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URBAN STYLES- GRAFFITI IN NEW YORK HARDCORE; BOOK (Diwulf Publishing, Author: Freddy Alva, Released October, 2017)
For decades, the New York Hardcore music scene has had this unique parallel with the outlaw world of graffiti. In many circles graffiti is looked at as something strictly associated with rap/hip-hop music and author Freddy Alva is here with his first ever book to give an example or two to the contrary while showing how some of the core figures of the NYHC scene were (and in some cases still are) just as comfortable controlling a fat cap as they are a microphone or a guitar. My first impression here was... damn this shit is heavy! When you pick up this book it feels like a brick with over 300 pages and TONS of full color photos/graphics. There is absolutely no skimping here as the look and feel of this just screams quality as you leaf through this thing.
A pretty long introduction sets up what was going on in New York City in the late 1960's into the 1970's to get a feel for how graffiti spread like a wildfire that was pretty much impossible to stop at the time. From there Urban Styles takes on the look and feel of a fanzine on steroids as they roll out an all-star cast of people who were intricate parts of both worlds. Early on we are introduced to Mackie from the Cro-Mags (HYPER), Louie Gasparro (KR.ONE) who drummed for Blitzspeer, Murphy's Law and Lordz Of Brooklyn, and Chris B (NOW) also known for his intensity with his bands Everybody Gets Hurt and Fit Of Anger. The Q&A format reveals lots of stories from days gone by including how these young (mostly urban) kids got their start, made their mark, and how they also feel about the street art movement of today among a slew of other topics. Gavin Van Vlack (NATZ) of Burn, Djinji Brown (PHOE/DRUMS) of Absolution, and Chaka Malik, (EXPO), also of Burn are all recognizable names and faces within the NYHC scene and all have some interesting things to add to the pot here as does Crown Of Thornz' EZEC, Terminal Confusion drummer VOYER and DMS founding member JERE.
Beyond the band members featured here there are a slew of writers linked to NYHC who were not in bands and made their mark either through artwork for bands, zines or just being that guy who had their name on everything everywhere you went. Their inclusion adds another layer to a book that was very well thought out and executed to near perfection. Urban Styles is a one of a kind, unique look at two underground subcultures that years ago somehow collided and have been linked together ever since. Once I got going I steamrolled through the 300 plus pages in just about 3 days as this was extremely hard to put down. Kudos to my long- time friend and fanzine mentor Freddy Alva on a job well done here as this had to be an exhausting task to see though to the end.
SPIDER CREW "SOUNDS OF HATRED"
(WTF Records, Released September, 2017)
I've seen/known of the name SPIDER CREW for a while and to be honest... until I recently contacted the band I was a little confused as to what exactly these guys were all about. Was Spider Crew a band? Was it a hardcore crew? Two singers, one originally from NY, now living in California and the rest of the band residing in Vienna, Austria. How could this arrangement even work for touring etc, right? I love a good back story and Spider Crew seems to have more than a couple with this being their 7th record since their formation which happened way back when we were worrying if the Y2K bug was going to wipe us all off the face of the planet.
"Six Feet Deep" opens up "Sounds Of Hatred" with a sound bite of "Putting On The Ritz"... a song that has been covered numerous times since its debut in the 1920's... and quite honestly a real eye (and ear) opener to start things off. When you are expecting some crazy hardcore music to start playing and you are greeted with a jazz song from almost 100 years ago it definitely catches your attention. Its a few seconds later when the guitars kick in along with the dual vocal attack where things get fun as Spider Crew shows the first hints of what lies ahead on this 12 song 30 plus minute epic. On the first few runs through this I am thinking Wisdom In Chains, Rotting Out and even "For My Family" style Agnostic Front as Spider Crew has this really cool blend sporting obvious NYHC influences along with more of a street punk type of thing with plenty of oooooh's and ahhhhh's to sing along to. It's common for albums to start off with one of the stronger tracks so I wanted to see if "All In Me" (track 2) could follow up on the stremph. This track kicks off with some catchy gang style group vocals and delivers a ton of melody while maintaining the overall "hard" vibe that is present throughout this album. As I've gotten deeper and deeper into this album with repeated listens I have been impressed with how Spider Crew does not repeatedly carbon copy themselves. "Sounds Of Hatred" has a certain feel to it throughout but they do enough deviating along the way to keep this a fresh listen from start to finish. Some songs have guitar solos, others do not, some songs follow the already mentioned street punk type vibe while others are more smash and bash at break neck speed. The majority of the tracks have catchy hooks and are well written on a whole. With many releases within the genre these days being 10 minute and under EP's this really stands out as an impressive offering for not just the quality but also the length of this release. Other notes of interest here include guest vocals from Jorge from Merauder, Craig from Sick Of It All, Bob Riley from Stigmata and Dominik Hadek from Companion on various songs. The dual vocals from Sean and Mike work well and although both are distinguishable in their style they are not polar opposites sound wise and there were times where I wasn't even thinking there was more than one singer. Spider Crew really snuck up on me here, caught me off guard and drops one of the stronger releases sent in to us this year. Check this out!
BERTHOLD CITY “MOMENT OF TRUTH” DEMO
(Released July, 2017)
So yeah......I have a soft spot for Los Angeles Hardcore. No big whoop. When I was involved with Malfunction Records we put out some of my favorite hardcore punk from that mighty city. Oh, did I mention it was straightedge hardcore punk? The edge...I've never had it, and I never will, but I've always loved the bands and was honored to put out some great bands like LA's own Internal Affairs. Needless to say I was psyched to receive this 3 song limited edition cassette for review by Los Angeles straight edge band, Berthold City. I'm not sure what the name means, but it’s a font, so there's that.
The demo starts with "Moment Of Truth" at a brisk 2:08. Actually first comes a short musical interlude which is a clip from Gang Starr's "Moment Of Truth". Alright, these boys droppin' some flavor, nice choice, you got me....I'm in… word. Chung Chung...the guitar kicks in and I am expecting someone to shout "WE'RE BACK!!!" Well you don't get that but you get everything else you want from a short fast straight edge tune. Crisp, clear, musicianship coupled with strong vocals. Of course there is a kickass breakdown...in every song. When the singer shouts, "OPEN YOUR FUCKIN EYES!" You may just smash your iPhone. Be careful, those jonks are expensive. The second song is "Left For Dead" at an anemic 1:24. A fast galloping hardcore tune with bullet-fire drums. This one culminates in another opportunity to destroy some of your fellow show goers in the pit or trinkets on the shelves in your bedroom. The final song is "I've Had Enough" at 2:10, the epic of this demo. This one starts off a little more rock and roll until these boys have had fucking enough. Then it changes pace in to the fast lane until it crashes into the breakdown lane. Gang shouts of "I'VE HAD ENOUGH.....I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!!! Shit..... I want more.
There you have it. Three straight edge jams in about 6 minutes. Sandwiched between a nice Gang Starr clip and a small nod to Alone In A Crowd. If you like the edge then this is not going to disappoint. This is not going to surprise you with insane song structure and indulgent solos. This is the straight dope delivered on the edge of a razor. Nobody is trying to reinvent the wheel here and that's what I appreciate most. This is some good shit. Check it out punks.
FROM TH HEART “MAKE IT LAST”
(WTF Records, Released October, 2017)
Inspired by classic hardcore (especially from New York) and giving their own unique European twist on proceedings much like brilliant Euro hardcore bands like Rykers, Kickback and Born From Pain, Rotterdam’s From The Heart return with their long awaited latest offering. The album, entitled “Make It Last” follows their previous opus, 2014’s “Leave It All Behind” and sees their powerful sound emerge bigger than ever and even more assured as it isn’t long at all before this is proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. An instrumental intro starts the album off and just as the intro of “We Gotta Know” announces the chaos to come on “Age Of Quarrel”, the tension before the music erupts teetering on a knife edge in classic hardcore fashion, the intro that begins “Make It Last” has a similar feeling. This is evident with its killer bassline that opens the album up with that same tense feeling that prevails and announces the chaos to come.
You don’t have to wait long for it to come either, with the next song “Passion” (a song that sums up the ethos of From The Heart to the fullest) exploding in a righteous storm of anger and pride and of course, the passion of the songs subject matter. Things don’t let up from then on, with the breakneck hardcore of “King Of The Hill” and the mid-paced fury of “Out Of The Game” setting the bar high early on and the album gets even better as it goes on and it is pleasing to see just how confident From The Heart are as a band as they plow through the tracks.
“Self-Destruct” carries things on nicely with a succession of breakdowns bolstering the bouncy but brawny nature of the song while “Your Hate” is evident in its subject matter and delivery. “Empty Words And Empty Hearts” and “Stronger” are hard hitting anthems that see the band playing at full force and playing from the heart with both of these songs made for pit singalongs. “My Revenge” (with its venomous “Liar” and “You are the one to blame” refrains) sees the band unleashing hell in the most murderous aural form and sets the album’s conclusion up nicely with the in this moment nature and throwback baiting nature of The Good Old Days (“Time will pass and some things will never change” being a memorable lyric) before “In This Together” rounds things up nicely with its passionate fury and glorious message of friendship, people sticking together and making a stand.
Just like NYHC icons Sick Of It All, who titled one of their most loved albums “Built To Last” (a title that definitely begins From The Heart), a testimony built on their refusal to never, ever, give up, even when faced with the toughest adversity, “Make It Last” sums up the spirit that From The Heart possess and they sound like they’re having one hell of a blast as they make it through and this album is a continuation of a great hardcore band doing what they love and sounding immense doing just that.
METH BREATH/PSO Split 7"
(Safe Inside Records, Release Date December 11, 2017)
Hell Fucking Yeah! to Meth Breath (San Diego) and PSO (Lemon Grove, CA) as well as Safe Inside Records (also San Diego) for getting together and breathing some fresh air into hardcore punk with this 5 song split 7".
First up is Meth Breath. Catchy name. The fact they are a straight edge band makes it more interesting. I've heard their name before and have seen their name on flyers but this is my first introduction to them musically. "Intro/Nothing From Us" kicks shit off with a throwback style intro that absolutely crushes. The choppy intro builds for about a minute before the vocals join in. I could easily envision this song being played live at a late 80's CBGB matinee and the crowd just going ballistic for them as they totally would have fit in. The "tinny" (not tiny) guitar sound is in line with many of the bands of that era as well. "M.E.F.M" and "Worlds Apart" are their other 2 tracks and do not disappoint. "M.E.F.M" is one of those blast you and run type of tracks at just 38 seconds and "Worlds Apart" delivers more of that mosh inducing shit with choppy beats, fast parts and choruses made to hand the mic off to whoever wants to step up and scream "WORLDS APART" at the top of their lungs.
PSO is up against it here with Meth Breath making a great first impression with their 3 tracks. Nobody wants to get smoked on a split record but I got faith in these Prescott boys as we've dealt with them before here at In Effect with an interview 2 years back. In that interview we found out that their lineup originally consisted of 4 brothers who got into punk rock and skate boarding from their dad. How fucking cool is that? Here we find PSO dropping two new ones in "To Whom It May Concern" and "Real Recognizes Real". Earlier I raved about the Meth Breath intro and now here comes PSO with their own throwback NYHC influenced one at the start of "To Whom It May Concern" which also runs about a minute before the vocals kick in. Hardcore these days is so heavily influenced by metal and hearing both of these bands delivering real throwback style hardcore punk is just so fucking refreshing to these ears. PSO delivers speed, some breakdowns, sing-a-long opportunities and some melody to boot. Love what they did here as this is my favorite track of the 5. "Real Recognizes Real" runs just short of 2 minutes in length and serves up more of the same minus the devastating intro.
Both bands simply bring it. Neither does anything groundbreaking or overly original so why did I like it so much is what I kept asking myself and what came through was the passion. When I listened to this over and over I could almost see the sweat... feel the energy. By today's standards the actual recordings by both bands here are sub-par but that just added even more soul to a split where the energy seems to explode out of my speakers. Back when I got into this music my friends often would make cassette mixes of new bands and as each copy was made and passed along it would lose just a little of the original sound and the feel here is very similar to that. For fans of the old, the new and what is to come. Check this shit out! Wait for the vinyl in early December or grab it via download by following the Bandcamp link below.
DOWN FOR LIFE MAGAZINE (Issue #4, Fall, 2017)
This Down For Life mag out of the UK keeps churning out issues on a regular basis and has now gotten up to their 4th issue. This full color, full sized read contains 100 pages of hardcore madness and leans on the bigger names within the genre but also has shorter articles and segments that shed light on more up and coming acts. With it being impossible for a print magazine to compete with internet websites that can post news moments after a press release hits Down For Life has to be resourceful and come up with ways to get people interested in dropping down 5 Euros or whatever they are using for currency these days on that side of the Atlantic.
A quick glance over the latest cover has an eye catching photo of the Bad Brains with an accompanying article and more from Hatebreed, Quicksand, Roger Miret, Poison Idea, Trapped Under Ice, No Warning, Propagandhi and TONS more. There are a lot of advertisements within the 100 pages... which I like but let it be known that space is not wasted as each turn of the page crams in as much info as possible. If you are like me when you first get your grubby hands on this you will not know where to turn first. It takes a long while to even to try and complete reading this cover to cover… something that I must admit I have not completed with any of the 4 issues. In my teen years I would often flip through metal magazines similar to Down For Life in hopes of finding a rare article or two on hardcore bands I was into and now in 2017 there is an entire magazine dedicated to it. The staff (which includes myself with a short scene report each issue) is embedded in and dedicated to the hardcore scene which means you are getting the info direct from people going to the shows, in the bands, and basically who are Down For Life as corny as that fucking sounds. I doubt many of the mainstream music websites that seem to simply "check in" on what's going on with hardcore bands from time to time can make that same claim.
Down For Life covers mostly US and European hardcore with all the staples you'd expect including news and reviews. The layout crushes and they always have tons of amazing full color photos. The lone complaint so far has been distribution outside of Europe as many of my fellow Americans have showed interest in grabbing copies but outside of mail order we are left with Barnes and Noble. To get to that next level kicking down the door to the US market should be a top priority and hopefully that's something that is resolved in the near future. Hopefully the momentum on this still new publication keeps building and its importance within the world of hardcore music grows with each issue.
DAGGER S/T EP (Released May, 2017)
Some would argue that the internet has hurt hardcore, and in some ways these people are correct. However, one thing is certain; we now have access to music, friendships, and scenes we never would have known about otherwise. No band represents these three principles in a better way than Dagger. From the remnants of King Ly Chee, Dagger's premiere offering comes in the form of a 6 track self-titled record which is one hell of an intro for this Hong Kong based outfit. Dagger has not only produced some killer music, but they have helped immensely to rejuvenate the scene they come from through the advent of Unite Asia, an online community based on showcasing the growing, powerful, yet often overlooked Asian Hardcore Scene. Even as I sit in my computer chair in Delaware, USA, I can check the Unite Asia Facebook page and see what's happening in the Asian scene halfway around the world – thanks in large part to frontman Riz Farooqi. Beyond fostering a scene for other bands to thrive in, Dagger are cranking out barn burners of their own. With stomping force, their self-titled first record hits hard from start to finish. From bouncing bass lines, quick two steps and heavy breakdowns, a number of the tracks have an almost Madball-ish 'Set It Off' vibe. From the gate, you can tell that Dagger are set on showing the world just who they are; with the first track titled “Dagger” being pretty much a 2 minute breakdown just to get your ear holes loosened up for the rest of the album. The music stays consistently heavy through the whole record without feeling repetitive or stale; it's all really straight forward, in your face, punching guitars and drums which I really like. The vocals on this one are really refreshing as well. The first time I listened, I expected something similar to King Ly Chee (which would have been rad too!), as there are multiple members who appear in both bands, but what I got was a new flavor all around! It takes real talent and passion to switch it up and accomplish a new sound the way Dagger has. This release crushes, and I would really like to see Dagger make the jump across the Pacific for some US dates! For anyone hesitant to pick up an international release because of a potential language barrier – fear not! - the lyrics are in English and the song writing is better than a wide swath of western bands, so get over to their Bandcamp and give this one a listen!
DANNY DIABLO “THE CRACKSON HEIGHTS PROJECT”
(Force 5 Records, Released October, 2017)
If you were to ask the average person in the hardcore scene if they know the name Dan Singer, they most likely would shrug their shoulders and tell you "no". Now mention Lord Ezec to those same people and you will get a totally different answer. Dan Singer aka Lord Ezec has been a staple in the New York Hard Core scene since the mid-80’s. Involved in everything from being Sick Of It All's roadie in 1992; to fronting iconic bands Crown Of Thornz; Skarhead and more recently The Wilding Incident; to putting together his annual DiabloFest in NYC and the list goes on. A larger than life figure in the scene, molded by the violent streets of NYC, who lives and breathes NYHC; the borough of Queens and the DMS crew. To borrow the famous line from those TV infomercials.. "but wait there's more"… as there is another alias… Danny Diablo the hip-hop artist.
Diablo "The Queens Killa" has been dropping his brand of hip-hop since first appearing on the song “D.R.E.A.M.” by the Transplants in the early 2000’s and since then has continued to take off as a solo artist as a member of various groups and the owner of Ill Rock Records. This is the first time In Effect Hardcore has reviewed any hip-hop and honestly who is more deserving of this than Danny Diablo? His latest hip-hop release is titled “The Crackson Heights Project”, which is a play on words referencing the Jackson Heights section of Queens where Diablo was raised. “The Crackson Heights Project” contains 13 tracks led by Diablo's distinctive voice, venomous lyrics and accompanied by amazing beats that are both catchy and hard. With track titles such as: “Kill For Pleasure”; “Pass The Coca” and “Guidos In I-ROCS”, Diablo stays true to his roots rhyming about what he knows best… brotherhood, money, women, drugs, violence and a wild lifestyle that many can't imagine and one that has claimed more than a few.
There is no sugar coating or fairy tales here. As expected, Diablo has recruited some great underground talent such as Diggy- ILL-ROC, DJ COS, Christian Koresh; Skriptkeeper and Stikman (Fury Of Five and now 25 Ta Life) to name a few to lend their skills to several tracks. It wasn't easy narrowing down one favorite track, so I didn't, I picked three: “Bum Rush”, “Bring It Hard” and “Voodoo”. And while many artists attempt to switch up styles for a variety of reasons, Diablo doesn't deviate from his raw style formula which has kept his worldwide fans craving for more. Although some people have the opinion that hardcore and hip-hop shouldn't mix or that an artist should stick to one genre or the other, both genres share many similarities because both are music of the streets and “The Crackson Heights Project” captures the flavor of both and should change some minds. But regardless of how you may feel, no one can deny that Dan Singer aka Lord Ezec aka Danny Diablo is one the hardest working men in underground music.
HONESTY “CAN YOU FEEL THE BITE OF LIFE”
(M&O Music, Release Date November 24, 2017)
Millions of people flocked to the streets of New York City to get their piece of the American Dream in the 20th century. Many uprooted their lives in their native lands to take in all the opportunities that America had to offer. They were promised happiness, riches and a life far away from trials and tribulations. These promises were nothing more than a utopian dream. The streets of the Lower East Side were the complete opposite of what they were promised. The skyline was littered with smoke emanating from burning buildings while blood shed was at an all-time high, as gangs fought for control of their turf. You had to be rough and rugged to make it through these streets. This streetwise demeanor helped lay the groundwork for New York Hardcore. Nowadays, New York City has lost some of its character. The bearded hipster who just paid 15 bucks for an artisanal coffee has slowly ousted the street punks who slugged 40’s outside of CBGB’s. But not all hope is lost; New York Hardcore has survived the plights of gentrification and has managed to travel across the globe. French bands like HONESTY have taken the working class ideals and street knowledge of NYHC and have pushed its message with their new album, “Can You Feel The Bite Of Life”.
