Author: Peter Fryer

Racetraitor | 2042 | Good Fight

Racetraitor
2042
Good Fight
Street: 10.12
Racetraitor = 108 + All Pigs Must Die + HIRS Collective

After a nearly 20-year hiatus, Racetraitor returned in 2016. The causality with that year’s political climate is not coincidental. Interestingly enough, though they were absent for such a long time, their return felt urgent and vital. Whether it be the current rise of the alt-right or the incremental evolution of the hardcore scene toward more diverse representation and recognition of concepts like White privilege, Racetraitor is arguably more relevant now than they were two decades ago.

But all of that means nothing if the songs aren’t there. It’s depressing when a band tries the comeback record after a long hiatus and it falls short. Not only do they fall short, but these instances usually damage a band’s former legacy. Fortunately, Racetraitor have a few things going for them. They didn’t have an extensive back catalog to tarnish, and they also weren’t active for long—only about three or four years in the late-’90s. Additionally, their political stances can find greater purchase in 2018. For many older bands, that which was relevant 20 years ago may not be now; for Racetraitor that relationship feels inverse. The biggest thing is that 2042 rips.

2042 is the year the census predicts that White Americans will no longer comprise a majority of the population in the United States and their name, Racetraitor, is historically a pejorative white supremacists called anti-racist white people. These definitions are crucial to understanding Racetraitor’s anti-racist and anti-fascist philosophy. Every move the band makes is calculated to confront imperialist White supremacy and fascism head on—even down to their name. Musically, they are no different. They are as sonically combative as their album naming (their debut from 1998 was Burn the Idol of the White Messiah).

You can’t divorce the music of Racetraitor from their message. Their politics are the music, and if there was a way to represent those politics in music, Racetraitor have nailed it on 2042. I remember seeing them play in the basement of Club DV8 in 1999—I even had some Racetraitor stickers adorning my freshman dorm room the following fall. Live, they were crushing and provided significant food for thought during in-between song banter. However, the production on Burn the Idol of the White Messiah wasn’t congruent with the band’s live presence. The original production (it has since been remastered) was compressed so heavily that any of the weight was lost. Even though that initial impression of seeing them live was strong, I can probably count the number of times I revisited that album.

If nothing else can be said of the past 20 years of evolution in heavy music, it’s that sound engineers finally figured out how to record and produce bands like Racetraitor. 2042 sounds massive. The production is thick, you can hear the decay in Andy Hurley’s (Fall Out Boy, Sect) drums – check 2:07 in “The Universal Correctitve Map of the World” for a prime example—and the guitars are full and separated from the other instruments. There is a depth to the sound that approximates the feeling of seeing heavy music like this live.

The album is brief—only about 21 minutes long—the perfect length for a hardcore album. The opener, “Three Minutes of Hate, is a song that reminded me why I started to like this music in the first place. The breakdown that lands two minutes in is crushing, a perfect piece of auditory violence that lives up to the name of the song. Interjected throughout 2042 are musical interludes, creating a balance and narrative to the album. For your louds to feel loud, you also need quiet. The tracks “Aylanoor” and “Rooz Va Aftab” provide a tasteful balance to the heaviness that surrounds them.

Racetraitor are as vociferous politically as they are sonically, and 2042 is as proficient marriage of those two goals as you will find in 2018. This one comes highly recommended. –Peter Fryer

Warfuck

Neantification

Every Day Hate

Street: 12.13.13

Warfuck = Magrudergrind + Wormrot + Insect Warfare

Two person bands don’t always work. Lyon, France’s Warfuck works. You can feel the energy between its two members as they feed off one another blast beat by blast beat, crushing riff by crushing riff. This is an album showing what a precisely executed grindcore record can sound like. Namely: pissed as all hell. Quotes from the British show Black Mirror are interspersed through the entire album, which is effective in making an already cohesive listen that much more engaging by upping the irate factor. With only two instruments, things could sound incomplete, but it’s the opposite. Drums and guitar are crisp, there is plenty of low end on the guitar, and the drums sound full. The riffs aren’t all blazing speed—there are plenty of headbang worthy accents and the drumming is tight, interesting and clean. I can’t recommend this album enough, and since it’s free on their bandcamp, you have no excuse. –Peter Fryer
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Phantom Glue
A War of Light Cones
Black Market Activities
Street: 07.16

Phantom Glue = High on Fire + Mastodon + Black Cobra
Phantom Glue are drinking from the long tapped well of sludgy punk-infused stoner doom—perhaps this release would have sounded fresher were it to have come out in a timely manner, following its recording in 2011. Even so, Phantom Glue bring some noteworthy ideas on their first album for Black Market Activities. The slower, doomier numbers are straight out of the High on Fire playbook, but when they pick up the tempo, or lock into a dual lead, that’s when Phantom Glue’s sound shines through. Tracks like “Biocult” and “Arboreal” are bangers—all headbanging and muscle—but on an album that clocks in at under half an hour, everything should be memorable. Of little surprise, this was recorded at God City, which is a perfect match for Phantom Glue’s sound. Fans of the genre will be pumped on this release, whereas those looking for the next big thing will be left lacking. –Peter Fryer

