Sunday, April 1, 2012


It's already a good year for music. Actually, I should re-phrase that. This Spring is awesome for music so far. A lot of stuff I have been patiently anticipating has emerged, and the results are generally quite pleasing. This is what I've been rocking the last few weeks.

BLACK BREATH, “Sentenced To Life”
I’ll just say off the bat that the new offering from Seattle’s Black Breath has such a classic metal cover feel it could be mistaken as having emerged from the vaults of unused art at Metal Blade Records from the late 80’s. I fully approve of this art. And on the music end it’s not half bad either. The first couple listens I was half-paying attention and it all seemed to go by in a sort of blur. And to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it. Then I sat down and really paid attention. By and large, as opposed to the variety in pace on their debut full length “Heavy Breathing”, the songs on “Sentenced…” are mostly of the ‘really fast’ variety. On “Heavy Breathing” I really liked how each song had its own style, and there was somewhat of punk and hardcore vibe going on- the dirtiness of the guitars, the occasional massive breakdown. This record is really an all out metal record, which is what this band really is going for anyway. Plus, it feels like the recording is a little more reserved, I can’t place it. Nevertheless, after a thorough listen I have discovered more variety than I initially thought and there are some real massive riffs going on here, and their continued worship of bands like Entombed and Dismember. Black Breath certainly is great at what they do. This record is pretty good, but I think I may be more partial to their last one. (Southern Lord)

I was really, really into Black Cross, which contained most of the members of Black God at one point or another. This is basically the same thing, just with a slightly altered name out of respect to those members that did not carry forth with this project. Nevertheless, I thought their debut 7” from last year was one of the best 7”s I heard all year, and continues to rock my world. And, I could be wrong, but I think this second 7” was recorded in the same session? It does sound a little different than that record. The debut 7” played around with some varying tempos, song structures, and so forth. Basically, the exciting moments of any new band trying whatever floats their boat with no regard for a signature sound. And I love that stuff. This 7” has a little more consistent vibe throughout. Sure, all the songs are basically under two minutes, raw, hardcore with nods to everything from the Wipers, to DC revolution summer bands, to the tried and true dirty and loud hardcore Louisville has been known for (it doesn’t hurt that two members lineage of bands- Ryan Patterson and Nick Thineman- are responsible for that sound). And, of course, vocalist Rob Penington’s very distinctive vocals top the whole thing off. When I think of urgent and raw hardcore it’s bands like Black God that make me think they are not only having fun, but also bringing something essential to the table. (No Idea)

From one of the most entertaining (and wild) live bands you could possibly slap a few bucks down to see comes their sixth record. That, in and of itself, is crazy to think about. I fondly recall seeing a few of their first shows (a couple of which I booked) in crappy VFW halls, the band throwing their guitars across the floor after songs… and honestly not too much has changed in terms of their energy. Of course, their sound has been significantly refined. They have really learned to go from aping Converge riffs and foregoing song structure into knowing how to take their influences and making them wholly their own while writing songs that stick in your head. Many have said this record goes back to the aggression of “Hot Damn”, and to be honest, I have not thoroughly kept up on every song from the last few records. But to me it sounds just as heavy and pissed as anything before it, and they still sound hungry, like they have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. “Revival Mode” is really one of the only straight-up ‘rock’ songs on here and it might be one of the best. Meanwhile, just about everything else cuts a swath through your face, and then sets fire to the replacement face you brought just in case the first face was ripped apart. Closer, “Indian Giver” has a big Torche/Floor vibe, and is an interesting way to go out. But then (if you’re smart and got the LP or deluxe version) you get three bonus tracks- which I’m not sure why they were even considered ‘bonus tracks’ since they’re a few of the best songs on the whole damn thing- come back to slay the rest of your body parts. Put this on, get destroyed, put yourself back together, and repeat again and again. (Epitaph)

Sometime around 1997 I was in a record store in some other town and saw KARPs “Self-Titled LP” record just sitting there, staring at me. I’m not sure what it was about that record that lured me in, but something about it just said that I ought to get it. Total impulse decision based upon no prior info. I brought it home, put it on the turntable, and was then completely destroyed by the massive rock fury that blasted forth from my speakers. Who was this mystery band from Olympia that just floored me? Where did that bass sound come from? And man oh man, did they love The Melvins. The years that followed brought me little info on this group (who had disbanded shortly after said record’s release), and no matter how many singles I tracked down after that I came no closer to seeing any physical manifestation of this group that I thought was so awesome. As an East Coast fella, stuff from the Northwest wasn’t always easily accessible (and the internet was still fairly nascent). It wasn’t until bassist/vocalist Jared Warren’s current group, Big Business, started that I actually saw the man and his bass rig slay me with low end thunder. But whatever happened with KARP? What was the story? Well, this DVD finally shows it all. From their beginnings as backwoods teenage miscreants, to a well-honed rock machine touring and releasing records on the Olympia-based K Records. It explores the tumultuous highs and lows they experienced as people, the tragedy that struck them, the eventual outcome of their endeavors. It shows a Northwest scene in the early 90’s as something all it’s own, a place I hold very near and dear to my heart for the voluminous amount of great music it has churned out in the last few decades. There’s plenty of live footage, jokes, and bizarre happenings to last a couple hours. While the story of KARP doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, watching how it all happened is a pretty cool thing, especially for a rather unknown band that was incredibly bad ass. (KARP lives)

