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THE BAD UPS “LIFE IS SWELL” EP
(Release Date July 20, 2019)
Philly burb-punx The Bad Ups return with their sophomore EP “Life Is Swell” which is the follow up to their May 2018 release “Life Is Hell” which goes to show that if you keep that PMA flowing you can flip your life from hell to swell in just a little over a year. The Bad Ups play melodic punk and when I was initially sold on these guys I was told they are “super Descendentish” which ain’t far from the truth. “Bob Villian” opens things up here with a mid-paced ball of melody with a big hook of a chorus, a really swell way to open up this 6 song EP. “Funny how you only listen to me when I say it in a song” is the opening line to “Gene Wilder”, track number 2, which has a much faster pace than the opener but none less in the way of hooks. The Bad Ups seem to be the type of band that you can go see “cold”, not knowing any of their music and still get roped in on the first listen. “Pip Squeak” features Lenny Lashey of Street Dogs/Darkbuster/Gang of One and is definitely my favorite track on this 15 minute EP as they genre flip into ska-punk/skank mode. I admittedly have had some crack fiend like moments with this song cherry picking it out of the rotation and cranking it all the way up as it just has this rejuvenating vibe and feel. The song ends and I hit replay. “Self Abuse” follows and is a nice tune that falls in line with the opening tracks style but doesn’t quite reach the same levels for me. They flip the switch on us again on track 5 which is a 1 minute and 42 second reggae instrumental titled “Stressed Out” that features Chuck Treece of McRad/Underdog fame and is the type of track that if placed just right breaks up a record nicely which is the case here. “Always Tired” (oh how I can relate to this song’s title) closes out this EP with an uplifting mid-paced track with some powerful vocals, and of course some more fucking hooks. “Life Is Swell” is not this squeaky clean melodic punk record. It has some grit to it and The Bad Ups as a band come off to me as underdogs that may not be getting the fanfare that they deserve (just yet). In some ways hardcore punk is kind of like an old school ice cream parlor with all these different flavors to choose from. I may open the day to some soul crushing tunes from Sworn Enemy, get all retro with Minor Threat and then go melodic with a great new band like The Bad Ups. Obviously everyone has different tastes but to me this type of variety is something that has kept me glued to the underground since I was a teen and The Bad Ups are just another name in a long line of names that make a difference to me in a musical sense. Check out “Life Is Swell” on Spotify and Apple Music.
LEEWAY “TIPPING POINT”
(Upstate Records, Released July, 2019)
The “hipsterdom” that quickly turned a vibrant street bohemia of varying cultures in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, the downtown and uptown sections of Manhattan into a predictable “Garibaldi Beard”, top knot hair’d yuppie atmosphere unfortunately lives off retro-ism, scalping everything cool from the fringe and underground communities until it reaches bone. Leeway NYC - a continuation of the pioneering heavy metal/NYHC outfit of the same moniker (minus its New York abbreviation) have released a 45 RPM vinyl 2 song EP that serves more as a warning to those getting too comfortable and too familiar. Do not let the look fool you…New York City still has its dangerous elements, the grit doesn’t come from the real estate.
Unfolding almost as a raw conceptual EP, “Tipping Point” thematically deals with the perils of addiction not from the user perspective but those loyal who remain in the small circle and are outwardly affected. The lead-off single “I’m Your Pusher” written by Eddie Sutton and Dan Nastasi (previously of Mucky Pup and Dog Eat Dog) is an example of both their styles working harmoniously in composition. A slow doom metal guitar rings out an ominous intro with bashing drum stops that seems fit for the 1982 American sword and sorcery film “Conan the Barbarian” just as the snake cult “Thulsa Doom” makes its dark horse appearance. Climaxing, the intro rises until we’re hit with a hard rock/metal riff rooted in 90’s era Leeway “No Heroes” and Dog Eat Dog’s “It’s Like That’ giving us a bounce and groove that is purely East Coast. The song nails its chorus with Eddie’s animated vox building to the melody before the song digs back into its cinematic overture with added vocal melodic lines as the track comes full circle. B-Side “Message To A Man-child” continues with street tales of white powder zombies who soul gamble on the streets of urban and now suburban America. Though where “I’m Your Pusher” gives us the struggle of helping someone deep in the throes of addiction “Message To A Man-child” shows us the flipside of being at wits ends emotionally, physically and spiritually with nothing left to offer but parting words for someone who has burnt they’re last chance and broken their final promise in the name of getting high. Its melancholy tone and subject matter is backed by a new wave thrash sound that keeps with Leeway’s history of genre crossing and experimentation in heavy metal.
The crew assembled for this 2019 form of Leeway NYC is appealing with some familiar heavy hitters notably Gordon Ancis, lead guitarist for the 1985 NYHC speed metal outfit NYC Mayhem… who took on lead guitar duties for Leeway from 1985 through 1986 and was featured on the groups live cassette release “Unexpected Live, Recorded Live at the Ritz 12-27-1986”, Dank DeLong touring bassist for Whiplash, Mucky Pup drummer John Milnes and rhythm guitarist Dan Nastasi from Mucky Pup and founding member of 90’s outfit Dog Eat Dog.
With Eddie Sutton carrying the history and one quarter of its original sound his vox is the defining element as the group carves out their own brand of metal with an outer borough hip hop slant. A matured Eddie Sutton continues his narration of urban tales over loud, aggressive and hard music… his knack for it is second to none. He does so in a lost language of authentic street prose mixed with slang delivered in a Queensboro accent.
As NYHC and other regional scenes influenced by it thrive in the present era of technology in the palm of your hand it seems ironic that traditional hardcore punk seems to be the order of the day. As if we are starting back at year zero, the in between period where a harder, faster genre made punk rock sound like polka music. Though its evolutionary development into a more progressive sound has its markings in 1985 with Leeway abruptly changing the rules with the ‘Enforcer’ demo and smashing them with their subsequent Profile Records’ releases Leeway NYC with “Tipping Point” carries the flag of one of the most iconic bands to ever do it. Way back when they turned a scene upside down drawing a line in the sand that said “Now NYHC starts here” as they garnered respect from older hardcore bands and personalities who seemed as if they would rather give up an arm than accolades, while being one of the few bands that united metalheads, NYHC skins, skater kids and B-Boys, turning clubs into gladiatorial like contests at the Colosseum with classic Leeway street anthems that exclaimed “…Snitches get stitches, the thread on your cheek must itch…” (“Mark Of The Squealer” 1989) and “All hail the kingpin, the one with soul, who’s in control…” (“Kingpin” 1991). These are hard luck lines that only Eddie Sutton can deliver. They are not based on urban dystopian novels or films but founded in a reality that keeps New York living in its dichotomy that with danger comes great art.
Everyone will have their own opinion about this release and line up…but if you’re a fan of Leeway than you know this is nothing new. Contentious debates amongst fans have transpired for years with some pledging undying devotion to the “Born To Expire” era and some considering their “Desperate Measures” outing as the definitive album while others connect deeply with the groups final two albums that went more in a heavy rock sound in “Adult Crash” and “Open Mouth Kiss”. The one point that can be said is that Eddie is out there performing and recording with musicians who choose to bring Leeway to the people… for those who want it.
BYSTANDER “WHERE DID WE GO WRONG” (Safe Inside Records, Goodwill Records, Released July, 2019)
Iconic US hardcore musicians from the mid 90's like Andrew Kline (Strife), Aaron Bedard (Bane) and Greg Bennick (Trial) are all far from giving up, it feels as if they're on a relentless journey driven by passion. As I see it, these 3 bands made such a great impact on the hardcore punk community on a global scale that it is compelling to see them move on from the bands we mostly associate them with. Fast forward a couple of years and they are all still bringing it with new projects… (Kline with Berthold City and Bedard with Antagonize)
For Greg Bennick, it all started again in 2017 with Bystander, a revival youth crew band facing a fast growing fanbase, partly because of its members "pedigree" -- which includes Charles from melodic sxe powerhouse Spirits plus Chad and Shariq from Decline/Expired Youth… and partly by its sonic output and impactful lyrics. Within a year Bystander have now put out 2 EPs and were featured on the Youth Crew 2018 compilation by Positive & Focused Records.
On "Where Did We Go Wrong" the band find themselves a tighter unit than on their first EP with every one of the 7 tracks being sung from the heart bringing nostalgia for those over 30 years of age and pure inspiration for the newer generation. This album is also filled with shredding guitar riffs and plenty of mosh opportunities not unlike the best bands from the first youth crew revival era. Whether you are straight edge or not you may be surprised with what Bystander has to offer which is just simply meaningful hardcore like it was meant to be done… otherwise it would be just another sub-genre of rock n roll.
This EP was pressed both in the USA and Italy in a very cool 12" format by Safe Inside Records and Goodwill Records respectively, support these real labels and band by ordering a copy HERE or HERE. Also be on the lookout for tour dates as they are heading to Europe at the end of this very month.
BRAIN WAVES FANZINE ISSUE #3 (Released Summer, 2019)
Brain Waves Zine has impressed in the past and issue 3 keeps the string of quality going even though if it has been 3 years since their last issue. Having two children and moving from the Netherlands to Indonesia could possibly slow the most dedicated and hardworking zinesters out there down so credit due to Alfons of Brain Waves (as well as Icepick NL) for finding the time to keep on keeping on!
Issue 3 is a full sizer with 32 total pages on black and white glossy paper… none of that cheap newsprint crap like the old In Effect Fanzines used to have! The reason you will be buying this is for the Harley Flanagan interview which runs a total of 8 pages and is a long ass and interesting read. If you already dislike the guy this interview will probably not change that fact and if you love him you will probably find new reasons to love him even more after you read this. A 6 page Power Trip interview with Riley Gale follows and is also a nice read that gets a little in depth with the Power Trip frontman. There are some absolute killer photos in both of these interviews from Angela Owens and although typical, the DIY cut and paste format with the big typeset makes for easy reading. Shadow Of Doubt from Texas, Italy’s Blvd Of Death, and Belgium’s Chain Reaction round out the interviews with the last 3 mentioned being in the short but sweet category. Some odds and ends round out issue 3 with some really cool flyer art, some old Cro-Mags press clippings and an intro and “endtro” which add that personal element that gives you a little insight behind the person/people doing a fanzine. I will always be a sucker for the DIY hardcore punk fanzine and Brain Waves issue 3 solidifies that fact with another quality output.
PLACEHOLDER “IMPROMPTU CIGARETTE MAGIC” EP (Released June, 2019)
In baseball there are five-tool players. These are the players that possess most of the attributes that teams and managers are looking for. They can do whatever is asked of them. Beyond that, there are players that have specific skills, and do not show any other distinct abilities. It music, we see quite a few of these "one tool" players. And to be fair, this is not a bad category to be in (see AC/DC, Ramones and Motorhead). It is those five-tool bands that tend to stand out and capture the imagination of the listener. Placeholder could potentially be one of those five-tool bands.
Placeholder checks off many boxes of previous bands that bring a smile to my face. They exhibit speed and precision while instituting and enforcing a deliberate sense of melody throughout their songs. “Mull To Five” opens with a quick onslaught that quickly reminds the listener of Strike Anywhere, but then breaks down to a quick interlude of snotty punk tendencies. What makes the song great is that it doesn't stick around too long, it understands its limits. One minute, twenty three seconds and I'm out. Job done well and complete.
Placeholder sticks to this formula throughout “Impromptu Cigarette Magic”. Quick bursts of aggression and melody but keeping with a sing-a-ling vibe. “Rancor” brings to mind Dan Yemin styled work, more so Paint It Black than Lifetime, but the influence is definitely there. The line of "I've got trust issues, I wouldn't have them without you" is pure Yemin-ese hardcore in the best sense.
The entire recording keeps up the initial feeling throughout their six songs. While those previously mentioned influences stand out, there is good bit of punk sprinkled in, leaning toward Strung Out or even some NOFX styled guitar work.
Placeholder is doing what their name suggests, staking a firm claim in the land of melodic hardcore punk. The songs are well written and playing is great. “Impromptu Cigarette Magic” is a solid EP that makes five-tool listeners happy.
CRO-MAGS “DON’T GIVE IN” EP
(Victory Records/Arising Empire, Released June, 2019)
To start this review off without saying a little something about the personel behind this release would be doing an injustice to our readers as in recent years the name “Cro-Mags” could mean more than one band depending on who you were talking to. It is no secret to those paying attention that the JJ vs Harley feud got legal with Harley Flanagan officially taking the name Cro-Mags back and Josh Joseph and Mackie Jayson now going under the name “Cro-Mags JM”.
And seemingly from out of nowhere on the morning of June 28th “Don’t Give In”, the new 3 song EP performed by Flanagan and crew was released digitally. Victory (US) and Arising Empire (Europe) had no pre-release build up which is always the case these days with hardcore punk records so the way this record was just sort of dropped from out of the sky was surprising as well as refreshing as I am kind of tired of all the “we got a real banger of an announcement tomorrow at noon” posts on social media. Just say what you gotta say, or in this case, just put out a fucking record without telling anyone! Through my first couple of listens to this I couldn’t help but think this was the hardcore equivalent of the classic wrestling heel strutting down to the ring with a microphone in hand making his presence known with the majority of the crowd booing and a few supporters cheering on their guy.
“Don’t Give In” features Harley on both bass and vocals, Gabby Abularach and Rocky George on guitars and Gary Sullivan on drums. The title track opens things up much like the opening minute plus of the old Cro-Mags tune “We Gotta Know” with a classic NYHC intro, drums boom bopping and guitar leads wailing away in the background 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 on overall play time) and I think this is a fitting as well as awesome way to connect the new to the old. This song shreds musically coupled with the in your face message that the title suggests. Harley’s vocal style is more of a gruff style versus JJ’s yet I liked it almost immediately. Like many of you I have listened to “The Age Of Quarrel” about 4 million times so any variation to what your brain has already grown accustomed to is going to take some adjusting. “Drag You Under” is up next, the shortest new one served up here at 1:40 in length. This song features a real chugga-chugga type of groove that just gets pounded and implanted into your head. A track that will have your head nodding along with a tight almost galloping type of beat that could probably have been extended into a longer track if they wanted. “No One’s Victim” carries the same vibe as the previous track but more so showcases some excellent guitar work by Rocky George who used to shred for Suicidal Tendencies way back when as well as having been credited for being the lead guitarist on Cro-Mags’ last album, “Revenge” which came out back in the year 2000. The choppy drum beat and chorus that carries the song’s title screams classic NYHC. Overall I was extremely impressed with “Don’t Give In’. The one knock I will give it is the production which sounds a little muddy but regardless this 6 plus minutes of new era Cro-Mags is on par with what the “AOQ” era Cro-Mags set out to accomplish. I am not saying it is better… it is not, but it is of the same ilk/style/feel and can 100% hang with their older offerings while delivering a real gritty street vibe which is undoubtedly one of the biggest things that drew people to this band in the first place. If you disagree you probably need to listen a little closer or perhaps you are a little too wrapped up in the whole JJ vs Harley rivalry thing. This has been on an almost constant loop both in the car and at In Effect HQ over the last 10 days with no letup in sight as the beats, choruses and guitar leads get me through my day to day. Out now obviously on “all streaming platforms” with a 7’ version due out on August 2nd and a full length in the works due out in October.
