Sunday, November 18, 2018

GIVE THANKS... FOR REVIEWS

I'm pretty sure I've already made that post title gag before.  I don't care.  If bands can recycle riffs I can recycle jokes.  That all being said, this will probably be the last batch of reviews for year because next month will be the big year end favorites list that a grand total of three people will likely care about.  Additionally, it will be a little crazy next month as I gear up for a big 2019 with plenty of stuff planned since it will be Hex Records big 20th anniversary!  But more on that later.
So here we have a bunch of new stuff that has been entertaining me lately.  And I never really make a big deal about stuff like this, but more than half the records reviewed here prominently feature woman in the bands, and I think that's cool as most of the stuff that typically appeals to me falls squarely in heavy older dude rock/heavy stuff.  So I appreciate having some variety in my heavy music.  It's not like I planned this, it just sort of worked out that way with the stuff I reviewed this month.  And now you can check it out for yourself.

BARDUS/ MULTICULT split 7”
In a series of split seven inches with an ongoing theme (the collected covers make up one larger piece) Philadelphia’s Bardus and Baltimore’s Multicult lay down one song each, which doesn’t seem like much, but since both bands are pretty excellent in their own right it’s a worthwhile effort.
Bardus begin things with a slow and sludgy, moody song with a very memorable repeating riff where most of the song sounds like it could have emerged out of the tail end of Breather Resist’s catalog.  However, near the close of the song it breaks down into a more doom-y, screaming-in-a-cave sort of thing.
Multicult offers up an alternate take of one of the better songs on their most recent LP.  As always, their attack is wire-y, jagged, unreasonably tense and nervous and recorded in a perfect, pristine manner so that every single nuance of Jesus Lizard-inspired technicality shines through.  They obviously have a good handle on what they’re doing and they do it well.  (Corpse Flower)


BITE MARKS, “Sucia” 12”
Comprised of folks who have been bouncing around numerous Gainesville area punk bands over the years Bite Marks is the latest in a long line of very diverse groups to emerge.  I saw them live and it was 15 minutes of chaos with a vocalist who spent most of her time writhing and freaking out, which was pretty cool.  The recorded Bite Marks still sounds unhinged and chaotic, but in a way that makes way more sense.  Their songs are short, but stride the line somewhere between the freak-outs of bands like Orchid and the fringe melody of post-punk.  It’s a cool combo and one I suggest looking into.  “Hounds”, the opening track, is the most accessible and fun song on this one-sided EP.  Speaking of which, this record is housed in a screenprinted cover, on a one-sided LP with a screenprinted B-side, and an insert that doesn’t bother with lyrics, but instead offers a ridiculous ‘press release’ documenting the band as existing through (and creating) basically every major underground music benchmark over the last 40 years.  It’s weird, but I like it.  (Belladonna Records)


DRUG CHURCH, “Cheer”
It’s wild to think that this band, which started out as sort of just a project, and nothing all that serious, is now on their third full length and regularly on tour about half of the year.  And in that time, their obsession with dredging up early 90’s grunge and post-hardcore has really gone about as far as possible.  But they just keep going at it, and it’s a pretty enjoyable ride.  The band has made it clear that this is their ‘sellout’ record, which I’m guessing to mean they made a conscious effort to write more pop-oriented songs on here.  I mean, all their material is catchy.  But they mess around with some acoustic melodies, some accompanying female vocals, and other little add-ons that I suppose push things more into mainstream rock territory.  And it lands about half the time.  But where the band has always excelled is when they’re pining the big riffs, the shouted tales of losers continuing to be losers, and the more aggressive element.  The best example is on side B ripper “Unlicensed Hall Monitor”, which is quickly followed up by a perfect combo of huge, awesome riff and catchy melody on “Foam Pit”.  Closing track “Tillary” is an interesting example of how the group is trying some pop elements and succeeding in a weird sort of way.  It has some sort of 80’s Brit rock-sounding thing going on.  I can’t describe it properly but I enjoy it.  So yeah, whatever they’re going for it’s mostly working but they may try to escape the Seaweed, but the Seaweed won’t escape them!  (Pure Noise)


FAIM, s/t 7”
This Denver area group (with members also residing in Tacoma) is not re-inventing the wheel.  But, as is the case with most fast hardcore bands, it’s not exactly easy to sound very unique.  What Faim (pronounced ‘faahm’) excel in, though, is sounding raw and dirty and harsh enough on these five songs so that one does not really need to be concerned with being the most original group.  They write well-crafted hardcore and play it like their lives depend on it with lyrics that attack the ‘good dude, backed hard, look-the-other-way’ mentality of scene kids turned scumbag.  The cover art should be an indication- an icy highway covered in snow, looking out of the 4-wheeled steel deathtrap where the windshield wiper is probably frozen to the window and who knows what jackass move the motorist next to you is going to pull, causing a 10-car pileup and lots of misery.  That picture is code for the volatile and hostile nature of this band.  It’s also a sight I’m all too familiar with and I do not miss driving in bullshit like that.  But I like listening to Faim.  I’ll take that instead!  (Convulse Records)


