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BIG CHEESE "PUNISHMENT PARK"
(Triple B Records, Released March, 2020)
"Punishment Park" and BIG CHEESE are four words that may have never been combined in the same sentence in the history of the universe but here we are in 2020 making such outlandish assumptions. This new Triple B Records release was recommended to me by one of our crack staff of writers and I gave it its first whirl recently on one of my newly found Corona Walks. I had previously checked in with these Brits on their 2017 “Aggravated Mopery” EP but I didn’t fully immerse myself in it like I have with their latest… “Punishment Park”.
"Pennine Scrubs" (Pennine refers to a mountain range that separates Yorkshire from the Northwest of England) opens first with a scream and then right on into some arse (UK) or ass (US) kicking MOSH which the Cheese prove throughout this record that they are very good at. “Mad At The World” is track two and there is no let up on this one with more MOSH and a little guitar lead that fits well with the track. “IFMB” is up next and that lead bass intro is pretty darn close in sound to Sick Of It All’s “Just Look Around” if you ask me. Despite that this is one of the stronger tracks on this record and for me they are batting three for three after the first three songs. Bases loaded, nobody out and “Heartbreak Ball” brings in some runs with another keeper. Big Cheese will appeal to fans of late 80’s style NYHC, particularly the crossover faction. I can hear traces of The Icemen, Crumbsuckers, and maybe even that Rest In Pieces record that so many of you love that came after “My Rage”. Even the recording has the feel of that time period and at times it made me feel as if it might have crept out of Don Fury’s basement. “Tired Children In D Minor” is a creepy intro from the 70’s film “Punishment Park” which is the following (and title) track. The movie is a non-fictional documentary about a group of activists who are arrested and tried for varying degrees of crimes against the government. The cover artwork for this album ties together several of the lyrical themes from not only this current record but that 2017 EP I mentioned earlier. This album stays strong the whole way through as deep as tracks 7 & 9 (“Write Off” and “Identity”) as Big Cheese deliver more keepers. I have seen many an album that by the time you get three quarters through the rest of the songs are just filler. That is not the case here. “Punishment Park” was a nice surprise with strong songwriting, solid vocals, a crunchy guitar tone and plenty in the way of choppy drum beats that will get you nodding along.
CRAZY EDDIE “EDDIE GOES TO NIGHT SCHOOL” EP (Released April, 2020)
NYC’s Crazy Eddie are back with their new EP which recently debuted here on this very site. It picks up where they left off, both musically and following the progress of Eddie, who had dropped out of college on the first LP and is now headed back to night school with this new release. Back to school again, Warzone style, if you will. Style wise this is a not a huge departure from their prior material, though the vocals are slightly different, and there is a higher ratio of catchy punk rock grooves compared to the amount of fast parts on the LP. But there are a few surprises thrown in – more on that later.
The five song EP starts things off with “Is What It Is (New York)”, an ode to NYC that seems particularly on point now that many of its delights are temporarily inaccessible, followed by “Bored With Life” which would also have been a worthy opener. When I first heard this thing, my songs were out of order and I may continue to regard that one as the rightful first track! “Bored With Life” and song 3, “Who’s To Blame” are probably the two most likely to get stuck in your head after the fact, or at least in mine.
“Welcome To The Show”, track 4, is the longest song besides the double cover that closes things out … which is technically two Cheech & Chong songs, but reimagined via hardcore styling, with their guitarist Lenny on vox. Just like Mike Dijan singing the Kraut cover on COT’s “Mentally Vexed”, but a little more out of the box. Believe it or not this is not the first time that “Mexican Americans” has appeared on a hardcore album, as it was sampled by Burnbath approximately 20 years ago on a record that seems to have been lost from the internet. That was merely a sample though, and this one gets the true cover treatment: first “Mexican Americans” and then “Beaners” which is imbued with an extraneous mosh part. At my old job, I once received a voicemail from Cheech’s art advisor, but if I got her on the line today, I would advise that this is the true art right here. Stream or download for free at the Bandcamp link below, or… check it out on Spotify.
BRUTE “LIVIN’ RIGHT” DEMO
(Edgewood Records, Released April, 2020)
It was probably at some point in the middle of last year that In Effect first became aware of what was going on within a resurgent New Jersey hardcore scene as we bumped into young bands like Player Hater, Fence Cutter and Ignorant Life amongst a few others. Online photos from some of the shows these bands were playing at DIY spots (including storage units) were authentic views into what underground music can create and accomplish while doing things outside of the usual avenues. One of the bands that we found out there during this time is Brute who just put out a new 5 song demo titled “Livin’ Right” which you can also snag from Edgewood Records on cassette. Brute is made up of members from the now departed Fence Cutter and Ignorant Life, two bands that were playing more of a 90’s NYHC type of style; with Brute though things get dialed back even further with a sound and style that could have been blaring out of CBGB house speakers circa the mid-80’s. “Forfeit The Fight” is a 47 second blast off that should reel you in fast if you got love for hardcore out of that time period. The guitar tone on this reminds me of the likes of Straight Ahead, Outburst and Youth Of Today with the bulk of this 7 minute effort being played at lightning fast speeds before the inevitable mosh part in each song. “The Beginning” is one notable exception as the mid-paced choppy beat carries you through the majority of the track before things go back to hyper speed and then an outro-stomp ending. “Livin’ Right” is the closing track with the message of “fuck what you think, this is my life, don’t need no needle to make me feel right”. The mosh that hits around the one minute mark of this song crushes and is one of the highlights of this short demo. Overall, Brute bring a ton of potential and energy. They are by no means blazing new trails in the way hardcore music is played but damn is this just a small little dose of what hardcore can still be. Brute 2020 is on to some good shit, click below for a free stream or a name your price download. Find “Livin’ Right” on Spotify as well.
430 STEPS “CITIZEN OF NOTHING”
(Released March, 2020)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The best hardcore band in Florida right now is, hands down, 430 STEPS! Hailing from Orlando, by way of South America, they are out there killing every venue they step foot in. Featuring former members of Space Brain, they have shared the stage with Madball, Coldside and others.They are pretty much the biggest up and coming hardcore band in the Florida scene, and if you’ve seen them live, you know what I’m talking about.
The first track, “Motivation Games”, jumps at you fast, hard and furious. At a minute and 11 seconds, you know this track is like hell’s fury unleashed. It’s fast, raw and old school… just like hardcore punk should be! This tune really sets the pace for this record. The next song, “Until This Day”, is probably the best track on the whole record. This song has it all. It’s fast, it’s heavy, it has tons of groove and makes you want to pit your ass off! Nelson Porras really shows off his vocal skills on this one, especially when he screams out in the middle of the song, “I refuse to feel this way!” Gritty and destructive, yet melodic as hell. You will just have to hear it to know what I mean. The next song, “Serial Killer”, is another great track. This song sounds like a mix of old school Suicidal Tendencies with some good power metal. Great metallic riffs and a sick guitar solo courtesy of Manuel will have you playing this track over and over again for sure. Now the next tune, “Skate Ghost Town”, is bound to be another classic 430 track! If the last song reminded you of old school ST then this song will remind you of some of Suicidal’s later music… especially, with the funkiness of Carlos’ bass playing. So, after this Corona Virus bullshit is over, take Nelson up on his advice when he tells you to “Just let him fucking skate!” “
Citizen Of Nothing”, the album’s title track is a hardcore masterpiece This song incorporates many different styles and even a touch of some Deftones thrown in there, especially with Nelson’s vocals at times. Heavy lyrics about homelessness here (with a recently released VIDEO as well). This song also sends quite the message to the listener. “Step Away” is up next and is another great hardcore track. This one fades in with a heavy guitar riff before the rest of the band jumps right in with a fistful of fury and has tons of groove and ferocious guitar riffs. The band then throws the next song at us called, “Cronicas De Un Payaso”. Like Madball and Downset before them, they decided this release just wouldn’t feel complete without a song “en Espanol”. Great job on this one with a nice mosh part and an excellent build-up part at the end hit the spot… especially, if you enjoy Latino hardcore, like I do.
The band closes out the album with the final track, “Wasting Time”. Having seen this band and shared the stage with them a few times, when they play this song all hell breaks loose… especially after the awesome build-up part, courtesy of Gustavo Porras’ drum kit. The Porras brothers really kill it on this track both musically and lyrically. “Fighting, laughing, depression, another day!” Nelson screams out with a fury before the rest of the band come together to rip you a new one before the album finally finishes up its onslaught. Look, if you still need me to sit here and convince you to pick up this record, then I’m afraid you may have other issues going on that I don’t need to know about. So, put this album on your quarantine playlist and beat the crap out of your little brother if need be because it’ll probably be a while before you get out to another show! Click HERE to find it on Spotify.
DRUG BUST EP (Released February, 2020)
From the Philadelphia hardcore scene comes Drug Bust with a fresh sounding EP that breathes new life into the hardcore scene. This is the bands second EP and was released in mid-February. The EP kicks off with “Drug Bust”, an instrumental track leading up to an onslaught of twenty-first century hardcore. This is a song I would play to begin my day and put me in the right frame of mind. “Never Again” is a relatable song in the sense that the person he sings about could be an ex-girlfriend, a close friend or even a family member. It’s short, angry and intense and my favorite track. It’s something you would throw on the turntable and crank up loud when you are pissed off and need to release some built up aggression. Next up is “Fighting Myself’”, another great example of renewed energy and rage in hardcore music. It deals with self-esteem and the negative people who infect him (that’s my take on the lyrics) and is a topic many of us deal with. “Sugar” is another short, fast and strong song dealing with cocaine addiction. “Grateful” finishes up this five song EP on a high note. This is the hardest song and would incite a scary pit at one of their shows I’m sure. Drug Bust is a band I’d support by purchasing their music and I’ll tell you why. The hardcore scene has become a bit stale in my opinion. It’s flooded with bands sounding like so many other recognizable bands and lacks that edge I so desperately crave. This band delivers a fresh slab of hardcore that restores my faith in the scene. I watched some of their live show clips on Facebook and their live shows make me appreciate them that much more. If you consider yourself a true hardcore fan then you should check out Drug Bust. You won’t be disappointed. Find it on Spotify as well.
SPIRIT FLAW “DEMO 2020” (Released March, 2020)
Philly is coming out strong in 2020 and the proof can be found in the new release from a new hardcore band called Spirit Flaw. Although the band is new, the members: Travis McKayle - vocals, Ben Stuckey - bass, Christian Dubuque - guitars and Josh Layton - drums mostly have experience playing in other local bands. Their debut release titled “Demo 2020” consists of a solid 5 songs that capture a variety of sounds ranging from slow heavy break downs, to bursts of intense speed. The demo starts of with a minute long instrumental that does the job of getting the listener into the mood of what the other 4 tracks are going to deliver. Track 2 “Empty Shell” gives us our first introduction to vocalist Travis and what he brings to the equation. And if you assumed his style would be one that projected anger with pissed off lyrics then you would be correct. Track 3 is the title track “Spirit Flaw”, followed by “Excessive Force” which reminds me of Cryptic Slaughter due to the insane speed and the length of the track, which is only 47 seconds. My favorite track on this demo is the final one titled “No Escape”, one that I think showcases the bands’ talents the best. I think this demo can best be described as a blend of Side By Side and Bulldoze mixed with the band’s own originality. Spirit Flaw has definitely done a nice job on this debut release. Please make sure you check it out below or on Spotify.
