3.13.2017

LEAF HOUND - Growers Of Mushrooms

Artist:  Leaf Hound
Album: Growers Of Mushrooms
Year:  1970
Genre:  Heavy Rock

Leaf Hound IS a cult classic among fans that love to rummage through boxes at corner record stores searching for bands that influenced the next generation of rock and metal.  They had a incredible knack for mixing hard rock with a subtle blues vibe that always seemed to creep its way into most of the early heavy music from the 70s.  Their raw and unfiltered sound would've made Blue Cheer turn their heads and had Leslie West nodding in approval, yet, Leaf Hound had just enough of that psychedelic influence to calm the beast from time to time.  What a great record!  Good luck finding an original copy of this.  Sometimes LP represses are a good thing.

Listen to "Freelance Fiend" here.

3.08.2017

OBSCURE SPHINX - Anaesthethic Inhalation Ritual

Artist:  Obscure Sphinx
Album: Anaesthethic Inhalation Ritual
Year:  2011
Genre:  Doom / Post-Rock

This is one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard in the last 5 years.  Don’t get freaked by the “post-rock” tag and think this is going to be another Xerox of Mogwai, Explosions In The Sky, Pelican or any of the other 100 indecipherable copycats out there.  Obscure Sphinx are more of a Pink Floyd and Isis in a blender combination with a dash of Electric Wizard.  The band is excellent at flowing between moods and has an extremely unique and talented female singer that handles the changing temperament phenomenally.  They are breath of much needed fresh air in both doom and post-rock music.  

Check out "Nastiez" here.

3.01.2017

SCHLEPROCK - "America's Dirty Little Secret"

Artist:  Schleprock
Album: America’s Dirty Little Secret
Year:  1996
Genre:  Punk

Schleprock’s swansong, titled America’s Dirty Little Secret, is not only the best work of their entire catalog, but it is an unrecognized jewel of 90s punk rock.  Schleprock were one of the many bands scooped up by a major label during the explosion of Warped Tour, Green Day and The Offspring.  Apparently Atlantic records were a huge help to them because this album is pretty damn great as none of their independent releases even come close to matching its quality.  Elements of street punk and ska are tastefully scattered all over this incredibly catchy style of straight forward punk rock.  Schleprock never caught on with the masses and the band died off after this release.  Definitely worth combing through discount CD bins to find this cool record.

Listen to "America's Dirty Little Secret" here.

2.20.2017

PARIS - "Sleeping With The Enemy"

Artist:  Paris
Album: Sleeping With The Enemy
Year:  1992
Genre:  Hip Hop

I won’t sit here and write some false pretense about how deep I am in the hip hop scene.  I’m not.  With that said, I love when hip hop gets aggressive.  Give me energetic grooves, bass drop backgrounds, synth accompaniment and a raucous MC with cool tone, timing and context.  I am not one for slow rhythms or a heavy R&B influence.  Paris is an extremely competent composer and has major vocalization talent.  More importantly, this record lights a fire inside of me every time I listen to it and reminds me to get off my complacent ass and be aware of politics and social issues that affect me, my family, my friends and my community.  Being a fan of bellicose music, this record speaks volumes to me.  Paris is enraged and what he was spewing 25 years ago is just as relevant as it is today.  When I listen to this album, I think of the timeline that has passed since 1992.  It presents a doomed reflection of society as I realize nothing has changed.  Paris has a message and a mission; to call out societal atrocities along with governmental failures and crimes.  He does not relent and his combative mentality is compelling and inspiring.  There is no hidden message.  There is no sugar coating.  Much like the protest music of the 60s or the “Reagan years” of punk rock, he is creating awareness that is direct and unambiguous.  Artists like Paris are a necessity and more people in all styles of music need to take a lesson from him.  Oh, and yes, the whole album rules.


Listen to "Guerillas In The Mist" here.

