Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Incomprehensible Grumblings: 08/27/2013

Gridlink have announced that they'll be entering the studio to begin recording their third LP (long player - Gridlink - irony) 'Longhena'. Chang posted on the band's Facebook page that they demoed 15 tracks timing in at around 23 minutes. A late 2013/early 2014 release date has been penned. In the meantime the band also announced their final live show on September 15th in Tokyo with Melt Banana, Endon, Black Ganion and Sex Virgin Killer - opting to focus on strictly studio recordings only. Gridlink also confirmed the departure of short-time bassist Ted Patterson, who left the band on amicable terms and will be tracking the final mix of 'Longhena' in NJ.

Cartoon Network's 'Adult Swim' have tapped Pig Destroyer to release a brand new track through their website in a one-at-a-time online posting soundtrack to the program of sorts. The track is scheduled to be released on September 9th here. In the meantime, here's a cool little guerilla clip of the band's most recent performance in VA at the GWAR-BQ:

Wormrot have shit-canned plans for a live DVD for unknown reasons, but the full set has been posted on Youtube and includes three songs from their forthcoming as-of-yet untitled third album. Check it out here.

And I put this here just because it's awesome:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Album Review: Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only

I put off writing anything about this album because I tried to give it a 6th, 7th, and 18th listen in an effort to try and put my finger on just what it was that was missing. Anselmo forewarned listeners in interviews emphasizing the album’s lack of categorization and all-around ‘catchiness’. He advised that it would be a hard listen, a slow grower. In my experience those kinds of records tend to become staples in a collection, as they don’t lose their shine as quickly. Someone once said that being beautiful is like being born rich and getting poorer every day, I think the same can be said for an album that asks for no effort from the listener. And I’m no stranger to giving that effort, in fact I embrace it. I assume now that Anselmo and his warnings were primarily addressed to those that are still losing their shit to A Vulgar Display of Power. The same kind of people that went to a Superjoint show and called out for ‘Walk’ between songs. The same folks that really think a Pantera reunion would be feasible and awesome with Zakk Wylde filling in for the role of Dimebag. Knock it off. Anselmo has always been respected within the world of real heavy metal because even at the pinnacle of his flirtatious stomp through the mainstream with Pantera, he continued to fly the flag for underground extreme music. Not only did he invite off-the-map bands like Neurosis and Morbid Angel (on an arena tour no less!) to open for Pantera, but when Far Beyond Driven went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts Anselmo was involved in several other underground black metal projects including Christ Inversion, Viking Crown, and Eibon – a black metal supergroup of sorts with Satyr (Satyricon), Fenriz (Darkthrone) and Maniac (Mayhem), who released one track on a label compilation before being put on indefinite hiatus. He even contributed guest vocals to the Anal Cunt masterpiece ’40 More Reasons To Hate Us’ in 1996 (and vice versa invited Mr. Putnam to do the same on ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’), amongst a slew of other projects where he went either uncredited or under an alias. Needless to say, there was a passion for something darker and heavier festering there that couldn’t be explored in his primary spotlighted gig.

Phil’s exploration into these darker corners of the realm became a preface and set up for the gruesome dismemberment of Pantera. After which all projects became sidelined due to the one-two-three punch of addiction, Mother Nature, and medical consequence, and if you don’t know the specifics of any of that then stop reading and keep desperately writing Mr. Wylde. To say that a decent (non-black metal) solo effort from the old man is a project long overdue would be an understatement. While both Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem showcased Phil’s songwriting abilities beyond just his vocals and lyrics, ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ is 100% written by Phil Anselmo. Anselmo’s pestilent touch to every project he’s been a part of was very influential to me in my formative years. My fanaticism with Pantera led me to grumblings in the black and white pages of Metal Maniacs about Down and Superjoint Ritual as far back as 1992. I could even probably develop the theory that a lot of what he did outside of Pantera and Down opened gateways for me into other more extreme and experimental ventures of sound. So I’ve always paid attention to the man’s career, and I owed it to myself to spin a record 100% Phil Anselmo, despite the fact that I wasn’t impressed with the two tracks released on the ‘War Of The Gargantuas’ split EP with War Beast.

Sonically the album is pummeling, the bass drum is massive and pushed up in the mix, even drowning out the snare and hardware at times, and though the guitar tone is low and drilling it feels like it’s all at the same volume as the other instruments. So instead of a more organic in and out you’re getting a sonic cast iron frying pan to the face – which actually works with the music in it’s stop and go roller coasting riffage. But sometimes the lack of depth in the mix takes away from what are supposed to be some of the most brutal blast points on the record, like the first minute or so of the title track. It can be as monochrome sounding as the album artwork itself. The low guitar tones stay low and the only time any foreign instrumentation is introduced is in short between song interludes, it causes the album to congeal together and make initial digestion a bit more difficult – but it still works as a collective fist to the gizzard. Anselmo is the only one that feels a bit pushed up in the mix, and he sounds as ferocious as ever – but as much as it’s his album it’s also his vocals that act as the chain to the bumper of the truck in my opinion. His rabid bark and bellow just can’t be spit out fast enough without losing it’s punch, so he kind of drags his syllables through the songs, extracting a bit of the over-all ferocity in the music by superficially holding it back.  Had he channeled the motherfucker that wiped his broken glass laden vocal chords all over ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ for these sessions I think I’d be singing a much different tune, but the lack of range here feels to me like a lack of emotion. Phil’s vocals on Superjoint Ritual by comparison to his latest effort sound tired and loose, even sort of ugly – but they worked so well with the formula of that music. I can’t help but feel that the man was at the top of his game in heavy music when he was at rock bottom ironically enough. Superjoint Ritual had a personality to it because if you knew what was going on you knew that it was this dark, ugly, drug addled purging of hardcore and old school punk. The music sounded like an 8mm satanic ritual, covered in the kind of heroine induced dirt film that you could almost smell on the album’s insert.  Slurred vocals, and blacked out hatred – it was something ugly that needed to happen, and because of that it became it’s own entity. It’s own personality, flawed and staggering. Most importantly however the music gave the man room to ramble, gasp and sputter – even when the vocal lines were right on top of each other and obviously recorded in separate takes – and that’s where he shines brightest, when he doesn’t sound constrained, but natural, as though there is no effort behind the acrid bile spilling out of his mouth. The new album lacks that personality to me, and in comparison almost sounds mechanical in a way.

