Archive for September, 2012

Review: Enewetak

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on September 30, 2012 by Magadh

Enewetak The Easy Rider Sessions, Volume III

King of the Monsters

Enewetak, like its namesake atoll, were an explosive force in 90’s hardcore. Their style ran the gamut from grindcore to grooved out sludge. It was with great pleasure I noticed King of the Monsters was releasing the final installment of the Easy Rider Sessions as a 3 song 7″.

Side A begins with “the party song” which opens with a sleepy Black Sabbath riff that gradually builds until Pat’s raspy vocals, coupled with a punishing groove, push the track into overdrive. The boogie of the Sabbath riff persists throughout the track and melds well with the rest of the instrumentation.

The last track on Side A, “death lies in ashes” is classic Enewetak. The tracks starts slowly enough but builds in intensity as raspy vocals give way to cookie monster grind. The whole nasty affair ends with a sparse keyboard outro.

Side B is wholly comprised of the discs standout track, “rulers of the world”. The track effortlessly melds the darker aspects of Blue Oyster Cult with Black Sabbath while adding a mix of hardcore and grind. “rulers” builds to a soaring intensity as the underling stoner riff is coupled with some devastating licks before eventually dropping down into the Sabbath/Cult sludge.

From start to finish this is a solid release. If this is to be the last we hear of the mighty Enewetak it will serve as a fitting epitaph.

– Captain of Games

Review: Disparo

Posted in Reviews with tags , on September 27, 2012 by Magadh

Disparo Fracasados Grita o Muere Records
This is one of those bands that I looked up because someone in another band that I like was wearing one of their shirts. Hailing from Valencia, Disparo are a bit different than a lot of the other Spanish bands that I’ve been hearing these days. Their music runs a gamut from raging, mid-80s style punk to more melodically tinged tunes with sing along choruses and Oi-tinges. They don’t really have the d-beat influence that characterizes a lot of the Kremón Records releases (at least that subset with which I am familiar). Of course, you might point out that they aren’t on Kremón and they aren’t even from Barcelona. Well, you’d be right. I’m only saying that because Kremón’s recent catalog was sort of the starting point for my recent interest in, and expanded knowledge of, punk in Spain. In any case, Disparo play a kind of punk music that wouldn’t have been out of place on one of those BCT comps that used to come out of San Diego in the early 1980s. To me this is kind of refreshing. I spend a lot of time having my brain pummeled by bands plowing the furrow opened up by Napalm Death so it’s nice to hear some guys reactivating what was cool and interesting about the punk in the pre-metal crossover era. In this era of irony I probably ought to mention that at least one of the guys in Disparo also plays in the extremely metal Tempesta (about whom more in an upcoming post). In any case, you should go to Bandcamp now and download this.


Leatherface: A Love Story

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by Magadh

Part 1.

I’ve been fascinated with Leatherface ever since I was turned on to them in 1991 or so. I listened to my first copy of Mush until the CD delaminated. When I heard they’d broken up a couple of years later it sent me into a real funk. I collected their records fanatically, even the stuff that former members did outside the band like Pope and Fatty Jones and Doctor Bison and Jesse and Stokoe. Most of it was just ok, but it was hard for me to listen to it without feeling an intense sense of loss. Frank Stubbs and Dickie Hammond were both very good, but together they were much more than the sum of the parts.

In 1999, when I heard Leatherface had gotten back together and were touring the US. I was extremely excited. Ok, Dickie Hammond wasn’t in the lineup, and they were touring with Hot Water Music (for whom I do not really care), still it was like a dream come true. They played at the old Mississippi St. house in north Portland. The day of the gig I was really amped. As it got toward evening, I realized that I hadn’t told my wife that I was going to need our car, and it only dawned upon me that it might be a problem long after it was too late to undertake the epic bus ride from where I lived in southeast up to the peninsula. By the time my wife arrived at about 8:00, I was pretty sure my chance had gone, but she convinced me to give it a shot anyway. I drove like a psychopath up 99E, blowing about every other light. Of course, when I got there I found out that they wouldn’t be playing for another hour or more.

Their set that night was not all that great. The mic kept giving out and their second guitarist didn’t seem to have a very good grip on the songs. Worse yet, there was a really large, sweaty guy in the pit who insisted on both taking his shirt off and moshing all over the diminutive woman standing next to me, all the while shouting at the band like they were some bunch of frat boys covering “Tequila.” This was really beginning to bum me out. I was mulling over the probable consequences of punching him when the woman, sick of getting slathered in this guy’s bodily fluids, turned around between songs and said, “If you barge into me one more time I’m gonna knock your fucking teeth out.” She couldn’t have weighed more than 95 pounds, but I had no doubt that she was serious. And neither did the sweaty moshing guy, who settled right down.

