From the unlikely death metal mecca of Portland, Oregon comes the debut LP from Frightmare. Maniac Neil, a legend in the PDX death/grind scene, is the lone mastermind behind Frightmare and he’s really into the gory death/grind of the early Earache days. Think Carcass and Entombed, both before 1993. He’s also heavily inspired by the slasher movies of the 1980s, which fuel most, if not all, of the lyrics.
Frightmare is not a modern death/grind band in terms of technique. First, the band isn’t all that polished. “Thorn in Their Side” could be stand to be tightened up, but that’s part of the charm. This band has the same old-school feel as Pungent Stench, Mortician, and Repulsion. Some of his leads may be weak, but Maniac Neil knows how to write a riff. My only complaint concerning the music on “Midnight Murder Mania” is the lack on imagination on some of the songs. Some songs mirror the influence too closely and the listener can easily identify the Carcass parts, for instance. It’s a minor gripe, but it’s still legitimate.
Portland is not only home to killer metal bands like Frightmare, Ghoul, Lord Gore, and Bung, but it’s also home to a number of comic book creators, including Spider-Man author Brian Michael Bendis. Frightmare supports the whole PDX scene by having two artists from Portland’s “Tales from Uranus” comics to do all of the album’s artwork. Very cool of them.
An LP version of “Midnight Murder Mania”, of sketchy origins I would guess, has turned up on store shelves lately. I saw one down at Sound Exchange not too long ago. Vinyl purists will want to jump on this quickly, since Razorback (unfortunately) doesn’t press vinyl anymore.
In short, this record gives you 10 tracks of slasher-flick-inspired, Portland gore-grind radness; plus a pretty brutal cover of “Devil lock” by The Misfits. Beware the PDX Ripper!
EDIT: Frightmare themselves contacted me to let all of you know that Ghoul are in fact from Oakland and Tales from Uranus comics are based in Illinois. Sorry for any confusion!
Hate Eternal’s 2005 effort “I, Monarch” is still the fierce, blasting death you’ve come to know and love, but Erik Rutan must have been possessed by the blast beat demons when he wrote this one; even more so than usual. This album reaches grindcore velocity, but make no mistake. Hate Eternal are meh-tul and don’t you forget it.
Once again, Derek Roddy’s drum performance proves that he is the man, even if some of this album’s later tracks get repetitive. This isn’t an issue for “To Know Our Enemies”, the best song on the album. If you’ve never heard this band before, download that track and check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
Apparently, Rutan wants you to know about Zero Karma, which is some band that he loves. Hate Eternal samples Zero Karma on the song “I, Monarch”, former members make vocal appearances, and he thanks them about 20 times inside the liner notes. Okay, I get it. I’ll check them out.
Here's the video for the title track off "I, Monarch."
Possibly the most fun band on the planet right now, Municipal Waste have blazed the trail for other 80s-minded crossover lovers to follow and “Hazardous Mutation” is the playbook that those pretenders will follow. The Waste are cool dudes, their live shows are a blast, and they’re constantly psyched to be able to thrash for a living.
If you’ve never heard them before, Municipal Waste plays crossover thrash in the vein of Wermacht and DRI. “Hazardous Mutation” is the band’s Earache debut and its almost too rad for humans to handle. The album is 15 tracks of killer retro thrash never sounds old or dated. It’s not a put-on and it’s nice to see a band having fun again. Watch out for the terror shark!
Here's the promo video for "Unleash the Bastards", off of "Hazardous Mutation."
DROWNINGMAN Busy Signal at the Suicide Hotline Hydra Head
I remember back in 1998 (the year of this album’s release) when Drowningman was constantly being compared to Botch. While not incorrect, I don’t think it’s an appropriate comparison either. Drowningman and Botch were both on HydraHead at the same time and both played acrobatic hardcore, but Drowningman was it’s own band with it’s own voice.
The album’s title track rocks hard. The lyrics of vocalist Simon Brody are written entirely in first-person perspective (minus two songs), which gets old. But they’re demented and Brody drops hate, so it’s cool.
Drowningman seems to take a stream-of-conscious approach to songwriting. As disjointed and angular as the recording can be, everything flows together smoothly, except when the drums are too loud (in spots) and overpower the other instruments.
The album’s cover art, assembled by Isis guitarist and Hydra Head founder Aaron Turner, features numerous screen captures from the legendary Twin Peaks series. I’m not sure that I get the connection between that show and this album, but that’s okay. “Busy Signal” is a great album that the listener doesn’t have to “get” to enjoy. Also, I absolutely love the guitar tone on this album. Even during the quieter, calmer portions for songs, they still sound heavy.
Here's the promo video for "White People are Stupid" by Drowningman.
Anodyne plays fierce, technical hardcore in the vein of Rorschach and Burnt By the Sun, but not quite as spastic as the previously mentioned bands. Anodyne’s album “The Outer Dark” has the same droning quality found on a large number of Hydra Head Records releases. This combination of influences seem to occur primarily in musicians from the northeastern U.S. Others try to copy it, but they can never quite pull it off. Maybe it’s the drastic winter weather that produces such a furious sound. If you like heavy, and by reading this I assume you do, then check out the closing riff on the song “Form Is Emptiness.” It’s beyond devastating.
An enjoyable facet of Anodyne’s mystique is the listener’s inability to accurately pin down exactly where this band is going, musically speaking. For instance, former Madball guitarist Matt Henderson helped to engineer “The Outer Dark”, but no traces of “tough-guy hardcore” can be found on the record, in spite of the potential influence from Henderson’s former band. One may have nothing to do with the other, but the temptation is there. Either way, I find the enigmatic nature of Anodyne appealing.
The songs on “The Outer Dark” are precise, if nothing else. “Knives” is a great example of Anodyne’s skilled playing. This precision is also applicable to the band’s lyrics. Much like Mastodon, their lyrics are abstract, repetitive (in a good way), and to-the-point.
Once again, PA’s Escape Artist Records outdid themselves in the packaging and design of this LP. The marble-gray swirled vinyl is as beautiful as the cover art.
