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BROLOAF "BORN TO PARTY"
(Released April, 2016)
Dismissing this review simply based off of the fact that you don't know this bands name, don't like this band's name or wish you thought of this band's name first could possibly be the biggest mistake you make today or any other day for that matter. BroLoaf, the current day kings of party punk rock show why they are born to party with 13 (sorta) new tracks to get those panties dropping. But first a little background on this posse from the Arizona desert who got their start back in 2007. At the time a local contest had musicians submit their names and what instrument they played to be a part of a "Thrash Of The Titans" show. Band names and band lineups were then chosen randomly and BroLoaf was born with just a few weeks to get ready. They showed up to that first contest show with their own trophy.
Since the release of their first full length "Champions On Parade" back in 2011 BroLoaf has delivered a steady diet of EP's with this here new one being their 2nd full length. From early on the Loaf has delivered party packed fun into both their recordings as well as live sets which have taken on this almost GWAR like feel with a large cast of characters that make up the whole experience. Things kick off here with the very cleverly titled "Legacy Of Brotality" which starts off as a foot stomping instrumental that leads into "Winning Isn't Everything", a blazing fast punk track that just shreds. Overall BroLoaf walks this fine line between hardcore and punk but just a hair more on the hardcore side of the fence. Think Murphy’s Law's "Back With A Bong" LP and you can get a better picture of what to expect musically and in some ways lyrically as well with the party angle being hit hard on almost every track here. "I Wanna Party With You", "Shredded Weedies", "Rave Riot", "Skyping With Your Mom", and "Weekend Warriors" are just some of the titles that back that up and even on the tracks that may have more normal titles the themes are all about booze, drugs, getting laid, etc etc etc. For those looking for music with a more socially conscious message you should look elsewhere as BroLoaf make no apologies for their actions. There are 13 songs here with a hidden track mixed in to bring this to about a 40 minute affair. On a whole the songs here are broken down into 3 categories; "Chapter One, Living Like A Champion", "Chapter Two, "The Never Ending Party", and "Chapter Three, Where It All Went Wrong". Be on the lookout for Agnostic Front's Roger Miret and Danny "I Punched Danzig In The Face" Marianino on guest vocals on "Executive Decision". The CD artwork by Jeff Zornow and Jay Fotos folds out and captures the whole "Born To Party" theme with the band all illustrated as newborns in a delivery room doing what they do best. Overall, I love this new BroLoaf... the music is awesome with a ton of good hooks and memorable tracks with solid dual attack vocals that add to their sound. The lyrics are well thought out and are at times fun, sometimes obnoxious and at times had me in tears of laughter as it is obvious that they work just as hard on their collegiate life message as they do on their instruments. Not recommended for the easily offended, prudes, and people who don't like to have fun. Recommended though for people who are AWESOME.
CROWN OF THORNZ
“TRAIN YARD BLUES”
Vinyl Re-Issue (Stronger Than Before Records, Released May, 2016)
Oh my God, have you heard the latest scuttlebutt?? Have you checked to see the message boards all lit up with the unbelievable stories?? You are not gonna believe this shit. You think the shenanigans and rumors and gossip were a lot to digest in the mid-nineties? Well, have you heard what Crown of Thornz is up to now? Have you heard what they did this time?? Those fuckin maniacs allowed Stronger Than Before Records to repackage and re-release their critically and criminally underappreciated EP "Train Yard Blues". That's right. You read it here folks. It's all true.
We will get to the work STB has put into this in due time, but first and foremost, this is a music review. You have the original 5 jams on offer here.......Wait......you know what? If you are reading this and you don't own or, even worse, have never heard of/heard this release, then please log onto, or simply stop by your friendly neighborhood Home Depot, Ace is the place, or do it better with Rickel, and purchase a sweet tack hammer and smack yourself directly between the eyes......I'll wait. No I'm serious, GO. Now that those wankers are gone let's get back to it. Yes, this is the original five cuts. They are deeper than you remember. They are more melodic. If “Juggernaut” does not cause you to run outside and kick the mail man or spontaneously break into a windmill or just plain run amok in the streets, there's something wrong with you. Agreed? Good, I'm glad we are all on the same page. You know the tunes. We all know the tunes.
So what's new you ask?? Well, it has been re-released with love and care by our friends at Stronger Than Before and it’s on vinyl. GEEK ALERT - RECORD NERD TALK IN YOUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE!! CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!! There were three variants of the re-release produced. The standard "Black Book" edition which is a run of 250 has the new graffiti cover accompanied by the original artwork on the inner sleeve, with a nice insert with interviews with the band and pics, etc. This edition has beautiful black and purple 150g vinyl which ties the whole package together very nicely. The next edition is the "OBI" press limited to a run of 150. This one comes with a Japanese style OBI strip which is hand numbered and hand drawn by Andy Fletcher. It's a sick pic of the Juggernaut of Marvel comics fame. This one is also on 150g vinyl but is clear with a black center and purple splatter, again tying the whole package together nicely. This one also includes a sweet patch. The third edition is the incredible "Krylon Consciousness" edition. This one is limited to a run of 100 gold 150g pieces of vinyl Bababooey. This run has a screen printed B-side of the COT logo all housed in the covers but also in a handmade NYHC stencil slip cover. It also includes a patch but it also comes with a limited live 7" from the NYHC documentary. No two colors are alike on the 7" and can range from olive to orange, light blue to pink....good luck! I am reasonably certain that by the time you read this, that last version will be gone as well as the extremely limited test run. So there you have it. A very nice treatment for a very important NYHC record of its time. These things are going fast so be sure to get on it ASAP.
TRUE LOVE “HEAVEN’S TOO GOOD FOR US” LP
(Bridge 9 Records, Release Date July 1, 2016)
Fast and noisy. Brief, to the point, and angry. That’s how I like my hardcore. Detroit's SxE 5 piece True Love deliver that shit in their debut full length entitled “Heaven’s Too Good For Us”, coming soon on Bridge Nine. I actually really dig everything about this whole album. Aggressive tom work on the drums, pockets of blast beats between breakdowns, and throat shredding vocals. Reminiscent to me of Floorpunch, The Rival Mob, and For The Worse, the whole thing delivers a steady, modern style of hardcore song writing. All of the songs clock in between 1 and 1.5 minutes… basically show up, punch you in the face and then dip out. My one qualm with the record, and it took me a minute to figure out what it was, is the bass tone is super processed, twangy, and out of place to me. Other than that, an overall excellent product and solid effort from the band. Give ‘em a listen.
HASHTAG HARDCORE ZINE ISSUES # 4 & 5
(Released March, 2016)
This is it folks, the end of the Hashtag Hardcore era as Daan the Maan from the Netherlands signs off with these last (and free) issues. What we have here in actuality is 2 standard double sided pages folded over to create 16 mini pages with interviews with Moshers Delight Zine/Label, Pantah, an ancient (and partial) Underdog interview with a 22 year old Richie Birkenhead and Zero from Canada. The Zero interview is done with Bo and Moe (no, I am not shitting you), and when asked what some of their lyrics are about one of them said they really don't know and to ask the other guy. Come on now. Hashtag is smart and knowledgeable with what is going on in the world of hardcore and has ALWAYS been the most candid when it comes to their reviews. They pull no punches and can drive that dagger into the heart of any of your favorite hardcore icons if they feel like your latest release didn't deliver. Harley Flannigan's "Cro-Mags" album takes a hit here being referred to as "watered down" and "listenable but few real highlights". The Crown Of Thornz review for their new 7" titled "Nothing But Tragedy" simply reads..."Title says it all, really, even the biggest COT heads can't call this decent even". Hashtag and their brutal honesty (whether in the positive or the negative) will be missed. Review of the new Supertouch album simply reads "Fuck me, is this ever coming out or what? aaaaargh". And they even review the current issue of their own zine. There is a good balance of humor and serious stuff to make this, as always, a fun read. Daan moves on though to now play drums with Cornered who just put out a new CD titled "Hate Mantras" and kicks much Dutch ass. Review to follow. If you care enough to get a copy of this drop Daan an email at:
SHOEGAZER ZINE ISSUE #2 (Released Spring, 2016)
Shoegazer #2 is done by a dude from Puerto Rico who is really into sneaker culture as well as hardcore music. Now you may be thinking "how can those two things tie together to make a theme for an entire zine?" Shoegazer is a little difficult to describe but when I really sank my teeth into this thing there are tons of parallels mostly coming from the Youth Crew Era of the late 1980's. There is a short introduction to what hardcore and straight edge is (I guess maybe for the sneaker crowd reading this who may not know either) and then BAM, page after page of how the straight edge/youth crew look evolved starting with Champion hoodies to varsity jackets, to the Swatch X Watch. Specific quotes from old interviews from old zines and blogs are referenced and tell a very detailed story that leans mainly on the straight edge. Old photos that go back to the 1980's breakdown band members sneakers and other gear from the era and is done in a cool way that is pretty interesting even if you don't know what Nike Sky Force Hightops look like. There are 52 pages here on a half sized zine and there is A LOT to read. Although it has a total DIY zine look this reads more like a book in that the bulk deals with the same subject matter and just evolves over time periods and styles of what was worn. Later on in the issue there are some stand alone interviews that don't necessarily stick to the original subject matter. Matilda Edge, Ivan Skulls from Adidas, Poder Absoluto, and Italy's Rage Cage are the interviewees here and a playlist and a crossword puzzle finish things off. Shoegazer #2 has a fresh/different feel to it that any fan of straight edge, and straight edge culture from the late 80's should totally look into getting.
Contact them at: Shoegazerfanzine@gmail.com
ONPOINT “NO STRUGGLE, NO PROGRESS” EP
(Released May, 2016)
I love the excitement of hearing new bands for the first time and being able to write reviews about their music. Although I had heard of Onpoint before, I admit I hadn't listened to them enough to really say I knew them. The band comes from Buffalo NY, forming in 2014 and is made up of Khari-vocals, Ty-Guitar, Casey-Bass and Jim-drums. Onpoint are another band coming out of the 2014 crop of bands like Point Blank and A Breed Apart that command respect. Onpoint previously only had a 2015 demo available but recently on May 13th released a 5 song EP titled “No Struggle, No Progress” and to put it plain and simple this EP musically speaking is like a swift Dr. Marten kick to the face, topped off with non-stop pit inducing mayhem. The opening track “Fed Up” sets the tone for the whole EP, it's hard, fast and aggressive. Track 4 titled “Groundhog Day” is my personal favorite, with the opening and closing of the song really displaying the band's talents. I like to see a band especially one such as Onpoint who play such fierce music to slow it down, even if it’s only for a few minutes as if to say "yeah we can play this style too". However make no mistake Onpoint are a pure beatdown style hardcore band, following in the footsteps of Bulldoze and Fury Of Five. I admit that I'm slightly ashamed for taking so long to really get to know Onpoint, not only because of their music but also because they are from my hometown.but as I said earlier, part of doing these reviews is learning more about bands and after listening to this I am a fan. Check out Onpoint's Bandcamp page and Facebook page for music and tour dates.
ZERO EIGHT ONE “SOMETHING TO SAY”
(Irish Voodoo Records, Released April, 2016)
You know those albums that you need to listen to more than once, twice, five or eight times because you just DON’T get it??? Zero One Eight’s “Something to Say” was of them……….but I am glad I kept listening.
Zero Eight One are from Italy and looking to tap that Youth Crew hardcore sound and they come damn close. I like their message, I like their politics but I want to be objective so I had to listen to “Something To Say” about four times in a row. It’s a short and fast album of eight songs clocking in at under 20 minutes. Right off, the singer’s vocals were too strained and focused on being loud to be loud rather than forceful. I felt the album didn’t do him justice. I try to imagine the live version of these songs and he seems like he would be better live than recorded. Actually, I can say the same for more than a few hardcore bands that are better live. Always live. Maybe it’s from these guys singing in English instead of Italian that makes his voice that way. I don’t know, I barely can understand English and it’s my native tongue.
As I listened again to the album, I found myself liking the last three songs the best, “I Abjure”, which means to resist, though I wasn’t completely sure what he was resisting, the song, guitars and drums were dope. I saw this being a great sing along and one to get the singers and pile-on’s up in front of the stage. The last two, “Stronger Than Ever” and “Use Your Head” really did give that positive vibe from a band trying to deliver a message along with that straight edge and hardcore affirmation for those living that life and supporting the scene. Is it a completely unique sound? No, but it definitely seemed they were trying to build off the roots of hardcore and to me, I like that. Check them out for that reason…..and if you finished this review, you probably learned a new word, “abjure”. So abjure the system!
PRAISE “LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND”
(React! Records, Released May, 2016)
Q: What happens when hardcore kids grow up?
A: Trick question, hardcore kids never grow up.
Hardcore kids may never grow up, you know, that whole "gonna stay young until I die" thing. However, some of those kids evolve and even mature as can been witnessed on many of their "post-hardcore" band projects and even on many of their proverbial third-albums (ahem, ahem, Warzone....Token Entry....SSD...). So where am I going with this? Shit...I don't know man.....wait, what am I talking about, yeah I do...Praise. This latest offering from React Record's own Praise immediately made me think of those post-hardcore projects and not so much the weird third album. This new 7 song EP is a departure for the band, and in my opinion they are headed in all of the right directions, sonically, lyrically, the whole kit and kaboodle. I am familiar with these edgemen and a fan of the band having their earlier stuff and having seen them live a handful of times, so this caught me off guard a little, but in a good way.
