Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forfeit - The Lower Depths

First off, I want to say what a fantastic job Reaper Records has done with the preorder package for this LP. Stunning cover art, colored vinyl and a full size poster round out the deal. My excitement to receive the preorder was definitely satisfied once I opened the tightly wrapped cardboard mailer and saw this.

I was a fan of the first EP, so I was expecting something similar in the vein of older Blacklisted or Reign Supreme. One of my favorite parts of the initial release was the raw, gritty sound of the vocals and guitar. The Lower Depths is different in a few ways from this, as the band seems to be finding their own voice. The overall sound is cleaner and doesn't sound quite like a rehash of Blacklisted's Our Youth is Wasted.

The record starts off with a nice intro piece, followed up by a fairly ordinary fast-then-slow hardcore song. The songs seem to go by quickly, and I found myself waiting for that explosive "WOW" moment that I experience in many hardcore LPs. However, by the time the album ended, I really never experienced anything like this. Of course, there are plenty of mosh-inspiring breaks and furious vocals, but I didn't get the same feeling as I did from the Visions EP.

Probably my favorite two songs on the LP are "Bloodletting" and the closing track, "Parallel Worlds." Each song has its own feel, but remains true to the band's heavy, relentless sound. I would expect to hear each of these on the band's current tour with labelmates Trapped Under Ice and Naysayer, as they are sure to be crowd pleasers. "Parallel Worlds" is especially interesting while the song almost takes on a late 80's metal vibe during the chorus.

I certainly applaud the band for moving forward musically, I was just hoping for something more out of the LP. Fans of the Reaper Records catalog will enjoy this LP, and before anyone makes a decision about these guys they should check out their intense, energetic live show. Reaper has the LP available along with some pretty sweet shirts exclusive for the record - check it.



Bad Seed/War Hungry

I know this has been around for a while, but considering the preorders were delayed for months, most people received theirs recently. Unless of course, if you were able to go to Sound and Fury this summer (see pic above.)

First off, this is a highly simple and streamlined release. The record has 3 songs, 1 from Bad Seed and 2 from War Hungry. The cover is black and white, with a photocopied lyric sheet insert. This type of packaging is almost refreshing to see, especially with some of the high priced and intricate designs that have come out over the past year (Pulling Teeth and Iron Age for example.) Not to say I didn't enjoy these records, but this has a much more "DIY" feel to it.

Bad Seed's contribution to the split remains true to their debut EP. Heavy, almost sludgy sounding guitars start the song off, which moves into a faster paced verse. The breakdown comes almost out of nowhere, sure to surprise people unfamiliar with their style. However, I was left wanting much more after the brief 2 minute track.

The deliberate, pounding riffs on War Hungry's opening song, "Been Without Being" take over a minute to get started, but don't disappoint once everything gets into full swing. There is a seamless transition into the second song, which almost makes it difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. My favorite part of their side is the hardcore-rock and roll sounding outro of the second song, something that War Hungry has done well since their first record.

One other problem is the overall sound quality of the EP. Typically, vinyl releases have a rougher sound that fits this style of music well, but this seems a bit underdone for two promising bands on the rise. Essentially, followers of the bands will enjoy the EP, but I wouldn't pick this split for a first listen for either of them.

Backtrack - Deal with the Devil

This is one of those records where you can immediately envision what the live performance should be like within the first 10 seconds. The lights dim as the crowd begins to move side to side, feverishly awaiting the band's first song. Backtrack sets it off with no nonsense, straight forward hardcore.
Heavy New York hardcore influences run deep through this six song EP, as the band rips through each song with hard guitars and heavy melodies. While the first song maintains a fairly slow pace, the rhythms are infectious, capable of lighting off a crowd like a match to a stick of dynamite. The second and third songs up the pace and energy of the album, each with their own breakdowns mid-way through the song.
The second side of the EP contains the quintessential hardcore "intro" instrumental that many people are familiar with. While these are always fun, I wouldn't consider it one of the high points to the record.
The title song "Deal with the Devil" gets things back on track (ha). This features a great sing-a-long moment which flows seamlessly into a short breakdown, then back into the chorus. The song finishes with a deliberate, pounding closing, sure to set the local kids off at a show.
Lyrically, the record deals with some typical hardcore topics like perseverance, rising above setbacks, and problems in life that can bring us down. Betrayal and mistrust also play a part in the opening song "Retrace the Lines": "Misled into a trap and now I'm turning my back/I try to keep my faith but how much more can I take?"
The EP is available from 6131 records. Check it out, 2 vinyl colors were available for preorders, but they're probably down to one by now. Also be sure to check their show listings to catch them in your area live.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Well that didn't turn out exactly how I originally planned. I guess time flies when you get stuck in a regimented routine every day. This past summer went faster than almost any that I can seem to remember. The fact that we had some of the worst weather the Jersey shore has ever seen certainly was no help, either.

Anyway, fast forward to winter - still plenty of music and shows going on at all times. The past few months have been a literal music grab bag for me. Metallica, Have Heart, Phish, and Government Mule are just a few of the acts that were in the area recently that I was able to check out. While all of these groups put on great performances, the double-header Phish put together in Philadelphia was mind boggling. Yes, I know it can't be as incredible as a show from 1991 in Vermont, but it was by far one of the best performances since they've gotten back together.

For the first show I was lucky enough to have lower level seats directly in front of the stage. Not only was the music intoxicating, but the light show was enough to make a person dizzy. Constant swirling mixes of colors danced before my eyes as the band ripped through tracks such as "Chalkdust Torture," "Golgi Apparatus," and "Down with Disease." Possibly one of the more surprising songs was "Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan." While I usually cringe when a band like this decides to play newer songs, this was pulled off with high energy and soaring guitar riffs.

On the second night, my seats were closer to the stage on the left side of the arena. While the light show wasn't nearly as spectacular, the view of the band was much closer. Overall, the set list from the first show was far superior, but there were a number of gems performed amidst newer songs and ballads. Finishing the first set with "Wilson" right into "Run Like an Antelope" was one of the heights of the show, and the crowd roared for more as soon as they stepped off stage. The second set also featured a 12 minute version of "Tweezer" which was followed up by a 21 minute "Y.E.M." Who wouldn't go crazy for that?

Another plus from these performances was the overall crowd and arena staff. It can be difficult to tell what type of experience to expect from large concerts, and there is always potential for problems. Everyone around me on both evenings enjoyed themselves and still remained within reason. As for security and staff, they were preoccupied with keeping a lid on the situation, so concert go-ers were free to switch seats and move about without being hassled about not being in the right section.

If you have the opportunity to catch these guys again, definitely take advantage since no one knows just how long this will last. I only wish I could take a trip down to Miami to catch one of the New Year's shows.

Coming up - FLOORPUNCH in Edison, NJ on 12/19, Lotus on New Year's Eve in Philly and MUCH more.