Toxic State

Abism Abism LP

Before I get lost in excited rambling, here’s a conclusion right at the beginning: this is a great LP. Listen to and get it somehow, anyhow. ABISM put out a rehearsal tape in 2021 and went straight into writing a debut full-length. This is a rare, and therefore respectable move. Crafting an LP is a real test for a band, and ABISM easily passes. They consist of members of previously acclaimed bands such as CRAZY SPIRIT/DAWN OF HUMANS, SALVAJE PUNK/100%, IVY/NUTS zine, and GARRAPATA. Another gem from the scene of a dozen people making three dozen amazing bands, released by Toxic State, who document this sub-scene—documenting how your friends create a scene is pretty much a major point of contemporary punk. There is a slight chance that your songs might not abolish the current existing order of the world, so you should rather save yourself, your community, or at least the music you make. In that sense, ABISM is a perfect result. Nothing on this record sounds as if you could not play it. But they are playing it, not you, and the whole flow and energy of the record is so effortless and flawless. There are no riffs you wish you could come up with, but hearing these super sick riffs inspires you to get down to the rehearsal room and blast such primitive jams at high volume. The intensity is maintained even with the longer tracks that fill half of the record. “Hypnotic,” as they state, and it works; it remains raw hardcore and has odd vibes even without unleashed chaos. The mixing sounds great, and while the music has a lot of space due to the hypnotic/repetitive and not too complicated parts, there is a buzz that offers an easy connection to the band’s energy. The vocals bind the record together in a great way, leaving a lot of space for the music while maintaining an angry presence. I loved the GARRAPATA demo, so it’s nice to hear the same voice here. Regardless of any reference, ABISM sounds unique in a way that they are not uncategorizable, but could be matched to the essence of many different genres. It’s tight, aggressive, and raw, but has no challenging or alienating element—maybe I am misunderstanding the world around me, but this should excite all punks and hardcore heads who are not afraid of dirt and mesmerizing simplicity. Maybe even your krautrock-loving acquaintances would dig this. It’s been on constant repeat since the first time I heard it, and it’s not only great music, but makes me appreciate punk, too. I want to go to the rehearsal room and jam, and you should do it too, but first check out this record for a little motivation. Oh, and the cover looks great. 

Anti-Machine Too Many Eyes EP

There is a dragon that I have been chasing away at since I was a wee little shithead. It’s finding a moment that gets me closer to the initial, cautious, and addictive feelings of first contact with grimy, dark hardcore. It’s fleeting, to say the least, until a band like ANTI-MACHINE comes around and dishes it.  This is the band’s follow-up to their October 2021 self-titled EP, and like their first recorded offering, it destroys and brings pause. Too Many Eyes is loud, fast, and bleeding in vomit.  Who the fuck are these people? The NYC five-piece  shares some of the same mechanics as contemporaries 80HD and KINETIC ORBITAL STRIKE, with a feel of early BORN AGAINST. There is a place for some old fart like myself to situate themselves into this, for that I thank the band. Hail ANTI-MACHINE.

Anti-Machine Shut Up EP

“My mind is just a piece of shit this morning” says the “Winnebago Man” in the intro, which sets the tone for what follows next: an eruption of snotty hardcore punk that reeks of disdain for everyday life. A ferocious discharge of US hardcore punk that owes as much to POISON IDEA as it does to TOTALITÄR, but the vocals really shift the gears to another place. Gritty and snarling, they turn the songs into a cesspool of hate and rawness against the state, xenophobes, racists, and everyday shit situations. The punk on the cover being drilled in the head while being OK with it couldn’t be more appropriate for this banger. That’s what you get when you get NY seasoned veterans from CRAZY SPIRIT, SAVAGEHEADS, EXTENDED HELL, and SUBVERSIVE RITE together. Life is shit and they know it!

Ataque Subliminal Ataque Subliminal demo cassette

This short four-song demo comes out of NYC from the Toxic State family of fine products. Fronted by raw-throat melodic shouts and the guitar’s radioactive riffs, dripping with just the right amount of flange, plus a bass and drum backline that relays the rhythm more with off-kilter tom rolls, big trashy crash bashes, and a tasteful use of breakdown beats rather than just relying on the standard snare and hi-hat rata-tat-tat ad infinitum. It really lends the songs a lateral swing and danceability, especially on the killer opening cut “Màquinas Deseantes.”

