Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's about time for some reviews!

It certainly has been awhile since you've seen some of these huh? Well, in case you haven't been keeping score it's been a little busy around here. I do what I can. But hey, thankfully a lot of the new stuff I've been jamming on has been pretty stellar. So let's get with it, shall we?


AT BOTH ENDS #9, 10
Well, someone certainly has set the bar higher. I guess if you’re going to go out do it in a way that’s going to make everyone else attempting to publish something in print basically give up. The last two issues of At Both Ends (combined as one gigantic 150+ page zine), a long-running zine based out of Vancouver, really went all out here. This thing looks great (and features the ever hairy Timm Trust of The Helm on the cover!) and features butt loads of content. The interviews are pretty good and drill Verse, Sick Of It All, Shook Ones, Wait In Vain, To Kill, Shai Hulud, Greg Bennick, Anchor, and Dave Larson, among others. To me, the strong suit for this zine has always been all the other content- an exhaustive tour diary of Bane in South America, a retrospective on Sparkmarker and Brand New Unit, a roundtable zine discussion, random tales from various punkers about their favorite places to travel, the process of vinyl mastering, Canadian geography, crypto zoology, science fiction, indie filmmaking, and the city of Tacoma. Pretty random, but completely entertaining. Weak spots are the reviews as they are mostly brief and kind of dated. Otherwise, Steve has laid down an excellent final issue. Oh, did I mention this comes with a double 7” featuring new stuff from Bane, Grade (yeah... Grade), Unrestrained, and Between Earth and Sky? Crazy! (At Both Ends, www.atbothendsmagazine.com)

BURNT BY THE SUN, “Heart Of Darkness”
Some people may have a problem with bands that remain the same. They want development, maturity, some ‘next level’ shit. I feel like Burnt By the Sun is a band that, despite the wide gap between this and their last record (5 years I believe) has changed very little. Aside from more gray hairs, possible status change from ‘renting’ to ‘owning’ a dwelling, kids, and possibly a larger waist size they essentially sound like the same band. This is hardly a knock against this band and their obvious talent as musicians. It’s more of a welcome continuation of a group that has consistently created some of the most abrasive, and at the same time, accessible heavy metal of our time. Somehow their wild riffs, weird breakdowns, and slightly off-time chugging flow seamlessly into well-oiled musical machines of mass destruction. It’s good stuff. My only gripe is that I think I am always wanting more out of Dave Witte. His drumming clearly fits the music- tons of double bass, solid rhythms, and so on... fitting somewhere between classic metalcore and death metal styles. But I know he can blast faster than just about anyone out there and for some reason I want to hear more of that. But that’s not necessarily this band and I am content with the final offering I am receiving with this very well-done record. If you gotta go out, go out the way you know best and give ‘em what they expect. This is definitely a kick-ass piece of work. (Relapse, www.relapse.com)

CICADA, s/t CDEP
While this is only 5 songs this could probably count as a full length for this Central New York metal machine that have been slugging it out for the last couple years here. On their first real deal release their blend of swampy metal, drony hardcore, and hot-shit leads may get a bit carried away in the length of their songs, but typically redeems itself by letting the riffs get stuck in your head. Bellowing vocals present a good deal of variety with a commanding, yet soaring presence. They have the type of leads/solos that when they’re done playing them it’s as if they take a step back and look to where they were just standing in awe, as if to say to themselves’ that’s right, I just played that part standing in that spot’. So again, while I think some of these songs could be trimmed down in length a little bit at certain points it works to their advantage, like the closing song and it’s incredibly catchy chugging, followed a closing part that recalls Hum, strangely enough. Fans of early mastodon would be wise to take note of this group. (self-released, http://www.myspace.com/cicadacny)

