Sunday, July 26, 2009



Cincinnati’s Arms Exploding aren’t going to win any awards for having a good name or remotely interesting artwork (seriously, you could do a lot better than just all black on the inside cover). But throwing this disc in the player one will discover some excellent progressive post-hardcore going on that is hard to ignore. While many of these songs extend past the four and five minute mark things manage to remain interesting. They are progressive in terms of the talented playing and unique arrangements in which their songs are created yet no worries about a Dream Theater-style rock opera emerging here. And though there is a strong post-hardcore lean to their sound I’d say this group takes things to the next level past where NYHC originators founded it. Think perhaps more along the lines of where Burning Airlines was sitting pretty- both rhythmic and heavy, as well as exceptionally talented musicians creating driving and complex music. Arms Exploding certainly does a good job of rocking ass and throwing in lots of curveballs at the same time. Well done I say. I like a plenty. (Phratry,

BURNING FIGHT, by Brian Petterson
With a book 500 pages deep, and apparently got edited down from nearly 800 pages, “Burning Fight” is a pretty exhaustive look at 90’s hardcore as told in an oral history fashion on a variety of bands and topics. I think it’s an interesting way to approach things, though obviously leaves a lot out. The book is split into two main areas- various investigations into the big topics of the era (straightedge, spirituality, animal rights, political/social awareness), and interviews with influential bands from the 90’s. Naturally, the biggest gripes seem to have come from what bands should have been included and which should have been left out. The cries of, “Spitboy?! What about Brothers Keeper?!” can already be heard... OK, well, maybe not. But I do appreciate that the bands profiled cover a wide range of hardcore sounds- the fast and immediate sounds of Los Crudos, the obvious choice of Earth Crisis, the genre-fucking of Deadguy, the questionably hardcore Texas Is the Reason. I feel like each band’s section could have gone a bit more in-depth. The politics section certainly does highlight some important things from a wide variety of people and gives a generally good view of what was happening back then. From my own experience I was around the hardcore scene for most of this decade, but I feel like Upstate, NY was a somewhat different place than a lot of other cities insofar as hardcore goes. Our scene was really lucky to be so thriving, have a number of influential bands close by, and a solid venue to have shows at. So my perception is a bit different than others and we have our own oral history that could fill a book as well. So I feel like all readers of this book ought to read it with an open mind and understand that things may have had some similar threads no matter where the participants were going to shows, but each scene and town had it’s own personality to go with it. Additionally, it would have been nice to get a few more pictures of bands, zines, flyers, and so forth. I suggest getting it though. This is weeks of reading for a pretty cheap price. (Revelation,

Here we got a local zine that, in it’s second issue, devotes a good deal of space to exploring the scene in the Dominican Republic. Yes, there’s a punk scene there. How about that? Of course, there’s a lot of local love as well as interviews with Night Owls and Rochester’s Like Wolves are thorough and a good read. An exhaustive report on a local house that has been doing lots of shows in the last year is in these pages as well. Finally, a good deal of smart-ass humor from the author (some guy) rounds this thing out. You can’t go wrong for a buck and a shot of Larry Bird smoking a stogie on the cover. (


Seriously... wow. Ten years, multiple breakup’s, off-and-on reunion tours with mixed results, and dozens of kids later the grown-ass men in Coalesce have given it another go and holy picnic basket full of shit sandwiches this is a whopper of a record. I have thoroughly been beaten into submission by all the raw aggression and ridiculous creativity they had in their heyday. “Ox” takes all the hyperactivity and mind-fucking complexity of “Give Them Rope” or “Functioning..” and gives it a heavy dose of rhythmic groove found on “012”. Basically, it’s everything pure and wholesome about Coalesce all rolled into one amazing album. This band has always been able to throw me for a loop with how wild and complex their music could be, yet keep my attention because no matter how many times they were fucking with the timing, or throwing in one crazy riff after another, I’d still be in rapt attention. This is no exception. The bass is thick and muddy, almost overpowering in how huge it sounds, while the guitars are at once precise and calculated, and at the same time totally spiraling out of control and unraveling as if Jes is playing with a power drill instead of a pick. New to the Coalesce gamut are reverb-heavy slide guitar and sung vocals (“Wild Ox Moan”), monk-like chants (“Dead Is Dead”), and acoustic interludes (“Where Satire Sours”), all of which seem completely out of place, but actually work exceptionally well. Another facet that remains the same is vocalist Sean Ingram’s distinct throat-shredding scream. His voice is dead on for the music, and when he adds clean vocals here and there they work really well. His penchant for terrible song titles and extremely wordy lyrics also remains (seriously, the solo vocal section in opener, “The Plot Against My Love” is so close to rapcore it’s almost embarrassing... just cut a couple lines and it would be all good). Some people love his lyrics, and some hate them. I’ve really never been a fan, but not due to subject matter... I just can’t get into how they’re written. So when I hear his voice, which I like, I can just pretend he’s screaming about being stuck in traffic or something. And then it all makes sense. Minor gripes aside, this is easily the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I know the year is only half over, but Coalesce have seriously gone above and beyond for making a hell of a great return to form by creating a dense collection of raging songs sure to destroy any current perception of what you’d call ‘heavy music’. (Relapse,

