Featured Releases - October 28 2021
Languid: A Paranoid Wretch in Society’s Games 12” (D-Takt & Rapunk Records) We last heard from Edmonton, Canada’s Languid with 2018’s Submission Is the Only Freedom, a bass-heavy record that fused Celtic Frost’s lumbering low end with Cimex-style riffs and songwriting. While the songwriting is similar on this new LP, the production this time around is more refined, dropping the blown-out low end in favor of a crisper sound that reminds me of Anti-Cimex’s Absolut Country of Sweden. As with that album, the clear sound and the steady, fast-but-not-blistering tempos emphasize the riffing, which deserves the spotlight since it is both catchy and inventive. All of A Paranoid Wretch in Society’s Games is strong, but given the more composed vibe on most of the album, it stands out when Languid deviates from the formula, however slightly. Thus, the mid-paced tracks “Government Power” and “Tattered Minds” are the standouts for me. If the zombie viking on the cover (also featured on the giant poster insert) draws you in, I doubt you’ll walk away disappointed.
Paprika: S/T cassette (Iron Lung Records) Funny story, I actually offered to put out this tape, but Iron Lung beat me to the punch. No hard feelings… if I had the choice between Iron Lung and Sorry State, I’d choose them too! I thought I’d share that factoid to emphasize the point that New Orleans’ Paprika bears both the Iron Lung and Sorry State seals of approval. Paprika plays a style of dense, dark hardcore with inventive, complex riffing, vocals drenched in delay, and a mid-range-y guitar sound you can feel in your teeth. Like Public Acid or Drugcharge, Paprika takes bouncy, pit-provoking hardcore and fuses it with darker undertones that seem like they’re borrowed from black metal or underground death metal, though it’s difficult to point to specific musical similarities to those genres. With six songs in about as many minutes, this tape leaves me wanting more. I hope we get it too, because if Paprika is already this fully formed at their starting point, their next steps will definitely be worth paying attention to.
Maximum Joy: Stretch 12” (1972 Records) Maximum Joy… who doesn’t want more of that, right? Fortunately, this late 70s / early 80s post-punk band from Bristol, England’s name isn’t a misnomer. Maximum Joy drew personnel from Glaxo Babies and the Pop Group, their sound of a piece with dub- and funk-informed post-punk bands like Delta 5, Gang of Four, and Essential Logic (a band I’ve been digging hard for the past several months). This is a reissue of their first 12” single, Stretch, a record so infectious that the New York label 99 Records pressed it up for the US market in 1981, where Maximum Joy fit right in with 99 bands like ESG, Liquid Liquid, and Y Pants. The single’s A-side, “Stretch,” centers on a heavy funk groove, fast-paced and danceable, with a semi-skronky saxophone providing extra grit. The b-side, “Silent Street / Silent Dub” swaps out the funk for reggae, placing the heavy bass at the front of the mix and bringing in a delay-effected trumpet that reminds me of Miles Davis records like Live Evil. Adrian Sherwood later produced Maximum Joy’s debut album, and this track sounds a lot like what the artists on Sherwood’s On U Sound label (Creation Rebel, African Head Charge, New Age Steppers, etc.) were doing around the same time. Stretch may be short, but it’s long on power and historical significance.
Nasti: Life Is Nasti 12” (Iron Lung Records) It’s been four years since Nasti’s previous LP for Iron Lung came out. They’ve dropped a few limited cassettes in the interim and undergone some lineup changes, but this new 12” shows them no worse for the wear. Besides being from the label’s home state, Nasti fits right in with Iron Lung’s roster of original, forward-thinking hardcore bands. While there are some ignorant, wall-demolishing riffs on Life Is Nasti that might remind you of their label mates Gag, they counterbalance those crowd-pleasing riffs with a propensity to get loose. Just listen to the way the opening track, “Self Sucker,” alternates between a locked-in, almost industrial-sounding march and another section where the guitars wander off into space. This tug of war continues for Life Is Nasti’s entire 15-minute runtime, taking in moments like the triumphant, guitar-solo-over-mosh-part in “Stud Gods” to my favorite part of the record, the bit in “Lip Licker” where Nasti lays down a gripping melodic line composed entirely of feedback. Fucking wicked.
Echo & the Bunnymen: Ocean Rain 12” (Rhino Records) The wait is over, and now several classic albums by Liverpool indie darlings Echo & The Bunnymen are back in print as part of Rhino’s Rocktober series. As the flagship band for small UK imprint Korova, Echo emerged alongside bands like The Sound as part of the wave of exciting and interesting, but more radio-friendly, side of post-punk. Their fourth album, Ocean Rain, released in 1984, was Echo’s last release on Korova before signing with WEA. Held by many Echo fans as one of their best and a landmark album, Ocean Rain adds ambitious and lush orchestral arrangements to Echo’s signature melodic pop hooks. This album had huge hits in the charts in the UK and garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. “Silver” and “Seven Seas” are among the notable cuts, but in retrospect, the huge number off of this album (and one of the band’s most recognizable and definitive songs) is “The Killing Moon.” With the breakout strength of this album, it’s a shame that Echo & The Bunnymen aren’t a primary recommendation compared to indie giants like The Smiths or Jesus and Mary Chain. Certainly, Echo must have had a huge impact on the burgeoning Britpop movement to come. That said, for all their success, Echo always seemed like a black sheep of sorts. Within all the beauty and memorable melodies, their music can also be quite haunting and dark. But if you’re looking to hear a moody indie classic that captures a band just before their rise to mainstream success, Ocean Rain is a must.
Eve of Darkness book (UXB Press) Back in 2018, Toronto’s UXB Press released the book Tomorrow Is Too Late, a beautifully designed, phone-booked-sized tome documenting the 80s hardcore punk scene in that city. Now they’re back with the companion piece, Eve of Darkness, which does the same thing for the 80s Toronto metal scene. As before, the book is large and thick, packed with photographs, scans of paper ephemera, and detailed text about the scene. About half of Eve of Darkness provides capsule histories of each band, proceeding in chronological order based on when the groups started, and alternating between oral history-style sections and more traditional band biographies, with the more popular and better documented bands getting several pages to tell their story with text and images. I can’t imagine any Toronto metal or hard rock band you wanted to read about isn’t represented here, from the biggest names like Anvil to well known underground bands like Sacrifice and Slaughter right down to dozens of bands who only played a handful of gigs or managed a demo session or a photo shoot. While the band histories are informative and entertaining, I like the other sections of the book even more. These sections address topics like key clubs, promoters, and important gigs. Eve of Darkness is a rich sociological account of this subculture, with a level of detail that allows the reader to feel immersed in the world of 80s metal. Since so much of the book is about how the local Toronto scene intersected with the national and international metal scenes, the book is fascinating for anyone interested in metal’s history, particularly how that history played out at the street level. If you’re looking for what the typical music book gives you—some cool stories and a list of new bands to check out—Eve of Darkness delivers, but it’s so much more than that… a real cut above as far as these kinds of books go.