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TURNSTILE "TIME & SPACE" LP
(Roadrunner Records, Released February, 2018)
Turnstile are back for 2018 with a new full length that sees them continuing on with what seems like this ongoing challenge to what modern day hardcore should sound like. The young kids all seem to love these guys while many old dudes just seem to scoff at their influx of fresh ideas. With "Time & Space" things seem to get turned up a notch as compared to their last full length in 2015's "Non Stop Feeling" with more in the way of innovative flavor. 2016 saw the release of the "Move Through Me" EP which got me a little worried that they may have hit a musical wall with a somewhat mediocre effort but the ship seems to have been righted in Turnstile World as "Time & Space" oozes with hooks, melody and a think outside the box approach to writing great hardcore music.
"Real Thing" is the opener. Nothing too crazy here as this is a mid-paced stomper and a solid track but not one that is going to have purists pointing their fingers while screaming "Blaspheme". After a short lounge music interlude (only about 10 seconds) "Big Smile" literally lunges out of your speakers with arms and legs flailing like a like a crazed madman. This one has a fresh feel to it and has an amazing breakdown and then build up right around the 30 second mark. Can see this one going over well live as it has a truck load of energy. "Generator" follows with a slow-paced start and a nice build. At 3:14 this is the longest track and also one with multi-layers as its almost 2 or even 3 songs in one. The last third of the song features the catchy chorus of "Generator... by my side" while some nice guitar licks are laid down in the background as well as a group clap that matches the beat. Tough guy core loves gang style vocals. Turnstile employs the gang style clap. By now we are 3 songs deep into this and you are either all in or all out. Me… All in! "I Don't Wanna Be Blind" is a stomp oriented groove track that will easily get caught in your memory bank. What's this song I've got in my head all day? "Oh yeah that new Turnstile shit. Right. "High Pressure" is a track where the intensity kind of lines up with the songs title. The very simple use of a keyboard at the songs peak moments is a great fit and just jives with this albums mojo. Reading about keyboards in a hardcore album review just doesn't sound right but I'm easily 20 listens in on this album and this bad boy has been very well thought out by its creators as “Time & Space” moves right along with a good flow. I wouldn't say there are any throw away tracks although some can say the 2 short interludes ("Disco" at 46 seconds in length and "Bomb" at 25 seconds) weren't necessary. For detractors I will give you that, but at the same time these interludes build up anticipation and also break up this 25 minute album but have at it if you must.
"Moon" which is sung by their bass player Franz is almost buried deep down at track 9 and is my favorite track with its catchy chorus of "Nothing I can do... man up on the moon". A stand out track with a great melody which also stands out probably as being the "softest" of the bunch here. On all the other tracks lead singer Brendan Yates' vocal style is a yell/scream type of mix... not perfect but a nice fit for Turnstile's approach. Being hard pressed to think of similar sounding bands is a good thing and that is mostly the case here. If I had to pick something that was close it may be Bad Brains' "I Against I" as that album strayed off the path of what was known to be straight up hardcore when it came out as well. For existing Turnstile fans "Time & Space" will probably be looked at down the line as one of their best pieces of work as they really come into their own here. With this being Turnstile's major label debut they should come into more situations to spread that hardcore Gospel to today's youth while probably winning over traditionalists as well. A straight up amazing piece of work that lives up to the hype that has been cast upon them.
FIREBURN "SHINE" b/w "CONTROLLER"
(Closed Casket Activities, Released March, 2018)
To me last year's emergence of Fireburn from almost out of nowhere was one of 2017's more important developments in the world of hardcore punk. If hardcore bands had baseball cards with their stats on the back of them Fireburn's would be pretty eye popping. The band played it cool and didn't go all buck wild pushing their resumes on us or pimping out their social media accounts to show their credentials before they had an EP out and live shows to play. The feel was one of an organic growth and this 2018 two song single is a continuation of the momentum that has been building from the Fireburn camp.
First up is "Shine" which is a track with a great flow to it almost galloping along with its positive message of "were gonna be a part of the solution" and talk of a peaceful revolution. The PMA is strong with these cats. "Shine" runs 2 minutes and 44 seconds and jolts your system as I find it hard to sit still. Body parts want to move when this track comes on. A great track for your cardio workout and one that should stay in their regular rotation of live songs as this one is a clear cut winner.
"Controller" is up next and runs 2 minutes and 51 seconds and is another fast paced ball of energy. It doesn't hit quite as hard as "Shine" does but is still more than a serviceable track in its own right. With a full length in the works and due out later this year I wouldn't be asking Fireburn to be showing their A+ material on the flip side of a single that is limited to a 2000 press run. At the same time a track like "Controller" still blows away much of what is out there these days anyway. Fireburn may still be a new name but they have already set some high standards. With their 12 song debut full length titled "Turn It Up" currently in the works it will be interesting to see what the new songs sound like. To this point all of Fireburn's tracks have a strong Bad Brains influence which I am a huge fan of but at the same time part of me hopes that they have more of an infusion from other areas as well which could potentially send their already great sound off into another stratosphere. Either way Fireburn have a loaded lineup with a great frontman and are setup for long term success. The future is looking bright.
SOUL POWER "THE LOW END FURY"
(React! Records, Released March, 2018)
I went into this review with zero knowledge of Soul Power, other than that they are from San Diego, CA. "The Low End Fury" is a 7 track EP of hardcore that I did enjoy. What do they sound like? They sound like a late 80's NYC hardcore band, kind of like what one of my friends thought Turnstile was going to sound like due to their very NYC sounding name. I hear bits of Outburst, Token Entry, Supertouch and Breakdown, yet no California influence, which was interesting considering the bands home base. Stand out tracks included "Chain Drop" and the EP's closer "The Ballad or (or the Bullet)". A solid EP, but I'd like to see what these guys come up with next for sure. As a side note, I'd also like to see a new NYC band that sounded like No For An Answer, Chain of Strength and Insted, but somehow I don't think I should hold my breath for that. (Available now digitally with a 7” version either out now or out very soon through React! Records).