“The Outer Dark” may not be for everyone, but those who appreciate rock music with an adventurous spirit are encouraged to check out this band. Something I’ve always appreciated about hardcore is the diversity of the music produced within the scene. Anodyne doesn’t easily fit into any mold, which is probably why I like them.
The mighty Hatred Surge is a one-man, Despise You-worshipping, grind-hate machine from Houston, Texas. No drum machine falseness here. Alex Hughes (UNT student, ex-MGR, sometimes Insect Warfare member) plays every instrument and does the vocals on this 9-minute-long debut.
What does it sound like? Lightning fast grindcore countered with terrifying power violence dirges. Alex is on a one-man mission (literally!) to bring back the feel of 90s DIY grind and power violence. If you love Despise You, Napalm Death, Rotten Sound, and any other band of the ilk, then go get this now!
“Club Mondo Bizarre” marks Pungent Stench’s transition from Carcass-inspired grindcore to death-n-roll. The lyrical transition for these Austrian perverts (I mean that in an endearing way) happened on the “Been Caught Buttering” album, when they moved from gore lyrics to pornographic subject matter. On “Club Mondo Bizarre”, Pungent Stench fully embraces rock acts like ZZ Top and Aerosmith while incorporating these influences into a death metal context. The results are nothing short of amazing.
In fact, “Club Mondo Bizarre” was a modest commercial success when it was released. Keep in mind that this was back in 1994, at the dawn of the Alanis-HootieFish years. The mid-90s was a stagnant period for metal, but Pungent Stench beat the odds. I remember hearing the song “True Life” on Z-Rock’s death metal show when I was a kid; quite an accomplishment for such a graphic band.
Speaking of graphic, the album’s lyrics are truly twisted in the Pungent Stench style. It’s all here, from scat fetish worship (“Klyster Boogie”) to autoerotic asphyxiation (“Choked for a Joke”). Of course, suicide, STDs, and murder make appearances as well. Giddy perversion aside, the strongest song on the album is “Pagar con la Misma Moneda.” In it, a raped woman takes revenge on her attacker. An ex-girlfriend of mine was very impressed that a death metal band was capable of being so empathetic, even in Pungent Stench’s unusual way.
Musically, “Club Mondo Bizarre” is Pungent Stench’s strongest performance. Each song on the record is a tight death metal groove that comes from the heart. It doesn’t seem forced, like mid-period Entombed. If the song “In Search of Perfect Torture” doesn’t get your hips shaking, then you should quit music.
Grab your girl (or guy), put “Club Mondo Bizarre” on the stereo, throw on some BDSM porn, and violate some commandments.
Here a live clip of "Klyster Boogie" from "Club Mondo Bizarre." The clip was recorded at a festival in Europe.
This is, without a doubt, Phobia’s best album. Yes, it’s even better than “Means of Existence.” “Cruel” is a focused and deadly grindcore masterpiece.
New drummer Danny Walker (ex-Uphill Battle) helps bring Phobia to a new level, in terms of songwriting and delivery. He holds down a foundation for the songs and does more than just mindlessly provide blast beats.
Scott Hull, of Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed fame, produced “Cruel.” No wonder it sounds so good. If he doesn’t know what heavy should sound like, then no one does.
I realize that long-time Phobia members Shane and Steve dealt with some serious personal issues a few years back. I wouldn’t say that the albums in that period, such as “Serenity Through Pain”, suffered because of it. Rather, I think Shane and Steve did the best they could under the circumstances. With their problems behind them, “Cruel” has proven that Phobia is the true kings of west coast grindcore.
The CD is available through Willowtip and the LP through Deep Six. You get a free poster and colored wax if you order the vinyl directly from Deep Six. Mine is purple.
Seriously, this record is heavy. Even if you’re a jaded grinder who has heard it all, “Cruel” will melt your brain. It’s unrelenting. I’ve never heard a band that plays this fast sound so heavy. Really, you need this.
Here's the infamous Real TV clip featuring Phobia.
Insect Warfare Endless Execution Through Violent Restitution 625 Thrashcore
It’s always cause for celebration when the pride and joy of Gulf Coast grind, Insect Warfare, release a new record. In addition to the new EP, the fine gents in Insect Warfare have also taken this opportunity to release their music on the compact disc format for the first time. So now all you non-kvlt, non-turntable-having types out there have no excuse.
The Endless Execution CD has both the Endless Execution and the “At War with Grindcore” EPs, their tracks from the Hatred Surge split and the Gulf Coast Massacre compilation, their 2004 demo and a Celtic Frost cover. It’s a common practice for new bands to release discography CDs every couple of years just to have all of their material available. What’s not common is the unbridled brutality that Insect Warfare delivers with every song.
The new EP features the same blast-heavy, old-school grindcore attack that we’ve all come to know and love from these guys. However, Endless Execution differs from their past works in two distinct ways. One is the production, which makes this EP the best sounding of all their material so far. The other is a new-found death metal influence. I’m not speaking of the mosh-slam-death that’s so prevalent in the state these days. No, I mean a tip of the hat to bands such as Entombed and Suffocation; those bands that did heavy correctly.
Here's Insect Warfare live at the UG Speed Trials fest in San Fransisco, recorded March 2007.
Straight out of Laredo, Texas comes Flawless Victory. This band plays metal-tinged hardcore that’s reminiscent of Pantera and the bands that picked up where Pantera left off, like A Perfect Murder and newer Throwdown. It’s good to see a Texas band keeping the Pantera sound alive and keeping it fresh at the same time.
The five-song EP “Neustra Herencia” is filled with bone-crushing breakdowns that will set it off in any pit. The hardcore aspects of their sound are in the vein of such luminaries as Madball and Terror.
Some Swedish-style riffing can be found on “Neustra Herencia”, but not enough to warrant the dreaded metalcore tag. It’s just proof that Flawless Victory’s game is tight. They are one of the few new bands that can effortlessly float between styles and create their own sound. Nothing sounds forced, which is something that can’t be said for many of their peers.
