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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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ghoul Gang X-Mas show review- 12/18/12 at the Magic Stick

Ghoul Gang X-Mas show review- December 18th, 2012 at the Magic Stick
Freedom, Retribution, Weed Nap, Heat Lightning, From Hell, Build & Destroy, Face Reality, Ghoul Gang, and Rzl Dzl
As a stacked local line-up, I just knew I had to be at this.  As such, I took the day off work and caught a ride down there.  As I arrived, sound check for Freedom was just starting.  Thankfully, I was right on time.
Freedom went on a couple of minutes later, the first to do so.  They blasted through a quick set of youth crew-influenced powerviolence, or vice versa, whatever is suited to the subjective definition of the band’s sound (in other words, whichever YOU like more).  Fast and very short, the songs hardly eclipse a minute, if that.  Some of the band’s newer song stretched on for a bit longer than that, but make no mistake- this is definitely hardcore that everyone has time for.  Singer Denny has a strong voice that manages to mix both the mile-a-minute powerviolence sound with the rough, tough, slower youth crew sound.  It’ll take one longer to fap than to listen to a set by these guys, so no doubt, do the latter before the former, if at all separately.
Next was Retribution, who have been playing out more as of late, following a mild hibernation that has clearly led to the band becoming far more energized.  The set they did this time around, though not as stellar as the ones they’ve done recently (opening for Expire, Trial, and Twitching Tongues, respectively), was still pretty solid.  The material on their “Consumed” 7” is always energetic live, and some of their newer stuff, particularly the one about gay marriage and the moral clusterfuck churches seem to be preoccupied with at the moment, are even harder-hitting.  After a few years of sporadic activity and only a demo released, it seems that Kenny Smith and Retribution are at long last moving forward and accumulating much-deserved fans of their 90s-style straight-edge hardcore.
Weed Nap followed after this, jamming out their brand of funky, janky party punk.  This was some weird music, yet it was some very interesting stuff.  Still in its early development stages, I anticipate a decent EP to come out soon.  Think garage, janky, funky, punky.  Close enough.
After them came Heat Lightning, a band play jam music in the punkiest way possible.  This is definitely not music to have to read the lyrics to or soak in all the vibes, art, and meaning of the band to, but it is absolutely high quality, fun music to listen to.  I was not disappointed with it, I’ll put it that way.  Some music is to be taken in with absolute seriousness and the vibe/aesthetic to be fully absorbed, and other music is meant to be taken lightly, to be enjoyed, and be played loudly at parties.  This is the latter, and I couldn’t be happier with it.  Jam these jams.
After Heat Lightning was From Hell, who radiated dark energy with their slower, demonic style of hardcore.  Their brand of punk rock, though different from the more positive and fun styles of their friends, was strangely fitting.  The rearing of a dark, ugly sound has been a staple for Detroit for quite some time, and the current harbinger of this sound is From Hell, who have been around since roughly 2010, sludging it up with a demo and currently working on a 7”.
Build and Destroy came on next, and seemed as though they had improved since I last took notice of them around two years ago (at the Refuge benefit show in November ’10).  Sporting a party-style 90s hardcore with a subtle hip-hop influence, the band was very crowd-friendly, two-steps and gang vocals all around- the locals definitely seemed to know the words to the songs.  This is fascinating, as the band (to my knowledge, at least) has only a demo a good circulation of fans who spread the word, from Detroiters to, uh… Philadelphians, I guess, would be the word.  These guys do live up to the hype, so long as you understand that the music isn’t excessively serious or unique- it’s just fun hardcore.
Next came Face Reality, who is one of the best bands to come out of Michigan punk-wise in a long time.  The band came out full-force, and save for a couple moments where singer James’ voice went out, the band was totally on point, largely opting to play the newer material, which is much heavier and “harder”, so to speak.  Crowd participation was pretty strong, and people were singing moving for the majority of the duration of the set (yours truly included)- the only time the band stopped was to thank a few folks for their contributions to the scene, and it was, all in all, a pretty energetic and united vibe in the room.  Truly a sign of good things to come, and some already here.
Ghoul Gang and Rzl Dzl closed out the show, but due to my ride situation, I was unable to catch these two sets (much thanks to Ryan Coleman of Heat Lightning for that ride!).  However, the Ghoul Gang is not that unlike in its punky jam band vibe, and Rzl Dzl is the more hardcore side of party punk music- fun and light-hearted, and including Haroun Khan as a member.
Ultimately, the show drew a lot of different faces (I am more of a “punker” than a hardcore kid, I suppose) and truly drew them all together under one roof, for one purpose.  All in all, a great example of a Detroit show done right- I haven’t experienced an all-local show this awesome in quite some time.  This is how it’s done.
-Aunty Social

Face Reality- Strong Survive EP review

Face Reality- Strong Survive EP review
This is my absolute favorite current band out of Michigan right now.  This EP only solidified it- though not a complicated sound, the simplistic intensity is absolute, and the lyrical thoughtfulness is there, yet it is coupled with forceful rage and anger.  The vocals take a while to get used to (they are a departure from James’ old style of singing), but it winds up being better, as it’s a mix of classic 80s hardcore and youth crew- no longer naïve and young, it is now an informed, wrathful, but still not disillusioned sound.  The guitar is not too heavy, but manages to be powerful in a way that modernizes the youth crew sound.  It’s modern, but it’s not far removed from the sentiment the earliest hardcore bands had, and all this does is amplify and modernize it.  The bass is distinct, punchy and bounces along with the song- it is an instrument unto itself.  The drums, again, mix the punishing fast beats of early hardcore and the thundering breakdowns of youth crew and contemporary hardcore.  This isn’t just a well-oiled machine- this is the machine upon which all other machines are based.  That is how fucking great this band is.
“Answer the Call” starts off with a back-and-forth drum intro and wastes no time before kicking into the traditional punk rock riffage Face Reality is known for.  Just as the first set of riffs ends, the song comes in crash-landing, as the vocals roll in and the speed kicks way up.  Some lyric play the singer “Hear the ring, answer the call” is what sticks in my mind as the anchor of the song, and then the tempo slows for a pointed breakdown with higher-pitched vocals coming from a third party.  “Confusion” is an almost powerviolence-esque song as it starts, even faster than someone like Straight Ahead.  The anger resonating from the singer is almost palpable, as it transitions to “No Justice” the two songs almost go together.  The whole song is invective, dripping and frothing with venom, and for youth crew-sounding hardcore, it’s surprisingly heavy and brutal.
“Strong Survive”, though it is undoubtedly about the more personal encounters within the band (or rather, outside of the band), could also be interpreted as a Darwinistic slogan- one that I do agree with to a great extent.  This is probably the most bass-heavy one on the record, and still rings out some rather heavy riffs and memorable lyrics (though I will say that after hearing this a few times, it’s rather easy to learn the words, especially given how well it flows).  “It’s Us” is a second short, serene blast of sub-powerviolence youth crew-inspired hardcore.  Simple, but not unpleasing.  The last song “Feel Free” is the best track on the record.
A quick side note:  Though it’s cliché and a bit strange to say, this song has, in more than one situation, gotten me through hard times- it’s a continuing reminder that so long as I remain free (free by my definition, not someone else’s), I can keep carrying on- fighting, breathing, and annoying the rest of the world.  Life’s a fight, and this is a morale-raising anthem.
Anyways, the song starts out with a thundering, punching drum beat, the riffs jam out right after, and the singer lets out the most crucial line on the record, “Feel free, to think and see, feel free to be you, and I’ll be me!”  A traditional hardcore/youth crew breakdown transition builds up to the song, which is heavier hardcore not unlike a less depressing early-era Black Flag.  The song concludes with a punishing breakdown that abruptly stops with everything save for the hi-hat, then the guitar wails out and the singer eviscerates the words to the title of the song “Feel free!”  Then, the riffs and drums continue to crank out sound as the volume on the song slowly fades out.
I wasn’t lying when I said this is youth crew better than even founding fathers Youth of Today, and I stand by it, and add that Face Reality just cranked it up another notch.  Phenomenal.
-Aunty Social

Bone Dance- self titled LP review

Bone Dance- self titled LP review
What a phenomenal piece of work crafted here- this has become one of m yfavorite go-to records for all-around situations:  Angry, tired, productive, bored, you name it.  Bone Dance’s self-titled record fits ‘em all.  For a while, this band had left me feeling the need for more- their CDEP only has three songs, and the split LP they released with two other bands only had two.  Not much to go on, sad to say.  However, this record does more than whet the appetite- this is the gift that keeps on giving.
Some albums try to genre-bend and mix multiple different kinds of sound into one, relatively unique one- most don’t do well at it, but this record does that and more.  Mixing hardcore, metal, crust, and noise music, this is pretty fucking unique, sound-wise.  The guitars rings of groove metal and heavy hardcore riffs, the bass is clear and crunchy, the drums easily and seamlessly transition from fast to slow to medium and right back to fast, and the vocals, though cacophonous, are not indistinguishable from the words he utters.  This band knows just what they are doing, and despite being very mad at the world, retain their lyrical intellect and complexity.
The albums kicks off with “Comfort”, and the chaotic, brutish, raw vocal “Wait your turn to become NOTHING!” as the guitar growls on in rather loudly to roar the song off to a brutal start, maintaining the force throughout, and the intro line periodically being recited, as though to drill it into one’s mind.  “Burnout” and “Conniver” creek in the doorway with creepy curst-influenced hardcore tunes filled with vigor and an unquestionable sincerity to them.  As “Conniver” ends, the sickest, most mind-blowingly psychotic riff comes in; it’s as though a mosh pit o murder massacre was in mind when it was conceived.  This riff will make one lose their mind and all self-control- that’s how powerful that 10-second (or so) riff is.  “Writhing in Ecstasy” continues to pound away in blissful riffage, never to relent or relinquish a great degree of the brutality the intro riff possesses.  “White Guilt” is a layer piece, one successfully delivering the shorter blasts to the end of the first side of the record with a sinister symphony not quite of epic proportions, but perhaps not far from it, either.
The second side begins with “West”, which barrels through with the same sonic intensity as the first song- an appropriate place to put such a punishing song.  The song drags on for a while, enough time for the point of the song to get embedded as a seed, to blossom or become a blemish as the listener adapts to it.  “Children Having Children” and “Barren” are a sad but oddly optimistic (at least sonically- the lyrics are a different matter entirely) set of tales, one of which is about teenage pregnancy and how rampant it has grown to be (honestly- even Boise, Idaho must not have a lot going on to encourage kids to be knowledgeable and pragmatic about sex).  Someone had to say it, and I’m glad it was a band as angrily brutal but provokingly thoughtful as Bone Dance to say it.  “The Skinny” begins as many of the other songs on the record do, but this is one… this one ends with a raspy, helpless, insane catcall of “Regret!” that is at times at times alternated with a despondent, high-pitched shriek of the same word- a great ending.  Finally, “Feral” closes out the album, and this feels the heaviest and most complex of all the songs on this record, and also happens to be the longest of them all as well, at just over five minutes.  In that relatively long period of time, the band never gets boring or cliché, or even mediocre.  This song rips just like the rest of ‘em.
As high a regard as I do hold “Master of Reality”, this is my new go-to record for every high, low, middle, and breathing moment of life.  Not only one of my favorite records of 2012, this might just be one of my most notable and favorite records of all-time.  Time will tell, but I’m not bored yet- I hope I never am.
-Aunty Social

Hoax- 3rd EP review

Hoax- 3rd EP review
Fuzzy, mid-tempo, angry as FUCK hardcore from western Massachusetts.  The vocals are raspy, desperate, rage-filled short blasts of the ugliest thoughts imaginable.  The guitar buzzes along, being the background noise for the words the singer spits.  The bass is the low end of the buzzing saw, though it is a sound created independent of the guitar, distinct but barely so.  The drums usually just plug along, alternating between sludge-metal slow or punishing punk rock fast.  It’s hardcore punk as it should always be.
“Discipline” is the slogan song of the record, consisting of only a few lines- Joseph Goebbels once said that the key to successful propaganda is to take a piece of a complicated issue, simplify it to one’s advantage, and repeat, repeat, repeat.  That’s what this song does, and it teaches a self-reliant, independent, efficient mindset, an important one to have.  This song never picks up the pace, instead slowly trudging along to clearly communicate its point.  “Fantasy” is a complex psychological tale of how the mind works in the land of the unreal- an experience we all undoubtedly have had both on and off drugs.  The beat is very similar to the first song, but it does pick up the pace at times.  The words truly have to be read to be understood- they are a real mindfuck, especially as the singer spews them with all the venom of a king cobra.
“Stuck”- the tale of our lives being individuals, fuck-ups, and losers.  Again, the song plugs along at a slower pace, but it never needs to pick up- the sincere frustration and frivolity of life is easily understood at a slower pace- this is the most brutal, intense, pissed-off song on the record.  “Free the Land” is another odd tale, but it is the fastest of the songs on the record- it is about freeing the world of nature from its owners, mankind.  Interestingly enough, it isn’t a direct, poised attack on man, but a subtle suggestion done with all the vigor of one who is posing a direct attack on man for his actions.  A killer tune, though not as much so as the rest on the album.  Perhaps I will come around.  Still, it is by no means weak- it is a fucking ripper.
This is my current favorite band- lyrical relevance, the vocal driven sound done over top of the fast/ mid-tempo speed of buzzsaw hardcore.  Count me in as a rider on the fan bus for this band.  A fantastic EP through and through.
-Aunty Social

The Cray Crays- White Sand EP review

The Cray Crays- White Sand EP review
Ringing heavily of garage rock and punky psychedelic stuff, this is the kind of band that might have opened for the Stooges in the 60s.  Strikingly simple, but pleasant to the ear nonetheless.  The music is almost constantly shifting, never staying with the same riff for very long before transitioning.  The vocals on this are almost distant, removed from the music playing in the background.  It’s definitely an intended effect, but I don’t believe the early style of music was intentionally like this.  The guitar is clean, clear, and rhythm-heavy, a weirdo surf rock influence very present in the sound.  The bass is not quite matched up with the guitar level-wise, but it sounds bouncy and keeps the rhythm flowing.  The drums keep a mid-tempo beat, but manage to do their own thing in some instances as well.  The lyrics are not complicated, but are much like the simple garage rock they emulate.  I wasn’t crazy about this EP, but I see some promise for potential here.  If nothing else, this is soothing, fun, and entertaining music to have in the background.  I want to hear what these guys do next, because barring all else, I fucking love the band’s name.  Keep an ear and eye peeled.
-Aunty Social