ALL OUT WAR “CRAWL AMONGST THE FILTH”
(Unbeaten Records, Release Date July 26, 2019)
It was August 17th, 1997. My girlfriend and I at the time, jumped on the 190 bus and hit the NYC trains downtown to CBGB’s. I was lucky enough to catch the show of a lifetime. It was 25 Ta Life, No Redeeming Social Value, Blood 4 Blood, Crown of Thornz and no other than ALL OUT FUCKIN’ WAR! I heard a lot about them at the time, but never saw them tear it up yet. Once they hit the stage, I was blown away. It was the hardcore version of Slayer, and I was hooked. I asked singer, Mike Score if he had any demos. He said he didn’t have any, but to write my address down and he’d send me something. So, I jot down my old Clifton, NJ address and walk over to the bar, and the whole time I’m thinking, “This dude ain’t sending me shit!” Well, a week later I got a xeroxed cassette in the mail with four songs on it that wound up on the “Truth In the Age Of Lies” LP. I saw them several times throughout the 90’s and until I moved down to Florida in 2005. I finally had the chance to see them again in Orlando two years ago and it was insane!
Which brings us to why we are here today. ALL OUT WAR is back! And in a way that I just can’t put into words. Over a year in the making, “Crawl Amongst The Filth”, is the seventh studio album from this Upstate, NY band who just never seem to “go the fuck away”, after more than twenty years! I was just coming off the new Sworn Enemy record when I heard this. So, how do you think they’re going to start this album out? Blast beats, nothing but blast beats. That’s how! “Divine Isolation” is the opening track off this monstrosity. AOW signature chugs, apocalyptic breakdowns, and demonic growls were all properly utilized within this opening track. It was excellent. “Judas Always Crawls” is the second track off this album. It debuted a few weeks ago, and it left me wanting more. The stomp part of this song is insane, and gets even crazier once vocalist, Mike Score, informs us that Judas, indeed, is a liar! Another AOW classic.
Another heavy hitter, “What Was Becomes Undone”, keeps us right in the mix with blast beats, Slayer chugs, and double bass galore. The heaviness just doesn’t stop. It doesn’t. Now this next song is quite possibly my favorite song on the record. “Contempt Be Thy Faith” is the fourth song on this new effort and it’s quite unbelievable. It starts with an intro that is very reminiscent of “Redemption For The Innocent” off their first two early releases. This song is pure slow-paced stomp! Throw in some eerie guitar playing courtesy of Andy Petroluengo and Taras Apuzo and this song is complete. The next track, “Drink The Plague”, resonates as heavily as the rest of the tracks. “Suffocate And Subjugate” is another example of a great All Out War song. Between Eric Carillo’s thunderous bass sound and Mike’s vocals reminding us of Carnivore, this song rips! Another track that was released just days ago, “Gehenna Lights Eternal”, is another apocalyptic beatdown from hell. One after another, each song engulfs you in flames before you can take a breath. Evil guitars and blast beats, once again, kick off the next track, “Septic Infestation”. Heaviness at its best. And it ends with a wicked scream at the end. “The Devil knows your kind!” “Hanging On The Wire”, the next song, seemed to give drummer, Jesse Sutherland, a bit of a break. The slow-paced tempo of the song changed things up a bit and was perfectly placed and Mike’s vocals only add more fuel to the fire. The final track, “Despised Regime”, was an excellent closing to the album. A mixture of slow tempos, fast tempos, heavy build-ups, sick guitar riffs, and sinister vocals that bring the album to a perfect close. All in all, this is an excellent effort. Add them to the list of “old school” bands like Sworn Enemy and Sick Of It All who put out some of their best work with their latest efforts. If you are into metallic hardcore, then you will love the new All Out War! Not out till July 26th, so you gotta wait still a little but in the meantime you can find pre-orders for it HERE.
THE AGGRAVATED “NO WAY OUT” (Released June, 2019)
The Aggravated come to us from from Atlanta, GA and their latest album "No Way Out" is a follow up to their first album "First To Die" and is an incredibly strong, chest beating primitive slab of crossover hardcore punk. The opening song, "Life’s Rut" has such a live feel to it with the production being spot on. From the moment you get into this it actually feels like you're in the pit and it shows that these guys actually know their stuff. Recorded in just 2 days, the 14 track monster is the perfect blend of some seriously catchy songs. This is for lovers of old-style Cro-Mags, Judge, as well as offering their own unique stamp.
"Doomed" explodes out of your speakers and is an up-tempo effort with some nice opportunities to sing along, whilst "Nation Divided" has some incredibly infectious guitar parts being offered from guitarist Mike Grice and is a slightly calmer affair compared to the other tunes but never the less is still a powerful outburst. "Price You Pay" and "Truth" both are extremely memorable with "Strike Fast" being a stone cold classic with its shout-along parts and will no doubt be a real live favorite. "All This Hate" reminds me of a Sick Of It All type style riff and "Final Warning" kicks off with a real catchiness with vocalist JW Smith delivering his message with complete power. This is one of those albums where you feel compelled to listen to the whole thing and not just certain tracks. "Hey You" is an absolute belter and will be essential to their live set, its simplistic approach coupled with the power and energy will turn the pit into a fucking frenzy. "Scars And Bruises" is another up-tempo song with a great chance to sing along and shows that this band certainly knows about song structure and since they have been around a while they know what they want.
Three members of The Aggravated have been in previous bands (Bloody Sods, Clocked In, Nothing To Lose and Mourdella) whilst coming to the end of this glorious album the last song "Get Em Up" is a cover of a Bloody Sods song from their first record, “Up and Runnin”. This song is a tribute to both the singer and the drummer who sadly died in vehicle accidents in 2005 and 2018 respectively. The drummer on this album Steve "Burnout" Barnett is a powerhouse in his own right, his thunderous timing is a perfect blend for bassist Dane Wagner to work with and crush us with some classic anthems.
All in all, I absolutely love this album, it offers everything and more to the listener, the artwork is really good and with the CD you get the lyrics too. I expect to hear a lot of this band in the future and would highly recommend that this album sits in your collection. These guys need to get over to the UK and start gigging! Fucking 'ave it!!!"
PINK GUITARS “HAND” EP (Released March, 2019)
Hardcore and punk rock's foundation comes from going against the mainstream, being rebellious and having a DIY attitude. Well get ready to be introduced to a band that is all of this and definitely a little different. I am referring to Pink Guitars; a one man band from Buffalo, NY that consists of Sean Wild. Sean's influences come from 70's and 80's hardcore bands as well as some new wave bands. He also brings musical experience from his past local bands such as the indie rock band Supergoner; however don't be too quick to judge from the "indie" label, Sean knows what he is doing and Pink Guitars’ debut EP is completely DIY and a perfect mix of all the above music. The EP which is titled “Hand” contains 8 tracks with a play time of around 15 minutes and all tracks and vocals were recorded this year by Sean. I have three tracks that really stick out: the instrumental “Reading Books About Zen”; “Above It All” and “Bad Day”. I enjoyed the smartly written lyrics and the musical rawness contained on this EP, which reminds me of Minor Threat meets early Devo. I admit that when Sean and I spoke via email and he told me about Pink Guitars just consisting of just him, I immediately became curious about this project. Happy to say I'm pleasantly surprised but now I'm curious how he will perform live. Looking forward to finding out and hearing more from Sean in the future.
ENFORCED “AT THE WALLS”
(WAR Records, Release Date July 19, 2019)
Fist City aka Richmond, Virginia (with some help from Virginia Beach of course) is motherfucking ground ZERO for quality thrash and crossover units. Enforced is right at the top of the pile. I was psyched to get the new LP and be asked to give it a review, but then, I realized this is the EP and demo plus two new tracks so I got a little bummed out. Lo and behold I suffered from premature speculation. I prematurely speculated all over myself and I'm a dirty dirty boy. You see although this is just two new Enforced tracks, the old stuff is remastered in such a way as to almost be new songs, I mean they're not, but they are definitely worth the repackaging and to be shown off in their own right. The result is a seamless 9 track record that doesn't come off as a compilation of different time periods for the band. It feels like a whole new record.
So, what about those tunes you ask? Well I'm not going to cover well-trodden ground so I am going to discuss the two new joints on display from these sick fucks from down south. The first of which is "Reckoning Force" clocking in at healthy 3:17. Now if you're very old like me you may be expecting a cover of the Lifesblood song of the same name but this is not that. Divebombs galeeb, divebombs galoob kick this monster of a tune off. The song then ramps up into a galloping crossover rager that barrels down metallic road destroying everything in its path. It takes zero prisoners until the tempo changes and I can already see the circle pit forming entrapping those poor suckers who get caught up in its eye. Sprinkle in more divebombs and you have one hell of an introduction to Enforced more "mature" sound. Kick ass. The next new tune the boys offer here is "Skinned Alive" at a stealthy 2:21. This is Enforced at their utmost Slayer. This is a blistering song that hits so hard I can feel myself being skinned alive. There is a breakdown here that will shake the walls of any venue that hosts the band. My only fault with this song is that it is too short. Yes, I know I've NEVER EVER said that before, I'm all about the short, but this song I wanted just a little more.
Enforced is not reinventing the wheel but they are indeed putting their own spin on it. If you love crossover and/or thrash, then you need to get this ASAP. The remastered tracks are killer. Do not sleep on them as the two new songs are the first two cuts on the LP. Do yourself a huge favor and listen to the whole LP. If you are into bands like Slayer, Metal Church, Demolition Hammer etc etc etc then you will adore this LP. I just saw these guys live and they are fan-fucking-tastic in that arena as well, so get out there and check them out while they are touring. Metal up your ass bitches.....Get you some Enforced pronto.
WAR/PLAGUE “INTO THE DEPTHS”
(Phobia Records/Organize And Arise, Released 2019)
War/Plague hail from Minneapolis and label themselves crust punk. This is the band’s eleventh release and their third full length release. It is also available as a download from Bandcamp. The band celebrated their tenth anniversary last year and plan to release a 3 CD box set through their webstore. The cover art is phenomenal, portraying a dark and sinister world.
The first thing that came to mind the first time I listened to this is that they sound a lot like Venom, especially in the vocal department. Not that it’s a bad thing but all along while I was writing this review, I couldn’t help but think I was listening to the resurrection of Venom. Having got that off my chest, on with the review…
This LP consists of 10 in your face, fist pumping tracks of old and new school thrash metal (Sorry guys but this is not crust punk). There is not a bad song on this outing. If I had to pick which songs stood out the most, I’d have to say tracks one to ten. I loved them all. But if I’m forced to choose a favorite then I’d go with “Machine”. That eight second opening tells you that shit’s about to get real and then you are hit with a thrash riff that has you clenching your fists and doing the Corpsegrinder head spin.
Musically, they mix old and new thrash and give it a punch in the throat. The lyrics are fuming with rage and contempt, pulling you into their message as you thrash alone in your basement. I have not had a chance to listen to their back catalogue but it is on my list of things to do. Fans of Venom and true blooded thrash should order this LP.
THE PATH “CHAOTIC GOOD”
(State Of Mind Recordings, Released May, 2019)
In the 1980’s if you lived in one of the major cities and were an “outsider” who felt lost in the transistor void of radio and classic rock you perhaps, if you were lucky enough were handed an interesting looking booklet that was Xeroxed and stapled together and featured bands who seemed to command a small army or knew a local record shop keeper who saw that cultural pioneering “spirit” in ya and passed on a 7’’ record or cassette demo that wasn’t quite punk and not quite metal…but sounded insane and different or perhaps you walked down the wrong street and heard an all ages matinee in full swing and decided to disappear past the skinheads, combat boots, and juvenile delinquents beyond the door.
Summoning the ghost of an embryonic underground scene The Path do so with an album that shows every “modern-day” is always in need of rebel noise…this is “Chaotic Good”. Though not from the urban dystopia of New York City or the beach bummery of Los Angeles…the anti-sycophantic political scene of DC or the angst suburbia of Boston…The Path hail from Vermont - a smaller dedicated hardcore punk community that feels, smells and sounds like a by-gone era of dark basement shows, chaos and unity… and it reflects through like a punched broken mirror in their music.
Clocking in at 36 seconds, opener “All Hail Spider Bear” reminds us of the power of songs that fall under a minute in a machine gun style - constructed to be immediate, all business and no frills as it self-destructs into “Don’t Drink The Water” whose ending evokes the tribalism of mosh dancing through a primitive beat that bashes slow and hard. As the album progresses the familiarity of Louie Rivera era Antidote vocals makes itself clear and is an interesting look as it combines itself with modern hardcore punk rock riffs. A youth crew energy vibes a long standing out in the albums 6th track “R.O.U.S.” with a mid-pace Sammy Siegler style drum break giving an up tempo breather before the manic fast onslaught circles back to devour what’s left. A touch of 90’s modernism comes in the form of “Retail Therapy” that opens up viciously with what can best be described as metal thrash groove. A stand out track and one that in a live setting will have arms flaying in a windmill, fists pummeling and guys and gals alike dealing out pit martial arts moves making the dance floor a dangerous piece of real estate.
“Good Chaotic” ends with ‘I Am The Revenge’- using popular modern day cult cinema, The Path give us a battle war noise hymn. With a line lifted from Aldo "The Apache" Raine for its opening chorus The Path chants “…one hundred Nazi scalps…” An ominous distorted guitar that is akin to Billy Prestons “Slaughter” electric organ intro from the Inglourious Bastards OST sets the mood, though that is where the similarities end. Unfortunately the lyrical verses on “I Am The Revenge” is yelled with the energy of an angrily penned letter written with such force words become illegible and the paper rips in a shredded mess. Whether there are any current political overtones in the lyrical content directed at backwards and obtuse ideologies or merely an ode to a Hollywood revenge fantasy film is hard to decipher without a lyric sheet in hand. What we are left with is a well executed piece of metal stoner rock marching with a repetitive groove enhancing the not so subtle chant chorus of “100 Nazi Scalps!” - the soldiers debt to Aldo “The Apache” for the privilege of being in his special army unit determined by any means necessary to destroy the fascist regime and its dictator.
Released by New York label State Of Mind Recordings, The Path’s “Good Chaotic” shows how the smaller territories get it on as it holds a mirror up to the major cities we all know, love and hate - now buried in old beefs and defunct clubs. “Good Chaotic” doesn’t sound nostalgic but is a fresh take on a hardcore punk style when it was an outsider art form, ignored by the mainstream record industry, misunderstood by the media and awesome ear noise for a fringe community of pre-teen runaways, odd balls and tattooed misfits. From start to finish the album flows effortlessly and is a very cool document on present day hardcore and how it is continually thriving…still holding a lot of meaning and more than just feed for culture vultures who wish to co-opt what they have no claim to.
