Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saké !!!

Often credited as the first hardcore band to include a violinist (I'm not sure that's true), Saké contributed a small but interesting body of work to the stellar Northern California punk cannon. As far as I know, their "Piñata" 10" (1996?) and unnamed 7" (1997, both released by Hopscotch Records) were their only releases. Based in Eureka, California, Saké seemed to draw as much influence from the great Bay Area hardcore bands of the early '90's, as from the progressive metal pioneers (Neurosis, Logical Nonsense) of the time. The hardcore influence rears its head on a few tracks where the band kicks up its pace, and certainly in the vocals, which consist of both male and female yellers and screamers (at least when the violinist isn't playing her parts). Lyrically, the band stays within the righteous framework of their time and place, spouting off against gender injustice, backstabbers, and the spiritual and environmental price of progress. The general pace, however, betrays the more sludgy, metal influence, as do the meandering, unpredictable song structures which, by punk standards, enter into almost epic territory. In better moments, the songwriting is powerful, with some driving riffs, and even a little groove here and there, but at other times it drags on (but very seldom). In the case of Saké, I would say that the violin indeed adds to their sound (i.e. it isn't thrown in just to be different). Said violin is used both as a great device for moody intros, as well as a melodic component to the actual songwriting (in both fast and slow sections). On one track ("The Desert"), the melody transforms from an almost middle eastern sound, to a more American or Irish folk one. Very interesting stuff indeed.
Play it Loud!:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Under Pressure Splits

Winnipeg's Under Pressure have been making a lot of noise out there lately (both literally and figuratively). Their last two 12"s have received superlative reviews, and for good reason. UP dish out the genuine shit: authentic sounding, noisy hardcore punk with Japanese and American punk of the 80's beating through its heart. The band has changed their sound a bit since their Sound Pollution 12" ("Still No Future") by dropping the blast beats and layering the guitars more. The split 7"s featured here (as well as the Sound Pollution 7" not featured here) represent the transitional period. The guitars are straight forward, but very well played, and the drumming is energetic and tight throughout. Vocally, the singer retains the raspy punk style of the early records, (which is fine with me!) and issues forth bleak lyrics that deal with the darker side of everyday life (addiction, alienation etc.) in a manner that is both snotty and poignant. First up is UP's split with Dutch fastcore noise dealers Blood I Bleed (FlowerViolence Records, 2004). Each band contributes some originals, and one cover. Under Pressure's finest moment on this EP is their cover of "Gospelfuckers" (by Jezus and the Gospelfuckers). The other tracks are good, but not the band's best. Blood I Bleed are messy and fast, and feature a vocalist who could be a 12 year old Japanese girl or a barking baby seal, but is neither. Needless to say, they're great. Next we have UP's split with DFA (Podruido Records, 2004). This record is superior all around (slightly better sound quality, and better tracks). Under Pressure tear it up with 3 great originals, and DFA take the listener back to the American 80's with their 3 tracks of distilled speed and energy, topped off with goofy lyrics seemingly written by a 14 year old. This is an excellent EP, so be sure to play it loud!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mine - Tetanus LP

Chocolate, clocks, cheese, neutrality, Fear of God, and Mine. This list represents my knowledge of Switzerland, superficial as it may be. This post deals with last in the list, a brutallic hardcore band of, you guessed it, the mid 1990's. Mine shared many things in common with other European contemporaries: the ferocity and metallic guitar sound of Luzifers Mob and Wounded Knee, along with the emotive qualities of Ego Trip and Dawnbreed. Although Mine released a 7" and at least one compilation track (all of which I have somewhere), their LP is by far their greatest achievement, and one of the high-water marks of the hardcore coming out of The Continent at the time. Much of the album consists of fast-as-hell drumming and catchy metallic riffs, but throughout there is a more than fair amount of slightly chunky/moshy parts, slow heavy intros, and even a little d-beat. The only thing missing is melody, but I don't think anyone will really miss it on this record. It would seem that these guys listened to a lot of Citizens Arrest before writing their songs, and even if that's false, the comparison is still valid. The overall sound is thick and intimidating, and anyone into any kind of good hardcore should give this disk a shot.

"Tetanus" was originally released collaboratively between Common Cause Records (Germany) and The Great American Steak Religion (Canada), which was Yannick's (of Union of Uranus, etc.) label at the time. As an overlooked release, it may still be possible to find it in used bins for mere pocket change. Here are my rips-- sorry if the quality sucks.

