Reviews

Bobby Cole

Maniac / Spy split EP

Two bands from opposite sides of the States come together for one vicious 7″ EP. California’s SPY and Massachusetts’ MANIAC bring their two different brands of pissed-off hardcore onto a single disc, and it’s great. The two bands’ respective vocalists both spew their venom across their two tracks (two per band/side), with the instrumentation being similarly biting. This reviewer does slightly prefer the SPY side, but both are very much worth your time.

Battlesex The Battlecall EP

Here is another new release on the prolific Convulse Records label—this one is from Portland’s BATTLESEX. This is a fist-pumping, tuneful hardcore punk affair with a healthy dose of hard rock/heavy metal influence (especially in the bitchin’ guitar licks sprinkled across the record). The early ’90s work of bands like ANTI CIMEX and fellow Portlanders POISON IDEA are pretty clear influences, however The Battlecall is not a mere rehash of such material, either. This 7″ righteous slab of rockin’ HC that is certainly worth your time—horns up brothers!

Smear Campaign Smear Campaign demo cassette

Denver, Colorado is killing it with hardcore at the moment, and SMEAR CAMPAIGN is no exception. This is some gnarly, vicious, fast solo hardcore with super blasted, blown-out “production.” Asa, the person behind SMEAR CAMPAIGN, is clearly a big fan of URBAN BLIGHT, ‘cus this sounds a lot like they did. If you’re into URBAN BLIGHT and the ferocious Boston HC sound and such, this scorcher will be right up your alley. And clocking in at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it running time of just over three minutes, you’ll be sticking this rager on repeat over and over. You know what they say; the best music only leaves you wanting more.

The Flex Chewing Gum for the Ears LP

Well good goddamn, would you look at that. Seven years after the release of their last record, Leeds’ own superstars the FLEX are back with a brand new album. As they say; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the Burley Boys understand this mantra all too well. The sound on Chewing Gum For the Ears is nothing short of classic FLEX—fast, old school Boston-style hardcore with plenty of mosh parts included (of course). This new LP includes some of their most blistering compositions yet, including “War Boy,” “Voight-Kampff,” and the mind-blowing closing title track (my favourite song on the album). It’s been a while, but the lads still have it down to a T. This has been possibly my most anticipated release of the past four years and it truly delivered on all fronts, and, at the end of the day, was well worth the wait. The New Wave of British Hardcore may be dead, but the FLEX lives on—ten years strong and hopefully many more to come. Cannot recommend this slab enough.

Klonns Crow EP

Tokyo, Japan’s KLONNS come out swinging with this blistering new EP. The influence from classic Japanese hardcore bands like LIP CREAM and DEATH SIDE is very apparent, but do not mistake KLONNS for being a worship band. The sound on the Crow EP is super ferocious and raw. The instrumentation makes this record sound like it’s coming apart at the seams, and the vocalist sounds so hoarse that his throat could be bleeding. This is a violent, vicious listen. Pure hardcore punk.

Void Condensed Flesh EP reissue

Hey. I’m sure you already know, but VOID is a truly landmark band in the history of hardcore. The Condensed Flesh demo is one of the best to ever come out of the genre (and there’s been a lot of them) and, 41 years on, it holds up better than ever. Recorded in 1981—prior to the groundbreaking, trippy metallic recordings that would roar into this world on 1982’s stone-cold classic split LP with the FAITH—VOID is a lot more primal and raw on these recordings than the experimental nature of their later works. Including some of VOID’s best-loved ditties like “Organized Sports” and “War Hero,” along with equally awesome deep cuts like “Annoyed” and “Go South,” this demo is even more proof that VOID never produced a single bad note in their three-year lifespan (including Potion For Bad Dreams!). In celebration of VOID’s 40th anniversary, the wonderful folks at Eye 95 Records have reissued this classic demo on 7″ vinyl, so what are you waiting for?  Absolutely essential. Obviously.

