******** CLICK ON RECORD COVERS FOR ORDERING/BAND INFO ********
KILLING TIME, CROWN OF THORNZ, HANGMAN, RULE THEM ALL
@AMH, AMITYVILLE, NY JANUARY 11, 2020
A split new school meets old school bill as two Long Island upstarts teamed up with two of the biggest names in NYHC history. RULE THEM ALL went on at 815pm and credit the early arriving crowd who were already crammed in shoulder to shoulder and ready to go off from Rule Then All's first song right through Killing Time's last. Rule Them All have 3 guitarists and needed every bit of the small AMH stage to fit their 6 piece band. They played about 5 or 6 songs in about 25 minutes making mention that this was their first Long Island show since their "Dreams About..." EP came out last month. Rule Them All made the most of their short timeslot with a tight set that had to win them over some new fans on this night… as they were just really fuck good. I liked their EP but I loved what they did here in a live setting much more. If you like bands like Underdog. Vision (and for a more modern day reference) Fury… Rule Them All is probably for you. Check their latest EP HERE and to see a live clip of them from this show by Steven Messina click HERE.
RULE THEM ALL @AMH JANUARY 11, 2020 PHOTO BY: DANIELLE DOMBROWSKI
HANGMAN were next... a band who I always seem to compliment for their hustle. Their van or however they get to and from shows has to have some serious mileage racked up on it as this band gets out there and plays often. Having at least 5 releases out in 5 plus years is also a good indicator that this band takes hardcore seriously. Hangman is heavily influenced by the mid-90's hardcore sound and style and imagining them on a Coney Island High or Wetlands show back in the day opening for say... 25 Ta Life or V.O.D. is pretty easy for me to do. They even dropped in a "Yo, yo, move the fuck up" request which wasn't necessarily needed as the crowd was jacked for their set which ran about 25 minutes. I like Hangman's style but they would also benefit from more diversity in their song structures as there are times when their songs seem to blend together giving off the “one big song” type of feel.
HANGMAN @ AMH, JANUARY 11, 2020. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
This show was moving right along with CROWN OF THORNZ hitting the stage about 20 minutes after Hangman left it. The “OG lineup” that was billed featured Ezec on vocals, Dijan on guitar, Dimi on drums and Harry Kacakos on bass…. Harry some may remember as the bassist for Cold Front and who also has been filling in on bass in more recent COT lineups. Things opened up with a few bars from Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” before they jumped into “Icepick”, the opening track off their second release “Mentally Vexed” which turns 24 years old this year. Despite saying he had the flu Ezec did not seem at all phased and was fully up for his vocal duties while joking between songs about his less than orthodox way of fighting the flu. COT jumped between tracks from their debut “Train Yard Blues” from 1995 and the previously mentioned “Mentally Vexed”. Guitarist Mike Dijan has long been considered one of the best musicians within the NYHC scene and his talents were on display as a couple of COT’s songs had some artistic “wrinkles” thrown in where Mike switched things up slightly from the originally recorded versions. Others were slowed down just a bit to make the grooves pop more too. When I asked Mike about this afterwards he jokingly used the term "adulting". "Mental Masquerade”, “Head Check”, “Love Sick” “Juggernaut” and “Crown Of Thornz” all were played and not surprisingly have stood the test of time as they will still smack you right in the side of your head. Some COT trivia to wrap up this part of the review is the fact that Crown Of Thornz’ first ever show was at NYC’s The Grand back in 1994 where they also opened for Killing Time.
CROWN OF THORNZ @AMH, JANUARY 11, 2020. PHOTO BY: DANIELLE DOMBROWSKI
Quite often before a band takes the stage to start their set you get a few guitar riffs, maybe a few drum rolls, a “mic check one two, one two” or some other type of indicator that the next band is about to start but on this night I must have missed all of that as Anthony Comunale from KILLING TIME belted out the lyrics “TALK BEHIND MY BACK, STRETCHING THE TRUTH, WHY CAN’T YOU KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO”…. right before that little bass roll hits on “Telltale”, the opening KT track for this night. AMH has an outdoor smoking area that many retreat to between bands and when "Telltale" started there was a steady line of people rushing back in not to miss anything. Killing Time proceeded to knock out a great set that obviously had the bulk of their 1989 album "Brightside" while also tossing in a couple of those other tracks from releases they have out not titled "Brightside". Within their catalog there are a bunch of songs that are great hardcore sing-a-longs that can turn regular Joe Schmoes into mosh pit killers and that is what basically happened here in Amityville. At times Anthony was even doing vocals IN the crowd as he got mobbed for the chance to scream his lyrics into the microphone. "New Release", "No More Mister Nice Guy", "My Reason" and "Fools Die" were some of the titles I remember catching before things wrapped up with "Wall Of Hate" and "Backtrack". Overall a great night of hardcore with all four bands delivering solid live performances with a big assist going to the crowd who helped pump a lot of life into the building.