In eleven hard-hitting tracks, Honesty has shown they have done their homework on New York Hardcore. There have been tons of overseas bands that make lackluster attempts of copying bands like Madball and Agnostic Front; however, Honesty is able to take elements of what makes NYHC tick and turn them into something they can call their own. There’s a surplus of hardcore bands that just chug away at power chords hoping for the best. Most of these attempts yield half-assed riffs that don’t tend to do anything for the listener or the song as a whole. This is not the case with Honesty. Guitarist, Stefan keeps his guitar playing simplistic but meaningful. His rhythm parts are catchy and sonically pump some adrenaline into the listener. His strongest points are his detail to space and dynamics. He focuses on rests to make sure that the notes that he actually plays are truly heard. The bass tends to be a little too low in the mix for my liking; however, bassist Aurel does have his moments of clarity. On the intro of track 10 ("False Flag") Aurel is up-front with a gritty bass tone and does a great job of creating a very melodic interplay with Stefan.
Drummer, Fabien pays close attention to groove with his drum parts. He’s subtle with showing off his chops and is focused on holding down the backbone of the song. He does make some minor attempts of showing his skills off with the drum intros on tracks 3 ("Choice"), 6 ("Fool") and 11 ("N.A.T.O. Crimes"). Fabien adds some interesting drums fills to start these songs off; I’d really like to see a lot more of this kind of work on their upcoming releases. From a mix stand point, I wish the cymbals were louder and really in your face, many times they come up overly compressed which makes the cymbals sound extremely muffled. Vocalist, Bogdan reminds me of a “Set It Off” era Freddy Madball. He’s got a monotone yet menacing delivery. He makes the monotone delivery hit home and I look at it as a strong asset. He sounds overtly fed up with the atrocities of our world leaders and won’t stop until there is a reckoning. Honesty may have not been a part of the local NYHC movement but they definitely hold the New York Hardcore ethics to the highest degree and have pushed a genre that was started in the streets of the LES, into a worldwide campaign for social change and social justice. “Can You Feel The Bite Of Life” drops on November 24th through M&O Music, pre orders are being accepted through CoreTex Berlin.
THE GODFATHERS OF HARDCORE
(Documentary Film by: Ian McFarland, World Premiere at SVC Theatre NYC November 11, 2017)
The Godfathers Of Hardcore is a new film by Ian McFarland which tells the story of Roger Miret (vocals) and Vinnie Stigma (guitar) of NYHC legends Agnostic Front. The film runs approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes and on this night In Effect Hardcore traveled down to the SVA Theatre on 23rd Street in NYC to check out its world premiere as part of the DOC NYC documentary festival. Approximately 300 people filled the theatre as the film opened up with a reenactment of what was probably a day in the life of a 1980’s era Roger Miret in his Lower East Side squat apartment complete with graffiti covered walls, show flyers and a rabbit eared television set that he is smacking to try and get to work. Once the TV does come on it shows an old (and real) news clip from the early 1980's talking about slam dancing. Shortly after the opening riff of "Victim In Pain" came blaring through the speakers causing the sold out crowd to burst into a huge applause. Only the people who lived in those old punk rock squats could tell you if the authenticity of this opening scene was dead on but after continuing on for another 90 or so minutes with this great film it left little doubt in my head that the realness and accuracy here was of the up most importance to those involved with this films production.
From there we go to the long time residence of Vinnie Stigma. To be more accurate we go to the rooftop of his apartment building where he has lived for 60 years... his entire life. Vinnie talks about how his grandfather who had pigeons that he kept on the roof and complains about a tree that now blocks his view of China Town. Vinnie's charisma is well known and talked about and joked about within the hardcore scene but within the confines of the Godfathers Of Hardcore film we really get an amazing look at the fun loving mad man who we know as Stigma. From prank calling a tattoo shop telling them they have to pop the pimples on his back before he gets his tattoo to dressing up as a Roman soldier outside of the Colosseum in Rome while eating grapes off the vine we get one hilarious moment after another. Stigma’s message here is to “enjoy life” and it is great to see him do exactly that over and over throughout.
Ian McFarland has been friends with Roger and Vinnie for a long time and he was able to get the subjects in various intimate settings that you just don’t see every day through your run of the mill interview. Throughout the film we get to meet Roger’s wife, his 29 year old daughter from his first marriage, his mother, brother and other family members including his half-brother Freddy from Madball. On Vinnie’s end we meet his son who is showing his dad how to send a text message as well as various other people from his Little Italy neighborhood. It would have been cool to sit down and hear them talk just hardcore for the 90 plus minutes here but this film digs much much deeper. Roger being the “control freak” in the band and happy go lucky Vinnie are complete opposites personality wise but together they make up the heart and soul of the “team” that is Agnostic Front. A serious health issue of Roger’s is unveiled within the movie and the anxiety that arises from it can easily be seen on his face while talking about it and is just a harsh reality as is going on tours that take him away from his wife and 2 young children for weeks at a time. Agnostic Front is something that Roger and Vinnie have been passionate about for over 35 years but it is also their job and it can be easy to overlook the sacrifices that are made both by the band as well as their families when they go away. A voicemail message on the Miret home phone is played in its entirety where Roger calls home after a late show only to find that his wife and children are already asleep. The disappointment of missing them can be heard in his voice as he ponders if it is all still worth it.
IAN MCFARLAND (SECOND FROM RIGHT) DURING THE GODFATHERS OF HARDCORE Q&A
The Godfathers Of Hardcore simply oozes over with tons of insightful and extremely interesting information on Roger and Vinnie while telling the Agnostic Front story from many angles while McFarland and crew deliver a masterful performance in its overall presentation. The Godfathers Of Hardcore is made for fans of AF and hardcore music but it would not surprise me if this somehow exploded out of its box and became something you would catch on cable TV while flipping through channels with your Cheetos and Bud Light in hand at 2am. After the film credits rolled the audience showed their appreciation with a loud ovation followed by a short Q&A with McFarland and crew which lasted about 10 minutes. The most interesting factoids that came from the Q&A was that going in to this project it was agreed upon that the band had no say in what footage would be used or not used. It was also mentioned that once the film was ready to be viewed Roger took a red-eye flight out from his home in Arizona to McFarland’s studio in Massachusetts the very next day and appeared somewhat nervous before watching it. Roger, Vinnie and the rest of Agnostic Front were away on tour in the UK on this night which is probably the only negative here as the Q&A would have thrived with their presence. No further word was given on other possible premier dates or when this film will be made available for sale on DVD/streaming sites. Bookmark that link below and keep checking back as this is a must watch for any Agnostic Front fan.
DECLINE “OWN YOUR WORDS” EP
(New Age Records, Release Date December, 2017)
Decline out of Chicago are part of a recent surge of signings by California's New Age Records. Previous to this the members of Decline have spent time in Expired Youth and Noose with a demo by Decline in the summer of 2014 being the lone previous work leading up to this new one.
When stacking up Decline 2014 to Decline 2017 not much has changed in the overall approach... ALL of their songs are still under 2 minutes in length and are fully entrenched in the classic Youth Crew style of hardcore. If pressed I doubt anyone in this band would make any apologies for playing the style of hardcore that Decline delivers here. Think Youth Of Today, think Mouthpiece and let's throw Judge in there as well as a cover of "Fed Up" closes out this 6 song effort. Leading up to "Fed Up" is the opener "Controlled Minds" with its creepy crawling bass intro as the song builds and then explodes with a sudden burst of speed around the 40 second mark. That's gonna leave a mark boys and girls. "Deteriorate" with its catchy repeated lyric of "slipping away" should go over well at Decline live shows and its last 30 seconds brings some nice mosh into the fold as well. The title track is up 3rd and continues the momentum being built here with "Bonded" coming in 4th at a mere 20 seconds which then leads us into "Eulogy"... my favorite on this short offering as it just stands out from the rest of the tracks for some reason. Decline delivers fast, straight forward and energetic hardcore and do it up very well. Fans of the Youth Crew style will eat this up and ask for seconds while “Youth Crew sounds all the same” types will probably get all Grumpy Cat. This release is still maybe a month or so away but you can still get a sampling of the new music by clicking the link below to listen to “Deteriorate”.
HANGMAN "A VILE DECREE" EP
(Flatspot Records, Released November 2017)
Hangman from Long Island, NY are a band that demonstrates how having hustle is essential if you want to be more than just another band in a crowded scene. Their name may not be one you are familiar with just yet but if they keep up the pace they're on now good things are gonna come their way. The proof of that hustle lies with the fact that this is Hangman's 3rd release since their debut demo came out in 2015. If you look around... one new release a year is way more than the average for this genre of music. They also play a lot of shows and on a few occasions (like when I saw them open for Ignite) they play with bands that sound nothing like them which potentially opens them up to new fans. I also can't think of many other bands who have had the volume of show flyers posted on this site in the last year and change. The bottom line is Hangman is getting themselves out there.
And now on to "A Vile Decree" which is their first big boy release on a proper label as they team up with Flatspot Records which is run by fellow Lawnguylander and Backtrack guitarist Ricky Singh. "Pesticide" opens up with a mid-tempo type of jam that immediately conjures up thoughts of Terror and Madball; heavy-ish 2017 hardcore if you will. The song packs in a tight head nodding beat throughout as I get images of kids bludgeoning one another in a small pit while the majority of the crowd watches on and claps after each song. Now I am not a fan of a few things that I mentioned in that last sentence but somehow Hangman draws me in with the overall catchiness of their songwriting. "Coming To" follows and is a much faster track at first until it slows down for a vicious breakdown less than a minute in. The song bounces back and forth between speed and then slower choppy NYHC style drum beats that will make crowds want to rip each other to shreds. "Abandoned" is up next and it is back to the mid-paced stuff. This song stands out as they brought in Brian from Neglect to do a short vocal spot which works well here but also shows that the lead vocals could show more range throughout. Imagine Paul Bearer from Sheer Terror just using one particular vocal range for all their songs... it just wouldn't be the same. The vocals here are solid and do work but Hangman could also improve in this department going forward. The title track is up fourth followed by "Life Sentence" closing things out. Both songs fall into the mid-paced choppy drum beat style that is undoubtedly Hangman's thing. 9 times out of 10 this style of hardcore bores me as it's been done to death but Hangman adds just enough twists and turns within their song structures to keep me coming back. It took a few listens to fully get it and for it all to sink in but now I'm there. Hangman are a few tweaks away from being some heavy hitters. Hopefully they hold on to that drive that has already gotten them to where they are now.
THE ABDUCTORS “COMING HOME” CD
(Arrest Records, Released September, 2017)
The Abductors have been around since 2009 but still remain relatively slept on outside their home territory of Connecticut. That might change due to the release of “Coming Home”, their first effort for Arrest Records, but their sixth release overall. One look at the cover art from Dave Borjes and you will realize that this album is a different breed from the Maximum Penalty tune of the same name. The art is a fitting choice and indicative of the album within: eight songs on working class life, fighting and drinking (on a Saturday night) alongside friends, and enjoying the limited time outside of work that we have.
If you are unfamiliar with the history of the Abductors, their first two releases featured fun-loving punk rock tunes such as “Running From The Cops” and “Creepin' The Streets.” “Losing It” had a harder edge, almost like the Cold As Life '88-'93 demos, while their most recent efforts “Eyes Of Rage” and the split with Pus found them hitting their stride as a true Oi! band. “Coming Home” is a bit more homogeneous than some of their previous work, which can either be good or bad depending how you feel about their prior offerings. But it's a respectable addition to their catalog and I was psyched to hear these songs in recorded form after seeing them sprinkled into their recent live sets.
“Coming Home” opens the title track, and while it isn't a classic first song that blows you out of the water, it's an appropriate opener for a balanced album full of catchy choruses and pleasing major key tunes. You can't succeed as a band of this style unless you have someone with an ear for melody involved in the song-writing process, and these guys shine in that department. The song that's really going to get stuck in your head all day is track 2, “Fight As One”. I gotta say the name messed me up a bit, because I keep thinking of the Antidote song “Life As One”, and after my first pass through the album without the track list in front of me, I assumed it was called “Do Or Die”, a la Fury of Five. (In case you are Control-F'ing these reviews for the words Fury Of Five, let me set you straight, these guys sound nothing like Fury Of Five.) Anyway, this is one of those anthemic tunes that will be stuck in your head forevermore: "from the bottom to the top and then back down again, it's always been, do or die, ‘til the end." It's the kind of sing-along song that gives you the same good feeling as the Bruisers – “Til The End”, a similarity that may or may not have been intentional. (Rumor has it that they may be joined onstage by a member of the Bruisers at an upcoming show.)
Unlike the Eaten Alive album I just reviewed, I'm digging the even numbered songs on this one. “Nights Like These”, track 3, is another pleasing tune that references earlier hit “Running From The Cops”, but track 4, “Dead Wrong” is an up-tempo stomper that has probably the closest thing to a mosh part on this album. (Though there's nothing on this record that rivals their #1 mosh opportunity in “Father Of The Year”.) “Bitter End,” song 5, features an engaging chorus and track 6, “Best Of Times”, almost gives me a bit of an Oxblood vibe. “Working Class Song” and “K.O.F.T.W.” close things out, the former an ode to working class life, and the latter to life in the woods. I assume “K.O.F.T.W.” loosely stands for King Of The Fucking Woods: "taking the back roads home at night, no crosswalk signs or neon lights," an appropriate non-urban counterpoint to "this is New York City, where the kids rule the streets!”
My only criticism with the final product is that the lyrics are hard to read, and the interior layout is a bit dark and drab compared to the colorful tattoo flash on the cover. But let's be real, how many people buy an Oi! record to read the lyrics? Though maybe they should, because “Coming Home” is more complicated than one might originally surmise. The cover art feature three symbols with negative connotations: a crying baby, rent and bills that are past due, and a woman who looks less than amused. But the lyrics to “Coming Home” the song address the battle that is so common for many of us, those with and without children: how all the hours spent at work cut into our time with family. The narrator is out there working to "keep the light on and the heat at night", but all he wants is to hold his sons' hands and see his wife. This is a fresh take on traditional Oi! fodder: not just celebrating the weekend festivities and fisticuffs that offset work week drudgery, but highlighting why all that drudgery is worth it in the end.
The recorded version of the Abductors is a bit flat compared to their vivacity in the flesh, but that is true for many Oi! bands and albums. From “Oi! The Gathering” to Cock Sparrer/The Business “Live And Loud!!” I’ve always enjoyed the harder edge of these songs in their live format. And in the end, “Coming Home” is mostly a vehicle for the Abductors’ vehement and varied live show. Enjoy these songs on your way to work (or while coming home) and get ready for them to blow you away in person. For fans of Patriot, No Time and of course The Bruisers.
MADBALL/WISDOM IN CHAINS “THE FAMILY BIZ” SPLIT EP
(Fastbreak! Records, Released September, 2017)
For those who consider themselves as “old school” of their respective hardcore scene, then this two song 7 inch, “The Family Biz”, is an ode to us. Hardcore heavyweights, Madball and Wisdom In Chains, team up to drop two of the best singles I have listened to in a long ass time. Yeah, I am biased because I love both bands but because it is clearly a demonstration of growth for both as artists. When I got asked to listen to this, I thought I might be disappointed but I heard positive lyrics, strong music and a freakin’ burn in my stomach I haven’t had since I listened to Madball’s “Demonstrate My Style”.
As you probably know, Mitts from Madball, is leaving the group and I don’t see a better way than on this high note. Literally a larger than life figure in the NYHC scene, Mitts will be missed.
Both groups have very distinct sounds especially with the voices of Freddy Madball and Mad Joe from Wisdom In Chains. In past reviews, I have made a connection to the “older” bands keeping a theme of being strong and fighting to stay in the fight to survive and persevere in life with a more mental way rather than the old “beatdown” mentality. This is that example. Whether it is the realization of the “adult” responsibilities of family and life, I felt these both could be appreciated by us “old heads” but also the younger fans in hardcore. WIC hits hard with their single, “Someday”, which also features Freddy from Madball on guest vocals and the Madball single, “For The Cause”, are definitely 2 new songs worth adding to your day. Check the link and listen for yourself. I look forward to hearing these songs live by both groups but also the upcoming Madball album which is apparently in the works. Don’t hesitate to get this, listen to it and enjoy. As always, get out and support your scene.
EATEN ALIVE “MASTERPIECE OF IGNORANCE”
(Fast Break! Records, Released October, 2017)
We have here the much anticipated full length from Eaten Alive on Fast Break! Records. For those unfamiliar with recent developments, guitarist Max Moya tragically passed away in September, and
all proceeds from this record are being donated to his family. While already a compelling reason to buy, the album itself is also sonically worthy, with an energetic and frenetic 12 tracks that clock
in under 20 minutes total.
Compared to the demo released in 2016, the full length is faster and heavier, with more varied song structures. It features more blast beats than I generally crave in my daily life, but its undeniable power makes it a must-listen for fans of various shades of hardcore, punk and metal. The fast parts blend well with eminently jammable riffs and some slower, heavier sections that I can only describe as being very PA Hardcore (in a good way).
The album kicks off with “The Fight”, which sets the tone lyrically for the rest of the release: “maybe I’m bitter, yeah, maybe I’m mean” which is probably more on brand for my life than the opening of, say, “The Earth Is Flat”. I tried and failed to think of another album that begins with the word “maybe,” especially one that is otherwise so decisive. This strong opener is followed by “Product Of Pain”, which transitions from fast to heavy with a well-placed china cymbal, before an even slower section and a somewhat abrupt ending. Track 3, “No Respect”, showcases the first guest vocalist of the album in Jotham from Wisdom in Chains. (Joe Hardcore also appears on the final song “Looking Down”). If you had any doubt about the identity of the guest in question, Mad Joe’s verse opens with "I want a fucking revolution, class war!” A good guest vocal should bring a smile of recognition to the listener and this one certainly fits the bill.
Just when I was starting to think that there was a greater ratio of fast parts to mosh parts compared to the demo material, I was hit with the stompier “Next To Rot”, track 5. A natural sing along tune (that unfortunately I don’t think they ever got to play live), it is arguably the best song on the album and packs a lot into 1 minute and 28 seconds. “Ego Reaper” provides 27 seconds of fury in between two more traditionally structured tracks in “Next To Rot” and “Smooth Brains”, the latter which opens with an excellent riff that is just the right amount of metal. It’s the second longest song here, with probably the best mosh part and tempo changes accompanying the astute lyrical content. If this had been released as a vinyl LP, “Smooth Brains” would likely have been the B side opener, and a worthy one at that. “Smooth Brains” is followed by “Scorched”, which features a mosh part after just 22 seconds, and a delicious middle section ("spent my life, trying to build a bridge") at 0:37. “Owl And The Rat” follows, which eviscerates the type of dudes who talk virtuously but behave slimily and perniciously.
Song 10 is a re-recording of “You Ain’t Shit”, the only song from the demo that appears on “Masterpiece Of Ignorance”. It retains the pertinent mosh call from the demo: “That’s right you entitled motherfucker, your only skill is sitting on your hands while pointing fingers at others. Yo, listen up!” I hope this is the first time the word “pertinent” has been followed by the word mosh in a review. But that would be apropos for an album that vacillates between explosive and expletive-laden denouncements and then rhymes tradition with sedition in the next track.
The opposite of “Urban Discipline”, where the even numbered songs are my favorite, tracks 1-3-5-7-9 are particular standouts here, though there are no bad songs. 12 songs is a perfect amount for a full length – while you sometimes get lucky with long albums of uniform quality, longer records also have the potential to include some weaker links.
