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Featured Release Roundup: May 24, 2017

Welcome to another edition of my new release roundup! This time around things are a little heavy on the metal, which is probably a function of both what has been coming out lately and where my head is at. My friend Scott lent me his copy of Tom Warrior from Celtic Frost's autobiography and I've been devouring that, so it's put me in a very metal mood. However, even if that isn't where you're at this week there's still plenty of awesomeness.

ISS: Endless Pussyfooting cassette (State Laughter) Second full-length from this North Carolina punk duo. In case you haven’t paid attention to our raving about ISS in the past, here’s the story: Eddie from Brain F≠ and Rich from Whatever Brains work together to construct songs out of samples from classic punk records, making entirely new songs. ISS’s songs tend to be really different from one another, but the general vibe is an extremely unique combination of dance music and punk that sounds utterly unlike anything that I’ve ever heard before. However, rather than being trance-y, ISS are very song-oriented, relying on Rich’s ability to pen a pop tune and deliver a big vocal hook, a skill which works particularly well in tandem with his bitingly sarcastic lyrics. Going along with the intertextuality of the music, the lyrics are also dense with punk references, my favorite of which smash together bits of popular culture in really evocative and unexpected ways, like the release’s title (which seems to refer to both G.I.S.M. and the Brian Eno / Robert Fripp album No Pussyfooting), or the song “Infinite Jast Last,” which gives me hope that I’m not the only person in the universe who both owns an original L.S.D. flexi and also loves David Foster Wallace. Another thing I love about ISS is the fact that they’re unapologetically funny, but unlike a lot of bands who use humor, the songs actually grow on you with repeated listens. I mean, the first time you hear “Part Time All the Time” you’ll giggle at its send-up of trendy punk fashions, but once you get past that you’ll live for the epic beat drop that sounds like it’s straight off the floor of a European dance club. In case you can’t tell from all of this description, ISS are one of the most profoundly original and exciting punk bands in the world right now, particularly because they’re one of the only “bands” that is actually responding in an interesting way to the profusion of pop- and sub-cultural content that the internet has brought us… whereas most artists I’ve heard either wring their hands about the overwhelming nature of “content” in the digital age (like Parquet Courts) or just shamelessly rip off what has come before (95% of punk bands of the past several years), ISS scrape up the half-digested vomit of information that the internet has brought us and fashion it into something that truly could not have existed before.

Buy from Sorry State

Fried Egg: Back and Forth 7” (Beach Impediment) When I wrote about Fried Egg’s previous 7” I remember noting that they were kind of teetering on the edge between being a weird / outsider-type hardcore band and a really straightforward one. For whatever reason, I assumed that as they continued to develop their chops they would continue to go out there musically and get weirder and more unsettling… however, with Back and Forth they’ve really done the opposite of what I expected by stripping things down and getting way meaner and more savage. As you might expect given the band’s move to Beach Impediment with this release, Back and Forth is full-bore hardcore; sure, the riffs and arrangements are clever and well put-together, but they’re also brutally succinct and to the point. And I can’t help but mention the absolutely savage vocal performance here. I actually mentioned to Sam (who plays bass in Fried Egg and also runs Feel It Records) how much I was blown away by the vocals, and he told me that the band recorded everything for this record live, including the vocals. You can really tell, because the singer is clearly pushing a ton of air through his throat in order to compete with the band’s volume and power, and it sounds like they’re also recorded slightly in the red, further accentuating the raw intensity. Beach Impediment has long ago established itself as the home of the best purist hardcore, and Fried Egg’s place on their roster is extremely fitting.

Buy from Sorry State

Venom: Skeletons in the Closet 12” (Wax Maniax) First time on vinyl for this outtakes collection, which was originally released on CD in 1993. These kinds of collections can be a real mixed bag, but this one is really good, mainly because the track listing captures the unique mix of gravity and lightheartedness that made Venom so great. The real draw here is that there are the tracks from the band’s original era that are otherwise totally unreleased… according to the liner notes, when Venom would go into the studio they would record everything they had written and then select the strongest tracks for inclusion on the album, and as you can imagine, b-listers from Venom’s glory days are still well worth hearing. In addition to outtakes from the album sessions, you also get a vinyl version of Venom’s original 3-song demo recorded with their original vocalist. Next up are a few fans-only curiosities like remixes of previously released tracks… one entire LP side is devoted to a remix of “At War with Satan” that definitely sounds different to the original, but I’m not sure if anyone but die-hards will notice or appreciate those differences. And then in the third category is a bunch of really fun ephemera… you can reproductions of the intro tapes that Venom would play at the start of their concerts at various points in their career, and then a bunch of Everything Went Black-style radio promos that are so loose as to be borderline incoherent. They’re really hilarious, actually, and don’t drag on the ear the way that side 4 of Everything Went Black does. The packaging is very nice, as we’ve come to expect from Wax Maniax (though I must say I prefer the artwork for the original CD release), as well as brief but extremely informative liner notes from Mantas and Abaddon. While I wouldn’t go so far as to put Skeletons in the Closet on par with the power and originality of the first three albums, the information it fills in will make it a treasured and frequently-visited part of any Venom fan’s collection.

