***** CLICK ON ALBUM COVERS FOR EACH BAND'S SOCIAL MEDIA *****
PIZZA DEATH "SLICE OF DEATH"
(Downtuned Records, Released November, 2021)
Yes, it's an outfuckingstanding album cover, band name and overall concept... but I am also happy to report that Melbourne, Australia's Pizza Death and their 20 song "Slice Of Death" album is not some gag band with shit to offer musically. Made up of members of other Melbourne acts Wolfpack, Hailgun and Pissrash this album brings about crossover feels of bands like Municipal Waste/Iron Reagan, S.O.D. and a host of late 80's metal meets hardcore style crossover. Pizza Death keeps it real by offering up songs about… A: Pizza, B: Death and C: Death by pizza (their biggest fear). The songs shred, the soundbites before songs are ripped from movies like Spaceballs and television shows like The Sopranos ("Don't disrespect the pizza parlor!") and with titles like "Mozzarella Massacre", "Rise Of The Anchovy", "Death By Garlic Bread", and "Slicezilla" you just feel Pizza Death's passion for all things pizza. Pizza Death's merch game is on point as well with the their logo slapped on such oddities as cooking aprons, an umbrella, a clock, a jigsaw puzzle and last but not least a pizza cutter shaped like an axe. Although they are clear across the planet in Australia, Pizza Death would pair well with hardcore beer ambassadors like No Redeeming Social Value or Murphy's Law to create one helluva tour package because what goes better together than pizza and beer? I'm gonna stay right here scratching off these lottery tickets in hopes that one day soon I can make this tour a reality, in the meantime your job is to smash some links and check out "Slice Of Death" before they break up, sell out or fall prey to some pizza related catastrophe that wipes them off the face of the Earth. Pizza Core is here and is in full effect. No ham, no pineapples, just well-played and memorable crossover that hits on various fronts. Check out their link-tree or Spotify to find out more.
SCOWL “HOW FLOWERS GROW”
(Flatspot Records, Released November, 2021)
In March 2020, Scowl played the last show I saw before the world came to a screeching COVID 19 halt. They were on the front end of a West Coast tour supporting their second demo. Both demos were really good, but you could tell they hadn’t yet shown all they had to give. The energy and fury was undeniably there; it was clear that there was a sleeping juggernaut ready to come bursting through a brick wall. The realities of the world health situation put that on pause for a bit, but don’t accuse Scowl of sleeping; this band was methodically refining their sound and their aesthetic over those 18 months, so they could come screaming out of the gates of this forced hiatus. Part of that time was in the lab putting together their debut LP “How Flowers Grow” for Flatspot Records. This was exactly the kind of record you could see waiting to jump out of this band.
In the summer of 2021, Scowl was so ready to take these new songs out on the road. They almost shot out of COVID from a cannon and have been an absolute force on the road over the last few months. When a lot of other bands were trying to line up their first shows back in the biggest cities on the coasts, Scowl was already doing the blue-collar work to bring their brand of fury to HC-starved kids in some of the small and medium sized scenes in the Southwest. And their hard-charging efforts to play as many shows as possible in the last few months really set this record up to be received as it has been.
This record is an absolute banger. Musically, it alternates between blazing fast and caveman slow, but also does a ton of the boot-inspired slower fast beats and faster breakdown beats. The riffs are driven by bass and a single guitar, without a lot of leads or layered melodies. Instead, Scowl relies on changing tempos, breaks and pure wrath to keep things dynamic. The vocals sound fantastic on this record. They’re growly but snotty, with attitude and character. The recording is super sharp, which is important for more growled vocals that can get lost in the mix if they’re produced dull and not crisp. Guest vocal spots from Sam from Drain and Angel from Dare also nicely contrast Kat’s snotty low growl to add even more flavor.
