Featured Releases: May 6, 2024

Mower: II 12” (Audacious Madness Records) II is the appropriately titled second album from this d-beat rock and roll group from Pittsburgh, and while I liked their first album a lot, II is even more scorching. Mower isn’t shy about their inspirations—their aesthetic is grounded firmly in Motorhead and Inepsy—but their music is far from formulaic, the style serving as a framework rather than a set of constraints. The band is on fire here too, the raw and live sound showcasing their power as players and the blistering tempos—Mower is fast!—keeping the energy level through the roof. While the punkier parts are straightforward, loud, and fast, Mower frequently slides into extended instrumental breaks that give them the opportunity to go further out, with blistering guitar solos, complex bass runs, and deft instrumental interplay serving as the perfect foil to the straightforward rippage. I’ve heard plenty of bands in this style that can wear thin after a track or two, but II is a smartly sequenced record that changes up the tempos, structures, and feel from song to song to keep everything super lively. Excellent stuff.

X: Hate City 7” (Dirt Cult Records) Dominic wrote about X-Aspirations, the classic debut album from this 70s Australian punk group (not to be confused with Los Angeles’s X) in his staff pick a few weeks ago, but the four tracks on Hate City capture an earlier four-piece version of the band that splintered before they released anything. This version of X is more straightforwardly punk, these tracks buzzing with loose energy and built around simple and memorable hooks. “Good on Ya Baby” (which also appeared on X-Aspirations) and “Cabaret Roll” remind me of the gruff sound of the Chosen Few, while the title track’s classic-sounding rock and roll riff and call and response chorus approach the amphetamine-fueled transcendentalism of the Saints. My favorite of the four tracks, though, is “Home Is Where the Floor Is,” another high-energy rocker with a super melodic chorus that fans of the early Scientists records will love. These four tracks are an important piece of the early Aussie punk puzzle, and while I wish this lineup had recorded more, I’m stoked to have a hard copy of these four lost classics.

Pleasants: Rocanrol in Mono 12” (Under the Gun Records) Debut release from yet another lo-fi Aussie garage-punk group, and while I’d love to tell you this scene has run out of steam, Rocanrol in Mono is very much worth your time. While Pleasants don’t come off as a Ramones-worship group like the Riverdales, the Ramones are a clear influence here, with some vocals adopting a Joey-esque accent (“Takeout Dinner”), lots of blistering 16th notes on the cymbals, and chunky major key riffs (“Home Alone” sounds a lot like the Ramones’ “Pinhead”). Like I said, though, there’s more to Pleasants than that, with mid-paced tracks like “Dead to the World” having a 70s glam feel and poppier songs like “Rubix Cube” reminding me of Cherry Cheeks. The vocals are distorted and buried, leaving most of the big hooks to the instruments, with lead guitar and bubblegummy synth lines vying for the spotlight across the LP. It’s catchy, high-energy music that might appeal to fans of anything from ’77 classics to the 90s Lookout! Records scene to contemporary egg punk, without fitting squarely into any of those styles. Rockanrol in Mono’s emphasis on high energy and big hooks means it’ll appeal to anyone with a pop sweet tooth, and its stylistic range will keep it on the turntable for many plays.

JJ & the A’s: Eyeballer 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Eyeballer is the second 7” from this Copenhagen-based band on La Vida Es Un Mus, giving us four more blasts of their abrasive but tuneful synth-punk. While Eyeballer keeps the energy level just as high as the debut and is still bathed in sheets of fuzz, I think the melodies shine through even more memorably here than on the first JJ & the A’s record. “Generation” has a dreamy quality that reminds me of their label-mates Rata Negra, but the rhythm section’s full-bore intensity cuts that sweetness with bucketfuls of grit. The underwater effect on the vocals can’t drown out the catchiness of the chorus to “Eyeballer,” and the 60s organ sound from the synth elevate both the title track and closer “The Runner.” “Counterstrike,” on the other hand, lays into the Ramones influence with its super fast drumming and heavy chord changes. I also love the artwork on this record. The graffiti lettering (a theme that carries over from the first EP) seems like an odd fit, but that weird little punk mutant on the front and the cool primary color accents are to die for.

Added Dimensions: Time Suck / Hellbent 7” (Domestic Departure Records) The title of this debut from Richmond’s Added Dimensions might give you the impression it’s a two-song single, but it actually serves up 5 tracks of the UKDIY-inspired indie/punk we expect from Domestic Departure Records. While the 4-track-ish production on Time Suck / Hellbent gives it a unified sound, the music covers a lot of ground, from the more driving and angular “Impulsive” to the Shop Assistants-y pop of “In the System” to the artier, Wire-ish “Wound Up.” (Yes, I’m using all the same comparisons as the label’s description… they’re very apt.) I particularly like when Added Dimensions’ melodies pile on top of one another, as in “Interruption” and “Compartmentalize,” which feature criss-crossing lines that intersect with one another in unexpected ways, sometimes producing interestingly dissonant harmonies. That arty sensibility combined with an uncomplicated appreciation of pop melody propels some of my favorite music ever, and that same chemistry makes Added Dimensions sound timeless and compelling.

Legion of Parasites: Undesirable Guests 12” (General Speech Records) General Speech Records brings us a well-done official reissue of this 80s UK hardcore gem. Legion of Parasites—particularly on Undesirable Guests—always reminded me of Ultra Violent in the way their music is based on a UK82 foundation, but the band clearly aims to match the intensity and speed of the most energetic US-style hardcore. The vocals rely on simple and memorable melodies and chanted choruses, and the music is bruising, with rhythms and tempos that remind me of Germany’s Inferno on “Party Time” and “Hypocrite.” You also can’t talk about Legion of Parasites without mentioning the wild drumming. The drummer seems way more interested in doing crazy fills than holding down a steady beat (much like Jerry’s kids), and the looseness of the fast parts also reminds me of Life Sentence. The speed and rippage factors place this in the company of the fastest European and American hardcore bands of the time, yet the echoes of those older UK punk sounds give Undesirable Guests its own unique flavor. It’s also worth saying that rather than the deluxe treatment most reissues receive nowadays, General Speech opted for packaging that more closely resembles the original pressing, with a punk price to match. Indeed, Undesirable Guests doesn’t need any bells and whistles to sell it… it just rips.

Featured Releases: April 30, 2024

Welly Artcore: Nefarious Artists book (Earth Island Book) In this reference-style book, Welly from Artcore fanzine examines “the evolution and art of the punk rock, post-punk, new wave, hardcore punk and alternative rock compilation record.” Rather than a narrative history of the compilation, Nefarious Artists examines each compilation one by one, devoting half a page of description and analysis to each, letting the larger story of the compilation record—and the genres they cover—emerge through that lens. Theoretically, much of the information in this book is available on Discogs, but the consistency and thoroughness of Welly’s approach reveals the limitations of crowd-sourcing information, which applies attention very unevenly across large data sets like this. Cover art is a great example. Images of cover artwork are all over the place on Discogs; while major records probably have pretty good ones, once you get into the weeds you’ll find plenty of blurry, cropped, low-res, or otherwise substandard images on Discogs. For Nefarious Artists, however, Welly has meticulously scanned each compilation’s cover art himself, and while the images in the book are small, they’re of uniformly high quality. The same with the half-page descriptions of each compilation. Welly always provides a list of bands on the compilation and a brief description of what the record and bands sound like, as well as a short analysis of its artwork and packaging. Nefarious Artists will be a valuable reference tool for punk nerds, but there are freaks like me who will read it from beginning to end like it’s a novel (I did the same with the Flex discography books). If you do this, you will learn a TON, no matter how much of an expert you are. I’ve learned about dozens of compilations I’d never heard of, plus a mountain of other factoids. For instance, I learned about a band featuring a young Frankie Stubbs from Leatherface that released a single track on a regional compilation in 1981 (you’ll have to get the book to find the name of the band and the record). After searching the internet in an attempt to learn more, this information appears to exist only in Welly’s book and in the brains of old punks like him, so cheers to him for getting so much of this down. If you’re as big a nerd as I am, you’ll love going through Nefarious Artists systematically like this, listening to things on YouTube where possible and watching your want list swell. For me, there’s no higher praise for a book about punk rock than that.

Ultimate Disaster: Demo 2024 cassette (Acute Noise Manufacture) Debut 5-song demo from this new raw punk band from Richmond. This came out a few months ago, but our first batch of copies sold out instantly. Thankfully, Acute Noise Manufacture pressed more for the band’s recent tour with Deletär, which not only gives you a second chance to pick it up but also gives me an opportunity to tell you how much I like it. Disclose seems like an obvious reference point for Ultimate Disaster’s sound because they play in the Discharge style and the singer’s vocal inflections have a hint of Kawakami, but I really think they have their own thing going on. Unlike a lot of recordings by bands who draw inspiration from Disclose, the production here isn’t super fried. Instead, it’s rich and clear, unafraid to show the band’s powerful playing in the clear light of day. And god damn, are they powerful players… the drumming is heavy and driving, the bass playing is locked into the groove rather than a chaotic mess, and the riffs are broad and classic-sounding, the elements melding together into a unified roar. While their songs are dynamic and full of exciting crescendos, I love that Ultimate Disaster lets you get a good head-bang going, riding riffs and grooves long enough for you to sink into them. Critics will say there’s nothing new here, but I like that Ultimate Disaster doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, offering us a self-assured sound from a band who clearly knows who they are.

