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ADRENALINE S/T EP
(Flatspot Records, Release Date May 24, 2019)
From say 2-3 years back up till now there seems to be an increasing number of new hardcore punk bands that are adding different flavors to their sound as a way stand out from the pack even if it is with the slightest little tweaks. The 90's have become the main source for digging out influences for these bands’ musical compositions, a clever move that often pays off! That's the case for Baltimore based Adrenaline with their initial release, the self-titled 6 track-EP on Flatspot Records.
Bands like Turnstile proved that sipping on not-so-obvious sources like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Living Color was a way to put out fresh music in a sub-genre that doesn’t allow much in the way of deviations without sounding too forced or sold-out. As for Adrenaline (a side-project with members of the metallic hardcore group Queensway), their pool of influences feels deeper, one that spans throughout the whole decade, from early 90's Helmet riffage to mid-90's NYHC groovy-ness of Cold Front to late 90's modern elements of Snapcase!
As the vocals kicks-in during the opening track they quickly switch from new-school styled guitar distortions to full groove-laden hardcore that gets you moving. Both elements take turns all the way to the finish which makes the listening experience highly interesting. If by the second track you aren't convinced, the third one "Masked Out" will most likely do the trick, if not, check your pulse! Another new band that features similar traits to Adrenaline is Jocko from Nebraska… both bands use vocal patterns that can be traced back to Rage Against The Machine and even Quicksand (first EP), almost in a rap cadence… and that's a plus on my list!
In the end, not following safer paths by taking cues by the usual names like Agnostic Front, Hatebreed or Converge may turn some heads at first but for me Adrenaline is pushing hardcore/punk music in a direction that I’d rather hear than any other musical trend going on right now!
AFTERBURN “OPEN EYES LONG BLINDED” EP
(Released April, 2019)
Afterburn (not to be confused with New York’s, After Burn) is a metalcore band hailing from Edinburg, Scotland, home of one of my personal favorite bands, The Exploited. The band consists of members from previous bands such as War Charge, Deceit and World Truth among others. I did check out the War Charge stuff and I recommend it.
The music is reminiscent of 90’s straight edge hardcore and you can hear the influences of bands like Carry On and Some Kind Of Hate in the music. The band says in their bio this is the direction they were heading in with this band and they have achieved it in my eyes.
As far as the songs go, my personal favorites would be the intro which begins with a bass riff that sets the tone for what’s to come. I could feel my head start to bang a little by the time the drums and guitars kicked in. The build-up leads us into the track, “Trapped”, which kicks this downloadable E.P. into high gear. “Status Over Substance” is another strong cut and has a similar build-up before the song blows up and you have the urge to begin a circle pit of one.
If you are looking for originality you won’t find it on this EP. What you will get is some homage to some old school hardcore sounds done with the band’s own take on the music. My only complaint is that it is too short but definitely worth picking up.
VICTORY GARDEN “MADELEINE” (Released April, 2019)
Long Island is known pretty well for its heavier, mosh friendly stylings of hardcore music. Bands like Neglect, Cipher, Incendiary, VOD, Tripface, Backtrack, Hangman, Sanction. A lot of people do occasionally tire of the same breakdown breakdown breakdown stuff. Even the death metal like Internal Bleeding and Suffocation all seems to be full of mosh riffs and breakdowns and slam riffs. A lot of people look for a change of pace in throwback circle pit hardcore punk bands. But there’s another tradition on LI that may be worth revisiting. That is a tradition revisited by the Smith family on this “Madeleine” EP with their new band Victory Garden: emo-core.
You may know the Smith family from bands such as Hangman or Backtrack. Hardcore that tends to be on the heavier side. But on this new Victory Garden EP, they take a break from the heavy and play some more melodic styles of punk and hardcore. They seem to be taking influence from the LI melodic hardcore punk of bands such as Silent Majority, Capital, Crime In Stereo and The Backup Plan. There’s a lot of shorter songs, fast old-school hardcore beats, and the EP favors sunny major chords over harsh, dissonant minor progressions. It isn’t a total pastiche of that sound however; the song “It Seems Pretty Obvious” takes a few cues from the 90’s pop punk sound of bands such as Green Day, Rancid and Jawbreaker. The chords and the vocal melody really seem to call back to the sound of bands that Gilman Street shaded for “selling out.” The track “Isolation 101” is particularly melodic and also treads close to pop punk. The bluntest way I can describe this song is that it sounds like Iron Chic was even more depressed. It seems to take some similar cues with the vocal melodies and chord progressions but in a lower key that somewhat harkens back to the 90’s alternative scene. I suppose you could describe this EP as “pop punk with hardcore cred” if you wanted to be really snarky about it.
