Reviews

Robert Collins

Bad Idea Sonic Hellride CD

Polished street punk from Minneapolis. Nothing to see here unless you’re looking for solid, gruff, catchy punk rock—like RADIOACTIVITY on a steady diet of the BUSINESS. Short, snappy, and to the point…just like this review.

Nightfeeder Exploited Partisans EP

Just yesterday, I messaged my pal Grant while I was listening to DEATHRAID to let him know how underrated I thought the band was, and he replied, ”you should hear their new band NIGHTFEEDER.” Well, I’m hearing them now—a band made up of four motherfuckers who were in DEATHRAID (and CONSUME and countless other Seattle/PNW bands) and seem determined to deliver whirlwind hardcore punk rock at any cost, and Grant wasn’t wrong to suggest adding NIGHTFEEDER to my “must listen” catalog. Dirty-ass rock’n’roll influence is shameless, modern hardcore punk of the highest caliber. Moral? Always listen to your pal Grant.

S.M.I.L.E. S.M.I.L.E. Some More cassette

Second slammer from Cleveland’s Delayed Gratification to pass through my ears this month, and like the opening track pleads: “I just need more.” Three doses of ripping USHC from Akron’s S.M.I.L.E.—nothing fancy but very special indeed. A logical extension of the BIB, S.H.I.T., HOAX-style hardcore that (justifiably) dominated the mid-’10s, there’s just a touch of groove here and fukk, it just slams so damn hard. More indeed, please.

Char-Man Shake Your Hips​ /​ Shitwrecked 7″

Where did this come from—somehow this sweaty outfit has been active just a few hours south of here for almost twenty years and I hear about them now?! To be fair, this is likely more a reflection on me than CHAR-MAN, but damn, do I have some catching up to do. “Shake Your Hips” is laid-back STOOGES monotony with undeniable modern swagger, while “Shitwrecked” is a demonstration of the beauty in pure simplicity. Garage punk rock’n’roll at its finest —what an absolutely stellar two-song banger!

Sour Songz cassette

Disorienting guitar opens the tape, then the rest of the band drops like a bomb to start “Sum Body” and I’m at attention. Mid-paced, deliberately erratic hardcore, with a damage that can only come from millennial-era punks. Dark and serious, down and dirty, Ohio’s SOUR hits like a fukkn wrecking ball and while you’re turning up the volume, they’re turning up the intensity. Howling vocals, entire songs built on indescribable breakdowns—while this is in the speakers, for those nine powerful minutes, I don’t want to hear anything else in the fucking world.

The Q Factor Discography LP

Extinction Burst continues their righteous journey, giving new relevant bands a platform and unjustifiably unheralded relics the credit they deserve. If you’ve never heard of the Q FACTOR, you are forgiven—they existed in a brief (but amazing) space and if you weren’t there then…well, why would you care? The nucleus of the band went on to form FORMER MEMBERS OF ALFONSIN (only slightly more visible in the rearview mirror), but not before dropping a killer (and poignant) EP and a slew of comp tracks, all compiled here. Heartfelt, intense, honest, no-bullshit ’90s DIY hardcore punk that is totally their own (even and especially with hindsight), with brilliant nods to SXE ‘core and melodic ’80s SoCal. There are only nine songs on this discography LP, so perhaps they had said all that they needed to say…I just hope someone is listening.

D. Sablu “Live” For Tour cassette

Classic punk from the ’77 UK and ’74 Ohio schools, but naturally, it sounds exactly like neither because the real punks keep making the shit sound new and important (because it is important, of course). I can’t even imagine how hard it is to restrain yourself enough to make music like this. Every fukkn song feels like it wants to just let it fly, and I want to listen to HELLNATION when it’s over just so I can hear something fast. But that’s the point, and these New Orleans freaks nail it. Even when they go fast on “So Sorry,” the freakout is so controlled and I love it. Mutant garage punk at the absolute top of their game…and to be fair, they pretty much let it all fly on “Parody,” that one is a full release. Full swagger, full strut, full stomp, total punk.

Klazo ‘Demik Dementia LP

Hard to believe that a two-piece can create a racket like this…also hard to believe that this particular duo just keeps getting wilder. But they do. You’ll be muttering “you fucking hippies you need your ass kicked” under your breath for weeks after you hear the opener, but the rest of this 12” slammer is even better. The very embodiment of garage hardcore, because KLAZO is decidedly both. As much as I want to blast the shit out of ‘Demik Dementia, I want to live in the world that is the morning after this kind of mania is unleashed, because I feel like KLAZO is the equalizer. Filthy, monstrous fuckery of the highest order…like if M.O.T.O. wanted to kick your ass instead of wanting to drink your beer. That’s KLAZO. They’re gonna drink your beer too, though.

Tiger Helicide Fuck! We Forgot to Write Hits! CD

They might have forgotten to write hits, but if you’re here for some true freak sounds, then you’ve come to the right place. Seems like TIGER HELICIDE doesn’t give a shit what I think, because this disc is all over the fukkn place—beer-drenched shitpunk, garage pop, no-fi bedroom grind nonsense…and that’s just three tracks selected at random. There’s merit here, but it takes a bit of sifting—if you can make it through to “Death Rays & Razor Blades” (the seventeenth of eighteen tracks, and a case study in repetition), then you win, because that song rips. If you listen to the song after that one…? Then you lose.

 

Gritos de Asko Extincion cassette

Early 2010s Colombian metallic punk given the deluxe cassette treatment by Tercermundistas. Guitars way up in the mix and a driving, consistent shitpunk beat while throat-searing vocals give your ears the business over six fiery hardcore tracks, plus a LARSEN cover. A couple of these tunes surfaced on the Distort Colombia tape a few years back, but I’m quite chuffed to have the full session in my ear holes—this is the clenched-fist, no bullshit, patched-up black jacket, in-your-fuckkn-face shit.

The Plagues Shadow of a Doubt / Hector the Connector 7″

Hi-energy ’77 punk, NY-via-Southern California-style from start to finish. Vocals are a snotty monotone bark, guitars run the show here with a soulful approach to classic garage punk. “Hector the Connector” is the hit, taking those four chords that we all know and making them feel like they’re important again (note: they were never not important). No bullshit here, just two short-ass smashers…punk style.

Teen Mortgage / Tongues of Fire / Venus Twins split cassette

VENUS TWINS are a sharp and heavy bass/drums duo with a gloriously dated sound—I wish I encountered more bands that approached punk with this kind of attack, like they’re just trying to bludgeon their own songs. TEEN MORTGAGE is a dark and driving guitar/drums two-piece with a dangerous edge—“Shangri-La” is a would-be summer night anthem. Oddly, the most subdued outfit of the three has as many members as the other two combined, but TONGUES OF FIRE are their own brand of restrained, repetitive power. All three bands sound like they could have escaped from the 1990s (a compliment), all three were new to me, and all three command (demand) attention. Two tracks from each, and my ears are peeled for more.

Baraka Face Junta Test Sytemu CD

The band was new to me, but the sounds resonated instantly. Stark anarcho/post-punk from Poland with ties to STRACONY, a nasty good saxophone (a recent addition, apparently), and male/female vocals that bark and chant and spit with a constant ferocity. The songs are advanced and addictive, they just sound important, like you’re supposed to be listening and listening closely—imagine a foundation somewhere between THATCHER ON ACID and WŁOCHATY, and then bring in a crew to build on that foundation unencumbered. Ten songs here, and my biggest takeaway is that I need to track down their first two records, because this one is incredible.

Dry Socket Cessation EP

Why fuck around with both sides of the record when all of your action fits on one? DRY SOCKET only needs three songs to make their point, so if you didn’t get it the first time, just go listen to all three again. The formula is simple: pissed, hardcore, punk. “Phantom Pains” delivers chills from the moment the needle drops with the band’s stance (no immunity, no freedom from accountability, there is no unity with white supremacy) and sets the stage for a pure assault. Dani’s vocals are dead on-point and the riffs are straight for the throat—check the start/stop after the intro around twenty seconds into “Red,” because this is the shit that sets the real bands apart from the folks who are phoning it in while projecting the “correct” image. Full endorsement from this eager listener…from content to delivery to presentation, Cessation is a fukkn beast.

Shark Attack The Awful Truth EP

Absolutely killer Arkansas punk relic, unearthed and put to wax for the first time! It should be criminal for shit this fucking good to go unheard for so long, but perhaps that makes this release so much sweeter. “The Awful Truth” opens with a devastating KARP-esque heavy churn that should have SHARK ATTACK on a who’s-who of essential ’90s DIY hardcore. “Problem” follows with a nod towards the hard-hitting DIY Bay Area punk that inspired their short-lived relocation before the band dissolved. “God” is a pure power-dirge and the perfect closer—a tortured two-riff dose of disbelief. If this record had come out in real time, then we would all still be talking about SHARK ATTACK, but file under “better late than never” and consider me grateful…though I sincerely hope that there’s more than just these three songs.

Yokozuna Lower Westside Crew EP

Total ’90s noisecore from Virginia—if you think the 1997 Demo side is too hi-fidelity, then feel free to flip your shit (over) and check the Live at Grandma’s House session on the flip. Someone might suggest that there was no need for this to exist, and maybe I wouldn’t argue with that person—it sounds like shit and it’s sloppy and it’s two decades old, they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But, if another person countered that this is an essential piece of shit-fi brilliance and the world is a better place with $1 bins full of actual noise instead of accomplished bands with the crossed-out music symbol logo on their records…? Well, I’m gonna be on that second person’s side, because that second person is smarter than the first person. What a fucking mess.

The Entrails The Entrails LP

The opening instrumental steels the listener for a dark, psychedelic, guitar-drenched sonic journey. Instead, the ENTRAILS follow that misleading track with a steady stream of downtempo and off-kilter garage rock with drunk creep vibes. ALUMINUM KNOT EYE for a reference point (and I’m sure these folks have a few DEAD MOON records in their collective arsenal), though admittedly most of this self-titled debut lands a little flat. The upbeat numbers (few and far between) have an addictive swagger but are held back by vocals that hit like some dude trying out to be in your weird uncle’s ’60s cover band. This review condensed to one sentence: “Almost…not quite.”

Peace Decay Death is Only… 12″

The internet kinda melted when this record dropped last month. And then, because we live in the digital age of instant gratification, the internet started melting about some other cool-ass record that came out and PEACE DECAY just existed in some present past realm…and this is why the internet is great and also totally sucks, because you need to spend time with this record. Austin’s PEACE DECAY was born out of COVID, but their genes are pure Texas punk. If you take the sum of the parts (SEVERED HEAD OF STATE, PROGRAM, STORM THE TOWER, VAASKA, CRIATURAS…and on and on and on) and consider that these chaps hail from the land of WORLD BURNS TO DEATH and SPAZM 151, then brace yourself, because that’s a lot, and Death is Only… is more than all of that. Sonically, the recording embodies majestic and anthemic energy that’s only reinforced by near-constant guitar leads ripped from ’00s Burning Spirits hardcore while vocals nail Nerve Damage-era Burdette snarl without ever suggesting that they belong anywhere that’s not inside these fucking grooves. This record charges, it’s pure force from start to finish (a finish that comes way too fast)—the modern embodiment of whatever “anthemic hardcore” is supposed to be. Highest recommendation.

Tusen Ögon Imorgon EP

May I present to you, dear reader, one hopelessly infectious Scandinavian garage jammer. Imorgon captures all of the pop hooks of bands like FRANZ FERDINAND, HIVES, and INTERPOL (you know, all those bands you don’t like to admit that you like until you’re having a weak and/or manipulative moment), but this makes the shit feel real again. Even the ballad/anthem hybrid “Sparka Ner Alla Kors På Kyrkogården” and the crooning vocals on “Tusen Hål” hit just fukkn right and it all feels edgy and punk as shit. Maybe it’s not in spite of the hooks, maybe it’s because of them—EBBA GRÖN had hooks…were they punk? Hint: they were punk. There’s a future world where TUSEN ÖGON is a household name and you’re telling your square friends about how you “read about them on this punk website years ago…” to make yourself feel cool. You can live in that world, or you can just crank the shit out of this stunning slab of wax. Your choice.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno The Book of Fuzz: Selected Verses (Part 1) CD

Two excellent EPs from 2021 on one little encoded piece of plastic for your bopping pleasure. Dutch duo FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO pretty much sounds like their moniker—walls of garage-damaged, blasted combo amp guitars topped with sweet in-your-face croons; these chaps serve up hit after should-be hit. They don’t rely on the heaviness, but they get there because they just want to crank the shit out of those guitars, you know…to fuzz ‘em up. Fans of RADIOACTIVITY and the like may find familiar hooks in here, but FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO is a stripped-down model—getting straight to business with none of the excess.

 

Mr. and the Mrs. Kill a Corporate Nazi to Free an Indigenous Slave 2×7″

I kinda dug a tape this Kansas duo released a few years ago, but I may need to go back and revisit that shit because this record is bonkers good! The guitar snarls, the vocals snarl, the drums lurch, the songs are just so gloriously simple…as if they’re saying “we’re going to do this thing—here it is—we’re doing it—you know what it is because we told you we’re doing it—and you can’t escape” on repeat. Space garage psychedelics meet four-on-the-floor rock’n’roll. It’s easy to drop comparisons and maybe that’ll get your ears tuned up, but ain’t no one sounds like this shit. Now I’m gonna dig out my copy of that Deo Volente tape and bounce these two fuckers off each other for a while.

The Punks / Skateboard Skateboard & The Punks split cassette

For background, SKATEBOARD was a band from Buffalo, NY and the PUNKS were a band from Rochester, NY. A dude named Brandon was in a band called BROWN SUGAR from Buffalo, NY. Later, that dude was in SKATEBOARD and also in the PUNKS, and that’s why this tape has a weird and confusing title. MRR reviewer Biff (who was also in BROWN SUGAR, but was not in SKATEBOARD or the PUNKS) told me this one was good. Biff told me I was gonna like it. That motherfukkr….he was right. SKATEBOARD is gruff and wildly catchy punk, like early ’00s Toronto shit through a filthy American filter with no health care. The PUNKS swing harder (like a hardcore MENSCLUB, for the lucky few who will get the reference) and land like a lost ’80s Rust Belt punk nugget. But this whole thing is a lost Rust Belt nugget, because both of these bands were gone before they even got off the ground. So all hail Capitol Idea Cassettes for making this happen…but because NY punks are weird, there’s no song titles, no band information, no label contact information, no lyrics, nothing. So good fucking luck finding a copy…but when you do? Don’t snooze.

Fatigue Barbecue Times cassette

Better late than never, here are some words about a tape that Berlin’s FATIGUE released in 2019. Total Girls in the Garage vibe, amped up real high with tough no-bullshit, in-your-face riot grrrl energy. You wanna take SMUT and TEAM DRESCH and reimagine that shit as a snotty garage bar-punk outfit? I’m here for it—three years late, but I’m here.

Isotope Soap In Need of Systematic Entropy LP

The glorious synth freaks from Stockholm are back, and ISOTOPE SOAP has outdone themselves here. SPITS, TG, SCREAMERS, DEPARTMENT S vibes all collide with a heavy emphasis on bizarre structures and a timeless sound that refuses to fit in any decade past or present. If anything, In Need of Systematic Energy is slightly more accessible than some of their previous efforts (with a title track that belongs on every mixtape you make this year), but you still never know what to expect from one track to the next. Worth noting that RAPED TEENAGERS and PUSRAD personnel are behind this genius…which is not even remotely surprising.

V/A Vol. 2 CD

The title might not say much, but Vol. 2 is a stunning 1985 collection of punk, primitive hardcore, and pure energy rock’n’roll from more than a dozen different bands from Peru. Legendary acts like EUTANASIA and PANICO share space with the stark, otherworldly delivery of EXCOMULGADOS, the inept shit-fi chaos of CONFLITO SOCIAL, and FRENTE NEGRO’s ferocious pogo. There are more favorites to be sure (ERUCTO MALDONADO and SOCIEDAD DE MIERDA, for example), but every minute of this disc is essential listening that highlights how totally varied and diverse the punk scene was in Peru. Contents: tape hiss, ultra-raw recordings, ramshackle punk, booklet with lyrics and info solo en español…what more could you ask for? My only complaint is that I’m never going to find an original copy of the tape.

Grimple Up Your Ass LP reissue

A well-deserved and long overdue reissue for an essential piece of early 1990s East Bay (by way of New Mexico) punk. You hear the term “melodic hardcore” refer to drivel that is neither, but GRIMPLE is undoubtedly both. The riffs are hopelessly addictive, but they are delivered with relentless ferocity while you find yourself singing along with vocals that sound like they are coughing up razor blades. The lyrics are honest and often dark, but the whole record is bursting with hope, determination and youthful possibility—“Behind a locked door I’m not trapped, I don’t want out / To put things in their places, I put myself here,” followed immediately by “I don’t see it so it isn’t there, the real truth is that I don’t fucking care / I close my eyes it’s an easy choice, fuk that bullshit, I want a voice!”  Songs like “Violent Fuk” and “Problem” are uncompromising and full of fire, while “Think” throws dark chords under the rest of the mix and makes you feel queasy (when you listen at the appropriate volume). “But If You Weren’t Here” is an anthem for literally any punk who grew up (mostly) alone and exemplifies how tight GRIMPLE was as a band and a unit. Drop the needle on Up Your Ass and you can just feel that it was them against the fucking world…my only complaint is that it’s weird to hear these songs with out the pops and scuffs and crackles I’ve been adding to my copy for the last 30 years. I can fix that, though.

Karne Krua Suicidio EP

Magnificent reissue of KARNE KRUA’s 1991 demo that you didn’t know you needed…until you hear it. Raw and gruff Brasilian hardcore/thrash from the Northeastern city Aracaju, KARNE KRUA plays from the RDP/LOBOTOMIA school, then injects wild, piercing solos and a vocal delivery that embodies sinister but addictive hardcore. While the recording on Suicidio is primitive, the delivery of these eight tracks is devastating, relentless, and the past thirty years has only served to make the recording sound even more intense. This is a reissue done right, with notes (em Português, claro) and photos from the original K7 release. Awesome.

Swath Of… Lament cassette

Oh hell yes—this is what I needed!! Early primitive heavy metal vibes on “His Demise,” brooding ethereal indie on “Where It Started…,” and pounding deathrock on “The Changeling” (there are three more tracks, but you see where I’m going here). The guitar has a lo-fi “plugged straight into the board because I didn’t know else to record” power that is so fucking impossible to fake, you just nail it or it sucks, and SWATH OF… nails it like few bands I’ve ever heard. Vocals are haunting throughout, they just soar and they shadow everything else in the mix. Lament is a benefit for the Black Trans Travel Project, which only further seals the deal for me—New Jersey fucking delivers.

Autarch Excession//Excision cassette

While the 2020s are still running on ignorant punk stomps, in the mountains of North Carolina there are four people who are determined to keep pushing the epic crust envelope further and further. Stunning, downtuned, apocalyptic D-beat lurches, replete with over-the-top guitar leads and dual vocals that seem all obligatory not because “they’re supposed to do that” but because it all needs to be there. You can feel it. For a band to sound so simultaneously confident and desperate is beyond refreshing, even while the tonnage from these two songs crushes you from the inside. AUTARCH has been in the game for a while, and they sound more important than ever.

Kevin Man in the Van LP

Bakersfield, California stoner grunge trio—does it make any sense at all that the opener “Prick” comes off like UNSANE through a surf filter? It doesn’t make sense, but it grabbed me and I listened with eager ears as these dudes dished out heavy tunes about getting fucked up and being alive. That surf thing I thought I heard never came back, but instead KEVIN just bashed the shit out of seven pieces of early ’90s heavy sludge.

Us // Them Demonstration cassette

Heavy, churning, sample-laden project based in Southern California. The intensity of MANKIND? and the tonnage of early KYLESA packed into a tight, focused hardcore punk attack with guest vocalists from OVER (Portland) and BLACK SHEEP WALL. This one is all power, folks, and between-song commentary only adds to the intensity.

Crispy Newspaper Судургу Тыллар LP

There’s so much to say about this record, but a few short sentences will have to suffice. Судургу Тыллар is all over the place in the best way. “Соҕотох” is a brooding, melancholic number, the title track has adrenaline-fueled RADIOACTIVITY energy with wild hardcore vocals, “Буор босхо” is a wild, psyched-out timeless punk number, “Эн олоҕуҥ” packs a powerful Aussie punk punch—there’s straight hardcore, there are drug-addled guitar freakouts, awkward stomps, uncomfortable sounds. Dirty and dangerous. It’s everything I want from a punk record and it only cements my admiration for the punks in Siberia. The DIY punk scene in the Sakha region of Siberia has been “discovered” a few times over the last several years by mainstream “press,” but the punks in the capital city of Yakutsk just keep cranking the punk that they want to make…which is probably why music, and the people who make it, are so compelling. Hats off to World Gone Mad for (finally) bringing these sounds to the West.

Apatia Demo 1991 LP

The impact APATIA had on the then-emerging Polish DIY punk/HC scene is immeasurable. The first time I was in Europe, it seemed like everyone in every town would mention this band I had never heard of. I left the country with a handful of cassette releases and worked my way through their material deliberately, because APATIA isn’t really the kind of band you just put on and rage. The context, the time, the band…it’s the combination of everything that makes them work, and that’s abundantly clear in the Refuse Records reissue of their second demo from 1991. Much like many of the more genre-pushing DIY hardcore bands in the North American 1990s, they covered a ton of sonic territory, especially on their later releases, and hearing them forge those paths on these early recordings is excellent. A complete divergence from the “known” punk bands that came a few years before them, APATIA bypass traditional anthemic punk completely, opting for tough and determined hardcore mixed with a quirky originality that would have found them right at home on US labels like Very Small (the epic “Duma i Pycha +… Ciągłe Pytania” could practically be a PLAID RETINA outtake). The songs are great, and the songs are interesting, but really it’s the “where” and the “when” that makes the document mandatory—because while few bands sounded like this then, no one sounded like this there then. And Poland listened, through at least seven albums and a slew of live tapes and demos, Poland listened and Polish punks paid attention. You should pay attention, too—history is fucking important.

Lolly Gaggers / Middle-Aged Queers split 7″

LOLLY GAGGERS harness a killer ’80s KILLING JOKE chant for the chorus of an eerie two-chord slog with poignant lyrics that hit even harder than the repetition does. MIDDLE-AGED QUEERS are more straight punk on the flip…poor choice of words. “Size Queen” is anything but “straight,” even though the music hits like FYP on poppers. More in-your-face (literally) queercore to balance the subtle introspective queercore on the flip, Bay Area represent.

 

Soy City Stranglers Midwest Rock N Roll EP

Four doses of fast and furious Midwestern hardcore punk. Tasteful touches of metal (the slow bit in “Counting the Days” into the “let’s go” that brings back the charge is especially choice) and lots of single-note guitar picking à la Filthy Phil, and then they drop serious tonnage on the hardcore breakdowns. Q: What do you get when you combine testosterone, beer, full stacks, and denim? A: SOY CITY STRANGLERS. 

Richard Hamilton My Perfect World cassette

Sickeningly sweet glam pop with heavy ’90s indie vibes. Vocals are soft and smooth with femme backing accents floating in the mist (sometimes), and the whole thing creeps under your skin something fierce. On this cassette version of last year’s CD on Quality Time Records, RICHARD HAMILTON (a.k.a. Ricky Hamilton, Ricky Hell) proves (again) that he’s not only versatile, but that he’s one of the unheralded treasures of modern DIY music. A truly magical, masterful collection of should-be hits…pure, mature, perfectly polished and presented for your enjoyment.

Siekiera Demo Summer ’84 LP

Warsaw Pact just keeps on delivering, this time with the elusive and incredible 1984 demo from Poland’s first hardcore band. Almost forty years later, and these songs still give me chills—had they released vinyl at the time (or, let’s be honest, had they been from the global West), they would be mentioned alongside CIMEX and RATOS and STALIN, because these recordings are every bit that fierce, but instead they passed from cassette to cassette for decades before creeping onto a couple of small-run reissues (that already fetch collector prices). But this is how they are supposed to sound, how they are supposed to feel…primal, fervent, aggressive, honest, intense hardcore punk. The presentation is gorgeous, packed with photos and images from the era—this is as close to “essential” as anything you’re going to read about this month.

