CODE ORANGE “I AM KING”
(Deathwish Inc. Released September 2, 2014)
Right, it’s time for Code Orange, kids! No, not that. “I Am King” is a wonderful sophomore album from Code Orange, the proverbial kids now being big men on the block. Heavy as fuck in a dozen interesting ways, it’s like a wrestling match between King Nine, Nails, Trap Them and the vicious grindcore beast that is Ultra//Negative, and even as a man who basically hates wrestling, that’s a match I would pay a lot of money to see. And, seeing as it’s impossible to reach an apt description with band comparisons, or indeed with words at all, I need to add something else to this dream match, but sadly, there’s nothing good enough, so let’s just break the fight up by throwing a cold bucket of Absurd over the madness that is now happening in my head alone. There. That’s “I Am King”.
Packed with a plethora of paces, it begins with an unnerving start-stop fuzz that on a wider scope, brackets the album, before the drums hammer out some speed and the amalgamation of distortion, pounding bass and drums that we love so much is there with us, topped off with that underlying fear that Code Orange have integrated into their new music, then just when you think the constantly pace-changing madness is never going to end, “Slowburn” and “Dreams in Inertia” show you that CO can be methodical as well as intense. The latter track is larger than life. It’s full of delicious ingredients thrown in line after line, thickening the intensity, the high-pitch of the lower guitar strings the great peak of it.
It’s cool that the bass lines are noticeable as well as important here. We all know the score with bass. Take it out and everything sounds weird, put it in and it makes everything better, but isn’t necessarily noticed. Well, that’s not the case here. Listen to “Slowburn”. ‘Nuff said.
Right, back on point where everything is happening. Everything. Track by track, you realize the magic of this album, and the magic is the pure scope. I mean, a moment ago you were hearing the calm yet disturbed vocals of the former track, then “Unclean Spirit” tears you to shreds with more rip-roaring screams and speed, and if that was a surprise you’ll be positively fuelled with crunchy hatred by the time you get to “Bind You”, where things are toned down in terms of speed, and amped up in terms of melody. And the end is simply epic in more ways than one. Maybe it’s the sheer number of vocalists in this band that make everything sound so vast, or the regular change of pace, or the intriguing guitar experimentation, or hell, maybe it is indeed that grindcore tinge that makes me wanna scream and kill and love every second of it…Back to Earth now. Doubtlessly it is all of those put together, but either way, this isn’t a record you forget overnight. This one surprises you to the end. Ding!
OUTSIDER ZINE #28 (Summer/Fall 2014)
Outsider is back again for another go-round with issue #28 featuring a nice chat with the one and only Jello Biafra serving as the meat and potatoes of this current installment. Other interviews include: Entropy, The Fatalities (who are recognized as the first hardcore/punk band from upstate NY who started in… get this…1979?!?!, Dead Empires, and Torturous Inception. Outsider does odds and ends well with a car show report, a mini-interview with a friend who has a blog about his t-shirt collection, and a nicely put together preview for the 2014 Upstart Fest which tours 9 cities in the northeast in late September. Zine scene as always gives short bios/info on newer bands and zine staples like music reviews and editorials are always good to check out. This is a FREE zine printed on large newsprint much like your hometown’s newspaper. Outsider is based out of upstate Newburgh, NY and they also have their fair share of ad space for local shops (many of which are indie/underground/tattoo type places) and even if Outsider didn’t have a single word typed about hardcore or punk I probably would still pick it up just to leaf through the ads. A nice zine run by good peeps doing it for all the right reasons. Check ‘em out…
DEAD BLOW HAMMER
“LIVE AT GRAND VICTORY” (Released September 2, 2014)
NY’s Against The Grain have changed their name to Dead Blow Hammer and this release serves as sort of a stop gap to hold us over until the fall when the band plans on getting back into the studio. ATG dates all the way back to 1996 and have Rob Kabula (ex-Agnostic Front/Cause For Alarm) on bass… and that bass sound that Rob brought to AF’s second full length “Cause For Alarm” has always translated over to what ATG was doing musically. This was recorded at Grand Victory in Brooklyn (no duh… look at the title) on September 10th and contains 2 new tracks (“Transporting” and “Not Tonight”) and 2 oldies from ATG’s “Mentiroso” release from way back in 1998. The 2 new tracks here follow the same blue print that gave Against The Grain their distinct sound and don’t really stray from their path and I am not complaining one bit because I always felt these guys “got it” when it came to playing some good old style crossover hardcore. As for live recordings, they have never been my thing… (I may have listened to AF’s “Live at CBGB’s” a few dozen times in my whole life) but this gets the job done and at the asking price of $1.80 you have to be pretty down and out to not be able to afford this. The number one thing that I come away with on this is that ATG are back… now as DBH and they got some good new songs which I am looking forward to hearing with a proper recording hopefully sooner than later.
BORROWED TIME “CAPTIVE SOUL” EP
(Full Circle Attack Records, Release Date September 3, 2014)
One seven inch. Three tracks. A whole lot of heaviness. This Rochester, NY quintet start as they mean to go on during the title track - supremely chuggy hardcore in the vein of 100 Demons and All Out War. “These Scars” has a late 80’s/early 90’s crossover vibe about it - the reverb laden guitar solo amidst a frenetic riff reminiscent of Leeway's AJ Novello in his prime. They saved the best for last with “The Cold Hand Of Justice” boasting a catchy intro before chaos ensues. With the vocal style lying somewhere between Jorge from Marauder and Sheer Terror's Paul Bearer, Borrowed Time certainly come across like a force to be reckoned on this short offering.
