Friday, October 31, 2014

Young Thug

There are two schools of thought in modern rap:
1.) People who hold up Tupac, Biggie, Wu-Tang as these infallible entities in rap of which all other rappers should be measured against and constantly compared to.
2.) People who understand rap, as a genre, is a living organism that is evolving as time goes on and celebrate deviations from the norm & innovations in the way bars are dropped, chosen lyrical themes, and production techniques.

The first school of thought is criminally flawed in its logic. Why would you even get into music if your pursuit was to worship dead people? This does not mean that people should put their copy of Ready To Die in the trash. The classics are the classics and that is eternal, but are they people that we can take cues on how to live from anymore? Jay Z is not a real person. He is married to Beyonce, owns multiple companies, and has an endless supply of money. The man doesn't even seem to have friends. He exists more as an abstraction in 2014. The same could be said for Outkast. The group's lyrics are quoted by Seth Rogen in his movies, Andre 3000 is a Hollywood actor, and the only gigs they seem to play anymore is on the White America festival circuit (Coachella, ACL, Bonaroo, Firefly, Governor's Ball). The point I'm making is that these rappers that people hold up as genre gods aren't people you can relate to anymore. When one of the biggest criteria for good rap is if its "real" (a term commonly used by the first school), shouldn't it say something about this school's taste that the rap they claim is real is being sung by unreal people? There's a famous adage about Bruce Springsteen and when his career started to go downhill. One day a fan said he didn't like Bruce anymore and a friend asked him why, the fan said "Bruce went from writing songs about people I know to writing songs about people I had only heard about."

The second school of thought is more ambitious in its scope and, while not perfect, is more innovative. One of the most admirable aspects about the rap genre is desire to build on the work of their predecessors as opposed to emulating them. Today's rapper goes into the studio asking himself, "how can I take what I like and bring it to the next level?" This is how we've seen the evolution of the modern rap game from the 80s / 90s NYC / LA scene to the 90s /00s Memphis scene to the 00s / 10s Atlanta scene to the 10s Chicago scene. It is an evolution. Rappers are conscious about their peers and their history and make music accordingly to it. It isn't like in guitar music when a band has a laser focus on a style / genre that they want to sound like and they work toward that end. An example of this in rap is Joey Bada$$, a New York rapper, who was a flavor of the week rapper that tried to bring it back to 1994 in his music. Joey is more the exception than the rule in rap. Other than that, the name of the game in rap is to outdo your peers and your heroes. If you're not trying to do something else, you shouldn't be doing it.

One of the hottest rap scenes ever (and I do mean ever, like it challenges 90s NYC for supremacy) is the current generation of Atlanta rappers. Led by Gucci Mane, the Chairman of 1017 Bricksquad, Atlanta has produced (in the last few years) Future, Young Dolph, Migos, Waka Flocka Flame, Young Scooter, Bloody Jay, Peewee Longway, Rich Homie Quan, and Young Thug. This doesn't even count the producers Atlanta has produced like Mike Will Made It, Zaytoven, and the 808 Mafia. Atlanta is a rap mecca.

22 year old Young Thug is a strange specimen. There's two viewpoints to Young Thug. The mainstream view & the initiated view. The mainstream view knows Thug primarily for his hit tracks "Stoner" & "Danny Glover" which don't really convey Thug's best essence anyway. They spend more time discussing Thug's use of autotune, his vocal delivery, and the "is he or isn't he gay cause it would be neat to have the first gay rapper come out" discussion (despite the fact everybody used their 'first gay rapper' ink for Frank Ocean only a few years ago). The initiated view of Thug paints a more interesting picture. The rapper's vocal style is erratic, it isn't composed and he sounds paranoid when he's rapping. On a lot of Thug's earlier works (the I Came From Nothing series), his themes are a lot more triumphant. He isn't a tortured soul living in this horrible world, as much as he's a guy who survived and life is great. Thug is more a celebration of survival than a eulogy for everything lost. His later works (the 1017 Thug series) bear some of the themes from ICFN but with some maturation to it.

Thug's vocal style is the way it is for one reason: he's a fighter and a survivor. Getting by in life isn't easy and not everyone sounds like Lincoln at Gettysburg when they talk about their struggles. The only thing harder than life itself is talking about it. When you listen to Thug and you hear the erratic / high pitched voice, it's real. What's behind it is real. It isn't a person who bought a compound in Paris to record their next single in seclusion. A lot of Thug's early stuff was recorded in a house in Atlanta with his friends around him. He'd hit a blunt, take a breath, and enter a makeshift recording booth that was probably a closet the producer converted. In a genre of music whose patrons hold realism as its highest virtue, there is no dishonesty greater than trying to deny Thug's authenticity.

Included are the I Came From Nothing & 1017 Thug trilogies as well as Thug's incredible collaboration tape with Gucci Mane, Young Thugga Mane La Flare.

Citizens Arrest

There's a lot that has been made about the musical merit in hardcore punk. Most of this commentary has come from uninitiated parties who hold musicianship on a pedestal and whose connection to music is limited to a place between listening to a Zeppelin record in mono & taking in a performance of a band of geriatric granddad rockers or worse yet, a tribute band. The reality about hardcore punk is that it is a gateway genre for a lot of people. People from this genre go on to bigger and better things. The Beastie Boys went from new jacks who could barely play their instruments to one of the biggest hip-hop acts in the world. Moby went from the Vatican Commandos to becoming a global techno act. Pete Wentz & Andy Hurley were hardline in Vegan Reich before they were in Fall Out Boy. Eric Wareheim briefly featured for Ink & Dagger before becoming a comedy brand name. These are just a few examples. Hardcore punk is the beginning of something. Kids who come from hardcore move on to bigger things, musically or not. This is thanks in part to the genre's DIY ethic, strong sense of community, and grassroots foundation.

Citizens Arrest is a textbook case of kids with potential playing in a hardcore band. The band was always destined for something bigger than just being a hardcore band. Vocalist Daryl Kahan, since Citizens Arrest, has made a name for himself in the world of metal with projects like Assuck, Funebrarum, and most recently Disma. His vocals in Citizens Arrest made it obvious that he would end up in the metal world. He had depth, range, and tone that went beyond hardcore. For all that has been said Sheer Terror & their blending of metal and hardcore, so much more has been left undiscussed about what Citizens Arrest was doing. Citizens Arrest were doing the same thing, only they did it better. Along with Kahan, Citizens Arrest also featured drummer Patrick Winter & future indie darling Ted Leo. Winter's CV is impressive as he featured for Our Gang, True Colors (with Kahan), and Taste of Fear (with Kahan). Ted Leo went on to make a name for himself in the indie rock world, most notably with Ted Leo & The Pharmacists.

Citizens Arrest lasted for only a couple of years (89-91). This is likely due in part to a couple of reasons. First, the band did a lot in a very short time. In only a couple of years they recorded a demo, an incredible EP in A Light In The Darkness (my personal favorite NYHC 7"), and an LP in Colossus. This, while also featuring on a variety of comps. Citizens Arrest's prolific output was merely a reflection of their ambition. Which segues to the second reason: Citizens Arrest were way too talented to continue on. On their records, above all else, you could hear Citizens Arrest's ambition to do more. Be it through Kahan's vocal stylings or Leo's guitar parts, the band was figuring stuff out very fast and it was a foregone conclusion that they were not long for the genre.

Some people say "hardcore is a musician's copout". I have always hated this expression. Hardcore isn't about musicianship. It never has been. It never will be. Hardcore is a genre where kids come to sort themselves out musically and personally. Hardcore kids always go on to other genres. They form metal bands, indie projects, industrial bands, become DJs, or start rapping. People come to this genre to figure themselves out, they stay & come back to never forget where they came from.

Something uninitiated people will never understand about hardcore is that it is more than music. When you listen to Citizens Arrest, you're hearing someone like a Daryl Kahan or a Ted Leo finding themselves. There's a special kind of curiosity and ambition to hardcore that something like contemporary classic rock (I don't think this is a real term, but whatever dorks in 2014 who want to sound like the Rolling Stones classify themselves as) will never understand.

Included is Citizens Arrest's 89 Demo, A Light In The Darkness, and Colossus

Limp Wrist

Hardcore punk is a subculture mired with so much social commentary and gimmickry that, at some point, the lines would eventually have to blur. The relationship between homosexuality and NYHC has been discussed before, particularly the first wave of the New York scene's disgust and contempt for it. This wasn't true for the rest of USHC. Ironically enough, two proto-queercore bands were based out of Texas: The Dicks & Big Boys. For them, being gay in such a conservative locale was a study in absurdity and their lyrics reflected it.

The problem with much of the queercore genre is that a lot of it is more a "gays with instruments" spectacle than it is an actual hardcore experience. The band Limp Wrist, formed in 1998 Albany & led by Chicago hardcore legend Martin Sorrondeguy (of Los Crudos fame), aimed to change that. In an interview with gay publication Frontiers magazine, the band famously declared that "they put the core back in queercore". This statement is put to the test at every Limp Wrist show to this day. A typical Limp Wrist audience has two groups: 1.) hardcore punks who love Limp Wrist and are prepared to mosh and stage dive and 2.) gay normos who are going to support a queercore band. The ensuing result of the show is always the same and is always funny. Hardcore kids stage diving on and moshing into said normos. The normos being upset that their pseudo-political experience has been wrecked by some heathen punks who were out to ruin their good time.

Here's what can be said for Limp Wrist and the modern queercore genre. There's usually two problems with the queercore genre that make it so niche and less accessible and precisely why Limp Wrist are so beloved. First, the politics of the queercore genre get in the way of the music. A lot of the time, a queercore band will sacrifice sound for the message and in the process the only people who will listen to them are other gays. That's all well and good, but you're not really getting the message out as much as you're just preaching to the choir. Second, bands that try to be funny and make it into a joke. To some degree, Limp Wrist is guilty of this. However, for the times the band lacks gravitas, they always make up for it in the music's level of aggression.