Excrement of War The Waste, the Greed and the Bodybags LP

Right or wrong (likely both), I feel like EXCREMENT OF WAR forms a bridge between ’80s UK metallic crust (DEVIATED INSTINCT, ENT, SACRILEGE) and ’90s DIY crust (HIATUS, DISRUPT). They had direct connections to bands on both sides of that imaginary dividing line between “then” and “now” (DOOM, DEPTH CHARGE, FILTHKICK, VIOLENT ARREST, DIRT, ENT, and many more have had members in EXCREMENT OF WAR), but were more raw and a little (or a lot) looser than many of their counterparts. It’s crust punk—they made D-beat sound fukkn nasty instead of trying to juice it up. The twenty songs on this collection are from sessions spanning 1991—95 and have all been available previously, but if you haven’t heard their side of the DEFORMED CONSCIENCE split before, then…well, listen to “They Call This Progress” and then get back to me. Not all reissues are essential, but some are.

Murder Generation Strangerhood LP

The second full-length from Milwaukee’s MURDER GENERATION picks up with where 2019’s self-titled debut left off—hard-hitting, bare-bones, fist-pumping Rust Belt punk. It seems like as soon as one song ends, the steady monotony of getting beaten by a snare drum is back in your face before you can take a breath. The songs lurch between riffs in a way that is inescapably Midwestern (that’s a compliment), and this record is a notable step above the first.

Disscharrrgh D-Beat Me Over the Head With a Plank cassette

Bare-bones D-beat punk doesn’t get much more bare-bones than DISSCHARRRGH. Picture the genre at its most primitive—a more than competent mid-fi presentation of sub-60 second songs that rarely (if ever) venture beyond the “no more than two riffs of no more than three chords” formula. Vocals are gruff and often struggle to keep time while the bass takes the lead in the mix—guitars are there, but they’re buried—and it gives the whole thing a scumputer punk vibe that totally works. Super shitty digital artwork and a repurposed cassette really complete the package. Choice cut: “All Over Again.”

Fear of the Known Cabal EP+flexi 7″

Legit supergroup here, with members of ROSE ROSE, DISORDER, WAR//PLAGUE, and CHAOS UK teaming up for a bulldozer of modern anarcho rage. A gnarly industrial tinge and searing guitars form the foundation for a band fronted by a gruff, clenched-fist vocal assault—an apocalyptic reinterpretation of a familiar sound. Bonus flexi with versions of DISORDER’s “Life” and CHAOS UK’s “The End is Nigh” completes the line(age), making it clear that Cabal is far more than a sum of its parts—both versions are far more powerful than the originals, which is saying something. I hope that this is more than a one-off project.

Pi Fire Under the Roses CD

Erratic technical prog/punk/metal from Tennessee—something like LORDS OF LIGHT and PRIMUS in a blender, but on a different plane than either. On their own plane entirely, in fact. The straightahead burners will suck you in (“Tragic City” is like Police-era FUCKED UP covered by a rockabilly band), then PI FIRE will just confuse you with drawn-out weirdness like “Planet of Exultant Scum.” I respect a band bold enough to create (and release) music that requires serious concentration to even listen, and these freaks have gone far further than that. 

Es War Mord In Der Miesosuppe EP

The 4 Track Mind series from Tomatenplatten delivers once again with a stunning slab from ES WAR MORD. The purity of approach might be what sets this record apart—the drums are like getting punched in the face by a metronome and the vocals are snarled with passion, while the band delivers forceful mid-tempo punk rock that is deceptively complex. Short starts and odd riff maneuvering give way to precise leads all in the context of a ridiculously tight attack. I’m trying to imagine HOAX playing a set of EA80 covers…but with skate punk solos. Everything this label does is worth your attention, and this record is no exception.

Jonestown The Unbearable Lightness of Idiocy LP

First record I’ve heard that opened with a Trump sample (new century punks are clearly lagging), and it throws a dark shroud over the whole record before the first note—mission: accomplished. And when that first note hits, you barely have a minute to breathe until you flip sides, just jolt after jolt of maximum energy anthemic Euro D-beat. Best way to describe the overall recording is “punchy”—like it keeps punching you over and over and I swear they don’t slow down until the first side drifts away; Prague’s JONESTOWN might even be catchy if the vocals weren’t so damn threatening. This record might be a sleeper: you think you know what you’re getting into and you aren’t necessarily wrong…it’s just far better than you expected.

Vain Ambition Vain Ambition cassette

A nasty three-song debut from San Diego’s VAIN AMBITION. A foundation of (Y2K) West Coast powerviolence gives way to a sub-five-minute Gaudi-esque sonic abomination—fierce, blasting, dual-vocal hardcore. Primal shit, with bonus points for primal packaging and presentation.

All Beat Up / Rival Squad split cassette

Monster San Diego split here. ALL BEAT UP plays heavy steamroller political hardcore with vocals that sound like they are trying to break into your mind. RIVAL SQUAD is stripped-down, Spanish-language (mostly) raw punk with a punishing popgun snare drum. I feel like anything I might be missing from one side can be found on the other, and the whole thing is gone in less than ten minutes…so I can listen to it again.

Cherry Cheeks Cherry Cheeks cassette

Another pandemic solo “band” and I’m not complaining. Total NW Indiana feels with a freak show keyboard that pops in when it wants. Bass drives this one, guided by rock solid jerk punk drums and freak show riffs—it’s weird as hell and more addictive than it should be. I feel like the syrup from CHERRY CHEEKS is gonna clog your earholes, because it gets sticky as hell on tracks like “Two Bugs” (“We’re just two bugs on a strawberry / We’re just two bugs on a blackberry”) and you’ll never get these hits off of your fingers. Fans of LIQUIDS, BLURT, SPITS and the like need to dig into these sounds pronto.

Werewolf Jones Stroh Down: Live at Outer Limits Lounge 2019 cassette

Strap yourself in for a live psych/grunge/garage freakout—”I Got It All” starts things off and shit never slows down. Energy level is through the roof, guitar and bass are EQ-ed to a general buzzsaw blur, and even (especially) when they slow down to a snarl, the shit is just mean and dirty. No frills here, just nasty, greasy damaged after-punk.

Bashford Greener Grasses LP

With a recording shamelessly EQ-ed to Nevermind, BASHFORD manages to occasionally crawl out from that early ’90s shadow on Greener Grasses…but apparently direct light is too much. This is pure pre-commercial grunge with an extra dose of hate in the vocals. They nail it, to be clear, especially when they pick up the pace a bit.

Black Mercy For the Man That Has Everything EP

Pretty stunning debut release from a crew of Austin veterans. Gruff, aggressive sounds that owe a heavy debt to ’90s emotive DIY (think JOHN HENRY WEST by way of ’80s Dischord?) without giving up the quest for fast, raw intensity, fronted by a set of pipes that land like Jerry A. on a heavy diet of DEATHREAT. Short, wild bursts (eight songs on a seven-incher—that’s some real ’90s shit) mashing all of the discordance and rage into those tiny-ass little grooves.

Phantasmagoria / Sectss Nyk Lives split LP

Wildly dark apocalypse split featuring the work of Nyk Radar, who passed away last year. PHANTASMAGORIA dishes out a heavy CRAMPS-influenced assault, supremely damaged in a “who’s that band of zombies playing in the dungeon” kind of way, and Radar’s yowl will slide under your skin like a needle. SECTSS (with Radar on guitar) are a more primitive beast, with Radar’s guitar piercing through the mix with a death-surf vibe. There’s nothing pretty about this split, neither the premise nor the execution, and there’s a (black) magic quality to an artist being able to reach from the grave…and grab you by the throat.

Decade / Fatum split 12″

Russia’s FATUM should be no strangers to fans of brutal clenched-fist stench, and I dare say this is some of their fiercest material to date. Powerful dark metal crust, with full attention paid to the “metal” part of that descriptor. Canadian crusters DECADE stink up their side of the split with a destroyed collection of blown-out, metallic D-beat with a signature high-end snarl—if this is commentary on some of the questionable eras in the archives of D-beat history, then I dare say they hit the mark (and that bass tone—oooof!). Polished power from FATUM, damaged churn from DECADE—Malaysia’s Black Konflik released this on CD last year, happy to see it’s getting the treatment it deserves.

GlenXCoco You Can’t Sit With Us cassette

Grinding, low-end hardcore stomps with a killer high/low vocal attack and fierce lyrics (animal rights, rape apologists, street harassment, realities of wage-based classism). Nice metallic leads drop in just when you think you’re getting another crust assault. This one dropped in 2019, and they’ve cranked out a few more bangers since then—San Jose still reigns, y’all.

MxAxMxA Долгожданный первенец CD

This Russian band seems to spend as much time shredding your face as they do taking the piss out of…seemingly everything. Wild, technical death grind and pure noisecore experimentation coexist in the world of MXAXMXA, often in the same song. You’re going to need to take a pill before you dive into this one…hope you pick the right color.

Potemkin Sludge Vol. 2 cassette

You read the title…right? Read it again. If anyone thought Sweden’s POTEMKIN was finished with sludge after Sludge Vol. 1…well, that was a foolish thought. Filthy, downtuned, distorted, ugly, mean. This music is like a pool of quicksand filled with glass. Sometimes heavy bands hit a stoner groove, but these fuckers just obliterate everything in their path on a tape filled with songs the length of power pop anthems. Looking forward to the third installment.

Brute Spring The Perilous Transformations of Kid Spit cassette

Face-melting, hi-energy electro (punk?) blasts from BRUTE SPRING. There are elements that fall in line with late ’80s dancefloor industrial, with lots of skittish, erratic action that lives in a damaged world all its own. The mid-paced moments (“Furious Veins,” the six-plus-minute mindfukk “Spiritual Leader”) are where the band will likely find followers among fans of the damaged depths of the Play It Again Sam catalog and peripheral acts like CLOCK DVA, while the manic pummeling of “Orange Strain” and the opener “High Tension Wire Manipulator” hit like primitive industrial synth on a bathtub crank bender. This one is a total winner.

Passionless Pointless Passionless Pointless cassette

German trio that lands somewhere in the damaged BABES IN TOYLAND and/or Bleach camp. There are some pretty obvious comparisons to a couple of particular femme punk vocalists from the same era, but it’s just the vocals—the tunes here are dirty power-trio slogs. If you experienced this the first time, then it fits like a cozy sweater. If this is your first time, though…”Married Alive” will give you chills.

Static Shock Static Shock CD

From the first drop, Scotland’s STATIC SHOCK owns the speakers. Full-throated hardcore punk with a nasty vocal delivery and an approach that teeters on the edge of crossover (I’m talking guitars mostly) with a tinge of street punk while refusing to let go of their hardcore roots. You can picture the whole pub singing along to “I Still Believe In D.I.Y.” and it looks pretty great.

Divine Intervention Deus Ex Machina cassette

OK, this one is going to be a hard one to track down, but it is worth it. Krautrock meets raw black metal in a noise-drenched psychedelic punk wonderland paying homage to SUN RA, Deus Ex Machina is an absolutely brilliant collection of sound(s). This is experimentation within the confines and/or parameters of punk…which is to say that it’s fucking punk, and it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard before. Brilliant.

Grit Shatterproof LP

Superb melodic Oi! from Ireland. Smooth femme vocals assail societal ills from a left-wing perspective and bluntly address sexism and harassment in and out of the punk scene. After two excellent EPs, it’s nice to hear the band’s vision fully realized—a little polish adds to their power, and vocalist Clodagh (ex-EASPA MEASA) has truly come into her own as a frontperson. I know GRIT is an Oi! band, but sonically this falls just as close to BAYONETTES or LA FRACTION…which is high praise. Coming in just under the wire in 2021, I have a feeling this is going to get a lot of spins in 2022.

Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips Something’s Gotta Bleed cassette

Latest installment from the one-man freak show hosted by MRR alum and Buffalo scene stalwart Biff Bifaro. Ass-shaking garage punk, but with the kind of weirdness that’s hard to pull off when you have to get a full band to sign off (I’m talking “What a Spooky Evening” specifically) and decidedly non-melodic vocals to give the whole thing teeth. Something’s Gotta Bleed is hot, loose, all over the map, and released by a killer Turkish label. I read another zine kinda slag this one off…dummies.

Utah Jazz In Retrograde cassette

Full collection of the recorded works of Buffalo’s UTAH JAZZ—truly one of the most wildly addictive bands in recent memory. I remember Biff telling me how much I was gonna like them and me only kinda believing him because he really likes some stuff that I just think is marginally “fine” (check his reviews, his enthusiasm is suspect…an affliction that I enthusiastically share), But these fuckers? It’s like ’80s UK twee on a diet of ’83 Touch and Go. Like fukkn DOLLY MIXTURE doing a set of NEGATIVE APPROACH covers…but, like really bratty. So if you like to get wild, here’s your chance. Again. Biff was right.

HExSO HExSO CD

Frantic, straightforward punk from Japan. Just two tracks here—”Absurdity” spends three minutes drilling two three-chord riffs into the ground and I’m fucking here for it. I’m also here for “I Was Born,” which is only slightly longer and uses only slightly more riffs. The vocals are the focal point—anxious and manic, fronting a dirty and energetic punk attack. The only thing I want is more tracks!

Militarie Gun All Roads Lead to the Gun II 12″

If you’ve been listening to North American punk and/or hardcore for more than a few years, then you’ve heard MILITARIE GUN. And what I mean is that even if you’ve never heard of MILITARIE GUN…you know these sounds. That might sound like a dig, but this band nails so many sounds and feels all at once, and they do so flawlessly, that….you know this band the instant you drop the needle. I hear elements of ’90s AmRep (CHOKEBORE, GUZZARD), my wife hears early AGAINST ME!, there’s “Background Kids” that hits like CEREMONY with Surfer Rosa-era guitars and…and it all works. Everything. These L.A. kids pack pure, relevant, accessible power. “When it leads to the gun, need to pull back and adjust. When it ceases being fun…run.”

Pronto Pop y Basura cassette

Not sure why we at MRR HQ are climbing aboard this bandwagon two years after its release, but Pop y Basura is a near-perfect freak punk release. And you need it. High-speed, high NRG solo synth punk from Mexico City, with direct ties to Canadian punks PURA MANIA and Venezuelan D-beat masters FRACASO…but PRONTO is something else entirely. Desperate HC/punk vocals fronting distorted drum machines and first wave keyboards, this is pure, powerful, primitive electronic destruction. Synth punk has rarely, if ever, sounded this fucking punk. And I love it. You will love it too.

Futurat Incinerat cassette

A perfect collision of modern freak punk stomps and early fuzzed-out grunge. Imagine MUDHONEY + LUMPY. Recording is blown to shit and everything feels like it’s studio-tweaked to death in the best way. Russian punk on an Australian label—up all the international punks!

No Fraud Straight Lines Crooked Morals LP

It’s hard when you’re a legendary band and you make a new record. How can a band like NO FRAUD not be resoundingly panned for making a record that’s “not as good” as their tape that came out 35 years ago? Well, a record like Straight Lines Crooked Morals is a pretty good fucking start. Fast-as-shit and wildly erratic, this is a formidable hardcore punk juggernaut with a healthy dose of irreverence. The achievement for a band with a revered legacy making a “new” record is when the listener goes “damn, this is sick” and kinda forgets that they’re listening to the band that wrote “Fuck Your Shit” in 1984. And that’s where my mind was when I was blasting “Trendy Fuck” in 2021, so well done. Twenty blasts of ferocious Florida hardcore punk.

Nukke No More Peace LP

Now we’re fukkn talking, punks! Absolute fucking D-beat rager from Portugal’s NUKKE, with gratuitous metallic leads from a guitar EQ-ed to SICKOIDS 2012 (if that reference falls flat, then please refer to the band SICKOIDS and the year 2012…then you’ll understand). As with so many of the greats, there are undeniable hooks buried in this bombast, songs like “T.S.F.L.” that will get stuck in your head for days but are still complete audio destruction. No More Peace is 100% top quality fire—easily one of the best records I’ve heard all year!

Brigada Roja 2007—2011: Discografia Incompleta cassette

A very fierce collection from Mexico’s BRIGADA ROJA. Guttural vocals, nasty guitars, and an approach that blends Y2K thrashy hardcore with classic clenched-fist Mexican punk. Nineteen doses of intense and powerfully anti-racist hardcore punk recorded between 2007—2011, given the treatment from the folks at Rebel Time because…this is real, and it needs to exist.

Fatal State Pura Rabia cassette

Maximum-speed political hardcore from Portland. Gruff backups make the high-end crack of the femme lead vocals even more powerful, highlighting a band that has taken the ’00s epic hardcore model and stripped away the bullshit to expose the intensity. Songs are short and to-the-point, just fist-in-the-air defiance in the form of metal-tinged riffs and a relentless anarcho-hardcore assault.

Яма Блатноград cassette

Holy shit, this is a fucking beast!! Russia’s Яма (pronounced “yama”—definition: “pit”) simultaneously defies categorization while cramming everything you love about nihilistic, introspective hardcore into one unbelievable band. High-tension, high-end, dark mania—like HOAX and CELEST(E) and RUDIMENTARY PENI and AMERICAN HATE just fucking played at the same time. It’s harsh and abrasive beyond description, and fans of palatable family-friendly punk will find absolutely nothing here. It hurts to listen to, but Яма has created an absolute monster. Highest recommendation.

DFC / Nunchaku Masters Nunchaku Masters vs. DFC split cassette

Yes!! In a (punk) world of bands trying so hard to be…something…it’s refreshing to hear a band (or in this case, two bands!) who are not just content to be themselves—they are fucking determined. NUNCHAKU MASTERS and DFC both hail from the Brazilian capital city of BrasÁ­lia, and they share a love for pure old school thrash metal. We’re talking puffy high-tops and patched-up battle vests and long hair and politics just as in-your-face as the riffs. Anti-Nazi, pro-skateboarding, anti-asshole, pro-party, fist-banging, speed-picking thrash metal!!! NUNCHAKU MASTERS land more on the party thrash end of the spectrum, while long-running veterans DFC are decidedly darker, with a blistering Brazilian HC vocal attack backed by a brutally tight guitar attack more along the lines of countrymen DAMN YOUTH. Both bands absolutely shred these tracks recorded in the mid-’10s—and this release was a fucking blast to listen to!

V/A Diggin’ Up the 90s, Vol. 1 LP

Here we go…the collector scum are starting to figure out that the ’90s weren’t the lost decade after all. In the spirit of the KBD and Bloodstains comps, Amok delivers a collection of unheralded ’90s DIY punk and hardcore gems. OFFICIAL HOOLIGANS, MENSTRUAL TRAMPS, BLOODY MUTANTS, STALINS ORGAN, Japan’s the HECK, France’s BETTY BONDAGE, and ten more. Grab this shit, do your homework, and start scouring the bargain bins, because these are the bonzers of the next decade!

Grand Collapse Empty Plinths LP

Heavy, intense, and instantly engaging UK hardcore. The guitars dominate this release—heavy mosh metal chugs interrupted by melodic leads that manage to land organically between Euro-crust and mid-’80s Mould. GRAND COLLAPSE is fast, sometimes even sounding like they finished writing a song and consciously decided “that’s cool…faster would be even cooler” (they were right). Empty Plinths is an injection, hard to not feel fucking amped after listening.

Suburban Resistance Suburban Resistance LP

Snotty, melodic SoCal punk all wrapped up nice and ready for the big stage. Songs about partying (and the dark side of partying) and fierce determination in the face of just trying to fucking get by, from a Vegas outfit (that’s Las Vegas, which is not in Southern California) featuring members from ’80s skate punks the FACTION and ’00s Upstate NY DIY rippers WAR SQUAD. The backing “whoa-ohhh”s aren’t really for me (there are a lot of them), and the lyrics to “Fools” (maybe about getting along in the face of getting called out…?) give me slight pause, but these fellows know exactly what they’re aiming for, and if gruff, catchy adult punk is what you’re after, then you’ve surely found it on the debut from SUBURBAN RESISTANCE.

V/A …So This Is Progress? 004 flexi EP + zine

Short and sweet—five Ohio bands with tracks recorded during Thee Time Ov Covid. TV DRUGS (meaty punk rock), HUMAN LAW (ugly, downtuned drum machine noise/sludge), STALL (vicious hc/grind), LOCKED UP (even more vicious grind), and JACK KNIFE BEAT DOWN (blinding lo-fi thrash punk). Delivered with issue #4 of …So This Is Progress? fanzine.

Dead United Fiend Nö.1 CD

This disc was assigned for review in September, but considering the content I figure it’s better that I waited until closer to Halloween. While the aesthetics don’t fully represent the content, rest assured that some poppy German horrorpunk is in your future with DEAD UNITED. Imagine a poppier AVENGED SEVENFOLD, singing about zombies and fiends and ghouls—it’s tongue-in-cheek (there’s a track called “Aaaahhhhhhh! Some Bees!”), and it’s fun and ghoul-y as shit.

Indoctrinate Failbringer cassette

Two doses of downtuned Euro crust/grind, with two bonus doses of the same unforgiving assault from 2014 included as a bonus on the physical version. High/low vocals and erratic metallic song construction all work together to create something not far removed from mid-’90s Per Koro fodder, but with a keener ear towards blistering metalcore and beatdown hardcore. It’s a lot, and Austria’s INDOCTRINATE crams it all in.

V/A Presence Not Absence: A Benefit Compilation for Trans BIPOC Housing Assistance cassette

This comp dropped last year, but the purpose is (sadly) more appropriate now than ever. Musically all over the place, much like the communities it is meant to support and lift up; driving electropop (NO NO BABY), ethereal dance (DOVE ARMITAGE), dark conscious hip hop (the UHURUVERSE—whose opening track “Obey” is an absolute stunner), noisy post-punk (VAGUESS), experimental vocals (UNO LADY), and the list goes on. Quality level is extremely high for all genres and musical modalities represented, and proceeds are going to the right place(s).

Cyst Cyst demo cassette

Primal, raw hardcore punk from Denver. The recording and presentation is every bit as chaotic as the contents, and they feed off of each other throughout these four tracks. “Sickening” opens with a full intro/fast/slow/slower/painfully slow format and then the drums fight through feedback on the intro to “Hard Kill” and I’m completely sold. This thing sounds fukkn nasty, so prepare yourself.

Neon Belly The Boys Are Alright EP

North Carolina outfit that hits like 1978 freak punk (the MAD, BAGS, SCREAMERS) without sounding like any kind of a rehash. Tracks like “D.O.I.I.” and the title track are pure fire—one hundred percent in-your-face and shameless punk couched in unabashedly catchy four-on-the-floor burners. Best surprise this month, hands down.

V/A Paid By Rock cassette

This one is all over the place, and I’m all over it. Pulsating ’80s hard industrial dance, ’90s grunge punk dirges, stripped-down art-punk, a stunning PRIMITIVES cover, outsider electro-pop, bombastic nasty garage punk…this comp just fukkn grabs you and then slams from start to finish. Highlights include the MAXINES, FREAK GENES, THREX, ADULKT LIFE, and GERM HOUSE, but it’s the whole damn thing that deserves your attention.

Dazy Maximumblastsuperloud: The First 24 Songs cassette

Absolutely ridiculous ’90s college rock hook-laden pop. BIG STAR, TEENAGE FANCLUB, maybe even a touch of the POSIES here and there; this is the backpage of Rolling Stone in 1989, where those of us trapped in MRR-free small towns would scour the College Radio Top Ten looking for something—anything—to help us break free of the commercial pop doldrums and hoping that the only record store in town could special order something that we thought sounded cool based on name alone. I would have ordered this—and I would have been stoked. DAZY is a COVID-era solo project, and this tape compiles the entirety of the output though Spring 2021…let’s just hope that there’s more, because this is the kind of nostalgia I can get behind.

Kina Parlami Ancora LP reissue

Probably the most melodic KINA release, 1992’s Parlami Ancora owes a heavy debt to late ’80s USHC while cementing KINA’s status as one of the best unheralded ’80s Italian HC/punk bands.  While I’m still going to reach for the unhinged mania of Irreale Realtà damn near every time, the fact that KINA was able to progress and develop their sound and still create songs that are in-your-face and compelling. Wildly catchy and energetic punk, like a bit of MOVING TARGETS and mid-era HÜSKERs mingling with UPRIGHT CITIZENS and EA80…but still an Italian hardcore band. Most of their catalog is still relatively easy to come by, and these reissues make it even easier. High praise.

