Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nashgul - El Dia Despues Al Fin De La Humanidad

Nashgul MySpace
Release: 2009
Type: CD
Label: Power-It-Up

Nashgul has an old-school approach to writing grindcore. Their songs speak back to a time before death metal was a household name, to when grind was simply a fusion of crust and crossover featuring sporadic moments of unbridled madness. "Been there, done that," you say? That's as maybe. What sets the band apart is how they go about incorporating their thrash bits. One moment you're listening to quality grindcore - the kind of album you'd happily play in the background while doing whatever, video games, Texas Hold 'Em, driving at the speed of blast - and seemingly out of nowhere the band transitions into something catchy. It makes you pause to take notice. This is not to say Nashgul is reinventing thrash. These are not riffs to spark a new wave of retro thrash appreciation. What these riffs have however is a habit of showing up at the right time, elevating good grind to memorable grind. It creates definite "wait for it... go!" moments to look forward to each time you give the disc a spin - and there are plenty to be had on the album.

Book ended by your standard grindcore Intro-Outro, Nashgul proffer 17 songs in a shade over 24 minutes. Most of them are a minute and change, with only two breaking the two minute marker. More importantly the sound guy is an obvious bystander to the ongoing over-mastering wars. Each instrument has it's own space to work with. The bass is audible, even during the most frenetic of blasting bits. It sounds like the drums were sacrificed to make all of this happen (most notably toned down crashes and a hollow kick) but the end result has an organic feel. That and you can crank it up a few extra notches without increasing the risk of hearing damage.

There is a dynamic to the songwriting process on the album that is refreshing. They are not writing a straightforward song to be followed by a bulldozing grinder followed by a blastfest. Basically, just because a tune starts one way does not mean you can predict where it's heading. The only staples are thrash riffs and blast beats. "El Dia Del Los Muertos," "Disintegration in a Flashing Light" and "El Horror Oculto" surreptitiously begin in sludge fashion before unleashing the hounds. "Terrorist Warhead," the shortest tune, starts out in fast-forward before switching into a killer thrash riff over double bass. "La Plaga" plays verse-chorus-verse with two crust-influenced thrash riffs for the first minute a'la Disrupt before introducing blasts - and then devolves back into thrash and crust. And "Cremetorio," one of the better songs, is a one minute 17-second encapsulation of the album. More important than breaking ground, it's well written and executed. Most bands would use more double bass if they wrote these songs. And still others would tune down a step or two. While these would be cool changes all they would really do is ensure the album sounds like everyone else. Nashgul prefer to sound like thrash freaks who fell in love with blast beats. Their attention to old-school grind detail makes "El Dia Despues..." a top-notch album with great continuity and replay value.

It appears you can only buy the album directly from the label via PayPal/Mail Order right now. It's worth it, but they are set to release the Tribute To Nasum 2CD next month (which is a mandatory buy) so you may want to wait and save a little on shipping. In the meantime, check the album out here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Arctic Choke - S/T 7"

Arctic Choke MySpace
Release: 2009
Type: 7"
Label: To Live A Lie

(First things first, I could have hugged my mailman yesterday. I haven't received anything in two weeks - since ordering some discs from a company in Singapore. Thought I ended up on a watch list and the Feds were sifting though my mail.)

Arctic Choke, consisting of members from Rhino Charge and Graf Orlock, continues the long line of quality releases on To Live A Lie. Whatever genre you want to pigeon-hole these guys into it cannot be denied that they play proper punk. Their riffs, basslines and song structures sound straight out of '83, right down to their tone. The main, distiguishing trade-off here is that instead of Reagan-era sloppiness we get modern-era execution. Things do get a little muddy from there however, like when you hear resident gutpuker Kyle screaming like Avi did on the early Magrudergrind splits, a fair amount of blastbeats and some riffs much closer to fastcore than hardcore. The best way to end the discussion is to call them Blastbeat Punk. Just be prepared to mosh once the needle hits the record.

On the EP are 10 helpings of memory-lane inducing goodness. In true punk fashion the music captures the untapped fury of classic hardcore while the lyrics cover all the requisite talking points: female gold-diggers (Full Tilt Bozo), friendship troubles (Friends, MVP, What A Joke), and a few cynical looks at how dreams are so often crushed by reality (9-5, Work Sucks). As mentioned, the vocals are for the most part screamed in a pleasant, primarily indecipherable way - you're not going to be able to follow along, even if you read the lyric sheet. Other than some backing vocals for flavor tossed in here and there, the only words that truly stick out are the numerous Fuck You's.

