Author: Eric U. Norris

The Hip Priests
Black Denim Blitz
Self-Destructo Records
Street: 08.11.14
The Hip Priests = Nashville Pussy + Zeke + The Dictators

There are some things that can be said about The Hip Priests—a vile, sex-oriented, overall thick-skinned assemblage of raw rock ‘n roll just about sums it up. Lyrics like “I can smell you on my fingers ever since eagle rock slipping; on my alcohol blinkers strapping on my cocaine cock dipping!” (“Vodkacoma Casanova”) and “I’m a nasty little prick, but I’m writing all hits and you can’t get enough, because you’re dicks!” (“Good Things Come to Those Who Hate”) indicate that these guys were put on this planet to offend. Carried by rockabilly twang, the Hip Priests’ callous, lust-driven lyrics are placed upfront for everyone to gawk at and they don’t care what anyone thinks about them. For instance, “Survival of the Shittest” explains that if “you wanna kill ‘n desecrate us, you want to masturbate us.” Lewd, crude and uncouth, Hip Priests’ blunt lyrics will dissolve any empathy in your system. –Eric U. Norris

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Poison Idea
Confuse & Conquer
Southern Lord Recordings
Street: 04.07
Poison Idea = MDC + Reagan Youth + Disclose
 
As a band that helped shape the foundation of hardcore music and has since, for three decades, continually released raw, unnerving and discordant material that teeters between hardcore and heavy metal, expectations are in high regard. Poison Idea’s sound is loud, fast, abrasive hardcore that adopted the advantageous metal riffing that would be the inspiration for punk/metal hybrids. This album adheres to that crossbreed sound with the most notable tracks being “Bog,” “Trip Wire,” and “Rhythms of Insanity.” “Psychic Wedlock” and “Hypnotic” both offer more in terms of song structure and lyrical enterprise. “Dead Cowboy” stands alone, as this is when Jerry A. retires from his raucous barking of lyrics and traverses into Old Western–style vocals while the rest of the band plays some fitting bluegrass-style music. Overall, the album is classic Poison Idea—it’s loud, fast, in your face and doesn’t pull any punches. –Eric U. Norris 
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Don’t Trust Anybody
The 5 Degrees of Separation
Self-Released
Street: 07.08
Don’t Trust Anybody = Sick of It All + Speak Out + Warzone

Borders, religion, race, politics and money—according to these SLC hardcore icons, these are the five reasons (degrees) why there is no unity left on this planet. Through Greg Lefler’s punk-like vocals, Tyrone Koury’s blast beats and a homage to hardcore legends like Sick of It All and Cause For Alarm, their sound gives the illusion that the album was recorded in 1988. DTA rip apart society’s inhumanity by attaching these 14 tracks to each of the five degrees. The tracks that do so are “Red,” “We Want Blood” and Cause for Alarm’s “United Races”—with lyrics like “Go to school, get a job, work like a dog. Go to church, pray to god. Cast your vote, support a war. We want blood!” how can you not get caught up in wanting to watch the world burn?! –Eric U. Norris

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The Breakup Society
So Much Unhappiness, So Little Time…
Get Hip Recordings
Street: 12.28.12
Breakup Society = Bob Dylan + The Killers + The Saint Alvia Cartel – punk

I had no idea how to put this band into a certain genre—this album had a mixture between indie rock and pop/rock, with little sprinkles of this and that in the mix. The album has a ’60s-infused rock sound, very similar to that of The Beatles, on such songs like “The Upward Spiral” and “Your Invitation to Quit.” Then there are songs like “The Next Reunion” with a twist of ska and rock— it includes an upbeat rhythm from the guitar and some horns in the chorus. Most of their songs tended to be a lot more slow and calming, unlike “Here Comes Floyd” with its distorted power chords giving a little more ‘oomph’ to the album. A lot of the songs live up to the name of the album—mostly singing about heartbreak through a cynical, satirical sense of humor, which I dig along with the variety of sounds on this album. –Eric U. Norris

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Supermen

The Supermen
Back With A Gangbang

Self Destructo Records
Street: 06.09
The Supermen = The Murder Junkies + The Meatmen + Antiseen