ALTER EGO “DEMO 2018” (Released March, 2018)
There is a fine line between a band having a similar sound to a band that have influenced them and straight out copying them. When I first put on Alter Ego's “Demo 2018” and listened to the beginning of Track 1 I immediately thought of the song “Sick People” by NYHC legends Breakdown. I became worried that I was going to be listening to a band that strayed from originality. However I am pleased to say that was the only similarity I heard and due to Alter Ego stating they are influenced not only by Breakdown but also Killing Time and Madball, I believe it was done to pay homage. With that cleared up, Alter Ego are a hardcore band from Dublin, Ireland who formed last year, members consist of: Emmet -vocals, Kalem-guitars, John-bass and Killian-drums.
When listening to this demo two words come to mind: raw and simplistic. This is by no means a criticism. I'm referring to the lyrics being very simple and straight to the point and the music having that raw, unpolished edge. “Demo 2018” contains only four songs, 1) “Alter Ego” 2) “Let Your Voices Be Heard” 3) “Backstabber” 4) “Times Up” and my favorite track is 4. The whole recording lasts a little over 10 minutes which to me is the perfect amount of time to really get a good listen to what Alter Ego is all about. What really stood out for me and of course I mean no disrespect to the other band mates (because all their efforts make the band) but the second I heard Emmet's vocals it was like they came through my speakers and grabbed me by the throat. His style just sounds "working class" if that makes any sense. I am definitely interested in hearing more from Alter Ego hopefully sooner than later and I hope that people check out this release and feel the same way. I admit I'm not schooled on hardcore bands from Ireland but if Alter Ego are a sample of what’s going on over there we all better pay close attention. Obair mhaith guys!
NATIONS AFIRE/LAST LIGHT Mini LP
(Unity Worldwide Records, Release Date April 6, 2018)
Upstart German label Unity Worldwide Records is set to release this split LP from 2 Southern California bands in Nations Afire and Last Light on April 6th on 12" vinyl. Writing this review has proven to be quite the task as there is just a lot of information attached to its release. For starters both bands have an extensive list of "former and current members of" which sometimes can take away from a release with comparisons abound to the members' other bands. In this case we will leave the homework up to you but will highly recommend this release to those who love melody and hooks in their punk rock. Nations Afire have 6 songs on this release with their side titled "Violence" and Last Light showcase 5 songs with their side titled "Exploding Antennae". I can't remember getting a split record to review not titled "split record" so maybe this is a first in the history of splits but what do I know? The Nations Afire side will also be released as a stand alone CD by Redfield Records and Last Lights artwork was done by award winning photographer, screenwriter and director Craig Abell-Champion.
Wow, after that long lead in let’s get to the music... "I'm A Brick In The Ocean" opens up the Nations Afire side. Just that title and the thought of a brick in the ocean sinking down gets the mind racing as to its meaning. The catchy chorus of "I'm a brick in the ocean... off the coast of California" and its accompanying wall of melody has that "West Coast Punk Rock" vibe running though it’s veins but also gives the listener an alt-rock type of feel too. East Coast chugga-chugga style metalcore this is not! "Another Reverie" and "Dead To Rights" shine when their choruses hit and is definitely one of Nations Afire's biggest selling points delivering an uplifting positive feel throughout this EP. "Sifting Through Ash" closes out the Nations Afire side which I will admit took some repeated listens at first for it to sink in but now I am 100% reeled in as this is currently on heavy rotation here at In Effect headquarters.
Last Light are a newer band made up of scene vets in 2016. Their previous bands got together to play a benefit show for a fallen friend and during this time the idea for Last Light was launched. Last Light are a great compliment to Nations Afire with both playing a similar style and giving off a real positive vibe with their musical approach. Their side of this split was produced by the other sides bass player so there is this brotherhood and intertwining of bands going on here making for a quite cohesive 35 or so minute affair that at times feels like one big album. The more polished Nations Afire leading the way and the sometimes heavier and grittier Last Light right there in the mix showing that they already have the chops to hang with their counterparts who have been around for a decade. "Moments Of Sanctity" and "Trapped Inside The Dashed Lines" are 2 powerful tracks that stand out the most of their 5 displaying great song writing skills and delivery. "Designed To Divide" and it's screamed "I am not for sale" lyric closes out this effort making a clear and final statement. Lance Webber on vocals is literally Last Light's 6th instrument as his vocal range is incredible fitting into the bands melodies whether going after lyrics in a more soft tone or ratcheting it up when needed to match the music's intensity... or lack thereof. Both bands were new to me going into this and both took a few listens to get into but I hung in there and in the end found one of the better releases of this still young year.
DON’T SLEEP s/t EP
(Unity Worldwide Records, Release Date April, 2018)
I’m always enamored by anyone who was involved in the original wave of hardcore. Dave Smalley has had very few breaks between bands, considerably one of the most versatile recognizable voices in punk, ‘ol DS is comin’ at us with his new(ish) project; Don’t Sleep. With what started as a lineup of dudes backing up Dave to play a mashup of his old jams, quickly morphed into a real band, and a good one at that! As a big fan of Dag Nasty, I’m trying to stray away from shallow comparisons as Don’t Sleep has enough power to stand alone. BUT, I must say I do notice a pretty clear parallel in sound. I’m not sure if Dave is a primary song writer, or if someone in Don’t Sleep is channeling “Can I Say” in their writing, but the vibe is very much there.
This self-titled effort hits hard from the start with the driving pace of “Bring The Light”, which promptly transitions into a clear-cut old school creepy crawl portion. Of the plethora of reasons there is to dig any Dave Smalley project, the very personal lyrics are one of my all-time favorite things. There is only so much subject matter that gets covered in most punk music, but listening to beautifully written almost poetic lyricism about life, memories, and friendship always makes me love a band all the more. Smalley’s very introspective writing is prominent on these 7 songs.
A solid handful of these songs, while hard as nails, also have a very emotional edge to them, with an almost “Brit-pop” sensibility. The catchiness is peppered in just tastefully enough that the choruses will stay stuck in your head, but not overwhelmingly, IE: The chorus of “Jetstream Days” – “SO EASY! IT LOOKS SO EASY!” has me singing along in the car. All in all a solid release from one of the OG’s. Catchy, well-played, emotional punk. 7 thumbs up!
