Thursday, October 2, 2008


That's right. It's only been like a couple weeks since the last batch of reviews. I have decided that I'm going to review less stuff more often, rather than dumping one giant chunk of reviews once a month (or less). I'm think maybe 10 or 12 every couple weeks or something. It's just a lot easier to process that way. It also makes things a little more current. And for serious, 2008 may be shaping up to be a fartbomb in terms of my life overall, but the soundtrack is turning out to be nothing short of stellar. In this here batch, there's a couple of year end favorites easily. A lot of good music this year, thankfully. Read on all ye faithful....

CEREMONY, “Still Nothing Moves You”
This is my first time actually hearing this band after picking up on all the hype. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. I saw a live video of them playing at Sound and Fury last year and didn’t quite understand what all the hype was about. For all I could tell they were playing one note over and over really slow and people were going bonkers the entire time. Their guitarist looked like he was in Mr. Big or something. It was kind of weird. But honestly, my initial observation wasn’t too far off the mark. I just didn’t watch the video long enough to hear the fast parts. Ceremony is basically primal caveman music with some really fast parts and lots of youthful anger. A lot of bands do this and honestly sound naive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. you probably had a shitty, pissed-off punk band when you were 17 too. The difference is Ceremony sound like they’ve all been around the block a few times and just got a lot tighter playing the fast parts, and a lot better at destroying with the slow stuff, all without losing that edge of lyrical hatred. It simply became sharpened into a sword. And they all look like weird dudes. It’s pretty much about not giving a fuck, pounding out plodding riffs, and about zero hooks. One-note slow part, 30 second of fast part, back to one-note slow part, next song. It works for me. The first few songs on here are probably the best and the lyric encouraging listeners to “fuck the government with your fist” might be the best line I’ve heard all year. I’m sold. (Bridge 9,


Is it me, or is the whole thrash revival thing getting a little tired at this point? I mean, no one will argue that Municipal Waste brought it back with a vengeance. But nearly every band that followed suit (that wasn’t one of the original groups making a comeback) seemed to just sort of aping what the Waste was doing. Sure, it’s a lot of fun, especially if you’re a stoner and love beer. Hell, for metalheads into skateboarding this must be a great time. Still, I don’t think I need to hear another party-thrash band to be totally honest. I get it. You write bad lyrics about partying hard, raiding people’s fridges, and living life straight out of “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” or “Weird Science”. While this band does the usual schtick- fast thrash, lots of guitar solos, a hefty dose of metal- they have added an extra. I believe this record comes along with a comic book (at least I got one) created by the band called “Tales From the Keg”. Again, nothing shocking in this book. It’s like reading a thrash record. It’s drawn quite well, and has some funny moments. It’s a nice bonus I guess. But again, you hear one thrash band you’ve basically heard them all. They’re just having fun, not trying to reinvent the wheel here of course. (Organized Crime Records,


Ya know, I never really gave a good listen to Fantomas. It certainly seems like a good idea- Faith No More dudes, Melvins dudes, Slayer dudes... how could that spell trouble? Well, if you look closely at those letters it really spells patience. Or so I learned while making my way through this live DVD of a London performance the Fantomas did with an added Melvin (second drummer Dale Crover) in tow. It takes a long time to get going as they open with “Sacrifice”, an extremely slow and building seance of droning evil. At first it was really annoying, but then it became pretty fucking cool. For Melvins fans they dive into “Night Goat”, “Hooch”, “Pigs Of the Roman Empire”, and more. Those songs sound excellent, what with the extra guitars, extra drums, and added vocals and effects courtesy of Mike Patton. But all this Fantomas stuff gets up in the jam which is really a mixed bag. Some of it is pretty damn cool, making good use of Patton’s wild effects and vocals. Some of it is pure masturbatory hogwash, basically dicking around for what feels like hours while he does his weird vocal schtick and the other members get to play along with it. I’ll admit though, “Electric Long Thin Wire” (in which a member simply runs what’s probably a straightened-out slinky through various distortion pedals and whips it around to and fro for awhile, creating some insane noises) was interesting to watch, regardless of it’s rather pointless addition to the set. The sound is captured quite well, though watching the whole ordeal isn’t anything mind-blowing (well, aside from how tight they all play). It’s really too long for me, though I know hardcore fans will probably be lining up around the block to check out every nuance of the spectacle. Maybe if they shortened it to half as long and tossed out some of those more pointless throwaway songs I’d be way more into it. (Ipecac,