I spent the show in a state of extreme nervous excitement. Leatherface was certainly my favorite band in those days, and I expected that actually getting to see them would be cathartic. But it wasn’t. I kept waiting for the mic to cut out again, or for the sound to die completely, or for some other bad thing to happen. I suppose it was because I assumed that this was going to be a complete one-off. By the time they finished, I was about ready to have a seizure. I went out on the sidewalk in front of the storefront where the bands played and smoked a cigarette, trying to calm down. I stood by, watching the band load their gear out of the door. Finally, I worked up the courage to go over to them. They were sitting in the side door of their van. I walked up to Frank Stubbs, grabbed his hand, and shook it, saying, “That was great. It was really fucking great.” Then, without so much as waiting for a response, I turned around and headed to my car. Even in that moment, the prospect that the image might be shattered was too much for me to bear.

The next year, I was living Chapel Hill, North Carolina when I heard that Leatherface was touring again (with Samiam). This time I wasn’t quite as psyched out about the whole thing. I lived within a short walk of the Cat’s Cradle, where they were playing and, more importantly, I’d already seen them before so I was a little more relaxed about it.

I got to the club just as the opening band was finishing up, got a drink, and positioned myself about three feet back from the center of the stage. Leatherface came on after a short changeover and played a couple of songs off of Horsebox, their most recent record at that point. This was ok. They were playing well, even though that stuff wasn’t my favorite material. Then they stopped. Frank Stubbs looked down at me and said, “This next one goes out to the guy in the Arsenal jersey. That is what that is, right?”

I think I managed a stunned, “Yeah.”

“We beat you guys,” he said, meaning Sunderland, their hometown football club. “We got beat by Ipswich, but we beat you lot.” I was right on the verge of having a stroke. Then they broke into “Not Superstitious,” my favorite of their songs. This was, quite possibly, the best thing that’s ever happened to me at a show. They went on to do a whole bunch of other songs from Mush, and generally played an absolutely raging set.

When they were done, I resolved that I was going to actually talk to Frank Stubbs. The backstage at the Cat’s Cradle was a tiny area off to the right of the stage, shielded from the rest of the room by a curtain. Veteran ligger that I was, I decided to just walk in there and see what was going on. Stubbs was sitting on a stack of gear, talking to a girl who I gathered from the conversation was doing a zine. I waited until she was done and then introduced myself. To my intense relief, he turned out to be very pleasant. He offered me a beer from the open case next to him, and we talked about football and music. I got the chance to ask him a lot of questions that had been buzzing around in my head for years, like about what the writing process of their songs was like, and why Dickie Hammond wasn’t in the band anymore. He told me that their relationship had kind of soured when Leatherface got well known because Hammond felt like Stubbs got too much attention. He also claimed that he wrote most of the songs and minimized Hammond’s contribution to the writing. I took this all with a grain of salt, since people will say a lot of things when they are angry at each other. He did say that both he and Hammond really respected one another, and I’m sure he meant it (especially since Hammond subsequently rejoined the band).

We sat around for half an hour or so, drinking beer and chatting. Then he said he had to get something from their van. I followed him out into the parking lot, shook his hand again, and told him I had to split. He asked why I wasn’t sticking around for Samiam. I told him they were from the US and I would have plenty of opportunities to see them. In fact, I was so stoked from the conversation that I wanted to get out of the area quickly before something happened to tamp down my euphoria.

Part 2.
I’m not going to talk about every single thing that they have released, just the ones that have had particular significance to me.

Cherry Knowle (1989) Meantime Records
Fill Your Boots (1990) Roughneck Records
I bought these two records on the same day in 1993. At the time I thought that Fill Your Boots came earlier, and you could almost believe it given the way that the two records sound. Although the song structures are pretty comparable on both, the guitar mix on Fill Your Boots is muddier, which gives songs like “New York State” and “Peasant in Paradise” a sort of whooshy, distant sound. The crisper guitars on Cherry Knowle make it seem a bit more advanced, and you could argue that the lyrics are a bit more direct, in the way that they would be on Mush. Of the two, Fill Your Boots the one that I like better overall, but I think Cherry Knowle has better individual songs. “Discipline” will always be one of my favorite songs, particularly because it is an early illustration of Frank Stubbs’s capacity to understand human character. “Cabbage Case” takes on the theme of drug abuse, one to which the band would return repeatedly, particularly in the powerfully moving “Little White God” released five years later. “Smile (You’re In a Free and Pleasant Land)” has a powerful melody and allows Stubbs to flash his culture, which from the lyrics of their songs is clearly extensive. Still, it is Fill Your Boots to which I listen more often. It has a darker, more depressive quality than Cherry Knowle, one that I find particularly appealing. Fill Your Boots also shows flashes of another of Leatherface’s great skills: the cover song. They reprise the cover of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto” that featured on Cherry Knowle (which is not one of my absolute favorites) and add a version of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” (which is).

