Thursday, November 19, 2020

STREAM THE NEW ALPHA HOPPER RECORD IN FULL!

 

The new ALPHA HOPPER record, "Alpha Hex Index", officially comes out tomorrow, 11/20/2020.  However, if you just can't wait that long you can stream the whole thing now over at Ghettoblaster Magazine!

*Just as an update, there has been a minor delay with the actual records and they will be shipping in a couple weeks (a bonus being I live just a couple miles from the pressing plant so as soon as they are done I can get them and send them out!).  However, all pre-orders will receive their digital downloads on time and CD orders have also shipped already.  All other digital platforms should have the record up on time as well.


In the meantime, don't hesitate to check out "Alpha Hex Index" and then grab yourself a copy!  Get it HERE.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER REVIEWS

Can we all breathe just a little bit now? Seriously. Some of this stuff has been sitting around for a minute and if it wasn't super apparent I've kind of had my hands full with label stuff lately so sorry not to be impeccably consistent with the reviews. But here we are and here you go. So late fall entries for your attention.


 

ANXIETY SPIRAL demo

Boy, talk about an apt band name for 2020.  If hardcore punk attempts to be underground and outside mainstream comprehension then these cats failed miserably at a moniker that only a select few can relate to.  On-the-nose name aside, this is what happens when a couple Fight Amp dudes start yet another band with the intention of taking attitudes from their regular crop of noise-drenched scum rock outfits and apply it to cranking out a hardcore tape in the space of probably a couple drunken afternoons spent together.  There’s nothing wrong with writing some fast-as-fuck jams on the fly and still sounding rad because you’ve been grinding it out for decades in other groups.  Four songs, a little over eight minutes, what else do you need to know?  Go fast, get fucked up. (Knife Hits)

 

BENT LIMBS, “Soft Mind”

This is a really slow burn.  Half of Blood Sun Circle has re-convened to create a body of songs that take all those slow and eerie parts they developed on their two crushing full lengths and expanded on those sorts of ideas for a full length.  I’m not going to lie, this takes awhile to get through.  It’s not full of big giant riffs, or easily digestible dirges of sound.  It moves slow.  Sure, there are some earworms to be found, and a few songs that fit into a somewhat compact format.  But the entire middle section of this record quietly, and deliberately, moves from song to song, sometimes with nary a hint that one track is ending and another is beginning.  It demands repeated listens as it takes one morose turn after another.  Not all of it excites me, or makes me want to investigate further, but I’d say at least half of it is quite enjoyable as it exercises great restraint and tension.  From a personal standpoint, I’m so accustomed to these guys coming at listeners with ungodly volume and wild energy in all their previous musical endeavors that this takes some getting used to since they’re still displaying a kind of intensity.  But it’s one that presents itself in unsettling quiet, long build-ups, and tension so thick you need a machete to cut through it all.  For fans of grey ever-present skies, or that scene in “The Neverending Story” where the horse drowns.  Seriously harsh in an epically somber sort of way.  (Drops Of Us)

 

BUMMER/ THE BODY split 7”

Bummer drop a new song that continues their war against smartypants rock and just slams you with monster riffs that resemble Gravedigger steamrolling over a line of junkyard hearses.  By far one of the most satisfyingly loud bands I’ve seen one just needs imagine this song coming at you at 130 dbs and you get an idea of the awesome power of Bummer.

The Body, on the other hand, are one of the most unsatisfyingly loud bands I’ve ever seen and that was when they still just used a guitar and drums, before they went all harsh noise, or whatever they do.  I haven’t had the interest in exploring them since, no matter how many Pitchfork writers prematurely bust a nut at the utterance of their name, and this is really no different.  I just don’t get it, man.  Or, rather, I just have no interest.  (Thrill Jockey)

 

CHIMES OF BAYONETS, “Archiver” 7”

This Ithaca, NY-based trio is comprised of members who have been playing together in various other outfits for a very long time.  If I’m not mistaken, there’s a little bit of musical chairs happening between this and other groups they have been a part of.  Whatever the case, the chief complaint I find myself levying is that this group sounds rather unrehearsed, or not quite studio-ready.  It makes the songs sound somewhat clunky and unfinished.  I’m not certain if they are going for this style, but what I do hear is something sort of Dischord-adjacent, like any number of those .5 releases they would do as collaborations with another label?  Or if anyone remotely remembers the stuff on the Divot Records label- that sort of mid-to-late 90’s Chicago brand of indie-emo?  That’s what Chimes Of Bayonets sounds like to me.  Is it what they’re going for?  I’m not certain.  But you get three songs on this 7” of the aforementioned sound, backed occasionally by a bit of saxophone and the occasional sample. (Habit Forming Records)

 

KRAUSE 7”