RIGGOTS “THE DIRRTY DIRRTY DEMOOO”
(Released February 2014)
Let's get one thing straight - this ain't no Carpenters, Ike and Tina or any other musical duo you care to recall. Martin Battle and Rob Fairhurst joined forces last year to form Riggots - a total headfuck of paint-stripping noise that mixes early grind-influenced hardcore such as Siege with grooves and a sense of humor.
“Forked Shoes” mixes the kookiness of The Blood Brothers with the sort of uber-cool grooves cornered and trademarked by Kyuss and Iceland's criminally underrated Minus.
Singer-guitarist Battle gives his larynx a brief break during the start of “EA OK” - I think it was at this point during a recent live gig of theirs where I branded the band as “Elvis meets Black Flag”. I still stand by that - but minus the sideboards and obesity - the Animal-esque Fairhurst is the antithesis of the pie-eating fatty stereotype of Wigan, the small Lancashire town from which they hail. Hell, it even turns into a sing-a-long.
We are all hailing “Chorrley Norrman” in the frenetic, dischordant finale to proceedings - remember when Slayer payed homage to those awesome 80’s hardcore bands on “Undisputed Attitude”? Well, this would sit nicely in there somewhere. Or played over the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex is subjected to the literally eye-opening Ludovico technique. It really is that intense.
SOCIAL DECAY “SICK SOCIETY”
(To The Point Records, Released May 27, 2014)
If the name Social Decay rings a bell to you it’s probably because the band's history spans way back to 1984 when these guys started off as some south shore NJ teens and had a nice run before calling it a day. Fast forward to 2006 which saw the band get back together for a reunion show with Agnostic Front and things have been building slowly towards this 13 song CD ever since. "Sick Society" contains 13 tracks of some raw and intense hard hitting hardcore that to me is a little surprising mostly because they play a style that was more reminiscent of a late 80's crossover with some killer guitar leads mixed in with some really sick dance parts. Basically they were ahead of the game...when it comes to their sound think controlled chaos... A few times I sat back and tried to think of who these guys reminded me of and not many other bands came to mind. They are extremely good at hitting the gas sort of speak and playing some all out blazing thrash style hardcore with a few tracks slowing things down as well. The songs here (recorded about 4 years back) span in age from the band's beginnings to some brand new tracks written specifically for this release and also includes a very formidable cover of Mental Abuse's "Corporate Scum". With the entire band being in their 40's now and not a whole lot of fanfare coming their way like a lot of other bands on the reunion trail it shows that these dudes are in this because it's in their DNA and it's something that they obviously care about enough to deliver a solid 13 song effort.
ENSIGN, THE LAST STAND, LIVE FAST DIE FAST, SILENCE EQUALS DEATH
@ Grand Victory, Brooklyn, NY July 20, 2014 Review & Photos by: Carl Gunhouse
SILENCE EQUALS DEATH
Got to Grand Victory a good fifteen minutes before the advertised start time, but the soundman was a no show, so it took another hour to get things going. Luckily, I ran into friends, and the time passed quickly enough. To make everything right with the world, during the first song of Silence Equals Death’s set the legendary Sean Dixon brought his patent moves to the dance floor. Silence Equals Death felt very much like a late 90’s hardcore band, fast, some complex breakdowns, a hint of metal and a little melody in the vocals. I wasn’t here-nor-there on them, but certainly not bad. They even reminded me a little bit of a more Boys Sets Fire version of Ensign.
LIVE FAST DIE FAST
After the microphone went missing for a while, Live Fast Die Fast picked up the pace and tore through a set of fast, heavy, 90’s tinged hardcore of, say, early Indecision or, for that matter, Inhuman or Shutdown. They had a great crowd reaction, and it felt like a good portion of the crowd was there just to see them. They also mentioned how excited they were to get the chance to open for Ensign, which warmed my NJ heart.
THE LAST STAND
As solid as Silence Equals Death and Live Fast Die Fast were, I was there for The Last Stand and Ensign. First song into The Last Stand, it seemed I might be very much in the minority, but to the band’s credit, as the set went on, the venue filled up, and they got more and more of a reaction. Having seen Mike Scondotto’s other band Inhuman somewhat recently, I think Inhuman have progressed to sounding a lot like The Last Stand, and as The Last Stand has gone on they have gotten a little heavier and a tad more metal, making them sound more like Inhuman. But If I have to pick one, I am gonna go with The Last Stand, just because it is nice to see the guys from Shutdown playing and backing yet another Scondotto band. Also playing as a fill in was Vinnie Value from Warzone and No Redeeming Social Value. Vinnie produced a little bit more weight from the drums, and by the end he seemed to be jumping at his kick petal. It could have just shifted during the song, but I’d like to think he was shooting for extra leverage.
I am not sure what I can say about Ensign. I love them. I am pretty confident at this point I’ve probably been to more Ensign shows than a lot of the people who have played with Tim and Nate over the years. Ensign has recorded some new songs and are playing out a little, which is wonderful because with Dan Brennan on guitar and Derek Reilly on drums, they’ve sounded great and have run so much havoc all over the old songs that they’re almost unrecognizable. It’s like they’ve turned what once were clean surgical attacks ala Sick Of It All into snarling noisy chaotic numbers that sound more akin to Deadguy or Rorschach. The new song they played sounded great and got a good crowd reaction. Ensign even had kids psyched to see them. At one point, the other guy photographing the show put down his camera to dance with the soundman also taking to the dance floor. Ensign shows can be weird like that. Sometimes, they hardly get any reaction, other times, people go crazy. This was much more the latter. If it is only because they’ve been around long enough for young kids to romanticize them, so be it. It’s worth it because to their credit their sound has progressed pretty consistently over the last decade or so, and it’s about time people start recognizing how fucking good they are.
