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CONSTANT ELEVATION “FREEDOM BEACH” EP
(Revelation Records, Release Date August 14, 2020)
I think as hardcoremin we all have a 7 inch EP written in our heads. I know I do. Most of us will never get that EP out of us and it shall be played nowhere other than in your own head forever. Mine is pretty good by the way, I just rocked it a few minutes ago. Well for Sammy Siegler, who after countless years of being the backbone for band after band after band, Constant Elevation is the band that helped him realize his head EP. The one he had been carrying around with him in his head all those years. Listen, if I need to list the bands this guy’s been in then you should just eat a Covid cake and get the fuck out of my review. Unlike me, Sammy has talent and connections so he hollered at his boy Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife for whom he once filled in as drummer on a short tour and asked, "Hey bro, how about you lay some of those sweet, tasty vocal stylings on this fresh hunk of music I created?" and Vince responded "Hells yeah bro, you are the master and ruler!" (Full disclosure… the previous conversation may have just been something this reviewer made up, we'll call it poetic license). So the two men assembled an EP and it kinda kicked ass so now they found three other musical talents Jani Zubkovs on bass and guitarists Mike Ireland and Jim Carroll, all of whom have solid resumes as well and recorded Constant Elevation's second EP "Freedom Beach" for Revelation Records. So let's see what these mugs put together and see what was in the mind of Sammy Siegler and Vince Caruana the second time around... TO THE TUNES!
A solid 16 seconds of feedback combines with a bassline making way for static and feedback until Sammy's machine gun drum blast leads into a breakneck hardcore tune called "I Love You And I Never Want You To Die" running a brisk 1:23. This song could be the mantra for suicide prevention or maybe they need a new theme song for their cause. This is a brilliant bit of fast posi-core. I'm in Sammy's head space now, and it's groovy. What's next? Well, in my opinion they left the best for... second. "KRS Two" is spreadin’ the hardcore reality of 2020 and clocks in at 1:42. This is a love song as far as hardcore goes. This song has beautiful playing and amazing singing. This is immediate iPod material. Yes I still use an iPod you young dicks. Anyhow, this is my HOT TRACK of the EP and while I've never picked a hot track before it seems fitting here. It's melodic, it’s fast, it's got a dance bit at the end, it's fucking good alright... leave me alone. “Bob X Cursion” is the epic of the EP running 2:03. This song has it all. It has great lyrics, it has the fast bits, it has the melody. Most importantly it has one big old fucking mosh part at the end complete with a primordial scream followed by a well-placed "FUCK!!!!" Kids will be losing their minds... and by kids I mean 36-48 year olds. There shall be many a torn meniscus and sprained ACL’s in suburbia as a direct result of “Bob X”. "Freedom Beach" rounds out the EP running another brisk 1:19 and can easily be an anthem for the day. You've been through the mill, the highs and the lows, but somehow the fire remains even though it's the fire you had to walk through to get to where you are. Deep stuff and a great tune.
So there you have it, the new EP "Freedom Beach" by our compatriots Constant Elevation. I'm gonna be honest. I listened to this on Bandcamp so many times for this review I kept having to pay for it... and I did, so that should tell you something about this release. It's catchy good stuff played to perfection by a bunch of pros who are not rehashing old ghosts but rather showing something a bit different with glimpses of perhaps amazing things to come and seemingly having fun doing it. “Freedom Beach” you fucking rotting sand fleas, get that shit now. You won’t be disappointed. Now get the fuck off my blanket you deplorables… six feet? I’m gonna need twelve.... minimum. Give me some fucking space! Find it digitally on Bandcamp and Spotify and on 7” vinyl from Rev HQ.
ECOSTRIKE "A TRUTH WE STILL BELIEVE"
(Triple B Records, Released July, 2020)
Hot off the press is the new Ecostrike full length from Triple B Records, a label that has been consistently pumping out new releases from the 30 and under faction of the hardcore scene for a while now. This South Florida based band has built a strong reputation from previous releases as well as hitting the road having already played such notable fests as This Is Hardcore (PA), Sound and Fury (CA), FYA (FL), America's Hardcore Fest (MA), United Blood (VA) as well as having played in Europe. The fact that they are off the social media grid creates this mysterious "buck the system" type of feel as there is just not a lot of info about Ecostrike out there online which makes writing things like this review a bit challenging but at the same time worth chasing those ghosts. Word around the water cooler though is that they got a strong Judge/Strife influence going on (absolutely correct) as well as being firm backers of THE straight edge. "Sanctuary" comes galloping out of the gate full speed ahead. I like these vocals and I like those choppy drum beats that immediately get the head nodding. That 90's hardcore style guitar crunch is there but it's not overdone at all on this winner of an opening track. Things flow right into "Another Promise" which is another upbeat charge of energy that has some great gang style backup vocals that hit hard. The third track, "A Better Way" head fakes you into thinking they are going to drop a slow jam but the intro is short lived as things speed up before they drop a crusher of a fade out within the last 25 seconds of this track. Ecostrike is not reinventing how hardcore is done on "A Truth We Still Believe" but they are somewhat of a rarity in that their conviction to their music shines right through creating an album that's very easy to get into. Being successful at taking the 90's hardcore template and creating a full length album with a vibrancy and fresh feel is a tall task but that's exactly what's happening here. The guitar tone throughout has just the right amount of crunch without getting too metal and the vocals follow suit as they fit what Ecostrike is doing perfectly. I will spare you a song by song breakdown as the majority of this album follows a similar route with great results. 9 songs come in at just over 21 minutes in length. Other standouts include "Count Me Out" and the anthem like title track that closes out this album... a song that I can envision having the majority of the crowd on the stage singing along while lasagna layers of people in front of the stage jostle for the microphone to get their chance to sing along. A big part of what Ecostrike is about is their message so was a little disappointing to not be able to find this album’s lyrics anywhere online. Although the Ecostrike name has been on the radar for a while this was my first real sit down to dive into their music and the end result was finding a new band to get excited about. Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify or click the album artwork in the upper left to grab a physical copy from Triple B.
CONCRETE “FREE US FROM EXISTENCE”
(Black Voodoo Records, Release Date August 7, 2020)
Concrete is one of those "as advertised” kinda bands. Hitting play with headphones on puts you on a crash course with a gapless wall of sound and no ejector seat. The Albany, NY based group's 2017 album “Everything Ends Now” was a ferocious exhibition of the band's prowess and songwriting acumen, combining thrash and death metal with the bulldog-like stalk and snarl of old-school NYHC. Their new album “Free Us From Existence” succeeds in many of the same ways as its predecessor, but in other respects, it is absolutely in a league of its own. From the first crushing measure of opener "Executing Vengeance," it's clear that the band has dialed up the death metal and punched up the production as well because the track hits like a flying dragon kick to the sternum. The influence of Chicago's Harm's Way is undeniable here, as the band seems primed and ready to wind up and set loose an armored batter of tank-skinned power violence on "Executing Vengeance," as well as the winding, sour squeeze of "Starving Serpent," and the blood-letting, spiral drain of the penultimate track, "Parasites." The single "World Tomb" dives deep into the band's death metal influences, recovering some hateful sounding riffs from the sunken vaults of Cryptopsy and strapping them to a Stigmata groove before lighting a short fuse and sending them spiraling into the air to meet a fiery fate. Rough glances of cutting metallic hardcore can be found on the Marauder-esque "Path Of Fire," while "Psychological Crucifixion" gives weight and damnable purpose to the swinging punch of Absolute Suffering inspired riffs and a toothy hook to the river-dragging, Biohazard inspired thrash grooves. On “Free Us From Existence”, Concrete will either squeeze the malaise from your guts or liberate you from this mortal coil in the attempt. Whichever you'd prefer is a matter of your own satisfaction. Pre-order the digital version HERE.