After all this time, Limp Wrist are still head and shoulders the best queercore band since The Dicks & Big Boys. Martin does not lack perspective in his lyrics nor does the band lose pace in their sound. They're funny when they want to be and they'll punch you in the mouth when they need to. It is a perfect personification of what queercore ought to be. Forthright, accessible, and, above all else, on their own terms. Limp Wrist doesn't have a mission statement and they don't have a platform. They play fast hardcore with a sharp sense of humor and a mind for the music first.

Included is their entire discography.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


In the universe, there is one absolute law. Doesn't matter if you call it karma, yin & yang, or Newton's law... it's all the same thing. The gist of it is that the entirety of existence is predicated on duality. Underdog's Richie Birkenhead is a microcosm for this duality.

On the one hand, you hear Richie's vocals on Underdog (and especially later on Into Another) and you comment on how beautiful his voice is. If Eddie Sutton had a colleague, as opposed to a contemporary, in vocal stylings, it was Richie. Richie's vocals stood out amid the sea of NYHC bands during Underdog's tenure particularly because of the band's grasp on melody. While other vocalists were trying to punch you in the mouth and drive it down your throat, Richie was the happy medium. He had the harsh nuance of a Raybeez while also possessing the harmony of a Sutton.

To help the band's sound was bass player Russ "Wheeler" Iglay contributing heavily. One of the more unique aspects about Underdog, compared to the other NYHC bands of the day, was the dominant presence of the rhythm section in the band. When we think of NYHC we often think of Stigma, Walter, Parris, Doug Holland, Todd Youth, AJ, and a slew of other famed guitarists. Seldom do we offer high praise for the bass player. When you listen to Underdog, you're hearing Wheeler's control as much as you are the rhythm. This is not to say the guitar work is not exemplary, because it is. Rather than try to write something aggressive or charged up, Underdog's music lets the guitar slide in to complement the grooves from the rhythm section to craft a very specific sound. When you listen to Underdog, you're not confused about who it is.

The duality of Richie Birkenhead is this: for as beautiful as his voice is, he is completely out of his mind and is arguably one of the most intimidating personalities in NYHC history. The most notable Richie story (and this is not an urban legend, this actually happened) tells how Richie's girlfriend got crossed outside of CBGB during a show. Richie went outside and confronted the guy. The guy stabbed Richie in the chest with a screwdriver. Richie shook it off and still beat the shit out of the guy. After finishing the fight, Richie went inside and proceeded to play a show with Underdog. Years later, while with Into Another, Richie was interviewed by the Anti-Matter Zine. One of the questions Norman Brannon asked Richie was how he responded to critics calling him a sell-out for Into Another signing with Hollywood Records (a major label). Richie's response was straight forward enough. He told Brannon that his critics have never been stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver, know nothing about what paying their dues in hardcore actually means, and that he had earned the place he was currently in.

While Richie is a case for duality, Underdog is a case for equilibrium. They were the bridge band for what NYHC had been and where NYHC would be going. Not long after Underdog, much of the first wave of NYHC converted to other styles. Some became crossover acts, others became post-hardcore acts. Underdog's melody and harmony is something that would become foundations for post-hardcore while their aesthetic and presence was still very much New York hardcore. Underdog is the crossroads of both eras and that is something that can never be taken away from them nor ever forgotten.

Included is both Underdog demos and their LP, The Vanishing Point.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bone Awl

There is a famous adage about Bolt Thrower in some circles. It goes by saying that Bolt Thrower basically wrote one riff, but that one riff happens to be perfect so they've made an entire career (a highly successful one) out of it. I don't know how much stock I put into the idea, but there's something to be said about perfect formulas. If a football team draws up a play that leads to a touchdown every time, why would a coach change it up when the name of the game is to score points? That is not to say that every band should try to hone in on a perfect formula and repeat it ad nauseum. Audiences, much like defenses, are apt to figure a band out eventually.

For California's Bone Awl, they perfected a formula in the realm of raw black metal. Utilizing a d-beat influence and taking cues from raw black metal heroes Ildjarn, Bone Awl began in 2002 and have continued on (albeit marginally) to this day. The band is a two piece featuring He Who Crushes Teeth AKA Marco Del Rio (of Raspberry Bulbs fame) on drums & He Who Gnashes Teeth on guitar, vocals, and bass (in studio). For their live shows, the band has outsourced a bass player, often using Eddie Volahn to fill the role.

The band's decade plus career has produced an onslaught of releases. Almost twenty. This kind of output for one band in the realm of black metal at such a torrid pace is unheard of. It is almost two releases a year. The most remarkable fact about Bone Awl's output is the quality. They never dramatically change their style or try to go beyond their own self-imposed mandate.

Bone Awl's music has two components to it. First, the animalistic howls by He Who Gnashes Teeth. There is nothing emotional or articulate about it as much it is viscerally unhinged. The vocals are coming from a place beyond reason and happiness. What's more, unlike most black metal bands, Bone Awl doesn't seek to capture some kind of supernatural element through their music. Everything you hear about Bone Awl is real. Mental instability, the inevitable failure of life, and an air of mystery that speaks more to Nietzsche than it does Lovecraft. Second, the music conducted by the duo. Gnashes' bass & guitar combine to create anxiety. There is a sense of uneasiness to them. The pace and the tone Bone Awl uses make it seem as if something is after them right now (to this point, perhaps they are a little Lovecraftian). The only thing keeping the sanity in the room is He Who Crushes Teeth's drums snapping and changing the pace of the song, as if to tell Gnashes "shut up about it and let's move on to something else" only for Gnashes to delve into another nook of panic and Crushes having to do it all over again. Consequently, there's a lot going on in any given Bone Awl song.

On its face, for a listener, they might think Bone Awl is a stock band. Simply another d-beat band utilizing a flavor of the week gimmick in raw black metal. For the more initiated, listening to Bone Awl is an interesting psychological study. Each Bone Awl song is its own individual psychotic episode. A psychotic episode exists as its own entity. No two episodes are the same. This fact is what makes Bone Awl unique. The songs sound the same but they aren't. To do so at the prolific level Bone Awl was able to makes it doubly remarkable. In the realm of raw black metal, they are at the genre's pantheon with Ildjarn and contemporary Strongblood.

Included here is (to the best of my knowledge) their entire discography. Also included are two live sets.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Detroit, Michigan. Home of Negative Approach, Cold As Life, and 8 Mile Road's Eminem. When people think about Detroit, they think about abject poverty, rampant crime, and an overall despair. People around the USA think Detroit is a pretty terrible place to visit and worse to live in. When you hear Negative Approach and Cold As Life, that's what you're hearing. You hear the pained and despondent viewpoint of people who grew up in a desolate wasteland. That being said, there are parties in hell.

RZL DZL (obviously pronounced Razzle Dazzle), formed by Will Atkin & Haroun Khan, is the expression of two guys who grew up in Detroit but didn't see the world around them as a hell. Instead, they took Detroit and made it their playground. A place to go to house parties, chase girls, and hang out with their friends. Detroit wasn't the world breaking them down into some creature of nihilism like it did to Negative Approach's John Brannon. Instead, the anomie that Detroit presented for the duo gave them carte blanche to have a good time wherever they could find it.

RZL DZL quickly made a home at Boston's Lockin Out Records where their sound (which is the sole heir to the Beastie Boys' Polly Wog Stew legacy), loud persona, and their "ready to party" mentality made them the darlings of the label and the hardcore community. RZL DZL's live show, which features Will, Haroun, and a rotating backing band known as "The Dazzlers", is an unpredictable and wild experience. This is especially true in Texas, a place that RZL DZL has made their adopted home, where the band's shows have included doughnut throwing fights, pool toys, costume parties, a volcano vaporizer ready to go on stage, and an airhorn playing continuously on a loop through the entire set.

The truth about RZL DZL is that they are a Detroit band that exists as the antithesis to what is believed about Detroit. That is not to say they are not true sons of the city, they are. One of the most important tenets of hardcore punk is the rejection of social expectations and norms. Being from Detroit, it is expected of bands to be bleak and tortured. RZL DZL is the rejection of this expectation. They took what was happening in Detroit and they had fun with it.

Included is their Both compilation, their debut LP Strictly Saucers, and the lesser-heard BRZL tape.

Monday, October 27, 2014

No Tolerance

Straight edge has been a facet in hardcore for over three decades. During that time there has been a fair share of bands that have been empowering, embarrassing, and everything in between. From the 80’s youth crew movement, to 90’s hardline, to the late 90’s and early 2000’s youth crew rival, followed by a period of slight stagnation throughout the mid/late 2000’s to another brief youth crew revival around 2010-2011, it doesn’t look like straight edge is going anywhere no matter how many times it fluctuates between being in-season and outdated. I hate talking about straight edge more than most things due to the staggering potential it has to sound contrived and spurious, but the way I see it, one’s faith in this ideology is really tested as you see the travesties people do to diminish the reputation of a movement that you so strongly identify with.

Do you continue to risk your own reputation to associate yourself with something you see as positive no matter how badly other tarnish the name? The terrible clothing brands, the terrible bands, the terrible (face) tattoos, Insted, the list could go on and on. I, myself, am straight edge and am fully aware of these things. If this rubbed you the wrong way, maybe you should take a moment of brief reflection to see if you are contributing to the aforementioned list. Either way, everyone has their reasons; Bringin’ It Down is mine.

Let me explain the purpose of this tangent. In 2014, it really takes something special to perpetuate the flame that was sparked the first time you listened to Break Down The Walls. With so many bands saying the same thing, so many songs sounding the same, so many swing and misses at replicating the sounds of Revelation and Wishingwell Records, where do we find salvation in all of this? I don’t often speak in extremes, but allow me to do so to answer this question. No Tolerance is the best straight edge hardcore punk band since Judge. No Tolerance is that glimmer of light in an indecipherably dark place. No gimmicks. That is No Tolerance summed up in two words. Sure, one might argue that their gimmick is their all-star lineup. My response is this: shut your eyes, open your ears, and listen. If you don’t hear it then you might fall into one of two groups: you might be deaf or you simply might not get it. While everyone was doing Youth of Today, No Tolerance was doing Brotherhood and Confront. While everyone was talking about unity, they were ousting Boston’s sell-outs. I’m not even going to talk about the band’s line-up because if you know where they’re from, you could probably take a good guess on who’s in the band. The fact of the matter is that this a band that doesn’t need any puffery of the music by means of “members of” or “they’re on _______ records”. It doesn’t mean anything.

