Reviews September 2003
BIG COLLAPSE -- Prototype (CD / The Militia Group)
Big Collapse? Never heard of that band before. Threw in the CD and knew I had heard the vocals before, and a look at the line up of the band proved me right: Josh Loucka is responsible for the vocals (he also plays guitar) and some of you might remember him from his former band Shift which put out a cool EP on Equal Vision years ago and on which I stumbled upon by accident but liked it a lot. After another album on Equal Vision Shift put out a record on major Columbia but broke up afterwards. Now Josh is back with Matt Kane on guitar, Gavin van Vlack on bass (who played in Burn, Absolution and Die 116 before) and Kyle Stevenson on drums. In my opinion you can still make out some influences from Josh's former band Shift but also from bands like Quicksand, which means that Big Collapse are playing cool post-Hardcore that pretty much rocks. Apart from some longer guitar solos I couldn't make out any major 80s metal influences in contrast to the info sheet, but it's true, Big Collapse aren't just another post-Hardcore act but manage to write energetic, driving and rocking songs. The ten songs on "Prototype" were produced and recorded by Ben Moore (Finch, Rocket from the Crypt) and what more can I say than that I like this record?
THE CONTROL -- Glasseye (CD / Go-Kart Records)
Ten songs in 21 minutes give you a good impression on what to expect on "Glasseye", the latest album by The Control from Buffalo, NY. I liked their "The forgotten EP" a lot as it showed some great old school Hardcore, but not in the vein of 88 style Youth Crew Hardcore, but more similar to bands like Negative Approach. Straight ahead in your face with pissed of vocals but also featuring mid tempo parts and guitars unlikely other bands playing a similar sound. "Glasseye" was recorded at Atomic Recordings with Dean Baltulonis, the same studio and the same producer as on "Life on the ropes", the latest album by Sick Of It All. But how different these albums sound like! The song "Tape 342" is a good example for all the frustration that lies within The Control and is so intense even though it's an instrumental. Good stuff.
FOR THE DAY -- Sofa So Good (CD / Rockstar Records)
I think I have the demo of For The Day in my collection, but I don't know for sure. As I don't remember the sound they played back then and as I don't have their first album "Love isn't brains, children..." I was curious if they'd sound as much as Hot Water Music as people said in the past. I don't know if they ever sounded like the Gainesville four piece in the past, but please remember that not every band with rough vocals sounds like Hot Water Music. In fact I heard out some Jawbreaker influences on the opening track on "Sofa so good" (great title by the way!) while the second song is really a bit in the vein of Hot Water Music. But hey, being influenced by another band doesn't mean you're not good or have no own ideas, right? For The Day from Rockcity Aachen made a cool record that contains 11 rocking songs with some more quiet moments and a great layout with tons of pictures and the lyrics written on all kinds of papers (the vinyl comes in a limited version of 1.000 copies, so you better be quick). Fans of (early) Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music or Hüsker Dü should check out this band, they rock!
FRIENDS SUCK / WORLD DOWN -- Split (CD / Fatsound Records)
Two German bands on a German label from the same city (Erfurt) sharing this CD with three songs each. Friends Suck are first and play fast melodic Hardcore with some Skatepunk influences but thankfully not as boring as all these countless kiddie punk bands out there that are just boring. Not the best stuff I've ever heard in this genre but entertaining and ok. World Down play more Metal influenced music, but they can't convince me because the music is just average and the vocals are a bit boring. Don't get me wrong, the songs are not crap, but there are just so many other bands out there I like better. Decide for yourself.
JETPILOT -- Session With Him (CD / Samuel Records / Rockstar Records)
Oh oh, a band from Sweden. Don't get me wrong, I totally love the old school Death Metal gods from Sweden (too many to list here), but on the other hand there are many Indie bands especially from Sweden that are not too interesting in my opinion (I'm waiting for the hate mail). Fortunately Jetpilot don't play Indie, the songs on "Session with Him" remind me to bands like Samiam or Jimmy Eat World (during their "Static previals" era) and everyone who knows me understands that this is the sound I like a lot. Originally Jetpilot started as a project in the first place, but in the meantime they're a "real" band. Those people who like the bands mentioned above should check them out. I only wonder what the title of the album means: Does it mean that they'd like to have a session with Finnish Rock band Him or who else is Him?! Please let me know. Even though the songs seem to be pretty fitting for the sunny time of the year, there's also a shadow that's hanging over this record: Their drummer Patrik who was in Jetpilot right from the start had an accident short after the first recording session and died two weeks later. He can be heard on four of the songs while new drummer Jonas plays on the other half. Rest in peace, Patrik.
