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Featured Release Roundup: December 19, 2019

Warhead: Change the Reality 7” (Farewell) Latest 7” from this long-running and legendary Japanese hardcore band. This is the first new material from Warhead in four years, and the band has not mellowed or changed at all with age. Their music is noisy and primal, with riffs that feel as violent and as precise as an attack from a seasoned assassin. It’s a sound they’ve honed over 30 years, and they own it… it’s hard to imagine anyone else writing these songs or performing them in exactly this way. While it’s a short record, I can’t see it disappointing any of the band’s many passionate fans, myself included.

Leather Lickers: Eye of the Scared 7” (Cool Death) Latest 7” from this Australian hardcore band who turned a lot of heads with their debut vinyl a few months ago. On Eye of the Scared we get three tracks. The first one is blistering fast, noisy, and out of control, like wilder groups from Japan or Cleveland. The second turns up the punk dial, accentuating the Cleveland over the Japan, while the entire b-side is a mid-paced fist-pumper that has the anthemic quality of Wasted Time or Fucked Up’s great early singles. The execution is raw and nasty, and the packaging—silver ink screen-printed on red paper—is nice. Another solid release from a band to watch.

The Wraith: Gloom Ballet 12” (Southern Lord) We carried the demo tape from LA’s the Wraith several years ago, and now their debut LP is out on Southern Lord. Wild, huh? Anyway, if you don’t remember the Wraith, the title Gloom Ballet hits the nail on the head. The Wraith bills themselves as death rock, and the record reminds me both of vintage post-punk like Killing Joke or Chameleons and more rock-oriented dark stuff like the Cult or even the modern metal band Ghost. The production is slick and took some getting used to for me—I’m more of a basement and 4 track type of guy—but if you’re a fan of the latter two bands I mentioned, you’ll appreciate the powerful sound.

Lipid: Nuclear Masturbation cassette (Vinyl Conflict) Second cassette from this hardcore band out of Richmond, Virginia. Having seen them live I expected Nuclear Masturbation to have a strong d-beat vibe, but it’s way more original than that. How it’s not quite hardcore, punk, d-beat, or metal makes me think of records like Crucifix’s Dehumanization and Agnostic Front’s Victim in Pain, gritty and primitive records that feel 100% honest and devoid of bullshit. I doubt that early 80s NYHC is much of an influence on Lipid, but “Obey the Whip” even reminds me of the Abused. I don’t think this is streaming online anywhere yet so you’ll just have to trust me, but this is some rad punked-up hardcore.

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Noxeema: S/T 7” (Dot Dot Dot) Debut 7” from this Portland band. The sound is fast punk rock bordering on hardcore with an undistorted guitar and a dynamic, charismatic vocalist. While people who were into hardcore in the 00s would compare them to Regulations or Social Circkle, the personality-drenched vocals and proto-hardcore sound remind me the most of the Bags. Despite being in this stylistic pocket, it doesn’t sound like Noxeema is trying to be anyone but themselves, so they aren’t afraid to experiment with simple melodic vocal parts like on “Time to Go” or push into Amde Petersen’s Arme-type hardcore territory on “Victim Story.” With a great recording and eight songs packed onto a 45rpm 7”, you’ll enjoy this if you’re a fan of the bands mentioned above.

Program: Show Me 12” (Anti-Fade) Between the Whiffs, ABC Gum, and Program, it’s been a good month for power-pop records at Sorry State. While Australia’s Program aren’t as indebted to the American power-pop tradition as the former two bands, they’ll appeal to the same ears, particularly if you also have an affinity for the Television Personalities’ poppiest moments. While the guitars mostly jangle, the power chords in “Motorbike” make me think of new wave like the Cars, Tom Petty, or Joan Jett, and I also love the punky energy of “They Know,” whose Treacy-esque melody makes it my favorite track on the album. Program’s reserved, unpretentious presentation may mean it takes their music a little longer to catch your ear, but once it does, you’ll be so refreshed to hear a band that isn’t trying to be louder than everyone else. Like I said, if you’re a fan of vintage 70s power-pop, this should be on your list of new records to check out.

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