Cicada: S/T 7” flexi (Total Peace Records) Here’s another repress of a Richmond band’s demo that sold out instantly the first time around, thankfully upgraded to a red vinyl flexi courtesy of Total Peace Records. While there are fewer than 4 minutes of music on this disc, Cicada packs a lot in a small space. Starting with the buzz of the band’s namesake insect, feedback swells and the full band enters with a mid-paced stomp, the tempo building until a dramatic pause, the guitar player quickly signaling the riff before the full band throws you in the meat grinder. Cicada’s brand of hardcore is sinister and moody, the vocals in the demonic United Mutation school while the riffs dance around dark, complex chords that give Cicada a richly textured sound. The rhythms, often frantic, are similarly ornate, weaving a couple nods to Poison Idea into their darting lunges. Then you’re out before you know it, the band leaving us with a brief outro that sounds like a 4-track version of Goblin. There’s so much here that I’d love to see Cicada expand on, but there’s something magical about everything that’s captured in this brief tornado of sound.

Slender: Learn to Die 12” (Digital Regress Records) After two records on La Vida Es Un Mus, this New York project moves to Digital Regress Records for their second album. It seems like an appropriate move given the defiantly eclectic and experimental direction they’re moving in, which seems to have as much to say to the worlds of chamber music and fine art as DIY punk shows and limited edition 7”s. I could spend a couple thousand words touching on all the different styles and sounds Slender tackles over the course of Learn to Die and still come nowhere near doing it justice. Suffice to say there’s a lot of music here, and you never know what the next moment—much less the next song—will hold, with drastic changes in genre, tone, production methods, and just about everything else keeping Learn to Die in constant flux. Yet it doesn’t sound scattered. The label’s lengthy but evocative description puts it really well when they note it has a “polyvocal quality,” like it was created by a village full of artists rather than just a small group. Fans of strange and eclectic albums like Comus’s First Utterance, Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium, or Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives will get the most out of this dense and demanding but exciting musical journey.

Lysol: Down the Street 7” (Feel It Records) New 4-song EP from this long-running hardcore punk band from Seattle. If you’ve checked out Lysol’s previous releases, you know broadly what to expect… hardcore with a seedy rock and roll edge that leans into the Iggy-isms that informed the Germs and early Black Flag. It’s a sound that’s strongly associated with the Pacific Northwest, with the Lewd, Poison Idea, and Mudhoney all cooking with a similar recipe. After the straightforward punker “Sonic Thrill,” Lysol lays down a slinky, vaguely Stones-y riff in “Grease Paint.” The b-side shows the band pulling at the edges of their sound, with the slide guitar (I think?) and loose guitar work in “15mg” drawing from 60s garage, only for “Padded Cell” to close record with a fast and tightly arranged hardcore tune that could slot right into the middle of Group Sex. If your cup of tea is actually a warm PBR, there’s a good chance you’re gonna like this.

Ikhras: Jahanam Btistana cassette (Quality Control HQ) Quality Control HQ brings us the debut cassette from this new UK band whose lyrics move seamlessly between Arabic and English. I think there’s a strong interest in the punk scene right now in hearing voices from Arabic-speaking and Muslim communities, and Ikhras melds that perspective to some walloping music. Ikhras is on the tougher side of the hardcore we cover at Sorry State, with a sound that’s inventive and eclectic, the powerful drummer seamlessly weaving together Cro-Mags gallop, Victim in Pain-inspired thrash, groovy I Against I-influenced parts, a touch of d-beat, and the all-important huge mosh parts. The lyrics shift between Arabic and English—not just from song to song, but sometimes line to line—and they’re super memorable, with “Enlighten Me” calling out people who wear liberal / leftist values like a cloak that hides their self-centeredness. The last track, “El Nahr,” is a climactic end to the tape, culminating in this part where the singer shouts “from the river to the sea for you I bleed” before the band drops into a huge mosh part. It’s easy to imagine a packed room full of sweaty hardcore kids all screaming that line in unison. While Ikhras’ music is a little outside Sorry State’s wheelhouse, their perspective and message make them interesting to more than just people who follow their particular style of music. I’m stoked that not only is Ikhras sharing their world with the rest of the punk scene, but that punk rock is alive and vital enough that it’s bringing new people under its tent, with those people inspired to contribute to punk’s social, aesthetic, and musical evolution.

Featured Releases: April 22, 2024

Innuendo: Peace and Love 12” (Roachleg Records) Vinyl debut from this hardcore band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Innuendo has a unique take on hardcore punk that combines the pulled-back, mid-paced approach of bands like Social Circkle with the grimy, nihilistic breed of hardcore that descends from the Negative Approach 7”. Songs like “Suffer for Peace” and “Walk Away” have California-sounding riffs, their catchiness accentuated by the laid-back cool with which the guitarist strums them, a stark contrast with most hardcore guitarists’ style of playing as fast and as hard as possible all the time. Yet even though the riffs are so catchy, the music never sounds syrupy, even when they do something anthemic like “Nuke This Place” (which makes me think of the Formaldehyde Junkies’ similarly anthemic “Nuke the Frats”)… the singer’s raspy, Dez Cadena-esque vocals and the band’s habit of playing like they’re being dragged through the mud ensures that. The balance of sweet and sour on this one is just great… you gotta love this style of dirty punk with fist-pumping hooks.

Gall-Bladder: Merciless Pendulum cassette (self-released) From what I understand, this demo cassette from Gall-Bladder is kind of a Sirkka side-project, with the US-based members of that band (i.e. everyone except the vocalist Sanja) swapping instruments. The sound is still hardcore punk, but Gall-Bladder ends up sounding quite different from Sirkka. After a somewhat melodic 70s punk-ish sounding intro that reminds me of Puffer’s raw but hooky punk, there’s a long snare roll and then Gall-Bladder launches into the full-bore hardcore, never letting up from there. The sound is desperate and chaotic, reminding me of Discharge without sounding like they’re imitating Discharge. The mix is smashed together with all the instruments coalescing into this monstrous roar, and the chaotic guitar leads especially remind me of Bones. The leads are most Discharge-y element of Gall-Bladder’s sound, but even those go off on their own tangents, like the way the crazy tones on “Applauded Absurdity” make me think of a nuclear warning siren. Gall-Bladder’s music is fast and energetic, but it’s also dark and bent, and while these four songs are undeniably hardcore punk, they’re not without interesting surprises. An excellent demo.

Balta: Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen is the second EP from this noisy Hungarian punk band on La Vida Es Un Mus. You might remember their first EP, Rendszerszintű Agybaszás, which we named Record of the Week back in December 2022. If you love hardcore punk that is maximally noisy and chaotic, you are going to love Balta right off the bat… the tones on this record are insane. The recording is raw and blown out, with a guitar sound that’s fried into a static-y oblivion. It seems kind of obvious to compare Balta to 80s Italian hardcore given their raw and chaotic sound, but they particularly remind me of Indigesti because there’s a relatively straightforward hardcore band lurking beneath the noise, tape hiss, and chaotic delivery. The vocalist sounds like a mix of the guy from Indigesti and Pat Dubar from Uniform Choice, and when there’s enough of a lull in the chaos to get a handle on what’s going on (like when they play the catchy main riff in “Ez A Zaj”), you might even find yourself humming along for a second. But those moments are few, with most of Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen devoted to undulating waves of chaos. I particularly love when loud guitar overdubs tumble into the mix, performing the function of your standard lead guitar break, but it’s really just more noise at a higher volume and slightly different frequency. This nine-song ripper will be a thrill ride for anyone who loves unrelenting, harsh noise.

Dollhouse: I Hate You Don’t Leave Me 7” (Toxic State Records) Toxic State Records brings us the second 7” from this New York City punk band, and I think it may take many people by surprise. Dollhouse sounds like a classic Toxic State band in a lot of ways: their predilection for pogo and shuffle beats, strained vocals, the artsy vibe, and lyrics and imagery that view childhood through a sinister lens. But while I think of New York punk bands as favoring primitive recordings, I Hate You Don’t Leave Me sounds clear and heavy, with a level of studio polish that reminds me of 90s pop-punk and melodic hardcore. The guitar riffs lean in that direction too. While the melodic lead guitar on “Be Nice to Me (Part II)” wouldn’t have been out of place in a Sad Boys song, the title track’s big guitar hook sounds like something you’d hear on one of Screeching Weasel’s Fat Wreck-era LPs. Some of you may interpret that as a slight, but I love those records, and I think “I Hate You Don’t Leave Me” is a great song too. Even the vocals, which are pretty limited in terms of melody, find patterns that make you want to sing along on the title track and “So Hollow.” As someone who owns just about every record by Crazy Spirit and Dawn of Humans AND Screeching Weasel and Pegboy, I think this is a great—and very unique—record.

Public Interest: Spiritual Pollution 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Second album from this Oakland post-punk group that, I believe, is the solo project of a member of Marbled Eye. Not a million miles away from Marbled Eye’s brooding post-punk, Public Interest sounds to me like late 70s / early 80s Manchester filtered through 2000s Australia. The heavy drums and the way the bass carries so much melody puts this firmly in the Joy Division school of dark post-punk, but as with Aussies Total Control and Low Life, there’s a golden-hour-at-the-beach quality to it too that keeps the darkness from fully taking over. Maybe it’s the way most of Spiritual Pollution stays at such an even keel, avoiding a lot of the obvious dynamic shifts in tempo or volume that so many other bands use to keep the listener’s interest. Public Interest doesn’t pander in that way, instead requiring you to acclimate to their environment before you notice the interesting details. I particularly like tracks like “Residue” and “Burning of Time,” where the guitars have more of a chiming, Smiths-influenced sound, weaving melodies that wind around the bass lines in interesting ways. Given Public Interest’s staid demeanor, it may take a few listens for Spiritual Pollution to sink in, but it has plenty of charm for those who give it the required time and attention.