In contrast with some newer bands that are technically sound but short on spirit, Eaten Alive brings unabated urgency and anger along with their undeniable barrage of sound. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that many of the lyrics emphasize rejecting the societal conventions and constraints of adult life, yet here I am, working 12 hour days while trying to write this review. But there’s something in Eaten Alive for everyone who faces the world with indignation and responds with action. “Who do you think is more convincing? The one who’s mincing or the one who’s crushing?” Because another theme on this record, from “Smooth Brains” to “You Ain’t Shit” to “Looking Down”, is disdain for those who are too cool to express themselves and have opinions, comfortable in their cocoon of ennui. “I’m screaming, I’m swinging, you stand for nothing, don’t you see it? You think I’m wild, I think you’re sad.” A sentiment I can get behind, along with the myriad riffs and tempo changes.
An original formula cut short by Moya’s untimely demise, Eaten Alive will no longer play shows. “Next To Rot”, an emblematic anthem written for the death of another friend of the band, speculates that “we’re gonna be forgotten and that’s OK, ‘cuz we don’t live for anyone but ourselves anyway.” One can only hope the body of work from their short tenure as a band will ensure that Eaten Alive is not forgotten after all. For fans of Proclamation, Everybody Gets Hurt, crossover, Marxist philosophy, the Stigmata 1989 demo, and everything in between.
SURFACE REPORT “STAND BY…” (Released July, 2017)
Comin’ at you straight out of Southern Cali, we’ve got Surface Report with their new release “Stand By...” Surface Report is more or less the rhythm section of the ashes of Castoff, and for anybody keeping score, I also reviewed Castoff a while back, what a fascinating full-circle this has all become. The songwriting for this new project has taken a slight turn in heaviness as these tracks are much harder than the vibe that Castoff put out. “Stand By…” is a very solid very catchy dose of heavy sing songy skate-punk ala, Bad Religion meets No Use For a Name. Gotta give credit where credit’s due, Surface Report’s song writing is very cohesive and well mapped out. These songs are executed with such precision that it makes me wonder why these guys aren’t a full time pro band. With a sound that could easily trump anything on Fat Wreck’s current roster, and a tightness that rivals any full time west coast band Surface Report is a serving of SoCal punk well needed in this current climate of young bands ripping off the Breakdown demo. Stand By... for a killer record. 6 thumbs up!
M.O.R.A. “ENTEET” EP (Released August, 2017)
Around the early 2000’s Finnish bands such as Children Of Bodom and H.I.M. were heavily marketed to many American teenagers. For years, these bands could be found all over MTV and Guitar World Magazine, where they received an overwhelming amount of praise. After a few listens you knew that these bands were full of virtuosic musicians who paid an obscene amount of attention to detail and image. Sometimes these bands became a little too focused on the rock star lifestyle and showing off their over-the-top skills. Helsinki’s M.O.R.A. have single-handedly broken the contrived rock star images of their opposing musical peers, with their new EP, “Enteet”.
M.O.R.A. consists of two female vocalists, Suvi and Ulla, Rurik on guitar, Amel on bass and Yaki on drums. The band takes its name from the Swedish knife known as the Morakniv. Yaki says the name describes them well because they are, “Sharp, simple and short, just like the knife.” Their straightforward approach to songwriting is what draws me to them the most. It’s old-school hardcore with a modern feel. Each member seems extremely aware of what is necessary to write a cohesive yet energy filled song. No one is overcompensating musically; therefore, they don’t see the need for unnecessary guitar leads or drum fills.
Rurik, Amel and Yaki create a strong backbone for Suvi and Ulla to flow over. Their vocals are powerful and there’s a tremendous sense of urgency while they sing in their native tongue. Lyrically, the EP is an overall comment on society and how many cope with it. Some follow a path of faith, while others seek solace through abusing drugs and alcohol. Suvi and Ulla are more or less, observing society with their lyrics. However, they don’t offer solutions. They just spew what’s wrong with society, hoping that one day the masses will open their eyes and see things for what they are.
This EP is built upon the strong foundations of what hardcore stands for. It’s about calling out the problems that you witness in society. The masses are so focused on following societal norms while they watch life pass them by. The world has grown somewhat accustomed to the rat race. Hardcore is a call to break away from the mainstream thought processes and think for yourself. Hardcore is meant to be straight to the point, no frills and no bullshit. Without a doubt, M.O.R.A have valued these traditions with “Enteet”
THE EULOGY “LAST DAYS” EP
(Bridge 9 Records, Released, September, 2017)
In the world of hardcore it is not uncommon for band members to leave to start other bands or to play in several bands at the same time. Although some bands may consist of one or two veteran members, it is rare to find a hardcore band you might consider a "supergroup" but Southern California's The Eulogy may just be that band.
Formed in 2012, The Eulogy's members consist of talented, veterans from the East and West Coasts who have played in some pretty big bands but I'll leave you to do the research. The Eulogy's line up consists of: Matt Henderson-guitar; Kevin Norton-bass; Pete Reilly- guitar; Sergio Chavez- vocals and Marc Jackson-drums. The Eulogy have just released an EP titled “Last Days”; which contains five songs of pure adrenaline lasting just shy of 12 minutes. “Last Days” is a great musical mix, fusing the member's previous bands styles and their own original sound. As mentioned, the talent that this band has is clearly heard throughout this release but at the same time where some bands try too hard to showcase their musical talent they lose the rawness of the hardcore sound, but not here. The lyrics are amazing and well thought out, using metaphors and descriptions when speaking of uncertainty, anger and Biblical themes.
Sergio's vocal style accompanies these lyrics perfectly, bringing them alive and in your face. Now normally when I do reviews I like to break down each song's meaning but this time I decided just to write my favorite verse from each song. And as far as having a favorite track, I couldn't single one out… I love them all.
Track listing / favorite verses:
1) Pete’s Song”- "Pain is the price of admission and they're selling it with such conviction”.
2) “Last Days”- "In the dawn of my last days, there's no salvation from this pain, no saving grace”.
3) “Ironwood”- "On my path to righteousness, will I fall or take the right steps?"
4) “White Noise”- "All I hear is static from your voice, filter out the real, the rest is white noise."
5) “In Vain”- "Suffocating under pressure and every breath taken is in vain. The world falls to pieces, one exhale away from insane”.
The Eulogy are a band that I am so glad to have become acquainted with, even if it is five years after their conception. “Last Days” is a great record that is essential for any fan of hard music. It is not surprising that they have played with such greats as Madball, Cro-Mags, Terror and H2O to date. The Eulogy have kept their shows to the West Coast but hopefully that will change soon.
NONE ABOVE ALL “CLIMATE OF HOSTILITY” EP
(Released September, 2017)
There isn’t a more befitting title than “Climate Of Hostility” for the second release from the New York outfit known as None Above All. This is a no-holds-barred spit in the face to anyone and everyone who has ever doubled-crossed these guys – and their intense disposition couldn’t be more effectively conveyed than by way of this eighteen minutes of musical abrasion. Don’t expect any deep-thoughts, metaphors, or term’s that one would have to cross-reference in a dictionary with this one as it is as straight-forward lyrically as it is musically - and that is unequivocally the way one must be when addressing fakes, liars, frauds, and deceitful ex’s as these guys are here. The musical aggregate of this record is formed by a well-blended mix of mid-tempo to fast portions and stomp/beatdown parts, which merge cohesively, as well as menacing lead vocals and a bombardment of gang vocals – making for a quite momentous EP overall. This release makes several things abundantly clear about None Above All. First, it would be advisable for one to consider everything he/she says or does regarding these guys at least twice, as it would not be advisable to become the focus of one of their future songs. Secondly, when their name comes to mind, think “pure energy,” but not in an Information Society kind of way – far from it! Most of all, however, consider going to check how this dissemination of brutality is conveyed live as rumor has it that they have been playing quite a bit. Available as a digital download by following the link below.
-Kicker of Elves
DONE DEAL “PHILADELPHIA” CD (Released August 2017)
Initially, I wasn't entirely sure how to review Done Deal’s EP “Philadelphia” due to how straightforward and to the point they are in their delivery. For example, here are the song titles in order off of the EP – “I Don’t Like The Sound Of That”, “Because Fuck You That’s Why”, “We Refuse”, “Taking The High Road Only Got Us Lost”, “There’s Business To Attend To”, “Riot In My Head”, and “Philadelphia”. In one sense I feel that I’d be betraying their very spirit by articulating anything more than a few sentences but despite my crisis of conscience I am going to do so anyways.
I remember when I was a child my mother would purchase the store brand juice and on the label on the bottle it said “No Frills.” Those words are what come to mind as I play this EP over and over again. Done Deal is “no frills” and un-apologetic about it too. I think that’s pretty badass in a genre of music that has various sub-genres running throughout it that it’s easy to forget where it all came from in the first place.
“Philadelphia" is a hardcore punk record in the vein of early hardcore bands like Negative Approach. Pure anger and rage combined with an in your face approach that while simple, is tight as hell and fun. Almost all of the songs come in at about a minute with the longest being the self-titled track which comes in at around a minute and a half. The “fuck you” attitude that was the impetus for the hardcore movement in the first place is on full display in each song. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong here. It’s pure anger, but it’s expressed in a positive way which is something that our surrounding culture could learn something from but I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon. In the meantime and in the words of Done Deal, “There’s Business To Attend To…”
REBELMATIC “EAT THE MONSTER” EP
(Released August, 2017)
I’m into this. There is a great diversity of sounds between the tracks; between them as well as within them. Far too often I’ve heard or read about bands that have a bit of rap, bit of metal, some hardcore, some punk or funk; the “it appeals to everyone” description, and when you listen to it, it’s a hot mess of different sounds thrown in a blender and it just doesn’t work. Not the case here, this band should appeal to lots of people of different tastes, but that’s because the individual tracks are different from one another and each showcase different talents and influences, but each is executed well. “Blood And Gold” is straight up punk with a slight cock rock influence; just straight forward up tempo Rock N’ Roll with a singer that moves nearly flawlessly between barking the verses into a melodic chorus, complete with well-balanced backing vocals. “Feel Some Type Of Way” is much more funky; it has a bit of that NY post hardcore groove going on ala Orange 9mm, but just a bit, it’s more punk and funk, it made me think of some of the more straightforward (less artsy) Trenchmouth songs at times. “The Woes” is probably my least favorite track; the singing is a mix of more melodic delivery and with the more forceful yelling… I just like the more forceful delivery style better here, but it’s a nice change of pace. I’m not a huge guitar solo dude (more into mosh breakdowns), but the guitar licks on the solo segments are sweet. I dig those. “Don’t Shoot” has a slower ease-in beginning and progressively speeds up. There is a lot going on for a track that clocks in at under three minutes. Vocally there is a lot mixed in here, from talking style vocals, to yelling/barking delivery, to some almost Paul Bearer-esque crooning toward the end. Reviewing this release made me seek out some of their other material and watch some vids. While I’m into this, I have the feeling this band really shines live; I’ve started to follow them in the hopes of catching one of their live shows, you should too.
-Jim Moo Cow
VOLUME ZERO s/t EP (Released September, 2017)
I've emerged from my summer slumber in time to receive the latest request for a review directly from the In Effect secret lair somewhere deep beneath the Catskill Mountains. The header read "New 3 song EP by Volume Zero". Immediately my heart sank thinking I was to review the British act of the same name who hail from Sheffield and sound like a much less talented Goops. Remember the Goops? Download "Booze Cabana" right now, I'll wait..... Cool. This is not that band or the Goops; this is a socio-political four piece out of the heart of the tri-state area. No you narrow minded NY-NJ-CT people, not that tri-state area. It's the tri-state area of Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky and yes, they can have a tri-state area too, hell, I've lived in the Delmarva area for years (figure it out). Volume Zero hail specifically from Evansville, Indiana. Crescent Valley hardcore represent!
The EP kicks off with "Climate of Fear" @ 3:02. I already like it because we put out a record of the same name by Bitter End when I used to be part of Malfunction Records. It kicks off with some feedback and then rockets off into a not quite fuzzy, not quite muddy fast paced core tune. A sound I can tell will contain some substance and not just be another stabbed in the back type of tune. Sure enough, this is a scathing indictment of the news media and all of its bullshit. By the time the chorus hits I am hooked and the chorus is great lyrically but musically takes the song up a notch. Add in some more solid verses, a sick shredding guitar solo, some spoken/shouted lyrics and then the ultimate breakdown and you have a sick tune.
"War At Home" @ 3:27 kicks off with a Sheer Terror type of dirge before it goes off galloping down the fastcore highway. This one concerns soldier's returning from duty and how some of them have an extremely difficult time readjusting if they ever do at all. It is another slap in the face with reality song. When I was in college I used to visit the Old Soldier's Home in NE, DC. This song echoes the sentiments I'd hear from time to time from some of those men. Heartbreaking, for real. The song winds up in a sick pit, mosh bit for those who do not care about content.
The final song on this EP is “Fleeced”, clocking in @ 4:49. The EP epic. It can be about a political or religious leader, I suppose it only matters to the listener. We usually apply these song to our lives anyhow. Musically, it starts off with feedback and odd tones, then launches into a heavy dirge which is followed by a cool choppy guitar tone and a spoken/echoey vocal track. We are clearly into experimental territory and I dig it. The song eventually kicks into a gallop before reverting back. It's different and it works. I always appreciate a band flexing some creativity (see Integrity review). Eventually the song just fades out.
Three songs, roughly 10 minutes eighteen seconds. Solid effort from these fellas. Hardcore with a brain and a soul. I haven't been this stoked on something since I reviewed The Bloody Sods for In Effect back in the nineties. The musicianship is great. The recording is solid. Be sure to check out some Volume Zero and add some quality Hoosiercore to your collection punks.
BLOODCLOT “UP IN ARMS” LP
(Metal Blade Records, Released July, 2017)
When legendary Cro-Mags frontman and New York Hardcore OG John “Bloodclot” Joseph hooked up with the equally qualified hardcore legend Todd Youth (Warzone/Murphy’s Law) to make some new music you knew something special was going to come forward from the meeting of these great hardcore minds.
When they were joined by bassist Nick Oliveri of Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age (who also boosted his hardcore credentials with a stint in B'last) and Danzig/Queens Of The Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo (who is also the drummer in the current B'last lineup) it cemented a solid lineup and Bloodclot (a side project John Joseph had in the early days of hardcore with Bad Brains roadies) was born again. Considering the previous and current musical pedigree of the bands members, the anticipation for this album was set to high but just one listen to “Up In Arms” proves the experience and quality that went into this albums creation. Bloodclot take their influences by way of the greats. We're talking Bad Brains of course (how could they not be), given the history between the two bands but also the likes of Motörhead and Discharge and the results are simply breathtaking. The album kicks off with a wail of feedback before the powerful title track kicks things into touch and literally explodes with a classic guitar riff and a hardcore energy that would shame a band half Bloodclot’s age. The following eleven songs simply fly by with so much vigor that it's palatable and songs like “Fire”, “Manic”, “Prayer” and “Slipping Into Darkness” would make even the most lethargic person in the world get up and start slamming along to the bands hardcore fury. The positive message that the band adhere to is in full force too particularly on tracks like “Siva/Rudra” and “Life As One”.
“Kill The Beast” and “Soldiers Of The New Babylon” are pure Bad Brains worship (and with good reason) and sound all the better for it with some classic John Joseph vocals. Throughout the album he sings his heart out with a display that turns back time. The energy captured here wouldn't have sounded out of place on “Age Of Quarrel”, just listen to the albums closing track “You'll Be The Death Of Me” for proof. The rest of the band play with all their worth too and the synergy between the band members is brilliant. They play with a tightness that not many bands can achieve and the production by Zeus captures their frenetic energy perfectly. With “Up In Arms”, Bloodclot have made a statement that life affirming hardcore is alive and kicking and they are leading the charge. With a string of Incendiary live dates already and the promise of further material from the band, let's hope that Bloodclot are here to stay as with this album, they have released one of, if not the best hardcore albums so far this year and in fact, in a long time. So don't hesitate in copping “Up In Arms”, turn it up loud and embrace the hardcore energy and positive message that the band do best.
PEASANT “IV: Peak Fear” EP (Released September, 2017)
Imagine being told you couldn’t marry your significant other due to differences in melanin. Imagine being forcefully taken from your home and put into a land of death and decay because the ruling class deemed you as worthless. Imagine being stripped of your rights because of your skin color. Like many countries, South Africa is no stranger to these inhumane conditions for people of color. Under Apartheid, the country of South Africa segregated its people and created an overwhelming sense of social and civil unrest. The chains of apartheid faded away during the early 1990s; however, the wounds are still fresh in 2017. With their fourth EP, “IV: Peak Fear”, Cape Town’s, Peasant have made it their duty to sonically battle the broken mentality that plagued South Africa.
Peasant’s vocalist, Alain embodies a true hardcore spirit with his lyrical content. There’s a sense of urgency that he will no longer stand to see the heinous acts of an oppressive government. Hardcore is about finding the root of societal problems and sometimes you have to look inward rather than outward. In “Drowning” Alain belts, “They’re dying around us, the human race and our own “disconcern” has torn us apart.” It’s clear that the band sees what’s wrong and won’t sit around to see civil unrest continue. Alain’s vocal tones are more on the metal side and you can feel them in your gut. He tears at your insides with every word.
In 5 aggressive tracks, Peasant has smoothly melded many key elements of heavy music. Bassist, Keagan, creates an extreme wall of sound by creating an atmospheric stoner rock vibe in the intro of “The Throne”. In time, the song morphs into an ominous being, led by drummer, Graham and guitarist, Pieter. Consequently, Graham creates a subtle taste of death metal on drums, through a menacing yet precise display of blast beats. Meanwhile, Pieter compliments these death metal undertones with lead guitar harmonies, reminiscent of Nile. Throughout the record, Pieter and Keagan bring the crucial elements of straight forward hardcore with their gritty and aggressive power-chord and single note chugging.
As a band, their strongest attribute has to be Graham’s, Pieter’s and Keagan’s detail to dynamics. They make great use of rests and truly understand that being quiet at some points, is just as strong as being loud. Each individual member is not afraid to hold back and let one of their other bandmates take the lead. They’re very good at sharing the musical spotlight throughout the EP. There are great melodic compositions found throughout this record. Their strongest display of melody for me is found in “Bullets” from the 42-second mark to a little over the minute mark. Alain’s vocals and Pieter’s use of chords are overwhelmingly catchy. The four members know how to complement each other very well and know what each other’s strongest and weakest points are.
The band relies heavily on a strong metallic background. With this said, I wish they pushed the more technical guitar aspects of metal a bit more. It would be very interesting to hear some more leads, but that could just be me being a guitar nerd. Overall, this style of fusion hardcore has been getting a lot of attention. There are bands like The Drip and Gatecreeper getting signed to Relapse records, which is helping to spread the awareness of hardcore bands to metal heads and vice versa. There’s definitely a good fan base for tastefully blending hardcore and metal. Peasant are able to stand out with their music because they are up-front, in your face and aggressive. They withhold the horror based lyrics to focus on real life and that’s something I truly applaud. Through headphones, this record really feels like I’m hearing these guys in a live setting. That’s not something I can say for most releases similar to this. Most of the bands who venture into this realm seem to suffer from excessively polished mixes and masters. Peasant keeps it real and they keep it raw. Do yourselves a favor and listen to this EP in its entirety.
