Monday, December 21, 2020

The Best Of 2020

Celebrating new music is important. In the subculture, we are constantly faced with a chorus of people who will tell you that the genres are dead and that there is nothing good coming out anymore. This opinion alone indicts how out of touch a person can be. There is a deluge of incredible new music coming out every year and it is important to take the time to praise the work of those who contribute to the subculture's sonic archive.

2020 was the worst year of my life. nothing has made sense nor does it ever feel like it will again. Truthfully, I've spent the entire year trying to forget the day before it so the proposition of trying to remember everything that happened this year is absurd. I apologize to artists whose releases I may have forgotten or not heard. It was an unfair year for everyone.


Best Hardcore / Punk LPs

1.) Gulch - Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress (Closed Casket Activities)
2.) Oily Boys - Cro Memory Grin (Static Shock)
3.) Muro - Pacificar (Beach Impediment)
4.) Rated X - United Front (Painkiller)
5.) Lebenden Toten - Synaptic Noise Dissociation (Iron Lung)
6.) Big Cheese - Punishment Park (Triple B)
7.) Chubby And The Gang - Speed Kills (Static Shock)
8.) Subdued - Over The Hills And Far Away (La Vida Es Un Mus)
9.) Mil-Spec - World House (Lockin Out)
10.) Destruct - Echoes of Life (Grave Mistake)
11.) Loose Nukes - Cult Leaders (Mutant Sounds)
12.) Drain - California Cursed (Revelation)
13.) Rat Cage ‎- Screams From The Cage (La Vida Es Un Mus)
14.) Bib - Delux (Pop Wig)
15.) Gag - Still Laughing (Iron Lung)

Honorable Mentions

Raspberry Bulbs ‎– Before The Age Of Mirrors (Relapse)
The Fight - Endless Noise (Triple B)
Geld - Beyond The Floor (Iron Lung)
Three Knee Deep - Three Knee Deep (Triple B)
White Stains - Make Me Sick (Song Book)


Best Metal Releases

1.) Eternal Champion - Ravening Iron (No Remorse)
2.) Bone Awl - An Obelisk Marks The Line (Klaxon)
3.) Gravesend - Preparations For Human Disposal (Stygian Black Hand)
4.) Black Curse - Endless Wound (Sepulchral Voice)
5.) Undeath - Lesions of a Different Kind (Prosthetic)
6.) Of Feather & Bone - Sulfuric Disintegration (Profound Lore)
7.) Miasmatic Necrosis - Apex Profane (P2)
8.) Undergang - Aldrig i Livet (Me Saco Un Ojo)
9.) Skeleton - Skeleton (20 Buck Spin)
10.) Internal Rot - Grieving Birth (Iron Lung / 625 Thrashcore)
11.) Caustic Wound - Death Posture (Profound Lore)
12.) Revenge - Strike.Smother.Dehumanize (Season Of Mist)
13.) Slutet - Love & Beauty (Behest)
14.) Siege Column - Darkside Legions (Nuclear War Now)
15.) Kommand - Terrorscape (Maggot Stomp)

Honorable Mentions

Goatpenis ‎– Decapitation Philosophy (Nuclear War Now)
Scalp - Domestic Extremity (Creator-Destructor)
Omegavortex - Black Abomination Spawn (Invictus)


Best Rap / Hip-Hop Releases

1.) Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist - Alfredo (ESGN)
2.) Megan Thee Stallion - Good News (1501 Certified)
3.) 21 Savage and Metro Boomin - Savage Mode II (Slaughter Gang)
4.) The Weeknd - After Hours (XO)
5.) Benny The Butcher - Burden Of Proof (Griselda)
6.) Future and Lil Uzi Vert - Pluto x Baby Pluto (Epic / Freebandz)
7.) Westside Gunn - Pray For Paris (Griselda)
8.) J Hus - Big Conspiracy (Black Butter)
9.) Drakeo The Ruler - We Know the Truth (Stinc Team)
10.) Conway the Machine - From King to a GOD (Griselda) 
11.) Lil Uzi Vert - Eternal Atake (Generation Now)
12.) Juicy J - The Hustle Continues (Trippy Music)
13.) Pop Smoke - Meet The Woo 2 (Republic)
14.) King Von - Welcome to O'Block (Only The Family)
15.) Drakeo The Ruler - Thank You For Using GTL ‎(Stinc Team)

Honorable Mentions

Juice WRLD - Legends Never Die (Grade A)
Future - High Off Life (Freebandz)
Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats - Unlocked (PH)


Best Releases In Open Competition

1.) Charli XCX - how i'm feeling now (Asylum)
2.) Nothing - The Great Dismal (Relapse)
3.) beabadoobee - Fake It Flowers (Dirty Hit)
4.) Sweeping Promises - Hunger For A Way Out (Feel It)
5.) Narrow Head - 12th House Rock (Run For Cover)
6.) Straw Man Army - Age Of Exile (D4MT Labs)
7.) Kelly Lee Owens - Inner Song (Smalltown Supersound)
8.) Hum - Inlet (Earth Analog)
9.) Jesu - Terminus (Avalanche Recordings)
10.) Supercrush - Sodo Pop (Don Giovanni)
11.) Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher (Dead Oceans)
12.) Rina Sawayama - SAWAYAMA (Dirty Hit)
13.) Dame - Dame (Beach Impediment)
14.) Soccer Mommy - color theory (Caroline International)
15.) Popcaan - Fixtape (OVO Sound)

Honorable Mentions

Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters (Clean Slate)
Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? (PMR)
Yumi Zouma - Truth Or Consequences (Polyvinyl)


Best Hardcore / Punk EPs

1.) Public Acid - Condemnation (Beach Impediment)
2.) Heavy Discipline - Heavy Discipline (Painkiller)
3.) Spine - L.O.V. (Bridge 9)
4.) The Chisel - Deconstructive Surgery (La Vida Es Un Mus)
5.) Loose Nukes - Forced Compliance (Self-Released)
6.) Healer - Resurgence (From The Head Of Zeus / 625 Thrashcore)
7.) Haircut - Cake (11PM)
8.) Nosebleed - Outside Looking In (Triple B)
9.) Krigshoder - Krig I Hodet (Suck Blood)
10.) Pain Of Truth - No Blame​.​.​. Just Facts (Daze) 

Honorable Mentions

Mindforce - Swingin' Swords, Choppin' Lords (Triple B)
Mystic Inane - Natural Beauty (La Vida Es Un Mus)
G.U.N.N. - Peace Love And Heavy Weaponry (Going Underground) 
Rolex - Rolex (11PM)
Real People - Life Without A Head (Self-Released)


Best Demos

1.) Quarantine - Demo
2.) Tower 7 - Entrance To A Living Organism 
3.) NSA - NSA Is Watching
4.) Hounds Of War - Demo
5.) Pillars Of Ivory - Genesis Twenty Twenty 
6.) Flower City - Demo
7.) Septic Yanks - Septic Yanks
8.) Subliminal Excess - Demo
9.) Vivisected Numbskulls - 4 Track 
10.) The Annihilated - Demo


Special Commendations

Because of the lost year, in lieu of best live shows which historically have been part of the end of year awards, we are choosing to award special commendations to bands, labels, and other figures in the subculture who soldiered on to keep the spirit of community alive in a time defined by isolation.
While venues remained shuttered and live shows becoming an increasingly distant memory, bands have been forced to become more creative with how they provide audiences with an at-home that could move audiences in a way that made them feel like they were watching something more than a glorified YouTube video. To punctuate the release of their latest album The Great Dismal, Nothing, with Full Of Hell in tow, put on The Great Dismal: An Auditory And Ocular Trauma. In collaboration with creative agency Everything Is Stories, the band's performance played like a movie that hit the emotions this year ground into oblivion. Truthfully, I had no expectations going into the stream and by the time Nothing began their set with "A Fabricated Life", I was crying. Maybe it was the song. Maybe it was the last few months. Maybe it was a confluence of the last year. I don't know. Live shows in our world are not a mere rehearsal of songs. They are a place in time. Nothing's set came at a time and place where the songs spoke to the times and of times lived and times not yet known. A livestream of that kind may not ever happen again, let alone be as powerful. Justified Arrogance would like to commend Nothing, Full Of Hell, and Everything Is Stories for helping to redefine the virtual show experience.

There is a boom of bootleggers and independent merchants emerging across all subcultures right now. Hardcore punk, metal, pro wrestling, movies, and everything in between. That on its face is something commendable but I would like to highlight the efforts this summer, specifically after the protests and riots began across the country in June. Hundreds of merchants stepped up to raise money toward bail funds, black and indigenous organizations, and other worthwhile charities. It was a once in a lifetime moment to see what's often dismissed as a fringe community come together to produce tangible economic might to support those who are without economic might. Justified Arrogance would like to commend anyone and everyone who raised money or even just donated money toward BLM causes. Please keep that energy moving into the future.

While we do not typically celebrate live albums, they are an important component of the subculture as they seek to capture the energy that sets us apart from others. Be it Lemmy's wanton recklessness at the Hammersmith, Greg Wilmott's mischievous banter on WERS, or Dmize's gang callouts on Crucial Chaos... live albums don't necessarily take you to the show, but they certainly tell you what happens at those shows. The purpose is to feel it, not replicate it. Power Trip's Live In Seattle was released in May this year and provided audiences with a taste of the bedrock that made the band's name in their live shows. Masterfully mixed by sound engineer Zach Rippy, this live album captured the band's tight instrumental section, the string section's buzzsaw riffs, and Riley Gale's inimitable energy. Power Trip shows have always been known to be violent spaces. However, if you're able to get out of the blast radius, they're also a marvel to behold because you're witnessing the best thrash band in a generation working to engage the audience as much as they do to win them over. Which is part of the point: Power Trip wanted to win you over. What they wanted was more than passing fandom. They wanted more than shirt sales, streams, or records sold. They wanted you to tell your friends, make you keep coming back to their shows, and earn and keep your loyalty because they deserved it. This live album captures that drive to win the crowd. Justified Arrogance would like to commend Power Trip for adding to the elite volume of worthwhile live albums. I hope future vocalists will also call their friends out for being on their phone during the chorus.

Last but not least, Justified Arrogance would like to take a moment to remember and celebrate the lives of Riley Gale and Wade Allison. This blog, really me as a person, would be nothing without the influence both of these incredible people had on my life. The first two essays this blog ever did were about Power Trip and Iron Age. All I ever wanted was for them to think I was cool and deserving of being around them because I counted every time hanging out as a privilege. Everything I ever did was because I wanted them to be proud of me. I know the standards they created and the standards I had to live up to because I never wanted to be unworthy of their friendship, much as I often felt like I was. Truthfully, I do not know where to go from here. This world is new and alien to me. I do not know it and I do not want to know it but I'm going to keep trying because I know that's what they'd want. As much as existing hurts, the thought of disappointing and dishonoring them hurts even more.

