Archive for July, 2012

Review: Martyrdöd

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 12, 2012 by Magadh

Perhaps no event has been so eagerly awaited here in the bunker as the arrival of the Paranoia, the new disc from those masters of Swedish d-beat, Martyrdöd. Those in that microset of humanity who actually read this blog with regularity will know that there is an obsession with Martyrdöd among the editorial staff here that really borders on the pathological. Imagine, then, the paroxysms of joy that arose when this disc found its way through the mail slot.

Having said all that, there was also a sort of trepidation at its arrival. This stemmed from the fact that Sekt, the band’s previous outing, had not quite lived up to the standard set by its predecessor. This is, in a certain sense, hardly a very trenchant criticism. In Extremis (2005) was a watershed moment in the history of Swedish d-beat. A new standard had been set. It was almost inevitable that whatever followed it was going to be something of a letdown.

Perhaps the difference between the two discs can be described as follows. The brilliance of In Extremis was that the way that it combined melody with extremes of downtuning. By my calculations, the guitars on In Extremis were tuned down to B (either that or they were using some sort of drop tuning but you get my point). As numerous bands have heretofore discovered, tuning down that far runs the risk of turning the music into indecipherable mush. Although the guitars on In Extremis could be a bit indistinct, they created a dark maelstrom over which the second guitar then spiraled compelling minor key melodies. These seemed to emerge out of a churning fog of d-beat thrash. Added to this was the fact that the melodies themselves often comprised six measures, rather than four, and the extra time that they took to resolve added a compelling tension to the music.

On Sekt, released four years later, many of the same features were in evidence. It seemed, however, that they were trying to move forward stylistically. Part of my problem with Sekt, from a personal perspective, was that I just didn’t like the riffs as much. That is a purely subjective assessment. From a more objective perspective, there was it was clear that the song structures were somewhat different than they had been on In Extremis. “En Demon” is a good example of this. The first thing that one notices is that the beat is a straight thrash tempo rather than the sort of the bracketed beat typical of d-beat drumming. The dark guitars churn away in their accustomed fashion, and after a while one hears one of Martyrdöd’s typical dark melodies. However, it is a more typical four bar melody and it disintegrates relatively quickly into a more straight ahead rock lead.

This is just one example, and there are many others that could be adduced. The point is not that Sekt is a bad record. Rather, it had the misfortune of having been released after a great record. If it had followed Martyrdöd’s self-titled first album, it might have looked a bit better. But it wasn’t, and it is what it is (or it was what it was). In any case, how then does Paranoia stack up?

Quite well as a matter of fact. Martyrdöd has managed to advance stylistically, while still retaining the features that made them great in the first place. There is a much more pronounced metallic influence in terms of style and production on Paranoia than on previous releases, but not the extent that it effaces the underlying hardcore impulse. The guitars are still tuned way down, but there is a crispness to the production not in evidence on earlier releases. The melodic overlays on Paranoia are far superior to those found on its predecessor, and rather than swelling out of a dark cloud, they now sit majestically atop precise and crushing riffage. The other elements that lifted Martyrdöd above the run of d-beat acts are strongly represented; from the jackhammer drumming to the singer who sounds like he’s shouting last words before his execution.

Verily, this is a record whose strains will be echoing around the hallways of the bunker for many weeks to come. It’s always really nice to hear a great band explore something new within a style that they have mastered. Martyrdöd have (once again) thrown down the gage to the d-beat bands thrashing in the ruins of the world? Who, then, will take it up?

Magadh

Adventures in Punkland, Part 1

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by Magadh

In January of 1986, my family moved from Walla Walla, Washington to the little town of Long Eaton, outside of the city of Nottingham in the U.K. I was very excited about this. I hated my high school and I hated Walla Walla even more. I figured anything had to be better than that. I only had the vaguest idea what was happening with the punk scene in the U.K. Looking at human culture a place like Walla Walla in those days was sort of like astronomers looking at objects thousands of light years away. For me, the reality of punk in those days was the Punk and Disorderly compilations, plus a few Crass and Chaos U.K. records thrown in for good measure.