AMERICAN HARDCORE FANZINE
(Issue #2, Released March, 2020)
The recently released American Hardcore Fanzine issue #2 is the follow up to 2019’s NYHC Blackbook Fanzine which was put out by “Urban Styles, Graffiti In NYHC” book author Freddy Alva. Now three endeavors in, Mr. Alva has seemingly cornered the market when it comes to mashing the NYHC and graffiti sub-cultures together. This time around the themes expand well beyond the Big Apple as Freddy and his crew take things from the East Coast to the West Coast (inside myself I can hear the screams). A short intro explains the mission which is to get graffiti and visual artists to document their artwork while keeping American hardcore bands as the theme. The front cover artwork by Sean Taggart is visually enticing and almost dares you not to open it up and leaf through a few pages. Once you do that though, you’re done… as the colors, iconic band names and nostalgia all explode in your face making this hard to put down. Every turn of a page leads you to a new band, a new artist and more to stare at. Some of the bands that the artists chose to draw include: Circle Jerks, Black Flag, The Ramones, Sub-Zero, NYC Mayhem, Chain Of Strength, Rest In Pieces, Off!, The Misfits, Straight Ahead, Negative Approach and Void. The themes range from straight up graffiti bubble letters and wild styles, to stuff that would be considered street art. Some are more artsy while others are more chaotic with a “what the fuck were they on when they drew this” feel. American Hardcore literally is an art show in a book. 60 pages (and over 50 pieces of art) filled with vibrant colors and hardcore history that falls somewhere between fanzine and full-fledged art book. The high quality paper and printing justifies the $16 asking price for this one of a kind hardcore keepsake. Operators are NOT standing by now to take your order so click that link below to grab your copy before they are all gone.
GRAFF HOUSE MAGAZINE
(Issue #1, Released March, 2020)
Graff House is not a hardcore music related read but in this age of quarantine my fingers have hit a few extra “buy now” buttons than I am used to. A lot of you are into the graffiti shit anyway so I figured why not give it a write-up? Issue 1 has twenty total pages with a nice printing job done up on full color glossy paper. After a short intro and a few pages of some throws and wild style stuff they get into a short interview with a guy who goes by GET LOST A LOT from New Jersey, followed by ones with JESUS SAVES and FADE. Things end up with “Letters To Graff House” which are just that… some letters that writers sent in to the editors. I like Graff House’s vibe and all and they are off to a good start stylistically but you can easily blow through the content here in about 5 minutes. That is not a knock on them… just saying keep that in mind in regards to the price tag for this issue. This debut is limited to 175 copies. I upgraded to the “extra” option and got a bunch of slaps thrown in as well. Not totally worth the extra 5 bucks but… I took a chance. I am not up on graffiti magazines these days and am not sure if there are a billion of these out there. What I can tell you is that from someone who has been doing fanzines since the 80’s is that these guys are on the right track and if they stick with this blueprint will see some good results. (Graphic shown to the left is a print which is a larger reproduction of the fanzines front cover).
PRESSURE PACT “SCARED OFF THE STREETS” LP (Wolves of Hades, Released December, 2019)
Holy Violent Reaction Batman, it’s the new Pressure Pact! I kind of gave away the entire review right there, didn’t I? Some reviews don’t require an in-depth case study of time signatures and chord progressions. Some reviews write themselves. That review begins and continues here; Let’s start with my appreciation for the art of the instrumental opening song. Any record that starts with a quick instrumental opener just brings a smile to my face. I’m transported back to high school, listening to Murphy’s Law over and over again, wanting to write songs like Todd Youth. The instrumental is the appetizer, the first course, the lead off batter. I know this isn’t special to punk rock hardcore, but it just works. It feels right.
Pressure Pact is relentless and punishing, but they do not lose sight of a well written song. Melody is allowed in hardcore, catchy choruses bring the crowd to the front of the stage. Well written songs invite the audience to sing along. Pressure Pact has that ability.
The opener “Waste Of Boredom” is an explosion, very reminiscent of Boston Strangler. Simple and compact, but with a good tempo change toward the end of the song. “Weight” follows up with a great, mid-tempo, sing-a-long danceable jam. “Stub It Out” is another song with a catchy riff and vocal delivery. This isn’t science people, it’s not Hemmingway writing about the rolling mountains set against an African sunset. It’s punk rock, it’s hardcore at its most basic and primal form. The design is intended to make you feel something, to get you moving, to react. Three cheers for Pressure Pact, job well done.
OVERTHROWN “SET IT STRAIGHT”
(Released February, 2020)
Celebrating their twenty fourth year as a band in 2020, which is almost a quarter of a century of hardcore onslaught, Overthrown prove that hardcore is in good health in Singapore and in safe hands thousands of miles from more well-known hardcore hot beds. The band continues to go from strength to strength and their experience as a band inspires them to keep on creating their bruising hardcore sound which takes no prisoners from start to finish. They follow up 2015’s punishing “Walk The Talk” with their latest album “Set It Straight”, and much like its predecessor, it is an upfront and energetic record with the bands vivacity going hand in hand with their ferocity.
With the likes of Madball and Strife as their biggest influences, Overthrown specialize in precise riffs, anthemic, shout-a-longs and massive breakdowns and all are present and correct on “Set It Straight”. After a Gang Starr/Run DMC indebted hip-hop intro sets things off (which harks back to KRS-One introducing Sick Of It All’s immortal “Blood, Sweat And No Tears”), the hardcore maelstrom kicks off with the sub one minute “Undefeated”, a defiant and aptly titled song that pays tribute to the longevity that Overthrown have had. From then on in, their energy and groove laden hardcore enthralls and inspires in equal measure with face melting tracks like “Last Chance”, “Set It Straight” and “Disintegration” all igniting the aural fire. These slabs of blazing hardcore, cement the band’s status as a formidable band with the tunes to back it up.
In a nod to some classic NYHC, Overthrown add a cover of Killing Time’s “Backtrack” which is faithful to the original while adding Overthrown’s stamp all over it and it fits in nicely to the album and its sound as well as paying tribute to another of the bands influences. “Set It Straight” finishes off with the full power hardcore of “Recognise” which concludes with an awesome bass led breakdown section before the albums outro (another hardcore meets hip-hop melding with Overthrown meeting Eazy E’s Boyz In Tha Hood head on) draws proceedings to a close. With “Set It Straight”, Overthrown demonstrate their style and their brand of hardcore with style while they continue to put Singapore on the worldwide hardcore map with ease. To learn more about this band check out our 2013 interview we did with them HERE.
JUST ICE 7” (Released December, 2019)
Ripping like a machine gun “Sleep” the opener from Just Ice’s four song EP rat-ta-tats in a frenzy of beastly drum fills and a metal-rock riff intro before the song breathes with the verse riding a drum and bass rhythm section creating a circular tribal pattern while vocalist Jonathan Bisson strong arms the track through speaker wires, busting out the stereo system with no apologies with a vox that sounds like his lungs/larynx have been fermented in Tennessee Whiskey - a familiar ferocious vocal timbre that rises the debaucherous spirit of Lemmy Kilmister in a billowing mass of Marlboro cigarette smoke. The skeletal verse powers through leaving a trail of metal punk destruction while managing to fit cool nuances within the barely minute composition. An echo chamber effect - a studio tool favorite of early 1980’s long hair’d thrashers - does not douse the track in its entirety but is used sparingly on a second set of vocals for a chorus that takes us back to the desert for Slayers “Seasons In The Abyss” single. While a slam section breaks the song into a mosh groove hurled into the fray by a grizzled howl “My nightmares only haunt me!” shadowed by a high pitched guitar dive bomb on an audio suicide mission. Distorted guitar resonance from a struck chord lingers like smoldering fire as the break groove rides us out, a thick muted riff reinforces the beat for Doc Martin pit warfare.
The innovations of NYHC by its second wave would see those at its vanguard push the sound out of its punk rock beginnings. With a youth street culture speeding into its own unnoticed by the music industry colossus, an organic underground developed with divisions practicing thrash metal black sorcery and hip hop voodoo - the New York faction of hardcore punk would damn the streets of the Lower East Side with a monster …slaying, grooving and moshing. Just Ice create their own metal core beast that stomps around a fire that burns with your other records…
Continuing the audio mayhem with a drum intro blowout “I am The Youth” follows the Just Ice aesthetic of managing to fit so much into a 2 to 3 minute format. The 10 minute compositions associated with heavy metal is not so much edited as it is somehow condensed to mere minutes - the band tightly construct their songs on this EP so you don’t lose any of the metal fury. Following the rule of the wild - one level eating the level below - the band savagely chews up the structure of “I Am The Youth” within seconds of its start, violently, with nods to Helmet and the Cro-Mags’ “Life Of My Own”. The heavy bouncing riffage sets the tone through and through creating a mid-paced stomping pattern that is hard and danceable once the rhythm section coalesces in a style that sounds industrial but organic…the machinery is skull and bone marrow. Drummer Marc Gardens annihilates his kit throughout this EP with manic drum fills, intros and blasting beats. At times his crazed but extremely tight and precise drumming goes off the leash almost destructively but not without purpose giving the songs a feel of methodical chaos.
The third track simply and ominously titled “38” slows the EP down as the cut opens up with percolating audio eeriness fit for a King Diamond album though what materializes is a NYHC riff played in a mid-paced droney groove. Interestingly the group takes the song off the cliff more with a bold and risky move slowing it down even further in the break section. The sludgy but tight mid part built for maximum moshing is out to prove the scientific slam theory of opposites and contradictions - the slower the break the faster fists fly in the pit.
Jonathan Bissons’ vocal delivers a doom rock/hip hop style - a connection that occurred in the hardcore scene by its junior year with innovative bands Absolution, Underdog and Leeway hitting the high water mark in the mid and late 1980’s. Though 1990 would draw a line in the cement with Biohazards self-titled album on Maze Records - culminating in the bands overt metal core/hip hop hybrid “Wrong Side Of The Tracks” an anthemic street tale of NYC battle zones, using the cult film The Warriors as its inspiration. The group would turn out some of the hardest material with the formula that mixed metal riffs, hardcore breaks, hip hop grooves and vocal approaches inspiring many and helping shape post NYHC to what it turned into during the latter part of the 1990’s with the sub genres “thug core” and “beat-down core”…to quote Cyrus the king street warlord “Can You Dig It?”
By the EP’s closing track “Prime Time” Just Ice will leave you bruised and restless wanting more of their brand of metalcore/hardcore. The riff rumbles with a “Juggernaut” Crown of Thornz cadence before a guitar dive bomb signals a psychotic time change and sharp shift in personality for the song which is a running theme in their structures of this solid EP. Jonathan Bisson expertly throws everything in the pot vocally on this final track from Paul Bearer style goth punk self-destruction to the tough melodious of Comunales’ “Bright Side” chorus. By 1:55 he spit’s not a rhyme but scowls his lyrics with a hip-hop inflection that’s all his own giving the track a lot of vocal flavor while the band jack hammers a classic down beat hardcore riff that in a live setting will summon the inner primate to anyone in ear shot.
