Reviews

Richter Scale

C57BL/6 LP1 cassette

The name C57BL/6 comes from the scientific designation for the most commonly used research lab mouse. It’s a cool name, but it’s also one I will forget right away. “Have you heard that lab mouse band? C-something?” I’ve only listened to the first track so far, and I pressed pause to write about it. It rules. “Open World” is a seven-minute (!) DIY hardcore song with a basic two-chord structure that rarely alters, other than two short breakdown/chorus sections. Impassioned, shouted vocals fly over the steady, lurching chords. Near mechanical simplicity almost like something NEU! would do, building tension from bare-bones rock music through unwavering repetition. If you make it to the end, you’re in, transfixed and aghast at how the other music you listen to does so little with so much more. Totally recommended already, but let me listen to the rest. No surprises, it’s awesome. After the opening juggernaut, the rest of the album consists of shorter blasts with drum-machine and synth backing the guitar and bass with vocals that sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI. “Deep Fake” has a great two-note synth lead and “Basement” is unhinged enough to keep me the hell out of their basement. Killer release, invigorating in its economy. Highly recommended.

Convicted No Justice cassette

On No Justice, Malaysia’s CONVICTED plays aggressive meat-and-potatoes hardcore, inspired in style and sound by the likes of UKHC legends ARMS RACE and the FLEX. The muffled vocal effect, blastbeats, and interspersed sounds of protests on the streets work well to create an intense and abrasive atmosphere, making the anti-authoritarian lyrics even more poignant and powerful. Angry music for angrier times. 

Crime Light crime​​/​​​/​​shame​​/​​​/​​illumination cassette

This is CRIME LIGHT’s debut five-song cassette. Each cut brings a very classic meat-and-potatoes hardcore sound with a touch of metal riff seasonings. The overall feel of the group and the samples they use throughout this tape brings to mind early INCENDIARY and HIS HERO IS GONE. The eponymous ending track adds a new layer of vocal harmonizing to the mix which is a satisfying left turn. Keep it coming. I wanna see them play now.

Darby Trash Trashin’ II cassette

Do you like LIQUIDS? If so, you’re in luck, because DARBY TRASH from Chile does, too. So much, in fact, that everything from the artwork to the washed-out production of these egged-out songs mimics the LIQUIDS to a T. Originality is overrated, anyway.

Elevate Stab From the Front cassette

Tough-as-nails hardcore from Indonesia. There’s a lot to like here. Stripped-down, concise songwriting with no time for bullshit or solos. A UK82 influence rears its head on tracks like “Torture Dance” and “Scum.” They must really know how to pogo in West Borneo! Cliches be damned, you can judge this record by its cover; the artwork by Renaldy Armanda is sick. The slow, mosh-y dirge of “Fool” doesn’t appeal to me, but it is the shortest of the five songs at least. All around, this is a solid release. Well worth checking out.

Fealty Peace Is Our Problem 7″

I know this shit is almost a year old now, but uuuugggghhhh FEALTY are so good. The 2017 demo was beyond crucial, and 2018’s Peace Is Our Problem only tightened their grip on dominance. Uncomfortable and in-your-face bombastic anarcho punk, heavy on the low end and desperation, this New York trio sounds like you feel after a fight you didn’t know was coming. You’re confused, full of adrenaline…and ready for more.

Gorilla Knifefight The Cassingles cassette

Well-done, straight-up Midwest hardcore that pulls all the punches. There’s six tracks, of which maybe one lasts longer than a minute. It’s tight, lo-fi, sarcastic, dripping with attitude. Basically, all the good stuff. This tape should be your fix for the week. Five minutes of nothing but ripping tunes and cathartic energy.

Grout EP II cassette

EP II begins with a riff practically lifted from RUDIMENTARY PENI’s “Inside,” and continues in that vein from there. There’s Blinko and company’s stompy beats, buzzsaw guitar, and drums sounding like they’re played inside a cavernous warehouse. The tape occasionally deviates from that formula—”Confine” speeds up to a rollicking D-beat. But for the most part, they’re playing at the pace of pogo. I feel like I’ve heard all these songs before, which I mean in the best possible way.

