SHOW REVIEW: RAVENNA ARSENAL / GOOSED / SWEATY MAMMOTH / AARON SHAY

Matthew Yunk (Modem, Galo Nerros, etc.) has been booking the first Thursday of the month at the Zephyr Pub in downtown Kent for about ten months now, but last night was the first chance I had to head into town to check it out. I haven’t been in the Zephyr in about nine years, but it felt the same as it did the last time I walked through that front door.

I was a little late getting there, and was immediately greeted upon entrance by the phenomenal guitar virtuosity of Aaron Shay; dazzling with a solo performance of what I’ll lazily call “jazz guitar.” Aaron blew minds with his relatively short, but technically and emotionally beautiful set, spilling out conversational melodies over looped chord progressions. He’s a great player. If you’re into the guitar as an instrument and have a chance to see Aaron do his thing, go ahead and do it. You will not regret it.

Sweaty Mammoth was up next, and I was thrilled to finally get to see them perform with Mike Shea on second guitar/co-vocals. The tunes have always been impressive, but the addition of a second guitarist of the caliber of Mike made them that much more awesome, particularly the heavier parts of their set! Dang, the boys sounded fierce! Main-man Nathan Serafino has really come into his own, vocally, with an excellent performance that actually saw him overpowering the modest PA and causing the channel to cut out at times. These guys have been at it for years now, and legit deserve your attention. If you see them playing near you, do so.

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goosed was next to set-up, with Kenny putting his kit on the floor in front of the “stage” and Bill and Erb setting up their amps behind him. I liked that they didn’t downsize their rigs or volume just because the Zephyr isn’t a typical “loud rock and roll venue,” and it wound up sounding great. goosed is a band that doesn’t waste a lot of time with pillow talk, and they got right to the point of rocking my block. Hey, it’s only been a couple of weeks since we shared the basement at Annabell’s with them, but it was still just as much fun to watch them do it all over again. Heavy! Intense! Tight! They ripped.

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After a short change-over, the Ravenna Arsenal reunited on stage for the first time in two years. Heck, why not? All four guys were already there, with their gear – might as well fire up the old rock and roll machine and lay waste, right? Yeah! I can say that despite the single practice and years of inactivity, the band still sounded fantastic, playing such fun cuts as Brazen Bull, Ultraheavy, The Sun, and The Desert Shows No Mercy (were there more?). The room was full and a ton of folks were pumping fists and joining in on the vocals with great enthusiasm. The band sounded huge, probably because I was standing almost on top of Kenny’s drums and the guys had their amps raging on the stage. Drums were probably nonexistent at the back of the room, but WHAT ARE YOU DOING AT THE BACK OF THE ROOM FOR A RAVENNA ARSENAL REUNION SET?!!!

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It was really fun to see a rock and roll show so passionately attended in downtown Kent, and I hope this “first Thursday” thing keeps growing for the Zephyr. Heck, we might even be on deck to play there in February!

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SHOW REVIEW: RAVENNA ARSENAL / GOOSED / SWEATY MAMMOTH / AARON SHAY

ALBUM REVIEW: DAUGHTERS – YOU WON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT

Daughters are back with their first album in eight years. Daughters is one of those bands that’s always marched to their own beat, something that can be both a blessing and a curse. I first heard them, by chance, opening for someone during the Canada Songs era and I was blown away by the intensity of the band. It was a more grindy version of DEP to me, and at the time, I was eating and breathing stuff like that. I loved it. Fast forward a few years, and I saw them again, but by then Hell Songs had come out. Now remember, back then it wasn’t as easy as it is today to listen to the latest a band has to offer at no financial risk to your person, so I went in unprepared for what transpired. The band had pulled a 180 and the freak-out, big-tent revival, snake-oil salesman sermon I witnessed was not at all what I had expected. I was confused. I was challenged. I was smitten AND repulsed at the same time. It was bizarre. I saw them again a few years later and I still left confused and endeared. Eventually they broke up.

A few years back, the band started doing reunion shows here and there and teased at new material. I was intrigued at first, but totally chomping at the bit after Ipecac teased the first single. At long last, the new record came out last week, and I can’t believe I waited until today to finally dig in. First of all, I have to admit that I never bought the self-titled and I can’t for sure say if I ever listened to it, so consider that when reading through my raw reactions to their latest.

