Reviews

Ed Hammerbeck

Lexus 2 EP

I couldn’t find out much about this band other than it appears to be one person’s project. They play guitar and bass and program the drums. It’s not my usual cup of tea, but the first several tracks are perfectly serviceable, crusty D-beat. Later, some tracks, like “Prep 2 Freak” and “2 the Bone,” get a little experimental and weird. “I’m Not Crying I Got Smoke in My Eyes” closes out the EP with nearly three minutes of moody piano.

Lacking / Road Pig split cassette

Here’s a tape you can blast in the car and loop over and over. LACKING’s contribution is three tracks of blink-and-you-miss-them hardcore crammed into less than a minute each. “Ego Breathe” stands out as a mosh pit anthem. They manage, especially on “Dis-semination,” to change tone and time signatures a couple times in 44 seconds. ROAD PIG’s two tracks, while still hardcore, bend more towards metal with strong D-beats. “Deathmachine” is a ripper. Sadly, there weren’t any lyrics or liner notes with the tape.

Ruined Age No End in Sight cassette

These four tracks of straightforward, crusty hardcore don’t give you a chance to breathe. “No End in Sight” showcases the grinding guitars, solid D-beat drumming, and bleak lyrics that make this tape so dang good. The vocals remind me of Chuck Schuldiner’s on DEATH’s classic debut Scream Bloody Gore, though this is far from death metal. The final track is a cover of DISCLOSE’s “War Cloud” and is a wall of brutality.

Rigorous Institution Cainsmarsh LP

Stark and grim, this album is a grimy soundtrack for the end times. Coming up with something to compare it to, my first thoughts were of AMEBIX and, in terms of mood and atmosphere, HAWKWIND. Undergirded by creepy, melancholic, droning synthesizers, Cainsmarsh is anarchic crust punk at its most eldritch. “The Terror” is a two-minute instrumental horror poem. “Laughter” picks up the tempo and raises the nightmare fuel levels to eleven. There are occasional metallic elements on tracks such as “Criminal Betrayers” and “Ergot,” but this is absolutely punk AF. With gravelly vocals, merciless riffs, pounding rhythms, evil lyrics, and a constant mood of hopeless gloom, this is one of the best, most psychotic anarcho-punk albums I’ve heard.

Squelch Chamber Everything Turns to Shit cassette

This noisy, sludgy mess of a cassette made me wonder at first whether my tape deck was broken, or I got a damaged copy. Full of dissonant fuzz and feedback, there were tracks, like “Below Beneath” and “Instrumental” that seemed less like music than the soundtrack to a psychedelic nightmare sequence in an old Italian giallo movie. Other tracks, like  “A Wolf Alone” and “Drink to Survive” steer closer to hardcore and powerviolence. Their take on “Family Man,” one of BLACK FLAG’s Rollins-era spoken word pieces, smothers the spiteful lyrics in a thick sauce of industrial madness reminiscent of SKINNY PUPPY. SQUELCH CHAMBER seems to be trying to capture the unrelenting heaviness and static of life in the 2020s. Good stuff to disassociate to, especially “Interlude.”

Disattack A Bomb Drops… 12″

I confess, I knew about CARCASS, but I didn’t know about DISATTACK, the band that came before. This is a re-release of their 1986 demo, which Walter Glaser reviewed in MRR #39, plus a couple rehearsal tracks. It couldn’t be more different from more recent CARCASS albums, but the transition from this to Reek of Putrefaction is seamless. This tape contains some great, crusty DISCHARGE-type punk. With the headbanging riffage, glimpses are visible of the metal legends they would become. ”Opression and Death” stood out as more of a hardcore banger, but all six tracks are worth a listen.

Resin Pot Overdose cassette

I love hardcore punk, but this didn’t work for me at first. Musically, the hardcore is tight and hard, just like it should be. But the heavily distorted black metal vocals grated on the nerves. It did grow on me with subsequent listens because, overall, this cassette rages. “Sea of Vomit” is the best of the four tracks, with “Life is Shit” being a close second. I prefer cleaner vocals, but there’s lots to like on this cassette like great musicianship, particularly the guitar, which goes from being a wall of distortion to wailing solo and back perfectly. They reminded me a bit of FILTH, though Jake’s voice was just like that without distortion.

Mindcollapse Estado de Sitio EP

Absolutely crushing grindcore out of Madrid, Spain. There’s twelve songs on this 7” EP, most being under a minute in length. Even if my Spanish was better, the vocals are incomprehensible growls, but holy frijoles, the music doesn’t stop punching you in the face. “24H Control + Explotación Asimilada” (“Assimilated Exploitation”) sticks out for its three-minute length, but also because it plays with tempos in interesting ways, dipping down into doomy sludge and then ramping back up to crusty hardcore speeds. The aptly named “Punker than Grind” closes the EP with a fun, strange, mid-tempo stomper. Cool piece of work.

