Friday, March 26, 2010

A Party Political Punk Service Announcement

With the passing of a bill that, even if it clears all the Reconciliation hurdles, is still four years from being implemented, your typical "go to work and get paid" Americans are starting to find their voice. This is never a good thing. This also just so happens to be a a mid-term election year - and health care just so happens to be the mother load of all hot-button issues. So what's happening? The tendency to opine has reached brave new heights. Sound Bites abound. And as usual, the first thing to go is our willingness to see all sides of the argument. We have reached the ultimate plateau: an Ultra Mega Hyper "My Way Or Go Fuck Yourself" political mindset. When all is said and done, I predict the congressional grand standing and posturing will make the Terri Schiavo fiasco look like a Disney After School Special in comparison.

So what do you do? You can't afford a politician, which means you can't afford a Supreme Court Justice either - and a little voice in the back of your head tells you that if you could afford these things then you probably wouldn't care about the issue anyway. Options seem rather slim, don't they? Well I'm here to help, friends. By going back in our time machine to 1983, I offer you the 206-Grind Three Step Punk Program.

Step One - Get Pissed

MDC - Millions Of Dead Cops / More Dead Cops

And I mean that in a specific way. No "Anarchy In The UK" or "Let's Start A War" ambiguity. I'm talking about collecting a list of anything you can remotely associate with being an arm of the establishment and releasing the fury. Stretch out that web as broad as possible. Play the Six Degrees Of Separation game.

The music is fast, the lyrics cut to the bone and no one is spared. It's raw anger, and it's directed at anything and everything. Call John Wayne a Nazi. Rail against the government for torture (yes, it was "legal" then, too), interrupt Sunday sermons with shouts that "there is no God so get off your knees." All things are hated equal but some things are more equal than others.

Step Two - Focus

Sub|Hum|Ans - Time Flies But Aeroplanes Crash + Rats

You've got all your aggression out, now comes the time to take a step back - change the Google Earth view from "Cracks in the sidewalk" to "Topographical" - and seek out the root cause. The music slims down a notch. Not as distorted, not as chaotic, much cleaner. All the more bandwidth for the lyrics - which still cut right to the chase. Five time zones west and twenty-seven years ago, Subhumans spent considerable time being pretty pissed about this entity called "National Health." They were rather upset about a few useless wars with no end in sight and the prospect of another. Funny how some things never change, innit?

But here's where things start to get tricky. The Powers That Be have all the money, all the media outlets and the ultimate power: distraction. They have enough neon lights, street signs and billboards on the Road Of Life to ensure you always take the off-ramp at the end of Step 2. This only leads you endlessly back to Step 1, setting up a cycle that jades you into a perpetual state of incurable cynicism. And no one needs that.

So after you've been pissed, after you've stepped back and placed everything in perspective, the solution is to drive straight past Jaded AVE and look for an unlit, unmarked alley. The type of road you will miss if you blink. This leads you to:

Step Three - Satire

Suicidal Tendencies - S/T

Because, seriously, you gotta laugh. Otherwise you'd go crazy (IN-sti-TU-tion!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Few Words From Thou

Thou, the prolific sludge fivesome from Baton Rogue L.A. has turned some heads as of late. 15 releases since their inception in 2007 and numerous presses from people's basements to big wigs like Southern Lord, Thou are just getting started. 2010 promises to deliver the long awaited Summit which will be the band's third full length. Bryan, the band's voice, was kind enough to share some words with the CJ crew in between recording their new album, playing around their stomping grounds, and preparing for a North Eastern tour that's got a lot of fans giddy as a school girl.

CJ:Let's get a brief history of Thou, previous incarnations, interesting backgrounds, etc.

B:The band was around for about two years before I joined. Back then, they had more of a post-rock, Isis / Pelican sound with sparse Acid Bath style vocals. I joined sometime after Tyrant was written and took over full vocal duties.

We're all from pretty typical working class backgrounds, and we're all deeply rooted in the DIY punk scene. We've had a few bands before Thou with and without each other. Everyone in the band generally has a few side bands happening, Mitch being the worst with four or five other bands. I met Andy through this amazing hardcore band he was in called We Need to Talk; in fact, the first Thou tour was one I had booked and was driving for WNTT, and they sort of conned me into joining the band, so Thou could hijack it.

CJ:From the depth of the lyrics, as well as the various quotes throughout your works you guys are obviously well read. How much do you find what you read, or watch (The Shooter excerpt is ace), play a role in your music? Have you ever read Manfred? There's a great quote with thou, at the end; just a heads up for more liner notes, haha.

