Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raw Nerve/Vile Gash/Nomos/No Coffin @ Ava House 3/26/10

First off I'm going to have to start this one by saying I REALLY liked this venue. It's been way too long since I went to a house or basement show, and this spot reminded me of some of the grungy punk venues I used to frequent in high school. It took me a few minutes to find the place, but once I found the door, the location was actually pretty obvious. I was really psyched on all the bands, and for $5 this is easily the cheapest thing around on a Friday night in Philly.

Walking up the stairs, the hallway was littered with empty PBR cans, tagged in graffiti, and smelled of stale cigarette smoke. Upstairs, everything opens up into a large, empty space, except for old couches most likely found on the side of the road, and band equipment. Kids are skateboarding around the hardwood floors, while people crack open 40 oz's and light up Camels. The place could actually be a really swank apartment for some rich dude, but this is a far better use of the space.

Locals No Coffin was starting to play just as I came upstairs, along with other people filtering in for the night. Their sound was definitely unpolished, with a slightly unsure feel, but still decent for a first show. They have a somewhat droning, yet pleasantly noisy approach to their songs, and I'm looking forward to a demo so I can hear it better.

Raw Nerve. If you don't know about them yet, you've been sleeping too long. Fast, raw, frantic hardcore from the Midwest. These guys set up and roared through a set in probably about eight minutes, playing songs from all of their releases, including some new stuff from the LP on Youth Attack Records. The vocals were a little low, so the singer wasn't very audible, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it. People raged back and forth during their songs, smashing from side to side as beer sprayed onto the ground. Their singer writhed around while howling the lyrics, while the rest of the band thrashed their instruments into submission. Great stuff; short and sweet.

Brooklyn hardcore punk act, Nomos, were up next. They performed most of the songs from their demo EP, which is an absolute monster for a debut recording. Fast, hard, angry music, with well formed songs and some old school hardcore influence makes these guys one of my favorite newer bands around. Nomos rips it up live also, shredding through their set in experienced, confident fashion. Do not miss out on this band next time they're in your area.

The final audio assault of the evening was Columbus, Ohio's Vile Gash. Similar to Raw Nerve, they came on without saying a word and immediately launched into a song. Their singer looked like a man possessed, furiously spitting the lyrics and punching people that came within striking distance. The set was a bit marred by some technical difficulties though, as the guitar kept cutting out, and there also seemed to be a problem with his distortion pedal. Either way, I was stoked on this performance too, and Vile Gash put a nice cap on an awesome night.

Ava House is easily one of the best DIY house venues I've ever been too, with a PA and gear that actually works, and a chill, friendly environment to hang out in. The show was basically a party, with plenty of people hanging out, drinking, and listening to music. Also, I made some nice vinyl pick ups, including the Raw Nerve tour press, a live tape, and Vile Gash's new EP. Thanks to the Hartford dudes I met for sharing some of their beer with me, and thanks to the promoters and people at Ava House for putting on a top notch show. I'll definitely be back again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Boiling Over - Barriers

More raging, roaring hardcore played at varying speeds for your listening pleasure, coming straight out of Chicago, Illinois. The waves of awesome bands coming out of this region of the country is nearing mind boggling proportions, as each one almost seems better than the last one I heard. Unfortunately for us though, Boiling Over will be playing their final show on April 1st, coinciding with their last release, Barriers.

I've been trying to decide exactly who Boiling Over sounds like for some time, and finally landed on some of the older X-Claim bands, but with the speed and intensity ratcheted up a bit. Also, I get a nice smacking taste of Tear it Up at certain points, especially during the closing track "On the Fringe." They also fit in nicely with some of their contemporaries, such as Poison Planet or RazorXFade, but still have their own flair to keep people coming back.

