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JUKAI “WINTER 2018 PROMO” (Released December, 2017)
Metallic hardcore is a subgenre that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately in the hardcore world. The heavily metal-influenced sounds are seeing a rebirth, as they become the template for many new hardcore bands. It has become very easy and very common for bands to dumb down Slayer and Metallica riffs, in the hopes of creating something that resonates. The difficult part is fusing metal and hardcore into something you can call your own. Many bands get stuck mimicking the greats and that’s about as far as their musical abilities go. Long Island’s Jukai have done quite the opposite with their two newest songs. In under six minutes of music, they have proved that they are what every metallic hardcore act should strive to be.
Jukai has flawlessly melded hardcore and metal into a sound they can call their own. In two songs, the band has shown they’ve been putting in the work and there’s an overwhelming sense of confidence in their playing. The first track, “Beacon” cycles through a plethora of different rhythmic patterns that flow smoothly. For many bands, it seems like they just piece together different riffs and drum patterns, with no sense of direction. Jukai doesn’t fall victim to this lack of direction. “Beacon” goes through many different movements and is held together by the band’s impeccable transitions. The individual movements seem extremely thought out and push the song forward. It’s a difficult feat to squeeze a multitude of different patterns into a three-minute song without it sounding forced.
The lyrics are heartfelt and relatable. They are a strong commentary and view on those who have lost hope in this world. We live in difficult times where the youth are facing an overwhelming sense of pressure. Many feel like they can’t live up to what they want to be. The lack of gratification sends them into a dark abyss. Jukai has skillfully painted this sphere of dystopia through their lyrics.
The second track, “Virtue Dies” isn’t as musically technical as “Beacon”; however, the simplistic rhythms showcase extreme displays of power. Musically, this is a hard-hitting track that doesn’t rely on artistic nuances to push the song forward. The band focuses on getting straight to the point with this track. The lyrics are what stand out most in this song. They are a wake-up call to our society as a whole. This society falls victim to turning a blind eye on the travesties that humanity has committed. Complacency and a lack of ethics skew our realities and the band predicts our downfall is not far away. Jukai have found their own sound with these two new tracks. They are the tightest they have ever been and I feel that they will be making waves into all realms of heavy music. Recently there have been a number of hardcore bands who have pushed themselves to a larger audience. It’s only a matter of time until Jukai become a household name in heavy music.
BIG CHEESE – AGGRAVATED MOPERY” EP
(Quality Control Records, Released November 2017)
For anyone who is more familiar with Northern Soul than hardcore bands from the North of England, Big Cheese is an excellent introduction or wakeup call. I was immediately sold on their sound, which reflects assorted classic NYHC influences yet blends these inspirations into something that is not generic. "Aggravated Mopery," their debut 7" on Quality Control Records, has a satisfying crunch and is mastered by Don Fury, and is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys late 80's NYHC.
Many current acts recycle the same stock of phrases for band names and song titles. Big Cheese instead stands apart on both fronts. I wasn't initially keen on the name, but came around when I saw they had pressed 300 of the 7" on "cheese yellow" vinyl. “… Mopery, apparently, rather than just a state of being mopey, is an amorphous crime once leveled at Billy Martin by an unnamed umpire, as described by Red Smith. Anyway, the 7" leads off with "TCP", which was enough to convince me to want to review this. The first 3/4 of the song is faster, but abruptly switches to a mosh-inducing break around 1:25, with just enough echo on the final exclamation.
“Pass The Buck” starts off with a great bass part that wouldn’t be out of place in a Breakdown tune, followed by one of the many sections on this record that will make you start involuntarily moshing at your desk. “Night Keeper,” the third track, has an Icemen - “Shadow Out Of Time” vibe. It’s a little slower than the first 2 songs that precede it and is a change of pace literally and figuratively. Song 4 is "Glass In Your Foot", though I keep wanting to write "glass in your hand" due to an experience at CB’s during a Condition set. The faster verse and chorus give way to a head-bobbing breakdown around 1:12.
How many records are arranged with the title track as the final song (besides the Show Of Force 1990 demo?) Though song 5 is not just the title track, but rather "Path Of Perfection/Aggravated Mopery", and opens with a borrowed snippet of the M13 - “Path Of Perfection” intro! This modern re-imagination is a distinct improvement over the quality of my actual M13 MP3's. It's an interesting move, opening with someone else's intro in recorded form, rather than just sticking a Carl-band cover at the end of your album re: Sai Nam - “Take You Down” or Breakdown - “You Let It Go To Your Head”. But I gotta hand it to Big Cheese, as they pull it off seamlessly, in a way that would not be obvious to someone unfamiliar with M13.
Another advantage of playing Big Cheese in your I-tunes is that if you have any taste at all, the artist immediately following may be Big Collapse, or at least Big L. All 5 songs are under 3 minutes and yet there is still variety in the songwriting. But how would their style hold up in LP form? I am confident they'd have sufficient ideas for a longer release. The cover features aesthetically appropriate art by Andrew Fletcher, in the same style he did for the Big Cheese demo. And in the layout preview on the Quality Control site, the one band member visible is wearing an Altercation tee with cutoff sleeves. I will be rocking my own Altercation tank top if Big Cheese someday makes it to the Big Apple.
