EKULU “UNSCREW MY HEAD”
(Cash Only Records, Released June, 2021)
The other day I was going through some old badly taken Instagram photos of shows I’ve been to and it made me wonder what happened to some of the bands in those pictures that I hadn’t heard anything from in a while. One of those bands was Ekulu. I remember that there was a bit of a hype train for them when they debuted. All my friends were stoked on their self-titled demo, seeing their live show in Brooklyn was really fun, and then I feel like I hadn’t heard anything from them since they dropped the 2-song “Half Alive” EP in 2019. Sure they had that live album of them playing in London in 2020, but the show that was recorded at was from 2019. I was wondering where they went and what they were up to, if there was new music on the way, maybe a show announcement for the Fall? Then I got an email that answered most of my questions (their first announced shows are for Boston, Philly and Brooklyn in September). There’s a new album from Ekulu called “Unscrew My Head” (on Cash Only Records which is a new label run by members of Illusion and Ekulu), and I was being asked to review it. I accepted this request with genuine intrigue as to what the band had been up to during quarantine, and I was interested to find out!
The opening track of this record is called “Becoming/New Life Jam.” It’s this very bass driven groove with reverb soaked guitar leads. And it’s the most standout track on the album because it sounds so different from the rest of the album. I had to Google “Becoming” and “New Life” half a dozen times to make sure that this wasn’t a Tool cover, because it sounds like the intro to a song from “Ænima”. The bass and guitar playing on this track are definitely really good and I could see this being a perfect intro to a live set. And few hardcore bands are ballsy enough to take on instrumentals longer than a minute let alone improvisations or jams. But the title is confusing to me. I’m not sure what it’s referencing. Certainly not Pantera, Nine Inch Nails or Depeche Mode. Is it a segment of an unreleased song? Is it a cover? I’m not sure. I appreciate that they didn’t wanna just title this “Intro” but at the same time, my brain is easily distracted by attempting to figure out what the title means. Most people probably won’t be concerned about that so I’ll just move on.
The intro track goes right into the next track ”Proven Wrong.” In fact, the first four songs fade into each other flawlessly, as if to create a multi-phased prog epic, but with Leeway riffs instead of Keith Emerson's organ playing. If the opening jam builds up tension, “Proven Wrong'' lets it out and explodes into an onslaught of fiery two step riffs and shrieking guitar leads. It goes right into the song “Half Alive.” Normally I’d question why a band would choose to include a song that’s over 2 years old on their new record, but it is one of their best songs and they manage to work it in while sustaining the album’s momentum. It is one of their best songs too so perhaps this track’s inclusion may excite fans. Certainly its cries asking “Where’s the inspiration?” and “What gets you up in the morning?” seem to take on new meaning after a year in lockdown, many faced with either isolation in their homes or the prospect of risking your life for a dead end minimum wage job to try and afford rent. It’s hard to stay inspired or to keep getting up in the morning when you feel like there’s nothing more for you that day. It gives you the feeling of being half alive so to speak. The final track on what seems to be the A-side is “Pick Your Fight,” which brings some serious 90’s NYHC vibes, starting off with the speed and ferocity of an old school hardcore track before breaking into a bouncy groove riff that brings to mind classic hardcore records like “Set It Off” or “Born To Land Hard” and eventually slowing down to a breakdown/mosh riff section. It’s strange that a metal influenced hardcore record in 2021 took so long to arrive at one of these. Some might view this as a welcome breath of fresh air, some might think this makes the record boring, I think the album might benefit from one or two more of these, as my one gripe so far is that most of the songs sound a little “samey”. There’s a lot of thrashy two steps and a lot of bouncy hip hop inspired sections. I feel like some more variety is needed here.