The EP opens up with "Makes No Sense" at 2:24. This is a quality rock tune with great guitar work with some tasty harmonics. Andy's vocals have a slight echo effect that fit the song nicely. "Is it too much?" he asks over and over, and the answer is a resounding NO!. This is just about right fellas, I am digging this. This is tight. The second song is a speedier "Crash Into My Life", at a stealthy 1:54. This has a more straight galloping hardcore song at its base but on top of that base is built another solid rocking tune with great bass work and excellent melodies. "Settle Down" is the third tune clocking it at 2:25. We have a strong Revolution Summer vibe going on which is actually felt throughout the release but just hit me like a hammer during this tune....it brought me back to my salad days. This is another freshly structured song with great melodies and instrument work. These guys have clearly matured and are on to something here. Lets enter the back 9 and see if they drop the ball, I have a sneaking suspicion they will not. The fourth song is "Leave It All Behind", the titular track at 2:20. It kicks off with a driving guitar and keeps a nice pace from start to end. I realize at this point I may sound like I am gushing but I shit you not, another great rock and roll tune. Praise is clearly firing on all cylinders. The fifth song is "Song For You" at 1:36. A quick burst of feelings with a fast drum beat and quick guitar work. The shortest song on offer here, but no less of a song by any means. The final original song on this EP is "Walk The Edge" running 2:39. This is a bit of a darker song which contains some interesting vocals. On first listen it was the throw away track for me, but now I can't stop listening to it. It just grabbed me the way those songs grab you...you know those songs, I don't need to explain it to you. It is now my favorite track on the EP. The boys wrap this release up with a very appropriate cover of Egg Hunt's "We All Fall Down" which is great.
So Praise has matured, they've evolved, they have somehow created something that gives a big nod to the past but is excitingly fresh and all their own. Every member of Praise, to a man, play their part to perfection on this release. This is the type of thing you can listen to over and over. I hope this gets out there beyond the hardcore circles because I believe it really stands on its own as something that will appeal to wide sections of folks out in music consumer land. I think it is best not to pigeonhole this but while listening to it it brought me back to bands like the aforementioned Egg Hunt, and others like Unity, American Standard, Supertouch, Dag Nasty and Embrace just to name a few. It is clear these guys have ample hardcore experience under their belts and they've taken their influences, their experience, their passion, and their skills and proceeded to "mix em and cook em in a pot like gumbo" if I may borrow from Cube. The result is a great record.
REGULATE “YEARS OF RAGE” EP
(Edgewood Records, Released March, 2016)
And in this corner hailing from Strong Island......and New York City.....and perhaps the Jersey Shore a little bit too, hails a scrappy and relatively new up and comer who is harder than nails and straighter than you. Here to take on the heavyweights and claim their rightful spot in hardcore folklore is NYHC's own Regulate. Love the name. Now by "new" I believe the band formed around 2013....ish. So really, in some places and with the ADD set it would already be old hat, but by NYHC standards.....well....it is still an embryo. Up for review is their new EP, "Years Of Rage" on Edgewood Records out of Richmond, Virginia, and we all know I love me some Fist City, oh we didn't know that?, well now we do. So let's check us out some of this here straightedge hardcore punk rock shall we boys and girls? Yes we shall.
The EP opens up with a nice intro entitled "Regulate II" and clocks in at 1:19. For an intro this has some intricate structure. Intros usually do just that, intro us as to what we should expect in the next several minutes delivered by way of a sick mosh part, but this one can stand alone as a solid instrumental. I dig the guitar work and interesting tempo changes. It's nice to meet you Regulate. Next up is "Zero Toleranxe" at 2:24, and no I did not make a typo. It is toleranxe. This is a mid-tempo which alternates to slower tempo jam. It's an anti-drinking song but in no way does the straightedge or the message ever veer into a goofy or cartoony zone as is the case with many edge bands. They tend to fall prey to a bit of silly when trying to convey their message without being preachy. Not here though, this is gritty stuff. Like a straightedge reality show. Oh...and since I said today's super terrific magical word boys and girls, "gritty", the vocals are just that,....gritty and dirty, and at times, throat ripping. So yeah, just right. "Antispectrum" comes next at a robust 3:00 on the dot. This is the longest song of the collection and with good reason. This is some heavy personal shit right here. The song deals with identity and being who you really are rather than what others and/or society think or say you should be..... and do. Musically it kicks off with a very Iron Maidenesque bass line intro, almost like they brought in the ghost of Steve Harris as a guest musician. Next up is a nasty little number entitled "Life Wish" at a short vicious 1:08. I've learned this much from this song, not all wishes are good. This may be my favorite cut for its spirit alone. Good tune. Hold on, this just in, I've just been informed, Steve Harris is not dead...correcting an earlier piece. "On Sight" clocks in at 2:16. This is the "you crossed the line" song of the EP. It is like a fuck you song mixed with a step to me and you get yours song. This is going to get the pit going. Feel the rage.The final song on the EP is "End Action" at 2:55. This song is a dark epic. I am not sure if this is a serial killer alter ego, written about someone else, a fantasy, a movie, or just another Saturday night for Regulate...I don't have any info or the words.... but it kicks ass. This is like the hardcore equivalent of "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" but instead of gettin laid in a car there's a lot of bleeding and screaming and fighting and fucking, and musically it rips. A good way to wrap things up.
And down goes Frazier! Regulate delivers a serious blow. This is a really solid offering of NYHC but by no means should that label make you think you know...because you don't. That goes for the straightedge thing as well. These guys are good on their instruments and the recording is top notch. There are a lot of interesting things here that keep it fresh. There are subtle nods to bands like District 9 and even a little early Boston edge. At least in my head. I recommend you check these guys out punks. You can also click HERE to hear them do a great cover of the almighty Bad Brains, "She's Calling You". Long live Prince! (Note: Stream this now at the link below and look for this as a 7" vinyl release by early June from Edgewood Records).
POINT BLANK “ON THE DL” CD
(Not Like You Records, Released May, 2016)
I am a New Yorker and I take a lot of pride in many things that this state is known for; things such as pizza, sports teams and music, especially hardcore music. Now I'm not knocking out of state bands, cause there are unlimited amounts of great ones but most of my favorites are classic NYHC bands. However over the last few years a new crop of
bands coming from the NY area have made a name for themselves and NYC's Point Blank are one of these bands that have caught my attention and have completely blown me away. Formed in 2014, Point Blank consists of scene veteran Ken Wagner providing the vocals, guitarist and founding member of the legendary band Underdog Dan Derella on bass, Shuffles Shuffitos from Abject on drums and Matt Achstatter on guitar.
Although the band is only two years old, Point Blank plays an "old school" style of hardcore. The bands newest release which came out earlier this month titled "On The DL" contains 8 songs, lasting around 13 minutes total. All the songs have the definitive, classic hardcore sound with short songs and simple lyrics dealing with everyday issues.
One thing that I really appreciate is that Ken's voice has a perfect balance with the music and is not drowned out by loud distortion or a vocal style geared more towards the metal genre. When I'm listening to songs prior to writing a review I usually find a few that I really enjoy more than others, but this time I love all the songs from “On The DL”.
Track 1 “On The DL” - the title track reminds me of the great Bold song
“Wise Up” mixed with the band's own style. Negative views towards the
hardcore scene and the life those live it is the theme of this song.
Track 2 “The Kliq” - the song is about not playing games and not being
a part of a certain type of kliq (clique). Or perhaps it's in reference
to the World Wrestling Federation group during the 90's. All jokes
aside, this song has one of my favorites parts which starts at the
1:22 mark where Dan's bass starts picking up, leading into one of the
sickest breakdowns on the CD.
Track 3 “Feelings”- this song starts right off into dance mode, it's
hard and contains great riffs. Lyrically, it's about what the title
says, "feelings" and the selfish people who don't care about others
Track 4 “Life’s Too Short” - starts off with Shuffles' providing a
great drum intro which goes into an amazing mix of slow guitar riffs
and a hypnotizing bass line. The Message? Whatever you are feeling at
the time is OK.
Track 5 “Survivor”- is another fast paced, tight song with dominating
guitars and hard drumming. The song's theme is being a survivor and
contains the highly motivating saying other bands have used "can't
stop, won't stop", which is a perfect for Point Blank because there is
no stopping them.
Track 6 “Let Me Out” - I love how the song has a skanking vibe to it,
especially in the beginning of the song. As I mentioned earlier, Point
Blank write lyrics that people can relate to, regardless of their
situation and I can definitely relate to this song. “Let Me Out” is
about battling one's inner struggles and trying to get free.
Track 7 “A Better Life” - is a fast paced, quick to the point song
about positive change to make one's life a better one.
Track 8 “Say It Ain’t So” - this song's message is comparable to Sick
of It All's “My Life” and many other songs that discuss people dictating
how other's should live their lives.
“On The DL” is a amazing and refreshing release from a young band that
is heading in the footsteps of greatness like so many hardcore/punk
bands before them. Keep an eye out for Point Blank's live performances
and check out their other releases : Point Blank 2015 DEMO and Live @
the Bowery Electric 2016.
COUNTDOWN “DEMO 2016”
(Released March, 2016)
I have a particular attraction to bands that are based in multiple places. To me, far flung members represent meetings of the mind over rare obsessions, where there may be insufficient local members who share the same vision. I can’t conjecture if this is how Countdown got started, or if they just happened to all have good taste, with some members based in Boston and some in NYC. But their demo is one of the best I've heard in years. While not sonically similar to Sai Nam, there are some parallels in that it gave me the same charge when I first heard the material, and like Sai Nam, contained people with good taste from multiple locations.
The Countdown demo came to my attention, as many things do, while I was lying on my couch looking at Instagram, and saw that Ricky Singh (Backtrack and Flatspot Records) had mentioned them on my feed. I don’t know Ricky super well but have long considered him an arbiter of good taste, so I checked them out forthwith. In one of those moments where life is split into before Countdown and after Countdown, I listened to the demo on my phone while my husband was out picking up dinner. By the time he returned, I was fully enthralled and all "yo you have to listen to this band." He agreed they were excellent despite generally disliking anything from after 1999.
My first comparison/selling point was Leeway, though during subsequent listens I hear a lot of other influences, from Wrecking Crew to the Cro-Mags to Dynamo. The songs are a good balance of fast parts and mosh parts and the vocals are just right: gruff without being over the top. Unlike on some demos where there are obviously stronger tracks, all four songs are quality listens and could theoretically be rearranged, much like how I am still listening to the Eddie Sutton Merauder demo in the wrong order because of the format in which I initially received it.
The intro to the first track, “Live for Now”, is just long enough (42 seconds) to showcase their excellent guitar tone and build up to the faster verse and chorus. I’m assuming the title is a nod to the Iron Cross tune of the same name, though it’s faster and thematically different, with lyrics more akin to the average late 80’s NYHC style. Between Iron Cross and an Iron Boots-esque I can’t I can’t I can’t, I thought these guys were going full Iron Galaxy on us for a second, though overall their style and lyrics are much more grounded.
“Delusions” is up next, and is the song that reminds me the most of Dynamo due to the brief spoken parts and pauses. I know there are some Dynamo fans in Boston but I'm not sure if the members of Countdown are among their number (no pun intended.) “One Of Two” is a tale of love gone wrong in the non-obnoxious vein of “Who’s To Blame” or “Time Don’t Heal A Thing”, and features possibly the best mosh part on the demo at 1:32. “It Haunts”… is the final tune, closing with a final mosh that encompasses the last full minute of the demo.
There are a bunch of bands on the internet called Countdown, but it is refreshing to side with the interloper for once, after years of enduring (and lamenting) the copycat Uppercut, Cold Front or Beyond. I can’t wait to hear more from these dudes, as this is one of the most professional and cohesive demos I’ve heard in a long time. Each song is different enough to fully showcase their range in style and provide a preview of what they would sound like in LP form, aka equally engaging and varied, one would imagine.
New York has a history of great shows the day after the Superbowl. Now that this year's BNB Bowl is back to a one-way thing, I am pleased to see the tradition return in the form of a Bowery Electric gig featuring Sub Zero and The Wilding Incident. I was even more psyched to see Countdown on the original lineup, though as of press time I think they may have dropped off, as there is a second flyer on the BNB site that does not include them. But it should be a good show nonetheless and I hope to witness Countdown live in the near future, if not this Sunday. In the meantime, the demo is $7 on their Bandcamp and it’s worth every penny. I believe it is (or was) also available as a tape, though the Bandcamp version come with the lyrics and artwork too.
KRIMEWATCH “DEMO 2016”
(Released February, 2016)
Straight and to the point! That’s the most stand out quality of this here demo from NYC’s Krimewatch. That’s Krimewatch, one word, with a K! It’s speedy where it needs to be, and breakdowny when you’re least expecting it. Sound wise, and tonally, I hear a weird mixture of early Token Entry and The Casualties, with the one standout factor being the ear catching female vocals. The vocalist, Rhylli, is on point, keeping every syllable in the pocket, and every bark abrasively up front. Krimewatch apparently being from NYC, are a new outfit that I have yet to catch. But in all fairness I haven’t been out in a good while. 2 of the 5 songs have Japanese titles; 小便 たれ & ゴキブリ 男, roughly translated as Motherfucker Piss & Cockroach man, respectively (thank you Google), so I can only assume there are at least 1 or more Japanese members in this band. I gotta say I’m pretty stoked on the female vocalist, a weirdly rare thing in the scene. This band exemplifies what we undoubtedly need more of! Traditional no nonsense hardcore punk, and more women involved in bands. The demo is short and so is the review; This thing blazes, and having listened to this all night I can say that I NEED to catch Krimewatch live! If that’s not the result of a ripper demo, then I don’t know what is! 8 thumbs up!
