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RATED X "UNITED FRONT"
(Painkiller Records, Released August, 2020)
"Rooted in the past but meant for the future" is a pretty fair self-assessment of Rated X, the latest band from Tom Pimlott who has been involved with multiple UK hardcore bands in the past with Violent Reaction being the one that really caught our attention back in 2015 with their "Marching On" LP released on Revelation Records. 5 years later Violent Reaction seems like a distant memory as Rated X steps up to the plate.
"United Front" kind of picks up where Violent Reaction left off with 12 old-school NYHC/straight edge influenced songs that can't help but make me think of the Antidote "Thou Shalt Not Kill" EP, The Abused and their "Loud And Clear" EP and others of the early to mid-80's time period where fast bursts of hardcore punk with great creepy crawl and breakdown parts were the standard. Although there have been plenty of bands to come along who are the next this band or that band it takes memorable songs to catch (and hold) people's attention. Simply put, Rated X stand apart by adding their own secret spices/sauce to the pot making for one solid ass record.
"Dropping The Bomb" leads off and sounds as if it could have crawled right out of the old Some Records demo bin with a slow building rhythm that explodes into this thrashing beast of a track that comes and goes in under a minute. The guitar tone is literally perfect in giving "United Front" that authentic old-school hardcore feel. "DFY2K20" (Drug Free Youth) is a nod to the Abused and ties in with Rated X's mission statement that started off this review. "Walk The Line" has one of those Rob Kabula-esque bass breaks early on with the drums and guitar joining in to create a ruckus that would perk up the ears of any “old hardcore kid” who may have fell off the scene in prior years.
“The Difference", "No!", and "Stand Clear" all follow along pretty close to one another while all ranging in the minute to 90 second range. Although Rated X are undoubtedly entrenched in playing an old-school style of hardcore it has to be noted that these songs still sound fresh with Rated X doing more than enough to put their own stamp on things.
The title track "United Front" could be considered the "hit" of this lot clocking in at exactly 2 minutes. This track is dominated by the catchiest intro I've heard in quite a while with this almost rolling type of bass sound. Things are mid-paced for the first 1:15 before the pace picks up culminating in this absolutely sick breakdown to close out the song. After the title track there are 5 more winners in store including "You're Next" which is one of the strongest tracks of the 12 as well as "Out For Justice" which really stands out for its ability to be catchy and hard as nails although being a primarily slow track.
Adding to the backstory here is Pimlott who plays all the instruments and sings on "United Front"... a task he also took on in the early stages of Violent Reaction before pressure from friends saw him go out and find a full band to perform live with. With the current state of live music in the shitter it may take a bit longer (if ever) for Mr. Pimlott to pull off a similar scenario. The songs on "United Front" just scream to be heard live though as there are plenty of parts on this 15 minute effort where you can pinpoint and say "this part would absolutely destroy live". If that day ever comes or not is still to be determined... in the meantime check in with "United Front" for a dose of old-school hardcore done up right for 2020. Find this on Bandcamp & Spotify, with 12” vinyl versions available through Painkiller Records.
NO COMPROMISE "I PUT DEODORANT ON MY BALLS" (Released October. 2020)
NYC upstarts No Compromise formed in 2018, dropped their debut EP in April of last year and are now back for round 2 with "I Put Deodorant On My Balls". Now if that title doesn't grab your attention I don't really know what to tell you. Apparently No Compromise are fans of UFC star Derrick Lewis who once took his pants off while doing a victorious post fight interview because "my balls was hot". (See the clip HERE) Once you come up with a catchy title for your new music you have to have some eye catching artwork so let's get a headshot of television and film star Danny DeVito and randomly slap him on there as well. Some will appreciate this random humor and some will think it’s dumb... me??? I'm here for the entertainment and No Compromise definitely entertain me throughout this 7 song/15 minute effort.
"Never Back Down" leads off with some nice guitar crunch and a mosh beat that will get your head nodding along in a late 80's NYHC type of way. This is the strongest track of the bunch with the choppy drum beat getting stuck in my head almost immediately. "Born To Destroy" follows and shows a bit of a thrash metal influence, mostly due to the guitar playing. This added stylistic layer (while subtle) broadens No Compromise's sound enough to make things less predictable. "Justice Is Served" is the third of the three new tunes here giving us a mid-paced style track that again, dials up some nice riffs and choppy drums... which should make attending future No Compromise shows a lot of fun.
The recording for this release was done entirely in house, by the band with the help of some affordable equipment that they bought and learned to use. (Doesn't get more DIY than that!) The recording went so well that No Compromise decided to re-record the 4 tracks that made up their 2019 self-titled EP and paired them up with the 3 new ones to create "I Put Deodorant On My Balls". No Compromise are one of a bunch of rising stars within the NY scene that continue to progress as well as impress. Pre-Covid, they were making a decent name for themselves with opening slots on some pretty good shows and like many of their peers are now itching to get back after something they obviously have a passion for. Find this on Bandcamp & Spotify.
KNOW THE SCORE "DELAY OF GAME"
(Released October 2020)
Know The Score might be a familiar name to some having formed in South Florida in 2003 before dropping records in both '05 & '06. Band members joined other bands, did some moving around and are now back for 2020 (***insert KRS 1 voice*** You Suckazzzzzz!). 8 songs, 8 minutes of caveman style hardcore that ain't too shabby. "Delay Of Game" plays mostly fast, has just the right amount of guitar crunch and the vocals are hard as nails without going overboard. I can draw stylistic comparisons to bands like Wisdom In Chains and Rival Mob although (with all due respect) not quite at that high of a level. When I first started checking into this EP I felt it was a little generic but with repeated listens I have been won over to the point of wanting the damn t-shirt. KTS deliver big on the mosh as displayed on the tracks "Hang 'Em Up", "Merchant Of Death", "Smash Racism" and "Turn To The Grave" but upon further analysis I noticed there is some form of club 'ya over the head mosh on every track. Shout out to the song "Go Fund Yourself" for the clever play on words title as well as message with the line... "I don't want you to give me shit, if I want something, I will work for it". For the record In Effect is not anti Go Fund Me for the right causes... just anti-scammer. 14 years between releases is one helluva "delay of game"... let's hope the KTS crew get some good vibes from being back in the mix and continue to bring new music because this was a damn nice surprise that I didn't see coming. Available now on Bandcamp and Spotify with Eighty Sixed Records in the mix for a 7" version of this due out in early 2021.
IRONED OUT “WE MOVE AS ONE”
(GSR Music, Released October, 2020)
When I started doing my research on the band Ironed Out for this review I was very impressed right off the bat to see that they were on the Rebellion Tour last year along with such bands as Madball, Iron Reagan, Born From Pain and others. Forming in 2014, the band consists of veterans of London's hardcore scene with Dave and Louis sharing vocal duties, Wema of Knuckledust fame on bass, Steve and Mark on guitars and Jorge on drums. “We Move As One” is the third release from Ironed Out with previous releases coming in 2015 & 2018.
“We Move As One” contains 12 melting pot types of tracks that blend hardcore, metal and hip-hop into one brutal mix. Think along the musical styles of bands like Knuckledust, Vietnom, Fury Of Five and Dog Eat Dog. This release truly captures Ironed Out's mission statement to a T, which is to "bring something a little different to the London Hardcore scene" and may I add to the worldwide hardcore scene as well. I admit at first listen, there were elements that attracted me but for the most part it wasn't really my style. However the more times I played it, I would hear something I had missed prior and soon gained a great appreciation for the sound these guys have created. Every member brings so much talent, along with lyrics addressing issues all of us encounter. Some of the tracks that I really enjoy are: “Pavement Strong”, “A.C.A.B.” and “All Hope Is Lost” but my favorite track is “Intro”. I know it might sound odd that an intro is my favorite but it shows off the aforementioned talent and it does exactly what a great introduction should do which is get the listener prepared for the rest of the album. “We Move As One” and Ironed Out are worth checking out simply because there is so much offered, from heavy beatdown style to metallic, melodic riffs to angry, hip-hop inspired, dueling vocals which all equals a formula that has been successful for the last 6 years. Click HERE for a link tree where you can find this streaming in various places or to grab a CD or vinyl copy.
DEAD END AMERICA “CRUSH THE MACHINE”
(Southern Lord, Released October, 2020)
Well, as I get older, my heroes continue to die on me. D. Boon, Cliff Burton, Dave Franklin, Todd Youth, Eddie Van Halen, Pig Champion etc., etc., etc. In May we lost Steve "Thee Slayer Hippie" Hanford, another member of Poison Idea and at much too young of an age. Ahem… my age to be exact. Dead End America is one of his final contributions on this plane of existence. This was conceived as a "Covid Project" by Steve and axe man Tony Avila. When asked what Tony was aiming for he answered "Poison Idea mixed with the Accused". From that point a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into creating the 4 song masterwork entitled "Crush The Machine". Contributing to this EP are Steve on drums/vox, Tony on guitar, Ian Watts on guitar, bass/vox by Nick "Rex Everything" Oliveri, with "Mike IX" Williams and Blaine "Zippy" Cook also contributing vocals.
So what did they make? A four song blistering work of hardcore greatness is what. The first track is "Dead White Hands" running 1:26. This is a buzzsaw of a song with throat ripping vocals by Thee Hippie Slayer and Rex Everything. This is how it is supposed to be done and I am hooked. The second song, "Twitter Troll" features Rex Everything on vocals once again and clocks in at 1:32. You may recognize Rex from Kyuss or more mainstream the Queens of the Stoneage. Machine gun riffing leads to a Rex scream that sets off the vitriol that makes up the meat of this tune. Rex chews up those lines with anger and style. Great tune. The third song is “Bullet for 45 (Straight From A .45)”, the epic at 1:57. It's a pretty self-explanatory song. Dead End America isn't going for deep metaphorical hidden meanings. This one starts with more great riffing and has a nice skanking bit in the middle, but the highlight is the lead guitar work. This one was written and sung by Mike IX. If any of you EyeHateGod fans are reading this, he kills it. The last song on the EP, and yes it ends too soon, is "Searching For A Reason" which runs 1:39. Starts and stops of blistering musical mayhem usher in this tune which is written and performed by Blaine Cook. You may know him from the Fartz or the Accused. Blaine's unique style meshes well with this unique song that kinda stops dead in the middle and then starts up again like it's a new song. Good stuff.
Do you like your hardcore fast and furious? Do you like you hardcore to have the sound and sentiment of that 80's hardcore anger we all grew up on? Do you know anything about anything hopeless infected miscreants? Well know this… this is some sick AF hardcore punk rock and roll being offered to you by some punk rock heavyweights who know their way around a quality hardcore song. This EP will not disappoint you. This EP may enlighten you. Get this EP immediately. It is a very fitting tribute to Steve "Thee Hippie Slayer" Hanford and an awesome final contribution from him. I wish he lived to see it come to fruition. Now enough of this soft hearted bullshit you soft headed, reprehensible, flagitious, reprobates. Get the fuck off my lawn and surf your lazy ass over to Southern Lord to get this jonk immediately. "Crush The Machine" can also be found digitally on Bandcamp & Spotify.
THE OBNOXIOUS “THE UNDERTAKER”
(WTF Records, Released June, 2020)
The Obnoxious have been doing their thing in Rotterdam, the Netherlands since 1989, as referenced on their classic tune "Rotterdamn It", one of the songs in the live set at the end of their new release. “The Undertaker” is a short, sweet and catchy three song EP, with six bonus live tracks, which are not available on the Spotify version. In contrast to their mid-90's work, which features more No Redeeming Social Value style mosh parts, this new release from The Obnoxious veers closer towards old school punk inflected hardcore with clean vocals. It's faster and more straightforward, and you can compare the evolution of styles in the new stuff vs. the live versions of the older songs.
Title track "The Undertaker" is followed by "Deaf, Dumb, Blind", a tight tune that is probably my favorite of the three new songs. There are some unexpected tempo changes throughout this EP, including a slowed down moment in "Tragedy", the third and final new track. My only issue with the recorded material is you don't really hear a lot of bass in the mix, and with their style, there would have been some opportune locations for slinky bass lines.
The live stuff is pretty well recorded in comparison, and starts off with "Come One, Come All," which is also the first song on “Struggle”, their 1996 album. This live set includes both songs from their early releases, and a live version of "Tragedy", which makes it both the third and fifth song on the CD. Compare both versions for the full Obnoxious experience, live and recorded. Check it HERE on Spotify, or order the CD with all 9 songs from WTF Records.
WAR BABIES “QUARANTINE CORE DEMO”
(Trip Machine Labs, Released October, 2020)
War Babies consist of only two members, Mike D. and Darren Nanos, who are better known for bands such as Brain Slug, Kill Your Idols, Sheer Terror, Hot Heads and Outskirts, to name a few. The two decided to create this band to play angry, pissed off hardcore in the tradition of NYC Mayhem, Straight Ahead and Crossed Out. “Quarantine Core” originally came out back in May as a digital only release but now Trip Machine Labs has stepped in to produce a limited edition cassette version.
With the Covid pandemic dealing a major blow to the music industry, bands are getting creative and finding other ways to reach their audiences. War Babies have come up with a Covid type concept record. This 11 song cassette deals with issues mostly related to the pandemic and clocks in at just less than eight minutes in total. The songs are fast and punchy and vocalist Darren definitely sounds pissed off when he belts out the songs. “Death On Your Head” opens up this demo and is one of three standout tracks on this endeavor. With lyrics like “Inadequate inhabitant, a pitiful excuse, blatant bullshit peddler, manipulate the truth”, how can you go wrong with this track? “Safety Net” deals with the health system and the lack of support it provides when needed most. This is another standout song played really fast. I also like “Idiot Proof” as it deals with everyday stupid people we all have to deal with. The song is simplistic and to the point.
War Babies deliver an interesting demo with well written songs backed with anger-fueled music. The songs are short, fast and to the point. There is nothing that jumps out and makes you want to tell all your friends about this one but it is a fascinating take on a hardcore project and War Babies do a nice job with this demo cassette. Give it a listen and be the judge for yourself. Find this digitally on Bandcamp & Spotify or hit up Trip Machine Labs to grab a cassette while they are still available.
DOWN FOR LIFE MAGAZINE ISSUE #10 (Released Fall, 2020)
Down For Life has reached the milestone of 10issues in and while the world in which we knew has changed unrecognizably since the publications first issue, the magazines continuous coverage of hardcore, punk and crossover has admirably stayed the same and it is great to see them reach this number of issues. With that in mind, what better way to celebrate 10 issues, than to have Minor Threat on the cover and to have an extensive feature in those very pages. If you are just getting into hardcore or are an OG in the game, Minor Threat are one of THE bands that are essential when it comes to hardcore and nobody can argue that point so to have them featured in this issue seemed very apt. The Minor Threat feature is very extensive and covers the entire history of a band who were so influential in hardcore, the straight edge movement and the bands DIY ethos despite only being active for an astonishing three years. This cover feature is both a fantastic starting point for information on the band and an extensive detailing of the history of Minor Threat with input from guitarist Brian Baker added to give the feature an extra special piece of his recollection of all things Minor Threat.
There are also interesting features on Dropdead, D.I, Insight, Bun Dem Out, Dave Smalley and more which gives you an insight into these great artists while the regular features are packed to the brim too as we have come to expect. The new bands section is full of recommendations with the likes of Rebelmatic, Inner Turmoil and UXB receiving props while the album reviews feature the new Cro-Mags, Insight, Ironed Out and Xibalba releases. With the decimation of the live music scene due to the worldwide pandemic, there is a collection of the best hardcore livestream performances for you to check out from bands such as Murphy Law and Suicidal Tendencies and to get you in a mood for live music nostalgia, there is a great little recap of the first UK gig from Cro-Mags when they destroyed London in December 1987. Add to this a piece on the long awaited Sick Of It All book and other features on bands that while not hardcore as such, have major hardcore influences like Napalm Death, Year Of The Knife and the inimitable S.O.D and you have a continuing winning recipe. All in all, it would seem that Down For Life is just getting started and this is just the beginning for them and we look forward to the next 10 issues and beyond with real anticipation for our fix of hardcore and punk features and reviews. In these dark times, this magazine is a constant reassurance of the power of hardcore and punk music and culture. Order a copy HERE.
BANE "HOLDING THESE MOMENTS"
(Queen City Pictures, Released October, 2020)
With the release of their final album ("Don't Wait Up") in 2014 and the pledge to keep touring off of that album MA's Bane put themselves in a very unique situation as far as hardcore band breakups go. Their final show happened two plus years later in June of 2016 and the brand new "Holding These Moments" documentary is a great look at not only their final runs of shows but also a walk through this iconic bands 21 year history.
I will be up front here and say I am a sucker for hardcore punk documentaries. DIY hardcore is often presented to us in lo-fi, no thrills types of ways (cut and paste zines, poorly recorded demos, shows in basements, etc.) so these rare looks at the bands we follow presented in a more professional way is always welcomed here at In Effect but with this particular documentary the bar has been raised.
"Holding These Moments" runs an hour and 50 minutes in length and includes live footage, old photos and interviews with Bane's final lineup as well as previous members creating this almost alumni/family type of feel. Adding to this vibe are what seems like dozens of "friends/fans" interviews that really drive home the fact that there was very little separation between the people who made up this band and their fans. Director Dan Elswick captains the ship here to present the Bane story in an easy to absorb way all the while capturing the same celebratory yet somber feel that "Don't Wait Up" has.
Many breakups of hardcore bands don't come with a last show. Others have that final sendoff within a few weeks of the decision to pull the plug. Bane took a road less traveled and made the fun and good times last long enough for this proper documentation. Credit Elswick for the thoughtfulness to approach Bane about filming their last tour and for bringing in Ricardo Cozzolino to edit what he captured with long time scenesters Charles Chaussinand and Greg Bennick getting production credits as well. Available now through streaming services such as iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon and Google Play and more with a "hard copy" USB version available HERE.
REBELMATIC “GHOST IN THE SHADOWS”
(Red Right Recordings, Released August, 2020)
“Ghost In The Shadows”, the latest from New York’s Rebelmatic sees the band bringing out their most diverse record yet without losing any of their furious hardcore/punk style and this is what makes them stand out from the crowd with their music. Through a wail of feedback, the energetic punk stomp of “Fire This Time” gets things off to an energetic start and from then on, Rebelmatic don’t take their foot off the pedal until the final notes of last song “Emergency Break” rings out. The low slung groove of “Born To Win” and the frenetic and anthemic punk of “Blood And Gold” are early highlights and when they are followed by the anthem in waiting and salute to their hometown of “P.O.N.Y. (Product Of New York)”, it is clear that the band have released their finest work to date. “Get It Off” and “Insult To Injury” are punk rock calls to arms, “Pinky Promise” adds a definite melodic catchiness to the proceedings while “Show & Prove” is ready made for the moshpit and doesn’t let up for a second. The more downbeat “Avenger” adds yet more variety before the Suicidal Tendencies meets Fishbone funky hardcore of “Emergency Break” finishes things off on a high.
Above all, Rebelmatic are a hardcore punk band but have many different influences in their music. When those influences all combine, this is what makes the band sound so vibrant. Whether it is funk, hip-hop or metal, when Rebelmatic mix it up with their hardcore and punk sound, the results are immense. The bands New York hometown is obviously a big influence on their music and they mix up a lot of different sounds to create their own vibe. Much like the melding of so many cultures that NY is known for, the music of “Ghost In The Shadows” is delivered with their own brand of vibrant fury and never sounds like anything other than Rebelmatic for its duration. “Ghost In The Shadows” is an album which sounds vital throughout, with Rebelmatic not shying away from telling it like it is. The subjects they deal with carries that wide range of musical styles and vibes with pride. This is all delivered in an energized and vivid style all the way through in the way Rebelmatic have become renowned and celebrated for. This is a triumphant and hugely enjoyable record that you will want to listen to again and again. With a recent string of pop up shows on the streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn it is apparent that Rebelmatic are taking things into their own hands as far as getting the word out on their new album. Give them a follow on Instagram (click the album cover above) to see when the next show might be. In the meantime you can find “Ghosts In The Shadows” on Bandcamp, Spotify and for physical copies and merch head on over to Red Right Recordings.
