Wednesday, December 21, 2011

VII's Top 10 EP's/Splits/Demos of 2011

10: +HIRS+ - "Worship": This Philadelphia drum machine grind duo has made quite a strong first impression with their debut physical release "Worship". This 4 minute, 1-sided 7" not only showcases this band has the ability to create and blast quality grind with the best of em, but also that they take an incredibly professional approach to their music and their athstetic, and I'm very excited to hear everything this band makes in the future.

9. Inside the Beehive - "Drink Bleach; Live Forever": A relatively late-comer this year, and another band that has displayed incredible quality with their debut EP. This NJ tech metal/grind outfit plays a style of music that I'm admittedly very picky about, bands like this are usually too spazzy/wanky for my taste, but ITB throw in enough good(and memorable)riffs and interesting song structures to keep me coming back to this EP. Plus a clean/polished production that still keeps the aggressive tone of the music, which I applaud them for.

#8: Punch - "Nothing Lasts": Simply put, Punch play a style of hardcore that I just love! "Nothing Lasts", my first real introduction to the band, is a solid 8 minute blaster that melds classic hardcore with hints of powerviolence. The vocals are aggressive, the songs are memorable, the drums are incredibly powerful(I love hearing this guy blast!). But my favorite thing about this EP has to be the production; a warm analog recording that suits the bands aggressive/raw sound like a glove. 

#7: Hoglust - "Support Hate": This is one of the first things released on the uber-prolific Grindcore Karaoke(back when they actually showcased grind and hardcore), and it's one of the only GK releases that has stuck with me and that I've listened to repeatedly over the year. Save for the completely unnecessary 2nd track,  I can't think of a single issue I have with "Support Hate". The dual vocals are fantastic, the production is excellently raw, the songs are great, what more can I say? Download it now!


#6(Tie): The Afternoon Gentlemen - splits with Cyborg and Osk: Holy fuck! The Afternoon Gentlemen completely came out of nowhere and left a coffee can sized hole in the heads of underground grind freaks in the states this year. A band this good needs to be heard by every grind fan in the world! I honestly can't say one of these splits is better than the other, they're both so damn good! Both TAG sides are some of the best grind I've heard all year, the Cyborg side is excellent old-school sounding powerviolence, and the OSK side is fucking stellar as well. It's just quality grind and hardcore with both of these splits, nothing bad about them at all!

#5: Worn Out - "Demo 2011": Here's one of the best demos that you hopefully, but probably didn't hear this year. Yet another up and coming band that made the smart move to have an incredibly professional first release. A pro-cassette demo with perfect production, a gnarly bass tone, seamless transitions between the short and oh-so-sweet songs, and face grinding intensity. It's just an incredible demo. Hope they record more in the future!

#4: Get Destroyed - "Shut In": I like Get Destroyed's previous 7" "Burnt Offerings", but I freaking love "Shut In"! Taking everything that made "Burnt Offerings" good and improving upon it ten-fold, Get Destroyed's latest offering is a mean, gruff, meaty, tough bastard child of powerviolence. The slow parts are devastating,  the guest vocals from Landmine Marathon vocalist Grace Perry are a great addition, just...just get it! 

#3: Sidetracked - "Uniform": How can I sum up Sidetracked's glorious 1-sided 7" "Uniform"? "Fucking brilliant" works. So does "Holy shit" and "what the hell was that". Perfect fastcore right here, 13 songs in about 2 1/2 minutes. Brevity's the name of the game, which can be the downfall of most grind bands, but Sidetracked have perfected the art of short-and-sweet on this release. "Runaway" is a fucking catchy song, it's true, and it's only about 20 seconds! The super raw production only enhances this blasting onslaught. Again, fucking brilliant.

#2: Water Torture - "s/t": Definitely the most enjoyable, catchy and listenable powerviolence EP I've heard this year. Half of the mighty Inerds make up this devastating Buffalo, NY duo and they play generally the same thing, but with a much darker/sludgier/heavier tone to them. I love the bass tone on this release, and the drums are played just right. Nothing flashy, nothing technical, just pure aggression. Yeah, I said it was catchy, but make no mistake there is nothing pretty or polished about this beast!