EGODESTROYS- “A NEW COLD WAR”
(Irish Voodoo Records, Released December, 2017)
Syracuse, NY’ Ego Destroys return with their new album “A New Cold War”, their first since their ferocious “Receiving End Of Revenge” EP back in 2014. The band features current and former members of Slapshot, True Blue and Santa Sangre and with pedigree like that, their vibrant punk and hardcore sound cannot fail to be a force to be reckoned with and this is ably demonstrated on this new record. Lyrically “A New Cold War” deals with the possible impending threat of nuclear war much like the same subject cast a shadow in the 1980’s when a similar threat was possible in an uncertain political climate. Ego Destroys address this uncertain situation with their music much like punk and hardcore bands did in the 80’s. Reagan Youth’s “It’s A Beautiful Day”, D.O.A’s “World War 3”, SNFU’s “Black Cloud” and most of the entire Discharge recorded output all dealt with this subject in formidable fashion and now Ego Destroys are doing the same today.
The album starts with the bruising “Cardiac Arrest” and this sets in motion a vibrant set of songs that capture that uncertainty about the world today. Songs like “Cold Winter”, the punked up “Decades” and “Jenny's Experiment” deal with it in a direct way, with outright spite and disbelief at the situation. The band’s heavy (both sonically and in terms of subject matter) cover of Peter Gabriel's “Games Without Frontiers” fits into the album perfectly and its mid-pace allows you to get your breathe back from the frantic hardcore. The frantic nature of the band’s music soon starts up again though with the blazing “Jeopardy” and from then on, the band’s music and message doesn't let up at all with tracks like the quick fire “Destroyers”, the brutal “Trust Issues”, the groove orientated “Perceived Grandeur”, the energetic melodic punk of “For My Friends” and “Expatriates” (a track that features guest vocals from Karl Buechner from fellow Syracuse band and metallic hardcore legends Earth Crisis) flying by in a blaze of anger and show Ego Destroys’ quality as a band and as the grooving heaviness of closing track “Tombstone” draws to a close it is evident how good and album “A New Cold War” is. If the end of the world is near then at least Ego Destroys have provided it with a fitting soundtrack for a nuclear armageddon with this superb hardcore maelstrom.
OUTSIDER MAGAZINE (Issue #33, Released Winter, 2018)
The long running magazine that goes by the name Outsider returns with their (impressive) 33rd issue for the winter of 2018. If you frequent this page often you've probably noticed a review or two from this dependable crew out of Newburgh, NY. They are around at least a couple of times a year ad deliver a quality product each time. Outsider is still distributed for free in the areas surrounding Newburgh and the vibe and feel is local but not to the point where you feel like the outsider when leafing through the 24 large pages that are presented.
The eclectic mix of features and interviews in issue 33 includes Francis Dean, Olga from the Svetlanas, dancers/hula hoopers Lady Lava and Vanna Vroom, Lara Hope, and artists Mark Darnobid and Isis Kenney to name a few. For as long as I can remember Outsider has had a section called Zine Scene where they do short bios on up and coming bands and in this edition The Last Stand and Enziguri are two of the 12 bands featured. Some music reviews and a write-up of Shelter and their This Is Hardcore set from this past summer winds things down. Outsider is a punk read through and through. I enjoy how each issue always has some band or bands that I've never heard of or knew little about and they end up teaching me about them. Hit up that link below to get a free copy within the US of A and prices for elsewhere.
COMBUST- “DEMO 2017” (Released November, 2017)
Shit man... I'm an OG Combust fan. Fuck all of you Johnny-come-lately nut swingers. I was down with Combust back in the day. Way back when all they had was a demo, and WNYU set and a couple of tracks on the NYHC – “Where The Wild Things Are” compilation that Blackout put out. You remember that one new jacks? It was on the vinyls.... ask your grandpa what that is. They had two blistering cuts sandwiched between Outburst and Killing Time.....or was it Sheer Terror and Maximum Penalty....shit....or was it Life's Blood and Breakdown? Maybe after Norman Bates and the Showerheads?? It was on there somewhere. Wait, what? This is a new band with members from previous projects Vice and Impact? This demo is from 2017? Uh...yeah, I knew that man.... I was just seeing if YOU knew that.
