Friday, November 21, 2008


I returned from Florida and worked on stuff. Then I immediately left for tour. Since Monday I've been trying to get these done and catch up with things. So here's the newest reviews. Unless there's some other noteworthy news I'll be posting up year's end best of lists from myself and others associated with the label!

AKIMBO, “Jersey Shores”

If you’re a band that has essentially been churning out the same tune for the last 10 years I can see how trying something new might appeal to you. For Seattle’s Akimbo they’ve been honing their Melvins- KARP-classic rock worship to a fine beer-fueled
point over four full lengths and a few EPs with generally pleasing results. It’s sort of in the AC/DC approach to things- they’ve been making the same record for 25 years now and it works for them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Akimbo seemed to be on that route as well, up until releasing this record. On “Jersey Shores” they have opted to make a concept record based around an incident in 1916 where an unusually high amount of shark attacks occurred on the Jersey shore in the space of about two weeks. The songs all pretty much flow together and are bound by meandering interludes, or droning heaviness. Honestly, it just sounds like a regular Akimbo record (which is great) where every song is exceptionally longer due to the interludes that weave the songs together (which feels sort of unnecessary to me). It’s an interesting story line to pursue, and the same chugging mountain rock-hardcore is still there in spades (the opening riff of “Rouge” and “Great White Bull” stand out in particular)... you just get all this extra stuff in-between that turns six songs into 45 minutes. As far as an Akimbo release goes it’s all good. As far as the experiment goes I’m rather indifferent to it’s presence. (Neurot,


I’m not sure why I thought this, but I kind of imagined both these bands being a little more on the pop-punk side. Don’t ask why, I just did. The Benard dudes, at one point, were going to help my band out with a show down in Georgia, but then we had to bail and I felt bad because they seemed really cool. Then I saw them in Florida and it was the complete opposite of what I thought they were going to be, which is cool. Plus, their singer looked to be about 12 years old. Either way, the two songs they drop on this split are solid, and tight emotional hardcore that reminds me of mid-to-late 90’s Wreck-Age Records stuff mixed with some early Boy Sets Fire. I’m pretty into it. Worn In Red, on the flip side, aren’t really getting at me. They have one song, and it’s pretty long, and sort of just drags on and on through some early 90’s style emo stuff that could have been on the less hectic end of an Ebullition compilation. Both bands seem to be coming from the right frame of mind in terms of direction and execution, my tastes just happen to fall more into what Benard is doing rather than Worn In Red. (Alaska Records,


There’s something about this band that makes me so ridiculously happy. Maybe it has something to do with each member being a really great person to hang with. Or that how it seemed that no matter where I was during The Fest weekend in Florida I saw at least one of them actively checking out other bands all the time. Or maybe it’s because when they play it’s with such conviction and intensity, and everyone just feels the energy... it’s like a big pow wow of good vibes. I can’t place it. Regardless, it’s things like what I mentioned that made me instantly pick up their first 7” though I was a bit let down by a lackluster recording that just didn’t do their live show justice. So on this full length they certainly get a good recording, but again, I just don’t think there’s any way that this band will be able to capture just how captivating they are live on record. You just have to be there, because listening to Bridge and Tunnel can be a huge difference. They rely on mostly slower tempos with lots and lots of weaving guitar interplay, somewhat morose male/female vocals trade-off’s (the lyrical content generally goes back to a glass half-full attitude in quite the anthemic manner), lots of tremolo and delay effects as well, and kind of progressive song structures. So, to some, it might seem boring. Yet when they play live it’s like getting the biggest rush of inspiration to just rock out, sing along, and feel good about things. There are a few songs on here that have that quality of sounding a little dull on record but come across well live. And then there’s the ones that come across amazing both on record and especially live, like opener “Wartime Souvenirs” and the entire B-side (particularly “Down For My People Like Jim Carroll” and “Grace For These Wayward Hearts”). I don’t want to bash the recording because it is recorded really well. And I definitely recommend getting this record if you’re into a good emo band (yeah I said it) that actually has something worthwhile to say. But live- that’s where you have to see them to really know just how awesome they are. (No Idea,


