ALBUM REVIEW: RHINO BODY LOVER – A TRIBUTE TO SHALLOW NORTH DAKOTA

If you know me, or listened to some of the podcasts I’ve been on, or even read much of this blog, you know that I love the band Shallow North Dakota. I saw them play with Keelhaul at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland in ’97 or ’98 (I can’t recall exactly). It was my first exposure to both bands, and both made a very lasting impression on me. They were both the heaviest, gnarliest stuff I’d seen up to that point. A year or two later, some of you may recall a service called EMusic.com gained some traction. This service gave you unlimited mp3 downloads for a flat rate per month, and I was briefly subscribed. I was astounded when I saw that they offered up some of Shallow North Dakota’s back catalog and downloaded it (along with a ton of AmRep stuff). I listened to those 128kbit rate mp3s a lot, but sorta of lost touch with the band since they were so far underground that little news ever made it to me in Ohio.

Fast forward to a few years back, and I saw a Facespace posting in the Noise Rock Now group from someone in the band making a joke about how expensive their CDs were on discogs while he was sitting on a vast supply in his basement. I sent a PM inquiring how to order and within a week or two, I finally had This Apparatus Must be Earthed and the split with Kittens in a physical format. Score! Sadly, last year it was revealed that the band’s vocalist and drummer, Tony Jacome, was diagnosed with cancer. Straight away, we saw a benefit split release featuring Kowloon Walled City, KENmode, and SND themselves (totally rips, BTW) and I was amazed at the outpouring of support (because I’d never talked with anyone who’d even heard of them around here). I should not have been surprised given the band’s impact on me, but I was. They really touched a lot of people. Sadly, the news eventually broke that Jacome had passed away. Then, out of nowhere, more news dropped that this massive twenty-nine track, double CD Tribute album had been compiled featuring a veritable who’s who of underground heavy hitters like The Great Sabatini, Fashion Week, Fuck The Facts, Intercourse, and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, just to name a few. Holy crap.

After teasing tracks for the past few weeks, the entire album saw it’s digital release today. All I can say is… WOW. To be fair, I haven’t listened to the originals of many of these tracks in a long while, so I listened to this with pretty fresh ears and most of the bands really knocked it out of the park. This is too long (again, 29 tracks) for me to do my typical track by track breakdown, so I’m just going to call out some of the highlights after my first listen. This is gonna take me some time to really digest!

The Great Sabatini’s take on The Deadman Has A Memo is righteous. The band sounds awesome with perfect production, and it’s heavy as all get out. This band is truly amazing and you owe it to yourself to check them out.

The next track to really leap out at me was Work Party’s take on Backbone. The band sounds burly and hi-fi, especially following the sludgy grime of Asbestos Worker. The fast paced vocals sound awesome and this is a barn burner.

Cuz is one of my favorite SND tracks and Throat does the song justice, deliving a filthy, sludgy slab that hits as hard as the original.

I’m not familiar with Anthesis at all, but they truly bring the heat with a pissed, raging cover of Perna Du Pau. This is some nasty sludge! The bass sounds massive and the vocals sound like they’ve marinated in battery acid overnight. Awesome.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of NYC’s Fashion Week, and their contribution was one of my most anticipated cuts on this Tribute. Josh didn’t let me down. Chain Drive 5000 (Speed King) hits like a ton of bricks and sounds ferocious. The bass sounds gnarly, the guitar feedback is sick, the riffing is mean, the drums are in your face… the vocals are raw and blistering and I think perfect. Hot dang! This KILLS.

Outside Dakota is another fave of mine and Bison tackle the song with aplomb. It’s got all the energy, all the swagger… it cooks! This band rocks.

I love that someone covered Untitled because it’s a great song with lots of energy and a killer bouncing groove from the split with Kittens. Kudos to Not Of for bringing the ruckus!

The industrial-metal, drum-machine slog of The Swine might be one of the more original sounding covers on here, taking the source material into a different genre thanks to the inhuman drumming and brutal “death-ish” vocals. Autobody Crusher sounds truly crushing, like some vengeful machine eating through wrecks in a junk yard.

Both Tunic and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy are excellent bands, so to see this collaboration appear on here is cool. This cut doesn’t pack the same sonic heft as many of the other songs on this compilation, but the execution of Odd is second-to-none. The groove is good, and the riffs are heavy, delivering a mighty offering of stoner metal glory. I’m banging my head and scowling in disgust. Rad.

I saw Fuck The Facts a lifetime ago in the basement of Annabells alongside fellow Canadian killers, KENmode, but I’ve otherwise not kept up with the band. Their grindy, near off the rails take of Open Minded is bad ass. At this speed, the song takes on an almost Nasum like vibe. especially with how the hooks land. This is nasty! Rules.

Yep, I was also super pumped to hear how Intercourse would interpret SND and Blowhole left nothing to be desired. It rules. Ahmed posted that his vocals were largely ad-libbed about a Juggalo McDonalds he worked at as a teen, which is hilarious in concept (truthfully, I can’t make out much of what he’s saying) and the band sounds gnarly as heck. The groove is killer and I can’t help but massively headbang in agreement. Grade A.

The two-piece maelstrom of BEDTIMEMAGIC works surprisingly well covering a full band, and their cover of Diga is capital N, Nasty. I continue to be impressed by how many textures and layers these two put into their recordings. Rad.

Man, Sean Arsenian has the nerve to show up and kill it with both The Great Sabatini AND with Cell Press?!! This is another blazing slogfest, plowing through a fierce interpretation of Target that sounds like a dump truck falling on an ICU. This is a massive neck-wrecker of a tune with an awkward pulse that really makes the song sound that much nastier.

Naw is another band I have never heard from, and their treatment of Experiment certainly makes me want to seek out more. The band is heavy as lead and they tear into the material. I love the horns through the trippy bridge, and the melodic vocals are a nice touch too, but the screams are beyond pissed. Rules.