V/A “NARDCORE FOR LIFE”
(Indecision Records, Released September, 2020)
There is this mystical land that you punks may have heard of. It's always shaking or burning and it may one day just break off into the sea. I speak of sunny California of course. In said mystical land lies an even more mythical-er land famous for its surf and for decades having churned out copious amounts of no bullshit, nut slappin hardcore punk rock. That land is Oxnard, California or as i prefer to call it, Fred Hammerland and that music is Nardcore. For those of you noobz or that one kid in the Philippines reading this, Nardcore is Oxnard AND the surrounding areas. Our buddies at Indecision Records have compiled a current who's who of Nardcore bands that actually spans decades of music. New bands, seasoned bands and everything in between, I mean, Dr. Know has been around since like ‘81 right? Courtship of Eddie's Father notwithstanding, it's lucky for you bitches that these tunes...and there are a mighty 36 of them, are all new and exclusive to this compilation. So fuck yeah on that bit for sure. You shit stains should be rejoicing. You gotta be a real dickhead not to want this comp. ANYHOW, in lieu of my normal track for track review...I mean who has that kinda time? I will pick a few bangers that I like but trust me when I say that there is something on here for everyone.
I'll start with song two, "In My Town" by In Control running at 1:44. I am quite familiar with In Control. I believe they have been around since 1999 or so. This is a ripping stomper of a tune that veers very near street punk. This one will get your blood pumping and get you up and running around your house in no time. I have no idea who is in the band at this point but they sound great. I gotta admit, the next one even surprises me, and this is why I love compilations. I would never have heard the haunting sounds of Detoxi, "Corpse Window" running at 2:30. Detoxi are a death rock band from Ventura and that's about all I know but the beauty of the compilation is that now I will go down that good old rabbit hole one night to consume as much as I can on Detoxi. Next I was stunned by Slowbleed's "Trust" running a flat two minutes. Slowbleed is from Santa Paula. This band is described as metallic hardcore but it is way more than that and that sells them short . The vocals really put this over the top into another bracket. Great musicianship at play here too. Junkie likey. iDecline play some great straight up old-school hardcore punk and they do it well on "Lack Of Communication" running a brisk 1:17. This is rip your throat out core played to precision.
So that's it. This comp has what ‘ya need. What's that punk? You are looking for the mosh? Well check out Truce, Bare Minimum, Omega Point and of course Retaliate. What did ‘ya say? Now you want some of that dirty punk rock? Check out Dead Heat and Railer. Come again? You're pushing it punk. Oh now you say you want the melody you picky prick? Check out Out Of Trust and the mighty No Motiv. Ripping punk? Now we've reached my breaking point, but see Civil Conflict and Malice Thoughts. Are we done now? Oh, you want a band that caters to middle aged old hardcore dudes with families and bills....a bit specific, no?... well we got the fucking Dad Brains up on this piece and they kick ass and pull a groin and slip a disc while doing it. The big boss up in the In Effect tower put the gag order on me and wouldn't let me spread my literary wings and fly all over this compilation. I mean I really want to talk about Goat Rhythm and Brain Vat. I want to expand upon the virtues of Flyswatter and The Hell Toupees. I want to know what the fuck is up with Sordo? Ah well, maybe some other time then. Now then you masters of mediocrement, get your heads out of your asses, get this compilation, get your Nardcore groove on, and GET THE FUCK OFF MY LAWN, IMMEDIATELY! POTUS has caught the Covid and I have bleach to mainline. Stream it on Bandcamp or find a 12” copy on the Indecision Records website.
SUBZERO “HOUSE OF GRIEF” EP
(Upstate Records, Release Date October 30, 2020)
Subzero have been staples of the hardcore scene since 1989. The band was laid up for a two year period between 2009-2011 due to singer Lou Di Bella dealing with acute lymphoblastic leukemia but aside from that, the band continues to play their brand of metallic hardcore thirty years strong. This single is their first release since doing a split with Facecarz in 2006. “House Of Grief” is a two song single released on Upstate Records. Subzero also has plans to release a seven song EP entitled, “Beauty In Sorrow” also with Upstate Records… look for that in early 2021.
We open this one with the title track “House Of Grief”. From the opening dialogue, reminiscent of something from a 1950’s movie, the track bursts full speed ahead with Lou’s charged vocals and is backed by some intense guitar riffs and drumming. Lyrically, the band stays true to form, making this song a true standout. The re-recorded “Necropolis”, is the B side to this single and is a short and thrashy sounding song. Lou’s raging vocals and the bands ferocious style of playing lets the listener know that the long recording hiatus has not affected their sound whatsoever. The band sound as relevant in today’s scene as they did when they first began.
Subzero remains true to their roots on this single, playing their brand of hardcore and showing no signs of wearing down. Lou’s vocals are as tough, if not tougher on this outing and musically they maintain the hard and raw sound that they are known for. After listening to this single we can only hope that “Beauty In Sorrow” comes around sooner than expected as it appears good things are in store for this band as well as their fans in the coming months. Listen to the title track HERE and find merch and pre-order info for this soon to be released 7” HERE.
MODEL PRISONER “PISS UNIVERSE”
(Released August, 2020)
Even before hitting play on Model Prisoner's 4 track EP, it was apparent that the theme of this offering was going to be biting, topical, and full of righteous rage. Boasting tracks titled "Piss Universe", "Broken Promiseland", "Elite Deleted", and "Life On The Bottom"; Model Prisoner aren't pulling any punches packaging to product. From living through a pandemic lockdown to Federal Agents policing city streets throughout the US, even the name of the band, Model Prisoner, seems to speak to several topical themes currently running wild in our culture today.
Musically, this record swims upstream. While descriptors such as “raw” and “unfiltered” are certainly applicable, they wouldn't truly represent the quality of the recording. Front to back, the production on this record is incredibly solid; really well mixed, balanced, and aggressive. Opening with a smooth hip-hop beat layered under Denzel Washington's voice delivering a quote from the movie "American Gangster", "Piss Universe" slams the door open with heavy and melodic riffs that could be described as what would happen if Poison The Well took a slight turn toward power-violence. Delivering an auditory bitch-slap, Model Prisoner's debut release is a much needed breath of fresh air in this time of rampant stagnation, and a very welcome addition to 2020. Check out the mayhem via Bandcamp & Spotify. Video for “Piss Universe” can be found HERE.
EXECUTORS “THE NEW DECLINE” EP
(Mister Face Records, Released, 2020)
Remember that cringe worthy scene in the movie Pulp Fiction where John Travolta's character had to plunge that needle into Uma Thurman's chest after she OD's and then she gets that crazy adrenaline rush? About 45 seconds into “The New Decline” by The Executors I got that same feeling of energy and liveliness. And fortunately that feeling stayed with me the rest of the release. The Executors have been putting out their brand of punk rock since 2013 and their style is just as they state on their Facebook page: "aggressive punk, no gimmick, New Jersey". “The New Decline” was released in 2019 only through the band's Bandcamp page but now is available on 7” through Mister Face Records. It was recorded in singer/guitarist's Johnny G's basement, where he along with the rest of the members… Ray-guitar, Mario-bass and Sean-drums put together four tracks that can be described as anarchy on vinyl. This EP's sound is fast and raw, with mostly indecipherable lyrics, all which are usually the standard traits synonymous with this type of music. However at the same time the talented musicianship of the member's stand out individually which I truly enjoyed. There were times I heard small glimpses of such legendary punk and hardcore bands such as The Exploited, Bad Brains and Underdog infused within the music. “The New Decline” lasts just a little over 7 minutes but that's not an issue since you'll find yourself listening to it over and over as I did. From the four songs: “We Don't Want To Hear It”, “Scum Son”, “Clip-A-Copper” and “Wellbutron” I tried to narrow it down to one favorite but could not. I like all of them equally. This EP was my introduction to Executors and I will definitely be checking out their other work. The cover of “The New Decline” was designed by band member Sean who did a great job capturing the realistic and bleak state this country is in. There is a good reason why Executors have played with such great bands as The Meatmen, Anti Nowhere League and the Zero Boys and the proof is in their music. Find "The New Decline" on Bandcamp or head over to Mister Face Records for a physical copy.
SUPERHERO STATUS “20/20”
(WTF Records, Released July, 2020)
Bright, fast, no nonsense approach to their opening song "True To Our Believes" on Superhero Status’ new EP “20/20”. This one reminds me of Gorilla Biscuits in parts as this 4 track effort instantly grabs you from the get go. The production is crisp, clear and well balanced and certainly offers the listener a bang for their buck. The opening track has a real live feel to it and no doubt will be a winner when we start getting back to live, in person concerts. The next song on the EP is something that I would have never expected from a hardcore band. When covering a song, especially from a different genre it can be risky business. Nearly everyone on this planet has heard of Iron Maiden and they have certainly left their legacy over the years. Often, when I hear a Maiden cover song the band never make it their own, instead they pay homage to their idols. So, when I saw Superhero Status cover "Wasted Years" I was very intrigued to hear what they had to offer, and I was not disappointed. Their version naturally had to be adapted slightly but nevertheless it fits with their style perfectly and honestly, I was surprised. Superhero Status have taken a well-known song and made it their own… an outstanding effort! After picking my jaw up off the floor it was time to move onto the next song titled "Miles And Changes" which forges forward in a similar vein to the opening track, with some nice time changes to keep the listener engaged. Finally, the last track on what has been a first-class EP, "Never Left" starts mid-paced with some nice sing-a-long part adding diversity and color to this release. It can be safely stated that “20/20” is not one bit monochromatic as this is an essential listen. Find “20/20” on Spotify or through WTF Records for physical copies.
POWERLINE FANZINE ISSUE #5 (Released Summer, 2020)
Powerline is embedded in the Los Angeles hardcore scene and we were recently sent issue #5 which has 48 pages and is printed on some thick ass glossy paper. Having never seen any of their prior issues I can’t comment on if this particular issue is an improvement over prior issues but what I can determine is that Powerline #5 definitely has that “it” factor in that they have the look and feel of a zine on the rise. Interviews with Mike Durt of Hands Of God, Chris Ramos of Dead Heat, Dwid from Integrity, and Jacob from Narrow Head (solid lineup) take up the bulk of the pages here with a lot of variety as well in the form of photos, art, ticket stubs and more. Photos are of bands like Scowl, Lockdown and Gulch with others from outside the music scene with various shots taken by editor Michael Doyle of various protests in his home area from earlier this year. More readable content in the form of local band reviews or an LAHC scene report will hopefully come in future issues as it would further solidify Powerline’s ties to its local scene. Find this via their Big Cartel page or through our friends at RevHQ.
REBELMATIC LIVE IN BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN, NY SEPTEMBER 19, 2020.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY: TIM DALEY
This past weekend I photographed my first hardcore punk show since March when New York started the lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. On Thursday I opened Instagram to see a flyer announcing a Rebelmatic show in Bushwick. I had to DM for the location and quickly got a reply to show up at a certain street at 2pm on Saturday and to also mask up. As I rode my bicycle through Brooklyn, I kept thinking about live hardcore in these new COVID times and what the show would be like. I had my usual show shooting gear with me: camera and 17-40mm lens but also brought with me a 70-200mm zoom. I didn’t know what the turnout would be or if masks would be worn. The zoom would provide me with distance if needed.
The stage was set up on the sidewalk of a closed graffiti-covered warehouse. A generator was used to power the show and a pick-up truck blocked half the street to keep anyone from being run over. A few dozen people showed up and most people watched from the opposite side of the street. A few stayed near the parked pick-up and started a circle pit in the middle of the street. From time to time, people held back a few cars to keep the pit safe, from vehicles anyway. Most of the cars just waited. Most that passed were cheering on the musical gathering.
Rebelmatic played mostly their new album “Ghost In The Shadows”. The band played straight through for about 25 minutes and was about to end the pop-up show when the crowd convinced them to play more. They played about 3 more songs from earlier releases. The songs “Blood And Gold”, “Get It Off”, “Show And Prove” and the older “Don’t Shoot” stood out and sounded great. Rebelmatic put together a fun afternoon -- the type of fun that I have missed for many, many months. I was happy to be a part of this day and see the joy that people got from seeing and playing live music. I’m sure there will be more shows like this as indoor venues are not allowed to open and most people would benefit from playing and seeing live music. For more on Rebelmatic check out In Effect's interview with the band from back in September of 2017 and give Tim a follow on Instagram @musicdaley
(Armageddon Label, Released September, 2020)
An audio riot… Dropdead produce an album that rips with the persona of a flying lit molotov cocktail igniting twenty three brutal tracks…Opening with “Prelude”, drum sticks count off like the last seconds of a time bomb as a tight drum and bass rhythm bang towards a loud destructive charge destroying all in its path with a ferocious fast galloping beat that rides like the four horses tearing through you’re sound system leaving wires and audio circuitry violently trashed…in all of forty four seconds.
Off the bat Dropdead hits a familiar nerve as the vocals kick in and transport us to the underground Venice hardcore scene of 1980 with vocals that echo early Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies though with their own cadence. The musical style Dropdead attacks us with has its roots in West L.A. thrash metal core and East Coast hardcore punk setting the tone for what is nothing short of a well-built chaotic sound that unleashes brutal content with brutal music. Their content goes beyond the teen angst outlaw street culture of the Lower East Side and Southern California, Dropdead come with fiercely mature lyrics that tackle the current political schisms that are creating DIY revolts, protest and marches in response. The self-titled album acts accordingly to the times whether by accident or design - Dropdead unleashes a soundtrack for this current “war time” that is not happening in some foreign land but on the streets of America.
Before commencing to a fiery crash “Road To Absolution” rages with an Agnostic Front energy during their flirtation with latter Oi! melodic choruses that double as pile on sing-a-longs as Dropdead crank it with speed thrash wattage upping the ante on its danger. Focusing their anger on the power structures that aim to minimize those forced to live on the fringes of society under thumb, Dropdead spray paint their politics in anarchistic shorthand with Circle-A monographic graffiti. The dirty bass line that wields itself at the start of “Warfare State” comes out of the primordial Cro-Magnon ooze of the “Best Wishes” era and wraps itself around your neck like a chain before its blasts away, while words incite the “revolution” fight…The album careens with breakneck speed songs and manages to pull off an identity for every fast track. “Vultures” pummels at a ferocious pace before a vicious Zeppelin one - two rhythm hit allows you to breath for a split second before you are thrown back into the manic fray…”Stripped By The Knife” blasts a demolition style attack followed by every instrument creating a psychotic metal hardcore juggernaut smashing everything before transitioning into a melodic groove - a “waiting for the dust to settle” moment - before its chaotic end that spirals with a primal scream mirroring itself in a reverb delay effect. The “heavy, loud, fast” attitude that a majority of the songs display gives the album a vibrancy you don’t want to end - though the group also assimilates solid melodious sections in teasing doses that shows their musical depth. “The Black Mask” is a perfect example adding a thick aggressive melody to the formula as the band digs its nails into the mid-pace groove that’ll make you tap your foot before kicking like a mule with a Sick Of It All rhythm change that converts the song into a manic free for all with jack hammering drums crushing a repetitive fast beat hammering the nail without mercy into your skull.
The group masters the “under a minute” machine gun style song format of great kamikaze riffage and blunt force speed, the raw sound of the 1983 underground – “Book Of Hate” walks that path. A relative of the classic song “United Blood” from the New York Godfathers, “Book Of Hate” lays a similar uneasy vibe, the silent tension before the war on the dance floor explodes in flying arms and street tribal moves on the checkered linoleum floor of the A7 Club. Though Dropdead don’t toil too much on the past but the ever so uncertain present and the days that lay ahead.
“Before The Fall” and the albums coda “The Future Is Yours” are audio campaigns of destructive enlightenment with its lyrical content creating visions of falling empires and the ultimate fight of the self no matter religious upbringing, political regime in office or the roles society wants you to play in order for them to feel safe and/or for their world to make sense. The killer production captures a “live” show energy that makes you want to run out and see Dropdead annihilate a stage with their vicious style of skater and street hardcore metal that is loud and completely in your face. Stream this on Bandcamp & Spotify.
NOT LIKE YOU FANZINE (Issue #8 & 80's Skate Photos Issue Released September, 2020)
This is a “double review” of Not Like You Fanzine issue #8 as well as a separate “80’s Skate Photos” photo zine that came out at the same time from Not Like You. I always feel like I have to preface my Not Like You zine reviews with Mike Not Like You’s backstory because it helps paint a better picture of the years of “hands on” DIY-ism that Mike exhibits. An East Coast transplant, hardcore kid, skater and zinester who now lives out in Breaking Bad land in ABQ, NM, Mike owns and runs a local comic book store called Astro Zombies that also carries his Not Like You Records. So we got skater, record label, hardcore zine dude, and local store owner all rolled into one which in part explains why Not Like You is a unique zine. After a short intro issue 8 jumps right into an interview with Skater-Con founder Adam Richards who (back in March) held a big event in Phoenix. Next up is an interview with an amazing artist who goes by the name “Bobby Draws Skulls” who does art for a lot of bands and who has also been a big contributor to past Not Like You issues and releases. These two seem to be pretty tight as they get into music, skating and of course art… something that Booby excels at as I feel he is one of the best of the best when it comes to artists who are into hardcore/punk. 20 Questions with skater Rob Mertz is up next and is the first of two segments that do short Q&A’s with skaters… the other being Australian Jade Ryan who comes along later in this issue. There is a 19 page (19 is NOT a typo ladies and gentleman) interview with hardcore lifer Tim McMahon who many of you may know from being the singer of NJ’s Mouthpiece way back when as well as his more current day run with Search who I found out in this interview have broken up. From there we get to the meat and potatoes of this issue which is the Todd Youth tribute article. This one is mostly a personal reflection from Todd’s daughter Abijah Schofield who tells us how she remembers her dad and what a good all round human he was. Mike Gitter, BJ Papas, Eddie Sutton, Tim Chunks and Doug Holland also give their memories as well. Mike seems to lament a few people not getting back to him with their personal stories of Todd for this article and as someone who did a similar article about Todd after his passing I can say that I can relate. This is still a great read. Not Like You issue 8 has 52 total pages, is full color and is printed on quality glossy paper. It is well worth the 10 bucks they are asking (which includes shipping).
The “80’s Skate Photos” zine that we are also reviewing here is a half-sized zine with a photo of Underdog’s Russ Iglay getting busy on the cover. There is a short intro that sets up the “why” this issue came to be and if you are one of those hardcore skater types I am sure what Mike writes here will resonate. This one has 80 total pages of skating nostalgia… and just like the previous zine we just talked about is printed on nice glossy pages with tons old-school skater photos from various collections. Cool to see some band members we know within these pages as Underdog’s Richie Birkenhead, Outburst’s Joe Songco and the iconic Ian MacKaye all make an appearance within this pretty cool photo zine. Click HERE to grab a copy.
INTERNATIONAL HARDCORE & PUNK BLACKBOOK (Released September 2020)
In less than a year’s time curator/author Freddy Alva has put together three amazing graffiti inspired fanzines that blend the underground worlds of hardcore punk and graffiti. This time around is the international issue with approximately 50 pieces of artwork, photos and an intro spanning 62 (mostly) full color glossy pages. As in past issues Freddy has assembled an all-star team of artists who also happen to be fans of the music scene they are drawing and to me it shows in the attention to detail. While most submissions are clearly graffiti inspired there are others that have more of a street art and even an art gallery type of feel to them making for an eclectic mix of styles. Adding to the variety is the lineup of bands chosen to be included who represent the old guard as well as a couple of newer names. Bands like Cockney Rejects (UK), D.O.A. (Canada), Backfire (Netherlands), Refused (Sweden), Sham 69 (UK), Rykers (Germany), Raw Power (Italy), The Exploited (UK), Raw Brigade (Colombia), Sex Pistols (UK), Fucked Up (Canada) are just some of the bands that make up this issues batting order. With their debut issue dedicated to just NYHC bands and the follow up to American Hardcore bands it is probably a good time to ask “what’s next” in regards to a fourth installment. Perhaps the Inter-Galactic Hardcore & Punk Blackbook will be up next… time will tell. Previous issue have sold out fast and have not been reprinted so get in on issue 3 before you are left holding the bag. Click HERE for ordering info.
