Friday, February 26, 2010

Fired Up - Doomed to Repeat

First off, I have to admit my love for this band right off the bat. Although I'm not a huge fan of posthumous releases, this record still does it for me. However, there's something slightly disappointing about it due to us being robbed of the experience of hearing these songs played live, which is really what the essence of hardcore is all about. But if you were into When the Lights Go Out, then this is definite mandatory pick up for your vinyl collection.

This EP basically picks up where the last one left off, fast and aggressive but highly positive in nature. Listening to these guys reminds me of Champion, which reminds me of Carry On, which reminds me of In My Eyes, which reminds me of Ten Yard Fight; you get the idea. While sometimes they can be a touch repetitive, at least the sound they're emulating is something most people are constantly craving. While so many bands are leaning towards metal, or falling in line with the dozens upon dozens of NYHC clones, its refreshing to hear fast-paced youth crew styled hardcore once in a while.

Something else that struck me on Doomed to Repeat is the length. There's been way too many bands putting out EPs with 2 or 3 songs on them, as well as LPs with only 9 or 10. This works out fine for other genres, but for hardcore bands with songs that are anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes long, I can't help but feel a little cheated. Doomed to Repeat is still a fast, to-the-point record, but with 7 songs, you can really develop a sense of what Fired Up is about.

The title track immediately lights the fuse on this EP, starting up a pace that doesn't seem to stop throughout the entire record. Overall, the sound relies more on their aggressive tempo, and less on breakdowns or heavy guitar riffage. Positive beliefs and words are strewn all over the record, jumping from missed opportunities and everyday pressures to the endless struggle to simply find a better way to live and exist. This one won't fall short, especially if their last release had your turntable cranked up.

**This actually came out in October but due to delays with the Carry On LP that was up for preorder at the same time, many people didn't receive theirs until about a month ago or so. RevHQ still has copies available, along with other Youngblood releases. Also, if someone has the Youngblood Showcase press of this record, I'd be glad to take it off your hands!

RevHQ Youngblood

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Outbreak/Forfeit/New Lows/Wrong Answer/Accident Prone @ The Barbary 2/20/10

Saturday hardcore matinees at The Barbary have been rolling as of late, and the latest installment was another great way to spend an afternoon. Cold, boring winter afternoons in the Northeast don't get too much better than this, especially for only 10 bucks. I haven't seen Outbreak in about four years or so, probably at the Knitting Factory with Bane or Modern Life is War, but I can't remember exactly who. While I'm not all that stoked on their material after the Forfeit LP, I was still excited to catch them again.

I missed out on Philly locals, Accident Prone, but from what I can tell they seem to be worth checking out. I usually try to avoid buying into the "ex-members of ____" gimmicks but its hard to ignore a group with current members of Crumbler and My Turn to Win, and ex-members of Drug Test and One Up. They have a pretty gritty old school straightedge influence, so next time I'll have to get out earlier to see for myself.

Wrong Answer from Bucks County, PA, plays hardcore in the vein of Integrity, but with the metal dialed down a bit. They played a decent set, complete with an old Integrity cover to finish everything up. The singer and lead guitar player have an especially energetic stage presence, clearly feeling the songs they're playing.

I've been really psyched on New Lows from Boston ever since their set at Sound and Fury this past summer. Dark, low, brooding hardcore for fans of upside down crosses and long, slow mosh parts; get into it. They haven't been playing a ton of shows lately, and their set definitely started out somewhat rigid. About midway through "Hatchethead," they knocked the rust off and started to really get into a groove. This was a fun set, as the band played songs from the self titled EP, demo, Paincave Sessions tape, and a brand new track from their forthcoming LP on Deathwish Inc.

Reaper Records outfit, Forfeit, followed up with an equally heavy set, chugging along like a locomotive run off the train tracks. Hearing some material off The Lower Depths live somewhat changed my feelings on the record, and the band makes their recorded songs sound even better. Not every hardcore band can pull this off, so I was pretty impressed with their tight, expressive performance. I couldn't believe how weak the crowd was during this set though, which was kind of a bummer.

