Reviews

Noise Merchant

Bell Toll 23’ Demo cassette

At a glance, I’d have expected Las Vegas’s BELL TOLL to be a little heavier. They have a great name and some cool artwork, but to be honest, I was a little let down by the skate punk style I found here. It’s not bad by any stretch, just a little generic. The vocals remind me a bit of MALLWALKER or BE YOUR OWN PET, and sonically, there are some slight BLACK FLAG and DEAD KENNEDYS vibes, but overall it just doesn’t stick the landing. In time, I could see BELL TOLL carving out a place for themselves, but in this listener’s humble opinion, they need to let these songs cook for a little longer.

Cammy Cautious and the Wrestlers Cammy Cautious and the Wrestlers cassette

This is really growing on me. It’s a perfect-length cassette of bouncy garage punk from Sydney. I think it will unfortunately get the obvious AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS comparison due to the thick-accented female vocals, but I think this deserves more attention. Sure, it’s got the thudding drums and crunchy guitar, but this almost has some BABES IN TOYLAND or early HOLE moments. Imagine if AMYL and Co. never listened to AC/DC or the COLOURED BALLS and you might get something like this. “Critter” is my fave.

Cura Ab Sublimation cassette

CURA AB’s love of bouncy rhythms and grooves doesn’t enter full metal territory or pure noise. They actually sound restrained to me, since the songs didn’t go longer or louder than they do. I agree with that choice because I prefer wanting more over being served one last chorus/main riff reprise. There’s still plenty of volume and vitriol, along with some fun curveballs like a guitar lead instrumental and some creative drum work. The sound quality is cleaner than I prefer, but there’s enough bass in the mix to give it HC-grade umph.

Cutup Cutup cassette

Quick and solid tape from this Cleveland band that sounds like classic ’80s USHC but reveals layers of weirdness right below the surface. Vocalist Mark has a vocal approach that mixes the unhinged power-slur of John Brannon with the wavering croon of David Yow. It’s pretty great. Once the fast HC battering ram effect wears off a little, subtle details like the fat, fuzzed-out bass and melodic breakdowns weaving through the five short songs become apparent. This is fast hardcore with texture, depth, and personality. Tracks like “Last Man Laughing” and “Can’t Eat a Condo” expertly veer between punk and noise rock lanes, greeting traditionalism with sneering experimentation. Check it out—it’s definitely worth six minutes of your time.

Desborde Ya No Kiero Ser Parte De Este Mundo demo cassette

Buenos Aires band DESBORDE’s first release (although they put two of this tape’s seven songs on Bandcamp in March of this year, if you deem that to count) is being released by a ton of labels in different parts of the world, and I can only assume they all had much the same “woah!” reaction as I did on first hearing. It’s synth punk, but pretty far removed from the post-CONEHEADS/NWI scene egginess that seems to be the default style for that sound at present: it wouldn’t surprise me if none of DESBORDE’s five members owned any DEVO albums. Instead, it’s super catchy, mid-paced street punk-adjacent stuff with sing-along choruses (if you know Spanish) and groovy keyboard fizz—the juxtaposition is kinda similar to NACHTHEXEN, although DESBORDE is on closer terms with punk orthodoxy, sound-wise. Gotta imagine this band would be amazing to see live where most people in the room knew the songs back to front.

Desborde Todo Es Una Mierda cassette

Fast Argentine punk with synth parts. I don’t want to call it synth punk, as the electronic parts seem to be very appendaged-on for this recording. You hear them in the beginning or the end of a song, but the guitar generally drowns it out once it roars in. Aside from that, this is a tape full of rippers.

Final Dose Dark Places cassette

I was blown away by this solo project’s first demo of furious fuck-the-world blackened hardcore. This cassette couldn’t be a better follow-up. This is like someone took Ohio’s MIDNIGHT and ringed out all the fun like a dirty rag, and I mean that as a compliment. There are plenty of headbanging riffs and gang vocals, but the affair is imbued with such an impressive bleakness that it stands on its own ground. The black metal cold really sets in on standout track “Sick,” which is the perfect collision of Deathcrush-era MAYHEM and slamming D-beat. These tracks are engineered to destroy, perfect apocalypse catharsis, and the fact that it’s all performed, mixed and mastered by one person—B. Fusco—is pretty astounding. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I want more.

Glass Praxis Demo 2023 cassette

Discordant post-hardcore with a metallic bent. Nothing whiny though, this is ugly, mean, and brutal. Reminiscent of bands such as PALATKA and REVERSAL OF MAN, though not as angular or chaotic. Which is not to say that GLASS PRAXIS is tame in any form or fashion! There’s a groove that they lock into that is not dissimilar to NO TREND. Heavy, dour skramz punk from one of the best scenes in the country, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Noisy and unsettling music for bleak times.