We’ve covered the “core” part, now let’s get to the “emo” part. This EP is definitely emo in the traditional sense of “emotional hardcore” (a bit of a dumb term if you ask me but I’ll save it for some future thinkpiece. It just happens to get my point across). It tackles a lot of more introspective struggles. These themes aren’t unfamiliar to them, if you follow the lyrics of Backtrack and Hangman at all. However, it feels as if Victory Garden gives themselves more of an opportunity to be vulnerable in their lyrics. The song “Isolation 101” is an honest and frank depiction of depression, loneliness, alcoholism, and these feelings of guilt and regret and how all these things meld together. It’s about how building walls between yourself and other people because you’re afraid of being hurt but also being upset that you’re alone. Classic Porcupine’s Dilemma. The tracks “No Luck” and “How Am I Going To Function?” both address depression and the unhealthy ways we cope with it to get through the day. There seems to be a common theme throughout this EP about doing things to numb yourself from the emotional pain that life throws at you.
My favorite track on this, “It Seems Pretty Obvious,” has some interesting layers to it. It starts off sounding like the narrator is having a disagreement in some unspecified interpersonal relationship where the other person is shutting him out. But as the song goes on, lines like “I will never be the one to say/It’s both sides to blame,” and “Sometimes we don’t need a debate when there’s right and wrong,” that ambiguously hint at something deeper. Finally, the last verse of the song reveals its true motives, where it discusses “false shit spreading” and “people blinded by their screens” that appears to fully establish its political message. This song is definitely really about people who are loyal to headlines over truth, the rise of the alt-right, and people who spend too much time sitting on the fence about politics. It speaks to this idea that not everything can be solved with simple conversation, especially when the conversation has been corrupted in the digital age by the desire for connection and instant satisfaction. A dig at the “fake news” generation.
I had a largely positive reaction to this EP. If I could gripe about anything though, there are one or two things that I don’t totally dig. I have a love hate relationship with Duncan Smith’s vocal delivery. I love the melodic punk feel of his vocals and I feel that it fits this style of music very well. The attitude is definitely there. I also feel, however that his delivery is a little bit dull at times. It’s hard to explain, but I feel as if I want him to put a little bit more into it. I’m also on the fence about some of the styles this EP covers. “Isolation 101” and “It Seems Pretty Obvious” are good songs but their styles are a little jarring next to the speed of the tracks surrounding them. I’m on the fence because I like the variety they bring to this record but I also think it’s a little random to have these two wildly different takes on pop punk in the middle of a melodic hardcore EP.
I’m not gonna harp on its originality that much, however, because I don’t expect side projects to invent new genres of music unless they’re fronted by Les Claypool. Side projects are largely just experiments or a fun hobby for your average career musician. While this one takes itself a bit more seriously than most, I generally didn’t go in expecting Victory Garden to be the next Refused. Overall, I’d recommend this EP to any fans of melodic hardcore to check out. I’d also recommend it if you’re an LIHC completionist and you’re looking for more cool side projects of Hangman or Backtrack. I’d also recommend it to any pop punk fans who wanna defect to hardcore because this EP is definitely an easy sell if you’re the kind of person with a few Saves The Day or New Found Glory shirts in your closet. If you prefer your hardcore to be much heavier or super experimental, this may not be up your alley. Either way, it’s a good solid melodic hardcore EP, that’s definitely worth checking out.
FIXED FIGHT “EMPTY HOMES”
(Bleeding Music Records, Released December, 2018)
“Empty Homes” is the debut album from Danish metallic hardcore band, Fixed Fight. Vocalist and orchestrator Christian Engelhardt has been performing for a number of years under the name Torment, but recently transitioned the group into Fixed Fight to accompany a significant stylistic break from his past work. While Torment homed in on a melodic youth crew vibe with some light metalcore flourishes in the form of clean backing vocals, Fixed Fight is much more vicious and dare I say ambitious in its approach to metallic hardcore. Engelhardt has built himself a fighter with the borrowed skeleton of Snapcase’s searching snarling whiplash chord progressions, packed in the fleshy sinews of oily Converge guitar tones, and animated with a rotten blood transfusion of punk-infused death metal, unethically sourced from the despiteful wells of Hate Eternal and Misery Index. Fixed Fight may not be His Hero Is Gone, but it’s a damn good start. The first half of the album is sung in English while the second is in Engelhardt’s native vernacular. On the front half you get the constrictive thrashy peel and ominous foggy feedback of “Bled Dry,” the scrapping death metal imbued crush of the propulsive and breakdown anchored “Priceless,” the righteous anger fanned grease fire of “Far From Home” with its rallying interplay of combative high-end and growling low-end guitars and Engelhardt’s counterattacking vocals interlarded with topical clips from corporate war and class-conflict programming, rounded out with the brief but glorious metalcore melee “Give it All” featuring wild tearing riffs, tense breakdowns, and a patiently dire bridge that will leave you begging for more. The second half is both heavier and more experimental, with sludgy and contemplative post-death of “Dybt Vand” opening with an honest to God jazz-pop sample, leading into the sonorous but menacing piano solo of “Eferladt,” which gives you just enough of a lull to let the sinking dire toil of “Du Kunne Ikke Svømme” feel all the more suffocating and sting of closing dirge “Transparent” feel all the more sharp as it penetrates and floods your soul with sorrow.
