Gong Wah - Gong Wah
Cell Press – Cell Press
Sea Sleeper – Nostophobia
PS: Nostophobia is the fear of everything old or everything related to nostalgia.
Blunt Razors – Early Aught
Gong Wah - Gong Wah
psychedelic / shoegaze
There was always something about the sunset in California as far as I remember. It was fast but it was a kind of orange that not only pulsated because of eruptions on the surface of the sun but that seemed to resonate with life with the pumping of the blood in our veins. One might have seen the sun go down thousands of times and yet, every time it feels brilliant and perfect if you sit down and take the time to really see it. When listening to Gong Wah’s self-titled debut album, there is this very same feeling. The band from Cologne, Germany has a certain mood and radiance surrounding their tracks that makes them stand out from the mass. The music is psychedelia in a very familiar way, but there is also some post-punk and some Golden State kind of AOR. It is like a mix of 13th Floor Elevators and the Mamas and the Papas, Blondie and A Place to Bury Strangers. A lot of that has to do with the voice of Inga Nelke, who met the two guitarists Thorsten Dohle and Felix Will early 2018; the band has grown to a full quintet since then. The other element contributing to this loving feeling is the guitar sound, which is a bit like a crossover between A Place to Bury Strangers and some simple effective wah-wah sounds. You need some sunshine in your life during these cold autumn and winter days,? Gong Wah is a good choice for you.
Cell Press – Cell Press
screamo / black metal
Montreal. A thriving scene. Lots of thriving scenes. Awesome bands. LOADS of awesome bands. One example would be Cell Press. Their new five-song EP to be released at the end of the month is adding a deep and well-constructed example for modern screamo. They are not playing it safe with this 24-song-monster, whose final track takes up nearly half of the time of the whole EP (and probably one complete side of the cassingle). The first four tracks are all variants of the screamo genre, some a little more on the black metal side, some a little more on the noise side. What really brings them all together is the thoughtfulness with which they perform: Listening to the first track “Piss Police” one notices that they use the same riff as intro and as outro. Or the final track “My Son will No the Truth” which they never want to play live – it’s more of an experiment with each musician adding one layer to the song without knowing what will be added next. And all of it is based on an 11-minute solo by drummer Mark McGee, who taped the solo and on the next day each musician added his part single-handedly so that in the end the band came up with a monster of a subdued noisy ambient track that never seems to find its course. But this sheer aimlessness makes it even more intriguing. Or the third track “Black Out in Verdun” which is right in the middle between Helmet (the drumming and the bass!) and some early HydraHead bands (the vocals and the dirty, meaty riffs!) - here the band is as close to noise-core as it gets. To put it in a nutshell: Don’t miss on Cell Press!
Sea Sleeper – Nostophobia
post metal / grunge
Sea Sleeper are from Seattle, Washington and, strange as it may sound, you can hear those old, deep grunge roots in their sound, especially in the vocals shared by bassist Nick Kessler and guitarist Jess Cooley. Sometimes it’s just this special kind of Northwestern phrasing, sometimes it’s a little reminiscence to vocals by the Grunge icons Staley and Cornell, just this special kind of slighty higher intonation that is still gritty. The band plays a mix of metalcore, blackened post-metal and some sort of tech death metal. What is striking that the band and especially the rhythm section is really up to the best of the game seemingly changes paces and genres effortlessly. Shane Cooley is on point and delivering some awesome blastbeats and fine-carved work driving the songs with force and finesse. Nevertheless, it is not to be denied that the band should improve a bit on the riff-side when they really want to go pedal to the metal, because the guitar lines cannot keep up. It is all fine, when it’s midtempo and Jess can add some extra distortion but when the songs speed ahead it seems as if he can’t come up with ideas other than your regular metalcore stuff. The vocals give the new album enough of a twist to keep listening, always waiting for that next moment, when they show the influence of their home scene and when the songs exceed the 6 minute mark. “Far more than Substance Now” is a good example for that, with its nearly eight minutes and some really interesting slowdowns and middle parts. If the band follows the path this song and “Mountain Carver” show up, they will definitely gain a lot more attention with their next record.
