Friday, March 30, 2012

Black Coffee - 2012 Demo Tape Review (Self-Released)

Black Coffee! What a name fro this no-frills hardcore outfit from Australia, which has released a demo of nasty punk waiting to rip at your throat. BC follow the uber old school approach of 0% metal hardcore in the vein of other current hardcore bands like Noose and Another Mistake.

Usually at this point we'd say that even though these guys are loyal to the old school tradition, they have their own sound and they stand out because of this and that, but... there is no need to do that here. Black Coffee has a clear task at hand, and that is to recreate a much loved (but also kind of extinct), true sound that is generally known as the roots of hardcore. The closer thing I can think of is SSD with a bit more extra speed and spite (if the latter is actually possible). All early, snotty, thrashy early US hardcore is a reference here, like Jerry's Kids, Necro, and all that good stuff. Hell, there is even an Urban Waste cover to seal the deal.

There are 8 songs in this demo, and every instrument is played in an abrupt and unforgiving manner, while hints of Aussie accent arise here and there as the cherry on the cake. It's good that we live in times modern enough to allow a good production sound even for demos. Here the production is not perfect but it doesn't need to be, as long as everything sounds kind of clear -- which does. Also, I personally I have to note that demos often have some of the best and most original artwork out of all extreme music releases. That's before the opinionated labels come in to influence and change everything (a sad fact of life). This is also the case with Black Coffee. Their whole demo - physically released only on tape - has a super neat layout, as their black & white artwork is simply irresistible and perfectly matches their dry, pissed off, tornado hardcore style.

What is there to not like about a band which plays fast-paced hardcore like the good ol' times? This is the real deal for every hardcore bum who hasn't mellowed out, or the skater kid who is ready to step out and find the original spirit of this music.

P.S. Black Coffee is a side project of other Aussie HC/punk acts (Hard Luck, Faux Hawks + others) and I can't seem to find any band pages on the net, aside from this post at Rest Assured Zine. The demo can be downloaded for free from the abovementioned link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Gacy's Threads - "The Ignorance of Purity" (Savour Your Scene Records)

Genre: Technical Metal/Hardcore
Location: Belfast, N. Ireland
Band Website: Official, Facebook
Label Website: click
John Wayne Gacy was a convicted serial killer and rapist, who has long ago been executed by the state of Illinois. I don't know if Belfast, Ireland's Gacy's Threads have taken their name from this creepy and fucked up character, but what I do know is that they play an awesome brand of technical, heavy as fuck metallic hardcore. I won't go as far as to term Gacy's Threads mathcore, because they have a pretty solid metallic base where their aural havoc stands, but they sure have a characteristically technical and complex sound!

I surely dig the bands who can more than play their instruments but don't forget to encapsulate the raw feeling that all heavy music should have. Gacy's Threads manage just the above by packing many elements into their sound, from shoe-gaze, discordant clean intros to slow, melancholic mosh parts, to straight on blastbeats and prototype all go no slow hardcore assaults. All this is blended nicely with off wall, off with their heads mechanical riffs that set the pace for a much more technical feel. The best thing about this album is that the band doesn't stick to one specific formula, but tends to a constant shuffling of cards - without, nevertheless, going overboard. This is the way shit should be done, period. The production sound is solid and much closer to a beastly, metallic hardcore sound as compared to the clean-metal, overproduced (and overused) mathcore/techinical deathcore sound prevailing these days.

It takes guts and knowledge to be able to belong in more than one territory, but Gacy's Threads do it very well and rather unapologetically. If we forget the specifics, we discover that this is just a very good dark/heavy hardcore band, the members of which happen to know how to use its instruments more than well. I have been playing this on repeat and all it seems to do is grown on me more and more. The solidified rhythm section attack, the discordant, angular painting of the guitars and the tainted hardcore vocals really won me over. An extra point goes out for the bleak song titles and the overall negative feeling! I am looking forward to see more from Ireland's Savour Your Scene records and Ireland's hardcore scene in general.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Record Review: Forever Young Victoria - "The Hardest Part of Ending is Starting Again"

Genre: Post Hardcore/Other
Country: Ruhrarea Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Band Website: bandcamp
Label: -

I'll be 100% honest with you: FYV's cover didn't exactly motivate me to listen to their album, at first. I find it a bit outdated, maybe too simple, if there is such a thing. But as the saying goes, we should never judge a book by its cover and, dear lord, was it the case with this German post hardcore band. As soon as I hit the play button, I was immersed in a world of beautiful discordance and artful dissonance that really struck a nerve with my already damaged nervous system.