CROW KILLER “ENSLAVED TO ONE”
(New Age Records, Released March, 2020)
I’m gonna be upfront and admit that I had a difficult time organizing my thoughts on this new album, “Enslaved To One”, from Salt Lake City straight edge band Crow Killer. It’s not because it was so out there and experimental that I couldn’t grasp what was happening (although some Captain Beefheart inspired hardcore would be very interesting indeed). Rather, there was one simple contradiction that defined my listening experience throughout the album: it was all over the place, but not quite at the same time. While it wasn’t Mr.Bungle levels of unpredictable, but it did subvert my expectations more than a few times, and I’m not sure what to say about that.
The album starts off with a song called “Castigate”, whose two minute run time is almost entirely filled with skronky riffs lifted straight from the Deadguy and Disembodied catalogues. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was a Sanction song played on too low of a speed on my record player. When I saw several tracks breaching the six minute mark, I need to admit, I wasn’t overly excited, considering hardcore as a genre generally functions on brevity. And while this track was clearly pulling from metalcore more than your standard hardcore, the prospect of listening to 6 minutes of nothing but crowd killing riffs didn’t exactly sound exciting. And then the next track, “It Comes In Waves”, took a turn that the next few songs followed. It was closer to what many of us picture when we think of a metalcore song. You’ve got your heavy mosh riffs and breakdowns, your death metal inspired guitar tone and harsh vocals, your melodic parts with clean vocals to break up the song a little bit and off some variety (which feature prominently on the track “Hang Tight” as well as the closer “Close Grip”). The tracks “Enslaved To One” and “Stand And Suffer” both feature some old school style fast parts that were pretty blood pumping while they were happening and the latter that this screeching descending guitar lead that I thought was really cool and sounded like something from a technical death metal song. It might be the best riff on the album. The song “Fight Back” returns to the skronky sound of the opener. It’s funny to think that this band toured with Sanction right before the COVID crisis and has David Blom do a guest spot on the album considering how much these two songs sound like something that could’ve been on “The Infringement Of God’s Plan”. Meanwhile, after this point, the last few tracks sound very influenced by Emmure of all things.
They take a turn into this vaguely nu-metal influenced deathcore sound with some tracks that sound very inspired by Felony, complete with the same style of open string mosh riffs and the tough talking vocals straight from the Frankie Palmeri playbook. The two parter “Bring Back The Blood” particularly exhibits this style, while also featuring guest vocals from Megan Golden and Long Island’s own David Blom of Sanction and Separated. The guests stole the show on these tracks for me, David’s throat shredding screams are always a welcome sound and Megan’s singing voice was absolutely beautiful and offered a nice contrast to the brutally harsh vocals. I’d also be remiss not to mention the song “Contrite”, as its mid-tempo two step riffs, mid to high range vocals and the bouncy nu-metal riff at the end make it sound like it came from a completely unrelated hardcore record. The slight sound changes on this record make it feel like a 4-way split album. None of the songs are really bad in my opinion, and I actually quite like many of the heavy riffs and eclectic influences peppered throughout this album. It just feels like a compilation more than a cohesive album from one singular band. The only downside is, I feel like several of the longer songs went on just a little too long, maybe about 30 seconds to a minute. Particularly “Hang Tight” and “It Comes In Waves”, which I feel like would have benefitted from a little streamlining. Conversely, some of the shorter tracks, like “Castigate”, feel like they don’t really go anywhere. When the band really focuses on bringing a song from point A to point B, that’s where they really shine for me, such as “Bring Back The Blood”, “Enslaved To One”, and “Fight Back”, all songs that had the most payoff for me.
As for the lyrics, I think they’re pretty good at conveying the anger and darkness that you get from the shrieks and growls emitted from the vocals. They only credit Blake Froad with the vocals on this record and no backing vocalists aside from the previously discussed guest spots. I had to go look up some live footage to see if it was really all just him and it appeared to be from what I watched. He’s got a pretty impressive range as far as hardcore and metalcore vocalists go, I thought he was at least 3 different people on my first listen. Many of the songs on this album such as “It Comes In Waves” and “Hang Tight” are all about depression and anxiety, and they do manage to convey a real sense of dread. As do some of the more overtly political songs like “Fight Back”, and the closer, “Close Grip”, which confronts grief, mortality and loss. “Close Grip” is also the name of one of the bands that preceded Crow Killer as well. The title track, “Enslaved To One”, features a glorious mosh call where Crow Killer announces their intent to engage in the classic militant straight edge tradition of stomping out people who bring racism and drugs into the scene. Most people find these calls really cheesy, but I like maximum cheese in my music and to me, it wouldn’t be a true scary mosh band without a mosh call about beating up whoever’s bringing the scene down.
Overall, I think Crow Killer has a lot of talent when it comes to writing songs, performing those songs, creating some variety in their sound and putting together riffs that call for pit violence. I think the main issue with “Enslaved To One” is that it doesn’t feel like a cohesive album experience. It just feels off, like the songs are in the wrong order. I feel like if they played around with the tracklist a little bit and order the songs differently, it would’ve flowed a bit better. And while I felt like some of the songs went on a tiny bit too long, none of them drag on to the point of true boredom. The album is at its strongest when it takes risks and gets focused on writing great songs but does have a few tracks that seem to play it safe and don’t leave as much of an impression. Overall, I think it’s a strong effort. If you’re into bands like Emmure, Sanction, The Acacia Strain, On Broken Wings, Knocked Loose and any other band that exists solely to provide insane mosh riffs and pissed off lyrics, I say you should give this album a shot. I feel like there’s a lot on this record that East Coast folks can get behind, especially in the fight riff department. And if you’re into militant straight edge bands like Earth Crisis, One King Down, and Racetraitor, you’ll probably also dig what Crow Killer’s into as well. Stream this on Bandcamp and Spotify or hit up New Age for a physical copy.
CHANGE "CLOSER STILL"
(React! Records, Released September, 2020)
“Closer Still” is the debut from Change, a 5 piece hardcore band out of the Pacific Northwest who are bringing rejuvenating qualities to the sometimes stagnant sub-genre known as “Youth Crew” hardcore. Lead singer Aram Arslanian (Champion, The First Step, Keep It Clear, Betrayed) is the lone member left from the “Closer Still” recording sessions which were recorded over three years ago and then put on the shelf for various personal reasons. Armed with a new lineup of fellow PNW scene veterans Change started off 2020 strong dropping singles to this new album as well as playing their second ever show in Barcelona, Spain as part of a 7 date European run. With even more shows lined up back in the US things quickly came to a halt due to a global pandemic. As 2020 starts to wind down Change and their label, React! have decided to get things back on track again as this 13 song, 22 minute effort finally gets dusted off to see the light of day.
Opening track “Closer” builds up a ton of anticipation and clenched fist feelings with its slow chugging guitar and “CLOSER STILL” gang vocals before the shit hits the fan around the 40 second mark with everything getting ramped up speed wise. Change really bring it with a great first impression on this one. “Reason” follows with more blazing fast hardcore and just tons of... ENERGY... which to me is a huge key to this album's success. As I have listened along to this record well over 25 times now I can't help but pick out exact moments where either the bass, drums, vocals or the guitars are absolutely going off and coming to the forefront of a particular song. This theme is repeated time and time again with quick bass breaks, guitar leads, and from the soul types of yells from frontman Aram. "Closer Still" without doubt draws from the youth crew playbook which has been run into the ground over the years with more than a few bands being satisfied with just copying the styles of bands that came before them. Change though seems to have gone out of their way within their writing process to avoid some of these same pitfalls while staying true to the roots of this genre which is still sacred to many. "Beyond" with its smooth mid-track reggae break, the first half of track 5 titled "Still" with its mid-paced and choppy groove, the 6 second burst called "Excess" as well as the ultra-catchy "Higher" that is another short one at just 34 seconds in length are a few examples. Towards the end of this album we get the track "Change" which is the longest and most diverse track at 3:08 that kind of reminded me of "Staring Into The Sun" era Uniform Choice. There is a good mix of mid-paced tracks, blazing fast ones, short songs, and 2 minute "average length" hardcore songs to keep the listener on their toes throughout "Closer Still". The 1:36 spoken word "Death" closes things out with some deep thoughts about life and death from lead singer Aram who wrote many of this albums lyrics during a rough patch of his life in 2016. An odd (and almost useless) factoid about “Closer Still” is that it has 13 songs, all of which have titles with one word. After a predictable quieter few months for hardcore the last month or so has seen some really fresh new releases coming out from bands like Strike Anywhere, Be Well, Don’t Sleep and now Change… hopefully a sign of better things ahead. Wait, did I just PMA you all? Find this on most streaming platforms including Bandcamp & Spotify and head on over to Deathwish for physical copies as well as merch.
DON'T SLEEP "TURN THE TIDE"
(Mission Two Entertainment, Released September 2020)
Don’t Sleep “Turn The Tide”… fucking wow! After releasing brilliant (but short) EP's in late 2017 and early 2018 we are now served up their debut full length that sees Don’t Sleep expand and excel at the things that made them an instant favorite when we first heard them a few short years ago. Newly launched Mission Two Entertainment (which morphed out of Victory Records) is responsible for the release of this 12 song, 30 minute effort which came out on 12" vinyl on September 4th. Dave Smalley (Dag Nasty, All, DYS, Down By Law) is on vocals along with Jim Bedorf- drums, Tony Bavaria- guitar, Tom McGrath- guitar, and Garrett Rothman- bass backing him up. The last 4 names you just read reside in the Harrisburg, PA area with Smalley residing in Virginia. The pairing of Smalley and the Harrisburg contingent came innocently enough through a Facebook messenger exchange to gauge if Smalley would be interested in performing some of his previous bands’ songs. This social media “cold call” was the spark that got things started and 3 years later Don’t Sleep are making brand new music of their own with their own identity.
“Someday is today- Don’t Sleep on life” is the opening line to this album and the song “Don’t Sleep”. This one charges out of the gate with one of this albums harder songs and an even harder message of getting out there and living your life “before it gets too late”. “No Other Way” follows and showcases the fact that Don’t Sleep’s brand of melodic hardcore can have a hard edge while also delivering some nice hooks. Check out that hard mosh with about 40 seconds left in this track to hear what I’m talking about. From there “Turn The Tide” amps up its diversity with tracks like “Reflection” and “True North” stretching their sonic boundaries with more melodic feels before “Abandoned Us” goes in a more old-school thrashier direction. The upbeat “We Remain” with its infectiously catchy “Let’s Go!, Let’s Go!, Let’s Go!” chorus is one of those songs you can see being a live favorite and is accompanied by a “Back To The Future” inspired music video which is worth a watch. Just two tracks later “Refine Me” shines as another keeper with a great punk rhythm. Moving down the line we have "The Wreckage" at track 11 which is the longest song here spanning almost 5 minutes in length. The first 2:45 of this track has this “The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth” Bad Brains type of feel before covertly transforming towards a rock ballad style with the latter half of this track dipping in and out between the two styles. Underdog’s “Mass Movement” also comes to mind while listening to this track. “December” closes out “Turn The Tide” taking more chances and delivering big on the diversity side of making rock music. If this was listed as a cover song by Simon & Garfunkel or another 60’s era folk band I damn well would have believed it. I skipped over a few songs along the way here but need to assure you that I feel there is no filler on this very complete album. “Turn The Tide” is many things… it is mature grown up hardcore that delivers a wide range of vibes that can take you back to the old-school while also bringing fresh ideas to the table while still staying “hardcore”. The cherry on top here is the physical product with an eye catching cover taken in the United Arab Emirates, the hand written lyric sheet and the bright orange vinyl. It is obvious there was a ton of hard work put into this baby on many levels with multiple recording studios getting credits as well as Quicksand/GB’s Walter Schreifels getting vocal, production and writing credits. Without question this is one of the best albums I’ve gotten this year and probably one of the best ones sent in to us since In Effect went online back in 2012. Stream this on Spotify and make sure to check out the lyric video for “No Other Way” HERE. Physical copies and merch can be found through Mission Two by going HERE.
WISDOM IN CHAINS/SHARP SHOCK SPLIT 7”
(Fastbreak! Records, Released September, 2020)
A nice end of summer surprise with Wisdom In Chains and Sharp Shock each delivering one cover song and one original track for this split 7” release with Fastbreak! Records. WIC covers The Epoxies with “Need More Time”. Wisdom are no strangers to think outside the box cover songs as proof with a cover of Twisted Sister’s “Burn In Hell” from earlier this year. Wisdom pushes the envelope even further though this time by covering a song that sounds like it could have been in heavy rotation on MTV circa the mid-1980’s. Although Portland, OR’s The Epoxies released this song back in 2002 it is apparent that their influences were drawn from the keyboard driven new wave era that was so popular twenty years prior to the release of this track.
“Need More Time” is very catchy but if you listen to the original you have to think that there is no way a hardcore band can take this track and make it sound hardcore tough. WIC does just that though by rubbing some dirt, grime and sweat into it and maybe adding in a few jabs for tenderizing purposes. What came out on the other side of this bizarro lab experiment is one of the best cover songs I have ever heard a hardcore band do. I was further impressed when I found out that WIC guitarist Chris Mavromatis took the keyboard sound from the original and mimicked it on his guitar and with some computer software magic made it sound very close to the original. “Richie’s Revenge” is a new track with old ties to the lyrics from “Skinhead Gang”, a track off of their 2015 album “The God Rhythm”. This one starts off with one of those classic Wisdom grooves before an old school hardcore bass break hits around the 1 minute mark. With a new album in the works “Richie’s Revenge” serves as a great teaser track to hold us over while the Wisdom war machine gears back up for another run in 2021. Find out more about this new EP in this exclusive video interview we did with their guitarist Richie Mancuso.
Sharp/Shock are a 3 piece punk band from So-Cal land with two of their three members having roots back in the UK. Bassist/singer Dan Smith is not only a talented musician but also a highly acclaimed tattoo artist who is responsible for this 7”s cover artwork. A Buzzcock’s cover of “Ever Fallen In Love” (listed as “Live in Hurley Studios”) is played pretty straight up, clean and modern sounding as compared to the 1978 original while “The Ploy In Unemployment” shows that Sharp/Shock have their roots firmly planted in the British punk style while delivering their songs with a cool smoothness about them. Credit is also due here to Fastbreak! Records for pairing these two somewhat contrasting bands up on a pretty unique split. Get this now while their still around or lament your decision later! At the moment streaming this full EP can be a challenge with a full version available on Spotify. For those without Spotify you can find the Wisdom In Chains tracks HERE and “The Ploy In Unemployment” by Sharp/Shock HERE. For physical copies and bundle packs hit up Fastbreak! HERE.
BURIED ALIVE “DEATH WILL FIND YOU” EP
(Bridge Nine Records, Released August, 2020)
When I found out I was doing the review for the new Buried Alive EP it was if I had won the lottery. It’s Scott Vogel of Terror on vocals here in case you didn’t know. I have been a fan of both Buried Alive and Terror since they formed. This four song EP is comprised of two new tracks and two re-mastered songs. It’s out on Bridge Nine Records, a great label responsible for releases from bands such as Death Before Dishonor, Slapshot and Have Heart to name a few.
We get the ball rolling with the title track “Death Will Find You”, a short song which sets the tone and lets the listener know Buried Alive are still as prevalent as they were back when they formed in the 90’s. Great opening feedback followed by crunchy hardcore licks and Scott’s distinct vocals gets the listener pumped up for what’s to come. “I Killing I” follows up with another straight in your face detonation of concrete hardcore done right. Scott’s vocals improve with age and sound harder and fueled with rage. Both songs have a dark feel to them which makes them even more likeable. The last two tracks, “Another Day Closer to Death” and “Our Time Is At Hand” are re-mastered songs from a split they did with Reach The Sky back in 2000. Both tracks sound stronger than the originals and tie in well with the new songs.
Whether you’re a Buried Alive or Terror fan, this EP does not disappoint. After one listen you’ll know you have in your hands one of the best hardcore records to come out in a long time. It takes you back to their roots while still sounding fresh today. Scott Vogel takes the reigns and Buried Alive deliver four tracks of authentic hardcore in its rawest form, giving new life to how true hardcore sounded like back in the 90’s. They sound as fresh and as tight as they did 19 years ago. If you don’t own this yet, drop what you’re doing, run out and buy it. My hope is this is a prelude to a full length release. The band have told me they plan on doing some live shows in the near future so let’s hope they plan to be around for a while. Find this on Bandcamp & Spotify. Physical copies and merch from B9 can be found HERE.
FAIM “HOLLOW HOPE”
(Safe Inside Records, Released September 2020)
If we think back I'm sure we all can name a band or two that at first listen we really weren't connected to but eventually they grew on us, maybe even becoming a favorite. For me a perfect example is the Denver, Colorado hardcore/punk band FAIM. Earlier this month I was introduced to their latest release… a full length LP titled “Hollow Hope”. I liked what I heard, except the vocal style is not one I typically listen to. Perhaps it is a little too "extreme" for my old ears. However the more I listened to this release and learned what the band stands for, I am happy that I invested the time to do so. Formed in 2016, with the purpose of combining hardcore/punk with a political stance against all that is wrong in the world… current members: Kathryn Lanzillo - vocals, Chris Carraway - guitars, Chris Carrera - guitars, Nick Danes - drums and Matt Pickler - bass will tell you their style of music is a "soundtrack to jumping your local Nazi". “Hollow Hope” (which the band named after a section from the widely popular book: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Indoctrination In The Age Of Color Blindness”) consists of 10 tracks which mesh together the rawness of the true punk sound while also displaying members’ separate talents in slower, melodic playing on songs such as the title track. Lyrically, “Hollow Hope” addresses the rotting world around us as well as what is happening inside us through personal struggles. Tracks such as “Division Ave” speak about systemic racism; while “Bastards” tackles the issue of fighting against police brutality which obviously has come to light more than ever recently. “Cheesman Park” asks the question "will it ever turn out all-right?" “Downstairs At The Middle East” reflects on the past when there was "a time free of pain". My two favorite tracks are “Sleep” and “Back On The Wall”. The vocals I earlier dubbed as "extreme" I have come to realize are screams of pain as Kathryn sings each lyric as if she has taken on the world's injustices and anxieties onto her shoulders all while fighting her own demons. They are a necessary component that makes this band and this release so important as well as relatable. “Hollow Hope” is a 21 minute musical dose of harsh reality, some pissed off music for pissed off people following in the footsteps of bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Inside Out and First Blood. There is a reason FAIM have opened for such legends as Sick Of It All and Judge and it's simple really, they stand firm in what they believe in and that is the soul of punk and hardcore. Find “Hollow Hope” online at Bandcamp and Spotify and check in HERE for physical copies.
PRESSURE DROP FANZINE #2 (Released Summer, 2020)
Full sized cut and paste DIY joint from Scott Vogel of Terror, Andre Kline of Strife and Patrick Kitzel who runs Reaper Records. Standout interviews in this issue are with Hoya from Madball, Aram from Change, and Jordan Cooper from Revelation Records… this is a REALLY good interview with a bunch of juicy Rev tidbits from the old days when Ray Cappo was still on board. Philly hardcore dude/rapper Vinnie Paz gives a bunch of favorite lists (In Effect was one of his favorite zines!) and Hatebreed guitarist Frank Novinec gives these mini-reviews/thoughts on albums from the past like Judas Priest’s “British Steel”, Negative Approach’s “Tied Down” and the Straight Ahead 12”. A short intro, a longer outro and in between a whole buncha cut and paste style hardcore fanzine with various flyers and photos haphazardly tossed in wherever they damn well pleased. This is one of those reads where you devour the stuff that immediately catches your eye and then you go back and read a little more and then a little more after that. A tad sloppy in spots as multiple interviews had answers repeated and the Jordan Cooper one had a chunk of one of his answers covered by the “Start Today” cassette cover. Some warts and wrinkles along the way but that is what makes these types of zines what they are! Grab yours today before they are all gone.
