Random Roundup: September, 2020

I got burnt the fuck out and pretty much took the month off, so here's a bunch of music worth hearing that I should've written about sooner, but couldn't make it happen until now. In alphabetical order...


Though I've not done the finest job of keep up in more recent years, I've been a fan of Australian progressive metal outfit Alarum's work since their debut album, Fluid Motion, which I first heard probably 20 years ago. So, imagine my surprise when I recently received an email from the band informing me that they had just released a brand new full-length, Circle's End, over the summer! I adored the holy trinity of Cynic, Atheist, and Pestilence in my younger years, and was always eager to check out any band influenced by that niche, which is certainly what drew me to Alarum all those years ago. I must confess that I've lost a lot of interest in that form of the genre over the years, but Circle's End reminds me of what I miss.

So many "progressive" metal bands with extreme leanings simply focus on the sheer complexity of challenging musicianship, so their songwriting just doesn't provide enough to grasp onto. Thankfully, that's not the case with Alarum. Sure, of course there are flashy performances aplenty, but they strike a nice balance between harsh aggression and jazzy/spacy experimental passages with melody—not to mention the absolutely lovely soloing, which really hits the spot for me as coincidentally I've been exploring a lot of rock-based jazz fusion players in recent months. It's been far too long since I've revisited their early work, but it seems to me that Alarum hasn't lost a step. This is exactly what I expected to hear, and I'm pleased to report that the group has remained consistent in both the style and quality of their output.

I'd imagine it will be costly to acquire physical copies of Circle's End here in the U.S., but you can land the album—on CD or LP—through Alarum's online store or Bandcamp page. Those who prefer streaming libraries, find the material via Spotify.

Bitter Branches

The five-song, 21-minute This May Hurt a Bit is the first EP from Philadelphia's Bitter Branches, a new five-piece with a rather seasoned lineup—most familiar to me being drummer Jeff Tirabassi, formerly of Walleye; and of course immediately identifiable vocalist Tim Singer, highly regarded for his work with No Escape, Deadguy, and Kiss it Goodbye—but members have also been involved with the likes of Calvary, Go! For the Throat, Lighten Up, The Curse, etc. Expect surly, roving noise rock with dashes of jagged dissonance and a relatively dry, natural recording that sounds great and really allows the rhythm section to drive. The guitars add gritty texture and energy, but the majority of the true intensity erupts from Tim's vocals, which are as savagely acerbic as ever. Be not confused by track titles such as "Party Mode," which contains lyrics along the lines of:

This is not the new normal.
This is not okay.
Give me something for the pain.
All this poison in my veins.
Just make this feeling go away...

The 12" is available in three different variants. Mine is one of 300 on black vinyl with a hand-numbered silkscreened cover, and contains a full-color/full-size foldout lyric insert. Another is described as 500 on "clear/velum," and then there's RevHQ with the yellow vinyl exclusive, limited to 100. Oh, and of course Spotify, for those who care not about collecting.

Brave the Cold

At some point along the way, I decided that I love Meathook Seed so much that I needed to start buying most anything with Mitch Harris' name on it. Aside from his obvious work with the legendary Napalm Death and the aforementioned Meathook Seed, he's had a number of other cool little projects that I rarely see anyone discuss—stuff like Little Giant Drug, Menace, etc. And now there's Brave the Cold, a seemingly out-of-nowhere duo featuring Harris on vocals, guitar, and bass with Dirk Verbeuren (Megadeth, Soilwork, Scarve, etc.) on drums. Their forthcoming debut, Scarcity, is an 11-song full-length of generally "extreme metal," because I'm not sure what else to call it. There are definitely some blazing speeds and searing vocals, some caustic dissonance and topsy-turvy power chord rhythms, a little midpaced burliness, but also occasional eerie melodic textures and singing—sort of a Voïvod by way of Fear Factory vibe. So, it can be somewhat "experimental" without being too over-the-top or out there, and despite some ragingly hardcore-fueled energy from time to time, it's certainly not something that I would call grind or death metal. I don't know, it's just interesting. This is a perfect example of what makes me so fascinated by what Mitch chooses to explore, and why I've become more and more likely to seek out his efforts over the decades.

Scarcity will be out digitally this Friday, so watch Spotify for the stream. Unfortunately, physical copies won't follow until early-December, but you can already pre-order on CD or a couple of different vinyl variants through Mission Two Entertainment.

Memory Screen

I know little about Memory Screen, but they're from Atlanta and carry some form of lineup connection to Abuse of Power. There's a mere one song and less than three minutes of music to go on so far, but I'm into it. "In Between" strikes me as having that early- to mid-'90s Dischord type of sound. There's that ringing post-hardcore dissonance, but the composition doesn't abandon its punk rock foundation. The angular, almost noise rock type of riffing also somehow manages to come across with a loose sense of jangliness that still maintains a semblance of precision and accuracy. Great bass tone, unique sounding vocals... I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Stream or download "In Between" over at Bandcamp.

The Patients

Released last summer, I am Your Muse is the debut full-length from Los Angeles trio The Patients, displaying a curious approach that can't simply be tossed into any particular genre. For the most part, there's sort of an angular alternative/indie feel, but when all of the instruments lock in and surge forth, a punk-tinged post-hardcore vibe starts to surface. The guitars will often encircle the rhythm section with mathy little twists and turns, occasionally veering into fuzz-soaked sizzles of garage-y "stoner rock," but then the vocals are generally a relaxed form of singing with a good dose of harmonizing, like artsy/abstract power pop or something. Like all good trios, there's a load of breathing room in the mix for roaming basslines, further aided by the fact that the material was recorded live in the studio to analog tape, thus I must point out that the sound is incredibly warm and clear. So, yeah, there's a lot going on here, and it's cool because I can't say that I would feel comfortable referring to the band as anything other than a peculiar but very listenable rock group. "Ten" (embedded above) is the immediate standout for me.

I'm not sure how many LPs were pressed, but they're available for the impressively low price of just $10 plus shipping, so head over to Bandcamp to make the grab. The digital download even includes an exclusive bonus track from the same sessions! Streamers, visit Spotify.

Rid of Me

About six months later and Low Dose spinoff Rid of Me has added a second guitar player and is about to release another cassette while they continue working on a full-length album. I must say, for largely self-recorded home demos, these tracks sound freakin' great and completely effective so far. Like Low Dose, Rid of Me is one of the more intriguing contemporary bands that I've followed fairly closely since the beginning, and I'm always excited to hear more. Expert-level, hard-hitting, and superbly textured noise rock with emotion and atmosphere. Especially when they slow things down a bit, as heard in "True (Blue)" above, look the fuck out...

Broke Shit Demos will hit the streets October 16, but two tracks are already streaming and you can pre-order tapes now—limited to 100 copies, 50 clear and 50 green. Click that Bandcamp link!