Anselmo admitted he wanted to put out something different that couldn’t be generalized and spanned multiple categories of extreme music, but unfortunately that road has already been tread upon by specialists in that field, especially his buddies in  Soilent Green. Shit, I even hear bits of Glass Casket and Norma Jean in it’s sound (sorry). My biggest problem with this album however is its length. It clocks in at around 40 minutes, but at least 10 minutes of that running time is melodic feedback or industrial-tinged creepy interludes – which brings us to about a half an hour of some pretty heavy ass shit in only 8 tracks. But in my opinion there is still a lot of fat that could have been trimmed (kind of like my reviews!). The intro track ‘Music Media Is My Whore’ over stays its welcome by about a minute, as it doesn’t go anywhere and harbors a pretty cool riff that gets tired without any variation for that long. I actually got annoyed hearing “Hands up Hands down!” a third of the way through ‘Batallion of Zero’ on the first listen that I knew I’d be fine never hearing it again, and the same for the chorus of “Betrayed” on subsequent listens. The title track ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ is the second longest track on the album and most epic within it’s own sledgehammer to cinderblock parameters, harboring arguably one of the sickest riffs on the record as well as an open space halfway through the song to allow for a quick little (and always welcome) Phil-sermon, but it’s still a track that could have been cut in half to amplify it’s intensity.. ‘Ursuper’s Bastard Rant’ coils and strikes in the creativeness of it’s riff, it even showcases Phil straining to hit the high screams, but wears out it’s welcome in it’s 4 minute glory. ‘Bedroom Destroyer’ and ‘Bedridden’ are album standouts  because they harbor some of that aforementioned looseness in the vocals to me. They also have a bit of a punk metal undertone to them which injects the inevitable familiarity of past projects and that warm fuzzy feeling of Phil falling back into the niche that powers him with poison. ‘Betrayed’ feels the same way but the Grindcore-fanatic attention span I’ve Darwined through the years kind of causes me to be cautious of bridge-to-chorus repetition over and over in a song disguising itself as something other than filler, and that’s where my problem with this album’s love handles stem from.

If ‘Walk Through Exits Only’ leaned itself out it would eeeeeasily be one of those records that bounces around your brain like a 22 gauge bullet before finding it’s exit and leaving you incapacitated and rattled. It would be an exhausting mind fuck that would leave your mouth agape wondering what it was you just heard and wanting to hear it again, like the first time I heard Meshuggah’s ‘Future Breed Machine’ in 1995 or Brutal Truth’s ‘Sound’s of the Animal Kingdom’. It’s a sonic anvil with a seasoned black smith hammering away at it – but the songs are all just a minute or two longer than they need to be for this kind of music. I’d be fine with a 40 minute album like this if it were 20 tracks long. If it wasn’t Phil Anselmo this record would be another mediocre effort in the bins. But the man has a history, the man has a story, and most importantly the man has respect. And I respect the shit out of him now more than ever for doing a sort-of near hookless record like this at his stature, even if in my opinion I can get a fix of it from other bands I think do it better. When you’ve walked through 999 miles of hard road you earn yourself the chance to do whatever you want and not give a fuck. Like start your own label, or put out the kind of music you feel like and not give a shit what anyone else thinks. There’s more of a fanbase for the black metal Christ Inversion than there is this – and hopefully it guides some more folks through the gates who may not have ever perused that path prior to. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Album Review: Punch - Push Pull

Mike Bode - Mike Bode was that scrawny kid in Junior High that remained scrawny through his High School years and into College. Always covered in bruises and scrapes, stitch scars, knotted hair and fat lips - the kid was a fuckin' Pit Bull. A wiry little sonofabitch that could be knocked down but never kept there. He's the dude in football that came gunnin' up from the defensive backfield to concuss the big 200lb-something fathead as soon as he crossed the line of scrimmage. Not arrogant, not antagonistic, just there and quick to snap at the first whiff of confrontation. Punch remind me of Mike Bode. Thin, sloppy and fast enough to still be sharp - they teeter back and forth heavy on the hardcore and punk, bonded all together with bits of grind. Kind of like the negative image of Extortion's formula if you will. Imagine a very diluted Blood I Bleed, with all of the same effect. Sandblasted high-screech vocals over high tune power-chords and occasional blast-beats; it's honestly nothing you haven't heard before, but the quick one-two-three-four-five jabs one after another after another of quick bursts of less-than-a-minute-long songs serve the beating quite effectively. It's not a cattle-gun to the temporal lobe, but a barrage of quick crazy fists leaving you disorientated and fatigued. With the exception of 'Let Me Forget' and 'Positively God Free' the formula to the songs on Push Pull is pretty predictable by the half-way point, blasting instruments slow to bits of hardcore breakdowns (not those kind of breakdowns), but the album is short enough (13 songs in 17 minutes) to keep it all still in the zone. There has been a come-uppance of bands like this, with hardcore foundations tinkering in old-school punk and grind - Trash Talk comes to mind - but Punch deliver with an honest, not-too-produced sound that helps give it the foam in the corners of the mouth. My niche for this kind of sound is a pretty small space to fill, and I've only listened to the album a couple of times, but I'd make space on my Ipod for this little bag of razorblades. If you've got 15 minutes to spare give it a listen.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Album Review: Kiss The Cynic - Self Titled EP