EDITORS NOTE: Originally put out as a vinyl only release in Europe in 2017 with no digital availability this was a tough one to track down. Unity Worldwide now brings this second pressing which remains the same musically but with some slight edits in the packaging.
ARMS RACE “THE BEAST” EP
(Painkiller Records, Released February, 2018)
I’ve always enjoyed guttural throat vocals but it seems that the “market” got oversaturated with them in the wake of Hatebreed’s success in the late 90’s and following. Any sort of metal tinged hardcore band seemed to have vocals in that vein. Listening to Arms Race’s E.P. “The Beast” made me realize how much I missed guttural vocals over a more hardcore punk sound. You know the kind of stuff you find in early Sheer Terror, Madball and Discharge as well as in grindcore bands like Disassociate. Maybe I’m out of the loop but it seems to me that there’s not a lot of stuff like that out there these days and I think that’s a strong point for this band from across the pond. Clocking in at barely 5 and half minutes this four song EP is quite brutal and to the point. Guttural vocals and fast hardcore punk; you can’t go wrong here. It also has that muddy demo sound that came to characterize so many of the early hardcore releases that I love. The smells of places like CBGBs or Coney Island High come to mind listening to these guys. So go check ‘em out by hitting that link below.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD “ABOVE FEAR”
(State Of Mind Recordings, Release Date, April 30, 2018)
Louisville hardcore band By The Grace Of God blast back into action with the ball of energy that is “Above Fear” and the results are staggeringly good, this is music that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go as well as being positive in its mindset from the start. The band feature members who also play in the bands Guilt, Endpoint and Empathy but have turned their priorities to By The Grace Of God and judging by how this material sounds, hardcore fans will be thankful for this.
Musically, the band’s high octane blend of hardcore is best exemplified by blasts of energy like the opening “Skinnerain Dilemma”, “(Drowning In) White Tides” and the anthemic crunch of “Spikes To McConnell” which fly by in a tsunami of hardcore vitality.
By The Grace Of God also inject more than a fair splash of punk and harsh melodies into their hardcore especially on tracks like “Golden Bends” and “Ann(e)” which although not as heavy as other material on the album, doesn't feel out of place in the slightest and only enhances the bands energetic edge. The fact that in the past, the band has played with the likes of Good Riddance and Avail shows that their sound is right at home in both the hardcore and punk camps. They play with a focused vibe and the spirit and passion in which they play is infectious, each giving their all in the quest of making their tracks stand out from the crowd, a quest they definitely succeed in. This six track record flies by but the brevity of it only enhances the energy that it conveys and you will want to listen to again as soon as the albums memorable concluding track “A Forever Pledge” has ended. With “Above Fear”, By The Grace Of God have made a statement that is a ball of energetic destruction for sure, but one that is all wrapped up with a positive vibe.
THE AVOIDERS “WORTHLESS” (Released February, 2018)
In 1978 the legendary band punk band CRASS stated that "punk is dead". In 1981 another legendary punk band The Exploited rebutted that claim by stating that "punks not dead" and meanwhile bands like the Clash and the Dead Kennedys continued to fight the system, drawing more rebellious youth into the punk movement. During the mid-80's through the 90's many bands claiming to be punk (to many to name) climbed to the top of the charts ushering a new type of Hot Topic punk, causing many old school punk's liberty spikes to go limp. Fast forward to 2014 when a group of guys from Long Island NY decided to take their large list of punk influences and put together their own band calling themselves The Avoiders. Made up of John Browne-vocals; Craig-guitar; Dan McKasty- bass and Leppie -drums, The Avoiders have just put out their sophomore release entitled “Wothless” and it is made up of the punk that will make the forefathers nod in acceptance. Containing 13 songs with a play time of just over a half an hour, “Worthless” is on the money when it comes to having the basics needed to make a punk record. Musically the songs are fast paced, filled with a blend of rawness and at times very melodic. Lyrically real life topics are dealt with… songs such as the title track talk about feeling like shit; while track number three: “Hate To Hate” is pretty self-explanatory; “Take Control” is a positive song tackling the fight against depression; there is the satirical, sing-a-long in “This Old Punk” and tracks such as “Tomorrow Will Never Change” capture the bleak outlook of life, something that has attracted people to the punk rock scene since its inception. Trying to pick out my favorite track hasn't been an easy task so I'm going to hold off until I listen some more, which won't be hard to do since I thoroughly enjoy all of “Worthless”. Since forming a few short years ago, it should be mentioned that The Avoiders have played with some of the legends of punk and hardcore including Murphy’s Law; Urban Waste; D.O.A and THE Casualties. This adds more to the band's credit that they are the real deal. On their Facebook page it states "The Avoiders are a bunch of creeps who can’t even agree on a cover song to do. We do however love to play punk rock and it’s possible you might like it!!" And from listening to “Worthless” it is apparent that The Avoiders do play punk rock and yes there is a BIG possibility you will like it.. Wattie was right.
THIS MEANS WAR! S/T EP
(Pirates Press, Released August, 2017)
This Means War! are a 5 piece punk band from “the lowlands” of Belgium and The Netherlands. They got their start in June of 2016 and are made up of scene vets that have been in bands like Discipline, Hidden Guns, Superhero, and Convict… all of which I will admit that I am not familiar with. On display here… on their debut EP are 5 songs that come in around 13 minutes and in that short time frame they show they have the chops to be much more than just another band on the hardcore punk scene. "Sailing Anarchy" sets the tone here with a sound that would make This Means War! not seem at all out of place opening for bands like Rancid, Street Dogs, Dropkick Murphy's and the like. Street punk and Oi! feels abound here folks. If that's your cup of tea you'd be hard pressed to honestly say you don’t like what is coming out of your speakers. Are you down with some melody and hooks? Yeah, me too. Track 3 "Keep The Homefires Burning" is a melodic anthem like sing-a-long that fills my head with images of a bar full of punk rockers and skinheads arm in arm raising their glasses in unison while "Use It Up" closes things out with a more hardcore attack and is accompanied by an eye catching video that they recently released. With the current day hardcore scene flooded with bands that often resemble a copy of a copy and more metalcore than you can shake a stick at This Means War! comes off as a huge breath of fresh air. Recording for a full length starts this September and with it comes much optimism for bigger and better as this band seems to be just getting started with a bright future ahead of them.