Mush (1991) Roughneck
I got the version that came out on Seed in North America, but that’s a minor point. In my opinion, this is about as close to a flawless punk record as I have ever heard. The songs are powerful and well-arranged and there isn’t one filler cut in the bunch. The thing that really struck me the first time (and the first hundred times) that I listened to Mush was the excellence of Frank Stubbs’s lyrics. He writes songs for adults, songs that deal with things in ways that are complex and nuanced. From the desire to be more than one is (“I Want the Moon”), to the complexities of belief (“Not Superstitious”), and the stories that we tell ourselves to live (“Baked Potato”), Stubbs creates lyrics that either turn clichés on their heads, or dispense with them completely. The song that really stands out for me is “The Scheme of Things”. There, Stubbs returns to the theme, first approached in “Discipline” of people’s search for something to give their lives meaning. Stubbs focuses on people involved in religious movements, but rather than just calling them stupid or implying that they are simply deluded, he tries to address the underlying loneliness that motivates believers. As the lyric finishes, Stubbs moves from compassion to anger at the people who take advantage of the vulnerable, “Show me a savior, after all, that’s what you’re selling.” For me, this is a cut above the standard fare.

Dreaming b/w Eagle 7” (1992)
I can still remember buying this in record store near South Street in Philadelphia. “Dreaming” is an ok cut, but “Eagle” is arguably the best cover tune they ever did, all the more so because it’s originally by ABBA.

Minx (1993) Roughneck

This was the first Leatherface album that I got after Mush. I bought it when it came out in 1993 and I was a bit disappointed. The songs are a bit longer than on Mush, sometimes surpassing the quality of the licks on which they are based. Also, if you listen to Mush and Minx back to back you will notice that Frank Stubbs’s voice becomes rather huskier between the two records. His singing was (and is) always gritty, but it sounds to me like he is singing in a bit higher register on the earlier records and this gives them a directness that Minx sort of lacks. That said, Minx really grew on me, especially when I read in a fanzine that Leatherface had broken up. I figured that this was the last thing that I would ever hear by them, so I decided that I would do my best to understand what they were trying to do. There are some really beautiful tunes on Minx, particularly “Books,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Pale Moonlight” which I think rank as classics in the Leatherface catalog. I think my favorite song is probably “Fat, Earthy, Flirt,” both because its melody is a great example of Stubbs and Hammond combining chords with ringing individual strings, and because I really have no idea how the title relates to the rest of the song.

The Last (1994) Domino Records
Buying The Last was, for me, a little like receiving a letter from a dead friend. The band was gone, forever for all I knew. It has the feeling of a last will and testament, but it also seemed like a fragment. It contains some of the band’s finest work. “Little White God” is a compelling melody paired with a very moving lyric about drug addiction, one which I found particularly compelling as I heard it around the time that a friend of mine died from a heroin overdose. “Daylight Comes” flashes a harder rocking side that wouldn’t have been out of place on Mush, while the Snuff cover “Winsome, Losesome” is more rollicking and upbeat than a lot of their other material. Then there are cuts like “Shipyards” and “Ba Ba Ba Ba Boo” which really seem like filler to me.

After hearing The Last, I really felt at sea. And then there followed a weird period when the main creative forces in the band released projects with other bands. Frank Stubbs did two bands that I knew of: Jesse and Pope. I never heard the Jesse 7”s, but I bought Pope’s Johnpaulgeorgeringo when it came out. I wanted very much to like it. It featured the familiar powerful melodies and thoughtful lyrics, but it seemed somehow empty. Perhaps it was an effect of there only being one guitar, but it made me think that the songwriting team of Stubbs and Hammond were more than the sum of their parts. Hammond had formed Doctor Bison with former members of the Welsh band The Abs. Their two records, The Bloated Vegas Years and Dewhursts – The Musical, we decent, but they had a different flavor from Leatherface. Baz Oldfield is a talented songwriter and lyricist, but he operates in a much different creative space than Frank Stubbs. The melodic overlays that Dickie Hammond added to their songs sounded like the dying echoes of what had gone before. Hammond went on to form Fatty Jones (later just The Jones), and although I don’t know for sure I suspect that it had something to do with the fact that Newport is a long way from Sunderland, which must have made getting Doctor Bison together kind of a hassle. The Fatty Jones EP is actually not bad. In particular, “Ashebrook” is an enjoyable cut, but it was once again the sort of thing that made one wish that Leatherface would get back together. Gravity Blues, the album that they released once they became simply The Jones is not bad, but it is really uneven and, once again, illustrates the degree to which Hammond and Stubbs writing together were better than they were apart.

