Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to MRR, PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609, USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1977 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

3D & the Holograms VR Execution EP

Sydney larrikins Billy (from RESEARCH REACTOR CORP.) and Ishka (from SATANIC TOGAS or TEE-VEE REPAIRMAN or SET-TOP BOX or every other band in Sydney) virtually team up with JJ from Olympia, WA’s the GOBS to bring you four tracks of the fucked punk you’d expect from this lot. With Billy on vocals, it’s gonna be hard for this thing to not sound like RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., but this stuff is faster, more full-on, and slightly less cartoony…for the most part. The first three tracks are drum machine punk takes on the REATARDS or PERSUADERS. It’s really good shit—some of my favorite tunes these dudes have cranked out, particularly “Projection.” Then there’s “MS-DOS,” which is the same type of stuff, but in more of a rubber band-y Sega Genesis (or, for the non-US world, Mega Drive)-rock vein. It’s borderline too silly, but I love these dudes too much to be that bothered by it. Cool record! Apparently, an LP is just over the horizon, to, so be on the lookout for that!

Ann Beretta Like a Riot! Live From the Broadberry (Acoustic) LP

More proof that the line between country and punk is much thinner than you’d think. Originally released in 2020, this 2018 live recording of Richmond’s own ANN BERETTA features live, acoustic renditions of their typically electric originals. It’s popped back up on our radar because DCxPC Live recently gave this album a limited vinyl release. Much like other country-adjacent punk bands such as DRAG THE RIVER and TWO COW GARAGE, these songs are a fine mix of debauchery and sentimentalism. The heavy use of a pedal steel and fiddle pushes the tender vibe while helping fill the gap that’s been left from going acoustic. Strong vocals, very reminiscent of Ben Nichols from LUCERO—very gruff but melodic at the same time. Personally, I enjoy these versions way more than their traditional punk songs. Really adds to a stronger dynamic and makes it much more interesting.

Balcanes Gloria Eterna LP

From the sunny shores of a Spanish paradise comes a cruel and pounding noise. BALCANES wear their love for early-era SWANS and SCRATCH ACID on their sleeves, and it comes together in a way that makes it difficult for me to put down my headphones. Throughout Gloria Eterna’s nine tracks, the band combines bass-driven repetition and guitar loops along with harsh and ambient noise, layering the LP into a dark, sludgy stew. Standout tracks “Futuro @!&*#,” “Ciudad Campamento,” and “La Paz No Durara” show the range of sonic exploits that are in the band’s arson. All of the material comes off very real and genuine throughout the record, closing with “Bona Nit,” a piano-and-sax piece that could hold hands and kiss with Obey-era BRAINBOMBS. Live footage of the band that I found online gets my corroded arteries humming. Great record, get it.

Blister Early Onset cassette

Debut album from Portland, OR’s BLISTER, offering ten tracks of tilt-a-whirl death punk. With one hand on the keys and the other clutching the fork in the outlet, the synth player sets the background for this stomp-around, mid-tempo death stroll, while guitars and drums plod beneath salty, sassy vocals that contextualize some life-disparaging moodiness. This reminds me of the FLESH EATERS, but without the horns. “Burnside Burnout” is a great song, and I can only imagine is an ode to the crusty ones that skate and lurk beneath the bridge.

Call in Dead Patriarchy / Religious Wars 7″

What it says on the tin. Gender critique over blastbeats followed by a faithful rendition of a punk rock standard. Personally, I think covers are best reserved for live shows. However, this version is fine, but omitting the rapid-fire bass notes during the bridge’s opening? Really?! The aforementioned blastbeats sound best when played to the verge of pure noise, so when the band appears to ease off the pedal, I believe something is lost. Maybe it’s the production’s fault? I recommend using much crappier equipment and burying the result in your backyard for a few weeks.

 

Churchgoers Churchgoers demo cassette

In the UKHC scene, it is more than common to be at any show and hear an exchange between a 19-year-old and 23-year-old saying “we should start a band that sounds like UNDERDOG meets…SHEER TERROR”. However, it is practically almost never when a group of kids get together wanting to start, and I quote drummer Bobby Cole, “a NEOS-worship band”…until now. To say this demon absolutely floored me would be an understatement—I was nothing less than bewildered, in fact astounded, by the sheer musicianship and originality projected from this demo. While Bobby (the ANNIHILATED, ANTAGONIZM, MOTIVE) writes almost all the songs, each member of the band contributes equally in their own way to creating this absolute Magnum opus, sounding as if HERESY or RIPCORD had been listening to nothing but Hassibah Gets the Martian Brain Squeeze and YOUTH KORPS’ Demo ‘82 rather than SS DECONTROL. Mark McCutchan’s vocals here provide a fiery adolescence completing the general vibe of this band, just four angry, pissed kids, with Ben Hills (LAST AFFRONT, VILE SPIRIT) playing the riffs phenomenally at a raucous speed, while bassist Xav (NEGATIVE FRAME) keeps it steady throughout. This is probably my favourite release of the year, so please, do go and give it a listen.