GREAT SABATINI, THE, “Goodbye Audio”
Prior to working with this band for an upcoming project I honestly thought they had only been a band for a few years and had a couple LPs.  But no.  They have 4 LPs to their name, 4 other EPs, and have been together for over 10 years.  That’s just insane.  For part time guys living and working out of the Montreal area it’s wild to think they have been at it for this long and churning out stupid heavy noise rock in the vein of everything from early Melvins to tricky heavy metal and bouts of sludge akin to fellow countrymen Shallow North Dakota.  They remain consistently inventive, weird, and incredibly heavy.  And this really does feel like their most ambitious outing to date.  The album is quite front-loaded with all the crazy heavy-sludgy fun stuff.  “Still Life With Maggots” and “You’re Gonna Die (Unsatisfied)” wrangle with knotty, dense slabs of heavy, and throttle the shit out of your stereo.  The back half of the record is slower, more experimental, and kind of just throws everything plus the kitchen sink into the mix to really get out any ideas the band was hoping to exorcise.  Closing track “Hand Of Unmaking” has parts with violin and some really cool organ to go up against the boulder-sized heavy parts.  It’s a lot to take in, but it certainly has its merit.  Fans with shorter attention spans will revel in the first half, while fans of more morose, thinking man’s metal will appreciate the grab bag of creativity on the second section.  All in all, a pretty good representation from a band that’s been slogging it out for along time.  (No List)


HAIR PULLER, “Old Friend”
Here comes the first proper full length from this still relatively young local Portland trio and it’s hard as nails.  Combining some of the stoner-ish sludge and uncommon riff arrangements of early Kylesa with chunky metallic hardcore akin to Unbroken, Hair Puller have dished out 10 tracks that make for a pretty good debut.  They are at their strongest when they’re just going for the gut punch, like on the ultra-heavy title track, or the more driving groove of “Chores” (which has an almost old Deftone-ish feel to it).  Those are, in fact, my favorite two tracks on here, even though they dig a little deeper with structure elsewhere on the record.  They’re just both relatively simple songs, but knock you out easy.  The members share vocals, even though they all seem to have a piercing scream that goes well with the low end of the music, and lyrically gets into some heavy topical matter.  While it’s a solid first effort each song has a pretty similar tempo and messing around with that a little bit might make for some added variety down the road.  (Nadine Records)


HUMANITIES, “Unnatural Histories” EP
There are friends of mine who have dubbed certain kinds of bands ‘Hex rock’ despite my protest that it sounds corny.  But, to put it bluntly, they know me all too well.  There’s that sweet spot where the likes of Dischord-style groups such as Jawbox collide with other 90’s heavyweights like Helmet and Quicksand to create angular, noisy, heavy, but still kind of catchy music that I fawn on about whenever a band matching those qualities falls into my lap.  So, this Toronto-based band (featuring members of Godstopper- so full disclosure- I released records for) kind of fits right into that niche of shit that’s going to tickle my fancy.  Apparently, they have a bit of a catalog to go through, but this is the newest thing- a four song EP heavy on the politics as it is those aforementioned musical qualities I enjoy.  The first track has a bit of an electronic-sounding bent to it, reminding me heavily of Cop Shoot Cop (nothing bad there), but it’s sort of the outlier as the other three songs lean hard on that Jawbox/Burning Airlines sense of melody combined with those heavy rhythms and crushing rock of post-hardcore bands such as Prize Country, Sweet Cobra, or Cast Iron Hike.  You know I’m sold on it.  (No List)


REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, “The Wilderness/ Just ‘Cos You Got the Power” 7”
Listening to this new 7” from RSA does not truly show the band’s full potential.  They write fine songs full of rocking punk energy and heavy political criticism.  But on the rare opportunity one might get to see them live (which I luckily did a few weeks ago) it’s a precision-killing tornado of sound and expertise.  Comprised entirely of guys who are getting up there in years (especially for punks) this collective goes off harder than most bands half their age.  Erik Denno and Darren Zentek, both formally of Kerosene 454- one of my favorite bands ever- do what they each do so well.  Zentek is one of the most talented and creative drummers I’ve ever witnessed.  Denno has a voice that is all his own, teetering from melodic to harsh.  He shares vocal duties with J. Robbins, a totally unique voice of his own, who mans the bass guitar in this band (his well-known guitar playing taking a back seat here).  Vic Bondi, from 80’s Chicago punks Articles Of Faith, rounds out the group on guitar and other vocals, his voice and playing being the most harsh in the group.  Live they are a whirlwind and command the room.  This record has one new song from them (“The Wilderness”- a solid political screed full of melody and power) and a Motorhead cover…  but not quite the style of Motorhead most think of.  It’s kind of a funny choice for this group, but fun nonetheless.  If this group plays within 300 miles of you just go see them because you probably won’t have many opportunities.  (Arctic Rodeo)


SUPER UNISON, “Stella”
It took a number of listens to really to really formulate my thoughts on the new Super Unison record.  Their first LP was a favorite that year and I really loved its immediate, upbeat energy.  But something feels a lot different on their second record “Stella”.  There is a clearly a bit of a different sound due to a change in studio and recording engineer that makes a marked difference.  Many of these songs feel a little more involved, a little heavier, and show a greater appreciation for big Hum-inspired tidal waves of sound.  Both of their full lengths are very good, very enjoyable records for sure.  And even though, in all honesty, they both sound very similar.  Still, there is something underlying this new one that feels considerably different from the first that I cannot put my finger on, and now I can’t discern which one I like better.  That’s really not the worst problem for any band (or fan) to have, is it?  From their most vicious on “Virus”, to their most contemplative on “Comfort” there’s certainly a tone (especially vocally) of personal loss and difficult changes in one’s life.  Maybe that’s the difference I’m hearing- that emotional tone shining through.  Either way, the band nailed it again with a great collection of songs.  (Deathwish)

Monday, October 22, 2018

GREAT FALLS AND GREAT SABATINI TO RELEASE SPLIT 12" ON HEX!