The song “Who’s In Control?” doesn’t really bring variety on that front as the palm muted guitar riff sounds like a sped up version of “Seekers Of The Truth” by Cro-Mags or a cut from “Countdown To Extinction” by Megadeth. But it does bring a sense of urgency with its ascending minor chord progression and it brings one of the strongest sing-a-longs on the album with its title dropping group vocal shouted chorus. A massive guitar solo solidifies the Megadeth comparison as the impressive chromatic shredding brings to mind the technical prowess of Marty Friedmen. We continue into the record’s second half with the title track “Unscrew My Head” which begins with a booming drum intro before the bass and guitars rush in. This song features the vocalist screaming over the guitar solo and a rare example of a drum solo actually appearing in the studio version of a song, so there’s lots of unorthodox songwriting ideas going on in this song and it’s all the better for it. However this would have to be my least favorite track if only because it doesn’t quite pop like some of the heavier cuts on the record. The next track “Crossed” is the most traditional hardcore punk song on the album. It starts with this intro where the band rocks on a rather unusual groove that’s difficult to describe, before launching into the circle pit fuel we’ve come to expect from a crossover record. The song closes out with one of the best two step breakdowns of 2021 thus far, and I can’t imagine a world where this part doesn’t immediately activate the pit! The next track, “Wake Up” doubles down on the floor-punching as it switches between several drum patterns and guitar riffs that would generally encourage this type of moshing. It vaguely reminds me of something you’d hear on a Backtrack record. I also thought putting a guitar solo after the first verse and chorus was an interesting choice. In general, I notice the abundance of guitar solos on this album, and technically proficient ones too. It’s not something you often encounter in a genre like hardcore which often eschews technical ability and professional musicianship in favor of a down to earth image. Most guitar solos in 80’s hardcore were basically just making noise that conveys this sense of emotional outrage and turmoil without care for technical ability (see Greg Ginn) and in the 90’s, the rise of grunge, industrial, and other alternative rock and metal movements preferred punk’s simplicity and often eschewed guitar solos due to their association with hair metal and neoclassical metal and other over the top metal genres in the mainstream that were more concerned about showing off technical musicianship than relating to the audience. Even with the rise of more technical metalcore and technical death metal, they still weren’t exactly interested in guitar masterbation. Ekulu seems to be finding a way to achieve both and expose this duality as a false dichotomy. That you can showcase some impressive finger work while still writing lyrics and crafting an image that’s relatable to the audience. Certainly the lyrics of “Wake Up” speak to a more relatable struggle of being manipulated by the powers that be. “Are you listening?/Are you witnessing?/What they’re soliciting?/They don’t care for me, they don’t care for you!” is the refrain of this song, and it’s a very catchy refrain. I appreciate that Ekulu cares to write actual structured songs rather than just showcasing their obvious technical talent. “Wake Up” fades into the grand finale of this album: “World of Uncertainty”. I noticed that the tracks hadn’t faded into each other since the first 4 tracks, and while most may not care, I do feel it impedes the momentum of this album a little bit to have four hard cuts between songs in a row. They might have benefitted from having the producer fade out one or two tracks. Returning to “World Of Uncertainty,” it opens with a long, heavy intro that is sure to inspire haymakers and spin kicks in the pit, before launching into a more familiar two step pattern with lyrics about the chaotic anxiety of life. It launches into probably the best guitar solo I’ve heard in 2021, a big, long one that takes me back to being a kid listening to “Rust In Peace” for the first time! The song closes out the album with another mosh riff sandwiched between thundering toms. This song definitely provides a satisfying close to the album and I think people who miss Power Trip will be very happy listening to this song. Although I wouldn’t be unhappy to hear just one more song, even if just a short one. Maybe a cover or something? That’s just a personal thing for me however, I think most people are gonna be fine with this as an ending point.
Overall, Ekulu came through with another solid NYHC/crossover thrash release. I think fans of old school thrash metal, classic New York hardcore, crossover thrash like Leeway, Carnivore, late 80’s Agonstic Front, 80’s Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, etc. will be very excited to hear this record. I feel like this album would be a good one to get some jaded oldheads stoked on some new blood or to get some battle jacket wearing, beer drinking metalheads into the modern hardcore scene. Ekulu showcases some great musicianship, solid songwriting, impressive technical ability, and some unique ideas that make them more than just another retro-crossover throwback on “Unscrew My Head”. At 29 minutes, it’s an average length for a hardcore or punk rock record and short for a metal record. If I could level one criticism at this album, it would be that it could use a little bit more variety. The abundance of groove parts and two step riffs makes tracks like “Crossed” and “Becoming/New Life Jam” stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe having an interlude or another instrumental halfway through the album or sticking a cover in there somewhere could’ve broken things up a little bit. But for a debut full length, this is a strong effort that showcases lots of potential. I’d keep my eyes on Ekulu because I think that this record is very good and that their next record will be even better! And with this album dropping at the tail end of the Covid19 lockdown in the United States, it seems like a well-timed release that gives the band a big opportunity for growth! Listen to this now on Bandcamp & Spotify. The 1000 vinyl copies are due to ship in July but are already sold out. Keep an eye on Cash Only Records for possible updates.
