Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rig Time War review

Rig Time!
Innerstrength Records
RELEASED 20 October 2017
Review by hutch

The big difference from their prior output, last year’s full-length, Sick of It and two EP’s, Awful and Devout, is low end. Whether they tuned (even) lower or just amped up the post production. The other material had the spirit, but War is delivered with bombastic terror. Rig time’s sound on War is ugly, writhing in fetid disdain. Coming from La Crosse, WI, I am sure the scene is scant and pushing them to be heard. War will create waves towards both coasts, especially now as they debut on Innerstrength Records.

One interesting aspect of Rig Time! is the relationship of the members. The fluid communication of husband/wife Bryan W. and Rebecca Fleming (vocals/drums and guitar, respectively) drives the music, rounded out by Mark Trueman (bass/vocals). Again, calling out the production and of course the mastering, it is no surprise to find the sonic genius of Brad Boatright at Audiosiege. But first, War had the fortune to be recorded/mixed by Pete Grossman at Bricktop Recording in Chicago, IL (WEEKEND Nachos, Harms Way, Like Rats). The album was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland, OR. Whatever approach Grossman took, it was the correct channel. Songs are written drenched in vitriol and tension. The explosive breakdowns pay off. But songs that linger are ooze hit the mark as well.

Rig Time! nail it with tracks like “Garbage”, “Succumb”, “Blister” and “Cleanse”. Puncturing their blend of sludge and hardcore – with a tight embrace on powerviolence – the band kicks fast and dirgy tones, manifesting unbridled hatred. War is dripping with rage, vocals are strained and emphatic. The rhythmic pummeling of a more atmospheric “Discomposure” or “Deserve” show a propensity to manipulate mood and not just the strings of an instrument. The trio push many two-step parts spurring ill breakdowns with a groove. Noisy tones and ugly sentiment. While, going back to “Succumb”, Rig Time! have blastbeats charge with that double bass hammering away to the howls of “We bow to no one!”.

RIYL: Xibalba, Harms Way, Weekend Nachos, Balaclava, Lowered AD, Eyes of the Lord

Squalus The Great Fish Review

The Great Fish…
Translation Loss
Release 9.15.17
Review by hutch

First things first. Squalus is 4/5 of the band, Giant Squid. Giant Squid were self-proclaimed “prog” sludge metal. Those elements all remain here on The Great Fish... as Squalus paddle forward. Pertaining to the absent fifth member, Squalus does not fill the guitar slot. Rather, the band doubles up on bass guitars and rolls with keys and drums. From Giant Squid to the moniker of Squalus, a type of dogfish (sharks), these four chaps illustrate their fiery affection for the foreboding dangers of oceanic depths. The Great Fish... exhibits certain strengths while calling a niche audience to listen.
Upon first listen, the eschewing of six strings hones attention to the other instruments; especially the keys which protrude from each track. And when the word “keys” is utilized, the plural is intentional. There are synths and straight piano key sounds on deck. The odd configurations of rhythms and time signatures throughout elicit the prog-rock feel. But the execution illustrates a (deceptively) simpler, more direct instrumentation which conjures eclectic influences. While most likely not an influence, the Florida swamp sideshow orchestra, Viva Le Vox, comes to mind with The Great Fish... emanating a weirdly alluring circus vibe and a cautious bog of peril. Also, we hear some aspects of sonic schizophrenia akin to Faith No More; not in sound but approach. But the roots are filthy riffs of raw rock and roll.

Parts of The Great Fish… evoke Giant Squid’s Minoans but instead of gentle tangents we get quirky. Again the foundation definitely harnesses sludge elements. But the piano – while most doom or garage bands striving for an eerie sound would defer to a traditional Hammond B3 sound – this cleaner piano sound (still probably on a synth) adds a macabre atmosphere. “Eating Machine in the Pond” distinctly pulls from the churning dark synth reverb (layered with the normal piano) of John Carpenter as it births a pummeling rhythm section; grinding, bellowing.