ACT THE FOOL “DOWN” EP
(30 Kilo Fieber Records, Released May, 2020)
I'm sure most of us have heard the old expression "only death is certain''; well I've been thinking about another expression which is just as true: "as long as there are politics, struggles, hatred and oppression in the world there will always be bands to write about it". This is great news (from a musical aspect) since it pretty much secures our hardcore and punk rock scene. One such band to follow walking this path is Act The Fool from Langenau, Germany. Forming in 2017, members Fischi-vocals/lyricist, along with his brother Matze - bass, Felix - drums and Kezi - guitar combine different musical influences and experiences from prior bands and set out to make a political hardcore/punk band not afraid to stand up against corruption, injustice and the planet's destruction. Their newest release “Down” is proof of not just "talking the talk but walking the walk" while at the same time providing a fitting soundtrack to life we cannot ignore any longer. Here is a brief synopsis of the 4 tracks that make up this short, 7 minute EP.
Track 1: “No One Ever Paid”… Speaking on the effects of man's disregard for the planet. Powerful guest vocals provided by Mona from Dekonstrukt.
Track 2: “Desert And Me”… The desire that we all have to escape being overcrowded and to be alone.
Track 3: “Your Own Choice?”… Addresses veganism, which depending on the listener's views may be the least or the most important song on “Down”.
Track 4: “Times Will Change”… A rally cry to keep fighting for a better future.
Musically, I love how all the instruments are so distinguishable on each track. When blended together, accompanied by Fischi's vocals the outcome is a sound that is as aggressive as the lyrics. “Down” also has the slow breakdowns that are perfect for getting the crowd amped up right before the dance floor erupts with “Desert And Me” being a perfect example with its slow, rhythmic beginning concluding with the fierceness of a bomb detonating. Kezi's guitar work brings forth a style blending the rawness of punk/hardcore along with strong metal elements. I think I am as excited about this EP as the band were when they finished recording it. I look forward to checking out their two prior releases from 2017 and ‘18. Although there is not a track on “Down” I would skip, my favorite is “Your Own Choice?”. Act The Fool has definitely captured their mission statement of "delivering hardcore/ punk directly from Langenau to your ears!" and hopefully one day they can bring their sound and much needed messages over to the United States. Find “Down” on Bandcamp & Spotify with physical copies available HERE.
BE WELL "THE WEIGHT & THE COST"
(Equal Vision Records, Released August 2020)
Be Well popped up on our radar last December with a brilliant 2 song release with stylings that I compared to both Strike Anywhere as well as Don’t Sleep mostly due to songs with a lot of feeling, emotion and melody while not losing that “hardcore band” appeal. Eight plus months later their debut full length is now upon us with “The Weight & The Cost” from Equal Vision Records here in the US and End Hits Records (EU/UK). In many ways this is one of those classic “former members of” lineups that boasts names like Fairweather, Bane, Darkest Hour, Ashes, Converge and Battery. Their band members are spread out over various mid-Atlantic states and include singer Brian McTernan who used to front the DC based straight edge band Battery. Adding to the backstory is the fact that McTernan has been a highly regarded music producer at his Salad Days Studios in Baltimore since the mid-90’s and Be Well is his reintroduction to frontman status.
That two song effort from last December brought about a lot of anticipation from me as a fan. Movie trailers have been known to dupe me for the fact that they can pluck out 60 seconds of excitement from an otherwise boring hour plus feature. Was Be Well’s 2 track/5 minute EP from late last year a comparable equivalent or would there be substance and depth on this full length that could deliver an Oscar like performance? Although the answer to that question was not on my brain 24/7 I must admit that it did pop into my thoughts a few times during that long wait that started about 7 months back.
“Meaningless Measures” put me at ease though from the get go as this powerful and fast paced opening track was exactly what I was expecting with a big uplifting type of feel about it. This song’s melody, like much of the album seems to be the perfect soundtrack for a car ride to the beach on a sunny summer day. “Magic” slows down the pace and gets you head nodding with a choppy beat and one of those “can’t get it out of your head” choruses. This album has a hard to describe nice flow about it with almost prefect track placement as faster tracks and the more mid-paced ones seem to glide on by on a long but never boring 32 minute effort. “Strength For Breath” and “Frozen” from that debut EP make an appearance here as well as newer standouts like “Morning Light” (which has a bit of a “Straight And Alert” UC feel), “Each Passing Day”, and “Confessional” (which they made a music video for). Much like ice cream, hardcore music comes in all sorts of flavors and while some people opt for vanilla and chocolate the majority of the time damn does some mint chocolate chip just hit the spot sometimes and that stand out flavor is exactly what Be Well is delivering on this killer debut full length. “The Weight & The Cost” is one smooth mother fucking album that should be applauded for its diversity, freshness and quality musicianship. Find this on the usual streaming sites including Spotify. Physical copies and merch including trheir own coffee and mugs can be found HERE.
YEAR OF THE KNIFE “INTERNAL INCARCERATION”
(Pure Noise Records, Released August, 2020)
The world feels like its stopped turning for many of us as the Coronavirus pandemic has forced many to put their lives, plans and music career prospects on hold. But Delaware straight edge stalwarts Year Of The Knife, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing down! 5 years since the release of their demo, YOTK comes through with the release of their debut full length album, “Internal Incarceration”, and their artistic evolution has been interesting to watch.
Something I noticed was that even though this album, at 35 minutes, was YOTK’s longest offering to date, the songs themselves got a bit shorter. Where the majority of their demos and EPs featured tracks in the 3-4 minute range, most of the songs on this album fell in the 1-3 minute range. They manage to fit 13 songs in that 35 minutes. They also evolved a bit sonically. The songs didn’t just get shorter, they got catchier. Songs from YOTK’s demos often featured 4 minutes of some creative metallic hardcore/death metal inspired riffs. The songs on “Internal Incarceration” feel tighter and more well-structured and have more identifiable hooks, specifically the earworm choruses of songs like “Manipulation Artist” and “Virtual Narcotic.” The number of catchy moments is definitely very helpful because it results in some memorable moments on an album that’s a little monotonous and doesn’t feature much in the way of variety. It’s a traditional hardcore thrash and bash fest very much in the vein of Hatebreed’s “Satisfaction Is The Death of Desire”, though perhaps not quite as instantly classic. Despite this, there are some pretty memorable tracks on this album, such as “Nothing To Nobody” which easily has the best breakdown I’ve heard all year, “Get It Out” and it’s catchy two-step riff that vaguely reminds me of a Most Precious Blood song, and the title track’s off-beat yet explosive riffs. This album takes lots of cues from the more metallic side of 90’s hardcore and metalcore inhabited by bands like All Out War and Catharsis. There’s a particularly pronounced death metal influence that really comes through in the vicious growled vocals delivered by Tyler, the dirty, grimey Entombed inspired Boss pedal guitar tone that’s taken the hardcore scene by storm and the band’s fondness for old school New York style slam riffs in the vein of Internal Bleeding and Dehumanized, as seen on tracks such as “Virtual Narcotic,” “Sick Statistic,” and perhaps most prominently on “Premonitions Of You.” There’s also a slight hip hop flow in the vocals on songs like “Premonitions Of You” and “Stay Away,” while not quite as immediately noticeable to the casual listener as on other releases this year such as the new Three Knee Deep album, are certainly present and add a touch of variety on an album where the dial is constantly turned up to 11.
While the music is consistently brutal and uncompromising, I think that the lyrics really give this album its bite. This is one of the darkest hardcore records I’ve heard this year, with cutting lyrics about addiction, dysfunctional families, hatred, mental illness and how these things contribute to a broken society. “Sick Statistic” is probably one of the most brutally dark songs about drugs to ever grace the hardcore scene since Earth Crisis started writing songs about slaughtering heroin dealers and burning down meth labs. Though YOTK’s approach is dark in a much different way, discussing the dehumanization that drug addicts go through at the lowest points of their addictions and how society treats them as nothing more than a sick statistic. Songs such as “Eviction” and the title track, “Internal Incarceration” deal with devastating family tragedies such as divorce, the loss of a parent, abuse, addiction and all kinds of nasty goings on that are often ignored in talking points about the “traditional American family.” From the singer’s perspective, he just wants to grow up with a support system from people he loves. Perhaps one of my favorite songs on the album has to be “Virtual Narcotic.” Most bands who take on social media in song form, in my opinion, almost always seem to miss the mark and come off as out of touch (save for that one Rule Them All song). YOTK has easily written one of the best songs ever written about that subject and how miserable unhealthy people use social media to achieve validation as a substitute for personal growth. It’s something that I’ve observed people do in real life and I’ve even had friendships end due to the obnoxious behavior described in the song. It’s one of those songs that so perfectly describes something, it almost feels like no one else needs to do it now. Perhaps the greatest overarching theme in this album’s visceral discussions of mental illness, interpersonal dysfunction and pure negativity is how people get locked in their own heads. We get so filled with negative emotions and it gives us tunnel vision to the point where we’re always seeing red and perpetuating a vicious cycle of hatred, simply for our own satisfaction at the expense of others. A theme that’s most plainly stated on the song “Through The Eyes” which is a discussion about how greed, hatred and superiority are used by sociopathic elitists to prop themselves up in society while exploiting others for their own personal gain. Though I do wish the obvious political undertones of the song were a bit more specific, I think you can get the idea from the lyrics.
“Internal Incarceration” is probably the most pissed off hardcore album of 2020. It’s certainly the most pissed off record I’ve heard since The Fight’s latest release earlier this year. I think what Year Of The Knife lacked in variety on this album, they made up for with tighter songwriting, some killer hooks and some truly biting lyrics. It’s confrontational and in your face the way any good hardcore record should be. If you like 90’s metallic hardcore such as Hatebreed, Catharsis, Ringworm or All Out War, or if you like really mosh friendly fusions between hardcore and death metal in the vein of Without Remorse, there’s a lot for you on this album. It sounds like YOTK are honing their talents and crafting a signature sound. I don’t think they’ve fully formed yet, they’re still developing and evolving, but they’re definitely onto something here. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify. Physical copies and merch can be found HERE.
SOUL CRAFT FANZINE #2 (Released Summer 2020)
Booty kickin' DIY effort outta Greece with 100 half sized pages printed on black and white high quality paper stock. The feel of a quality product hit me from the moment I pulled this out of its shipping envelope and then again after just a few page flips. Soul Craft #2 not only has the "look" down pat with a sharp layout but their interview questions are on point as well. Bands featured include All Out War, Higher Power, Drain, Boulevard Of Death, Big Cheese, The Fight, Redemption Denied, and more from artist Sean Taggart and Urban Styles/New Breed's Freddy Alva. This issue is very Covid-centric with a preface that was written in March and explains how the quarantine time was a catalyst in this second issue getting its start after a few years had passed since issue #1. There is even an interlude where editor Apostolis gives his midway point feelings about how the issue was coming along and how he was dealing with his own quarantine related issues. The question of how each interviewee is doing during quarantine comes up time and time again and yields some good responses as well. Soul Craft #2 cost me $18 bucks after shipping was calculated and it took almost a month to get it into my mailbox but after really sinking into this thing for a few days of hardcore reading I have to say it was an experience I would do again whenever issue #3 comes along. Grab your copy HERE.
RESERVING DIRTNAPS “ANOTHER DISASTER” 7”
(WAR Records, Released August, 2020)
Reserving Dirtnaps label themselves as a brutal metal/hardcore band who hail from Memphis, Tennessee. The band has released a full length and two EP’s since the band formed in 2013. This four song EP is released on WAR Records. This four piece outfit had been playing lots of live shows as well as some festivals over the past few years. “Another Disaster” launches full-tilt with “Sleepless”, a straight ahead sludgy slab of strong hardcore. You can hear RD’s musical influences on this track with vocals that remind me of a cross between 25 Ta Life and AF’s Roger Miret while musically I hear a definite Terror influence. This is my favorite track and a good one to open with. “Under Siege” follows up with a continuation of the band’s metal riffed infused hardcore sound. When I listen to this song, I imagine an insane pit going crazy as the band plays this. “Blood On The Walls” is the slowest track on this EP but is still as heavy as hell. The band plays some sick riffs and this song displays those best. I couldn’t help but notice a bit of a similarity to Agnostic Front’s, “Another Voice” in certain parts. This EP finishes up with “The Floods”, another dense piece of dark, angry and substantial hardcore metal. The tempo changes up enough to work up a great sweat in the pit. Drummer Zach displays his sick drumming skills on this track best. I’m not sure what the band means when they say they are brutal metal. This is straight up hardcore and nothing to be ashamed of. Sure it is infused with plenty of metal riffs but this is new breed hardcore at its finest. If you like Terror, Agnostic Front, Madball and 25 Ta Life then check out Reserving Dirtnaps. They do not disappoint. Find Reserving Dirtnaps on Bandcamp & Spotify and hit up WAR Records for physical copies and merch.
UNITE ASIA PODCAST EPISODE #1 (Released August 2020)
For over 5 years now, UniteAsia.org has served as a virtual meeting space for the Asian underground music scene. Through its success as such, bands from all corners of Asia are featured and given a platform to gain some additional exposure; not just locally, but globally! The site's growth has been amazing to watch, and it is no surprise that it's founder, Riz Farooqi, has decided to throw a new medium in the mix by adding a podcast to the Unite Asia repertoire.
This past week, on August 14, 2020, Unite Asia released it's first podcast; hosted by Riz, with Ein from Malaysia's Second Combat as the inaugural guest! For me, Ein was a great choice to kick off this new endeavor. His story unfolds from being a punk skateboarder, finding hardcore music, and relating to the message in the music to such a degree that it culminates in him taking action to promote and actually do things to act on that message. This is the definition of walking the walk. Riz held a great energy throughout, helping to steer the conversation while allowing his guest the freedom to talk about subject matter unique to him and his experience. The podcast clocks in right around 45 minutes, which is a perfect amount time to cover plenty of territory while keeping things fresh and interesting. I was wholly unfamiliar with Second Combat before this, and I am really stoked to know about them now!
“I wanted to be a skateboarder before I wanted to become a hardcore kid.” - This quote from Ein solidifies something I have known for a very long time; the worldwide hardcore scene is not like anything else. It is a global network of people with a commonality of passion, and a desire to seize our time on this planet. What reads like an innocuous quote about skateboards and music, is actually a brick in the foundation of the idea that no matter where we come from, irregardless of any details or descriptors pasted to us, we are all part of a larger, shared experience. We all got here somehow, and that's all it takes to be a part of this. I felt this energy from both Riz and Ein on this podcast, and can only hope it carries through into however many episodes follow.
To wrap this up, I want to shout out Ein again for putting rubber to the road and building a community around the values he found in hardcore music, so please check out Drug Free Malaysia as well as Second Combat. Finally, major respect to everyone at UniteAsia.org and especially Riz for his hard work, and the top notch placement of that Flush! record! Find this new podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast and You Tube. A one stop link can be found HERE.
ONE STEP AT A TIME “HOLDING TRUE”
(Kick Out The Jams, Released June, 2020)
From Antwerp, Belgium comes One Step At A Time with their third release. This is a straight edge band that blends old and new straight edge style hardcore to create their own unique sound. The band previously released a full length album in 2017 entitled, “Our Search” and a demo in 2015.
Opening things up is “Still At War”, an anthem sounding song aimed at the straight edge scene. The lyrics are well written and give you an inside look on this band’s straight edge values and beliefs. You can hear the old school New York and Boston straight edge sound in this song. “Face It Alone” explodes into an energetic, full throttle track worthy of any mosh pit and deals with the struggle and commitment to the straight edge lifestyle. It was hard for me to sit in my seat and write while listening to this song. “Fake Appearance” follows up with a track on the subject of fakes and posers in the scene, something all of us can relate to. Gill’s angst fueled vocals let you know this one is personal to the band. “Put Up Or Shut Up” has a familiar old school New York flavor to it and the message is straight forward in dealing with those who talk and those who take action. “Burden” ends this five song EP and lyrically, is my favorite track. It starts off slow and dark before punching up the speed and discharging into a rage induced warning to live in the now. One Step At A Time is a band with a fresh sound whose old school roots can be heard in their music. These are songs you will want to listen to over and over again. I don’t know about the rest of you but lyrics are important to me. I want to feel what a band is all about and the lyrics need to be strong for me to truly like a band. One Step At A Time is a band who knows how to write lyrics that move and inspire you backed by talented musicians. You should add this EP to your collection.Find it on Bandcamp or click HERE to order the cassette from Kick Out The Jams.
THE BAD UPS "91" EP (Released July, 2020)
Pennsylvania's The Bad Ups appear to be good for a new EP each summer with this "surprise" release being the third in a line that started back in the summer of '18. No "check back at noon tomorrow for a HUGE announcement" here folks as The Bad Ups just threw their new one out there like a zoo keeper tossing hunks of meat to some hungry lions. Love it! PS: unless your band is the Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Coldplay just stop making announcements that you are gonna make an announcement on social media... thanks.
With "91" we get 4 tracks that come in just past 9 minutes in length starting with "South Philly Bop" which is a mid-paced Ramones-esque type of track. I did not like this track at first as it doesn't have much of a bite but that catchy chorus is starting to win me over despite this one having this almost too calm of a feel about it. "Quarter In The Mortar" opens with the "the working man is a sucker" soundclip from the movie "Bronx Tale" before delivering that bite I was looking for earlier with a Propagandhi like burst to open the track. It's no surprise that there are some really sweet hooks involved here (cause that’s what The Bad Ups do) but in a reversal from track one I am not feeling the somewhat flat sounding "life is swell" chorus. "Couch Surf" shows the band’s diversity with some smooth like buttah ska stylings throughout most of this track before a little upbeat kicks in with about 40 seconds left in the song. This is the type of song you could sneak in on a Bob Marley/summer/beach mixtape and nobody would even notice. Closing track "Tequila Mockingbird" is the track here that reminds me the most of previous Bad Ups releases with an upbeat rhythm that of course has a few nice melodies. The Bad Ups are the type of band you could go to a small dive bar (circa 2019) and see perform without knowing any of their songs and have an amazing time. This one has grown on me a little but I'd be lying if I said I liked "91" more than their previous two EP's. Find it on Spotify.
REXURGIR- “NUMEROS EN LA MEMORIA”
(Released July, 2020)
Always a fan of Espanol hardcore and recently caught wind of this straight edge band from Nicaragua who have been around for a few short years. I am half Colombian myself, and spent two summers there in the mid-90’s when I was a teenager. Those stories are not for print, and they are not exactly appropriate when discussing a straight edge band as well. So, I start off with the first track, “Ceremonia”. The track starts with a quick recording sample of the “Nicaragua, I love you!” chant, then straight into a killer old school hardcore riff and a nice bass rattle in the background from bassist, Alejandro Castenada. This song then proceeds to get majorly heavy from there. A great introduction to this releease. I am hooked already. Next up is “Pequena Escena”. This track jumps right back in with the bass before guitarist, Roberto Sanchez hits you with some more heavy-ass riffs! This song even comes equipped with a killer breakdown the whole family can enjoy. Martin Rodriguez’s vocals are way on point, as well. This song is definitely a highlight of the record. The third song, “Resurgir” is another killer tune as well. Slow and heavy is the formula for this song until the bass rattle breakdown circle-pit part! I have encountered nothing but hardcore excellence thus far, so no wonder why the next track, “Dias Grises” comes on and blows me away. Quite possibly my favorite track on the record, this song has all of the elements of a killer hardcore song. Opening with a short guitar riff into some catchy old school riffs, killer gang vocals, and great drumming by Carlos Suarez. This song was all that!