SOCIAL DAMAGE “EYE FOR ANY EYE” 7” EP
(Life To Live & Straight & Alert Records,
Released August 18, 2014)
Ferociously gruff vocals. Hard as fuck guitar work. Heavy tom work on the drums. These are the things that make the hardcore world go round. This also seems to be the pounding pulse of Indianapolis’ straight edge 4 piece SOCIAL DAMAGE. With a style very reminiscent of Negative Approach and early Ceremony this band packs a wallop like a brick. Their 6 song EP “Eye For An Eye”, will make you want to backhand whoever is in front of you when you turn it on and is available on both Straight and Alert Records and Life to Live Records and is definitely worth the purchase… that is if you’re into that good ol' balls to the wall, nasty, badass fast hardcore…. but that’s why you’re here right?
VIOLENT SONS “NOTHING AS IT SEEMS”
(Bridge 9 Records, Released July 2014)
So, I sat and gave two straight listens through to Violent Sons’ debut album “Nothing As It Seems”. Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island this 4 piece delivers a musical barrage similar to Bane and the singer, Sean Murphy’s old band VERSE. Decaying choppy drum beats back up an increasingly dissonant and pseudo-melodic onslaught of guitar work that is definitely what every fan of post-hardcore wants to hear behind monotone yelling. This isn’t exactly my style of hardcore, but I can say honestly that the songs are tightly played and the production on the record is even tighter, which is what you expect from veterans releasing something on a label as well known as Bridge 9. If you’re into post hardcore strap on the low-cut sneakers and empty backpacks and get to two stepping with this in the background.
GORILLA BISCUITS, THE BOUNCING SOULS, TURNSTILE
@ The House Of Vans, Brooklyn, NY July 10, 2014
Review by: Carl Gunhouse
TURNSTILE @ House Of Vans. Photo by: Joseph Carey, JC Photo Media
Man, I would not have gotten into the House Of Vans if I weren’t on the list (thank you Dave). They certainly cut the RSVP line quickly, the list must have been long because when I got in it was only half full inside. Turnstile made the most of the partial crowd they even got the young people dancing hard. I think as for newish moshy hardcore band with rapish vocals and a little melody, my heart only has room for one and it is Turnstile… you can keep your Angel Du$t’s and Cruel Hands, I am good with Turnstile. Also nice to see the House Of Vans running with an extension to the stage that juts over the security barricade and into the crowd for stage diving, which the singer from Krust made ample use of during Turnstile’s set.
THE BOUNCING SOULS @ House Of Vans. Photo by: Joseph Carey, JC Photo Media
Then the mighty Bouncing Souls. I was shocked by the amount of people I knew at the show that weren’t excited for them. When The Bouncing Souls came up in the 90’s they played in NJ with Lifetime a lot and as I recall there were some really good Bouncing Souls, Yuppicide shows in the city. Now granted The Bouncing Souls have progressed into a band that sounds a little like the 80’s power ballads bands they once covered ironically, but they write a hell of a catchy hook and I am more than okay with them sounding like a punk rock version of Richard Marx or at least a punk Bryan Adams. Now a days they seem to play infrequently and mostly larger venues, but I swear those last couple of records are damn good. At the House Of Vans they played a great set that spawned their rather long carrier, but erred reasonably enough on songs from the last decade, the crowd minus cynical old hardcore dudes went crazy for them, even warmed my heart to see kids who were stage diving for Turnstile back at it for The Bouncing Souls.
GORILLA BISCUITS @ House Of Vans. Photo by: Joseph Carey, JC Photo Media
“Start Today” is one of those just utterly perfect hardcore records like “Age Of Quarrel” or “Scratch The Surface”, where there is nothing on the record that is unneeded (and way better than “Break Down The Walls”). To Gorilla Biscuits’ credit they sounded really, really good especially for a band that broke up twenty plus years ago. They played an outstanding set which featured a CIV cover and Mike Judge coming out for “NY Crew”. They were as good as they’ve been over the last couple of years, not sure when age is gonna catch up to them, but until it does I’ll happily pay to see them. Also had a nice moment during “NY Crew” where I found myself signing along up front with my friend Geoff who I went to my first hardcore show with 20 plus years ago. So yeah Gorilla Biscuits were rad, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.
MURPHYS LAW, BORN ANNOYING, HUGE, REAL COPS, KRUST
@ Asbury Lanes, Asbury Park, NJ July 6, 2014
Review and photos by: Carl Gunhouse
On my drive from Brooklyn to Asbury Park to see Murphy’s Law, it crossed my mind that it might be a little silly to make a four-hour round trip to see a band that plays NYC regularly. When I got to the show and found a sign on the door announcing that the show would start an hour later than advertised, I felt downright stupid. But I took a walk on the boardwalk and sat on a bench to watch the ocean, and I started feeling a little better. A couple of songs into Krust’s set, I felt pretty good about my life choices. Krust are a loose, almost sloppy but fun hardcore band that is a mix of a little SoCal punk, a little ska, and a lot of early NYHC. Honestly, they kind of reminded me of a demo era Murphy’s Law. Krust features the lead singer of Blind Justice on guitar and a who’s who of NJ shorecore in the crowd heckling them. They played maybe a six-song set with a Misfits cover. It was exactly what an opening set should be, quick and fun, and it made for wonderful start to the show.
I was also excited to find that Real Cops featured one-time Forward To Death front man and Andy Scarpulla on guitar, a guy who seems to be in every other NJHC band. Real Cops are a wonderful mix of fast straightforward hardcore with a touch of crusty punk, like a United Blood-era Agnostic Front, but a little more Discharge sounding. Where do these NJHC bands keep coming from? It’s like every time I end up at a show down the shore there is another stellar band I’ve never heard of, and why aren’t there more young NYHC bands that sound like this? Am I going to the wrong shows? Why is the NJ shore killing NY? Step up, NY! I am tired of the commute.