Evil Age is swinging to knock your head off with their intense romp through Blown. Dang, this brings the heat! I’ve never listened to Evil Age either, and that’s clearly a mistake because they kick all the butt on this track. Nice!

You need to get this ASAP. All proceeds go to the Jacome family, so order that double CD and dig in! – Jason

ALBUM REVIEW: THE SWINE – PITY PARTY

Full disclosure, I’m Facespace friends with Aaron, the main mind behind The Swine. I sent him my Best of 2021 list back in December and he replied that it was pretty good but glaringly omitted his release, Pity Party. Well shoot, I didn’t even know he put something out because unlike the rest of us, he doesn’t constantly bombard people in his friend list with pleas to “please validate my hobby and listen to my latest tunes.” What a gentleman! Anyhow, I finally got around to checking it out today, and I’m glad I did.

The album sounds pretty good, perhaps a little muddy or dull on the top end, but not in a bad way. It’s got a bit of a lo-fi, vibe overall, though its heavy as lead. I assume the drums are courtesy of either MIDI programming or a drum machine, but they have that cool, sorta Godflesh-vibe to them – that cold mechanical slog that keeps the time but also hits hard with a massive kick sound that dominates the tracks. The low-end sounds gigantic, too, with a big bottom bass tone that fills out the songs nicely. The guitars (I assume it’s guitar and not some weird bi-amping of bass) is fizzy, fuzzy, and grimy sounding, which is a perfect compliment to the rhythm section. The vocals shift between a somewhat melodic speak-sing and a bellowing roar. He does a great job of keeping it from getting too one dimensional and I’m into it. There’s also some synth and piano in the mix, which is cool, particularly the piano, which I didn’t expect.

If you’re into neck-wrecking, single-minded riffs (think Drunk In Hell) and mechanical sounding drums (think Big Black, Chat Pile, Godflesh), then this is something you should seek out posthaste! – Jason

Bold Of You To Assume I Wouldn’t Completely Fuck My Life Up – The mechanical hi-hat intro is rad for some reason, the guitars and bass ebbing and flowing over it’s precision snapping, as it builds to the second half of the otherwise very short-song. This one gives me A Frames meeting Chat Pile vibes, and that’s cool. The song title rules and the lyrics easily fit with the title of the record (as do all of the tracks, save Meat Police). I like it, and it leaves me hanging… wanting more.

Suicide Prevention – This one has an insistent beat and riff that demands body rocking. I’m banging my head and sneering as the vocals steer you through the thoughts of a person at their wits’ end. The black comedy of it being that wanting to know how their favorite TV show ends is all that keeps them hanging on for another night. I get it man, and I bet it’s stuff like this that actually keeps a lot of folks going. This track rules.

Sick – This is another midtempo bruiser that comes out swinging with an in-your-face caveman riff that stinks up my face and gets me banging my head. The synth flitting about in the mix is a nice detail, too. The self-loathing lyrics continue to resonate, as I’ve had my share of existential crises over the years. This track hammers home it’s main idea relentlessly and it’s won me over. Thumbs up.

What Is Love – Holy crap, did Aaron just cover Haddaway and turn that cheesy dance-hall banger into a sludgy masterpiece? Yep, he did! I love the piano bits that drive a lot of this song, but what’s cool is how bleak it sounds. The pop-song lyrics sound so much more brutal in this context and I’m all in. My love of this track should come as no surprise since I made a sludge version of a Bjork song once. Thumbs up!

Meat Police (Featuring Big Hawg Hoss) – The lyrics and themes behind this song are hilarious. Permanent Vegan Martial Law can only be enforced by the MEAT POLICE. LOL. The song itself sees the tempo come up from the dirge-like crawl of What Is Love and it instantly gets my body lurching and my head bouncing along like a shingle loose in the wind. This is a hard-driving, noisy song that I could have seen ooze out of the X-Cops if they still existed. I like how the guitars rest during parts of this song and let that blown out bass grind along. It jams!

SHOW REVIEW: CLUTCH / STÖNER / NATE BERGMAN

I haven’t seen Clutch live and in-person since the Beale Street tour (guessing late 2007). Prior to that, I’d seen them at least once a year (often more) going back to 1996. Something was off about that Beale Street tour. The band seemed bored on stage and I felt bored in the crowd. From Beale Street To Oblivion is my least favorite Clutch album, so the material wasn’t helping the case that night either. By the end of the show, I’d sort of quietly made a decision to stop going to see the band. Years passed, and eventually I heard from friends that their shows were getting fun again. I was intrigued, but the band’s only Cleveland tour stops kept falling on or around New Years, and as a parent of young kids, I wasn’t too interested in skipping out on family fun time to see Clutch.

Fast forward to 2021. My kids are bigger now, and we’ve been starved of live music for 2 years. When we saw Clutch was coming to Cleveland on December 29th, we lined up a sitter and got our tickets. It was the band’s 30th anniversary tour, and after a year of watching them resurrect deep cuts for their online concert events, I was excited to see the band dust off some classics I hadn’t seen since the late 90s, or possible ever (c’mon, Juggernaut!). The bill was rounded out by unknown-to-me The Native Howl and Stöner, a new band featuring Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri. I wasn’t super excited about either, but the last openers I loved on a Clutch tour were probably Karma to Burn, or maybe Drown (did the Sword tour with Clutch at some point?).

Anyhow, day of show it became apparent that The Native Howl was not going to be playing, and they were replaced with singer/songwriter Nate Bergman. Someone said he was in Lionize, who has toured with Clutch a billion times, so that makes sense. He drove up from wherever he lives the night before and performed admirably under such short notice. Here’s the thing though, while he has a terrific voice and sounded great, it’s not something I would ever want to see live. It’s coffee shop music to me, something you hear in the background while sitting and talking with friends. Nate Bergman is obviously a super talented person, but I wasn’t feeling it. Sorry!

