Reviews January 2003
THE BIGOZ QUARTET – Leave The Guns And Bring The Cannoli (CD / nh-n Records)
Francesco from the Italian label nh-n Records (which means “now here, nowhere") sent me this CD. Now as the booklet is far from being informative, your only chance to get some details about this band is checking out their website www.bigozquartet.com. The music you can find on this CD with such a strange name (well, the band’s name seems strange to me, too), is very cool melodic punk rock with emo influences I would say. Fortunately the songs are midtempo ones and not in the vein of this boring Fat Wreck high speed crap (ok, NOFX have to be an exception from what I just said). Sometimes I feel reminded to Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music. Don’t get me wrong: I feel reminded to Hot Water Music because of the music, not because of the vocals. In fact the voice of The Bigoz Quartet is melodic in contrast to the rough vocals of HWM. The album was recorded by Danny Giordana who worked for bands like Agnostic Front or Earth Crisis in the past, so there are no questions left concerning the sound of this record. Now, if you’re into rocking, melodic music that is just perfect for a long hour drive with your car on an endless highway (I know, I tend to be melodramatic) get this one.
THE BREAK -- s/t (CD / Make My Day Records)
I don't know if this is really music for friends of bands like Samiam, Gameface, Shades Apart or Texas Is The Reason as the info says, because all these bands play melodic emo whereas The Break are more punk influenced. The last song of the 13 tracks, "The meaning of regret" and "After, taste" are probably the only ones that go in the direction of those bands mentioned above, but the rest is way more simple; melodic mid tempo punk rock. Thankfully not in the vein of all this Streetpunk crap and also not like all those high speed skatecore bands, but more rocking and melodic. Comparisons? No. Great melodies, cool voice, like a soundtrack to the upcoming spring. The five members of The Break found together in 2001 after being involved in the New Jersey punk / hardcore scene before and their self titled debut album was recorded in late fall of the same year at The Blasting Room (All, Descendents etc.) with Jason Livermore. Maybe the album was released in the US earlier, otherwise I wonder why it took so long to put these cool songs out. Maybe you'll find an answer on www.thebreakpage.com .
BUCK -- s/t (7" / Strange Fruit Records)
Strange Fruit Records comes up with a bunch of cool new stuff this month, and Buck from Sweden are among those. Founded in 1997 Buck already released two full length albums on the Swedish label Kasual as well as an EP on Startracks. But I haven't heard from Buck until I held this 7" (well actually it's a CD copy of the vinyl) in my hands. And I like it. Melodic pop influenced indie with some noisy electronic parts, but not those kind of noisy party that make me wanna skip to the next song. I'd rather say that Buck find a cool way combining mellow sounds with rocking parts. The second track is killer, just listen to this melody!! This three track 7" is once again a must for everyone into melodic indie and you know, 7"s are cool anyway, so you should add this one to your collection.
STEVE CABALLERO – Bandology Vol. 1 (CD / Sessions Records)
I knew Steve Caballero as one of the world’s best skateboarders and that some Vans shoes were designed by him or named after him. I also knew that he was involved in some bands besides skating, but I didn’t know exactly which ones. Now “Bandology Vol. 1 brings light into the darkness, compiling recordings Steve did with bands like The Faction, Odd Man Out, Shovelhead and Soda. Steve wrote the liner notes himself, and there he reveals that he recorded and produced other bands as well, recorded and mixed his own solo projects on a home 4 and 8 track studio while also touring on the Vans Warped tour for the past six years. I have to say that his first band, The Faction, appeals the most to me as this is melodic punk rock from the early 80s, exactly the sound to skate to. You know, I’m not skateboarder, but when I watch some skateboarding action on TV by accident, most of the time the soundtrack consists of some hip hop crap. I mean I always thought that bands like the Suicidal Tendencies in their early days or acts like the Descendents or the Circle Jerks should supply music for skateboarding, but oh well. Back to this CD: If you wanna know what kind of music Steve played over the years, take a listen. The booklet also contains comments and remarks on each featured band written by one of the band members as well as some cool old photos (just look at the pic in the CD tray, killer!). Skate and destroy!
