Reviews

Iron Lung

Acrylics Sinking In LP

ACRYLICS have made a full-length LP, playing with much more atmosphere than I recall either of their singles or their demo having. Although the band is still ferocious, still massive sounding (more massive than ever, in fact) and still has the coolest FLAG homage riffs (without really sounding too much like BLACK FLAG), they’ve added a couple of instrumental interludes, some synthesizer, lots of pedal effects and some studio trickery, all of which add texture to the sounds. Songs like “Harm” and “Losing Sight” are moodier and more expansive than anything on prior ACRYLICS releases, while “New Face,” “Awake,” and the previously released “Structure” feature the more familiar gut-punch hardcore. It’s hard to put into words how great this record is. Sinking In is clearly the result of a lot of hard work. Nothing about the record—the songs, recording, artwork, lyrics—feels like an afterthought.

Alien Nosejob Once Again the Present Becomes the Past LP

The HC45 single was one of the best hardcore records I’ve heard in recent times and Mr. Nosejob brings those quick, nimble riffs to full-length form. The description for Once Again notes that it began as a concept record referencing both WWII bombings and comedian Norm Macdonald. It sounds like if MODERN WARFARE or the MOB (NYC) had Mike D. of the BEASTIE BOYS on vocals and were emulating DISCHARGE singles. Or if DEVO had been a metal band. Or if the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB wrote a hardcore record. It’s wacky and has nice subtleties and moments that’ll make your ears and eyes pop. The guitar solo in “Pointed Shears” reminds me of the guitar in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song (which now that I listen back on that theme song sounds like it could’ve been a scrapped tune from Military Affairs Neurotic if it was a bit slower). This record will draw a line in the sand for many hardcore fans, probably multiple lines, once again illuminating the dreaded egg v. chain dichotomy.

Alien Nosejob HC45 EP

The first hardcore record I’ve heard in a long time that instantaneously made my eyes bulge. I’ve been brushing off every ALIEN NOSEJOB release as some quantity not quality shlock but this exactly the bright, rigorous, exciting hardcore I love. The vocals sound like Mike D. on the Aglio E Olio EP and the spastic, eye-twitching BAD BRAINS-style hardcore found on that ’90s BEASTIE BOYS release certainly lends some influence here. Reminiscent of bands like SOCIAL CIRCKLE, BIG ZIT and LAFFING GAS but it definitely sets itself apart.

Alien Nosejob HC45-2 EP

Australia’s ALIEN NOSEJOB gives us a quick dose of freaky hardcore with this collection of six rippers in eight minutes. Check out the cover art for a visual preview of what’s inside: colorful gore delivered via box-cutter surgery. Egg punks, but real ones. Blood everywhere. Likewise, these short bursts of hardcore frenzy have a lot of moving parts and seem to be on the edge of breaking apart at any second. But they don’t, and that’s the exciting thing. These tracks have a lot of USHC influence like early BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, etc., but with added trebly guitar fills and near-constant drum rolls that reveal hidden complexities upon further listening. Listen to this and enjoy a modern take on the classic hardcore blueprint: very fast, snotty, and great.

All Hits Men and Their Work LP

A year-end top tenner for this reviewer, Portland’s ALL HITS’ debut, Men and Their Work, has been in heavy rotation in these parts since the summer. They’re everything I like to see in a power trio. With intricate interplay between guitar and bass, eight stripped-down but killer tunes about all of the enduring bullshit of our age: white supremacy, abusers in the scene, and police as natural class traitors. There’s not a lumbering moment here and not a dud to be found. I remember Mike Watt once said it was a political thing in the MINUTEMEN how the bass, drums, and guitar were distinct and equal in their mix and songwriting, and I imagine a similar ethic at work here. Every component gets to shine, in a sense, putting their politics into their song structure—that’s what I’m going to infer, anyway. Great shout-along moments, sung moments, and inventive instrumental bits to keep things interesting. Sonic comparisons to MIKA MIKO are not far off—but with deft and agile basslines. From the tape glitch freakout of “Intro” to the anthemic rager “World is a Fuck” with the extended breakdown, this is a superb debut. 

Bad Breeding Human Capital LP

BAD BREEDING is anarcho-punk filtered through the lens of someone living in the ever-growing social collapse of this modern world, because times keep getting worse, so the anger grows. Imagine if any of the Crass Records bands were to be transported to 2022, and I bet they would come close to what BAD BREEDING is doing. I say “close” because BAD BREEDING operates in an artistic world of their own that is really hard to emulate. Yes, “artistic,” because that is something lacking in punk: art. So much more than just a punk band, BAD BREEDING is the complete package of social unrest, and Human Capital is a sonic mirror held to the metaphoric face of society. From anarcho-punk to post-punk passing through grittier hardcore punk, there are twists and turns that are hard to predict but easy to listen to, that leave you wanting more. This is a complete album in every way, as the artwork and the music are indistinguishable in the way the passion goes through both. The artwork is segmented and crafted by a fantastic team of visual artists that have the same love for punk as BAD BREEDING, featuring Nicky Rat, Dead City Tokyo, Shiva/Shadow Comms, Jack Sabbat/InHell, and Yagi. And as with their last record, there is an essay written by Jake Farrell that serves as a further depiction of the ideals of the record. A band that may divide the waters in a sense that many are not prepared to understand, but that is what punk is all about! Is this the album of the year?

Bad Breeding Exiled LP

This record sounds like a cross between WHITE LUNG, RUDIMENTARY PENI, and DISCHARGE—three bands that sound almost nothing alike.The anarcho-punk vibes are heavy throughout the music, lyrics, and artwork, but unlike a lot of modern anarcho-punk that seems to go the goth route, this is a lot heavier, even verging into hardcore territory. The bass is turned up loud in the mix and become the main driver of the songs, and the guitar parts are experimental and chaotic, but manage to maintain punk. Something here for everyone.