B:We all read a lot. The other guys, especially Andy (who I believe is just a hair and a breath short of an English BA), all send me ideas, and I have a pile of notes that I use to generate themes and lyrics. I might pull a word or phrase from something and then write a whole song about it. Or we might have songs here and there that are basically mangled pieces of text from various places. For instance, I pulled a lot of stuff from the Bonnot Gang for "Hooves" and there are a few hidden quotes in some of the Tyrant LP lyrics from classic gothic horror novels like Dracula and Frankenstein.

I don't know how intelligent we seem now that you've outed us on that Shooter sample! Hahaha. Although to be honest, I didn't see that movie until a couple of years after we used it on "Smoke Pigs." Our old roadie Thomas Mudge had thrown that at us, and we went with it. He's also responsible for coining the whole "Smoke Pigs. Actualize it." and "Talk to Cops.." ideas and probably a slew of other stuff. He's our ghost writer and the almost singer for Barghest.

I haven't read much Byron, but I'll have to check out the Manfred poem. Who wouldn't be turned on by a guy defying religion to his dying breath? We generally stay away with being too cheeky with our quotes, though I couldn't help using that "thou" quote from We on the Kingdoms collection. It was just too good to pass up.

CJ:You're working on a new album I hear, how far along are you with it and can we get any info on it in regards to what to expect, release date, changes from previous works, release format, etc.

B:We just finished the recording of Summit at the Living Room Studio in Algiers, Louisiana. An old friend of mine Chris George built and runs the space with another great guy by the name of Daniel Majorie. It's basically an old church converted into a recording studio. It's pretty amazing! James Whitten, who recorded the all the non-full length songs up to now, acted as recording engineer and did an amazing job. We love James.

We're working on the mix and layout now, and we're shooting to have the record out this summer for our tour in June with Moloch. Southern Lord will be releasing the LP, Gilead Media will be doing the CD, and Broadcloak will be doing a short run of cassettes.

Thematically, this LP is a bit of a departure from our general misanthropic disposition. If folks can read between the lines a bit, they'll hopefully be able to see this as a very positive, life-affirming record: the imminent triumph of anarchists and other fringe revolutionaries over the repressive prison of civilization.

CJ:What are you listening to at the moment? Anything in particular really drive you in your own creation?

B:Fell Voices and Kowloon Walled City from the Bay Area in California; Skagos from Vancouver, Canada; Coffinworm from Indianapolis, Indiana; and Black Breath from Seattle, Washington; Mourne from Boston, Massachusetts.

The first three are probably the only ones having much of an influence on the music, since the rest of the guys who do the actual composing are more familiar with them. Lyrically, I draw more from hardcore bands like Catharsis, His Hero is Gone, Earth Crisis, etc.

CJ:A continuation of the previous question, what kind of music outside of metal do you listen to, does it play a role in your music?

B:Right now, I'm hooked on Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon LP. I can't get enough of it. I also just grabbed the newest Mos Def record which is as solid as you'd expect.

As far as musical influences outside of metal, everyone in the band is pretty heavily into Pearl Jam and Fiona Apple. And there are three of us, myself included, who really like the Shins. I think that stylistically, we share a lot more with bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains than we do with Eyehategod or Crowbar. And we pretty much all like Nirvana, probably my number one band ever.

And I'm a huge Smiths fan--as you can see by some of the lines we bite!--but I'm pretty much the only one in the band who likes them, aside from our roadie and merch wizard Derek.

I just grabbed a pile of unreleased material from this old vegan straightedge band Culture. Chip who does the x Stuck in the Past x blog thankfully posted it. (Great blog, by the way for anyone who likes 90s hardcore.)

CJ:NOLA's a crucial and well known facet in the metal community and from your site I see there's quite a well organized scene in NOLA as well Baton Rogue, what's it like?

:I think there's a lot of hype because of bands like Eyehategod (who are great!) or Soilent Green or Crowbar or whatever. But it's really the same as anywhere else in the world. I don't know if I would call New Orleans or Baton Rouge "well organized." It's more like controlled chaos that people who have some organizational skills have to float around in.

CJ:While your basis might be sludge, I hear significant influence from black metal, throughout the band's sound. Your vocals, which I am a huge fan of, work perfectly, yet aren't too common in sludge, and some of the riffs, atmosphere and even recent incorporation of blast beats seems to show a nod or two towards black metal. Specifically I'm thinking about the Leech split and the recent split with Salome. Personally I love this, is this conscious? It comes off very natural and I was just curious about the process, reminds me a bit of Fleshpress.

