Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Details

Produced by Chris Fasulo and Greg Giordano. Mastered by Will Quinnell at Sterling Sound.

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Band

  • Greg Giordano—Vocals and guitars
  • John Vullo—Guitars
  • Mike Murray—Bass
  • Mark “The Sorcerer” Dara—Drums

Other musicians

  • (Ch)arles Midwinter—Spoken word on “A slight amplification” (track 1)

Tracks

  1. A slight amplification
  2. Emptiness, darkness, acceptance
  3. War inside

Review

Turrigenous are a progressive thrash band from Long Island, New York: think Annihilator meets Dream Theater. A Slight Amplification is their fourth release, their first EP (18 minutes long) following three full-length albums.

The song writing and arrangements are good, the playing is flawless, and the production is clear.

The title track “A slight amplification” (track 1) opens with a bit of widdliness but soon develops into mature thrash song, with more than a few nods of the hat to Megadeth, not least the spoken part about four minutes in.

“Emptiness, darkness, acceptance” (track 2), the longest of the three tracks on the disc, begins quietly and ponderously. It bubbles and bounces before bursting into life. It stops and starts, it soars and dips. In the words of my son Joshua (7) it is “good”.

The EP closes with “War inside” (track 3) which opens with a very spacious and uncharacteristic ‘chug-chug’ riff. It is the only song of the three that introduces any growling death vocals; this track in particular could have benefited from more of them. The solo about halfway through breaks up the song nicely and takes the listener on a bit of a progressive jaunt, even if it is a bit too formulaic.

Conclusion

All in all, this is decent release. I didn’t end with a burning desire to listen to the rest of their back catalogue, but I would probably listen to this again, and may grow to like it more. It didn’t set my ears on fire, but it didn’t offend them, either.

Review score: 70%

Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Soldiers—End of Days (2007)

Details

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Joe Cincotta and Dan Kennyat Full Force Studio. Produced by Joe Cincotta, Danny Kenny and T$S.

Band

  • Rick Limenez—Vocals
  • Brian AudleyGuitar
  • Chris Mazella—Guitar
  • Andrew Jones—Bass
  • Dan Bourke—Drums
  • John Moore—Guest vocals on “Even worse”.
  • Jeff Tiu—Guest vocals on “Damage is done”
  • Brendan Garrone—Guest vocals on “Since day one”

Tracks

  1. Even worse
  2. Sever ties
  3. The reclamation
  4. Decide and conquer
  5. Choosing revenge
  6. Relentless
  7. Bound by defiance (T$S)
  8. Damage is done
  9. Nothing more, nothing less
  10. Own up!
  11. Since day one
  12. Smoke and mirrors
  13. Living hell (bonus track)

Review

Every time I come across a hardcore album I’m always surprised at how much I like it. My average score for hardcore albums on this project is 73%. I perhaps should just accept that I’m a bit of an unconscious hardcore punk fan.

I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.
I like hardcore punk.

That should help. Until I listen to the next hardcore album, of course. I should turn this into a film: 50 First Hardcore Punk Albums starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Anyway, with that little bit of amnesia over, the album.

Soldiers are a hardcore band from Long Island in New York, formed in 2006 from the ashes of This Is Hell, Subterfuge, Last Conviction, and The Backup Plan. Following a debut EP in May 2006, this follow-up from December 2007 remains their only full-length album.

And do you know what? It’s good. If anything, it is let down a little by the mix. It often feels like it was recorded with the microphones in the wrong room or facing the wrong way, and the lead vocals are a little hidden in the mix. But otherwise the album is full of energy and contains all the key constituent parts required for a solid hardcore album: punchy bass sound, thrashy guitars with a good mid-range sound, shouty vocals with enthusiastic crowd-fueled choruses.

The songs are also typically and appreciatively short. “Nothing more, nothing less” (track 9) is only 53 seconds long and definitely proves the less is more rule. None of 13 tracks outstay their welcome. They come in, do their job, and they are done!