Grout Grout cassette

Four songs and a DEVO cover from this Australian band that sounds like a mix of FRIED EGG and GAG. The songs are mostly mid-tempo, noisy hardcore with gruff shouted vocals and the occasional stompy breakdown. Nothing revolutionary here, but very solid nonetheless. “Caged Pigs” has a 1-2 beat that could get a circle pit going in no time. And who can say no to a heavy, shouted DEVO cover? Not me. Check it out if you’re angry and want to throw your elbows around.

Hazed Trust cassette

The hardcore scene in Indonesia has been growing and growing the last couple of years. HAZED is no exception to the rule. Already with a demo under their belts, now it’s time for a devastating EP. They take cues from modern USHC bands that worship old-school hardcore like GLUE and make it their own. Angry and uncompromising, this six-track EP is a high-energy banger.

Lovebite Demo II cassette

With winding, menacing riffs and the acerbic vocals of an escaped mental patient turned carnival barker, Michigan’s LOVEBITE is sure to warm hearts and forge lasting friendships with their second demo effort. Driving and distorted, this is some scrappy hardcore scuzz that swings the ol’ chain in a manner similar to GAG, BIB, and other grizzled punk acts of the last decade. It’s a major step up in aggression from their melodic and post-punky The Last Thing You Want to Hear demo from just a few months earlier this year, and the band is tapping into a darker and more pissed-off power now.

Memory Ward Memory Ward cassette

Phoenix’s MEMORY WARD really leaves a mark with this cracking debut tape. Filled with blown-out agile and angular riffage, and pounding, primitive drums, this is some red-hot noisy hardcore. The warped thrashing partially buries the vocals that are bellowed, gnashed, and dripped through a broken bullhorn, resulting in a raw and caustic sound that’s reminiscent of Virginia rippers BLACK BUTTON at their nastiest. Great stuff, I’ll be looking out for more.

Misery Guts Oxford ‘Ardcore cassette

D-beat-infused hardcore from Oxford, UK. Nothing groundbreaking here, but certainly not phoning it in. Songs are tight, vocals are pissed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vocalist credited for “confrontation” before. Definitely makes me more intrigued to see this band play live.

Obsoletos Obsoletos demo cassette

Garage punk project from Chile, with frantic vocals talking about existence and systemic disposable culture. Bits of post-punk, but primarily focusing on the garage-y side of punk, with wide open, high-pitched reverbed guitars that go along just fine with the vocal exultation that leads the music. The formula might sound redundant as each song is similar to the others, but all of the three tracks have something interesting and different to offer, even nodding to classic punk rock as in “Pandilla Agresiva,” which reminds me of high-energy early NEW YORK DOLLS. Solid and interesting demo, I’m eager to hear more.

Only Shallow No Way Out But Death cassette

At first read, I was immediately reminded of the MY BLOODY VALENTINE song, and I wondered if there would be a connection. Once ONLY SHALLOW started playing, I was transported to a world of groove and gloom that quickly galloped into a ripped D-Beat hardcore attack. The lines “Drape my organs around a plastic Christmas tree / At the end of life it’s only been me” scathe forth with anguished vocals in “Mistletoe Can Be Deadly.” This is dark deathrock with wild punctuations. I’ve been to Rochester in the winter, and this is the sound of grim dread with warm goth reverberations—“Buffalo 666” would be an additional description. DOOM meets GRIEF meets XYMOX and ROSETTA STONE. The other song themes really emphasize the tape’s title No Way Out But Death. There are some really sick double kick blasts on “No Justice, No Peace.” I love every song title here: very creative, but my favorite track is probably “Welcome to the Hellmouth”: “My heart is filled with spite / For everyone in sight / The texture of worms beneath my feet / Kicking up leaves on wet concrete,” sung sort of like CRO-MAGS and DR. KNOW’s later recordings. I appreciate the visuals, I appreciate the various style expressions of ONLY SHALLOW, I appreciate the upstate NY desperation. Now, at the end of this tape, I think the band name is about a grave and not the MY BLOODY VALENTINE song. P.S.—love a good church bell sample.

Pänika Demo 2020 cassette

This short dose of PÄNIKA is flush with a menacing and pounding sound. Blasting sparse riffs with a mocking tone, haunting echoed vocals, and overt political themes, its got all the ingredients for a captivating hardcore experience, even if it only lasts a couple minutes. They kinda remind me of a female-fronted version of Italy’s KOBRA, which is great praise, and I’m thinking this has got to be one of the hottest bands in Wroclaw, Poland.