Also in true DIY spirit, the play list on the album fold-out is different from the list on the lryic sheet. The spelling is fucked up too (Purs As Cold Driven Snow - instead of Pure As A Cold Driven Snow) but it all gets sorted on with a notice that the correct track list and spelling is on the lryic sheet. Fair enough.

Some stand out moments are the opener (Just One Please) which sets the tone perfectly; Friends, especially the ending (We're growing up in all the wrong ways/I miss the old days) and the dirge-turned-epic that is the aforementioned mispelled song. Well, epic by Blastbeatpunk Punk standards. It should be up on their LastFM but alas, I am not their marketing director.

If you are familiar with old-school punk then you know what to expect here. But that doesn't mean you don't need to hear it. The A/C MySpace has Just One Please, MVP, 9-5 and Full Tilt Bozo for you listening pleasure. If you have a record player you can paypal/mail order this from TLAL for $3.75. Or you can use plastic and buy it over at Interpunk for $5. Either way you get an A/C sticker, colored vinyl and a slab of tunes that will have you pining for the olden days in no time. Hard to go wrong.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just an Update

We're all alive, so don't you worry. Speaking for myself, and I'm sure others as well, we're all quite busy. My connection's been shit as of late, so uploading's a pain, regardless I'll see if i can't squeeze out a review soon. But in the mean time hold tight and thanks for checking us out!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse

Type: CD
Release: 2009
Label: Relapse

Focus tends to be the last word that comes to mind when I think about Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Take the 12 Days of Sodom EP which consisted of brief, looped industrial static behind Randall chanting the title of each Day. Or the oddly random answering machine messages posing as music. Or cramming 100 songs on a mini-CD... Before an idea was even mapped out, it seemed like ANb was already moving on to the next one. They were not interested in trivialities like Rough Drafts, or even First Copies - it was all the proverbial Business Model Outlined On A Dinner Napkin.

So, what am I trying to say here? Quite simply: ANb wrote actual songs this time around. I know, shocking, huh? To put that another way: Scott Hull is back. Sure, there is a whole new breed of PxDx fans praying to their holy trinity of Hyperviolet-Gravedancer-Loathsome who may feel otherwise - but for my $12+shipping, this is the best work Senior-Seven-String has bestowed upon the world since 2001. What brought about the change? Probably that movie soundtrack he wasted a year of his life on... which the director subsequently didn't even use. Who wouldn't that piss off?

On the docket are 13 songs of crossover grindcore ranging from 50 seconds to three minutes. The guitar work drips with energy and is undoubtedly the most intense we have heard in years. Huge Gonzo-Violence riffs, shredding solos and breakdowns with a degree of punishment only an extra guitar string can add. If you can think of anything remotely crossover thrash, it's here. And the drum kit this time around is remarkable in sound and quality. It's triggered, of course, but at least sounds plausible. Excepting a few quad-time cymbal rolls on top of the regular rhythms in two songs, every track contains drumming that could be preformed by the Brian Fajardo's and Derek Roddy's of the world. There's even a free-style, down-beat heavy drum solo for our ears to feast on.

The funny bit is that Jay Randall himself gets caught in the focus act. As always, he is writing the lyrics, so you know what to expect: innuendo-laden teen angst filtered through cock fetish humor and an ass-load of self-referential mockery. That about sums it up. But all things considered, these are the best ANb lyrics to date. Looking at Timelord Two you read about a man who traveled back in time to kill Jesus, only to return home and discover he actually killed The Beast. What does he do? He sells the remains for next to nothing to a Japanese guy who ends up programming the world's first blast beat. Is there a message here? Grindcore freaks smoke crack and worship Satan? Who knows? There is also the magically entitled First National Stem Cell And Clone which asks Christian mothers a very honest question: what cock wouldn't you suck to save your child's life? Then on the self-referential side comes Question Of Integrity which sums everything up masterfully:
You want to talk to me about Pig Destroyer?
I smoked crack with a fucking cop
You want to see ANb live?
We'll take the deposit and just not show up

True to just about every ANb release, Randall invites someone to suck his balls. It's practically a meme by now. There's a Discordance Axis, Pig Destroyer and a number ANb plugs; reference to the Honky Reduction 10"; and probably my favorite line (if not from my favorite song): I'm giving up my ego, my desire, my vanity, all to fill one tiny need: To spread open my ass and shit on your dreams. Over the top? Of course not. ANb have been in their own purple smoke-filled stratosphere since day one.