The “new” desert-rock super group Stöner was up next. With Bjork on guitar and primary vocal and Oliveri on bass, the troupe certainly has the potential for magic. Both men have been part of some killer records and bands over the years and certainly have the skills for some bad ass rock and roll. Truth be told, however, I had listened to one Stöner song in advance of the show and was not blown away. That sums up my experience after watching their set as well. From a tonal perspective, they sound excellent. Bjork’s fuzz guitar sounds raunchy over top the big-bottomed, churning sludge of Oliveri’s bass. The drummer hit hard and kept good time, while Bjork handled most of the vocals with his typical “slacker” desert drawl while Oliveri provided some backing harmonies and handled lead on one tune. Songwise, though, everything felt either too long or too same-same. They had one faster song (sung by Oliveri), but all in all it felt like they were stuck in one gear for 45 minutes. The room was eating it up, so I know I’m in the minority with my opinion, but I certainly wasn’t looking to buy their album or a shirt after their set. I’d love to see an imagined line-up of this band with Bjork on drums and a more ripping guitar player out front. That could rule.

After an unnecessarily long stage-reset, Clutch finally took to the stage and opened with two songs from the Beale St album. I know what you’re thinking, but at least it was two of the stronger tunes from that album, so I was alright with You Can’t Stop Progress and Power Player. From there, they went on to play Impetus, Weird Times, Gimme The Keys, Vision Quest, Slow Hole To China, Rats, Mice And Gods, Ghoul Wrangler, Sucker For The Witch, Willie Nelson, In Walks Barbarella, How To Shake Hands, X-Ray Visions, Firebirds, 12 Oz Epilogue, Passive Restraints, Escape From The Prison Planet, and finished with Spacegrass. That’s certainly not a bad setlist, but it seemed to lean more on their last two records than the other dates on this run, which saw the band break out stuff like Wicker and some Elephant Riders-era gold. I’m actually not complaining, because I was happy to see the newer songs live for the first time. It was also awesome to see them break out Slow Hole To China and Willie Nelson. Rad. All in all, the band looked to be having fun and were into it, so I was happy, even if it seemed like they were rushing some of the grooves. Also, from where I was standing, Tim Sult’s guitar tone was not that good, and I couldn’t tell if it was front of house or his choice, but it was too jangly and not saturated enough for most of the songs. Neil sounded amazing, and I have to say he sounded better than ever ripping through 12 Oz Epilogue. JP made a couple of rare mistakes, which humanized him a bit. No sweat, happens all the time with us! LOL. The band was certainly not as tight as they were in the early 2000s when they were just on fire creatively, seamlessly jamming their way out of one song and into another, but they were engaged and so was I. Thumbs up to my first C! show in fourteen years!

ROCK AND ROLL POST MORTEM: 12/31/2021

I’m writing this with the echoes of the amplifiers still ringing in my ears, so to speak. I was dumbfounded when Chris at Buzzbin reached out to me and asked if we could play a free New Year’s Eve show in direct support of Atlanta’s WHORES. How could we refuse? We lined up baby sitters, we shuffled practices around the holidays, we did everything we could do to be ready to rock. The one thing nobody planned for at the time the show was booked, of course, was that yet another wave of Covid would sweep the nation and see a glut of event cancellations all across the country. Would the show go on? The answer was yes. Risks and Rewards were thoroughly weighed and everyone decided to just do it.

Since this was a fly-in show for the band, I volunteered to loan Whores a bass rig for the show. This meant I wanted to get there early to make sure we could soundcheck it if necessary and talk through any concerns. I was wrong on both counts, so I was just early. It was cool to meet Christian and Casey and they were extremely thankful for the equipment. Side note – the drums Whores. would use were courtesy of Nosewig (check them out if you haven’t already!). Also of note, it was cool to see how the stage had been reconstituted within Buzzbin. They tore a wall down and changed the angle a bit, plus upgraded part of the PA. Killer!

After load-in, I noticed Night Goat was setting up on stage. They were not billed to play, so I was surprised and excited. I hadn’t seen them play since sometime in 2019. I’ve seen them a bunch of times since asking them to open the DeathCrawl album release in 2017, and every time has brought the heat, but man-o-man were they ready to kill this night. First, The band (once again a quartet after brief blips as a quintet) were tonally perfect, from Chris’s recently revamped Ampeg V4 screaming behind a pegged RAT to Dalin’s churning bass alongside the relentless drums, but it was Julia’s vocals that leapt from the mix like never before. It was great to actually hear her do her thing for the entire set! They crushed. Riffs Riffs Riffs. Belligerent rock and roll in all the right ways. They ripped for a small early crowd.

The Liquid W’s were up next. I’d never heard them prior to getting booked for this show, so I only knew a song or two I’d previewed online before their set. They’re a younger band (well, a lot younger than us, anyhow!), and I was delighted to see them on the bill. We need more younger bands on these “middle-aged men rock shows!” Anyhow, They leapt into their set with two outright feral post-hardcore, tangentially-grunge-leaning tunes. It was heavy, it was energetic, it was borderline off-the-rails. I loved it. During the second song, the lowest bass string slipped loose with the violent battering it was enduring and the guy playing it just yanked it’s slack and tossed it behind his head like a bonus strap. Wild. For their third song, he put down the bass and picked up a guitar, and they started doing some songs with two guitars and no bass. I missed the low-end immediately and wished he’d kept with the bass (they did have a back-up readily available). I had to run off to check on something and wound up chatting with the guys in Whores about amps, effects, and Dead Kennedys for the remainder of the Liquid Ws set. Sorry, guys! I did see the end of their last song and they were back to having the one guy on bass, so that was nice. Maybe they’re looking to expand their ranks? Hit ’em up if you’re interested.

