Sunday, April 17, 2016

HERE'S YOUR REVIEWS FOR APRIL!


So a large portion of the reviews I do are unsolicited opinions, and not so much based on submissions sent to me.  But every once in awhile a handful of things get sent my way for some reason and I oblige by writing up something about it.  So I actually had a good chunk of that this time around.  So enjoy these mostly solicited opinions while I take off for Iceland for about a week.
Our bonus round/ older selection this time around comes from the little-known Keleton DMD, out of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  They didn’t make a huge impact in their brief tenure (1998-2001 maybe?), but I find myself still going back to the sole full length pretty regularly.


EMPTY VESSELS, “Throw Your Shadow”
I’m a little late to the party with reviewing this but I thought it very worthwhile to mention since I think this is one of the better new-ish bands going right now.  When listening to the heavy chaos going on within Empty Vessels second CD it really sounds as if there is a whole band laying down frantic chords, chunky riffs, and noisy dirges.  But this is just a duo.  And it really seems as if there is barely any studio magic to be found.  This band delivers exactly what they do on CD in the live setting.  So not only do they have their musicianship down solid, but they have those tones (split between a couple guitar cabs and a bass cab) perfectly lined up to make a huge and exciting sound.  When listening to this group I’m reminded a bit of that DC/N. Virginia sound that was prevalent in the early 2000s with Majority Rule and Page 99, but maybe a little more emphasis on writing faster, slightly more simplified songs with pretty minimal lyrics.  I admire this band’s dedication to efficiency and doing everything themselves, from printing their own shirts, and booking their own tours (which are frequent, so go see them if they come by), to releasing their own music.  (self-released)

HOLD DOWN THE OCEAN, “We Know Why We’re Here” 10”
All Else Failed is most known for their hammer-smashed approach to guitar-swinging, bleeding forehead, chaotic hardcore.  But you know those guys all got soft spots right?  They’re total emo wussies on the inside when they’re not wearing their Deadguy t-shirts.  You can hear it in some of their music, in certain spots, despite the fact that it’s generally painful.  Well, a couple of those guys decided to work out those less-chaotic tendencies with this new band Hold Down the Ocean.  It’s the Sunny Day Real Estate, Mogwai, sunlight-drenched, big epic feeling stuff thrown out here like being engulfed in that big, fiery spaceball’s warmth kind of music.  The vocals are sparse and ethereal mostly.  There’s one singular part in the first song that sounds like an AEF part and the rest is just big, melodic, and powerful.  They dish out 5 songs across this offering and it’s a decent enough place to start.  Feel the love, man.  (Dullest Records)


METZ, “Eraser”/”Pure Auto” 7”
I kind of figured this was just leftover songs from their last LP that they didn’t want to use, but this is actually from a different recording session from what I can tell.  Still, I can see these two songs maybe not fitting exactly with the stuff from “II”.  Their most recent full length felt as if, despite the noise and chaos, most of the songs were extremely straightforward, each with it’s own simple riff carrying the whole song.  “Eraser” has a similar feel, but goes off into a few other sections before returning to the fucked-up lead riff.  “Pure Auto” takes a bit faster route, but is equally as exciting.  In short, pretty much anything Metz does is worth listening to and/or buying.  Just shove loons into their Canadian jean jacket pockets and force them to rock your godamn face off repeatedly.  (31G Records)

MORAL STRAIGHTJACKET, “Into the Light”
This West Coast group not only crib their name from a fairly popular Farside song, but they also make no qualms about trying to wholesale emulate whatever it is that Self Defense Family have going on.  And that’s truly a difficult task to undertake without sounding like try-hards.  Also, as unique as it is (and part of what makes SDF it’s own animal), why would anyone actually try to sound like Pat Kindlon?  I can’t fault this band for having good taste in influences, but it seems like they’re trying to sell it a little too hard.  This kind of falls somewhere between where End Of a Year transitioned into being SDF as far as where the sound is coming from.  (RuinedSmile)


OLD GHOSTS/ LONGEST WAR split 7”
For a couple years I lived in Buffalo and fully experienced what the locals referred to as ‘Buffalo style’.  And believe you me, there is truly a Buffalo style to hardcore, and it survives on this split.  Old Ghosts are totally a Buffalo band.  Longest War have a few guys from Buffalo in the band, but also a Canadian and a Rochester fella, but it all averages out to Western New York in the long run.  Either way, both bands present a very meaty and crunchy taco, not unlike a good midnight meal from Mighty Taco (also Buffalo related).  While many bands currently aim for how many beatdowns they can cram into something resembling a ‘song’ both of these bands understand the importance of a good fast part, meaningful lyrics, before knocking you down with a heavy riff.  I think Old Ghosts overall have the better tracks on this split, but I dig both.  If you like Despair, Buried Alive, Fadeaway, or Union you will probably enjoy this…  and also because members of these bands played in like half the listed groups.  (State Of Mind)

