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Featured Release Roundup: March 4 2021

Deranged: Place of Torment 12” (Supreme Echo Records) Place of Torment is a vinyl reissue of this Canadian band’s 1989 demo, their second and final tape (Deranged had no vinyl releases). This is a total ripper… blistering, technical thrash metal with darker, mid-paced death metal passages and a snarling vocalist who sounds a little like Blaine from the Accüsed. I’m not sure how the original demo sounded, but Kurt Ballou remixed this version and it sounds great, reminding me of lower-budget productions from labels like Noise and New Renaissance and not “beefed up” or made to sound like anything other than what it is. There are only four songs, but they are dense and complex, with slight prog elements a la Metallica or Megadeth, and to me that’s the perfect amount of music for something like this, where a longer LP might feel same-y by the end. As usual with Supreme Echo, the packaging also includes a lot of contextual info and ephemera, further deepening the pleasure of exploring this band’s world.

Ego: Ego-ism cassette (self-released) The physical version of Ego-ism is billed as a demo on this Berlin band’s Bandcamp page, but with ten very lengthy tracks, Ego-ism is longer and more ambitious than most current punk and hardcore bands’ full-lengths. The sound is gruff and heavy (particularly the vocals, which are growling and intense), but the music is adventurous, working in elements of shoegaze and darkwave around the edges. Take the track “Decadent,” which borrows moves from Bauhaus and Skeletal Family, but then Ego snaps right back into d-beat with “Ljudi.” Despite the eclecticism, it doesn’t sound like the Fucked Up’s grandiosity, but more like a hardcore band who isn’t so uptight about maintaining a certain aesthetic.

Status Set: Music for Cowards cassette (self-released) Status Set is a solo project from Ian Rose, who used to play in a bunch of North Carolina bands like Last Year’s Men and Natural Causes (whose second LP Sorry State released in 2017). With nine fleshed-out tracks, I’d call Music for Cowards Status Set’s debut album rather than just a demo tape. If you liked Natural Causes, there’s a good chance you’re going to like Status Set too, since Ian wrote around half of the songs in NC and writes all the songs for Status Set (the other half of Natural Causes’ songwriting team, Ben Carr, now helms the great band Personality Cult). While Ian's songs for Natural Causes felt darker and incorporated the repetition and dark melodies of post-punk and electronic music, Status Set feels like pop music, albeit dense, clever, and ambitious pop music. The album closer, “Snakeskin Bag,” is a microcosm of the album since it starts with a brooding, cold wave synth sound but, after two minutes of building tension, climaxes in a sweeping, melodic chorus with layers of vocal harmonies… it’s sort of like the transition from early Depeche Mode to Yaz or early Human League to Dare, but over two-and-a-half minutes. This is probably just a case of mining the same influences, but I also hear a lot of the later Whatever Brains stuff in Status Set. Like the later Brains, Status Set sounds like someone into electronic and noise music developing their pop chops. A killer release, and essential if the names above mean anything to you.

Neos: Fight with Donald 7” (Supreme Echo) If you don’t know the Neos, here’s the quick version: they were from Victoria, British Columbia and they released two 7”s in the 80s: End All Discrimination and  Hassibah Gets The Martian Brain Squeeze. They are both brilliant, singular records. One of the Neos’ claims to fame is that they were one of the fastest bands of the time, up there with bands like Siege and Deep Wound, and similarly influential on later genres like grindcore and power violence. This isn’t grind or power violence, though, just really, really fast hardcore. The tempos might be historically important, but when you listen to the Neos, you realize they’re not just a historical footnote… they’re one of the best bands hardcore has ever produced. The records that stick with me are ones that capture something unique, and the Neos’ precocious teenager vibe combined with the music’s blistering speed—which evokes a hyperactive child’s tantrum—was the kind of genius that it would be silly and fruitless to imitate. Anyway, Fight with Donald came out in 1995 and compiles rehearsal and live recordings. Neos’ two early 80s 7”s are not lacking in rawness, so I could see feeling like you don’t need this record, but I enjoy it every time I throw it on. And for those of you who only need the EPs, note this serves as a teaser for an official Neos discography LP coming later this year. Even if you think you don’t need Fight with Donald, you definitely need that.

Tizzi: Demo cassette (Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes) Not that the Sorry State’s newsletter is Consumer Reports or anything, but note that I have a deep conflict of interest with this release since the band and the people who put it out are very much part of the Sorry State family. Tizzi emerged in Raleigh a while back and became a hot local band, standing out against the more brutal and technical punk bands in Raleigh with a sound that was more straightforward and punk. I always hear Vice Squad mentioned when people describe Tizzi (and, not unrelatedly, 1/2 of Tizzy was in a Vice Squad cover band a few years ago). I hear that comparison, but something about it also reminds me of early Screeching Weasel, particularly their first two albums when they hadn’t yet coagulated into a pop-punk band. Elizabeth from No Love is the singer (another conflict of interest: I played guitar in No Love), and she’s just as strong here as she is in No Love, with a sarcasm-drenched sound that walks the line between melodic and biting, and as always great lyrics (“All Day I Work for Little Money”). Of course I’m going to tell you to get this… so get it!

Instinct?: Pray for Death cassette (Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes) Usman and Jeff who work at Sorry State put this out on their Bunker Punks label, and like the Tizzi demo they just released, this one gets the enthusiastic Sorry State stamp of approval. Usman gave the lowdown on this one in his staff pick a few weeks ago and the label’s description is way more on the money than I would ever be, but in case you don’t click through to those documents, this tape is exactly the ripping d-beat hardcore you thought it was when you saw the cover. From one angle it sounds like what I’d call metallic crust, but those parts share space with more brutal, Disclose-influenced bashing. Not a skipper.

Education: Parenting Style 7” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Parenting Style is the new 4-song EP from this Italian post-punk band who had a previous LP on Symphony of Destruction a few years back. I haven’t heard that one, but Parenting Style is cool. Education sounds to me like they’re influenced by dark but still kind of “rock” bands like Bauhaus, early Christian Death, and Killing Joke. However, rather than doing a straight homage, Education approaches this sound like a hardcore band, with high intensity and an aggressive playing style, particularly in the drums. Education reminds me of Diät, but they’re not that far away from something like Ex-Cult either, even though the presentation is very different (which seems like a suitable spot to note that the artwork is super cool). Fans of Raleigh’s sadly departed Crete should also check this out. This band should tour here so all my friends can break out their goth gear.

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