Blu Anxxiety Plaay Dead LP

Nuke York mutants crawl out of the sewers…and into the club! First full-length from these dark freestyle practitioners who are unconcerned with how many letters you put in words! Speaking of words, here are some: “Dracula / Nightbreed / Trick or treat / Nightbreed! / Fuck the boys! / Smell my feet”—lyrics from the LP’s opening track “Internet Terrorist,” which Chi Orengo (ANASAZI, CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET) kinda yell-raps (think KANYE on “Black Skinhead”) over a mid-’90s-style industrial/acid techno track. It’s goofy as hell…and I love it! The rest of the LP is more of the goth post-punk/EBM that you’d expect given their 2019 7″. It’s solid, even if it never matches the high of that opener. For whatever reason, despite it not really even being in the same ballpark genre-wise, I can’t help but think this also sounds a little like OINGO BOINGO. Anyway, the other highlight of the record is a straightforward cover of REAL LIFE’s “Send Me an Angel.” Great song!

Children With Dog Feet Curb Your Anarchy cassette

For those who think that deathrock has been on the down-low lately, here is the living (or undead?!?) proof in the form of Curb Your Anarchy from the Nuke York nightwalkers CHILDREN WITH DOG FEET. Equal parts goth and punk, this debut features four nightmarish tracks of spooky deathrock with a decadent punkier edge, creating a frenzy of RUDIMENTARY PENI-infused CHRISTIAN DEATH. Released by Toxic State, a label that always has its finger on the pulse of what is new in punk, and featuring members of ANASAZI, BLU ANXXIETY, and EXTENDED HELL. What could go wrong with this mix? This is for the night children, ghouls and fiends.

Dollhouse The First Day of Spring EP

I had the good fortune of reviewing this New York City hardcore band’s self-titled demo a few months back, and this debut 7″ picks right up where that excellent release left off. This is a great band. Raw, ripping punk with personal, vulnerable lyrics about mental health and abuse; heavy in both delivery and concept. First track “The Shadow Baby” was on the demo, but this version has rougher vocals and a killer riff that immediately creeps into your brain and nestles in. “This is Heaven” starts with a fast, dense vocal delivery that is spoken at first and then screamed. Like much of DOLLHOUSE’s lyrical content, the words are a candid and unsettling description of self-harm and sexual abuse. The song ends with “I was destined for fame at such a young age / But it was taken away by some pervert / And no one knows what really happened / I can’t remember a thing before eleven / This is heaven.” That is some heavy shit. The writing on this record comes across as someone grappling with trauma rather than just being shocking or exploitative, which cannot be an easy thing to do. Earnestness to this degree without some obfuscation of meaning or the distance of irony is rare and moving. “Die So Pretty” is a raw punk rager that has some references to angels, another repeated symbol on this and the previous release. “The First Day of Spring” is surprising for ending with acoustic guitar strumming with the punk mayhem. Tremendous record if you are okay with the emotional heft. Highly, highly recommended.

Factory City Children Perfect Utopia EP

Here’s some cool shit outta New York via Mateo (or “Tormented Imp,” as credited here) of WARTHOG fame. Auto-drum mutant punk is how I’d describe this one; imagine the Gremlins from the movie Gremlins starting a punk band and you’re close. First up is “Perfect Utopia,” which is more or less “Some Kind of Hate” by MISFITS if it were dropped into a vat of toxic sludge. It’s as awesome and weird as it sounds. The rest of the EP follows suit: wicked vocals, catchy riffs, and demented programmed drum beats. “Obsessed” and “Gut the Pig” are both quick and evil bursts that sound like RAMONES songs dressed up in Halloween costumes. “Hell Man 88” changes the pace a bit with a mid-tempo WARTHOG-ish rocker, and “F.U.M.E.S.” wraps things up nicely, taking a quick feedback-filled breather before making a final descent to hell. Originally released in 2021 on cassette and now on vinyl thanks to Toxic State, this is a surprisingly charming EP that is sure to delight all of you mutants listening out there.