I told my friends that I was going to live in the U.K. Some of them were jealous, wanting just as much to get out of Walla Walla as I did. Mostly they were pretty excited about the idea that I was going to be able to see what amounted to us to the Mecca of punk rock, as we understood it from repeated viewings of the UK DK video. My buddy Jerry, who was I think a little annoyed that this opportunity was being bestowed on someone so much less cool than him, said, “you’ll probably just get beat up.”

Old Market Square, Nottingham

Long Eaton was a little town with not much going on, but it was only about a half an hour’s bus ride from central Nottingham. On the first Saturday of our stay there, I rode the bus into town to see what was what. I made my way from the bus station under Broad Marsh shopping center up into the middle of town, all the while looking for some way to get my bearings. When I got to Old Market Square, I found an anti-apartheid march forming up. I think at the time I assumed this kind of thing happened every day. There were some young punk rock types in the crowd to whom I introduced myself. They were quite friendly and gave me some pointers about things to do and places to go.

Probably the best of these was the direction to visit a record store called Select-a-Disc that was just off the square. Finding Select-a-Disc was a real piece of good fortune. They had more punk records there than I had ever seen in one place before. [At that point it had been to Time Travellers in Seattle, as well as the old Tower Records by Seattle Center, but Select-a-Disc put them both in the shade. I wasn’t to see a better record store until I moved to Portland and discovered 2nd Avenue, but that’s a different story]. I looked around for a couple of hours like a kid in a candy store. Finally, I realized it was getting late and I was going to have to split. Aside from my bus fare, I only had a couple of pounds on me, so I quickly bought something that fitted into my price range and headed out the door.

What I bought, completely by serendipity, was the Anglican Scrape Attic flexi. Considering the it was done on the basis of about five seconds’ reflection, it was well done. I think I must have bought it because it had a song on it by Sacrilege, who I’d never heard at that point, but the cover of whose Behind the Realms of Madness I’d seen (and been intrigued by) in MRR. In addition, it included cuts by the Japanese bands The Execute and Lip Cream, another by Hirax, and, most crucially as it turned out, one song by Concrete Sox. I say crucially because I discovered when I got home that Concrete Sox were actually from Nottingham.

I should point out that in those days I was pretty innocent of the burgeoning crossover movement that was going on between the punk and underground metal scenes. Most of what I knew came from attacks on this trend in MRR. Listening to Anglican Scrape Attic was a seriously mind altering experience. Not only was the music different than most of the punk that I had heard up to that point, but it had an overtly political dimension that was, if not entirely new to me, at least more prominent than in most of the music that I had heard in the U.S. The Concrete Sox cut, “Eminent Scum (Parts 1+2)” was about animal rights and hunt saboteuring, neither of which were the kind of things that got much play in the North America, even from more political bands like the Dead Kennedys. Until that moment, I think I was blissfully unaware that fox hunting actually went on.

I was determined to learn more, so I wrote a letter to Concrete Sox explaining who I was and asking if I could meet them. I must have included my telephone number, because a few days later I got a call at my parents’ house from their drummer John. He asked me if I wanted to come down to their practice space, which was at a community center somewhere in Nottingham (I don’t remember where now). I was kind of shocked. As a small town kid, I sort of expected them to blow me off.

I didn’t take this picture, but I have one just like it somewhere. I can still remember Vic wearing that shirt. It was from the Bob Geldof Run the World thing (and was meant ironically in Vic’s case, of course)

As I recall, I met John in front of the tower where his council flat was, which was above the Victoria Center shopping mall (what a strange place for low income housing). He took me to where they practiced and introduced me to the rest of the band. I was kind of apprehensive, but it turned out that they were a really nice bunch of guys. When I walked in, their guitar player Victim (or Vic for short) was just plugging in. He cut loose with a burst of music that was faster and louder than anything I had ever heard in my life. Their singer, Sean, was a hulking fellow (or at least so I recall), but he was jovial and had a habit of saying, “Jolly, jolly good” in a peculiar imitation of a British upper crust accent.

Les and Sean from Concrete Sox

Their bass player Les walked in with a cassette that somebody had made for him of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. This kind of surprised me, since where I came from the people who were into punk didn’t really associate much with people who were into metal bands, even crazy ones like Metallica. It would have been different if I had been from some bigger city like SF or LA, but being from the hinterlands, I was kind of behind the times. Anyway, after chatting with the band briefly, they got down to the business at hand. I had only ever heard one of their songs, and that only on the little turntable in our living room. For the next hour or so, I was treated to their full set, played at blistering, cyclonic pace and at a volume that caused my eardrums to compress. It was the start of my real education in punk.