You may be able to infer from my one man scene above, that this 6 song demo...err..strike that, the 5 song demo plus “Intro” (gotta have the fucking intro noobz), is a walk down NYHC memory lane. A really fun one at that. This seriously could have been acquired the same day you picked up the Raw Deal and Maximum Penalty demos down near St. Mark's Place. This is around 16 minutes worth of late 80's NYHC style hardcore. The intro kicks it off and you soon realize the boys can play and the sound is tight. The intro rolls into "Combust" a back and forth hardcore tune. The vocals are perfect for the genre. They are throaty and gruff, falling somewhere in between that Outburst and Raw Deal/Killing Time zone. "Another Fool" is definitely the get away song of the release. The literal, you just did something bad and jumped into your Civic, jammed on the gas and popped in this tune. The soundtrack to your escape, with all due respect to In Flames. Great tune... and great LP. Now I'm even confusing myself. "Drowning" is up next. It was featured on No Echo as the song of the day a while back so you may have heard it if you frequent them digs. It's a solid galloping hardcore tune. The standout track for me is cut 5, "My Fire". It kicks off with a nice guitar lick and then runs off down hardcore road, with some interesting chopping and guitar work. Then it culminates in a nice breakdown which will definitely get the crowds moving. So you get a nice fill of NYHC nostalgia with this demo, but not just nostalgia because these guys are doing it now, so get out and see them do it. If you can't then get the demo. By the way, forgot to mention, as if to nail the point home, the final song on the demo is a quality cover of Breakdown's "Dissed And Dismissed". If you don't know, then simply go fuck off already. Look for this demo to be released on 7" vinyl in the near future on Straight & Alert Records from France.
LAUGHING STOCK “ROUGH CROWD” EP
(Not Like You Records, Released December, 2017)
In a strange sort of way I never realized how similar Raybeez from Warzone and Jim from Pennywise sounded until I listened to Laughing Stock’s recent EP “Rough Crowd”. Brett’s vocals are a sort of middle ground between the two which I think strengthens their version of hardcore punk. “Your Attitude! Your Attitude! Your Attitude! Needs work!” is how they end their first song “All Jokes Aside” letting the listener know that surely more good is to follow on the rest of the EP. In many regards, I would describe Laughing Stock’s sound and style as a rough edge version of so much that has come out of Southern California throughout the years. At the same time it’s not hard to hear traces of Token Entry throughout this EP especially in songs like “Bottom Line” and “Rough Crowd” which have nice combinations of melody and explosiveness. This, I think, is a positive in a genre of music that has come to be dominated by all kinds of chugga chugga bands with guttural monster yelling. These guys take the basics of what makes hardcore so great and so fun and add their own touch of originality creating something with a lot of personality. Go check ‘em out by clicking that link below!
DEAR FURIOUS- “EP 2017”
(New Age Records Released July, 2017)
Dear Furious boasts an unbelievable power house roster of my favorite hardcore trope: “Featuring members of…” The roll-call of dudes slinging riffs in this new West Coast project is so notable that I’m not even gonna list them here (I always spoon feed the reader too much, it’s time you people do some Googling). Dear Furious is the perfect blend of crushing heaviness and exciting metal-tinged riffing, they deliver a classic sound without re-hashing anything or over staying their welcome… an impressive feat only seasoned song writers are capable of. I’m getting a definite Integrity vibe on these tracks, but there’s so much distinct personality to them it almost defies comparison. Out now on stalwart old-school label New Age Records, Dear Furious and this self-titled 7 inch are the perfect record to spin if you’re in the mood for something heavy. 5 thumbs up!
-Dan Piro 2018
BKS- “I EAT BUGS” EP (Released April, 2017)
B.K.S (Baptist Killing Spree) from London are here to deliver a serving of hardcore punk in a grimy and frenetic dose that will make your ears bleed. The “I Eat Bugs” EP is six songs with common social and political themes in short, anarchistic audio blasts. From love of eating bugs (“I Eat Bugs”), the “TV Baby”, “The Light Is Green” to the ACAB (All Coppers Are Bastards) ditty “The Baconhater”, BKS delivers in their style.
The BKS style covers a lot of ground with influences I hear from FEAR, early Suicidal and even Agnostic Front. This is probably not an album for the weak of heart as it really has the old school feel of sound bites to start songs and the growl and fuzz to end a song leading into the next. It is a sound I love because it is simply raw and not focused on the over produced albums of a lot of bands today. If you can buy the album and support them, do so because they are coming and they are coming to eat all the bugs and break all the glass. Always support your scene.
ONE STEP AT A TIME “OUR SEARCH” (Released October, 2017)
If one considers the extent to which One Step At A Time has been inconsistent as a functioning unit since their inception in 1998, and applies the same extreme to a domain of positivity, then one can understand the level of sincerity and momentous energy which is captured “Our Search” – emphasis on the positivity!
From start to finish this 12-song, 24-minute (coincidental?) record is cathartic and captivating to the ear as at points in which the listener may begin to lose interest, the lyrical content and sound seem to take a slight shift. A prime example of this is the track “Skate, Surf, and Shred” which has a less serious and snotty element to it, and has been placed, seemingly strategically, as the fifth track number. This record seems to encompass an earlier sound (i.e. a late-90’s resurgence of the mid-80’s and early-90’s California sounds) as well as, at certain points, an early-2000’s mid-tempo hardcore sound. To put the sound embodied here in perspective, think of Ignite-style melodies, quite a bit of “chugga,” but not in a 90’s sense – more like in a Chain of Strength manner, and harsh, deep vocals - all with ubiquitous gang vocals. Hopefully these guys will be able to stay consistent as a band and grace us with another heavy-hitter sooner rather than later.
