Friday, January 30, 2009

G&P review: Crowpath

One With Filth
It helps to think of One With Filth as the soundtrack to a nonexistent Swedish slasher film, something like Henrik: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Crowpath’s latest longplayer is purported to be a concept album based on a notorious Swedish serial killer, a cop charged with investigating his own crimes.
Thanks to the helpful insistence of Shanetera and Zmaj, I finally filled a rather sizeable hole in my metal listening with Crowpath. Not that I have an excuse for tardiness because Willowtip has never sent me astray.
In between the grinding and the sludging, Crowpath set down spidery guitar work that almost reaches shred speeds when the band suddenly kicks the clutch and jumps from first to fifth gear.
The unexpected drone doom goodness of “Gryningen” boast guitars as heavy as swollen corpse and late album standout, the cacophonous “Cleansed in Chlorine whips like a tornado born of pestilential, subterranean winds, carrying aloft the whiff of discarded human remains. Closer “Retarded Angel” is the sonic equivalent of a house of mirrors, warping and stretching reality in a uniquely grotesque fashion.
My only complaint is One With Filth’s production is just as muted and gray as the album art, blunting the jagged and serrated edges that make the similarly sludgy Maruta or a previous album like Red on Chrome so pointed and enjoyable. But that’s a quibble because Crowpath manage to weld early Alice Cooper’s jaundiced eye for horror to white knuckled grind and sludge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blast(beat) From the Past: Kill the Slave Master

Kill the Slave Master
Kill the Slave Master
Former Creation is Crucifixion guitar guerilla Karl Hlavinka continued his twisted cybernetic grind experiments with Wisconsin techgrinders Kill the Slave Master after leaving his on again, off again prior band.
Kill the Slave Master’s 11 minute self –titled EP (also known as The Artisans of Dominion: Part 1 in some parts) was a Cenobite-obsessed call to reject all of modern society, ironically brought to the you courtesy the power of modern technology.
While there’s no denying Creation is Crucifixion’s paternity, the offspring sadly did not inherit daddy’s production budget because the band’s only flaw is the EP sounds like it was recorded through a paper towel tube from another room. Which is a shame because the songs slay. “Coenobite (of the Abbatoir)’s” pinch harmonic skin lashings give way to a primativist trudge that stops and stares like a pissed cyclops bestriding the land. The “Orchestration of Sodom” very well could have scored a scene from de Sade-reinterpreted-as-Nazi-fetish flick Salo.
One thing Kill the Slave Master did, unfortunately inherit from Creation is Crucifixion is that band’s inability to keep the music going. Officially listed as on hold, the band’s deleted their MySpace page and after a decade of no new music, I think we can just assume the Cenobites finally took them away.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blast(beat) From the Past: Creation is Crucifixion

Creation is Crucifixion
Child As Audience
Billed as the nexus “where technology and anarchy fuck,” shadowy hactivists Creation is Crucifixion were the agents provocateur of the early Willotip/ Pittsburgh grind/death scene and this completely unorthodox, self-released bit of agitprop was their apex.
Combining the kind of techno-libertarianism you’d expect from an issue of Wired with a scathing arsenal of unhinged grindcore and circuitry patterned guitar riffs that unscrew the control panels of your mind for a little creative rewiring of the sort that would make Boston Mooninites proud.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to skip the pedantic spoken word bits by the Critical Art Ensemble unless droning postmodern political lectures on autonomy and alienation are your thing, but the three actual songs on this all around impressive release are some of Creation is Crucifixion’s finest work. “Micro-Consuming Machines” is practically operatic in its arc, a sprawling three minute fit of midtempo skronk riffs that give way urgent, unhinged blasts at the end. Final song “Game Boy’s” stutter step drums and circular saw guitars are like a May Day parade march for the impending proletarian robot revolution.
Meanwhile the entire package, featuring a hefty booklet in several languages that shows you step by step how to hack old Gameboy cartridges to install software teaching children the joys of sex and masturbation, beautifully encapsulates CIC’s twisted, subversive M.O.
And if anybody out there has a copy of In_Silico on any format they’re willing to part with, hook a brother up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

