Sunday, July 10, 2016


Generally speaking, these days most of the stuff I end up reviewing are things I am personally interested in and seek out on my own, and then I feel compelled to write about it.  But I still get solicitations here and there and do my best to write something up about the ones I find unique in one way or another.  In the last month or so I've had more solicitations than usual and so there is a fairly eclectic array of stuff on this list this time around.  Oh, and the past review is from one of my favorite, and oft-overlooked, DC bands as they had a short-lived tenure.  But, ya know, big surprise that I write up something about a DC band right?
A.M. NICE, s/t
My frame of reference for most things goes back at least 10 years so forgive me if what this sounds like to me has no bearing on you whatsoever.  This sounds just like early Chisel.  Ya know, the Ted Leo band before he went solo.  It’s like those demos, or maybe “Nothing New”-era where they were still kind of rough around the edges before the total Jam worship set in with “8AM All Day” and “Set You Free”?  No?  Nothing?  Well, screw you.  This sounds like early Chisel.  It’s fine with me.  Think some rough n’ tumble jangly guitar and some nods towards mod bands in the background.  It’s catchy, poppy, and still playing it kind of loose.  (Phratry)

A second full length dose of noisy goodness spews forth from this low-key band of weirdoes.  If any diligent readers recall my last review of this band I described them as The Cars as played by KARP, or something to that effect.  This new release is a little less overtly catchy, and goes for uglier stabs at delivering earworms, though probably not intentionally.  Things start off with some strong Jesus Lizard-meets-Girls Vs Boys vibes before going into “Love and Infection”, probably the most riffy, Sabbath-y, and lyrically funny song on the whole thing.  The remainder of the recording tends to be a bit more upbeat and frantic with the exception of the drunken swagger of “Midnight Mayor” and the closing droney epic “Way Out”.  This is good stuff, a bit progressed from their last record but just as freaky.  It would be nice if they played out a bit, I bet they would be fun live.  (Peterwalkee Records)

FAKING, “Goddamn Cowards”
I’m the last one to call out a band for paying respect to another band in their sound.  I like all sorts of bands that wholesale rip off their predecessors and peers.  But I really have to say, Faking play Young Widows, “Settle Down City” a little too close to the nose (they even have a very similar lights set-up live).  I mean, it sounds just like that record.  While it’s hardly a bad thing for a band to choose YW as an influence it comes off as a little too obvious and that may put some people off.  On the other hand, Faking do have a good sense of groove and power to their songs.  Their lyrics read like short stories of people making bad decisions, and they also somehow manage to turn a Gladys Knight and the Pips cover (“If I Was Your Woman”) into their own song.  I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but it works.  It could be a lot worse ya know?  They could totally suck.  But they don’t and so that makes this alright.  (Reptilian Records)

This band has a pretty interesting set up by forgoing the bass guitar and using a baritone guitar instead, which always sounds cool to me.  It’s like having a second guitarist and a bassist all in one instrument!  Hooray for efficiency!  Maple Stave border on the space between what could be Dischord-influenced rock (Bluetip/Jawbox) and clattering noise rock.  It’s a little too clean for a noise rock bit and a little less inventive than my Dischord heroes, but it gets the job done nonetheless.  In fact, I’m getting a strong Faraquet vibe from this, minus the algorithms needed to fully execute what that band did so effortlessly.  (Phratry)

MELVINS, “Bases Loaded”
Here’s the idea- since the Melvins have had about 50 different bass players throughout their time as a band why not make a record that puts the spotlight on the bass players, in which the band got several different people (including drummer Dale Crover) to slap the 4-string over the course of a dozen tracks.  Current bassist Steve MacDonald (also of OFF!), former (slah-occasional) bassist Jared Warren (of Big Business), Pinkus (usual guy, and former Butthole Surfers member), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle musical prodigy), and even Krist Novaselic (from some band) all contribute tracks to this record.  As the Melvins have progressed their sound has veered from less sludgy mountains of riffs to more just weird rock (with some not-so-slight nods to Kiss and other arena legends) and to be honest, it doesn’t really do it for me.  I appreciate that they have done this forever, still tour year-round, still have creative juices to do whatever weird shit comes to mind for them, and seem to be completely satisfied and stable with how it is done.  I respect the shit out of that.  And while the music is obviously well-written it’s just not for me.  I think the last thing that really blew my hair back (as I now have none) was “A Senile Animal” so maybe it’s just me being an ignoramus regarding Melvins massive output.  (Ipecac)

Generally, SDF would be the lead name on a split simply because of how prolific they are.  But I gotta give the nod to Null, a side project of Coliseum drummer Carter Wilson (and others), for the stellar contribution here.  They go with a brooding True Widow-esque slow burner with haunting vocals and spooky riffs and I’m all over this like flies on that weird salad your aunt made for the family reunion BBQ.  I’d like to add, if you have not checked out their LP “Sleepwalking Days” they released earlier this year I highly recommend it as it is quickly becoming one of my favorite records to come out in 2016.  OK, so the SDF side is a meandering dream of a song with a single line repeated over and over.  I’m into the idea of them just doing whatever the fuck they please and not kowtowing to any sort of pre-conceived notion of what they’re supposed to sound like.  But the most recent spate of material they have released is a little too on the mellow side for my tastes and I kind of prefer when they have a little more energy going with their music.  (Protagonist)

