Featured Releases: February 17 2022

La Milagrosa: Panico 12” (Iron Lung Records) Panico is the debut full-length from this band of Puerto Rican punks from New York. We wrote about their demo tape back in 2019, so it seems as if these songs have been in the oven for a minute, and they sound like it… Panico is a remarkable record with top-notch songwriting. It’s easy to miss that on the first listen, though, because La Milagrosa sounds so gnarly here… the production is gritty and ugly (yet still powerful), more like contemporary d-beat hardcore with the throat-shredding, echo-drenched vocals, pounding drums right up front, and a mix that’s intense and in your face. Combining hardcore-ish performance and production with catchier songwriting gives La Milagrosa a UK82-ish feel on tracks like “Bastardos,” but their songs are much subtler than what you might hear from your typical mohawks-and-leather band. While this might not occur to anyone else, there’s something way in the background of La Milagrosa’s songwriting that reminds me of Bad Religion (when they were good)… many of the riffs have a slightly mournful quality (check out the cool minor chord on “Asesinos”), and the songs have a kernel of pop in them that makes them both more propulsive and more satisfying than your typical punk tracks. I’m probably splitting hairs and most people will just throw this on and say “it rips,” but I think there’s something more to Panico than just ripping.

Imploders: EXD cassette (Neon Taste Records) Toronto’s Imploders caught our attention with their debut 7” on Neon Taste Records, and now they’re back with this 10-song tape recorded live on the long-running Equalizing Distort radio show. By my count only three of the songs here appear on that 7”, so there’s a wealth of new material, some or all of which we can expect to be re-recorded for the band’s upcoming LP. There’s nothing wrong with these versions, though, as the sound is crisp and full. There’s a bit of room noise so it feels “live,” but I can’t imagine anyone complaining about the fidelity here… these tracks sound great. Stylistically, Imploders haven’t evolved much since the 7”, and that’s a good thing! They still rest on that line between hardcore and catchier punk, playing with the speed and precision of a hardcore band, but with the catchy tunes of a punk band. The drums here are particularly killer. It’s not uncommon to see Imploders compared to the Circle Jerks, but there’s some catchy-ass Lucky Lehrer shit going on here that you don’t want to miss. Don’t let the “live” thing scare you off… if you’re a fan of bands like the Circle Jerks, the Carbonas, and Career Suicide, you’re gonna want to hear EXD.

IV Reich: S/T 2x7” (Esos Malditos Punks) This double 7” collects the two cassettes from this 80s Spanish hardcore band, originally released in 1984 and 1985. The vinyl for this release came out back in 2007, but Esos Malditos Punks was sitting on a bunch of sleeveless copies, so they printed up some new jackets for this edition and were generous enough to offer us some. Perhaps I had heard of IV Reich in passing, but I didn’t know them before this arrived, which is a shame because it shreds. While IV Reich has a little of the anthemic quality I associate with 80s Spanish punk (see the track “Sucio Policía,” for instance), they are a hardcore band through and through. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to so much of it, but IV Reich reminds me of Finnish bands like Kaaos, Bastards, and Riistetyt. As with those bands, the music is mean, heavy, and (primarily) fast as fuck, but the riffs have a catchy bounciness a la UK82. And the vocals are great, shredded but still so catchy and memorable. If you’re a deep 80s hardcore head, don’t miss this… we only have a few, and it’s top shelf stuff.

Axe Rash: Contemporary Ass 7” (Not for the Weak Records) We last heard from Sweden’s Axe Rash when they released their self-titled 12” on Adult Crash Records back in 2019, and now they’re back with a new one, this time with a very fitting US home on Not for the Weak Records. Axe Rash is tailor-made to be labelmates with groups like Lethal Means, Reckoning Force, and Crucial Response, their sound splitting the difference between propulsive Swedish mangel and bruising US-style hardcore. It’s also wrapped up in some explosive, clear, and heavy production that’s on par with the other NFTW releases. While Axe Rash’s sound is straightforward, there are all kinds of wrinkles, like the blanket of subtle guitar leads draped over “Gig Life” and rocked-out mosh of “False Pictures.” Axe Rash’s vocalist is also a standout, their demon growl simultaneously catchy and scary, reminding me a little of Marissa from Mutant Strain. If you like your hardcore big, angry, and bursting with energy, don’t miss this one.

Comunione: s/t cassette (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us the debut release from this one-person anarcho punk project from Italy. Anarcho punk as a genre doesn’t tell the entire story, though, because Comunione’s propulsive hardcore punk sounds to me like it’s draped in the aesthetic trappings of black metal. The recording is tinny and distant like the Norwegian black metal classics, like the music is playing out of a small speaker in the middle of a big, empty cathedral. The atmosphere is dense and interesting, but as with 90s black metal, the standout moments are when a little melody creeps in, such the subtle octave chords on “Enclave” or (most memorably) the creepy organ line that closes out the tape at the end of “Salvati.” While the recording style might remind you of black metal, there’s little of that genre’s theatricality, as Comunione’s performance here sounds as powerful and earnest as you would expect from a strong hardcore band. It all adds up to a unique release, and one that finds an appropriate home on the always cutting-edge Iron Lung Records.

Spike in Vain: Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home cassette (Scat Records) I listened to Spike in Vain’s Disease Is Relative—for me, one of the great unsung underground rock records of the 80s—for years before I realized that record was only about 1/3 of their discography. Fortunately, when Scat Records gave Disease Is Relative a much-needed reissue last year, they also gave us the unreleased follow-up album Death Drives a Cadillac, and now they’ve reissued Spike in Vain’s debut cassette, Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home, on its original format. While Disease Is Relative is still Spike in Vain’s shining moment, like Death Drives a Cadillac, Jesus Was Born in a Mobile Home captures plenty of brilliance. The sound here isn’t as razor-sharp as Disease Is Relative, the looser playing and punkier delivery emphasized by the production, which compiles what sounds like multiple recording sessions and live tapes into a sonic hodge-podge. This punkier version of Spike in Vain reminds me of proto-hardcore like the Germs, the early Dangerhouse bands, or the Feederz (the latter feels like an apt reference for “Rejected by No. 12”). Along with bands like the Feederz and the Crucifucks, Spike in Vain were interested in the stranger and more subversive aspects of punk, their music toeing the line between evoking that strangeness and holding onto the anger and energy that make hardcore what it is. Pick up Disease Is Relative if you haven’t already, but once you digest the brilliance of that album, know the other two releases in Spike in Vain’s discography are worth exploring too.

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