We were up next and I was stoked. Giddy even? I don’t know. I think we were all pretty pumped. The crowd was decent for a supercorrupter show, but probably nowhere near what everyone involved hoped it would be. I think Covid scared a lot of people away (it’s cool, everyone manages their risk in their own way). So it goes. We’ll rock to 0 people as hard we’ll rock to 100, so we got to the business at hand of wrecking some necks. We played BFF, Luggage, “Bruiser”, Who Was In My Room Last Night? (Butthole Surfers), Black Galaxy, Fast Times, “St Slick”, Graveyard, Bears Beets Battlestar Galactica, and Trouble’s Afoot At The Circle K. Everyone pretty much agreed that we ruled. It was nice to take another swing at the Independent Worm Saloon classic Who Was In My Room Last Night? and I think we did it justice. We’ve played “Bruiser” at all of our 2021 shows, but it was nice to finally roll out another new one, “St Slick.” We’ve got both recorded for a forthcoming split that in the works, along with another that’s temporarily called “Blood Barf.” I can’t wait until we give them actual titles and get them released. Also, it was personally fun to play my Rickenbacker bass live for the first time. New toys… you know how it goes.

Whores. were up up next, and a few more folks had trickled in, but there was still a lot of empty space. Oh well. Jokes on everyone that didn’t go, because the band ruled. Casey dialed in my Bassman wonderfully and it sounded way better than it ever did behind me. Ahahaha! Christian’s borrowed guitar rig was also righteous, with Chris’s V4 and a rented Custom Audio Mutation Marshall clone. Delicious. The drums sounded thunderous, the kick hitting so hard, it repeatedly knocked over the mic they’d painstakingly dialed in during line-check. They played a little over an hour-ten or so, stopping to chat and tune and count-down to New Year. It ruled. I was happy, everyone else seemed happy, it was awesome. I meant to grab a photo of the setlist, but I forgot. I recall them playing (not in this order): Cougars Not Kittens, Bloody Like The Day You Were Born, Baby Bird, Mental Illness As Mating Ritual, Fake Life, I Am An Amateur At Everything, Shower Time, and they finished with I Have A Prepared Statement but I can’t remember the rest. You should just know that it kicked all the rear-ends and you blew it if you missed out.

Well, there you have it. We played our first NYE blowout and it was a complete monster of a show. We could not have had more fun and are endlessly grateful to Chris and Julia for inviting us to be a part of it.

As always, more photos are available on our Instagram!

YEAR END REVIEW – 2021

Wow. Another year is coming to an end. It’s been a weird, albeit fun, year. Out of the blue, Paul Goon contacted us to be part of his web interview show, 13 Minutes, which was fun and the first time all five of us had been in the same room since Feb 29, 2020. We also managed to schedule four shows, taking baby steps to move from Paul Goon’s dining room, to possibly the final show at The Matinee, to the hallowed stage of the Grog Shop, to our scheduled slot opening for WHORES. on New Year’s Eve at Buzzbin! Radical. Oh, we also managed to finally release new music, with Remote Viewing coming out in October and generally being well-received. If you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting for?

Beyond playing a few shows, I was lucky enough to spectate a few as well. The best sets of the year had to be from Deadguy and Napalm Death, both in Philly, and Human Impact at the Grog. I love Deadguy and admittedly watched them through nostalgic goggles (they ripped). I like a fair amount of Napalm Death material (love their newest album!) and have seen them before, but their performance at Decibel Metal & Beer was easily the best I’ve seen from them over the years. They played like people possessed and sounded pissed! The Human Impact show at the Grog Shop was a total showcase from start to finish as well, but the headlining set was top tier entertainment. Of course, the Blackout Cookout was awesome, with WHORES. putting a feather in the cap of another excellent fest! Speaking of, I’m sure their set on NYE at Buzzbin will also be one for the history books.

Blog-wise, after spending 2020 in the toilet, we saw a bit of a bounce back in ’21, though traffic was still way below 2019’s epic results. Some reviews flourished while others languished in the dustbin of internet history. As usual, our interviews proved to be the biggest interest to web surfers the world over, with Steven Gardner and Aaron Dallison’s chats being the runaway hits of the year. Our coverage of Blackout Cookout XI also proved popular, as was the write-up on the last “Metal At The Mat” show. For album reviews, Intercourse, Jack Harlon & The Dead Crows, and Fuck Toute were the most viewed.

It’s hard to believe I wrote my 300th album review for the blog this year, which is wild! I started this project to force myself to find new music, and it’s been wildly successful. Stuff I never would have known about is now among my favs because I got tired of not seeking out new bands to listen to. I didn’t get to everything I wanted to that came out this year, but that’s also par for the course. When it came time to try to compile my favorites from the year, it was tough to decide, and I’m sure your mileage will vary, but here we go (presented in no particular order)!

Intercourse – Rule 36
Wow, what a surprise. This band has landed on my year end list just about every year since starting this blog. Back with a new lineup, the Intercourse folks refined and reinforced their formula and served up another gnarly collection of tunes that left me feeling worn out and slightly naughty.

Fuck Toute – Coké Computer
Holy cow, this bad boy came out of nowhere and completely ruled. There is a whole world of talent out there, and folks that only listen to English-language material are missing out by sleeping on this rager. Hailing from Quebec, this band throws down the gauntlet with this heady and heavy ripper.

Jack Harlon & The Dead Crows – The Magnetic Ridge
Yep, there it is! The yearly Australian offering that always seems to make the cut. This is the second time I’ve been impressed by this band. They put together excellent album experiences, which is a dying art. It’s not the heaviest, riffiest, wildest, or craziest, but dang if it isn’t consistently engaging and a wonderful listen!