Fairytale Shooting Star LP

The moment the air raid sirens on opening track “Submerged In Water” morph into feedback, you can feel the momentum of FAIRYTALE’s debut LP Shooting Star pushing you into a hurricane of raw hardcore punk that’s easily a contender for best album of the year. FAIRYTALE brings forth an album that is so cohesive and fully realized, it boggles the mind that it’s a debut LP. In the tradition of classics from the likes of MOB 47 and ANTI CIMEX, the guitar playing is heavy and dense with squealing and swirling guitar leads that balance and compliment the unrelenting rhythm section, a full-on D-beat assault that never lets up. What sets FAIRYTALE apart is vocalist Lulu’s sharp and venomous delivery, which on more than one occasion drifts into borderline spoken-word that is perfectly evil. It’s difficult to pick out a single standout track here as each one is dynamic, layered, and frankly catchy as fuck, but if one needed a recommendation, it would be “Possible to Grow,” two minutes of wretched guitars, brutal drumming, and a chorus that will be ringing in your ears for days to come. Do yourself a favor and give this thing a listen if you haven’t already. Highly recommended, it will be appearing in many top-ten lists come year-end and rightfully so; albums this raw don’t come along very often.

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads Use Me EP

Get the impression that my take on HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS’ discography to date—improving on each release and peaking with their self-titled third LP from 2018—is widely considered uncool, verboten, wrong even. A great pity if so, as this is the stance that allows the easiest enjoyment of Use Me, a four-song EP which carries on down that testifyin’ soul-punk road and adds a little extra spit and polish as it goes. Opening track “Look at You” is one of those textbook Hank Wood vocal shakedowns, where he dresses down some unidentified foe into the dirt but does it with a peculiar affection. “Strangers” is tearjerker doo-wop it’s permissible to stagedive to, “Tomorrow” the chant of the eternal bozo optimist (“Tomorrow’s gonna turn my love around!”) with some unlikely post-punky reverb, and the closing title track pushes some equally unlikely ’90s alt buttons via sugary female backing vox.

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads You Could Have It / I’d Rather Be With Me 7″

Vinyl reissue of their limited 2019 tour cassingle (which, if you’re keeping score, was issued thrice for a total edition of 560 copies). And it’s quite the upgrade! Despite the waning popularity of the 7”, I gotta imagine this would still be the preferred format over a two-song tape. Plus, this art looks great blown up, and you’re getting a hilariously unnecessary lyric sheet! This initially came out between 2018’s self-titled LP and 2020’s Use Me EP, and it definitely sounds like it. HANK’s still rapping, but he’s getting further away from the early ’70s JAMES BROWN-aping of that LP and closer to that Anthony Kiedis patter you got on the EP. “You Could Have It,” with its motorik, loud/quiet groove and searing but tuneful guitars, sounds like a more profane and anti-social EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING. It’s great! “I’d Rather Be With Me” sounds like it could have plucked off their 2018 LP, except it’s got this odd, atmospheric, almost indie rock guitar running through it. It reminds me a little of MODEST MOUSE’s “Float On”…which I don’t think I mean as a negative. In any case, HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS are one of the most important acts of the past decade, and this release is accordingly essential.

Haram وين كنيت بي ١١​/​٩؟? (Where Were You on 9/11?) EP

This is the first record that’s ever made me cry. I felt a deep, personal connection to the concept, and the record’s power—both in terms of lyrics and musical brutality—left me mindblown. This release seems a bit more dynamic than their others: there’s some chaotic, interesting guitar parts on “Bomb in the Sky,” and a cool SACRILEGE-type galloping intro on “The Solution (Is Resistance).” The singer’s signature snarl sits on top of the mix, delayed and distorted in just the right amounts. My favorite track has got to be the last one, “Jihad, Jihadi.” The riff reminds me of something EXOTICA would do, and the lyrics sing like an anthem. It seriously gives me chills.

I-SO Total Collapse cassette

The NY punk scene never ceases to spawn great punk bands. If you like HARAM, SCALPLE, ANDROID, or DROOL, you might be familiar with I-SO’s members. Released on the punk hub Toxic State, Total Collapse is the soundtrack to the collapse of the modern world. Uber-fast tracks like “Apocalypse Anxiety” show an almost fastcore approach, while songs like “Isolation” slow down a bit and provide a Side-B-of-Damaged feel of malaise. Thumbs up for this banger of a demo.