Ritual Warfare: Poison Death Noise 7” (Sewercide Records) Sewercide Records brings us the second 7” EP from this raw underground metal band from their stomping grounds of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Poison Death Noise, despite being only a 7”, is a smorgasbord of raw underground metal sounds. I know nothing about who makes Ritual Warfare’s music, but I picture a total metal fanatic who does nothing but smoke weed, listen to primitive underground metal from the 80s tape trading days, and meticulously revise their own metal masterpieces. While all four tracks on Poison Death Noise channel the raw excitement of outlier 80s metal like NME’s Unholy Death LP, they’re also intricately composed, coming off like mini symphonies influenced by the entire history of underground metal. The title track that leads off the record is fully of knotty rhythmic shifts, its fried production values making it sound coherent despite the music swaying between full-bore death metal and moshy, thrash-style breakdowns. The second track, “Detest,” is just as impressive, starting with scorching guitar work on the death metal intro and moving to a chorus that features a climactic yell of “you fucking piece of shit!” through Sakevi-style distorted and delayed vocals before launching into a blazing guitar solo. You might think the song is winding down, but it’s only halfway done, building a new foundation of Norwegian-style black metal before an extended guitar solo that cycles through numerous movements and musical ideas. They put some work into this guitar solo, and it shows. Yet despite how ambitious Ritual Warfare’s music is, it always sounds raw and direct, just like my favorite under-the-radar 80s classics. A fucking scorcher.

Featured Releases: April 15, 2024

Spaced: This Is All We Ever Get 12” (Revelation Records) I knew nothing about Buffalo, New York’s Spaced before I dropped the needle on their Revelation debut, This Is All We Ever Get, but the combination of the band’s surreal and psychedelic imagery and the Revelation Records stamp of approval moved me to check it out, and I’m glad I did. Compared to much of the hardcore we cover at Sorry State, Spaced’s sound is very modern, though there are old school elements in the mix, like the Cro-Mags-esque galloping beats and the singer’s raspy vocals. Though Spaced’s singer sounds like a woman, they also sound a bit like Kurt from DRI on Dealing with It, super snotty and punk but with legible lyrics and a knack for melding them to simple, hooky melodies. The thing I like most about Spaced, though, is how eclectic their songs are. Though the songs are short (its eight tracks blaze by in just 16 minutes), they’re full of parts that often contrast starkly with one another. They might shift from that Cro-Mags gallop to a Gag/Bib-esque pogo beat, then into a groovy part where you hear the influence of 90s bands like Quicksand. There are also huge mosh parts and singalongs, both of which I’m sure make crowds of people many years younger than me lose their minds. There’s even a vaporwave-ish track (“AIATB”) that breaks up the intensity nicely. While I like some parts more than others, you never know what’s lurking around the next corner of a Spaced song, and the record’s dynamism means that, even if you don’t like, it would be hard to call it boring. I know many people who read Sorry State’s newsletter are dedicated to 80s hardcore styles and Spaced probably won’t be for them, but if you have broader tastes or you’re just looking to mix it up, This Is All We Ever Get is a thrilling listen.

Svaveldioxid / Parasit: Split 7” (Phobia Records) Phobia Records brings together these two veteran Swedish d-beat bands for a well-matched split 7”. No doubt you know both these bands’ names if you follow modern Swedish d-beat, and while all four songs here are very much in that vein, they show how much room for movement there is within a style that’s often dismissed as derivative. Svaveldioxid’s first track, “Ruttna Bort,” starts with a gloomy intro and segues into a powerful d-beat fast part that’s heavy and punishing on the surface, but the more melodic guitar riffing I can hear at the edges of the mix gives it the textural richness of 2000s-era Avskum. Their second track, “Statliga Mord,” is more of a punishing, Disfear-type track (BTW, Svaveldioxid’s drummer is Robin Wiberg, who played on Disfear’s Everyday Slaughter), climaxing with a simple, repetitive guitar lead that makes me think of Anti-Cimex’s “When the Innocent Die.” As for Parasit, while they play a similar style, their singer has a rawer, more unhinged style, and their first track, “Tysta Skrik,” uses chords and rhythms rooted heavily in Discharge’s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing-era sound. Then they totally switch things up for their second track, “När Skiten Rasar,” a more rocking mid-paced track that doesn’t sound like Discharge at all, but more like some of Totalitär’s mid-paced songs. Maybe at the end of the day, this one is for the heads, but the heads will find plenty to enjoy here.

Pleasure: Candy Samples cassette (Donor Records) Leeds, England’s Pleasure has a sound rooted firmly in the tradition of dark, nihilistic hardcore that begins with Black Flag’s Damaged and extends through everyone from Bl’ast (obviously) to Fang through the Melvins and Bleach-era Nirvana and all eras of hardcore punk since. The riffs are heavy but the vibes are heavier, with a bottom-trawling sound meant to evoke, soundtrack, or even trigger an actual psychotic meltdown. If you’re able to listen past the overwhelming negativity of it all, there’s a lot to keep the fan of dense and dynamic hardcore interested here. Much like Damaged, it feels like there’s more music here than the recording can hold. Rhythms range from driving, Negative Approach-inspired thrash to lumbering noise rock, but pleasure is always doing interesting stuff whatever mode they’re in. I love the rhythmic hiccup in the breakdown of the opening track, “Buzzed,” the skronky Ginn-inspired guitar solo in “Relaxation,” and the way instruments dramatically drop in and out of the full-scale assault of “Prayer Glitch,” perhaps Candy Samples’ most exciting track. That darkly bent song particularly reminds me of first album-era Double Negative, though that wouldn’t be an out-of-place comparison for any of these tracks. If you like your hardcore dense and warped, you’re gonna like Pleasure.

Sexpill: In Dust We Trust 12” (Beach Impediment Records) In Dust We Trust is the proper debut vinyl for this long-running noisy hardcore band from Texas. While you could place Sexpill in the same category as noisy hardcore bands like Enzyme and Lebenden Toten, their execution is so over the top and unique to them that comparisons only go so far. Sexpill’s formula is straightforward and doesn’t vary much from song to song: apocalyptic riffs inspired by 80s Japanese hardcore, a pogo beat played at “violence tempo,” a manic, drug-fueled madman on the mic, and a thick blanket of noise draped across the top of everything. While there are minor variations (“South East Santa,” for instance, zones out and stretches to twice the length of the other tracks), Sexpill finds a lot of room for expression within that formula. The vocals are very creative, not only finding interesting rhythms but also making strange sounds that sometimes don’t sound like the human voice at all, as well as using the microphone creatively, backing away strategically at some points and, at others, pushing so much air that it goes into the red. The noises over top of the more standard punk instrumentation are also consistently fascinating, varying in texture from song to song and orchestrated to accent the particular dynamics within any given song. You could remove the bass, guitar, drums, and vocals from this record and have a compelling harsh noise record. Whether you’re a wasted punk who just wants the loudest, craziest music possible or you’re a brainy appreciator of aural sculpture, In Dust We Trust has plenty to love.

Drill: Permanent 12” (Abandon Everything Records) I was a big fan of the first cassette from Philadelphia’s Drill, and while I was anticipating Permanent, I’m sad to hear that it’s a posthumous release as the band has broken up. I know it’s hard to generate excitement for a new record by a defunct band, but fuck… Permanent is so killer! While much of Drill’s music lies on the arty, bass-forward end of the post-punk spectrum and might warrant comparisons to contemporary bands like Spread Joy, the World, and Fitness Womxn, you really can’t pigeonhole their sound. First of all, the band’s setup—drums, bass, and synth—immediately separates them from other similar groups, particularly since the synth player approaches the instrument more as a noisemaker than a deliverer of melody. While the bass establishes the songs’ chord progressions and core instrumental melodies, most of the time the synth bursts in with these harsh squalls that lend an air of arty chaos. While the synth sounds are abrasive, Drill’s great songwriting and willingness to inhabit different musical moods makes me think of the best 90s indie rock bands. I compared them to early Pavement when I wrote about their tape, but the band that comes to mind when I listen to Permanent is the Breeders, particularly the bouncy, vaguely hip-hop-ish gait of “Pipsqueak” and the brilliant “Eggs for Now,” a five-minute long amble whose loping groove makes me think of a sun-drenched cowboy clip-clopping his way across the desert while tripping on acid. Other highlights include “Gavin,” the one track with guitar, which plays a rockabilly-tinged riff that makes me think of Brix’s stint in the Fall, and “Sweat,” whose extra funky groove and over the top vocals warrant comparisons to Suburban Lawns. Permanent is just a great fucking record from beginning to end, and Abandon Everything Records even pressed up a small batch on a special color vinyl for Sorry State’s customers, so pick it up while you can.

Viscount: 10 Past 10 cassette (Noble Lowndes Annuities) 10 Past 10 is the debut 8-song cassette from this solo project helmed by Lucy Anstey. I am a big fan of Lucy’s band Primetime (maybe you are too?), so when I saw this solo release hyped in Neon Taste’s newsletter, I had to check it out. Primetime always had great pop melodies, and that carries over to Viscount, though the instrumentation is quite different. There’s probably a better comparison out there, but many of the tracks on 10 Past 10 remind me of New Order’s electronic pop: drum machines, synthesizers, dance rhythms and big pop instrumental and vocal hooks. That’s the core of the sound, but there are also two more abstract instrumentals (“Dungeon” and “Third Floor Corridor”) that break up 10 Past 10 nicely, as well as a cover song at the end of each side. I like the cover of “Rose Garden,” but Viscount’s cover of “When You’re Happy You Won’t Understand” by the Bartlebees really blew me away. I’m not familiar with the Bartlebees—Discogs tells me they’re a 90s German garage/indie band—but in Viscount’s hands, “When You’re Happy” is a beautiful slice of wistful 80s-style indie-pop with a minimal synth backbone and an absolutely classic chorus. I have a feeling I’ll be putting this song on mix tapes for many years to come. All of 10 Past 10 is great though… maybe its title shoulda been 10 out of 10?