Börn Drottningar Dauðans LP

I always like to look at the art of the album before listening to a record, so I feel like I can try to guess what it is going to sound like—this one was a surprise, a really great surprise. I love everything about this LP: the voice, the guitars, the drums, the bass. One thing that makes me really excited about this band is that they kinda remind me of SCARLET’S REMAINS, a deathrock band I used to listen to when I was like fifteen years old. I mean, not that they sound the same, they have a totally different style, but this album is pure obscure perfection.  Amazing record for deathrockers and post-punkers.

Brain Tourniquet Torture EP

The second EP from the Washington, DC band BRAIN TOURNIQUET is a bouquet of pain and fury. The band, formed by members of PURE DISGUST and TRUTH CULT, knows how to give their own twist to a genre (powerviolence/fastcore or whatever you want to call it) that we know has a limited creative spectrum. And they do it with songs whose foundation is anger, and from that base they build small monuments to bad vibes with a brutal musicianship and very imaginative arrangements. A very pleasant surprise.

C.H.E.W. Feeding Frenzy LP

Finally, an LP from Chicago’s best recent hardcore export! There’s something incredible about the way that they seamlessly incorporate rhythm / tempo changes and dissonance into their lightning fast riffs. How the fuck do they do it? Every listen has left my mouth agape, every track feels like it could be an example in a class on how to write a great hardcore song (even the dirges). An incredible record—I can’t wait for the next one.

C.H.E.W. In Due Time EP

You’re flung backwards down some stairs into another room, sprung into the middle of a pit. You come to, thinking maybe four bands are playing at once but it’s all C.H.E.W, there’s just an extra frequency in there that pops up like an intrusive thought, real wacko sound only the baddest saliva animals can creepy crawl to. Doris’s nasal recriminations give way to a full sputtering throat and suddenly there are duelling riffs in five dimensions. A fastidiously choreographed meltdown executed with a similar deranged flair to IMPALERS, but way more petulant. Fuck!!! There’s an extra sub woof-woof-woof of vicious stomp. A song named for a disease you can only get from eating cat shit. Hot feedback. Is that a mosh part played backwards? You can’t feel your head. C.H.E.W have taken the hardcore palette and gone full Abstract Expressionist with it. There’s echoes of that GELD LP from last year, which makes sense because thinking about it Iron Lung put that out too. Exactly the type of factoid some punisher will whisper in your ear as you’re squeezing out the juice from these insane fractal solos. Maybe I am the punisher. Now my sweat is in your eyes and you forgot to shield your kidneys from the mass of feet and elbows and now things feel leaky but hey, that’s why you have two. Emboldened, you rip one out as an offering.

Cemento Killing Life cassette

I guess it’s all that sunshine that makes people uneasy and avid seekers of darkness, and they use post-punk and deathrock to paint an opaque shadow over the eternally sunny Southern California. I say this because that state, and L.A. in particular, has shown in recent years that the land is fertile in bands that seek to create bleak sceneries to inhabit. CEMENTO is one of those bands. Formed by members of SMUT and SMIRK, the band bets on the immediate power of good melodies, the great force of its rhythmic base, some very intense bass lines, and an extremely expressive voice. The guitar creates simple but elegant riffs, able to hook and generate dense, hazy atmospheres, ideal to dance all night long. “Cash Grab” is already one of my favorite tracks of the year in any genre, followed by the great “No Ambition,” but still, the rest of the album is full of great moments. I particularly love the very fast and fierce “Coming Down.”

Clarko I Just Wanna Pay / Medeocre Man 7″

One can almost picture CLARKO hard at work in his basement as they hear these two stripped-down, sarcastic and angsty yet bouncy solo new wave ditties. “I Just Wanna Pay” is driven by punchy synth bursts and light square wave hits, while “Medeocre Man” is more guitar-driven and a bit more brooding, as our protagonist lashes out at his subject with lines like “Your life is stupid / And I am poor!” This is one of five records in Iron Lung Records’ new Systemic Surgery series, and is now sold out.

Cyberplasm The Psychic Hologram LP

This record sounds like a DIY Brain Machine hijacked by anarchist hardcore punks and reprogrammed to rearrange your psyche. The concept of the record is that redemption lies in liberating the body from the mind to achieve freedom from dystopian, fascist control. The artwork includes a poster proclaiming, “YOU ARE THE INFINITE,” and “FREE THE BODY FROM THE MIND.” Brutal, blasting hardocre riffs and vocals appear intermittenetly, drenched in reverb and effects in a cyclone of chaos. This is not a noisy hardcore record. At least half the tracks are totally electronic and edge toward slow, sludgy, angry dance music. It always frustrated me that ATARI TEENAGE RIOT was so almost good. Glad to see this record taking a page from the same book but putting together something truly excellent and completely punk. The irony of the futuristic artwork and theme wrapped around such an archaic object as a vinyl record is not lost on this reviewer.

D7Y D7Y LP

This is how you fukkn do it—bombastic and relentless D-beat punk that sounds totally original. Iceland’s D7Y tweak the formula just enough and in just the right ways: integrating the noise and the chaos into the songs themselves instead of just adding chaos for the sake of chaos like many bands are wont to do. But the main thing here is just the constant pummeling that D7Y delivers…it simply doesn’t stop, and just listening to this slab is exhausting. Absolutely top notch record in construction, presentation and delivery.

