Stone Titan

March 4th, 2014

Scratch ‘N Sniff LP
Safety Meeting Records, 2013

Despite an endless parade of doom metal bands crisscrossing the globe in mutilated Econoline vans reeking of weed and spilled PBR, there are only a few bands that can actually deliver the low-end punch in the gut that makes the genre worth your time. This gnarly two-piece from the wilds of Connecticut is one of the few bands that’s channeled enough generalized misanthropy into 7 slabs of steaming downtuned Doom to make it well worth the tinnitus Scratch ‘N Sniff dishes out by the pound. With the bile-infused rage of squealing feedback-ridden southern sludge like Eyehategod and Buzzov*en, fused with the epic inertia of riff riders Noothgrush and Damad, topped with a tinge of psychedelic stonerisms alá Bongzilla, Stone Titan deliver the goods and put themselves at the top of the doom metal heap.

LISTEN

LINKS

Stone Titan on Bandcamp
Stone Titan on Facebook

Best Singles/EPs of 2013

January 27th, 2014


Cop City / Chill Pillars
- Gift Shop 7″ (Hozac)
The oddball vibe within the grooves of this 45 instantly pull you into a bizarro world where warbling effects-laden guitar and chanted vocals might be considered acceptable entertainment. Living up to the weirdness of their moniker, these wack Floridians continue to amaze.


Endless Bummer
- Ripper Current EP 7″ (In The Red)
Four bare knuckled blasts from the most excellent Permanent Records folks and a Spit. This LA band with the ultimate SoCal name offers up a version of bitter garage punk that’s no fun and fun at the same time, perfectly wrapped up with a funny/not funny cover.


Life Stinks
Shadow on the Wall 7″ (Total Punk)
Stripped down no-frills downer punk with a less-than-positive attitude. Their snarl is evident, yet they don’t give a fuck about getting overly worked up about it. Endlessly inspiring negativity in two parts. Brilliant.


Magic Shadows
- Sunburned Mind 7″ (Magic Shadows)
The wave of punk-infused psychedelia continues. Sex Church, Destruction Unit, Human Eye, etc — there’s no shortage of killer bands swirling loud tranced out guitar around mind expanding riffs. And if that sort of thing is your bag, you gotta check out these Canadians’ echoey barrage of scorching guitar stomp. Read more here.


Optional Body
- Surviving Avalanches 7″ (25 Diamond)
As a huge fan of The VSS and the first few Year Future records, my ears have been craving some Sonny Kay-style jams for a number of years now. This killer pair of songs has his distinct yelp over a wash of doomed postpunk guitar — the ingredients of a classic.


Schonwald
Mercurial 7″ (Hozac)
The second the needle hits this record, a wave of atmospheric synth washes over you — a thrilling mix of ghostly vocals flowing over sustained chillwave and thin beats. A Flock of Seagulls from hell. This Italian duo’s second LP (out soon on Hozac) will be on the must-hear list for 2014.


Scorpion Violente
The Rapist 12″ EP (Teenage Menopause)
Similar to The Dreams, another French duo with repetitive, droning vocals and noise over cheap drum machines, Scorpion Violente ups the menace with minimalist disco dirges that are seedier than a Tijuana back alley at 3am —something like what a Brainbombs dance album might sound like. Their cover of The Sonics’ “Strychnine” on this record is mystifying and fascinating at the same time. Even the sleeve is morbidly unsettling and a brilliantly provocative image for setting a scene.


The Soupcans
– Parasite Brain 7″ EP (Telephone Explosion/JKSHK)
If you aren’t acquainted with Toronto’s Soupcans yet, grab this 6-song EP and prepare to be atomized. Breathing new spastic life into noise punk, their brand of racket is as warped and wild as it gets. If you’ve subjected yourself to last year’s killer Good Feelings record, get ready for more righteous shocks to the system.


Straight Arrows
Never Enough 7″ (Hozac)
A-side drops bigger than life rubbery riffs that pull you in with a surge of buzzsaw guitar, while the B-side rounds out the fun with a catchy garage punk punch to the face. These Aussies have been making big waves stateside and here are two more great reasons why.


Verglas
Excommunion 7″ EP (Found Dead)
Trve to form, the 4 songs of black metal delight on this Montreal band’s vinyl debut are recorded thinly and tinny, but even that slipshod production can’t keep the fury of Veglas from shining through. Mixing the pained shrieks and buzz of standard issue isolationist black metal with the articulation of D-beat hardcore and galloping thrash metal makes this band a pleasantly aggressive anomaly in an oversaturated musical form.