Luddite Clone rattled cages and turned heads in their 365 day career. With swirling guitars, stop-and-go blasts of percussion, and a knack for injecting unpredictable spins on riffs, they stretched their vein-poppingly mapped out necks above most of their peers - enough so as to label them in the same category as bands like King Generator and Botch, who hit the scene in a frenzied gallop lopping off heads left and right through springs of pressurized arterial spray only to disappear over the ridge and never be heard from again, leaving fans of the band and the genre salivating for just...one...more...release - just to hear what it sounds like goddammit! And if you've heard Luddite Clone then you can't deny that a key ingredient to their being one-off stars in the grimey lime light and somewhat of a post-mortem cult phenomenon was vocalist Andrew Cummings' truly pissed off transference of abhorrence in his vocals - as though you could almost feel the spittle and taste the venom execrating from his most-likely-from-the-sound-of-it disease ridden mouth. Years ago, amidst a musically stagnant couple of months - I found myself on a bit of a ghost hunt within the murky depths of internet music sites, one link led me to another, and to another and so forth - each becoming more minimalist in it's cosmetics; until I stumbled upon the arc of information I'd been hoping to find - that two of Luddite Clone's ex-members were breathing life into a new animal; and one of them was Andy Cummings. Thus Kiss The Cynic became a blip on my radar.
Kiss the Cynic formed from the ashes of both Luddite Clone and As Darkness falls. To my knowledge the self-titled 6 track EP has only become available through Itunes within the last year or so. As information and demos stopped appearing from the band's social networking sites and the disc wasn't available anywhere to buy online I had assumed for half a decade that the project got scrapped, only to stumble upon it available for purchase and download in yet another fit of internet-lurking boredom (I have a lot of free time). Turns out this crafty little bitch came out over ten years ago and then I'm assuming went out of print - and here I thought it was just the longest and most fucked up promotional campaign I'd ever been a victim of. If I was that guy who had to compare this album to Luddite Clone's all-too-small body of work simply because it shares two of it's members, I'd tell you that The Arsonist and the Architect was like one of those E-ticket theme park roller coaster rides in middle America. It loops and corkscrews and drops when you least expect it, wooden and rickety the whole thing could come apart at any second, but that's part of the rush - then it's over before you want it to be. Kiss The Cynic sounds like Luddite Clone in it's sonics and production value, but musically it's just one steep downhill plunge in a plastic sled, no twists or turns here. In fact, hand me an unlabled disc and tell me it's the new Luddite Clone and I'd believe you - but wonder why they decided to go so traditional in their structures. The musicianship and writing is still top notch for what it is. At about a minute and ten seconds into the first track, 'Supercharger', either guitarist Kevin Walsh or Andrew Lynch (not sure which one, they don't have dedicated speaker assignments - yet) plays an almost orchestral and elegant riff that wouldn't be alien to a John Williams score - juxtaposed against the barrage of drums and the still venemous-as-ever vocals of Mr. Cummings it definitely ups the cool factor of the EP. Many of the riffs are pretty creative but it's pretty predictable when he's going to change things up - after he plays it four times, but it's still good enough to make you look forward to what you're going to hear next. The vocal patterns add to the groove of the music and keep things just bouncy enough, especially 'Chicago Hotplate' and 'Bring Out Your Dead', where the decipherable bridge turns into an incoherrent growl in the same stanza. The fact that Kevin Hannan isn't just playing along with the guitars the whole time but doing his own thing that you can actually occasionally hear when the riffs switch gears adds a bit of a layer of complexity to it.
It's definitely a good EP, but while the whole thing drives and grooves and walks the line somewhere between hardcore, thrash, and punk it just doesn't have the emotive blast that I really dig in my music. It's an angry guy flipping over tables at a house party, instead of a rabid gorilla ripping the arms off of another rabid gorilla. But that's just me and my warped tastes (and stupid analogys). God I hate to say it, but the style reminded me a bit of a not-so-over produced Devildriver, and it's hard for me to come out and say that I know what that would sound like. Maybe a little Superjoint Ritual? Here, it's like what would happen if Burnt By The Sun got rid of all their grindy-bits. Maybe you get the idea. But I can't criticize it because it's not as extreme a record as I was expecting, and who the fuck am I to compare it to Luddite Clone? That's gotta be totally old to them already. They aren't claiming to be anything other than heavy metal or hardcore (or circus music - it says so on their facebook page). Truth is - I have this feeling that had Luddite Clone stuck around and kept doing what they were doing their fanbase would have consisted of people who are still waiting for another Calculating Infinity, because whether you like it or not there was a wake there left by their fellow New Jersey noise merchants that LC may have unwittingly been riding during their short tenure in music, before the real clones jumped on that bandwagon. Kiss The Cynic is a good EP - I do recommend it for fans of any of the bands I mentioned in the paragraphs above; as far as heavy metal or hardcore goes it's excellent, and feels real - not contrived in any way. It's $6 on Itunes - stay off the tollway for a couple of days and buy it. P.S. the sixth and final track is a recorded call to a phone sex operator, not a musical track - so in reality it's a 5 track EP. Just FYI.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Album Review: Bodies In The Gears Of The Apparatus - Simian Hybrid Prototype

Bodies In The Gears Of The Apparatus sound like a band whose harness is breaking away from the musically translated hate they spew.  Harboring the second coolest name in Grind, (Maruta being the first) and hailing from Clearwater, Florida the group cuts you into a thousand pieces using an arsenal of chaotic and technical grindcore, with the perfect amount of recorded-in-one-take slop/vibe to really make it feel like something guerilla. To me it sounds like an evolutionary step from the new direction Discordance Axis sonically took the genre years ago with their amazing catalogue. Adding a bassist and a second guitarist to the DA formula, at breakneck speeds it sometimes sounds like 8 people caterwauling their instruments into a whirlwind of spittle and spite that wrings and twists a riff into ten different variations of the hybrid before it finally morphs into something musically legible and locked in. And just when your brain catches up with the rhythm long enough to start nodding your head BITGOTA take a sharp 90 degree turn and begin pulverizing something new.
I’d been spinning the three songs the group released after this album on a split with Despised Icon on and off for years because at the time it was the only thing I could track down of theirs. To be honest I didn’t even realize the group had a full EP (isn't an 11 track grindcore record considered a full length LP these days? If it’s good enough for Gridlink it’s good enough for me) until about a year and a half ago. Shame on me for shuffling them to the back of the pack, but in my defense, this album showcases a sound and songwriting that much more interesting than what the band released on the split.
Simian Hybrid Prototype opens with “A Lubricated Rubber Glove And Pornographic Photos Of A Decapitated Chinese Hooker”, one of the longer tracks on the record at almost 3 minutes it both pummels and blisters during it’s entirety, introducing the listener to the sound that is. The second track, “Of Things To Come”, is a three minute sample of what sounds like a bit from a 1940’s Hollywood war propaganda movie. I must admit that at first listen I fell into the commonplace and got a bit annoyed at the fact that they would pull the chute after such a cathartic opening free fall. I kept waiting for the sample to end and the cacophony to start back up but it just kept going. In Anal Cunt time units three minutes feels like the second half of Dark Side Of The Moon. But upon further detailed contemplation I’ve concurred that I agree with the move and find it appropriate in that it makes you realize that the band it going to do whatever they damn well please, and though it’s still a grindcore record it’s unpredictable within it’s own sound. Take for example “Fuck Her Like You Paid For It”, it follows suit with what you’d expect to hear from the bulk of the album but at the 44 second mark it breaks into an almost jazz-ambient sort of interlude, complete with random piano key strikes – all the while still somehow coiling in it’s intensity. Like breaking a window and then piecing it back together just to break it again. “Seventeen Reasons To Die Wearing Black” harbors the album’s sickest riff at thirty seconds in (the first nineteen being another sample) when the off/on blast-beat ridden build up breaks into a swaggering and bouncy riff for just the briefest of moments. That’s where BITGOTA thrives in their sound – by lulling it’s prey into the technically formulated and complex bursts of noise that go on and on shifting gears and then occasionally throwing in a 10 second stretch of a groove-laden Pantera riff that in any ordinary pierced-ear-heavy-metal nonsense may sound mediocre, while here it stands as not only a highlight and checkpoint within the carnage, but a  break from it without it losing it’s momentum, which strategically gives the music it’s legibility when you step back from it – otherwise our ears wouldn’t have a basis of comparison and we’d simply tune in and tune out.
Sonically it sounds like Simian Hybrid Prototype was recorded in two sessions, because the sound of the instruments occasionally changes back and forth from song to song. While “A Lubricated Rubber Glove And Pornographic Photos Of A Decapitated Chinese Hooker” harbors a clearer, tuned up production, the non-sample track to follow it “Love Affair With A Mannequin” is lower in tone and ever-so-slightly murkier. The snare sounds tighter and more high-pitched and even the vocals on the lower tracks are a bit different, incorporating a more guttural approach on the low end. And then it returns back to the original sound for the next track “Big, Bad, Mean and Nasty”, only to return yet again to the “murkier” tone for “Hoist The Black Flag (And Begin Slitting Throats)". For me however, it does not effect the listening experience and isn’t all that noticeable unless you happen to be a jag-off like myself, in fact if anything it gives the album a variation within itself that by the end of the record seems to flow pretty well and doesn’t feel like it was patched together the way something like Pig Destroyer’s ’38 Counts Of Battery’ was (which was admittedly a patchwork of earlier releases, nobody’s trying to hide anything there).
Simian Hybrid Prototype is a get in, shred the bowels and get out kind of album. It doesn’t over-stay it’s welcome and doesn’t leave you aching for more (because it satisfies not because it sucks). It’s got some goof-ball track titles but it’s always nice to see a band this visceral sounding not taking themselves too seriously (I’m talking to you GAZA – actually keep doing what you’re doing because it’s awesome, oh wait you broke up) just so long as that’s the motive and it’s not a silly ploy to get zit-faced teen shut-ins giving you hits on You Tube. It’s also a bit heavy on the samples, but that can often be a strategy for bands like this to help break up the monotony for not-so-seasoned listeners of the genre. “Of Things To Come” and “The Ugliest Smile In Rock and Roll” are basically all sample, and “Fuck The Middle East” is a 23 second cover of S.O.D., which only leaves eight original compositions on this album, and then another three on the Despised Icon split. An all too short discography but appropriate sort of self-destruction for a group this at-the-throat. Both guitarists of this group - Ian Sturgill and Aaron Haines – went on to form Success Will Write Apocalypse Across The Sky, this album actually makes me want to check out what they went on to do with that.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Concert Review: The Dillinger Escape Plan @ Reggie's Rock Club - 05.08.13