RHIN, “Passenger”
Allow me to reattach my head to my neck before going forth with this review.  It fell off while banging head to this awesome West Virginia band’s new record.  I can pretty much guarantee KARP never played their neck of the woods, so Rhin had to form to ensure something similar represented their hometown.  I have never heard of them until this was sent my way, and good thing it was, or else I’d feel stupid for passing it up.  They certainly wear their influences in an obvious way, but respectfully.  After all, midway through is the longest track on the LP, “Snivlem”, which, spelled backwards gives an indication what sort of noise they’re going for.  They continue with “Clay”, another long track that introduces a bit of epic melody before going back to full-on manic shredding with “Basement”.  “Bad Timing” closes out the record with a relatively different feel than the rest of the album, as it aims for a more catchy and melodic opening and a sort-of Torche-like spacey/heavy/arena rock-ish ending.  Overall, this is a pretty great record that caught me off guard.  (Grimoire Records)


TOMBS, “All Empires Fall” EP
Tombs is a band that I respect more out of the time, effort, and work that they have put forth for many years at this point, rather than the music they make.  I’m just not really a fan of black metal and this EP definitely shows them very clearly working that angle of their sometimes difficult-to-pin down sound.  If it distinguishes them from hordes of other corpsepainted snowy forest/smelly basement dwellers (aside from the fact Tombs don’t use corpsepaint) I’ll give Tombs credit for adding some ethereal keyboard textures and occasional post-punk Killing joke style sounds to the songs on this EP.  Their songs on here, overall, also feel a little more simplistic in terms of arrangement.  Again, it’s not anything that really moves me because I don’t really feel this style of music, but Tombs know how to constantly refine and alter their sound to what they’re into at the time without losing sight of who they are.  (Relapse)














Bonus Round:

KELETON DMD, “Body Double”
In the late 90’s I was really into just about anything that the Makoto Records label released, which was primarily Michigan-based bands that were all pretty different, but somehow all fit together nicely.  I appreciated their varied approach to punk, as well as the (almost) yearly Michigan Fest they helped curate.  And then they just totally disappeared.  One such band that stood out for me on their label, remained fairly mysterious, and definitely did not get their just due (or release nearly enough material for me to be satisfied with) was the Kalamazoo-based Keleton DMD.  They had an insanely awesome sound, pairing the tones of Shellac with the energy and heft of early Hammerhead, and an unbelievably talented drummer who threw in so many curveballs and hidden tricks that the whole thing ended up being a very unique beast indeed.  They released (as far as I know) a 7”, a couple comp appearances, this lone full length, and an EP afterwards before splitting up.  The lyrics are mostly non-sensical tales of weirdoes, crime, and hustles gone bad…  but who knows, they could have been about anything really.  I mean, how hard could Kalamazoo get?  Things on this LP open up with the tricky drum chops of “Black and Single” before a blast of jangly guitar and rubbery bass intermittently spazzs out within the beat.  It breaks off into a primary part of the song, which may be the most rhythmically complex track on the record.  The rest follows a slightly more accessible feel until the very straight-forward, jackhammering “Over a Hustle” appears later on.  It’s probably my favorite song of theirs and represents the band very well insofar as what it is they do.  This is a pretty hard album to track down, and was only pressed on CD I believe.  But I highly suggest giving it a shot as it has stuck with me for the last 17 years or so.  (Makoto) CHECK IT HERE.

Monday, April 11, 2016

OK, THIS IS FINALLY A THING.


It's been talked about forever and I can finally say the end is in sight.  The BLEAK/ DIALYSIS split 7" is now up for pre-order...  FINALLY!
Here's the idea: two bands from Syracuse got together to record a split. DIALYSIS chose a song for BLEAK to cover and a member of Dialysis sings it. BLEAK chose a song for DIALYSIS to cover and a member of Bleak sings it. And then each band does another song to make it worth your while.
BLEAK cover the Unsane, and then they also throw in a Tom Waits cover because they wanted to.
DIALYSIS does a new song, "Things I Hate About This Place", and also does a Tom Waits song because Bleak demanded it.
These records are all pressed on pretty blue vinyl, come with a download code, and come in a fancy-schmancy letterpressed cover printed right here in Syracuse at the legendary Boxcar Press.
BLEAK
1.) "God's Away On Business"
2.) "Sick"
DIALYSIS
1.) "I Don't Want To Grow Up"
2.) "Things I Hate About This Place"

* expected to ship by 5/24/2016

In the meantime, you can hear BLEAK's cover of Unsane "Sick" right HERE.

And then go order the record HERE

Thursday, March 31, 2016

SPRING MEANS SHOWS AND THERE'S LOTS OF THEM

There are bands doing a lot of shows in the near future, so make it your beeswax to leave your safe little comfort zone (i.e- mom's basement, your couch, prison cell) and check them out because getting your hearing ruined is a lot more fun than it seems.

BLEAK, "Fuck You, We Only Stop Touring To Record"
Bleak will be hitting the road (again) real soon to promote their soon-to-be released split 7" with Syracuse's Dialysis, as well as their upcoming second full length "No Light, No Tunnel" (out this summer).

