Author: Peter Fryer

Sissy Spacek
Lead Their Exit
Dais Records
Street: 09.24
Sissy Spacek = The Locust + Wolf Eyes + Pharmakon

My iPod says this album clocks in at five and a half minutes—for 11 tracks! Avant-garde noise grind is what you get here, as opposed to the straight noise of past releases. Sissy Spacek have had some lineup changes for this release with Sara Taylor of Youth Code taking over vocal duties with a lacerating wail. This aural bombardment is laid over drums and bass to complete this grind/noise beast. The album, albeit briefer than brief, covers more territory than you would expect, with tracks like “Oils Of Your Eyes” playing out in the vein of Pharmakon— an interesting detour from the constant barrage of blast beats that are the trade of the other 10 tracks. You’ll either get this album or you won’t. It’s noisy, difficult and could seem comical if not for its sheer intensity. The only complaint: The drumstick clicks at the beginning of each track are distracting. A pause or some feedback would be a better delineation between songs. –Peter Fryer

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Stomach Earth
Self-Titled
Black Market Activities

Street: 07.16
Stomach Earth = Disma + Lycus + Godflesh
Stomach Earth is the solo project of Mike “Gunface” McKenzie (Red Chord), and is being branded as a funeral doom record, although there are industrial sounds floating throughout, and the album isn’t sorrowful so much sorrowful as menacing. It’s this distinction that makes the doom moniker an uncomfortable fit, and distinguishes Stomach Earth. It’s too aggressive and confrontational to be a solely doom record, even though the pace is glacial. In some ways, Stomach Earth sounds like what I thought heavy metal would sound like when I was a kid and could only judge by record covers. In this case, though: no hair metal, only darkness. The vocals are bowel-shakingly low, and the guitar-work is cyclical and dense. Ancillary instrumentation and effects—a string line here, a vocal pattern there—are haunting and sparse. It all fits as a satisfying whole, particularly if you’re looking for an uncomfortable, dark experience. –Peter Fryer

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Blood Eagle – Bloody Gull

Blood Eagle
Bloody Gull

Self-Released
Street: 08.26.2015
Blood Eagle = Aksumite + Amon Amarth + Touché Amoré

Drew Danburry has been busy for the past 10-plus years. His prolific output in the mid- to late 2000s was something I wasn’t aware of until I began doing some digging to review Bloody Gull. Danburry’s Bandcamp alone contains 24 separate releases, all of varying genres, held together by a common thread of fierce independence. In some ways, his output is not unlike Damien Masters’ of Colloquial Sound Recordings—the man behind A Pregnant Light, Aksumite and a buffet of other lo-fi metal experiments.

After I first made that connection, I understood Bloody Gull. On my initial few listens, I was trying to find the salvageable in a recording that seemed so amateur that I wasn’t sure if it was serious: Were these high school kids just screwing around? But as I listened more, it occurred to me that this is an experiment, a recording that friends put together in a few hours directly to a four-track tape. The guitars are barely audible, which is a shame, because there are some killer riffs hidden in the background. Two different reverb-drenched screams assault from each speaker. This would be lo-fi by even 1990 Norwegian black metal standards.

Musically, Bloody Gull is a punked-up folk metal hybrid with indie tendencies, and all of the lyrics are viking-related. That subject matter has been mined for many years now, but in this style, it was a little surprising. These aren’t epic battle songs, but instead anguished screams telling mournful tales. There is one exception to this vocal pattern, with the third track, “Uppsala,” which is interestingly the strongest on the EP. The guitars are more audible and the vocals are cleaner, making the song a unique, lo-fi punk-indie hybrid that is truly memorable. I can’t help but think of Touché Amoré singing about vikings. 

I imagine that Bloody Gull is a one and done kind of thing, but I could definitely get into a full album  of “Uppsala”-style tunes. –Peter Fryer

Sonnets | Of Wrath and Sorrow | Self-Released

Sonnets
Of Wrath and Sorrow

Self-Released
Street: 11.24.18
Sonnets = Angel Hair + City of Caterpillar + Love Lost But Not Forgotten

Though synesthesia references the senses directly—seeing numbers as colors, for instance—I wonder if a similar phenomenon could be applied in reference to artistic synesthesia. This would be the phenomenon where you are experiencing one kind of art but experiencing it as a different medium. In the case of Sonnets’ latest, Of Wrath and Sorrow, that moment comes midway through the song “III (crumbles),” when a haunting eighth-note guitar melody enters the song. My mind was no longer solely hearing the music—I couldn’t separate it from a climactic moment in an unnamed film that popped into my head. The music provides an intense backdrop to the visual narrative, and I can’t hear this part of the song without seeing the other.

This album draws from classic screamo but sounds modern. Clearly, the vocals are screamed, but their position in the mix allows all other instruments to be kept at the front as well. This makes the full experience more impactful. The drumming is tight and has the right amount of complexity—they’re not overplayed but are aggressively participating in the songs. The guitar-playing is the most interesting work on the album. Although they are loud and dissonant, there are other times when they remind me of Mineral and bands of that ilk.

One of my major complaints about music that has a math or more complicated element is the tendency for bands to jump from part to part, flaunting their dexterity—or atonality—without, y’know, thinking about writing a song. Sonnets have written songs on this album—not only that, but guitar lines and melodies that stick around and build. It only took a listen or two before I could easily remember these songs and their structures. My favorite is “IV (bodies),” which begins with an unassuming, math-like riff that repeats consistently for the majority of the song, only adding distortion part of the way through. Too often, bands have a great idea for a riff, only to bring it around for a quick drive-by. Let a good riff RIFF.

Screamo was always a lane adjacent to my musical proclivities, but this release is a terrific welcome back to a genre that I anticipate will be gaining steam in the near future. –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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