The album sounds dense, almost suffocating at times with the amount of sounds and textures being thrown about. It’s great! The bass in Daughters has always been very distorted, and that tradition continues here. It’s constant churning a cornerstone of the claustrophobic compositions contained herein. The guitars also stay true to recent Daughters history with just as much time spent making creepy sounds as anything remotely considered “traditional” guitar playing in a heavy band. At times, I’d swear the dang thing is a synthesizer (heck, maybe there is a synth?). The drums generally sound good, but on songs like the opener, they are heavily processed (and possibly electronic?), pushing the tunes through the paces with just as many busy fills as straight-forward parts to keep it weird but catchy. The vocals are really strong, and I think show growth from Alexis Marshall as he seems to better control his voice on this record. It’s menacing and off-putting, but also less pitchy and intentionally challenging. The multi-layered tracks add to the girth of the album. The net result is a record that sounds unlike much else I’ve heard lately, with Murderedman’s debut from a couple of years back coming the closest. Kudos!

Daughters are not for everyone, but I think they really knocked it out of the park on this reunion album. I think this might be my favorite Daughters record! This is easily in my tops of 2018. Turns out, I got exactly what I wanted. Check it out! – Jason

City Song – The album opens with a foreign, electronic sounding track that takes several minutes to shed it’s disguise and reveal its true form. A harsh, digital sounding wash of sound envelopes me while a distorted snare beats along at intervals for the first minute before shifting into a hypnotic, nauseating groove propelled by what sounds like electronic drums. I can’t think of a better word to describe it than awkward, and yet that doesn’t do it justice. It’s like Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle, in a way, given the nature of the repetitive vocal mantra and the inhuman churn of the band. I’m driven to bob my head obediently to the unrelenting pulse until it abruptly stops and shifts into what sounds like a synthesizer blowing itself apart. The cacophonous reprise comes in like a ton of bricks and I’m crushed. Nasty!

Long Road, No Turns – After the drawn out vocal ending of the opener, this song kicks in out of nowhere sounding nothing like the preceding 5 minutes. It’s rad. The guitars are dishing out sounds that approach that of an angry hive of bees, undulating and spitting out disorienting sounds while the drums and bass pound along relentlessly. The sound is everywhere, and I’m sinking into the din. There is no escape, only a slow, terrifying death. This is doing a great job of making me very uneasy. “It’s funny how it works, someone’s always got it worse,” the vocal chant that rounds the song out is bad ass too. Thumbs way up!

Satan In The Wait – A haunting guitar bit opens this track in conjunction with a herky-jerky drum beat that demands full body bobbing. Then the dang bass comes in and I’m immediately overcome with a terrible case of stink-face. The lyrics on this one, as far as I can discern on these first listens are kick ass (something about a “some faces even a mother can’t love” and a “tombstone standing where there used to be a headboard”). The band continues with the hypnotic pulse through the verse until the wonderfully melodic guitar comes out of nowhere for the chorus. Dang! This is catchy! The bass and drums never stop driving this nasty groove; like a stake straight through my heart – slowly. Gosh, I’m dead. The vocal wail can’t be ignored either, especially as it approaches the climax of the song. This is so, so very good.

The Flammable Man – Woah, this song kicks off on an uptempo bludgeoning courtesy of the drums and bass while the guitars peel off sheets of disorienting sound that eventually comes across sounding like a Minimoog within the first minute. The glitchy drum edits make the song sound alien and broken, as do the “guitar” parts that sound nothing like a guitar should ever sound. C’mon, that’s a synth, right? Right? So good. Gnarly!

The Lords Song – The uptempo blast continues with this loud, bombastic track. I’m slamming my heel into the ground and banging my head ferociously. Marshall continues to deliver his unholy sermon from the bloody, spit-soaked pulpit, but it seems more fierce than the album has sounded thus far. The synthesized guitar sounds continue and overwhelm, the crescendo of sound suffocating me to a delightful death. Hot Damn! Thumbs way up!

Less Sex – We’re back to a mid-tempo, electronic-sounding crawl with this eerie track that could just as easily be a Nine Inch Nails cut as it is Daughters. Marshall’s vocal is deep and controlled, driving the narrative with ease. The verses swell into a swirl of sound, once again overwhelming me as the listener. I can’t help but bob along to this slow-burning groover of a tune. Way cool.