When somebody begins to talk to me about how amazingly intense whomever was at last nights concert, or how so-and-so absolutely “destroyed” said venue and it was the best show they’d ever seen, I usually tend to shine them off because they’ve never seen the Dillinger Escape Plan live. If they had they wouldn’t be talking such nonsense. Because that’s the problem with a Dillinger Escape Plan show, they set the bar so goddamn high that it sucks the energy out of every other band you saw and will ever see that you thought/would think was awesome. I’ve been out and about checking out live rock and metal shows and what-have-you since 1991. Though I’ve been listening to them since 1999, I’ve only seen Dillinger 5 times in that tenure – it should have been a lot more but for awhile there I was starting to think greater powers that be were preventing me from immersing myself in such chaos. Shows were canceled, family members died, trucks jack-knifed on highways blocking all four lanes of traffic, etc.  Of all the concerts I’ve been to and all the bands I’ve seen, four of the top 5 all-time best are occupied by The Dillinger Escape Plan, the show last night at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago lands at #1. I know the math doesn’t add up – chill out…The only show to not make the list was when I saw them open for Deftones at the Riviera Theatre. Though still an amazing performance, the bands intensity was stifled from the large size of the venue as well as a lackluster crowd of confused looks who didn’t know what to make of them. Watching TDEP perform anywhere that puts the stage further than an arms reach away from their audience is like watching sharks try to have a feeding frenzy in the woods – still amazing to see, but just seems a bit unnatural.  Later on that evening they shot across town over to the Bottom Lounge to do a full set that would become legendary amongst fans of the band as well as the band themselves. There’s even a Facebook page specifically dedicated to it, seriously. I fucking stuck around to watch the fucking Deftones play because I really fucking like the Deftones and never fucking saw them before and fucking missed it. Fuck.
I listen to music for the emotion behind it or the emotion it stirs. As a fan of music I’m generally in the minority as I believe the live show should represent the songs on the record, only played – well, live. Others believe, that a studio recording should capture  what a live song sounds like only played in the studio. You follow? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Being able to convey the emotion that fuels a band’s sound live is something that’s very important to me in a performance. Arguably, anger and/or aggressiveness, translates a whole lot easier than other states of the human emotional spectrum, and can also be triggered a whole lot easier when you believe with conviction in what you’re performing night after night. Nobody does this better than The Dillinger Escape Plan, and if they did you’d have heard about it. Dillinger thrives on playing in small places and they know it. With each release and each subsequent touring cycle the band is naturally inching it’s way up the popularity platform. They’ve played the Conan O’Brien Show, got invited to The Revolver Golden Gods gig, are headlining this years Summer Slaughter tour, and lead singer Greg Puciato was recently placed number one on a list of top 25 current metal frontmen. Last nights show was sold out, and both of last years shows at Reggie’s were sold out. At current status they could easily play a place like The Metro but still stick to the smaller joints because they get off on their own intensity as much as their fans do. You’ve gotta love a band that’s at where they’re at and still take the time to play an occasional basement show. Sure I’m a fan of Dillinger, but 50% of that reason (maybe 43% ha!) is because of their live show. It’s become what they’re known for and rightfully so. Lately it seems like half the crowd at these shows are fans and the other half were either dragged their by their friend to see the spectacle or were simply curious about what the word-of-mouth-big-deal was, both halves can usually be seen walking out of the show with mouths gaped open.
Reggie’s Rock Club is a small venue with a floor and a bit of balcony space. On either side of the stage about 15 feet up are VIP booths with chain-link fence running across them. The only thing between the floor crowd and the band is a welded pipe bar that runs across the length of the stage. Last night’s security planted himself at stage-right and simply bounced people back who were close to falling onstage. Drink every time I say stage. Backed with spastic strobes, and launching themselves off of steel box ramps planted strategically around the stage, the band kicked things off with the song “Prancer”, a track from the new album “One Of Us Is The Killer” that gets released next week. In all of about one note the air gets sucked out of the room and the crowed gets vacuum sealed against the stage, packed like pissed off sardines fighting off the urge to traumatically asphyxiate. “Farewell Mona Lisa” followed allowing for only a moments breath during the opening riff before the purge continued. “Sugar Coated Sour” started just like this, and “Room Full Of Eyes” only loosened it’s grip half-way through so bassist Liam Wilson could work out his continuous bass pedal issues before the song breaks down into total sonic catharsis.
By the time they finished blazing through the song "Milk Lizard", it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say the band was spending more time in the audience than they were on the actual stage. Halfway through "Sunshine The Werewolf", during the dark little jazzy interlude - Puciato acknowledged how stubborn security was being, "They won't let you up here, I'll just come down there". He then proceeded to part the crowd like Moses did the Red Sea, and gallop to the middle of the pit where he bellowed out the leviathan of an ending to that song before the audience picked him up and spat him back onto the stage. "Calculating Infinity" was a surprising little highlight for me, an instrumental number from the group's debut that on this evening acted like an almost halftime show, instead of focusing on the audience for a song they played a bit off of each other in a sort of technical-punk-thrash jam, bassist Liam Wilson seemed absolutely absorbed with the music, doing his demented little crab bounce to the off-kilter beat. The energy was symbiotic that evening, and the band seemed to be having a genuine blast, smiles on their faces as they dove into the crowd, laughing and vibing off of each other. What has become the band's signature closer, '43% Burnt', took whatever fun was being had and turned it into one last violent burst. While the audience were mustering up the last remaining fumes in the tank, Puciato scaled across the chainlink fence at the top of the aforemetioned VIP section and from there gibboned his way onto one of the venue's main speaker systems that was suspended from the ceiling. He then crawled across an I-beam and dropped into the crowd, all the while the stomp continued on stage without missing a beat, and then they were through - no bullshit chanting and cheering to get an encore, no fucking with the audience, no time off for a breather. The Dillinger Escape Plan encapsulate a modern day punk rock energy from a band flirting with mainstream success in the Heavy Metal genre, and they don't let that balance on the cusp push them into losing the vision of who they are or the force their band has become. They've never lost sight of the intimate energy that they create through their music and especially through their live show that's both brought them to where they are and at the same time kept them one of the best kept secrets in extreme music. Here's to hoping no necks get broken in at least the next 20 years.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"Ahhhh, Pig Killer!!!!" Fanning The Flames That Pig Destroyer's 'Book Burner' Has Caused.