G&P review: Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds
Exit Wounds
No Escape
If this whole grindcore thing doesn’t work out, Poland’s Exit Wounds have a bright future working as historical interpreters at any number of battlefield museums.
Their thirty song full length debut is a guided tour of the nascent 21st Century’s already impressive legacy of carnage, conflict and chaos. But rather than Bolt Thrower’s romanticized tales of armies bravely charging into the breach once more, Exit Wounds’ shell cratered landscape is littered with spent brass casings, still steaming warm in the morning chill, and splinters of bone and flecks of gore.
A pressganged platoon of Rotten Sound’s rampant misanthropy, early Nasum hooks (grok the impressive solo on “Hand of the Dictator”) and Retaliation’s fascination with picking apart the human form via modern technology, Exit Wounds search and destroy the metal landscape with cheerily titled songs like “Bombs at the Horizon,” “Rifle Tattooed Temple” and “Annihilated by the Flamethrower.”
To say Exit Wounds are grind traditionalists is no insult. Screams pass by guttural growls while the band eviscerates songs like they’re wired up to some musical version of the Speed bus and will collectively detonate if they drop below 200 bpm (though that kind of sonic terrorism is probably pretty appealing given their jaundiced outlook), cramming 30 songs, including Haymaker and Retaliation covers, into 23 minutes. Exit Wounds may not break new ground but they’re more than happy to landmine the old and laugh as civilization wanders in and sends severed limbs flying.
I slept the band’s debut EP, 17 Wounds of Exit, but you can bet I’m sifting war zone shrapnel looking for that unexploded grenade now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Thing That Should Not Be: Carcass

The band: To say you were there when a new musical movement gnawed its way out of the womb like a fetal zombie is a rare accomplishment, but Carcass can claim grindcore, death metal, melodic death and even death ‘n’ roll as progeny. The Liverpuddlians dropped five studio albums over their rather brief career, each an interesting, engaging evolutionary step beyond the previous. But then there was Swansong.

The album: Oh, the album we all love to hate. After Earache and Columbia’s abortive attempt to shove death metal into the mainstream, Swansong became the poster child for perceived efforts to neuter the music and make it more palatable to the MTV set.
Through no fault of his own, Carlo Regadas was no Michael Amott, and nothing he could do would ever win over disaffected fans, especially in the face of Swansong’s awful sounding guitars (though they are heavier than I remember, it’s not the overblown sound I associate with Carcass). Even Ken Owen’s drumming lost all of its verve here, becoming another stale, play-the-beat rock performance. “Corporeal Jigsore Quandray,” this ain’t.
But the largest disappoint, for me, is lyrical. Carcass was the only metal band to really revel in language. They had an almost Dead Kennedys kind of appreciation for witty word play, and Swansong unleashed enough bad puns to fill a respectable episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But a decade and a half later, sneering pop culture references to MTV’s lame Rock the Vote, bad Neil Young songs and the marketing phenomenon formerly known as Generation X just come off as incredibly dated and irrelevant.

The verdict: As the recent reunion attests, Swansong was probably not the way Carcass wanted to go out, but with a few years’ perspective, I can see some of the death ‘n’ rollers giving this a second, more charitable listen. But since Heartwork tries my patience these days, I’ll just give Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies of Sickness another spin.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blast(beat) From the Past: Vulgar Pigeons

Vulgar Pigeons
Burning Episode
I wish they call could be California... grind.
OK, lame, I know. But the Golden State may be known for surf, sun and silicon(e), and you’d never know it after listening to just about any grind disc out of L.A. Almost to a band (Terrorizer being an obvious exception), California grind is bass heavy, punked out and scummy as all hell. Bass typically gets short shrift in a scene more interested in speed than heft, but Excruciating Terror, Benumb, Phobia and Bloody Phoenix have all cherished their romance with the lower registers.
Born from Benumb (bassist Paul Pontikoff and drummer John Gotelli), Vulgar Pigeons carry over the same four string tom foolery from that band. And though the band’s debut, Summary Execution, has been swallowed by the memory hole that was the great Deathvomit catastrophuck, their vulgar disply of power Burning Episode is still readily available. Summary was a tad overlong and dragged in spots, but Burning Episode goes down smoother with a more varied songwriting repertoire crammed into 18 minutes.
Harking back to Phobia’s debut, Return to Desolation, Vulgar Pigeons don’t look askance as pushing grind’s notoriously short attention spans, pushing songs into the three, four, occasionally even five minute range in between 30 second blasters like “Coffin Honeymoon.” The Pigeons also aren’t afraid to monkey around with tempos as with the Anthrax mosh break of “Compartmentalize.”
If you, like me, have a Benumb fetish (and if you don’t, seriously, WTF?), Vulgar Pigeons should have pride of place in your collection.