Just ice show themselves to be adept in dealing out raw guttural music as they straddle different underground personas making for a powerful blend of no-nonsense hardcore.
HEROES 2 NONE “50, FAT & OUT” EP (Released 2019)
Heroes 2 None hail from Aarhus, Denmark and have members who have been a staple in the Danish and international punk Oi! scene for decades. Case in point is their singer, Steen Thomsen who started his first punk band in 1979! The band is made up of past members from bands such as The Zero Point, The Outfit, The Guv’nors, War Of Destruction, The Hoolies and Last Scene Laughing. Formed in 2016, “50, Fat & Out” is Heroes 2 None’s second outing, “Villains 2 All” being their first 10” mini-album. The three song EP gets things going with the title track “50, Fat & Out”. The opening drum beat and guitar riff immediately grab your attention. When the vocals kick in, you know you are going to have this song in your head for the rest of the day and that’s a good thing. This track sounds like it came right out of the early days of punk yet fits perfectly into today’s music scene.
“A.D.1880” is a tribute to their local football team and another strong song. This is a great Oi! track worthy of being on a soundtrack from a movie or at the very least a sing-along while hoisting cold ones with some good friends.
The band finishes up with a cover of the Steve Jones and Paul Cook song “Lonely Boy”. Some will love this version and some may not. I loved it because they beef it up musically and the singer gives it the punk rock touch it needed. No disrespect to Steve or Paul but I prefer this version.
Heroes 2 None are a fun band, bar none. This is music you can play anywhere and it will pick you up no matter how bad of a day you are having. These guys have stayed true to their roots since they were teenagers and still maintain the lifestyle regardless of what people think. These are true punks to the bitter end and much respect for doing so. I ordered the 7” and a shirt and if you like what you hear I suggest you do the same. Check it out on Spotify.
GRAND SCHEME “DEMO”
(Advanced Perspective, Released March 2020)
I've written a lot about how releases can seem totally fresh without deviating too much stylistically from what the best kinds of bands have done time and time again. How do you capture what is good and right and inspiring without merely sounding like a copy? It's something that I've never been totally able to answer, but that intangibility is on display here in the Grand Scheme demo.
This demo is technically only four songs, but you also get three for one in the opening track: "What You Sow/Intro/Aversion". Who puts an intro in the middle of a song? Grand Scheme, apparently, and it works. "What You Sow" is such a short tune, over in a Straight Ahead-like 20-odd seconds before you hit the intro, but it's still an inspired choice for pre-intro placement. The intro itself is top notch, and transitions into a moshier section before heading into “Aversion”, the last section of track 1. It's not often you can detect elements of both Straight Ahead and Cranial Abuse on a single demo, but they are both evident here.
Up next, “Social Bait” evokes a style from a prior era: I can practically see people swinging from the rafters at Posi Numbers 2004 if Grand Scheme were to have existed back then. Track 3 "Burnout", is the theme song here if you will, with the "Grand Scheme!" chorus making me want to go stomp down Grand Street in Mount Vernon with the Grand Scheme tape in a boombox (which I might just do once my physical copy arrives – that’s one way to ensure some social distancing.) And final tune “Halfstep” is no halfway effort, unleashing one final chance to mosh before the demo is complete. From the exuberance of early Bad Trip to the precision and clarity of Restraining Order, Grand Scheme is off to a grand start and have put together a must-hear demo.
WORLD DEMISE – “Demo 2020” (Released March 2020)
World Demise is back with three new tracks, just in time for the pandemic and potential actualization of their name. In the cover art you have a dude looking like the Altercation guy opening the door and his flag says Demo 2020. But rather than the stylings of Altercation, World Demise is more in the vein of Bulldoze and Setback, featuring a heavy, slow, pessimistic crunch. I respect these dudes for dropping a modicum of songs rather than coming out with more material before it was ready.
This demo features two original tracks, "Time and Again" and "Can't Relate", followed by a cover of "Take a Hike" by another New Jersey outfit, Nothing Left To Mourn. Did I mention that World Demise is also from New Jersey, aka the best state, even if its residents must dwell in the crosshairs of assorted apocalyptic infrastructure? The songs are pretty short for a band this heavy - no extraneous guitar stuff, just moshy and to the point. Lyrically, these dudes remind me of Setback again and the words match the bleak vibe of their sound and name. “Time and Again” also features a cool echoey part around 1:50, which I wasn’t expecting and might be more at home on the Pressure Release demo.
I could def imagine World Demise sharing a bill with NJ Bloodline at the Kearny Irish around 2007. While we are currently stuck in a world with no shows for the foreseeable future and “a world in demise”, Terror Zone style, perhaps you can relate to these 3 tracks time and again in recorded form.
THE FIGHT “ENDLESS NOISE”
(Triple B Records, Released March, 2020)
With a wave of bands from Long Island that favor heavier styles of hardcore that go over well with moshers, a band rooted mostly in 80’s hardcore punk is ironically the odd one out. But The Fight stands out as one of the most aggressive bands in spite of the lack of metal influence in their sound. And that’s what sets their new record, “Endless Noise” apart from the legions of other generic 80’s worshipping punk and hardcore acts: raw power!
The Fight turns up the noise and the anger on this record! The guitars sound like chainsaws cutting through the pillars of society, the drums sound like gunshots going off in the streets, John Scanlon’s bass tone rumbles like a big truck engine and frontman Kyle Fee growls with the rage of millions of pissed off hardcore kids! They also employ a notable amount of reverb that actually adds to the aggression of the record and particularly to Kyle’s voice. Almost every song ends with shrill guitar feedback fading out, like you’re calming down after being blasted with blistering fury. More than most 80’s throwback bands however, you can hear a distinct NYHC signature on this record, especially on the mid-tempo bangers “Their New Aesthetic”, “One In The Mirror” and “Two On Every Corner” or the two step breakdowns on the closing track “Shoah” and the one on “Counting Days” which clearly take notes from classic NYHC names such as Sheer Terror, Antidote, Nihilistics and Agnostic Front. Frontman Kyle Fee definitely uses a few vocal melodies inspired by Paul Bearer, John Joseph and Roger Miret. Meanwhile tracks such as “Promised Land”, “The Clenched Fist Of Human Greed”, “Shoah” and “Counting Days” largely take inspiration from the speed and ferocity of D-beat acts like Discharge and Anti-Cimex. “Shoah” and “Promised Land” both feature blistering guitar solos in the tradition of Vinnie Stigma and Greg Ginn that favor attitude over technical skill. The screaming guitar solos really add to the frantic and chaotic nature of the songs.
Chaos is exactly what this record wishes to convey lyrically too. The album opens with a track called “Endless Pain” which features an ever growing compilation of clips from the cable news discussing the state of politics especially as it pertains to the band’s native Long Island before going into “Their New Aesthetic,” a song decrying the way corporations exploit and control people through social media in the digital age and then the next song “One In The Mirror” goes on to reject the types of things people use it to complain about. The political outrage continues on tracks like “Two On Every Corner” where The Fight rages against police brutality and attempts by the government to turn the US into a police state. They also speak to a growing disillusionment with our system by the youth and the young adult population on “The Clenched Fist of Human Greed” where they reject a life of working to death for another person’s profit. The chorus of “The Clenched Fist of human greed, smashing hopes and dreams!” really drives home the song’s point about us living in a dehumanizing system. But the song that connected with me the most had to be “Promised Land,” a song where The Fight takes on the recent wave of nativism. As someone who comes from an immigrant family, particularly one of Hispanic heritage, hearing these guys denounce the “build the wall” attitude that prevails on Long Island and in the US as a whole, including an unfortunate number of people in the hardcore scene, that have resulted in so many people, including children, being imprisoned and abused, personally meant a lot to me. I think it was an important stance to take in the interest of unity in this time of division. The album closes with the anti-fascist rager “Shoah,” which tells a harrowing story of survival in the midst of a genocide… very likely The Holocaust. The Fight’s commitment to maintaining hardcore’s political roots is what I think cements them as a band that truly cares about hardcore as a subculture and not a band that just wants to relive a bygone era of music. However, I think the hardest hitting song lyrically for most people will be “Counting Days.” The song’s lyrics are about losing loved ones to disease and being all alone in this world take on a new meaning with the record’s release at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, The Fight have done what few throwback bands care to do, and updated this sound for modern times. They amped up the aggression, the noise, the political outrage and their lyrical game to create one of the most cathartic listening experiences I’ve had this year so far! They took every single thing they do as a band and brought it to the next level. At approximately 16 minutes, it’s their longest record to date, but it doesn’t slow down or let up for a second. One of the most pissed off records of 2020, and one that I highly recommend listening to!
NOT LIKE YOU PHOTO ISSUE #3 (Released March, 2020)
Not Like You, the zine (and record label) based out of the ABQ (science bitch!) chug along with their third photo issue. Not Like You's contributions to the underground music scene do not go unnoticed by these eyes especially when you factor in over 30 music releases and 7 issues of their "regular" zine. Photo issue #3 is a half sized zine with 40 total pages. The front and back covers are full color and within are 36 black and white shots that include bands like: H2O, Faction, MDC, Youth Of Today, Avail, Agent Orange, Lifetime, Ignite, Gorilla Biscuits, Madball, Cro-Mags, Suicidal Tendencies and a bunch more... all which seem pretty recent and all from the camera of Mike Not Like which gives this issue kind of a diary or memoirs type of feel despite this issue being about 99% photos. “New Jersey transplant scours the Southwest region of the USA in search of authentic hardcore punk” would make for a good headline to announce issue 3. I am not the biggest fan of photo issue zines but as far as photo issues go this is well worth the 3 bucks plus shipping that they are asking. Hit ‘em up HERE to snag a copy today.
CROSS CONTROL “OUTRAGE CULTURE” EP
(New Age Records, Released December, 2019)
Listen up Los Angelinos. Hear this my Left Coast brethren. Wait a minute. First of all, take a few fucking steps back. Social distancing motherfuckers. I don't want your ick. I digress, ...ahem...There be a great fast hardcore band amongst you West Coasters. This band being Cross Control. Homeboys just recorded this 7" for New Age Records which, of course, is like hallowed ground for hardcore bands with their history and catalog etc. We are talking the likes of Outspoken, Trial and the incomparable Turning Point. This is a band of seasoned hardcore "kids" who only recently came together but when they did, something obviously clicked and music started flowing. So let’s get to those tunes before it's too late and the coronapocalypse takes us all.
Cross Control offer us six cuts on this slab of wax running about 11 minutes and some change. The first song is the titular cut and probably my favorite, "Outrage Culture" at 1:55. This tune starts off with a march riff but then explodes into a hardcore gallop and the piss and vinegar starts flowing. I mean who can't relate to this song. Nowadays it's like all of us wake up and check our favorite news site to find out what we are supposed to be pissed off about that day... and that may make me sound old, but I am. So suck my wrinkled old balls. As a society we now enjoy engaging in digital lynchings on the regular and we all love hiding behind our keyboards and screen and talking mad shit. Yup. "You're outraged for the sake of it". Spot on. Feedback followed by a guitar riff usher in "No Plan" running 1:30. We all know those people. This song contains a sweet breakdown that will leave the kiddies sweaty in the pits literally and figuratively. "Dear John" clocking in at 1:59 is a quick chugging tune with some nice buzz saw guitar down in the mix. There is a stern message here so listen up you shitheads.