Pig Destroyer has returned! Like heroes triumphant from battle they've come back to the streets from a long hiatus, the masses of Grind fans aligned on either side of the homecoming parade waving enthusiastically and throwing handfuls of confetti! But what's this? The crowd disperses? Our bewildered heroes twist their heads in confusion from atop their float as the cheers dissipate and the buckets of rice and confetti are left half-spilled and rolling in the curb. There are doubters amongst us, with great big megaphones telling you that they aren't the heroes you've thought them to be. They carry big colorful signs that say that the war has changed them, that there are bigger heroes a block over with bigger floats who have fought in better battles. I'm sorry you feel that way.
I know this bunch of bullshit is coming at you a bit after the fact, and it's all been a bucket of chum I've laid out in other various comments boxes along the way, but bare with me please - I'd be remiss if I didn't say it all in one place on my own page. I was actually surprised to see the bulk of negative reactions to the new Pig Destroyer album 'Book Burner' in the weeks/months following it's release. More so because they were all coming from individual fans of the grindcore genre, putting it out there in blogs and Youtube videos and individual CD reviews on sites selling the album. Major magazines and websites seemed to praise the record for the most part - and while I do take a little bit of stock in that I'm alot more interested to hear what the grunts on the frontline have to say about it. After all, they don't have to cater to and/or worry about bad-mouthing the same band that they have coming in for an interview next week or put on the cover of the latest issue.
In hindsight however, I'm glad to see a lack of blind love for a band as highly respected and heavy hitting as Pig Destroyer are in their genre - kudos to not just liking the album because of who it came from and lying to yourself, there's too much of that in the art world, and as a result too many artists resting on their laurels. Which is NOT, mind you, what I think Pig Destroyer did on 'Book Burner'. I understand that there is the potential to not like alot of things on this album, and I'm not trying to change your mind - just hoping to throw another perspective out there I guess. Here are a few of the universal negatives that I've picked up on from the bulk of complaints: 1) (the big one) The production: It sounds polished, this album comes off cleaner than a nun's cooch. I think a big part of that is the drum sound. Mind you this was the first album they did in Hull's new studio - and the drums were already programmed for each song prior to Adam Jarvis even joining the ranks. From my understanding he just played over the already programmed drums to the Tee (T?), not leaving room for freestyle rolls and fills, and who's going to walk into their first Pig Destroyer rehearsal and tell Hull "fuck off I'm doing it my way"? - maybe Dave Witte. That's what happens when you write an album without a drummer. While  triggers potentially add to the problem, the whole thing comes off (in comparison to Brian Harvey's style) as sounding a bit mechanical and lifeless. The drums are in your face, and still sound programmed - as opposed to the organic almost analog feel to them on previous records. When Richard Johnson or Kat Katz step in as guest vocalists this album sounds like Agoraphobic Nosebleed's 'Agorapocolypse', because basically - well, it is Agoraphobic Nosebleed - especially considering the live drums on 'Book Burner' sound exactly like the programmed ones on 'Agorapocolypse'. It makes me wish that ANB would go back to their PCP-tinged 5000 bpm blur grind and not slow things down and suckle from the potential creative teet of future Pig Destroyer albums - but that's just being selfish.
This was also the first time that the guitars weren't screwed with. In a recent interview Hull revealed that on previous albums the guitar tone was digitally dropped an octave or two in the final mix, to help give it a bit of a bottom end bass tone. Anybody whose done any kind of recording can tell you that this causes the overall tone of the guitar on the recording to sound a bit more muddy and muffled. The end result worked well for Pig Destroyer on past records because it only adds to the suffocating atmosphere of sounds and blends in with the ambient noises creeping around beneath the layers of sonic cacaphony. In my opinion the best example of this is on the Terrifyer album: that lower tone causes the guitar to digitally bleed into the other instruments, and on that album particularly (probably because of the riffs its married to) it's dizzying and violent, which is what that record is all about. 'Book Burner' is so much clearer and less feedback laden because it's untampered with and what you get at face value, and what you get at face value probably put through more emphasis on the audio interface and not the amp. It's fuckin' crispy. With all this clarity and in-your-faceness I will admit I was hoping to hear a bit more of Blake Harrison's noise production in the mix, but it's nowhere near the head of the twister as much as everything else is when it's all churning at once. For me the production is fine, and I think for the band it's fine. If anything I'd like to think Hull is taking the negative feedback about it as a big ol' handjob to the work he did creating his own studio from the bottom up, it could be quite the compliment to an audiogeek who enjoys piecing together 5.0 surround sound ambient audio landscapes in his off/off/off/off time. I think people may be a bit less peeved about the overall sound of the record if it had a bit less negative space throughout it, space that could be easily filled by some creepy undertones from Harrison when the music stops and it's just hull introducing another riff before it all starts up again. And if you don't think so then simply think of it like this: For as narrow a genre as grindcore is, Pig Destroyer have done a tremendous job of not putting out the same record twice. 30 Counts Of Battery is a compilation piece plain and simple, you could easily argue it's value in a discography. That puts Prowler In The Yard as their blueprint album, Terrifyer as their artsy album, Phantom Limb as their thrash album, and Book Burner is simply their clean album, from there you've just got to deal with it... Wait, there's more:

Second biggest complaint: Both the lyrics and delivery from JR Hayes. People seemed a bit disappointed with both. I admit there is a bit of a lack of desperation in his vocals on this album, and instead of sounding like a jaded psychopath wrestling with his own potential lack of morality and guilt, he comes off a bit more monochromed as a snarling dog throughout all 19 tracks. Well, delivery mirrors content - and lyrically this album is radically different than past ventures. It's less introverted and poetic and more graphic and surfaced. Artists don't want to do the same thing over and over again, and real artists won't if they aren't convicted to what they're writing. It's been 5 years since PD put out an album, probably damn near 15 since their inception. Nobody should be trying to passionately deliver from a place that they're not living in anymore. It's an evolution of content and I for one welcome it. If you've been listening to the band for that long then whether you know it or not you are becoming numb to the previous aesthetic his lyrics have been trademarked as. It's not shocking anymore to hear about his character strangling a woman and then masturbating in her closet, no matter how poetic and subjective he makes it sound. This record is a huge step away from previous ones along those lines, it's a skeleton crew of short stories opposed to another sonic novel of that blurred line between love and justifiable homicide. Sure he dabbles in familair waters with songs like 'Boston Strangler' and 'Dirty Knife', but I honestly wonder if those were written partly to bate the appetites of Pig Destroyer fans and not leave them feeling ostricized by what has become such a critical component of the songs and a watermark for the band that allows them to rise above others in the genre either still waxing about how shitty politics are or those those that simply just use a medical dictionary as their thesaurus. I'm glad the palette is expanding - drug use, religious conformity, war, and a big violent drunk guy getting into a fight... The crayons are coloring outside of the lines and it leaves tons of potential for future musings.
3.) An overall lack of signature riffs/hooks. I don't know what to throw your way on this one. Either you dig what's there or you don't. I hear the underlying Slayer worship that's always occasionally reared it's head in past albums in songs like 'Permanent Funeral'. I hear the aforementioned dizzying violence in 'Iron Drunk' and 'Valley Of The Geysers', and even the balls out blur ala the beginning of 'Heathen Temple' in 'The Bug'. It's all there for me. In my opinion this record appropriately falls into the fifth album template of the sound of their entire career congealed into one album, and it works. 'Sis' sounds like a cut that could have been pulled from the era of '30 Counts Of Battery' as much as 'The Baltimore Strangler' could've easily slid in anywhere on 'Phantom Limb'. A sort of greatest hits album without it actually being a greatest hits album.
Here's what I think, the reason it would seem alot of folks are disappointed with this disc is because A: It's been a long time coming, and despite being "open minded" or self-proclaimed music snobs, people built this album up whether they realized it or not. B: This band has made a serious mark in the scene - and everyone is going to compare every release after 2001 to 'Prowler In the Yard', and that's damn unfortunate, because if this were their first album these people would be putting it on a pedestal. C: Because they've made such a mark in the scene they suffer from the countless legions of mediocre bands trying to sound like them severely watering down the genre. Step away from it for five years and some change and all of a sudden you find yourself facing a decision musically: Either just get in there and do what it is you do best, hoping it will still stand above the second generation sound you've helped inspire, or possibly step out of your comfort zone and do something different in an effort to raise the bar yet again, but with that risk alienating your fans. I'm glad they chose the former, at least this time around. I think with what they went through we're all lucky to even have a new Pig Destroyer record, and all really lucky they didn't continue down the path of critic's boners for 'Phantom Limb' and lean even more heavily on boring thrash stylings. They did what they needed to do and made an all encompassing album of their sound just to get their feet back on the ground. At the risk of sounding like a COMPLETE asshole, I think we all need to comb thru our Grind collections at home and throw away anything that isn't elite. I'd love to litter this page with shit-tons of under-the-radar type groups, but the fact of the matter is, when I try to do that and listen to alot of this kind of music, it takes away from the volatility of the stuff that I know is already really good in the grindcore field, and recognized as such with good reason. To put it simply, a genre with this narrow of boundaries shouldn't be diluted with second rate garbage, listening to a band like Noisear to tame that Discordance Axis fix is the same as listening to Godsmack for the nostalgia of Alice In Chains. Throw that shit away and only fix when it's quality shit to fix with, in my ridiculous opinion you'll spot and appreciate the good stuff easier that way.
Book Burner is another appropriate chapter in the discography - I enjoy it. It's arguably the angriest of their records and thematically the most different. I can totally comprehend the naysayers and their arguments, I get it and I hear it - I'm not arguing that. I also understand that there are bands you want to see change and evolve and bands you don't. Pig Destroyer has flaunted all kinds of abilities in their albums and more-so their one off's like 'Natasha' and the 'Mass & Volume' EP. I'd love to see these guys get to a point in their career where they could release a noise album and have it be understood and accepted as a Pig Destroyer album. They're too good at getting under the skin to base their existence on riffs, speed, and shocking dialogue. I'd love to see what extremes they can twist the dark side of the human experience into through other channels of sound and hope they explore those dimensions. I'd love this band - and more importantly this band's fans - to embrace the idea of being able to do whatever they want and trust that they will deliver with tapping into a new perspective of something primal someday. Because extreme music can punish and heal no matter what instrument it comes from at any bpm. Yeah, and maybe there's a little bit of that blind love there too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Under The Radar: Vog