C.O.F.F.I.N. / Mini Skirt split EP

A fantastic split between two Australian punk bands. MINI SKIRT is up first with a very bass-driven style. The vocals come off monotone at times, but there’s something I really like about them. They feel authentic and sincere, especially on “Bag of Bones,” which appears to be a love song. Feels similar to Frankie Stubbs of LEATHERFACE. MINI SKIRT can be a little repetitive at times, but again, it works for them. C.O.F.F.I.N has a very different dynamic. Guitar-driven tracks with a vocalist that could be described as a punk rock MEAT LOAF. Very theatrical, especially when the piano lead comes in on “Under Your Wing.” This split works because the bands sound different enough to keep it fresh, but similar enough that you’ll be happy with both sides if you dig this sound.

The Drin Down River in the Distance LP

I reviewed the last DRIN release, and when the opportunity came up to review this one, I was interested in hearing what this mysterious project has come up with next. Down River in the Distance cranks up the murk and expands the bleak, dubby spaciousness. The drums take a big step forward in the mix, the bass providing more of a felt frequency. The prettier strummed chords and more melancholy minors are replaced with fuzz-fracked brittle guitars that crackle as if coming from a shortwave radio. It’s psychedelic, but with a color palette that’s only swirling with muddy grays.

Excluded Legion of War LP

A hefty hunk of Mexican street punk here from the fellas in EXCLUDED on their fourth release, a pleasingly quixotic mix of Oi! and hardcore both in English and Spanish. It took me a while to get fully into this, and while they don’t quite grab me in the way that their contemporaries and compatriots MESS do, for a take on the genre it’s a lot of fun. Gang vox, ramshackle riffs that feel like they could derail at any point, and drums that sound like someone knocking the absolute shite out of some bin lids, it’s an enjoyable way to spend your time.

Flex TMG Whisper Swish 12″

Debut vinyl release from this Oakland duo made up of Hannah D’Amato (FAKE FRUIT) and Rob I. Miller (BLUES LAWYER). FLEX TMG pairs the hectic, dubbed-out avant disco of Y Records or the dancier side of the New York no wave scene with vocal melodies more reminiscent of the dance-pop of that same era. Each of the six tracks on the 12” are supported by an ESG-like groove assembled from lo-fi drum machines, various hand percussion, and rubbery, ass-rattling bass lines. Depending on the track, guitar gets layered in as meandering ambience, chicken scratch funk, or even acid jazz psychedelia. But it’s Hannah’s vocal performance here that sells this for me. On the opening track “Burn This Town,” you’re getting a half MAXIMUM JOY post-punk yelp, half an almost CRYSTAL WATERS hypnotic, sing-songy rap—it just sounds effortless and cool but approachable at the same time. Then other tracks find her doing more of an airy “Heart of Glass” thing…less approachable, but still very cool! It’s borderline magical, though, when she organically blends those three styles, as she does on the song “Ghost.” I’ve listened to this track dozens of times at this point, and it hasn’t lost any of its luster. That little yell that she gives out right after the mini-hook “felt like a ghost in that city” is probably my favorite moment on any record this year. It’s already such an upbeat song, but something about it really makes me feel alive. Just an exceptional track on a great record!

Fukker Demo EP

With inverted crosses on the Ks and a logo that has three skulls (two goat skulls and a human one that is being stabbed), an alert listener like myself can guess that this band called FUKKER is probably not arsing around with fancy melodies or ambitious songwriting (or even with tuning for all I know). I must say, I was not familiar with this Australian lot. Contrary to what the aesthetics hint at, FUKKER is not an evil metal-punk band, but a rather classic käng hardcore one, with a well-balanced, fuzzy, distorted sound and shouted vocals with a bit too much echo for my taste (a trap that too many hardcore bands fall into these days). I suppose they don’t intend to create anything new here, but it is done well enough and it reminds me a lot of the Japanese take on the Swedish hardcore sound, not unlike a hungover CONTRAST ATTITUDE covering SHITLICKERS and DISARM or something, but the closest comparison would be early GIFTGASATTACK. This six-song demo was originally released on tape in 2019 but this is the vinyl version of it released on two Australian labels that specialize in raw and noisy hardcore, Televised Suicide Records (BOOTLICKER, ODIO, DISEASE, KOSZMAR, etc.) and Fuzzed Atrocities. Did I mention that FUKKER covers NO FUCKER? Cheeky bastards.

Grimple / Logical Nonsense A Darker Shade of Grey split LP reissue

Reissue of the GRIMPLE and LOGICAL NONSENSE ’94 split; classic hardcore bands formed in New Mexico that stand up considerably today. GRIMPLE’s sound is so incredibly tight on this recording, there is a bit of metal and a lot of BORN AGAINST. The vocals that Greg Valencia brings and the effect of the production are incredible and bring back years gone by. “Infierno,” “System Fukers,” and “Forever Fuked” are highlights. LOGICAL NONSENSE brings a heavy set of rapid-fire grindcore to the B-side. All are drilling, guttural assaults in the best of all ways. The split ends with a killer WENDY-O MATIK spoken piece. Both bands are almost outdoing each other throughout, very killer stuff.

The Higher State Codeine / Clouds of Doubt 7”

This is pretty straightforward. You’ve got a band firmly rooted in ’60s garage rock covering two ’60s garage rock tunes. The first one is a slower number, full of organ and tambourine. Combined with some very somber vocals, it definitely creates its own darkness. The B-side continues along the same lines, though this cut is definitely more upbeat and a more catchy number. Still, with both cuts, the lack of a real drum presence is noticeable. All that said, I find myself strangely drawn to the record. There’s something interesting in there that draws me in. This one is perfect for a series by Back to Beat called “Moody Garage.” It is just that. 