The next track, “Traidor” is another hardcore powerhouse. Kicking it off old school style, they quickly launch back into the slow heavy riffs with killer hardcore chants and I love it. I was never a fan of Spanish music growing up but for some reason, when I hear hardcore in Spanish I always get super friggin’ pumped and always look forward to hearing new Latino hardcore in general. The band takes a short break with the instrumental title track, “Numeros En La Memoria, which provides a nice contrasting introduction to the song “Roma”, which features a guest vocal appearance from Joshua Jaentschke from the band Zordidus. This song is high gear the whole way. The guest vocals add significant contrast to singer Martin, which adds an additional layer of dynamic to a song that was already solid to begin with. This song, for sure, is hardcore gold! The next song, “Sin Razon”, is fast riffs and heavy chuggs all day and then we reach the final track, “Ciegos”, to close things out. This band is old school style all day, and those of us who are grateful that the whole “emo” phase in hardcore is over can now get back to what we have always enjoyed. But overall, this album is tight! If you love the old school aggression with the new school passion, then you will love Rexurgir.Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
D IS FOR DEAD EP (Released June 2020)
Almost symbolically the crashes that open "Flashback" sound like a ritual, in the throes of the kind of street black magic that has you being tricked in a corner game of three card monte. The premiere track off the D Is For Dead EP/demo makes no bones on summoning the richness of mid 1980’s NYHC: metal riffs and guitar tones rebelling as their played in a more teenage wild approach while the backbeat in its naivety and street vibe sounds like Tommy Ramone jamming with Kerry King.
The songs anthemic lyrical content sets the tone for this release that is a homage to the hardcore scene and its aesthetic - the bond of "street family". Made of the energy that exists when the stage and audience line disappears in a small club secret to the masses, when you notice another kid outside of a show wearing a band shirt with an exploding H-Bomb test on the front and a Krishna Sanskrit phrase or school book bag inked with the graffiti shorthand NYHC making the fraternal brother and sister-hood of hardcore punk that much more real and sacred…
Recorded some eleven years ago this four song EP would not see a performance on a stage or be heard until just recently when members who have strong ties to the post 90’s era with previous bands to their credit: Black Train Jack, 9 Lives, One Sided War, Endure, Shutdown and Buried Alive - decided to resurrect the "dead". In New York, by 2001 the hardcore punk scene had probably seen better days… new jacks and veterans alike lived off the occasional reunion shows that were one off‘s and/or petered out as quickly as they began. One of the most notable would occur in 2001 and be a throwback to a bygone NYC prompting Walter Schreifels to comment “This is definitely a helmet and kneepads show…” as he casually walked in to catch Cro-Mags and Burn play an oversold CB’s show featuring the last time Harley Flanagan and John Joseph would share the stage together.
One of the few torches still burning would be the iconic Superbowl of Hardcore shows - a gladiatorial event boasting the finest hardcore bands of that year. Though the scene in itself was dealt death blows as spaces and architectures were reduced to rubble and/or extorted with high rents and finally sold off. Unfortunately the days of Jane Jacobs fighting and winning over Robert Moses for the soul of the city in a David vs. Goliath battle would not see a similar outcome in the third millennium as downtown Manhattan, the geographical center for music and art, was being redesigned by ultra-rich goons and political hoods. St. Marks Place would transform into a row of chain stores and generic shops, Coney Island High, The Continental and The Wetlands would shut its doors… though the tower that felt the most when it fell was CBGB's - its railroad corridor, western bar and endless stretch of ancient graffiti from every band that ever spewed beer, stomped and dived off its stage would host its last matinees in 2005 ending a history that changed the course of popular music forever. In terms of new bands and new releases they seemed too far and few between and made you realize how spoiled things were in the mid-80’s to 90’s period with what seemed like a new great demo coming out every other weekend or a release from Revelation, Wreckage, Blackout, Wardance or Vermiform Records.
Recorded in 2009 by prolific hardcore producer Don Fury - who himself would close the steel cellar doors of his iconic 18 Spring Street studio in 2001 - D Is For Dead make it a point for this project to be a pure hardcore statement - covering all bases. The working class aesthetic and up bringing rooted in the blue collar neighborhoods of Queens and Lower Manhattan show their pride on "Never Easy" while the third track "Test" is destined to create a wall of hardcore punks piling on within microphone range, flailing its arms as the politics of the pit floor governed by aggressive grooves and break parts summon a schizophrenia in the bones. With an Oi! inspired chorus sing-a-long “You Wanna Know What I’m All About/Come Take the Test!” the song depicts how a pit can easily turn into a killing floor with new jacks usually learning the hard way. Though the nature of the beast is just that, the same way listening to "Papas got a brand new bag" from the God-Father of Soul will have you doing the "soul slide" an outfit like Sheer Terror will no doubt make you wanna do the "pummel fist" or wield a chain with someone catching the business end of it until the ropes are learned and you finally learn when to dip in and out and follow the cardinal rule - always watch your back.
D Is For Dead lays down the street rules for hardcore punk in a deliberate effort. This animated four song EP re-creates the urban wild of NYHC in all its rights and wrongs. Interestingly enough the track "Try" acting as the EP’s coda see’s the sound moving from a second wave sound cemented by Sick of It All, Breakdown and Raw Deal into a post sound less derived from underground 80’s metal and street hardcore but more a psychedelic DC tribal groove for its intro with great lyrical content delivered with catchy poetic lines dealing with dualities and the tough decisions that can’t be bucked… there is no exit from a crossroads its either one path or the other.
As the dust settled from the post NYHC era in bad MTV videos and major record deals that promised big and fell short as bands were being steered toward what the industry would label grunge, punk ska, radio indie rock, emo friendly and God forgive those that attempted it - nu metal, some would stay true to the street genre embracing the philosophies and sound without falter. With this demo it seems D Is For Dead are doing it unapologetically and quite frankly the best I’ve heard in a while.
COLONIAL WOUND “s/t” EP
(Dropping Bombs Records, Released July, 2020)
Colonial Wound is a metallic hardcore band from Florida that I think can be best described as “uniquely familiar” on their new self-titled album. Many elements of this band’s sound, from its heavy odd time signature riffs to its screamed vocals, sound familiar to 90’s metalcore fans. Many elements of their sound remind me a lot of Converge, Coalesce, Botch, Deadguy and bands of that nature, and perhaps Coalesce most specifically since they prefer to rock on a steady groove rather than hit the listener with constant spastic tempo shifts and time signature changes. They do choose some pretty unique grooves to rock on that I think sets them apart a little from those bands. They also have some atmospheric elements that sound inspired by atmospheric sludge bands such as Neurosis and Isis, as well as the post-hardcore of bands like Orchid. They also take lots of ideas for chord changes from noise rock bands such as Scratch Acid and Shellac, and probably also mathcore band turned no wave revivalists Daughters, in that the guitars have this very otherworldly timbre to them. It’s hard to describe but it’s trippy and noisey at the same time. I think the noise rock influence is most apparent on the guitar feedback driven “Instilled (Interlude)” track which fades into “Passenger To The Blur.” The band also has a really cool bass breakdown on the song “Necessary Fires.” They clearly strive to take these familiar 90’s sounds and mold them into something different. But there’s one pervasive flaw present on every song on the record that really weighs it down in my view. While its lack of tempo shifts sets it apart from other records in these styles, it causes this record to suffer from a severe lack of dynamics. Most of the songs clock in at around the 3-4 minute mark, meaning they’re about twice as long as your average Coalesce song, but that they’re not long enough to build up to an epic climax like your typical Neurosis song would. The songs are long enough to run out of steam, but not long enough to sustain their atmosphere. I think the band would be on to something if they could work out this one kink in their songwriting. Having one fast song would break things up a little bit, or having all these loud raging tracks with quiet interludes (to go back to Neurosis again). It feels like the band is inhabiting this weird middle ground as a result of not being particularly dynamic and I would’ve liked to see them go more experimental than they did.
As far as the lyrics go, I wish I had a bit more to say. Most of the tracks seem to discuss personal growth and introspection in some form or fashion but the lyrics were written abstractly enough that it took me a while to figure out where they were going with any of this. Mind you, I love abstract and weird music and I think it’s awesome when bands put out songs with multiple possible interpretations that everyone can get something out of. But I was a little bit confused for about half of this record. The final track, “Savior Claim,” is probably the best lyrical moment on the album. The lyrics on this song construct this image of a “familiar liar” attempting to repackage his sinister ideas and sell them to you with a new image. When the song closes with “Choke on all the things you’ve said, I hope it all feels “Great again,” it ties everything together and you understand who the song is aimed at. It was a really clever song, and probably was the best written instrumentally too. Both the lyrics and the band build up gradually to a satisfying conclusion on this one. I think Colonial Wound is onto something on this song and if they take that and hone in on it while putting their next record together, I think they’ll be able to grow really gracefully as a band.
Overall, Colonial Wound delivers some interesting ideas on their self-titled EP, but the band’s sound could use some fine tuning. While the lack of variety and dynamics definitely holds the record back a little bit, I still see loads of potential for the band to evolve creatively into something really different. I think if you're a diehard of “mathcore” or “noisecore” in the vein of Botch, Coalesce or Daughters’ last couple records, or if you're a diehard of “post-metal” or “atmospheric sludge” such as Neurosis, Isis and Pelican, you'll really enjoy this record. But if you’re new to these styles, I don’t think I’d recommend it as a starting point. My hope for Colonial Wound is that this is a foundation upon which they can build a really cool sound that not many in the hardcore scene wish to tackle in the current musical climate. I like it when heavier bands get abstract so I'm interested in seeing where these guys go. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify. Physical copies can be ordered HERE.
NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE "WASTED FOR LIFE"
(Dead City Records, Released August 2020)
The first new NRSV record in 8 years is finally here and I am damn glad to report to you that the NY brew crew knocked this one outta the park. Hardcore bands are often at their best when they are young blood thirsty savages and although there are exceptions it's pretty rare to see a band put out what could arguably be their best effort 30 plus years after forming.
"Don't Tell Me" opens like a hairdryer in a bathtub with a ton of energy that will make you ball up your fist and start banging random shit where you stand. This song caught my attention with the fact that their bass player John Franko trades off vocal parts with lead singer Dean Miller... an aspect of this band that we haven't seen on a regular basis since way back in the Mike Dixon days. A rarely used guitar lead mixed in just short of the one minute mark was a nice little wrinkle signaling a freshness that I found throughout many of these 10 tracks. "Brew Crew" is a nod to the No Redeeming faithful group of friends and fans that mixes in some punk overtones with some ooohs and aaahs in that catchy chorus that is sure to be a live favorite. The punk overtones on this track and dual vocals on the opener are a recurring theme throughout this album but are mixed in very smoothly. Up next is the title track, a song that No Redeeming has been featuring live over the past couple of years. This one was an instant favorite with its super catchy and easy to remember chorus. Check out the lyric video for this track HERE. Three songs in and it’s obvious that NRSV wanted some real bangers at the top of the lineup of songs and with track 4 titled "Ratbones" they keep the momentum building with a track titled after one of the NYHC scenes most well-known mosh pit maniacs. A music video for this one is in the works as well. "Shatterproof" follows with a ridiculously insane bouncy chorus that has a bit of a hard rock song feel to it as well. Writing a NRSV review that mentions a "hard rock song feel" is trippy and very 2020-esque because… what the fuck is actually normal in 2020?
There are many instances on this record where the NRSV "core sound" is expanded or “matured” and I think these aspects are huge factors in this album's success. "Sociophilia" opens with a soundbite of Mindforce's Jay Peta telling us to "get off the fucking internet" which is the lyrical theme behind yet another catchy song which to me has this Yuppicide feel to it particularly in the chorus. "Punk Rock Wedding Song" is an older "revived" track that was originally written for friends of the band to be played at their wedding. Although this song has some raging moments in the middle stages it is probably best suited to be played at an actual wedding which the band is apparently open to doing. Hit ‘em up to inquire. "I'm Gonna Puke" is another oddball type of song that features their guitarist playing a banjo! The first minute of this song kind of country westerns its way along before a quick burst of hardcore explodes in your face with the banjo reappearing to close this one out. This is my least favorite track on the album but not entirely uncharacteristic for NRSV as in the past they have put out songs that are completely off the chart head scratchers that make you think there might be more than Olde E in those big 64 ounce bottles they've been known to swill. Moving right along to track 9.. "Separation Anxiety" bounces back into straight up hardcore mode with some hard dance parts as well as another short guitar lead mixed in as the song fades out. "NYC NRSV" closes the album out with an ode to their hometown while also serving as a sendoff to their friend and ex-bandmate Vinnie Value who provided backup chorus oooohs and ahhhhs on this track before he passed away this past January. The chorus on this one crushes and sends "Wasted For Life" out on such a high note. A true DIY project here as drummer Glen Lorieo once again shows off his production skills while their bass player Franko cranks out 12” vinyl and CD versions on his own Dead City Records. The killer front and back cover artwork by Sven Gjurček from Croatia completes the DIY triangle of death! NRSV show a shit ton on diversity as well as maturity on this new one that came in way above my expectations. Click HERE to order in the U.S. and click HERE to order in Europe. Find it on Spotify HERE.
CONSTANT ELEVATION “FREEDOM BEACH” EP
(Revelation Records, Release Date August 14, 2020)
I think as hardcoremin we all have a 7 inch EP written in our heads. I know I do. Most of us will never get that EP out of us and it shall be played nowhere other than in your own head forever. Mine is pretty good by the way, I just rocked it a few minutes ago. Well for Sammy Siegler, who after countless years of being the backbone for band after band after band, Constant Elevation is the band that helped him realize his head EP. The one he had been carrying around with him in his head all those years. Listen, if I need to list the bands this guy’s been in then you should just eat a Covid cake and get the fuck out of my review. Unlike me, Sammy has talent and connections so he hollered at his boy Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife for whom he once filled in as drummer on a short tour and asked, "Hey bro, how about you lay some of those sweet, tasty vocal stylings on this fresh hunk of music I created?" and Vince responded "Hells yeah bro, you are the master and ruler!" (Full disclosure… the previous conversation may have just been something this reviewer made up, we'll call it poetic license). So the two men assembled an EP and it kinda kicked ass so now they found three other musical talents Jani Zubkovs on bass and guitarists Mike Ireland and Jim Carroll, all of whom have solid resumes as well and recorded Constant Elevation's second EP "Freedom Beach" for Revelation Records. So let's see what these mugs put together and see what was in the mind of Sammy Siegler and Vince Caruana the second time around... TO THE TUNES!
A solid 16 seconds of feedback combines with a bassline making way for static and feedback until Sammy's machine gun drum blast leads into a breakneck hardcore tune called "I Love You And I Never Want You To Die" running a brisk 1:23. This song could be the mantra for suicide prevention or maybe they need a new theme song for their cause. This is a brilliant bit of fast posi-core. I'm in Sammy's head space now, and it's groovy. What's next? Well, in my opinion they left the best for... second. "KRS Two" is spreadin’ the hardcore reality of 2020 and clocks in at 1:42. This is a love song as far as hardcore goes. This song has beautiful playing and amazing singing. This is immediate iPod material. Yes I still use an iPod you young dicks. Anyhow, this is my HOT TRACK of the EP and while I've never picked a hot track before it seems fitting here. It's melodic, it’s fast, it's got a dance bit at the end, it's fucking good alright... leave me alone. “Bob X Cursion” is the epic of the EP running 2:03. This song has it all. It has great lyrics, it has the fast bits, it has the melody. Most importantly it has one big old fucking mosh part at the end complete with a primordial scream followed by a well-placed "FUCK!!!!" Kids will be losing their minds... and by kids I mean 36-48 year olds. There shall be many a torn meniscus and sprained ACL’s in suburbia as a direct result of “Bob X”. "Freedom Beach" rounds out the EP running another brisk 1:19 and can easily be an anthem for the day. You've been through the mill, the highs and the lows, but somehow the fire remains even though it's the fire you had to walk through to get to where you are. Deep stuff and a great tune.
So there you have it, the new EP "Freedom Beach" by our compatriots Constant Elevation. I'm gonna be honest. I listened to this on Bandcamp so many times for this review I kept having to pay for it... and I did, so that should tell you something about this release. It's catchy good stuff played to perfection by a bunch of pros who are not rehashing old ghosts but rather showing something a bit different with glimpses of perhaps amazing things to come and seemingly having fun doing it. “Freedom Beach” you fucking rotting sand fleas, get that shit now. You won’t be disappointed. Now get the fuck off my blanket you deplorables… six feet? I’m gonna need twelve.... minimum. Give me some fucking space! Find it digitally on Bandcamp and Spotify and on 7” vinyl from Rev HQ.
ECOSTRIKE "A TRUTH WE STILL BELIEVE"
(Triple B Records, Released July, 2020)
Hot off the press is the new Ecostrike full length from Triple B Records, a label that has been consistently pumping out new releases from the 30 and under faction of the hardcore scene for a while now. This South Florida based band has built a strong reputation from previous releases as well as hitting the road having already played such notable fests as This Is Hardcore (PA), Sound and Fury (CA), FYA (FL), America's Hardcore Fest (MA), United Blood (VA) as well as having played in Europe. The fact that they are off the social media grid creates this mysterious "buck the system" type of feel as there is just not a lot of info about Ecostrike out there online which makes writing things like this review a bit challenging but at the same time worth chasing those ghosts. Word around the water cooler though is that they got a strong Judge/Strife influence going on (absolutely correct) as well as being firm backers of THE straight edge. "Sanctuary" comes galloping out of the gate full speed ahead. I like these vocals and I like those choppy drum beats that immediately get the head nodding. That 90's hardcore style guitar crunch is there but it's not overdone at all on this winner of an opening track. Things flow right into "Another Promise" which is another upbeat charge of energy that has some great gang style backup vocals that hit hard. The third track, "A Better Way" head fakes you into thinking they are going to drop a slow jam but the intro is short lived as things speed up before they drop a crusher of a fade out within the last 25 seconds of this track. Ecostrike is not reinventing how hardcore is done on "A Truth We Still Believe" but they are somewhat of a rarity in that their conviction to their music shines right through creating an album that's very easy to get into. Being successful at taking the 90's hardcore template and creating a full length album with a vibrancy and fresh feel is a tall task but that's exactly what's happening here. The guitar tone throughout has just the right amount of crunch without getting too metal and the vocals follow suit as they fit what Ecostrike is doing perfectly. I will spare you a song by song breakdown as the majority of this album follows a similar route with great results. 9 songs come in at just over 21 minutes in length. Other standouts include "Count Me Out" and the anthem like title track that closes out this album... a song that I can envision having the majority of the crowd on the stage singing along while lasagna layers of people in front of the stage jostle for the microphone to get their chance to sing along. A big part of what Ecostrike is about is their message so was a little disappointing to not be able to find this album’s lyrics anywhere online. Although the Ecostrike name has been on the radar for a while this was my first real sit down to dive into their music and the end result was finding a new band to get excited about. Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify or click the album artwork in the upper left to grab a physical copy from Triple B.
CONCRETE “FREE US FROM EXISTENCE”
(Black Voodoo Records, Release Date August 7, 2020)
Concrete is one of those "as advertised” kinda bands. Hitting play with headphones on puts you on a crash course with a gapless wall of sound and no ejector seat. The Albany, NY based group's 2017 album “Everything Ends Now” was a ferocious exhibition of the band's prowess and songwriting acumen, combining thrash and death metal with the bulldog-like stalk and snarl of old-school NYHC. Their new album “Free Us From Existence” succeeds in many of the same ways as its predecessor, but in other respects, it is absolutely in a league of its own. From the first crushing measure of opener "Executing Vengeance," it's clear that the band has dialed up the death metal and punched up the production as well because the track hits like a flying dragon kick to the sternum. The influence of Chicago's Harm's Way is undeniable here, as the band seems primed and ready to wind up and set loose an armored batter of tank-skinned power violence on "Executing Vengeance," as well as the winding, sour squeeze of "Starving Serpent," and the blood-letting, spiral drain of the penultimate track, "Parasites." The single "World Tomb" dives deep into the band's death metal influences, recovering some hateful sounding riffs from the sunken vaults of Cryptopsy and strapping them to a Stigmata groove before lighting a short fuse and sending them spiraling into the air to meet a fiery fate. Rough glances of cutting metallic hardcore can be found on the Marauder-esque "Path Of Fire," while "Psychological Crucifixion" gives weight and damnable purpose to the swinging punch of Absolute Suffering inspired riffs and a toothy hook to the river-dragging, Biohazard inspired thrash grooves. On “Free Us From Existence”, Concrete will either squeeze the malaise from your guts or liberate you from this mortal coil in the attempt. Whichever you'd prefer is a matter of your own satisfaction. Pre-order the digital version HERE.