Daughter – The mournful guitar squawks that open this track take on an almost saxophone like sound before the tune surprises with a Tomahawk/Duane Dennison sounding rock and roll vibe. This would be the most open and airey track on the record if it wasn’t for the wash of sound hovering in the distance, and then the anxious, winding guitar bit that starts looping in from the edge of the song. It’s very catchy, and very weird. Then you get the bizarre, sort-of-new-wave sounding bridge? I love it.

The Reason They Hate Me – Dang, this is another banger! Sounding a bit like Ex-Models, the guitar continues to defy what you think a guitar should sound like once again presenting as a synth. The staccato, inorganic stabs of sound are intense. The driving, brooding chord progression is thick as a brick and catchy to boot. Head banging, foot stomping, this rocks! “Don’t tell me how to do my job!” Thumbs way up!

Ocean Song – A simple bass pulse drives this song while an awkward tom-beat pounds out the time, guitar accents squawking along with the rambling vocal. I can’t stop nodding along, and then suddently the band lands on a shrieking “chorus” riff of sorts out of nowhere. This one kind of reminds me a little bit of Angel Dust-era Faith No More, a brooding, creepy-crawl of a tune that drags me along for the ride. It’s hypnotic, and I drown beneath the waves of sound. Sweet.

Guest House – The guitars on this album freak me out because they sound like a gosh dang Minimoog so often, and this track is no exception. It’s nuts, it reminds me so much of the timbre of Lozenge (one of my all-time favorite bands), particularly something from their final LP UNDONE. This tune is another banger, immediately demanding full-body participation in the groove, the vocal reaching and breaking into savage snarl (“Let me in!”). This is probably the heaviest song on the album and it’s a total bruiser. It’s relentless push forward is excellent. Thumbs way up!

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ALBUM REVIEW: DAUGHTERS – YOU WON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT

ALBUM REVIEW: HOT SNAKES – JERICHO SIRENS

I’m not too cool to admit that I’m not familiar with the Hot Snakes. I’ve never listened to them, truth be told, but this record (the band’s first in 14 years) has had tons of praise heaped upon it and I wanted to listen for myself. My verdict? It’s good stuff! You can Google as well as me, or already know more about Hot Snakes than I do anyhow, so I’ll spare you the history lesson I pursued while listening to this album.

The album sounds fantastic, with a lush, hi-fi sound that leaves me wanting nothing. The guitars are clearly the focus, with excellent over-driven tones that are plenty aggressive and also very articulate. I love the subtle string noises and fret noises that they left in the mix, as I think it lends an honesty to the recording. The bass is gritty, sounding awesome when it catches a few breaks and gets to shine, but also has a fat bottom that doesn’t steal all the low-end away from the kick drum. Speaking of the drums, the rest of the kit sounds punchy and tight, easily snapping through the mix. I can’t stress enough how solid the rhythm section is throughout – the bass player is on it, easily matching the tight picking rhythms of the guitars while the drummer accompanies with fills and beats like a laser-guided cruise missile. The vocals sit nicely, just below the din – a perfect spot for songs like these. The vocal style is relatively one-dimensional, but totally suited to the songs.

Look, I don’t know if this stands up to past Hot Snakes material, but it’s entertaining in its own right to me. I know these dudes have been at this for a long time and have influenced a ton of bands I listen to, and elements of this album make me recall bands like At The Drive In, New Bomb Turks, The Hives, Man.. or Astro-Man? and more. It’s to the point rock and roll, pretense free and ready to make you sweat. Check it out! -Jason

I Need A Doctor – The record opens with an urgent, catchy dose of angular punk rock and I’m into it! It’s a hard-driving song that gets my head bobbing with ease and there’s slick guitar parts throughout, like little notey details or ugly chords that accent the bass very well. Thumbs up!

Candid Cameras – This tune is packed with a ton of nervous energy, thanks to the busy drumming and dissonant guitars and the frantic strumming to match the snare rolls. It’s like a spring constantly being compressed. The chorus release some of the tension, but not much. It makes for an awkward listen, but I’m liking it.

Why Don’t It Sink In? – The hits keep coming with another savage ripper that sounds roughly like sticking your head in a blender would sound, if you were also shootin’ the curl on the biggest wave of your life. Raw and raucous, this is tough. Parts of it feel wonderfully out of tune in a way, giving the song a sea-sick vibe that works well with the constant pounding of the band. Thumbs way up!

