8.15.2017

HALLOWS EVE - Tales Of Terror

Artist:  Hallows Eve
Album: Tales Of Terror
Year:  1985
Genre:  Thrash Metal

Second tier, second generation thrash that shows the unstable, maturing state of metal in 1985.  Bands took cues from Slayer, Metallica, etc., and often yielded uneven results.  Hallows Eve is the perfect example of an uneven melange of both writing and quality.  The album instantly rips with the best song they ever penned in “Plunging To Megadeath” and creates the illusion of greatness to come.  What you get is a band that didn’t consistently achieve the devastating sounds they were capable of generating.  Surprisingly, each album followed the same unbalanced path; songs you love and others that make you wonder why you’re spending time listening to them and not to “Reign In Blood” for the 200th time.  Check it out, but not essential.

Listen to "Plunging To Megadeath" here.

8.08.2017

CAST ASIDE - The Struggle

Artist:  Cast Aside
Album: The Struggle
Year:  2004
Genre:  Hardcore

Although I fell out of love with metallic tough guy hardcore ages ago, I still check out new bands from time to time, and occasionally something comes along that catches me the right way.  “The Struggle” by Richmond’s Cast Aside is one of these records.  This album is ferocious.  Of course, the obvious comparisons come to mind…the first Terror record…the first Until The End full length…and the Hatebreed record of your choosing.  Cast Aside rip along with all the intensity necessary to convince anyone they are harder than you.  Do you need another one of these records?  Most likely you don’t, but if you’re looking for something to fill an aggressive void you’re having, Cast Aside will not disappoint.


Listen to "Self Destruct" here.

7.24.2017

GRACE VANDERWAAL - Perfectly Imperfect

Artist:  Grace VanderWaal
Album: Perfectly Imperfect
Year:  2016
Genre:  Folk / Pop

I’m almost certain no one, including myself, on this planet ever thought I’d be writing about an America’s Got Talent winner.  No, Hell has not officially frozen over and pigs aren’t flying, but this is most definitely an unusual occurrence.  Just the fact that I know about someone on that decently trite piece of American television is strange, but to be a fan of anyone that Howie Mandel approves of is close to ludicrous.  Channel flipping was the cause of me finding this talented performer.  While scrolling through the piles of TV drivel one lazy night, I heard Grace VanderWaal’s voice for about three seconds and I stopped smacking the channel button.  I remember being mesmerized by her tone, tenor and masterful control of what could be the most original and sincere voice I’ve heard in a very, very long time.  Then I came to realize she was a young girl…playing a ukulele.  No backup band of professional musicians.  No background tape.  No backup singers.  No digital processing.  Just a voice, an instrument and a devastatingly impressive abundance of talent.  Upon hearing that she was the young age of 12 and that her song was an original composition, I was floored with instant admiration and respect.

It was around the first quarter of 2017 when I began wondering if anything had been going on with Miss VanderWaal.  A search on Amazon informed me that she released a digital EP called Perfectly Imperfect.  With a quick download, it was mine.  Simply stated, I was just as astonished as I was that first night in front of my television.  The EP, on the mega huge label Colombia, is comprised of five songs with this singer-songwriter’s raw capability at the helm.  She has a perfectly pitchy, scratchy tone that she is in complete command of and uses it to give every verse and chorus character and individuality.  Her words are interpersonal and real.  These are not the ramblings of a typical of a 12-year old and makes one wonder what she will compose in the future as her experience with the world expands.  She starts off with the song that hooked me in the first place, “I Don’t Know My Name.”  The song brings to mind the great singer-songwriters of the 60s as she pushes and pulls the pace adding such a human element that is absent from vast majority of pop music now.  The rest of the songs continue in the same vein, with her song “Clay” being the highlight as it has more spirit, emotion and transparency than anything I’ve heard in years.  The closing song “Gossip Girl” is the only one with any real, composed musical accompaniment with dominating and overbearing stereotypical pop percussion and keyboards.  This is the only song I don’t enjoy as much on the EP, and it is for that reason exactly.  The first four songs sound organic and innocent while “Gossip Girl” sounds pushed and as if it fell into the hands of a producer that thinks she or he knows what will sell.  Here’s hoping this gifted young lady is able to keep her vision, independence and personality in the money hungry shark tank that is Columbia Records.  Her artistry is bigger than money and should be nurtured, not manufactured.