Diät Positive Disintegration LP

Four years following the excellent Positive Energy, we are presented with the dense Positive Disintegration. The overall tone here is sullen and tragic, distinctly marked by a subdued, deadpan vocal style and repetitious rotating rhythms. Build-until-release style songwriting, pulsating and throbbing drum sounds, but they’re still a “rock band.” Simple guitar hooks act as choruses, and the vocals appear almost as a support to the strong rhythm section, but it’s important to note the relevant lyrical themes. Relatable, biting criticism and satire of our social circles, ourselves, and the society that we wish we weren’t inherently a part of. Predictably, my favorite is the most uptempo “Foreign Policy,” which has an unmistakable CHAMELEONS vibe, and appears to be a critique of the way their fellow Germans approach Palestinian struggle (cue applause). It’s hard not to think of TOTAL CONTROL, though DIÄT feels a bit more focused (just to be clear, I’m not choosing either one). This album doesn’t smack you in the face like the last, but if you show up, it might sneak up behind and drag you into a dark pit of hellish reality.

Direct Threat Direct Threat cassette

While DIRECT THREAT from Denver adheres pretty strictly to the USHC playbook in terms of songwriting, the distorted demo-quality recording puts a layer of dirt on it all that adds to their “no fucks given” aesthetic. The band’s messy stomp is driven by foreboding hooks and raw-throated vocals. The singer also has a one-man-band side project called REALITY COMPLEX, just in case this tape leaves ya thirsty for more.

Doldrey Invocation of Doom LP

Like a modern-day raw punk take on old school death metal, this one brings bloody hell out of your imagination and into the streets. These shredders out of Singapore sound like an ice-cold OBITUARY with a mullet-hawk and a serious pogo habit. This record really hits all the marks. They’ve got tons of speed-picking, CELTIC FROST-style dirges and black and white cover art with demons, swords and skeletons—all with a sneering punk undertone that is undeniable. It’s like they made a record just for me. Not to be missed!

Electric Chair Social Capital EP

Crucial hardcore in the form of a 7″ hand grenade. If you like classic USHC, get this immediately. Six songs of fast, super-pissed punk with lyrics reflecting our current dystopia. Anti-police, anti-scenester, anti-human, anti-fascist diatribes against this modern life. Check out “Life is Hell”: “Birth is violence / Life is hell / You sell your baby on the black market / I hate the way they smell.” Tough! If you have stick-and-poke BLACK FLAG bars or the DEAD KENNEDYS logo, you may want to consider a future patch of skin for a little electric chair. Have you bought this yet?

Electric Chair Performative Justice EP

Any worries I had that this EP wasn’t going to match this band’s sprawled-on-the-floor live set were eradicated by the end of the first song. On these five tracks, ELECTRIC CHAIR fuse together the freewheeling yet tough and melodic side of early ’80s Mid/western US hardcore with stripped-down and more abrasive early ’80s European hardcore (D-beat and otherwise), all filtered through the drugged vibes of the BETA BOYS, with whom they share members. Vocals like a drill sergeant who got dosed and enjoyed it. Can’t wait for what’s next.

False Brother Uncanny Valley LP

A supremely dark and gloomy post-punk follow-up to their debut tape. Their sound follows closely to contemporaries like Australia’s TOTAL CONTROL and obvious influences like JOY DIVISION, but there is something uniquely beautiful and poetic about this LP. It’s simultaneously a record to put on with a cup of tea and the soundtrack to your trip to the Gulag. A nightmarish record to start your morning.

Gag Killing for Both Realities 3 ’92 LP

This is the latest release from Olympia hardcore band GAG. Vice once called GAG “America’s new hardcore heroes.” Normally that’s a surefire way to turn me off of a band, but I think Vice might actually be right about something here. This LP is the lo-fi, grimy, sweaty basement hardcore mixtape we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get something straight though, this isn’t another wannabe ’80s hardcore revival band, they’re doing something really fresh here. At their best on tracks like “No Cops,” “Meth Lab,” or “Warm Milk,” they sound like a slightly less technical but more frenetic NOMEANSNO, and there really isn’t a moment on the LP where the band is at their worst. All things considered; this is easily some of the best hardcore I’ve heard coming from the Pacific Northwest recently.

Gag Still Laughing LP

After their disappointing previous full-length America’s Greatest Hits, I lost track of GAG and was surprised they still exist. I was also immediately interested in how they handle a second LP. Again their cover art concludes it well: Life is a strange mess, where overwhelmingly awkward events are at same time funny and frightening. So they laugh. There is an idea in which humor equals aggression and while this record is fun, there is a coping process that transforms their violent inputs into entertainment in a rather-laugh-than-cry way. It’s American hardcore rewound back to a crossroad where it already got jock-ish but kept its psychopath, lunatic vibe instead of its later form where it turned to ridiculously thugish. GAG’s record does as well, reacts angrily to the frozen madness of reality in an overpowering, unsophisticated way. Although here the anger invites, not deters. This comes through the riff-heavy record, where if one is killer then there is not gonna be any filler. The parts are ignorant but laid out in a meticulous system, tricked enough to keep the record constantly fun. It is fun if you love dumb hardcore, which despite how predictable it is, still transmits its physical influence. The imposing riffs are occasionally played in an airy manner, giving enough pace-space for the drums to break free from a forced, up-tempo simplification; the bridges are so effective it is ridiculous; elements from NO TREND-ish mindfuck appear and fit well. Not really getting the concept behind the intro/outro, since they sound so alien. Why they do not match with the body of the record is because this is not an experimenting, reinventing, transforming or redefining record of hardcore. It is and happens within hardcore. It can make fun of it, but even when it does, it does not demolish its walls, but reflects on the joy of the music. Which is great, and after all we are too trapped in a fucking celestial object and we got to make the best out of this imprisonment.

