Monday, October 12, 2015

GEHENNA - Deathkamp Ov The Skull

Gehenna has steadily been releasing various splits and EPs for over twenty years, but the latest record Deathkamp Ov The Skull may be their most frantic and chaotic yet. The last handful of splits have shown various forms of the band. “Disciple In My Own Image” and “Lord Of The Witch” showcased a nightmarish psychedelic sound that was only previously touched on whilst “Get Fucked Up” and “Within The Peyote Cult” (You can even throw in the split with Integrity because it smashed together both an experimental side and the fast thrash that makes them so recognizable) were fast rippers. 

Combined with the last two or three EPs on Holy Terror records, Deathkamp Ov The Skull is a slow, methodical crawl into the maelstrom. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the opening eponymous track is a true journey. They draw you in that slow build up, teasing that moment where everything melts down and chaos rains. But it doesn't come just yet. Mike Cheese's vocals dominate the soundscape as tortured howls. And it isn't until past the four minute mark that the pace quickens and you're in the midst of an unstoppable attack. Any hint of a lengthy crawl is quickly replaced by pounding drums and squealing guitars. The breakneck speed slides right into the follow up track “First Blood Part II” (Which I think was “Strategic Annihilation” on the highly limited and sought after They Begged For A War lathe cut released a few years back?). 

It's a quick vicious whirlwind. As the music washes over you, it's like being trapped in a storm with no escape. Suffocating and dangerous. To compare it with their previous material isn't fair because for my money, this is them at their most violent but the overall power reminds of a track like “No One Will Miss You” or a “I Made You” off their second full-length Upon The Gravehill. “First Blood Part II” is over in a flash. 

“TormentOrr” is a fucking awesome track. Gehenna enlists Integrity's legendary voice Dwid Hellion and Orr's insane level of riffs to put a brand new spin on an older track. The result is an audio assault on the senses. The combination of Mike Cheese and Dwid on vocals is something truly terrifying – as is the cries of “I'm your tormentor”. It's a killer track and a perfect way to close things out. 

In three tracks, Gehenna reminds the masses why they're one of the best and just how ridiculously good the upcoming full-length is going to be. Whilst they've remained in the shadows a bit over the last couple years, perfecting their plan of attack Gehenna is going to be doing a West Coast tour soon and you'd be a fool to miss out if you have any semblance of a chance to see them. The last couple of records have shown that no matter if it's fast or slow paced, they're going to fucking attack and there's no shelter in sight.  

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

SICK/TIRED - Dissolution

Dissolution is such a strong album that it should've made my top ten list but I didn't really give it a proper listen to just a few weeks ago. So many bands have the word sick in them that I mixed up Sick/Tired and another A389 band Sick Fix. Whilst I like the latter, I wasn't blown away by their last full-length. But as I was looking through new music, Dissolution's cover immediately grabbed me. I've always enjoyed a well done collage whether it be SKV or Dan Rossiter's work. The album starts off with a seven second track and then a minute long contribution from Merzbow. Harsh noise creates a claustrophobic introduction and then Sick/Tired goes on the offensive.

As the record pushes forward, it's the little nuances that stick out such as the riff in "Descent", the Bl'ast cover, and the start-stop moment toward the middle of the "Hit A Wall." And the ridiculously vicious "It's Goodbye" in general. With songs ranging from seven seconds to around a minute and a half, the final three add a much slower feel. "In Articulo Mortis" builds and builds before finally exploding. A short sample in the middle keeps things moving. I love the guitar and the repetitious feel because it never grows stale. Sandwiched between the two longer tracks is a noise composition from Lasse Marhaug, which nicely slides into the closer "The Mires Toll". The calmness disappears into a chaotic mess with an almost Celtic Frost vibe.

Dissolution flies by but like "In Articulo Mortis" it doesn't feel overly long. Sick/Tired blitzkrieg the listener and then leave. While I like their previous full-length (King Of Dirt), what really sold me on this was the production. It's nasty and crusty yet nothing is lost in the mix. The riffs and drumming are savage without drowning out the vocals or bass. I've enjoyed Jennings' previous bands like Urine Cop, Paucities, and Winters In Osaka but Sick/Tired's Dissolution is quickly growing to be one of my go to albums the last month or so.

Thursday, January 01, 2015


As 2014 progressed and Gas Chamber's Hemorrhaging Light record became one of my most played records (And took the #2 spot in my year's top 10 list), it rekindled my appreciation for Running For Cover. The fact that Painkiller released a remixed version of the band's demo this past summer certainly cemented things. In just a few years of actual activity, Running For Cover created a unique and harsh sound that is at times as cold as a winter day in Buffalo. Among a sea of bands playing fast with grim lyrics, there's a special energy that flows through the Dark Well record. It's the same feeling I get when I listen to The Endless Blockade or Iron Lung. The best description I found was on a write up for Dark Well: "This is not for the indie rockers and the idiots who try and write a song. This is for those painfully aware of the shittiness around them."

Like those aforementioned bands - and now Gas Chamber - the unexpected things like the melodic closer "Torture" which really stands out. The Running For Cover demo is a twenty song whirlwind that is absolutely crushing. I don't know if it was the remixing or the fact the only source I previously had was a poor tape rip, but it's an intense experience. "Throw Me Away" especially with the opening lyrics "I've got a rope, I'm ready to die." There isn't a fast song and then sludgy one dynamic that is found on so many other albums from like bands. Aside from "Luke", which has cleaner vocals, the pace is always fast. The songs never bleed together or sound the same either, which again is seriously impressive. The running time leaves you fully satisfied rather than overextends its welcome. Whilst the demo is a more straight ahead attack and lacks a noise element, it definitely foreshadows a level of frustration and viciousness that runs rampant in Dark Well and Gas Chamber.