THE LAWRENCE ARMS -- The Greatest Story Ever Told (CD / Fat Wreck Chords)
"The greatest story ever told" is the second album The Lawrence Arms put out on Fat Wreck Chords after a couple of releases on Asian Man Records and it's absolutely amazing! Together with Matchbook Romance and Pennywise my favourite record this month. It's one of these albums you can listen to over and over again and it's not getting boring at all. The Lawrence Arms aren't your "typical" Fat Wreck band but highly original and just amazing. They're not so much into melodic punk, you could rather compare them to bands like Taking Back Sunday, Thursday or Yellowcard, and as you may know I like this kind of pop influenced sound a lot. The vocals are done either by guitarist Chris or bassist Brendan, Chris having the more melodic voice while Brendan delivers more punk like vocals. I have to admit I prefer Chris' vocals because they fit the songs just perfectly. So as the music can convince me 100%, let's go to the cover art and booklet which is pretty cool, too. The whole artwork is based around a circus theme with old paintings and stuff. And there are numerous footnotes coming along with the lyrics to explain them which is also very interesting. Enough from my side, The Lawrence Arms rule and you should get this album!
MATCHBOOK ROMANCE -- Stories And Alibis (CD / Epitaph Records)
The Matchbook Romance originally started out as Fizzlewink in 1997, back then with a different line up. In 2001 the current line up got together under the name The Getaway. They spread their music over the internet and one day Brett Gurewitz - or simply Mr.Brett for true Bad Religion fans like me - stumbled upon one of their songs, gave the band a call and signed them to his label Epitaph Records. Due to legal problems the band changed their name to Matchbook Romance, released an EP on Epitaph soon after (which was produced by Mr.Brett himself) and now in 2003 their first full length is out. I heard some people complain that more and more bands would play this mixture of both melodic parts and screaming vocals in the vein of bands like Thursday or Taking Back Sunday. One band that was criticized for choosing this sound was Matchbook Romance. Honestly I don't understand that and more important, I don't care. I like this kind of sound and in my eyes the Matchbook Romance is one of the finest acts in that genre. 12 songs can be found on "Stories and alibis", and they rock. As I said before, you will find on this album melodies, powerful guitars, charming vocals next to screaming parts, but overall cool songwriting and anthems of beauty and aggression. The only thing that I have to criticize is the ghost track that comes up as song no.84 (!) which means that you have to skip like crazy to get there only to find out that it's no song at all. But that's just a minor point I guess, just turn your stereo off after the 12 songs. Better yet, play them again and enjoy this cool band. Perhaps my favourite record this month.
NAIAD -- Hardcore Emotion (CD / Goodlife Recordings)
Question: Where does a band come from that titles their five song EP "Hardcore emotion" and writes "Nothing but a truth" in the booklet? Answer: Where else but Japan. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be mean, but I can't help but smile when I look at all these Japanese bands and their often funny titles (remember "Don't be swindle"?). Even though Japan has had a huge influence on the flourishing Thrashcore scene in the past Naiad don't play this kind of music. As the title of this MCD indicates, the five guys from Kyoto play emotional Hardcore that reminds me to Shai Hulud at times because there's this feeling of despair and anger in the melodies and the vocals, but Naiad are not so fast as Shai Hulud. Even though two of the five songs on here are instrumentals and rather intros or interludes, the remaining three tracks are really long (playing time is over 25 minutes!), very entertaining and come over with a good production. This summer a dream came for true Naiad as they played the Goodlife Fest. If you missed them there check out "Hardcore emotion", they deserve your attention.
NEGATE -- Enemy (CD / Goodlife Recordings)
Negate released two MCDs, two full length albums and a couple of 7"s in the past. Now their new record "Enemy" is out and it's the first release I hear from these four Belgian guys. "Enemy" shows 11 songs of European Metalcore with the typical trademarks (screaming vocals, double bass, Death Metal riffing, etc.). In the meantime there are less and less bands that can blow me away in this genre with their latest releases (but I'm still desperately waiting for the new Heaven Shall Burn album!), and that's also the case with Negate. I mean their music is really cool but nothing really outstanding. But after all they tried to create something different at times by using clean vocals for example (well, Caliban had some of those on their latest album, too, but never mind). The drum sound could have been more powerful in my eyes, especially the snare. Jipé from Death Before Disco helped out on two songs with additional vocals. As I said, nothing special, but quite entertaining.
