Featured Release Roundup: August 29, 2019
Inepsy: Lost Tracks 12” (Feral Ward) So, it turns out Beyonce isn’t the only one who can pull off a surprise album drop, as Lost Tracks marks the unexpected return of both Inepsy and Feral Ward Records. It’s unclear how active either entity will be going forward, but for now I’m happy to count my blessings. We last heard from Inepsy on 2007’s No Speed Limit for Destruction. While that album’s clearer production and emphasis on hard rock riffing over punk energy garnered it a mixed reception, history has been kind to it, and most people now regard it as an essential piece of the Inepsy canon. Inepsy did basic tracking for Lost Tracks in 2009, so it’s unsurprising that this sounds more like No Speed Limit than the grittier first two LPs. All seven tracks sound like classic Inepsy, which is to say they sound like prime-era Motorhead with a slightly different vocal delivery and a more political lyrical bent. “Fuck the Power and Glory” and “Horror on the Greyhound” are the fastest / punkest tracks on the record, but my favorite is the closing “Nuclear Nightmare” (which is a nice callback to an earlier lyric). This track has the slowest tempo on the record, but it also has its meatiest, most fist-pumping riff. We've sold a ton of copies already, so you probably don’t need my encouragement to pick this up. However, if you had any doubt, I’m happy to confirm that Inepsy is still Inepsy.
Booji Boys: Tube Reducer 12” (Drunken Sailor) Latest LP from this prolific band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you haven’t been paying attention, since 2016 Booji Boys has released three LPs, a slew of tapes and 7”s, and been hyped up by Iggy Fucking Pop. Their catchy lead guitar lines bear an undeniable resemblance to the Undertones, they record everything in true shit-fi(delity), and when you first hear it, it sounds like someone playing an AM radio in a loud factory. However, the songs reward your continued attention with criss-crossing earworm melodies. That’s Booji Boys in a nutshell. If you’re already a fan, I can confirm that the Booji Boys deliver more of the goods on this LP, though I sense some creative restlessness, particularly on Tube Reducer’s B side. It all still sounds like Booji Boys, but the songs are shot through with more quirky rhythms, tempo changes, and chaotic forays from which they’re always able to reel themselves back in the nick of time. You probably already made up your mind about Booji Boys and I don’t think Tube Reducer will change that, but if you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine you won’t think this is the band’s most accomplished record.
Nightmare_ Thirsty and Wander_ 12” (540) Japanese hardcore legends Nightmare dropped this new full-length earlier this year as a CD on Japan’s long-running Blood Sucker Records, and now we have a North American vinyl pressing courtesy of 540 Records. Those of you who follow Japanese hardcore should already know Nightmare, but sketching out the band’s history and relationship to more familiar strands of Japanese hardcore music would take quite a while and would require someone who is deeper head than I am. To hit some highlights, though, Nightmare came to the world’s attention after releasing two truly great records on the legendary Selfish label (1988’s self-titled 7” and the landmark 1990 LP Give Notice of Nightmare), continued to release a series of excellent EPs throughout the 90s, went through a weird period where they incorporated a screeching, Albert Ayler-esque saxophone into their lineup (controversial for sure, but recommended listening for true freax), and now they’re back with this new album that sounds more like their classic record (Give Notice) than anything they’ve done since. Even at their best, Nightmare is something of an acquired taste as they aren’t as anthemic as the more well-known Burning Spirits bands and they don’t follow the Discharge template as closely as the most well-known Japanese crust bands. Instead, the key element of their sound (for me, at least) is a spiky, fractured sense of rhythm that reminds me of late 80s Italian hardcore like CCM’s Into the Void or Indigesti’s Osservati Dall'Inganno, or perhaps Gauze’s 4th and 5th albums. It’s heady, complex music that takes work to unpack, but it's some of the realest shit out there. Now, to get to Thirsty and Wander… it fucking rules! As I noted above, Nightmare hasn’t been afraid to mess with their sound over the years, but this record is no experiment. It’s the sound of a band at the top of their game playing the most complex, explosive music they can conjure and recording it clearly and powerfully. It is the old heads showing the young folks how it’s done, and a typically unpretentious rebuff to the bands who get it wrong. If you’ve gone deeper than the Death Side / Bastard / Framtid level of Japanese hardcore and you like what you heard, you need to get Thirsty and Wander.
Pronto: Pop Y Basura cassette (Desechable) You may recognize the vocalist of Mexico’s Pronto as Rafael from Canada’s Pura Mania, but you won’t find any of PM’s brilliant, anthemic punk here. Instead, Pronto draws from various threads of post-punk and electronic music, fusing mechanical and industrial-sounding dance rhythms with the power and menace of underground hardcore punk. The first four tracks feature a pounding, blown out drum machine and frantic synth rhythms, both recorded way in the red. The vocals carry little melody, instead channeling the desperation that I associate with 80s South American hardcore. It’s not unlike the Screamers’ best stuff, but not in a rip-off (or even a conscious influence) kind of way… both just have an overwhelming vibe of post-industrial, electronic menace. The fifth track eases the rhythm toward something more danceable and the vocals also back away from your jugular, sounding like a nastier, more underground version of Boy Harsher. The tape’s b-side weaves between field recordings that remind me of my travels in Mexico (though I’m not sure if that’s where they were recorded or not) and instrumental tracks similar to the more club-ready 5th track. I won't lie, Pop Y Basura is a weird little document that doesn’t fit into a ready-made scene (at least not one that I’m aware of), but the music is killer, and if my description set off any alarm bells for your particular tastes, I’d recommend checking this out.
Crucifixion: The Fox 7” (Splattered!) Reissue of this 1980 NWOBHM gem, spicing up the sleeveless original with a period-appropriate picture sleeve and and a big ‘ol poster insert. If you’re someone who has built your collection of New Wave of British Heavy Metal reissues by picking them up from hardcore punk distros like Sorry State, this single is tailor made for you. Crucifixion have that classic NWOBHM sound that everyone loves, but they’re one of the punkiest sounding bands from that scene I’ve heard. Like you’d expect, both “The Fox” and it’s b-side “Death Sentence” feature classic riffs and anthemic choruses, but the raw production and gritty, growly vocal delivery are perfect for me. Diamond Head or Def Leppard this ain’t, but if you’re also picking up the new Inepsy LP, throw this into your cart for an appropriate chaser.
Under Attack: Through the Blade 7” (Iron Lung) Debut 6-song EP from this new Richmond, Virginia band featuring Dave Witte from Municipal Waste and Discordance Axis on drums. This isn’t metal, though, but pure hardcore punk with an “80s by way of the 90s” sensibility to it. The playing is tight (which we might expect… these folks are pros!) and the riffing combines the straightforward catchiness of something like Minor Threat with the beefier sound of more metallic hardcore. I’m reminded of the 80s-sounding bands from Portland-via-Memphis scene (particularly Deathreat) or several of the bands that Brian Stern has played in (Look Back and Laugh, Needles, Shit Coffins). You won't find any trend-hopping here, just no-frills hardcore punk for people who have been around the block a few times.