ETERNAL STRUGGLE “YEAR OF THE GUN”
(Upstate Records, Demons Run Amok, Released June, 2021)
Tel Aviv crossover band Eternal Struggle are known for raising funds for various charities/causes and walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Their members, like all Israeli youths were forced to serve in the military which no doubt gave them the life experience to sing about violence, war, politics, and do it with conviction. Brian “Mitts” Daniels (ex-Madball) flew out to Tel Aviv to record this record which was later mastered in Denmark by the renouned Tue Madsen. Eternal Struggle lay down 14 tracks that bring the intensity and benefit from not being too long or becoming boring. Vocalist Ori Frank is a hybrid of hardcore vocalists Jamie Hatebreed, Jorge from Merauder and a bit of Freddy Madball. Music wise, the guitar tones are great and the grooves and breakdowns work very well. “Year Of The Gun” isn’t bringing you anything you might have never heard before but they do it very well. They have some Nu-metal elements slipped in there that may or may not turn a hardcore purest off a tad as well. This band has set themselves to become something quite big as they lean more towards the metal side of things and can easily move into a Machine Head style of band that will appeal to the loyal metal scene. Check out the videos for "Indoctrination" and "Manifesto/Point One" with full album streams available on Bandcamp and Spotify.
DEAD CITY "FUCK THE OPPS" (Released April, 2021)
Los Angeles' Dead City are a raw/gritty/grimey punk unit that serves up the soundtrack to fucking shit up on their latest; "Fuck The Opps" which is the follow up to last October's "Trap Tapes Vol 1". While listening to this seven song/10 minute EP I decided to check in with their Instagram account since I knew jack shit about their band and I gotta say something about them, right? What a wild ride that turned out to be! Without a doubt Dead City are one of those bands that you have to experience up close and personal as they have tons of live footage and photos of wild looking live sets from various outdoor "ask a punk" type spots that are often littered with garbage, graffiti, fires and fist fights. For those clamoring for the edgy days of old when going to a hardcore punk show was a dangerous proposition here is the band you were waiting for. With all that said if the music behind everything here wasn't any good none of this would even matter but the songs on "Fuck The Opps" most definitely deliver with an American street punk style on display, played loose and with 100% conviction. The production they got here is perfect for the music coming out of the Dead City amps as it goes heavy on those bass grooves while also capturing the vocals in a way that makes everything sound like it was recorded in an abandoned warehouse with extension cords plugged into the nearest street lamp. At ten minutes in run time this is the perfect length to pop on, let off some pent up frustrations and then carry on with whatever your day has left in store for you. Stream this on Bandcamp & Spotify. Click the EP's cover (above) to check out their Instagram.
PRIMAL AGE “MASKED ENEMY”
(WTF Records, Released June 2021)
From across the Atlantic comes France’s Primal Age with their venomous new full length entitled, “Masked Enemy”. This is their fifth release and they only get better on this outing. Starting out in 1993, Primal Age have toured relentlessly and have opened for the likes of Napalm Death, Hatebreed, Madball and Agnostic Front to name a few. The production value is outstanding and the end result is nothing short of brilliant. WTF Records has yet again unleashed another great example of what real hardcore music is all about.
We open up with “Wise Man”, an overview of what this band stands for and is all about. The intro sums up their beliefs; whether it be vegetarianism, animal rights, over consumption, right down to the sad state of our society today. These themes can be heard throughout the well-written lyrics, accompanied by the brutal metal and hardcore backdrop of these talented musicians. The music is played with a determined seriousness, getting their views heard through critical tracks such as “Adolescent Humanity”, “Blinded By Cruelty” and the title track, “Masked Enemy”. From the opening song to the end of the album, you are taken through examples of how our society has declined and what we need to do to make things better for future generations. The band has strong views with regards to their beliefs and they get their message across with raging, pissed off vocals, supported by musicians who are passionate and well-schooled. In the end Primal Age serve up eleven blistering tracks of music with meaning.