KOWLOON WALLED CITY, “Gambling On the Richter Scale”
Here we go. There are a lot of bands lately going for a stoner metal vibe, or the Mastodon thing. But few doing it in a way that is interesting. Kowloon Walled City combine subtle elements of both, but end up with their own unique thing. I’m loving this CD. So friggin’ heavy, yet so well-written and brooding at the same time. KWC drop huge, dirty riffs with slight progressive riffs every now and again, but appear to aim more towards the ‘crush, kill, destroy’ style of slow bulldozer death. Vocally this guy sounds almost identical to Chris Spencer from Unsane in the way that his voice is gritty, a bit distorted, and yelling like someone’s dragging a rake across his voicebox. The first track, “Annandale” and the title track are easily my favorites, but everything on here is a winner. This is probably going to be a sleeper jam for most as I don’t think this group gets out of the West Coast much. Take this write-up as a cue to stop nappin’ and start checking this band out. Really good stuff here for anyone into pure heaviness. (The Perpetual Motion Machine, www.the perpetualmotionmachine.com)

NO FRIENDS s/t
A rather weird mix-up of people from bands that don’t really sound too similar (New Mexican Disaster Squad and Municipal Waste) come together to lay down some music in the form of No Friends. There’s a generally good vibe here- tossing the catchy youth crew punk feel of some Gorilla Biscuits right alongside a heavy dose of older Avail style. The first half of this flies right by and keeps you at the edge of your seat, but the second half loses a bit of steam and doesn’t keep the attention as much. Overall it’s a solid release and everything about it looks pretty dope, down to the simple design of the layout. If anyone remembers that rather short-lived band Trial By Fire this sounds almost exactly like them. (No Idea, www.noidearecords.com)

PISSED JEANS, “King Of Jeans”
What the fuck. This band just pissed my jeans. Their last two records were high on the awesome scale, but this one really kicks it up a notch. For a band that plays so noisy and loose they sound more together than they ever have, if that makes any sense. The rocking punk songs are louder, feistier, and more rocking. The slow and sludgy tracks are more gruesome and mean. I’m having trouble deciding which I like the best, but I think I’m leaning on the crushing stomp of “Pleasure Race” and the deplorable ‘everyday mundane boredom as epic life failure’ of “Spent”. When you can make a climactic closing lyric out of “the weeks fly by and my only prize/ Is watching my waist increase in size” you’re either well past the point of caring about what, vocally, gets committed to tape permanently, or you have a nasty sense of humor seeing as the song could have easily been penned with some Satan-worship Black Sabbath love given the slow and evil thunderous mass of the music. Instead, we get a picture of one lonely mans day walking around in sweatpants with a semi-erection eating doughnuts. I don’t know, you tell me which is actually a scarier picture? And yet, sweat-oozing, balls-to-the-wall riffs get more than half the room on this record in catchy ragers like “Human Upskirt”, “False Jessei II”, and “She Is Science Fiction”. Easily one of my favorite records of the year. I dig the insert live picture of some random girl fan choking out the singer. (Sub Pop, www.subpop.com)

POLAR BEAR CLUB, “Chasing the Hamburgler”
I know that’s not really the title, but I thought it was more humorous that way. And given the very humble and lighthearted approach to which this band has taken their recent surge of popularity I think they would also happily consider this as an official alternate title to their new full length. So here’s what I think about the actual record, and not some lame joke about it that I just thought up. I’m not that into it. I know that’s blasphemy to the kids at large right now, but I’ve given it a few listens and it’s just not coming through. I’ve heard them play some of these songs live on a handful of occasions and they sound great, but on here it’s just not translating. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the chunky riffs and bouncy rhythms of their earlier material, which I thought was really great. Here they opt for, I guess you could say, more ‘mature’ songwriting maybe? Either way, it seems it’s the writing of a band that’s thinking about their next move, planning it out, making everything flow nicely together, and come up with a decent rock record. Perhaps the older material was a bit more off the cuff and somewhat spontaneous? I’m not sure. Whatever the case it’s a well-written record, just one that’s not doing a whole lot for me. But I’ll tell you this though- if this thing had come out in the Summer “Living Saints” would be my jam for the whole season. I’ll just have to keep jamming that one ‘til next year so I can make it my jam for summer 2010. (Bridge 9, www.bridge9.com)