Wet Dream War Machine – Wet Dream War Machine
These Germans bashed out a down-tuned bruiser that brings to mind the best elements of nu metal without being corny – and hey! bonus points for using a Locust song title as their name. This album was mean and nasty and rages from start to finish! When I cue this album up, I’m immediately scowling in disgust and feeling like an angry 19 year old again.

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy – A Cult That Worships A God Of Death
The multi-faceted attack of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy was on full display on their latest album. Noise rock, soundscapes, metal, postrock – it all comes together to create a cohesive monster of an album. They also made DIY videos for most of the album. Ambitious! Again, talent and vision rarely come together in such a fully-complete form as this.

Dog Date – Child’s Play
This was a surprise winner; a fun-filled romp from the mind of one musician. It’s dynamic, unique, and exciting; packing a ton of catchy licks into a hard-charging package. Rules. Don’t sleep on this!

Grizzlor – Hammer Of Life
Another Connecticut band cracks the top ten? Sure, why not?! Grizzlor has consistently been bashing out some of the most damaged sounding noise/punk rock out there and this, their latest effort, continues to deliver wild songs in a wild manner. Grizzlor sounds like a band playing through a jet turbine at max throttle while on fire, and if that doesn’t entice you to check this out, I’m not sure what will.

BEDTIMEMAGIC – Between The Sheets
This duo birthed a monster of an album that does a fine job of walking up to you, slapping you in the face, and then leaving just as quick. It’s a dynamic listen that shows just how much rocking two people can do when they put their mind to it.

Rid Of Me – Traveling
Wow, lots of awesome stuff started hitting at the end of the year, including this excellent album! It’s got that perfect blend of punk rock and rock and roll that simply Works, if you know what I mean. The vocals are amazing, as is the guitar work, but the band just sounds so perfect together. Radical release.

Rebreather – The Line, It’s Width, And The War Drone
These cats have also had a lot of coverage around here, and they deserve it. This is the band’s first LP in a long while and it rules. Barley’s a dang Grandad and he’s still kicking butts harder that many of us lesser dads out here just squeeking by. Huge sound, good songs, this album’s got the heat.

Honorable Mentions

Gulch – Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress
Holy crap. This thing crushes, but technically came out in 2020 and I missed it. Total rager. Listening to this album is like punching yourself in the face with cinder blocks. When you’re done picking what’s left of your teeth out of your chin, press play to start it all over again. Too bad they already broke up.

uSSSy – Po Krugu
Another slab of excellence from the vast wastelands of 2020, these Russians crafted a wild collection of tunes that everyone needs to check out. Awesome sounds and textures come together with stellar musicianship to create a really neat listening experience.

ALBUM – Barely Survived
The ALBUM corporation put out a new record this year and it’s rad. Get your battle vest out of the closet, grab some snacks, and dig in on this, pronto! These three guys have been low-key killing it for years and deserve more recognition from fans of underground heavy metal.

Infinity Land – Honest Comedy
Sharing a frontperson with Intercourse, and generally existing in the same space, Infinity Land comes across like a continuation of Intercourse, but perhaps more belligerent? It’s beyond pissed, sounds feral, and oh yeah, it’s darkly comedic. Score!

Bummer – Dead Horse
I think I liked Holy Terror better overall, but their follow-up LP is no slouch. Face-bashing riffs and neck wrecking grooves adds up to a chiropractic nightmare for those less-seasoned rockers out there.

So there you have it! Another year is in the rear-view and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2022!

ALBUM REVIEW: GRANDMA’S ASHES – THE FATES

This is my 300th album review since starting this blog in January 2016. That’s kind of exciting, but also, just another notch in the belt of time and effort, right? It’s not that big a deal, I guess. I was unnecessarily anxious about what to review for such a milestone, and then decided to just relax and see where life took me. I wound up listening to a debut effort from a band with a boring name and somewhat lackluster album art, which is totally out of character for me! So yeah, Grandmother’s Ashes isn’t an exciting band name, but they’re from Paris and maybe something is getting lost in translation. The album art shows the band members as neoclassical sculptures representing the three fates (I guess?), which is ok, but the layout feels rather blah. Luckily, I got past this and let the band’s music do the talking. I’m glad I did.

The album sounds pretty good, with a big, fat, round-bottomed bass anchoring layers of guitars that shifts between sticky fuzz, overdriven garage tones, and even clean jazzy runs. The drums sound thick and punchy; the kick drum hitting with a satisfying thump. The vocals remind me of Bjork, particularly from her days in the Sugarcubes. It’s a breathy vocal that’s packed with neat little details and fantastic melodies. These three ladies tagged their band as stoner punk which is what got my foot in the door, but it’s the interesting jams they crafted that kept me around. A quick google image search suggested the bass player handles the vocals, and she didn’t skimp on either end. The basslines are rad and I’ve already said as much about the vocals. The songs are thick, but catchy.

This is an engaging listen that would appeal to folks into stuff like The Hustle Is On-era Core, Akron Ohio’s As-If, the spacey oddness of krautrock, and otherwise heady jams. Check it out! – Jason

A.A. – The album opens with a sluggish, morose sounding riff that instantly curls my lip and gets my neck and foot slamming ever so slightly. The band shifts gears about a minute in with a more driving groove and a tightly winding guitar part. Dang, that vocal sounds rad and immediately has be day dreaming of Bjork! Excellent melodies. This is catchy without sacrificing any of it’s oddness. It certainly also has a bit of a classic rock vibe to it, especially through the last half of the song which sees the band veer off the road and get to jamming. The guitar lead is fun (at times sounding like a Josh Homme lead) and yeah, I’m all in. Thumbs up!