HAND TO HAND, “Breaking the Surface”

I know this is only five songs, but I couldn’t make it past track three. I just couldn’t take it. I’ve heard a million carbon-copy bands all doing this exact same thing time and time again and none of it even comes close to impressing me whatsoever, other than the frighteningly large amount of Pledge that’s creating Antarctica-sized holes in the ozone layer being sprayed like so much man batter at a porno convention in order to polish these audio turds. Seriously. Does anyone need another band playing ‘aggressive’ pop-hardcore with vocals pitch shifted into oblivion? Not me, that’s for sure. Nice artwork though. (Lifeforce,

HELMS ALEE, “Night Terror”

Here it is. Top five of the year, easy. This is everything I could have wanted from this Seattle trio. This is everything anyone should want from music, period. OK, so maybe it’s not fast (and some people like that sort of thing). But christ, I’ll be damned if didn’t begin kicking the shit out of me from the moment I put it on. I was such a huge fan of Harkonen when they were around and Ben Verellen’s unmistakable mark is all over this and then some. I think this band has really succeeded in pulling off an amazing collection of songs for this first full length. They combine all the low-toned massive bass thunder of KARP and Harkonen. Ben’s well-worn howl adds distinction while Dana and (or?) Hozoji provide more soothing vocals to accompany his, making an excellent dichotomy that goes right along with the beautiful winding melodies that recall the best moments of Unwound. Yes, the Northwest is alive and well and taking cues from itself to evolve into greater beasts, Helms Alee being the best and brightest of this new pack of huge, lumbering beauties. “A New Roll” ambles along slowly and doesn’t need a whole lot of riffing to be one of the largest-sounding and prettiest songs in their arsenal, while “Big Spider” does the exact opposite. It kicks right in with a snaking, creepy riff, shouted and mean before the calm. They reprise three songs from the Rome Plow 12”, all of which feel fitting to the overall picture, despite sounding pretty much exactly the same. The entire affair ends with the piano-driven “Wild Notes”.. an off-kilter and slightly uneasy feeling retreating back to the hills. Just as the cover art depicts- a smoky mountain either nearing dawn, or delving into dusk the music gives a similar feel. Tense and slightly creeped out by the loneliness of the back country, but overwhelmed by it’s majesty and beauty at the same time. What a great first full length, I can’t stop listening to this. (Hydrahead,

HILL, ZACH, “Astrological Straits” 2xcd

Holy fucking shit, how much drugged-out, meth-fueled, insane clitter-clatter of warped and deranged ‘art’ can one take? OK, you’re easily one of the craziest drummers on Earth. You play like you have eight arms and six feet. Your style does not suggest grind or prog, but rather some sort of messy bastard hybrid of both with no clear path or rhythm, just non-stop berating of the drums where listeners basically have to just scratch their heads and accept the mind-numbing beating they are receiving. Now add piles of odd guitar noodling, lots and lots of computer blips and bleeps, garbled vocals, and one sweet cameo by Les Claypool and you get... fuck, I really have no idea. It’s like I put this on, dropped out of life for awhile, entered a fourth dimension, and re-emerged still having no fucking clue what just happened. Oh wait, and then there was disc two! Great! A CD with one song spanning like 20 minutes or something (hell, it could have been 3 hours, I seemed to have fallen out of the spectrum of time again) of more random dicking around at light speed. I don’t know if this is good. I don’t know if it’s bad. I’m pretty sure drugs would only make things worse because I already feel like I’m doing them while listening to this. It almost makes a Hella record (of which Zach Hill is one half) feel like easy listening. Well, maybe there’s some pretty comprehensible moments, like the riff running through “Dark Arts” and the title track. But after listening to this I really just want to feel normal again. (Ipecac,