“How Flowers Grow” is 14 minutes of pure rage, disgust and violence… plus “Seeds To Sow,” which is a 1:46 minute strategically placed break in the middle of the all-out pummeling of the other nine songs. While it was a daring move to share this track as the album’s SECOND single… given how different it is from the other songs… it fits great on the record. The placement is perfect too; a total stop-you-in-your-tracks moment on the record. If you were distracted from your listening for any reason this 90’s alt meets 80’s new wave destined-to-be classic pulls you back instantly. It’s different, but it’s a legit good song and proves the range of influences for these kids and their range of talent. It’s a beautiful palette cleanser from the band sonically punching you in the face relentlessly for 7 or 8 minutes on either side.
If you haven’t heard Scowl before, their sound sits somewhere between Negative Approach, Breakdown and Sheer Terror. At times it really reminds me of Outbreak, and the misanthropic lyrics certainly make this an appropriate comparison. I could hear Kat screaming “your phony fucking words make me wanna puke” just as easily as I could hear Ryan O screaming “nasty wounded little shit, you’re just a scratch I just can’t itch.” This record rules, plain and simple. If you’re craving raging no-frills pissed-off hardcore look no further than a band whose name says it all. Stream “How Flowers Grow” on Bandcamp, Spotify, or your preferred streaming platform. The vinyl is sold out everywhere (unless we get a second press!), but Flatspot has some CD’s left. And check out Scowl when they come to your town (likely soon).
“THE RETURN OF THE CALIFORNIA TAKEOVER:
EARTH CRISIS, SNAPCASE, STRIFE”
(WAR Records, Released November, 2021)
In 1996, Victory Records released “The California Takeover”, featuring hardcore staples Earth Crisis, Snapcase and Strife, live and at their best. The album became an instant classic amongst the hardcore scene. Fast forward twenty five years later and War Records is releasing a follow up with “The Return Of The California Takeover”, recorded live in February of 2020. Each band contributes four songs which represent hardcore at its finest in the mid-nineties.
On this live recording, all three bands have stood the test of time and sound as fresh and raw, if not better, as they did 25 years ago on the previous live outing. EARTH CRISIS kick-off this record with a blistering version of “Forged In The Flames” from their 1993 “Firestorm” EP. The guttural vocals give new life to an already benchmark song. The band’s “Born From Pain” from “Destroy The Machines” and “Constrict” from “Gomorrah’s Season Ends” are also given renewal with an upgraded sound and feel to them. They even throw in a later song, “To Ashes” from 2009’s “To The Death” album, which completes the four song set from the band.
SNAPCASE offer up two tracks from 1993’s, “Lookinglasself” and two from 1997’s “Progression Through Unlearning”. “Incarnation” is re-done from the original “California Takeover” and this version seems to have a bigger impact than the original live version. “Zombie Prescription” is an appropriate song to include as it predicted how the world has become a prescription state in today’s society. The band’s songs sound as prevalent today as they did when released in the 90’s. STRIFE offer up three songs from 1997’s, “In This Defiance” and one from 1994’s, “One Truth”. The track “Lift” is on this second instalment and this time around the vocals sound even more enraged than the first live version. It has a re-energized sound and feel to it. “Waiting” blasts full speed ahead with insane fury, as does “Force Of Chain”, showing us the band’s intensity for inducing crazy mosh pits.
Overall, I like this live album over the first. Don’t get me wrong. The first “California Takeover” was a solid record. On this one, the voices have matured and the players have refined their sound, giving each band a heavier and ferocious presence on this record. I’m sure some will disagree, but this record shows three improved bands that still put their heart and soul into the music, all in the name of hardcore. You can find this release online in its entirety via Bandcamp by clicking HERE. 12” vinyl versions of this release look like they will be a hard find with WAR Records showing them already sold out (check with RevHQ distro as well). Click HERE to find out more or to grab a very 90’s inspired compact disc.
Z9! s/t EP (Fastbreak! Records, Released October, 2021)
No movie quote intro, no soft lead-in, Z9! drop right in on their debut EP "We Don't Come in Peace" without any frills or decadence. An ode to the harsh, fast-paced reality of the East Coast working class, this EP packages gruff and grounded vocals, truth telling lyrics, and edgy hard rock instrumentals reminiscent of "Kickstart My Heart" era Motley Crüe.