Wrong Band Let’s Go! EP

Super slick and produced punk with heavy glam rock roots. Intentionally sultry vocals are the clear focal point, stepping back briefly for the Sunset Strip leads to take over the spotlight. I feel like I could blink and Sweden’s WRONG BAND is the next JET or DARKNESS and headlining arenas.

Born Losers of America State of Mad CD

Three doses of old school t(h)rash punk from Washington (state), clocking in under three minutes and twenty seconds. Somewhere between VILENTLY ILL and “that local band who opened for that reformed third-tier ’80s band who played down the street that one time and were way better than the band you paid to see.”

Skit of Resistance Unreleased Noisecore Live Recordings 1999 CD-R

Doesn’t the title tell you everything you need to know? Twenty-one minutes of D-beat-influenced noisecore recorded live and presented in questionable fidelity…which is exactly what you want, if you read this review past the title of the release.

Bój się Boga Forbidden Songs CD

London punks with twelve tracks of fiery hardcore punk recorded in 2016. Forceful femme vocals that remind me of Agnes from HOMOMILITIA, though the music here is way more straight up and way more punk. Dueling guitars sound ripped from the late ’80s until moments of modern HC melodies make appearances. High-energy, driving intensity—enthusiastic approval.

Little Angels Little Angels demo cassette

You’d think that a little plastic shell cannot possibly contain all of this hotness. All of this wildness. But it does. They need a guitar tuner (like…badly), but Pittsburgh’s LITTLE ANGELS absolutely annihilate six shit-hot raw hardcore tunes that are blown to fucking smithereens right out of the gate. Listen to the vocalist barking at the start of “Party.” That’s not some reviewer speak for a vocal style, the singer is fucking barking. Like a dog. And then screaming: “Where’s the party?!” This demo is just out of control across the board—everything pumped harder and pushed rawer than everything else, and it’s everything I need right now.

Weak Ties Find a Way LP

The first thing that strikes you is the vocals. Laura’s snarl is formidable to say the least, and it stands in contrast to the clean (though damaged) guitar and advanced, inward hardcore attack. They drop “Sorry, Not Today Pt. II” near the end of the first side, and that’s when you truly start to feel the depth of WEAK TIES—this isn’t regular hardcore punk, this is more. It’s not just the power and/or emotional intensity of those slower moments, it’s the blasts from “With Every Step” that fucking explode out of “I” and it’s the way that they insert that depth into even (or especially) their more straight-ahead HC numbers. Find a Way is great, it dances all over the place a bit not because the band is trying to make a point; rather it feels like that is just where the songs, and the band, felt right. The whole record feels right…and holy shit, can these fools drop a mosh part when they want to.

Czarnobyl Zdroj Chory Mózg… O Szczęściu

A very welcome vinyl press of a 1991 cassette release—the brand of Polish hardcore that CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ delivered absolutely deserves further examination. Cold, sharp-sounding punk vaguely along the lines of TZN XENNA, with chaotic and frantic guitars throughout. Occasional funky breaks are appropriate for the era, but are treated with wild and overpowering leads while stark, shouted vocals create an (almost) militaristic vibe. CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ released a scant few punk cassettes before moving on to a more industrial sound, all are well worth your time but near impossible to track down…which is why I’m not gonna complain about floods of reissues clogging up my shelves. Excellent release.

Six Cents Welcome to the Wonderful World of Poisonous Non-consumables, Flying Drops, Sudden Stops and Blood Coated Cops! The Original Recordings LP

1995/96 recordings from Sacramento’s SIX CENTS—snotty, era-appropriate punk that sounds like a band from Sacramento circa 1995/96 (that’s a compliment). Shades of SCHLONG/YOUR MOTHER and LIZARDS for a nicely packaged release in memory of guitarist Pete Mannino, who passed away just after the recording was complete.

Fight Your Fear Zanim UpadnÄ™ LP

Anthemic hardcore punk from Polish expats living in Ireland. Layers of guitar leads and melodies temper the stark vocal delivery and create a sonic environment akin to an anarcho-punk PROPAGANDHI. As always, Pasażer is over-the-top with the packaging, and gives an over-the-top recording the presentation it deserves

Round Eye Culture Shock Treatment LP

Shanghai’s favorite expats set the bar high with 2017’s Monster Vision, but Culture Shock Treatment is a next-level masterpiece. An astounding collection of songs and sounds (and hooks) that defies categorization while drawing liberally from classic punk—and then contorting the shit out of all of it. Slogs like “8000 Years” rely on moody sax and keys to drive the songs over one gloriously repetitive riff, while “Catatonic (I’m Not a Communist)” is a searing (and screaming) punk burner that rolls into the death march of “An Opportunity of a Lifetime,” both highlighting the band’s take on living in China as (Western) outsiders. The hooks on this record will pull in fans of SOVIETTES and/or RADIOACTIVITY, but the songs are simply advanced and so totally far-out. Who doesn’t want their BUZZCOCKS tempered with DOA and BEEFHEART? Dummies, that’s who.

Potemkin Sludge Vol. 1 cassette

Unimaginably disgusting stoner sludge from Sweden. Imagine BONGZILLA writing “short” songs, but with a subtle Jourgensen tinge to the vocals. When the guitar breaks into the fast intro for “Meds” I start to clench up, because that’s exactly what I want to happen after a three-minute pulverization. Very dirty, very raw, extremely heavy.

Schizma Ostatnia Odsłona LP

Especially in the early 1990s, Polish punk and hardcore existed on cassettes. There are countless worthy releases that came and went on tape, often fading away as the bands (or fans) moved on. SCHIZMA stuck around until well into the 2000s, but 1992’s Ostatnia OdsÅ‚ona might be the best example of their brand of crossover thrash. The focus here is the guitars—properly damaged and red-lined, with primitive flange tempering the lightning fast chugs while vocals project full force from the chest. This under-the-radar Eastern European hardcore deserves far more than a casual nod from so-called “historians” from the West; SCHIZMA was making music that adhered to no rules but their own. Members came from late ’80s band KAMPANIA KARNA (who recently had their essential first tape put to vinyl) and later went on to IN SPITE OF (among many others), but this is about the SCHIZMA LP. Polish punks likely (hopefully) already know the drill, the rest of us are just catching up.

SmertegrÁ¦nsens Toldere Blod, Sved & SÁ¦d LP

Hard-hitting hardcore from Denmark. A collection of sub-60-second burners interspersed among some nasty doses of riffage. I think the mid-tempo numbers (“Selvkontrol”) are what makes it feel so damn good when they go fast (“Pillage”). Fierce, throaty vocals and a massive presentation to top it off.

V/A OCCII ~ DiY Comp Ltd EP

Excellent four-song freak collection from the Netherlands. Some dreary slow synth/No Wave from LANGE NIEZEL, followed by a whirling D-beat detonation from OUST (check their 12″ from last year if you haven’t already) on the A-side. As solid as that pairing is (and to be clear, it’s great), the flip features a stellar KBD rocker from GIF, and fans of AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS rejoice upon hearing “Comfort Zone,” because your shit just got punker. Then PONYTAIL TARTIFLETTE closes the record with an eponymous monster, a noisy track that channels the Trim Tab Tapes catalog while tripling down on chaos. “I make horses look like the police,” whispers the vocalist before the band launches into a jerky assault that descends into MELT BANANA-meets-free jazz and then just…stops. Fucking gorgeous pink wax, risograph cover, and a nice educational poster inside—the 7″ comp format catches a lot of flak, but this one is damn near perfect.

Brain Itch Forced to Pay cassette

After an impressively ominous intro, I really wanted Ontario’s BRAIN ITCH to come out raging…but the tension they created with their solid, mid-paced metallic UK punk chug wound me up so fukkn tight that when the opening title track did finally, mercifully, unload….? Well, it was awesome. Five blasts on Forced To Pay, landing somewhere between hard-churning Motörpunk and that 1-2-1-2 doopa doopa that personifies most of the last decade of North American hardcore punk. This is their third tape in as many years—all short, all sweet, all killer….and not an ounce of filler.

Decider Ramshead ’79 LP

Hard to put a finger on this one, which should be a strong vote in the “pro” column for even the most casual listener. Oakland’s DECIDER wants to be a heavy ’70s rock band, but I fear they’ve listened to too many post-punk records to let themselves pull it off. Make no mistake—they would be a flawless heavy ’70s rock band, but they’re an even better post-indie band with heavy ’70s and second-wave UK art-punk under/overtones. So I’m glad they won’t let themselves not be weird, and “Unintentional Evaluation” should be the soundtrack for your summer adventure.

End You Aimless Dread cassette

Philadelphia solo project aims big and hits the mark on Aimless Dread. Discordant, heavy sludge/punk that will appeal to fans of ’90s mid-paced “metallic” hardcore acts like DEADGUY or CAVE IN…think TORCHE without the pop hooks for a more modern sonic reference. Excellent execution with an extremely heavy presentation, and the shit is really dark. Into it.

Kirottu Ääni Pimean Pelko 12″

Unfathomably epic six-song debut(?) release from Finland’s KIROTTU ÄÄNI. Emotive and chaotic hardcore with a serious primitive black metal bent; novice listeners might place them on the map somewhere between CELEST(E) and BONE AWL. But the more advanced among you (us) will hold out until “Paiseet” on the second side, where they launch into some truly unique freak shit and careful listeners will realize that they’re listening to a band that’s spreading their wings before they’re even off the ground. A brutal and powerful, and beautiful, record.

At Their Mercy Disavowed CD

Throaty, fist-clenched metallic UK hardcore. AT THEIR MERCY nods respectfully to the throne of ’80s UK thrash, but they run off with those influences and pick up some straight Big Four thrash along their way. The recording is massive (check “All That’s Left” if you doubt me) and the vocals are far beyond powerful—this is a classic and refreshing example of a band crossing between heavy hardcore and heavy metal. In other words, some old dudes (guitarist was in ’80s thrashers ATAVISTIC, and the others are no young bucks) showing the young kids what’s up, and I’m here for it…I just hope the kids are paying attention (and taking notes).

Cosas Ilegales Cosas Ilegales 10″

Hard props for the opening twenty seconds of “Accidente,” because I can’t remember when I was this anxious to hear a record kick in. And while Mexico’s COSAS ILEGALES kicked it (a little) slower than I was hoping, I stuck it out and was compensated generously…with interest that I didn’t even deserve. Just a killer collection of infectious, damaged garage hardcore. Smart, sharp, and very dark punk that sounds like it just arrived from another planet to remind us what outsider freak music was supposed to sound like. I want these songs to be faster, but that makes me feel all anxious which makes me realize that they played everything exactly right because all I want is more the minute it’s finished. Consider me a convert…but there’s only 100 of these fuckers, so you better act fast if you want to join the cult.

New Skeletal Faces Sextinction 7″

Two doses of darkness from California. AMEBIX meets CHRISTIAN DEATH, with high howling vocals and a great metallic plodding pace to “Extinction of Bodies” that stays firmly planted on the weirdo/punk side of the spectrum. It just feels dark and dangerous. Sketchy. Could listen on repeat for an hour and not get bored….just did, in fact.

The Social Lies Fuck the Scene / Kink Boy 7″

The social media-sphere kinda melted a bit when this record dropped…maybe because it’s so fucking hot. In less than three minutes of music recorded two decades ago, two Black kids from Alabama shoved a huge “fuck you” boot up the pretentious ass of (hardcore) punk by simply being themselves. The songs are simple, tough as shit, equal parts furious ’90s East Bay hardcore and LIMP WRIST—it’s not so much that they’re pissed, it’s that the SOCIAL LIES feel real. Not every “lost” recording from decades past needs to be unearthed and released…this one did.

Cell Rot Slowly Falls Apart 12″

Releasing a record this deadly in 2021 when (most) punks haven’t seen a live hardcore show in a year is…well, kinda mean. Crushingly heavy California hardcore, CELL ROT moshes as aggressively as they blast, with a dark undertone that makes you feel like you’re listening to something dirty. But you’re not. You’re listening to something joyful…it’s just the joy that comes when you realize that you will never win. Never. If you thought the Violent Spirals LP was devastating (it was), wait until you hear what it sounds like when CELL ROT Slowly Falls Apart

Fixed Lens Fixed Lens cassette

Already (and justifiably) fawned over, the debut from Berlin’s FIXED LENS absolutely nails their dark goth energy, and they own the vibe instead of trying to create it. Maybe it’s looking back and reimagining with punk hindsight, but this duo makes a now-timeless sound feel brand new. I was weaned on this shit, and it’s great to hear something that doesn’t feel (at all) like a rehash. Dominant synths, barked vocals, haunting guitars, hard driving dancefloor beats that urge the tempo instead of forcing it. A powerful smash, especially as a debut.

Limbs Bin Burnt White Elephant CD

After almost five minutes of ambiance and field recordings from the opening track, LIMBS BIN destroys in the way that only they (he) can. Twenty-five sub-sixty-second bursts of harsh noise and manipulated sound punctuated by samples and (audio) violence, all sewn together as one harrowing dose of sonic punishment with a couple of (merciful) interludes. Some folks know what they’re getting into with a new LIMBS BIN release…I advise the rest of you to strap in.

The Sinema / TV Generation DCxPC Live Presents, Volume 2 split EP

Second edition of this live series modeled after the ’90s VML singles. TV GENERATION offers three hefty doses of snotty adult punk; mid-paced, snarky stomps that include a song about Uncle Lou’s—the Florida venue set to receive the proceeds from the sale of this single—and a DAMNED cover. Appropriately sloppy (it’s a live series, kids!), and even the cover somehow has the same “dragging the grown-ups through the mud” pace. On the flip, the SINEMA starts their whirling metalcore track with a mosh call: “I’m alright! / Up all night! / Do you wanna fight? / Fuck the alt-right!” and I’m at least paying attention. One wild, noodle-riff-centric track that delves a bit too far into commercial alt-metal (for my taste) with the quiet sing-y bits…but redeems (slightly) with the sign-off: “Cowboys can suck my cock! / Fuck the alt-right! / I fucked up!”

V/A Fuselage cassette

Austin indie/post-punk project with a ten-song cassette featuring “guest” vocals from their friends…it’s a good concept, and the result is something that sounds more like a comp than a “release.” From the dreary indie shoegaze of “Needle” (ft. MIND SPIDERS’ guitarist) to the dark “Absolved” (I’ve lost my faith in God) and the angular post-punk of “I Chase Cars” (ft. WARP’s Tika Hall). Throw in a couple of instrumentals, and a poem set to music (“Early Morning Cigarette”) and I’m going to want to spend some time with this one. Also—I stayed in the drummer’s mom’s house like twenty years ago…punk is weird, y’all.

Hooks & Bones (Presenting) The Hook cassette

There’s a lot going on here. Brutal mosh metal beatdown hardcore drops out of the middle of a crossover thrash riff…and then the melodic singalongs in “SD 9.3″ seem to come out of nowhere. Kinda like the solos in “Postman on Fire.” And then we’re back to a Milano Mosh for “Bucks & Bullets.” And so goes most of (Presenting) The Hook—’80s NY thrash, ’00s NYHC, dogpiles and spin kicks, old school metalcore, and sooo many crew backing vocals—and it all slays. Only five tracks, but there’s more action on this tape than on most double-LPs.

Peste Negra Orquest(a) Los Rebrotes cassette

Argentinian cassette domination continues with this bizarre dose of freak wave and/or synth punk from the PESTE NEGRA ORQUEST(A). Harnessing the primitive melodic punk of early ’80s Latin America and injecting healthy doses of space sounds, they create a vibe on Los Rebrotes that makes these ears yearn for (more) punk that makes you move instead of punks rehashing second-rate darkwave. By the time I got to the middle of this tape, I couldn’t even think straight—it’s that good…and no matter how I tried, I wasn’t able to make it loud enough. Because I just wanted more.

Shitload Unplugged cassette

Consistently pushing the inanity of noisecore to new limits, New Orleans act SHITLOAD may have outdone themselves. But before you look at a list of the (acoustic) instruments used to create this cacophony and turn away, I would like to offer this advice: just give it a chance. Yeah, the kazoo in between bursts is a little much (OK— it’s a lot much), but hearing everything piled on top of everything else is the same kind of complete sensory overload that makes walls of harsh noise so…comforting. This time it’s in the context (or spirit) of raw powerviolence through shit-fi, and the chaotic monotony works. I know that Bobby Paranoize, SHITLOAD’s sole member, is having a go at us here and that this was released in an edition of ten copies…but I’m going to hold onto mine. Even though, as the artist states: “This is a bunch of ridiculous bullshit.”

Upper Hand Iron City Hardcore 1988-89 LP

Excellent capture of Pennsylvania’s UPPER HAND’s last show, where they absolutely leveled a club called Sonic Temple in 1989. Off-the-fucking-rails East Coast hardcore that is way harder than most bands dared to be at the close of the Reagan era, this recording sounds amazing and helps make up for the fact that they never had any proper releases during their short existence. A record clearly released by fans (and one that will likely gain the band some new ones—like me), including a full-size zine with band history, and tons of flyers to accompany a ripping set that ends (appropriately) with FAITH, BAD BRAINS, and AF covers. There are only a few of these kicking around, highly recommended.

Call in Dead / 2Amature DCxPC Live Presents, Volume 1 split EP

Two COVID-era live streaming performances put to wax. CALL IN DEAD starts their set with a shout out: “What is up, Facebook Live?!” and dropped into a mosh intro…then some gnarly hardcore delivered in stutters and slams. Growly death metal vocals and yo-yo hardcore shouts..and one ska intro. 2AMATURE is snottier—more punk and less hardcore. Like a raw, dirty version of a catchy punk band, but with wild (and excellent) East Bay Ray guitars. 

Silakbo Silakbo CD

While the foundation of opening track “Southpaw” is a drum machine hi-hat with a thick metal chug, it launches into a fiery D-beat and I’m thinking PAILHEAD’s “I Refuse,” and that sets the stage: SILAKBO drags you back to the 1980s, but they’re dragging sXe hardcore into the industrial techno clubs with you…and they’re feeding all the thugs and club kids a diet of anarcho-punk activism. A solo project that shines a light on injustice, a band that speaks from the heart of the Filipinx diaspora in California and the rest of the world, a killer hardcore band that offers their material with fucking purpose that surrounds the band like a shield. This first release is hopefully a harbinger—listen to the dark determination of “World of Death” and think about the sonic possibilities, especially when combined with the purity of mission and honest determination that fills every moment of this release.

TZN Xenna Róbrege ’85 LP

While the world of punk records continues to get flooded with piles of debatably necessary reissues, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for material from labels like Warsaw Pact. Dedicated to 1980s Polish punk recordings, the last few years have seen mandatory releases from MOSKWA, RED START, SIEKIERA, the CORPSE, and others, including this screaming 1985 set from the legendary TZN XENNA. Packaged with a gorgeous poster and full-size booklet with lyrics, photos, and information, Róbrege ’85 features a band with a fire in their hearts—even the more melodic tracks like “Aids” are on the edge of collapse, and “Twoja Wojna” has never sounded more fierce. After the first day of the festival, a cassette compilation with DEZERTER, ARMIA, ABSURB, ABBADON, REJESTRACJA, and some of the tracks on this record was available the next day; thankfully Warsaw Pact was able to snag the entire set. An essential release for fans of Eastern European punk, and fans of punk in general. Listen to “Dzieci Z Brudnej Ulicy,” it’s feels like it’s going to fall out of the fucking grooves. This is the real shit.

Aghast / Tekken split 12″

Not to be confused with the two splits these bands have released previously, this one-sided 12″ captures the final recordings from two (extremely) prolific French emo/HC bands who were active throughout the ’00s. AGHAST covers the epic and melodic with anguished vocals department, while TEKKEN takes care of the more chaotic and aggressive Euro HC side of things, blasting their way through a breathless “Porque Todo Tiene Fine” to close the record. Seven tracks total, and limited to just 100 copies—because when it means enough, it’s worth putting it to wax.

Ed Warner Ruins of Nations LP

Twelve anxious doses that span a crevasse between early ’00s colossal crust and an indescribably awesome hardcore lurch. Makes me think of the NOW DENIAL…or maybe just some modern kids simultaneously harnessing anthemic core and honest intensity. Fans of fast and/or heavy and/or intense hardcore will want to pay attention here, because France’s ED WARNER ticks off literally every box.

Sick Burn / These Bastards Burn These Sick Bastards split EP

One of the most obvious and superficial bummers about the COVID era is a lack of punk shows. Hardcore records are cool—I love em—but this was music meant to be experienced in the sweaty, smelly flesh, and few local bands exemplified that more than Sacramento’s SICK BURN and San Francisco’s THESE BASTARDS. This split was in the works before shit shut down, and now I can spin the grooves and get even more amped for my future as a live-show-goer, annoyed with that one dude acting a fool in the pit (because you know that dude is gonna be there…he’s been waiting). Five sub-minute tracks from SICK BURN, more ripping irreverent hardcore injecting Japanese riffs into breakneck USHC. THESE BASTARDS drop three more doses of their bizarre prog-violence on the flip—pure West Bay brutality, intense and dark. I freaking love both of these bands.

Autoagresion Bajo Control cassette

Argentina is bringing some serious heat to the review section this month, and Buenos Aires’ AUTOAGRESION is some of the hottest—searing fastcore, but with a massive production and vocals that fucking hurt (my throat) to listen to. “Apartadxs” is a perfect equation: intro + explosion = perfection, while just one track (“Policias”) tops the one-minute mark. This is just pure and honest hardcore punk, and probably the best release I’ve heard this month.

Desborde Single 2021 cassette

Hard to describe how much territory DESORBE covers in just two tracks. Starting with a steady punk churn fronted by fierce high-end hardcore vocals, by the end of the first track it feels like you’re listening to an outtake from Panorama (the best record by the CARS)…and then the next cut launches shamelessly into a keyboard-driven hardcore freakout. After the first listen, I was confused. But the same two jammers are on the flip, and after the second listen…? I was in love.

False Truce MMXX cassette

Chris Pfeffer has had a hand in some of the best punk Texas has produced in the last two decades—STORM THE TOWER, OBEDIENCE, SEVERED HEAD OF STATE, J CHURCH, CRIATURAS, SIGNAL LOST, the list goes on (and on)—and when civilization closed up shop last year he did what any self-respecting genius would do: he made a record. By himself. Very much a sum of its (his) parts, FALSE TRUCE sounds absolutely like Chris—the guitars take the Mould model to another level, the full-charge D-beat lurch, and honest and blunt delivery of honest and blunt lyrics. Hopefully this project doesn’t fade into a COVID haze, because the world needs FALSE TRUCE.

End of Hope Cease & Destroy LP

Heavy rock’n’roll-tinged stoner jams, pulled through time from the mid-1990s “noise rock played by old punks” brand of heavy alt. The difference is that END OF HOPE still opens it up from time to time, and maybe it’s the variation that sets them apart. Massive guitar tonnage and killer riffs, Cease & Destroy hits hard and swings hard, like a thinking person’s grunge/stoner hybrid. Distinct piercing growls from former KRAUT frontman Gunner ensure that this record doesn’t sound like anything else on your shelf. Self-released on CD in 2019, slapped onto shiny green wax by Chain Reaction.

Kto UkradÅ‚ Ciastka RozdziaÅ‚ 1992—1993 LP

I had never heard of KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA when I went to Poland for the first time in 2003 and WHN? played the Refuse 10th Anniversary show. KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA had reformed for that one gig and it was clear that their influence was strong in the DIY scene…it was also completely fucking wild. A vinyl reissue of the first cassette release on Refuse Records, RozdziaÅ‚ 1992—1993 captures the band live in 1993 and a rehearsal from ’92. The audience recordings are pretty rough, but the record settles in after the first few tracks, and the power really comes out when they hit their stride around “Butapren.” The rehearsal, however, is amazing—seven doses of pure fire from a band bridging the gap from classic ska/reggae-infused ’80s Polish punk to the then-modern world of European DIY hardcore, with a sharp triple-vocal attack and constant urge to speed up and fall (or fly) off the rails. Political, straightedge, pro-animal rights, KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA was blazing their own trail in early 1990s Poland, and this document was clearly put together by someone who followed in their wake. Just a couple of hundred copies, with a gorgeous printed booklet full of photo and flyers and a previously unavailable recording of the anti-fascist anthem “RAAF.” I highly recommend reading the label’s write-up on the history of the band and the release—perhaps it’s a copout to send a reader to the label, but in this case there’s an extensive and personal history with the band, and few people can put their importance in context better. An incredible release.

