Archive for July, 2012

Burning Love: Rotten Thing To Say

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2012 by Magadh

Burning Love Rotten Thing to Say Southern Lord

I’ve always had an affinity for Canadian hardcore. Yannick’s  label, Great American Steak Religion (now Feral Ward) played a  significant part. The mid 90s was a great time for Canadian hardcore and bands like Shotmaker, Chokehold, One Eyed God Prophecy and the mind blowing Union of Uranus all released material via Yannick’s label. Cursed seemed like the heirs apparent to this proud tradition; they seem an appropriate place to start a discussion of Burning Love.

When people talk about Cursed they talk about how it all ended. I’m often struck by Hunter S Thompson when I think of that night in Germany. In Fear and Loathingin Las Vegas Thompson wrote:

Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant…
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened….
And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill ….. and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Hardcore, for me at least, has always engendered a sort of esprit de corps. Perhaps that’s why Chris Colohan’s announcement, via Cursed’s blog, all of the band’s passports and money were stolen from a supposedly secure room in a German squad resonated with me. Colohan later described the action as, “a bullet in the head for the band,” and he was right. Cursed died that day, betrayed by a community that purported to be so much more. The wave broke in Mulhiem and the band was pulled under.

Endings create beginnings, and so it is with Colohan and Burning Love. Rotten Thing to Say is the band’s second LP but the first to find vocalist Colohan well and truly out from Cursed’s shadow. The record itself is more Tubronegro than Totalitär but the increased emphasis on rock’n  roll riffs serves the band well. That isn’t to say it is devoid of darker hardcore elements. Tracks like “Tremors” and the instrumental “12:31” bear a bit more than a passing resemblance to some of Cursed’s fare. This may owe something to the record having been culled from 2 years worth of material. The band’s real strength lies in tracks like “Karla”, “Made Out of Apes and “Pig City II”. Here, Burning Love effectively fuse hardcore sensibility with rock’n roll riffs and more developed song structure. It also never hurts to have Kurt Ballou and his God City magic in your corner.

Rotten Thing to Say  is an excellent sophomore effort and I encourage folks to head down to their nearest independent record store and pick it up. If you can’t find it in your area the fine folks at Southern Lord are always happy to help. Burning Love have just wrapped up a US/Canadian summer tour with a variety of Southern Lord colleagues. October/November should see them out on the US East coast and South so keep an eye out.

– Captain of Games

Review: Amebix

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

Amebix, Sonic Mass Easy Action and Amebix Records

I feel like I spend a lot of time in reviews that I write explaining why I haven’t heard things. Usually it’s because whatever band I’m talking about is from some place that I’d probably know more about if I still read the right magazines. There was a time when I read MRR, Terrorizer, Metal Maniacs, et cetera, with religious fervor. Now I just don’t have the time.

But there is another reason (over and above the fact that I am just slightly dense) that I have missed a lot of things over the years: the wish not to see bands that I love decay. Very often, bands will follow up an excellent record with one that is simply not up to snuff. Sometimes this is unavoidable. Whatever Black Flag released after Damaged was going to be something of a letdown. Likewise, Slayer had no chance of outdoing, or even equaling, the achievement that was Reign in Blood. This is not to say that My War or South of Heaven were bad records, only that there was no way to listen to them (at least from my perspective) without a certain degree of disappointment.

There is, however, another class of records defined by a band’s failure to live up to an achievable standard set by their previous trajectory. The classic example of this can be seen in the reviews and commentary surrounding the release of SS Decontrol’s How We Rock in 1984. This was back in the days when people still took seriously the idea that there could (and should) be a rigorous separation between punk and metal. I remember someone writing in to MRR and saying basically that there ought to be some kind of warning label applied to the record to prevent unsuspecting hardcore fans from accidentally buying a metal record. Sadly, the problem with How We Rock was not simply that it was heavily laden with metallic tinges, but rather that it was just not very good. As became clear in the course of the later 1980s, metal had a lot to add to hardcore in terms of tempo and intensity. How We Rock was plodding and self indulgent, not just metal damaged.