What you have here is a band with purpose. They aren’t here to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Primal Age have been in the trenches for close to twenty years and with each new release they get tighter, harder and play with an intensity that shows their commitment to the scene. This is one of the best releases of the year so far by a band who are only going to get better and you should definitely order this one for your collection.Find this on Spotify or head on over to the WTF Records site for a vinyl or CD copy.
"A TRIBUTE TO THE NIHILISTICS" COMPILATION
(JIB Machine/D.S.I. Records, Released June, 2021)
"A Tribute To The Nihilistics" is a new (as well as not fully available) covers compilation featuring 12 bands from around the world doing covers of old Nihilistics tunes. The Nihilistics' 7" EP dates back to 19friggin82 and you can still catch them live in the NY area from time to time with a recent Tompkins Square Park show on May 22nd canceled and rescheduled for August being their latest "sighting" (sorta). The Nihilistics' self-titled 20 song full length from 1983 is probably the best way to get acquainted with this band who are a throwback to the sticks and stones days of hardcore punk when show flyers were still chiseled into actual slabs of stone. Jib Machine out of Cleveland and D.S.I. from DC are teaming up on this release which for right now are these five songs that are currently available digitally with plans for D.S.I. to release these, as well as seven more songs from seven other bands on 12" vinyl (release date not set but listed as "later this year").
First up to the plate we got W70 from New Jersey with the track "After Death/Damnation Alley" which are two shorter Nihilistics tracks that are tied together to make a nice two minute offering. These renditions were good enough to warrant a check in with their "Ignorant Time" EP from last year. PA's Wrath Of Typhon then deliver a noisy and hard to listen to version of "Nothing Remains" while Cleveland's Gwazi rip into their version of "Black Sheep". Darkening Skies come to us from Northern Virginia and they cover "No Friends" with that awesome bass break early on. Darkening Skies' material from their other releases is more in the metal realm and is kind of hard to label. This is the most interesting track of the five here as it carries the spirit of the original version while also giving it an updated modern twist. Finishing things off is Gobbage... a band I could not find any other info on but with just a 34 second appearance covering "Badge Of Shame" were not going to lose much sleep over it. A nice job though on this track.
"A Tribute To The Nihilistics" (so far) is a cool comp on a few levels with amazing artwork, some lesser known bands doing justice to the originals as well as a bit of mystery as to who the remaining seven bands (and songs) will be. Can't wait to hear the rest! For now though you can stream this on Bandcamp & Spotify.
HUMAN ANIMAL “FALSE REALITIES”
(Surprise Attack Records, Released, 2020)
Go out and get the latest Human Animal release!! Okay well for those that are still reading this review and haven't taken my advice let me continue on why I'm so high on this band and their latest release titled “False Realities”. Forming in 2011 from Erie Pennsylvania, members and scene veterans Eric Michael Schauffle aka EMS-vocals; Adam Salaga-guitar; Ryan "Baby Boi" Zimmerman-bass and Bobby Williams-drums continue to assault the hardcore/crossover scene with their blend of "Lake Effect Hardcore". “False Realities” contains 10 tracks combining ripping guitar licks, thunderous bass lines and assaultive drumming all coming together with EMS' always strong vocal performance. As I've often mentioned before, I still love to take the time to read the lyrics and was very happy to see that they were included both on the CD and their Bandcamp page. Understanding the emotions that went into these songs helped me to further my connection with this release even more than I had already from just the music. I also enjoyed the added bonus of linear notes from EMS explaining each song biographically. The whole album is gold but I pinned down four tracks that stood out just a little bit more to me than the others and these are: “Hellfire”, “Outlier Pt. 2” (co-written by ex-guitarist Nate Black), “Bastards Of The North” and “F.E.A.R.”. Due to “False Realities” being released in April 2020, I can't obviously include it in my top picks for this year but it’s definitely on the list as one of the more enjoyable albums I've heard over the last few years. Although released last year this album was a semi-casualty of closed distros and record stores and is getting sort of a ‘reboot” here in 2021. Human Animal have proven to me with this new album that they are full of the same blood that flows through the veins of their elder statesmen from such bands as Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All and Ringworm. And unlike lake effect snow which eventually melts, lake effect hardcore isn't going anywhere. Now go and get “False Realities” like I originally stated and strap yourself in for one hell of a ride. Find this on Bandcamp & Spotify with physical copies also available HERE.