2.16.2017

PROPHECY - "Legions Of Violence"

Artist:  Prophecy
Album: Legions Of Violence
Year:  2008
Genre:  Thrash Metal

The “re-thrash” wave that began around 2000 produced bands that were almost clones of those that came before.  Since some of the original masters changed their ways or were having difficulty reproducing the stellar quality they once maintained, it was kind of cool hearing young, motivated bands do their take on their thrash metal heroes.  Didn’t like the latest offering from DRI?  Check out Municipal Waste or Possuido Pelo Cao.  New Destruction or Sodom boring you?  Listen to Avenger Of Blood or Violator.  Brazil’s Prophecy would like to remind you of how great Testament was on their first two records, as they emulate Testament’s signature big time crunchy riffs, speed to burn rhythms and wonderfully growled thrash vocals.  If you told me this was a new Testament release, I wouldn’t have doubted it for a second. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?  With that said, the new Testament is a pretty damn great record, so you should go buy that too.

Listen to "Empty Life" here.

2.12.2017

DIE KREUZEN - Die Kreuzen

Artist:  Die Kreuzen
Album: Die Kreuzen
Year:  1984
Genre:  Hardcore Punk

It would be a touch too elementary of me to merely write about what a brilliant and barbaric hardcore punk record Die Kreuzen's full-length debut is, and then continue to prattle on how it contends with anything released from 1984 and previous years.  Although all of this is true, it would be unfair.  For years I’ve contended that the creativity and talent of this band vastly superseded their peers.  I briefly expressed these thoughts in an earlier review of their Gone Away EP.  Even though this self-titled record is in a consistent rotation for me, I recently I listened with a purposeful and analytical ear.  Instead of taking the album in as megaton auditory blast that makes you want to heave objects at a brick wall just to see them smash to pieces, I intently listened to the musical effort of the band and not just the annihilating outcome.

Die Kreuzen were erratic, fierce and unconventional for what was defined as punk in the early 80s.  Their approach is highly unorthodox much in the same way Dead Kennedys or Flipper was considered odd.  While other bands were bashing the living hell out of themselves and their instruments, replacing passion for talent and playing fast for ferocity’s sake, Die Kreuzen had both unbridled fury and innovative skill.  These guys were light years ahead of the pack.  The guitar playing is the demonic baby of Daniel Ash and Greg Ginn; dissonant but always forceful. The influence it had on bands such as Voivod is obvious as their guitarist Piggy (RIP) was well known for turning standard chords inside out; a trait heard often throughout the entire Die Kreuzen catalog.  The rhythm section ultimately controls the pace of this record with precision decision making on what should be fast for neck-snapping power, what should be slow for dreary dynamics and what should be off-time to accentuate some the weirdness going on.  The singing (yeah right) is absolutely maniacal.  Other guys sounded tough; Dan sounded possessed.  His tell-tale shrieks have still yet to be duplicated.  With that said, the way this band played music has yet to be duplicated.  What always boggles my mind is that there really wasn’t a blueprint for the band to play this way.  This album might be 1984, but some of the songs were released on their first demo as early as 1982.  Their strain of individuality continued throughout their career.  Die Kreuzen we’re always 3 steps ahead and flew by all the bands playing catch-up with what they heard in 1982.  True innovators.

During the time I started writing my thoughts on this record (this has taken about 3 weeks, I don’t have much free time!), I’ve listened to it front-to-back at least another 5 times.  I believe I’ve concluded Die Kreuzen just may be my favorite hardcore punk record.  It sounds silly to just realize this at age 46: especially since I bought this album my senior year of high school.  This sonic binge solidified what an achievement this recording is.  Hell, I can’t even listen to The Crew, Start Today, Horse Bites, Dog Cries or Age Of Quarrel that many times in a row.   Maybe I should give it a try.  Or maybe I would just get bored with those records.  Whereas, I would listen to Die Kreuzen again.  Right now...if you put it on.

Listen to "Live Wire" here.

1.29.2017

Songs You Should Know #16 – Nothingface, Argy Bargy & Cirith Ungol

Artist: Nothingface
Song: One Thing

Genre: Nu Metal

Artist: Argy Bargy
Song: Lights Over London
Genre: Punk / Oi


Artist: Cirith Ungol
Song: Frost And Fire
Genre: Heavy Metal

1.18.2017

Mix Tape 15


Featuring:
0:00  Doughboys
3:12  Krux
9:05  Hypnosia
11:53  Steel Rules Die
14:57  Skitsystem
17:11  Unity
19:46  Toto
24:48  Angry Red Planet
27:11  John Entwistle
31:04  Only Living Witness

