Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sadus - Swallowed in Black

Two words: Thrash Masterpiece.  This is another one of those debut albums where everything came together perfectly, never to be repeated again.  This album likely gets overlooked because it came out so late in the game ('90), but it's every bit as good as Reign in Blood or Among the Living, or whatever else the critics have told you to worship for the past 25 years.  Sadus were well beyond their peers in terms of technical ability and sheer speed; this is about as fast as it gets without getting into blast-beat territory.  Sadus being a trio, I love, because it gets rid of all the instrumental clutter and delivers an efficient kick to the balls.  This album is just super-tight from beginning to end,  everyone's playing is spot-on and all the instruments get equal play.  Even the bass (the beaten step-child instrument of Metal) has prominence, thanks to Steve DiGiorgio's spiderman-like, wall-scaling style.  The vocals have sneer and spit for days, and of course, the guitars pack more power chords and scales in one song than most rock bands have in their entire discography!   Constant headbanging with serious musical weight is what you have here.  If you at all like thrash and have not heard this yet, you need to download and give it a shot!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Final Fight - Under Attack

This album brings me back to when (Irish accent) I was a wee little boy in the summer 2006.  I was so stoked to be visiting the Bay Area, which I considered to be a liberal utopia at the time.  The recent wave of melodic Posi bands was giving me a fresh take on Hardcore.  One of those bands was Final Fight, and I had been waiting a couple months to see them at the golden temple known as Gilman.  The show was pretty cool, but the best part was just being able to experience a different scene, straightedge. Coming from the old-school and Crust dominated scene in Minneapolis, this new culture was inspiring.  Seeing hardcore kids that were hygienic, sober, and in good health was pretty revolutionary to me.  I knew scenes like this existed, I had just never seen them before, it was like going to a concert for the first time all over again.

Now, about the record: Under Attack is a modern-day classic of Melodic Hardcore.  Although typically short, it's got hooks in spades from all the instruments, without any annoying clean singing.  It keeps a pretty brisk pace with occasional moderate-chunk mosh parts to give some dynamics.  Short songs, plenty of time changes, memorable riffs and rhythms, this album never get's boring (except for that long chord loop at the end, but hey, nothing's perfect).  This style may be an acquired taste (even for Hardcore die-hards), but if you like your Hardcore with hooks and a positive message, this is for you.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Audio Kollaps - Music From an Extreme Sick World + Panzer

Talk about bargain bin, I've literally seen this one on the bottom shelf at Amoeba, and unfairly so!  What you have here is pure, old-school Grind goodness!  I never really liked this new "speed (not songs!)" type Grindcore that's been popular the past ten years.  Probably the worst part of this "Relapse" school of Grind is the ultra-compressed and brittle sounding production.  You know when you visit a modest-looking blog, and within a few seconds the volume-cranked playlist starts, and you have to scramble to hit the mute button before your speakers explode?  That's what Nasum albums sound like to me.  Or, have you ever seen a band like Phobia live, and after their set, not be able to remember a single riff?  I know Grindcore is supposed to be simple and brutal, but that doesn't mean that it has to suck!  Thankfully, we have bands like Audio Kollaps to break that monotony.

Sounding like a catchier "Harmony Corruption" era Napalm Death, these Germans deliver some tasty riffs with grit and force, despite being half the speed of say...  Insect Warfare.  They take it back to a time when there was little difference between Grindcore and Death Metal.  Back to a time when Grind bands still had dynamics and serious political messages, not misogyny and poop jokes.

I've also included their more Death Metal sounding 2nd album Panzer, which wasn't distributed in the US.  Schmeckt Gut!

Fuck Die USA
Panzer :

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rose Kemp - Unholy Majesty

Seemingly existing only in the blogosphere, this is the most interesting album I came across in 2009.  I just couldn't resist something tagged as both Neo-folk and Doom, and that's not all this woman delivers here either.

Maybe one or two of you know of Rose Kemp as the daughter of two members of the English Folk Rock band Steeleye Span, but probably not.  As you would expect, the Folk influence is very strong, but the Doom and Psychedelic ones are as well.  This is probably what "mom and dad's" band would sound like if they were still around today.   The instrumentation is slightly ambitious and perfectly chosen.  Besides the standard rock tools, there's some very satisfying violin and electric organ going on.  No one instrument takes lead role, they're all there to compliment Rose's unique, expressive voice.  Also being an interesting guitarist, she creates impressive drama using very simple techniques (not easy to do).  The songwriting is totally on point too, every song is memorable and has it's individual character.  Overall, you could say this album has a pretty gloomy and depressing energy to it, but isn't that what life is like anyway?  Don't kid yourself, happiness is not a reasonable goal.  Seek comfort in knowing most of the world is suffering along with you, Rose and I definitely are!


