Thursday, December 10, 2009

CHASE THE COLD AWAY WITH WARM REVIEWS

Man alive it's getting pretty friggin' cold around here. Time to brew up something warm, stay in your pajamas all day, and read some record reviews. Screw going out in this winter mess.
This batch of reviews here, I must say, is heavy on the upstate NY region (present and past residents). And let me just state that once again, it must be something in the water around these parts because there are quite a few awesome bands that spring up around here, and a lot of them having been putting out records lately.


ANOTHER BREATH, “The God Complex”
I’ll be the first to admit that Another Breath is a band that I’ve never cared for on record, but always a total blast in the live setting. Yet, within the last year that they’ve been playing out select songs from what would be “The God Complex” at shows I thought to myself, ‘man, I can’t wait to hear how this sounds on record!’ Well, this thing has been in the can for probably a year now, but there was no label to release it until now. So here is officially the first AB record that I’m giving repeated daily spins with because it seriously fucking shreds. A sick, lurching intro and the words, “there’s still no god!” open up this fucker and if that isn’t a good enough start to make you love hardcore than now’s probably a good time to see how far you can make it through a Phish album while cutting your own head off. Half the record follows AB’s general vibe of rough melodic hardcore, while the other half takes a more riff-oriented approach, whether it’s the breakneck pace of “I Want To Live”, or the more rocking feel of “Belly Of a Whale”. Lyrically, much of the record takes a big swing at the man upstairs in various ways and it’s very well-written, mostly on a personal level. So yeah, I’m digging the fuck out of this record. Well done fellas! (Panic Records)

COALESCE, “OXEP”
These aren’t discarded tracks from “OX”. this is more like a companion piece that works awesome for a band that (once again) reunited and dropped an album that made me want to chain smoke humans with a blowtorch and a jet turbine... puny humans. Book ended with some wild percussion tracks everything in the middle pulls out more of those dragging, sludgy skull melting songs that pummel you like a drunken sumo wrestler who has secretly been masterminding your demise for weeks. They again let loose with a bit of what the band is calling their “Americana” style, but if you ask me it sounds creepy and weird yet totally awesome. It’s more like some crazy asshole with a steel guitar who polishes shotguns on his porch in his spare time. Regardless of all my hyperbole, if you at all liked “OX” there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick this gem up as well. It’s just as essential and is basically an extra treat for dorks like me who couldn’t get enough of the full length. (Relapse)

CONVERGE, “Axe To Fall”
Do I really even need to review this? There is a hype machine rivaling the size of Egon Spengler’s Twinkie Theory (that’s a big Twinkie) behind this release and what further justice can I do to clearly state that this record is indeed bitchin’? Though I must admit, my hair wasn’t blown back (figuratively, seeing as I’m bald) by every track the way that every other review outlet has been giving out verbal handjobs to this record. A couple songs here, while interesting experiments, aren’t really my thing. I speak of the Steve Von Till track (which could have just been a Neurosis song) and the Genghis Tron song (again, a cool song, but it just doesn’t fit on a Converge record). It’s totally understandable to mix things up every now and again, but part of making that work is to retain some identity of the band doing the mixing up and in this case, these two closer tracks sound more akin to something their guests would make on their own rather than a collaboration. Either way, a good example of this collaborating that works great is “Effigy”, which features the Cave-In dudes,and you can definitely hear Steve Brodsky’s unique leads all over Converge’s thrashing hardcore punk in the 1:47 space in which the listener gets floored. Either way, whatever little gripes I may have are easily made up for with the title track, which manages to be one of my favorite songs of the year in less than 2 minutes. Jesus Christ, how does Kurt Ballou play that fast? It’s just inhuman. Much of this record races right by with such speed and intensity that it’s a very satisfying record, and makes me happy that Converge can go for this long and still sound like a hungry band in their prime. Kudos to that. (Epitaph)