There are plenty of other examples to which one could allude. I suspect that I was not the only fan of the Crumbsuckers Life of Dreams to be sorely disappointed by the extended guitar wank that was Beast on My Back. Raw Power fans might have had a bit of warning from listening to the Wop Hour 7” that changes were afoot, but that hardly served to soften blow dealt by the mediocrity of After Your Brain in comparison to their mindblowing Screams from the Gutter. The list of candidates for most disappointing release could go on and on (Bad Religion Into the Unknown, 7 Seconds New Wind, Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey, Sacrilege Within the Prophecy, anything released by Entombed after Left Hand Path, etc., etc.) but my point is simply that I have a very low tolerance for disappointment.

All of which brings us to Amebix’s Sonic Mass. I have to admit that, before a couple of weeks ago, I had never even heard Amebix’s previous record, Monolith, which came out in 1987. Living in the U.K. in the mid-80s, I gobbled up all of Amebix’s early releases, from Who’s the Enemy, to Winter, to No Sanctuary. Arise, released in 1985, was one of my absolute favorite records in those days. Amebix’s stock in trade was dark atmosphere, conveyed partly through churning guitars, partly through keyboards. This was a pretty novel thing in those days, when stylistic purity was still seen as an issue. One of the guys in Disorder once described them to me as living in the same squat that they did, but listening to Killing Joke all the time. From the perspective of the anarcho-hardcore scene in that period, this was kind of uncool. Nonetheless, people could really get with their music. It communicated a bleak, hopelessness redolent of destroyed cities and civilization in collapse.

Arise was one of those records that I loved perhaps too much. As a consequence, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy Monolith when it came out. That may or may not have been an error on my part. Monolith is not quite as good as Arise. It doesn’t transmit the feeling of a gathering storm in quite the same way that its predecessor did, and it’s possible that I wouldn’t have gotten it back then. Now, of course, I really dig it. It features a lot more variation in tempo and texture that their earlier releases did, sacrificing some of their more atmospheric quality for more clearly defined guitar aggression.

With my mind opened somewhat to the idea that Amebix might have something to offer beyond “Axeman” and “Largactyl,” I acquired a copy of their most recent release, Sonic Mass, which came out last year. Even with the preparation mentioned above, I was still prepared to be disappointed. The field of bands that got back together after decades apart is littered with depressing failures. My fears were not much allayed by the opening track, “Days,” which features clean vocals and a bass line that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Bloc Party record. As it continues, “Days” builds in power and intensity, and with repeated spins it really grew on me. It helped, of course, that leads directly into “Shield Wall,” in whose pounding tempos and low register vocals fans of earlier Amebix discs will find comfort. Clearly, this is an updated version of their sound. The recording is much cleaner than that which characterized their releases in the 1980s. The somewhat more prominent role of metal structures evident on Monolith continues here, but they don’t go overboard and allowed heal damping and downtuning to replace creative writing.

As I continued to listen, I felt myself slipping into a sort of comfort zone. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that the licks that make up these songs reflect a stylistic continuity with the band’s classic era. Sometimes this effect is quite pronounced, as in the case of “God of the Grain,” in which the main lick sounds extremely similar to that from the title cut of the Winter 7”. One major improvement over the previous incarnation of the band is the drumming. Meaning no disrespect to Virus, his drumming style was a lot better suited to Disorder than it was to Amebix, although he certainly did a creditable job on their early recordings. With former Soulfly and Nausea drummer Roy Mayorga now handling the drumming (and keyboard) duties, Amebix are able to add a much greater variety of tempos, and this in turn allows for the Stig to work in more complex elements into the guitar work.

All in all, Sonic Mass is an excellent record. It has enough classic Amebix elements to satisfy the purists, but also enough subtlety and all around quality to hold the interest of those unfamiliar with the band’s old days. Maybe too this is an indication that I might do well to be a bit more open minded in terms of where bands go. Perhaps a little disappointment now and then is a small price to pay for a new found gem.

Magadh

No Sympathy for the Fascists

Posted in Heads Up with tags , on July 29, 2012 by Magadh

[This post was put up on the FB pages of both Masakari and Alpinist. We thought it was worth reposting here. Both Magadh and the Captain have been attending hardcore shows for decades and have too often seen bands and organizers overlook fascist iconography at gigs. Much respect to the bands for taking a principled stand and sticking to it.]