Featured Releases: April 8, 2024

Häxorna: demo cassette (Total Recall Recordings) Very brief 3-song, 3-minute long demo from this new band from Athens, Georgia that (I believe) features members of Consec. Häxorna’s meaty US hardcore-influenced sound and hoarse, desperate-sounding vocals remind me of another great Georgia hardcore band, Bukkake Boys. The songs are lean and to the point, but the hooky riffs, dynamic arrangements, and tasteful vocal placement elevate these songs above mere inchoate bursts of thrash. While Häxorna sounds like the more straightforward cousin of their label-mates Joro Path, there’s a freaky little guitar overdub at the end of the last track, “Total Recall,” that hints they may have a few different moves up their sleeve. This one is compact, but hits hard.

Absolut: 2024 cassette (Prescription) This cassette compiles a bunch of recent studio recordings by long-running Canadian metal-punk band Absolut. The three tracks on the a-side are new demo recordings for an upcoming LP, while the five tracks on the b-side come from an unreleased 2022 demo. We love Absolut here at Sorry State, and these recordings hint that their upcoming album may be their defining statement. Absolut’s guitarist’s chops get more impressive with each passing year, and while getting better at your instrument can be a double-edged sword for a hardcore band, Absolut has not lost the plot. As with Sorry State’s Valtatyhjiö, tasteful touches of double bass drumming add spice to the relentless d-beating, and the blistering lead guitar licks weave across and through the riffs, as on the standout mid-paced track “Burn in Hell.” That track’s main riff would be plenty to carry the song on its own, but the lead shredding means every bar of the song offers unique surprises for the ear. Absolut’s next album may one day render these recordings obsolete, but in the meantime I’ll be burning up this hot reel.

Why Bother?: Serenading Unwanted Ballads 12” (Feel It Records) Serenading Unwanted Ballads is the latest full-length from this punk band from Iowa on Feel It Records, whose 2023 album A City of Unsolved Miseries got a Record of the Week nod at Sorry State. I hesitate to mention how prolific Why Bother? is because it might make you skeptical about the quality of any individual release… how could a band release so much music and have it all be good? However, as with their similarly prolific label-mates the Cowboys and Class, I hear no appreciable dip in quality across their many records. And holy crap, do Why Bother? have a lot of records, having put out at least eight albums since 2021. Not only did A City of Unsolved Miseries arrive barely a year ago, but also there’s an entire album, Calling All Goons, that came out between that and Serenading Unwanted Ballads. I am not privy to Why Bother?’s inner workings, but I’m guessing you can chalk up their quickly growing discography to some combination of these factors: 1. there probably isn’t shit else to do in Mason City, Iowa; 2. Why Bother? doesn’t play live (though there is one track on this album that says it was recorded live), and 3. they have a fucking ton of ideas. The latter is apparent on Serenading Unwanted Ballads, which has a ton of variety. There are tracks that, like many of my favorite Why Bother? songs, sound like gritty punk/pop in the vein of mid-period Husker Du (the opener “Nullity,” the aforementioned live recording of “Frothy Green”). A bunch of others—many of these among the record’s best—sound like post-punk underground pop music, like “Until” with its late 70s Manchester guitar line or the beautiful “High as the Heavens,” which sounds like it could have been in a John Hughes movie. “Your Love Will Die” has a cool 60s-sounding psychedelic surf vibe, while “Some Don’t Dance” is minimal and jittery a la the Urinals. And like any great band, Why Bother? takes these different ideas and runs them through their filter in a way that makes everything sound coherent. If you’re a fan of pop-based but adventurous punk, check out Why Bother? Don’t let their discography intimidate you… dive in here, and if you like it, sleep comfortably knowing there’s plenty more to hear.

Phil & the Tiles: Double Happiness 12” (Legless Records) We last heard from Aussies Phil & the Tiles on their debut 7”, released on Anti-Fade Records, and now they’re back with their first full-length on the similarly hot Australian label Legless Records. While Phil & the Tiles sound like a contemporary Australian band, they also sound like a band who might have formed at an art school at any point since, say, 1975. They have the right influences (the Fall, the Stooges), and they clearly know what’s cool (cryptic lyrics, synthesizers, singing that’s more like fast talking, etc.) and what’s not (earnestness, soloing, pomposity). While it has that sheen of art school cool, Phil & the Tiles’ music isn’t difficult; there’s a grit to it, but they are also fond of simple, naïve-sounding melodies. These melodies might come from the guitar, the synth, or any of the multiple vocalists, overlapping and criss-crossing in ways that are a delight to untangle. At their most brooding (like “Ode to Phil”) Phil & the Tiles remind me of the post-punkier end of the contemporary Aussie spectrum with bands like Low Life and Total Control, but I’m just as fond of the more upbeat, punkier tracks like “Captain Punish.” There’s just so much music on Double Happiness, its eclectic songwriting and dense instrumentation giving it both immediate appeal and strong replay value.

Repression: War Comes Home 7” (11PM Records) War Comes Home is the debut vinyl from this Arizona hardcore band. They had an earlier demo tape on the excellent Total Peace label, but since that recording Mike from Extended Hell and Yellowcake has joined on drums. As I said when I wrote about Yellowcake’s 7” a while back, Mike is a beastly drummer who will improve any band he’s in, and War Comes Home is indeed a powerful record. Repression’s sound is jagged and noisy, drawing from more than just a narrow spectrum of influences. Total Peace’s description of their demo mentioned Nine Shocks Terror and Deathreat, and I can hear that in War Comes Home. In the same way those 90s bands sounded like an amalgamation of everything in hardcore that had come before, Repression’s music isn’t anchored in one particular scene or style. The snotty but snarling vocals sound contemporary, with a similar catchiness as Gag or Paprika, and the guitars do everything from flanged-out noise to driving power chords to loose and chaotic leads, all three of which you can hear on the closer “Noxious Bulbs.” The mid-paced “Eradicated” is another highlight, with a strutting riff that would make your granny want to slam. While the fact that Repression doesn’t stick to one clear lane may make them a little less immediate, I love that War Comes Home doesn’t sound quite like any other record in my collection.

Nasti: People Problem 12” (Iron Lung Records) People Problem is the third 12” vinyl from this Seattle hardcore band. Jensen from Iron Lung (the label and the band) is in the group, which makes sense because Nasti sounds to me like the quintessential Iron Lung Records band. Their sound is dark and desperate, their music uniformly heavy and intense, but also adventurous. There are parts that remind me of Gag’s elastic pogo, Reek Minds’ crossover riff-fests, and Brain Tourniquet’s pulverizing bottom end. But they have their own moves too, like how, through all these tempos and rhythms, the guitarist deploys these broad melodic flourishes that remind me of 90s alternative rock (check that almost pop-punkish lead in the otherwise bleak “Ruin Everything”). And then, as if Nasti’s sound wasn’t already unique enough, when they drop into the five-minute closing dirge “White Fences II,” they augment the sound with sampled percussion, bringing an alien set of textures to this well-worn hardcore trope. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of the arty, forward-thinking hardcore Iron Lung specializes in, Nasti will be right up your alley.

Featured Releases: April 1, 2024

Cruelster: Lost Inside My Mind In Another State of Mind - The Singles Collection 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) This LP collects all the non-album tracks from the Cleveland band Cruelster. Cruelster is a band that beckons you down their rabbit hole, and this singles collection, particularly its mythology decoding / perpetuating insert, sends you way the fuck down. Does the idea of a casual Cruelster fan make sense? Certainly, if you’re not down for the whole trip with these folks, you’re missing a lot. If that casual fan does exist, though, they’d likely dismiss the first half of this collection as juvenilia. But around halfway in, Cruelster’s strangeness and brilliance surfaces and the band just takes off. As I said, though, to really appreciate it, you need to take the whole trip. Speaking of which, the insert for this record is like the secret decoder ring that explains the heretofore murky story of Cruelster and its adjacent projects, primarily Perverts Again, but also including Sorry State’s Knowso, among others. The insert is amazing… it’s like 10,000 words, but printed as one giant block of text in tiny type with long lines and no paragraph breaks, a complete affront to the notion of readability. I had to break out a ruler to follow it, but—and this seems analogous to my entire experience as a fan of these groups—the effort was totally worth it. It’s a great story, covering the group’s origins as young (poser?) skinheads through myriad challenges, obstacles, small triumphs, and too many hilarious asides to count… I’m reminded of the tag line for Wayne’s World: “You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll hurl!” All that being said, if you’re not up for an album experience that requires extra hardware, you might as well skip this record. Cruelster is always going to make you pay to partake in their brilliance. But if you’re on the trip with these folks, this is another can’t miss episode. And like any great episodic series, it ends with a cliffhanger, hinting at an upcoming, as-yet-unrecorded new Cruelster album. I look forward to listening to that, enjoying it thoroughly, and writing yet another description that amounts, essentially, to “for fans only.”

Paprika: Let’s Kill Punk 12” (Iron Lung Records) We’ve carried two tapes by this New Orleans hardcore punk band at Sorry State, now they’re back with their debut 12” on Iron Lung Records. When I listen to Let’s Kill Punk, I’m struck by its maximalism. Everything feels larger than life here: the big, booming sounds, the chunky, moshable riffs, even the singer’s charismatic snarl. It’s so imposing that, as a listener, I was leveled on my first few listens, failing to appreciate much of the subtlety while I was processing the music’s blunt force. It took several plays before I could appreciate, for instance, the great riff at the center of the opening track, “Peace Talks,” which has a subtle, Wipers-y gloom coloring its attack. Let’s Kill Punk is short, most of its 10 tracks hovering around a minute in length, and Paprika doesn’t linger at all, going straight for the kill and making a quick getaway before you know what hit you. It’s only with multiple listens that you really appreciate how deftly Paprika annihilates you.

