It’s tickled me recently to see old-time straightedgers – a little larger round the middle, their moral code a little frayed at the edges perhaps, but still cranking it out – They’ve all been at it; Y.O.T, Chain Of Strength, Gorilla Biscuits, & 7 Seconds to name a few of the crew. So it’s heartening to see great releases of the quality of this EP from On Point still bursting out from the positive pores of the hooded youth….
..but the draw won. Having decided to call time on their sub-strata shit stained sludge assault, menacing downtempomongers Dopefight have bowed out with a gesture of immense benevolence.
Namely what was to be the follow up long player to the fabulous Buds is now available on bandcamp for free! With it being the demo-intended-to-be-released album it has a great raw clattering sound and it is chock full of pulsing riffs and winding tempo changes – It’s too good to miss out on. [Real shame we’ll never find out what exactly “Nethanderal” means……]
How auspicious. 5th October, I am informed by the BBC, was the date of the first Beatles show in Liverpool 50 years ago. And DeHud has procured tickets for us to see Canadian prog-punk legends NmN on the same date, in the city that started it all – Liverpool! Sounds too good to be true, don’t it? Well, it nearly was.
I managed to get sent to North London by work on the Friday. As my hopes of an early departure began to slowly fade away, I started to consider the very real possibility that I was not going to make the 200 odd mile journey in time. The minute I had finished, I was hot-tailing it to the car, then frustratedly picking my way through the slow London traffic, finally on to the motorways which by this time were filling up nicely with Friday afternoon congestion. The M1 was flowing nicely, until after about an hour the warning signs began flashing. I must have spent nearly an hour in tooth grindingly slow traffic, all the time watching the sat nav as the predicted arrival time moved later and later. Finally, after some four hours of motorway misery, I was pulling up outside DeHud’s house, ready to drop my bags, get changed and run for the train. 8.30 saw us both walking thirstily out of the entrance to Liverpool Central rail station – and into a great pub called the Old Post Office where we both demolished two pints of Stella in the time it took to say ‘Two pints of Stella’.
We arrived at the venue, known as the Kazimer, just as the support band had shuffled off. As we stocked up on German lager at the thronging bar, the familiar grey hair of the Wright brothers was visible from the stage – Rob in a bright green NmN t-shirt, John in a ‘Mom loves me best’ t-shirt. It was not long until the band, completed by Tom Holliston on guitar, took their places and the show began.
Now one of the first articles I posted on the web based Rip It Up was a review, from back in April this year, of the Hanson Brothers show in Leeds. You probably know that the Hansons are a side project for the members of NoMeansNo – that show was a classic so we had high hopes tonight, having discussed that the last time we saw the band was way back in ’91, at the legendary Duchess of York in Leeds.
The audience was interesting. As we stood at the back, we were reassured by the amount of greying hair, bald patches and general signs of age that we could see. The band has been doing its thing since before Lennon was shot, so you have to expect a maturing audience!
Songs both new and old were given an airing. One of my more recent faves, ‘Old’, was sadly not among them, but we did get amongst others ‘Jubilation’ from the same ep, as well as a lot of older material. The dynamic of the band is all based around Rob – at 58 the eldest member by some years. Although Tom is a more than competent guitarist, he was all but blocked out by the fantastic sound of Wright’s Fender Precision Bass. NmN are a bass-driven band, make no mistake. And man, can Rob play that bass. A couple of times, older songs turned into full blown jams as the three of them traded licks – it was almost akin to seeing a particularly raucous jazz band on stage as the chords and notes boomed out of the bass cabs.
As I mentioned, there was a clear line of demarcation between the two elements of the audience – the older crowd, content to nod and occasionally sing along, and the youngsters who made up the pit down the front. A couple of tiresome drunken assholes launched themselves time after time off the stage, often directly in front of Wright himself – until he had enough and quite impressively pushed the idiot in question off the stage and on to the floor. Bloody youngsters!
The show went on – the band treated us to almost two hours of great material with a sound and volume that was almost perfect – clear as a bell and just the right level of volume and power. They returned to do a couple of encores, and then, the end! I could have enjoyed another couple of hours of the back catalogue, but the guys had to be off to Leeds for last night’s show, the final one of the tour. Come back soon guys…
I’m dismayed to see that my go-to punk podcast, Via the-a-hole, has disappeared, well , up it’s own a-hole – it seems for good, after 80 mighty episodes. I loved it’s no-talking, no-nonsense, delightfully scattergun approach, creating a 20 minute monthly punk jukebox from a truly diverse collection – epitomised by the face smashingly stunning final track…:
Think about the most punk record you ever heard. I mean, not the heaviest, or the fastest, or the band with the biggest mohawks, but the most all-out, fuck you punk rock sounds you could imagine. Got one yet? Here’s a starter – ‘What we do is secret’ by The Germs. Another one? ‘The Number One’ by Poison Idea. But there are loads. Anyway, you go and make up your own list – I want to tell you about a label which has a few punk rock gems lurking on it – the label in question being Deranged Records from Canada.
