Friday, November 30, 2007

Sawhorse 7" (1992)

Ive been meaning to post this since the great comment storm of early summer. Someone gave this up when we were talking about Mike Kirsch bands and many said this was the best Kirsch band. I had not ever heard this band previous to this summer, so admittedly I'm late to the party, and while four songs is short for a party, Sawhorse manage to plug into every great hardcore influence from 1980 to 1992. I mean, a list of influences would read as disparate as teeny bopper at a Slayer concert. I hear Disengage-era Youth Of Today, Four Walls Fallings earlier work, Against the Wall, Judge, Downcast, Swiz, Gorilla Biscuits, Old School, New School, No School, whatever.

And granted, these influnces are not that disparate under the general banner of music as a whole, as they are all hardcore bands, but within the hardcore genre these bands were from different parts of the country and exploring different nuances in the limited hardcore palette.

But seriously, these songs fucking kill. Fo' Real, so whoever said this was the best Kirsch band, I tip my hat to you, and thanks to whoever dropped this in the comments months ago.

If anyone with more knowledge or intimate understanding wants to tackle a description of this album, give it a shot, and I'll post it up as your review...

Either way, don't sleep on this 7" like I did for 15 years. Listen to it here, and pick it up from Ebullition (links to right) as it seems they either have extra copies or they repressed it.

Life At These Speeds - To Your Health (2006)

I cant remember who it was that said it, but when I posted the self titled album by Life At These Speeds someone mentioned that they thought To Your Health was a stronger album. At that time I hadn't digested much of the album and it didnt sink in as immediately as the first album did. Well, time has passed, days have changed and To Your Health has found its way deeply entrenched in my life. Its a pretty great album and it is actually a stronger album on the whole than the s/t was, though Birds and Climates is still the hands down winner... for now... Retina is firmly asserting itself as a force to be reckoned with.

The thing about To Your Health that makes it a better album is not just the order of the songs, but the depth of the individual songs. More influences are present on this release, yet to some extent, when I find myself comparing something to many different bands, some that arent really much alike, I tend to find that what it really is is that the album is unique and defies a specific categorization, and my human trait of trying to make things fit wants to slot this into its emo spot or its hardcore spot, but the fact is, I just cant do it. Overall this record leans more towards the breadth of bands like On the Might of Princes or even some of Appleseed Casts work, maybe even a bit like later A Day in Black and White. But thats just scraping the surface. The discordant Dischord sound of their last album is still present and the post-hardcore Quicksand-ish sound is even more present, but not in such a seething, tumultuous way. In fact, the album is more melodic as a whole which in turn makes it a bit more palatable to the masses but with just enough edge to make the diehard feel like they are still getting their kicks.

To Your Health, the title track, has some great dynamic interplay (LOVE that term!) which releases with these arpeggios of twinkling hyper speed guitars and then locks back into the tension. One thing that sticks out to me is that the bass gets a very good spot in the mix, right up front, shepherding those guitar moments when they threaten to escape the bounds of the songs. There are two really good instrumental tracks that are right next to each other, but they seem to be a part of one, so its practically unnoticed unless you happen to notice the track change on your disc player or iPod. Songs like Blocking out the Stars offer another aspect that helps makes this record both varied and intense, and thats the addition of a very authentic mid-90's jangle that is reminiscent of the best of bands like Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate.

All in all, the multitude of sounds and the addition of better vocals help make this an extremely powerful album, and if it were released this year it would most certainly end up on the best of the year list. So to whoever said it first, you were right, this album is incredible. And to my friend Matt, this post is for you... Make sure you tweak out that next Method Air while jamming these tunes.

Cheers. Happy Friday. Someone get trashed and tell us a good story. If its Lol-worthy than I'll post it up here for shits and giggles.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bouncing Souls - The Good, The Bad and the Argyle (1994)

One of the best hardcore anthems ever written was written by a band that wasn't a hardcore band. Old School by the Bouncing Souls is one of the songs that encapsulates every sentiment about hardcore as a way of a life with just a simple riff and an earnest powerful delivery. The unity, the power, the collective sense of being able to change things with something that helped changed you and affected you so deeply... Of course it starts off with an awesome bass riff. You're off on the right foot if you start your anthem with an awesome slinking bassline... The song just crashes right into being from there. The lyrics are awesome and completely sentimental. Am I being sentimental right now? I'm all about the lyrics...