TORCHBEARER, “The Worst Is Yet To Come” 7”
Torchbearer are from around New Brunswick and like many bands that have emerged out of that scene they continue to do something interesting. So many influential bands have come out of that little town, all of them have done their own unique spin on hardcore and punk, and it’s col to see that Torchbearer are doing their own cool thing. While in many ways their sound lends itself heavily to a variety of mid-to-late 90’s styles colliding into a frenzied blur, but it’s welcome and just a little scary at the same time. They fuck around with noisy guitar freakouts a la Die 116, and lurch with droning sonic mass like Kiss It Goodbye, and finally round things out by setting a solid foundation with a touch of mid-90s moshy hardcore. Kind of a weird mix huh? Yeah, I think so too. But I’m into it, and I think it works well for them. I have to say I’m a little partial to their previous EP, though mostly because the recording on this 3-song record sounds a little thin for what they’re doing, and that last record sounded heavy and meaty. But the last song here has a killer riff going for it, so it’s a close one. Definitely a band to check out on record because I don’t think they make it out too far from home for shows. (Soul Rebel Records, www.myspace.com/xsoulrebelrecordsx)

TOURNAMENT, “Years Old” LP
On their initial CDEP Brooklyn’s Tournament definitely seemed to pining for the lost years of KARP and the Jesus Lizard. It’s not like that bothered me at all as I love both of those bands and you could tell that Tournament liked them a lot too. So on this new full length I feel like they cast off that influence somewhat in favor of a lot more weird songs. There is a good deal of spazzy guitar effects, sort of like the corpse of Frodus getting dragged through the mud and then thrown into a ditch so passerbyers could break out a poking stick and, ya know, poke around. The band seems to piloting a ship to the sun, reveling in their space madness, and enjoying the deathride with a lot of cheap beer and equally as affordable hallucinogens. It’s pretty good overall. I just gotta ask this- what’s up with a) the mangina on the cover?, and b) why are the lyrics printed on the inside of the sleeve? Is it weird just to be weird or a misprint of some kind? (Forcefield, www.forcefieldrecords.org)

UNHOLY, “New Life Behind Closed Eyes”
A record like this needs to come out the gate totally tearing your face off. In 2009 being a metalcore band (in this case leaning farther on the metal side for sure) is a tough business and if you don’t have the stones to keep on top of the game you will most certainly fall into the never-ending pit seemingly overflowing with complete bullshit bands with terrible played out music. Thankfully Unholy have a long history of talented musicians within their ranks that have been at this for years and understand the pressure they are under to do something worthwhile in a genre that typically fails miserably. The first song on this immediately yanks your scrotum right out with a spastic riff that breaks into a nice and fast double bass part, followed by some end-of-the-world type leads and unrelenting metal. A good Meshuggah riff carries another song for a good percentage of the time, while some warped guitar riffs flow in and out, again inspiring bible-burning end times fuck-you-all paranoia. Lyrically the themes of humans as a cancer, macabre visions of the world coming to an end, and so on round this sucker out with some seriously disturbing artwork within (don’t be fooled by the somewhat fantasy-styled cover art, which is quite awesome in it’s own right). Unholy definitely bring about a style that may have some roots in late 90’s/early 2000s metalcore, but without a doubt can wipe their ass with most bands that consider themselves metal today. (Prosthetic, www.prostheticrecords.com)

3 comments:

Tim said...

On the the TOURNAMENT record - Technically the mangina is on the inside of the record sleeve, once the inner sleeve is inserted the mangina is hidden and technically that is the cover (the gray diamond). The lyrics are printed on the inside of the sleeve, not a fuck up just a fuck with you. You could say the mangina sails in that same boat. - FORCEFIELD keepin it negi posi

Mark! said...

It's funny that you mentioned "Human Upskirt" as a rager track, because when I listened to it the first thing I pictured was the Ryan Hex fistpump.

Barrie said...

It's funny, regarding PBC, "Living Saints" actually WAS my jam for the summer. It was first released on a teaser EP that B9 put out in July along with "Boxes" and an unreleased track. And the title pun made me chuckle.