Horsebox (2000) BYO Records
I’m passing over the split album that they released in 1999 with Hot Water Music, mostly because it’s greatest importance was that it let people outside the UK know that Leatherface was back together again. Still, it contained the sorrowfully beautiful “Andy,” a tribute to their bassist Andy Crighton who had committed suicide in 1998, and it showed that the band had lost none of its fierceness. I have trouble listening to Horsebox these days, the reason being that I bought it about a week before I moved to North Carolina to do a degree program that necessitated a) living apart from my wife for 22 months, and b) leaving all but about ten or twenty of my records on the west coast. I listened to Horsebox obsessively in those days, and it became suffused with my loneliness. Now, hearing songs like “Sour Grapes” and “Choice” has the power to put me into a funk that can last for days.

Dog Disco (2004) BYO Records
I think that the day that I bought Dog Disco at Singles Going Steady in Seattle was one of the worst of my life. This is one of the few things that Frank Stubbs ever did that I really don’t like at all. In fact, it is the only one of Leatherface’s full LPs of which I do not actually own a copy. It was as if Stubbs had distilled all of the mistakes in his songwriting into one large mistake. I mean, it’s not quite Bad Religion Into the Unknown, but it is not up to the band’s normal standard. Hearing this record was like a punch in the gut. It was like the breakup all over again, but worse since there seemed to be every prospect that they would continue to release bad records. It took me months to get over it. [Looking back since I wrote this I now realize that I rather like this record, especially “Diddly Squat” which is an absolutely beautiful Frank Stubbs guitar line. Live and learn…]

The Stormy Petrel (2010) No Idea
Given the intense disappointment that I’d experienced after buying Dog Disco, I was really hesitant to shell out the cash for another round. But then a friend of mine told me that Dickie Hammond was playing with the band again, and that piqued my interest. I bought the actual disc at a store in Cambridge and walked home in a state of expectation strongly tinged with fear. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The Stormy Petrel is a titanic return to form. Where the songs on Dog Disco seem to lack direction, those on The Stormy Petrel are punchy and compelling. As noted above, Frank Stubbs once discounted to me the degree to which collaboration with Dickie Hammond had on his songwriting. I have to say that, on the basis of the available evidence, it is clear to me that Leatherface produce much better music when Stubbs and Hammond are in close proximity. From the opening cut, The Stormy Petrel brings forth music that is at least as good as than on Horsebox, and if it is the case that they don’t reach the heights achieved on Mush, it is also worth noting that the vast majority of bands have never written anything nearly that good. While Frank Stubbs’s lyrics have been consistently excellent, on The Stormy Petrel they are once again paired with breathtaking Leatherface hooks from the old school. “God is Dead” is a good, rocking opener, while “Never Say Goodbye” is an outstanding illustration of Stubbs’s persistent ability to plumb the human condition. Perhaps the album should have ended with “Isn’t Life Just Sweet,” especially since this is a cut that they often use to open their set, but tacking the lower key “Hope” onto the end of the record creates one of those attractive nuances that make Leatherface records so appealing. “Isn’t Life Just Sweet” does have one of the most compelling instances of Stubbs/Hammond “separate but together” guitar lines anywhere in their catalog. You can listen to the intros separately. Stubbs comes over the left side, and Hammond on the right. If you take off one headphone you can listen to them each in turn, and then they come together stunningly when the main verse of the song kicks in. Brilliant.

Of course even this gargantuan post really only scratches the surface. There are lots of other things that could be talked about in this connection, such as Dickie Hammond’s pre-Leatherface band HDQ (whose awesomeness is too often forgotten), or the live records that Leatherface has released, or Frank Stubbs work producing other bands, or even the short lived band Stokoe that Dickie Hammond played in while in exile. The fact of the matter is that, for me, Leatherface is a practically inexhaustible vein of compelling music. I thought that writing this piece might be a way of working through this, but in the end I find that I am more fascinated with them than ever.


The Return of Tattoo Age: Valerie Vargas

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , on September 24, 2012 by Magadh

The first season of Vice’s Tattoo Age was amazing. The good news is that the second installment is just as strong. First Street’s Valerie Vargas leads off the new season and the segment is exceptional.

Welcome back Tattoo Age, you were missed!


King of the Monsters: Closure/Moloch Split 7″

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on September 20, 2012 by Magadh

Closure/Moloch 7″

King of the Monsters


During the mid ‘90s, Arizona’s King of the Monsters was home to a bevy of brutal hardcore bands inclusive of Unruh, Absinthe, Creation is Crucifixion and Suicide Nation. The label eventually tried its hand at becoming a Southwestern version of Troubleman Unlimited. Releases by Fast Forward and Soiled Doves (among others) saw it move to embrace the burgeoning American post-punk and no-wave scenes with mixed results. The pace of releases, never voluminous even in its heyday, began to drop off and the label eventually shut up shop.