The Supermen’s sound is about as crude and penetrative as whatever BDSM club they were possibly conceived in. They clearly are not here to impress anybody—they want to make sure their music is about as discomforting as a gang bang would be, and how do they succeed? Titles like “Blood, Honor, & Pussy,” “Girls Like Sperm,” and “Bad Reputation (For Deep Penetration)” are a few good places to start, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a song whose lyrics are based on Mike Tyson’s infamous trash talking—“I’ll Fuck You ‘Til You Love Me Faggot.” In case you couldn’t tell, the Supermen LOVE promiscuity. Their unquenchable thirst for misogyny is littered throughout this grimy LP—it’s definitely not for the most celibate of listeners. –Eric U. Norris

Hit Bargain
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 03.25
Hit Bargain = (early Plasmatics x Hüsker Dü) + The Dicks

When I think that I’ve seen everything that punk rock has to offer, along comes a band that slaps me across the face and reminds me of how much weirdness there is in this world that can transcended into art. Hit Bargain are one of those bands that, no matter what type of response they get—whether positive or negative—they will leave a lasting impression of “What the fuck did I just witness?” in any viewer’s head. A female-fronted band from Los Angeles that adopted the moniker of ‘queencore’ (a play on the queercore subgenre), Hit Bargain are destructive in their musical delivery and stimulating in their live performances, which center on a new dance that’s being called ‘queening.’ Queening is a dance in which frontwoman Nora Singh, who channels an aggressive stage presence that would rival that of any testosterone-fueled male singer, literally stands, jumps and stomps on top of a man’s stomach and face, inviting female-identifying members of the audience to come up and do the same. However, the act of queening is a win-win situation—the man whose face is getting stomped on is a fetishist who rather enjoys being on the receiving end of a female stomp party. You can see where the aforementioned impression of ‘what-the-fuck-edness’ comes from.

Conducting the wayward sounds of the first wave of American ’80s post-punk and old-school pre-hardcore of the ’70s, Hit Bargain manage to sound both nostalgic and progressive. Singh describes it as “simultaneously exploratory and nostalgic.” “The Circuits That Cannot Be Cut” sounds, at first, like a mid-2000s alternative rock song with a rock-style riff leading the cohesive instrumentation. Singh’s raucous vocals then break through the barrier of expectations and ensure that I am, in fact, listening to a punk band. “Song for Fainting” starts off fairly melodically and reverberated, giving a soothing, ambient feel, but shifts rather dramatically into more sinister riffing with shattering power chords while still resonating with some unsettling sensations. “Major System” is more dance-inducing, with a melodic guitar approach and the accompanying swing-style rhythm. During “Cheap Death,” Mike Stoltz’s bass- heavy sound, combined with some mischievous riffing, made me feel like I would explode at any minute. “No Body” moves a lot slower, but its headbanger-inducing riffs give the track character. “Queening” is the fastest track on the EP, with rapid rhythms and a rallying chorus channeling Singh’s feminist stance (“Perfection! Power! Wealth! Fear!”) that will incite any listener (such as myself) to heed to the fire burning in their stomachs.

Hit Bargain are unlike anything I’ve heard before—they are definitely deserving of the genre ‘queencore,’ because I wouldn’t know what else to classify them as. They’ve taken the best parts of the sounds surrounding the American hardcore movement and injects them with enough womyn power that rivals that of the riot grrrl movement. That empowering aggression is then traversed through Singh’s highly unique and highly esoteric performance. They are a band that definitely isn’t for everyone. They’ve certainly caused a stir in the Los Angeles DIY scene, and for better or worse, they are turning quite a few heads—challenging the status quo and breaking down barriers into new dimensions. But that’s what punk rock is supposed to be, right? –Eric U. Norris

Discharge | End of Days | Nuclear Blast

Discharge
End Of Days

Nuclear Blast
Street: 04.29
Discharge = Charged GBH + Conflict + Subhumans + Motörhead

It’s election night and I’m watching in nail-biting agony as the votes stack up in favor of the walking hairpiece who has more feet in his mouth than a podophiliac. I cringe in malcontent at the thought of that crass clown becoming the next U.S. president. Instead of giving into my fear, I turn to the newest Discharge album and remember what many artists before and after them did in times of distress—turn their frustration into progression. I turn on the first song, and the opening thrash-style guitar riffing of “New World Order” rips through my eardrums. The D-Beat rhythms pulse through my muscles, and I start banging my head and don’t stop until the song is over. Suddenly, I feel slight relief in spite of the given circumstances.

