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Featured Release Roundup: January 9, 2020

Chain Cult: Shallow Grave 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut album (their earlier 12” was their demo pressed to vinyl) for this post-punk band out of Athens, Greece. Chain Cult sound, to me, like a band who takes equal influence from the Wipers and Bauhaus. From the Wipers you have those long, melodic, chorus-drenched guitar lines, and from Bauhaus you get the gloomy vibe and more percussive vocals. I can’t put my finger on it (maybe it’s just the heavy chorus effect on the guitar), but I want to place Chain Cult alongside modern melodic punk bands like Masshysteri, Signal Lost, and Rata Negra… bands who are melodic but not poppy, and whose political and aesthetic approach seems more aligned with hardcore than pop music or pop-punk. As with the Wipers, my favorite parts of Shallow Grave are the longer instrumental passages where the guitarist lets loose on longer, more complex melodic lines, but if you’re a fan of this gloomy, grey-skied punk, the whole album will be a treat.

Poison: Flexi + EPs 12” (Poison Records) Unofficial reissue compiling a flexi and two 7”s by this Japanese band, the latter two featuring Chelsea of Death Side / Paintbox on guitar. While Poison (who later changed their name to Poison Arts) would eventually have an extensive discography, these earlier releases find the band experimenting and developing their sound. Their first flexi (recorded before Chelsea joined the band) is one of the most primitive Japanese punk records out there, with beyond-basic oompah drumming, rough sound and a noticeably out of tune performance. While the record has a cool cover featuring the singer’s huge mohawk, it reminds me more of bargain-basement UK82 punk than the more studied, avant-garde primitivism of Confuse or Gai. Things get much more interesting on their second EP, Mystery Temptation, when Chelsea joins the band and drenches every song in his trademark shredding lead guitar. Even beyond Chelsea’s contribution, you can hear Poison homing in on the classic Japanese hardcore sound, with some tracks leaning more toward melodic hardcore (not unlike Chelsea would later explore in Paintbox) and others with a more metallic edge. There are some great moments on Mystery Temptation, but I think what I love most about it is how it sounds not-quite-right, like a band taking chances and inventing a new style on the fly. If you’re deep into Japanese hardcore, you have a few quirky records like this in your collection, and if you have developed the taste for it, this kind of record provides a fix you can’t get anywhere else. Finally, the band’s third 7”, Hot Rod, takes up the entire b-side of this collection and finds the band locking into a consistent style. While the reverb-drenched production isn’t as powerful as the bigger sounds that some of these bands would get later on, if you’re a fan of Death Side, Lip Cream, and Gudon, Hot Rod is in that same vein. While this collection is a mixed bag, I love hearing how the band progressed, and if you enjoy hearing all the strange, unique Japanese hardcore records out there, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

The Inhuman: We Will Build b/w Cheap Novocain 7” (Lumpy) Two-song single from this very obscure bedroom recording project from Tucson, Arizona in 1983. According to the liner notes, the Inhuman only played one show and the person behind the project didn’t do much else that we would have heard of, so it’s a miracle that these tunes found their way from an old cassette to 7” vinyl in the year 2020. The songs are cool, too! They build both songs around primitive drum machine rhythms augmented with synth, guitar, and vocals, and have a creepy, sinister vibe. The a-side lurks in the shadows with a vibe like Suicide, while the b-side gets more confrontational, giving it a Screamers-type menace. If this recording had gotten out back in the day, this would be a $200 single.

Paranoid: Kind of Noise 7” (Paranoid Northern Discs) Latest 4-song EP from Sweden’s Paranoid. If, like me, you weren’t really feeling the more polished, metallic sound of last year’s Heavy Mental Fuck-Up LP, it’s worth giving Paranoid another chance, as these four tracks are full-on, noisy Disclose worship. That being said, there are subtle touches that make it more than a generic d-beat workout. There are the cool tempo changes on the second track, a nice, semi-melodic guitar solo in the 3rd, and some intense near-blasting-speed drumming in the final track. That final track reminds me of D-Clone’s crazed attack, and it’s a style I hope the band explores further. Also, note this record is limited to 250 numbered copies, and it’s already sold out from the band, so Sorry State is your only bet for picking up the vinyl on this one.

