3.24.2019

DEAD ENDING






















"shoot the messenger"
Year:  2017
Country:  US
City:  Chicago
Label:  Alternative Tentacles
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  19
Time:  30 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Hardcore        Punk

















I’ve been a fan of Chicago’s Articles of Faith for many years. Their Complete, Vol. 1 and Complete, Vol 2 compilations on Alternative Tentacles are essential listening for any serious punk fan. The band originally existed in the early to mid 80’s, so most of us never got a chance to see them play live. (There were only brief reunions in 1991 and 2010.) So why am I talking about Articles of Faith? Because Dead Ending might just be the next best thing. Former AoF singer Vic Bondi’s voice and lyrics are front and center in Dead Ending. It’s the same combination of radical politics and musical aggression that made Articles of Faith so compelling.

The irony is, at first, Bondi was probably the least well known member of this hardcore supergroup. Guitarist Jeff Dean is best known for his work with Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun fame in The Bomb. He also played in Noise By Numbers with Dan Vapid, who has played in a ton of bands including Screeching Weasel. Drummer Derek Grant is best known for playing with Alkaline Trio, but has also been a member of The Suicide Machines and a bunch of other bands. The original bassist was Joe Principe from 88 Fingers Louie and Rise Against. He left the band last year and was replaced by Nate Gluck from Ensign.

Dead Ending actually makes a lot of sense in 2017, which has already been an extremely good year for old man hardcore. (See also Bloodclot, Dead Cross and FYPM.) They certainly sound more like AoF than A3 or 88FL. Bondi and Articles of Faith were railing against Reagan more than 30 years ago, it naturally follows that Dead Ending would do the same against the disaster that is Trump. What’s even more impressive is that the band actually formed in 2012. Most people on the left seemed quick to give Obama a free pass for the horrible things he did, but not Dead Ending (or AT label head Jello Biafra for that matter).

Album opener “The Long Decline” seems to acknowledge that our problems didn’t instantly appear a year or so ago. The rapid fire song would seem to apply to us as a country as well as individually. “Bring On The Mob” continues the intensity and insinuates that the public must do what the proper authorities will not. The songs are mostly traditional fast punk and hardcore with shouted vocals and memorable choruses. “Class War” continues with this formula, but “Manic In Detroit” is basically a 44 second freak out. A second, more melodic voice is introduced on “Make My Own Way”, and it’s a nice contrast to Bondi’s raspy howl.

That secondary voice sticks around for “Subtle”, which may be my favorite song on the LP. I really have to fight the urge to yell along with the chorus “Red, white, red ,white and bullshit, red, white and bullshit!”. The title track adds some weird, jazzy chords. “Fate” might sound the most like a true Articles of Faith song. “The Boss Wants My Vote” borrows ideologically and lyrically from the Dead Kennedys version of the David Allan Coe/Johnny Paycheck country classic “Take This Job and Shove It”. Closer “Better Day” might best sum up the Bondi and the band’s purpose with “All we’re looking for is a better day”.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Bondi and AoF. That is my reference point, but it is not my intention to slight the other three guys . Dead Ending is truly a band effort and probably wouldn’t work nearly as well with different pieces. The guitar, bass and drums are all as on point as the message. The message that addresses problems that really haven’t improved in the last 35 years. It can be very discouraging, but we can take some comfort in the the fact that there are guys as smart as Vic Bondi and Dead Ending articulating these problems for us. Shoot the Messenger is essential hardcore for 1982 or 2017. (*Review by Tom Trauma ).
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3.22.2019

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE






















"alive or just breathing"
Year:  2002
Country:  US
City:  Westfield, MA
Label:  Warner
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  12
Time:  38 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Metalcore
