Flawless Victory keeps it real by singing the song “Neustra Herencia” is Spanish. Metal and hardcore are an international community and Flawless Victory don’t let anyone forget that.
“Nuestra Herencia” is a great recording captured at Houston’s Origin Sounds. This studio is fast becoming to Texas what Trax East is to the NYC area.
Here it is, the new Mastodon record. The dreaded, sell-out major label debut. More on that later. Ethics aside, the music rocks.
The Mastodon style, which fully took shape on the “Remission” album, has been perfected on “Blood Mountain”. Their order-from-chaos guitar noodling, Thin Lizzy-meets-Metallica riffs, dueling vocalists, fearless rhythm section, and adventurous lyrics are all represented here.
Long-time Mastodon collaborator Matt Bayles has produced their best sounding album to date. “Blood Mountain” has all the complexity of Tool (more actually), but with the heaviness of classic Metallica. The guitar tones are godly and Troy Sanders’ bass is actually audible this time.
Brann Dailor has slightly toned down his manic drumming with positive results. By not gravity-rolling every piece on his kit simultaneously, as he has shamelessly on past records, the percussion on “Blood Mountain” is more powerful and has room to breathe. As a result, the sparse, spastic mashing of his drum set is used to greater effect.
Mastodon is fast proving that they can out-play any band on the planet. The two extended, instrumental portions of “Capillarian Crest” seem otherworldly. Can humans really play this well? It’s not all progressive indulgence on this album. “Hand of Stone” cranks up the Motorhead quotient.
The use of guest vocalists on “Blood Mountain” is not employed in the hip-hop sense, so as to raise the record’s profile. Instead, the singers (Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and Cedric Bixlar-Zavala of The Mars Volta) are all like-minded creators that share Mastodon’s sensibilities.
For all the hype this year about retro-metal jam bands, Mastodon schools them all by simply playing their own style. Other acts like The Sword, Early Man and Priestess can’t hold a candle to tunes like “Bladecatcher”.
It’s weird to see a Reprise logo on the CD case. If you’re reading this, you hopefully know on which side of the major label debate to be. If you don’t want to support Warner Brothers, then buy the vinyl from Relapse. If Relapse has pissed you off lately, then burn it. Just don’t discount the music on “Blood Mountain” because MASTODON signed with a big corporation. The record is good and they’re the most interesting major label act since MR. BUNGLE.
I, too, wish that they had stayed independent, but here’s the reality of the situation. Mastodon made a great record, even if you don’t like their ethics.
UPDATE: I got to see Mastodon play at SXSW in Austin last month. It was my first time seeing them play the new stuff. It was, without a doubt, the best Mastodon show I'd ever seen. They're still the most interesting major label band and even MTV is now playing the "Colony of Birchmen" video. The Blood Mountain saga isn't over yet. Here's what you missed:
Employer, Employee Mother Spain and the Wayfaring Myth Relapse
For a few glorious years in the early 2000s, the late, great Employer, Employee was the best band in Austin and maybe the whole state. They were known best for their live shows, which could only be described as spectacles, and their hard-to-find, full-length album SIC[SIC], released on Robotic Empire Records in 2001. That said, the Mother Spain 7” is probably their best release.
For those that don’t know, Employer, Employee played Rorschach-style hardcore with traces of math metal reminiscent of the Dillinger Escape Plan. Of course, it’s not that simple.
Employer, Employee followed in the tradition of unusual Texas hardcore bands like the Butthole Surfers and The Hates. The members of Employer, Employee weren’t bizarre people, but their music was certainly unpredictable.
For one thing, EMPLOYER, EMPLOYEE was intense. Even on vinyl, as opposed to the live setting, their music stimulates the adrenal gland. For another, they were fearless and original. String quartet? Check. Frightening spoken-word pieces? Check. Complex drum rhythms? Check. Murderous riffing? You know it.
“Mother Spain and the Wayfaring Myth” can’t be considered anything other than a classic. The members’ subsequent bands (Asp and Sea of Thousand) were outstanding, but it’s Employer, Employee that will stand the test of time.
If you weren’t there, then seek out this important band in the history of Texas hardcore. If you were there, it never hurts to get reacquainted with an old friend.
This band is so kvlt that no decent pictures or video was available!
If you’re an old-school KPFT listener, then you’ll likely remember the song “Slapfuck” as a regional hit which received heavy airplay on the Sweet Nightmares and Big Jesus radio shows. “Slapfuck” is also the prototypical example of Soilent Green’s psychotic Sabbath-meets-Discharge death/sludge/grind.
Before they became the long-time Relapse Records staple they are today, Soilent Green crawled out of the New Orleans scene. Along side EYEHATEGOD, Acid Bath, Crowbar, and many others, Soilent Green helped turn heavy music on its ear back in the 90s.
“Pussysoul”, their debut full-length on the long-defunct Dwell Records, laid the foundation for all Soilent Green music to come. Grindcore blasts, ripping death metal, D-beats, and thick as molasses sludge riffs all beating the Christ out of each other and causing irreparable hearing damage in the process.
With all due respect to guitarist Brian Williams (also of EYEHATEGOD), the most dynamic and innovative member of the band is vocalist Ben Falgoust. He can do what many other extreme music singers are incapable of doing: three drastically different vocal styles. Plus, he can seamlessly switch between them. Falgoust blends death grunts, tortured screams, and creepy spoken-word passages into a tapestry of terror, usually all in the same song.
A common complaint with “Pussysoul” has been the record’s production. While it’s certainly not the best, the muddled production of “Pussysoul” gives the album character. The fast parts have a grim feeling, the slow parts are given a sense of punch-drunk clarity, and the heavy parts are immoveable.
Throughout the years, Soilent Green has suffered more tragedies and setbacks than any band should. From van accidents to ex-members passing away, they’ve persevered and they deserve every bit of their success.
In closing, let’s not forget original members Scott Williams and Glen Rambo, both of whom are no longer with us.
Here's a clip of Soilent Green playing "Mad Scientist", recorded in 1989 with original vocalist Glenn Rambo. Rambo died during Hurricane Katrina.