OLD LINES/ WILL POTTER, “To Build a Fire” split 7”
One is a Baltimore d-beat wrecking crew, the other is an award-winning investigative journalist specializing in animal rights issues and how government surveillance impedes upon others fighting for the voiceless (and many other related issues).  The idea is to combine both music from the band and have it segue into Potter’s spoken sections on the topics listed previously.  On the b-side Potter opens things up with a very emotional and personal piece before Old Lines breaks into a fiery ripper.  It is nothing short of visceral, between Potter’s political/personal rhetoric (featuring some noisy sampling textures in the background) bleeding into feedback and Old Lines then completely annihilating the turntable with their super heavy, intense, and beyond pissed brand of hardcore fire.  Highly recommended for those needing a reminder that we are constantly being trampled on by the powers that be and why sometimes you just need to set something on fire to turn the tables just a little bit.  (Life Advice Records)

Did this band design their demo to match their name?  I ask because this literally is sound on a disc placed inside a card.  Ya know, a sound disc card.  I got jokes for days, I tell ya.  All that aside, this new Syracuse-area band has picked on that shoegaze stuff that has been all the rage with the kids these days.  I might discard (no pun intended) this as young kids riding the coattails of the flavor of the month if these weren’t all seasoned musicians who have been playing in a multitude of bands over the years.  So while their music may take hints from bands like Nothing they certainly have a well-informed approach to it that is ethereal, spacious, melodic, and still loud as all get out.  Not a bad start.  (self-released)

SPRAY PAINT, “Feel the Clamps”
Did six months go by already?  They must have because another Spray Paint LP has arrived.  In what is approaching some sort of record this Austin, TX band has released 4 full lengths in less than three years, by my count.  These dudes obviously like to write and record.  And like their last release, “Dopers” (or was it “Punters On the Barge”?) it shares a similar production quality and song writing style.  I hate to say it, but Spray Paint is getting a little predictable lately and while I still enjoy what they do quite a bit I have to admit being partial to when they sounded a little more gritty.  Yes, the jittery fucked up guitar reverb is ever-present, as is the nasally vocals going on about weirdoes and white trash.  While most of the songs move at a pretty good clip I think I like the slow ones the best- “Shovelling” and “Heaps Of Ice” have an extra creepy/dude-on-cheap-drugs-coming-down feel to them.  Best line on the record:  “Shut up/I’m drinking over here.”  (Goner)

Bonus Round:

REGULATOR WATTS, “The Aesthetics Of No Drag”
Rising from the ashes of Hoover this DC band excelled at creating moody, feedback-driven songs driven by thoughtful and intricate bass lines.  Alex Dunham, who provided many of those guitar squalls and low, howled vocals in Hoover really accentuates the mood in these songs.  The cover art by Jason Farrell, somewhat out of character from this usual style, just drives it home with whatever the huge sleek machine engulfing a bridge over a bay, as if that picture was the sound of the band.  Things start off with “Mercuchrome”, a burst of feedback on top of a slick and repetitive bass riff that quickly jumps into a lock step groove with those sharp, yet steady, guitar jabs somehow making a melody over it all.  “20th Century Ltd.” follows a similar path, energetic and complex, but flowing together in a weird and noisy caterwaul.  As the moaning of guitars open “Seedtick East” one is reminded of a foggy bay in the dead of night as a ship sounds it’s foghorn to call out to other lonely ships passing in the night.  The high point of the record comes next with “The Ballad Of St. Tinnitus”, almost like welcoming the dawn and it’s huge swell of sustained guitar skree and harrowing account of losing one’s parents to drug and alcohol abuse before an epic finale and shouts of “The ring, rings/ Make the people sing”.  Things move into more melodic territory on the B-side with the rather smooth and upbeat “Pemberton red” and “Chechero”.  Bobby Sullivan from Soul Side does guest vocals on “False Idols” and it’s heavily dub-influnced sound.  The record closes with “Witchduck”, a move back into noisy and somewhat chaotic territory.  There’s really no way to describe what Regulator Watts did in their brief existence because there is really no one who plays guitar quite the way Alex Dunham does.  But if you are familiar with the more haunting aspects of Hoover (or any of the bands he’s done post- Regulator Watts) it will give a hint.  As well as being backed by an incredible rhythm section this is a true overlooked gem in the DC canon.  I never got to see this group, nor any other band these guys were associated with, and scant live video exists of them either.  They only released this full length, as well as a couple of EPs that were grouped together on the “Mercury” CD.  This record isn’t too hard to find though so I highly suggest doing a little digging and hearing for yourself the very unique thing that they brought to the table.  (Slowdime)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

108 IN NYC!

I’ve been so caught up with all this new record releasing business that I sometimes forget I utilize this site for reviews and whatnot from time to time.  So lets rewind way back to late May when I took a trip down to NYC to catch 108 bust out two sets in one day.