The lyrics are something that definitely struck a cord. They aren't poetic or flowing but sharp and quick strikes of disgust and vitriol. There's a bluntness to the words akin to Jeff Beckman in Haymaker. They aren't interested in fence-sitting or gray areas. There is a brutal honesty in the lyrics without it coming off hacky or fake angry. It's why "this is for those painfully aware of the shittiness around them" sums things up better than I can.

If there was ever a band that could capture the grim coldness and violence of Buffalo, my vote would go toward Running For Cover. Killer bass, riffs, and crazed vocals are just the tip of the iceberg. It's a complex listen and despite such a short life span, the band helped start one of the most interesting and important bands in hardcore. I'm really glad Painkiller decided to put the demo on vinyl.

Check out a very in depth interview that features Running For Cover, Gas Chamber and what they have in store from the Summer Isle zine here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

PHARAOH - Negative Everything

With a couple of killer records already, Pharaoh is ready to unleash their debut full-length Negative Everything. It's a heavy and doom filled affair with all the tracks clocking in past (Almost) four minutes. Within moments of the opening song "Recease" they build up an absolutely suffocating atmosphere. As "The Slasher" rumbles along, there's a vicious methodical energy and pacing - nothing is rushed and when they're ready to attack, watch out.

"Bartholomew" starting off slow with tortured vocals is one of my favorite moments on Negative Everything. While it retains all the same feeling as the slow and doomy tracks like "Recease", it's a bit more experimental. The distinctive drums, highly noticeable bass driving the opening half is what makes me really enjoy this album. It almost gets a little spacey at times as the song progresses. Then it goes into gnarly territory with the wailing guitar. The string of "Bartholomew", "Crying Mother" and "Drag" may very well be the best twenty minutes you'll hear all year.

The melancholic feel at the end of "Crying Mother" leads into the album's closer perfect. "Drag" is a violent roller coaster that feels like the band is taking any leftover energy and aggression from the first seven tracks and just exploding. Yet as they reach that moment of complete annihilation, they bring it back to a slow tortuous crawl and fade into silence.

The album picks a little from all different sources, there's that groovy touch a la EHG in "Degenerator" and the pissed off snarl of Cursed but Pharaoh keeps things interesting by throwing little surprises at the listener. It's not a patch work of various genres but a very cohesive journey.

Like label-mates Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Pharaoh knows how to sound absolutely immense. There isn't a wasted moment... No riff is muted or lost in the mix. Despite the forty plus minute length, it flies by. I enjoyed the first couple records but wasn't prepared for Negative Everything. With snow coating the streets and the sunlight fading, Pharaoh makes for perfect winter music.

Check out the album on A389's bandcamp page here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Crawling From The Grave

One of my favorite Halloween traditions over the last couple years is Countress' Crawling From The Grave. Each year they release a brand new track in the series. This time around it's "Wandering Gypsy", a near six-minute monster track jam packed with righteous riffs. Like the previous entry ("Summer '79"), the lyrical theme revolves around true crime: the Gypsy Hill killings. Mixing together hardcore with some head-banging metal parts, this might be my favorite Countress offering yet. As the song progresses, there's a QOTSA swagger rock n' roll vibe underneath the manic drumming before turning into a riff overload. If you've checked out the band's proper full-length Ov Sin, then you know what Countress can do. If you haven't, taken a couple minutes and introduce yourself to one of the gnarliest bands going right now. 

Check out their bandcamp page for "Wandering Gypsy" and you can download the track here.  

Countress - Facebook

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SALEM'S POT - Ego Trip b/w Yer Doom

Ego Trip is the latest in a string of recent records from Sweden's Salem's Pot. Their debut full-length Lurar ut dig på prärien didn't leave my turntable for weeks. It was claustrophobic, creepy, and just a generally awesome record (which I reviewed on Halifax Collect). If you're going into Ego Trip thinking you'll be getting another "Dr. Death" or Sweeden... You'll be surprised at what Salem's Pot has up it's sleeve. Both tracks are the shortest they've done but that doesn't mean they don't pack a punch. The title track is probably their catchiest yet. The slow doomy crawl is replaced by a much quicker pace with serious riffs. They waste zero time, immediately throwing the listener into a trippy atmosphere. Even with the unusually short track length, there's no filler. "Ego Trip" really hits it's stride around the two minute mark. It sounds repetitive, but those riffs... So good.

"Yer Doom" is over too soon, coming in at under three minutes. Put simply, it's like a spaced out country jam that sounds like nothing the band has done. Salem's Pot is one of those bands that I try and wait to hear on vinyl first rather than an mp3 so when I put Ego Trip on, "Yer Doom" definitely caught me a bit by surprise. Even with the prominent harmonica, it still has that level of uneasiness and creepiness that makes me enjoy the band so much. It could be the soundtrack to an acid trip spaghetti western.

Riding Easy put both tracks up on their soundcloud page so you can check them out and this is still available in the label's store. If it's anything like the split with Windhand then these won't last long. Support a great label instead of dealing with inflated prices on eBay down the line.

Ego Trip sees Salem's Pot tread into new territory but if this is foreshadowing the future, count me in. [Riding Easy Records]