Thurs 4/21 Syracuse NY. Lost Horizon (with Eyehategod) 
Sat 4/23 Buffalo NY. Sugar City (with ChristWorm) 
Sun 4/24 Syracuse NY. Gorham Brothers Music (with ChristWorm) 
Fri 4/29 The Fuze Box. Albany NY. (with HUSH) 
Sat 4/30 Lowell MA. unchARTed Gallery. (with HUSH) 
Sun 5/1 Boston MA. Obrien's Pub. (with HUSH) 
Mon 5/2 Boston MA. The NonFactory. 
Tue 5/3 Bangor ME. Central Gallery. 
Wed 5/4 Wells ME. The Spot. 
Thurs 5/5 Dover NH. Spun Records. 
Fri 5/6 turners falls MA. The Brick House. 
Sat 5/7 Worcester MA. Hotel Vernon. 
Sun 5/8 Providence RI. Dusk. 
Mon 5/9 New London CT. The News. 
Tue 5/10 East New Haven CT. ASK. 
Wed 5/11 Wallingford CT. Cherry St. 
Thurs 5/12 West Babylon NY. Evolution. 
 Fri 5/13 NYC. Fat Baby. 
Sat 5/14 Brooklyn NY. The Acheron. 
Sun 5/15 Boonton NJ. Boon Tunes.

DIALYSIS, " Fuck You, We Have Adult Stuff To Do So We Go Out When We Can"
Dialysis have a split 7" coming out with Bleak real soon.  You'll hear more about it in the next couple weeks.  So they should probably play some shows to promote it.

4/8- Worcester, MA @ Distant Castle w/ Empty Vessels
4/14- Philly, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie w/ Hells
4/15- Providence, RI @ Funky Jungle
4/16- Ithaca, NY @ Chanti-cleer w/ Empty Vessels, Old Bones
4/17- Syracuse, NY @ Spark w/ Empty Vessels
4/18- NJ?
5/6- Potsdam, NY
5/7- Burlington, VT w/ Grizzlor
5/8- NH w/ Grizzlor
5/15- Syracuse, NY @ Westcott CC w/ Die Choking
5/20- Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City


GRIZZLOR, "Fuck you."

Grizzlor are doing a weekend in April with W. Virginia's Rhin (who, by the way, are awesome).  It's a good pairing of noise rock kings doing battle on the scuzzy-field.
 
April 28th
The Fire
Philadelphia, PA

April 29
The Grand Victory
Brooklyn, NY
April 30
Three Sheets
New Haven, CT

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SMARCH REVIEWS


As the last phase of Winter rolls out (hopefully) to make way for the hectic activity of Spring some really rad stuff has started showing up in musical form.  There's some real bangers here.  It's just the sort of reprieve I need to get past the last hurrah of icy cold days, and out of a miserable Winter funk.  And speaking of Spring, don't expect to hear too much on this page in terms of reviews for the next month or so because all the cool shit I've been planning during the Winter is going to start happening and I'm going to be a busy bee.
So check the new stuff first, and treat yourself to checking out the classic review I have at the end...  which really isn't that old of a record.


BIRTH (DEFECTS) 7”
This is the sound of a pile of greasy dudes who crawled out of a Waffle House at 3AM and decided to lay down some ‘fucked up shit’ between nasal blasts of oven cleaner.  The result is two songs that are the long-lost twin (“Evil Twin” maybe?) of Hammerhead, “Ethereal Killer”-era.  It’s loud and stupid, crammed with so much distortion and feedback you’d think they recorded next to a garbage truck emptying its load into a landfill.  But hey, I love it.  Give me more, this is clearly not enough to satiate.  (Reptilian Records)

CHERUBS, “Fist In the Air” 2x7”
If I had to take a guess, I would imagine this was recorded at the same time as the “2 Ynfynyty” album and I will lay out my detective work for you now:  one of the songs on the aforementioned record begins with a section of a song on this double 7” before breaking off into it’s own thing.  And on “Fist In the Air” you get the full blast of “Red Carpet Blues”, a fully charged rocking song from the re-activated kings of catchy noise rock.  The title track of this offering is quite possibly the poppiest song the band has ever released.  Previous efforts hinted at the bands love for catchy hooks and pop vibes, but was often overshadowed by the torrential downpour of fuzz, distortion, and weird riffs that buried most of their material like some great flood.  I mean, all that stuff is still present, but the gloss is beginning to shine through.  That is, until you get to the second 7” and “Donkey Suite” kicks you blind across the noggin with a sludgy, skuzzy bludgeoning.  Now, to finalize this thing, there is not one, but two, remixes of “Fist In the Air”.  I am not a re-mix enthusiast.  It’s basically just filler as far as I’m concerned.  But I gotta say, I don’t mind these ones.  Of course, I’d rather just have two extra new Cherubs songs, but I’ll live.  (Brutal Panda)

MAGRUDERGRIND, “II”
For a band that I wish was more active it is understandable that band commitments of other members, and distance kept this group largely part-time (very part time) for a long stretch.  But things have seemed to align and they finally drop a second LP of music that basically sounds like their name (though ‘Murdergrind’ might be a more apt moniker).  Blast after blast of downtuned rippers flex all over this thing, and it’s quite impressive what they are able to pull off with just a vocalist, drummer, and guitarist.  It’s definitely a great record to get you in the mood for some sort of high-stakes crime spree, and the simple photo on the cover basically says everything you need to know about what you’re getting into here.  If you cram the simple brutality of Infest (whose vocalist makes a guest appearance here) with the calculated grind of Nasum or Rotten Sound you’ll get the idea of what’s in store with Magrudergrind.  (Relapse)