"Sing a song of old school / I don't really care where you were or who you know / Sing a song of old school / we don't really care what you have to say about this show / The music you love lost it's meaning / because these people are not aware / Some people talk others are listening / Sometimes I think I just don't care / It's easy to forget the choices we've made and the promises of the past / But if we really listen to these old school ideals / we'll find what's good and make it last / Sing a song of old school / everyone knows but it seems we all forget / the time we needed to see these ideals for ourselves and what it meant / I guess I'm on a soapbox singing a hymn that you don't want to hear no sermon / When I step down and look around all I see is separation / Find what's good / Make it last

Personally, that stands as a testament for future generations of any sort, whether or not they're into punk or not. But I digress.. The album is fantastic, really, from the first song, I Like Your Mom (I wanna marry her and be your dad) to the hyper fast The Guest, to These Are the Quotes From Our Favorite 80's Movies. This ones pretty funny... All the lyrics are from the most classic of 80's american teen movies, mostly with John Cusack and mostly by John Hughes. (Special nod to Some Kind of Wonderful with Eric Stoltz). Guess the movies out, leave comments, I dont have anything for you to win, nothing but Glory at least. And by Glory I mean a VHS tape of the Denzel Washington movie.

Joe Lies When He Cries (another 80's movie reference... any takers?) is one of the best Avail songs Avail never wrote. It even ends in a chant of "Lies Lies Lies!". It shares stylistic similarities with Avail, but it speaks quite poignantly, and humorously, about honesty (obviously). It's a good example of how the Bouncing Souls are good at delivering a strong message in a tongue in cheek sort of way. And it also goes towards describing why the Souls were popular with a lot of hardcore kids int he same way Avail were. Theirs was a strongly message based approach, but not in a way where they were beating you over your head.

Theres a few slightly experimental songs, for a punk band at least, and a few covers, most notably of I Like Candy, which they remain surprisingly faithful to. The best part of the end of the album is the song Neurotic, which besides having great lyrics of the same nature, has a great ending where everything just comes off the rails and ends with a sample of dude freaking out. It's funny and alarming all at once, and I'd like to think that that was what the Bouncing Souls wouldve wanted us to feel about them, funny, yet alarming.

1. This isnt really a footnote, but I'm numbering it anyway. I first heard of the Bouncing Souls the first time I saw Snapcase play live. The singer had a Bouncing Souls shirt on and a few days later I saw a review in a zine and went out to find it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Undertow - At Both Ends (1993)

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chugga

(thanks to GabbaGabbaHey for the correction to my quote. ^_~)

Undertow are yet another band from the early to mid 90's that bought a hurting to the dancefloor. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Undertow dropped some furious chunky hardcore on the heads of a bunch of ravenous teens. I was never able to see them live, but I'm pretty sure I would have had a conniption of sorts and would have flung myself into bodily harm over and over again scrambling to the stage to scream my vocals cords raw. One of the best things about Undertow was their nods towards more old school varieties of hardcore. Sure they could club you over the head and actually rape your unconscious body with riff after riff of metallic chug, but they threw in some great tension building moments of melodic old school hardcore. Lets look at Thrown Back, for instance. By far the shortest song on the album, but also one of the most effective. It starts with great old school, for about 10 seconds, then fades into feedback for about 30 seconds, then the chugga comes in, DUN DUN DUN - DUN DUN DUN. When the drums hit you just might get blown out of your seat. Or at least be inspired to actually get out of your seat of your own volition and maybe practice some of those windmills we were talking about. If this doesnt make you want to do windmills then youre listening to Yanni.

