Monday, 23 April 2012

Review: Empire of Rats - No Peace EP

Empire of Rats
No Peace EP

Sometimes I listened to music to relax, enjoy myself, or contemplate a whole host of (wankerish?) things.  Other times I listen to music because I’m angry, frustrated, and need an outlet to satiate my more violent tendencies (If I acted upon them and got caught my ass would be traded like baseball cards in prison, so you see my need for a more socially acceptable outlet).  While Empire of RatsNo Peace EP does not indulge my passive shoe-gazing tendencies, it absolutely satisfies my need to know that there are others out there who want to punish and destroy everything that stands in their way.  Although, I’m really not surprised, coming from ex members of Pitboss 2000 and Under One Flag.

“We’re Dead” and “Force Fed” start the album off on a particularly aggressive note, relying heavily on a late-90’s/early-00’s style of hardcore that I grew up on and love to this day.  The EP reaches a new level with the song “Empire of Rats” though.  In under 2 ½ minutes this song tears through well-tread hardcore riffs, throat-shredding vocals, metallic choruses, and even a sludgy breakdown that slows the song down just enough to remind you how forceful the rest of it is.  In other words, this song, and this band fucking pummels. 

The remaining two songs “The 03 code” and “Still out of Breath” continue to provide top-notch I-want-to-hurt-someone hardcore that is quite refreshing these days.  In a scene largely populated by “We only play breakdowns” and “This chorus could really use a clean singing part” bands, it’s nice to know that there are still bands out there that can make angry, but intelligent hardcore. 

Listen to Empire of RatsNo Peace EP if you love heavy, consistent, and pissed off hardcore.  Or if you need an outlet to help you avoid committing a felony.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Review: Our Own Everest - Everything I Ever Wanted

I’m just gonna go ahead and cop to the fact that, for all the fawning and handjob-giving over various hardcore bands that happens on this blog, I’m really just punk rock kid on the inside. Furthermore, my punk kid taste tends more to the poppy end of the spectrum. I like The Queers more than I like Converge. I like New Found Glory more than I like Integrity.

There, I said it. Commence booing.

Now, I’m not gonna sit here and make a serious argument that The Queers are BETTER than Converge. That would be a ridiculous comparison to make, and besides neither band is better. They’re both mind rapingly good in different ways. It’d be like comparing blow jobs to affordably priced air travel.

All of that nonsense brings me to this EP from Our Own Everest. These guys are a pop punk/easycore band from Montreal. Near as I can tell, they’re a fairly young band. I mean that in terms of their time as band and not their ages. Seems like this line up just coalesced in late 2010, meaning that they have plenty of time to grow and develop this sound.

But honestly, the band has put together a fairly polished batch of songs here. I wouldn’t accuse them of reinventing the wheel in 12 or so minutes that this thing lasts. But I don’t get a sense that that was ever the goal.

I want to give props, first and foremost, to the lack of death metal vocals on here. Christ, that shit bugs me. Our Own Everest skips that in favor of clean, but passionate enough vocals through out. There were occasional, production type effects of the voices once or twice that I didn’t care for. That’s not a deal breaker though.

There are moments on here that remind me of bands like This Time Next Year, it’s mostly in the guitars though. I’d be hard pressed to say who, exactly, these guys pulled their inspiration from. That probably says more about me than them though.

They do an admirable job of slipping some subtle hardcore elements in throughout. Thankfully, it comes off as an organic part of their style and not something grafted on after the fact. Weirdly, I felt like the breakdowns didn’t hit quite as hard as they were meant to. But again, this band is pretty new and details like that can get sorted out down the line.

Here’s the thing, I’ve heard bigger bands in this genre do far worse with far more resources available to them. If you’re looking for a band that does the genre justice, despite having some room for improvement, you should give these guys a day in court. They are pretty solid.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Review: Single Mothers - Self-Titled 7" EP

Single Mothers
Self-Titled 7” EP

Track Listing:
1. Christian Girls
2. Hell is My Backup Plan
3. Winter Coats
4. Baby

Let me start off by saying Touche Amore has never been my cup of tea, so I barely raised an eyebrow when their singer announced that he was starting a label and that he had already signed a band.  What did pique my attention was when I found out that the band was from my one-time hometown of London, Ontario and that they were punk/hardcore band that kept getting compared to the likes of the Hold Steady.  So I finally decided to get off my lazy ass and check out what Single Mothers was all about.    