WORLD EATER “THE PATH”
(Farewell Records, To Be Released Early May 2016)
Hardcore music has always been made up of different sounds and styles, this varies from band to band depending on the band's preference. Yet one might assume that whatever style is desired, that the basic formula to make such music remains a relatively easy one to figure out. Sadly, as some bands try, they may never get it or the "it" may not last very long. Germany's World Eater is not one of these bands as they have been doing "it" right since 2009 and their newest record called “The Path”, set to be released in early May, to quote the Judas Priest song, "delivers the goods” is a follow up to World Eater's 2013 full length titled “Worm Feast”. The band, which is made up of Alex-vocals; Michael-guitar; Steve-guitar; "MarcXedge-bass and Steven -drums have remained with a steady line up over the years, which is an impressive feat in itself. Pretty much from the start World Eater began sharing the stage with many hardcore legends that toured Europe. Some of these shows were with Skarhead and Wisdom In Chains in 2010; Bulldoze in 2013; Bane's final Euro show in 2015 and the year 2016 has them scheduled to play with such legends as Trapped Under Ice, Strength Approach and Madball. This year also marks the band's return to Ieperfest in August which they also played in 2014. Besides “Worm Feast”, World Eater also released a demo in November of 2010 and a 7 inch in January of 2012. So what makes the songs off “The Path” different from World Eater's earlier material? Not too much. They remain true to the sound that made them the powerhouse band they are. A description on World Eater's Facebook page refers to their music as "fast paced, short, in your face songs are World Eater's trademark" and that remains true with “The Path” as well. The album contains 17 songs, lasting a little less than a half an hour and out of these songs, four really stand out for me. The "Intro", due to the fact that it starts off with Rowdy Roddy Piper's classic "bubblegum" line from the movie “They Live”; "As Your Spirit Dies"; "Drifting Apart" (which reminds me of Madball) and "Circles". All the songs are full of non-stop energy and of floor stomping anthems. “The Path” is definitely worth listening to. Pre-orders are up now on Farewell Records. Interests on World Eater's Facebook page says "Were about to eat you up! Were about to spit you out!' That is exactly what they have been doing touring Europe and Asia and now it's time for them to do the same in the states. Click on the cover artwork for a sample off this new album as the song “Lifesucker” is streamed in its entirety.
NOT LIKE YOU FANZINE
(Issue #6, Released Spring, 2016)
Not Like You has quickly become one of the most consistent DIY zines out there today as it always seems like a new issue JUST came out. Add to that the fact that NLY is also a label putting out a slew of releases on vinyl and CD. This dude is busy. Ok, so we're up to the 6th issue which has the same look, feel and flow of previous issues. Black and white print on some nice quality paper that doesn't fall to pieces when you fold it and walk around with it in your back pocket for a few days. I know this because that is exactly what I did as it took some time to get through this with 40 full sized pages. Interviews are with Sammy from Fang, skater Greg Harbour, Eddie Sutton of Leeway who also talks a bit about Truth and Rights which is another band he is fronting who are working on getting a full length out this summer, Brian from Night Birds and Julz Lynn who also is a skater. Rounding out the interview section is one with Freddy Alva who is one of the folks behind the New Breed Cassette Compilation as well as the New Breed Documentary which is making the rounds now in small theatres before it comes out on VHS and DVD this summer. There is simply a lot of content in each issue including news, record reviews, and a collectors corner. Sick Of It All is on the cover with the lyrics to "DNC" on the back cover so yeah, I do have the correct photo posted next to this review! At 4 bucks (plus shipping) this is a fucking steal.
LAST IMPRINT "SONGS FOR THE HOPELESS" EP
(Released March 2016)
Last Imprint are a 4 piece punk band out of the YYZ aka Toronto, Canada. This is their second release and follows up an 8 song LP titled "Within Sight" that came out just last September so the songwriting seems to be flowing well these days over at the Last Imprint labs.
The colorful yet desperate message on the cover of "Songs For The Hopeless" jumps right out at you for starters and when the guitar feedback and drums start off on the opening track "Constrain Our Choices" it's like running and doing a full on cannonball into an ice cold pool of water. The crisp production compliments of Sick Of It All's Pete Koller matches the precise and crisp musicianship on display here from a band who has only been a unit for a couple of years. Impressive to say the least. We are given 5 songs here in a 14 minute span and I'm left wanting more after those 14 minutes are up. To call a band punk is such a generalization these days with 17 punk bands having formed since you started reading this review. Think more of that skate punk sound, think Fat Records kind of stuff but will a little more hair on the sack. Big boy punk rock that would be right at home on a bill with say bands like Ignite, Rancid, or Pennywise.
Too often this style of punk gets redundant as bands find a comfort zone within their song writing and after 3 or 4 songs into a recording you are feeling the deja-vu with all the songs seeming to blend together into one big song. At first listen I felt this could be the case with Last Imprint and then the hijacking of my i-Pod happened. (Don't hate because I keep it old school with the i-Pod). Just like with other i-Pod hijackings I am usually going through my daily routine and I get a riff stuck in my head and I can't figure out what song it is from. While I'm trying to determine what band and what song it's from usually a second or third riff or hook will pop up and that usually leads to that enlightenment moment where I know I have been hooked in by a great release and in turn my i-Pod becomes a slave to that band for a few days or in this case a few weeks. The last and best track for me is "Every Last Grain" which takes all the aforementioned aspects of this band and sends the listener off on a high note. Thank you Last Imprint for a great release that I know will be a favorite of mine from here on out.
CONCRETE “NO DAWN” EP
(Fastbreak! Records, Release Date May 6, 2016)
Concrete come to us from upstate NY by way of Albany and play hardcore in its purest and most intense form. Following on from 2014’s split release with Hammerfist and their 2013 debut album “Deadlock”, their new EP “No Dawn” is a straight up ferocious kick to the head chunk of hardcore reality.
This EP’s blistering opener “No Dawn” sets the tone for this clobbering opus and it doesn't let up one bit throughout, this song starts with a mid-paced vibe that creates just the right amount of tension before detonating and this continues into the following track “Cold” (a song featuring vocalist Tommy Sheehan of Indecision who puts in a brilliant guest appearance that will make you want to bust out your Indecision records later and whose vocals work well with those of Concrete frontman Lenny).
“No Dawns” highlight comes in the form of the blistering “Omen” that sees the band put in a stunning performance on all counts as this is definitely a song that would explode at a live show. The EP is rounded off by the grooving menace of “Perjurer” and the rousing hardcore complete with some brilliant metal riffs courtesy of guitarist Jon of Baring Teeth that finishes things off in fine style. The production on “No Dawn” by Dean Baltulonis (who has previously worked on records by Madball, Sick Of It All, Agnostic Front and No Warning) is top notch and enhances the in your face style of music that Concrete play to maximum effect. The only downside to “No Dawn” is because it's an EP, it's over just as quickly as it began but as soon as it has ended you will want to play it again straightaway.
Concrete have continued their rich vein of form with this EP and will have another full length in the works and released hopefully sooner rather than later as Concrete are definitely doing big things and no doubt will have big things to come.
MASE “UNITED STATES OF WHAT?” EP
(Released March, 2016)
I immediately liked what I heard from Mase out of CT. I’ve seen them on a bunch of flyers with my friend’s band the Abductors, but had not yet heard them or seen them live. These guys play hard-hitting mid-tempo hardcore with sufficient stompy parts, almost like Outburst transmogrified for the modern era, a Connecticut version of Bottom Line NYC, or a less metallic “Climate Of Fear” era Bitter End. They have a good groove and tempo changes, resulting in an enjoyable product if not a super original one.
“Push Through” is the first song on their new 3-song EP “United States Of What?” It warranted sufficient repeat listening to the point where I braved my $1 portable speaker which is currently the only method for playing my iPod in my car. I like the transition from “Push Through” to “Test Me”, and the latter is probably my favorite track on the EP, as it’s the catchiest and best constructed. This is the one that reminds me the most of Bitter End, and I almost hear a bit of No Warning after the false ending at 1:19. “United States Of What?”, the final track, is the most overtly political and is represented in the cover art that features a police state and its subjected citizens. Check these dudes out if that is up your alley politically and you prefer such sentiments delivered via a robust and succinct style of hardcore.
REBELMATIC "JUDAS GOAT" EP
(Coffee Grind Media, Release Date April 23, 2016)
When a bands bio says they sound like "James Brown In A Mosh Pit" it's definitely a great visual to imagine. Would the Godfather Of Soul be more of a windmill type of dancer? Kickboxer? Purely rely on the stagedive? Who the hell knows. NY's Rebelmatic are a 4 piece punk/alternative/rock unit who bring different variables to the table and in a good way. "Everything's A Mess" starts off the 4 song "Judas Goat" EP with a fast and furious punk track that runs about 3 minutes with a nice breakdown over the course of the last minute. This would be a good track to kick off a live set with as this song has a ton of energy. While listening closer to this track and EP on a whole you get the feel like this recording was retrieved out of the late 1980's. Digging a little deeper it's clear that this Lo-Fi recording was done on a 4 track with all the members playing together to try and capture a sound from punk and hardcore days gone by and they certainly accomplished that. Track 2 is "No Limit" and kicks off with a southern rock influenced guitar lead. Southern rock is not something I'm blasting on my way home from work on a Friday night but I gotta give these guys some credit as they add a choppy beat in which makes the first half of this song easier to digest. The track grows stronger at the end with a nice guitar solo that leads to a jam like outro of sorts which probably could have been extended as this song hits its stride late.
The 3rd track here, "Stolen"... has a furious start with more of those choppy drums that we heard earlier. Rebelmatic’s singer's name is Creature and you can easily imagine Creature’s veins popping out of his neck with all the fury being dropped into the vocals here to start. The song slows down a little less than a minute in and leads us back to more of a rock 'n roll influenced track...(but just briefly) before blasting back into fury. The last minute of this song is my favorite part of this short 12 minute EP with an insane breakdown followed by a short guitar solo as the song wraps up. "Walls Have Ears" is the finale here displaying an almost Sabbath like head banging type of tune with Creature ranging all over the spectrum with his vocals. The last 30 seconds though once again bring visions of fists flying in a mosh pit as the song reverts back more to a punk tune with a final massive breakdown. After giving "Judas Goat" a bunch of listens I have come to a few conclusions starting with the fact that this band writes tracks that for the most part I can't see failing live. Each track here brings something to make a crowd move. Secondly after digging into some of their older material I kind of wish they didn't opt for the LoFi style recording here. If this was a hardcore record from 1988 we would all probably be singing the praises of the recording but truth be told, I would have preferred a higher end type of sound like their previous release from 2015 titled "Elephant Amnesia". Their 2009 release "Prey For The Vulture" actually used Creature’s rap skills on tracks like "Get Up 'N Go" as well. Rebelmatic undoubtedly have a musically rich upbringing and they are not afraid to let their influences stream through their speakers no matter what genre it is drawing from.
CONCRETE STEPS "SEVEN SONG EP"
(D-Beat Hjerte Records, Released March, 2016)
Straight outta Trondheim, Norway is the new "Seven Song EP" from Concrete Steps which (you guessed it Einstein) has 7 songs. The band got their start in 2014 and created and recorded these songs at the UFFA squat which seems to be ground zero for their scene with local shows also happening there. "Hardcore Soldiers" kicks this 9 minute jam off and is the song that kind of sucked me in with an all around dirty vibe complete with vocals that will give YOU a sore throat. The buzzsaw sounding guitar is just the icing on the cake to a band that’s sound gives you a feel like you found their half-conscious body in the gutter. #DirtyCore. Lyrically, this first track pays homage to the "Hardcore Soldiers"... "here's to bands that never make it out into the light" is one of the lines that is giving a big shout out to the lesser known bands in hardcore that may be busting their ass without much fanfare. I love this song’s lyrics. Another track is "Holiday In Paris" which is about taking a vacation in Paris and getting robbed of all your Euros in a tourist hell. "Hardcore Makes Me Sick" talks about how there are "50 million bands today" and how "we are all copies of the past" all which leads into the "hardcore makes me sick" chorus which is kind of funny since they are a hardcore band but are just looking at things in a more negative light. PMA? Not here pal. To sum it up Concrete Steps are a perfect change of pace band when you might be in a music rut or looking for something off the beaten path musically as it is a little rough around the edges, catchy and just has something about it that... to me... makes them stand out. The recording is raw and they don't take themselves too seriously judging by their lyrics. Punk and hardcore doesn't have to be shiny and polished for it to make an impact and this is a perfect example.
PIECE BY PIECE “GO DIE” EP
(War Records, Released March, 2016)
LA's Piece by Piece are back with a new EP titled “Go Die”, which was released March 11th through War Records. This EP is a follow up to the band's 2013 release “Primitive As Fuck”. If you are unfamiliar with this band, they did a very controversial video for the song off that release called "Let's Fuck." Just one look at the song titles off that EP is enough to prove that Piece By Piece pull no punches when it comes to their lyrics and their music can be just as brutal but don't for a second think Piece By Piece are some novelty shock band, they are the real deal. The members all have impressive resumes within the hardcore scene, with Nick Jett on vocals (Terror/Carry On), Corey Williams-Guitar (Carry On/Internal Affairs /Snake Eyes), Edgar Vasquez-Guitar (Internal Affairs), Jeff Givens-bass (Internal Affairs) and Shaun Grine- drums (Strife/Internal Affairs).