PRIMAL RITE “DIRGE OF ESCAPISM” LP
(Revelation Records, Released January, 2018)
Historically, the longtime hardcore staple Revelation Records has not dipped it's toes in the metal pond all that much. However this time they picked a winner for sure with Primal Rite. "Dirge Of Escapism" is the debut full length from the Bay Area band with a good buzz going on, and rightfully so. The band brings to mind the metalcore sounds of Integrity and Ringworm along with the new crossover/thrash of Power Trip, and even some death metal touches (with the killer Obituary-esque track "Ecstatic Agony") which was a nice surprise. All of this without being any sort of copy of any of the bands mentioned, which is to their credit. This was my first taste of the band and I found them to be instantly likable and yes, extremely pit worthy. While listening to "Dirge Of Escapism" repeatedly I could picture kids eating this up on the dance floor for sure. Some stand out tracks for me were "Interference", "Demon" and "Akumajo (Blood)". My one complaint here is the recording, which is a bit thin, but the riffs make their way through the mix and it doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the record. I think this is just the beginning for Primal Rite - get on board! This band kicks ass.
BERTHOLD CITY- “MOMENT OF TRUTH” 7”
(WAR Records, Release Date, March 30, 2018)
Berthold City is a new California outfit (formed in 2017) with quite a stacked line-up, featuring members of Internal Affairs, Final Fight, One Choice, Strife and World Be Free. Last year, they released a short, but nevertheless solid, 3-song demo. Thus, “Moment Of Truth” is the band’s forthcoming, and first formal/official release.
Clocking in at 11 minutes, this six-song 7” featuring the three demo songs along with an additional three tracks, is essentially a no-holds-barred burst of spirit and angst. While one could easily assert that the lyrical content is a mere amalgamation of over-used hardcore catchphrases(i.e. “these words are poison,” “holding on for my life,” “break down these walls of hate,” etc., making it trite and plagiaristic, the opposing perspective is that this record is a well-condensed and heart-felt homage to some of hardcore’s most seminal acts.
It’s not difficult to pick up on the inspiration which bands such as DYS, Alone In A Crowd, Inside Out, Killing Time, and Minor Threat had on this release, if not on the band overall. Furthermore, the onslaught of gang-vocals, stomp parts, and build-ups, tend to add a great amount of ferocity, momentum, and overall energy to this release’s ability to hold its own weight. Another point which makes this release quite relevant and credible is that it was mastered by the immortal Don Fury. As any fan of the NYHC greats already knows, Fury’s touch enables a record’s sound to remain raw, while being sharp and well-groomed. This aspect further reinforces the fact that this band takes their sound seriously and has the utmost regard for those who paved the way. It will definitely be intriguing to see where these seasoned musicians take their sound from here. For now, it seems that they are having fun with it, playing a slew of shows to warm and wild receptions, and will continue to in order to support this release set for March 30, 2018 on Andrew Kline’s (Berthold City singer) WAR Records. Pre-orders can be found HERE.
-Kicker of Elves
OUT LIVE DEATH- “HAS THE PAST TAUGHT US NOTHING?” (State Of Mind Recordings, Release Date March 10, 2018)
Last weekend I received a copy of the new Out Live Death record "Has The Past Taught Us Nothing?" for a review. To be honest, I never heard of this band before. However, I opened the files and the cover of the record caught my attention right away. In the style of Mount Rushmore National Memorial I saw Trump, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler in a row. The cover was drawn by Krista Olofsson, a very talented tattoo artist on Long Island. As a Kraut and seeing Adolf on a hardcore cover, I was more than interested to find out what that was all about. I just felt that urge to give the record a spin… and what can I say? The intro with soundbites from certain news affiliates about investigations as well as derogatory remarks against women and immigrants is a teaser for the rest of the record and made me even more curious. You could say it gives people an idea of what this record is about.
Right from the start I was blown away by the tunes of these 5 dudes from the South Shore of Long Island, NY. The sound of Out Live Death is heavily influenced by Sick Of It All, Kill Your Idols, Agnostic Front and Municipal Waste and a cross between early 90's style NYHC mixed with some elements of punk, thrash and metal. The songs are like an assault, angry and pissed-off. Their set foundation is in the past, that's for sure, but the whole record sound fresh, vital and full of fire. Out Live Death had me right from the start. Their opening track kicks you right in the gut and you get raw power and pure, in your face energy. “We Will Not Rest” is a call to action to fight racism, the Alt-right and homophobia. All eleven songs jump out of my stereo like a wrecking ball, like a tsunami hitting the shore, energetic and grimy. There are no losers on this record. Out Live Death does politically charged, socially conscious NYHC with lyrics you can easily connect to. Lyrically I see a huge influence by Rage Against The Machine and like RATM, the music of Out Live Death is political and educational and they hit on some of the same things. “Has The Past Taught Us Nothing?" dissects the current political landscape in America, addressing issues such as racism, homophobia and income inequality in addition to songs, like the song “Sail On!”, of friendship and brotherhood. On the record there is no bullshit and no poppy over-produced sing-a-long nor an overabundance of metal, just the true and original NYHC sound. Singer Paul Turano and his rhythm section are taking no prisoners. When you play the record, Out Live Death is shooting their songs at you and it’s like you get hit with a sledgehammer over and over again. While they blow your adrenalin and anger through the roof, you just want to start a circle pit in your living room. Honestly I can't pick a favorite song, because, for its genre, this record is fucking magic! Before I will give my points, just one bit of advice for you: do yourself a favor and get a copy! From me, Out Live Death gets for their debut record “Has The Past Taught Us Nothing?" 10 out of 10 fists. Editors Note: Billy also did an in depth interview with Out Live Death frontman Paul Turano which you can check out HERE.