FYV jump around with ease between the post hardcore, screamo and post rock genres, painting a mid-paced but pretty harsh and chaotic sonic landscape. The band has paid meticulous attention to its sound, with a warm 'n' fuzzy guitar tone, a treble-absorbing bass, as well as unpredictable and offbeat drum patterns to accompany the general chaos. Things are topped off with a crazy vocalist whose tortured wail balances between Bad Brains' HR and general screamo insanity.

Throughout the 9 songs of this recording, FYV keeps it fresh and manages to come off as a pretty underground band. There is nothing polished, pretentious or premeditated about FYV's harsh post  hardcore, even though the general outcome is cleverly coated with an overall, basic rock feeling. What you essentially get is the archetype rock band going for something different, and using the basic instruments in an interesting albeit not excessively technical manner. You wont find any sung choruses here, but if you are up for some Refused action going backwards to meet some Bad Brains rock, you won't be disappointed.

P.S. An extra thumbs up goes to the final track, which is a slow, ambient, instrumental rock anthem with beautiful post touches. I will be looking to hear more of that in intertwined with FYV's heavy riffs in the future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tattoo Spotlight: The Old School Tattoo Art of Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a prominent US tattoo artist who specializes on traditional, old school American-style tattoos. Through his solid work, he plays an important role in the current comeback of the traditional style. His work points to the origins of American tattoo with no particular 'modern' twist, thus preserving this glorious form of skin art!

Sailor themes, eagles, girl faces, animals (pumas, horses etc) with classic colors are all part of Adams's old school American feel. This style brings us back to a time when tattoos had a deviant nature and a life-long meaning to those who got them!

Check out this Mike Adams on Tumblr:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Featured Band - Hard Times: Negative Hardcore from the WV Streets

Genre: old school/heavy hardcore
Country: West Virginia, US
Band Website: facebook
Label: Unsigned 

 Hard Times (probably taking their name from the classic Cro-Mags song) is a hard as fuck, old school heavy hardcore band from Huntignton WA, USA. This band brings back the hateful mosh sound that was prominent in the late 90s and early 00s and let me tell you... Hard Times has a lot of spite to spit right in the face of every non-believer.

If you like hardcore guitars accompanied by an punishing use of double bass drumming and hip hop busts, then this is for you. The vocals are 100% hardcore and so full of rage. We are not talking about another weak-ass, wannabe hardcore hipster frontman here, but a guy that will spit his rage no matter what. This is real, hateful hardcore for pissed off people and if you know what's good for you, you will get into Hard Times right now. Fuck.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Deafheaven - "Roads to Judah" (Deathwish Inc)

Genre: Post Rock/Black Metal
Country: San Fran, USA
Band Website: Tumblr
Label Website: Deathwish Inc

I believe that is positive to push the boundaries and create something that has your signature on it, not only in music but in everything. Deafheaven are obviously trying to do that. Most of the people characterize their music as black metal, however I think that its more complex and I would like to make some comments about that. Ok, I agree that the drumming and the vocals as well as their sound in general will bring to your mind Norwegian forests and landscapes covered in snow. On the other hand though, when I cleared my mind and focused on the actual riffing and melodies I see a bigger connection to post-rock-metal than in black metal. And this is the controversial and the interesting part somehow. Their music teases your mind and throws it from wildness and roughness to tranquility, leaving you enough space to think wonder and get lost. One friend asked me what kind of music do Deafheven play and my answer was “It’s like Red Sparrows played 10 times faster. Include some torn vocals and now you got a hint”!

Their first official release, called Roads to Judah, contains four tracks only but with duration that approaches 40 minutes. The first song starts with an intro-part that lasts about 5 minutes and it is walking entirely on post-rock paths. Atmospheric, sweet melodies with a visible intention to put you in quite a relaxing mode. But when the noise starts, I don’t see many changes on the actual riffing and melodies. As I said before, the difference is in the drumming which becomes faster (in a black metal motive clearly) and in that someone is yelling blackly at a microphone. The first time I heard a pure black metal riff on the album was on the beginning of the second track and from this part on, riffs like that appear occasionally on the album. Clearly Norwegian influenced black metal at the style of Darkthrone and the “epic” and “winter” aesthetics of early Immortal. The fun part starts when the mixing of these two styles becomes more intense. So as the album goes on, we see an intention of combining black metal and post not only by separating one song in several parts, but in including post/alternative riffs while having their “black metal face” and visa versa. If someone pays some attention to the third and the fourth track I think he/she can also figure that out.