Side two kicks off with "Self Reliance", the shortest cut at 1:16. I like the vocal effects used on this one as well as the snare work. This is a good core tune. "Choose Death" runs the lengthy by comparison 2:43. This is a back and forth hardcore tune with excellent bass work. This one has a great breakdown at about 1:40 that will have the folks doing that skanking thing they love so much. The final song is "Imaginary Conflict". The epic running 2:47. Bass and drums introduce this cautionary tale which contains the insightful refrain "Your ego is fucking with you". I mean don't we all know someone just like Vince is talking about? I know I do. A solid way to end this debut 7”. So there you have it you germ infested maggots. Cross Control are fast and tight. All the players play well and Vince delivers the goods vocally. It's a nice slab of core to expand your collection as it comes on nice colors and all that fucking jazz. Cross Control are not breaking any new ground but who gives two shits? We love hardcore right? We want hardcore right? This is hardcore pure. Now cover your disgusting mouths when you cough you filthy animals, pack up your fucking basket of Covid-19 and get the FUCK off my lawn. I need to disinfect that shit.
TOO MUCH BEER “CALIFORNIA SMASH”
(Released January, 2020)
It’s always a good feeling to discover new hardcore bands out there. Even if they aren’t all that new, it’s still new to me! The band I’m talking about is Too Much Beer from Escondido, CA. Formed in 2011, when these guys were still in High School (and obviously unconcerned with local drinking ages). This band is on a mission to bring the party to the pit! Having shared the stage with Blacklisted, World of Pain and Luicidal, this band is onto some good things.
They kick off the record with a short intro song entitled, “All You Are”. A quick beatdown song gives you a taste of what’s to come. The next song, “Realize”, is a huge powerhouse of a song. Opening with a slow, heavy guitar riff, the music suddenly drops out and all hell breaks loose! Killer vocals as well on this killer track. The next one, “Used To It”, picks up right where the last one left off. Especially, on the beatdown front! Nothing but fierce beatdown style breakdowns and tight drumming by Julian behind the kit.
Another masterpiece of heaviness is up next on the track, “Give It Time”. This monster of a song showcases singer Marcos’ dynamics quite beautifully. A short monologue by Marcos before the heaviest of all breakdowns pops off. Great pit music! And then the band launches into “Myself”. A mid-paced tempo starts off the track and then it picks back up to circle pit speed when singer Marcos delves into a little bit of self-loathing over here. Another killer track, “California Smash”, throws a bit of catchiness into the mix. They use the same heavy, breakdown formula with a crazy, slow chug ending that showcases Adam’s thunderous bass sound.
“No Reply” sticks to the same formula that has me hooked on their sound. Breakdowns and circle pits all day long! And if you want to get “Down With The Thickness” of the next track, then get ready for more slow-paced stomp music. And finally, the band closes out the disc with the final track, “Manuela”. With super-fast paced riffs provided by Andy and Jesus, this track proves to be the most fun and a great way to end the record.
Bottom line here is if you like fast-paced hardcore punk with a nice beat down style, then you need this in your life.
BARFIGHT CHAMPS “OUTSIDE OF THE LAW”
(To The Point Records, Released March, 2020)
The world as we know it is going through some hard times at the moment and the hardcore punk scene (much like elsewhere) is being hit hard with gig cancellations. All we can do right now from a “support the scene” standpoint is support these bands by buying merchandise and provide some needed PMA to each other. Fortunately the flip side of being pretty much trapped indoors allows a golden opportunity for bands to write some new music and for us fans to find new bands/releases to listen to. One such band to check out is Boston's Barfight Champs. Formed in 2016 BFC consists of members from a variety of bands such as Death Before Dishonor, Back of Tha Neck and Scars Of Deceit. BFC play a tight knit blend of Oi!, hardcore and punk which is exactly what you will hear on their recently released new album titled “Outside Of The Law”. Believe me this is just what the doctor ordered to take your mind off of the madness that currently surrounds us. Band members Frankie Chairs-vocals; Mikey Healey- guitar; Nick McLean-guitar; Matt Poulos-bass and Dan Loftus-drums have created 10 amazing songs that are reminiscent of such greats as Cock Sparrer and The Last Resort, while also adding their own punk and hardcore flavor. The lyrics are true stories that bring the listener into the roughness that can be life in the Boston scene. Tackling such issues as fighting outsiders in “Boston Drunken Night”, the downfalls due to “Gentrification” and the self-explanatory “Methadone Mile” all make for great, pissed off sing-a-long anthems. I had to listen to “Outside Of The Law” several times before I could pick out a few tracks that I could honestly say stood out as favorites and ended up with three: the title track; “Outside Of The Law”, “Fallen Angels” and “Riot” (a great job covering The Oppressed). With such a rich history of bands coming from the underground Boston scene I have to say that Barfight Champs continue to be one of my favorites and this release only solidifies my decision even more. I am excited for the band because I believe “Outside Of The Law” is going to be well received… besides who can resist a band whose interests include "booze, drugs, fighting, hot ham and vagina"? Check out the music video for the title track HERE and if you like what you see and hear you can get the rest of the album on SPOTIFY, APPLE MUSIC or YOU TUBE or buy the CD through To The Point Records HERE.
CHOICES MADE “CONVINCE” (Released February, 2020)
Toronto Canada… home of the famous CN Tower, Lake Ontario, one of the original 6 NHL hockey clubs and the pissed off hardcore punk that is currently being churned out by Choices Made who come to us with their brand new release that came out only a few weeks back. This 5 track EP delivers straight up old-school style hardcore-punk with melody and anger! "Holier-Than-Thou" gets straight to the point with a no-nonsense, up tempo, and in your face effort. This lead track has some nice twists coupled with some great “shout-a-longs”. The production is crisp and the sound is full on as the band just sounds super tight! The title track "Convince" kicks off with some sick bass before the band rage at full speed. Choices Made have a distinct live feel about them and if you love bands such as Sick Of It All or Good Riddance then you know where I am coming from… they have even shared a stage with bands such as Ignite which for me shows a good pedigree. "Safety First" is the shortest song on the EP at just 43 seconds long (or short depending on how you look at it?) and is a razor sharp and pissed off attack that is just straight to the point! "Justify" offers a more mid-paced tempo, methodical, cold and calculating, I feel that this song will be killer for the pit. The final song "Nervous Breakdown" ends on a high with a nice rendition of the punk rock classic by Black Flag. This EP gave me a good first impression on what Choices Made are all about and hopefully the future sees them putting out more music like the “Convince” EP. Check these guys out… they also have a 3 track EP prior to this release too!
CRO-MAGS “THE QUARANTINE SHOW” LIVE @ SIR STUDIOS, NYC MARCH 15, 2020
With the COVID-19 virus fucking up people’s lives across the globe Harley Flanagan and the CRO-MAGS took to the internet to pump out a 45 minute live set filled with everything from old classics to unreleased material. With their scheduled show with Ice T’s Body Count cancelled at Webster Hall the Cro-Mags took over SIR Studios on NYC’s west side just a few minutes past 7pm (EST) opening with “We Gotta Know” before dropping in more oldies like “World Peace” and “Show You No Mercy” which had a little Suicidal Tendencies “War Inside My Head” outro played by the iconic Rocky George who was one half of the guitar team on this night. Joe Affe (Maximum Penalty) was on the second guitar with Gary “G-Man” Sullivan on drums. “No One’s Victim” was one of the new tracks played here along with another one titled “Don’t Talk About It” which seems to be a personal one as Harley did a stare down into the camera while telling the audience what it was about. “Street Justice”, “Death Camps”, and “Hard Times” all popped up in the set list as well. The lighting at first was a little dark but quickly improved about 4 songs in where things became much clearer and easier to watch. The studio they played in seemed huge and the camera work was excellent as they jumped around to each member of the band throughout the set. Watching off of Facebook live was a bit of a trip as well as you could read everyone’s comments (predominantly positive) throughout the entire set and according to the counter on the top left of the screen they had a high watermark of 1.9 thousand viewers. With hearing and reading a lot of negative shit from around the world for the last few days this was a really positive way to close out the weekend. Watching hardcore shows on my couch is obviously not the way I want to go moving forward but considering the current situation on planet Earth I think the majority of us who tuned in left with a little smile on our faces or at the very least some sort of uplifting feeling. Thank you Cro-Mags!
TREASON “TRUE BELIEVERS”
(NEW AGE RECORDS, RELEASED MARCH, 2020)
Feeling down? Not sure why you got up today? We all need a reminder of why we fight the good fight sometimes. Hardcore music is that nudge to keep going for a lot of people, and Cincinnati's Treason are happy to oblige in kicking the ass of whatever is harshing your PMA today. “True Believers” is the band's second EP and follow up to 2017's “No One is Safe”. Treason wear their influences on their sleeves as a straight edge band, faultless hammering out Gorilla Biscuits solos and building up outrageous Terror grooves on multiple occasions. That said, there are no warning signs on the label that will tip you off as to how heavy this “True Believers” gets at times. It can be like showing up to a knife fight with a 12-inch ruler in hand. Consider yourself officially forewarned and take appropriate protective measures.
It must be the Midwest in these guys from drinking all of that Great Lakes water tainted with the rust of perpetual industrial decline, because that brings what is otherwise a straightforward NYC hardcore record into the orbit of groups like Integrity and Ringworm. This EP is so heavy that it would get fined coming down the interstate for carrying an oversized load without permits. Except for any cop that pulled it over would regret it for years afterward, assuming he survived to report back to his precinct captain. Treason is like Leeway jacked up on whatever supplements Hatebreed was juicing when they recorded “Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire”. "True Believers" opens with a feed-back squall led breakdown that I would wholly expect from an Earache Records aping death metal band, but once the shredding leads kick-in, the crossover certified are revealed and pulverizing punk rock monster is born. "We Are Against" has similar death-thrash qualities with a more consistently vicious groove and breakdown dynamic, a facet that points to Treason's tutelage in the school of Madball, while revealing a not so subtle notepad full of Morbid Angel riffs tucked away in their back pocket. "N.O.I.S.(E)." screams into double-time riffs that discharge across the brow in a hail of sonic bullets, that will cause the listener to dive for cover in the refuge in the sludgey breakdown that opens up near the end like an oasis, but which only seems to get thicker and deeper the more one struggles against its gooey grip. There are even hints of post-hardcore such as the reverb vault opener of "Please Believe" which flips on a dime into tight, bludgeoning grooves, reminiscent power-violence acts like Harm's Way.
You'd expect with this many influences flowing into Treason from extreme metal, that the lyrics would mostly concern poltergeists, hellish abstractions, or at least, deep existential dread, but they don't. There are some lines that tip the scales a bit towards the gruesome, but for the most part, the message the band is attempting to convey is a positive one. Believing in one's own power and the strength we share when we come together. That's straight-edge hardcore 101, and I'm loving that it's served up with such a bevy of heavy, tangy riffage. If there is any doubt that hardcore pride is still alive, or that somebody is still fanning the flame of its faith, let Treason be the dispeller of doubts.