ONE MAN AND HIS DROID -- Party people (CD / Defiance Records)
PENNYWISE -- From The Ashes (CD / Epitaph Records)
Even though I had not listened to Pennywise for quite a while now I found out to my very surprise after reading the info sheet that came along with their latest and seventh record "From the ashes" that in fact I have all their previous records except for "Land of the free?" (2001) and "Live at the Key Club" (2000). My personal faves are the second album "Unknown road" and 1997s "Full circle". Two years after "Land of the free?" the new album is out and I was not too surprised that Pennywise are still unmistakable Pennywise. They were one of the first bands on Epitaph that gained a really wide audience and along with Bad Religion (who surely were a huge influence for Pennywise when they started, but which band playing melodic Hardcore or Melodycore has not been influenced by Bad Religion anyway?!) they were one of those acts that was ripped off by hundreds of other bands trying to sound like them. Unlike most Melodycore bands Pennywise manage to write songs that are melodic and catchy but nevertheless harder and more somber. Maybe that's why I still like them even though there aren't any major changes if you compare "From the ashes" to their previous releases. But that's cool, because Pennywise are still delivering cool songs and you could give their songs the banner "Pennywise music". My favourite tracks at the moment are "Something to change" and "Waiting". Oh yeah, the CD comes with a free DVD that contains interviews with the band members concerning the new record, rehearsals, a live video and some kind of a home story. Pretty cool and definitely value for money!
SICK OF IT ALL -- Life On The Ropes (CD / Fat Wreck Chords)
The kings of New York Hardcore are back with their latest record entitled "Life on the ropes". I somehow lost track of Sick Of It All after their two albums on East West, "Scratch the surface" and "Built to last". Back then I discovered more and more other bands and only noticed that they signed to Fat Wreck Chords after "Built to last" without having listened to the albums on Fat Wreck that came out in the next few years, "Call to arms", "Yours truly" and last year's live record "Live in a dive". Now after all this time I get back to this New York band that has influenced so many other bands. "Life on the ropes" is Sick Of It All at its best, starting with the unique mixture of moshing and groovy songs alongside fast Hardcore attacks and Lou Koller's inimitable vocals on top of it all. I think it's amazing how this band saw so many trends come and go in the almost 20 years of its existence. They always stayed true to themselves and their fans and that's why unlike other bands they still get so much respect from other bands and people into Hardcore. Even their major label albums couldn't stop people from respecting Sick Of It All as it is unfortunately the case with lost of other bands who put our their records on big labels and getting a lot of shit from people because of that. "Life on the ropes" was recorded in Brooklyn, NY, and produced by Dean Baltolonis and Sick Of It All themselves. Among tons of back up vocals there's one voice that can be distinctively heard out on the song "Paper tiger (Fakin' the Funk)": That one of Mr. John Joseph, the original frontman for the legendary Cro-Mags. One of the highlights of the record! "For now" is a similar singalong hit like their classic "Step down" and the opener "Relentless" came out on a 7" on Bridge 9 Records a few weeks ago with two exclusive tracks. The album comes in a nice artwork which was done by Mike Pappa who did the comic illustrations for their "District" video and also for the "Live in a dive" album. Anyway, I've been talking way too much. Buy this record, it rules!
SLOWRIDE -- Building A Building (CD / Deep Elm Records)
Before the release of Slowride's second full length I had heard some rumours that the band would change their sound drastically. Therefore I was excited to hear their new record "Building a building" because I liked the songs on their debut "As I survive the suicide bomber" a lot, them both being melodic and rocking. So after listening to "Building a building" I wouldn't say that Slowride totally changed their style, there's still the unmistakable vocal delivery by D.H. Phillips to be found as well as lots of melodies and rocking parts. But it's true, there are some parts on here that I wouldn't have expected. First of all there's a slight Social Distortion like influence on some tracks (e.g. "Panther 4"). Secondly there are three all acoustic songs on "Building a building", one being the opener of the record. Some of the songs were already written before the debut album but didn't make it onto that one (including "Track 13" that contains the line "As I survive the suicide bomber" for those of you who like these little specialties (like me)). I think that everyone who liked Slowride in the past will enjoy the new tracks as well, everyone else should at least take a listen. My advice: Start with "New and entitled", my personal favourite.