RAMALLAH “THE LAST GASP OF STREET ROCK AND ROLL” (State Line Records, Released July, 2020)
“What ever happened to that hardcore music that we all know and love?” asks singer Rob Lind, of Blood 4 Blood fame. A great sing-a-long to open the title track of this release, “The Last Gasp Of Street Rock ‘N Roll”. Originally released in October of 2019, this album earned itself a re-release on Stateline Records, which is how it landed on my lap this time around. This first song is an ode of sorts to all his fallen brothers who were not as lucky to survive the same lifestyle that Rob was lucky enough to survive, himself. This song has a great way of maintaining its dark overtones, while being quite catchy as well. Now, call me a sucker for romance, but I do get a little bit misty eyed every time “White Trash Rob” starts talking shit before one of his songs. Hence, the smile on my face when the next killer track, “I Don’t Believe” came on. A cool guitar riff, a let’s go, and we’re off! Another fast song with super catchy choruses as well. A perfect mix of Rob’s vocals, fast guitars by Alan Tomaszewski and Jason Eick add more layers of sound to the mix. Pure punk rock hardcore gold so far with this record. So, no surprise when the third track, “Dead Girls And Dead Boys Anthem”, came on after and blew me away again! A catchy mid-paced guitar riff along with Rob singing again to start this off before another “Let’s go!” picks up the pace. Rob continues to pour his heart out on this record on literally every track. Rob’s sense of dark humor mixed with his brand of sarcasm is even further magnified with his Boston street accent and is apparent on every release that he has lent his vocal skill to. A cool bass line by Rob Robles, starts off the next track called, “City Boy”… another tale from the streets of Boston. Drugs, suicide and depression amidst the cold city streets are the topics of the day. “I know the world can be so cold”, the singer admits on this track. Now, I must admit, the next track, “I Seen You Crawling”, is pure punk rock gold. Aside from the “Hey ho, let’s go” ode to the Ramones, this song is loaded with na-na-na-na-nas and everything! I was able to relate to Rob on this heavy song about finding oneself homeless on the city streets. “When you got nowhere to go, and your world has turned so cold” are words I can relate to. I found myself homeless for a short period of time last year, after I split with my ex-wife. I can relate to the feelings of desperation while roaming the streets, bars and trying to find Air Bnb’s for the night. Now, as if that track was not heavy enough for me, the next song, “The Times We Had”, comes on. It’s basically a song about finding some peace of mind after a breakup. Which, again, takes me back to my own struggles that I faced over the last year such as building a new life and struggling with not being around for my kids in the same capacity as I was once able to. I think that only a guy like Rob can go that deep without losing any “Tough guy Boston street cred” that he damn well earned, so props to him for that. A short acoustic song called, “Bye Bye” lightens the mood for a minute before the final track, “The Last Gasp Of A Wasted Youth And Wasted Life”, comes on. A cool, catchy ode to the “Wasted Youth Crew” of Boston and a celebration of white trash rock and roll. Overall, a great release from this band who sprung from the ashes of the mighty, Blood 4 Blood. I was impressed with this LP and I recommend it to any fan of street hardcore punk! Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify.
CORPORATE CITIZEN “SIX MINUTE MEETING” EP (Released May, 2020)
I have never given much of a listen to hardcore/punk bands that have that 90's Southern California sound. Sure I've heard a few but never gave them much of a chance but a band new to me called Corporate Citizen has changed my thinking. Forming in San Diego circa 2017, band members over the years have had stints with well-known bands which has helped them create a very energetic, melodic blend of music that I really enjoy. This style is apparent in Corporate Citizen's third release… a three song EP titled “Six Minute Meeting”. Listening to the music and the lyrics of tracks: “Culture Vulture”, “Not The One” and “Positivity Anthem” (the latter being my favorite track) brought me back to the "Youth Crew" vibe from the mid 80's/early 90's. Think of NYHC bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and H20 mixed with that SoCal sound of bands like Pennywise. The three tracks slightly vary a little in style which showcases the member's talents separately and collectively. Listening to “Six Minute Meeting” has been sort of a musical freshness that I didn't really know I was missing. I'm looking forward to listening to it some more as well as listening to Corporate Citizen's previous releases. Check it out on Bandcamp and Spotify.
MALE PATTERNS/EXECUTORS “SPLIT EP”
(Shock To The System Records, Released August, 2020)
Albany, NY’s Male Patterns specialize in bruising hardcore punk that sounds like a mix of Poison Idea and Negative Approach and New Jersey’s Executors, while more straight up punk rock in their style, still have hardcore elements in their sound. The two kindred spirit bands team up for this split 7” and the results are devastating. With three songs by Male Patterns and two by Executors, this split flies by in under ten minutes, but the whole duration is packed full of enough riffs, grooves and hardcore punk to fill an entire full album.
The three Male Patterns songs are up first and commence with “Automatic”, a song that kicks things off perfectly, complete with a straight forward but memorable “chant-a-long” chorus and some great guitar work. A wail of feedback introduces the next track “Self-Abuse” and it immediately explodes into life with a burst of hardcore vigor. This song’s title seems apt as it reminded me immediately of Verbal Abuse, albeit with its own vibe. “Fear Mongering” is the last of the Male Patterns tracks on this split and it’s a bit slower and more grooving than the previous two but has more of a menacingly heavy feel which just adds to the bands power.
From then on in, Executors blast into action with “Leave Me Alone”, a catchy and gnarly stomp with a brilliantly anthemic intro that is reminiscent of Poison Idea’s “Plastic Bomb” and the Warzone cover of “Skinhead Girl Warrior” by Last Resort… it has that same sort of feel, one that gets you pumped up before the track explodes. After the intro fades, true to form, it’s straight to business with boot to the face intensity which shows off the Executors sound immediately, which is truly punk. The split ends with “Days Of Desperation”, a catchy as hell punk rock track with its great “So What, Who Cares, Fuck You” chorus, which is straight to the point and sounds endearingly defiant, ending this release on a sheer high. This split is a great showcase of both Male Patterns and Executors music and both are bands you should hear more from in the future. Available digitally on Bandcamp as well as on 7” wax from Shock To The System Records.
ONE LIFE ALL IN “LETTER OF FORGIVENESS”
(Released April, 2020)
Breathing fire from both Cleveland Ohio and Lyon France we have One Life All In, a positive hardcore band formed in 2015 that features members of The Spudmonsters, Run Devil Run, Seekers Of The Truth and Benighted. This six track EP was recorded in Lyon, France and shows their truly vast array of influences. The artwork is intriguing and eye catching (always a big plus with me) as it shows thought into the bands statement. The opening song, the title track "Letter Of Forgiveness" starts bright and mid-paced with a nice balance of instruments, one not overpowering another and it's melodic too. You can really tell these guys know what they want in terms of their delivery. The vocals from Don Foose are excellent and this song has great hooks with a tremendous live feel. An instant winner! "Cold Hand Struggles" has a more sense of urgency than the opening song, not breakneck speed but you can hear the difference and the quality is solid from all band members. "Sacred Heart" slows things down, a more punchy, powerful slab of hardcore and demonstrates the bands ability to calm things down without losing their focus but don't be fooled, these guys can flick the switch and turn the machine into a raging fast paced monster before switching back adding melody and power. Wow! This will be a colossal song live! The next song "Hey Man!" is the shortest song on this EP at just over a minute and a half. It’s fast and to the point with drummer Kevin Foley delivering lightening precision thunder to the listener that creates this incredible intensity. "83rd Dream" (a cover song by The Cult) starts with guitarist Clem gently easing into the song with a carefully constructed guitar intro before the band launches into a very anthem like track that really shows their range musically. I cannot escape thinking that this is exactly how the band would sound live, crystal clear, powerful, with songs that have real decent structure. The final track "Discharge" leaves the listener thinking that this EP was over far too soon. It has been a real pleasure to listen to the latest from One Life All In. Find “Letter of Forgiveness” on Bandcamp or Spotify as well as on compact disc through the Bandcamp link.
(Morning Wood Records, Released July, 2020)
Coming at us from Leeuwarden in the Netherlands is a 4 piece band 'o punks that go by the name Sun-O-Bathers. On this, their second release we get 7 tracks that come in at around 17 minutes in playing time. I gotta admit that the goofy pool scene on the cover artwork drew me in initially and what I found sonically was pretty darn good. During the 90's I was introduced to bands like Lag Wagon, Pennywise, Face To Face and Good Riddance and upon hitting play "Floaters" brought me back to that time period and the vibes those bands gave off. Overall this is a well-played record that has its moments with some nice hooks, clean vocals and a great surf punk instrumental titled "Hate The Shade" to close things out. "Floaters" started off strong on the first couple of rotations but lost some of its steam with repeated listens. Although they check off some of the boxes needed for a great record there is still a feeling of having "heard it all before" here. Good mood music if your headed to the beach on a hot summer day but not an album I am going to list as a must have if I am ever trapped on a desert island or sent to some far off space station where they only let you bring 3 albums. Find this on Bandcamp and Spotify.