KILLING TIME @ AMH, JANUARY 11, 2020. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
INNER TURMOIL “TRAPPED AT BIRTH” EP
(1054 Records, Released December, 2019)
Inner Turmoil is a Pennsylvanian hardcore band who do not hail from either Pittsburg or Philadelphia, but rather Harrisburg in Dauphin County, lovingly nicknamed Coffin County due to the crippling impact that a decade of heroin and opioid crises have had on it. Inner Turmoil embraces their origin point on their debut EP “Trapped At Birth”, all while addressing the pertinent social conditions that plague their home and the psychological pain these conditions produce.
Inner Turmoil’s sound on “Trapped At Birth” slots appropriately between the iron-toned burst of Sick of it All and the street-savvy pit-bull thrash of Hoods, with loosely melodic vocals and lyrical content that verge on Have Heart heights of confessional portrayals of betrayal, guilt, and regret. “Trapped At Birth” is a solid and conscious first foray into the recording studio for the band, noteworthy, if for nothing else, then their earnestness and willingness to put all of the group's pain and raw emotion right on the line. The lead single "Grave Mistakes" has a gravelly Terror inspired groove, conveying an overwhelming oppressive vibe, though plunging breakdowns, and a vocal delivery that will leave boot prints on your face as it comes jump-kicking out of your headphones. If you're up for a further ass-kicking, "Inside Job" has a pounding, metallic groove and the blitz-and-burn mindset of an Agnostic Front obsessed arsonist, while the whiplash riffs and spiraling melody of "Moral Neglect" will get its hooks into you and drag you down the steps to the barn cellar to make you pay for your transgressions. Through these cuts and others, Inner Turmoil makes a bold and arresting statement of personal pain and reflection on their debut EP.
I feel like Inner Turmoil is a part of a trend of top-shelf hardcore being made in areas other than major population centers these days. With some of the country's angriest and most buzz-worthy bands firmly planting their flag in places like Louisville and Indianapolis, it's no longer the case that the sounds popular in the harsher and more brutal segments of punk are being pushed by bands on the coasts. This is a welcome development because things are generally not good in the rural parts of the continental United States, and somebody has to talk about it. In regions dominated by commercial country and classic rock radio, there isn't much breathing room for cathartic expressions of rage in the face of generational poverty and levels of addiction which boarder on a pandemic. Bands like Inner Turmoil are one of many voices that acknowledge the frustration inherent in these times, and who recognize that the state of affairs that we are all born into is not the just outcome of an orderly state of affairs. “Trapped At Birth” is well worth picking up if you are in the market for something on the heavier side of the late '80s indebted hardcore or if you need to feel less alone in your daily toil and grind.
SECRET SOCIETY “MERCY NO LONGER LIVES HERE” (Released December, 2019)
Shout out to Chris for assigning this one, as I have always been a fan of all things Baltimore and JR Glass. But Secret Society has a whole different vibe than the Oldham Boys, JR’s other recent project – check the In Effect archives for that one. Secret Society is more on the metal end of hardcore, perhaps even more so than Next Step Up, and features a whole bunch of vocalists and guest vocalists - think Path of Resistance, Skarhead or a more serious Icepick. (FYI, I am very serious about my love for the American Icepick.)
