Dead Revelator = Prong + Hell Promise + Lamb of God
A fortunate effect of the current era of Internet music consumption is that musical knowledge and reference points are exponentially larger than those of even 15 years ago. This works to the advantage of Salt Lake’s Dead Revelator’s because, even though they play a unique amalgam of styles, the musical knowledge base of today makes their music promptly accessible and identifiable. Their brand is a combo of groove metal interspersed with elements of thrash, hardcore and what can only be described as western flavor. Concrete Law gets your head bobbing and is unmistakably Western, particularly in the interludes. Although this probably won’t appeal to the kvltest of the kvltest, that hardly matters as these guys sound more like they’d take driving around pickup trucks and hitting up some barbecue over communing with Norse gods any day. Cowboy hats and flying Vs, that’s what Dead Revelator is all about. – Peter Fryer
Deafheaven = Darkthrone + Built to Spill + Slowdive
The first three minutes and 24 seconds of New Bermuda is some of the best heavy music I’ve heard this year. It’s the lead guitar melody which immediately follows that will determine your opinion of New Bermuda. Put plainly: Your enjoyment of New Bermuda will be directly related to how much Built to Spill you are prepared for in your black metal. For me, it works. I found myself repeatedly coming back to these sections, using them as guideposts. Even though it’s kind of weird, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, and most importantly it makes each song memorable and distinct. The other real standout is the straight-ahead metal riffage on New Bermuda. Chunkier riffs add muscle and are the perfect backdrop for the more unorthodox influences woven throughout. It’s bound to be divisive as hell, this is Deafheaven we’re talking about, but it’s a superb follow-up to Sunbather. –Peter Fryer
Propagandhi = Iron Maiden + Descendents + Rush
You never know how much you need a record, until you need a record. Turns out, I needed Propagandhi’s Victory Lap—their first full-length since the five-year-old, and phenomenal, Failed States. This point of recognition didn’t come during the impeccable playing or spot-on ascerbic lyrics of the first 11 tracks, although I found them compelling—but at 3:14 in the final track, “Adventures in Zoochosis.” Propagandhi have a way of expressing through music what you feel, but can’t verbalize.
Chris Hannah and I most likely only have a few things in common, but one is that we are both fathers. In “Adventures in Zoochosis,” he encapsulates fears and thoughts I’m sure many in the same situation haven’t expressed, but recognize. The song opens with the sounds of children playing, interspersed with vile quotes from the current commander-in-chief. The song’s premise is about the futility of fighting the cage we find ourselves in—that maybe we’ve even grown to like it—but we’ll be damned if we set our children up for the same fate. At 3:14, he sings, “The sad truth is, this enclosure is where your old man belongs / But you, your hearts are pure / When the operating conditioners come to break you in / I’ll sink my squandered teeth / You grab your little brother’s hand / Run like the wind / And if I’m not there, don’t look back / Just go.”
As someone who grew up listening to punk rock, hardcore and metal, finding solace in its admonishment of “the man” and now realizing I am well into being an adult, these lyrics held the gravity of a black hole. They simultaneously balance this sorrowful admission and the beauty of an unconditional love for children. This balance is present not only in this song, but throughout Victory Lap. There is an undercurrent of rage, sorrow and despair in Propagandhi’s music, but it’s clear their motivation is from a place of idealism and capital-R Rock.
From early on in their career, Propagandhi balanced anarchist topics, feminism, animal rights and other leftist politics with a sense of humor. These components are all still there, but have the benefit of wisdom and age at play as well. Their sound has matured over the years, the riffs are denser, the time signatures robust. But those early elements are still present, which is why this works. The last thing the world needs is another overwrought, 100-percent-serious-all-the-time political discussion. That’s what Twitter is for.
The chorus in “Tartuffle” proclaims, “We came here to rock / Single moms to the front / Deadbeat dads to the back.” Feminism, humor and riffs all coalesce into the delicate balance that few bands other than Propagandhi can pull off. “Victory Lap” is a blast, the most thrash metal Propagandhi track I can recall, and “Lower Order (A Good Laugh)” is an unflinching look at animal cruelty, but sung in a disorienting jubilant manner. Less capable hands would unquestionably fumble these—good thing we have Propagandhi.