-Kicker of Elves
IRON PRICE “EASIER EVERY DAY” EP
(Released December, 2017)
Iron Price have just dropped a two song EP titled “Easier Every Day”; and although it's only two songs each track runs over 4 minutes, which is an eternity in a genre where shorter songs are the norm. However this Maryland/Delaware band which consists of Dennis-vocals, Travis-drums; Brendan-bass; Matt-guitar and Brian-guitar are more than just a "typical" hardcore band. Iron Price is a mix of all that is heavy and their self-described "sludgy, miserable, heavy, hardcore" sound has stayed true since the band's 2015 demo. “Easier Every Day’s” track titles include “Easier Every Day” and “Don’t Let ‘Em Know” and both are sure to win over heavy music aficionados who are not familiar with the band. If any proof is needed just listen to the intro of the title track, it's something that insane pits are made of. Over the last several years Iron Price have shared the stage with such bands as All Out War; Sworn Enemy; Scars Of Deceit and in 2016 they played the amazing This Is Hardcore Fest. A cool side note, the cover art work according to guitarist Matt Bennett depicts "an X-ray of a dude who had a chainsaw lodged in his neck and chest" and I'm left wondering if the band purposely used this image because it emulates their sound on “Easier Every Day” so perfectly?
VICIOUS CIRCLE “BORN TO DESTROY” LP
(Not Like You Records, Released November, 2017)
When I first heard about a new LP from a band called Vicious Circle, I wondered if the name was a Gut Instinct reference. In fact, these guys were a band long before Gut Instinct even existed, forming in 1983 as one of Australia's first major hardcore acts. “Born to Destroy”, their latest release, is a 14-song full length. It's a good introduction to Vicious Circle if you are unfamiliar with their history, and while perhaps a few tracks longer than necessary, it is worth a listen.
The LP kicks off with "Black Wings", a strong opener that sets the tone for the speed and energy of the LP, and was sufficiently engaging to make me want to review this thing. It's followed by the mid-tempo "Cunning As A Shithouse Rat" and its enjoyable main riff. Vicious Circle dwells at the intersection of hardcore and punk that will appeal to enthusiasts of both genres. I am getting a bit of a Poison Idea vibe so far. Or for bands from the last few decades, one could compare them to A Poor Excuse if you remember those dudes from Boston, or Hired Goons, the American one with Pugsy from Social Decay.
My one beef with this release is assorted MP3 issues. The download code contains two long tracks, one of side A and one of side B, which makes it difficult to seek out individual favorite tunes. And when someone was kind enough to cut it up for me into MP3's for each song, only half the songs would play on my I-pod. Thus I was temporarily tricked into thinking song 3, “No Truth To The Dead”, was actually the opening track. It could certainly be a worthy opener, especially due to the ambiguous ending and transition to “Vultures”: at first I wondered if it was one long song with a gap before the mosh part. Nope, just a transition from song 3 to song 4. Side A features one more standout in "I Know", with guest vocals from Mikey Hood. It's the longest song on the album at 2:47, compared to the majority of the tracks which are under 2 minutes.
During side B, just when I was thinking the songwriting could use a little more variety, I was hit with another memorable riff in “Bleeding Ears”. It starts out almost like the Vicious Circle equivalent of Maximum Penalty – “Find A Better Way”. Damn, I always seem to bring Maximum Penalty into reviews of bands that sound nothing like Maximum Penalty. Like side A, side B continues to feature mostly faster songs, interspersed with more moderately paced ones. “Killing Us” is a solid closer and the “watch the world burn” theme reminded me of the corresponding Vision record.
The cover art on “Born To Destroy” is also fitting for the apocalyptic themes within. Pick this up if you are curious about these Australian stalwarts or enjoy well-paced, no frills hardcore.
CHILLER THAN MOST FANZINE
(Issue #5, Released November, 2017)
Chiller Than Most Zine showing up in the mail is always a good day. Attila who puts this highly unique and creative read together is based out of Hungary and is somewhere north of 30 years old... and is a master student of old-school hardcore, particularly NYHC.
The first 8 pages of issue #5 starts off with Atila's recent visit to NYC. He visited spots in NYC that had ties to the NYHC scene and set out taking photos of himself standing somewhere and then within the pages of the zine he includes a side by side photo with the photo that inspired him to be there. Examples include the 42nd Street subway where there is a current day photo of him and then a late 80's photo of Token Entry from the back cover of their "From Beneath The Streets" album in a similar location at the station. A photo of the old A7 club and then a current one of him standing next to the recently erected plaque honoring the birthplace on NYHC in what used to be the old A7 Club (now known as Niagra). This theme is repeated a few times over with various spots. You get the idea here… and it is really cool to see this though the eyes of someone who came thousands of miles away to be where so much history has been made.
