REVIEWS April 2003
BELVEDERE / DOWNWAY -- Hometown Advantage (Split CD / Sessions Records / The Union Label Group)
This full length album is not only a collaboration between Downway and Belvedere, both from calgary, Canada, but also a cooperation between Sessions Records and The Union Label Group. Both bands contribute five songs each and Downway are the ones to start the record off. I think in cases like this I prefer vinyl, because there's no real "first band", because you decide which band to listen to first. Downway was formed in 1995, put out a couple of albums since then and went through some line up changes also. The music they play is melodic punk rock without the boring stuff, hehe. Don't get me wrong, I really like melodic punk, but sometimes the bands simply focus on high speed songs which becomes a bit boring after a while. Fortunately Downway have lots of tempo changes and more quiet parts in their songs, too, so they definitely aren't just another melody outfit. Songs like "August" should also appeal to emo fans, so thumbs up for Downway. Belvedere are next, and the first thing that caught my attention was the fact that their songs were produced by Brian Baker and Steve Hansgen at Inner Ear Studios and engineered by Don Zientara. Hello? I guess you all know these names, don't you? Just think about Dag Nasty, Minor Threat and other legendary acts that are connected with these people and this studio. Now Belvedere is far away from Minor Threat and quite so far away from Dag Nasty. They're also playing melodic punk rock and sometimes they remind me to Millencolin, especially the vocals. Musically it's more the older Millencolin stuff that can be referred to, you know, the fast songs by the Swedes. Belvedere have toured with bands as the Mad Caddies, Suicide Machines or The Missing 23rd in the past and were like Downway they were formed in 1995. A direct comparison of these two bands makes me say that Downway are the winners of this split release, because their sound is more original in my eyes.
BORN FROM PAIN -- Sands Of Time (CD / Gangstyle Records)
If I remember right "Born from pain" was an early Earth Crisis song. Musically I wouldn't compare Born From Pain from Belgium to Earth Crisis but rather to Hatebreed. I think I mentioned it a couple of times in the past that "Perseverance" by Hatebreed is one of those albums that I enjoy very much listening to. And as Born From Pain also play that heavy, moshing NY style tough guy Hardcore, "Sands of time" won't leave my CD player for a longer time I guess. Usually most tough guy bands seem pretty boring to me, but bands like Hatebreed or Born From Pain are different. All ten songs on their fifth record are crushing, but unlike most bands Born From Pain manage to write songs that differ from each other. Recorded in early 2003 by Tue Madsen who has worked for bands as The Haunted in the past, "Sands of time" offers a great sound and an amazing layout. Those of you who saw them on the Eastpak sonsored Resistance tour together with Hatebreed, Agnostic Front, Biohazard etc. will know what to expect from this metal mosh tough guy powerhouse, anyone else should grab this album and go watch them on their upcoming tour together with Madball.
BOYSETSFIRE -- Tomorrow Come Today (CD / Wind Up)
"Is it still allowed to listen to Boysetsfire? I mean they signed a deal with an evil major label and that should be reason enough not to like them anymore, no matter how the new songs are. And if you're honest, their previous songs are way better than the new stuff anyway. Well, in fact their first 7" was the best stuff they've ever done." I'm pretty sure that there are people from the self proclaimed scene police out there talking such crap about bands like Boysetsfire and other acts who dare releasing their records on major labels. Actually I don't care if a band from the Hardcore scene signs to a major label or not as long as the music is cool. On the other hand I don't like bands on a major label trying to justify that decision saying that they're "fighting the business with their own weapons". Hey, it's the music that matters, so what?! Now back to Boysetsfire. Their latest album "Tomorrow come today" is out now and once again Boysetsfire succeeded in recording a great one. Of course the songs are more melodic than ever and less aggressive than in the past, even more melodic than the ones on "After the eulogy", but I don't think that's a compromise for being on a major label, because there still are some (few) songs on the record that have an aggressive edge and screaming vocals. But the majority of the songs is very melodic, and these melodies are fantastic. Listen to tracks like "Last year's nest", "Full colour guilt" or "Handful of redemption" and get blown away by the melodies and the great voice of Nathan. I wouldn't say that I agree with everything they say, especially the political views they deal with in their lyrics, but as I said in the beginning, the music is excellent on "Tomorrow come today" and therefore I can only give you the advise to get this record, because if you liked Boysetsfire in the past, you'll surely like them in the future, too.
