Restless Trance" – should be available on cassette at some point in the relatively near future from Forcefield Records. Each side of the cassette contains one "shorter" track followed by a 12+ minute monster, and the band is still cranking out absolutely perfect black metal that embodies everything I look for from the genre. They've got a nice mix of fast-paced blasting and tremolo picking with pulsing midpaced rhythms; fierce, unhinged aggression fused with chilling melodic attributes; strained, snarling vocals that possess legitimate emotion; and just a little bit of added atmospherics on occasion (without venturing into any boring/pompous territory). For example, "Cold Winds Howled Across the Desolation" flirts with ambient noise textures and distantly droning, textural singing (not to mention a bit of tasteful keyboard towards the end); while "Beyond the Void of Life" opens with a few minutes of ominous hums and warped clean guitars before exploring some winding and surprisingly technical runs buried amidst gnashing tremolo-picked chords. Also in place is an aptly rugged recording that utilizes a balanced mix so you can hear all of the basslines and pick out some subtle details (such as the great discordant ring to the guitar tone, which creates a nice sense of unease from time to time). It's really all about high-quality riffs and excellent songwriting, though. It's not just fast, pissed, and in your face, there are a lot of fluid dynamic shifts and thoughtful arrangements that communicate some real feeling, and that always makes a huge difference. While Bastard Sapling isn't the most prolific band out there, thus far everything they've produced has been top-notch and well worth the wait, so I'm already looking forward to hearing more. I'd like to see the band start to garner a bit more attention as well, 'cause this is just so fuckin' good… they really deserve it.

Unfortunately the tape's not available for purchase yet, but keep your eyes on the Forcefield Records store for availability.

Czar "Vertical Mass Grave" CD/LP

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Czar - Vertical Mass GraveFrom Crack Nation comes "Vertical Mass Grave", the debut full-length from Chicago trio Czar. This 10-song, 43-minute affair marks my first exposure to the group (who released a prior EP in 2009) and their incredibly interesting amalgamation of influences. This is another one of those bands that manages to blend a ton of different styles into a completely unclassifiable form (generically referred to as "metal"), but they actually keep things fresh and interesting in the process. You've got both harsh, sneering yells and damn solid singing; thick, chugging rhythms and surging melodies (some of which are surprisingly peppy); chaotic, gnashing speeds (complete with insanely intense drumming) and angular, spacious midpaced runs; some subtle electronic noise textures here and there; and, well… tons of other odds and ends in between and all around. There's a really strong sense of energy across the board, though, and that's something that always catches my attention right off the bat. It's really fuckin' hard to wrap your head around, and I'm quite confident that I need more time to fully digest what's going on here, but I did know immediately that I liked it and wanted to hear more. It's so weird, 'cause at times they'll hit on a Neurosis level of extreme heaviness, but then there's this ringing, dissonant post-hardcore type of thing going on in there, too. That probably sounds ridiculous, but it's true. I'm at a little bit of a loss for words here. Czar is a very cool and extremely curious band, and absolutely presents one of those cases where you really need to hear for yourself to get an accurate idea of what they have to offer…

Purchase:

@ Crack Nation (CD/LP/mp3)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ Bandcamp (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Hunters "From Birth to Soil"

Posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Hunters - From Birth to Soil"From Birth to Soil" is the self-released debut full-length from Chicago's Hunters, offering up eight tracks in a surprisingly compact 35-minute timeframe. Their style is an intriguingly high-energy form of sludgy, rocked out metal with ultra gruff vocals (occasionally accented by some higher sneers) that somehow manages to avoid being pigeonholed into any particular genre. I can't help but have later Entombed and Carcass' "Swansong" come to mind when listening to this album, but those are simply loose reference points, 'cause to my ears what these guys are doing doesn't really come across as "death 'n' roll" or whatever (I'm really not very fond of that term in the first place). It's actually kind of weird how rocked out the riffs are, though. It's possible that they'd just feel like a hard-hitting, really heavy rock band if the vocals were of a less aggressive nature. Who knows? You've got the rocked out grooves and lead bursts, some thrashy forays, a few little ambient noise interludes, dingy melodies, a consistently sludgy heaviness, and there are a lot of nice little dissonant chord phrasings and stuff, too. It's always interesting to me how a band like Hunters is able to take such familiar sounding influences/approaches and figure out a way to make them sound uncategorizable like this. Strong production and great cover art, too. Very cool. You can check out a few tracks below via Bandcamp (and stream the entire album from the band's website above):

They've also been kind enough to make the entire album available as a free download. To quote the exact words from an email I received, "We are into everyone jamming that shit for zero money." So, come on, you've just gotta respect that! Awesome. Have at it:

[DOWNLOAD] Hunters "From Birth to Soil" (@ MediaFire)