Buy from Sorry State

Cloven Hoof: S/T 12” (Wax Maniax) Cool reissue of this NWOBHM semi-obscurity on the always-reliable Wax Maniax label. This originally appeared on Neat Records in 1983, and while that’s a rather late date for it, Cloven Hoof were unapologetically NOWBHM in their songwriting and presentation. It’s a solid LP for sure, the highlight being “Laying Down the Law” (which I remember from the old Metal Inferno compilation), which would fit rather comfortably on Maiden’s Number of the Beast. It’s not hard to see why the band didn’t catch fire, though… while the LP is consistent in terms of quality, it’s a bit all over the place in terms of sound… it seems like Cloven Hoof couldn’t quite decide whether they wanted to be Venom, Maiden, or Def Leppard, as there are elements of all three of those bands’ sounds and images at play here. I also hate to mention it, but Cloven Hoff didn’t exactly have boy band quality looks, and while this kind of hesher image they had would ultimately work out great for Metallica, it seems to grind against Cloven Hoof’s more polished sound. Like I said, though, this is quite the enjoyable listen, and if you’re into bands like Angel Witch and Heavy Load (not to mention the aforementioned NWOBHM giants) you’ll get more than your fair share of plays out of this one.

Buy from Sorry State

The Sexual: Complete Discography: 1983-1985 12” (euro import) Well done fan club release for this 80s Japanese punk band. This is essentially a vinyl version of the official discography that was released in 2002 (and, like a lot of discography CDs of 80s Japanese punk bands, is now quite expensive and hard to find)… it sounds like the audio might have been sourced from that CD as well, because the sound here is clear, bright, and powerful. My obsession with 80s Japanese punk and hardcore is well documented, and the Sexual are, without a doubt, a key band. While they’re not quite as weird or as artsy as many of the bands on the ADK Records roster, what they lack in artsiness they more than make up in raw brutality, clearly pointing toward the increasingly brutal, heavy, and raw direction that the Japanese hardcore scene was heading toward. In other words, you can file the Sexual’s releases right next to bands like the Execute, Zouo, and G.I.S.M., all of whom (along with the Sexual) were incorporating elements of metal and Discharge’s approach into the classic Japanese punk template. There are songs here that are nearly as brutal as Confuse, but there are also songs here that have the bouncy catchiness of the Stalin. There isn’t a dud among the bunch, and if you’re not trying to drop several hundred dollars on near-mint copies of their original two flexis I can’t recommend this comp highly enough… hell, even if you have those, the strong sound reproduction here might even be better than the original flexis (unfortunately I don’t have originals of these to compare). An essential piece of the puzzle for Japanese punk fanatics.

Buy from Sorry State

Aggression Pact: Instant Execution 7” (Painkiller) Sophomore effort from this band that features Mark from Wasted Time / Mercy Killing / Beach Impediment Records on vocals backed by a bunch of Boston hardcore all-stars. As expected, it’s a total bruiser. Of course Mark’s vocals are a big part of what makes all of his bands so great; he’s about as powerful as a hardcore vocalist comes, and his lyrics are always thoughtful and sophisticated. He’d probably sound great even singing for a mediocre band, but Aggression Pact are far more than that. While there are lots of cool moments that I could point out on this EP (particularly the inventive guitar solos), I think that what I like about it most is the dense, heavy, in-the-pocket groove that Aggression Pact manages to achieve. There’s a real Motorhead-esque, fist-pumping quality to these tracks that elevates them beyond what most hardcore bands are capable of, making these sound like kick-butt hard rock tracks infused with hardcore’s explosive energy. There isn’t much in the way of twists and turns here, but if the term “meat and potatoes hardcore” is at all attractive to you it’s hard to imagine that you won’t like this.