-Sven ‘Billy’ Guenther
IRON REAGAN/GATECREEPER SPLIT
(Relapse Records, Released March, 2018)
It’s kind of hard to review a split ‘ya know, it’s like, where do you start? Especially in this case when the bands are so different. On one hand we have the very on the money speedy thrash of Iron Reagan, and on the other we’ve got the bleak, down-tuned heaviness of Gatecreeper. Let’s start with the band I’m more familiar with;
The Iron Reagan tracks start as frantically as you’d expect them to. The opening track “Warning” hits with a frenzied chopping lead guitar intro no less than 20 seconds before we’re blazing down a highway of classic thrash. The ever solid 1-2-1-2 drum beat coupled with the riffage we all know and love, offers a warm familiarity. It’s pretty obvious Iron Reagan has no intention of re-inventing the wheel and are not at all ashamed of that. The crossover purism in these songs are presented with such attitude, that it makes you admire the group for leaning into it and doing what they do best. The IR tracks are all pretty standard fare, 5 songs clocking in at just under 10 mins, with the occasional shout along chorus and sleek fast guitar solo. A solid addition to the bands catalog. 6 thumbs up!
Now, on to the band I’m less familiar with: Gatecreeper. I saw Gatecreeper recently on tour with Cannibal Corpse and Power Trip. Some of you who know me well know I’m a dedicated Core-man at heart, but more recently I’ve been going out of my way to indulge in the fringe metal world. That night while waiting to see Cannibal Corpse, I caught Gatecreeper as the opening act. Their set was a pleasant surprise to say the least. They caught my attention and held it for their entirety of their set, a rare feat for most openers. GC can easily be considered one of those in-between bridge bands that has just enough groove and underground sensibility to appeal to punk and hardcore kids, but for all intents and purposes they are very clearly a dedicated metal act. Maybe it’s my growing older, but the slow crawl of the “Daybreak” intro seems much more appealing to me now. Speed in heavy music for sure has its place, but something about holding back and just letting a nice slow riff float you away into oblivion makes so much more sense to me now than it ever used to. The dark landscape illustrated by Gatecreeper’s music is well complemented by the growled vocals and harmonized slow riffing. 7 thumbs up!
Final summation: For me personally this split really is a perfect “best of both worlds” scenario. It starts with the fast thrash that molded me, and ends with the slow doom that now defines me. If there are fans exclusive to either band, there is enough power on both sides to win anyone over. If you’re new to either Iron Reagan or Gatecreeper I highly recommend blasting both sides of this record. A combined score of 13 THUMBS UP!
“THE DARK MILITARY” MOVIE
(Average Superstar Films, Release Date… Coming Soon)
There has never been a shortage of creativity in the hardcore scene. Birthed through the DIY spirit, hardcore has always been a place where thoughts meet action; something not lost on filmmaker Loren Lepre. With an aesthetic familiar to those who exist outside the mainstream, Loren has mixed mediums with the horror film genre to produce a new breed of indie slasher flick with his latest project, “The Dark Military.”
In a society obsessed with the socially acceptable voyeurism of reality TV and internet stars, a group of unwitting saps sign up to participate in the newest online game show, “Survival Ground.” Unknown to these “contestants”, this game show has been orchestrated by the “Dark Military” - a cultish group obsessed with re-instilling the horror of Halloween and reclaiming it from the sugar coated consumer culture which has surrounded the holiday. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, while being live-streamed for the world to see, the participants of “Survival Ground” are in a fight for their lives. No rules, just get out alive.
First things first; I'm really stoked to finally see a movie use “Boys From Barley Hill” by Animalhaus during a party scene – it's just right. With that note out of the way, “The Dark Military” hits its stride early, building mystique surrounding this new internet based “game”, the murderous perpetrators thereof, and their devotion to an unseen leader, all while offering a stark subtext commentary on American consumer culture.In fact, the content of this film is presented in such a way that I wouldn't be surprised if something like “Survival Ground” happened in real life. The idea that a rogue group of fanatical murderers would make a live-stream game show out of their killings isn't that far-fetched if you take a step back and consider it. In fact, I'm sure it'd get great ratings.
Beyond the plot itself, is the reason In Effect HC is doing a movie review in the first place – the movie's connection to hardcore music. I mentioned Animalhaus earlier, there is also a song from No Redeeming Social Value, a song and music video from Bad Luck 13, and if you watch the film you'll note the vocalist of Dissent as one of the bewildered online spectators! (Not to mention an In Effect shirt!) The inclusion of music and people from the hardcore scene represents how Loren Lepre allows his interests to meld, giving the film a more natural feel while allowing realism and fictional grit to collide. Oh, did I mention gore? Lepre certainly whittled out some cast members in short order with 26 total kills in this movie. While not all of them are over the top – this isn't an old Peter Jackson flick after all – there are a few that will satiate the blood thirsty types, as well as a couple more satisfying kills that I was actively rooting for. I know that cult horror and slasher movies have always been a bit of a fetish in the punk/hardcore space, so when “The Dark Military” releases, be sure to support it – especially since it's one of our own who is out putting in the work! Watch the trailer HERE.
CORPORATE CITIZEN “WHAT WOULD HE DO” EP
(Released January, 2018)
Since I started to listen to hardcore and punk, I loved that bands ran the gamut of views on politics to religion to class to beer. It was always up to you, the listener, to decide if this was what you liked or agreed with it. Sometimes I didn’t agree, sometimes I did. Everyone was welcome to express themselves……..unless they were Nazis and they just got stomped but that’s a different story. Corporate Citizen is a new group from San Diego, CA with a four song EP. When I first listened to them I heard what I would expect from older guys who appreciate old school which is a mix of something like Civ and Bad Religion even mixed in with some “wooooooh-oh” choruses.
