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.