The first song is great (it’s more of an intro) and so is the last one (not counting the bonus track). Everything sandwiched in-between isn’t doing it for me. Then again, I’ve never been a huge fan of overtly hectic bands like Neil Perry and Ampere. As entertaining as they usually are to see live on record it just seems like they’re lacking any structure to their songs and tend to just play as crazy as they can with as many disjointed parts as they can cram into 45 seconds. Capsule most definitely fit this mold, although they make it worse by adding a couple of really long, slow, and dull noisy songs right in the middle of this. I guess I’m into the first and last track quite a bit because they both tend to break the cycle here with a more direct and heavy approach. I know a lot of people are getting wacky over this band right now, but it’s just not for me. This is another recording that comes in the 12” only format, accompanied by a CD with it and it looks really slick. (Robotic Empire,

CREATURE, “No Love In Hell” CDEP
I’m a little late to the game here because this has been out for a while now, and I’ll admit, I passed it up for a long time because let’s be honest- the artwork on this sucks. It’s really bad. On the other hand, Creature, a side project for a few Syracuse dudes involved in a few other bands here, rocks pretty thoroughly. These guys wanted to start a horror-punk band and they have done it well. They offer up 6 songs that clearly stem from some Misfits love, but musically fall more into 90’s SoCal punk territory- a little Bad Religion, a little older Pennywise, and a bit of hardcore too of course. So forget what it looks like, go with what it sounds like instead... which is good. (Punk Buttons,

CRIME IN STEREO, “Selective Wreckage”

An odds and sods collection from this group who are planning numerous releases within the next year. They basically re-invented themselves for their last full length, which I guess people are pretty split over, and on this collection (which is a lot of out takes from that full length, as well as some material from a never released split from the same time period) you’re apt to find songs that are in that vein. It’s still real melodic punk with a heavy nod towards mainstream acceptance. Shit, a couple of these songs could be Fallout Boy b-sides. The rest of it sort of feels like older Saves the Day (i.e.- bad Lifetime) to me. I’m not really selling this, am I? Well, to some people that might sound like the next best thing to sliced bread. To me it’s not really doing it. (Bridge 9,

CRUEL HAND, “Prying Eyes”

I first watched this band when they played a basement in the suburbs to about five people. Regardless of the somewhat odd setting they still played like they had just each downed a six-pack of energy drinks and were bouncing off the walls. It wasn’t too much longer before they were on tour with Bane and playing to a few hundred kids every night. People seemed to really like them then. I guess it’s pretty entertaining. For some reason I remember them playing a lot faster live than on this record. On here it feels like the band is going way more into a NYHC vibe, which isn’t a bad thing. It simply feels like direct and to the point hardcore rather than something that’s knocking me flat on my ass. And don’t be fooled by the cover. This thing looks like it could be the new Wino side-project, or some Deep Purple B-sides collection or something. Nothing like fucking with people’s expectations huh? (Bridge 9,

DEATHCYCLE, “Prelude To Tyranny”

For one reason or another I had initially thought this band was some crusty thrash band, probably based upon their logo, album artwork, and name. While maybe a little of that creeps into their music this sounds way more like good New York and Long Island hardcore in the style of Sheer Terror and Kill Yr Idols. In fact, I’m wondering if some KYI personnel are in this band? Maybe, maybe not? Regardless, it fucking rips in the best possible way that true NYHC can. Deathcycle have a much more straightforward political persuasion to their lyrics, mostly focusing on current issues like the war, repression of civil liberties, and media/government collusion. Geez, this really sounds a lot like Sheer Terror. Great stuff. I’m sure these guys are a wrecking ball live. (Lifeline Records,


It’s a good thing when a record is really hard to describe, yet you just want to keep listening to it. That’s the case with Gods and Queens, the new project from ex-Lickgoldensky personnel. Actually, it’s pointless to mention the ex-member thing because this sounds nothing like that band, other than being loud. The band actually describe themselves quite well- mentioning an affinity for DC-area bands and psychedelic shoegazer rock all at once and “failed at every attempt” to “blatantly rip them off”. That works pretty good for me. I guess you can see some of the ideas in place for sweet melodies, gigantic post-hardcore droning, and some upbeat (albeit strange) riffing. I really, really like this. There are no lyrics and all of the 7 songs on here are untitled. I suppose you’re supposed to just take this as it is and that certainly does count for a lot for a group simply trying to just rock the shit out of your face in a rather undefinable, yet vaguely familiar sort of way. Bands like Helms Alee and Young Widows make for good reference material, not because they all sound alike, but because each are taking post-hardcore into new territory. I like where it’s going. The format for this is a 12” with a CD included. (Robotic Empire,