Where you been all my life Greek noise rock?  Besides Greece, that is?  Here’s a two-song jobber of ugly riffs, noisy sludge where you know the guitarist is banging his fist on his amp every couple of songs because the tubes are shorting out, and the singer’s already smashed three beer bottles on the stage before they hit their first note, and they probably spent just as much on their gear collectively as a band as they did on an undoubtedly obsessive Unsane collection.  These two ugly ragers hit the spot in some Eyehategod-Grizzlor mash-up, complete with wacky cover art emphasizing the strange and grotesque, just like their music.  Vocals blurted out through a busted Radio Shack mic across the two tracks, the first being a bit more on the repetitive end that takes the lead riff and beats you to death with it.  The second song sounds a little more slick and is just a bit more upbeat, letting the bass lead before guitar skronk and feedback socks you across the face like a madball.  (Inner Ear Records)

 

MAN AT ARMS, “Good Thinking”

For a two-piece this apparently long-running Michigan duo are all over the map.  At times they deal in a sort of lo-fi Shellac kind of aesthetic, but with purposeful melody in the vocals.  Other times they tool around with some sludge (which only sort of works with the lo-fi leanings) that reminds me of another (rather unknown) duo- Liquid Limbs, but with less bombast.  And in other sections of this collection they sort of meander off and do a kind of free-association thing, or maybe Minutemen with less herky-jerky weirdness.  This is the first release for the band since 2008 so I’m not sure if they just work really slow, but I feel like with a better recording some of these songs could have more life.  As it stands they sound a bit on the weak side.  I know it’s just drums and guitar, so there’s always that potential for sounding a little thin (and perhaps that’s on purpose), but to me it feels like there’s a desire to sound a little bigger and it’s just not happening.  (self-released)

 

METZ, “Atlas Vending”

Metz is instant gratification to me.  It doesn’t matter what they do, I know I’m going to like it instantly.  They’re a sure bet.  So I was fine with the scuttlebutt that this record was making some attempts at a rather altered track for them, which is to say, some more melody in both the riffs and the vocals.  Honestly, there’s not much different than any Metz fan won’t thoroughly enjoy.  But if they want to convince us their new record is more melodic then, sure, we’ll go with that.  I will say, though, this is the best sounding record they have released to date, so kudos on the studio expertise.

Things start out with a strange, nervous tick; a thumping, piercing jab that explodes into chaos via “Pulse”.  From there things move more into familiar Metz territory with fast and punk-y tracks like “Blind Youth Industrial Park”, “The Mirror”, and quite possibly my favorite minute-and-a-half song this year- the ultra catchy, melodic, and furiously quick “No Ceiling”.  On the b-side things start off with the post-hardcore-ish dirge “Draw Us In”, followed by another quick and dirty.  Things take a more meandering and contemplative aside with “Framed By a Comet’s Tail” and then close out with the fantastically epic and gloriously long-winded “A Boat To Drown In”.  Metz always find a way to make the strange and chaotically noisy sound downright fun and exciting and I will continuously love them for that.  (Sub Pop)

 

NOTHING, “The Great Dismal”

I haven’t really been all that excited about Nothing since their first full length. I find something sort of off-putting about them and maybe it has more to do with their ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ online demeanor more than their actual music, so that’s on me for being pretty shallow in that regard. It’s petty, I know.  So let’s get to the actual music.  Nothing has seemed to move further into more pop and mainstream sounds over the last couple records by expanding on their 90’s shoegaze bliss, cleaner sounds, bigger production, and so forth.  And while their outright love for My Bloody Valentine is frequently on display there remains some moments where they do tread into sonically uglier, and stranger, territory that I find more interesting.  At this point in my life I believe I’ve probably heard enough airy, almost whispered, vocals to last me the remainder of my years so I’ll disregard those and move into the second half of the album, which I find far more engaging.  There’s really nothing new to be found, I just enjoy the energy on the last four songs on the record, which go from big, bendy walls of sound dreamy parts (“Blue Mecca”) to riff-oriented chunky Hum worship (“Just a Story”) and an interesting effects-drenched back-and-forth between melodic noodling and sonic black hole trench-diving in “Ask the Rust” that closes out the record.  One of the videos they made for this record made me think I was watching a re-run of Metallica’s “Unforgiven” and I just had to exit out of that nonsense right quick.  Otherwise, if you’ve been a fan of Nothing in the past you’ll more than likely enjoy this record as well.  (Relapse)

 

THOU/EMMA RUTH RUNDLE, “May Our Chambers Be Full”