Poison Tribe State Sanctioned Violence cassette

Full-throated crust churn—another killer contribution from the folks at Chain Reaction. The vocals are exhausting, lyrics descending into a breathless “aaaarrrggghhhh“ instead of words, and trying to keep up with the all-go low-end attack. Five songs here—definitely looking forward to more in the future.

Motherfucker Teresa Old News is Still New News cassette

Erratic song structures and a recording that leans heavily on the high end amp the intensity of this dual-vocal Denver outfit. MOTHERFUCKER TERESA would have fit in nicely on a mid-’90s Gilman bill with BLACK FORK; jumpy lurches turn into nasty, guitar-driven political punk—and with tracks like “Me and Mitch McConnell in a Dark Alley,” I think you can pick up where they’re coming from pretty quickly.

V/A The Stowaways Presents: Listen Up! A Benefit For Democracy Now! LP

Fifteen-band collection of catchy punk/indie/alt to benefit, as the title suggests, a public radio news program. The only artist I was familiar with was the FYP dude (yo, Todd—I’m still down to look after Boris if anything nasty happens), but I got turned on to loads of new shits. JASON ANDERSON wrote a straight commercial pop hit in “Buzzin,” PASTEURIZED MILK and RX are both minimal and addictive, LAYMAN and POST LIFE are favorites as well—the record cruises along between lo-fi indie and shoegaze and would-be mainstream songwriters with ease. All put together by a schoolteacher and zinester who uses independent reporting and media in the classroom to (hopefully) help a new generation of non-shitty humans find their collective voice/s, with art from Sophia Zarders, liner notes from Donna Ramone, and an issue of The Stowaways masquerading as a lyrics booklet. Thumbs up.

Baby Bones What Do I Do / We’re Done Talking cassette

Feisty and heavy Kentucky rock. “What Do I Do” verges on nü metal but still has lotsa hooks. “We’re Done Talking” hits me like a lost QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE cut with an infectious sing-along chorus. Let’s go.

Buff / Cress Government Monster / Choose Your War split LP

Apparently CRESS is a functional project again, and they have picked up right where they left off from Monuments and the DOOM split in the late 1990s. Their brand of spaced-out anarcho-punk fills a modern void, and I feel like the songs on their side are simultaneously present and timeless…a sound that is simultaneously familiar and inspirational (or maybe one because of the other). I listened to the CRESS side three times in a row, I confess that I was prepared to be disappointed by the flip and didn’t even want to turn the record over (but I have a job to do)…BUFF blew me away. Epic UK space-crust along the lines of IOWASKA or MUCKSPREADER, blatant HAWKWIND homages driven by electronic manipulations, later SUBHUMANS drawn-out reggae/dub interludes…and they have no problem delivering chaotic crust detonations. Far from a scattershot collection of sounds, Manchester’s BUFF treats their side of the split like a journey, and the listener is invited to join. I feel like I reacquainted with an old friend and I made a new one—absolutely brilliant split release.

Rexxx Pure Pleasure II LP

Folks, meet your next favorite Midwest indie/power pop powerhouse: REXXX. Their Milwaukee roots reach even deeper than these kids might realize—when I dig into these grooves, I feel the ghosts of TEMPER TEMPER, CALL ME LIGHTNING, WOLFBITE, and drunken fried pickles at the Palomino between sets at Cactus Club. There’s just enough glam to push Pure Pleasure II dangerously close to cheese, but if the burning addictive power of “Dead To Me” doesn’t win you over….you might be beyond help. It’s all here: ’90s indie/basement sing-alongs (“Hit N Run,” “Fuccboi”), classic power pop (“Can’t Help It”), bare-bones Rust Belt punk hooks (“Modern Demon”), and I can even give the sultry ballad (“4 Miles From Home”) a pass because the rest of the second side is so damn good. The band self released this on a solid gold cassette last year, but a candy-red slab of wax spinning hits at 45rpm could be exactly what 2021 needs.

V/A Unsolved Mystery cassette

A quick peek before I pressed play and I noticed tracks from LETTUCE VULTURES and FOSSIL FUEL so….well, I’m guessing this sixteen-band comp is gonna be a wild ride. I wasn’t wrong. Non-music, outsider dub, improvisational nonsense, outsider funk, damaged Americana, lo-fi psych…if it’s weird then it fits. “Sixteen musings on the unknown,” according to the cover. Pretty much sums it up. PEPPERMINT TEABAG, NIKOLAS KUNZ, TOXIC PILGRIMS, STILL LOOKING FOR COSMO, PIMP OF PERVERSION, and so much more. No contact information though, so the mystery is even deeper for you, dear reader.

Krimtänk Ditt Fel EP

Thirteen tracks of light speed Scandi-blast crammed onto one slick-looking piece of white wax. These Swedes seem laser-focused on MOB 47-style trash, but there’s a primitive Italian hardcore vibe that keeps derailing them in the best possible way. The recording varies (slightly) throughout, which puts everything just a touch on edge, but when the bass rumbles into the intro of “Lips PÁ¥ TV,” I don’t give a shit about anything except the incoming assault. The record looks incredible as well—hi-gloss white sleeve and insert plastered with illustrations that I can only describe as “refined adult crust.” I deserve ridicule for writing that, KRIMTÄNK deserves accolades for writing Ditt Fel.

Max Nordile Little Kicks cassette

Mark my words, the MAX NORDILE comprehensive box set that is gonna drop in like 2036 is going to blow people’s minds, and you will be able to tell your kids that you were there on the ground floor. No sonic experimentation seems to be off limits, and the near constant output is humbling.  Little Kicks is an improvisational adventure taking advantage of wind instruments (mainly but maybe not exclusively saxophone), sporadic percussion, and a damaged guitar with mumbled background vocal missives. No rules…the “noise not music” set needs to start focusing this direction, because if you inject this shit into some CONFUSE-obsessed motherfuckers, I think my life will melt in the best way imaginable.

Roäc 4 Song Mini LP 12″

Excellent combination of pure depressive power and the ability to unleash when necessary. MISERY and DEVIATED INSTINCT comparisons are easy, but they are also warranted here—the responsible personnel have been in the game for years, and it shows. Four doses of unassailable doom-laden crust, peaking with “The Path” that starts the second side with instantly familiar dark melodies, helping the listener realize that this trio bows to the same sonic idols that have brought more “recognized” bands something like underground “success”— somehow it hits just a little harder when you see a band churning it out in relative isolation. Even if you just casually dabble in the world of epic crust, ROÄC will straight up level you.

Afterboltxebike No Pasaran cassette

Mexican communist antifascist street punks…activate! Eight doses of mid-paced, tough-as-nails Oi! from Monterrey that implore the listener to think, to read, to learn. The music is no-frills, full of starter hooks, and it often lumbers more than it rages—allowing space for the lyrics to sink in so you can sing every chorus with them with a clenched fist. And it’s easy to get on the side of a chorus that chants “300 Nazis died…I forgive none.”

Chunx Crawl cassette

Heavy, anthemic melodic punk rock. CHUNX sound fine-tuned and ready for action; file alongside acts like PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS or a slightly more metallic WESTERN ADDICTION, but with gruffer vocals and a youthful (youth-filled?) approach to the genre.

More Smoke Discografia Completa cassette

Eighty-plus tracks of shit-fi noisecore from Argentina. That’s the easy review. It gets harder when you try to delve into all of the different ways MORE SMOKE dissects the subgenre…how sometimes all you can focus on is the throat-shredding vocals or the percussive madness masquerading as drums, or sometimes you’re drawn in by the samples, or sometimes it’s just pure and inept noise and sometimes the guitar drops the most incredibly damaged half-riff for like three seconds before the band just falls the fuck apart. It gets harder when you try to explain to a casual listener the difference between “shit music” and “music expressly and intentionally created for the purpose of being shit.” MORE SMOKE is the latter, and I’m fukkn floored.

Children of God Pain Clings Cruelly to Us EP

CHILDREN OF GOD build on past efforts to create one colossally epic track, presented as repetitive movements and separated by morosely quiet interludes. While the NEUROSIS comparison is perhaps more blatant here than on some of their output, especially when the final section kicks in at the five-minute mark, the foundation here is still an amalgamation of metallic hardcore and screamo…which makes the bludgeoning all the more poignant and makes simple comparisons feel especially lazy. These folks are on their own trip, and they are evolving (check the ferocity of the recent demo recording for reference). One seven-minute track slapped on one-sided wax with a Rorschach (test, not the band) screen on the flip. Worth it.

Data Unknown Promo cassette

Excellent rehash of classic synthwave—the kind that was born out of a background in industrial experimentation—and punk. But especially punk. DATA UNKNOWN leans heavily on the drums (not just the “beats,” per se, but the drums…even if they’re programmed). Electronic freak-outs with shouted choruses, think CHRISTIAN LUNCH by way of TUBEWAY ARMY…or imagine early punks turning primitive classics like HUMAN LEAGUE’s “Being Boiled” into infectious, danceable punk slogs. All of the sounds feel old, but DATA UNKNOWN is the freshest thing I’ve heard in ages.

Marjinal / Potbelly Fuck Borders split CD

POTBELLY’s ability to combine anthemic political punk with heavy thrash is somewhat disorienting, to be honest, and takes a few tracks to really settle in. Gruff melodic vocals, guitars that can belt out big rock club open chords and then drop with into single-note death metal speed riffing…and then sometimes they remind me of the Biafra/DOA collaboration (“Destroy All The Monsters” in particular)—they’ve been in the game for twenty years, suffice to say they have honed in on a sounds that is definitely theirs. Jakarta’s MARJINAL should be well-known to most as Indonesian activist street punks who have been mainstays in Jakarta’s DIY punk scene seemingly forever. The incorporation of folk elements (and instruments) into their hard-hitting and addictive punk is just a part of what sets them apart, MARJINAL is addictive and transcends comparisons. What if there were a band that got stuck in your head like DROPKICK MURPHYS, rocked as hard as FORWARD, and inspired an unparalleled level of international and inter-scene support and networking? Well, there is. Listen to “Negri Ngeri” every day.

Ammoniia Demo 1 cassette

While I freely admit that they almost lost me with the new school guitar mosh that closes the opening track, these Michiganders launch right into the devastating mid-paced slammer “Recalcitrant” and I’m back on board. AMMONIIA does an excellent job of harnessing late ’90s USHC’s discordant ferocity and injecting it into the stylish modern stomp, effectively creating something akin to the first couple of LARD records and/or mid-era SNAPCASE on mescaline. Likely these results are accidental, but I truly want to believe that someone set out to start a band that sounds like mid-era SNAPCASE on mescaline.

Eat Shit and Die Recoil Finger CD

Snotty Massachusetts punks blast their way through twenty doses of blistering hardcore. Equal parts classic New England grind/crust and West Coast sample-laden, turn of the century core…stripped-down, no holds barred, don’t-give-a-fuck fuck-you shit punk. And who can fuck with not giving a fuck?

Last Gasp / Who Decides split EP

Two choppy East Coast HC slammers from WHO DECIDES—nice an’ heavy with searing lead vox, a formidable wall of guitars, and a solid swing that really shines on “Your Fault.” LAST GASP answers with three sub-minute burners on the flip. Higher vocals and a classically “produced” hardcore recording. Definitely cleaner and more on the crew end of the spectrum…the breakdown in “Throw Concrete” lasts maybe twelve seconds, and is perhaps the perfect closer. Killer stuffs.

V/A Amenaza Mexicana cassette

Nice comp tape that grabs twelve current Mexican bands from all over the sonic DIY spectrum for consumption and consideration. A few bursts from the more polished and melodic side (RUFFLES, SYNESTHESIA, HOLLYWOOD BABILONIA) some raw hardcore (AUTOMATAS, BRIGADA ROJA, MALARI), bouncy punk (TRABAJO SUCIO, FLORES Y FUEGO), plus tracks from AFTERBOLTXEBIKE, COOPERATIVA PASCUAL, FILERO, and a killer low-end HC slammer from ROMPE EL CONTROL. Excellent quality throughout, from bands that were mostly new to me—which is why well put together comps (still) rule. Cheers to Rebel Time for making this one happen.

Esperanza 1998—2001 LP

I’ve been waiting for this collection for a while now, and still I was speechless when I held it in my hands and dropped the needle. Imagine a band with such a massive impact who never ever released a record during their existence—an existence that spans just eleven songs. That’s it. And yet I feel like ESPERANZA grabbed all of the positive elements about turn of the century DIY hardcore and just refused to let go over the course of those eleven songs—maybe that’s just all they needed, or maybe the flames that burn the brightest just burn out faster. Fierce and uncompromising politics (“21st Reason to Kill [then-California Governor] Pete Wilson” as a prime example…and possibly the single best track on the record) and an energy level that was infectious, these kids just exploded when they played. And you felt it with every pore. Musically, their sound lands somewhere between MINOR THREAT and LIMP WRIST—but more developed and amped up than the former (yeah, I said it) and a couple of years before the latter really got rolling. It’s USHC to be sure, and you’d be hard pressed to find a finer demonstration of the genre…but it’s also more than that. This collection is everything that it should be—the tracks are given the proper sonic attention and the sheer sound alone is worth the price of admission, while the accompanying 20-page booklet follows the band through flyers and stories and images. In hindsight, ESPERANZA is even better and bigger now than they were at the time. Nothing but praise.

No Dope for the Kids No Dope for the Kids cassette

First off, respect to these Alabama kids for ripping off the NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS record so effectively that my lazy ass thought I was popping in a cassette reissue and I was confused when I heard the sounds. And the sounds, you ask…? Sonically, this hits like INTRO5PECT, or maybe ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE stepping into the future and piss-taking region rock. Ideologically, it’s nice to see a band voice anti-establishment and anti-corporate ideals while acknowledging the impossibly connected world and/or society in which most of us exist. Shit is complicated, and NO DOPE FOR THE KIDS doesn’t shy away from it.

Toro Bravo Mes Tokia Karta CD

TORO BRAVO ramps things up real high and never lets up, cranking out superb, high-energy Oi! from start to finish. These six cuts are wildly catchy, but not once do I feel them fall into any of the typical “melodic punk” traps—instead, they use cold, sharp, Eastern European sounds to stamp their take on classic UK punk…and lots of hard-ass rock’n’roll. STRASSENJUNGS and ROSE TATTOO and COCKNEY REJECTS come to mind and fuck, this is so damn good.

Pillars of a Twisted City Pillars of a Twisted City cassette

Mind-fuckery in eleven movements—this Vancouver outfit eschews convention and offers a complete contribution that is best consumed as a sum of parts. Instrumental campfire interludes, low-fidelity dance goth, harsh black metal—I don’t mean to imply that there are elements of each found herein, I mean that “Suffocation Dance” is a brilliantly haunting, primitive, dark synth piece, “Of Furious Death” is 66 seconds of raw and furious blackened thrash, and “Moonlight Cerveza” is the soundtrack a dusty campfire at full moon. The real winners are the tracks that draw a little from each path, though I wonder how many more releases this formula could successfully produce. Here though, it works—the beauty of solo recording projects in the Time ov COVID perhaps, but I’ll take it.

V/A Fear Of Noise: 2020 Compilation cassette

Fear Of Noise was released for (or, instead of) the San Diego gathering of the same name, and it’s a devastating collection of current West Coast DIY hardcore. FUTURA, THERAPY, SCREAMING FIST, ETERAZ, VIOLENCIA, AGONISTA, MEMBRANE, GRITOS…there’s no sense dissecting the comp because literally every fucking track bangs and every one of these bands is on point. But of all of the things I’ve listened to in the last year, of all of the records and tapes I’ve reviewed in the last year, nothing has made me miss live hardcore more than hearing Oakland’s PROVOKE open this comp with “Basura.” Period.

CaveXrage I Believe in CaveXrage cassette

Raw and energetic, bare-bones, treble-heavy snot punk. Cut from the mold of ’10 NWI starlets and 70s working class punk…then they injected the mold with SXE hardcore. With lyrics like “We got boys and we got girls / Pittin’ hard and pittin’ fast / CAVEXRAGE feel the blast” and “If you don’t know who your friends are / You better find out who your friends are / Who’s true? Who betrays you?” (not to mention “Twisted in My Head” in its glorious entirety). You want to say this is core delivered tongue-in-cheek, but…

Max Nordile Vying for the Dime cassette

Another month, another offering from Oakland improvisationalist MAX NORDILE. A true sonic outsider, NORDILE mixes (seemingly) random multi-instrumental experimentation with field recordings and found sounds, creating movements and moments rather than “writing” anything resembling “songs” in any traditional sense. Of the eight pieces that make up Vying For The Dime, “101” and “E EE Exit” probably exemplify this Dadaist approach to music the best, but (as with many of NORDILE’s releases) they are best experienced as parts of a whole. While I often teeter on the knife edge of hyperbole, there is a genuine greatness in the simplicity, in the honesty, and the evolution is ongoing. As always, I recommend.

Self-Immolation Music Demo 2020 cassette

Can you imagine a ’90s college dream pop band ingesting a heavy diet of PHARAOH OVERLORD? You get the white line fever 3 am highway monotony treated with a time-damaged MERCURY REV tinged with later KYLESA and it’s like you’re gazing at your shoes but through a thick-ass drug-induced fog. As a(nother) new generation of kids and bands and kids in bands draw influence from the music of my young adulthood, I look forward to bands like SELF-IMMOLATION MUSIC who are using discarded markers to guide them on their own path. Absolutely recommended.

Dropdead Dropdead 1998 LP reissue

The essential second full-length remixed and remastered for a 2020 reissue. A little less blasting than the “early” stuff, this record knocked all of us on our asses when it came out. This 1998 offering was more in line with destroyed, amped-up Swedish crust…and then they dropped tracks like “Part Two” that are just ferocity embodied. It was different, it was more…and it still is. DROPDDEAD’s approach and uncompromising politics shouldn’t need to be covered in these (digital) pages, but suffice to say that their knife edge has not dulled in their 30 year existence…and I don’t expect that to change. Remastering, regurgitating, and reissuing records that are readily available might seem like an unnecessary ploy in this modern era, but fuck these songs have never sounded this heavy, this fast, or this relevant. Still essential.

 

Step to Freedom 2014—2019 Discography cassette

Churning, metallic Russian metalcrust. Like a blast from the early 2000s, STEP TO FREEDOM bulldozes their way through seventeen pieces of pure guttural filth, combining two earlier releases. 2017’s Cemetery For The Humankind is a ripping speed metal dervish with MISERY lurches throughout, while 2014’s Social Zombies opts for a more streamlined AXEGRINDER approach. To have all of this mania on one tape is nothing short of a gift.

Unit X War on Self, War on Everything cassette

UNIT X gets straight to the point and continues reinforcing that point (forcefully) for ten minutes. Then you can breathe. Gnarly SXE hardcore from London, Ontario—killer breakdowns and no tracks over 90 seconds, but the lyrics go way deeper than the traditional core fare. This is the kind of “posi” I’m after these days—realistic, honest, and not always positive: “All that I am, all that I said / The years pass by, but still I feel it’s a lifetime of regret / All that I’ve seen, all that I’ve done / I keep pushing forward, past the memories of when I was wrong.”

Caltrops Do We Have a Future? cassette

Fiery Colorado crust with near-constant vocals in line with Japanese greats and almost too many leads. Two solid D-beat bangers and one stoner/grind ripper, but the breakneck “Bastards Will Pay” steals the show here, noteworthy because it’s the track where they seem to burst out of their comfort zone and really unleash. Recording is appropriately raw, and CALTROPS fall in line with late ’90s US political crust, which is a compliment.

Fleur du Louve Sparkwood cassette

This Northwest duo creates rudimentary witchy goth with repetitive programmed drums and melodies carried by single-note guitars, while both members float in the top of the mix with airy, oft-spoken vocals. Their target is in plain sight, and the fact that they land just off the mark in some places only serves to make FLEUR DU LOUVE feel more honest, more real. I’m wondering what a sophomore effort might conjure.

Ellen Ripley Body Pact cassette

Sonically advanced, self-described “anarchist space pop” from Sweden. A synth-heavy Krautrock excursion with commanding vocals that listen like activist poetry while driving guitars meander casually though the five tracks on Body Pact. Sometimes you listen to a band and it’s clear they are telling you something, but I hear ELLEN RIPLEY and I’m compelled to listen because I feel like they are saying something…and that’s a different thing altogether. “We are made smaller / Our voices become harder / We cry more than we sing but say nothing more than anything.”

Gazorpazorp Od Vazduha i Sunca CD

Really nice dose of dark indie from Belgrade, mingling with guitar-heavy late ’80s “college alt” sounds on a foundation of early East European punk and wave. Guitars dominate, but take a casual backseat when horns or vocals (or theremin) come into focus on a release that shows a band more than capable of charming the critics while winning over the hyper-critical (punk) naysayers. Only five songs on their first physical release—advanced, mature, cold, and infectious.

Shitload / XBrackishX Da Parish X Westbank Unity split cassette

Uncompromising noisecore from two New Orleans powerhouses. XBRACKISHX is truly, and by design, all over the map—samples, interludes, shit-fi grind, Casio pop, hardline vegan black metal guitars driving a one-person drum machine assault. SHITLOAD opens up with a damaged bass blasting “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” while a who’s-who of New Orleans notables rep The West Bank for 68 seconds before the sonic shit-machine blasts through eight doses of noisecore, brutalizing mainstream heavy metal melodies as an interlude between blasts (HALEN, MAIDEN, LICA all get the business). This is the kind of tape where you exhale after each side…and you take a deep careful breath before you hit play.

V/A Cat Cerebrations cassette

Serious statement: I don’t know if you can take it. Eleven bands delivering some of the most distorted, blown-out, freaked-out punk jams in recent memory. I’m talking “jams” as in a bag of weed and your singer is late to practice “jams.” And I’m talking blown-out like everything sounds like it’s breaking down the wall of the studio next door and you can’t even hear yourself think. Cuts from SIBERIAN ASS TORTURE, BASTARD NOIDS, RACCOON COMPLEX CONTAGION, CLANDESTINE BRONTOSAURUS, TLCWATERFALLS, CRUST KAPPA RAMPAGE….jams from NO COMADRE!, DIABLO CON CARNE, OXYGEN DESTROYER, and GEORGE CRUSTANZA that all cram themselves into one shell to morph into smoke and vibrations and volume like PHARAOH OVERLORD and KALMEX having a session. If noise punks could jam, then….well, Cat Cerebrations says they can. Now: can you take it?

Boozewa First Contact cassette

Howling grunge/punk with a healthy serving of grit. I hear similarities to early ’90s mid-paced psych basement punk…before stoner rock was a thing and when the DIY bands who played grunge were still “punk” bands. Clean, powerful vocals contrast the raw four-track production, and readers of these pages who still dig on bands like WEEDEATER and ACID KING will want to look to Coatesville, Pennsylvania for some new sludge.

Cosme D# demo cassette

Four injections of ultra-simple punk from Mexico. A serious MISFITS hair up their ass, thrift store synths polluting the damn joint, and gruff bedroom vocals half singing/half barking…my knuckles are sore and I’m down about 40 brain cells…but I’ll be damned if “G” isn’t a top song.

Robotrip Live cassette

Completely off-the-rails Midwest hardcore punk—an eight-minute live set from 2020 on one side and the studio demo (which honestly isn’t much more cohesive) from 2018 on the flip. Remember last decade when Indiana bands like OOZE and BIG ZIT took the world by storm? This is like that, but way more of a mess. Good luck finding a copy.