END IT S/T EP (Flatspot Records, Released August, 2017)
Chris sent me the End It s/t to review with a note that stated "this has Becky written all over it," which is a fair assessment, even if he didn't know me 10 years ago when I was rarely parted from my Neglect tote bag. While it doesn't actually sound like Next Step Up, Gut Instinct or Neglect, as mentioned in the press release, this 5 song EP is still worth a listen. It's a fresh take on NY-infected hardcore through a Baltimore lens and is a tight debut effort.
The gravity in riff and theme may have been inspired by the aforementioned heavy hitters (NSU pun intended), but I hear instead a faster and more streamlined twist on classic Queens bands, almost like an up-tempo Cold Front. All five songs clock in under three minutes each and the whole thing wraps up in just over 10. Things start off with “Give Up: Vas a Morir”, followed by “Wishlist”, featuring deft vocal pacing over the fast parts and a sick guitar lead. It’s probably the strongest track, or else tied with “Blind Faith”, which comes third and features a bit of a TUI vibe. The fast start to song #4 (“Apolitical”) is almost reminiscent of the Homicidal tune “Wonderful Life” and makes me want to get a copy of the lyrics because I can’t decipher everything going on here. Title track “End It” is the closer, and I initially overlooked it until I spotted the moment at 0:31 akin to something in Conviction – “Between the Lines”.
Baltimore has always been a nexus of interest in the best things (Nexus Step Up?) like NJ Bloodline and obscure NYHC, so it’s not surprising to see a Neglect-inspired product from Harm City. While obviously influenced by Neglect nomenclature, End It is more lyrically evolved and the songs touch on a wider variety of themes. This whole record is available to stream from Flatspot and the first song has twice as many plays as any of the others. But it’s worth it to make it through to “Wishlist” and “Blind Faith” and in fact the whole thing.
These dudes already have over 1500 Instagram followers, so the younger generation may already be approaching without trepidation. But the main takeaway for my contemporaries and up: don’t overlook them if they don’t match up to what you were expecting from the initial description, and enjoy these 5 songs for what they are: a satisfying debut effort with fast parts and mosh parts over which to express their bleak world view. For fans of Cold Front, Manipulate, Trapped Under Ice, Conviction, and the energy of early Blacklisted.
NO BORDERS “THE WALLS THEY BUILD… THE WALLS WE BREAK” EP (Released March, 2017)
Unity. Brother/Sisterhood. Family. Justice. Rebellious youth. Fighting back against police brutality and city government. The message. What hardcore band(s) comes to mind? Hard riffs. Strong vocals. Short, vicious musical assaults. Music you’d love to hear when in the pit or jumping off stage. The sound. What hardcore band(s) do you think of?
I try not to stay stuck in the 80’s/90’s (but I do) musically and I could name more than a few. I am sure others could the same. When you listen to No Borders’ EP, “The Walls They Build... The Walls We Break”, you may do the same. This politically charged EP focuses on immigration, youth crime and police brutality and is a no holds barred musical assault calling for unity and focus on the humanity of people, in particular the working class, forgotten and underserved. The music is played fast and angry for a reason. These three guys from Ottawa, Canada are unapologetic in their beliefs and invite you to listen to their message in their music. From the old school album cover (the provocative black and white photo) to the recording quality, I found these guys being true to the spirit of hardcore while being themselves. It is a good album and I look forward to more in the future. Always support your scene.
BURN “DO OR DIE” LP
(Bridge 9 Records, Released September, 2017)
Following on from last year’s brilliant and well received comeback EP “From The Ashes”, Burn release their highly anticipated new album (and of course, the band’s first full length) “Do Or Die”. Hearing that the band were returning was amazing news for fans of one of the most diverse and forward thinking bands in hardcore and following the release of “From The Ashes” and a string of Incendiary live dates (including an appearance on the Persistence Tour alongside hardcore heavyweights Agnostic Front and Suicidal Tendencies where the band showed just what a vital force they are in a live setting), the anticipation for this album was high and I'm pleased to say that “Do Or Die” definitely doesn't disappoint and is a more than a worthy addition to the Burn legacy.
From the off, the band simply explodes as the albums opening track “Fate” is the start of ten tracks of passionate, abrasive and above all, necessary hardcore that sounds like a defiant call to arms. After “Fates” great start, the highlights continue to come thick and fast… there's the power of “Ill Together”, a song that features a bouncy groove and some gnarled vocals from Chaka Malik, the straight ahead fury of “Beauty”, the intense “Dead Identity” and the slow and crunching groove of “Last Great Sea” and that's just to name a few as the album is packed full of them.
The bands passion shines through throughout the album and it is clear that “Do Or Die” is an album that will be a firm favorite for years to come. The songs on here are tailor made to be played live and you can envision the pit erupting as they are played (and that goes for every song on the album to be honest) with the crowd roaring their impassioned lyrics back to the band.. As the album draws to a close with the abrasive “New Morality” , the lurching, anthemic and brilliantly titled “Unfuck Yourself” and the uplifting power of closing track “Climb Out”, you will find yourself marveling at the power and eclecticism that has gone on in this record and how well Burn’s songs have been executed here with the band themselves being on essential form with Malik's soaring and animated vocals triumphantly sitting atop Gavin Van Vlack’s powerful and memorable riffs and the rhythm section that now consists of bassist Tyler Krupsky and drummer Abbas Muhammad holding things down in a formidable fashion.
The albums production which is courtesy of Converge’s Kurt Ballou (with the album coming out on Deathwish) and mastering by the legendary Howie Weinberg is spot on and allows the bands creativity and vibe to shine. Bands tend to get back together for a multitude of reasons and, most of the time, it is for monetary or nostalgic reasons but Burn have got back for the love of the music and to show that they still have the vision and talent to create a memorable album and with “Do Or Die”, they have done that with ease with one of the most vital hardcore albums of the year so far.
PLAYER HATER “DEMO 2K17” (Released July, 2017)
We all have heard the old saying "don't judge a book by its cover", well I've just been taught a new one… "Don't judge a band by its name." The band that taught me this valuable lesson is New Jersey's Player Hater; whose name honestly didn't really grab my attention but thankfully I decided to take on this review and I'm more thankful that I gave them a listen. To put it simply Player Hater are the real deal. Coming together in 2016, this Garden State 5 piece consists of Jesse Lee-vocals; Chris Bacchus-guitars; James Smith-guitars /vocals; Phil Parenti-bass and Anthony Ferro aka "A-DOG"-drums. The band just released their first demo, containing 4 songs, running a little over 10 minutes, with music that combines the raw energy that has kept hardcore alive, mixed with a metal sound that is very Slayer-esque. The lyrics are bleak and angry, with topics ranging from government control and oppression to one's struggle with depression and loss of self-worth.
Track 1) “Downfall”- is a sad story that all too many people face, feeling so beat down by life that the only solution that seems viable is to die.
Track 2) “Dystopia”- the title of this song's definition stated in Merriam-Webster's dictionary is "an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly." But is it really an imaginary place?
Track 3) “Reckoning”- is a big middle finger to "the institution and the ones who fool us all". A more common term would be the government.
Track 4) “Nowhere” - another song along the lines of track 1, a painful journey of desperation and never ending lack of self-worth.
As much as I enjoy all 4 songs on the demo, “Nowhere” is my favorite. Besides the sincere lyrics, this song like the others is very melodic but also really showcases Player Hater's musical talent. On their Bandcamp page the band asks "to be thrown on a show"… I don't think it will be long before these guys are getting more recognition and get their wish by being added to some good shows.
NO SECOND THOUGHT S/T (Released August, 2017)
There have been a number of prominent hardcore bands from Finland that have made an impact since the early 1980’s. Bands such as Riisteyt, Kaaos and Rattus. Bands who are still talked of in legendary terms in underground hardcore circles. Finland, much like other hardcore scenes in similar European areas such as Sweden, have active hardcore scenes and have had them since the early 80’s and this is obviously still continuing today. Finnish hardcore/metal band No Second Thought are continuing on in the same tradition as the bands mentioned earlier in bringing Finnish hardcore to the fore and although musically are different, they share the same raw edge and merge a metal vibe particularly in the vocal style with the raw hardcore that Finland is renowned for.
The band is influenced by the likes of All Out War and Sworn Enemy as well as Cannibal Corpse and Slayer and that shows in the band’s sound. Their latest self-titled
Full length retains the same well produced but brutal hardcore style as their “Better Days Ahead” EP from last year complete with some choice metal riffs, growls and screams. After an intense and harrowing intro, No Second Thought blast into “NST” and set the tone for the rest of the album. That track with its muscular riffs and screamed vocals announces the band’s sound and while it doesn't change much throughout the album, it is powerful and well put together and the results are impressive.
Tracks like “Possession” and “Days With Corpses” are more hardcore orientated and bring to mind “Gomorrah’s Season Ends” era Earth Crisis but done in No Second Thoughts own style. Tracks like “Own Hell”, “Talk To Talk” and the albums closing track “Where Legends Were Born” are a lot more metal and owe a lot to bands like At The Gates, particularly vocal wise as they are reminiscent of Tomas Lindberg’s screaming style (the fact that the At The Gates singer is also in D-Beat/hardcore band Disfear might play a part in that particular influence). The merging of metal and hardcore works well on the album with the two styles colliding and merging well with each other and while the tracks that have been mentioned are primarily one style more than the other, the majority of tracks on the album combine the best of both worlds to create a heavier sound. With this album, No Second Thought have delivered a metal and hardcore hybrid of an album that fans of both hardcore and metal will enjoy and will find plenty of crunching riffs, grooves, tortured vocals and breakdowns to keep them satisfied.
“MY RIOT: AGNOSTIC FRONT. GRIT, GUTS & GLORY” (Hardcover Book, Released August, 2017)
I was 15 years old when I first got it into hardcore. Agnostic Front along with Madball were the first bands that I got obsessively into. I could be wrong when I say this but if you get into one you’ll most likely get into the other because of the family connection between both bands. For example, one of the first CD’s I picked up was Madball’s “Ball Of Destruction” reissue put out by Century Media which had live tracks on it not only from Madball but also from Agnostic Front. There was even a radio interview of Roger on there too! Nonetheless, this was my entry way into the world of hardcore. Soon thereafter, I picked up “Last Warning”, the live album of their last show at CBGBs, which also had “United Blood” on it as well. I don’t think I’ve listened to a record more than that one. That set had every great song from AF’s catalog at the time and it had that great live feel too! It felt like you were in CBGBs, at least that’s how I felt. It also gave voice to the frustration and anger that I was feeling at that time. I remember studying the pictures and wanting to know more about these guys and, in particular, Roger Miret. The tattoos, the voice, the history; all of them intrigued me. Agnostic Front was my entryway into the world of New York Hardcore. I remember reading interviews of Roger in different zines and him mentioning the book he was working on and thinking that I couldn’t wait to read it. And, finally, here we are in 2017 with the release of this long awaited memoir entitled “MY RIOT: Agnostic Front, Grit, Guts & Glory”.
Now to be clear, if you’re expecting some sort of fanciful prose you’ll be woefully let down but if you’re expecting a walk through history and to really understand what made Roger and Agnostic Front tick you will not be let down. Roger, with the help of Jon Wiederhorn, writes with a great level of humility, simplicity, and honesty that makes for a very easy read. It really should not come as a surprise that he and his siblings (including Freddy) were the victims of domestic abuse. Anger, frustration and rage are not born out of a vacuum and are usually the result of some sort familial or systemic dysfunction. Often the best art and music are born of great pain and so it makes sense, however unfortunate, that the guy who mostly wrote New York Hardcore’s landmark album entitled “Victim In Pain” was mostly a victim in pain as a child due to no fault of his own.
Given the nature of Roger’s upbringing it seems that from early on he was on a trajectory that would eventually catapult him to the craziness of the punk world and the Lower East Side. There was no semblance of stability in his early life from being a poor Cuban immigrant kid to having a shell shocked father who beat his mother to having a stepfather who beat him and his siblings. The recollections that Roger provides are enough to make one seemingly uncomfortable with the notion that the world somehow makes sense and bends towards justice. Simply perusing through the first five chapters and you can clearly understand why Roger would one day scream, “there’s no justice, there’s just us.” Yet that’s also part of the beauty of this biography as the reader knows where it’s all going with Roger providing the pieces needed to sort it all out.
The early life of the New York Hardcore described comes across as a whirlwind of loud crazy music, lots of drugs, fighting and surviving. It’s simply amazing that anything came out of what was going on Avenue A. Roger goes into detail about what they did to get by from the layers of clothes they wore in order to keep warm in the winters to how they lived in places like Apartment X and the various squats they hopped to and from. He’s not shy in admitting that he and his friends did some less than admirable things in order to get by and also in order to get high. To say that they were living on the edge would be an understatement and in large part they were simply products of their environment; one in which death and destruction were all around them in the form of poverty, gangs and drugs. What’s more, that Agnostic Front grew to become the flagbearers of New York Hardcore is simply stunning when one considers their beginnings. When you read Roger’s descriptions of how they were unable to get through a complete set and that they asked people to be a part of the band not based on musical ability but rather on how they looked and danced in the pit it’s simply crazy. Strangely, though, it eventually worked. Roger notes that there was a desire on the part of Vinny to take the band more seriously. With Roger at the helm, the stability needed was established and from this would come “Victim In Pain”. It should come as no surprise that Roger ended up being the chief song writer for “Victim In Pain”. It could be said that before “Victim In Pain” Agnostic Front was Vinny Stigma’s band but after “Victim In Pain” it became both Roger and Vinny’s band.
With Agnostic Front’s change in members and styles in music throughout the years it was great to finally get a handle on the timeline of the who, what, where, when and why of it all. From Raybeez’s departure and the beginnings of Warzone to the drumming of Dave Jones and Jimmy Colletti to the move towards the thrash metal sound that saw Louis Beateaux of Carnivore and Alex Kinon of Cause for Alarm join the band to the later additions of Will Shepler, Matt Henderson and Craig Setari. Through all of this Roger interweaves the various happenings in his personal and band life. He tells of falling in love with Amy to the birth of his first daughter Nadia to his life of crime, violence and drugs to being a drug mule, getting arrested and being sent to prison. Roger spends a considerable amount of time explaining what that was like which, at least for me, was always something that piqued my curiosity about him. In part, because of the fact that the album “One Voice” was very much a concept album based on his experience in prison and the justice system.
The 1990’s see Roger settling down to become more of a family man putting Agnostic Front on hiatus in 1992 and taking a step back from the hardcore scene. He explains how in 1996 it was his brother Freddy inviting him up on stage at a Madball show to do some AF songs that sparked within him a renewed desire to reform the band. Thus, began a new era of Agnostic Front that saw them returning to their roots with a lineup and sound more reflective of their early years. This is where the book begins to wrap up and nears its end. Roger spends the last 50 pages recalling the reformation of the band and the stories therein like struggles with their label Epitaph and a sort of rebirthing of the band in the mid-2000’s with the help of Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta. Roger takes us all the way up to the present and the significant moments in his life like the meeting and falling in love with Emily, his wife, and moving to Arizona with her and having two more children.
There’s so much more that could be said about the book to the point in which I feel that I am not doing it enough justice. Ultimately, I would highly encourage anyone with an interest in New York Hardcore, Roger Miret, or the New York City of the 80’s to pick it up. One of the things that I really loved are the fun stories Roger shared throughout like when the band decided to pick up a dead deer on the side of the road in Connecticut with the plan of bringing it up on stage at their show at CB’s later that day. Or Stigma’s mom calling in a “favor” for her son Vinny in regards to the record label’s poor treatment of her son. Or Motorhead cutting their set short in New Orleans by turning off their sound 20 minutes into their set. There are many gems like these in this book, some of which will make you laugh, cringe and possibly cry. Nonetheless, the beauty of it all is that Roger lived to tell the tale.
So go pick up the book which is already in its second printing. Don’t end up a victim in pain because of your mistake of not purchasing it while it was still available. You might find yourself going insane in order to find a copy so this is your last warning to purchase it, if you choose to disregard it you will wind up in regret. Click the link below to get more info on how to get it.
MINDFORCE “THE FUTURE OF…” 7” EP
(Trip Machine Laboratories, Released Summer, 2017)
From Poughkeepsie NY this short 7" packs a pretty big punch. Mindforce has been making noise of late, most notably with their opening slot on this year's Black ‘N Blue Bowl. Those that showed up early and caught them were pleased to be drawn in by their energy, and awkwardly enticing live presentation .Their style is definitely in the vein of Leeway, Icemen, Crumbsuckers, Killing Time, Cro-Mags and other such thrashy, “crossover” bands. So one could say Mindforce borrow a lot from a sound that was pioneered 20 years ago, (aforementioned bands) to form their sound. Many newer bands are incorporating the crossover flavor into their hardcore mix. Nevertheless, Mindforce's talent should not be denied as such and they deserve their kudos for making this EP a modern era burner.
“The Future Of...” is the opener of the five tracks. It's a mid-tempo, head-nodder that’s light on lyrics and more of an “intro” than anything else. Lead vocalist, Jay, sets it off with the refrain of “This is the future of....” (hardcore?) That Leeway spirit is heavily present here. The second song “They Just Want War” is the hit. It starts off with a sound clip from a live show of Jay (vocals) dedicating the song to “the filthy pigs that rule over us...” The anti-military/industrial complex fervor is the theme. The lyrics and immediate thrust of thrash rhythms and lightning fast guitar leads combine perfectly to make this a memorable protest anthem, and standout track. When the slow-tempo part busts in, towards the middle, this song delivers an unforgettable one-punch knockout.
“Storm About To Burst” is next. It does just that. The storm moves in quick with that Leeway vibe bursting right outta the gate with rapid fire thrash leads and rhythms in yo face suckka, which leads into another meaty, mid-tempo mosh part that is set to make the pit explode. The ever present “thwaaacckk” of the snare (Donny/ drums) cuts through like a lightning strike. The bass (Nick) brings the thunder. Jay's vocals add a good amount of melody over all the songs on this recording. The vocals were obviously recorded with a hollow/ echo/ slight delay effect, but the words are clear and meaningful. The last two tracks “Golden Age” and “Run And Tell Them” are consistent and strong finishers that pretty much follow the same blueprint as the previous songs.
Most of Mindforce's songs on this blisteringly good 7" end abruptly, leaving the listener to wonder if that songwriting technique is intentional or because they ran out of more thrash. Mindforce's overall sound is great - well recorded, well played with a great blend of influences. Their evolution will possibly depend on setting themselves apart from aforementioned ever-present influences by concentrating their efforts on song structure and distinctiveness of arrangement. However that may be just more of a matter of musical tastes and less of a reflection on the quality of this effort and the skill displayed here. On a “moshability” scale - this effort pins the needle at 100%. Compared to many other bands coming out today Mindforce may very well be “The Future Of...” Looking forward to more from them. Originally released digitally in April but now available on 7” vinyl through Trip Machine Labs. Click HERE to order.
2 MINUTE MINOR “… A GOON’S BEST FRIEND” 7” EP (Released June, 2017)
This self-deprecating EP, hence the title and sing-along chorus “this is the goon crew” makes a statement – at certain points with great ferocity and abrasion: “One does not have to sound like a Posi-Core band to play positive Hardcore!”. These guys are all about the somewhat banal “PMA”/”pick yourself up” message, but they do it in more of a Slapshot, or dare I even say more serious sounding Murphy’s Law, fashion in terms of vocals – which is a relief. This effort almost incessantly informs us of how ‘Straight Edge’ they are, but also reassures listeners that they don’t judge those who are not and that they are opened-minded – to the extent that they even take up believing in God - as is most notably conveyed in “Follow Your Own Path.”
