Author: Peter Fryer

Baptists
Bloodlines
Southern Lord
Street: 10.14
Baptists = Converge + Disfear + All Pigs Must Die

Baptists are back with their sophomore release, which follows their debut by less than two years. The current album cycle for bands seems to be accelerated and can unfortunately cause otherwise solid bands to drop mediocre albums. While not a genre buster, Baptists’ 2013 debut Bushcraft was a blazing slab of D-beat hardcore that had some ear-grabbing drumming and guitar work. It’s unfortunate, then, that Bloodlines is so ordinary. If there is such a thing as a by-the-numbers, Kurt Ballou–produced, D-beat, metallic hardcore record, Baptists have written it. I can’t help but feel that such a short time between albums is partially at fault. Playing more closely to genre expectation and dropping the elements that made pieces of their debut stand out has neutered their potential, making an angry hardcore record that only warrants a shrug. Hopefully, Baptists take more time before they release number three. –Peter Fryer

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Seeker
Unloved
Victory Records
Street: 10.29
Seeker = Blood Has Been Shed + Gojira + The Faceless
If nothing else, Seeker deserve credit for the sheer number of notes and syncopated rhythms they fit into a 28-minute album. Knee-jerk reaction would lump these guys in with the somehow-still-prevalent deathcore genre, but Unloved lacks the breakdowns and the tech-noodling. What they do play is ferocious, syncopated rhythms where guitars serve as another percussive instrument, punctuated by slow interludes of open strumming. Seeker either are your thing or they aren’t, and for some reason, it feels like a record that would have dropped in the early 2000s. Credit goes to these guys for playing some harsh rhythms, but a constant pummeling, even for a brief 28 minutes, is fatiguing and causes the mind to wander—much in the same way a 20-minute doom metal epic can drag. It’s all sprint with Seeker, and it burns bright and fast, but can’t sustain for even its short running time. –Peter Fryer
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NAILS
You Will Never Be One of Us

Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.17
NAILS = Pig Destroyer + Weekend Nachos + Die My Will

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” –Mark Twain.

This quote is the perfect descriptor for NAILS, in that NAILS is writing the short letter. It’s as if, when writing any record, they compress all of their rage, fury and musical ideas to their core, leaving only blasting, sub-one-minute diamonds through their effort. There’s no fat—no meandering. No album of theirs has topped 25 minutes to my knowledge, and this is still true on You Will Never Be One of Us. This distillation and obvious self-editing makes what could be an otherwise exhausting listen stay vital. It also points to a band that is meticulous in crafting every aspect of what they’re putting to tape. There are no jazz odysseys to be found here.

That’s not to say that everything on You Will Never Be One of Us works. With this being their third album, NAILS have a specific formula that they follow, and they’re sticking to it. This can cause some of the tracks to bleed into one another, with differentiation becoming more difficult. Fortunately, well-timed tempo shifts mostly divert that issue.

Few bands have as many bangers that make youwant to crack skulls as does NAILS. Breakdowns became a joke in the aughts with the proliferation of deathcore and metalcore, but we are over a decade past that deluge now, and it’s time for double-time neck breakers to be done tastefully—and NAILS never fail. “Violence is Forever,” in particular, has a groove that harkens back to the days of the heaviness found on Pin Drop records, and it hits hard.

The album title and title track are as subtle a thesis as their band name would imply. NAILS are one of the few bands whose anger fully translates into their music. Through watching their video for “You Will Never Be One of Us,” I gathered that the samples in the intro to the album are recordings of elder statesmen of metal/hardcore/punk espousing this sentiment. John Baizely (Baroness) and Jacob Bannon (Converge), among others, are sampled, informing those who wish to squeeze personal gain from this underground scene that they are unwelcome: “You will never be one of us.” It’s a bold statement, particularly in the current climate of discussions about the underground as a welcoming place for all. But it’s also an important statement. In a time where everything seems to be a commodity bought and sold and boosted on Facebook, the underground is still fighting to maintain its authenticity. Whether that’s possible is for a different time, but what’s true is that NAILS and their ilk want people to know that they will fight for their passion, that this isn’t a cash grab or a scene to be strip-mined.

My only complaint is in the production. Kurt Ballou coaxes huge sounds out of the instruments he’s producing, but the recording is mastered so loudly that guitars fade into white noise, and overall, everything sits focused in the center, aurally. There are fast-moving riffs all over this record, but I have no idea what they are because they’re lost in the din of loud, louder, loudest. Maybe that’s what they’re going for—an all-out assault—and to that end, they’ve succeeded. But, if you’re going to clearly put the time in to write the heaviest of the heaviest, you should want people to know. –Peter Fryer

Shit Dogma | 2019 EP | Self-Released

Shit Dogma
2019 EP

Self-released
Street: 02.26
Shit Dogma = Man is the Bastard + Discharge

Some music is made for dingy basements, DIY venues with overflowing toilets and playing until the cops show up. Shit Dogma drive squarely in that lane with their dirty brand of D-beat hardcore. Drums, bass, vocals—that’s it. I’ve always had a soft spot for bands with a strong bass element (whether it’s the sole instrument or prominently featured). For Shit Dogma, the bass-forward, guitar-less approach really works. By stripping away guitar, there is nowhere for any of the elements to hide. Andy Patterson’s Boars Nest recording is a great choice for this crew, and you really get a sense of what each instrument is doing. Riffs and the motion of songs need to be carried by these sole two instruments, which lends an element of sitting in on a fierce jam session.