Crutch / Pavel Chekov split cassette

This one is a couple of years old at this point, but damn if both bands don’t still hit with maximum force. Six bursts of filthy, old school grind/PV from Dallas veterans PAVEL CHEKOV, backed with Oklahoma’s CRUTCH delivering some of their most powerful (and brutal) lightspeed hardcore punk tracks. Each band approaches the game a little differently, each arriving at a four-way intersection of hardcore, fastcore, powerviolence, and grind…then deciding to roll blindly into each other. There’s still copies of this floating around, I would recommend you not snooze.

Dry Wedding The Long Erode LP

As the modern dissection of ’80s underground goth continues, it should come as no surprise to hear sounds like the ones that fill the grooves of The Long Erode. Portland’s DRY WEDDING sifts through lesser castings to expose gold—remnants of CRIME + THE CITY SOLUTION, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, and later Wayne Hussey shine through their reincarnated musings while entire experiment is treated to a diet of hallucinatory deprivation. The title track is a disorienting dirge with melting guitars and a rhythm section sinking while the vocalist (formerly of Long Beach outfit SWAMPLAND, which is an indicator to those who recognize the name) moans his way through five minutes of slow motion Western psychedelia. If desert goth psych isn’t a genre….well, maybe it is now.

Scraps Wrapped Up in This Society LP reissue

After one of the first WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? rehearsals, we were all talking about bands we liked and Max (625, SPAZZ, etc.) noticed that my background knowledge of fast, raw, European hardcore, a subgenre that was key to our stated mission, was deficient. The next time we met, he gave me some study material in the form of the first HEIBEL 12″ and this SCRAPS LP….and I studied. SCRAPS were so gloriously unhinged, you got the sense that they decided they were going to play fast before they decided if they could play fast. While they had surely honed their skills and focused their sights by 1990’s Wrapped Up in This Society, the blasts are still completely fucking off the rails while the youth crew moshes (and backing vocals) were in full effect, and it’s what makes this record sound so good. Because it’s kinda all over the place, and it mostly hits just off target, and because they go so hard in spite of it all. Or because of it all. If the anthemic end of “Win Together” were perfectly in tune (or in time) it would just be another hardcore song, but to hear SCRAPS wrap up the first side of this LP, it’s as if you’re ready to join the band before you even flip the wax. Lyrics blast inequality, imperialism, and military oppression, idealism leaping from the pages of the booklet just as it jumps out of the grooves. I have a vague memory of WHN? covering “I Was Blind” in rehearsal…though we may have just ripped it off and not told anyone.  A faithful and overdue (and gorgeous) reissue.

Splitting Heads A Short Vision demo cassette

This came out a few months ago. You need it. SPLITTING HEADS sound like they went back to 1981 and then they decided not to come back, and then recorded a demo in 1982 after they kicked everyone’s ass and now it’s 2021 and we’re listening to it just going “ddaaaaaaaaamn.” Fuck y’all, this tape is so ungodly good.

TV Drugs FFO: Everything Terrible cassette

A nice solid blast of modern American hardcore punk. Guitars have a nice solid blast of catchy ’90s basement punk (“How Far?” and “Livin’ The Dream,” in particular) and there are some good creepy vibes—but it’s kinda funny because it sounds like TV DRUGS are going for the tough chain punk vibe and the fact that they land slightly off that mark is precisely what makes them feel right.

Cult Mind Connected cassette

The new pandemic joint from San Jose screamers CULT MIND kicks off with a groove that almost makes the listener think they’ve gone and gotten too stoned…then they fukkn unload. Nine cuts of rough-edged North American hardcore punk—think a ramshackle CAUSTIC CHRIST, and that rock’n’roll guitar from the intro makes a few more (welcome) appearances. Decidedly looser than their full length from a couple of years back, and the regression suits them.

Decide It Yourself Decide It Yourself cassette

Erratic thrash with solid metal breaks and plenty of blasts. Heavy on the high end, but maybe there’s no bass (at all?) and the kick drum disappears when they grind, so it makes me feel all anxious when I listen at volume (which is, after all, the best way to listen). Vocals are throaty and clean, sitting on top of the mix and extra in-your-face. Not a pretty-sounding release in any imaginable way, which is the intent.

 

The Haskels Taking the City By Storm LP

Just to be clear, the first four songs on this record are an essential and mandatory dose of Midwestern US punk history. “Taking The City By Storm” is 134 seconds of hyper-speed power punk perfection that every punk should know inside out, and the rest of the single is…well, it’s perfect, too. So do you need an entire LP rounded out by six previously unreleased demo recordings from 1980 and three cuts from a 1981 live set? Simple answer: definitely. The demo cuts show a band settling into their own just a few short months after forming—just one would-be single after another, from the JAM-tinged mellow number “In Between Girls,” to the pub rock stomp “You Got to Be Kidding.” And the three live tracks show a band that was so undeniably huge…more nuanced than the simple burners that dominated their only vinyl release, more advanced than the KBD comps that cemented their status as an important fixture in the world of trailblazing North American punk rock. Maybe they would have become something else had the band survived—tracks from the demo session hint at a band geared to stand alongside the JAM, COSTELLO, etc.—and maybe they would have reformed and rehashed an adult version of their genius had the members survived. But the band didn’t, the members didn’t, and instead we have these songs. And, as stated earlier: they are perfect.

Oxygen Destroyer November Brain 10″

A wildly limited 10″ lathe compiling unreleased cuts and outtakes from OXYGEN DESTROYER, who started the early 2010s in Japan and finished out the decade in San Francisco. The title track is a wildly melodic (almost emotional?) opener that sets false expectations for ten noisy hardcore bursts that follow. OXYGEN DESTROYER would have fit in nicely in the 1990s Bay Area, with tracks like “Slowride” and “School Jacket” landing them somewhere between Mission District fuck-ups and West Bay Koalition sonic violence, and then there are straight raw punk crushers like “Manhunt.” As a swan song, November Brain has it all; from the nine-plus minute raw punk opus “Evolution Of Man” to a slew of sub-60 second blasts of chaos. Sure, there are only 25 physical copies, but I suspect that the intent was to make it clear that OXYGEN DESTROYER existed, and these eleven tracks make that abundantly clear. The punk world needs fewer sonic constraints and more of this.

Billy & the Bad Peach Demo 2019 cassette

The murky guitar that opens “I Don’t Feel So Good” might make you think you’re in for some regurgitated goth, but that only lasts about fifteen seconds, and these New Jersey mutants offer so much more than that. The opening cut is a squirmy punk done damaged, raw shit just disassembled and tortured to the point where they (almost) sound scary. They do return to those dark undertones (guitar leads in “It’s A Trap,” for example), but the filthy stomp of “Kool” seems to personify the band: “I found out the truth, the truth about you / The truth is you don’t know you.” Only four songs here—all simple and nasty—but fortunately there’s a second tape lurking somewhere back in 2020.

Slugs Human Warmth cassette

Slimy garage shits from Göteborg that strip so many layers that I could be listening to EASY CURE demos as easily as leather-clad THUNDERS outtakes. Mid-paced stompers heavy on single-note guitars…the beauty in simplicity cannot be overstated.

Videodrome 2020 cassette

Nasty, nihilistic Middle America hardcore punk. Howling and affected vocals, the way the kids like(d) to do it in the ’10s, and plenty of sonic tweaks in the mix and between songs to remind you that you’re listening to something genuinely damaged. The drums that drag “Meade St.” out of that feedback and into the pit are….well, that little bit seals the fukkn deal. Bare-knuckle hardcore punk. Sold.

Dropdead Demos 1991 LP

If you don’t know, DROPDEAD is one of the greatest fast hardcore bands of all time. They are also one of the fastest fast hardcore bands of all time. As the title suggests, the tracks here are culled from demos recorded in 1991—and I swear that “Protest” and “At The Cost Of An Animal” sound more unhinged here than on any of the subsequent vinyl releases, and everything here hits just as hard as it did when I first heard (most of) them on a third-generation cassette 27 years ago, but it all hits even harder today because these songs (and more importantly, these words) are still relevant, they are still urgent, and they are still fucking furious. And then if you’re still standing, the sound and the delivery on the second session are simply unparalleled…this is the band who are still on top of the mountain, and they just released some recordings to remind us all who built it.

Kohti Tuhoa Elä Totuudesta EP

The Finnish band who dropped one of my favorite records in 2019 released this record in 2020 that’s fast becoming my favorite EP of 2021. Finland’s KOHTI TUHOA has progressed with each release, and Elä Totuudesta is no different—vocals have developed a pronounced NAUSEA-meets-POST REGIMENT bark here, driving the songs themselves with force. Even the title track that opens with such a furious downstroke guitar doesn’t really start until the vocals kick in. The Scandi-beat charge is definitely present, even dominating at times, but the leads are classic punk and the vibe is determined and not dark, reflected in the lyrics and delivered by the sound. You’ll never find anyone categorizing this by saying it “sounds like…,” well, anything. A future classic slab to devour in the present—highly recommended.

Beyond Description Calm Loving Life / Live in Germany CD

There was a time when you just had to see the name BEYOND DESCRIPTION and you knew that uncompromising Japanese crust was in your near future. And you were pumped. These recordings are more than 20 years old at this point…and I’m (still) pumped. Tokyo’s BEYOND DESCRIPTION delivers brutally fast political HC/crust, and time has done nothing to make 1997’s Calm Loving Life session sound any less intense. The three cuts from the Live in Germany 5″ however….holy shit, these dudes are absolutely insane live. Just pure speed and relentless hardcore, two things I could use a bit more of in my life.

City of Industry False Flowers LP

I confess that I don’t think I spent enough time with this record to really try to capture it with words—but in my defense, I think that False Flowers will keep maturing in its own grooves for many, many listens to come, a sonic fermentation process. It’s easy for bands who are all over the place to sound…well, all over the place. Disjointed. Lacking cohesion. But CITY OF INDUSTRY flows with purpose between monstrously powerful modern hardcore to emotionally introspective to blastbeats to an acoustic piece that closes things like a damn WEAKERTHANS track before exploding into fifteen seconds of raging crust—and it feels natural. This is a record realized; there’s no “why the fuck are they doing that?” but there is plenty of “holy shit, they are doing that!” and it all works. They could have settled for just melting faces, and they would have melted faces. They could have chosen to make their listeners cry, and we would have cried. They could have written a record where all of the kids would have clenched their fists and shouted along to every word while they listened, and we would have clenched and shouted. Instead, they did all of that, and they did a lot more. So I’m just going to leave this here, to be continued.

Sad Eyed Beatniks Places of Interest cassette

Dreamy DIY ’60s pop reimagined through an ’80s post-punk/indie lens. The influences are blatant, and they bleed out of the tape, which is part of SAD EYED BEATNIKS’ charm. Places of Interest is just as much Saturday afternoon record shop in-store as it is face paint and bubbles in the park filmed with a grainy 16mm thrift store camera. Guitars are supremely damaged and off, but they stay in the background while K Linn (yeah, another one-person project) pushes things awkwardly forward with ramshackle drums and innocently-off vocals. A release that listens like a soundtrack to a short film that you desperately want to exist is a good release…I can see the shots that accompany the songs, because they’re already in my mind.

Kyle Carpenter Every Third Word cassette

Stripped-down four-track pop/folk from Austin, Texas. It’s like SHOP ASSISTANTS deconstructed, or maybe the mellow cut on a college rock record that never quite kicks in and lulls you into liking it. CARPENTER occasionally wanders too close to commercial coffee shop sounds, but those moments are (mostly) tempered by cuts like “Blatant Windows” that push the boundaries of lo-fi DIY pop…actually, that track and “Leech” are pretty much the only real burners, but there’s enough weirdness here to keep me interested (at least by keeping me guessing).

Final Dose Laid to Unrest demo cassette

Yet another one-person project, this time from the ’rona-ravaged depths of London. Knuckle-dragging hardcore punk nihilism tinted by bedroom black metal listening, FINAL DOSE creates an attack that is instantly recognizable and searing…there are only four blasts (for now), but perhaps with the new strain of the virus we can all look forward to more.

Ostseetraum Ostseetraum cassette

Gloriously minimal German synth-driven new wave. Stark, cold and mature, OSTSEETRAUM conjures sounds of homemade tapes recorded and duplicated in dark apartments to be distributed by hand in early ’80s Berlin, and they make those sounds feel relevant and unattainable. Stripped NDW bands like STRATIS clashing with Voice of America-era CABARET VOLTAIRE, sonic robotics delivered with a calculated and intentional calm. Nine cuts here, a stellar debut.

The Culprits The Culprits LP

Killer Portland punk from the early 2000s, unearthed and given the treatment in a criminally limited run of 100 pieces of splatter wax. Wildly catchy and raw hi-energy—think KRUPTED PEASANT FARMERZ and TOXIC REASONS, that kind of catchy energy, hooks that pierce skin. As a staunch advocate for documentation, I’m glad nuggets like this are given the attention they deserve—and I have a hunch that 2020 ears might give the CULPRITS more accolades than they received in that downtuned black-clad crust oasis fifteen years ago, because fast snappy punk never goes out of style.

Desastyr Danting Megazus CD

Twenty-seven tracks of one-man Casio D-beat. I keep listening, but I don’t know what to say…it’s unlistenable, and that’s the point. Noise is, in fact, not music…but at what point does nonsense become art? DESASTYR is like SOCKEYE deconstructing BEYOND DESCRIPTION. I’m gonna send this to Ear of Corn fanzine and see what Food Fortunata thinks (and if that means anything to you then you’ll likely be scrambling for a copy of this CD).

Public Acid Condemnation EP

This one’s gonna be on a lot of fukkn year-end lists, and for good reason. You think that Condemnation is shaping up real nice when the trudge of “Nuclear Child” really settles in, and you think that they just dropped a ruthlessly dark and heavy beast. And then the music stops, and that buzzsaw kicks in and they are just fucking gone…you won’t know what even happened until “Flag Fetish” fades out and your ears are ringing and you’re wondering what the fuck kind of guitar solo you just heard. Rarely has the descriptor “urgent” felt more applicable, even (especially) as these freaks gear down for determined BATHORY-tinged stomps like “Electric Plague.” It’s a record that is wholly demanding from start to finish. And the demand is punishment. If you only have 90 seconds available to listen to hardcore punk music, I recommend the title track.

The By-Products Praying MantÁ¼s LP

Thirteen bursts of snappy punk from Southern California. I’ve tossed around ways to describe the BY-PRODUCTS, but ultimately I think they sound like adult punk. That’s not a knock (far from it), it means that they seem to have harnessed a generation of influences and used them to frame their approach instead of using them as a template. The start of “Self Diagnostic” sounds like BIG BOYS, “God Phone” hits me like some solid ’90s DIY punk, “Earthquake” is a straight Orange County hardcore ripper, “Aftershock” comes off as a dose of RADIOACTIVITY-caliber sharp brilliance…I could go on, but the more I listen the more things I hear. And I don’t want to bore you. The BY-PRODUCTS are avoiding all of the trappings and don’t seem suited for any of the molds—this is a hearty endorsement.

Condemned / Ernia Strike to Kill split LP

Somewhere in this batch of reviews I think I say that a dose of catchy, uplifting punk might be just what I need…this record definitively disproved that assertion, because this record is what I fucking need. CONDEMNED blasts straight out of 2004 with hard-charging crust fury, continuing a proud and storied legacy of bands from Connecticut like REACT, TORRINGTON, and DIALLO. On the flipside, Basque Country’s ERNIA matches the intensity and drops in fearsome blasts seemingly at will. Brilliant early ’00s European squat crust sounds hyped up on relentless fastcore and grind—I find myself exhaling after every song without even realizing that I was holding my breath. Lyrics presented in Basque, English, French, and Spanish, everything about this one hit the fucking spot.

DZTN 1980 Don’t Give Up cassette

Isolation hardcore continues, this time with the fourth release (that I know of) from Portland’s DZTN 1980. Cold, howling anarcho-tinged freak sounds with song structures that can (perhaps) only be signed off on by bands with no dissenting members (or no other members at all), bands that typically exist in one person’s mind. Distinct Blinko tendencies set to a steady, driving drum (machine), Don’t Give Up seems gone in an instant, and leaves me wondering if I’ve been through something. When the act’s sole member reflects on the past year by sneering “Does it have to be this way? / Does it have to be a struggle? / We wanna believe in something / Why not each other?” on the final track, I feel like someone just pulled out the splinter, so maybe I have.

Eva Ras Kada Odlaziš cassette

This is an exceptionally harsh collection of sounds from Serbia’s EVA RAS. Emo-violence (still) gets thrown around a lot as a subgenre descriptor, but this tape is unquestionably violent in the way that early Scandi-BM was just unmusically and seemingly unnecessarily harsh. Chaotic screamo with no bass and sub-60 second bursts of complete fucking chaos—you have to look back to MOHINDER to find anything approximating this kind of desperate brutality. Apparently there are only twelve physical copies (?!?!), so best hit the link below…

Möwer Grand Punk EP

Fist-banging metalpunk from Pittsburgh—fans of INEPSY, SKITKIDS and the like need to get in line for MÖWER fucking pronto. I know they are several releases into their career but Grand Punk feels like a band realized, and they sound like a machine…and few things sound better to me right now than being half in the bag in a sweaty-ass basement listening to “Burn It Down” burning so hard it makes my ears bleed. Also, I just used the word “career” in a review.

Nulla Osta / Warfare split LP

Fist-banging, mid-paced rock’n’roll-tinged punk from Italy’s WARFARE—nice forceful gravel to the vocals, and the leads are appropriately (never overly) anthemic. On the flip, Croatia’s NULLA OSTA are gruffer, rougher, heavier, and drop killer bass runs when they pick up the pace on tracks like “JebeÅ¡ Sve Od Reda.” Listening to both bands, I feel like it’s 1997 and I’m in a Southern European squat at 3:00 AM…I’m wasted, so is everyone else, there are four more bands left to play, and I don’t have a ride back to the sleeping spot anyway. It’s that kind of “fuck it,” and that’s a good kind of “fuck it.”

Panic Bodies Lost Weekend demo cassette

If nothing else, 2020 is surely going to be the year of the solo recording projects. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to shows, so I’m also not complaining. PANIC BODIES are snappy garage punk, little hints of classic punk melody (remember how OBSERVERS dropped the hooks in but still sounded punk as shit? Yeah…like that), super bright and guitar-driven power punk. Choice cut “After Hours” starts to veer into hard and steady dark punk territory, which I fully endorse. Sounds timeless…because, well, I suppose many of us have the time these days.

Paracetamøl Behave LP

Blatantly brilliant LP from The Netherlands, I just keep listening and then I remember that I’m supposed to write about it. Which is hard, because PARACETAMÁ˜L hits a lot of nerves but are doing their thing. There’s a garage tinge, but Behave is well produced and sonically advanced, full bodied and accessible punk that you can easily see appealing to a wider “audience.” Like, draw a line between DREAMDECAY and the BLIND SHAKE…and walk that line very very carefully until you fall.

The Touch Heads Try to Get Some Sleep cassette

The physical manifestation of these three tunes is now more than a full year old, but I feel like I’m going to be carrying this creation well into the next decade. The TOUCH HEADS sound like they are playing elements of a lost (and brilliant) garage hardcore recording, picking and choosing the best bits and looping them—remixing and deconstructing the music in real time. If you can imagine listening to part of a punk band….but like, just the good part. Clean guitars, complete emphasis on repetition, take the WIPERS, BIG BOYS, and DICKS school of punk and filter it through the Dance of Death 45 and take out the bits you don’t like. Stark, blunt, confident music for an uncertain future.

Trashdog Sittin On My Head cassette

Take a deep breath, kids, this one is a true fucker. Sittin On My Head sounds like five bands sitting on my damn head at the same time. Snappy high-speed garage punk, jangly college alt, sample-laden freak sounds, and T. REX worship all mashed up like a drug cocktail for my earholes.

Aluminum Knot Eye / Shithole split EP

Hell yeah, punks! Who the fukk says old people can’t out-weird the kids? Not Wisconsin, that’s for damn sure. SHITHOLE drops complete sonic damage on their two songs; the borderline unlistenable “Last Nerve” will take you back to late ’70s no rules madness with that one piercing, relentless four-note guitar lead, then launches into a pure No Wave freakout called “Sanctuary.” I am all in! Milwaukee’s ALUMINUM KNOT EYE makes it clear on “Homicidal Lubricant” that the two decades (and then some) they have spent in the trenches (er…bars?) have done nothing to mellow their freakout psych-punk. Ruthless sonic damage masquerading as digestible noise punk—takes your ears back to when the ’80s hardcore punks made the switch to writing songs and took the effort to spell out their nihilism plain and simple…in some ways it was scarier. This 2019 split is one of the best records I’ve heard in 2020, I feel like I need a break after one listen—to that I say “Another beer, please.”

The Deadbeat Club Vital Earnings cassette

The folks at Digital Hotdogs are freaks, let’s just get that straight right away. You never know what you’re going to get, which is why I always enjoy reaching into their folds to see what kind of sweaty goods come out. And just when I brace myself for some erratic drug-addled mania, I get the DEADBEAT CLUB, who play it straight and just kill the hordes of ethereal pop hacks on Vital Earnings. The whole tape seems like it just materialized from the mist still lingering from 1989, blatant and brilliant VALENTINE, TWINS, OCEAN BLUE lifts and a positively dreamy vibe on cuts like “Lucy Should Start a Band” and “Raceless Case.” They branch out here and there, veering towards more minimal sounds comprised of the same base elements…just a few cautious steps removed. And this is why I keep looking towards this damn label—because I like to be surprised and I like to be forced out of my comfort zone, even if I’m just being pushed into the arms of comforts past. Excellent recording across the board.

French Werewolves Earsores and Eye-Aches CD-R

As normality seems determined to remain hopelessly out of reach for the forseeable future, leave it to the folks from Wheelchair Full of Old Men to remind us that the entire fucking world is stupid. “Electric Urine Experimentation,” Mommy, Am I Alive?” “Greasy Possum,” and “Flying Donkey Couch” barely scratch the surface of the brilliance hidden in this little slipcase. Complete nonsense spat out over incompetent sounds coaxed out of noncompliant instruments of dubious character. Earsores and Eye-Aches offers 35 minutes of emotionally immature brilliance, a shitstain on music itself, a beacon of hope. “Got a coyote paw in a box, just for good luck and shit / Squid and Neptune, dogs and Jupiter, gazing up at the Moon / Libraries and their newspapers, all of it is gone soon.”

Outsiders These Streets LP

On the one hand, OUTSIDERS are Orange County street punk with gruff crew backing vox and every song’s an anthem and we’re all gonna stick together and stuff except when you’re wrong and then you better look out and watch your mouth. On the other hand, it’s kinda RANCID-lite and there’s a song talking about giving “all the meat you can fucken eat” to a girl who is “out on the prowl like a dog in heat” (the author can “tell by the way she’s looking at me” that she wants it, too). Just five tattooed bros who look like they should be old enough to know better. Hard pass.

Radar Mess cassette

Four doses of classic and excellent melodic punk from NYC’s RADAR. Draw a line between SOVIETTES, BUZZCOCKS, and THIS IS MY FIST…you’ll find the seeds of these sounds sown along the way. While I think that the brutality of this year manifested in the form of brutal sounds is what I want, it’s entirely possible that RADAR is exactly what I needed tonight.

Undermine Lost Funerals LP

UNDERMINE comes fast and filthy out of the gate—garage punk with a guitar straight out of early ’80s South American raw punk recordings (I’m sure this is an accident, but damn if it didn’t get my attention)…but that was just the first track and there are thirteen more to go. Then there’s this acoustic and/or mellow grunge bit, and then “Lost Funerals” drops in with some JAWBREAKER-esque emotive ’90s sounds…still with that guitar sound…and there’s more acoustic shit, I think there’s a violin and my brain seriously hurts listening to this. I haven’t even flipped the record yet, but I will. And I do. And it’s the same, but more. I don’t even know what’s happening. I want to think that every reference is an accident, but there’s just too much. I guess it’s a retro grunge record that goes all over the place, recorded in a vacuum with no filter. For sure there are a couple of spots that are good, but damn this one is tough.