PS: Nostophobia is the fear of everything old or everything related to nostalgia.
Blunt Razors – Early Aught
dream pop / emo
Planes Mistaken for Stars were/are one of the most important bands at the crossing between hardcore and midwestern emo without ever being emo-core. They released several full lengths all to critical acclaim. Two members of the band now release a Covid-quarantine EP under the moniker Blunt Razors and via Deathwish (where PMFS also published their last full length). Gared O’Donnell and Neil Keener have collected six tracks, one being a cover of the Kate Bush song “Under Ice”. Their record is pure Midwestern magic with lots of spherical guitar lines, hushed up drums and a voice to fall to your knees to. The whole things becomes even more intimate when we remember that Gared is undergoing medical treatment for cancer. The songs show a kind of longing and wishing that it becomes hard not to fall in love with them. It’s like Cyrano watching his beloved from afar and never quite getting her attention. The last lines in “Amber Waves” are a perfect example for this: “I’m just a minute / A minute above you babe / Could you meet me / Would you keep me / Could you give me your minutes / To drown in amber waves“. The narrator is so close to his beloved but yet there is this unbridgeable distance so that he can only dream of them being together and chase new ways. We share these moments and the duo has this ability of drawing us into the songs so much, that we do not feel like observers anymore but participants. The melodies are so delicate and the whole setting so calming and soothing that one cannot but hit repeat and repeat and repeat.
hardcore / black metal
Kvelertak. Every Time I Die. Turbonegro. Pissed Jeans. All of these and other rock‘n‘roll meets Black Metal acts can easily be used to describe Daufødt from Oslo, Norway. Yet – would that really be fitting? A closer look might be necessary.
Anika Linn Verdal Homme is fronting the quartet from deep within Norway’s bible belt but there is no trace of any kind of conservatism here. More likely, a need for shocking the old-fashioned and left-behind shimmers through. In that sense, there is a deeper connection to Svalbard from the UK, but due to the writer’s inability to understand Norwegian which is screamed at him with full force (otherwise my Norse is fine ;-) it remains unclear whether Daufødt also puts a strong emphasis on feminism and common decency, the latter unfortunately missing from far too many people (males). By the way, if you don’t know that this is a female voice shouting your socks off, you might never know – thus this is definitely more Walls of Jericho, Arch Enemy and Svalbard.
The band plays very fast, top-notch hardcore with a lot of deathpunk elements but the mix is sometimes tinkered with in the form of small post-metal-like segments, for example in “Kulturarven”, when noisy guitars introduce the song which is broken up even further with disrupted vocoder-parts and very dissonant guitar lines which then brings the band closer to a kind of Botch-like mathcore with a twist.
When looking at pictures of the band you feel as if you look back at some punk version of 80s popsters, thus the comparison to the bands mentioned above is also lacking, this band is more Black Flag in attitude than in appearance. The fact that they seemingly know how to take a joke connects them to an act like Every Time I Die, but they never become as sardonic and self-centered as Turbonegro playing with homosexual images without clearly pointing out that they do not want to make fun of homophobic stereotypes. Daufødt is funny but not at the expense of others but at their own expense – good character trademark. Nevertheless, you do not get the notion that they don’t take their music seriously, they do, that is clear when listening to the ending of the final track “Et Eller Annet Radikalt” with its layer upon layer of feedback.
With Daufødt you get 28 minutes of good blackened hardcore, fast songs, good attitude a sense of humour and good songwriting. If you expect something else, well look for the next art-rock-band.
punk / hardcore
Hardcore will never die. And no, this is not another version of a Mogwai-analogy. Hardcore will never die. No compromises no ambiguities in that sentence. There will always be pissed off young men angry at the world. Most of them will never make it to a recording studio, most of those who do will not get a record contract, for there are simply too many of them. And from those with a contract an even smaller handful will be able to land one with Revelation Records, maybe the most prestigious hardcore punk label ever. Drain from Santa Cruz, CA, are one of the latter ones, with their debut full-length released a few weeks ago with the infamous Revelation-R-star on it.