Then Russ from Underdog’s newish band Huge played. It was nice to see the godfather of NJ shorecore playing out and getting love from the younger bands in the crowd. Huge plays hardcore punk that is a little too rocking in the bluesy sense for my taste. But they certainly had some crowd response, and Russ was all over the place, dancing it up in the crowd and climbing the divider between the lanes and the stage. They did play a lot of songs, and their set lagged a little, after two bands playing pretty fast hardcore. They did close with a Jim Carroll cover, though, which was pretty rad, so I don’t know. They weren’t bad, just not completely my thing.
After a weirdly long wait, Born Annoying tore it up, getting probably the most people dancing all night. They’re kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. They have great energy, and they feature Mackenzie of Ensign and Staring Problem fame on guitar as well as dudes from shore legends Get Real. There is certainly the ignorant mosh you’d expect from a band featuring people from Get Real, but Born Annoying combines it with an almost unexpectedly complex Gang Of Four disconnected structure that is both a little odd and kind of awesome. Either, way kids danced hard, and I certainly enjoyed myself.
Nice thing about humping to New Jersey for a Murphy’s Law show is the lineup, a stacked bill of young hardcore bands. When my only complaint about a show is getting to see Russ from Underdog tear it up, it's a pretty quality lineup. Now this wasn’t the best Murphy’s Law set I’ve seen over the last year, but they are still in a really good place where the band backing Jimmy is young, skilled and stable. The quality of the backing band shows. The songs are crisp and energetic. But it is Murphy’s Law, so the show started with Jimmy singing with a six-year-old on his shoulders and throwing beer on the crowd. Which was sweet, amazing, and odd, exactly what you’d want from a Murphy’s Law show. But, and here is where things get tough, by the second improvised song made with a six-year-old, it is either terribly charming or a little old. I found myself on the fence, but by the middle of the set, I wished there were more tearing through songs and less joking around with a child. But maybe this is Jimmy’s brilliance. By the end of the set, with a random drunk woman dancing on stage and two small children dumping beer on the crowd, I was pretty sure I was at one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. So I don’t know. I could still do with more new songs and songs off the last two records, but I find it hard to not enjoy Murphy’s Law. You just have to be a little dead inside not to love them.
GREAT REVERSALS “NATURAL BURIAL”
(How Soon Is Now/Hydrogen Records
Released April 22, 2014)
Great Reversals sounds like an early 90’s Dischord band that got hung up on Lovecraft. Which is pretty cool if you like those things and I do. The songwriting eschews traditional chorus, verse, form for a story telling format that for lesser men could be distracting. However, true believers, you are not here, reading this review because you are lesser men. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for decent sloganeering and sing along choruses; I love that shit. I also love when people go out on a limb and challenge people to wrap their minds around something different. As much as I grew up idolizing bands like the Ramones, Misfits and (insert any early punk band that re-wrote the same song, or better yet stole a riff from one of the other bands you just thought of); I love novel ideas and Great Reversal is pretty novel in their approach. Sometimes I like to ponder best case scenarios and in Great Reversals happy ending they keep their hardcore roots, but branch out into a prog-rock/horror direction, leaving all the post-hardcore, horror rocker poseurs in the dust with their experimentally, awesome, heavy and loud record all about, Dagon in the Sea, or the Mountains of Madness. I like the idea of taking the genre in a different direction, making cerebral playgrounds of dark, insane ideas. There are a lot of people in the world trying to make a difference, (or who think they are trying to make a difference) what about the people who want to stare into the bowels of madness and smile, build a summer home, be enveloped by the darkness. They need a voice too, no? Our generation never bore a new Black Sabbath, or even a (new) Misfits, and all the bands that try fail IMHO. Maybe Great Reversals can be the Edger Allen Poe of the hardcore world, why not?
THE BLACK LIPS, NIGHT BEATS, NIGHT BIRDS
@ House Of Vans, Brooklyn, NY. July 3, 2014
House Of Vans shows are free, and that often makes getting in a drag, but for once this was a rather pleasant experience. I got there ten minutes after the doors opened, stood in a five-minute line and no one checked my ticket. They even gave out free seltzer! I am a rather big Night Birds fan, and I have yet to grow tired of their surf-rock-tinged early 80’s hardcore. They’re just off a west coast tour, have two LPs out and just signed to Fat Wreck Chords, which easily makes them the most successful NJHC of the last decade. Well, I guess the Bouncing Souls have also done okay for themselves, but still you get what I am saying. And if you feared that the Night Birds signing to Fat Wreck Chords would mean they would start playing some out of character pop-punk songs, relax. Their set was faster and more intense than I’ve seen them in a while. The downside to things going good for them is that I end up at shows that I otherwise wouldn’t be at, like tonight.
Can’t say I know much about The Black Lips, but from what I heard online, they sounded rocking in a garage rock kind of way and people seem to like them so I was curious to see them. Then the unadvertised Night Beats took the stage and played loud jammy garage rock. As a hint of weed started filling the room, and their songs went on and on, I became hot and tired. I thought about sticking it out for The Black Lips but realized I don’t really like garage rock all that much, and I could still catch the end of the Yankees game. So I headed home. -Carl Gunhouse
NIGHT BIRDS, July 3, 2014. Photo by: Carl Gunhouse
TEST OF TIME “BY DESIGN”
(Bridge Nine Records, Released July 22, 2014)
If you haven’t heard, or aren’t into Test of Time yet, then it’s hard to believe that “By Design” wouldn’t be enough to draw you in for life. It’s a stunning show that this band has it all. They’ve got speed, melody, and some serious versatility. You could very well get addicted to this thing with one listen of “Contingency”. It certainly worked for me. Also, I’ve heard that track about twelve times now. The cool thing though is those vocals. They’re so unique in an odd way. They don’t vent frustration so much as rally the listener, and if there’s one thing the world is lacking, it’s motivation. Hmm, could we get this band their own soapbox at the center of the world? We can box them in and they can amp everyone up. How rad would hardcore festivals be at a venue like that, eh? For all except the boxed up band, it would be fucking ace. No, I’m not high. This is a genuine dream.