Let’s not beat about the bush here – let’s get right down to business. Starting with recent release [8th September 2012] ‘Fuck you Forever’ by Brain Tumours. This is just fabulous – full on, all out punk rock in which the band members can barely keep up with each other, such is their level of pissed-offness. This is a six track ep which boasts only one song clocking in at over two minutes – like a furious version of The Ergs. Just get this – pure punk up your ass!
Ok, keeping up the pace is the eponymous ep by Total Trash – which sounds like it was recorded in somebody’s smoky bedsit with the drummer playing Huntley and Palmer biscuit tins and the guitar sounds as if it is played via a transistor radio, Barely discernible vocals complete the picture – the two tracks available here, ‘Josef K/Opiates’ and ‘Hollow Eyes/The Last Man’ sound a bit like early Extreme Noise Terror crossed with early Stupids in a bizzarre wrestling match at Murrayside Youth Club. These guys are playing punk by rules that nobody has got round to inventing yet!!!! All I can say is, this is utterly, utterly wonderful.
Next, and perhaps most notably because of the fact that there are 28 tracks on the album, is a release by Sweden’s D.S -13, entitled ‘Vad vet vi om Kriget?’ What can I say? I’m running out of superlatives as I sit here at the Mac with a massive grin on my face – this is just bloody great! Never has a label been more appropriately named. All-out, barely controlled thrashy punk in the good old Swedish tradition. Just play it ok? Yes, all 28 tracks! Loud!
Finally, and again released early September, ‘Criminal Code’ by Criminal Code, who I believe hail from Tacoma. Basic, tightly played punk rock with chiming, almost Killing Joke style guitaring singes the listener’s ears, yet at the same time pleases. Cracking stuff again. I just implore you to spend some time stocking up on Deranged! releases…..you heard it here first!
I always enjoy the regular updates from this German label, usually featuring a flurry of new releases from their heavily varied roster – Spanish straightedge, German anarcho, odd concept albums from English Psych bands based on the Watershipdown novel – and a band with just a circle for a name. Really worth checking them out on bandcamp and at their store…
…and to finish with – Borderlines are, as I’m sure many of you all know, are the left overs – um – from The Leftovers! Couple of great tunes….;
Back in May, Rip It Up alerted you to the fact that Mage were an original sounding band hailing from DeHud’s spiritual home, Leicester. I have recently been chewing the fat, internet style, with the band’s guitarist, Ben, about their new album ‘Black Sands’, which is due out soon. If you don’t know, Mage are a 5-piece band comprising Ben – Guitar, Andy – Drums, Tom – Vocals, Mark – Bass and Woody – Guitar. With admirable frankness, they describe themselves as “we’re basically five guys who’ve been around in a variety of bands over the years, brought together by a shared love of “THEE RIFF” and a desire to jam and see what happens.” My senses were alerted to them when I picked up on the self titled ep, released on the excellent Witch Hunter Records. Combing heaviness, riffage and a mixture of doom, metal and a splash of hardcore, I was intrigued.
So here is a taster and a short interview with Ben about the band and how they work.
I started by asking Ben a bit about how the first ep had been received and how the band had formed.
“I think the overwhelming response we got from the self titled EP was that people really enjoyed it, but wanted more, it was a scant 15 minute run time as we were sort of limited by budget and time constraints at the time so our first release had to be an EP really. We hadn’t been together long as a full five piece as when we first started it was just myself, Andy on the drums and Mark on the bass having a jam as we were sort of in between bands at the time, so we wrote some tracks together as we were trying to acquire a vocalist, Tom came along as a mutual friend of myself and Mark and we clicked straightaway, so we carried on writing with added vocals but something was still missing. That’s when Woody entered the scene, he knew Mark and again, it just clicked right away. The first EP was sort of written by three different lineups really with a definite focus on being a Stoner/Doom band Initial riffs and whatnot were done as a three piece instrumental, which then changed as Tom joined the fold and changed again to accommodate Woody on guitar.”
Ben continued by telling me a little about the style and influences of the band.
“The new material on Black Sands has been written as a solid unit, a full band, everyone bringing something to the table, and adds a lot more of our shared and individual influences. We have a shared love of the whole Stoner and Doom thing, Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Fu Manchu etc. but there’s a whole lot more there too and I think it shows in the new material. To use a clumsy cooking analogy Stoner/Doom is the base but we garnish with bits of Thrash, traditional Metal, Hardcore elements and a dash of whatever takes our fancy really. It wasn’t really a conscious effort, it’s just how the songs grew organically really, I’ve slipped into a clumsy gardening analogy now… Basically, we’re not constricted by genre “rules” and have no problem throwing in a galloping Maiden-esque section, a chugging Hardcore breakdown or any manner of other stuff that tickles our fancy.”
The new album’s teaser tracks show a cracking production, and a maturity in the song structures. I asked Ben to explain the way they go about songwriting.
“Our song writing process is pretty much exclusively jam based, we get together, plug in, stand around scratching our heads for a bit, then (all being well) inspiration will strike one of us, a riff will start and we all pile in and hammer away at it as a unit and see what happens. We have one of those handy little digital recorder things so can get stuff down at practice/jam sessions pretty easily as a bit of a rough sketch. It’s usually a good indicator that you’ve got something that “works” if you find yourself humming the riff you just wrote on the drive home or the next morning, there’s a lot to be said about a catchy riff, think of the famous Sabbath songs, catchy, direct riffs, but still heavy as hell, I think that’s what we strive for deep down.
After we’ve got a basic structure together, or at least a couple of riffs that feel right together we start to put it together, at first, in a traditional intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus type of structure, record that and Tom works on the lyrics and vocals. Once there’s a bit more of a song there that’s when we mess with it, lengthen a section here and there, throw in a fast bit, make room for a solo etc. and we all contribute to that process, it’s very much a group effort which is why I think the Black Sands material has that variety of influence but it still grooves along and works as a solid album, it’s not just disparate elements welded together for the sake of it.”
So which bands have influenced Mage, both generally and in terms of the new album? I’d say the ubiquitous Sabbath, CoC, a little bit of early ish Metallica and a flavour of Fu Manchu fer sure?
“Our influences are all over the place really really, we have a shared base of: Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Clutch, High On Fire, Karma To Burn, Corrosion Of Conformity, Goatsnake and all the usual suspects, but individually we take inspiration from a variety of all the different flavours of Metal and beyond: Mastodon, Anthrax, Hatebreed, Lamb Of God, Metallica, Carcass, Entombed, Slayer, Iron Monkey, Helmet, Primus, Rush, KISS, Foghat, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Maiden, Napalm Death, Cream, and all sorts of stuff in between.”
Rounding off, I asked Ben to explain the process of writing, recording and releasing the new album – which must be a fraught process I’m guessing….
“It’s been quite hard work getting Black Sands to a finished state, our initial plans were to write through the Autumn/Winter of 2011 and record sometime around March 2012. Which didn’t quite work out, we had a few gigs which set back the writing process as the scant time we could get together was spent running the set instead of writing so the plans kinda slipped to recording around May time, which again slipped, and we ended up hitting the studio in late July for 2 days and then doing half a day in August to finish off. Again, budget and time constraints meant that we had to focus on getting things as tight as possible before hitting the studio to maximise what we could achieve.
Our recording process runs a bit like this: full band in the same room together plays the song live (this is used as the base of the track and keeps a live feel and groove), myself and Woody overdub an extra guitar each at the same time, Woody overdubs any solos as required, Tom does a first vocal pass, then a second vocal pass, mix it all together and you’re sorted. Which sounds kinda easy, but fitting 10 songs of that process into 16 hours and leaving time for mixing etc. was GRUELING, hence us going back for half a day in August to finish up.
How do you feel about the end result though?
We’re all really pleased with the end result though, it captures what we’re all about and adds some funky studio based bells and whistles to bring it to the next level. I’m personally very proud of what we’ve achieved with such limited funds and time, there’s always gonna be niggles and bits that you think “ohhhhh, I wish I could re-do that little bit”, but at the end of the day you have to draw a line and say enough is enough, and you have to realise that these bits that you may personally obsess over won’t matter a damn to 99% of the people who listen to it.
It’s hard to separate yourself as a musician and a listener at times especially when it’s something you’ve written, played hundreds of times and know inside out. It’d be nice to be able to hear it as a “punter” hears it rather than thinking “oh no, I bent that note a fraction more than I usually do” or whatever. But once you accept that it’s never gonna be flawless, and just stick it on in the car or at home and turn it up real loud it feels great knowing that you had a hand in creating that.”
