Featured Release Roundup: October 10, 2019
Blitzkrieg: Buried Alive / Blitzkrieg 7” (Splattered!) Reissue of this legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal single, whose b-side Metallica famously covered on the b-side to their Creeping Death single. This is an undisputed classic of the style, so if you're interested in the NWOBHM, this single is an essential grip. It’s fast, heavy, catchy as all get-out, packed with classic riffs, and has that warm and murky sound that you love if you’re an avid listener to British independent music of the late 70s. Splattered! Records has executed this reissue with all the care and attention to detail that we expect from them and the sound on the vinyl is excellent, so if this piques your interest, I can’t imagine it'll disappoint you.
Judge Schreber’s Avian Choir: Bleed 12” (Cort) This record is a little outside what I usually cover in these roundups, but I wanted to give it some attention because 1. releases like LBB’s Popped Music on Iron Lung have clarified that some hardcore punks can get down with experimental and avant-garde music and 2. I fucking love it and can’t stop listening to it. Judge Schreber's Avian Choir is a very large ensemble: according to the label’s description, “15 bowed string players, a heavy metal rhythm section … and … overdubs on reeds and guitar.” There are no vocals and the four tracks here aren’t pop songs, rock songs, or event avant-metal songs, but a hybrid of experimental orchestral / chamber music and heavier, metal-informed drone music. The only things I’ve heard that it resembles are the 70s Belgian group Univers Zero and the Japanese composer / playwright J.A. Seazer, but I’d be surprised if too many Sorry State readers are jamming those. Anyway, the music on Bleed is expansive, encompassing spacious drones, skittering, insect-like organic rhythms, mournful and moody microtonal harmonies, heavy rock riffing, and wide open, Ornette Coleman-meets-Darkthrone sonic catharsis. While it’s wildly creative, it never feels difficult or arcane. I think that’s because this record doesn’t trample over the boundaries between genres, but offers us a window into an alternate universe where those boundaries don’t exist. If you’re an adventurous listener with an ear for this kind of wide-angle, symphonic grandiosity, I encourage you to pick this up.
Slump: Flashbacks from Black Dust Country 12” (Feel It) Debut full-length from this Richmond band that combines heavy punk/grunge with Hawkwind’s acid-fried space rock. You won’t find catchy choruses or pop melodies on Flashbacks from Black Dust Country, but an M.C. Escher-esque maze of swampy riffs that woven through with layers of reverb and echo-drenched guitar and synth noise, punctuated by the occasional shouted vocal. Slump reminds me a lot of Destruction Unit; like that band, their sound has a density informed by 90s noise rock. Slump doesn’t make big, dramatic gestures, instead exploring the nuances of timbre and texture with a tinkerer’s patience and attention to detail. Flashbacks… is a slow burn, but with its big, clear sound and layered textures, it’s easy to get lost in it.
Skull Cult: New Mutilator 7” (Going Underground) Latest EP from these Indiana punks who have dropped a healthy grip of 7” vinyl over the past two years. Skull Cult is of a piece with bands like Coneheads, Liquids, and Erik Nervous but I wouldn’t write them off as also-rans. New Mutilator begins with my favorite track, “Braindead,” which feels like an epic even though it falls well short of two minutes long. Over its 105 seconds, you get a noisy intro, a big, melodic chorus, a post-chorus interlude of Dickies-esque organ, and a blistering James Williamson-style guitar lead, all filtered through hissy shit-fi production. It’s like Skull Cult tried to take every kind of big, climactic moment they could think of and cram it into one song, and the result is an orgy of awesomeness. The next three originals are more restrained, but Skull Cult still packs them with great melodies. The EP ends with a cover of “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads, which I find an odd choice given that Coneheads covered the same song and Skull Cult will probably garner comparisons to Coneheads until the end of time. Their version, however, differs from Coneheads’; while the latter stressed the disaffected, robotic quality of Talking Heads’ original, Skull Cult restores the dirty groove that Talking Heads removed from their music.
Aviador Dro: Nuclear, Sí 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Reissue of this 1982 Spanish synth-punk EP. I wasn’t familiar with Aviador Dro before checking out this reissue, but I’m now learning that they were a very important band. Not only is their discography huge, but LVEUM’s description also credits this single with being the start of independent / DIY label culture in Spain. I’m excited to learn more about Aviador Dro and check out their many other records, but in the meantime Nuclear, Sí is great even without the weighty historical context. If you’re a fan of vintage minimal synth like the Normal, Grauzone, Cabaret Voltaire, the Human League, and Solid Space (or modern purveyors like the Detriti Records roster), it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t love these four songs. While they’re minimal, there are enough layers to the sound to give the tracks a sense of harmonic complexity, and the great vocals remind me of Paralisis Permanente in how they’re both aggressive and catchy. Fans of classic Spanish punk and/or vintage minimal synth will both find a lot to love here.