Chiller #5 has a lot to read. 32 pages don’t sound like a whole lot but the type is small and they cram a lot of info into those pages. A Supertouch interview lifted from DroidRage.com was a fun read as was the chat with Tony Rettman who just put out the new book “Straight Edge; A Clear Headed Hardcore Punk History”. Tony lends Chiller an excerpt from the chapter that features Bold which delivers some cool stories including one where Bold had a temporary schism of sorts with Murphy’s Law that was apparently smoothed over by Mark Ryan of Supertouch. The Accursed from Australia are interviewed as well as Firm Standing Law and some in depth analysis of the history of Mental. Some pure gold is dished out in the form of a joint interview with Nancy Petriello Barile and Al Barile… Al of SSD fame and Nancy being his wife but Nancy drops some great old school stories (and maybe overshadowing her hubby) here as she was very involved with booking shows way way back and had some really interesting things to say. As cool as the NYC photo idea was this is the section of this issue that steals the show. Chiller Than Most is just a cool ass fucking zine, laid out cut and paste style, but most importantly it has substance. It has its own personality and I hope this guy keeps doing this thing for a very long time as I just dive into it and have an enjoyable read each time. It comes in limited runs, gets shipped from Hungary but is definitely worth the wait once you order. Amazing cover artwork depicts the Chiller Than Most mascot hanging out in front of CBGB’s with the whole crew from artist Chun One. Click below for ordering info.
BACKTRACK “BAD TO MY WORLD” LP
(Bridge 9 Records, Released November, 2017)
If you could sum up the music of Long Island NY’s Backtrack in only one word, it would have to be energetic and on their incendiary new album “Bad To My World” they demonstrate this to maximum effect. This energy is something the band has always had in spades… and are definitely not short of it here. The band’s knack for writing glorious hardcore tunes has not deserted them either as this new album is packed full of them.
From the opening bassline of the first track “War” that segues into a furious groove to the closing crunch of “Sanity”, this is a ball of fury that showcases all that makes hardcore great. The passion on this record is palpable and evokes true New York titans like Sick Of It All and Raw Deal/Killing Time but the band give its own spin on what is a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring listen. The frenzied “One With You”, the anthemic “The Deep Is Calling”, the breakneck stomp of “Crooks Die Slow” (check out the epic breakdown midway through) and the venomous “Never Ending Web” are the standout tracks on the album but to be honest “Bad To My World” is packed full of highlights and stands out as a complete album, one that doesn't come up for air as it smashes from track to track, riff to riff and breakdown to breakdown.
The high energy zest and ardour that explodes from the speakers as you listen to this album is infectious and the only seemingly negative thing about it is that you want to but can't hear these songs played live right there and then, such is the living in the moment nature of the songs, the album though is the next best thing to seeing the band tear it up as it has a very "live" sound to it complete with a raw and enthusiastic production that goes hand in hand with the bands zeal. Gaining traction with every release, Backtrack have upped the ante with “Bad To My World” and is a worthy addition to the bands musical arsenal and when they come to a venue near you, don't hesitate to go and see them as they will truly set the place off. If you don't then you've only got to put this album on loud and embrace its magnificent energy and lust for life to truly get a taste of the power of Backtracks music and philosophy.
(Cassette, Brain Abuse Records, Released November, 2017)
A backstory boys and girls… now sit back and relax while Uncle Junkie weaves the tale of Faithless. As it turns out, Faithless started in 2008 as a project involving Mike D from Kill Your Idols and Anthony from Sheer Terror. The band was originally called Dead Feelings. This recording was going to be a 9 song record on the now defunct Koi Records and was to be titled "Waiting To Be Dead". When it didn't happen, life happened and it went on a 9 year hiatus. The men decided to revisit and finish it when the found they no longer had the originals. The rough cuts sounded great though and they brought in Ron to lay some vocals on top. During the hiatus a couple of the original songs were used elsewhere including on a Sheer Terror LP. The rest are on the demo which Tyler from Brain Abuse Records, a mostly cassette label from the outskirts of DC heard, and wanted to put out.
So the tunes... you get 6 songs in just under 9 minutes. The demo opens up with "Turn The Tide" which is speeding thrasher. 1:15 and it's done. Some guitar feedback leads into another rager; "What Happened To You?". This one culminates in a hardcore stomp which will definitely please the dance fans. A short 1:18. The third track is "Scream All You Want" clocking in a 1:26. This one is a straight thrash tune maybe even bordering on grindcore. A good hard fast tune. I think the band really forms its own sound on the 4h and 6th tunes. "Test Of My Will" at 2:03 and "Divide.Conquer.Control" at 2:54 respectively. These are two very interesting tunes musically while still being total hardcore tunes. Sandwiched between these two songs is the 8 second "Error Of The Soundbyte" which is enjoyable little throwback blast. Even though these are rough cuts, the musicianship is fine. It may be slightly rough but that only adds to the charm. All in all a solid collection of jams sure to tickle the fancy of coremen everywhere.