First off, I am embarrassed that I slept on this band for even the short period of time I did (this EP is their first official release, although they have a Wild Party EP that’s worth checking out).  Single Mothers plays an interesting mix of melodic hardcore and catchy punk rock that is glazed over with a general “I drink, smoke, and fuck too much” sense of bravado/regret.  As an aging asshole I’m always skeptical of this hard-living brand of punk sleaze, but the music and lyrics both seem too honest and earnest to ignore or discount.  This EP has an impressive energy that runs through it, especially given its short length and stylistic variety, and should appeal to punk, hardcore, alcoholic kids alike.

Having said all of this, the most impressive part of this EP in my opinion is vocalist Drew Thomson’s ability to describe London, Ontario.  As a former Londoner, I can personally vouch for his portrayal of London as a place littered with coked-out university kids, a desolate downtown, and a winter bar scene that is populated predominantly by women freezing to death in mini-skirts.   The only other song that I can think of that  comes close to Thomson’s description of this frustrating and enigmatic place to live is Brutal Knight’s “Worst City”, but whereas that song is a strict condemnation of London, Single Mothers seems to use the city as a backdrop/foundation for debauchery and self-reflection.  Alright, I know everyone who isn’t from London is about to tell me to shut the fuck up, so I will.  Just go buy this record, no matter where you are from.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Review: Ruined Families - Self-Titled 7"

Ruined Families

Self-titled 7”
Track Listing:
1.  Voidealism
2. You Will Become Like Your Father
3. Bedroom Nihilist
4. Quiet

As anyone who has read a newspaper in the last year knows, Greece has largely degenerated into a chaotic mess, with social problems and financial hardships that have no end in sight.  In short, it is the perfect breeding ground for pissed-off, dissonant, aggressive music.  Enter Ruined Families.  While this band hasn’t been on my radar before, they’ve already gotten some well-deserved good press from other websites and publications for their particular brand of punishing hardcore.

While I’ve read numerous ‘they sound like Cursed’ posts about Ruined Families, I don’t agree (although this isn’t a slight against the’s more of a reference to the untouchable nature of Cursed).  For one thing, this is a blackened hardcore band that is far more comfortable with metal/grind elements than Cursed ever was, and it’s an aspect of Ruined Families that makes them stand out from many of their contemporaries. 

This four song self-titled 7” blends various elements of hardcore, metal, noise, and blackened-whatever to produce 10 of the most desperate and dirty minutes in music that I’ve heard in ages (I mean this as a huge compliment).  While much of North America dismisses European hardcore, Ruined Families (along with other European acts like Birds in Row and Rise and Fall) helps us in the Western Hemisphere that good music doesn’t stop at the shores of the Atlantic.  Sceptics should check out the song “You Will Become Like Your Father” if they doubt that this band can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other Euro bands mentioned. 

Break-neck death metal riffs mixed with anguished screams and sludgy interludes brought to you from Europe’s economic bastard child.  What’s not to love?

Review: Wisdom In Chains - The Missing Links

I almost feel as if liking Wisdom In Chains is too easy sometimes.

We’re talking about a band that makes tough as nails hardcore records with huge choruses, sing a longs and mosh parts. Not a note out of place. Not a second of self-indulgent wankery. And yet none of it comes off as contrived or pandering. They’re like Blood for Blood with a slightly better attitude towards life, and anyone who says they don’t like Blood for Blood is lying. That shit’s just mathematically impossible.

The Missing Links continues from where Everything You Know left off 3 years ago. And follows on the heels of the Pocono Ghosts 7” from last year. This record delivers another 13 tracks of punk and oi! tinted hardcore that will surely fuel a healthy dose of mayhem in whatever room WIC plays.

In a lot of ways, there’s not much new to report here. Mad Joe still packs one of the strongest voices in hardcore. The guitar work is still fast and just melodic enough to worm it’s way in and stay stuck in your head. There’s still a heartfelt song about dogs. You ever hear a Wisdom In Chains record? That’s what this is.

The most glaring example on here of something that this band hasn’t tried before is the inclusion of Slaine on “Top of the World.” Some people will always balk at rapping on hardcore songs (the 90’s and Limp Bizkit ruined that for everyone) but it really kind of works here. It’s not my favorite part of the album, but on paper it could have been awful and in practice it’s not.

Hardcore is a genre that rewards consistency. There are bands that you can go see once a year for a decade and still have the same fun every time. I’m talking about bands on the level of Bane, Terror, Madball, Sick of it All and the aforementioned Blood for Blood. If you didn’t already, you should really start putting Wisdom In Chains on that list.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: The Love Below - Every Tongue Shall Caress

“You make me feel uncomfortable.
So, so uncomfortable.”