Reminding us that all good things don’t have to come to an end; King of the Monsters was resurrected in 2009.  The label slowly returned to its roots in brutality and has announced itself in a big way in 2012. The fine people at CVLT Nation are exclusively streaming the Closure/Moloch split 7” (released in conjunction with Feast of Tentacles). The Closure material is a delicious mix of metal-tinged crust core while Moloch offers up just under 5 minutes of crusty sludgecore. I highly recommend checking out the release here and then head over here to pick it up. While you’re over there make sure to pick up Enewetak’s Easy Rider Sessions Vol 3.

– captain of games

I Think I’m Getting Old…

Posted in Gigs, Reviews with tags , , , on September 17, 2012 by Magadh

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve actually been chased out of a show (figuratively speaking of course) by the intensely irritating quality of other people there. In 25 or so years of attending shows this has never happened to me before. And it’s not like I haven’t been around plenty of irritating fuckers. I attended shows in Portland, Oregon throughout the 1980s when the dudes from Portland United Skinheads would smash people into the support post in the middle of the pit at the Satyricon and smackheads would be passed out in the street outside. I hung tough during the infamous Unleashed/Morbid Angel/Entombed show at Portland Underground where the white power shitheads in the audience said such nasty things to Alex Hellid that Entombed stopped playing after like five songs. I’ve been hit, stabbed, doused in beer, even vomited on, but I’ve never left a show out of pure annoyance before.

The show the other night at Now That’s Class was always going to be a tough ask for me. I’ve been having to get up at 5:00 AM for work lately and I don’t quite have the late night staying power that I used to. And then there was the fact that this show featured six fucking bands. With all due respect to the people who put the whole thing on (and I have much respect for them) the days when I could hang through six bands are long, long gone. Now, some of you out there will be saying, “Oh whingeing oldster, why did you not take a nap and show up late?” That is a fair question. The reason is that I had no idea what order the bands were going on. It would have been one thing if I had just been going to see Masakari (since they are always likely to be pretty late in the count), but I wanted to see Lucha Eterna too and I simply couldn’t predict when they were going to play.

In the event, it was a good thing that I turned up when I did, since Lucha Eterna played first. And by the way, they ripped. Angry, sloppy, raging, hi speed mid-80s type punk played as if the building was on fire. I tried to get pictures, but their singer was flailing around with such gusto that I was afraid he was going to put his fist in my ear, and that’s another thing I’ve gotten too old for.

Those of you at the show will certainly remember the guy in the white vest with the two-tone creepers. What an irritating asshole. He was blind drunk the moment that I walked in, and I kept hoping that he would lose consciousness so that I could hang out in peace. Sadly, the passionate intensity of this particular alcohol sodden id was not to be denied. When he got to talking about how none of his “boys” were there with him but that they would come down tomorrow and dominate the pit, the mix of irritation and pathos that had plagued me all night finally overwhelmed my desire to see the rest of the bands. Sorry to the last three bands of the night, I’ll write you guys up next time.

On the up side, I spent a few minutes chatting with…well, I won’t drop names. Suffice to say, I got to sit in on a really interesting discussion of Japanese hardcore and to trade stories about Sakevi with some folks who understood. Various other matters were discussed, including…

The Nemesis 7”: Totally ripping Japanese thrash from Fukuoka. Those in search of (or in need of) points of comparison might think of a slightly simpler version of Gauze. They don’t quite get as crazy, and the recording sound is a lot rawer than everything but Fuckheads. They were kind of similar to Ashrain as well, although with a notably crisper guitar sound.

I heard Kansas City d-beat artists’ No Master’s Ruthless Future 7” a couple of years ago. It was grimy and guttural, but didn’t really blow my doors off. They’ve come out with another 7” now, which is self-titled, and this one really kicks the crap out of the first one. For one thing, it’s recorded a little better, but at a basic level they just seem to have arranged their songs a bit better. They sound a bit like Raw Noise, or like Aftermath (the one that was ex-Hellkrusher not the one from Portland). Anyway, it the risk of turning this post into simply a collection of “things that are raw,” this is stripped down, angry d-beat: no frills, but a lot aggro and it’s pretty tightly played in the bargain.

I saw the Nightbringer CD in a photo posted on Farcebook and was curious. This is not the NS-tinged black metal band from Colorado. I think these guys are from Detroit. This CD, which is available in digital form from Bandcamp, compiles a couple of earlier releases with some new material (at least I think it does). In any case, my original draft for a review of this record comprised exactly two words: Oh shit. This is full on old school hardcore played mostly at breakneck pace and lacking even the slightest hint of metallic styling. I dig this for a lot of reasons. Of course, this is a style that I really like, especially when executed well, as it is here. Also, they mix in some nice, melodic elements without getting sappy and diluting the aggressive quality of their music. Even with these more mellow moments, the real hard charging approach is never far away. This thing kicks ass from the word go and doesn’t back down. It is most excellent.