Piece By Piece have also continued to put out releases since 2002. Their newest, “Go Die”, contains six songs: “Warning”, “Free Pussy”, “Mouth”, “Take A Walk”, “Hate” and “Wannabe” and all songs provide an equal mix of melody and harmony but remain heavy throughout. “Free Pussy” and “Take A Walk” stand out for me since both songs have a sound that pleasantly reminds me of the NYHC band Supertouch and their 2010 release “Lost My Way”. “Go Die” clocks in at around five and a half minutes, which has caused me to listen to it several times over. I had not heard of Piece By Piece until I did this review and I have to say that I really enjoy this EP and I'm looking forward to checking out their other releases.
WORLD NEGATION “IMBALANCE”
(Demons Run Amok, Released April, 2016)
World Negation are a German hardcore band and “Imbalance” is their blistering debut album and it is evident from the songs on the album that the band are keen to flex their hardcore muscles in a powerful and positive way. From the opening notes of “Shaped By Demise”, the first track on the album, it is obvious that World Negation are a band that are taking absolutely no prisoners when it comes to their no-nonsense brand of speedy hardcore that reminded me of classic Sheer Terror as well as elements of later hardcore bands like fellow Germans Rykers, or others such as Fury Of Five, All Out War and Trapped Under Ice all of whom have those thick metallized riffs coursing through their songs the same as World Negation do.
It is these riffs that come through thick and fast throughout “Imbalance” and the vocals are strong enough to smash glass such is the power of them. There is also a strong NYHC feel about the whole album from the breakdowns to the riffs but rather than being a straight up homage, it influences the feel and musically World Negation have their own vibe going on for sure and this is demonstrated on tracks like “Touching The Void”, “No Survivors” and “Against The World”. The mournful and well titled “Low Spirits” marks a change of pace in the album about halfway through and gives the listener a bit of a breather before the pace speeds up again with the advent of the annihilating “Puppet Strings”, the furious “One Step Away” (which features a guest appearance from Chris from fellow German hardcore band Additional Time) and the album highlight and bonecrushing soon to be pit anthem “Lack Of Reality” (with guest vocals on the song from Dennis from the aforementioned and legendary Rykers and Matze from TLUF) and by the time “Imbalance” finishes with the energetic and anthemic “Way Of The Dog”, it is clear that this both a band and an album to look out for.
STEPPING STONE “TEST OF CHARACTER” EP
(Hard Loss Records, Due Out Summer, 2016)
Now that’s what I’m talking about! This EP has bollocks the size of rollicks. Wait, what are rollicks? Who knows? If they’re big that’s all that matters, because Stepping Stone’s “Test Of Character” is like a more aggressive version of Backtrack’s ’08 Demo, and that thing blew my balls off. Jezuz punking Christ, how much genitalia can we cram in here? No pun intended there. Seriously. There's something captivating about this band. As well as carrying many new-dog traits of hardcore - y'know, the ones that make it the greatest genre of the modern day - it's such an effective effort that it makes me wish I lived in their hometown. Sadly, tucked away in this dark decrepit corner of the UK I can only sit back and appreciate the recordings, and appreciate it I do, because in a sea of mediocre madness, this EP stands out to me. From the quick fire picking and brutality of “Love Hunter” to the multi-paced “Ill Company”, this is a disc without much differentiation, but plenty of attacks. “Dragged Out” is a song that bides it’s time to start with, but when the vocals kick in its Christmas morning. Speaking of the vocals, they have just the right balance of ranty...err, ness, and anger, but not in the VICE style, where every word is like an enraged person rampaging with fist and voice. This vocalist knows what he wants to say, and says it loud and clear. Musically, it's not something that can be described in a great deal of depth, it's just damn good. What's more, the lyrics are full of that special hardcore relevance and bristling with hardcore juice. It's pure hardcore. Get into it.
I QUESTION NOT ME ON THREE FANZINE
IQNMOT is a NY based zine that has been out for a little bit now but is brand new to me having picked this up at last week's New Breed Documentary Film screening. Becky does a nice job with this 24 page half sized style zine that doesn't have interviews, record reviews or many of the standard "zine things". This is more of an opinion type of zine where she goes into detail on hardcore related topics that she clearly knows a lot about. One section here brings up a debate on what was the best live set from the old WNYU Crucial Chaos Radio Show... and the contestants are Supertouch, District 9, and Dmize. Being one of those people who carries on and on about that amazing Supertouch set back on a late 1980's St Patrick’s Day made me pay really close attention to what was written. Another section debates the best band of the 2000's and another breaks down song lyrics from hard to find lyric sheets from certain bands. After knowing songs for years with hard to find lyric sheets Becky tracks down the Life Of Agony demos and compares what she thought the lyrics were all this time to the actual lyrics on the lyric sheets. The New Breed Compilation is represented well here first with a map of NY and all the band addresses from the comp listed above it. The article jokes about doing sort of a "New Breed Tour" going around to all of the listed addresses and the idea of banging on doors and asking if members of the band are home. Funny idea considering it came out over 25 years ago and most people in the bands then we're probably still living at home with their parents. Issue 3 is capped off with a New Breed crossword puzzle. I suck at crossword puzzles and skipped passed this but I like the fresh thought process behind throwing this in. Overall I have to say his was a short but fun read. Editor Becky does multiple zines including a baseball one called Karkovice and is currently working on a hip-hop based zine as well. This issue is $3 by mail in the US and $4 elsewhere. Get in touch here for more info.
NEW BREED DOCUMENTARY SCREENING @Nighthawk Cinema Brooklyn, April 2, 2016
I was lucky enough to be able to get down to the 2nd screening of the New Breed Documentary Film this past Saturday at the small and dare I say cozy Nighthawk Cinema on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This was one of those "don't go there" neighborhoods when I was growing up but like most of NYC things have changed... except that the whole neighborhood is still covered in graffiti which... as I get older I seem to love more and more, probably because in a way it is like a giant middle finger to the corporate takeover of this city, as well as something that is not as prevalent as it once was in basically every NYC neighborhood.
Now to New Breed which in case you missed it was a really popular cassette compilation that came out in 1989 on Urban Style Records. If you don't know what a cassette is going ask your grandpa. What made the New Breed Compilation special was not only its length with like 20 something bands on it but also the fact that many of the bands were rather new to brand fucking new. Direct Approach's Mike Scondotto explains in the film that they were only a band for 2 months when they recorded their tracks and hadn't even played a show yet. New Breed took a chance back then by inviting so many new bands on to their compilation but it panned out in part because the scene still was like this rich farmland that could cultivate angst ridden hardcore by practically rubbing two sticks together. Not all the bands were brand new or lesser knowns as Absolution, Breakdown, Raw Deal (later known as Killing Time), Outburst, Beyond, and to a degree Uppercut provided some star power but it was bands like A-Bomb-A-Nation, LifesBlood, Fit Of Anger, Pressure Release, Our Gang, Stand Proud and the previously mentioned Direct Approach that also delivered some amazing tracks.
2014 was the compilation’s 25 year anniversary and it was around this time that the creators of this compilation started kicking around ideas for a new push including this now complete 65 minute film that features current day interviews with a bunch of the people who played in bands on this comp. The documentary itself plays almost like you dusted off an old VHS tape (again ask someone old if you don't know) with many old NYC nuances mixed in making this more than just NYHC music. A few old NY-centric clips are mixed in to the loop here including an old Crazy Eddie commercial (Insaneeeeeee!) as well as the influences of graffiti and hip-hop on the NYHC scene itself. People that stand out here that grab your attention with their stories from yesterday are Absolution's lead man Djinji Brown, Bad Trip's Brendan White, Outburst drummer Joe Songco and LifesBlood's Adam Nathanson among others. Sure, hardcore music has had its share of documentation in the form of fanzines as well as books but there is something special about seeing and hearing the characters behind the scene up on a big screen. At 65 minutes in length New Breed tells their story without getting redundant. There is a good flow here of interviews to live footage to old photos, with the interviews delivering the goods in regards to the overall historical aspect. My favorite quote from this film comes from Gavin Van Vlack, guitarist for Absolution. When discussing how outdated cassettes are in this day and age he delivered something along the line of "CD's are obsolete now and we were psyched to be on a cassette comp, we were fucking cavemen!"
NEW BREED'S FREDDY ALVA WITH DJINJI BROWN OF ABSOLUTION & JOE SONGCO OF OUTBURST JUST AFTER THE SCREENING AT NIGHTHAWK CINEMA ON APRIL 2, 2016
After the film ended the people behind the film were set up in the front of the room in chairs (John Woods, Orlando Arce, and Freddy Alva) and were joined by Outburst's Joe Songco and Absolution's Djinji Brown. NYHC book author Tony Rettman (who also narrated the New Breed Film) acted as a moderator as the assembled folks answered questions from the small audience for close to 30 minutes. Hip-hop and hardcore had many parallels in the late 1980's and at one point it was brought up that hardcore was influenced more by hip-hop than hip-hop was influenced by hardcore. Djinji then went on to give a story about Sick Of It All opening up for KRS1 and Boogie Down Productions in Manhattan and how the hip-hop crowd was basically taken back by the ferocity of the whole hardcore experience, especially the hard dancing. Insights to the time period and other stories were shared and added to the overall great feel you got walking out of the place. Look for the New Breed Documentary Film this summer on DVD and also a screening this Sunday, April 10th as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival in Philly. Keep an eye on the New Breed website for more details.
STRENGTH APPROACH “OVER THE EDGE”
(Fast Break! Records, Released March, 2016)
Ciao Paisanos! Come stai? A Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi to all of you! This installment of bitter, old guy reviews features the latest release by Rome's own Strength Approach entitled "Over The Edge". I am not considered the biggest European hardcore fan. I have said as much in some of the reviews I wrote back in my salad days when In Effect was an actual physical zine you could hold in your hand and rock and caress like a beautiful baby. I've mellowed a bit with age and have since discovered several bands I enjoy from across the pond. Strength Approach formed back in 1996 as an attempt to get things moving in what the band members considered a stagnant Rome scene. The guys quickly became recognized for their high energy shows and subsequently put out a few 7"s on various labels throughout Europe. As with most hardcore bands they went through several changes and some growing pains but have been pretty steady since 2002.
Their latest release "Over The Edge" is a robust 13 song offering of NYHC influenced hardcore punk rock and roll. One of my biggest pet peeves with foreign bands is poor English. Nothing takes the piss out of a song more than a misspoken lyric that makes no sense. I much prefer a band to sing in their native tongue and for me to not have any idea what they are saying, rather than be able to sing along with some strung together English-"ish" words that end up as jibberish and nonsense. "Time is no go away, Remains the time still here!" (actual lyric from a 90’s band I reviewed). HOWEVER!! I am very happy to report that, while all of their songs are in fact, in English, Strength Approach's English is impeccable. It's probably 4.7 times better than mine. Seriously, flawless. I'm not a grammar nazi but I can't feel the passion of the words if the speaker doesn't even know what they're saying. That is not the case here. So what about the music? This is NYHC style jamming. The LP opens up with "Over The Edge" @ 2:51. A small taste of feedback kicks it off and quickly launches into some guitar riffing. This galloping hardcore tune is off and running and it hits all the bases. You've got fast bits, the breakdown, some gang vocals, and feelings of regret. A nice introduction for the record. I am not going to go song for song in this review as I realize it can get redundant and long winded, but Strength Approach have mastered this style of hardcore. The musicianship and production are flawless. The band does an excellent job throughout keeping it interesting without getting carried away. Guitars are precise and clean. The drumming is spot on with an occasional double bass burst that will get the kids moving. Vocally, it's like Roger and Freddie's cousin Alex from Rome with some added personal flare that showcases his individuality and overall, stamps the music with his personality. A few tracks stand out for me and I shall highlight them now whether you like it or not so back off. "Reap What You Sow" is the third track and it clocks in at 1:59. This is an anti-racism song. It has an excellent melodic groove to it and moves along quite fast until the kickass breakdown. This song is not too long, not to short, it's Goldilocks wet dream.....just right. Another stand out track for me is "Trust" clocking in a hardcore stealthy 54 seconds. It's short. It's fast. It's hard. "Trust” (no face) is some solid advice, from a song that is hardcore precise. See what I did there. Poetry bitches. Another favorite of mine is "Silence is Betrayal". The lyrically content on this one is a bit more "deep" than some of the others on the release. This one had the most Madball like groove with some back and forth between vocalist and gang vocals. There are many time changes and an overall killer structure to the song. It contains one of those drum breaks that leads into a chugga-chugga bit culminating in a shout that will make you think Rick Ta Life jumped out from behind a amp and scared himself. Good tune.
So you get a lot of music from my Italian brethren, who are celebrating 20 years as a band with this release. The boys should be proud of this milestone and of this release...AND for holding it down for hardcore in Italy. The LP is produced by the legendary Mitts of Madball fame. It's clean and polished. It's NYHC with an Italian flare and is sure to have the punks dancing and kickboxing and whatever else the kids are doing nowadays. Strength Approach has many releases so I urge you all to check this out then go retro and find their back stuff because a lot of it is quality. I hope one day to return to Rome as it is an awesome city, but until then.... FORZA ROMA!!!!.....actually I am an Inter fan when it comes to Serie A, (shout out to Stefano and the Product boys!) I'm out, arrivederci cocksuckers!
BULLET TREATMENT “BLOODSHOT CHAPTER 1”
(Basement Records, Released March, 2016)
Bullet Treatment – A band that I knew of, but didn’t know. This is one of those bands (among many), that I’ve seen on many flyers, have seen a handful of my friends wearing their shirts, have a few comps/splits they’ve been on, and hell, I may have even been at a show they played, but somehow this is one band that has always managed to elude me. A little backstory for those as ill-informed as I; Bullet Treatment from LA have been active since 2002 and have an impressive roster of releases under their belt, including EP’s on Fat Wreck, Think Fast!, and a split with NY’s Shell Shock. More recently we have “Bloodshot Chapter 1”: an EP on Basement records fresh for 2016. This thing is defiantly brief. Brief enough for me to review each track individually, so here we go!