Idiopathique Idiopathique cassette

IDIOPATHIQUE throws everything at the wall and sees what sticks. They tear through a mixtape’s worth of styles, from crust to MINUTEMEN-esque jazz parts to early ’80s HC. The dual vocals are pitched screams and growls throughout. I felt my attention pulled in too many directions here. All of those genres deploy more than enough aural input on their own. Featured back-to-back like this, they just felt like a hurdle instead of a provocation. It’s also possible that my middle-aged self is just fatally out of touch with the youth of today.

Inflicter 7 Song Demo cassette

This seven-song demo from the UK’s INFLICTER is raw, fast, raging hardcore punk, not unlike the fast, thrashier hardcore of the HERESY/RIPCORD/STUPIDS late ’80s UKHC tradition. It’s more of a modern yet raw and noisy approach, with breakdowns for the moshers out there.

Kiht Fihsto Kiht Fihsto cassette

It took me a couple listens to appreciate this EP. KIHIT FIHSTO melds a bunch of different styles ranging from D-beat to metalcore to skate punk to Kill ‘Em All-era METALLICA. Sometimes when a band draws from different influences, it comes off as more disjointed than it does eclectic. That’s the impression I got on my first run-through here. But the more I re-listened to this album, the more it all clicked into place. They’re just a group of folks looking to have a good time playing rock’n’roll, and that’s all that really matters. To hell with an aesthetic! The guitars sound huge on this and are impressively tight, even if they are just power chords. As a fellow Illinoisan, I always need to give props to a band from Not Chicago.

Metrics Demo 2022 cassette

High-energy hardcore from Spain that teeters on the edge of egg-punk thanks to their inclusion of a keyboard. Speaking of which, I’ve been listening to this EP on repeat for the last couple of weeks or so and only just realized there were synth leads layered in throughout the entire demo. In fact, the guitar overpowers almost everything, including the vocals. Otherwise, the production here is solid and crisp. I would just suggest they be a little more careful with the mixing next time around. All in all, a decent debut from METRICS. It makes me look forward to what they’ll do next.

Nagazaki Planeta//Carcel cassette

Bogotá, Columbia has produced some of the best noisy, aggro punk, and NAGASAKI is the latest premium example. If you like noisy, fuck-it-all, crashing raw punk, then you’ll want this cassette. With vocals that sound like they’re already destroyed from roaring against the system, bass lines that sound ripped from DISCLOSE, and guitars that crackle and grind, you’ll find yourself nodding along to these four songs of indignation. The guitar on “Reflejo” soars beautifully through the composition with a style that is similar to Randy Uchida’s. If you’re a fan of punk crudo and you haven’t heard NAGAZAKI yet, then wake the fuck up with this cassette!

Rash Decision Year of the Silence LP

Year of Silence is raging, crossover-style hardcore with thrash metal chugging guitars with pummeling, powerful drums and vocals to sing along with. The album was written during the pandemic, with an ode to health workers who risked their lives, with humorous yet important stuff to say about subjects ranging from anti-fascism to the solidarity of the working class. Easily could’ve been dismissed as some band that sings about eating pizza and partying, but in actuality, they’re singing about a sociopolitical reality more than most DIY hardcore punk bands out there. Unique approach for this style of hardcore.

Ternura Trinchera cassette

Six tracks of politically-charged hardcore sung in Spanish from Bilbao’s TERNURA. Sonically, it sounds like something that came out of the US East Coast area in the late ’80s or early ’90’s—mostly hard-hitting tracks with breakdowns, but also melodic at times. An honest expression of the real struggles of daily life.

The Executed Demonstration cassette

Phoenix, Arizona’s the EXECUTED has released this demo on Noise Merchant Records from the UK, a key label to discover a wide range of emerging hardcore bands worldwide. Four tracks in less than seven minutes gives us the perfect intro for the EXECUTED. Sharp guitars, even sharper voice, good riffing and beat changes. Listen to the track “Blinders” for speedy pogo and riff rage, continue with “Grid Decay” for a catchy guitar jumping along with the drums followed by a downbeat that goes in crescendo to the pit, then “Shock State” follows quite in the same line as “Blinders,” and finish the album with “The Last Riot” to extinguish whatever was left of hatred and violence in you before the EXECUTED. Really fun album, hardcore punk mixed with nods to and cadences of ’80s skate rock and classic hardcore like the downbeats—for me it’s a formula that works, but that you don’t get to hear as often as you’d think. Highly recommended.