FENCE CUTTER “MY ENVIRONMENT” CASSETTE
(New Morality Zine, Released June, 2019)
I’ll be honest, I had never heard of this band. They are part of a new up and coming youth movement in the hardcore scene and hail from central New Jersey. This six track download will be released as a cassette through New Morality fanzine out of Chicago. I did however check out some of their earlier material and I have to say Fence Cutter is a band to get excited about.
It has been a long time since I got charged up over a new hardcore band. From the opening track until the last, Fence Cutter delivers a well needed kick in the ass to a scene that is choking with clone bands. The music is fresh, full of substance and shows promise for sustainability. A lot of the new hardcore bands coming onto the scene offer nothing new or original. Fence Cutter grab the fallen torch and run with it on this outing, proving that true hardcore is not dead yet.
“My Environment” opens with the track, “Distaste”, a rally cry of a song dealing with the pain and suffering that life throws our way. “Never stop the suffer, we only learn how to cope with the pain, we turn our weaknesses into strength, still holding it in at the end of the day” is the last verse and those words say it all. The second track, ‘My Environment’, deals with how fake people have become in our society. “Anger’s piling up around me, liars, cheaters and fakes, all that I see” sums up how people have lost their way and that respect, honesty and integrity has taken a backseat in today’s world of social media whores. “The Truth” is up third and shows the band’s disdain for politicians and religion and how they keep us down and living in fear with their poisonous ideology. “Trackside” focuses on dealing with past hardships and struggling to keep moving forward in a world that seems to try and hold us down. The song has an early Hatebreed sound to it and is one of my favorites on here. “No Room for Peace” centers on keeping it real and having no time for fake people who pretend to be your friend and care. “See Through You” rounds out this cassette and is the angriest track in my view. “Never trusted any word that you say, we see your bullshit a mile away” is yet another example of the band’s intolerance for liars and fake people who only care about themselves. Fence Cutter is music I can sink my teeth into. The band is tight musically and the song writing is relatable to our everyday struggles. This is what real hardcore is. Buy this, download it or steal it. This needs to be in everyone’s music collection.
MAGNITUDE “TO WHATEVER FATEFUL END”
(Triple B Records, Released May, 2019)
I said in my first review for In Effect that straight edge metalcore is one of the great traditions of the hardcore scene. Today we have a band that seems very familiar with those traditions, almost to a fault. That band is Magnitude with their latest record: “To Whatever Fateful End”.
I first got an earful of Magnitude when I saw them play Back 2 School Jam last year. I was interested. I did have a few gripes though. I had a hard time getting down with the vocals, and between that and their EP “Era Of Attrition” from last year, I felt that they sounded like Indecision and Most Precious Blood worship. I will say that they did come through with some fun riffage on that EP though. This album however, patches up some of my complaints a little bit. I’m not sure why, but like their EP, the vocals sound better in the studio to me. I don’t know if it’s just the compressors or equalizers that the engineers use but for some reason I like the sound better in studio. Maybe I need to catch them live again to develop my opinion further though. Musically, the band has tightened up the songwriting. The acoustic intro track for the album “Forthcoming” builds up very nicely to a riff packed two step opening riff on “Opposition.” I also love the screeching harmonic driven riff on “Vital Emergence.” The band definitely ups the melodic moments on this album, such as the tracks “Plea” and the title track “To Whatever Fateful End,” which strike a nice balance between melodic and heavy. “Plea” is proceeded by “Resurgence” which provides a smooth, tasteful type of guitar solo we don’t see in hardcore very often backed up by jangly guitars. It sounds like the intro to one of Metallica’s ballads in the 80’s. They do also have some youth crew inspired, speed driven songs, such as on the tracks “Unwavering,” “Defy” and “Counterattack.” Those tracks mix the speed of a Youth Of Today song with some slower mosh breakdowns, not unlike Strife or Undertow or, the progenitors of that sound, Project X and Judge. The real shocker for me was the closing track “Lament.” Very few hardcore or metalcore bands ever had the balls to put an instrumental piano/guitar ballad on their album, much less close on it. Probably the last time it was pulled off this well was on metalcore trail blazers 7 Angels 7 Plagues’ album “Jhazmyne’s Lullaby”. I commend them for trying something different and treading where most in their genre fear to tread.
The lyrics on this album are your standard straight edge affair with anthems about beating drug addiction, not needing to rely on controlled substances to deal with your emotional problems and taking a stand against a world that fetishizes violence. There’s some real Have Heart shit going on here. Both lyrically and musically, this album is a bit corny, and that may be one of its biggest flaws and biggest strengths at the same time. It’s so uncompromisingly straight edge in everything it does. I’d probably call it generic if this came out in 1996 when bands like Earth Crisis, Snapcase, Indecision and Unbroken reigned supreme, but with the seeming lack of heavier straight edge bands lately (at least to my eyes anyways), it feels different. Too many straight edge bands are attempting to bring back the sounds of the 80’s that we’ve heard a million times before. In a time where many hardcore scenes struggle with drug abuse, sexual violence, and a willingness to cave into materialism in the ever volatile band merch market, Magnitude, as corny as they seem, feels like a necessary slap in the face, a wake up call of sorts. This album might be the call to arms we need in the 2019 hardcore scene that no one realizes we do. (After all, everyone did crap on Earth Crisis for writing songs about killing drug dealers with open note chugging guitar riffs) But it’s not just a message to me, as I legitimately enjoyed this album both in spite of and because of its corniness. I’m just a sucker for that 90’s straight edge metalcore sound in all its militant glory. I look forward to seeing Magnitude in the pit sometime soon hopefully. Maybe people will recognize Magnitude for what they’re doing by then cause I think this band deserves a bit more hype.
FUMING MOUTH “THE GRAND DESCENT”
(Released June, 2019)
Two years ago, I was on a trip to that year’s Binghamton Style festival. Couldn’t say no to seeing District 9 and Dead End Path reunions in the same day, you dig? The night before, I went to a pre-show for the festival at a spot in Johnson City called Avenue D.I.Y. One of the bands on that show happened to be a band from Boston that I had never heard of called Fuming Mouth. I enjoyed their set, but I didn’t foresee how big they would become.
The teaser tracks for this album had me hooked from the word go. The lead single and opening track of the album. “Fatalism” brought back to mind the type of Entombed influenced hardcore punk popularized by bands like Nails, Trap Them, Cursed and All Pigs Must Die. It was fast, angry and had killer mosh riffs. The second teaser track “Burning Hand,” however, was more indicative of the band’s overall sound on this album with its slower and sludgier mosh riffs and breakdowns. In particular, the bass breakdown was one of my favorite moments on this whole album. 5 minutes may seem long for a hardcore song but this song has riffs for days, and as a result it’s an enthralling 5 minutes of mosh music. The final teaser track “Out Of The Shadows”, which I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, was more similar to the first track with its fast paced old-school d-beats. The breakdown on this one is pretty nasty and heavy too!
The album has pretty sick deep cuts too. Another favorite of mine is “Visions Of Purgatory” which starts out with an insane riff and ends with a breakdown that makes my fists clench and the veins in my head pop. The track “Nothing To Bleed” makes me wanna two-step my ass off and the track “Dead Asleep” progresses from a face melting riff to a crowd killing breakdown and finishes on a heart pounding floorpunch riff. The band has some great songwriting tricks up their sleeves. In my opinion, the secret to writing loud, intense heavy music is to know when to be quiet too. Between the bass breakdown on “Burning Hand”, the drum intro on the titular track, “The Grand Descent”, and the quiet, lonely, despondent guitars and distant clean vocals on “Distant Voice”, Fuming Mouth knows how to use subdued sections to build up to nasty mosh riffs and violent breakdowns. “Distant Voice” also happens to lead into another intriguing track in “Transfiguration” which features a section of off-beat drumming and oddly timed riffs that I’m always a sucker for. Fuming Mouth definitely has that ‘Entombed-core’ (if you will) sound on this album but they added a Boston beatdown edge to it and some touches of sludge metal that makes this very much not a grindcore album. We get more sludgy riffs than d-beats and blast beats, though we do get both. The beatdown edge definitely sets this band apart from the dozens of bands in this style that play to Brooklyn hipsters in Deafheaven shirts too often. Even with that in mind, Fuming Mouth continues to break the rules by adding clean vocals on the two closing tracks, “The Spirit’s Chain” and “Half-Life.” Aside from maybe On Broken Wings, I have a hard time thinking of any death metal influenced beatdown band that would do this. Somehow, the cleanly sung backing vocals make those songs sound even darker and less mainstream friendly. Fuming Mouth just came here to write great music and have a good time. They probably need it, cause the lyrics they’ve written about “wasting away” and “waiting to die” are so pissed that even Todd Jones would probably read them and tell these guys to look for a therapist.
One of the things that impressed me about this album is the literal sound of it. While listening to Fuming Mouth’s demos, I like the songs, but the production was lackluster. They sounded better live. They hired one of my biggest influences, Kurt Ballou of Converge fame, to handle production on this album. I think that dense GodCity sound did wonders for Fuming Mouth. This production gave them the dark, evil sound they deserve. When your band has the kind of guitars that combine old school dirty crust punk, ignorant Boston style beatdown hardcore, dark, grimy Swedish death metal, and pure evil so seemlessly into your guitar and bass tones and your vocals, then you need the GodCity treatment for sure. The production on this album is so perfect for this band that it’s hard to convey with words what a true match made in heaven this was. They may have cleaned up their production in one sense, but they don’t trade in their teeth for pristine production. They keep their dirt and grime and guitar feedback very much intact.
Overall, Fuming Mouth has come out with one of the heaviest albums of the year. In punk? In hardcore? In metal? All of the above! This album is anything but stereotypical and defies genre conventions in favor of just making the ultimate mosh fest of 2019 (next to the new Sworn Enemy album). Hell, even the album’s cover emanates the pure hellishness of this record. Highly recommended for connoisseurs of all things aggressive. If you want to hear truly scary music in 2019, it’s right here waiting for you on “The Grand Descent”
DEFEATER s/t (Epitaph Records, Released May, 2019)
The new Defeater album had a few people talking, though I did expect a little more hoopla than what I saw. Then again, this album, musically. is pretty business as usual for Defeater. The songs are generally well written and I like them for the most part but there isn’t much in the way of stylistic evolution going on. It’s Defeater’s already well established melodic hardcore/post-hardcore sound with dissonant but melodic chords, lots of reverb and a fairly distant and dreary tone. The one major change is that the tempo of many of these songs is slower than some of their previous output. It kind of adds to the dreariness of their sound a lot. It does feel nice to have an album in this style be more patient and slow when other bands in this style are often only all about doing what hardcore punk has been doing for 25-30 years, fast and loud. Additionally Will Yip’s production gives them the sound they’re aiming for with its really dark and despondent, not too clean for what Defeater’s doing. The production is sufficiently edgy!
But what really caught my attention is the lyrics. For those who are unaware, Defeater is a concept band. Much like Blue Oyster Cult or Coheed and Cambria, their lyrics all add up to a single overarching story. The band’s lyrics tell the story of a family from New Jersey post-World War II. Much like their 2013 album “Letters Home”, this album primarily surrounds the father of the family, an alcoholic WWII veteran who is abusive to his family as a result of his own inability to healthily deal with his wartime trauma. However, the priest who was the main character of 2015’s “Abandoned” also plays an important role in this album. The lyrics tell an emotionally devastating story of a man who is defeated by his own demons. Sympathy for the devil is perhaps an effective way to put it. It tells heart wrenching stories of men who never came home from the war, men who came back but were never the same and how the trauma tore apart their families at home. It makes a lot of moving statements. Though obviously I’m not a combat veteran and can’t relate to those struggles, I related to the albums feelings of anxiety and regret about how the way you react to trauma affects others. It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot in the past year due to trials in my personal life. Suffice to say, the lyrics were a little much sometimes. I won’t spoil the ending in the final track “No Man Born Evil,” but even The Who couldn’t come up with a more tragic ending to a concept album.
Overall, the new Defeater album is a decent entry in their catalogue. I’m a bit more invested in the lyrics than the music but I can’t call the band inconsistent. If you like their previous records and wish to see how the story progresses, I do recommend listening to this album. Especially if you’re a combat veteran who needs some emo music to listen to on a rough day.
RAKE-OFF “GOIN’ MENTAL” EP (Released June, 2019)
Many got into punk rock through mainstream heavy metal like myself, so for me crossover is where everything comes together… the heaviness and technique of metal plus the critical thinking and the urge of hardcore punk makes this the ultimate sub-genre of underground rock.
Rake-Off (a fairly new band based out of Rome) make use of all these aspects wisely to create the 8-track EP "Goin' Mental". The record starts off at full speed with the track "Hostage" in which only a few seconds were needed to get my attention. The record continues on a mid-paced flow picking up speed strategically with incendiary riffs and guitar solos. This formula reminds me of other mainstays of the style like S.O.D., Rhythm Of Fear and Hyades (Italy). But hardcore fans will also be pleased with tracks like "Above The Law" and "Out Of Style" (the latter featuring guest vocals from Andrea from another Rome act, Short Fuse).
When I compared this new record to their 2017 “Feeding The Fake” release I came to the conclusion that the decision to add more thrash elements was dead on as Rake-Off went from a run-of-the-mill NYHC band to a full-blown crossover unit which will definitely help get their music out of Rome, hopefully exposing them to bigger international audiences. The "Goin'Mental" EP comes in a limited one sided 12" format with a screen printed B-side, a co-release by a bunch of Italian labels that can be found HERE.
IGNITE, THE LAST STAND, BASTARD CLAN, CRIPPLED EARN, LOCKED INSIDE
@ THE KINGSLAND, BROOKLYN, NY JUNE 14, 2019. PHOTOS BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
LOCKED INSIDE JUNE 14, 2019. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
LOCKED INSIDE were playing their very first show and showed no signs of jitters or anything like that as they pretty much steamrolled through their maiden voyage with about a 20 minute set that ended with a cover of 7 Seconds’ “Young Till I Die”. They put out 2 songs back in April that showcased their 2019 take on the youth crew sound and the follow up ones are just as tight while following the lead of those 2 debut tracks. There are no real surprises from Locked Inside as they are doing the youth crew thing to a tee and they are really good at it as well. Vinnie Panza on drums was mashing away behind his kit and their lead singer Ed McKirdy was good with his between song banter telling a story about moving to California to work for a record company back in 1995 while admitting he was more than happy to be moving closer to where he could see Ignite play on a more regular basis. He also mentioned that Locked Inside were a straight edge band… but not a young band and that he was going to be picking up his grandkids after the show. Now that second one may be true, or maybe he was just pulling our legs… I am still not sure as I write this. Fun Locked Inside factoid of the day: Carlos their guitarist relocated to NY from Colombia and Gerardo their bassist relocated to NY from Argentina shortly before starting this band with the other band members not too long ago.