LA DISPUTE, “Somewhere At the Bottom Of the River Between Vega and Altair”

Good lord, I really wanted to like this band, but could this singer possibly have his nuts crammed further into his stomach? It sounds like the pimply-faced teenager from the Simpsons after a bottle of NyQuil getting wacky at open mic night night at the local poetry den. After one listen where I was only half paying attention I thought things were going to be alright once I gave it a solid listen, but upon that more attentive spin I couldn’t make through all 13 songs I have to admit. Occasionally the music breaks into some pretty solid heavy rock parts that pull the listener in and remind me a bit of later Refused, though a lot of times the group opts for some bastard mix of dancey rock and noodley emo bits. Whew, this one’s a doosy. I think I’m the wrong guy to hand this to. (No Sleep Records,

MINNOW, “Thirteen Wrongs”

If this had come out in the 80’s it would most certainly have been considered a bitchin’ punk/ hardcore record. And since the members of this band came from that era, it may seem like just that to them. But since it is now closing in on 2009 music like this is considered indie rock. Don’t ask me when it changed over, it just did. That being said I think Minnow is a pretty rad band playing a style that may have been left to the wayside ages ago, the kind of music that makes younger kids scratch their noggins in confusion because they cannot simply categorize it right away. While vocalist Rob Pennington’s (Endpoint, By the Grace Of God, Black Cross) signature yelp is immediately noticeable he channels it in new ways- softer spoken, almost singing at times, and not so immediately in your face. It works well for him. The rest of the band plays with clean-sounding guitars often, evoking something akin to early Sonic Youth, minus all the crazy tunings. Occasionally female vocals enter the picture and are harsh and strained. While this Louisville band’s full length is good it does feel like it carries on a little too long. Each of the 13 songs here are good, but I feel like it would have bowled me over more if they kept it a solid 10... meh, semantics. Overall, pretty cool for those looking for a sound from about 25 years ago refreshed for today. (Noise Pollution,

MISERY INDEX, “Traitors”
Death metal is a tough genre for me to differentiate one band from another. I can spot a few of them, but chances are if I were to be handed a blank CD with various death metal bands on it and asked to guess who they were I’d probably be batting about .100... if that (for those unaware of baseball stats that’s not very good). With that Misery Index does separate themselves from the pack, and it’s primarily in their very overt political stances/ lyrics. Additionally, it feels like Misery Index comes from a punk background, despite all the blast beats and tech metal winding it’s way through this new full length. To this guy, who doesn’t really listen to death metal, it’s not going to stick in my brain. But if I were a death metal dude I’d probably be all over this. (Relapse,


There’s a number of things going on with this band that I guess don’t particularly match up with stereotypes associated with presentation, sound, and background that invariably go together. It’s really not a big issue, but perhaps worth mentioning. At first, seeing a couple of the early 7”s from this band I just assumed they were some spazzy hardcore band since the artwork on their records looked like it could have come from a Combatwoundedvetern LP (similar weird artwork adorns this new record, though completely different artists and it looks really cool). Secondly, this has ex-members of Discount in it so one would naturally think that some bouncy and catchy pop punk was in order. Not exactly so. Finally, throw out those last two things I talked about because Monikers don’t really sound at all like what one would expect based on those things. As far as song structure goes this is similar to the straight-ahead rocking punk of Dillinger 4, though a bit more loose. Some of it feels like Blitz just a bit with how catchy it is as well. The vocals have an almost snotty, strained screech to them as well that feels kind of out of place, but I guess it works. Overall, a decent record that throws a wrench into expectations and results in something all their own (Kiss Of Death Records,

OLEHOLE, “Holemole”