THE CABLE CAR THEORY -- Fables And Fictions Of The Human Condition (CD / Defiance Records)
Six new songs by the Cable Car Theory from new York can be found on this EP that will be released at the end of February. Last year they put out their full length "The deconstruction", but to be honest, I haven't heard that one. In fact, "Fables and factions of the human condition" is the first piece of music I get to hear from this band. But I think I will check out their previous stuff, because these six songs are really strong. Imagine a mixture of Boy Sets Fire, Unbroken and Hot Water Music (the vocals), and you have a slight impression how The Cable Car Theory sounds like. Well, I think these bands are not the worst ones to be compared with, right? But The CableCar Theory really have their own sound, combining both melodic as well as aggressive parts. The voice of John Farag fits perfectly, even though it's pretty rough you can feel both passion, despair and hope. Good stuff, indeed! Catch them on their upcoming tour, I will for sure.
DARK DAY DUNGEON -- Let The Sin Begin (7" / Paperstreet Industries)
Marc of Paperstreet Industries was kind enough to send me this 7" on his label and what can I say? It's again pure killer stuff by this great Swiss outfit. Dark Day Dungeon deliver two brand new songs ("What's done is done", "Behind holy walls") as well as as a song from the "Know your enemy" album ("Drowning") on this 7". As on the full length you get heavy as heavy can get moshcore, combining metal guitars as well as nice melodies is a way that is not far from being perfect. If you're into the previous Dark Day Dungeon stuff you can grab this straight away, because the layout's nice and the 7" itself comes in clear vinyl that is so fat you could throw a window in with (or beat somebody's head in, right Tobi?). Awesome release! Oh, better be fast 'cause the 7" is strictly limited. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR I AM BLIND / EVOLUTION SO FAR – Split (CD / nh-n Records)
Here’s another split release on nh-n Records, this time featuring two Italian bands. For I Am Blind gave seven songs for this release whilst Evolution So Far appear with eight. The songs by For I Am Blind (who took their name from an old Pridebowl song) were recorded in Alpha Omega Studios, were bands like Cataract or Dark Day Dungeon recorded their albums before with Allessandro Azzali, so you can be sure that the sound is perfect. Even though the songs are catchy and powerful, melodic and fast, For I Am Blind can’t keep me focused all the time. I think these guys are really good musicians who know how to handle their instruments, and their fast and melodic hardcore is quite good, it’s just that at this period in my life it just mean that much to me anymore. But a couple of years back I would have loved it, I’m sure. Hey wait, where’s this cool melody coming from? Oh, it’s “Waits and expectations”, a really cool midtempo track. Next there’s Evolution So Far. The sound of their songs isn’t as fat as the one of For I Am Blind and also the singer is not as good as the one from their mates sharing this CD. The music is quite similar, fast yet melodic hardcore, maybe a little bit more in the vein of bands like Kid Dynamite etc., so quite cool anyway. If you’re now interested in these bands, get in touch with their label through email@example.com or www.nh-n.com.
HIGHEST EXPRESSION -- Closed In A Warm Dream (Demo CD / DIY)
Another cool thing coming from Italy is Highest Expression who present their second demo. Recorded in two days in November 2002 it features four tracks, Highest Expression feel inspired by bands like Sensefield, The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring or Jimmy Eat World and I think you can hear that when playing this CD. Especially the second track "Petals" reminds me to Jimmy Eat World during the "Clarity" period (still the best album the American act did in my eyes by the way), because you can also hear this sweet tinkling in the background and the cool mixture of quiet and rocking parts. At least the first three songs are pretty great, and that's not bad concerning the fact that there are four songs on here I think. Of course the sound is not as grandiloquent as the sound of established bands (especially the guitars could be a little louder), but hey, this is a demo and considering that it's cool. Support the underground and ger in touch with them through firstname.lastname@example.org
MAPLE -- s/t (7" / Strange Fruit Records - Underhill Records)
As well as The Unfinished Sympathy Maple come from Spain, too, and both bands were touring Europe together last year. But the main difference between those two acts is the female voice of Maple. Sometimes female vocals get on my nerves pretty soon but Maple luckily are an exception. I like to play this kind of music when relaxing or while hanging out with my girlfriend (well most of the time she likes listening to different stuff but...). The info says that Maple would fit on a mixtape nest to Monochrome or Air. Yeah, I guess friends of Air really might like them because the music is very laid back. Apparently Maple were featured on German music television VIVA 2 and they are also endorsed by the American skateboard company of the same name. Better be quick (or be dead, hehe, anybody remembers good old Iron Maiden?) because the 7" is limited to 500 hand numbered copies!