Best Albums of 2013

January 5th, 2014

Black BugReflecting the Light (Hozac)
The only mark against this album is that many of the songs have already been released as singles. That said, you can’t deny the unstoppable force that is Black Bug. Their essential debut LP may go a couple clicks further in aggression, but Reflecting the Light is every bit as nasty, scuzzed out and terrifying as anything they’ve ever done. Any punk purists that still scoff at synthesizers need to have this monster blasted at their face. The tone is hard and overamped to oblivion, and shreds in a cool detached manner that only the French can muster. Think of it as Metal Urbain 2.0 — which roughly translates to “required listening ” in NFZ English.

BloodbirdsPsychic Surgery  (Self Released)
Made up from some folks with a long line of notable punk/indie/hardcore/avant groups that have kept the KC/Lawrence music scene interesting for over a decade, Bloodbirds is guitar rock built on a sturdy foundation of dialed-in songwriting and the good sense to keep the edges frayed a little with some masterfully applied effects, feedback and squall. The first track “Divorce Sea” alone is enough to make this record an essential part of your sonic diet.

Dan MelchiorCCDE Music (Little Big Chief)
With such a prolific amount of recordings out there it’s easy to overlook some of Mr. Melchior’s efforts. That said, it’s good to remember that he’s never been one to rest on his laurels. Even though he’s definitely got his own sound, he’s constantly tweaking and bending it into new directions — just check out the cut up avant blues of 2011′s Assemblage Blues for instance. The most striking thing about CCDE Music is the lack of Dan’s trademark yelp. Only two songs include his distinct vocals, while the others offer up processed tapes and clips, making this a mostly instrumental record. Shifting the focus from lyrics and vocal delivery allows him to flex his musical muscle here with an outstanding collection of guitar and noise interplay over hypnotic krautrock beats. Definitely one of his best yet. If you think you’ve got enough Melchior records in your collection, think again.

FrustrationUncivilized (Born Bad)
This Parisian band’s aesthetic has become more and more defined over the span of its career, and Uncivilized is the most realized version of their darkwave postpunk oeuvre. Channeling a perfectly balanced stream of their influences like early Devo, Joy Division, and Wire, Frustration has perfected their uniquely severe sound with songs structured enough to be coldly stark, but fleshed out with loosely planted synth flourishes and electronics. The LP version comes with a bonus 7″ that’s got a catchy track “I Can’t Forget You” and an intro B-side.

Indian JewelryPeel It (Reverberation Appreciation Society)
Indian Jewelry has an amazing track record for putting out highly listenable records and 2013′s offering is yet another gift from the psych gods. Read more about them here. As with their other releases, Peel It lets the freak flag fly (the first track “Freak Pride” makes that more than clear) with layers and layers of psych drone and fuzz, this time with a slight lean towards Chrome-like effects and tribal drums versus the pounding Pain Teens punch of records like Free Gold. You’ll dig it if you’re searching for something between the headspace of Peaking Lights and the druggy sludge of Wizzard Sleeve.

Nails - Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
In 2013, your band has to be relentless if you want to be relevant in hardcore punk or grindcore metal circles. Bands are constantly upping the ante with insane tempo shifts, stops and blistering speed. Of the dozens (maybe hundreds) of hardcore/grindcore releases put out this year, the 10 tracks from Nails’ second album clip along in only 17 minutes, but it’s enough time to be filled with enough full throttled D-beat riffs, breakdowns and blastbeats to keep any listener on their heels. An unrelenting mix of Coalesce precision and internsity, Pig Destroyer complexity and Napalm Death speed make this a new watermark for extreme music.

Oranssi Pazuzu - Olen Aukaissut Uuden Silmän (20 Buck Spin)
There were a ton of great metal records put out in 2013 and the one that really stood out from the pack was this Finnish black metal psych band’s third album. Its buzzing mix of hypnotic synth over churning guitar crescendos and possessed vocals have a composed, confident way that pulls you into their world, sounding something like Hawkwind channeling Emperor. It’s unique in that it doesn’t try too hard. It makes a statement through its deliberate and inventive use of the black metal sonic palette.

PharmakonAbandon – (Sacred Bones)
It’s been a while since something interesting has come from the noise scene, and knowing the quality of output from the Sacred Bones label, I knew it’d be worth checking out. The power electronics and possessed vocals Margaret Chardiet serves up are both harsh and captivating, and best of all masterfully composed to deliver maximum impact. Be sure to track down the 5-track special edition with the 27 minute bonus track “Sour Sap” — a terrifyingly brute example of the Pharmakon sound, which shifts from Merzbow wails to waves of Whitehouse throb and hissing black metal shrieks.