The second that a fully fleshed track like the first is done, speed slaps you in the face and then “Timeline” brings that structure you hear at the beginning back. To tell you the truth, there’s not a great deal noteworthy with “Preservation”, but only up until the second half where we get a build up to breaking point with the vocalist’s sentiments to song writing and all the beautiful ways you can vent with it, then that oh so important breaking point smashes you with a maniacal shout that picks it back up for the final speedy seconds. The pace is one thing that this album constantly surprises me with. You could not predict the turns these tracks take. Some of the more structured tracks hit the two minute plus mark, while others like “Change Order” and “Narthex” clock out before they’ve clocked in. “Change Order” is less than twenty five seconds long, and the latter stops short of a minute. The latter is the best track on the album, the way it builds its groove… it is simply spectacular. Damn, I truly can’t get over the speed.
To be fully honest, this album isn’t perfect. Parts sound samey, while others simply have little to no purpose, like “Veneer”. Those acoustics are lovely and break things down to a well needed crawl after a high-sweat sprint, but when the main body kicks in there’s no connection or throwback to it at all. Sorry, lads, but the length of that track doesn’t feel justified, not to mention, the clash of genres takes you right out of the atmosphere.
But what it lacks in consistency it more than makes up for in vibe. Something new is created within each track. The intention of pure punk heaviness is more than clear in “Perspective”, while the strings in place to tug at your emotions are abundant in “Threshold”, and “Avant-Garde” shows that these guys aren’t afraid to slow things down and still retain the hook that draws you in at square one. If you’re into Comeback Kid, Turnstile, Down To Nothing, (or ideally, these collectively are your favorite bands ever) then this could be your dream album, because these vibes are laced good and thick through it all. Woah, did I just compare a self sustainable thing to other things that are also independent forces? Don't worry, “By Design” is refreshing as well as awesome. I want more. Now. Right now.
TENSION* “THE END OF ALL WE KNEW” (Released July 2014)
Long Island NY's Tension* have been at it on and off since the early 1990's and are pretty well known around these parts for their fierce metallic influenced brand of hardcore. Brothers Mike (vocals) and Joe (bass) Rubino have been the backbone for a group that has seen many a dustup in Nassau and Suffolk County mosh pits over this time, more recently with 1776 who the band spun off as a few years back even though they shared most of the same members. I never got Tension* during their earlier years and it wasn't until a 1776 show in 2012 that I had my eyes opened as their singer had a lot of interesting things to say on stage and then on their “One Nation Under Attack” LP about things going on in modern day America. Whether you agree or disagree there is a lot of information coming at you from these guys and now that 1776 has essentially gone back to being Tension* that message has carried over. I don't expect everyone to follow the history lesson of these bands I just tried to lay out but let it be known that the music they play is some of the most skull stomping metalcore your gonna find anywhere and that's coming from a guy who thinks a lot of this genre should be pushed off a cliff into the ocean.
Things start off with an eerie intro of spoken word talking about the end of the world/end of times and leads into the title track which is a straight up stomper. The combo of the intro into that first track is a good 6 minutes long and gives off a "big album" feel as if you were digging into some late 80's metal shit with some real wicked artwork that would make you feel uncomfortable if your mom found it in your room...oh wait... this does have a wicked cover that your mom probably would try to throw out. A big selling point for me is that singer Mike Rubino doesn't fall into the category of singers who can't sing in this genre. I can make out most of what he is singing as he spares us the inaudible grunts and growls that makes me dislike many other bands that play this style.
The album rolls along with a slew of tracks that hit hard musically... "Next To Never", "The Sitcom", and "Split Second Warfare" which are all stacked together towards the front end of this 11 song, 37 minute affair. The band said initially that this will be their last release and contains previously unrecorded Tension* tracks as well as redone 1776 songs and ties everything together rather well if this indeed the band's last hoorah. Not perfect as there are some just ok tracks mixed in here and there but the songs that hit... hit fucking hard. "Seasons In the Abyss" ends things up on that Slayer vibe and if this is their last dance then why not ride off into the sunset paying tribute to Mr. Araya and crew in style.
BREAKDOWN, SUB-ZERO, WHITE WINDOW PACT, HEAVY CHAINS, MANIPULATE
@ St. Vitus, Brooklyn, NY June 20, 2014
I love that there are shows right down the street from my apartment. I got to go to a bunch of art openings and still made it to the show. I am a little bummed to have missed Heavy Chains, whom I’ve heard good things about, but I did get there in time for White Widow Pact and was pleasantly surprised how much I liked them. They are a band tailored-made for Saint Vitus’s reputation as a hipster metal bar. They play metal, but along the lines of Power Trip or Nails, where the song structure has build-ups and mosh parts, but under a layer of noise and guitar work, which screams metal at its finest.
It feels like I was just at Saint Vitus for Fahrenheit 451, and it was good to be back for Subzero, yet another mid-90’s hardcore stalwarts. I was hoping to be home at a reasonable hour to get some sleep, so I was initially a little annoyed by Sub-Zero’s last minute addition to the show. I also couldn’t quite remember how much I had liked Sub-Zero. I remember them playing a metally brand of hardcore that isn’t always my favorite, and being a band from the 90’s, I felt there was a strong chance they would be the worse for wear. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed their set, definitely a little metal in there and maybe a tad slower then I remember them, but the crowd was into them, people went off, the band was all over the place and surprisingly I remembered the lyrics to many of their songs. And I couldn’t help but think how many new bands sound a lot like a watered-down version of Subzero. Hats off to them. They still have it.