There are bad bands on good labels and there are bad bands made of members of good bands, but in this instance none of that applies. When you look back on straight edge’s cultural track record, No Tolerance is that shining gem that takes your eyes off of the many blemishes that it sits in between of. The demo and 7” are equally flawless. In fact, there’s only two things about this band that I wish were different: more music and more shows.

Other than that, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.

- Jay Chary

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Hardcore is about respect. Japanese culture is predicated on respect. If you had to describe Bastard in one word, it would be respect. Bastard had a lot working against them by the time they started in the late 1980s Japanese scene. The scene had been going for over ten years and was entering its second wave. The bands from the first wave were all still very prominent forces within the scene. Gauze, Systematic Death, Death Side, GISM, Lip Cream were all still going and performing as well as they ever had. An even bigger challenge for Bastard was their pedigree, or lack thereof, going into the band's formation. Outside of Burning Spirits guitar hero Zigyaku and his time in the established Gudon, the band did not have a lot of notable experience (Koba had just joined Systematic Death before Bastard). This is the most startling aspect of Bastard: three of the four members were relative unknowns at the time of its inception. Consider what they would do after. Koba would continue with Systematic Death and form Rocky & The Sweden. Iizawa would feature prominently in acclaimed Burning Spirits act Judgement (along with Zigyaku) as well as be a part of Japanese supergroup Smash Detox. Tokurow would also join the two in Judgement briefly.

Bastard was a group of stars forming and becoming what they were always meant to be. The band isn't just the best band of the second wave of Japanese hardcore. When people discuss Japanese hardcore, Bastard is right at the top of the conversation. They are in the same breath (and by many, held higher) as GISM, Gauze, and Death Side. This is thanks in large part to the band's assaulting sound. Bastard is as good as they were because they understood they needed to take respect. Taking respect for them wasn't humbling themselves or spending time trying to perfect a sound. It was playing as fast, as hard, and as determined as possible. On the band's "Tragic Insane", the opening song from their debut release Controlled In The Frame, the band sets the tone for what Bastard is. The intro features the sample of a battle and then the drums come in, then the bass, then the guitar awakens with feedback into the opening riff, and finally Tokurow lets out a scream and holds it. Much like a fighter shadowboxing in the ring before the bell sounds, Bastard uses this intro to prepare themselves and the audience for what is about to happen. At the ready, they launch into the frenzied pace that Burning Spirits bands have prided themselves on for decades.

Bastard's music, on both Controlled In The Frame & Wind Of Pain, is what kids with something to prove can do. I don't mean something to prove like "if I do this or that, people will notice me", Bastard took their respect. They knew the challenge ahead of them and their work on both records is the work of kids rising to the occasion. Bastard got in the ring that is the Japanese hardcore scene and didn't settle just being happy to be there or hoping they could release a couple of records. They wanted to make their mark and hold it. That's why their music holds up to this day and is as strong as it is. You can hear Bastard's fight to take respect.

Bastard's 2010 Chaos In Tejas performance is the best show I have ever been to. Their performance was like a band that came halfway around the world to take the respect of a foreign audience. Like soldiers trying to take a hill, they played with a precision and intensity that made it clear there was no room for doubt about Bastard. What's more the audience in attendance, knowing they were finally seeing the almighty Bastard, lifted themselves to a place that went beyond exhaustion and any level of intensity they'd known before. Kids wore themselves down but knew they needed to push further. If they were singing along, stage diving, or moshing... they knew they had to do it harder because this was truly it, there was no tomorrow when it came to Bastard. The result is the best show I have ever been to.

Included is both Controlled In The Frame & their LP, Wind Of Pain.



Intolerance takes many forms. It is a sterile concept that is not defined by its focus. Intolerance is pervasive, closed-off, and lacks any semblance of understanding. Truly, intolerance is the highest level of ignorance.

The 2012 edition of the Chaos In Tejas was slated to feature its usual offering of the world's premier hardcore, punk, and metal bands, both past and current. One band's announcement was initially met with hushed excitement from many of the fest's metal acquired attendees: El Paso's Nyogthaeblisz. Formed in 2002, Nyogthaeblisz has earned a cult following within the black metal world for their reclusive nature (not hard to accomplish living in El Paso, which amounts to a very large truck stop that happens to be on the border) and their specialized sound (with raw / bestial elements that would make Blasphemy proud coupled with some very tasteful use of noise).

In the build-up to the fest, the usual rush for the aspiring pretentious festival goer to research all of the bands playing so they wouldn't get caught looking ignorant was on. Chaos In Tejas attracted a variety of types to the festival. One of the more unfortunate types are the "I still think punk is a platform to fight the good fight politically" PC punk type. The 2012 edition featured anarchopunk legends The Mob & Antisect, so the festival promised to have more PC crust punks than usual in attendance. As kids started to research the lineup, they found "irregularities" in Nyogthaeblisz's background. First, they were on the label Satanic Skinhead Propaganda. The label, run by the oft maligned Antichrist Kramer, had a reputation for releasing questionable / sketchy music. Second, Nyogthaeblisz's lyrics made crushing commentary about the Jewish faith, though not specifically limited to it. The criticism / outcry from many parties quickly became deafening. The height of this outcry was when The Mob / Antisect both threatened to walk out of the festival and drop if Nyogthaeblisz was not dropped. Eventually, the festival's promoters made a tactical decision and relented. They dropped Nyogthaeblisz. For the PC types, this was seen as a victory. Defeating the evil that is intolerance and racism wherever they may find it.

Here is what was wrong with happened.

First, the argument against Nyogthaeblisz for being on SSP . It was interesting that Nyogthaeblisz was singled out for being on SSP while fellow 2012 Chaos In Tejas performer Black Witchery was also on the same label (a fact that was ignored by many). In addition to Black Witchery, 2010 headliner Inquisition also had a working relationship with Kramer & SSP. A working relationship with SSP doesn't actually have any political or philosophical implication. Simply put, Kramer is a highly respected artist within the realm of metal & noise and people want to work with him because of it. This isn't supernatural. SSP is a small boutique label that does small releases so bands can have an opportunity to work with Kramer. No bands stay on there. Case in point: Black Witchery has since joined Osmose Productions, Inquisition to Seasons of Mist, and Nyogthaeblisz to Hells Headbangers.

Second, the argument that Nyogthaeblisz is an Antisemitic band. This argument is a little more complex and a bit indicting of the intelligence of the average punk. Nyogthaeblisz's lyrics DO attack the Jewish faith. That being said, they also attack Christians & Muslims. Nyogthaeblisz is what you would call Anti-Abrahamic. To be Anti-Abrahamic is to decry the three monotheist faiths that all have direct connections to the prophet Abraham. This includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In recent years anti-religious aesthetics within the subculture have been all the rage. Particularly stuff like god free youth, upside down crosses, and allusions to Satan. At least on the hardcore punk side, people have limited themselves strictly to Christianity as the target. In the sphere of black metal, Anti-Abrahamic bands are more common and, frankly, make sense as they take the anti-religious sentiment full circle. For a myopic punk, they just hear "Anti-Jewish" and, without context, immediately brand the perpetrator as a racist.

What happened to Nyogthaeblisz was a textbook case of what people who are intolerant of intolerance do. You've heard stories about Antifa protests at shows over the years. Antifa members calling the police (the ultimate cardinal sin in the subculture) on shows they protest, intimidating attendees of shows they protest, and threatening promoters for their bookings of questionable acts. None of this is okay. This kind of Kristallnacht, lynch mob, seeing red mentality at the mere possibility of questionable content is not okay. Nyogthaeblisz was judged and attacked without even getting to issue a statement in their defense. The biggest tragedy of the anti-racist position is the claim of a higher understanding / intelligence that their racist opposition lacks. If this higher understanding / intelligence truly existed, the research on Nyogthaeblisz would not have stopped at Anti-Jewish, but arrived at Anti-Abrahamic. What happened to Nyogthaeblisz wasn't the triumph of good over evil. It was one side becoming what they hated to root out an entity that they did not understand.

The band has a few releases out. Two of them were put on a 2009 compilation entitled Apocryphal Progenitors of Mankind's Tribulation. The other is a split with the Brazilian act Goatpenis entitled Terroristic Onslaught of Humanicidal Chaos. It is some of the more interesting black metal to come from the USA in quite some time. Included is both releases. Enjoy.


NYHC is more than a genre of music. Bear with me and let me clarify what that sentence means, because I am well aware of how cloying that sentence was. NYHC is more than a genre of music; it’s something that can tell you a lot about someone depending on their answer regarding who their favorite NYHC band is. You see, everyone knows what’s on the surface of NYHC. Agnostic Front, Madball, Cro-Mags, Gorilla Biscuits, anyone who has attended a hardcore show could continue the list by naming off some of the shirts that they saw. However, peel back the outer layer. Then peel off another one. Here lies a treasure trove of bands that never managed to make it to the limelight, let alone the radar of many extreme music enthusiasts. It might be the brevity of their discography. Maybe it’s their short-lived career before they went on to other bands. Either way, it’s an honest anomaly how these bands, I’m talking about bands like Fit of Anger, NY Hoods, and in this case, Altercation, managed to write better songs as young teenagers than many grown adults in current day hardcore. Before you write the rest of this off due to the last statement, let me give you my substantiation. Altercation’s 1987 demo: 7 songs of often imitated, never duplicated hardcore songs. Walter Schreifels truly hit the nail on the head:

“Altercation were so amazing that they scared me. They were so good, but so evil and fucked up. There was a second there when I thought the dark side just might win. Altercation were fucking awesome Brooklyn skinhead metal. It was the first time I ever heard meal techniques in hardcore, like a proper guitar squeal. Biohazard probably capitalized on their spirit, but say what you will about them, I think that Altercation was about a million times better.”