BRANDTSON -- Death & Taxes (CD EP / Deep Elm Records)
Six new songs in 19 minutes clearly show why Brandtson is without a doubt the best band on Deep Elm Records at the moment. Recorded in five days in Eudora, Kansas, at Red House Recording, "Death & taxes" was once again produced, engineered and mixed by Ed Rose and contains some of the best songs Brandtson have ever written, these being "On three" with the trademark double vocals by Myk Porter and Jared Jolly (close to perfection), "In the pills" and track number six, the beautiful ballad "In a word". Sometimes the songs are more pop and radio oriented than ever ("Ain't no trip to Cleveland"), but that's anything but a bad thing. Fans of Jimmy Eat World, Further Seems Forever or The Juliana Theory (their first two records) must check this EP out. Brandtson rule!
DEVIL ATE MY SON -- Where Ghosts Roam (CD EP / Paperstreet Industries)
Even though I really Metalcore, I sometimes feel a little bored with all the bands around playing this kind of music. I often have the impression that some of them just play this style because it's somehow trendy. Anyway, there are still great bands around playing Metal(core), and Devil Ate My Son from Germany are one of them. Of course they don't do anything completely new, but what they are doing they're doing good. Their type of Metalcore has its typical elements just as brutal riffs, both fast and mosh parts, melodic leads and screaming vocals. But what sets them apart from mediocre bands are the sometimes blasting drums that are faster than other acts and sometimes a more chaotic song structure. Don't worry, this is no math core metal crap, there's just a bit more complexity in some of the five songs on this EP. Hey, the beginning of "24 hours" reminds me of Death during the "Human" era. I like this band, hehe. As a bonus to the usual stuff (lyrics, pics) the booklet also features an interesting statement concerning the possible dangers of the internet.
ELLIOTT -- Song In The Air (CD / Revelation Records)
I was very excited to hear the new Elliott record because their last album "False cathedrals" was a really great one, considering songs like "Blessed by your own ghost" or the classic "Drive onto me". When you listen to "Song in the air" for the first time you won't find songs that are so fantastic like those two mentioned above. That's what I thought after I first listened to the ten new songs. But after a while it becomes quite clear that Elliott have recorded another masterpiece. Maybe the songs are even more quiet and charming than their previous material, but of course the melodies are still there. This time Elliott even used a string quartet, and along with other effects and quiet parts these songs are really enchanting. After coming home from touring extensively in the US and throughout Europe, the Louisville, Kentucky, based four piece began recording new songs in July 2001 that originally were to make an EP, but after a while it became clear to the band that it should be a full record instead. And that's just what I hold in my hands right now, enveloped in a nice packaging and artwork and recorded at their own studio in Louisville, produced on their own, engineered and mixed by Kevin Ratterman, bassist in Elliott. And after having listened to "Song in the air" a couple of times there's this song called "Beijing (too many people)" that appears from out of nowhere and says: "Here are some melodies you will never forget." Great record!
THE JULIANA THEORY -- Love (CD / Epic Records)
The same question that I asked concerning the latest Boysetsfire record can also be asked in relation to "Love", the new album by The Juliana Theory: Is it still allowed for people in the so called "underground" to listen to a major label group? Of course it is! What I think about this issue can be read in the Boysetsfire review. Now to "Love". Their debut on Epic Records is different than their previous albums on Tooth and Nail. "Emotion is dead" was probably the Emo record of the year 2000, and I loved it. In comparison to that one and also to "Understand this is a dream" "Love" is a strong release, but some songs are a just average ones for The Juliana Theory. I mean these songs would be very good if another band had put them on their record, but a band like The Juliana Theory helped to set the standards of melodic Emo, so you can expect a lot. Don't get me wrong, "Love" is a really strong record. Just listen to wonderful songs like "Do you believe me?", "Jewel to sparkle" or "White days" and you immediately understand that Brett Detar, Chad and the three Josh's (incredible how many guys in the band are called Josh) still know how to write fascinating songs. Once again there are some piano parts included, as well as a new version of the killer song "Into the dark" which was already on "Emotion is dead". I don't know if it was necessary to re-record this tune, because the original version was already great, but anyway. As a conclusion I'd say that everyone who liked The Juliana Theory in the past will like their new songs, too, even though I think "Emotion is dead" was slightly better.
MORNING AFTER -- True Drama (CD / Full House Records)
After I had listened to "True drama" for the first time I though "Well, just another NYC-style tough guy Hardcore album." Boy, I was wrong. Even though Morning After from Finland (!) have these typical New York Hardcore influences in their songs, they also remind me to a Thrash band from the early 90s called Channel Zero (if I remember right they were from Belgium?!). I don't know if you know this band, so if you don't, Morning After don't play that Exodus-style Thrash Metal with high pitched vocals and endless guitar solos, but a sound that is heavily influenced by New York Hardcore. I'm not sure if this description is helpful for you, but what I am trying to say is that Morning After aren't just another tough guy band out there but really cool. 11 songs, no filler. Oh, but there's one thing I have to say: Stop drinking beer guys, haha.