Thank you for saving my life, Riley. 
Thank you for teaching us how to live, Wade.
Thank you both for being my brother.

Riley Gale and Wade Allison were the absolute best of us and I hope that others remember their example. Your best is always a stepping stone to better. Never stop looking to the next level. 

Do it for them because they wanted you to do it for yourself.

- James K

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Best Of The 2010s

As we say goodbye to this decade, we would do well to take a moment and recognize the very best releases in the 2010s. One of music's, really all art, strongest muses is the releases of the past. It is there where we can take stock of what has been created, what was lacking, and what can be improved on. Only when we understand the best of the past can we begin to build toward the best future. It is with that we celebrate and honor the very best this closing decade had to offer as these releases will move into the 2020s with their place among the stars.


Best Hardcore / Punk LPs

1.) Power Trip - Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord) - 2013
2.) The Boston Strangler - Primitive (Fun With Smack) - 2011
3.) The Impalers - Cellar Dweller (540) - 2017
4.) Omegas - Blasts Of Lunacy (Parts Unknown) - 2011
5.) Crazy Spirit - Crazy Spirit (Toxic State) - 2012
6.) Hank Wood And The Hammerheads - Go Home! (Toxic State) - 2012
7.) No Tolerance - You Walk Alone (Painkiller) - 2015
8.) Arms Race - New Wave Of British Hardcore (La Vida Es Un Mus) - 2016
9.) Murderer - I Did It For All You (Toxic State) - 2018
10.) Vaaska - Ruido Hasta La Muerte (540) - 2010
11.) Cülo - My Life Sucks And I Could Care Less (Deranged) - 2012
12.) The Impalers - Impalers (540 / Todo Destruido) - 2013
13.) Wiccans - Field II (Katorga Works) - 2012
14.) SQRM - Rodeo (Youth Attack) - 2010
15.) Concealed Blade - Concealed Blade (Beach Impediment) - 2017
16.) Vanity - Vain In Life (Katorga Works) - 2014
17.) Masshysteri ‎- Masshysteri (Ny Våg) - 2010
18.) Framtid - Defeat Of Civilization (Crust War) - 2013
19.) Exit Order - Seed Of Hysteria (Side Two) - 2017
20.) War Hungry - War Hungry (Six Feet Under) - 2011
21.) Total Abuse - Prison Sweat (Post Present Medium) - 2011
22.) Dawn Of Humans - Slurping At The Cosmos Spine (Toxic State) - 2015
23.) The Flex - Wild Stabs In The Dark (Video Disease / Milk Run) - 2014
24.) The Ropes - Always Nothing (Youth Attack) - 2012
25.) Crown Court - Capitol Offence (Katorga Works) - 2016
26.) Hoax - Hoax (Self-Released) - 2013
27.) The Rival Mob - Mob Justice (Revelation) - 2013
28.) Vaaska - Todos Contra Todos (Beach Impediment) - 2015
29.) Isterismo - Follia Verso L'Interno (Crust War) - 2012
30.) Inmates - Inmates (Painkiller) - 2013
31.) Vile Gash - Nightmare In A Damaged Brain (Youth Attack) - 2018
32.) Wiccans - Skullduggery (Katorga Works) - 2011
33.) Tragedy - Darker Days Ahead (Self-Released) - 2012
34.) Game - No One Wins (Quality Control HQ) - 2019
35.) The Boston Strangler - Fire (Self-Released) - 2014
36.) Warcry - Savage Machinery (Self-Released) - 2014
37.) Candy - Good To Feel (Triple B) - 2018
38.) Hank Wood And The Hammerheads - Self-Titled (Toxic State) - 2018
39.) Soul Swallower - Devoured (Painkiller) - 2011
40.) Selfish - Life Has No Vacant Time (Feral Ward) - 2013
41.) Civilized - Chopping Block (Youth Attack) - 2017
42.) Salvation - Mortality Interactions (Youth Attack) - 2010
43.) Glam - Veneno En Sus Flechas (La Vida Es Un Mus)
44.) Cold World - How The Gods Chill (Deathwish) - 2014
45.) Vein - Errorzone (Closed Casket Activities) - 2018
46.) No Warning - Torture Culture (Last Gang) - 2017
47.) Omegas - Power To Exist (Beach Impediment) - 2016
48.) Violent Reaction - City Streets (Painkiller) - 2013
49.) Total Abuse - Excluded (Deranged) - 2015
50.) City Hunter - Deep Blood (Youth Attack) - 2018


Best Hardcore / Punk EPs

1.) The Rival Mob - Hardcore For Hardcore (Six Feet Under) - 2010
2.) Warthog - Exterminate Me (Katorga Works) - 2013
3.) Hoax - Hoax (Katorga Works) - 2011
4.) The Impalers - The Impalers (W-Label / Todo Destruido) - 2011
5.) Ajax - Ajax (Katorga Works) - 2014
6.) Perdition - Perdition (Distort Reality) - 2010
7.) Warthog - Warthog (Beach Impediment) - 2016
8.) Rixe - Coups Et Blessures (La Vida Es Un Mus) - 2015
9.) No Tolerance - No Remorse, No Tolerance (Youngblood) - 2011
10.) Crazy Spirit - Crazy Spirit (Toxic State) - 2010
11.) Perdition - Perdition (Toxic State) - 2011
12.) Waste Management - Power Abuse (Painkiller) - 2010
13.) Obliteration - War Is Our Destiny (Beach Impediment) - 2013
14.) The Impalers - Psychedelic Snutskallar (Can O' Bees) - 2014
15.) Green Beret - Violence Is Their Currency (Side Two) - 2012
16.) Glue - Glue (Katorga Works / Video Disease) - 2014
17.) Vile Gash - Deluded (Youth Attack) - 2011
18.) S.H.I.T. - I (La Vida Es Un Mus) - 2016
19.) Blazing Eye - Blazing Eye (Overdose) - 2014
20.) Tragedy - Fury (Self-Released) - 2018
21.) Veins - Veins (Youth Attack) - 2010
22.) Civilized - Dust And Blood (Youth Attack) - 2014
23.) La Misma - La Misma (Toxic State) - 2014
24.) Warthog - Prison (Iron Lung Records) - 2014
25.) Death Evocation - Death Evocation (Quality Control HQ) - 2011
26.) Warthog - Warthog (Toxic State) - 2018
27.) Arms Race - Gotta Get Out (Quality Control HQ) - 2015
28.) Suburbanite - Suburbanite (Youth Attack) - 2011
29.) Rixe - Baptême Du Feu (La Vida Es Un Mus) - 2017
30.) Candy - Candy Says (Triple B) - 2018


Best Metal Releases

1.) Power Trip - Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord) - 2017
2.) Disma - Towards The Megalith (Profound Lore) - 2011
3.) Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Icarus Music) - 2010
4.) Ghost - Opus Eponymous (Rise Above) - 2010
5.) Mammoth Grinder / Hatred Surge Split (Regurgitated Semen) - 2011
6.) Volahn - Aq'Ab'Al (Crepúsculo Negro) - 2014
7.) Midnight - Satanic Royalty (Hells Headbangers) - 2011
8.) Ashdautas - Where The Sun Is Silent... (Crepúsculo Negro) - 2010
9.) Mammoth Grinder - Underworlds (Relapse) - 2013
10.) Black Witchery - Inferno Of Sacred Destruction (Osmose Productions) - 2010
11.) Arizmenda - Without Circumference Nor Center (Crepúsculo Negro) - 2011
12.) Ares Kingdom - Incendiary (Nuclear War Now!) - 2010
13.) Sleep - The Sciences (Third Man) - 2018
14.) Revenge - Scum.Collapse.Eradication (Nuclear War Now!) - 2012
15.) Magic Circle - Magic Circle (Armageddon Shop) - 2013
16.) Hooded Menace - Effigies of Evil (Relapse) - 2012
17.) Inquisition - Obscure Verses For The Multiverse (Season Of Mist) - 2013
18.) Arizmenda - Stillbirth In The Temple Of Venus (Crepúsculo Negro) - 2014
19.) Innumerable Forms - Punishment In Flesh (20 Buck Spin)
20.) Midnight - No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers) - 2014
21.) Goat Semen - Ego Svm Satana (Hells Headbangers) - 2015
22.) Antichrist - Forbidden World (High Roller) - 2011
23.) Eternal Champion - The Armor Of Ire (No Remorse) - 2016
24.) Christian Mistress - Agony & Opium (20 Buck Spin) - 2010
25.) Gatecreeper - Sonoran Depravation (Relapse) - 2016


Best Rap / Hip-Hop Releases

1.) Juicy J - Rubba Band Business 2 - 2011
2.) Future - Pluto - 2012
3.) Chief Keef - Finally Rich - 2012
4.) Waka Flocka Flame - Flockaveli - 2010
5.) Young Thug - I Came From Nothing 2 - 2011 
6.) Freddie Gibbs - ESGN - 2013
7.) Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - 2012
8.) Young Scooter - Street Lottery - 2013
9.) The Weeknd - House Of Balloons - 2011
10.) Juicy J - Blue Dream & Lean - 2011
11.) Chief Keef - Back From The Dead - 2012
12.) Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra - 2011
13.) Lil Ugly Mane - Mista Thug Isolation - 2012
14.) Rich Homie Quan - I Go In On Every Song - 2012
15.) Skepta - Konnichiwa - 2016
16.) Future & Freeband Gang - F.B.G. The Movie - 2013
17.) Frank Ocean - Channel Orange - 2012
18.) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana - 2019
19.) Young Thug - Barter 6 - 2015
20.) Rick Ross - Teflon Don - 2010
21.) Young Thug - 1017 Thug - 2013
22.) Roscoe Dash - Demolition 2020 - 2010
23.) Waka Flocka Flame - DuFlocka Rant (10 Toes Down) - 2011
24.) Pusha T - Daytona - 2018
25.) Kendrick Lamar - Section.80 - 2011


Best Releases In Open Competition

1.) Cold Cave - Cherish The Light Years (Matador) - 2011
2.) Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville) - 2015
3.) Robyn - Body Talk (Konichiwa) - 2010
4.) Merchandise - Children Of Desire (Katorga Works) - 2012
5.) Björk - Vulnicura (One Little Indian) - 2015
6.) Milk Music ‎- Cruise Your Illusion (Perennial)
7.) Best Coast - Crazy For You (Mexican Summer) - 2010
8.) My Bloody Valentine - mbv (Self-Released) - 2013
9.) Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop) - 2010
10.) Grimes - Art Angels (4AD) - 2015
11.) Kamasi Washington - Heaven And Earth (Young Turks) - 2018
12.) Chvrches - Every Open Eye (Virgin) - 2015
13.) Taylor Swift - 1989 (Big Machine) - 2015
14.) Solange - A Seat At The Table (Saint) - 2016
15.) Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Columbia) - 2013
16.) Rihanna - ANTI (Roc Nation) - 2016
17.) Carly Rae Jepsen - E•MO•TION (School Boy) - 2015
18.) Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow (Relapse) - 2016
19.) Swervedriver - I Wasn't Born To Lose You (Cobraside) - 2015
20.) FKA Twigs - LP1 (Young Turks) - 2014
21.) Angel Olsen - My Woman (Jagjaguwar) - 2016
22.) Sturgill Simpson - High Top Mountain (Loose) - 2013
23.) The Men - Leave Home (Sacred Bones) - 2011
24.) Title Fight - Shed (SideOneDummy) - 2011
25.) Fucked Up Presents David's Town (Matador) - 2011