And, by the Gods of fast riffs, psyched-up screaming and good short songs, they deserve it. Everything about this record screams in your face “Listen to me! Listen to my worries! Listen to my anger!” They talk about the fake society and how it drowns out the will to go on, how corrupt the system is and how life in California pulls them down. Interesting is definitely the title track with its “California Dreaming”-quotes at the beginning which are then completely reversed showing how hard life in Cali is when you work a lot in order to barely get by and when you feel as if you don’t belong there in some way.
Music-wise we are talking about a band that knows about the importance of speed – many songs tick in below the 150 seconds-mark and only one is longer than three minutes. Thus the ten songs are over in 23 minutes – even shorter than some famous punk records (for example Bad Religion’s “Suffer”. The breakdowns are really nice also because they never drift off into Metalcore-spheres. The frontman is also very convincing in his despair and anger. But Drain also give you more than just speed and negativity. The short interlude “Hollister Daydreamer” is really a good moment to breathe deeply before attacking the last four songs. Or the outro to the record which is a kind of surf-beat-homage and gives you a deeply sarcastic aftertaste. Combine this with the cover of the album, which looks a bit like a negative to Green Day’s have-fun-record “Dookie” and you get a band that is really much more than your average hardcore band.
Taking in all of this you should remember that as long as bands like Drain release records on labels like Revelation the world is not as bad as it may seem.
This is one of those releases which are nearly too hard to describe. And simultaneously they’re not because they are basically everything in one go. They are stadium rock, hardcore, noise, punk, doowop and so much more.
But let’s start at the beginning: Traps is an acronym for “The Red and Purple Songs” - interesting title although one must admit that thinking about it, those colours fit as one might really knock his head on the wall quite often when trying to “dance” along to the songs. This is disco-pop for ADHD patients, the last refuge for those who simply are bored with counting the speed limits to normal math-core songs. The duo formed by Chainy and Max who both also play in OHHMS with which they released some refreshing doomy tunes in 2018. However, this release does not resemble OHHMS at all, so that it becomes clear, why they had to release these three songs outside of their regular band. The one thing that is similar is the use of a harshly distorted bass guitar. Nevertheless, this is also not a one-and-done-thing, as they already released six songs on a split with Oriza.
The first associations coming to mind are The Fall of Troy and other proggy Core-bands like Coheed and Cambria (even though I guess, they’ll hate the comparison) or Circa Survive (minus the atmospheric and spherical elements). A comparison to harsh math-core bands like Frontierer or Dillinger Escape Plan wouldn’t work, because in all of the elements of “The Fighter” one thing becomes clear: They like Queen more than Maiden, The Who more than Rage Against the Machine. That also becomes clear with the intro which sounds like the normal live-outro to long concerts. They seem to reverse usual structures.
If you are more into regular structures and less turnarounds (compare the second track “Cyborg” which would also have fitted on “A Night at the Opera”) then you better stay away from this EP. But if you like your Math-Core more on the proggy side than on the core-side, then this band is exactly yours.
hardcore / screamo
Okay, 100 words. Not more. No unnecessities, all arrangement. 91 left.
5 years after. Neither dead nor forgotten but always praised and recognizable. No second thought needed. Unmistakably. Why? Because Envy has always been the blueprint, will always be.
Drumming punctuating rhythms with magical kicks and volcanic blasts. Vocal lines screaming pure urgency and whispering calming ascend. Every uphill battle willingly fought for the view towards the endlessness. Guitar lines wandering along the roughly hewn path onto the stormy heavens.
Want to hear one perfect (screamo) album this year? Channeling beauty and despair equally? Many people’s AOTY?
Here. It. Is.