1.07.2017

NORMAN BATES AND THE SHOWERHEADS - Norman Bates And The Showerheads

Artist:  Norman Bates And The Showerheads
Album: Norman Bates And The Showerheads
Year:  1989
Genre:  Hardcore Punk

The release of The Age Of Quarrel by Cro-Mags established a slight obsession with the music, the people and the lore of New York Hardcore.  Being a Detroit-area kid, we had our own characters and stories, but there was something fascinating about what was happening in New York.  Although, I had previously owned records by Agnostic Front and Kraut, it was Age Of Quarrel that overly piqued my interest in everything punk and hardcore related coming out of NYC in the mid 80s through the early 90s.  Who into aggressive underground music wouldn’t be intrigued, right?  We’re talking Murphy’s Law, Judge, Warzone, Youth Of Today, Leeway, Sick Of It All and so on and so on.  Those bands left me desiring more.  Although word-of-mouth and zines were good sources, compilations were my main go-to of that era to discover bands.  There was nothing like hearing a song from newcomer and then going on the hunt for other items they had released.  In the midst of getting my hands on anything NYHC, I bought the New York Hardcore – Where The Wild Things Are cassette without a second thought.  Soon my ears were being blasted by Sheer Terror, Outburst, Raw Deal, Life’s Blood and others.  Toward the end of side 2, a couple of songs hit me like a clean one-two combo.  I remember furiously rewinding back to these two songs because this band easily stood above all the others.  They were raw and unusually catchy.  That right there began my journey to find whatever I could by the short-lived Queens, New York band Norman Bates And The Showerheads, because I needed more.

Well, my journey was a brief one since NBSH only had one official full length release.  I was very lucky.  Someone at my favorite independent record store at the time had the foresight to order their self-titled cassette.  I recall the excitement of seeing their name on the spine in the middle of a vertical pile of cassettes behind a sliding glass door that I impatiently waited for a store employee to unlock so I could get my hands on it. I scooped it up instantly.  I still have the copy of my tape that is now extremely worn and battered from what must be close to a hundred listens of their mishmash of Motorhead meets DOA with a dose of more metallic Suicidal Tendencies.  They weren’t the prototypical NYHC sounding band, but it appears that was the fan-base that embraced them.  The frantic guitars and drums rain sonic energy bombs over the unusually gruff yet memorable vocals.  NBSH pound away hard on each song, but never let the hook get by them, heavily emphasizing the ever so important punk part of hardcore punk.  Their lyrics have a clever Descendents/Ramones-esque storytelling quality to them at the times they decide to stray from the in-your-face, attitude-ridden bluntness we’ve all come to expect from the New York scene.  Songs dealing with arachnophobia, the daily pains of a retail job, the ultimate rise of cockroaches after nuclear destruction and the boredom of digging graves are atypical, but work well with their rantings of overt disgruntlement with personal issues and society.  The album has a humorous quality, but since the music charges like an enraged rhino, the flippancy gives the record charm and personality, and does fall into novelty territory.  When you can call angry music fun, a band is doing something right.

This album is one of my favorites, plain and simple; not just one of my favorite New York Hardcore records.  Finding the self-titled release can be difficult, but not impossible.  The band did release a discography called Psycho Too which contains this release, the compilation songs that inspired me to be a huge fan and much more.  Doing a little bit of recent research on the band, I learned that guitarist / vocalist Jim Starace and bassist John Garino have passed.  RIP and thank you gentlemen.  Your band made a record I will listen to the rest of my life.


Listen to "Here The Come (Not Another Insect Story)" here.

12.01.2016

Songs You Should Know #15 – The Candyskins, Stigmata & Punkenstein

Artist: The Candyskins
Song: Wembly
Genre: Power Pop
Artist: Stigmata
Song: Save Us
Genre: Metallic Hardcore
Artist: Punkenstein
Song: No School
Genre: Punk

11.08.2016

BOB MOULD - "Patch The Sky"

Artist:  Bob Mould
Album: Patch The Sky
Year:  2016
Genre:  Modern Rock

Well, it’s finally happened.  I officially like more of Bob Mould’s post-Husker Du work than I like when he was in that seminal band that helped establish hardcore punk AND modern rock.  How can that be, right?  The score so far is 6 to 5 with the Huskers down by one.  The winning number of 6 includes his last three solo efforts and the two full-lengths and one EP by Sugar.  On the other side are Husker classics, Metal Circus, Flip Your Wig, New Day Rising, Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse Songs And Stories.  The answer to your burning query is….no, I don’t like Zen Arcade.  This narrow margin is almost guaranteed to expand if he continues with the stellar quality and expeditious pace he has set for himself the past 4 years.

