Monday, September 24, 2018


OK, the NULL record is out and I have a moment of free time finally.  Time to gather up some stuff that has been making me think, stuff that cuts a pretty wide swath across the musical landscape.    As we cut to the final quarter of this incredibly quick year I think about the interesting variety of bands that have rolled the dice in this increasingly weird and lawless hellscape that is recorded music.  I attempt to navigate the terrain like some ancient cartographer.  The blue is land, right?

Considering this is ex-Torche personnel I don’t want to make too many comparisons, but between the harmonic vocals and crushingly heavy jams spewed forth on this debut EP it’s kind of difficult not to find some common ground.  Dead Now does manage to differentiate themselves enough though, with the addition of some prog-meets-groovy areas that will make your Yes-worshipping uncle take a quizzical double take, just as much as the Satan-worshipping co-worker who showed up late (again) leeringly mention that this does, indeed, rock.  Pair this with a band like Brain Tentacles to truly get some weird, heavy rock action.  It’s not landing on some end of the year list, but it’s certainly enjoyable.  (BrutalPanda)

EMMA RUTH RUNDLE, “On Dark Horses”
I’ll admit I’m new to listening to the music of Emma Ruth Rundle, even though I have heard her name a number of times over the last couple of years.  It turns out she is quite prolific and has an almost uncategorizable sound.  Of her several albums this definitely feels the most polished and well-crafted.  I’m not sure if it is the addition of members of Jaye Jayle as her backing band, or just her natural progression as a songwriter, but there is a great big sound happening here that leans on the quiet-loud-quiet aesthetic, but in a way that sounds fresh to me.  While elements of folk, goth, Americana, and sparse- yet melodic- ruminations meander through Rundle’s haunting and soulful voice it’s the giant swells within the choruses that really make this something special.  Hints of Mazzy Star, or Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas, Shannon Wright, or even Laurie Anderson may receive unintentional (or intentional, who knows) nods, but like other great solo performers Emma Ruth Rundle doesn’t really fall into any sort of specific subgenre.  She is who she is.  If you like songs with someone who has a really great voice, big melodies, and a sound as vast as the Grand Canyon this will likely appeal to you.  If you already enjoy stuff from Sargent House that doesn’t quite sound like this, but shares similarities in regards to artistic open-mindedness- say, Helms Alee, Russian Circles, Chelsea Wolfe, or even Jaye Jayle- chances are you will already be willing to make the leap to dive into this as well. I’m certainly glad that I did.  (Sargent House)

LAW BOSS, “Diminishing Returns”
Based on name alone I would expect Law Boss to be a group that deals in exclusively beefy riffs and walls of amps.  Something about sounding ‘boss’ and word association I guess.  It’s not to say this Portland trio don’t deliver, just in a slightly different way than I had thought.  Plus, the recording is a bit on the quiet end so I’m going to assume they make up for it by crushing it live or something.  They actually have an interesting combination of sounds that I’m picking up on- much of which is their uncanny similarity to a Gainesville band called Cutman that were around about 10 years ago, who definitely had a very ‘boss’ sound to them.  That probably means nothing to most, but the resemblance is really quite remarkable.  On a number of songs I’m hearing the more rocking end of mid-90’s Dischord stuff like Bluetip and Jawbox, in broad strokes.  But once they get to “Bite, Chew, Swallow” it’s all Jesus Lizard worship- slow, weird, and serpentine.  So feel this out: beefy post-hardcore with a mix of Dischord rock and a touch of Jesus Lizard.  Is that cool?  Follow-up: is it ok to address these guys as ‘boss’ or ‘chief’?  (self-released)

People are giving this a weird reaction, like it’s not up to snuff.  I don’t know what they’re talking about.  Metal fans are a picky lot.  This is a good release from Pig Destroyer.  I have given it quite a few thorough listens, compared it to their other output, and I think it holds up pretty well.  While their last release, “Book Burner” had a visual aesthetic that I really liked musically it didn’t really take hold as much as I thought it would.  This record is a good return to the semi-unpredictable and manic intensity of “Phantom Limb”-era material.  Some people prefer to go back further, but I’m of the opinion that most all Pig Destroyer material is upper echelon of metal/punk/grind/what-have-you, so older comparisons are kind of pointless (and you’ve read this far, huh?).  That all being said I feel like the variety covers a fair amount of ground without being too overwhelming.  Some songs keep a mid-paced tempo, while others go for the tried-and-true off-the-wall blasting and light speed delivery Pig Destroyer are known for.  “Concrete Beast” meddles with the band’s unabashed love for old Melvins by inserting slow stop-start riffs that stop and start in a lot of weird places while “Mt. Skull” and “The Torture Fields” both unload some of the more murder-spree-worthy breakdowns in the band’s career (though not quite as all-out-war as “Phantom Limb”, which will probably never be topped).  And much like other PD releases the art is top notch and worth plucking down some cash just so you can gaze upon its bizarre horror.  (Relapse)