The first 2 lines on the record, "You'll never walk alone; you'll never sleep again" hold some real significance, as both of these statements are synonymous with the values we know about the members of Z9! from their other project, Wisdom in Chains. But it's not all hard rock and cold hearts for Z9!... anyone who has ever wanted to hear Richie Krutch do his best impression of Michael Stipe will be happy to know that amongst the blend of punk and 80’s street rock, there is a surprise in this 6 song offering; an R.E.M. cover! Unfortunately it's not "Shiny Happy People"; Z9! take on "The One I Love" - an interesting choice, and one that harkens back to that opening line, "You'll never walk alone" - reinforcing the values and bonds this band has both internally and outside the studio also.
To get a new project like Z9! from current band mates of an already well established band such as Wisdom in Chains, and to have such a unique twist therein is really encouraging and refreshing. This particular offering comes in a timely manner also. With Halloween season having just passed and the chilly wind rustling the fresh-dead leaves of Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, Z9! are not too dissimilar from Michael Myers wielding a chef's knife in their attempt to hunt down our eardrums and deliver the grim reality wrapped up in the music stashed inside this EP. If you're looking for a heavy blend of genre-bending darkness to match with the colder seasons on our doorstep, Z9! is your ticket to life's haunted house! Stream this at Soundcloud or Spotify with 12" versions available HERE.
BUTCHERS HILL “YEAR OF THE BLEEDING”
(Released August, 2021)
Like the Oldham Boys a few years back, Butchers Hill is named for a location in the great hardcore city that is Baltimore, Maryland. Also like the Oldham Boys, Butchers Hill has accrued very little hype so far, though much is deserved for their recent five song release, "Year Of The Bleeding." Their sound reflects both their own roots and the key musical influences of the city, as Butchers Hill's vocalist was the original bassist in Stout. You can definitely hear some Stout influence here, along with Next Step Up. Bmore hardcore has always walked the porous line between hardcore and metal, from the last Gut Instinct demo to Next Step Up themselves being covered by Dying Fetus. That all bleeds together here (OK, pun intended) in Butchers Hill's new offering.
The juxtaposition of fast sections and run-for-cover mosh parts has been well represented by Baltimore acts, but the combination on track 1, "Fresh Kill," actually brings to mind an out-of-town band that is much loved in Baltimore: Billy Club Sandwich. Much like another iconic misheard line from a Baltimore band (Trapped Under Ice's "cold fucking ice cream") I dare you to un-hear "fifty four dollars at Costco" partway through this one, and/or "Richard Fucking Serra!" Each song features different variations of pure Baltimore riffs, which are complemented by dark lyrical themes such as addiction and revenge. Track 2, "Hoodwinked," starts out more plodding and methodical before picking up the pace, and "Flock," up next, has a bit of a Confusion vibe. Track 4, the unfortunately titled "Skinning Cats" opens with a sick Stout-esque riff and then changes direction midway through.
Final track "Paradise" may be the most traditional on this release and is a solid closer, something the Orioles wouldn't know anything about these days. Less eloquently, my original notes said “last song is great – oh shit,” which perhaps referred to the mosh part at the end. Catch this gargantuan mosh part and all the others on Bandcamp.
SUNFALL “REFLECTIONS BEYOND THE SUN”
(Released October, 2021)
Sunfall is a super terrific most excellent international superstar hardcore band. The top brass at In Effect World HQ know that I am a serious mark for the youth crew sound and aesthetic so naturally I was handed this to review by that faceless scary guy who drops off all In Effect packages. To be clear; Sunfall is not playing the youth crew but more of a post youth crew melodic hardcore. To be honest, Sunfall is not my favorite name as it sounds a tad bit like a James Bond film that a chubby Brit would sing the theme to, but the music makes up for it, and who gives two shits about my opinion anyhow. So when I said that Sunfall were an "international superstar hardcore band" I was only half joking. Sunfall hail from Russia, The Netherlands, Canada, and the good ole US of A. Tim Shaw (Ensign), Dean Pleunis (Hometown Crew) and David Lavictoire (Copperfield) collaborated on this record by writing lyrics and providing vocals. All mixed and mastered by none other than Jesse Gander from Rain City Recorders studio in Vancouver. I shit you not when I say the bass bits were recorded in fucking New Zealand via Russia by Kirill. This music has put in the miles and been quarantined too many times to remember. So what exactly has it all been for and what has this international conglomerate put together? Let's dive in and find out you parasites.