Secret Society has assembled an interesting cast of members from multiple locations, including Sofia, Bulgaria, though everyone now lives in the Baltimore/DC area. New bands springing up due to people moving to different cities has always been an area of personal fascination and these dudes have combined their variety of influences and backgrounds to create a relevant record for America in 2020. Next Step Up was always known for covering contemporary issues of their time, from “L.A. Story” to “Doorstep of the Nation”, and Secret Society continues in this vein, particularly with “Thoughts and Prayers”, providing commentary on the frequent offering of thoughts and prayers in response to catastrophe rather than meaningful action or legislative response. “Thoughts and prayers are useless, thoughts and prayers are lies, thoughts and prayers are useless, a convenient disguise!” The opening riff is also one of my favorites on this five song release, and almost reminiscent of the beginning of Cro-Mags – “Life of My Own.” Though Secret Society may have saved the best for last: final track “Eat You Alive” is my favorite overall and has almost a Life of Agony feel, but with way more double bass. It also just feels like the last song on an album, an intangible assertion but humor me, much like the final track on the 100 Demons s/t, or Life of Agony – “Fears”, the last song on “Ugly” if you don’t count the cover.
Featuring members of too many bands to list, from Next Step Up to Comin’ Correct to Diecast, Secret Society is also worth checking out on their own merits. 2020 is going to be a very interesting year, both domestically and internationally, and I am interested in following the progress of these dudes as a band, and their take on contemporary events. Check out this release on Spotify.
LIFE FORCE “THE IMPACT” EP
(Blind Rage Records, Released August, 2019)
Sometimes, when life’s bullshit starts to get too thick, I like to write a review of a new hardcore/punk record to help myself “chillax”. So that’s what brings me to my laptop today. The latest EP from Texas/Oklahoma straight-edge hardcore band, Life Force. I am not straight edge, but I’ve always respected the message and enjoyed the music and the aggression that goes along with it. This band is no different.
They kick off this EP with the track “The Life Force”. The record starts with a brief “fade in” before the bombardment of fast riffs, killer drumbeats, and brutal vocals kick in. “Through conflict and chaos, I’ll stay the course!” shouts vocalist, Flint Beard. Brutal and fierce is the music, but great messages and positive vibes are what sets this band apart from the rest. One track in and I’m hooked. The second song off the EP, “Two Words”, features guest vocals from David Wood (Down To Nothing) and quickly became my favorite track. This song is hardcore all the way! Starting off with a fast guitar riff, it then grabs you and forces you into the nearest circle-pit. Jerry Lynn and Matt Fletcher’s guitars dominate this track, especially once the breakdown happens at the end.
The next song off the EP is called “Phoenix”, and it is quite a musical powerhouse. A great song about pushing forward and defeating life’s obstacles. “To fight oneself is the hardest fight when the enemy is your mind”. These lyrics hit a chord with me as someone who struggles to overcome anxiety and depression on an almost daily basis. I can appreciate the message and the honesty of this song. As we all know a phoenix rises from the ashes, giving us hope that we can conquer the things that hold us back. The next blast of fury we receive from them is called, “The Impact”. Under a minute long, this song packs a punch, courtesy of John Bindel’s drum kit and Davis Driver’s bass rig! More positive messages about leaving your mark on the world and reaching your goals. The final track, “Acting For Change”, is a perfect album closer. Starting off at a slower pace, the tempo increases with a fury and leads you back to that slow, heavy riff. Flint’s vocals continue to crush the verses until the final breakdown comes to level the place… pure heaviness at its best. Overall, this EP is the perfect dose of straight edge hardcore. I highly recommend picking up this EP and I can’t wait until I get a chance to see their live show. Life Force has proven that straight edge hardcore is alive and well.
IRON PRICE “BIG COFFIN HUNTERS”
(Upstate Records, Released November, 2019)
Ex-Backhand, no longer ex-Ballistic: Iron Price, from a region known for heavy bands, takes that category to a whole new level. (I was originally about to place these dudes solely in the Baltimore tradition, but would be remiss if I didn't mention that they are in fact from both Maryland and Delaware.) I’ve always thought of “metalcore” as more of an epithet than an a descriptor bridging the two worlds, but Iron Price’s label, Upstate Records, describes them as such, so let’s go with it. Either way, this new eight song effort, “Big Coffin Hunters,” has artfully blended both hardcore and metal elements to produce one of the heaviest records of 2019.