The four songs focus on topics ranging from religious purpose and self-worth to climate change and social responsibility with an ode to the bullshit of fake people. “What Would He Do?” drops the spiritual bomb of looking at your life and whether it is seeing the bigger picture of humanity based on your particular set of religious values or if you are faking the funk to only worry about your personal salvation. Good song but a lot of lyrics that it almost sounded like a poem with no end. “Scaredy Cat” is short and hard punch to the corporate class that focuses on only what they earn and gain in life over everyone else they can profit from in life. “Accept The Decline” is one of my two favorites off this EP. Not enough groups drop a mention to being conscious of how we are leaving the Earth for our kids. This definitely summarizes several of the main issues facing a livable environment. “Social Chameleon” is my favorite of the four. It is another fast and hard song speaking to the life we lead when we are trying to be someone we are not or those we have to deal with daily. The fakes, the posers. Hardcore by old school hardcore fans remains quality due to that bands interpretation of what they love. Corporate Citizen is an example of this. Good, solid hardcore that will continue to grow and improve.
STAND “BROKEN PRMISES” EP (Released December, 2017)
Orange County, California is easily the most hardcore county in these great United States. Not sure if that is official, but it is now. Think about it.....what other county name pops in your head in relation to the core? Westchester County Hardcore !!! 914 LIFE!!!!, no, not quite. Bergen County... WHAT UP?!?!?! nah...... Kern County REPRESENT!!! no way. The OC is where it's at. Stand is my latest assignment and before we get to the tunes, I'm gonna play the role of lazy writer and turn the pen over to the STAND fellas to tell us a bit about themselves....take it away boys. "Stand is an Orange County, California based band that brings together some veteran members of the hardcore punk scene. Featuring vocalist Joel Bull (Hard Fast & Loud), guitarist Chris Lohman (Blackspot, Collateral Damage, Done Dying, John Henry Holiday), drummer Pete Sosa (Street Dogs, Roger Miret & The Disasters), and bassist Mike West (Rats in the Wall, Last Warning). All four members got together by chance, as they all worked at Chris and Joel’s screen-printing shop, 24/7 Merch. They felt that the climate of the world needed more clarity on the importance of the human condition and the things that blindly drive the people of today. The band puts the direction of their focus perfectly in this statement, "Our songs are about current events, personal relations, depression, and the things happening in our society. We’re living in a time where the next tweet and selfie are more important than humanity and integrity, where looks are more important than values, where greed more important than the land we live on, and depression rampant. It’s a scary time in our society and a lot of people are angry about what’s going on, including us”.
Sweet! We have here a 5 track album called “Broken Promises” to review which clocks in at just around eleven and a half minutes. "Broken Promises" @ 2:07, kicks the recording off and it jumps right in. There is no intro...no build up... the song is instantly going. It's kinda pounding with some groove without being annoying. Sounds a bit like a young Roger M. vocally. Musically it reminds me a bit of Fahrenheit 451 maybe a little Burn. A nice breakdown is thrown in for good measure. Angry guitar work and a drum roll lead us into "Silence" at a time of 2:06. The drum roll leads into a give and take hardcore tune about regret. Silence is deadly. "Return" the shortest tune @ 1:23, is a protest song. It is fast with a hard guitar and drum beat played with plenty of anger. This is one of my favorite tracks. Song four, "Love And Hate" at 2:39 is a song about adult issues, more specifically, relationships. This is not the usual topic bands like to tackle...you know...we are all so fucking macho, However, Stand has been there and done that. These are men, so why not talk about some man shit. This is a good tune, it's a moshing, stomping burner. This one really reminds me of Fahrenheit 451. You'll be grooving while you're stomping and perhaps, even stomping, while you're grooving.. The final song on offer here is "Survived". Clocking in at 3:09, it is the epic of the five songs. This song has a lovely long intro overlaid by a speech by.....hmmmm....Robert F. Kennedy? I really have no clue…I haven't made it to social studies class in 30 years. Either way, it's a good clip and builds up nicely to the galloping hardcore tune that follows. This song is about accepting and embracing who you are. This is my choice cut for this song offering and it culminates in more of the speech and a breakdown. Nice touch. So there it is. Stand from Orange County. The recording is solid and the guys know their way around their instruments so it is clean and proficient. The sound is great and overall it's a solid offering from these vets. Check them out and maybe some of that OC magic will rub off on you and your shitty, lesser, county ‘ya punk.
THE THIRD KIND EP (Released January, 2018)
For many like myself it is hard to believe we are already into February, but let's take a trip back to last month… January 1st to be exact. A day where many are starting their New Year resolutions, while others are nursing wicked hangovers, The Third KInd, a hardcore/metal crossover band from NYC drops a new release titled “TheThird Kind EP”. and honestly if this release is any indication of the music that's coming out in 2018, it's going to be a great year. Now the band's use of the term "crossover" may turn some purists away but it will be their loss. For those who might say that The Third Kind's sound has been heard before they are correct, however don't call them "biters".
Members Richard Muller-vocals and bass; Joe Vincent-guitars; Taras Apuzzo-guitar and Shonen-drums are names you may be familiar with because these guys are current and ex-members of such heavy hitting bands like All Out War; Down Low; Darkside NYC; Rejuvenate and On The Offense, just to name a few. So the sound some may be comparing them to is actually a mixture of their other bands. The Third Kind EP is made up of 8 songs (4 of which made up the band's 2016 demo) that are filled with gravelly vocals, heavy riffs, melodies and a tempo that successfully transitions from slow to fast giving the listener a choice to dance or head bang to. I listened to this EP several times before picking a favorite and it wasn't easy. I decided to go with track 6 titled “Brewww”, which is a Murphy's Law-esque song paying homage to those who like to hit up shows with good friends and have a few beers. Although we are only two months into the year, mark my words that this EP will be listed among my favorite releases of 2018. I would like to finish up this review by paying respect to a great guy many in the NY scene knew, Mr.Kevin McQuade. Kevin was the vocalist for The Third Kind when they started in 2015, however he left the band the same year being replaced by another well-known guy from NY in Jammi Sloane York. Sadly Kevin passed away in 2016 leaving many shocked. He continues to be missed. RIP Kevin. Check out this EP by clicking that link below!