Instinct is another good example of that fast to hard sound. Imagine Mouthpiece or Outspokens faster parts, but throw in some serious mid paced metal crunch and you have the gist of what Undertow was about. John Pettibone also had a good scream too, which simultaneously sounds anguished and pissed as hell.

Now the clincher. Two songs. At Both Ends and Cedar. These, to me, are the foundations of this album. At Both Ends is a pretty typical mid 90's hardcore song, but theres always been something about it that is teeming with unbridled angst. Like they want to play faster, but instead they just lurch and stomp through these emotions of failure and unrequited love. It really touches a nerve for anyone who has ever been pissed about screwing themselves over, be it love, work or friends, and becomes and anthem for those inwardly directed feelings of doubt and anger.

Cedar is my favorite (next to Thrown Back), and guess what? Its anti-christian! Starting with a great bass sound this song just pounds. Loosely played drums, fierce dexterous riffing and anti-christian lyrics fuel an incredible hardcore song. The breakdown at the end is just nasty. I guess growing up Catholic, I have always been drawn to anti-christian songs. I mean check the lyrics: "tell me to kneel / bow down to his grace / and plea for my forgiveness / if what I've done is wrong in his eyes / then let my own spirit BE MY GUIDE!!... FORCED - TO SWALLOW YOUR LIES / I CANNOT - SWALLOW YOUR LIES"

Damn, think back to the Chokehold post, and remember the lyrics to Anchor: "I dont need your fairy tale to lean on!" or even better "Not no fictitious male being / Not no sexist book of lies!" (or the opening sample to Religion on a Stick for that matter - "I dream of the hour when the last congressman is strangled to death on the guts of the last preacher. And since the christians seem to love to sing about the blood, why not give them a bit of it? Slit the throats of their children and drag them over the mourners bench and the pulpit. And allow them to drown in their own blood. And we'll watch them in joy, singing their hymns")

Fucking br00tal...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chokehold - Content With Dying (1995)

Sweet lord of chugging breakdowns!


Holy Mosh, Batman! My Life as a Floorpuncher


Chokehold, Canadas Finest "Fuck You" to America

Chokehold were a fantastic early 90's straightedge vegan band with strong leftist politics. They came from the same small Ottawa scene as Union of Uranus and Shotmaker but sound nothing like that chaotic brand of hardcore (Ive just been informed that Chokehold was from Ontario, not Ottawa, a seemingly obvious mistake with a 5 hour difference of space in time). Chokehold instead crafted an album entirely composed of breakdowns. Fierce, chugging, building-sized chunks of lurching, stomping hardcore. The subject matter is heavy and rife with conviction. On Not a Solution they rail against Hardline bands with Pro-Lifer politics, singing "You call yourself pro-life, I call you pro-murder! / Your small way of thinking, is not a solution! / Anti-Choice is not a solution! / Anti-Choice is Anti-Human! / Anti-Choice is Anti-Woman!... Anti-Choice, Is Control!". Definitely some heavy shit, and with music to match. The funniest thing about this record (and lets face it, you have to laugh a litte, not because they dont have a point, but where else can you get such delivery, so basically delivered with no tact, other than hardcore?) but the funniest thing is all the samples that are laced throughout the album. They all come from the same era of 50's evangelizing and public radio announcements, and each and everyone is pointed right at America. Chokehold is a Canadian band that seems very affected by American policy, either that or they just knew the crowd they were playing to were mostly American kids. In either case, it always adds a humorous element to this otherwise extremely serious and angry record.

Another funny thing about this record, and this one also works to its advantage, is the fact that this album sounds like it was recorded in a cardboard box. Yes, thats actually a good thing. The mix is pretty terrible and everything bleeds together into one heavy distorted mess, and it ends up having this really sludgy quality that no other hardcore bands had at the time. I have never been sure if this was their intent, to sound this sludgy, but it works out great and turns all the breakdowns into these juggernauts of distortion and bass heavy dissonance. Add to that 4 guys screaming into the mic at once and its pretty much a party where its okay to knock things over and stage dive on the guests, but no beer drinkers allowed.