RAMALLAH “THE LAST GASP OF STREET ROCK AND ROLL” (State Line Records, Released July, 2020)
“What ever happened to that hardcore music that we all know and love?” asks singer Rob Lind, of Blood 4 Blood fame. A great sing-a-long to open the title track of this release, “The Last Gasp Of Street Rock ‘N Roll”. Originally released in October of 2019, this album earned itself a re-release on Stateline Records, which is how it landed on my lap this time around. This first song is an ode of sorts to all his fallen brothers who were not as lucky to survive the same lifestyle that Rob was lucky enough to survive, himself. This song has a great way of maintaining its dark overtones, while being quite catchy as well. Now, call me a sucker for romance, but I do get a little bit misty eyed every time “White Trash Rob” starts talking shit before one of his songs. Hence, the smile on my face when the next killer track, “I Don’t Believe” came on. A cool guitar riff, a let’s go, and we’re off! Another fast song with super catchy choruses as well. A perfect mix of Rob’s vocals, fast guitars by Alan Tomaszewski and Jason Eick add more layers of sound to the mix. Pure punk rock hardcore gold so far with this record. So, no surprise when the third track, “Dead Girls And Dead Boys Anthem”, came on after and blew me away again! A catchy mid-paced guitar riff along with Rob singing again to start this off before another “Let’s go!” picks up the pace. Rob continues to pour his heart out on this record on literally every track. Rob’s sense of dark humor mixed with his brand of sarcasm is even further magnified with his Boston street accent and is apparent on every release that he has lent his vocal skill to. A cool bass line by Rob Robles, starts off the next track called, “City Boy”… another tale from the streets of Boston. Drugs, suicide and depression amidst the cold city streets are the topics of the day. “I know the world can be so cold”, the singer admits on this track. Now, I must admit, the next track, “I Seen You Crawling”, is pure punk rock gold. Aside from the “Hey ho, let’s go” ode to the Ramones, this song is loaded with na-na-na-na-nas and everything! I was able to relate to Rob on this heavy song about finding oneself homeless on the city streets. “When you got nowhere to go, and your world has turned so cold” are words I can relate to. I found myself homeless for a short period of time last year, after I split with my ex-wife. I can relate to the feelings of desperation while roaming the streets, bars and trying to find Air Bnb’s for the night. Now, as if that track was not heavy enough for me, the next song, “The Times We Had”, comes on. It’s basically a song about finding some peace of mind after a breakup. Which, again, takes me back to my own struggles that I faced over the last year such as building a new life and struggling with not being around for my kids in the same capacity as I was once able to. I think that only a guy like Rob can go that deep without losing any “Tough guy Boston street cred” that he damn well earned, so props to him for that. A short acoustic song called, “Bye Bye” lightens the mood for a minute before the final track, “The Last Gasp Of A Wasted Youth And Wasted Life”, comes on. A cool, catchy ode to the “Wasted Youth Crew” of Boston and a celebration of white trash rock and roll. Overall, a great release from this band who sprung from the ashes of the mighty, Blood 4 Blood. I was impressed with this LP and I recommend it to any fan of street hardcore punk! Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify.
CORPORATE CITIZEN “SIX MINUTE MEETING” EP (Released May, 2020)
I have never given much of a listen to hardcore/punk bands that have that 90's Southern California sound. Sure I've heard a few but never gave them much of a chance but a band new to me called Corporate Citizen has changed my thinking. Forming in San Diego circa 2017, band members over the years have had stints with well-known bands which has helped them create a very energetic, melodic blend of music that I really enjoy. This style is apparent in Corporate Citizen's third release… a three song EP titled “Six Minute Meeting”. Listening to the music and the lyrics of tracks: “Culture Vulture”, “Not The One” and “Positivity Anthem” (the latter being my favorite track) brought me back to the "Youth Crew" vibe from the mid 80's/early 90's. Think of NYHC bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and H20 mixed with that SoCal sound of bands like Pennywise. The three tracks slightly vary a little in style which showcases the member's talents separately and collectively. Listening to “Six Minute Meeting” has been sort of a musical freshness that I didn't really know I was missing. I'm looking forward to listening to it some more as well as listening to Corporate Citizen's previous releases. Check it out on Bandcamp and Spotify.
MALE PATTERNS/EXECUTORS “SPLIT EP”
(Shock To The System Records, Released August, 2020)
Albany, NY’s Male Patterns specialize in bruising hardcore punk that sounds like a mix of Poison Idea and Negative Approach and New Jersey’s Executors, while more straight up punk rock in their style, still have hardcore elements in their sound. The two kindred spirit bands team up for this split 7” and the results are devastating. With three songs by Male Patterns and two by Executors, this split flies by in under ten minutes, but the whole duration is packed full of enough riffs, grooves and hardcore punk to fill an entire full album.
The three Male Patterns songs are up first and commence with “Automatic”, a song that kicks things off perfectly, complete with a straight forward but memorable “chant-a-long” chorus and some great guitar work. A wail of feedback introduces the next track “Self-Abuse” and it immediately explodes into life with a burst of hardcore vigor. This song’s title seems apt as it reminded me immediately of Verbal Abuse, albeit with its own vibe. “Fear Mongering” is the last of the Male Patterns tracks on this split and it’s a bit slower and more grooving than the previous two but has more of a menacingly heavy feel which just adds to the bands power.
From then on in, Executors blast into action with “Leave Me Alone”, a catchy and gnarly stomp with a brilliantly anthemic intro that is reminiscent of Poison Idea’s “Plastic Bomb” and the Warzone cover of “Skinhead Girl Warrior” by Last Resort… it has that same sort of feel, one that gets you pumped up before the track explodes. After the intro fades, true to form, it’s straight to business with boot to the face intensity which shows off the Executors sound immediately, which is truly punk. The split ends with “Days Of Desperation”, a catchy as hell punk rock track with its great “So What, Who Cares, Fuck You” chorus, which is straight to the point and sounds endearingly defiant, ending this release on a sheer high. This split is a great showcase of both Male Patterns and Executors music and both are bands you should hear more from in the future. Available digitally on Bandcamp as well as on 7” wax from Shock To The System Records.
ONE LIFE ALL IN “LETTER OF FORGIVENESS”
(Released April, 2020)
Breathing fire from both Cleveland Ohio and Lyon France we have One Life All In, a positive hardcore band formed in 2015 that features members of The Spudmonsters, Run Devil Run, Seekers Of The Truth and Benighted. This six track EP was recorded in Lyon, France and shows their truly vast array of influences. The artwork is intriguing and eye catching (always a big plus with me) as it shows thought into the bands statement. The opening song, the title track "Letter Of Forgiveness" starts bright and mid-paced with a nice balance of instruments, one not overpowering another and it's melodic too. You can really tell these guys know what they want in terms of their delivery. The vocals from Don Foose are excellent and this song has great hooks with a tremendous live feel. An instant winner! "Cold Hand Struggles" has a more sense of urgency than the opening song, not breakneck speed but you can hear the difference and the quality is solid from all band members. "Sacred Heart" slows things down, a more punchy, powerful slab of hardcore and demonstrates the bands ability to calm things down without losing their focus but don't be fooled, these guys can flick the switch and turn the machine into a raging fast paced monster before switching back adding melody and power. Wow! This will be a colossal song live! The next song "Hey Man!" is the shortest song on this EP at just over a minute and a half. It’s fast and to the point with drummer Kevin Foley delivering lightening precision thunder to the listener that creates this incredible intensity. "83rd Dream" (a cover song by The Cult) starts with guitarist Clem gently easing into the song with a carefully constructed guitar intro before the band launches into a very anthem like track that really shows their range musically. I cannot escape thinking that this is exactly how the band would sound live, crystal clear, powerful, with songs that have real decent structure. The final track "Discharge" leaves the listener thinking that this EP was over far too soon. It has been a real pleasure to listen to the latest from One Life All In. Find “Letter of Forgiveness” on Bandcamp or Spotify as well as on compact disc through the Bandcamp link.
(Morning Wood Records, Released July, 2020)
Coming at us from Leeuwarden in the Netherlands is a 4 piece band 'o punks that go by the name Sun-O-Bathers. On this, their second release we get 7 tracks that come in at around 17 minutes in playing time. I gotta admit that the goofy pool scene on the cover artwork drew me in initially and what I found sonically was pretty darn good. During the 90's I was introduced to bands like Lag Wagon, Pennywise, Face To Face and Good Riddance and upon hitting play "Floaters" brought me back to that time period and the vibes those bands gave off. Overall this is a well-played record that has its moments with some nice hooks, clean vocals and a great surf punk instrumental titled "Hate The Shade" to close things out. "Floaters" started off strong on the first couple of rotations but lost some of its steam with repeated listens. Although they check off some of the boxes needed for a great record there is still a feeling of having "heard it all before" here. Good mood music if your headed to the beach on a hot summer day but not an album I am going to list as a must have if I am ever trapped on a desert island or sent to some far off space station where they only let you bring 3 albums. Find this on Bandcamp and Spotify.
THE BLOOD AND THE SWEAT; THE STORY OF
SICK OF IT ALL'S KOLLER BROTHERS
(Book Review, Release Date August 3rd, 2020)
Sick Of It All have been the flagbearers for New York Hardcore for well over 30 years now without skipping a beat as they consistently tour and release new material with no breaks in that decades long chain. The foundation for this iconic band is made up by the brothers Koller; Louis Pierre and Pierre Michel... or as most of us know them… Lou and Pete from Sick Of It All. They were born less than 13 months apart in the mid-1960's in the New York City borough of Queens. This soon to be released book starts off with how their parents met in France and takes us right up to current day SOIA with many stops across the globe in between. Author (and long-time friend) Howie Abrams orchestrated this 300 page book by not only conducting candid interviews with the brothers and their current day bandmates Armand Majidi and Craig Setari but also by getting insightful takes from ex-band members, roadies, friends, their parents, spouses, older brothers and even their young children. From the time a convicted killer was shown wearing a SOIA shirt on the front page of NY’s Daily News, to near death experiences while touring Europe, consistently fighting Nazis that showed up to their shows, a guy with a human head in a bag, to touring with the greats of hardcore, punk and heavy metal, this book covers EVERYTHING and more that any fan of Sick of It All would want to know. In this book Lou and Pete come across much like they do when we see them on stage as they seem humble, respectful and I would also say grateful for having a job that they dreamed about since they were kids while also willing to give or take a joke as they try to “CCCKKK” (crack) each other, their roadies and close friends with various degrees of hazing. Within the realm of hardcore music (specifically NYHC) there currently is not a lot in the way of volume when it comes to books covering the bands that helped make NYHC grow into the most storied underground scene in the entire world. One would guess that as the people who were there in the earlier days grow older that we will see more and more in the way of books like this one as that nostalgia element starts to kick in. This is a must read for those who consider themselves diehard fans as well as for the more casual hardcore historian. It has been almost a full year since an announcement was made that this book was in the works and now that it is finally out I can say without hesitation that it was worth the wait and a job well done. US buyers can keep it real and purchase a copy from NYC’s Generation Records who are shipping out copies now. Also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Coretex Records out of Germany.
STRIKE ANYWHERE "NIGHTMARES OF THE WEST"
(Pure Noise Records, Release Date July 17, 2020)
Somewhere in the earlier part of the 2000's Strike Anywhere's "Chorus Of One" EP ended up on my iPod even though I don't recall ever downloading it. I am not sure if this unique phenomenon has a name but it damn sure happened to me! Whenever the Strike Anywhere name would come up in conversation I would tell people how this EP "magically" ended up in my library and what a great EP it is/was. I have never seen this band play live and will admit that although I really like "Chorus Of One" my interest sort of ended there as I hate chasing band's discogs when they are pretty deep into their career with material as is the case here. Now comes word of their first new music in over 10 years with "Nightmares Of The West" on Pure Noise Records... a label that has been scooping up bands from all reaches of the hardcore spectrum lately. Six originals and a cover of Blocko's "Opener" run a little over 20 minutes in length. "Documentary" opens and jumps right into that melodic groove and style that I recall so well from "Chorus". Strike Anywhere pride themselves on being political activists and I didn't need the lyric sheet to figure that out on this opening track courtesy of Thomas Barnett’s smooth vocal delivery. Another melodic banger is up next in "Dress The Wounds" followed by the mid-paced "The Bells" which doesn't hit as hard as the opening two tracks but is still serviceable at the very least. "Frontier Glitch" which they made a timely music video for follows and starts off slow but it leads into a nice build. The slower "Imperium Of Waste" doesn't do much for me and is followed by that Blocko cover of "Opener" which could easily pass for one of their originals. "We Make The Road By Walking" closes things out with a charge of energy with another one of those fast and melodic jams that just has that Strike Anywhere stamp on it. “Nightmares Of The West” is hard for me to pigeon hole as there are Warped Tour pop punk band qualities here as well as that edge and grit that just makes things “hardcore”. When at times it seems like the hardcore punk scene is drowning in copy cats not being able to pigeon hole a band or an album is a great thing. Overall, I wouldn't expect my favorite bands from my youth to be putting out better albums now than the ones they wrote twenty years earlier and I would say the same holds true here but Strike Anywhere do not miss the mark by much as the majority of "Nightmares Of The West" struck me on the right levels. Pre-orders are available HERE.
(Mission Two Entertainment, Release Date July 31st, 2020)
Insight were one of the premier Salt Lake City hardcore bands in the late 80’s/early 90’s before they split up and while members of the band ended up in the likes of Jets To Brazil, Handsome and Iceburn, the energetic hardcore of Insight is still celebrated today and with the release of their new retrospective album “Reflection”, a whole new generation of hardcore fans can discover their music. “Reflection” consists of the bands’ old material from 1990 as well as some songs recorded live from City Gardens in Trenton, NJ in 1989 when they were supporting Social Distortion and most enticingly of all, four brand new songs from the band. Insight were one of Victory Records (who have now morphed into Mission Two Entertainment) first signings and even though the majority of the tracks on “Reflection” will hark back to those days, they still sound vital today and the new songs mark a fresh chapter in the story of this band. "Reflection” kicks off with the “What Will It Take” 7’’ and as the opening track “Standing Strong” explodes, you can still feel the power of the band’s music. Tracks such as “Identity Crisis” and the standout “Enough” are straight to the point hardcore anthems that still stand up today. After that initial maelstrom, there are a couple of songs that were featured on various compilation albums in “Get It” and “Silent Shore” before the band turn back the years with their new material which is headed up by the furious “Take It Back” and the standout “Reflection” and it is great to hear the band play with such passion and energy. “Reflection” ends with the live tracks and the raw recordings that demonstrate the power of this band in a live setting and includes a number of tracks from that debut 7’’ and is fine way to end this retrospective. “Reflection” is a great piece of hardcore history that shows Insight at the peak of their powers but also shows that they still have what it takes after all those years. Pre-orders are available HERE.
SPEED “2020 FLEX” EP
(Flatspot/Last Ride Records, Released June, 2020)
Speed come to us from Australia and formed in 2019. The band’s mission is to open the eyes of the hardcore scene in regards to cultural norms, discrimination and racism, among other important topics. The band has also released a demo back in 2019. This is a two song release that is also available on 7” flexi vinyl through Flatspot and Last Ride Records. The first track is titled “A Dumb Dog Gets Flogged” and opens with a sludgy groove instrumental before the vocals jump in and the song becomes a full on hardcore assault. The song deals with keeping your word and the intensity of the lyrics drives their point across in a strong way. “Devil You Know” follows up with another groove-filled blast of dark sounding hardcore. The song leans towards human morals and staying strong in a world filled with negativity. With great riffs and gruff vocals, this track showcases the band’s strength and commitment to the hardcore world. Speed are a different kind of hardcore. The band’s sound is edgy, murky and unique. You can hear their musical influences in the music, especially with the established New York bands and the vocals are reminiscent of Agnostic Front’s, Roger Miret. I like these guys as they stand out from the usual sounding bands of the times. Speed should release a full length record to showcase their talents further and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the hardcore scene. Check this out on Bandcamp and Spotify.
TRUE FORM “CONTROL” EP
(IOU Records, Released December, 2019)
Recently, I came across this band from Florida who I knew nothing about. It seemed odd to me, considering I have been living down here the past fifteen years. Well, either way, I was impressed with this EP which was released a few months ago on IOU Records. Things start off with a one-minute intro song titled “Do You Know?” Some guitar feedback and drums lead us into the opening track. A thunderous sound and a great stomp part at the end entice the listener. Stepping right into the next track titled “True Form”, sharing the same title as the band itself. Starting off with a cool opening guitar riff that then turns into a bouncy, head bobbin chorus, then a circle pit. This song has a great sound that is reminiscent of Leeway, especially with the short feedbacks nestled within the guitar riffs. Gritty, yet clear and audible vocals that remind me of the old NYC band Cold Front match the heaviness of the song, and the breakdown at the end was impressive as well. The third track, “Control”, has another great opening riff that leads you into a circle pit. Heavy lyrics and a good ending to this track make it an official standout. The next one, “Crash And Burn”, is just as good. Opening with a killer bass line, the guitar riffs will have you stomping hard as well. Catchy choruses and the heaviest breakdown on the record is also captured here within this track, making it a favorite as well. Opening with a quick drum roll, “In Between”, the final track is another killer hardcore song. With its youth crew style riffs and a cool fade out at the end this finishes things up nice. Overall, this EP was well worth the listen. I did not have much info on this band at all which, to me is fine… as the music speaks for itself. Check it out on Bandcamp & Spotify.
INTIMIDATION “DEMO 2020” (Released June, 2020)
I was introduced to Oi not long after I was introduced to hardcore and not only fell in love with both but noticed the close connection between the two genres. When I see a hardcore band pay homage or state OI bands as influences I feel it's well deserved and when I get to hear a new band claiming to play Oi music I get excited. Intimidation are an Oi band with the true spirit in their hearts and in their music. Having just released their demo, members Tim -vocals, Dylan -guitars, Quinn -guitars, Keith -bass and Will -drums come to us from the Northeast US states of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts and are a perfect example that Oi music does not have to come solely from the UK. “Demo 2020” contains 5 fast paced, melodic gravelly voiced tracks pulling no punches and showing no apologies for who Intimidation are and the lives they lead.
Track listing is:
“Credible Threat” A warning not to mess with this skinhead.
“Isolation” The title says it all.
“Intimidation” “You'll never tell us what to do because we know what's right."
“Four Generations” A working class song.
“Ultra-Violence” A great cover of The Oppressed song.
I honestly haven't stopped listening to this lately and there is not a track worth skipping. If you are the type that likes to show their appreciation of the music by fist pumping while holding a beer, or perhaps moon stomping/slam dancing is your thing or maybe just tapping your feet and singing along, Intimidation's style has got you covered. I am definitely high on this band as they put out one hell of a demo. Influential bands such as Sham 69, Cock Sparrer and The Oppressed if given the chance to hear this release surely would agree. Oi!