Scowl How Flowers Grow LP

Southern California’s SCOWL is probably the hardcore hype band of 2022, receiving a lot of attention in the underground—they also quite bizarrely opened for LIMP BIZKIT at Madison Square Garden recently—but I’m happy to say that, every once in a while, you can indeed believe the hype. How Flowers Grow is a total fist-pumping affair, dripping with passionate anger and righteous fury. Fast hardcore with plenty of mosh appeal, the band is driven by the appropriately scowling vocal stylings of Kat Moss, who delivers a hell of a performance on this record. In the midst of the chaos, “Seeds to Sow” appears basically out of nowhere with a more alt-rock style to it, but it also doesn’t feel out of place, either. And right after, it roars back into the insanity! You’ve been hearing lots of good things about SCOWL for a reason—they’re great! Highly recommended.

Арлекин Извор На Главоболките LP

From Macedonia comes Арлекин with this dirty, scummy slab of wax. Their debut album Извор На Главоболките delivers some inspired noise rock jams, packed with plenty of punch and even more riffs. There are a bunch of interesting ideas on this album, especially on the nine-minute descent into madness “Извор на главоболките,” which in my opinion is the album’s highlight. I do feel the album does slightly drag on a bit in spots, but when they get it right, it hits hard. Not necessarily an essential listen, but recommended for fans of noise rock.

Mercenary Demos Collection LP

Atlanta’s MERCENARY was active from around 2013 until 2015, playing a particularly vicious and virulent strain of D-beat. They never released any vinyl records in their time, but put out two blistering demo tapes that have since become underground classics—one in 2013, and 2015’s Atlanta’s Burning—along with one compilation appearance. Former members would go on to play in bands such as NAG, EXTENDED HELL and ANTI-MACHINE, just to name a few. Tragically, vocalist Michael “Ruby” Rubenstein passed away in March 2021. One year following, this record compiling all of MERCENARY’s recorded material was released, finally immortalising this underrated, blistering group—and the visceral vocal styling of Ruby—on wax. Demos Collection is an absolutely ferocious listen, drenched in echo, dissonant riffage, and tortured howling; it is a must-listen for any dis-rocker worth their salt. And, on top of all this, all digital sales from this record are being donated to the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, with other proceeds going towards a mural in memory of Ruby—what’s not to love?!

Slashers Hang On / Snap My Neck 7″

New York-based SLASHERS play gnarly skate punk with a dash of metal influence thrown into the mix. This single is really cool, with both sides of the vinyl exuding snot and attitude. The metal influence is what makes this one really interesting, with the traditional metal/Japanese HC-style guitar leads/soloing. The instrumentation on this record is really top-notch—these guys really know their stuff. All in all, this record is totally rad and I’m excited to see what else is in store in the future.

 

Lousy Suffer cassette

Right off the bat, you know that Indonesia’s LOUSY is here to deliver some real aggressive, moshy, riff-driven hardcore punk. Riotous stuff, not unlike, say, FREEDOM—this is music made to get you raging and get you moving. This is twinned with barking, reverb-and-delay-smattered vocals that compliment the tough instrumentation very nicely. We’ve got a super solid release on our hands here—highly recommended.

Spy Habitual Offender CD

Bay Area hardcore contingent SPY kinda popped up out of nowhere in 2020 and took the scene by storm overnight following the release of their first EP, Service Weapon. With Habitual Offender, SPY is back with more of the vicious, mosh-friendly hardcore punk that endured them to so many people when they first popped up. The vocals spit bile in every discernable direction toward the listener, with the instrumentation serving to further pummel them. This record exudes pure, unrestrained hatred from its first second to its last—it’s great!