Well, that’s enough for me now. I have some grindcore type records around that I’ll get to next time. Until then try to avoid getting eaten by zombies.


Thrashmetal: It Lives!

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by Magadh

The whole baggy jeans thing was never going to work for me. No disrespect to people who like that style (of whom there are apparently quite a lot) or for whom it is a good look (of whom there are rather fewer), but baggy pants simply make me look like a garden gnome. The mid-1990s were a bad time for me in this respect. It was just difficult to find reasonably narrow jeans off the rack, and for some reason I just didn’t know enough people with sewing machines. For years, my wife assured me that skinny jeans would come back in. I was dubious. I must admit that she was right. Now I can buy jeans off the rack that are decently narrow. I still look like a slob, just not a dumpy slob.

I mention this because it is one of the persistent joys of my music listening life that the musical styles of my youth keep making comebacks long years after the cultural moments in which they were incubated. I was always sort of afraid that punk rock would die, and occasionally it did go into remission. It always seems to come back strong. I remember around 1990 feeling that there was just not much interesting going on in the hardcore scene. Of course, in those days I had a real fascination in the nascent Swedish death metal scene, so my attention was more focused on Entombed and Carnage that on anything that was going on in punk. Then within the space of about a month I got Citizens Arrest A Light in the Darkness, Asbestosdeath Dejection, and, most compellingly of all, Rorschach Remain Sedate. I can still remember the feeling, exhilaration mixed with relief, and a sense that something that was very right with the world still remained.

This same sense of relief recurs in miniature whenever I discover that the thrashmetal of the 1980s is still alive and kicking in the stylistic repertoire of the underground. In the 1990s, bands like Infernö, Gehennah, and Swordmaster flew the banner high. Nowadays you have to look a little more closely to get your fix, but I have found a couple of things that really made ears perk up.

Exhibit A in today’s testimony is the Contra Iglesia y Estado 12” by Chile’s Dekapited. Released late last year, this disc serves up six helpings of totally unapologetic, mosh-heavy thrashmetal. There are probably a hundred bands to whom they could justly be compared. To my ear (and others might disagree) they sound a lot like the earliest incarnation of Death Angel, with adjustments made for the fact they sing in Spanish and that Dekapited’s singer doesn’t employ the high pitched screams that were a trademark of Mark Osegueda’s style circa 1986. Anyway, these guys really have it all: tight, brutal musicianship, aggressively anarchist/anti-christian values, and cover are that looks like it was drawn on the inside of someone’s high school social studies notebook. The production is clean and gives full presence to the chugging guitars and the precision drumming. I know they put a couple of demos out before Contra Iglesia, and if anyone has electronic copies I would be much obliged if you could make one available. This goes double for the band themselves, about whom I would love to write more.

Switching continents (but not formats), Reflexor’s Revenge of the Mycosis is a record with a lot going for it. Reflexor are a bunch of hessians. No, really, they are. They are from Gießen in the German state of Hesse. They probably are the kind of hessians you’re thinking of too, but I really only have their music to go on. Revenge of the Mycosis is mostly mid-tempo with a serious commitment to the whole grind/mosh concept, but they do manage to kick it up a gear on many occasions. They kind of sound like a cross between Bonded by Blood era Exodus and some of the east coast metal bands that came out on Combat in the late 1980s. Could it merely be a coincidence that their singer sounds this much like Paul Baloff? I seriously doubt it, but if it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then I have to respect these guys for showing the love. In addition to all this, the production is really pro, with the guitars rendered in an authentically thick speed metal mode. And then of course there is the name of their record, which makes no fucking sense at all. For me, this is a major plus.

Finally, I have to say that I was wandering around in the ruins of a record store in these parts and found a serviceable copy of Witchburner’s self-titled first LP. This really takes me back. Is this the best thing that ever came out of Germany? Well, it’s no Sentence of Death or In the Sign of Evil, nor is it quite as good as some of its contemporaries such as Infernö’s Downtown Hades or Gehennah’s King of the Sidewalk. But it’s still quite an enjoyable record to mosh to. It has a much different melodic sense than the other bands mentioned here, although they partook of the full measure of the same springs of aesthetic inspiration. Anyway, I’ve been headbanging away to it for the last couple of days and I recommend that you find it if you can.

Next up for me is some more d-beat, but that might have to wait until the weekend.


Demo Roundup 2

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2012 by Magadh

Back in the long long ago, before the utter collapse of civilization, before the world of interpersonal communication was colonized by the interweb, punk rock was about trading demos through the mail. Demos were artifacts. You had to find someone’s address, send off a dollar or two, and then wait for days or weeks, checking the mailbox with expectation every afternoon. Demos were kind of different than other recordings. There was an interesting back and forth in Maximum Rock n Roll, which was really the main aggregator of punk rock information for those of us who lived in the hinterland. The gold standard was to get something out on vinyl, and in the early days MRR was really reticent about reviewing demos. This doesn’t mean that it never happened, but I can remember so sort of explicit policy statement in the early 1980s in which they basically said: if you want to get reviewed here you have to send us some wax.