Spray Paint - Rodeo Songs (S.S. Records)
After a pair of killer 7 inches in 2012, Spray Paint released a pair of killer LPs in 2013. While their debut LP was closer in form and sound to their 7 inches, Rodeo Songs adds some depth and space to their short, sharp angular guitar attack. Overall, it’s not as loud. Heavy echo and reverb separating the dual guitars and cleaner production helping balance and distinguish the vocals and drum sounds. Rodeo Songs better captures the sonic textures and punch of the band’s live show. You won’t often hear me praising cleaner production, but in this case it really enhances the Spray Paint experience. Just turn it up!

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin (Castleface)
You’d think with their prolific amount of output over the last few years, there’d be a lesser album from Dwyer and crew at some point, but here comes yet another set of 10 killer tunes that made 2013 that much better. And like the last couple LPs they continue to push their sound into new spaces and tempos, like the fuzzy slo-mo glaze of “Toe Cutter” and “Night Crawler” or the sweet pull of the spacious closing track “Minotaur,” enhanced with a string section Breeders-esque background vocals. These mixed with a handful of classic Oh Sees rave ups make this essential listening for 2013 and beyond.

Plexi

December 27th, 2013

Part of Me 7″
Sub-Pop, 1995

By the time I found Plexi, around the time their excellent Cheer Up record came out, they’d mutated into a glossier glam-pop version of themselves with sharp, punchy guitar hooks and a hard rock swagger. I’ve loved that album for years now. Digging back into their discography with their 7″ debut, I was stoked to find a more aggro version of the band with two tracks that are just a little more tense and in-your-face than their LP tracks. The sleeve design is pretty sweet too, with embossed letterpress art and the 2 songs jammed onto the A-side of this 1-sided 45. I picked up a used copy, but it looks like it’s still available at the Sub Pop website too.

LINKS
Buy “Part of Me” at SubPop.com

LISTEN

Lore City

November 23rd, 2013

Absence & Time CD
Self-Released

Last spring when this album was released it was easy to escape the pull of this haunting disc. Now, as the last leaves fall and the palette of midwestern life is reduced to lifeless grays and browns, the soothing ache of Absence & Time is nearly impossible to ignore. There’s a sparseness and detached cool to Lore City that’s really seductive, as well as the sustained atmospheric haze that weaves through the 8 tracks on this Chicago duo’s debut. But there’s also an edge to what Lore City does that keeps them interestingly intense where most bands would be content to reflexively play by heart without pushing the envelope in any real way. With a monolithic, plodding pace that swells with occasional wave of exhilaration, Lore City has found a sound that fits somewhere between the preciousness of Zola Jesus, the warmth of Low and the severity of Swans. While the shock of Laura Mariposa’s haunting voice escalating to shrieking visceral growls is a bit unnerving, the deliberate manner by which they’ve inserted this texture into their sound gives Absence & Time depth and an experimental bite that refuses to be ignored.

LINKS
Official Lore City website

Kabul Golf Club

October 14th, 2013

Le Bal Du Rat Mort EP
Uproar for Veneration, 2012

It’s taken about a year for the five tracks on this deranged EP to saturate into my thick skull, and I’m grateful to finally make some sense of it. While this Belgian band’s own points of reference make sense (Dillinger Escape Plan, Jesus Lizard, Blood Brothers) their sound twists that source material into frenzied shards of raging hardcore served up in obsessively measured chunks that takes their sound into uncharted territory. Their balance of warbling, frayed-at-the-edges guitar and electronics to forcefully calculated, angular song structures make this record a beast sounding something like The Locust playing TFUL 282 covers of Coalesce songs. It’s a spastic, tendon-ripping good time that’s a few notches above the standard issue hardcore record. A new EP is in the works, so get acquainted with KGC before they unleash the next level of hardcore.

DOWNLOAD
Kabul Golf Club – “Demon Days” (3.9mb)

LINKS
Visit the Kabul Golf Club website
Buy Le Bal Du Rat Mort at iTunes

Bl’ast!