If you are clamoring for whatever the next thing is coming out of NY’s heavy music scene you may want to check in with CRIPPLED EARN who all have ties to the Morris Park section of the Bronx. They dropped their “Swine” 4 song EP back in February of 2017 and personally I thought it was good but it didn’t set my speakers on fire either. I missed a big portion of their set here (all my fault) but what I did catch sounded absolutely killer with a much fuller sound than that 2017 release. They have since gone on to record 3 newer tracks that were combined with the older release on to one CD which I picked up on this night. “Lack There Of” is the jam to immediately check out to get you acquainted with what CE are doing which is not necessarily your prototypical NYHC type of sound. Tyler Guida’s vocals are gruff and fit like a glove here while the rest of the band seem to draw influences from outside of the usual hardcore safe spaces when it comes to their writing approach. Again, I missed a big portion of their set and this review leans heavily on their recorded material which I am obviously amped up about at this time. Give them a listen if you are looking for some fresh sounds.
BASTARD CLAN were the third up and coming NY band to play on this night and sounded nothing like the previous two bands who played before them. Overall this bill had some thick ass diversity to it with all sorts of varied styles that all fell under the umbrella of hardcore punk. Their 9 song “The Arrogant Dream” CD came out earlier in the day and this obviously was a release show for the Clan who have been at it for about 5 years now. Personel wise they have members who have played in bands like The Krays, All Out War, The Truents, On The Offense and Straphangers. If you know the bands I just mentioned you know that none of them sound like any of the others and when you take those same people and throw them in a studio together you get some really interesting and unique sounding music. So yeah, my first impression while watching Bastard Clan play here was a thing of “who the fuck do these guys sound like” and I really couldn’t come up with anything solid. A punk rock Iron Maiden came to mind at one point but then I had to shoot that thought down after listening to the CD more. Their songs seem long and have a very full sound with a lot of catchy choruses and hooks with vocals that go right along with their style. There were some pronounced metal style guitar solos that stood out to me in a good way and their drummer was an absolute beast to the point where you could not help but just focus on him as he simply just beat up his drum kit. Bastard Clan were a fun watch and the crowd seemed to agree with big bursts of approval as they ended each song. They finished up with a song called “Bursting” with another one called “Ascension” (both off the new release) being two tracks that stood out.
THE LAST STAND. JUNE 14, 2019. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
This fast moving show saw THE LAST STAND take the stage around 1015pm opening with the title track to their 2017 EP “This Is Real”. TLS have been bringing the traditional NYHC mosh style since 2010 and stylistically remind me at times of the mighty Sick Of It All. Songs like “Find Out” “The Ride” and “Still Bleeding” all bring some nice mosh/hooks and/or sing-a-longs to the table and are 3 of my favorite TLS tracks along with “Good Day To Die” which was not played on this night. “Find Out” was sent out to the late Dave Franklin from NJ’s Vision who actually sang on the track when it came out back in 2013. “I Can’t Look Back” was a sneak peek at a new track that they played that should be on an upcoming split EP with CA’s OnexChoice. GB’s “Big Mouth” complete with a “Yo sucka, you got a BIG MOUTH, BIDDIP-BO!” intro was a fitting end as their members have been the backbone to various NYHC bands since they were in their teen years. Covering one of Gorilla Biscuit’s most popular songs is a good fit for them and also a pretty sure fire way to get people to jump around and grab the microphone which indeed did happen.
IGNITE. JUNE 14, 2019. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
An already great night of local music was capped off with an iconic name in IGNITE who were winding down an East Coast tour that started 10 days earlier in Chicago. The Orange County, CA five piece played for well over an hour with a mixed bag of songs that leaned heavily on 2006’s “Our Darkest Days” material but also showed love for their earlier as well as their later material. “Poverty For All”, “Fear Is Our Tradition” and “A War Against You” hit early on in their set with “Call On My Brothers” from ‘95 and “Embrace” from ’96 showing up in the playlist not too long after. Bad Religion’s “Were Only Gonna Die” from way back even before “Suffer” came out was a nice mid-set cover song that is probably covered way more out West than it is here in the East.
Frontman Zoli sang some of their songs (including “Where I’m From”) in Hungarian and shared a story about his grandmother in Hungary who was always telling him to slow down in life as he said he was living as if he was “always on to the next stop”. Zoli’s family roots are an obvious source of pride for him as he also talked about small town life In Hungary and how his family has appreciated their life in the US mentioning that his brother is a doctor and that he (Zoli) is a “shitty punk rock singer” which is only half true since many consider him one of the best at what he does.
IGNITE. JUNE 14, 2019. PHOTO BY: JC PHOTO MEDIA
“Nothing Can Stop Me’ and the “Live For Better Days” were tracks played later in their set while the crowd inexplicably started to dwindle. When Ignite went on around 1110pm there was almost no place to move and while the last couple of songs were played there were noticeable pockets spread around the back of the Kingsland. Ignite finished their set and looked to begin breaking down their equipment but repeated chants of “ONE MORE SONG” got them to play a few more tunes before calling it a night.
I personally got in late on being a fan of this band and this was only the second time I got to see them play live. What I really like about them is they bring a ton of energy in a live setting and can come at you with their more modern day style which is more polished and intricate or drop some of their older stuff which is more straight up and raw. Over their 26 year career this band has played in front of festival crowds in upwards on 20,000 people so seeing them in a small club setting like we got here on this night was something to put in perspective. In Effect did a video interview with their bass player Brett and their drummer Craig before the show where they talk about their summer tour plans as well as the possibility of new Ignite music by year’s end. Check that interview out by clicking HERE.
I QUESTION NOT ME FANZINE ISSUE 4.5
(Released Spring, 2019)
IQNM issue 4.5 made its debut at the Black ‘N Blue weekend of shows that featured hip-hop’s M.O.P… (Mash Out Posse) on the Friday night show better known as Diablo Fest. M.O.P. you may recall from their track “Ante Up” that came out in the year 2000 when the world was supposed to end due to computers enslaving the world’s population or something less savory… it was a long time ago and I forget. Here we are though 19 years later thankfully alive (and not enslaved) with the new ‘ish of IQNM in my hands as I write this. M.O.P. is brought up in this review because they are the subject of the latest IQNM crossword puzzle following up last issues Biohazard one. IQNM is a fun 20 page half sized zine that comes from the witty and creative brain of Becky McAuley who has also done a lot of reviews here for In Effect so you bet your ass we are a little biased with this review. The meat and taters for issue 4.5 though is an 11 page Darkside NYC interview with their frontman Rich O’Brien. Rich has always been a great interview and this one is one of his better ones that had me close to tears a few times. “IQNM Best Dressed List 2.0” is exactly that as they hand out some awards for those best dressed hardcore people which included the entire Billy Club Sandwich lineup. It is all done in fun and showcases the creative ideas coming out of the IQNM camp as is the case with “The Phillip Roth Of NYHC” piece, Roth having been a writer known for his short stories. I will admit I didn’t know who he was and had to Google him and still can’t figure out why they chose him as this articles subject… but being off center and unpredictable is a big part of IQNM’s charm. Issue #5 with “The Five Fingers Of Death” is already in the works and should appeal to the old Castle Heights crowd covering 5 of the bands that played the old Queens club regularly.
REDBAIT “CAGES” EP
(New Age Records, Released June, 2019)
Redbait don’t wear their politics on their sleeve but have it carved on their forehead. Their new EP on New Age Records is a revolt counter punch to the Twitter politics of the current Commander in Chief. With geminating vocals by Rebecca and Madeline, Redbait stylistically set themselves apart. Both front-women take on two distinct vocal approaches from traditional hardcore metal and death metal sources as they lyrically mirror the present day schism in America.
“Capital Gains” - released last April as a single - gives us fair warning for the audio riot about to commence as a metal fuzz tone sounding bass hits rallying notes for the subversive genres of noise punk, hardcore and the more cultish sounds of anarcho-crust for pure stereo violence. The drums are beaten in a wild performance nothing short of “Animal” from the Muppets if he was into Born Against and Rorschach. With a loose “blast” beat cut with a primitive tribal groove it gives Rebecca and Madeline their own percussive attitude within the verses. The song settles briefly in an aftermath of noise crust utilizing a break that gives a nod to early Carl Porcaro era Breakdown with a shimmering loose high hat cymbal giving a count off before we hear the high frequency of a metal guitar dive bomb. A booming drum fill landing like a kamikaze quickly descends the song into a hardcore dance floor free for all as both singers unify the end chorus in a caduceus vox style.
Redbait adds to the revolutionary tradition of topical songs and protest ballads that have been passed down through the generations and made popular on the streets. Whether it be Bob Dylan’s aloof subtle bohemian folk songs…John Lennon’s riotous solo efforts…Black Sabbath’s doom warnings of the war machine or the more underground satire of first generational NYHC outfit Regan Youth who painted then President Ronald Reagan as a Hiteresque dictator. Though the modern fathers and mothers of protest music would be post punk and hardcore bands Fugazi, Bikini Kill and Nirvana who rallied and enlightened 90’s youth on feminism, prison reform and racial injustice and inequality.
Redbait with “Our Town” deals with racial misconception and fear mongering about “that part of town” and “those” people as a way to divide. Rebecca “RedBait” begins with a Kurt Cobain-ish “Bleach” era feel, blurring the lines of crust and grunge with four very catchy dissident lines that sees her bending a broken melody to primitive drum attacks before the band conjures up 1984 style thrash metal fit for MegaForce Records.
Musically Redbait have evolved into a wilder beast from their 2018 DIY cassette only demo “Red Tape” which presented a more structured metalcore/heavy rock sound with well defined dual guitar dynamics, solos and cleaner production. While the content of the material drew on the toxic culture of violence and suppression towards women with songs like “We Refuse”, “I'll be Fine”, and “Dick Punch”. It was but a few weeks ago Redbait’s home town of St Louis Missouri was the latest battleground under the current presidential atmosphere. The states last planned parenthood clinic was on the verge of permanently having its doors shut as red states seemingly staged a political coup against abortion rights, regressing women’s civil rights under Roe v Wade some 46 years. Along with the raw art they deliver in their music - Redbait doubles down with this five song EP, mega-phoning their proletarian crust politics. Using rock n roll as another weapon for activism they become the mouthpiece for fellow Missourians of their ilk who are not neutral, apathetic or supportive to racial, gender or economic suppression. The mid-western states leftist/activist community are on the streets, in the schools, at the workplace and in the music scene. Sounding every bit urgent “Cages” shows Redbait in transformation going for a more chaotic and violent approach stylistically…but more importantly, this EP challenges the listener on where he or she stands as the country fights a domestic war amongst each other.
xFORGIVENESS DENIEDx “MANDATORY MILITANCE” (Upstate Records, Released June, 2019)
Coming straight out of Massachusetts, xForgiveness Deniedx follow up 2017’s “Worth The Fight” EP, with the brilliant “Mandatory Militance” as the straight edge band demonstrates their hardcore style with this formidable collection of songs.
A bouncing yet intimidating bassline announces the opening number and title track of the album before a pacey groove bulldozes its way into play as the powerful vocals come into the fore. That groove continues and varies between mid-paced and a more speedy approach, never losing its power though, with some killer guitar work throughout and even some death metal-esque riffs creeping into the mix which creates a fantastic beginning to the album. That cracking start continues with the fantastically anthemic “By Your Side” and then the energy laden “Temporary Solution” proving their mettle with a well-crafted set of breakdowns and ready to be shouted vocals that are ready for the pit.
“Free” brings the pace down a bit but in doing so, loses none of the power and momentum that has been built up and definitely adds to their musical arsenal. “Burnt Bridges” explodes into life after a lengthy instrumental intro to the track but when it does, the pressure is released with glee and it explodes with a sludgy groove that oozes hardcore energy. The frenetic “One Thousand Lashes” follows and alternates between a mid-paced dirge and a faster sound and sounds all the better for it, the way the vivacity of the band’s music interlinks is inspiring and you can feel the energy emitting from the speakers.
The album ends with the titanium heavy funereal groove of “All For Show, a passion filled blast with plenty of frantic guitar playing atop some heavyweight rhythms before “From The Heart” finishes things off in style with a furious combination of hardcore and metal. With “Mandatory Militance”, xForgiveness Deniedx have made an album that showcases their varied hardcore sound and delivers their message well. This is a huge step up for the band and this is a collection of songs that are going to slay in the live arena.
UNDERDOG, ENZIGURI, THE ICE COLD KILLERS, RBNX, THE AVOIDERS
@ THE KINGSLAND, BROOKLYN, NY JUNE 8, 2019
ALL PHOTOS BY: TIM DALEY
On almost any given Saturday night in NYC a hardcore punk show headlined by NYHC OG’s Underdog would more than likely find you crammed in shoulder to shoulder with other hardcore fanatics singing along to songs that were originally written, performed and loved over 3 decades earlier. We did get that here on this night but minus the shoulder to shoulder part mostly due to the fact that even bigger NYHC OG’s in Sick Of It All were playing just 5 miles away at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza. The fact that the 2 shows were pretty much synched up at the same time kept many of the “2 shows in one day” hopefuls away from this one. The openers on this night included Long Island’s THE AVOIDERS who play some catchy straight up punk rock and RBNX (The Raddigan Brothers Noise Expereince) who are a 3 piece who played their set as a 2 piece with their guitarist not showing up for whatever reason. Up third were THE ICE COLD KILLERS who kept the more traditional punk rock sounds flowing with their street punk/Oi type of vibe. They came out strong with “Finish What You Started” and “The American Scheme” off of their “Laughin’ With Sinners…” full length that came out last September and mixed in some other winners off of an upcoming release that they mentioned a few times during their set. The last appetizer was served up by the Bronx’s ENZIGURI who I just love as a live band. They play fast, they got some hooks (in an H2O type of way) and they just always seem to deliver energy filled sets. Their frontman Davey Hooligan works the crowd nicely during and between songs which can sometimes be the difference between a set being a dud or a hit as he adds to the overall Enziguri experience.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: THE AVOIDERS, RBNX, THE ICE COLD KILLERS, ENZIGURI
My guess was that there were about 100 people in the room when Underdog took the stage shortly after midnight. The opening track played was “A Lot To Learn” off of their 1989 “The Vanishing Point” album, their lone full length and was the start of a 50 minute set that covered the majority of Underdog’s “hits”. Despite the warm early June temps frontman Richie Birkenhead came out in a button down shirt and zip-up hoody that he kept on for the duration of their set. Richie pulled double duty on this night nailing his vocal duties as well as being the official Underdog Wikipedia guide dropping tidbits of Underdog trivia along the way. Before “True Blue” Richie told us that True Blue was in fact Underdog’s name for a few weeks in between the names Numbskulls and Underdog and that “Never Too Late” was being played live for the first time since 1989. He went on to tell us how he and Russ’ friendship came together through skateboarding in their younger years before dusting off “Frontside Grind”. “Over The Edge” and “Back To Back” really hit hard and as always Underdog brought out those tempo changing songs along the way like “Mass Movement” and “Without Fear” to slow the pace down for a few before ramping things back up into overdrive.