Collapse under the Empire – The End of Something
drone / ambient
German electronic post-rock pioneers Collapse under the Empire have a brilliant 4-LP retrospective on Moment of Collapse Records. The compilation is the regular kind of anthology with some b-sides (for example the brilliant “Spark”), remixes (“Sacrifice”) and new tracks. Those are the new single “Beyond Us” opening the first LP with a brilliant combination of a harsh riff with electronica sounding like an instrumental remix to an undiscovered punkish Depeche Mode track. “Everything Disappears” is like a Latin-style percussion underneath a beautiful and uplifting piano motif with a spiraling guitar line in the background; the third new track is “Anomaly” sees a stomping beat and a spherical ambient space. Of course, some hardcore fans will already know basically all the tracks but the packaging and the beauty of those four vinyls are definitely a reason to purchase this one – especially newcomers to the band might be interested in this one as it is a perfect “entrance” into the realm of this defining post-rock band!
Loma Prieta – Continuum / Fate 7”
punk / hardcore / screamo
Loma Prieta are back! After a break of more than four years, the quartet from XYZ is back and kicking. Their first 7” after their hiatus is published via Deathwish Inc. and features the two tracks “Continuum” and “Fate”. The first one starts like a sped-up version of the Buzzcocks’ “Ever fallen in Love” before it turns into a Loma Prieta-style post-punk version of Screamo. “Fate” might be even a bit more impressive as it sounds like a mix of Fugazi and the Pixies. As usual, the lyrics are what makes this band great, as they oscillate nicely between clearliness and abstraction, compare the line "Drugs and God the same distractions / Lay on the dirty floor and stare at the ceiling, like it was a planetarium dome" – the last portion trying to explain where the universe comes from while the first one seems to purvey the idea that drugs (to loosen you up from questioning to much) and God (to overlay your sensibleness with believe) give us two different experiences of the universe above us; what a brilliant concoction. Once again, Loma Prieta are back!
Grant the Sun – Sylvain
Sometimes the meal cooked with simple but high-level quality ingredients is much better than one with a lot of different ones. Try a classical Carbonara, without cream or anything the like. With Grant the Sun’s new EP it is similar. One might argue that due to the people involved already have quite a standing in the musical community, especially Frederik from Meshuggah who is featured here on the bass, but there is more to this 18-minute, four-song EP; the songs are spreading a certain heaviness with the guitars even reminding one of some djent-ish style kick-riffing and the bass supporting it. The songs are somewhere between math-rock and prog-core with lots of heavy riffs and some very interesting vocal samples interspersed to give the release an even better flavor. One can chew on those songs really long because there are a lot of small details to discover, for example the brilliant tempi changes. However, one can also digest this album in a laid back manner as everything flows exquisitely together forming one huge, ass-kicking harmony of intelligent prog-core.
Von Mises – Von Mises
Cologne-based threepiece Von Mises self-released their first EP at the end of November and it shows an interesting sign of life for a local newcomer. They might have listened to a lot of Russian Circles and Pelican because there are definitely traces of it in their sound-verse, especially the use of a heavy kicking bass combined with a knack for simple but effective breaks to let the song take in some fresh air before it sets in again. The band might make use of their synth a bit more to include some of these refreshing little ditties that makes, for example, “Universe” such a unique track or the structures and layers of “Dxdt” more complex than one would expect from a young band. The guys from the Rhine should pursue this combination more strongly and they are bound to gain a larger audience. Not just for die-hard fans of post-rock, also for those who are searching for a fresh tune to kickstart their day.
Tragedy in Hope – Smile at Death
Judging a book by its cover can bring wonderful experiences like buying a record you never would just because the cover is so shining that you are immediately drawn to it. Or the name of a band that simply wants you to like it (Yes, I look at you We Butter the Bread with Butter!). Certain song titles are just so good that you love the track without listening to it (see Death by Stereo’s “No Cuts No Buts No Coconuts”). With Tragedy in Hope it was the same with me, I loved the name of the band – so nihilistic – and I thought the title of the EP was pretty proud. When listening to this new outfit from Russia’s thriving black metal scene, but admittedly I was wrong. The songs are not the problem for they are solid black metal structures and moods, after the intro I liked it a lot. And then the vocals set in and, well, the vocals are the flaw in the construct. With a different vocalist or a change of style, maybe even a different approach, for example going instrumental, this might become a relevant act. This way it isn’t, at least not for me, and that means nothing.