Friday, January 16, 2009

G&P review: Noisear

Pyroclatic Annhiallation
Do metal people keep resumes? Can I call your former band for a recommendation before we bring you in full time?
The reason I ask is because Noisear’s latest album, Pyroclastic Annhiallation, released over the summer but recorded in 2007, boasts six (count ‘em six) seriously spot on Discordance Axis covers (like in a blind test I’d swear it was the real thing), and given drummer Bryan Fajardo’s collaboration with Jon Chang in GridLink, the temptation to read this is a job application is overwhelming. 2008 was a big year for Fajardo, who in addition to proving he can ably fill Dave Witte’s Adidases, also recorded with Kill the Client and anchored Phobia live.
In the midst of all that, almost overlooked (at least by me) was the fact that New Mexico’s finest grinders also put out a new album of their own. And you don’t need a handful of DxAx covers to figure out Noisear has collectively given Jouhou a spin or a thousand because they kick out their grind jams in the same, sleek Tokyo bullet train style. Alex Lucero has clearly put in post graduate work in the Jon Chang school of tonsil assault, ably mimicking the screech/growl tradeoffs that powered Discordance Axis.
But Noisear can’t be simply written off as mere plagiarists, or worse, a tribute band. “Myownworstenemy’s” guitar squalls and squeals hearken back to Witte’s pre-Axis collaborators, Human Remains while the awesomely titled “The Chains that Grind Us” slouch back toward Napalm Death. (Nonsensical word salad titles like “Endless Struggle with Invariable Imminence” and “Senselessly Torn Apart by the Corporate” are slightly more subtle Napalm references.)
So yeah Zmaj, this probably would have made my year end countdown had I gotten my shit together in time. And no, I have no clue what I would have cut either.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Thing That Should Not Be: Terrorizer

The band: Maybe it’s just me, but bands that came, kicked ass and left only one album to mark their passing have a sort of mythic status in my mind, but give Repulsion credit for dining out on one shot of brilliance for 20 years without sullying their rep with poorly conceived new material. Even Mike Amott had the good sense to rename the band Arch Enemy when he decided to reform Carnage post-Carcass. I can think of no better cautionary tale of that than L.A.’s legendary Terrorizer who recorded one posthumous (at the time) album before Jesse Pintado joined the formidable Napalm Death Mark 3 and drummer Pete Sandoval was absorbed into Morbid Angel. World Downfall was a revelation: a death metal/punk hybrid and proof that the limeys hadn’t cornered the market on grind. So why did the band have to go fuck it all up two decades later?

The album: Insert your preferred cliché about assaulting confined aquatic wildlife with high caliber firepower here, but Darker Days Ahead disappointed me. It needed to be said.
His drinking becoming a liability (Mitch Harris has said Pintado couldn’t even get his shit together to play a note on either of his last two albums with Napalm Death), Pintado decided to reform Terrorizer and party like it was 1989. And while not bad for a grind album, Darker Days Ahead was just terrible for a Terrorizer album.
Darker Days Ahead, indeed; weeks after its release, Pintado would be dead.
Was there something wrong with the original “Dead Shall Rise” that necessitated an update damn near 20 years after the fact? Pintado obviously thought so, so in 2006 he rounded up half of Terrorizer and farted out a lame redo that served only to soon part fools (like me) and their money.
Scratch the intro, outro and re-recorded versions of demo and World Downfall tracks and you’re left with a whopping eight songs of midgrade grind. The riffs are passable and I’ve always been a fan of Anthony Rezhawk’s brutal yet intelligible vocal delivery, but what passed for Terrorizer in 2006 was a flat, overproduced shadow of its former self. Sandoval may be one of the greatest drummers to ever sit on a stool, but his playing on Darker Days Ahead is absolutely inexcusable: a clicking typewriter of poorly produced, triggered drumming.
Which is a shame, because with better production (and under any name but Terrorizer), Darker Days Ahead may have been a passable affair. “Fall Out” and “Mayhem” aren’t bad songs; they just can’t live up to World Downfall’s legacy.