Later on, of course, MRR added a demo review section, although I don’t know how long it persisted, or even whether it was a month to month segment. I think they sort of got hip to the degree to which tape trading was the communicative spine of punk rock. To make a record you had to engage with the money economy and the recording establishment. This wasn’t a bad thing for everybody. There were plenty of people in the punk rock scene who were not that interested in anarchist or autonomist values. On the other hand, for those who were, getting something mastered and laying out the cash up front to get it pressed was a hurdle. Making a cassette tape was a lot lower tech and didn’t necessarily involve negotiating with the man. That was cool, although one had to admit that there were a lot of really shit tapes floating around in the 1980s. On the other hand, I can still remember getting the Accused’s first demo tape which came, as I recall, on a Mariner High School AV Department cassette. I can still remember getting Verbal Assault’s demo in an envelope stapled between two pieces of cardboard, accompanied by a very nice letter from Chris Jones asking what it was like to be a punk rocker in Walla Walla, Washington. Yeah, there was an element of human contact that has been a little bit lost in this day of instant downloading.

Have I been nattering on for 400+ words already? Well, I guess I have. Now down to the real business of this post, which is the matter of a few demos that have arrived in the bunker in recent days.

I don’t remember exactly how I got turned on to the Wermland demo by the Swedish band Våldsamt Motstånd (whose name I think translates as Worldwide Nightmare). I think it may be on the crust demos site, but I’ve forgotten and I’m too out of it to take the time to find out. In any case, I have it now and that’s all the really matters. Wermland was actually released in 2011. Since then they have another release that I’ll get to in a minute. Wermland, like their previous releases, is just a little bit on the lo-fi side, with vocals that sound like the abominable snowman choking out it his last breath. Their music features slightly more heel-damped chugging than is typical of the average d-beat band, and the mix in elements of dissonance that work quite nicely in my opinion. They have a very thick sound that does a lot to create dark atmosphere and, although the comparison my night be entirely felicitous from a stylistic point of view, I was kind of reminded of really early Grave (like around the time of the Tremendous Pain EP).

Since Wermland, they’ve come out with a 12” entitled Förbannelse. The five songs included there reflect a bit of stylistic development, at least to a greater degree than there was between Wermland and their Lagen om alltings jävlighet demo from a few years ago. The production is much cleaner and the songs have a bit more pronounced metal edge, although their d-beat identity is still very much intact. The dissonant elements from their earlier recordings also remain and add a distinctive quality to their music.

New Hampshire’s Ramlord released a demo on cassette last year called Stench of Fallacy that has deliciously lo-fi quality. It has elements in common with bands like Fall of the Bastards, but with simpler song structures and slightly less developed drumming. Stench of Fallacy has a lot of cool single string passages and the melodies thus created often stray into more emo-ish sort of territory. Nonetheless, they managed to maintain a suitably aggressive approach that is entertaining without being overly complicated.

The split that they put out with Condensed Flesh late last year sees Ramlord developing, both in terms of better recording values (the drums no long have the sort of tubby sound that they had on Stench of Fallacy) but also in terms of musicianship. Their tunes are a bit longer and more developed. They still walk the line between black metal and hardcore, but they’ve added a bit more power/violence to the mix. Their songs have more thumping slow parts and they’ve pulled back a bit on the single string stuff. Most recently, they’ve done a split single with Dallas power/violence merchants Cara Neir. It’s pretty good and you can hear it on Bandcamp for free, but it’s not my favorite of their productions. My problem with it is this: if you are going to do a ten minute long song, you’ve got to have enough ideas to fill that time. It can be done well (as Moonsorrow have shown on many occasions) but it can also really drag if the content isn’t there. In any case, I salute their ambition.

Finally, I was turned on to the San Antonio band Headache by something that Joe from Masakari posted on Farcebook. I’ve never seen them, although according to him they are an absolutely blistering live act (and he would know). Their demo is power/violence to max with all of the majesty and wonder that that entails. They do a great job of working that fast/slow dynamic in ways that keep the listener engaged and generally rage all over the place. I will just say that I have a limited tolerance for this kind of music because it so often lacks creative drive. This demo has been in frequent rotation in the bunker ever since it arrived, which says a lot about how good it is.

Ok, you’ve probably had enough, and so have I. I’ve got some metal records lined up for review, but I’ll spare you any more nattering at least for a couple of days.