EXAMINE S/T CD
(Dead City Records, Released January, 2018)
New York's Examine deliver their no nonsense NYHC with both gusto and righteous passion and their self-titled debut full length is twelve tracks of non-stop and furious hardcore pride. The band, whose members have done time in the likes of Abject!, On The Offense, Vexed and Olde York deliver a time honored aural beatdown in the best possible way with rapid and quickfire songs like “Foundation”, “Moving Forward” and “Masked Up” coming thick and fast with powerful effect.
Slightly longer songs like the anthemic “Cowards Die In Packs”, “By Your Own Hands” and the closing storm of “Stay Clean” flex their respective sonic muscles and show the world exactly how Examine do hardcore and are just as powerful, a quality that Examine have in spades. The band demonstrates how capable they are as musicians with consummate ease and frontman Sean's commanding vocals are the icing on this particularly brutal hardcore cake and on tracks like “Foundation” and “Walk With Us”, he barks out the bands uplifting lyrics with a mixture of blunt composure and rallying excitement.
The intros to the majority of the tracks are sublimely done and create just the right amount of tension before the tracks explode with vigor. Just check out the openings of “Everybody Dies” and “Black Blood” for proof while the discordant bass led blast of “Reina” perfectly matches the track to follow and the anthemic start of “Cowards Die In Packs” sets that particular track up just right. As good as the intros to the tracks are though, the rest of them are just as good and are simply full of effective energy.
The production on the album, courtesy of Glen Lorieo who has worked with No Redeeming Social Value and Billy Club Sandwich gives a raw feel to the music of Examine which works superbly and gives off an energetic and very live feel.
This album is a statement of intent and the low slung grooves that Examine have perfected make perfect fodder for the pit and simply put, this is a collection of street honed hardcore anthems that any proclaimed fanatic of hardcore and NYHC in particular needs in their life.
BLVD OF DEATH “SWINGING SLEDGEHAMMERS” EP (Released January, 2018)
Next stop: Boulevard of Death! A reference to Queens Boulevard is a fitting name for this 4 song release from Italy that is steeped in the flavors of 90's NYHC. This is a new band with Edo from Rage Cage on vox, and from the songwriting to recording quality to the overall energetic presentation, it lends itself to repeat listens.
Things get off to a fast start with opening track “E.P.E.” While the most obvious comparison is to “Blacklisted” era Breakdown, other influences are apparent here too, from Setback to “Demonstrating My Style” era Madball. And there are enough tempo changes and original songwriting moves to keep you off balance, like the fast part at 1:09, followed by an excellently frenetic section, and then a slower groove that has a little guitar thing reminiscent of Terror Zone.
Track 2, “Swinging Sledgehammers” may be my favorite overall. The most Blacklisted-esque section arrives just shy of the 1 minute mark, immediately followed by some guest vocals from Keith Freeman of Violence to Fade. “Let The Rats Run” has a romping 90's feel in which I can hear a little bit of Backlash (the band rather than the song, though the song isn’t too far off the mark from the vibes on this demo either.) Track 4, “Love Song/Burst of Lies”, is pretty much one song rather than two distinct tunes, though it’s separated by an excellent moshy interlude at 0:23. There is no bass player listed in their lineup but there is some great bass here regardless.
From bands to zines to videos, there has been copious 80’s worship afoot lately, so it's almost refreshing to hear someone unabashedly channeling straightforward 90’s influences - and doing it well. This definitely sounds like something I would have listened to a shit-ton in the winter of ‘05-’06, which is a compliment for sure as younger me was a harsh critic. For fans of Breakdown, Madball, Setback, Backlash and Terror Zone.
OUTBURST, CROWN OF THORNZ, DANNY DIABLO, CRAZY EDDIE
@ Saint Vitus, Brooklyn, NY January 28, 2018
This show was put together in conjunction with the recently released “Urban Styles Graffitti In New York Hardcore” book by Freddy Alva and the groups that performed each had some kind of tie in with the book, some more than others.
First up was CRAZY EDDIE who were playing their first ever show after forming in 2017. Crazy Eddie is a 4 piece made up by members who all have been involved in NYHC bands in the past with 2 of their 4 members previously being in the criminally underrated Fahrenheit 451. They took the stage at 315pm for the start of this Sunday matinee with their singer and drummer both wearing wrestling masks. With only a few songs available to the public it is safe to say that nobody outside of the band really knew their set but that fact was not in any way a deterrent from enjoying them as they came out tight and full of energy. I also have to admit that they did not come off like a new band playing their first ever show. Their set had a nice flow to it with some tracks being more old-school NYHC style and others with more punk vibes with some melody. A Negative Approach cover was also included towards the end of their set. Hopefully we will be seeing more from these guys in the near future. You can check out the 2 songs they have out on the Urban Styles cassette compilation by clicking HERE. Watch some live footage from Crazy Eddie’s set courtesy of Stone Films by clicking HERE.
CRAZY EDDIE: PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
In case ya missed it, live in a cave or have been out of the loop for whatever reason Ezec (singer for Skarhead, The Wilding Incident, and Crown Of Thornz) also has a hip-hop group that goes under the name DANNY DIABLO. His latest record is called "The Crackson Heights Project" which came out on Force 5 Records in late 2017. Joining Mr. Diablo on stage was fellow MC Wes Nihil and DJ Cos. Some may recognize Wes Nihil from his days as the frontman for Razor Blade Hand Grenade. For me hip-hop used to be a big part of my personal musical library but things took a turn in the mid to late 1990's and I can't even tell you what the last hip-hop record I bought was. Danny and crew bring that old school vibe back to the table with what that they are doing and in some ways mirror the rugged, blue collar approach that is evident in the hardcore bands that he fronts. Between songs the trio had a great connection with one another bouncing insults off one another, some joking around and overall a good time led by the man who would be taking the microphone again just a few minutes later to sing for Crown Of Thornz. Check out Danny Diablo's video for "Hit 'Em Up" by clicking HERE.