Crucifix - Dehumanization

Okay, enough with all this metallic Hardcore, let's bring it back to the essence!  Before "crews", before breakdowns. 

Crucifix are from my short-lived stomping grounds of Berkeley, California.  They unleashed this classic in '83, and it ranks equal to "Tied Down" "Is This My World?" "Out of Step" or any other Hardcore LP you can dig up .  At this stage, Crucifix had overhauled their sound to a more Discharge influenced and beat-heavy style, and in doing so, created the perfect Hardcore prototype.  I can't think of a more genre-defining Hardcore album than this!  While other bands were still fucking around with Oi! chants and bouncy pogo rhythms, Crucifix had trimmed all the fat to a straight-forward distortion assault.  The D-beat, power chords, yells and screams  never seem to end here.  With that being said, the songs are still as memorable as you'll find anywhere. 

three clicks to oblivion

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hybrid - The 8th Plague

Being a side-project of now worshipped Slam band: Wormed, this really hasn't been making the rounds in the blogosphere like you would think.  Personally, I think this is way better than Wormed, but then again, I hate Slam.

Right away when you listen to this, you'll notice that the boys from Spain are trying to achieve something different here from their more guttural bands.  The influences are so much more vast, you have the expected elements: Death Metal, Mathcore, a bit of Slam, as well as some unexpected Avant-Jazz (saxophone included).  The overall sound is also much cleaner, you can actually hear each diminished chord and atonal note, instead of it just degrading into indecipherable rumbling.  Despite the instrument clariy, there's still a live, garage-y kind of ambience that's a nice break from the slick, plastic sounding Deathcore bands that are so popular these days.  Also different from popular Deathcore bands, these guys can actually play!  They're not just using Beat Detective for their shitty time and a chain of efffects for their shitty tone.  This is a well executed vision for a genre-salad type project, giving all the individual influences respect, instead of just watering them down into a more homogenous commercial package.

If you're at all a fan of the more dissonant Metalcore like Converge and early Dillinger Escape Plan, or "skronky" Deathgrind like Cephalic Carnage, hit the play button.

squeak squeak

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cacophony - Speed Metal Symphony

Now, probably all of you know Marty Friedman from Megadeth, and maybe half of you know about this short-lived band he had with Jason Becker before that.  But, how many of those have actually heard this beautiful work?  Almost none, I expect, that's why I'm posting it today.

This album easily exceeds anything these guys have done solo, and parts are even good enough to have gone into Rust in Peace.  You just have lead, after lead, after lead going on here.  There are some solid riffs thrown in (otherwise, it wouldn't be Metal), but the focus here is definitely on the solos and the melody.  Like any shred album, the solos seemingly go on forever, but they're always backed up by quality songwriting.  If you're a fan of seriously technical Metal, you have to give this a listen.  I mean, look at these guys, how can you say no to them?

Savage in the night!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amorphis - Privilege of Evil

Now, I'll show you the other side of Finnish Death Metal.  Talk about forgotten albums, if there was one, this is it!  And by such a famous band too.  This fits right in alongside those recently reissued Convulse and Purtenance albums: it's just straight, to-the-point Death Metal with super-fuzzy downtuned guitars that'll just bury you under two tons of gravedirt.  I've listened to as much Death Metal as anybody, and this album takes the prize for having the darkest feeling ever captured within the genre (not even Human Waste or any Winter album can match it!).  Everything is here: bass-heavy tones, blast-beats, sludgy slow parts, over-the-top gory album cover, and memorable riffs galore.  For this style, the production is near perfect.  The guitars and drums have an aggressive bite, yet are still very clear, and the vocals have uniquely clean rumbling quality to them.  Plus, all the instruments have been given the perfect amount of delay and reverb, making the album sound like it was recorded in the most acoustically perfect cave ever found.

I'm sure you're all familiar with the snooty, ambient, yuppie Amorphis of later days; so it makes total sense that they would officially disown this first album. With that being said, you know it has to be good!

taco bell... run for the border!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sentenced - North From Here...

Yet another Metal album that never really "stuck".  Most Death Metal fans don't really know Sentenced because they turned into such a boring and dreary band in their later days, but before all that, they released two stellar Death Metal albums.  I'm going to start with their second one here because this seems to be the most overlooked of the two.