CAPRA s/t EP (Released May, 2020)
In a forward moving chaos Capra commences an audio beat down with “Torture Ship” the lead off song of their self-titled EP. Its roaring single note riff combines an early Dr. Know “Attitude” style rooted from the “Black Dots” era and the progression of an outlaw country song befitting for Waylon Jennings circa the hazy quaalude years of the 1970’s. Eye to eye with its self-destructive energy is new singer or better yet screamer Crow Lotus who passionately lays down her vocals with an urgency more commonly associated with a brick being thrown through a window. Her screaming aesthetic comes from the rib of Krishna Core outfit 108 with the dueling metalcore hollerings of Rob Fish and Vic DiCara and their spiritual angst…
The tracks brutal minimalist approach strips down 1983 thrash metal to just its speed core and continues to boil it down until it reaches its hardcore punk basic compound of a mosh groove. The guitar riffs is cut into dramatic stops, slowing down as their played one by one creating an audio bomb resonance. Though the dust and smoke does not settle as Crow howls like a ‘sister devotee’ - her lyrics are anger with meaning and not just screaming for the sake of style but for the emotional content of her words. As the millennium stands in its 20 year mark female fronted hardcore punk/metal core has taken center stage in a long overdue chapter in the scenes lineage. With a 2018 EP already out Capra would make the risky move of altering the group dynamic…
An audience’s tolerance for new faces in an already established band can vary depending on which role is being filled. A groups rhythm section seems to be the most forgivable while guitar players can ruffle the feathers of most purist and diehards though tolerated if they can nail down that killer solo…though usually what will bring out the pitchforks and album burning ceremonies is the bold risky move of replacing ones singer. Aside from AC/DC and Van Halen (who pushed their chips a little too far with a third new guy in Gary Cherone from Extreme) and Faith No More -
it’s feat is a hard one to pull off. For Capra the new blood on vocals has given them a fresh sound that is raw and lyrically thought provoking while simultaneously putting them at the vanguard as hardcore punk finds its equality on the stage. The energy of the material is the perfect vehicle for Lotus’ lyrical content and performance that revolts violently in its duality - in the same breath fighting inward and exterior oppositions. She blasts out “If you want to survive you have to die a thousand times first /Your past becomes history / The future is now!” with a defiant tongue as the lines knock around in your skull.
There’s nothing fancy or poetic about the 2020 version of the group, only a more focused beast in there writing and song execution. While other bands in the ‘scream-o’ genre toil in having a melody in their outcries and sounds Capra zero in on primal rage that goes beyond just playing savage underground rock ‘n roll with almost schizophrenic riffs that teeter dangerously from speed metal to hard rock. Just under 6 minutes this EP is not concerned with self-preservation but destroys itself in a fiery crash of mood and power. Throughout the generations hardcore music has been a voice for the downtrodden, misunderstood and outsider youth - In the southern section of Louisiana the musical history goes from Louis Armstrong - arguably the father of modern jazz - to the scourge of pop music Britney Spears and most recently Hip Hop’s southern faction most notably Cash Money Crew and Lil’ Wayne…though aside from the sub-metal genre of “sludge metal” making some noise in the 90’s a definitive hardcore punk band from this part of the America’s is hard to pinpoint - though that may change with Capra. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
PRIME s/t EP (Released 2019)
Prime come to us from Poughkeepsie, NY. This is the band’s second outing having released their first demo in February of 2019. This four track self-titled EP opens up with “Wild Fang”. The track kicks off with a heavy opening riff before blasting full steam ahead with a vocal style reminiscent of early Violence. “Life’s Halt” follows up with another slab of sludgy hardcore metal complete with choppy guitars and rampant vocals. “Diorite” slows things down with a soft sounding musical opening veering away from the band’s traditional sound before punching it up with more unconventional played hardcore. “Razor’s Edge” finishes off this EP with a straight ahead hardcore number with an experimental twist to it.
This was a challenging review as the musical style is something I’m not accustomed to listening to. It has the familiar elements of hardcore but I found the vocals hard to listen to and the constant change ups in the songs made it hard for me to appreciate. Prime come off sounding a lot like NY’s Mindforce, with a comparable musical sound and similar vocal styles. The band tends to veer towards an avant-garde sound with crunchy, distorted guitars, raging vocals and a sound that is difficult to categorize. If you are seeking something different from the usual hardcore then check this one out. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
CRO-MAGS “IN THE BEGINNING”
(Mission Two Entertainment, Release Date June 19, 2020)
The first new Cro-Mags album in 20 years should come with its own Wiki page to get casual fans up to speed on what “In The Beginning” offers up. First up on the personnel side of things you obviously have Harley Flanagan handling bass and vocal duties, Rocky George (Suicidal Tendencies) and Gabby Abularach are on guitars… both have played on previous Cro-Mags releases and on drums is Garry “G-Man” Sullivan. Mission Two Entertainment who is releasing this album in the USA morphed out of Victory Records and this album is their inaugural release. The cover to “In The Beginning” was taken in the early 80’s and is of “C-Squat” in NYC, a place where Cro-Mags founder Harley Flanagan used to call home. About this album Harley says "This album has all my influences in it; everything from Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Sabbath, Motorhead to Pink Floyd, hardcore, metal, funk, hip hop, jazz, classical - you name it. It's all the ingredients that went into writing the old Cro-Mags songs and then some. It even has cellos and percussion and samples on it. I'm not afraid to break the so-called rules of hardcore, I never was; that's why our music stood out and always has. This is a culmination of everything I am as a person; it's my personal evolution; my musical evolution and all the things that have influenced me musically thus far. It is 100% Cro-Mags." The album has a total of 13 songs with 6 of the songs having been released through 2 separate EP’s that came out in June and December of 2019.
With all of that said let’s get down to the music which starts off with “Don’t Give In”… a song that initially made its debut on that June 2019 EP of the same name. This track will immediately have you thinking of the old Cro-Mags classic “We Gotta Know” which kicked off their “AOQ” album back in ’86. It has a classic NYHC type intro, drums boom bopping and guitar leads wailing away before the vocals kick in at the 1:13 mark. I went back and looked up the “We Gotta Know” intro and the vocals kick in at the 1:15 mark. The songs are eerily similar (even being within a few seconds of each other in overall play time) and I think this is a fitting way to connect the old to the new. “Don’t Give In” is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) tracks on display here and one that repeatedly got stuck in my head. “Drag You Under” is up next and is the shortest track on the album at 1:40 in length. This song features a chugga-chugga type of groove that (much like the opening track) gets pounded and implanted into your head almost immediately. Since hearing the two EP’s from 2019 and now the rest of “In The Beginning” I have wrestled over the vocal delivery of Mr. Flanagan. Early on I kind of “got it” but with repeated listens I have become luke warm with the approach which is on the gruff/hard side of the vocal spectrum. I would love to see the approach dialed back a notch or even see them bring in a fresh face which could leave Harley free to run around in live settings while even delivering the lead vocals on select songs. Looking through the history of NY heavy music this worked well for Biohazard who were undoubtedly influenced by this very same band. Otherwise the playing and musicianship are super tight and razor sharp with everything having this big feel to it. This album is especially long by 2020 standards clocking in at a whopping 42 minutes which is probably longer than some new school hardcore bands’ entire catalogs. With any album of this type of length it's easy to understand some lulls in the action as some songs just sort of breeze on by without me feeling too strongly about them one way or another. Tracks like “One Bad Decision”, “No Turning Back” and “What You Believed” (tracks 8,12 and 13) are serviceable tracks but not quite on the same level as earlier ones like “No One’s Victim” and “From The Grave” (tracks 3 and 4). While “In The Beginning” looks to earlier Cro-Mag releases for inspiration there are some curve balls thrown our way with the disjointed “The Final Test” having a heavy Bad Brains vibe while the 6 minute instrumental jam “Between Wars” has a totally unique feel that stretches the boundaries of what you expect a Cro-Mags song to sound like. I really liked the majority of "In The Beginning". It is extremely well played, at times diverse but also far from perfect. Love the man or hate him, Harley Flanagan is a talented mind and musician when it comes to creating gritty street wise music. The passion and desire are undoubtedly there and with a veteran lineup by his side it is no surprise that they put together a quality product. Find this on most streaming services including Spotify.
POWER TRIP “LIVE IN SEATTLE 5-28-18”
(Released June, 2020)
I think I've seen Power Trip more than just about any other band in my adult life. Toxic Holocaust and Full Of Hell may be close seconds, but I see Power Trip just about every time they come through Chicago. This year will be the first year I've lived in the Windy City where I won't have a chance to take an elbow to the teeth while doing a full-torso head-bang on the edge of a pit to "Soul Sacrifice”. Having your face shellacked by a wayward crowd surfer's limb is on the low end of potential health risks associated with live music at the moment, and it's why you and I won't be seeing Power Trip, or any of our favorite bands this summer. I've generally felt ambivalent towards all of the summer festival cancelations, but not having ANY hardcore shows to look forward to? Well, what's the point of even having a summer then? Chris who runs this site must have sensed my angst all the way from NY because he forwarded me Power Trip's new live album pretty much the day it was released. Mastered by the band's front of house engineer Zachary Rippy, “Live In Seattle 05.28.2018” is as close as you're going to get to a Power Trip show this year, and as far as substitutions go, it is more than worthy. As I'm sure you have surmised, I saw the band when they came through Chicago on the tour that this recording was made during. They played with Sheer Mag, Fury, and Red Death, and listening to it now is definitely a bit of a nostalgia trip. “Live In Seattle” was recorded in the aftermath of the “Nightmare Logic” release. It was only two years ago but back then mainstream music sites rarely covered punk and metal with anything more than a shrug and a sneer, and were probably hoping that the hype around it and Code Orange's “Forever” would die down so that they could go back to fawning over the three or four terminally boring albums dropped by Guided By Voices that year. Fat chance! Power Trip's angry, zeitgeist capturing howl is now so thoroughly entwined with the fabric of contemporary music that it's hard to think of a time when they weren't acting as emissaries, ushering thousands of fresh young minds into a lifelong obsession with Cro-Mags and '80s thrash metal.
The recordings on “Live In Seattle” are clean and perfectly mixed and accurately convey the power, fun, and fury of a Power Trip live set. The guitars are hungry and propulsive, the drum work is concussive and motivating, and Riley Gale's voice sounds like the rallying cry at armageddon. The excellent presentation of the band's sound is laudable for sure, but what really sells me on the whole package is the minutia of their live sets that it also captures. Gale calling out audience members for being on their phones and telling people that there will be no encore, how the one-two punch of "Soul Sacrifice" and "Executioner's Tax" supercharge the mid-point of their set, and how the band's guitar slides just sound like air-raid sirens and make you want to duck for cover. Even a recording this good can't entirely replace the real thing, but it does serve as an awesome reminder of what we all have to look forward to once the threat of the pandemic has subsided and Power Trip can take their monster rallies back on the road. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
GUTTER GROOVE FANZINE ISSUE #3
(Released May, 2020)
Gutter Groove #3 is here and it's fucking great. If you’re not already familiar with this full-size zine from Fred and Nico, it’s one of my favorites, with detailed interviews and coverage on both US and European bands. If you share an enduring love for the East Coast Assault Comp Vol. 1 you will find plenty to be excited about in every issue, from the in-depth Next Step Up interview in Issue 1, to the NSU photo on the back cover of issue 3, and the little Dmize head in the front cover collage.
As a resident of the 914, the obvious draw here was Billy Club Sandwich. This interview took place at a show in Copenhagen in 2017, and benefits from being an old-school style tape recorded conversation with everyone in the band. Over the years I’ve read many BCS interviews and even conducted one for In Effect (look it up in the archives), but this one is packed with facts and history, some of which were even new to me, and touches on everything from Tim Dog to Setback. After BCS, there are interviews with Existence, Integrity, and E-Town Concrete, an article on bands inspired by Burn, and a spotlight on the releases of Cartel Records. The interviews and articles are complemented by two pages of music reviews, plus a separate section of zine reviews.
I enjoyed the creative layouts, such as the original E. Town Concrete reviews interspersed through their interview, including possibly one from In Effect, and a Bronx Zoo map as the backdrop to the BCS piece. This is a 32 page full size zine, and there are still some copies available, though their Big Cartel page always crashes Chrome on my computer, which is probably due to my machine being approximately 800 years old. So order at your own risk, though it’s worth it, kind of like going into the pit for many of the bands featured in Gutter Groove #3.
OFFSIDE "BLOOD MONEY" (Released January, 2020)
This is the third release from Montreal's Offside with previous EP's having been released in 2016 and 2017. This one came out digitally in January and as of early June you can grab a 12" vinyl version of this from Upstate Records here in the US, Double Turn Records in Canada or Core-Tex over in Germany. "For The Real" starts us off and sounds as if it was extracted right out of a 90's hardcore rehearsal room complete with a patented "what's up mother fucker" right as that last mosh hits. From the get go here you can tell that Offside are influenced by bands like Madball, Strife, Judge... and probably a slew of other 90's era hardcore with an emphasis on the East Coast stuff. You know… the karate kicking, baggy pants, wind milling variety. "Blood Money" follows with a long intro where the vocals don't kick in for about a minute and a half. A good track that runs 4:35 in length which is pretty long by hardcore standards. Offside run with pretty much the same template throughout these 4 tracks with this EP clocking in at just about 15 minutes. It's well played and well recorded but at the same time everything is a little on the generic side as through a few listens not a whole lot jumps out of my speakers that makes me want to go back and play "Blood Money" over and over. Yes, there is some nice guitar work sprinkled in and the guest vocals on "Goodbye, Goodnight" by Victoria from Peer Pressure add a little something when they hit but overall this is standard 90's fare that can honestly claim to check off most of the bullet points to making a good hardcore record while still lacking that special something that makes you want to return for repeated listens. Find it on Bandcamp & Spotify.
MUGS "WAKE UP OR DIE" (Released January 2019)
If you are hardcore about your hardcore music you already know that this is not the easiest music to just go out and find. While some bands can over post on their social media pages there are others who don't even fuck with the medium at all. It's called underground music for a reason and there are varying degrees of how deep down there you want your band to be. Finding Bane's "Don't Wait Up" CD a few years back at a Best Buy was a rare case of me "easily" finding hardcore although it was completely by chance. Low profiling Mugs out of NY take things to a completely new level of underground with this January 2019 full length that completed recording at some point in 2017. This is actually Mugs' third release and their second full length and when asked about their releases frontman Phil The Kid said that their debut "never really got out there", their second release "never got out there" and for this now three year old recording.. "have yet to get it out there". After playing this hidden gem continuously over the last couple of weeks I can't help but ask WHY!? "Wake Up Or Die" starts us off and lays the groundwork here with a thrashy beat that slows down for a nice NYHC style breakdown about half way through. Phil The Kid sounds pissed as hell on vocals while drawing comparisons to KT's Anthony Comunale on this one. An impressive start here folks. "Creepy Crawl Dancefloor" keeps the foot on the gas pedal with an equally as fast beat that dives into this catchy moshed up chorus. This is the type of track that is built for a live setting and audience participation. Mugs have members who have been all around the NY scene including Yuppicide/Caught In A Trap drummer Jay Rogan as well as Steve Gallo on bass and the lineage shows over the course of these 10 tracks with a NY attitude stamped all over everything. "Leave Me Alone", "What Is This World Coming To" and "Keep It To Yourself" are three more of the standouts on an impressive release that doesn't get bogged down by staying too close to any particular formula. These songs are diverse and stay fresh with some nice production work from BCS/No Redeeming Social Value drummer Glen Lorieo adding layers of reasons why you should check in with Mugs. Hopefully when we are all fully let out of our cages again we will be seeing and hearing more from these Mugs as they probably would be a whole lotta fun in a live setting too. Smash that link below and “name your price” to download it, you won’t be sorry.
STOPLOSS “WANDER. DEFY. RELENT. DECAY”
(Constant Disappointment Records, Released May, 2020)
Stoploss come to us from Lowell, Mass and have been around for nearly a decade. The band features members from Shipwreck A.D. and The Fake Boys. They were featured on the Northeast Hardcore Compilation in 2015 on Pine Hill Records and this is their first full length release. This record features 9 tracks of straight up, rage fuelled hardcore that will have you grabbing your friends and starting a mosh pit.
We kick this off with “Your Fucking Out”, which lays the groundwork for what these guys are all about. Starting out with a slow tempo and building up momentum to a furious pitch, this track gets the blood flowing and sets the tone for the rest of the record. “Exam” follows up with a short and fast blast of enraged hardcore that will have you up and slamming bodies in the pit. “Is There A Problem?” gives you a brief second to catch your breath before exploding into another frenzy-induced blast worthy of a circle pit. “Mark It Zero” opens with a slow musical interlude before blowing up into something worthy of inciting a war in the mosh pit. “Last Straw” doesn’t give you a chance to recover as it drives full steam into another minute and a half of authentic, break the speed limit hardcore that would make any hardcore fan proud. “Dragged Out” begins with an eerie opening giving you the feeling things are about to explode and explode they do. This song blows up into an intense, fast discharge of hardcore in its truest form. “21” is the standout track on this record. It deals with being fed up with life and all the problems that go along with it. The singer shows his disdain for the world around him and is backed up with a seething rhythm section. “Learning To Care” is another example of this bands ferocity. The intensity can be heard and felt in the lyrics and music, showing you that these guys’ hearts are in the right place. The record finishes up with “Rise”, a straight ahead track bursting with anger and rage for today’s world.
Stoploss deliver on their first endeavor giving the listener exactly what they want when it comes to solid hardcore music. The band is tight and plays with a renewed sense of entitlement, giving the listener exactly what they want to hear. The vocals are solid and get the message across that they are pissed off and the world is going to know it. This record should be in every hardcore fan’s music collection. Check it out on Bandcamp & Spotify.
REFLECT “RIVER CITY HARDCORE” (Released April, 2020)
Reflect are coming to us from Richmond, VA and consist of only two members, something that always baffles me when it comes to playing live but as far as recording, it worked well. Justin Valdez- (vocals) and David Webster - (drums, guitars, bass) have created a sound that captures the essential, raw roots of hardcore. The demo is composed of four tracks, here along with the titles is a significant line from each track:
1) “Reflect”- instrumental
2) “Inner Peace” - "can I save myself again? Tell me will I feel myself again"
3) “Polaroids”- "those memories saved me but now they break me"
4) “Watch The Tears”- "do you love me enough to forgive me?”
The messages within the songs revolve around emotions, especially “Watch The Tears” which talks about heartbreak but “River City Hardcore” is not an EMO release. The good breakdowns and riffs keep the hardcore style alive. Honestly, when I first listened to this release, I thought it was good but after a few more listens it really grew on me. My favorite tracks are “Reflect” and “Inner Peace”. After listening to this demo, I am left with two assumptions about the band… and yes I know what they say about assumptions but I hope I'm right. I get a vibe that this is a young band that appeals to a younger fan base and I also picture Reflect just wreaking havoc in a basement or backyard show (when they put together a full lineup). Even if I am incorrect about my assumptions, the only thing that matters is that the music comes from the heart, which it clearly did. I think there is definitely room for growth as well as a future for this duo and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing the follow up to “River City Hardcore”
CRUX DECUSSATA “CLASS DISMISSED” EP
Crux Decussata comes to us from Boston and labels themselves a speed metal band. Their influences come from other speed metal, thrash and hardcore bands as well as the classics such as Motorhead, Venom and Judas Priest. The band has also released a 5 song demo in 2019.
“Class Dismissed”, the title track, kicks this EP off. From the opening Slayer-ish scream, you are cast back in time to the days of old when Judas Priest, Venom and a host of other 80’s acts ruled the metal scene. From the guttural screams to the guitar riffs, this song has all the elements to give you the feeling you have stepped back in time. Unfortunately, the song lacks any fundamental or unique sound of their own. Instead, it comes off as a “name the bands you recognize” song. Check out the video for this track HERE.
“Progress” follows suit with another eighties sounding song much like the first. The musical influences can be heard throughout the song and once again it lacks any identity the band is attempting to establish. Things wind down with a unique track entitled, “Highway Vampyre” which combines Deep Purple with Slaughter And The Dogs. This song pays homage to two bands the group looks up to and they do a righteous job of combining hardcore and old metal into a fun song.
In all honesty, there is not much to get excited about with this release. Crux Decussata come off sounding more like a cover act than a band trying to establish their own sound. The riffs are familiar sounding, as are the vocals and the band offers nothing new to establish themselves as a creative force. If 80’s thrash and speed metal is your thing, then maybe you will enjoy this release which the band has available on cassette.