B: It's funny that you should bring up that Leech material because it was written before the Peasant stuff and with a lot of time separating it. But, yeah, we're pretty much all into black metal in some way. We're friends with bands like Leech, Fell Voices, Skagos, Altar of Plagues, Wolves in the Throne Room--and huge fans of their work--so that stuff is definitely starting to creep into our sound a bit. We've talked a little about writing an entire black metal record in the future, though it would more or less be our take on the genre, so it'll definitely be a bit off from the usual fare, I think. Matthew and Terry are also in a straight up, raw black metal band called Barghest, who I think are incredible. So there can sometimes be some crossover in what they do in that band and what makes it into some of our songs.

But other than the idea of doing that one record, we haven't consciously decided to write songs that are in that genre. For the most part, Andy or Matthew will have a few riffs, or the skeleton of a song, and we'll just go from there. If a part comes out sounding more black metal than is usual for us, it's just the logical development of the part.

And my vocals are what they are. I come from more of a hardcore background. I don't have any professional training or anything. They've just always been like that. Before Thou, I was in a couple of bands that were more punk or more 90s emo, Ebullition style, and the vocals were just as "black metal."

CJ: How important is a band's image, and all the various accessories that accompany the music to you?

:We don't really have a band image. None of us really wear the punk rock or metal uniforms or whatever. And if we did, I would hope that our poor fashion sense wouldn't dictate our writing. We're not trying to fit into a particular scene or even appeal to anyone.

There may be a certain aesthetic that we try and maintain with the record artwork, but that's always dictated by the themes or emotions we're trying to express with the music, rather than a certain look for that look's sake.

CJ:You guys have racked up numerous splits now, what's the process like? Do you seek out bands? You have a knack for playing with some kickass bands.

B:We've just been really lucky so far to be approached by so many people whose music we liked. At this point we're not seeking out any more bands to do splits with. We have a few things in mind that might be on the back-burner for the next couple of years, since our main focus will be on writing the next two full lengths.

CJ:Well thanks a lot for your time and can't wait to check out new material from you guys and eventually see you on the stage. Any last words?

B:You're probably more likely to see us in front of the stage. That thing's just there for you to use to jump over us into a pile of your friends.

Thanks for the interview.

More information here. And thanks again to the guys at Thou, great stuff-keep your eyes peeled!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anion-Corpse Flower

Official Myspace
Released: Feb 2010
Release Type: Cassette (lmt 100)
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Hardcore

First off, I apologize to everyone. I've been stupid busy with school work, work, and everything else you can imagine. So this is quiet delayed, and I feel bad about this because this band deserves the attention.

Apparently an Anion is an ion with a negative charge. "Negative charge" is a fitting term for this band as they've got a lot of energy and it's downright dismal. Anion play a super heavy style of midpaced hardcore. Think about the sludgey tendencies of His Hero is Gone and you're in the right ballpark with Anion.Heavy distorted guitars, a thick cudgel-like bass, a tumult of drums and deep throaty yells are the key components in Anion's sound.

I really like the band's attitude and overall sound. It's dark and heavy, and the style in which it's played is like if doom band cranked up the low end, embodied the doom and gloom of the dark ones and threw in some hardcore riffs. The aesthetic of it all is pleasing and there's some really great riffs to headbang to.

And while I like the band, and want to give them a high rating, the lack of diversity in tempos really brings things down for me. Maybe it's a poor way to begin my cricism, but the band does everything else so good it's really annoying not to hear a single d-beat, polka beat, or even a blast beat. "Nothing to Lose" is the only song that has any sense of urgency to it and it works very well; the band should just take this a step further. The production is amazing (especially if it's a self financed release). It's absurdly heavy, clear, and dirty: my favorite. But all the icing in the world doesn't hide the fact that the batter itself is lackluster. It's really annoying because I do like this band a lot from what I've heard. I'm completely serious, if the band just went above mid-tempo, or incorporated a d-beat at least three times in this four song demo I'd be willing to give it an A+

This, of course is their only recorded material, so there's a lot to look forward with these guys, and they seem to play their asses off, so try and catch them! They've generously supplied a download which of course leads me to the cassette itself. This thing is beautiful and very limited! buy it if there's any left (along with their super cool merch)!