Yesterday, 28.7.12, Masakari and Alpinist decided to defer playing the ONT Grind’u Festival in Lithuania and we feel that it is important to provide an explanation for those that may have came to see us. When we arrived we noticed that a person was admitted into the festival with visible nazi tattoos: a white power celtic cross, hitler, and a swaztika. We confronted this and through our discussion we found that in the past this person was a leader of a nazi skinhead gang but had since left this mindset. It was explained to us how this person was living with this past attempting be active by engaging with people to discuss why the changes occured. The explanation was that the tattoos were not covered up because it engages people in conversation and the person is able to explain the story. From this we spent a lot of time discussing if we still wanted to take part in this festival. We did not feel that the decision to keep the tattoos visible was acceptable because of its explicit violent symbolism but at the same time this person was intent in our understanding of these life changes. In the end of this discussion we decided that we still wanted to play the show with the hopes to try to engage others in this dialogue. Immediately upon returning to the festival we witnessed another person admitted into the festival with a Reichsadler patch sewn on a shirt; we feel that its important to highlight that this wasn`t hidden it was clearly visible and shouldn`t have been missed or overlooked by the people at the door. At this point we decided that we could not be apart of this event. When we talked with the people who were affiliated with this festival we were asked to stay if these people were expelled from the event. However this was not because of any type of antifascists action but just because we were refusing to play. We feel this way because during our conversations with the people involved there were things said to justify these people when we explained our problems with the tolerance of these kinds of symbols:

„it is a pagan symbol“ + „these symbols mean different things in our culture“: we understand that these symbols were reappropriated by the nazis but these were directly affiliated with the nazi history

„it is just a style“: in no way can this be a justification, a style is an expression of distinctive attributes that characterize a person, which to us characterizes a person as a nazi no matter how someone tries to separate the use of the symbol and the hatred that it represents.

This is nazi sympathizing and we want no part in that.

We are sorry for those we may have came to see us, we hope to book shows in Lithuania the next time we are touring in the area, hopefully we can make it up to you.

Masakari // Alpinist

PDX Compilation Volume 2: Black Water Records

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by Magadh

V/A PDX Compilation Volume 2 Black Water Records

Mags and I have both spent significant time in the Rose City down the years. Portland has always been something of a focal point for the American crust and peace punk scenes. Black Water Records’ PDX Compilation Volume 2 certainly affirms that the current crop are keeping the spirit alive.

The second installment of the series is a uniformly solid affair featuring Arctic Flowers, Moral Hex, Bellicose Minds and Funeral Parade. Arctic Flowers’ Reveries was an instant classic, blazing through its first 2 pressings in no  time at all. Their contribution, “Crusaders + Banshees” starts off the A-side and confirms why Reveries was so acclaimed. The track is an amalgam of peace punk with, perhaps, a bit of Weirdos and Avengers thrown in for good measure.

Moral Hex finish off the A-side with “Mortality”. The tracks gloomy intro gives way to a surging Joy  Division bass line and some angular guitar work.  Tanya’s vocals invoke memories Siouxsie or perhaps Rubella Ballet and the result is a delicious serving of death rock influenced peace punk.

Bellicose Minds kick off the B-side with my favorite track of the compilation “Tension Building”.  A martial drum beat is coupled with an early Cure bass line. The surging rhythm section are welded to angular guitar work and the result is a dark punk gem. Funeral Parade cap off the the affair with “For You” also found on their 2010 demo of the same name. This is pure dark punk invoking memories of giants like The Dark, early TSOL, and just a hint of Revelations era Killing Joke.

Black Water Records get things right with the 2nd volume of their PDX series. I’ll be looking forward to volume 3 and encourage readers to explore the 4 excellent bands featured on the comp.

– Captain of Games

Review: Livstid

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on July 26, 2012 by Magadh

Livstid, s/t Fysisk Format

We hear a lot of d-beat here in the bunker. Which is not to say that we don’t listen to lots of other stuff. But if you were to open the top hatch and climb down into the darkness, your journey would most likely be accompanied by raging guitars and gruff lyrics about the apocalypse. That’s just how it is. It can be a little numbing, especially these days when there seems to be something of a d-beat renaissance going on. Not a day passes that we don’t get some new demo or other, some of which are super, others, not so much.