Instead of squealing guitar leads, the keys reel and spit. “The USS Indianapolis”, although it started out with funky jazz diversion, almost calming, certainly hypnotic, eventually dives deep into the fathoms of torment. The beginning is Smooth and perky – and then the, well, squall crashes into the track with big movements. Noise and confusion drown the listener in a barrage of low end splendor.  
The successive openers – “The Great Fish” and “Flesh Bone and Rubber” – are engaging and promising. Gnarly, jangly bass riffs and provocative drums charge along with growling vocals. The quick (under 3 minutes) duration of “Town Meeting” swirls in a chaotic deluge. The repetition of chainsaw synths, banging; ripple out with early Murder City Devils type rock and roll.
If you have not pieced it all together from the song titles, The Great Fish… is about Spielberg’s 1975, JAWS. I would assume the lyrics are of “Town Meeting” are Quint’s proposal at the town meeting, screamed; especially since the track ends with the vocals stating the Mayor’s unsteady reply of the film. Tracks dedicated to the Cassie Taylor autopsy by Hooper, “Jack the Ripper” - a reference from the film to the English whore slayer, and other aspects of the film are exciting for any fan of the leviathan of summer blockbusters; when art and craft could be hooked to mainstream money maker, luring in thrill seekers and cinephiles.

“The Orca” proves that chaos is a fine instrument to wield. The cacophony and rage emanate from the track, relentlessly churning. A sweet 90 second melody on a piano ushers us into the lapping thumps of “Swim Charlie, Swim”. The bass line and synth wrestle for dominance. It’s a cool instrumental. 
Ultimately, for a doom/sludge/stoner/noise fan, The Great Fish… has to be compared with Akimbo’s Jersey Shore. It’s impossible not to do so. In 2010, Akimbo released a stellar noise rock album of 6 tracks about the 1916 bull shark which menaced New Jersey, killing four people. Matawan (July 12), Spring Heaven (July 6), and Beach Haven (July 1).

The Great Fish... doesn’t adhere that strictly to such a concept, more just singing related songs inspired by JAWS. There is not a three act structure or anything. But The Great Fish… is a fun romp, flailing and splashing; disturbing any notions of security like the opening scene of JAWS. A detractor, in my opinion, is that Squalus reiterate narration and quotes from JAWS instead of sampling. While most certainly a monetary decision, the replacement is distracting to me because with speeches or quotes from such a recognizable film, it is confusing to hear it spoken in a new voice, especially one recalling Billy Bob Thornton from Sling Blade.

The vinyl is fitting and damn gorgeous, boasting two choices of oceanic blue or blood splatter red on blue. The packaging is stellar with a cover of a painting by member, Aaron John Gregory, uncomfortably inspecting a close up of a great white. Again, this record is fun. And it is a concept album but it is not precisely chronological or regimented as a dramatic arc. Which is fine. It doesn’t try to be. It’s dirty metal fueled by adoration for a great film.

RIYL: Brain Tentacles, Ahab, Akimbo, Intronaut, Maserati, John Carpenter, Goblin

The Lillingtons Stella Sapiente Review

The Lillingtons
Stella Sapiente
Fat Wreck Chords
review by hutch

Once upon a time, The Lillingtons were content to admire the Ramones and write music in that vein. And ain’t nothing wrong with that. The Lillingtons, since 1996, were damn good at melodic, hook-soaked punk rock and roll. Simple songs, yet infectious as hell. The Lillingtons released four albums. As they progressed, they developed their own signature sound, which held an ominous portentous vibe. 1999’s Death By Television is a classic. Their 2006 release, The Too Late Show, boasted two classics, like genre transcending; “Vaporize My Brain” and “All I Hear is Static”. And then The Lilllingtons decided rest was needed. The band was decommissioned. 2017 sees the unholy resurrection and a welcome rejuvenation. The band has taken their foundation of melodic punk, but approached Stella Sapiente with an ardent ‘80s adoration, infusing more dynamics into their songs.
Stella Sapiente maintains the foreboding presence which The Lillingtons’ albums have cultivated. And then the band doubles down. Utilizing many echoing ‘80s guitar lines, a new dimension is explored in The Lillingtons’ music. The lyrics are all about the eerie and haunting as usual, but a specific focus on secret societies and mysteries are the focus. The opener “Golden Dawn/ Knights Templar” is a stark declaration. “Night Visions” is a concrete 80s infusion, huitars swirling in a miasma of reverb. The surfy pluck is cool and offsetting. Let’s not forget, an October Friday the 13th is Stella Sapiente’s release date!

