Vinyl Review: Various Artists — Closer To The Grave (15 Years Of Tor Johnson)

Vinyl Review: Various Artists — Closer To The Grave (15 Years Of Tor Johnson)

Five years ago, Tor Johnson Records celebrated their 10th anniversary with a 7-inch compilation, featuring songs from Saint Jude, Now Denial, Pretty Faces, and A Fine Boat, That Coffin. It came housed in a handmade, screen-printed jacket made from recycled LP sleeves, and included a download code for more than twice as many digital bonus tracks, featuring the likes of Weak Teeth and Jesuscentric. It was a cool reflection on how the label had evolved over its first decade.

Source: modern-vinyl.com/2017/08/25/vinyl-review-various-artists-closer-to-the-grave-15-years-of-tor-johnson/

Review of Ascend/Descend’s ‘Murdock Street’ at Modern Vinyl

murdock-street-cover
Whereas every other d-beat record I’ve heard sounds like it was recorded inside a trash can, Ascend/Descend’s Murdock Street gains its power from the fact that this is hardcore recorded like high-end black metal: each aspect of the quartet stands out, shining brightly. The separation between everything on Murdock Street sounds streamlined, but by no means is that any kind of “not punk enough” slag on the Boston hardcore band. If anything, it makes everything that much more distinct.
Read the full review at Modern Vinyl. Published 8/24/16

G.L.O.S.S.’ “Trans Day of Revenge” recommended at Modern Vinyl

cover - gloss trans day
Over Labor Day weekend last year, I saw Olympia hardcore act G.L.O.S.S. play at a bar and grill in Kansas City. They played at the end of a five or six band bill, pushing the limits of when the show needed to be over. And at the time, all they had released was their five-song demo, but even with just those few songs, the place was packed. They pushed the guys to the back before the last song, and brought all the ladies to the front. G.L.O.S.S. doesn’t have patience for your hurt cis male feelings, guys – they’ve got bigger problems with which to deal.
Read all of the MV Recommends piece on G.L.O.S.S.' Trans Day of Revenge at Modern Vinyl. Published 8/1/16

Review of Moment’s “Thick & Unwieldy From All Our Layers” at Modern Vinyl

moment cover
Man, if I’d heard Moment when I was 19, I’d have been a fan for life. The manner in which Moment connects the disparate elements of East Coast punk rock from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s is amazing to say the least. It’s melodic, but rough-edged, and there’s this combination of catchy, hook-laden choruses with breakdowns which absolutely fascinate.
Read the entire review of Moment's Thick & Unwieldy From All Our Layers at Modern Vinyl. Published 6/5/16

Lunglust, “As Guilt Collects Dust” cassette

Cassette Insert- 2 Panel sepsLunglust's As Guilt Collects Dust cassette took a few listens to get a handle on. I couldn't quite wrap my brain around what the band was trying to accomplish. However, it finally clicked one morning that the five piece is really letting these songs breathe. It's not that they're wide-open, jammy bits of hardcore -- not at all. As a matter of fact, opening cut "Closed Casket" goes right into "Broken Idol" without much more than a slight dip in the music. No, what Lunglust has done here is create a hardcore single that isn't trying to play a mile-a-minute, with all the riffs crammed tightly into 45-60 second songs. Hardcore's the rare genre wherein a two minute song can be considered "stretching out," but such is the case. Every song on As Guilt Collects Dust let's the instruments speak without the vocals jammed right on top of them, so you can hear the interplay between Jeff Sykes' harsh rasp and the band's lurching, pounding rhythms. It's especially noticeable on the final track, "Revenge." As Sykes yells "REVENGE!", it's almost as if guitarists Eric Lee and Eric Kelling are answering him with riffs. It's incredibly powerful music. Props to Lunglust for playing music that manages to utilize hardcore's brevity and intensity, but is willing to branch out and let their songs have some space to grow. Any band that's willing to let their breakdowns have a melodic element to them is aces, in my book. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/lunglust/broken-idol[/embed] Lunglust's As Guilt Collects Dust is available now on Bandcamp and as a limited-edition purple cassette Tor Johnson Records.

Weak Teeth, “So You’ve Ruined Your Life” LP

cover - weak teeth so you've ruined your lifeA more appropriate record for holiday release, I can't possibly imagine. Weak Teeth's sophomore full-length, So You've Ruined Your Life (out not from Tor Johnson Records) continues the anger and frustration the group started with on their debut single, and refines and focuses it even further than they did on What A Plague You Are. The stark imagery of the cover gives a clue as to what you'll find on the 12 inches of vinyl within the jacket. Weak Teeth rage against world destroyed by political infighting, but what really seems to come through is the yearning for something with meaning. "I'm Better Than OKay" sums it up best, with "a constant burden that you can't know or understand" being the throughline of So You've Ruined Your Life. The rage and frustration which comes through in everything -- the agonized vocals, the tense rhythms, and terse guitars -- actually find their greatest release in an instrumental, "Providence Music Scene Soccer Camp Trophy," which begins with FDR's Flag Day fireside chat, and then launches into a minor epic of stop-start blasts paired with wide-open stretches of grandiosity. When it ends, you feel exhausted and refreshed, like you've just been through a boxing match in a sweat lodge. Maybe it's come too late to make your best-of list for 2014, but Weak Teeth's So You've Ruined Your Life might be the first great album for 2015. From the moment the album blasts alive with "If You Can't Beat 'Em, Kill Yourself," to the fading moments of "Nothing Is Cool," you realize that you might've waited over three years for this record, but it's been totally worth it. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/dog-knights-productions/weak-teeth-life-is-bullshit[/embed] Weak Teeth's So You've Ruined Your Life is available on silver vinyl from the the Tor Johnson webstore, on mixed green vinyl from Riotous Outburst Records, or on clear with black smoke vinyl from the FITA Records store in the UK.