Cattle Decapitation plays grindcore that’s vegan and animal rights-minded, like Carcass. Unlike Carcass, no harmonizers, Pro Tools-tinkering, or any other effects are used by Travis Ryan on his vocals. As he phrases it in the album credits, “all vocals are 100% certified organic.”
Cattle Decapitation are not trying to reinvent the wheel. The band’s sound can be described as a half-and-half mixture of Florida death metal and English grind. “Humanure” best exemplifies this in the relentless death/grind assault of “Bukkake Tsunami”, where the band effortlessly switches between riffs without ever loosing momentum.
Guitarist Josh Elmore isn’t afraid to throw down a blistering lead and isn’t afraid to show that he’s a talented player. This is refreshing, especially in a style of music where many musicians don’t play up to their potential.
Similarly, the bass is an often over-looked instrument in grindcore, with many bands forsaking it altogether. On this record, Troy Oftedal holds down the low-end and forms, with drummer Michael Laughlin, one of the tightest rhythm sections going today.
The three-sided vinyl, a joint release between Metal Blade and underground stalwart Deep Six Records, features outstanding packaging with a gatefold cover, ferocious artwork, and two different colors for the two LPs. The entire third side of the album is the noise masterpiece “Men before Swine” which features disturbing audio clips of animals being slaughtered, courtesy of PETA.
Musically speaking, it would be easy to compare Cattle Decapitation to The Berzerker, but The Berzerker relies too heavily on programming and technology tricks. Cattle Decapitation doesn’t use such tactics, yet the band emerges with a similar sound. It’s just further proof that, while Cattle Decapitation may not be doing anything new, they’re doing it better than virtually everyone.
Here's the promo video for "Reduced to Paste" off of the "Humanure" album.
On their self-titled LP, San Francisco’s DeadBodiesEverywhere play grindcore that’s heavily influenced by the West Coast power violence sound. The band also uses samples in the same effective manner as EyeHateGod and Buzz Ov-en.
Is it possible for a grind band to sound more furious when they’re playing slow than when they’re playing fast? Yes, and DBE accomplishes this on the songs “Punch the Clock” and “Sloth.” Don’t worry. The grind-hate is here, especially on songs like “Action Packer”.
There’s nothing remarkable about the individual performances on the album, but together, they create an unstoppable grind/sludge force. This is exactly what great bands do. Highly recommended for fans of Lack of Interest, No Less, Despise You, and Infest. Good luck finding a copy of this record. It was released by the highly inept staff at Necropolis Records, who folded several years ago.
Here's Deadbodieseverywhere perfoming "Sloth" at the November to Dismember festival in San Bernardino, CA, recorded in November 2000.
Have you ever bought an album for just one song? That’s how I ended up with “The Fundamental Component.” The song in question is “Hatfield” and I wish that all modern metalcore sounded like this. Of course, that would take talent, guts, and a resistance of the urge to shamelessly rip-off At The Gates.
This is not to say the rest of “The Fundamental Component” fails; it certainly doesn’t. It’s just that Byzantine is a band that takes risks. When you take risks, some of them work and some do not. One example would be vocalist OJ’s singing voice. It doesn’t work, but it takes courage to do it.
Byzantine plays progressive thrash similar to Pantera, Lamb of God, and Meshuggah. When I say “similar to”, I mean “exactly like.” I say progressive because both OJ and lead guitarist Tony are fantastic players and “The Fundamental Component” is filled with challenging arrangements. If you play guitar, you’ll dig this record.
This was the first Byzantine recording without a drum machine and drummer Wolfe sounds like he’s been playing with the band for years. According to Byzantine’s Website, Wolfe joined a few months prior to this album’s recording.
My chief complaint with “The Fundamental Component”, aside from those damn clean vocals, is their reliance on cheesy breakdowns. The world already has one Bleeding Through and loosing the breakdowns would give Byzantine more room to spread their creative wings. The exception is, of course, “Hatfield”, where Tony plays a killer lead on top of the breakdown.
I also admire Byzantine’s lyrical approach, which is rooted in their West Virginia home. They tackle a wide range of subjects, from pollution and strip mining to the legendary feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.
Cheers to a band that’s doing something different, even if they’re doing it inside the confines of something lame.
Here's Byzantine playing "Hatfield", with Lamb of God's Randy Blythe on guest vocals, recorded live in Morgantown, West Virginia on 30 Oct 03:
This record is a posthumous collection of demo from one of America’s greatest bands. The “Hymn of the Needle Freak” demo, recorded before Acid Bath signed with Rotten Records, composes the bulk of the material here. The Demos album also features early versions of three songs from “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” and a haunting version of “The Bones of Baby Dolls” recorded at vocalist Dax Riggs’ house in 1994.
Acid Bath is my favorite band, so I may be coming at this from a different perspective. When I listen to the Demos album, I can’t help but compare and contrast it to “When the Kite String Pops”, their 1994 masterpiece.
All of the “Needle Freak” songs made it on to “When the Kite String Pops” and many of them were played faster as demos. This works for songs like “God Machine” and “Dope Fiend”, but it hurts “Scream of the Butterfly.”
I’m not sure if it’s the recording process or not, but Riggs’ singing voice sounded better on “When the Kite String Pops.” I bring this up because Audie Pitre’s, Sammy Duet’s, and Riggs’ own harsh vocals sound the same.
It’s interesting to hear the slight changes in the arrangements of the songs from demo to album versions. None are changed drastically, but Riggs’ did change a few lines of lyrics in “Jezebel.” I happen to prefer the demo version in this case.
The layers of guitar effects on “When the Kite String Pops”, which must have been added by producer (and DRI guitarist) Spike Cassidy, are not present on the demos. The effects contribute to the atmosphere of that album and are sorely missed here.
The demo version of “The Bones of Baby Dolls” is hauntingly beautiful. In retrospect, this may have been a precursor of things to come with latter-day Deadboy and the Elephant Men. The three songs that would find their way on to “Paegan Terrorism Tactics” hardly sound different from their album versions.