Brooklyn skinhead metal. I could leave it there and let a title like that speak for itself, but allow me to delve further. Altercation to me means unparalleled guitar work (see: the solos in “Brain Dead” and “Vigilante Song”).  Altercation to me means a band that the guitarist’s girlfriend wrote some of the lyrics, but the band is so good that you can’t knock it, even in the slightest. Altercation to me simply means innovation. They were often compared to Breakdown due to their harder nature, but I find it interesting that they dropped demos the same year and one went to achieve high acclaim while the other was left for people to find and later have them wondering what took them so long to find it. Granted, Altercation only played 4 shows before they disbanded, but I could honestly say with a straight face that Altercation should have been the band with the highly coveted “87 Demo”, not Breakdown. I was lucky enough to be there to witness Altercation’s fifth show ever at the Black N Blue Bowl in New York City during May of 2013. To prevent me from going on a long, enraged tangent that would require a post of it’s own, let me just say that their response was painfully underwhelming. As soon as the announcement was posted and the rumors were true that Altercation was actually playing, there was a brief surge in the interest in the Altercation demo, only to be followed by being able to count the number of people moshing to them on my fingers. Is anyone actually surprised though? Either way, they sounded tight, heavy, and overall just perfect. They mentioned that they might be recording new music (which part of me hopes isn’t true) and they would be playing more shows (which hasn’t happened yet). We’ll see what is in the future (if there is a future at all) for one of NYHC’s greatest hidden treasures. In the meantime, have a spiritual moment with these tracks. I’m usually not one to care about live/rehearsal tracks, but they’re all so good. “Getting Away With Murder” is a song that I use my two 11:11 wishes daily to wish that was the 8th song on the demo.

- Jay Chary

Friday, October 24, 2014


Ringworm is a blessed band. Blessed with talent that not many hardcore bands have been able to possess. Blessed with larger than life personalities whose names are held up by the foundation of legend. Blessed for being in the Dark Empire Clevo scene. It goes on and on. For every blessing in life, there's always an albatross and the albatross in Ringworm's life can be described in one word: Integrity. Through no fault of Ringworm's (or Integrity's, for that matter), as time has gone on and the history of hardcore is being written (and rewritten), Ringworm has been overlooked as just some band that played Integrity's style of hardcore. Here's what you need to realize about Ringworm: they were not a band chasing Integrity trying to keep up nor were they just some band. They were Integrity's equals and, in some instances, better. That's why it borders on offensive when modern hardcore kids talk about Ringworm as just another "Holy Terror" band, as if they are some disciple of Integrity's, on the same footing as a Pale Creation. The modern discussion about Ringworm's place in history sorely lacks perspective.

For as much as Integrity held up their sketchy business like a trophy for audiences to 'ohh' & 'ahh' over, Ringworm went about their business quietly. If Integrity is the loudmouth at the bar who tells you they will beat you up if you mess with them, Ringworm is the quiet guy sitting at the corner of the bar with a knife stashed in his jacket sleeve waiting for an excuse to put it in your neck. Integrity is the flashy, sexy choice between the two, no argument there. What Integrity has in the way of urban legend, Ringworm has in spades with mythology. Their vocalist Human Furnace won't explain how he got the nickname. People who know the story won't repeat it. Frank "3Gun" Novinec (formerly of Terror, now Hatebreed) was guitarist for the band in their prime. 3Gun's nickname has its own story. It goes that in the 1990s, when all of Cleveland was odds at with much of the Northeast, 3Gun was playing a show somewhere in upstate New York in a town with a heavy crew presence. The crew had a problem with Cleveland and was preparing to make something of it. 3Gun, alerted to the threat, saw some of the crew's members and lifted his shirt to reveal three handguns tucked into his waistband. He simply asked "do we have a problem here?" causing the crew to immediately back off. The story personifies Ringworm. Armed to the tooth, ready and willing to fight, but not prepared to do a song and dance about it. It is easy to see then why people gravitated toward Integrity because of their boastful nature, but it doesn't make it less egregious that so many people overlook the institution that is Ringworm.

The Promise & Birth Is Pain are hardcore classics. The Promise is, in my opinion, the best metal influenced Cleveland hardcore album. It has so much going on in it and it doesn't let up. The Promise's guitar work shines from the moment the album opens by the sample declaring "there is no god" into "Numb / Blind To Faith". 3Gun's guitar work is that rare kind where it becomes a force unto itself speaking like a second vocalist. It is almost like 3Gun is conscious of the stoppage in Human Furnace's vocals and seizes the opportunity to take over. Human Furnace's vocals have a tinge of anxiety in them. Not anxious like "I'm nervous that I'm recording right now" but in the way that there is a sense of grave clairvoyance to his lyrics. For as strong as the guitar work is on The Promise, Chris Dora's drum work on Birth Is Pain is equally exceptional. From the minute the album starts, Chris Dora's drums attack. When you hear bands like Connecticut's Palehorse, who are heavily influenced by the Cleveland sound, and the remarkable drumming jumps out at you, know that you are hearing something influenced by Chris Dora.

Ringworm is still gigging today (they're actually playing Dallas tonight). While the lineup has had some changes, some things are still the same. Human Furnace is still the imposing force he has always been. The music is still talented as it is dynamic. Above all else, their work ethic has never declined. They still release albums (great ones, which is saying something) and they still tour relentlessly. Ringworm is important because they are important. Some bands demand value and credence because of how long they've been around despite sometimes being unremarkable. Others demand respect because of their locale. Ringworm do neither. They just write good music and let that do their talking for them.

Included is The Promise & Birth Is Pain.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Is Biohazard the most successful hardcore band ever? Think about it. They were on Roadrunner Records, they toured the world on some of the biggest tours (notably the inaugural Ozzfest), their frontman Evan Seinfeld was a legitimately successful actor appearing as Jaz Hoyt, leader of the biker gang, on HBO's Oz for much of the series. Their song with the rap group Onyx on the Judgement Night (1993 movie with Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr) soundtrack was the standout track.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Biohazard formed in 1987. The band spent the first few years trying as hard as they could to impress Peter Steele. That's not casting shade. That's what members of Biohazard said to deflect accusations of racism on their early material (notably the song "Master Race" off their 1988 Demo). They dropped their debut self-titled album in 1990 on Maze Records. The album is good but often unsung. Discussion of the self-titled album is often the mark of a die-hard Biohazard fan. The album is still a 'figuring-out' period for the band but displays much of the promise that would be realized on Urban Discipline. Once Biohazard stopped trying to sound like Carnivore and the other crossover bands that made up late 1980s New York and started to loosen up and be themselves (which they began to do on the self-titled), they were able to hit their stride.

A lot of people will say Sepultura's Chaos AD is the progenitor of groove metal. I don't agree with that. I think the 1992 release Urban Discipline has more of what would be going on in groove metal later. It has a lot of hip-hop influence to it, a lot more focus is paid to the rhythm section, and you can just plain dance to it. Urban Discipline is as raw as it is catchy. The dramatic introductions and breakdowns on its songs incite a level of aggression that many bands have never captured. When Billy Graziadei hits the first note on "Punishment" and holds it, something changes. Very few bands are able to write something that can change the entire complexion of a room with one note. That's "Punishment". When that guitar hits, the room explodes. On the eponymous "Urban Discipline", you are taken on a tour de force of what Biohazard actually is. There's Evan frantically rapping the chorus, telling you about life in Brooklyn, only for Billy to abruptly take over with a riff. Billy's riff on the breakdown of "Urban Discipline" is something else. Literally. There's nothing on that song that tells you it's coming. It is not a refrain of the intro. When it hits, the question is not "can I move to this?" The question is "how fast and how hard can I move to this?" The band goes along with it and, with gang vocals, they tell you in a whole new chorus what life in Brooklyn is about. That's what about Biohazard was about in the early going (until State of the World Address). It was something real. The music sounded like it had seen some shit. The vocals, with the subtle nuance that most rappers bear, told you all about their lives and the world they live in.

State of the World Address is more of the same, albeit old hat. It isn't a bad album. It is quite good. It was just Biohazard trying to make Urban Discipline happen again. There's some standout tracks that definitely reach the quality of its predecessor (most notably "Tales From The Hardside"). What happened to Biohazard after that is the success caught up with them. Self-awareness, buying into their own stock, etc. Tale as old as time in the realm of aggressive rock. Biohazard has an even grimmer spin on it because of the impact success had on Evan Seinfeld himself. He lost his mind. Aside from Oz, Evan married porn star Tera Patrick. This paved the way for Evan to enter the porn game himself, which he loved, a lot. How much did Evan love porn? His porn star wife left him because he wouldn't give it up. Put that in perspective. Eventually, Evan would be kicked out of Biohazard (the band is still going today without him).

Much like a good relationship that went on too long and eventually waned to bitterness and an unceremonious ending, that's Biohazard. We'll always have the memories though. Included is their debut self-titled album, Urban Discipline, State of the World Address, and the 1988 Demo.


I could fit the amount of misconception about black metal into the Grand Canyon. One of the single worst conversations I ever had on the genre was at a bar in Denton some years ago. I asked this self-proclaimed black metal expert if he was going to this Proclamation (very good Spanish black metal band) show in Austin. His answer still haunts me to this day, "nah man, when I listen to black metal I always do it alone. It is such a viscerally individual experience. I can't share that kind of catharsis with a crowd of people at a show." It was legitimately the worst answer to a simple, honest question I'd ever heard. I never spoke to the guy again. Worse yet are the Lords of Chaos types; the people who think black metal is simply a big game of "Varg says..."