Listen to "Clay" here.

7.22.2017

GRIMPLE - Up Your Ass

Artist: Grimple
Album: “Up Your Ass"
Year:  1992
Genre: Hardcore Punk

When mentioning the California “Bay Area” the names Crimpshrine, Rancid, Green Day, Operation Ivy, Mr. T Experience and others start flying around.  For me, Grimple are the perfect sonic representation of Bay Area punk rock; fast, irreverent, vociferous and unrestrained.  Whenever I listen to this band, I get visions of mohawks and spikes swirling around in a small, overheated, graffiti tagged room where the band is just whipping the wall-to-wall crowd into a frenzy.  The record rarely slows down and is quite feral, but still it has plenty of hooks to grasp on to so anyone can sing right along.

Check out "Problem" here.

7.09.2017

MASTER - Slaves To Society

Artist:  Master
Album: Slaves To Society
Year:  2007
Genre:  Death Metal

I’m not the world’s biggest Master fan.  Although I appreciate their effort, influence and longevity, they’ve never been a band I fervently look forward to hearing a new release by.  Slaves Of Society is the one album in their catalog that is the exception, and an album I listen to repeatedly.  This record always takes me of the early days of Century Media or Nuclear Blast, when death metal was more influenced Extreme Noise Terror and Discharge, just with more dirt and aggression to the mix.  The pace and relentless nature of this record is its strength.  Fast songs that are ripping, brutal and to the point, with almost all technical proficiency thrown out the window…exactly how I love my death metal.

Listen to "Slaves To Society" here.

6.27.2017

UNCLEAN - Moloko Velocet

Artist:  Unclean
Album: Moloko Velocet
Year:  1989
Genre:  Hardcore Punk

A turbulent slab of Detroit-area hardcore punk right here!  Just like Unclean, this written plaudit is going to be fast, simple and to the point.  Unclean had a sound that is the definition of punk rock; blasting chords, driving drums and barking vocal mixed with a who-the-fuck-cares attitude front and center.  Unclean didn’t mince words and always flew a huge flag of PC crushing irreverence.  Moloko Velocet boils over with spirit and jeering words that are mixed with an element some bands forget...fun.  For the past 28 years, I have listened to this tape on a steady rotation.  It never gets old and always takes me back to a wonderful, youthful place when you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting an Unclean show at Blondies.  I always feel lucky to have grown up with the local music that surrounded me in the 80s and 90s.  Unclean is one of many favorites from what is still the consistently churning heap of awesomeness that is the Detroit underground music scene.


Listen to "Moloko Velocet" here.

6.22.2017

LOSS - Despond

Artist:  Loss
Album: Despond
Year:  2011
Genre:  Doom / Death Metal

Christ is the record gloomy.  Loss’ Despond is an aural representation of their name.  They truly create an atmosphere that tosses any sliver of hope down a deep, dank well to drown.  Unlike other bands in their genre, Loss’ power is not in the full-bore assault of earth-smashing heaviness, but it lies with the mournful harmonies that take the listener to a dark, dark place.  Most funeral doom bands bore the life out of people by using drawn out minor chords that plod along at the pace of a dead snail just to prove how morose they are.  Loss keep their bleak outlook simple, but employ dynamics that keep the listener’s attention even when moving zero miles per hour.  I’m really looking forward to whatever is next for this band


Listen to "Open Veins To A Curtain Closed" here.

6.10.2017

Songs You Should Know #18 - Lethal Dose, Stompbox & The Adicts

Artist: Lethal Dose
Song: Abattoir
Genre: Speed Metal

Artist: Stompbox
Song: No Woods
Genre: Heavy Alternative

Artist: The Adicts
Song: Chinese Takeaway
Genre: Punk 

5.30.2017

VENUS BEADS - Incision

Artist:  Venus Beads
Album: Incision
Year:  1991
Genre:  Shoegaze / Modern Rock

Since people were too busy drowning themselves in My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver, most fans of the original shoegaze / alternative rock movement missed out on Venus Beads.  They have all the essentials: swirly, unnaturally overdriven guitars, pop sensibilities and a semi-bleak viewpoint.  Contradictory to all of their peers, Venus Beads injected heavy amounts of drive and bite into their songs, which, for me, made them much more exciting than the lion’s share of the stare at your shoelaces sect.  Worth the search for any of their releases.