Home Brewed Universe – The Time Thief
post rock / progressive rock
Writing a review for a fellow is not the easiest thing – what shall one say? What can one say? How objectively do I judge the record? Well, in the case with Home Brewed Universe’s new record it is quite easy. My only criticism would be the drum sound as it’s not as emotional as before but very clean and crisp. All the other bits about this record are really interesting. The mastermind behind HBH has tried to capture a soundtrack to a fictitious story of the Time Thief who is able to prolong his own life by stealing time from other people and who even is able to travel through time but who is forgotten by all he knew. The music to the interesting story is very focused on the riff and thus it is very different from Arka’s previous outputs, when he focused on layering bit over bit. Now the audience is faced with a lot of strong, prog-metal-like riffs that dominate the sound and drive the songs through all different kinds of stages. This review for a friend’s work was easy as the release itself is very easily accessible and still interesting enough to keep the audience listening.
hardcore / sludge
How you feel about an album or artist usually involves how you feel about the genre that they play in. Doom metal, jazz, pop etc. you know what you like so you tend to stick within the confines of a certain genre that you like. Some bands blend the edges between genres, other like Earth Moves, the London based group we are talking about today, tear down the walls of genre with will full abandon and create something which, whilst schizophrenic in it's approach to genre, is an exhilarating experience which makes you think about music in new ways.
Superficially I guess you could call this album a post-hardcore one, even a punk one, but that is doing it a massive disservice and doesn't really tell you the whole story. Indeed whilst post-hardcore is a frame to hang some of these songs on, most of them don't even cover this base at all and instead veer off into other territories entirely.
Opener 'Falling Away From the Ground' is a great example of what they are attempting. It starts with a strummed guitar part until lead singer Jordan Hills impassioned wails come in imploring you to take his hand for the journey ahead. The guitar picks up pace and before you know it, the song is a crescendo of noise. Second song 'Into the Either' sounds similar but explodes with punk energy half way through and even dips it's toes into black metal territory for a ferocious onslaught toward the end of the song. The rest of the album twists and turns between moments of savage noise making and gentle almost ambient sections which should sound jarring (and in a lesser bands hand certainly would do) but each passage has been thought about and placed there for a reason, not jammed together haphazardly for the sake of it.
If you are interested in heavy music at all then please do yourself a favor and listen to this album, at the very least, it will introduce you to other genres you may not ordinarily listen to, sometimes within the same song!
hardcore / black metal
SIBIIR are from Norway. They like black metal. And Siberia. So what kind of music do you expect? Doomy, glistening sounds? Or explosive, harsh shredding? Well, SIBIIR are neither, performing neither doom nor chaos.
Their style of music might not be as “sophisticated” as for example the obnoxious Tool but at the same time they are not as animalistic as Kvelertak, it is more of a blackened hardcore and interestingly it can show you very well what that terms really means or should mean.
The five-piece from Oslo have no problems in displaying muscular grooves pumping hardcore irons at the gym nor showing their metal likes with ripping up some songs with scratching guitar lines to show that they want to ride on two skateboards at the time – downhill! Usually this amalgam of two genres is pretty hard to balance but SIBIIR are really good at it and can definitely be regarded as one of the few bands to do justice to both parts of the genre – black metal and hardcore. On their second full-length out on Fysisk Format they are able to show a greater sense of songwriting and compiling a coherent album as the songs are not only really good in a way that they are not superfluously long and also not spastically short. The way the songs are arranged within the album context is really good and with some songs seeping in a bit of doom while others being pure distorted hardcore there is a good deal of dynamics going on in those 41 minutes.
The hardcore part is also audible (or rather readable) in the lyrics; a charge against the capitalists today sucking out the bone marrow from the working classes and ignoring the sparks leading up to a bottom-down-up-revolution (in “For the Few”); a repent that we all participate in destroying this planet of ours and that no one, really no one is innocent and yet no one is doing anything but staring (“The Silent Repent”).
One cannot but be impressed by this record because it blasts you away with lots of raw power and yet never tries to pull you down into depression – the only thing that shall be pulled away are the shades preventing us from seeing some of the most urgent problems of our day and age.
