So here we have a bunch of new stuff that has been entertaining me lately. And I never really make a big deal about stuff like this, but more than half the records reviewed here prominently feature woman in the bands, and I think that's cool as most of the stuff that typically appeals to me falls squarely in heavy older dude rock/heavy stuff. So I appreciate having some variety in my heavy music. It's not like I planned this, it just sort of worked out that way with the stuff I reviewed this month. And now you can check it out for yourself.
BARDUS/ MULTICULT split 7”
In a series of split seven inches with an ongoing theme (the collected covers make up one larger piece) Philadelphia’s Bardus and Baltimore’s Multicult lay down one song each, which doesn’t seem like much, but since both bands are pretty excellent in their own right it’s a worthwhile effort.
Bardus begin things with a slow and sludgy, moody song with a very memorable repeating riff where most of the song sounds like it could have emerged out of the tail end of Breather Resist’s catalog. However, near the close of the song it breaks down into a more doom-y, screaming-in-a-cave sort of thing.
Multicult offers up an alternate take of one of the better songs on their most recent LP. As always, their attack is wire-y, jagged, unreasonably tense and nervous and recorded in a perfect, pristine manner so that every single nuance of Jesus Lizard-inspired technicality shines through. They obviously have a good handle on what they’re doing and they do it well. (Corpse Flower)
BITE MARKS, “Sucia” 12”
Comprised of folks who have been bouncing around numerous Gainesville area punk bands over the years Bite Marks is the latest in a long line of very diverse groups to emerge. I saw them live and it was 15 minutes of chaos with a vocalist who spent most of her time writhing and freaking out, which was pretty cool. The recorded Bite Marks still sounds unhinged and chaotic, but in a way that makes way more sense. Their songs are short, but stride the line somewhere between the freak-outs of bands like Orchid and the fringe melody of post-punk. It’s a cool combo and one I suggest looking into. “Hounds”, the opening track, is the most accessible and fun song on this one-sided EP. Speaking of which, this record is housed in a screenprinted cover, on a one-sided LP with a screenprinted B-side, and an insert that doesn’t bother with lyrics, but instead offers a ridiculous ‘press release’ documenting the band as existing through (and creating) basically every major underground music benchmark over the last 40 years. It’s weird, but I like it. (Belladonna Records)
DRUG CHURCH, “Cheer”
It’s wild to think that this band, which started out as sort of just a project, and nothing all that serious, is now on their third full length and regularly on tour about half of the year. And in that time, their obsession with dredging up early 90’s grunge and post-hardcore has really gone about as far as possible. But they just keep going at it, and it’s a pretty enjoyable ride. The band has made it clear that this is their ‘sellout’ record, which I’m guessing to mean they made a conscious effort to write more pop-oriented songs on here. I mean, all their material is catchy. But they mess around with some acoustic melodies, some accompanying female vocals, and other little add-ons that I suppose push things more into mainstream rock territory. And it lands about half the time. But where the band has always excelled is when they’re pining the big riffs, the shouted tales of losers continuing to be losers, and the more aggressive element. The best example is on side B ripper “Unlicensed Hall Monitor”, which is quickly followed up by a perfect combo of huge, awesome riff and catchy melody on “Foam Pit”. Closing track “Tillary” is an interesting example of how the group is trying some pop elements and succeeding in a weird sort of way. It has some sort of 80’s Brit rock-sounding thing going on. I can’t describe it properly but I enjoy it. So yeah, whatever they’re going for it’s mostly working but they may try to escape the Seaweed, but the Seaweed won’t escape them! (Pure Noise)
FAIM, s/t 7”
This Denver area group (with members also residing in Tacoma) is not re-inventing the wheel. But, as is the case with most fast hardcore bands, it’s not exactly easy to sound very unique. What Faim (pronounced ‘faahm’) excel in, though, is sounding raw and dirty and harsh enough on these five songs so that one does not really need to be concerned with being the most original group. They write well-crafted hardcore and play it like their lives depend on it with lyrics that attack the ‘good dude, backed hard, look-the-other-way’ mentality of scene kids turned scumbag. The cover art should be an indication- an icy highway covered in snow, looking out of the 4-wheeled steel deathtrap where the windshield wiper is probably frozen to the window and who knows what jackass move the motorist next to you is going to pull, causing a 10-car pileup and lots of misery. That picture is code for the volatile and hostile nature of this band. It’s also a sight I’m all too familiar with and I do not miss driving in bullshit like that. But I like listening to Faim. I’ll take that instead! (Convulse Records)
GREAT SABATINI, THE, “Goodbye Audio”