Listen to "Moon Is Red" here.

5.25.2017

HUSKER DU - Warehouse Songs And Stories

Artist:  Husker Du
Album: Warehouse Songs
Year:  19
Genre:  Modern Rock / Punk

The latter years of Husker Du saw them make heavy shifts away from the set-your-instruments-on-fire savagery of their early work.  For their final two studio releases, they signed to one of the biggest majors around, but, the reality was that nobody really knew what to do with their blend of punk esthetics and left of center sounds at the label.  During that time, bands like The Replacements and Husker Du weren’t the peerless, influential icons they are remembered as today.  When they were active, both bands were on the brink of something incredible, but struggled as they never reached more than an admirable underground level of success.  Radio stations and MTV also couldn’t make the round pegs fit in the square holes and were happy to keep these weird kids in a corner so as not to cause trouble.  Since these talented bands were deemed a bit too “alternative,” or what a pop audience thought was “punk,” neither of them were readily welcome to the mainstream rock party, even though their music created the infrastructure for the alternative explosion in the 90s.  By the time the world had come to accept the weirdos, and bands like REM and Soul Asylum had hit it mega huge, Husker Du and The Replacements were no more; missing out on the success that was rightfully theirs to share.  To this very day, the three men of Husker Du have not reunited once.

I cannot say that I’m a fan of every single EP and full-length the Huskers have done.  My love for Metal Circus, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig and (most of) Candy Apple Grey heavily outweigh Land Speed Record, Everything Falls Apart and the fan and critic favorite Zen Arcade.  Admittedly, at this point, I don’t listen to anything off the last three albums I mentioned.  It’s not for a lack of effort on my part.  I’ve tried and tried again, especially with Zen Arcade, but those albums just don’t grab me at all.  With that said, I’m confident that my favorite Husker Du record is their closing effort, Warehouse Songs And Stories.

Why Warehouse Songs And Stories?  I believe it easily stands as their most complete and most accessible work.  Husker Du were known for their high musical output as they vigorously unleashed 11 studio releases in a 7-year span.  Common sense dictates that the more they released, the weaker the songs should be.  Well, they defied logic and ended with one of their most dense and solid releases.  The songwriting competition between Bob Mould and Grant Hart hit a pinnacle level with this record.  The battles and clashes within the Husker Du camp over getting songs on an album are legendary, with both Hart and Mould clawing and scratching to get their material on the final product.  Unfortunately, it also drove a non-healing wedge between the two songwriters and dug a consistently larger grave that soon, along with their other issues, would bury the band forever.  Yet, instead of the mass output being a detriment, their drive to outdo one another kept them sharp and writing the best material possible.  On Warehouse, the pop ability never shined through brighter from under the layer of punk-infused, noisy energy.   The album rumbles along at an expeditious pace with song after song throwing consistent 1-2 punches of zealous verses and knockout choruses.  Strangely, my favorite song, which is sandwiched between the energetic power pop assaults, is the Hart-penned “She Floated Away,” which stands in contrast to a great amount of their catalog with its rather traditional, seafaring melody, desultory rhythms and dissonant instrumentation.  It’s haunting without being dismal and a song I can hear again and again. 

Throughout their time, Husker Du musically morphed, twisted and turned, yet seemed to escape the scrutiny of a customarily fickle hardcore punk crowd.  Their progression from hyper-speed hardcore into high energy modern rock was a natural progression for three gifted musicians that sternly followed their vision.  After reading, Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock, I’d say “contemptuous” is a strong description of the relationship within this band.  The fact they were able to create as many records as they did and tour without an earlier demise is amazing in itself and shows steadfast integrity and commitment that most bands would’ve crumbled under in the same type of conditions these guys created for themselves.  Warehouse Songs and Stories is an accomplished final nail in the coffin.  No, not every song is perfect, but even for a band as talented as Husker Du, 20 songs of perfection would be tough to achieve. The legacy of this band cannot be challenged.  The groundwork they laid is inseparable from the success of acts like The Pixies, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Jesus And Mary Chain, with so many more on that list.