NEVER FACE DEFEAT -- Remember Your Heartbeat (CD EP / DRA Entertainment)
Never Face Defeat came together in May 2001 and after various contributions to Hardcore compilations and a four-way-split CD on the band's own label Lucifer's Legions "Remember your heartbeat" finally comes out on Demons Run Amok Entertainment. In the past Never Face Defeat have been compared to bands like Madball, Merauder, Hatebreed or Kikback, and I think that description seems right as all these bands have one thing in common, and that is power and mosh! Never Face Defeat mostly play slower, mid tempo styled Hardcore with tons of mosh parts and pissed off vocals. But what else would you expect from some guys with lots of tattoos and sleeveless shirts?! All in all this is nothing really new, but fans of those bans mentioned above will like Never Face Defeat I'm sure. Now after listening to the five songs on this CD I'm about to throw stones into windows or to be killed in the pit.
THE POSHBLOKES -- ...And Here's The Forecast (CD / Winged Skull Records)
I never heard from The Poshblokes before, but as their label Winged Skull this band is based in Luxembourg. Cool, I didn't know a band from that country before. Now how can I describe the sound these guys are playing? It's a strange mixture of mid tempo punk rock and fast stuff in the vein of those new Thrashcore bands. You see, really fast stuff. But the vocals are more punk. Like I said, strange mixture. As I don't have any further information about this band, why not visit their website www.poshblokes.cjb.net, maybe you can find some mp3s to make up your own mind. Not my cup of tea, but maybe it's yours.
REPULSION -- Horrified Re-Release (2CD / Relapse Records)
In 1991 a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to buy his vinyl copy of an album called "Horrified" by a band called Repulsion. Although I listened to Death Metal a lot these days (and I still love all the old classic albums bands from let's say 1988 to 1991) I had never heard of Repulsion before. But the cover artwork convinced me to buy the record as it depicted a drawn decomposed skull. Yeah, that's Death Metal the way it should be! I listened to the songs and pretty soon found out that the sound of the four sickos was far away from anything I had heard until then. of course I knew bands like Napalm Death and their classics like "From enslavement to obliteration", but "Horrified" was different to the Napalm Death grindcore. And of course of it was much different compared to all the Death Metal bands that came up back then. It was a lot faster than those acts, ten times as fast to be precise. The songs were shorter and sometimes non stop blast from beginning to end. Others were more crushing mid tempo songs ("Black breath" which got covered by Entomed years later) while others were pure thrashing insanity ("Radiation sickness"). Anyway, I definitely was impressed and loved the record. What I didn't know at that time was that Repulsion had split up years before and that "Horrified" was already recorded way back in 1986! Imagine that, noise like that was unleashed in 1986! "Horrified" originally came out in 1989 on Necrosis Records, a sub label to Earache Records, and mainly two guys were responsible for the release, namely Bill Steer and Jeff Walker from the mighty Carcass. Some time later Repulsion came back together and did another 7" with two songs on it as well as a final demo in 1991 when eventually they split for the second time. I bought the 7" some time after I had bought the LP and hoped that maybe they'd put out another record, but that didn't happen. Now thanks to Relapse Records, the definite Repulsion anthology sees the light of day almost 20 years after the godfathers started. And for everyone who likes this kind of music just a little bit, this double CD set is a must have, no doubt about that. The first disc contains the entire "Horrified" album (hey, the vinyl is super rare, which makes me feel good as I have it, hehe), and the second one contains rare stuff from Repulsion and their predecessor Genocide. Of course there's the aforementioned 7" with another two songs from that same session as well as every Repulsion / Genocide demo ever releases, even the final recordings from 1991! Lots of photos, an extensive band history and liner notes to every song / demo written by singer/bassist Scott Carlson himself round this release up. Do I have to say more? No. Listen to classics like "Decomposed", "Splattered cadavers", Festering boils" and bow down to the masters of grind!
SETTLEFISH -- Dance A While, Upset (CD / Deep Elm Records)
Settlefish is not the first European band on Deep Elm Records (Logh and Last Days of April from Sweden came before, even though their albums were only released ion Deep Elm in the US), but the first band on Deep Elm Records from Italy. Dear Diary from Germany had a song on one of the Emo Diaries and were supposed to do a split or an EP for Deep Elm, but somehow that didn't happen, so Settlefish is in fact the first band to appear on the American Emo label. Well, actually that's not quite right. Even though four of the five guys come from Italy, singer and guitarist Jonathan Clancy originally comes from Canada but now lives in Italy, too. Recorded in June 2002 in Bologna, Italy, "Dance a while, upset" features ten songs and over 54 minutes of indie rock in the Deep Elm vein. Sometimes there are outbursts of distorted guitars and screaming vocals, but overall this is a rather quiet record with lots of melodies and dissonance. Nothing groundbreaking, but solid work. Most bands on Deep Elm Records have a quiet similar sound, and Settlefish is one of them. Watch out for a split EP with their labelmates Desert City Soundtrack which should come out soon.