I got into town a day early so I could do some NYC stuff.  Typically when I visit I tend to just find whatever new vegan restaurant has opened up before catching a show and then crashing somewhere in Brooklyn, which I’ve done a lot.  So I thought I’d go back to things I haven’t done since I was a little kid and my dad brought me down to the city several times to do tourist stuff, as well as go to museums and see art.

I hadn’t been to Central Park intentionally since I was probably about 13. I decided that was as good of a place to start.  I walked from 70th through the park probably up to about 90th and halfway around the reservoir.  It was a pretty good, long walk. My intention was to walk back in time to get to the Natural History Museum before it closed, but I was too late.  Got some food at a nearby place and then trekked it all the way out to Kew Gardens, Queens where I stayed with some friends who had just bought a condo.  It’s weird to stay in an area of town where people had lawns.  Within a couple blocks of getting off the subway one could easily confuse this section of NYC with a suburb of Syracuse.  It was strange.  But it was nice to stay in a place with space.  I’ll never understand how any of my other friends in this city subject themselves to living in those tiny-ass railroad apartments.  It makes no sense.  Here I had my own room and a book about the history of Def Jam Records to lull me to sleep.

OK, so what about the shows.  Oh yeah, that happened too.  So, as I arrived at St. Vitus Sweet Jesus was just getting started.  These Providence/Boston dudes have been in a million bands and are continually active people doing a plethora of different-sounding, but all quite vital, bands.  Their singer, Pat Flynn talks a lot between songs.  It’s always good to have a frontman who has something to say, but I think he may have gone on a bit too long.  The point has been made, no need to drill it in further.  I made that mistake early on when fronting bands, not to go on for too long unnecessarily.  I figure a dude with a lengthy track record such as his would pick up on that as well.  But at least almost every between-song rant ended with some nod to how if you liked Sweet Jesus you should just go listen to Swiz, or pick up a Jason Farrell record instead.  It was pretty funny and lent a good vibe to the already awesome live delivery they had.  If you never heard the group think late 80’s/early 90’s Dischord hardcore.  Or for a more recent example think Give.

Blacklisted have never done it for me.  I’ve seen them multiple times in their various forms and none of it has ever resonated with me.  I could never get into the dudes voice, or his lyrics.  Some of the music is good, but it sounded muddled here and I can’t make out shit.  I’ve tried Blacklisted, I really have.  I just can’t hang.  It’s not you, it’s me.

So 108 does set number one.  It’s all stuff from “Holyname” and “Songs Of Separation”.  It never occurred to me until just now how much the song “Holyname” has a total Cro-Mags vibe to it.  It sure is a hell of a ripper to begin a set with.  From there on out basically every song that one would want to hear from those two records was played…  except “I Am Not”, which is not only one of my favorite songs, but I’m also pretty sure that in all my times of seeing 108 they have never played it.
For the last four songs they brought out Kate-0-8 to play second guitar with the band.  She may look like a full-on soccer mom these days but she was raging pretty hard and singing along with all of the pile-ons.  Not too fucking shabby.  Additionally, I may add, “Deathbed” will never not bring me to the verge of tears when they play it.

As an aside, I managed to run into a lot of unexpected people here as well.  There barely any NYC people I knew present, but plenty of random, unexpected folks from all over the place showed up to enjoy the show(s).  Friends from NJ, Philly, Albany, and even Norfolk, VA were in attendance and it’s pretty wonderful that this music in a small venue can drag people from distant locales to all sing along and have fun.  So between the two shows I made it my business to get some eats with some of these fine folks before heading back for set #2.

I again start things off by catching a portion of Sweet Jesus set.  They deliver more jokes about Jason Farrell worship, more excessive banter that is half ‘right on!’ and half ‘OK, I got it two minutes ago’, and more awesome songs.
Blacklisted sounds a bit better this time around, but I’m still not feeling it.
108 set number two is all “Threefold Misery” and later (more recent) material and I’m totally OK with that.  Unpopular opinion- I think “Threefold Misery” is my overall favorite record of theirs.  But my feeling on that is that the first time I ever saw 108 “Songs Of Separation” had already been out for a little bit and I was so impressed with seeing them that day that I went out and got the record right after.  But “Threefold misery” was the first record of theirs to come out where I was already into the band and saw them play stuff off that release when they toured on it, so it has a bit more personal relevance to me.  Plus, the bass tone on that record is so ridiculously awesome and heavy.

So anyway, they played the entire record.  The whole thing.  They also tossed in a couple songs from “Curse Of Instinct”, a few from “New Beat…” and “18:61”, which I feel are all excellent records.  108 is a rare example of a band that does reunion records that hold up just as well with all their classic stuff.  The band pulls a little cheat move at the end and plays “Solitary” again with Norm Brannon playing second guitar for them, as he was a member of the band for a short time.  The whole ting was extremely well done and extremely exhausting as well.  They must have played about 30 songs total between both sets.