The dissonant guitar of ‘80s somber canon; especially, Joy Division, The Cure, The Church, The The, a little Television; think Tiger Army’s infusion of The Smiths into their rockabilly on Ghost Tigers Rise. “Night Visions”, again, holds the feel of a drum machine, but still gives that extra spark, that snap, that live drums provide. Swirling and repeating guitar lines are the foundation, but layers grow within the song so it builds and builds.

The darkness of Death By Television and The Too Late Show fashioned securely, Stella Sapiente still packs quick punches with fast punk songs., The second Track, “Insect Nightmares and “K6” are killer tracks. The gem – and first single, “Zodiac” is a brilliant trek; a classic mid paced, melodic Lillingtons. All the aspects of my favorite song, “Black Hole in My Mind” are there. Toward the end of the LP, the one fast one for side B, “They Live”, is fast and frenetic. This one is a real punch. This is dark and classic Lillingtons. These tracks are still clean, polished punk; well written and engaging. Just more familiar to old fans. The production does give the sound a large, grand presence. All elements are mixed cleanly and give separate attention to each instrument.

Another stand out is “London Fog”, which is a courser, fiercer track with sharp riffs and a pounding chorus. The Lillingtons are always employing “whoahs” and harmonies. Whether you call it melodic pnk, pop punk (which I would resist), or simnply “catchy” – never read that as “soft”. Even the slowest track, is dark and subversive. The melodies are undeniable. But the dominant feeling for the listener is that of finding a peephole into a clandestine meeting. One’s spine is tense and fraught.
Lillingtons are delving into 80s, staying quiet for side B. Or rather the play with tempo and energy. They temper certain sections while letting free of fetters at other times. And this is within the same song. For “London Fog”, they bandy between more aggressive instrumentations after quieter openings. All of which are under melodic singing. The dichotomy plays well after laying low. “Cult of Dagon” is just slow and atmospheric, it’s a cool break. While what follows, “Villagers”, is the sound of Scandal, Pat Benatar, and an emulation of Billy Idol; a straight ‘80s pulse with bells and momentary guitar chord strums. It grows into a rougher approach by the bridge. “The Walker” follows and does the same – a strong, dirgy riff is sporadic while the verses grab the Echo and The Bunnymen approach except for a gritty riff which simmers and surfaces.

Stella Sapiente boasts the depth of Death By Television with more thoughtful songwriting and cleaner production. The cuts are slower and deeper; less three chord romps, more songs constructed from crisp guitar lines. Stella Sapiente is a great addition to The Lillingtons’ catalog with a step in a tangential direction.

RIYL: Ramones, The Queers, Teenage Bottle Rocket, Tiger Army, Misfits, (early) The Cure, Ceremony (L Shaped Man), Damned (but which era?)

Iron Monkey 913 review

Props for the Jerrys Kids shirt.
Iron Monkey
Relapse Records
Released Oct 20th
Review by hutch

The term “cult band” is usually relegated for lesser known or underappreciated bands. With Iron Monkey, the term more likely is to denote their likelihood of spawning an actual cult. I’m not sure of their record sales but their reputation is revered. And their two albums are in regular rotation in on my turntable. Ain’t one aspect under appreciated. Iron Monkey cultivated disgusting and abhorrent sounds and attitude while still manifesting a groove. On par with Eyehategod, this UK trio repelled listener’s from 1994 until 1999. A band that channeled repulsion, seclusion, and nihilism could never be expected to function for too long. And then their singer passed in 2002.

Now it is 2017. Somehow, Satan’s ugliest children have found themselves spewing further music. Relapse Records released their third full length, 9-13. It stands with the classic two, self-titled, 1996, on Union Mill and Our Problem, 1998, on Earache. Staggeringly savage, riffs and growls perpetuate every insecurity in the listener. The members are listed simply and unimpressively as J - Vocals/Guitar, B – Drums, and S – Bass; recalling John Paul Morrow as “JPM - Rest In Noise”. 9-13 is a stellar tribute to JPM’s legacy. Jim Rushby and Steve Watson both were in prior iterations with others, Rushby in all, while drummer, Brigga (ex-Chaos UK), is new. But the sound is as killer here. There is no gap in synchronicity.