It's been a long time coming, but by the end of this year a wild split 12" between the Northwest's mightest noisemongers in Great Falls and Montreal's most savage heathens in The Great Sabatini will be a reality.  Hot on the heels of both bands just announcing their own individual new full lengths this will be an awesome companion record to go with them.
This record is going to be a very art-centric release as well, featuring letterpressed covers with art created by Great Falls frontman Demian Johnson and featuring a laser-etched B-side with art from Great Sabatini's own Sean Arsenian.  To top it off, the bands have collaborated on an interlude track in the middle featuring a locked groove, so in order to hear the rest of the songs you actually have to move the needle off the locked groove, and onto the next tracks.
Expect this monster some time before New Years.

Look for pre-order info, new music, and all that jazz very soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

OCTOBER REVIEWS FOR YOU AND YOURS

It's that pretty much best time of the year.  It's not gross hot.  It's not freezing cold.  There's pretty colors abound, and Halloween is just around the corner.  I'm going to be traveling later on this month so I'm jumping the gun a bit and posting up reviews a little sooner than I had expected.  Plus, from here on out the rest of the year is going to be quite busy.  I got another record coming out to announce soon that you ought to see around X-Mas time and I'm getting prepared for 2019 where Hex Records will be turning 20 FREAKIN' YEARS OLD.  So yeah, expect a lot of announcements about that milestone pretty soon.
In the meantime, read up on this newest batch of stuff that is all over the map sonically.  It's the best way to expand yr interests.

APPARITION ORCHESTRA, “The Noise Floor”
I reviewed this duo’s last project, which was not all that long ago, and I described it as ‘soundtrack music’.  Well, the pair of Bob Gorham (Blood Sun Circle/Engineer), and Jon Davis (Difficult/Night Owls) return with four more songs that I am now going to classify as ‘documentary music’.  Like, this is what you hear when you sit down to watch a documentary and things start off with random scenes of small town life, or a farm, or woods, and after a few minutes some guys voice says something like, “I spent 35 years of my life growing potatoes in Spit Fart, Idaho.  My dad raised potatoes, my aunt and uncle raised potatoes, my grandpa did too.”  This is that music.  Although, admittedly, some of the second half of this EP sounds a bit more stark, so it’s the part in the documentary where it starts raining and someone is heard discussing how the bank came to claim their potato farm or whatever.  Or, some slow motion footage of the aftermath of a tornado and text on the screen describes how George W. Bush obviously failed to send in FEMA in a timely manner.  So yeah, you never wonder where all that documentary music comes from because it’s so background and just sets a mood, but these should be the guys making it all.  Someone call up Werner Herzog or Eugene Jarecki ( I IMDB’ed this) and get these guys a contract.  (Drops Of Us)


BUILDING ON FIRE, “Fire Extinguisher 2000-2004” CD
Building On Fire were a Rochester-based band featuring people who went on to found Achilles and plenty more.  They are one of my favorite bands from the early 2000’s who are painfully overlooked, and yes, I released their lone full length.  However, the band did a lot of stuff that didn’t get a wide release (or any at all) and this collection covers a bunch of that including their self-released debut 7”, a song from a split 7” they did, live tracks, alternate and demo takes of a few songs and an entire EP they recorded after splitting up.  Most of this collection was initially released in a fucking metal case, like the guys cut and folded metal into a CD-sized case and made about 10 copies.  So it’s nice to actually have this for real, even though a metal case is way cooler.  But let’s get to the band- they really were ahead of the game and took a lot of chances.  They were equal parts heavily influenced by Converge insofar as the metallic nature of a lot of their material, as they were by Fugazi in terms of consistently pushing the envelope of ideas.  They always had so many plans for different records, oddball recording techniques, samples, and artwork.  They were a consistently active and creative machine for their relatively brief tenure.  I think their stuff is great and some of this final material that never really saw the light of day is some of their tightest and vicious material they had (one of the songs is even a Guilt cover!  Remember Guilt? No?  That’s OK).  A couple asshole critiques on this thing- BOF were a very visually creative band and put a lot of time and effort into their artwork and this collection has extremely scant artwork to go with it.  Secondly, the write-up on the inside of the disc makes some incorrect claims as to members’ post-BOF outings.  Just sayin’.  But I strongly encourage anyone whose interest this has piqued to explore what they did in their time.  Plus, this thing is cheap.  So give it a shot.  (Classic Core)
 

CANDY, “Good To Feel”
This band shares a name with my mother-in-law, and like her, I am mildly frightened because she’s one tough cookie.  Candy really is nothing to trifle with.  However, I enjoy a band that definitely plays hardcore, but doesn’t subscribe to many of the expected tropes that go along with it.  Not only on the outside, with their shitty 80’s gore-metal style cover art, but their music is truly vicious and rightfully threatening.  It leans on the metallic side of hardcore, and also adds some blast beats, and one very out-of-place closing track incorporating fuzzy indie rock enveloped in static.  Imagine Trash Talk at their peak and most unhinged, tuned down a step or two, and that’s what Candy feels like to me.  It’s not a bad place to be in.  It’s the sound of a burning mattress being thrown into the pit instead of just the rigor morale of predictable two-stepping and finger pointing.  (Triple B Records)
  