The only anomaly is the final track, “Living hell” (track 13) which is a rap track. Like, straight-out rap. Not crossover. Rap. I’ll just leave that there. Rap.

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, given my newly acquired awareness of my love of hardcore punk. I liked this album. With a clearer and more balanced mix it might be better, but as it is, it rocks!

Review score: 90%

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

The Howling Wind—Into the Cryosphere (2010)

Details

Recorded and mastered at the Thousand Caves by Colin Marston, February 2010, Queens, NY.

Band

  • Ryan Lipynsky—Vocals, Guitars, Bass
  • Tim Call—Drums

Tracks

  1. The seething wrath of a frigid soul
  2. Teeth of frost
  3. Obscured pyramid
  4. Ice cracking in the abyss
  5. Will is the only fire under an avalanche
  6. Impossible eternity
  7. A dead galaxy mirrored…

Review

Another week where I’m running hideously late. At 5 pm on Friday I start a three weeks’ vacation and in my wisdom I’ve packed too much into this week to compensate for 21 days of blissful rest. Anyway, enough with the excuses… and I’ll keep this short: it’s a school night.

The Howling Wind‘s album disappointingly doesn’t start with the sound of an actual howling wind. More a kind of traffic sound in an echo-y tunnel.

I’m sure I read somewhere that this was a black metal band. If that is so then they are surprisingly doomy. It reminds me quite a lot of early Paradise Lost. It has those big, fat, slow riffs. The songs chug away with a rather bass-heavy production which makes it difficult to listen to in the car but decent enough on my PC speakers.

There are some albums in this project, I’m sure I’ve said this before, that I find difficult to listen to—I have to force myself. This wasn’t one of them. I must have listened to this quite a few times over the last few weeks. I imagine I’ll listen to it again and not just on random play, it’s the kind of album I might go to look for.

Conclusion

A hastily written review that doesn’t do the album justice. Thankfully the music stands on its own merits.

Review score: 80%

 

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Gwynbleidd—Nostalgia (2009)

Details

Recorded by Michal Kacunel and Tomasz Gajewski at Sia Accoustics, New York City. Mixed by Pawel Marciniak at Manximum Studio, Lodz, Poland. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York City. Released on Black Current Music, 2009.

Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and rhythm guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Clean vocals and lead guitar
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia
  2. Egress
  3. New setting
  4. Stormcalling
  5. Adrift
  6. Thawing innocence
  7. Stare into the sun
  8. Canvas for departure

Review

My second (and final) Gwynbleidd recording to review in as many weeks.

First off: the artwork and packaging is brilliant. Travis Smith at Seem Pieces has done an amazing job. It’s earthy and dark, reminding me of some of the early Opeth artwork. The booklet continues in the same vein, with grainy photographs with lyrics printed over the top of them in white, typeset in a scratchy handwriting font.

This album follows the path of the first two tracks on Amaranthine (2006), which took a more death/black metal path (compared with the folk-metal offerings that made up the rest of that EP).

And it’s good: the songs twist and turn in a suitably progressive way, without becoming predictable or clichéd. The album opens with a re-recording of “Nostalgia” from the Amaranthine EP. The following track on that EP, “New settings”, also appears in a re-recorded form at track three. The rest of the album contains, as far as I can tell, new material.

The production on this album is great, which makes such a difference to an album. The guitars are powerful and meaty, with a fine crunch. The bass cuts through the mix, between guitars and drums.

In my opinion this is a much, much better recording than Amaranthine, but then by 2009 the band had about three years more experience, and the songs have had time to breathe and develop.

Track five, “Adrift” is the shortest on the album, at 2′ 45″. It’s mostly acoustic guitar, with a twiddly guitar solo over the top of it.

But it’s back to distortion and growling vocals for “Thawing innocence” and beyond. Though each song (in a true prog death metal way) transitions between dark and light, distorted and clean.