Windhand "s/t" CD/LP

Posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Windhand - s/tFrom Richmond, VA comes the self-titled full-length debut from Windhand (compliments of Forcefield Records). And let me tell you… I'd put this right up there with Electric Wizard in terms of just fucking superb, unstoppable doom. The songs range from five to 10+ minutes and are all powerfully ominous, heavy as hell, and aside from some droning, fuzzed-out leads they don't really mess around with that rocked out stuff either. Just top-notch slow, pulsing riffs in that classic, Sabbath-influenced vein (as opposed to more of a death/doom leaning) and killer singing that has a darker, more somber feeling than most acts of this nature (and adds some nice melody, too). I certainly wouldn't say they're trying to break new ground or anything like that, but they do take an existing approach and perfect every single aspect of it, which results in an excellent sense of atmosphere all around. The recording is nice and thick with just the right amount of density and grit, the vocals are mixed deep in against the instruments… everything about this is just dead on. I hate to keep it so brief, but it's a pretty consistent album so I don't really know what else to say. Every fan of this style should be absolutely flipping out over Windhand, 'cause in terms of this niche it really doesn't get any better. This band could definitely turn out to be "kind of a big deal", I'd say…

Windhand "Winter Sun"
Windhand "Black Candles"
Windhand "Heap Wolves"

You can pre-order the LP's now, and CD's should also be available within a few more weeks…

Purchase:

@ Forcefield Records (black vinyl)
@ Forcefield Records (purple vinyl)

Pale Creation "Twilight Haunt" LP

Posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Pale Creation - Twilight HauntOriginally released in 1999 by East Coast Empire, "Twilight Haunt" remains the lone full-length from Cleveland's Pale Creation – now re-released in a limited edition vinyl run by the always excellent A389 Recordings. I've spoken about the band's underrated status and unique approach on several occasions here in the past (five times since 2005, in fact), and these were the first recordings that truly strayed from Pale Creation's thrash-based roots and cemented their turn towards the atmospheric and unclassifiable form of metal that they've been exploring ever since. The light distortion and delay on the vocals; the crunchy midpaced riffing; the eerie, droning solos and pulsing basslines… and I've always found the drumming on this album in particular to add a lot of subtle flare to the material, too. It's actually interesting to note that the vast majority of these tracks are less than three minutes apiece, which is highly uncommon for any band exploring even remotely "experimental" forms of metal, and that really keeps things moving and allows for a more memorable listening experience. While I've definitely got a soft spot for their early demos, "Twilight Haunt" really is an unsung classic that best represents the quality and tone of Pale Creation's discography as a whole: From the furious energy of "Manifest in Me" (one of my personal favorites from the band's entire catalog) and chillingly sustained feedback of "Trade a Soul" (another high-level standout), to the winding guitar runs of "Rage Contained", hectic percussion and superbly dissonant riffing of "Desperate Calm", or the ominous throb of the industrial-tinged "Dreamscape Soundtrack". If you're still unfamiliar with the band's efforts, there's no better place to start…

Pale Creation "Manifest in Me"
Pale Creation "Trade a Soul"

The LP's are limited to a one-time pressing of just 250 copies on "blue storm" vinyl, which I imagine will sell out fairly quickly. And while vinyl copies include a digital download card, you can also purchase the album digitally from the label for just $5!

Purchase:

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

Leeway "Adult Crash" CD

Posted on Friday, December 2nd, 2011 @ 3:00am » permalink

Leeway - Adult CrashOf the many NYHC bands that have rightfully achieved a certain "legendary" status, I still feel like Leeway just doesn't get talked about enough. All of their records have been out of print forever, none of it's available digitally, and that's just a damn shame. I absolutely worship "Desperate Measures" and have gushed about it here in the past (it's one of my all-time favorite and most-played albums), but "Adult Crash" – Leeway's third outing from 1994, on Futurist Records – is probably their most underrated release. Even as a thrash-laden crossover hardcore band they were incredibly unique, but "Adult Crash" marked a huge shift in their approach. And sure, I can understand why it wasn't exactly well-received by some listeners, but there are a lot of people out there who will tell you, "Ahhh, the last two Leeway albums suck, stay away!" But that's simply not the case.

This is a very solid album that still boasts excellent production values (the bass tone is fuckin' amazing) and some impressively catchy songwriting ("3 Wishes" and "You" are two of the band's finest tunes, period). I guess you could say it's an unexpected mix of post-hardcore and heavy rock with somewhat of a grungy vibe; but there are some slick melodies, and tracks like "10 Years" still possess that nice, surging groove that tends to be present here and there throughout all of the band's work. I guess there are one or two "low points" herein (primarily "The Roulaison", which is 7+ minutes of repetitious instrumentation and feedback with soft-spoken female vocals entirely in French, which suffers largely due to its length, really), but… I'm telling you, "3 Wishes" and "You" alone make this one a keeper. I could've easily written about "Open Mouth Kiss", but that one seems to get just a little more love than "Adult Crash", so I decided to go with the truest underdog this time around. If you're one of those people that gave up after "Desperate Measures", definitely keep an open mind and give this shit a shot. I highly, highly recommend Leeway's entire discography, they're just such an amazing band…

Leeway "3 Wishes"
Leeway "You"
Leeway "Grip"
Leeway "Make a Move"
Leeway "10 Years"

Leeway's first two records are hard as hell to find for reasonable prices these days, but you can still get a fair deal on a used copy of the later albums for the time being, so… if you'd like to score a physical CD, you'd best do so while you can still grab one for less than $10!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com