Hope? Dead & Gone cassette

This release came out over a year ago, and if you haven’t heard of HOPE? or witnessed them live yet (as they’ve toured quite extensively), then it’s time to stop sleeping on this Portland quartet. Grinding rhythm guitars, chugging bass, pummeling drums, earnest near-spasmodic vocals…HOPE? has everything you’re looking for when it comes to crusty, D-beat hardcore. Nine songs that give the feeling of standing next to a passing freight train at full speed— HOPE? has a powerful sound that is unique, articulate, and creative. Drawing their source sound from the very depths of the D-beat well, HOPE? plays more like ANTI CIMEX or RIISTETYT rather than later, more noise-oriented acts. Lead singer and band visual artist Manda uses this souped-up rock’n’roll hog to deliver harsh social criticisms that will make all the called-out bastards quake in fear. The song “End of Time” kicks in just past the midpoint of this cassette and is an absolute ripper, with moments of it sounding like AUS-ROTTEN or even BEHIND ENEMY LINES. Is it wrong to say I hope HOPE? releases more material? Even if they don’t, this cassette is an instant classic and holds an important position in the ongoing conversation that is hardcore anarcho-punk.

Irreal Era Electrónica 12″

If you really commit and do your homework, sticking with tradition can always feel fresh and vital. This group from Barcelona certainly perfects a sound that could have come straight from the height of ’80s hardcore, when punks and metalheads started to blur together. This pummels, crackling with lightning and feedback that never once missteps. Brutality without a care for the modern world.

Judy and the Jerks Music to Go Nuts LP

All anybody wants to talk about these days is the scene in Hattiesburg, MS, all because of JUDY AND THE JERKS. Fun, energetic punk fucking rock that brings to mind BLATZ and MR. CLIT AND THE PINK CIGARETTES. At moments poppy, and always unhinged, these ten tracks bring the party. “Scorpion” has a bass line that haunts my dreams, and before it gets too repetitive and dull, the song careens into chaos before bringing that bass line back to wrap it up. With so many solid tracks like “I Lost My Feet,” “California,” and “Nothing to Prove,” it’s hard to pick a favorite. Smart, funny, and radiating energy like an exposed reactor core, JUDY AND THE JERKS are near the top of the list of bands I can’t wait to see live. 

Kanada Kanada LP

Now here’s an obscure one. This album is a reissue of an ’80s punk band from Mikołów, Silesia, not far from Katowice in South Poland (just in case you are too lazy to actually check the location on your smartphone). I suppose that if you already know KANADA, a band with former members from AWERSJA and GARAZ W LEEDS, you were probably a young Silesian punk rocker between 1987 and 1989. It would be a euphemism to point out that those were not exactly the easiest times to play political punk music in that part of the world, and most music from Polish punk bands in the ’80s was taken from live tapes or rough studio recordings, which is the case here. In retrospect, especially if you are familiar with what Polish punks were up to, you could say that the sadly short-lived KANADA was quite unique because of their heavy UK anarcho-punk influence. Their rather tuneful and versatile punk rock style with snotty dual male/female vocals reminds me a lot of ALTERNATIVE, CHUMBAWAMBA, and TOXIC WASTE, and “Apatia’’ is even a reworking of a POLITICAL ASYLUM song. The closest comparison with another Polish band I can think of is the criminally underrated STRACONY, but they would only start to play five years after the demise of KANADA. The first ten songs are taken from a live recording from a gig in Wodzisław Śląski and were originally released on tape on Svoboda Records in 1990. The sound is unsurprisingly a little thin, although KANADA were pretty tight indeed. The two last numbers on the LP are studio songs and hint at how great a proper KANADA album would have been, especially since the lyrics are passionate and highly political (‘’Pray, vote, and die,’’ they shout). This wonderful piece of punk history is released on Enigmatic Records, a label that had been running prolifically from 1989 to 2005 and came back to life in 2019. Fans of traditional British anarcho-punk will love this one. A real enigma remains: why call your band ‘’KANADA’’? Had they been a terrible ska act, I would have understood ‘’SKANADA,’’ but I admit I am clueless here.

Mindforce New Lords LP

Upstate New York hardcore giants MINDFORCE return with their excellent second LP New Lords on Triple B Records. It’s been four years of heavy touring and headlining festivals since their debut Excalibur, and it shows—MINDFORCE is sharper than ever. The band is a well-oiled machine and frontman Jay Peta’s performance is worth the cost of admission alone. Opener and title track “New Lords” is a shout-along headbanger leading into “Survival is Vengeance,” a no-frills thrashing that showcases Peta’s strong vocals. At the album’s halfway point, the band shows (a little) mercy with epic standout “Thirteen and Mean,” the album’s longest track and what feels like the centerpiece. Awesome mid-tempo muted riffs and white-hot solos lead to a fake-out ending followed by a stomping final thirty seconds. A few rippers later, we arrive at closer “Rotten,” which sees MINDFORCE go out with a bang. Beginning the song with ominous metal-riffing, the band takes us through a whirlwind of different speeds and styles before inviting the listener back to the pit to get their ass kicked one last time. MINDFORCE are masters of high-energy live performances and they’ve successfully captured that same energy on New Lords.