THE BLOOD AND THE SWEAT; THE STORY OF
SICK OF IT ALL'S KOLLER BROTHERS
(Book Review, Release Date August 3rd, 2020)
Sick Of It All have been the flagbearers for New York Hardcore for well over 30 years now without skipping a beat as they consistently tour and release new material with no breaks in that decades long chain. The foundation for this iconic band is made up by the brothers Koller; Louis Pierre and Pierre Michel... or as most of us know them… Lou and Pete from Sick Of It All. They were born less than 13 months apart in the mid-1960's in the New York City borough of Queens. This soon to be released book starts off with how their parents met in France and takes us right up to current day SOIA with many stops across the globe in between. Author (and long-time friend) Howie Abrams orchestrated this 300 page book by not only conducting candid interviews with the brothers and their current day bandmates Armand Majidi and Craig Setari but also by getting insightful takes from ex-band members, roadies, friends, their parents, spouses, older brothers and even their young children. From the time a convicted killer was shown wearing a SOIA shirt on the front page of NY’s Daily News, to near death experiences while touring Europe, consistently fighting Nazis that showed up to their shows, a guy with a human head in a bag, to touring with the greats of hardcore, punk and heavy metal, this book covers EVERYTHING and more that any fan of Sick of It All would want to know. In this book Lou and Pete come across much like they do when we see them on stage as they seem humble, respectful and I would also say grateful for having a job that they dreamed about since they were kids while also willing to give or take a joke as they try to “CCCKKK” (crack) each other, their roadies and close friends with various degrees of hazing. Within the realm of hardcore music (specifically NYHC) there currently is not a lot in the way of volume when it comes to books covering the bands that helped make NYHC grow into the most storied underground scene in the entire world. One would guess that as the people who were there in the earlier days grow older that we will see more and more in the way of books like this one as that nostalgia element starts to kick in. This is a must read for those who consider themselves diehard fans as well as for the more casual hardcore historian. It has been almost a full year since an announcement was made that this book was in the works and now that it is finally out I can say without hesitation that it was worth the wait and a job well done. US buyers can keep it real and purchase a copy from NYC’s Generation Records who are shipping out copies now. Also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Coretex Records out of Germany.
STRIKE ANYWHERE "NIGHTMARES OF THE WEST"
(Pure Noise Records, Release Date July 17, 2020)
Somewhere in the earlier part of the 2000's Strike Anywhere's "Chorus Of One" EP ended up on my iPod even though I don't recall ever downloading it. I am not sure if this unique phenomenon has a name but it damn sure happened to me! Whenever the Strike Anywhere name would come up in conversation I would tell people how this EP "magically" ended up in my library and what a great EP it is/was. I have never seen this band play live and will admit that although I really like "Chorus Of One" my interest sort of ended there as I hate chasing band's discogs when they are pretty deep into their career with material as is the case here. Now comes word of their first new music in over 10 years with "Nightmares Of The West" on Pure Noise Records... a label that has been scooping up bands from all reaches of the hardcore spectrum lately. Six originals and a cover of Blocko's "Opener" run a little over 20 minutes in length. "Documentary" opens and jumps right into that melodic groove and style that I recall so well from "Chorus". Strike Anywhere pride themselves on being political activists and I didn't need the lyric sheet to figure that out on this opening track courtesy of Thomas Barnett’s smooth vocal delivery. Another melodic banger is up next in "Dress The Wounds" followed by the mid-paced "The Bells" which doesn't hit as hard as the opening two tracks but is still serviceable at the very least. "Frontier Glitch" which they made a timely music video for follows and starts off slow but it leads into a nice build. The slower "Imperium Of Waste" doesn't do much for me and is followed by that Blocko cover of "Opener" which could easily pass for one of their originals. "We Make The Road By Walking" closes things out with a charge of energy with another one of those fast and melodic jams that just has that Strike Anywhere stamp on it. “Nightmares Of The West” is hard for me to pigeon hole as there are Warped Tour pop punk band qualities here as well as that edge and grit that just makes things “hardcore”. When at times it seems like the hardcore punk scene is drowning in copy cats not being able to pigeon hole a band or an album is a great thing. Overall, I wouldn't expect my favorite bands from my youth to be putting out better albums now than the ones they wrote twenty years earlier and I would say the same holds true here but Strike Anywhere do not miss the mark by much as the majority of "Nightmares Of The West" struck me on the right levels. Pre-orders are available HERE.
(Mission Two Entertainment, Release Date July 31st, 2020)
Insight were one of the premier Salt Lake City hardcore bands in the late 80’s/early 90’s before they split up and while members of the band ended up in the likes of Jets To Brazil, Handsome and Iceburn, the energetic hardcore of Insight is still celebrated today and with the release of their new retrospective album “Reflection”, a whole new generation of hardcore fans can discover their music. “Reflection” consists of the bands’ old material from 1990 as well as some songs recorded live from City Gardens in Trenton, NJ in 1989 when they were supporting Social Distortion and most enticingly of all, four brand new songs from the band. Insight were one of Victory Records (who have now morphed into Mission Two Entertainment) first signings and even though the majority of the tracks on “Reflection” will hark back to those days, they still sound vital today and the new songs mark a fresh chapter in the story of this band. "Reflection” kicks off with the “What Will It Take” 7’’ and as the opening track “Standing Strong” explodes, you can still feel the power of the band’s music. Tracks such as “Identity Crisis” and the standout “Enough” are straight to the point hardcore anthems that still stand up today. After that initial maelstrom, there are a couple of songs that were featured on various compilation albums in “Get It” and “Silent Shore” before the band turn back the years with their new material which is headed up by the furious “Take It Back” and the standout “Reflection” and it is great to hear the band play with such passion and energy. “Reflection” ends with the live tracks and the raw recordings that demonstrate the power of this band in a live setting and includes a number of tracks from that debut 7’’ and is fine way to end this retrospective. “Reflection” is a great piece of hardcore history that shows Insight at the peak of their powers but also shows that they still have what it takes after all those years. Pre-orders are available HERE.
SPEED “2020 FLEX” EP
(Flatspot/Last Ride Records, Released June, 2020)
Speed come to us from Australia and formed in 2019. The band’s mission is to open the eyes of the hardcore scene in regards to cultural norms, discrimination and racism, among other important topics. The band has also released a demo back in 2019. This is a two song release that is also available on 7” flexi vinyl through Flatspot and Last Ride Records. The first track is titled “A Dumb Dog Gets Flogged” and opens with a sludgy groove instrumental before the vocals jump in and the song becomes a full on hardcore assault. The song deals with keeping your word and the intensity of the lyrics drives their point across in a strong way. “Devil You Know” follows up with another groove-filled blast of dark sounding hardcore. The song leans towards human morals and staying strong in a world filled with negativity. With great riffs and gruff vocals, this track showcases the band’s strength and commitment to the hardcore world. Speed are a different kind of hardcore. The band’s sound is edgy, murky and unique. You can hear their musical influences in the music, especially with the established New York bands and the vocals are reminiscent of Agnostic Front’s, Roger Miret. I like these guys as they stand out from the usual sounding bands of the times. Speed should release a full length record to showcase their talents further and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the hardcore scene. Check this out on Bandcamp and Spotify.
TRUE FORM “CONTROL” EP
(IOU Records, Released December, 2019)
Recently, I came across this band from Florida who I knew nothing about. It seemed odd to me, considering I have been living down here the past fifteen years. Well, either way, I was impressed with this EP which was released a few months ago on IOU Records. Things start off with a one-minute intro song titled “Do You Know?” Some guitar feedback and drums lead us into the opening track. A thunderous sound and a great stomp part at the end entice the listener. Stepping right into the next track titled “True Form”, sharing the same title as the band itself. Starting off with a cool opening guitar riff that then turns into a bouncy, head bobbin chorus, then a circle pit. This song has a great sound that is reminiscent of Leeway, especially with the short feedbacks nestled within the guitar riffs. Gritty, yet clear and audible vocals that remind me of the old NYC band Cold Front match the heaviness of the song, and the breakdown at the end was impressive as well. The third track, “Control”, has another great opening riff that leads you into a circle pit. Heavy lyrics and a good ending to this track make it an official standout. The next one, “Crash And Burn”, is just as good. Opening with a killer bass line, the guitar riffs will have you stomping hard as well. Catchy choruses and the heaviest breakdown on the record is also captured here within this track, making it a favorite as well. Opening with a quick drum roll, “In Between”, the final track is another killer hardcore song. With its youth crew style riffs and a cool fade out at the end this finishes things up nice. Overall, this EP was well worth the listen. I did not have much info on this band at all which, to me is fine… as the music speaks for itself. Check it out on Bandcamp & Spotify.