Discharge are one of the most criminally underrated bands in punk rock. I don’t mean that they don’t get any recognition, but when talking about game changers in the punk-rock web, especially on the subject of the marriage of hardcore and metal, Discharge fall by the wayside to bands like DRI, Cro-Mags and Hatebreed. I would argue that without Discharge combining all the flourishing subgenres in the U.K. in the ’80s—including anarcho-punk, street punk, Oi! and crust punk—with the drum stylings of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and John Maher and categorized it as D-beat, we wouldn’t have the multiple waves of international street punk, the anarcho-punk renaissance, grindcore and powerviolence.

For about 40 years, Discharge have never lost steam with their intense, politically sanctioned lyrics and tightrope sound of metallic punk rock. Their first album in eight years is predicated to it. Tezz Roberts traded his spot behind the kit to take over on guitar, and his talent for pulsing out pummeling riffs is heavily instigated in “Killing Yourself to Live,” “Looking at Pictures of Genocide” and the title track. His hybrid style of crossover thrash and punk rock complement Dave Caution’s drumming perfectly, so it seems like a fair tradeoff.

Now fronting Discharge is Jeff “J.J.” Janiak, formerly of the U.K. thrash band Broken Bones—a fitting choice, as his vocals call back to Cal Morris from the days of See Nothing, Say Nothing, Do Nothing. Janiak’s grinding vocals shred through incredibly seasoned riffs with straightforward lyrics. Discharge have never strayed from telling it how they see it—by way of “Fuck you! You think shit is fine? It’s not! Here’s why!” Lyrics like, “There is no proof of terroristic government claims / The terror alert on high / Democracy spreads one missile at a time,” and “Seekers of the truth, gone without a trace / Hung drawn and quartered / An enemy of the state” and my personal favorite “Radiation, cancerous death, mustard gas / One sick mind becomes the reality of millions / Looking at pictures of genocide,” all paint grave images in your head to the point where it almost becomes unbearable.

In the face of this new, daunting “presidency” the lyrics from bands like Discharge are ever so relevant, now more than ever. There’s something in the grittiness of angry music that speaks to the primal animosity inside of us, and with any hope, it inspires an entire groundswell of pissed-off musicians and lyricists to channel that rage into a much-needed battering ram of provocative music. That is, at least, one good thing to look forward to in the next four years. —Eric U. Norris

Eyes of Andromeda | Self-titled | Ocean Eyes Records

Eyes of Andromeda
Self-titled

Ocean Eyes Records
Street: 10.31.16
Eyes of Andromeda = early Between the Buried and Me + The Faceless

Most neo-prog rock/metal bands I’ve listened to sound like they’re trying to be the next Dream Theater or Coheed & Cambria, and even the prog-death greats like Opeth and Between the Buried and Me have moved more toward cleaner vocals and guitar harmonies for a more polished sound. Not that the music is bad—there’s a lot of talent and thought that goes into these songs, but they must be musically interesting to hold my attention for such an extensive timespan. Progressive rock or metal must have the ability to draw in listeners and keep them there for as long as it’s needed. For me, prog shines the most when the technical enhancements don’t overshadow the power and passion of the musicians themselves. If there’s too much emphasis on showing off technical capabilities, the feeling often gets lost in the onslaught of notes and effects. However, if done right, those technical tidbits can not only enhance sound but also the feeling of the music.

Eyes of Andromeda’s self-titled EP is an example of all these elements blending together seamlessly. The first track, “Psalm of Enceladus 1,” starts mellowly with its piano intro but gets shoved aside by a warning siren, which indicates that something torrential is about to happen. There’s a brief pause, and a computerized voice states, “Transmission established,” and it’s followed directly by the guttural growls of Haydon Anderson and some pummeling, beatdown style riffs with accurately placed, atonal guitar harmonies. It ends with the same piano melody that opened the track as it steers steadily into the song’s second act. “Psalm of Enceladus 2 (Re-Entry).” It begins with more chugging riffs but transitions into slower and more melodic areas. “Where Light and Lack are Stretched Forever” has some incredibly precise dual guitar harmonies reminiscent of old-school heavy metal, which holds the song together between more breakdown riffs. “1.7 Million Years” is completely instrumental and is the proverbial breather of the album. It stays to a more laid-back sound before it builds into “Black Knight Satellite,” their near eight-and-a-half-minute opus that ties all of their musical elements together.