“Empty Homes” is an impressive debut that exhibits extremely promising variations on tried and true aggressive styles. That said, it feels somewhat incomplete. The most notable oddity is the separation of the English language and Danish tracks, but the noticeable separation between the more experimental moments and the straightforward rockers is distracting as well. The end result is an album that feels like two great EP’s that have been unceremoniously sown together rather than an album that has been drafted as a singular statement. These issues probably could have been addressed by better sequencing that interspersed the more experimental tracks with their cruder brethren, but I’m not here to play engineer or be a creative consultant. I’m here to listen to hardcore and then write about whether or not I liked what I heard. Thankfully the fundamentals of each individual track on “Empty Homes” are solid, I enjoyed it from the first to the final blow, and I’m intrigued by the hints of greater things to come. This home may be uninhabited, but it certainly isn’t vacant or devoid of ideas.
STIGMA, DEAD BLOW HAMMER, CAUGHT IN A TRAP, SILENCE EQUALS DEATH, CRAZY EDDIE
@ NIAGARA, NYC MAY 5, 2019.
This was the second in what is hopefully a long running series of Sunday hardcore matinees at the very location that was once known as A7 which is regarded by most as the birthplace of NYHC. When I hear the name A7 I usually think of those old black and white photos of bands like Agnostic Front, people like Todd Youth and Raybeez (RIP), Jimmy G from Murphy's Law, most in their teenage years and probably not even knowing at the time what they were in the process of creating. A7 existed from 1980 through 1984 and here we are in 20FUCKING19 in the same exact room with 5 NY/NJ area bands packing out this small piece of hallowed hardcore land. Hats off to Drew Stone from Antidote/The New York Hardcore Chronicles Film and crew for taking a chance and making these shows happen.
First up was CRAZY EDDIE who were introduced by Drew Stone to start the day off. If you visit this website regularly you have seen their name mentioned more than a few times and that is because they are one of the best up and coming NYHC bands out there right now. Their "Eddie Drops Out Of College" full length is almost a year old now, available online for free, and in the past year they have quietly gone about their business opening up shows all around the NY area as the buzz on them slowly grows with each opening slot they play. Crazy Eddie plays old-school style hardcore punk and opened up with a great sing-a-long with "In Too Deep", had some great moments with "The Prices Are Insane", and "Here To Stay". They did a cover of Agnostic Front's "Victim In Pain" (with Drew Stone on vocals) and waltzed on out with "Running" which has a devastating mosh part to wrap things up. The area where the bands play is small, cramped, tight... pick a term that you prefer... you will be soaked in sweat when you walk out of this place. With any kind of turnout at Niagra you are going to be in tight quarters and there are literally no places to hide once the bands start playing. From the first set to the last there was no shortage of crowd participation and it made for an extremely fun afternoon.
CRAZY EDDIE. PHOTO BY RICH ZOELLER
NJ's SILENCE EQUALS DEATH were up next and they obviously know the history that this room carries and came out with a 1-2 punch starting with the intro to "We Gotta Know" by the Cro-Mags and then carried that momentum right into another hardcore classic in Warzone's "As One". The crowd needed little to no prodding to get loose and they followed that 1-2 punch with my favorite SED track titled "Peacemaker". If you are unfamiliar with this band their "End Times" full length from 2 years back carries the bulk of their catalog and is probably the best place to start off. "Common Ground” and "Sight Unscene" from that album made their way into this set from a band that mixes a heavier 90's style into their brand of hardcore. For the past few years SED always seems to be going through some kind of lineup change and for what it's worth they sounded extremely tight and well played on this day which does not surprise me as they have proved to be a hardworking band since finding out about them back in 2012. To make sure that no other band did more covers than them they also gave us Breakdown's "Sick People" for their third cover song of the afternoon.