Alright, just to get it out of the way, it’s pronounced ‘O-lay Ho-lay’ and the record is pronounced ‘ho-lay mo-lay’ . Got it? Moving right along, I heard about this group because a friend from Burial Year is playing with them and if you were familiar with that group forget about comparisons. If you weren’t well... you won’t need to know about them in order to understand this. What you get instead is some good post-hardcore rocking. Although that’s fairly general it’s about as accurate as I can get. For the most part it rocks rather mid-tempo, though sometimes really slow (like the heavy plodding throughout “Union Plague”). It’s as if dudes who really connected with mid-90’s post-hardcore on their side of the country (the left coast that is) kept that in mind when writing for this band, and simply added the modern twist of current technology to the recording process. I dig it. I don’t dig it like my life depended on listening to it, but I certainly enjoy it and like where they’re coming from in terms of their sound. (Underground Communique Records,


Yeah, these are death metal bands, how did you guess? With the song titles and descriptions I figure they either like Carcass a lot or they’re joking around. I mean, it’s sort of hard for me not to laugh a little when a band adds, “45 RPMS of malformed hate doused in embalming fluid” to the credits. As far as the bands go, Putrescence is a bit rough around the edges, going with some low-tuned chugging that, for lack of a better description, reminds me a bit of Disembodied except more metal. Their side sounds surprisingly loud for vinyl (even though the drums sound way too low in the mix and the snare is incredibly weak) and the needle was actually skipping a bit. My guess is perhaps some vinyl mastering was left out of the plan? The flip side has I Die Screaming and I gotta say, it’s not my bag. It’s very screechy techy death metal. I just don’t really get into that at all. They’ve got one of those logos that just look like a bunch of sharp twigs jumbled together. The package is pretty nice- some cool sleeve artwork and hazy green vinyl. Time for you death metal dudes to get a turntable. (Eschaton Indistries,

SERIOUS GENIUSES, THE, “You Can Steal the Riffs, But You Can’t Steal the Talent”

This is getting to be a reoccurring scenario, but... there I was, at The Fest... ya know, that thing in Florida. I was waiting to see Amateur Party and I showed up to the venue early. There was this band playing and they weren’t really going off or anything, but they were just killing it. They sounded awesome and I had to find out who they were. I checked my schedule real quick to find out that it was The Serious Geniuses. What kind of name is that? Their closing song had this great riff going throughout it and sounded so fun and upbeat. Afterwards I found the drummer and asked if the song was on their full length or 7”. He said he didn’t remember, but remembered the name of the song, which I thought was strange. I was in money reserve mode because I’m poor, but by the end of the weekend found myself with a few extra bucks and picked up the LP from the Kiss Of Death distro and when I got home I found the CD waiting for me in the mail for review. I know, this is a great story, right? Well, it gets better because I listened to it... on both formats. And it’s still good. And while that one song that caught me when I saw them remains the best on the record (“Mark Attack” just in case you’re wondering) the rest of the record flows in a sort of Superchunk sort of way, except maybe a little less crafty... a little more simple. Either way, it’s a good rock record with some minor indie and punk flourishes out of the Boston area. I’m hooked on the hooks and picking up what they’re laying down. plus, how about that record title? (Kiss Of Death,

TEENAGE COOL KIDS, “Queer Salutations”

An excellent record from start to finish. It’s not quite like this came out of left field because I had a friend recommend them to me, and then when I had the chance to see them I totally pursued it because of the hype built off the recommendation. And I gotta say, when I saw them it was the perfect setting for what they were doing- it was a sleepy and warm Sunday morning (it might have been noon at that point) in someone’s backyard and this band just busted out with something that was both fun and relaxing to hear, yet totally exhilarating at the same time. In order to properly describe this release I’ll have to jump back to the 90’s and use a term that I haven’t thought of in a long time and that would be ‘slacker rock’. Hearing Denton, Texas’ Teenage Cool Kids is like a lo-fi Pixies meeting up with Pavement, even though a few have mentioned that they think they sound a lot like Built To Spill. I wouldn’t really know because I don’t listen to that band. Labels and comparisons aside this is such a good listen from the simple songs, leads and melodies all over the place, and sort of nasally vocals that speak of a spot in that in-between time of still being young at heart, but jaded with the world at large. That time when you’re supposed to be all grown up but you don’t quite know just what the hell you’re going to do with yourself yet. Strangely romantic songs like “Sleeper Hold”, “Awkward Type Of Girl”, and “Reasons Why” straddle the fence between being sweet and ironically cruel. Still, “Write Back Soon” makes hipster hate pretty straight-forward: “Look at you hipster dude/ But I guess that’s what you want/ “Hold my Pabst?”/ Kiss my ass/ Move to Brooklyn or Vermont/ Get tattoos, Nike shoes/ Tell us exactly how you feel in a zine of poetry..” finishing up with the whole lot “embracing devolution”. Very nice. The music is great, the vocals may get some getting used to for some but I love them, and the lyrics are wonderful. What a great band to discover. Glad I took the recommendation. (Protagonist Music,