AMERICAN WAR MACHINE “PREY DRIVE” EP
(Bridge 9 Records, Released October, 2017)
WOW!!! I could just end my review of American War Machine's debut release “Prey Drive” with that one word as it's that good! But part of why I like to write reviews is to get people not only listen to the music but to know something about the band. AWM is a Boston hardcore band made up of some true vets of the scene coming from such powerhouse bands as Agnostic Front; Slap Shot and Blood For Blood. Although AWM are a side project, they took the recording of “Prey Drive” very seriously creating such a tight sounding release. The EP contains 3 songs totaling about eight minutes of hard charging music and vocals as violent as the war laced lyrics the band sings about. I love all three songs equally but I admit that only having three songs was a big tease. I know all members are busy with other endeavors and touring with their respectable bands but I can't help being selfish and hoping that they put out more music soon. With 2017 coming to a close, “Prey Drive” is definitely one of the best releases I've heard all year.
HUMAN ANIMAL “THE FIRST FOUR WINTERS” CD
(Panda Claw Records, Released 2017)
Erie Pennsylvania's Human Animal have been playing their brand of "Erie Lake Effect Hardcore" since November 2011, when several friends who were currently not playing in any bands decided to put their ideas together and form a new project. The band's latest release titled “The First Four Winters” is a collection of all of the band's music which includes 10 songs, one of which is an unreleased song, plus a live performance and an interview from BVZ radio (Penn State College radio). Human Animal consists of: Eric Michael Schauffle or simply EMS-vocals; Adam Salaga-guitar; Ryan Zimmerman-bass and Bobby Williams-drums (shout out to ex-guitarist Nate Black). The style showcased on “The First Four Winters” can best be described as a sound as heavy and aggressive as a Lake Effect snow, which living in the Buffalo NY area, I know well. Added to the mix is the band's "negative side of life" lyrics which creates the well-known recipe for what makes hardcore music so great. “The First Four Winters” has been spinning in my CD player since I recently received it. All the tracks are good but my standout song is track one titled “Down We Go Again”, which happens to be the unreleased song mentioned earlier. I enjoyed listening to the live performance as well; where some bands only sound good during recording, Human Animal sounds good playing both. It is clear why they have shared the stage with such legends like Terror, Madball, Ringworm and my brothers in Full Scale Riot. Human Animal is a band that should be on people's radar.
STRIFE “LIVE AT THE TROUBADOUR” CD/DVD
(WAR Records, Released November, 2017)
Live recordings always seem to go one of two ways. Sometimes the recordings can feel way too rehearsed and stiff, which can lead to an overall absence of character. On the other hand, there are live recordings that encourage minor instrumental and vocal mistakes. These are the type of recordings that feel natural and act as a portal, sonically throwing the listener into the room where the initial concert took place. Strife has been able to accomplish the latter with their Record Store day release, “Live At The Troubadour”.
These recordings have been sitting in the vault since 2005 and have finally been released to the public via guitarist, Andrew Klein’s WAR Records. In eleven songs, spanning Strife’s first three Victory Records albums, “Live At The Troubadour” brings the chaos of a hometown Los Angeles show to listeners all over the world. Consisting of the original Strife line up, this record oozes character, energy and passion. Pure hardcore vitality reverberates through this whole project. The guitar tracks are mixed all the way to the front and sonically smack you in the face with crushing rhythm parts. Some of the guitar tracks tend to fall behind the beat at times, especially the leads. But let’s be real, they were probably jumping all over the stage during this recording, so they get a pass.
The rhythmic interplay between the bass and drums is the overall tightest part of this recording. They are completely locked in and at times thrust the songs forward with extreme power. However, there are times when I think that the bass can afford to come up in the mix. For example, on Track 3, “Will To Die”, the bass does keep a memorable groove, but it would be nice to have it be brought closer to the front. There are times in this track where I have to tightly push my over-the-ear headphones into my ears to make out what exactly the bass is playing. The drums have an exceptional snare sound. The snap of the snare is damn near perfect. The overall levels of the cymbals would be nice to have higher in the mix to add stronger dynamics to the tracks.
There’s no doubt that vocalist, Rick Rodney has a truly aggressive and commanding vocal delivery. When he’s in control of the microphone, the songs sonically bark at you. You can feel the intensity of his screams. I understand that it’s a live show and part of the beauty of a hardcore show is being able to grab the microphone from the band. However, some of the crowd’s screams are very hard to listen to and are borderline cringe-worthy. Then again, without the crowd participation, the band may have not have had as much energy as they showcased on this recording.
“Live At The Troubadour” showcases a strong sense of unity between Strife and their fans. The sold-out Troubadour show highlights Strife’s energy and passion. They are a captivating group of musicians with an infectious live show. This record shows that perfection sometimes isn’t key. The engineers didn’t go back and edit every mistake, which would’ve created some sort of stale rendition of a memorable show. They ran with the subtle mistakes and created a project that feels natural.