Listen to "Standing In The Rain" here.

5.20.2017

NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN - God Fodder

Artist:  Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

Album: God Fodder

Year:  1991
Genre:  Alternative / Modern Rock

What a way to start off the 90s!  Ned’s was one of the earlier entries for the wave of modern rock that ruled MTV and the radio in the mid to late 90s.  God Fodder is the perfect combination of power pop and fervent energy.  No doomy, gloomy, angst-ridden stuff here.  Ned’s carved an unusual sound that no one I can think of ventured into before or since.  Although it might be a touch elementary, I like describing this album as “cool” and “fun," because that’s what it is.  It's an excellent culmination of originality and youth.  Ned's had tons of media and fan support, and though the world was there's for the taking, they just didn’t last.  It's a shame because they were on to something great.  Their second album, Are You Normal is also recommended.


Listen to "Happy" here.

5.13.2017

METAL CHURCH - Metal Church

Artist:  Metal Church
Album: Metal Church
Year:  1985
Genre:  Power Metal / Speed Metal

Describing one of your all-time favorite records on the planet should be easy.  Well, if the person describing it doesn’t want to sound like a blabbering teenage fanboy, it’s honestly not that simple.  Yet, to this very day, that is precisely how the debut record from Metal Church makes me feel and harkens back to a time when music ruled my world; where all that mattered was filling my head with more and more and trying to find that next “all-time favorite record.”  The radio show Metal Shop was the culprit responsible for my introduction to the Washington-based juggernaut Metal Church.  14-year old me would rabidly wait for the nationally syndicated show to hit the airwaves, ready to tape it on my less-than-stellar boombox so I could listen repeatedly if necessary.  One night the song “Gods Of Wrath” roared through the speakers without an introduction.  I eagerly waited for the DJ to solve the mystery of who the band was that just clobbered me.  As soon as the name Metal Church was announced, it became my mission to find something by them as soon as humanly possible.  Luck was on my side as the band had been signed to Elektra Records after being snatched off their original independent label.  Due to the explosion caused by Ride The Lightning, major labels were taking notice and signing heavier, less traditional and ballad-oriented metal.  Good for me!  My local Harmony House record store had a cassette copy.

Goddamned if Metal Church didn’t knock the cover off the ball on the first swing. Very soon, Metal Church became an album I listened to front-to-back, multiple upon multiple times, memorizing every nuance of the record including studying the inlay card like it was a final exam.  Later, I did the same thing with the LP.  Much like the debuts from Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate and Metallica, there is an intangible quality that isn’t exactly glaring at the moment you first heard it, but you know you’re listening to something special that set them far apart from other releases.  Metal Church is in that same gang of heavyweights.  Their combination of prowess and passion is blatant as their thrash-tinged power metal claws its way out of the speakers.  Kurdt Vanderhoof provides a master’s level class in how to write riffs that count.  Kirk Arrington puts on a drumming clinic.  Some drummers play to fill a rhythmic necessity, others make it an instrument, and Mr. Arrington’s performance is one of the more tasteful and compelling I have heard in the metal arena.  While the world was praising Lars Ulrich (dear god), they should have been worshiping this guy.  Listen to the opener "Beyond The Black" to hear the perfect combination of precision and power.  The controversy with Metal Church was always David Wayne’s (RIP) vocals.  It’s one of those love it or hate it scenarios with a bit of, “can he actually sing?” added in.  I for one think he can and believe his style was unique.  The man really sounded like three different people during the album.  Leather-lunged singing, thrashed out screeching and somber crooning were all in his skill set, which he used wisely throughout the album.

Metal Church took cues from NWOBH, power metal and thrash and waded in each area without being pigeonholed as any of them.  Terry Date’s masterful production of this album still stands today and captured the strength of this van d.  A task many producers had not mastered by 1985.  Modern metal bands in a similar vein wish their albums could sound this good.  The record is a true heavy metal experience consisting of dynamic playing, stellar songwriting and constantly varying in degrees of intensity.  Yet, no matter how incredible any album may be, there are always a weak link or two in the chain, and Metal Church isn’t without theirs.  The song, “In The Blood” sounds a touch odd and out of place on the record and the cover of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” even though they add a nice aggressive touch to the original, is unnecessary.  I definitely would have preferred to hear another original from their early demos.  But that’s me being picky, since I never skip over those songs when I’m blasting this record.   In one form or another, Metal Church are a band that has existed through the highs and lows of metal’s popularity and just released another album in the past year.  Although their debut is easily their most impressive and best release, they have an extensive catalog that you could blindly choose an album from and know you’re going get a quality listen.  


