Reviews

Black Water

Andy Place and the Coolheads Feels Like a Dream EP

ANDY PLACE AND THE COOLHEADS have been rocking the Portland, Oregon region for nearly a decade, and their garage power pop sound on this latest EP is refined into three tracks. “Feels Like a Dream” opens things up with bang that channels SWEET. “Contrarian” hits next with an egg-punk energy, and is honestly my favorite song by ANDY PLACE AND THE COOLHEADS to date. The closer “Blackwater Commercial” is a 42-second song that heaps praise upon Portland’s legendary punk dive, Black Water Bar. So I guess this album functions as a solid two-track, and the Black Water gets a cool jingle, too.

Daydream Reaching for Eternity LP

Third full-length by Portland’s hardcore punk fanatics DAYDREAM. And what a beautifully ugly record! After their great self-titled debut and followed by Mystic Operative, DAYDREAM continues to steer away from the conventional hard punk lines and dares to paint their own. More akin to the artsy side of hardcore, Reaching for Eternity is a rollercoaster of moments, bits and pieces of different parts of hardcore punk, like a collage of Dischord Records bands stitched together. No need to choose FAITH or VOID when you can have both!

Dead Hunt Dead Hunt LP

Oh great, another band that couldn’t exist without TRAGEDY. Not much stands out from the rest of the crust herd here, but nothing is awful either. Vocals are nice and aggressive, the production approaches stadium crust levels of cleanliness and loudness, and the riffs themselves are not terribly generic, but not super unique either. The best part of this record is the guitar leads, most of which sound like they were aped from IRON MAIDEN or something. Probably a better live band.

Death Ridge Boys (Don’t Let Them) Divide Us / Working 7″

You could easily file this under the “Hairy Guys Playing Oi!” category, but that would be a great disservice and you’d only be robbing yourself of a real kicker of a record. This is the guy from TALK IS POISON’s anti-fascist working class street rockin’ quartet from the mean artisan-coffee-drenched back alleys of PDX. The title track here is a complete “War on the Terraces” vegan leather boot stomping anthem. “Working” is little more of a hard rocker: regaling the woe-filled tales of clocking in yet another hard day at the bicycle collective. All jokes aside, this a scorching little platter with well-thought out lyrics and is well worth your wages.

Decomp Condemned to Earth LP

Full-throated Earth Crust from the realms of DISTURD, AMEBIX, and HELLSHOCK. Clenched-fist machine gun snare, constant metal crust churn, Condemned to Earth is a ruthless pummeling—starts fast and refuses to let up. Even with the sub-two-minute D-beat ripper “Paranoid Coward,” they never stray far from their influences, and I don’t want them to. Excellent.

Forward Apathy Kills People EP

Tokyo’s kings are still…well, they are still kings. Two more tracks of fierce, positive, life-affirming Japanese hardcore. A mid-tempo A-side with a chorus just begging for crowd participation (the songs are completely different, but I’m reminded of the times I’ve seen audiences competing with the PA during the chorus in “What’s The Meaning Of Love?”) gives way to an absolute burner in “Our World Our Own,” injecting raw JapanCrust fury into the anthemic hardcore that has become FORWARD’s signature over the last two decades. Ishiya’s vocals are gravel and fire, Souichi is still a fukkn animal, while You and Akiyama still manage to feel loose as fukk while remaining rock solid. FORWARD is very, very close to the perfect hardcore punk band, and this record (along with the full-length in the last issue) show that they have no intention of letting up.

Genogeist Genogeist LP

Hailing from PDX, GENOGEIST plays tidal waves of crushing static hardcore crust. Two levels of vocals are presented: a choking guttural dense layer, and a clearer digital affected top layer sort of reminding me of ACCION MUTANTE. Songs end and begin seamlessly sutured together. The compositions are at their root punk, branching out with cyber-botanical metal briars. That is to say they bang, hard, but are smothered in distortion. The guitars slice out with AGE accents. The drumming is exceptional, constantly holding a steady mid-tempo crust beat, then all of a sudden cascade and explore into a ruthless fit.  This album moves fast with its attack, but covers all areas of expert songwriting and never seems repetitive. Engaging riffs, punctuated vocal moments, D-beat piledriving, ghoulish momentary death metal solos. GENOGEIST haunts shit up from beginning to end. An epitome of crust’s origins while offering contemporary fresh individuality. Favorite track: “Systemic Shroud.”

Hellshock Hellshock LP

Like many soap-dodging, crust-loving punks of my generation, HELLSHOCK is a band that has had a massive influence on me (especially as far as my crust-pants wearing habits go), and the ’00s stenchcore revival that followed in their wake was brilliant and probably the first meaningful wave I felt a part of—let’s not count the sloppy CASUALTIES cosplay of the late ’90s. I still play the early records regularly, and while time was not so kind to some of the ’00s metal crust bands, HELLSHOCK still sounds genuinely brilliant. The world left them at They Wait For You Still in 2009, an album infused with Japanese hardcore which I have always been quite undecided about. It was not a bad piece of work, but I could not relate to it that much, and in the end did not care much about it. When this brand new album recently came out, I was very curious like everyone I suppose, but did not expect too much. And sadly, I cannot say I care about this one either. This time, HELLSHOCK are full-on old school death metal and, apart from the odd crust overtone, the band of yore is definitely gone. I am sure they still sound like a freight train live, but this LP leaves me a bit cold, like death metal does in general. One can safely assume that death metal fans would be well into it. I do think the artwork looks brilliant, though.

