So a large portion of the reviews I do are unsolicited opinions, and not so much based on submissions sent to me. But every once in awhile a handful of things get sent my way for some reason and I oblige by writing up something about it. So I actually had a good chunk of that this time around. So enjoy these mostly solicited opinions while I take off for Iceland for about a week.
Our bonus round/ older selection this time around comes from the little-known Keleton DMD, out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. They didn’t make a huge impact in their brief tenure (1998-2001 maybe?), but I find myself still going back to the sole full length pretty regularly.
EMPTY VESSELS, “Throw Your Shadow”
I’m a little late to the party with reviewing this but I thought it very worthwhile to mention since I think this is one of the better new-ish bands going right now. When listening to the heavy chaos going on within Empty Vessels second CD it really sounds as if there is a whole band laying down frantic chords, chunky riffs, and noisy dirges. But this is just a duo. And it really seems as if there is barely any studio magic to be found. This band delivers exactly what they do on CD in the live setting. So not only do they have their musicianship down solid, but they have those tones (split between a couple guitar cabs and a bass cab) perfectly lined up to make a huge and exciting sound. When listening to this group I’m reminded a bit of that DC/N. Virginia sound that was prevalent in the early 2000s with Majority Rule and Page 99, but maybe a little more emphasis on writing faster, slightly more simplified songs with pretty minimal lyrics. I admire this band’s dedication to efficiency and doing everything themselves, from printing their own shirts, and booking their own tours (which are frequent, so go see them if they come by), to releasing their own music. (self-released)
HOLD DOWN THE OCEAN, “We Know Why We’re Here” 10”
All Else Failed is most known for their hammer-smashed approach to guitar-swinging, bleeding forehead, chaotic hardcore. But you know those guys all got soft spots right? They’re total emo wussies on the inside when they’re not wearing their Deadguy t-shirts. You can hear it in some of their music, in certain spots, despite the fact that it’s generally painful. Well, a couple of those guys decided to work out those less-chaotic tendencies with this new band Hold Down the Ocean. It’s the Sunny Day Real Estate, Mogwai, sunlight-drenched, big epic feeling stuff thrown out here like being engulfed in that big, fiery spaceball’s warmth kind of music. The vocals are sparse and ethereal mostly. There’s one singular part in the first song that sounds like an AEF part and the rest is just big, melodic, and powerful. They dish out 5 songs across this offering and it’s a decent enough place to start. Feel the love, man. (Dullest Records)
METZ, “Eraser”/”Pure Auto” 7”
I kind of figured this was just leftover songs from their last LP that they didn’t want to use, but this is actually from a different recording session from what I can tell. Still, I can see these two songs maybe not fitting exactly with the stuff from “II”. Their most recent full length felt as if, despite the noise and chaos, most of the songs were extremely straightforward, each with it’s own simple riff carrying the whole song. “Eraser” has a similar feel, but goes off into a few other sections before returning to the fucked-up lead riff. “Pure Auto” takes a bit faster route, but is equally as exciting. In short, pretty much anything Metz does is worth listening to and/or buying. Just shove loons into their Canadian jean jacket pockets and force them to rock your godamn face off repeatedly. (31G Records)
MORAL STRAIGHTJACKET, “Into the Light”
This West Coast group not only crib their name from a fairly popular Farside song, but they also make no qualms about trying to wholesale emulate whatever it is that Self Defense Family have going on. And that’s truly a difficult task to undertake without sounding like try-hards. Also, as unique as it is (and part of what makes SDF it’s own animal), why would anyone actually try to sound like Pat Kindlon? I can’t fault this band for having good taste in influences, but it seems like they’re trying to sell it a little too hard. This kind of falls somewhere between where End Of a Year transitioned into being SDF as far as where the sound is coming from. (RuinedSmile)
OLD GHOSTS/ LONGEST WAR split 7”
