Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mayhem - View from Nihil I and II

Riff mark: 1:09

Grand declaration of something, all right. Maybe the most wayward, ADHD-driven black metal recording I’ve heard since an Abruptum single. The ideas are plentiful and barely contained, exploding leftward in clusters of supernova riffs, which are segmented by some really large energy-sucking black holes, big enough to ruin fucking everything. How far do these event horizons stretch? At one point (and I had to verify my copy with a recording on Youtube just to make sure my CD wasn’t screwed) there’s five minutes of complete recorded silence. It’s not a space for an impending bonus track; this deliberation spans two songs. This isn’t meditative; it’s insulting, but nowhere as much to the purist fanbase as the trip-hop track carelessly plopped in the middle of everything (it’s tremendously bad, both here and as standalone trip-hop). More stylistic mishaps: WAY too much “drummer boy in civil war” snare rolling. Vocalist Maniac…fuck it, just listen to the guy. Half of the time he’s doing this this quasi-aggressive commander/preacher deal that comically sounds like David Byrne (I’ve actually read the David Byrne comparison from more than one critic, but it’s true. Hey, while on topic, why not listen to Talking Heads? Nothing but great albums and songs. One of my all-time favorites. Be a Talking Metalhead). There’s so much shit to sift through just to enjoy anything on Grand Declaration of War, its schizophrenic sandblasters minutes apart for seconds at a time. A real black metal blue-ball. Worth a spin for Hellhammer’s inhuman drumfest (sans parrrr-rum pum pum pum).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Darkthrone - In The Shadow of the Horns

 Riff mark: 4:06

Okay…the self-induced production sucks, for starters. There, 80% of the potential audience has fled to the greener pastures of Tampa. If you stuck around and bundled up in your bullet belts, the spoils of braving such winters is one of the more adventurous, and ultimately better black metal albums to come from that Norwegian genesis. Blaze is the polar opposite of Soulside Journey, the group shivering its death metal origins and a bassist in the process, intent on howling under the same freezing moon of native corpsepainters Mayhem. More chances taken here than on De Mysteriis, especially in 10+ minute saga Kathaarian Life Code, its sprawling middle a belly of doom before a final magnificent eruption of warpspeed black thrash (world without end). That’s just the opener! Five additional songs averaging 6 minutes apiece, standout of choice being In The Shadow Of The Horns, a so-Celtic-Frost-it’s-not-funny grinder in which Nocturno Culto actually screams his own name before singing. Arguably some of the mosh-iest BM riffs of its time, here. Eventually the remainder of Blaze semi-degenerates into blurs of thrash beats and quarter-note tremolo picking, but the album’s first 20 minutes are rather remarkable. A deliberately raw recording, simple in riff but broad in scope and idea, A Blaze In The Northern Sky remains the grittiest Renaissance figure to represent an awakening of mangled, evil thought.

Inside Out - Burning Fight

0:00 mark.

If you ever listened to Rage Against The Machine and thought to yourself "Man, Zack de la Rocha is intense, he should have been in a hardcore band", then you wouldn't be far off, because he was. Prior to starting the now legendary hip hop influenced rock band, former Hardstance guitar player Zack de la Rocha formed Inside Out with future 108 mastermind, Vic DiCara in 1988 (while Tom Morello was covering Living Colour and RHCP).

Their lone studio contribution is 1990's No Spiritual Surrender, a 6 song message to the hardcore community that preaches social responsibility and the search for spirituality and adolescent identity. DiCara left the band during the writing of the band's second album (titled Rage Against The Machine, gasp!) to become a Hare Krishna monk and later would form the excellent metallic hardcore band, 108 and play guitar in Shelter with Ray Cappo.

"Burning Fight" is the band's sound embodied, hard riffing from DiCara with the precise hard hitting drums of Chain of Strength's Chris Bratton. de la Rocha's lyrics hammering home the idea that no matter the resistance of individuals or society as a whole to never give up the battle for what's right, a message that he has never ceased to preach his entire career. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

No Riff Tho: Tangerine Dream - Phaedra

I don’t listen to as much metal as I used to. Every once in a while I just want to discuss something cool I’ve discovered outside the metal world. I’d prefer to do this as little as possible, since this is specifically a metal blog, but today I felt otherwise, so here goes...

A few weeks ago I referenced Tangerine Dream in a winter-themed exclusive on the blog. Before that post I’d maybe heard two or three of their soundtracks for other 80’s films (and GTA5, which I coincidentally have been playing since Christmas). Curiosity struck and I dove into their discography through their wiki page, a 45-year monument containing an astronomical 101 studio recordings (not including bootlegs, compilations, EPs, singles…). I’ve only listened to maybe 10 of their albums in two weeks because I’m treating each one with total admiration and studious repeats. I’m not very knowledgeable on the genre, but in terms of sound I classify them as the comfortable medium between the best of Pink Floyd (think Meddle) and Kraftwerk. All instrumental, pulsing synth approaches superimposed over a wash of grey cloud-kissed ambience. Phaedra is universally regarded by fans and critics as their greatest and most important work, and after a dozen repeats I respect their collective opinions. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, from beginning to end, and I’m trying to avoid similes and clichés to describe what I hear, but I hope you give this a listen and hear the same things I have.

Edit 1/24/15: Sorry to hear this week founding member Edgar Froese died at age 70. Craziest of coincidences. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Surroundings - Long Highways

1:07 mark.

