Saturday, September 27, 2008

G&P Review: Early Graves (Steve Austin in the Studio Week Part 2)

Early Graves
We: The Guillotine
Metal Blade
It’s pretty obvious the guys in Early Graves spent the better part of the last decade absorbing some of the best albums metal has to offer because the San Fran hardcore troupe’s debut wears its influences on its silk screened long sleeve.
Formerly known as Apiary (seriously, you named yourself after a fucking bee hive?), Early Graves shed some members, the masturbatory tech noodling and that horrific fucking name to reinvent themselves as a quality hybrid hardcore band with more than a passing familiarity with the royal jelly of grind, death and thrash.
Pastoral instrumental “Rest” owes a nice royalty check to a pre-suck In Flames’ “The Jester’s Dance,” “Ghosts Among Us” so apes Mastodon’s aquatic swagger I kept waiting for a Scott Kelley cameo and “Here There Be Monsters,” an eerie spoken word bit over jagged riffing could be an outtake from Today is the Day’s Sadness Will Prevail, fitting given Steve Austin’s production job (one the his best in, like, ever. Seriously, it’s so good I didn’t realize he was connected in any way [beyond a vocal cameo] for about two weeks.).
Even the art owes a debt to the Jacob Bannon school of gritty graphic design by way of the covers to Seijun Suzuki’s go-go-riffic 1960s yakuza films.
When they’re actually playing their own songs, Early Graves unleash an enjoyable if not wholly original hellbroth and hardcore and metal that consistently zips along at purring double bass thrash tempos. I hesitate to use a term as loaded as metalcore, but Early Graves are metalcore in the vein of earliest Cave In and prime Burnt by the Sun. No mascara, no bullshit.
Vocalist Makh Daniels’ gruff bellow even carries some of the force and clarity that characterizes BBTS’ Mike Olender’s delivery, but he could stand to change up his approach every so often just for variety’s sake.
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, Early Graves clearly show some real promise if they can harness their influences into a unique voice rather than admirable homage. Give them a couple more albums and Metal Blade may have a reason to still exist beyond keeping old Slayer albums in print.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

G&P Review: Complete Failure (Steve Austin in the Studio Week Part 1)

Complete Failure
Perversions of Guilt

I was all set to spew invective from every orifice based on what I’d heard about Perversions of Guilt’s catastrophically bad production, even making the hackishly obvious joke about the band’s name. But a funny thing happened on the way to the snark fest I had lined up for Complete Failure’s debut album, the fucking thing grew on me like an ebola outbreak despite Steve Austin’s habitually half assed studio meddling.
To get it out of the way, yes, Perversions of Guilt sounds like the aural equivalent of what you pump out of your septic tank, but it’s fucking grind, ain’t it? I think we can all agree it shouldn’t be too clean, and there is a pretty damn sweet half an hour of well written grind lurking under that muck stained production job once you give it a chance.
Featuring drumming beast Mike Rosswog, masochistically returning to Austin’s fold after playing on Today is the Day’s Kiss the Pig, it’s Rosswog’s prior digs, Circle of Dead Children, are a good reference point but not a perfect comparison. The whole album seems to draw from Pittsburgh’s supremely underrated death/grind scene, which grew up around Willowtip records (see also: Creation is Crucifixion, Sadis Euphoria, Fate of Icarus).
And Complete Failure is not that far from CODC’s Human Harvest (another album graced by Austin. Seriously, there’s a reason Converge only let that guy near one album,). The drums are pushed way to the front, fine given Rosswog’s talent, but the guitar and bass parts, if you strain hard enough or listen through headphones, do reveal occasional flashes of solid songwriting bulldozering through the monochrome gloom.
A man cannot live on blast beats alone, and Complete Failure are also comfortable leaving the death-grind reservation to go grazing among the spare grass of the doom prairie with varying degrees of success.
Six minute death dirge “Cured Through Constant Degradent Criticism” is droney enough I kept waiting for the Stephen O’Malley cameo. That song in particular is a standout, stoking the tension between the ringing guitars and the orgasmically building blastbeats underneath.
But some of the slower tunes, particularly the interminable closer “A Disinviting Self Restraint,” a 10 minute slog through a swamp filled with one chord, could use some serious editing. But on the whole, the down tempo stuff does provide the nice breather between Rosswog’s forward-in-the-mix beatdowns.
One CODC trademark that fortunately got left on the cutting room floor was that band’s Deliverance-style squeal like a piggy vocals. And I’m not bullshitting when I say frontman Joemack mirrors the timbre and tone of a Skitsystem-era Tomas Lindberg.
If you’re waiting for Circle of Dead Children to finally get back in the studio after frontman Joe Hovarth contracted a near-fatal staph infection, Complete Failure can ably fill your death-grind quotient, but clearly this band is looking to step out of the shadow of Rosswog’s prior digs to create something different. (And BTW, CODC, still waiting on you guys to return those interview questions you’d promised to answer like six months ago. *cough* Just sayin’.)
Until that happens, ignore the hype and give Perversions of Guilt a spin and judge for yourself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