Best Demos

1.) The Rival Mob - Mob Justice Promo (2012)
2.) The Impalers - 2010
3.) Ajax - Bleach For Breakfast (2013)
4.) The Boston Strangler - 2010
5.) Iron Age - The Saga Demos - 2011
6.) Warthog - Chain Wallet Sessions (2012)
7.) Murderer - 2013
8.) Stigmatism - 2018
9.) Exit Order - 2013
10.) Concealed Blade - 2015


Best Sets

1.) Bastard (reunion) @ Chaos In Tejas / Emo's / Austin, TX (May 29th 2010)
2.) Massive Attack @ Radio City Music Hall / New York, NY (September 26th 2019)
3.) The Stone Roses @ Madison Square Garden / New York, NY (June 30th 2016)
4.) Bolt Thrower @ Chaos In Tejas / 1100 Warehouse / Austin, TX (May 31st 2013)
5.) Framtid @ Chaos In Tejas / 1100 Warehouse / Austin, TX (June 1st 2013)
6.) No Warning (reunion) @ Game Changer World / Howell, NJ (April 10th 2015)
7.) Future @ Fader Fort SXSW / Austin, TX (March 15th 2013)
8.) Death Side (reunion) @ Le Poisson Rouge / New York, NY (April 16th 2016)
9.) Integrity (Systems Overload lineup) @ A389 Anniversary / Sonar / Baltimore, MD (January 18th 2014)
10.) Isterismo @ New York's Alright / The Acheron / Brooklyn, NY (April 17th 2015)

Special note for the worst set of the decade which was:
Poison Idea @ Chaos In Tejas / Emo's / Austin, TX (May 30th 2010)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Best of 2019

Celebrating new music is important. In the subculture, we are constantly faced with a chorus of people who will tell you that the genres are dead and that there is nothing good coming out anymore. This opinion alone indicts how out of touch a person can be. There is a deluge of incredible new music coming out every year and it is important to take the time to praise the work of those who contribute to the subculture's sonic archive.


Best Hardcore / Punk LPs

1.) Game - No One Wins (Quality Control HQ / Beach Impediment)
2.) Irreal - Fi Del Mon (La Vida Es Un Mus)
3.) Nosferatu - Solution A (La Vida Es Un Mus)
4.) Nightmare - Thirsty And Wander (Blood Sucker / 540)
5.) Asid - Pathetic Flesh (La Vida Es Un Mus)
6.) Division Of Mind - Division Of Mind (Triple B)
7.) Kohti Tuhoa - Ihmisen Kasvot (La Vida Es Un Mus)
8.) Restraining Order - The World Is Too Much (Triple B)
9.) Eyes Of The Lord - Misery Feels Like Home (Closed Casket Activities)
10.) Muro ‎- Muro En Vivo En El Festival Asfixia, Antípoda Bogotá (Fuerza Ingobernable)
11.) Judiciary - Surface Noise (Closed Casket Activities)
12.) Wild Side - Who The Hell Is WILD SIDE? (Triple B)
13.) L.O.T.I.O.N. - World Wide W.E.B. (Toxic State)
14.) Buried Dreams - 9 Reasons Not To Live (Triple B)
15.) Never Ending Game - Just Another Day (Triple B)

Honorable Mentions

Kaleidoscope - After The Futures... (Toxic State)
Fury - Failed Entertainment (Run For Cover)
Magnitude - To Whatever Fateful End (Triple B)
Wolf Whistle - Private Hell (Triple B)


Best Metal Releases

1.) Departure Chandelier ‎- Antichrist Rise To Power (Nuclear War Now!)
2.) Blood Incantation - Hidden History Of The Human Race (Dark Descent)
3.) Gatecreeper - Deserted (Relapse)
4.) Teitanblood - The Baneful Choir (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
5.) Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)
6.) Antichrist Siege Machine - Schism Preparation (Stygian Black Hand)
7.) Magic Circle - Departed Souls (20 Buck Spin)
8.) Spirit Adrift - Divided By Darkness (20 Buck Spin)
9.) Pig's Blood - A Flock Slaughtered (Stygian Black Hand)
10.) Devil Master - Satan Spits On Children Of Light (Relapse)

Honorable Mentions

Crypt Sermon - The Ruins Of Fading Light (Dark Descent)
Misþyrming - Algleymi (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
Creeping Death - Wretched Illusions (eOne)
Darkthrone - Old Star (Peaceville)
Cerebral Rot - Odious Descent Into Decay (20 Buck Spin)
Hell Konfessor - Hell Konfessor (Klaxon)


Best Rap / Hip-Hop Releases

1.) Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana
2.) Benny The Butcher - The Plugs I Met
3.) Juice WRLD - Death Race For Love
4.) Young Thug - So Much Fun
5.) Denzel Curry - Zuu
6.) DAVE - Psychodrama
7.) Young Scooter - Trap Hero
8.) Megan Thee Stallion - Fever
9.) Westside Gunn - Flygod Is An Awesome God
10.) Future - The Wizrd
11.) Gang Starr - One Of The Best Yet
12.) Conway - Look What I Became
13.) Westside Gunn - Hitler Wears Hermes 7
14.) Peewee Longway - Blue M&M 4
15.) Little Simz - Grey Area

Honorable Mentions

Lil Peep - Everybody's Everything
03 Greedo - Still Summer In The Projects
Boogie - Everything's For Sale
Future - Save Me
DaBaby - Baby On Baby


Best Releases In Open Competition

1.) Angel Olsen - All Mirrors (Jagjaguwar)
2.) Sturgill Simpson - Sound & Fury (Elektra)
3.) Sabrina Claudio - Truth Is (SC Entertainment)
4.) FKA twigs - MAGDALENE (Young Turks)
5.) Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror (Dais)
6.) Summer Walker - Over It (Love Renaissance / Interscope)
7.) Solange - When I Get Home (Columbia)
8.) (Sandy) Alex G - House of Sugar (Domino)
9.) Taylor Swift - Lover (Republic)
10.) Carter Tutti Void - Triumvirate (Conspiracy International)
11.) Young Guv - GUV I & II (Run For Cover)
12.) Lust For Youth - Lust For Youth (Sacred Bones)
13.) Sheer Mag - A Distant Call (Wilsuns)
14.) Whirr - Feels Like You (Self-Released)
15.) Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains (Drag City)

Honorable Mentions

Prurient - Music For Halloween Night (Hospital Productions)
Ceremony - In The Spirit World Now (Relapse)
Geography Of Hell - Sabra Shatila 1982 (Hospital Productions)
Pharmakon - Devour (Sacred Bones)
Palmistry - Afterlife (Mixpak)


Best Hardcore / Punk EPs

1.) Hank Wood And The Hammerheads - Heads (Self-Released)
2.) Vaaska - Inocentes Condenados (Beach Impediment)
3.) Candy - Super-Stare (Relapse)
4.) Blind Authority - Death Dreams (Quality Control HQ)
5.) Skizophrenia - Undead Melodies (S.K.Z.)
6.) Ekulu - Half Alive (Triple B)
7.) Pobreza Mental - Ya No Me Pertenezco (Toxic State)
8.) Protocol - Bloodsport (11PM)
9.) Loose Nukes - Behind The Screen (Beach Impediment)
10.) Jackal - Jackal (Painkiller)

Honorable Mentions

Cochonne - Cochonne (Self-Released)
Leather Lickers - Leather Lickers (Cool Death)
Concrete Bollocks - Disasters Of War (Contra)
Rata Negra - La Hija Del Sepulturero (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Kriegshög - Paint It Black / White Out (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Armor - Some Kind Of War (11PM)


Best Demos

1.) Rated X
2.) Heavy Discipline
3.) Sprackta
4.) Schematic
5.) Phantasia


Best Sets
Note - I had a major medical issue this year involving my ear so going to shows was actual hell for me for most of the year. It only started to clear up in the fall which is why most of these shows were near the year's end.

1.) Massive Attack @ Mezzanine XXI / Radio City Music Hall / New York, NY (September 26th)
2.) Warthog @ The Final Brooklyn Bazaar Show / Brooklyn, NY (November 30th)
3.) Youth Of Today @ Saint Vitus / Brooklyn, NY (March 16th)
4.) Iron Age @ Hardcore Hell / Saint Vitus / Brooklyn, NY (August 9th)
5.) Mortician @ Saint Vitus / Brooklyn, NY (November 15th)

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Best of 2018

Celebrating new music is important. In the subculture, we are constantly faced with a chorus of people who will tell you that the genres are dead and that there is nothing good coming out anymore. This opinion alone indicts how out of touch a person can be. There is a deluge of incredible new music coming out every year and it is important to take the time to praise the work of those who contribute to the subculture's sonic archive.


Adam Abou-Heif
(Owner of Material World Records & Tapes, founder of Bitter Lake Recordings, and founder of Katorga Works)

Here is a list of new releases that really struck a chord with me in 2018.

Big City - S/T CS (Self-Released)

Years in the making, Big City marks the return of the elusive Will Machi, who you may remember as the guitar virtuoso of Rochester hardcore punks Rational Animals. Was I the only person who loved Rational Animals? Most likely, yes. Anyway, here he's teamed up with Max (Hank Wood and the Hammerheads) and Dave (Perrett) to create something entirely different. This full-length cassette draws from the power of the great American rock ‘n’ roll songbook that recalls the best of the 70s, 80s, and 90s without falling prey to uninspired nostalgia. The band already has almost two more newer, better albums recorded, so I imagine people will start to catch on to this band soon enough!

Black Magick SS - Spectral Ecstasy CD (Infinite Wisdom Productions)

This Tasmanian psychedelic/occult rock band is one of my favorite acts of contemporary times. I've gushed endlessly about them before (their 2017 album Kaleidoscope Dreams made my top ten list that year) and here I go again. Like the album before it, the band is moving further and further away from their black metal roots. I don't think Spectral Ecstasy has had quite the same impact on me as Kaleidoscope Dreams, but I am still in love with it. Certainly, not a very palatable band, but I find them to be on the of the most inventive bands of contemporary times.

Condor - Cassette Single #2 CS (Not On Label)

Condor is the newest project of Maxime of Rixe, one of the premier contemporary oi bands in the world. In this one-man band, he explores a more classic French punk sound than his main band. Condor is a bit less polished, a bit less Oi, and, dare I say, even more FRENCH than Rixe, yet still super catchy and is a flawlessly-executed take on the sound. This would fit right in with legendary Chaos En France compilations. Their first cassette single made me a believer, but this cassette is punk perfection with some of the catchiest guitar leads I've heard in years.