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Repulse | Frail | Self-Released

Repulse
Frail

Self-Released
Street: 09.21
Repulse = His Hero Is Gone + Rotten Sound + Trap Them

I imagine myself trying to tell coworkers what Repulse sound like. What I would want to tell them is that Repulse plays a killer blend of grindcore, hardcore and D-beat that leans dirty, but they make plenty of space for straight-up hardcore, too. Now, I imagine saying that and receiving the inevitable “Say what?” look on their face—culminating in the wildly inadequate explanation, “They play hardcore punk.” At that point, in their minds, Repulse probably sound like the Sex Pistols or something. So, even though this may feel like a style that those who are into the music would recognize, it’s these reminders that this really is something unique, which makes being into all of this worth it.

The micro-categorization within hardcore and punk rock may not be unique to these particular subcultures, but these micro-scenes within an already niche scene are a fascinating phenomenon to me, regardless. If you like the broad spectrum within the ever-expanding umbrella of hardcore, these delineations couldn’t be more clear. But, to an outsider, ha! Good luck.

There is much to recommend about Frail, but what makes it shine are the standout touches that go above and beyond the sum of its lineage. In “Body of Lies” when the impeccably set-up breakdown hits, there is a hi-hat fill playing 16th notes, which drives the momentum—which would be completely lacking with a simple quarter note played on the ride cymbal. No part overstays its welcome on Faith, either. Blast beats and frenetic riffing give way to dirgier rhythms, which are switched up again into faster D-beat passages. The beginning of “Internal Prison” leads with a prominent double-bass roll, one of only a couple on the album, and paired with the plentiful tempo shifts over Faith’s 12-minute running time, they’re noticeable. The vocals trade off throughout between a higher-pitched scream and a lower bark, lending dimension.

Most notable is the breakdowns. The buildups to these breakdowns and their inevitable conclusion are pulled from more straightforward hardcore territory, lending a versatility to Repulse, which opens them up to being enjoyed by a kid wearing all black, a bearded warrior and the Terror fan alike. It still probably isn’t going to make sense to that lady in accounting, though. –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

V/A
This Ain’t Your Mom’s Hardcore vol. 2

Full Lock Media
7.24.07
TAYMH= Solid State Bands + Ferret Bands + Boring Spazzy metalcore

If you are dyed in the wool fan of Solid State Records or Ferret Records this may be the release for you. The only enjoyment I can see anyone getting out of this abomination of video collaboration would come if they had the poor judgement to think that the bands on this DVD (Scarlet, Heavy Heavy Low Low, Chariot, Twelve Gauge Valentine, Secret Lives of Freemasons, etc.) are actually great hardcore bands. News flash: they’re not. Every song on this thing sounds almost exactly alike, even all of the bands look almost exactly alike. This would be a good time capsule piece for someone to look back on and say “what were crappy pretty boy spazz metalcore bands like in 2006?” Well: they have shaggy hair, tight pants, cut off shirts, and they spend more time on guitar antics than actually playing good songs. You can’t really hear the songs since the recording is just horrible, you basically get vocals and snare on the tracks, this looks like the work of a high school TV Productions class. I’d gauge the median age of audience members to be 16 – these bands were the popular thing for the kids in high school to do. I doubt any of them will turn up at a show 4 years from now. The title of the DVD implies that it’s something original, but I’d rather be listening to my mom’s hardcore, that would put it right around the time Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Black Flag were releasing material. Go buy one of their DVDs kid. -Peter Fryer

Le Petit Lieutenant
Xavier Beauvois

Koch Lorber Films
Street: 04.17

The police crime genre is one that is inundated with small variations on ultimately similar stories. A rookie cop is usually a prime main character, said rookie cop is a standout of his class, an out of the ordinary crime occurs and the rookie cop helps solve the case. Le Petit Lieutenant takes this usually bombastic formula, strips it of its hyper-masculine tendencies and leaves the viewer with a memorable, well-paced tragic story. The real star of this movie is not Antoine (Jalil Lespert) the police rookie, but his recently-returned-to-the-force sergeant Caroline Vaudieu (Nathalie Baye, who won a Cesar for her role). Vaudieu is a recovering alcoholic who lost a son years ago who would just happen to be about Antoine’s age. This creates a very tender, but ultimately subdued surrogate mother relationship between Antoine and Vaudieu. The crimes of the movie, murders by the riverside, take a back seat to the calculated and tremendous character development of the members of the police force. There is no good cop/bad cop dichotomy or methodical serial killer for the plot to hide behind. Instead, the characters are the riveting part of this film and they really shine. It ends on a very tender, tragic note, with the emotions of the characters palpable. This is a superb police drama that truly offers something new to the genre. -Peter Fryer