CHERUBS, “Short Of Popular”
Ever since Austin, TX noisemongers Cherubs decided to saddle up again in 2015, after a 20 year hiatus, and sporadically damage eardrums worldwide they have dropped an incredible full length, a pretty damn good double 7”, reissued their long out-of-print 1995 benchmark LP “Heroin Man”, and now are re-issuing this collection of odds and ends which was only available on CD until now.  It’s not that Cherubs were ever that popular (hence the title); they carved a tiny niche of some of the gnarliest, fuzzed-out destructive noise rock bliss one will ever hear, but did so in a very limited capacity and their records were lost to the buried dustbins of history for a very long time.  Those that knew remained steadfast fans.  Some, like me, knew the name, and a general idea, but only mystery lay beyond that.  Most just didn’t even know.  I’d say for the uninitiated this might not be the best place to start just because this is collection of B-sides, covers, alternate takes, most of which were recorded in an extremely bare bones fashion (i.e.- pretty shitty recordings).  It’s still quality stuff because Cherubs regular recordings push the needle into the red with fuzz and distortion bleeding over every possible edge, so it’s not a radical difference in sound.  But I will say the remastering on this reissue certainly helps things out.  The new artwork and colorful vinyl definitely makes it an attractive record to pick up as well.  And since I’m already a big fan I’m immediately sold.  But for those who never really heard these guys I’d say start with their awesome come back record “2Ynfynyty” and then work backwards.  This ought to fit in there somewhere once you’re hooked, which you will be.  (Sonic SurgeryRecords


GOUGE AWAY, “Burnt Sugar”
This is just miles beyond their previous material.  I enjoyed what Gouge Away did in the past, but it was all scattershot.  They didn’t have a set style, and it was rather evident.  Still, something about them showed promise, and it wasn’t just because they had a cool name.  I think on “Burnt Sugar” they have finally found their footing and have written a great collection of songs that fully realize the band’s sound.  They have discovered how rad it can be when you incorporate elements of the Jesus Lizard serpentine and rubbery bass with touches of Superchunk’s punk-propelled indie rock, and wrap it in a corn tortilla of legit post-hardcore rhythm.  The steps between their first LP, “Dies”, to the slow-burn 7” “Swallow”/“Sweat”, and to this are not just little learning-to-walk fumblings.  It’s like going from John Candy in “Stripes” to Carl Lewis winning the gold overnight.  I’m quite surprised how quickly this group has gotten their footing and hopefully they retain this lineup and continue to create exceptional music such as this.  (Deathwish)


NIET, “Dangerfield”
Did you know Italian noise rock was a thing?  Well, it is.  And Niet, from Italy no less, plays music of this variety on their new EP that recalls all the ugliness, car-wreck tone, and smashed instruments present on the more upbeat tracks of Hammerhead’s “Into the Vortex” or “Ethereal Killer”.  The band tends to keep the pace on these 5 songs pretty quick so once you got one of them Italian caffe’ ristretto’s zooming through your veins, you’ll feel at one with the high-adrenaline chaos going on here.  It’s a unique niche’ sound they’re going for and they did a pretty good job of achieving it.  (self-released)


RESTORATIONS, “LP 5000”
This might be the first Restoration record that I’m not super excited for.  Maybe it’s because it’s been such a long time between this and their last release, kind of an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing.  Or maybe because I’m just not swinging as hard on that vine these days.  Restorations do what they do very well, and they are consistently inventive with their sound while keeping it distinctly ‘them’.  They have toyed around on this new record with different piano/synth sounds that on past recordings they kept relatively straightforward, and they got themselves a couple fancy new guitar pedals too that make for interesting sounds.  But the Restorations most people are familiar with remains- earnest, sorta-middle-age bearded guy rock, heavy on the melody, big on epic parts, and Jon Louden’s well-worn gruff singing.  I think part of what isn’t moving me as much on here is that I always liked how this band could make these indie/emo sing-alongs, but then drop in some total fuzzed-out stoner rock bass bombs that added a ton of character to the songs, and that seems to be lacking on this record. Closing track “Eye” uses straightforward piano with a static-laced beat and a chirping electric hum as a background before breaking into one of those big epic parts I talked about earlier.  This one feels different though as some harmonized air raid siren type of effect takes over, along with big drums and that big bass sound comes in and it’s the type of growth I’d like to see more of from Restorations if they continue down this path.  It’s my favorite track on the album, even if portions of it aren’t doing for me like they used to.  (Tiny Engines)


WINDHAND, “Eternal Return”
I like Windhand, but it feels like they have written the same record three times now.  It’s a pretty cool record, but each record pretty much starts out with the same riff.  “Orchard” is “Two Urns”, is “Halcyon”.  I’d be more upset if that guitar tone wasn’t as awesomely dense, or the vocals weren’t as hauntingly cool.  Like I said, it’s a good song/good album they got going on here, but I’m not sure how much longer they can put it on repeat before people start wondering when they’re going to change things up a bit.  Fans of stuff from Rise Above, or if you like Cathedral slowed down even more, or even Sleep with a bit more energy, and the all-encompassing Sabbath vibe than Windhand will certainly scratch that itch.  (Relapse)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