1 – “DAMAGED”: A screamy, neck breaking, fast paced banger to start! Speed from top to bottom. Singer kinda sounds like the guy from Rise Against. A lament about a deteriorated friendship.
2 – “LET IT BLEED”: Keep that speed going! A lot of lyrical lamentations, good and screamy but with a good sense of melody.
3 – “OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL EXEMPTION”: A mid-tempo denunciation of faith! Hookier than the first 2 with vocal harmonies in the chorus. Very west coast.
4 – “VOLATILE ANIMAL”: An abrasive 30 second banger about the beast within; “WE’RE JUST ANIMALS!” Damn right!
5 – “MR. MOUTH BREATHER”: Street rock chants! Nice! For some reason this is the first track where I’m really appreciating the drumming. Tight, hard, consistent fills. Superb! More catchy vocals. A brief aside; I often hear this as an insult, “mouth-breather”. The implication being the person is dumb, or neandrathalic because they breathe through their mouth. How about us with sinus issues? WE CAN’T HELP IT!
6 – “NOWHERE TO GO AND ALL DAY TO GET THERE”: The longest song, clocking in at 3 minutes 4 seconds, featuring the first and only guitar solo. Tastefully and artfully crafted, this last song is closing this EP on a high-note, boasting every element that lead up to it. Balladic style intro, tight drumming, memorable melodic singing, and ear catching “Ahhh”s in the chorus.
So what do I think? This being my first time paying attention to Bullet Treatment, despite them being seemingly right in front of my face for at least 10 years, I am impressed. Impressed enough to go back and absorb their back catalogue. If you want some catchy fast punk to get you moving, and you want it in less than 12 minutes; look no further than “Bloodshot Chapter 1”. 7 thumbs up!
-Dan Piro 2016
CROSS ME “FORVER CURSED” EP
(Bridge Nine Records, Released March, 2016)
I’ve been scouring the globe for an unrelenting and ferocious display lately, and finally I’ve found what can aptly be described as 'just the ticket'. Cross Me have been around the block, but are new to my ears, to my burning shame. I mean, they’ve existed since 2013 for punk's sake, so I’m kind of stunned I’ve never come across them. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve seen them on posters and the like and heard their name banded about, but have never taken the time to listen, but hell, maybe now’s the best time, because this EP is a thrash driven, fist pounding angerfest. With their intense musical aggression these guys are arguably on par with Integrity.
Anyway, into it! You’re gonna get CROSS with me if I don’t get this thing moving. Ha! Yeah. Shame will almost certainly kill me one day, and not just because of the unrepentant use of puns. This EP starts with a remorseless riff that rips right into your heart. These guys can play at one hell of a speed. From one track to the next, the tunes are popping with action. They don’t leave you hanging for a second. The madness of the tunes keeps your head moving, then out of nowhere, the unexpected occurs, such as that of the squeals towards the end of “Waste Of Life” or the flanging effect in “Cold”, the EP keeps you interested.
With four tracks that put you on the edge of your seat, Cross Me have delivered a truly loud EP that will please the fans of the likes of Integrity. On the whole, it didn’t absorb me entirely, and I couldn’t begin to say why. Maybe I found its madness a little overwhelming, too much to take in at once, who knows. All I know is, if thrash driven aggression staying true to its hardcore feel is your thing, this is worth your time.
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE, BURN, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, BREAK AWAY, TRUE LOVE
@ Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA March 4, 2016
Written by: Josh Derr, Photos by: Anne Spina
A few weeks ago, American Nightmare got together with NYHC legends Burn and a handful of other bands to play back to back sold out shows at the Underground Arts in Philadelphia. I was able to attend the first of the two shows, featuring the aforementioned bands as well as Death Before Dishonor, Break Away, and True Love. As always, thanks to the Underground Arts for hosting, and a big shout out to everyone who had anything to do with orchestrating the show!
By the time we parked and got downstairs, True Love was already in full swing. Although not completely filled out at this point, I was still stoked to see how many people had come out early to support the first few bands and they were responding right away to True Love. Whoever thought to put True Love on this particular show made the right call, their sound and energy were the perfect fit to kick off the night.
BREAK AWAY @ Underground Arts March 4, 2016
Break Away from Richmond VA were the second band to take the stage. Their presence was commanding and their sound was a force that hit the crowd like a hammer, quickly opening the floor and getting people moving. With a classic foot stomp inducing sound, Break Away put their mark on the night by playing their set in such a way that you could hear just how relentless they are in holding true to their personal convictions and beliefs.
DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR @ Underground Arts March 4, 2016
Boston's Death Before Dishonor are always fun. With 2 steps, sing-a-longs, and heavy breakdowns abound, there were plenty of opportunities for crowd participation. Despite a bit of mic trouble, they sounded tight; playing a solid mix of songs from different albums, even announcing at one point that they plan on recording new music later this year. They closed their set with as much fury as possible, unleashing 3 anthems by playing “True Til Death”, “Our Glory Days”, and “666 (Friends, Family, Forever)” in a row. Will definitely be keeping my ear to the ground for that new record.
BURN @ Underground Arts March 4, 2016
Next up were the groove driven NYHC titans, Burn. Playing to a now packed house, Burn were set to destroy - and they did just that. I had assumed that they would be playing to a pretty specific group of show-goers, but little did I know that kids these days are doing their homework and apparently they all read the chapter about Revelation in the 90’s. That said, their set was a raucous showing which proved this band still has juice left after all these years. I watched the Burn set from the back, and in front of the stage what I saw was a ceaseless barrage of silhouetted fists flailing in all directions, as well as heads popping up as they clashed with anyone who dared stand still. From front to back, Burn kept pace, playing a set that I have no doubt was as fun for them as it was for everyone in the crowd.
AMERICAN NIGHTMARE @ Underground Arts March 4, 2016
If the applause that came when American Nightmare frontman (and Fall Out Boy co-writer – look it up) Wes Eisold walked up the ramp to the stage was any indication, then it was clear before a single note was played that this room was about to be decimated. And oh boy was it. The Underground Arts provided a more intimate setting than most shows they play anymore, and for a band with such passionate fans, it was bound to be a live one. Though packed elbow to elbow and wall to wall, there was plenty of movement throughout the set. Stage dives, head walking and pile ons mixed with the incessant rolling of the crowd surging back and forth to add an extra layer of intensity to an already electric room. At times you could barely hear the vocals from the amp over the ravenous crowd belting out every word. Amplifiers became diving boards as the band worked their way through their set list, never losing any momentum. After a highly demanded encore, AN walked off stage, having laid it all out in the previous 45 minutes. Whether you consider yourself a fan or not, this is a band that must be experienced live at least once.
If you liked this piece show 'em some love... Josh Derr @wedge_antilles & Anne Spina @aainem
ZEIT “THE WORLD IS NOTHING”
(Released November, 2015)
I was in Venice for a couple of days 2 summers ago. This is actually when and where I proposed to my now wife. Gondolas, love, canals and the Piazza San Marco are probably the things that come to mind when you think about Venice, and you wouldn’t be incorrect. However, one of the things that stuck with me from my short time there, aside from my marriage, was how much anti-fascist graffiti there was EVERYWHERE. Anywhere we went outside the main tourist areas in St Marco, there were black and white stencil’s sporting squatter symbols, anti-racist tags, anti-capitalist imagery, and even a couple buildings with giant anti-fascist flags hanging off the front of them; dreadlocked punks standing in stark contrast to the world of consumerism and tourist catering around them. Needless to say, this made me happy; a reminder that just behind the beautiful facade there is a seedy underbelly of anger and danger; of cutpurses, thieves, and murderers. If you had to find a way to embody that dark Venetian sentiment in sound, it would be the late 2015 release from Venice’s own Zeit entitled “The World is Nothing”. Menacing, evil and sinister. Intense and riddled with anger. Pained and aggressive. Those are the take aways I have from the first 30 seconds of this monstrous effort from the 4 piece. As a guitarist I am having trouble wrapping my brain around the complex and spastic guitar parts littered throughout every song on the album. The drumming is absolutely insane; blast beats, intensely rhythmic toms pulsing through abrupt breakdowns and pushing throat shredding vocals almost dead center into my brain. Noisy and complex in a way that’s very hard to explain, this album sounds like a panic attack of the very soul. Bringing in elements of grindcore, crust, hardcore and punk this is just ridiculous from top to bottom. Honorable mention to the song “Tautologies” as my favorite from the album. If you like Converge, Cursed, Trap Them, Rot In Hell or Dropdead then this is definitely not to be missed.
HARLEY FLANAGAN “CRO-MAGS” LP
(Released January, 2016)
I don't listen to music like this much anymore. It's loaded with machismo, possibly the most absurd tone for music to communicate, but I love this album because, well, this is Harley Flanagan! Anyone familiar with him can imagine his persuasive scowl. Harley Flanagan, you might argue, invented NYHC swagger. That scowl and persona have been widely imitated, but never to the same effect. I love this album because the anger that fuels it is genuine, not an adopted posture.
This album is an artistic response to "The Webster Hall Incident." If you are a reader of this website, it's doubtful you need that incident explained. Let's simplify it and say that the artist went through a hard time, and this album is his way of moving past it.
In “I Come in Peace," the first track, the machismo begins: "how many of you / does it take / to fuck with me / make no mistake." The bass playing is phenomenal. There's a bass break halfway through the song that leaves my mouth hanging open every time I hear it.
I've been listening to this album as I ride the bus to work, using it to drown out the world, and the song "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" is my favorite example of machismo: "all you motherfuckers talking shit / pick a number / get in line / and suck my dick / if it wasn't for me / you wouldn't exist ... fuck what you bitches got to say / before you were swimming in your daddy's nuts / i was NYHC / that's what's up." Every time I hear these lyrics I feel my face forming into a smile. Who but Harley Flanagan could get away with these lyrics? The thing is, aren’t they pretty much the truth?
Without a doubt, this album shows depth. The lyrics aren't simply macho. There is humility, too, and wisdom. In "Can't Give In," for example: "you can live without water for days / you can live without food for weeks / you can only live without air minutes / but you can't live at all if you're stripped of hope."
The music is old school hardcore punk, melodic chord progressions played at a fast pace, with a metallic edge for contrast and crunch. Anyone who loves mid 80's crossover style should love it. The album has tons of energy, and builds a lot of momentum from track to track.
One of the songs toward the end of the album had me totally gripped as I was riding the bus. The lyrics were about an immense rage that the writer was praying to come to terms with, before it destroyed him. I could feel the realness, the intensity. I took out my phone to look at the title and was somewhat stunned to find it was called "Fighting The Urge to Kill."
The entire album is this direct and honest. It's admirable and inspiring to see an artist create something out of an unfortunate event, to take a negative and transform it into a positive. There might be other bands that have this sound, and communicate this tone, but you should do yourself a favor and hear it from an original.
STILL ILL “BUILDING THE BEAST”
(Demons Run Amok Entertainment, Released March, 2016)
A typically bruising intro sets the scene for the debut full-length album by Aachen based hardcore band ‘Still Ill’ - a slow beat into two-step, serious guitar chugging and a sinister sample introducing the name of the album. A concept album, actually about…”how society and people are turning into things they once fought"… according to the promotional notes.
The title track kicks things off in brutal fashion and features guest vocals from Kevin Optimist who I am almost certain is Kevin Otto, former frontman of German heavyweights End Of Days. His unmistakable Obituary-esque roars from the fiery pits of hell are the ideal prelude to a head-nodding break in tempo, the song culminating in a spin-kick beatdown satisfying enough for those unedifying “crowd-killer” types. “The Greater Fool” and “Lost All Faith” have a more old-school feel about them - less top-string meat, more speed and crashing drums. The rest of the album follows a similar pattern to the rest of it - uncompromising, metallic hardcore packed with beatdowns. Still Ill are not as predictable as Nasty but aren't on the same level as countrymen Ryker's when it comes to song-writing. Maybe that will change. In the meantime this is a very steady offering that bodes well for the future.
JUDGE, WISDOM IN CHAINS, WORLD BE FREE, BLIND JUSTICE, TIMEBOMB
@ Voltage Lounge, Philadelphia, PA February 19, 2016
Written by: Josh Derr, Photos by: Anne Spina
Anyone who goes to shows in Philadelphia needs to take a minute and thank Joe Hardcore, Chris X, and the rest of their team for putting on bangers year round; it's not an easy thing to coordinate so many good shows, it takes a lot of time, planning, and stress to put these things together, so a big shoutout to everyone involved in making these shows possible.
The doors opened right at 6pm, just as Blind Justice was starting to play their first song. Even though the Voltage Lounge was about 3/4 empty as people were still filing in and getting warmed up, Blind Justice came out full force right off the bat. I've seen these guys twice now, and they don't disappoint. Their intense sound and almost chaotic stage presence are becoming the living example of their defacto “shore style” motto. Their LP “Undertow” is out now on Mass Movement Records, be sure to check it out and give these guys a listen!
Following Blind Justice was one of the Philly area's strongest up and coming bands, Timebomb. This is a band packed with enough energy to make Tesla nervous. In a genre currently fraught with bands out to get that overnight internet popularity, Timebomb has worked their way to this point as a band by playing shows, making music, and being a part of the scene on and off the stage. That to me is the perfect representation of why this band is getting the respect which they are. The growing crowd responded in kind to their efforts, moving around, singing along, piling on. If you aren't familiar, they currently have two 7''s out on Harvcore Records, “No Values” and a split with Japan's Deacon, both worth hearing.