INTIMIDATION “DEMO 2020” (Released June, 2020)
I was introduced to Oi not long after I was introduced to hardcore and not only fell in love with both but noticed the close connection between the two genres. When I see a hardcore band pay homage or state OI bands as influences I feel it's well deserved and when I get to hear a new band claiming to play Oi music I get excited. Intimidation are an Oi band with the true spirit in their hearts and in their music. Having just released their demo, members Tim -vocals, Dylan -guitars, Quinn -guitars, Keith -bass and Will -drums come to us from the Northeast US states of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and are a perfect example that Oi music does not have to come solely from the UK. “Demo 2020” contains 5 fast paced, melodic gravelly voiced tracks pulling no punches and showing no apologies for who Intimidation are and the lives they lead.
Track listing is:
“Credible Threat” A warning not to mess with this skinhead.
“Isolation” The title says it all.
“Intimidation” “You'll never tell us what to do because we know what's right."
“Four Generations” A working class song.
“Ultra-Violence” A great cover of The Oppressed song.
I honestly haven't stopped listening to this lately and there is not a track worth skipping. If you are the type that likes to show their appreciation of the music by fist pumping while holding a beer, or perhaps moon stomping/slam dancing is your thing or maybe just tapping your feet and singing along, Intimidation's style has got you covered. I am definitely high on this band as they put out one hell of a demo. Influential bands such as Sham 69, Cock Sparrer and The Oppressed if given the chance to hear this release surely would agree. Oi!
CAPRA s/t EP (Released May, 2020)
In a forward moving chaos Capra commences an audio beat down with “Torture Ship” the lead off song of their self-titled EP. Its roaring single note riff combines an early Dr. Know “Attitude” style rooted from the “Black Dots” era and the progression of an outlaw country song befitting for Waylon Jennings circa the hazy quaalude years of the 1970’s. Eye to eye with its self-destructive energy is new singer or better yet screamer Crow Lotus who passionately lays down her vocals with an urgency more commonly associated with a brick being thrown through a window. Her screaming aesthetic comes from the rib of Krishna Core outfit 108 with the dueling metalcore hollerings of Rob Fish and Vic DiCara and their spiritual angst…
The tracks brutal minimalist approach strips down 1983 thrash metal to just its speed core and continues to boil it down until it reaches its hardcore punk basic compound of a mosh groove. The guitar riffs is cut into dramatic stops, slowing down as their played one by one creating an audio bomb resonance. Though the dust and smoke does not settle as Crow howls like a ‘sister devotee’ - her lyrics are anger with meaning and not just screaming for the sake of style but for the emotional content of her words. As the millennium stands in its 20 year mark female fronted hardcore punk/metal core has taken center stage in a long overdue chapter in the scenes lineage. With a 2018 EP already out Capra would make the risky move of altering the group dynamic…
An audience’s tolerance for new faces in an already established band can vary depending on which role is being filled. A groups rhythm section seems to be the most forgivable while guitar players can ruffle the feathers of most purist and diehards though tolerated if they can nail down that killer solo…though usually what will bring out the pitchforks and album burning ceremonies is the bold risky move of replacing ones singer. Aside from AC/DC and Van Halen (who pushed their chips a little too far with a third new guy in Gary Cherone from Extreme) and Faith No More -
it’s feat is a hard one to pull off. For Capra the new blood on vocals has given them a fresh sound that is raw and lyrically thought provoking while simultaneously putting them at the vanguard as hardcore punk finds its equality on the stage. The energy of the material is the perfect vehicle for Lotus’ lyrical content and performance that revolts violently in its duality - in the same breath fighting inward and exterior oppositions. She blasts out “If you want to survive you have to die a thousand times first /Your past becomes history / The future is now!” with a defiant tongue as the lines knock around in your skull.
There’s nothing fancy or poetic about the 2020 version of the group, only a more focused beast in there writing and song execution. While other bands in the ‘scream-o’ genre toil in having a melody in their outcries and sounds Capra zero in on primal rage that goes beyond just playing savage underground rock ‘n roll with almost schizophrenic riffs that teeter dangerously from speed metal to hard rock. Just under 6 minutes this EP is not concerned with self-preservation but destroys itself in a fiery crash of mood and power. Throughout the generations hardcore music has been a voice for the downtrodden, misunderstood and outsider youth - In the southern section of Louisiana the musical history goes from Louis Armstrong - arguably the father of modern jazz - to the scourge of pop music Britney Spears and most recently Hip Hop’s southern faction most notably Cash Money Crew and Lil’ Wayne…though aside from the sub-metal genre of “sludge metal” making some noise in the 90’s a definitive hardcore punk band from this part of the America’s is hard to pinpoint - though that may change with Capra. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
PRIME s/t EP (Released 2019)
Prime come to us from Poughkeepsie, NY. This is the band’s second outing having released their first demo in February of 2019. This four track self-titled EP opens up with “Wild Fang”. The track kicks off with a heavy opening riff before blasting full steam ahead with a vocal style reminiscent of early Violence. “Life’s Halt” follows up with another slab of sludgy hardcore metal complete with choppy guitars and rampant vocals. “Diorite” slows things down with a soft sounding musical opening veering away from the band’s traditional sound before punching it up with more unconventional played hardcore. “Razor’s Edge” finishes off this EP with a straight ahead hardcore number with an experimental twist to it.
This was a challenging review as the musical style is something I’m not accustomed to listening to. It has the familiar elements of hardcore but I found the vocals hard to listen to and the constant change ups in the songs made it hard for me to appreciate. Prime come off sounding a lot like NY’s Mindforce, with a comparable musical sound and similar vocal styles. The band tends to veer towards an avant-garde sound with crunchy, distorted guitars, raging vocals and a sound that is difficult to categorize. If you are seeking something different from the usual hardcore then check this one out. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
CRO-MAGS “IN THE BEGINNING”
(Mission Two Entertainment, Release Date June 19, 2020)
The first new Cro-Mags album in 20 years should come with its own Wiki page to get casual fans up to speed on what “In The Beginning” offers up. First up on the personnel side of things you obviously have Harley Flanagan handling bass and vocal duties, Rocky George (Suicidal Tendencies) and Gabby Abularach are on guitars… both have played on previous Cro-Mags releases and on drums is Garry “G-Man” Sullivan. Mission Two Entertainment who is releasing this album in the USA morphed out of Victory Records and this album is their inaugural release. The cover to “In The Beginning” was taken in the early 80’s and is of “C-Squat” in NYC, a place where Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan used to call home. About this album Harley says "This album has all my influences in it; everything from Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Sabbath, Motorhead to Pink Floyd, hardcore, metal, funk, hip hop, jazz, classical - you name it. It's all the ingredients that went into writing the old Cro-Mags songs and then some. It even has cellos and percussion and samples on it. I'm not afraid to break the so-called rules of hardcore, I never was; that's why our music stood out and always has. This is a culmination of everything I am as a person; it's my personal evolution; my musical evolution and all the things that have influenced me musically thus far. It is 100% Cro-Mags." The album has a total of 13 songs with 6 of the songs having been released through 2 separate EP’s that came out in June and December of 2019.
With all of that said let’s get down to the music which starts off with “Don’t Give In”… a song that initially made its debut on that June 2019 EP of the same name. This track will immediately have you thinking of the old Cro-Mags classic “We Gotta Know” which kicked off their “AOQ” album back in ’86. It has a classic NYHC type intro, drums boom bopping and guitar leads wailing away before the vocals kick in at the 1:13 mark. I went back and looked up the “We Gotta Know” intro and the vocals kick in at the 1:15 mark. The songs are eerily similar (even being within a few seconds of each other in overall play time) and I think this is a fitting way to connect the old to the new. “Don’t Give In” is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) tracks on display here and one that repeatedly got stuck in my head. “Drag You Under” is up next and is the shortest track on the album at 1:40 in length. This song features a chugga-chugga type of groove that (much like the opening track) gets pounded and implanted into your head almost immediately. Since hearing the two EP’s from 2019 and now the rest of “In The Beginning” I have wrestled over the vocal delivery of Mr. Flanagan. Early on I kind of “got it” but with repeated listens I have become luke warm with the approach which is on the gruff/hard side of the vocal spectrum. I would love to see the approach dialed back a notch or even see them bring in a fresh face which could leave Harley free to run around in live settings while even delivering the lead vocals on select songs. Looking through the history of NY heavy music this worked well for Biohazard who were undoubtedly influenced by this very same band. Otherwise the playing and musicianship are super tight and razor sharp with everything having this big feel to it. This album is especially long by 2020 standards clocking in at a whopping 42 minutes which is probably longer than some new school hardcore bands’ entire catalogs. With any album of this type of length it's easy to understand some lulls in the action as some songs just sort of breeze on by without me feeling too strongly about them one way or another. Tracks like “One Bad Decision”, “No Turning Back” and “What You Believed” (tracks 8,12 and 13) are serviceable tracks but not quite on the same level as earlier ones like “No One’s Victim” and “From The Grave” (tracks 3 and 4). While “In The Beginning” looks to earlier Cro-Mag releases for inspiration there are some curve balls thrown our way with the disjointed “The Final Test” having a heavy Bad Brains vibe while the 6 minute instrumental jam “Between Wars” has a totally unique feel that stretches the boundaries of what you expect a Cro-Mags song to sound like. I really liked the majority of "In The Beginning". It is extremely well played, at times diverse but also far from perfect. Love the man or hate him, Harley Flanagan is a talented mind and musician when it comes to creating gritty street wise music. The passion and desire are undoubtedly there and with a veteran lineup by his side it is no surprise that they put together a quality product. Find this on most streaming services including Spotify.