SILENCE EQUALS DEATH. PHOTO BY TIM DALEY
Queens' CAUGHT IN A TRAP have been at this now since 2005. It doesn't seem like they play out a ton these days but when you do catch them live it is always a good time. Every band that played this show just seemed to dig a little deeper and give that extra whatever to put out their max effort and as a fan of all of the bands that played it was obvious. I left to get a slice of pizza before they came on and I had to almost kick and elbow my way back into the small room where I caught CIAT do a cover of "Malfunction" by the Cro-Mags as well as originals "Goodnight New York", "Driven", and "Nothing's Free". Their frontman Rich Fie has this confidence and coolness about him and is also damn good at singing hardcore songs and is one of my personal favorites. He also showed that he possesses some MC type skills when he took their track "Trapped" and added JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! to its lyrics and had the entire place start jumping along in unison. CIAT also added the often sampled hip-hop lyric/chorus of "the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire" to another one of their tracks. Awesome stuff, awesome set. Fast and furious, pure NYHC with some twists that make their songs stand out. If Caught In A Trap is a new name to you check out their "Goodnight New York" album that came out in 2014.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP. PHOTO BY MICHELLE MENNONA
DEAD BLOW HAMMER have been around since the late 90's and were initially known as Against The Grain. This show was a release show for their brand new 5 song EP called "No Repercussions?" which they had available on cassette and CD. Their bassist is Rob Kabula of Agnostic Front/CFA fame who was a big part of that old A7 crowd way back in NYHC's infancy stages. He has always had that rumbling bass sound/style that is super distinguishable and a bunch of DBH songs have that same feel including "Caste System Skunks" off of that just mentioned new EP which absolutely rips. In addition to Rob Kabula physically being in this room were other A7 "alumni" including original Agnostic Front singer John Watson who was front and center in the pit, both Antidote singers in Louie Rivera and Drew Stone and obviously Vinnie Stigma who was up next. DBH plowed through new and old tracks for about 30 minutes with a high intensity set, no let up from the crowd and bodies basically flying all over the place. Anyone who fell down immediately got picked up by the closest person to them which is still a beautiful thing to see at any hardcore show.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
One half of "The Godfathers Of Hardcore" is Vinnie Stigma who is best known for being the guitarist for Agnostic Front but who should also be revered for the side project that bears his name. STIGMA the band may fly a little under the radar but definitely should not be discounted for what they are which is a very good punk rock band fronted by one of hardcore's elite showman. They came out blaring the title track to their 2009 debut "New York Blood" and also mixed in tracks "I Am", "Days Of Old" and the super catchy "Don't Lose Faith" off of their 2013 album "For Love & Glory". The funniest part of the entire day was when the band ended one of their songs and Vinnie went to talk before the next song. His band then kept repeating the last 2 seconds of the previous song to drown out what he was saying. When it seemed like it was over and Stigma was about to talk they did it again, and again, and again... maybe 10 times total leaving the band and the audience cracking up and Stigma jokingly threatening Luke their drummer... "I'm gonna embarrass you". The vibe in the room was definitely about having fun as it felt as if we were all having a giant party in Uncle Vinnie's living room. They closed things out with two AF classics in "Power" and "Crucified". While walking out of Niagra it was hard not to think that we had all just witnessed one of those special kinds of shows that will be remembered by most for a long time to come. -CW
STIGMA. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IGNORANT LIFE "DEMO '19" (Released April, 2019)
Ignorant Life come to us from Perth Amboy, NJ and this is their debut effort, a 3 song demo that came out less than a month ago. "Intro/Shootda1" starts off with some classic mid-paced, pit inducing stomp action that carries on for about a minute before a buzzsaw like guitar riff jumps right into your face. If you are anywhere near the middle of an Ignorant Life pit when the vocals kick in a few seconds later you are more than likely risking your own personal safety as this is just some brutal ass hardcore that is not intended for the faint of heart. At this early juncture I am already thinking to myself… Holy Shit Balls with first the intro and then the rest of the song just crushing. Ignorant Life got that street vibe thing going on with a track dedicated to those who are talking shit on those streets. Musically I hear hints of bands like District 9, Madball and maybe even some Billy Club Sandwich with that defined NY/NJ/East Coast non-apologetic smash you in da face style. "Ambush City" (aka Perth Amboy) follows and is a song about a close friend who was gunned down by bullets that were meant for the songs author. Before the lyrics there is a note that says it is a true story. Gerardo from Argentina's Nueva Etica (and now also NY's Locked Inside) is featured on this song as well. "Odio En Las Venas" (Hate In The Veins) is obviously done in Spanish and continues with the raw energy displayed on tracks 1 and 2 with a fast pace, some double bass drums and those big gang style back-up vocals. I really like the production that was done on this especially in the way the guitar tone sounds. The vocals are hard, fit the musical style like a glove and thankfully are not overdone. Fence Cutter (also from Perth Amboy) get an assist in this review as a recent check on their Instagram account turned me on to the Ignorant Life demo. The "Name Your Price" option on Ignorant Life’s Bandcamp page gives you zero excuses to not check in on this.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER “NO REPRECUSSIONS?” EP (Released April, 2019)
I have been following this band since 1996… that’s 23 years! Dead Blow Hammer was once called Against The Grain. They changed the name as it seems as if there are 100's of bands with the same name and naturally wanted to stand out from the masses, which is understandable. DBH come to us from New Jersey and have been producing some seriously quality hardcore and although they have had a few band members come and go, they still have the original crew, A.G. on vocals, Carlos on guitar and Rob Kabula on bass, with the new guys Gary Yosco on guitar and Chris Koresh on drums. The music itself deserves a lot more recognition around the world so don't stop at listening to me… check out the bands' other work too, I promise you will not be disappointed. So, it was with great excitement to get to listen to their long-awaited new EP. The artwork is simplistic and striking which always carries weight especially if you have never heard of a band before.