September 25th, 2013

School’s Out 7″
SST, 1987

A few weeks ago, the Southern Lord label released an album of long lost Bl’ast! recordings, Blood!, remastered by Dave Grohl. It’s breathed new life into my love for this band with a collection of tracks from their prime It’s In My Blood era, the creative peak of these Santa Cruz heavies. At the time this 7″ came out, featuring a cover of the classic Alice Cooper song on the A-side and the Germs “The Slave” on the B-side, Bl’ast was often pegged as a Black Flag rip-off. Sure, guitarist Mike Neider killed it Ginn-style on a clear acyrlic guitar, and their SST discography definitely links them to that sound. Yet they need credit for bringing something new to the table with massive riffs that stretch time signatures like taffy and Cliff Dinsmore’s distinctively hoarse bark that gave their version of heavy hardcore a mighty guttural punch. Wisely, the new release (which is basically It’s In My Blood resequenced with a few alternate tracks) includes the song “Your Eyes” from this otherwise novel 45. “Your Eyes” sounds better than ever on Blood! with an additional guitar and a crisp mix that pushes this late ’80s material into a powerful roar that levels anything out there today. Here’s the original version of the track, which still delivers a hella heavy punch and stands as a great example of why this band shouldn’t be overlooked.

DOWNLOAD
Bl’ast – “Your Eyes” (2.3mb)

LINKS
Buy Blood! at Southern Lord Records
Bl’ast on Facebook
Video clip about remastering Blood!

Chokebore

August 26th, 2013

Thin As Clouds/Pink Deluxe 7″
Amphetamine Reptile, 1995

You gotta love anomalies. While the rest of the world was consumed with Seattle, grunge, and whatever 3rd rate stinkbombs “alternative” radio could fart out 24 hours a day, this group from Hawaii was steadily churning out a slow burn racket that’s aged pretty well over the last 20 years. If you’ve dug into any CD crates lately, you may have thumbed the treasure of their excellent AmRep albums buried in heaps of Silverchair and Candlebox turds. Motionless and Anything Near Water are keepers, as well as releases on other labels all the way through their 2011 Falls Best EP. Here’s a B-side from a tour-only 7″ that captures their thoughtfully constructed and uniquely delivered slow-mo blues grit. Troy Von Balthazar’s near-yodeling vocal style was/is such a welcome departure from the deep throat clenched jaw clichés of grunge singers of the era. Although the band eventually moved to LA, it’s still hard to imagine that the sunny shores of Honolulu — a touristy land of extreme sport and resort reggae — birthed such a unique and refined take on downer guitar rock.

DOWNLOAD
Chokebore – “Pink Deluxe” (4.8mb)

LINKS
Official Chokebore website
Chokebore on iTunes
Video for “Coat” on YouTube

Tales of Terror

June 15th, 2013

Tales of Terror LP
CD, 1984

***Long overdue reissue alert*** The finest track on The Melvins’ Everyone Loves Sausages LP has to be the song “Romance” from the criminally underrated Sacto punk heavies Tales of Terror. After hearing the Melvins’ version, the song stuck with me for days and made me appreciate them even more than I already did. Why their solitary 1984 LP hasn’t seen some sort of reissue or at least shown some respect outside a few clued-in blog posts is a mystery to me. They had a few compilation tracks on classic records like Rat Music for Rat People Vol. 2 and Boner Records’ Them Boners Be Poppin’, not to mention a killer instrumental track on the second volume of Thrasher magazine’s Skate Rock compilations. In fact the footage of the band from Thrasher’s first Skate Rock video was what made me a believer, with roaring versions of “Ozzy,” ”Possessed” and “Deathryders.” Check out a couple tracks from the album, the instro track from Skate Rock Vol. 2 and the Thrasher video below.

DOWNLOAD

Tales of Terror – “Romance”
Tales of Terror – “Deathryder”
Tales of Terror – “Gods from Outer Space” (from Thrasher‘s Skate Rock Vol. 2)

LINKS

Tales of Terror on Last Day of Man on Earth
Tales of Terror from Thrasher’s Skate Rock video

Red Monkey

May 2nd, 2013

Do What You Feel (Feel What You Do) 7″
Slampt, 1997

Back in 1997 there weren’t a ton of groups doing angular, Gang of Four-style postpunk, so you gotta give Red Monkey credit for not only being ahead of the curve, but for doing it really really well. Along with their classic releases on NJ’s Troubleman label, this debut 7″ EP on their Slampt label has remained one of the better examples of tightly-wound, tension-filled punk with a sharp political edge. With male/female vocals sparing back and forth ala The Ex and a stripped down, herky-jerk rhythm section, songs like “Not Only” and “18+” absolutely grab you by the throat and demand your attention. Ain’t that what punk’s all about?

DOWNLOAD

Red Monkey – “18+”
Red Monkey – “Not Only”

LINKS

Red Monkey on iTunes