Mirage Immagini Postume cassette

MIRAGE is the “let’s pull out ten of the best early Italian hardcore records and try to do something similiar” band of the Roachleg roster—singing in Italian and recreating both the urgency and the bit post-punk (but with wilder guitar sounds) that are familiar from STINKY RATS or even WRETCHED. Yet the music is less chaotic, I guess due to the fact that MIRAGE is not reinventing hardcore locally as teenagers who are only getting familiar with the instruments. On the other hand, the band has a straightforward power that fills the demo with energy but lacks infantilism. Anger is dripping from each second and the song structures are varied enough to remain interesting, although with each listen the smoke clears, and while the core of their sound does not vanish, they do not grow out from the same circle as IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO and PSICO GALERA.

Non Plus Temps Desire Choir LP

Dub-punk damage from the preternaturally prolific, small-circle Oakland scene with overlapping personnel from groups like the WORLD, NAKED ROOMMATE, RAYS, FAMOUS MAMMALS, and PREENING (among others) fixed at its center. During the lingering pandemic shutdowns and social lulls of 2021, Andy Human and Sam Lefebvre started recording drum and bass tracks on a practice space tape machine for what would eventually become NON PLUS TEMPS, under the spiritual guidance of the wobbly post-punk/dub grooves of Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label—it’s a looser, cut-up variation on a theme that Andy has previously explored in the WORLD’s skronked-out ESSENTIAL LOGIC-isms and NAKED ROOMMATE’s liquid electro-beat, with the distinctive heat-shimmer vocals from Amber Sermeno (co-conspirator in both of those projects) serving as an additional connective thread on a number of Desire Choir’s rubbery mutant funk sprawls, like “Continuous Hinge” and “Book (Dub).” The promise of any sort of synthesis of the NORMAL and VIVIEN GOLDMAN hinted at in the title of “Warm Launderette” is quickly dashed, with Candace Lazarou of BODY DOUBLE offering a melodic backing counterpart to Andy’s fractured, surrealist narrations over squealing sax to conjure a major Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy/Another Green World ENO vibe, and “Reversible Mesh” beams shuddering dub beats into deep space, with spectral, disembodied vocals circling beneath layers of warped and disintegrating synth texture. It’s a real trip; the rhythm is going to get you!

Old Death Dirty World LP

On their debut full-length album, Portland’s OLD DEATH serves up twelve cuts of messy, virulent punk rock. Dripping with more snot than an infected nasal cavity, Dirty World feels like an earnest ode to punk of yesteryear. OLD DEATH evokes the thrust and snarl of Back From the Pink Room-era PINK LINCOLNS in a serious way! The tunes are gritty yet melodic, with bitingly cynical lyrics with a political slant. There’s an unhinged quality to the music that keeps things from getting too stale, though the non-stop guitar wankery does quickly become grating. Most compelling are the sub-two-minute tracks where the drums are more propulsive and the vocal mucus is palpable. They start to lose me when they drift into the skronky breakdowns found in “21 Gun Salute” and “Sick City,” but if you have a soft spot for bands from the ’90s that played in the style of bands from the ’80s, then OLD DEATH just might be your thing.

The Poisoning Human Apparitions EP

This band comes from Santa Ana/Los Angeles, California, and this seems to be their first EP—physical copies are only available at live shows. A four-track EP spinning around for twelve minutes or so. Kinda fast punk rock, notes of GG ALLIN in the vocals, quick guitar changes, and good drums with fills and stops that may cause pogoing. The first track “Human Apparitions” is like some kind of hymn and works as an intro to the EP (riffy as hell). Good hardcore punk, with really defined guitars and a lil’ bit less distorted than usual. The second song “Breathless” was to me the best song on this EP: well-executed, and creates an atmosphere of losing oxygen, with great guitars for this one as well as good drum cuts. I wouldn’t categorize them into the “metal punk” area at all, as they are closer to classic hardcore punk, even a clean-ish version. Their singer transmits a calm but uneasy feeling, like a hawk looking from above, calm but deadly. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I liked them, but after some listening, I realized this is quite good. It’s always easier to just make noise and angry postures, but this has musical accuracy, and it seems to have passion, too.

Problem Anti-You cassette

Oh yeah, they had me from the warped taunt of the opening chords. L.A.’s PROBLEM is the truth. On this tape, you get seven stripped-down hardcore slammers delivered with a with a thuggish Oi! mentality. They’ve got a cool blend going here, taking the anthemic simplicity of old-school street punk, pumping it up with the power of O.G. USHC, and slathering it all in a classic “fuck you” attitude (as spelled out quite clearly in the title track’s closing sermon). It’s a brilliant job that several different punk subspecies will find tasty.

Radiation Risks Welcome to Bad Boy City EP

There’s no speed limit in Bad Boy City. No stop signs, no traffic lights, and certainly no cops. Danger lies around every corner, but trust me, the trip is well worth the gamble. Spawned from the same primordial ooze that brought us SCIENCE MAN, BROWN SUGAR, SPIT KINK, and NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS, among many others, this posthumous EP may be the touchstone of RADIATION RISKS’ catalog. These stalwarts of Buffalo, New York’s enduring punk scene rip through seven tracks of innovative hardcore punk in under twelve minutes. Welcome to Bad Boy City delivers velvet-fisted gut punches through the use of clean guitar, not dissimilar to Japan’s MILK. This EP is chock-full of hooks and surprises. When least expected, RADIATION RISKS will flip the script and downshift from blazing thrash to inflective (dare I say jazzy) interludes, only to slam the pedal back down to the floor. The pervasive sense of wild abandon is not betrayed by these fleeting glimpses of musicality. Rather, it’s clear that RADIATION RISKS don’t take themselves too seriously. Why embark on such wild rides if not for fun? Featuring absolutely killer cover art by Tommyrot and limited to an edition of 100, these bad boys won’t be available for long. Snatch a copy before you can’t. RADIATION RISKS are coming for you!!!