Lately, many releases follow a set formula and bands do a lot more than just wear their influences on their hoodies. Really, why bother listening to a CD case-full of bands that sound more similar than unique? For those looking to escape the monotony that so much punk has to offer, here is the Roadrunner Records debut by Killswitch Engage. Killswitch Engage formed only a couple years ago from the ashes of New England hardcore bands and immediatly made a local impact due their absolutely ferocious audio assult. Blending full-on hardcore with metal riffs and a vocalist who can go from screaming to singing instantaniously (Think Tim Williams from VOD, except with a much improved singing voice), Killswitch Engage's blend of music is a band to be reckoned with, and "Alive or Just Breathing" stands as a musical achievement. Not only does Killswitch Engage not emulate other bands in a carbon-copy fashion, each song stands out as a seprate offering instead of one song played 12 times. The second track, "Self Revoltion" has every ingredient a Killswitch Engage song is seasoned with; precise, powerful drumming, major shredding and killer guitar riffs, screaming verses and a beautiflly sung chorus break. The single off of the disc, "My Last Serenade," eases in with gentle acoustic strum (a la Metallica's "Battery") before blasting off into riffs that dare you to sit still (The video just got added to some MTV rock show as well as Much Music...look for it.). Although an extremely heavy band, Killswitch's lyrics avoid typical tough lyrics and opt for more thoughtful and positive words to accompany their music. Take "Vide Infra," one of the two re-recorded songs from their debut disc ("Temple From the Within" being the other), when it says, "I will stand up for who I am, never moved by condemnation, no one is placed higher than another, no matter race or creed or gender, we must teach compassion for all life, through understanding of our differences, we wil find respect for one another...". The production on this CD is stellar and forces the music clear out of your speakers, destroying all in it's path. There is no bad news when it comes to this disc. Unfortunately, there is some bad news with the band. Vocalist Jesse Leach quit very recently. He has been replaced but his gifted voice will be missed (*Review by Kevtv ).
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3.21.2019

BESTA























"eterno rancor"
Year:  2019
Country:  Portugal
City:  Lisbon
Label:  Life force
Format:  LP
Tracks:  16
Time:  20 min.
Lyrical themes:  social issues, politics
Genre:  rock
Style:        Grindcore















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3.19.2019

KNOCK OFF





















"riot"
Year:  2018
Country:  UK
City: Leeds
Label:  none
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  18
Time:  36 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Punk  Rock















Formed in sept 2013, Knock Off are a hard hitting punk trio, taking influences from the late 70s UK punk scene. 30 years on and the country’s still a mess. Knock Off’s sound is fuelled by anger and disillusionment at a country going down the pan and life in general. A raw and powerful sound mixed with anger, energy and passion, with stick in your head choruses, Knock Off will leave their mark. With 3 albums under their belts released through three different record labels, and a Single launched through Human Punk Records Knock Off are aiming to be heard. A Knock Off gig can be described as an onslaught of energy, with hard and fast songs alongside anthems with stick in your head choruses. Known nationwide for their hard work and touring they have become regulars on the festival scene, packing out the arena stage at Rebellion 3 years running.
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3.18.2019

ARCHITECTS
























"all our Gods have abandoned us"
Year:  2016
Country:  UK
City:  Brighton
Label:  Epitaph
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  11
Time:  40 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Metalcore


















Architects are a atheist metalcore band from Brighton, UK. The band currently consists of vocalist Sam Carter, drummer Dan Searle, bassist Alex Dean and guitarists Adam Christianson and Josh Middleton. The band's first name was Inharmonic, which was swiftly changed to Counting the Days, and finally to Architects after a couple of years. They have released seven studio albums and one split EP with Dead Swans to date. They released their debut album Nightmares in 2006 through In at the Deep End records. After the departure of their original vocalist, Matt Johnson, Sam Carter joined the band and made his first appearance on Architects' second album Ruin released in 2007 through United by Fate records. In 2009 the band released Hollow Crown through Century Media records. They then released their fourth album The Here And Now in 2011, which showed the band taking a step in a more melodic "clean-cut post-hardcore" direction. Upon its release the album was well received by critics, but was panned by their fanbase. The next year Architects returned to their original style with their fifth album Daybreaker, which featured more politicised lyrics[3] as opposed to the violent and comedic lyrics prominent throughout their older work. They have released Lost Forever // Lost Together (2014), All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (2016) through Epitaph and their latest album, Holy Hell is set to be released on 9 November 2018. All members of the band are vegan, having turned to veganism after watching several documentaries on the subject. The band is also a promoter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, with Carter being one of its British ambassadors.
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"lost forever // lost together"
Year:  2014
Label:  Epitaph
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  11
Time:  40 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Metalcore