By all accounts, the tectonic plate-shifting chug of Thou collaborating with the sweeping, lush atmosphere of Emma Ruth Rundle should equal something like Isis or Neurosis at their finest.  But thankfully (because it’s already been done by the aforementioned), you get something altogether different.  I mean, if you’re familiar with both groups this really does sound exactly as you might imagine, and it’s the best possible outcome of that combined sound possible.  It’s not as if they decided to throw everyone a curveball and make an electronica record or some shit.  This is big, slow, heavy songs that float with lush, melancholy melodies.  Rundle handles the majority of the vocals (as she should) and her contemplative, calming voice is a perfect match to the underlying heft of the doom-y sludge going on.  Thou vocalist Bryan Funck lends his shredding scream throughout, but it often gets pushed a bit farther back in the mix in order to let Rundle take the lead.  And, if I’m not mistaken, I believe current Thou guitarist Kara Stafford also lends her vocals here and there.  Out of the seven tracks present some lean in the more aggressive side (“Out Of Existence”), while others take a longer, calmer tone (most of “The Valley”), but I think it’s lead-off single “Ancestral Recall” that finds the perfect mix of both artists flexing at their best and is the high point of the record for me.  All this being said, is the combination of these groups the best doom-grunge one can find?  A Soundgarden at their sludgiest?  It’s not for me to say, but I will say this is an awesome pairing that works together like peanut butter and chocolate.  (Sacred Bones)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

EXHALANTS SECOND PRESSING AVAILABLE TO ORDER NOW!

I know things are just a little bit crazy at the moment, but I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't mention that tomorrow (Friday, 11/6) is another Bandcamp Friday where they are waiving all their fees. This time around for new stuff we will have the repress of EXHALANTS, "Atonement" LP, which is another 250 copies on marbled peach vinyl. As a bonus with the record you will get a download of the record (duh), but additionally, will come with a code for a pro-recorded live set featuring some unreleased songs. 

You can hear the live tracks on the bands own page HERE

The physical copies of the record will come with a download of the live tracks. Pre-order the second pressing HERE. Expected to ship in early December.

Friday, October 2, 2020

ALPHA HOPPER, "Alpha Hex Index" SET TO BE RELEASED THIS FALL

"A bartender, a personal trainer, a graphic designer, and an immigration attorney walk into a practice space..." ALPHA HOPPER will release their new LP, “Alpha Hex Index” on November 20th, 2020 through Hex Records. Alpha Hopper has previously released two other LPs through Radical Empathy, One Percent Press, and guitarist John Toohill’s own Swimming Faith imprint. Formed in Buffalo, New York in 2014, Alpha Hopper creates a frenetic stew of guitar-driven rock'n'roll with ingredients from punk, hardcore, noise rock, and no-wave. Their 3rd LP "ALPHA HEX INDEX" shows them deeper than ever down their rabbit hole. Sassy, snotty vocals punctuating the ever growing wall of catchy, bizarre riffs and prison break drum beats. Dummy math, noise-rock for art-punk drop outs. 

For “Alpha Hex Index” the band decided to record the effort themselves in their homes. Pandemic-related shelter in place recommendations caused some hiccups in being able to track the entire effort in a single block, and instead recording sessions were conducted in intervals when the members could safely get together and hash out their respective parts. Once they were satisfied with the mix they handed things over to engineer John Angelo (Gwar, Every Time I Die, Gas Chamber) to handle mastering duties. 

The first single from the record, "The Goods", is streaming now through the folks over at Echoes and Dust. Go check that out. And while you're at it, you can pre-order the record on LP, CD, or digital formats. Vinyl will be on two options- clear moon haze, or clear yellow sun haze. 

Go check the bandcamp/store to get a look for yourself. "Alpha Hex Index" can be pre-ordered HERE or HERE.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

MUSIC EXISTING IN THIS HELLSCAPE EARTH

I've been pushing this whole, 'look on the brightside' thing all year in the face of massive societal/governmental failure to contain a terrible virus, an out-of-control police state that has responded to the problem of police brutality by doubling down on the brutality with zero consequence, dumbfucks who have difficulty accepting that just because something bad doesn't happen to them that it must not actually exist, and now wildfires raging a dozen miles from my residence and making it impossible to go outdoors for more than a couple minutes without coughing/getting a headache. Truly, I'm sort of past optimism. You finally got to me 2020. I really tried my damnedest to exert PMA even when shit's been super rough. I still, personally, don't have it super bad. But man, I don't got a whole lot to be hopeful for right about now. The things that keep me afloat and from retreating to a little hole in the ground where I can just hibernate until the world resets itself are just working. If I have creative projects to work on and thing to keep me busy I'll make it. So if that means just writing about cool music for no other reason than to keep myself entertained and busy than so be it. Here's one wonderful book, and a bunch of records that kept me afloat these last few weeks.