CRIME PAYS (LIVE) CORAM, NY MARCH 7, 2020
This was billed as the Cause & Effect Art Show and was held in a basement underneath a strip mall out in the Suffolk County town on Coram. Rolling up to the address I only noticed a pizzeria, a nail salon and a movie theater with no signs of any type of show or any storefront that would even possibly host a show… so after some further investigation I was told to "go 'round back" and that's where I found probably a few hundred people in a dark parking lot with a doorway to what was obviously the entrance to this show. On the way in I saw a bunch of artwork (much of it graffiti inspired) displayed and an area set up for tattoos (which was actually part of the nail salon called Sai Gon Spa Tattoo). On the way down to the basement the smell of paint was everywhere and when I got down the stairs I could tell why as this huge dark room was covered with graffiti and also had vendor tables with a variety of things for sale including band shirts, jewelry, honey, oils, and one table with old NYHC show flyers framed (and for sale). There was a DJ set up right next to the stage mixing bands like H20 and Madball in with hip-hop stuff. If you wanted to make a movie where a bunch of hardcore and punk kids get wasted by a random zombie ambush this was the perfect setting.
CRIME PAYS are a new four piece who got their start in 2019. They have members from various parts of Long Island with Mike Rubino being a familiar face on vocals. Mike was the frontman for both Tension* and 1776 and brings an anticipation factor into the fold as many (like myself) wanted to see if this new band could bring the same kind of ruckus. Crime Pays went on a little after 10pm and played about a 20 minute set to a crowd of about 150 people. The barely lit room made it really hard to see the band and the PA was not doing any favors either but the sound from the guitar, bass and drums sounded fine. The X factor here was the fact that Crime Pays absolutely went off like a bunch of lunatics and a good portion of the crowd followed suit for much of their set. A single for the song "Divide & Conquer" came out a few days ago and carries the torch of that heavy mid-90's style of hardcore. For this only being their second show (and an EP on the way on March 31st) Crime Pays definitely caught our attention with their short, powerful set. Things didn't necessarily end after their set though as right after they finished playing and started breaking down their equipment someone got into an argument with one of the events promoters and clocked him right in the face. Absolutely no idea what it was about but about a minute later the same guy who got hit made an announcement that someone called the police and the show was being shut down. Scheduled to follow Crime Pays was a local hip-hop collective known as Ancient Tongue. Out in the parking lot (with no signs of any police) In Effect did a quick interview with Crime Pays which will be coming to the Fresh Blood section of this site in the coming weeks. On the way back home we stopped in to Amityville Music Hall to catch the last two songs by Murphy's Law who were playing with The Last Stand, The Nihilistics and Leeway to cap off the night. -CW
FIRST IN LINE “WAKE UP” EP (Released 2019)
First In Line are a classic, old-school hardcore band from Linkoping, Sweden and have been at it for a number of years. The band claims this outing is angrier, more political and better sounding than their previous works and after listening to it, I’d have to agree.
From the opening track, the band starts out full throttle and doesn’t let up for a second. I don’t believe the singer even takes time to catch his breath before belting out the next track. This is music I can sink my teeth into.
“They Trick You” opens this hardcore assault with a 90’s hardcore sound and instantly grabs your attention. With thrashy riffs, intense drumming and a pissed off singer you can only love this band from the start. Without missing a beat, they burst into the title track, “Wake Up”, the fastest track on this download and my personal favorite. I tried to sing along to it but even I can’t sing that fast.
Of the remaining five great tracks, “Die” is another standout track I really liked. The lyrics are relatable and a song I could listen to on a daily basis.
First In Line deliver when they state it’s angry, political and great sounding. There is not one weak song on this release. Every track is fast, explosive and stays true to the hardcore sound. If you appreciate your hardcore extra fast then download “Wake Up” below. You will thank me later. I only hope this gets released on CD or 7” in the near future.
GUERRA DE CERDOS “ITT KORPS” EP
(Released October, 2019)
Guerra de Cerdos comes to us from Buenos Aires and formed in 2013. They have released two LP’s and four EP’s. The lyrics are not in English but once you have listened to it, you won’t care what language their singing in because these guys kick ass.
“ITT Korps” grabs your attention from the get go starting with the title track. The opening instrumental build-up reminds you of an early crossover thrash intro before exploding into a song worthy of a crazy and intense circle pit. The vocals are strong and furious and blend well with the fast playing style of the band. Before you can catch your breath and say “These guys kick ass” they blast into the second track, “Ciudad Arnold” without warning. I must have played this track about ten times before I wrote about it; it’s that fast and forceful. Even the vocals are crazy high-speed and full of ferocity.
The tone of this EP changes drastically when “El Pais de Macri”, the third song kicks in. Although a good song, it seems a bit out of place on here. It sounds as if it was recorded at a different time or in another studio.
“Pato Trabaja en una Camiceria” finishes up this record. The song has an early thrash sounding riff and I found myself banging my head to it. The vocals on this one remind me of Joe Morbidelli of Dead By Wednesday which isn’t a bad thing.
I enjoyed reviewing this EP. It grows on me the more I listen to it. Guerra de Cerdos are diversified musically, combining hardcore, thrash and punk elements into their sound. Even though I don’t know the language they’re singing in, they still hooked me like any other new band I get introduced to that I immediately like. Available for the “name your price” option at the link below. Check it out!
FIXATION "PROMO 2020" (Released February 2020)
Philly's Fixation are back after about a 9 month swing since their last official release and this time around they do things with a new singer who brings a more screamo type of vocal style as compared to what the old dude brought to the table. Wyatt Oberholzer is the new frontman and is far from a stranger with his new bandmates as he has recorded every track this band has done since their start in 2017 as well as filling in on bass for them at times too (Wyatt also plays bass in Chemical Fix).
"Dissoociative Identity Disorder" leads off with a simple but ominous guitar tone that leads into a nice build before Fixation delivers one of those classic mid-paced and choppy hardcore intros that more often than not gets mosh pits all riled up. After the intro Wyatt delivers a depressing message about this disorder that ends with "I'm not supposed to be here, I wasn't meant to belong...". At 2:35 this is Fixation's longest song to date and also the best one on this short little nugget of hardcore goodness.
"Black Clouds" is up next and continues with more dark tones like the opening line of "Alive, though every day gets a little bit darker". This track starts off blistering fast before slowing down towards the end with a nice breakdown. "Promo 2020" has a grimy "city garbage truck on a 90 degree day" type of feel to it when you listen to it... this band does not reinvent the old-school NYHC influenced type of music they play but succeed primarily by writing songs that are from the heart and it shows. Bands like Time & Pressure out of Saint Louis and Baltimore's End It are other examples of newer school bands that don't necessarily deviate from traditional hardcore stylings while delivering memorable hardcore that you want to listen to over and over.
"Toledo" ends with more downer lyrics that surround drug abuse with depressing lyrics like "All of the kids I knew, they've all been fucking dying" as well as "lt's so hard to find your place in a world that doesn't want you". Fixation is not for those looking for posi-messages, PMA and for up lifting lyrics that are going to inspire. Fixation is raw, seemingly non-apologetic in their message and flat out a throw-back type of hardcore band… one that could resonate with the new school crowd as well as for gramps-core scene veterans who have not purchased a new record since “Set It Off” dropped in ’94. Available for streaming or the ever popular “name your price’ option on their Bandcamp page. Click that link below to give it a shot.
KINGS NEVER DIE “RAISE A GLASS” EP
(Upstate Records, Released February, 2020)
When you put 5 people in a room who have represented some of the best hardcore bands you can bet that some magic will be created. Case in point, Kings never Die who are a newly formed band (late 2018) coming from NY and NJ consisting of members Dylan Gadino (Robots & Monsters) –vocals, Larry Nieroda (Murphy’s Law/Stigma) – guitar, Dan Natasi (Dog Eat Dog, Mucky Pup)- guitars, Jay Kaflin (Sub-Zero, Son Of Sam)- bass and Steve Gallo (Agnostic Front, Inhuman, Bile)- drums. Although this group of talent brings a flare of sound from their respected bands, KND have brought forth the fore mentioned magic in a way that guitarist and founding member Natasi states is a "much harder punk rock, hardcore style". The band's debut release is a 4 song EP titled “Raise A Glass”, which is a definite for fans of guitar laden, groove oriented, in your face hardcore. Track 1: “Before My Time” sets the perfect mood for the rest of the EP. Starting off with a slow infectious groove followed by the bass line that sends everything into high gear. Gadino brings his hard but crystal clear vocals to complete the equation. I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of vocal styles that are clear allowing me to hear the message which is a perfect introduction into track 2: “Never Know What You Will Find”. This song has a great but simple message about the often darker side of life which is clearly broadcast in the lines "out here the weak get eaten alive, this shit goes down in the drop of a dime". Track 3 is a good ol' fashioned Oi! inspired sing long titled “Raise A Glass”. And if the song wasn't already cool enough, having two of hardcore's greatest guys: The Godfather of Hardcore Mr. Vinny Stigma and MIke Gallo (also from the mighty AF) helping out with vocal duties puts the cherry on top of an already bad ass tune. The final track to finish off this impressive EP is called “The Juice” and it is a perfect showcase of what KND is all about. Showcasing their own style of heaviness and talent with another simple message "We got the power, you know it's true". Well one thing that is definitely true is that “Raise A Glass” is a release that is going to get people talking. I will use the term my 9 year old uses to describe something he likes: "It’s Fire!” Give a listen to this release and catch Kings Never Die on tour when they roll into your town!
SLOW JAMS “HEAVY BLUES” EP
(5 Feet Under Records, Released February, 2020)
Coming all the way from Berlin, Germany are Slow Jams, formed in late 2017. The band already have a 9 track release called "To The Bone"- a blistering effort, short, fast and very ugly, they have even opened up gigs for bands such as Leeway and Slapshot for example, pretty impressive stuff considering they are relatively new. Fast forward to 2020 and they have now released a 4 track single, a contrast to their earlier release, this time oozing heavier, groovier riffs that reinvent their style without being stereotypical but without losing their charm of up tempo nostalgic aggression when needed. This release adds another dimension to their world that keeps them sounding fresh and relevant without becoming cliché’. The opening song "Determined Law" wastes no time in launching its audible assault, vocalist Bruno screaming hatred from the word go, the song itself has some interesting twists and turns… combine that with monstrous power from the rest of the band and the result is a statement of intent. "Griefcase" cuts like a knife, if you are familiar with bands such as Drug Church, Turnstile, Ghost Of A Thousand, Gallows, Every Time I Die then you have a good idea of what to expect, the production is fantastic, complementing the bands style, loud and proud. "Reanimator" has great song structure and has that instant live appeal whilst the final track "Body Fidelty" starts off very moody and mid paced, with bassist Stefan and drummer Jan powering together in perfect unison. Personally I would recommend getting both the earlier "To The Bone" release and this 7" release too so you can capture where the band comes from and where they are at in this point in their short history.