Mine "Tetanus" and split with Dawnbreed

Mine - First 7"

Monday, December 24, 2007

La Casa Fantom

Outside of Norway, La Casa Fantom get very little love. I get the impression that they either are not out to build a fan-base, or they simply don't expect to find one. The latter notion is ridiculous after one listens to this duo's product, which is a brilliant concoction of hyper-chaotic hardcore mixed with interludes of ambient rock and punk. Nay-sayers who do not respect the bass as a driving force in rock music forms may find one of their feet forcefully inserted in their mouths. Bard Spiller's bass chord alchemy is mesmerizing, and the melodies that sneak through the cracks of the unholy distortion are enough to seal the trap of any bass skeptic. There is an emotive quality here too, complements of Spiller's crafty use of dissonance at the absolute perfect moment, and his equally uncanny ability to turn it off before the effect becomes too commonplace. And let's hear it for all the drummers out there! More specifically, let's hear it for Lars Spiller, who creates, tames, and agitates again the chaos this band is known for, with all the precision of a schizophrenic octopus. The sound these two create is engrossing, and after all is done, it is hard to believe they manage to provide vocals too, considering the work their minds and bodies must be engaged in during performances (there's a video on their site to prove that they can do it all!). The vocals consist of hoarse screams, which match the music, but in the end it's the musicianship that stays with you.
La Casa Fantom has released quite a few records, and will be releasing another one in coming months. You may be able to obtain their records directly from them, so visit their site. Below are some rips of two records I managed to get my mitts on. Check 'em out! But keep an open mind, etc., etc...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Post Regiment

Doing a post on Post Regiment here may be like preaching to the choir, but I can't help but fear the possibility that someone out there has yet to be anointed...

Post Regiment was perhaps the greatest punk/hardcore band to ever come out of Poland (yes, I said it... and yes my exposure to Polish bands is a admittedly limited), and one of the best ever world wide (I'm not retracting that either!). When I listen to either of the LPs depicted above, I often wonder if I need to listen to any other punk records ever again. Granted, that thought disappears when the music stops playing, but at the time it is truly genuine. PR fills me with such fist-pumping euphoria, I often lose my faculties. Their ability to do this lies in the almost-perfection of their all-encompassing sound, replete and often oozing with sincerity, energy, speed, controlled melody/catchiness, diverse song writing, quirky, slightly distorted guitars, pounding bass, righteous lyrics, and the most awesome sounding vocalist any hardcore band could want! Further descriptions will only cheapen PR's greatness, so I will stop here.

For a fairly complete and succinct history of the band, go here. PR has another LP where they collaborated with members of Tragiedia and covered that band's songs. This album ("Tragiedia wg Post Regiment"), as well as their recently released demos LP ("Death Before Metal") is widely available and highly recommended. Members are thankfully still gracing us with their talents in such bands as PESD (the guitarist) and EL Banda (the bassist), and their influence is everywhere (most notably: check out the recent album by Antidotum). Finding Post Regiment's first two albums anywhere outside of Poland, on any format other than cassette is a real B-word. If any band members or labels have issues with me posting these tracks, let me know and I'll take care of it.

Kneel down, and humble yourself! (or don't...):
"Czarzly" (PR's best album! I added an LP only version of "Aniol")
"Post Regiment" (PR's first and almost best album! Contains some non-LP tracks)
Please try to support this band and its representing labels because they deserve it:

Monday, December 3, 2007

Systral - "Fever..." 10"

I hope you'll humor my obsession with 1990's bands; that decade held most of my musically formative years, and I haven't exhausted the archives yet! Today's reason to gush is a 13 track 10" of hybridized grind from Germany's Systral. Recorded in 1995, "Fever" (Per Koro Records) skillfully fused many of grindcore's basic elements (blast beats, low end guitars, growled/screamed vocals) with the tropes prevalent in the burgeoning "modern" US hardcore "scene" of the time (frenetic bursts of energy and dissonant guitar meanderings most associated with bands like Merel, Heroin, and Union of Uranus). Systral managed to distill the essence of pure bleakness between their fairly sparse blast beat runs by slowing things way down, tuning their guitars way low, and cranking the distortion and volume way up. The resulting guitar sound, coupled with the creepingly slow tempos, cast a foreboding ambience central to this record's uniqueness and power.

Systral's catalog consists of this 10", a 7", a split 7" with Acheborn, some compilation tracks, and the "Black Smoker" LP, which was perhaps a precursor to the "Death n' Roll" subgenre that's all the rage with the kids today, but which was marred by the snide use of a canned audience track throughout the album. It's a good record, but it still does not come close to the EP posted below. Members' involvement in bands like Acme and Morser have brought attention to Systral, but only peripherally it seems. The lack of international availability of their early releases has only helped to enshroud their name further in obscurity (at least outside of Germany). But, alas, pioneering bands will never be truly forgotten, and the cult of Systral is thriving out there in the shadowy crawlspaces and damp basements of hardcore history.

Systral's "Fever" 10"

Buy the CD (contains extra tracks):
Per Koro Records