Grisaille: Entre Deux Averses... 7” (Black Water Records) Debut two-song single from this two-piece group from Brest, France, featuring two members of Syndrome 81. While these two songs aren’t miles away from Syndrome 81’s gloomy, melodic punk, as the label’s description notes, there’s a good deal of 2000s Copenhagen in the mix too, with the atmosphere here recalling the more melodic bands from that scene like No Hope for the Kids and Gorilla Angreb. If Entre Deux Averses... had come out in the 2000s, I guarantee everyone would have compared them to the Wipers, which was the de rigueur reference for bands playing this kind of upbeat but sombre-sounding punk. We’ve heard a lot of music from this camp lately, and while the different projects (Syndrome 81, Mentalité 81, etc.) are cloaked in slightly different aesthetics, strong songwriting and meticulous production runs through all of them, and Grisaille is no different. Add these tracks to your “gloomy spring morning” playlist and play them while staring vacantly out the window, waiting for these folks to whip up their next batch of hits.

Hexx Head: Seabeds Cough cassette (self-released) Debut release from this electronic duo from Boston. I’m only a dabbler in electronic music, but it’s been cropping up in the newsletter more and more lately, as there are quite a few releases in this vein that I’ve been connecting with. I’m not sure if Boston’s Hexx Head comes from a punk/hardcore background or if they’ve just noticed us stocking bands similar to theirs, but when they hit me up about carrying their tape, I really liked what I heard. Like Boy Harsher, Die Letzten Ecken, and Mandy, Indiana, Hexx Head’s music sits at the intersection of noise, dance music, synth-pop, and punk. From punk and hardcore, they take the consistently high energy levels and viscerality—there’s a reason people call this “electronic body music”—and combine it with noise music’s dense textures and dance music’s beat-forward sounds and structures, topping it off with a touch of synth-pop’s instrumental hooks. While Hexx Head forces your body to move, they’re often challenging you with off-kilter rhythms, like the stuttering “No Fair.” I love the steady pulse of Seabeds Cough, but Hexx Head never zones out, their songs inviting your attention rather than testing it. Like I said, I’m far from an expert on this stuff, but I really like what I hear here.

En La Muerte: Silencio 7” (Extinction Burst Records) The label’s description of this 7” from LA’s En La Muerte caught my eye with its Deadline and Wasted Youth (LA) references, and I’m glad I checked out Silencio, because it’s killer. Those references are spot-on, particularly for the ripping fast parts that characterize 80% or so of Silencio. It’s slightly sinister-sounding US-style hardcore that also reminds me of G.U.N.; En La Muerte’s vocalist even sounds like Nico from G.U.N. While hardcore rippers comprise most of En La Muerte’s music, things get a little weirder on their mid-paced parts, like the Big Black-ish intro to “Bleed” or the Ginn-esque guitar lead over the early NYHC-ish breakdown in “Killdozer.” I also love the freakout part at the end of the last song, “Damned,” which reminds me of the way Hüsker Dü would end their records by unspooling into chaos. While Silencio will appeal to fans of retro USHC (a key Sorry State demographic), I love that they’re not following the rulebook so closely they suck the life out of the music.

Perp Walk: Permacrisis 7” (Crew Cuts Records) Second EP from this Bristol, UK hardcore band, like its predecessor arriving on the Crew Cuts Records imprint. Judging by the number of copies we’ve seen heading out the door at Sorry State, plenty of Americans are hip to Perp Walk, and it’s easy to see why they’ve generated interest abroad. Perp Walk reminds me of Bib because their songs primarily revolve around huge-sounding, mid-paced riffs that strike a balance between “inciting violence” and “left of center.” The riffs are simple-sounding but never dumb; “Penitent Man” even reminds me of the pop dirges on Nirvana’s Bleach. “The Gavel” starts with a more metallic sound that might make you think of the Cro-Mags, but the song’s rhythm won’t quite let you skank your way to that glorious guitar lead at the end. Perp Walk’s music is heavy, hooky, and smart, and while it’s steeped in hardcore’s history, it doesn’t sound bound by it. Excellent stuff.

Featured Releases: March 25, 2024

Joro Path: Golden Lines cassette (Total Recall Recordings) Total Recall Recordings, a new label from Athens, Georgia, taps hometown talent for their first pair of releases, including this 4-song weirdo ripper from Joro Path. Like the Death Rites demo I also wrote about this week, Golden Lines is bathed in the aesthetic of 80s Japan. I like that while Joro Path likes the hard stuff—your Mobs, Zouo, Execute, etc.—they also embrace the left-of-center quality many of those groups had, just totally nailing the vibe of “obscure flexi from 1985.” Maybe you need an appreciation of that stuff to understand where Joro Path is coming from, but as someone who has a very healthy appreciation for that sound, I think this totally rules.

Blind Ambition: Demo 2023 cassette (self-released) I don’t know much about Amsterdam’s Blind Ambition, but I’m tempted to draw inferences based on their sound. I see them as part of a long tradition of bands featuring people who were weaned on hardcore, but want to get back to their punk roots. Maybe they want to create a sound with more musical colors rather than something focused single-mindedly on intensity. However, while they embrace melody as composers, they still play like a hardcore band, with lock-step grooves, bruising downstrokes, brisk tempos, and a big, aggressive sound. Blind Ambition makes me think of contemporary bands like Neighborhood Brats and Consensus Madness, and like those bands, they draw a lot from early Southern Californian punk, both the proto-hardcore Dangerhouse bands (the singer sings a lot like Alice Bag) and the beach-y punk bands like the Adolescents, D.I., and especially Legal Weapon (not so much in the vocals, but in the way there’s a touch of Johnny Thunders in the guitarist’s Agnew-isms). Great songs, powerful performance… this ticks all the boxes.

Satanism: In Conspiracy with... cassette (Final Return Records) The label’s description for this New York band’s cassette invokes “the golden era of Evil Metal,” and that hits the nail on the head. They mention Venom and Slayer’s Show No Mercy as influences on Satanism, and I’d add Celtic Frost that list, too. The songs move between modes of sleazy and savage, the band equally comfortable in both. The recording is very vintage too, with copious reverb and an unpolished yet heavy and powerful sound. The lyricist isn’t winning a Pulitzer or anything (one song goes “I hate you / I hate you / I hate you / fuck you”), but the rawness and the confrontational quality suits the music. I like that it’s 7 tracks too, feeling more like a long EP or cassette album than just a demo. This will definitely get some horns in the air.

Somnol: Brain Death cassette (Final Return Records) This debut EP from NYC death metal duo Somnol arrives a full nine years after their 2014 demo tape. Somnol features Evan Radigan from the Rival Mob on drums and vocals and Chris Bowman from Ajax on strings, but other than an appreciation of rawness and brutality, you can’t hear much of the members’ hardcore backgrounds in Somnol. Actually, when the tape started and the intro for “Brain Death” kicked off, I was taken aback by the musicianship. Plenty of punks these days are exploring their interest in underground metal, but the intro for that track is this modal riff that sounds like something that could have appeared on Death’s Human LP. That only last a few seconds, though, before Somnol dives headfirst into straightforward brutality with some gnarly early Morbid Angel-style pummel. While Brain Death remains in that more brutal and straightforward mode for most of its five tracks, the musical ambition and sophisticated sense of composition is apparent throughout, making Somnol sound a lot more interesting than your typical old school death metal throwback. The recording is a big part of that too, with Will Killingsworth’s gritty but powerful recording successfully keeping any kind of polish at bay.

Death Rites: Demo 2024 cassette (self-released) This band describes themselves as “LA METAL PUNK” on the j-card of this, their debut release. While Death Rites’ sound is cloaked in the sensibilities of super raw shit like GISM and Parabellum, it reminds me of very early Metallica (like No Life ’Til Leather and Kill ‘Em All) in that the songs and performances are influenced by the relentless forward drive of UK82 punk. It’s also coming from a similar place as the English Dogs circa Forward into Battle or Sacrilege on Within the Prophecy, i.e. raised on GBH and Discharge, but also acknowledging ‘tallica kicks ass. The riffs are fully metal, but the vocals are punk as fuck. The singer sounds like they’re influenced by 80s Japanese punk and the physical tape recalls an artifact of 80s underground metal tape trading in pretty much every way, right down to its length (three songs in about seven minutes, the perfect amount to fill that awkward space on the C90 you’re sending to your pen pal in Saskatoon or Bremen or whatever). Very cool.

Phosphore: S/T cassette (Fight for Your Mind Records) Eight-track demo tape from this band from the d-beat haven of Bordeaux, France. The scene in that city is so fertile that there’s a full spectrum of d-beat flavors, ranging from the more polished and rock-influenced to the more brutal and guttural. Phosphore is on the latter end of the spectrum, with simple and aggressive riffs grounded in the Swedish Shitlickers / Anti-Cimex school of Discharge-inspired hardcore. I love Phosphore’s mid-paced songs too, which are even more blatantly Discharge-inspired. Phosphore plays with the confidence of veterans, taking relatively simple riffs and selling the fuck out of them, their locked-in playing and clear vision shining through the slightly fuzzy, 80s-sounding recording. It would be easy to scoff at this, saying it’s been done before, but for me this recording feels exciting and alive with timeless hardcore punk energy.

Featured Releases: March 18, 2024

Dente Canino: demo cassette (Roachleg Records) Roachleg Records offers no clues as to the whereabouts or membership of this new group on their demo release. Like almost everything on Roachleg, it has a raw and blown-out recording, but Dente Canino’s songs don’t fit easily in one lane. Some parts lean into a Wretched-esque chaotic delivery, which makes sense as the lyrics are in Italian, but the metallic yet subtly melodic riffing style also reminds me of Final Conflict. That’s a tough line to walk—making your songs sound chaotic and crazy, but coherent enough that the hooks shine through—but the fact that Dente Canino can unite those two poles gives them a unique sound. I also hear similarities to neo-Italian hardcore bands like Psico Galera and Idiota Civilizatto, and if you like those bands, this is a no-brainer.