Rough Gutts Part 1 & Part 2 12″

The label says the band is unstoppable…the band opens the record with “Spit,” and I’m inclined to think the label might be correct. No-nonsense garage rock’n’roll with heaps of swagger and a healthy dose of space rock; the only thing missing is the damn tambourine (and I keep thinking it’s going to make an appearance before I flip the fukkr over). Brighton’s ROUGH GUTTS ride the horse hard, breathing new life into damaged, neglected punk licks, dragging them back in time in the process. The formula may be simple, but far too often when punks go this route, the listener is reminded that punk, at its foundation, is a rudimentary and inept art form. Maybe there really is a difference between punk and rock’n’roll, and maybe some people should stick with what they do well (or stick with what they do poorly), but ROUGH GUTTS have the chops to back it up and the result here is a slamming fucking success. Never did get that tambourine, but the organ in “See The Light” was a nice consolation—this one’s a burner.

Slytter Et Slytter Liv cassette

Live Tascam tape from this Danish band that rides between garage punk and flanged-out grunge. It’s a messy affair with false starts, occasional silly vocal takes, and segues into cover songs like “House of the Rising Sun,” the bane of Guitar Center employees everywhere. SLYTTER works best when they go raw and let the feedback swirl, like on the screamed “Viktoria” and droney, noise-rock-aping “Neglene Gror.” The rest sounds like a rehearsal tape— in this case, a warts-and-all time skip to 1990 Seattle. Check it out if that’s your thing. Their Bandcamp says there is a vinyl pressing coming soon, and I have to ask, do we need that?

Strong Boys Homo EP

Gay hardcore punk heroes STRONG BOYS from Dublin are back after a six-year hiatus with their just-over-five-minute-long EP Homo on the always wonderful Static Shock label. There is a heavy influence from John Brannon and an early NEGATIVE APPROACH vibe, with barking tough guy vocals and lean/mean guitar and rhythm section. Lyrically, you can hear what STRONG BOYS have to say loud and clear: they are not here to take your shit. Not yours, not the church’s (“Pink Death”), not society’s (“UB2FU,” “Bad Blood”), and most definitely not some creepy shitstain trying to cop a feel at the bar (“Bad Bear”). Great hardcore that isn’t fucking around.

Total Vacation You Suckers Don’t Even Listen to Hardcore… cassette

You read the title before you started reading the review, right? Well, read it again and ask yourself: do you? Do you even listen to hardcore? Sucker? Nothing fancy from these Whittier Boulevard motherfukkrs, just short, fast bursts of hardcore. Equal parts INFEST and RAZOR’S EDGE, not sure what more you could want. If you even listen to hardcore, that is.

Ultra Sect Echoes From the Past 12″

San Fransiscan Oi! outfit ULTRA SECT returns with another collection of rough-as-yer-like tunes, albeit ones in which they are pretending to be vikings or Normans or Visigoths or what have you, which is absolutely one of my least favourite contemporary Oi! tropes (although it is microscopically less annoying than people who’ve never been singing about the pub or football). Topic analysis aside, it’s pretty good stuff, a decent take on modern Oi! albeit a subcategory of it for which I don’t particularly care.

Vortis The Miasmic Years LP

Smart folks playing dumb music. This band actually sported not one but two college professors at one point in their twenty-year career. To quote their Wikipedia page: “The band was named after the Vorticist movement of the early 20th century, a group of artists and writers whose basic tenet was to ‘perpetuate violent structures of adolescent clarity’ throughout life.” Oh brother. Kill me. The songs are well-thought-out and played competently, but are none too exciting to these marginally educated ears. They’re from Chicago and you could kinda compare them to some of the ’90s bands of the area like PEGBOY, SHELLAC, or the DIDJITS, with a little more basic rock’n’roll thrown in. They might fit right in on a Touch and Go comp of that era, but being that I never cared much for those bands, I don’t much give a hoot about this. Oh, if only I’d stayed in school…ugh.

World Burns to Death The Sucking of the Missile Cock LP reissue

This hardcore classic has been re-mastered (though seemingly still with a layer of mud caked over the speakers to maintain some authenticity) to remind us of what the state of hardcore was in 2002 right after 9/11 when George W. Bush was in office. The anger and disdain is visceral, likely leading to the staying power of this album. Everything on here is so perfectly put together that it sounds like it could have been written and recorded last week. “Whom the Gods Destroy…They First Make Ridiculous” is a face-bludgeoning anthem that sticks with you. “The Dead Sing This Hymn” has a ridiculously strong intro that is likely to cause you to thrash around whatever room you happen to be in. Perhaps it’s a good idea to put away any fragile items before you put this one on. Even if you played this one a thousand times twenty years ago, it’s time for a revisit. This album also reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve pulled out any SEVERED HEAD OF STATE records, so I’m going to get on that, too.