For a couple years I lived in Buffalo and fully experienced what the locals referred to as ‘Buffalo style’. And believe you me, there is truly a Buffalo style to hardcore, and it survives on this split. Old Ghosts are totally a Buffalo band. Longest War have a few guys from Buffalo in the band, but also a Canadian and a Rochester fella, but it all averages out to Western New York in the long run. Either way, both bands present a very meaty and crunchy taco, not unlike a good midnight meal from Mighty Taco (also Buffalo related). While many bands currently aim for how many beatdowns they can cram into something resembling a ‘song’ both of these bands understand the importance of a good fast part, meaningful lyrics, before knocking you down with a heavy riff. I think Old Ghosts overall have the better tracks on this split, but I dig both. If you like Despair, Buried Alive, Fadeaway, or Union you will probably enjoy this… and also because members of these bands played in like half the listed groups. (State Of Mind)
Allow me to reattach my head to my neck before going forth with this review. It fell off while banging head to this awesome West Virginia band’s new record. I can pretty much guarantee KARP never played their neck of the woods, so Rhin had to form to ensure something similar represented their hometown. I have never heard of them until this was sent my way, and good thing it was, or else I’d feel stupid for passing it up. They certainly wear their influences in an obvious way, but respectfully. After all, midway through is the longest track on the LP, “Snivlem”, which, spelled backwards gives an indication what sort of noise they’re going for. They continue with “Clay”, another long track that introduces a bit of epic melody before going back to full-on manic shredding with “Basement”. “Bad Timing” closes out the record with a relatively different feel than the rest of the album, as it aims for a more catchy and melodic opening and a sort-of Torche-like spacey/heavy/arena rock-ish ending. Overall, this is a pretty great record that caught me off guard. (Grimoire Records)
TOMBS, “All Empires Fall” EP
Tombs is a band that I respect more out of the time, effort, and work that they have put forth for many years at this point, rather than the music they make. I’m just not really a fan of black metal and this EP definitely shows them very clearly working that angle of their sometimes difficult-to-pin down sound. If it distinguishes them from hordes of other corpsepainted snowy forest/smelly basement dwellers (aside from the fact Tombs don’t use corpsepaint) I’ll give Tombs credit for adding some ethereal keyboard textures and occasional post-punk Killing joke style sounds to the songs on this EP. Their songs on here, overall, also feel a little more simplistic in terms of arrangement. Again, it’s not anything that really moves me because I don’t really feel this style of music, but Tombs know how to constantly refine and alter their sound to what they’re into at the time without losing sight of who they are. (Relapse)
KELETON DMD, “Body Double”
In the late 90’s I was really into just about anything that the Makoto Records label released, which was primarily Michigan-based bands that were all pretty different, but somehow all fit together nicely. I appreciated their varied approach to punk, as well as the (almost) yearly Michigan Fest they helped curate. And then they just totally disappeared. One such band that stood out for me on their label, remained fairly mysterious, and definitely did not get their just due (or release nearly enough material for me to be satisfied with) was the Kalamazoo-based Keleton DMD. They had an insanely awesome sound, pairing the tones of Shellac with the energy and heft of early Hammerhead, and an unbelievably talented drummer who threw in so many curveballs and hidden tricks that the whole thing ended up being a very unique beast indeed. They released (as far as I know) a 7”, a couple comp appearances, this lone full length, and an EP afterwards before splitting up. The lyrics are mostly non-sensical tales of weirdoes, crime, and hustles gone bad… but who knows, they could have been about anything really. I mean, how hard could Kalamazoo get? Things on this LP open up with the tricky drum chops of “Black and Single” before a blast of jangly guitar and rubbery bass intermittently spazzs out within the beat. It breaks off into a primary part of the song, which may be the most rhythmically complex track on the record. The rest follows a slightly more accessible feel until the very straight-forward, jackhammering “Over a Hustle” appears later on. It’s probably my favorite song of theirs and represents the band very well insofar as what it is they do. This is a pretty hard album to track down, and was only pressed on CD I believe. But I highly suggest giving it a shot as it has stuck with me for the last 17 years or so. (Makoto) CHECK IT HERE.