So when can we expect the album on the streets?
“The masters are away for duplication and print now and we should have the final product in our hands early October. The rest of the tracks will trickle onto the Bandcamp page at some point before then and I’m sure we’ll have an online source for purchasing a physical copy at some point too.”
Cheers to Ben and the guys – and check out the preview tracks below – we’ll let you know when the album is available.
I happened upon the Bandcamp site of the excellent A389 Recordings recently while checking out a couple of upcoming releases [EyeHateGod and Weekend Nachos since you ask]. I was checking out the wares when I clicked ‘play’ on this taster for ILSA’s upcoming  double 12″. It follows their OTHER forthcoming release, ‘Intoxications’ which is due in November this year, following their acclaimed split with Finland’s Hooded Menace, of whom I posted earlier.
This is good, heavy, slow, chugging Amebix/Antisect/Winter/Discharge style hardcore. It takes me wandering back to the days of crust when I would find some obscure Antisect release with its inevitable black/white cover glinting seductively at me. That fantastic, chug-along guitar riffing is all over this. The slow, complex time signatures so beloved of the old UK crust bands is faithfully reproduced as well. ‘Intoxications’ is a ten tracker which sees basic crust get mixed with a dose of doom to produce a thoroughly 21st century snakebite of rough cider mixed with – uh – alcopops!
My only criticisms when I first heard this were that the vocalist tends towards the ‘shouty’ – the kind of style a lot of the contemporary New York ‘tough guy’ bands display. But then, crust always had a place for a good old gravel-voiced throat ripping vocal style, and after a coupla listens I think it fits. These tracks just kick right off like a bar room brawl, and then they lurch along like ‘Hear Nothing’ era Discharge – Bones, Tez and Gary would be proud of these boys!
So, although breaking very little new ground really, ILSA have at the same time provided us with some really cracking, angry, dark crust punk which is well worth trading your Doom patch or your old bullet belt for.
If I ever get my Deviated Instinct interview back, then ILSA will be the next ones on the list for some questions!
Note – play it loud!
Earlier in the year, we raved about the quality and quantity of doom that was emanating from Poland – bands such as Major Kong, Dopelord, Belzebong to name but three. Well the talk on the more doom-influenced blogs out there is that Finland is on fire as far as slow, heavy doom is concerned! I can kind of understand why this style is popular up there, it being generally speaking cold, dark and windy with the added inconvenience of a beer costing as much as a small house. Add these problems together and they multiply out of control, until you are left with the reasons why Hooded Menace were probably formed.
Now this is fully at the ‘metal’ end of the doom spectrum, which is not really the territory in which I feel most comfortable, my superb and honed punk sensibilities making me feel uneasy where white face paint, the iconography of death and funerals is concerned. But this slab is a really ripping mass of down tuned heaviness that bludgeons you into submission with every beat of the drums. Recalling late 80s and early 90s proto-doom with death-grunted vocals like Cathedral, for example, Hooded Menace carve out an epic, monolithic collection of deep, impenetrable riffs and a grey fog of cold, bleak doom. Chugging guitars twist the smoke that seeps out of the speakers, while the relentless drums shatter your bones and the vocals suck the life out of anybody in hearing distance, replacing it with emptiness and despair. Nice!
Hooded Menace, which emphatically does not seem to be a lament about the hordes of young boys roaming our streets with their Nike trainers and faces hidden by the hoods on their JJB Sports sweatshirts, have delivered an album which extends to eight tracks, not especially long but all harrowing in their own way. This is a slab of doom that you might wish to chuck on the stereo at considerable volume following the loss of a job/girlfriend/home/dog – it will almost certainily cast you into a swirling pit of despair from which you will only emerge a better, wiser man [or wo-man].
Yet again I start a post with the ubiquitous ‘way back when’ theme! Jeez, it must be like reading the ramblings of some old check shirted, false teeth in a jar grandpa sitting on his rocking chair on the porch, recalling fond memories of losing brothers and sisters to TB, the joy of cold baths in front of the fire and the great depression! But hey, I am what I am, and I’m a product of my time. So as I was saying, back in the day [the ninetys today, as opposed to the 80s for once], one of the bands commonly exposed to us avid MRR readers was Samiam. Formed in the late 80s from the ashes of those Gilman Street regulars Isocracy, the band went through a cast of thousands in terms of members, and after a lengthy lay off started touring again a couple of years ago.
After this, they released a cracking new album, Trips, in 2011, and this set of demos from their earlier years has just come out – which makes me all nostalgic for the whole Lookout! period way back then! See how far they have progressed.