Lazer Bullet Spirit Suck Shit EP

Fastcore punk rock outta the Pacific Northwest. Really brilliant work here. The guitar has a little bit of a twang with a natural distortion to it, which gives it a crisper and cleaner sound while maintaining the hardcore energy. Everything is just so near-impossibly fast and never wavers. Super intense energy and incredibly tight. Vocals sound great; high-registered yelps drenched in reverb that really gives it that rock’n’roll edge. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how great the drums sound, spot-on and massive. This is a great EP all around. I’d even consider it a very early contender for future “Records of the Year” lists.

Long Knife Curb Stomp Earth LP

Crucial release from this Portland band that melds the perfect combination of POISON IDEA and early FUCKED UP to kick major ass. This record shreds from start to finish and adds unusual elements that keep it fresh the whole time. It is straight-up exciting. Opener “Modern Fatigue” starts with a goddamn full church choir that matches the epic, grandiose nature of the songwriting and riffs with divine power. Sounding like a gimmick at first, LONG KNIFE brings back the choir amidst the blitz-fast hardcore to awesome effect. The energy never slows from that moment and often uses intricate crossover riffing, time changes, and full-cheese thrash solos on songs like “Blue Rose” and “The Curse.” The thing is, it rules instead of feeling corny or overproduced. Take “Scum” for instance: Castlevania organs underpin the punk and later solo like there is a bat-winged candelabra on the guitar amp. It sounds like MURDER CITY DEVILS meets, forgive me, GHOST, but it rules. Essential, innovative hardcore that never lets up. If you don’t like this, your idea of punk may differ from mine.

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.

Rigorous Institution Cainsmarsh LP

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

Rigorous Institution Penitent EP

As many of us already know, the influence of post-punk bands like KILLING JOKE, JOY DIVISION, and BAUHAUS was to shape the sounds of AMEBIX/AXEGRINDER (referring specifically to the ’80s era, and not their current incarnation). RIGOROUS INSTITUTION reminds me of those gritty, dark, gloomy aspects of the original anarcho/post-punk influenced crust punk bands that were coming out from the UK in the ’80s. They combine aspects of KILLING JOKE meets VENOM with the synth parts used in AXEGRINDER songs. It’s common to see people blindly ripping off anarcho/post-punk bands like EXIT STANCE, VEX or PART 1 this past decade, but RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doesn’t fall into that realm. It’s “crust” but not in the HIS HERO IS GONE-inspired neo-crust/’90s hardcore kind of way, nor another version of the mid-’00s “metallic crust.” It doesn’t comply with most people’s stereotypes of the genre (the ones who would be into that stuff would most likely be in the old school death metal scene right now). In this current day and age of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information to simply mock a certain style that’s considered cool or validated, I’m glad to hear a unique band like RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doing what they do. Highly recommended.

Ripper Wasteland LP

Portland’s decade-long, Motör-fueled, charged and speedy metalpunk project. Lemmy worshipers with a punk’n’roll grip that gets monotonous quickly, yet is very well-executed. Great recording and guitar and vocal sections. Recommended mostly for Motör-heads.

Syndrome 81 Prisons Imaginaires LP

SYNDROME 81 stands apart from the majority of their contemporaries in the Oi! scene, taking as much inspiration from latter-era BLITZ or even ROSE OF VICTORY as they do CAMERA SILENS or TROTSKIDS. This darker, solemn take on the genre with touches and flourishes of deathrock and post-punk is a bit of a palate cleanser compared to some of the more tedious caricatures that the Sambas-and-camo-shorts mob farts out semi-regularly, and on their debut full-length they sound tighter and more fully-realised then ever before. Punchy and anthemic, this has the potential to be one of the best releases of the year.

The War Goes On Assisted Armageddon LP reissue

The WAR GOES ON is a hardcore punk band from Copenhagen, Denmark that embraces the depressive reality of life and comes out swinging. The WAR GOES ON presents a sound that reminds me of the UNSEEN in their Explode era—anthemic, melodic, but aggro. Emotions related to weariness from years of alienation become distilled into D-beat punk that borrows from street punk and Oi!, but is definitely not either one—more like road crew hardcore that articulates the struggle of survival while surveying the abyss of mental breakdown. Assisted Armageddon is nine songs that are catchy in a way that becomes addictive, and with a total runtime of about eighteen minutes, you’ll want to spin this album on repeat.

Warchild A Question for Today… Not Tomorrow LP

Second album from Sweden’s WARCHILD—pure D-beat worship in the best Scandinavian tradition. This is a brutal, direct, hard-hitting, and breathless attack. The lyrics are focused on the complex web of damage that war creates. For fans of DISCHARGE and TOTALITÄR, and for those who want to enjoy some of the best current exponents of Swedish käng.