Buy from Sorry State

Udüsic: Ugly (Painkiller) On their demo tape, Chicago’s Udüsic pledged their allegiance to no-nonsense hardcore with an Out Cold cover, but I’m pleased to say that they haven’t limited themselves by that initial statement, continuing to let their music grow while never losing sight of what hardcore is about. If anything, though, Ugly is even more hardcore-sounding than their debut 7” for Painkiller. It’s a little fuller-sounding, with extremely warm production that makes this sound vintage in all of the right ways. However, this is far from pure 80s throwback. In fact, my favorite moments on this EP are the ones that feel more “progressive,” particularly the lead guitar, which merges the chromatic quality of Greg Ginn’s lead playing with an extremely inventive melodic sensibility. I also like how confrontational the lyrics and vocals are. In particular, there’s a lot of taking stock hardcore rhetoric and twisting it, revealing what it looks like from another perspective. The track “E.O.M.” (which stands for “End of Men”) contains the line “Hope you’re ready, ready to fight / Don’t give a fuck about your brawn or might,” and while these lyrics might sound banal coming from your standard hardcore dude (particularly given the appropriation of a Negative Approach lyric), Udüsic implicitly asks us to consider why these words “sound” different when a woman says them. Similarly, they cover the song “Solution” by Vile, changing some of the original’s offensive language to recast the song as a tirade against the very types of people who wrote the original lyrics. The balance that Udüsic are able to strike between gratifying and challenging the listener is utterly unique to them… they’re going to give you what you want, but you’re not going to get a spoonful of sugar along with it. If you’re the type who would yell out “shut up and play” to a band you should probably just buy something else, but if you listen to hardcore records hoping they’ll communicate something to you that you didn’t already know then I can’t recommend Udüsic highly enough.

Buy from Sorry State

Punk Ekman: S/T 7” (Ken Rock) Punk Ekman is a pseudonym for one (or maybe more?) of the Achtungs. I’m not sure if the Achtungs are done (which would be a shame!), but I assume that the existence of this 4-songer can’t be a good sign, because it sounds pretty much exactly like the Achtungs. I absolutely loved all of the Achtungs’ records, and these four tracks would have fit perfectly on any of them. In case the Achtungs reference means nothing to you, basically Punk Ekman sound like a harder, faster take on the traditional European punk sound of bands like the Rude Kids or Ivy Green (who Punk Ekman sound quite a bit like, particularly on the vocal department) delivered through the fuzz-drenched production of 90s garage bands like the Registrators or Teengenerate. It’s a simple formula, but like the formula of pop music itself, it has proven an infinitely extensible one. If you think that the Now that’s What I Call Music compilations should be sourced entirely from the roster of Rip Off Records, then this is band that should definitely be on your radar.

Buy from Sorry State

Bent: Mattress Springs 7” (Emotional Response) New 4-song EP from this Australian band. The label drops comparisons to the Raincoats and the Slits in their description, and I can definitely hear a lot of both of those bands in Bent’s sound. From the Raincoats, there’s the way that the songs seem to live in the interplay between the bass and drums, with scratchy-sounding guitar that sounds less like any guitarist you’ve ever heard and more like the Raincoats’ violinist. And then from the Slits, there’s Bent’s weird way of making music that somehow sounds like dub reggae without having a single thing you could point to and say, “that sounds like something from a dub track” (except, perhaps, for the way that the booming bass and drums dominate the mix). While these aren’t exactly pop songs, there’s a haunting, almost mesmerizing quality that keeps me coming back to these tracks. A really beautiful record.