Kaleidoscope After the Futures… LP

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

L.O.T.I.O.N. W​.​A​.​R. in the Digital Realm LP

The Valhalla of my sweetest dreams looks something like a dust-filled warehouse in which survivors of the apocalypse mutually exchange their wares, spoils, scavenges, and excesses. At the center of these festivities is a massive circle pit. Spiraling layers of punks, ravers, goths, heshers, and other survivors each dancing their own individual dance. The bass-heavy music filling this sacred hall is L.O.T.I.O.N. MULTINATIONAL CORPORTION’s W.A.R. in the Digital Realm on repeat, ad infinitum. Sure, there are a million reasons to hate this album, from having too many capitalized letters and periods, thereby making it a real bastard to type when searching online, or the insidiously infectious pop dance drivel of “Cybernetic Super Lover,” but somehow I keep coming back to this album again and again, Pavlovian-style. If you have no idea what I’m on about, imagine a talented  Sakevi Yokoyama impersonator singing over a perfectly orchestrated mashup of WHITE ZOMBIE, MINISTRY, DISCHARGE, and ’90s rave music. The good news: this album makes for a great entry point into the world of L.O.T.I.O.N. The bad news: you’ll find out when you play this.

L.O.T.I.O.N. World Wide W.E.B. LP

This is the one. This is the moment that L.O.T.I.O.N. evolved from an interesting concept into a fully-realized, impeccably executed cyber juggernaut. The base of early industrial is still there (they’ll never not owe a debt to SKINNY PUPPY) but that skeleton is fleshed out here with a range of new sounds and textures, including thrash riffing (“New Prosthetic Metal Arm”), industrial dance (the KMFDM-ish “Gabber Punks of Dabs/Downed Police Helicopter”), and even downtempo electronica (the wonderfully out of left field “I.C.B.M.” with its club-ready female vocals). If you’ve been a bit dubious of this band’s earlier output, put that aside because this is a new-model L.O.T.I.O.N., equally prepared to conquer fetid punk dives and velvet-roped VIP rooms. It probably goes without saying, but this packaging is fantastic as well, utilizing a Soldier of Fortune mag-styled sleeve and insert along with a fantastic poster featuring one of vocalist Alexander Heir’s best works yet.

Nisemono 偽者 Nisemono 偽者 demo cassette

New York City’s NISEMONO 偽者 may be a new band, but the players are veterans in the scene. This mighty duo shares members with the likes of L.O.T.I.O.N., DOLLHOUSE, and WARTHOG. Did I manage to get your attention now? Good! This demo has six tracks of hard-hitting hardcore punk with obvious Japanese hardcore influences, and Scandinavian ones as well. Feels like an alternative continuation to NOMAD (an earlier project of one of the members) as the same mindset is there, just with less fuzz and dirt. A quick search about the name reveals that it means “fake,” but there is nothing fake about them.

Pinocchio My Time Vol. 1 EP

Punk isn’t about competition, it’s about community, but if I had to pick a band that best represents the vibrancy and creativity of the current renaissance of NYC punk, PINOCCHIO would be near the very top of a short list. Simply put, this is one of the most confident debuts in punk in at least a decade. Self-assured, fearsome, and downright odd where it counts—it makes you start to wonder if starving to death in the big city might be worth it just to get a taste of what’s going on over there. Somewhere between new wave and hardcore, with some detours into a dimension we’ve yet to fully explore, PINOCCHIO has already proven they belong in the pantheon of greats, and they only needed eight tracks to do it. Essential listening for yesterday, today, and many tomorrows to come.

Pobreza Mental Ya No Me Pertenezco EP

POBREZA MENTAL plays hardcore punk in the stumbling chaos vein of WRETCHED, CHEETAH CHROME MOTHERFUCKERS and Colombian bands such as IMAGEN and HP.HC, albeit not nearly as lo-fi and rudimentary as the two latter bands. The vocals shout to the point of breathless anger. The drums hiccup, pummel and degenerate into a crashing mass of cymbals. Every now and again stray guitar notes emerge from the claustrophobia to punctuate the rest of the wild sounds. Almost every song gradually builds from a mid-tempo creepy crawling rumble to an all-out glorious blast. The songs are about not belonging, the feeling of having nowhere to go as cities continue to gentrify and other depression and anxiety oriented fare. Ya No Me Pertenezco is an all-around perfect hardcore punk EP.

Rose Glass Demo 2022 cassette

Killer demo from ROSE GLASS, featuring various players from Santa Ana and New York. Three cuts of meat-and-potatoes hardcore punk with frantic drums, crunchy guitars, and snotty vocals that kind of remind me of the ANNIHILATED. This tape feels so lived-in, like something that’s been around much longer than a year. Closer “Cold War III” (and the rest of the tape for that matter) could easily be mistaken for an early SST release. Great stuff.