The Northern Cold

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , on September 5, 2012 by Magadh

It can get a bit boring in the bunker to be honest. Mags is a decent enough fellow but, as a great man once said, all work and no play makes the Captain a homicidal liability. In the hopes of avoiding some form of mutually assured destruction I’ve obsessively taken to searching the seas of 1’s and 0’s for new music. During one of my voyages I was lucky enough to encounter The Northern Cold podcast.

The Northern Cold offers up an hour of trv cvlt black metal. Some listeners may be put off by the inclusion of Satanic Warmaster (whether by politics or competency) but, overall, episode one is worth a listen. Check it our here.

– Captain of Games

New Sounds

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by Magadh

Things have been a little hectic around the bunker for a couple of weeks or so. It seems like as soon as we fix one thing another breaks, and it’s been extremely difficult for either the Captain or myself to get it take care of our normal duties of sifting the data streams for new forms of entertainment. Too, there have been a lot of apocalyptic signs lately: plagues of locusts and frogs which have really played hell with the bunker’s ventilator systems. The Captain was gone all week trying to set up a deal for supplies with some of the itinerant traders who wander the wastes in this region, but it seems to have come to nothing and he was seriously mooting the idea of detonating one of the tactical nukes that we have set up out there just to punish them for their stubbornness. Ah Captain, you are always a thousand laughs.

Anyway, here are some of the things that we have been checking out in our rare moments of rest hereabouts.

When I first heard the name Seeds in Barren Fields, I assumed they must be some kind of emo/screamo band. They are not. In fact, a lot of what you need to know about them can be communicated by the fact that they hail from Gothenburg. Sounding the Siren Song in Vain, their first full length, is loaded with both the compelling melodies and heavy guitar work for which that particular locality is well known. This is not to say that they are simply another imitator of At the Gates (although frankly I would be cool with that). No, a better reference point would be Gothenburg’s Sacrilege (or Sacrilege GBG as they now style themselves). SIBF are more stripped down than Sacrilege, but the melodies that suffuse their songs would not be out of place on The Fifth Season. They tend toward mid- and slower-tempo material with lots of double bass to keep the sound thick. Occasionally they get into blast beat territory, but that is mostly a flash for the sake of keeping the arrangements varied. SIBF are dark and angry, and apparently politically with it as well, although this last assessment is merely based on hearsay. Siren Song was released last year. Since then, they’ve released a split “single” with Marnost from the Czech Republic. I put single in quotes because the songs involved are 13 and 16 minutes long respectively. I am curious about this. More info will be forthcoming when I get my hands on a copy.

Tol Eressëa are from Toulouse. First of all, they get points from me for the Tolkein reference, all the more since it is a particularly obscure one (dig out your copy of The Silmarilion for clarification). We reviewed a couple of other French bands a couple of months back (Birds in a Row and Calvaiire to be precise) and it seemed to us that there was a quite interesting dark grind scene going on there. Tol Eressëa don’t quite fit into that mold. Des Fleurs De Pierre Au Coeur Du Mal, which they self-released last year is really more of hardcore than metal. Their music has crusty elements, but also some really compelling melodies and elements of straight hardcore. They do a good job of generating atmosphere with their slower material, counterpointing this well with faster passages, dripping with minor key melodic overlays. Their songs have a lot of variety, but at 29 minutes this is a disc that leaves the listener wanting more (which is not a bad thing I suppose).

And now for something completely different. After seeing ads all over the internet for the band Primate, I finally decided to pungle up the cash and give Draw Back a Stump a listen. Primate is a sort of supergroup, featuring Bill Kelliher from Mastodon and Kevin Sharpe from Brutal Truth. I have to admit being a bit dubious for several reasons. First and foremost, I’ve never been a huge fan of Mastodon and everything after Brutal Truth’s first LP kind of left me cold. Second, these sorts of things tend to leave me a bit cold. Ok, the Venemous Concept CD wasn’t bad, but by and large I find that bands that don’t develop organically tend to lack a certain degree of imagination. So what’s the verdict on Primate? Well, I’d be lying if I denied that at found it entertaining. For those looking for sounds along the lines of the source bands, you will be disappointed. This project walks the line between kind of groove metal and hardcore. The playing is flawless, the licks pristine. The expanded version (I don’t know about the original) includes a cover of Black Flag’s “Drinking and Driving”. For me, this cover sums up a lot about this record. It is played with a certain degree of aggression, but it loses some of that herky-jerky quality that Greg Ginn’s guitar playing lent Black Flag even in their later period. This s not to say that Draw Back a Stump is a bad record. I’ve listened to it a fair few times and I still find myself moved to the occasional head bob or foot tap. I think that my problem with it is that they people involved can play much more challenging music than this, so it’s a little jarring when they don’t. In any case, I still recommend it.

Well, that’s us for the moment. I’ll be back later in the week with some demo reviews just to keep things varied.