Paprika Smoked cassette

This kills. PAPRIKA has the depravity and spookiness combo down to a razor’s edge. This is blistering, crunchy heat throughout each track of the tour tape. What are they drinking? When can I see them? These four songs bring up more similar ponderings. I would get it just for the “You Tear Me Up” cover (the beat that made DISCHARGE?).

Perplex Perplex cassette

There have been hundreds of raw hardcore punk bands in the past ten years, so it is has become hard, if not near impossible, to keep up with everything—sometimes you are just too late to the party and you’re being told that the band you just came across and are excited about split up ages ago (meaning six months in 2023), but the members already formed two brand new bands that you are still clueless about but you nod. PERPLEX from Phoenix, Arizona is one of the bands that I should not have missed but still did. On the one hand, they clearly belong to that modern school of raw, old-school hardcore punk with reverbed vocals, but on the other, they somewhat stand out from the crowd (and it has grown into a big one) because they are heavily influenced by WRETCHED and manage to build on that influence with efficiency and emergency. With the opening of the first song being a massive nod to WRETCHED, you pretty much know what you are in for—furious, primal hardcore punk with obsessive riffs and demented leads. But PERPLEX doesn’t lose sight of what really matters: relentless energy. Käng from the ’80s is also very present in the songwriting, and bands like CRUDITY or SOD definitely got invites, too. No wheel is being reinvented here, but I love this demo. This release is a bit particular since the tape was initially released in 2019 but quickly sold out, and the Oxford-based Richter Scale (a great tape label that specializes in rather obscure hardcore acts) decided to reissue it. The drummer of the band, Mal (he also played in SLIMY MEMBER, among other projects), tragically died that same year, and the tape is dedicated to him. The two remaining members went on to do the fine MEMORY WARD, who I recommend you check out, too.

Piss Me Off Scam of a Lifetime cassette

Continuing the legacy of loud and lurid Cleveland punk, PISS ME OFF follows up their ear-scorching demo with this tape that’s equal parts tough and artistic. The band’s heavy sound appears to be inspired by old-school stormy Midwest hardcore and the ingestion of hallucinogens, as well as the stark weirdness of fellow Clevos CRUELSTER and PERVERTS AGAIN. These ten songs are mostly straight pounders, but then in the last three they expand into a less compressed, more rocking style with lots of soulful and piercing guitar soloing. Nice.

Privacy Warning Promo 2023 cassette

Much like GAG, PRIVACY WARNING excels at capturing the raw energy and unfiltered aggression of hardcore. The songs are short, sharp shocks to the system, and they waste no time in delivering their stomp. It’s a sonic onslaught that’s designed to incite a primal response. Indonesia is quickly becoming a hotbed for this type of hardcore, and PRIVACY WARNING does a great job bearing the flag.

Rejex Feel Nothing demo cassette

Kick-ass hardcore punk band from Moreno Valley, California delivering the goods to any old school hardcore aficionado. They sound like MINOR THREAT on speed. “Feel Nothing” is a four-song demo that clocks in at 1:37. They like to go fast and go hard. Bonus points for the production that sounds like it comes from the ’80s. And just like that, the demo ends and you are left wanting more!

Repression Repression demo cassette

With three songs and about six minutes worth of music, this demo tape is short and to the point, although it is a bit difficult to say with accuracy what REPRESSION is going for here. As my nan would say, “they don’t mess around, this lot.’’ The first track is my favourite, a fast-paced raw hardcore punk number that reminds me a little of Californian peace punk. The second one has more of a beefy, stomping US-style vibe, while ‘’Eradicated’’ is a heavy, slow-paced mosh-inducing song, which would be the exact time when I heroically retreat to the back of the room during a gig. I like the raspy and aggressive female vocals (I always do), and on the whole it does sound pretty mean and most of the typical boxes of 2020s hardcore are ticked. But to be honest, it leaves me a little cold as there are (too?) many bands trying to produce that hardcore blend right now, and I don’t think REPRESSION stands out enough. Who knows, perhaps subsequent releases will prove me wrong? This was released on Total Peace from Phoenix and all the proceeds go to Operation Solidarity, which is operated by Ukrainian anarchist groups trying to help out civilians in the war zone. A great initiative, and whatever the style of punk you play, this is what truly matters.