Fast paced beats and songs are obviously the backbone of hardcore punk music but these types of tempo changer songs that drop in some groove and a little bit slower pace with builds can simply just crush. To me these types of songs helped Underdog separate themselves from the pack during their heyday. During the dark “The Vanishing Point” track Richie seemed a little more animated than usual synching up a throat slashing gesture to match the ending drum beat. “Say It To My Face” off of their debut 7” from 1986 went out to “pussies who live in their mom’s basement talking shit on the internet” to finish out the night. The crowd was small but very lively, Underdog (as well as some of the openers) showed gratitude for people choosing this show over the more popular one just a few miles away and overall Underdog (the personal) and their songs have just aged really fucking well. Long live the UNDERDOG! -CW
STRUGGLE SESSION “SUDAMERICA RUIDO Y AMORE” EP (Release Date July 5, 2019)
As I say to my editor, I am always up for a challenge and Struggle Session’s, “Sudamerica Ruido y Amor” EP is my biggest challenge to date. This four piece band consists of members from different continents but hail from Beijing, China. The band terms their music as “Powerviolence from China’s capitol”.
The E.P. consists of 33 tracks and each song was written about a city or town on their 2018 South American tour. The EP clocks in at just less than 10 minutes with the longest track being just 35 seconds. The concept is original and I love their motto, “No stage is the best stage” but that’s the best I can say about this EP.
I always make the effort to find something positive in a band’s music and message, but finding strong tracks on here is nearly impossible due to the songs short durations. You don’t get the time to enjoy any one song as each track is over before it gets started. Realistically, I couldn’t see any hardcore fan putting this in their CD player and getting fired up.
I do give props to the band for their effort but there is nothing sustaining on this download. Listening to it only aggravated me instead of inspiring me. I recommend passing on this one.
FURY “FAILED ENTERTAINMENT”
(Run For Cover Records, Released May, 2019)
Every so often, a band comes along that realizes that hardcore music is a more diverse and expansive label than most bands in the style give it credit for. Bands like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Fugazi, Converge, Botch, Cave In. Bands that realized that it’s not just hardcore or punk rock to go against the grain in society, but also against the grain in their own music scene and craft a unique sound and image that goes against any social norm or label someone wants to put on you. I think Fury is a band that realizes this too because, from what started off as another hardcore band drawing from the influences of the classic old-school sounds of youth crew bands, came an album that covers a lot of different styles of punk rock and hardcore music.
This record gets a lot of hype, some saying that it’s super original. Not sure if I would go that far. It just sounds like people didn’t do their homework. Fury has certainly done their homework. For example, the track “Angels Over Berlin” mixes the melodic elements of post-hardcore with the heavy guitars and mosh inspiring fury of hardcore and metalcore in a way that kind of reminds me of Damnation A.D.’s unique approach on their first album, “No More Dreams Of Happy Endings”. The tracks “Vacation”, “Mono No Aware”, and “Goodtime” all take inspiration from the slower and more melodic but still punk rooted Dischord Records sound that we all know and love; which the song “New Years Days” seems to combine with a significant Thursday and Quicksand influence. The song “Inevitable Need To Reach Out” reminds me of Helmet with its heavy, repetitive and simplistic riffs; in particular I love the opening riff on this song; and the song “Birds Of Paradise” also sticks to a heavier hardcore sound. The tracks “America” and “Lost In The Funhouse” both seem to take inspiration from the fast old school hardcore punk meets 90’s melodic post-hardcore of bands such as Antioch Arrow and Gray Matter. Finally, the closing track “Crazy Horses Run Free” abandons all of that in favor of being a straight up catchy 90’s alternative rock/punk rock song, not out of place in the Nirvana or Green Day catalogs.
Fury essentially covered the full spectrum of 90’s post-hardcore on this album, but instead of sounding like a disjointed genre roulette, the album still manages to stay a cohesive listening experience. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in turning that into a unique sound. The vocals on here seem to take a lot of inspiration from the fury (no pun intended) of post-hardcore icons such as Guy Picciotto, Mike DC and Paige Hamilton. The vocals remain consistently cathartic and emotionally stirring throughout the album. The album’s guitar and bass sound unites every song on the album under a more cohesive sound. They manage to be incredibly dynamic going from the heaviest mosh riffs to the quietest, jangly, melodic subdued sections while still remaining punk as fuck all the way through. It’s hard to describe how it sounds with words, but Fury has a pretty unique and instantly recognizable guitar tone on this album that helps shape its unique sonic identity.
The structure of the songs also remains pretty consistent throughout all this style hopping. The interesting thing about it is that, aside from one or two songs, Fury doesn’t write catchy choruses or anything, and I think that’s on purpose. Most of the hooks on this album, tend to be done by the instrumentals, with the songs “Angels Over Berlin”, “Mono No Aware” and “Inevitable Need To Reach Out” having some of the catchiest guitar riffs of the year, and let’s not forget the hard-hitting drum intro into some sludgy guitar and bass riffing on “Birds Of Paradise” that almost sounds like something that belongs on an Outburst song. I think Fury is trying to send the message that they aren’t some pop punk band with catchy singles, they’re a hardcore band with a message!
Speaking of the message, I vibed heavily with the lyrics on a lot of these tracks. There’s a lot of political lyrics on this album in the hardcore tradition. The songs “Birds of Paradise”, “Mono No Aware” and “America” give a poignant and thoughtful critique of our countries flaws, particularly in its hypocritical culture of violence that claims to preach a message of peace. The songs “Goodtime” and “Vacation” seem to convey the exhaustion of being a working class American working a crappy 9 to 5 job, getting sick of our culture’s ‘grind til you die’ mentality. But if you didn’t pick up on their politics, then the track “New Years Eve” delivers a creed that spells out the ideas they presumably want you to get from this album. Though they also bring some more introspective themes as well on the tracks “Lost In The Funhouse” and “Inevitable Need To Reach Out” which seem to chronicle being lost and watching your relationships crumble as the people around you chose to swallow lies and lash out at each other instead of communicating their emotions healthily. It very much seems like a commentary on the way people treat each other and address politics on social media but it never says so outright. Eventually, on the track “New Years Days,” the singer decides to leave all this negativity behind as his youth passes by and he’s still trying to find himself. Finally, on the track “Crazy Horses Run Free,” The singer finds liberation in learning to be yourself and not care about what others think about you.
Interestingly, the album kicks off with a really sweet love song, which seem to be rare in hardcore, “Angels Over Berlin.” I’m not sure if I would say this is a concept album but it was definitely organized very deliberately. The track order couldn’t be more perfect as the album starts off positive, deep dives into the negative and then comes out the other side having found liberation in choosing your own path, without care for what society or the crowd wants you to be.
Overall, I don’t really have anything negative to say about this album. Despite the fact that much of it lacked the instant gratification and catharsis I look for in most hardcore as an angry young man, I was lured in by the album’s unique sound and it tangled me in its web of intrigue. This review took longer to get out than I originally intended and was about 4 paragraphs longer than I was originally planning on writing because I was constantly peeling back new layers from this album. Every time I listen to it, there’s something new to discover, some new meaning to extract. If I were to write this review again in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, from now, each time, my interpretation will likely be different. It’s not as catchy as your average Madball or Hatebreed album, but it sure is fascinating. It’s a “thinking man’s hardcore record” dare I say. It has nothing to prove to anyone, and I think that makes it more hardcore than any other quality I could pick out of this album. It’s definitely one of the must listen hardcore records of the year! This album gets even better upon repeat listens and it might be one of my favorite hardcore records of the year so far!
THE TAKE s/t (Demons Run Amok/Upstate Records, Release Date, June 28, 2019)
I have been hearing about a new band called, The Take lately. So, I did a little bit of research and I discovered what you might call “A skinhead power trio”. You see, former Madball and Agnostic Front drummer, Will Shepler, had this idea for a project. He then recruits the likes of Scott Robertson on guitar and vocals, who just left Biohazard, and he jumps onboard. After completing the lineup with bass player, Carlos Congote from 45 Adapters, this thing is ready to go!
Staying true to their old school Oi roots, The Take have finished up their self-titled debut album and it is ALL THAT! The album kicks off with “The Skins Are Out Tonight”. From the opening bass line kicking off the album, this song rocks. This song is fast paced, anthemic and has a ton of “feel” behind it. Scott’s vocals are gritty and raw but at the same time, perfectly in key. A great song to start an album with. They keep up the same pace with the next tune, “Class War”. This song alternates between choppy guitar verses and smooth chorus riffs with some bass rattling behind it. The next song on the record, “Elitist”, is one of the top songs on the album. This three-chord song with a ton of Oi-Oi-Oi’s thrown in there really hit the spot. The drums were on point as well as the guitar and bass. Just a great song. The fourth song on the album, “Place The Blame”, is another memorable song. This one starts out quite bouncy with the opening verse riff and a four-chord chorus that reminds a lot of the Old Firm Casuals. Although there are many similarities, their sound is quite unique from them, but just as relevant.
About halfway through the record, “No Tolerance”, starts out with a guitar riff that leads you right into a true circle-pit song. “Fuck you and your agenda, fuck you and your ideals” are lyrics we can all appreciate as punk rock aficionados. Excellent gang vocals on this one as well. “People Like You” is another top favorite of mine. I can’t determine which is catchier with this song between the verses and choruses. You may have to just decide for yourself. Facing the same dilemma as the last song, “Revolution Now”, is another power anthem of rebellion. The breakdown in the middle consists of bass and drums until vocals join in and then guitar comes in and takes the song home! “Tits On A Bull” is another memorable song, much in the vein of the other songs on the album, whose theme is that of uselessness.
“King Of The World” is an excellent song of empowerment that is getting me a bit fired up as we speak. (I usually have the songs playing on my headphones when I write these reviews, so naturally…) A perfect demonstration of vocal talent on this song as well. “Dead To Me” changes things up a bit with its circle-pit style riffs and let us not forget the heaviest breakdown on the record lurks within this song as well. Closing the record out, “Pray For A Miracle” is a perfect way to wrap this one up, staying true to their roots and their message. All in all, this is a great punk record. Regardless of sub-genres and whatnot, this record delivers. Pick it up ASAP and you will not regret it.
(Pirates Press Records, Released May 2019)
Motorhead, Rush, The Police, Primus......You can now throw Charger onto that list of my favorite power trios. So let's do some rock and roll math kids, if you were to take the power trios of Triumph, Eve 6 and Green Day and threw them in a blender, well then you'd have yourself something along the lines of say, Blink 182, so scrap that formula. Let's try something more along the lines of a Husker Du, Alkaline Trio, Nirvana and a healthy dose of Motorhead and threw those trios in an octagon and had them battle it out, then you will approach what we have here in this Charger release. I am currently enjoying the shit out of this record The players are well established musicians, a veritable who's who of dudes who played on some of the most influential and important records in your collection. However, this is not about then, this is about now, and this is a new sound for these guys unlike any of their previous work. So let's listen in on what's going on here.
The first track "Crackdown" running 2:36 , is ushered in by the musical equivalent of machine gun fire and rolls into a great driving rock and roll tune. You'll notice the expert musicianship immediately with the bass grabbing a hold of you and not letting go. "Victim" clocking in at 2:50 is up next. A little hi-hat play introduces us to another hard driving rock tune. Crank it up and hit the gas because "Fuck! The world is on fire". If these first two tunes don't get you a speeding ticket, then you are dead on the inside. Motherfucking funk....or perhaps Motherfunking is the best way to describe the epic of the LP, "Damage" with a running time of 3:56. A sweet drum beat followed by a silly good bass line start this beauty off. This one lets off the gas and slows down the proceedings a bit but does this LP no damage. Awesome musicianship is the earmark here but then at the 2:48 mark the song suddenly goes all early Iron Maiden in tone and then ends in a Sabbath-esque outro. Sweet. The shortest blast on the album and most Motorhead of all is "All Kings Must Die" at a svelte 1:58. This is another foot on the gas (or hand on the throttle....stop bitchin bikers) tune. This is probably the most simplistic of Charger tunes but by no means a throw away. None of these tunes are. The first thing you'll notice on "Pray For Light" at 2:19, is a change in vocals. I get a little George from Blacklisted coming through or maybe parts of the song remind me of their amazing tune "Our Apartment is Always Empty". may be off on a tangent here, but the tune rocks hard. "Fall Out" at 2:36 is the downer track having to do with addiction, the needle, loss etc. The song is still a total ripper but the subject matter isn't at all fun. We've all been touched by addiction in one way or another and it's really shitty. How eloquent was that summation? "Dragdown" wraps the LP up with a playing time of 3:35, making it the second longest track on offer. This is Charger at their utmost Black Sabbath with guitar work again reminding me a bit of early Maiden It's a killer way to end the album.
So there you have it boys and gargoyles. From "Crackdown' to "Dragdown", no clunkers here. So who is in this power trio? We have Jason Willer holding down the beats like a boss. Master Shredder Andrew McGee handles the guitar work and boy does he wield that axe like a true champion. Last but not least is the one and only Matt Freemean on bass, and if you don't know this guy, well you'll know his mastery of the bass after one listen here....oh and go throw yourself off a cliff. Musically this is flawless. These guys all can suck you in with their jamming and simply do not disappoint. If you like your punk rock, heavy on the rock with incredible nods to Motorhead, early Maiden and Black Sabbath, like you should, but also with glimpses of “Blood Days” era Unity as well as some Turbonegro and Norman Bates and the Showerheads, then this is a definite must for you. So seek out some Charger and by all means head out to see them and buy some shit from them while you at it you cheap fucks. Listen punks....I know I'm not everyone's cup of tea..........but I drink coffee so eat a big of dicks.
MURPHY’S LAW, ANTIDOTE, RESTRAINING ORDER, 64
@AMITYVILLE MUSIC HALL, AMITYVILLE, NY MAY 26, 2019
PHOTOS BY: MICHELLE MENNONA
Memorial Day Weekend on Long Island 2019 could have seen me at a beach, a BBQ, an air show with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds or at a hardcore show headlined by the iconic Jimmy G and Murphy’s Law! I chose Murphy’s Law as it is really hard to not have a good time when you go and catch them live. If you ever attend a show at AMH you might find it interesting to know that the Amityville Horror House is just about a mile away from the club (112 Ocean Avenue) and that my old UPS driver was a part of the family that lived there in 1975 when it was apparently haunted! I got to AMH really early and before the show I caught up with openers 64 and Restraining Order for some quick video interviews while dodging late afternoon rain. We crammed Restraining Order into a bus shelter while cars drove by us to do one of the interviews and AMH staff was gracious enough to let me interview all 4 members of 64 backstage before they played as well. Both of these interviews will be up shortly on the In Effect You Tube page.
64 was up first and they are an old/new band. Old in that they have had the idea/foundation for this band for close to 5 years and new in that they have just started putting out music and playing out. I caught their debut show in nearby Bethpage back in late March and overall I think this was their third show. Their current/former band resume is insane with members who can claim Kill Your Idols, Mind Over Matter, In Your Face, Madball, and at least a half dozen more to their credit. 64 plays a melodic style of hardcore and bring a nice change of pace to the table. With just 3 songs online at the moment I went into this kind of cold, not knowing their music and that was fine as they just got up on the stage and sort of jammed out for 25 minutes or so dropping this thing called “anticipation” on me for what they can (or will) become in the future. Although it is still early on in the band’s development you can already sense that things are coming together quick and smooth in the 64 camp.