Six Wave Hold-Down – This tune takes on more of a laid back, garage rock vibe in contrast to the three rockers that precede it. The chorus is really catchy and all, but I’m not in love with the song. It’s definitely not bad, but it is not blowing my doors off either. I can appreciate the band mixing up their approach with this track, a smart move to keep the album from getting stale or monotonous. I could easily see this being a hit on “modern rock radio” if stations were willing to take a chance on anything at all.

Jericho Sirens – Opening with a single guitar (and is that a melodica?), the title track keeps with the mid-tempo pace of Six Wave Hold-Down, but it’s got a nastier underbelly and I’m liking it a lot. The undulating verse riff is a total head-bobber, and the subtle darkness in the chord progression gives the song a sense of dread. The chorus has a 1960s garage-vibe feel to it, at least to my ears, and it’s cool that they only run through the chorus twice. I like it! Good stuff.

Death Camp Fantasy – This track opens up with the tempo creeping back up, and more of that great anxious-energy courtesy of the guitar playing. It’s catchy and easily gets my toes a-tapping and my head bobbing along. This is a fun tune.

Having Another? – I really like the opening guitar bit and the awkward sort of pulse that sets in with the bass and drums. It’s another fun tune that makes a kid wanna dance. Tons of energy and slick riffs make this a pretty sweet tune, and the weird almost harmonica sounding little guitar flub was a neat detail near the middle of the song. Cool.

Death Doula – I’m not loving this track. It does an okay job of building tension, but it doesn’t feel like it pays off all that well. It’s ok. There are some neat rhythms in this tune and some furious guitar/bass strumming as well, so that’s cool, but ultimately it feels a tad too repetitive. I bet it’s a brute live, though.

Psychoactive – I love this song. It leans forward throughout, has a great energetic vibe, and it feels a bit wrong in all the right ways. This tune rips. I swear there’s a bit of surf rock DNA deep within this band, and it shines on total rockers like this track. Did I mention how catchy this is as well? No? Well, it is! Are their synths in the chorus, or just a neat guitar effect? Thumbs way up!

Death Of A Sportsman – This is another solid tune. I love how the bass sounds at the start of this song, churning along with authority. Tough! This is another hard-driving dose of fiery, guitar-oriented rock and roll! I’m banging my head and pumping my fist in agreement. It’s taken me 3 spins through the album to realize that Hot Snakes is essentially a modern garage-rock band, a style I’ll always love. Going into this, I was more under the impression that they were going for more of punk or noise-rock kind of thing, so it was nice letting my mind play catch up in destroying the pre-conceived notions I had. Thumbs up.

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ALBUM REVIEW: HOT SNAKES – JERICHO SIRENS

ALBUM REVIEW: PART CHIMP – CHEAP THRILLER

Part Chimp hails from London (UK, not Ontario!), and they’ve been at it for quite a while now. What are they getting “at?” Riff-dominant, groove-heavy noise-rock, friends! I just saw that they had released a new LP this month, and was eager to give it a spin. Overall, the whole thing feels like stoner rock on a depressant bender, with often sluggish, heavy-as-lead riffs and wonderfully slacker vocals. The end result is part Torche, part Atomic Bitchwax/Core, all 90s noise-worship. It’s catchy and it bangs!

The album sounds like a total brute! The bass-forward mix sounds excellent, with full-bodied drums cutting through with excellent attack; heavily-driven bass plowing down the middle, and blown-out guitars raging across the stereo field. The vocals are most often buried a bit down among the muck, and that’s suits them fine. The aforementioned slacker approach the band employs works well within the confines of the song, shifting between singing the riff and sort of sloshing through the verses (in a good way!). It’s relatively dynamic and keeps the record from getting too repetitive.

You like heavy? You like noise rock? You might like Part Chimp! Check it out! – Jason

Lies – The record opens with a massive head-banger of a tune that immediately snarls my lips and furrows my brow. The wailing guitar that supplements the vocal melody gives the song an eerie vibe (maybe it’s a synth or theremin?) and I’m into it. The sluggish tempo makes the track feel that much heavier as the guitars and bass shake under the weight of extreme fuzz. Halfway through the band eases up a bit, letting the song mellow out a bit in intensity (but not tone). The song is sort of written in reverse, ending with a whimper after starting with a bang. It’s a solid track.

