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Detroit, Michigan, United States
I'm a punk rock guru from Detroit. Part skinhead, part crusty, part metalhead, part hardcore kid, part party kid, 100% punk rocker.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hellmouth- Gravestone Skylines album review

Hellmouth ‘Gravestone Skylines’ review

Is there any album angrier than Hellmouth’s first album “Destroy Everything Worship Nothing”? If there are, they are few and far between and held in mutual high regard by punk rockers everywhere (i.e. the Negative Approach s/t 7”, Black Flag’s ‘Damaged’ and ‘My War’, Hated Youth’s ‘Hardcore Rules’ 7”, Poison Idea’s ‘Pick Your King’ 7”, and so on). Now, there is one for Hellmouth to add to that list: Their second full-length, Gravestone Skylines. The sheer anger and doom is a marriage Ozzy Osbourne and Henry Rollins could only imagine. This is one of the best, most powerful albums of the last decade, possibly the last fifteen years. Nowhere else is leukemic disgust and intense instrumentation coitally united so well to give birth to a genre appropriately called misanthropic hardcore thrash.

One of the album’s greatest focus points is the move towards a more metallic sound guitar-wise; the riffs, although with a remembrance of hardcore youth, are much more borne of Slayer rather than the Circle Jerks or the Germs. Still, the metal sound is no less powerful or energetic. The music still evokes the subconscious sadomasochistic tendencies of man, arousing the desire to rip out one’s own skin and the skin of all surrounding humanity alike. There is no optimism here. There’s a time and a place for positivity, and this is not it; nothing nice to say indeed. The rhythm section is pummeling and punishing; the bass and drums are the perfect background noise for singer Jason Navarro to spew his pessimistic, nihilistic, sincere bile. This record is not merely misanthropic hardcore thrash; it is a blueprint of a scorched earth solution for mankind, a collection of maxims and arrows for the modern day to live by. This album also (as though it didn’t do enough) serves a dual purpose: It is simultaneously empowering and unifying. It unifies listeners in its unfiltered misanthropic messages, and in its own twisted way, nihilistically shouts, “Yes, you can!” Both the transcendental individual and the cult cipher will be spoken to and receive their respective interpretations of the same message.

This record is much more than an excellent collection of misanthropic hardcore thrash songs to listen to and consume; it is empowering pessimism incarnate. Inevitably, the world will end and you will die. The question put forth by this album, and the one to be answered is, “Will you die on your knees or will you die on your feet?”

-Aunty Social

Party On! Volume 1 split 7" review

Party On! Volume 1 split 7” review

Partying or politics? Progress or pot-smoking? Beer bongs or bailouts? This is one of many dividing issues between and within punk rock scenes all over. Is achieving social progress and awareness the more important of the two goals, or is music a time to relax and have fun, leaving the worries of the real world behind? There’s no answer to this, as philosophers have argued this essential Yes/No, Black/White question since time began and continue to do so to this day, seemingly without any progress. Here, the differences are bridged and two bands who seem to be polar opposites in philosophies come together on one 7” record to celebrate the similarities and understand the separations.

The two bands have very similar sounds instrumentally speaking, but the vocals have vastly different sounds between the two sides. The Aggressive Force side combines the headbanging bandana thrash with a gravelly, raspy vocalist, like Choke if he had never been around any smoke in his life (think less gravelly and raspy than him). Four solid songs to skate, mosh and read the national newspaper to. The Common Enemy side provides three tracks of classic Common Enemy: higher-pitched vocals with a thrashcore youth crew vibe. The singer sometimes distracts from the music itself, but the sound is so fast and powerful that it gets lost and blends in with the general tone of the music, completing the experience of the music.

This record is proof that differences in punk rock scenes are very present and easy to bridge, given some collaboration and an active resistance to pigeonhole bands by only their sound, or only their philosophy (take a hint, straight edge bands). Party about politics, get political about partying, there’s always time (or a slab of vinyl) for both.

-Aunty Social

Molested Youth 7" review

Molested Youth 7” review

What’s in a name? A lot of things are in a name, primary among them meaning, whether intended or interpreted. Some names are coined to be remembered, others to provide to a person/ place/ thing, and some are coined to shock the senses of one’s moral values. For the latter, the first of these were the Dead Kennedys, a play on the then-frequent deaths of the sizeable family of political powerhouses. Next was Anal Cunt and Seth Putnam’s forceful jabs at the political correctness instituted by recent changes in social hierarachy (Women: Nature’s Punching Bag, Ha Ha Holocaust, Hitler Was a Sensitive Man, I Made Your Kid Get AIDS So You Could Watch It Die, among other titles that make the world cringe with laughter). Following this now is 80s hardcore band from Toronto with the name Molested Youth. Only a demented genius could come up with something so laughably insensitive, funny and thought-provoking all at the same time. Could the impossibly awesome name be held up to par by a six-song 7”?

Oh, indeed it could and did. The band pulls off both a familiar throwback sound and a relatively recent, unique sound, and they blend together seamlessly. The guitar is extremely raw, gritty and has a very jump-off-the-amp-and-rage sound to it; unexpectedly awesome, to say the least. The rhythm section is equally low-fi and speedy, managing to both blast out killer songs and bombastic, destructive breakdowns when called for. The singer, in all his hardcore rage, released his PTSD-laden stress through his youthful cries and raspy screams. Much like the “quiet time” for an adult, it comes to an end all too soon, albeit with a happy ending.

This Toronto quartet’s 7” is a ripper of a record. Keep an eye on these guys and the Toronto scene in general. You don’t want to miss this or anything else to arise from the city’s fruitful punk rock scene.

-Aunty Social

The Skolars/ Telegraph split 7" review

The Skolars/ Telegraph split 7” review

What was the pivotal point for third wave ska? An issue indeed worthy of lengthy debate. The Hollywood incorporation of ska music in film, the rise of a pop-ish sound in ska music, the coming of an entire wave of musicians playing like-minded music all at once, among other things are all contributing factors to the rise in ska’s popularity and its ultimate plateau and decline. However, the mid-90s (1995 to 1998 specifically) were undoubtedly the peak of that popularity. Preceding this horn-heavy, pop-ish offbeat punk sound known to most as third wave ska was the split 7” of two generally same-membered bands, the Skolars and Telegraph.

This piece of plastic only has four tracks, yet in those four tracks is the basic blueprint for third wave ska, albeit with a very Detroit sound. There is unbelievable power and influence in these four songs; where better has the simplistic anger and angst of punk rock been joined in marriage with the optimistic, complex, offbeat nature of ska music? The answer, is hardly anywhere.

“Thanks”, the opening track and final track written by the Skolars, is one of the best ska songs ever written. All-encompassing in both genre’s natures, the beat is punky, yet offbeat, nigh danceable. Where did this sound come from? It was new and fresh. Within was too every single part of a good ska song: Less gruff and more sing-a-long style of vocals, an offbeat-accented guitar with a clean sound, pervasive and steady horn lines, a short horn solo, and a breakdown of sorts, although the breakdown was more pop-influenced than punk-influenced. The music has a very somber, somewhat sad tone, but it’s a piece of art. Not since my first ska show and my experiences with ska stalwarts Treehouse Rivals have I been more emotionally moved by a ska song. Following this was a cover of the song ‘Razors’, for which the Skolars do much justice. It’s hard to escape the sad, somber tone with which the band plays, but it seems bittersweet. It is sad, but optimistic, akin to an end with a concurrent new beginning, an excellent, non-generic song to cover; well done.

Flipping the record over, the bitterness of the Skolars sound end and the happier, sweeter sound of Telegraph begins. “Quit Your Band” is a heavier emphasis on the pop tones in third wave ska music, which Telegraph eventually followed more strongly as time went on. Still, the song is a step above almost all third wave; the reassuring sound of Jeff Sanguis’ voice is what trumps the whiny, sarcastic and nasally voices of their peers. Finishing the record is “Open 24 Hours”, a horn-happy track of the prototype for third wave ska’s sound. While still clean, there exists an omniscient sound, be it subliminal or overt, of real Detroit grit. Although other, more famous bands had big record label financial support, Telegraph manages to outdo their competitors with less at their disposal (the horns are more unified, giving rise to the wall or horns idea perfected by THR) and greater swagger in their step.

At first listen, for an experienced listener of ska, this is just another fine piece of third wave. However, given the time period, financial status, and completeness of the record, there has not been such a fine piece of third wave ska released yet. The record seems only to improve with each passing listen. This record alone makes it worth buying a $100 USB turntable. I may need a new needle when I’m through with this record. -Aunty Social