Author: Peter Fryer

Wolves in the Throne Room
BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini
Southern Lord
Street: 11.25.13
Wolves in the Throne Room = Agalloch + Drudkh +
Samothrace
Shortly after releasing 2011’s Celestial Lineage, Wolves in the Throne Room hit the BBC and recorded two tracks from their then-recently-released album. These tracks command over 20 minutes of your time and show how different this band is in the live setting. Ethereal as their studio recordings are, the BBC Session provides a different and equally as compelling experience. “Prayer of Transformation” is a slow and whispered black metal trek on Celestial Lineage, but in the live studio setting it shares a kinship with the patience-testing doom of Bell Witch and Samothrace. Devoid of most reverb, vocals punch harder and are humanized, and the number of sounds these guys can generate without studio magic is impressive. Although a different side of these USBM purveyors from the Pacific Northwest, the BBC Session is as riveting as any album release and stands as more than novelty. –Peter Fryer
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Integrity
Suicide Black Snake
A389/Magic Bullet Recordings
Street: 06.11
Integrity = Judge + Darkthrone + Ringworm
If you have been following Integrity’s trajectory these past five years or so, through split after split, EP after EP, Suicide Black Snake is the natural evolution in Integrity’s arc. For the past five years, Integrity have been Dwid Hellion and Robert Orr, exclusively, which lends a singular focus to the music. SBS draws a significant amount of its vocabulary from heavy metal, and relies less on hardcore. It is also apparent that Hellion and Orr are making only the music they are interested in. Although not necessarily the same musically, in attitude, SBS is akin to Darkthrone’s latest, which has no need for outside opinion, and brings in wildly varied metal influences. The rawness of Detonate VVorld’s Plague and the Gehenna Split was an acquired taste, so the more muscular, darker production on Suicide Black Snake goes down easier, and is a welcome addition to Integrity’s extensive canon. –Peter Fryer
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Great American Ghost – Everyone Leaves

Great American Ghost – Everyone LeavesGreat American Ghost
Everyone Leaves

Good Fight Music
Street: 07.10
Great American Ghost = American Nightmare + Pulling Teeth + The Suicide File

You can’t go wrong with unbridled negativity, self-loathing and some well-planted f-bombs. On “Anxious Alone,” singer Ethan Harrison laments, “Everyone I know can’t stand me / I make their fucking skin crawl,” and later breaks into a chorus of “Alone in a crowded room,” set over a half-time mosh riff—and it’s great. It’s a disappointment, then, that there are too many ghosts (ahem) of other bands haunting these nine tracks. Even their name seems derivative. It calls to mind Give Up The Ghost, who did rage and negativity better than most. “Dead Punks” feels too close in concept to Modern Life is War’s “D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” Since forever, much of hardcore is derivative in some form, but Great American Ghost displays it too well, which is a shame, because if they had harnessed the black hole negativity of tracks like “Misery” and “Anxious Alone,” they would have something. –Peter Fryer

Code Orange| Forever | Roadrunner

Code Orange
Forever

Roadrunner
Streets: 01.13
Code Orange = Disembodied + L7 + Blistered

Roadrunner Records has a long, checkered history in the metal world. They’ve had bands like Nickelback, Slipknot and Staind on their roster. Conversely, they’ve also put out records by Sepultura, Madball and King Diamond, so the net is probably zero. They’re currently a part of Warner Bros. Records, making them a straight-up major label. There was a time when a band that was revered in the underground made the jump to a major, everyone cried foul. More often than not, the subsequent album would be dreadful.

But this is 2017. Are there any dinosaurs more irrelevant than major labels these days? Because of their irrelevance, is the thought of selling out by signing to one also irrelevant? I’m venturing yes. Those stringent DIY ideals have loosened, and in their stead is a desire to judge music based on its merit. Along this pattern, perhaps the labels started to get out of the way. Fortunately, the new Code Orange album hasn’t been sanitized by its major label jump.

Forever continues in the vein of I Am King, which was one of my top albums the year it came out—something I’d rethink now, but at the time, I was enamored by the echoes of Disembodied that I heard in their music. Live, they are intense. I’d never seen someone stage-dive off of a bookstore counter until I saw Code Orange.

Reviews and press templates extol the forward-thinking music of Code Orange, as if no one ever thought to put industrial samples in a song before or not have every song just be a mosh breakdown. This isn’t the fault of Code Orange. They clearly work hard at crafting their music. But if you think back over the past 20 to 30 years, Code Orange are tweaking those sounds rather than inventing them. The ever-present half-step interval that was signature Disembodied is still played frequently, and songs dropping mid-way through for a sample before picking up show up more often than in the past.