V/A She Don’t Need You cassette

This comp seems to cover three bases: riot grrrl (POSY), synth punk (ANDREW ANDERSON), and garage (SEXAPHONE), and features bands from Bulgaria to the West Coast of the USA. From the title alone, I assumed this was going to be a riot grrrl-only list, but the range is achieved (with a little distraction from the synth stuff, to my own ears). A lot of the buzz seems to be about the COACHWHIPS’ “When I Go (Demo)” that is a blown-out, lo-fi gem, and they’re maybe the most senior contributors. Personally, I like the tongue-in-cheek love song “Stupid Punk Boy” by GOLDEN STARLET that starts with the interlude from “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” (“What colors are his eyes? / I don’t know…”) and has plenty of ’60s girl group melody ramped up with shouts and UK snarls. I also enjoy the descending minor scale in the PRISSTEENS’ “Party Girl” that enshrines the reverence for when the fun is over. BECKY & THE POLITICIANS offer up a weirdo synth-stomp that sounds like dial-up internet to a beat, yet kind of works? THREX is a computer on drugs. FAR CORNERS sounds like a ’70s UK band recorded on a boom box. If there’s a thread here, I may be missing it? Super lo-fi, lots of fun, broken guitar amps? Well, that’ll have to be enough. Good stuff within.

The Astronauts When You’re Not So High LP

The ASTRONAUTS, the epitome of punk rock jam bands, are a developed taste, but When You’re Not So High is actually quite easy on the taste buds, as the ASTRONAUTS rock harder on this LP than on any previous release. This four-song LP has song lengths that may push the boundaries of your attention span, but that won’t be the fault of the band. “Heresy,” the opening track, is a very moody (edging near dub session) critique of contemporary punk and our failing governments, all delivered in the poetic manner only Mark Wilkins (a.k.a. Mark Astronaut) is capable of. The second song “Have It” almost reads as “All Night Party, Part Two” with a pulsating club beat driving an anti-party/party track, and if you’re looking for the “punk” on this album, wait for this song’s midpoint—by the end of it, you’ll be questioning your own complicity in the scheme. “High” and “Melissa’s Party”, the final two songs, almost flow into one unit as they meander and then suddenly rage against the politics of social gatherings as viewed through the lens of 40-plus years of partying experience. I often listened to the ASTRONAUTS in the same way as I view surrealist art, a quick review followed by several hours of discovering the various hidden messages and small enclaves that make the whole of the work interesting. What I can say at the moment is this album is full of very controlled vitriol aimed squarely at the external and internal bullshit of our day, all backed by constantly interesting arrangements. This might not be the most “punk rock” album, but I assure you the message is more punk than any of us actually are.

Axe Rash / Therapy split EP

Stockholm’s AXE RASH have, and always will, it seems, provide straight, simple, raw, and heavy metallic D-beat to the masses. This, however, is a similar merge with American hardcore as we’ve seen with bands à la WARTHOG, and the lyrics to each of their two songs are humorous, particularly on the opener “Ostrich Man.” Great stuff. THERAPY from San Diego, while providing some great music as well, doesn’t have quite the force that AXE RASH has in their songs, but nonetheless is a promising band. The first couple of their songs lack a bit, but “Power” is mental. I really felt I was being transported to seeing the band in person via this song, which few records can accomplish. Ultimately, the truly exciting aspect lies in the A-side, but it’s still worth taking the time aside for a full listen.

Billiam / The Vovos Vampire Club split EP

Melbournians BILLIAM (a.k.a. Billy “Gotta Go Fast” Twyford, whom you may know from DISCO JUNK or COLLECTIVE HARDCORE) and the VOVOS team up for a split 7”. BILLIAM is bringing you three tracks of his typically charming brand of hyperactive bedroom punk. Things are maybe 30% sillier this go-round, with a plethora of cheap synth sounds (and maybe even a melodica) in the mix, but I’m also detecting a bit of TWOMPSAX/CHER STRAUBERRY influence creeping in. All in all—pretty good! But the other side of the record is really what sells this thing for me! The VOVOS are a five-piece named after an Australian cookie, who’ve been playing together since they met at GirlsRock! Melbourne camp as teens. They’re fantastic! They play a mix of indie pop, ’90s indie rock, and punk—a combo of sounds that on paper I don’t think I would have gone for, but these girls weave them together in such an odd way, creating quite a compelling tapestry. “Jessica Day” sounds like TIGER TRAP playing the NEW PORNOGRAPHERS but with Super*Teem!-era DONNAS’ shout-along hooks. Then “Justice for Pretzel Man” starts as a minimal ramshackle guitar-and-voice number in the vein of MARINE GIRLS or the SOFTIES with what sounds like an early MODEST MOUSE-styled guitar-rock tantrum boiling just under the surface (though, never actually breaking through), then the song explodes into a chorus that nails the loose, shouty harmonizing of the RAINCOATS’ debut. I really loved both of these tracks, and I’m keen to hear more from them!

Bloodsuckers The Real Cost cassette

This 2021 reissue of BLOODSUCKERS’ cassette release consists of UKHC/UK82 in the VARUKERS’ Another Religion Another War/BROKEN BONES’ Dem Bones school, an ’80s Finnish HC approach with the power and intensity of ’80s Boston hardcore running through their veins. No frills, nothing artsy fartsy or no weird esoteric bullshit, just an output of raging hardcore with a backbone of UK82/UKHC bombardment riffage, the urgency of ’90s Japanese HC, and the toughness of ’80s Boston HC. A combustion of pummeling drums with all-in-one killer machine gun buzzsaw guitars, and a tough vocal style with ferocity.