The verdict: There’s a reason a Japanese grind band named itself World Downfall and not Darker Days Ahead. Skip this; download this or buy this instead.

Monday, January 12, 2009

G&P review: Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Insect Warfare

Agoraphobic Nosebleed/Insect Warfare
Nineteenth Century biologist Ernst Haeckel’s assertion that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” during embryonic development certainly sounds intelligent and it’s a doozy to drop if you wanna bamboozle your friends with big words and your own purported genius. There’s just one problem: it’s bad science.
However, it does make a handy framework to describe the latest songs from sociopathic digigrinders Agoraphobic Nosebleed, whose four songs on this too short split are like rewinding the band’s evolution as they pontificate upon un-natural selection in the latest four track installment of their ongoing exploration of the “5 Band Genetic Equalizer.”
“Werewolf Women of the U.S.,” a skull-boring assault of noise lasting no longer than your average sneeze could have been one Altered States of America’s mindfuck interludes and makes a fine palette cleanser before “Dis-Order of the Species,” which finally harnesses the band’s latent Melvins influences, which came off as tedious on last year’s Apartment 213 split, without sacrificing the band’s underlying identity. Lead off song “Crypto-Zoology” and closer “Un-Natural Selection,” stop on a dime grinders, both could have fit snugly into any of the band’s output through Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope.
ANb have their groove back, so let’s hope they’re finally serious about that new full length they’ve been promising us for a year or more.
And if Nosebleed’s return to form weren’t reason enough for all those down in Whoville, the tall and the small, to rejoice, the posthumously prolific Insect Warfare chase their appearance on the Hull’s This Comp Kills Fascists and the latest Grind Bastards compilation (big, big hat tip to Scott Kincade for the hookup on that one) by out Nosebleeding Nosebleed with seven songs in a recockulously scant three minutes and change, the longest of which clocks in at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 40 seconds. This is Insect Warfare distilled to its absolute, ferocious, snarling, bug crushing essence. Not that there was much fat to pare down previously. Dobber must have replaced his arms with a pair of machine pistons because he inhumanly pounds his way through some of the fastest songs in IW’s already speeding ticket prone catalogue. Beau Beasley’s riff’s may not recapitulate phylogeny, but he sure as shit recapitulates the law of the saw, buzzing and hacking through the songs while Rahi shreds his vocal cords for your amusement.
Insect Warfare may be extinct for the time being, but I wouldn’t could one of evolution’s most successful and adaptable species out for eternity.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blast(beat) From the Past: Exitium

Outsourcing Morality
Imagine, if you can, a world where Dying Fetus’ John Gallagher could actually hold together a line up and deliver on all that band’s squandered potential, and instead of playing retread death metal, Gallagher and Co. poured all of that technical ferocity into two and three minute cluster bombs of death/grind. If you can picture that, you’ve got a pretty good idea of where Exitium are coming from.
Not to be confused with a pair of similarly named Scandinavian black metal bands, Texas/Oklahoma’s Exitium (formerly known as Diabolus Et Amicae) retain all the technical legerdemain of their deathly cousins – sweep picking, pinch harmonics, honest to Satan lead guitar, even the occasional tremolo dive bomb, but grafted on to a death/grind exoskeleton that huffs and churns along like the pissed off, anthropomorphic pile junk from Tetsuo the Iron Man. If the thought Decapitated decapitating Circle of Dead Children appeals to you, meet you new favorite band.
Though Outsourcing Morality can become a tad repetitive even at a slight 25 minutes long, guitarists Justin Jones and Kirk Kirkwood (who’s also responsible for the album art), frontload their sole album to date with the cream of their technical chops. The lead off title track and follow up “Enshrined” in particular deliver on every bit of songwriting chicanery the duo could commit to tape. On the vocal front Brandon Carrigan coughs up lung butter all over the mic, occasionally alternating his death gurgles with pig squeals.
Produced by Kill the Client’s James Delgado (whose cohort Champ Morgan grabs a guest mic spot) and mastered by Scott Hull, Outsourcing Morality throbs with a pleasantly unholy, subterranean malignance.
Since this came out in 2006, Exitium has undergone a massive lineup overhaul, with Kirkwood and bassist/new vocalist Andy Beard as the sole original members, recruiting Suture/Devourment drummer Erik Park to round out the trio. The band announced plans to record again in 2007 but so far nothing has been forthcoming. This is one to watch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Thing That Should Not Be: Napalm Death