EUGENE ZINE FEST NOV. 10th


On the subject of other creative pursuits (which is ultimately how this record label sprang to life) I'll be set up at the Euzine Comics & Zine Fest 2018 this year on Nov. 10th down in Eugene! I'll have the newest Translate zine, as well as other assorted zines, prints, and some records too. So since I know like 2 people in that town maybe tell anyone you happen to know who lives there to make like Dr. Steve Brule and check it out.
For more information about this great event check out their page:   http://www.euzinefest.com/
If you are unable to attend, but like zines, and still want to grab a copy of the newest Translate I printed up a few extra copies and you can snag one HERE 

Monday, September 24, 2018

REVIEWS FOR SEPTEMBER

OK, the NULL record is out and I have a moment of free time finally.  Time to gather up some stuff that has been making me think, stuff that cuts a pretty wide swath across the musical landscape.    As we cut to the final quarter of this incredibly quick year I think about the interesting variety of bands that have rolled the dice in this increasingly weird and lawless hellscape that is recorded music.  I attempt to navigate the terrain like some ancient cartographer.  The blue is land, right?

DEAD NOW, s/t EP
Considering this is ex-Torche personnel I don’t want to make too many comparisons, but between the harmonic vocals and crushingly heavy jams spewed forth on this debut EP it’s kind of difficult not to find some common ground.  Dead Now does manage to differentiate themselves enough though, with the addition of some prog-meets-groovy areas that will make your Yes-worshipping uncle take a quizzical double take, just as much as the Satan-worshipping co-worker who showed up late (again) leeringly mention that this does, indeed, rock.  Pair this with a band like Brain Tentacles to truly get some weird, heavy rock action.  It’s not landing on some end of the year list, but it’s certainly enjoyable.  (BrutalPanda)


EMMA RUTH RUNDLE, “On Dark Horses”
I’ll admit I’m new to listening to the music of Emma Ruth Rundle, even though I have heard her name a number of times over the last couple of years.  It turns out she is quite prolific and has an almost uncategorizable sound.  Of her several albums this definitely feels the most polished and well-crafted.  I’m not sure if it is the addition of members of Jaye Jayle as her backing band, or just her natural progression as a songwriter, but there is a great big sound happening here that leans on the quiet-loud-quiet aesthetic, but in a way that sounds fresh to me.  While elements of folk, goth, Americana, and sparse- yet melodic- ruminations meander through Rundle’s haunting and soulful voice it’s the giant swells within the choruses that really make this something special.  Hints of Mazzy Star, or Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas, Shannon Wright, or even Laurie Anderson may receive unintentional (or intentional, who knows) nods, but like other great solo performers Emma Ruth Rundle doesn’t really fall into any sort of specific subgenre.  She is who she is.  If you like songs with someone who has a really great voice, big melodies, and a sound as vast as the Grand Canyon this will likely appeal to you.  If you already enjoy stuff from Sargent House that doesn’t quite sound like this, but shares similarities in regards to artistic open-mindedness- say, Helms Alee, Russian Circles, Chelsea Wolfe, or even Jaye Jayle- chances are you will already be willing to make the leap to dive into this as well. I’m certainly glad that I did.  (Sargent House)
  

LAW BOSS, “Diminishing Returns”
Based on name alone I would expect Law Boss to be a group that deals in exclusively beefy riffs and walls of amps.  Something about sounding ‘boss’ and word association I guess.  It’s not to say this Portland trio don’t deliver, just in a slightly different way than I had thought.  Plus, the recording is a bit on the quiet end so I’m going to assume they make up for it by crushing it live or something.  They actually have an interesting combination of sounds that I’m picking up on- much of which is their uncanny similarity to a Gainesville band called Cutman that were around about 10 years ago, who definitely had a very ‘boss’ sound to them.  That probably means nothing to most, but the resemblance is really quite remarkable.  On a number of songs I’m hearing the more rocking end of mid-90’s Dischord stuff like Bluetip and Jawbox, in broad strokes.  But once they get to “Bite, Chew, Swallow” it’s all Jesus Lizard worship- slow, weird, and serpentine.  So feel this out: beefy post-hardcore with a mix of Dischord rock and a touch of Jesus Lizard.  Is that cool?  Follow-up: is it ok to address these guys as ‘boss’ or ‘chief’?  (self-released)


PIG DESTROYER, “Head Cage”
People are giving this a weird reaction, like it’s not up to snuff.  I don’t know what they’re talking about.  Metal fans are a picky lot.  This is a good release from Pig Destroyer.  I have given it quite a few thorough listens, compared it to their other output, and I think it holds up pretty well.  While their last release, “Book Burner” had a visual aesthetic that I really liked musically it didn’t really take hold as much as I thought it would.  This record is a good return to the semi-unpredictable and manic intensity of “Phantom Limb”-era material.  Some people prefer to go back further, but I’m of the opinion that most all Pig Destroyer material is upper echelon of metal/punk/grind/what-have-you, so older comparisons are kind of pointless (and you’ve read this far, huh?).  That all being said I feel like the variety covers a fair amount of ground without being too overwhelming.  Some songs keep a mid-paced tempo, while others go for the tried-and-true off-the-wall blasting and light speed delivery Pig Destroyer are known for.  “Concrete Beast” meddles with the band’s unabashed love for old Melvins by inserting slow stop-start riffs that stop and start in a lot of weird places while “Mt. Skull” and “The Torture Fields” both unload some of the more murder-spree-worthy breakdowns in the band’s career (though not quite as all-out-war as “Phantom Limb”, which will probably never be topped).  And much like other PD releases the art is top notch and worth plucking down some cash just so you can gaze upon its bizarre horror.  (Relapse)