A colleague of mine who spends a lot of time in Scandinavia sent me a copy of the demo by the Bergen band Livstid that they apparently put out last year. Well, it rocked quite hard. Come to find out, it actually made it in a full release as of October or so of last year. I’ll be honest, when I think of Bergen, I think of guys in corpse paint wandering through the streets swilling vodka and blowing fireballs everywhere. Ok, I know rationally that this isn’t how things are (or ever were) up there, but I think if you queried most fans of underground music they could probably name half a dozen black metal bands hailing from that neck of the woods. And, truth to tell, I’ve always sort of thought of Norway as the poorer cousin in terms of Scandinavian HC. With no disrespect intended, I think it’s fair to say that the history of hard thrashing bands from both Sweden and Finland pretty clearly outstrips that of Norway. Denmark gave us bands from Enola Gay and the Electric Deads up through Amdi Petersens Armé. Aside from Akutt Innleggelse, I can’t really name any Norwegian hardcore bands off the top of my head.

Well, that’s on me, I suppose. I shouldn’t blame the Norwegians for my own obliviousness. In any case, it’s something that I intend to pay a bit more attention to on the basis of this Livstid record. This disc features thrash of a really skull-crushing variety. They sound like a little bit less downtuned, slightly more metallic version of Skit System. From the opening cut, this record is right up in your grill with aggressive guitars and more thudding double bass action that you find on a lot of d-beat records. The recording quality is very good, the sound is full, but retains a pleasing level of dirtiness that is sometimes lacking in bands with the kind of metal overtones such as this. They keep the songs short, thus avoiding one of the more common failings of this genre: excessive repetition of an idea that wasn’t that great in the first place. Livstid assaults the listener with short, direct bursts that keep the attention and cause the head of even the most jaded d-beat reviewer to bang. This is a wonderfully intense record from start to finish.

I see from their site that they’re playing a few festival shows these days. This is the sort of band that needs to be encouraged to make it over to the states

Magadh

Beyond the Sun: A Review of the Alaric/Atriarch Split EP

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Magadh

Alaric/Atriarch Split EP 20 Buck Spin

Alaric’s 2011 debut was released with much fanfare. One reviewer went so far as to comment that it sounded like the album Amebix  should have made. The favorable comparison to the lords of peace punk soon had the dark strains of Alaric’s debut echoing through the bunker and me scrambling to pick up this split.

This EP finds both bands in a transitional phase. Alaric are coming off their previously mentioned 2011 debut and Atriarch find themselves in similar territory following their 2011 release of Forever the End on Seventh Rule. Veterans of several tours together (both bands dedicate their side of the split to the other), this EP seems a logical extension of their relationship and the material contained herein find both bands at their peak.

The Alaric side begins with “Memory Assault”, a powerful combination of Only Theatre of Pain era Christian Death and the dark punk majesty of Amebix and Rudimentary Peni. Shane’s bleak lyrics are enhanced by his vocal style that sounds something like Jaz Coleman projected through a medium.  “So Far Down” sees the band infusing deliberate droning bleakness with elements of Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall era Pink Floyd. Alaric end their side with “Weep”, a tune that begins with a bass part which sounds like it is reverberating through water. The drumming slowly builds over Rick’s bass line to merge with Russ’s guitar; all the while Shane’s distorted vocals lament the fate of a friend who has given up.

Atriarch have an undeniable affinity for Christian Death that is evident on the track “Oblivion”. Lenny’s vocals do invoke the late Rozz Williams as he sneers, “but God is speaking to you. They call it instincts and sin.” The death rock vibe eventually gives way to outrage and anger as the track crashes to its end with Lenny screaming “Lies! Lies! Lies!” as his voice fades out. “Offerings” sees the band moving in a different sonic direction.  The track begins with a bleak guitar part that seems to struggle up from the murk to be heard. It is eventually combined with clipped drumming and a droned vocal. Lenny’s vocals slowly build until the listener is suddenly treated to a full black metal assault before the track is eventually pulled under by the gathering gloom.