Dirty Sun – Another nasty groove defines this track, as does the chant like mantra of the vocals. The main riff is a real neck wrecker, but the vocals do get a bit too repetitive. The guitar lead near the end was a nice surprise, but otherwise, it’s just an okay track thanks to the underwhelming effort put into the lyrics.

FTG – This track opens with a tease of an uptempo romp before settling into another mid-paced bruiser. The feedback-building on the vocals is a sweet detail, but the real surprise is the double-time accents that frequently punctuate this rocker. Thumbs way up. Legit neck devastation, buddies.

The Watcher – The vocals on this track are very reminiscent of Finn Ryan (Core/Atomic Bitchwax), as is the smokey main riff that drives this tune. Part Chimp has no problem writing riffs that make you furiously bang your head to. The melodic parts within the song comes out of nowhere, taking the song into brief post-rock/cinematic rock direction before reverting back to the big dumb riff that otherwise dominates the song. The double-timing near the end helps ring the song out on a high note. This track winds up reminding me of self-titled Torche. Good stuff.

You Decintro – This interlude doesn’t do a lot for me. It feels rather half-baked. I could do without it.

Once More Forever – This track does a great job of building up tension, and teasing a high RPM blast of rock and roll only to prove it all a fake out and land with a big, loud, heavy, splat of fuzz! Once the verse sets it, it’s of course another vertebrae destroyer, instantly throwing my head into involuntary convulsions. The lurching groove is a monster, and I like the dynamics in the guitar tones and picking styles in this song. Thumbs way up.

Dr. Horse – Aw yeah! I love the gnarly, “everything is breaking up” tone of this nasty groover! My head feels like it’s on a rusty ole’ spring, just bouncing along with the pulse of this track! This is a dang catchy song and I love the Polvo-esque approach to vocals on this cut. Thumbs way up. Rocker!

Intro To Tomorrow Midnite – This song dials back the intensity a lot with much quieter guitars and less heavy-handed drumming. The vocal sticks out a bit more as a result, giving the track a menacing, slow-burning vibe. It’s okay.

Juzztice – The snail’s pace of the prior track continues on this cut, as does the incessant head bobbing that goes with it. The instruments remain relatively subdued compared to the bombast of the rest of the record as well. Unfortunately, this time it isn’t doing much for me. This song isn’t very exciting and isn’t quite dumb enough to carry the repetition through to glory. Meh.

Trad – After the downer of the last track, Part Chimp goes out swinging for your head on this closer! The fuzzed out, loud-and-in-charge guitars come roaring back and ride yet another neck destroying groove to great effect. The slightly upped tempo and the endless bounce of the riff make this a fun tune! I’m stomping my foot and banging my head and having a good time with this butt-kicking tune. The feedback shrieks and the Red Fang sounding double-time accents make this a real bruiser. Thumbs way up!

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ALBUM REVIEW: PART CHIMP – CHEAP THRILLER

ROCK AND ROLL POST MORTEM: 10/19/2018

This past Friday night, we crept out of our subterranean lair and entered another about 15 minutes away. That’s right, almost two years to the day since our last sojourn to Annabell’s iconic basement, we returned to make noise and give ourselves tremendous pats on the back for still doing this at our advanced age. The show blossomed out of a group text between members of goosed, Persistent Aggressor, and supercorrupter where we all told each other how much everyone rocked and how we should do a show together. Well, we did a show together, and it wasn’t just any show, but a benefit for a friend in need.

Despite advertising that this was going to be an early show, in typical Annabell’s fashion, the crowd didn’t really build until after we had played (and we even delayed for a full 30 minutes). That’s ok, it’s not like we have “feelings” to hurt or anything. All in all, I think we ripped pretty hard, but what do I know? The most important thing is that we all had fun and we didn’t explode our amps or any pedals, and none of us suffered a massive cardiac event or anything. Win! We played a set that leaned heavily on the songs we’ve written since the last EP, and we even debuted a new song that we’ve only practiced as a band a handful of times. There were a lot of hearty cheers for our songs from those in attendance, even if they cowered at a safe distance from the “stage.”