Fulber, Rhys - Your Dystopia, My Utopia 2x12" (Sonic Groove)

This record caught me quite off guard. I obviously know Rhys Fulber from his work with Frontline Assembly and I tend to enjoy most releases on Adam X's Sonic Groove label (Adam's newest solo album Recon Mission showcases his love for EBM and is certainly worth checking out, as well!), but I wasn't at all expecting Fulber to be producing essential work this late into his career. Masterfully done industrial techno with, unsurprisingly, the occasional EBM flourish. Maybe I'm partial to this because of some sort of nostalgia, but I love this record!

Hank Wood and the Hammerheads - S/T LP (Toxic State)

This is the long-awaited third LP from NYC punks Hank Wood and the Hammerheads. Over the past decade, no punk band has been more definitively “NEW YORK” than Hammerheads. This record sees the band continuing to develop their songwriting into something more “mature” and even darker. The production is far richer than its predecessor, which happens to perfectly compliment with the more complex guitar and keyboard parts. Hank’s performance is his best since the modern classic Go Home, both more earnest and personal; there is a certain heaviness and world-weariness here that was not found on previous releases. For a band to continue to stay so vital in an increasingly fickle and forgetful world of punk is a true feat, and Hammerheads have graced us with yet another classic rock album. Essential.

Impure - Transfixed In Limbo 7" (Self-Released)

Impure is a new black/death metal band (citing Von, Autopsy, and Beherit as influences) from the masterminds behind Electric Assault Records and Stygian Black Hand, so of course it's going to be excellent. Transfixed In Limbo is the perfect black/death metal single a la Seraphic Decay (at least, that's what the format and aesthetic reminded me of!) and is so endlessly catchy that I can't help but flip the record over and over and over again each time I play it.

Jühning, Herz - Samsara LP (Galakthorrö)

Coming almost a decade after his Miasma album, Herz Jühning released what might be the definitive example of his brilliant meshing of power electronics brutality, wave-minimality, and the experimentation of classic industrial music. Samsara is very much in line with everything that's been coming out on Galakthorrö and it's funny to think that the label has been pegged as having a trademark "sound," as if that would  somehow be a slight against either one of the best industrial labels going or Jühning himself, who has made my favorite and most listened to industrial record of 2018.

Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples LP (Guruguru Brain)

Masana Temples is latest album from Tokyo psych rockers Kikagaku Moyo. Their 2016 album House In The Tall Grass has gone on to become one of my favorite records of the past decade. While I don't think this record is quite as perfect as that one, Masana Temples sees the band following the psychedelic path into even more mind-expanding territory, in particular through the band's obsession with South Asia, as the album incorporates even more elements of classical Indian music into their tried-and-true pool of influences including Krautrock, traditional folk, and 60s and 70s psych rock. There are still some serious high points, such as “Fluffy Kosmisch”, which has become one of my favorite Kikagaku Moyo songs. It's rare to hear a good contemporary psych record in this day and age, let alone one as phenomenal as this one.

Robyn - Honey LP (Konichiwa Records)

In a perfect world of my design, Robyn would be the most popular contemporary pop star. Well, fortunately for most (but maybe not Robyn), we are not living in anything close to resembling what I would consider a perfect world. Still, Robyn thrives without (or in spite of) the faux-divine intervention of dorks such as myself and has released yet another pop masterpiece with Honey. It has the familiar Robyn stamp on it, so no one will be disappointed by any sudden revolutionary change, but this album, as a whole, managed to subtly develop her sound in what is the most captivating and enveloping pop records I've heard in the last few years.

Warthog - 4th 7" (Toxic State)

NYC's well-oiled hardcore punk machine unsurprisingly releases yet another winner. Their live shows are so consistently excellent that I'm almost unfazed by them, at this point. Like their last 7" on Beach Impediment (which is my favorite overall), this 7" has far better production than their first two EPs on Iron Lung and Kaverka Derks. You know, it's's good. Also, Warthog has managed to do what most uninspired worship bands have failed to and make one of the best rock n roll songs of the year with “Brainwasher”. I don't know. Whatever.

And, in the era of reissue excess, here are my favorite reissue and archival releases:

Colored Music - S/T LP (WRWTFWW)

The 1981 self-titled album from cult Japanese duo Colored Music was a record I was sadly not acquainted with until it was reissued earlier this year. An incredible mix of cosmic new wave, unconventional disco, avant-garde synth pop, and hybrid electronic funk, Colored Music is enchantingly unique, a sort of experimental and magnetizing take on both David Bowie's Berlin Trilogy and Trevor Horn's visionary new wave machine, all with a very Japanese touch courtesy of fellow collaborators Haruomi Hosono, Yasuaki Shimizu, Jun Fukamachi, etc. It's a weird one, but I cannot recommend it enough!

Gaizin - S/T 7" (General Speech)

As with all General Speech releases, this reissue of this ultra-obscure Sapporo, Japan hardcore punk band is born of a singular passion and genuine obsession with this music not found in many reissue labels. This is for true heads only. Gaizin was a cassette-only band influenced by classic Japanese bands a la Gai and Confuse, as well as the "Sapporo Sound" of more well-known bands like Tranquilizer or the General Speech'd G-Gas. If you're at all interested in any of these Japanese bands, you have to find a way to get your hands on this record that appears to already be out-of-print.

Gania, Maalem Mahmoud - Colours Of The Night 2xLP (Hive Mind Records)

From everything I've read about this release, it technically came out in late 2017, but I didn't actually see it available in shops or from distributors until almost the middle of 2018, so I'm counting it. Morocco's Mahmoud Gania is perhaps the most important figure in 20th century Gnawa music and is a hero of the Guimbri. He was a huge influence on Guimbri player Abderahmane "Paco" Kirouche (one of the Moroccan musicians Jimi Hendrix traveled to play with in 1969), whose band legendary band Nass El Ghiwane helped not only popularize the instrument and style of music, but helped gain some much-needed social acceptance for the predominantly Black and Sufi Gnawa People in an Arab and Sunni-majority Morocco. Most Westerners who would be most familiar with Gania would know him from his collaborative The Trance Of Seven Colors album with the great Pharoah Sanders. Colours Of The Night consists of his final recordings and they're as magical as any I've heard from him. His mastery of the trance-inducing music of the Gnawa people is perhaps some of the finest sacred and devotional music I've ever experienced. رحمة الله عليه

Haus Arafna - Blut - Trilogie Des Blutes | Nachblutung 2xLP (Galakthorrö)

This expanded reissue of Blut, the first Haus Arafna album from 1995, is the first vinyl pressing of any of this material. German power electronics with only hints of the more "angst pop" sound that defines their later releases. Blut is perhaps the roughest of all of the Haus Arafna releases, but it is no less classic than anything else they've done. An essential industrial release that finally sees the light of day on vinyl.

Muslimgauze - Mullah Said 2xLP (Staalplat)

Bryn Jones' Muslimgauze project existed for multiple decades, with Jones churning out over one hundred releases that spanned all different styles within the industrial/electronic/experimental world. As a result, it might be difficult to find the right place in which to become acquainted with Jones' singular vision. I personally am most fond of his classic 80s industrial sound, but a close second for me would be much of his early-to-mid 90s material up until 1999's dub ambient Mullah Said (FYI, Justified Arrogance CEO James K butchered the pronunciation of this title to me once), which may be the last release of his that I truly love. This release is particularly heavy on Middle Eastern string and percussion samples and, as always, rich with Jones' unhealthily obsession with various Middle Eastern conflicts of which he had no legitimate connection too, but, hey, respect to the odd man for speaking out when most others in the West would not.

Sympathy Nervous - S/T LP (Minimal Wave)

A much needed reissue of this 1980 proto-techno/synth masterpiece from the legendary Sympathy Nervous, which was originally released on the cult Vanity label. Most Vanity releases were thought to be unreissueable (a fake word) due to visionary owner Yuzuru Agi's notoriously difficult personality and firm hold over his work. Yet, Veronica Vasicka's Minimal Wave label (the most important synth reissue label, in my book) persevered and has gone ahead and lovingly reissued this groundbreaking record.

Tuffour, Nana - Sikyi Medley 12" (Kalita Records/CC Editions)

Nana Tuffour is another artist I had never heard of before it was reissued. One of the more renowned Ghanian Highlife artists, I initially found this reissue to be a little strange, as it's a four-song 12" compilation that combines two of his most well-known songs and two rarities. My reservations were soon cast aside, as I became obsessed with the ten-minute title track, of which its electronic jubilance made it my most listened to song of 2018.

Vlad Tepes - A Catharsis For Human Illness Box Set (Drakkar Productions)

A Catharsis For Human Illness is a box set of the French Black Metal band Vlad Tepes, who were a founding and integral faction within the Les Légions Noires scene in the city of Brest. The band released a slew of cassettes in the early-to-mid 90s that are now classic examples of the French Black Metal. This box set sees each of these cassette releases remastered and reissued on vinyl for the first time ever. I am by no means a box set guy (I kind of hate them), but this particular set is beautifully spot lacquered and comes with a booklet detailing the band’s history, in-depth explanations to each recording, and exclusive photos. Perhaps an odd way to put it considering the source material, but this box set was an utter joy to consume!

Yokota, Susumu - Acid Mt. Fuji 2xLP (Midgar)

Finally, a vinyl version of Susumu Yokota’s 1994 landmark acid techno/ambient Acid Mt. Fuji. I owned this album on CD as a curious teenager and it remained one of my favorite electronic albums of this style until my 30s, when it was FINALLY pressed to vinyl for the first time ever. It is a singular work that is difficult to place in one easy category, as Yokota guides the listener through his aural interpretation of the Japanese monolith, ebbing and flowing effortlessly between masterful 90s acid techno and a throwback to 80s naturalistic ambient music and new age.

Various Artists - Habibi Funk (An Eclectic Selection Of Music From The Arab World) 2xLP (Habibi Funk)

Habibi Funk's definitive release thus far as a label, this 2xLP compilation culls from serious rarities of artists that often took typical local and regional styles and melded them with popular Western styles (funk, soul, disco, jazz, rock, etc.) to create some of the most wild music to come from various Middle Eastern and North African countries. Beyond a couple of artists, I hadn't heard of ANY of this and I fell in love Habibi Funk five seconds into the first track. It’s a German label, but I’ll bite my tongue and admit there is nothing but heat on this and they did an amazing job! Technically, this was released in December 2017, but it didn't reach most places until at least January 2018, so I'm gonna count it and if you dare try and stop me, Inshallah, you will get the shoe.


