Archive for September, 2012

Demo Roundup 2

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

Back in the long long ago, before the utter collapse of civilization, before the world of interpersonal communication was colonized by the interweb, punk rock was about trading demos through the mail. Demos were artifacts. You had to find someone’s address, send off a dollar or two, and then wait for days or weeks, checking the mailbox with expectation every afternoon. Demos were kind of different than other recordings. There was an interesting back and forth in Maximum Rock n Roll, which was really the main aggregator of punk rock information for those of us who lived in the hinterland. The gold standard was to get something out on vinyl, and in the early days MRR was really reticent about reviewing demos. This doesn’t mean that it never happened, but I can remember so sort of explicit policy statement in the early 1980s in which they basically said: if you want to get reviewed here you have to send us some wax.

Later on, of course, MRR added a demo review section, although I don’t know how long it persisted, or even whether it was a month to month segment. I think they sort of got hip to the degree to which tape trading was the communicative spine of punk rock. To make a record you had to engage with the money economy and the recording establishment. This wasn’t a bad thing for everybody. There were plenty of people in the punk rock scene who were not that interested in anarchist or autonomist values. On the other hand, for those who were, getting something mastered and laying out the cash up front to get it pressed was a hurdle. Making a cassette tape was a lot lower tech and didn’t necessarily involve negotiating with the man. That was cool, although one had to admit that there were a lot of really shit tapes floating around in the 1980s. On the other hand, I can still remember getting the Accused’s first demo tape which came, as I recall, on a Mariner High School AV Department cassette. I can still remember getting Verbal Assault’s demo in an envelope stapled between two pieces of cardboard, accompanied by a very nice letter from Chris Jones asking what it was like to be a punk rocker in Walla Walla, Washington. Yeah, there was an element of human contact that has been a little bit lost in this day of instant downloading.

Have I been nattering on for 400+ words already? Well, I guess I have. Now down to the real business of this post, which is the matter of a few demos that have arrived in the bunker in recent days.

I don’t remember exactly how I got turned on to the Wermland demo by the Swedish band Våldsamt Motstånd (whose name I think translates as Worldwide Nightmare). I think it may be on the crust demos site, but I’ve forgotten and I’m too out of it to take the time to find out. In any case, I have it now and that’s all the really matters. Wermland was actually released in 2011. Since then they have another release that I’ll get to in a minute. Wermland, like their previous releases, is just a little bit on the lo-fi side, with vocals that sound like the abominable snowman choking out it his last breath. Their music features slightly more heel-damped chugging than is typical of the average d-beat band, and the mix in elements of dissonance that work quite nicely in my opinion. They have a very thick sound that does a lot to create dark atmosphere and, although the comparison my night be entirely felicitous from a stylistic point of view, I was kind of reminded of really early Grave (like around the time of the Tremendous Pain EP).

Since Wermland, they’ve come out with a 12” entitled Förbannelse. The five songs included there reflect a bit of stylistic development, at least to a greater degree than there was between Wermland and their Lagen om alltings jävlighet demo from a few years ago. The production is much cleaner and the songs have a bit more pronounced metal edge, although their d-beat identity is still very much intact. The dissonant elements from their earlier recordings also remain and add a distinctive quality to their music.

New Hampshire’s Ramlord released a demo on cassette last year called Stench of Fallacy that has deliciously lo-fi quality. It has elements in common with bands like Fall of the Bastards, but with simpler song structures and slightly less developed drumming. Stench of Fallacy has a lot of cool single string passages and the melodies thus created often stray into more emo-ish sort of territory. Nonetheless, they managed to maintain a suitably aggressive approach that is entertaining without being overly complicated.

The split that they put out with Condensed Flesh late last year sees Ramlord developing, both in terms of better recording values (the drums no long have the sort of tubby sound that they had on Stench of Fallacy) but also in terms of musicianship. Their tunes are a bit longer and more developed. They still walk the line between black metal and hardcore, but they’ve added a bit more power/violence to the mix. Their songs have more thumping slow parts and they’ve pulled back a bit on the single string stuff. Most recently, they’ve done a split single with Dallas power/violence merchants Cara Neir. It’s pretty good and you can hear it on Bandcamp for free, but it’s not my favorite of their productions. My problem with it is this: if you are going to do a ten minute long song, you’ve got to have enough ideas to fill that time. It can be done well (as Moonsorrow have shown on many occasions) but it can also really drag if the content isn’t there. In any case, I salute their ambition.

Finally, I was turned on to the San Antonio band Headache by something that Joe from Masakari posted on Farcebook. I’ve never seen them, although according to him they are an absolutely blistering live act (and he would know). Their demo is power/violence to max with all of the majesty and wonder that that entails. They do a great job of working that fast/slow dynamic in ways that keep the listener engaged and generally rage all over the place. I will just say that I have a limited tolerance for this kind of music because it so often lacks creative drive. This demo has been in frequent rotation in the bunker ever since it arrived, which says a lot about how good it is.