Much like on the new Blvd of Death record, the first song is a standalone intro, and things actually get started on "JEC - MRS", where the excellent drum sound is immediately apparent. With the intro plus seven actual tunes, it’s not quite a full length, but longer than an EP. Probably a wise move if they had seven good songs ready to roll rather than stretching things out. And while “Pig”, the first track released online, is just over 3 minutes and follows a more traditional hardcore structure that will have you moshing in no time, some songs run close to five minutes, so you are still definitely getting an intense dose of new Iron Price!
While culturally rooted in hardcore, Iron Price has ventured sonically into even heavier territory. The New York-Baltimore connection has always been strong, and Irate may be an apt comparison here, in that they too were more on the metal side but were culturally rooted in hardcore. Though there is definitely some unusual stuff happening here too – are those keyboards on a of couple songs? And what instrument is that at the end of “Don’t Let ‘Em Know”? These departures from the canon are balanced by a profusion of double bass and some riffs so intense to almost seem excessive, yet everything works as a cohesive whole, including the bleak lyrical themes throughout.
Iron Price has been popular in Pennsylvania, including playing This Is Hardcore, and stylistically they are almost closer to the epically heavy beatdown hardcore that flourishes in the Keystone State. When I saw them play at the Championship in Trenton, there wasn’t much action during their set, but these days I wouldn’t necessarily want to be anywhere near the pit, where I’m sure copious mosh is occurring. For fans of 100 Demons, Borrowed Time, Irate, and all things PA Hardcore.
OLD NORTH END “THE WAR WITHIN O.N.E.”
(Released November, 2019)
Finally a hardcore band from Vermont! Excuse my ignorance but I was beginning to believe there weren't any. When my family and I were thinking of moving to the Burlington area I saw no traces of a scene. I am happy to say that my concerns have been answered and I've found the perfect band to teach me of my error. The band is called Old North End or O.N.E. and they are worthy of you remembering their name.
Forming in 2011 in Burlington with the one purpose of spreading "a positive message through music and fury". O.N.E. have gone through several lineup changes until finalizing this set of members in 2017. Consisting of Chris "OZ ONE" Lamonthe-vocals; Jason Mc Sweeney-guitar; Eric Hodgson-bass; Jim Tye-guitar and Jon Dapo- drums, it is worth mentioning that all members have ether prior and/or current experience playing in other local acts.
The band recently released their sophomore work, an EP titled “The War Within O.N.E.” and simply put… it crushes, which is a term I don't think I've ever used but it fits so damn well here. Combining a crossover mix of hardcore/punk/metal, the songs are filled with heavy guitar riffs, crowd moving breakdowns and angry vocals similar to Fury Of Five’s style while also paying homage to such styles of legendary influences as Madball, Hatebreed and the Cro-Mags. The EP is made up of 5 songs with a play time of 15 minutes. Track titles are: “War Within”; “Only The Real”; “242:, “Voiceless” and “Why”. The songs vary with their message and deal with topics that we are all familiar with such as the streets, dealing with other's actions and lying. I really enjoy the positivity of the lyrics, proving you can still be tough, struggling and find time to help others as written in the song “Voiceless”:… "Watch me scream for the voiceless, give hope when there's none left. I hope to enlighten the young ones".
“The war Within O.N.E. has the makings to break O.N.E. out from the Green Mountain State borders and closer to their goal of being known worldwide. I have listened to this EP three times since last night and it keeps getting better. I have also listened to their 2018 debut full length “The Truth The Struggle” and I feel they have already accomplished the musical part and with fans continuing to spread the word and show support, I can't imagine it will take long before O.N.E. is on the march.
RAGE BATARD “LYON CITY HARDCORE” 7”
(Released November, 2019)
Rage Batard hail from Lyon, France and this seven inch is a follow up to their first record that came out in May of 2018. The band is not on a label, preferring to take a DIY approach and doing the hard work necessary to make a record of their own. The band’s influences are British punk/Oi! and U.S. hardcore, stating the Exploited, 4Skins, Madball and Minor Threat, to name a few of their favorites. The lyrics are in French but the band was kind enough to translate them to English for me which was a big help.
