Featured Releases: May 25, 2023

Oratory: Dark Void Ray 7” (Bad Habit Records) Debut two-song single from this metal-punk project from Australia. The first track, “Free Falling Tomb,” starts off with a brutal, Celtic Frost-type of heavy and primitive assault, but halfway through the song there’s a short break and then the vibe completely changes, the guitarist playing fluid melodies in the upper octaves, the bass getting melodic, and the drumming packed with drama. The second track is a little more straightforward, but still has something of that odd mixture of brutal straightforwardness with elements that are both more complex and more deftly executed. Crow does this record’s artwork, and his music is a pretty good reference point. The more brutal and straightforward parts of Oratory’s music remind me of Crow’s earlier, heavily Discharge-influenced period, while the band’s later era—and even moreso projects like Kaiboushitsu and Death Comes Along—shows a similar fearlessness in the way they bring in unexpected elements. Darkthrone also seems like a good point of reference as they’re also heavy but full of oddball moments you don’t see coming. A good pick for freaks who like it heavy.

Tiikeri: Punk Rock Pamaus! 12” (Open Up and Bleed Recordings) Jeff covered Punk Rock Pamaus! in his staff pick a few weeks ago, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus singing this record’s praises. Tiikeri’s songs are infectious, brimming with hyperactive punk energy that makes me think of bands like the Toy Dolls, the Undertones, and the Dickies. In contrast to so much grim and angry punk music, Tiikeri’s songs are pure fun, built around gratifying pop chord progressions and with lyrics (as far as I can tell based on my limited knowledge of Finnish) that focus on something all punks can get behind: how much punk rules! As with the bands I mentioned above, Tiikeri can ride the edge of being cheesy… their music is so sunny and fun that you almost want to find something not to like about it, but I think the smarter move is just to turn that critical part of your brain off and sing along as best you can. I think this record’s limited pressing is nearly sold out, so check this out and pick it up while you can. For me, I think this will be the record of the summer for 2023, the album blasting from my car’s speakers when I get up to some epic road trips. Don’t miss out.

Warcycle: Manifesting Barbarity 7” (Desolate Records) This new EP on Desolate Records is the first I’ve heard of Perth, Australia’s Warcycle, though they have an earlier 7” and a couple of tape releases under their belt already. Their stated influences are “Framtid, Bastard and D-Clone,” and their bruising and noisy sound certainly has a lot of Japanese hardcore in it. I also hear some of Sacrilege’s hooky chugging parts on “Lethal Rhetoric,” and while “Erasure” owes a lot to D-Clone’s techno-dystopian howl, its focal point is a knuckle-dragging mosh riff. The recording is huge and bristling with energy… if you’re intrigued by the bad-ass cover artwork, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Life Sentence: Demos 7” (Alonas Dream Records) I’m a big fan of Chicago hardcore band Life Sentence’s 1986 debut LP, but it’s a record I have little context for… I know little about the scene the band emerged from or how the record came to be. This 7” of demo recordings from Alona’s Dream offers some enlightening details. I didn’t know, for instance, that the band lost their original vocalist before they recorded that LP. In fact, to my ears it sounds like the original vocalist Ray Morris is singing (uncredited) on the album tracks “Problems,” “In the Streets,” “Figured It Out,” and “Take a Stand,” with guitarist and bassist Eric Brockman and Joe Losurdo handling vocals on the other tunes. I’d always thought “Problems” was the standout track on that album, but I’d never even noticed the vocalists were different on more than half the tracks, but now I hear it clear as day. Ray Morris’s vocals are awesome… he’s a dead ringer for Kevin Seconds, and his strong melodies take the band’s blistering hardcore songs and elevate them to something even more special. This Demos 7” presents the original recordings of five songs from the self-titled album along with a sixth, “Open Your Eyes,” that didn’t appear on the LP. As I understand it, Life Sentence recorded these versions at the same time as the songs on the self-titled album that Morris sings on, while the songs he didn’t sing on were recorded at another, later session. I’m sure Life Sentence wanted the LP to document the band’s current iteration, but fuck… Morris’s vocals are excellent, and really elevate these songs. This 7” also benefits from a stronger mastering job than the original album, with bigger and beefier drum and bass sounds (the original LP was quite tinny). It would be cool to combine these tracks with the songs on the LP that Morris sings on and have the version of the album that might have been, but I’m just happy the tracks are out there. I think Life Sentence often gets overlooked, perhaps because the LP came out in 1986, when the world had largely moved on from this kind of blistering hardcore. However, these tracks are scorchers, and I feel confident any early 80s US hardcore head will love them.

M.O.A.B.: Massive Ordinance Air Blast cassette (Roach Leg Records) The only information I can find about this demo is that it features members of Brain Killer and Condition, and if you’ve listened to it, that makes perfect sense. Both bands are/were crushing, and M.O.A.B. crushes too. If you’ve been one of the many people digging the latest Destruct album, M.O.A.B. has a similar style, taking Bastard’s punishing rhythms and fusing them with the noisier and more chaotic energy of the Framtid end of the spectrum. While it’s raw and relentless, it doesn’t come off as a “worship” project to me thanks to unexpected wrinkles like the haunting riff in “Indoctrination.” And the way the recording is smothered in feedback just adds to the energy and excitement. This one is a real scorcher.

Rata Negra: Bien Triste 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Bien Triste is the new single from Spain’s Rata Negra, the latest in a growing catalog of records they’ve put out during their long association with La Vida Es Un Mus. I hope the music keeps coming too, because as good as Rata Negra was when they started, they’ve only gotten better since their striking debut LP in 2017. While their sound has always been centered around Violeta’s powerful vocals and the rich interplay between the band’s three musicians, it feels like they’ve gradually expanded their sound, evolving without abandoning their strengths. “Ella Está En Fiestas” wouldn’t have been out of place on any of Rata Negra’s previous records with its booming vocal melodies and chiming guitars, but “Bien Triste” drifts away from the band’s usual punky energy. The song has a complex, maybe even conflicted emotional register. I imagine it playing during a movie scene depicting a senior prom, the characters dizzy from intense doses of nostalgia combined with fear of and hope for the future. It’s something far subtler and more complex than you expect from your typical punk song, and another jewel in this band’s weighty crown.

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