The opening song "Caste System Skunks" (what a title!) opens with Kabula's thunder in the gut bass, the ex-Agnostic Front/Cause For Alarm 4 string player delivers the same style and aggression from the past to present day. As an opener, this is catchy as fuck and has a real live feel to it. The production is perfect and points to the bands strongest work to date. “(Intro) Verted/Leaders Grow Afraid” casts out a superb sing along with the twin guitars razor-sharp riffing complementing A.G.'s vocal style. "Dents" is a mid-paced song that reminds me of Stigma (Agnostic Front). A bit difficult to explain, just listen to it, you should hear what I mean. "Imperious" then ups the pace. Chris' drumming is spot on, again another catchy tune with plenty of opportunities to shout along. The last song of this 5 track EP is "Caught Me A Virus". Don't be fooled by the mid-tempo drumming because before you know it, the song is played at a blisteringly fast pace with some twists and turns and is a strong song to end with. So to summarize, you really do need to hear this, I cannot stress this enough. If you love Agnostic Front, Cause For Alarm or Sick Of It All then this is essential stuff for your collection. What are you waiting for?"
NO COMPROMISE “NO TURNING BACK” EP
(Released April, 2019)
No Compromise are a freshman band that come from the school of latter 80’s style New York Hardcore… the 2nd wave where punks were listening to metal and metalheads were listening to hip-hop as the South Bronx street culture fused with the Downtown underground genre.
The opening title track and name sake of this EP “No Turning Back” wastes no time in evoking energy for the ritual of slam dancing. A bouncing mid-tempo thrash riff crunches for a measure before we get kicked by drums employing first, a fast gallop beat with accompanying vox - that I am relieved to say do not sound like a death metal corpse with a sore throat who swallowed a microphone but a street misfit whose lyrical themes deal with the genres common subject matter of betrayal and payback. The first verse ends with a killer transition as the drummer switches up to an open heavy power groove giving the guitar riff a dual personality that hits your neural systems and makes you want to move in a circle pit executing mosh dance moves.
This four song effort gives the listener the fundamentals of NYHC as the group utilizes “slow down” parts, double bass drum beats and thick break sections - elements now firmly placed in the DNA of the street genre. No Compromise are not breaking any new ground… at least for those familiar with the beasts from the 1989 Blackout Compilation “Where The Wild Things Are” who with Outburst, Breakdown, Raw Deal and Sheer Terror were the prototypes for this Frankenstein sound of early regional hardcore, thrash metal, doom rock, 70’s punk and Uptown hip-hop making it the new normal and key to the scenes musical evolution and in turn, survival.
No Compromise are not here for those who were there at the original Superbowl of Hardcore shows, copped their vinyl at Some Records or Bleeker Bob’s or spent their Sunday afternoons at CBGB’s. No Compromise exist for those that weren’t - youth and adult - but feel a kinship to the style, attitude and message conjured up from this urban tribal expression. Their “No Turning Back” EP is an homage to a classic warfare sound as the group understands the style and song structures that can turn a NYHC dance floor into a gladiator arena.
Though what is more interesting in these “resurgence” style bands of early hardcore is where the young blood will take it. With the history thoroughly laid out on uploaded bootleg videos on You Tube, ‘zine anthologies and various hardcore/punk documentaries and books we all know where it went…from 1st generational A7 style bands to the Sunday Matinee 2nd wave and the free for all of the 90's. The crossroads for No Compromise and other millennial new school hardcore bands is what different path will they walk and how will it add to the now 40 year old genre.
FIXATION "INTO THE PAIN" EP
(WAR Records, Release Date May 10, 2019)
Philly's Fixation seem to have a very strong motor as they continue to put out new music, tour, and just be in the mix when it comes to the current day hardcore landscape. Andrew Kline's (Strife, Berthold City) WAR Records released their 8 song "Marked" EP last August and now follows that up with the new "Into The Pain" 4 song EP which will be released on May 10th digitally as well as on a flexi (your gonna need a record player).