“THE BLOOD AND THE SWEAT”
There’s a story in “Blood and the Sweat” where our primary subjects, the Koller brothers who have been the core of Sick Of It All since 1986, describe having a bit of downtime while at a European festival they were playing so they decide to swim out to a float on a nearby lake. As Pete Koller swims out towards the float he notices his brother Lou struggling to keep up and he nearly drowns. Pete comes to his rescue to carry him back to shore but becomes submerged himself while trying to help. They are aided by bassist Craig Setari, who realizes their predicament, and runs out to the lake to help. It’s a beautiful tale of brothers and bandmates helping each other out when things are dire. And, from another angle, it could be seen as a dangerous, yet hilarious, anecdote of born-and-bred New Yorkers fumbling in nature and somehow making it through an ill-advised excursion halfway across a lake. Such is the theme for this book, focusing on the brothers from Sick Of It All, their upbringing, beginning of the band, their numerous records, and their travels throughout the world playing hardcore for anyone who will listen. It’s incredible stories of shows they played, hijinks they concocted, wild situations they have been in, and the almost impossible odds that a few metalheads from Queens have dodged that have allowed them to be doing this for over 35 years. But character has a lot to do with it too. The first interview I ever conducted was with SOIA at, arguably, the peak of their popularity when I was 16, just starting a fanzine and they played my town. The brothers were hanging out at the bar of the venue, chatting with some women. I carefully approached them and asked if they would have time to do an interview. They immediately agreed, left the group they were socializing with, and within a few minutes we were chatting on their bus and they were incredibly cordial, polite, and patient with me as a I stumbled through my questions. There was no pre-arranged set up, no waiting around, no going through agents or managers. Those dudes were engaged and open as if I were doing them a favor or something. That is part of what makes Sick Of It All one of the greatest hardcore bands to ever grace the world. They’re real and they absolutely, without an iota of doubt, love what they do. They consider themselves lucky. However their passion, talent, and refusal to let ego get to them have a lot to do with their success as well. The myriad of stories contained here follow a mostly chronological path, but you can really pick up anywhere in the book and find an amusing aside, or an exciting story. The only time it gets bogged down is when they spend a few pages venting about the current state of music, their waning popularity in the states, and other old-man-yells-at-cloud-isms that I suppose anyone who has been in the game as long as they have who now find themselves a bit befuddled with how to appeal to a younger audience may be prone to engaging in. That’s where editing really comes in handy. Otherwise, this is a super enjoyable read. It’s over 300 pages and I blew through it ridiculously fast. (Post Hill Press)

BULLY, “Sugaregg”
I’m not sure what to say about Bully regarding their third full length other than it’s just pure and glorious rock made for summer drives. Bully is essentially the moniker for vocalist/guitarist/songwriter/recording engineer Alicia Bognanno. She’s got some backing musicians to round things out, but it’s mostly just her providing the crash and bang behind this album. From the jump Bully has been a loud and brash rock group, yet on “Sugaregg” there are more hooks than a Candyman cosplay convention to compliment the underlying dirt present on each of these tracks. Bognanno can at once go from whispering and sweet to rebellious shouting in the space of a couple measures of music. Every song has it’s catchy lead or power riff as it goes from the full-on propulsive grunge of “Every Tradition” to the grimey bass lead of “Where To Start”, and then slowing things down into the ramshackle ballad “Prism”. However, every slacker-rock instinct appears to be calculated and given a studio treatment that is both clean, but far from polished. Think of Superchunk with a vocalist who can sing just as sweetly but doesn’t really give a fuck. Bully provides a great soundtrack that helps one to ignore the shitty reality we’re all currently living in while still acknowledging that there’s rough spots all over. If you get the record it comes with a bonus flexi with an additional song… why it’s not just on the actual record is beyond me, but hey bonus for you right? (Sub Pop)


CONSTANT ELEVATION, “Freedom Beach” 7”
For a little project band these dudes come across with a pretty impressive blast of catchy hardcore punk. Featuring Vinnie Caruana from The Movielife/I Am the Avalanche on vocals and Sammy Siegler from every single NYHC band that has ever existed Constant Elevation drops their second 7” in less than a year. I’m drawn to this band not only because the members have impressive backgrounds and I’m curious as to what they come up with together, but there’s a also a strong sense of design here that brings to mind 80’s hip-hop (particularly with the band’s logo, which reminds me of old EPMD records for whatever reason) and that always makes me take a second glance (plus they have a song called “KRS Two” if that’s an indication of some cross-influence). The fact that these dudes play fast and catchy hardcore is no surprise, but it honestly comes across more aggressive than I would have imagined, which is a fun surprise. Sammy beats the hell out of his drums like there’s money in them and while Caruana is known for his melodic vocals in his other bands he’s capable of pulling out a pretty tough bark when he wants. They crank out four songs in under seven minutes. “Bob X. Cursion” seems to be the single here as it has the most melodic twists and turns before it closes with a mosh part that will make you tear apart your couch cushions, while opener “I Love You and Never Want You To Die” kind of does the same thing except one hundred times faster. I think, overall, this feels a little closer to Siegler’s other project-ish band World Be Free. Both are rooted in fast and melodic hardcore but I guess Constant Elevation is OK with being a little faster and more aggressive from time to time. Whatever, you have 7 minutes to spare, what have you got to lose? (Revelation)