Chimes of Bayonets / Personal Style split 7″

One song from each band here. CHIMES OF BAYONETS have a sound reminiscent of something like a harder-edged Midwestern “emo” band, perhaps. PERSONAL STYLE’s contribution sounds like a mix of ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT without the horns and SUPERCHUNK, but like…tougher. Both bands have their moments here that have me on the fence of wanting to hear a bit more, but ultimately those moments aren’t enough to get me off of that fence. Perhaps if there were one more song from each band on this release I could have been swayed, but unfortunately this was not the case.

Crucifix Dehumanization LP reissue

In my braggadocious opinion, this is the most crucial album of all time, and thankfully, it’s been reissued. Sothira Pheng’s opening vocal delivery simultaneously gives me goosebumps and gets my blood boiling, ready for the hardcore to come. The under-production of this album gives the feeling of CRUCIFIX playing in the room with you, while still managing to cleanly and accurately capture the skills of the band. Jake Smith has that crazy ability to accurately riff at breakneck speeds and then slam on the brakes. Bassist Matt Borruso has that sound that is dirty and a little blown-out, but is evidently one of the powerhouses behind the band as his instrument is featured prominently throughout the album. Does drummer Chris Douglas have a drum set left after he plays? It honestly sounds like he’s attempting to smash through the heads and reshape the cymbals. The LP reissue has been produced to sound the same as the original recording, so there’s no missing any of this pivotal release. The original six-panel foldout poster sleeve is also included, so go ahead and throw that up on your wall. If you’ve never heard this album, well, now is the time. If you’re like me, and have literally worn out copies, it’s a good time to restock.

Crux of Vipers Cry Tuff Glory cassette

Can we please just all recognize that Paul Lucich and Hank Chang are among the great unheralded punk songsmiths of the 2010s? The collective nucleus of bands like SABRE, ULTRA, and COLD CIRCUITS, while independently taking part in SYNTHETIC ID (Lucich) and SCYTHE, NEON BRAT, HEX CYSTS (Chang), now they are solely responsible for this gruff, melodic Oi! juggernaut called CRUX OF VIPERS. It’s a weird tape, one that doesn’t quite make sense but feels instantly welcome in your punk ears—UK82 street tuffs mingling with damaged modern melodic punks, it’s all infectious even while (or perhaps because) the vocals are demented as hell. You’re not going to hear anything else like CRUX OF VIPERS this month (or next). Unless Paul and Hank decide to reinvent themselves yet again, of course.

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Scomo Goes to Hawaii / While Aus Burns LP

Most of the songs on this Australian group’s record straddles the Present Day Post-Punk Partyline of minimalism, herky-jerky guitar parts, and thumpy ruled-out basslines keeping the erector set rhythms together, but the transistorized burble of synths gives this record character. The closer “10 Million Acres” is the standout track on this, a downcast but moving meditation on the cataclysmic bushfires of 2019, and the layers of loss involved. That song is an absolute must-listen if you want to hear anything from this.

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.

Foreseen Untamed Force LP

Finnish thrashers FORESEEN have unleashed their highly anticipated new LP Untamed Force. I’m going to get straight to the point: this record is fucking awesome. A truly wild ride that places FORESEEN comfortably next to thrash/crossover contemporaries MUNICIPAL WASTE and POWER TRIP (R.I.P. Riley, to whom the album is partially dedicated), while also bringing to mind the best of the NWOBHM: VENOM, DIAMOND HEAD, and MOTÖRHEAD. Opening track “Soldier’s Grave” sets the tone for the rest of the album with chugging guitars, double kicks, and righteous solos. Vocalist Murko Nummelin’s delivery matches the music almost too perfectly; at times he sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth. Lyrically, you can feel the urgency and fury in every track. By the halfway point, FORESEEN has aimed their sights on those entitled in society on “Birthright,” the pain endured to please the powers that be on “Tolerance of Abuse,” and the despair of drug addiction on “Suffocating Routine.” Then two minutes into “Fetish Oppression,” things take off into an unexpected soaring bridge complete with angelic (or demonic) backing vocals. It’s one of many moments that make this album such a fun listen. FORESEEN is masterful at adding touches throughout that take each song to the next level. Check the organs playing in “Cold Comfort,” the runaway train guitar and bass chug in “Serve Your Purpose,” and the dizzying drums and face-melting intro of “Desensitized.” Title track “Untamed Force” closes the album with the band declaring “Crashing the gate / No time to wait / For someone to do it for us / Storming onwards / A ferocious untamed force,” a firm affirmation that this is FORESEEN’s world and we’re just living in it. Expect this to be on every “best of” list at the end of the year.

Green/Blue Paper Thin LP

GREEN/BLUE’s second release of 2022, and third album to date, Paper Thin is a chilly take on post-punk. The songs achieve a balance between bleak Midwestern moodiness and tranquility-inspiring tenderness. “Floating Eye” comes as an interlude, and is the most brilliant song of the lot, with a slowly plucked bassline, soft vocals, and no drums—it lulls me into a state of peace and happiness. If that sounds nice, then give this a listen, and if you’ve enjoyed their previous work, there’s no doubt this will be in your new rotation.