It’s a crying shame that such a great band had such a limited musical output. They are missed. R.I.P. Audie.
Here's the promo video for Acid Bath's song "New Death Sensation".
I hate labels. Sometimes, they’re appropriate (CANNIBAL CORPSE is nothing other than death metal), but they’re often misused. Will Haven is a band that is often mislabeled. They’re equally influenced by metal and hardcore, but they’re not metalcore (not what metalcore means in 2007). They’re emotional, but not emo or screamo.
When El Diablo was released back in 1997, Will Haven bridged the gap between the DEFTONES and EARTH CRISIS. Now, El Diablo will forever be linked to the mid-90s metalcore sound. Maybe that’s alright.
In the years since its release, many scam artists (nu-metal and screamo alike) have stolen from El Diablo. The thieves are missing one key ingredient. Will Haven understood how to be rhythmic, melodic, and heavy all at the same time. The scam artists were generally one of the three; often to miserable results. This is not Will Haven’s fault.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more brooding audio diatribe that “Stick Up Kid”, the album’s first song. Enough time has passed. It’s okay to get reacquainted with this old friend. Speaking of which, Will Haven has reunited (without vocalist Grady) and a new record is on the way.
Here's the promo video for Will Haven's song "Carpe Diem".
This is probably the best non-Black Flag album released by SST. Despite all of their personal tensions, The Minutemen were one hell of a tight band. No one has been able to recreate what they did, no matter how hard the Chili Peppers try.
The concise yet adventurous songwriting style of The Minutemen allows them to cram more solid material into one song than most bands can put on an entire album.
“Pure Joy” is the best song on the album. The three players are playing three separate lines as one unit. It’s simply fantastic and “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs” may be the truest and funniest song title in human history. Why don’t you own this already?
Here's the trailer to "We Jam Econo", a documentary about the Minutemen.
I can appreciate what’s going on lyrically, but lyrics alone don’t make a record great. If you’re reading this magazine, you probably seek revenge on society too. Unfortunately, “Revenge on Society” is only half of a great album. Blood for Blood play hardcore in the tradition of the Boston and NYC scenes, but they too often rely too heavily on a sound cultivated by others.
Blood for Blood are at their best when they pick up the pace, like the song “A Bitch Called Hope”, or when they slow down the tempo to a soul-searing pace, like on “Evil in the Brain.” The band fails during their mid-paced songs, like “You’re Still a Paper Gangster.”
Blood for Blood’s rhythm section betrays itself when the players simply back up White Trash Rob’s riffs instead of laying down a cool foundation for a song. This absence of rhythm is most apparent on “Die Laughing” and “Shut My Eyes Forever.” Ironically, Paper Gangster has a great rhythm and pedestrian riffs. They can’t win for losing.
That’s not true, because when Blood for Blood are on, they’re fantastic. “Wasted Youth Crew” is the best song on the album. It has a pounding rhythm, great riffs, and lyrics that reflect the rage of America’s underclass.
Despite its flaws, “Revenge on Society” is worth tracking down if you have not heard it before. Just don’t expect “Victim in Pain” part two.
Here's Blood for Blood playing "Revenge on Society", "Paper Gangster", and "Soulless", all from the "Revenge on Society" album, recorded live at the Homebase in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2001.
The original kings of west coast power violence return, sort of. The Mankind 10” is a reissue, by Deep Six Records, of the Mankind 7” with several comp. tracks added. My copy is on white wax. Take that, record nerds!
Infest played power violence, a no-frills style of punk rock that effortlessly switched sludgy riffs and thrashing blasts. No recording tricks here; just imagination and a poor disposition.
I love Dave Ring’s bass tone on Mankind. When you can convey heavy and menace with your amp at the same time, you’ve done something right.
Far all of Infest’s straight edge and equality advocacy, they don’t forget how to rock. This is something most political bands can’t pull off, but that’s just the thing. Infest was a punk band with socio-political lyrics, but politics never got in the way of them being heavy. Check out the song “Just Act Blind” if you don’t believe me. Deep Six will be releasing an Infest discography CD soon.
EDIT: The DL link posted below contains the 7" recording and not the 10" recording.
The result of their first recording session since the “Foreshadowing Our Demise” album, the “Miscreant” EP is a snapshot of Skinless in a transitional period. “Miscreant” was recorded with drummer George Torres, who would soon be replaced by Origin’s John Longstreth, only to return back to the band a few years later. This 7” also marked the first changes to Skinless’ patented brutal, guttural death metal sound.
Not counting the intro and outro tracks, three songs can be found on “Miscreant.” The demo versions of “Deathwork” and “Miscreant” are here, though both songs would later appear on “From Sacrifice to Survival.” The song “Condensing” is 20 seconds worth of riffs from “Foreshadowing Our Demise.”
For the uninitiated, Skinless play brutal death metal that is both rhythmic and heavily percussive, with humorously bent lyrics. It’s unfortunate that Torres didn’t play on “From Sacrifice to Survival”, because his most fierce drumming is on this EP. Noah Carpenter plays his guitar as a lead instrument although he rarely solos or plays leads. This is likely a result of Skinless’ incorporation of hardcore into their death metal mechanics. Think of it as a reverse Full Blown Chaos.
Ultra-posi, thrashing punk by So Cal kids, barely out of high school, which will put a smile on your face while you’re wind-milling in the pit. This is the best, nay, the only way to describe the monster that is Hit Me Back.
The band takes a traditionally simple style of music (straight-ahead punk rock) and adds complex arrangements that give their songs a density not usually found in the genre. Their song “I’ll Never Turn in my Raffle Tickets for Your Prize” is the best example of this dynamic songwriting on “Life”.
Another example is Hit Me Back leading off both sides of the “Life” LP with acoustic passages. This is Metallica’s old trick of using quieter parts to make the heavy parts heavier. There’s more to be found on “Life” than killer riffs. Their lyrics are killer, too.
The digital age, via numerous internet technologies, has brought forth a new level of cowardly trash-talking. Hit Me Back, through their lyrics, remind everyone that you still need to be a good person, no matter where or when. Their anthems of friendship, unity, and honesty are a welcomed change of pace from the defeatist attitudes held by so many other bands.