Sunfall has dropped a record that consists of 7 songs and is 17 minutes in length. I am not gonna go through all the jams but spoiler, they all kinda rock. I'll speak on three standouts for me. The first being the opening cut "Break The Light'' running 2:50. This song embodies what Sunfall are all about; catchy melodic hooks, excellent musicianship, thoughtful words, and a powerful emotional delivery. This is some deep stuff here. A beautiful song… fuck… I didn't just say that, did I? Tito, get me a tissue. The next nugget I've chosen is "Unaltered" clocking in at 1:39. This song features the one and only Anthony "Pops" Pappalardo of In My Eyes/Ten Yard Fight fame adding some tasty licks to the proceedings. This is a well-constructed tune with some nice original flourishes particularly with Pops' guitar work. It's one of the several "edge" anthems on here. In fact, it made me throw my joint across the room so I could keep my mind sharp and finish writing this review… shit I'll be right back. Phew… that's better. The Final jam I'd like to mention is "Open Book". At 3:15 it is the album's epic long cut. This one starts out with a nice melodic catchy riff that will have you boppin’ along in your chair. At about the :53 mark it turns into a fastcore tune and goes off galloping down the road. It's a powerful song regarding self-reflection and friendship. It closes the record perfectly.
Well there you have it. This is some really good melodic hardcore punk rock. There is really not a weak song in the bunch. If you like bands like Verse, Have Heart, or Final Fight. If you wear your X's with pride or, if you, like me, simply like good melodic hardcore punk then check this out. I must shout out to Denis (guitar), Kirill (bass) and Alexey (drums) for laying down a great foundation of music and doing so from the four corners of the globe… well… not really the four corners, but close enough. Besides, if the Earth is round… how does it have corners?? Huh?... Answer me that lizard people. Go and listen to Sunfall you plebes. You will thank me later. I need to go contact Joe Rogan about this Earth thing. Speaking of Joe, take the lead from your icons, be good little punks and go get you some Covid and then eat a handful of equine pills (horse you dopes)… and kindly get the fuck off my lawn. Find this on Bandcamp or a million other places by clicking HERE.
DEMAND “DEMO 2021” (Released October, 2021)
Question… is Washington D.C. geographically relevant to the hardcore scene? You should’ve easily said yes… of course D.C. is famous for Minor Threat and the Bad Brains but then there are the lesser known band’s from the capital who should be checked out. One such band is Demand, a five piece who made their start in the summer of 2020 but unfortunately plans were delayed for members: Zech- vocals, Brad- guitar, Sarah- guitar, Charles- bass and Jonas- drums but they have taken 2021 by the balls touring locally and putting out their demo which is simply titled “Demo 2021”.
Demand have taken their love and influence of late 80’s early 90’s hardcore, mixed them with the member’s musical history with other bands such as Trapped Under Ice, Weak Tilt, Firewalker and Grand Scheme (just to name a few) and have created a release that not only brings you back to that time period but gives you a reminder that newer bands are holding their own. “Demo 2021” consists of 4 songs: “Hannya”, “Struggler”, “Asceticism” and “Unload/Dispose”. My favorite track is “Hannya” since it sets the tone for the rest of the EP. This recording is compiled of several components which transition from melodic, hard breakdowns to very sophisticated riffs to the raw intensity and grit true of the underground, DIY sound. This mixture of all these elements on this release prove Demand can branch out from the hardcore scene and appeal to fans of other types of heavy music, which is refreshing. I’m sure it won’t be too long before their days of just playing locally are over.Check this out by visiting the Demand Bandcamp page.