Not to be forgotten is the Instilled EP that was appended to the record. This contains five more songs, but most notably, the song Anchor. A hardcore anthem if ever there was one. And its Anti-religious to boot!

The original CD only had two tracks, the Content With Dying LP as one track and the Instilled EP as one track. I split the tracks and bumped the levels of the album using Audacity.

Oh, and I cant forget one of my favorite parts of the record! On the second song, Afraid of Life, there are some great lyrics. Opening with "Turn on your world! Sit back and relax!" Great stuff, but nothing beats just after the first bridge, when the drums introduce a sick breakdown, THWAP THWAP DUN DUN THWAP! "Pelted! by VIOLENT IMAGES!! Afraid To Live our Lives! Beyond! These Four Walls!"...

Hardcore delivers. Just yell something people can get behind, yell it loud, get people psyched, then follow it up with a huge mosh section so all that energy you dispersed can ignite the crowd. Its hard to sit still when something like that happens.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Three Penny Opera - s/t (1999)

I dont have much to say right now, bear with me...

I am posting Three Penny Opera for two reason, both of which may not be obvious. The first reason is that Three Penny Opera is what formed out of the remains of Shotmaker, one of my most favorite hardcore bands ever. The second reason is that Hardcore for Nerds recently posted a 7" by the Three Penny Opera and when I was reading that review, I made a decision.

I had a few records I was gonna bring in today (yes, I am at work on Friday after Thanksgiving... lame) and make some posts out of since I have been kind of sleeping on this site. I had a few worked out, which I'll just do tomorrow, or sometime in the near future, but nonetheless, I forgot them and now I have nothing to do here except wait for my boss to leave so I can leave too. So I am making some different posts... starting with this one... so I guess theres a third reason for my post.

It comes back to that Inspiration thing I mentioned in my last post. Finding inspiration is like hunting for the Philosophers Stone sometimes, and when I find it for one thing (in this case, Bouncing Souls and Chokehold) it doesnt necessarily translate over to other things... So I am here, doing a review for Three Penny Opera, but its not really a review. I've barely even mentioned the record. its more of an Anti-Review, but that might seem like I was trying to convince you not to listen to this record. Which that would actually be Reverse Psychology, in which I really want you to check out this record.

Well, whatever it is, and whatever happens, DONT listen to this record. Its DOES NOT sound like Shotmaker, and it DOESNT have those same propulsive drum fills and it most definitely DOES NOT have awesome guitar riffs that sounds like a logical extension of Mouse-Ear Forget Me Not.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Snapcase - Lookinglasself (1993)

Hey all,

I havent been around much lately, but I also havent been giving much time to Zen. Its not that I dont want to, I've just been taxed on time, mentally and physically. Its the mental part that hurts Zen though. I never want to feel like I have to do this... meaning I dont want to write something that just feels forced. I have done that before, and I just dont care to do it. I write when I'm inspired to write, and finding inspiration has been difficult at times recently. Leave it to a classic album that at one time could make me super inspired to break me into another review.

I wrote this the other day for Amazon.... It was in response to the many reviews stating that Progressions Through Unlearning was by far the superior album, and that Lookinglasself was recorded terribly and other such things. I suppose at the time I wrote this I felt that alot of the reviewers may have gotten into hardcore either in the late 90's or even later, so my writing is aimed towards that direction.

"Nothing in particular about this album is epic, nothing about any of the musicianship is epic, and the vocals, while impassioned, certainly takes less skill than cooking an egg1.

