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 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.