The Alaric/Atriarch receives an unreserved recommendation from the bunker. Alaric will be on hiatus until 2013 but do try and catch Atriarch if you have the chance. 2013 promises new material from both bands and I’m very excited to hear what they get up to.

– Captain of Games

Barcelona D-Beat

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by Magadh

I’ve finally managed to procure a copy of the self-titled 12” by Barcelona’s d-beat warriors Instinto and it was definitely worth the wait. A friend of mine from over that way recommended them, but it took me a while to get around to locating an actual copy of it, and of course then I found out that it was available on Bandcamp for free.

The first thing that should be said about this record is that it rocks with supreme fury. It has a sound that is quite distinctive, differing in many important respects from the take on this musical format that one tends to hear from bands originating in more northerly climes. Although by my calculations they are tuned down to D, There is much less of a reliance on downtuning to generate musical force. Instinto’s music is lighter in terms of tone and atmosphere than bands like Martyrdöd or Disfear. This is not to say that the music lacks power. Quite the contrary, actually. There is an aggression and melodicism here that gives the music real guts. They sing in Spanish, their lyrics hitting on a lot of the sort of anti-capitalist themes that make this music important

Perhaps this might be the time to note that there is a sense in which Instinto’s take on the d-beat form harkens back to the origins of this particular variety of hardcore. In the days of Crude SS and Anti-Cimex, there wasn’t the fixation on using low tunings to create heaviness. Rather, the force of the music was created through belligerence and passion. Instinto is very much an updated form or this approach and they use it to great effect.

This more light and airy take on d-beat made me a bit curious about other bands in that region. There seems, at least looking from the outside, to be a pretty active d-beat scene going on in Barcelona. Going through Instinto’s material, I found a couple of other bands that will definitely appeal to fans of aggressive, politically conscious hardcore.

A good place to start is the Kremón Records comp Barcelona Käos that came out in 2009. From start to finish this is an excellent release. It features cuts from 20 bands, none of which I had heard before, but all of which merit further study. High points include Avoid Notes “Tambores de Guerra,” Atxanta “Virus” (which bears a resemblance to early Ratos de Porão), and No Conforme “Nightmare,” but the thing that really impresses about this comp is the overall quality of the cuts.

Infäme, who apparently share at least one member with Instinto, have a sound that is similar in a lot of respects to Instinto, but with slightly simply song structures and a somewhat cleaner sound. They put out an LP in 2008 (self titled) which rocks most excellently. But for the fact that they are sung in Spanish, these songs wouldn’t have seemed out of place on that Varning För Punk collection of early Swedish hardcore that Distortion issued in 1994. Well, except for the fact that the production values here are much better than those found in the early Swedish hc recordings.

Since their LP came out, Infäme have put out a couple of ep’s. They seem to just title their records in the order that they came out, so that their most recent release (which came out in May of last year) is simply called III. It does reflect a certain amount of stylistic development, but it’s pretty much in line in terms of content and approach with their earlier release: d-beat in a standard tuning played with precision and enthusiasm.

Last, but not least (at least in terms of this all too brief exposition) is Totälickers. These guys have a ton of releases out (they’ve been around since 2005 or 2006 as far as I can tell), and everything that I’ve heard so far rocks like a hurricane. Clean and aggressive hc with a little less focus on melody that Instinto and a bit more directness in terms of song structure as well. Their El Poder Absoluto Aniquila La Vida, released in 2010, features ten cuts of catchy, angry, anarcho-hardcore. The vocals are clearer than a lot of music in this genre, which is a good thing if one is trying to understand lines sung in one’s third language. Earlier this year they released live album recorded in Prague, and the bits that I’ve heard of that are really first rate. This is definitely a band from whom I want to hear more.

Ok, that’s all of got on this, although I know that there is a lot that I’ve left unsaid. I am by no means an expert on what goes on in Barcelona. If there is anyone out there with more immediate knowledge of what the scene there is like and how these bands fit into it, we at A Thousand Trivs would certainly welcome your input. On the strength of what I’ve heard so far, there looks to be a lot of interesting stuff going on there.

Magadh