RED HARE, “Lexicon Mist” 7”
Unless Red Hare happen to release an LP this year this is one of the best things I will hear in 2016.  Red Hare can really do no wrong.  Their last LP still gets regular rotation from me, and remains one of the rippin-est punk records of the last several years.  I mean, it’s pretty much Swiz (who were excellent in their own right) grown up and more in command of their instruments, backed by a different drummer, who happens to be one of the better drummers out there.  The record opens with “Silverfish”, a fast refresher for anyone who might have forgotten how good this group is.  The closing statement of “Your existence promotes your demise.  Do you understand?!” is a primer for things to come.  Jason Farrell’s jagged, but catchy guitars are made for tearing up a half pipe as they roll into the shorter second track, “Faced”.  They resolve the record with a longer song, a cover of Lungfish’s “Sphere Of Influence”.  Red Hare’s version utilizes Lungfish’s notion of making every song a raga, yet making it their own by adding just enough twists and turns to keep it totally respectable, but a bit more varied.  A perfect little nugget of awesome from one of the current best bands making hardcore punk.  (Dischord)

SEVEN SISTERS OF SLEEP, “Ezekiel’s Hags”
I feel like previous outings from these grizzled California stalwarts threw a lot of stuff into the pot, yet came out with material that was overall pleasing.  Their combinations of sludge metal, crust, hardcore, and occasional grind parts put a bunch of stuff together that didn’t always mix well for others, but worked good for them.  Pus, they had riffs for days.  This new album adds some black metal parts into the mix that I can’t say I’m a big fan of, primarily because I’m almost always not into black metal.  Additionally, where I had mentioned that sometimes throwing all those subgenres together doesn’t always work…  well,  on “Ezekiel’s Hags” it doesn’t quite work as well as it had on previous records.  There are definitely still some great parts on here, and equally as pulverizing songs.  But on the whole this isn’t doing it for me like they did on “Opium Morals”.  (Relapse)

SOME GIFTS, “Win Instantly”
My man Vic moved across the country not too long ago after fronting something in the order of about 25,000 bands in the Western New York area, all of which were pretty good.  And somehow the guy still has piles of songs crowding his brain so he got together with some LA people to spill them out in the form of Some Gifts.  Having known Vic and his various bands over the years, I’ve become an astutely keen observer of his style and I’d like to think this new band brings a few other influences to the table.  There is still a sense of technical proficiency and angular guitar work, but not quite as math-y as previous outfits.  The love of all things J. Robbins is ever-present, as are some less expected nods to catchy rock in the vein of Guided By Voices.  My favorite track here is the almost 80’s pop-meets post-hardcore feel of “Choice”.  My least favorite bit is the tacking on a section of “Teenage Wasteland” to the end of one of the other tracks.  It just feels wildly out of place in some Dad rock sort of way.  (self-released)

TORTOISE, “The Contortionist”
Fr whatever reason that I cannot quite explain, every once in awhile my musical tastes take a wildly divergent path than what is mostly expected of me (punk, hardcore, noise rock, 80s/90s hip-hop) and I freak out about bands like Tortoise or Battles (the latter I feel is like the heir apparent to the Tortoise kingdom for the 2000-teens).  But here we are, and another Tortoise LP has landed.  After nearly 25 years in the game the Chicago-based jazz/post-rock/electronic/whatever group is still creating interesting music that keeps me thinking.  Their compositions exist in the background, textural sounds that open the mind and getting you drifting off thinking about this, that, or whatever before bringing you back to reality as they throw in some other unique part emanating from some instrument you can’t quite place your finger on.  While more recent efforts have been a bit more minimal in nature, particularly in terms of more structured songs, and aren’t quite as grand in scope as a song like “DJ’ed” (from “Millions Now Living Will Never Die”) Tortoise continue to impress me.  But I gotta ask, why on Earth cover the Corey Haim-approved 80’s hit “Rock On”?  If there is anything that could be further from what you’d expect from Tortoise this is it.  It’s downright befuddling.  Furthermore, it is not the only song on this record with vocals (another rarity for the band), as the spectrum swings the opposite way on the breezy, jazzy “Yonder Blue” (featuring guest vocals from Georgia Hubley).  But hey, Tortoise likes to keep things interesting, so I guess we all have to live with that.  (Thrill Jockey)