Because I am a complete fucking masochist, I have been repeatedly subjecting myself to some of the worst albums some of the most foundational grind bands ever shat into existence lately, torturing my innocent ears to decide if there are any redeeming qualities to be found.

The band: Oh sure Siege, Repulsion and Cryptic Slaughter were all dabbling in grind’s then-unnamed primordial ooze before Napalm Death came along, but it wasn’t until the Birmingham bangers that anybody put the whole package together and, through some canny marketing, injected the terms grindcore and blast beat into the modern lexicon. But just because you laid a corner stone for a new musical movement doesn’t mean I’ll excuse truly awful singing and lazy, disinterested song writing.

The album: Is Barney in the band? Is Barney out of the band? The title of 1997’s Inside the Torn Apart can be read pretty literally because Napalm Death seemed like it might be on the verge of imploding after frontman Mark Greenway left/was fired from the band and lit out for the greener pastures of Extreme Noise Terror. Once he was coaxed back in the fold, the band unleashed what has to be the worst album in their storied career. Even Colin Richardson’s production was monochromatic and enervated, sapping the effort of any emotion.
I don’t begrudge anybody their experimentation, but Inside the Torn Apart was the unthinkable: a Napalm Death album almost devoid of blast beats or any semblance of their grind glory days. Instead it was a flaccid, murky combination of hardcore and meandering metal that just never seemed to click. Oh sure, it started off strong enough. “Breed to Breathe” is a fairly rocking tune if you dig Diatribes and “Greed Killing,” but things quickly soured over the remaining half an hour or so. Whatever sick bastard brain farted the idea of clean vocals on the title track should be dragged out behind the remains of the Mermaid and beaten senseless by rude boys. This is Napalm Death at an absolute low point, though, incongruously, the song “Lowpoint” is the tune on Torn Apart to feature blast beats and some semblance of grind. “Prelude” is also another rare bright spot, a d-beat (briefly blasted) assault that could have graced Mentally Murdered.
Though I kept buying all of Napalm’s albums (and I admit a certain sentimental affection for later work like Words From the Exit Wound), this was an era when, if we’re honest, we admit probably most of us just stopped caring about Napalm Death. Luckily, a clean break from Earache a few years later a steel toed boot up the ass from a certain Swedish grind collective played Jesus to Napalm’s moribund Lazarus.

The verdict: There are plenty of bands that could have harnessed that internal tension to unleash an ass whupping album, but Napalm Death isn’t one of them. Instead, the band thrives when its internal harmony remains uncorrupted. If you need further proof, drop the needle on any post-Pintado album.

Monday, January 5, 2009

G&P review: Agathocles

Grind is Protest
There are plenty of grind bands who have reached the pantheon of metal’s elite sans bass player, but it’s refreshing to hear an album like Grind is Protest that not only appreciates what four strings can bring to the fold but actively shoves them to the forefront of the mix, bludgeoning the listener with a cacophonous barrage of low end punishment.
I hope Phobia is taking copious notes because Grind is Protest is everything 22 Random Acts of Violence should have been: a gasping, relentless, bass-heavy assault on the senses with all of the subtlety of a ball peen hammer to the back of the skull in a blind alley after a night of ill advised boozing.
The mincecore is mincing and the blastbeats snap along with that same tinny snare tone I’ve come to associate with Agathocles and St. Anger. But cutting through the mix is the bass: every single strum and thrum is clearly audible. Bassist Tony’s (RIP) four string assaults really drive Grind is Protest. On their eleventy-billionth release, Agathocles once again lay into all the usual suspects, fuming and raging against militarism, fascisms and a whole host of other bad –isms with the single-mindedness that’s prerequisite to spending 20 years trying to make a career out of dozens of splits with no name bands on fly by night labels and poorly attended basement shows while giving the finger to niceties like health insurance, rent money and retirement funds. I wish Tony were still here to enjoy it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Harder Core Than Thou 2008