CUTDOWN "DEMO 2021" (Released May, 2021)
Brand spanking new and fresh out of the box is Central Jersey's Cutdown with their debut "2021 Demo" which coincidentally was released in the year 2021. Members of Cutdown have been around in other NJ bands we've been high on in the past... (Fence Cutter... RIP) and Brute (still active with new music in the works) so this was a nice find considering this just sort of popped up out of nowhere. Cutdown bring aspects of both of the previously mentioned bands in that they lean heavily on old-school style hardcore that goes heavy on the mosh. Frontman Avery Field does a nice job on his vocal debut here with his raspy vocal approach giving Cutdown a rough and rugged edge as well. Prior to this release Avery had always played guitar in the bands he was in and he transitions over well on this first crack on the mic. Musically Cutdown are not taking hardcore as we know it into new realms of the universe while relying on most of the things many of us already know and love about classic NYHC. However, what may be lacking in the ingenuity department they sure as hell make up for in delivery as there is just something about these five tracks that just needs a rubber stamp that says “authentic” stamped right across the front of this. After maybe three or four listens tracks like "Cut Down" and "Where Do You Go At Night" started to get caught in my ear while I thought to myself "damn, these songs are going to crush when played live". That first live shot for Cutdown will happen on July 10th in Highland Park, NJ when they open for Raw Brigade visiting from Bogota, Colombia. Check this out on Bandcamp and Spotify.
SELF INFLICT “DEMO”
(Not For The Weak Records, Released May, 2021)
Self-Inflict is a punk band from the fine Virginian cities of Richmond, Norfolk and Virginia Beach and this is their first release on Not For The Weak Records. This four song demo, released on cassette as well as a download, has already sold well and there’s good reason for it. The band states that they are not trying to reinvent the wheel but instead, they prefer to keep the wheel turning.
The demo opens with “Bent Knees”… a solid start to this outing. From the opening bass riff, you are blasted with a dose of old school punk, reminiscent of the early British scene. The music is played with fury and fronted by vocals that mean business. “Your Choice” keeps things moving forward with a short, explosive dose of speed punk along the lines of early Agnostic Front and is my favorite track of the bunch. “Charades” is another British sounding punk song played with speed and intensity and vocals that are too fast to sing along to. This track will have you throwing elbows and kicks in the pit for sure. The band finishes off with the longest track of the four, “Where Does It End”. Starting with a likeable guitar intro, the song suggests this may be their one catchy, sing-a-long track but thirty seconds in and you know that’s not the case. It’s all business as they steamroll through with searing determination only to slow down the tempo near the end of the song… an interesting and suitable finish to this demo.
Listening to this demo took me back to the days when I discovered a bunch of great British bands from my youth. If I didn’t know they were American, I’d swear they came from England. Musically, they play at jackhammer speed with a sense of purpose. The singer is the perfect fit with his straight ahead, no nonsense punk attitude and lyrics. Overall, Self-Inflict back up what they say when they state they prefer to keep the wheel turning. They do just that on this great first demo. Find this on Bandcamp or for a cassette version (now on its third run) hit up Not For The Weak.
COUNTIME "NO APOLOGIES NO REGRETS"
(Demons Run Amok Records, Released May 2021)
Countime are veterans of the Los Angeles hardcore scene having formed in 2003. "No Apologies, No Regrets" is only their second full length album with their discography also including four EP's and numerous compilation tracks. Although they are a name I have heard over the years I didn't get formally introduced to them until their "The Pandemic EP" came out in February. Apparently after recording "No Apologies, No Regrets" Countime had a lot more gas in the tank and the frustration and boredom of not playing shows compelled them to self-release that EP even with this 17 song, 33 minute banger sitting in the chamber ready to wreck shit. The beneficiaries of all of this hard work is existing and soon to be Countime fans as in the course of about three months the band has dropped approximately 45 minutes worth of new material while also producing their finest work to date.