The final track “Canvas for departure” gradually grinds to an irregular, and mildly chaotic standstill to close the album.

Conclusion

I really like this album. It’s well written, well played, and the songs seem to discover themselves, naturally cutting a path that uncovers beautiful clean arpeggios alongside full-out death metal riffs.

I guess if you’re really upset that Opeth have taken a left turn into 70s-inspired prog rock, and you’re in need of a fix of good old fashioned progressive death/black metal then turn your sights on Gwynbleidd. Though, to be honest, you currently only have this album and the Amaranthine EP to chose from, and this album far outclasses the latter.

Review score: 95%

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Gwynbleidd—Amaranthine EP (2006)

Details

Recorded with Ka on Luna Sun at DMD Studios, Brooklyn, NY. Mixed by Michael Kacunel and Maciek Miernok at Galicja Studios, Brooklyn, NY. Mastered by Alan Silverman at Arf! Digital, New York, NY. Released on 6 June 2006 as an independent release.

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Band

  • Maciej Kupiszewski—Vocals and guitars
  • Michal Kacunel—Vocals and guitars
  • Jakub Kupiszewski—Bass
  • Adam Romanowski—Drums

Tracks

  1. Nostalgia (10′ 54″)
  2. New setting (9′ 45″)
  3. The awakening (9′ 51″)
  4. Lure of the land (9′ 12″)

Review

The EP opener “Nostalgia” beings with a clean guitar, quite pretty, almost folk-y sounding riff, that gradually sounds more and more sour before it transitions into a distorted riff and the growling vocals begin.

And this being progressive death metal, the song then grumbles on for another nine minutes, twisting and turning, starting and stopping, delighting and surprising.

About seven and a half minutes in, the guitars are clean again for another folk-y, almost Gregorian chant-style passage. And a minute later we’re back on the train, and treated to a slightly uncomfortable sounding (in a good way!) guitar solo.

“New setting”, track 2, opens with a slow, doom-like riff, that reminds me a little of Paradise Lost. This song seems to have a little less variation than its predecessor, or perhaps it’s that they wait until about a minute before the end before the clean passage.

By now, on my first listen, I was already comparing Gwynbleidd (Welsh for ‘wolf blood’) to Opeth with their mixture of heavy and clean riffs. But these guys have a decidedly folk metal slant. This is even more evident on the next track.

“The awakening”, track 3, starts with a strong, driving riff. The vocals surface quite unexpectedly about 90 seconds in. A proper folk-y riff played on what sounds like a nylon-string acoustic guitar, with accompanying bodhran-style drums and a flute.

And at nine minutes and 51 seconds, the song just cuts off.

The final track, “Lure of the land” follows a similar path. It opens with an acoustic, strummed chord sequence before it’s overtaken by the same riff on electric guitars. Vocals growl into view around 1′ 45″.

Throughout the song, amidst the distorted riffs, like clearings in a dark forest, there are clean passages. In places folk metal, in places mediaeval-sounding—like Opeth once were when they imagined they were lute-playing minstrels.

Around 7′ 20″ the song slows to a dirge. Out of which is reclaimed the original riff for a minute or two. Until fade to black…

Conclusion

For an EP it’s pretty long, with none of the four songs dipping below nine minutes, firmly placing it in the progressive camp. While this EP didn’t exactly set me on fire, I did enjoy it. Parallels can be made in places to Opeth, but that’s perhaps inevitable given its genre.

I have another Gwynbleidd album coming up this week, that actually includes the first two tracks from this EP. So it will be interesting to hear how that compares.

In the meantime, I think this is definitely a keeper.

Review score: 68%

Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Underdog—Matchless (2010)

Details

Tracks 1–8 produced by Underdog and recorded and mixed by Dan Nicholas at Electric Reels Studios, Pleasant Valley, NY in December 1985.

Tracks 9–15 produced by Underdog and Don Fury and recorded and mixed by Don Fury at Don Fury Studio, NY in Fall, 1988.

Tracks 16–26 produced by Underdog and Don Fury; recorded by Dan Nicholas and John Moorehead at Electric Reels Studios, Pleasant Valley, NY; mixed by Don Fury and Underdog at Sunset Productions, NY in Winter 1988.

Released on Bridge Nine, 2010.

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Band

  • Richie Birkenhead—Vocals and guitars
  • Danny Derella—Guitar (tracks 1–8)
  • Chuck Treece—Guitar (tracks 16–26)
  • Russ Iglay—Bass
  • Greg Pierce—Drums (tracks 1–8)
  • Dean Iglay—Drums (tracks 9–26)

Tracks

  1. True blue
  2. Special forces
  3. Not like you
  4. Frontside grind
  5. Say it (to my face)
  6. Never too late
  7. Looking out for you
  8. Friends like them
  9. Over the edge
  10. A lot to learn
  11. Underdog
  12. Mass movement
  13. Reach out
  14. Without fear
  15. The vanishing point
  16. From now on
  17. A lot to learn
  18. Over the edge
  19. Mass movement
  20. Never too late
  21. Back to back
  22. Underdog
  23. Without fear
  24. Blindside
  25. The vanishing point
  26. No matter what

Review

Having been born at the end of 1971, the first wave of punk rock almost passed me by. I was mildly aware of various bands like Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Buzzcocks, The Boomtown Rats, Dead Kennedys, but I didn’t go out of my way to listen to them. Punk just became part of the background noise of my growing up: the occasional track on British TV, badges bundled with Bubble Pops gum, logos painted on the back of local punks’ jackets.

The first rock music I remember getting into was on a double LP owned by my dad that featured Genesis (“The Knife”), and Jethro Tull (“Locomotive Breath” perhaps?). It was partly this kind of progressive music that punk was reacting against. Then I got into Queen, big time. Which led to Metallica, Celtic Frost, Slayer and the whole mid-80s thrash movement.

It wasn’t really until Slayer’s  1996 album of cover tunes Undisputed Attitude that encouraged me to explore the whole punk and hardcore scene a little deeper. I listened to a few British bands (Peter and the Test Tube Babies, The Clash, Sex Pistols), as well as a few bands from across the Atlantic (The Misfits, Ramones) mainly because of their links with Danzig and Anthrax, respectively. I even touched on a few hardcore bands when their paths crossed closely with mainstream metal at the time (Sick of it All, Biohazard, early Beastie Boys, M.O.D.). But my exploration didn’t go much further.

It’s been interesting this week listening to this album of mid- to late-80s hardcore punk, a coming together of 26 tracks from 1985 and 1988.

The first eight songs have a very raw feel, that reminded me of Bleach-era Nirvana as well as the various tracks on Slayer’s punk tribute album. The album opens with a very punk signature sound: a bass riff and squealing atonic guitar. Track two “Special forces” must be one of Underdog’s most famous songs, because I’ve heard it before!

The final 18 songs are from three years later, 1988. It sounds a bit more polished with the guitar tone in particular sounding a bit heavier and a bit bassier. This part of the album sounds more hardcore than punk, to my ear.

Conclusion

I’ve not found this a particularly easy album to listen to, to be honest. As I said, punk and hardcore are not sounds that I’m easily drawn to. I loved Suicidal Tendencies, but more when they strayed towards metal.

That said, I can appreciate this music even though it’s not particularly my genre. There’s an energy and integrity to it which I love.

If you are a fan of New York hardcore and haven’t listened to Underdog then certainly check this album out. Hey! If you want the CD drop me a comment and I’ll send it to you.