REBUILD/REPAIR, “There Is No Place Left For Me Here”
I can only imagine that Edmonton, Alberta is not a hotbed of underground music.  I’m aware of a few musical forces of nature emanating from the middle-of-nowhere Canadian city, but by and large I’m guessing most well-known bands skip it over.  So when there’s not much, make something right?  I’m sure Rebuild/Repair live by this coda and that alone is worth something.  And when they drop some earnest and fast punk-tinged hardcore with some serious Black Flag “Damaged”-era vocals on their latest release one can be happy to know someone is indeed doing something in that town.  But that’s just the first few songs on this record.  After that they sort of lose the trail and veer off into a mid-paced instrumental and a slow, weirdly melodic track that goes on for way too long, a song that has way too much clean vocals and could be a throwaway from a Verse or Have Heart record, and a couple other tracks that go back to their faster style but go on for a bit longer than a fast hardcore song ought to.  My feeling on their style is that I appreciate it from the jump, but the rest of it is not for me and doesn’t quite retain a solid focus throughout. (self-released)

Ed Gein got tired of being Ed Gein, brought in Steve Sindoni (vocalist from Breather Resist and Pusher) and emerged as a 4-piece with a new name.  When the first track of their self-titled, digital-only, record comes on it might be easy to think ‘how is this different from Ed Gein?’, what with it’s instant barrage of blasting.  But much of this release takes a decidedly slower, heavier turn, that certainly does recall some moments of sludgier Breather Resist material from way back and I quite enjoy it.  Focusing more on slower, ugly riffs there seems to be a blend of some mid-90’s hardcore (“The Children Are Full” is like a melding of Snapcase and Unbroken soaked in sheets of gross distortion).  That vibe continues on for a bit until we hit “Jesus In Leather”, which definitely recalls the blast beat/simplistic punk mash of later Ed Gein material.  It’s one of the more raging tunes here that comes across fast and direct.  But for my money I think my favorite track is “The White Coats”.  It’s the most differentiated of the songs on this as it alternates between a slow and creepy melody and an absolutely killer riff that would make Crowbar soil their cargo shorts.  Overall, I’m pretty excited about this effort, but I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a couple minor critiques- the first being that at times the recording of the drums feels a bit muddy and when Jesse is really blasting, or crushing the double-kick it, in turn, makes everything else that is going on sound a bit indiscernible.  Secondly, with a lion’s share of these songs being on the slower side, and barely pausing between some of the songs on the second half of this record it makes them run together a bit.  Perhaps sequencing to alternate between the faster and slower songs would be in order to vary it up a bit.  Otherwise, it’s a hot chunk of gross and massive ugliness from some seasoned vets trying out a new style of doing things that feels somewhat familiar, but different enough that it comes off as fresh and exciting.  (self-released)


I had some preconceived idea of this group falling into a ‘throwback emo’ sort of sound and maybe that was some of their earlier material because they sure as hell are on some other stuff with this record.  Without question, there is definitely a trippy psych vibe happening here, down to the entire recording sounding as if it were played back slightly warped.  And I suppose if you’re dropping acid it probably just enhances the experience.  However, I’d like to clarify that it’s not a Manson family sort of trippy affair where death cults result from listening to this.  It’s a record awash in a dream where the Beatles and Sonic Youth sort of collide and traipse through fields, and I swear to you I do not do drugs.  Maybe give it a little bit of an Unwound, “Leaves Turn Inside You” feeling, but more sunlit.  It’s certainly not my typical fare, but I appreciate the variety, as well as the band’s venture into something unique. (Tiny Engines)

So out of nowhere Tragedy just decides they’re going to up and release a new EP and not tell anyone.  They actually played a show here in Portland several weeks ago, which surprised me because I wasn’t sure if they were even still together.  They announced the show a few weeks ahead of time but didn’t announce they had a new record.  I wanted to go to the show but it conflicted with another show I really wanted to check out so I opted out.  And then the record was already gone, or something.  So the band then did the unthinkable- they put it on bandcamp.  I mean it’s Tragedy after all.  They don’t really engage with the world at large, especially where the internet is concerned.  But, essentially, they do not live in our world.  If you like this band then you live in their world, on their terms.  And the six new songs here prove that despite staying off the grid, so to speak, the band hasn’t missed a beat.  I personally haven’t caught up with any of their records in a number of years (I still haven’t heard “Nerve Damage” or “Darker Days Ahead”), but I’m guessing not much has changed- the songs are fast, they sound harsh as fuck, the D-beats are plentiful, and the guitars are thunderous.  I was surprised to hear some gang vocals on the title track, which might be my favorite here, as it feels uncommon for them.  But yeah, you get the idea- Motorhead meets Discharge levels of speed and intensity, a love of Japanese crust, high contrast black and white images of war and desolation, vocals that will punch you in the face, and slow parts be damned.  “Fury” is definitely an apt title.  (Tragedy Records)

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