"Into The Pain" boasts 3 new songs in "The Role", "Spare Me", and "You Feel Nothing" and shows Fixation soldiering on with their modern day quest to produce authentic old-school 80’s style hardcore complete with a heart and a soul. I absolutely love Matthew Green's vocals here with Breakdown's Jeff Perlin, Negative Approach's John Brannon and Kill Your Idols' Andrew West coming to mind when I hear him do his thing. Opening track “The Role” is by far my favorite of the 3 originals. Although it clocks in at just 1:23 in playing time this track still somehow gets in multiple layers with a breakdown around the 20 second mark, a burst of energy around the 30 second mark and then they slow it all back down at the 47 second mark while delivering the kill shot with a sick ass bass line that leads into another breakdown to close things out. “You Feel Nothing” is another keeper for your Fixation playlist and for me just adds on to an already decent sized list for a band that isn’t yet two years old. Track 4 is a cover of “No Class” by NYC’s Regan Youth, a track that turns 30 years old this year. Fixation adds a little crunch to the original making for great listening and hopefully a track that they add to their live play list. All in all another keeper here from a newer band on the rise but please, please, please… next time around give us more than 5 minutes worth of new music.
RYKERS “THE BEGINNING… DOESN’T KNOW THE END” (BDHW Records, Release Date May 31, 2019)
An angel down on her knees who appears to be praying in a snowy, dingy alley who also has a sinister looking man in a suit standing behind her holding a gun to the back of her head. If that doesn’t make a statement, then I don’t know what does! The new album from European hardcore veterans, Ryker’s, entitled “The Beginning…. Doesn’t Know the End”, is the statement I’m taking about. Fifteen brand new tracks of pure punishment are what you can expect from this album. A powerful mix of old school, beatdown and just about everything in between. With over 25 years in the game, Ryker’s has remained one of Europe’s top hardcore acts.
They kick off the album with a fast guitar riff that quickly erupts into a circle-pit sing-a-long entitled, “Let’s Ruin The Scene”. Aside from the gang vocals and other hardcore signatures, the song has a cool Pennywise ring to it. The decrescendo style ending to the song also gives it a good finishing touch. The next track, “Losing Touch”, just comes right out and blasts you in the face with its super-fast pace. Pounding drums, thumping bass, riffs, and vocals that are “In Your Face”! Things are starting to escalate here. “Cast In Stone”, the next track, continues the escalation. This song had a great Madball sound coming from guitarists Fusel and Steve, with plenty of crunch and breakdown action.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the band had enlisted the vocal talents of the legendary Agnostic Front singer, Roger Miret on the next one called “Dead End Street”. As a good standout track from the album, it has a great blend of old school hardcore with gang vocals and sing-a-long chants. Then Roger’s vocals toward the end of the song just seal the deal. Great song. The album title track, “The Beginning Doesn’t Know The End”, is next in line. The thick bass sound from Chris on this one just kills! Killer vocals and great lyrics from vocalist, Dennis, on this track as well. This album is still going “full speed ahead” at this point and I am enjoying it. “Old Passion” takes the pace even faster with some good 80’s style thrash. With sounds reminiscent of M.O.D. or even Pitboss 2000, the old school continues to flow.
Some more vocal and musical talent on this record comes from the next song, “Collateral Damage”. A great display of chugs and gang vocals that are just flat-out powerful. Another favorite of mine is the next one, “No Matter What”. This song has a great blend of melody and harmony crossed with “circle-pit” style riffs. Don’t get tired now. There is still plenty of quick heaviness to go around on this record. But the Stomp Award on this album goes to the song, “Overboard”. And if that didn’t satisfy one’s thirst for stomp, then the next one called, “The Six Million Dollar Band”, sure will. “Cold Lost Sick” changed up the tone briefly with an acoustic guitar melody and guest vocals from a woman named Rebecca Haviland. A nice tune and a beautiful voice only added to the impact felt from when the next song, “Hard Pill To Swallow”, kicked in. Great lyrics about persevering when life gets tough were a big standout, as well as the awesome breakdown toward the end. Another good beatdown song, “Bully Boy”, sure hit the spot for me. Then they come right back and hit you with the next tune, “The End Justifies The Means”. Those of you who have already read some of my reviews would know I am a “Beatdown Hardcore Aficionado” and this song passes the test. For real, it had me at “I will F#$k you up”! Good stuff, right there. The band then closes the album with, “Sightseeing In the Age Of BBQ”. A fun way to close the album with an old school party song about visiting NY. It made me get a little nostalgic and I started to miss my old homeland in North Jersey where I could catch a bus and get there in 15 minutes.
All in all, this album lets you know just exactly why this band has withstood the test of time in the hardcore scene. Europe or not, they stay true to the old NY style hardcore sound that we all know and love. Another great old school record from an old school band. This album will be available on May 31st, so pick it up! Pre-orders are available HERE.