MEN, THE, “Open Your Heart”
Early stuff from this band did not do much to impress me. I wanted to like it, but their recordings were so terrible and blown out that I really couldn’t make much out of the mess. Then came “Leave Home”, which was one of my favorite records last year. It struck the perfect balance with huge walls of guitar and noisy feedback, but had enough clarity amongst the chaos to discern just what was going on. This new record is almost too clean sounding, but I still like it quite a bit. And, once again, it’s really difficult to pin down exactly what The Men do. Maybe it’s a good mix of all-out chaotic garage punk, with big nods towards shoegaze guitar swells, and flashbacks of psychedelia? Or is it just a good band rocking the fuck out and doing whatever the hell they feel like doing at the time? I guess you can go with all of the above. “Animal” and the title track tend to be the most revved-up songs on the record and I thoroughly enjoy both quite a bit. There are some long lapses into the psychedelic end of things that can be a little hard to keep track of, but it’s an overall enjoyable experience. If you have a chance to see them live take it, as that is where you can really see them light a place up and blow your eardrums out. (Sacred Bones)

RADIO SILENCE, by Anthony Pappalardo and Nathan Nadorostek
At this point is it totally necessary to have yet another book chronicling 80’s hardcore? I’d think not. Enough opinions and history are out there for anyone to get a well-rounded idea of how things were. I suppose then, this book isn’t about trying to tell anyone how it was, but instead takes a different perspective on things altogether. It takes bits and pieces from many different underground factions, as shown mostly in flyers, record covers, t-shirts, and some live photos, and uses mostly small anecdotes from the people there to give an idea of where things came from, what the vibe was at the time, and the creative process behind some of the music and records that shaped the era. I can appreciate that. Rough layouts for “Start Today” pair up side by side (pun intended) with notes and images for the “Salad Days” 7”. There’s even a whole gallery taking up the last 30 pages of just record covers and t-shirts, spanning from 1980-1994. While I’d hardly consider this necessary it’s a pretty fun to check out for nerds like me who are interested in the minutia detail of all things punk. (MTV Press)

Shoppers drop two more frothing noise dirges that are part shoegaze wall of guitars, part Sonic Youth noisy melodies, and part Riot Grrl raging punk abandon. They get a much better recording this time around (as opposed to the LP from last year) that really gives a clarity to the swirling noise going on while still keeping it raw. Also, the vocals have a much stronger presence, which is great because they stand out well. Both songs are winners. It’s a shame they’re all done now though because this is a great indication of things that could have been. Panzram, on the flip side, were a great surprise. They offer up their take on early 90’s Gravity Records style punk chaos. A bit of Angelhair, some Universal Order Of Armageddon, and just a touch of NYC bands that were trying a similar approach later in the decade. I’m way into it. Finally, a neat silkscreened cover rounds out this sucker. Recommended. (Feeble Minds)

UNSANE, “Wreck”
I’ve been a fan of Unsane for almost 20 years now and one thing that has always been a cornerstone of their trade is consistency. They’re in that realm of bands like Lungfish, where you always know exactly what you’re going to get, and it’s never bad (even though in this case it’s more akin to getting walloped with a sock full of quarters than meditative rock ragas). Just like every release before it Unsane manage to sonically annihilate me with every track, whether it’s a slow build up like standout track “Stuck”, the tense and grimy off-time rager “Metropolis”, or the riffy stomp of “No Chance”. They even manage to twist a Flipper cover (which I believe they recorded years ago for some obscure split) into an evil, maniacal dirge. Whereas I initially got into this band because they were compared to old Helmet material, and thus opened my eyes to the AmRep/noise rock sound, they are now the standard bearers of the genre. There’s a recent review I read about this record that perfectly sums things up which I will paraphrase: “Unsane aren’t re-inventing the wheel, they are the motherfucking wheel”. Truer words have never been spoken. (Alternative Tentacles)

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