On this album, they were miles ahead of their Finnish contemporaries in terms of musicianship, songwriting, and production value.  While other bands in their scene were almost caveman-ish in their delivery and muddy tones, Sentenced were now sophisticated and super-tight.  The slight melodic tendencies of their previous album have blossomed into complex lines and scales.  The production is very clean and compressed and still maintains a nice ambient atmosphere.  There is some definite Black Metal darkness here, but it's still for the most part a Progressive Death Metal album, made when that concept was still pretty new.  It's such a shame that they went that whole "Suicide Rock" route, but we'll always have this to remind us of the better times.

thine link

Warzone - Don't Forget the Struggle, Don't Forget the Streets

 For some of you, a band like Warzone might be a guilty pleasure, but there's nothing to feel guilty about with this album, which is easily their best.  To me, this album strikes the perfect balance of all the influences happening in that scene at the time.  You have that solid Hardcore foundation, some sweet metallic riffs and solos, complimentary (but not overdone) gang vocals, and honest lyrics just as much about street life as politics and self-reflection.  This is one of the last golden nuggets made at a time when most of the New York scene was moving into laughable thuggery (Madball). 

It's Your Choice...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Setherial - Nord

A forgotten gem of mid 90's Black Metal.  To me, this is a better realized version of Emperor's Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.  This is what "symphonic" Black Metal is supposed to sound like: distant yet lush keyboards, tasteful reverb, classically inspired riffs, all without losing that cold and depressive feel.  If you're a key-phobe, you should still be able to handle this album, no problem.  The keys are far back in the mix, not overpowering like on an Emperor or Summoning album.

Sweden has always been overshadowed by their Norwegian neighbors in the European BM scene, and I can't really understand why that's still going on.  I mean, this is the home of Dissection!  Who's better than them?  Definitely not Burzum!  Anyway, the hipsters can listen to whatever latest garbage Varg and Wrest are putting out, while we can listen to  the real shit.

it's getting cold in here...

Nina Hagen is Sexy Sex

You've never heard vocals like this before, period.  It's pretty amazing that these snarls and squeaks are actually coming from a classically trained opera singer.  Even without the atonal qualities of her voice, the vocal melodies alone are impressive and challenging.  Maybe it's 'cause I'm a weird guy, but I find this kind of idiosyncratic (and often guttural) singing to be really sexy.

Only Germans could create music this "outside the box" while still maintaining an element of cheesiness as well as serious punk attitude.  It's a good thing too that the band is really tight and come up with their own memorable leads and rhythms. The stylistic influences are as wide-ranging as Nina's voice: bringing disco, classic rock, progressive,opera, punk, and even a little reggae into the mix.  There's even a pretty hard sounding proto-hardcore song at the end.

Unfortunately, this, her debut album seems to be her only really good output.  Later, she and her first band had the typical "sophomore slump", then, she formed a solo band and became comfortable doing mostly covers.

germans are kinky

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Svart Crown

True Black Death with proper grit and atmosphere. If you've been enjoying the new wave of dirty, 90's style Death Metal like Perdition Temple, Blood Revolt and Sanguis Imperem, you should like this. A bit different from the bands above, Svart Crown has a slightly more modern sound with a noticeable Immolation influence. Although the songs aren't super memorable, the album has the perfect mix of heaviness and discorance, fast and slow. This band has yet to make waves really, but if you enjoy this style, I definitley recommend it.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekend Nachos

I've been digging this band a lot this past year. Definitely one of the top 5 powerviolence bands going right now. This is the meanest and toughest sounding hardcore you'll hear anywhere. It's hard to believe these are just normal looking dudes making this music, cause this shit sounds massively obese.  For the most part, they sound like a better-produced Infest with the heft of Crowbar.  On their newest album, Unforgiveable, they've ditched most of the speed for a thicker, more mosh-heavy and metallic sound.  But don't let the whole "metallic" thing scare you, those are some serious riffs and attitude being dished-out (not mindless palm-mutes and preachy vegan nonsense). This is what shitty fat-guy metalcore bands like 100 Demons and Full Blown Chaos wish they could sound like!

I have their whole discography here, which includes the horribly produced ep's, but the two full-lengths are where it's at.

rock over chicago!

Glasses (are for nerds)

Probably the last great house show I went to in Oakland featured this band. Glasses are somewhat of a supergroup (by hardcore standards) that has members of Perth Express, the 244GL, Trainwreck, and The F.A. They have a straightforward "modern hardcore" sound with a pretty cool classic rock lean to it, like later Hope Conspiracy. I want to note that at that show, the hella cute singer's butt totally touched my crotch. True story!

you can download all their shit legally from their bandcamp site

Kate Bush-The Albums That Matter

As she's now my favorite musician, I feel that I have to make my very first post about the greatest singer-songwriter of all time.  Outside of Elton John, I've never heard melodies this original and complex, or just this good.  Through the first two-thirds of her career, she really was the whole package (singer, songwriter, dancer, lyricist), a true multi-talented genius.  It's a shame that she's kind of a cult figure these days, and really not that well-known in america.  Here, I start from her first album, The Kick Inside (my favorite), all the way to Hounds of Love (her most successful and what most consider to be her best).

The Kick Inside
her most consistent and best

her most subdued

Never for Ever
her most varied

The Dreaming
her most progressive

Hounds of Love
her most accessible