Robits Here Come the Robits cassette

Ten tracks of garage-y pop punk out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ROBITS’ delivery is catchy, light-hearted, and fun. Any of these tracks would have felt at home on Lookout! Records’ classic Can of Pork comp. “Hello Old Friends” reminds me of DESCENDENTS’ “Ride the Wild.” It’s refreshing, sing-along, summertime goodness. Exceptions are the final three tracks: “Aquamarine Eyes” has a harder punk edge, and “Robit Bop” has a sound like a kinder, gentler MEATMEN à la “Meatmen Stomp.” “Lampreys” closes out the tape with something to slam dance to.

Rejoice Promo 2022 cassette

It’s always amazing when a band can play so unhinged, you think there is no way they can hold it together. Surely, the guitars, drums, bass, and vocals are going to fly off in different directions like shrapnel from a grenade. They produce a tension in your head like you are about to watch a horrible disaster, yet by some sorcery, great bands hold it together, leaving you a sticky mess at the end. REJOICE’s three-track demo of melodic hardcore does all that and more. It’s wild stuff out of Columbus, OH, with vocals screamed through an echoey effects box and a wall of distorted guitars. The opener, “Empty Hands,” starts with the crazy, reverb-y drum track, and then all hell breaks loose.

Double Fisted Carousel / 3AM 7″

DOUBLE FISTED describes themselves best as “old school punk rock dudes playing whatever they want.” This two-song 7” comes straight out of their garage in Glendale, AZ, with a fuzzy, stoner-psych vibe. But there’s more to unpack with these two sides. The instrumental A-side “Carousel” starts like a demo cassette of a ’60s psych-rock tribute band before switching seamlessly into solid thrash riffage in the style of an early METALLICA demo. Then, around the 2:20 mark, the hardcore skate punk chugging kicks in. It’s a lot, but it works. The B-side, “3 AM,” has more of a stoner, metalcore build to it. The riffs are great, and the vocals kick after about 90 seconds singing about witches, demons, and junk. This track also has that ’60s heavy psych rock/proto-metal vibe until it closes with a quick, hardcore mosh.

Crippled Fox Attack of the Thrash Wrist EP

Everything to be said about CRIPPLED FOX is in the lyrics of “United Mosh Pit,” the fifth track of eight on this EP. “Long-haired thrashers / And skatecore punks / Hardcore kids / Blasting the show as one.” That is the entire text of the song and could be the band’s manifesto. Occasionally punctuated with out-of-nowhere samples from DE LA SOUL, the TV show Married With Children, and others, this album shreds with fun, blistering, thrash-soaked hardcore. DRI’s Dirty Rotten LP is an obvious comparison to make. Close your eyes and you see nothing but kids in flannel shirts and bandanas zooming up and down half-pipes. The choice to record live in a rehearsal space was inspired. The resulting spontaneity and energy makes these good songs great. CRIPPLED FOX puts out some amazing crossover thrash and are now 95% of the reason I want to visit Budapest.

Crippled Fox In the Name of Thrash LP

It’s always respectable when something is accurately labeled or identified. If you see a red MAGA hat, you can make some safe assumptions about the person wearing it. With the album title In the Name of Thrash, you can expect unrelenting speed and melt-your-face riffs. Straight out of Budapest comes 23 tracks of mosh-pit power-ups in the vein of early DRI, NUCLEAR ASSAULT, and STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH. Every song is devastatingly fast and tight with an attitude of fun and unity throughout. This band does not hide what it’s about under layers of nuance or lyrical gloss. Take the track “High on Thrash,” which asserts “Thrashing is my drug / I’m wasted with my riffs / Bashing myself / With a killer song that rips.” After nearly two dozen thrashcore classics, the album closes with a hilarious send up of power metal pretension and bombast, “P.M.A. (Power Metal Attitude.)” It’s all big hair, knights with swords, and soaring falsettos that had me grinning ear to ear.

Fright Fright 12″

With members of top-shelf ’80s and ’90s hardcore bands like DEVOID OF FAITH, CITIZENS ARREST, and DOWN IN FLAMES, FRIGHT drops six tracks of tight, East Coast-style hardcore streaked with old-school thrash and speed metal. The music is tight, relentless, and mosh-worthy. The vocals could have used more grit and gravel, but the riffs are delicious candy, like something blasting from a mixtape in my ’86 Buick back in the day. Lyrically, it’s fairly standard metal fare in the style of NUCLEAR ASSAULT—despair, corruption, decay, depression. An example is the track “Obliterated Ruin” with the lines “Castrated by repressive state / Organisms breed and cry / Basking in desperation / Lacking strength to arise.” Maybe they don’t tell a coherent story, but they fit with the overall vibe perfectly. This is FRIGHT’s first release and hopefully not their last.

Greyhound Greyhound cassette

This ten-track ripper is for those who love their hardcore old school and in-your-face. Starting with a great stomping track called, appropriately enough, “Intro,” this Oakland, CA two-piece rages fast and hard. Any one of these songs could have been on a seminal hardcore compilation from the mid-’80s, but instead of lyrics bitching about Reagan and Thatcher, GREYHOUND gives you 2020s existential despair, alienation, and personal pain. The only track hinting at anything vaguely political is “Mirroring Constructs,” touching on corporate exploitation and getting caught up in the illusions of status, materialism, and career. GREYHOUND proves that great hardcore doesn’t have to be all politics, all the time. With guest vocals by Trevor McBride (YOUTH IN CRISIS) and Frankie Oh (KANTA KANTA), this is an album to play on repeat.