I’m really reminded of hometown ear-rattlers Engineer and Virginia legends Majority Rule when checking out They and the Children. They seem to take many of the heavy influences of those bands and stretch them out to make their own brand of churning and messy hardcore sludge. Bits of the most abrasively droning elements of Neurosis collide with face-peeling crust from His Hero Is Gone and somehow work nicely into a cohesive whole. The eight songs here on this full length will pull you in, punch you in the gut, and hang around just long enough where they don’t quit too early, or bore you with their longevity. Each song seems to take the time it needs to shake your skull and ruin your hearing. Well executed. (Kill Normal Records,


VOD was always an experience. Vocalist Tim Williams always looked like he had gotten beaten up the night before, probably for screwing some other guys lady, showing up at multiple shows I’d seen them at with a black eye. When the band played it was dangerous. It wasn’t so much that they were tough guys or anything, the tough guys showed up for them and clobbered anyone in sight. And it typically didn’t help that the band often called out for blood between songs. All this seems highly against my ideals of hardcore, but I’ll tell you this- VOD wrote some ridiculously heavy and punishing music that still makes me want to do some sort of spin kick windmill upside someone’s face. This DVD splices footage from two reunion shows in 2006 that took place in New York and Worcester, MA. I’m not sure how much post-production went into this, but the sound is unreal and the band is as tight as ever. And that’s the thing- VOD weren’t just playing by-the-number mosh-metal. For the time they existed what they were doing was something really original. They definitely leaned more on the side of metal with quite a bit of technicality while the vocals combined singing and screaming in the best way possible (as well as in key). Kids who hear it now might not think much of it, but for ‘96 and ‘97 it really grabbed people’s attention. The footage here makes it seems as if that never ceased... even though it’s about as Long Island as one can get. In the bonus sections fans are screaming out for the band in the most Long Island trashy dude-bro accents ever. Interviews with the band are of the same mentality, yet a bit more humble about their success. The whole thing is assembled well and the sound is good, so if you’re a fan longing for the old days this ought to help. (Koch Records,

VOETSEK, “Infernal Command”
Thrash vocalists, by and large, need to work on a couple of things. First, cut back on the amount of lyrics you have per song. I know the songs are short and really fast, and that’s a good thing, but every thrash vocalist I hear sounds like they’re mumbling their way through a song like they’re half in the bag, or they have a speech impediment. It’s called rhythm dudes, make it work for you, not against you! Secondly, and this is going to sound mean, but a lot of thrash lyrics are dumb. I know a lot of times the point is to not be too serious, and to be kind of funny. Still, you can only get away with lines like , “Circle pit action/ Let’s keep it counter-clockwise/ Circle pit action, keepin’ it real” for so long before it gets corny. Or just bad. I don’t even want to get into the song about Lemmy from Motorhead’s sexual prowess, it just makes me feel slimy. Anyone who likes thrash should pretty much just focus (and I’m guessing the band focuses on this too) on being really fast, and really tight. Thankfully Voetsek excel at this, and definitely throw in an excessive amount of metal with their thrash. Many solos soar, and numerous breakdowns crunch, and in-between it’s a lot of really fast hardcore. It’s not totally my thing,a nd I’ve heard better, but for thrashers I’m sure they’ll be loving it. (Selfmadegod Records,

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