HEAVY SIGH, “Hard To Care”
Delicate and soothing shoegaze/dreamgaze rock that makes use of some additional instrumentation to separate it from the pack. Heavy Sigh have been quietly doing their thing for a few years now and have a couple of EPs to their credit. This is their first crack at a long-player. At times they remind me of fellow New Jersey emo-rock stalwarts Prawn in their more climatic moments, as well as when they bust out complimentary strings and horns here and there. Furthermore, Heavy Sigh frequently add some synth to their songs, which often creates some cool background texture. Occasionally it makes its way up front, like on the almost darkwave, gothy ballad “That Bad”. Guitarist/vocalist Suzy Forman pushes the dreamy sound of the band with light and breezy vocals. While bands like Nothing are seemingly the leaders of this current wave of bands, with their atmospheric-to-loud stylings, Heavy Sigh tend to keep their ‘heavier’ moments constrained to more of an emotional heft rather than cranking up the distortion and tossing their instruments around (though the paint-peeling climaxes in both “People Pleaser” and “Glare” make an exception). They do a good job of keeping things spacey while making a big sound, as evidenced by the brief and almost acoustic “The First Time I Knew” where Forman’s vocals dominate and truly show her range as a singer. Worth a gander if you dig the current crop of shoegaze-y rock bands out there. (Cult Of Nine)


NARROW HEAD, “12th House Rock”
If you were to take a focus group and a bunch of scientists to come up with a band that perfectly hit every 90’s alt-rock trope from music, to art design, to personal style that lab-grown group would be Narrow Head. Whatever checklist existed to create this made sure to tick off every last box. I saw this group maybe a year or so ago play to a small crowd and I enjoyed what I saw, but did not expect they would gain a whole lot of traction. I kept some tabs on them though and for whatever reason I noticed them getting on huge bills, big festivals, and other random events that led me to believe they had some people behind them. I guess it worked because this record is being issued by the very well-known Run For Cover so more power to the band for getting somewhere. Regardless of what (or who) got them where, this new LP shows the band expanding further upon their throwback alt rock where you can imagine the likes of My Bloody Valentine, early Deftones, and Smashing Pumpkins having a pow-wow, bleaching each others hair, trading Ben Davis shirts for flannels, and comparing their Chuck Taylors to others Airwalks. Someone in that posse probably made someone else a mix tape with glitter hearts on it. I really do enjoy this stuff, particularly the shorter, heavier songs (such as “Crankcase”, “Night Tryst”, and “Hard To Swallow”), but it’s such a simulacrum of what I grew up with that I’m looking over my shoulder wondering if I’m being trolled. I was an impressionable teenager when this stuff first came around and it’s like Narrow Head followed me to Lollapalooza ’95, stole Billy Corgans gear, and then time traveled to 2020 and made this record with it. (Run For Cover)


SISTERS, “Make It Hurt” EP
Sisters, out of the San Diego area, recall just as much about prime mid-90s post-hardcore as they do the somewhat more progressive and mainstream permutations that came out of that sound and into the current era. The members here are true lifers of indie music, having played in a list of punk, hardcore, and rock bands longer than my arm so they’re no strangers to delving into a sound that they were likely there to witness the first time it came around. The fact that there’s a litany of more modern sounds here is both refreshing in its variety, but occasionally not my sound of choice. Additionally, they write relatively lengthier songs and that can sometimes be a little tough for me to keep up with. Strangely enough, it’s the longest track on here, “Say Goodbye”, which is my favorite and the strongest showing in my opinion that keeps a momentum going throughout it’s nearly 6 minute run time. You get one quick rocker (“Open Your Eyes”), and then three additional tracks rounding out this debut EP. (self-released)


SOULSIDE, “This Ship” b/w “Madeleine Said” 7”
There is a chunk of the late-80’s Dischord catalog that I appreciate yet don’t find myself listening to, or have some difficulty getting into. I can name all the bands, but my brain cannot retain a lick of their music. It was the post-Revolution Summer/pre-Fugazi being the biggest band ever era of the label that produced bands like Scream, Beefeater, Grey Matter, and Soulside. All of these bands have their merits, it just didn’t resonate strongly with me like much of the rest of exceptionally diverse Dischord roster. So, to my surprise, when Soulside decided randomly to begin playing some shows again a few years ago after not being a band for like 25 years it seemed unexpected. Most of those dudes had gone on to do the decidedly different Girls Against Boys with a fair degree of success. Why would they need Soulside? Well, regardless of intention they found themselves coming up with a few new songs. And honestly, it fits in fairly well with their back catalog as well. However, now I find myself more readily open to digesting and retaining their music. Chalk it up to getting older and being able to take in different parts of a song, influence, and so forth. That’s not to say Soulside play music that’s over people’s heads, it really isn’t. To a younger listener in 2020 Soulside is basically emotional alternative rock. Maybe in the late 80’s it fit a bit more with punk (because they’re punks), but even to my older ears they sound like a kick-ass late 80’s Sub Pop band. This newer material is a bit more on the nose politically and vocalist Bobby Sullivan’s croon is a bit more wizened and raspy, but still melodic. “This Ship” opens up with some downright dirty feedback and noise but then becomes anchored throughout by a strong bass riff that forms the foundation of the song. “Madeleine Said” recalls a bit more early GVSB with another strong bass riff, but a jangly guitar riding until it bursts into a strong chorus. Sullivan remains relatively calm, yet altogether commanding in his vocals. There is a third song, “Survival” that appears on the download, but not on the actual 7” and it’s a bit more clean than the others and has the most poignant heartstring-pull of the bunch. (Dischord)