From here it’s the long trek home.  I catch up with my friend from Norfolk as we’re both leaving from the Port Authority at approximately the same time.  So we take the subway back and catch up on old shit while waiting for our respective buses.  My stupid bus doesn’t take off until well after midnight, after some screwed up plans on Greyhound’s end that results in my bus being packed, not allowing me any space to sleep.  I rolled back to town at 5AM, took a nap, and went to dumb work.  Somehow I was still energized from the incredible shows and plowed through my day with relative ease.

Monday, June 13, 2016


This Summer Hex Records will be releasing material from Toronto's GODSTOPPER.
The band, which is essentially the project of songwriter Mike Simpson with members backing him live and occasionally in the studio, has recorded a new EP entitled "Who Tries Anymore" which will be released on 12" vinyl and digitally.
Additionally, Hex Records will be simultaneously releasing the band's last full length, "Lie Down" on CD, which was only released digitally until now.  As an added bonus, their EP "Children Are the Future", released shortly before "Lie Down" (and was also a download-only release), is tacked on as bonus tracks to the CD.
GODSTOPPER's heavy-handed approach brings to mind everything from the Melvins to Cave-In, Mare on up to Torche.  From "Children..." on up to "Lie Down", and now "Who Tries Anymore" the progression from harsh, down-tuned sludge with hidden hooks and melodies has almost been reversed.  "Who Tries Anymore" shows GODSTOPPER presenting their most blatantly catchy songs while still retaining heavy elements among exceptional songwriting and Simpson's pitch-perfect vocals.

The first track from the new 12" "Shoulder" can be streamed now at Exclaim:

You can pre-order either of their releases, or both (at a special price!) at either or through

Monday, May 30, 2016


"No Light, No Tunnel" is the second full length from Syracuse's BLEAK in a year.  Since their debut LP, "We Deserve Our Failures" the band has been wildly prolific on the road and in the studio.  They have released several small run cassettes through various labels, a split 7" with Sovereign, as well as a split 7" of covers with labelmates Dialysis.  They have traversed the US several times and completed several other East Coast and Midwest jaunts, one after another to any crowd that will have them.
In that time they have also reunited with original vocalist Mike Watson, who brings a more raspy and chaotic style to the already harsh sound the band is known for.
The first track from the new record, "Teeth" offers shades of Coalesce, Turmoil, and All Else Failed as each part is a violent, random stabbing into the heart of comfort and stability.
Hex Records will be releasing the album on LP, CD, and digital on 7/8/16
Link to new song:
Link to order record:

Thursday, May 12, 2016


In what must be some sort of cosmic fate the majority of records I have been most anticipating this year all dropped within the span of a month.  And I've basically reviewed them all this time around.  And, for the most part, they're all quite incredible in their own way.  I mean, between Child Bite, Psychic Teens, Greys, and Wrong I think I may be pretty set for the rest of the year.  These are all bands doing some cool stuff, adding to the ever-changing idea of what punk music can be (well, in the case of Wrong it's a throwback to properly paying homage in the best possible fucking way to a really good band).  Punk music isn't always breakdowns, or sing-a-longs, or just three chords played as fast as possible.  All those things are good, but I'm always interested in what's next (and giving a healthy nod to what came before), ya know?
CHILD BITE, “Negative Noise”
From one of the more interesting bands going these days (and going very hard I might add), Detroit’s Child Bite have thrown another twist into their ever-evolving sound on this new LP.  Like many others, I did not catch on to this band until their “Strange Waste” EP from a couple years back.  But they have slowly been cultivating a swarm of mutant followers for around 10 years now and their work is finally paying off.  While the songwriting on “Negative noise” isn’t too terribly far removed from “Strange Waste”s  wild mish-mash of influences it’s the overall sound on this record that really got me.  The band continues their sonic path of head-fuckery, culling from Jesus Lizard’s bombastic bass, Black Flag’s sense of dissonant guitar skronk, and a vocalist who sounds like Neil Fallon of Clutch doing his best Jello Biafra imitation.  Still, the previous record had a production value that sat firmly in modern heavy music styles.  It was pretty heavy while still doing what it is this band does so uniquely their own.  “Negative Noise”, to me, has this more analog approach.  There’s no emphasis on making the guitars sound crushing, the shit is heavy enough just by the odd choice of riffs and chords assembled here.  The bass is ever-present, like some massive pillow of sound smothering you with low-end. On occasion, a few of the songs throw in a few too many parts, which make them just a bit tough to follow.  The band excels at writing gnarled, knotty punk riffs in short bursts like on “Euphoria Saturation Point”, but also does well in the significantly longer (yet heavily repetitive) raga “Beyond the Dirt”, which I think may also be my favorite song here.  In all, it’s an excellent step ahead for an already exceptional band doing some really cool things.  (Housecore)

