Piece of Mind, Unfulfilled (2020)
Released digitally in 2019 and on vinyl last year, Unfulfilled—the final EP from Tulsa, OK's Piece of Mind—is back again as a limited run of pro CD-Rs, with the tracks from the split 7" with Miracle Drug as a bonus (though the packaging oddly ignores this fact). Every time I write about Piece of Mind I mention '90s greats such as Harvest and Turmoil, and that still applies. As expected, this is some seriously high-level metalcore loaded with chugging force, scathing dissonance, viciously yelled vocals, and a touch of dark atmosphere befitting of the bleak lyrics—all delivered with chunky-yet-crisp production. It's easy for acts of this nature to get lost in a jarring mishmash of riff-soup aggression, but Piece of Mind was always lethally focused. Gone too soon...
In addition to the discs—which are housed in nice foldout pocket sleeves that contain lyrics for the six main tracks—Unfulfilled is also still available on red (limited to 100) or violet (limited to 123) 12" direct from the label.
Rain of Salvation, In Times of Desperation (2020)
This is the U.S. pressing of NY/DE/CT outfit Rain of Salvation's most recent 2020 EP, plus 2019's A War Outside and Within. Expect hefty straightedge metallic hardcore in a tried and true style: chugging rhythms with a good balance of speed, a hint of dissonance, highly active drumming, and powerfully pissed vocals. The songwriting is generally to-the-point, and while they're not really breaking new ground, the three latest compositions have especially hard-hitting production, and the end result is much better than average. They manage to hone in on a familiar sound without sounding like every other band out there, and that makes a hell of a difference these days!
The pro CD-R edition comes in a simple pocket sleeve with an insert that contains photos and band credits; but the 12" insert is different and contains lyrics for the three newer songs. It looks like the only vinyl variant left is the clear with black haze (limited to 246).
Malik(s), We've lost many. We'll lose more. (2021)
I was really looking forward to checking this one out, as Malik(s) is an experimental project from Mark Calimbas (Atlas Shrugged, Ghidrah, GMK) that has existed on and off for some time, but had largely eluded me until now. We've lost many. We'll lose more. offers about 45 minutes' worth of instrumental fusion that combines atmospheric trip/hip-hop beats, sporadic samples, and chilled-out post-rock guitar/keyboard textures—at times bringing to mind comparisons to Portishead, Scraps of Tape, etc.; and crossing over into funk or prog rock territory on occasion, too. It's loose enough to be effective as mood music, but not so out there that it's just a soundscape by any means. There's a cinematic vibe at times, but the material never lacks musicality or some degree of structure. Very cool.
This one's available as a pro-pressed CD-R in a pocket sleeve, or digitally.
Faithless, The Final Hour (2021)
I wasn't familiar with Faithless until now, but this is better than I was anticipating—which is my fault, really: I should know by now to never doubt the Trip Machine stamp of approval! The group has lineup connections to Serpico, C.R., Sheer Terror, and many more, so... let's just say this lineup is no joke in the résumé department. Eight tracks of rugged and fast-paced hardcore that leans toward a punked-up thrash metal vibe. I make no secret of the fact that I'm not really interested in what can broadly be described as "fast hardcore" these days, but Faithless' songwriting totally hits the mark in going for the throat and wasting no time, perfectly combining genre staples with enough twists and turns to maintain momentum and hold interest.
Available on yellow (limited to 50) or black smoke (limited to 100) tapes, the two-sided insert contains complete lyrics plus a download code. At the time of this writing, both colors are still available.
Jukai, Winter MMXVIII (2021)
Short-lived Long Island outfit Jukai bailed too soon. This promo was digitally released as a pre-LP teaser back in 2018, but I guess the band fell apart before said LP ever took shape. This limited edition lathe-cut 7" gives the physical treatment to five-and-a-half minutes of dark, churning metallic hardcore that presents a constant blend of searing discordance and chunky rhythms. Not unlike sadly defunct labelmates Piece of Mind above, though with a slightly rawer and more winding aesthetic.
Only 114 copies of this sucker were pressed—all on clear vinyl, and housed in a two-sided foldover sleeve that includes lyrics plus a download code—and they're still available, though I'm not sure for how long...