Rushby’s vocals are beyond growls, not low in tone like a guttural Death Metal band, but beyond growl in terms of delivery and audibility. Take “Toadcrucifier”. Rushby snarls like a spastic pitbull, reacting to a violation with a fevered unraveling. His vocal approach comes from a genuine disassociation with human kind. The feral evocation is the thread throughout 9-13. The songwriting is tops, production balancing the ugly with the execution. “Destroyer” driving riffs of the first section coupled with the fast charge of the middle relishes in deep focus and nasty tones. But we hear all instruments pushing and pushing.

There is a palpable rejuvenation between Rushby and Watson in these despondent harvests. While certainly skilled musicians, they keep it simple. And that’s where the honesty is allowed to shine. It is why I think hardcore fans can latch onto Iron Monkey’s qualities. They repugnant emotions of isolationism and self-destruction, the disgust with the world, the visceral trigger is worth more than any guitar solo or ethereal orchestration. Give me the sweaty clamor of basking in plodding snare hits and feedback of “The Rope” any day. Not saying it is all feeling, they sit and write songs. But they know when to ride a riff, a groove, an emotion – and simply let vocals spatter wretched noise. “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” swoons and smashes as its twisted riffs deliver on its catastrophic tile promises.

9-13 is constructed of eight 4-5 minute romps with a 10 minute closer. The beginning of the album, 
“Crown of Electrodes”, “Omegamangler”, and the title track, “9-13” are all bruisers. So, let’s address the obvious. Detractors will say – shit, have said, on a youtube comment – “no Greaves, no Morrow, no Iron Monkey”. And I am a purist with some bands – believing certain bands should have just taken a new name (Sepultura, Misfits, and a thousand hardcore bands). Missing Greaves is a loss, in a nostalgic way. But Brigga kills it on 9-13. Justin Greaves, whose talents saw him in many bands; including, Borknagar live, Crippled Black Phoenix (still does), The Varukers (which is a precise parallel to Chaos UK) and most notably, Electric Wizard for three years. This perched Greaves to record on EW’s gnarliest (not best or most classic, but noisiest/ugliest), We Live. Steve Watson is back here, and played on IM’s first self-titled LP. The detraction may be in comparison that Iron Monkey recorded as a five piece for their two albums and the EP. Here they perform as a trio. I don’t hear an outcry for missing Doug Dalziel. He was on all three records. And hell, if you’re lamenting an absent drummer – you should really being lamenting his partner, the bassist. Watson moving over certainly delivers the essence of Iron Monkey. Rushby, however, has always been in the band, every iteration. As far as vocals, while missing Morrow is a punch to the gut, Rushby does his job. It doesn’t have that same black metal, goblin raspy slither; but Rushby has the same spirit, and certainly the toxic tenacity in his exasperated excoriating of mankind. And with all the years slinging axe for the band, he knows the approach that works and exceeds his duties. Shoes filled. Would Morrow have given the thumbs up? Only the band members know, not some sentimental fan.

RIYL: Fudge Tunnel, Grief, Church of Misery, Eyehategod. Weedeater/Bongzilla, Buzzoven, Unsane, if GG Allin made good music.

current metal rotation

Iron Monkey, 913, Relapse

Malleus, Storm of Witchcraft, Blood Harvest

Rig Time!, War, Innerstrength

All Pigs Must Die, Hostage Animal, Deathwish Inc

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Malleus Interview Storm of Witchcraft

Storm of Witchcraft
Blood Harvest

Interview by hutch
Boston’s Malleus self-released a tape in 2016. Blood Harvest now resurrects the ornery seven tracks and commits this vile violation to tape, CD, digital and, of course, vinyl, on October 25th. Answering by email, The Hammer acknowledges an excitement of finally rereleasing Storms of Witchcraft. Blood Harvest has been great. We were actually pretty familiar with Rodrigo from his punk label Putrid Filth Conspiracy in the early 2000's. So when we made the connection that he was behind Blood Harvest as well, we were pretty psyched. Feel like he knows where we're coming from as far as our background and inspiration goes.”