Forever feels more Frankensteined than I Am King. Samples and other sounds were placed in tracks in tandem with the flow of each song on I Am King, making them build. On Forever, they’re simply inserted. This cutting and chopping brings the album down, but Code Orange’s heavy sound is still present. Even though many of the things they’re doing aren’t as original, Code Orange have a distinct sound—something that becomes more difficult the longer the hardcore and metallic hardcore genres age. If you like heavy, Code Orange deliver. It’s too bad that the songs don’t capture and hold attention as well as their prior releases do.

Off note are a few tracks that completely break from the hardcore mold, particularly “Bleeding in the Blur,” a straight ’90s grunge/indie throwback that wouldn’t have been out of place on a mixtape with Mudhoney, Hole or L7. This direction is interesting, a continuation of “Bind You” from I Am King, but without most of the hardcore leanings. This is the spot where Code Orange’s other influences show, but it’s most notable for its juxtaposition with the rest of the album. On its own, it would be a decent song, but it doesn’t define Forever.

Forever moves Code Orange forward, but the album falls short of being a must-listen. Peter Fryer

Imperial Triumphant
Abyssal Gods
Aural Music/Code 666
Street: 03.10
Imperial Triumphant = Deathspell Omega + Gorguts + Artificial Brain
 
Abyssal Gods plays out like the musical fantasy draft of anyone who grows tired of finding new ways to say that an album is enjoyable but not unique. If you could find the right elements to construct an attention-grabbing album, Abyssal Gods is that concoction. Complex and dense, but quick to open up with repeated listens, Abyssal Gods is engrossing and expertly composed, without being fatiguing. Most importantly, it’s not weird for weirdness’ sake and is surprisingly accessible. With all of its technicality, bizarre chording and death metal influence, the guardrails implied by the black metal tag are thoroughly shredded—Imperial Triumphant’s van of atonality careens into the ravine, pulling free jazz and warm death riffs with them. There is something to be said for being a sentinel for the purity of a style of music, and there’s another for obliterating conventions and composing honest, heavy, crushing, genre-bending MUSIC. Imperial Triumphant are doing just that. 
–Peter Fryer 
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Scalps
Serenades Of An Abomination
Escapegoat Records
Street: 02.02
Scalps = His Hero Is Gone + EYEHATEGOD + From Ashes Rise
 
We’re not talking dandruff shampoo here. Scalps is assuredly a reference to those bloody spoils of war—a perfect mascot for the music this band makes. This is one ugly album. Scalps combine D-beat, sludge and hardcore into a compelling swirl of aggression and bleakness, which is further sussed out in their lyrics. I need to award bonus points for the inclusion of lyrics in the music files I received, all other labels should take note. The entire EP is strong, although more variation in the syllables of the vocal pattern would send this over the top. This minor gripe is overshadowed by the weight of riffs and the intelligent inclusion of vocal samples, bongos and other sounds that make a three-note riff or a six-minute track the strong components of the album, rather than drudgery. I’m still not sure what the final track, “The Lynchian Slip,” is all about—is it a joke track? Avant-garde? Super serious? In the end, it doesn’t matter—this is a no-brainer destination for those who like their music thick, dark and heavy. –Peter Fryer
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Red Hare

Nites of Midnite

Street: 05.21

Dischord/Hellfire

Red Hare = Swiz + Burning Airlines + Jawbox

“Don’t want to not fit in in the wrong way” sings Shawn Brown on Red Hare’s debut, kicking style over substance square in the balls. Nothing less should be expected of a punk veteran like Brown, or the rest of Red Hare. Although technically a debut, Red Hare is essentially Swiz/Sweetbelly Freakdown with a new drummer, the raging Joe Gorelick (Bluetip). With that pedigree, expectations are high and Red Hare delivers the album you want. Not only are the musicians spot on, but Nites of Midnite is a joint release between Hellfire and the indomitable Dischord with mixing by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). It’s the way post-hardcore should sound in 2013, meaning not sounding like it was recorded in a tin can. The sounds are current, but Nites of Midnite gives you the same feeling you had the first time you heard Repeater or Can I Say. –Peter Fryer