POWER TRIP “LIVE IN SEATTLE 5-28-18”
(Released June, 2020)
I think I've seen Power Trip more than just about any other band in my adult life. Toxic Holocaust and Full Of Hell may be close seconds, but I see Power Trip just about every time they come through Chicago. This year will be the first year I've lived in the Windy City where I won't have a chance to take an elbow to the teeth while doing a full-torso head-bang on the edge of a pit to "Soul Sacrifice”. Having your face shellacked by a wayward crowd surfer's limb is on the low end of potential health risks associated with live music at the moment, and it's why you and I won't be seeing Power Trip, or any of our favorite bands this summer. I've generally felt ambivalent towards all of the summer festival cancelations, but not having ANY hardcore shows to look forward to? Well, what's the point of even having a summer then? Chris who runs this site must have sensed my angst all the way from NY because he forwarded me Power Trip's new live album pretty much the day it was released. Mastered by the band's front of house engineer Zachary Rippy, “Live In Seattle 05.28.2018” is as close as you're going to get to a Power Trip show this year, and as far as substitutions go, it is more than worthy. As I'm sure you have surmised, I saw the band when they came through Chicago on the tour that this recording was made during. They played with Sheer Mag, Fury, and Red Death, and listening to it now is definitely a bit of a nostalgia trip. “Live In Seattle” was recorded in the aftermath of the “Nightmare Logic” release. It was only two years ago but back then mainstream music sites rarely covered punk and metal with anything more than a shrug and a sneer, and were probably hoping that the hype around it and Code Orange's “Forever” would die down so that they could go back to fawning over the three or four terminally boring albums dropped by Guided By Voices that year. Fat chance! Power Trip's angry, zeitgeist capturing howl is now so thoroughly entwined with the fabric of contemporary music that it's hard to think of a time when they weren't acting as emissaries, ushering thousands of fresh young minds into a lifelong obsession with Cro-Mags and '80s thrash metal.
The recordings on “Live In Seattle” are clean and perfectly mixed and accurately convey the power, fun, and fury of a Power Trip live set. The guitars are hungry and propulsive, the drum work is concussive and motivating, and Riley Gale's voice sounds like the rallying cry at armageddon. The excellent presentation of the band's sound is laudable for sure, but what really sells me on the whole package is the minutia of their live sets that it also captures. Gale calling out audience members for being on their phones and telling people that there will be no encore, how the one-two punch of "Soul Sacrifice" and "Executioner's Tax" supercharge the mid-point of their set, and how the band's guitar slides just sound like air-raid sirens and make you want to duck for cover. Even a recording this good can't entirely replace the real thing, but it does serve as an awesome reminder of what we all have to look forward to once the threat of the pandemic has subsided and Power Trip can take their monster rallies back on the road. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
GUTTER GROOVE FANZINE ISSUE #3
(Released May, 2020)
Gutter Groove #3 is here and it's fucking great. If you’re not already familiar with this full-size zine from Fred and Nico, it’s one of my favorites, with detailed interviews and coverage on both US and European bands. If you share an enduring love for the East Coast Assault Comp Vol. 1 you will find plenty to be excited about in every issue, from the in-depth Next Step Up interview in Issue 1, to the NSU photo on the back cover of issue 3, and the little Dmize head in the front cover collage.
As a resident of the 914, the obvious draw here was Billy Club Sandwich. This interview took place at a show in Copenhagen in 2017, and benefits from being an old-school style tape recorded conversation with everyone in the band. Over the years I’ve read many BCS interviews and even conducted one for In Effect (look it up in the archives), but this one is packed with facts and history, some of which were even new to me, and touches on everything from Tim Dog to Setback. After BCS, there are interviews with Existence, Integrity, and E-Town Concrete, an article on bands inspired by Burn, and a spotlight on the releases of Cartel Records. The interviews and articles are complemented by two pages of music reviews, plus a separate section of zine reviews.
I enjoyed the creative layouts, such as the original E. Town Concrete reviews interspersed through their interview, including possibly one from In Effect, and a Bronx Zoo map as the backdrop to the BCS piece. This is a 32 page full size zine, and there are still some copies available, though their Big Cartel page always crashes Chrome on my computer, which is probably due to my machine being approximately 800 years old. So order at your own risk, though it’s worth it, kind of like going into the pit for many of the bands featured in Gutter Groove #3.
OFFSIDE "BLOOD MONEY" (Released January, 2020)
This is the third release from Montreal's Offside with previous EP's having been released in 2016 and 2017. This one came out digitally in January and as of early June you can grab a 12" vinyl version of this from Upstate Records here in the US, Double Turn Records in Canada or Core-Tex over in Germany. "For The Real" starts us off and sounds as if it was extracted right out of a 90's hardcore rehearsal room complete with a patented "what's up mother fucker" right as that last mosh hits. From the get go here you can tell that Offside are influenced by bands like Madball, Strife, Judge... and probably a slew of other 90's era hardcore with an emphasis on the East Coast stuff. You know… the karate kicking, baggy pants, wind milling variety. "Blood Money" follows with a long intro where the vocals don't kick in for about a minute and a half. A good track that runs 4:35 in length which is pretty long by hardcore standards. Offside run with pretty much the same template throughout these 4 tracks with this EP clocking in at just about 15 minutes. It's well played and well recorded but at the same time everything is a little on the generic side as through a few listens not a whole lot jumps out of my speakers that makes me want to go back and play "Blood Money" over and over. Yes, there is some nice guitar work sprinkled in and the guest vocals on "Goodbye, Goodnight" by Victoria from Peer Pressure add a little something when they hit but overall this is standard 90's fare that can honestly claim to check off most of the bullet points to making a good hardcore record while still lacking that special something that makes you want to return for repeated listens. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
MUGS "WAKE UP OR DIE" (Released January 2019)
If you are hardcore about your hardcore music you already know that this is not the easiest music to just go out and find. While some bands can over post on their social media pages there are others who don't even fuck with the medium at all. It's called underground music for a reason and there are varying degrees of how deep down there you want your band to be. Finding Bane's "Don't Wait Up" CD a few years back at a Best Buy was a rare case of me "easily" finding hardcore although it was completely by chance. Low profiling Mugs out of NY take things to a completely new level of underground with this January 2019 full length that completed recording at some point in 2017. This is actually Mugs' third release and their second full length and when asked about their releases frontman Phil The Kid said that their debut "never really got out there", their second release "never got out there" and for this now three year old recording.. "have yet to get it out there". After playing this hidden gem continuously over the last couple of weeks I can't help but ask WHY!? "Wake Up Or Die" starts us off and lays the groundwork here with a thrashy beat that slows down for a nice NYHC style breakdown about half way through. Phil The Kid sounds pissed as hell on vocals while drawing comparisons to KT's Anthony Comunale on this one. An impressive start here folks. "Creepy Crawl Dancefloor" keeps the foot on the gas pedal with an equally as fast beat that dives into this catchy moshed up chorus. This is the type of track that is built for a live setting and audience participation. Mugs have members who have been all around the NY scene including Yuppicide/Caught In A Trap drummer Jay Rogan as well as Steve Gallo on bass and the lineage shows over the course of these 10 tracks with a NY attitude stamped all over everything. "Leave Me Alone", "What Is This World Coming To" and "Keep It To Yourself" are three more of the standouts on an impressive release that doesn't get bogged down by staying too close to any particular formula. These songs are diverse and stay fresh with some nice production work from BCS/No Redeeming Social Value drummer Glen Lorieo adding layers of reasons why you should check in with Mugs. Hopefully when we are all fully let out of our cages again we will be seeing and hearing more from these Mugs as they probably would be a whole lotta fun in a live setting too. Smash that link below and “name your price” to download it, you won’t be sorry.