When you get down to it, hardcore is a lot like sex. It’s a pretty simple operation for all the joy it brings us and each new generation is under the mistaken impression that they personally invented it. But it’s that simplicity that keeps it vital. Teen angst + a modicum of musical know how = instant excitement. Just some of us never seem to grow out of it a couple of decades later. Looking back on 2008, here’s hoping I never do. Here are the 10 punk offerings that got the most love and spins from me this year.

10. Early Graves
We: The Guillotine
Metal Blade
If you told me 12 months ago I would lead off a best of countdown of anything with either a metalcore outfit or something off the Metal Blade roster – let alone both – I woulda ROFLMAO in your face. So I guess I better sell off my palm reading business because these light fingered San Francisco musical appropriators Frankenstein together an impressive metal/punk monster by five finger discounting the finest bits of In Flames, Today is the Day and Mastodon and sewing them into a believable whole that nods to its sources without tipping the scales into out and out ripoff.

9. Trash Talk
Trash Talk
Trash Talk
To paraphrase a modern day classic, short, fast and loud is no way to go through life, son. Perhaps the greatest achievement to come from the too brief power violence movement was the reminder that dynamics and *gasp* even slower tempos can be just as effective and intimidating as all the attempts to shatter the sound barrier on instruments. Trash Talk, though they slung plenty of the short, fast and loud on their eponymous third release, they reached their apogee today by swiping Man is the Bastard’s Quaalude stomp. Misanthropy played at cough syrup speeds.

8. King Generator
King Generator
Tank Crimes
Because every countdown list needs a little Dave Witte and Mike Hill. Rounded out by The Process/Shank guitarist Jamie Thomson, the trio blew out speakers with this delightfully (and hopefully deliberately) lo-fi old skool hardcore outing, slavering their way through eight minutes of primo punk lacking in any subtlety but swinging a sack the size of Stephen Colbert’s. Witte and Hill’s drums and bass ooze together into an indistinguishable but palpably percussive mass colored a contusive purple. You see that dog on the cover, rumor has it Thomson grafted its vocal cords into his throat to achieve the perfect punk bark. Nice doggy.
Hill and Witte have this awful habit of dropping bands right when they seem to be on the crest of greatness. Here’s hoping Thomson can wrangle them back into the studio again.

7. Rudimentary Peni
No More Pain
We walked down the aisle to Pachbel’s “Canon in E” at our wedding this year; sadly I couldn’t talk my wife into doing it to Rudimentary Peni’s psychedelic take on the matrimonial standby. Her loss. Nick Blinko et al seem to pop up every three or four years now with a new EP delving into the cobwebbed corners of its infamously unstable frontman’s psyche. Just because anybody with about six months of guitar playing under their bullet belt could master just about any riff from “A Handful of Dust” or the Alice in Wonderland via ZZ Top boogie shuffle of “Doodlebug Baby” in no way impugns the sheer artistry involved. Like Blinko’s obsessively lined black and white artwork, Rudimentary Peni employ the simplest means to achieve transcendence.

6. The Endless Blockade
20 Buck Spin
Vying with Iron Lung for the best nu-power violence (did I just coin yet another awful genre tag?), Toronto’s The Endless Blockade come Man is the Bastard-approved and unlike a lot of those who would aspire to the second gen power violence crown, The Endless Blockade actually channel not only their predecessors’ obsession with setting new land speed records on their instruments, but the top flight band’s penchant for bizarre electronics and other audience-hostile musical measures. Primitive has all that in spades, crushing both The Endless Blockades’ prior efforts and just about all challengers as well. But like Lavar Burton ‘s minions would say, don’t take my word for it, Apoctosis digs this shit too.