The production and execution on Victory Lap is without flaw. These are talented musicians, and the newest band member, Sulynn Hago, shreds. It’s not often that a band in its third decade isn’t coasting, but rather continues to push the envelope. Victory Lap is a tongue-in-cheek album title, signified on the album cover by its placement over a flooded amusement park lost to the ocean. It also is a victory for Propagandhi. Their catalog is excellent, but the past four albums, beginning with Potemkin City Limits, showcase a band continuing to push themselves. As a listener, it’s up to us to push ourselves to get out of this cage. –Peter Fryer
Salvation of Innocents
Earth Crisis = Hatebreed + Cavalera Conspiracy + Skinfather
How do you continue to be relevant some 20 years after you wrote one of the most iconic riffs in hardcore history? By releasing a concept album and comic book tie-in, of course. While it may seem like a cash grab, this has its merits as both the album and comic revolve around animal rights—well-worn territory for Earth Crisis. Salvation of Innocents further continues their march to being a predominantly metal band, with pronounced leads and straight metal riffing. A few of the tracks hint at what Earth Crisis could be doing to add to their legacy 20-plus years into their career, but unfortunately, too much of the album has a generic metalcore feel to it. Additionally, ill-advised clean vocal passages and an antiseptic mix drag it down. Not a miss, but not of the blood-pumping caliber these guys are capable of either. –Peter Fryer
Youth Choir = Sick of It All + Weekend Nachos + Youth of Today
Finally, a demo that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on your eighth grade boom box. With the advances in sound engineering, there is no excuse for a demo to sound awful, so kudos to these guys for sounding great. But sound quality only gets you so far, and is by no means a necessity. The real story is that Youth Choir is making tight, succinct, raging hardcore that retains no shortage of ’80s hardcore and attitude. Check “Sometimes Fat Guys Don’t Wear White,” which admonishes the hefty in the pit and then promptly brings the best mosh part of the demo, following the line, “You made it suck!” There are certainly things Youth Choir care about, but your feelings are not one of them. Hopefully, Youth Choir breaks out of the Beehive State and demolishes house shows nationwide. – Peter Fryer
Baroness = Mastadon + Hot Water Music + Kylesa
Baroness’ history the past three years involves a bus crash, physical and emotional trauma, and the departure and replacement of two members. It’s worth mentioning, because it’s impossible to evaluate Purple independently of this context. From a high level, Purple is similar to Yellow & Green but re-engages portions of their prior heaviness, perhaps as a direct response to the heaviness of the past few years. Riffs are always where Baroness excelled, and they are plentiful on Purple, but there is also a previously untapped openness and a melancholy found in tracks like “Shock Me” and “Chlorine & Wine.” These emotions were hinted at in prior releases, but they carry a gravity now that wasn’t previously evident. Purple isn’t a comeback in the traditional sense, since that phrase is usually reserved for a band in decline who found their way back. For Baroness, it’s a comeback from irrevocability. And it’s remarkable. –Peter Fryer
All Ends, Begin with Ease
Sorrowset = Baroness + Botch + Isis
The three-piece band is a staple in rock n’ roll and its diasporic genres. There are plenty in the metal/hardcore/post-metal world, but not all actually sound like a three-piece band. Salt Lake’s Sorrowset sound absolutely like a three-piece on their debut, All Ends, Begin with Ease—a nearly hour-long, thick, rocking and riff-heavy LP. To explain my earlier statement, Sorrowset don’t succumb to the temptation of multi-tracking guitars or burying the bass in the mix (hat-tip to SubRosa’s engineer Andy Patterson for the recording job). The music sounds alive: separation between instruments, three guys in a room, most likely facing each other, feeding off one another’s energy, bass and drums holding down the rhythm while the guitar rips. Melodies originate in the bass where they’ll be picked up eight bars later by the guitar.
Sounds akin to many other bands peek in now and again throughout the duration of the albu. For example, there is a small snippet in “Nothing to Lose,” which can’t help but remind me of Inquisition, and there are passages that owe much to Isis.
There are only minor complaints to be lodged with All Ends, Begin with Ease. These gentlemen are riff-prolific, and no doubt tasty fret-routines swirl in their heads at a frenetic pace. But, at nearly an hour, with a good third of the nine tracks between seven to nine minutes, the album would benefit from some editing. Long tracks have no inherent disadvantage, but when they’re buffeted by six more tracks that clock in at about five to six minutes a piece, it begins to pile up.
It’s in these stretched-out songs, though, that everyone truly locks in. Sorrowset are strongest when they’re creating atmospheres and then riding a tasty riff. It never falls to hypnotic repetition, though—the walking basslines assure that they stay engaging. I’m glad this rolled my way. Sorrowset are an excellent addition to the top-level list of heavy bands from the Beehive State. –Peter Fryer
Comeback Kid = Bane + Figure Four + Terror
Most reviews of Comeback Kid are mired in the details of the band’s circumstance, singers, Victory Records, etc. Here’s the deal: Die Knowing is one of the most energetic and invigorating hardcore records I’ve heard in a while. This is precisely what a modern, straight-up hardcore record should sound like, containing what is expected of the genre plus an emphasis on punk attitude. The whoooaaas sound fresh, there are plenty of sing-alongs and the breakdowns don’t feel obligatory. The energy is so infectious on this album that you can easily envision the stage dives, circle pits and finger points it will undoubtedly inspire during a live set. Die Knowing is a well-produced studio album, but it’s the transfer of the kinetic energy of a live show which makes it. Even more so than the songs contained within, this is Die Knowing’s greatest strength. –Peter Fryer