REBUILD/REPAIR, “There Is No Place Left For Me Here”
I can only imagine that Edmonton, Alberta is not a hotbed of underground music.  I’m aware of a few musical forces of nature emanating from the middle-of-nowhere Canadian city, but by and large I’m guessing most well-known bands skip it over.  So when there’s not much, make something right?  I’m sure Rebuild/Repair live by this coda and that alone is worth something.  And when they drop some earnest and fast punk-tinged hardcore with some serious Black Flag “Damaged”-era vocals on their latest release one can be happy to know someone is indeed doing something in that town.  But that’s just the first few songs on this record.  After that they sort of lose the trail and veer off into a mid-paced instrumental and a slow, weirdly melodic track that goes on for way too long, a song that has way too much clean vocals and could be a throwaway from a Verse or Have Heart record, and a couple other tracks that go back to their faster style but go on for a bit longer than a fast hardcore song ought to.  My feeling on their style is that I appreciate it from the jump, but the rest of it is not for me and doesn’t quite retain a solid focus throughout. (self-released)


SHADOW SNAKES, s/t
Ed Gein got tired of being Ed Gein, brought in Steve Sindoni (vocalist from Breather Resist and Pusher) and emerged as a 4-piece with a new name.  When the first track of their self-titled, digital-only, record comes on it might be easy to think ‘how is this different from Ed Gein?’, what with it’s instant barrage of blasting.  But much of this release takes a decidedly slower, heavier turn, that certainly does recall some moments of sludgier Breather Resist material from way back and I quite enjoy it.  Focusing more on slower, ugly riffs there seems to be a blend of some mid-90’s hardcore (“The Children Are Full” is like a melding of Snapcase and Unbroken soaked in sheets of gross distortion).  That vibe continues on for a bit until we hit “Jesus In Leather”, which definitely recalls the blast beat/simplistic punk mash of later Ed Gein material.  It’s one of the more raging tunes here that comes across fast and direct.  But for my money I think my favorite track is “The White Coats”.  It’s the most differentiated of the songs on this as it alternates between a slow and creepy melody and an absolutely killer riff that would make Crowbar soil their cargo shorts.  Overall, I’m pretty excited about this effort, but I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a couple minor critiques- the first being that at times the recording of the drums feels a bit muddy and when Jesse is really blasting, or crushing the double-kick it, in turn, makes everything else that is going on sound a bit indiscernible.  Secondly, with a lion’s share of these songs being on the slower side, and barely pausing between some of the songs on the second half of this record it makes them run together a bit.  Perhaps sequencing to alternate between the faster and slower songs would be in order to vary it up a bit.  Otherwise, it’s a hot chunk of gross and massive ugliness from some seasoned vets trying out a new style of doing things that feels somewhat familiar, but different enough that it comes off as fresh and exciting.  (self-released)

 

SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, “Hypnic Jerks”
I had some preconceived idea of this group falling into a ‘throwback emo’ sort of sound and maybe that was some of their earlier material because they sure as hell are on some other stuff with this record.  Without question, there is definitely a trippy psych vibe happening here, down to the entire recording sounding as if it were played back slightly warped.  And I suppose if you’re dropping acid it probably just enhances the experience.  However, I’d like to clarify that it’s not a Manson family sort of trippy affair where death cults result from listening to this.  It’s a record awash in a dream where the Beatles and Sonic Youth sort of collide and traipse through fields, and I swear to you I do not do drugs.  Maybe give it a little bit of an Unwound, “Leaves Turn Inside You” feeling, but more sunlit.  It’s certainly not my typical fare, but I appreciate the variety, as well as the band’s venture into something unique. (Tiny Engines)


TRAGEDY, “Fury”
So out of nowhere Tragedy just decides they’re going to up and release a new EP and not tell anyone.  They actually played a show here in Portland several weeks ago, which surprised me because I wasn’t sure if they were even still together.  They announced the show a few weeks ahead of time but didn’t announce they had a new record.  I wanted to go to the show but it conflicted with another show I really wanted to check out so I opted out.  And then the record was already gone, or something.  So the band then did the unthinkable- they put it on bandcamp.  I mean it’s Tragedy after all.  They don’t really engage with the world at large, especially where the internet is concerned.  But, essentially, they do not live in our world.  If you like this band then you live in their world, on their terms.  And the six new songs here prove that despite staying off the grid, so to speak, the band hasn’t missed a beat.  I personally haven’t caught up with any of their records in a number of years (I still haven’t heard “Nerve Damage” or “Darker Days Ahead”), but I’m guessing not much has changed- the songs are fast, they sound harsh as fuck, the D-beats are plentiful, and the guitars are thunderous.  I was surprised to hear some gang vocals on the title track, which might be my favorite here, as it feels uncommon for them.  But yeah, you get the idea- Motorhead meets Discharge levels of speed and intensity, a love of Japanese crust, high contrast black and white images of war and desolation, vocals that will punch you in the face, and slow parts be damned.  “Fury” is definitely an apt title.  (Tragedy Records)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

NULL, "Act Of Love" OUT NOW! STREAM ENTIRE RECORD

After months of preparation the new album from Birmingham, AL band NULL is out today!  "Act Of Love" is their second full length overall and first for Hex Records.
The group offer a meditation on heavy psych, droning heaviness, and repetitive chants in 8 songs. Underscoring the haunting melodies formed by trance-like guitar lines and sung vocals is a swamp-thick sludgy bass tone, created by fuzzed-out synth and pounding drums. NULL feature members of punk champs Coliseum but appeal more to fans of groups like Lungfish, Om, and Cloakroom.
 