DEAD MANS CHEST “DEAR GOD” EP
(Upstate Records, Release Date February 28, 2020)
London's Dead Man's Chest is not a band that buries the lead in terms of influences. If you couldn't tell that they like Hatebreed and Slayer from the opening riff of their new double-single “Dear God” it's because you were either doing a handstand in a toilet while listening to it, or you just don't listen to that much metal. In either case, you should probably reassess your priorities in life (or at least find a better way of washing your hair). Mallet to the melon, blunt force beat down with a thrashy churn is the band's preferred recipe for destruction, but on “Dear God” we can now taste something new in the mix. It's like someone threw a handful of buckshot into your Ma's spaghetti, and you won't have to roll it around on your tongue too long to figure out what's been added. The extra iron in the mix is due to the band's wholehearted embrace of death metal for this release, and it seriously gives their sound that extra push of hollow-pointed penetration you didn't realize it needed. “Dear God” follows the release of a Bolt Thrower single earlier in the year, and the influence of these UK death-dealer's curb-stomping, crusty churn can be felt in the grooves and rough and rowdy guitar solos that rip through the midsections of these tracks like a saber across a sailor's stomach with devastating results. If the band can keep up this level of intensity headed into their next full-length release there is really no limit to the depths of brutality they can achieve.
TOUCH "THE DARKNESS REFLECTS"
(Version City Blues & 9Lies, Released December, 2019)
Touch are a five piece hardcore band out of Budapest, Hungary. We have had them on our radar for a little while now and even had them featured on our Fresh Blood page for newer bands back in 2017. Since that time they have put out their debut full length titled “The Darkness Reflects” which you can stream or download at the usual places or dig a little deeper and find the 12” vinyl version if that’s you cup of tea.
What initially grabbed me a few years back is the fact that Touch has an overall unique feel to them and that feeling continues on with their latest effort which is 9 songs in a little over 20 minutes of run time. From their band name, to the cover artwork and even their sound… Touch is far from being just another Neander-Core clone set to wreak havoc in underground mosh pits. I would jokingly say that Touch are more of a “thinking man’s” (or woman’s) type of hardcore band. A little more sophisticated and smart but still with that undeniable bite that makes them hardcore. After listening to this on more than a few occasions I would guess if you were into bands like Underdog, Bane, and Burn, and then sprinkle in some of those really nice old-school DC types of sounds Touch just might be the type of band you are looking for. “Retrospection” charges out of the gate followed by another burner in “Stalemate”… this one-two punch starts off this record red hot displaying the influences listed a couple of sentences back. Having never seen Touch live and in person I get the feeling that they would be the type of band that you see open a show, a band that you probably have never even heard before and as their set moves along you find yourself moving closer to the stage, you notice others getting closer too as the applause builds after each well executed song and before you know it you are a fan. Track four “Spread Of Lies” and track six titled “Ascendancy” were two more tracks that stood out above the rest for me with catchy and memorable hooks. With all the nice things I just said about Touch and this record there were however some tracks that kind of just got by and were serviceable but didn’t have the type of staying power as the ones I alluded to earlier. The title track which is a two plus minute instrumental falls into this category as well as the final three tracks that send “The Darkness Reflects” off on a dull note. When I write these reviews I sometimes have to ask myself “did you WANT to listen to this record or did you HAVE to listen to this record” and my feelings here are split. As a four or five song EP perhaps I would be all over this telling you once again that Touch are a band that you must check out. Finding myself consistently skipping over a few of the tracks on this record was a bit of a head check to not just gush over a band because I have enjoyed their previous work. The glass half full side of me says I just got four new Touch songs out of this record adding on to the ones I already previously liked. Click that link below to check it out and decide for yourself.
TYPECASTE “BETWEEN LIFE”
(Flatspot Records, Released February, 2020)
Typecaste is a band known for their non-stop touring and their balls to the wall live shows! They make short fast songs in the hardcore tradition but with plenty of mosh parts for the kids! They’re always on the road, always booking shows and booking tours, starting side projects, these guys don’t know how to stop! Their live shows rarely cracked 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were the most heart pounding and energetic 10 minutes of your life! Their DIY hardcore ethic, their East Coast attitude and their unstoppable passion and energy defines them as a band. So when they debuted a new song live at their recent show with Inclination and announced a new record, I was very excited!
With 4 songs clocking in at 12 minutes it’s just as long as their previous release, “Creature Of Habit” with only about half the songs. But much like “Creature of Habit”, Typecaste wastes no time on this record. Not since Wire has a band been so committed to not wasting time! Every single second of this record is dedicated to rocking your socks off. Typecaste comes out all guns blazing with the opening track “Momento Mori,” a throttling mosh jam but with a few more melodic chords too. The guitars almost remind me of Converge, but Typecaste’s style of riffing remains distinctly theirs. You can hear this influence again on the closing track “Under The Wreath” which also feeds Typecaste’s riffing style through some very Converge-esque chord voicings and atypical drum patterns that are more befitting of a mathcore band than your average hardcore band. It also features some clean vocals that are very well performed and add to the metalcore vibe of this track, with lyrics about a longing to be loved that are interestingly optimistic in comparison to the rest of the record’s lyrics about depression, isolation and emptiness. I think overall, this record is about a longing for something better when you’re in a situation that forces you all the way down to rock bottom. Considering Typecaste’s endless touring schedule, often on tours they booked themselves, it could speak to a longing to better oneself and find success as a reaction against a world that just wants you to give up and fail.
The second to last track, “Hypnagogic Hallucination” caught my ear with its noisey Helmet-esque guitar intro. It leads into some heavy riffs and off-beat drums behind its verses about escapist fantasy in a way that I can only describe as “uniquely Typecaste”. This song more than the other 3 feels like a song that could’ve been on “Creature Of Habit”, but with some other elements and influences that expanded the band’s palette of sounds. Finally, the lead single from this record, “Traverse” features a series of oddly timed mosh parts that build up to an explosion of guitar, bass, cymbals and double bass that sounds like a machine gun raining down hellfire upon the listener! The closing breakdown on this track is a heavy, very Long Island sounding slam fest guaranteed to make any self-respecting hardcore kid move their feet!
I think the last thing worth noting is that Typecaste really expanded a particular element of their sound on this record, and that would be the vocals. Typecaste really makes use of their dual vocalists, between lead vocalist Dylan Carlo’s mid to low register growls and bassist Joey Chiaramonte’s high pitched shrieks. They feature Joey’s vocals a lot more on this record than the last, though I would say Dylan is still indisputably their lead vocalist, and having these two distinct voices allows them to create interesting dynamics that set their sound apart from other hardcore bands. The addition of clean vocals on “Under The Wreath” adds some variety to their vocal style as a band as well. Considering how much more focused on the frontman hardcore is than any other genre, having this level of personality is very important and Typecaste nails it every time!
Overall, Typecaste really expanded their sound on this EP and brought a unique sound that I haven’t heard from any other band. While I heard a few familiar ideas here and there, the main thing I hear on this EP is Typecaste. Typecaste has wasted no time in establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with, and on this EP, they wasted no time in carving out a niche for themselves! I think they’re taking things in an interesting direction and that they showed they have real staying power in the scene and I’m excited to see where this goes!
CHOICE TO MAKE “VICIOUS EXISTENCE”
(Flatspot Records, Release Date, February 14, 2020)
Hailing from Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, Choice To Make, is making their mark in 2020 with a message. Coming out on February 14th, their new EP “Vicious Existence”, is set to leave a mark on the hardcore scene for some time. Formed in 2018, this band features current and former members of bands such as Strength For A Reason, One Step Closer, and Worn. The first song, “Disconnect”, opens with a funky 70’s introduction that quickly launches into a barrage of fast paced hardcore. Their style is a crisp and clean 90’s straight edge sound that is a cross between Youth Of Today and Leeway. Fast choruses, good dance parts and a sick breakdown are well displayed on this opening track. “What is it that you miss?”, inquires vocalist, Nate Preschutti whose deep lyrical messages and vocal abilities stay right in line with that 90’s straight edge style. The next song, “Fifty Nine”, is another eye-opening song about dealing justice to pedophiles. Beginning with a drum roll, the song quickly escalates. Excellent double bass drumming on this track and a creepy crawl breakdown add well to the mix. A guitar solo and an abrupt ending hit the spot, too.
Coming in at under a minute, “Who Decides?”, the third song off this release, is a total burst of raw energy. A fast verse and an extended breakdown were two highlights of the song. “Midtro”, the next track is another memorable part of this record. This instrumental track starts with a cool, dueling guitar introduction before drums and the rest jump into the mix. A nice build-up to a quick ending, and this track became a solid addition to this release. “Vicious Existence”, this EP’s title track is as solid of a hardcore song as you can get. Wasting no time, the guitars, bass, drums and vocals come at you all at once. Following the same formula, Choice To Make take you back to the early 90’s and beyond! The final song on the EP, “June”, is the newly released single by the band. This track, named after the singer’s grandmother, is a deep song about living for today. With the best breakdown on the album and the incredible “stomp” feel, this song quickly became my album favorite. In this day and age, where we all can easily get caught up in our own negativity, this song is a reminder to forget about the past, don’t worry about the future and just “live in the moment”, as grandma would say!
DOWNPRESSER “THE LONG GOODBYE”
(Close Casket Activities, Released December, 2019)
“The Long Goodbye” comes a full six years after Downpresser’s debut LP, “Don’t Need A Reason”. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from the band, and it would have been fair to believe that they had disbanded, or retreated to a bunker somewhere in the ridges surrounding Santa Barbara possibly to preform highly unethical, but somehow legal, Vault-Tec style experiments. These assumptions are clearly inaccurate, and as much, unfair at least the accusation that the band has given up or fallen out of the normal orbit of the hardcore scene. I have not been able to verify whether or not they’ve been breeding super mutants in them there hills. Undeniably, Downpresser is one of those band’s that isn’t going to do something unless they’re going to do it right. Between day jobs, family, and living in different cities- spare time for writing and recording (let alone rehearsal) is a precious commodity, but when they find he time for such things, they clearly make it count. I for one am extremely glad that the band works on their own time because it means that we only hear from them when they’ve had a chance to chisel something into shape that’s worth hearing. And “The Long Goodbye” IS worth hearing.
“The Long Goodbye” is a cleaner, tighter, and a more willful exhibition of ruthless intent than its predecessor. Sure, you still get those round-housing metallic Marauder riffs, the Leeway pivot-and-punish grooves, and that quicksand-like sense of creeping inertia that Biohazard's working class, dead-end thrash always captured. But “The Long Goodbye” doesn't brood the way “Don't Need A Reason” did. It doesn't elicit the same air of doom and finality. Instead, “The Long Goodbye” is surprisingly swift and nimble. On this album the band moves like they just came back from a tune-up, with an emulsified sheen of cold, steely menace that betrays a fresh momentum and forcefulness that can't be accounted for by a few tightened screws and a fresh coat of paint. The album opens with the tumbling scrum-slip of "The Long Goodbye" that piles killer riff a-top riff, stacking them like bullet-riddled goons in a John Wick film, next "Death Instinct" takes a cannon fire rhythm and bends the volleys with a cleaving Biohazard groove, and "Born to Be" starts with a sheer vertical take-off, like an attack helicopter armed with metallic hardcore tipped ballistics and manned by a crew of mad-dog gang-vocalists. Other inspired moments can be found on the Killing Time meets Crowbar knuckle-duster "Think Twice," and cuts like "Two Stood Last" which takes an acid warped guitar line and twists it around a spit-fire beat with the clearing power of a mounted M-60. Later the anti-corporate sputter-crush of "Right To Profit" takes a bite out of the prevailing payout-over-people paradigm of the 21st century, and the fence-hopping adrenaline spike of "Turn The Screw" plays like it's on the run from the law with a K-9 unit snapping at its heels. If “Don't Need A Reason” was the take-no-shit night watchperson of a junk-yard, sulking, drinking and brooding through her shift, than “The Long Goodbye” is that same lumpen hoi polloi, a week after being mauled by a werewolf, and in the presence of a full moon. Faster, toothier, and preternaturally vicious. Check the title track link below or catch head over to Spotify.