STOPLOSS “WANDER. DEFY. RELENT. DECAY”
(Constant Disappointment Records, Released May, 2020)
Stoploss come to us from Lowell, Mass and have been around for nearly a decade. The band features members from Shipwreck A.D. and The Fake Boys. They were featured on the Northeast Hardcore Compilation in 2015 on Pine Hill Records and this is their first full length release. This record features 9 tracks of straight up, rage fuelled hardcore that will have you grabbing your friends and starting a mosh pit.
We kick this off with “Your Fucking Out”, which lays the groundwork for what these guys are all about. Starting out with a slow tempo and building up momentum to a furious pitch, this track gets the blood flowing and sets the tone for the rest of the record. “Exam” follows up with a short and fast blast of enraged hardcore that will have you up and slamming bodies in the pit. “Is There A Problem?” gives you a brief second to catch your breath before exploding into another frenzy-induced blast worthy of a circle pit. “Mark It Zero” opens with a slow musical interlude before blowing up into something worthy of inciting a war in the mosh pit. “Last Straw” doesn’t give you a chance to recover as it drives full steam into another minute and a half of authentic, break the speed limit hardcore that would make any hardcore fan proud. “Dragged Out” begins with an eerie opening giving you the feeling things are about to explode and explode they do. This song blows up into an intense, fast discharge of hardcore in its truest form. “21” is the standout track on this record. It deals with being fed up with life and all the problems that go along with it. The singer shows his disdain for the world around him and is backed up with a seething rhythm section. “Learning To Care” is another example of this bands ferocity. The intensity can be heard and felt in the lyrics and music, showing you that these guys’ hearts are in the right place. The record finishes up with “Rise”, a straight ahead track bursting with anger and rage for today’s world.
Stoploss deliver on their first endeavor giving the listener exactly what they want when it comes to solid hardcore music. The band is tight and plays with a renewed sense of entitlement, giving the listener exactly what they want to hear. The vocals are solid and get the message across that they are pissed off and the world is going to know it. This record should be in every hardcore fan’s music collection. Check it out on Bandcamp & Spotify.
REFLECT “RIVER CITY HARDCORE” (Released April, 2020)
Reflect are coming to us from Richmond, VA and consist of only two members, something that always baffles me when it comes to playing live but as far as recording, it worked well. Justin Valdez- (vocals) and David Webster - (drums, guitars, bass) have created a sound that captures the essential, raw roots of hardcore. The demo is composed of four tracks, here along with the titles is a significant line from each track:
1) “Reflect”- instrumental
2) “Inner Peace” - "can I save myself again? Tell me will I feel myself again"
3) “Polaroids”- "those memories saved me but now they break me"
4) “Watch The Tears”- "do you love me enough to forgive me?”
The messages within the songs revolve around emotions, especially “Watch The Tears” which talks about heartbreak but “River City Hardcore” is not an EMO release. The good breakdowns and riffs keep the hardcore style alive. Honestly, when I first listened to this release, I thought it was good but after a few more listens it really grew on me. My favorite tracks are “Reflect” and “Inner Peace”. After listening to this demo, I am left with two assumptions about the band… and yes I know what they say about assumptions but I hope I'm right. I get a vibe that this is a young band that appeals to a younger fan base and I also picture Reflect just wreaking havoc in a basement or backyard show (when they put together a full lineup). Even if I am incorrect about my assumptions, the only thing that matters is that the music comes from the heart, which it clearly did. I think there is definitely room for growth as well as a future for this duo and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the follow up to “River City Hardcore”
CRUX DECUSSATA “CLASS DISMISSED” EP
Crux Decussata comes to us from Boston and labels themselves a speed metal band. Their influences come from other speed metal, thrash and hardcore bands as well as the classics such as Motorhead, Venom and Judas Priest. The band has also released a 5 song demo in 2019.
“Class Dismissed”, the title track, kicks this EP off. From the opening Slayer-ish scream, you are cast back in time to the days of old when Judas Priest, Venom and a host of other 80’s acts ruled the metal scene. From the guttural screams to the guitar riffs, this song has all the elements to give you the feeling you have stepped back in time. Unfortunately, the song lacks any fundamental or unique sound of their own. Instead, it comes off as a “name the bands you recognize” song. Check out the video for this track HERE.
“Progress” follows suit with another eighties sounding song much like the first. The musical influences can be heard throughout the song and once again it lacks any identity the band is attempting to establish. Things wind down with a unique track entitled, “Highway Vampyre” which combines Deep Purple with Slaughter And The Dogs. This song pays homage to two bands the group looks up to and they do a righteous job of combining hardcore and old metal into a fun song.
In all honesty, there is not much to get excited about with this release. Crux Decussata come off sounding more like a cover act than a band trying to establish their own sound. The riffs are familiar sounding, as are the vocals and the band offers nothing new to establish themselves as a creative force. If 80’s thrash and speed metal is your thing, then maybe you will enjoy this release which the band has available on cassette.
STREET WEAPON “QUICK TO DIE” EP
(Not For The Weak Records, Released March, 2020)
Street Weapon come to us from Virginia Beach and consist of members still in high school. This is their debut EP and the band has also released two previous demos in 2018 and 2019. The band is on Not for the Weak Records and plays hardcore which pays tribute to the New York Hardcore scene. “Quick To Die”, the title track, opens up this six song EP. I couldn’t help but notice how in parts of this song it sounds a little like Spider Crew’s “Still Crazy But Not Insane” but only on certain parts and is still a solid first track to grab your attention with. Next up we have the track “Padded Cell”, which is fifty-two seconds of straight up, pissed off rage, blending hardcore and metal riffs and takes this EP to the next level. It highlights the band’s diversity and shows they aren’t confined to one genre. “Laughing Stock” takes the group into high gear with a fast and strong sounding frenzy reminiscing of early British punk, particularly GBH. Next up is “The Truth”. The intro sounds a little like Madball and I guess this is where they pay tribute to the NYHC scene. This song is amped and delivers up some quality hardcore anger. “American Dream” is another example of the band’s blend of early eighties British punk and their own brand of music, making this another notable track. “Dying To Live” finishes up this EP and is the stand out track on this outing. It has all the ingredients to make it a true hardcore classic. For a group of high school kids, Street Weapon is on the right track to developing their own brand of hardcore music. The production is solid and the band sound like seasoned musicians for their ages. The fact that this is their third release and they aren’t even out of high school has them earning my respect and support. These guys are talented and should go far in the scene. Find it online via Bandcamp or Spotify or for a 7” copy hit up Not For The Weak Records HERE.
THE CAR BOMB PARADE “FOR THE BRIGADE”
(Knuckle Down Records, Release Date June 5, 2020)
The Car Bomb Parade... “For The Brigade” 3 song EP comes complete with a rabid top hat wearing raccoon on the cover. If that doesn’t scream out punk fucking rock I don’t know what does. This band has releases that go as far back as 2014 with last years “Opiate For The Madness” full length being the one that kind of lured a lot of new fans (including myself) into the fold. “Opiate…” had Dan “The Family Man” on vocals but on this new one we see the return of their original singer in the Reverend Nicky Bullets. This one comes out on 7” vinyl on June 5th via Knuckle Down Records but in 2020 you get to stream that shit before it is officially out.
Up first is “The Purpose”, a lyrically chaotic tune set to a speedy hardcore punk beat. The chorus is catchy and that choppy drum beat that slides on in to the tune makes this one a keeper. Back in January they put out a video for this track… check it out HERE. “Be Your Own God” is more on the punk rock side of the fence as compared to the opener. This track features one of those guitar grooves that once you get it into your head you just can’t seem to get it out. This band does a really good job at straddling the line between punk and hardcore and from track to track (even more so on their last album) they keep you guessing as to what they will drop on you. “Murder Party” comes in at 4:07 in run time and no doubt this will be the side B of this 7’ as its run time is almost equal to the two songs on side A. This track is also more in the punk rock style with a mellow groove type of feel to it. When the chorus comes back around around the 2:20 mark of this song the instruments drop out and it’s sung live as the band claps along before the instruments come back in to rejoin the song. Although I consider myself a hardcore punk purist this track could sound kinda sick if it was performed acoustically but what do I know?