SULACO, “The Privilege” EP
I love that unexpectedly these Rochester lifers will bust out another recording every now and again. If you have any familiarity whatsoever with these members previous bona fides there will be no question as to what this will sound like. These dudes are basically architects of the ultra-technical mathy-metal that knows how to insert a groove to keep things exciting. Some of them have been playing together since the early 90s with bands such as Lethargy (pre-Mastodon), and going up to groups like Brutal Truth, Kalibas, and Nuclear Assault. And like their previous material they come up with riffs so sick they would be denied basic healthcare for having pre-existing conditions. Falling within the same sonic territory as other bands that can blend the crazy technical with heavy groove such as Burnt By the Sun/River Black and Soilent Green they just relentlessly hammer out musical piledrivers. Personally, bands that get incredibly technical are often difficult for me to keep my attention on but Sulaco succeed by doing a couple things- they keep the songs short (with the exception of the seven-minute “Warning Signs”) and they have a particular style of laying down those bulldozer riffs that I associate with being completely Rochester, NY. It’s just a thing that my brain tells me is familiar Rochester, NY metal. From years of attending and playing shows in that town they have a few things that belong to them and no one else- garbage plates, House Of Guitars, and those riffs. So take a little time and feel Rochester with a crappy used Krokus t from the H.O.G., a garbage plate, and the new Sulaco EP. (self-released)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

SUMMER'S CLOSED. HERE'S REVIEWS FROM BUMMERLAND

Looking upon this list there's a lot of variety. You got some incredibly indie-leaning stuff, some brutal hardcore, metal, grind, noise rock.... it's as if a small day fest from the 90's came to life in the form of a reviews section! Dang, I miss going to shows....
Anyways, here's a bunch of records that I checked out over the last few weeks. Some of them are really, really good.


ABANDONCY, “Hollow//Living”
This album title is set up kind of like a two-parter and it seems rather fitting because I feel like I’m sort of listening to two different records. I’ll give Abandoncy credit for not falling into an easily-categorized style by trying their collective hand at a few different things, but it does make describing their overall sound a bit challenging. Yet I tend to consider that a good quality. The first few tracks definitely bring a vibe where they’re embracing their Midwest roots with loose and angular indie rock, but mixed with some of the punk energy of groups like Hot Snakes colliding with some screamy post-hardcore chaos akin to what Level-Plane Records was wholesaling us in the early aughts. Halfway through the record, though, they switch gears into far more morose territory with a couple spooky, drawn out tracks that are pretty interesting but worlds apart from the records upbeat first section. They tread full-on into a lonesome acoustic track before closing out the record with the long, slow, and big-sounding “Let the Dead Die In Vain”- think epic riffs followed by some Envy worship. It’s a good tune to go out on, even if it is still a somewhat different beast from where the record began. In a way, while “Hollow//Living” becomes almost too varied it ends up being more of a journey through repeated listens and that’s pretty cool. I give it up to Abandoncy for making the listener put in a little work to meet them where they are, but they also could work towards meeting the listener a little closer too. That cover though… no in-depth discussion needed there. That cover is pure doll-under-the-bed-coming-to-kill-me nightmare fuel. Yikes. (The Ghost Is Clear Records)



BLACKLISTERS, “Fantastic Man”
It’s been a little while but the UK’s Blacklisters have returned with an absolutely massive new record and that makes me a happy person. To be transparent I should mention a couple things- Blacklisters share a member of USA Nails, who I’ve released records for, but I’ve enjoyed Blacklisters before that member change occurred. Also, I have had a demo version of this record for months now because I was approached about releasing it but I had my hands full, so I’m a bit partial. Now that the air is cleared let’s get to this new LP. As I said, it’s wonderful. If you have enjoyed Blacklisters brand of completely off-the-wall chaos before you will be pleased. Sharing the same sort of noisy punk energy and belligerent drunk losing their handle on basic language the more they yell at you (and as the song goes on) style as bands like Pissed Jeans gives a basic foundation of Blacklisters modus operandi. Yet each song sort of feels like it continues to build and build until it just goes off the rails and crashes into the side of a mountain in the best possible sort of way. They’re also big on finding that giant, ugly riff and running it into the ground like on the most excellent title track, as well as on the nauseatingly hypnotic “I Read My Own Mind”. The UK really knows how to do noise rock well, as there are a bevy of great bands past and present showing us dumb Americans how to do it better and Blacklisters are one of the best. (Buzz Howl in the UK, Learning Curve in the US)