STREAM THE ENTIRE ALBUM HERE
ORDER YOUR COPY RIGHT HERE
INTERNATIONAL ORDERS GO HERE

Available on all major digital platforms as well.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

THE SUMMER IS OVER REVIEWS


That's right.  Summer's done.  It went fast. Get used to it.  But before that warm breeze gently blows across your brow one last time before it's time to bundle up a whole slew of crazy shit shoved it's way into my earholes and now it can cram it's filthy sounds into yours as well.  This stuff ought to keep you warm.
EXHALANTS, s/t
This is one heck of a debut LP from this Texas group.  They haven’t been together long, but their mastery of some serious mid-era Unwound vibes, combined with a “Scattered, Smothered.”-era Unsane sense of feedback/distortion cacophony is pretty fucking impressive.  They move from loose and scatterbrained angular melody to riffy punk, to all out blown-out chaos (like in closing track “And I’ll Take You To a Quiet Place”), and into rhythmic dirges (“Unshut”).  The first half of the record leans more on the noisy/melodic Unwound/Sonic Youth style, particularly on album halfway point “If Only”, a drawn out slow burner that twists and turns through areas of weird melodies and heavily distorted ring-outs.  Things pick up more steam on the second side with more chunky and direct rippers including album stand-out “Bow Yr Head” and the aforementioned “Unshut”.  Once again, I’m super impressed with this fairly new band coming right out the gate like this with such a strong album.  Well done.  Come tour out west please.  Bring all that wild noise with you.  (Self Sabotage Records)
  

HAAN, “By the Grace Of Blood and Guts”
It’s been four years since NYC’s Haan came charging out with their debut EP “Sing Praises”.  What have they been up to between then and their freshly released debut LP?  I would probably guess drawing and assembling the 100 page book that comes with the record.  I have no clue what they could do to fill 100 pages of a book when their LP clocks in at around 40 minutes, but they found a way, so hats off to them.  This band also plays music, so I should probably get to that.  Haan’s musical lane is probably sticking to the right because they play pretty slow for the most part.  They’re the 18-wheeler barreling down the freeway, carrying a trailer packed with drums full of sludge.  You can pass them, but give them plenty of space before doing so.  To be more specific though, Haan create dense and rhythmic sludge metal with vocals that fall somewhere on the more aggressive side of Clutch’s Neil Fallon.  It fits pretty well with the music and is quite front and center with the overall sound of the band.  Midway point “Zero Day” really drags out the slow and mean vibe before going into the more upbeat and slightly Helmet-esque ripper “The Woke”.  The next track, “Hangdog” kind of finds a good balance between some upbeat distorted sledgehammering and the syrupy sludge they roll with for the majority of the record and it’s probably the strongest track here.  In comparison to the previous outing this is a more polished, thought out record from a band that had a few years to work it out. However, I gotta say I’m slightly more partial to “Sing Praises” just because it sounds more raw and scrappy.  But hey, you get a fuckin’ book with this record, so why complain right?  (Aqualamb Records)
 

JESUS PIECE, “Only Self”
I was initially interested in Jesus Piece early on because they had a cool name and interesting imagery to go with their band.  However, I kind of wrote their earlier material off as being generally beatdown-oriented with a few random blast beats thrown in to mix things up.  I’m glad to see the band has grown a bit and have returned with a metallic-leaning moshy album of solid songs worthy of the hype that has been heaped upon them.  Once again there is cool artwork to go with this that looks like it could have come from some 90’s industrial band.  There’s even a few spots where some soundscape experimentation is going on, particularly in the last two tracks on the record.  Musically though, throughout the rest of the other 8 tracks you get a solid mix of a less technical Burnt By the Sun, a healthy smattering of Turmoil, and maybe even a little bit of Buried Alive in the few faster sections.  “Adamant” is a pretty killer track, but why did they have to go and name it after some 80’s pop icon?  (Southern Lord)


NOTHING, “Dance On the Blacktop”
I have not really found Nothing to be all that interesting after their first album.  And I certainly don’t mean that in a, ‘the demo was better’ nose-in-the-air cool guy sort of way.  I genuinely feel like since “Guilty Of Everything” all the band’s music sounds like what I assume taking a mega dose of valium and then nodding off in a white noise chamber feels like.  And I also imagine if the band were reading this they would take that as a compliment.  I feel like their output has become more flat and takes less chances musically, while the vocals are so washed out that the whole thing is akin to sitting through an all day work place training on blood borne pathogens, complete with a 100-slide powerpoint presentation.  At some point, you’re going to nod off and not feel all that great about it.  “You Wind Me Up” is about as energetic as the band gets here, with its upbeat tempo and play-by-the-numbers indie shoegaze rock formula.  It’s a pretty decent tune.  But I’ll be damned if I can tell anything else apart on this record.  It’s like having a snack of white bread with some water on the side.  (Relapse)