SOLEA -- Even Stranger (CD EP / Defiance Records)
What would you expect from a band that has (ex-) members from bands like Samiam, Knapsack or the mighty Texas is the Reason in its line up? A lot, right? "Even stranger" was the first release I heard from these guys, even though they released another EP before. But this previous EP was more or less a demo recording, so "Even stranger" could be more representative for the band's sound? "Shuffle" was the first song ever I heard from Solea, even before this EP came out, because it was on some compilation. I thought it was ok, but it couldn't compete with the stuff of the members' other bands. Now after having heard this EP I still think that this particular is not as great as the other five tracks (even though the chorus is amazing). But just listen to the other songs. They're wonderful. If you want to compare them with Samiam or Texas is the Reason I'd say especially the first two songs are more in the vein of Texas is the Reason, and that's not because of Garret's voice. The title track "Even stranger days" is is straight rocker and it totally rules. The last song can't quite match the quality of those mentioned songs, but still it's a great EP that makes me wanna hear a full length soon. On the CD version you'll find an enhanced part with a video to "Smile", whereas the 7" features "Leaving today", the bonus track from the first MCD that wasn't included on the 7" back then. Enough said, time to listen.
STANDSTILL -- The Latest Kiss (CD EP / Defiance Records)
Standstill from Barcelona, Spain, surprised me with their latest EP on Defiance Records. I expected some noisy and complex post Hardcore, but even though the five songs are still dissonant at times they are all acoustic. Now don't expect any MTV Unplugged stuff on "The latest kiss" because Standstill are far from writing songs that would appeal to the music television audience, sad but true. Songs like "Welcome" even remind me to new stuff from Pearl Jam at times, but then again Standstill are more complex. The last song on this EP features a mandolin, a saxophone and some more rather unusual instruments and especially this track is very hypnotic, even though (or because of?) it has no vocals. Not what I expected, but a nice surprise. Give them a chance and go see them on their German tour this spring.
V/A -- Atticus... Dragging The Lake (CD / Side One Dummy Records)
Now this is what I call a cool compilation. Atticus is a clothing company owned by Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge, both from Blink 182. Did I mention that I like Blink 182? Yes, I do. Side One Dummy puts out this compilation that is presented by Atticus, so no wonder that Blink 182 are on here, too, with a rare song that was only available as a bonus track from the limited first pressing of "Take off your pants and jacket". That's also what I like about this comp: 26 bands are featured, and many songs are previously unreleased. Those bands featured with unreleased songs are Finch, Dropkick Murphys, Blink 182, Sparta Slick Shoes, Lagwagon, Maxeen, H2O, Hot Rod Circuit, Down By Law and Alkaline Trio. Other bands that can be found here are Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Water Music, Thrice (yeah!), Dillinger Four, Further Seems Forever, Jets to Brazil, Box Car Racer, The Transplants (feat. Tim Armstrong from Rancid and Travis Barker from Blink 182), Taking Back Sunday, Bane (!), Rise Against, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and more. As you can see from the list of bands there's a wide variety of styles to be found, ranging from Punk Rock to Emo to Hardcore. In the US this comp even went to the Billboard Charts, entering at position No. 51. Good stuff.
V/A -- Emo Is Awesome, Emo Is Evil (CD / Deep Elm Records)
I'm not sure if another compilation from Deep Elm Records was really necessary, because the Emo Diaries are being released frequently and there's also this "Rare and unreleased" compilation series Deep Elm put out in the past. You could say that the Emo Diaries is not really representative for deep Elm as it features rather unknown bands, and only a small amount of them ends up as a Deep Elm recording artist, but then there's still the oher compilation series with rare and unreleased stuff from Deep Elm bands. "Emo is awesome, Emo is evil" now has 18 bands/19 songs on it, but every song has been released before, so I guess this comp isn't really a must have. Maybe those of you who haven't heard anything from Deep Elm Records before - I can't imagine there's anyone out there who hasn't - might check out this compilation, the rest should listen to the single bands or get the album with the rare stuff. Definitely no must have.
V/A -- Tales From The Winged Skull - The Revenge Of The Second Ghoul (CD / Winged Skull Records)