When this band arrived on the scene in the early 90's, that was Epic. This band embodies a very particular time period of hardcore music in general. When Lookinglasself was released there was very little hardcore that was like this. There were a few bands kicking around, and some may lay this claim to Earth Crisis, but there was also Converge, Overcast, and the all mighty Unbroken2, all playing with metal in a hardcore format. But something about Snapcase always stood out to me. When I first heard them it was with Shelter, and if you know Shelter, you know theyre not a tough or angry sounding band. Ray got all the anger out of his system for a little while at the time3. So I was completely blown away when this band came on stage, all band members were around the same age, all of them were smiling, and they tore into the chunkiest hardcore I'd ever heard. Oh, it was metal, but yet still completely hardcore. It was an epic show4, hence my review title... 5

Now, "epic" in this case stands as a testament to space in time6. Had I not been into hardcore already and had I gotten into it later I might not understand why people held this record up for exaltation. It isnt amazingly recorded, and it isnt musically proficient (though Scott always had those awesome harmonic parts on the guitar) but hardcore isnt about either of those two ideals. It is about passion, and Lookinglasself is swimming in unbridled passion, for life, for understanding, for affirmation and you be hard pressed to find that kind of passion in a lot of hardcore nowadays.

To me, this is 5 stars7. It helped change the world of hardcore, with its choppy mid paced breakdowns... in fact, most of the album is based around heavy-as-shit breakdowns, and when they breakdown the breakdowns, then your basically moshing. However uncool you think moshing is, Lookinglasself will make you want to stage dive off of your bed and do some serious floorpunching8. Steps is also a great EP with one of their best songs, Windows, but Filter, Looking Glass Self, Incarnation and No Bridge9 are such hardcore classics, you should at least be checking this record out if you interested in knowing the growth of hardcore throughout the 90's."


I love quoting myself. Its almost as good as masturbation... So, its not the best written thing, but whoever claimed I could write? Not me. Shit, I have to check my spelling over and over again cuz I cant even type. Well, there are some things I could add. Maybe a few Footnotes, inspired in no small part by Sweet Baby Jaysus10.

1. Which is actually harder than it seems. You gotta crack the egg without getting any shell in the goop. Then, if your scrambling the egg, you gotta add a dash of either milk or water, to make them fluffy. Of course if  your frying an egg, it seems easier at first, but try flipping that egg without breaking the yolk. Yeah, lets see your passion come out in a scream... what?

2. and Intergrity, dont think I forgot. I suppose you could add Starkweather, and if you really want to suck you can add Cro-Mags for Best Wishes... I only say suck because that album sucks, if you disagree, fight me. 

3. Blame it on Krishna. Though I gotta admit, I kinda like the little blue guy myself.

4. I had gotten a concussion two days before and the doctor told me to rest and stay away from an rough-housing. So of course I went to a hardcore show. I ended up getting kicked in the head and being  pretty dizzy, but somehow the music made me keep going. I also have pictures of this show at home, so I'll scan those up and add them to this post.

5. It was titled "Epic"

6.  "a particular period in time" might have made more sense. but who cares?

7. This reminds me of a poorly written essay from grade-school. I would give me a D- for this kind of writing.

8. also windmills, those were so much fun, and you could easily go from a windmill into a floor punch and then back into a few more windmills... the ambitious kids could also throw in a kick.

9. can't forget Fields of Illusion. Awesome song...

10. Ten footnotes Jay. Beat that! LOL!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Integrity - Humanity is the Devil

Integrity - Humanity is the Devil

What can be said that already hasn't been said? Hands down one of the most influential bands of the last 20 years. One of the most influential sounds. One of the most mysterious and outlandish frontmen to ever front a hardcore band. I mean what band gains popularity by shit talking popular bands at the time just to go against the grain? This band is the perfect mix of metal and hardcore (and really started the entire Cleveland metallic hardcore scene, which Cleveland will eventually become synonymous with). Let's see if we've got the checklist of requirements for timeless record:
Intro to crush skulls to - check
Follow up songs are perfect blend of metals fury and hardcores intensity - check
Amazing lyrical themes set to bone crushing breakdowns and ear melting solos - check
Eerie album closing instrumentals - check

I think the gang is all here.

I invite the shadows near no longer contained by your evils outweighing the curse of humanity.

Who writes lyrics like this!?

I could go into detail on what it sounds like but there are two things preventing this. First off I am too amazed by this record to begin to describe it in full detail because I know I'll be mad at myself if I miss something, and second of all this is an album you must hear to believe.