Although this release is undeniably “hardcore,” it is obvious that these guys appreciate the roots of punk as along with the grooves, breakdowns, and intense gang vocals – really more like massive militia vocals – there is an element of grime, especially in the vocals, which adds a nice twist. Furthermore, while on the surface it may seem as if 2 Minute Minor take themselves too seriously, all one has to do is head over to their social media pages to realize that they are also about fun and humor – the recent release of the “Soda Tax” 3” single makes light of that! It is wondersome what they may have in store for listeners in the future.
-Kicker of Elves
CONCRETE CRIMINALS “COPING MECHANISM” 7”
(Not Like You Records, Released June, 2017)
I didn’t really know what to expect from this album/EP, “Coping Mechanism”, from the Concrete Criminals out of Jacksonville, FL. I mean there is some stellar metal that comes from that Darwinian Award winning state but good skate punk? And, wait, the band is middle aged adults? Not teens? I’m gonna need a six pack or more for this………
This music is good stuff! Why? Because passion, that’s why. These are dudes that are still hardcore skaters, love punk and being outside the “normal” or typical civilian and they aren’t ashamed of it. When I was coming up, skating was just getting semi-popular and punk was considered a gateway drug to demonic behavior. If you liked either of these, you were a “rebel”. If you liked both, you pretty much put a target on your back. The passion of continuing to combine love of skating with music comes out strong in both the music and lyrics. When I started listening, I was thinking of some of that early Suicidal Tendencies meets M.O.D. sound but this was a rougher sound with a different style of group vocals in choruses, like dogs barking to be heard over the other. But it works for these guys. The five songs from the EP (I got a sixth which was cool) were short, hard and exactly what I envision if I see a bunch of old-head skate punks ripping a skate park and blaring music.
The music is definitely fast and loud with group sing along breakdowns but what sets Concrete Criminals apart from other skate punk is that their lyrics aren’t just focused on partying, girls, and “fuck the man” but looks at these themes in a more “grown” sort of way. Jobs, bills, family……..responsibility. The song “Coping Mechanism” really stood out to me with this. Everybody needs an outlet and skating is theirs. Concrete Criminals have upped the game and do it well without looking or sounding like sad retreads of a scene that we often still refer to ourselves as “Hardcore Kids”. If you still love skate rock punk, don’t get down with the pop punk, mumble rap or emo that has trickled in the mainstream skate scene then this may be what you are looking for in a hardcore punk band. Regardless, fun album and good tunes. Support your local scene!
DEPARTED “DARKNESS TAKES ITS THRONE” CD
(Fast Break! Records, Released February, 2017)
With recent releases from Brick by Brick, Absolute Suffering, the final recorded tracks from Lifeless, and a Wisdom in Chains/Madball split on the horizon, Fast Break! Records has really shown their commitment to producing the best possible records they can, and among them stands Departed. With their most recent release, “Darkness Takes It's Throne”, this NJHC band has, having formed less than 2 years ago, turned a lot of heads with their seamless blend of dark metal undertones and brutal hardcore edge. This album brings the epic tonal environment of Norwegian black metal to the hardcore scene, and somehow it makes sense. Not many bands in a scene dominated by camo shorts could get away with using operatic singing as featured in the track “Eternal Torment In Hell”, but Departed not only get away with it, they own it. I am being careful not to label Departed as a “crossover” band because “Darkness Takes It's Throne” is distinctly both a metal and a hardcore record without falling into the usual “metalcore” classification, and the sound throughout the record is purely something of its own brand. In their short time together, it feels that Departed have become comfortable enough to identify what makes their overall sound unique while playing to each of their own strengths as musicians – a place even more seasoned bands have trouble getting to after several years. This sort of self-awareness and willingness to play music unimpeded by what's popular in the scene has helped Departed gain respect and has put them on big shows and fests such as Tsunami Fest, This Is Hardcore, Motor City Fest, and more.
This year, with their record having just dropped, Departed went solidly outside the box at This Is Hardcore - showing up with a violinist to play the music as it is on the record; something rarely seen, and something not many bands would do for a live show. And for those of you who will say “Well Murphy’s Law had a violin player too!” - Departed played first, count it. My wife and I were really looking forward to seeing them play TIHC, but thanks to PennDOT putting in some extra hours on a Saturday, we got there just in time to see them unplug and walk off stage. However a friend recorded a few minutes of the set, so I got a small look at their performance – and I was more bummed to have missed it.
If you are one of those people always asking your friends for new music, and you haven't heard Departed yet, “Darkness Takes It's Throne” is a great record with a fresh sound and is available now through Fast Break! Records, or on their Bandcamp page.
COLD AS LIFE "SUFFER" 7"
(Demons Run Amok Entertainment, Released August 2017)
When I hear the name Cold As Life I get these flashbacks to what seems like a million years ago when this band would roll into NYC to play shows. They would come in all the way from Detroit but always seemed to have the full support of the NYHC crazies. This band which got its start in the late 1980's has gone through a million lineup changes with multiple band members having passed away since its inception. In 2016 they returned to action and this 2 song 7 inch from Germany's Demons Run Amok Entertainment is their first new stuff in approximately 15 years.
The title track "Suffer" clocks in at 3 minutes and 28 seconds leading in with some guitar distortion before a choppy drum beat joins it and builds things up right before the vocals kick in. The song carries with it a strong personal message of angst and suffering as it deals with the loss of someone close due to drug addiction. "20 years without you" and "I was just a kid when I saw you" exposes the pain left behind by this loss. Musically this reminds me of the Cold As Life that I vaguely remember from those times way back as I liken this to something that would be in line with "Set It Off" era Madball.
"For The Few" comes in at 3 minutes and 9 seconds and stays within the musical style and structure as "Suffer". A mid-paced choppy track that is a serviceable track but not at the level "Suffer" is. Fans of rough and tough hardcore with choppy breakdowns and gruff style vocals should be all in here as Cold As Life marches on as they close in on their 30th anniversary. With a recent European tour in the books and work started on a new album it looks as though these scene vets are from finished.
JUST ICE “2017 EP” (Released June, 2017)
While at heart I’m a hardcore traditionalist I also recognize that different forms, expressions and styles of the genre are needed in order to keep it interesting. Enter in Just Ice who’s self-titled EP is just that – interesting and different. This EP initially peaked my interest because of its artwork. It’s not every day that hardcore bands use black light poster style artwork for their albums. Plus, it’s weird. I mean pyramids, a volcano, a meteorite, a cobra? I’m sure there’s some meaning that I am missing. One would expect that from a Jam band or some kind of Phish knock off but not a hardcore band.
Anyways, on to the music. The EP begins with unique intro music (“Le Temps Est Bon” by Isabelle Pierre) and blasts in at a slow pace only to explode into a groovy march forward with the song "Burning Roses". When I first listened to this I found myself being reminded of the sounds of Biohazard, Turnstile, Fire & Ice and Trapped Under Ice. Not bad company to be in. For example, Joe Beef’s vocals sound as a cross between Evan from Biohazard and Fire & Ice’s David Herzing. The sound is heavy yet groovy with subtle sing-a-longs (reminiscent of Turnstile) and yet it isn’t predictable. I found myself bobbing my head a lot whenever I listened to this EP. It’s hard to tell where they are going yet it all comes together with fast parts, hard parts and breakdown parts. Ultimately, all of the songs are strong, interesting and fun. From the quick bombastic start of “Sleep” to the tuned down breakdown at the end of “Father”. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys gained traction in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend this EP.
PUMMEL "FORCE OF WILL" DEMO
(Released August 2017)
Boston's Pummel got at us late in 2016 sending in a solid 6 song demo for review and now they return with 4 new songs in the form of the "Force Of Will" demo. The title track is up first and a slight change in their musical path appears evident as there is more in the way of a crossover feel here as opposed to their demo from last year which had more of a late 80's hardcore feel. "Torn" is up next and sounds like they have been listening to just a little bit of Power Trip lately especially in how the guitar playing is coming across here. "Counterfeit Revolution" is next and lyrically reads like whatever tonight’s lead story on the 6 o'clock news is. The world is a giant dumpster fire and Pummel is here to remind you of this fact in this song. "No One's Dog" is a familiar story of waking up, going to work, come home and go to sleep and repeat... forever. "I need something more... striving for a better life, looking for meaning on this Earth" are lyrics that rang true with this writers life at certain points and obviously with whoever is writing the lyrics here. That old style demo feel is solidified with this recordings raw sound, homemade cover art and its short length which is only 6 minutes. Judging from the artwork it looks like this is released on cassette but there is no mention of it on any of their pages so if you are into that sorta thing… keep an eye out. Although I slightly prefer Pummel's last demo to this I still gotta give credit here for trying to shape their sound and not sitting still and spinning their wheels over and over.
KIND CREW DEMO 2017 (Released August 2017)
We're KIND. We're from Boston Massachusetts kid. Let's fucking MOVE are the words shouted into the mic as this 4 song, 6 minute demo kicks off. "Straight Through" is that opening track and introduces us to some modern day Youth Crew style hardcore that could easily be mistaken for the type of band you would have seen at Norwalk's Anthrax Club circa 1988. Wide Awake, Up Front, Side By Side... know I'm sayin??? "Kind Crew"... the song follows and continues with more crisp, well played 80's hardcore accompanied by some clean vocals and a pretty decent production job for a demo. Most everything here exudes an old-school type of feel right down to the home made style cover art which I must confess, was what caught my eye in the first place and drew me in to hear what they sounded like. The last of the originals is "Rejoice" which is track 3 with lyrics that will keep the "PMA all day" types in a positive mood for at least the remainder of this demo which closes out with a cover of Insted's "For The First Time" which is done with a slight twist towards the end to give it a Kind Crew vibe. On a whole I like what the CREW has going on here. On the first few listens this comes off real strong with some of the pizzaz wearing off just a little bit (and I stress just a little) after repeated runs through. Would probably kill live and that is no exaggeration as this has a ton of energy behind it. Not much else know about Kind Crew as they seem to have taken the steer clear of social media route but their affiliation with Wide Eyed Noise would lead one to guess there could be a limited edition cassette in the works. In Effect operatives are camped out at undisclosed locations trying to ascertain this information as this is being written. Stay tuned!
FIREBURN "DON'T STOP THE YOUTH" EP
(Closed Casket Activities, Release Date September, 2017)
FIREBURN comes to us with a ton of hype surrounding this, their debut release which isn't even due out until sometime in September via Closed Casket Activities. When you consider their lineup consists of members who have played in such bands as Warzone, Bad Brains, Terror, Murphy's Law, Nails and more it is understandable that people will get excited just off of that in hopes that somehow those previous experiences somehow can gel into a new band to really get behind. I think most people in the over 35 category are looking for new music that connects them with the style of hardcore they grew up on that just doesn't make a stale copy of what's already been done. It is not an easy task as many have tried but Todd Youth and crew have assembled something very special here with this 5 song EP and you hear that right away as the opening bass lines kick off the first track "Suspect" which clocks in at about a minute and a half. Israel Joseph I who sang on the Bad Brains "Rise" album back in 1993 as a young 20-something is Fireburn’s lead singer and brings an amazing vocal performance here spitting out rapid fire lyrics on this first track that dips into a strong "Rock For Light" vibed approach. This is an uplifting start that whips the listener into this frenzied state where you find yourself struggling just to keep up with the fast paced action laid out in front of you.
Track 2 is "Break It Down" which runs just a touch under 3 minutes and is my favorite track on this short EP. For the previously mentioned "Suspect" track I made a comparison to the Bad Brains' "Rock For Light" album and on this track I hear more Bad Brains influences but this time it's more in line with "I Against I" which followed "Rock For Light" and had more of a rock feel and less of a thrashiness style to it. The contrast from track one to this track works extremely well showing that Fireburn is not here to just bash it out at 500mph on each song but rather write smart tracks that showcase their members talents. Track 3 is "Let This Be" and is a 46 second fast blast of energy that sees the vocals return to that rapid fire style where IJI is singing so damn fast that you think he might end up hurting himself.
Tracks 4 and 5 are essentially the same song with "Jah Jah Children" taking the 4th slot and "Jah Dub" slotting in 5th which is a remix of "Jah Jah Children" by Jamaican producer The Scientist. That Bad Brains influence is evident once again with these closing tracks as "Rally Round Jah Throne" off of "Rock For Light" immediately comes to mind with its heavy reggae influence. The thick bass line, reggae feel and amazing vocal performance is as refreshing as jumping into a pool on a sweltering summer day.
The overall performance here is stellar with well written songs backed by crisp musicianship and a clean production. Add to that list some crushing guitar solos along the way as well. As mentioned earlier the Bad Brains influence is there and apparent but not to the point where all you are thinking about is Dr. Know and the boys as the music here does create its own identity. The hype on Fireburn is out there but it is fully warranted as "Don't Stop The Youth" is essential listening and a reason for those who may have strayed away from hardcore to get excited about it once again. Click that big ass link below to listen to the entire EP now.
HARD SHOULDER “2017 DEMO/EP”
(Released June, 2017)
Dutch hardcore. A genre I know little about. I loved Right Direction for their Sheer Terror style beatdown in the 90’s, and Manliftingbanner for putting out one of the best hardcore 10”s ever, but outside of that, I’ve not had so much exposure. These four tracks by Hard Shoulder from Leeuwarden deliver promising upbeat tempo no thrills hardcore… 15 years ago it might have been in the Y2K thrash scene ala What Happens Next, but its slightly slower than most of that genre. Still, short songs that are straight to the point. Somewhere in the mid-era The Repos (but with no distortion on the vocals) and current crusher, Green Beret. I hope they get a vinyl release out as I would like to see where they go from here.
-Jim Moo Cow
DONE DEAL, SILENCE EQUALS DEATH, NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE
@Lucky 13 Saloon, Brooklyn, NY August 6, 2017
ALL PHOTOS BY: RICH ZOELLER
This was the second annual Blast Furnace Productions BBQ show held at the Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn. If you haven't been to Lucky 13 yet make a point to get there at some point before you kick the bucket as its filled with character out the wazoo with all sorts of heavy metal paraphernalia posted on their walls from the floor to the ceiling and half naked girls dancing on their bar. How often do people talk about a bar/clubs décor? Hardly ever, but this place definitely has a thing all its own. The BBQ aspect for this show was held IN the street out front... not on the sidewalk, not in some side alley… but IN the street alongside the bands merch tables which were all put under a tent. Now how Brooklyn is that???
DONE DEAL @LUCKY 13 SALOON, AUGUST 6, 2017
There were 9 bands listed on this show and I caught a few of the earlier ones but the first one that left a lasting impression on me was Philly’s DONE DEAL who were playing only their second show ever. They are a newer band who have members who have been around the block with other bands and are now making some waves here. They took the stage and just brought this no non-sense, no bullshit, stripped down to the basics hardcore punk fucking rock for 20 or 25 minutes before wrapping things up. Most of their songs are only a minute or two minutes at most in length and come flying at you rapid fire one after the other. They put out a 6 song EP that ran just 8 minutes back in June and at this show they had a new one out that had 7 more songs with apparently more short EP's in the works. The Philly and NY hardcore scenes are working well with one another these days and Done Deal coming up to play this set helped further solidify that as they got a really good reaction from the small crowd who showed support by coming in off the street to check out something new.
SILENCE EQUALS DEATH @LUCKY 13 SALOON, AUGUST 6, 2017
NJ's SILENCE EQUALS DEATH who were recently interviewed on this site were up next and seem to play Lucky 13 on a regular basis. I think this was their 6th time playing here overall. Although not a new band by any stretch they are kind of still getting restarted after years of starts and stops do to a revolving door of band members. Their "End Times" full length which came out earlier this year is one of my favorites of 2017 and a big reason why I decided to show up here. Up until now all I've seen are photos and videos of SED in action and their up close and in person version did not disappoint one bit. Led by Scott on the mic and Fred on guitar the entire band really gets after it and got the crowd amped up with their enthusiasm. They did a cover of “World Peace” by the Cro-Mags and had the crowd flipping the fuck out at that point with probably the most chaotic point of the entire show. "End Times" was another standout with its slow start and build before the mayhem hits. They had some out of place band members with their bass player playing guitar here and a fill in bass player due to someone in the band being away on vacation or something to that effect but they sounded great nonetheless. There was a brief period in between songs where their bass player (turned guitarist for this show) was messing with his guitar between songs and then needed a toothpick (which someone actually came up with) to save the day. I don’t recall ever seeing a toothpick save a musician like that but I guess there is a first time for everything. I am really glad I finally caught SED in action after knowing about them for a few years now. Hopefully word gets out there about them and people take notice as they are an all-around solid band on the rise in a crowded scene.
NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE @LUCKY 13 SALOON, AUGUST 6, 2017
The mighty NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE were the headliners for this day and showed that as they close in on 30 years as a band (Fall of 2018) that they still have plenty in the tank. “More Tattoos” was their opening track and got things started off. Lucky 13 does not have a big dance floor area and the small crowd that stuck around to the end used every inch of that area as NRSV whipped everyone up into a frenzy. “Pussy, Pussy, Pussy’ was next and led into “Chicken”, which led into “Beer Equals Fun”. As you can see from the song titles they are not the world’s most serious hardcore band but one of the best at delivering a fun time whether opening at a huge show like This Is Hardcore (2013) or playing at a smaller venue where they seem right at home. One of NRSV’s most popular songs is “No Regrets’ which came out like 400 years ago on their “Hardcore Your Lousy Ass Off” 7”. The song has a lead in before the lyrics of “wake up in the morning, pressure on my head” kick in and they have gotten really good at just ending the song just as the lyrics are about to start… leaving the audience screaming the lyrics up at the band who then re-start the song basically fucking with everyone. What else would you expect from these guys? We did get some new vibes here today with the introduction of two new songs. First up was “Wasted For Life” with its catchy and easy to remember chorus that people were singing right along to on the second go around and then came “Rat Bones” which is about the long time NYHC scene-veteran. Both of these songs were played for the first time live and both are keepers that I can see included in future NRSV sets for years to come as they just had that NRSV feel to them. Longtime fans will not be disappointed by these 2 new tracks. Things wound down with “Clueless”, “Olde E” and then “Skinheads Rule’ to close things out with a pile-on up front as people grabbed for that mic during that last song. Look for new music from these guys hopefully by years end or in early 2018.
BREAK AWAY "CROSS MY HEART" LP
(React! Records, Released August, 2017)
Pro tip from Richmond, VA's Break Away... kick off your new 11 song album titled "Cross My Heart" with an absolute banger of an intro-bust and call it "Disappear Here". The opener runs 2 minutes and 5 seconds and absolutely sets the listener up for what is about to come with layers of groove, heart and soul which pretty much runs throughout this 22 minute effort.
For the uninitiated Break Away lists Judge, Carry On, and Inside Out as influences and make no qualms about being backers of the edge. As a listener and big fan of youth crew days gone by this combination has often let me down in more recent years as many bands seem content with just taking what has come before them and not adding much in the way of originality. Often the types of releases I refer to are well played, drop in the mosh where the mosh is supposed to be, drop in the dive bomb where the dive bomb is supposed to be… but in the end it’s just a photocopy of a photocopy, empty shell feeling. On “Cross My Heart” Break Away proves that it is possible to take a classic style, get a little innovative with it, and still stay true to what it started as. I have been glued to this record for well over a week and change and what keeps coming to mind while listening to this record is an updated, “2017 Youth Of Today” type of record.
“Manufactured” is track 2 and is a blazing fast track, hard as nails and catchy as fuck before it slows down about half way through just in time to drop this crucial dance part right on your dome to close out the song. I can literally see people climbing on top of one another reaching for the mic as frontman Ace Stallings yells out “Don’t say that I’m better, when you know far and well, you’re better. You’re better than this”.