Joni Ekman Totaalinen Ekman cassette

A collection of essential cuts from the Finnish pop rock savant JONI EKMAN. Late-’70s power and swagger (and style) and an ear for the right hook that is rarely this true, Totaalinen Ekman is a perfect introduction for the uninitiated. EKMAN blasts out of another dimension, a master at heavy proto-psych noodling and a true power pop songsmith of the highest order, with the ability to squeeze Bolan/Bowie-caliber swing effortlessly in between acid burners. The discography is already as long as my arm and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight, which is great news—the twelve cuts here are taken from LPs released in the mid-’00s. There truly aren’t enough accolades—the motherfucker is brilliant.

V/A Whole World vol. 1 cassette

Tasty little collection of five lo-fi garage freaksters from Berlin. Some nice No Wave eccentricities, some raw stomps, some drugged-out, wild-ass sweaty punk, even a coupla doses of shaky melancholic pop—NUNOFYRBEESWAX, FREAK GENES, TOP DOWN, the BUGS, and the DO NOTHINGS offer up a varied and feisty sampler of Berlin (circa 2019).

Highway Stacy Highway Stacy cassette

More pandemic projects are gonna roll in over the next months, and I welcome the experimentation. HIGHWAY STACY is the brainchild of Tyler Shults (COLLICK, OCCULT DETECTIVE CLUB) and is a seriously superb departure from previous projects. Angry, noisy, frustrated, pissed, dark…it’s as if HIGHWAY STACY trudges their way through these five pieces of No Wave no-punk as an act of morose defiance without joy or purpose, just to make a point. To close with the desecration of the GIZMOS track “Pay” is a move that closes this release appropriately: with the listener feeling dirty. Inside. Physical copies are criminally limited with handmade/decorated covers, but now I have glitter all over my hands from taking it out of the case so maybe you’re better off.

Murder Generation Murder Generation LP

Relentless 1-2-1-2 stomp driving short bursts of hardcore punk that lands between Riot City and NAKED AGGRESSION. Male and femme vocals bark back and forth while this trio plays music like a snotty teenage kid on a skateboard plowing through a sidewalk filled with stooges trudging to the office. Guitars are more advanced that the record implies (check “Descent of Dissent” in particular), which gives the band a bit of the Midwest basement gnarl that I love—eleven tracks in all, and they wrap things up so fast that they just repeat ’em on the flip side.

Street Magic Nightvision Breath demo cassette

Pure, dreary lo-fi pop injected with a(n over)dose of damaged freak trash. STREET MAGIC wants you to love them, but keep making you question your own taste. I can only imagine a live manifestation fraught with confusion, but captured on tape this Seattle outfit is like a gift from the space gods. Choice cut “Communion” is worth the price of admission on its own, especially coming after the moonless desert excursion “TOYL” that opens the second side. Sounds for a (the) next generation to enjoy today.

Bitter Branches This May Hurt a Bit 12″

Band of Philadelphia veterans (KISS IT GOODBYE, CAVALRY, the CURSE, loads more) team up for a supergroup of sorts, and drop a debut that sounds like a band made up of…well, a band of seasoned veterans. Emotional intensity reminiscent of MOSS ICON or NAVIO FORGE, delivered with a gritty, heavy guitar-driven attack that actually feels like an attack—guitars right up front and fighting through the speakers for the chance fight you, while Singer (DEADGUY, KISS IT GOODBYE) fucking writhes his way through the words. It’s an astonishingly mature initial release, even considering the members’ collective pedigree.

Guns n’ Rosa Parks No More Unity EP

More than a decade after the band’s demise, the second EP from GUNS N’ ROSA PARKS has materialized. I saw GN’RP in 2011, and they took the roof completely off the joint (“joint” in this case was a sports and/or dive bar)—just a ball of energy looking for somewhere to blow. This EP captures that—ten bursts of bare-bones and no-nonsense hardcore punk that give casual nods to their influences (to hear Police-era FUCKED UP and Break Down The Walls sneak out of back-to-back tracks is to feel yourself get stoked), but ultimately presents as nothing more than what they were: a hardcore punk band from Denver, Colorado. As something of a delayed and/or retrospective release, No More Unity fukkn nails it—top-tier hardcore packaged in a gorgeous twelve-page booklet packed with lyrics, photos, and flyers spanning the band’s existence. On the one hand, to see an underappreciated outfit get given the deluxe treatment like this just feels right. On the other hand, give me the breakdown to “No More Unity II” over most of the hardcore I’ve heard this year.

Kiviranta Antipsykootti cassette

Some magical electr(on)ic space freak punk that you can dance to. That you will dance to. Ghosts of the FAINT, MARTIN REV, and FAD GADGET crash headfirst into cold ’70s Scandipunk and if you have a heartbeat then you’re just helpless…until the beats drop and then even the dead will hit the floor. I hadn’t heard from this Finnish duo since 2018’s Dolce Vita, but suffice to say that they’ve grown into their own sonic skin in those short years, and Antipsykootti is the complete package. Highest recommendation.

Personal Style Demo 2019 cassette

Pure and simple: this Buffalo band cranks out infectious and addictive music. There are worlds where people will call it indie, post-punk, college rock…but goddamn if it doesn’t just hit exactly right regardless of genre descriptor. Vocals are kinda like the first INTERPOL record (that’s a good thing, fight me), their approach is chill and confident at all times, and the guitars just burn the whole time, even when (especially when) they are delivering hooks that will stick with you for days. And then they drop the bridge in “Brain Flu” and it’s clear that these fellows are well versed in American Hardcore Classics and I’m like “yeah, I get it…y’all are just really good.” I can leave the schmaltzier cuts like “Bubble Yum” behind, but I can’t deny that they are absolutely on point. This tape came out last year, there’s a single that they dropped a few months ago (I peeked—read the lyrics—trust me), and all I’m waiting for is a full-length platter to spin on repeat for days.

Bent Blue Between Your and You’re cassette

Fast, emotive, melodic punk with elements of crew and a heavy ’90s drive. An excellent mash of DC and SoCal hardcore with a solid ’90s > ’80s influence ratio—it’s great when they unleash in the middle of “Influence Me,” but the fleshy part of the song owes more to Revolution Summer than TEEN IDLES, if you know what I mean. And then there’s “Rungless Ladder,” which is just a top-notch, hook-laden Y2K burner…in-your-face guitars and a classically thin bass punch, while you can practically see the singer clutching his shirt in earnest while he screams. Presentations are on-point with doses like “We live a life of misinformation / They call us the lost generation”—these dudes know exactly what they are doing.

Druj Druj cassette

If you don’t already know, Oklahoma City is a hotbed for hardcore punk. Wild, inventive, no rules—when no one cares, then you have the freedom to do what you want…and then people start to care. DRUJ dropped this (their third) tape earlier this year and I had listened countless times before it entered my “review assignments” email, so why am I at a loss for words? The guitar intro over the drum roll that starts “Die In Flames” sounds as shit-hot as it did the first time I blasted it, and the vocals are somehow even more disorienting, and I still sit slack-jawed at full volume, just blasting…and seething. DRUJ needs this, and you can feel it when vocalist آزيتا unleashes howls in “Jesus Wept,” setting the tone for four pieces of sonic nihilism. I could dissect each track, but an academic examination would cheapen the experience and this band deserves better than that. Give it to them.

Scholastic Deth Bookstore Core 2000-2002 LP

Essential listening for fans of fast hardcore, but you likely already know that. SCHOLASTIC DETH were kings of the Bay Area fastcore world—we knew that immediately after that show in the 924 Gilman Stoar. This band was such a complete machine—Josh looked like he was doing battle with his guitar while Chris laid down thunder with a casual confidence that was in conflict with the cloud of dust the band was kicking up, B’s ever so slightly off drum fills that roll into the breakdowns (and his blast beats, obviously). Max’s voice injected this adolescent honesty while so many were trying to growl out their anger, and his signature jerky/ladder riffs (yeah he’s the singer—but he played drums in the band I was in with him and I recognize those fucking riffs) are pure gold. They were smart, snarky…they were fucking fast. Everything is here—all the records, all the comps, and two unreleased cuts. Sometimes everyone loves the same band, and there’s a damn good reason why. So happy that this thing is finally out, even though you probably already have your copy.

Blinding Glow U.X.O. cassette

Wildly powerful debut from San Diego’s BLINDING GLOW. They make their point in four short D-beat-tinged bursts—furious hardcore wound up supertight with piercing femme vocals, drums pounding underneath a wash of distorted cymbals, and a recording that blows everything out even before it reaches your ears. They get straight to business with the no-bullshit “Apologist,” and then before you know it….it’s over.

Humant Blod Flykten FrÁ¥n Verkligheten EP

Pedigrees don’t make bands, but they’ll sure as hell make you pay attention, and when Poffen (TOTALITÄR, MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) and Mattis (MAKABERT FYND, DISSEKERAD, etc.) hooked up with a trio of Americans from QUESTION, SAD BOYS, MERCENARY, POX, ZERO, CONDOMINIUM, SUBVERSIVE RITE (and others), people fucking paid attention. We all assumed it was going to be good, but HUMANT BLOD is better. Complete and total rage from start to finish—relentless, fist-banging kÁ¥ng. I feel like if anything, the students here might have inspired the masters, and the result is an absolutely classic piece of wax. The internet has already melted over Flykten FrÁ¥n Verkligheten, so I might be preaching to the choir, but holy shit, this is a great record. Choice cut, “Ingen Kontroll,” if only for the solo.

Pilau Nowhere to Hide EP

On their first release, DC’s PILAU takes notes from the massive hardcore and modern crust of the ’00s, but aim their needle more towards DESPISE YOU than DISCHARGE. PILAU churns and blasts their way through eight colossally heavy (and pissed) numbers. Grinding when they need to and completely comfortable settling into a casual light speed obliteration, though I think it’s the slow parts that truly put my stomach in knots. Folks from ASSHOLE PARADE and MAGRUDERGRIND, if you’re keeping track…you should be.

Attaktix Contra Order cassette

Absolutely massive release from Lithuania!! Everything you love about ’00s Swedish kÁ¥ng with gratuitous doses of blast brutality and an ear for churning sludge. ATTAKTIX have harnessed all of this and created a fucking monster—unabashed devastation from the Baltics, hell yeah.

No One Knows Who Did This No One Knows Who Did This cassette

A novelty recording featuring a seven-year-old vocalist is not exactly the thing that gets me fired up, but for every rule, there’s an exception. The tracks are smart, sharp, garage punk ditties, and our featured singer is full of fire and vinegar on tracks like and “B.U.T.T.T.S.” and “Shocker Docker Ocker”—and if I wasn’t already onboard, my old ass can full identify with “I Gotta Pee.” Novelty? Perhaps. But punks who like to have fun might want to dig on this one.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Primitive bass/drum/keys proto-darkwave that sounds (and is) undeniably German. Everything here is cold; even the forceful tracks like “Trabantenstadt,” with its sharp, barked vocals, sound drunk and trepidatious. Throw a Cosey-caliber damaged trumpet into “Rasthof” to top off an excellent offering that demands more listens and deeper exploration.

Primal Brain It’s All a Game cassette

Oklahoma City does it again. Furious, damaged hardcore punk made by freaks (made for freaks). Check the hiccup in the chorus of the eponymous opening track and feel yourself get swallowed by all those damn guitars. Aside from “Real Bad Dream” where PRIMAL BRAIN just fucking unleash, these kids are taking the craft out of early ’00s punk proficiency and cramming it into the 2015 maggot stomp mold…the result is fucking glorious.

All Beat Up Quarantape 2020 cassette

San Diego’s ALL BEAT UP were fine tuned and ready for tour when COVID shutdowns shit all over their planned excursion, so they did the punk thing and went to their practice space and bashed a set out to an audience of microphones. Fierce and heavy apocalypse hardcore, as powerful when they slowly pummel as they are when they unleash—only critique I can make is that I usually wish the fast parts lasted longer, but there always seems to be another one around the corner, which lessens the sting somewhat. Erratic start/stop vs. fast/slow sonic assembly nods to ’90s SF bands like BLESSING THE HOGS, or CUTTHROATS 9 with an extra dose of speed, but it’s clear when they put their foot in it that ALL BEAT UP are harnessing pure D-beat hardcore fury. We do what we can—and we can do a lot. Maximum volume and wear a fucking mask.

Dispo Rauchen Macht Heroinabhängig cassette

After a killer trash-punk opener, DISPO switches gears and drops a track that comes off like Cows and Beer-era KREUZEN bashing out modern garage punk. It’s a great combination of sub-genre influences—hardcore, darker ’80s Deutsch punk, wild garage hooks, and snotty ’70s NYC art are all represented in a release that doesn’t sound like it owes anything to anyone.

Totally Cracked Bala Boi Bíblia EP

This single sounds like a live show—not like a recording of a live show, but like an actual show taking place in your apartment. Guitar dominates the mix, a high end buzzsaw cutting through everything like…well, like a damn buzzsaw. The hardcore is fast (real fast) and never lets up over the course of ten tracks…in ten minutes. Perhaps a one-off project, TOTALLY CRACKED apparently cranked this thing out in an evening about 50 miles outside of São Paulo. The result is hot and raw, and I certainly hope they do it again someday.

Abortti 13 Abortti 13mg CD

A decade-plus back in the game after a fifteen-year stint with no releases, Finland’s ABORTTI 13 keeps delivering the goods. Cold, driving mid-paced hardcore punk with an ’80s Polish crunch on the the guitars, and a Finnish-language DISCHARGE cover to cap things off. Just one track kisses the two-minute mark…apparently there’s a certain amount of wisdom that comes with extensive experience.

Babies in the Bardo Babies in the Bardo cassette

The hype sheet references 4AD, CABARET VOLTAIRE, Factory Records, SAVAGE REPUBLIC, and you’re damn right I’m paying attention. Decade (plus) old solo recordings the bassist from EARLY DAY MINERS (it’s cool, I had never heard of them either) unearthed and packaged for eager consumption by a new generation of gloom-obsessed, dreary-faced goth revivalists. BABIES IN THE BARDO are (were?) seizing a time, and they are making it theirs in the process. Minimal synths remain chaotic while ominous bass and loops dominate thirteen cuts driven by painfully deliberate (and casually absent) primitive drums. It’s good, y’all…it’s really good—maybe we all should dust off the recordings in our closets, just in case.

Icarus Phoenix Icarus Phoenix cassette

Adult evening listening here, a brilliant and advanced collection of shoegazing indie folk. Carefully orchestrated composition and instrumentation, crooning vocals with a wispy-haired hip country twang, Icarus Phoenix is absolutely a professional and visionary release. Your punk friends will fucking hate you for liking it.

偏執症者 (Paranoid) Out Raising Hell LP

Sweden’s reigning D-takt kings are back with a monster (and a 12″ of outtakes as a companion release, because they are geniuses). The erratic fukkd up mania of 2015’s Satyagraha are all but gone, and a blackened mötorkång behemoth has risen in its place. Track after track of blistering, raw VENOM-meets-Kill ’Em All reimagined by veterans weaned on ANTI-CIMEX and ENTOMBED. I confess that the mid-tempo bangers like “光の館 (Hikari no Yakata)” are an adjustment for me, but this is a record to be listened to front-to-back (and repeatedly), and when “墓場の目 (Hakaba no Me)” comes lumbering, and then raging, in to close out the first side, I am hooked. I expected this record to be good—it’s better.

Pawns Monuments of Faith EP

Modern deathrock firmly rooted in anarcho-punk. The flangers are spot on, the SPECTRES-esque barks are on point, the lyrics are bleak, and everything is perfect. But “Broken” is a fucking anthem. Open-chord guitar stutters through “You cannot fix what can’t be broken / With open arms you’ll take me there,” into a chorus that’s nothing more than an anguished howl. Dismiss PAWNS as a(nother) goth rehash at your own peril—these are the folks doing it right.

Varoitus Helvetin Hardcore LP

Blistering Swedish mangel. AGONI/SVART SNÖ-caliber riffs and a brilliantly awkward lurching pace that is only accentuated by speed…and there’s a lot of speed. Four bangers each from 2017 and 2019 sessions—the former decidedly more raw and desperate, while the recent session has a fierce metallic delivery. There is absolutely nothing fancy about this offering, and my ears like the punishment just fine.

Much Band Literally Too Pleasurable cassette

Outsider pop from upstate New York. Doses of innocent twee, quirky proto/post-punk blurts, Nuggets-era pop, freeform experimental and some weird indie-by-way-of-yacht-rock bits (“Cut The Cake”) that I simply don’t understand. When I think of those bits as interludes between the freak stuff, MUCH BAND is a much better band. Somewhat curious that this cassette is on the Zazen imprint—a newer label who popped onto my radar for their noisecore and harsh electronic releases…it’s good to keep your fans guessing.

Norms Háború És Fű 12″

I mean, as soon as the cowbell drops, you know this is going to take some work. You know you’re going to have to put the time in to make it work. And the guitar that follows is straight off of Nine Patriotic Hymns… which is when you really need to start paying attention. On their second proper 12″, Budapest veterans NORMS push out eight tracks of thinking person’s hardcore. Sure, they are fast and extremely chaotic, but check the single-note speed picking on “Lassú Emberek.” Pay attention to the frantic vocal delivery (aside from the earlier guitar reference, the only other comparison I will lean on is that the vocals remind me of Ernesto from LIFES HALT), and the damage they inject into the chaos of tracks like “Háború És Fű” demands extensive examination. The underbelly here is manic, post-’90s USHC, but by digging for the influences of their influences while maintaining their identity as a new century hardcore band, NORMS manifest as something completely different than from either past or present. The record is great, and I like that it demands careful attention before it will let you let loose. And that cowbell…..? Oh, it comes back.

Shitload Mowerviolence cassette

Pandemic-born solo noisecore from New Orleans. Emphasis on the noise. Oppressive, distorted and violent. Someone sowed seeds of powerviolence and then got locked in their bedroom…shit got pollinated by stench and filth and noise. Choice cut: “Just Shut Up snd Wear Your Fucking Mask.”

Toadskin Toadskin cassette

There’s a hint of late-’80s Dutch East India college alt, raw outsider pre-grunge and/or post-punk, and there’s a nice gruff Picciotto tail clinging onto the end of many of the verses. You could just say that Milwaukee’s TOADSKIN is rehashing a past sound, but it rings true—perhaps in part because the sounds are from an entirely different past.

Coachwhips Devil Uptown cassette

Girlsville really digging deep with the COACHWHIPS nuggets over the last few years, and I thank them for it. Four cuts here—a synth-drenched swamp dirge outtake from 2002’s Hands on the Controls and three rough and tumble demo tracks (“Get Yer Body Next Ta Mine” and two others). Fidelity out the window, these early COACHWHIPS excursions are confident and raunchy garage punk protein; vocals demented beyond words and music stripped down to the roots all bluesy and full of not a care in the world. And loud—it needs to be loud.

Escapism Equivocation cassette

I encourage putting things like this into as many hands and ears as possible, so the Moon Decay reissue is more than welcome. Impassioned screamo from Poland—I’m pretty sure that the sound is old enough to be considered retro at this point—but ESCAPISM reaches into the chaotic world of ’90s European monsters like AKEPHAL and when I hear that shit I am like mush…I want to absorb everything. Chaotic, erratic, intense, genuine…emotional hardcore embodied. You can feel the room full of kids clutching themselves and screaming You have to realize“ at the start of “Teenage Anarchist Observations,” and you want to be in that room. With those kids. One of those kids. Realizing.

Long Knife Night of the Hunter / Rough Liver 7″

An absolute monster from Portland’s answer to Portland’s Kings of Punk. As on previous releases, LONG KNIFE wear their influences on their sleeve—POISON IDEA, heavy metal, Japanese hardcore—and they own every fucking note. These two tracks lean heavily on burning metal leads, which rocks (of course) and makes the record feel more honest. And on the subject of honesty, the lyrics read like Bukowski nihilism, taking heady stock of the reality you’ve made while keeping a cautious eye over your shoulder as a reminder of how real things can get. Living fast is fun, dying young is glamorous, but finding your place in the next chapter is the real challenge. LONG KNIFE isn’t dwelling on it, but you can feel the struggle fighting in the grooves. Great band, and this two song slammer might be their best release.

DZTN 1980 Ode to a Dead Earth cassette

I can’t even imagine how many solo recording projects have popped up in Thee Time Of COVID—but I think it’s a lot. DTZN 1980 is the work of Dustin Herron from long-running Portland band ABOLITIONIST, and has cranked out four full releases in 2020. A self-described post-punk project, DTZN 1980 manifests as a brooding, subdued proto-anarcho/goth by way of art school—and then tracks like “Cut & Run” pop up like a gopher…before fading back into the earth. There’s a lot going on stylistically, but the presentation is minimal and the bass tends to take the lead. Overtly and unabashedly political, yet another (likely) aspect of the time (and place) of creation. I admit that I support Ode to a Dead Earth more than I actually like it, though tracks like “Bad Mentality” sounds like they come from another place in/and time, hitting a nerve that encourages me to go back and spend some dedicated time with the entire release (again).

Escare Infinity Crime cassette

Advanced lifeform creates neanderthal and/or ethereal punk sounds. BEEFHEART meets ERASE ERRATA, and there’s this comforting lilt to the (main) vocals that I can’t shake. When they get caught in a jam (the end of “Brain Island” into the start of “Infinity Crime,” for example) this outfit is like a fukkn drug. If this is the New Sound Ov Punk then I am completely on board. Short, sharp bursts of creativity—and when they drop a hook (“Long Letters”) it’s one that doesn’t let go.

Kay Odyssey Knock Out! cassette

Like an unearthed ’80s college rock reject, Texas mutant/s KAY ODYSSEY are to CONCRETE BLONDE what GIRLS AT OUR BEST are to R.E.M. Instantly familiar and totally weird—and you think the tweak is in the vocals, but there’s a thing that they do with late ’80s late night radio rock that hits just fucking right. If you’re still reading this and you can sing the chorus to LONE JUSTICE’s “Ways to Be Wicked” then KAY ODYSSEY is right up your alley. And if you don’t know that song…well, there’s an internet for a reason.

Protein The Things I Cannot Hide EP

I listened three times before I typed a single word. PROTEIN took me back to a time and place that I wanted to hang out in for a while…so much that I kinda didn’t want to leave. That place still exists, it’s still vibrant, and the hardcore there is still enthusiastic and supportive. That place is not just where Poland’s PROTEIN comes from, it’s where they live, and that comes out in every one of the six tracks on their second EP. Modern youth crew, early ’00s posicore and classic ’80s SXE all come together on this release, and when I hear Rob shout “I try…I fucking try” after you drop the needle on the second side, I believe him…and I’m all in. The short blast of “For Us” was the winner for these old ass ears, but then the record closes with “Growing Distance” that conjures the very best modern HC comparisons. A fucking excellent hardcore record, but they make a point by ending with the track that makes it clear that there is definitely more to come.

Subdued Over the Hills and Far Away LP

The hype is completely justified on this one. Classic UK anarcho stylings injected with a fury and menace fueled by the new reality. “No More” is a perfectly sinister, cranked-up punk banger; “Wander In The Park” is a dark pogo masterpiece showered in descending guitars; it seems like every song stakes its own individual claim on the wax. Dark and brilliant, you’ll turn new stones with each listen…but the root of everything here is furious intensity.

Variation Four EP

Gloriously ignorant East Coast noisecore. VARIATION bounces between start/stop fastcore blasts and a low-end North American WANKYS irreverence. “No Way Out” is doubtless the choice cut, and shows that if they wanted to shed the noisecore tag and just be a force of intensity then they would be terrifying. Sixteen bangers in total, with exactly one song on each side over 60 seconds.

Heavy Harvest Iron Lung CD

I appreciate a new band that conducts a sonic examination of a thing that I experienced, as it allows me to hear it all again but through different ears. Switzerland’s HEAVY HARVEST are instantly familiar, and when they do things like the bass break into the added drums and then back into the punishing simplicity of the chorus to “Scream,” I’m like “oooh yeah, that’s the right thing to do there!” The sound is filthy and massive, UNSANE comparisons are inevitable on tracks like “Candy” just like you can’t not think of TORCHE when the hard driving hooks of “Oven” stop by in the middle of the disc. At the same time, Iron Lung is definitely their own, and vocalist O’Neal lays a distorted urgency on top of everything. This is their second release, and I do not see this band mellowing. Quite the opposite.