This band has gone through a lot over the last two years with multiple band member changes at really bad times. After surviving that they gained momentum through live performances in the NYC area and this 7” would have served as a good companion for all of the summer touring they were in the process of lining up. Despite the uncertain times ahead in regards to live performances I would bet that The Car Bomb Parade will be geared up and ready to roll on the other side of a global pandemic.. whenever that may be. In the meantime support the fucking scene and check out these new tracks by a band that is out there busting their buns to make some good hardcore punk music for you freaks.
MEGAMOUTH s/t EP
(The Team Records, Released April, 2020)
Listing influences that range from Bane, Rage Against The Machine to Bad Religion, Snapcase and Death By Stereo Buffalo’s Megamouth drop their latest in the form of a five song self-titled EP that shows a unique blend of musical styles that at the very least makes you sit up and take notice. Opening track “Megamouth” comes in at 1:17 length wise and is as simple and stomp worthy as hardcore intros come as the lone lyric of “MEGA-MOUTH!” is repeated over and over (16 times in all… I counted!) as you can’t help but ball up that fist and nod your head to that choppy drum beat coupled with some chaotic guitar work that makes it seem like a giant Megamouth is gonna come crashing down outta the sky and wreck your world. Check out their fans and friends inspired quarantine style video they made for this track HERE. Track three titled “Comeback” is another ear catcher with a hip-hop/hardcore type of fusion to it. The guitars on this track kind of remind me of a broken car muffler… or the guitar sound that Motley Crue got on “Too Fast For Love” and I bring this up in the most positive of ways. The band features two singers in Ryan and Angelo and they are not overly distinguishable from one another so if it wasn’t mentioned I may have actually thought it was the same dude all the way through. Closing track “Nothing” has additional vocals by J-Ruggz who is the guy behind the Maximum Penalty ‘rip” cover art for his recording. This track pushes the hip-hop influences harder than any of the tracks on this EP and at the 1:14 mark you can really feel the MCA/Beastie Boys vibe rip through your speakers. I like this record and what Megamouth brings to the table but at the same time I am not in love with it either. “Undecided” and “Revolution” (tracks 2 and 3) are just not as catchy as the other three tracks brought up within this review. Megamouth’s style is fresh and unique and I can see the majority of people out there either loving or hating what they do. Seven minutes of music though is hard to make a definitive overall judgement on a band but I feel comfortable saying that I appreciate a band branching out and bringing various influences together to try and create a unique product, and that is exactly what this is… unique. Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify.
SAND AND SALT “ALL THE GOOD THINGS” EP & “THRIVE” EP (Released April 20, 2020)
About two months into the COVID lockdown blues, I was asked to review two brand new EPs from a hardcore/punk rock band from Tarifa, Spain which just happens to be the southernmost town in Europe. My eyes perked up and I replied, “sure” because I do not remember listening to a punk band from Spain before, and also because my girlfriend grew up in Spain. The fact that this band has just released two different EPs on the same day perked my interest as well. The band I am talking about is called Sand And Salt. The first EP here has more of a poppy “Fat Wreck Chords” sound and is called “All The Good Things”. The other EP they released is called “Thrive” which has more of a NY “Youth Crew” sound. So, as you can see, my interest in listening to these two records were burning a hole in my pocket as I was trying to finish up work and get home.
I felt it was best to throw on the “All The Good Things” EP first which is how I would recommend which order one should listen to these releases. They start off the EP with the song, “Glassey”, a minute and a half intro that has a cool riff and a good melodic guitar riff. A good way to start the record and give you a feel for what this EP is all about. Next is “Life Is Huge”. Powerful, melodic guitar riffs to match the vocal range of singer Feda De La Calle, who also handles guitars and bass duties for most songs on these albums. Fast verses and catchy, melodic choruses and tons of positivity flowing from this song. A great, catchy punk song all the way. I have always felt that a little pop punk is good for a well-balanced diet, so this song is perfect. Next up is a song called, “I Dissent” which is another great, pop-punk song. I mean it. This band has not missed a beat yet. Like a 90’s Propagandi or NOFX song, this song kicks ass! Next up is a short song called “Nothing More”. Another quick song about the band’s love for the beach! As a resident of Florida, I can totally relate and it is great to see a “beach punk” band today that is not a Sublime rip-off. Finally, they close out this release with the title track, “All The Good Things”. They absolutely saved the best for last with this gem. A great pop-punk song about falling in love with a girl on the beach is totally refreshing and just what I needed to tell you the truth. This song has all the feels of an old Bouncing Souls song and was a great way to wrap up this EP. Although, it left me wanting more, I thought about the whole other EP from this band that awaited me.
So, a few easy clicks and I am on to the next EP called “Thrive” which was already rumored to be the heavier and faster of the two. Another intro song called “Storm” starts off this album. Definitely, a total different vibe on this release already. Thunderous bass and a heavy guitar riff let you know which way this EP is going to go. They then head right into, “Restart”… an impressive hardcore track about starting over. As a divorced father, still learning how to live one’s life over from scratch, I can relate to this song’s message in a big way. With lyrics like “A defeat is a new chance, when we fall, we must restart”. You will be screaming, “Restart!” too, by time this song is over, trust me. The third track here, “Don’t Label Me”, starts off with a solo guitar riff, joined by the singer before drums and the rest come in. They quickly get into mosh pit mode when he cries out, “Don’t judge me, don’t label me!” Another killer song off this record as well. Jumping right into “My Best”, they keep things moving fast. Real fast! It’s a wonder how drummer Adrian Bouza keeps up at all. A mix of fast circle pit with a creepy crawl vibe is what makes this song stand out from the others. And finally, they close out this EP like they did the other with another title track… this one called “Thrive”. They open the verse with lightning fast guitar riffs and gritty, but melodic vocals. The gang vocals on the choruses is what gives the song its hardcore validity. The quick build-up before the final breakdown is great. Then, a quick abrupt ending still leaves you wanting even more. Bravo to this band! Not only did they write two great punk EPs, but they also provided me with a rather awesome listening experience as well. Mad props for creativity and the way they achieved balance and made two great records, all at the same time let me know where all the Spanish Bombs are dropping! Check these out on Bandcamp or Spotify.
THUG RIOT “SOUTHWEST STOMP” (Released April, 2020)
There’s something about the word “riot” In a song title or band name that just grabs your attention. Punk legends The Clash sang about “White Riot”; Oi band The Anti-Hero’s told us about a “Disco Riot” and in hardcore we have such bands as Full Scale Riot and Thug Riot… the latter forming in 2018 in Tucson, Arizona have created a unique blend of punk, hardcore and Oi which the band calls “ Hooligan Hardcore”. Thug Riot have just put out their third release titled “Southwest Stomp” which consists of 6 in your face songs composed by veterans of the scene: Brent Hartley- vocals, Kevin Perlin -vocals, Richard Juhl - guitars/vocals, Mark Vasquez, guitars, Richard Lopez -drums and Ritchie Brusier - bass. This EP is an energetic release fueled with a heavier and faster, old school style of the aforementioned genres. I love the three vocalist attack, each one bringing a different powerful voice that accompanies equally powerful lyrics.
I’ve included the EP’s track listing along with a brief synopsis.
Track 1: “Southwest Stomp”, pretty much an instrumental except for the occasional shout out to the DMS Crew.
Track 2: “FxTxP”, contains a strong message to the men and women of the police department. You can probably figure out what the initials in the title stand for.
Track 3: “Seen Your Scene”, the band is pretty much stating they have seen it all and they “don’t need your scene”.
Track 4: “Skinhead Boobs”, now I’ve heard songs about skinhead pride, skinhead girls and even a secret agent skin but this is the first time I’ve heard one about skinhead breasts! You have to love Thug Riot paying homage to the ladies in the scene.
Track 5: “Nothing Inside”, a tale of betrayal.
Track 6: “Destroy Everything”, a song which is pretty explanatory, “we came to destroy all you love”.
My favorite track is the tongue and cheek “Skinhead Boobs” for the simple reason... who doesn’t love skinhead girls? I first heard Thug Riot last December when their second release came out, I was immediately drawn to the spirit and the vibe I was hearing. The music grabbed me by the throat, the lyrics angry but it was genuine. Fortunately “Southwest Stomp” continues with that same vibe and intensity where the last release left off giving both old and new fans another needed dose of “Hooligan Hardcore”. Check it out on Bandcamp or Spotify.