Outbreak straight raged through their set, blasting through just under 20 minutes of music without saying a word. I love when bands just hit the stage and rip through fast, pounding hardcore songs like this, with fast as hell drumming and guitars. Even their newer songs sounded alright, and the amount of energy they're still capable of playing with kept things moving at a blistering pace. The crowd obviously felt the same way, rushing the stage during older songs like "Scum," "You're a Waste," and "Braindead." Sing-a-longs were in full effect for most of the set, reminding me of the times I saw these guys back in high school and college.

This was a great way to kick off my Saturday, although the crowd was small and fairly tame for most of the show. There's plenty more hardcore matinees at The Barbary coming up soon, including Skarhead/Bulldoze/Shattered Realm/Punishment on 2/27 and Blacklisted/The Rival Mob/Gods & Queens on 3/7. Until next time...

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Preorders/Releases to Get Psyched On

There's been a slew of demos and new artists popping up in the hardcore scene, with a pile of exciting new material slated for release soon. Some of this is already out or up for preorder, but I've been struggling almost daily to decide what to spend my hard earned cash on. I only wish I was able to buy everything and support all the up and comers, but here's some of the latest vocal chord shredding and guitar smashing records available.

Mountain Man - One: I swear the first time I heard this demo I felt like throwing my laptop into the wall. Fast, heavy, aggressive as hell hardcore from Worcester, MA that reminds me of a mix between bands like American Nightmare and Internal Affairs. Their sound also seems to fit in well with many of their contemporaries in the Boston area. The only thing I'm not excited about is the annoying 10" format, which never seems to fit in anywhere. The record is for sale through Mightier Than Sword records on three colors with a limited shirt and poster also available. If you're in the dark on this one, the demo is available for download on their Myspace profile, and they'll be tearing up some venues in the Northeast soon.

Get the Most - Together: After a demo and two EPs, Get the Most is finally releasing their debut full length. Offering a fast, energetic throwback to late 80s style youth crew straightedge hardcore, the band has grown quite a following since forming in 2005. Preorders actually just started today on React! Records, available on 3 different colors, with a couple great looking four-sided longsleeves. This label has been on fire lately, so I'm not expecting anything less than great from this band's first LP.

Expire - Grim Rhythm: More explosive Midwest hardcore hailing from Wisconsin; these guys are releasing their debut EP on Hellfish Records. There's been a great influx of bands hailing from the Midwest playing a brand of straightforward, honest music, and I can't wait to hear more. The vocals also remind me a little of Modern Life is War during their first EP; unpolished and raw. Their demo is also available for download on their Myspace, and the EP is still available on two colors (preorder packages are sold out already).

Fire & Ice - Grim: A fun, NYHC and rock-influenced band from the ever growing Richmond, VA scene. Triple B Records will be putting out their second EP, although there isn't a date set on this one. Gods and Devils was a good effort, and I'm confident these guys will crank it up a notch on their upcoming record. It also looks like there should be three different vinyl colors once this drops.

Raw Nerve - LP: Like taking a baseball bat to your turntable, this blazing fast Chicago hardcore act are set to blow up with their upcoming LP on Youth Attack Records. No specific release date is available but there's been a couple vague updates on the YA website stating it should be out sometime in March (at press now). After a fairly popular demo and EP, people should look forward to another vicious, blistering effort from Raw Nerve. I'd recommend frequenting the YA website often if you expect to get a copy, as many of their releases tend to be very limited, selling out in a day or less sometimes.

The Rival Mob - Hardcore for Hardcore: Mob rules all! I seriously cannot wait for this one, and this band is catching on all over the country. This should be a great release on Six Feet Under Records, hopefully with some stellar vinyl colors and packaging. The Rival Mob has a gritty, raw style and demeanor that reminds me of the old school, no frills hardcore bands of the past. If you've been under a rock recently, go pick up a copy of Raw Life from Lockin Out to keep yourself entertained in the meantime, otherwise be sure to catch them in Philly or at United Blood if you're in the area.