One of the best collectives of black metal in the world is the Ross Bay Cult based in western Canada. The bands from this group include Conqueror, Antichrist, and the almighty Blasphemy. Blasphemy started in 1984, that puts them on par or before much of the bands that often get labeled as essential black metal, only they did it better. Blasphemy is so influential to black metal that the entire raw / bestial realm of black metal owes itself to them. Bands like Proclamation, Revenge, and Black Witchery would not exist without the Blasphemy influence. Here's how you can tell if someone doesn't know anything about black metal. Play them Blasphemy. See what they say. If they try to dismiss Blasphemy as a death metal band or a grindcore band or anything not a black metal band, they are false. Blasphemy is at its essence a black metal band. Violent, ill-intentioned, and sketchy (except they don't have to write a book about it; the band's mythology is just that, a mythology, what you've heard but can't prove about them is endless). Blasphemy describes themselves as black metal skinheads. I know what you're thinking, they're Nazis, right? Blasphemy's guitar player Caller of the Storms is black. A member of Destroyer 666 once got punched out by a member of a Blasphemy for asking them why they had a black guy (they didn't actually say black guy) in the band.

When you listen to Blasphemy, you gain an understanding for black metal that has been seemingly lost on so much of the genre's constituents. For some reason in the USA, people interpret black metal as an acoustic vehicle to cut yourself or to be brooding. That isn't it at all. Black metal is about hating the world and attacking it for being so awful. Blasphemy's brand of black metal enables that. Listening to them will make you throw a punch and not only embrace your hatred, but also act on it.

I don't know the facts about Blasphemy, only the stories and that's really what a mythology is about. Included is both their albums and their demo.

Beastie Boys

Somewhere beyond the Seth Rogen tribute videos (for real Seth Rogen is on a seek & destroy mission to make so many things uncool), the decades of mindless demagoguery by normies who think "Brass Monkey" is just the greatest, and the neverending discussion about the best track off Don't Be A Faggot (yes, this was the original title for Licensed To Ill) is a band that had already been around for five years and made a name for themselves in the New York hardcore scene. Pop quiz: what happens when three Jewish kids from Brooklyn see the Bad Brains and make it their personal mission to try to sound like them? You get the Beastie Boys. The Beastie Boys formed in 1981 and chose their name solely for one reason: the trio wanted an excuse to share the same initials as Bad Brains.

For all that has been said about the genius about the Beastie Boys, much more should be said about their early years and how representative it is of what being young and new to hardcore is like. You don't know any better, so you just go along with what's happening and put your personal touch on things and hope it's enough. For Adam Yauch, Mike Diamond, and Adam Horovitz, that's what 1981 was like. Being a bunch of Jewish kids from Brooklyn coming into the New York hardcore scene, the Beastie Boys were never the hardmen that the likes of the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, or Warzone were. They sure didn't have the talent the Bad Brains had. So when you don't have the talent or the look, what do you do? You stop caring about if its good or not and just have fun with it.

The Beastie Boys were snotty kids who threw caution to the wind on their sound. Their lyrics were silly. Their sound wasn't trying to incite any kind of violence. It was just fun. What they were able to create from the resources they had was some hardcore punk that is worth listening to even by NYHC's standards. They released the Polly Wog Stew EP in 1982. The Beastie Boys actually predate some of the most seminal NYHC bands. It is criminal to think that when people tell the story of NYHC, a lot of them gloss over the Beastie Boys' participation in it. After Polly Wog Stew, the Beastie Boys became THE INTERNATIONAL SENSATION THE BEASTIE BOYS. They would release Licensed To Ill, have like ten platinum singles and take over the world and you know what? Good for them. People grow and people change. The band that recorded Polly Wog Stew grew up. You can't expect them to stay that way forever.

Beastie Boys did return to their roots in 1995 with the hardcore punk Aglio E Olio EP. What's scary about Aglio E Oglio is that it was better Polly Wog Stew. Somehow after thirteen years and what is basically a lifetime in music years, the Beastie Boys still had it. Aglio E Olio is proof that you can go home. Included is both EPs.

Youth Korps

Justified Arrogance is doing something new and different. For the first time, a feature is being done by another person. Please welcome Jay Chary to the fold. This is his first contribution.

In the realm of hardcore, what used to be easiest to way to demonstrate one’s pseudo-intellectual insight when it comes to discussing a band’s discography? “I liked the demo better.” What used to be a mark of a fan that have stuck with the band from the beginning is now a red flag to call out that someone might be full of shit. However, what happens if the band’s discography extends only as far as a demo? Then maybe everything I said before this means nothing. But then again, maybe it doesn’t. Let’s go back and put “the demo” into context. What is THE demo? Is there a possibility of a demo existing that you could say “I liked the demo better,” and be correct 9 out of 10 times.

2 words: Youth Korps.

1982 was a big year for extreme music. 1982 gave us the Bad Brains self titled, Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, Voice of a Generation, among a laundry list of other seminal classics, including the equally substantial Youth Korps 1982 Demo. Not much is known about this band, and honestly that might add a bit of mystique to them. A random band from Connecticut pops up, puts out a demo that is incredibly ahead of their time, and then fades to black shortly later. Maybe some bands from their time still agonizing us with new music/performances to this day should have took some notes (not naming any names). This demo was pressed to a 7” and reissued by Crucial Response Records in 1991. If you come across it, don’t hesitate and get it. “Get a Gun/Sick of Pain” still holds the title of one of the hardest breaks ever in a hardcore song. Find out for yourself.

- Jay Chary

Included is the fabled '82 Demo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


"Whose side do you take in the Cro-Mags feud and why?" This is the hardcore kid's version of what's your sign. Your answer tends to say a lot about you. If you pick JJ it means you're probably a new jack, don't listen to anything outside of The Age of Quarrel, or worse, you're the kind of older kid who is out of touch and stubbornly denies the notion of a crossover Cro-Mags. In short, the choice of JJ is usually the mark of an undesirable. If you pick Harley it means you have an evolved music taste, you probably prefer either Best Wishes or Alpha Omega over AOQ, and you probably like drugs. The choice of Harley is the mark of an initiated person. Then you have the neutral territory members. Mackie has obviously sided with JJ as they have continued to gig together in the current incarnation of the Cro-Mags. Parris, despite bearing contempt for both JJ & Harley, defends Harley to this day.

The Cro-Mags are the Cro-Mags. I say this because there aren't enough adjectives out there worthy enough to describe them. The band has a mythology, catalog, and story the likes of which few bands in the subculture can match. The band took hardcore to another level with The Age of Quarrel. The Age of Quarrel is consistently discussed as the greatest hardcore album of all time. Hardcore kids spend their lives trying to adhere to the virtues set forth by the Cro-Mags. Kids quote "Street Justice", "Don't Tread On Me", "Seekers of the Truth", and other songs as a mantra that they have made their personal mission to strive for. Simply put, the band is a phenomenon. Their music exists as harnessed perfection. They were struck by that rare level of inspiration that few bands are fortunate enough to have. For this reason, despite all of their inner-feuds and sordid history, the Cro-Mags are a perfect band. There can be another million bands that will play hardcore and we will never have another Cro-Mags. They were not once in a generation, nor once in a lifetime... the likes of them will only happen one time ever. This is why kids drop 500 dollars for a Down But Not Out 89 tour shirt. They want a piece of that time period and they're willing to pay knowing it will never happen again.

After The Age of Quarrel, things happened. JJ left the band. I'm not going to get into it because at this point who really knows the story anymore? The history of the Cro-Mags is a history of propaganda dissemination not seen since Goebbels. The point is that JJ was not in the band. Harley took over vocals and continued on bass while Parris stayed the course to help write Best Wishes. Best Wishes was the Cro-Mags' foray into crossover. It is interesting to me that somehow the Cro-Mags caught the most flak for becoming a crossover act out of everyone else. I've never heard people criticize Cause For Alarm in the same way that they have Best Wishes. If anything Agnostic Front's jump to crossover was far more dramatic and pervasive than the Cro-Mags'. What's funnier is that there were a lot of parts on The Age of Quarrel that could tell you they were priming for such a shift in style. On Best Wishes, Parris' guitar work is still attacking but far more complex than what was on AOQ. Meanwhile Harley's vocals were different and fresh. Much has been made about JJ's vocals on AOQ. Parris highlighted many of these problems in his recent interview with Noisey. Some fans of the band (even those who swear by AOQ) prefer the demos of AOQ as opposed to the album itself. So there is something to be said for that and the switch to Harley on vocals.

The Cro-Mags' third album, Alpha Omega, is after the departure of Parris. With Harley & JJ running the show we got another treatment of the crossover thrash that had been played on Best Wishes. The songs were longer, more structured, and a bit cheesier (it was 1992, signs of the times). The album overall is another excellent outing (specifically the A side). Essential listening.

The Cro-Mags' fourth album, Near Death Experience, would be the band's last until Revenge in 2000. The album is what it is. It is a Cro-Mags album. If you are a die hard fan, you should take it in more for reference of the state of the Cro-Mags in 1993 and understanding what the band's dying days sounded like. It isn't a great album, but its a good album.

When they write books about hardcore, there needs to be a sole chapter reserved for the Cro-Mags. The Cro-Mags resonated with so many people because for as perfect of a band as they were, they were so intensely flawed as people that it made them something real. We see this story all the time. Someone can be so good at something but their personal demons are liable to consume them at any given time. That's the story of the Cro-Mags. Overcoming line-up changes, perpetual inner-strife, and their own individual struggles to make something amazing happen. People quote "We Gotta Know" or "It's The Limit" because those songs are more than just music. They go beyond a show or the spinning of a record. They become a part of us and stay with us forever.

Included is all four of their albums and the Before The Quarrel Demos.

Innumerable Forms

Innumerable Forms might as well be the personal nickname for the band's frontman Justin "Drug Free Justin / Dance Floor Justin" DeTore. In almost two decades, DeTore has shown audiences a vast repertoire of his stylistic interests. From the rock and roll influenced hardcore punk in R'N'R' & Battle Ruins, to a purveyor of powerviolence in Mind Eraser & Soul Swallower, to a lover of doom metal in Magic Circle, heavy metal in Sumerlands, a parade of hardcore bands too many to list, folk influenced rock in Vanishing Leper, and early 90s Finnish / Swedish death metal in Innumerable Forms.