Grave New World The Last Sanctuary LP

All praise to New York’s Bitter Lake Recordings for bringing this masterpiece to the masses (though it sold out immediately and is already impossible to find). This 1991 recording is the sole output of Japan’s GRAVE NEW WORLD, which featured members of CROW, ASBESTOS and LAST BOMB. Churning, noise-drenched industrial metalcrust; every song sounds like an absolute apocalypse, and Crow’s vocals come off like era-appropriate Al Jourgensen stepping into the studio with The End…-era Crow. The assault of psychedelia is easy to focus on, and the externals surely help the record stand out, but it’s the way they tweak and torture the AMEBIX crust model and contort it into something completely their own that is what makes the record special. And essential release (and reissue)…now I just have to get my hands on a copy.

Science Man Tiny Tower EP

I first heard about these/this freak(s) recently from their Covid Collaboration with NERVOUS TICK and was planning to dig in anyway, so the Assignment Gods be kind this month. It’s like I hoped, and yet more reined in than I expected. Pop sensibilities crammed into bedroom punk recordings, like fuzzed out ’60s Nuggets amped up on all of the drugs (which is an ironic comparison, when you really think about it). Kinda hardcore, kinda garage punk, the drum machine (and tracks like “Changeling”) makes me think of late ’80s industrial/punk hybrids…imagine a collision of KARP and CHROME and SPITS and NOMEANSNO. Hail Freaks, Hail!

Cool Jerks England LP

After a couple of (excellent) cassette releases, the first full-length from COOL JERKS does not disappoint. The record is rigid, and as if someone went through and starched up some wild retro dark punk revivalists and made them feel like Warsaw in 1982. Lots of clean monotonous single-note guitars, Peter Hook (pre-1981) bass lines and wet, barked vocals ripped from the throats of your favorite sharply dressed anarcho punks. The hooks are here, and in great supply—the closer “Tigers and Birds” is a would-be (will-be?) hit worthy of TOTAL CONTROL comparisons, but the band’s vibe overall is decidedly darker and it suits them brilliantly. Stellar release, and I can’t imagine that this Leeds, England outfit doesn’t have even more up their collective sleeve.

Fyrkantsandning Andas i en PÁ¥se CD EP

Taking shit-fi to astonishing new heights, Sweden’s FYRKANTSANDNING offers three utterly unlistenable adaptations of hardcore classics from RAPT, DOOM, and SHITLICKERS, and one original criticizing Salman Rushdie’s sexual behavior. I think that the Rushdie track is the only one with drums or vocals, and perhaps only the RAPT and SHITLICKERS tracks have bass, but honestly it’s pretty hard to tell and I’m sure that’s the point. You have likely never heard “Warsystem” sound as fucked up (read: indecipherable) as it does here, and that is most certainly an endorsement.

Mir Express Pass Auf Mein Schatz / Tu Menti 7″

Instantly addictive hard-driving analog synth from Berlin. The label calls it “industrial boogie” and I’m pretty much helpless here because that nails their minimal dance aggression. The synths are dirty and dark, the clanging of early CABARET VOLTAIRE reinvented as dancefloor smashers, it’s a near perfect adaption of the sound—clearly drawing from (and emulating) the past but still sounding urgent and…present. Can’t gush enough about this one, except to say that two songs is not enough, and that the ridiculously limited “4 Track Mind” singles series from Tomatenplatten (this is Vol.02) are going to be the death of me. Superb.

Offside Reidars Offside Reidars LP

Back-to-basics, hard-hitting punk rock’n’roll. Even though the music is totally different, the vocals are the clear focal point in the same way that the first SENSUURI (or BAD RELIGION?) records are vocals/melody first, and riffs second. Then the riffs sink in and these Laplanders (that’s way up north-north) take a step forward… also, all of the songs are about hockey.

Mt. Vengeance Machines LP/CD

So often in these annals you can sum up a review in one short blurt. Indeed, take a look at the first few dozen issues and you’ll see reviews of stone classics that are two sentences long. Tops. So is the point of a Maximum Rocknroll review in 2020 to simply tell you what “it” sounds like and whether or not the reviewer thinks “it” is good……? Good question—and I clearly don’t know the answer or I would already be done here. Theoretically, it would go like this: “Philadelphia’s MT. VENGEANCE plays catchy indie rock that successfully conjures ghosts of late ’80s college radio alt.” Bass player was in ELECTRIC LOVE MUFFIN, which might mean something to a clique of nerds and/or middle aged people from Philadelphia (I fall into one of those two categories). Machines doesn’t sound like it’s emulating another era, it sounds like it was plucked out of one—and that’s a sincere compliment. “Noisy guitars, good left-field jerks in tempo and timing, a tension in the vocals that accentuates melody instead of eschewing it” would be the second sentence. “Super good record from a trio who know exactly what they are were doing,” that would be my closing salvo….theoretically.

Pig Sweat Pig Sweat LP

Imagine Berkeley’s CRIMINALS with metallic leads and an aggressive snarl replacing Jesse’s terminally adolescent sneer. Energy level cranked to ten at all times, this Swiss hardcore punk outfit delivers consistent power with lines like “Will never find peace with the way this world turns / Will never shut up, not till the day it burns” sinking in… riffs sinking in deeper.

Atomic Energy Commission Post Fax Nation 12″

What am I listening to? FLIPPER reincarnated the right way? My War through a Midwestern art/punk filter? I seriously don’t know, but the caterwaul of “Waldorf Hysteria” and the erratic madness of “Garbage, Garbage USA” keep me asking why? Asking what? What if 1983 MDC tried to do a Confusion Is Sex act for a Halloween gig? Seriously punks, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION is creating a sound for whatever this reality is. Maybe not the sound…but definitely a sound. Because this reality is definitely not right in the head.

DN0 Inflation Now! cassette

As if Max Nordile (VIOLENCE CREEPS, PREENING, in addition to his solo efforts) didn’t make enough of racket on his own, he’s joined forces with folks from YOGURT BRAIN, TRASHIES, UZI RASH and a host of others to create….well, more racket. Mania captured as improvisation—free jazz as garage punk “drumming,” a mess of guitar dischordances and a bass that mumbles more than drives. It’s the confident unsuredness, the comfort in being (and creating) the uncomfortable that makes DN0 work. Captured live in October of last year, before the shroud was removed and we were all exposed, Inflation Now! could either serve as premonition of, escape from, experience of, or soundtrack to the current madness. I mean…if this is what punks do now then I guess I’m fine with the new normal.

Starving Wolves True Fire LP

It’s a shame that STARVING WOLVES seemed to take a bit of a back seat when the singer took over the microphone for CASUALTIES a couple of years back—thankfully this full-length should help put them back behind the wheel. We’re talking top-tier anthemic metallic punk; you can’t deny the hooks, the leads scream Sweden-by-way-of-Portland, and there are a few all-out rippers like “Get Bit” to satisfy folks who get turned off by a sing-along chorus. Certainly these are sounds that are most associated with the club scene/s, and True Fire makes a clear effort to open the door for starter punks…but in doing so they’ve made a record with the kind of energy that old fuckers might be craving.

Totally Fucking Gay Swallow Sperm CD

Once again, I don’t know how how to describe TFG. Pro-fucking, pro-gay, anti-normal electro drum-machine nonsense. You can’t not mention SOCKEYE as a potential sonic influence, and you can’t not mention the number of times that dicks and ass and seminal fluids are addressed. At length. Extensive Mike Diana artwork creates a diversion from the monotony of big dick monologues, just as on 2018’s Gag On Penis disc, but you keep coming back to lines like “cock cock cock cock cock cock, suck it suck it suck it, dick dick dick dick dick dick, swallow sperm swallow sperm” on the embarrassingly addictive title track…it’s a bedroom electro freak show clashing with sixth grade dick humor. You don’t know if it’s a joke—and even if you do know it’s a joke, you don’t know who is the butt end. So look at the cartoon dicks and butts and boobs and sing along with: “The president keeps his mouth shut / That’s OK I can give him a pass / We both know that behind closed doors / He loves big dick and man ass.” The disc is packaged brilliantly with six EP-sized risograph prints and a foldout of all of the artwork, which is (along with the videos) integral to the entire presentation. If nothing else, TOTALLY FUCKING GAY is, and continues to be, a thing.

V/A Damaged by Dez EP

Six track compilation of Dez-era BLACK FLAG covers. MANIACAL DEVICE’s “Six Pack” is solid but unremarkable. JESSE BLANKENSHIP BAND turning “Jealous Again” into a country-western twanger is…well, it’s fine as a concept. “Rise Above” gets a modern metal treatment from Puerto Rico’s VIEJA ESTRIPE. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” turns into a schlock rockabilly lounge turd when MUMMULA gets their hands on it. Someone has to do “Damaged I,” and PURE HEEL basically regurgitate it as it was, which is fine because it’s a pretty regurgitatable song. BETTY MACHETE AND THE ANGRY COUGARS breath life into “American Waste,” easily the best rendition on the comp. I still kinda can’t believe this is happening though.

Mass Arrest Power LP

The Tunes: No bullshit. East Coast hardcore and D-beat punk crashing headlong into the early FUCKED UP 45s. I’m talking “Police” production tweaks on Swedish hardcore, and Oakland’s MASS ARREST do it all with style. It’s an addictive record full of hooks, and those hooks are on fucking fire. “Liberation” is clearly the cut, with the organ dropping in just as you drop the needle on the B-side and hear Boo Boo yell “I’m living for liberation / I’m living with my fist in the sky,”  but don’t dismiss the record for the single. There’s a joy in the very songs on Power that is hard to describe, and perhaps it’s the intensity and the determination that makes that joy hit so much harder—like the fucking DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS bridge in “Black Identity Extremist” and the ’80s alt/pop melodies that permeate tracks like “New Town Drag” even through its distinctively tough hardcore chorus. The Band: You’re going to hear people talk about this time in our society for literal (as opposed to punk) generations. And of course the messages of Black Liberation on this record resonate particularly in this moment…but the determination is timeless, even if this particular record is a document of a time. Read the words, but don’t stop thinking when you put the record back on the shelf.

Permanent Collection Nothing Good Is Normal LP

Technological advances have made “solo studio projects” a thing of relative ease, taking the one-person band far, far from the traditional realm of one-person bands. Obviously there’s the purity of vision aspect, and on records like Nothing Good Is Normal I swear that you can hear it without even knowing the source—but there’s also something to be said for the process of trading ideas and approaches and influences that sets the group experience apart from a “recording project.” How does that relate to Oakland’s PERMANENT COLLECTION, started as a side-solo project of YOUNG PRISMS’ Jason Hendardy in the early ’10s and then evolved into a full band before deconstructing back into a solo project for Nothing Good Is Normal? Well, it helps and it hurts. The streamlined melodic punk by way of hard driving high energy grunge is killer, like the best early Sub Pop tracks all fuzzed out and with no boring rock bits—it’s great, like Yerself Is Steam, but on speed (that’s a MERCURY REV record from like 1990ish—it’s really good). The vocals, however, are ever-present and serve as a distraction more often than not—overly treated and laid over the entire mix like a blanket that suffocates more than it comforts. I’m being overly critical, perhaps, because the songs and the approach are familiar and everything is very well executed. Ultimately, if the ’rona-reality is that we are going to have a lot more “solo studio projects” in our music listening lives, then I could settle into this pretty nicely.

An Uneasy Peace Speaking in Tongues EP

I’ve heard whispers about this project, and was very excited to let it sink into my ears. A recording project featuring Lance Hahn (J CHURCH) and Stan Wright (SIGNAL LOST, DEATHREAT, ARCTIC FLOWERS), Dave Wuttke (DRUNKEN BOAT, LIVING UNDER LIES) and Mike Warm (DEFECT DEFECT, OBSERVERS), this was a collection of hardcore songs that Lance wrote, songs that presumably didn’t fit his vision for J CHURCH. The man was a master, a punk historian, aficionado and mostly a fan, and I can only imagine that the other players were more than happy to help him realize his vision. It’s great. It’s like Lance from J CHURCH writing hardcore songs. “Fighting Sleep” is the choicest cut, harnessing a TALK IS POISON-esque energy right from the opening breakdown, but ultimately AN UNEASY PEACE is 80s USHC steeped in anarcho-punk and 90s DIY…which is exactly what it sounds like.

Forbidden Wizards Reheated Cabbage 10″

Now we’re talking, freaks. Some snappy, jerky Dutch punk for your earholes. You’ve got East Bay Ray guitars, you’ve got FLESHIES attitude, you’ve got a fast, inventive attack that’ll drag fans of URANIUM CLUB and the like to the edge of their collective seat/s and dare them not to dance. FORBIDDEN WIZARDS don’t sound like they are trying to ape anyone or anything, they sound like they evolved on their own sonic island—an island where weirdness rules and flamboyance is celebrated…in other words: my kind of island.

Frisk Extinction 12″ EP

Sonic abominations FRISK spend most of this record relentlessly drilling wailing monotony into the grooves—closer to ’90s college nihilism than anything classified as hardcore, they manifest their manipulations on the six-plus-minute “Attachment,” a track that owes more to psychedelia than punk. It’s just that the wailing sounds so desperate that it can hardly being anything but punk. It’s a very intentional mess, with power electronics creating the foundation for some sections as much as the pummeling rhythm section does on others. While the short, disorienting bombast of “Extinction” is probably my favorite track, it’s the contrast between that and the long-form destruction that closes the side that makes everything work. It’s a taste…it’s not the meal. And I’m gonna go ahead and make the “WALLS do JESUS LIZARD” comparison that popped into my head, because after three listens it’s still there.

The Wound The Way of Death EP

Another killer from West Yorkshire’s Donor Records, born of the same cloth as the FRISK 12″ reviewed earlier in this issue. The WOUND are fucking filthy and they manage to harness the greatest BASTARDization of a “Misery” chorus I’ve ever encountered. This is hardcore punk, but condensed and broken down to its most disgusting bedrock elements. Damaged (the record and the descriptor) guitars dominate, the bass rumble is magnificent, and the subtlety is akin to getting repeated (unwarranted) jabs to the face while in restraints. You know that low crouch creepy crawl mosh that you just know is going to turn into a brawl when the asshole fucks up the flow in the pit…? This is that, but pressed on wax. Repeated listens only increase the intensity.

Pionier Seriös Berlin cassette

This document is new to me, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have it in hand. Purportedly released as a promo only in 1981, the Berlin cassette by Germany’s PIONIER SERIÖS is an amalgamation of avant-NDW, repetitive beats and damaged synthesizers providing the background for a constant stream of spoken/chanted vocals (or manic howls, and always in German), the whole thing giving way to soft industrial dirges and no wave madness over the course of half an hour. True and genuine experimentation, not at all contrived, an exploration through and of sound, thankfully unearthed and repackaged by ZZK Tapes. Killer!

Dissekerad / Earth Crust Displacement Split EP

Two tracks of whirlwind Swedish kÁ¥ng from DISSEKERAD. The pedigree here is formidable (I’ll just mention AVSKUM and TOTALITÄR, because that should be more than enough), and the goods are worthy. A classic mid-paced cruiser starts off their side, and then they open it up with “Mardömmen Startar,” a pure fist-banging rager that leaves me reaching for 2015’s Mörkret Tilltar LP for more action. Germany’s EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT takes a little of the nuance out of the mix, opting instead for a relentless high-speed D-beat crust assault. Noisier guitars, and they don’t even take the time to warm up your ears with an intro—they just fucking unload. I like the combination of the two bands—different but equally effective approaches to a tried-and-true genre. The split EP is a much-maligned format (and perhaps rightly so), but this one is worth its weight in wax. I expected nothing less from either band, and they both delivered.

Last Agony Systematic Murder EP

Wow. The first vinyl offering from Toronto’s LAST AGONY drops like a thundercloud, three off-the-rails crash bombs on one side and a metal crust epic on the flip. A complete wall of sound, howling guitars and oppressive vocals masked by natural distortion delivered by intensity and not an EQ knob. This is what happens when D-beat is pushed to its absolute limit, and the result is incredible. Highest recommendation for fans of that great span between EXTREME NOISE TERROR and KREIGSHÖG.

Riot Cop The Violence CD

Cold, insistent anti-cop, anti-fascist punk from Portland. RIOT COP’s catchy, almost pop songs are the main selling point here (aside from the message). Seventeen tracks filled with hooks and a constant galloping pace, these are dark anthems for a new age. Guitars have an early Posh Boy vibe, but sound like they’re played through a 20-watt Gorilla amp (that’s a compliment) and the vocals are like (early) NAKED AGGRESSION’s repetitive call to action. A timely release, if nothing else.

V/A Th’ Gunk Stunk cassette

Experimental dirges, shit-fi noise and general sonic fuckery abound on this tape. Starting with a dose of formidable monotony from BONELIST, Th’ Gunk Stunk only gets weirder. Nine tracks in total, mostly enough outside the typical fray that it takes serious processing to even decide where to file them in your brain. One track is BRAINBOMBS through a Wheelchair Full Of Old Men filter, then before you know it you’re listening to no-fi no-wave DIY synth damage. As a sonic journey, this is exactly what you want out of a compilation tape.

Cyanide Tooth Midnight Climax Operation cassette

If I were to create the Cold War-era industrial subgenre, then New York’s CYANIDE TOOTH would be the flagship act. Dark, disorienting sounds treated with newsreel voice-overs, aural assemblages that predate the world of laptop-push-a-button “noise” in both approach and execution. And ultimately, it’s the execution here that sets Midnight Climax Operation apart. The climax (wordplay intended) of the tape is the churning repetition of the absolutely filthy burner “Techno Animus,” and the entire B side is taken up by a 25-minute disorienting collection of sounds and samples that leaves you exhausted as it whirrs to a halt. I wrote years ago that CYANIDE TOOTH would become a force when their vision was fully realized, and that time has come.

Didaktische Einheit Dosis 6 cassette reissue

More seminal avant-Euro sounds unearthed by the folks at ZZK, Germany’s DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT lands somewhere between early ABWÄRTS and a damaged no wave/Krautrock experiment. Furiously cold and abrasive sounds, deceptive in their sheer subtlety, all recorded live in Holland and originally self-released in 1982. DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT was short lived, but their output was formidable (at least six cassettes in 1982, before their lone LP the following year), and their ability to manipulate the act of experimentation should not be ignored. Highly recommended reissue.

Inkwizycja XXX 12″

One of Poland’s longest-running DIY hardcore bands, INKWIZYCJA has been active since the late 1980s and have only gotten heavier over time. The sound is decidedly commercial—sometimes resembling SYSTEM OF A DOWN (or HELMET?) more than anything from the North American “punk” scene/s, but the approach and delivery are nonetheless rooted in early Polish punk, and that influence is evident on tracks like “Pogrom” that closes the first side. Flip it over though, and “Wilk XXX” is a crushing modern hardcore number with a swarm of guitars that demands attention. Even though there are elements that I don’t necessarily dig, I appreciate the ability to veer in and out of easily definable genres, and the last song on the record could easily make me a commercial heavy/alt-rock apologist. Let there be no doubt that XXX is good—it’s very good—you just have to decide if your mind is open wide enough to let it all in.

Massgrav / Proteststorm Alter Schwede! / Din Tid Kommer Inte split EP

Six more blasts from Swedish grind mangel legends MASSGRAV—20+ years in the game and no signs of slowing down. There’s something special about the low-end Swedish DM guitar attacking the breakdowns like a buzzsaw, and when they tease your ears with a straight D-beat for the start of “Á…rets Rövhal 2018″ and “Gasen i Botten” before exploding into machine gun blasts…just: ugh. On the flip, two-man recording project PROTESTSTORM features LIVET SOM INSATS and KRIGSHOT/NASUM members. Should come as no surprise when I say that the five songs on their side are a brutally stripped-down dose of unhinged Scandicrust. RAPED TEENAGERS cover to wrap up their portion of the assault—all of these dudes are just really good at this shit.

Antibodies LP 2019 cassette

This tape (along with the LP 2018 cassette) are getting the very warranted vinyl treatment from Drunken Sailor soon, and I look forward to dropping a needle on these shit hot grooves when that happens. Hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, these mutants do a lot to cement my feeling that the Atlantic Provinces are producing some of the most engaging hardcore punk music in the fucking world (certainly per capita, but I digress…). Raw, high energy, blown-out hardcore punk rock in the most classic sense of the term, with just enough of the modern weirdness to make sure you know this isn’t just generic ’80s worship. It’s manic, it’s full of fire, and these jammers stick to you like glue. Certified banger.

Chat Pile This Dungeon Earth cassette

A sonic trash compactor squeezing the life out of all of their predecessors, CHAT PILE takes HELMET’s ability to riff and churn and BIG BLACK’s harsh industrial punk bent and manages to make it simultaneously inaccessible and infectious. I’m talking about a goth PAILHEAD or a black metal drum machine NIRVANA here, and it’s dragging me back to a completely different place and melting my mind. Both of the band’s 2019 cassette releases are to be put to wax by Reptilian soon, and I think the large scale format will suit them extremely well. And for the record, “chat” is a mining byproduct that has rendered parts of Northeastern Oklahoma toxic that belong to Native tribes and were destroyed by white capitalists. So a “chat pile” is a very repugnant thing…and that kinda sums up their sound.

Kalou The Sculpture Garden cassette

This is a compelling project—a collection of dreamy home recordings spanning five years and two continents—moments worthy of commercial stardom woven into ten indie/pop tracks. There’s a JESUS AND MARY CHAIN lilt to the vocals (especially on cuts like “The Thin Line”), and then a few songs (“Santa Rosa Transit Mall” particularly) descend into straight electronica. The seamless movement between twee, pop punk, and lo-fi DIY synth underscores how thin the genre lines that separate us really are…so perhaps KALOU is all of us? Or maybe I’m overreaching…probably not, but maybe. Almost every track here could be a “single” in the most traditional sense—just a cassette packed with hits.

Rinse Extended Play cassette

I love a release that’s tough to nail down. LA’s RINSE play spaced-out psych/punk, but I use both of those descriptors in the broadest sense. There’s a Doc Dart irreverence to the snarls, the off-kilter hooks drip with ’80s SoCal sensibilities, and the overall drive is sweaty and relentless, like if the BRIEFS played weird music instead of garage pop. Then they fukkn drop “Mall of America” in the middle of the damn tape, a 5+ minute slog that’s like SWELL MAPS meets ADOLESCENTS and I am at full attention. Slick and intentional punk, but supremely and superbly damaged. Good stuff.

Basic Dicks Dick Tape

There’s a lot to uncover here, and all of it good. Rock-solid drums and a forceful bass maintain the necessary foundation so the other three can unleash. The guitar downstrokes are like a machine, with single-note melodies and a lead that takes up most of “Slap,” and are likely the sonic focus of the release for the casual listener. For the front of the band, I don’t know whether to concentrate on the power of the dual femme vocals or the visceral wit of the content, but they are part and parcel—fury sometimes hits the hardest when it’s demeaning and tongue in cheek, and this is where BASIC DICKS excel. The attack is smart and spot on, assailing the male narrative as it relates to (or defines) assault, objectification, and the narrative itself.

Holehog Radiation Blues cassette

Nothing less than exactly what you expect from just one quick look at the cover, Sacramento’s HOLEHOG offers up nine bursts of street punk with studs ’n’ snarls. UK (like GBH) collides with US (like DEATHREAT) with zero bullshit and riffs for days and the only thing sharper than the sonic delivery is the honest intensity in the vocals. Members of SSYNDROM, MONSTER SQUAD and others for those keeping track, but HOLEHOG are making a pedigree all their own.

Low Card De La Muerte El Paris Savage Video Violence CD

Nagoya’s LOW CARD DE LA MUERTE have been raging outside of the North American consciousness for years now, but hopefully this monstrous full-length will put an end to that and place them firmly on our radar. It’s hard to describe how much energy there is crammed into this little piece of encoded plastic, but the songs explode off of the disc and never (ever) let up. Their blazing hardcore has elements of early ’00s thrash, delivered with an ear toward their Japanese forebears and tongue firmly planted in cheek. Songs like “Massgomi Operations” leave you breathless after a sub-30 strafing and “VxAxCx” shows their mastery over weirdness, making the sheer bizarre insanity of the construction sound like it belongs. Fifteen tracks (in fourteen minutes) followed by a ten-song rehearsal recording that could easily stand as its own separate (and equally killer) release. The rehearsal takes are raw, even faster, more straightforward and pack just as much energy, which gives the entire full-length a feel like you’re listening to a band splitting a set with…themselves. I am seriously blown away. 2018’s El Paris Radio Massacre Sessions disc was great, but this is one of the best releases I have heard all year.