When listening to Serpent Eater the feeling of knowing which nightmares will follow might creep up on the listener. The band from Cologne, Germany, releases her second full-length album at the beginning of 2020 upon a world that might not be prepared for what their ears will be facing.
Not that the world has never heard this mixture of Black Metal, Sludge and Crust; or the swirling guitars and the blastbeats overwhelmed by infernal shrieking and gut-breaking growls at the same time. The guitars deliver more than solid riffing and shredding, play with brilliant scales to shoot through the noise in order to deliver more chaos in this storm of abysmal-ness. The rhythm section is a steady source of deep-toned slow-grooving black currents in a river flowing in a cave deep beneath the surface. It is hard to imagine any metal fan not being blown away by the moody intro to “Ten Floors Down” and impressed by the musical precision afterwards.
There is something about Serpent Eater’s hurricane of sound and chaos. It is the notion of being pulled up by the hair on you arms and simultaneously being drawn by the ankles. It is as if there were two melodies in some songs, one winding upward with the guitar lines, a totally different one going downward with the bass lines. This ambiguity is most on display when the band takes a deep breath and allows for one of the small spaces for the listener to gather his senses without getting his head beaten on the wall. Even if there is only a short change of the guitar lines, for example in “Dead Spiritualist Remains Silent”: when the guitar calms down and the stormy blastbeats step back after roughly 85 seconds in and the song has more air to breathe. From there on, the song loses speed but picks up atmosphere simultaneously. The same goes for the ending of the last song “Dunkelziffer” with its ascent upwards towards a tiny pinch of hopeful morning light shining through the keyhole in the door at the end of the stairs leading from the peaceful outside down into a thunderous darkness.
Serpent Eater is surely not the first blackened sludge or blackened crust band, but the ones that will follow after them surely better give this record a listen as it definitely is state of the art for a genre that embraces those tiny bits of light you see when looking up from right beneath the eye of the hurricane.
There are labels and there are well-run labels, and then there are those two or three handful of labels that really excel at what they do, making it possible to employ people and still release a bunch of records of the highest pedigrees.
The mini album “A Brief Memoriam” by Frail Body is proof that Deathwish Inc. is one of those handfuls that are able to gather a loyal following by representing a certain sound, aesthetic, ideology – you name it; they have a hand for picking unknown bands that fit their soundscope, giving them time and creative freedom and then incorporating their ideas into a catalog like no other. Frail Body from Rockford, Illinois, is a young trio that promises to follow in the footsteps of bands as diverse as Orchid and Touché Amoré with their modern wavey form of screamo, adding a shade of harshly, blasted and yet suffering, angsty hardcore to a flawless list of releases.
The band is able to provide gut-wrenching shrieks and epic turnarounds in the same song (“Your Death makes me wish heaven was real”) with singer Paul Shaffer filling the gap between Jacob Bannon and Jordan Dreyer. Nicholas Clemenson’s drums are pumping and ever-present but not drenching or dominating (“Old Friends”). The guitars played by Nic Kuczynski range from semi-acoustic intro to harsh shredding or even as if played randomly in the dark corner of a pub on a busy Friday evening (listen to the interlude “At Peace” where you can also hear the band’s friends). However, there is nothing on this record that happens randomly, everything seems to serve a thin red line, although only the first four songs are new while the second half was already released over two years ago.
That umbilical chord that “A Brief Memoriam” revolves around is the moment of having to let go of a beloved person the narrator sees dying. It looms in lines as “I guess you’ve lived a good life / Though you spent the last quarter dying and trying / Just one more day / Just one more year / Just one more moment of time” (the first lines from the opener “Pastel”) and becomes obvious with such clear statements as “I’ll hold your hand while you die / Delineate through your pale eyes / A shallow grey matching walls … But I’m trying to believe / That I’ll see you soon / In your new home” (“Your Death …”). It should be noted: never since “Stage Four” has the death of a beloved and all the emotions that come with it – despair, rage, denial, anger – been more at the center of attention from the perspective of those left behind.