64. PHOTO BY: MICHELLE MENNONA
Following up a nice opening slot was RESTRAINING ORDER from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Much like myself they spent their Memorial Day Weekend doing hardcore things having spent the previous night opening for Louisville’s Miracle Drug in Brooklyn. Restraining Order are a 4 piece band who play throwback style hardcore. Think Negative Approach, think 1982, thing pure unadulterated hardcore punk before bands started slapping pentagrams and stupid fucking demons on their album covers. They got their shit together in early 2017 and already have 3 releases to their name and a full length due out this summer. They have toured out to the West Coast and can get into weekend warrior mode as well by playing all over the Northeast on the regular. They were received nicely here as the crowd moved in and gave them their attention throughout their set. Not a lot (if anything) in the way of dancing but you could tell people were genuinely into what they were doing as after each song they got a nice round of applause and it looked like people were going up to them after they played to tell them they liked what they heard. Find out more about Restraining Order in this “Fresh Blood Smackdown” article we did last September.
Now you can’t think unadulterated hardcore punk without bringing up the name of the next band… ANTIDOTE. Their “Thou Shalt Not Kill” EP (1983) is simply one of the holy grails of NYHC that most other EP’s have no choice but to bow down before. They came out to “Conspiracy Of None” off of their 2012 release “No Peace In Our Time” and also mixed in a few other tracks from that record that can sometimes go overlooked by the greatness of their ’83 debut. Antidote whipped through all of their old classics as expected with “Something Must Be Done”, “Die At War” (with that gnarly bass line), “Life As One/Nazi Youth” and “Got Me On A Line” not shockingly being standouts. The real show stopper though on this night was when Louie Rivera (who sang on that ’83 masterpiece) came out and did “Real Deal” and “Foreign Job Lot” alongside current Antidote frontman Drew Stone. Any bad blood between the main players in Antidote (Drew Stone and Rob Nunzio-guitar) and Mr. Rivera were seemingly squashed on May 26th, 2019 with Louie planting a kiss on Nunzio’s cheek before they busted into these two old tracks. They followed things up with some Black Flag and Minor Threat covers that saw Urban Waste’s Josh Waste jump into the mix to bust out “Rise Above”, “Filler” and “I Don’t Wanna Hear It”. If you want to set a crowd into a frenzy at a hardcore show a Minor Threat cover is a sure fire way to achieve that goal.
ANTIDOTE WITH DREW STONE (RIGHT) & LOUIE RIVERA (LEFT). PHOTO BY: MICHELLE MENNONA
When it comes to crowd attendance and crowd participation there aren’t many sure things at AMH except a MURPHY'S LAW show. The turnout and energy level for this Sunday night/holiday weekend show was impressive and not at all surprising as Murphy’s Law always seems to go over well at this venue. The “Back With A Bong” intro kicked ML’s set off and that led right into “Crucial BBQ” for a really nice start. Jimmy G as your master of ceremonies jumped up on the stage with beer cans and that familiar green bottle of Jagermeister in hand and the festivities were underway. Throughout their hour or so long set many beer cans met their fate by being shotgunned, thrown across the room or just poured over people’s heads with the dance floor turning into this beer soaked skating rink with songs like “Panty Raid”, “Stay Gold”, and “Sit Home And Rot” being the soundtrack to the mayhem. “Ska Song” bleeding into “Skinhead Girl” was one of the highlights as things got slowed down giving the crowd a chance to catch their breath. Seeing a couple dancing like they were at a wedding during this song was something I had never seen before either! I have said it before and I will say it again and that is that this current Murphy’s Law lineup is basically hitting on all cylinders and just a super tight unit at this point in time. Raven on the saxophone brings this added element to the mix that is unmatched by any hardcore band out there now. “Somebody’s Gonna get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” and “Woke Up Tied Up” closed things out to end the night. -CW
MURPHY'S LAW. PHOTO BY: MICHELLE MENNONA
BERTHOLD CITY “WHAT TIME TAKES” EP
(WAR RECORDS, Release Date June 21, 2019)
I was thinking to myself recently that it has been a little while since I’ve heard some good new straightedge/youth crew style hardcore music. I’ve never been straightedge myself, but I’ve always dug a lot of straightedge bands and I’ve always thought that the extra bit of sobriety helped fuel all the rage that surrounded the movement, especially in the 90’s. So, I was more than happy to give listen to the new 7” from Berthold City called “What Time Takes”.
Featuring members who have been a part of bands like Strife, World Be Free, Internal Affairs and Allegiance, Berthold City is bringing back California straight edge into the spotlight. Singer Andrew Kline (who you’ve probably seen on guitar with Strife for a million years) holds nothing back with the opening self-titled track, “What Time Takes”, with his gritty style vocals reminiscent of Suburban Scum. Raw guitars and a heavy breakdown make this a killer opening track and it gives you a good taste of what this band is all about. “No One To Blame” is all about the circle pits. Drummer Andy Galindo kicks off this song and is shortly met by the rest of the band with harsh intensity. A heavy breakdown with “No one left to blame” being chanted over it would be the strong point of this song. “Beware The Snakes”, the next track, is about being careful who you trust in life. Dennis Mc Donnell and Devin Dale share guitar duties and they go non-stop throughout this whole song. Harsh vocals warning you to “Beware the Snakes!”, send the song into an all-out breakdown that could get a kindergarten class in the pit! The last song on this effort, “Broken Foundation”, showcases bassist John Eightclip’s bass chops. Andrew Kline’s spoken “Broken Foundation” intro is reminiscent of Ray Capo on any Youth of Today record and the music stood right in line with what I just described. This is my favorite song on this effort, as it has all the important elements of a 90’s hardcore song incorporated into it like a well-balanced meal. I highly recommend getting your hands on this follow up to their “Moment Of Truth” EP which came out a little less than a year ago. It is well worth the big punch wrapped in this small package.
GIVE YOU NOTHING s/t (Released May, 2019)
Give You Nothing are a California skate punk/melodic hardcore band whose artwork on their latest release shows their local beach boardwalk against the backdrop of the Californian hills on fire, I am not sure if this is a statement from the band but if anything it gives a great eye-catching first impression.
The opening song on this 12 track album titled “Reflections” delivers a good indication of what is to come with a speedy, melodic style that reminds me at times of bands like Rancid or even some Dag Nasty. Right away you can hear that the production here stands out and is spot on. It is clear that the band has spent time working on their song structure's and lyrics plus combining them with time changes and the end result offers something for everyone if you simply just love hardcore punk music.
"Clean Slate" (track 2) offers a simple anti-prejudice message which I like and is easy to get behind whilst “Empty Promises” kicks off with a no-nonsense approach with its razor-sharp guitars and in your face vocals delivered with a little bit of attitude from their frontman Spencer. Before you know it the same song that starts off so viciously ends with a nice twist as I feel this could be a real crowd pleaser. "Complacency Disease" starts off with a proper bit of musical attitude and is in stark contrast to what I heard on the first song of the album but before you know it there is a sudden change of tempo, keeping the listener engaged. Another strong song which offers diversity and demonstrates the band's musical ability. "Wishing Well" is a superb song that served as a personal reminder of sorts of when I visited California back in the early 90’s. I think it is fantastic when a song can capture your imagination like that.
The much shorter "Ripper", it's a full-on angry song, no holding back, full of punches and shows a different side, and it's this that makes this such an interesting album. I can just see the pit being whipped into an absolute frenzy with this gem! Don't be fooled by the opening moshing bass riff of "S.O.B" as before you know it the song explodes with life, complete with shout outs and more hardcore GYN melody. It's got an incredible live feel to it. "A Devil You Know" is the shortest song here clocking in at just 24 seconds and a nod to the old school of hardcore before the finale of "Flawed Foundations". This album is for fans who like melodic sing-along hardcore with that very noticeable “So-Cal” feel. Examples of their influences can be like the previously mentioned Rancid to Fury 66, some Black Flag and maybe even some Gorilla Biscuits… definitely worth a listen!
ADRENALINE S/T EP
(Flatspot Records, Release Date May 24, 2019)
From say 2-3 years back up till now there seems to be an increasing number of new hardcore punk bands that are adding different flavors to their sound as a way stand out from the pack even if it is with the slightest little tweaks. The 90's have become the main source for digging out influences for these bands’ musical compositions, a clever move that often pays off! That's the case for Baltimore based Adrenaline with their initial release, the self-titled 6 track-EP on Flatspot Records.
Bands like Turnstile proved that sipping on not-so-obvious sources like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Living Color was a way to put out fresh music in a sub-genre that doesn’t allow much in the way of deviations without sounding too forced or sold-out. As for Adrenaline (a side-project with members of the metallic hardcore group Queensway), their pool of influences feels deeper, one that spans throughout the whole decade, from early 90's Helmet riffage to mid-90's NYHC groovy-ness of Cold Front to late 90's modern elements of Snapcase!
As the vocals kicks-in during the opening track they quickly switch from new-school styled guitar distortions to full groove-laden hardcore that gets you moving. Both elements take turns all the way to the finish which makes the listening experience highly interesting. If by the second track you aren't convinced, the third one "Masked Out" will most likely do the trick, if not, check your pulse! Another new band that features similar traits to Adrenaline is Jocko from Nebraska… both bands use vocal patterns that can be traced back to Rage Against The Machine and even Quicksand (first EP), almost in a rap cadence… and that's a plus on my list!
In the end, not following safer paths by taking cues by the usual names like Agnostic Front, Hatebreed or Converge may turn some heads at first but for me Adrenaline is pushing hardcore/punk music in a direction that I’d rather hear than any other musical trend going on right now!
AFTERBURN “OPEN EYES LONG BLINDED” EP
(Released April, 2019)
Afterburn (not to be confused with New York’s, After Burn) is a metalcore band hailing from Edinburg, Scotland, home of one of my personal favorite bands, The Exploited. The band consists of members from previous bands such as War Charge, Deceit and World Truth among others. I did check out the War Charge stuff and I recommend it.
The music is reminiscent of 90’s straight edge hardcore and you can hear the influences of bands like Carry On and Some Kind Of Hate in the music. The band says in their bio this is the direction they were heading in with this band and they have achieved it in my eyes.
As far as the songs go, my personal favorites would be the intro which begins with a bass riff that sets the tone for what’s to come. I could feel my head start to bang a little by the time the drums and guitars kicked in. The build-up leads us into the track, “Trapped”, which kicks this downloadable E.P. into high gear. “Status Over Substance” is another strong cut and has a similar build-up before the song blows up and you have the urge to begin a circle pit of one.
If you are looking for originality you won’t find it on this EP. What you will get is some homage to some old school hardcore sounds done with the band’s own take on the music. My only complaint is that it is too short but definitely worth picking up.
VICTORY GARDEN “MADELEINE” (Released April, 2019)
Long Island is known pretty well for its heavier, mosh friendly stylings of hardcore music. Bands like Neglect, Cipher, Incendiary, VOD, Tripface, Backtrack, Hangman, Sanction. A lot of people do occasionally tire of the same breakdown breakdown breakdown stuff. Even the death metal like Internal Bleeding and Suffocation all seems to be full of mosh riffs and breakdowns and slam riffs. A lot of people look for a change of pace in throwback circle pit hardcore punk bands. But there’s another tradition on LI that may be worth revisiting. That is a tradition revisited by the Smith family on this “Madeleine” EP with their new band Victory Garden: emo-core.
You may know the Smith family from bands such as Hangman or Backtrack. Hardcore that tends to be on the heavier side. But on this new Victory Garden EP, they take a break from the heavy and play some more melodic styles of punk and hardcore. They seem to be taking influence from the LI melodic hardcore punk of bands such as Silent Majority, Capital, Crime In Stereo and The Backup Plan. There’s a lot of shorter songs, fast old-school hardcore beats, and the EP favors sunny major chords over harsh, dissonant minor progressions. It isn’t a total pastiche of that sound however; the song “It Seems Pretty Obvious” takes a few cues from the 90’s pop punk sound of bands such as Green Day, Rancid and Jawbreaker. The chords and the vocal melody really seem to call back to the sound of bands that Gilman Street shaded for “selling out.” The track “Isolation 101” is particularly melodic and also treads close to pop punk. The bluntest way I can describe this song is that it sounds like Iron Chic was even more depressed. It seems to take some similar cues with the vocal melodies and chord progressions but in a lower key that somewhat harkens back to the 90’s alternative scene. I suppose you could describe this EP as “pop punk with hardcore cred” if you wanted to be really snarky about it.
We’ve covered the “core” part, now let’s get to the “emo” part. This EP is definitely emo in the traditional sense of “emotional hardcore” (a bit of a dumb term if you ask me but I’ll save it for some future thinkpiece. It just happens to get my point across). It tackles a lot of more introspective struggles. These themes aren’t unfamiliar to them, if you follow the lyrics of Backtrack and Hangman at all. However, it feels as if Victory Garden gives themselves more of an opportunity to be vulnerable in their lyrics. The song “Isolation 101” is an honest and frank depiction of depression, loneliness, alcoholism, and these feelings of guilt and regret and how all these things meld together. It’s about how building walls between yourself and other people because you’re afraid of being hurt but also being upset that you’re alone. Classic Porcupine’s Dilemma. The tracks “No Luck” and “How Am I Going To Function?” both address depression and the unhealthy ways we cope with it to get through the day. There seems to be a common theme throughout this EP about doing things to numb yourself from the emotional pain that life throws at you.
My favorite track on this, “It Seems Pretty Obvious,” has some interesting layers to it. It starts off sounding like the narrator is having a disagreement in some unspecified interpersonal relationship where the other person is shutting him out. But as the song goes on, lines like “I will never be the one to say/It’s both sides to blame,” and “Sometimes we don’t need a debate when there’s right and wrong,” that ambiguously hint at something deeper. Finally, the last verse of the song reveals its true motives, where it discusses “false shit spreading” and “people blinded by their screens” that appears to fully establish its political message. This song is definitely really about people who are loyal to headlines over truth, the rise of the alt-right, and people who spend too much time sitting on the fence about politics. It speaks to this idea that not everything can be solved with simple conversation, especially when the conversation has been corrupted in the digital age by the desire for connection and instant satisfaction. A dig at the “fake news” generation.
I had a largely positive reaction to this EP. If I could gripe about anything though, there are one or two things that I don’t totally dig. I have a love hate relationship with Duncan Smith’s vocal delivery. I love the melodic punk feel of his vocals and I feel that it fits this style of music very well. The attitude is definitely there. I also feel, however that his delivery is a little bit dull at times. It’s hard to explain, but I feel as if I want him to put a little bit more into it. I’m also on the fence about some of the styles this EP covers. “Isolation 101” and “It Seems Pretty Obvious” are good songs but their styles are a little jarring next to the speed of the tracks surrounding them. I’m on the fence because I like the variety they bring to this record but I also think it’s a little random to have these two wildly different takes on pop punk in the middle of a melodic hardcore EP.