If you think punk has become stale, then you’re not looking hard enough. Wise beyond their years, Hit Me Back say that it’s possible to have a good time while doing the right thing.
Here's a live clip of Hit Me Back playing "I Walked Outside and It Smelled Funny."
Time’s Up is another band in the tradition of great New Jersey hardcore. The most notable thing about Time’s Up is this is the previous band of Chris and John from Burnt by the Sun. Unlike Human Remains (former band of the rest of Burnt by the Sun), one listen to Discernment and you can tell that this is the musical skeleton of Burnt by the Sun.
Time’s Up played technical hardcore with an obvious Rorschach influence. They took what Rorschach was doing, streamlined it a little, and cranked up the audio violence knob. Killer riffs, well placed changes, and a devastating rhythm section give this three song EP an unmatched brutality.
Discernment is one of those perfectly executed 7” records that makes you want to leave the house right now and search out more of their music. As a matter of fact, the songs on the Burnt by the Sun/Luddite Clone split sound so much like the Discernment EP, I can’t help but wonder if they were left over Time’s Up material.
On a side note, Discernment was recorded by Steve Evetts at Trax East Studio. How many great bands has this guy worked with? Dillinger Escape Plan, Hatebreed, Earth Crisis, this list goes on and on. It’s almost like he’s this decade’s Scott Burns, except that Steve Evetts is way better.
Sheer Terror Love Songs for the Unloved Blackout/MCA
I bought in the summer of 2000. I was in Hastings and I found this cassette in the dollar bin. It was produced by Tommy Victor and I’ve always loved Prong, so why not? I could spare a dollar.
This was my first and only foray into the land of Sheer Terror. I had heard their name before and I knew that they made some noise in the NYC hardcore scene, but I didn’t hold Sheer Terror in any sort of reverence. I was just trying something new.
I have very mixed feelings about this album. To be polite, half of this album is utterly forgettable, mid-paced hardcore played by a band that missed the crossover boat. I had heard this before and didn’t care for it too much the first time around. However, there were some interesting things going on in the other songs.
“Jimmy’s High Life” is a mosh-a-thon comparable to Lamb of God, as is “Broken”. Both songs possess a guitar swagger that serves as convincing evidence that Sheer Terror are a direct influence on Scissorfight. “Drunk, Divorced, and Downhill Fast” is the sort of pure hardcore song that this entire record should have sounded like. That being said, Paul Bearer sounds best when he varies his vocal delivery.
It’s almost as if “Love Songs for the Unloved” is an album divided into thirds. One third is the forgettable hardcore and another third contains some pretty innovative hardcore songs. The remaining third carries this desire for innovation entirely too far with poor results to show.
“Skinhead Girl” is an awkward, but mildly entertaining attempt to capture the Neurosis/Sepultura tribal vibe. “For Rudy the Kraut” is a ridiculous attempt at making a classic drinking song, complete with a Flogging Molly/Pouges style horn line. Most curious is the “Rock Bottom of the Kitchen Floor”. With this song, Sheer Terror are either making fun of Life of Agony or poorly impersonating one of Life of Agony’s singles “This Time”. Life of Agony once said that they used to get no respect in the NYC hardcore scene, so I’ll give Sheer Terror the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were ridiculing Life of Agony.
These songs are indicators that “Love Songs for the Unloved” was an ambitious attempt to create a diverse album. Unfortunately, no one has ever succeeded at being everything to everyone and the record leaves Sheer Terror without much of an identity. Does Sheer Terror want to wave the old school flag? Do they want to be the good time party band? Do they want to represent for the floor punching youth crews? Regardless, the result is a bland album with a few killer tunes. “Love Songs for the Unloved” is just good enough so that I’ve never sold it on eBay, traded it, or gave it away, so I suppose that it’s a testament to Sheer Terror’s mediocrity.
Here's the promo video for "Unbroken" by Sheer Terror.
His Hero is Gone The Dead of Night in Eight Movements Prank Records
His Hero Is Gone plays devastating, crusty hardcore. It’s the sort of music that makes the genre worth your valuable time. These Tennessee natives don’t believe the hype and prefer to let their songs do the talking. “The Dead of Night in Eight Movements” is a perfectly executed EP and proof that at least someone is keeping punk alive.
Produced by Noah Landis (of Neurosis fame), someone who knows what quality hardcore sounds like, “The Dead of Night in Eight Movements” is a truly dark piece of aggressive rock music, bypassing any genre restrictions. His Hero Is Gone use the Metallica dynamic, where the use of slow passages make the heavy parts heavier, to great effect. The best example of this is the use of piano in the songs “Epidemic” and “The End Result”. Don’t get me wrong, His Hero Is Gone do not indulge in Isis-style, mellow guitar licks. This is as brutal as any power violence/crust gets. With their furious thrash assault, creative, melodic (gasp!) tempo changes, and anti-technology slant, His Hero Is Gone doesn’t care about trends, only music.
In recent years, the members of His Hero Is Gone have gone on to form the band Tragedy. Their name has changed, but the game stays the same. Top notch musicianship coupled with the total creative freedom provided by the DIY ethic allows His Hero Is Gone (and now Tragedy) to create a modern masterpiece. If you are in any way, shape, or form a fan of punk music, then search out a copy of “The Dead of Night in Eight Movements” immediately.
Here's a live clip of His Hero is Gone from the More Than Music festival in Columbus, Ohio.
Eighteen Visions The Best Of... Sober Minds/Trustkill
Eighteen Visions were such a good band before they decided to sell the fuck out. Their buddies in Avenged Sevenfold are going to help them reach the platinum promised land. This isn’t a case of the little band in my back pocket is too big to fit their anymore, so now I’m pissed because they’re not my little underground secret anymore. That’s never bothered me. I’m as big a fan of Queens of the Stone Age fan as you’ll ever meet.