This EP also provides a refreshing political take. It may not be earth-shattering in the punk/hardcore space, but it serves such an important purpose of keeping that flame alive. When you’re 16 and discovering that there is more to music than what civilians listen to, bands like Shit Dogma are so important. Sure, you can do your history and check out any number of older bands, but if you want to experience it here—and now—and vital, where do you turn? You show up at that DIY venue and check out a Shit Dogma set, that’s what you do.

Additionally, something weird has been happening these days with all political discourse inevitably coming back to mainstream points and argument. Soapbox moment here: I feel that it’s a direct result of our constant confirmation bias, which is much easier fed in 2019 than it was 20 years ago. Shit Dogma are here to remind us that, hey, there are viewpoints that exist wildly outside of our, ahem, dogmatic corners. This is invigorating, as underground music always needs its bomb throwers, challengers and general miscreants. –Peter Fryer

Punch – They Don’t Have to Believe

Punch
They Don’t Have to Believe
Deathwish Inc.
Street: 08.19
Punch = Vitamin X + What Happens Next? + Suspect

There could be no better name for this band. Punch plays fastcore with amps pegged as high as they will go, and singer Meghan O’Neil returns the hollow descriptor of throat-shredding back to its original intent. This album is lean and intense—apparently recorded live straight to tape, which is the ideal way for something this visceral to be captured. With feminism, the war on women and rape culture in the national dialogue, O’Neil’s enraged hardcore perspective is an essential part of the conversation. The refrain in “Worth More than Your Opinion” saying, “Your unwanted opinion is worthless, but not harmless” is an impeccable distillation of everything wrong with the male gaze, and is sorely needed in aggressive music. Musically, Punch plays fast and hard with the expected breakdowns and sing-a-longs. The album can bleed together during its brief 20 minutes, but that’s a minor gripe in contrast to how fierce it is.
–Peter Fryer

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Drugs of Faith
Architectural Failures
Malokul Records
Street: 11.12
Drugs of Faith = Dead in the Dirt + Jawbox + Pig Destroyer
If any genre should be bulletproof to experimentation and expansion, it’s grindcore, but in 2013, strong releases by Call of the Void and Beaten to Death have challenged this notion, and Drugs of Faith are right alongside them. Blast beats provide emphasis rather than a machinegun dominance, which all too often subverts impact for love of speed, allowing these songs to stretch out. The vocal delivery is crucial to Drugs of Faith’s formula, with singer/guitarist Richard Johnson (Agoraphobic Nosebleed) airing his grievances in a post-hardcore style that is immediately intelligible. The area where Johnson and crew don’t stray from the grind path is in subject
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Yeti
Wasteland

Self-Released
Street: 05.20
Yeti = Pelican + Black Sabbath + Daylight Dies

Yeti are a band that jovially describe themselves as “Just some good ol’ dudes playin’ some heavy metal!” There is a refreshing absence of inverted crosses and Baphomets on their social media profiles, and the music is equally derivative of their outlook. The EP’s cover doesn’t make this apparent at first. It depicts an American family going in the kitchen about their business, while adorned with gas masks amid a mushroom cloud visible through the window, which made me think that this was going to be something in the neighborhood of Dystopia or Final Conflict. Instead, the music is Pelican and Daylight Dies, filtered through a Black Sabbath lens.

While only four tracks in length, the EP runs for 26 minutes, and it’s clear that Yeti are having fun playing. There are some quality riffs found throughout that got my head bopping on multiple occasions, and even though the songs are long, they don’t meander. Yeti know how to effectively repeat the riff. They don’t beat them into the ground, though, letting them hang around just long enough to be memorable. I don’t know why so many bands are content playing an excellent riff for four bars only to never return to it. Fortunately, Yeti don’t skip around—they let ’em ride.

If there’s a fault to point out with Wasteland, it’s tempo. “Warpath” opens the album with a solitary guitar riffing away, and unfortunately, its tempo wavers. It was at that point that I started to notice there were some inconsistencies in tempo throughout Wasteland. Although the drumming is fitting, it seems to be just a click behind the beat throughout the EP with some fills being subtly fumbled. Drumming doesn’t have to be pushing the tempo, and for Yeti, a laid-back beat is appropriate—they just cross over into being off-rhythm at certain points. Tempo issues aside, it’s during “Warpath” that the first head-bobbing riff launches at 3:55, and it’s awesome.