#1: Sea of Shit - "s/t": Probably won't come as a surprise to a lot of you that Sea of Shit's latest 7" made  my #1 spot. I praised the hell outta this thing in my review, and I stand by every word that I said in that post. This is the best EP I've heard this year. Fucking filthy, disgusting, distorted, grimy, disturbingly grotesque powerviolence. There is so much power and momentum to this release, it's just nonstop punishment, complete and utter audio torture, and I mean that in the best way possible. Sea of Shit 2011 son!!

Honorable Mentions:
  • Mammoth Grinder/Hatred Surge - split
  • Danny Brown & Black Milk - "Black and Brown"
  • Dethroned Emperor - "War Grind Hell"
  • Bastard Noise/Actuary - "Skeletal Uncertainty"
  • Fuck the Facts - "Misery"
  • Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Despise You - "...On And On And On"
  • Grudges - "DEMOlition 2011"


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gripe-Pig Servant EP Review

Tommy Johnson: From the dark side of LA: gritty and shady, not some glamorized movie studio shit. 
Likes: Blast Beats, D-beats, Mince, and Powerviolence: Motorhead, Discharge and beer! Classic era The Simpsons, Star Wars (Pre -Prequels) Dr. Who, Slap-A-Ham 625, Pre RCA era Earache, Noise core, Japanese fast core, Metal that doesn’t rely on Pinch Harmonics, circle pits, stage dives and high fives, Bands that still write lyrics, Doom Metal, Black metal (Raw not epic), Death Metal (Autopsy not Black Dahlia Murder), crust punk and tons of other shit.
Dislikes: Slam Dancing, Ninja pits, Porno Grind (No you don’t understand, I really dislike porno Grind!), Emo violence, Tough Guy core, Death core, most types of core that are not Hardcore.

I will be contributing to Operation Grindcore with my column Deep Wounds. I’ll be focusing primarily on Mince, Crust, Fastcore, and foreign Grind/ Powerviolence bands, as well as digging up records that have seemingly been forgotten alongside obscure bands that are not given the coverage they deserve. In addition, I’ll also be checking out more modern acts that I am currently digging with an emphasis on bands on the more dirty and raw side of the Grind spectrum. That being said, here’s my first review!

When Gripe came out with their debut demo "The Future Doesn't Need You", it made serious waves in the underground. So much so that it managed to reach the far corners of the blogosphere, even catching the attention of Invisible Oranges. The scrappy, lo-fi, seriously pissed sounding grind violence fusion had an odd, captivating magic to it. Like a train wreck that you simply can’t look away from. It was far from perfect but was way more entertaining than most of the sterile, over-produced garbage that passes for modern grind now a days. It was spastic, frantic, at times off timed, under-produced, disorienting and overall had a weird claustrophobic quality to it. Going into this one I -like many- was expecting more of the same, but "Pig Servant" makes their demo sound like well... a demo. Gripe have stepped their game up, building on "The Future..." while retaining its fundamental essence. The surprisingly catchy song craft is still present, but more refined. Gripe set themselves apart from most DIY Grind bands today in this department in the sense that they actually make memorable songs while still preserving the all important (in my opinion) rough around the edges fuck you rawness that is and should be a staple of this genre. And I’m happy to report that the basketball dribbling, tin-can-snare drum production that I enjoyed from the demo is still there and still obnoxiously high in the mix. I think it gives an authentic live quality and just sounds so god damned aggressive. But you can actually hear the entire drum kit this time as well –this being a good thing, as I am a fucking drum geek, and there are plenty of BOSS ASS drum fills on this one. The guitar riffs are huge and frantic, mixing equal parts Sabbath and Jesse Pintado -"World Downfall"-era thrash style riffs and transitioning tempos with increasing ease. As for the vocals they are raw, pissed and slightly reminiscent of Dystopia or Decrepit. They fall more on the hardcore punk side than the traditional grind vocalist but judging by the lyrics I don’t think their new vocalist would be offended by that comment.