Now that everyone's overdrawn their bank account, get back to work so you can afford more amazing releases. These are just a handful of what's coming right now, and I'll be anxiously waiting like a cat in heat for more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Effort - Demo Sessions

I was pretty excited to hear some new The Effort material, especially after the success and power on their previous records. Drawing obvious comparisons to contemporaries like Verse or Have Heart, but carving out their own niche in the straightedge hardcore scene, they appealed to me since the first EP. Bringing clear influences from older acts like Ten Yard Fight and adding in their own, youthful voice created a whirlwind of passion in their lyrics and sound, with strong convictions I can respect. When Wear Your Heart dropped, I went almost a little overboard I was so into it, and now have over 10 different versions of the EP from Words of War Records. Record nerdery aside, I can't help but feel somewhat shortchanged by this demo, as if I was ready to explode but left blueballed instead.

While this is still just a demo precursor to the upcoming LP on Panic, the overall feel and quality of this release doesn't seem on par with the rest of their records. The Effort set the bar pretty high with the debut LP Iconoclasm, and From Our Mistakes quickly continued the trend. It took a few listens for these three tracks to grow on me, which never happened with their other releases. The initial turnoff was the overpowering vocals that burst onto the initial song, "Counting with the Shepards." Of course this isn't going to be completely mixed for a demo but the lead guitars and melody are lost under the grinding vocals, sounding more like the singer from Swamp Thing and making it nearly impossible to understand anything without straining your ears.

The vocals seem to come a bit more under control on the other two songs, "1958" and "To the Top, All the Way." Their sound is still there, as they create a nice rhythm on "1958" with clean guitar work during the opening, breaking into medium-tempo verses. The final song has some fantastic energy, but quickly trickles down to a slow outro with the singer Tony screaming inaudibly in the background. From what I can tell, the lyrical value is still there, but I haven't been able to read them yet as the preorders won't ship until early March. The tension filled melodies, gang vocals, and overall effect found on past songs like "And to Think" or "Black Sheep" just doesn't quite appear to be there.

This isn't one of the worst things I've heard this year, but it's definitely far from the best. Maybe my standards were set a little too high from their past records, and I couldn't help but demand something better. Even still, support this band and check out their new material for yourself before deciding whether or not they've lost their touch. There are some bright spots on this cloudy performance, but it fails to generate the enthusiasm I anticipated. No matter what, I'll still be awaiting their LP this summer; maybe the warmer weather will put me in a better mood.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bane - 6:58 Boston EP

What an incredible concept for a record these guys came up with this time. This EP is the final result of coordination between 7 photographers, 6 countries, and 5 record labels. At one precise moment in time, photographers snapped pictures in different locations from around the world in Boston, LA, Curitiba, Dublin, Rome, Tokyo, and Perth. Each record has the same 3 tracks on it, but different covers and limited vinyl pressings, while some are CDEPs. It also makes the EP incredibly accessible across the world, sparing fans the expensive costs of buying foreign albums and paying for international shipping costs. Finally, not only is the idea awesome, but the music is great, reminding me of older Bane records.

The record explodes into action with the first track, "The Bold and the Beautiful," with a roaring drum roll breaking into booming gang vocals. Bane keeps the pace up throughout the song, returning to the sounds found on Give Blood rather than their previous full length, The Note. I've always loved this band, but after struggling to find the same quality in the last LP, Boston is a breath of fresh air to me. About 1:30 into the song, the band rips into a classic two-step tempoed riff as gang vocals echo "Live, learn, rise, fall, point, squeeze!" It feels so rare to me for recent bands to have such an energetic moment so early in a record, and Bane hits the nail on the head with this one.

The middle track, "One Life to Live" is a classic fast paced hardcore song, again reminiscent of older Bane material. Listening to this band for years, it seems they have a habit of ending records in an epic, long-winded manner, a la "Ali vs Frazier" or "Swan Song." The final piece to the EP "The Young and the Restless" fits into this mold, building towards a fantastic 3 minute finish.

Lyrically, the record sticks to Aaron Bedard's usual themes of perseverance, strong wills, and surviving anything life can throw at us. I've always found his words to be a form of inspiration and motivation, constantly staying positive despite the adversity life can bring. After over 10 years in the scene, Bane proves they're still capable of hard, fast, expressive music. Even if this was only 3 songs, it builds my hunger for more material, and I can't wait to hear what's next from these hardcore pioneers.