This Love Below record is 22 minutes of pure goddamn filth. Sludgy, ugly, unhinged goddamn filth.  I’m not sure why “filth” is the first word that comes to mind when I listen to this band (cover art notwithstanding). But here we are, this thing just feels sleazy as all get out.

And I feel like I’m better off for having heard it.

I was into that 7” that a389 put out by these guys last year, but I really wasn’t sure how the band would hold up for an LP. Turns out, I was probably overthinking things. This album is a beast.

Given the extra space afforded by a full-length release, The Love Below unfurls a chaotic collection of songs that veers from the uptempo punk tinged hardcore that they favored on their 2009 demo, to dirgr-ier, doom-ier sounding stuff. The results can be jarring, damn near schizophrenic, at times. But it definitely works.

The whole mess is held together (barely) by the vocal work of Jerry Wayne Woolbright Jr. I’d be hard pressed to think of another vocalist that strikes this particular balance of snotty, plaintive and roaring with disgust. He ties together the varied pace and tone of his band nicely and manages to make the whole ungodly mess feel coherent somehow.

This is the kind of hardcore record that will either connect with you or it won’t. I dug the fact that there was a definite punk edge running through the whole thing without sacrificing and of heavier, metallic elements. The results aren’t exactly pleasant in the traditional sense of the word, but they are definitely compelling.

Besides, sometimes I just like my hardcore to be filthy and ugly.

Review: Eddie Brock - Brand New Day

Eddie Brock
Brand New Day

Track Listing:
1. Brain Squad
2. Demoralizing Banter
3. Head Snake
4. I'll B There 4 U
5. Strawberry Jamz

A self-proclaimed "super-powers violence" band, Eddie Brock was a band that I had heard of for a while (the comic nerd in me perked up at the Venom-inspired name) but had never checked out.  This apathetic stance towards Eddie Brock is something I deeply regret because people need to stand up and pay attention to this band.

I've always loved the power-violence genre, but often grow tired of the one-trick-pony nature of certain bands associated with it.  Fortunately, Eddie Brock is able to mix power-violence with hardcore, and low/growled vocals with higher-pitched screams, which makes Brand New Day an interesting and impressive listen.

This 7-inch (5 songs in about 6 minutes) boasts several crushing songs, including the lead track "Brain Squad" and "Strawberry Jamz", both of which provide a blueprint for anyone who wants to know how to properly mix breakneck power-violence riffs with slowed-down hardcore transitions.  The transition of speeds on songs like these also help make the faster parts seem all the more break-neck, and the slower parts sludgier than they actually are.  For fancy people that's called dynamics, but for everyone else it's called crushing and on-point song writing.*

*I think I'm still young enough to use phrases like "on-point".

Final Word:  I may sound like a giggling fanboy, but I'm beginning to get genuinely excited whenever A389 announces a release.  They have a well-deserved rep for putting out some of the best hardcore/power-violence/d-beat/whatever bands around today, and this release helps justify that reputation.

Favourite Tracks: Brain Squad, I'll B There 4 U

Buy It

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Review: Purity Control - Revisiting

Toronto Hardcore really seems unstoppable these days.

It seems like every week, yet another new band it starting up. And every time I see one of these new bands, all I’m left saying is “fuck… that was awesome.” Maybe I’m getting less judgmental in my old age, but I can’t remember the last time I was let down at a TOHC show.

I’m sure there’s some pretty blatant localism on my part in there too, but fuck it.

Which brings me to Purity Control: Among my town's premier purveyors of pummeling powerviolence. Alliteration, shit yeah.

These three songs are meant to be taste of what’s to come one the PC release that (I think?) High Anxiety is doing. And if this is any indication of things to come, I’m excited.

I’m not sure what was different in the recording of these tracks, but this sound here is cleaner than it was on the two demos I’d heard before. It makes for a much better listen and, frankly, demonstrates much more clearly what the band is capable of. The demos were great, but it’s great to be able to hear the band without feeling like I’m fighting the technology.

If this were an actual release that anyone was being asked to pay for, I would have to say that it comes up a bit short. I mean, even powerviolence EPs should be like 7 minutes long. But as a teaser/proof of concept/statement of intent this is more than adequate.

Even live, Purity Control is more sprint than marathon. So in that context, this 3 song teaser feels more than a little appropriate. This thing hits the gas, rages for just under three minutes and leaves you scrambling to the High Anxiety website to try and buy more of this.

You’re gonna need to wait. But, when the real thing is let loose it’ll be a force to be reckoned with.