Now, their lyrics I should give praise to, because while the production and musicianship have both been stepped up significantly, so have the lyrics. While the riff is king in modern grind and lyrics are really just an afterthought, I still bother to read what bands are saying and commend those who actually have something to say. While typical punk/grind/hardcore lyric ethos are present (i.e. hatred of cops, capitalism, etc.), they give us their own fresh perspective on them. The song "Plea for Death" centers on the idea that a human being consumed by pain, on the edge of death has the right to end their own suffering and Gripe manage to convey the misery and pain of this situation perfectly.The darkness, and crustiness of this EP overall makes me think of 90's era grind/ powerviolence, which to me, is a nice return to form. Bringing to mind everything I love about that era of music without sounding too much like a rehash or throwback. It sounds at times like No comment in a street fight with Assuck! To me it’s what I want, and expect from a grind record: a balance between chaos and precision, a record that sounds like its barely holding itself together. (Spoiler Alert!) The Mickey Rourke sound bite at the beginning is the perfect way to kick off this beast of an EP. Plus the fake out ending sound clip on "False Prophet" was a bitching surprise. I honestly think "Pig Servant" could easily make it into any grind heads best of 2011 releases, landing in your top 5 if you’re more into the punk/hardcore side of grind, and busting into your top 10 if you’re more of a metal head type. Offering a little something for everybody without being a pander monkey, "Pig Servant" is another stellar fucking release for Gripe and so they will be ending this year 2 for 2.

 ~Tommy Johnson 

Listen/download here

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best Video Featuring A Pug and Extortion You'll Ever See

Need I say more?


Bastard Noise - "Skulldozer" Album Review

Most of the time when a band says that their next album will be "the best album they've ever made" or "the most focused and best sounding recording we've ever done", or when they say that their tentative next album will be "the most interesting", a lot of these promises and statements tend to fall flat on their face, to me anyway. Maybe it's because I have my hopes set too high and ultimately have created such high expectations that the album in question can't possibly match them(fingers crossed about the new Pig Destroyer). But there are times when the hype surrounding a bands new album are just untrue, and it sounds like the same thing the band has done however many albums before, or the times when a band has full-filed their promise about a different sound or more variation in the songwriting, but what they've created is so far from what the fans are used to that it gets shunned right away(*cough*Morbid Angel*cough*). But when it comes to the new Bastard Noise album "Skulldozer", released this year on Deep Six records, all the complaints I mentioned above so do not apply! I have been eagerly awaiting this album for a good portion of the year, and was promised the best Bastard Noise album to date from Eric Wood many times. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Bastard Noise have delivered!

"Skulldozer" comes to us after "A Culture of Monsters", which released last year, which I really like and is definitely a quality BN album, but "Skulldozer" just completely blows it out of the water in almost every way. The recording is better, the mixing is better, everything just sounds bigger, louder, heavier, stronger. The bass rings out with such aggressive clarity, and the drums have an incredible heavy punch. It definitely sounds like a lot of time was spent on making this album sound the way it does. And of course, we have the new addition of Aimee Artz on lead vocals, who's presence is just astounding on "Skulldozer". Admittedly, when I first heard that BN had gotten a new singer, I didn't really see the point or need for a new vocalist since I thought Eric's vocals fit the music just fine. But hearing Aimee scream over these tracks just gives me an incredible "ooooh, that's what they've been missing" feeling. Aimee's vocals fit BN's music and compliment Eric's vocals in just the right way, and add a whole new level of aggression to these songs. It's like when I heard "Agorapocalypse" by Agoraphobic Nosebleed for the first time and being blown away by the ferociousness and totally unsubtle presence of Kat's vocals on that album.

I also feel like in terms of songwriting, these may be the best and most listenable BN tracks so far. None of the tracks drag too long, none of them feel unfinished, it's just quality throughout. I think the track "Earth On a Stretcher" might be my favorite; it has some awesome slow, dirgy riffs and a pretty catchy chorus(?)-ish part. And again, Eric and Aimee's vocals compliment each other very well. These all sound like the type of Bastard Noise tracks you've become accustomed too with their past few releases, but the addition of new vocals, new use of synth, better noise orchestration and better production just give them more of an extra kick and a whole new level of epicness(even though that word might be considered cheesy nowadays). Another noteworthy thing about this album is the last track "Rachel"; it's a soft yet intense track with only synths, a steel.slide guitar and some very unique vocals from Eric Wood dedicated to the memory and life of Rachel Corrie. It's a touching, and powerful end to an excellent album. It lived up to all of my expectations. Pretty rare, major props to BN.

Rating: 9.5/10


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Listen To a New Backslider Track!

Philadelphia fastcore hate-duo Backslider have posted a new track from their upcoming 7" EP called "Maladapted", out soon on To Live a Lie records and Psychocontrol records. I kinda knew that they were working on new material, but it sorta got lost among everything else that happened this year, so to hear a new track is a very nice "surprise. The track, called "Idiot Hymes", is a 34 second blaster of standard Backslider fastcore, but with a major update in terms of recording quality, and the vocals do sound more urgent than their previous self-titled 7". Stream the track here and eagerly await the physical release!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

CODE/ERROR: The Newest Grind Band to Lose Your Shit About!