Nattmaran The Lurking Evil CD

Imagine early JUDAS PRIEST at its speediest, with shrieking, echoing black metal-style vocals, and that is NATTMARAN. Nominally out of Sweden, this old-school thrash powerhouse is actually an international collaboration of Michael Lang (Sweden) on guitar and bass, Koji Sawada (Japan) on drums, and Yoga Beges (Indonesia) on vocals. In fact, only the guitars and bass were recorded in Sweden. The rest of the recording, as well as the mixing and mastering, was done in Indonesia. There’s lots to like here for fans of VENOM or MOTÖRHEAD. The blackened thrash never lets up, and yet for all its grim speed, evil lyrics, and overall hostility, a nasty rock’n’roll swagger permeates every track. As blackened as it may be, on some tracks, like “There’s Nothing You Can See,” one could imagine substituting a power metal wailer’s vocals and transforming the song into a speed metal arena anthem.

Powerage Demo MMXXI cassette

Bombastic, chugging metallic punk from Düsseldorf, Germany. This four-song demo gives strong early VENOM vibes with dissonant, grinding guitars, thick bass lines, and evil, growling vocals. The aesthetic of this demo reeks of the good old tape-trading days where the bands had more enthusiasm than quality recording equipment or graphic design skills. The result is no-frills headbanging and foot-stomping. Each track is packed with riffs and attitude. The first three stomp along at a moderate pace, and then the final track, “Fascist Scum,” picks up the pace to hardcore speeds. In fact, their Facebook page has a great portrait-mode cellphone video of them performing it live back in September 2020 in an actual garage and is worth a look.

Misantropic Catharsis LP

This is an angry album. Gerda, the female lead vocalist, rails at the patriarchy and capitalism as the guitars weave back and forth easily between hardcore and metal. Each song is fast, crusty, and powerfully emotive lyrically. “Day of Reckoning ” is nothing less than a battle anthem from the gutter. “Fragmentation” is pure hardcore excellence with Gerda shouting back and forth with the male vocalist, Matte. They even throw in some violins and synthesizers on a couple tracks, and it takes nothing away from the blistering rawness. After nine tracks of anarcho-rage that fans of WOLFBRIGADE will appreciate, the album manages to close on a hopeful yet pissed-off note with “The Dying of the Light,” declaring to their children “To my daughter, to my son / The future is yours when the battle is done.”

Tales of Terror Tales of Terror LP reissue

The main point of reissuing important albums is to draw attention to underrated bands, and TALES OF TERROR’s self-titled is certainly deserving of another look. Originally released in 1984 and reviewed in Maximum Rocknroll #16 by Tim Yohannan himself, this record is a wild ride. Boozy and raunchy, the tracks call to mind early STOOGES, obviously, but lead vocalist Pat Stratford has more Darby Crash energy than Iggy Pop. Interesting and weird, undeniably punk streaked with psychedelia, this one left me scratching my head in a good way. Tracks veer one way and then swerve into a digression that ends up just ending. Did they run out of ideas, or did they need a refill? Tracks like “Deathryder” and “Over Elvis Worship” hit hard, but other tracks like “Jim” and “Tales of Terror” show potential and land with a thud. Potential is smeared all over this album since the band’s trajectory was cut short with the murder of guitarist Lyon Wong in 1986. How big could they have gotten? How great were they live?

Gummo A Fresh Breath on the Neck LP

Hailing from Lille, France, GUMMO sets the brutality at eleven with their latest LP. Featuring eighteen throat-punching tracks, this three-piece focuses their ire at cops, internet trolls, people ruining the scene, and capitalists, to name a few, and leaves no doubt about where they stand on social justice issues. The title track refers to the guillotine, and implies it might be time to bring it back. The first track, a pandemic manifesto called “Where Was Gondor,” features some interesting, almost melodic bass and drum work that makes GUMMO stand out from most of the powerviolence and grindcore bands these days. “You’ll Pay the Bill to the Styx” almost veers toward New York-style hardcore terroritory (SICK OF IT ALL, GORILLA BISCUITS) with chugging guitars and chanting, anthemic vocals.

The Sensitive Lips / Weekend Fan! split 7″

This split of fun power pop from Japan takes me back to the early days of MTV with guitar-forward, uptempo earnestness. WEEKEND FAN! kicks off the party with “I’m a Failure,” which reminds me of the JAM or FALL OUT BOY with a bouncy rock feel, yet with a foot still firmly in the garage. On the B-side, SENSITIVE LIPS blow the doors off with a ripper, “Nervous,” that outpaces the other song in tempo but matches it with listenable bubblegum sweetness. Much more pop punk than pop, “Nervous” actually has a more new wave quality like early ADAM AND THE ANTS. Think “Dirk Wears White Sox,” but faster. Both songs share harmonized “oohs” in their bridges and guitar solos that have an edge but not too much bite. Each band turns in a tight performance, and the recording is clean as the parachute pants your mom just bought you.