POST/BOREDOM, “Shaking Hands With Clients” cassette EP
Don’t be deceived by the way this Seattle-area band spells out their name.  This is not a split.  It’s just one band and I’m really not sure why they do it this way.  Disclaimer aside, this is a pretty exceptional second release, above and beyond their initial demo.  On here Post/Boredom knock out four new semi-long ragers and one instrumental/interlude.  “Cologne Jones” starts things off with a kick of grungy, sludgy, grimy post-hardcore.  The next track, “Enhance Your Calm” takes a slightly more melodic, sort of Majority Rule-ish approach before getting back into more rhythmic and chunky hardcore with “Kilometers Davis”.  The final track, “Hetfield/Ulrich”, takes a few turns by opening with a very close approximation of “Here Comes Dudley” by Jesus Lizard before going into a more chaotic early Breather Resist-style thing for the middle of the song and then closing out with a slow and epic dirge that wouldn’t be out of place in later-era Unbroken.  All this is carried by vocalist Rachel Lynch’s strained howl, reciting lyrics that read more like short stories about amnesia, unsolved murders, cowboys burning down towns before riding out into the dust, and transcendentalism (or maybe alien abductions?).  I very much look forward to whatever this group comes up with from here on out.  (Casino Trash)


PRIMITIVE MAN/ UNEARTHLY TRANCE split
I can get down with bands that play slow but Primitive Man plays, like, way too slow for my taste.  I get it though- tune really low, pile on distortion and feedback until the speaker cones in your stereo disintegrate, and then just punch a chord really hard for a few minutes.  Oh, and run your vocals through a woodchipper.  Do this for 10 minutes per ‘song’ and it equals really heavy right?  Ehhhh….  Harsh?  Most definitely.  But my personal taste involves truly heavy music typically having a bit more energy and a few more notes.  Seismic tremors being heralded by a tortured cave monster doesn’t really do it for me.  Unearthly Trance, compared to Primitive Man, may as well be the Bad Brains in ’82 in terms of speed and brevity of song length.  They still keep it fairly slow, but add a punishing groove to their metallic, sludgy onslaught, particularly on the track “Reverse the Day”, which adds disorienting psychedelic droning over the crushing heaviness.  They close out their side with a post-apocalyptic noise track that I could do without.  I dig Unearthly Trance but I can’t hang with Primitive Man.  (Relapse)


SEWINGNEEDLE, “User Error”
Despite owing a debt of gratitude to all J. Robbins bands past and present (particularly in the vocals), and some jaunty and pulverizing rhythms to pile on top of those surface influences there is still something distinctly Chicago about Sewingneedle.  I can’t really describe why because there are such a variety of excellent bands that have emerged from that scene.  And I’ve listened to a lot of them.  And still something about this band’s underlying sound says ‘Chicago’ without me even having to look up their residence.  Maybe it’s because I’m also reminded of their 90’s hometown brethren Traluma- that hard-rocking Midwestern indie style with a sort of dour and moody side to the otherwise upbeat and exciting rock.  I really quite enjoy this.  There’s enough angular and off-beat riffing to appease fans of Dischord and Touch and Go output as there is the occasional distortion-heavy sludge that closes out mid-way point “Feel Good Music” and the chorus of “Philistine”, not to mention the wait-for-it ending of closing track “Credits” to appeal to those hoping for something a bit more on the crushing side.  I’m glad to have found out about this group, it’s a pleasing surprise.  (Aerial Ballet Records)


TILE, “Come On Home, Stranger”
A fuckin’ crusher.  It’s been way too long since this band did a record.  And they have been hyping this one up for almost a year now, teasing (like in December) ‘new record… in August’.  So seasons pass, people grow older, other people die, and finally, like some distant speck on the horizon eking forward ever so slowly…  finally…  the new Tile LP is within reach.  Was it worth the wait?  That depends.  Do you enjoy the audio equivalent of a steamroller crushing your bones to dust as you’re melted into, and eventually under, hot asphalt, becoming one with all the dirt and rocks, and black tar?  If so, then yes, totally worth the wait.  Tile comes rushing into things with menacing opening track “Change the World” followed by the equally upbeat “Swing Away”.  Typically this band tends to keeps it slow and crushing so opening this record with two faster songs is quite the statement of intent for them.  Things settle more into sludgy and salty (and by that I mean East Coast grouchy) mode by the time they get to “Father”.  They turn off the distortion for a bit with “Flammable Human”, but then close out the A-side by straight up just killing you- I mean violently murdering without remorse- and everything within shouting range, with the aptly named “I’ll End You”.  If you happen to make it to the B-side without being mortally wounded you can experience the joy of the extremely Torche-esque ripper “Play Safe”.  You get a few more fast-paced songs before things slide back into neanderthal-riff territory with “Lard Rats”.  And then it just gets slower, uglier, and weirder from there.  The band really nailed it here.  They sound tighter, heavier, better recorded and realize their Pissed Jeans-meets-Floor style with more songs than their last record, each one a ripper.  An easy contender for favorite record of the year right here.  (Limited Appeal Records)