Have you heard the news yet? About this awesome new grindcore "super-group" called CODE/ERROR yet? Have you? No? Well you should, cause holy-fucking-shit, I can't see how this could be anything less than absolutely amazing. Here is a very brief official statement off of facebook from their lead vocalist; some dude you might have heard of named ARIF ROT! 

                    Grind project from the United States of Singapore. Blastbeats in the      works. A vinyl release whenever we feel like it to be out
               Dorian(Noisear): Guitars
          Mauro(Maruta): Bass
             Daniel(Maruta): Drums 
Myself: Vocals

Did your pants just get a little tighter? I thought so. Seriously, what an unstoppable line-up. It's good to see the rhythm section of the recently disbanded Maruta wasting no time in starting another musical endeavor. Teaming up with tech-grind guitar wizard Dorian Rainwater seems like a logical choice given their styles, and of course Arif's vocals are always amazing and diverse. Let's hope this record get's released soon!! 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering Thousandswilldie

Goddammit, Thousandswilldie was fucking great. I mean it, really really awesome! One of grinds best kept secrets, and one of the several great bands that decided to call it quits in 2010. They played their last show at the 2010 UGZ Speed Trials at Gilman street and left in a blaze of blasting glory.
Thousandswilldie were a major part of the west coast grind scene when it came to live shows. Word is from vocalist Mike Stitches that a majority of grind shows that were put on, Thousandswilldie would get on the bill. I really wish I got to see them live, their live shows looked insane!! Just non-stop blasting grindcore!
(demo cover)

Their output was pretty minimal, consisting of a demo, a 7", a split 7" with Kill the Client, and a split CD with Psychofagist. I've heard all of their released material and it's all very solid, but polarizing, even for most well-seasoned grind fans, and they definitely changes their sound a bit over time. The demo and 7" are complete grind-chaos; super, super short songs with constant riff changes. I still don't even really know what I'm listening too when I play the 7", it's so insane! The splits with Kill the Client and Psychofagist show a bit more refined songwriting. Yeah, the songs are still short, but they hold onto riffs longer and actually develop the songs a bit. 

Guitarist Yong-Sung spent a little time playing second guitar for In Disgust before they broke up, and vocalist Mike Stitches went on to form his excellent (sorta)solo project Standing on a Floor of Bodies, who released an amazing demo last year. Something every single fucking one of you should download right now here. I have no idea what the drummer is doing, anyone who does feel free to say in the comment section. 

Super great band, you all should get familiar with them and try and track down their releases. RIP Thousandswilldie!!


Fuck the Facts - "Die Miserable" Album Review

It seems all I talked about in September/October was Fuck the Facts new album "Die Miserable", which makes me kinda bummed out that I'm just now posting a review of it. After all the hype I gave it you figured I would make it a top priority right? Go figure. And believe me it's not because I didn't like it, not at all. "Die Miserable" is a damn fine album and one of the more aggressive FTF albums I've heard. Life just happens and you tend to forget to do certain things. I'm only human after all.
Anywho, FTF have really upped the heaviness and weirdness on this album. Honestly, probably some of the heaviest material they've written since "Stigmata High Five", pulling back on the melodic parts just a little bit in favor of more layers of technical guitar work, some solos, non-conventional chords, some great vocals from Mel and bass player Marc, and non-conventional chords. Some parts like the beginning of the first song "Drift" and "A Cowards Existence", probably my favorite song on the album, actually kinda remind me of Hate Eternal in terms of how they utilize weird/crazy riffs. Though when they do bring-out the melody, it's sounds so epic and grand. They even threw in some clean(er) vocals on 7-minute centerpiece "Census Blank"(please don't let that freak you out). There's also way more bass on "Die Miserable" than a lot of previous efforts, which I really like cause Marc is a great player, and offers a lot on this album in terms of rhythm and song-writting. It's a great group effort, and I think the different influences brought from each member shows. It sounds like FTF really wanted to go all out with instrumentation on this album, doing a lot more with overdubs and less traditional grind nuances(is that a toy piano I hear in the middle on "A Cowards Existence"?). It's great see that FTF can still experiment and toy with their sound, and still sound like they always do! And yeah, did I mention that it's really fucking heavy? Awesome album, please buy it!