Concluding, I have to admit that I was not entirely fascinated by Roads of Judah, but I definitely found a reason to appreciate it, pay some more attention to it and place it in my music collection. Something is missing in order to make this album more exceptional. I believe that the main reason is that on the “black part” they are missing the black metal feeling and they maybe lack of capability to play this style of music. Increasing speed, buzzsawing on the guitar and putting some black metal vocals does not automatically mean that you have a black metal band or that you are playing black metal. I think that they are doing much better when they put their post uniform on and that is maybe why they cannot easily take it off. However, one certain thing about the album is that it gives a 100% travelling feeling. You will find yourself walking in landscapes, getting lost in forests and you will visualize lakes and colorful horizons. And that is definitely an accomplishment and something not so easy for a band to achieve with their music. Plus, it has its own identity!

Deafheaven have a lot of potential and I think I‘ll bet my money on them.

Nikos Tolis

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Record Review: I Want You Dead: "ΑΩ" 7" Review (7 Inch Distro / W.A.K. Records)

Genre: Dark/Brutal Hardcore
Country: Greece
Band Website: bandcamp
Label Website:7 Inch Distro / W.A.K.

Hell fucking yes! What we have here is a very unique concoction of dark hardcore/metal for people who don't like their hardcore termed as 'posi'. Fans who are not afraid to step into lesser trodden paths of bleak musical landscapes, better gather round to witness what this brutal band from Greece is doing. Right now, it is unforgettably carving its name  on the bleak musical territory we call dark hardcore.

We have actually had the chance of following I Want You Dead since the beginning (check here and here), but this 7" ep exceeds all expectations created before; the band has truly reached its highest so far peak, with a totally crushing, thick and surprisingly catchy sound. Elements and influences are drawn from all over the fucking place, primarily black metal (the true BM sound, not today's hipster shit), crust and old school hardcore. All this is encoffinated within the overall Holy Terror badge that many want to obtain but just can't. At times slow and sludgy, at times fast as fuck, IWYD deliver four blasts of negative hardcore energy that definitely won't go unnoticed in today's timid hardcore scene. These four tracks land on your head mercilessly, reminding the new jacks how hardcore rightfully blends with metal to create some of the most heavy, provoking, negative music ever made.

The production is really heavy and well-layered, with the guitars creating an interesting and unholy web of nastiness, while the distorted bass is ever present throughout the whole ep. Every painful drum hit can be heard clearly -- even the noisy cymbal action which accompanies a lot of the slow, moshy parts. Finally, the vocals fill everything with their one dimensional but also very thick and scorching effect. What you hear is four dudes giving it their all, creating passionate and aggressive music that grabs the listener and doesn't let go until the record is over.

I can't imagine what's next for IWYD. Probably a well-deserved record contract with one of more established hardcore labels out there, as well as more touring around Europe and elsewhere. This noise unit shall produce a lot more bleak music, artwork and words! Good fucking stuff.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Record Review: BURN EVERYTHING - "Last Run Through The Ruins" EP (Self-Released)

Genre: Mathcore/Progressive Hardcore
Country: NY, USA
Band Website: bandcamp
Label Website: -

Mathcore has become a term that tends to scare a lot of people off. Important as it is to try and forget labels, mathcore is another genre of hardcore: pissed off, direct music with an understandable message. Bands which go under the mathcore moniker should have the intensity and straight forward attitude to justify the 'core' part of the term, and - luckily - this is what Burn Everything do. They give you the complete chaotic hardcore experience and then some. They may have the weird song titles and intricate song structures, but they sure deliver that relentless blow of intellectual heaviness.

This complex and technical metal/hardcore band from Rochester (NY, USA) has just released an ep containing 6 songs which will require your undivided attention and a few repeated listens in order to "get it". However, it is worth the effort. While you can initially enjoy the album for its heaviness and awesome drumming, it will inevitably grow on you and will become a more easy to listen and approachable record. This tends to be the deal with all good mathcore and technical/progressive hardcore in general: you enjoy the aesthetics while the essence creeps in.

The good thing with Burn Everything is that the singer has a nice and direct hardcore approach, his presence being the common thread throughout this recording. It wouldn't be so with another heavy hardcore vocalist and I am glad that this band cleverly avoided this pitfall. If they had a bit more catchiness to their overall sound, this could be a band to read about on next year's Metal Hammer or Terrorizer. For the time being, however, these guys stay deeply rooted in the hardcore tradition of creating a underground sound that will astound but will more likely than not stay outside the hype. Nevertheless, these guys could pull it off if they wanted. I am eager to see what they are going to do next.