G&P review: Agorhy

Humanos Mortos

You can’t be Brazilian and play metal marinated in a sweet tribal sauce and not expect the occasional Sepultura comparison.
Hell, singer Aramos even sounds a lot like Max Cavalera back when dude was still pissed off at more than just Andreas and Paulo. Which is fucking awesome since Sepultura was always my favorite thrash band right up until they broke up after Roots and never once considered hiring a crappy replacement singer and puking out horrifically lame nu-metal albums until they farted away into irrelevance (*fingers in ears* I know of this Derrick Green of whom you speak. I can’t hear you Lalalalalalalala).
So yeah, Agorhy are Brazilian and kick off their debut full length with some tribal samples and generally channel Sepultura circa Chaos A.D. and Roots but their thrash is blended into a headhunting foundation of Cattle Decapitation grade death metal. Add in the occasional sweeping arpeggio to remind you of how faceless and lame that last Dying Fetus album was.
Ruptura brings eight new songs plus another 11 tracks from their two previous demos for over an hour of circlepitting grind, death and thrash goodness.
Drummer R. Pina hacks out a hunk of the spotlight for himself with tightly controlled double bass rolls, snappy blast beats and tribal-inflected fills that give the chunky death metal tunes some personality beyond all the countless other chunky death metal bands.
I left my Portuguese phrasebook in my other pants, but Metal Archives tells me Agorhy have a fondness for penning ditties about human sacrifice and this whole sanguinary mess would have awesomely scored that scene in Mel Gibson’s surprisingly enjoyable bloodbath Apocalypto where the Mayan captors gleefully lop the noggins off of a few dozen unfortunate captives. (And yes I’m well aware that the Mayans were nowhere close to Brazil, but we’re suffering from a dearth of indigenous themed South American flicks to pull from here.)
Though it’s awesome to have this band’s entire output to date cobbled together on one handy sliver of plastic, the sheer hour-plus girth of the concoction and the demos’ rougher production can make Ruptura a bit much to absorb in a single sitting. But taken in smaller bites, Agorhy cannibalize meaty slabs of extreme metal and roast them over a camp fire while regaling each other with tales of primal gods who can only be sated with offerings of blood.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

G&P review: Parlamentarisk Sodomi

Parlamentarisk Sodomi
Har Du Sagt "A" Får Du Si "Nal"
No Escape
You’d think having a whole band dedicate its existence to fucking with your political career would at least rate a mention in the trivia section of your Wikipedia page.
Case in point, I now know Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg gets down with the gangsters on The Sopranos and compensates for Norway's lack of military cojones by playing Age of Empires. But there’s nary a mention that Parlamentarisk Sodomi spent nearly all 25 minutes of debut album Har Du Sagt "A" Får Du Si "Nal" grinding all over dude’s day job.
One man band Papirmøllen unleashes 15 tracks of Kill the Client style grind and burts out a couple sightings of that most endangered species -- the grindcore guitar solo -- with fits of Hanneman/King style whammy bar abuse.
Stoltenberg, a Labor Party moderate, pissed off his own colleagues by privatizing some of Norway’s social services and state-controlled corporations. But keep in mind the dude Papirmøllen dubs a “horrendous unsexy fascist piss” would invariably be labeled a Marxist and hounded out of politics by America’s frothing right wing. And then Sarah Palin would shoot and field cleaned him.
Keeping that political qualification in mind, P.S. metaphorically rip and fuck a few new orifices in Stolentenberg’s slight frame with perfectly raw sounding mixture of de rigueur Cookie Monster v. Chloraseptic vocal assaults and Pintado on speed guitar screeds.
While you may not be able to decipher the Norwegian lyrics or Scandinavian politics, it’s a joy to hear a band calling out politicians by name and reclaiming the punk tactics of sarcasm and satire to make a point. And really, who couldn’t use a little more sodomy in their lives? Thank you Lawrence v. Texas