Deep in the thick foliage of the Virginia woods, some crazy/genius bastard fertilized an Acid Bath egg with 'Dopethrone' - era Electric Wizard. The seed germinated, spawned and only lived for a short time as Vog. These guys truly are a hidden gem, ritualistically dancing within the realms of Stoner/Sludge-Jam-band-satanic-voodoo thrash ( what? is that already a genre? dammit.) I seriously cannot describe their music any better than that first sentence. They wear the Acid Bath influence heavily on their sleeve in both their writing as well as the vocal stylings of crooner Steven Kerchner, who at times sounds almost exactly like a less distorted Dax Riggs.
I stumbled onto these guys a few years ago deep within the trenches of Myspace before it became the Detroit of social networking sites. Even a google search brings up sparse results which in turn need to be even further refined and combed through to weed out the half dozen Japanese Ambient-Electronic acts that share the same name. I was finally able to track down some of their discography on the Shifty Records site. From there I ordered the 'Colors Of Infinity' EP which consists of one 23 minute track (which was sent to me in DIY packaging burnt onto a Spykids CD-Rom - fuckin' awesome.), it's good but kind of sounds more like a bunch of ideas jammed into one song and isn't as cohesive as I might have hoped, from what I can gather it was probably a demo the band sent to the label before they were even on it (but then again, what the hell do I know?).
The real bread and butter from Vog comes in their one and only self-titled full length. 7 tracks (and not a one of them under 6 minutes) of dirty-ass, slightly underproduced Stoner/Sludge/Thrash dynamics, high on the treble and heavy on the Sabbath swagger. Seriously, if Dax Riggs and the boys in Acid Bath took some bad shrooms in the NOLA swamps and then decided to record a jam session pre- "When The Kite String Pops" I can't help but imagine it would sound alot like this. Yeah I'm an Acid Bath fan, but what I am not is one of those people that tries to find another band in the same realm to latch onto when they're favorite one goes defunct. While Vog does offer a sliver to help fill the void that AB left when they went tits up, they also infuse enough of their other influences into the music to actually make the end result sound original. And honestly, the more you listen to it the more it begins to sound like it's own thing. So I guess this recommendation goes out to those people who have reverted to settling on exhausting the Buzzoven dicography as an unsuccessful means to get their caustic-stoner thrash fix since AB called it a day some dozen-or-so years ago (you're doing it wrong - sludge!). Does it offer a certain average-looking-girl-becomes- all the more - hot-because-she's-a-libarian kind of aesthetic because it's so off the map? Sure there's a little bit of charm there, but it's honestly cool shit, and when you think it's going to zig where it should zag it does neither, it zogs (clever). In fact, whilst doing a bit of research for this bunch of inane babble I discovered that Vog's self-titled has been remastered (possibly even re-recorded in spots) and made available on Itunes, I didn't see that coming. The remaster has an additional track smack dab in the middle called 'Sad Girl', which was originally released as a single and was, up till now, the only thing available from them on Itunes. Important note here: If you do decide to buy the album via that route I'd strongly recommend also buying the 'Sad Girl' single that's available also, as they include an acoustic version of the track that's not available on the remaster and is definitely worth having. Listening to the acoustic 'Sad Girl' into the original version can be an awesomely intense experience ala Pantera's Suicide Note parts 1 & 2.
So come and dance within the remains that once was Vog, and long for what once was and what could have been, for such a small, unlabeled and thankfully mostly untreaded genre. Check out the video below for a brief showcase of the Vog's sound:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Album Review: Pig Destroyer - Mass & Volume

There are a few reasons why people shouldn't shit all over this thing - which is what I think some may want to do with it when they hear it for the first time, because I have a feeling it's going to go under alot of people's heads. Yes, under people's heads. Like the 20 ton prehistoric worm that it sounds like, burrowing through hard mantle and hollowing out a once vibrant and functioning planet. This is not the ultra-violent thrash tinged grindcore we are used to experiencing from Pig Destroyer. This is potentially the most aptly named EP ever, 'Mass & Volume'. Two tracks in doom vein that plunge you into a throbbing void of amp worship and blown bass cabinets.
The first reason to accept this for what it is, even if it isn't what you want to hear from these guys is that it's Pig Destroyer, more impressively it's Pig Destroyer festering out of their usual comfort zone and experimenting in slowing the fuck down, God bless 'em. Second is that it's a gift. Nobody knew that this slow piston through the gizzard was even going to be released until the moment they decided to do it. Yeah it costs the listener ten clams but it's cool-ass new experimental material that prior to this was collecting dust on a shelf next to a jar of fremented baby heads and most likely would have never been heard, so it's a gift to the fans. And more importantly, ALL of the proceeds made for this album go towards the college fund of the daughter of the recently deceased Pat Egan - the long time director of retail sales for Relapse Records. So not only is it for a good cause, but one of the best one's out there, the child of a friend.
Shortly after the release of Phantom Limb the band occasionally talked about these two tracks in various interviews and whatforth as a couple of long dirge ridden songs they knocked out with extra studio time during the Phantom Limb sessions. They never spoke of what their intentions were to do with them or if they ever would be released. Per the group: "This EP was written and recorded during the final day of the Phantom Limb sessions with unexpected extra studio time and resources. In the following years, with Natasha being released on its own and Brian no longer being in the band, our intentions of releasing Mass & Volume basically evaporated. However, looking back now, Mass & Volume serves as a great epilogue to that particular era of the band."
The first track, 'Mass & Volume', is an epic slab of monolithic guitars trodding along with the velocity of a slug, weaving in and out of Hull's feedback. Beneath it a subtle layer of ominous keyboards fluxes frequencies and effects which can only be heard occasionally when the tree trunk bass strings stop their throbbing vibrations from each slow strike. The 19+ minute song feels more like a drone track most times than anything more doom laden. The song never really goes anywhere, so if you're not into either of those aforementioned genres and like your stuff more superficial than chances are you already don't like this band and/or you probably just won't get it. I'm into alot of weird shit (musically - ahem), and my album collection ain't exactly over-saturated with any kind of Doom Metal, in fact it's pretty much the opposite of that. Off the top of my head the only other three bands that match the RPM's of this first track that I indulge in are Lycia, Gnaw Their Tongues, and strict selections of Type O Negative.
So while the Evoken afficianado may turn his nose up at this for someone like me it bates the appetite. Is it all the more cool being a fan of the band and hearing them do something in a different realm sans Natasha? Absolutely. I'd say the best way to experience Mass & Volume is to crank your stereo to 13 in a blacked out room, with speakers powerful enough to rattle the frames off your wall....naked. As simple as it is it creates a world around you if you let it, and by the time Hayes comes in with his indicipherable effects-laden vocals it will sound like there is something there in the dark with you, trying to tell you something you don't want to hear.
The second song on the EP, 'Red Tar' - though sonically the same - is a bit more doom-traditional and riff oriented, opening up in the end with an ever so subtle and enlightening riff that only comes together to be heard when the song is over. I enjoyed the EP, a bit more stripped down than 'Natasha', which was the last time the group did something like this during the 'Terrifyer' sessions, but I'd reckon to say that if you enjoyed that you would enjoy this. To the hardcore Doom Metal fans, who have a huge cache' of bands to compare this thing to, it may be less than mediocre.  But to a guy like me, who loves seeing bands normally confined to narrow genres step out and do what they want and then just put it out there, it helps fill that niche of slow, disturbing, heavy and ambient that my collection sometimes lacks. Stream and buy the album here

