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Featured Release Round Up: January 28 2021

Mirror: 2nd 7” (Esos Malditos Punks) Mirror asked me to write their new record’s description, and I stand by what I said… this is another killer record from Mirror. Here’s the description: Four years after their debut, here’s the second 7” from this Texan band featuring members of punk royalty like Criaturas, Kurraka, Impalers, Vaaska, Institute, Wiccans, and many others. While no one would mistake Mirror for anything but a hardcore band, they’re a hardcore band that pays close attention to texture and atmosphere. The label that released their first EP called them “space punk” and I wrote about the “woozy, hallucinogenic” guitars on that record. However, this time around the swirling feedback gets dialed back in favor of a more streamlined attack akin to the minimalistic creepiness that emanated from 80s Japan, with tracks like “Control Group” and “Hall of Cryptids” borrowing the wrecking ball swing of Fuckedheads-era Gauze. After four fist-pumpers, the EP reaches a climax with the closing track “Cadaver Dogs,” which dials back the tempo a hair and sounds like a house show where someone’s spiked the beer with LSD. Recommended if you like your hardcore raging, slightly left of center, and oozing with personality.

Hellish Inferno: demo cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this new d-beat band from Oakland, California. Note that the version we have right now is the original self-released version limited to 50 copies; Manic Noise Records will repress this tape soon, and hopefully we can get copies of that as these will be sold out not long after you read this. When I first listened to Hellish Inferno, the first thing that jumped out was the raw recording. It’s noisy and blown out in an “80s rehearsal tape” kind of way, but when I listened to it more, I realized the relentless doot-dat-doot-doot-dat you need to hear for this stuff to hit is right where it needs to be. The guitars, bass, and echo-drenched vocals are nasty as hell, though. Musically, Hellish Inferno reminds me of Tortür in that it’s super fast and packed with two-chord Discharge riffs, but the raw recording gives it a different vibe, more of a straight up Cimex / Shitlickers kind of thing. This one is a certified ripper.

Midnite Snaxxx: Contact Contamination 7” (Slovenly) I’ve been singing Midnite Snaxxx’s praises for years now, and that train will not stop rolling with “Contact Contamination.” Midnite Snaxxx has proven themselves to be great at 90s-style garage rock, power-pop, and (especially on their last album) spiky post-punk, and these two tracks contain traces of all of those. The vocals here are more shout-y and percussive than the Snaxxx’s poppier tracks, but what they lean on here is the interplay between the band’s two guitarists. There are few things in this world I love more than dueling lead guitars, and moments like the break in “Contact Contamination” and the outro for “Fight Back” are perfect examples of how transcendent that sound can be. Two killer tracks and a beautiful layout from Sarah Sequoia… this is essential in my book.

The C-Section: self-titled cassette (Human Headstone) The packaging doesn’t give away much, but the C-Section is on the Human Headstone label, so I assume they’re from somewhere near Philadelphia and they may even feature Human Headstone’s Matthew Adis, whom you might remember from Salvation or Latishia’s Skull Drawing. Both of those bands had an arty edge, but the C-Section is unhinged, a freaks-on-speed barrage a la the Meat Puppets’ In a Car. The second track, “Bloodied Head,” sounds like Rudimentary Peni learning to play like Koro… it fucking rules. But then the mid-tempo track (“Rigor Mortis Ring Finger?”) channels the catchy nihilism you hear on Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP. Sick artwork too, a hallmark of Adis’s output. The only complaint I can lodge is that this is so good, maybe it should have been a 7”.

Videodrome: 2020 cassette (Convulse Records) 2020 is the second cassette from this Denver band, arriving a mere four years after their first. I guess it’s just that quality takes time, because this rules. At its core, this is the noisy and nihilistic hardcore that has been a hallmark of Denver’s scene for a while now. However, there are harsh noise / power electronics-style parts as well. What’s even cooler is that these parts don’t feel like tacked-on intros and outros… they stand on equal footing with the guitar/bass/drums stuff. It’s clear Videodrome aspired to something beyond your garden variety hardcore, and they deliver. Between Videodrome, Kombat, and the C-Section, this is a great week for creepy and noisy hardcore with awesome graphic design.

Vicious Blade: EP cassette (self-released) First release from this Pittsburgh band that lives in the grey area where metal and hardcore meet. The opening track, “Banshee’s Blade,” is straight up crossover thrash with blistering riffs and a breakdown that could have come from a Nuclear Assault record, but “Claustrophobia” has a Motorhead-inspired rumble that sounds more like Midnight’s blackened punk. The playing is super tight, and the recording is clear, powerful, and professional without sounding slick or sterile. Vicious Blade sounds like a bunch of punks who are really good at their instruments laying into some classic thrash metal. Maybe this would alienate a purist of either genre, but I love peanut butter with my chocolate.

Kombat: In Death We Are All the Same 7” (Hysteria) This 7” actually came out back in 2017. Kombat played a show at the Bunker here in Raleigh after its release and blew me away. I picked up the 7” that night and I loved it, but I don’t think Sorry State ever carried it. However, some copies popped up, and I jumped on the opportunity to stock this record, even if it’s three years late. In Death We Are All the Same still sounds great. The rhythms are ultra-fast, jagged, and Koro-inspired (much like their drummer’s subsequent band, Hologram), but they drench the guitars in chorus and go off on long melodic tangents that remind me of Devil Master. It’s not metal at all, though, just ambitiously melodic. But it’s also ambitiously fast and ambitiously nasty. The recording is great, clear but raw and very live-sounding. I think the band broke up after this record came out, but that does nothing to diminish this record’s impact.

Reality Complex: demo cassette (Convulse Records) Denver’s hardcore scene produces killer cassettes at a rate disproportionate to the city’s population. The latest is from Reality Complex, a one-person project fitting right into that city’s scene jam-packed with noisy, pissed-off-sounding hardcore bands. The X is in a bolder font than the rest of the band name on the cover, and I wonder if Reality Complex is a straight edge project because some of the riffs and the vocal style remind me of Youth of Today, but the presentation is grittier and meaner… there’s not much posi here. The songs are short and to the point (occasionally reaching Siege-like velocity) and the recording is perfectly blown out. If that description intrigues you, I can’t imagine you’ll walk away from this tape disappointed.

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