To be continued…

Magadh

Scratch Your Name on My Arm With a Fountain Pen

Posted in Dispatches with tags , , , on July 9, 2012 by Magadh

Jacobus Van Dyn’s tattoos would make him an object of comment today; imagine their effect in 1930’s England. Van Dyn worked as a stevedore on the Southampton Dock while collecting work from some of the principle artists of his age, including the esteemed George Burchett. He was also known to pass the time regaling passers by at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park with tales from his life of sin.

Howard Grey, in 1959, documented Van Dyn’s tattoos in a series of portraits. Readers wishing to review the portraits, one of which is published below, may do so here.  Thankfully, Grey declined an opportunity to photograph Van Dyn’s heavily tattooed penis.

I first encountered this story via the good people at Sang Bleu who I heartily recommend you add to your daily reading list.

– Captain of Games

Sounds from the Bunker

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

For the last couple of days, I’ve been grooving on the Lost Tribe demo that I got from the Captain. For those who haven’t heard it, I heartily recommend it. I get the impression that it’s considered neo-goth or some such thing. In the days of my youth we would have just called that punk rock. It isn’t really quite as decadent as (what I consider to be) mainline goth acts like Christian Death or (taking the term a little more broadly) 45 Grave (to say nothing of such puffy shirt favorites as Spear of Destiny, Sisters of Mercy, etc.). If I’m not mistaken, the first time that I heard 45 Grave was on a compilation that also featured Social Distortion. [Subsequent research showed that this was the Hell Comes to Your House comp, originally released in 1981, which was kind of a watershed moment in terms of the early punk/goth crossover.] In any case, Lost Tribe rule and should be listened to by all civilized people.

In the name of trying to expand my musical horizons a little bit I’ve been digging into a bit of French music that was recommended to me: the Rigorisme EP released by Calvaiire. France is another one of those places in which my knowledge of the hardcore scene has really lagged. In the last ten years or so, there has been a real efflorescence of black metal bands in France, with groups such as Deathspell Omega, Glorior Belli, Merrimack, and Haemoth creating a dark and chaotic sound that seemed specific to the scene there (to the extent that such a work is descriptive in this case). Calvaiire is the first French hardcore band that I have heard in many a year and, on the strength of this four song release, they show massive promise. Their music occupies the border land between dark hardcore in the vein of Rorschach and more mainline screamo acts like Hoover (just to pick a name). More info is available from their site, which gives the impression of a real d.i.y approach. There is some (and perhaps complete) overlap between the band and the people who do Throatruiner Records. The latter have put out a whole bunch of cool stuff, about which more will be said in future posts. More power to them.

As it turns out, Calvaiire are related to another awesome French band: Birds in a Row. They too used to be on Throatruiner, although for the new record (which was released recently and which I haven’t heard yet) they have moved over to Deathwish Inc. Their Cottbus EP sounds a lot like Calvaiire, but the sound is more spare, a little like a less distorted MITB. They do thrash quite hard, throwing in plenty of pace and tempo changes that keep the listener interest. They are just not one of those bands that it’s very easy to tap your foot to (or bang your head if such is your inclination), but their music has a harsh, emotional quality that is quite distinctive.

Along more well-travelled lines, Münster’s Unrest have released a self-titled EP featuring four songs of intense, crust tinged d-beat on Germany’s Rising Riot Records. The music is tight and aggressive, sort of in the vein of Audio Collapse, but played with more precision. The song structures are pretty simple with slight melodic overtones, but relying more on heavily overdriven guitar and razor sharp drumming. This is definitely one of the better mixed releases that I have heard in this genre lately. The production is thick but still clear, giving the music a dark and brooding feel that that lifts it above the run of releases in this vein. Older listeners might notice a similarity to Crude SS or early Asocial, although the inclusion of blast beats certainly differentiates Unrest from those acts.

Ok, well that’s a little insight into what has been echoing around the Thousand Trivs bunker these days. We’ll be back tomorrow evening with more stuff, including a review of the much anticipated (at least by us) new Martyrdöd record.

Stay cool and don’t get eaten (because it seems like there are more zombies every day).