The band kicks off with “Lyon Skinhead Hardcore” a decent track which explains the band’s view on the skinhead scene. They want others to know that being a skin is not all about getting drunk and fighting every weekend. Instead, they try to get across the reasons why they are skinheads and their state of mind in the Lyon skinhead scene. The music combines punk and Oi! and gives the listener an idea of what this band is all about. “Change” follows up with a Madball sounding track and has that NYHC feel to it. The song deals with moving forward even when others fight it. I really like this song. “Danger” has an unusual opening before kicking into a pop sounding punk song that almost has, dare I say, a commercial feel to it? “Moi ma Haine et Cette Putain de Oi!” finishes this four song seven inch with what I would call the band’s anthem song. It’s got everything with fast playing, jacked vocals and has the feel of England’s eighties punk sound to it. I believe this is the band’s favorite track as it deals with staying loyal to yourself and your scene and how it identifies who you are.
I like this 7”. Musically, the band is tight and can play. They write about their scene and stay true to their values and beliefs as skinheads. I think these guys will be around for a long time providing us with quality Oi!/punk music.
THE ANSWER “DEMO ‘19” 7”
(Dark Medicine, Released October, 2019)
Sneaking in here just under the unofficial In Effect cutoff for new releases to pay tribute to one of the best new bands I heard in 2019: The Answer. Per the cover of their 7”, these dudes hail from the Jersey Shore and NYC, but some members are originally from Richmond and Ohio, so basically all over the place. Historically, half-NJ/half-NY bands have produced some excellent lineups and releases, and The Answer does not drop the ball. The demo was released online in July and as a 7” in October, but they weren’t on my radar until I saw them open for Mindforce/Death Threat at the Kingsland just a few days back. Relieved to have arrived in time for Restraining Order, we were treated to a short but killer set by The Answer that closed with a cover of Breakdown – “Blacklisted” (which a disturbing portion of the room did not seem to know, but that is a whole other issue.)
Featuring members of Blind Justice and Breakaway, these dudes bring different styles to the table, resulting in 5 songs that can be tough to categorize, reflecting both the 90’s NYHC canon and a bit of a thrash influence. Imagine the dude from Release singing for the Icemen, which was my initial impression during their set, and has held up during repeated plays of the 7”. “Eye For An Eye” almost sounds like the verse of “The Harsh Truth” with different lyrics but I am more than OK with that since everything else about these dues is fresh and non-derivative. The song structures are compact and spare, featuring inspired mosh-parts and cool transitions, yet no song runs longer than 2:15.
My only knock on The Answer would be somewhat generic song naming, and no lyric sheet in the 7”, though the lyrics are on Bandcamp. The 7” is on blazing orange “tangerine” vinyl, or at least this one was that I picked up at the show. It is not super easy to find info online about what’s next for The Answer, but I would definitely keep an eye out if you live in the NY metro area. For fans of the Icemen, Release, End It and Combust.
PINK GUITARS “WE ARE MADE OF THE SUN”
(ZAZEN TAPES, Released, December, 2019)
Last July I did a review of a one man band from Buffalo, NY called Pink Guitars and the mastermind behind the project Sean Wild really caught my attention with his true DIY format and the experimental mix of early punk and hardcore. Well Sean aka Pink Guitars ends 2019 with a new release titled: “We Are Made of The Sun”, a five song cassette that has slightly moved away from the Minor Threat meets early DEVO sound on the prior release. The songs on the new EP are faster, nastier, noisier and more comparable to a GBH; Cryptic Slaughter; and Black Flag mash up.
“We Are Made of The Sun” track titles are: “Spine”, “Always Searching”, “Self-Doubt”, “Transfiguration” and “Be” with my favorite track being the minute long “Be”. The whole EP wraps up to about seven and a half minutes which in my opinion is just the right amount of time. The lyrics are complex and as I read them over and over, trying to decipher their meaning I figured best to just ask Sean when I go up to Buffalo next time rather than write an interpretation that may stray from his original thoughts.
Part of being your own "boss" is doing what YOU want to do and “We Are Made Of The Sun” is a perfect example of this DIY style that some bands have abandoned due to whatever reason. It has many of the elements for those that are looking to take that walk down memory lane to the early sounds of punk rock and hardcore. With three releases out in 2019 and Sean's newly started cassette label calledZazen Tapes, I am excited to see what this new year will have in store from the one man band from Buffalo aka Pink Guitars.