WORLD BE FREE @ Voltage Lounge 2/19/16. Photo by: Anne Spina
World Be Free was up next, playing just their 6th show ever, and for only having that handful of performances under their collective belt, they sure as hell brought their 'A' game. This is a band that puts multiple decades of hardcore history on the stage all at once, and if you haven't heard World Be Free yet, you're blowing it. The names of bands World Be Free members have been in are too many to list, but if you want your jaw to hit the floor, look it up. Their set was a solid showing, clearly having put in their share of rehearsal time, sounding cohesive and practiced; a tough thing to accomplish when you get 5 guys with differing backgrounds together to play music. Their sound was a mash of old school NYHC and the refined So-Cal hardcore sound that defines a lot of current bands. This blend of old and new/east and west gives them a refreshingly unique twist and offers fans something totally new to add to their record collection. Despite the band's excellent stage presence, there were a few times where the crowd struggled to show out for this new band, as people are generally more reserved when they aren't wholly familiar with the music. However, after a little coaching and a few “move the fuck arounds” from front-man Scott Vogel, the Voltage Lounge was wall to wall, and they played out their set to a hyped up venue. I can't wait to see World Be Free this summer at This Is Hardcore, and this time I will definitely be singing along!
WISDOM IN CHAINS @ Voltage Lounge 2/19/16. Photo by: Anne Spina
Reigning PAHC champs Wisdom In Chains had the task of following World Be Free, and despite a bit of mic trouble they rose to the occasion. Playing to the hometown crowd, Wisdom came out swinging as they are known to do. As anyone who has seen Wisdom will know, vocalist Mad Joe spends a major portion of his time on stage elbow deep in the crowd, never hesitating to share the mic. However, on this particular night, when he'd get out past the amps, there was feedback or crackling vocals everytime. No worries though, as the now packed out Voltage Lounge was filled with Wisdom In Chains fans who knew every single word to each song they played. As always, there was no shortage of crowd participation, moshing, stage dives from on top of the amps, and general ruckus as their set was capped off with the staple PAHC anthem “Land Of Kings.”
JUDGE @ Voltage Lounge 2/19/16. Photo by: Anne Spina
Finally, with people smashed together from the front door to the stage and up the stairs to the balcony, NYHC giants Judge took to the stage and began their utter annihilation. Playing to a crowd evenly split between those who remember their initial formation and kids seeing them for a first time, Judge had the place rocking within seconds. This was my first time seeing them live, and I was stoked to see that a band with almost 30 years of history are still pushing hardcore forward and playing with an intensity that many younger bands can't replicate. The crowd was a back and forth of fists, shoes, sweat, and screams as the band they all came to see destroyed one song after another. This show was a great mix of old and new school coming together and those in attendance got the quality show they came for. Again, many thanks to the venue and promoters for doing what they do. Now stop reading reviews and go support your local scene! Review by: Josh Derr
NORTHLANDER “BLOOD AND ICE” DEMO
(Released December 2015)
Utah quintet Northlander play a brand of unrelenting hardcore that when mixed up with the heavier side of metal and a sprinkling of doom that they incorporate into their sound and some weird and off the wall moments creates an intriguing listen. The band are similar in tone and outlook with Ringworm and Integrity so with influences such as these two significant bands you know that you are getting the suitably nasty metal brutality merged in with the non-stop energy of hardcore. This is the band’s latest demo and if it is anything to go by then the their album proper will definitely be worth checking out as there is a quality here that is lacking in a lot of bands demos, the production here is as good as a proper release.
The demo kicks off with “Ritual”, a slow burning track that kicks off with a ringing riff before vocalist Joe starts screaming his heart out over a metalized groove, his screams are interrupted at times by mumbled speaking which creates the illusion of someone slightly unhinged and adds to the unsettling effect the song has. The furious “Tusk Hunter” follows and is probably the most all out metal thing on this demo coming on like Black Breath, Trap The or the late, lamented Himsa at their furious best, halfway through some deranged vocals and howls kick in over the mammoth metal groove and it's like listening to Mike Patton when he was in Mr Bungle fronting Victims and sounds pretty awesome and adds to the eclectic feel that Northlander have. The Patton like vocals are all over “Beserker” too, a hardcore monster of a track complete with mid-paced breakdown for the unhinged vocals to run all over. The lurching “Visions” is up next, a creeping vortex of a song with more unsettling spoken word throughout, “Dead Skin Mask” by Slayer style, the track slithers through until an unrelenting roar of "Darkness take my hand" erupts causing the music to explode while more deranged vocals take center stage over a crushing rhythm. “Blood And Ice” concludes with “Sister Abigail”, an unstoppable hardcore beast of a tune, after a jerky feedback laden start it kicks into life only for the stop start approach to rear its ugly head and then disappear twice causing a sensation of mild disorientation to the listener to great effect, the energetic music and vocals collide in anger throughout and the uncomfortable sample at the end is a great way to round things off. The band’s melding of hardcore, extreme metal and general weirdness works well and the quality of the tracks proves that Northlander have what it takes to make uncompromising music to the extreme and a forthcoming album will be a fascinating and anticipated prospect.
FREEDUMB "Feeding The Tapeworm"
(Tonehjulet Kraftpest Records, Released February 2016)
Most of us probably know at least one dude who has been into metal, punk and hardcore for decades. A real lifer who has first presses of albums, has a million war stories from years of going to shows and basically is like a walking encyclopedia of underground music. I never heard of Freedumb from Norway (hold your Viking references right there buddy) before this but damn do these guys give off the impression that they know a few guys like I just mentioned or they ARE the guy I just mentioned. "Feeding The Tapeworm" is 10 tracks of punk/thrash/hardcore goodness that has layer upon layer of influences abound. After a few whirls through this what comes to mind the most is 80's hardcore out of California. I'm thinking Bl'ast!, Excel, Dr Know and the like thrown into a blender. I seriously doubt that that was the plan but it just ended up coming out like that I guess. Track one titled "Gimme A Break" is one of the standouts and on this track in particular singer/bassist Torstein Eriksen's could almost be a dead ringer for Nuclear Assault's John Connelly. Look it up and hear for yourself... I'm not joking! Track 6 "Teitingene" is my favorite along with the finale "Right In Front Of You" which features Karine from Lucky Malice sharing the microphone. The back and forth with the two vocal styles works well on this standout track. Overall, a nice release with probably half of the songs getting filed under "keepers", and the others not bad. There are 10 tracks here with 5 of them being sung (I guess) in Norwegian so if that's a deal breaker for you please take note.
CASTOFF “FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY” LP
(Bird Attack Records/Morning Wood Records
Released February 2016)
Alright, I’m gonna hop right in on this one; Castoff is awesome! I know using a silly descriptor right out of the gate seems like lazy writing, but straight up from the very first track of this record all I could think was “this is f***ing awesome”. This band is bad-ass in my book for 2 reasons: 1.) The technical talent from these guys is impeccable, 2.) This is the first band of this ilk that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for In Effect; a very refreshing change of pace for me. A lot of the time the people at IE hand me a lot of straight ahead hardcore. And when I say “straight ahead” I mean it in the figurative sense in terms of the music not breaking the usual boundaries of the genre, and also in the sense that too many bands today are ripping off Straight Ahead (see any band Triple B has put out in the past 3 years). Castoff (one word) out of San Diego are very true to their locale, in that they deliver a tight, well-played West Coast melodic skate punk. This falls in line with the kind of stuff I grew up listening to on my path to getting further into hardcore. The songs are well written, the production is clear and polished, and pretty much every cut from this album is as catchy as it is exciting. “First Step To Recovery” is Castoff’s first official label release LP, previous releases being a self-released LP & EP, and an EP on Morning Wood/Bird Attack Records. The dual guitar work is a real shining stand out, a lot of cool harmonized melodies which rings more Iron Maiden than Pennywise. These little flares of personality are the things that make or break a band. They have a feature on thepunkcharchive.com in which their frontman and guitarist Bill gives a detailed breakdown of each song individually. A cool little extra that shows these songs mean a lot to the dudes who wrote them, something I can truly appreciate. Cool band, 10 blazing tracks of melodic punk, technical guitar playing, what’s not to like?! 7 thumbs up!!
OPEN YOUR EYES FANZINE
(Issue 7, Released January 2016)
Sprechen sie Deutsch? Or... do you speak German? Open Your Eyes #7 comes at us from Germany and is 48 pages long done half in English and half in German. Bands interviewed are Violent Reaction, Bitter End, Freedom, Spirit Crusher, Mental Refuse, and Mind Trap. The first 3 bands listed are the ones done in English with everything else done in German. The zine starts off with a short introduction and also has a This Is Hardcore 2015 show review as well as some photos from Distort BRD Fest 2015. The photo quality is off the charts amazing as these are high res super quality black and white photos posted on good quality paper. The fact that Open Your Eyes is printed almost sideways or horizontal gives it a unique look as well. Mine came with a cool sticker that was a rip of Warzone's "Open Your Eyes" album cover with the letters Warzone replaced with FANZINE. Overall for me a short read on the English stuff but it is obvious there is a lot of effort going into this high end DIY product.
GODS HATE “MASS MURDER”
(Closed Casket Activities, Released February, 2016)
There are many sub-genres when it comes to hardcore music but none more polarizing than metal-core. People either love it or hate it but when it's done right, the right amount of hardcore energy and passion combined with the heavy riffs of metal then it's a great thing and at the end of the day it's still hardcore just with the best elements of metal attached, metallized hardcore is a better way of putting it than metal-core anyway. Southern California's Gods Hate are thankfully one of the newer bands who do this right and when it comes to an influence on their sound, think Merauder, think Fury Of Five, think Stigmata, think bands that do it right.
After two 7"s, this is the band’s debut album and “Mass Murder” is not just the album’s title, it's a statement of musical intent. The bands pummeling brand of hardcore has the right balance of intensity and aggression and this is countered with some razor sharp metal riffing and solos. Wasting no time in delivering the aural punch to your ears, Gods Hate plunge right into opening track “Extermination” and this sets the scene for the brutality that follows. Tracks such as “Mass Murder”, “Unsound Fury” and “Crown Of Power” are harsh beatdown ready tracks with the equally as harsh vocals of Nate Blauvelt, which are reminiscent of The Reverend Paul Bearer from Sheer Terror going for the jugular from the get go, while tracks like “Violent Procreation” (which sounds like Chaos AD era Sepultura gone hardcore) and “Witness Rejection” have a wider metal feel when it comes to the riffs and heavy harmonies but all are packaged with an infectious raw energy synonymous with hardcore. All in all, Gods Hate prove themselves to be a fierce proposition as a band and with “Mass Murder”, they have an album that, while more hardcore on the whole has the right amount of metal in it and is done the right way.
NO PAROLE EP
(Mad At The World Records, Released 2015)
Hot off the presses from our friends at Mad At The World Records and straight off of the mean streets of New Jersey comes the latest EP by the baldheaded boot boys No Parole. Full disclosure; I have no idea if they are bald or wear boots but if their sound could paint a picture it would definitely have a shaved dome or two, a set of suspenders, and some Docs or Gripfast boots thrown in for good measure. I have never been a big fan of European Oi (with some classic exceptions), but I love me some American Oi. This is definitely some home grown, hardcore, street punk, rock and roll done in that style that appeals to many of the sub-genres of the punk scene. This has that hardcore influenced raw sound as opposed to the more rock and ska influenced sound that many of the European bands have. Of course, this is speaking in generalities as there are exceptions to every rule.
On offer here are four tracks of hard stompin', ass kickin', good time rock. The first song is "No Parole" clocking in at a stealthy 1:35. A short guitar strum, a few beats on the snare and It begins stomping its way along. Kick ass Oi with guitar solos and excellent musicianship throughout. This is the type of song that will have you kickin your friends in the ass as you run around the coffee table over at your mom's apartment. "Real Life", at 2:24, is up next leading off with some nice guitar work until the song jams into a back and forth Oi sound that fans of the genre will recognize and enjoy. "Rumor Mill", 1:16 is an interesting little burst of song. My favorite on this EP. It has very interesting guitar work and a more straightforward punk feel to it. Another one that I can see sharing a few pints over and smashing the empty glasses over the head of the guy next to me. I'm noticing a pattern here....but more with me rather than the band...apparently, I got problems. The final song is "Grey Skies". At 2:34 this is the EP's epic. It starts out with some hammering drums but rocks into some great melody and some gang singalong bits. Again solid guitar and musicianship turn what could be run of the mill into a very listenable, enjoyable, but more importantly, repeatable tune.
There you have it, the debut 7" from No Parole out of New Jersey...heretofore to be known as New Jers-Oi. There is something about the air in Jersey that aids in the creation of some quality streetpunk and it has done this for years, except of course the 2 years I lived there. If you like bands like Niblick Henbane, Headwound and Heidnik Stew or even non Jersey bands like American Eagle, Forced Reality, or Dead End Boys, then this is right there in your wheelhouse....as it is all up in mine. I really enjoyed this offering and look forward to hearing more from these guys. Nice job boys....Let's grab a pint sometime! Oi Oi Oi!