Buy from Sorry State

All New Arrivals

Voivod: Rrroooaaarrr 12" (Noise)
Voivod: Dimension Hatross 12" (Noise)
Voivod: Killing Technology 12" (Noise)
The Mountain Goats: Goths 12" (Merge)
Law: demo cassette (Self-released)
Young Pioneers: High Again 12" (K)
Crimpshrine: Duct Tape Soup 12" (Numero Group)
Crimpshrine: The Sound of a New World Being Born 12" (Numero Group)
Helium: The Dirt of Luck 12" (Matador)
Helium: Ends with And 12" (Matador)
Helium: The Magic City + No Guitars 12" (Matador)
Do Make Say Think: Stubborn Persistent Illusions 12" (Constellation)
Kurt Vile: Square Shells 12" (Matador)
Kurt Vile: So Outta Reach 12" (Matador)
Wavves: You're Welcome 12" (Ghost Ramp)
Biters: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be 12" (signed; Earache)
Basement: Promise Everything 12" (deluxe edition; marble vinyl; Run for Cover)
Negative Gain: Back from the Dead 12" (Rest in Punk)
Iron Maiden: No Prayer for the Dying 12" (Sanctuary)
Iron Maiden: The X Factor 12" (Sanctuary)
Iron Maiden: Virtual XI 12" (Sanctuary)
Iron Maiden: The Complete Albums Collection 1990-2015 12" (Sanctuary)
Iron Maiden: Fear of the Dark 12" (Sanctuary)
The Sexual: Discography 12" (euro import)
Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls 12" (ATO)
CFM: Dichotomy Desaturated 12" (In the Red)
John Coltrane / Alice Coltrane: Cosmic Music 12" (Superior Viaduct)
Crass: Feeding of the 5,000 12" (Southern)
Digable Planets: Blowout Comb 12" (Modern Classics)
The Flexibles: Pink Everything 12" (Night School)
Foreseen HKI: Grave Danger 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Full of Hell: Trumpeting Ecstasy 12" (Profound Lore)
Las Munjitas Del Fuzz: Es El 69 7" (Shit in the Milk)
Loss: Horizonless 12" (Profound Lore)
Charles Mingus: Mingus Plays Piano 12" (Superior Viaduct)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Farmokologinen 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Pin Group: Go to Town 12" (Superior Viaduct)
Subhumans: 29:29 Split Vision 12" (Bluurg)
Terminals: Antiseptic 12" (Ba Da Bing!)
Terminals: Singles & Sundries 12" (Ba Da Bing!)
Various: Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip 12" (Permanent)
Deadbeats: Complete Dangerhouse 10" (Artifix)
Modernettes: Teen City 35th Anniversary 12" (Sudden Death)
Shock: Shock Proof 1976-1979 12" (Artifix)
The Attachments: demo cassette (self-released)
Beastmaker: Inside the Skull 12" (Rise Above)
Life's Blood: Hardcore A.D. 1988 12" (Prank)
Integrity: Seasons in the Size of Days 12" (Organized Crime)
Elder: Reflections of a Floating World 12" (Armageddon)
X: Los Angeles 12" (Porterhouse)
Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love! 12" (Glassnote)
Ryan Adams: Cold Roses 12" (Lost Highway)
Skull Cult: Vol 1 cassette (self-released)
Skull Cult: Vol 2 cassette (self-released)
Pisse: Kohlrübenwinter 2 7" (Apocaplexy)
Dronez / Humanmania: Split 7" (Ryvvolte)
Fit for Abuse: Too Little, Too Late 7" (Warthog Speak)
Fit for Abuse: The Psycho Ray Sessions 7" (Warthog Speak)

Restocks

Pandemonium: De Pandemonium Affaire 12" (Rest in Punk)
Various: Bloodstains Across Virginia 12" (Prompt Critic)
Frieg Egg: Back and Forth 7" (Beach Impediment)
Long Knife: Sewers of Babylon 7" (Beach Impediment)
Guided by Voices: Bee Thousand 12" (Scat)
Hot Snakes: Audit in Progress 12" (Swami)
Hot Snakes: Automatic Midnight 12" (Swami)
Jawbreaker: Unfun 12" (Blackball)
Lucero: Tennessee 12" (Sabot)
Charles Mingus: The Black Saint and the SInner Lady 12" (Superior Viaduct)
Negative Trend: S/T 7" (Superior Viaduct)
Thee Oh Sees: Mutilator Defeated at Last 12" (Castleface)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Kosmonument 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Muukalainen Puhuu 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Valonielu 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Värähtelijä 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Propagandhi: Less Talk, More Rock 12" (Fat Wreck)
Sonic Youth: Evol 12" (Goofin')
The Sound: Jeopardy 12" (1972)
The Fall: Hex Enduction Hour 12" (Superior Viaduct)
The Fall: Slates 10" (Superior Viaduct)
Feederz: Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss 12" (Broken)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: I'm in Your Mind Fuzz 12" (Castleface)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Quarters 12" (Castleface)
Naked Raygun: Throb Throb 12" (Haunted Town)
Thee Oh Sees: Help 12" (Castleface)
The Secret Prostitutes: Tiger Express 12" (Torture Garden)
Boston Strangler: Outcast 12" (Fun with Smack)
Converge: Petitioning Forever 12" (Deathwish)
Cock Sparrer: Shock Troops 12" (Pirates Press)
Cryptopsy: Blasphemy Made Flesh 12" (War on Music)
Cryptopsy: None So Vile 12" (War on Music)
Agnostic Front: Victim in Pain 12" (Bridge 9)
Drive Like Jehu: Yank Crime 12" (Cargo)
Antidote: Thou Shalt Not Kill 7" (Bridge 9)
Exit Unit: S/T 7" (Deep Six)
Youth Brigade: First Demo 7" (Dischord)
S-21: Year Zero 7" (Slugsalt)
Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask 12" (Lex)
Beastie Boys: Hello Nasty 12" (Capitol)
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill 12" (Capitol)
Black Flag: Loose Nut 12" (SST)
Emperor: Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk 12" (Candlelight)
Funkadelic: Maggot Brain 12" (Westbound)
Ghost: Meliora 12" (deluxe edition; Spinefarm)
Misfits: Collection II 12" (Caroline)
Misfits: Earth AD 12" (Caroline)
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang 12" (RCA)
Husker Du: Zen Arcade 12" (SST)


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