CELEBRITY MURDERS, “Time To Kill Space”
In the late 90’s a guy by the name of Artie Phillie came to my attention because he was the maniac frontman of a band called Milhouse. That band was bonkers.  Not only was he a witty, envelope-pushing comedian of the darkest nature as a frontman, his lyrics were crammed full of incredible prose, brimming with clever wordplay and devious intention.  He had a pretty damn good voice too.  So when that band went kaput he joined up with Milhouse axe-shredder Brian Meehan and a couple guys I’m pretty sure were in either C.R. or Black Army Jacket, or both, to form Celebrity Murders.  It was quite the combination of Long Island hardcore awesomeness.  I guess there are some similarities to Milhouse, as Phillie continued his vocal killing spree, packing each song with dense amounts of lyrics that could convert listeners to Chuck Palahniuk-level misanthropes.  But while Milhouse dabbled in some post-hardcore grooves and a fair share of Deadguy-esque freakouts Celebrity Murders, for the most part, went with ripping fast hardcore.  There’s a few moments scattered here and there where they introduce a massive riff, or some noisy breakdown, or a moment of Rorschach-style crust-prog.  But by and large, they opted for wholesale slaughter by plowing through 18 tracks in under 30 minutes, on this, their lone LP.  The band previously had a 7”/demo, and I believe maybe a comp appearance or two, and that was it.  So if you’ve got a bone to pick with life, and need a soundtrack to rip shit up to, this isn’t a bad place to start.  (Chainsaw Safety/ ReptilianRecords)

Monday, February 29, 2016

SHOW REVIEW: FIGHT AMP/ UXO/ GRIZZLOR/ HUMANSHAPES IN PHILLY 2.27.16


     

       So I like to visit Philly…  a lot.  It’s a quicker drive for me than going to New York, and a lot less hassle.  Plus there’s a crazy amount of good bands, good venues, good eats, and good people comparable to my home states largest city.  Philly is still a big city, but it has a small town feel because everyone knows everyone else, the bands work jobs for other band people at small punk-run businesses, and they all take turns calling in so they can go on tour.  It’s the type of place I like.  But that toll on the Turnpike is getting a little out of hand, so can you Pennsyltuckians do something about that?
            This particular trip was both long-planned and short notice.  The date was announced a couple months back, but my natural trepidation of travelling anywhere outside my neighborhood in late February was warranted, seeing as that is typically the time that blinding snowstorms blitzkrieg the Northeast and it is not uncommon to be under a two-foot thick blanket of crusty white snow.  I wanted to go, but wasn’t sure if I (or my car) could hack it.
            Fortunately, the noise rock gods granted safe passage as it was a balmy 50 degrees (yeah, that’s very warm for this time of year) on this pleasant Saturday.  I coasted into town with time to spare so I got some pizza with a moderately drunk friend and then shagged ass over to Kung Fu Necktie to get my ears sandblasted off.
            I dig this venue.  It’s a pretty small spot, packed pretty tight, and the stage is small.  So imagine my excitement knowing I’d be spitting distance from seeing two of my favorite noisemongering riff monsters trading riffs together on that tiny-ass stage in a couple short hours.
            Humanshapes got on first.  I had checked their music out online ahead of time and was sufficiently satisfied with their weird and scrappy noisenik leanings.  Bizarre, ugly, occasionally heavy would best describe the offering.  Yet seeing them live was a different story.  The loud was louder, the heavy heavier, the sense of panicked dread and cold sweats coming through their frayed guitars washing over those in attendance.  Needless to say, I was quite impressed.  After their frontman made a mess of knocking over the mic stand and being sucked into the audience they wrapped up their brief stint and made way for what was next.


            The homies in Grizzlor stepped up with a new bassist and a beefier sound overall.  For a band steeped in squalling noise, manic vocalizations that sound like they emerge from a cavernous panic room, and a sound so sludgy the La Brea tar pits called up to admit that they were jealous the three bearded gents in Grizzlor have their sound down incredibly tight.  The chaos is controlled, the songs are short, and the riffs are mighty.  Simply put, after their set all clean shaven, and otherwise hairless attendees, were now sporting full beards.
            Ok, so UXO got up.  I realize the idea of a ‘supergroup’ is often disappointing when put into practice.  But there’s really no way that pairing Chris Spencer from Unsane and Steve Austin from Today Is the Day could result in anything bad.  Both bands have created some of the meanest, most spiteful, and harrowing music I’ve ever heard and their styles of playing complement one another extremely well.  But both guitarists got up there and did what they do so well, backed by a terrific rhythm section.  Though this was only the band’s second show they sounded like they all had been playing together for years.  It was truly a treat to witness, a special event that could potentially just do the one album, play a few shows, and then call it a day.  Still, they played through their whole album, as well as two songs not on the record, which makes me hope that there could be more in store in the future.  



            Fight Amp closed things out and it’s very nice to see them getting a great deal of love from their home, which they have been crushing for over a decade.  They were the only band I actively witnessed people losing their collective shit to and created quite the ruckus.  I’ve seen Fight Amp a bunch of times and they never fail to excel at abrasiveness.  For their set I hung back and took it all in from a vantage point where my ears would no longer be subject to deafening distortion, as the rest of the night I’d been pretty much standing directly in front of amplifiers.
            Generally, after a show like this I’m worn down by ringing ears from standing too close to the stage and a hoarse throat from trying to hold conversations between bands.  But somehow I walked out of the show completely at ease with the world, and beaming at the sonic beating I just took.  And I was basically ready to do it all again. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

NEW REVIEWS FOR 2016!

The new year is upon us and one miserable month already has passed.  Yes, January is the time to hibernate, plan, and hope for the Winter to coast on by in hopes of a long and pleasant Spring.  Well, we shall see if that occurs.
So going into this new year I decided that to go with the regular reviews of new stuff I want to add a random review of something from the past.  I am a big fan of stuff that was mostly overlooked in it's time of release and there are definitely some gems out there.  So I figured I'd toss something in there.  Expect that as a regular on going thing from here on out.
In this month's reviews it's a pretty mixed bag of music, film, and comics...  a nice slice of variety to start off 2016.  Read on and get shwifty.

-->
AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED, “Arc” EP
ANb strike back with a….  three song…  what, micro 7”?  What, this must be like two minutes long right?  Oh, it’s over 20 minutes in length?  Are they trolling us into listening to the longest blast beat in history?  Wait, it’s a sludge metal record…  with very serious lyrical content?  Is this the right band?  So yeah, the long-running maniacal grind unit is trying something different- a series of EPs, each featuring one of ANb’s three vocalists, and a different style of extremity.  This first one features vocalist Katherine Katz and the difficult subject of her mother’s battles with mental illness before her untimely passing.  The music is completely informed by the likes of Sleep, Melvins, Crowbar, and Eyehategod.  And yes, the drum machine is still laying down the beats.  It’s not a bad turn, and shows that Scott Hull can pretty much write whatever kind of music he wants whether it be thrashfully blasting off between regular ANb stuff or with Pig Destroyer, or slowing it down to a snail’s pace with this recording.  Regular ANb fans might be on the fence, most fans of really heavy stuff will be pleased, bong resin clinging like moss to their toothy smiles.  (Relapse)

BLOODIEST, s/t
I went into this knowing only a couple things:  this band hails from Chicago and features Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) on vocals.  I was really impressed when I saw him do a solo set last year, so I was a bit curious to see what he could lend to this band.  Like other music Lamont has been involved in it’s treading some interesting territory.  These songs sprawl out like apocalyptic landscapes, delivering repetitious bombasts of dark codas and taking more than a few cues from the likes of Swans.  It is heavy and mean-sounding, but there’s a lot of different instrumentation going on here, and Lamont is mostly singing/hollering and not screaming.  So take that as you will.  It makes for a cool listen if you’re feeling on some end times type shit.  (Relapse)

“COLOR OF NOISE” documentary
This is something I never thought would really happen, but I’m really glad it did.  The story of Amphetamine Reptile Records, the bands, and art associated with it is finally in a very thorough documentary form.  Certain bands and aesthetics from this label were extremely influential on my taste in music and my approach to design.  Amphetamine Reptile Records (or AmRep as most people refer to them) began in the 80’s as a DIY label that focused on raw, mean, visceral rock n’ roll.  A big chunk of punk and hardcore figured into their formation, but they drew from the uglier side of things.  Sure, none of the drugs and alcohol was of interest to me (and it unfortunately claimed the lives of several great musicians from various bands on this label), but their stiff middle finger and refusal to play nice/be politically correct was (and is) a firm stance that makes the label so exciting.  They launched the careers of the Cows, the God Bullies, Today Is the Day, Hammerhead, Tar, Boss Hog, and some little band called Helmet.  They picked up Unsane at the perfect moment, and have collaborated for decades with the Melvins on a host of projects.  Many of these bands are interviewed regarding the scene of the time and how the label pushed them.  A few of the artists closely associated with the label such as Derek Hess, Shepard Fairey, Coop, and the incredible Frank Kozik are interviewed at length as the posters and cover art they created was just as important to the label as the music.  And of course, the main guy behind the operation, Tom Hazelmeyer is reluctantly grilled.  The man seems to want no glory for himself, he just wants to make stuff and see things happen.  And that, in itself, is glorious.  Just make it happen.  Despite a massive health scare that put him in a month long coma several years ago Hazelmeyer bounced back to make more records, open a restaurant, open an art gallery, constantly create his own art, and shoot lots of guns.  By all accounts this stuff should not appeal to me- I don’t drink, I don’t eat meat, and I don’t do drugs… all of which seem to be hallmarks of the AmRep culture (for better or for worse), but everything else about it is so potent.  It is the embodiment of everything mean and dangerous about rock (or punk for that matter).  Take a dive into a bit of history with this wonderful film about a cast of fucked up weirdoes.  (Robellion Films)

DEVIL HIS DUE, “2016 A.D.”
I know metalcore is a dirty word that typically implies the shoddiest of over-produced, fabricated suburban anger backed by dumb breakdowns that have been so overdone they have completely lost any semblance of substance.  I know.  I’ve lived through all of it.  So when I say a metalcore record is good you must understand that I am correct in the most authoritative sort of way.  Now, granted, there is a conflict of interest because I am in a band with one of the members of this group.  But, I am not in a band with the member who wrote all these riffs.  So it’s fair game to say this shit smokes.  Those familiar with Syracuse hardcore lineage will know the name Danny Johnson.  He is the throat-shredded-by-broken-glass vocalist who fronted Blood Runs Black, God Below, and Last Season.  He does all the vocals here.  That means it already sounds incredibly harsh.  The music is super heavy, tons of double bass, and non-stop in its’ filthiness.  It bears a strong resemblance to Last Season, but locals can debate for themselves.  It has a genuine hatred behind it, and it’s definitely worth checking out.  Fans of Crowbar, Ringworm, the Blinding Light, and Overcast take note.  (Devil His Due)

FUCKING INVINCIBLE, “I Hate Myself and Want You To Die” 7”
Enter more hatred and general misanthropy from Providence’s most destructive band.  Their LP from last year was pretty good, but the sound on it was purposefully a little too trashy sounding in my opinion.  I’m glad they have struck a good balance on this new record between coming off as raw and violent but polished enough to know how well they can deliver that audio hacksaw.  Plus, this band was made to release 7”s…  an LP is too much thought.  Cram 8 songs in 7 minutes onto 7 inches, stuff it down your throat, pull the pin, and wait for it to detonate.  While Providence has consistently churned out some excellent bands (some of the members of which play in this band) I think FI is my favorite one to see live and this slab of powerviolence hardcore gets that live sound down nicely.  (Atomic Action)

OURSELVES 7”
This Michigan group comes out the gate with a very nice looking record that comes on all sorts of colorful vinyl and a block-stamped cardstock cover.  And a pin!  Woo!  Thoughtful packaging aside, musically this falls into a style that younger kids would probably hear and just think ‘dude rock’.  Us older dorks will recognize this as solid post-hardcore rock aiming for the likes of Cast Iron Hike, but a little less show-y…  so more like Cutman…  if that means anything to anyone.  So what do we learn?  Young kids:  “dude rock”.  Old farts: “dude rock…  but c’mon man, you can hear the post-hardcore leanings and subtle references to mid-era Wreck-Age Records bands!”  Four songs on the vinyl, an extra two tracks on the download.  (Dropping Bombs)

SUPER UNISON 7”
I picked this up based on a couple things:  their name references a Drive Like Jehu song and Meghan O’Neill from Punch is on vocals (and bass) and I have always been a fan of her particularly harsh screaming.  Well, this doesn’t really sound like Jehu, and the vocals lean more towards a sort of bratty Riot Grrl style.  It still makes for a good listen and a strong introduction for this new band.  Lyrically there’s a bit more room for O’Neill to deliver a complete thought, rather than the blast-o-matic epiphanies common in her previous outfit, even though Super Unison’s songs still only clock in at about 2 minutes apiece.  Make no mistake, this is still fast, punk, and ripping, and it’s a good introduction.  But each song does tend to work with a very similar structure and I’m sure with some time they will vary it up a bit.  Closing track “On Repeat” is the strongest of the bunch and has an anxious sense of urgency delivered by the powerful vocals and great guitar lead riding through the song.  (self-released)


UPTIGHT #5, by Jordan Crane
This ongoing, very irregular, series by one of my favorite illustrators comes back after what must be at least a year-long absence with a 100+ page issue featuring 5 different stories.  I’m used to a lot of Jordan Crane’s stuff being somewhat sad, melancholy, yet plaintive in a way…  which contrasts very sharply with his mastery of vibrant colors and cartoon-ish style of line.  The cover alone on this is worth the price of admission.  The first two parts are continuations of stories from previous issues- one a bit on a man who lost his wife in a car accident and his slow personal decent through a series of flashbacks, the second a troubled couple who lost their child and making failed attempts to get their life back after the loss.  From there things venture into a bit more quixotic territory via a hazy and confusing murder mystery, a bizarre and gory space mining operation that goes horribly wrong, and a radio tower that gets washed out to sea and the man who gets drowned, saved by an octopus mermaid, and then stranded.  Crane often leaves the reader with loose ends on purpose, often with minimal text, and more often than not, feeling a bit depressed.  But it’s done in such an interesting way through the vivid art that I’ll always come back for more.  (Fantagraphics)

UXO, s/t LP
Upon hearing that Chris Spencer (Unsane) and Steve Austin (Today Is the Day) were teaming up to form a band my noggin nearly exploded from the undoubtedly colossal amount of fucking amazing that would swell within my brain.  Here we got the front men/guitarists of two of the more influential bands that have informed my musical tastes.  I mean, the vicious negativity pairing these two together ought to produce is enough to overpower the happiness of…  I dunno, a really happy place...  let’s say Hawaii, or Switzerland if every town was Disneyworld.  I am pleased to announce that this pretty much sounds exactly like what you would think of putting Unsane and Today Is the Day together.  Austin and Spencer split vocal duties and you can pretty much tell which one of them wrote which riffs because they totally fall in line with either older TITD style material or any Unsane material.  There is a general sense of powering through rough times here, the brooding heaviness (mixed with a tasteful amount of noise textures here and there) enunciates the pain, and the rest is an endeavor that fans of either members’ bands will surely enjoy.  The bad part- this thing is being touted as a full length and it barely scrapes past being an EP.  At seven songs of average length I was definitely hoping for more material even though what I’m getting is pretty great.  (Reptilian Records)

