Author: Peter Fryer

Full of Hell
Full of Hell & Merzbow
Profound Lore
Street: 11.25.14
Full Of Hell = ACxDC + Noise + Weekend Nachos

Although a collaboration, it would be more accurate to label this a Full of Hell album that incorporates elements of Merzbow’s noise—Full of Hell has even said so themselves. Taken in those terms, it’s the strongest Full of Hell release to date. Those looking for a completely unique grind/noise album will be disappointed, as Merzbow’s presence crops up in small doses, much in the way noise interludes are incorporated in other extreme albums. It took a few listens to suss out Merzbow’s contributions to the first half of the album, as they are negligibly different than Full of Hell’s prior releases. Merzbow has more to say in the latter half of the album, though, with a couple of tracks that truly fit the collaborative feel. Full of Hell are as caustic as ever, and incredibly tight. Profound Lore is a go-to label, and, with this release, they continue their winning streak. –Peter Fryer

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Celeste

Animale(s)

Denovali Records

Street: 11.22.13

Celeste = Aosoth + Amenra + Cult of Luna

Listening to Animale(s) is not enjoyable. It’s a tough, thick, oppressive listen, sung in French, with few moments of respite from what sounds like 100 guitar tracks crunching over relentless drumming. Animale(s) made me feel like I was on a city bus on a cold, cloudy day, nausea creeping up on me because all that I’d inhaled for the past 30 minutes was diesel fumes and stale air. Singled out, there are areas on Animale(s) that are excellent, like when the band breaks into a hardcore groove, the tremolo picking switches keys for two bars, or the pair of much-needed instrumental tracks. All of this isn’t to say that Animale(s) isn’t worthy of a listen—it’s packaged beautifully and is appropriately claustrophobic, and may very well be on year-end lists. Celeste’s latest is relentless, which can be exhilarating, but in this case, it’s fatiguing. –Peter Fryer
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Bullet Treatment

Ex-Breathers

Basement Records

Street: 04.30

Bullet Treatment = The Bronx + Minor Threat + Kill Your Idols

For some bands, a rotating cast of musicians is not their most notable aspect, but rather a necessary extension of the transitioning musical nature of the principal member. For instance, Death ceased to exist because Death was Chuck Schuldiner. While Chuck Dietrich holds a similar position in Bullet Treatment, the output is straight-up hardcore punk, which, as a style, is minimally affected by lineup changes. It’s a shame, because taken on its merits, Ex-Breathers is a perfectly serviceable hardcore punk record. However, the music is consistently overshadowed by the modus operandi of the band, i.e., a new lineup for each release, sometimes even between songs on an album. That certainly holds interesting possibilities, (see Designated Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 which contain the exact same song sung by a rotating cast of vocalists), but this leaves Bullet Treatment in a bind because, without those artistic forays, they’re playing straight-up hardcore punk. It’s a lean, mean, hardcore record, nothing more, nothing less. –Peter Fryer


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Planes Mistaken for Stars – Prey

Planes Mistaken for Stars
Prey

Deathwish Inc.
Street: 10.21
Planes Mistaken for Stars =  Hot Water Music + Unbroken + These Arms Are Snakes

When I moved to Colorado for college, Planes Mistaken for Stars were one of the first local bands I saw play. This would have been sometime in the fall of 1999—a musical lifetime ago. I had never heard them before that night, but I recall just how intense it was. They were a band existing on the periphery of emo, punk, hardcore and rock n’ roll. Emotion streamed from the speakers—the perfect soundtrack to whatever an 18-year-old was feeling aggrieved about.

Fast forward to 2016, and Planes are releasing their first album since going on a loose hiatus in early 2008 (when I also had the chance to attend their “final” show). It’s also 10 years following their 2006 release, Mercy. It’s strange because it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, and Prey reinforces the notion that this underrated band never went away. It sidles up comfortably alongside the rest of their discography, not sounding like a rehash—rather, it’s a continuation in their history of eschewing trends as a singular voice.

Their existence on the margins of various genres, to me, has been Planes’ largest asset and liability. They’re versatile in their fanbase attracting hardcore, punk and indie folks alike. At least, in the late ’90s and early ’00s, those really were different subgroups, and you didn’t seem like a knuckle-dragging, myopic hardcore kid for liking them.