Barriers goes by pretty quickly, clocking in at just over 7 minutes of unapologetic hardcore fury. The opening song "Pushed to Death" sets the tone perfectly, with blazing guitars that emit ferocious feedback every time they halt, as chunky bass lines continue to hold the beat together. The lyrics dabble in the shadows of negativity, ranging from suburban wastelands, drug abuse, depression, and ugly cultural traditions. Fast, relentless riffs with howling vocals, leading up to the inevitable closing breakdown puts a great cap on this five song finale for Boiling Over.

The EP will be available in cassette form at the band's final shows, along with a 7" vinyl edition limited to 150 copies. Lifeline Records will also have any leftovers up for grabs on their website if everything isn't sold out this week.

Boiling Over Myspace
Lifeline Records

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Rival Mob - Hardcore for Hardcore Promo Tape

I picked this gem up a couple weeks ago when The Rival Mob played in Philly and finally found the time to listen to it recently. I've yet to dislike anything these dudes from Boston have put out, and this really picks right up where Raw Life left off. It has a slightly "cut and paste" feel to it, ending up with mixtape-like qualities, which is a pretty cool concept. Only one of the four songs on the tape will be on the upcoming EP, but this is still a fun listen.

The opening track immediately gives everyone what they've been waiting for; the title track Hardcore for Hardcore for the EP due out eventually on Six Feet Under Records. Straight forward hardcore punk, with their recognizable mid-tempo breakdowns and shouting vocals gave me pleasant flashbacks of their demo. This is almost a bit harder than some of the songs on Raw Life, with fast riffs and gang vocals booming "Hardcore! For! Hardcore!" The Rival Mob poses a challenge in this song to all the real hardcore bands and supporters while showing their apparent contempt for the fakers.

A great cover breaks next; "Positive Scene" by Crippled Youth, played in all its thrashy, mid-80s hardcore posi-core glory. As the tape insert says, "if you don't know what's up with it then you can go kill yourself." Or go find it online somewhere, that's probably easier.

"Mind Closed for Life 2010" is a newer version of the same track off the demo, but with a keyboard and synth twist. The whole thing sounds somewhat ludicrous, with the same punky riffs but someone jamming out Billy Joel-style over it. Synthesizer-driven horns also rage along with the rest of the band, creating a pretty weird, yet funny version of the song.

The tape finishes off with a live recording of Pearl Jam's "Better Man," done on Boston's WERS in the winter of 2009. Another random choice, but this is actually pretty decent, although I don't think the vocals quite live up to Eddie Vedder's standards. At least they didn't try to turn it into some lame hardcore version that sounds like it belongs on Punk Goes Pop Vol. 12.

For a promo tape, this definitely worth a listen, while it's not the greatest tape I've heard this year. It definitely achieves what it intends though, as my anticipation for the new record is even higher after a couple times through. These are long sold out but there's probably somewhere to download it online, or you can try your luck on eBay and spend some of that tax return.

The Rival Mob Myspace
Six Feet Under Records

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sacred Love - Love Songs

Brand new hardcore from Baltimore featuring current and ex members of Mindset, Brick, and Blind the Thief; how could it go wrong, right? Recently created with five guys from the Maryland scene, Sacred Love just put together their debut EP, Love Songs. Drawing obvious influence from Bad Brains and old time D.C. hardcore, Sacred Love could be the beginning of something great.

Love Songs is a brief, yet fierce EP, giving a glimpse of what this band could be capable of. Four songs weighing in at a manageable eight minutes gives just enough to get a taste of their sound, yet leaving the palate thirsty for a bit more. Immediately recognizable is the up-front, honest Bad Brains tribute, mixed in with other Dischord-era hardcore bands. Sacred Love also reminds me of other contemporary acts such as Soul Control or Lion of Judah, fitting into their vein of hardcore rather nicely, but with a faster, heavier edge.

"Piece of Mind" gets the record ripping, picking up at a medium-tempo pace complete with guitar solos and shouting vocals. Midway through, the track breaks down slowly, with feedback and sloshing hi-hats leading into the finish as the vocals cry "Will this ever end?!" This creates the blueprint for the other three songs, each using multiple tempos, including thunderous breakdowns; my favorite hitting during "Weighed Down."

Sacred Love finds a way to draw from older influences, but keep a youthful vibe going while blasting through their first EP. When I first heard the record, it took about four or five listens to grasp their different nuances, but each time around I find something else I like about this band. As of right now, there aren't copies available for purchase, but Love Songs can be streamed for free on their Myspace page. Hopefully there will be a vinyl pressing of their material soon so I can add these guys to my collection. They'll also be playing Mindset's record release show at Charm City Artspace in Baltimore if you're lucky enough to be in the area.

Sacred Love Myspace
Sacred Love Blog

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mindset - Time & Pressure

Following the well received EP, Real Power, Mindset is releasing their second 7" wax effort on React Records. Representing the straightedge Maryland hardcore scene, Mindset lays down another installment of well put together, inspiring, positive tunes. With the record release show slated for March 28th in Baltimore, an upcoming tour with True Colors, and colored vinyl of Time & Pressure already sold out, Mindset is getting ready to explode.

Loaded with influences from all across the fast, posi-core spectrum, Mindset borrows from bands ranging anywhere from The First Step to Floorpunch to Betrayed, and puts their own charged spin on it. While most of their songs on this record are based on traditional fast drum beats, they manage to vary tempos enough to keep things interesting enough so you don't feel like the EP is just one blur of power chords. Time & Pressure is another one of those records where as soon as it kicks off, you can already see the stage dives launching as the gang vocals boom, "Hear me now!"

Mindset takes on some great lyrical topics again on their sophomore EP. Reading some thoughts and opinions from people who seem genuinely interested in our world and the horrendous things happening is incredibly refreshing, especially since there's a lack of this in hardcore lately. By all means, write about straightedge or friendship or whatever other personal junk you want, but we need more bands like this in the larger hardcore community. Obviously there's politically motivated bands around, but people need an accessible outlet that doesn't necessarily involve going to house shows in the ghettos of West Philly or sending money orders to labels that never respond and take 3 months to mail out a 7" (even though I support this 100% too).

"Create/Control" starts off with illusions of power and grandeur, spurned on by festering envy and greed. "Waste" takes everything a step further, challenging people and politicians to do more than make false promises and actually follow through with something positive. These themes continue, reaching the pinnacle during the final track "Witness." As the final lines are laid down, the vocals yell "When we close our eyes we close our fists/Our blindness ensures that oppression exists/Blind Eye/Blind Witness."

Time & Pressure is a fairly easy record to enjoy, especially if you're into any of React's other releases, or straightforward, uptempo hardcore. Inspired, thoughtful lyrics, and entertaining song structure that plays out fantastic during their live shows makes Mindset the real deal. The upcoming tour isn't hitting the tri-state area which sucks for me, but check out the dates to see if you're luckier than I am. This record and their first EP, Real Power are both still available from React.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blacklisted/Gods & Queens/The Rival Mob/Give @ The Barbary 3/7/10

This past Sunday I was able to make it out to yet another afternoon at The Barbary in Philly for some matinee hardcore action with a fairly unusual line-up. The most obvious draw for me was The Rival Mob, who seem to get better every time I put on their LP or manage to catch them live. Both Give and Gods & Queens I've never really listened to before, let alone seen live, so I wasn't too sure what to expect. Local heroes Blacklisted were set to headline the show, although I've been pretty down on them since their set at Sound & Fury last summer. I continue to see them over and over, expecting to see something more reminiscent of years past, but to no avail. Although, maybe they would be a little different since the release of their latest LP, No One Deserves to Be Here More than Me.

Coming up from DC, Give were set to play their first show in Philly to a decent sized crowd. Their sound isn't the usual, repetitive hardcore that's been flooding the market lately, which was a breath of fresh air. At times it felt difficult to describe, but they ranged anywhere from The Suicide File to The Bronx to Modern Life is War (Midnight in America era). I wasn't ecstatic about Give, but they deserve plenty of credit for a high energy performance and interesting sound. Eventually I'll have to check out their self titled 12" EP, which actually is already on its second press.

The Rival Mob set up next, as the venue was starved for some old fashioned hardcore tunes. Seriously, this band is only improving over time, and the anticipation for the next EP, Hardcore for Hardcore, is swelling bigger by the day. Filled with witty stage banter and stories, their singer seems to catch lighting in a bottle on stage, only to unleash it on the crowd during each song. Highlights included "Raw Life," "Gene Pool/Cess Pool," "RCBS," and of course "Mob Rules All," along with a couple brand new songs from the forthcoming record. Also, they had the Hardcore for Hardcore Promo tape available, numbered out of 100, and some new shirt designs.

Locals Gods & Queens were due up next, and definitely the largest departure from hardcore of the afternoon. Longer, medium paced songs in a more progressive, part-indie rock, part-hardcore hybrid format seemed to begin to define their unusual sound. It's also been quite a while since I saw a three piece band perform with such a pronounced wall of sound, although at points it tended to drone on.

The lights dimmed, blacklights ignited blue, pouring the color all over the darkened venue as Blacklisted started to play. Going into this show, I anticipated them not playing anything older than the Heavier than Heaven LP, which was unfortunately true. The set was a mix tracks from the past two LPs and new EP, and even though it was exactly what I was dreading, Blacklisted still plays with the same ferocity and intensity as when I first say them around 6 years ago. A firey vocal performance combined with crunchy, thick guitar riffs make songs that I've never really found exciting sound pretty damn good. The explosive performance wasn't without some wierd moments, including backing vocals that sounded like they belong in a He Is Legend song, and DFJ joining them on stage to play tambourine. Closing out in heavy, poignant fashion, they ended with "Memory Layne," "Canonized," and "Wish."

And so another afternoon in Philly came to a close, filled with sweat, noise, and the aftershock of a slight headache. Maybe I'll even have to give the new Blacklisted LP another try at some point.

Aerosols LP + Bonus 7"

So where do I really start with Youth Attack Records and the latest Aerosols release? This was officially released a while ago, but due to the insane hype and demand over new YA pressings, I wasn't able to buy a copy until the second press was put up last month, and even that sold out the same day. Known for their intricate and stylish packaging, Mark McCoy put together something awesome for Western Massachusetts' Aerosols.

Limited to 500 copies on gray and black mixed vinyl, the release contains a full LP along with a bonus single sided EP, just in case your cravings weren't quite satisfied. The inner jacket has photo corners on the front, meant to hold the bonus wax as if it were a picture, which is a pretty original idea. However, due to shipping and transport, many people's photo corners ripped or came off while taking out the LP. The backsides of both inner sleeves have pictures of the band, along with the lyrics written out in lavish script. Definitely a winner on packaging, even with the photo corners breaking. The only other item I miss is a digital download, but this is YA, not Deathwish Inc.

The record immediately picks up where the first three EPs left off. Fast, smashing, rip-roaring hardcore that shreds the needle right off your turntable. The insanely fast drumming and guitar riffs create a wall of distorted sound that seems to blur its way through the record. Aerosols treads a fine line between crossing into the inaudible and just rough enough to reach the sound they appear to be aiming for. Most of the songs border a near out of control pace, while some slow down at points, such as "Presidential Pardon" or "Settle for Hell."

Vocally, the LP is abrasive and pissed off, screaming through the speakers amongst distortion, feedback, and pounding percussion. If your into this type of style, its actually done pretty well, especially for this genre of music. The lyrics rage on about the political system, ugly American pride, religion, drug abuse, our inevitable death, and other related topics.

Musical ADD is the last thing people will experience with this record, as the whole LP clocks in just a shade under 10 1/2 minutes, with the longest song being a mere one minute and thirty-seven seconds. Just in case this didn't quench your thirst for teeth grinding hardcore, the bonus EP adds in an extra 5 songs at just over 2 minutes.

If you're looking for the next youth crew or bro mosh record, stay far away from this. But if you're into fast, blasting hardcore that shows no mercy for anything, your already late on buying this. Hell, even if this isn't the usual record you'd pick up, it's still worth a listen. The second pressing is still available on Interpunk, but it probably won't last long before you'll be stuck scouring eBay for a copy.

Buy at Interpunk

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Upcoming Spring Philly/NJ/NYC Area Shows

Coinciding with the rash of incredible releases coming out all over the country, there's plenty of amazing, talented bands coming through the tri-state area. Whether its hardcore, indie, or punk rock, a little bit of everything is out there, no matter what your musical taste is. Some are at up and coming venues like The Barbary, while others are at local churches and basements, and some at larger spots such as the World Cafe.

3/6 - Coalesce @ Kung Fu Necktie (Philly, PA) - Unfortunately this show sold out pretty quickly in advance, but for those attending it will definitely be something special. With a dark, complex hardcore metal blend in the vein of Converge, these guys are back with a vengeance to tour again.

3/7 - Blacklisted/The Rival Mob @ The Barbary (Philly, PA) - There's not much else you can ask for from Joe Hardcore and company. Philly locals, Blacklisted along with fast-growing Boston hardcore, The Rival Mob, who are blowing up bigger than most of their contemporaries.

3/14 - Reign Supreme/Mountain Man @ Championship Bar & Grill (Trenton, NJ) - Deathwish Inc metallic hardcore hailing from Philly alongside Massachusetts' Mountain Man, fresh off the release of their 10" LP, "One."

3/21 - Raw Nerve/Vaccine/SQRM @ 538 Johnson St. (Brooklyn, NY) - Record release show for Raw Nerve's forthcoming LP on Youth Attack Records, alongside labelmates SQRM. Throw in Vaccine, and you're sure to need a bottle of aspirin the morning after this one.

3/27 - Drunk Driver/Vile Gash/Aerosols/Neon Blud @ Market Hotel (Brooklyn, NY) - Another YA record release show for Vile Gash's new EP, as well as Drunk Driver's new LP on Load Records. Lightning fast, loud as hell Aerosols and Neon Blud (ex-Cult Ritual) round out the bill for a pretty heavy night.

4/6 - Death Threat/Death Before Dishonor/The Mongoloids @ The Barbary (Philly, PA) - Boston and New Jersey hardcore uniting for another banger in the Northern Liberties area. DBD are on the road constantly, and put together a heavy, high energy performance that's not to be missed.

4/21 - Mastodon/Between the Buried and Me/Baroness @ The Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ) - Metal explosion! I haven't seen BTBAM in such a long time, and after their last LP it seems like it might be time to relive their incredibly tight live show. Mastodon is sure to rage on for an hour or two, and while I don't like this venue, it might be just good enough to check out.

5/5 - As Tall As Lions @ World Cafe Live (Philly, PA) - Indie pop infused with electronic elements, ATAL is back on tour again after the release of their third record, You Can't Take It With You.

5/17 - Foundation/Backtrack/Rotting Out @ The Barbary (Philly, PA) - Basically the hardcore equivalent of the Monsters of Rock tour. Three of the best new bands, all from different corners of the country (Atlanta, Long Island, LA), joining forces for US tour that's better than nearly anything else out there.

5/19 - Foundation/Backtrack/Rotting Out/Mother of Mercy @ Stelton Church (Edison, NJ) - Yeah, this is intense enough to go see twice. Add in Wilkes-Barre's Mother of Mercy and you'll swear you dreamed this lineup.

5/21 - Capitalist Casualties @ Kung Fu Necktie (Philly, PA) - The influential grindy, crusty, political, pissed off punk group is back for a couple reunion shows. If the words "powerviolence" or "crust punk" mean anything to you, don't miss out on this one.

There's plenty of other shows out there, but this is enough to keep people busy almost every weekend until June. The tri-state scene is alive and well! More coming soon...