Rating: 8/10


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sea of Shit - "S/T" EP Review

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: this may be my favorite EP of 2011. Sea of Shit's long awaited 7" EP(previously released on cassette and limited to 100 copies) has finally come out on PRGNT records, and it is a beautifully ugly slab of audio torture. These Chicago boys have definitely stepped their game up since I heard them last on their demo. They've kept the low-fi grit of that recording but made it bigger, louder, fuller, heavier and 100% better. This EP is violent and aggressive the whole way through, leaving very little breathing room and what little slow parts there are, are so caked in distortion you might as well be listening to chainsaws mating. The vocals have also gotten a major improvement since their demo. They sound more urgent and are pushed back in the recording a little bit, it just sounds way more aggressive. Goddamn, this EP is just so damn ugly and violent that these words I'm writing don't do it justice. Listen to it yourself and you'll see what I'm talking about. Listen to/purchase it here and get ready to have your balls rocked. Bravo Sea of Shit, bra-fucking-vo!!

Rating: 9.5/10


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pig Heart Transplant/The Endless Blockade - split Review

It's always sad to see a great band break up. Late 2010 saw the unfortunate demise of The Endless Blockade, one of modern powerviolence's most impressive and musically mature/developed bands(In Disgust and Thousandswilldie also broke up that year, endless bummer). This split with Pig Heart Transplant is their final goodbye, their swan song release, which will probably be a big deal to a lot of people, and be judged under that context. Going into it I expected TEB's contribution to be on the noisey side, given who their sharing this split with. Pig Heart Transplant(the noise project of Jon Kortland, the guitarist/vocalist for Iron Lung) give us a 3-part-mini-epic of droning noise with vocals and percussion thrown in. This is my first exposure to PHT and I have to say I was dreadfully unimpressed. I appreciate noise music, but this just did nothing for me. The piece just kinda stayed in build-up mode but didn't actually climax to anything. Sonically, it was unimpressive to. There was an early Swans vibe, but I feel that the 4 1/2 minute time limit PHT was stuck to hindered the song from developing more. So already half of the split left me unimpressed. The Endless Blockade's side is almost definitely left over material from a previous recording, possibly from the "Primitive" album. Only two songs from them, one being noise, and the "lead" track being a mid-tempo sludge dirge. Many, including myself, will be a bit let down by the lack of fast tempos. But looking at it again, it feels like the last song to any one of their albums; the slow climax after a career's span of fast songs. Unfortunately, it's not a very good one. After listening to it a few times, I still have a hard time remembering the song, it's just anti-climactic. I feel like the excellent 14 minute epic "Deuteronomy" from "The Red List" split with Bastard Noise would have been a more fitting ending to the band. Dissapointing finale, but at least we still have the rest of their discography to enjoy. 

Rating: 5/10


Friday, December 2, 2011

Hummingbird of Death/Titanarum - split Review

The gimmick with most modern, techy fastcore bands is to write the shortest songs with the spazziest song structure that they can. Some do it well(see Sidetracked), others just sound like a bunch of ADD freaks with guitars making jumbled messes of songs. So leave it to Hummingbird of Death to write two 5+ minute songs on their latest split with Titanarum. HOD have never been a band that just sticks within the comfort zones of the genre, opting instead to experiment and push it into territories that most don't dare to go, and they actually pull it off with great results. Usually a fastcore band that makes a six minute song goes the "sludgy" route for the sake of having a slow track. The welcome change here is that HOD haven't elongated these songs with repetitive sludge riffs. These songs are fast and furious the whole way through, but not spazzy and schizophrenic. It's like the usually ADD freaks took some chill pills and said to each other; "Hey guys, let's actually play some of these riffs for more than 2 measures". While also showing some black-metal-sounding chord progressions, some death metal vocals thrown in at one point, and some thrashy/crossover riffs.
On the flipside, the now disbanded Titanarum give us 8 tracks of fairly straight-forward fast hardcore. No songs are over 2 minutes, and they are all developed and display some pretty good songwriting with solid musicianship. I can definitely hear a lot of crossover influence in their sound. Particularly in the vocals, which are probably my favorite part of this band. They have so much personality and a decent amount of variety to them. I definitely get an Accused vibe from them. Very solid sides from both bands. You can pick this record up at Give Praise Records and stream it here. By the way; coolest album cover of the year? Debatable.

Rating: 8/10