Prior to working with this band for an upcoming project I honestly thought they had only been a band for a few years and had a couple LPs. But no. They have 4 LPs to their name, 4 other EPs, and have been together for over 10 years. That’s just insane. For part time guys living and working out of the Montreal area it’s wild to think they have been at it for this long and churning out stupid heavy noise rock in the vein of everything from early Melvins to tricky heavy metal and bouts of sludge akin to fellow countrymen Shallow North Dakota. They remain consistently inventive, weird, and incredibly heavy. And this really does feel like their most ambitious outing to date. The album is quite front-loaded with all the crazy heavy-sludgy fun stuff. “Still Life With Maggots” and “You’re Gonna Die (Unsatisfied)” wrangle with knotty, dense slabs of heavy, and throttle the shit out of your stereo. The back half of the record is slower, more experimental, and kind of just throws everything plus the kitchen sink into the mix to really get out any ideas the band was hoping to exorcise. Closing track “Hand Of Unmaking” has parts with violin and some really cool organ to go up against the boulder-sized heavy parts. It’s a lot to take in, but it certainly has its merit. Fans with shorter attention spans will revel in the first half, while fans of more morose, thinking man’s metal will appreciate the grab bag of creativity on the second section. All in all, a pretty good representation from a band that’s been slogging it out for along time. (No List)
HAIR PULLER, “Old Friend”
Here comes the first proper full length from this still relatively young local Portland trio and it’s hard as nails. Combining some of the stoner-ish sludge and uncommon riff arrangements of early Kylesa with chunky metallic hardcore akin to Unbroken, Hair Puller have dished out 10 tracks that make for a pretty good debut. They are at their strongest when they’re just going for the gut punch, like on the ultra-heavy title track, or the more driving groove of “Chores” (which has an almost old Deftone-ish feel to it). Those are, in fact, my favorite two tracks on here, even though they dig a little deeper with structure elsewhere on the record. They’re just both relatively simple songs, but knock you out easy. The members share vocals, even though they all seem to have a piercing scream that goes well with the low end of the music, and lyrically gets into some heavy topical matter. While it’s a solid first effort each song has a pretty similar tempo and messing around with that a little bit might make for some added variety down the road. (Nadine Records)
HUMANITIES, “Unnatural Histories” EP
There are friends of mine who have dubbed certain kinds of bands ‘Hex rock’ despite my protest that it sounds corny. But, to put it bluntly, they know me all too well. There’s that sweet spot where the likes of Dischord-style groups such as Jawbox collide with other 90’s heavyweights like Helmet and Quicksand to create angular, noisy, heavy, but still kind of catchy music that I fawn on about whenever a band matching those qualities falls into my lap. So, this Toronto-based band (featuring members of Godstopper- so full disclosure- I released records for) kind of fits right into that niche of shit that’s going to tickle my fancy. Apparently, they have a bit of a catalog to go through, but this is the newest thing- a four song EP heavy on the politics as it is those aforementioned musical qualities I enjoy. The first track has a bit of an electronic-sounding bent to it, reminding me heavily of Cop Shoot Cop (nothing bad there), but it’s sort of the outlier as the other three songs lean hard on that Jawbox/Burning Airlines sense of melody combined with those heavy rhythms and crushing rock of post-hardcore bands such as Prize Country, Sweet Cobra, or Cast Iron Hike. You know I’m sold on it. (No List)
REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY, “The Wilderness/ Just ‘Cos You Got the Power” 7”
Listening to this new 7” from RSA does not truly show the band’s full potential. They write fine songs full of rocking punk energy and heavy political criticism. But on the rare opportunity one might get to see them live (which I luckily did a few weeks ago) it’s a precision-killing tornado of sound and expertise. Comprised entirely of guys who are getting up there in years (especially for punks) this collective goes off harder than most bands half their age. Erik Denno and Darren Zentek, both formally of Kerosene 454- one of my favorite bands ever- do what they each do so well. Zentek is one of the most talented and creative drummers I’ve ever witnessed. Denno has a voice that is all his own, teetering from melodic to harsh. He shares vocal duties with J. Robbins, a totally unique voice of his own, who mans the bass guitar in this band (his well-known guitar playing taking a back seat here). Vic Bondi, from 80’s Chicago punks Articles Of Faith, rounds out the group on guitar and other vocals, his voice and playing being the most harsh in the group. Live they are a whirlwind and command the room. This record has one new song from them (“The Wilderness”- a solid political screed full of melody and power) and a Motorhead cover… but not quite the style of Motorhead most think of. It’s kind of a funny choice for this group, but fun nonetheless. If this group plays within 300 miles of you just go see them because you probably won’t have many opportunities. (Arctic Rodeo)
SUPER UNISON, “Stella”
It took a number of listens to really to really formulate my thoughts on the new Super Unison record. Their first LP was a favorite that year and I really loved its immediate, upbeat energy. But something feels a lot different on their second record “Stella”. There is a clearly a bit of a different sound due to a change in studio and recording engineer that makes a marked difference. Many of these songs feel a little more involved, a little heavier, and show a greater appreciation for big Hum-inspired tidal waves of sound. Both of their full lengths are very good, very enjoyable records for sure. And even though, in all honesty, they both sound very similar. Still, there is something underlying this new one that feels considerably different from the first that I cannot put my finger on, and now I can’t discern which one I like better. That’s really not the worst problem for any band (or fan) to have, is it? From their most vicious on “Virus”, to their most contemplative on “Comfort” there’s certainly a tone (especially vocally) of personal loss and difficult changes in one’s life. Maybe that’s the difference I’m hearing- that emotional tone shining through. Either way, the band nailed it again with a great collection of songs. (Deathwish)