Innumerable Forms is influenced heavily by the likes of bands like Afflicted Convlusion, Abhorrence, Unleashed, and Convulse. What makes Innumerable Forms sound so great is immersion. In truth, this is the secret that eludes most bands made up hardcore bands trying to change their sound stylistically. Most of the time (read: the bad bands), they just continue doing what they're doing and chug along with no real change to anything. These projects just look fake. You can't simply just say you're going to sound like this and do it. There is more to it than that. There always is. When you watch DFJ play with his various projects, you see a personal shift. They are not actually the same person. DFJ in Rival Mob is not the same as DFJ in Innumerable Forms. Different demeanor, different gait, different look in his eyes. That's why after all these years, regardless of the project, DFJ's projects have always been, above everything else, authentic.

Innumerable Forms is authentic. It sounds like something recorded in 1991 Turku. This is thanks to DFJ's care for his source material. He isn't trying to be like them musically as much as he is trying to be them personally. DFJ's greatest talent goes beyond simple instruments. It is his knack for the psychology of music. Understanding the minds of the people playing the style he is doing. This is far more valuable than any kind of musical chops. When you grasp the psychology, you grasp the sound, and when you grasp the sound you can do whatever you want with it. You are no longer constrained by the limits of the music put before you.

If you like death metal, I can not recommend this enough. As of right now all that has been released is the Dark Worship EP and a split with Blessed Offal. Hopefully in the future, there will be more, but for now this will have to do.

Hard Skin

There is no bigger white whale in the subculture than the elusive good joke band. For some reason, that is a mystery to this blog, a lot of hardcore punk types think they're funny people. Some of these self-purported comedy types get ambitious and decide to start a joke band to lay down their brand of humor. 99.99% of the time, we get crap like Good Clean Fun & that other One Life Crew record. Luckily, in the universe, there is always the rule of one. In England, they aren't joke bands but novelty bands and the premier (and legitimately good) novelty band is Hard Skin.

Hard Skin is from Millwall (a neighborhood in south London). Led by Fat Bob, Hard Skin is an oi band that is not angry or political. They're sarcastic. Really, that's the only way a punk can approach humor is sarcasm. Puns aren't funny. Some diatribe about the ways thing are ala Seinfeld isn't funny. Making fun of the world you live in and making fractured takes on it is funny. That's what Hard Skin does. It is just a cruel lampooning of England, the oi genre's tropes, all the while singing about some familiar topics in a way only Hard Skin could. The result is something fresh on something cliche. Hard Skin is an oi band that never seems to get stale. They've been around since the mid 1990s and continue to put out new records that are great. Most recently they released the album On The Balls. As a companion to this record, Hard Skin released the same album with an assortment of contributing female vocalists called Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear. Turns out that the band's ambition matches their humor.

The band is a lot of fun. The band plays their style well. It is hard to be a good oi band most of the time. It is a genre that some consider top heavy. To be a great oi band while bearing no political brand is almost impossible (there are some notable exceptions, of course). Hard Skin is a great band and deserves more adoration than by the initiated.

Included is their discography. Enjoy.


Hoax is a misunderstood band.

I say this because they exist in two capacities: what you see and what you've heard. What you see from Hoax both live and on record is exceptional. A Hoax live show can only be described as absolute chaos orchestrated by the band's frontman Jesse Sanes, who loses himself and reemerges briefly as a mass of deranged energy. He attacks both the crowd and himself (mostly himself) using his body and the microphone as a weapon. The music is coordinated contempt. Everything you hear from Hoax is meant to incite and illicit ugly feelings. Watching Hoax calls back to legends like YDI, Negative Approach, and other classic USHC. The band recognizes that this subculture is not meant to be uplifting by any means but rather it exists as a form of hostility, both toward the world and oneself.

What makes Hoax special, and make no mistake they are special, is that they act on those feelings. It is easy to talk about anger, discontent, and hatred. It is easy to say you're pissed off. All respect, saying that you are angry and not acting on it puts you on the same level as a Papa Roach. You don't deserve credit for declaring that you feel bad. Hoax is often criticized by much of the modern hardcore crowd for being too gimmicky. Much of the criticism is directed specifically at Sanes who is labeled a try-hard by his detractors. Consider this: the population of critics are made up of people who claim to be on the same level as Sanes, but don't act on any of it. To this end, Sanes is a try-hard if only because he is acting out the attitudes he sings about while his critics are not even trying at all. In 2014, cynicism has become the mark of the uninitiated. Hoax is criticized for being everything that their critics are not. The band plays at a level that few bands can match. Sanes' lyrics are soaked in hatred (and at live shows, his blood).

Hoax's career thus far has been spectacular. A slew of excellent EPs with a who's who of the premier labels in hardcore today; Youth Attack, Deranged, Katorga Works, La Vida En Mus, and Painkiller. A great, and underrated, debut LP that was self-released. My fear for Hoax reminds me of a young Dynamite Kid or Shawn Michaels. Explosive energy, effervescent showmen, and consistent output. Unfortunately neither the Dynamite Kid's or Shawn Michaels' bodies could keep up with the standards they set for themselves. The question will come one day for Hoax whether Sanes' body can continue to keep up with the standard and demand that the band has set.

Included is a Collection LP of all their EPs and the self-titled LP. Enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Redoing this one cause this band is personally important to me and the blurb I did really didn't sit well with me.

Mental started in 2001 in Boston. It featured Greg Willmott (founder of Lockin Out Records), DFJ (Mayor of Boston), Dan Ducas (Magic Circle, Snail's Pace, Dumptruck), and Derek Scace (Cold World, Dumptruck). They were heavily influenced by Supertouch & Underdog. Later on Planet Mental they would incorporate Quicksand influences to their sound. After releasing a couple of demos in 2002, Mental released their first EP, And You Know This, on Greg's brand new label Lockin Out.

And You Know This captured Mental for what they were. Strong guitar leads that were in sync with the rhythm section making Mental into a cohesive unit that never failed to get any crowd moving. The music wasn't angry. Willmott's lyrics sounded like the guy who knew something you didn't and he was taking you to school. On the eponymous track "And You Know This", he lectures on the virtues of friendship. On "Sike", he calls out someone for betraying their principles. On "Mental", he offers a declaration of what the band stands for. Mental wasn't about anger, it was about who they were. A lot of bands try to conflate their anger with identity but that's a fallacy. Anger doesn't define you, it is just a symptom of the world coming into contact with your beliefs.

Their second EP, Get An Oxygen Tank, was released on Bridge 9 Records, who at the time were the hegemon as far as hardcore labels go. The record's artwork was treated to the artistic styles of NYHC legend Sean Taggart. This record is angrier than AYKT. The songs tell a story about a band that has been at it for a while now. Willmott talks about work ethic, respect, and personal growth. Above all else, Mental as a band stakes their position towards the world. First on the eponymous track "Get An Oxygen Tank", Willmott calls out the influx of imposters in the hardcore scene and informs them that the "Mental Crew is sick of you". Not one to allow themselves to be overcome with anger, the next song "Chiller Than Most (Still Mental)" reminds listeners about who Mental is: just some guys having fun, don't mind the last song, that was just something we had to get off our chest. Even at their angriest, they still circled it back to earth quickly.

Their third EP, Yo!, was released on Lockin Out Records. This record is criminally underrated, even by the most die-hard of Mental fans. The record almost plays out like a challenge to Mental themselves. Yo! was released in 2004. Mental had been a highly decorated band at this point and well-traveled. The lyrics and sound on Yo! are cathartic in many ways. The sound is definitely harder than most of their previous work. Yo! plays out like Mental are asking themselves if they can still go further, can they still go to another level, and can they still bring it. The result was something different and as far as Mental's thought experiment went, it was a success. They were ready for the next level.

In the summer of 2005, Mental released their debut LP, Planet Mental. They recorded it with NYHC legend Don Fury. The album was different in a lot of ways. Willmott's lyrics had become more developed and displayed a lot of growth from the band's beginnings. Ducas' guitar work had transcended to the same level as his heroes in Supertouch & Quicksand. Scace & DFJ's rhythm work sounded omniscient. They knew every beat and every step that had been played or would be played. The idea of a rhythm section is that they are supposed to be in control of the sound. It isn't often that you actually hear a rhythm section exerting total control. Mental didn't just write another Mental record or another Lockin Out release. They wrote this generation's The Earth Is Flat.

Mental was a lot of things. They were from Boston, they were a part of the Nu Scene, they were a straight edge band, they are the LOC / Lockin Out Records, and they had fun. I think this last point is most important to highlight. No matter what Mental did, they had fun. They never took themselves seriously and they always put their friends first. Even at the very end, 12/12/05 in Atlanta when Mental quietly broke up after wrapping up a tour with Iron Age / Blacklisted and only a few months after releasing their only full-length. Rather than give some heartfelt speech about their legacy or some dog & pony pageant of a last show, vocalist Greg Willmott delivered a speech that personified Mental: sincere, for themselves, and unwavering.

A lot was said about the end of the band, particularly the edgebreak of members, but here's the truth about Mental up to the end: they never stopped being Mental. Everything that was on And You Know This was there that night in Atlanta. The thing people that failed to understand about Mental (something a lot of people to this day still don't get) is it wasn't about straight edge, a LOC, or Boston. It was about four guys. Four friends who played shows as an excuse to hang out with each other and the rest of their friends. As far as motivations to start a band goes, Mental's can be described as nothing but sincere and honest.

"Are you guys having fun? Yeah, alright cool. As long as you're having fun. That's why we started the band to have fun. And we're going out having fun so it's cool. We're not playing a last show in Boston or anything like that, this is really it. Because for us, all our friends seen us enough times, saw our record release... And it's not differences between band members or any shit you read on the internet about Dookie being addicted to heroin... I wish he was addicted to heroin cause then my band would be cool but we're not really that cool." - Greg Willmott, at the final Mental show 12/12/05.

All smiles to the end. That's the story of Mental.