Radish Cure – The reverb soaked bass and feedback loops from the guitar make a killer intro over the jazzy ride rhythm. Once the bass line sets in, it’s got more than a passing resemblance to an early QOTSA bit. Hey, no complaint. The staccato vocal through the pre-chorus is rad, and the chorus itself jams pretty hard! I’m dancing in my desk chair. Get down, folks! The vocal sounds great throughout, and I need to call out how tight the rhythm section is. These drums and bass sound so good together! …and check out the shreddy guitar stuff around the three-and-a-half minute mark. Didn’t see that coming… cool! Thumbs up!

Daddy Issues – After a brief little rave up, this tune leans into a steamroller of a stoner riff that immediately demands you to bang your head. Rocker! More impressively, the band transitions this into a much groovier verse bit. The layers of weird feedback loops are awesome accents to an already detailed tune. The jazzy clean guitar leads are a nice pairing for the more relaxed parts of this song, but it’s the vocal melodies and harmonies that again shine the brightest. Rad tune!

Song For Fiona – Here we have another brawny rock tune that does a great job of breaking up straight-forward headbanging parts with lighter boogie elements. The band knows how to both things very well, and the heavy stuff kicks your butt as much as the lighter stuff makes you want to move your butt. The vocal melodies continue to sell the song. This song feels different from the prior three songs; maybe it sounds more hopeful, or more triumphant and less miserable? I do like misery. It’s good!

Outro – As the name implies, this piece is a short endcap to wrap-up the EP. It’s a solid boogie, sans vocals, and lets the grooving bass and guitars do all the talking. It’s cool. It reminds me of Core’s Skinny Legs And All (if my brain is working right?) and certainly leaves me wanting more when it ends rather abruptly. It feels like a pretty organic sort of studio jam that they probably wrote on the spot and included as a nice bonus for an already solid set of songs.

ALBUM REVIEW: CHRISTIAN FITNESS – HIP GONE GUNSLINGERS

I stumbled upon this project a few years back, quite by accident, and thus came to be aware of the glory of Future Of The Left and McClusky as well. So, huge shout out to myself for randomly checking that album out in 2016. Now, I have to admit, I haven’t really kept up with the project’s output (which has been crazy prolific – this is the seventh album!) in the ensuing years, but I once again found myself scrolling for something new to listen to today and I landed here. Falco continues to play everything, to my knowledge, with the exception of drums by Jack Egglestone (also of McClusky, Future Of The Left). I’m drawn to these types of projects, when done well, because it’s cool to see how creative one person can be in constructing their songs. The answer, in Falco’s case, is fairly creative (which is not always the result). Also, kudos to his consistency of aesthetics with the album art for this project.

This album sounds great, propelled by drums that sound massive in both presence and attack. Nice. The bass has plenty of bite and does an awesome job of anchoring everything to those exceptionally tight beats. The guitars are presented in a number of colors, from more restrained bits to a fuzzed out howl. The vocals keep with Falco’s somewhat spoken/shouted delivery, with some distortion here and there to mix it up. Then you’ve got the little details; those little splats of sound with origin unknown that fill out the songs and sprinkle points of interest throughout. It’s rather awesome sounding.

This keeps very much with the sound of Christian Fitness, and that’s alright with me, ’cause it’s really good. Check it out! – Jason

Comic Sans Audience – Oh man, this tune rides the best kind of herky-jerky groove: lurching forward via a start stop intro that gives way to an urgent rocker of a tune. It’s a cool tune that never overstays it’s welcome at less than two minutes long. It’s ridiculously tight, each squawking string hitting exactly on time with the unstoppable kick drum. The ring out/quiet bits are somehow reminding me of certain aspects from the OG Half-Life video game soundtrack. What’s wrong with my brain? Thumbs up!

Guildford Specific – The primary drum and bass groove is challenged by the main guitar line through what I’ll call the verses, and it’s disorienting, the guitar spitting out its melody as almost an affront to the groove. It’s certainly an interesting listen, but I’m not sure I’m enjoying it that much. It’s kind of “too much” when the vocal piles on. I can’t focus on anything. The chorus sees the song come together on a more cohesive idea, and I like the wildness of that part, but overall I’m not a fan.

Male Guitarist – Heck yeah, this one lurches forward on a Barkmarket type of groove, right down to the little slide guitar accents. It’s pretty gnarly and it’s giving me a case of stink face whilst bang my head in solidarity. The disarming little midsection is a nice touch especially when it rips back into the nastiness. The wavering vocal is rad too! This is really catchy and fun! Thumbs way up!

Endless North London Police Helicopter – Hot dog, this is a sinister, bass-driven groover that harkens back to Liars’ excellent “They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stood A Monument On Top.” I love that album, so I’m loving this tune. Man, these drums sound so good. Overall, the rhythm section continues with it’s tradition of excellence and the eventual burps of sound puked over top are neat, but it’s the dissonant chimy guitar parts that really weird me out. Good stuff.

Hip Gone Gunslingers – Wooo! The title track is an up-tempo burner that makes me want to dance! The groove is tight and winding, coiling endlessly and building to the brief, staccato offset bit that could have been a bit more bombastic to release more of that tension, but it’s fine. I’m banging my head and getting down in my desk chair. The drums are relentless, pounding away mechanically while the busy vocal wraps syllables around the meter with nary a break for a breath. Nice! The lyrics that I can make out are slick and I’m digging this a bunch. Thumbs up!

Absolute Clarity – Does anyone remember the Australian weirdos Regurgitator? The vocals and somewhat chill vibes on this cut totally remind me of them, particularly “Couldn’t Do It” from their Tu Plang LP. It’s an alright song – certainly not a highlight, but I’m not skipping it either.