What bothers me is that I’m always suspicious when bands drastically change their sound prior to signing with a major label. Cave In is the only band I can think of where the style change actually was an artistic move. Usually, it’s a crass business move and this is what I suspect Eighteen Visions of doing. Is their old sound “the real 18V” or is it the corporate rockers?
“The Best Of” is not a greatest hits record, as the title incorrectly implies. Rather, it’s Eighteen Vision’s old 7” material re-recorded for this LP. This is a very clever idea and more bands should employ this tactic, if you ask me. In 2005, Dimmu Borgir did it when they re-recorded the “Stormblast” LP. That record and “The Best Of” provide a band an opportunity to make that early material sound as good as their later output.
In the case of Eighteen Visions, the “No Time for Love”, “Yesterday is Time Killed”, and “Lifeless” EPs get polished here. The new recordings sound great and, if you heard the original EPs, you can tell that the time spent playing together over the years has tightened up this band.
I always liked how Eighteen Visions brought a “fabulous” element to the Earth Crisis/Pantera/Hatebreed/Machine Head style of metallic hardcore. When considering their pre-“Obsession” records, you had a band that could do clean vocals and not sound like pussies. You also had a band that could write devastating breakdowns that didn’t sound like the soundtrack to football practice.
“The Best Of” is a reminder of a time when Eighteen Visions was a deadly hardcore band. This material is also from a period before Eighteen Visions lost band members to Bleeding Through and Throwdown. With that in mind, “The Best Of” is a brutal release by a solid band before they got into bad haircuts and girls jeans.
Finally, I’d like to mention that this LP was licensed to Sober Mind Records from Trustkill. Just like Eighteen Visions, I’m suspicious of Trustkill. When a label stops pressing their own vinyl, that same label attempt to get their CDs into Wal-Mart can’t be too far behind.
Here's Eighteen Visions' video for "Motionless and White" from "The Best Of..."
Books Lie I Felt Like Such a Loser, Until I Realized I was a Winner Level Plane Records
Books Lie is quite an unusual band. I suppose this is what is called “post-hardcore” but I hate that phrase and I won’t use it. I will say that Books Lie is the musical middle ground between The Locust and The Mars Volta. Books Lie also reminds me of the more cerebral bands like Keelhaul and Anodyne.
Books Lie has a great drummer and they make effective use of keyboards and other electronics, but they don’t ever forget how to rock. “Marker” has riffs in the same vein as Every Time I Die and Between the Buried and Me, but doesn’t sound metalcore in any way, shape, or form. Then, Books Lie turns it around and gives you a song like “Thanks Easter Bunny”, which is similar to Refused’s electronic weirdness.
Books Lie may not be the most original band, but they are able to combined different aspects of the music you love in an original way. “I Felt Like Such a Loser...” is great for scratching that adventurous itch in your listening habits.
The Warriors War is Hell (Redux) Eulogy Recordings
Hardcore, by the kids and for the kids, is standard procedure for The Warriors. These California natives’ pair their pure-bred mosh riffs with lyrics that sting the soul. Uncompromisingly straight edge, The Warriors pick up in the confrontation department where Earth Crisis left off. The difference, however, is that The Warriors have far more in common, musically, with Terror than Earth Crisis. With only a slight metal influence, they make effective use of Slipknot style noodling over what would otherwise be another by the numbers hardcore album.
I do think it’s irresponsible to compare their suburban California lives to warfare when two wars are being fought right now. There are soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan getting shot at everyday and their experience holds nothing in common with some brat who’s feeling were hurt when someone made fun of their Give Up the Ghost hoodie. I doubt that I’m the first person to point this out and I don’t say it to defend one political side or the other. I say this because The Warriors are a very talented band and it would be a shame if this oversight turned off people who would other wise dig the band.
War Is Hell (Redux) is an incredibly tight album. The two bonus tracks on Redux (this is the reissue of War Is Hell) showcase the band’s remarkable progress after a year of touring as professional musicians. As good as the record is, I walk away anticipating what their future material will sound like. The Warriors are only a few years out of high school and, if they can keep their heads on straight, this young band should have many years of creating quality hardcore ahead for them.
Here's a live clip of "Set the Stage" from "War is Hell".
As a long time Phobia fan, I was thrilled to see “Get Up and Kill” on the shelf at Vinyl Edge. I immediately snapped it up and put it on the turntable as soon as I got home. A new Phobia release never disappoints, but “Get Up and Kill” was even better than I expected.
“Get Up and Kill” isn’t exactly a proper new album. Side A has eleven new song of killer socio-political crusty grindcore and Side B has six live track recorded in Newport Beach. The new songs are as good as any that Phobia has recorded. If you’ve heard this band before, then you know the drill: blast beats, low-vocal grunts, high-pitch tortured screams, and blistering guitar work.
Phobia is the rare grind band that benefits from proper studio production. The studio polish doesn’t make them sound any less raw. Phobia is the even rarer grind band that plays political hardcore, but never sounds redundant. Quite an accomplishment.
The live tracks slay. This is Phobia in their natural environment, harassing emo kids and inspiring riotous behavior. No one got hit with a bass at this show, as far as I know. (We all know the Real TV story, right?)
Deep Six Records did an excellent job with the packaging of “Get Up and Kill” and the label always makes an effort to keep prices down. I encourage all of you to order “Get Up and Kill” directly from Deep Six and help keep quality hardcore in the hands of the people and out of the hands of big business.
Here's Phobia playing a house party somewhere in California.
“Rules” is a 12” single the way they used to get made. You know, remixes that are actually interesting to listen to and are executed in a creative way. Having been a casual KMFDM fan for years, I bought “Rules” at Renaissance Records in Killeen, TX back in 1997. I remember being very impressed with the song “Son of a Gun”. It was more danceable than Fear Factory, but heavier than Nine Inch Nails. Then I moved several times, the years passed, and I virtually forgot about this record.
Flash forward to the summer of 2005. I’m listening to “The Sound and The Fury” (the all-night metal show) on Syracuse’s K-Rock radio station late one night. Lo and behold, they play “Inane” from the “Rules” EP. I immediately got that warm and fuzzy feeling. “I have that record”, you know? Having heard the song through fresh ears, I found a new respect for KMFDM.