SUB-ZERO @ St. Vitus June 20, 2014. Photo by: Carl Gunhouse
But I was at the show for one thing, and that was Breakdown. I love late 80’s NYHC, and it’s a tough call for me between who I like better, Killing Time or Breakdown. So I was psyched for Breakdown, featuring the first demo lineup of Killing Time with Jeff from Breakdown singing. But to tell you the truth, I miss the Breakdown of my youth. I might be in the minority here, but there is a little part of me that spent most of the show wanting to request “Squeegee Man” and “Street Fight”. That said, it’s pretty rad seeing the original Breakdown lineup. Just those sprinklings of metal guitar work in the mini solos that scream Brightside-era Killing Time is like a future that never was. Needless to say, Breakdown was awesome, people went off, it was a who’s who of 90’s hardcore, the whole night had a Coney Island High feel. All the show needed was Sid X DJ-ing and Sean Dixon working security. Good times indeed. -Carl Gunhouse.
Breakdown @ St. Vitus, June 20, 2014. Photo by: Carl Gunhouse
MADBALL “HARDCORE LIVES”
(The Black N Blue Lable, Released July 4, 2014)
2014 has delivered in a huge way up to this point with heavy hitters in the world of hardcore dropping new albums and a few more coming down the pike real soon. Up next is Madball who have been in the game and doing their thing for ages. I will go on record and say I have always liked what Madball has done and have a crazy amount of respect for what they do for hardcore but at the same time they never had that "holy fuck this is one of my favorite records ever" release... that is up until now with this 14 song (17 songs with the bonus tracks) piece of hardcore nirvana.
We start off with the aptly named "Intro" which is one of those old school minute plus instrumentals that bands used to bust out as the opening song to their live sets. The choppy drum beat and guitar hook sucks you right in within seconds. If you are not at least nodding your head at this point you may be a lost cause. This intro leads into the title track which is another banger musically but after listening in more closely to the lyrics you start noticing that Freddy is incorporating a ton of references to other hardcore bands whether by name or lyrics... "Why am I going insane...I got an attitude and some brains...hard times came our way... the warzone was on Avenue A" is just one line in a song that is full of references to bands from yesterday and today. Infiltrate.
As we move along we run into the track "Doc Martin Stomp" which slows things down some and has more of a melodic feel with a chorus that has this amazing hook. Think back to the old Madball classic "Pride" a little to get an idea. It's more of a mid-paced track and goes a long way in showcasing the fact that there is diversity within the 30 plus minutes of new music we are given. It's also the best track on an album which is stacked from start to finish with really no dead weight to speak of. "Nothing To Me", and "The Balance" round out the first 5 songs and deliver one of the most adrenaline laced starts to an album that you can possibly get. Up next is "True School" which has Scott Vogel from Terror as a guest vocalist and is one of three tracks that has a guest with the others being "My Armor" (with Toby Morse of H2O) and "Born Strong" (with Candace from Walls Of Jericho). "Mi Palabra" (which translates to My Word in English) is yet another Madball track sung in Spanish and "NBNC" (No Body, No Crime) is a 27 second burst that has their guitarist Mitts on vocals. "The Beast" is a holdover from 2012's "Rebellion" EP and pretty much cements this album as something people will be listening to and talking about years from now as Madball got just about every aspect of this album right. Songs with heart, songs with passion, songs with a message...and also one of the coolest album covers I have seen in quite some time. Hardcore does live in 2014 and Madball just showed you why.
# HASHTAG HARDCORE ZINE
(Issue #3, Released July 2014)
Everyone's favorite Dutch DIY zine is back with their 3rd installment. This time around Daan teams up with Mind Over Matter Zine and this is actually 2 zines in one. As you are flipping through the pages of Hashtag the Mind Over Matter Zine is stapled in and it's like one big zine. The combination of the two brings us a shit ton of reading material which has been the case with the previous two issues. Overall we get interviews with Cornered, Stick Together, True Blue, No Warning, Redemption Denied, Integrity and Die. Hashtag is a cut and paste hodgepodge with reviews, pictures and editorials abound and at every turn. The layout itself is one of its best attributes and has a way of making you go back and look for reviews and articles you may have missed the first time through. The lineup of the bands listed didn't get my panties as wet as earlier issues but Daan and Hashtag just has a way of keeping you interested with sincere reviews and thoughts that tell you how he really feels and it's damn refreshing. A perfect example is in his contact area it states: “Labels: Stop sending me your digital download links. I don't even know how that works, and I won't review your shit anyways”. That real talk style is great as you get a feel that you are not reading a fanzine but rather shooting the shit with your friend. As always Hashtag comes highly recommended and although it may be a pain to track down for people outside of Europe it is a must have for any zine-a-holics.
ZERO PROGRESS “Chain Godz Tour 2014” July 16, 2014
@ No Fun Club, Island Park, NY
A Wednesday night in the back room of a carpet store on Long Island with Cali's Zero Progress and Indiana's Social Damage? Sure, why the hell not. This was the No Fun Club's grand finale going in to the night and I got there just before The Fanboys (from neighboring Long Beach) went on. The place is small... and I mean really small. Imagine a show in your basement but with a high ceiling. With the members of all the bands counted there had to be maybe 50 or so people in and around the entrance which was in the back of a lowly lit parking lot. The room the bands played in was all concrete and the sound just bounced off the walls creating one of the loudest shows I could remember. Just a few songs into The Fanboys' set 3 or 4 Nassau County Fire Marshals walked in and everything just went in the shitter. Within 2 minutes the show was done and within maybe 10 minutes things started getting a little hairy. I'm not in the fire marshal biz but I would say it's a safe bet to say the way the place was set up with only one visible exit that it was a warranted shut down but at the same time I have personally been in a lot worse places to see a show. After telling everyone to get out (majority of people left) some folks in the bands playing tried to take their amps/gear back out to their cars/vans which resulted in a bunch of yelling and threats of fines etc. ZP singer “The Champ” was told not to leave by a marshal and when he asked if he was under arrest they couldn't say yes or no so ZP and Social Damage (who were sharing a van for this tour) left and a big gathering happened a few blocks away in the parking lot of a Walgreens. Social Damage seem like good peoples and after trolling their Bandcamp page they seem like a really good old school sounding band and Zero Progress are... well... “The Champions Of Hardcore”. .. pun intended since that is the name of their upcoming 13 song debut full length due out real soon. The show on this night may have ended like a bad relationship but after hanging with the bands who have members probably half my age in some cases it is really cool to see how the DIY ethic still rules how hardcore goes about its business. Some things haven't changed. Check out Social Damage and Zero Progress’ music below.