“Cold Wave, Snow Beach” which is a real interesting title is the next track that made a real impression on me both musically and in the lyric department. In the song they contemplate what type of person it takes to gain any growth in this world. “Was I made for war, or made to create? Nagging questions I’ve had of late”… “A man of the sword? A man of the pen? I ask myself again and again” are two standout lyrics before the possible answer of “Maybe it takes both” is given but not before ending with “So unsure”. This track leads in with another amazing intro that runs about a minute before the lyrics kick in and then is highlighted by some blistering fast guitar work making this one of the standout tracks on an album full of standouts.
Track 6 is “Ordinary Madness” and is a 32 second interlude of the acoustic guitar variety with no lyrics. I smiled when I heard this cause to me it absolutely shows Break Away’s fearless approach essentially stating that if they like how something sounds they are putting it on their damn record and damn those who want compartmentalized hardcore! And for the record this song is way too short… expand this and throw it on at the end as an outro or as a hidden track is what I say!
“A Letter To Those Lost” and “Glass Walls” gets us right back to the regularly scheduled programming with two more ass bustin’ fast tracks that are pretty much straight up, no non-sense tracks but even here Break Away has me absolutely bugging. “Glass Walls” has this Cro-Mags “World Peace” type of bass lead in before a nicely placed dive bomb blows shit up and leads in to another nice track in “Division Treaty” before the title track makes its presence known. On my first run through “Cross My Heart” I knew immediately that the title track was probably the bands overall favorite track or at the very least one of their top 3. The fact they decided to put out a full on music video for it shortly after kind of solidified the fact that they knew this is one of the stronger tracks here with a guitar riff that just gets ingrained into your subconscious to the point where you got it stuck in your head all the live long day. With lines like “I cross my heart 1000 times. I’ll only lift you up on high. I’ll be your rock through thick and thin. I’ll be your shelter, your best friend” you know that this song is coming from emotional place.
“The Sun Also Sets” finishes this one up with a slow paced track that builds to the fade out style chorus that bears this tracks name. I kind of get a Bane “Final Backward Glance” type of vibe here as this track and album fades into the night bringing this masterful performance to an end. Break Away knocks “Cross My Heart’ completely outta the park and hopefully helps propel them to bigger and better things as it simply has been earned. They have been grinding since 2010 and hopefully this, their sophomore full length is what opens up people’s eyes. Ladies and gents… DO NOT SLEEP on one of 2017’s finest!
ALL OUT WAR "GIVE US EXTINCTION"
(Organized Crime Records, Release Date August 11, 2017)
Ok folks, fact checks... All Out War from upstate NY, formed way back in 1991 with this being their 6th full length studio jam. They took a little break a few years back but got back after it again in 2013 and dropped the "Dying Gods" EP in 2015 with this being that releases follow up which hits us with 11 originals and a cover of Nausea's "Cybergod". All in all you are looking at a 42 minute release here.
I have always respected AOW's heavier take on the hardcore genre and to their credit they do not hide behind the fact that they embrace their metal roots just as much as their hardcore ones. With that said I am more of an old-school hardcore type of guy and AOW to this point has not broken down whatever barrier was there for me to fully embrace their music. I wanted that to change though when "Give Us Extinction" showed up in the inbox. I downloaded it right away putting the volume way up prepared to give it a fair shake and it didn’t take long for me to start feeling this.
The title track starts us off with this slow, brooding type of beat chugging along for 2 minutes and change. This could go over well as a live set opener as it builds up the listener's anticipation before the hammer drops with a song like "Burn These Enemies" which is track two here. This is where shit gets real with AOW throwing everything they got at us with this barrage of guitars, double bass drums, and Mike Score’s ferocious vocal style literally engulfing the listener like a nuclear wave blasting out of your speakers. At this point it is still early on in this rather long album but there is already no doubt in my mind that with this band you are dealing with musicians that have crafted this super fucking intense style and who are at the top of their game. “Worship The Cancer” is up third followed by “From The Mouths Of Serpents” and AOW shows that they can mix things up and not get into a comfort zone relying on all the same tricks. There is plenty of mosh to go around and honestly with their insanely heavy sound those choppy drum parts sounds amazing. AOW hits the hardest though when they are flying through their faster songs. Check out “In Praise Of Leeches” which is a perfect example of what I am talking about. “Carcass Rot” about half way through is a nice little minute long acoustic breather of sorts and breaks up the mayhem, although just for a minute. “Circling Vultures” is up next and jumps full on back into the chaos. The majority of the songs here run between 3 and 4 minutes in length with the lineup of songs and their order seemingly having been carefully picked to give this an overall good flow. Although there are standouts within this group of songs I find that listening to “Give Us Extinction” straight through is the way to go. Just hit the play button, sit back, and let AOW take care of the rest. Outside of some of the song titles like “Ingesting Vile”, “From The Mouths Of Serpents”, “In Praise Of Leeches” and a couple of others that bring about this darker metal vibe that I was never a fan of I am all in here. Having the lyrics to these songs would have helped here and hopefully they come with the physical release. An interview with frontman Mike Score is currently in the works as well where we can get a little into the lyrics on this new offering. OK, so you pretty much won me over here AOW. Hardcore meets thrash metal with more emphasis on the metal aspect but good music is good music, right? Now ball that fist up, feel your blood pressure rise, and get ready to hit some shit because All Out War is back with some fucking pain to dish out in the form of “Give Us Extinction”. Long time fans should eat this up and for newcomers and previous sceptics like myself this is a great place to get started.
CRIPPLED EARN “SWINE” 7” EP
(Morse Code Recordings Released August, 2017)
We are a product of our environment and these guys come out of the Bronx. We all see how the city has changed but it doesn’t sound like Crippled Earn’s neighborhood has been gentrified quite yet. Crippled Earn’s debut release from MorseCode Recordings, “Swine” hits hard. Their lyrics are not sugar coated in anyway. The vocals are gruff and there are no love songs on “Swine”. They portray the hardships of living in a time and place where most hope is lost. “This is not the promised land, it’s a cesspool, disease ridden bed of fucking filth” is a lyric off the opening track “Self-Worthless”. “Disappointed and Disengaged”, “World Without Religion”, and “Runt” are the three other doses of the self-loathing hardcore. “You’re the only person I despise more than myself” is the line you’ll start singing along with from “Disappointed and Disengaged”.
Musically they draw from more aspects than just a straight forward hardcore background. All of the members are from other bands and their experience and punk rock influences other than NYHC are evident in this release. They maintain a working class feel to these tracks with enough nuances to keep it interesting. The artwork is iconic, a black and white boars head that would look better on the back of a mean biker’s leather than in a deli’s window. This was originally put out digitally by the band this past February with this being a “re-release” of sorts with Morse Code Recordings now making this available on cassette and 7” vinyl.
MIRACLE DRUG “HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH” EP
(WAR Records, Released July, 2017)
Comin’ at ya straight outta Louisville, Kentucky, today we have Miracle Drug! In a similar vein as Search, this band is a super group featuring ex-members of a smorgasbord of bands spanning generations and styles. This ripping brand new EP – “How Much Is Enough” – is a follow up to a 2015 demo. This being my first window into this band I was excited to check it out. I’ll shoot ya straight, the music is cool as hell! Now, you may pause and ask “what is that supposed to mean? “Cool”? That’s so vague dude.” WELL LEMME EXPLAIN! Let’s be real with each other here, hardcore can really only go in 1 of like 4 directions, some bands do their niche well, some don’t. Some bands meld styles and come up with something genuinely unique, and some try to do that and fail miserably. Miracle Drug falls effortlessly into the category of rare undefinable style. Their sound is classic without sounding generic, it’s progressive in just the right moments without trying too hard, it hits all the right marks but still manages to surprise you in moments. In short, these guys know how to craft hard hitting music without making a clone, and that to me is indelibly COOL! With a mere 5 tracks, “HMIE” is one of those rare perfect length records; Each song is just long and ear grabbing enough to get you hooked and wanting more just as the next track is starting. I can see a banger of an LP out of this band if this EP is any true indicator. If this is your first listening foray into Miracle Drug you will NOT be let down. 6 thumbs up!
CONCRETE “EVERYTHING ENDS NOW”CD
(Irish Voodoo Records, Released June, 2017)
The fact that the title of the opening track of “Everything Ends Now”, the latest album from Albany, NY hardcore powerhouses Concrete is titled “Pure Strength” tells you everything you need to know about this album and the band’s sound. After a short intro, the song explodes with energy and their groove powers through like a steamroller crushing anything that foolishly chooses to stand in its way. This track sets the scene for an energetic showdown between the band and the listener and it has to be a tie as to who is having the most fun here as the music spills out and as the vicious shout of "Betrayal has a thousand fucking faces" rings out towards the end of the song it is clear that this album is going to be a hell of a ride. The bulldozing “No Sacrifice” follows with some metal riffs thrown into the mix as well as some fantastic double bass drumming and that just elevates up the bands power. “False Master” cranks up that metal feeling with some Slayer-esque riffs before morphing into a Merauder (and not just because of the similarity between this songs title and “Master Killer”) or Crown Of Thornz vibe with its mid-paced groove simply killing things, especially made for a pile on outro sequence of the song.
The quality continues tenfold with “Mortality” (probably the heaviest thing on the album, which is saying something) and “Exile” (a song that is ready made for the pit and reminded me of a heavier version of Leeway, in sound and in vibe) preceding the aural punch in the face that is “Gomorrah”. This track is bass heavy and sounds immense with a catchiness that rivals its heaviness and has a pure hardcore quality to it. The relentless groove of “On Thin Ice” and the mammoth paced ferocity of “Slave To None” keep the energy flowing before “Everything Ends Now” commences with “Unrivaled Hatred” and this track finishes things off in fine style with its punishing rhythms, insane solos and that ice cold groove. When the track ends with a roar of "Goodnight motherfuckers", it is clear that Concrete have done their job and done it well. With this album Concrete have a solid collection of songs that typifies the band’s sound and their energy with the music punching its way out from the speakers in an apt fashion, one that captures the raw power of the band perfectly.
SHOTS FIRED! SHOTS FIRED! “CALLES SANGRIENTO” EP (Released April, 2017)
There’s nothing Earth-shattering, life-changing, or even unique here, but that doesn’t mean that these guys aren’t worth hearing out! This Chicago-based, overtly proud Hispanic outfit uses musical abrasion to address a plethora of pressing social and/or political issues on this seven-song EP, starting off with a Trump sample and ripping into a critique of the ego and paradoxes exuded by the ever so popular and so great number 45. While such tracks tend to lean towards the heavier/hardcore side of punk in terms of sound, there are also several which could serve as a soundtrack for the “snotty punk” of today or yester-year. These tend to address somewhat lighter, mundane issues in an almost tongue-in-cheek manner, such as “Death Of A Bus Driver”, which is told from the vantage point of one who is intentionally passed by an unfoundedly self-righteous bus driver for not having a physical appearance which conforms to social norms. With such changes in seriousness on the record also comes a more raw and minimalistic sound, reminiscent of bands such as Even Worse, In Your Face, and Crucial Youth. Rather than presenting themselves as audacious poets by utilizing metaphors and obscure literary and/or historic references, which often elude the listener, Shots Fired! Shots Fired! tends to be as upfront, direct, and seemingly literal as one can be on this one. Further ensuring that their audience doesn’t miss the point, many songs repeat the same points in both English and Spanish. However, don’t despair – each verse is equally compelling and captivating! While this release is merely twenty minutes long, it is fun as well as refreshing in that, although it often addresses relevant and pressing issues, it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Furthermore, its diversity in sound and subject matter helps it along. It will be interesting to see where this new outfit goes from here – maybe to your neck of the woods, be sure to check them out!
-Kicker Of Elves
2017 VANS WARPED TOUR WITH SICK OF IT ALL, WANTAGH, NY JULY 8, 2017
PHOTOS BY: RICH ZOELLER
Being a hardcore “kid” and telling people you are going to the Vans Warped Tour can often get you the side eye, that weird look, or that “what the fuck is wrong with you man” response but this year everything just fell into place and with Sick Of It All playing close to home as well as maybe a couple of Aaron Judge homeruns away from the Atlantic Ocean how could I refuse?
In years past I have gone to the Warped Tour to hand out flyers for this website with the hopes of converting some Blink 182 fans into the next hardcore mosh warriors. (Slight sarcasm there folks) This was my first time dropping down some hard earned cash and partaking in what essentially is every fest I have ever been to… on corporate grade steroids. For those not familiar with Wantagh, NY it is home to Long Island’s most famous/popular beach called Jones Beach and this event was held in one of its parking lots. As soon as you walk in the first things you see are VENDORS… tent after tent selling merch for all the bands (and tons of other stuff) who are playing and that is A LOT! On the Warped website they have close to 100 bands listed for this tour which started in mid-June and runs through August 6th covering pretty much every nook and cranny of the US of A. With close to 70 out of those 100 bands playing on this date should give you an idea of the magnitude of what they are doing here. Basically this tour is DIY’s evil twin backed by sponsors out the wazoo but once again… with Sick of It All in the mix I just felt that need to head on out to the beach and represent for one of our music scenes flag-bearers.
Within this huge parking lot were multiple stages, most of which had ones right next to each other. One band would play and the following band’s crew would set up on the next stage over and as soon as band A finishes their set band B literally starts playing a few seconds later and things were pretty tight as far as the flow of bands on and off the stages. With so many bands I have never even heard of playing I did plenty of bopping around from stage to stage, checking out more Ramones style poppy punk in BARB WIRE DOLLS from LA to FUTURISTIC, a DJ from Arizona, FIRE FROM THE GODS from Texas who had an awesome singer who almost sounded like DMX doing hardcore at times to Pittsburgh’s ANTI-FLAG.
SICK OF IT ALL took the stage a little bit before 4pm and opened with an old favorite in “Injustice System” as a nice crowd had gathered in front of their stage called the “Hard Rock” stage. For this tour there was some kind of lottery system where the set times for each band on each day were chosen randomly making for some interesting lineups and keeping track of bands online became kind of an important thing because of this. After “Injustice System” things were off and running as “Clobberin’ Time” led into “Road Less Traveled”. For the majority of their set SOIA got a really nice response with the assembled crowd doing their thing and really getting into their set. In between songs frontman Lou Koller made mention to the fact that they had to try and fit 30 years of songs into a short 25 minute set. For a band that is used to doing rigorous hour long sets night after night this tour in some ways must seem like a cakewalk. Who out there wouldn’t want to have a summer work schedule with all half days! “Take The Night Off”, the Craig led “Busted”, “DNC” and “Scratch The Surface” showed diversity within their set-list as overall they gave us a little bit of everything from a bunch of different albums. By the time their closing track “Step Down” was played you could see that the crowd had dwindled significantly which could be attributed to the fact that HATEBREED had gone on not too far away maybe 20 minutes into SOIA’s set. The ones who remained saw Lou jump over the barricade to get a little up close and personal sharing the microphone as he got mobbed by the faithful that hung around to the very end. Although SOIA was sharp and put on a typical top notch SOIA type set it is really hard to match the intensity of a packed indoor hardcore show. Warped provides a nice sized stage and an insanely loud sound system but can’t provide that special whatever it is that makes hardcore so damn special when played in a cramped space or a packed out club. With that said I am still glad I made the effort to come out on this day and see one of the all-time greats spread that hardcore gospel to the masses.
After the SOIA set I walked over to see what Hatebreed had left and it was almost like walking into another dimension as they must have had double the crowd SOIA just played to and fully under frontman Jamey Jasta’s control. How many times have you been at a hardcore show and the singer tells everyone.. “Yo, yo, move the fuck up mother fuckers!” and everyone just kinds of stands there? When Jamey called for a circle pit to go around a Monster Energy Drink tent that was towards the back of the area for the audience and then got maybe 100 to 200 people to do this while losing their fucking minds made my jaw drop. I felt like I was dropped into a random European hard rock festival that you catch on You Tube. Hatebreed just had this huge, commanding presence that I have to admit was pretty damn impressive. The Warped Tour is not an underground hardcore tour by any stretch of the imagination but they did bring in a few names that got me interested and overall I am glad I went in a bucket list kind of way. It also made me think how thankful we should all be to have festivals like This Is Hardcore, Sound & Fury, the BNB Bowl, and United Blood amongst others that are run by the “kids” for the “kids”. -CW
INTRGRITY- “HOWLING, FOR THE NIGHTMARE SHALL CONSUME” LP
(Relapse Records, Release Date, July 14, 2017)
CLEVELAND ROCKS, CLEVELAND ROCKS.....OHIO!!!!!!!!! Cleveland is pretty sweet nowadays with its, Lebron, Rock & Roll H.O.F., Micro-breweries, The Christmas Story House, and Polish Boys (both the food and the human type). It is not fodder for You Tube funnies anymore. However, I think someone forgot to tell Integrity front man, architect, and mainframe, Dwid Hellion because his outlook has not changed. The Oracle of Forest City returns with another one of his apocalyptic visions in the form of a new Integrity LP entitled "Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume" on Relapse Records. The group's first LP in four years. If Cleveland has gotten softer over that period of time, never fear, because Dwid has enlisted the invaluable assistance of Baltimore's own Dominic Romeo (Pulling Teeth, Slumlords, A389 Recs) as a partner in crime, replete with writing and guitar duties. If anyone out there could be a perfect fit for the job, it is Mr. Romeo, and if you asked him a couple years ago what his dream band gig would be, the answer would've probably been KISS, but second place would definitely have gone to Integrity. Integrity are a polarizing band that people seem to either love or hate. You don't hear a whole lot of folks say..."they're alright". There's that whole weird is it metal, hardcore, metalcore debate which is old and tired, and seriously, who gives a fuck anyways? Good music is just that. I happen to be a guy who got the "In Contrast of Sin" 7" when it came out, and while production wise it's shit compared to the later work, if you listen to it, it is not that far away from anything that came after it. This is just how Dwid was made, built or programmed. The crew have compiled ten songs on this offering clocking in just shy of a robust 48 minutes. So allow me now to put on my boots, grab a crucifix, a sword, some holy water and an encyclopedia so I can wade into the minds of this crew of maniacs to find out just what the hell is up with these new jams. Release the hounds!
The first song up is "Fallen to Destroy/Blood Sermon" @ 4:16. Eerie guitar and what appears to be some backwards talking intro the song with two names, and suddenly I am glad I remembered that cross. This tune is nearly a straight up black metal tune. The guitar tone, the speed, it reminds me of wandering through the woods alone at night, in winter, listening to "Mother North" by Satyricon. If you haven't tried it, you should. The song ends with a signature "Vocal Test" type of howl from the Hellion himself. A killer introduction to the new LP. If you were expecting rainbows and safe spaces, well, you're shit out of luck chump.
"Hymn for the Children of the Black Flame" @ 2:16, making it the shortest blast on the LP, starts almost immediately with a sick drum roll and divebomb into some crazy fret work, and another growl from the head beast. This song is blistering with insane solos over Slayer type rhythms and the demonic vocal stylings of Dwid. I like my shit short...ADD and all, so you know this is my track right here.
"I am the Spell" @ 2:55 starts off with a dirge and a few more divebombs thrown in for good measure before it launches into its galloping rhythm. This one is highlighted by Dom's insane solo work. Suddenly the tune slows it down a notch and gets into a grove that I can see inspiring many a shirtless sweaty fat guy, to try to lift his leg over his head for a sick kung-fu move, but he's only getting that shit knee high, and you know it. Sorry tubby.