Countime's style is rough, rugged and raw big boy hardcore that smacks you square in the head before looking you in the eye and saying "what's up?" I hear a lot of East Coast influences here with Madball and Sworn Enemy coming to mind as a baseline but there is also a lot in the way of melody while also keeping things on the hard side of the fence. Songs like "No Time", "Switched Up" and "No Turning Back" show that more raw and straight up style of hardcore while "L.E.V.A.", (Leaving Everyone Vanishing Act), "Keep It Moving", "Bye Gones", and "Juzgarme" (sung in Español) show Countime bringing some excellent melodies into the fold while maintaining their hard edge. The 1:16 instrumental "Reincarnation" and the finale "Requiem" with its repeated chorus of "You can't deny when death has arrived, live to survive fight till you die" shows an even deeper dive with the latter almost being able to be categorized as a ballad further solidifying that "No Apologies, No Regrets" is a diverse album with a bunch of different feels. From near perfectly placed movie samples from "The Warriors" and "Menace ll Society" to hip-hop samples dropped into strategic spots throughout Countime undoubtedly want you to know that for better or worse that they are a product of their environment.
With a probable post pandemic wave of new hardcore releases on the horizon from all corners of the world Countime jump in early with a hard hitting chunk of hardcore that should appeal to various heavy music taste buds. The excellent production work here courtesy of Billy Graziadei from Biohazard is something that needs to be applauded and guest vocals on “L.E.V.A.” by Sheer Terror’s Paul Bearer, Cris Powerhouse, Jacob from Ruckus as well as ex-wrestler Vampiro also add to this album’s cache’. Find this online at Bandcamp & Spotify.
BULLET TREATMENT/HOT BLOOD split 7”
(Basement Records, Released January, 2021)
Bullet Treatment come to us from California and are not your typical punk band. BT consists of Chuck Dietrich, who runs Basement Records and some of his friends. The unique thing about this band is they use a different singer on each release. They have released numerous full lengths, singles and EP’s, each with a new vocalist. The band assaults you with five new songs of no bullshit punk rock, as they like to call it. Hot Blood hail from New Jersey and are no strangers to the scene. This will be their sixth release since 2014. The band plays fast and insane punk rock and the cool thing about this split is their singer does double duty, singing for his band and doing the guest vocals for Bullet Treatment.
What we have with Bullet Treatment is four minutes and twenty six seconds of speed induced, punk pandemonium. Bullet Treatment waste no time getting in your face, grabbing you by the throat and slamming you into a wall with the opening track, “Faith On A Billboard”. Before you can even catch your breath, the band tightens their grip on your throat and begins tossing you around the room when they assault you with “You’re Lame”, another pit slamming, mayhem inducing punk track. As you try to recover from your injuries, “Drunk With A Ghost” tightens its grip and continues to ravage you with fast-breaking musicianship and frantic vocals. “Pardon Our Patrons” gives you time to suck in air as it is the longest track and dare I say slowest of the five songs? What I mean is the pace is a touch slower than the others but not by much. The band kicks your ass one last time with the perfect send-off track, “Replace You”. It’s that one standard song you find on most great records that leaves a lasting impression on the listener and wanting more.
Hot Blood’s contribution to this split is a three song assault of epic punk proportions. From the opening track, “Head Full Of Steam”, these guys establish immediately that this is no light weight punk band you are listening to. The band rips through the song with its vicious vocals, accompanied by lightning speed playing with the occasional slow breakdown only to kick it back into overdrive, never giving you a chance to catch your breath. Without any warning, “Agonizing Dark” follows up with a fifty six second blast of infuriated rage, played with intensity worthy of inciting a riot at any show they played at. I found myself hitting the repeat button over and over for this track. “1117” finishes off Hot Blood’s contribution to this split and ends on a high note. Starting with a cool garage rock, infused guitar riff, the band once again erupts into full blown chaos, worthy of inciting an insane mosh pit. The song has a slower breakdown later into the track before finishing up with another frantic surge of raging vocals and musicianship, making the band a heavyweight contender in the scene today.
This is a worthy example of what real punk music is about. It’s got it all; angst, speed, intensity and originality. It’s not often you come across something that takes you back to the reason you got into this kind of music. The split 7” will for sure stir up those good feelings and renew your faith in genuine punk rock once again. I would love to see both bands release a full-length record. Buy this if you love punk that matters. Click HERE to check out the Bullet Treatment side and HERE for the Hot Blood side. Info on how to buy 7” vinyl versions are within each band’s link.