TIMEBOMB “NO VALUES” EP
(Harvcore Records, Release Date August 5, 2014)
Timebomb’s new EP is a raw and addictive hardcore experience, and sure, hardcore has endless examples of just that, but hey, why would you not want more of that shit? Especially with the crisp crunch of the distortion and bass. “Trap Doors” for instance is a fine collection to my ever-growing list of tracks that play incessantly in my head regardless of whether I want them to or not. It starts fast, the muted crash symbol build up an exciting sound that’ll be the spark that ignites the carnage at many a gig, and that riff is so simple and cool that it makes my head explode. Oh, let’s do one of those band sweeping comparison things, they’re cool. Take Tokyo’s As We Let Go and sprinkle them with Naysayer and the vocals of Blkout, then take some of that old school style shit, such as Stick Together and The Rival Mob, and maybe even the lightest touch of that Heathens madness. For simple songs, they’re pretty detailed. The intro is a stylish headbanger that casts a shadow of the intensity you’re about to hear. Unlike a lot of hardcore intros, this one is distinctive, and leads nicely into “Pulled Under”, a track I can imagine being screamed by the audience collectively, particularly towards the final third when the gang shouts begin. If the opening wasn’t enough to take you back to the 90’s, then “Love In Bloom” will certainly do the job, and “No Values” will take you up another level still. The latter starts with a bang, and keeps on banging. Headbanging, that is, though dipping my wick to the sound of this track sounds like one thing at least in this life that I could enjoy. That climactic final thirty seconds when things smash and slam and then end abruptly? Yeah, seems too realistic to be true, don’t it? Damn good show, boys. This is another to keep an ear on. To bluntly sum things up, they’re fucking good. Read more about Timebomb on the Fresh Blood page of this site now!
TRAP THEM “BLISSFUCKER”
(Prosthetic Records, Released June 10, 2014)
Jazz is a variation on a theme; the players start out, get a groove going and everyone
riffs on it for a while until they come back to the centralized idea. Trap Them, is an amalgamation of HxC punk rock, N.W.O.B.H.M (new wave of British heavy metal) and utter hopelessness. It’s a motif they continue to mine and mine very, very well. While most extreme bands go for brutality, speed or heaviness, these guys are almost cinematic with their approach to pulverizing braincases. Everything they do has an air of epic despair and panic-stricken madness that evokes images of apocalyptic landscapes. To put it bluntly: they sound like an army of rabid howler monkeys with itchy trigger fingers and Uzis having been released from their cages realizing that revenge is at hand. “Salted Crypts” is a foreboding entrance that starts as a funeral procession and builds to a massacre. “Habitland” follows it up with blast beats that are meant to leave bruises and potentially induce internal bleeding. Much like their last offering the awesome, “Darker Handcraft”; “Blissfucker”, delivers on all the stock and trade themes we’ve come to expect from these dudes. A nearly flawless album that has one drawback: the mix is terrible. The vocals are buried and the whole thing sounds a little off. Maybe the point was for the record to sound like a tape that had been dubbed 100 times and handed down from kid to kid in order to spread the word. What the hell do I know? They didn’t ask my opinion when they mixed it; if they had I would have told them to turn that shit up. Over all an awesome record that I would recommend listening to at full blast on your i-Pod after having waited in line at the D.M.V for 2 hours; the inevitable reaction should be enough to get you to the front of the line or in a jail cell. Either way, progress!
FAHRENHEIT 451, SHAI HALUD, ZOMBIE FIGHT, THE CONFLICTED @ Saint Vitus, Brooklyn, NY June 7, 2014
I decided to go to the earlier Rival Mob show and got to Saint Vitus just in time to miss Zombie Fight’s set, and for that I apologize. Zombie Fight is pretty awesome and was half of why I was at the show. Missing Zombie Fight did not put me in a good mood for Shai Hulud. I was never a fan, but what happened to Shai Hulud? I assume there are people who know. I once saw them open for H2O at CBGB’s, and at the time I remember thinking they were a popular, but unspectacular mid-tempo’d little metally, hardcore band. Then I could swear they got really big and gained a hard-to-read metal font. As with like lots of bands I wasn’t that into, I completely forgot they existed. The next thing I know, they’re playing ABC-No Rio and opening for Fahrenheit 451. Not that that's bad, but I thought they were huge and I have no idea how they got to this point. They did sound like the same mid-tempo’d 90’s hardcore with a little metal that I remembered. Not bad, but nothing special. To Shai Hulud’s credit though, they had some very enthused fans in the crowd, which the singer energetically corralled into sing-alongs by running all over the dance floor.
