Archive for Southern Lord

Review: Power Trip

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2017 by Magadh

Power Trip, Nightmare Logic, Southern Lord

power trip2There are a number of things that differentiate this disc from Power Trip’s previous outing (2013’s Manifest Decimation), but the one that you’re really going to notice if you’ve heard the earlier release is the production. Manifest Decimation was a good record in a lot of respects, an example of the mid-80s style thrashmetal that occasionally lifts its head above the sea of black metal and grindcore. It has some pretty good songwriting and a decent degree of aggression. The main problem was that the recording seemed so awash in something (reverb probably) that it made the songs hard to discern.

I’ve got no problem with raw recording values in metal and hardcore. Sometimes, given the right overall tone, it can add an element of atmosphere (I won’t tax you by reciting where I think this is the case but if you page back some of my reviews you will find ample evidence). But in the case of Manifest Decimation, it just made it difficult to follow the chord changes without really adding the needed atmospheric dimension.

I am happy to report that this problem has been sorted in their new disc. Nightmare Logic is crisply recorded and features a wealth of punch, intense thrash metal cuts. Those who heard their split with Integrity from last year will have seen the moves in this direction, but the release of Nightmare Logic shows that they can put it together for a whole album’s worth of material, which is worthy of note. And let’s be clear: this album absolutely rips. They don’t have quite the tonality of a band like Havok, but they are none the worse for being a bit nastier.

power trip1As you might expect given the four year gap between their full releases, there are other improvements to be noted. Power Trip have made notable advances in terms of songwriting and arranging. Their sound is reminiscent (at least to my ear) the thrashmetal bands that labels like Combat seemed to release with such frequency back in 1980s, particularly Dark Angel, with whom they share more than a passing similarity. That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday.

That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday. Power Trip’s songs are full of little back picked elements that add power in ways that are hard to quantify or to describe in the abstract. I found myself thinking of the picking style of Artillery’s first couple of records. The drums are clearer as well, and I really loved the snare sound, thick and thudding, but with enough tone to cut through and be heard.

Nightmare Logic is one of the best exemplars of the thrashmetal genre to be released in at least the last five years. It’s got a lot of variety and changes of speed, and the musicianship is about as close to flawless you’re ever going to hear. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a great deal to begin with, these guys have produced some really hard rocking stuff that’s going to be infesting my stereo (and tormenting my neighbors) for a long time to come.

Review: Enabler

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

Enabler, All Hail the Void Southern Lord

The first thing I thought when I heard this record was, are these guys really from North America? It’s not like this sort of music is never made on this side of the Atlantic, but for every Black Dahlia Murder or Darkest Hour, Europe produces two dozen bands on the model of Carnal Forge, Nightrage, Fear My Thoughts (feel free to spin this list out as long as your sanity will bear). Yes, Milwaukee’s Enabler can be classified as part of the latter day development originated in the Gothenburg death metal sound of the late 1980s/early 1990s. But, lest one fear that we are simply going to pigeonhole them with this label, let it be said that Enabler have produced a wicked disc with a sound that is, if not all their own, a fresh take on the genre.

Let us take Black Dahlia Murder as a point of comparison, both because they plow a somewhat similar stylistic furrow as Enabler and because they hail from roughly the same part of the country. Before going further, allow me to say that the version of BDM that I am discussing is what they were playing in the first half of the aughties, i.e. around the time of Unhallowed and Miasma, after which I kind of lost interest. The first thing that really distinguishes Enabler is their guitar sound. I don’t think that they are tuned down quite as far as BDM, but the sound that they achieve on All Hail the Void is meaner and nastier by a long length, recalling the sort of thick, razors through flesh type of sound that emerged from Sunlight Studios all those years ago. Ok, maybe they don’t quite reach the dank heaviness of Left Hand Path, but they are close enough to make the comparison valid.

Where other bands have marched down the tried and true paths of the Swedish deathmetal scene, Enabler merge this style with an element of crust that gives their music a tone and feel that is all its own. In addition, there are elements on All Hail the Void that fans of the U.S. deathmetal scene of the 1980s will find satisfying. There are blast beats here, a goodly number of them in fact, but used in such a way as to move the songs forward rather than just wallowing in them. There are also pleasing elements of melody that provide a nice change up from the aggression that spews forth in most of the tunes on this record.

Once again, Southern Lord has picked a winner. From start to finish, All Hail the Void is blistering blackened HC at its very very best. This is a band that could really go a long way. Should they choose to, Enabler have the option to be a really dominant act in this field. Their next disc will tell us a lot about what they are going to be. That is for the future. For now it is enough to rock hard and enjoy a real slug of excellence. Well played, gentlemen.
[Note: I really dig these guys’ attitude, if this interview in Noisecreep is anything to go by.]

Magadh

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

Inherit the Wasteland: Sweden’s Misantropic

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

Nausea Extinction Profane Existence Records/Selfless (re-issue)
Misantropic Insomnia Southern Lord

My first real musical exposure to Nausea (the band’s patches have always been ubiquitous) was in the fall of 1993.  I had bunked off a day of school to start my Thanksgiving break early and joined two friends on a road trip to San Francisco. Our plan, such as it was, consisted of couch surfing at various punk houses. These houses also served as a base of operations to catch some shows, visit friends, see the city and buy some records.