This is one of those reads that sort of takes you everywhere and goes nowhere at the same time. Adam Gnade sure does have a way with prose, and paints very strong pictures of the American landscape, both in terms of geography and the people who inhabit it. On the other hand, this book really has no central plot, a loose set of characters, and sort of goes whichever direction it feels like at any given time. The point of it all is that the author has a love/ hate relationship with his home state of California (in particular san Diego) and finds himself, often with cohorts in tow, criss-crossing the nation to explore living in other towns. In the end, as much as California makes no sense at all, it’s home and it calls him home. Of course, this is all sort of scattershot like “On the Road” meets “Natural Born Killers” (with less blood and more drugs). It does paint an excellent picture of middle America and places you may or may not have driven through at one point, and makes it feel all pretty relative. You never quite know when it is, exactly when the characters are existing, how long they stayed somewhere, or how they got there. Little anecdotes about completely random things are thrown here and there to mix it up, but then again, the whole book is sort of mixed up. I’m very impressed with Gnade’s language, yet following the whole book proves to be considerably difficult. (Dutchmoney,

INVINCIBLE SUMMER, vol. 2, by Nicole Georges

Nicole Georges is clearly a gifted artist, but her ongoing comic zine clearly is presented with a sort of ‘to hell with consistency’ attitude in regards to always flaunting this talent. Some pages are drawn with great attention to detail, while some have a more rushed approach (going so far as to have her character state in a number of pages how there were no fine pens with which to draw herself, yet going ahead with things regardless). Basically, this second collection of her long-running comic zine is more or less about her day-to-day activities, which somehow make the extremely mundane and typical feel entertaining. I mean, I’m not sure how numerous repeats of ‘made breakfast, went to work, hung out with friends, made a joke, played with dog’ became a real page turner for me. It just did. It’s not all boring though. There are a couple of tour diaries (both with a band, as part of the Sister Spit reading tour) that proved to be engaging and full of excitement. While I did find this pretty entertaining there’s certain things about Invincible Summer that go right over my head, and sometimes into the realm of annoyance. Usually all the bitter relationship stuff is sort of whatever to me, and I’m neither entertained nor phased by it. But some of the PC/ social things kind of annoy me, especially when elsewhere through these pages instances of double standards pop up. It’s a trivial thing. Also, being a hetero male I just have some typical male things about that don’t exactly process some of the more apparent feminine things here. I’m just a dude, what am I going to do? Altering halter tops to fit better means nothing to me. Otherwise, a mostly fun read. (Microcosm,

JESU, “Why Are We Not Perfect”

So I think Jesu is almost at their quota for records released this year... what are they up to? Three? Four? They might have to try and squeeze out a couple more before Christmas just to stay on top of things ya know. This one might be cheating though because a few of these songs were already on the split with Eluvium and one track is a remix of the title track. I really hate remixes and I especially dislike when Justin Broaderick does them basically because 1.) it’s like he remixes band’s music by the gross, and 2.) he applies the same formula to all of them, glossing them all over to have that fuzzy, glowing fat Jesu sound to them. Thus, on this new EP there is even more progression towards the dreamy snythy pop that’s been worming it’s way deeper into the core of the Jesu empire with each release. This may have finally sealed the deal as pretty much nothing on this sounds organic and all of it feels like one slow pop blip. Sorry, I’m a guy who likes big guitars in fat songs and really thought Broaderick was on top of his game with the first Jesu record. Call me a stodgy stubborn jerk who can’t accept change, but hey, I like what I like and this doesn’t do anything for me. These dudes can change all they want, more power to them. Why get caught up in what everyone else is doing, right? Stay a step ahead of the game and leave the copycats in the dirt yeah? Fine. I’ll be at home getting my face leveled with “Friends Are Evil” (Hydrahead,

SEARCH/ RESCUE, “The Compound”

In all honesty, when I first give this a spin I wasn’t really listening and something in me enjoyed it. Perhaps it was because I was working tediously on something and this music was easy to ignore. Plus, it was pretty relaxed, so it made me feel better. But now that I’ve had a chance to really check it out and give it a good listen I’m kinda wondering, ‘should I like this?’ It’s really not my typical fare, and a bit too polished for my tastes. Yet, it definitely has that very soaring and chill rock feel that’s easy to relax to. For the mainstream rock fan in you this may be somewhat refreshing. For the dirty punk rocker with guilty pleasures, put this on when you’re busy cleaning out your bathroom or something. (Eyeball Records,