  • Trouble’s Afoot
  • (Chugga Chugga)
  • Release/Return
  • Cadaver Dogs At Dawn
  • Black Galaxy
  • Fast Times
  • (Dr. Drone)

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goosed was up next, and thankfully the room had filled up a bit by the time they started. The guys leapt right in and proceed to riff everyone to near-death. As always it was glorious. I’ve said it before, but I appreciate how goosed shifts and evolves from track to track, keeping their set lively and interesting. Bill’s vocals sounded fierce but the big surprise was when our dear singer Nate joined them for a grand finale – a cover of AC/DCs Walk All Over You. Taking a cue from Jeff Martin of Lo-Pan, Nate hung out behind Kenny’s drum set to belt out the deep cut and it had everyone nodding along. It was fun and tuff.

Persistent Aggressor was on last, and this being their debut Akron show – they seemed to draw out a lot of old friends. There was much heckling from and towards the stage throughout, as frontman Larry Gargus berated every one of us for being stupid losers that would never amount to anything (hey, he’s not wrong!). The band also features my friend Dave Johnson on guitar and backing vocals, my buddy Jon Vinson on drums, and my new friends Josh Cosner and Mikey Juba on second guitar/backing vocals and bass (respectively). It was off the hook, as the hip kids would have said back when I was a kid and not even close to being hip. The band ripped into their metallic take on hardcore with a hyper-speed beat down of mean-ass riffs, face melting leads, and heaps of pissed energy. Dang, they were heavy and brutal, but also tuneful, trapping many folks with their neck-wrecking hooks. They even dusted off a classic Sepultura cover that killed at least a few people in attendance. There isn’t much more to say, if you see Persistent Aggressor playing near you, you would do well to go check them out. As luck would have it, they’ll be back at Annabell’s on November 9th.

At the close of Persistent Aggressor’s set, Larry took up the mic once more to call out the raffle winners in what many called “the meanest raffle ever.” The insults were lobbed out along with the prizes, which includes gift certs to fine places like Square Records, Mr. Zubs, Hausfrau Record Shop, Red Tail Tattoo, and Arkham Tattoo, as well as an incredible donation from the fine folks at Earthquaker Devices (a brand spanking new Aqueduct pedal that our guitar player Keith won!) and Kenny Royer himself (one “sexy-ass” hug). According to Larry, the benefit was incredibly successful, so thanks to the sponsors; everyone who bought raffle tickets, straight up donated cash, or bought drinks downstairs; Annabell’s for working with Larry on making it happen as efficiently as possible; and the bands for foregoing a payday to support someone who needs a little help. See you sometime in the future!

ROCK AND ROLL POST MORTEM: 10/19/2018

ALBUM REVIEW: CURSIVE – VITRIOLA

Full disclosure, I’ve been a fan of Cursive since first hearing “A Gentleman Caller” back somewhere between 2003 and 2005. It’s all getting blurry now, but I can recall the instant attraction I had for that song. It was a lone cut on a compilation CD my brother lent me, and I was smitten with the sound of the band. I remember buying the LP it came from – The Ugly Organ – not long after and being blown away by both the sonic punch of the band and the incredibly detailed lyrics of main-man Tim Kasher. His voice was not something I typically went for back then, but I loved it. He’s got a great timbre and approach to writing songs with how he bends words and syllables and hangs things over beats in a somewhat atypical way. I picked up Happy Hollow when it was released and was once again floored by the band and the concept album they stitched together. I saw the band live twice around this time – once as a headliner at the Grog Shop and the other time on a shared (weird) bill that also featured Mastodon. The band’s 2009 offering, Mama, I’m Swollen was good but didn’t grab me like the prior two albums, and I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even know they released I Am Gemini back in 2012. Then, within the last week I’ve suddenly started seeing all these great “behind the scenes” social media posts about a new record. I had to check it out!

Vitriola features the return of cello, an instrument absent from the band’s material since The Ugly Organ, and similarly drops the horns that were added on Happy Hollow and Mama, I’m Swollen (don’t know if they were on I Am Gemini). The recording quality is ace, with everything sounding near perfect. The rhythm section is a beast in both performance and tone. The drums are full-bodied and punchy and the bass is gritty and mean. So tough! The guitars sound great, whether riffing out, filling in a soundscape, or carrying a chord progression – dirty yet articulate and larger than life when necessary. The keys and cello fill the sound out nicely, serving up excellent accompaniment throughout. Kasher’s vocals sound perfect, and while he may be older he hasn’t lost a step in my opinion. The wit and work that goes into the lyrics is still there as well. Good stuff.