Ok, you’ve probably had enough, and so have I. I’ve got some metal records lined up for review, but I’ll spare you any more nattering at least for a couple of days.


The Northern Cold

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , on September 5, 2012 by Magadh

It can get a bit boring in the bunker to be honest. Mags is a decent enough fellow but, as a great man once said, all work and no play makes the Captain a homicidal liability. In the hopes of avoiding some form of mutually assured destruction I’ve obsessively taken to searching the seas of 1’s and 0’s for new music. During one of my voyages I was lucky enough to encounter The Northern Cold podcast.

The Northern Cold offers up an hour of trv cvlt black metal. Some listeners may be put off by the inclusion of Satanic Warmaster (whether by politics or competency) but, overall, episode one is worth a listen. Check it our here.

– Captain of Games

New Sounds

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by Magadh

Things have been a little hectic around the bunker for a couple of weeks or so. It seems like as soon as we fix one thing another breaks, and it’s been extremely difficult for either the Captain or myself to get it take care of our normal duties of sifting the data streams for new forms of entertainment. Too, there have been a lot of apocalyptic signs lately: plagues of locusts and frogs which have really played hell with the bunker’s ventilator systems. The Captain was gone all week trying to set up a deal for supplies with some of the itinerant traders who wander the wastes in this region, but it seems to have come to nothing and he was seriously mooting the idea of detonating one of the tactical nukes that we have set up out there just to punish them for their stubbornness. Ah Captain, you are always a thousand laughs.

Anyway, here are some of the things that we have been checking out in our rare moments of rest hereabouts.

When I first heard the name Seeds in Barren Fields, I assumed they must be some kind of emo/screamo band. They are not. In fact, a lot of what you need to know about them can be communicated by the fact that they hail from Gothenburg. Sounding the Siren Song in Vain, their first full length, is loaded with both the compelling melodies and heavy guitar work for which that particular locality is well known. This is not to say that they are simply another imitator of At the Gates (although frankly I would be cool with that). No, a better reference point would be Gothenburg’s Sacrilege (or Sacrilege GBG as they now style themselves). SIBF are more stripped down than Sacrilege, but the melodies that suffuse their songs would not be out of place on The Fifth Season. They tend toward mid- and slower-tempo material with lots of double bass to keep the sound thick. Occasionally they get into blast beat territory, but that is mostly a flash for the sake of keeping the arrangements varied. SIBF are dark and angry, and apparently politically with it as well, although this last assessment is merely based on hearsay. Siren Song was released last year. Since then, they’ve released a split “single” with Marnost from the Czech Republic. I put single in quotes because the songs involved are 13 and 16 minutes long respectively. I am curious about this. More info will be forthcoming when I get my hands on a copy.

Tol Eressëa are from Toulouse. First of all, they get points from me for the Tolkein reference, all the more since it is a particularly obscure one (dig out your copy of The Silmarilion for clarification). We reviewed a couple of other French bands a couple of months back (Birds in a Row and Calvaiire to be precise) and it seemed to us that there was a quite interesting dark grind scene going on there. Tol Eressëa don’t quite fit into that mold. Des Fleurs De Pierre Au Coeur Du Mal, which they self-released last year is really more of hardcore than metal. Their music has crusty elements, but also some really compelling melodies and elements of straight hardcore. They do a good job of generating atmosphere with their slower material, counterpointing this well with faster passages, dripping with minor key melodic overlays. Their songs have a lot of variety, but at 29 minutes this is a disc that leaves the listener wanting more (which is not a bad thing I suppose).

And now for something completely different. After seeing ads all over the internet for the band Primate, I finally decided to pungle up the cash and give Draw Back a Stump a listen. Primate is a sort of supergroup, featuring Bill Kelliher from Mastodon and Kevin Sharpe from Brutal Truth. I have to admit being a bit dubious for several reasons. First and foremost, I’ve never been a huge fan of Mastodon and everything after Brutal Truth’s first LP kind of left me cold. Second, these sorts of things tend to leave me a bit cold. Ok, the Venemous Concept CD wasn’t bad, but by and large I find that bands that don’t develop organically tend to lack a certain degree of imagination. So what’s the verdict on Primate? Well, I’d be lying if I denied that at found it entertaining. For those looking for sounds along the lines of the source bands, you will be disappointed. This project walks the line between kind of groove metal and hardcore. The playing is flawless, the licks pristine. The expanded version (I don’t know about the original) includes a cover of Black Flag’s “Drinking and Driving”. For me, this cover sums up a lot about this record. It is played with a certain degree of aggression, but it loses some of that herky-jerky quality that Greg Ginn’s guitar playing lent Black Flag even in their later period. This s not to say that Draw Back a Stump is a bad record. I’ve listened to it a fair few times and I still find myself moved to the occasional head bob or foot tap. I think that my problem with it is that they people involved can play much more challenging music than this, so it’s a little jarring when they don’t. In any case, I still recommend it.

Well, that’s us for the moment. I’ll be back later in the week with some demo reviews just to keep things varied.