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Power – Heavy Muscle

Power – Heavy Muscle
Power
Heavy Muscle

Twelve Gauge Records
Street: 07.10
Power = Bl’ast + Blacklisted + Cold World

Movie quotes—why aren’t bands using them more these days? Power didn’t get the memo, and this included them (and TV quotes, to be precise) throughout Heavy Muscle, which takes a decent album to “check it out.” Quotes contextualize a band’s music, show appreciation for the source, and through re-appropriation, simultaneously rebel against what we’re sold. It’s decidedly punk if you think about it. Seinfeld’s Kramer kicks off “L.O.S. (Loss of Spite)” with “Here’s to feeling good all the time,” creating the perfect juxtaposition in a song clearly not about feeling good at all. Similarly, a quote from Keith David’s They Live character states, “The whole deal is like some crazy game … The name of the game is make it through life,” which works singularly but also deepens the meaning, if you’re familiar with They Live’s premise. With biting lyrics, a slightly swinged-out groove, and the inclusion of these quotes, Heavy Muscle nails it. –Peter Fryer

Power Trip | Nightmare Logic | Southern Lord

Power Trip
Nightmare Logic

Southern Lord
Street: 02.22
Power Trip = Cro-Mags + Morbid Saint + Nuclear Assault

This past year, Power Trip toured with Terror, and although their two styles of music differ, the propensity for both groups to maximize stage dives from the crowd is consistent. This is what sets Power Trip apart from the rest of crossover bands. New thrash (and its more hardcore crossover cousin) came back about a decade or so ago, and bands are still trying to ride it with mitigated success. There’s a lot of “good,” but not a whole lot of “great.” Power Trip are great.

Power Trip’s Manifest Decimation landed in 2013—theoretically too late to get in on the ground level of the renaissance. Their particular formula has mass appeal, which is exactly the reason that they can tour with Terror, or Merchandise, or Napalm Death. Power Trip’s deft mix of thrash, an insane live show and those half-time breakdowns, which sound like they listened to the break in “Raining Blood” a million times to get master’s degrees in mosh pit decimation—blow everyone else away. If you like heavy music of any stripe, Power Trip is for you.

Nightmare Logic is their second proper full-length, and time has only proven to sharpen Power Trip’s attack. Nightmare Logic dials back the vocal and drum reverb found on Manifest Decimation — but doesn’t eschew it entirely. It’s balanced perfectly. The songwriting is stronger this time around as well. That sounds like a throwaway sentence, but this album is tight. If Manifest Decimation were a no-holds-barred street fight, Nightmare Logic has filled its hands with broken glass.

I had the opportunity to interview singer Riley Gale for SLUG about two years ago, right before they set out on their tour with Merchandise and Title Fight. He was down-to-earth and took music, the DIY ethic and the ever-crumbling world around him seriously. This attitude permeates Nightmare Logic. There is something inherent in growing up in the DIY scene that creates an attitude that is inextricable from any future pursuits. It’s that hardcore DIY ethic that is apparent in the lyrics on Nightmare Logic. It’s Youth of Today by way of Nuclear Assault. There’s a positive negativity flowing throughout, with “If Not Us Then Who” seemingly ripped from some old Revelation compilation were it not for the speed riffing. It’s this stentorian alchemy of anthem and worship of the riff that distinguishes Power Trip.

As I mentioned earlier, Power Trip mastered the half-time thrash breakdown. It sounds like something that would be musically simple to do, but to really get a head banging, or an ape–shit mosh pit going, is not color by numbers. These breakdowns are a hallmark of nearly every Power Trip song, but it doesn’t really matter. You know it’s coming, and then it hits, and boom, desk mosh. The rhythms are more complex in these parts on Nightmare Logic, though, with guitar solos layered over the top and tighter rhythms. 

Power Trip are coming out of the gate strong in 2017, with eight memorable, no-fat-to-trim, killer tracks. A possibly overlooked bonus is that the samples at the end of the record blend seamlessly into the intro to the first track — an infinite coda — trapping us in stage dives, righteous disenfranchisement and violent catharsis.  Peter Fryer

Stuntman
Incorporate the Excess
Solar Flare 
Street: 01.18
Stuntman = Botch + Magrudergrind + Wormrot 
Chaotic and frenzied, France’s Stuntman packs an impressive amount into Incorporate the Excess. On its surface, this grind-influenced album would appear to be predominantly grind based, but with so many odd time signatures and syncopation, their assault is more calculated. Mathy grooves easily cohabitate with blast beats and crank into the red vocals. The album occasionally suffers from too many ideas being crammed into one song, but with its brief running time, this stops just short of being fatiguing. The final track is ostensibly one riff repeated for eight minutes, providing an interesting stoner-infused counterpoint to the raucous 16 minutes preceding it. The album would benefit from a few more cases of slower riffs distributed throughout instead of being lumped at the end, but if you’re into fast, grindy hardcore, this will fit the bill. Also, a bonus: A sample from Ghostbusters in the intro track. –Peter Fryer
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