Just like with Husker Du, there is a decent quantity of Mr. Mould’s material I can live without.  It was a hit and miss affair I’ve had with his solo material since the Workbook record in 1989.  I’ve always felt as if a solid compilation tape could be made from all the releases under his name.  These albums were a mishmash of emotion and experimentation which saw him fall away from his strongest talent; writing music directly related to his personal discontent and frustration.  And, making it LOUD.  I hate to besmirch his work since the man is legendary.  A true trailblazer.  He is immensely talented, innovative and unique, but my ears like what they like and nothing he released that was solo-related truly resonated with me to the point I felt multiple listens were warranted.

That was all true until 2012 and he unleashed the album Silver Age.  Mould took a full-on dive into his younger years where he knew simplicity and zeal had more to do with songwriting than artistry and presentation.  It’s the raw and powerful album I always hoped his other solo jaunts would be.  He took pages out of his own playbook by writing songs in line with latter era Husker Du and the close-to-bulletproof Sugar debut, Copper Blue.  Once again he was applying loads of distortion, a mitigated fury, his signature vocal delivery and melodies saturated with vivid intent.  His next release, Beauty And Rain, was more of the same. He’s found home again and appears to be comfortable in his familiar dwelling. 

This brings us to his third release in under 4 years, Patch The Sky.  With all the impressive material he’s released pre ‘n post Husker Du, “Why are you talking about his latest record?” you might ask. Simply put, Patch The Sky is the best solo record he has ever released and just may be a contender to duke it out for the top spot in his body of work against Copper Blue.  This record is on point with every song and sways seamlessly from moody dream pop to aggressive modern rock without sounding contrived or stale.  Mould’s soul is in these songs and it makes all the difference.  Music is nothing without heart and he’s got loads of it.  He has been unstoppable for 3 straight records.  Some might argue more.   This I can say with complete certainty, the next release by Bob Mould is at the top of my “must buy” list when it comes out.  Given the recent track record, I won’t be waiting long.


Check out "Black Confetti" here.

10.10.2016

Mix Tape 14

Featuring:
0:00  Big Country
3:55  Tombs
8:22  Sisters Of Mercy
12:59  Guttersnipes
15:55  Against Me
18:32  Fastway
22:54  Dig
26:35  Mi Amore
28:20  Khoma
31:47  Agnostic Front

9.15.2016

CROWBAR - "Odd Fellow's Rest"

Artist:  Crowbar
Album: Odd Fellows Rest
Year:  1998
Genre:  Doom Metal / Sludge

Although Odd Fellows Rest just might be the record that gets the most listens from me, I could have easily switched it out for anything in the steadily growing Crowbar catalog to write this review, as it will become a homage to the band’s career instead of specific album praise.  Crowbar are quite possibly the most dependable and consistent band in heavy metal with 26 years of perpetual music production and not a single weak link in their chain.  No matter how much time you give me, I don't believe I could come up with another band that is, or has been, as trustworthy as these proud New Orleans natives.  I’m more than willing to say I’ve never, ever, been disappointed by any Crowbar release.  The membership of Crowbar is a rapid revolving door of players, but, somehow, main maestro Kirk Windstein has sustained a quality of excellence through it all with performances, production and songwriting of the highest caliber. Most bands that have an extensive existence end up “experimenting” because they are either bored with playing the same style over and over again, or, the creative well has gone dry.  Not a problem with Crowbar.  Windstein's style which dominates every second of each album is instantly recognizable.  He has an incredible sense of melody and melancholy which both somehow peek through his crushing and virulent riffs.  With that said, I actually have some trouble distinguishing many of Crowbar records from one another, but I can think of much worse problems to have.  I can’t lie, I'm rather comforted by the fact that I can throw a proverbial dart at a band's full discography and know that I’m going to dig the hell out of every moment of what I’m hearing.  