Salvaje Punk Salvaje Punk LP

The New York scene which is largely represented by Toxic State records is still actively producing great punk music. Many of these bands sound as if hardcore nerds are digging through their well-curated record collections and forming new bands to play music that could be linked to a certain micro-scene that existed for a fraction of a second. As dorky as it sounds, I like this approach when it feels as if they genuinely love what they are referencing, instead of half-assed borrowing of established sounds. Therefore, I was super excited when I learned about this band—their name already sounds good, and stupid just like HP.HC, who had an even dumber record title (Thrash/Hardcore/Punk). SALVAJE PUNK draws major influence from the ultra-metal/hardcore scene of Medellin, Colombia from around the beginning of the ’90s. That was a savage scene in a savage town and each band played näive, chaotic music with a shit-fi distorted sound—something that is not easy to recreate if you are an established musician, and these members can definitely play. Instead of hitting their hands with a hammer to be more loose, they creatively create chaos. Drums are as dense as proto-grindcore, and the guitars drop those crazy solos I loved so much with the ultra-metal bands. The structures are interesting too, with occasional short tempo changes, and their whole sound rumbles—when other bands would stop it, SALVAJE PUNK rolls towards building the bumps into the songs, creating a great mess. It is a wild listen, grabbing and dragging me for the entire play time. Obviously the recording is sonically much more listener-friendly, which is a bit of a bummer, because daring to sound like ATAQUE DE SONIDO or HERPES in 2023 would be great. Trying to write songs that are as crazy as the sound of the previous bands is, although more difficult, finely executed here. If you took your favorite parts from raging hardcore and chaotic death metal and blast them on full volume at the same time, then you’d get close to how this record sounds. I love it. The record includes a huge poster with a demon that looks super sick. Get this!

Savage Pleasure A Harrowing Cry… From the Shadows cassette

Metal-infused punk or punk-infused metal? It doesn’t matter, what matters is that it rips! Equal parts AMEBIX and HELLHAMMER with some nods to VENOM or early VOIVOD, but always keeping a punk edge. From the cover to the samples, there is this occult folky feeling that just seals the deal and glues the whole thing together. Overall, this demo is a great debut from SAVAGE PLEASURE. First-wave enthusiasts, get your hands on this one.

Stigmatism Ignorance in Power LP

Latest LP by NYC/Toronto’s STIGMATISM. Ignorance in Power is Victim in Pain-style straight-ahead, fast hardcore punk with absolutely no bullshit. Straight b2b bangers—recording is on the drier side with no shitty metal parts, no echo on the vocals, and none of the modern pro-core sound. Reminiscent of early ’80s NYHC or Boston HC, yet without any of the reactionary patriotic boomer hardcore dad vibes, reminding the listener to recognize what hardcore was all about. A non-stop, tight energetic outburst of fast, ferocious hardcore punk intensity.

Tozcos Infernal LP

TOZCOS’ latest LP Infernal boldly explores themes of self-perception and the experience of having immigrant backgrounds, particularly as descendants of Mexican immigrants in the US. The punk energy infused with poignant lyrics creates a compelling narrative that reflects the struggles, resilience, and identity of those navigating life in a new cultural landscape. A mixture of the Orange County sound (where the band is from) like ADOLESCENTS and T.S.O.L., and Spanish-speaking punk like ESKORBUTO. TOZCOS’ debut Sueños Deceptivos was an amazing punk record, but Infernal leaps further up the ladder. Infernal not only serves as a musical testament to the punk ethos, but also as a socio-cultural commentary.

Warthog Four Walls EP

At this point, everyone knows or has heard of WARTHOG. They’re one of those bands that with everything they release, be it records, merch, or other publicity stunts (billboard!?!?), will get major attention. To get this sort of attention nowadays with bands spawning left and right is admirable, so there must be an “it” factor to them. With that being said, the sons of Larry are back with their third self-titled EP in a row. Yes! They are delving more and more into metal-oriented territory with recognizable influences of proto-bands like VENOM or CELTIC FROST, but still go fast on the POISON IDEA-styled hardcore. WARTHOG is at the top of the game and has been a major influence on American hardcore, and they are quickly spreading that influence to Europe as well. But you have to see them live to witness the full force of the WARTHOG attack! Highly recommended!