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3.17.2019

THE ACACIA STRAIN























"wormwood"
Year:  2010
Country:  US
City:  Chicopee, MA
Label:  Prosthetic
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  12
Time:  40 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Metalcore

















When it comes to THE ACACIA STRAIN, I usually enjoy their music live rather than on record. Vincent Bennett's brutalizing growls have a greater presence on stage than they do on stereo speakers, and the band's down-tuned approach to hardcore is simply made for the pit. That said, they make great records too, including fan favorites like 3750 and The Dead Walk. Lyrically, they preach unrelenting anger and absolute hatred of EVERYTHING. Fair enough. They have a satisfying sound which separates them from the massive wave of cliche' bands who copy them. However, on the new record, Wormwood, they've homogenized their approach a little too much through relying on a few elements of their sound. It's good for a band to be focused, so long as they don't make their sound too narrow.


Generally speaking, the album sounds pretty solid. Considering his successes with THE RED CHORD and ARSIS, this should be expected from producer Chris "Zeuss" Harris. The album starts out with the punishingly heavy song, Beast, featuring guest vocals from HATEBREED's Jamey Jasta. A sludgy, crushing sound persists through the entire album, and in a way, the band has started to sound a lot like MESHUGGAH (lots of intense crunchy grooves and tinny-sounding guitars). This is especially evident on The Impaler and Unabomber. But a MESHUGGAH record usually contains memorable riffs,  whereas on Wormwood, the guitars seem to just emit a constant CHUG CHUG CHUG, without many riffs to keep you interested. The singer seems to be sticking exclusively to low-end guttural vocals, which sound good, but after three or four songs of this, I was hoping he would use some more mid-range and high-end vocals as well. A few songs simply sound like one big breakdown without an actual song around it, and the entire album almost comes off as a single song cut into 12 pieces. A friend of mine summarized it very well when I spoke to him saying that after a few songs, you want to say to the band, "alright I get the point".

As for the lyrics, more than the previous albums, they are unbelievably angry. The first song has the refrain, "We are not enemies but we cannot be friends", and The Impaler makes you remember that "We destroy the things that make the world go round, We are the reason there is blood on the ground" and such uplifting messages like "I hate everything you love" from Jonestown. It might be the most negative record I've ever heard, and that's not a bad thing, just something that makes you say: "Holy crap, someone must have really ticked them off!" I think it's good to hear a band musically declare, "Screw everything else, let's just get really, really, really angry". And I have to credit them on the lyrics to track 6, Nightman (featuring Bruce from 100 Demons), where they use the ending lines to T.S Eliot's classic, The Hollow Men: "This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper". From what I've heard though, you're not supposed to take them completely serious. Some interview clips I've seen are pretty funny, and I definitely recommend checking out the "Acacia Strain studio update" videos, which are absolutely hysterical. In fact, I noticed a few Call of Duty: Modern Warfare references on this album as well. (Tactical Nuke). The album is basically a burning swamp of crushing anger and sludgy grooves, which makes itself known easily enough, but more variation in guitar tone, tempo, and vocal style would have been really nice. The songs should be great to see performed live, along with the rest of the band's catalog. As cool as the record is, by its half-way point, I felt like listening to 3750 instead. To its credit: its baffling negativity, solidly brutal sound, and its hermetic atmosphere of crunch and chug, Wormwood earns a 8/10 (*Review by James Zalucky ).
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3.16.2019

MULE SKINNER



















"airstrike"
Year:  2018
Country:  US
City:  New Orleans
Label: Foad
Format:  CD, LP
Tracks:  13
Time:  26 min.
Lyrical themes:  social issues, politics
Genre:  rock
Style:        Grindcore














Classic grindcore has multitudes of rarities and disappearances left in the dust of the early 90’s death metal explosion and hardcore punk’s insidious, moshable collapse but few are as elusive as the original Sludge Records releases from New Orleans, Louisiana death-grinders Mule Skinner. Though I am a huge fan of the crossover between hardcore punk, death metal and grindcore that formed the best of fringe extreme metal in the late 80’s and early 90’s these guy’s early releases have always eluded me. Formed in 1990, by the time Mule Skinner was fighting fit on their ‘Stripped of Flesh’ (1991) demo the planet had enough time to digest the promising thrust of hyper-sped North American hardcore destruction from Atrocity, Righteous Pigs, Macabre and Terrorizer and even in their earliest incarnations Mule Skinner were generally up to speed. Still soggy, chunked-out, Blood-like and faster-than-thou a few beers later with their ‘Servitude’ (1993) 7″ EP the band had made little ‘progress’ but managed to capture the spirit of US deathgrind in a time where most formative bands had resorted to the pure death metal cash cow. What they’d hit upon with their official debut twenty five years ago is a fire still just as brutally raging today on their second full-length ‘Airstrike’.