STREET WEAPON “QUICK TO DIE” EP
(Not For The Weak Records, Released March, 2020)
Street Weapon come to us from Virginia Beach and consist of members still in high school. This is their debut EP and the band has also released two previous demos in 2018 and 2019. The band is on Not for the Weak Records and plays hardcore which pays tribute to the New York Hardcore scene. “Quick To Die”, the title track, opens up this six song EP. I couldn’t help but notice how in parts of this song it sounds a little like Spider Crew’s “Still Crazy But Not Insane” but only on certain parts and is still a solid first track to grab your attention with. Next up we have the track “Padded Cell”, which is fifty-two seconds of straight up, pissed off rage, blending hardcore and metal riffs and takes this EP to the next level. It highlights the band’s diversity and shows they aren’t confined to one genre. “Laughing Stock” takes the group into high gear with a fast and strong sounding frenzy reminiscing of early British punk, particularly GBH. Next up is “The Truth”. The intro sounds a little like Madball and I guess this is where they pay tribute to the NYHC scene. This song is amped and delivers up some quality hardcore anger. “American Dream” is another example of the band’s blend of early eighties British punk and their own brand of music, making this another notable track. “Dying To Live” finishes up this EP and is the stand out track on this outing. It has all the ingredients to make it a true hardcore classic. For a group of high school kids, Street Weapon is on the right track to developing their own brand of hardcore music. The production is solid and the band sound like seasoned musicians for their ages. The fact that this is their third release and they aren’t even out of high school has them earning my respect and support. These guys are talented and should go far in the scene. Find it online via Bandcamp or Spotify or for a 7” copy hit up Not For The Weak Records HERE.
THE CAR BOMB PARADE “FOR THE BRIGADE”
(Knuckle Down Records, Release Date June 5, 2020)
The Car Bomb Parade... “For The Brigade” 3 song EP comes complete with a rabid top hat wearing raccoon on the cover. If that doesn’t scream out punk fucking rock I don’t know what does. This band has releases that go as far back as 2014 with last years “Opiate For The Madness” full length being the one that kind of lured a lot of new fans (including myself) into the fold. “Opiate…” had Dan “The Family Man” on vocals but on this new one we see the return of their original singer in the Reverend Nicky Bullets. This one comes out on 7” vinyl on June 5th via Knuckle Down Records but in 2020 you get to stream that shit before it is officially out.
Up first is “The Purpose”, a lyrically chaotic tune set to a speedy hardcore punk beat. The chorus is catchy and that choppy drum beat that slides on in to the tune makes this one a keeper. Back in January they put out a video for this track… check it out HERE. “Be Your Own God” is more on the punk rock side of the fence as compared to the opener. This track features one of those guitar grooves that once you get it into your head you just can’t seem to get it out. This band does a really good job at straddling the line between punk and hardcore and from track to track (even more so on their last album) they keep you guessing as to what they will drop on you. “Murder Party” comes in at 4:07 in run time and no doubt this will be the side B of this 7’ as its run time is almost equal to the two songs on side A. This track is also more in the punk rock style with a mellow groove type of feel to it. When the chorus comes back around around the 2:20 mark of this song the instruments drop out and it’s sung live as the band claps along before the instruments come back in to rejoin the song. Although I consider myself a hardcore punk purist this track could sound kinda sick if it was performed acoustically but what do I know?
This band has gone through a lot over the last two years with multiple band member changes at really bad times. After surviving that they gained momentum through live performances in the NYC area and this 7” would have served as a good companion for all of the summer touring they were in the process of lining up. Despite the uncertain times ahead in regards to live performances I would bet that The Car Bomb Parade will be geared up and ready to roll on the other side of a global pandemic.. whenever that may be. In the meantime support the fucking scene and check out these new tracks by a band that is out there busting their buns to make some good hardcore punk music for you freaks.
MEGAMOUTH s/t EP
(The Team Records, Released April, 2020)
Listing influences that range from Bane, Rage Against The Machine to Bad Religion, Snapcase and Death By Stereo Buffalo’s Megamouth drop their latest in the form of a five song self-titled EP that shows a unique blend of musical styles that at the very least makes you sit up and take notice. Opening track “Megamouth” comes in at 1:17 length wise and is as simple and stomp worthy as hardcore intros come as the lone lyric of “MEGA-MOUTH!” is repeated over and over (16 times in all… I counted!) as you can’t help but ball up that fist and nod your head to that choppy drum beat coupled with some chaotic guitar work that makes it seem like a giant Megamouth is gonna come crashing down outta the sky and wreck your world. Check out their fans and friends inspired quarantine style video they made for this track HERE. Track three titled “Comeback” is another ear catcher with a hip-hop/hardcore type of fusion to it. The guitars on this track kind of remind me of a broken car muffler… or the guitar sound that Motley Crue got on “Too Fast For Love” and I bring this up in the most positive of ways. The band features two singers in Ryan and Angelo and they are not overly distinguishable from one another so if it wasn’t mentioned I may have actually thought it was the same dude all the way through. Closing track “Nothing” has additional vocals by J-Ruggz who is the guy behind the Maximum Penalty ‘rip” cover art for his recording. This track pushes the hip-hop influences harder than any of the tracks on this EP and at the 1:14 mark you can really feel the MCA/Beastie Boys vibe rip through your speakers. I like this record and what Megamouth brings to the table but at the same time I am not in love with it either. “Undecided” and “Revolution” (tracks 2 and 3) are just not as catchy as the other three tracks brought up within this review. Megamouth’s style is fresh and unique and I can see the majority of people out there either loving or hating what they do. Seven minutes of music though is hard to make a definitive overall judgement on a band but I feel comfortable saying that I appreciate a band branching out and bringing various influences together to try and create a unique product, and that is exactly what this is… unique. Find it on Bandcamp and Spotify.
SAND AND SALT “ALL THE GOOD THINGS” EP & “THRIVE” EP (Released April 20, 2020)
About two months into the COVID lockdown blues, I was asked to review two brand new EPs from a hardcore/punk rock band from Tarifa, Spain which just happens to be the southernmost town in Europe. My eyes perked up and I replied, “sure” because I do not remember listening to a punk band from Spain before, and also because my girlfriend grew up in Spain. The fact that this band has just released two different EPs on the same day perked my interest as well. The band I am talking about is called Sand And Salt. The first EP here has more of a poppy “Fat Wreck Chords” sound and is called “All The Good Things”. The other EP they released is called “Thrive” which has more of a NY “Youth Crew” sound. So, as you can see, my interest in listening to these two records were burning a hole in my pocket as I was trying to finish up work and get home.
I felt it was best to throw on the “All The Good Things” EP first which is how I would recommend which order one should listen to these releases. They start off the EP with the song, “Glassey”, a minute and a half intro that has a cool riff and a good melodic guitar riff. A good way to start the record and give you a feel for what this EP is all about. Next is “Life Is Huge”. Powerful, melodic guitar riffs to match the vocal range of singer Feda De La Calle, who also handles guitars and bass duties for most songs on these albums. Fast verses and catchy, melodic choruses and tons of positivity flowing from this song. A great, catchy punk song all the way. I have always felt that a little pop punk is good for a well-balanced diet, so this song is perfect. Next up is a song called, “I Dissent” which is another great, pop-punk song. I mean it. This band has not missed a beat yet. Like a 90’s Propagandi or NOFX song, this song kicks ass! Next up is a short song called “Nothing More”. Another quick song about the band’s love for the beach! As a resident of Florida, I can totally relate and it is great to see a “beach punk” band today that is not a Sublime rip-off. Finally, they close out this release with the title track, “All The Good Things”. They absolutely saved the best for last with this gem. A great pop-punk song about falling in love with a girl on the beach is totally refreshing and just what I needed to tell you the truth. This song has all the feels of an old Bouncing Souls song and was a great way to wrap up this EP. Although, it left me wanting more, I thought about the whole other EP from this band that awaited me.
So, a few easy clicks and I am on to the next EP called “Thrive” which was already rumored to be the heavier and faster of the two. Another intro song called “Storm” starts off this album. Definitely, a total different vibe on this release already. Thunderous bass and a heavy guitar riff let you know which way this EP is going to go. They then head right into, “Restart”… an impressive hardcore track about starting over. As a divorced father, still learning how to live one’s life over from scratch, I can relate to this song’s message in a big way. With lyrics like “A defeat is a new chance, when we fall, we must restart”. You will be screaming, “Restart!” too, by time this song is over, trust me. The third track here, “Don’t Label Me”, starts off with a solo guitar riff, joined by the singer before drums and the rest come in. They quickly get into mosh pit mode when he cries out, “Don’t judge me, don’t label me!” Another killer song off this record as well. Jumping right into “My Best”, they keep things moving fast. Real fast! It’s a wonder how drummer Adrian Bouza keeps up at all. A mix of fast circle pit with a creepy crawl vibe is what makes this song stand out from the others. And finally, they close out this EP like they did the other with another title track… this one called “Thrive”. They open the verse with lightning fast guitar riffs and gritty, but melodic vocals. The gang vocals on the choruses is what gives the song its hardcore validity. The quick build-up before the final breakdown is great. Then, a quick abrupt ending still leaves you wanting even more. Bravo to this band! Not only did they write two great punk EPs, but they also provided me with a rather awesome listening experience as well. Mad props for creativity and the way they achieved balance and made two great records, all at the same time let me know where all the Spanish Bombs are dropping! Check these out on Bandcamp or Spotify.
THUG RIOT “SOUTHWEST STOMP” (Released April, 2020)
There’s something about the word “riot” In a song title or band name that just grabs your attention. Punk legends The Clash sang about “White Riot”; Oi band The Anti-Hero’s told us about a “Disco Riot” and in hardcore we have such bands as Full Scale Riot and Thug Riot… the latter forming in 2018 in Tucson, Arizona have created a unique blend of punk, hardcore and Oi which the band calls “ Hooligan Hardcore”. Thug Riot have just put out their third release titled “Southwest Stomp” which consists of 6 in your face songs composed by veterans of the scene: Brent Hartley- vocals, Kevin Perlin -vocals, Richard Juhl - guitars/vocals, Mark Vasquez, guitars, Richard Lopez -drums and Ritchie Brusier - bass. This EP is an energetic release fueled with a heavier and faster, old school style of the aforementioned genres. I love the three vocalist attack, each one bringing a different powerful voice that accompanies equally powerful lyrics.
I’ve included the EP’s track listing along with a brief synopsis.
Track 1: “Southwest Stomp”, pretty much an instrumental except for the occasional shout out to the DMS Crew.
Track 2: “FxTxP”, contains a strong message to the men and women of the police department. You can probably figure out what the initials in the title stand for.
Track 3: “Seen Your Scene”, the band is pretty much stating they have seen it all and they “don’t need your scene”.
Track 4: “Skinhead Boobs”, now I’ve heard songs about skinhead pride, skinhead girls and even a secret agent skin but this is the first time I’ve heard one about skinhead breasts! You have to love Thug Riot paying homage to the ladies in the scene.
Track 5: “Nothing Inside”, a tale of betrayal.
Track 6: “Destroy Everything”, a song which is pretty explanatory, “we came to destroy all you love”.
My favorite track is the tongue and cheek “Skinhead Boobs” for the simple reason... who doesn’t love skinhead girls? I first heard Thug Riot last December when their second release came out, I was immediately drawn to the spirit and the vibe I was hearing. The music grabbed me by the throat, the lyrics angry but it was genuine. Fortunately “Southwest Stomp” continues with that same vibe and intensity where the last release left off giving both old and new fans another needed dose of “Hooligan Hardcore”. Check it out on Bandcamp or Spotify.
LAST STRAW “DEMO 2020”
(Youngblood Records, Released April, 2020)
X's on! Hooded sweatshirts on! High tops on! GOOOOoooooooooooo! I'm gonna teach you thugs, not to mess with drugs; well no, I'm not going to. After all, I'm no hypocrite, wink wink, nudge nudge, puff puff, pass. However, Last Straw just might teach you thugs a thing or two as they carry that straight edge banner with pride. Granted I smoked a fathead before I listened to Last Straw, but that means nothing as I have always loved edge music, even did a label that was largely edge. Most of my closest compatriots are edge and I am fine with them and they are fine with me. The way it should be. Last Straw hail from Connecticut and I gather they got their kick ass name from the old-school CTHC SXE band Wide Awake as that was the title of their biggest banger of a tune by far, and yes, I did mosh my face off in between Jolt Colas at the Anthrax to Wide Awake back in my salad days. Everything about this demo screams pick me up if you have ever dug anything remotely straight edge hardcore. It has all the bells and whistles, the fonts, the X's, the artwork. It all screams put down that beer and mosh. So what do they bring to the table you ask?
Let's get this outta the way. Last Straw is not breaking new ground here, but shit, if you read old reviews of Bold, GB and YOT from the late 80's they all say the same thing. They weren't breaking ground then, nobody's gonna now, so let’s all just say, who gives a fuck about breaking ground, just bring me some straight hard tunage. Last Straw bring 4 such tunes with this demo. The first song is a 1:17 intro. Every band needs and intro I don't give two shits who ya are. Last Straw introduce themselves with a nice one. Next up is "Disguised" running 1:07. The CT Crew can see right through... take a look at yourself. Good stuff. Very typical for the genre but again... that's why we're here. The third song on offer is introduced with some nice guitar work. The song is called "Not For You" and as it states Last Straw, straight edge... this is not for you. Are they talking to me? I mean my weed is medicinal does that count? Ahhh, who cares, still love the tunes. The final song is a cover of the great yet all but forgotten CT SXE band Follow Through. The song is "You Booze, You Lose" running 1:44 and as cheesy as that title is, it is one of my favorite FT songs and the Last Straw boys do a great job of covering it.
So there you have it. I'm not sure I'm going to be invited into the Last Straw inner circle, but that's OK, I dig them anyway. They have just hooked up with Sean Youngblood and his Youngblood Records label. Now Sean is a friend and I back whatever he does because his label is awesome, he has heart and he is 100% legit. So good for Last Straw and Sean that they have found each other as it seems like a great fit. Now if you assholes don't mind, I have some medicating to do and I'm definitely cranking Last Straw while I do so because i hate stoners, hippies and drunks too... ok...maybe I'm a little hypocritical... but who the fuck asked you, get the fuck off my lawn, you might step on my weedlings and where the fuck are your masks you ninnyhammers.
HASHTAG HARDCORE FANZINE
(Issue #6, Released Spring, 2020)
The last Hashtag Hardcore issue came out in March of 2016… it was their planned last issue ever and I was bummed to see such a fun zine move on to other hardcore related activities. Although bummed I shed no tears as that is simply not the hardcore thing to do as stated in the title of Sick Of It All’s first full length that came out like 267 years ago. Editor and CEO Daan Hashtag actually moved on to drum in a Dutch band called Cornered, a band who he has since left. The combo of being locked down in quarantine and leaving Cornered played a big role in the reemergence of the ### in 2020. Although a “new” issue the interviews in issue #6 are hardly that. Highlighted by a really good 2017 interview with Burn’s Gavin Van Vlack this issues interviews are of the older variety and show that although Hashtag had called it a day publicly that they were still planning some kind of a comeback. The other interviews are with Euro’s Pain Principle (Poland), Hard Shoulder, Spirit Crusher (Germany) and Mindwar (Belgium). Hashtag has always been big on covering NYHC acts and I generally agree with their reviews which will have me at the very least kick the tires on some of these bands I am not yet familiar with. Tack on a hodgepodge Sheer Terror “interview” made up of all previous Paul Bearer quotes from various zines throughout the years to the pile as well. Some zine reviews and an underwhelming (just 4) reviews section round things out. Issue 6 of Hashtag is almost like their Spring Training issue as they wake up from their slumber, shake off some cobwebs and gear up for another run of hardcore fanzine domination. 48 half sized pages printed on black and white for those who actually give a hoot. Find it online at MerchPit or email them directly at email@example.com to inquire about having this issue take up space on your desk, backpack, home library or bird cage.
TOXIC SHOCK/REPROACH split cassette
(Awesome Visions/Stads Kanker, Released 2019)
I was happy to get this little gem to review. Two Belgium punk/hardcore bands mixing old school with new school and giving me faith that the tradition lives on in these two great bands. This is a split cassette release on Awesome Visions Records and Stads Kanker Records with a Japanese CD version either already out or about to come out very soon.
Toxic Shock kick off this release with four songs that will have you believing punk is not dead yet. From the first track until the last, this band stays true to their roots. “S.P.O.S.” is the first track and sets the tone for what these guys are all about. Fast, angry and with a hint of early British punk rock, this song is my favorite of the four. “Inner Demons” changes up things with a more speed-driven thrash sound while still incorporating punk vocals that give it a unique sound. “City “Of Love” fuses hardcore and crossover metal and comes at you full force. This song would create an intense mosh pit and features guest vocals from Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates and Disfear. “Onward To Destruction”, the last track, pays homage to Reproach, the other band on this split cassette. With growling vocals, machine gun guitars and drums make this a great number to end Toxic Shock’s contribution to this music endeavor.
Next up is Reproach, who contribute five songs to this cassette. Without any warning they open up with “Forward”, which impacts you like a wrecking ball coming through your bedroom and sending you crashing into the wall. It’s fast and intense and lets you know right from the start that these guys mean business. For about a dozen seconds after the first track, you think you have a chance to catch your breath but you are only kidding yourself as “Human Vermin” kicks into high gear and blasts you with less than thirty seconds of hardcore mayhem. “Ratrace” continues the onslaught with another short blistering piece of old school mosh pit chaos. “The Trap” shows signs of slowing down but before you even have time to grab a quick sip of your beverage, you are once again thrown into the whirlwind of frenzied style of hardcore punk these guys play. The band finishes with a cover of Toxic Shock’s “On Thin Ice”. As far as cover songs go, I think Reproach does justice playing the song that even Toxic Shock would approve.
For a cassette which clocks in just fewer than twelve minutes, Toxic Shock and Reproach dispense punk and hardcore like it was meant to be played; fast, loud and fueled with rage. Don’t let these two bands slip under your radar. Grab a copy of this cassette and check out the bands other releases. You won’t be sorry. Check out Toxic Shock’s songs HERE, Reproach’s tracks HERE and to get it on cassette from Stads Kanker head over HERE.
PARANOID VISIONS FANZINE “THE AGE OF QUARANTINE” (Released April, 2020)
Paranoid Visions: “The Age Of Quarantine” is a half size zine from the author of Streets of Hate Fanzine. It features a table of contents, the next best thing to an index, that lays out the contents within: two label highlights, Trip Machine Labs and Plead Your Case, and two band interviews, Enemy Mind and Self Decay. The latter is a reprint from 1998 and the former is a contemporary conversation. There's also a one page Echelon interview that arrived along with the zine, which presumably didn't make it into the main layout due to space or time.
I was not super familiar with Enemy Mind, but this interview is pretty interesting and covers everything from Greenfield Mike attending Nyack College (but presumably taking no classes with Kurtis Blow, who was class of '98?) to graffiti to his first NJ show “at a club called The Pipeline. The lineup very easily could've been Maximum Penalty, Murphy's Law, Merauder, Fury Of Five, 25 Ta Life. We saw that exact show or something very similar every weekend that whole fall," a great example of the NY-NJ confluence, the unrecorded but extant-in-my-heart answer to Skarhead's B.Q. Experience.
Speaking of regionalism, this zine is relatively Hudson Valley centric, though Plead Your Case is based in Florida. In between longer features and interviews there is also a short section on the Town of Hardcore Zineography and 25 short reviews, including one that might make me give Higher Power another shot if they actually sound like Shift. The Self Decay interview is a throwback to when bands seemed less concerned with people’s perception of them and more candid in their responses.
This zine is printed on nice paper, and the whole thing is written in caps lock so the words really jump out at you. The reviews are a little hard to read against a busy background, which take that as you will coming from me, the queen of chaotic backgrounds. Various throwback pics are interspersed between features, from Stillsuit in Staten Island to Dying Breed at the Saratoga Youth Center. If a picture is worth 1000 words, this is a 1995 word answer to anyone who was like "who are all these people who own bandanas?" when we started wearing them as masks. Not only are these interesting pics but they are also that much more special in zine form than just seeing them on Instagram or something. Hence the enduring magic of print zines.