GREYS, “Outer Heaven”
It took awhile to latch on to this new record from Greys.  Their last LP, “If Anything” was a non-stop furious blast of post-hardcore/noise rock/ punk rock fun.  While it was clear that the songs on that record tackled some weighty subjects it was easy to get lost in the burly catchiness of it all.  “Outer Heaven”, on many of its songs, is emphatically shouting, “I’VE GOT SOMETHING TO SAY, EH!”  (the “eh” added because they’re Canadian, of course) as the music takes a less boisterous approach and shifts towards some Sonic Youth-inspired melodies (“Erosion”), spacey interludes (“Complaint Rock”), and some experimental roar (“Strange World”).  The vocals share equal space with the music, but come to center as the lyrics tackle racial profiling, depression, and self-image amongst other things.  It’s not to say this record is one big experiment, as there are some chaotic rockers on here like “In For a Penny” and “Blown Out”.  Overall, it doesn’t have that same heft and catchiness of their last record, which I loved so much.  But it’s a good record.  It takes some time to warm up to so I’m glad I gave it a few more listens to fully appreciate it.  (Carpark/ Buzz Records)

HELLS, “Paradise” EP
Just to get it out of the way, this band has a song called “1-800-SHITFIT”, which might be one of the better song titles I’ve heard in quite some time.  That being said, Philadelphia’s Hells makes some noise that may cause those faint of heart to consider dialing that number.  They definitely lift a couple parts from Converge and Cursed and that’s alright because they’re good parts that need more use, and it’s also a pretty good indicator of where this band is at with their sound in general.  The aforementioned “SHITFIT” takes a riff straight from “Hell Comes Home” by Cursed, while “Tribute” borrows a bit of Converge’s “Black Cloud” chorus.  And while riff lifting might not fare well with some discerning listeners I just have to say that Cursed sure as heck isn’t using that part anymore so someone ought to put it to good use.  The last couple songs here move at a slower pace and offer some added variety that just adds to this bands awesomeness.  If it matters to anyone, this band features dudes from Psychic Teens, Orchid, and Transistor Transistor.  (Seeing Red Records)


Metz have been busy beavers lately.  After releasing the exceptionally ass-kicking “II” last year they dropped a two-song seven inch of new stuff, followed by this pair of Record Store Day releases (pretty much the only stuff worth getting this year out of that ever-expanding cash grab trash heap).  First off, they pair up with the legendary Mission Of Burma on what has to be the fanciest packaging for an incredibly short record.  How they got M.O.B. to cover one of their songs is beyond me, but it shows Clint Conley at his raspiest and snarliest (yeah, I made that word up), and it’s hard to believe it’s him on the mic.  They pretty much cover the song directly, save for a Burma trademark of letting the song crash and burn in a flurry of chaos at the songs end.  Metz go for a deep cut off the oft-overlooked (but quite brilliant) “Obliterati” album for their side and it’s actually a quite fitting choice.  It’s now easy to tell that Metz has a lot of Mission Of Burma in their sound, in a sped up, hyperactive, and chaotic sort of way.
And then we get to their collaboration with the one and only John Reis (of RFTC, Jehu, Hot Snakes…  why am I explaining this?  If you keep up with my review stuff at all you should be scholar on this guy by now) where one song definitely feels like Reis had a heavy hand in the writing process, as it basically sounds like a Night Marchers song but faster.  The other side is way more Metz-oriented, as it shows off their highly repetitive quick riff attack and a dose of Reis’ contributing vocals and semi-Jehu style guitar chirp in the beginning.  Again, a collaboration the Metz guys probably dreamed about, but never thought would actually materialize in real life.  These guys must be stoked beyond belief at the company they’re keeping these days.  I would be too.  (Sub Pop/ Swami)

NOTHING, “Tired Of Tomorrow”
I can’t really hang with this.  I kind of liked what Nothing was doing on “Guilty Of Everything” because they seemed like a band that was still sort of feeling out just what it was they were doing, and the result was a collection of songs that had some variety to them, and far from uniform in presentation.  “Tired Of Tomorrow” sounds like one big long breezy pop song for 40 minutes.  It lacks variety.  Each song sounds the same as the last.  It’s not a bad song, mind you, but I’m not entirely sold on it.  It’s also fair to mention that people probably have pretty high expectations for this album, seeing as this group has quite the spotlight on them, and I’m trying not to let that affect my judgment.  They have lightened up considerably on this record, ditching a good deal of distortion and going for clean guitar parts, and the occasional piano bit.   It’s somewhat fitting for a band that seems to have their heads permanently in the clouds, so maybe the chillness is where they ought to be at?  For me, though, I’m not really feeling it.  (Relapse)