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Album Review: Early Graves - 'Red Horse'

It's interesting to me how much of a band's identity lies within their vocalist. I suppose alot of it has to do with it being the most versatile of instruments amongst the typical heavy metal arsenal. It paints with the largest brush strokes and gives the sound of a band's music most of it's character. And while most grindcore and powerviolence vocalists generally follow the same dynamic when it comes to delivery and range, I suppose one could argue that no two vocalists, even within the narrow confines of the aforementioned styles of extreme music, are the same. Some groups that were forced to change vocalists for whatever reason at some point in their career are even categorized into eras based on it.
There are only a handful of bands that walk within their lines that I'd never want to see wander into a different direction or "progress", but most of those exist outside the world of extreme music. Within the genre I always welcome a change or experimentation, and I always find it interesting when a band is forced to change their sound and adapt due to whatever circumstances may have transgressed. Those circumstances could not be more tragic than what transgressed with Early Graves, and the adaption could not be more poetic or fitting.
I got into Early Graves through their second album 'Goner'. It was smack dab in the middle of winter, one of those cold, biting days where the sun is out and twice as blinding because of all the dried up snow, everything is covered in that layer of salt and the air is dry. I was going through a bit of a lull, there was nothing new out there that interested me but I was longing to hear something. I'd heard of Early Graves and ended up buying their album on a couple of 30 second samples I'd heard on Amazon, I guess I was feeling desperate and thought what the hell - sounded alright, and Kurt Ballou was involved so why not? I tossed the thing into my Ipod and sulked off to the gym. I guess the best analogy to equate that experience to would be picking a fight with the wrong person, because by the second track that album had spun my head around. The production was muddy and chaotic, a swirl of raw noise adhesed together with layer upon layer of feedback, there were times where the whole thing sounded like it was just going to completely fall apart and not be able to salvage itself, but it always held together strong and that aspect simply added to the charisma of the record. That first listen was a cathartic experience to say the least. I soon backtracked to the first album 'We: The Guillotine' - which is sonically almost the same album, just loaded with fat. Goner got in, scrambled your brains and got out, probably couldn't even walk through the cutting room floor on that one. It was a strategic move to trim the fat for that second album because it's short running time helped make the record a clenched fist ready to be thrown.
On the subsequent tour following the release, lead vocalist Makh Daniels was killed in a tragic van accident. When wounds started to mend and the band made the decision to soldier forth, long time friend of the group John Strachan stepped up to fill in as vocalist. John also sang for tourmates Funeral Pyre, his move into the vocalist position for Early Graves would be both admittedly comfortable for the rest of the band, and fitting as the album - with it's occasional quiet instrumental interlude and possible lyrical interpretation - can at times come off as an homage to Daniels, and nobody wants a stranger leading that charge. Had Makh's life never been tragically cut short, say he left the band on his own merit and EG still wrote the exact same record I may not be feeling that homage, I'd just call it a step in a different direction, so that vibe, to me, is based on the events I've known to take place - the end result is up to any listeners own subjective interpretation as there are no blatantly obvious nods here, tastefully done I must say.
Now let's get to the album, 'Red Horse'. It is not better than 'Goner'. It is much more controlled, reigned in....Dare I say it? Mature. The band has admitted to wanting to evolve, to move forward. I welcome the change, but it was not forced or molded around the new vocalist, as the clear acoustic passages and pleasant inspirational outros that are scattered about this record don't have any singing over them. In fact, the vocals, while very different than the dry throated monotone barking of Daniels - still function in the same dynamic. The range varies little and the message of desperation and aggravation is still there, but the softer parts do offer a pleasant contrast to the muddy chaos of sound the band has stuck with since their debut - this contrast offers uplift in a world that rains anvils, and it works. After listening to Early Graves' first two albums I kind of thought them to be one of those bands that does what they do and that's it, 8 albums in and the formula hasn't changed - so it was nice to be proved wrong in such a pleasant way. The first track 'Skinwalker' opens with a quiet intro that builds up into a bouncy little cliffhanger riff, whose feedback pulls us into trademark Early Graves punk-grind-power riffage. My only complaint here being that the sound actually seems to get quieter when the song gets faster, something that happens I understand, as things aren't being hit as hard when they're moving quicker, but it's something I would have liked to see a producer catch and prevent, unless of course they were just going for that real-live feel - which is always a viable excuse I suppose. The next two tracks, 'Misery' and 'Days Grow Cold' honestly kind of come and go, the latter stepping out a little more because of the acoustic outro - which leads us to the title track 'Red Horse', a bouncy yet driving little number that achieves exactly what it's supposed to as the whole thing sounds like galloping through a field littered with people off-ing each other in record numbers Braveheart style. 'Pure Hell' is Early Graves doing what they do best, especially when the thing ups gears about a minute and a half in from fast to Plaid and the floor just gives way from beneath the music as it turns into a cacaphony of grindcore fighting black metal in Tokyo. The final track 'Quietus', is arguably the best track on the album, clocking in at just over 6 minutes the song careens in with that same tempo the rest of the album likes to coast in and then downshifts for a fist throwing cadence during the chorus. 'Quietus' sounds like everything else on the album until those strings slow their vibration halfway through and an inspiring yet desperate instrumental outro carries the album to it's close.
Now, this could be good or bad depending on how you look at it, but with the band's raw, sonic density and writing style - they've always at times kind of sounded like Converge, no shit considering Kurt Ballou has been involved with the band, the influence is obvious. However, with the addition of the new singer, it sounds at times on this record almost exactly like Converge, especially on 'Death Obsessed' and a couple of other places scattered about. There are worse groups to emulate noooooo doubt, as I love Converge and all, but I don't need another Converge, I don't want another Coverge, and I don't believe they were setting out to do that, but that's just the way it turned out, at least to my cochlear implants.
Early Graves went through some serious shit and with that in mind this album is a winner. It's enjoyable - but for me it lingers a bit in mediocre waters. I had zero expectations for it, didn't expect it to suck and I didn't expect it to blow me away either, as I kind of went into it with the same mentality as when I first bought 'Goner' on a complete whim. "oh look, Early Graves came out with a new album a couple of months ago" kind of thing. It's good, it would be awesome as maybe a four song EP or something (Skinwalker, Apocalyptic Nights, Pure Hell, Quietus), but it's still only 8 tracks and a damn short album for the most part. It lacked something for me, but that doesn't mean I'd dissuade another from wanting to hear it, as I can see where for some it may move mountains. I'm going to work on making these reviews a whole lot shorter.