Podcast #123, “Tony Rettman & NYHC”

book cover - nyhcIt's been a good long while since we last spoke with author Tony Rettman (going all the way back to podcast number twelve), but his new book for Bazillion Points, NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 is pretty amazing. We were lucky enough to interview Mr. Rettman for the Runout, and while we had him on the line, we had him play DJ for a few songs. Thus, there's nothing but New York hardcore on this particular episode, but it's a nice mix of both classics and new, and all of it likely a bunch of stuff you've not ever heard. If you like what you hear, check out the full Spotify playlist Mr. Rettman put together for the book (and, conveniently, buy a copy of NYHC) at the Bazillion Points website. Podcast #123, "Tony Rettman & NYHC" Cro-Mags, "Show You No Mercy (demo version)" (1984 Demo) Urban Waste, "Reject" (Urban Waste) Agnostic Front, "Hiding Inside" (Victim In Pain) --- Maximum Penalty, "All Your Boyz" (Demo '89) The Mob, "Step Forward" (Step Forward) --- Killer Instinct, "Torture You First" (Big Apple: Rotten to the Core) --- Brain Slug, "Distort New York" (Distort New York) In School, "Knocked Out" (Praxis of Hate)

Death to Tyrants, “Untitled EP” 7-inch

cover - death to tyrants untitledWriting about instrumental post-rock is really one of the hardest things to do, which is a goddamn shame, because Death to Tyrants' new untitled 7-inch EP for Tor Johnson Records is absolutely wonderful. Maybe we'll just talk about that. How does that sound? Death to Tyrants work the whole hardcore angle of the various "post" genres more than anything else, but it's the way in which the group takes it on that really keeps me putting this back on the turntable for another go-around. Each song has a groove around which the entire song revolves, and to which everything returns time and time again, working as the backbone and framework for the whole piece. The way Death to Tyrants will then take that groove and rock a breakdown in the middle of it, and then start cycling through that on top of the original piece, and building both to a larger climax? It's astonishingly complex, and I wish I knew more about the band that put this out. When you hear the way "So Far Above Sea Level" builds and builds, and then just absolutely drops out to quiet, slow drums and a simple guitar melody backed by the faintest hint of dirge, before quietly fading out, you'll have your breath taken away. But ... for as musically interesting and arresting as this is, the artwork looks like a Paint Shop Pro job, circa 1999. Basic font, slightly pixelated photo, and what looks like an attempt at replicating a hand-stamped look on the labels. It sounds amazing, but looks cheap. You can get it from Tor Johnson on either blue swirl or black vinyl.

Cretins, “Cretins EP” 7-inch

cover - cretinsIt's become something of a cliche to say that a band has stripped away all the excess and reduced songs to just the necessary pieces. At first listen, Richmond's Cretins seem to be reductive, but when you listen, you realize that they've stripped away nothing but the pauses. Cuts like "Piss On Your Pieces" and "Last Path" demonstrate this pretty effectively, as they open each side with a blast of hardcore, blowing out of your speakers with an intensity that frightens. Whereas any other band would let their guitars feed back a little, generating a little anticipation before launching into the next verse or iteration of the chorus, Cretins chooses instead to cut everything short, and just power ahead. The collective effect is to result in an EP which takes Motorhead's speed and uses it to funnel the no-frills gutteral hate of old-school hardcore directly into your head. Let's be honest: this could have been "Tunnel Vision" as a postcard flexi, and I would've played it 'til it disintegrated. The way the breakdown loops and returns a couple of times in its fading seconds makes this the most mosh-worthy song of the last few years. It's a pretty amazing throwback jam Cretins have created here, right down to the absolutely terrible artwork which graces the cover. Punk rock pointillism is certainly unique, but it's like looking at some underground east coast band's single from the late '80s. I almost expected the cover art to be photocopied. It's even got the lyrics on the inside of the sleeve. You need this, so snag it from the Grave Mistake store.

Bloodpheasant, “Traum” LP

cover - bloodpheasant traumThe newest Tor Johnson Records release, Bloodpheasant's Traum, showed up a while back, and it took me nearly a week to get to listen to it. I'm usually prone to throwing whatever Paul's sent in the mail straight onto the turntable after I get in the house, but somehow, this languished on my coffee table for the better part of six days. The reason I say all of this is to emphasize how bummed I felt halfway through opening cut, "A Bird and Its Wings." I could've listened to this all last week, but no -- I had to do productive things instead of getting lost in this Rhode Island quartet's twangy, apocalyptic doom. That opening cut is an instrumental, and the sound's like a more aggressive Earth (I'm guessing the fact that Traum's cover resembles that of The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull isn't mere coincidence). The instrumental cuts work better than those with vocals. Something about the recording process' end result of a slightly lo-fi distortion works well with the the guitars' swimmy delay, but the vocals just come across as flat. "Farwell, Viking" just hurts. Now, "Wyola" is the exception that proves the rule. Bloodpheasant's guitars sound absolutely huge on this cut, and there's a storm-bringing, thunderous low end. The interplay between Shannon le Corre's soaring vocals and the gutteral roar of Chris Carrera is also excellent, with the theremin ending up as the creepy frosting on the cake at world's end. Bloodpheasant knows how to really make songs work. There's a definite element of surf, with those phased and washed guitars, and it suits the band's loose, groove-oriented approach to the genre. That almost jammy looseness can sometimes lead to aimlessness, however. It's especially evident on album closer, "Fell Short," which is a shame. When you've a record like Traum that's otherwise so forthright and strong, having it peter out at the end is a bit of a letdown.
Bloodpheasant's Traum is available now from Tor Johnson Records on yellow or black vinyl.