Gaoled Bestial Hardcore demo cassette

Fucking. Nasty. Pronounced “jailed,” this Perth band’s demo is a raw and filthy mix of powerviolence, furious hardcore, feedback damage, and paranoid atmosphere that is an instant classic. This tape is my perfect mix of extreme underground music: the basic skeleton is crusty PV, but there are touches of first-wave black metal, underground death metal (check out the lo-fi solo on “Lined”), and sludge (the slow crawl through slime on “Voices”) etched on its bones. Imagine IRON LUNG wearing CELTIC FROST shirts doing bong hits out of human skulls. Really, really raw and excellent. Let’s go ahead and make “bestial hardcore” a genre and use this as the blueprint. Highly recommended.

Black Iron Prison / Gas Chamber Public Humiliation II LP

Public Humiliation II is a collaborative performance from Buffalo, New York experimental HC grind unit GAS CHAMBER, and BLACK IRON PRISON, a two-piece from Toronto, Ontario who sit even further up the experimental ladder than GAS CHAMBER, providing more drums and vocals as it rattles on and well the fuck off the platform of HC that is so crudely erected amongst this psychedelic rubble. This record is a live collaboration, recorded at Iron Lung Records’ 10th anniversary show, which would also mark GAS CHAMBER’s last performance, set to wax as an insane jam; at times reminiscent of early HC acts that attempted to breach the boundaries between psychedelia and hardcore, sitting somewhere between GASP and the MEAT PUPPETS. A truly monumental effort, highly recommended.

Geld Soft Power EP

Horrifyingly psychedelic, raw punk madness out of Melbourne,
Australia. It’s like tearing out my brain in chunks with over the top, effected noise, then ripping those chunks to pieces with some shredding guitar solos. This is might be what FLIPPER would sound like if they were a really pissed off D-beat band, and could actually play their instruments. If you’re looking to live the chaos, look no further.

Geld Beyond the Floor LP

’Twas the prehistoric epoch of 2018 when GELD’s Perfect Texture LP kicked my ass through the top of my head via its solid gold meld of Scando-Japano HC abandon and psychedelic guitar excursions. Beyond the Floor dials down the psych tropes—little on this twelve-tracker zongs out quite like, say, “Parasitic Fucker” off the debut; maybe the gothy scrawling on “Forces at Work” approaches that level—but is every bit as deranged and dangerous. Written and recorded on “pills, meth, booze, weed [and] DMT,” so says the sales spiel: if this is the case, this Melbourne foursome are the opposite of sloppy drunks, cabbaged stoners or too-gone tweakers, rather a destructive forward line dosed on black market medicine by a shadowy team doctor. That is to say: fully sick in-the-red guitar tone, basslines that are sinister but groovy in the same way, say, Kira’s were in BLACK FLAG, foaming provoked-animal vox from Al Smith, maybe some bestial black metal influence in there but it’s such a barrage yer just guessing really… plus the lyric “Pubs open in my mind” and, if you were quick enough (which you weren’t, should you be reading this as a buyers’ guide), a really neat Jack Chick-parody comic packaged with the browny-gold vinyl. GELD are god’s-honest dons.

Hologram No Longer Human LP

This is good. Like, really good. Ferocious, high-speed hardcore with cryptic, reverb-shrouded vocals over hammering drums. The guitars frequently go atonal like on “Humiliation Drills” and “Bite the Smoke,” adding an uneasy tension to the battering-ram punk. “Untitled” provides a brief interlude of bubbling synths wafting from melted VHS tapes before the frenzy starts again. Final track “I See a Pale Light” gives SWANS vibes with a dread-inducing, extended guitar/drum build-up and feedbacked hate vocals. Even more amazing is that this all comes from one person. I like the mystery—I don’t want to know anything else about who it is or how they made this. I just want more.

Homeless Cadaver Fat Skeleton / Art. Eat It. 7″

Each track has a different vibe, and each is an instant classic. “Art. Eat It.” is a two-riff dirge, punctuated by electronics, and the title repeated as a dreary one line chorus. “Fat Skeleton” is more upbeat, just as simple, and hopelessly catchy. Ohio vibes abound (DEVO and / or Wheelchair Full of Old Men), and I’m pretty sure these kids have heard the SPITS before. Beefy guitars and extra confidence in the “don’t give a fukk” department—I think I’m gonna enjoy this Systemic Surgery series from Iron Lung Records.

HuraÁ±a Brujas, Cholas E Inventadas EP

Iron Lung Records seems to have all fingers on the pulse of modern punk, as they manage to consistently release new and exciting bands. HURAÁ‘A is one of those bands that manages to sound fresh but never lets their influences and love for the genre be overshadowed by production. The guitars scream in a weird and unsettling mixture of the CRAMPS and early DEAD KENNEDYS but with a hardcore punk rhythmic section pummeling in the background, while the echoing voice howls at a distance the ills of being dysphoric in Chiapas, Mexico. Includes a cover of “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra” by the legendary Spanish punks VULPESS, which in turn is a scandalous take on “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”

Insect Warfare World Extermination LP reissue

This is it. This is what grindcore is and what it should sound like. No bullshit, no gimmicks, just plain old school grindcore. World Extermination is up there next to Scum, Horrified and World Downfall. This is an album that will be hard to beat and will stay at the podium for best modern grindcore album. You can thank the grind gods for this official reissue that recreates the original release, improving on the original insert art with a heavier jacket and a bigger poster. Get this and let it melt your face off! Ughhhh!