Take a listen for yourself here.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Defeatist - Sixth Extinction

Release - 2010
Type - CD
Label - Willowtip

We all have at least one. That one album, from band X, with three really good songs surrounded by b-side filler. Those are seriously the best songs they ever wrote - yet whenever you want to hear that band you always find yourself reaching for their other CD. Why? Because at the end of the day, it's all about consistency. It's the internet age - if you want to hear those three songs, hit up their MySpace. It's also the instant gratification age and filler is far from gratifying.

Defeatist's latest studio output Sixth Extinction exudes consistency. It also doubles as a Master's thesis in Thinking Man's Grind. There is a steady onslaught of rhythm driven riffs coming at your from song to song - not your typical patchwork 4/4 cookie cutter grind, nor by the numbers death metal riffs strung together seemingly at random. Instead the riffs presented here tend to be longer in duration, well thought out, almost in a progressive fashion. But don't get me wrong - this is not noodling. And the grind staples are in fact present. Standard crust and ripping death metal riffs will show up time and again to trigger your inner head-nod button. They are just not the focal point. In a way, you could almost call this Technical Crust. What ever it is, you will listening to it - and probably learn something if you try to play along.

Between the odd riffs, and changes in tempo ranging from patient sludge to frenetic grind, there is both an illusion of space within the music and also some odd holes and down beats to fill. Enter drummer Joel Stallings. The drum work here is nothing short of phenomenal. With beats, rhythms and cymbal work as eccentric as the riffs themselves, Mr. Stallings comes through with full marks. So many other drummers would have blasted or rolled double base through this album. While we do get plenty of blast, thrash and d-beats, it's actually the rhythms, fills and transitions that help make Sixth Extinction such an exciting album.

Defeatist use a guitar tone and distortion much closer to crossover than death metal, so they have a distinct punk feel to the music. The bass is very low but you can hear it dribbling away at many points throughout the album. So far as production goes the stereo guitars dominate the mix. Behind them is the rhythm section with the vocals taking up all the space that is left. The vocals are shouted out, with some grunts and snarls for emphasis at certain points. If the vocals had a more sizable amount of the bandwidth I'd imagine they would wear on many listeners, but where they are is prefect.

I think this is an album for everyone. It is thinking man's grind, so not everything may get it the first time around. If you are a guitarist or a grind aficionado, pop this in and enjoy the ride. For those who prefer having their asses handed to them as opposed to the more subtle forms of punishment, my recommendation is to play the album once before listening. I like "Dawn of No Light" and also side with Brother Atanamar about the two-riff interlude "Death Holds Her Brood" and "Warning" as some of the better songs. Individual songs however might not be the best way to go on Sixth Extinction - for best results, set aside 27 minutes and listen to the whole thing. Then go buy it here. Get the t-shirt while your at it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jesus Crost - 010

Jesus Crost Space
Release: 2010
Format: CD
label: Bones Bridage

The two leisure activities that interest me the most in life are listening to grind and watching football. And I'm not joking: I intentionally work nights so I can be awake European hours, I have every "soccer" channel DirectTV offers, and I schedule my vacations around World Cup and the Summer Olympics. Either I am not alone or Jesus Crost figured out the path of least resistance to my wallet - Wear your team's kit, toss a football on your album cover and describe yourself as "Hooligan power violence."

010 is 23 songs in 15 minutes. The closest similarity I can think of, from a song writing stand point, is Japanische Kampfhörspiele. Like Jaka, the songs are more like haiku, each with their own themes and intentions. And Like Jaka the band write quick hitting, catchy riffs that lesser bands would design 3-minute songs around. There is plenty of stop-and-go action, groove, variety and just enough aggression to live up to their hooligan moniker. A good example of the band's more patient side is "Parasit" which is up on their MySpace. You can also hear "Wurfloch" and "Gonorrhoea" while you are there to get a good grasp of their ADHD side. For everything in between you have to get the CD.

One of the reasons I enjoy this album so much is how short it is. I will be the first to admit how I would like the band to expand on their riffs. But there are so many notable ones, and they are spaced out well across the 15 minute run time. It always seems like the good ones come back around just in time to keep me listening. Also, for any one who was turned off by the bonus tracks on Tot, rest assured, 010 does not have continuity issues. This one is highly recommended. It may not change your world but I doubt many will dislike it.

Now, unless anyone else minds, I'm off to watch the Tenerife - Real Madrid replay while I kill the seven hours until the Premiership kicks off.