As much as I was uninterested in Shai Hulud, I was psyched for Fahrenheit 451. So many of the bands I loved in the 90’s don’t hold up anymore or are playing as shells of their previous glory. But hot damn, for a band that plays every couple of years, Fahrenheit 451 sounded tight, and their songs still sound great. Which is really impressive because sometimes-rappy, occasionally melodic 90’s hardcore seems like it should age terribly. Fahrenheit 451 has done a wonderful job of balancing those divergent aspects of their sound with such skill and confidence that they meld seamlessly. It’s also nice to see Fahrenheit 451 headlining shows with large sing-alongs. I am not sure I remember this much of a reaction for them before they stopped playing out, so it’s nice to see they’ve maintained a following, if not gained more of one. As I remember, they also broke up right after recording a bunch of songs that pushed the band musically, that they never really got to play out a lot, so it’s nice to get to see those songs live. Also they did some covers, which reminds me, new bands, why no covers? Who doesn’t like a cover here and there? Also nice to see old 90’s era NYHC faces representing, like the guest vocals from Tom from Indecision and Kenny and Vaughn from Strong Management in the pit. Based on this show, I would also like to see a Stillsuit and Shift reunion, internet & Black N Blue Bowl can possibly make this happen?. Thank you.
FAHRENHEIT 451 JUNE 7, 2014. Photo by: Carl Gunhouse
THE RIVAL MOB, BLACKLISTED, GIVE, STICK TOGETHER, NO TOLERANCE WORLD WAR 4, DISENGAGE @ Le Poisson Rouge, NYC June 7, 2014
Disengage’s mid-paced youth crew hardcore started The This Is Ian Dickson’s Birthday Fest. They were enthusiastic, a little sloppy, but generally had some real energy and a pocket of enthused fans. Disengage features the singer from Stick Together on bass, and Disengage’s singer plays guitar in Stick Together. If I am not wrong every band on the bill might have consisted of the same eight people.
The all-powerful World War 4 was next up and on a little early for my liking. They feature Porter and Bill from Floorpunch, the bassist from Give, No Tolerance and The Rival Mob, or four of the six bands playing. I told you, the whole show was really just eight dudes rotating bands. World War 4 is going on their second demo and as one might expect, it sounds like Floorpunch, but a little bit more metal in a Leeway kind of way, maybe not as tight yet, but I have yet to find anything to dislike about them. If you like hardcore, then there is no reason not to like World War 4.
Last year’s Rival Mob show at 285 Kent had an almost identical lineup as this show, so No Tolerance, whom I’ve never seen, was a real highlight of the night. Last year’s Rival Mob show, like this one, featured a lot of bands that were good but similar, and after a while the bands started to blend together. No Tolerance, like Floorpunch at their height, don’t reinvent the wheel with their straight-ahead moshy hardcore, they just do it better than most. They actually remind me a little of Violent Reaction, so yeah, good fast hardcore. No Tolerance, hailing from Boston, somehow featured the guitarist and bassist
of DC’s Give. Again, eight people doing a six-band bill, and now that I think about it, the singer of No Tolerance might have been drumming for World War 4.
Like Disengage, Stick Together, who share members with Disengage, also hail from Wilkes-Barre, PA. Stick Together play solid mid-tempoed hardcore, probably the slowest band on the bill up until this point in the show, and they’re not that slow. I guess that is my point, Stick Together wasn’t crazy fast and weren’t as moshy as World War 4 and No Tolerance, and they suffered from following similar bands that were a little better. The audience thinned a little during their set, and being the fourth band in, I was starting to tire and check my phone for the time, because I was still hoping to catch Fahrenheit 451 later in the night at Saint Vitus. Stick Together aren’t bad, I just liked the two preceding bands a lot better.
Stick Together also suffered from being on right before Give, which could easily be one the best reasons to still be listening to hardcore. If you go to enough shows and see enough bands, things start to sound the same. Inevitably bands start sounding like older bands you liked a lot more. Things get stale. And when hardcore changes, it often ends up with people rapping, or metal or, for a dark, dark period, rap metal. But God bless Give. They don’t sound like anyone around, while at the same time reminding me of a lot of things I love about hardcore. It could be that Give’s singer, John, keeps wearing a Nirvana hat, and that I am currently reading an oral history of grunge, but there is a part of me that thinks their revolution-summer-hardcore-meets-rock is transferring into something akin to Mudhoney. The guy from Verbal Assault was in Belly. I think it is totally possible that they end up sounding like a more hardcore version of a Sup Pop band. They have a self-released LP coming out, as well as a 12” EP on Revelation, you should get it, because Give is awesome, and years from now when they’re broken up, people are gonna love the shit out of them.
Give might have been a tad out of place musically with the preceding bands on the show, despite seeming to have members in every band that had played. But they were a nice transfer into the now decidedly experimental period of Blacklisted, which currently features the drummer of Stick Together. Blacklisted played some fast songs to start their set, people went off, but seemed to quickly transfer into some slower, more experimental songs with musical interludes that in no way could qualify as mosh parts. I am not sure I was ever that into Blacklisted. I saw them open for Ceremony a couple years back at the Cake Shop, and they were fun. But their set tonight lagged a little, not bad, but not great either. Crowd seemed to have a mixed reaction to the slower jams, though they did have a noticeable female following up front, so that’s cool.
THE RIVAL MOB IN NYC JUNE 7, 2014. Photo by: Carl Gunhouse
And finally, The Rival Mob. They’re just one of those bands that there is no way you shouldn’t love by now. They play straightforward fast hardcore with a little punk mixed in. Just a damn good band. Being from Boston, I have a hard time not thinking they might just be a better version of Slapshot with a sense of humor. They do have amusing songs about population control and eating the rich. Kids went off, and they clearly got the best response of the night. They’ve had a record out on Revelation for a year, and I hope people continue to get into them, because I am all for more bands sounding like The Rival Mob. And as stated earlier, members of The Rival Mob are also in World War 4, No Tolerance and Give.