END IT “ONE WAY TRACK” EP
(Flatspot Records, Released January, 2020)
Sitting down to write about "One Way Track", the latest four songs from End It, I was unnerved by the amount of anticipation I had attached to this release. After reviewing the EP for In Effect in 2017, I was then captivated by the two bonus tracks released a few months after, particularly "The Comeback", aka the best song by any band since Billy Club Sandwich - "Turning Point". The black and white promo video for "One Way Track" was so fucking cool and came into my life at the perfect time in November when I had been listening to the Gravediggaz nonstop. (I have since confirmed via Instagram that End It is indeed down with the Gravediggaz.) So I am ecstatic to report to you that "One Way Track" lives up to all expectations and picks up where the 2 bonus tracks left off, with a few twists.
The whole EP is just 5.4 minutes, shorter than some Leeway songs, but packs a lot into that period. It opens with “Hardhead”, which previewed on No Echo and in the aforementioned video snippet, and is just as good as the truncated version in the video would suggest. Less than a minute long, it is followed by the equally brief “HTF” which may inspire spinkicks midway through. “Lifers”, track 3, draws the most from End It’s namesake Neglect, perhaps more so than any songs prior, though the beginning reminds me more of Murder Weapon. But the fourth and final song, title track “One Way Track”, is the wildest and best song offered here. Starting out with a pretty straightforward structure of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, it does a wild 180 at the end of the second chorus: "words collide with my boots on your neck, PICK IT UP YOU PUNK MOTHERFUCKERS!" then drops into a bass part similar to the opening riff of Sheer Terror – “Walls” and that exudes the magic of when I first saw people moshing at The Dungeon to the break in Blacklisted – “3800”.
My only complaints here are that a) End It missed an opportunity to rhyme something interesting with “swivel” and b) that there are not more songs. Hey man… I want as much End It as possible, like a “Life of Dreams” length End It record. That amount of material may only be in my dreams for now. But despite the fixed direction in the name, “One Way Track” is technically a circle, as after one circuit you immediately want to hit restart and listen to the whole thing all over again.
HOT SHIT ATTITUDE “THE OUTBURST COVERS RECORD” (Blackout! Records, Released January, 2020)
NEW OUTBURST COVERS COMPILATION AVAILABLE NOW ON K-TEL RECORDS! Call 1-800 Out Burst! Actually it is on Blackout! Records, however, Coremin of a certain age probably had one or two or ten K-Tel records in their collection. K-Tel was known mostly as a compilation label featuring whoever was hot at the moment or near hot...or available.
Albums with clever names like "Hit Action" ,"Super Hits", "Hit Machine", and "Hit Explosion". There are hundreds of them and I invite you to go down a discogs.com wormhole. It's a blast. Personally I had several of these LP's which introduced me to the like of Kiss, Blondie, and Alice Cooper but also to all sorts of random shit like Mungo Jerry, Manfred Mann's Earth Band...and an absolute soul crushing rendition of Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs" by none other than Keith Partridge himself, David Cassidy. Most reading this clap trap probably have zero idea what the fuck I am talking about, but whoever designed this comp does. Compilations are good at one thing and that's introducing us to bands we have not yet heard. This Outburst comp is no different but it cheats because we all love those crazy kids from Queen's and their small yet memorable body of work circa the late 80’s. Hopefully that love may cause folks to pick up this comp and find new bands to love paying homage to one of their favorites from the past. Did the world need another comp? Why the fuck not? So indulge me whilst I give a brief rundown of some highlights.
You get twelve tracks of juicy Outburst greatness delivered by some of today's heavy hitters and also by some mugs I aints never heard of. For example, Higher Power from Leeds, England. They do an excellent and honest cover of one of my favorite Outburst tunes, "Misunderstood". I have now checked out Higher Power further and they rock. I can say they are the greatest thing to come out of Leeds... I mean their football squad is crap. So already this comp is spreading the hardcore joy and working its magic, just not for United. Fury I am a little more familiar with. These guys are out of Orange County, the hardcore one, not the chopper one. the one on the left. Fury just kill it through a throat ripping rendition of "No Choice". This is probably... gun to head... my favorite cut on the comp. Fury own it. Another band I like and was happy to see on this is Krimewatch out of NYC. They cover "Think For Yourself' with all the piss and vinegar one would expect from Krimewatch… if one were to expect such things from Krimewatch. It is no frills and perfect. Check this band out. Stand Off are a young group out of the DC scene and they deliver a fuzzy, stomping rendition of "Learn To Care" which could honestly be the best track. Hey, I flip flop, or as my grandma called me "wishy washy". To be honest, most of the songs on here are quite good. They really got me stoked to hear these songs once again. Some folks don't care for cover songs, but I am a sucka for them. That being said the songs are strong.
The greatest thing about Texas… Power Trip do an amazing job with "When Things Go Wrong" and San Diego's, Mizery handle "The Hard Way" like champs. Oh, did I mention the enigmatic and elusive, one person German/Russian hardcore monster Big Boss completely annihilate their version of "Controlled"? Well I should have. My favorite? Another discovery for me was Outskirts, also out of NYC. Outskirts cover "True" and when the intro gets going it's 1989 all over again.... until it's not, and that's when you realize Outskirts own the song. Big nod to the guitar solo. Nice work. I really look forward to hearing more from this band. Maybe this one was my favorite. My grandma warned you. Wild Side are from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Yup, you read that right. You might ask yourself......who the hell is Wild Side? and I would have a light chuckle to myself and mutter the word, exactly, under my breath. Wild Side pull double duty with "SGI/Mission Impossible" and "Outburst (Intro)" and they jam their musical finger into the songs eyes canuckle deep. Really fine covers… probably my favorite.
Someone left the vault open at Rev HQ and allowed Search to escape and contribute a faithful rendition of "Thin Ice" to the comp. I saved my favorite for last. Southern California's, Initiate and their bangin’ cover of "Miles To Go". Damn it was like my youth all over again. This is another band you need to check out. You should check them all out actually and support them if they come around. It's fun to reminisce, but these bands are out there playing now and have great songs of their own as I have come to find from the intrawebs. Go see them live and buy their merch and then you will look good… but you will never look as good or as cool as those Outburst kids did on the cover of their “Miles To Go” EP… so quit trying! Now you punks quiet down and please get the fuck off of my lawn. I asked nicely. Hit that link below to give it a listen!
DIVISION OF MIND s/t LP
(Triple B Records, Released December, 2019)
With the exception of metalcore titans Lamb of God, Richmond, Virginia's biggest names in the hardcore scene are generally very close to the genre’s punk roots. Whether it be scene defining classic names like Avail and Strike Anywhere or more recent up and comers such as Nosebleed, and even some of RVA’s metal names such as GWAR, Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan have sounds and roots in punk. Ever so often, a band breaks the mold and finds a unique sound that sets them apart from the rest of their scene. Today, we’re discussing one such band: Division of Mind!
Division of Mind just dropped their self-titled album at the end of last year and it’s one of 2019’s heaviest hardcore releases. Though it does have many of the fast moments you’d associate with more old-school hardcore punk sounds, they have a darker and nastier guitar tone and vocal sound that kinda reminds me of something you’d hear in a Cursed or a Trap Them song, such as on “D.O.M.”, “E X I T” and “Monomanic”, while tracks like “Auto-Da-Fe” and “Both Sides Of Its Mouth” add a touch of thrashy metal riffing to these parts. But these old school fast parts are interspersed with really heavy, sludgy breakdowns that sound inspired by the slam riffs that tend to define New York and Baltimore’s death metal scenes. My favorite instances have to be the ones that land on “D.O.M.”, “Auto-Da-Fe” and “INST. (Be Ex Dream)”. The guitar tone manages to bring to mind, both the Entombed influenced hardcore of the 2010’s and the sounds of a sludgy mosh-friendly beatdown band simultaneously. The songs “Derealize”, “Death At Work (All Null)” and “End Game” trend into straight up beatdown territory with their focus on delivering some of 2019’s scariest mosh riffs! The band also sees fit to have noise and synth interludes between songs that I feel really enhance the dark atmosphere of the record. And the track “Degenerator” has some ominous reverb drenched spoken word vocals that make it stick out on the record. You can see a variety of influences in Division of Mind, but they always tie it all together into one cohesive sound that’s consistently dark, menacing and angry!
Many people might not see the big deal as DOM isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but I think they make up for it with a raw aggression, a fairly unique take on what they do and a consistently dark tone. They definitely stick out amongst other bands from RVA at the very least. I had some high hopes for this record after listening to their insane demo and seeing them live at the final Back 2 School Jam and I think DOM satisfied my expectations. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes their hardcore with a significant death metal influence and anyone who likes to mosh hard!
CUTTHROAT (LA) “REFLEKT”
(Demons Run Amok, Released January, 2020)
Coming straight out of Los Angeles with their debut EP “Reflekt”, Cutthroat and their grooving hardcore bring a burst of explosive energy on this five tracker. “Reflekt” kicks off with “Trouble” which combines a booming hip-hop feel (a feel that prevails throughout the band’s music) that complements the bouncing hardcore vibe with a ready for the pit shout along and some venomous street-centric lyrical flows and this gets things off to a storming start. From then on, the levels don’t let up and as they slam through the rhythmic “Last Chance” and the bruising snitch shaming malevolence of “Rat”, you can really feel the power of the band’s music and their message.
The sheer highlights from “Reflekt” follow right away at the end of the EP in the form of the last two songs in the berserk Suicidal Tendencies meets Sick Of It All stomp “Drown With Me” (which kicks off with an insane rhythm that continues throughout the track before the vocals kick in) and the triumphant closing track “Never Settle” which has a non-stop groove that ends things on an undeniable high.
Throughout “Reflekt”, the band combines the classic sound of mid-90s NY bands like Merauder, Crown Of Thornz and especially Biohazard (which makes perfect sense as Billy Graziadei is on production duties here and does a good job of capturing the band’s sound as well as featuring on the track “Rat”) with a more LA-centric sound reminiscent of early Downset or Terror to create some high octane hardcore with plenty of vibrant energy. Cutthroat combine these influences with an LA hip-hop attitude to define their own vibe. Both the music and lyrics on “Reflekt” demonstrate that this is a band who don’t and won’t take any shit and are more than happy to unleash their venom on those who deserve it. “Reflekt” is definitely a promising start from Cutthroat and this is a band whose infectious energy will win them more and more fans as word gets out about this release and their raucous live shows. Check it out also on Apple Music & Spotify.