Boutique Festival – The tempo comes back up on this track, which takes us back into the garage for a brawny wall of synched guitar and bass and pounding drums. I like a driving, beefy chord progression just as much as the next middle-age rocker so I’m generally satisfied. The first half of the song seems a bit stuck in gear, but the last half certainly amps up the noise and interest for me. It’s alright.

My Campaign Against The Common Cold – Dang, this one has another nasty, spitting groove that is awkward and skronky whilst also still being a bit catchy thanks once again to the snappy drum performance. Relentless. The clunky song title becomes an actually quite-catchy refrain and I’m digging it. I suppose this one also has those old Liars vibes. Neat. “I threaten you, I threaten you, I threaten you-ooo, with karate, karate, karate ay-ooooo” is a bizarre lyric that serves as a nice send up of the typical lyrical machismo of rock and roll. This is a cool tune.

How Do You Schlep? – A bending, seasick garage rock riff drives this cut and it gets my hopes up from the jump. Then, the otherwise awkward groove does a okay job of getting my toes tapping, but it’s another somewhat average tune overall. Luckily, it’s not a very long song.

Everyone Knows You’re A Desperate Man – The final cut takes on an almost “Gary Numan/Tubeway Army playing a derivation of Dear Prudence” sort of vibe thanks to the synth/string pads that dominate the mix. The battering drum performance is fierce (it’s just screaming for loud bass and guitars during those busy fills), while the song itself it subdued and more laid back. It’s very poppy, but feels off at the same time. It’s an interesting piece, for sure. It would have been rad if that meathook bass guitar would have popped in a climactic, riffy climax, but it doesn’t. It’s fine.

SHOW REVIEW: HUMAN IMPACT / REBREATHER / MICROWAVES

A few months back, I saw Human Impact schedule a short run (their first tour) that would see the band play their debut show in Cleveland. At the time, our friends in goosed were set to open, and Detroit’s wild Child Bite were set to join the tour. Of course, we are living in a new reality where things can change quickly, and it ultimately wound up being Pittsburgh’s Microwaves and Youngstown’s Rebreather in support, and it could not have been better! I was happy to return to the Grog Shop for the third time this year, and I was happy to see I wasn’t the only one. The turn out was decent for a cold, wet day in late fall in Northeast Ohio and I ran into a few folks I hadn’t seen in a few years. Awesome.

I got there early enough to catch up with David and John from Microwaves. They’re both really nice guys and it was cool to chat them up and pass some time waiting for the show to start. They’re playing with a new, old bass player/co-vocalist in tow, a guy that lives in Washington DC (a bit of a commute from their home base in Pittsburgh). The skill level of all involved proved how a little geographical challenge was easy for them to overcome, however, as they took the stage and proceeded to blow me away. The band’s songs are bizarre, an almost alien splat of sound that’s full of anxiety and humor and good old fashioned butt-kicking punk rock. The easiest way to describe the band to someone that’s never heard it would probably be The Locust minus any grindcore/powerviolence influences. I absolutely love it. I’ve seen a lot of killer drummers over the years, and John Roman is certainly in the upper echelons – his beats are so creative and unique while being powerful. He’s a beast to watch play. That’s not to diminish David Kuzy’s guitar work, because it’s also insanely next level (as was the weird tapping/slide bass). They totally ruled, just like the prior two times I’ve seen them. Killer.

Rebreather was up next. These guys have really been going for it since lockdown lifted, playing pretty much any show asked of them. This was my third time seeing them this year, and it was certainly the best. They completely crushed! They played a couple of tunes off their brand new album, and filled the rest of their set with older bangers. The band was certainly in fighting shape, and they knocked everyone out with an immense-sounding performance. If they had played Joy Bomb I might have had an out of body experience, it was that good. Radical. It was also nice to once again talk with Steven and Barley, who are always just the chillest, nicest guys to talk with lately.

Human Impact took to the stage rather unassumingly, and proceeded to completely blow me away. Holy crap. I’ve been seeing Chris Spencer try to tear the neck off a telecaster since the early 2000s, and it was awesome to see that contemptuous glare beaming out over the crowd again, and his new band completely rips. The bass tone was massive and the bass player’s tap dancing on his pedal board was inspiring. He was using pedals in a truly creative way, using stuff momentarily and creating a luscious foundation over which Spencer’s guitar and vocal could shine. The synths and samples were cool, but I have to admit that my earplugs were cancelling much of their contributions from where I was standing right at the foot of the stage (a little behind the mains). I could tell they were adding a ton of texture, but couldn’t necessarily focus on them whenever the full band was ripping. The drummer had a laid back style that looked calm and collected, but he drove those songs Hard. They played for a long time, including a new song, and simply ruled on all levels. This was their final show of the run, so the merch table was depleted, which bummed me out a bit, but I could not have been more impressed. Human Impact is serious business folks, and they killed. Check them out!

Huge shout out to the Grog Shop for bringing Human Impact through town, and bigger thanks to Microwaves and Rebreather for jumping on pretty last minute and putting on gloriously devastating performances. Finally – a shout out to the dude that showed up mid-set for Human Impact, smoking a cigarello and blowing huge plumes of smoke into the air. It’s been ages since I’ve seen someone smoking indoors. It was weird. Not a good weird, for my tastes, but weird nonetheless.

It was a righteous evening of live music in Cleveland Heights, and you blew it if you stayed home to watch Elf.

ALBUM REVIEW: RID OF ME – TRAVELING

Today I checked out the debut LP from Philly’s Rid Of Me. This band evolved out of Low Dose, which in itself arose from the ashes of Legendary Divorce and Fight Amp, so that’s some killer pedigree! It came out last week, so shame on me for waiting so long to check it out.