I’m not gonna harp on its originality that much, however, because I don’t expect side projects to invent new genres of music unless they’re fronted by Les Claypool. Side projects are largely just experiments or a fun hobby for your average career musician. While this one takes itself a bit more seriously than most, I generally didn’t go in expecting Victory Garden to be the next Refused. Overall, I’d recommend this EP to any fans of melodic hardcore to check out. I’d also recommend it if you’re an LIHC completionist and you’re looking for more cool side projects of Hangman or Backtrack. I’d also recommend it to any pop punk fans who wanna defect to hardcore because this EP is definitely an easy sell if you’re the kind of person with a few Saves The Day or New Found Glory shirts in your closet. If you prefer your hardcore to be much heavier or super experimental, this may not be up your alley. Either way, it’s a good solid melodic hardcore EP, that’s definitely worth checking out.
FIXED FIGHT “EMPTY HOMES”
(Bleeding Music Records, Released December, 2018)
“Empty Homes” is the debut album from Danish metallic hardcore band, Fixed Fight. Vocalist and orchestrator Christian Engelhardt has been performing for a number of years under the name Torment, but recently transitioned the group into Fixed Fight to accompany a significant stylistic break from his past work. While Torment homed in on a melodic youth crew vibe with some light metalcore flourishes in the form of clean backing vocals, Fixed Fight is much more vicious and dare I say ambitious in its approach to metallic hardcore. Engelhardt has built himself a fighter with the borrowed skeleton of Snapcase’s searching snarling whiplash chord progressions, packed in the fleshy sinews of oily Converge guitar tones, and animated with a rotten blood transfusion of punk-infused death metal, unethically sourced from the despiteful wells of Hate Eternal and Misery Index. Fixed Fight may not be His Hero Is Gone, but it’s a damn good start. The first half of the album is sung in English while the second is in Engelhardt’s native vernacular. On the front half you get the constrictive thrashy peel and ominous foggy feedback of “Bled Dry,” the scrapping death metal imbued crush of the propulsive and breakdown anchored “Priceless,” the righteous anger fanned grease fire of “Far From Home” with its rallying interplay of combative high-end and growling low-end guitars and Engelhardt’s counterattacking vocals interlarded with topical clips from corporate war and class-conflict programming, rounded out with the brief but glorious metalcore melee “Give it All” featuring wild tearing riffs, tense breakdowns, and a patiently dire bridge that will leave you begging for more. The second half is both heavier and more experimental, with sludgy and contemplative post-death of “Dybt Vand” opening with an honest to God jazz-pop sample, leading into the sonorous but menacing piano solo of “Eferladt,” which gives you just enough of a lull to let the sinking dire toil of “Du Kunne Ikke Svømme” feel all the more suffocating and sting of closing dirge “Transparent” feel all the more sharp as it penetrates and floods your soul with sorrow.
“Empty Homes” is an impressive debut that exhibits extremely promising variations on tried and true aggressive styles. That said, it feels somewhat incomplete. The most notable oddity is the separation of the English language and Danish tracks, but the noticeable separation between the more experimental moments and the straightforward rockers is distracting as well. The end result is an album that feels like two great EP’s that have been unceremoniously sown together rather than an album that has been drafted as a singular statement. These issues probably could have been addressed by better sequencing that interspersed the more experimental tracks with their cruder brethren, but I’m not here to play engineer or be a creative consultant. I’m here to listen to hardcore and then write about whether or not I liked what I heard. Thankfully the fundamentals of each individual track on “Empty Homes” are solid, I enjoyed it from the first to the final blow, and I’m intrigued by the hints of greater things to come. This home may be uninhabited, but it certainly isn’t vacant or devoid of ideas.
STIGMA, DEAD BLOW HAMMER, CAUGHT IN A TRAP, SILENCE EQUALS DEATH, CRAZY EDDIE
@ NIAGARA, NYC MAY 5, 2019.
This was the second in what is hopefully a long running series of Sunday hardcore matinees at the very location that was once known as A7 which is regarded by most as the birthplace of NYHC. When I hear the name A7 I usually think of those old black and white photos of bands like Agnostic Front, people like Todd Youth and Raybeez (RIP), Jimmy G from Murphy's Law, most in their teenage years and probably not even knowing at the time what they were in the process of creating. A7 existed from 1980 through 1984 and here we are in 20FUCKING19 in the same exact room with 5 NY/NJ area bands packing out this small piece of hallowed hardcore land. Hats off to Drew Stone from Antidote/The New York Hardcore Chronicles Film and crew for taking a chance and making these shows happen.
First up was CRAZY EDDIE who were introduced by Drew Stone to start the day off. If you visit this website regularly you have seen their name mentioned more than a few times and that is because they are one of the best up and coming NYHC bands out there right now. Their "Eddie Drops Out Of College" full length is almost a year old now, available online for free, and in the past year they have quietly gone about their business opening up shows all around the NY area as the buzz on them slowly grows with each opening slot they play. Crazy Eddie plays old-school style hardcore punk and opened up with a great sing-a-long with "In Too Deep", had some great moments with "The Prices Are Insane", and "Here To Stay". They did a cover of Agnostic Front's "Victim In Pain" (with Drew Stone on vocals) and waltzed on out with "Running" which has a devastating mosh part to wrap things up. The area where the bands play is small, cramped, tight... pick a term that you prefer... you will be soaked in sweat when you walk out of this place. With any kind of turnout at Niagra you are going to be in tight quarters and there are literally no places to hide once the bands start playing. From the first set to the last there was no shortage of crowd participation and it made for an extremely fun afternoon.
CRAZY EDDIE. PHOTO BY RICH ZOELLER
NJ's SILENCE EQUALS DEATH were up next and they obviously know the history that this room carries and came out with a 1-2 punch starting with the intro to "We Gotta Know" by the Cro-Mags and then carried that momentum right into another hardcore classic in Warzone's "As One". The crowd needed little to no prodding to get loose and they followed that 1-2 punch with my favorite SED track titled "Peacemaker". If you are unfamiliar with this band their "End Times" full length from 2 years back carries the bulk of their catalog and is probably the best place to start off. "Common Ground” and "Sight Unscene" from that album made their way into this set from a band that mixes a heavier 90's style into their brand of hardcore. For the past few years SED always seems to be going through some kind of lineup change and for what it's worth they sounded extremely tight and well played on this day which does not surprise me as they have proved to be a hardworking band since finding out about them back in 2012. To make sure that no other band did more covers than them they also gave us Breakdown's "Sick People" for their third cover song of the afternoon.
SILENCE EQUALS DEATH. PHOTO BY TIM DALEY
Queens' CAUGHT IN A TRAP have been at this now since 2005. It doesn't seem like they play out a ton these days but when you do catch them live it is always a good time. Every band that played this show just seemed to dig a little deeper and give that extra whatever to put out their max effort and as a fan of all of the bands that played it was obvious. I left to get a slice of pizza before they came on and I had to almost kick and elbow my way back into the small room where I caught CIAT do a cover of "Malfunction" by the Cro-Mags as well as originals "Goodnight New York", "Driven", and "Nothing's Free". Their frontman Rich Fie has this confidence and coolness about him and is also damn good at singing hardcore songs and is one of my personal favorites. He also showed that he possesses some MC type skills when he took their track "Trapped" and added JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! to its lyrics and had the entire place start jumping along in unison. CIAT also added the often sampled hip-hop lyric/chorus of "the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire" to another one of their tracks. Awesome stuff, awesome set. Fast and furious, pure NYHC with some twists that make their songs stand out. If Caught In A Trap is a new name to you check out their "Goodnight New York" album that came out in 2014.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP. PHOTO BY MICHELLE MENNONA
DEAD BLOW HAMMER have been around since the late 90's and were initially known as Against The Grain. This show was a release show for their brand new 5 song EP called "No Repercussions?" which they had available on cassette and CD. Their bassist is Rob Kabula of Agnostic Front/CFA fame who was a big part of that old A7 crowd way back in NYHC's infancy stages. He has always had that rumbling bass sound/style that is super distinguishable and a bunch of DBH songs have that same feel including "Caste System Skunks" off of that just mentioned new EP which absolutely rips. In addition to Rob Kabula physically being in this room were other A7 "alumni" including original Agnostic Front singer John Watson who was front and center in the pit, both Antidote singers in Louie Rivera and Drew Stone and obviously Vinnie Stigma who was up next. DBH plowed through new and old tracks for about 30 minutes with a high intensity set, no let up from the crowd and bodies basically flying all over the place. Anyone who fell down immediately got picked up by the closest person to them which is still a beautiful thing to see at any hardcore show.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
One half of "The Godfathers Of Hardcore" is Vinnie Stigma who is best known for being the guitarist for Agnostic Front but who should also be revered for the side project that bears his name. STIGMA the band may fly a little under the radar but definitely should not be discounted for what they are which is a very good punk rock band fronted by one of hardcore's elite showman. They came out blaring the title track to their 2009 debut "New York Blood" and also mixed in tracks "I Am", "Days Of Old" and the super catchy "Don't Lose Faith" off of their 2013 album "For Love & Glory". The funniest part of the entire day was when the band ended one of their songs and Vinnie went to talk before the next song. His band then kept repeating the last 2 seconds of the previous song to drown out what he was saying. When it seemed like it was over and Stigma was about to talk they did it again, and again, and again... maybe 10 times total leaving the band and the audience cracking up and Stigma jokingly threatening Luke their drummer... "I'm gonna embarrass you". The vibe in the room was definitely about having fun as it felt as if we were all having a giant party in Uncle Vinnie's living room. They closed things out with two AF classics in "Power" and "Crucified". While walking out of Niagra it was hard not to think that we had all just witnessed one of those special kinds of shows that will be remembered by most for a long time to come. -CW
STIGMA. PHOTO BY: STEVEN J. MESSINA
IGNORANT LIFE "DEMO '19" (Released April, 2019)
Ignorant Life come to us from Perth Amboy, NJ and this is their debut effort, a 3 song demo that came out less than a month ago. "Intro/Shootda1" starts off with some classic mid-paced, pit inducing stomp action that carries on for about a minute before a buzzsaw like guitar riff jumps right into your face. If you are anywhere near the middle of an Ignorant Life pit when the vocals kick in a few seconds later you are more than likely risking your own personal safety as this is just some brutal ass hardcore that is not intended for the faint of heart. At this early juncture I am already thinking to myself… Holy Shit Balls with first the intro and then the rest of the song just crushing. Ignorant Life got that street vibe thing going on with a track dedicated to those who are talking shit on those streets. Musically I hear hints of bands like District 9, Madball and maybe even some Billy Club Sandwich with that defined NY/NJ/East Coast non-apologetic smash you in da face style. "Ambush City" (aka Perth Amboy) follows and is a song about a close friend who was gunned down by bullets that were meant for the songs author. Before the lyrics there is a note that says it is a true story. Gerardo from Argentina's Nueva Etica (and now also NY's Locked Inside) is featured on this song as well. "Odio En Las Venas" (Hate In The Veins) is obviously done in Spanish and continues with the raw energy displayed on tracks 1 and 2 with a fast pace, some double bass drums and those big gang style back-up vocals. I really like the production that was done on this especially in the way the guitar tone sounds. The vocals are hard, fit the musical style like a glove and thankfully are not overdone. Fence Cutter (also from Perth Amboy) get an assist in this review as a recent check on their Instagram account turned me on to the Ignorant Life demo. The "Name Your Price" option on Ignorant Life’s Bandcamp page gives you zero excuses to not check in on this.
DEAD BLOW HAMMER “NO REPRECUSSIONS?” EP (Released April, 2019)
I have been following this band since 1996… that’s 23 years! Dead Blow Hammer was once called Against The Grain. They changed the name as it seems as if there are 100's of bands with the same name and naturally wanted to stand out from the masses, which is understandable. DBH come to us from New Jersey and have been producing some seriously quality hardcore and although they have had a few band members come and go, they still have the original crew, A.G. on vocals, Carlos on guitar and Rob Kabula on bass, with the new guys Gary Yosco on guitar and Chris Koresh on drums. The music itself deserves a lot more recognition around the world so don't stop at listening to me… check out the bands' other work too, I promise you will not be disappointed. So, it was with great excitement to get to listen to their long-awaited new EP. The artwork is simplistic and striking which always carries weight especially if you have never heard of a band before.
The opening song "Caste System Skunks" (what a title!) opens with Kabula's thunder in the gut bass, the ex-Agnostic Front/Cause For Alarm 4 string player delivers the same style and aggression from the past to present day. As an opener, this is catchy as fuck and has a real live feel to it. The production is perfect and points to the bands strongest work to date. “(Intro) Verted/Leaders Grow Afraid” casts out a superb sing along with the twin guitars razor-sharp riffing complementing A.G.'s vocal style. "Dents" is a mid-paced song that reminds me of Stigma (Agnostic Front). A bit difficult to explain, just listen to it, you should hear what I mean. "Imperious" then ups the pace. Chris' drumming is spot on, again another catchy tune with plenty of opportunities to shout along. The last song of this 5 track EP is "Caught Me A Virus". Don't be fooled by the mid-tempo drumming because before you know it, the song is played at a blisteringly fast pace with some twists and turns and is a strong song to end with. So to summarize, you really do need to hear this, I cannot stress this enough. If you love Agnostic Front, Cause For Alarm or Sick Of It All then this is essential stuff for your collection. What are you waiting for?"
NO COMPROMISE “NO TURNING BACK” EP
(Released April, 2019)
No Compromise are a freshman band that come from the school of latter 80’s style New York Hardcore… the 2nd wave where punks were listening to metal and metalheads were listening to hip-hop as the South Bronx street culture fused with the Downtown underground genre.
The opening title track and name sake of this EP “No Turning Back” wastes no time in evoking energy for the ritual of slam dancing. A bouncing mid-tempo thrash riff crunches for a measure before we get kicked by drums employing first, a fast gallop beat with accompanying vox - that I am relieved to say do not sound like a death metal corpse with a sore throat who swallowed a microphone but a street misfit whose lyrical themes deal with the genres common subject matter of betrayal and payback. The first verse ends with a killer transition as the drummer switches up to an open heavy power groove giving the guitar riff a dual personality that hits your neural systems and makes you want to move in a circle pit executing mosh dance moves.
This four song effort gives the listener the fundamentals of NYHC as the group utilizes “slow down” parts, double bass drum beats and thick break sections - elements now firmly placed in the DNA of the street genre. No Compromise are not breaking any new ground… at least for those familiar with the beasts from the 1989 Blackout Compilation “Where The Wild Things Are” who with Outburst, Breakdown, Raw Deal and Sheer Terror were the prototypes for this Frankenstein sound of early regional hardcore, thrash metal, doom rock, 70’s punk and Uptown hip-hop making it the new normal and key to the scenes musical evolution and in turn, survival.
No Compromise are not here for those who were there at the original Superbowl of Hardcore shows, copped their vinyl at Some Records or Bleeker Bob’s or spent their Sunday afternoons at CBGB’s. No Compromise exist for those that weren’t - youth and adult - but feel a kinship to the style, attitude and message conjured up from this urban tribal expression. Their “No Turning Back” EP is an homage to a classic warfare sound as the group understands the style and song structures that can turn a NYHC dance floor into a gladiator arena.