"Die With Your Boots On" @ 2:58 is up next. I'm glad I put mine on. This is Integrity at their utmost Iron Maiden. This is a great heavy metal tune...no core...no black...just good hard rock. Very much like Maiden and even Motorhead. It may simply be a coincidence that there is in fact a Maiden tune of the same name, as this is no cover song. This is a rocker. This may be radio friendly, well Sirius/XM for sure, and not just Liquid Metal or Faction either.
A melancholy guitar starts off "Serpent of the Crossroads" @ an epic 6:41. This song is just that…..an epic, so the sword came in handy. You get about three and a half minutes of slow to mid-tempo music with Dwid getting the closest he comes to crooning. At that point it turns into more of a battle. This song has an amazing back and forth between Dom and Dwid, almost as if they are arguing, with Dom speaking through the guitar, each making their points and counter points. Sick tune.
"Unholy Salvaion of the Sabbatai Zevi" is the long-play of the LP @ 7:25, and now I'm glad I brought that encyclopedia. Some creepy as church organs kick off the doomiest of the albums tracks. It does not get mired in the doom though as there are many time changes, solos and Dwid nuggets throughout. In retrospect, it is perfectly placed as a pivot point on the record.
"7 Reece Mews" is another epic @ 6:57 and if the previous song was doom, this is its gloomier cousin. This one has haunting guitars but the standout here is Dwid's vocals. Most of the song is done in a style that can best be described as Mike Patton of Faith No More doing RV (look it up punks). Very interesting experimentation on this track.
"Burning Beneath the Devil's Cross" brings it back down to a stealthy 3:03....and out comes the holy water. Drums, bass, then guitars and this pounding hardcore tune is running down the road. This is your quintessential driving song. Crank it up, hit the gas and I hope nobody cuts you off.
"String Up My Teeth" clocks in @ 4:18 and is easily the oddest and probably coolest track on the LP. It starts off normally with some nice whining guitar, and then kicks off into a sweet groove, and then, Dwid is kinda singing, and I'm kinda bopping my head along with the tune wondering what the fuck is going on, then suddenly the female back up vocals kick in "higher, higher" they shout and my fucking head explodes. A goddamn rock tune and I love it. Any jackwad reviewers who say this album lacks experiment should have their reviewer card revoked and their fucking heads checked.
The LP wraps up with the titular track "Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume" @ 6:46, and you know it's another epic with all of the calling cards we've come to expect from the band to keep it interesting until it ends in ear piercing sonic beam that subliminally told me to murder everyone, everywhere.
So there you have it punks. The latest album from Integrity. There are various cool versions of this release, some with bonus tracks not covered in this review. Check ‘em out. This is a well rounded offering, with excellent musicianship throughout. The addition of Dom Romeo was a genius move by Mr. Hellion as they seemingly work extremely well together. Dwid's voice is as demonic as ever and I appreciate his experimenting on this release. If you think you know what you are getting, you may be in for a surprise or two here..... Oh, you will indeed get all of that, but you'll get a lot more as well. Don't be fooled by many of the reviews out there, for example the one I read on Stammermouth or whatever it's called. They simply "Googled" apocalyptic synonyms and threw them into a paragraph to describe this album sans anything regarding the songs contained therein. I often wonder if half these ass clowns even listen to the music they review. Stick with good ole In Effect and props to dudes like No Echo, for better or worse, you know we'll be listening.
BETTER DAYS “SUSSUDIO ARC” EP (Released April, 2017)
For all intents and purposes hardcore is not a particularly groundbreaking form of music. It’s loud, fast, and aggressive and some of us are quite content with that. There’s not always a need to reinvent the wheel. In fact, if you just stick with what you know and do it well chances are you’ll produce something quite good. Better Days from St. Louis prove this with their most recent EP – “Sussudio Arc”. It’s fun, it’s tight, it’s done well and with a sense of humor to boot. I mean, the first song is entitled “Better Days Takes Manhattan” which, of course, is a play on “Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan”. And they waste no time getting right into it with that first song and what follows are songs that are reminiscent of Kid Dynamite, early Comeback Kid, Lifetime and even early Suicidal Tendencies.
Almost all of the songs clock in at under 2 minutes and are chock full of speed and slower breakdown/sing along moments. Chris’ vocals have a more old school feel which helps to make their sound more distinctive. The guitars play well off of one another, with little leads inserted in various places along with solid bass lines and quick time changes revealing that these guys know how to play their instruments. Both “Jon Arbuckle” and “That’s Unfortunate” have fun disjointed starts that make you feel like you’re in a pinball machine only to give way to fast downhill parts that then give way to fun breakdowns. “Wait for the Clap” starts fast just like the first track “Better Days Take Manhattan” giving way to another fun breakdown. The last song, “Your Trough or Mine” starts slower than the others and has a fast and brief ending. It’s a fitting way to end the EP.
Having lived in St. Louis for three years I can say that being a hardcore kid or punk in the Midwest is a bit more challenging than on the coasts so go show these guys some love! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Their EP is free and can be found by clicking the link below.
DONE DEAL EP (Prop 44 Records, Released June 2017)
Philadelphia's Done Deal serve up their first EP in what they say will be a series of EP's but if you want to get your hands on this one you are going to have get a little personal with these ruffians as physical CD's are all that they are making available. "I Shit You Not" leads off with about 30 seconds of feedback/distortion before we get the rest of the band to join in for about another 30 seconds to wrap up this first track. Blink and it's over boys and girls. Taking the title of this song into consideration along with the last two lines of "I DON'T CAREEEEE!" convincingly shouted by frontman Gavin pretty much cements the fact that these guys got the pissed off part of their game on lockdown.
What jumps out at me from this EP is the guitar tone which I like a lot. I can describe it as somewhat deep and sludgey and blends well with the vocals which are also solid showing you can sing "hard" while not sounding like a death metal Cookie Monster. Done Deal walks a fine line between punk and hardcore with mostly mid-paced jams that could use a few more hooks in their songs to keep things fresh. This clocks in at only 8 minutes and for a quick sampling like this works well as it’s over before you know it. For a longer release though one would hope for a little more variety to keep your attention throughout. Some more speed/thrash like tracks would sound great with their sound. Done Deal appear to be a newer band who just played their first show in May and who I'd say are well ahead of the game with this nice debut. Get in touch below to find out how to cop yours.
THE VIRUS "SYSTEM FAILURE" 'CD
(Evacuate Records, Released February 2017)
Recent travels brought me through Lancaster, PA... an area known more for its large Amish population rather than its punk rock population. In the downtown section of Lancaster lies a real deal punk rock record store called Angry, Young, and Poor which i have ordered from in the past online. Since I was in the area I figured, hey, why not stop in and check 'em out. The guy who ran the place told me he was in a band called The Virus, gave me a short history of the band (which spans decades) as well as a CD as I headed out the door. As he handed me the CD he did mention that "we play punk rock and were a little political".
"What Do You Want" kicks off this 12 song, 30 plus minute effort with a message of taking control of one’s life. "Paul" is listed as lead vocals with Z. Kolodziejski on lead guitar, Dave Preno on guitar, Tyler Capone on drums, and Josh Howard on bass. The music throughout here on "System Failure" is amazing, well thought out, and well played punk rock that probably would have been considered hardcore if the year was still 1982. Although I am not as well versed in the current punk rock genre as some I do get a Casualties type vibe here as well as "Apocalypse Now" era Final Conflict (minus the vocals). If I still had my time machine and ended up at a show with these guys sharing a stage with bands like Dead Kennedy's, Black Flag, and say Suicidal Tendencies I wouldn't think twice as they'd just fit right in. Modern era hardcore can range from bands sounding practically like death metal to a band sounding like The Virus… and I will pick this sound every single time.
Fast, catchy and with that edge that makes it "hardcore punk" or even "street punk" if you will. Enough of the labels though as "System Failure" has quickly become an early summer favorite. "Breakdown" is track 3 starting off with a sound bite of a girl saying "the outter shell of him came back but everything on the inside was dead" before this furious drum and bass lead in to a blistering fast track that is one of my favorites. The song takes on the topic of soldiers returning from war. This is also not the only song where The Virus use a sound bite to introduce a song and it's a cool and effective way of leading you in to what a song is about. Although the songs are largely rooted in current events they don't necessarily cram their opinions down your throat which is refreshing as aggressive soapbox preaching can easily become a reason to move on to the next band. The topics touched upon here run from government failure in the title track "we need a plague, reset the stage", weapon build ups in "Bombs For Our Children", and class war in "Burn It Down" ("the rich are shitting on the working class, it's a cycle that never ends"). Other favorites here include "No Peace", the slower "Burn It Down" and the closer "Pacifist". For many that cry out for more message in the music this is a good place to look. The Virus may not make you feel all warm and fuzzy after listening to what they have to say but isn't this music genre supposed to ruffle some feathers? With a long history in place long before I found The Virus it is hard to play catch up to what has come before "System Failure". Focusing in on just this release though I am glad I came across this album as it's a nice 30 minute slice of what I grew up with and hopefully there is more to come from these scene vets.
ENZIGURI “UPTOWN BOOGIE DOWN” CD
(Released April, 2017)
Thirteen tracks of anthemic hardcore that is clearly New York in origin, but not 1980’s mosh NY in the vein of Raw Deal or Cro-Mags, but more like “My Life My Way” era Agnostic Front meets “Nothing To Prove” era H20. It’s a style with a lot of potential, but two things hold this back. First, I find the recording to be non-dynamic. I’m reviewing this from the Bandcamp site, so that may be a factor, but it’s just not an energetic recording that makes me want to bounce off walls. There are definitely some sections in here that would sound cool live, a breakdown here and there, and some riffs at times; but it’s just a bit flat and this recording as I’m listening to it. The second thing that holds me back is the vocals, and it’s not that the vocalist doesn’t fit or that he isn’t passionate, I think both those components are there; it’s the style. The singer sings along with the melody of the tracks, on the beats, it’s really a sing along style, and it’s just not my thing. Indecently, I think how the backing vocals were done was one of the better traits of this record. If I had to give any input for future efforts, I would encourage them to spend more on a better recording with maybe 3 or 4 songs for an EP, as the bones are there for something solid.
-Jim Moo Cow
GUTTER GROOVE HARDCORE FANZINE
(Issue #2, Released Spring, 2017)
After a year and change since issue 1 the Gutter Groove team from Denmark return with a nice full sized 32 page effort crammed with some nice work. The intro to this issue starts off with a look at New York Horse Core... and no, that is not a typo... with photos of both Harley (Cro-Mags) and Rick (25 Ta Life) both on horses. The introduction part is a little bit slap stick comedy along with general news about this issue. Also included here are old pics of Roger (Agnostic Front) holding up a machine gun to Vinnie Stigma's neck and Freddy Madball and Crown Of Thornz' Ezec walking down the street with a baseball bat with the subtitle "that's the way we walk in New York". The comedy angle lacks a little in this part but they are still some cool photos that the editors obviously wanted to get included in this issue.
The All Out War interview with lead singer Mike Score which kicks off the interviews here is by far the best read here. The Gutter crew caught up with Mike before a show where they talked for about 40 minutes on a wide range of topics and were cut short eventually by Mike having to go do a sound check. This interview strays away from the typical line of questioning usually given to hardcore bands. Mike talking about being a history teacher, raising his children and his thoughts on religion are highlights here. If they didn't get cut off by that sound check who knows what else they would have touched on. Great job with this one. Florida's Malice At The Palace also give a nice interview joking around about the 2004 NBA brawl that spawned this bands name and other NBA tidbits including what the band would be ready to do to play the opening song at an NBA all star game. Also included are interviews with Foreseen, Weekend Nachos, Lodges, and True Colors as well as a short piece on this guy who took photos of Integrity back in 1990... which is not really an Integrity interview with Integrity but rather an Integrity interview with some guy who took some photos of Integrity. Either way, Integrity is still listed on the cover like they are one of the bands interviewed so that's a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike zine editing. Fanzine reviews and record reviews are also included here as well as a piece called The Mean, The Bad, and The Angry which takes an angry look at Europe's hardest bands. Gutter Groove's layout is DIY, old-school all the way with cut and paste boxes laid over photos of the bands giving this a made at my friend’s house feel. Nice job.
THE LAST STAND "THIS IS REAL" EP
(Irish Voodoo Records, Released June, 2017)
NY's The Last Stand return with some new music after their debut full length came out in early 2013. Next up for them is "This Is Real" which contains 4 new tracks and 2 covers by some legendary bands you may have heard of before but more on that in just a little bit. Leading things off here is the title track which is a nice fast paced jam that shows this band’s true colors delivering some well-played NYHC. I definitely hear some Leeway influences here as well as Sick Of It All which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who is already familiar with this band. Although it's been 4 years since "The Time Is Now" was released it is not like it has been a dormant period in this bands history as they make the rounds in the NY area club scene regularly. The vocals on this first track are very clear and when making out the lyrics you can focus in on the message at hand which is their dedication to hardcore music and the scene. "Every time we take the stage, every time we shake your hand, every time we speak our minds, we are The Last Stand". A nice blend of message and music delivered up nice kicks off this thing with a bang and is also a clear cut favorite on this short EP.
Track 2 is "The Ride" which serves up some more of that traditional style NYHC. If you follow this site and read my reviews I sometimes talk about a bands song writing formula. The Last Stand have a very solid formula and these 4 tracks pretty much stay within the guidelines they have created. All 4 tracks are 2 minutes and change with choppy drum beats, a solid and clear vocal delivery often leading to the big payoff which would be a sick breakdown and when I hear it here I can just envision a crowd feeling a track like this and just getting loose.
"Path Of The Righteous" starts off with some guitar feedback, with the drums and then bass joining in as this song builds for about half a minute before a big gang vocal chant of “BRING IT DOWN” hits. This is a serviceable track that I like but at the same time does not hit as hard as the other 3 we are given here. When played live it would be cool to have some mashed up sound bites of Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction fame dropping his "the path of the righteous man..." speech as a backdrop early on as the song builds. Have no idea what I am talking about here? Google!
The last of the 4 originals is "Still Bleeding" which starts off with this awesome fuzzy sounding bass intro for about 20 seconds before the drums come in kicking off an all-out thrasher of a jam with an amazing sing-a-long chorus that leads out with a monster of a breakdown and is by far my favorite track here.
"Big Mouth" by Gorilla Biscuits is track 5. Usually I am not impressed with cover songs on studio recordings but TLS deliver a nice version here putting their own stamp of sorts on this old classic. Track 6 is "Choose To Be" originally done by Youth Of Today. This track was recorded back during their "The Time Is Now" sessions and was supposed to be on a compilation that never materialized and now serves as an additional layer as to why you should check this EP out. The vinyl version of this release will have the 4 originals and also comes with a download code to get the cover songs. The CD version will contain all 6 tracks. After a long wait The Last Stand return and do not disappoint us showing why they deserve more attention in a NY scene that is dominated by many all-time greats. Follow the links below to secure your copy now.
THE NEW YORK HARDCORE CHRONICLES FILM
(Released May, 2017)
The highly anticipated and talked about “New York Hardcore Chronicles Film” by Drew Stone is finally out on the streets, some select smaller theatres on specific dates and available for you to get into your grubby little hands via DVD and major online outlets. The 1 hour and 46 minutes on display here starts off by making a clear statement that “this is NOT the history of New York Hardcore” which essentially cleanses Mr. Stone of any wrong doing by leaving specific people, sub-scenes, sub-genres, or time periods out… and with a history that spans decades it is nearly impossible to squeeze everything into a 2 hour feature. What follows here is a short summary of what stood out the most while watching this film.
We start out outside of NYC’s Webster Hall prior to the Black ‘N Blue Bowl where BNB’s “Cuz’n ” Joe and various people attending the show are shown in short interviews about NYHC and what it means to them. Hardcore is rarely documented in such high def quality and right from the get-go you get this overall feel of a quality production which runs right through the final seconds of this film. From here we move just a few blocks away to the corner of Avenue A and 7th Street as they interview both Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma of Agnostic Front outside the old A7 Club which is now a bar known as Niagra. Old times are reminisced along with old photos and videos painting a picture of the hard times that were endured in the early stages of a new scene that Roger says had 30 people at the most. A more current day clip of Murphy’s Law playing the Niagra club ties the old to the new and closes out the segment nicely.
From there it’s back to the streets to show people the famed NYHC symbol and various people are asked if they know the symbols origin. In one of my favorite chapters here they interview Kevin Crowley, singer of the long defunct and underrated The Abused who is this symbols creator. In a very humble and insightful piece Kevin digs out old sketches and explains how the symbol came to be. When making a film about NYHC there are obvious avenues and channels you have to explore… just because. This was not one of them and its inclusion documents a piece of history most never knew of or have long forgotten. From there we move on down to Florida where they visit old scenester Randal Underwood who shows us his huge collection of candid photos from the early days of NYHC. It seems like his garage is a museum dedicated to old flyers, photos and memorabilia like no other and is another segment that would not be an obvious choice when drawing up blueprints for a film of this magnitude but a great inclusion to say the least.
“Spray Paint The Walls” follows and is a chapter dedicated to graffiti and its impact on the hardcore scene from band logos, the formation of the DMS crew as well as interviews with many of the people in the scene that were not only in the bands, but also making a name for themselves on the streets with fat caps and Pilot markers. Ezec from Skarhead/Crown Of Thornz who is always a great interview steals this segment which shouldn’t be much of a surprise to many.
In the mid to late 1980’s heavy metal influences made their way into the hardcore scene and the term “crossover” was born. Bands like the Crumbsuckers, Bio-Hazard, Leeway, Nuclear Assault, and the Cro-Mags’ Harley Flanagan pop up in this segment along with Howie Abrams (In Effect Records) to break down that time period. Harley is interviewed in a studio and explains that he feels that “The Age Of Quarrel” and not “Best Wishes” was the first real crossover album. Wearing his bass he then starts jamming and showing how “World Peace” has a Motorhead type of vibe, “Malfunction” has more of a Black Sabbath feel, and how no other hardcore bands at the time had an intro similar to the one in “We Gotta Know”. An amazing and insightful chapter (mostly due to Flanagan) to say the least with some good points made by Crumbsucker Gary Meskil made within it.
The chapter titled “Youth Crew” which follows shortly after the crossover segment focuses on interviews with Ray and Porcell from Youth Of Today as well as Walter and Civ from Gorilla Biscuits and Mike Judge. The major players in this chapter tell a story of how they didn’t feel the need to fit in with the crossover style that was becoming so popular and how they wanted to get back to basics with a more pure unfiltered hardcore style. This particular chapter… although important runs closer to 20 minutes in length and is the lone chapter that seems to drag here. Straight Edge and the Youth Crew movement that seemingly go hand in hand is subject matter that has layer upon layer to it and is obviously hard to break down in a short time.
Things start to wind down with “The Journeyman” which is a segment that focuses in first on Sick Of It All bassist Craig “Ahead” Setari and then morphs into a deeper look at Sick Of it All with interviews with his fellow bandmates Lou Koller and Armand Majidi. “The Journeyman” title is due to the long list of bands Craig had played in prior to joining Sick Of It All. What makes this segment stand out is the fact that they travel to upstate NY to visit Craig at his home which just happens to be on a rural farm. They even ask his mom… “Mom Ahead” some questions which she answers in a cute “mom” way as she talks about her memories of Craig’s youth. Pure gold here. Craig is as humble as they come and you can’t help but be happy for the man as he is living out his lifelong dream and providing all of us with great music on his journey through life.