When Planes opened for Converge’s Jane Doe tour, it was no secret that Planes were one of Jacob Bannon’s favorite bands. His praise for them was an appeal to us Coloradans. “Why in the hell are you guys not more psyched on the best band out there?” he seemed to be saying. It’s no wonder that they’ve since found a home on Bannon’s label.

I also say liability, though, because while people say that Planes are so wonderful (which I agree with), I feel that we’ve got some rose-colored-glasses syndrome going on. I saw them come through Salt Lake City back in 2006 when they were touring on Mercy. There were maybe 30 people at that show. People didn’t quite know what to make of them. They didn’t have mosh parts, they had a lot of rock n’ roll, and they weren’t particularly concerned with following any rules. So yeah, that’s punk, but maybe also lonelier than people admit.

This brings us to their latest, Prey. It’s so good to have these guys back. Hopefully, the world has caught up to them. This is a Planes record through and through. It’s a slight change from what came before, but it’s definitely in the vein of Mercy and Up in Them Guts: straight, miserable, dirty, punked-up rock n’ roll. If there were ever a soundtrack to late-night, spiteful heartbreak and whiskey-fueled bar fights, Planes would be that soundtrack. Each note of misery and pain is mumbled in Gared O’Donnell’s signature rasp—as unintelligible as ever, a wounded animal lashing out—but still paints the picture in swathes of black and blue. Their music is the smell of cigarette smoke in your clothes the next morning. It’s been over 17 years, and this still hasn’t changed.

I don’t know why no one can get the mastering of a Planes record done well, and Prey is disappointingly no exception. Perhaps it’s too hard for producers to figure out the best way to capture them, but Prey is murky, lacks a bottom end and is unnecessarily fatiguing on the ears.

In total, though, Prey is a perfect addition to Planes’ legacy, and still maintains the vigor and virility of their nearly 20-year-old catalog. This is an album that will stay with the times, and hopefully, they’ll finally find the audience they deserve. –Peter Fryer

Crowhurst 
Self-Titled 
Ivory Antler
Street: 04.10
Crowhurst = Deafheaven + Mutilation Rites + Wolvhammer
 
Digging back, Crowhurst began as a one-man experimental noise project, and if that’s what you were expecting from this self-titled album, you’d be way off. Crowhurst’s current incarnation is a blackened doom band with the moniker Girl 27 reserved for noise projects. This creates a split in perception—not having knowledge of prior releases, this record is good but not remarkable; knowing the noise history makes this a curious evolution. Early tracks “Judgement” and “It Is The Mercy” stand out, but the latter half is standard blackened doom, minus a guest appearance by Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson. Knowing the praise for Crowhurst’s prior noise work creates the question: Why alter and make music in such well trodden territory instead of cutting-edge and confrontational noise, or further incorporating those elements in this release? Perhaps the audience will be larger, but it seems that Crowhurst’s artistic legacy lies with the trail forged in noise. –Peter Fryer
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Integrity
Systems Overload (A2/Orr Mix)
Organized Crime / Magic Bullet
Street: 11.19.2013
Integrity = Ringworm + Slayer + Cro-Mags
Systems Overload comes from a time in Integrity’s history when they were unstoppable. The second in a line of classic metallic hardcore records from the Cleveland terrorizers, its importance and overall quality should be undisputed. Instead, what makes the A2/Orr Mix relevant is that it is a full remix of the album by former guitarist Aaron Melnick and current guitarist Robert Orr, in what they claim is Integrity’s true vision. I’ll give it this: It sounds current. For as good as the original Systems Overload is, it’s firmly planted in 1995. The new mix is rawer and louder, and the instruments have more space. My only gripe is that everything is loud, making songs that should be more dynamic and punctuated lose potency as all dials are pegged at 11. This new mix isn’t simply a curiosity for the Integrity completist and is deserving of a spot on any hardcore fan’s shelf.
–Peter Fryer
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Haraball

Sleep Tall

Fysisk Format

Street: 05.28

Haraball = Circle Jerks + OFF! + Youth of Today

Europe has produced many great hardcore bands, and by all accounts, Haraball should sound of a feather with OFF!, and in most regards they do. But, there’s just something that doesn’t translate. The guitar lines are lifted straight from ’82, and the vocals aren’t too far off either, but put together it just doesn’t excite. The vocals become monotonous, and lack the fire that carries music like this––Not to mention the fact that Norwegian humor translated into English is beyond me. The fact that the album is 23 songs long doesn’t help. A full length hardcore album can fit on a 7”, and no one will care. These guys could have edited their playlist a bit, which would do wonders for the album. At 15–20 minutes, this would be a fine listen. At 40, you’re just waiting for it to play through. –Peter Fryer