BILLYBIO “FREEDOM’S NEVER FREE” EP
(Bridge Nine Records, Release Date May 10, 2019)
If you have been involved in the hardcore, metal or crossover music scenes anywhere from the mid 80's and up, you should already know the name Billy Graziadei. Perhaps best known as a member from the highly influential Brooklyn band Biohazard, who are credited by many as the band that fused hardcore, metal and hip-hop together. Billy has been tearing up stages across the globe as a guitarist/vocalist for a very long time and has finally kicked off a solo project, simply titled BILLYBIO. Last November he released the debut album titled “Feed The Fire” on European label AFM and this month look for the EP “Freedom’s Never Free” on Bridge Nine Records. There are only four tracks on this single but within these 8 and a half minutes you find all the musical elements that make up Billy’s hard-nosed style. The common theme that makes up the tracks of this EP is one that I'm positive many people can relate to.
Track 1: “Freedom’s Never Free”. The key single from the fore mentioned solo album taking on citizen's rights being taken away. The best analogy I can think of to capture the intensity of this song is if you remember eating the candy Poprocks. The very second they hit your tongue all of your senses just went into a frenzy and that is precisely what this track does from the first chord to the last.
Track 2: “Get Up, Stand Up”: Billy does a cover tune of the legendary Bob Marley classic. Before you label this as blasphemy hear me out or better yet just listen to the song. Billy transforms the classic into a respectful, energetic version of his own which would make Bob proud that his philosophy continues on.
Track 3: “Freedom’s Never Free”: This is the unreleased demo version which is still as much of a roller coaster ride as the "more polished" track one, just rawer.
Track 4: “Feed The Fire”. An unreleased demo version of the title track and namesake of the solo album.
“Freedom’s Never Free” is a solid release with a message that is important; vocals screaming for your attention and music that rattles the cages of the oppressor's. It's a combination of the experiences Billy has lived through; the places he has played and the people he has played with. BILLYBIO is another endeavor proving why Billy Graziadei remains at the top of his game and why everything he puts his effort into equals pure gold.
CORPORATE CITIZEN “A BRIEF MOMENT OF SANITY” (El Torpo Records, Released April, 2019)
It is always a pleasure to discover a band that you have never heard of before who exceed your expectations and Corporate Citizen have done just that. The opening song "Batten Down the Hatches" is a melodic blend of hardcore with hints of Rancid type bass with an opportunity for plenty of singing along. The band is based in San Diego, California with guitarist Steve O'Brien once residing in New York where he used to play bass with Crown Of Thornz as well as with Grey Area. Corporate Citizen have stated that their influences are Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bouncing Souls and Quicksand amongst others. However, back to the album and the second song "95 Sound" which has a nice surprise by changing things up from the first song. Don't be fooled by the opening notes of this track as it quickly descends into a rage that doesn’t lose sight. The band adds intelligence and balance to their style. I like them, I like them a lot! For me, they remind me a bit of Gorilla Biscuits. The albums nine songs play effortlessly and before you know it the album is over and you find yourself wanting to play the whole thing again. The opening notes of "Next Big Thing" show maturity and melody before once again going into a hardcore rage and before you know it, the timing changes again, keeping you on your toes. The track "Trust Fails" offers a nice bass line to an almost commercial feel, if I can be so bold? Don't be fooled with other songs like "Got No Time" that starts off with a happy go lucky punk feel before descending into an in your face thrasher with a nice shout along chorus. The final song of the album "The Good One" is a straight forward song that you can really imagine being in their live set complete with a circle pit in full flow, some stage diving, accompanied by those spots to shout along the song’s title. The song breaks into a very melodic middle section that shows their passion for the genre. If you are looking for melody coupled with plenty of singing along with furious old school moments of anger then I would highly recommend you add this to your collection!
INCLUDE "WAR OF TODAY" EP
(Mixtape Records, Released April, 2019)
Include come to us all the way from Panama with members who are originally from that country as well as Venezuela and Chile. The cover artwork was drawn by a dude from Russia and US bands like Bold, Poison Idea and the Bad Brains had a direct influence on the members of this newly formed group. Now that we got those tidbits of international info out there let’s get down to what Include is doing musically which is fast and very much to the point hardcore. Style wise I hear a lot in the way of mid-80's style NYHC with plenty of catchy bass lines, choppy drum parts and a DIY sounding recording that seems to fit what Include is trying to capture. Youth Of Today maybe? Project X? Perhaps. I would bet Include's personal musical catalog has those early Revelation Records comps amongst them along with other mid-80's stuff as their sound leans heavily on these types of bands.
