Featured Release Roundup: February 4 2021
Ritual Warfare: Repulsive Addiction 7” (Sewercide Records) Sewercide continues their hot streak with this three-song EP from Halifax’s Ritual Warfare. While I think of Sewercide as a hardcore label, Ritual Warfare is full-on metal, though it’s the kind of metal that appeals to punks. I’d wager that members of Ritual Warfare have well-worn copies of Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales in their own collections, as their riffing style and rhythms owe more than a little to that classic record. It’s hardly a throwback though; Ritual Warfare drops into full on raw blasting parts occasionally (most effectively on the 58-second ripper “Blood Fucker”), and these parts up the intensity level even more. The recording quality, artwork, and everything about this release are spot-on, so check this out if you’re into that raw mid-80s sound that lives on the bubble between thrash and death metal.
Razor: Armed and Dangerous 12” (Relapse) Relapse Records reissues the debut 1984 album from this Guelph, Ontario metal band. Razor stuck around into the well into the 90s and were a staple of the late 80s and 90s thrash and speed metal scenes, releasing records like Violent Restitution, a favorite of Jeff here at Sorry State. However, Armed and Dangerous captures the band at an earlier stage when they had more of the original New Wave of British Heavy Metal in their sound. Like great independently released NOWBHM records from bands like Blitzkrieg and Raven, Razor combined high energy rock and roll songwriting with virtuosic playing and a raw, high-energy presentation. The grainy recording quality of Armed and Dangerous also sounds like many of those NOWBHM classics… the sound is gritty and grainy, like they recorded it cheaply on used tape, but the tightness and explosive energy come through. This reissue adds a heap of earlier demo versions to the original track listing, and these are even nastier and more blown out. I think I prefer the original album versions, but I’m still glad Relapse gave us a little more bang for our buck.
Lamps: People with Faces 12” (In the Red) People with Faces is the latest album from this long-running LA punk band. I’ve seen Lamps’ records in the bins for years, but I’m not sure I’d checked them out. However, I heard several people I trust mention People with Faces was one of their favorite punk records of 2020, so I listened. Given that Lamps has long been associated with In the Red Records I expected something more like traditional garage-punk, but People with Faces is edgy, arty, and avoids the kind of rock and roll cliches that leave me cold. Lamps bop along at motorik-type tempos, which keeps the energy level high as your ear gets treated to a buffet of tones, including lots of distorted bass and synth squeals. The whole album is strong, but it feels back-loaded because there are two awesome cover songs toward the end of the record: “I Owe It to the Girls” by Teddy & the Frat Girls and “I Need a Freak” by Sexual Harassment. The way Lamps’ style meshes with those other compositions is just magical. Killer record.
Preening: Dragged Through the Garden 12” (Ever/Never) Latest record from this now-veteran Oakland trio whose records I’ve been enjoying for several years now. When I wrote about their previous record, the Greasetrap Frisbee EP, I said they were “bursting with ideas, like they’re trying to cram an entire album’s worth of music into every single song.” Things are a little different on Dragged Through the Garden, which feels more austere and minimal. I don’t think this is a reference that has ever occurred to me before when I listened to Preening, but these tracks remind me of the early Minutemen material, albeit with D Boon’s scratchy guitar replaced with an expressive saxophone. The vocals sound a lot like D Boon, delivering these semi-cryptic pronouncements. There are a lot of Minutemen-style grooves in the music, too. Preening centers most of these songs around a single musical motif the band explores for as long as it feels interesting… sometimes that’s not very long, sometimes it’s a little longer. The pattern holds until the last track, “Extortion (Version),” a dub track that’s as evil a take on that sound as you’re likely to find. I like this whole record, but that ending is particularly strong. Lovers of avant-garde / progressive / art punk, get this… it might be the best Preening record yet.
Herejia: Insurrección 12” (Esos Malditos Punks) I’m not knowledgeable about the history of Mexican punk, but that’s a gap in my knowledge of punk history I’m interested in filling. I was lucky enough to happen upon an original copy of Massacre 68’s ¡No Estamos Conformes! LP years ago, and I knew about Atoxxxico from the 2017 reissue of their 1990 album, but my knowledge doesn’t go much deeper than that. Fortunately, the latest two reissues on the Esos Malditos Punks label are taking me to class. Insurrección was the second full-length from Herejia, who formed in 1986 in Ciudad Neza, just outside Mexico City. While the 1990 release date might give pause to 80s purists, Herejia sounds like pure 80s hardcore punk to me. The drums pound out straightforward 1-2-1-2 beats and the vocals swing back and forth between oi!-ish chants and a raspier, Discharge-influenced bark. The only exceptions are the more melodic tracks that open each side of the record. I’m not sure what the deal is with these since they’re so different than the band’s punk material, but if nothing else they provide a little contrast. Esos Malditos Punks did a great job with this reissue too, with great sound, a nice printing job, and a reproduction of the full-size zine that accompanied the original pressing. The zine is probably a lot more interesting if you’re a Spanish speaker, but even if you’re not, it’s packed with awesome art. If you’re also curious about the history of Mexican punk, this is a great place to start or continue your journey.
Sedicion: Verdaderas Historias De Horror 12” (Esos Malditos Punks) This is a reissue of the third record by this Mexican punk band, originally released in 1991. Like the Herejia LP that also just got reissued, Sedicion’s sound is eclectic, but the core is a tough, punked-up take on the early LA death rock sound. Imagine if T.S.O.L. circa Dance with Me or Christian Death circa Only Theatre of Pain were also really into the singles coming out on Riot City Records. Some songs also remind me of Eskorbuto’s Clash-isms, though I wonder if that would have been a direct influence… I’d be curious to know how much Spanish punk made it to Mexico in the 80s. A lot of the Mexican punk I’ve heard is loose and primitive, but Sedicion is a powerful band, both on the songs that lean toward death rock and post-punk and the straightforward rippers. I like the recording too, which reminds me of what was coming out of Mystic Studios in the 80s. This reissue adds a gatefold sleeve with liner notes (in Spanish) and juggles the track listing around, with 7 of the original LP’s eight tracks on side A, the climactic closing track “Escucha” opening side B, and five bonus tracks. While it’s a shame to interrupt the original LP’s flow, the bonus tracks are killer. The recording is a little stronger than the LP tracks, and the songs are just ripping. “Entre Ideas” sounds like a long-lost track by Killing Joke or Dezerter at their best… punk intensity with post-punk complexity. I can’t figure out where these tracks appeared originally, as the only place I can find them together is Bambam Records’ 2015 CD reissue. Regardless, this is a keeper, particularly when you add in the awesome artwork.
The Ex: Disturbing Domestic Peace 12” + 7” / History Is What’s Happening 12” (Superior Viaduct) Superior Viaduct—just about the classiest reissue label you can find—just reissued the first two full-length albums by Dutch anarcho punks the Ex. I’d never listened to the Ex closely before, but I’ve always seen them described as the “Dutch Crass.” I think that has as much to do with the band’s radical politics as their music, but they’re in the same sonic ballpark. While the Ex emerged more or less contemporaneously to Crass, their sound anticipates many of the Crass-affiliated bands like Zounds and Subhumans. Disturbing the Domestic Peace has a minimal anarcho sound, but my favorite moments are when a primitive synth appears, like the killer opening track “The Sky Is Blue Again.” History Is What’s Happening is a little more developed, with a Gang of Four-ish quality to the bass playing, which is where most of the action is happening. The Ex is a universe unto themselves and these two albums are just one corner of that, but if you’re interested, these reissues (which include great sound, beautiful reproduction of the artwork, bonus posters, and thick booklets) are the way to go.