Call of the Void – Dragged Down a Dead End Path

PrintBack in the day, we would have called this hardcore. It doesn’t use metal riffs, and unlike metal songs, it doesn’t build an atmosphere of heaviness. It throws out a sense of distraction and then hammers you with it. Not surprisingly, it’s verse-chorus all the way in riff pairs, and the vocalist does that shouted vocal that sounds like a frustrated drunk person trying to explain something.

Much of it is expansive hardcore in the style of later Disfear with some overlap with newer Napalm Death, meaning that the ranting eventually picks up intensity and you get a trudgy-churny part over which there’s meaningful chanting. It isn’t bad at all. However, more than about four minutes of it results in scrambled brains, because it’s essentially about hammering out one message and then looping it.

This might appeal to fans of bands like Tragedy who want poignant moments of voices raised in protest with their riffs. It makes the mistake all modern music does, which is that by turning all the intensity up to eleven, it ends up with an intensity of a constant one as it drones on in the background. All instruments are competent.

Antigama – Meteor

antigama-meteorHardcore music shows us the paradox of the individual and the group. The more individualistic someone is, the more they want the group to like them. But to do that, they need to fit in, even if being ironically “different.” This phenomenon ate up hardcore music as former anarchists found out that soliciting support for their bands was a lot like, well, capitalism and politics.

Since that time, stretching from the dawn of the 1980s to late in that decade, hardcore has been contorting to find a new voice for itself. The best candidates came out of the late 1980s post-hardcore bands, who essentially “got postmodern” by deconstructing music into lots of simple bits put together into something bigger. But instead of becoming complex, it became disconnected, dissassociative and chaotic.

After that point, and the onslaught of grindcore, hardcore headed further into the breakdown model. How chaotic could something be before it fell apart? In the late 1990s, they reinvigorated the genre with a dose of metal, which gave it more complex riffing, but still the songwriting aspect of this new genre was elusive. One reason some bands around here get praised is that they’ve tried to make songs coherent again.

Into this drops Antigama, who use the techniques of the current time but are trying to get back to the punk ideal of simplicity. They use the math-metal slash “progressive hardcore” (emo/indie) riffs as much as the next band, and they feature the frenetic vocals that match eight syllables to each beat and stay slightly ahead of the beat as if commanding it like propaganda through megaphones. However, these songs are at heart very much in the classic hardcore vein of verses and choruses and, when a point has been established, some kind of break (not breakdown) before repeating.

The problem is that the “collage” mentality afflicts them still. Under this mentality, it’s bad to have too much focus on any one thing, but better to be open to everything. Thus you mix it all in your music, throwing in as many radically different things as you can to maintain high contrast. Antigama do this more as the album goes along (was this written in studio?) tossing in bits of hard rock, jazz, blues, and other genres.

The first half of this album is really the part to listen to, which is some good and focused hardcore dressed up as metalcore (the hybrid of metal and hardcore that focuses on high contrast through abrupt changes to unrelated riffs). If this band thought through this situation further, they might pick up where hardcore left off actual experimentation, and try some more complex but structured song forms or more articulated riff styles.

Like most record reviews, this one is essentially a “it’s good if you like this style.” This means the band are competent, but when dialogue is about style only, it means that the content wasn’t there enough. What did this record express? Better than average participation in metalcore by a band that should’ve written hardcore music instead and completed the album before getting into the studio.

Integrity – Those Who Fear Tomorrow

integrity-those_who_fear_tomorrowIn the early 1980s, punks had a wary attitude toward metal because they saw it as commercializing their music. As I finally get around to hearing Integrity’s Those Who Fear Tomorrow, I see their point, although it’s not an important one.

Merging punk and metal, Integrity add faster riffing and more complex song structures, as well as lead guitar noodling and a vocal attack that sounds like it is designed to be a more extreme version of the “Age of Quarrel” vocals from the Cro-Mags. It ends up sounding like something Phillip Anselmo could have used as his blueprint for his vocals with Pantera, in that it adds more of the confrontational shouted and chanted vocals and de-emphasizes anything like singing.

Staccato riffing with the choppy-edged sound of muted strum down-picking in the style of speed metal rounds out the package. Integrity likes to add broad spaces in their songs, such they hit with a riff and vocal attack, then pull back vocals and downplay instrumentation so there’s a pocket that draws in our attention. It is catchy but its repeated use lessens its effectiveness.

While there is probably nothing to be feared from commercialization here, as it makes for songs with more hook and polish, it is also in a genre different from punk and metal. These songs mostly follow pop song format, are mostly hook, and lose the total alienation of punk and the transcendental imagination of metal. For a hard rock or pop punk listen however, it’s a channel of rage that many will find appealing.