Where Include loses me though is in the length of their songs. This EP has a total of 7 songs and clocks in at under 3 and a half minutes in total play time. The opening track "Changing Phases" is the champion here coming in at a whopping 1 minute and 4 seconds... and I 150% will take that as they get the work in, do what they gotta do and pump out a nice track. That is then followed up by tracks that run 19 seconds, 20, 23, 29, 34 and 17 seconds in length and they got some REALLY good parts in these songs but any flow or momentum that they build up gets killed when a song ends seemingly right after it gets going. To be fair here Include are in the infancy stages of being a band with their born on date being at some point in April. The base of what they are doing is absolutely solid and hopefully their next batch of songs gain some length to them. If you happen to be in Panama City Panama on Friday, May 17th make sure to stop in to Murphy's California Kitchen to catch the first ever Include set. Cassette and 7" versions of this EP are currently in the works.
SLOW DESCENT “HUNG OVER HELL’S FIRE” (Released February, 2019)
Straight edge metalcore is one of the all-time great traditions of the hardcore scene. It’s like two-stepping, breakdowns, or stage dives. You really can’t imagine the hardcore scene without it. From the pummeling power-violence of Infest to the heavy chugging riffs of Earth Crisis, it’s one of the few trends of the 90’s that will probably reign supreme eternally. Tucson, Arizona’s Slow Descent make a pretty good case for it on their debut EP “Hung Over Hell’s Fire”.
On this EP, Slow Descent doesn’t waste any time in assaulting your ears with heaviness as they open the EP with the hate song “Witch Hazel”. You’d have to hate someone a lot to write a song this angry about them. Though I have to say, I’m a little lukewarm on this opening track. Something about the meter and the lyric writing doesn’t sit right with me. It’s hard to explain what it is but something doesn’t quite sync up between the lyrics and the blast beat that sets this song off. The song picks up a bit when the breakdowns kick in however and things smooth out a little. Though it is a bit of a rocky start, the EP picks up every quickly.
This EP stylistically is clearly very inspired by the spastic mathcore stylings of bands such as Deadguy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Gaza and Converge. However, it still brings the heavy mosh breakdowns on the level of mid-2000’s The Acacia Strain such as on the track “Ambrosia”, whose closing breakdown is a real venue killer. The speed and ferocity of this EP is unending and it doesn’t let up the entire time. The non-stop breakdown and blast beat laden brick to the skull thrash and bash fest lasts for about 17 minutes before you get to breathe. If I can level one criticism at their sound, it’s that their sound isn’t very unique or innovative. There are plenty of bands like Cult Leader or End or God Mother or Wreath of Tongues that have been doing this sound for a while. It’s not a bad take on it at all, it’s just not a unique one. That might not be the worst sin ever committed however. I know personally, I’m more forgiving of hardcore that’s a little bit generic so long as it’s accompanied by good songwriting, interesting lyricism and an energetic, cathartic live show.
Speaking of interesting lyricism, there’s one or two noteworthy things going on in the throat shredding screams of their vocalist. As with most other straight edge bands, the lyrics have a message to deliver. The lyrics aren’t quite as blunt as your average Judge song but the message seems to get across nonetheless. The lyrics of the songs “Red Geranium” and “Hydrangea” seem to take aim at organized religion, particularly the Catholic church, with its calls to “tear down the statues” and its references to “The spoils of religion” and “the unholy mess of a psychopath” and “Hydrangeas” closing lines which reference Judas’ betrayal. The song “Ambrosia” seems to be a dig at the racists declaring “Fear is your God/and arrogance is your Christ/Excuses are your mistress/and hatred is your wife!” It does draw on some positive vibes, however, with its call for unity at the very end “Pit yourself against them/We will walk as one!” The lyric writing is pretty solid on this EP and picking them apart myself was a fun exercise. Sometimes I appreciate lyrics that are more thought out rather than those that you are handed and bash you over the head with its blunt meaning.
My favorite song on this EP has to be “White Lily”. This song is a straight edge anthem that brings the mosh energy of other classic straight edge anthems such as “Firestorm” or “More Hate Than Fear”. The chants of “STRAIGHT EDGE TIL DEATH!” never get old for me! I could see myself tearing up the pit and clawing for the microphone during this song if I ever heard it live!
Overall, “Hung Over Hell’s Fire” is a fun little EP for people who wish to indulge in some chaotic discordant blast beats, some heavy mosh breakdowns for you crowd-killers and your spin-kickers, and some good ol’ straight edge outrage! It’s not the most inventive or unique thing I’ve ever heard, but for what it is, it’s done pretty well. I’d be interested to see where this band goes. I can tell that they cared enough to drop a dime on decent production for their debut EP and the passion seeps through in the sheer intensity of their music. I think there’s a bright future for this band if they continue to develop their sound and their style. As for right now, if you wish to hear more music like Gaza, Cult Leader, Deadguy or Wreath Of Tongues with angry straight edge lyrics and you don’t mind retreading old ground, I do recommend checking it out. It’ll give you your cathartic straight edge metalcore fix for sure. Pretty average by all accounts, but very enjoyable and well done for a debut EP with plenty of promise and room for growth.