TAKKA TAKKA, “Migration”

Over the years I’ve been bombarded almost constantly with heavy music. It has most certainly been of my own choosing, but now it pretty much seems that it’s my lot in life. So when I get a record to review that is anything but ‘heavy’ I tend to take great joy in dissecting and analyzing the subtle contents therein. It’s just a nice change of pace. Takka Takka is a band I’d never heard of before I got this and not is this a pretty mellow record, it’s got a lot of really cool elements going on that I was hardly expecting. Since I’m a pretty old dude it brings me back to the simple and strange beauty in a Talking Heads song, or even bits and pieces of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” (stay with me here). I suppose for a more current example you could point the confused in the direction of a band like Vampire Weekend (what little I’ve actually heard of that band) for a suitable comparison. You get a lot of quiet pretty voices, bouncy funk rhythms eased with the help of light guitar, piano, and bells. It’s very nice indeed yet still kinda rocks in a real subtle way. I gave this a few listens, most of which while on a porch sipping coffee on a beautiful day, which I guess is a perfect place to listen to this and relax and love life for a few minutes. Either that or while in Ikea picking out a bedroom arrangement. Whatever gets your rocks off. Takka Takka- the band for nice sounds on a nice day or for corporate slavery shopping music. (Ernest Jennings Record Company,

THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES, “Tail Swallower and Dove”

Right off the bat, I think the singer of this band has one of the most annoying and contrived stage personas I’ve ever witnessed. It drives me up the fucking wall to see this dude ‘freak out’ and get all crazy during their set when it looks so rehearsed and lame. And then they got some press photo for this new record and dude is sporting one of those shitball 70’s mustaches that are pretty much the exclusive domain of douchebags. Seriously, this had better be a fucking great record so I can overlook all the other shit. I mean, the last time I saw them play I had to bail halfway through because I just couldn’t take that dude anymore. Well, it’s been a long time since I heard this band (the split with Harkonen being the last) and I gotta say, this is a pretty good friggin’ record. From note one it sounds like they went back to 1995, nabbed a couple Quicksand riffs and a lot of delay and made one spanking good song out of it. From there it definitely sticks to a rock solid good vibe with every possible guitar effect ever made making an appearance at one point or another. Something that had sort of thrown me in the past about this band was their tendency to kind of meander with no real rhyme or reason in the middle of a good riff. They seem to have that under control pretty well here. They still do it, but in a much more tasteful way that adds great tension if anything. Songs like “Prince Squid” are more straight ahead with a catchy riff going through most of the song before exploding into some Botch-esque thunder at the end. “Ethric Double” is the longest track here, starting off with a sort of proggy first couple minutes before creeping ever-so-subtly into this sinister single riff for the next five minutes that just builds and builds into this evil rock monster sound. It proves to be the strongest moment on the whole record. It’s only on “Cavity Carousel” where things kind of turn into this semi-disco sound (OK, maybe Death From Above 1979) what with the singy vocals and fancy bass riff where I’m slightly turned off. but otherwise, I’m not really sure what these cats have been up to in the last couple of years, but I’m totally OK with putting this one on repeat over and over again. (Suicide Squeeze,


I’ll take the apocalypse, thanks. Bands that just show off their chops without any songwriting skills don’t do it for me. Over produced breakdowns and lots of noodly riffing aren’t my game. If it is your game you’ll probably like it just as much as you like all the hundreds of other bands that sound exactly like this. There must be a machine in a factory somewhere that just spits these bands out from some complicated metalcore diagram. They toss out defects that don’t have enough double bass, or slick enough production, or something. I’m gonna find that factory someday and take a poop in it so the bands sound more like Misery Index or something... ya know, at least with some grime on them. I don’t know... maybe I’ll just take an axe to it. The layout of this thing looks like it could have been by the guy who does all the stuff for Solid State and it’s a clever mash-up of cultural landmarks and some not-so-nice things. The Eiffel Tower power lines thing was neat. At least they had one good idea here. (Lifeforce,