CRIME SCENE (BELGIUM) “DEMO”
(Released September, 2021)
What happens when you cross seasoned Belgian musicians with Jerry A of Poison Idea? You get Crime Scene, a hardcore punk/metal band comprising of members from Toxic Shock, Crayon Sun, Carnation and of course Poison Idea. This three song demo was recorded between Antwerp, Belgium and Portland, Oregon, where Jerry A did the vocals. Although there are only three tracks on this demo cassette, it will be released at a later date as a 12” with two extra tracks.
The first time I listened to this, I found myself bopping my head up and down throughout all three tracks. Right off the bat, it’s catchy and has a good feel to it. What impressed me most about this demo is that they combine punk, hardcore and metal, giving it an old school sound yet still sounding fresh and new. You can hear the generations of all three genres crammed into three tight songs. Starting off with the track, “Crime Scene”, you are hooked immediately with the great opening riff. When Jerry A jumps in on vocals, the song comes together perfectly and you realize these musicians were destined to play together. “Sleep With Gun” follows with a more metallic sounding song with a D.R.I. feel to it. They finish up the cassette with “Camello”, a throwback mix between crossover and the early days of thrash. The song is a bit darker than the other two songs yet ties in perfectly with the sound they have created.
This is a great collaboration between seasoned musicians with a love for hardcore punk and metal. The three tracks are catchy, well-written and will get plenty of play in your tape deck. I look forward to the release with bonus tracks and can only hope these guys treat us all by collaborating on a full length album. Although the cassette is short, make the effort and add this one to your collection as you will get a lot of play out of it. (Since this review was submitted by the writer is has sold out). You can stream or download the Crime Scene demo on Bandcamp.
ABRADE “LOSS. GUILT. SURVIVAL.”
(Released August, 2021)
St. Louis has produced some fine hardcore bands over the years such as Cardiac Arrest and Shaved Women and you can definitely add Abrade to the list. The band’s debut EP; “Loss. Guilt. Survival.” has a sound that combines harsh hardcore with an energetic and upbeat tempo to create some vital music. The EP begins with “Dark Waters”, a non-stop ball of energy of a track with a steamrolling groove at its heart. It is quickly followed by “Longest Days”, which after a bass led rhythm and some choice samples, explodes into life and doesn’t let up until the last notes ring out. “The Debt That All Men Pay” is up next and fully demonstrated all that Abrade are capable of when it comes to making passionate and hard hitting hardcore. “Loss. Guilt. Survival.” ends with “Timid Choke”, a crunching way to end things off on a high note and show the sheer power of Abrade. It’s a short but highly effective set of songs that packs a punch throughout and highly emotive as well as highly energetic. Lyrically the EP deals with the subjects of the title and strikes both mature and positive notes despite the dark nature of what that title brings to light. Musically there are hints of bands like The Suicide File here and there but Abrade have a crushing sound all their own and the songs on “Loss. Guilt. Survival.” are fully formed and supremely executed.Find this on Bandcamp or Spotify.
SCARFOLD “WE SHALL SUFFER”
(1054 Records, Released September, 2021)
If you love your hardcore music to sound crushingly aggressive and heavy then I cannot recommend Scarfold from Montreal, Canada enough with their latest release "We Shall Suffer". 8 tracks of jaw-breaking anger, the opening song "Open Seizure" reminds instantly of a Slayer-esque riff, dark, moody with an in your face production… it's a short number but enough to give you an idea of where the rest of this album is heading. "Rotting Earth" and "Born Decayed" both feature fast elements with heavy breakdowns and plenty of grooves. If you love the UK's Knuckledust or even Madball then you'll see where I am coming from. I think it is clear from this release that this stands amongst the best within the heavier hardcore category this year and the future is definitely bright with these guys. "Eat The Dead" is a track that you can easily get into and is one that will stand the test of time, especially in a live set. The album closes with "Spit On Hope" a solid 5-minute slab of hardcore that goes out hard… much like this entire release. Check this out on Bandcamp, Spotify or grab a CD from their label from down under, 1054 Records.