DANNY DIABLO: PHOTO BY: PETE GREGORY
The last time we got to see CROWN OF THORNZ live was last October in the basement of Generation Records in NYC which raised some eyebrows (in a good way) as the "old-school" lineup which included old guitarist Mike Dijan was back. That same lineup assembled again here today and also includes Harry (Coldfront) on bass and Dim-Roc on drums. Just like old times as they say. "Icepick", the opening track off their second album "Mentally Vexed" (1996) started off their set and the small Saint Vitus dance floor was packed in really tight for some mid-90's style NYHC. C.O.T. ran through their best with songs like "Mental Masquerade", "Head Check", "Love Sick", "Juggernaut" and of course "Crown Of Thornz" which all got a really good crowd response. They tossed in a Skarhead cover of "Punk Rock Fantasy" to boot. Was great to see this lineup back at it and it also goes to show you that if everyone is still breathing nothing is ever "over" when it comes to hardcore bands getting back together or getting back together with previous members as was the case here today.
CROWN OF THORNZ: PHOTO BY: CARL GUNHOUSE
OUTBURST are another case of the previous nothing is ever over thought/idea as they played with Killing Time in late November and announced another show in May with Power Trip. "Misunderstood" with its catchy bass and drum intro led into lead singer Brian's first shouts of the afternoon… "You tell me how you think I should be"... which is the opening line to this track off of 1989's "Miles To Go" 7". The lineup from that classic piece of NYHC was almost all here with Mike Dijan (Crown Of Thornz) pulling double duty as the replacement for old guitarist Jay Rufino. Outburst doesn't have the biggest catalog of old songs to fall back on but damn do they have some all-out, all-time great bangers. Do they even have any average songs in their arsenal? I think not. 13 songs which included “Thin Ice”, “Mad At The World”, “When Things Go Wrong”, “True” and the grand finale in “The Hard Way” and of course the always covered “All Twisted” by Kraut which is just par for the course. Their set was tight, not too long, not too short, people went off, and everyone seemed to have a good time at the “Sunday matinee” which at times fell very reminiscent of days gone by at 315 Bowery. -CW
OUTBURST: PHOTO BY: RICH ZOELLER
DON'T SLEEP "BRING THE LIGHT" EP
(Reaper Records, Released February, 2017)
Don't Sleep are a 5 piece melodic hardcore band fronted by the golden voiced Dave Smalley who has done big things previously with Dag Nasty, All, Down By Law and DYS. Dave currently resides in Virginia and the rest of the band is in Harrisburg, PA. The central PA members of Don't Sleep are also in an indie rock band called Very Americans and have also served as Dave's backing band for the past 2 years as Dave played numerous shows during that time performing songs from some of his previously mentioned bands. With "Bring The Light" Don't Sleep brings that old Dag Nasty vibe back to the forefront with 3 tracks starting with the title track, "Lazarus", and "Bloody But Unbroken" clocking in at around 6 minutes. Although short in run time, this is a great release and a tease for what's to (hopefully) come as Don't Sleep displays some quality song writing, a ton of melody and overall great potential. "Bring The Light" and "Lazarus" were previously released on a limited run European 12" from last October and tracks from that Euro only release may also end up on an upcoming 7" this spring. Fans of Dag Nasty’s “Can I Say” would be insane not to check in on this new band that is hopefully here for the long haul.
KIND CREW WINTER PROMO (Released December 2017)
Kind Crew from Massachusetts came to our attention in the later part of 2017 with their positive message and fresh sound that stood out from other bands doing the Youth Crew thing. Their 4 song demo from August was a nice introduction and in late December they released this 2 song "Winter Promo" that shows that this band is very serious about their progression. The two tracks here are titled "Risk It!/Juntos Somos Fuertes" and "Warmth". "The first track contains minimal lyrics that are sung in English and then repeated in Spanish by their singer Fernando and is immediately my favorite track in their small arsenal. Musically the song rocks and is super catchy and the addition of the lyrics duplicated in Spanish just makes it hit that much harder. Wow, great stuff! "Warmth" follows and is another example that the Youth Crew sound doesn't have to be paint by numbers hardcore as this song also has an extremely fresh feel. When their guitarist Seth yells... "Kind Crew, back in your face, no place for hate... KICK ITTTT hahaha!" I get a mental image of stagedivers, pile on's, and insanity about to erupt at a Kind Crew show. His "hahaha" is kind of similar to Bane's Aaron Bedard on "Calling Hours" from Bane's last album. Maybe that's just a Massachusetts thing though. The bottom line here is Kind Crew is killing it and have set the bar high for themselves with whatever they decide to do next. 2 songs coming in at 4 minutes is definitely a tease but preferable than waiting until whatever their next release is. The free/name your price option on Bandcamp will ease any winter blues you may currently have as well. Check 'em out!
CLEAR FOCUS “NEVER ENDING PAIN” EP
(Safe Inside Records, Released January, 2018)
Clear Focus are a four piece, straight edge, hardcore band that I am excited to learn about since they come from Buffalo NY. Now some might say I'm bias towards bands that come from my birth city, but I think the term passionate is more accurate. But reviews are based on one's opinion and I'm digging what I hear from these guys and I think you will also, regardless if you re straight edge or not. Since forming two short years ago, Clear Focus have not stopped working on music, dropping a demo and a 3 song promo in 2017 and also playing as many shows a possible. Already the band has shared stages with legends such as the Cro-Mags; Leeway; Agnostic Front and most recently playing one of the two sold out nights at the Buried Alive reunion in Buffalo. Clear Focus have just released a 7" titled “Never Ending Pain” and by looking at the cover it's clear that there will be no songs about butterflies and marshmallows here. Made up of 5 tracks with a run time just shy of 10 minutes, you have within these 10 minutes a good combination of music and a vocal style as heavy and harsh as a Western NY winter. “Never Ending Pain” delivers the passion and anger reminiscent of the legendary straight edge band Judge. The songs are the perfect length and I can envision the crowd coming alive for each. My favorite is track 1-“Trapped In A Cycle”; I love the intro, which sets off the perfect tone to the whole 7". With this release and the desire to show that hardcore is far from dead, it's no surprise that Clear Focus have already outgrown the borders of the Queen City and are making a name for themselves. Proving again that there is a wave of great new bands keeping the scene alive.
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