ELDER, “Reflect”
To be perfectly honest, I’m kind of surprised that this project band (of sorts) has dropped a sophomore effort. Their initial offering kind of felt like a one-time deal of a few dudes that are busy in other bands coming together to hash out some songs in homage to Japan’s Envy. Well, they apparently couldn’t get enough and are back with round two of Envy worship- ya know, loud, quiet, loud hectic emo (jn the very best sense of the word). They seem to be a bit more tuned in as a band this time around and create some solid songs- 6 in the span of about 25 minutes. While most maintain a similar feel track five, “Vultures”, finds the band doing their best Gravity Records circa 1995 impression with nice results. The whole deal comes in a fancy fold out package with some cool artwork. And with that you got your Elder, record 2. (Forge Again Records)

FORFEIT, “The Lower Depths”
Forfeit may be from Syracuse, but they’ve probably been mistaken on more than a few occasions of emerging from a Sunday matinee at CBGBs, circa 1989 via some weird time warp. It’s understandable. These dudes have such a strong NYHC vibe going on with “The Lower Depths” it’s ridiculous. Their first proper full length clocks in at just about 22 minutes with 11 tracks, only three of which break the two minute marker. While their 7” was really good one can see that these guys have put some time in working on their chops and adding some diversity to their sound. They’re not busting out clarinets or anything, they’ve just put some more thought into these songs by adding a bit of crossover (a la S.O.D. or Leeway) thrash, abrupt transitions (the end of “Parallel Worlds”), and a good dose of the same bouncy and chugging hardcore fans have come to expect from them. It’s a solid first full length effort. I’m sure you’ll see them all over the place a lot this year, I just can’t be certain if AF, SOIA, or a 13 year-old Freddy Madball will be there too. Time travel is weird like that. (Reaper)

HIGHER GIANT, “Al’s Moustache” 7”
Somewhere else I read about this record and the only thing the critic said about it was, “this is the guy from Warzone?!” Hey, people grow up and their interests change ya know? As if anyone who ever followed anything from Ernie Parada couldn’t see this in the trajectory- Token Entry, Grey Area, and now Higher Giant. Over the years everything has gotten more and more on the poppy side. For those totally unfamiliar this sounds kind of like early Saves the Day (who, of course, are 3rd and 4th generation poor copies of what these dudes in their previous bands did years before those kids hit puberty). The musicianship is good, the songs are fairly catchy, the singing is a little annoying, but at least they reference how much Sick Of It All rules. And that most certainly counts for something. (Black Numbers)

KNIFE THE SYMPHONY, “Dead Tongues”
I’ve listened to previous material by this band, but I feel as if the music on this effort is going in a bit different of a direction... perhaps a little more loose and rocking. There’s a distinct quality to the dudes vocals versus the rest of the music. He definitely doesn’t fit in with it, but it’s working, and it most definitely reminds of another band but I can’t put my finger on it. It’s in that vein of how End Of a Year does it, but in a decidedly more post-hardcore vein... perhaps in a bit of a West Coast 90’s emo, a la Ebullition way? There’s accompanying female vocals on a couple tracks that sound really great and bring the music in a slightly more shoegaze direction, yet still retaining some of that loose and hectic feel like the rest of the album. It’s nice mix of styles and works decently. Seriously though, Phratry Records has to do something about these record layouts they send me. Man, work with all that blank space on every release! (Phratry Records)

LIKE WOLVES, “Paths” 7”
Yes! This band is finally get their bearings and rocking the shit out of me. I liked their previous material (and seeing them live is always a blast), but I felt it was a little too all over the place... sort of in that Lords vein of chaotic hardcore, but even more wild. On this self-released 7” they unleash four new songs that still retain a lot of that Louisville style of really loud punk hardcore, and total Black Widows/ Black Cross worship. But I feel like they’ve worked on sticking with some great riffs and rather than jumping around way too much they’re writing better songs overall that stick in your head a bit more. These Rochester kids really have their shit together with this awesome record, really great design on the record, and they did it all themselves. Fuck yeah, let’s hear it for upstate New York bands just flat our ruling! (Like Wolves)