Having exhausted the stacks at Amoeba and Rasputin’s, I found myself at the legendary Epicenter Zone collective diligently dissecting their selection. In the course of my search I came across the Selfless reissue of Nausea’s Extinction Lp. The Selfless album was actually called Extinction The Second Coming and featured not only the classic LP but also the Cybergod 7” and various other tracks. Something compelled me to take a chance on it and I figured the re-issue gave me the best bang for my meager student buck. As longtime fans of the band will tell you, the reissue contains most of the post Neil Robinson catalog and the bulk of their strongest material. In my case I was hooked from the first bleak notes of “Tech-no-logic-kill”.

Nausea effectively fused the dark lyrics and soundscapes of Amebix, burly Discharge riffs and d-beats, and Motorhead inspired guitar licks with the potent 1-2 vocal punch of Amy Miret and Al Long. They also practiced what they preached with band members active in Food Not Bombs, ABC No Rio, the New York squatting movement and as participants in the Tompkins Park Riot. I found the whole combination compelling and, while it took me awhile to warm to their contemporaries in the crust scene, Extinction became a frequently played masterpiece in my growing collection of punk.

My love of late period Nausea drew me to Sweden’s Misantropic and I hurriedly snatched up the US release of their LP Insomnia on Southern Lord. One of the primary factors was Gerda’s vocal style and its striking similarity to that of Amy Miret. Matte’s vocals, when combined with Gerda, also conjure memories of Al Long. However, a fixation on this really does the band a disservice.  Nausea drew upon the likes of Amebix, Discharge and Motorhead, Misantropic invoke the might of Antisect, Doom, Wolfbrigade and Disfear. Their style has of less of the building bleakness of Nausea. Instead, they pummel the listener into submission with punishing riffs and rolling thunder for drums.

Their lyrics are standard fare for the genre but suit the music quite well. “Born to Die” focuses on the bloody images of the slaughter house, “Raise the Gallows” is class warfare set to a d-beat and “Lords of War” laments the millions lost in religious wars. In the case of “Lords of War”, Mistantropic’s discussion of the lyrics is refreshing. While so many bands focus solely on Christianity’s bloody history the band, via their website, remind the listener, “Too many people have died in vain under the sign of a cross or a moon crescent.” No Gods, No Masters indeed!

For fans of the genre, Mistantropic’s Insomnia is required listening. I wholehearted recommend you purchase the album from your local record shop or from the fine people at Southern Lord. The band is coming off a hiatus resulting from the birth of Gerda and Matte’s first child. I, for one, can’t bloody wait to hear what comes next.

– Captain of Games

Review: Sarabante

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 5, 2012 by Magadh

Sarabante Remnants Southern Lord

I’ve been trading notes lately with an old friend of mine from college. This fellow, much brighter than myself, is part of the brains trust behind Souciant Magazine. We were discussing the Greek hardcore band Sarabante. Souciant had just run a piece about them , and I was mentioning to him that we had been meaning to review their CD, but that we kind of felt that we had done so much about Southern Lord releases already that it would kind of look like we were their media wing.

And then of course, there was the fact just mentioned that Souciant had just run a piece about them. That pretty much had me set on the idea that we should leave it alone. Then a couple of things occurred to me. As is their wont, Souciant’s article on Sarabante was, in fact, about the broader political situation in Greece right now. A review from us, which is bound to be more focused on purely stylistic aspects, probably isn’t going to cover all that much of the same territory. Perhaps more importantly, it struck us that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to give those guys a little added publicity, to the extent getting a link in one of our articles would do that.

Ok, so long story short, here are a few words about Sarabante.

A few months ago, I perusing Southern Lord’s website when I saw a listing for the latest CD by the Greek hardcore band Sarabante. One line caught my eye: “The band was brought to the attention of Southern Lord by Brad Boatright of From Ashes Rise.” Well, that is a pretty sold recommendation from my perspective. From Ashes Rise were, for many years, the leading figures in the melding of the European d-beat style with a more melodic approach. While one could hear this in European bands like Wolfpack/Wolfbrigade, Disfear, and, somewhat later Martyrdöd (to name only a very prominent few). Perhaps memory fails, but I can’t remember hearing anything very similar to this from North America before running across their Concrete and Steel 12” in the late 1990s. Ok, maybe you could say that His Hero is Gone might be comparable, but you get my point.

Nowadays, this particular style, which is very close to our hearts here in the bunker, is much more readily available in these parts (c.f. our forthcoming review of Cleveland’s oh-so-crushing Masakari). In Europe, and once again I’m speaking very general terms here, there seem a lot more bands doing this, especially in the wake of Martyrdöd’s pathbreaking In Extremis CD in 2005. Martyrdöd really raised the bar. Not only was their approach to d-beat alloyed with a sharp and moving sense of melody, but the structures of their songs were somewhat more complex, adding extra bars onto the normally square d-beat riffs. One can hear echoes of this approach in the work of bands like Münster’s Alpinist, as well as in Sarabante’s melodic d-beat stylings.

Remnants is a crushingly powerful record. It’s no surprise that Brad Boatright dug these guys, as the melodies that shape their songs would not have been out of place on any From Ashes Rise release from Nightmares onward. Similar to Martyrdöd, these young Athenians use riffs that tend to be a little bit longer than the d-beat norm. They are heavily downtuned for sure and this gives their music a metallic heaviness that acts as an effective counterpoint to the melodic overlays that give Sarabante’s music its distinctive feel.

Apparently they have been on a bit of a hiatus and have only recently started gigging again. The vinyl edition of Remnants was really limited and must certainly be sold out now, but the CD version can be had from the Southern Lord website, and it can be directly downloaded from Emusic and similar sites.

Magadh