Known professionally as The Hammer, the Malleus member reminisces about the origins of the mysterious Boston trio. “At that time, everyone we knew in the Boston punk scene was obsessed with Discharge and really raw D-Beat. So, all these uninspiring dis-clone bands started popping up everywhere which only fueled our discontent with the current state of punk. I was absolutely obsessed with the Satanic Rites tape (Hellhammer) and Discharge as well and decided that instead of just doing another boring D-Beat band, I'd take my obsessions in a different direction.”
That obsession spawned Storm of Witchcraft. “We spent a few years writing, really pouring over every little detail of the songs and trying to make the best possible demo we could.” The Hammer’s reluctance to spew retreads of worn paths has resulted in a classic release. Malleus’ sound embraces Discharge’s legacy of low-tuned sonic exuberance with crushing riffs which summon Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, and Bathory. The Hammer takes pride in this release. “A lot of time and effort went into making Storm of Witchcraft what it is.”

The sound is brutal; low and gritty, but mixed and mastered well. Clear, clamorous and, well, not shitty. Too many d-beat or black metal bands think crappy production is a hallmark. I hate that antithetical thinking. Be gnarly, be subversive – but still sound good. The production is thorough, elevating each component while keeping the music raw and crusty. Hammer reports, “We recorded with Chris Corry of Magic Circle at his practice space and we had our friend Ryan (Side Two Studios) do the final mixing and mastering. The whole thing took 2 days to record. We did the music on one day, vocals on the next. CC was recommended to us by a mutual friend and although we didn't know him personally at the time, we were familiar with him through growing up in the same circle of the local punk scene. We did know that CC was obsessed being able to emulate tone and capturing the same sound of bands from the past so we thought he'd be able to nail early Hellhammer/Frost, and we think he did with Storm of Witchcraft.  We wanted to avoid a lo-fi sounding demo at all costs but still come out with something that was abrasive, raw, and energetic. The music itself is super riff-driven and we try to vary the tempo as much as we can and all that would be completely lost if we decide to record this with one mic and a 4-track.”

The opener, “Winds of Wrath / Ire” aurally depicts a chilling wind, gathering intensity, leading to a panning of eerie sounds. This two minute seduction is quickly interrupted by a crashing of a grinding riff, punching and punching. The final minute of the “Ire” portion is a flogging mid-paced riff that pounds away. “Blackened Skies” begins harkening an epic, but quickly charges forward with purpose. A twisting, belligerent riff in the middle, for the chorus, is malevolent and bold. While many have emulated the aforementioned forefathers of black metal, Malleus has remarkable accuracy in combining homage and originality. In a genre where the majority of ideas are simply reworked executions of the masters, Malleus take the Discharge model and apply it to the Satanic ferocity of Bathory and Hellhammer. Again, even I grow weary of citing Tom G and Quorthon’s early work; pining to infuse a wider reference spectrum. But these just fit so perfectly. The music is invigorating in two ways. The pure spirit of the music but also the refreshing aspect of new takes on this style.
Hammer advises when looking to forefathers to be sure to inject one’s own fluid into the mix. And do it well. “Just keep the focus of the band very specific rather than drawing from all these various sub genres and convolute the sound and direction of the group. Nowadays, it's so easy for anyone with a computer to record their own demo and everyone needs instant gratification so instead of taking their time to create something worthwhile, they rush into making a demo and posting it on the Internet. Then they complain when it gets passed over and people move on to the next shitty demo.”

Besides the redundant riffs of d-beat clones, The Hammer also complains of uninspired metal lyrics of vapid party anthems. “I would hope that Storm of Witchcraft and anything else Malleus does evokes more emotion or provokes deeper thought than just wanting to party or get fucked up. If people can listen to our music and gain some sort of enjoyment or satisfaction from it, that's great. But for us, metal has always been more than the soundtrack to heavy drinking. As far as Storm of Witchcraft goes, It's obvious that we take direct cues from the likes of Quorthon and Tom Warrior for our sound but in the early 80's, bands basically had Overkill (Motorhead), Lightning to the Nations (Diamond Head), and Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing (Discharge), and look what they came up with so what can we do with those records? And that's always been our approach. Just keep the focus of the band very specific rather than drawing from all these various sub genres and convolute the sound and direction of the group. Nowadays, it's so easy for anyone with a computer to record their own demo and everyone needs instant gratification so instead of taking their time to create something worthwhile, they rush into making a demo and posting it on the Internet. Then they complain when it gets passed over and people move on to the next shitty demo. A lot of time and effort went into making Storm of Witchcraft what it is.”