LAST STRAW “DEMO 2020”
(Youngblood Records, Released April, 2020)
X's on! Hooded sweatshirts on! High tops on! GOOOOoooooooooooo! I'm gonna teach you thugs, not to mess with drugs; well no, I'm not going to. After all, I'm no hypocrite, wink wink, nudge nudge, puff puff, pass. However, Last Straw just might teach you thugs a thing or two as they carry that straight edge banner with pride. Granted I smoked a fathead before I listened to Last Straw, but that means nothing as I have always loved edge music, even did a label that was largely edge. Most of my closest compatriots are edge and I am fine with them and they are fine with me. The way it should be. Last Straw hail from Connecticut and I gather they got their kick ass name from the old-school CTHC SXE band Wide Awake as that was the title of their biggest banger of a tune by far, and yes, I did mosh my face off in between Jolt Colas at the Anthrax to Wide Awake back in my salad days. Everything about this demo screams pick me up if you have ever dug anything remotely straight edge hardcore. It has all the bells and whistles, the fonts, the X's, the artwork. It all screams put down that beer and mosh. So what do they bring to the table you ask?
Let's get this outta the way. Last Straw is not breaking new ground here, but shit, if you read old reviews of Bold, GB and YOT from the late 80's they all say the same thing. They weren't breaking ground then, nobody's gonna now, so let’s all just say, who gives a fuck about breaking ground, just bring me some straight hard tunage. Last Straw bring 4 such tunes with this demo. The first song is a 1:17 intro. Every band needs and intro I don't give two shits who ya are. Last Straw introduce themselves with a nice one. Next up is "Disguised" running 1:07. The CT Crew can see right through... take a look at yourself. Good stuff. Very typical for the genre but again... that's why we're here. The third song on offer is introduced with some nice guitar work. The song is called "Not For You" and as it states Last Straw, straight edge... this is not for you. Are they talking to me? I mean my weed is medicinal does that count? Ahhh, who cares, still love the tunes. The final song is a cover of the great yet all but forgotten CT SXE band Follow Through. The song is "You Booze, You Lose" running 1:44 and as cheesy as that title is, it is one of my favorite FT songs and the Last Straw boys do a great job of covering it.
So there you have it. I'm not sure I'm going to be invited into the Last Straw inner circle, but that's OK, I dig them anyway. They have just hooked up with Sean Youngblood and his Youngblood Records label. Now Sean is a friend and I back whatever he does because his label is awesome, he has heart and he is 100% legit. So good for Last Straw and Sean that they have found each other as it seems like a great fit. Now if you assholes don't mind, I have some medicating to do and I'm definitely cranking Last Straw while I do so because i hate stoners, hippies and drunks too... ok...maybe I'm a little hypocritical... but who the fuck asked you, get the fuck off my lawn, you might step on my weedlings and where the fuck are your masks you ninnyhammers.
HASHTAG HARDCORE FANZINE
(Issue #6, Released Spring, 2020)
The last Hashtag Hardcore issue came out in March of 2016… it was their planned last issue ever and I was bummed to see such a fun zine move on to other hardcore related activities. Although bummed I shed no tears as that is simply not the hardcore thing to do as stated in the title of Sick Of It All’s first full length that came out like 267 years ago. Editor and CEO Daan Hashtag actually moved on to drum in a Dutch band called Cornered, a band who he has since left. The combo of being locked down in quarantine and leaving Cornered played a big role in the reemergence of the ### in 2020. Although a “new” issue the interviews in issue #6 are hardly that. Highlighted by a really good 2017 interview with Burn’s Gavin Van Vlack this issues interviews are of the older variety and show that although Hashtag had called it a day publicly that they were still planning some kind of a comeback. The other interviews are with Euro’s Pain Principle (Poland), Hard Shoulder, Spirit Crusher (Germany) and Mindwar (Belgium). Hashtag has always been big on covering NYHC acts and I generally agree with their reviews which will have me at the very least kick the tires on some of these bands I am not yet familiar with. Tack on a hodgepodge Sheer Terror “interview” made up of all previous Paul Bearer quotes from various zines throughout the years to the pile as well. Some zine reviews and an underwhelming (just 4) reviews section round things out. Issue 6 of Hashtag is almost like their Spring Training issue as they wake up from their slumber, shake off some cobwebs and gear up for another run of hardcore fanzine domination. 48 half sized pages printed on black and white for those who actually give a hoot. Find it online at MerchPit or email them directly at email@example.com to inquire about having this issue take up space on your desk, backpack, home library or bird cage.
TOXIC SHOCK/REPROACH split cassette
(Awesome Visions/Stads Kanker, Released 2019)
I was happy to get this little gem to review. Two Belgium punk/hardcore bands mixing old school with new school and giving me faith that the tradition lives on in these two great bands. This is a split cassette release on Awesome Visions Records and Stads Kanker Records with a Japanese CD version either already out or about to come out very soon.
Toxic Shock kick off this release with four songs that will have you believing punk is not dead yet. From the first track until the last, this band stays true to their roots. “S.P.O.S.” is the first track and sets the tone for what these guys are all about. Fast, angry and with a hint of early British punk rock, this song is my favorite of the four. “Inner Demons” changes up things with a more speed-driven thrash sound while still incorporating punk vocals that give it a unique sound. “City “Of Love” fuses hardcore and crossover metal and comes at you full force. This song would create an intense mosh pit and features guest vocals from Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates and Disfear. “Onward To Destruction”, the last track, pays homage to Reproach, the other band on this split cassette. With growling vocals, machine gun guitars and drums make this a great number to end Toxic Shock’s contribution to this music endeavor.
Next up is Reproach, who contribute five songs to this cassette. Without any warning they open up with “Forward”, which impacts you like a wrecking ball coming through your bedroom and sending you crashing into the wall. It’s fast and intense and lets you know right from the start that these guys mean business. For about a dozen seconds after the first track, you think you have a chance to catch your breath but you are only kidding yourself as “Human Vermin” kicks into high gear and blasts you with less than thirty seconds of hardcore mayhem. “Ratrace” continues the onslaught with another short blistering piece of old school mosh pit chaos. “The Trap” shows signs of slowing down but before you even have time to grab a quick sip of your beverage, you are once again thrown into the whirlwind of frenzied style of hardcore punk these guys play. The band finishes with a cover of Toxic Shock’s “On Thin Ice”. As far as cover songs go, I think Reproach does justice playing the song that even Toxic Shock would approve.
For a cassette which clocks in just fewer than twelve minutes, Toxic Shock and Reproach dispense punk and hardcore like it was meant to be played; fast, loud and fueled with rage. Don’t let these two bands slip under your radar. Grab a copy of this cassette and check out the bands other releases. You won’t be sorry. Check out Toxic Shock’s songs HERE, Reproach’s tracks HERE and to get it on cassette from Stads Kanker head over HERE.
PARANOID VISIONS FANZINE “THE AGE OF QUARANTINE” (Released April, 2020)
Paranoid Visions: “The Age Of Quarantine” is a half size zine from the author of Streets of Hate Fanzine. It features a table of contents, the next best thing to an index, that lays out the contents within: two label highlights, Trip Machine Labs and Plead Your Case, and two band interviews, Enemy Mind and Self Decay. The latter is a reprint from 1998 and the former is a contemporary conversation. There's also a one page Echelon interview that arrived along with the zine, which presumably didn't make it into the main layout due to space or time.
I was not super familiar with Enemy Mind, but this interview is pretty interesting and covers everything from Greenfield Mike attending Nyack College (but presumably taking no classes with Kurtis Blow, who was class of '98?) to graffiti to his first NJ show “at a club called The Pipeline. The lineup very easily could've been Maximum Penalty, Murphy's Law, Merauder, Fury Of Five, 25 Ta Life. We saw that exact show or something very similar every weekend that whole fall," a great example of the NY-NJ confluence, the unrecorded but extant-in-my-heart answer to Skarhead's B.Q. Experience.
Speaking of regionalism, this zine is relatively Hudson Valley centric, though Plead Your Case is based in Florida. In between longer features and interviews there is also a short section on the Town of Hardcore Zineography and 25 short reviews, including one that might make me give Higher Power another shot if they actually sound like Shift. The Self Decay interview is a throwback to when bands seemed less concerned with people’s perception of them and more candid in their responses.
This zine is printed on nice paper, and the whole thing is written in caps lock so the words really jump out at you. The reviews are a little hard to read against a busy background, which take that as you will coming from me, the queen of chaotic backgrounds. Various throwback pics are interspersed between features, from Stillsuit in Staten Island to Dying Breed at the Saratoga Youth Center. If a picture is worth 1000 words, this is a 1995 word answer to anyone who was like "who are all these people who own bandanas?" when we started wearing them as masks. Not only are these interesting pics but they are also that much more special in zine form than just seeing them on Instagram or something. Hence the enduring magic of print zines.