Cursive is back with another excellent collection of rock songs that delivers heaviness when it’s called for, always contemplative lyrics, and good old-fashioned catchiness throughout. The band barrels through rhythmic shifts, moods, and textures all within the confines of a study on the pointlessness and often hopelessness of existence. Good stuff! – Jason

Free To Be Or Not To Be You And Me – The record begins with abrupt belches of heaviness before lurching into the opening verse of this somewhat odd tune. It’s got a strange structure with a bizarre “chorus”, covering a ton of ground in its three-and-a-half minutes of existence. The song is packed with plenty of sonic details that give it a neat personality (jazzy little organ runs especially). Some parts are very catchy, others more lumbering. I’m into it. Thumbs up.

Pick Up The Pieces – The start-stop riff that drives this track is sweet, as is the classic-sounding chorus. This track is more of a guitar-oriented piece, and I’m loving it. It’s heavy, and grooves hard. Thumb way up.

It’s Gonna Hurt – The keys in this song hearken to John Carpenter in my mind’s eye, not that that is a bad thing. It’s a creepy vibe that works well with the chunky riff that accents the tune. I really like the way the band builds the song to a crescendo approaching the middle of the piece. Rad.

Under The Rainbow – This track rides a nice pulse as it grooves along, and feels like a solid nod back to Happy Hollow with the anti-government, anti-religion themes of the lyrics. It’s wonderfully catchy and dynamic and I’m digging it a whole bunch. The keys add a lot of personality to this song. Thumbs up!

Remorse – This track opens with a mournful sounding piano run that once again carries a darkened, horror-flick kind of vibe. The lush chorus is equally haunting as the cello and atmospheric guitars swell to the forefront. It’s a slow, sad song that builds over it’s three-and-half (or so) minute run, ending with the sound of someone throwing and breaking stuff in the studio. I kind of wish it would have exploded into a cathartic riff near the end, but no complaints. Creepy stuff.

Ouroboros – Hot dang! This one is gnarly, opening with a ring modulated vocal and a nasty dissonant guitar riff. Once it really gets rolling, it once again rides a nasty pulse that demands head banging and yeah, I’ve got a bit of a stinkface in effect. The lyrics are solid and this is a sweet tune. The chorus is nicely heavy and ominous, and the surprisingly lush bridge is cool for it’s synth details that give it a bit of a new wave flavor. Thumbs way up!

Everending – I like how this song bleeds out of Ouroboros, and it’s very catchy. It’s easily the most accessible track on the album, yet oddly so given the darkness of the lyrics (I don’t want to live forever I can’t bear the agony). The starts and stops are excellent details and I’m nodding along endlessly. This is timeless rock and roll; heavy but melodic and memorable. Cool!

Ghost Writer – The tale recollected in this song is dark (a suicide letter?), and despite some creepy melodic details (mostly thanks to the keys), I’m not loving it. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with the tune (it’s undeniably catchy), but it’s just not for me.

Life Savings – The female vocal that opens this track is cool, and a bit of a bait and switch as Kasher carries the rest of the song (he does very well with the material, but I really dig the intro). This is another very catchy song, but it’s couched in the subtle weirdness that defines Cursive – the way the keys swell in for example or the anti-materialistic theme of the lyrics. There’s plenty of spooky vibes throughout, but I love the dense, heaviness of the climax the most. Thumbs up.

Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament – This two-fer opens with a heavy staccato bludgeoning before shifting into a bit of Radiohead-esque verse. It’s pretty rad, and I’m loving that heavy accent! The lyrics are bad-ass as well, and I’m into the synth contributions. The second half of the tune shifts gears a bit, segueing into Dystopian Lament’s sad narrative (“I used to fall for… love, friends, unity, math, science”, etc… only to end with “now I fall in line”). Sobering. I love the churning pace of the tune, propelling my neck into constant motion. Sweet.

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ALBUM REVIEW: CURSIVE – VITRIOLA

ALBUM REVIEW: IDLES – JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE

IDLES hails from the UK and have been gaining some notoriety as of late. When I saw that their latest LP was on Bandcamp, I gave it a spin. I’m glad I did. Although the band isn’t as noisy as I expected, and is definitely more punk influenced than I imagined based on the hype I was reading, it is a catchy and worthwhile listen. The band’s songs mostly run around 3 minutes long on average and they do a good job of keeping everything moving along without getting to stale or repetitive.