Eyes of Andromeda manage to create a heavy, melodic and well-focused EP. It includes some intense prog metal that I thoroughly enjoyed, and the songs, thankfully, didn’t feel too long, given my somewhat short attention span. My only qualm is that they don’t share their lyrics on their Bandcamp page, which bums me out, given that Anderson’s vocals aren’t always decipherable, and with songs telling a cohesive story throughout, I’d like to know what the lyrics are. Oh, well—for now, I have the music to keep me hooked. –Eric U. Norris

Skeletonwitch | Devouring Radiant Light | Prosthetic Records

Skeletonwitch
Devouring Radiant Light

Prosthetic Records
Street: 07.20
Skeletonwitch = Toxic Holocaust + (Goatwhore x At The Gates)

As one of this millennium’s biggest metal exports, Skeletonwitch have dominated the scene with their supercharged, riff-heavy, whiplash-inducing, melodic, thrashy, blackened death metal. Now, with their seventh album, Devouring Radiant Light, and the debut of their new singer, Adam Clemans, they continue down through the abyss while adding different nuances in their songwriting.

Noticeably different on the record is the time-lengths of each song—tracks on their previous records would range from 2–3 minutes: on Devouring Radiant Light, song lengths are nearly tripled. The opening track, “Fen of Shadows,” is near eight minutes long and layered with more elaborate arrangements and shifts. This sets up the album’s more progressive nature. They’ve significantly brought the tempo down a few BPMs, but that doesn’t always necessarily establish the album as any less heavy. What really makes metal music sound so substantial is the setup and payoff between segments, and that seems to be Skeletonwitch’s game plan with this album.

They also delve deep into their melodic death metal influences and lay on some NWOBHM flair to some tracks. The opening riff of “When Paradise Fades” is highly evocative of classic Iron Maiden, and when Clemans begins singing, it sounds like they’re covering “2 Minutes to Midnight.” It does, however, shift into a more atonal realm with guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick working off of each other to create some dissonant riffs with plenty of blast beats to go around, before pulling it back to the Maiden sound again.

These guys weren’t fucking around with the more dynamic songwriting approach when it came to the title track—the song takes its time to set up, creating a very intense atmosphere, and does not fail on its delivery, contextualized with swaying guitar harmonies and drum beats to match. “The Vault” takes it to the next level—each segment flows so seamlessly that you don’t even notice that eight minutes have passed. “Carnarium Eternal” brings it back to classic Skeletonwitch with driving, thrashing riffs hammering with persistent ferocity for over three minutes, showcasing that even through the refinement of their sound, they have not lost their edge.

Devouring Radiant Light is best explained as the next step in the band’s musical development—it’s different, but doesn’t deter too far from their original sound. There are plenty of riffs that you can throw yourself around to on this album, but it also lulls you in and warms you up before blasting you with its rampage, unlike their previous records, which threw you right into the fire from the get-go. It’s like comparing horror movies—you can overload it with as many jump-scares as you want until it eventually gets predictable, but if you let the atmosphere set in and allow your audience to settle down, it makes it easier to catch them off-guard. Nothing sounds forced on this album, and it’s refreshing to hear the new elements they’re experimenting with. As Skeletonwitch have descended deeper into the depths of their musical capabilities, I believe that they’ve delivered their darkest, murkiest and heaviest album to date. –Eric U. Norris

Various Artists
Almost Live
Junction City Records
Street: 09.19.14
Junction City Bands = Descendents + (Rancid x Operation Ivy) + (Sonic Youth x Black Flag’s The Process of Weeding Out)

I have to admit, when I think of Ogden, Utah, the term “music capital” doesn’t exactly come to mind. However, underground indie label Junction City Records has promoted some pretty diverse and badass bands from Ogden’s so-called “underbelly.” Jail City Rockers and The Dirt Nappers hit the speakers with three-part harmonies thrown in with some rockabilly twang, making them the most danceable bands on the disc. Hi-Fi Murder and Tainted Halos call back to the ’80s with heavier riffs, faster tempos and more raucous vocals. Fried Arm’s sound supplements the use of distorted vocals and atonal guitar riffs, emoting a mix of post-punk and garage rock. We end with the dance-inducing rhythms of The Two-Bit Band, whose blend of two-tone ska and punk rock gives listeners one last chance to “get their skank on.” With such an array of punk rock subgenres, this compilation does justice to Ogden’s underground music scene. –Eric U. Norris

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