PERFECT WORLD “WAR CULTURE”
(LDB Records, Released May, 2021)
Brooklyn, NY’s Perfect World have a penchant for punchy and powerful hardcore and their debut album “War Culture” is thirteen tracks packed full of anthemic vibes with a gritty edge. Combine those traits with sturdy hardcore grooves that swarms with energy from beginning to end and you have “War Culture” which came out digitally late last year but now makes its 12” vinyl debut via Life & Death Brigade out of Louisville, KY.
The menacing intro for the timely named “Quarantine” displays an eerie tone as “War Culture” kicks off but its soon blown away as the following track “Lariat” makes its strength felt with a bulldozing groove and from then on, in it’s a nonstop blur of vibrant hardcore that never lets its energy levels dip below a fevered and fearsome level. Tracks like the pummeling “King Of The Night”, the chugging groove of “Breaking News” and the straight to the point brutality of the album’s title track are all excellent examples of how Perfect World use their music to uplift without losing any of their intensity, and it is an intensity that is never anything less than all encompassing. The intense levels that Perfect World bring to the fore are relentless and the riffs, grooves, breakdowns and chant along choruses all unite to create a very enjoyable album, especially on songs like the call to arms “Mission” and the discordant/triumphant mix of hardcore of “Exchange”. “War Culture” commences with the berserk “Become What You Hate”, in which the band raise the energy levels up even higher, leaving you wondering just what has hit you and as soon as those final notes ring out, you will want to start the album all over again and experience the intensity of Perfect World once again. The world is far from perfect, especially with all that is going on globally at the moment, but with an album like “War Culture”, it does make it a little bit more bearable. An impressive follow up to their 2018 demo, can’t wait to hear what is next! Find this on Bandcamp and Spotify or visit the LDB website to pick up a 12” vinyl copy.
FIRE IS MURDER "DEMO" (Released May, 2021)
NY's Fire Is Murder is the latest pandemic born band to come our way with this, their 4 song debut demo recently arriving in our mailbox on cassette with an accompanying download card. Founders Chris Nolen and Steve Gallo wrote, performed and recorded the majority of this effort with Gallo being a familiar name in the NYHC scene most notably from his time drumming in Agnostic Front. Since this recording they have recruited a bassist and drummer with Steve now becoming the full time guitarist. "Headspace In Time" is up first and is a 2 minute instrumental that starts off as a mid-paced head nodder of a jam before things really kick into gear over the final 30 seconds as the pace builds and builds making for a nice first impression.
"Daisy Chain" comes is at 1:34 and introduces us to Mr. Nolen's crystal clear vocal approach laid over a track that sounds like it could have been shot out of a 80's thrash metal time machine with things slowing down around the minute mark for a good old fashioned hardcore stomp. Early on its easy to see (or rather hear) that Fire Is Murder is not going to make things predictable as they have a sound and style that dips into various flavors of the heavy music spectrum. It is also interesting to hear Fire Is Murder dive headfirst into the thrashier side of things considering both of their members are entrenched in the NYHC scene, so raise a glass to open minded song writing!
"Reclaimed" continues the crossover/thrash theme while sprinkling enough hardcore stylings into the mix to keep you on your toes with MOD/SOD coming to mind on this track in particular. Closing track "Left To Be Found" is the longest track at 3:13 and probably the most experimental. After the thrashy start the middle of this track has an almost 90's post hardcore type of feel laid over a mid-paced choppy drum beat. So there you have it, the debut from Fire Is Murder. An interesting and diverse release to say the least… I like the groundwork they have laid here although the delivery and production could have been a tad more tight but that’s what demos are basically for. It will be interesting to see how the two new members gel with the guys on this recording and how much it will affect their future direction and overall sound. Check out “Reclaim” HERE. DM the band (click on their logo upper left) to buy a cassette which comes with download card.