NOT SORRY, “Moving On” 7”
I like how a couple fairly known Northeast bands break up and some of the members of each band coincidentally moved to the Northwest and start another band together. Seriously guys, moving to a new town means getting out and meeting new people! Well, at least their drummer is from Seattle! Ha! All kidding aside, Not Sorry is a straight edge band comprised of dudes who most recently did time in How We Are and From the Ground Up and it’s not really too hard to guess what the results are. I guess if there is a noticeable difference between members past efforts and this is that right out of the gate Not Sorry feels really, really pissed. “Moving On” is a pretty fucking vicious song, but as the record moves on there are some more thoughtful lyrical themes that arise around personal health and environmentalism. As a first effort it’s a pretty fun record for the traditional hardcore fan in you. (Lifeline Records)

REASON demo
Despite anything you might have heard there are actually dudes in Buffalo who are over the age of 30 and still straight edge. To me that’s pretty killer, seeing as they’re all dudes who were regulars at shows when I still lived there. It’s always good to know some people are lifers for this music and not just because they are losers with no other prospects in life. That’s a given for any of us at this age who still frequent punk shows and it’s a sad fact that we’ll deny in person but secretly admitting to ourselves as we scour the B9 board at 2AM on a Tuesday. Still, here we have Reason and they have delivered unto us 7 songs of straight edge hardcore fury. Each of these dudes has probably been in every Buffalo band ever (minus Zero Tolerance) at one point or another so if you were a fan of No Reason, or Dead Hearts, or Halfmast, or Envy... the list goes on and on. It’s basically no frills, in your face, and fast Buffalo hardcore. This is seriously what I thought every Buffalo band (besides Snapcase) sounded like when I first started going to shows there. (reasonsxe@aol.com)

SECRET CUTTER 7”
Jesus Christ, this is fucking heavy. Chris from Square Of Opposition described this to me simply as, ‘heavy as shit’ and that’s really all that needs to be said about this band. Good lord. Kicking off with a good dose of grindcore and then breaking into these ridiculously heavy and repetitive breakdowns over the course of four songs each one is noisy, mean, and awesome. I’d say there’s a bit of Coalesce in mind here, but more primal... not as evolved with the weird tricky parts. It’s like watching that scene from Goodfellas where Joe Pesci beats the guy to death with a shoeshine box while Robert Deniro kicks him over and over again. This should have been the background music for that scene. This band tore me a new one. The lack of information on the record just increases the allure. I can pretend in my head that they chase people with hammers or something while they play. (Square Of Opposition Records)

SNOWING 7”
This somehow successfully cross-breeds two distinctly different styles that really shouldn’t mesh, but seem to work wonderfully together with this group. You have some of that intricate-noodley math rock stuff akin to maybe Algernon Cadwallader mixed up with a bit of the loud and brash, somewhat sloppy and noisy Gainesville punk sound. You’d think that you can’t be sloppy and play noodley right? Well, each song on here sort of feels like they’re working that intricate stuff for a bit, get tired of it just when it’s starting to get pretty good, and need a break so they can throw their instruments around a bit, and go full bore with a heavier rocking thing near the end. It’s really cool. I like the very obscure Simpsons reference in “Methuselah Rookie Card”.. clever. Silkscreened covers on all these suckers. Get one, get nerdy for a bit, and then throw beer cans at their head. It rocks. (Square Of Opposition Records)

1 comment:

Ted said...

"A sick, lurching intro and the words, “there’s still no god!” open up this fucker and if that isn’t a good enough start to make you love hardcore than now’s probably a good time to see how far you can make it through a Phish album while cutting your own head off."

This just made my day. I'm laughing my ass off about all of these. Thanks for the kind words.