The Hammer reports Malleus’ plans to finally spread their unholy gospel. They are embarking on their first tour of the West Coast with Witchtrap from Colombia, whose 2015’s, Trap the Witch, is equally carnivorous. They join Hirax, Xoth, and Witchhaven for Seattle’s stacked Famine Fest, Day 1, Sept. 22nd. Hammer continues, “We will support Merciless from Sweden on their only East Coast show in Brooklyn on October 20th with Antichrist Siege Machine. February 16th, (2018) we will be supporting Morbosidad and Blaspherian in Baltimore, MD.” Other shows aren’t booked, but Malleus is ready to mesmerize when they do. “We're going to continue to play anywhere people will have us. Hoping to get in the studio again by this fall/winter to record a couple tracks for a 7 inch.” 
The back to back tracks, “Demonology I” and “Demonology II” combine to last over nine minutes. Part I drags through its parts in a true Celtic Frost atmospheric sludge. Slow and ringing guitars set the pace. The thunder rhythm section dutifully obliges within a few minutes. We then are treated to a stomping bridge with a solid groove. Part II again delves into a long strain of feedback before a speed-fueled riff propelled by unrelenting drums. “The Wolf” follows the same pattern for its three minutes. “Act of Faith” is a slower, heavier jam. The Celtic Frost vibe resurfaces, that same tone and distinguished guitar sound CC extracted to emulate Tom G Warrior. The low end and bass drums weigh in, boasting a sinister gravity to the track. The imagery and lyrics all tie in with wolves and demons and faith.

Snarling all this demonic terminology, Malleus have a platform to share their views. The Hammer is concise and candid. Again, The Hammer eschews clich├ęs and token references for an opportunity to expose his deeper beliefs. “True evil doesn't actually exist. All people are slaves to their needs and desires and only act in a way to satisfy them, even "good" people.  Altruistic people are motivated by innate feelings of empathy in which they feel pain when others suffer and feel good when others feel good. In the end, everyone is motivated by internal selfish desires. If evil was only used to describe actions that cause more harm than good, I could get behind it but too often evil is just a word used to describe others whose actions conflict with one's own. That being said, many groups such as Christians truly believe in evil so the word can be useful if you're trying to antagonize them.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Madball Wisdom in Chains Family Biz review

Madball / Wisdom in Chains
Family Biz
September 25th

Two of the hardest working bands in hardcore are releasing a tantalizing split 7” just to let you know they are still coming hard. Honest. Sincere. Commited. Consistent. Madball and Wisdom in Chains are holding it down with a track each until Madball’s full length comes out on 2018.

Madball’s side comes packed with their revered energy. The track, For the Cause is also the name of their impending full length. This track continues with the firestorm they have been unleashing. The Mitts era is a gallery of classics; Legacy, Empire, Infiltrate the System, the three eps; and most recently Hardcore Lives. This feels right off of any recent. Only news I can find is that the full length will be on Nuclear Blast, no word on release date or producer. The tough, crisp track sounds like the prior ones – hopefully meaning Erik Rutan is behind the boards or even Zeuss. “For the Cause”, is vicious. Slamming track.

The flipside is blessed by the PAHC champs, Wisdom in Chains. As a bonus, Mad Joe shares the mic with Freddy Madball on “Someday”. Mad Joe’s gift to the hardcore community has always been raw, personal lyrics. We get emotionally open lyrics, contemplating what a man’s legacy will be, with solid melodic guitar lines over rough, beastly rhythms. WIC’s low chug is savage and will incite any crowd to point, swing, dive and stomp. It’s a fast, forward focused 4/4 beat with ripe time changes for cathartic pauses and two-steps.

Vinyl Pressing Info:
100 - OPAQUE GREY w/ 14 CLOUDY CLEAR (color in color)
100 - OPAQUE GREY / BLACK (half & half )
100 - TRANS BLUE w/ ORANGE (a side / b side )
200 - GOLD (Coretex Records Exclusive )
200 - OPAQUE BLUE (Reality Records Exclusive )
700 - BLACK
 or Nuclear Blast (their new label) has pre-order of NUKE GREEN VINYL