Everybody has that band they wish would always be around and would stay together forever. Such a thing is such an anomaly in music in general, let alone in hardcore. Surroundings are that band for me. Whether it was seeing them play Charm City Art Space with usual suspects Ruiner and Pulling Teeth or bumming out the Hellcat Records faithful in a strange opening slot for The Unseen, Surroundings were always as tight as ever and a force to be reckoned with.

Whether it was frontman Gavin Tucker pouring out his being into the microphone (or just a lot of sweat, dude was always SOAKED) or the crushing riffs of their twin guitar attack, the band destroyed everything in their path. They had the nastiest and ugliest bass tone this side of Suppression and obviously worshiped His Hero Is Gone and marijuana. If you got in the way of the wall of noise that was Surroundings, you may have in their own words have been "Crippled By The Gospel". Unfortunately even the brightest stars eventually supernova and internal issues caused the band to break up without an official last show.

This band's recorded output has an aging progression like wine, each passing year the records got better and better. From demo to to demise, not a bad track. Several members of Surroundings can be found in the shoegazey pop band, Wildhoney.

PC Deathsquad - Fuck Yourself

0:37 mark.

Sometime in 2005 while trading mp3s back and forth over AIM's get file feature, I stumbled across this song in a folder of random punk songs. It struck me because while the lyrics were goofy, it was extremely raw and felt different.

PC Deathsquad are a group of dudes from San Diego who wanted to combine thrash and hardcore with having a good time and cracking jokes. Enter the Crooked Tooth Pimp, the band's wigtastic hype man who does nothing but rag on frontman John Lockjaw (JLJ, The Icon, etc.). I immediately sent away for their first two full lengths on CD and a t shirt (which 10 years later has seen better days). Between PCDS and Municipal Waste, it was all flip billed hats and jean vests for the foreseeable future.

Over the next two years my friend and I would spin "Downsized/Shit Talking And Mayhem" constantly and I may have quoted CTP and JLJ's back and forth enough that people wanted me dead. Things like informing a friend that he "was loved by no man, and when he played live shows, kids stand around and ask who's the asian snowman?" or that I would "slap the shit out of you like you were Robin Givens". Politically Correct was the antithesis of their shtick and at 19 years old I couldn't have cared less, although it's not like they were One Life Crew or anything.

Despite being a completely independent band, over the course of their career they managed to self release 2 full lengths, 2 EPs, a 7" split with Take Offense, 3 music videos and a DVD. Besides sparking my love for joke bands, they also are directly responsible for getting me into Raw Power and Lawnmower Deth.

Bonus Video: Fuck Metallica

The lyrics managed to completely capture the sum of mine and a lot of other peoples thoughts on the legendary thrash band. At least they could own up to killing Cliff. Must have watched this video hundreds of times and dreamed of a circle pit in a pool.

Cannibal Corpse - Under the Rotted Flesh

Riff mark: 1:08

Well…dat cover tho, for one. You uh…ugh…forget it. Divert all attention towards the nonexistent progression of Buffalo’s non-quintessential quintet and the creative stagnation, ripe and pungent, festering into a 2nd studio autopsy report. First, it sounds awful. The guitars are tiny, tinny, and squeaky, and the bass and snare sound nothing like drums, or even triggers. It’s just an unsettling mix, off-putting even for death metal. The individual performances…remember that scene in the movie Red Dragon where Hannibal Lector ate the off-key flautist? Nevermind. Chris Barnes is letting his testicular gutterals drop to the scrotum in a vocal performance I can only describe as coughing and burping simultaneously. Neither Owen nor Rusay can solo and regretfully, do often, but compensate with half-decent riffs for 70% of the recording. I’ve yet to distinguish bassist Alex Webster in the orchestration (and he writes a good, bloody chunk of this stuff!). Paul Mazurkiewicz is still learning how to play drums and plays fast, but not well (whatever he’s doing with his ride cymbal during those downbeat thrash patterns should just stop). So, while the debut was flawed but fun, Butchered at Birth is unappealing, uninviting, and unpolished, the Garbage Pail Kid shooting snot rockets for attention in 1991, a year in which Carcass and Death flexed cranial muscles and invented new possibilities in a genre longing for theory and discipline.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Napalm Death - You Suffer

Riff mark: uhh

Jeez, I dunno. I guess your perception of Scum is reliant on roots and beliefs. If you played or attended shows with lots of crust/grind/power-violence bands growing up and subscribed to the DIY punk-rock ethic, then this is your grail, your crucifix to ward nay-sayers, and arguably the single most important album by which your standards mimic. Otherwise (and here comes the flood of great criticism), Scum is an unrelatable, alienating work of anti-genius, made by geniuses who would springboard to greater, influential rockers, such as Godflesh, Carcass, Cathedral, and (huzzah!) a more improved Napalm Death. Side One and Side Two swap all members but drummer Mick Harris (fun trivia: no original members exist in the band in 2015). Most crust-kids prefer Side Two to One, but I prefer side One for these reasons: I slightly like Nicholas Bullen’s vocals over Lee Dorrian’s (apples to oranges), and after 10 minutes of Side One, I’m too exhausted to  bother with a second half. So, what does Scum sound like? I don’t know. Tell me. Skip to early 90’s for better Napalm Death, and add Terrorizer’s World Downfall and Brutal Truth’s Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses for supplemental (easier) listening.