NOTE: This release is available as a double disc with the live recording on one disc (CD) and a DVD video version accompanying it in a 2 disc package. Click below for more info.
UNIFIED RIGHT “IF I CAN’T LISTEN TO UNIFIED RIGHT IN HEAVEN THEN SEND ME STRAIGHT TO HELL” LP
(Triple B Records, Released December 2017)
What if someone told you four years ago to check out a band, and you finally got around to it and discovered their new material sounds like a cross between Rest in Pieces and True Blue? You'd feel pretty stupid, right, or at least a shade regretful that your obstinance at being told what to do had resulted in missing years of their output? Or perhaps you just tuned in at the right time due to a recent change in direction. In the case of the new Unified Right LP, "If I Can't Listen to Unified Right in Heaven, Then Send Me Straight To Hell", the latter is true. While UR has accumulated a devoted core of fans from their first few releases, the progression in sound displayed on the new LP may win an entire new cohort.
Unified Right's original material was more in the vein of Straight Ahead, Warzone and early Agnostic Front, and while I love all three of those bands, when I went back and listened to the earlier stuff, it didn't grab me as much as the new LP. And rather than a drastic shift in sound, Unified Right seems to be following a natural progression, much like how Beyond became more wiggly and weird from demo to LP, Agnostic Front transitioned from “Victim In Pain” to “Cause For Alarm” style or even (God forbid depending how you feel about the thing - I for one am a fan) Warzone from “Open Your Eyes” to the bullethole LP.
This 10 song effort kicks off with “So It Goes.” While I generally hate albums that start quietly and make it difficult to determine the correct volume levels, this one is worth it. The pre-song ambient noise displays a mysterious clanking that initially reminded me of a Metro North train arriving but is probably some apocalyptic thing, before bursting into a powerful intro. True Blue is probably the best comparison for many aspects of the current Unified Right sound, from the quiet intro like on “The Ice” to the vocal style and excellent mosh parts. If you like True Blue you'll probably like this, and if you can't get down with TB vocal stylings, you might not be too keen on this one either. I am already loving the drum sound, and am a sucker for songs that mention the year they were recorded, both as an identifier for when you are listening years later, and also as a callout for the conditions present in 2017 that inspired the song.
"So It Goes" is a strong opener, setting the tone musically and lyrically for the rest of the album - "the human condition is looking bleak, and so it goes." Impending doom is a dominant lyrical theme here, especially about how human overconsumption and disregard for the environment can result in catastrophic consequences. This is particularly urgent for a Florida band and I like when songs address local issues. The ecological concerns (and changes to the local dynamic) resurface in “The Lobster Wears a Top Hat” and “Consuming Satisfaction.” “Concrete structures, nature disrupters, errors we can't undo” is today’s “environmental overkill, toxic waste, overflowing landfills.” Later in the album, “Power Core” hints at how many in hardcore are stuck covering the same old themes rather than relevant concerns. Unified Right follows their own advice by penning lyrics injected with contemporaneous urgency.
During my first few listens, some individual tracks on Side A stood out less than their counterparts on Side B, almost the same way that Side A of “Climate Of Fear” bled together on my first few listens. But there are a variety of standouts on the second half, though I wouldn’t go as far as to classify it as a “second half album” since side A is also highly enjoyable, if not as distinct. The 10 songs were definitely arranged with vinyl listeners in mind, as “M.A.D.” is a fitting opener to side B. Probably an unintentional nod to Stigmata – “Do Unto Others” opening side B with “MAD World” but I’ll take it.
Anyway, side B contains one hit after another, particularly “Power Core” and “Consuming Satisfaction,” my two favorite tracks on the album at numbers 8 and 9. “Power Core” reminds me the most of Rest in Pieces due to the vocals during the chorus, or at least the spoken style from the chorus of “Toys R Us.” We transition from the tambourine in “Power Core” to other interesting percussion in “Consuming Satisfaction,” which details overconsumption and its consequences, environmental as well as financial. "Consuming satisfaction, we need direct action. When is man's imagination satisfied?” “Cashin' That Check” is the up-tempo final tune and ends in a Unified Right name check.
Even if you are unfamiliar with the history of Unified Right or the Triple B Records catalog, there are a variety of reasons to check these guys out, from the riffs to the lyrics. And if you share my fascination with second generation hardcore bands, I read in the Droid Rage interview with Oli that he was originally introduced to hardcore through his mom, who had attended shows in the 80’s in DC. And their appeal is relatively universal – still traditional hardcore, somewhat heavy but not too heavy, and subtly influenced by some less obvious greats (at least to my ears.) For fans of True Blue, Rest in Pieces, Inside Out NY and Striking Distance. Click HERE to check it out on the Triple B Bandcamp.