Internal Rot Grieving Birth LP

It’s noteworthy that a record label run by two members of a grindcore band so rarely releases the stuff, but it’s not hugely surprising. Grind (like most genres) attracts the type of people obsessed with it to the exclusion of anything else, and to the inclusion of some pretty generic crud; IRON LUNG’s Jensen and Jon are clearly not that type, so when they help a grindcore record into the world, expectations are of elite tier material. INTERNAL ROT, from Melbourne, matches that expectation. The trio’s past offerings hardly slouched, but Grieving Birth ascends a level again with relentless precision blasts, hideously thick downtuning and vocals that might veer a little far into the “slam death” style for some tastes (suits me fine, personally). Needless to say, you’ll need to take the lyrics on trust, but they’re excellent: gruesome apocalyptica and grouchy scene politics in psychedelically strange syntax, not unlike some of Chris Dodge’s musings in SPAZZ. This album might be considered a standard-bearer for grindcore in years to come.

Klonns Crow EP

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

Kobra Confusione LP

KOBRA brings us some no-bullshit Oi!-tinged hardcore with a fresh and gritty feel. On this striking debut 12″ from the Milan four-piece, some of the songs have this cool production where the “meat” of the music is blown-out and in the red, while other components like vocals and saxophone are dubbed in more cleanly (like on “Confusione”). And then on other tracks, everything seems to be turned up to batshit-loud in one big clamor (“Stella Morta,” for example). The lyrics are in Italian and the songs are generally about resisting authority, staying sharp, and thinking for yourself in a world enslaved by consumerism, which somehow comes across even without using Google translate. It’s a fucking good record.

La Milagrosa Pánico LP

Maybe this has nothing to do with the album, but I need to write this to make you understand the moment. I was cleaning my apartment while I was listening to this record for the first time, and I started dancing to it, and at some point I wanted to fucking kick something in the room. I fucking hate cleaning my place, and LA MILAGROSA made that moment less annoying, so that means a lot to me. They are one of those bands that you know is gonna make people go crazy at a show, it’s fucking fire—Latino punks always making the best bands in the United States. This album is amazing, and not only because of the music, as the lyrics have a really strong meaning.

Lebenden Toten Synaptic Noise Dissociation LP

The mighty Iron Lung Records has bestowed a gift upon us with this release, a live set from Portland’s LEBENDEN TOTEN, recorded during a tenth anniversary event for the label. Twenty-five minutes of absolute raging hardcore with blur-fast D-beats, constant sheets of swirling feedback, and shredded vocals pummeling the listener (and that lucky live audience) into submission. At first, it was a little overwhelming—noise chaos to the point of breaking apart—until I realized how tight the band is. What seems disorienting takes on an almost psych feel the more you listen to it and hear the layers of noise coming together. I hear some slight CONFUSE influence here and there, but this is its own manic beast. Standout tracks for me are “Inferno,” “Static #1,” and “Vampires,” but they are honestly all standouts. I can’t imagine not listening to this as a whole album, anyway. The artwork is cool too (looks like a ’70s Italian horror/sci-fi mashup), and it comes with a die-cut Halloween decoration. Get this, crank it, and blow your speakers out— it will be worth it.

Living World World EP

The latest in a crop of blown-out, echo chamber hardcore that won’t stop swinging on you once you’re down. The energy and attitude is undeniable, but the writing is also complex. It’s a magic trick to write such seemingly straightforward hardcore, when all the while the tempo is fluctuating and everything is far removed from the usual “verse/chorus” arrangement. I’m not saying it’s prog or anything, but a cut like “Spite Controller” just drags you through an entire microcosm of anger, pain, and ultimately catharsis that never lets you quite catch your breath or find even footing. All in less than a minute-and-a-half. Masterclass hardcore.

Luz De Gas Luz De Gas cassette

Great Chilean punk with piercing female vocals and a no-frills approach that sounds like it was recorded live in a spacious empty room. From the instrumental intro to each of the songs, the fairly simple, straightforward arrangements find their groove quickly and stick with it, jamming while the vocalist Muriel delivers high-pitched, high-intensity messages about empowerment, consent, sexual harassment, and fighting the ever-present threat of the male gaze. From the mysterious artwork to the urgent, personal lyrics (thanks to an online translator since I don’t know Spanish), this is a killer demo definitely worth checking out.

Malcría El Reino De Lo Falso LP

MALCRÁA of Mexico City plays rhythmic, punctuated macabre punk with the demented tones of RUDIMENTARY PENI meeting the urgency and chokehold of SIEGE. The bass bombards forth, while the guitars sizzle under smashing drums with feral unexpected thunderous attacks. Songs are short and tight, filled with raw power and unbridled energy boiling simultaneously as a lidded cauldron ready to erupt. Very tense, very real. The Spanish vocals are screamed and megaphoned across the spiraling, flaying hardcore tracks. As the play progresses, shadows of FORÇA MACABRA, CONFUSE, PART 1, SEPTIC DEATH, and RAJOITUS rear their ugly heads. MALCRÁA has concocted a fresh stab of distorted, demented, threatening hardcore. Cool your head with this all summer, and into the fall crispness. Songs as crispy as dead leaves on fire.

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.

Mentira Nada Es Sagrado LP

This is the debut LP from Kansas City hardcore band MENTIRA. The record bleeds chaos. It’s an overtly nihilistic and punishing listen. A real pummeling wall of noise that doesn’t let up for a minute of it’s half hour runtime. Reminds me of COACHWHIPS as far as the lo-fi recording. The vocals are delivered entirely in Spanish in a real demented and spacy howl. The best thing about this LP, though, is that it’s totally infectious and a record that’s gonna get stuck on repeat for me. This is one of those records that I have to say don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Give it a listen, then give it another.

Nasti Life is Nasti LP

Another hardcore banger coming from two labels that always deliver the best in punk. Washington’s NASTI is able to play hardcore without overusing the genre’s tropes. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s stompy, sometimes it’s weird as hell, but it all flows perfectly through each song just at the right time. Life is Nasti has eight powerful tracks of rage-filled moshpit bangers, a LP that could be on the shelf right next to contemporary hardcore like GAG or HOAX but certainly pays homage to VOID, UNITED MUTATION, and NO TREND alike. Their territory is somewhere in between the chaos and the weirdness, a bleak vision of modern life. Life is fucking NASTI!