PSYCHIC TEENS, “Nerve” + 7”
On what has to be one of the more elaborate release schemes for a small time band Psychic Teens have returned on their newest LP, which comes in this really beautiful gatefold package and is also accompanied by not one, but two, seven inches.  The seven inches each contain a song from the LP as well as a B-side not on the LP.  So yeah, now that that is out of the way, please feel free to buy this because it’s one of the better records to be released this year.  Psychic Teens have put a lot of time and thought towards crafting this record, which furthers their particularly unique sound of taking plenty of post-punk and goth-y cues through brooding bass lines, deep spoken vocals, and sparse, angular guitar.  Yet on top of that are the massive swaths of guitar fuzz and distortion, and more upbeat punk fury amidst all their gloominess.  “Winter Grey” brings some riffy fury to the mix, while songs like “Fear” and “Hang” keep it minimal and focus on the vocals.  In fact, the overall vibe of this record is considerably more sparse and polished than their last LP “Come”, which had no qualms about throwing in plenty of feedback and the loudest guitar effects possible whenever they damn well felt like it.  It’s only on LP closer “End” where those massive guitar squalls really come into play throughout most of the song.  It’s a big, epic tearjerker of a song and without a doubt one of my favorite songs of the year.  So I’m not going to lie- my preference is when the band is letting loose and getting all feedback-y and noisy.  And yet I’m loving the heck out of this record too.  The 7” songs are pretty great as well.  So just go and get this.  (SRA Records)

WRONG, s/t
Look, I tried to tell you all this was going to be pretty much the best record in, like, forever.  It’s as if clairvoyant riff powers came to me and foresaw Wrong just physically annihilating faces and necks everywhere with this record.  You had your chance to be ready for it and now you’re going to have to probably get your vertebrae fused, or at least a serious neck brace from the non-stop headbanging this will lead to (note to self: approach Relapse about selling Wrong brand neck braces as a promotional item to go with this record).  So yeah, the heir apparent to the Helmet sound, done as it was intended to, is on full display.  I’m pretty sure most of this stuff was probably recorded right around the same time as their EP/demo from last year, but somehow that record sounds a little more grimey.  This is slightly more polished and really pulls from various eras of the Helmet canon.  The faster-paced, semi-melodic tracks like “Entourage” have a bit of a “Born Annoying” feel to them, while “Stasis” and “Mucilage” lean towards an “Aftertaste” influence.  Heck, the last track “High Chair” is where you wish Helmet moved on towards after “Aftertaste” (in a slightly shoegaze sort of way) instead of “Size Matters” or whatever unfortunate turn they took when Page Hamilton decided to hire a scab band.  But I tell ya, if the opening bulldozer of “More Like” doesn’t sell you in 1:17 minutes than there’s really no hope for you.  If it helps, they sound a bit like Stompbox too….  (Relapse)

Bonus Round:

ANGELHAIR, “Pregnant With the Senior Class”
Man, I remember going through the Very catalog when I was a teenager and basically whatever description made a band sound utterly batshit crazy I was game to check out.  I’d just stuff money into an envelope and hope for the best.  And from taking those chances I came across some truly wonderful records, one of which being Angelhair.  As a little band from Denver, Colorado (no, not San Diego as everyone thought) they were what I considered to be the epitome of the Gravity Records/ San Diego sound popularized by groups like Crimson Curse, Locust, Heroin, Spanakorzo, and Swing Kids.  Their lone LP, “Insect Mortality” started out with some odd outer space sounds before off-kilter guitar noise clanged around as if the band were already falling apart before they even began.  And then the chaos starts- a pile of guitars getting abused and stabbed, a clunky bass hitting strings at random while the drummer just tries to hit as many things as they can as fast as they can.  And the utterly menacing screams of frontman Sonny Kay going on about this and that, senseless lyrics that somehow get a weird, abstract, yet grand, point (“You can make blood out of paper, oil byproduct, euthanasia”).  I have, at times, personally used his writing style as a framework for stuff I’ve written in various bands because it’s so weird and badass.  As the record progresses they get it together a little more, as Kay adds skittish howls to his screaming, the guitars always producing tense and nervous melodies to the chaos.  It’s only when they get to their cover of Bauhaus “Stigmata Martyr” that they start to slow down and let the bass lay the groundwork.  “The Wax Museum” continues the slowness, but in a completely sludgy dirge sort of way.  “Space Ape” also goes slow and weird before exploding into an ugly mess of chunky rage.  Their seven inches are included in this collection as well, and show the band in a little less crash and burn/destroy everything mode, but almost as chaotic.  In fact, my all time favorite Angelhair song comes from their excellent split with the even more incredible Kerosene 454, “Kisses”- a bouncy and fucked up burner complete with an extended bout of lone feedback in the middle of the song before bursting forth once again with unbridled chaos.  I never got to see this band.  But them, along with other contemporaries of the era, made some real fucked up and chaotic music that opened my eyes (and ears) to something Nation Of Ulysses really got off the ground in DC and a horde of bands out West carried on to the next spastic level.  Members of this band went on to form the VSS, Year Future, Pleasure Forever, and Rabbits.  (Gravity)

Sunday, May 8, 2016


I don't know if anyone who reads this page was in the dark about certain things, but it should be noted (if you don't already know) Hex Records is involved in a bunch of activities aside from writing dumb reviews and releasing records.  One of these aspects has been steadily booking shows in the Syracuse area for close to 20 years now.  I've rarely mingled the label activities with show booking and I'm not really sure why I didn't just put it all under one umbrella of awesomeness, but throughout the Spring and Summer Hex Records has a number of events booked.  So if you're in the Syracuse area please consider checking out one (or more) of these shows:

Friday, May 13th
Westcott Community Center
6PM (doors)

MULTICULT (Baltimore noise rock kings/queens)

(theirs go to 11)

PSYCHIC TEENS (some "Nerve" they got jumping on this show!)