JAIL "RESURRECTION" EP
(Farewell Records, Released December 2015)
Jail is a newer band out of Germany whose members are no strangers to their local scene as the majority of them have been playing in bands for a while. "Resurrection" has a furious start with the track "Live Here And Now!" which got me excited and pumped for this short EP which clocks in at only about 10 minutes. The songs fast pace and nice guitar fills suck you in while dropping in a touch of melody and some gang style back-up vocals. They end it up with a classic NYHC style choppy drum beat set to the closing lyrics of "I want to BREAK OUT!" I'm thinking "great fucking start" and also thinking about how well this track could go over live as it has just about every ingredient you'd need to have a hardcore crowd jump on your stage and grab the microphone to sing along. "Heritage" is up next slowing the pace down from the opener but still keeping that choppy drum style while again hitting with another solid track. The vocals here are crisp, clear and fit the music well. "Gezi Park 013" had me thinking about the title and after doing some homework it is about the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013. Look it up and learn something. I'm glad I did. Not the strongest track of the bunch but it does show some diversity as midway through a blast beat ensues backed with some gut wrenching vocals that I'm guessing are done by a guest vocalist or one of the other members of Jail. We are now 3 songs in and Jail hasn't fallen into the trap of repetition mode as all 3 of these tracks bring something different to the table. "Minds In Haze" follows and is more of a blazing fast track that slows things down for the last minute set to some choppy drums once again as the song fades out. Some aspects of this track bring Burn to mind but then again most everything Jail delivers kind of gives off vibes of a band heavily influenced by many NYHC heavyweights. "No Limit" is a nice finisher that like the opening track probably sums up Jail's sound the best. Overall I am impressed with this nice EP. To me, it came on strong the first bunch of listens and even though it's lost a little luster over the short time I’ve had this I still really like what they are doing with their sound and style. They no doubt love some classic hardcore and are heavily influenced by it but at the same time have their own sound and identity.
PUSH “THIS IS CRUEL, THIS IS LIFE”
(Hellxis Records, Released January 22, 2016)
Hailing from Lisbon, Portugal, Push are a hardcore band with some big metal influences flowing through their sound. A wail of feedback starts the albums opening track “Godlike” before a riff, akin to one that Crowbar or Exhorder would have cranked out, kicks in and as the guitar riffs sail through this vocal-less opening track it is obvious that Push have a strong metal and indeed old school Southern metal influence, this metal influence is felt throughout “This Is Cruel. This Is Life” and especially on tracks like “Anymore” and “Cult” with the vocals on the latter sounding like a hardcore version of Crowbars Kirk Windstein and the sludgy riffs that ring out echo that.
It is obvious that Push are at heart a hardcore band though and on tracks like “Paradise Lost”, which has a big Merauder influence and feel to it, the brutal “Life Is Unfair” and the pummeling drum led riff-fest and Biohazard-esque “No One To Blame” they bring the raw fury of a hardcore show to the record (although it is interesting to note the strong metal influence that both Merauder and Biohazard have ).
A change of pace comes in the form of “Outside, Unsheltered” which is a mournful instrumental and allows the band to show an introspective side to them before the mid-paced anger of “Hit Me With Fear” kicks in followed by the equally as furious “Soulless” brings the energy levels up again but the pace changes again with the title track that closes the record, similar in tone to “Outside, Unsheltered” but featuring some whispered and beautiful female vocals courtesy of Ines Laranjeira of Miss Titan. This song is a brilliant and inspired way to finish the record off and with its closing sorrowful refrain of "One Day My Reign Is Over, But I Will Be Forever In Your Ear. This Is Cruel. This Is Life" left ringing in your ears, it is hard to forget in a hurry. All in all, Push are a heavy band with heavy influences and their energy and passion shines through and ensures that “This Is Cruel This Is Life” is a raw and engaging listen.
MANIPULATE “BECOMING MADNESS” EP
(Flatspot Records, Release Date, February 12, 2016)
Over the years I've heard the expression "hardcore's dead" and actually I've heard it several times during conversations from people of various ages. It's sad to hear this, since it is complete nonsense and it's this mindset that keeps these individuals from hearing newer bands. One such band is Manipulate who formed in 2013 and calls New York home. However, the term "newer" only refers to Manipulate as a band, the members which consist of Ivan Murillo vocals (Dead Wrong, Unforgiven, Skarhead), Ricky Singh guitars (Backtrack), Paul DeLaney guitars (Kill Your Idols, Black Anvil), Jonathan Buske bass (Terror, Maximum Penalty) and Paul Klein drums (The Banner, Suburban Scum) are hardcore veterans. Manipulate released a fierce four song demo in September 2013 and became quickly known for their energetic and fast paced live shows. Since their formation, Manipulate have shared the stage with a list of hardcore's finest, such notables include Breakdown; Cro Mags; Strife; Judge; and Antidote just to name a few. Manipulate also played the 2014 United Blood Fest and the 2014 Black ‘N Blue Bowl, both being a big honor. Manipulate have returned from the studio after working with Jeff "Stress" Davis at Chopshop Studios over this past Summer and will be releasing a six song EP titled "Becoming Madness" on February 12th. Two years between releases seem like an eternity to the fans, but the old saying rings true "good things come to those who wait" and this EP does not disappoint. For those not familiar with Manipulate, their sound is a hardcore and metal hybrid and "Becoming Madness" is a perfect blend between the two. The title track is an instrumental reminiscent of the great first album by the band Metal Church, with slow and heavy guitar work leading into track two titled "Beaten Path", which sets the stage for what the rest of the EP has in store for the listener; pure aggression. To choose a favorite is not easy, but I'm going to pick track 6, which happens to be called “Manipulate”. It can be appreciated that "Becoming Madness" was not something that was just thrown together by the band to get another release out, but rather it was finely crafted and it will satisfy lovers of hard music regardless of tastes or genres. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer. February 12th "Becoming Madness" will be available through Flatspot Records, and if you haven’t already make sure to check out their demo through their Bandcamp page.
TIMEBOMB/DEACON SPLIT 7"
(Harvcore Records, Released January 2016)
Bands that are worlds apart are brought together on one cohesive 7" from our friends over at Harvcore Records. Timebomb from South Jersey and Tokyo's Deacon team up to give us 6 songs in around 13 minutes here. First up depends on which way your record falls out of the sleeve so in this case let's go with Deacon who have been around since 2012 and play a standard style of hardcore that although doesn't break any new ground still gets the job done with a well-played effort. They got a heavy style to them with breakdowns that you can see coming a mile away. Said breakdowns hit pretty hard nonetheless. "No Peace, No Escape", "Nothing", and "Faced Down" are their 3 tracks. When I get my time machine up and running I'm gonna send these guys back to 1999 and have them tour around with 25 Ta Life as it just would be a perfect fit. Would love to see these guys play a show in Tokyo to an insane crowd that knows their songs well.
Timebomb has been on our radar for some time now with a previous release on this same label and a great showing at last year's This Is Hardcore Fest. We even did a Fresh Blood page thingy with them not too long ago which you can peep HERE. Their 3 tracks are titled "Get Bent", "Rope", and "Wasted Time" with the opener starting off with a nice classic style hardcore intro that eats up the first minute of this 2 minute track. If they aren't opening their live sets with "Get Bent" they are short changing themselves as that intro is a sure fire party starter. "Rope" has a choppy NYHC-esque start and that choppy beat continues throughout the track. "Wasted Time" wraps things up with a song that only runs about a minute but once again shows their love for the choppy dance part which comes early on in this track that only runs about a minute and makes me wish the Timebomb effort was a bit longer than just 5 minutes. Harvcore did a nice job with the layout and the quality of the paper this thing was printed on. I am not one of those record collector types… I don’t care what color vinyl a record comes out on and I don't actively seek out vinyl releases but it's obvious that they didn't skimp on costs here. A nice all around effort from some newer but not new bands worth giving a shot.
EXAMINE, ENZIGURI, YO! SCUNT, URBAN WASTE
@ Parkside Pub, Whitestone, NY February 6, 2016
WORDS & PHOTOS BY: CW
The Parkside Pub in Queens is a small spot that has had its share of punk and hardcore shows in the past few years. It has no stage, an average sound system and a narrow area for the band and crowd to assemble and jump around in but somehow for a show like this it worked, probably because this was a free show and it was pretty packed out when I got there just before Examine went on. This was only Examine's second show with their first one happening just about a week earlier. One would figure for a second show they would still be feeling each other out but their 25 or so minute set sailed right through without any mishaps. The band members all have ties to the current NYHC scene with members having been in On The Offense, Olde York, Vexed and Point Blank to name a few. From their demo I could tell that even though they have all been in bands doing mostly the fast part/mosh/fast part thing that Examine is trying to utilize their members skills and put out something just a little different as their songs definitely have some more groove to them. The kind of band and sound that may not smack you upside your head on the first listen but the kind that if given the time to grow and catch some steam could possibly turn into one of your favorite bands. I think the crowd felt the same as much of the audience was up front giving Examine their attention even though there was not much in the way of crowd participation which is to be expected when a band has all new songs that most have never heard before. A good start. Let's see it goes now.
Enziguri were up next and if you never heard the name before you might be thinking "is this band on tour from Japan or something?" The truth is that these guys are from the Bronx and probably had one of the shortest commutes to this gig via the Throggs Neck Bridge which is probably only a 15 minute ride away. Anyway, these guys rock. They have a fresh sound that mixes in some melodic parts with some good old NYHC. We liked them so much that we featured them on our Fresh Blood page for newer bands not too long ago. You can read that article HERE. Enziguri brought a lot of energy here, especially from their singer who was all over the place and the crowd fed off that energy. They played a mix of songs off of their EP from last year but also mixed in newer ones like "B.A.D. Crew", "Empire State", "Day Dreaming Delinquents", and "Love Wins" which hopefully will be on some kind of new release this year. Let's hope. Check these guys out. They are a shot in the arm for the newer bands.
The hometown heroes were up next in the form of Yo! Scunt. These guys are a fucking trip and I love seeing them play. They opened with "Doing Lots Of Fucking Drugs" and the place went bezerkoids for their whole set as they without a doubt had the best response out of all the bands here tonight. Everything with them seems so spontaneous and fun when you see them live and I mean that in a Murphys Law/No Redeeming Social Value type of way. They have been around for well over a decade now and usually play in spurts where they will be going strong and then dissappear for awhile. Hopefully this is the start of a new run of shows here in early 2016. A real fun band that you don't have to know all their songs to have a good time. They wound down their 30 or so minute set with "I Can't Wait To Skate" off of their "Yo! Yo! Yo!" EP which came out in like 2007. Good stuff.
Urban Waste blew me away with a set last year in a similar type of venue out on Long Island. The band has been back for a few years now playing all over mostly on weekends and have been doing it a little under the radar in some ways. They have a new EP out called "Waste Crew" and it lives up to their roots that date back to the early1980's. The 2016 edition of UW still has their lone original member Johnny Waste in the mix and he has assembled a solid lineup that totally brings energy to a live setting as they were again solid for a good 35 or so minute set. Their songs are blazing fast and just bring it. At one point their singer Josh stopped between songs and almost out of breath said "Damn these are some fast songs". The entire band was drenched in their own sweat and probably needed to be carted out of the Parkside when all was said and done. I've seen them twice now in just a few months time and they were basically a blast of energy both times. They also get credit for doing a cover (and a real good version too) of Suicidal Tendencies' "I Shot Reagan" which came towards the end of their set which came just a little after 2am.
WORLD BE FREE "THE ANTI-CIRCLE"
(Revelation Records, Released February 5, 2016)
If you go back 6 months the name World Be Free was on almost nobody's radar as they were a band still unknown to the majority of the hardcore scene. Unless you were in the band or close friends with their members there was little chance you even heard any of their songs with their first live show not even coming until late 2015. Their members previous and current band resumes are impressive and they were quickly swooped up by Revelation Records. I want to review "The Anti-Circle" on its own merits and not get caught up in what their members have done musically in the past. If you want a spoiler alert though you can click HERE to find out some more about them.
The track "World Be Free" opens up the album and shows a ton of promise sounding like it got shot right out of 1988 at around 4pm at 315 Bowery, NYC. I've listened to this album probably about 10 times since I got it just 2 days ago and I think Gorilla Biscuits when I hear this track. Right around the minute mark the song slows down and then goes into this 20 second buildup that just has you begging to have the breakdown hit. A great opener that you can tell on the first listen will be one of their live favorites with people killing each other for the mic on that ending chorus.
"Shake The Ghost" is up next and in some ways mirrors the opener with the track slowing down midway only to find another breakdown towards the end. This track doesn't hit as hard as the opener but still gets put on the good song column when I'm lining up all 14 tracks that this album gives us. The chorus of "Make it so you get back what you put in... shake the ghosts, shake the past" kind of gives you the idea that this track is about making things right. A theme I see throughout here is that World Be Free are not trying to be the heaviest, the toughest or the coolest band out there and it's refreshing. Just look at the damn album cover if you want another example. It looks like it could have been drawn by a 10 year old with its School House Rock letters but at the same time totally works. Fuck yeah I'd wear that on a shirt!
Things roll along with "All These Colors" and "Empty Things" and by that 4th track you see a pattern of what World Be Free is doing musically which is... in essence, revisiting late 1980's style hardcore with an emphasis on fast, and mostly catchy tracks with some tight mosh parts. The formula that is brought to the table here is a good one but there are some pockets here within "The Anti-Circle" where things get a little mundane and make me think if this was cut down by a few tracks that this may have made more of an impact. There are no bad tracks here, but there are a couple of just OK ones. "I'm Done" is NOT one of them and might be my favorite of the bunch with a vocal delivery reminiscent of GB's "No Reason Why"... look it up and judge for yourself. Although that is my second Gorilla Biscuits reference in this review it is not indicative of what the whole album entails. And oh by the way, "I'm Done" is sung by special guest Walter Schriefels who used to be the guitarist IN Gorilla Biscuits so there is your 3rd and final GB reference in this review. "Sammy's Mirror" which is another one of the stronger tracks starts off with someone... let's call him Sammy singing candidly (probably in his car) and is cut off by the start of the song. This is also the longest track on here at 3 minutes and a smidge. This song, especially the latter parts has heart and soul and I love the closing minute and change of this track.