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G.L.O.S.S: Trans Day of Revenge

G.L.O.S.S.
Trans Day of Revenge

Total Negativity & Nervous Nelly
Street: 06.13
G.L.O.S.S. = Minor Threat + MDC + transgender identity

G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit) aren’t writing their music for me, and that’s completely OK. But it still strikes a chord—or three, as the old punk adage goes. Trans Day of Revenge is one of the best hardcore releases of the year, and G.L.O.S.S. are one of the best hardcore bands of the ’10s.

They’ve courted controversy—being accused of being a gimmick, for publicly turning down a record deal with Epitaph, etc.—but in the age of keyboard vigilantism and capital-“O” Opinions being elevated to the level of irreproachable fact, I’m really not interested. It’s obnoxious static, and G.L.O.S.S. rips.

G.L.O.S.S.’ trans-feminist punk/hardcore focuses on issues directly pertinent to them: namely, queer and transgender identity. They are incredible—the polar opposite of the assembly-line, brotastic “you stabbed me in the back” hardcore that’s churned out on a seemingly weekly basis. Their lyrics are substantial, often unapologetically violent, and manage to cover a thesis’ worth of argument in queer identity with punk rock directness and duration. Trans Day of Revenge is a scant five songs and seven minutes long.

The message is only half the battle, though. It’s the music that truly moves, and between their demo and this release, G.L.O.S.S. write exceptional hardcore punk. It’s amazing that after 30-plus years, the same simple chords can really sing. Remember the first time you heard Minor Threat and you totally got it, lyrics and everything? It’s like that.

All of this is certainly enough to propel this release to the top of the heap in 2016, but with the nightmare realization that the country elected the Breitbart comments section to its highest office, Trans Day of Revenge is even more essential. The opening line of the EP becomes all the more poignant than when it was released earlier this summer, with singer Sadie Switchblade declaring, “When peace is just another word for death / It’s our turn to give violence a chance.” If House Bill 2 in North Carolina was enough for G.L.O.S.S. to seem like a grenade, our president-elect weaponizes this into an H-bomb.

There is no subtlety on Trans Day of Revenge, and that’s its greatest strength. It’s vital, angry and relatable—even if their particular identities are not ones you share. “Out From the Desk” is a call to arms in support of survivors of domestic violence, opening with the lines “Bent ears can’t be enough / Out from the desk, let’s all crew up.” From compassion to action—for me, this is the biggest takeaway from Trans Day of Revenge.

“We Live” reminds me of why any of us got into this crazy business in the first place. The song summarizes more perfectly than I ever could why underground punk/hardcore has been my musical center for nearly two decades. “We live / For nights like this / Basements packed with burning kids / We scream / Just to make sense of things.” There can be no message clearer, or more welcome, right now.

G.L.O.S.S. are also calling it quits this year. They are ending their run for understandable reasons, telling Maximum RockNRoll, “The punk we care about isn’t supposed to be about getting big or becoming famous. It’s supposed to be about challenging ourselves and each other to be better people. We want to be whole people, not one-dimensional cartoons.” You can’t really argue with that, but considering where current world events stand, it’s a loss for the punk and hardcore community to not have such a strong and unified voice. –Peter Fryer

Violent Reaction
Marching On
Revelation Records
Street: 03.31
Violent Reaction = Negative Approach + Agnostic Front + Blitz
 
Of any current hardcore band, Violent Reaction have the potential to break out from the pack. With interest in 1980s hardcore popping up all around, including high profile articles in reputable publications, Violent Reaction will soothe the itch for a current band that sounds like they time-warped here from 30 years ago. Part Negative Approach, part U.K. street punk with a healthy amount of NYHC, you know exactly what you’re getting into. The playing is tight, the vocals appropriately angry and the tempo fast, but Marching On plays out as something entirely too familiar. If you want a current band playing songs that sound like old hardcore bands you liked, this is for you. But this is also the issue with Marching On. Progression isn’t essential, but investment by the listener is, and Marching On holds on too tightly to the past to create staying power. –Peter Fryer
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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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