As previously mentioned, KMFDM are one of the few acts who know how to do remixes properly. They also legitimately combine metal and dance music together, unlike other industrial acts. They didn’t forsake the guitar like Consolidated and Nine Inch Nails often do. They avoid abandoning their dance roots by effectively using keyboards and synthesized percussion. The modern hip hop producers should take notes on how to do it right.
Plus, who doesn’t love the artwork of Brute? Like always, he did the cover art for “Rules”. All in all, “Rules” is a great record for when you can no longer fight that urge to shake your rump and do the bedroom mosh at the same time.
Here's a clip of "Son of a Gun" from "Rules", live in Atlanta.
Deep from the bowels of Louisiana, Flesh Parade has crawled out of the bayou and they’re not having it. These maniacs have dispatched some of the most brutal grind ever recorded. Released in 1997, Kill Whitey stained the already prolific New Orleans metal scene and has been causing post-traumatic stress disorder in listeners ever since.
The vocals are delivered by a pure madman. It’s the finest in tortured “vo-kills”. Buzz saw guitars keep one killer riff after another flying out of the speakers. Flesh Parade’s devastating rhythm section will beat you into submission, and then bang your wife.
Take the best elements of Suffocation, old Napalm Death, and Mortician, add Abita Beer and Tabasco Sauce, and you’re left with the best grindcore band in the south. I have the 7” (gray marble vinyl, ha ha), but the CD has bonus tracks on it. If you’re into grind, go get Kill Whitey right now.
Although the band was devastated as a result of Hurricane Katrina, they’re currently working on new material.
Dead Wrong is more boring than Blood for Blood and even less original. Their side of this 7” is the sort of by-the-numbers moshcore that you ve heard a million times before. Dead Wrong’s Cro-Mags-inspired hardcore sounds like what would happen if Terror binged on pain pills. Fortunately, Terror will never binge on pain pills. Unfortunately, Dead Wrong did record this music.
Dead Wrong plays mid-paced “chugga” riffs coupled with the same drum rolls, crashes, and fills that Sick Of It All played on Blood, Sweat, and No Tears. Dead Wrong is a competent band, but I don’t want to hear another band that plays old-school hardcore. You’re much better off actually listening to the Cro-Mags and Sick Of It All instead of Dead Wrong.
The Banner is the reason to listen to this 7”. The Banner also plays tough guy moshcore, but they do it with a horror-inspired flair. Not like the Misfits and certainly not like AFI, think more along the lines of recent Himsa. Unlike Dead Wrong, The Banner understands that this sort of music needs to be played FAST. Effective breakdowns and shout-along choruses that make you want to punch the floor and terrorize your neighbors. “No Surrender” is a mosh pit anthem. Like many of the other split EPs actually worth your valuable time, only one side is worth listening to. Take a wild guess which side that is.
By now, everyone knows the story of Cave In’s struggles with RCA, so I’ll spare you the details. It would be glib of me to say that their Foo Fighters songs didn’t work out so they had to go back to playing Slayer riffs again. Though, as always with Cave In, there’s more going on with this band than just what’s on the surface. It would be equally glib to say that Perfect Pitch Black is the album they should have made instead of Antenna. If they could predict the future, then they would rule the world.
So what are we left with? Perfect Pitch Black is the ultimate combination of their old sound and their new sound. This album has the brutal intensity of Beyond Hypothermia and the thoughtful musicianship of Jupiter. Perfect Pitch Black is just what the doctor ordered to get Cave In’s career back on track. Perhaps it was Dr. Thompson who issued that prescription, but certainly he would understand the necessity of this band to regroup and recommit to what made them so unique among the other Northeast metalcore bands.
Many of the songs on Perfect Pitch Black were intended to be their second album for RCA. When that record contract was dissolved, Cave In went ahead and finished the recording process, adding a few more one-off tracks along the way. Hopefully this is beginning of the third chapter in the Cave In saga, as opposed to a swansong for the band. If there were any justice in the world, “Down the Drain” and “Trepanning” would be Top 40 hits instead of Fall Out Boy, The Killers, and all that other horrible crap. “Screaming in Your Sleep” is the kind of high-energy song that these Bostonians have not written in years. Cheers to Perfect Pitch Black and cheers to Cave In. It’s great to have you back.
Here's Cave In playing "Trepanning" off of "Perfect Pitch Black", live in Paris.
I know this doesn’t actually pertain to the music on the record but, with my inner record collector screaming at the top of his lungs, I have to mention this and then we can get down to business. Every band that cares even the least little bit about the packaging of their albums should have Jake Bannon do all of their artwork.
I love all of his Atomic designs material and Cursed is no exception. The digipak for I is one of the most elegant designs I have ever seen for a CD. The black and white artwork (along with the accompanying layout) placed on the cardboard supplements the dark and disturbed music within.
Back to business, I by Cursed is face melting hardcore. Simply put, it’s Black Flag and Negative Approach played with Entombed’s guitar tone, but it’s never that simple with these Toronto natives. Their music is ferocious and the lyrics are sinister. Some have complained that this band is simply volume over ability, but I could not disagree with that more. First, it’s ex-members of the Swarm, so what do you what? Second, these guys write too many good riffs and put to many clever time changes into their brand of hardcore to dismiss their musicianship.
These guys are probably in their apartment in Toronto, planning the invasion of Buffalo, and trying to decide for how much they’ll ransom it back to Albany. Great stuff. These guys wrote an incredibly nasty song about their own conception, "1974.: How fucked is that? I love it.
Does Headbanger’s Ball got you down? Tired of metalcore, Trustkill, and “bros going off”? Then Cursed is the cure for what ails ya. Hardcore the way it was meant to be played. There’s a little bit of a metal influence to keep things interesting, but I is still punk as fuck.
No Funeral is a metal and hardcore zine based in Austin, TX. This blog began as the online collection of material from the magazine, but has grown into a beast of its own. All content written by Brian No Funeral, unless otherwise noted. All link removal requests will be honored. For more information, visit: