Friday, December 26, 2014

Terminus Cursus – 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6

November 26, 2014 • Bridgetown Records

More good stuff from the always-on-top Bridgetown Records today: another little-known but well-deserving band with a new EP out delivering a neat take on rock that, while not perfect, shows a lot of promise.

The EP starts off as something like minimalist psychedelic post-punk—simplistic drum patterns, wailing electric guitar, wavering warbly anguished vocals, all drenched in a thick, sopping blanket of reverberation. As the songs go by, they transform from something a bit Joy Division-esque to add a bit of Wire, and we eventually wind up in this weird land of freakout-punk before heading back to where we started, more or less. It's a weird ride and, although it's a short one at only five songs, it's still pretty interesting and Terminus Cursus shows they have a nicely diverse set of skills to show off.

On the whole, there's some of 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 I like and some I don't. They do have a really good handle on balancing the faster / punkier songs with the slower post-punk ones; at no point does the EP feel very repetitive or rehashed. (Of course, it's not very long either, so that helps.) On the other hand, their actual production style feels a bit uncomfortable—particularly the bizarre vocals, which often have the weird warbly effect on them I mentioned earlier. I guess it kind of fits the overall aesthetic and it is a pretty unique element, but I am not really a fan.

On the whole, though, I think this EP is pretty neat. At the very least, it's definitely something different which is good enough for me. Looking forward to the next output from this band.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Like Pigs on Embers – Demo 2014

Julu 23, 2014 • self-released

Another hardcore punk demo today, this one from France's Like Pigs on Embers. To be honest, I'm a bit ambivalent about it, but at the same time I'm still not a huge fan of modern crusty metallic hardcore in general, so take this review with a grain of salt.

The songs have a relatively modern-sounding hardcore punk style, with less of the pure aggravated fury and a little more introspection, with an overall slower chugging slam sound. The riffs themselves are usually of the old-school three-chord variety—simple, but they get the job done. Of course there's still intensity as it is needed, with some blasting and chaotic fast riffs, and I have to admit that these sections (such as most of "Peacefull Knight") are when the band is at its most interesting. On the other hand, this kind of variety is sorely lacking in a lot of hardcore, so I can't really complain.

So I'd say Like Pigs on Embers isn't totally unique or groundbreaking or anything like that, but they're not bad and the demo is certainly worth a listen if you're into this kind of music (at least a little bit).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Atif X Aslam – Lund Na Khao

November 14, 2014 • self-released

I barely have time to write anything as this seventy-two-second EP blitzes by, but I think this might actually be my first time hearing a band out of Pakistan (they're from India too but that's a tiny bit more common in my experience). Admittedly, there isn't anything particularly south-Asian about this band's sound that I noticed, but it's a good sound—the sort of raw, underground, DIY punk ethos applied to some hard-hitting powerviolence. Special mention goes to the excellent drumming; it's technically impressive and does a great job of gluing up the guitar and vocals.

There's really not much to say about this band yet with just this EP, but I'd definitely be interested in some more stuff. Keep it up!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cannabis Corpse, Mammoth Grinder, Inanimate Existence, Artillery Breath

December 18, 2014 • Ace of Cups, Columbus, Ohio

Concerts this year were sadly slim. It looks like things might pick up next year, though. Anyway I was excited to finally hit another death metal show—as I've said before, I think death metal is one of my favorite genres to watch live, if only for the sheer insanity some bands bring out on stage.

Artillery Breath

The token local opener, and pretty decent stuff to get the show started at that. They're kind of like a death-metal-oriented Kvelertak—lots of heavy grinding extreme metal with old-school high-energy hard rock riffs, with that same sort of high-energy performance and silly and fun attitude. They're not really the kind of thing I'd spin very often on my own, but they were definitely good to watch and a great opener.

Inanimate Existence

The obligatory second band playing that I'd never heard of but wound up liking the best. (Weird how often that happens.) As I soon as I saw them breaking out the seven-string guitars and warming up with some jazzy lines, I could tell it was going to be good. This band falls much more into the brutal/technical death metal side and have a much more serious stance than the other bands playing, but what they were playing was ridiculous—the kind of complicated wall-of-sound riffing where the drummer is somehow the sanest one playing. I did my best to keep up with what the guitars and bass were doing, but the complexity and fluidity was too much, as if they were just waving their fingers over the fretboards at random but still having something awesome come out. This sort of very-long-form through-composed material isn't for everyone and it can be tough to get through at a show, but in this case I don't think I ever found myself anything but engrossed. So yeah, they're good, very good, if you can stomach the wall of intensity.

Mammoth Grinder

This band was the primary reason I went to this show, as they were the only one who I'd heard before. As it turns out I don't really like them at all. I'd listened to their 2009 album some time ago and forgotten about it, and now I know why. Their particular style of modern metallic crust punk isn't really my thing at all. There are some good bits here and there, but most of their music is pretty flat and to be honest they aren't really that fun to watch, either. Oh well. If they're already your thing, it's probably worth it to check them out, but don't stress about it.

Cannabis Corpse

It's been ages since I heard any Cannibal Corpse, but if I remember them right, these guys are (musically) by far the better band. They're pretty traditional death metal with a little bit of groove metal fusion going on, and clearly with a lot of songwriting talent. On the other side of the coin, though, I'm not a stoner, and unfortunately most of their fans are, and we don't get along. I am not a real big fan of moshing, but at many shows I wind up standing right where people want to open a pit, which is usually in a prime spot for, you know, just watching. So I was forced to stand in the back where I couldn't really see, and at that point you might as well just go home and listen to it on YouTube. Usually the audience at metal shows I go to here in Columbus is pretty reasonable, but not this time. Shame, because the band themselves seemed like pretty cool guys. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fleshworld / Gazers / Viscera/// – Split

October 14, 2014 • Unquiet Records

Reviewing promotional split albums always feels a bit weird, but sometimes the material really is good enough that I have to share it. Today's edition is three metal bands from all over Europe: Fleshworld from Poland, Gazers from France, and Viscera/// (slashes included, please) from Italy.

Fleshworld gets the split off to a great start—I'm really enjoying their tracks. Their style of sludge metal manages to be both a little atmospheric and very driving at the same time, a bit Cult-of-Luna-esque without as much grandeur. The rhythmic patterns going on here are great—the hard-hitting drum grooves are especially irresistible, and there are lots of really nice crunchy guitar lines holding it together. They occasionally launch into some more intense punkish-blastbeating, quiet clean bridges (naturally), and even a little bit of psychedelic noodling, which are all nice enough—but man am I digging the standard sludge. I haven't heard many new bands lately doing it as well as they do. I only wish the first two songs were a little longer, as the nine-minute "Rezygnacja" is, to give me a bit more to sink my teeth into.

Gazers sounds nothing like their name implies—this is some raw and harsh screamo, chaotic riffing, blasting, some slower chugging sections, the occasional breakdown, and all. Maybe it's that Fleshworld is a hard act to follow but I'm not as thrilled about this band—though they are still pretty decent. The songwriting is a bit disjointed and hard to follow at times, but they definitely have the texture and mood down well. Admittedly I've never been a huge fan of this style of post-hardcore/screamo so I'm probably not the right person to take Gazers on, but you could certainly do a lot worse.

Viscera/// brings us back around to the sludge metal side of things, but in a much different way from Fleshworld. The promo kit calls them "psychedelic" but I don't think I'd agree whatsoever; they're definitely way too clean and heavy for that (blastbeating isn't psychedelic, and flanger pedals don't automatically make you so, no matter what anyone says). But they do have nice big riffs aplenty, and bigger riffs you rarely have seen. Their style is all over the place, though—they swerve from crunching rhythmic lines to almost-black-metal tremolo blasting to upbeat stoner metal, and it's a bit weird. The poppy clean singing in "Nobody's Diary" feels wildly out of place and the band can get a bit too repetitive at times, but the majority of what they've put down here is pretty great.

In short—one split, plenty of great brutality to be had, and I'm off to see if there's any more from these bands to check out, because my interest is definitely piqued.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bastos / Pandrea – Split

September 24, 2014 • Fading Halo Records

This is a quick split single from two Romanian bands—a country I almost never hear anything from, so it's pretty neat to get a hold of this.

Bastos plays mostly-instrumental math rock that's a bit on the heavier side, like a tamer 65daysofstatic without the electronics. Pandrea is similar, but a bit more grungy-alt-rock with this odd jaunty sort of very-Eastern-European vibe going on under the hood. It's a nice pairing, although I have to say personally Bastos is the more appealing band to me—they both have their charms, though.

Without substantial vocals, there's a bit of a lacking feeling on these tracks. They're definitely off to a great start, but I think to truly come into their own there's a bit more fleshing-out to be done. I won't say adding vocals is definitely the way to go, however.

Either way, this is definitely a neat little split with two bands that are worth checking out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

State of the Blog

You might have noticed that things have been a little slow around here lately. What was once a one-a-day thing has now been reduced to a miserable once-a-week-at-best crawl. The reason can basically be summed up in one word: podcasts. It actually started over a year ago—one site I follow started one, then another a few months later, then it just snowballed and now I have about twenty I feel like I need to keep up with. And when you listen to podcasts all day you don't really have time for music. It has gotten a little pathetic, to be honest.

Anyway. I'm trying to change all that; I've whittled down my backlog and am making a real effort to get back to music, which I usually enjoy more anyway. It helps that I've been getting quite a stream of recommendations lately—and yes, if you sent me a nice personal email I will get to your stuff! It might just be a little while still. But I have so far at least listened to everything I've received.

Thanks for sticking around!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

October 27, 2014 • Mass Appeal

We ran the jewels once last year, and now it's time for round two—and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been pumped for this release. El-P has been on fire lately, and he still shows no signs of stopping with this album.

Run the Jewels 2 is about as perfect of a sequel as you could ask for, if you wanted more of the same. It's basically the same album as the original—the same production style, the same crazy sampling, the same great beats that are impossible not to jam along to. It doesn't feel like a collection of leftovers from the original sessions or B-sides or anything like that, and the first four tracks are about as perfect as things get. I love the sparse, bass-heavy, aggressive beats like on "Oh My Darling Don't Cry" or "Close Your Eyes". The album on the whole does feel a little heavier than the debut, which I like a lot.

The momentum does slow down a little bit on the second half, as things slow down and get less intense and violent and a little more introspective (for some godforsaken reason) (except "All Due Respect" which is appropriately bangin'). The low point arrives at "Love Again", in no small part thanks to the overly-sexually-charged lyrics. I've never like that kind of thing, particularly when it's as dumb as it is here. (It doesn't help that the guest rapper herself isn't really very good at all. But on that note, I love Zach de la Rocha's appearance on "Close Your Eyes"—where has that guy been??)

But this is definitely a worthy follow-up, debatable as good as or maybe even a touch better than the first album. Necessary listening for anyone who even remotely liked the first one—especially since they've released both for free. Now: time to look forward to Meow the Jewels.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Keeper – MMXIV

July 5, 2014 • PlasticSkull Records

Keeper delivers some excruciating, pounding doom metal that's some of the filthiest I've heard. The grimy distortion on downtuned-to-hell guitars (that low bass string must not even be remotely taut at this point), sputtering vocals, and echoing production make the album almost uncomfortable to listen to—although that's kind of a good thing in this case.

The songs are all quite long and sprawling without a whole lot of real structure to them, so the music can be a bit hard to follow, especially in the slower parts. It's not my preferred way to do doom; I like having some organization and clarity to the songwriting, but MMXIV goes off in all sorts of directions, losing me easily. Sometimes, when things pick up speed, it's not quite so bad and I can get into the rhythmic grooving they do in some parts, like "Perception/Prescription".

On the whole, it's really not a bad album. It's not something I'll put on often, as I simply don't get into doom much and this album doesn't do it quite to my tastes anyway. But I still feel like there's something worth looking into here, at least for established doom fans.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter

August 13, 2014 • Rok Lok Records

Cestine is another minimalist ambient drone project—but I don't want to sound dismissive because this kind of music is something I can really never get enough of—especially when it's as beautiful and relaxing as Other Half / Bright Encounter is. Simple washes of looping synths and distant glitches off in the background remind me a bit of Basinski's tape works (without the orchestration). There's also some voice sampling and I think some field recordings mixed in to keep things interesting.

Like most drone, it's very slow-burning music (understandable for two big fifteen-minute tracks), but I don't think it ever really goes on longer than it should and the pacing is pretty good. "Bright Encounter" has an especially good structure, with a great fade-in and transition from somber piano to some kind of synthetic-beach aesthetic, back to atmospheric droning.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for this genre but I can't recommend Cestine enough. Well-produced zone-out ambient, that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Idylls – Prayer for Terrene

March 30, 2014 • self-released

Finally, some mathcore I can really get into. I'm usually of the opinion that the genre is too messy and incomprehensible to be that enjoyable, but Idylls are doing something really cool here.

Sure, the album has its share of chaotic blasting, but it always feels like they still keep some sort of rhythm going so the listener doesn't ever feel lost. Plus, it's often glued together with some solid sludgy chugging sections, which I always tend to enjoy. There's even a bit of great melodic sections like "Fagged Out on the Beach" (probably one of my favorite tracks) to break up the crazy grinding. That's not to say Idylls doesn't do crazy grinding well—they definitely do.

Aside from the staggering seven-minute opener, almost all of the songs all clock under three minutes. But every one of those minutes is totally packed and Idylls squeezes everything they can out of their time on this album. I also have to give props for the production—I love the squealing saxophone that pops up every once in a while, and the growly, dirty bass sound is really great.

My one misgiving is that I don't get the weird tangents they sometimes go off on, like the bizarre bluesy thing they do for part of "PCP Crazy" or the weird surf thing on "Crashing Boar"—it breaks my immersion a lot and simply isn't in a style I like. At least they don't dwell on it for long.

Anyway, even though I haven't been following grindcore much this year, I'm glad this album crossed my path. It's definitely one to take a taste of for anyone into that sort of music or is looking for anything a little on the aggressive side.

Friday, October 10, 2014

As We Draw – Mirages

October 4, 2014 • Throatruiner Records

Compared to Lines Breaking Circles, not a whole lot has changed except that the band has somehow gotten a lot better. Thought nothing much has changed since their debut, something about it really grabbed me and I think it may be one of 2014's finest so far.

Mirages basically comes in two flavors: long atmospheric sludgy tracks, and shorter Converge-esque chaotic hardcore / mathcore ones—and there's definitely something to be said for both. The longer tracks (basically just "The Window" and "Shipwreck") have this great post-rock-influenced buildup structure that works really great with the heavier guitar sound without being too clichéd. The shorter tracks are almost perfect: full of blistering energy, stabbing guitar lines and crashing drumming, and never overstaying their welcome. They're angry as hell, but they don't get too wrapped up in it that they lose sight of the song structure.

I don't know for sure why this one is hooking me a lot more than their first—maybe it's my mood, maybe somehow my taste for this stuff has grown—but I can't discount the fact that this music just grooves hard and in a way that I am really enjoying. It's not an album that I'll be able to listen to often—it's a little too punishing at times and the whole thing can be a bit draining. But when I do get the urge, it satisfies handily.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused

October 20, 2014 • 4AD Records

You know I can't resist Sunn O))) collaborations. I can resist them even less the more bizarre the other artist is—and of course it's harder to get more weird than Scott Walker, he of The Drift, one of the most messed-up albums I've ever heard. But sometimes that's not always a good thing and, even though my hopes have been high for these collaborations (especially since I liked Terrestrials considerably), I can't get behind Soused at all.

As for the music: to be honest, it's basically what I expected. Sunn O))) drones away on their guitars o' doom, while Walker belts out some impressive singing over top (yeah, he's 71, and sounds way better than most people half his age). Meanwhile, creepy noises and synths and samples bubble and stomp around. "Bull" and "Fetish" shake things up with a bit of rhythmic almost-rock and there are a few industrial-style loops here and there, but for the most part they stick to the formula closely.

And that's about all that happens for forty-eight minutes. I'm not really sure what to make of it. I feel like I usually get what is going on with Sunn O))), and Walker's stuff I've heard before isn't particularly obtuse, but this feels like there's really something missing. I can tell they have good intentions but there just isn't enough happening to justify five whole tracks of this. Come on, Sunn O))), I know you're capable of doing better.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Contortionist – Language

September 16, 2014 • Good Fight Music

Yes, The Contortionist is back! Even though these guys have been one of my favorite obscure prog-deathcore bands ever (I've reviewed both of their older albums here and here), to be honest I didn't have high hopes for this album. Usually bands like this fizzle out pretty quickly unless they totally reinvent themselves.

Well, this band didn't totally reinvent itself, though there are a few changes to go over. As to what's the same, we have the post-rock-tinged progressive metal, with complex chugging djent riffs integrated seamlessly into soaring, epic songs. They still do those metal grooving patterns better than most; while I'm usually not a fan of totally amelodic, pseudo-random guitar lines, they have always had just enough structure to lock into a really great rhythm.

Of what's new, most notable is the vocalist, who tends to focus more on clean singing. Though there are still harsh vocals present, they're more of a raspy hoarse shouting type than the intense death growls of before. While the new vocalist fits the softer sound better, and he does a fine job, I do miss the sheer ferocity and energy of the old guy. But I don't think I'd want them to go back just for him.

Additionally, the band has now fully let go of the deathcore sound that made Exoplanet so great but had mostly eroded away by Intrinsic. I still am a bit disappointed by that as I thought they did it really well and it was something really unique about them. So to the uninitiated, Language will probably feel like a pretty generic prog metal album—and I guess that's not totally wrong anymore.

The album does have some major problems with structuring, though. It takes a while to get the album geared up—the first two tracks are kind of wimpy compared to when "Language II: Conspire" launches into the band's signature math metal fury. The album goes on a roller coaster from grooving, jazzy polyrhythms to passive common-time noodling and can't seem to ever make up its mind what it wants to do. When I gave this album a solid focused listen, it mostly turned into a game of wait-for-the-heavy-parts. But maybe I'm just impatient.

Language is a good album, and The Contortionist is still a good band, but I think they're either heading in the wrong direction or they simply need more time to refine what they are doing. This album is still worth picking up and checking out, but it's not their masterpiece and it's no Apparition. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Torche, Broughton's Rules, Maranatha

September 23, 2014 • Ace of Cups, Columbus, Ohio

Finally! It feels like ages since the last concert I went to (okay it was only July, but still). Back at good old Ace of Cups, where everything is always amazing.


A local band who I'd never heard of but they instantly impressed me. They are a really heavy style of sludgecore, with some brutal dropped-tuning chugging, some hardcore rhythms, and even a little bit of death metal sprinkled in here and there. Definitely one of the best examples of the genre I've witnessed so far—I won't say they quite touch Struck by Lightning (not that they're trying to), but they were still impressive enough for me to pick up their EP (which is free to download by the way). Cool dudes, cool show.

Broughton's Rules

I'd never heard of this band either, but one of the guitarists used to be in Don Caballero, so they oughta be good, right? Nah, not really. They were this kind of odd psychedelic instrumental post-metal thing, with lots of jamming on a single section with lots of dissonant noisy guitar bits and the occasional heavy riff. There is a bit of promising material buried somewhere in there, but the rocking out never lasted very long and they spent more time goofing around with the awful noise than actually playing. They weren't bad, but they definitely weren't the kind of band I'd seek out or ever listen to again.


I've already written plenty about Torche, including a live show two years ago, their last album, and various Floor stuff. So it should be no surprise that I was psyched to see them again and that I had an excellent time—they were easily better than when I saw them supporting Converge in 2012. I suppose that's partly because I've had more time to get to know Harmonicraft, so everything they played was familiar to me. But they also simply just put on a damn good show. It always warms my cold heart to see Steve Brooks dancing around in a very silly manner when starting off a song. You can tell they were all still so happy to be there and play. Absolutely worth checking out whenever they're around.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blood of Kingu – Sun in the House of the Scorpion

May 24, 2010 • Candlelight Records

I know I'm nowhere near to scraping the bottom of the barrel on Bandcamp's black metal page, but sometimes I wonder if the selection is getting a little thin. There's always good stuff to be had, but truly innovative and creative bands seem to be getting harder to come by.

Take Blood of Kingu; they don't do a whole lot that's particularly new—they simply turn the blast-o-meter up to 11 and don't stop for forty-five minutes. Not that that's a bad thing, of course, because often that's exactly what I'm after. And they do a good job, I guess; the guitar riffs are a bit stock for black metal but they certainly get it done effectively. However, there's something to be said for a bit of dynamics—on most of my listens to this album, I got about halfway through but only thought I was maybe three songs in because so much of this music is indistinguishable.

What is a bit interesting about their sound is this weird, subtle, underlying industrial element that is mostly expressed through the totally bizarre bass sound. "Gnarled" is the best word I can think of to describe it. It gives parts of the album a very hollow and cold mechanical feeling which is kind of neat (though the novelty does wear off).

This is by no means a bad album, but I'd say it's probably not one that's really worth looking into unless you're the kind of person who is desperate for something new in the genre and don't really care much what it sounds like. It'll scratch the black metal itch, but there are so many albums out there that sound just like it that I can't really give it much of a recommendation. Again, it's not bad; it's maybe just too generic.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Remote Outposts – Sounds of the Mission

December 26, 2012 • self-released

I'm a huge fan of field recordings, and that's a kind of sound art that I don't really listen to nearly as much as I should. So I thought I'd plug this little release by punk and DIY blog Remote Outposts. It's a recording of eight blocks of Mission Street in San Francisco. I love the sounds of city life and this little jaunt is a very vibrant sample of such. Street vendors, snippets of Spanish, bits of diegetic music, kids playing in the street, and of course plenty of traffic.

I love cities and even though I live in a pretty big one myself, I don't get to actually walk around and take it in too often—and even when I do, it doesn't sound much like this. And sometimes it becomes a little game to try and guess what various sounds and vehicles are. A very interesting and relaxing recording.

Original article + download

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shivering Window – When We Were Metal

Bridgetown Records • August 12, 2014

Time for some more weird stuff today! Shivering Window is a left-field lo-fi pop band. the sort that defies simple classification and makes it very frustrating to write about. But they do make some pretty darn interesting music.

This is mainly a cassette release, and boy is that taken seriously. I have the digital version, and it still sounds like it was dug out of someone's basement in 1989—a bit of tape hiss and AC buzzing, telephone EQs, some tracks that sound like they were ripped from ancient reel-to-reels. If you put this album alongside a bunch of actual '80s and '90s underground-lo-fi-DIY tapes, I wouldn't know the difference.

Of course, this is an entirely good thing; I think the aesthetic fits Shivering Window's music perfectly and I don't think there's a better way for the music to be presented. Strip it all out and it's a pretty basic pop album, one that probably wouldn't be too terribly interesting and technically is a bit of a mess; but with its production, the drum machines and out-of-tune instruments and silly keyboards work together surprisingly well. And there are a handful of neat little riffs in there, like the guitar line in "Sloucher".

I'd say this album is probably an acquired taste, but for anyone like me who is remotely fascinated by underground tape culture, this is a great modern representation of that. It's not perfect by any means, as it sometimes seems a little too amateur for its own good, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a listen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend

September 2, 2014 • Neurot Recordings

I don't listen to much doom metal, but when I do, it's usually Yob. Something about their style does it for me like few other doom bands can manage. Which is why I'm glad they've gotten back together (yeah, quite a few years ago now, but still) and are still cranking out high-quality music. This new one is certainly no exception.

Clearing the Path to Ascend is straight-up traditional Yob, pretty much the same thing as the band has always done: slow, plodding doom, with a spacey atmosphere, mystic overtones, and those great flanger-soaked clean guitar passages. Is it better than any of their other albums? I can't really say, but it's definitely not any worse. This album does have a lot going for it, especially for anyone who's never heard them before. The rhythms are especially great; there are times all over in every single track where it's hard not to nod along with the beat. And while Yob's vocal style took a while to grow on me, they might be at their best here—the high-pitched singing isn't quite as silly and the growls are fantastically brutal.

But as I said, it's still plain old Yob. There isn't much new here, so if (like me) you've already heard their back catalog there's no real reason to rush into this one with any urgency. But that's not to say it isn't worth listening to, or that it's completely generic or anything. I do enjoy how they broke the mold a little on "Nothing to Win" with its faster tempo, sludgy aesthetic, and urgent-sounding drums; it's definitely a nice change of pace. And the chord progression on "Marrow" has this great, epic, sort-of-uplifting feel to it that is a great way to close off the album. It might legitimately be their best song to date.

The now-ten-year-old The Illusion of Motion is probably still be their greatest album, but Clearing the Path to Ascend is definitely giving it a run for its money. Clearly this a band that, even after eighteen years, is still on top of their game.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Deterior – Human Dust

August 26, 2014 • GarageMonkey Productions

Deterior is one of few bands that definitively gets better with each album, as long as you can get used to the somewhat drastic stylistic change that happened over the last seven years. This is more of the same black-sludge combo as in Torchbearer but not quite as drawn-out.

And it's free to stream and download, so yeah, check it out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Trap Them – Blissfucker

June 10, 2014 • Prosthetic Records

Trap Them got pretty successful with their last album Darker Handcraft (which was, admittedly, pretty good) and the followup shouldn't have surprised me so much. They put together a pretty solid album, though.

This album is the same sort of blistering, raucous, metal-tinged crust punk we know them for. Lightning-paced punk rhythms, buzzsaw guitars (probably the most appropriate time I've used that word so far), the occasional foray into slow stomping sludge rhythms, the rare grindcore blast. It's got it all, and they do a good job at what they do.

The downside is that this album feels far too long. Trap Them doesn't offer much in the way of giving the listener a break, and when it comes to punk in general forty-five minutes is usually just too much. I find myself getting exhausted about halfway through, which is unfortunate because this album has a lot of good songs on it, especially near the end like "Former Lining Wide the Walls". Maybe I just ought to listen to it in two chunks or something.

But it's good. Not fantastic, but more than listenable for sure; not punk-of-the-year, but something to throw on casually now and again when I can't think of something else to listen to. I won't say if they topped Darker Handcraft, but it's still worth checking out, of course.

Friday, August 15, 2014

7 Inch Grab Bag, part 3

In case you missed my recent haul post, I got a grab bag of ten randomly-selected 7" records. Here are my thoughts on the final four!

Bevil Web / 3 Dream Bag – Split

1995 • Simple Solution Records

Lo-fi rock from the hazy days of the mid-'90s. It's a bit too slow and uninteresting for me, though I have to admit Bevil Web can gloom it up with the best of them. It just feels a bit too sloppy and unrefined to really be of any excitement. Both bands are basically the same thing, though 3 Dream Bag is a bit more acoustic and nasally. Neither are really that great. Oh well.

Destroy! – Burn This Racist System Down!

1992 • Havoc Records

Yes, finally, more grindcore! This is old-school stuff, too, from the early '90s. Songs are short, to-the-point, growly, razor-sharp; there's also a couple really long meandering ones in there too which is interesting. It's hard to expand much on what makes a grind EP good, so just take my word for it that these guys had their stuff down. Totally recommended (just don't cut yourself on those edgy lyrics...).

Digression – Controlled

1996 • Surprise Attack Records

Early metalcore, and a very kind of primal version at that. Very aggressive, lots of chugging breakdowns, but also with this lo-fi punk aesthetic. It's probably not something anyone would consider "good" from a purely artistic standpoint but it's interesting to me because, for all the awful DIY punk I hear, I never have really heard any DIY metalcore, and it feels unique just for that. But that's just me, and this still isn't that great. Maybe. "Diary" is pretty good.

Love + Respect – Deep + Heartfelt

1989 • Penultimate Records

I still don't like garage punk and I don't really like Love + Respect, but there's definitely worse out there. I don't like how most of it is just kind of dumb; I guess Love + Respect is at least tongue-in-cheek about it but that doesn't help that much. The music is just too simple-sounding to hold my interest. I dunno. At least "If I Only Had a Brain" has this neat noise rock thing going on that is a bit different from the rest of the tracks; I like that one.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

7 Inch Grab Bag, part 2

In case you missed my recent haul post, I got a grab bag of ten randomly-selected 7" records. Here are my thoughts on the next three!

Humanbodyflawed / The Jan-Michael Vincent Car Crash – Split

2001 • Obtuse Mule

Grind! Grind! Grind! At least I think that's what's going on with the Jan-Michael Vincent Car Crash. It's crazy, technical, mathy stuff, and a great big mess of it. Weird growly bass, oppressive angular guitar, muffled screams make for a bizarre and alienating listen. Humanbodyflawed is similar but, somehow, even weirder; the extra guitar fuzz tries to mask some truly strange musical forays that go from Dillinger Escape Plan to Pig Destroyer to god knows what. This is an EP worth seeking out, for sure.

Big Meat – Botulism

2003 • Sit on My 2-Faced Bitch Records

Not sure what I'd say this is. Hard rock with a punk edge? Garage rock, maybe? Probably. Anyway, I'm not totally thrilled by it, though it's not awful. Just kind of generic aggressive rock, very indicative of its time (early 2000s). Worth one listen, and then I forgot all about it. "Thundercleese" is a little catchy, though.

Play Your Own Theme Song

1999 • Mortville Records

I hate reviewing splits, but at least this one has the unique premise that all four bands are recording theme songs for themselves. Kinda neat, kinda silly.

  • The Chumps – Awful garage rock. Cheesy, unoriginal music, bad vocals, goes on way too long. Not even worth thinking about. Please move on.
  • The Commies – Snarly pop-punk kind of stuff, a big anthemic song. Also cheesy but at least they seem to know it.
  • Los Tigres Guapos – Something like horror punk maybe? It's also a little silly but these guys are actually kind of good. Not much to say about a one-minute track, though.
  • Reclusives – More straightforward old-school hardcore punkabilly. I'm not a huge fan, but I can tell they're not a bad band.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

7 Inch Grab Bag, part 1

In case you missed my recent haul post, I got a grab bag of ten randomly-selected 7" records. Here are my thoughts on the first three!

Medicine Man – Céad Míle Fáilte

1993 • Thrashing Mad

I wasn't expecting this at all. From the cover, it looks like some kind of cheesy folk rock, but in reality it's more like old-school hardcore punk, Minor Threat style, with a bit of a hard rock / heavy metal feel at times and not-very-good vocals. The riffs are a bit dissonant and not particularly memorable, but there's some really nice bass work going on. All in all, I kinda like it. Not something I can see myself getting super into, but it's pretty good stuff.

The Rumour – Frozen Years / All Fall Down

1979 • Stiff Records

Cheesy '70s pop/rock, as I had suspected. Sort of an XTC feel with the spacey synthesizers and acoustic guitars, but not as carefully composed or expressive and it's a bit too repetitive for me. The B-side "All Fall Down" is definitely a bit better with an interesting dub feel, but it quickly gets too silly. Nice guitar soloing, though.

DCOi! – DCOi

2008 • xTruex Records

Nice and crusty! Fast, modern-sounding west coast punk (well, it was 2008), and it's some really good catchy stuff, switching between noisy blasting and crunchy, driving rhythms. I won't say it's the best modern hardcore I've heard and they're certainly not unique or anything, but it certainly gets the job done well for when you're in the mood to break stuff.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Record store haul: August 3, 2014

Finally! It's been nearly a year since I was able to make it down to good ol' Used Kids Records. It was worth the wait.

Deafheaven – Roads to Judah (LP, $15)

Deafheaven's first and best album. This edition is a really nice translucent red vinyl (I think every red record I have is translucent; what's up with that?). Honestly I don't remember this album too well, but I know I liked it, so this is a good excuse to revisit it. Also, check out my review of Sunbather here!

Descendents – I Don't Want to Grow Up (LP, $10)

Classic old-school pop punk back at its finest hours. No, it's no Milo Goes to College, but it's still one of their best. They had All too but apparently it sucks so I didn't get it.

Æthenor – Deep in Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light (LP, $6)

Æthenor – Betimes Black Cloudmasses (LP, $6)

It looks like someone dropped off a whole load of Southern Lord Records products, and pickings were pretty good. Æthenor's first two albums were good (as was their third, I suppose), especially Betimes (which I learned a few years after first hearing it that it's not "Bedtimes"!). Great avant-garde dark ambient which I bet is gonna sound great on wax. Nice packaging on Deep in Ocean with its paperboard insert. (There was a KTL album too but KTL sucks so I left it for some other sap.)

Pentemple – O))) Presents... (LP, $10)

I had second thoughts on getting this one since I wasn't sure if I actually liked this album or not (I think I did), but I'm glad I did. It's a beautiful package—an embossed front cover, hefty cardboard sleeving, and a really nice marble brown color on the record. It's more improvisational dark ambient like Æthenor, but definitely blacker and doomier stuff.

Isis – Wavering Radiant (CD, $5)

Despite Isis being basically my favorite band in high school and still a band I very much enjoy, I never got around to actually getting a hard copy of this album when I own almost everything else they ever put out that wasn't live or very limited. It's probably their second-worst album (Celestial takes the bottom spot) but that's not saying a lot since their whole catalog is still very much the pinnacle of atmo-sludge.

Nasum – Grind Finale (2×CD, $9)

These guys have been one of my favorite grind bands for a while, and this is a fitting wrap-up to their career. A nice two-disc digipak of all non-album tracks, plus a really cool 80-page (yes, eighty) booklet of biographies, anecdotes, lyrics, posters, etc. Really looking forward to a long flip through it.

Offspring – Smash (cassette, $1)

Erasure – The Innocents (cassette, $1)

These two tapes are for Jordan; I've never really listened to much Offspring and hardly any Erasure. But mostly I was surprised to find any good tapes at all; we basically cleared them out of good stuff a year or two ago but they must have gotten a small bunch in since the last time I was there.

7" Grab Bag ($1)

It looks like the store has been rearranging some things, including paring down their once-massive indie 7" section. There were a few of these 10-packs of miscellaneous 7"s left for a buck, so I couldn't resist grabbing one. They did the same thing a few years ago with CDs, but I think those were 5 for $5 or something; not really the greatest deal. Anyway, over the next few posts, I'll be digging through what I got and seeing if there is any new good obscure crap to play. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nyarlathtotep – The Shadow over Innsmouth

June 21, 2014 • self-released

Another day, another USBM band, right? Well, not all black metal is created equal, and once again it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Nyarlathtotep has all the standard black metal aesthetics—classical-inspired intros, distorted and ugly vocals, guitar with more fuzz than a month-old piece of rotting fruit. But compared to the average, the music itself goes way beyond that. Often rhythms will have a slow marching industrial feel; guitar sometimes plods along in agonizing sludgy riffs. But when it does launch into full-on blasting force, it's pretty good stuff. Nothing totally amazing, but not bad by a long shot either. I particularly like how the riffs occasionally throw in a bit of melody and intricate chords, like in "The Gilman House"; it's well-hidden but when it crops up, it really adds well to the album's feel. There's also a bit of punk-ish stuff here and there (e.g. "Old Zadok Allen" and "The Gilman House"). I do enjoy how the album isn't just a straight-through stereotypical atmo-black; there's a surprising amount of diversity songwriting-wise. I love the noisy electronic interludes as well; they do a great job breaking up the long songs.

If I had any significant complaint, it's that the drums feel a bit tacky. I don't have any problem with synthetic/programmed drumming—I'd be a hypocrite to say otherwise—but there are plenty of ways to make programmed drums sound organic and human. Although I must say they are very well-programmed—I suppose they could have been played on an electronic kit, it's hard to say.

Anyway, this is a very worthy album. I'm excited to see where this band goes in the future. Worth checking out if you've got the patience, especially at that price.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cerce – Adieux

June 14, 2014 • Mayfly Records

Adieux is a compilation of various songs from three-ish years of Cerce's career as a Boston punk band (they've since renamed to "lovechild" for some ungodly reason). The tracks are a nice blend of hard-hitting, blazing-fast hardcore punk with a heavy dose of modern powerviolence mixed in. It's nothing terribly original, but they definitely do it well enough. There's also some more experimental stuff going on too—slower crusty sections, some noise, spoken word, and field recordings.

What's interesting about Adieux in particular is that it doesn't really feel like a compilation; the tracks are arranged in such a way that "normal" songs and noise interludes and experimental pieces follow one after another. I don't have any prior experience with this band so maybe that's just the way their stuff was presented before, but it does manage to stay pretty interesting throughout, though it does drag a little at the non-punk parts when not a lot is going on.

But it's short and sweet. Something to put on when you haven't heard any good hardcore in a while (I've been listening to a ton lately, so maybe that affects my opinion of this particular release). And, you know, it's free. A good send-off for a talented band.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Everything Wilts, Arrows in Her, Gatherer, Fossil, Until We Are Ghosts

July 21, 2014 • Fairfield Christian Church, Baltimore, Ohio

Having a concert in a church was real weird. On one hand, the standing room was weirdly organized and it was a little cramped. On the other hand, it didn't smell awful and there were no annoying drunkards (in fact, everyone was really nice). Totally worth the half-hour drive out of town to check out some amazing bands.

Until We Are Ghosts

These guys have a metalcore sound to them, with a bit of modern hardcore punk and post-screamo thrown in. I'm not sure how I feel about their music in and of itself (it was a bit too much metalcore at times), but I can't deny that their performance was pretty impressive. Good technical skills, incredible passion for their craft (especially the vocalist), and a little showmanship. Good stuff.


Leaning more towards the lighter post-hardcore side, with a heavy dose of standard screamo. While they certainly performed well, the songs themselves weren't terribly thrilling. Not that I found myself bored or anything, but there wasn't much about them that really set them apart. Nice to watch anyway, especially given the slightly silly dancing about. Fantastic drumming, too.


More traditional-type screamo plus post-hardcore with a very dark feel to it (at least, in comparison to the other bands). The rhythms were really good and they did switch up the formula quite a bit with lots of changeups and different styles (including a tiny bit of blasting). The set in general was great; very fun to watch. One to check out for sure.

Arrows in Her

I can die happy now. These guys have been a top band for me ever since Leaving came out almost two years ago. Since they haven't come up with much new material since then (though a full-length is apparently almost done) the set was packed full of amazing songs. I'm still impressed by the guitarist's ability to do those intricate clean riffs and sing at the same time. Gatherer's drummer filled in and he did a fantastic job as well. So glad they finally made it here.

Everything Wilts

Half of this band was in Maumelle, a crazy coincidence I didn't realize until the show was over. Anyway: pretty upbeat (almost pop-punk) screamo, the vocals are a bit too intense for the music (kinda like Maumelle). But the band was doing some pretty interesting stuff, with some good guitar effects and different textures going on. They've got a way to go, but it's a great start.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Anger House – Asleep

June 3, 2014 • Happy Ass Records

I've reviewed Anger House here before; see my review of Loss for a good overview. Their brand of old-school emocore harkens back to the D.C. school of Rites of Spring and their peers and I love how they're doing it. Asleep is essentially just more of the same, so there really isn't a whole lot for me to say about the EP. But in no way do I see this as a bad thing. "Devotion" is probably their best song yet and one of the best post-hardcore songs I've heard in a long time. They are very consistently putting out good material, and I basically just wanted to put out yet another good word for them. So go listen!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Braid – No Coast

July 8, 2014 • Topshelf Records

This one caught me a bit off guard; I haven't really been paying attention and didn't realize at first that Braid, one of the most seminal emo bands of the original '90s wave, reunited for a new album and tour. (I guess I was too interested in similar situation of the Owls reunion.) There's something a bit odd about a bunch of old-timers playing music that's always been a very teenage sort of thing, but I guess if anyone were to try and pull it off I'd rather it be Braid than just about anyone else.

No Coast definitely has a different sound than their older albums (as should have been expected). It's less emo and more straight-up indie rock, with more restrained vocals and an overall more straightforward sound. There's still a little bit of that punk-ish drumming and emotive guitar lines, but the result is definitely on the tamer side. I won't call it completely radio-friendly yet, but it edged in that direction a little bit.

Of course that isn't necessarily a bad thing; the songs are still pretty good. A little repetitive, perhaps (especially in the lyrics and choruses), but definitely enjoyable. It's well-produced, slick-sounding stuff and there are plenty of nice catchy riffs and rhythms ("Many Enemies"' Pixies-esque style stands out as one of the top tracks). However, they still don't come anywhere close to the greatness of The Age of Octeen or Frame & Canvas. There just aren't a lot of moments that are as moving or memorable as those two albums were.

That being said, it's still good stuff and worth a listen or two. After all, it might have been sixteen years but it's still Braid and they're still good. I guess if this exact album was made by another band, it probably wouldn't get the same response (yes, even from me) but I think it would still be quite well-received. Anyway, check it out already.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lobby Boxer – Lobby Boxer

May 16, 2014 • self-released

I haven't written any new emo reviews in a while (okay, any reviews, for that matter), and since there have been a million of these bands crawling out of the woodwork there certainly hasn't been a shortage of good stuff to recommend.

Lobby Boxer takes the midwest-emo-revival sound and puts a slightly more aggressive pop-punk sound on top, a style which I've noticed is gaining a bit of traction lately. I won't say they do it the best of any band I've heard, but they definitely are doing it well. The songs have a very natural ebb and flow to them, back and forth from stomping start-stop rhythms to calmer introspective textures. And they can get heavy, too—that last track "Fragile Girl" is a real pounder. The level of dynamics is pretty impressive.

Special shout-out to the bass guitar player; there are some surprisingly detailed lines going on there that really help give the music a unique sound.

Anyway, yeah, another band to keep an eye on. Might as well give it a spin if it sounds even remotely interesting—hard to beat that download price.

Have Mercy, Pentimento, Gates, Head North, Vice on Victory, Absent Youth

July 14, 2014 • Double Happiness, Columbus, Ohio

Not my first time at Double Happiness, but my first time there for a concert. Definitely the smallest, most intimate show space I've been to that wasn't a house; turns out it's actually a pretty good venue.

Absent Youth

Since there were six bands and I wasn't totally sure what time they were starting, I wound up guessing a bit off and missed almost all of Absent Youth's set—all but one and a half songs. It's unfortunate because from what I did catch they seemed like they were pretty good; kind of your standard heavy-emo stuff I guess. I should look them up.

Vice on Victory

Definitely taking a solid pop-punk turn, though not in a bad way. Songs were pretty catchy with some cool breakdowns (surprising to me, but then again I don't really listen to much pop punk). Not exactly my kind of material, but they still seemed pretty talented and knew how to put on a good show.

Head North

The surprise of the night (there's always at least one, right?), these guys were phenomenal. Another pop punk band with a bit of emo influence and this really uplifting, feel-good aesthetic that was immediately infatuating. Cool stuff.


I got a real Appleseed Cast vibe from these guys, with a very droney, atmospheric, hypnotizing post-rock vibe. Usually I'm not really into the more post-rock-ish stuff but they do it well, and in the context of this show it was, if nothing else, a nice change of pace. They were great to listen to, too; it was all too easy to just get lost in the wall of sound and zone out. It felt like it was over too quickly, though.


More upbeat pop-punk sort of stuff; not a total mopefest but a bit of that melancholy influence in there. Nice, driving, rhythmic stuff with enough aggression and complexity to that you don't really notice it's pop punk.

Have Mercy

Wound up being way better than I imagined it would be. I guess it always helps my enjoyment of a show when I'm familiar with the material beforehand, and I had spent a lot of time listening to The Earth Pushed Back last year. I can say pretty confidently that the songs work better live, and that's saying something. Absolutely worth coming out for. And unlike a lot of successful bands, these guys were still very genuine and friendly and a joy to see play and talk to.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mastodon – Once More 'Round the Sun

June 24, 2014 • Reprise Records

When it comes to bands I've been listening to for as long as I have with Mastodon (about ten years now), doing longer-form reviews always feels a bit weird, especially when I don't really listen to the band anymore. Although their first four albums were indeed pretty strong, I've kind of lost interest in Mastodon over the years as I've had less time to listen to them (all too often the case). I barely gave The Hunter a chance and don't really even remember much about it; I think it can just be written off as a slight misstep in their career and they're basically back on track with Once More 'Round the Sun.

Although Mastodon's capacity for catchy riffing is still strong, their trend towards higher levels of melodicism and heavy-psych continues. It's not a very drastic shift in style at all, coming from The Hunter and Crack the Skye but they are sometimes a little bit lighter than they used to be once upon a time ("Asleep in the Deep" is mild almost to the point of being dull). Other times, though, they'll revert back to a heavy chugging sound reminiscent of Leviathan like on "High Road" or "Feast Your Eyes". So you get a little bit of both worlds; it's actually handled really well, and keeps things relatively fresh throughout the album.

There isn't really much else to say; just about anyone who'd enjoy Mastodon at this point has already heard of them and know at least what one album sounds like. One thing I do miss is the few times they had long epic progressive songs (on Crack the Skye and Leviathan); I think it was high time for another one and they really could have pulled it off here. Eleven shorter tracks make the album feel longer somehow. Also, what's up with the ending of "Aunt Lisa"? Good riff, but leave your chain-smoking cheerleaders at home next time.

Anyway, regardless, Once More 'Round the Sun is definitely a fun album to listen to. While most bands crash pretty hard after five albums without much change, I don't think Mastodon has done so. As far as intricate progressive-hard-rock-slash-metal goes, they're still near the top of the pile. I won't say I like this album more than their first four, but it's certainly one worth listening to anyway—at least a few times. I wonder if they can keep up the momentum.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mason Mercer – Slobber

June 6, 2014 • self-released

Just a quick review today of a little EP that was recommended to me: Slobber is some kind of island neo-psychedelic art rock trip, with driving acoustic guitars in front of huge industrial drumming. It has this very ethereal and dreamy sound, helped by its clever use of samples and huge variety of different instrumental voices. It sounds pretty dense at times but never overbearing. When it's not so dreamy, it has some really great rhythms, (especially in "Scrappy Doo"); I've rarely heard acoustic guitar sound quite so heavy.

It's a bit repetitive and all the songs are pretty much the same (although "The Water Helps" has this really cool heavy rhythm in it about halfway through), but there's clearly a lot of production talent here regardless. Definitely an EP worth a couple spins. I'd be interested in something a little more full-featured.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boris – Noise

June 17, 2014 • Sargent House

Boris has gotten a bit of a bad rap lately. And I can understand it—a string of less-than-exciting albums in 2011 and the stinker that was Präparat last year would be enough to put most people off. And I'll admit I had pretty low expectations for Noise—which is probably why I'm not feeling particularly disappointed with it yet. It's not great, not by a long shot, and it has its share of problems, but I'll take it for now.

Sound-wise, no surprises whatsoever: we still have Boris' standard alternative/stoner metal sound for half the tracks, some kind of post-rock thing for the other half, and remnants of that J-pop melodicism from a few years ago still hanging around. It's kind of like Präparat version 2, one of those mixed-bag albums where every track is a bit different and Boris still seems to be playing around with a lot of different styles because they can't decide on one consistent sound for one album, without really trying to nail the songwriting. At least this time they seem to be a little bit more focused than the last album.

But at the same time they still pull out some really awesome stuff now and again, and there are some moments on this album that make it worth listening to at least once. "Vanilla" has these really short sections where they transition into this super-atmospheric sludgy thing and it's fantastic. The slower post-rock-ish songs and doomy ones like "Heavy Rain" and "Angel" are pretty good as well—they are still pretty good at creating those kind of slow, jamming, crushingly heavy tracks. It's just a bit jarring when they move from one of those straight into something light and poppy like "Taiyo no Baka"; it feels so wrong.

All in all, handful of good riffs, lots of good atmosphere, but not a lot in the way of really great songs. It still feels like they're just going through the motions and I'm not sure if they'll ever put out something truly great again. Or maybe it's just that I really don't like the J-pop influence that creeps in where it doesn't belong. In short, probably exactly what I should have expected. If I didn't always listen to albums in full, this is one that would get severely edited in my library, but it'd still keep a few songs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trash Talk, Left Brain

June 19, 2014 • The Summit, Columbus, Ohio

I remember the last time I was at the Summit—twenty attendees, four great emo bands moping it up. Today's show could not have possibly been more different. Ten times more people, half as many bands, infinite more twerking.

Left Brain

This set wasn't quite what I was expecting. I don't know much about Left Brain but I was hoping for some dark gritty Odd Future beats. What I got was a tablet and a pretty run-of-the-mill set of modern popular hip hop artists (and a few leftfield ones like Lil B) with a very dance-club-sounding result. I'm not sure how much of it was actual original material, since I haven't heard much, but it wasn't really anything that particularly interested me. It was entertaining, though, to see all the punkers (including myself) just kind of hanging around back waiting for the drunk kids to wear themselves out. I guess I don't party hard enough for this crowd.
4Best Bill Cosby Look-Alike Award

Trash Talk

Fortunately Trash Talk didn't disappoint—even though their music has been a bit on the decline lately (at least a little), their live show still rocks pretty hard. Short, one-minute stop-start songs don't often make for a great show, especially when the breaks between the songs are just as long, but their playing was spot-on and the energy was good. Extra props for opening with the older track "Walking Disease", one of my favorites by them. Weirdly most people in the audience were either moshing or looking bored (only a few of us seemed only moderately interested in the set). Still worth seeing, especially considering it's a free tour.
7What Was the Point of Having Everyone Sit Down for One Song Award

Friday, June 20, 2014

Venetian Snares – My Love Is a Bulldozer

June 16, 2014 • Planet Mu Records

Finally, the breakcore master is back with his first new full album in four years. It may be my blind, raging adoration for Snares' music but I don't think his output has gone downhill at all like many people seem to think, and My Love Is a Bulldozer continues to keep things good.

The frantic 7/4 Amen-break chaos obviously hasn't gone anywhere, and the energy is solid as ever. Anyone who's heard a Snares album before pretty much knows what they're getting into with this one. It's not quite as dirty and raw as Filth and doesn't have the same silly aloofness that My So-Called Life showed (well, mostly, if you don't listen to the title track too closely). It's kind of a mashup of the crazy sample-heavy style of Detrimentalist with the pseudo-orchestral style of My Downfall—which is an awesome combination for me, at least.

There are a few interesting new things thrown in, such as the jazz style of "10th Circle of Winnipeg" and "Shaky Sometimes", a sort-of-dub thing in "Your Smiling Face", and the jaunty classical guitar of "8am Union Station", to name a couple examples. Still, I'm thankful for the occasional no-frills vanilla track like "She Runs" with just drums and electronics—pure Snares doing what he does best.

There's also a noticeable increase in the amount of vocals—and not just cut-up samples; I mean full-on written and performed by Funk himself for this album. Even though he's sung on his albums before, I can never really quite get used to it. With the classical and other softer stuff they're alright, if a little disconcerting (of course, that might be the idea). On the heavier breakcore tracks, they do their best to fit in with the music but it seems impossible to get them to ever click completely.

I don't know if My Love Is a Bulldozer is going to bring around anyone who has lost faith in Venetian Snares' recent output, but for me it's still an impressively good album and one definitely worth checking out. No, maybe it's not pushing any particularly new ground, and maybe it's still a bit too irreverent and a bit unfocused, but if you want something intense and surreal and maybe even a little thought-provoking, there's not much better you can do than some Snares.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reproacher – Nothing to Save

June 11, 2013 • self-released

Gotta have more of that delicious modern sludgecore? Reproacher delivers. These guys are among the filthiest and heaviest bands of their genre—detuned guitars, pounding rhythms, grimy production, and man are they angry as all hell. They lean a bit into the hardcore punk side at times, so when the band isn't bringing some crushing doom they're pretty fast and jumpy, but it's always suitably heavy and they never feel out-of-control. Although Reproacher aren't really bringing anything particularly new to the table just yet, they're certainly good at what they do. A band to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We Came Out like Tigers – Ever-Crushed at Peckett's Well

April 14, 2014 • Dog Knights Productions

I was recommended this album with the promise that it's a mix of black metal and emo—which are not only my two favorite genres at the moment but also a combination so highly unlikely that it had to be either completely amazing or the worst album I've ever heard.

Well, it's definitely a pretty unique album, I'll give them that. The black metal influence is very modern-sounding with a heavy punk / post-hardcore / crust sort of edge to it (I guess that's the screamo part coming out). Texture and aesthetics are usually shoved out of the way in favor of brutal, furious, and often very chaotic pounding, only occasionally giving way to slow soft post-rock-ish buildups now and again. The inclusion of violin in most tracks (including during the frantic and heavy sections) is an interesting choice, and one I think actually turns out working pretty well. (Similarly, the clarinet in "Entr'acte" is awesome. Why don't more metal bands have a clarinet ensemble?)

The songwriting is definitely something that takes its time to grow on the listener, though. The music feels very disorganized and even after three or four full listens it's tough for me to keep in pace with what the band is doing. I think it's best to try to experience this album passively, since (at least for me) really trying to follow along is pretty tough. It seems like the band wrote a lot of really good sections of music but weren't sure how to stick them all together into songs. Well, whatever works.

So I guess it's neither completely amazing or the worst album I've ever heard. But it's certainly not bad, and worth a listen for anyone into modern black metal and screamo. It will probably be a few more years until someone can perfect the fusion, but until then this album will do fine enough.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sunn O))) & Nurse with Wound – The Iron Soul of Nothing

November 29, 2011 • Ideologic Organ

I've had this album kicking around since it came out in late 2011 and have only now remembered it exists. Any collaboration Sunn O))) does always seems to work out majestically (or close enough), and Nurse with Wound is probably one of the best candidates for such a collaboration. Unfortunately I won't say that it turned out quite as good as I hoped, but even so this is still a somewhat interesting album and at the very least one for the die-hard fans.

"Ash on the Trees" sounds basically like what you'd expect—we have Nurse with Wound's pants-wettingly-frightening noisescapes and Sunn O)))'s meandering doomy guitar, all wrapped up in an oppressively dark occult atmosphere. I've always though that Sunn O))) can get a little boring when it's just their plain guitar doom and having some extra elements to spice things up really helps (see Monoliths & Dimensions for one), and Nurse with Wound's particular brand of noise goes very well with the sort of aesthetic Sunn O))) is always trying to have. That track has a very aggressive aspect to the noise and how it drives the guitar lines and vocals forward. (Speaking of vocals, though, that's always something that could have been handled better. There are very few times when a Sunn O))) release has vocals in it that work well, but this isn't really one of them. When they aren't repetitive, they sound silly instead.)

As for the remaining three tracks, it feels like things kind of fell off the rails. The album just becomes slightly-noisy droning without a whole lot of substance to it. While it's no surprise that all the tracks are quite long, I don't think there's really enough going on in most of them to justify the fourteen-to-eighteen minute runtimes. I get the need for buildups and long blocks of sound, but there's a point where things get too long. And yes, that applies even when the buildups are good (as they are here)! Like I love the ambient drone of "Dysnystaxis" with its dissonant chimes and lonely violin, but after a while I get impatient. It doesn't go anywhere or do anything. Both "Ra at Dawn" tracks are even worse in this regard. They are actually both really interesting tracks and have a lot of different things going on that develop in a cool way, but because they're so long and drawn-out it's hard to even notice any of it. Take the same tracks and scrunch them down to half the length and it'd be amazing because you'd get to appreciate the ebb and flow of the drones... but that just doesn't happen.

On the whole, this isn't the best way to experience either band. I don't think anybody is completely on top of their game on this album; they've both released material that are far better than Iron Soul. But I think this album was still worth a listen, at least as long as you know what you're getting into. There's still plenty on here to enjoy; you just have to be patient and look around for it. It's too bad they couldn't do more of the ritual-occult stuff of the first track. Maybe some other time.