Included here is their entire discography, their famous WERS set, a bootleg set from CBGBs, and some demos (including outtakes from the Dumptruck sessions).

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Your politics should not define your taste in music. Music is, at the end of the day, art. Art can be used for politics, but art is at its core simply an expression of the artist. In the case of Skrewdriver, the artist in question is one Ian Stuart Donaldson. Skrewdriver began in 1976 as a legitimate band.

Skrewdriver is the original aggressive oi band. The Partisans took their cues from this Skrewdriver. If Cock Sparrer & The Cockney Rejects sang about football, beer, and a hard-nosed work ethic, it was Skrewdriver who turned all of that against the world. Skrewdriver basically taught a skinhead to fight at those football matches, to use the beer as fuel (and the containers holding it as weapons) for fighting, and said work ethic as a drive to never lose in fights. Skrewdriver effectively militarized the oi genre. This Skrewdriver lasted for three years. They dropped a slew of excellent singles & one classic album in All Skrewed Up. The lyrics by this Skrewdriver were about misanthropy, aggression, and reactionary hostility to the social climate of late 1970s Britain (which was being run into the ground by Maggie Thatcher). This Skrewdriver has some of the meanest guitars ever captured by a punk band. This Skrewdriver is as catchy as it is hostile.

I use a lot of terms like "drive off a cliff" or "jump the shark" to describe when a band changes things up. I can't do that for Skrewdriver. What happened to Skrewdriver, starting in 1979, can only be described as entering an abyss of which there is no return. In 1979, ISD jettisoned the rest of the band leaving Skrewdriver a one man project. Left to his own devices, Ian Stuart Donaldson took Skrewdriver someplace that many of its supporters could not go to.

Let's get it out of the way: Ian Stuart Donaldson is a racist, a Nazi sympathizer, and a fascist. These facts are inescapable. However, these facts also exist in a vacuum. ISD's beliefs are his own. Belief is not transmittable through audio to the intelligent mind. People who dismiss the work of someone with questionable views as taboo are as myopic and intolerant as the people they are criticizing. Shutting out one side of the argument doesn't make it go away. Nor does trying to eradicate the other side with hostile intolerance ala Antifa. Listening to White Rider does not make you a racist, it just gives you perspective into the mind of a racist. That is the story of later Skrewdriver. Not one rooted in contempt or dismissal, but an intelligent study of ISD's mind which was so warped within this universe he had built for himself. By the time of his death in 1993, ISD almost exclusively dealt with people in the white power sphere of music. He had shuttered himself away from a world that clearly didn't agree with him. He wrote garbage music catering to an audience of mindless people who didn't care what they were listening to as they were more concerned with the politics (hence the point that politics should not define your music taste). His old bandmates had decried ISD for driving Skrewdriver's good name into the ground (which is true).

The story of the two Skrewdrivers is both fascinating and tragic. The band had attained greatness typically reserved for legends in only a few short years. It took 14 years of ISD using the Skrewdriver name as a vehicle for his own politics to make the band's entirety a taboo. Today the name Skrewdriver exists like a swear word in some punk circles. The mere mention of the name evokes a reaction of condemnation and disgust from people. To more initiated and evolved circles, the name Skrewdriver commands a lively discussion. My personal favorite game is asking people how far do they go in the Skrewdriver catalog. If they don't even listen to All Skrewed Up, their opinion is not to be trusted. Obviously the further they go in the catalog, the more in-depth the discussion becomes about understanding the lyrics & music. To listen to later Skrewdriver is like reading Mein Kampf for a history class. The records are documents that should be parsed for understanding the author's mind, not teaching tools to take life lessons from.

Included is here a comp of Skrewdriver's singles & All Skrewed Up. You should enjoy, because they're good.


D-beat is an easy genre to play but an insanely difficult genre to be good at.

D-beat started in 1977 with the UK's Discharge. As with any genre, no one gets it right the first time. Make no mistake, Discharge did a lot right. Their lyrics & themes about the horrors of war became the bedrock for entire schools of hardcore punk and influenced a sea of incredible bands. However, for as much as Discharge did right, they left a lot on the table and much to be desired. Four years after Discharge came along, in the infant realm of Sweden hardcore punk, Anti-Cimex began and took things to the next level.

Anti-Cimex was a band heavily by Discharge doing the best they could with what they had. The product was a band that played d-beat to the best of their ability & with the production that they could afford. In the process we got a raw, more degenerated (both acoustically & aesthetically) band. While Discharge was asking Why?, Anti-Cimex was writing Raped Ass. This is not to say that Anti-Cimex didn't wear their Discharge influence on their sleeve. They incorporated a lot of the horrors of war themes that Discharge used. The good thing for Anti-Cimex through the 1980s was that they never messed with their winning formula of sounding as raw and abrasive as possible. Anti-Cimex finally cleaned up their production sound on 1993's Scandinavian Jawbreaker. The record is great in its own right. Some people criticize it as an abandonment of the things that make Anti-Cimex who they are, but the album is excellent. It is still very much an Anti-Cimex record, just one that is written 12 years after their inception and with a great deal of success under their belts. As it would turn out, Scandinavian Jawbreaker would be Anti-Cimex's swansong and they broke up shortly after its release.

Not many bands can say they had a perfect catalog. Few others can say they did it over 12 years. Even fewer can say they did it as a d-beat band (a genre constantly criticized as easily stagnant and boring). Even Anti-Cimex's heroes Discharge only lasted 9 years before driving off a cliff with Grave New World. Anti-Cimex can say they did all of that. Band is essential listening for Scandinavian hardcore, d-beat, and raw punk. Included is their entire discography.

The Boston Strangler

They just had an album drop, I think a refresher is in order.

Modern hardcore has a bit of an aptitude problem. When I say "modern hardcore" I am basically talking about the This Is Hardcore audience. Here's the problem with their aptitude, they fall into two schools of thought. The first is consumption of sounds they are oblivious of. For instance when a band starts claiming Burning Spirits hardcore as an influence and kids buy into it because they have no earthly idea what Burning Spirits actually sounds like. The second is when a kid is actually too dumb to understand a good band's sound so they are written off as a "hype" band. The two major aptitude problems of the modern hardcore kid is either false sensibility or dismissive stupidity. This is the story of bands like The Boston Strangler. A modern hardcore kid doesn't understand why they're good, they just see people with sensibilities praise them and assume it must be the merch.

The fact is that The Boston Strangler is one of the best bands to do the "This Is Boston, Not L.A." era of Boston hardcore sound better than anyone since that comp dropped in 1982. The Boston Strangler (obviously named after infamous serial killer Albert DeSalvo) features Ban Reilly (Anxiety, Scapegoat) DFJ (not even gonna try to name all of his bands), Dave Sheehan (Peacebreakers & Scapegoat), Danimal (Waste Management, Peacebreakers, Prisoner Abuse), and Cliff DeMederios (Blank Stare & the underrated Social Circkle). When you hear The Boston Strangler you are hearing Jerry's Kids, The Proletariat, The Freeze and Gang Green. You are hearing Boston's past and Boston's present. These guys have been part of the very foundation of Boston hardcore for over a decade. Them, along with the rest of the Nu Scene, have helped to keep Boston as a global hardcore power while other scenes who spent the 1990s dominated by crew control fell by the wayside. The Boston Strangler is not a tribute to Boston's first wave of hardcore. Rather it is a representation of the scene's evolution. The attacking guitars (coupled with some great solos), relentless rhythm section, and trademark livid vocals (along with a dose of sarcasm) make up The Boston Strangler's sound. It is a representation of where they came from as much as it is a pronunciation of who they are. The Boston Strangler is an identity project.

Pick up their new album at included is their first album (Primitive), their demo, a promo for the new album and a promo for the first album. Enjoy.,_The.rar

Friday, October 17, 2014


Connecticut hardcore has a chip on its shoulder. CTHC has a middle child syndrome the likes of which is without precedent. It is a state that lies in the shadow of New York & Boston. It is a state that in its own right has a proud hardcore tradition giving us amazing straight edge bands like Wide Awake, Follow Through, and Youth of Today (from Danbury). Connecticut gave us bands like The Pist, Dead Wrong, Fear Tomorrow, 100 Demons, and Death Threat. Norwalk, Connecticut was home to one of the most legendary hardcore venues in the northeast with the Anthrax. Kids in Connecticut are a special breed. They are self-aware and understand that being so close to Boston & New York has forced them to step up in their understanding of the subculture and their conduct. To this end, kids in Connecticut are wired to be a little crazy. Today some of the finest personalities in both Boston & New York actually hail from Connecticut originally.

The 1990s were a weird time for hardcore. It was like every hardcore kid had just heard The Smiths & read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Everybody was political. Everybody was preachy. Everybody incorporated some kind of weird guitar work that they thought sounded metallic, but really it was just a 19 year old kid who was fruitlessly trying to play beyond his ability and all we got were screeching hooks into effects-laden breakdowns. When you look back at the 1990s for hardcore in the USA, you will see a pretty interesting picture of what was going on. You had NYHC enter its second-generation with bands that were more centered on crew elements (with most of the first generation trying to do post-hardcore bands at that point), Boston do the same thing with their respective crew, Cleveland do what it was doing with Dark Empire & Non-Commercial, California was all over the place, Florida was actually relevant, Texas was in somewhat of a dormant period, and so on. The long and the short of it is that hardcore had a bit of an identity crisis. The genre was entering its second decade and the kids were growing up and doing different things.

A lot of people write off the 1990s as the "metalcore" era of hardcore and there is certainly a lot that would prove that argument. The problem was that a lot of the people doing it lacked a grasp for metal. You didn't hear metal in their music, instead you heard some hardcore kids playing what they thought was metallic. Integrity and Ringworm (and their related bands) truly got it. That era of Cleveland captured metalcore in a way that no one will ever get. Guess who took hold of what Cleveland was doing and then spent years molding themselves into that image? Connecticut. Cleveland already had a reputation for being the sketchiest scenes. For a bunch of kids with chips on their shoulders, seated in between one of the most violent stretches of hardcore scenes in the country, to absorb what Cleveland was doing was a recipe for something special. What we got was Hatebreed.