NEVER SURRENDER / FACE THE ENEMY -- Split (CD / Defiance Records)
Who ever thought old school sXe Hardcore was dead should listen closely to this split album by two bands whose members played in some of the most legendary hardcore acts ever. Never Surrender is the new band of Porcell. Now I really don't think it would be necessary to mention the bands he played in, but anyway, Porcell is a living legend, as he appeared in bands like Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Judge, Project X and Shelter. Never Surrender play aggressive hardcore, not so much in the youth crew vein, but definitely with a huge Judge influence. I mean the riffs and rhythms totally remind me to the classic "Bringin' it down", and the voice sounds very pissed. Oh yeah, talking about the vocals: No other than Porcell himself is responsible for the vocals in Never Surrender! I don't know if he ever did the lead vocals before, but he's doing a real cool job. In contrast to the last Shelter record he played on, "The purpose, the passion", which was more or less a 7 Seconds rip off kinda thing (which isn't a bad thing after all, but I didn't care much about that Shelter record anyway, because I think that they had reached their top with "Mantra" in 1995), the five songs of Never Surrender (among which you can find a cover by Blitz, namely 'Never surrender') are really smashing and strong. Oh, the guys from American Nightmare/Nothing did the backing vocals and the songs were recorded by Ken Olden at Monster Island Studios.
Speaking of Ken Olden: This guy is one of the members of Face The Enemy, which can be considered as an all-star outfit when you look at the line up: Tim McMahon (vocals, Mouthpiece, Hands Tied), Ed McKirdy (bass, Hands Tied), Graham Land (guitar, Shelter, Better Than A Thousand, ...), Ken Olden (Damnation A.D., Worlds Collide, Battery, Better Than A Thousand etc.) and Alex Garcia-Rivera (Piebald, Better Than A Thousand, Shelter). Hands Tied were along with Bane (the first two EPs) and Ten Yard Fight my favourite band among all those old school acts from the mid 90s. So I'm glad that we have Tim on vocals with a new band that is totally in the vein of the aforementioned Hands Tied. I love it. Face The Enemy are featured with four songs that were also recorded by Ken Olden at Monster Island Studios and mastered by Issa from Good Clean Fun. Enough said: Get this split release!
OVER IT / STILL HERE – The Sound Of Nothing (Split CD / nh-n Records)
This Split CD features a quite interesting combination with Over It from the US and Still Here from Italy. Each band contributed six songs with Over It starting the CD off with their tracks which were partly recorded in summer 2001 (taken from Hindsight 20/20”) and winter 2000 (taken from “The ready series”). So you all of the Over It songs are previously released which doesn’t matter much to me as I didn’t know the songs before anyway. But I can assure that they are pretty cool and worth to be checked out. Over It’s musical style is in the vein of melodic hardcore showing a cool mixture of both fast and midtempo parts with lots of melodies and a nice voice. Winner! Still Here are next. Their tracks were recorded in January 2002 and as far as I can see they’re previously unreleased. In direct comparison to Over It I have to say that I like the Americans better. That’s not because they’re from the US, but due to the fact that Over It have cooler breaks and I also prefer the voice of their singer. But anyway Still Here do a pretty good job (just listen to “From the past” which really rocks), so this Split CD is worth your attention.