Neurosis “Of Honor Found in Decay” European tour

neurosis-honor_found_in_decayNeurosis got a bad rap among metalheads because most of us got introduced to this innovative band at the peak of their career, when metal journalists and radio were pushing the metalcore trend and wanted us to consider Neurosis part of that movement.

The reality is more complex. Neurosis started out as a terrifying hardcore band with completely alienated approach to modern living, and has since then continued to grow and develop, forging a new style of hardcore-metal hybrid.

Music around them has tried to catch up, but when you’re ahead of your time as much as Neurosis has been (consistently) over the last two decades or so, patience is required. However, more people are warming to the radical sounds and ideas of this innovative band.

Of Honor Found in Decay, the most recent Neurosis album, has spawned a European tour worthy of such a vast musical effort.

NEUROSIS Honor Found In Decay European Tour

  • 5/24/2013 Primavera Sound Festival 2013 – Barcelona, Spain
  • 5/25/2013 La Grande Halle de la Villette – Paris, France w/ Swans
  • 6/21/2013 Hellfest – Clisson, France
  • 6/22/2013 Eurocam Media Center – Lint-Antwerp, Belgium
  • 6/23/2013 Substage – Karlsruhe, Germany
  • 6/24/2013 SO 36 – Berlin, Germany
  • 6/25/2013 Grey Hall / Christiania – Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 6/26/2013 Betong – Oslo, Norway
  • 6/27/2013 Byscenen – Trondheim, Norway
  • 6/28/2013 Bravalla Festival – Norköpping, Sweden
  • 6/30/2013 Palladium – Warsaw, Poland
  • 7/01/2013 Lucerna Music Bar – Prague, Czech Republic
  • 7/02/2013 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany
  • 7/03/2013 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany
  • 7/04/2013 Magnolia – Milano, Italy
  • 7/05/2013 L’Usine – Genf, Switzerland
  • 7/06/2013 Rote Fabrik – Zürich, Switzerland
  • 7/07/2013 Eurockeennes Festival – Belfort, France

Vomitor – Bleeding The Priest

On first listen some would easily assume that this release were a mere product of nostalgia of underground metal of the 1980′s, at least indicated so by the production and indication that are present here. However this is death/speed/black metal firmly rooted in the underground crossover tradition of the 80′s and retains a firmly Australian sound to it. A good description of Vomitor‘s output would be the the epic thrashing of national pioneers Slaughter Lord and the crusty, retrograde execution and production that was witnessed on Spear Of Longinus‘ brilliant ‘Domni Satnasi’ album. Seeing as Vomitor have two members of SOL in their line-up this overlap is of no surprise, and gives Bleeding The Priest a similar quality of riffcraft and execution, which is atavistic but is well versed in older styles of metal. The attitude of this release evokes German speed metal, doing the early works of Sodom and Kreator strong justice, and the manner in which catchy guitar sequences are utilised sometimes evokes Razor, had they been influenced by Possessed rather than Motorhead. A thoroughly consistent work, Bleeding The Priest stands strongly as a milestone of Australian metal, a like a few other traditionalist acts within this genre serves as proof of ability to make new waves from trodden water, rather than being a ‘re-hash’. Very good.


Nuclear Assault – Game Over

Taking the NWOBHM informed song structures that defined speed metal and the muted, percussive power chord led riffs that were the pattern language of the speed metal underground, Nuclear Assault incorporated elements of crossover punk and thrash into their music. Guitars have a sharp, grating and garage like-tone amidst the clear sounding and well thought out bass guitar lines of Dan Lilker. John Connelly’s punk falsetto is excellent, a gravelly yet apocalyptic wail that amuses yet inspires.

Lyrically this takes the satire one could associate with crossover acts such as Adrenalin O.D. and Fearless Iranians From Hell, and rather than solely attempting to amuse us, makes for relevant social commentaries that reflected and mocked the issues that were heavy on the American subconscious, amongst mildly apocalyptic themes that still were embedded in the Cold War’s late phase, warning of post-nuclear desolation.

Short, humoured and abrupt songs such as ‘Hang The Pope’ and ‘My America’ resemble a more aggressive take on the thrashings of DRI and Millions Of Dead Cops, whilst ‘Sin’, ‘Stranded In Hell’ and ‘Brain Death’ are richly melodic and have a brilliant sense of irony, and almost reminds of Iron Maiden stripping themselves of romanticism in the wake of an uncertain, primitive future.

This is commonly also available with the follow-up EP ‘The Plague’ on CD format and compliments the excellence of their full-length. In addition, this is a timeless and influential metal album that summed up the hopes, dreams and fears of 1980’s America in less than an hours worth of material, and is absolutely essential.