The recording sounds like a major label “alternative” offering from the 90s, with a big, punchy sound that’s lush yet edgy. It’s not a heavy recording, but then again, Rid Of Me is not going for sonic heaviness as much as they are for energy. The bass is gritty and provides a bit of girth, but not a ton of low end. It’s got more of that mid-centric approach that I’m hearing more and more often lately. The drums are snappy with plenty of attack, and every hit cuts through nicely. The guitars sound lush, with a big, open sound that’s more articulate than saturated, though they certainly bring the heat when needed. The end result is a big, guitar-rock sound. The vocals sound fantastic, with excellent melodies and smooth as glass tones that sometimes break up nicely with some mean screams. She really knocked it out of the park on these tracks!

This is the kind of album that could blow up if terrestrial radio had any guts at all. It’s catchy, accessible-yet-edgy, and features well crafted songs that kick out the jams. Check it out, it rules! – Jason

Myself – The album opens with a solitary guitar playing through a somewhat mournful riff, but quickly breaks into a more up-tempo jam. The vocal is super catchy and instantly memorable. Man, what a set of pipes she’s got. This song is cool, with a busy groove that simply doesn’t let up. The guitar sounds phenomenal on this song. Thumbs way up!

23 – This might be first time I’ve heard “I push my titties up” as a lyric in a tune, which caught me by surprise. What a raw, honest thing to sing. The delicate vocal fits the pretty groove nicely, and this is another killer slab of catchy alt-rock. Slick guitar licks, a solid groove… I’m all in. Rad.

Travelling – Holy cow, this song rules so hard. This is the kind of tune that a band is lucky to write and could be a big hit with the rock kids. The riffs are killer, with a simmering energy that really sells the awesome vocal. The chorus is especially awesome. Rules. Thumbs way up!

I Don’t Wanna – This sounds a bit like L7 to me, only way, way better. This is a fierce rocker of a track. I’m banging my head and snarling in disgust. The main chord progression is hard driving and the tune is fun. I love how they thicken it up through the chorus. Thumbs up!

Fun – The band initially eases up on this track, which takes on more of a mid-tempo crawl than the prior bruiser of a song. It’s a simmering, brooding groove that easily gets me nodding along. The squawking guitars are giving me a bit of anxiety and it all pays off when they drop the hammer around the two-fifteen mark. Tough! Good stuff!

True (Blue) – Nah, this ain’t a Madonna cover, though that would’ve been cool if it was! The vocals sound heartbreakingly vulnerable on this cut and its pretty rad, especially with the cool guitar licks and brawny riffs to bring it all home when it counts. I like it. It’s catchy, and frankly, it rules too.

Spilling – The band comes back with the punk-rock heat on this up-tempo banger! I think it’s super important for bands to mix up albums with fast and slow parts, otherwise it kind of feels like it gets stuck in one gear. Anyhow, This track cooks, with some killer riffs and another excellently beefy chorus that’s beyond infectious. Thumbs way up!

Broke Shit – The tempo drops a bit on this one, and it’s the first song on the album that feels a little clunky. It’s probably the heaviest sounding track so far, and it’s also got some of the fiercest vocals, but it’s not as well put together as the other tracks. I really liked the sludgy bridge section, but overall it’s alright.

Pit – This track features another excellent vocal performance, and I love how they captured all the breathes and creaks in her voice during the more subdued parts. It’s awesome, and the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics rule. Man, it hits like a ton of bricks when the band comes in full tilt. They sound so pissed! I’m stomping along and sneering in agreement. The weird tape-speed effects at the end are an awesome detail. Thumbs up!

Dealing – Opening with the spotlight on the bass guitar, the band sets the stage for the final act of the album with another brooding groove. Once again, the chorus explodes from the verse and it throws me into fits of neck-wrecking undulation. Nice. This is some excellent modern-day grunge or whatever you want to call it. It’s like a perfect continuation of the best of the 90s rock I grew up with. Excellent energy, fun song. Thumbs up!

ALBUM REVIEW: INFINITY LAND – SMALL TOWN RITUAL ABUSE

Infinity Land came out swinging a few months back with their righteous debut, and just last week they already released more material. Dang. My only gripe with their debut was that it felt a little too much like Intercourse (with whom they share a vocalist), but they show tremendous growth on these latest cuts and are certainly finding their own way! These songs are full of dread and while you can tell it’s Tarek Ahmed on the mic, his delivery/approach is tweaked enough to help establish Infinity Land as its own thing.

These songs sound rad, with a noisy stroke of sound that leaves you as uncomfortable as entertained. The bass does not loom large in the bottom end, but rather slithers around in the filth alongside the riffing guitars with a very high-mid-centric tone that gives the overall band a lean, almost JSBX sound. Speaking of, the guitars sound gnarly, from “cleaner” (less gain, certainly not clean) bits to matching the blown-out cut of the bass, and even some tough chugga-chugga stuff. Nice. The synths provide the aforementioned dread with their ugly smears of sound. The vocals sound great in their own, unhinged way.

This is a rad, quick listen for fans of stuff like Deadguy and creepy death rock. It certainly leaves me longing for more! Check it out! – Jason

Dragon Teeth – This is a dissonant, gnarly rocker that immediately instills a scowl upon my face. Nasty. The synths add a ton of atmosphere, making this a lot spookier than it otherwise would have been. I’m hearing a bit of Dead And Gone in here, which rules. Love the heavy palm-muted accents that really bring the heavy on this track. Bang your head!! The climactic swell at the end rules. Thumbs up!

Small Town Ritual Abuse – This track steps a bit back toward the Intercourse formula, but overall does a good job of sounding like Infinity Land. There are some awesome guitar counter-points (and possibly some distorted banjo picking?) swirling around in this messy, sonic jumble. It’s very ugly, and that makes it very good to me. The song feels like it covers a lot of ground over it’s relatively compact run time, ebbing and flowing nicely and keeping my interest up. It’s a grimy, sludgy song without much of what most folks would consider sludge tones. Neat! Thumbs up!