This is one of my favorite releases of the year. Check it out and decide for yourself. If you don't like it, tell us why. Relapse offers two versions. You can get the CD for $12, or for $4 more you get the CD in an old-school long box which comes with a mini poster, four buttons and an ANb east-coast-gonzo-violence patch.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekend Nachos- Unforgivable

Site: Myspace
Release: 2009
Type: Cd, Lp, Full Length
Label: Relapse
Genre: Power Violence/ Hardcore

From my experiences power violence can be a fickle genre. Many of the big names of the genre encompass completely different attitudes, sounds, and styles and yet still fly under the banner of a pretty specific genre. Bands like Charles Bronson and Hatred Surge are labeled as power violence, yet showcase two completely different styles, the former being quite humorous and heavily flirting with lighter fair like skate punk and what have you where the latter delves in to the more extreme and punishing metal side of power violence. Regardless of the specifics there's the key traits of energy, passion, and disdain to some degree or another; and it is with the later of the three that Weekend Nachos finds themselves.

With a name more akin to those of bands who like to exploit the humor in their music and carry a party atmosphere, Weekend Nachos drastically deviate when their sound comes into comparison with those said bands. Originally off put by their name, i was completely flabbergasted when i heard some of the most poignant/vehement hardcore i've ever heard. What really attracted me to Weekend Nachos' sound is their emphasis on the violence in power violence.

Drifting away from the thin and punky sound of many hardcore/pv acts, Weekend Nachos employs a very bottom heavy sound (nothing like MITB) but more like a metal band, or one of those horrid xXthugcoreXx bands. This immediately caught my attention and made me motivated to thrash through this short LP. Showing a great apperciation for sludge, Weekend Nachos masterfully pulls off many breakdowns which heighten the energy so much on this LP and really encapsulate the violence and misanthropy they're trying to evoke. The slower sections on this album are all my favorites.

2009 starts the album off with some gloomy sample and delves headlong straight into the hardcore frenzy only to slow back down in Elevated Tracks which evokes a dark and brooding atmosphere with some kind of sample in the back; this is one of the highlights of the album. The fluidity of the album is phenomenal; the band segways from thrashing d-beats and power chords to lighting fast blast sections to midpaced stomps and quarter note breakdowns. The energy and flow is perfect and never lets up.

If you like your music dark, violent, and angry then Weekend Nachos is for you, resembling an Eyehategod of sorts for power violence, Weekend Nachos' keep the staples of the genre and blend in personal influences and a sense of misanthropy above all. More tough than any Hatebreed clone, Weekend Nachos stray far from their silly name and evoke a sense of dismal violence that one would assume to be plenty painful live.

While the production job doesn't sound DIY, a seemingly large staple of the pv community, it works in spades. It's heavy, unrelenting and completely obliterating. The vocals are deep and angry bellows offset by the occasional higher pitch yells. Along with the tone, many of the lyrics come through as sing along beatdown choruses which are evisceratingly brutal. The mosh parts in Shot in the Head and Reason to Die rank amongst the best that the album has to offer.

While I can't comment on previous works I can say that this album has made me a definite fan. Surely to be a favorite of the year for me, Unforgivable showcases a level of misanthropy I've been unable to find in power violence, and it makes me happy.

Buy the cd here for cheap (as well a t-shirt/cd combo) or buy vinyl, as well as other releases here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Afgrund - Vid Helvetets Grindar

Afgrund Myspace
Release: 2009
Type: CD
Label: Willowtip

On all fronts, even before Scott Hull got his hands on it, Svarta Dagar was a fine album. Any time a band gets mentioned in the same breath as Nasum and Rotten Sound without the "clone" modifier, it's safe to say they've written quality material. For Afgrund the issue instantly boiled down to one simple question: how can they avoid the dreaded Sophomore Slump?

Lucky for us fans, Afgrund seems to have planned ahead. Adopting the Less Is More approach, they slimmed down to a three-piece act, toured just about every where (except my home town) and then wasted little time knocking out one of the better follow-ups in recent memory: Vid Helvetets Grindar. In the process they bucked the mounting three-some trend and kept a bassist on the roster. Which is a good thing. No matter how successful certain bands may be, bass should be an essential part of grindcore, not an accessory.

Grindar is an easy album to sink into. Dual-action guitarist/vocalist Andrea Baier screams his raspy, quasi-decipherable scream to the delight of every throat surgeon in Europe. His riffs consistently deliver across the crust, grind and death metal spectrum. And if that's not enough, over the course of 27 minutes Panu Posti pounds his kit into kindling just like any proper grind drummer should. There is plenty of bass. It's so deep that even when it stands alone it's hard to distinguish the notes. But at least it's there, right?