GIFTS FROM ENOLA, “From Fathoms”

This thing come packaged in what looks like a greeting card made by a fancy art student. It’s certainly an interesting way to present it, just bizarre! Packaging aside, Gifts From Enola... whom I’m guessing are not referring to the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima give their take on the whole post-rock, minimal vocals, shoegaze thing with a long record full of long songs that fade into one another. Thankfully, they deviate from the Isis-Neurosis glut (man, am I ever sick of that trend), even though there are a few heavier moments. I’m getting more of a Mogwai/Mono feel from this band, as they get a lot more into melody. And while I’m not too terribly interested in those bands either I’ll give Gifts From Enola credit for mixing a lot of different sounds into their music- acoustic parts, electronics, heavier bits, and most anything else short of the kitchen sink- to make for a pretty cohesive whole. It definitely sounds like they are enjoying themselves by utilizing many different elements and having fun a long the way. “Weightless Thought” may be the most upbeat song on the record with it’s erratic sliding riff, but overall this makes for engaging background music. It’s not really anything I’ll be listening to repeatedly, but I can appreciate it for it’s creativity. (The Mylene Sheath,

IRON AGE, “The Sleeping Eye”
It was sort of strange when I saw this band a couple years ago after hearing their first full length and enjoying their direct line of thought straight to the mind of Harley Flannagan via total Cro-Mags worship. After this I heard nothing about the group, until out of nowhere friends of mine who were into more powerviolence and stoner metal styled hardcore were raving about the new record Iron Age just delivered. Was this the same band? Did my friends have a sudden change in musical taste? Finally hearing the record for myself I can see a few noticeable things that are worthy of accolades- this record sounds huge. Apparently a good deal of money went into recording this, so it sounds pretty awesome. Secondly, they still sound like the Cro-Mags... mixed with the first three Metallica records. Maybe this is the draw for people across the board to love this record, I don’t really know. But yeah, if I was a metalhead in 1989 (I wasn’t really) I’d be in such a rush to find a patch of this band to sew onto my denim jacket I’d probably forget to avoid the route the jock kids took home from school and I’d probably receive the taunting of a lifetime. Of course, that’s all a hypothetical situation. And this still sounds like it was recorded in ‘87, shooting bolts of lightning up your ass. (Tee Pee Records,

“MAKE YOUR PLACE”, by Raleigh Briggs

Another in the assortment of Do It Yourself books from the folks at Microcosm. I should totally feel like they are getting redundant with lots of books that essentially cover the same stuff in a slightly different way each time, yet each one seems to have it’s own personality and gives me something new to be interested in. And the fact that I just flew through this book with such interest leads me to think a couple things- I’m getting old and really domestic, and that my mother would probably love this book. So what does that say about me? Essentially, this is a book that (all handwritten and illustrated) goes through ways to make your own first aid materials/ medicines/ ointments, cleaning products, and gardening skills. There are numerous recipes for making everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent, all without the use of nasty chemicals and so on, so forth. I personally feel that’s a great idea and as someone who is a level 5 vegan I tend to think that I neglect these things more often than I ought to. So having a guide on how to make some of this stuff yourself naturally is a great resource. Plus, I’m an avid gardener, so having some additional info on that is cool as well. The medicinal info sounds like the sort of mumbo-jumbo Grandpa Simpson would spout off, expect that these really are old timey-type cures for things like headaches, fevers, burns, and other minor ailments involving herbs, tinctures, and ointments. Neat stuff from a corner of the all-natural side of things often overlooked. (Microcosm,

OUTRAGE, “Broken”
I feel like I’m stepping into the Lost Horizon, circa 1995 as an unidentifiable band is raging on stage and I’m still fresh-eyed and into everything that I see and hear at every show. Granted, the band is playing the same kind of chunky riffs that every other band is playing, but so what. I’m 17 and anything related to hardcore fucking rules no matter what. That’s what listening to the new Outrage record is like. Somehow these young dudes have channeled mid-90’s hardcore as if they were having a seance, drawing power from the ghost of Eric Allen and having John Pettibone officiating the proceedings. Or like some Luke/ Obi Wan Kenobi post-death guiding spirit sort of thing. Yes, many of these songs are about depression and being bummed on life, in the way that most people under the age of 25 are, and this definitely is not adding any new spokes to the proverbial wheel. Still they get the idea of how to do hardcore in a way that I grew up with and do it well. It’s most certainly a large step up from their EP and I’m pretty stoked on it. (Panic Records,

Seriously, can the bands on this label come up with worse names for themselves or their records? “Robot Eats a Steak”? Are you kidding me? I’m going to up the ante and call my band’s next record, “Voltron Prepares Some Waffles”. It will be a concept record. All kidding aside, it’s very fortunate that this band has come up with some good songs or else the chiding would continue until the label information at the end of the review. Like other bands on the Phratry label, this group explores more of the post-hardcore/ indie territory with strong songwriting, progressive structures, and still manages to rock face with a sufficient deal of heaviness, executed in a rather clever manner. Some of these songs tend to get a little long, but they still work without getting bogged down in filler. Seven songs in 23 minutes, so it works out to holding my attention for just the right amount of time. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to download some coffee into my mainframe or some shit. (Phratry Records,

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