BURIED ALIVE, “Death Will Find You” 7”
This is pure nostalgia for me and I am not afraid to admit that. I recall the rumors of this Buffalo supergroup of sorts starting back in 1997 and the hype was justified as even at their first show they totally crushed it. From there they just played anywhere and everywhere and were a constant throughout NY. Their first LP, “Death Of Your Perfect World” remains one of the absolute best hardcore albums of the late 90’s. Everything about it is immediate, intense, and incredibly vicious. So as these dudes re-convene to play a few shows and record a bit of new music the question will always be ‘do they still have it?’ Fortunately, a couple of these dudes never stopped playing crazy hardcore music. Vocalist Scott Vogel has pretty music lived his entire life on a stage and drummer Jesse Muscato continues to play in numerous punk and hardcore bands. While other members have tried their hand at various other styles of music they remember how to write a riff worthy of inclusion into the Buried Alive canon. There are two new songs on here (one is under a minute and the other is a solid 2 minutes of fury), as well as two re-recorded songs from a split 7” they did 20 years ago. The new stuff is consistent with Buried Alive’s fast-to-moshy-slightly metallic leanings, which may sound incredibly redundant for hardcore. But they were always good at throwing in quick and creepy melodic bits, or little curveballs like an unexpected transition or a breakdown that purposefully trips up halfway through to keep things interesting. The only difference between the new versions of the other two songs is basically just a better recording. Whatever the case, I’ll always associate Buried Alive with moshing my godamned brains out and I don’t see why this new stuff cannot inspire that same sort of non-stop animalistic, survival brain behavior. (Bridge 9)




CANYONS, “Stay Buried”
I will always associate Kansas City with some of the best of Midwest indie-emo music of the 90’s. That being said, Canyons (of KCMO), remind you that bands such as Coalesce and Season To Risk also called the region home and offered a much heavier alternative to the earnest, plaintive rock the area is known for. Canyons definitely lay on the heavy and bring to mind more of that busy and chaotic Breather Resist sort of style to their sound. On one end their newest offering is just riff upon riff piled atop one another until it avalanches upon the listener. On the downside there doesn’t feel like a lot of cohesion tying those riffs together and very busy drumming that furthers the chaotic nature of their sound. The positive of that is Canyons write pretty short songs so you don’t need to invest a lot of time figuring it all out. So if you like your music to come right at you, spin you in circles, and then bail out before you have a chance to figure out what just hit you you’ll probably enjoy this. (The Ghost Is Clear Records)



DISSOLVE, “Until the Drugs Wear Off” EP
I can’t believe these dudes are all still alive. Every few years this seemingly unkillable Poughkeepsie, NY band re-emerges like Godzilla from the filthy depths of the Hudson River to drop another record or EP or whatever upon the region and just demolish everything in sight. They’ve been a band for going on nearly 30 years at this point and they just remain consistent in their distaste for humans in general and showing it through crushing sludge riffs, manic vocal ravings, psychedelic metal leads, tons of drum fills, and roots in that Tri-state style of hardcore that considers a triumphant night as opening for Neglect and then doing Camaro burnouts in an abandoned strip mall parking lot before retiring for the night smoking crappy weed in your parents garage/bedroom. The lyrics for any Drug Church song ought to get you in that frame of mind if you’re not already familiar with the region. Dissolve are the unheralded torchbearers/lifers for downstate NY and they completely annihilate with their songs about varying states of mental imbalances, the Inhumans, killing your boss, and wrapping it all up in lines like, “and now you’re going to die here wearing that stupid look on your face” and samples from “Falling Down”. Dissolve have a pretty deep discography and I suggest checking it all out beginning with their ’96 full length “Dismantle”. They took a pretty long break after the early 2000’s, but have been consistently releasing new stuff for the last 3-4 years in the form of several EPs. Expect to see them around ever-so-rarely and expect complete destruction. (Maitsuba Records)



KNOT, s/t
The prolific and steadily-reliable Exploding In Sound record label offered up, several years ago, a record called “A Distant Fist Unclenching” by the Boston-area band Krill. In my humble opinion it remains one of the greatest albums the label has put forth in their deep catalog (bear in mind they have also released every Pile album, so this is a bold proclamation). Shortly afterwards though Krill called it quits and that’s the last we really heard from them. However, Knot has since emerged. Knot is all three members of Krill with an additional second guitarist. So is it the same band/sound? In a lot of ways it certainly is a familiar, and pleasing, return. There remains clean and somewhat math-y guitar leads and tricky drumming with those nervous-to-lackadaisical kind of nasally vocals as only singer/guitarist Jonah Furman can conjure up, as well as a healthy dose of rocking choruses. So yes, the particular traits unique to Krill are present. However, I’d say gone are some of the giant swells that band was known for and, for lack of a better description, heavier rocking parts. In place is an overall cleaner sound to the guitars and a recording that, for whatever reason, makes me think of sounds and tones from the likes of early Talking Heads, Joe Jackson, or Television. Maybe because it’s minimal and heartfelt. There’s no fancy bells and whistles to it. It’s just honest and real. On this debut Knot are playing in a familiar way, but one which disposes of any superfluous additions and sticks with the truest sound they can. And I happen to think it’s very good, so how’s about that for an opinion? (Exploding In Sound)