GUN CANDY (wild new Buffalo punk rippers!)

SOUND DISCARD (new Syracuse area group, ex- Cosmic Sea, HTDC)


Sunday, May 15th, 2016
DIALYSIS/ BLEAK split 7" release show! 
Westcott Community Center
6PM. $8

DIE CHOKING (Philly grind returns to Syracuse for another beating)

(Syracuse screwjobs with their new split 7" in hand to shove down yr gullet)

DRUSE (Rochester's love of Majority Rule continues into the 20-teens)

(they have no 'D's in their name but trust me, they're A-OK)


Saturday, May 28th, 2016
Westcott Community Center
7PM.  $10

BLEAK SABBATH (all sorts of stuff)


THE AFRO NIPS (anything goes)

COLLAPSE (Rise Against)


Sunday, June 5th, 2016
The Vault (451 S. Warren St.)

$8. 6PM.

CAVERNS (them local boys make good on the melodic & heavy side of things)

LONGEST WAR (ex/current every band between Rochester and Hamilton, ON. Their kids probably have bands too)

COMING DOWN (Swiz'ing up your hardcore latte')

(crazy fast/awesome Buffalo awesome fastcore, brought to you by awesomeness and fastness)

(wall of hugs.)


Thursday, June 23rd
The Vault (451 S. Warren St.)
7PM. $7

FAKING (harsh Philly noise rockers leveling their battleaxe of rock)

DIFFICULT (in their triumphant & mghty THIRD show. can they ever be stopped?)

SUNFLO'ER (Potsdam has a band and they do all sorts of heavy and wild shit, man)

+ One more TBA

...  And that's just the stuff that's announced right now!

Sunday, April 17, 2016


So a large portion of the reviews I do are unsolicited opinions, and not so much based on submissions sent to me.  But every once in awhile a handful of things get sent my way for some reason and I oblige by writing up something about it.  So I actually had a good chunk of that this time around.  So enjoy these mostly solicited opinions while I take off for Iceland for about a week.
Our bonus round/ older selection this time around comes from the little-known Keleton DMD, out of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  They didn’t make a huge impact in their brief tenure (1998-2001 maybe?), but I find myself still going back to the sole full length pretty regularly.

EMPTY VESSELS, “Throw Your Shadow”
I’m a little late to the party with reviewing this but I thought it very worthwhile to mention since I think this is one of the better new-ish bands going right now.  When listening to the heavy chaos going on within Empty Vessels second CD it really sounds as if there is a whole band laying down frantic chords, chunky riffs, and noisy dirges.  But this is just a duo.  And it really seems as if there is barely any studio magic to be found.  This band delivers exactly what they do on CD in the live setting.  So not only do they have their musicianship down solid, but they have those tones (split between a couple guitar cabs and a bass cab) perfectly lined up to make a huge and exciting sound.  When listening to this group I’m reminded a bit of that DC/N. Virginia sound that was prevalent in the early 2000s with Majority Rule and Page 99, but maybe a little more emphasis on writing faster, slightly more simplified songs with pretty minimal lyrics.  I admire this band’s dedication to efficiency and doing everything themselves, from printing their own shirts, and booking their own tours (which are frequent, so go see them if they come by), to releasing their own music.  (self-released)

HOLD DOWN THE OCEAN, “We Know Why We’re Here” 10”
All Else Failed is most known for their hammer-smashed approach to guitar-swinging, bleeding forehead, chaotic hardcore.  But you know those guys all got soft spots right?  They’re total emo wussies on the inside when they’re not wearing their Deadguy t-shirts.  You can hear it in some of their music, in certain spots, despite the fact that it’s generally painful.  Well, a couple of those guys decided to work out those less-chaotic tendencies with this new band Hold Down the Ocean.  It’s the Sunny Day Real Estate, Mogwai, sunlight-drenched, big epic feeling stuff thrown out here like being engulfed in that big, fiery spaceball’s warmth kind of music.  The vocals are sparse and ethereal mostly.  There’s one singular part in the first song that sounds like an AEF part and the rest is just big, melodic, and powerful.  They dish out 5 songs across this offering and it’s a decent enough place to start.  Feel the love, man.  (Dullest Records)

METZ, “Eraser”/”Pure Auto” 7”
I kind of figured this was just leftover songs from their last LP that they didn’t want to use, but this is actually from a different recording session from what I can tell.  Still, I can see these two songs maybe not fitting exactly with the stuff from “II”.  Their most recent full length felt as if, despite the noise and chaos, most of the songs were extremely straightforward, each with it’s own simple riff carrying the whole song.  “Eraser” has a similar feel, but goes off into a few other sections before returning to the fucked-up lead riff.  “Pure Auto” takes a bit faster route, but is equally as exciting.  In short, pretty much anything Metz does is worth listening to and/or buying.  Just shove loons into their Canadian jean jacket pockets and force them to rock your godamn face off repeatedly.  (31G Records)