Rifle Holloway Demos cassette

Four-song debut from this London quintet. It’s a little bit ’77 punk, a little bit Keith Morris BLACK FLAG, and a little bit contemporary garage punk. Reminds me a lot of the stuff BITS OF SHIT was doing a few years back. The songs are neither bad nor particularly memorable. Cool vocal performance, though! I’m probably not going to dig this one back out too often, but I’ll definitely tune in for their next release.

Rude Television Distractions cassette

I miss my Tascam. There is something totally different about how you approach recording music with limitations, whereas if you start using a DAW, you can get lost in the options. This tape exemplifies what you can do with a point of view, the ability to play multiple instruments, and capable yet not limitless technology. The results are laser-focused bedroom punk with a synth-y undercurrent. It would be easy to compare this to R.M.F.C. and it has its similarities, but this project has its own voice that is snotty and fun in all the right ways. It has its debt owed to the DEAD MILKMEN as well, at least vocally, but what is impressive is how varied the sound is from cut to cut. This isn’t some homogeneous same-y six tracks of “been there, done that” bedroom punk. The songwriting is solid, the rhythm tight and right on, and there’s just the right amount of fuzz and echo to sell you on the authenticity of it all. Spaced-out rockers like “Operate” strike on a reptilian level, you simply have to bob your head. Cleaner tone forays into post-punk rhythms, such as on closer “Transformer No. 1,” are just as satisfying, proving the project has legs to walk wherever it wants to next.

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.

Scan EP2 cassette

This is a new D-beat outfit from Austin, TX that plays on the brighter, cyberpunk side, with harsh vocals like Digital Evil in Your Life-era S.D.S., and sort of EXIL-style hardcore in speed and pitch. This is not very dark or dismal, but it rips hard—I could compare to some other contemporaries too, like NERVOUS SS of Macedonia or RAT CAGE of the UK whose split was one of my favorite records last year, and if a record could have three sides, this tape would bridge those two bands swimmingly. There is plenty of distortion on the mic here and the cymbals smash. I would categorize this on the hardcore punk side of things rather than raw D-beat noise. The guitar tones are at times spacey. I currently don’t have a physical version of this, but I bet that would sound even heavier. There is one remaining copy on their Bandcamp as I’m writing this, featuring a shit photo that would look better in real life, so someone grab it now if you can!

Skill Issue Total Doom cassette

Blistering hardcore centered around themes of advocating for human rights and defense against societal abuse. This tape is five minutes of righteous fury, delivered in a throat-ripping roar that steals the show, although the band is tight and plays with a filthy tone that fits perfectly. Opening track “Total Doom” starts the tape out strong with a gay rights archival sound clip that leads into a slow feedback crawl and lyrics like “Always knew it from the start / Hatred heals my burning heart / Slice a bigot in his neck / Total Doom / Fucking mess.” “Pitbull in a Basement” features savage call-and-response vocals and rips hard. You’re telling me they have two raw-as-fuck vocalists in the same band? That’s the best kind of rare. The whole tape is solid, furious hardcore about fighting against intolerance. What’s not to like?

Slimex Slimex demo cassette

Portland robo-punk for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. “Big Drag” is an absolute winner. It sounds like the SPITS, with classic catchy rock’n’roll melodies layered in keyboards set on the flute setting. I just listened to it three times in a row. “Blood Circus” is more synth-heavy with jerky rhythms that bring to mind our lords and saviors of this type of shit, DEVO. “No Clue” is another solid tune with heavy vocal reverb. No clue pertains to the lyrics too, since they are echoed beyond comprehension, but it doesn’t really matter because it sounds good. “Pressure” breaks off the reverb knob on the vocals, all delivered over manic keys and bass. We’re talking Baby Jessica-down-the-well levels of echo, but it fits well here. Cool band with a great name and killer opening track. Recommended. Also, if you like this brand of lo-fi synth punk, check out Richter Scale’s other releases—they have as many releases as you have buttons on your broken Casiotone.