WRUX demo
Here we got a demo from a new Buffalo/Syracuse hybrid band that cranks out 9 songs in 10 minutes.  One song is two minutes and most of them are under a minute.  Expect blasting powerviolence consisting of drums, vocals, and one gnarly sounding bass driving it all.  The bass is nice and filthy sounding so it gets a pretty ‘full’ sound despite there being no guitar.  I will say, though, that it feels like Jessica’s vocals are a bit loud in the overall mix, but on the whole, this thing sounds pretty good.  Fun for mashing the shit out of one another in a dank basement somewhere in a crappy neighborhood.  (self-released)

Bonus Round:

TRALUMA, “Seven Days Awake”
This Chicago indie band did their thing in the late 90’s and was on the ever-reliable Caulfield Records label (Giants Chair, Boys Life, Christie Front Drive), which should give an indication of their sound.  More than likely lumped in with the ‘emo’ crowd I always felt this had more going on with it than the sad, broken-hearted bed-wetters and pop hooks disguised as earnest punk that ‘emo’ had been bastardized into.  Traluma took cues from early Fugazi with their tasteful bass work, jangling and riffy guitar leads, and occasional sing-along vocals.  Additionally, some attention was paid to bands like Drive Like Jehu with some angular hooks and interesting guitar melodies.  But the whole thing had a sort of subtle delivery that occasionally made really energetic tracks like “Barn Burner”, “Klondike Revolution”, and “Low Like a Snake” a bit out of character from what one would expect.  It didn’t quite sound like anything else out there, even though there were a number of bands on a similar page as them.  They made a few 7”s and this lone LP, and then called it a day.  I had the chance to book them on one occasion and while it wasn’t anything life-altering to witness, I still highly enjoy this album some 18 years after it’s release.  I believe one of the members of this band died not too long after they split, and a couple others went on to another pretty good band called Haymarket Riot. (listen here)

Friday, January 22, 2016

PLENTY OF TOUR DATES!

Let's make things clear- Winter fuckin' sucks.  But some bands brave the dreary weather to play out, some taking to the snowy roads while others do the smart thing and head in a Southernly direction to avoid the misery of the Northeast.
That being said, some bands on the label are heading out on the road within the next couple months.
Here's what's going down:
GRIZZLOR are doing a couple shows with UXO (the project bands featuring members of Unsane and Today Is the Day...  yeah, this is real, holy shit), and then heading out to play Berserker Fest in Detroit with Voivod and a bunch of other cool bands.  Check the info here:
Boston:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1551288468517983/

Philly:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1047731291937049/

Berserker Fest:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1716042081965073/

------------------
BLEAK will, of course, be back on the road as well, going all over the damn place, as is their nature.  Check all the dates for these hosers as they rarely stick around home for very long.

Fri., 1/29- Syracuse, NY @ Warehouse
Sat., 1/30- Dayton, OH @ Hank's Pub
Sun., 1/31- Indianapolis, IN @ Sexx Mansion
Mon., 2/1- Louisville, KY @ Highlands Taproom
Tues., 2/2- Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
Wed., 2/3- Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone
Thurs., 2/4- Verona, VA @ Art & Soul Tattoo
Fri., 2/5- Norfolk, VA @ Norfolk Taproom
Sat., 2/6- Richmond, VA @ McCormacks
Sun., 2/7- Washington, DC @ The Pinch
Fri., 2/12- Buffalo, NY @ Hoyt House
Sat., 2/13- Rochester, NY @ Monty's Krown
Fri., 2/19- Pittsburgh, PA @ Black Forge Coffee House
--------------
DIALYSIS will be doing some sporadic Winter dates, followed by a short Spring tour- part of which will be with the most awesome Empty Vessels- that is currently being assembled.  Lend a hand if you are down to clown.

2/13- Rochester, NY @ Monty's w/ Blurring, Bleak
2/18- Albany, NY @ Fuze Box w/ Poison Idea, Child Bite
3/5- Syracuse, NY @ Warehouse w/ Borrowed Time, Waste Case
3/27- Binghamton, NY @ Greasy Manor w/ Fucking Invincible

SPRING TOUR:
Thurs., 4/14- Philly, PA @ TBA (HELP)
Fri., 4/15- Western MA w/ Empty Vessels
Sat., 4/16- Ithaca, NY @ Chanticlear Loft w/ Empty Vessels, Old Bones
Sun., 4/17- Syracuse, NY @ Spark w/ Empty Vessels
Mon., 4/18- NJ (HELP)
-------------

Finally, EX-BREATHERS have a few sporadic dates this Winter, mostly down in their neck of the woods (I get it, stay where it's nice and sunny huh?).  Go check them out if you're a Florida native.  Or, be smart, get the heck out of whatever miserable ice cave you live in, and make a trip to Florida anyway and catch them while you're there re-examining your geographic life choices.
01/30 w/ Jitters, Night Witch, and Echo Base @ TV Land
02/12 in Gainesville w/ Frameworks, Post Teens, and Heat Rash @ Nowhere
02/26 w/ Career, Repo Man, and Success Story @ TV Land
03/21 w/ Gnarwhal and Palm @ Wolf's Den