I don’t really have any frame of reference for Ken Dahl’s comics, but apparently this dude has been at it for quite some time. This half-sized book collects a bunch of these various strips that involve a few different art styles, some reoccurring characters, and generally a lot of self-deprecating humor. I’m definitely into it. Some if it is rather discomforting and a little childish. Yet it’s like that really sad, ‘I’m glad I’m not this guy!’ sort of funny at times. This is most evident with the reoccurring Gordon Smalls character, who does painfully dumb ‘skillshares’, gets arrested (my experience wasn’t quite the same, but not far off), harkens for his youth in really pathetic ways, and generally just doesn’t get it. I think I preferred the self-contained shorts, particularly the Army sign-up (featuring Beetle Bailey characters) and the ‘fuck Reagan’ strip. Hilarious. There are also a number of shorts which clearly feature Dahl himself and some of the situations he falls into. While entertaining they show some serious arrested development in terms of maturity for a grown man. The artwork is overall solid, the read is good, and while not everything entertained me thoroughly it was fun and that’s what matters. (Microcosm,

YOUNG WIDOWS, “Old Wounds”

Simplify! Simplify! That’s what they say and Young Widows have taken this cue with great aplomb. With each release these guys have done (going back to Breather Resist days) they have slowly simplified their music to get more action out of a simple riff than trying to pack as much as humanly possible into each song with part after part. No way. This is the way to go. I mean, when you have a bass tone as huge as Nick Thineman you really don’t want to overplay. And he gets this. Just come up with one really good line and plays the shit out of it, one good one per song. His foundation (along with drummer Jeremy McMonigle’s unique pounding) is so thick and sinewy those Jesus Lizard guys would be proud. While the influence is extremely clear Young Widows definitely rise into their own, paying homage more than simply aping older bands. Evan Patterson’s guitar work is a bit more reserved overall, but strikes appropriately when needed, doing sonic damage through various weird effects on “21st Century Invention” and huge slide pick riffing on the closer (and probably best YW song to date) “Swamped and Agitated”. There’s a great noodling riff that forms the hook on “Old Skin”, regardless of the shortness of the song. Another element that YW have really honed in on with this record is the power of their voices. Historically, they have relied on huge riffs, big sounds, big gear, and keeping the vocals secondary. But now that both Nick and Evan have had a couple years to really figure out their voices they have made them a source of catchy lines and hooks to complement their electrified instruments. This is apparent on “The Heat Is Here” where the title is repeated quite often throughout the song and on “Let Him Be”, a thumping driving tune that suddenly turns downright evil halfway through with another slithering bass riff and the repeated diatribe of ‘he knows love” drawled out slowly. To me it’s all fucking great. No doubt I’ll wear the record out before the end of the year, as it’s been a constant on the turntable since I got it. (Temporary Residence,

ZOZOBRA, “Bird Of Prey”

Years and years ago I could pretty much pick up a Hydrahead Records release and know I was in for a good time based solely on the label’s track record. As time went on it became a little more difficult to guess what I was in for as the label branched out and began releasing a lot more weird and fucked up stuff. In my opinion that’s a good thing, even if I’m not necessarily moved at all by some of the stuff Hydrahead has released in the last few years. It’s good to screw with the public and throw something bizarre in their general direction. Yet lately I’m starting to feel they are certainly moving back towards predictability in a small way. It wasn’t until I listened to the new Zozobra record that I realized there was a similar thread running through a number of recent releases that was very familiar- Torche, Clouds, Helms Alee, Big Business, Melvins. They all have that bottomless filthy bass crunch, the rock solid riffing, soaring and commanding vocals... it starts to run together a bit after awhile. Now this may sound like I’m complaining, and I don’t want it to come off that way. I really like all the bands I just mentioned. It just seems like a lot of bands are going with this flow lately, it’s simply an observation. So with that, the new Zozobra, which is essentially Caleb Scofiled (Cave-In) laying waste to a studio with his subatomic riff parades follows suit with what he had going with their last offering. I’d say this doesn’t quite hold up to the last full length, but it’s not bad. It sounds pretty short though. I got a promo of this which was pretty bereft of information so I’m not quite sure who else is playing on this, but I definitely hear some guests here and there so I know he’s got company here. In summation, if you were a fan of Old Man Gloom and the last Cave-In record (which I think Scofield had a big hand in writing) you will most definitely appreciate the bombasts of huge riffing going on here. (Hydrahead,

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