SINCE BY MAN -- We Sing The Body Electric (CD / Revelation Records)
"Since By Man have the intensity of Converge, danceability of the Swing Kids, melodic sensibility of Milemarker and a vision all of their own." That's what the info sheet from Revelation says about this Milwaukee based band. Formed in 1999, Since By Man have three releases on different labels under their belts which are all out of print by now. "We sing the body electric" is their first full length on Revelation, and their new label has high expectations in those five guys. Even though the record is not easily accessible - the comparison to Converge is fitting in that point - , Since By Man throw in some cool melodies with the result that the songs aren't monotonous at all. The guitars sometimes remind me to bands like Botch. It's amazing how Since By Man combine crushing metal riffing followed by melodic parts in a song like "It's just that kinda night"; far from the ordinary. The vocals are mostly screaming, but not when it wouldn't fit to the music. Produced and recorded by Kurt Ballou of Converge fame, "We sing the body electric" was mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side, so you can be sure that this record doesn't sound like a cheap rehearsal tape. As I said, not easily accessible, but if you take your time listening to this record (cool layout by the way), you will like it for sure.
STRIKING DISTANCE -- The Bleeding Starts Here (CD / Reflections Records)
After coming home from a long day (actually it was a pretty cool one as I was shopping with my girlfriend) I was very happy to find the latest output by Dutch label Reflections Records in my mailbox that brought us some great European releases from bands like American Nightmare, Good Clean Fun, Kill Your Idols or Count Me Out in the past, not forgetting great European bands like Reaching Forward (who unfortunately broke up a couple of time ago). But back to Striking Distance: "The bleeding starts here" is a compilation of older and hard to get songs by this band from Washington D.C. Among the 17 songs is the first 7" from 1999 which originally came out on Vicious Circle (for the first time on CD now), some demo songs from 2001 for the "March to your grave" album on Thorpe Records and finally two covers, those being "Screaming at a wall" (Minor Threat, yeah!) and "My rules" (Void). The music by Striking Distance can be described as in your face, pissed of hardcore in the vein of bands like Negative Approach, so don't expect any youth crew styled hardcore when I speak of old school hardcore here. For fans of all the Bridge 9 stuff (Striking Distance released an EP on that label, too) this is the real deal. In fact Striking Distance toured with bands like American Nightmare, Kill Your Idols or Death Threat in the past, so you can imagine what to expect here. This CD comes in a cool cardboard slipcase, so there's really no reason why not grabbing it.
THE UNFINISHED SYMPATHY -- s/t (LP / Strange Fruit Records)
Everyone who saw The Unfinished Sympathy from Barcelona, Spain, in 2002 playing live in Europe (one time supporting Joshua and later that same year headlining with Maple (also from Spain) as opening act) should say a warm "thank you" to Strange Fruit Records who make the self titled debut from The Unfinished Sympathy available in Germany. Although it was already recorded back in 2001 on B-Core Disc from Barcelona you couldn't get it other as an import. But now Strange Fruit re-released it on vinyl and you should get it. Not only because it contains a bonus track and not only because the original CD cover was redrawn by the guitarist of Standstill, but simply because the music rocks! I was lucky to see them supporting Joshua last year and honestly I think that The Unfinished Sympathy blew Joshua away. The music can be roughly described as rocking indie I'd say and friends of Hey Mercedes, Brandtson etc. should take a listen. The fourth song "Albatross" is one of those tracks that touches me in a special way. One of those songs I listen to for about the first five seconds and I already know that this is the real deal. Famous UK DJ John Peel felt so enthusiastic about this Spanish band that invited them to the BBC Studios in London to record one of the legendary Peel Sessions. Now if this is still not convincing to you then you're definitely reading the wrong zine. Watch out for these guys who are currently on the way to the studio recording their second album.
VENEREA -- Out In The Red (CD / People Like You Records)
The latest output by Venerea from Sweden, "Out in the red", will once again find many friends, because the band sticks to their version of high speed melodic skatecore in the vein of NOFX, No Use For A Name (during the "Leche con carne" era) etc. I saw them in 2001 on the Vans off the Wall tour together with Ignite, and I liked their show pretty much. But listening to this CD doesn't have the same effect on me. In the early and mid 90s this was exactly the sound I liked a lot. NOFX came up with "White trash, two heebs and a bean", Pennywise released some cool records and so on. Venerea must have liked these sounds a lot, too, because they were founded in 1991 and released their first EP in 1994. After being constantly on the road for the last years (you can can catch them pretty soon again opening for Ten Foot Pole on their European tour), the Swedish four piece found the time to do another album. And as I said, friends of melodic skatecore will like the 11 new songs for sure. I can't say that I don't like them, it's just not my sound anymore.