Sooks Demo 22 cassette

Punk from Perth? Sign me up, always! This is righteous and rage-filled, with densely-penned and poetic lyrics delivered masterfully by vocalist Ange. There is an intimacy only harder driven home by the fearsome playing, especially on tracks like “Integrity” with perfect turns of phrase like “I’m a chronic committer, but I want to quit you.” While everything feels incredibly personal, there is a political fire in this band’s belly as well, serving rallying cries for bodily autonomy and against neoliberalism, crypto, and the climate crisis, while always tying it back to the heart. Overall, this cassette feels like an above-average, sophisticated exploration of big world ideas through a small and focused lens. The results are dizzyingly good.

Spooky Demo 2021 cassette

With quirky drum machines, reverb-drenched vocals, and scratchy guitars, SPOOKY create self-described DEVO-core. I think that’s an apt description of the genre, like an even more DIY, homemade DEVO demo. Besides the obvious influence of DEVO, this tape shares a lot in common with the sounds of ALIEN NOSEJOB and GEE TEE. There’s just four tracks on the tape, all of which are playful and quick to end. Without a lot of substance, it’s hard to say this is something great, but for a demo tape it’s still pretty fun.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Targets Existence Is a Mess, I Cannot Escape demo cassette

What words come to mind after my first listen of this demo, you ask? Disturbed, psychotic, nightmarish, motherfucking insane, maybe? Yes, all of those words do come to mind, but don’t let it scare you. This is the psychotic nightmare of a tape we’ve all been waiting for. Something that appeals to the GG ALLIN inside us all. The soundtrack to your bad acid trip. The tape you play to get pumped up for your satanic baptism. It puts you in an existential mood and inspires you to read a book about death. Wrapped in a lo-fi jumble of noisy guitars and distorted vocals, the demo quality only adds to the crusty vibe of the tape. Overall, it’s some of Denver’s finest hardcore. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

Ugly Thing Ugly Thing cassette

The Richter Scale label in Oxford has been transatlantically repping the Moreno Valley, CA hardcore scene, or one specific node of it, by running off UK editions of its bands’ extremely short tapes. Being objective here, anyone paying to have a toilet-break-length piece of music cargoed across the world is exhibiting decadence on a par with the last days of Rome. Not totally sure who’s in UGLY THING, but they’ve sprung from the same well as SUNK, REJEX, and PROCESS OF ELIMINATION, all of whom have Richter Scale tapes too, and their demo—four songs in two-and-a-half minutes—is tasty, “take a buzzsaw to a brick wall” HC with cool rabid dog vox and no song titles.

Unspec Century of Torture cassette

Indonesia’s UNSPEC brings a relentless attack of stompy hardcore. It could have easily become metallic chugging mayhem, but instead it went towards a raw, noisy, evil hardcore approach, along the lines of HOAX or GAG. A sonic expression of raw, full-force ferocious madness.

Urn Urn cassette

A charge of hypnotic hardcore out of Dallas, the second full-length from URN is a unique beast. On one hand, it sounds like something their Austin neighbors GLUE might make after binging LSD to the point of paranoid delirium. These pounding tracks carry a sort of refined menace to them, and you pick up on the band’s psychedelic lean through both the tense, often spiraling and flanged-out riffage, and the lyrics (“Ride the wave / Now you see everything.”) That is, when they’re not just dropping straight gangster rap lyrics. There’s also a hip-hop influence to the record that’s most bluntly demonstrated by the TRAE THA TRUTH sample on “Grey Cassette,” but also pretty clear in the words to songs like “Stash Pot” (“Playing with my money makes my glock go pop / You think I’m fucking playing til I run up to your block.”) Themes go back and forth between reality-bending mind expansion and the realest of talk, and the whole thing rips. Recommended.

WWW Mundo Virtual cassette

Five short tracks of sci-fi punk/DEVO worship from Argentina. You want egg-punk? Here’s the egg. This has to be the logical extension of the nerdiest music associated with the genre. The first four tracks all open with various forms of technology firing up (phones ringing, dial-up modems, etc.), followed by crunchy synth overload. The vocals are run through some sort of warbly, distorted insect effect and mixed really high so they override everything else. The cumulative listening experience is over-the-top and unpleasant. Forget egg-punk—this is irritant punk. The lyrics are in Spanish, so I’m not sure what they say, but the band’s description describes them as being about the harmful relationship between humans and electronics. Take this tape as an example. The final song, “Placer Artificial,” is much better and sounds like it had more effort involved (and they ditch the vocal effect). There’s some CONEHEADS influence on the vocals and several layers of catchy synth lines. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for any future WWW releases.