Andy Place and The Coolheads: Feels Like A Dream 7" (Black Water Records) Black Water Records brings us a new three-song single from this Portland garage-punk band. While there’s plenty of poppy stuff in Black Water’s discography, the a-side here, “Just Like a Dream,” feels like a long way from the hardcore and crust the label is better known for. I mean, it’s loud and brash, but it’s also earnest and pretty, with a kind of mushroom-afterglow affect that is the audio equivalent to film shot in golden light. I don’t listen to much music in the Ty Segall / neo-garage mold, but I’d be surprised if much of it is better than this track. Following up that monster song, “Contrarian” is noisier and punkier, with guitars pulling ahead of the vocals for a Damned / Adverts-inspired sound, and “Black Water Commercial” is just what it says on the tin. In and out, pop banger with two short stabs to follow it up, classic punk single style.

Putrid Boys: Tape #1 cassette (self-released) Fast, dark, and psychedelic hardcore from this Richmond band on their first tape, whose seven tracks (in eight minutes) could probably pass as an unheard United Mutation recording. The vocals are similar—a proto-death metal throaty gurgle—as is the way the music darts in unexpected directions. Putrid Boys also remind me of creepy 80s Japanese hardcore like the Execute, Zouo, Mobs, etc. The recording is warm and live, lo-fi in a way that helps you imagine this is a lost 80s artifact. As those comparisons might lead you to believe, it’s killer. It’s very limited too, so don’t sleep.

The Follies: Permanent Present Tense 12” (Feel It Records) There are members of a bunch of New York City punk bands in this new group the Follies, but even a cursory listen would have told me that Evan Radigan from Vanity was at the helm. The guy is a great songwriter with an instantly identifiable voice, and the Follies carry forward Vanity’s sound (on their later records) while putting their own spin on Evan’s tunes. The Stones-y swagger carries over from Vanity, but the Follies also have these really incredible neoclassical lead guitars wailing all the time, which makes it sound like Television in places. The songs sound of a piece, but varied in tempo, groove, key, etc., the mark of songwriters and players with a strong sense of their own voice. There is also a co-vocalist who provides great backups throughout and takes the lead on “Bad Habits,” a country-tinged rocker that makes me feel like the Follies are going for a Fleetwood Mac dynamic. I imagine there were plenty of people in the 70s yelling about how the Flamin’ Groovies and the Nerves were a million times better than the Knack or the Romantics, and in 2024 those same people should be up in arms that the Follies starve while the Strokes lounge atop piles of cash.

Consensus Madness: 2023 demo cassette (Open Palm Tapes) New 6-song cassette, following up this Chicago band’s previous 7” on Iron Lung Records. If you didn’t catch the earlier EP (lucky for you it’s still in stock), Consensus Madness plays fast, jittery punk in the Dangerhouse school, not so much the Avengers’ Pistols-isms, but the slightly angular, punk-on-the-edge-of-hardcore vibe of the Dils, the Eyes, and the Bags. The drummer’s manic 16th notes keep you pogoing, and the songs are well written, with compelling riffs that build toward exciting climaxes. I love the way “Spooky” develops, for instance, milking its excellent main riff just long enough before segueing into a series of dramatic crescendos. The lyrics are excellent too, continuing the first EP’s M.O. of examining the absurdities and ironies of contemporary (middle-aged? middle-class?) American existence.

Die Öwan: Öwannibalism 12” (General Speech Records) Much like the Deef reissues General Speech released at the same time, these two LPs compile little-heard material from an obscure but vital-sounding early Japanese punk band. I encourage you to read General Speech’s blurb for its excellent contextualization, which is full of wow moments and connections. As for what I hear in the music, as Tom from General Speech writes, it’s “sonically punk at its core” in that it’s upbeat, hooky, and raw. There’s also a healthy experimental streak, with primitive drum machines pushed to their limits and the occasional dada-ist gesture like the ringing phone that interrupts the music periodically. There’s also an interesting attitude toward appropriation, with a handful of covers (or are they?) that loosely interpret classic tunes from the UK ’77 songbook. Öwannibalism reminds me of contemporary egg punk too… it’s homemade quality; an appreciation of Ralph Records-style absurdity; the jittery drum machine rhythms; big melodies delivered through a haze of distortion. My wife left the room when I was playing this the other night, telling me it was “obnoxious,” but this presses so many of my nerd buttons I can’t help but love it.

Featured Releases: March 4, 2024

Little Angels: Psycho Summer 7” (11PM Records) Debut vinyl from this band from Pittsburgh associated with the vibrant scene around bands like Speed Plans, Illiterates, and Necro Heads. While Little Angels’ sound on Psycho Summer is nastier and more blown out than any of those bands’ records, it’s still of a piece with them, particularly Illiterates, who like Little Angels have a noticeable straight edge influence to their raw and ragged hardcore. Psycho Summer opens with three sub-one-minute rippers that evoke the most raging parts of Urban Waste, but with nine tracks on this record, there’s space for Little Angels to shake things up. My favorite track is “Boyfriend Phone,” a mid-paced pit clearer whose open riffing gives more space to the vocals, which ride a hooky counter-rhythm in the chorus that makes me want to chant along, fist in the air. But the strongest thing about Psycho Summer is how energetic and full of life it feels… great hardcore should make it impossible to sit still, and this fits the bill.

Vaguess: Thanks//No Thanks 12” (Under the Gun Records) Under the Gun Records (USA) and Erste Theke Tonträger (Germany) team up to bring us this new full-length from California’s Vaguess, and while both labels are associated with the egg punk thing, Vaguess doesn’t fit that mold. While Thanks//No Thanks touches a bunch of styles across its 10 tracks, the era I’m most reminded of is 90s indie… I’m thinking of bands like Pavement, Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr, the Breeders… the sound before it calcified into “alternative rock” and was still shot through with a sense of experimentation inherited from the early Rough Trade Records bands. As far as modern comparisons, I’d put Vaguess in the same lane as the World and Powerplant, bands that indie rockers probably think of as punk, but punkers think of as indie rock. Like those bands, Vaguess isn’t afraid to make an immediate-sounding pop tune, but they aren’t about to pander to anyone either, and they’re committed to the idea that a big melody goes down best with a healthy side of bite. Great production here too, with rich tones and a sense of space to the mix rather than all the instruments being crowded together. A really enjoyable record.

Ready Armed System / Acaustix: Military Grade Vol. 1 12” (Roachleg Records) Roachleg Records kicks off a new series they’re calling Military Grade with a split 12” between two Texas hardcore bands. The same person recorded both sides, and both bands sound raw, fuzzy, and live, akin to the blown out recordings we’ve heard on records by their fellow Texans Nosferatu. Despite—or perhaps because of—the similar recordings, differences in the two bands’ styles really shine through on this split. Ready Armed System plays ultra-fast US-style hardcore, with tempos worthy of Koro (occasionally even pushing into Heresy territory) and a singer with a scruffy, Rollins-esque bark. Acaustix has more of a raw punk style with super blown out guitars and bashing d-beats, taking influence from Anti-Cimex and Framtid. Both bands totally rip, and while the recording lacks some detail (particularly the drums on R.A.S.’s side), the performances are bursting with the wild energy I want from an underground hardcore punk record. Another ripper from Roachleg.

Ivy Creep: demo cassette (11PM Records) 11PM brings us the debut from this Richmond band. Daniel, former guitarist and riff-master from Haircut, is the primary songsmith, and it totally sounds like it, as he has a distinctive way with a meaty-sounding riff that’s grounded in the No Way school of fast-and-intense hardcore punk. The presentation is grittier, though, with harsh vocals and a fuzzy, chaotic sound to the recording that keeps things dark and introverted. Among a bunch of comparatively mid-paced fist-pumpers, “I.F.S.” stands out as a faster track with a sprightly, agile riff. Another solid entry in Richmond’s long and storied hardcore tradition.

Deef: 脳 (Nou) 12” (General Speech Records) General Speech presents the entire recorded works of the obscure 80s Japanese hardcore band Deef, spread across two LPs. Never releasing vinyl during their original run and living in the isolated northern city of Sapporo, until these reissues, Deef’s name was known only to a handful of fanatical record collectors and hardcore archaeologists. Forming in 1979 when the members were 12 and 13 years old, Deef was among the earliest hardcore bands in Japan, and on the 1982 recordings collected on 脳 (Nou), it certainly sounds like it. Particularly on the tracks from the original 脳 (Nou) cassette, it sounds like Deef is inventing hardcore as they go, speeding up fairly standard-sounding punk songs to ever-faster tempos. There’s a sui generis quality to it that reminds me of the Neos, the sound of young minds doubling down on philosophical and aesthetic extremes. By the time they recorded the last 3 tracks on the a-side (labeled here as an “unreleased E.P.”), they were more deliberate, varying tempos and evoking a sinister, rather than playful, atmosphere. Had that EP come out on vinyl, I think Deef’s place in the history of Japanese hardcore would be very different; certainly an artifact like that would sell for a lot of money in today’s collector market if it existed. On the b-side of this LP, you get a well-recorded live tape featuring many of the songs (and a similar performance) as the 脳 (Nou) cassette, including a song that I’m not sure is a cover or or just a rip-off of Discharge’s “A Look at Tomorrow.” Some of you might prefer this earlier, formative version of Deef, while others will prefer the slightly more realized material collected on the second LP, Real Control, but if you’re a Japanese hardcore fanatic, you really need it all, particularly when you throw in General Speech’s informative and period-appropriate packaging.

Deef: Real Control 12” (General Speech Records) Real Control is the second (and last) in General Speech’s series of LPs collecting the recorded works of the obscure early 80s Japanese hardcore band Deef. While all of the first LP, 脳 (Nou), was recorded in 1982, Real Control captures the band in 1983, by which time they’ve matured considerably. Not that they’ve abandoned hardcore here; in fact, Real Control sounds even more hardcore, of a piece with the legendary Japanese hardcore recordings surfacing in 1983 like Kuro’s Fire, the Great Punk Hits compilation, etc. The Real Control tape, which appears as the a-side of this LP, finds Deef’s music exploding into technicolor, the band mastering a wider range of tempos and rhythms and their riffs becoming more creative, distinctive, and memorable. Even the singer sounds more dynamic, moving between growling, shouting, and screaming, and the recording is great, with a powerful drum sound right at the front of the mix. On the b-side, we get another strong live recording, capturing the band in similarly confident form. This time the mix focuses on the vocals, and the singer’s charisma is evident. You could sneak any of these songs onto the Outsider compilation and they’d fit just fine. As I said in my write-up for 脳 (Nou), I think both volumes of this Deef collection are essential, but Real Control I’d particularly recommend Real Control if you’re a fan of Kuro, LSD, the Execute, and the nastier end of 80s Japanese hardcore.

Featured Release Roundup: February 26, 2024

Mentalité 81: Génération SacrifIée 7” (Hellnation Records) I’m thankful to Italy’s Hellnation Records for immortalizing this French band’s ripping 3-song demo from last year on vinyl. Mentalité 81 is an offshoot of the French punk/oi! band Syndrome 81 (who, based on Sorry State’s data, has a lot of fans reading this right now), but with an 80s US hardcore-influenced approach. It’s not every day I hear a band with a really clear Minor Threat influence (the most recent one that comes to mind is Japan’s Milk), but I think that has to be what Mentalité 81 is going for, and they knock the ball out of the park. To me, Mentalité 81 actually sounds more like Uniform Choice than Minor Threat, but at the end of the day there isn’t all that much difference. The riffs are fast and precise, the guitar sound is relatively clean, the drummer is fast, and the songs are compact but full to bursting with dynamic stops, starts, and drop-outs. It’s so compact, actually, that these three songs only add up to about three minutes of music, and while it may seem like a waste to make a record with so little music, I’d rather have a little taste than none at all. Hopefully these three minutes aren’t the only thing we ever hear from Mentalité 81.

Nightfeeder: Disgustor 7” (self-released) The latest self-released record from this Seattle band has arrived, and it feels like a slight departure from their earlier records. This reference never occurred to me when I was listening incessantly to Nightfeeder’s previous releases, but I feel like the band must have modeled Disgustor on the Misfits’ classic singles. Obviously there’s the horror movie-inspired artwork, but there’s also the record’s format, a three-song single with an anthemic a-side and two b-side tracks that expand and extend the vibe, which makes me think of the Misfits’ 3 Hits from Hell Horror Business, and Night of the Living Dead. The title track even reminds me of “London Dungeon” with its creepy crawly tempo and big vocal hook in the chorus. It’s still hardcore as it’s heavy and intense, but rather than the song being built around riffs, the guitars lay down a distinctive chord progression and leave plenty of room for the vocalist to be the star of the show. The two tracks on the b-side are more straightforward hardcore, but they are similarly thick with vibes. I would have been perfectly happy if Nightfeeder had simply given us more of the same, but on Disgustor, they show us they’re still challenging themselves and their listeners.

Studs: Ice Pipe 7” (Under the Gun Records) Ice Pipe looks to be the sole release from this (presumably) long-distance project featuring Connor from Snooper and G.U.N. and someone from the Australian project Research Reactor Corp. I imagine many people will hate Studs right off the bat, as there’s a bratty sense of obnoxiousness at the core of these tracks. The drums (a mix of acoustic and electronic, I believe) are jittery and over-caffeinated, the vocals sound like a wild animal in pain, and the sounds are harsh and tinny. If you can listen past those things (or if you’re the kind of sicko who is drawn to them), you get a lot of great riffs (that’s where you can hear the G.U.N. connection) plus the dirge “Stud Fucker,” which steers the sound in a Flipper-esque hooky dirge direction. Like I said, this isn’t for everyone, but a handful of freaks are gonna love it.

AUS: Der Schöne Schein 7” (Static Age Musik) Our third three-song single in this week’s update is this new one from Germany’s AUS on Berlin’s Static Age Musik. In case you haven’t noticed, Static Age has been putting out some excellent records lately. One of my favorites from last year, Die Letzten Ecken’s Talisman LP, was on the label, and like that record, Static Age’s recent releases are steeped in Germany’s tradition of arty yet danceable underground music, one that extends back to pioneering electronic groups like Kraftwerk all the way through the Neue Deutsche Welle and beyond. You may have heard AUS’s previous two full-lengths, but if you haven’t, they sound a lot like Xmal Deutschland as well as that band’s clear inspiration, Siouxsie & the Banshees. Like the mid-period Banshees albums (say, Keleidoscope through Tinderbox), the vibe is often central, dark but upbeat, evoking dimly lit dance clubs full of textured black fabric, eyeliner, and big, dyed-black hair. It’s an ambiance heavily associated with Berlin, and it shows that it’s AUS’s home turf. I usually prefer goth music that has a strong pop backbone, but AUS’s dance-informed approach, where they ride strong grooves for extended periods, works great here too. Three tracks dense with mood and energy.

Phane: Police System 7” (Phobia Records) Phobia Records brings us a new 4-song EP from this Vancouver band. Phane has put out several records over the past few years, but Police System is the first time I’ve given them a close listen. While the artwork on Police System references UK82 tropes, to me there’s at least as much burly Discharge-style hardcore in Phane’s sound. They remind me of Bonecrusher-era Broken Bones, with UK82-style chanted choruses, simple but hooky riffs, and a guitarist with a capable chugging palm and a predilection for flashy lead overdubs. A good portion of Police System’s running time is given over to a cover of “Time Is Running Out” by their fellow Canadians Unruled, a choice whose ripping middle section plays to Phane’s strengths, but whose melodic, oi!-influenced intro and outro showcase their flexibility. A killer, classic-sounding 4-song hardcore punk EP.

Hope?: Your Perception Is Not My Reality 7” (Desolate Records) We carried an earlier demo from this Portland band, and now their debut vinyl finds a fitting home on Minneapolis’s Desolate Records. The label’s description mentions Hope?’s 90s influences, and one stands out to me: Nausea. There are two singers, one with a demonic-sounding rasp and another with a guttural bellow, and the riffs are mid-paced and metallic, with longer songs that move through multiple musical sections, many of them built around powerful chanted vocals. If you’ve been enjoying Flower’s recent recorded output, this is in a similar vein, though they don’t have that bouncy element that so many Flower tracks have. A strong recording and palpable political conviction help Hope?’s debut EP to hit extra hard.

Featured Releases: February 12, 2024

P.S.Y.W.A.R.: Defcon 7” (Iron Lung Records) Posthumous EP from this now-defunct hardcore band from Kansas City. I’m thankful Iron Lung Records still pressed up Defcon, as it’s a strong EP that deserves to be heard. P.S.Y.W.A.R. sound to me like the Cro-Mags meets G.I.S.M., the tinny, fried guitar sound, guttural vocals, and industrial overload production recalling contemporary G.I.S.M.-influenced hardcore like A.I.D.S. and Gizon Berria, while the galloping beats and reverb-drenched snare sound are definitely giving Age of Quarrel. It might sound like an odd mix, but it works really well… so many bands who come under G.I.S.M.’s spell put all their energy into sounding weird and fucked, but P.S.Y.W.A.R.’s strong, bottom-heavy groove keeps your fist pumping. Defcon is also well-sequenced, counting down from the first track, Defcon 5, to the last track, Defcon 1, the vibe growing bleaker and more jagged with each track. By the time they get to the last two tracks, squealing, feedback-drenched guitar leads and creepy samples have colonized P.S.Y.W.A.R.’s sound. Defcon offers exactly the well-choreographed bludgeoning we come to Iron Lung Records for.

Crawl Space: My God… What’ve I Done? 12” (Iron Lung Records) Seattle’s Crawl Space make the jump to their hometown institution of Iron Lung Records on their debut 12”. If you caught their recent 7”, Bullshit Unity, on Forever Never Ends Records, Crawl Space has refined their sound since that release, not changing styles but making everything sharper, clearer, and meaner. Song titles like “Lay on the Tracks” (an 11-second burst) and “No Funeral” show the negativity on display here, which adopts the desperate world view I associate with Youth Attack Records, and as with bands like Hoax and Vile Gash, there’s a seediness mixed in there, the negativity pointed inward as much as outward. Sonically, the LP is based on the stop/start dynamics of Victim in Pain-era Agnostic Front, and it keeps your blood pumping across its entire 10 minutes. Mean as fuck.

Asbestos: Wishful Thinking 7” (11PM Records) 11PM brings us the debut from this dark and desperate-sounding hardcore band from Denver. As with the Crawl Space LP I also wrote about this week, Asbestos’s sound reminds me of Youth Attack’s 2010s output (which makes sense as a lot of those bands came from Denver): it’s fast and heavy, rooted in early 80s US hardcore, but with a loose, noisy delivery and a dark and depressing vibe, which comes through mostly in the strangled-sounding vocals. It’s straightforward hardcore punk, but there’s an arty edge to it I like, most apparent on the instrumental track “Interlude,” which applies Asbestos’s smudged textures to a pretty solo guitar figure. After that brief respite, though, it’s back into the pit for the last three songs.

Mother Nature: Can You Feel the Rhythm? cassette (Donor Records) Can You Feel the Rhythm? is the debut release from this new hardcore band from Leeds, England. Leeds has a long tradition of left-of-center hardcore bands that is reflected in Mother Nature’s members-of list, which includes Perspex Flesh, Mob Rules, Whipping Post, Beta Blockers, and the Flex (well, maybe the Flex aren’t so left-of-center, but they’re certainly hardcore). Mother Nature isn’t as out there as Beta Blockers’ synth-drenched noise or Mob Rules’ prog violence, but they sound more confident, the distinctiveness of their sound coming more from their voice as composers and players rather than their equipment and effects pedals or the way they reference their influences. The quirky moments often have the biggest hooks, or maybe it’s just that Mother Nature has a knack for highlighting their catchiest parts with the cool ping-pong chorus effect the guitarist turns on from time to time… the fact that it makes it sound even more like the Die Kreuzen LP is a bonus. Again, though, it’s not just the sound, but moments like the knotty rhythms in “Can You Feel the Rhythm?” that evoke the best of 80s outsider hardcore. The vocals and lyrics are thoughtful and distinctive (what I can make out of them… there’s no lyric insert), and the production is excellent, with a sound that feels alive and organic (with such complex music, a sterile and mechanical sound is a real danger). Can You Feel the Rhythm? is one of the most exciting demos I’ve heard in ages, and I’d be surprised if one of the several excellent labels in the UK didn’t snap them up for their next release. In the meantime, though, I think it’ll be many listens before I’ve fully absorbed all this tape has to offer.

Guimauve: Azovstal 7” (self-released) Self-released debut vinyl from this new hardcore band from Paris, France, who has released two cassettes over the past three years. I haven’t heard those early releases, but Azovstal sounds fully formed and powerful to me. The record starts with a glitchy, industrial-sounding intro that grows denser and more intense as the seconds pass, incorporating samples from Guimauve’s vocalist to set the stage for the rest of the EP. When “Cotard Tango” finally kicks in, it’s a hardcore stomp with a tinny, G.I.S.M.-y guitar sound, but as Guimauve segues into the breakdown, the guitarist switches on a chorus pedal and lays into some gnarly, black metal-style tremolo picking while the rhythm section drags you through the mud. Guimauve keeps the listener off-balance in this manner throughout Asovstal, adeptly shifting between jabs of strangeness and powerful blows of crunchy, straightforward hardcore. It’s a dense and powerful ten minutes that will satisfy anyone with a taste for boundary-pushing hardcore.

Warkrusher: Armistice 12” (Desolate Records) It looks like this Montreal band has been kicking around for at least five years, and the time Warkrusher spent honing their sound pays off with their debut LP, Armistice. Warkrusher’s logo and artwork are a clear nod to Bolt Thrower, and if you come to Armistice looking for Bolt Thrower-style epic, crusty death metal, you won’t be disappointed. Not being an expert on Bolt Thrower, I don’t feel qualified to get into the weeds about how Warkrusher matches up on a riff-by-riff basis, but they’re great at channeling that swampy groove that is the basis of so many of Bolt Thrower’s classic mid-paced parts (see “Apostate”). Ultimately, though, I don’t think you can dismiss Warkrusher as a “worship” band, as there’s plenty more going on. The title track, for instance, is built around a super catchy main riff with a sleazy vibe that wouldn’t be out of place on a Midnight record. “Shadows” pulls from a similar palette of influences as Hellshock… more the Amebix / Hellbastard / Axegrinder end of the crust spectrum. It’s not a million miles away from Bolt Thrower, but it’s not totally on the nose either. While Warkrusher’s references to their influences might be the nudge you need to check them out, Armistice is a well-produced, tightly composed LP that will keep any true crusty’s fist in the air.

Featured Releases: February 5, 2024

Alamoans: S/T 7” (Kill Enemy Records) Kill Enemy Records, the label that introduced us to Speed Plans and Illiterates, among many others, brings us another Pittsburgh gem with this debut vinyl from Alamoans. Alamoans’ sound is unique. They have parts that are straight up caveman hardcore, like the first part of the record’s first song, “Licking the Boot.” The beginning of that track has a dead simple riff and one of those mid-paced pogo beats that makes it sound like something crazy is about to happen, but over the course of the record, the guitarist increasingly goes off-script, employing screeching Keith Levine-isms across the top of the rhythm section’s violent stomp. While they don’t sound too similar, Hoax is a band who had a similar mix of brutish rhythms and guitar parts that could veer into arty territory. Really, though, I can’t think of another band that sounds like Alamoans, and with a sound that’s immediate, powerful, and original, I think this is a really strong EP.

Hacker: Psy-Wi-Fi 7” (Beach Impediment Records) We liked the previous 12” from this Australian hardcore band, and they’ve moved to Beach Impediment for the US pressing of their follow-up. Hacker is a great fit for Beach Impediment because, like other Beach Impediment bands such as Golpe, Warthog, and Long Knife, they’re a great hardcore band that oozes personality. Hacker has a great frontperson with a snotty, raspy voice, a thick Aussie accent, and the ability to land a big hook (see “Scammer”). The band is bruising too, and as with Golpe and Warthog, their mid-paced riffs sound like they probably inspire craziness in the pit. “Deliverator” is a highlight, bouncing between a big, groovy riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on Feel the Darkness and breakdowns that sound like straight up death metal. Great songs, great performance, great recording, great packaging… no weak spots here.

Violin: S/T 7” (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us the second record from this London hardcore project—their first was on La Vida Es Un Mus—and the label is a fitting home for Violin’s slightly left-of-center hardcore. Honestly, though, this record dials back the quirkier elements we heard on Violin’s previous record, leaning more toward straightforward hardcore. Violin’s particular take is burly and propulsive, reminding me of early 80s Boston bands like Negative FX and SS Decontrol. I love the term “violence tempo” that Iron Lung uses in their description, and it’s apt for the relentless propulsion on display here. We get a taste of the weird stuff, though, with some heavily effected guitar emphasizing the quirky lead riff in “Subservient” as well as a chaotic section where noisy synth squalls swoop into the mix. If there’s such a thing as thinking person’s dumb hardcore, this is it.

Dridge: Dying Out 12” (World Gone Mad) Second album from this long-running Philadelphia band whose work has been championed by World Gone Mad Records. I can see why WGM is so into them, because Dridge is an interesting, original band. A pithy description of what’s happening on Dying Out might be “Amebix meets Electric Wizard,” but that warrants some unpacking. Dridge resembles Electric Wizard in their glacially slow tempos and the vintage fuzz tones on the guitar and bass, but the vocals are snarling, legible, and very punk-sounding to me. Dying Out is also mixed like a hardcore record, with the drums and vocals way up front. The guitarist and bassist are also very spare in their playing, leaving lots of open space in the music and often lying back and just feeding back for bars at a time, sometimes even going completely silent for entire sections. With long stretches without vocals as well, this leaves Dridge’s emphasis squarely on the drums, and this is a drummer worth listening to. I know everyone makes fun of the phrase, “it’s about the notes you don’t play,” but it’s applicable here, as Dridge’s drummer is locked in a give-and-take with silence throughout these very long songs. This might be a deep reference for anyone outside Raleigh, but Dridge’s drum-forward doom reminds of the band Confessor, an underrated Earache Records band anchored by a similarly captivating, virtuosic drummer. I also have to mention the incredible moment in the title track when the singer shouts “let’s go!” and the already slow tempo drops in half, grinding to a sickly, dehydrated crawl. We’re not known for pushing slow music at Sorry State, but fuck… this rules.

Checkpoint: Drift 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Erste Theke Tonträger brings us yet another great new band from Australia. Like the Spllit LP I wrote about last week, Checkpoint’s debut LP, Drift, has some of the surface-level trappings of egg punk—namely the wobbly, underwater-sounding production—but lacks the tossed-off feeling I get from some similar-sounding bands. Checkpoint’s music is ambitious, their songs dense with ideas and meticulous in their composition and arrangement. Some parts are unexpected, like the tropical-sounding breakdown in “Friends” or the almost orchestral outro section of “Break.” The record’s crowning achievement, though, is the nearly twelve-minute “10th Dimension Advertisment Apocalypse.” You’d think a twelve-minute song would be full of long, droning sections or a lot of aimless fucking around, but it’s not like that at all. No part of “10th Dimension” feels like a throwaway or a time killer, and Checkpoint weaves through the song’s numerous twists and turns with confidence. It’s clear Checkpoint is aiming at something bigger than just another entry in the latest punk fad, which they emphasize with the lyrics for “Teachers pt. II,” which name-checks dozens of Checkpoint’s influences, locating the group in a long tradition of outsider music as diverse as Can, little-known Gong sideman David Wise, and the Oh Sees’ John Dwyer. If you liked that Spllit LP, or if your taste encompasses both underground punk and the mannered compositions of Sparks, Drift is well worth your attention.

Consensus Madness: S/T 7” (Iron Lung Records) Debut vinyl from this new Chicago band. I recognize some of Consensus Madness’s members from their previous hardcore bands, but there’s more to Consensus Madness than just hardcore. They sound like they’d fit just as well on a hardcore bill—their music is certainly fast and tough enough—as they would on a garage-punk show. Songs like “Stop” and “Animosity” have a surf element to the riffing, which works perfectly with the fast but laid-back, beach punk-style rhythms. And there are some cool hooks, like the killer, Carbonas-esque guitar lead in the bridge section of “Behind.” A+ lyrics too, looking critically at the systems that both enable and inhibit us and reckoning with what it means to be a cog in those machines. I also love that while Consensus Madness has the hookiness of garage-punk, they gave us a hardcore-style 7-song EP rather than a teaser two-song single. Catchy, powerful, cool-ass art… great stuff.