Magadh

Lost Tribe is Unsound

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by Magadh

Lost Tribe Unsound Distort Reality Records

Something dark stirs in the seat of the old South. Richmond’s Lost Tribe arise to engulf the listener in the dark glory of death rock. On Unsound, Lost Tribe effectively melds the post-punk of Warsaw and Killing Joke with elements of The Mob, TSOL, 45 Grave and even Amebix. The title track opens with eerie organ that quickly falls away to sharp drumming, a throbbing baseline and driving, angular guitar work. The vocals conjure images of TSOL with just a bit of Glen Danzig thrown in. The B-side, Lost Mind, brings to mind The Mob with just a touch of Vex and Zounds thrown in. The rhythm section really does its job here, pushing the track along at a frantic pace before pulling back as it trails off like mist into the ether.

Check the band out here. Their first LP is available from the fine people at Blind Prophet records here. Readers in the US may have a chance to see the band live as they intend to tour this fall:

Lost Tribe Fall US tour (as of July):

Asheville, NC Thursday Oct 25.
Atlanta, GA Friday Oct 26
New Orleans, Lo Saturday Oct 27
Houston, TX Sunday Oct 28
Mc Allen, TX Monday Oct 29
San Antonio, TX Tuesday Oct 30
Austin, TX Wednesday Oct 31
Denton, TX Thursday Nov 1
St Louis, MO Friday Nov 2
Chicago, IL Saturday Nov 3
Cleveland, OH Sunday Nov 4
Pittsburgh, PA Monday Nov 5

For those wishing to learn more about death rock, many 0s and 1s have been spilled discussing its history but none give it quite the treatment of Souciant’s excellent Oliver Sheppard. His brief history of American deathrock can be found here. We also recommend looking elsewhere on Souciant as you will encounter his interview with the ghouls of Lost Tribe.

-Captain of Games

Things You Should Know

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , , on July 6, 2012 by Magadh

First, a brief apology for the inconsistent posting this week. It has been a difficult week in terms of power here at the Thousand Trivs bunker. Frequent outages over the last couple of days have required repeated expeditions to the roof of the southern pod in an attempt to effect repairs. As this particular region is prone to storms, extreme heat, and the depredations of hordes of wandering zombies, one can easily imagine that this has taken a lot of time and energy (and bullets).

The power flow has been restored, no thanks, frankly, to the efforts of the Captain of Games. Somehow he always seems to be on extended reconnaissance sweeps when the dirty work needs to get done.

In any case, it is our goal to have new content every day and, assuming my jury rigging of the condensers on the south ridge was successful, we should be in business with the appropriate regularity.

While I am here, I thought I might provide a couple of bits and bobs until we fully have our shit together. I was talking briefly with Greg from Masakari after their blistering set at Now That’s Class the other night. He told me two interesting things. The first was that he actually plays in a drop C tuning. Yeah, I know that’s not really that interesting to those of you who aren’t musically inclined. For those who are, I will say that I spent a lot of time at the Masakari shows that I have seen watching him and trying to figure out what kind of tuning he was playing. Drop C explains a lot of things.

The second thing that he mentioned was the From Ashes Rise were playing again and had a new record coming out. I have a lasting fascination with those guys, not just because they’ve put out some absolutely devastating music, but also because they moved to Portland several months after I left and I really felt kind of cheated by that. Their new 7” is called Rejoice in the End and is available from the good people at Southern Lord . The A side, which is all I’ve heard so far is a bit more metal tinged that their Nightmare’s era stuff. “Rejoice in the End” is slower, but lacking none of the melody and punch of FAR’s classic releases.

I read the other day that Napalm Death had a new record out. It’s on Century Media and it’s called Utilitarian. I’m tempted to get it even though their records since From Enslavement to Obliteration have generally left me kind of cold. I think it’s that ticky tacky drum sound that was pioneered at Morrissound in Tampa during the early 1990s and kind of took over death metal. Then of course there’s the fact that there are currently zero original members left in the band. Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t let minutiae get in the way. The guy from metalsucks.net seems to like it (he gave it 4 out of 5 horns) and generally they are a pretty critical bunch over there.

And finally, a copy of the latest Martyrdöd offering Paranoia has recently shown up around the bunker, so we’ll have a review of that in the next couple of days.