Michael "Cheddar" Quick 
(Guitarist, Candy)

Music -

S.H.I.T. - What Do You Stand For?
Illusion - Magic With A Smile
Deflect - 2018 Promo
Game - Who Will Play?
City Hunter - Deep Blood
Supernatural Psycho - Rendezvous With The Sun
Yves Tumor - Safe In The Hands Of Love


The Deuce


You Were Never Really Here
The Favorite

Bad year for movies imo, most of my favorites were older movies I had never seen or revisited so I’ll include those:

Once Upon A Time In The West
All The Presidents Men
La Haine


Chase H. Mason 
(Vocals, Gatecreeper / Bass, Spirit Adrift)

Metal top 10:

Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
Hyperdontia - Nexus Of Teeth
Ritual Necromancy - Disinterred Horror
Obliteration - Cenotaph Obscure
Cerebral Rot - Cessation Of Life
Moenen of Xezbeth - Ancient Spells of Darkness...
Torture Rack - Malefic Humiliation
Witchcraft - Nightmare Goetia Demo
Innumerable Forms - Punishment In Flesh
Tomb Mold - Manor of Infinite Forms

Honorable Mentions...

Mournful Congregation – The Incubus of Karma
Mortuous - Through Wilderness
Evoken - Hypnagogia
Corpsessed - Impetus of Death
Skeletal Remains - Devouring Mortality
Mammoth Grinder - Cosmic Crypt
Outer Heaven - Realms Of Eternal Decay
Genocide Pact - Order of Torment

Not Metal Top 10:

Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober, Part 2
Tony Molina - Kill The Lights
Freddie Gibbs & Curren$y - Fetti
Warthog - Warthog
Snail Mail - Lush
Beach House - 7
Pusha T - Daytona
Temple Of Angels - Foiled
Candy - Good To Feel
Fantasy Camp - How To Fix Everything


James Khubiar 
(Founder, Justified Arrogance)

Best Hardcore / Punk LPs

1.) Candy - Good To Feel (Triple B)
2.) Tozcos - Suenos Deceptivos (Verdugo Discos)
3.) Hank Wood & The Hammerheads - Hank Wood & The Hammerheads (Toxic State)
4.) Vein - errorzone (Closed Casket Activities)
5.) Sunshine Ward - Nuclear Ambitions (Bloody Master)
6.) Vile Gash - Nightmare In A Damaged Brain (Youth Attack)
7.) Rata Negra - Justicia Cósmica (La Vida Es Un Mus)
8.) Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams (Merge)
9.) Suburbanite - Suburbanite (Youth Attack)
10.) Cadaver Dog - Dying Breed (Youth Attack)
11.) Permission - Drawing Breath Through A Hole In The Ground (La Vida Es Un Mus)
12.) Blood Pressure - Surrounded (Beach Impediment)
13.) S.H.I.T. - What Do You Stand For? (La Vida Es Un Mus)
14.) Waste Management - Tried And True (Painkiller)
15.) City Hunter - Deep Blood (Youth Attack)

Honorable Mentions

Terror - Total Retaliation (Pure Noise)
Mindforce - Excalibur (Triple B)
Trail Of Lies - W.A.R. (Edgewood)
King Nine - Death Rattle (Closed Casket Activities)
Turnstile - Time & Space (Roadrunner)

Best Metal Releases

1.) Innumerable Forms - Punishment In Flesh (Profound Lore)
2.) Mammoth Grinder - Cosmic Crypt (Relapse)
3.) Akitsa - Credo (Hospital Productions)
4.) Sleep - The Sciences (Third Man)
5.) Siege Column - Inferno Deathpassion (Nuclear War Now)
6.) Tomb Mold - Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
7.) Genocide Pact - Order of Torment (Relapse)
8.) One Tail, One Head - Worlds Open, Worlds Collide (Terratur Possessions)
9.) Moenen of Xezbeth - Ancient Spells of Darkness... (Nuclear War Now)
10.) Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed (Season Of Mist)

Honorable Mentions

Uniform & The Body - Mental Wounds Not Healing (Sacred Bones)
Craft - White Noise and Black Metal (Season of Mist)
Uniform - The Long Walk (Sacred Bones)
Mournful Congregation - The Incubus Of Karma (20 Buck Spin)

Best Rap / Hip-Hop / R&B Releases

1.) Pusha T - Daytona (G.O.O.D. Music)
2.) Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic)
3.) Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober Pt. 2 (Columbia)
4.) Jorja Smith - Lost & Found (FAMM)
5.) Future - Beast Mode 2 (Freebandz)
6.) 03 Greedo - God Level (Alamo)
7.) Nas - Nasir (G.O.O.D. Music)
8.) Juice Wrld & Future - Wrld on Drugs (Interscope)
9.) The Weeknd - My Dear Melancholy, (XO)
10.) Migos - Culture II (Capitol)

Honorable Mentions

Lil Baby - Harder Than Ever (4PF)
Sheck Wes - Mudboy (G.O.O.D. Music)
Kanye West - Ye (G.O.O.D. Music)
Young Thug - On The Rvn (300 Entertainment)

Best Releases In Open Competition

1.) Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth (Young Turks)
2.) Prince - Piano & A Microphone 1983 (NPG)
3.) Robyn - Honey (Konichiwa)
4.) Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt (Bella Union)
5.) Nothing - Dance On The Blacktop (Relapse)
6.) Young Guv - 2 Sad 2 Funk (NIGHT SCHOOL)
7.) Iceage - Beyondless (Escho)
8.) Tony Molina - "Kill The Lights" (Slumberland)
9.) Beach House - 7 (Sub Pop)
10.) US Girls - In A Poem Unlimited (4AD)
11.) Snail Mail - Lush (Matador)
12.) The Soft Moon - Criminal (Sacred Bones)
13.) Mitski - Be The Cowboy (Dead Oceans)
14.) Marie Davidson - Working Class Woman (Ninja Tune)
15.) Camp Cope - How To Socialise & Make Friends (Run For Cover)

Honorable Mentions

Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour (MCA Nashville)
Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel (Milk!)
Kelly Moran - Ultraviolet (Warp)
Empress Of - Us (Terrible)

Best Electronic Releases

1.) Ancient Methods - The Jericho Records (Self-Released)
2.) Varg - Nordic Flora Series Pt.5: Crush (Posh Isolation)
3.) Silent Servant - Shadows Of Death And Desire (Hospital Productions)
4.) Delroy Edwards - Rio Grande (L.A. Club Resource)
5.) Container - LP (Spectrum Spools)
6.) Cienfuegos - Autogolpe (Long Island Electrical Systems)
7.) Sophie - Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (MSMSMSM)
8.) DJ Koze - Knock Knock (Pampa)
9.) Gas - Rausch (Kompakt)
10.) Fret - Silent Neighbour (Long Island Electrical Systems)

Honorable Mentions

Delroy Edwards - Aftershock (Long Island Electrical Systems)
Skee Mask - Compro (Ilian Tape)
Ron Morelli - Disappearer (Hospital Productions)
Kyo with Jeuru - All The Same Dream (Posh Isolation)

Best Hardcore / Punk EPs

1.) Warthog - Warthog (Toxic State)
2.) Mil-Spec - Changes (Lockin Out)
3.) Tragedy - Fury (Tragedy)
4.) Ekulu - Ekulu (Triple B)
5.) Subdued - 4 Track EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
6.) Shipwrecked - SWD (Pretty Shitty Town)
7.) Illusion - Magic With A Smile (Lockin Out)
8.) Restraining Order - Restraining Order (New Age)
9.) Sial - Binasa (La Vida Es Un Mus)
10.) Deadlock - Deadlock (Painkiller)

Honorable Mentions

Arms Race - The Beast (Painkiller)
Exotica - Musique Exotique #03 (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Pure Pressure - Relàmpago De Furia (Painkiller)
The Flex - Flexual Healing Vol 7: Perhaps The War Is Over? Perhaps It's Peace? (Quality Control HQ)

Best Demos

1.) Stigmatism (Montreal, Canada + NYC)

5.) Innocent (Boston, MA)


Best Sets I Saw This Year

1.) Power Trip @ The Evil Beat Vol. 1 in Dallas, Texas (November 10th)
2.) Mammoth Grinder @ St. Vitus in Brooklyn, New York (March 2nd)
3.) Candy @ Brooklyn Bazaar in Brooklyn, New York (October 12th)
4.) Lil Ugly Mane @ Brooklyn Bazaar in Brooklyn, New York (November 5th)
5.) Vein @ This Is Hardcore in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (July 27th)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

RIP Todd Youth

I knew Todd. Not well. I know people who knew him better. I wasn't on the Lower East Side with him way back when and I didn't play in a band with him. I suppose that isn't the point though. We crossed paths a couple years ago after he told me he was a fan of the Justified Arrogance Instagram page (in truth probably because I posted about him so often). Every now and again, there'd be brief messages, mere acknowledgements of appreciation. Every single exchange I couldn't contain myself. Todd Youth, the mastermind behind Warzone, the guy who played with more legends than I could count, knew who I was and talked to me. In the times we spoke, I never asked any personal questions. I was too afraid to. Everything I know about Todd is the music he wrote, the stuff everyone else knows him for. It wasn't until later that people would tell me little things about his life, the random things you heard in passing.

That's the point of a life in death, isn't it? We're defined by our successes. The milestones. The plaques on the wall. The trophies on the mantle. In death, we're given the benefit of perfection. But beyond the music, Todd "Youth" Schofield lived a flawed life. I don't say that to impugn him, quite the contrary, I say it because it is the very reason why Todd Youth was one of the toughest souls that ever lived.

Born in 1971, Todd Youth immediately gravitated toward the hardcore punk scene living on the streets of the Lower East Side. He learned to play music at the legendary A7 in New York City. By the time he was 12 years old, he was filling in on bass for Antidote as well as playing bass for Agnostic Front. By age 15, he was a founding member of the band he would become most famous for: Warzone. Shortly after that, he would leave Warzone and join Murphy's Law. These are just a few of the parade of bands Todd would appear in. He would also play for Samhain, Danzig, Chrome Locust, Motorhead, D Generation, Glen Campbell, Fireburn, and Son of Sam. 

This isn't about the bands Todd played in. That's not important. Music is a lot of things to a lot of people. What it is, above all else, is a vehicle to describe a way we're feeling at a specific time and place in life. When we hear a certain song, we can close our eyes, and, for a brief fleeting moment, we're taken back to a different life in an another world. In that time, we feel like we can get it back. That's the curse of hardcore punk. It isn't about the moments we live in. It's about the moments we hope beyond hope we can get back. Todd's journey as a musician wasn't one chronicled in careerism or avarice. It was a personal search. With each project, he challenged himself to rise to the occasion. Be it sharing the stage with Lemmy in 2003 or playing behind Danzig in the late 90s. It was exactly who he was when he found his way into A7. He was a boy among men. Later he would become a star among immortals. He was never intimidated by the challenges life threw at him and he never ceased trying to challenge himself. He was angry and had something to prove. The trouble with someone who is always looking for a challenge is that the reality is they're challenging themselves the whole time. For every accolade, for every conquest, it's simply a level up toward the fight against themselves. The process of improvement so they can be more efficient at destroying themselves.