Listen to "Battalions" here.

4.20.2017

NME - Unholy Death

Artist:  NME
Album: Unholy Death
Year:  1986
Genre:  Black Metal

My god did I go dead fucking wrong on this album.  I’ve owned this record since 1987 after reading a review in Powerline fanzine.  I never got rid of it because the collector idiot in me said “keep it,” but after numerous tries, the album never resonated.  Anyways, the zine described them as Seattle’s first black/death metal band and dwelled on the negativity surrounding the album and the members of the band.  They gave the music a strong review and, in essence, called the lyrics reprehensible; a perfect combination for any 16-year-old seeking the most extreme music on the planet.  Obviously, the reviewer had way more vision than I did since my brain for the past 30 years was never able to handle this record and always looked at this as a sloppy, noise infused mess.  I was gravely mistaken.  Unholy Death is unprocessed primordial chaos that uses mood and texture, not speed, to create their abhorrent cacophony.  Its goal is to make you worship Satan, do drugs and kill things.  THIS is what Venom was supposed to sound like.  THIS is what Warfare was supposed to sound like.  THIS is what Hellhammer was supposed to sound like.  Raw, noisy, simplistic assaults that are as ugly as they are malevolent.  Unholy Death is the kind of record that will make other bands cower and parents fear for their kids’ safety.  It’s so hateful.  The fact these guys had this going in 1986 is mind-numbing.   Now I’m furious at myself for not realizing their genius long ago.


Listen to "Black Knight" here.

4.11.2017

LOVE SPIT LOVE - Trysome Eatone

Artist:  Love Spit Love
Album: Trysome Eatone
Year:  1997
Genre:  Alternative

I owe a friend big time for this one as I was ignorant to the fact that Love Spit Love contained the voice of Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler.  Although some lump The Furs in with the 80s era one-hit-wonders, they truly were fiercely talented and wrote dense albums in their signature new wave / modern rock sound.  They represent a time and movement of music that will never be replicated.  Just like The Furs, groups such as Modern English, Flock of Seagulls and Duran Duran became gigantic for a song or two, yet, I always looked at them as bands that wrote full records, front to back, without the single-minded intention of becoming international pop stars; which is exactly what happened to each one of them.  Well, as I listened to the second offering by Love Spit Love, I was immediately time machined(?) back to my late teens when my world was slowly becoming a bit more 120 Minutes and bit less Headbanger Ball. 

I have no other good way to put this but to say Trysome Aetone is a lost Psychedelic Furs record.  A good one, at that.  In fact, it may be the best thing they never did since Talk Talk Talk and could have easily followed the criminally overlooked World Outside.  There is a perfectly acceptable reason I’m relating this so closely to a band that hasn’t released any new material since 1991.  It’s that voice!  Richard Butler is one of the most unique singers in rock, and the years have been kind to him as his beautiful tone and distinct delivery haven’t aged a bit.  Musically, this record harkens back to the glory-era of early 90s rock with fuzzy, psyched out guitars and big, hard-hitting rhythms.  The album shifts moods now and again, but it is at its most powerful when the band is laying down their somewhat formulaic sounds and lets Mr. Butler takes over to belts it out like the iconic alternative singer that he is.  Unfortunately, Love Spit Love is dead in the water, but now that Psychedelic Furs are back together and touring, let’s hope they quit screwing around and get back into the studio soon.

Listen to "Fall On Tears" here.

4.01.2017

Songs You Should Know #17 – Material Issue, Omen & Bullets And Octane

Artist: Material Issue
Song: International Pop Overthrow
Genre: Power Pop

Artist: Omen
Song: Shock Treatment
Genre: Power Metal

Artist: Bullets And Octane
Song: Save Me Sorrow
Genre: Heavy Rock