WHY WE LIVE “WITHIN REACH” (Released April, 2021)
I don't know if anyone uses the word "stoked" anymore or if I'm just showing my age but it's the first word that came to mind about how excited I am about telling everyone about this band called Why We Live. Coming out of the Los Angeles scene roughly around 2016, the band consisting of Sirino Patino - vocals, Memo Vllasenor - guitars, Will Gill - bass and Gabriel Aguilar - drums have recently put out their second release titled “Within Reach” and there is just something about this album that has me entranced and I can't stop listening to it. The LA Hoodcore flavor (think of bands like Countime); the incredible energy; the prominence of each instrument standing out but yet still working together in unity; all create a sound that is a must have release for fans of not just hardcore but of the heavy music genre. There are the heavy breakdowns, melodic breakdowns and everything in between.
Patino's aggressive vocals complete the package and even the two songs that I don't understand the lyrics because I didn't pay attention in Spanish class are amazing. “Within Reach” contains 9 tracks in all with a generous playtime of around 25 minutes and as mentioned earlier I haven't stopped listening to this album. It was extremely hard to pinpoint a favorite track but I finally settled with the opening track “I Remain”, simply because it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of what the listener is about to take in. I love doing reviews especially when it's a release like this that honestly surprised the hell out of me and made me an instant fan. Forgive my ignorance since unfortunately I'm not up on many LA bands as I should be but if Why We Live aren't a household name within the scene yet I'm thinking they will be soon enough. Check it out on Bandcamp.
WITNESS MARKER s/t (Division Street Sounds/Not Like You Records, Released April, 2021)
Before every band was filed into some sub-genre a band like Lancaster, PA’s Witness Marker would have simply been a punk/hardcore band. Well written (and played) songs that remind me of melodic punk bands like 7 Seconds, Verbal Assault, Quicksand and those great 80’s Dischord bands. There’s nothing not to like about this release. Great production where the guitar, bass and drums each get their share of the spotlight is something that hit home right away… and well balanced songs, that while being melodic, still have some nice punch to them and some great hooks without becoming too poppy. I can see these songs coming off great live and this band really taking off with this great effort. A must for those who enjoy the Fugazi/Dischord sound.Pick this up through Division Street Sounds or Not Like You Records, or head on over to Bandcamp to stream.
WRONG WAR “FIXED AGAINST FOREVER” (Atomic Action Records/Council Records, Released 2020)
Oh man does Chicago’s Wrong War bring back great 80’s hardcore intensity! On the 9 song “Fixed Against Forever” album I am reminded of bands like Born Against and Batallion Of Saints with such a great primal, no holds barred attack that made hardcore so amazing without having to resort to double bass kicks and twin guitar attacks. The main difference between those old bands I referred to and Wrong War is that these guys benefit from some great production value, a thing that wasn’t so easy to come by back in the sticks and stones days of hardcore punk. Loving everything about this release! Originally released digitally back in November, this is now available on 12” vinyl through Rhode Island’s Atomic Action and Chicago’s Council Records. Give it a listen now on Bandcamp or Spotify.
ARKANGEL- 4 CD BUNDLE (GSR Music, Released April, 2021)
Formed in 1997 in Belgium, Arkangel released an amazing EP “Prayers Upon Deaf Ears” which was a full on metallic vegan sXe killer that would make Earth Crisis proud (and perhaps a little scared). Shortly after this record came out I went to Japan for the first time and could only bring a limited amount of CD’s with me for the trip (no digital files back then kids!) and this record was one of my favorites. Metal riffage, angry vocals with your typical sXe/vegan topics. These guys were/are part of the H8000 movement of the 90’s Belgian hardcore scene and members have been in some other noteworthy bands such as Wise Up, Deviate, Out For Blood, Length Of Time, and Enthroned. As the band became more popular and older they eventually dropped the sXe and vegan themed song messages and moved towards a more metal based sound. Despite what hardcore kids might think, “breaking edge” is of little concern for me when it comes to hardcore music. Arkangel continued to release some great metalcore on the records “Is Your Enemy”, “Hope You Die By Overdose” and “Dead Man Walking” that for whatever reason never really seemed to catch the ears of the North American hardcore/metal audiences. GSR has reworked all of the Arkangel releases which means now you have a chance to get your hands on some premium vintage metalcore. You won’t be disappointed! Fans of All Out War, Earth Crisis and the like take notice and check these releases out. Word is the band is working on new material, not entirely sure though… but check out GSR Records pages for any updates.Click HERE for ordering info.