If Yeti can tighten the tempo up, they’ll have it locked down, and I have no doubt this is a blast live. –Peter Fryer

Torche | Admission | Relapse Records

Torche
Admission

Relapse Records
Street: 07.12
TORCHE = Floor + Hum + Sleep

Three cheers for a band with a SOUND. What does Torche sound like? Torche sounds like Torche. Sure, they have aural reference points—there’s some ’00s Hydrahead in there (appropriately, they were signed to that once-indomitable label), there’s some stoner, there’s some indie, and that ever present “FLOOR note.” But, when it comes out of the riff blender, it’s a sound all their own.

Their latest, Admission, lands somewhere between the upbeat vibes of Harmonicraft, and the slower Restarter. Gone for some time are the vestiges of their ’00s transition from a heavier, more abrasive band, to that surprisingly uplifting but heavy style they went all-in on with Harmonicraft. However, where Harmonicraft leaned hard into melodic stylings, the heavier riffs that were more present on Restarter continue to be found on Admission. This next evolution is that Torche built a more layered wall of sound on Admission. There is a sense of “more” on this record. More layered guitars, more parts dropping in and out, more extended riffs.

Much about Admission is more suited for head bobbing metal crowds than previous efforts. Where Admission shines is the band’s growth in the area of layering additional sounds on top of their riffs. The riffs this time around continue to be repetitive. The tab for parts of some songs would probably look something like 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 for 16 bars straight. But, as with all good stoner influenced music, in the places where it works, the repetition isn’t monotonous, nor grating, but rather serves as an anchor point. When additional guitars settle in on top, or a note or two change further down the line, you take notice. “Reminder” plays with this form excellently—the harmonics at 1:49 break the riff that preceded it for the entirety of the song. They don’t return either, it’s a simple three seconds of music which would lack any impact were the preceding minute and forty-nine seconds not a repetition.

There are still plenty of earworms creeping around Admission, with the title track being a song that would could have easily been played on ’90s alternative radio. That is the strength of Torche, by breaking up their riff-heavy tunes with their more melodic side, their albums flow and create a sense of motion.

While mostly successful, Torche doesn’t bat a thousand in the riff department, with some tracks falling prey to the monotony trap. Torche is best when they are layering additional influences within their riff-o-rama. “Infierno” is heavy, but drags. Fortunately, the album ends with “Changes Come” a Torche jam, by way of ’90s bands like Hum, that works musical territory not unfamiliar to Torche, but impressively fresh in 2019. There is a wall of sound to the track which brings an emotional underpinning to the music which leaves you both chilled out and just a little bit sad—like wistfully remembering summers of your youth. –Peter Fryer


More on SLUGMag.com:

Review: Torche – Restarter
Torche Song Trilogy: Drummer Rick Smith is Homeless and Happy

Today is the Day
Animal Mother
Southern Lord
Street: 10.14.14
Today is the Day = Converge + Neurosis + Pig Destroyer

Twenty years on and Today is the Day are still the gold standard for unhinged, mind-warpingly heavy music. The most remarkable thing about Animal Mother is an instant familiarity with the music—doom, hardcore, sludge, noise and even acoustic melodic touches find their way into the superbly produced album. Although it adheres to no specific heavy music creed, it speaks the same language as all of them, making it easy to immediately become engrossed. Steve Austen’s vocals, with their screeching layers of distortion, are still as wild as ever and an impeccable vehicle for his brutally honest lyrics. Some aggressive music functions primarily as a physical outlet, meant to encourage an outburst of violence. Today is the Day’s aggression is of the psychic variety—an excision of demons—it’s riveting. If your relationship with Today is the Day fell off around Sadness Prevails, you’d do well to make amends. –Peter Fryer

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Trigger
Start Our Revenge
Everydayhate Records
Street: 09.21
Trigger = Magrudergrind + Man is the Bastard + Napalm Death

Bass, drums, vocals—that’s it. This is one of the most stripped-down formations you can have for a band, and it can work. Man is the Bastard, Death From Above 1979 and even Spinal Tap made the absence of six strings work for them. This information is key to placing Trigger, as I didn’t pick up on this until later spins of the album, attributing the thin distorted guitar sound to poor recording as opposed to distortion on a bass. Making this distinction helps with understanding Trigger, but not necessarily enjoying them. The first four or five songs bleed into one another to create a five-minute long blastbeat explosion, which could be taxing even for the most ardent grind fan. Start Our Revenge’s 20 tracks are fast and tight, but unfortunately become challenging for the wrong reasons. Grind aficionados may find something here, but dabblers will find more elsewhere. –Peter Fryer

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