Crowbar is a juggernaut; plain and simple.  Although Crowbar has a loyal legion of fans and the respect from peers and critics alike, I can see their deserved mass reverence coming after the band call it quits.  It's just a theory I have akin to how painters become famous after their passing.  They are going to be the band that people will discover for years to come and wish they could've seen.  The Crowbar body of work is as important as it is impressive. Good work Mr. Windstein.  Very good.


Check out "December's Spawn" here.

8.15.2016

Songs You Should Know #14 – Plain Wrap, Screw & Obsession

Artist: Plain Wrap
Song: Magnetic Shoes
Genre: Punk

Artist: Screw
Song: Burning In Water Drowning In Flames
Genre: Industrial Metal

Artist: Obsession
Song: Bang Em Till They Bleed
Genre: Power Metal

8.02.2016

CRO-MAGS - "Best Wishes"

Artist:  Cro-Mags
Album: Best Wishes
Year:  1989
Genre:  Hardcore / Crossover

At first I contemplated taking an uncommon approach to writing about Best Wishes.  I was going to dive into the documented lore, lies and history of this seminal band to examine “what could have been.”  The title of this review was going to be, “Cro-Mags – How To Squander Pure Potential.”  I wanted to delve into their issues and struggles, and think about what might have been created if the original line up stayed together and worked cohesively.  My thoughts were that the world would have another album of hardcore history just like it does with The Age Of Quarrel.  Then I considered this thought again and asked myself “why?”  It wouldn’t’ change anything.  The Age Of Quarrel and that specific era of Cro-Mags is monumental.  They set the future standards of hardcore with one record.  The sound, the look, the demeanor; it’s what hardcore bands have been striving to imitate since they first bought that record or when they discovered it well after its release.  My longing to hear TAOQ part 2 is ridiculous and unnecessary because what followed was nothing short of classic itself.  In 1989, people thought Harley, Doug, Paris and new drummer Pete had lost their goddamned minds, but what the test of time has proven is that, although different, Best Wishes is not only every bit as good as its predecessor, but also would have zero problem contending with the top crossover / hardcore / thrash records of that year and after.

Best Wishes is blunt force trauma in auricular form.  The first thing that needs to be addressed is the production, because without it, this album would not be capable of doing the same level of damage.  The drum tones are perfect, the bass tone is perfect, the guitar tones are perfect, the levels are perfect.  “Best Wishes” should be taught as a Level 100 class on how to capture the quality and aggression related to heavy bands.  From the first crescendo rumblings of the drums ‘n bass of "Death Camps," you see the punch coming and you know you’re going to get hit hard.  Then the guitars come in and finish you off.  It’s a shame that there are examples of this type of natural production to be emulated, but metal and hardcore bands still go for a processed sound that, even though heavy, sounds fake. 

The stylistic difference between what the Cro-Mags laid down previous to ’89 is instantly apparent.  The songs have lost almost all of the fantastic punk edge found on  The Age Of Quarrel and are honed in and tight.  Each riff is a fucking monster and is accurately paired with percussion.  I obviously cannot speak to their intention, but it really seems to this avid listener that the band tried to avoid a single moment of filler. Even the rhythms under the solos sound well thought out.  The riffs are all distinguishable from one another and set each song apart yet they leave little room to breathe before you’re bludgeoned by another riff, and another, and… 

Then we get to the big controversy.  What could the Cro-Mags be like without the voice that set sail to thousands of hardcore ships?  The answer is easy.  There is no way John Joseph could’ve sang on this record.  JJ's shoot from the gut manner would not have matched up well with the heavier and more brutal direction of this record.   Harley’s vocals did exactly what the music required as he showed unexpected style and diversity.  He's more than just the mean looking bass player.  His delivery is definitely from the HR school of vocals with a bit of Hetfield snarl thrown on top.  He varies it up throughout the record and proved he was more than capable of filling the vacated throne. 

No jolting words of wisdom will be happening at the end of this review.  This record is every bit as essential as anything in the Cro-Mags discography.  Dare I say, with age, I find myself throwing this on much more than The Age Of Quarrel.  It could be because I have TAOQ burned in my brain from the countless listens in the past, or, just maybe, my years of experience have told me this is just a superior record.  Let the debate begin.


Check out "Age Of Quarrel" here.