Founded in 1995 in the southern part of Connecticut (New Haven - Bridgeport to be exact), Hatebreed was started the inimitable Jamey Jasta on vocals, as well as Chris Beattie on bass, Lou "Boulder" Richards (RIP) on guitar and others. Hatebreed is an important band for a variety of reasons:
1.) They became the flag-bearer for Connecticut hardcore. They were the generals of an army of kids that were ready to fight and, more distressingly, went looking for the fights. What makes a Connecticut hardcore kid's will to fight different than say someone from Boston or New York is that it almost seemed like CTHC kids wanted to fight other hardcore kids more than normies. They had something to prove to other hardcore kids. That's the story of CTHC.
2.) They took what Integrity was doing to the next level. Satisfaction Is The Death of Desire is a perfect album. It is a transcendental record. The album is a perfect hardcore album and an accessible metal album which brings me to...
3.) Hatebreed brought in an entire generation of kids to the fold. No band in the last 20 years has done more to advance the ranks of hardcore than Hatebreed. Between their name (in 1997, if you were 13 years old, you better believe a band's name was a deciding factor on blindly buying their album), imposing song titles and lyrical themes, and punishing guitar riffs, the band was able to bring in thousands of kids from the metal side of music. Hatebreed was my first hardcore band. I made all of my friends in the Dallas hardcore scene at a Hatebreed show. To this day, young kids still make the conversion to hardcore through Hatebreed. This is no easy feat. Hatebreed's influence will be felt forever for this reason.

Included is Satisfaction Is The Death of Desire & Under The Knife

One Life Crew

Cleveland hardcore is a pretty crazy organism. There are so many layers to it. There is the Dark Empire scene centered around Integrity & Ringworm. There is the Non-Commercial scene centered around the Erba / Paul / Wedge braintrust. The argument about which is truly representative of Cleveland is about as tedious as the "Death Threat vs Deathreat" one. To truly appreciate Cleveland hardcore, you need to apply a certain metric to it and then you gain an appreciation for it all. The metric is by band and album. You don't need to consider the scene as you're talking about apples & oranges. If you really won't listen to Ringworm because it is too metallic and you are a hardcore punk purist but you still listen to Venom, you're simply a hypocrite.

Here's how you understand the bands in Cleveland as far as the Dark Empire scene goes. Integrity / Ringworm are the center of the universe with the bands featuring members of both bands being the surrounding bands. So utilizing this metric, you can say Integrity is better than Ringworm but Ringworm wrote the best album (The Promise) between the two of them. Another argument is that between all of the Dark Empire scene bands, you can say Crime Ridden Society is one of the best albums released from that group, and you'd be right. Enter One Life Crew.

One Life Crew was formed by "Mean" Steve Murad (of Confront fame), Chubby Fresh (of Integrity), Aaron "A2" Melnick (of Integrity), Blaze Tishko (of In Cold Blood). Really, it was only logical that something special was going to come from these guys. What they created was Crime Ridden Society. An album so good that the only thing that outshines its achievement is the outcry from the band's detractors. Here's why One Life Crew got into trouble about Crime Ridden Society. They wrote a song called "Pure Disgust" telling immigrants to get out of America. This is an old hat for hardcore. We've seen jingoistic / xenophobic lyrics and themes before with Warzone, Antidote, and Agnostic Front.

One Life Crew was simply a victim of circumstance. They wrote "Pure Disgust" during the mid 1990s. This was an era of hardcore where every band tried to be weird and abstract with their sound (seriously, it took years for American hardcore to recover from this; Cleveland & Connecticut became strongholds for hardcore in this period) and above all else, everybody had an agenda. When they write books on the history of hardcore, we'll refer to the 1990s as the political correctness era. Moreover, kids in the 1990s weren't just PC, they were in your face about it. They weren't your frowning, tumblr essay babies you see today. If One Life Crew had written "Pure Disgust" in 1989 New York City, there would be no problem. In fact, the opposite would be true, One Life Crew would probably be lauded as one of the best ever.

The second problem with One Life Crew is that the band had one of the sketchiest personalities in hardcore in Chubby Fresh. For perspective about Chubbs' reputation: when Integrity toured in 2003, they had to route their tour a certain way because crews / groups wanted to murder Chubbs and they had to account for his safety. One Life Crew released Crime Ridden Society and trouble followed them from then out. This reached its zenith at Cleveland Fest 1996 when, during a performance of "Pure Disgust", a PC warrior rushed the pile-on and flipped off Mean Steve. Not one to be slighted, Mean Steve left the stage to chase this kid who was already fleeing the room. The show stopped and it led to the Cleveland Fest riot. The subsequent events led to One Life Crew being thrown off Victory Records (as Tony Brummel does not condone / promote violence according to a press release explaining OLC's removal). Not long after the line-up of the band disintegrated, Chubbs' relationship with Dwid fell apart and OLC lost the support of their friends in Integrity. Left to their own devices, OLC became a joke band. It was quite the fall from grace.

Crime Ridden Society is one of the finest albums to have ever come from Cleveland. What is on the album is arguably one of the greatest hardcore intros of all time in the "Murdario Stomp". It has our generation's version of "Public Assistance" in "Pure Disgust". It has one of the hardest breakdowns in a song in "Riots". It has a Confront cover in "Our Fight". For as many things as One Life Crew did wrong, they did so many things right on Crime Ridden Society that we must continue to discuss them today. Included is Crime Ridden Society.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Sepultura is a band whose work and credibility are separated by a schism so wide that it has manifested their identity into two discourses. The first is everything before (and if you feel liberal, up to) Roots. This Sepultura is a subculture god. A band whose guitar and drum work are legendary. A band whose imagery and lyrics have commanded universal loyalty. The second is after the ejection of Max Cavalera. The band in this discourse is a joke. A band who plays the most laughable of shows, release pitiful albums, and are a hollow shell of the band's glory days.

Sepultura started in the belly of one of the most notable extreme music communities in the world: the 1980s Brazilian death-thrash scene. This scene featured bands like Sextrash, Sarcofago, Mutilator, and Guerrilha. Guerrilha was the Cavalera Brothers' (Max & Igor) band before Sepultura. Along with Jairo Guedz (read: Sepultura's first guitar player, not Andreas Kisser), Guerillha released one demo before breaking up. The band recruited Paulo Jr. to start a new band. This band, Portuguese for "Grave" was called Sepultura.

Sepultura's first album, Morbid Visions, is a true Brazilian death-thrash record, a classic one at that. This album is the template of where Sepultura comes from and when. While Sepultura would later go on to incorporate a lot of tribal elements into their sound making it sound more "Brazilian", it is in Morbid Visions that we are able to truly hear where Sepultura comes from. Listening to Morbid Visions tells us more about Brazilian thrash in the 1980s than any tribal drum could. Morbid Visions is truly a product of their environment. This is not to say that they were simply the offspring of their scene and that's that... the Cavaleras made it clear on Morbid Visions that they had far too much talent and that this was only the beginning.

Their second album, Schizophrenia, was released only a year after Morbid Visions. On Schizophrenia, Sepultura stopped trying to just be a Brazilian death-thrash band and they brought in their own influences. For the Cavaleras, this meant incorporating a lot of hardcore punk into the sound. The product was an album that was faster and more pronounced (you could tell that Sepultura knew how fast / hard they wanted to play and had a better grip of keeping up with their own ambition). The lyrics had gone from death metal types about specters of death and anti-religion to more of mental instability. It is on Schizophrenia that Sepultura starts to figure it out.

Their third album, Beneath The Remains, is lauded for a variety of reasons. First, it is the first true Sepultura album. The band has harnessed their sound and declared their identity to the world. Second, it features some of the best drumming ever on a metal album. To this end, Igor Cavalera shines through in a way that few drummers have ever been able to, either before or since. This album, released in 1989, is when Sepultura finally becomes simply one of the best thrash bands in the world as opposed to being just another Brazilian death-thrash band.

Their fourth album, Arise, is something else. It is that rare stratosphere that a good band who has already excelled reaches. For Slayer, after releasing three sublime releases, it was Reign In Blood. There are rare times when a great band, a band who has been highly accomplished & decorated, still have more left in them. Where this comes from is a mystery. Something happens, the band is in the right place, certain events line up in a certain way and the end result is something next level & transcendental. This is how you describe Arise to someone. It isn't a Sepultura album. It isn't a thrash album. It is something beyond good and great. This is the folly of bands who are influenced by records like Reign In Blood & Arise and try to emulate them. It isn't possible. Not because of musicianship or ideas, but because there is something else going on there. It is intangible. You just need to hope that you're there when the spark hits and that you don't waste it.

Their fifth album, Chaos AD, is lauded by many as the standard for groove metal. For those of you keeping score: it is now 1993. Sepultura has been a band for 9 years and released 5 albums. One is a Brazilian death-thrash classic. Two are thrash classics. One is a metal gem. One is the template for groove metal. Chaos AD is Andreas Kisser's time to shine. The guitar work on Chaos AD is as interesting as it is technical. The band becomes more ambitious in their flirtations with the tribal sound (which would go on to become the major element of Roots). This is arguably the last good Sepultura album.

The rest of the story is pretty tragic and paints the schism in Sepultura's history. After Roots, Max's stepson died. The band wanted to fire Max's wife from being the band's manager. Max is thrown out of the band. Max starts Soulfly. Sepultura replaces him with some guy that looks (and basically sounds like) the guy from Sevendust. The band drifts along on the Sepultura name, getting checks from audiences who go to their shows to hear the old songs. Eventually Igor leaves the band in 2006. The band has continued on with Andreas Kisser & Paulo Jr as the surviving members from the glory days. That's well and good but they can't say they're Sepultura. Neither of them were even in Guerillha. Sepultura is Max & Igor. Sepultura are those records. That's immortal. If you've ever wanted to see a body without a soul, look no further than Sepultura in 2014.

Included is all of their albums up to Chaos AD & the Under Siege live set.