Sniper Culture: Combat Rock 7” (11pm) Debut 7” from this raw and nasty hardcore band out of Chicago. Sniper Culture has a bruising sound that’s not unlike their label-mates Armor, but with insanely raw production. The first few times I listened I thought Combat Rock had a vibe similar to Urban Waste, but then I remembered that on the Urban Waste 7” it’s only the guitar that sounds blown out and fucked; on Combat Rock, pretty much everything sounds like that. You’d think such nasty production would blunt a hardcore band’s impact, but it works well for Sniper Culture. When they’re raging out, they can slip into a Larm-esque blur of speed, but those moments serve as an appropriate balance for bits like the oompah drumbeat on “Terminators” or the blazing riff in “Brad’s World.” Limited to 300 copies, so if you like your hardcore raw, nasty, and mean, I’d suggest to grip this soon.

Screaming Fist: Templanza 7” (Iron Lung) Debut vinyl from this East Bay, California hardcore band featuring Jasmine from Torso / Siamese Twins / a million other bands on vocals. Jeff and I commented that this record seemed to appear out of nowhere. I hadn’t heard anything about Screaming Fist before checking this record out, but it’s easy to see why they got the Iron Lung stamp of approval. Screaming Fist’s sound fits somewhere between modern d-beat and a more traditional US hardcore sound; while they often find that fist-pumping groove that I associate with bands like Vaaska or Criaturas, their playing is extremely tight and the songs are technical, with lots of perfectly executed intricate rhythms. For example, there’s my favorite moment of the record, when the last track, “Betrayed” takes a slight breath before putting the accelerator to the floor for its last few seconds. That microsecond pause before the change makes my heart feel like it's skipped a beat and serves as a perfect ending for a ripping hardcore punk EP.

Slender: Time on Earth 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut album from this New York City group featuring familiar faces from a bunch of Toxic State bands, but you won’t find any raging punk on Time on Earth. In fact, Time on Earth is one of the weirder, more esoteric records that has come across my desk lately, more akin to the outsider music on a label like Ever/Never than what you’d expect to hear from these people or this label. Trying to describe Slender’s sound is a fool’s errand, but primitive drum machines overlaid with acoustic guitar are the core of many of the tracks. Usually they overlay those tracks with some other combination of sounds, including (but not limited to) electric guitar, synth, sampled vocals, singing, and bowed string instruments (violin and/or cello?). “New Country” is the only track I’d call a song as such; the rest are more like free-flowing auditory experiments that flow from part to part in a way that’s experimental and/or symphonic. Many of the tracks are short, but I particularly like the three longer tracks that end the album which unfold gradually in a way that makes time seem to slow down. When I first listened to Time on Earth I definitely had some trouble wrapping my mind around it, but it got its hooks into me and it’s become a regular listen. I’m guessing most of Sorry State’s crowd might think this record is a bunch of nonsense, but if you like spaced-out psychedelic music, avant-garde composition, and/or home-recorded experimental music, give this a try.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All in Good Time 12” (Castle Face) If you care, you already know that Eddy Current Suppression Ring ended a lengthy hiatus by releasing a brand new album with very little advance notice. They’ve reached the point in their career where their records get dissected by Pitchfork, so I don’t need to yammer on about All in Good Time too much, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents as a longtime fan. While there isn’t a great pop song like “Which Way to Go” or “Memory Lane” here, it’s still a top-notch album that should please anyone who’s into Eddy Current beyond their “hits.” One thing I love most about this band is how they find these gentle, lazy grooves and ride them into the sunset, hanging on riffs and grooves for way longer than most bands would without ever sounding repetitive. If that’s an aspect of Eddy Current’s music that you love, All in Good Time is a record for you. This isn’t a record I’d throw on at a party, but it’s a record that I’ve already spent several quiet evenings on the couch with, sometimes giving it my full attention and sometimes letting it wash over me as I read a book or do the dishes. It’s not background music, and while it doesn’t beg for your attention, it rewards it. So, that’s my piece… I’m thankful that All in Good Time exists.

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