Hardcore equips us for a lot of things. It teaches us to be self-reliant, to stand our ground and fight back against anyone who should push us around, and, in a double-edged sword borne of raw naïveté, it teaches us to walk with our demons, not defeat them. In the best of times, this makes us stronger than we've ever known. In the heat of battle, we can summon strength we never thought possible. In the quiet lulls, we draw inspiration to create work that entire schools could try and fail to replicate. But in the darkest moments, our demons will devour us. It's the devil's bargain we all make to be a part of this. For all the gifts hardcore has given us, it refused to give us the one that so many of us came here for in the first place: inner peace and reconciliation. We need to hear that it's okay. We need to believe that it's okay. Todd never stopped moving in the quest to hear that existential affirmation. He created work that will last forever. More than that, his life painted a juxtaposition of sadness that few will ever truly understand. The brighter the star shines, the darker the shadow cast. He spanned a career running from himself and, in his wake, he left a trail of great music. They were the breadcrumbs of his internal struggle. Every band, every song was another chapter toward his pursuit for peace and reconciliation.

I finally understand Todd's journey and his search. I'm almost 33. My body is beginning to fail me and my health has started to turn on me. Some of the best friendships I've had in my life have long since eroded and disintegrated. I often wonder about the things I've done and rarely about the things I'm going to do. I think about all of that and then I throw on Don't Forget The Struggle, Don't Forget The Streets and for, a brief moment, it's like none of it ever ended: I'm back in Denton, Texas having beers with my friends on a Friday afternoon talking about everything and nothing, the world itself faded away and the only thing that mattered was us and then all at once it's gone again. We all know that feeling in one form or another. We want so badly to be a part of something special. When we find it, we hold on to it as tightly as possible and, in futility, we try to hold on for that extra second, praying that second will last forever. Once it's gone, the desire to get that feeling back becomes everything. We need that feeling to stave off the demons that brought us to that feeling in the first place. It is the catch-22 that plays for keeps. Todd knew this feeling better than anyone. He built NYHC at the ground floor, was a founding member of the Lower East Side Crew, helped write some of the most important hardcore anthems of all time. He wasn't just a part of something special. He was special.

From the Lower East Side to Hollywood, Todd lived a dozen lives. He did more in one lifetime than a sea of people could ever hope to do. All the while, he didn't stop searching. They say that there is a peace in death that we can never find in life. I don't know where Todd is right now, all I hope is that he's found that peace. One where the demons are finally gone, nothing hurt, and that moment will last forever.

RIP Todd Youth
1971 - 2018

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Best of 2017

Celebrating new music is important. In the subculture, we are constantly faced with a chorus of people who will tell you that the genres are dead and that there is nothing good coming out anymore. This opinion alone indicts how out of touch a person can be. There is a deluge of incredible new music coming out every year and it is important to take the time to praise the work of those who contribute to the subculture's sonic archive.


Best Hardcore / Punk LPs

1.) Impalers - Cellar Dweller (540 / Static Shock)
2.) Concealed Blade - Concealed Blade (Beach Impediment)
3.) Exit Order - Seed of Hysteria (Side Two / La Vida Es Un Mus)
4.) Lebenden Toten - Mind Parasites (Self-Released)
5.) No Warning - Torture Culture (Bad Actors)
6.) Wiccans - Sailing A Crazy Ship (Dull Tools)
7.) Culture Shock - Culture Shock (Youth Attack)
8.) Civilized - Chopping Block (Youth Attack)
9.) Sial - Sial (La Vida Es Un Mus)
10.) Patsy - LA Women (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Honorable Mentions

- Haram - When You Have Won You Have Lost (Toxic State)
- Limp Wrist - Facades (Self-Released)
- Short Days - Short Days (Destructure)
- Straightjacket Nation - Straightjacket Nation (Cool Death / La Vida Es Un Mus)


Best Metal Releases

1.) Power Trip - Nightmare Logic (Southern Lord)
2.) Godflesh - Post Self (Avalanche Productions)
3.) Perverted Ceremony - Sabbat Of Behezaël (Nuclear War Now)
4.) Bone Awl - The Lowest Road (Klaxon)
5.) Nexul - Paradigm of Chaos (Hell's Headbangers)
6.) Midnight - Sweet Death and Ecstasy (Hell's Headbangers)
7.) G.A.T.E.S. ‎– Back From The Grave (High Society Satanic)
8.) Tetragrammacide - Primal Incinerators Of Moral Matrix (Iron Bonehead)
9.) Goatpenis - Anesthetic Vapor (Nuclear War Now)
10.) Foreseen - Grave Danger (20 Buck Spin)

Honorable Mentions

- Grinning Death's Head - Blood War (Youth Attack)
- Black Cilice - Banished From Time (Iron Bonehead)
- Ritual Knife - Hate Invocation (Fallen Empire)


Best Rap / Hip-Hop / R&B Releases

1.) Future - HNDRXX (Freebandz)
2.) Migos - Culture (Quality Control Music)
3.) Young Thug - Beautiful Thugger Girls (YSL)
4.) Future & Young Thug - Super Slimey (Freebandz & YSL)
5.) 21 Savage / Offset / Metro Boomin - Without Warning (Slaughter Gang / Quality Control Music / Boominati Worldwide)
6.) Cardi B - Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 2 (KSR)
7.) Gucci Mane / Metro Boomin - DropTopWop (GUWOP)
8.) 21 Savage - Issa Album (Slaughter Gang)
9.) Future - Future (Freebandz)
10.) Giggs - Wamp 2 Dem (No BS)

Honorable Mentions

- Chief Keef - Thot Breaker (RBC)
- Kelela - Take Me Apart (Warp)
- Juicy J - Rubba Band Business (Taylor Gang)
- A$AP Mob - Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy (A$AP Worldwide)


Best Releases In Open Competition

1.) Milk Music - Mystic 100's (Dom America)
2.) Prurient - Rainbow Mirror (Hospital Productions)
3.) Charly Bliss - Guppy (Barsuk)
4.) Bjork - Utopia (One Little Indian)
5.) Slowdive - Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
6.) Varg - Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3, Gore​-​Tex City (Northern Electronics)
7.) Tove Lo - Blue Lips (Island)
8.) Drab Majesty - The Demonstration (Dais)
9.) Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun (Sargent House)
10.) Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Dead Oceans)

Honorable Mentions

- Pharmakon - Contact (Sacred Bones)
- Pissed Jeans - Why Love Now (Sub Pop)
- Uniform - Wake In Fight (Sacred Bones)
- Death of Lovers - The Acrobat (Dais)


Best Hardcore / Punk EPs

1.) Dame - Dame (Charm School)
2.) Rixe - Bapteme Du Feu (La Vida Es Un Mus)
3.) Dirty & His Fists - Dirty & His Fists (Feel It)
4.) Lebenden Toten - Static (Iron Lung)
5.) Barcelona - Un Último Ultrasonido Nació Y Murió En Barcelona (La Vida Es Un Mus)
6.) Candy - Candy Says (Triple B)
7.) Urchin - Peace Sign (Roachleg)
8.) Pollen - Fear of Another War (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
9.) Bib - Moshpit (Popwig)
10.) Aggression Pact - Instant Execution (Painkiller)

Honorable Mentions 

- Machine Gun - 10 Hardcore Tracks (Double Man)
- Ultra - Mistica Moderna (La Vida Es Un Mus)


Best Demos

1.) Mortal War (Philadelphia, USA)
2.) Witchtrial (Washington DC / New York City, USA)
3.) Imposter (Brighton, UK)
4.) Rashōmon (Washington DC, USA)
5.) Armament (Florida, USA)
6.) Pobreza Mental (New York City, USA)
7.) Secreto Publico (Mexico City, Mexico)
8.) Bombers - Loaded Gun (Boston, USA)
9.) Public Service (Glasgow, UK)
10.) Vile Spirit (Brighton, UK)


Best Sets of the Year

1.) Iron Age @ The Mohawk, March 25th
2.) Geography of Hell @ Warsaw, November 5th
3.) 9 Shocks Terror @ Brooklyn Bazaar, June 3rd
4.) Power Trip @ Webster Hall's Marlin Room, March 2nd
5.) Lust For Youth @ Brooklyn Bazaar, October 12th

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Best of 2016

Celebrating new music is important. In the subculture, we are constantly faced with a chorus of people who will tell you that the genres are dead and that there is nothing good coming out anymore. This opinion alone indicts how out of touch a person can be. There is a deluge of incredible new music coming out every year and it is important to take the time to praise the work of those who contribute to the subculture's sonic archive.

Adam Whites - founder of NYC record label Katorga Works and owner-operator of Brooklyn's Material World Records

New Releases

Mommy - Songs About Children LP

- This might be the most singular and unique punk record to be released in 2016. An incredible example of the true spirit of what made the contemporary NYC punk scene so special, as it is a completely enveloping experience that brings the listener into the harrowing an unwelcoming world of mental illness in ways few bands ever have, which spiritually aligns Mommy with a bands like Rudimentary Peni without feeling the need to try and sound like them. Punk should be difficult and challenging, not tepid rehashings of former glory, and this record is certainly challenging.

Warthog - S/T 7"

- Warthog has been one of the best live bands in the hardcore punk world for a minute, but this is their first release that truly captures that spirit and energy. Definitely my favorite punk record of the year.

Rakta - III LP

- I'll be totally honest: I used to think Rakta was awful. The first 12" REALLY bored me and I saw them play a disastrous set when my friend Nay and I booked a show for them on the ensuing tour. Well, I guess the band lost their guitar player to a cross-Atlantic move and, instead of replacing her, revamped their sound into something really special. No longer tepid post-punk revival, the band draws way more heavily on krautrock and psychedelic music, even with a touch of dub here and there. I honestly think that Rakta being marketed to punks is a huge misfire, as this band should be playing to a different type of audience that would care more this style. Either way, I will eat my words and say: I love this record and I love Rakta.

Blood Incantation - Starspawn LP

-This is the death metal record of the year for me for sure. Celestial and atmospheric, just nerdy enough. What a great band!

Uranium Club - Who Made The Man 7"

-Here's a theory I have: the most influential release for the midwestern punk sound of the moment is the reissue/first legit release of Hardcore Devo in 2013. Ever since then, there have been a huge wave of bands that have either tastefully taken influence from that era of Devo or have just completely aped the style. Uranium Club is the best example of the former, who take the influence and are still able to do something special with it AND write real songs. The older material was cool, but this single is a perfect punk single and the LP that this is on will surely replace this on my list once it comes out.

Framtid - The Horrific Visions 7"

-This is probably my least favorite Framtid release (still getting used to the new drummer), but it's still better than most other bands happening today! Framtid is the best.

Green Beret - Standing At The Mouth Of Hell 12"

-Oh hey, a band with riffs. This seems to be a novelty in 2016 hardcore punk, but Green Beret continues to be one of the most impressive AND under-appreciated bands in hardcore punk today.

Triage 7"

-Speaking of riffs, here's one of the most unexpectedly amazing releases of the year! I guess I had thought the best Toronto had to offer was S.H.I.T., but thank god I was wrong! JK actually, the new S.H.I.T. songs I've heard sound REALLY good. Anyway, if early-era Sacrilege had an Instagram, this is what they would sound like. Very contemporary with a classic touch to it, these songs are some of my favorite punk to come out in some time. Triage forever!


Queen - On Air 3xLP

-Queen, the most glorious band to ever exist! I'm a huge Queen nut, so this release certianly speaks to me. Three LPs of BBC sessions? Yes please! I think this release is notable to most casual fans for containing the first studio release of the fast version of "We Will Rock You," which has been floating around YouTube for years. The definitive version of that song is on Queen Rock Montreal (best concert footage AND best Queen recording IMO), but this is still awesome to have on vinyl.

Thiam, Mor - Din Safarrar (Drums Of Fire) LP

-I honestly hadn't heard of this record until this reissue came out, but it's blown me away. Spiritual jazz with an Afro-centric and funky atmosphere. Also notable is that Mor Thiam is Akon's father. I guess the original goes for four figures, so, thanks to this reissue, I'm very grateful to have yet another unattainable record to have to search for now :(.

Breakdown - '87 Demo LP

-This is my favorite Breakdown material, so I was obviously excited that it was released in full instead of an abbreviated 7". NYHC at its finest. The b-side is an amazing WFMU recording with some of my favorite banter. 

Cirith Ungol - Paradise Lost LP

-AW YEAH. This is the first legit vinyl release of Cirith Ungol's final studio album, Paradise Lost, which was released only on CD in 1991. Not quite as good as their masterpiece King of the Dead, but despite this being their most misunderstood album, I truly believe this stands up to their other work. JOIN THE LEGION.

Gas - Box 4xLP + 4xCD 

- Gas was one of my favorite ambient techno acts when I used to listen to this stuff a lot more in my adventurous teens and to have all of this material compiled into one boxset has been a godsend, because I wasn't buying vinyl at the time. This stuff is just beautiful. 

V/A - From Minimal Wave With Love CS 

-Yet another Minimal Wave comp? You'd probably think Veronica would have run out of relevant material by now and, yes, there's some stuff on this that's appeared elsewhere, but if you want masterful synth curation like no other, Minimal Wave is the place to go. You can never own enough releases with the song "Russia" by Elisa Waut, I might add. 

Mystic Inane - The EPs of M/I 12" 

-One of the most unique hardcore punk bands of the past five years. Everything Candice does is amazing and to have their EPs compiled into one LP is exactly what my lazy-ass needed. Go Mystic Inane!

AZOK - S.A.F.N.P. 7"

As General Speech stated in their official description of this cult Japanese punk obscurity, it’s nearly impossible to reissue something people haven’t heard before in the age of both reissue label culture and internet omnipotence, yet here we have AZOK. I believe the original release was limited to a mere 10 cassettes, but has now reissued in a limited run of 200 7”s. With a sound akin to G.I.S.M. being played through a blender, Azok should appeal to any fans of the classic dark and violent sounding 80's hardcore punk bands of Japan. This is a truly unique punk experience that I am so glad has seen a slightly wider release.

Brian C. Crozier - guitarist of Vanity and Pox, bass player of Lion's Cage

Maxime Smadja - drummer of French band Rixe and sole performer in Digital Octopus

Top 2016

Arms Race - New Wave Of British Hardcore LP
Anxiety - ST LP
CC Dust - CC Dust LP
Vanity - Don't Be Shy LP
Uranium Club - Human Exploration LP
The Cowboys - ST LP
Urochromes - Anthology LP
Pierre et Bastien - Musique Grecque LP
Rendez-Vous - Distance LP

Barcelona - Pueden Ser Ellos 7"
Triage - Power Beat 7"
Warthog - Warthog 7"
C.C.T.V - Piece of Paper and Audiocassette Tape 7"
Uranium Club - Who Made The Man 7"

DLIMC - November Cassingle Tape
Uranium Club - Beat Session Vol.1 Tape
Exotica - Musique Exotique Tape
Impalers - Promo Tape

Top Classics 2016

Cro-Mags - Age Of Quarrel LP
Thin Lizzy - Fighting LP
Kiss - Hotter Than Hell LP
Brainwash - Etat D'Urgence 1982 - 1986 LP
Doctors Cat - Feel The Drive Maxi
Elli et Jacno - Tout Va Sauter LP
Rich Kids - Ghost Of Princes In Towers LP

The Chills ‎– Kaleidoscope World LP

James Khubiar - founder of Justified Arrogance

Top 10 Hardcore / Punk LPs
1. Crown Court - Capital Offence (Katorga Works / Rebellion)
2. Omegas - Power To Exist (Beach Impediment)
3. Mommy - Songs About Children (Toxic State)
4. Absolute Power - Absolute Power (Youth Attack)
5. Green Beret - Standing at the Mouth of Hell (Side Two)
6. Latishia's Skull Drawing - Romanticized (Iron Lung)
7. Cinderblock - Cinderblock (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
8. Arms Race - New Wave of British Hardcore (Painkiller / La Vida Es Un Mus)
9. The Repos - Poser (Youth Attack)
10. Lumpy & The Dumpers - Huff My Sack (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Top 10 Non-Hardcore Punk LPs
1. Dark Blue - Start of the World (12XU)
2. Nothing - Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse)
3. Vanity - Don't Be Shy (Katorga Works)
4. Belgrado - Obraz (La Vida Es Un Mus)
5. Merchandise - A Corpse Wired For Sound (4AD)
6. Croatian Amor - Love Means Taking Action (Posh Isolation)
7. Lust For Youth - Compassion (Sacred Bones)
8. Cheena - Spend The Night With... (Sacred Bones)
9. Psychic Mirrors - Nature of Evil (Cosmic Chronic)
10. Puce Mary - The Spiral (Posh Isolation)

Top 10 Hardcore / Punk EPs
1. Framtid - The Horrific Visions (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
2. Warthog - Warthog (Beach Impediment)
3. Rixe - Les Nerfs A Vif (La Vida Es Un Mus)
4. S.H.I.T. - I (La Vida Es Un Mus)
5. Paranoid - Punkdemonium Hell (Suede)
6. Pollen - EP (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
7. Sunshine Ward - Order (Feral Ward)
8. JJ Doll - JJ Doll (Katorga Works)
9. Kriegshog - General (La Vida Es Un Mus)
10. Vaaska - Futuro Primtivo (Vox Populi)

Hardcore / Punk Demos
1. JJ Doll
2. Krimewatch
3. Exotica - Musique Exotique #01
4. Reckless Aggression - 2nd Demo
5. Malcontent

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. The Stone Roses @ Madison Square Garden, June 30th
2. Death Side / Warthog / S.H.I.T. / Vaaska / Mommy / Indignation @ Le Poisson Rouge, April 16th
3. Aspects of War / Warthog / Indignation / Conspiracy / Porvenir Oscuro @ The Acheron, July 8th
4. Anasazi / Crazy Spirit / Pawns / Dog @ Sunnyvale, October 31st
5. Hank Wood and Hammerheads / Sheer Mag / Haram @ Sunnyvale, September 11th

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Being Middle Eastern

There's a level of irony that I've somehow arrived at this particular topic on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9/11. 9/11 for a Middle Eastern-American marks the end of our presumed innocence in this society. Before 9/11, the term 'terrorist' was still synonymous with Middle Easterners. However, it was after that day when those Middle Eastern terrorists were no longer just denizens of a faraway land. The yellow journalism machine and the Bush administration saw to it that all Middle Easterners domestically would be considered terrorists. 

It was after that day that neighbors stopped being neighbors, students stopped being students, and citizens stopped being citizens. It was after that day that we all became suspects.

I am Middle Eastern and I am a punk.

For a long time, those two statements existed separately from each other, but they both always served to remind me that I was somehow different from everyone else. It's only been in the last few years however that I've seen a lot of discussions about different races being made to feel included in the punk scene and that this is a white club. Being a Middle Eastern, I always resented that sentiment a little bit. Black people could look toward the Bad Brains and bands like Burn and Absolution for inspiration and representation. Latinos had bands like Los Crudos here in the USA and their compatriots in Latin America. Asians could look toward Japan and see one of the greatest scenes in the world. What about Middle Easterners? We've never had that kind of representation in the punk scene. Sure, we had people like Armand Majidi (Sick of It All / Rest In Pieces), Faiza Kracheni (Hatred Surge / Body Pressure), Amir Mamori (Fearless Iranians From Hell) and other scattered individuals representing the region but their participation was never vaunted for their background much in the way other groups would receive acclaim for it. As an ethnic group in the scene, we simply existed in the shadows while being largely ignored. Most of the time people would think we're something else, from Italian to Mexican. An Egyptian punk friend of mine once remarked that "being a Middle Eastern in punk is a lonely existence".

Then along came New York City's Haram.

Haram, fronted by Nader Hamam (whose ethnic background is Lebanese), became the first punk band to feature vocals and lyrics entirely in Arabic. The very meaning of the word Haram is a sin or a violation of Islamic law. What Haram meant for the Middle Eastern community in the punk scene is that someone finally took a step forward out of the shadows and planted a declarative foot down for our people. The most beautiful aspect of Haram is that they are the beginning of our voice as a people in the punk scene. Before them, we existed as mere mutes. We were there, but never as Middle Eastern.

When I first met Nader, I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect. We got to chatting outside of a show, smoked a few cigarettes, and we started riffing about Middle Eastern politics. We talked about how dangerous radical Islam and Wahhabism are. He asked me a lot of questions about Kemalism and how he too lamented the death of secularism in Turkey under the Erdogan regime. He agreed with my explanation about why the Assad government is Syria's best hope for a future (a markedly anti-ISIS/anti-Al Qaeda position). We talked and talked and it was clear from the outset that we understood each other. We never had discord as much as we were able to take in a clearer perspective of where we come from as a people through our dialogues. Along the way, he's become a person that I have accumulated an immeasurable amount of admiration and respect for.

This past Wednesday night, I was at a show when, in between songs, I heard the band's vocalist say "this goes out to my friend Nader for beating the FBI". I honestly thought it was a joke when I heard it. Do you know how many times a Middle Eastern person will hear in their life that they've been investigated by the Feds? Growing up, it was something me and my cousins used to say to each other as a joke if we did anything 'too Middle Eastern'. The next day on Facebook, I started seeing posts about Nader and the FBI. I realized then, it wasn't a joke.

Before I could even think about reacting, I noticed my eyes were burning the way they usually do when my anger gives way to tears. I had just learned that someone I feel privileged to call my friend, who fronts a band that literally exists to challenge radical Islam, and is someone that I've had many conversations with denouncing ISIS and scheming ways to destroy them had just been under local and federal investigation for being a suspected ISIS loyalist. All I could think to myself was "Nader is 100% the opposite of an ISIS loyalist. If they got it wrong about him after all that, it means that they'll never get it right about any of us."

It was important to me that I found someone else in the scene who understood what being Middle Eastern in punk feels like. If someone called a black person a hard R at a show or party, that person would likely get beat up. I can't say the same would happen if someone called a Middle Eastern person a sand nigger or a camel jockey or a dune coon or a fucking terrorist. If you're offended by reading those slurs, I'm offended that I had to be called them. I've been called those slurs so many times over the years and it was always met with causal snickers as if somehow racially abusing a Middle Eastern was different from any other group. We're not considered worthy to mainstream American society. At best, we're convenience store employees. At worst, we're terrorists. It's one thing to be a marginalized group. It's another to be marginalized and ignored.

I see a lot of kids in the punk scene today talking about the Black Lives Matter movement and the status of Latinos in the Southwestern USA. What about what Middle Easterners endure in this society? The conservative zeitgeist on the Middle East and its people range from putting all of us in interment camps to deporting us to ensuring none of us can enter the USA to out and out flattening the region with bombs. Even in punk, the RAC scene (Rock Against Communism; modern Nazi punk banner) has been re-branded in the last decade to say Rock Against Islam and Rock Against Terrorism. We are branded enemies with no allies coming to our aid. I'm not saying any of this to diminish the plight of other peoples of color, I'm simply asking why does our plight have to be ignored? We're not surrealist Tolstoy characters nor are we casualties of a tragic and often unfortunate culture. Everyone is racing to demonize and patronize while the race for understanding is at a virtual standstill.

What happened to Nader is not an outlier. It happens every day in this country to all Middle Easterners. We're attacked because a lot of us are immigrants or even first generation Americans borne to immigrant parents. We're marked as different by everyone. By the conservatives who want to nuke us and the liberals who want to coddle us by trying to justify the faith's worst aspects under the veil of Islamophobia. There's no call for inclusion, only arguments to remind everyone that we're different. Race relations as a whole are broken in this society but somehow considerations for the plight of Middle Easterners have fallen entirely by the wayside.

To close, I'm going to share a story I haven't told anyone in my adult life until I talked to Nader last night about all of this. It's important that Middle Easterners feel strong enough to talk about when they've been socially abused in the name of a society that they're being accused of hating. Only in a society where Donald Trump is on the presidential ticket would such backwards logic make sense.

When I was 15 years old and I was in 10th grade attending high school near Dallas, Texas, I had a fascination with gun culture, militias, and right wing literature. I was enamored by the libertarian politics that they espoused and the overall taboo subject matter as much of what I was getting into would 'get you put on a watch list'. In February 2002 (five months after 9/11), I was in fourth period Spanish reading The Turner Diaries (the book that was used as the blueprint for the OKC bombing perpetrated by Caucasian Timothy McVeigh) when I got called into the assistant principal's office. I automatically thought that someone had reported me for reading a book with racist content and that I would be asked about it. I sat down, anticipating the questions, and the AP curves me with the opening question "James, do you know what a weapon of mass destruction is?" I respond "yes sir, it is a biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon and it can also be something like a truck bomb." He responds, "do you know where someone could get a weapon of mass destruction?" I answer "no sir, I'm 15 years old." Before he could ask another question, I cut to the chase, "sir, can you please tell me what this is all about?" The AP tells me "a teacher claims they saw you meeting with a group of Arab men in the parking lot of the school talking about unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on the school." I immediately burst out laughing. I fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard. It was at that point the AP realized how foolish he looked and that he had been sent on a wild goose chase. He ended his inquiry with "so you deny the accusation?" I responded "I'm 15 years old, sir".

I went home and told my mom what happened while still chuckling about it. My mother blew up and called the school screaming at literally any person she could get on the phone. The word "lawsuit" was thrown around, a lot. My mom later told me how hard her (a Turkish secularist) and my father (whose family fled Iran as the secular Shah's regime fell to Islamist militants) worked very hard to make sure that my brother and I would never be abused about where we come from. My mom went on to tell me that's part of how I ended up with the name James. She told me "you already had a Persian last name, you were going to be different enough, I was trying to make it easier for you". The point of this story is that even while I was doing something I recognized as wrong like reading a book on white nationalism, the only thing anyone's mind could conclude about me was "he's a Muslim terrorist".

It never stops and, after talking to Nader, it seems like it will never change meaning it will never end. I wish I could say something like "Middle Easterners matter" but the fact is people need to first recognize Middle Easterners exist before they can say we matter.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gucci Mane

Gucci Mane was released from prison last week. There are two groups of people that are excited about this: those who know what a free Gucci means for the rap world and those who follow the memes and lack any grasp of who or what Gucci Mane really is.

Recently, a high profile music publication published an article on why Gucci Mane is the most influential rapper of the last decade. You don't need seek this article out. It's about 300 words and sounds like it was written by some fool that wrote it on his phone while waiting in line for a fitting room at the Supreme store because his editor said "Gucci is free, now give me something". I don't take exception to the article's thesis statement. In fact, I've been championing this exact contention for the last two years. While everyone else rotated between Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Drake, I always said Gucci Mane. The problem I have with this article is that it reads from the narrative of memes and social media. To the author of this article, Gucci's legacy is not defined by the creative entity and power center that he is. Rather, he is defined by quotes like "lost in the sauce" and "bitch I might be". This is problematic and wildly myopic. If you look at the big picture, you realize that Gucci Mane is not only the most influential rapper of the last ten years, but perhaps of all time.

Gucci Mane is a legend. This fact is not under dispute. The problem with being a legend is that if enough time passes people will forget what makes the legend a legend. When that happens the legend washes into parody. We arrive at the shallow understanding that produces memes and poor aptitude. There are several reasons why Gucci Mane is a legend and perhaps the greatest of all time and it is important to know why or risk chewing on a meme for your intellectual credentials.

Street King

In 2005, Gucci Mane was still a bit of an unknown. He was working on self-releasing his album Trap House. To boost the star power on the record, he paid Young Jeezy (then hailed as the savior of gangsta rap) to do a feature on the song "Icy". The song wound up being a breakaway hit and made Gucci Mane's bones in the rap world. Jeezy's people at Def Jam felt the song could do even more if it was given a bigger platform. They instructed Jeezy to perusade Gucci into selling the publishing rights of "Icy" to them. Jeezy comes to Gucci with a hefty offer to outright buy the rights to the song. Gucci rebuffs the offer and tells Jeezy to kick rocks. This would spark the Gucci - Jeezy beef (one of the most heated rap feuds of all time and is discussed in great detail in Mara Shaloup's book BMF). After having his offer rejected by Gucci, Jeezy resorted to mentioning his associations to try and intimidate Gucci into selling. Jeezy was backed by Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family (BMF). In 2006, BMF ran most of the cocaine game in Atlanta, St. Louis, South Carolina, and Detroit. They were organized, dangerous, and, because of Jeezy, were now enemies of Gucci Mane. Upping the ante, Jeezy basically hit Gucci with "do what I say or else". Gucci, being the street nihilist that he is, responded by dropping the song "Round 1" where he tells Jeezy "put a dress on a nigga, you Meech's bitch". Losing patience, Jeezy and Meech hatch a scheme to take care of Gucci. Jeezy offered a group of five rappers from the Atlanta area a record deal with CTE (Jeezy's Def Jam imprint) if they kill Gucci. The group accepts and go after Gucci. They hit a house where Gucci was at and, in a plan gone awry, failed to kill him. Rather, Gucci was able to draw a weapon of his own and kill one of the invaders, wounding another, causing the other three to flee. The next day (the day before Trap House was to drop), Gucci turned himself in to authorities and claimed self-defense (which worked). When it was all said and done, Gucci Mane took on Young Jeezy, Big Meech and one of the largest criminal syndicates in the southeastern United States and won. It cemented his reputation that he was not someone to ever be trifled with.

Best A&R Ever

Simply put: if Gucci puts on for you, you are a made man. Much like E.F. Hutton, if Gucci is talking about another rapper, you better be listening. He groomed Waka Flocka Flame into his protege, spawning one of the most popular rappers. Future was a nobody until Free Bricks came out and minted his name. Young Thug was considered "niche and acquired" until Gucci signed him to 1017 and released 1017 Thug and everyone stopped to pay attention. The list of rappers and producers that Gucci has scouted out and put on for is staggering:

- Young Dolph
- Waka Flocka Flame
- Future
- Rich Homie Quan
- Young Thug
- Migos
- OJ Da Juiceman
- Young Scooter
- PeeWee Longway
- Zaytoven
- Sonny Digital
- C4
- Southside
- Lex Luger
- Metro Boomin
- Mike Will Made It


Rich Homie Quan during an interview with Drug Money USA was once asked what was his favorite thing about working with Gucci Mane. He answered Gucci's work ethic was inspiring. Rich Homie said on his best day he could maybe lay down three songs. He said Gucci on an average day lays down seven songs. When Gucci went in to prison, a record executive remarked to me that Gucci's people were sitting on two terabytes of verses that could be used for songs. In 2014, Gucci released fifteen (15) albums and mixtapes. As far as output goes, no one comes close to Gucci's.


People come to Gucci and offer their services for his releases. He doesn't have to beg or pay. While Mike Will Made It charges artists in LA a fortune for his beats, he readily gives them to Gucci for his releases. His features are regularly a who's who of the rap game from Future to Rich Homie Quan. Aside from the esteem Gucci holds, it is even more amazing that people in the rap game won't touch his enemies. When Flocka and Gucci's beef reignited in late 2013, Flocka declared he was over the rap game and wanted to break into the EDM world. Given how contentious the beef was (Flocka's cousin Frenchie went as far of accusing Gucci of being behind the murder of beloved 1017 member Slim Dunkin), it isn't a stretch to say that Gucci had Flocka blacklisted. Was Flocka really over the rap game or was the rap game ignoring him? It is kind of hard to be a successful rapper when the best producers won't touch you and the only features you can get are your brother (Wooh Da Kid) and cousin (Frenchie).

Beyond the memes, stories, and quotes, there's still Gucci Mane. The gears are still turning and he's still scheming. His name is still the heaviest on the streets. What matters above all else is that he did it all himself. He didn't kowtow to labels and superstars so much as he took them on. He builds his own soldiers from the ground up and they stay loyal to him no matter what heights they may reach. He will bury you in the booth and if he utters a bad word about you, it will cause more damage to your career than a hundred scandals. In a genre like modern rap, where fans have the memory of a goldfish, it is very easy to forget about someone who has held it down as long and as strongly as Gucci Mane. I could ponder the question if prison slowed him down or not, but the fact is I've been watching Gucci Mane all this time and I know better enough to know that there is no slowing him down.