Man-Eaters Carbona Guerilla demo cassette

Hard to call this a mere demo since it’s already been given the pro-tape treatment by Pissed Off! in Malaysia, but here’s the latest from the TARANTÜLA/CÜLO family tree (technically the “latest” would be the Gentle Ballads… LP on Feel It, but I’m referring to the band itself). These kids have now doused themselves completely with rock’n’roll fluid, and perhaps this band is the match. Comparisons to ANNIHILATION TIME are inevitable, though our Windy City friends lean more heavily on a straight-ahead, four-on-the-floor lifestyle led by a relentlessly reverbed lead guitar. Punk disappearing in the rearview mirror, drugs and volume abound…this is primo gutter rock.

The Uncivil Society Spectral Semiotic Sound CD

Extremely fucking confusing full score one-person production that “strives to recreate Phil Spector’s wall of sound” while acknowledging in the accompanying zine that Spector himself was a complete prick. Oh…and somehow the artist (“GORILLA X”) approaches the project through the lens of MINUTEMEN’s Double Nickels On The Dime. Spoken lyrics as astral poetry makes the release sound simultaneously advanced and amateurish…but mostly confusing. It’s a psychedelic space journey version of all of the above, with extensive notes, lyrics and images to help guide you.

Crush Crusher I Wish Punk Was Dead cassette

A much delayed review for this 2019 piece of Bible Belt brilliance. Oklahoma City’s CRUSH CRUSHER sounds like a product of their environment, the result of their collective pasts. Frustrated and manic hardcore punk played with the conniving mystery that comes from needing to find alternate ways home sneaking through alleys, and the ferocity that is learned when you get caught. The songs (and delivery) are chaotic, with distant vocals as if shouted from a different room—the result is a primitive but massive sound that “bigger” bands struggle to replicate. Twelve tracks, clocking in around thirteen minutes with an indescribably weird CRASS cover as a closer. Recommended.

Disable …Slamming in the Depths of Hell EP

Damn—a solid decade of disbeat noise from Atlanta’s DISABLE? I welcome it just like I welcome these six bursts of manic distortion into my life. It would be easy to keep cranking out amped-up, mindless D-beat distortion (and I wouldn’t mind), but DISABLE pays attention to the little things: the bit of weird chaotic melody before the stop in the title track, the start/stop that opens “False Flag,” turning “Death’s Head” into slow-motion robotic repetition instead of making it the mandatory mid-tempo stomp that every D-beat record seems to have. The closer, “Whistling Death,” is interrupted by noise, but it sounds like it was actually interrupted instead of some calculated electronics-not-music exercise to prove they aren’t just a run of the mill D-beat band. All of this is to say that DISABLE are, in fact, another D-beat band, but that they’ve used their ten years (and counting) in the game to create something different (and dare I say “interesting”) within the confines of the genre. Killer slab.

Fist Fight on Ecstacy The Next Batch EP

Drug-fueled SoCal metallic punk. The majority of the songs are fast, but they are most interesting when they slow down (“Being the Elite”). Vocals are just slightly off time some of the time, which gives them a realistic feel. Like a weird doll facsimile of a thing that you thought you liked until you saw the fake version. Maybe you work with some squares who know about commercial punk, like, just enough to know the difference between radio “punk” and BLACK FLAG and stuff. Well, this is what they think you’re into when you tell them you’re a punk.

Yambag Posthumous Pounce! LP

This is this shit that my jaded-ass reviewer ears are looking for: relentless fastcore. Guitars are clean and super fukkd up sounding, drums have a HELLNATION-meets-teenage-blastbeat awkwardness (and they are kinda recorded like shit in the most endearing way), and just 25% of the tracks top the 60 second mark. Put me in a space machine and send me back to 2001, but with all of the anger I feel in a 2020 reality, and boom I’m ready for some fucking YAMBAG. Choice track: “(O)Possum,” but there are seriously no clunkers to be found here. Thank you!

Disavow Disavow LP

Total collision of preconceptions and aesthetics here, and the dust is still settling. Sweden’s DISAVOW are nothing if not impactful, which is to say that I bolted up straight as soon as the intro was over—the demand was instant and undeniable. Modern straightedge hardcore, with roots that reach for MODERN LIFE IS WAR instead of the first (or secod, or third?) waves of ’core, and with a serious fire lit under their ass, and DISAVOW sound real, which is what makes them feel special. I think the term “post-hardcore” probably applies here as well, but this is just an altogether massive slab: intense, honest, emotional, powerful music that needs to be listened to from start to finish, and repeatedly.

E.A.T.E.R. A Momentary Relapse For No Reason CD

There’s some serious latitude given here, since ERNST AND THE EDSHOLM REBELS were responsible for a couple of crucial ’80s Scandinavian slabs, but this disc is utterly forgettable. The guitar leads are interesting, and are mostly enough to hold my interest, but the majority of this is artificially overproduced slog that actually sounds like a record made by some dudes who recorded a killer EP in 1984 (fun fact: they did), and then developed a taste for commercial stoner rock as adults. I like a couple of the modern releases, most notably 2013’s Abort the System EP, but this one just doesn’t do it, and that’s before I even get to the twelve-plus minute “Dirty Waters” that closes the CD.

On the Might of Princes Where You Are and Where You Want to Be LP

Monumental in some circles, 2001’s Where You Are And Where You Want To Be has been reissued with a few alternate takes and one previously unreleased track. On the one hand, I think this music is exactly why Tim Yo drew the line at STILL LIFE years ago—an emotionally and inwardly-driven band whose songwriting lent as much to melodic/indie/pop sensibilities as anything found lurking under any “punk” umbrella. On the other hand…who’s to say how big that umbrella should be (cue endless debate in 3, 2, 1…)? Not trying to peel away the importance (or quality) of the release, however. ON THE MIGHT OF PRINCES made ’90s screamo their own, “their own” enough that it holds up and sounds fresh and relevant twenty years later. The melody dominates, and songs flow between anguish and romance and harmless metallic riggage so smoothly that the entire record could almost be one opus (to be sure, this is the case for many devotees). The bonus material falls into the “fans only” category: the alternate versions are essentially just less-produced demo takes, and the unreleased cut “Hell or High Water” is good, but pales when compared to the rest of the record. Suffice to say, that this is not a release for me, but I openly acknowledge the importance, the impact, the intensity, and the void left by the loss of frontman Jason Rosenthal in 2013.

Cock Pliers Sex Traffic Rush Hour LP

Blasting grind insanity that asks more questions than it answers. The keyboards are understated, but give this Minneapolis outfit an occasional mainstream black metal sound that is a sharp contrast to the abrasive atonal machine-gun blast attack that dominates most of the tracks. Like PG.99 and SOCKEYE combining forces to cover KVIST…a truly weird collection of instrument/alists (eight of them…? Maybe?)…or maybe a one-person bedroom project. Songs include “Meat Fukkr,” Man Bun in the Oven” and “Circle of Sodomy,” which should get you headed in the right direction. I made it to the last track, “Dick Chisel,” and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m listening to…which is absolutely a compliment.

Sam Egan and the Perineal Excoriations Junior Police Academy Fundraiser LP

The assignment gods are punishing me for being late with my reviews I suppose, because I can’t even tell what I’m listening to. Wildly addictive pop sensibilities, wildly nonsensical synth freakouts, drug-addled construction, capture and (especially) presentation—equal parts JONA LEWIE and AN ALBATROSS? Does that even make sense? Add DJ LEBOWITZ and a shitpile of meth, maybe. Of course they’re from Binghamton, New York…where else can this exist? Chickasha, Oklahoma? Yeah…a couple of tracks sound kinda like DEBRIS cast-offs, so I just went there. You do me, I do you. Also, apparently this LP is “three-sided,” so throw that on the weird pile and get fukkd up.

Body Farm / Slutbomb split EP

There’s no shit going on here but the realest fucking shit. Insanely fast, high-energy hardcore punk that starts full speed out of the gate with BODY FARM’s “Mass” and seriously does not let up—if anything they get more intense when they slow down for the middle of their their side. The kind of slab that leaves you trying to catch your breath, and I’m struggling to inhale the rest of this band’s output all at once. On the flip, SLUTBOMB are great—very ’90s DIY political HC vibe, all over the map with femme/male trade-off vocals and wild wanks that crash recklessly into raging blasts. No genres for either band—no sonic constructs, either.

Kaleidoscope After the Futures… LP

This one dropped last year and justifiably popped onto more than a few folks’ 2019 “best of” lists. New York’s KALEIDOSCOPE has taken the screws to modern hardcore, not so much reinterpreting or combining elements from various crucial points in the historical procession of fads and subgenres, but reinventing them altogether. What if Pick Your King had been born of the Crass Records scene, for example? After The Futures… is nothing if not a complete album as opposed to a collection of tracks. “Feeling Machine” closes the first side with a perfect dose of driving desperation. It’s the kind of track that is supposed to end a side—after listening to Shiva (guitar/vox) spit fire for two minutes and then drop into an “Indecision Time” caliber micro-lead, you fucking need the break that flipping the wax mandates. They are more than capable of dropping a killer hardcore record, but there are only shades of that on this full-length, enough to make sure that you know that they know, but KALEIDOSCOPE are bigger than that. Experimentation and freedom; existence within the construct while altering the expectations of same. You’re gonna hear people talk about jazz, about psychedelic free-form nonsense when they talk about this record…but make no mistake: this one is Punk. With any luck, this one is The New Punk that will spawn a new generation of imitators who also get tired of doing what they are supposed to do, just like KALEIDOSCOPE did.

Sadie & the Wives Unique? EP

This….this is where I want it to go. You’ve got the modern fury—the weird kind. The stomps that lurch into unintentional D-beats and the vocals that are so treated they sound like a Sun Studio reverb room in a horror flick. But there’s also Los Angeles 1979 nihilism and effort crammed in here—and I mean “effort” like they are determined to head full-fukkn-speed straight into that wall of nihilism that is absolutely going to destroy them. Bands like this don’t typically last for more than a couple of singles, and I suggest getting on this train before it implodes. Listening to SADIE & THE WIVES sounds like you’re in on a secret, like you’re hearing something special, something dangerous. They’ve taken hardcore and made it sound like it was alive.

Chiller Dread Creeps In EP

These kids get more fierce with each release. Fast, nasty hardcore punk from Pittsburgh, CHILLER kills it with the breakdowns, drop the leads in where they belong, front everything with ’80s Midwest HC vocal intensity, and they barely pass the 60-second mark in the process. “Whistler” is my choice cut with its disjointed riff and disorienting beat, but there are no bad choices here.

Nervous Assistant Bitter Pills LP

Imagine a collision of ’80s SoCal and ’80s Berlin, not quite one or the other enough to not stay on the bridge. The hooks are there, but so is the stark darkness that creeps through even the upbeat numbers. NERVOUS ASSISTANT keeps it fast and keeps to the shit-hot guitar-based hooks instead of leaning on tonnage or production—not to say that Bitter Pills doesn’t sound great, because it does, but the focus remains on the songs. Makes me even more bummed that I walked into Eli’s as they were wrapping the last song of their set a couple of years back…

Red Star Ranny Pacierz Towarzysza: Live 1985-1986 LP

It still blows my mind how many artifacts remain to be re-discovered from the Communist-era Soviet Bloc countries. Two live sets here from RED STAR (who I had never heard of before this release), screaming Polish hardcore punk with melodic undertones that draw equally (if accidentally) from Minneapolis and London, but the meat here is pure fury. “Bohater” is SIEKIERA-level hardcore power, and the quirky bits of other tracks owe to ÅšMIERĆ KILINCZNA. Give “This Is Poland” a proper studio recording and its anthemic simplicity would easily resonate for 35 more years, and I continue to thank Warsaw Pact Records for making these recordings available.

Slutavverkning Arbetets Sorgemusik Del III EP

Freak times call for freak music, and Stockholm’s SLUTAVVERKNING delivers exactly that. What if essential Swedish catchy punks like MASSHYSTERI were really just band geeks who loved ZAPPA? And saxophones? Because this shit is hopelessly addictive, crazy catchy, and the bizarrodust is sprinkled over every aspect of the mix. “Kollegor” encapsulates the whole approach—wild, driving ScandiPowerPunk verse right into a sax-driven art punk/hard bop chorus, with a TRAGIC MULATTO-worthy crescendo to finish. The record comes with a handful of inserts and a mini poster, personal touches that remind me of the things that used to make me excited about punk…and still do. Get wild, young punks; get real, real wild.

Vlack Wake Up / Worm 7″

Strangely infectious and undeniably powerful platter on my turntable right now. Massive guitar-driven stomps with a hardcore bent—I’m thinking early ’00s not-quite-commercial not-quite-kickboxing-bro-core, maybe even a touch of emo. “Worm” is the dark brooder, while “Wake Up” hits hard and keeps hitting. For scope of appeal, VLACK lands somewhere between MODERN LIFE IS WAR and UNSANE, and carves out their own sound  and approach in the process. Criminally small pressing of just over 111 because…the internet.

Asocial FÁ¶ralltid Underground LP

Holy shit this is a beast. Sweden’s ASOCIAL left a criminally limited discography in their wake when they disbanded in the mid ’80s, but their return a few years back with Död Á…t Kapitalismen was a welcome kick in the ass…this one, however, is light-speed kÁ¥ng. Föralltid Underground is so damn fast, and the riffs are just deadly in their simplicity and execution—this is literally a perfect record. Only two tracks top the two-minute mark, Berggren’s vocals are fueled by a fire akin to early DISFEAR, and the transition from primal ’80s ScanD-beat fury to 21st century power has only made the guitars more deadly. The drums in the title track alone are worth the price of admission—a veritable clinic on hooks and raw power joining forces…much like the entire LP. Raise your collective fist.

Июльские Дни (July Days) Китеж cassette

Present-day reinterpretations of ’80s dark wave/synth rarely sound as perfect as Июльские Дни. Synths are heavy and omnipresent but never overbearing, vocal delivery is stark and cold, demanding and earning attention, while guitar melodies ripped from Top of the Pops soar the band to new heights. Everything is held together with a rock-solid rhythm section, creating a feel that’s suited to the darkest corner of the dancefloor as to an ’80s movie montage. They are reaching confidently for a sound…and they succeed.

Ooloi From the Dust, A New World Emerged, Barren and Awaiting Our Sorrows digital LP

Experimental and/or improvisational free jazz (?) steeped in punk ethos and sonics. A vast expanse of sound, feedback and electronics shrouding erratic drums while guitar and wind trade compete for melodies. The middle of “Jonah” approaches PAINKILLER-level heaviness and ominousity before departing on another leg of their journey through sound—a journey that ends with a raucous, almost six-minute stomp titled “Funeral Rite.” That track (and the release) descends more than it ends, a surprisingly gentle landing that reminds you just how far off the ground OOLOI took you.

Ricky Hell and the Voidboys Ricky Hell & the Voidboys LP

Drug-induced garage and/or bedroom rock brilliance from Ohio’s VOIDBOYS, fronted alternately by Ricky Hell and/or Ricky Hamilton (who are most assuredly not the same people…unless they are). Why is the lead instrument in “I Luv It” a clarinet? This is just one of the (many) questions that you will have after listening to this banger—but mostly you’ll be asking “where can I get more?” Several of these tracks are from the Killed By Ricky tape that most of us will never own, an indescribable collision of dream pop and infectious two-chord punk and a laser-sharp focus on a good hook. CHROME meets ROKY ERICKSON meets the SPITS. There, I said it.

Rivers Edge The Runaround cassette

The e-blurb from the label pretty much sums it up: “Region rock is alive and well in 2019.” Chattanooga supergroup drops their third full-ength cassette in as many years—infectious rough/melodic vocals, ultra produced and perfectly dirty wall of guitars, and more hooks than any self-respecting punk would know what to do with. If you know where they come from, then you likely already know the band. And if you like where they come from (SEXY, ADD/C, THIS BIKE IS A PIPE BOMB, FUTURE VIRGINS) then it shouldn’t surprise you when I recommend this release. I know their legacy is formidable already, but their craft is becoming dangerously refined…which is bad news for exactly no one.

Veils Wellwisher’s Tongue EP

Colossal hardcore from Manila—their debut EP was an absolute killer, but last year’s follow-up will leave you on the damn floor. VEILS hold weapons in their arsenal to level listeners with speed and power, but it’s the restraint that make them stand out—like a more nuanced INTEGRITY, they offer their tonnage with an inward intensity before unloading. “Svvarm” is the perfect example, an intro followed by a drum roll that only hints at the blasts, breakouts and breakdowns that are going to fill the next three minutes. Dangie’s vocals are gruff and dripping with fury, pushed to their absolute limit like the band themselves while the guitars fill every bit of space on the record, dominating in their very presence. Intentional and honest brutality that sounds (and feels) very very fucking real—an excellent record.

Brain Toilet Painmaker cassette

This North Carolina outfit pops up sporadically, but they seem to leave a pretty nasty mark when they do. Oppressive old school grind brutality that imposes itself upon the ears. Seven cuts, and not a relaxing moment to be found. Choice cut: “Underbelly.”

Dateless Extreme Brewed Crash Cooled cassette

Hard-driving NZ rock with serious and generous (or seriously generous?) Aussie overtones. After a long drive down a dusty road, when you walk into the only bar you can find just as the sun is setting…this is the band playing. This is walking out of solitude and into a wall of beer and humanity. DATELESS are raw, primal….DATELESS sound like rock’n’roll.

Észlelés Középtempó Radikále EP

Art/noise manifested as hardcore punk. I feel like Budapest’s ÉSZLELÉS are taking modern-day squirmy punk and giving it a KILLDOZER/FUGS makeover…with horns, and with lots of drugs. A swinging good time, to be sure, and these kids are making punk sound very fukkn weird again.

Kids Born Wrong Giallo cassette

Raunchy garage punk giving a nod to slasher flicks on this five-songer released last year. I can’t place the warbly tenor in the vocals, but there’s a rockabilly reference that I couldn’t shake (or identify) throughout my listen. A different tweak on the recording and some serious songwriting chops would start to shine, but I appreciate that KIDS BORN WRONG seem content (or determined) to stick to a horror punk delivery.

Pink Grip Hedera Helix EP

As good as this whole thing is, the mid-paced sinister trudge of “Spithead” is pure gold. Vocal snarls hold the spotlight throughout, while erratic beats challenge your ability to squirm and discordant guitars only increase the tension. Only four cuts here, but there are enough feels to last a couple of full-length platters—demanding and destructive hardcore punk from Scotland. And seriously…”Spithead” is unbelievable.

Terra Soror Revenge cassette

This one is reeeaaalll good, y’all. UK femme punk trio with an inimitable but instantly familiarly awkward stomp with roots reaching for sharp anarcho/post punk and early Polish hardcore (seriously, “Shapeshifter” after the intro could be a lost track from the Fala comp). A swarm of downstroke guitars are the focus, even as vocals stab through the mix with sharp, urgent bursts. TERRA SOROR might land in the sonic void between dark DIY rehashes and early-’80s UK independence, but what they are really doing is creating their own space, and I hope they continue to fill that space with more sound, because this is absolutely fantastic.

Urin Incydent EP

The embodiment of bombast, Berlin’s URIN drops hard and never let up. Blown-out, manipulated, affected, tortured, ferocious, noisy hardcore peaking constantly. The kind of record that makes you gasp when it’s over…because you realize that you’ve been holding your breath.

2 Lazy Boys The Recline of Western Civilization LP

East Bay label Deimos nails it in their promo blurb: “Calling back to the Geek Fest era of the Oakland punk scene!” And boom!—2 LAZY BOYS go instantly from a bizarrely compelling alt/indie/art twee trio to fukkn visionaries. It’s all about context….like when you sink your teeth into tracks like “Suck a Day’s Dick” and the true-crime story “Juggalos vs. Nazis.” Unquestionably flawless songwriters, with an air for irony and lyrical irreverence that pairs nicely with hit after would-be hit. This is not the record I would expect to even like, much less gush about, but this soft pop with a country/folk tinge (and one burst of chaotic hardcore on each side) has me hooked. “The day’s a selfish lover / The sun never shines under the covers / Then you wake up feeling sad.”

Circle Pit Pushed to Revenge CD

Ripping beer-soaked Texas thrash metal. CIRCLE PIT is from Austin, and what do they sound like? They sound like a thrash metal band from fucking Texas. Real heavy on the Four of a Kind-era DRI, creeping into Thrash Zone even, these rippers go easy on the solos and only slow down for the occasional pit-activating chorus (I’m talking “Killdozer” here). Vocals reach back a couple of decades for influence, skipping modern screams and landing in the late-’80s thrash department—it suits them well. Get fucked up, go hard, wreck shit, this sounds and feels real.

Cross Control Outrage Culture EP

This thing starts so dark and ominous that I checked the RPM indicator on the label twice before CROSS CONTROL dropped in with a wall of ’core that brought me to my knees. This is straight-up, no-bullshit mosh-heavy hardcore Á  la early Bridge Nine (and, before that, New Age Records) with a commendably inward lyrical insight. The crew vocals are in full force, and even though this LA outfit is pure devastation when they take the reins off and let it out, I think it’s the fast parts justified with the unreal low end that makes CROSS CONTROL stand out. Extremely fukkn solid debut release.

Enzyme Howling Mind 12″

You know what’s up here—manic non-music hitting you like a hammer. Rapid-fire drums only seem to stop between songs, firecrackers exploding through the mix erratically while everything else is either distorted or flanged to oblivion. It’s a complete assault that will exhaust even a casual listener (try seeing it live), but the thing that sets Australia’s ENZYME apart is the fukkn tracks. The title track is an insanely catchy pogo banger, followed by “Decadent Hogs,” one of the most relentless scorchers of the last decade that’s still catchy as fuck. The bass is the regulator, holding everything in place and directing the chaos…not an easy task when the chaos you’re a part of just hoists the banner of noise punk higher and higher. CONFUSE? Sure. DISORDER? Naturally. But ENZYME has evolved.

Gipsy SS Intergalaktikus FajtalÁ¡lkozÁ³ EP

Remember what AMDI PETERSENS ARME did to stadium crust somewhere around 2000? Well, perhaps distortion-drenched noise punk D-beaters are about to take a back seat if this Hungarian band has the same impact…and if people will simply listen, then I’m sure they will. Smart, chaotic, catchy, freaky, erratic and damaged post and/or art punk injected with an absolutely unreal energy that leaps out of the grooves. Dirty (not distorted) guitars struggle to follow drums that are determined to steer clear of anything close to a “normal” beat while the bass often takes the lead—and all that madness makes it hit even harder when they all miraculously fall into the same groove (it doesn’t happen often, which just makes it more special). GIPSY SS sound like no other band, which just a small part of their appeal—they grab you and swing you around your own damn head…this is the energy that punk needs.

Heavy Breather Worser LP

Can you imagine a convergence of PINS OF LIGHT, CRIMINAL CODE and Hidden World-era FUCKED UP? Massive guitar-driven rock, gruff earnest vocals sharing space with ever-present guitar leads and I’m gonna call myself crazy here, but every so often that fool sounds like Rollins. I basically kept this one spinning off and on for a few hours, and I think my only complaint is that HEAVY BREATHER is essentially mono-tempo…but it’s a good-ass tempo. “Same Blood” is the go-to track, except that it ends just when I want it to drive that damn chorus into my brain for an hour. So I listen again.

Nowaves Good for Health Bad for Education LP

This is darkness in the right way. What I mean to say is that NOWAVES sound like they exist in a shroud and/or shrouded by smoke—sounds composed in the physical and metaphorical recesses, presentation that struggles to harness a primitive determination. NOWAVES will certainly appeal to goth revivalists with cuts like “Empty Sorrows” that focus on the synth and that ’80s dancefloor swing, but it’s all in the context of a record that mostly lands somewhere between EA80/GRAUZONE