The first two songs set the tone, acting like engineers braving the crossfire as they set up the siege works for General Afgrund's master plan: A Burning Cross on Your Perfect Lawn. There is no point even trying to describe it. Just give it a listen. Myspace, LastFM, it doesn't matter. This one will earn plenty of airtime. And here you are, not even five minutes into the album before the message is received loud and clear: Afgrund have taken one giant leap forward. Where Svarta established them as an up-and-coming band, Grindar establishes the Afgrund Sound.

A little later comes a pleasant, head-nodder of an interlude: T(h)rash Vortex. True to its name, this is a verse-chorus-verse thrasher with a main riff lifted straight out of the Birdflesh playbook. I imagine the band tossing darts at a wall full of Peace Punk inlay cards when they were writing the lyrics. Add a Burn After Reading sample to open the tune (I thought you might be worried... about the security... of your shit) and you end up with one appropriately named song.

But my favorite, by far, is the blistering Maskin-Manniska. On the surface it's your standard full-steam-ahead grinder. Training your ears a little harder, you hear a fair amount of Gadget-style dissonant harmony. On one channel the guitar double-picks away while on the other the guitar uses mid-paced chords. Both riffs collide to create a third, that, layered with some vicious drumming results in a wall-of-sound that is nearly epic. Between the energy and the punishing drum work you get the sense that the album is building to a finale. And honestly, this would have been the perfect tune to end on.

It doesn't end there. Everything works on Grindar. Compared to Svarta, Afgrund has matured in leaps and bounds in song writing, presentation and passion. That reason alone makes it hard to pass up on. If it wasn't for an album by a certain band from Singapore, Grindar would be at the top of the 2009 Grindcore chart. But you are welcome to decide for yourself. Check it out here. Then buy it. Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your friend. Buy it for that cute metal chick you want to hook up with. Either way, the Good Times, they will flow.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blasphemer- On the Inexistence of God

Blasphemer Myspace
Label: Comatose Music
Release Date: December 16th, 2008
Type: Full Length

Blasphemer: a five piece from Italy that likes to play ripping brutal death metal and dislikes religion. It took them ten years to release a full length album, but it must have been time well spent because “On The Inexistence of God” proves to be one of the standout brutal death records of 2008.

Blasphemer’s music is a raging brutal death metal beast with technical guitar work scattered throughout. The music in general is fast, ripping stuff, with some cool diversions like the acoustic, Italian flavored interludes present at the beginning of “The Killing Dogma” and played for the duration of the title track. You’ve got riffs here and there and just about everywhere. Fast, blazing riffs are the meat of most songs, with breakdowns and slower sections thrown in appropriately for an occasional change of pace. On “IX Son” and “Nihilist Preachers of Death” we get some killer bass lines, incorporated into the aforementioned songs in a very BDM way, that sound great. The drumming is all over the place, changing at every turn with the sporadic riffing. The drummer delivers all sorts of blasting, quick fills, and double bass, all done masterfully with awesome speed, complementing the guitars quite nicely. The vocals sound just as good as most brutal death metal band’s, with low grunts, raucous barks, and gutturals that range from “broo” to “bree” and just about everything in between. They sound truly bestial when double layered though, and often during listens I find myself wishing that they had employed that double layering technique more often.

The most impressive thing about Blasphemer is that, with all these instruments playing so fast and changing so quickly from one pattern to the next, that they managed to keep everything on “On The Inexistence Of God” coherent. From the ripping “Kuru-Laughing Death” to the final “Outro” everything sounds right in place, exactly how and where it’s supposed to be, and all together, as five pieces becoming one, it just sounds fantastic. Each of these musicians shines individually, but it’s as one collective whole, as the beast that is Blasphemer that they are truly monstrous.

Part of the aforementioned coherence that Blasphemer managed to attain on this record can also be partially attributed to the production. Unlike many great brutal death metal records that are hurt by a shoddy or murky production, “On The Inexistence Of God” sounds great production-wise. Everything is clearly defined, no one instrument is hidden in the background or is so loud that it drowns out everything else. This record sounds crisp, without being overproduced, striking a good balance that leaves the record sounding awesome. The one relatively minor drawback is though, that the guitars sound a bit thin. A heavier, thicker guitar tone would have given these songs a meaner, more vicious sound. Once again though, it’s a relatively minor flaw in an otherwise very solid record.

Ultimately, Blasphemer’s efforts have amounted to a very successful debut record. “On The Inexistence Of God” is definitely an essential record for any brutal death metal fan. Hopefully Blasphemer’s future releases are as good as this one, because their future in the realm of brutal death metal looks quite promising.

So, if you're feelin' it, check this puppy out here
But preferably, you can support the Italian scene and buy it here