Review score: 70%

Video

Sick of It All—Outtakes for the Outcast (2004)

Sick of It All—Outtakes for the Outcast (2004)

Sick of It All—Outtakes for the Outcast (2004)

Details

“From one outcast to another, twelve years in the making, this collection of Sick Of It All rarities features sounds and styles from many different stages of our career. A few of these songs simply didn’t make the cut when they were recorded, and some haven’t seen the light of day until now. Some are cover songs we felt brave enough to attempt, as long as they suited our frantic, aggressive approach. Hopefully you can appreciate these leftovers; they’re not short on hardcore flavor! Hardcore rarely touches on higher art, and these visceral, gritty tracks can attest to that. We’ve been lucky enough to experience a longevity that only the respect of people could bring us, and this is for the generations of fans that have been there with us, whether or not they’re still in touch with their inner outcast.”

Band

  • Lou Koller
  • Pete Koller
  • Craig Setari
  • Armand Majidi

Tracks

  1. I believe
  2. Stood for nothing
  3. Borstal breakout
  4. Straight ahead
  5. All hell breaks loose (The Misfits cover)
  6. My little world
  7. Soul be free
  8. Blatty (Human egg)
  9. 86
  10. Target (Hüsker Dü cover)
  11. Rip off (Sham 69 cover)
  12. Working class kids (The Last Resort cover)
  13. Never measure up
  14. The future is mine
  15. Just look around

Review

I’m currently working through my list of CDs that I’ve listened to but haven’t reviewed yet. Oh, and last week I was on holiday, hence no review.

I first heard Sick of It All in 1994 on Noisy Mothers (hosted by Phil Alexander) with their fabulous single ‘Scratch the surface’, a full ten years before this CD was released, and now nearly twenty years ago. I had never really been into punk or hardcore, although I had dabbled in some early Suicidal Tendencies, but there was something about this single and subsequent album that connected with me.

When I first listened to this album of outtakes and B-sides I was really disappointed. It felt like a collection of… well, outtakes and tracks not quite good enough to make the album. A release designed for the hardcore fan, if you excuse the pun.

I’ve enjoyed it better this second time through. (I wonder how true that might be for other albums I’ve scored poorly.)

The first few tracks washed over me, to be honest. The next two tracks, ‘Borstal breakout’ and ‘Straight ahead’ were B-sides for the aforementioned ‘Scratch the surface’. ‘Borstal…’ is a straight ahead hardcore-by-numbers track; ‘Straight ahead’ reminds me of something off Slayer’s Undisputed Attitude (1996) album. Definitely my favourite of the two songs.

Things get a bit more interesting with ‘Soul by free’ (a surprisingly slow starter that has a catchy little melody… am I supposed to say stuff like that about hardcore?); ‘Blatty (Human Egg)’ which is 32 seconds of silliness that gets stuck in your ear; and ’86’ which probably has one of my favourite riffs on the album, which sounds like a kind of punk game of tennis.

The album has its fair share of covers: ‘All hell breaks loose’ (The Misfits), ‘Target’ (Hüsker Dü), ‘Rip off’ (Sham 69 cover), ‘Working class kids’ (The Last Resort) which don’t really do it for me, sadly. Even The Misfits’ song, and I’m a huge Danzig fan.

The last song, though, ‘Just look around (remix)’ comes from somewhere completely different. I reminds me immediately of The Fun Lovin’ Criminals! But then it was remixed by DJ Lethal (no idea!… just looked him up and seemingly he joined nu metal band Limp Bizkit) and House of Pain (I’ve heard of them… oh, it seems DJ Lethal was in them).

Conclusion

I really wanted to like this album. It has a few good riffs, and some interesting moments but it doesn’t excite me. Which isn’t a surprise given that a) I’m not a massive fan of the genre, and b) this is a collection of bits and bobs: sweepings from the cutting room floor, covers, tracks peeled from the backs of singles, and—in the case of the last track—literally lifted from a bootleg cassette.

A little disappointing, I know they can do better but their quality of playing and singing/shouting is still better than many bands can muster.

Review score: 60%

Bonus Video

The first song I ever heard from Sick Of It All, “Scratch the Surface”, on the single for which track 4 “Straight ahead” was a B-side.

I love the bass guitar in the middle-8 around 2′ 07″.