NO MAN, “Erase”
No Man is Majority Rule with the addition of a fourth member, who does all the vocals. I’m not sure how familiar a younger audience is with Majority Rule, despite them having done a few tours over the last couple years as charity benefits alongside the seemingly more legendary Page 99. However, in the early 2000’s Majority Rule was consistently playing in the Northeast and blowing minds every time they passed through, so they hold a bit more value to me. They had a wonderful take on hardcore, in which they would get lumped in with the ‘screamo’ sect, though I always found them to be way more interesting than that. Either way, under this new banner of No Man they chart a similar path, though I’d say a bit more direct overall. The songs tend to be a little shorter and the bass and guitar rumble a bit heavier, though that could simply be a case of recording choices. On about half the songs there are familiar nods to Matt Michel’s playing in Majority Rule with some of those spooky and unnerving guitar melodies, though as stated, the overall vibe is a bit more straightforward with plenty of fast hardcore parts and mudslide-dense sludge sections to activate your inner mosh goblin. I recall their first LP being a little more direct than this, though this one is a total crusher and I’m stoked to see these three individuals continuing to pound out visceral and engaging music alongside a vocalist who totally does justice to the sounds being laid down. Older Majority Rule fans will assuredly be pleased and it’s a perfectly cromulent release for a younger set to completely flip out over as well. (self-released)



PIG DESTROYER, “The Octagonal Stairway”
Some people have been kind of critical of Pig Destroyer ever since they began the mandatory addition of an additional member every year, bringing them now to around 9 members (14 if you include the grill operator/cook, tambourine player, Scott Hull’s secret government liason, and the person who wipes the sweat from Blake’s electronic gizmos after he’s done jumping around on them). While peak PD for me was “Phantom Limb” I hardly feel as if their material after that was bad in any way. Everything they have done still remains ferocious, incredibly tight, and their experimentation/inventiveness is welcome even if not always my cup of tea. On this EP they may dish out some of their most experimental material yet. The first half remains consistent Pig Destroyer- grinding, fast, vicious, relentless. Once they hit track three, “Cameraman” it slows down just a little to make way for a killer breakdown sure to make you punch yourself in the face repeatedly without even knowing it. Now that I’ve recovered and can type again the second half is weird noise tracks/samples, one of which is named after their last LP (but is a slow creeper of industrial beats and samples), while closer “Sound Walker” takes 11 minutes to drag you through an extended sort of Nine Inch Nails-styled jam session. I can easily say the second half of the EP is impressive as far as constructing sound collages, but it’s not for me. The first half- in the vein we’re all fond of- does a fine job of grinding audio violence sure to please. (Relapse)



PRIMITIVE MAN, “Immersion”
I saw this band once several years ago and they were painfully loud and also painfully boring. I respect the hustle (or in this case, a suffering crawl versus ‘hustling’) of being punishing, slow, and unpleasant. Primitive Man excel at all three. But if you’re looking at all, anywhere here, for a hook, or a song you’ve come to the wrong niche corner of the extreme music world. Oppressive sludgy doom coincides with massive feedback, harsh noise, and garbled screams for over 30 minutes and six tracks of material to bum you the fuck out. I personally have zero interest in this, despite my occasional praise for the heavy, doomy, sludgy, sometimes-almost-not-music offshoot (I give it up for that most recent USA/Mexico record for example) of extremity. Primitive Man just don’t do it for me. But you there- yeah you, the person who hasn’t showered in 4 weeks and has been wearing the same tattered Grief t-shirt and ripped jeans that both somehow find a shade darker than ‘black’, smoking meth in an abandoned car and hanging out with a rat that repeatedly visits to see if you’re dead or not- this is a record specifically made for you as you contemplate whether you actually are dead or not. (Relapse)


Friday, August 7, 2020

USA NAILS TO RELEASE "CHARACTER STOP" THIS FALL, CHECK OUT THE FIRST SINGLE

Yes, it's true, USA Nails are prepared to release their new LP, "Character Stop" this fall through Hex Records.  Following up quickly from last year's most excellent "Life Cinema" comes another volley of post-punk/noise rock catchy rippers.
Hex Records will once again be releasing the record in North America on vinyl (the band will self-release in the UK and Bigout will handle the European pressing), and we're the only label that will be releasing the CD version.  So you can go get a copy now.  The record will officially be out on 10/23/2020.

PRE-ORDER THE RECORD HERE!

For now, here's a taste of the new record.  The band went and made a video for the first track on the record, "Revolution Worker" and you can watch it below.