This West Coast group not only crib their name from a fairly popular Farside song, but they also make no qualms about trying to wholesale emulate whatever it is that Self Defense Family have going on.  And that’s truly a difficult task to undertake without sounding like try-hards.  Also, as unique as it is (and part of what makes SDF it’s own animal), why would anyone actually try to sound like Pat Kindlon?  I can’t fault this band for having good taste in influences, but it seems like they’re trying to sell it a little too hard.  This kind of falls somewhere between where End Of a Year transitioned into being SDF as far as where the sound is coming from.  (RuinedSmile)

For a couple years I lived in Buffalo and fully experienced what the locals referred to as ‘Buffalo style’.  And believe you me, there is truly a Buffalo style to hardcore, and it survives on this split.  Old Ghosts are totally a Buffalo band.  Longest War have a few guys from Buffalo in the band, but also a Canadian and a Rochester fella, but it all averages out to Western New York in the long run.  Either way, both bands present a very meaty and crunchy taco, not unlike a good midnight meal from Mighty Taco (also Buffalo related).  While many bands currently aim for how many beatdowns they can cram into something resembling a ‘song’ both of these bands understand the importance of a good fast part, meaningful lyrics, before knocking you down with a heavy riff.  I think Old Ghosts overall have the better tracks on this split, but I dig both.  If you like Despair, Buried Alive, Fadeaway, or Union you will probably enjoy this…  and also because members of these bands played in like half the listed groups.  (State Of Mind)

RHIN, “Passenger”
Allow me to reattach my head to my neck before going forth with this review.  It fell off while banging head to this awesome West Virginia band’s new record.  I can pretty much guarantee KARP never played their neck of the woods, so Rhin had to form to ensure something similar represented their hometown.  I have never heard of them until this was sent my way, and good thing it was, or else I’d feel stupid for passing it up.  They certainly wear their influences in an obvious way, but respectfully.  After all, midway through is the longest track on the LP, “Snivlem”, which, spelled backwards gives an indication what sort of noise they’re going for.  They continue with “Clay”, another long track that introduces a bit of epic melody before going back to full-on manic shredding with “Basement”.  “Bad Timing” closes out the record with a relatively different feel than the rest of the album, as it aims for a more catchy and melodic opening and a sort-of Torche-like spacey/heavy/arena rock-ish ending.  Overall, this is a pretty great record that caught me off guard.  (Grimoire Records)

TOMBS, “All Empires Fall” EP
Tombs is a band that I respect more out of the time, effort, and work that they have put forth for many years at this point, rather than the music they make.  I’m just not really a fan of black metal and this EP definitely shows them very clearly working that angle of their sometimes difficult-to-pin down sound.  If it distinguishes them from hordes of other corpsepainted snowy forest/smelly basement dwellers (aside from the fact Tombs don’t use corpsepaint) I’ll give Tombs credit for adding some ethereal keyboard textures and occasional post-punk Killing joke style sounds to the songs on this EP.  Their songs on here, overall, also feel a little more simplistic in terms of arrangement.  Again, it’s not anything that really moves me because I don’t really feel this style of music, but Tombs know how to constantly refine and alter their sound to what they’re into at the time without losing sight of who they are.  (Relapse)

Bonus Round:

KELETON DMD, “Body Double”
In the late 90’s I was really into just about anything that the Makoto Records label released, which was primarily Michigan-based bands that were all pretty different, but somehow all fit together nicely.  I appreciated their varied approach to punk, as well as the (almost) yearly Michigan Fest they helped curate.  And then they just totally disappeared.  One such band that stood out for me on their label, remained fairly mysterious, and definitely did not get their just due (or release nearly enough material for me to be satisfied with) was the Kalamazoo-based Keleton DMD.  They had an insanely awesome sound, pairing the tones of Shellac with the energy and heft of early Hammerhead, and an unbelievably talented drummer who threw in so many curveballs and hidden tricks that the whole thing ended up being a very unique beast indeed.  They released (as far as I know) a 7”, a couple comp appearances, this lone full length, and an EP afterwards before splitting up.  The lyrics are mostly non-sensical tales of weirdoes, crime, and hustles gone bad…  but who knows, they could have been about anything really.  I mean, how hard could Kalamazoo get?  Things on this LP open up with the tricky drum chops of “Black and Single” before a blast of jangly guitar and rubbery bass intermittently spazzs out within the beat.  It breaks off into a primary part of the song, which may be the most rhythmically complex track on the record.  The rest follows a slightly more accessible feel until the very straight-forward, jackhammering “Over a Hustle” appears later on.  It’s probably my favorite song of theirs and represents the band very well insofar as what it is they do.  This is a pretty hard album to track down, and was only pressed on CD I believe.  But I highly suggest giving it a shot as it has stuck with me for the last 17 years or so.  (Makoto) CHECK IT HERE.