Televised Human Condition EP

The second song on this EP is literally called “Violent Hardcore,” which pretty much says it all about Portland, Oregon ragers TELEVISED—a band made up of entirely one man, that man being Aidan Stutzman. Old-school-style, rough hardcore punk the way it’s supposed to be done. Taking clear notes from bands such as NEGATIVE APPROACH and local legends POISON IDEA, TELEVISED has that classic sound totally down and fits into the fold just nicely. The vocals are incredibly gruff and pissed, in the tradition of Brannon, Choke, and all the other USHC greats. An awesome record highly recommended to fans of “violent hardcore.” Also, an interesting tidbit—this record was mastered by L.A. punk legend Geza X, responsible for the sound of classic recordings by bands like GERMS, DEAD KENNEDYS, MDC, and BLACK FLAG (amongst a deluge of others)! So if you’re somehow not convinced yet, I feel like that should just about do it for you.

Tempter Tempter 12″

Crawling out from the deepest, darkest depths of Richmond, VA is TEMPTER, a new ensemble combining the talents of members of NOSEBLEED, DIVISION OF MIND, CANDY, and EKULU. The metal/crossover influence is strong on this mind-melting EP, taking plenty of cues from UK crust and Japanese hardcore—including the atmospheric interludes! The incredibly meaty riffs and hoarse, raspy vocals are masterfully combined with super raw, lo-fi production with plenty of reverb. These brutal tunes will have you pumping your fist and banging your head—especially the two bookenders, opener “Sacricide” and closer “Pestilence.” Highly recommended for anyone after a bit of that metallic flair in their hardcore. 

Consec Demo cassette

Killer lo-fi hardcore/punk from Athens, Georgia. CONCEC’s debut release clocks in at just over four minutes—very brief but very effective, taking no more time than is needed. The vocals are snotty and the instrumentation is riffy and intense. This rough-and-ready dose of HC shows off a lot of future potential and is a much recommended listen to anybody who likes their hardcore punk on the scrappier and primitive side.

Endless Bore What Do You Dig For?! 10″

All the way from Melbourne, Australia comes ENDLESS BORE, with a record that has the power to shake the Land Down Under to its very core. In this 10″ EP, ENDLESS BORE offers some riffy, shit-stomping hardcore in the vein of the nastier Boston-style HC. They also throw some of the grinding intensity and superhuman speed of powerviolence into the mix—the combination is immensely palpable.

Move BHC Freedom Dreams EP

On this debut 7″ EP, Boston’s MOVE BHC delivers some bone-breaking heavy hardcore/beatdown with overtly political lyrical content, with heavy emphasis on Black struggle. No thrills or smiles here, just totally righteous indignation. These eleven minutes contain several truly powerful moments, such as the intro to “Righteous Unrest.” Recommended to all those searching for some broader nuance in their windmilling music.

Demand Demo 2021 cassette

Washington DC’s DEMAND’s demo from last year delivers some super solid hardcore. Very danceable with some nice hints of melody while still keeping it HC to the very core—the type of hardcore that wouldn’t be out of place on the Triple B roster. This debut release demonstrates some real powerful potential for this band and I’m really stoked to see what’s up next—recommended!

Celebrity Handshake Move Back to Outer Space LP

Wowee! Now here’s something interesting. Maine’s CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE’s four-song, aptly-titled LP Move Back to Outer Space is some truly out-of-this-world “music.” The vocals bark and bellow—sometimes coherently, other times anything but. The guitar is sharp and fuzzed-out, very occasionally jamming out an identifiable riff. The drums keep some kind of a beat sometimes. The production—non-existent. The thing that makes this album so right to me is how wrong it is. My favourite track on the album is the total spontaneous free-for-all known as “Meet Me in the Iron Cage,” a free-jazz-inspired cacophony of sound overlaid with a bellowing malcontent challenging you to a one-on-one “tonight!” over the top of it all. God bless this mess.

Firestarter Los Angeles Straight Edge cassette

I am happy to report that FIRESTARTER indeed does exactly what it says on the tin—Los Angeles straight edge. Immensely danceable youth crew-type beat not dissimilar to FLOORPUNCH. The riffs are crucial. The lyrics are vital. And the instrumentation is another positive HC power-word. In other words, it’s everything you want in a youth crew recording. All of this topped off with an Ian MacKaye sample as the outro, which is definitely a worthy way to close out your straight edge release—much better than how UNIFORM CHOICE decided to end that first album!