The Hammer Party Earth Abides CD

Jagged noise rock EP from this Providence band. Presumably named after the BIG BLACK record, the HAMMER PARTY has some pretty big shoes to fill, and does an admirable job holding the grimy torch. These four songs adhere to the “find a groove and play it into the ground” side of the genre in the vein of 400 BLOWS and MELT DOWNER, and they do it well. “Sterilize” opens with instantly gratifying snare pounds, a dissonant guitar lead, and raspy repetitive vocals. “Federal Reserve Blues” pairs a syncopated guitar riff over a skiffling jazz beat to great effect, always feeling slightly off and unpredictable. Final track “Walk the Walk,” featuring Rick Pelletier of SIX FINGER SATELLITE on wailing no wave sax, centers a hollow, loping bass line with growly, TOM WAITS-style vocals that build into a strange bluesy jam. It’s weird, but it’s good weird. If you worship at the scabby AmRep altar, this is worth your time.

Heaven Starless Midnight EP

Bashing out their own little cavity in the current hardcore landscape, HEAVEN from Texas keeps it heavy, fast, jarring, and dark. These tunes carry creepy melodies that sound like sped-up versions of UPSIDEDOWN CROSS riffs, which is appreciated, but it’s the East Bay Ray-esque lead guitar work and weirdo solos that really makes this thing pop. Factor in the agonized gang vocals and a dripping saturation of dread, and it’s a strangely alluring synergy. Just based on the day-and-night difference in styles of the two bands, I was surprised to learn that this group shares members with CHRONOPHAGE. If these guys have anything close to the ambition of that band, this debut 7” could be the start of something beautiful.

Internal Primal State EP

Supposedly a solo project, New Bedford, MA’s INTERNAL offers a wall of sludgy powerviolence, particularly on the low end. The tracks hit hard and then are over. A track like the title track stands out for its length, just over one minute, and its slower pace in the middle third, which it uses to dish out a different flavor of brutality. The lyrics are bleak throughout, such as with “Pack It Up”—”Pack it up / The choice is clear / Disappear.” The closing instrumental track, “Internal,” slows things down with head-bobbing hardcore. This is the kind of stuff that grows on you with repeated listenings.

Jade Dust Wild Geese LP

This band describes themselves as being influenced by mid-to-late DC melodic hardcore, and man, let me tell you…they’re either extremely self-aware, or they’ve done a great job learning how to reproduce that sound. My first thoughts went straight to RITES OF SPRING, EMBRACE, and GRAY MATTER. There’s a little bit of twinkling Midwest emo spread throughout as well. The vocals are energetic and melodic, they’re arguably the strongest part of these recordings. The guitar can be formulaic at points, but they sound great when they come out of the pocket. If you’re a fan of the late ’80s Dischord sound, you will love JADE DUST.

Klonns / Soiled Hate Different Senses split cassette

The cover of this split is a black flail, a medieval weapon with two spiked balls attached to a stick with chains, and that’s a perfect visual metaphor for what’s inside. The three KLONNS tracks are unrelentingly harsh Japanese hardcore. SOILED HATE are in a similar vein, but with more varied rhythms and chuggier moments reminiscent of NYC hardcore. “Persecution Mania” stands out as a dissonant ripper with a chanting, higher-pitched vocalist providing an interesting counterpoint. They also do a KLONNS cover, which you like to see in a split. Overall, these two bands play raw, powerful, and tight. The split closes with two tracks that are experimental synth covers of a song from each band, both with somewhat hardcore (in the techno sense) gabber vibes.

Loose Nukes Fast Forward to Extinction LP

This is a re-release and upgrade of the initial 2017 demo released by this Houston hardcore powerhouse. I’d usually be a champion for just recording new music and moving on if you weren’t thrilled with your original release, but there were some real good bones here. You can see why they chose to revamp the track list and drop/add some songs from the same time period. What we have ended up with is a complete album from a band that sounds like they’ve reached full maturity despite only recording their first songs together as this group. They keep it tight too, with only one song out of thirteen just barely passing the 1:45 mark. It’s also awe-inspiring to listen to the vocalist, Mike, fit every word into his allotted time. Following along with the lyric page while listening, you are given the impression it cannot be done before hearing it. Along the same line, I was highly amused when, on “White People Problems,” there was just a note that said whatever he was singing didn’t seem to match with what was written, so they just put in a line of question marks. That was much more amusing than just not even trying to write down the lyrics for the verse sections of “Earwax,” also just a line of question marks. Pick this up if you want to hear a hardcore band that came out of the womb angry and good at it.

Mechanical Canine Walls Covered in Mildew CD

This album starts out with a pretty boring guy singing over an acoustic guitar part, which had me doing the ol’ eye roll/groan combo, but then the rest of the band kicked in. From there it got better…thankfully. This is pretty catchy. There’s a lot going on musically, like synthesizers and such. I don’t know what to say about this. I don’t hate it. Like at all. I just can’t see myself listening to this. It’s like a punk version of the RENTALS or something, I guess. The singer kinda sounds a little like a mix of both Jon Ginoli from PANSY DIVISION and John K. Samson from WEAKERTHANS to me. Not really my bag. Seems like something young kids would go apeshit to at shows. Like twenty years ago, I would have probably gone to see this band because a girl I liked was into it. I probably would have had a good time, too. Now though, it seems like something I’d be annoyed by. What with people having fun and such.