Author: 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

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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Iron Reagan
Worse Than Dead
Magic Bullet Records/A389 Records
Street: 03.19
Iron Reagan = Municipal Waste + Nuclear Assault + Cro-Mags
Iron Reagan will initially be recognized for its membership, which counts two members of Municipal Waste and two members of Darkest Hour in its ranks, but this should be eclipsed by their music. Iron Reagan’s debut summons 19 tracks of ‘80s style crossover thrash that covers significantly more substantial lyrical ground than Municipal Waste and maintains the brevity and machine gun assault of the best of hardcore. Particular standouts include “The Debt Collector” about the fakakta medical system in the U.S., and “I Predict the Death of Harold Camping,” which skewers the Christian parishioner with all things doomsday. No song overstays its welcome, with tempo changes, well timed solos, and gang vocals preventing monotony from setting in. Worse Than Dead is a worthy addition to the halls of crossover. –Peter Fryer

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Big Business
Command Your Weather

Joyful Noise + Gold Metal Records
Street: 07.08
Big Business = Torche + Mastodon + Baroness

Big Business are bringing some new heat on their fifth studio album, Command Your Weather. It seems counterintuitive, since they returned to being a two-piece, but they branched out more on this release. You would assume that only having a bass and drums would be restrictive, but clearly, Jared Warren and Coady Willis don’t really care about assumptions. Big Business flirted with having a guitarist in the mix on their past two albums, 2013’s release Battlefields Forever and 2009’s Mind the Drift. Both are good and took their sound in new directions, but it’s the return to the duo that has signaled a more decisive shift in exploration.

Perhaps only having two opinions yields consensus quickly on wanting to try new things. It’s much easier to take a band vote when you represent 50 percent of the voting block—you’re either doing things, or you’re not. For Big Business, those elected additions are most represented with chimes and other bell-like instruments that twinkle throughout the record. On tracks like “Blacker Holes,” “Send Help” and “Horses,” the introduction of those chimes, xylophones and bottles brings an eerie, melancholic atmosphere to a band known more for being the audio equivalent of a pair of heavily worn, grease-stained 501s: aka rocked hard. Big Business created something new with Command Your Weather that was hinted at in prior albums but never fully realized. These tracks are the real standout pieces of the album, which, at a few points, I found other tracks would muddle together.

The aforementioned “Send Help” is the strongest song on the record. It plops itself about two-thirds of the way through the album and clearly announces itself with its lack of the heavy riffing, which immediately precedes this change. It features harmonized vocals, those bottle-like sounds and a whacked-out synth, or perhaps an effects-laden bass, which carries the warbled merry-go-round melody. For a band whose members are known as much for being Big Business as part of the Melvins, it’s cool to hear them do something outside expectations for either of those entities. The main chorus implores, “You don’t have to get bigger / But you have to get out of this space.” That chorus, in conjunction with the disorienting melody, made this song quickly hit repeat status for me.

“Horses” begins in much the same way as “Send Help,” with disorienting, carnival synth-bass magic accented by xylophones that carry the tune until it gives way to the bass and drums. Those eventually relinquish their riffs to xylophones only, with the haunting melody “Tonight they’ll truly suffer” sung over the top. It’s a memorable close to an album already punctuated by memorable moments. 

Command Your Weather was recorded in Joshua Tree, California, so perhaps the desert soul searching that fueled the likes of Kyuss and others served as an inspiration for some of this new experimentation. Whatever it is, it’s working. The rest of the album twists and turns in Big Business fashion, with cool riffs perfect for cracking open a beer strewn throughout. But to these ears, it’s the experimentation and craft of the standout tracks that really make the album.

It’s interesting to me that the first two songs Big Business released to the blogosphere prior to the release of Command Your Weather are the least memorable on the album. Both “Father’s Day” and “Regulars” are fine songs, but I find so much more to digest in the rest of the album. Perhaps they wanted to release what was expected. That’s the thing, though—it’s what’s not expected that really shines on Command Your Weather. Peter Fryer

Usnea
Random Cosmic Violence
Relapse
Street: 11.10.14
Usnea = Samothrace + Disma + Winter

I stumbled upon Usnea while digging through Bandcamp about a year ago and was impressed with the blackened, funeral doom/death concoction on their debut. Fast-forward to 2014—heavyweight label Relapse has put out their follow-up. This style can easily get bogged down in its dirging pace and atmosphere. Fortunately, Usnea has no such issues on Random Cosmic Violence. While most of the pacing is slow, their knack for melodic guitar work, passionate vocals and black metal flourishes make for a captivating listen. The best part of low and slow music is that when it changes up, the effect is potent. This is most evident in the title track, which is also the highlight of the album. “Random Cosmic Violence” showcases the mix of musical influences and impeccable timing that set Usnea apart. This may fly under the radar, and it’s too bad, because it’s excellent. –Peter Fryer

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DiseNgaged

Hazardous

Self-Released

Street: 11.09.13

DiseNgaged = DevilDriver + Jungle Rot + Soulfly

Hazardous is the debut effort from Salt Lake’s DiseNgaged, and, while uneven, many of the tracks show potential for the band. DiseNgaged deal in groove-oriented death metal and clearly have hardcore undertones. Lyrically, things often navigate toward juvenile (see “Smash The Baby” and “The Mad House”) or feature an abundance of swearing, but the vocal style itself is spot on. There’s a good debut EP in here, but Hazardous suffers from a lack of editing and feels like a band still trying to figure out what it wants to be. There are drum fills that needn’t be there, and guitar lines that have potential, but barely keep from going off the rails. The peeks at headbang-worthy grooves and the strong vocal delivery indicate a band with something to say in the future, but Hazardous feels like a document of a band going through growing pains. –Peter Fryer
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No Turning Back
No Regrets
Fast Break Records
Street: 10.9.12
No Turning Back = Down to Nothing + Madball + Terror Netherlands’ No Turning Back is no one’s favorite band. Sure, they probably have fans since they’ve been around for 15 years, and have seven full-length releases under their belt, but nothing they’re playing on No Regrets touches on any of the keystones of a memorable hardcore album. For a hardcore album to rise above mediocrity, a band needs to do one of the following: bring something innovative, execute a well-worn style with vigor, or get your blood pumping. Unfortunately, for No Turning Back, their latest does none of these things. Their longevity and obvious dedication to hardcore is impressive, but their decidedly mediocre take on NYHC is so snooze-worthy that it’s futile to make a compelling argument to check them out. –Peter Fryer

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