Full Disclosure: Up until now, I have bought every CD I’ve reviewed. That explains why so many are positive; I try not to blow my hard earned cash on total crap. But P.S. graciously comped me a copy of the album. I appreciate the gesture and I tried to give my honest opinion, but I just wanted to note that fact. If I get so fortunate again the future, I will, of course, disclose that.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fear of Napalm(isms): Oh Cliché Can You See

When last I poked (gentle) fun at Napalm Death, it was at the propensity of the band’s teenage incarnations to get all morbid and serious by ending their songs with the word die or death. A lot can be forgiven given the band’s youth. Would you want your youthful poetic indiscretions immortalized on silicon?
So this time, I’m gonna take a few whacks at the older, presumably wiser latter day Birmingham bangers.
It seems since the band kissed off Digby Pearson, some of their song writing has taken a turn for the clichéd, particularly in titling territory. The post-Earache albums have consistently featured cliché-titled songs. And as any Creating Writing 101 prof will tell you, clichés are signs of lazy writing that should be avoided like the plague.
Unlike early Napalm Death’s death obsession, which crossed lineups, this time around the culprit is largely one person: Barney Greenway.
Don’t get me wrong, mofo knows his way around a mic and I can’t imagine another frontman who commands a stage like Barney (Mark to his ‘rents). But he’s penned the majority of the band’s lazily-titled songs.
The unbroken streak began right out of the Earache gate on 2000’s Enemy of the Music Business with “Necessary Evil.” I don’t know if it’s necessary but the evil oozing from that song was repeating that phrase continuously.
And that’s the problem underlying the cliché thing. Not only do they trot out one worn out phrase after another, but they feel the need to pound that sentiment home by endlessly repeating said catch phrase through the song. When a line wears out its welcome in the course of a two minute song, we’ve got a problem. Where a lyricist of Jello Biafra-ian status could turn a cliché on its head with a dose of irony, Greenway just gives it to us verbatim.
And the punishment in capitals did not let up on 2002’s follow up Order of the Leach, which gave us the “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and “Lowest Common Denominator” twofer.
Sadly the annoyance trailed after the Brummie bangers as they migrated to metal major Century Media, handing us the repetitive “Silence is Deafening” and “When All is Said and Done” (one Mr. Shane Embury can take a bow for the latter, though).
But it’s not like we it should be surprised. Napalm telegraphed this particular Napalmism on 1994’s somewhat underrated Fear, Emptiness, Despair, album that is “More Than Meets the Eye.”
So with the word out Napalm are readying their 13th studio album, I ask you, what should their next ditty be called?

A. “A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned”
B. “A Bird in the Hand”
C. “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”
D. “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy”

Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

G&P review: Righteous Pigs

Righteous Pigs
Stress Related/ Live and Learn
Metal Mind
Long before Pig Destroyer and Agenda of Swine, Las Vegas quartet Righteous Pigs were grind’s other white meat.
Turns out there’s a reason Righteous Pigs is best known as the-band-Mitch-Harris-was-in-before-he-joined-Napalm-Death.
Polish label Metal Mind snapped up these two albums, the band’s sole output, after Nuclear Blast let them slip out of print. And after a couple of listens you can kinda tell way because time has not been kind to these songs. From the juvenile stabs at stupid humor, the nigh unlistenable production and the Tron-tastic artwork, Righteous Pigs simply haven’t aged well.
The Pigs’ final album, 1990’s Stress Related, smartly leads off this hour of grind, because those songs, longer, better written and better sounding, show the quartet with their best hoof forward. The disc’s second half, 1989’s Live and Learn, is more traditionally grind and is rife with sloppy blast beats (that’s not a compliment, btw) but the whole package is hopelessly buried under a tinny, trebly production job that no digital mastering will ever rescue.
Frontman Joe Caper eschewed the even then trademark guttural vocals for a full throated punk shout that the liner notes laughably compare to Henry Rollins. Unfortunately, that clarity is wasted, especially on Live and Learn, on a handful of tunes that trade in scatological junior high humor (“Stool Softener,” “Hidden Zit”) or outright misogyny (“Stone Cold Bitch,” “Celibate Tease”) that fail to muster the “I can’t believe he just said that charm” of prime Seth Putnam.
Musically, Righteous Pigs may have shown promise, but they never seemed to channel their skills toward a unified goal. At times the band sounds like they were playing against each other as though four people were jamming out four different songs. The young musicians also clearly could have benefited from a strong editorial hand in the production booth to sculpt and mold the germs of songs hidden within.
A conspicuously weak link in the pig trough was drummer Scott Leonard, whose not-quite blast beats/snare drum rolls consistently stumble and fall short, undermining the whole outing.
While Stress Related and Live and Learn primarily exist to showcase the rudimentary songwriting talents of Harris, his skills are displayed more effectively on his Defecation solo project or any random post-Earache Napalm Death album.
If you have to own every piece of the Napalm Death family tree, this is for you. Everyone else can happily spin Order of the Leach one more time and be just as content.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