5. Iron Lung
Sexless//No Sex
Hulk smash! I double dog dare you not to circle pit in your bedroom as the stompalicious, shout along chorus of the titular track kicks in. It’s astonishing how much noise this duo managed to make and in just a scant 20 minutes. Welding Helmet’s street level thrum to Man is the Bastard’s power violence grooves, Iron Lung, quickly becoming underground darlings, took a Godzilla sized step forward on Sexless//No Sex. Their best written and best sounding effort, Iron Lung lay waste to metropolitan skylines whether they’re idling in first gear or dive bombing in fifth. But it for the awesome Nick Blinko art, stay for the stop shelf power violence beat down.

4. Black Ships
New Romance for Kids
Black Ships are like punk rock comfort food. Being Canuckistani and Quebecois to boot, I assume that’s a giant plate of poutine for them. Black Ship’s greasy plate of gravy and fries is nothing you haven’t heard before, but I doubt you’ll have heard much better. It’s hardcore punk at its most basic but executed with such deft skill and confidence you can’t help but be won over. The band seemed to come out of nowhere this year, first snagging my attention with their crafty Low EP. With two solid and monstrously large sounding releases under their studded belts in just nine months or so in 2008, I can only imagine the kind of delights they’ll unveil in 2009.

3. Trap Them
Seizures in Barren Praise
For an album I still don’t particularly like (I’m more of a Clandestine guy), Entombed’s Wolverine Blues has seeded a new generation of punks that intuitively grasp its mix of death metal chug and rock swing as a tonic to revive a flagging hardcore scene strangled by its own deflated decadence. And Ryan McKinney’s lyrics, scraped like peeling paint in a rotting home from the underside of his psyche, are more effectively horrific than any of the morbid musings or Lovecraftian posturing of any death metal ensemble. Perennial producer and frequent collaborator Kurt Ballou contributes the occasional riff and Sunlight soundalike production to ensure Trap Them razor their way through the growing ranks of also rans jocking the latest it sound.

2. Ghostlimb
Bearing and Distance
Level Plane
Graf Orlock side project Ghostlimb jack their instruments straight into America’s collective id on second EP Bearing and Distrance, deftly sailing the shores of the misty dream country Neil Gaiman chronicled in Sandman. From the artwork and anxious melodic hardcore through the simple but insightful lyrics, crystallizing modern unease in a cultural seemingly awash in plenty but devoid of any true substance or sustenance, a plastic wrapped throw away society quietly strangling in its own detritus. It’s a cartography of isolation and anxiety on the cusp of the 21st Century.

1. Disfear
Live the Storm
Sweden’s self-proclaimed defenders of the d-beat hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing new on their second Relapse effort. Not that I’m complaining.
The quintet merely turned in the single most energetic, tightly written and just plain fucking fun hardcore album of 2008.
Hell, I’m in my 30s and listening to it has me breaking out the air-guitar and –drums and circle pitting like a moron in my living room to my wife's amusement.
We all know Kurt Ballou can produce the hell out of an album when he’s not strangling his own guitar in service of Converge, but he really outdid himself on Live the Storm, his finest studio moment since Jane Doe. I shit you not.
The intro to “Get it Off” could have been lifted from “Welcome to the Jungle” while “Fiery Father” and “Dead Weight” could serve as instructional materials for a course on hardcore singalong songwriting. Hell, all 10 songs on this, including the nine minute closer “Phantom,” perhaps the longest d-beat song in history, are damn near instant classics. The addition of Uffe Cederlund of Entombed fame was a brilliant master stroke and his frenzied soloing and riffing gives Live the Storm a serrated, urgent edge that explodes the songs. It’s like fishing with dynamite but in audio form.
The first new album of 2008 I laid my hands on, Live the Storm has drawn me back time and time again over the last 12 months. For an album that offers pretty much nothing new since Discharge drummer Tezz first fumbled his way around a kit, Disfear’s latest opus proves that conviction and balls out ferocity can still keep hardcore vital well into the 21st Century.