SOMETREE -- Moleskine (CD / Pop-U-Loud Records)
I remember having seen Sometree about two or three years ago when they played a show with The Appleseed Cast. After their set I bought a shirt from them without ever having listened to any of their records before. The funny thing is - I still didn't listen to their releases so far, don't know why, seems like I missed them one way or the other. But that changed with the release of their latest album "Moleskine". Call it Emocore, call it Indie Rock, Sometree from Germany can easily compete with bands from overseas playing a similar sound. Most of the nine songs contain lots of dynamics in the form of quiet and louder parts, all embedded in a sound that is anything but overproduced (teh album was recorded at Electric Avenue Studios where bands like Tocotronic recorded before). If you are into the bands that release their records on Deep Elm you will surely like "Moleskine". Don't miss Sometree on tour this September!
STRENGTH APPROACH -- 96 - 2K1 Early Years (CD / Hurry Up! Records)
Italy's hard hitting straight edge legend Strength Approach comes up with a discography of all their 7"s and compilation tracks from 1996 to 2001. Their music is total youth crew old school with lots of breakdowns, back ups and 100% sXe lyrics. Pretty cool to me. Strength Approach are more into the old school sound of the 80s and not so much into the next big wave of the early/mid 90s with bands like Ten Yard Fight or Hands Tied, so they have more in common with acts like Side By Side or Youth of Today when it comes to the raw sound and power. Even though Strength Approach saw lots of line up changes during their existence they're still around and kicking, and they are to release their first full length album this fall, mixed by Don Fury. In the meantime pick up this compilation with all lyrics and covers to the single 7". 25 studio tracks as well as a bunch of live songs (including a cover of the Gorilla Biscuit classic "Start today") are surely value for money, so go ahead and sing along to Italy's Youth Crew machine!
SURROUNDED -- Safety In Numbers (CD / Deep Elm Records)
Unfortunately Deep Elm didn't release the latest Logh album (yet?), but here's a little compensation in the form of Logh's Swedish country mates Surrounded. And even though the instrumental opener shows pretty soon that Surrounded are not as dark than Logh you can quickly hear that this album is great. It's just a laid back, epic, sometimes fragile piece of music that's the perfect soundtrack for the present days that are getting shorter, darker and colder. I listened to the first couple of songs on "Safety in numbers" while I was cleaning up my room, but I immediately stopped when song no.4, "Pro-files", started and I was totally thrilled to hear these wonderful strings that accompany the band (listening to the record you will find out that some more songs feature strings, too). This record makes you dream, melancholic and a little bit sad at the same time. As I said, the perfect music for this time of the year.
Think.Try -- Split With 4 Dear Life Corp. / Never Was / Against ( CD /Hurry Up! Records)
Hurry Up! Records from Italy put out this split CD featuring two Italian and one Australian band, each contributing three tracks to this release. 4 Dear Life Corp. from Italy start this CD off with three songs I would describe as Metal influenced tough guy Hardcore. They're not as Metal as bands like Heaven Shall Burn or Cataract, but the vocals are not so much in the tough guy vein but more "evil" sounding. Hopefully you know what I mean with this description. Anyway, pretty cool stuff, so let's go to Never Was who also come from Italy. Their songs are more hectic but also more insane, sometimes showing some crazy Thrash riffing in the vein of bands like Destruction and featuring female vocals! I didn't like it very much when I listened to it for the first time, but in the meantime I think they're pretty cool. Last band on this CD is Against from Australia and the first thing that came to my mind when playing their songs was "Bass drum". The bass drum is really dominant and like a kick in your stomach. The right stuff for the tough guy sound Against are playing, don't you think? All in all this split release is a nice idea to present three rather unknown bands to a broader audience, and keep you eyes open for these bands touring over Europe later this year.
TORCHOUS -- Cut The Plans (CD / Sinnbus Records)
Another band / label I had never heard of before. Singer / guitarist Uwe Bossenz also runs Sinnbus Records and both band and label are located in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1998 Torchous played together with bands like Sensefield, The Cable Car Theory, Slowride, Pale, or Kevlar, and released the "Rock beat break" EP in 2001. In late 2002 they recorded their first full length "Cut the plans" which lies before me at the moment. First thing to notice: Nice digipack. Second thing: No lyrics. That's bad. The music: Guitar music, but you could also say Indie Rock with balls. That means you don't fall asleep while listening to the ten songs as it is the case with some other Indie bands. In fact the songs are driving yet still complex and a dominat bass guitar which I like a lot. That doesn't mean there's too much bass when it comes to the production, it's just like you can clearly hear out the bass and that's good. Cool mixture of both quiet and noisy parts, driving elements and complex pieces. For all of you who care about this: Torchous draw influenced from bands like Breach, Motorpsycho, Couch, Fireside, Tortoise and Refused. If you're into these bands, why not checking out "Cut the plans", too?