G&P review: Population Reduction

Population Reduction
Each Birth a New Disaster
Tank Crimes
I want to send Population Reduction’s Peter Svoboda and Dr. X a care package filled with Milwaukee’s Finest and a couple ounces of weed just for penning the ditty “Black Metal Beach Party.”
I’m hard pressed to think of a better way to deflate the oh-so-grim Nordic mopes than to imagine them briefly leaving their troll-ridden forest murk to play volleyball in spike gauntlets or go swimming in corpse paint.
Aside from the well played swipe at the korpsepaint kommandos, Each Birth a New Disaster deftly weaves Cretin’s grotesque aesthetic with the thrashy grind of Pig Destroyer circa Terrifyer or a less spastic Bodies in the Gears of the Apparatus. Population Reduction stripmines Fark headlines (“Road-age at the Farmers Market”), bad horror films (“Taking Bong Rips in the Tombs of the Blind Dead”), cheap beer (“Return of the Beast”) and the just plain ridiculous (“Amish Meth Dealer”) into a ribald collection of up tempo absurdist art.
Though the songs may not be as catchy as Cretin or as scathing as Pig Destroyer, Population Reduction’s latest is an exponential improvement in both sound quality and song writing over their muddy sounding previous effort, At the Throats of Man Forever. The thrash swing that infects Each Birth’s 15 tracks gives Svoboda’s chugga-chugga riffs the space they need to breathe, and dude knows his way around slinging a tasty guitar line. A two man operation leaves little room for slack and Dr. X does not disappoint, channeling a pre-suck Lars Ulrich to start a tune and incarnating Pete Sandoval by the time the 90 second song ends. Throw in some hoarse thrash barking and some early Carcass guttural grunts and you’re left with an all around enjoyable album that manages to rage with a well earned smile on its face.
If you need to fix your Cretin jones while newly engendered frontwoman Marissa Martinez adjusts to her new life in heels, Population Reduction can ably fill the grindcore grotesquerie gap.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

G&P review: Warcry

Not So Distant Future
Feral Ward
I’m gonna say something heretical here just so you know where I’m coming from. Tragedy’s last album, Nerve Damage, kinda disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, the song writing was as stellar as d-beat gets and the musicianship was top tier, but it was the flat production that killed that album for me. Vengeance had that awesome, raw sound that gave the songs that needed oomph, that sense of urgency that lets punk continue to thrive despite generally not advancing the songwriting craft an iota since “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Seems like Todd Burdette (Tragedy/ex-His Hero is Gone) may have had the same quibble because side project Warcry’s latest makes none of the same mistakes while pretty much treading the same punky waters that birthed his previous bands.
With His Hero Is Gone’s moody melodicism and Tragedy’s propulsion, eight song mini-album Not So Distant Future doesn’t stray far from the d-beat reservation but manages to add a soupcon of rock swing and swagger to the sound just to shake up the mix. “White Flag” even trots out a hair-whipping deedly-dee solo just to shake up the dun dun datting. Follow up “The New Age” puts on a punk rock clinic for rhythm sections, led by the synched galloping bass and drum battery that slingshots the song forward.
While self-described “anarchic noise destruction corps” Warcry don’t bring much new to the turntable (black and white art: check; apocalyptic ramblings about the world going to hell in a Hot Topic bag: you betcha), Burdette et al play and howl with enough conviction and intensity that it gives Not So Distant Future a palpable sheen of integrity and sincerity.
Minor critiques of Nerve Damage aside, Burdette has never put his name to anything less than near-perfection no matter what monicker he gives his crusty, d-beat ramblings and Warcry adds another wonderfully dingy patch to his jacket.