No Future Death flexi EP

Serving up agile D-beats from Australia, slathered in olde English fonts and Xeroxed skulls and stencils as god intended, NO FUTURE leaves you longing for more after imbibing in this slick three-song flexi. The seething buzz of the title track alone is enough to get the thumbs up from me.

No Statik Mysterious to Ourselves LP

Exactly what you would expect from NO STATIK. Fast, heavy- hitting, punchy hardcore. Mysterious to Ourselves doesn’t really lack anything that is hardcore, as it has all the tropes of a hardcore record: the blast, the fast, the chug, the breakdown. What has always stood out to me the most about NO STATIK is the cadence of frontperson Ruby. The way that anger, anxiety, and depression seem to just exude from the mic. They do get weird by adding some instrumental tracks to the end that serve as some soundscapes and noise, but in my opinion they could have gotten weirder. This record feels urgent and intense, the production is crystal clear, and the art is really fucking dope. I am assuming this is the last record from NO STATIK since they are billed as playing 1-2-3-4 Go! in Oakland with the tagline “say goodbye.”

Paprika Paprika cassette

The latest and greatest in the new generation of noisy, tornado-strength punk. This NOLA-based group delivers echoing, grime-encrusted bangers that exemplify why contemporary hardcore is maybe the height of the genre. Fierce and filthy, this band gets straight to the point: aiming down sights at the violence of the capitalist grind while never outstaying their welcome. The way the final track “Insane Machine” cuts out makes you feel like you’re only worthy to catch a glimpse of the band and its many strengths—brilliantly leaving you alone in the silence wishing you could hear more. Unforgiving harsh punk that you must grab a copy of while you can.

Prowler Prowler demo cassette

Man, what the fuck is it with Denver? What have they got in the water there to make their HC so sick? PROWLER is another addition to Denver’s hardcore domination. This is hardcore punk the way it should be done (in my humble opinion). The influence from bands like the ABUSED, NEGATIVE APPROACH, and YOUTH OF TODAY is apparent, while also not being cheesy like a lot of YOUTH OF TODAY clones can be. It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s pissed-off, and that’s all it needs to be. I think this one rules—give it a listen and you’ll feel the same way. Stoked to see what PROWLER has coming up next.

Rakta Falha Comum LP

RAKTA  seems to be constantly all around the world, dropping new records, changing members along the road while not only maintaining but upgrading their sound. All the events around them did not exhaust but enforced their sound. For proof here is Falha Comum, another LP from one of the hardest working bands in the business. They create an otherworldly environment with multiple layers of spaced-out sounds based on the collision of bass and drums that are primal instruments and electronics that supply the unclassified noise ornaments. Rhythm-centric music covered with alien noises both feels as a ritual and the epiphany itself, thus a whole process that moves you through stations. It travels via a childlike state where due to unfamiliar surroundings and confusing circumstances everything is frightening and enchanting at the same time, but time seems slower due to the eventful ceremony. It works as well as the songs after a point evolve to scenes that blend in to an experience. The spooky, surreal, beautiful atmosphere is almost touchable and through its pigeon holes leaks the haunted, echoed-out howling which reminds us that the environment has been created through people. The density of the record is loading a lot on the listener, yet when it’s over, silence sounds harsh.

Rank/Xerox Servants in Heaven / Cradle of Life 7″

RANK/XEROX were my fave local band when they still lived in SF, making super sick PROLETARIAT-meets-Leeds post-punk sounds for desolate minds… I think they live on different continents nowadays, so was surprised to see this 45 on my review sheet. It’s a dark, somber burner, kind of less vital sounding than the earlier recordings but maybe just a different feeling?! Repetitive driving doom, it feels darker and more contained. Worth investigating if you were a fan of their other works.

Rashōmon 病原菌X (Pathogen X) 12″

I certainly love guitar leads and frenzied hardcore, so DC’s RASHŌMON speaks my language. Those of us asking for more since their slick demo tape a couple years back have gotten as good of an answer as we could’ve hoped for. Dual riffs are blissful and radiant, sometimes swerving toward discordant and reminding me of ARTICLES OF FAITH. But this could just as easily been plucked from the Bloodsucker roster, as there is a definitive Japanese hardcore influence, made most obviously apparent by the Japanese vocalist. The warm, dry production highlights the glorious guitar and vocals, but the serious drum mastery deserves to not go unnoticed. Innovative drum fills and transitions are easter eggs scattered all throughout these six tracks. I’m sorry, but I just don’t care about the novel etching on the flipside of the disc, but I can simply ignore that in this case because the record is so damn great!

Roht Iðnsamfélagið Og Framtíð Þess LP

You should expect a monster, and you will receive a monster. Thunderous and monotonous and fully exposed, ROHT take punk and drag it into a dark dark place; like RUDIMENTARY PENI and PAILHEAD, they are playing the game but never playing by the rules. I suppose you can call this industrial hardcore or something like that, and they would fit as nicely (or poorly) on a bill with LARD as with DYS. I had every expectation that this record was going to be good as soon as it was announced. I didn’t think it would be this good.

S.H.I.T. Hidden in Eternity / Eraser III 7″

The songs ain’t new, but now they’ve been properly fastened to a 7″ you can add to your disgusting S.H.I.T. collection. Featuring two tracks from these Toronto-based purveyors of jarring hardcore that were previously released in digital format only, this record showcases the style you expect with a slightly different feel. The vocals are laid much flatter than usual, and the band’s signature twisted stomp is produced with a clean, futuristic sheen that rings as borderline industrial at times, especially on the first track. The second one, “Eraser III,” is the third part of a song that dates back to their first cassette, affirming that though they’ve been in it for a minute now, they haven’t lost the plot.