At this point the film starts to close out with the question of “Is Hardcore Dead?” posed to various people with all of them obviously saying no. After watching close to 2 hours of proof that it isn’t it would be foolish for anyone to say that it is. The point being made by some here is that “maybe it is dead for you” if you are a person that chose to walk away from it. Credits start rolling shortly after this and we close things out. “The New York Hardcore Chronicles Film” is a snapshot of various moments in NYHC history and obviously people can sit there after the fact and say “hey they should have put in this guy or that guy” and in some cases they have very valid points but as stated earlier to try and cram decades of history into a 2 hour film is a tall order and maybe sets all of this up for a follow up film. Time will tell but for now sit back and let’s enjoy what we are given here. It is rare to see hardcore and NYHC in particular presented in such a high end way as it is here.
THE NYHC CHRONICLES FILM (Screening) @PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA June 2, 2017
It bears saying that 2 hours of Vinny and Roger from Agnostic Front just telling stories would have been enough for me; one of the best moments in the doc came from them talking about the way the Lower East Side used to be while mocking a flip flop laden dad in cargo shorts...“There goes the neighborhood!”
I was happy to see 30 or so people inside the small arts space of PhilaMOCA already seated and ready for the screening of Drew Stone's NYHC Chronicles Film. The movie seemed to really capture the grit, aggression and realness that most would associate with the New York Hardcore scene of the early– mid 80s. I have to admit I was skeptical that one film could jam 3 decades of hardcore history into a running time that falls just short of 2 hours, but to Drew's credit he did pretty well despite a few omissions (some more obvious than others) and the shoe-horning of Metallica's Kirk Hammet to give his 2 cents. Overall though, the amount of ground covered in this documentary was impressive. Detailing the evolution of a time and place that has influenced a world beyond itself, the NYHC Chronicles documentary was a multi-chapter breakdown of where, what, and who comprised the scene to which so many of us attribute the causation of hardcore as we know it.
JUNE 2ND SCREENING OF THE NYHC CHRONICLES FILM IN PHILADELPHIA. PHOTOS BY: JOSH DERR
Yet there was more to the showing than simply watching the film. The Philly based podcasters of Cinepunx.com had been advertising that they were to lead a Q and A with director Drew Stone and living legend Mike Judge. However when it came time for this portion of the night's events, Mike Judge was nowhere to be found and the Cinepunx guys turned back into a pumpkin, barely getting a word in edgewise while Drew fielded the Q and A on his own. This quick programming adjustment felt a bit scattershot as something more structured had been expected. Fortunately though, Danny Schuler from Biohazard and Rob Nunzio of Antidote both did right by the crowd and showed up to field questions about their experiences in the early days of New York Hardcore since Mr. Judge couldn't make it.
Q & A SESSION: FROM RIGHT: NUNZIO, DANNY SCHULER, DREW STONE & CINEPUNX STAFF
I really enjoyed the film, and I think it showcases the spirit and essence of a scene we all look to as the catalyst for so much of what we think of as “hardcore.” That said, I have to kick down the 4th wall. I don't want to make this negative or take anything away from the film, but I would be a phony to ignore something that really bugged me. There were a few instances in the question and answer portion where things got a little self-aggrandizing. This was most obvious about halfway through the Q and A when Drew sort of stopped the whole thing and called out to the crowd “Isn't anyone going to ask me how I got Kirk Hammet into the movie?!” Nobody said a word. The vibe I felt was that most in attendance had the same feeling I did of “That dude seemed way out of place in the film, but hey, he's in Metallica and to know he gives a shit about the scene is kinda cool.” But when he got no response from the audience, Drew turned to the Cinepunx guys and jokingly told them to ask him the question – which would have been funny had they not been sitting quietly on stage like neglected step children at an event they helped orchestrate. This humble bragging to me was a full role reversal from the scene I had just spent 2 hours watching play out on the screen in front of me; but hey, I don't know anyone in Metallica so maybe I'd be just as stoked to talk about it too – who knows?
The Q and A continued with mention of the Cro-Mags, why Paul from Sheer Terror wasn't in the doc, and how Drew and the guys from Biohazard got away with filming on the Brooklyn Bridge without a permit – all great to hear.
Once things wrapped up, I bought my copy of the film, thanked Drew for his hard work in documenting a time and place that means so much to our scene, and walked out happy to have been there. I recommend checking it out – it's produced well, and while omitting some things, it sheds light on some corners of the scene that may have been forgotten otherwise, and for that you've got to have some respect. Thanks to Drew Stone, PhilaMOCA, Cinepunx, and everyone that showed up to support independent film making and hardcore.
LIONS CAGE “RAW” DEMO 2017 (Released May, 2017)
Dirty, gritty, and a “Raw” recording make this 3 song demo sound like a rehearsal tape. Cymbal crashes dominate and tom tom beats are accompanied by growling guitars and somewhat distant or distorted and snarling vocals. Not much bass audibly present in what sounds like a simple four track mix. There's but one very short, discordant guitar lead on “Breaking Our Backs”. This “demo” makes me feel like I'm actually at their band practice, sitting on a filthy, beer stained couch in their dank, dark rehearsal room....but I’m not, yet I wish I was. Just because Lion's Cage didn't seem to spend a ton of (or any) time on a sleek, proper studio recording or fancy artwork (it's a photocopied cassette cover of their shaved-head, screaming singer -Bobby - who actually looks as if he's caged and poised to attack) doesn't mean this demo isn't completely kickass. This is a total burner that captures the essence of bands like Krackdown, Life's Blood or SFA. For its sound quality it's quite lean, as noted… the strengths are in the songwriting and arrangements, sincerity of lyrical delivery that easily overcomes the shortcomings of sonic purity. All 3 tracks bleed honesty and extreme angst. While many bands may try to impress with ultra-produced, multitrack studio magic Brooklyn's Lion's Cage keep it simple, but pack a knockout punch right from the opener “Pay The Price”. When the drummer (Rob) switches to mid-tempo tribal beats during slam parts on “Your Voice/ Smash ‘Em All” you know the Lion's about to charge out of the cage and into the pit - all teeth and claws. If the simplistic, straight-forward, approach with heavy doses of passion is intended by Lion's Cage then they hit the bullseye. Certainly, future recordings will have to be a bit more sonically mature for their many qualities to really shine through. Awesome effort. Not for those that like “polished”, or pretentious hardcore. This demo is filthy and for real. An awesome 5 minute and 30 second burst of rage. I liked it so much I bought it for $4.00 on Bandcamp.
DOWN FOR LIFE MAGAZINE ISSUE #3
(Released April, 2017)
From the ashes of the sadly defunct punk magazine Big Cheese comes the defiant Down For Life, a new mag that thankfully has hardcore as its main focus with a helping of punk and crossover for good measure. Now on its third issue, the magazine has gone from strength to strength since its introduction onto newsstands last year and has proved to be a lifesaver for hardcore fans when it comes to getting their hardcore print fix.
The two previous editions of Down For Life have featured the mighty Sick Of It All and Suicidal Tendencies as cover stars and the latest edition features New York's finest Madball as the main focus of the issue with an extensive feature, interviews and a live review of their recent show at London’s Wembley Arena. Add to this, extensive and interesting features on the varied likes of Leeway, Scream, Turning Point, 7 Seconds, Sheer Terror and a fascinating interview with Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and now Youth Of Today man Walter Schreifels and you have an issue that you can't put down. It's not just classic bands they feature in the magazine though with newer bands like Higher Power, Power Trip and Code Orange all present alongside introductions to bands that you need to check out like Guilt Trip, Arms Race, Mizery, Jesus Piece and Malevolence and I can't forget the extensive coverage of awesome bands from this very website.
As if that wasn't enough, Down For Life is packed full of news, interviews and reviews (both album and live with Life Of Agony and Bloodclot featured in the former and the Persistence Tour and Sound Of Revolution in the latter). Considering that the staff is headed up by the well-respected likes of Ian Glasper, Mark Freebase and James Sherry amongst many other talented writers you know that the quality of the writing is both passionate and real and you know they tell it like it is and from the heart. Down For Life is a must for any hardcore fan across the globe and it covers the whole spectrum of the genre (the feature on European hardcore greats from the likes of Reality Slap and Backfire in particular is immense) and sheds light on bands that wouldn't get much attention in the mainstream which is the way it should be. This is from the underground, for the underground and any fan of hardcore should seek this issue out and every one from then on in. Down For Life is available online as well so don't hesitate and get your copy now.
LET RAGE! “EP 1” (Released March, 2017)
I was contacted by the In Effect mothership and presented with the opportunity to do another hardcore punk rock and roll review for their most excellent web zine . The transmission was kind of distorted and was breaking up. I managed to decipher the phrases "new band", "short EP, up your alley", "Let Rage", and "Timmy Chunks on vocals"..... Whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah, stop the clock Ronnie. Did I hear new band and Tim Chunks on vocals?? Are you fucking kidding me? Will I review it?? You're goddamn right I'll review it. I may marry it. Shit man, I may roll this motherfucker up and smoke it. So yes, I'm in and Tim Chunks is fronting a new project called Let Rage! No that was not a typo, nor was it auto-correct. The band is LET RAGE!, not Let's Rage as I have heard a few times now you uncreative imps. Ponder it for a minute. Let it sink in. Think outside of the box punks. Mr. Chunks fronts a four piece here and the first EP is four songs clocking in around 7 minutes. Defintely up my alleyway.
The EP opens up with "Timmy's Doing Drugs" running a lean 2:18. Lean yes, yet it is the longest song on this release. The tune starts off with a quick drum beat followed by 3 lone guitar notes before a powerslide down the frets kicks into a driving guitar followed by Tim shouting "LET RAGE". With that the song is steaming off into hardcore punk bliss. The song is funny...and then again, not so funny, especially when you are old like me. It's about growing older and medications of one variety or the next that become necessities or at least perceived and pushed as such. It's a ripper of a tune. Shout out to Viagra! The band is tight and Tim sounds great… a bit "gruffer", but he still has that Chunks sound.
The second song is "Soda Pop And Cigarettes" running 1:38 and it is dedicated to Brad, and I'd like to announce here today, so were those last to sentences I wrote. This one starts with a muted harmonic guitar bit and with a quick shout of "pick it up", the song is rockin’. You can see Tim's time with Green Day has left and impression as this song could easily be something they put on a record. It definitely has that Bay Area feel to me as I can hear some Op Ivy tones and Rancid vibes. This one could be a radio summer jam as Tim really croons his way through it. Let’s hope some magic punk dust blew off of Green Day and onto Tim and it blows up because I really dig the tune.
An odd drum beat/tone is met with some chunky fuzzy guitar strums at the start of the third cut, "Teenage Altar Boy" at 1:58. Another fret slide and this one takes off speeding down the road. Holy shit, this one has it all. Did I hear shouts of Oi Oi Oi? Is that a fucking breakdown made to inspire the sick pit moves of tomorrow? Is Tim doing that talky singy thing like in an old school Mike just wants a Pepsi/ Ian is fucking or playing golf way? This is the song of the release for me. It is fast, pissed and quite lyrically sharp. It has all of the elements to get my fat ass up and moving........ around my desk.... snappin’ pencils like mad bro. Seriously though, kick ass song.
The final song is "No Clout" at a blistering 1:48. This is a straight up, fast hardcore tune. The stand out here is the bass intro...and as a matter of fact the bass throughout the song is just sick. I usually don't pay much mind to the bass, but shit man, I was like, listen to this here motherfuking bass! The bass player is one Deana Montoya, so cheers Deana, nice work. While I am at it the whole band is spot on with Byron Miller working those aformentioned frets, and Herman Ibarra beating those skins, to round out the band.
This is a great first release from these guys. I am not sure what their plans are but hopefully they crank out some more stuff because this sounds exciting to me. If you haven't guessed I am a sucker for anything with Chunks in it, be it, Token Entry, Redemption 87, Felix, Green Day videos, my dreams, TMI? Sorry… I digress. On the real though, this release is fast and fun and will appeal to a broad swath of dirty underground dwellers and maybe some clean folk as well. Check this shit out punks, you won't be disappointed. Mothership I am going rogue. Junkie out!
VICE “THANKS FOR NOTHING” EP (Released June, 2017)
Staten Island NY’s VICE announced almost a year ago that they would be breaking up and since then have played only 2 shows with a grand finale send-off set up for July 8th at the Great Kills Knights Of Columbus in their home borough. Kind of fitting for a band that for 7 years lived and breathed the DIY mantra getting into the van to tour non-stop, making their own shirts, and making a bunch of friends and enemies along the way. Anyone who has to endure life via the Staten Island Expressway is sure to end up with an enemy or two but that goes without saying. VICE’s swan song is a 2 song effort and gives us zero surprises as the 2 songs here… “Pressure” and “Lemmings” are done in the typical beat you over the head VICE fashion complete with dark and angry lyrics that paint a picture of little or no hope. “Pressure” (the opener) is an absolute burner of a track with tempo changes and catchy choppy breakdowns, bursts of speed and then back to those choppy parts again with the last minute or so slowing down for a sing-a-long part that would for sure be one of this band’s new anthems if they were to stay the course. “The pressure of life… is crushing me”.
“Lemmings” kicks off with one of those insane 10,000 miles per hour blast bursts that this band always seemed to be in love with before slowing down some to maybe 5,000 miles per hour where the groove to this track starts for me. The last minute of this song absolutely crushes with this almost Slayer meets Indecision like riff set to the lyrics of “You can’t control me, you can’t shut me out, cause I stand by every word I say and everything I believe in, cause that’s just what I’m about”. VICE goes out strong with these 2 powerful tracks that stay true to what they are all about, both musically and lyrically. Angry, pissed off kids, making angry pissed off music.
JESUS PIECE/MALICE AT THE PALACE “SPLIT” EP (Bridge Nine Records, Released May, 2017)
Bridge Nine has been one of the best represented labels in hardcore for a long time and with the decision to release a Jesus Piece/Malice At The Palace split, it's not hard to see why. The choice to put these 2 bands on a record together seems really natural to me; both are younger bands who capture the spirit of hardcore through bomb dropping breakdowns while keeping the fun in what they do! It's a solid fit!
The album art on this one is indicative of what lies within. Several angelic figures are pictured a la St. Peter's Cathedral, however upon closer inspection you notice one is about to lose an arrow into another's head as it looks upward in defiance; one is making out with a dragon/serpent creature, and another lies (presumably) dead while shackled to a wall. So yeah, get ready for some heavy music.
Less than 20 seconds into my first listen of this barn burner I very nearly shoved my computer off the desk to call it a “fake ass mother fucker.” Jesus Piece comes out hammer-in-hand to smash your eardrums with 2 songs in the aggressive beatdown style they've come to be known for; while Malice At The Palace bats clean up, fresh off a full length LP, with 2 of their own breakdown laden tracks.
Both of these bands earned their reputations in the scene hard and fast, turning the heads of young show goers and garnering respect from the older set with brutality on records as well as the stage, and these 4 songs are a continuation in that vein. Jesus Piece has been busy touring their asses off, so to get some new tunes from them is great! It's also rad to see a band like Malice push out 2 additional tracks not long after releasing a full length to show us just how hard they're working – which gets mad respect from me!
Both bands nailed it on this one and Bridge Nine continues their killing spree! Out now… I recommend you pick it up, you fake ass mother fucker.
CHEECH “OLD FRIENDS” 7” EP
(WTF Records, Released April, 2017)
Run, don’t walk, errrr, I mean Google this band; Cheech. You will not be disappointed. Need a good album to start your summer? Pick this up now. Cheech from Boston, Mass…. Seriously, it has been a long time since I started and finished a new album and was ready to run on repeat for a while. Cheech’s “Old Friends” is that one. And check this out…..the EP is the original four songs plus four more hard ass “bonus” cuts. Why have I not listened to these guys before? No fucking excuse.
When I first heard it, I was drawn to the vocals. I started to make my comparisons to Blood for Blood and Sheer Terror. A mix of raw emotion, beatdown and angst that destroys any suckers that would enter the pit unprepared so brace up. The first four songs (“War of 84”, “Outta Time”, “Jumped The Shark”, “Old Friends Die Hard”) are from the original vinyl 7’ version of this release and fucking knock. No stupid ass lyrics or whiny vocals… only hard breakdowns, group vocals and a groove that floats between thrash, Oi!, hardcore punk and some metal. I am a sucker for cover songs and the ode to lost friends, “Old Friends Die Hard” (Bulldog Courage) does not disappoint. Shit, there’s even an instrumental here. Dafuq? Again, I listened to this and knew I was lucky to catch a winner to review. Looking forward to the opportunity to see these guys sometime given the chance. I am kicking myself for not having experienced this band earlier. Don’t make the same mistake. Remember you don’t support the scene if you don’t support your local scene!
HCPP FANZINE ISSUE #1 (Released May 2017)
When you purchase a zine, you don't always know what you're going to get content-wise. There may have been a particular interview or feature that drew you to that issue, but the author's taste and inclusions might not fully corroborate with your own. Not so with HCPP Fanzine #1, where you know exactly what you're in for: an entire zine reflecting on the legacy of Carl The Mosher, told by the people who knew him best, and some of us who only knew him a little bit. This is an ingenious and well researched project, especially for someone not based in the US to have assembled. It's also a good reminder that if you don't do something in hardcore, someone else will. I've been meaning to finish transcribing a Carl interview from 2006 and release a special issue with its contents, but now I'm thinking of incorporating the results into a future Double Rabies instead.
Anyway, it's also important for someone to tell Carl's side of the story. Over the past decade we've witnessed a concerted effort to minimize his contributions on Wikipedia and the like. Many bands have undergone legendary beefs and partings, but I still back the fuck out of all three Twilite Records releases, including the unauthorized Icemen contribution. Sometimes it's up to the younger generation to weigh in on how one's musical output will be remembered: and not just remembered, but imitated and referenced until it imbues a later lexicon, based on the quality of the songs that remain.
HCPP Fanzine #1 opens with an interview with Daniel Derella from Underdog regarding Carl's stint in the band, and is followed by conversations with Justin Flemm, Ed Sherry and Ilko Nechev of Dynamo. If you've ever heard the M13 – “Path Of Perfection” demo, it makes sense that it was recorded in Carl's mom’s kitchen, though that conclusion may be influenced by the poor quality of my MP3's. The second half of the zine contains shorter anecdotes by 40 different people, kicked off by Freddy Alva and featuring everyone from Ray Cappo to Bob Riley. The contents range from general remembrances and descriptions of Carl’s mosh prowess to genuinely humorous vignettes. These quotes are roughly arranged in chronological order, leading off with sources who attended shows with Carl back in the day, and ending with some younger aficionados from the modern era.
My favorite stories are too good to spoil here, but a car related tale is particularly notable, as is the revelation from Craig Setari that Carl played semipro baseball in Puerto Rico. I mentioned something to Carl once about him living in Andy Pettitte's hometown and asked if they were neighbors. He laughed and said that out there, everyone is neighbors, but I wish I’d had the opportunity to talk baseball with him more frequently. And speaking of discerning taste, I was struck by multiple younger people in the zine who mentioned Dynamo. Growing up I haven’t seen a lot of Dynamo enthusiasts in my time, but I’m glad these songs are finally getting their due, along with the more widely renowned Icemen material.
This is a half-size, 32 page zine with a NYC themed layout, including an old style transit map on the back, which is also where each copy is hand numbered. While the layouts are clean and orderly in the first half, my only criticism is that that the background in the second half can be slightly distracting at times, which is ridiculous coming from me, since my own layouts in my own zines often have way too much going on. My only other request is for Edo to produce these in slightly larger print runs. When I started writing this review, the second press was already sold out, and I was unsure if people reading this would be able to procure a copy. Luckily a third batch has recently been produced, plus I believe there are still a few copies being distributed in the New York area.
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