Magadh

The Nightmare Continues: 7inchCrust Brings the Dead to Life!

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2012 by Magadh
I’ll cop to being a bit of a collector nerd.  In fact, the bunker is rapidly giving itself over to vinyl storage at the expense of essentials like food and booze. However, even the most devoted collector is bound to miss out on the occasional gem. Thankfully, 7inchcrust is here to help.7inchcrust is a clearinghouse for hard to find crust, powerviolence, grind and political hardcore. As the name implies, the author restricts his offerings to those in the 7” format but still boasts quite an impressive catalog. Missing Antisect’s Out From the Void 7”? Not a problem, he’s got you covered. You weren’t born when Discharge’s Realities of War7” dropped? Look no further, it’s just over here! Each offering is well curated; essentials from the genre share space with rare gems from around the world.The blog also respects the hardworking bands and labels responsible for these records. They write:
“Some records may be are repressed and available again: if you are in a band, if you run a label and don’t want a record here or if you see any record that shouldn’t be posted, make a comment and the record will be removed”
When you’ve tired of rounding out your collection with these lost gems, do yourself a favor and dive into the impressive blog roll. The author has something for everyone’s taste and it’s easy to spend hours chasing links down the rabbit hole.The author is based in Greece and, due to the current political and economic situation in that country, the blog is periodically updated at best. Those of us in the bunker wish 7inchcrust all the best and appreciate his impressive contribution to our musical addiction.
– Captain of Games

Gig Review

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on July 1, 2012 by Magadh

Napalm RaidMetalianMasakariNekrofilthRohmer
Now That’s Class, Cleveland, OH
30 June 2012

I feel as if I should offer the following as a public service to hardcore bands coming through this town. If you get booked with Masakari, you had really better bring you’re “A” game. If you do not, you will simply get embarrassed. They played a titanic show with All Pigs Must Die a couple of months ago and showed themselves to be on par with the very best acts in North America.

Rohmer opened the gig, which happened in the bar area at Now That’s Class (hence my somewhat subpar photographs). They got off to a bit of a rocky start, sounding muddy and with their vocalist totally buried by the wall of sound that the produced. By their second song they had matters sorted. Their bread and butter is the sort of low frequency thrash with melodic tinges that is all the rage these days. In truth, they sounded a bit like Masakari, but without quite reaching the latter’s surging intensity. They were really starting to grow on me after a few songs, but one of their guitarists broke a string, and since it was close to the end of their time they decided to pack it in. It was, nonetheless, an impressive showing.

Next came Nekrofilth, who were impressive as well, although for rather different reasons. As they kicked into their raw and aggressive black thrash attack, it quickly became clear that their singer/guitarist was completely rat ass drunk. The only reason he was three sheets to the wind is because he was too hammered to find his fourth sheet. In point of fact, this did not detract in any serious way from their performance. They managed to keep raging, even during those occasions when their main guy was falling over sideways. They have a split out now with Nunslaughter, and I give them props because they were selling copies of it on cassette.

Things got real when Masakari hit the stage. This is their next to last gig before they head off to Europe for a month, and the last time that people in Cleveland would get to see them before that kicks off. True to form, they did not disappoint. After a brief interlude where they played a different fragment from one of the sound clips on The Prophet Feeds, the lads treated the crowd to and onslaught of absolutely blistering thrash. Masakari do not beat around the bush. They beat the bush into submission and then set fire to the remains.

Undaunted by this, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Napalm Raid came on and played like their hair was, collectively, on fire. Their deep throated, aggressive crust brought forth frantic slamming from a crowd that had spent most of the previous set in head-bobbing awe. Remarkably, I noticed that the guy from Nekrofilth was in the middle of the action. This was particularly impressive given that an hour previously he had been almost too drunk to stand. Unfortunately, the quarters were close, and his flailing fist caught me upside the head three or four times. Oh well. I guess that not (well not nearly) the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in the pit.

Sadly for Metalian, things were getting on toward 1:00 AM, and I had to get back to the Thousand Trivs bunker before the auto security systems kicked in.

Napalm Raid are almost done with a long tour. They’ll be in Toronto tonight and then Montreal on Monday on their way back home. Masakari’s European tour, with the also awesome Alpinist, starts in Hamburg next weekend. The full schedule is here.

Magadh