Though what is more interesting in these “resurgence” style bands of early hardcore is where the young blood will take it. With the history thoroughly laid out on uploaded bootleg videos on You Tube, ‘zine anthologies and various hardcore/punk documentaries and books we all know where it went…from 1st generational A7 style bands to the Sunday Matinee 2nd wave and the free for all of the 90's. The crossroads for No Compromise and other millennial new school hardcore bands is what different path will they walk and how will it add to the now 40 year old genre.
FIXATION "INTO THE PAIN" EP
(WAR Records, Release Date May 10, 2019)
Philly's Fixation seem to have a very strong motor as they continue to put out new music, tour, and just be in the mix when it comes to the current day hardcore landscape. Andrew Kline's (Strife, Berthold City) WAR Records released their 8 song "Marked" EP last August and now follows that up with the new "Into The Pain" 4 song EP which will be released on May 10th digitally as well as on a flexi (your gonna need a record player).
"Into The Pain" boasts 3 new songs in "The Role", "Spare Me", and "You Feel Nothing" and shows Fixation soldiering on with their modern day quest to produce authentic old-school 80’s style hardcore complete with a heart and a soul. I absolutely love Matthew Green's vocals here with Breakdown's Jeff Perlin, Negative Approach's John Brannon and Kill Your Idols' Andrew West coming to mind when I hear him do his thing. Opening track “The Role” is by far my favorite of the 3 originals. Although it clocks in at just 1:23 in playing time this track still somehow gets in multiple layers with a breakdown around the 20 second mark, a burst of energy around the 30 second mark and then they slow it all back down at the 47 second mark while delivering the kill shot with a sick ass bass line that leads into another breakdown to close things out. “You Feel Nothing” is another keeper for your Fixation playlist and for me just adds on to an already decent sized list for a band that isn’t yet two years old. Track 4 is a cover of “No Class” by NYC’s Regan Youth, a track that turns 30 years old this year. Fixation adds a little crunch to the original making for great listening and hopefully a track that they add to their live play list. All in all another keeper here from a newer band on the rise but please, please, please… next time around give us more than 5 minutes worth of new music.
RYKERS “THE BEGINNING… DOESN’T KNOW THE END” (BDHW Records, Release Date May 31, 2019)
An angel down on her knees who appears to be praying in a snowy, dingy alley who also has a sinister looking man in a suit standing behind her holding a gun to the back of her head. If that doesn’t make a statement, then I don’t know what does! The new album from European hardcore veterans, Ryker’s, entitled “The Beginning…. Doesn’t Know the End”, is the statement I’m taking about. Fifteen brand new tracks of pure punishment are what you can expect from this album. A powerful mix of old school, beatdown and just about everything in between. With over 25 years in the game, Ryker’s has remained one of Europe’s top hardcore acts.
They kick off the album with a fast guitar riff that quickly erupts into a circle-pit sing-a-long entitled, “Let’s Ruin The Scene”. Aside from the gang vocals and other hardcore signatures, the song has a cool Pennywise ring to it. The decrescendo style ending to the song also gives it a good finishing touch. The next track, “Losing Touch”, just comes right out and blasts you in the face with its super-fast pace. Pounding drums, thumping bass, riffs, and vocals that are “In Your Face”! Things are starting to escalate here. “Cast In Stone”, the next track, continues the escalation. This song had a great Madball sound coming from guitarists Fusel and Steve, with plenty of crunch and breakdown action.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the band had enlisted the vocal talents of the legendary Agnostic Front singer, Roger Miret on the next one called “Dead End Street”. As a good standout track from the album, it has a great blend of old school hardcore with gang vocals and sing-a-long chants. Then Roger’s vocals toward the end of the song just seal the deal. Great song. The album title track, “The Beginning Doesn’t Know The End”, is next in line. The thick bass sound from Chris on this one just kills! Killer vocals and great lyrics from vocalist, Dennis, on this track as well. This album is still going “full speed ahead” at this point and I am enjoying it. “Old Passion” takes the pace even faster with some good 80’s style thrash. With sounds reminiscent of M.O.D. or even Pitboss 2000, the old school continues to flow.
Some more vocal and musical talent on this record comes from the next song, “Collateral Damage”. A great display of chugs and gang vocals that are just flat-out powerful. Another favorite of mine is the next one, “No Matter What”. This song has a great blend of melody and harmony crossed with “circle-pit” style riffs. Don’t get tired now. There is still plenty of quick heaviness to go around on this record. But the Stomp Award on this album goes to the song, “Overboard”. And if that didn’t satisfy one’s thirst for stomp, then the next one called, “The Six Million Dollar Band”, sure will. “Cold Lost Sick” changed up the tone briefly with an acoustic guitar melody and guest vocals from a woman named Rebecca Haviland. A nice tune and a beautiful voice only added to the impact felt from when the next song, “Hard Pill To Swallow”, kicked in. Great lyrics about persevering when life gets tough were a big standout, as well as the awesome breakdown toward the end. Another good beatdown song, “Bully Boy”, sure hit the spot for me. Then they come right back and hit you with the next tune, “The End Justifies The Means”. Those of you who have already read some of my reviews would know I am a “Beatdown Hardcore Aficionado” and this song passes the test. For real, it had me at “I will F#$k you up”! Good stuff, right there. The band then closes the album with, “Sightseeing In the Age Of BBQ”. A fun way to close the album with an old school party song about visiting NY. It made me get a little nostalgic and I started to miss my old homeland in North Jersey where I could catch a bus and get there in 15 minutes.
All in all, this album lets you know just exactly why this band has withstood the test of time in the hardcore scene. Europe or not, they stay true to the old NY style hardcore sound that we all know and love. Another great old school record from an old school band. This album will be available on May 31st, so pick it up! Pre-orders are available HERE.
BILLYBIO “FREEDOM’S NEVER FREE” EP
(Bridge Nine Records, Release Date May 10, 2019)
If you have been involved in the hardcore, metal or crossover music scenes anywhere from the mid 80's and up, you should already know the name Billy Graziadei. Perhaps best known as a member from the highly influential Brooklyn band Biohazard, who are credited by many as the band that fused hardcore, metal and hip-hop together. Billy has been tearing up stages across the globe as a guitarist/vocalist for a very long time and has finally kicked off a solo project, simply titled BILLYBIO. Last November he released the debut album titled “Feed The Fire” on European label AFM and this month look for the EP “Freedom’s Never Free” on Bridge Nine Records. There are only four tracks on this single but within these 8 and a half minutes you find all the musical elements that make up Billy’s hard-nosed style. The common theme that makes up the tracks of this EP is one that I'm positive many people can relate to.
Track 1: “Freedom’s Never Free”. The key single from the fore mentioned solo album taking on citizen's rights being taken away. The best analogy I can think of to capture the intensity of this song is if you remember eating the candy Poprocks. The very second they hit your tongue all of your senses just went into a frenzy and that is precisely what this track does from the first chord to the last.
Track 2: “Get Up, Stand Up”: Billy does a cover tune of the legendary Bob Marley classic. Before you label this as blasphemy hear me out or better yet just listen to the song. Billy transforms the classic into a respectful, energetic version of his own which would make Bob proud that his philosophy continues on.
Track 3: “Freedom’s Never Free”: This is the unreleased demo version which is still as much of a roller coaster ride as the "more polished" track one, just rawer.
Track 4: “Feed The Fire”. An unreleased demo version of the title track and namesake of the solo album.
“Freedom’s Never Free” is a solid release with a message that is important; vocals screaming for your attention and music that rattles the cages of the oppressor's. It's a combination of the experiences Billy has lived through; the places he has played and the people he has played with. BILLYBIO is another endeavor proving why Billy Graziadei remains at the top of his game and why everything he puts his effort into equals pure gold.
CORPORATE CITIZEN “A BRIEF MOMENT OF SANITY” (El Torpo Records, Released April, 2019)
It is always a pleasure to discover a band that you have never heard of before who exceed your expectations and Corporate Citizen have done just that. The opening song "Batten Down the Hatches" is a melodic blend of hardcore with hints of Rancid type bass with an opportunity for plenty of singing along. The band is based in San Diego, California with guitarist Steve O'Brien once residing in New York where he used to play bass with Crown Of Thornz as well as with Grey Area. Corporate Citizen have stated that their influences are Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bouncing Souls and Quicksand amongst others. However, back to the album and the second song "95 Sound" which has a nice surprise by changing things up from the first song. Don't be fooled by the opening notes of this track as it quickly descends into a rage that doesn’t lose sight. The band adds intelligence and balance to their style. I like them, I like them a lot! For me, they remind me a bit of Gorilla Biscuits. The albums nine songs play effortlessly and before you know it the album is over and you find yourself wanting to play the whole thing again. The opening notes of "Next Big Thing" show maturity and melody before once again going into a hardcore rage and before you know it, the timing changes again, keeping you on your toes. The track "Trust Fails" offers a nice bass line to an almost commercial feel, if I can be so bold? Don't be fooled with other songs like "Got No Time" that starts off with a happy go lucky punk feel before descending into an in your face thrasher with a nice shout along chorus. The final song of the album "The Good One" is a straight forward song that you can really imagine being in their live set complete with a circle pit in full flow, some stage diving, accompanied by those spots to shout along the song’s title. The song breaks into a very melodic middle section that shows their passion for the genre. If you are looking for melody coupled with plenty of singing along with furious old school moments of anger then I would highly recommend you add this to your collection!
INCLUDE "WAR OF TODAY" EP
(Mixtape Records, Released April, 2019)
Include come to us all the way from Panama with members who are originally from that country as well as Venezuela and Chile. The cover artwork was drawn by a dude from Russia and US bands like Bold, Poison Idea and the Bad Brains had a direct influence on the members of this newly formed group. Now that we got those tidbits of international info out there let’s get down to what Include is doing musically which is fast and very much to the point hardcore. Style wise I hear a lot in the way of mid-80's style NYHC with plenty of catchy bass lines, choppy drum parts and a DIY sounding recording that seems to fit what Include is trying to capture. Youth Of Today maybe? Project X? Perhaps. I would bet Include's personal musical catalog has those early Revelation Records comps amongst them along with other mid-80's stuff as their sound leans heavily on these types of bands.
Where Include loses me though is in the length of their songs. This EP has a total of 7 songs and clocks in at under 3 and a half minutes in total play time. The opening track "Changing Phases" is the champion here coming in at a whopping 1 minute and 4 seconds... and I 150% will take that as they get the work in, do what they gotta do and pump out a nice track. That is then followed up by tracks that run 19 seconds, 20, 23, 29, 34 and 17 seconds in length and they got some REALLY good parts in these songs but any flow or momentum that they build up gets killed when a song ends seemingly right after it gets going. To be fair here Include are in the infancy stages of being a band with their born on date being at some point in April. The base of what they are doing is absolutely solid and hopefully their next batch of songs gain some length to them. If you happen to be in Panama City Panama on Friday, May 17th make sure to stop in to Murphy's California Kitchen to catch the first ever Include set. Cassette and 7" versions of this EP are currently in the works.
SLOW DESCENT “HUNG OVER HELL’S FIRE” (Released February, 2019)
Straight edge metalcore is one of the all-time great traditions of the hardcore scene. It’s like two-stepping, breakdowns, or stage dives. You really can’t imagine the hardcore scene without it. From the pummeling power-violence of Infest to the heavy chugging riffs of Earth Crisis, it’s one of the few trends of the 90’s that will probably reign supreme eternally. Tucson, Arizona’s Slow Descent make a pretty good case for it on their debut EP “Hung Over Hell’s Fire”.
On this EP, Slow Descent doesn’t waste any time in assaulting your ears with heaviness as they open the EP with the hate song “Witch Hazel”. You’d have to hate someone a lot to write a song this angry about them. Though I have to say, I’m a little lukewarm on this opening track. Something about the meter and the lyric writing doesn’t sit right with me. It’s hard to explain what it is but something doesn’t quite sync up between the lyrics and the blast beat that sets this song off. The song picks up a bit when the breakdowns kick in however and things smooth out a little. Though it is a bit of a rocky start, the EP picks up every quickly.
This EP stylistically is clearly very inspired by the spastic mathcore stylings of bands such as Deadguy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Gaza and Converge. However, it still brings the heavy mosh breakdowns on the level of mid-2000’s The Acacia Strain such as on the track “Ambrosia”, whose closing breakdown is a real venue killer. The speed and ferocity of this EP is unending and it doesn’t let up the entire time. The non-stop breakdown and blast beat laden brick to the skull thrash and bash fest lasts for about 17 minutes before you get to breathe. If I can level one criticism at their sound, it’s that their sound isn’t very unique or innovative. There are plenty of bands like Cult Leader or End or God Mother or Wreath of Tongues that have been doing this sound for a while. It’s not a bad take on it at all, it’s just not a unique one. That might not be the worst sin ever committed however. I know personally, I’m more forgiving of hardcore that’s a little bit generic so long as it’s accompanied by good songwriting, interesting lyricism and an energetic, cathartic live show.
Speaking of interesting lyricism, there’s one or two noteworthy things going on in the throat shredding screams of their vocalist. As with most other straight edge bands, the lyrics have a message to deliver. The lyrics aren’t quite as blunt as your average Judge song but the message seems to get across nonetheless. The lyrics of the songs “Red Geranium” and “Hydrangea” seem to take aim at organized religion, particularly the Catholic church, with its calls to “tear down the statues” and its references to “The spoils of religion” and “the unholy mess of a psychopath” and “Hydrangeas” closing lines which reference Judas’ betrayal. The song “Ambrosia” seems to be a dig at the racists declaring “Fear is your God/and arrogance is your Christ/Excuses are your mistress/and hatred is your wife!” It does draw on some positive vibes, however, with its call for unity at the very end “Pit yourself against them/We will walk as one!” The lyric writing is pretty solid on this EP and picking them apart myself was a fun exercise. Sometimes I appreciate lyrics that are more thought out rather than those that you are handed and bash you over the head with its blunt meaning.
My favorite song on this EP has to be “White Lily”. This song is a straight edge anthem that brings the mosh energy of other classic straight edge anthems such as “Firestorm” or “More Hate Than Fear”. The chants of “STRAIGHT EDGE TIL DEATH!” never get old for me! I could see myself tearing up the pit and clawing for the microphone during this song if I ever heard it live!
Overall, “Hung Over Hell’s Fire” is a fun little EP for people who wish to indulge in some chaotic discordant blast beats, some heavy mosh breakdowns for you crowd-killers and your spin-kickers, and some good ol’ straight edge outrage! It’s not the most inventive or unique thing I’ve ever heard, but for what it is, it’s done pretty well. I’d be interested to see where this band goes. I can tell that they cared enough to drop a dime on decent production for their debut EP and the passion seeps through in the sheer intensity of their music. I think there’s a bright future for this band if they continue to develop their sound and their style. As for right now, if you wish to hear more music like Gaza, Cult Leader, Deadguy or Wreath Of Tongues with angry straight edge lyrics and you don’t mind retreading old ground, I do recommend checking it out. It’ll give you your cathartic straight edge metalcore fix for sure. Pretty average by all accounts, but very enjoyable and well done for a debut EP with plenty of promise and room for growth.