Featured Releases: October 21 2021
Burning Sword: II cassette (Earth Girl) Hattiesburg, Mississippi lays another cassette on us, but this time there’s a wrinkle: Burning Sword doesn’t play hardcore or punk, but slow and churning doom metal. The riffs here are less Sabbath and more Sleep, slowed and deconstructed to the point where the structure dissolves into a maze of thuds, bordering on Sunn’s abstract, heavy drone. While Burning Sword’s tempos and heaviness are par for the course for doom metal, the lo-fi sound and the short songs (most around two minutes or less) connect this to other Hattiesburg acts like Judy & the Jerks and Bad Anxiety. If you’re one of those people who complain that their attention span is too short for doom metal, give this a try, as it packs all the trippy heaviness into a tight, six track / twelve minute container.
Maggot Brain #6 zine (Third Man Records) I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Maggot Brain is killing it, and it’s an essential read for anyone into the sounds of the underground. Maggot Brain reminds me of late 80s-era Forced Exposure in that they cover what they’re passionate about without regard to how many units it’s moved, focusing on out-there sounds from the fringes of the underground. Rather than hailing things for obscurity’s sake, Maggot Brain is devoted to widening their readers’ musical horizons, pushing against all the algorithmically generated recommendations designed to give you more of the same. Maggot Brain is also just good reading; I read every issue cover to cover, and even if a particular artist isn’t something I’d check out on my own time, it’s cool to know a little about who they are and what they’re doing. Oh, and there is always some punk rock content, of course! This issue features an interview with Zigyaku from Gudon, Bastard, and Judgement (an abridged version of a piece that appeared on General Speech’s website a few months back), a conversation with / about Aaron Cometbus, and a photo spread with a bunch of unseen photos from the late 80s / early 90s punk / indie scene, alongside content about genres as diverse as jazz, new age, country, and classic rock, among many others. Like I said, Maggot Brain is essential reading for the open-minded music fan.
Sistema En Decadencia: Nuestro Legado 12” (Hardcore Victim) After a handful of tapes and EPs, Australia’s Sistema En Decadencia brings us their first big vinyl, and it is a total fucking crusher. Sistema En Decadencia takes inspiration from Kyushu noise-core a la Confuse and Gai, but like more recent groups such as D-Clone and Horrendous 3D, they pay close attention to the dynamics of tone and texture (as opposed to riffs and rhythms) and push the recording technology to its 21st-century limits. This is the type of record that, if you’re blasting it while your housemate or partner walks into the room after a long day of work, they will almost certainly tell you to turn it the fuck off right this second. Since the sound of Nuestro Legado is so important, if you are interested in this record, I recommend you experience it on vinyl. While most of the time I don’t feel like there’s a huge difference between the digital and vinyl versions of a recording, the cut they got on this record is insane… it sounds like a dump truck unloading a couple tons of bricks onto a trash compactor that’s crushing hundreds of television sets, all of them blaring white noise at maximum volume. Not only is it louder than the digital version, it’s more dynamic too, with the manic kick drum becoming the focal point of the mix in a way that’s very different to what I hear via Bandcamp. If all this sounds like your cup of tea, I recommend snagging a copy of this limited-to-300 pressing while you still can.
Collapsed: S/T 12” (Phobia Records) Phobia Records brings us the first LP from this metallic crust band out of Montreal, Canada. Like their labelmates in Warcollapse, Collapsed’s sound takes cues from the heavy, metallic crust bands of the 90s… think Doom, State of Fear, and bands of that ilk. Collapsed’s sound is heavy on the low end, in line with the massive sound of big 90s death metal records. Collapsed’s gutteral vocals and catchy mid-paced riffs also remind me of classic death metal, but they replace death metal’s blasting and thrash beats with driving d-beats. That’s pretty much the story with this album… a spooky death metal intro here (“To the Last Breath”), a total crust pounder there (“Recurent Saga”)… it’s a Frankenstein monster built out parts taken from two different species, but Collapsed reveals their fundamental compatibility. If your tastes span that crust/death divide, this will get your fist in the air.
Echo & the Bunnymen: Heaven Up Here 12” (Rhino Records) Rhino Records has been reissuing a bunch of Echo & the Bunnymen albums on vinyl as part of their annual “Rocktober” reissue series. Since we’re big fans of Echo here at SSR and listen to their records all the time in the shop, we grabbed a stack of each of them, since the originals don’t turn up as often as we would like. Here we have Heaven Up Here, Echo’s second album, originally released in 1981. The band emerged from the same Liverpool scene that brought us the Teardrop Explodes, and while psychedelia played a big role in both bands’ music, for their first couple of records, at least, they were riding the post-punk wave. Heaven Up Here might be Echo’s most post-punk album, jettisoning some of the punky poppiness of the first album, Crocodiles, and focusing on a more drum-centered sound that took a lot from Joy Division. While haters might nitpick about Echo copping so much from Joy Division, it’s hard to deny the band could play their asses off and injected heaps of invention and excitement into that framework. The drums are dense, inventive, and sound fucking incredible, while the guitars eschew the rhythmically focused style of many post-punk bands in favor of a melodic, psychedelic maximalism. While the band’s ability to construct a great pop song hadn’t quite hit its peak, as this style of brooding post-punk goes, Heaven Up Here is top shelf.
Vains: You May Not Believe in Vains But You Cannot Deny Terror 7” (Dirty Knobby Industries) If you’re itching for yet another obscure 80s punk gem from Seattle, look no further than The Vains. With a title like You May Not Believe In Vains, But You Cannot Deny Terror combined with the vintage, horror movie poster-style picture sleeve, the presentation of this EP screams Killed By Death. And rightfully so, since each song on this EP featured on a KBD compilation at one time or another. Originally released in 1980, these 3 tracks of explosive, high-octane punk rock sound like a stepping stone to the burgeoning wave of American hardcore just over the horizon. Under the radar as it may be, all 3 songs feel like classics in their own right. For being a young band, Vains do not sound primitive by any means. The band knew their way around writing a song, and the production on the recording is crisp for a snotty 80s punk band. The teen angst opus “School Jerks” is instantly memorable with the hooky refrain “It’s a pain in the ass/to try to get to next class” and out-of-control guitar wankery. “The Fake” credits bassist Nico Teen as songwriter and vocalist, which is the alias for a young Duff McKagan. If 10 Minute Warning, The Living, and The Fartz weren’t enough, then you can add one more great early Seattle punk band to McKagan’s resume. This 7” is a must-have for anyone looking to experience a snarling transitional record in history of hardcore punk.