Overall I'm fully behind what World Be Free is doing here and hopefully younger kids catch on to the old school approach. This review, to me at least is somewhat incomplete as I've only had it a short time and feel I can either grow into it more or at the same time just stick mostly to the tracks I specifically pointed out as well as a few others. Only time will tell...but for now I gots some love for the World Be Free.
BACKFLIP “THE BRANSTORM VOLUME 1”
(Hellxis Records, Released November 2015)
When In Effect Hardcore head honcho Chris sent me a message asking to do a review of a female-fronted hardcore band with "a lot of bounce" I was intrigued. I mean as good as All For Nothing, Walls Of Jericho and up-and-coming UK shredders Venom Prison are I don't think any of them possess much "bounce". And whilst my hopes of an uplifting version of L7 were dashed Backflip are certainly a band worth lending your ears to.
The five-piece band, hailing from Lisbon, Portugal open their latest offering “Fortune” with a legendary Rocky speech sampled over the top. It makes for a solid if unspectacular opening track. It takes until midway through the second song, “Contagious” for the vocal style to extend beyond Ines Oliviera's largely one-pitch delivery, which I feared could become annoying. Her harmonies work perfectly over guitar hooks reminiscent of early Thrice before, from out of nowhere, an almighty breakdown hits you right between the eyes. Backed up by the two Pedros and two Joao’s which complete the band front-woman Ines Oliveria switches it up in the initial pop-punk vibes of “Semantics”, first luring us in with some infectious singing before reverting back to her banshee shriek when the guitars get cranked up.
“Ricochet” possesses the sort of feel-good sing-a-long chorus that will have you climbing on the backs of your mates in order to muscle in on the microphone, whilst “Shark Pound” would sit proudly amongst anything Comeback Kid have committed to record - endless catchy grooves married with Stretch Armstrong's boundless energy. They saved the heaviest track for last – “Death Or Glory” with its freight-train drumming, muted top-string riffs, guitar solo and fade to black outro. Backflip is a refreshing less-aggressive shot in the arm to female-led hardcore.
PROGRESS “REIGNITE YOUR HEART” EP
(Released January 2016)
Progress combine the melody of post-hardcore with straight-up hardcore, and together, it creates a vibe not dissimilar to Test Of Time’s debut effort, or some of Comeback Kid’s more sentimental moments. The band have really laid out a delicious spread, though with the three track taste that it is, it’s more like a starter… one that wets the appetite for the main course.
It begins with “Mosaic”, a fast-paced track that flirts between explosive riffs and melodic leads, and builds to a cool solo. “Burial At Sea” takes a different path, with a faster pace, but a larger focus on melody and meaning. The content speaks of a relationship gone sour, seemingly, with lyrics such as “And damn you for making me feel this way/I’m done with letting this weigh on me/Looking back I question the legitimacy of everything you’ve ever said to me”. That said, it has its moments of anger too, such as the breakdown which occurs just over a minute in, and damn it’s cool. The chorus loops back around after this, bringing a familiar song structure people can relate to. All in all, a powerful balance. Then comes “Phoenix”, a four minute melodic beast that really brings home that Test Of Time reference. It has some memorable hooks, and while lengthy for this genre, has plenty going on to justify it.
I only wish the EP had more focus on the heavy side of things, but that’s just me. I’m a way bigger fan of Incendiary than I am of the likes of Down To Nothing, so really, such a criticism is essentially the same as saying, “It shouldn’t be the way it is!” which is totally redundant. Progress have built a sizeable audience since their genesis, and now with an EP, we could indefinitely claim (am I gonna do it? Of course I fucking am) that they’re making...wait for it...PROGRESS. Hey! Yeah. I feel low for that. Check ‘em out if you haven’t already, especially if you’re heavily into all the bands I've mentioned here.
RISK IT! “CROSS TO BEAR” LP
(Farewell Records, Released January, 2016)
If the bands you have toured with are any indication of how good you are, Germany's Risk It! are definitely a band that calls for attention and respect. Since the band's inception in 2009, they have played Europe with a list of "Who's Who in American Hardcore", including such legends as Terror, Merauder, H20, Judge, Cro-Mags, Gorilla Biscuits and Agnostic Front. Risk It! were on the 2013 Persistence Tour with Hatebreed and Agnostic Front and are currently on this tour again with Ignite, Terror and Wisdom In Chains which is going on right now. This coming May they will be opening for Bitter End during some European dates. Risk It! have seven releases out, "2009 Demo"; "Leave a Mark" EP 2001; "Demo" 2011; "Who's Foolin' Who" LP 2012; "The Only Thing" 7" 2013 and their latest "Cross to Bear" LP 2015. "Cross To Bear" contains 11 songs of honest hardcore, by which I mean musically energetic and lyrically relevant. I found myself studying the lyrics, reminiscent of the days when I would buy a tape or album (yes I'm old) and listen to all the songs and read the words till I knew them by heart. Risk It! really caught my attention. Lyrically the songs deal with the typical topics of backstabbing, fighting against the odds and trying to remain positive in a world that tries to beat you down. It was hard a hard choice but my favorite track lyrically is "Trapped". Musically the songs remain an aggressive onslaught from track one "Getting Low" to the last one "Can’t Take It Away". The second track "Mind's Demise" is the stand out tune for me. Risk It! reminds me of Bitter End, who are a great band as well; so I definitely advise those who are in the areas that this European tour will hit this May to go out and show support. Risk It! are a band you need to become acquainted with. Yes their style is one you have heard before, it is basic hardcore but it's a formula that has worked for many years and it works well for them. Its bands like this German powerhouse that keeps the scene alive worldwide. Check out their live performances on You Tube and pick up "Cross To Bear", you will see what I mean. It would be great to see Risk It! hit the states soon, maybe at a future Black ‘N Blue Productions event here in NYC.
FROM THE HEART “LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND”
(WTF Records, Released 2014)
Following on from their raw but well executed 2013 demo, Rotterdam, Hollands From The Heart deliver the goods on their debut album “Leave It All Behind”. As with the demo, this album is full of big hardcore songs with even bigger breakdowns and sing-a-long choruses.
Songs such as “Predator”, “The Hard Way”, “Dead Mans Trigger” and “World Of Lies” demonstrate this best although of all the album is packed full of this hardcore goodness, and these songs are loaded with the aforementioned hardcore staples as well as crunching riffs and pounding rhythms that create a rousing atmosphere from start to finish. While From The Heart wouldn't claim to be the most original of bands, the heart and passion that they play with is impossible to ignore and that is what counts, playing with attitude from the soul and From The Heart definitely live up to their name with the music they play. “Leave It All Behind” is crammed full of tracks ready made for the live arena and chaos will surely ensue when the band play “Crush” or “I Won't Change” live, the songs on this album are furious blasts that are rarely longer than two and a half minutes and this is perfect time for people to get busy on the dancefloor.
Ultimately, From The Heart are like a European version of Agnostic Front with shades of the influential likes of Sick Of It All, Madball, Backfire!, Kickback and Rykers all thrown in and on “Leave It All Behind” they show that they are thoroughly demonstrating their style in the best way possible.
WHILE WE WAIT "S/T" EP
(Wardance Records, Released January 2016)
When I see the photos of W3 on the web, my mind wanders off to my salad days and memories of the Ray and Porcell 7" that came out on Rev way back. I think the comparison to the aformentioned duo's EP ends at the fact that it and this both contain two dudes. While We Wait is the brainchild of Andy Guida (Altercation, Absolution, Supertouch, etc.) and Matt Warnke aka, Matt Bold (Crippled Youth, Bold, Running Like Thieves, etc.) This is a modern take on melodic hardcore by two stalwarts of the NYHC scene. This definitely has nothing to do with that Rev EP I mentioned earlier, so alas, the X'd up drum machine will have to wait a little longer to relive its glory.
We are treated to 3 songs on this new EP which kicks off with the first track, "King's Ransom" (3:24). This up-tempo number has some great riffage and a lot of time changes that keep the song fresh. Matt's vocals are very subdued. He can croon and he can growl with the best of them, but on this tune he falls somewhere in between the two. I would like there to be a little more urgency in the vocals but that's just me and I did noticed upon subsequent listens that it wasn't as much as an issue for me as I got accustomed to it...... Just something new and I do dig the track. Next up is "By Now You Should Know Right From Wrong" (2:46). A riff and a drum roll and this one is off and galloping down hardcore road. Matt's vocals are adjusted on this one and they carry a bit more of the urgency I had referred to previously. This one plugs along at a nice pace and then it even throws in a modern day breakdown which will keep the dancers dancing and the singers singing along. I believe this song is borrowed or from Matt and Andy's other project, The Mistaken. That band has a more straightforward rock and roll feel with a rockabilly moon rising. There is a version of this song out there by The Mistaken and you should find it and check it out because my feeble old mind can't remember where it is, so start with the Google and go from there. The final jam on this EP is "All The Plans You Made" (2:17). The most NYHC influenced track on offer here....not that they all aren't NYHC influenced by default, but you know what I mean. Great musicianship, bass work, solos, Matt's vocals… it all works. This is my favorite track on the EP which should come as no shock.
I am not sure if While We Wait is intended to be an actual band or if it is just something two creative guys, with the means at their disposal created to keep themselves happy and sane and us happy, or if they intend to expand upon it. I may be speculating due to the fact that they borrow a song from another project and the band's name is While We Wait. Like, hey I got a studio, we have many projects going that need this or that, so while we wait, let's rock the fuck out......Again pure speculation on my part. However what is not speculation is that this is a solid little EP on its own merits.The guys know their shit inside and out. I hope to hear more, even if it turns out to be a solely a studio project, that's fine with me. Who can get out nowadays anyways?
BICICLETA/COLD TIMES SPLIT EP
(Frequency Deleted Records, Released November, 2015)
Bicicleta (yes it means bicycle) start off the EP. They are a band from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, who have been active on the music scene since 2009. They have a nice resume playing shows in Puerto Rico with Murphy's Law in 2014; Agnostic Front in 2015 and coming up January 23rd they will be sharing the stage with Cruel Hand. The three songs Bicicleta contributed to this EP are “Reborn”, “Imminent” and “You Will Know Pain”. They are a mix of hardcore and metal with the vocal style leaning towards hardcore/punk, while the music is more on the metal side. My favorite track of the three is “Reborn”. The song's intro shows the band's skill as musicians, plus I like the positivity of the lyrics. All three songs remain heavy from start to finish (check out the breakdown at the 1:55 mark of “Imminenet”) but they do fluctuate from fast to slow. This may not sit well with hardcore enthusiasts who like their music consistently fast and raw. But if these songs catch your interest, check out Bicicleta's other releases; "Everyone Gets A Ride EP" released in June of 2011 and their full length "Bicicleta" released in May of 2014.
Cold Times are also from Puerto Rico; Las Piedras to be exact, and are a "newer" band starting out in 2012. This is a band that I wish I knew of earlier. Their Facebook page biography states they are "5 people with a passion for music making some noise. Negative attitude." That is a pretty accurate description of who they are and what they play. The three songs Cold Times provided to this EP; entitled “Above It All”, “Social Climber” and “Born Rejected” are a mix of hardcore/metal that remains strong from start to finish. I personally like all the songs equally. Cold Times prove that hardcore isn't dead and these songs made me want to get up and start dancing, which not to many newer bands can do. Any people that claim "only real hardcore bands come from New York City" need to reevaluate their thinking. Cold Times also have a 4 song demo which was released in April 2014. Between listening to these 3 songs and the demo, there is no need to question why this band opened last year for NYHC legends Agnostic Front in March and Sick Of It All in December when both bands played in Puerto Rico. Hopefully a tour of the states will be in the future so keep an eye out for these fellas, follow their Facebook and check out their music on Bandcamp.
EARTHBOUND “DEAD WEIGHT” EP
Sometimes, in fact, many a time...actually, scratch that shit, all the damn time, bands release killer EPs, and it's only a year or so later that you discover the goods. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Yes because it's bullshit that these guys get overlooked, and no because they exist, and they're still awesome.
Anyway! What happens if you take the riffs of Lionheart, the beats of King Nine, add some attitude to the vocals of NAILS' “Unsilent Death” (and take away the growliness of the, err, growls) and add them too? You get Earthbound, who are one to watch. “Dead Weight” is a five-track long aggressionfest starting with a cool intro that builds tension to breaking point before “Nothing Is Forever” barges through the door and grabs you by the throat. With a tight structure, and an ever-changing pace, this song keeps you hooked right the way through. The eeriness of the riffs is what does it for me – as I say, the King Nine vibes are weaved right through. “Cursed” is a different beast entirely, dipping between Converge-esque speeds (but not quite as chaotic) and a steady pace.
Then comes “Imprisoned”, which has the same vibes, but is much more deceptive. It coils around you, bringing the initial riff back around again and again, cranking up the intensity each time, until the bass drum drives through you and makes the whole thing pop. The title track is very much a more-of-the-same situation, which isn't a bad thing. The band really make the two guitars work on this one. It's pummelling, constantly picking up the pace and throwing something new into the mix. In its climactic thirty seconds it slows down to a crawl, luring you into a false sense of security before it explodes one more time. All in all, check Earthbound out, and keep an eye out. Hopefully we'll see these guys tearing Poland to shreds in the future.