If ‘Servitude’ was a ball of mushy, bloody flesh struck with a hammer a thousand times then the band’s debut ‘Abuse’ (1996) was a van full of drunk hardcore kids ramming mailboxes at full speed while blasting Terrorizer and Righteous Pigs. Old school even by 1996 standards it was a straight forward blast of grindcore that weaseled in just a small kick of death metal when it was time to slow down and even today it provides more of a thrill than most attempting the style. Since Flesh Parade drummer Todd Capiton had jumped on for ‘Abuse’ Mule Skinner went dark around the time Relapse Records picked up Flesh Parade; Even if just by proxy, anyone who still gets a kick out of ‘Kill Whitey’ will find Capiton‘s drumming is a just as much of a thrill on ‘Abuse’. Both bands would basically disappear until the 2010’s and Mule Skinner clawed their way back into existence around 2013.

Depending who you’re talking to many would argue Tungsten might be the most unsung heroes of New Orleans sludge but if focusing primarily on extreme metal hybrids Mule Skinner surely belonged right up there with the rise of Soilent Green back in the day. When they reappeared with the ‘Crushing Breakdown’ (2014) EP the sludge-grind focus felt very familiar in a post-‘Sewn Mouth Secrets’ world but didn’t necessarily indicate they would stray back onto the path of brutality they’d forged in the 90’s. You’re not getting any more of the sludge heard on “Revenge & Salvation” with ‘Airstrike’, it is all pummeling old school grindcore and violent grooves fit to pair with a record like ‘A Deleted Symphony for the Beaten Down’ if done by the Terrorizer of today.

The ‘riff and groove’ dynamic would be enough to carry a guitar record like this in the low-standard, experimentally diluted grindcore landscape of 2018 but Mule Skinner go above and beyond with drum work that demands tightly wound performances from all. The tension of grindcore that relies so much on the rapid fire unleashing of hardcore riffs and death metal blasts is a lost art that ‘Airstrike’ resuscitates with admirable authenticity. With Terrorizer‘s ‘Caustic Attack’ now in clear hindsight any fan might do well to give ‘Airstrike’ a spin and see which you think revived that old spirit with as much energy or with that old hardcore spirit informing the work. But hey, it isn’t a competition for who can be the most authentic old school deathgrind band in an age that has long left behind the straightforward, organic spectrum of the artform.

What value remains for me within the grindcore spectrum comes from the tautness of interplay between musicians and how they break up all of that tension. Without resorting to pure death metal or sludge metal yet touching upon both for those moments, Mule Skinner create a raw and uncompromising listening experience that is undeniably effective. You’ll still get a heavy waft of Soilent Green on tracks like “Bone & Debris” and “Backbone” but the majority of the record with the same neck-thrashing speed and precision they brought in the 90’s. It’d be easy to set ‘Airstrike’ next to the best of Brutal Truth or Extreme Noise Terror as it compares well and has the right balance of death metal and hardcore punk implemented. It is an easy to recommend experience to anyone who constantly chases the ghost of ‘World Downfall’ as I do. For preview you should go straight to “Suicide Vest”, “Battle Worshiper”, and “Faith in Blood” and swing around to “Bone & Debris” if you’re wary of the sludge they’d explore on the previous EP. (*Review by Terra Asimetry ).
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3.08.2019

RED VISION






















"stake your claim"
Year:  2018
Country:  US
City:  Richmond, VI
Label:  Edgewood
Format:  LP
Tracks:  15
Time:  30 min.
Genre:  rock
Style:        Hardcore
















Red Vision coming in hot with their second release with Edgewood, This time their debut LP, which we are very excited for the world to hear.
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