Screaming Fist Templanza EP

This is how you do it. People from TØRSÖ, VAASKA, and NEGATIVE STANDARDS (among others) doing rough D-beat with raw sound and political lyrics in Spanish. It’s a perfect combo: manic drums that don’t follow the same beat for more than twenty seconds, loops of skilled riffs punching your head over and over, and a voice that glues everything together. The strong personality of the vocal style supports the whole composition, with an attitude of “we’re gonna eat you alive” that has won me over. The dusty treatment of the guitars fits perfectly too, creating an aura of old and cheap punk, a harsh texture that’s really charming. Nothing new here, but there’s no need, SCREAMING FIST delivers catchy and rash hardcore punk just fine.

Sect Mark Promo MMXXI cassette

For the sake of this review, let’s call it “futurecore.” I’m talking about the dystopian hardcore with menacing, spiral riffs, venomous echoed vocals, and borderline-mocking tone played by bands like S.H.I.T., FAZE, COAX, Singapore’s excellent C.H.U.TE., and others. That’s what this is, and it’s one of the better takes on it that I’ve heard. This promo tape of four songs was enough to make me check out the forthcoming LP.

Shit Coffins Termination LP

This is a purely incredible record, made by some of the sharpest punks in the game. To put my love for it into context: When I was in high school, I discovered BORN/DEAD, which completely rocked my world and sort of shaped my taste in hardcore punk—catchy, rocking, versatile, political, with muddy guitar tone and barking vocals. If that band had continued, and got better and more experimental, you would have SHIT COFFINS. The guitar riffs are unrelenting, I heard a little TOTALITÄR in the D-beat parts, a little CHAOS UK in the mid-tempo punk parts, and maybe a little DROPDEAD in the hardcore parts. Nothing but pure chaos on the drums. The lyrics, sung with aggressive desperation, read like a book. They seem to center around carried pain, possibly trauma. “I close my eyes and it’s all I see / Presence is fear / consuming the past — fervency of now / This darkness will last.” The song “Benchmarks” has lyrics that I thought were actually pretty positive: “There is not hope beyond what you can hold / Life is loss / Hold onto hope no matter the cost.”

Shrinkwrap Killers Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass / Merch Killer 7″

Third entry (of a planned five) in Iron Lung’s mysterious “Systemic Surgery” series. Aside from the limited run (only 200 copies pressed), deluxe packaging (hand-stamped labels, custom die-cut sleeves, risograph prints), and hitherto unheard-of bands (the first two entrants were from CLARKO and HOMELESS CADAVER), I have no idea what ties these releases together. At least Iron Lung was nice enough to let us know who’s behind the outfit this time—Oakland’s Greg Wilkinson (BRAINOIL, DEATHGRAVE, and Earhammer Studios). The title track is straight up SPITS worship that’s maybe a bit heavier on synths. The B-side also really leans on the keys and has more of a gothic pop punk vibe, in the vein of the HEX DISPENSERS. Neither cut is particularly memorable, and this stab at dum-dum lyrics needs more…or maybe less work.  Recommended only for those Systemic Surgery completists out there.

Shrinkwrap Killers Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets LP

Based on the band name and cover, I was expecting some gross horror punk or maybe crossover thrash, and boy, was I wrong. SHRINKWRAP KILLERS is the solo project of Greg Wilkinson of BRAINOIL playing a bizarro new wave/synth-pop/garage punk mix. Imagine GARY NUMAN, the SPITS, and maybe DICK DALE camping out in a squalid punk squat with only dystopian novels to keep them busy, and you get the idea. With song titles like “Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass,” “Hive Robotics at the Human Zoo,” and the title track, the vibe is definitely jokey, but the grooves are too good to be a joke. There are some real, albeit goofy, earworms here. This record mixes some straight-ahead garage sing-alongs with a few lo-fi woozy synth dirges that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TOBACCO record. Do you have a quarantine anthem? “Shotgunning O’Doul’s and Kicking Dicks,” where the title is a good portion of the song’s lyrics, has you covered. Very weird fun if you are experiencing paranoia, boredom, or enjoy shoving stolen electronics up your ass.

Slant 1집 LP

After a demo and a 7″, Seoul’s SLANT is back with a ten-track LP on Iron Lung Records, a vicious slab of modern HC with its influences firmly rooted in the classics of ’80s American hardcore. While this is a snotty, stomping blast from start to finish, I find it’s the lighter touches on this record, like the squealing, STOOGES-esque guitar solos that tail-end a lot of the choruses, that really do it for me. This is a significantly more polished endeavour than their prior two releases, but I’d argue if anything, they stepped up the aggression for this LP. While this isn’t hardcore that’s reinventing the wheel, it’s a fucking good ride; SLANT is clearly an act that is just itching to get back to touring and playing live, I have no doubt they could tear a venue to shreds.

Slant Vain Attempt EP

Given that members of SLANT play in South Korea’s SCUMRAID, you would expect their first EP to be drenched in noise. You’d also be wrong. This is a pretty straightforward hardcore outfit that stands out from the pack of USHC revivalists due to both vocalist Yeji’s harsh, raw shouting and the band’s strong attention to detail. Songs like “Scorn” are more dynamic and punishing than a lot of bands mining the same territory. Fucking great.