TAKE OFFENSE "KEEP AN EYE OUT"
(Pure Noise Records, Released October, 2019)
Chula Vista CA's Take Offense have been an on again, off again presence in the hardcore music scene for well over a decade now. Their "Tables Will Turn" full length from 2011 was my personal introduction to the band and was followed by other solid releases that showcased influences from So-Cal greats like Suicidal Tendencies and Excel while still managing to get us in that "T.O. Zone" with enough wrinkles, twists and turns to create a sound that was still their own. "Keep An Eye Out" is their latest and their first with Pure Noise Records. I was kind of pumped to get a true full length out of T.O. as they have had a steady flow of EP releases since their last full length came out way back in 2013.
The title track leads things off with a mid-paced head nodder of a track that then picks up the pace about 90 seconds in as we get some straight up Take Offense firepower. Shades of Excel can be heard especially in Anthony Herrera’s vocals with the song slowing back down with a stomp like lead out in the last minute and change. A nice opener but also slightly less edgy in some spots than what you may be used to when holding this up to their previous work.
Tracks two through four…. “Hidden In Plain Sight”, “Internalized” and “Awake In A Dream” is where things take a stylistic turn. With these tracks things move in a more “rock band” or alternative rock type of feel ... a hard style college rock maybe? I don't even know how to definitively define the new approach to be honest. I can say with certainty though that this release has far less of that hardcore grit that we have come to know from Take Offense. These three tracks drag out over 11 or so minutes and in some ways remind me of the post-hardcore thing from the early 90’s where bands also went in more of a rock ‘n roll direction. I understand bands growing, getting older, broadening their horizons, wanting a new infusion of whatever but in the case of “Keep An Eye Out”… these songs are just not very memorable. "Above No One” and “Guilt Free” are two tracks later on in the album that have more of the “old way” type of style but then the album wraps up with three more that go in the new direction to close out this album.
"Keep An Eye Out” though will probably still have its backers. Leeway put out “Adult Crash” in 1994 which also went in more of a alt-rock direction… their “Desperate Measures” album from just three years earlier is still considered by many to be an all-time great NYHC classic. Their fanbase pretty much flipped out but in the end the majority of these bands write these songs for themselves and if their fanbases like what they are putting out then all the better. I gave this album a bunch of chances and even let a few weeks go by before doing this finalized version of this review… and the elapsed time solidified the fact that this is (unfortunately) a hard pass for me.
MEGAMOUTH “2019 PROMO”
(Released November, 2019)
From the depths of the underworld that fuses metal riffs with hardcore punk tempos comes a two song promotional EP from Megamouth. Hailing from Western New York, Buffalo some six hours and change from the Lower East Side where hardcore punk chemicals were spilled creating east coast brand crossover, noise, straight edge and post prototypes of the genre - with this new EP Megamouth wave the aerosol painted NYHC flag.
Opening with “Comeback” - a mosh pit basher - the riff in a cool stylistic move fade-in guitars that go from a muffled sound to a loud in your face fuzz distortion that manages to recreate the effect of walking into a darken club right at the point of frenzy as the static in the air materializes into wild force on the stage and in the crowd. A slow brooding tribal beat gives the riff to “Comeback” some meat to it as guitarists and vocalists Ryan and Angelo trade off in dueling vocals. As the track pops off with a steady beat it hits the ground running before a militarized break that solidifies its roots to second wave NYHC echoing Judge style metal core. The poetry of “Comeback” goes beyond its title and Megamouth’s three year hiatus but harkens back to a hardcore aesthetic of unity.
Resounding from the streets of New York during a bygone era that by today’s standards doesn’t even seem real but more a dystopian movie reality being commercially gutted and stripped to it marrow. 1980’s street culture and the inherent art would reflect the times with names like Sick Of It All, Breakdown and Biohazard to knew a few. The sharp chemistry of thrash metal would be coalesced with the raw sounds of punk - Megamouth continue the basterdization co-mixing the primal and the proficient.
The B-side to this two song promo is “Nothing” a scream-o audio attack. The song charges with an anthemic quality featuring graphic artist and fellow Buffalonian J-Ruggz on vox balancing the double vocals with an inflection that is reminiscent of early Zach De La Rocha making for a triad delivery of angst. A rousing track that battle hollers “…Wasteland…” within a verse echoing its sentiment of the restlessness and violence found in 2019 Western New York. The track bounces heavily with a hip-hop and hardcore duality. Guitar down strokes deal out thick metal riffage and dive bombs while the composition circles manically returning with a heightened danceable metal groove. Megamouth drags you into its high velocity of fast percussion, low-register chords, screaming laced vocals and shredding leads that will jar any listener out of his or her apathy and into the lowly lit mosh pit.
CHAKA "NEANDERTHAL TALES" EP (Satan Wears Suspenders, Released December, 2019)
Ladies and gentlemen the year is 2020 and with the new year comes the birth of the latest rock sub-genre.... CAVE METAL! Mark Sokoll... bassist of Darkside NYC (as well as the highly underrated Terminal Confusion from way back in the day) is the main brain behind this four song, ten minute debut which has its share of backstories. For starters Mark enlisted Ty Canon (who?) to play on all of the guitar tracks (which he did from Ireland). Mark then got three separate drummers to bang out these four tracks in a seven day period (two of those drummers are also in Darkside) and finally outside of the guitars the recording was done in Darkside guitarist Matt Melnick's basement! With all this DNYC info one may think that Chaka is going to sound a little (or a lot) like Darkside but that is definitely not the case.
"Flak" leads off (check out the video) with a fuzzy bass and some straight outta da cave styled vocals. With so many styles of metal out there to be had cave metal is not that bad of a self-description to be honest with you. What I like about “Neanderthal Tales” is that these songs mix shit up… there is no singular pattern that they stick to. Just for that this EP gets some bonus points. “The Battle Hath Begun” is the second track and to me gives off a bit of a Carnivore type of vibe with that heavy heavy bass sound that made Carnivore as fierce as they were. “Anthropology” is the third track and starts off with a lengthy mosh pittin’ intro before things get rough and rugged (the Neanderthal way). Could I see metalheads in leather vests marching down the street with torches and this as their theme song? Perhaps. “Defekt” sticks to the earlier “mixing shit up” idea that I brought up. Another fuzzy bass line pops up on this one with an almost hip-hop like backdrop as this eerie whisper like spoken word hits vocally. This song is only 1:19 versus the others which are all close to or over 3 minutes in run time further stirring the pot in this short EP’s diversity. Overall I feel Chaka are off to a great start just from their approach. The lineup is something that should be addressed as having a full time lineup that could gel together would elevate the core ideas that are behind these fresh tracks. The foundation is there, where Chaka goes with it is still yet to be seen.
ROUGH DOSE “OFF OUR MEDS”
(Released December, 2019)
There are many good new bands made up of younger kids as well as the legends who still tour and put out great music. But let’s not forget a newer band made up of members who have been in legendary hardcore and punk bands who have been a reason the scene is still going strong. One such band is Rough Dose, a 3 piece punk rock band from Richmond, Virginia. Although the name may not be familiar, some of the members and the bands they come from are. Forming in August of 2019 Rough Dose consists of Matt Light- vocals and guitar, Chuck Minors- bass (The Screws and Little White Pills) and Charles Bonet- drums (Reagan Youth original drummer and founding member of The Abused). After forming, Rough Dose went right into the studio and released a 3 song demo and then ended the year releasing a 5 song EP with a great title: “Off Our Meds". The formula on the EP is a simple yet successful one with very catchy, sing along tracks. The music is not as heavy and fast as the members are known for with their other associated bands, but don't let that turn you away from listening to an entertaining release; the EP blends an original sound with a Ramones type style that I really enjoyed. The track titles are: “Dead”, “Crazy Lands”, “Ruby Said”, “Minds Of Fate”, and “Bloodstains And Gravel” with my two favorites being “Dead” and “Bloodstains And Gravel”. I don't know if using the word "fun" to describe a hardcore/punk record is a good choice but it’s what comes to mind when I listened to “Off Our Meds”. I just picture these 3 guys just having a blast while recording with no pressure and you can sense it in the songs.
LIFE AND LIMB “DOUBT” EP
(Released January, 2020)
Life And Limb formed in 2018 with members from American Standards and Lilith. They come from Phoenix, AZ and “Doubt” is their first EP and was recorded at Catalyst Studios. The band is known for being persistent in the music they play as well as performing live. If you are a fan of Comeback Kid, Most Precious Blood, Strife and Run With The Hunted, then you will like this band says Life And Limb.
“Nothing Left” kicks off the EP. The opening strangely sounds like something off of Hatebreed’s “Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire”. It’s a good track but lacks originality. “Snakebite” follows up with a more aggressive sound but once again, it sounds like a bunch of 90’s hardcore bands. Towards the end of the song I couldn’t help but think they took this riff straight from Madball’s “The Crown” off the classic “Legacy” record… or maybe it’s just me. “Gravedigger”, the third track, also sounds like so many other recognizable hardcore bands from the past and gets boring about twenty seconds in. The EP finishes with “Letter To Self”. Please see the above part of this review. The production on this EP is solid and musically the band is tight and definitely fit in the hardcore category. Unfortunately, the band lacks much in the way of originality. None of the songs stand out on their own. I am all for keeping the old school hardcore alive but give a new spin on it at least. Instead, it sounds like cover tunes from other established hardcore bands instead of giving the music a fresh kick start. I found this to be generic sounding like so many other new hardcore bands.
I have been a diehard fan of hardcore for a very long time so it hurts me to give a new band a negative review. I live to discover new hardcore bands on a daily basis and I get to do that by being able to review new and established bands here on this site. I go into each new review with excitement in hopes of adding a new CD to my collection but I’m going to have to take a pass on this one.
END OF HOPE “CEASE & DESTROY”
(Released November, 2019)
Coming from New York City are End of Hope, a 4 piece band whose members have been in a wide range of bands with very different styles. Kraut, St. Bastard, Reign of Zaius and Eternal Black are all current or previous bands the members of End Of Hope are associated with. End Of Hope's latest release "Cease & Destroy" has been released in a digital format consisting of 9 tracks of solid hardcore and a digipack CD version which contains a bonus track covering Discharge’s "Protest & Survive".
Opening with "Hypocrisy" their sound instantly reminds me of Rage Against the Machine, well a bit anyway before blasting away with a mid-paced effort. The production is top notch and crystal clear and the music has an instant live feel about it. End Of Hope’s lineup have a lot of previous band experience and it shows as there are some really great song structures within “Cease & Destroy”, something that reeled me in.
"Last Night" is the shortest song, clocking in at 1:52 and is a step up in tempo from the first song but not at breakneck speed. The song has a sense of urgency whilst retaining control, if that makes sense? For me, this is what classic hardcore is all about. "Guilt Trip" opens with a guitar sound similar to something you might hear out of Black Sabbath and delivers a punch at a slightly slower pace. "The Hardest Thing" opens with an incredibly slow bass line, with a feel that twists and turns before the ground opens up with vocalist Davey Gunner screaming his lungs out, meaning every word like his life depends on it. The band feels complete in their delivery and execution of their songs, "What Was I Thinking?" is a solid piece of typical NYHC. The title track "End Of Hope" and "Excessive Fortune" both offer solid pieces of music, with the later opening with incredible maturity and musicianship before launching itself into a mid-paced attack. "The Deal" is a real catchy number before the final song on this 9 track album "Arc of Movement" starts with a low key, slow feel before coming into life ending "Cease and Destroy" in style, up tempo and in your face.
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.