Overdose: Hit the Road 7” (Splattered!) Second single from this Motorcharged band from New York. “Hit the Road” comes out of the gate with fire, opening with a blistering lead that walks the (thin) line between prime-era Motorhead and Scandinavian Jawbreaker-era Anti-Cimex. There are a lot of bands who have done this Motorhead-inspired sound over the years, but Overdose is a standout, capturing the punk energy that you want, packing their songs with exciting part after exciting part (there’s even a SECOND guitar solo in “Hit the Road”!), and delivering the whole thing with a thick layer of grime that makes you feel like you’re watching them bash it out in a damp basement at 1AM when everyone is bleary-eyed, drunk, and raging. The b-side is more mid-paced but just as raging, and slacker pace gives the guitarist room to deliver a more melodic lead. This record is a total ripper.
Chubby & the Gang: All Along the Uxbridge Road 7” (Goner) US pressing of this single that came out on the UK’s impeccable Static Shock a few months ago, albeit upgraded to come with a proper picture sleeve rather than a company-style sleeve. If you don’t know Chubby Charles’ name, you know his work from bands like Crown Court, Arms Race, Violent Reaction, Boss, and others I’m sure. While Chubby & the Gang’s sped-up rock-and-roll riffs will please the ear of any Crown Court fan, this project wades even deeper into pub rock, as you might tell from the Chiswick rip-off labels. In particular, Wilko Johnson from Dr. Feelgood’s manic, agitated guitar style seems to be a big inspiration for the riffing style here. The vocals are double-tracked in a swirling, loopy manner that reminds me of Booji Boys, and as with that band there are some cool melodies once your ear adjusts.
Power: The Fool 7” (Feel It) Between this new single from Australia’s Power and the latest one from New York’s Overdose it’s a good week if you love gritty, Motorhead-inspired rock-and-roll. Like Overdose, Power drags these two tracks through a bog of filth and grime; while “The Fool” is indebted to Motorhead, the production is more befitting Venom or even the sub-Venom filth of classics like Bathory or NME. “The Fool” stays at a slow boil the entire time, the vocals low in the mix like the singer is trying to escape from quicksand. It sounds like he makes it out for the b-side, “Give It All to Me,” which speeds things up a hair and brings the vocals out front for a more melodic, NWOBHM-style chorus. A real fist-pumper.
G.U.N.: demo cassette (Sikfuk Reckidz) Demo cassette from this hardcore band out of Nashville that sees two members of No Way Records’ Life Trap returning to their hardcore roots. G.U.N. recorded these tracks live to analog tape, and the audible hiss and live-in-the-room feel bring to mind Don Zientara’s classic recordings at the original Inner Ear studios, particularly Bad Brains’ Black Dots. G.U.N. has a lot more stylistic range than your typical early Dischord band, though, as you might expect given the fact that at least a few of the members have been playing hardcore for nearly two decades. The opener, “High Horse,” reminds me of early Articles of Faith; it’s wicked fast and pure hardcore, but its gloomy, slightly melodic vibe is more complex and mature than your typical rage-out. “Streetbait” is punkier, reminding me of Sick Pleasure, while the tape finishes out with “Killing Spree,” which adapts the groove from Black Flag’s “Slip It In” and makes me think of Bl’ast! at their most furious. G.U.N.’s demo is raw and aggressive enough that USHC heads will love it, but there’s enough maturity and sophistication lurking in the background to make this of interest to more than just the HC die-hards. Highly recommended.
Ubik: Next Phase 12” (Iron Lung) I was a big fan of Ubik’s previous releases (all of which were on demos and 7”s), so I got excited when Iron Lung announced this debut full-length. Their earlier releases reminded me of Crisis’s catchy anarcho punk, and while there’s still a lot of that in their sound, Next Phase finds Ubik getting harder, faster, and punker. That’s the case for tracks like “New Disease” and “You Make Me Sick,” the latter of which is a pure hardcore rage-out with a ripping, noisy guitar solo. “Peter Dutton Is a Terrorist” starts out with the drummer on the toms and an eerie, goth-punk vibe, then segues into a Rubella Ballet-style catchy punk part, while the dark, catchy, and sophisticated “Shocking New Vision” sounds like something off one of those underrated later Subhumans albums. While there’s a good amount of stylistic breadth on Next Phase, the through-lines that connect every track are the catchy and aggressive shouted vocals and the always-interesting interplay between the guitarist and bassist, whose dynamic is riveting. I’ll be getting a lot of play out of this one over the next few months.