Smut First Kiss 12″

I saw SMUT twice here in Oakland: once a completely brilliant hot drunken mess with a faulty distortion pedal and performance-enhancing technical confusion, the other time just a regular, competent show. Same approving audience reaction at both shows. A general “feel-the-darkness as truth” manifests through SMUT, and this 12″ is permanent proof. There is self-abuse, there are drugs and sex, admissions and humility, punks’ experiences through punk music, devoid of the boring performative bullshit we scroll through all day every day. First Kiss is reminding me how I may have taken punk for granted pre-plague, but I know I was helplessly engaged at those two shows. And now we enjoy these eight tracks of pummelling hardcore that coulda been among the best examples from the Mutha Records roster in a different era, foul and lean but not sketchy or despicable. Or maybe the unmitigated power of early SS DECONTROL and JERRY’S KIDS. These East Coast comparisons are fine for reference but kind of unfair because this band falls into a trajectory of LA punk that’s been consistently inspiring for ten-plus years. Can’t wait til the citizens of the US value public health enough to return to a reality where we can pit to SMUT again, but in the meantime this 12″ rules!

Soga Demo LP

A trio of “all-star” punks from Mexico City make a seriously satisfying racket. SOGA (“rope” en ingles) shines through short punk-as-fuck guitar solos and rage-inducing rhythmic clatter. Each member contributes to the singing, shouting, and screaming—separately and in unison—solidifying a powerful collaborative outrage. “Fiambre” is my pick for most fucked and ferocious, while “Vil Migala” gets honorable mention for being a sped up and not-crass UFO Dictator. If you’ve been endeared by the likes of CREMALLERAS, TERCER MUNDO, or RIÁ‘A it would be a huge mistake to skip this one. I’m generally skeptical of demos being put to vinyl, but this one was a no-brainer.

Spirito Di Lupo 4 Songs cassette

The Milan DIY punk scene seems especially strong at the moment, and although I don’t know all the bands who supply personnel for SPIRITO DI LUPO (who are also partly Bolognese), I will rep KOBRA to anyone who cares to listen. Iron Lung clearly agrees, as they put the KOBRA LP out, and have given a North American home to this related band’s debut tape, released in Italy a few months prior. Revelling in its glorious shit-fi recording, it’s got proto-anarcho bin lid drumming, dual glowering dude/irate woman vox, a sort of Euro-Oi! tempo and something approaching a big rock moment in the riff power of the final song, “Canzone Della Foresta.” GERMS meets DIRT via NABAT, and as unhinged as such a meeting would have presumably been in reality.

The Electronic Circus Direct Lines / Le Chorale 7″ reissue

This one-off synth-pop single from 1981 is one of your “underground by circumstance, not by design” scenarios, in that the main guy behind the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, Chris Payne, was a biggish deal in the genre at the time (GARY NUMAN band member with a co-writing credit on VISAGE’s “Fade to Grey,” which I’m guessing has been a decent source of income since). He had a hit on his mind when releasing “Direct Lines,” it seems, but the world thought otherwise. Still, like plenty of other obscure early ’80s synth, it’s picked up an audience via YouTube, including Jensen from IRON LUNG, who’s given the single its second rerelease and first remaster. It’s solid stuff: briskly paced, with self-consciously space-age swirly keyboard FX and vocals erring on the dramatic side of paranoia. “Direct Lines” is of a piece with bands of the time like OMD, even if you can tell it was never likely to push the same pop chart buttons. “Le Chorale,” the B-side song, is a portentous instrumental built around pleasant electric piano.

UBIK Next Phase LP

Blending snotty ’77 punk, spooky darkwave, and playful anarcho-punk sounds, UBIK delivers a refreshingly fun and inspired take. Dueling minimalist guitar and bass lines combined with overlapping vocals on the track “Peter Dutton is a Terrorist” offer up a catchy but earnest anarcho-punk vibe, while other tracks feature graveyard-ready, reverb-drenched vocals, and yet others offer a more straightforward hardcore attack. Definitely something for everyone here, but their songwriting and originality shine brightest in the anarcho-punk moments.

Under Attack Through the Blade EP

This six-song 7″ is as stripped-down as it gets for hardcore: no chugging, an appropriate amount of breakdowns, and generally pretty punk. It fits well with mid-2000’s crusty hardcore bands. The lyrics seem to center around disdain for certain individuals, mental anguish, and getting screwed over. My favorite track is probably “Dirt Nap,” which I think kind of starts out with a UK82 vibe, which goes into a moshy part with the anethemic lyrics, “Existing is terror / Why fuck why / Swallow the barrel / I must die.”

Urin Afekt EP

From Berlin, but with members from all over the place (just like Berlin itself, right?), URIN is back with a killer EP. They “upgraded” their sound a bit from the previous Incydent EP, adding layers of noise and chaos to the already frantic D-beat madness that they do so well. Their sound is unique and they were able to find their space sonically, as they sound unlike any other bands that come to mind. Maybe the best way to describe it is a modern version of GAI, but it still is not enough to get the whole picture, so just click play.

Vonbrigði Hanagal 2xLP

I’m only four songs into this, and I’m going to file it under essential listening. This collection of Icelandic post-punk and hardcore was recorded in 1982—83 and sounds immediately vital and current. VONBRIGÁI is new to me, and apparently was not very well-known outside of ReykjavÁ­k’s punk scene, and that is a shame for the ages. The recording sounds fantastic: warm and full like it was recorded in a studio this week. The drums and bass sound especially great. As for the songs, they teem with post-punk unease and tension but drive with hardcore energy. The band comes across as super confident and tight. What a gem, seriously. The guitars are frequently dissonant and feedback-laden with flanger swirls around arpeggiated structures that predate noisy indie rock and post-hardcore by years. Syncopated beats lock in perfectly with driving bass lines that will make you bob your head and also scratch it because these folks are not a household name. If I’m making comparisons, it sounds like the first few ICEAGE records meshed with End Hits FUGAZI, but that’s not doing this album justice. Just go listen to it now and love it—it’s on Bandcamp. It looks like the double-LP is sold out, but hold out hope for a repress. Highly recommended.