KILLING TIME, OUTBURST, KING 9, KRIMEWATCH, ICE COLD KILLERS @ Brooklyn Bazaar, Brooklyn, NY
November 24, 2017. Review by: Dan Piro, Photos by: JC Photo Media, Rich Zoeller
30 years of Killing Time. An iconic night to celebrate an iconic band. Anyone involved in this thing of ours who knows shit from shinola knows that “Brightside” is THE album that set the bar for hardcore songwriting, so much so that its impact carries to this day 3 decades later. Luckily I got in early, because about 20 minutes after doors the line to get in stretched all the way down the stairs and through the lobby of the venue, which was a sight to behold.
ICE COLD KILLERS. PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
The night was kicked off with ICE COLD KILLERS out of Long Island. Personally I thought this band was a perfect start to the night as they had more of a reigns pulled back street rock sound. Sometimes with shows like these it can be a bit overwhelming when every band is cut from the same cloth and you’re just getting pounded with mosh calls all night. ICK wasted no time digging right into their first song. In between songs their vocalist kept dropping Thanksgiving metaphors, referring to himself as the appetizer with Killing Time being the turkey. They rounded out their set with a token Cocksparrer cover, and before they ended the drummer got on the mic to thank KT vocalist Anthony Comunale (his cousin) for getting him into hardcore; a beautiful family moment if there ever was one.
KRIMEWATCH. PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
Next up was KRIMEWATCH; while Ice Cold Killers had the crowd engaged, the room was still sparse, but I did notice by the time Krimewatch went up the room had pretty much filled to capacity. As ripping and as intense KW is (whom I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing and sharing the stage with in the past) the crowd seemed mostly un-enthused. The pit would only open up for a few seconds at a time and it was only during mid-tempo mosh parts. It’s a bit disheartening to see a band pour everything into their set, just to see people (especially a full crowd of people) stand still because they don’t know what to do during fast parts. Sub-observation: At the risk of sounding old and making a grandpa complaint, I just want to say there are consistently too many photographers on stage at any given point. What are we doing people? What are we documenting exactly? Why are there so many flashbulbs going off? Why are there more photographers crowded up towards the front than there are kids singing along and stage diving? Ok, just needed to get that off of my chest.
KING 9. PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
The 3rd band of the evening was Long Island heavy hitters KING 9. This was probably the most well-presented band of the night thus far. Good mix, tight set, and devastating crowd reaction. Seeing King 9 at this point is on par with a rare bird sighting, as I remember seeing them like once a month between 2012-2013. Their vocalist had remarked they’re finally going to drop that 2nd LP next year, the one he’s been talking about since 2015. Maybe a new record will make their appearances less of a rarity. K9 got the crowd good and warmed up and left the stage simmering for the penultimate band of the evening:
OUTBURST. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
So right out of the gate I want to apologize for injecting bias into this, and I’m not meaning to detract from the Killing Time celebration, but OUTBURST was the band that I most wanted to see as was the case with a lot of the crowd. If my sources are correct, they haven’t played with their original singer (Brian) since ’06, the summer where CB’s was closing and every band was coming out of the woodwork. They played Black ‘N Blue Bowl in 2012, but with Vitalo of Backtrack filling in as Brian had work/family obligations. So this set was basically a pipebomb with a slow burning wick, and with 4/5’s of the original lineup and the legendary Mike Dijan brought in to round it out, it was finally ready to explode. After what felt like a lifetime for them to setup up, they finally opened with “Misunderstood” (This is track 7… trying the untitled song. No wrong one…wrong one). The crowd was a sweaty warzone for the entire set, screaming every single word, with bodies getting jumbled and mashed left and right. There’s something to be said about a band that puts out one of the best 7 inches from their respective era, and then disappears only to rear their head every decade or so, it turns people into animals. I lost a shoe during the mayhem of “No Choice” so I had to step aside and watch the latter half of the set from the wings, and it’s also the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt at a show. It’s funny how I can feel on top of the world all night, moshing people’s balls off, but all it takes is for me to lose 1 shoe, and my whole world comes unraveled (I found it under the stage after they finished). Given their limited output they basically played every song they put out from “Miles To Go” and their demo, and for good measure threw in the ever popular Kraut cover “All Twisted”. Their set was closed out with “The Hardway”, with probably the most iconic drum intro in NYHC history, Ezec of Crown of Thornz/Skarhead fame was brought up to split vocal duties on this one. I can’t wait to see them again in another 10 years!
KILLING TIME. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
On to the juggernaut headliners of the evening…KILLING TIME… who are a band that needs no introduction or explanation, they are one of those bands that never fails with staunch tight delivery, so much so that it sounds like you’re listening to the record in some parts of their set. I was surprised to see they played a good handful of deep cuts from their 2nd record “The Method” on top of all of the crowd favorites from “Brightside”. I find it amazing that this insular underground scene has such a strong storied history that has been revered for so many years, and undoubtedly the reason that it’s managed to persist for so long is because of a band like Killing Time. –Dan Piro