The album sounds lush and completely hi-fi, covering the full frequency range from deep, solid kicks to harmonically rich guitar details. The bass tone is lean, but very aggressive, constantly riding the beat and helping to give the songs an underlying energy that keeps them moving and your foot a-stomping. The guitars shift voicings constantly and cover a ton of ground, from blips and bleeps and other noisy accents, to dissonant squawks and hard-driving power chords. The vocals, buried in their deep British accent stay mainly in one lane, a contemptuous snarl that cleans up for an easy to sing-along with, “dancing on the tables” kind of uproar. There might be some synths or something in the mix at times, but it was hard to tell in the three free listens Bandcamp affords to streaming passers-by.

All in all, this was a fun, raucous rock and roll record that would appeal to folks into less sludgy noise rock, post-punk, etc. Check it out! – Jason

Colossus – This song winds up being a churning slow-burner of a tune for the majority of its runtime, crawling along as it swells to a crescendo. The repetitive vocals hypnotically echo through your head as the narrator conveys the story. The fake out ending and reprise into an uptempo punk-influenced blast was a surprise that hits out of nowhere. Solid.

Never Fight A Man With A Perm – The driving beat and constant bass thumps inspire obedient head bobbing, but I’m not 100% sold on the chorus vocal (are they chanting “concrete delivered”?), but it does sound huge and nicely leaps out the verse riff. The noisy guitars in the ending sequence are pretty awesome.

I’m Scum – After the loud and brazen prior two tracks, this song starts off rather “quiet” in comparison. The more garage rock groove is very catchy and I love when it explodes into the beer-hall, sing-along friendly chorus. I can identify with the refrain, “I’m Scum!”. This does remind me of Social Distortion, a band I hate, but I actually like this song. Thumbs up.

Danny Nedelko – Reminding me at once of the Ikara Colt, this tune rides a steady bass churn that’s accented by guitar atmospherics and the occasional chords until it opens up going into the chorus. This is another tune that reminds me a lot of Social Distortion, but I’m not loving it this time around. It’s very catchy, but the wrong kind of catchy for my tastes – I blame the chorus. Meh.

Love Song – The ominous intro to this tune gets me banging my head obediently along with the kick drum. The squawks from the guitar sound like alarms sounding and I’m digging it. The chorus is super catchy (“This modern love!”), and the nasty sentiments conveyed in the verses are great. I’m banging my head and my fist. Thumbs way up on this rather anti-love song. Super rad.

June – This track takes us back to the brooding, mid-tempo pulse of the opener, with a vocal that reminds me at times of Honus Honus from Man Man. Half-way through it gets wonderfully heavy when the bass and drums pile on a staccato single note hit along with completely fuzzed out guitars. Nice! The catchiness continues, as does the impossible-to-not-bob-along-to beat. This song is packed with drama and tension, even though it’s really quite simple. Good stuff.

Samaritans – Aw man, this is another hi-fi blast of gnarly British noise-pop. The chant of the chorus, “This is why you never see your father cry,” sounds great amidst the heavily reverberated wash of the guitars. It’s got elements of anything for old U2 to more recent stuff like The Cooper Temple Clause. It’s a cool tune.

Television – This track feels a lot like Danny Nedelko in the way it start, but this time they don’t go wrong with the chorus. I’m digging this song a lot! The chorus blossoms nicely out the drum and bass driven verse. It’s catchy and it’s fun and I just wanna dance!

Great – The tempo comes up a bit and the band is a lot more busy on this song, and once again it’s ridiculously catchy. The bass and drums are so dang fun on this album!

Gram Rock – The opening lyric, “I’m sorry your Granddad’s dead, ahh what a spread” was something I don’t think I’ve ever heard in a song before. Nice! The nicer part is the raunchy “B” riff that punctuates this track. It’s heavy and energized and rips.

Cry To Me – This track is dripping with DNA that traces back to one of my all time favorite bands, Dead And Gone. The vocals ooze with contempt and also break into some brief Screamin Jay Hawkins type of howls as he screams his way into the notes. This is an excellent slab of gothic punk. Love it!

Rottweiler – The final track is an up-tempo rocker that leans heavily on the bands’ punk influences. It gets my heal a tapping and my head a bobbing, but it’s not as strong as some of the other cuts on the album. The start-stop guitar bits are a neat detail, but not enough to make me love the song. It’s alright. The freak-out ending is a great touch as the band devolves into a lurching, broken down machine.

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ALBUM REVIEW: IDLES – JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE