Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How the mighty fall

I wanted to do this straight after the show Caliban played last Friday but time constraints have restricted me from doing so, but better a little late then never and the show is still fresh in my mind.

Caliban were an important band for me, back when I was beginning to discover the more underground metallic hardcore bands at the start of this decade, they were one that I become enamoured with instantly. Thanks to 'Vent,' 'Small Boy and a Grey Heaven,' and the split with Heaven Shall Burn, they fast became one of my favorites and then when I saw them in 2002, first in London then at the Stormfest in Belgium they solidified their position in my eyes as one of the best European bands.

But what the hell happened? They have managed to sully their reputation and everything they worked for in the past 3 years by releasing terrible albums, desecrating their older material on the second split with Heaven Shall Burn (which if you bought solely for the Caliban material...look I aint going there, I'll just say that it wasn't good), and have become more increasingly sterile, lifeless and above all painful to watch each time they play live. Case in point being said show show last Friday in London with Bleeding Through and All Shall Perish (who smashed it), where for the entirety of their set, I was left wondering A) why does this band continue, and B) why am I here watching this? I stayed to banter with some old heads and call out for old songs but after the final song being I made a swift exit from the venue, trying not to get swamped by the amount of excess hair flopping around from the dodgy toni & guy haircuts.

In spite of these ill feelings towards the current Caliban, it doesn't stop me from regularly spinning their material up to and including 'Shadow Heats.' For years though, one record eluded me, one that I couldn't profess to owning and one that I always wanted to have so that I could complete their golden period. So the above rant has been a precursor to the real focus of this post, the self titled EP from 1998. Tracking this bastard down has not been easy nor economical, thanks to I finally managed to do so this year thus ending years of searching and years of frustration (once I thought I had found it but when the package arrived, it was another Caliban, one that played Celtic folk and with the worst cover art ever...).

Of all of their output, this EP is certainly their most visceral, bestial and direct, its hard to believe that the same man who now strains 'WHERE IS YOUR LOVE???' was responsible for the demented shrieking found here. Musically this is mid 90s new school hardcore bastardized and defiled, made even more intense and destructive but also coursing throughout the EP's duration is a very sinister atmosphere and feel of the material. At times they remind me of Abnegation here especially the 7 inch that band released on xcatalystx.

Check it, - Caliban - One More Lie Caliban - Sophisticated - Caliban - Empty Silence - Caliban - Ignorance - Caliban - Sick - Caliban - One Day

Although it has been elusive to me for many years, is definitely the best place to source it, I have seen 3 copies of it go on there this year, so even though there were apparently only 1000 copies made, they are out there in circulation, it just depends if you want to pay the hefty price...

In terms of Caliban's future, I presume they will continue producing the material that has been present on their past 3 releases, they announced at the show that a new album is all set for April, where vocalist Andy declared that it will be 'kick ass metal.' No doubt there will be metal, no doubt it will be heavy, but whether it will 'kick ass,' is another matter, rest assured, I won't be itching to find out.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Digging your grave

It's funny how bands change, be it in a respectful manner or to merely cash in on a record buying public who will consume and listen to any old shite. But what's even more amusing is how some of us will stay with a band through thick and then, defending them, naively believing that the next record will be better, a return to the roots, while the others or the realists as I like to call them flee screaming blasphemed remarks and uttering sworn vows to relinquish any association with said band and never ever listen to them again. A few times during my life I have threatened to do so, particularly with the likes of 18 Visions and Caliban who have pushed my patience and granted I hate their newer material and can't stomach seeing them live, but, I do continue to say I like the bands and play their old records regularly and have not sold them for a pittance in a record store or on ebay.

Where am I going with this?

Well I remember quite a few of the London hardcore heads turning quite severely on Belgium's Crawlspace when they released their full length 'Enter The Realm Of Chaos,' via Goodlife (although it was on the subsidiary Final Beatdown and then Soulreaper), declaring that the record was too metal and bad metal at that. Personally, I loved that record, and I would agree with what Ed Goodlife said to me back in 2001, that being it was an update of the Bulldoze style, be it with a hefty injection of primal death metal (very much though the more direct death metal, trust, Crawlspace didnt turn into Nile or Suffocation in terms of their technicality).

Regardless, before the backlash came against the full length, Crawlspace were regarded as one of the premier tuff European bands, and even today, this EP is still heralded as a classic amongst underground heads, so see what you think, - Crawlspace - The Chapter - Crawlspace - Digging The Grave - Crawlspace - Creation Of Hate - Crawlspace - Way Out - Crawlspace - Hypocrite Bastard - Crawlspace - Don't Ged Mad....Get Even!!!!

Whereas the full length is still readily avaliable from the label , but this EP...damn, sorry peeps, its another hard one to find, so watch

Beauty In Chaos

Where to begin with this album? Yet another one that has been with me through good and bad times since its release in 2000 and one that has remained one of my favorites and most played since then. Firstly I think should contextualise Skycamefalling's position in the hardcore landscape. They released their first MCD on Goodlife in the late 90s, around 1998 if I'm not mistaken, it set them as one of the bright new voices of the metallic hardcore explosion during that time and one that had competently grasped the tricky equilibrium of beauty within chaos. Enter the year 2000 and the band bought forth this masterpiece, on Ferret, back when that label were only really interested in metallic hardcore.

10.21 was just shy of an hour in length but despite the longevity, it never drags, never wastes a second to maximize the impact of every note, every beat, every lyric. What makes the record so alluring and addictive is something that I have mentioned before, this being its flow. Skycamefalling were more then adept in composing a flowing record that made it mesmerizing, especially during pieces such as 'The Truth Machine,' and the title instrumental track.

I challenge anyone who denies the credibility of this release, it is a masterwork, and deserves to be owned by anyone that is an enthusiast of metallic hardcore, - Skycamefalling - With Paper Wings - Skycamefalling - The Nothing - Skycamefalling - Healing Yesteryear - Skycamefalling - The Truth Machine

Finding this record is not going to be easy, I believe Ferret were going to be releasing it with a series of other older records on, failing that, keep checking for updates.

However, there are 3 copies of the records reasonably priced here,

Tragically, Skycamefalling broke up in 2002, playing their last (but also first) European show at the Goodlife New Year's fest. Luckily I managed to attend that show and see of one of my most adored bands. Amusingly, I remember some of the members of the band coming to the house where I was sleeping that night, and talking for a good hour and a half to my friend who was letting me sleep there, me, completely exhausted from a day of travelling and dancing was itching to get to bed, but the skycamefalling boys were intent on keeping me (and Birgir) up until the smallest hours of that dark Belgian night, after all, it would have been rude of me just to go straight to sleep on the couch...

Different Shades Of Darkness Part 2

Awwwwwwwwww Kranky, cue drooling, and unfocused rambling and babbling when it comes to my reasoning of how good this label has been since its inception. Labradford have to be one of their flagship bands, releasing all of their best material on the label (although their releases on other labels are also excellent) of which 'A Stable Reference,' stands as their definitive creation.
Accurately pinning down Labradford's sound has always been part of their appeal, not quite post rock, not quite indie and not quite shoegaze but rather a meeting and implementation of the three. Thus creating an alluring, intoxicating soundscape of ethereal beauty that is dangerously addictive and has sometimes left me (especially on days where I have been confined to spending them in bed) to playing the record constantly for several hours.
Yet, their approach and methodology is so simple but so effective, while the cliched saying of 'less is more,' is often a petty euphemism that the artist has decided to water down their music, here the phrase is applicable. Guitars move solmenly and slowly like the thick fog that engulfs London, vocals occasionally ghost through the fog and seldomly a beat of some sort will emerge to provide a rhythmic backbone. - Labradford - El Lago - Labradford - Streamlining

Different Shades Of Darkness

Surprise. For a change, not crunchy metallic hardcore, the complete opposite in fact, totally harrowing black metal from one of Eastern Europe's most productive quarries of grim darkness, Poland. The Polish hordes have always a far rougher style to my ears in comparison to the Norwegians and Swedes who I feel are more clinical, even professional in their execution of black metal. Whereas bands from Poland, Russia, Ukraine etc, focus more on feeling, emotion and atmosphere to distinguish their music.

Ohtar play the kind of black metal that I really connect with, this being the completely misanthropic variation that has a sound that is doomy, dirgy and discerns the listeners wish to be comfortable when listening to this record. The guitars are as sharp as the incision to be found on the unfortunate cover art victim, but simultaneously, the guitars are equally mournful in their tone. Vocally, Ohtar can be best compared to Burzum and thus sits next to Burzumic followers such as Wigrid and Leviathan in post 2000 Black Metal. - Ohtar - Order! - Ohtar - Delighting the edge of the knife

Unfortunately this is totally out of print. I remember picking this up instantly in 2003 as the individual who recommended it forewarned that it was on one of those minuscule black metal labels that do a single 1000 pressing and then disappear into the black metal portal unlikely to return.

Ohtar did go on to record a second album but again, from what I can see, its also out of print, my advice is to watch the likes of and too see if any copies come back into stock (these are my two favorite black metal providers).

If anyone really needs the other songs, hit me up, I'd be glad to send out a copy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Veering Toward The End

Belgium was one of the hardcore Meccas in Europe during the 90s. The early 2000s weren't kind to Belgium though, as there was a severe lack of new blood coming through, fortunately though, in the past few years, old veterans (Arkangel, Congress, Liar) and the next generation (Whatever It Takes, The Boss, Die My Demon), have hit back with stellar records and proved that Belgium is far from a spent force in the Euro Hardcore scene.

The mid to late 90s was its heyday though, epitomized by the H-8000 explosion. However, not all of the best bands came from the heralded H-8000 area. One of the best but often most overlooked and therefore least well known (and appreciated) was Deviate. They were also one of the most prolific bands in terms of putting out records, trust, they didn't need 5 years to follow up an album (Arkangel I'm looking at you and still waiting for the alleged split with Kickback...) and showed a genuine progression from each release. 'State of Grace,' is by far the most complete Deviate album and certainly their most metallic. Its crammed with pummeling, chugging riffs, slamming breakdowns and plenty of heaving double bass, and when all these elements amalgamate, they create a fearsome, crushing metallic hardcore onslaught that is seldom heard these days.

Most importantly though, these are songs that get stuck in your head, and stay stuck for days, - Deviate - Wounds Of Time - Deviate - State Of Grace - Deviate - Circle Of Friends - Deviate - Dawn Of Mankind - Deviate - Walk With Death

I don't recall exactly when Deviate decided to break up, it was around the time their last full length came out in 2002 (The Red Asunder, a very interesting record). From the fallout vocalist Danny went to pursue the awesome Angel Crew, and guitarist Kirby was already a member of Arkangel and Length of Time (who have reformed for one show in Belgium in March, hopefully they will do a record...).

This record isn't too hard to find, if you dig the tunes, you'll find it here for a paltry sum,

The Harder They Come

NYC. Responsible for some of the hardest and darkest music ever conceived, and they don't come much harder or darker then Denied. One look at the cover and one can immediately deduce the sound of this record, that's right, its tough, thugged out, immensely merciless beatdown hardcore, however, there is a small surprise awaiting in the opening'll see what I mean.

No doubt the first word that comes to mind when drawing influences to this band is 'Bulldoze,' and certainly, that band are hugely influential on this EP. However, Denied were able to enter within the essence of Bulldoze without ripping them off. To elaborate, whilst to the casual ear, Denied will sound nothing more then a shameless copycat, those with a more refined listening capacity will hear that this isn't the case. Denied had a darker feel in their riffs, an almost doomy aesthetic that emphasized their heaviness and bought a weighty feel to their sound but also one that was emotive. To me Bulldoze are about pure aggression, Denied have this but I also feel there is much despair in their music, which makes it all the more crushing.

See what you think. Denied - Intro - Denied - Through Pain - Denied - Together As None - Denied - Lies Upon Lies - Denied - Stand Strong - Denied - Drown In Sorrow

Some may find this interesting but this EP was released on Time Served records, none other then Kevone from Bulldoze's label. Sadly, Denied didn't release much more then this EP, which is now out of print, their other official material can be found on two splits, one was with the UK's BDF and came out on Filled With Hate a few years ago, which is actually also out of print. The other was the 'Step To The Plate,' compilation on Thornz records which featured 2 alternate cuts from this EP and 2 other songs.

The latter you can find here

For their other releases, I recommend

Friday, February 02, 2007

The storm of a season

The second of many features to come on Japanese bands, in fact, I should have started with this record first and then moved up to the Loyal To The Grave release. Never mind, things happen for a reason, or some I'm told...Anyway, enough senseless ramblings, background. Statecraft were one of the (if not the) first heavy hardcore bands from Japan. What is indisputable is that they were the first too be playing the 'new school,' hardcore sound, patterned by the likes of Morning Again, Culture, Day Of Suffering, Upheaval (and countless others) etc. They debuted with their first MCD in 1996 entitled 'Never Forget.' Little over a year later they dropped their next MCD on the now deceased xlifesentencex recordings. They become a stable in the Japanese hXc, and believe me, some of the shows from the 98/99 years were chaos, not that I was there, but I saw the pictures. In 2001 they played one of their final shows with the almighty Aftershock and then disbanded, with both guitarists going into Loyal To The Grave.

At the height of their popularity, Statecraft bought forth their only full length, 'To celebrate the forlorn seasons,' during the peak of Belgium's Goodlife Recordings (1998-2002). Today, almost 6 years since I bought it, this record stands as one of my favorite releases of all time. I've lost count of how many times I've listened to it since I bought it way back in 2001 (how time passes) and have many romantic memories of those early years of this decade that are connected to this record. Back then, what first struck me was that this band was Japanese, not European or American, but Japanese, now bearing in mind that my musical knowledge was in its formative stages I was not privy to knowing much about music from more exotic demographics.
Upon putting the CD in my hi-fi I was astounded further, the music was incredible, the lyrics were honest but also serenly uplifting and the packaging was something else too, to that point I had never seen a hardcore band with such unusual artwork which conjured presupposed images of a land that I knew nothing of but felt I now had a piece of it in my hands.

The music itself is monumental, goddamn, its sooooo heavy it moves mountains, but its not just brute force, laced amongst the mayhem are gorgeous harmonies, sharp leads and sumptuous melodic riffs that are concocted from so many different influences that they take a shape all their own. The aforementioned new school bands such as Morning Again (especially) and Upheaval (likewise) were influential, but also the band drew inspiration from sources that were more metallic such as Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, even some black metal bands.

Truly these are some of my favorite songs, they've been with me whilst I was commuting to my shitty full time jobs in 2001-2002, through when I was studying for my degree and wherever I have managed to travel since getting my IPOD at the tail end of 2003, thus, enjoy, - Statecraft - Heaven's Final Deception - Statecraft - Into the snowlight gate - Statecraft - Bloodshed Revolution - Statecraft - Nocturne