Sunday, March 31, 2013

EP Review: Hammerdrone - "A Demon Rising"

Out of the promos I've gotten, I've yet to be disappointed by a Canadian artist. I've heard awesome hardcore, shoegaze, and hip-hop from either coastline of this country, and I think it's time to take a look at something from a bit more inland.

Hailing from Calgary, Alberta (also known as Canada's Texas) comes blackened death metal band Hammerdrone with their 2012 debut 4 track EP, A Demon Rising. Now, ignoring their grade 10 math class doodle of an album cover, Hammerdrone lay down some pretty solid death metal. It's a sort of blackened death metal with melodic riffage up the ass, reminding me of a sort of stripped down Behemoth or less thrashy Goatwhore.

The title track opens up the EP, hammering down at the perfect pace for headbanging and fist pumping. The riffs alternate between quick trills and drawn out, melancholic leads, all with thundering double bass flying in the background. The vocals sound like they've got real substance behind them, mostly dancing around the low guttural range, but occasionally spiking up to a midranged howl here and there.

Pretty much all four songs follow that formula to moderate success because let's face it, good death metal is good death metal no matter how much it seems to adhere to the same structure and sound as a million songs/ bands/ albums before it. I've got to say I really dig the guitar playing here, with the intro of "Another Winter" and the outro solo of the closing track "Annihilation in Equilibrium" being my favorite parts of the EP, hands down. Other than that, I find most of the playing to be solid and tight but nothing outstanding.

I do have to credit them with an excellent knack for creating a dark, evil, and menacing atmosphere, through solid songwriting and fantastic production. Nothing sounds muddy or lost in the mix, the drums sound huge (especially the kicks) and everything really sounds vicious and in-your-face.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Another Winter, Annihilation in Equilibrium

On a Playlist With: Behemoth, Goatwhore, Amon Amarth

Overall Score: 3/5

For an EP from a band not but 3 years old, A Demon Rising is a great debut. I'd love to hear a bit more variety and ambition next time around, but Hammerdrone have definitely crafted an album that'll get heads banging and fists pumping all across Alberta's death metal scene. And guys, a word of advice: pay more than 15 bucks for your album art next time.

A Demon Rising was released July 10th, 2012 independently. You can swim the internet channels to Hammerdrone's Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and official website.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Best of 2012: Where are they Now?

I always found writing music reviews to be a funny subject. They're really only a snapshot of how much I enjoy the album in question at that time, and really aren't a solid representation of the lasting merits of the music. There are tons of albums, bands, and hell, even entire genres of music that I once hated, but learned to love or vice versa. My musical tastes and preferences are always shifting around, slithering and sliding through different phases and branching out into different genres and styles.

Because of the dynamic nature of my tastes, I really feel like piecing together my Best of 2012 list is something done in vain, because I really don't feel the same way about those same albums now. Some albums take a little while to get old and repetitive, while others grow on me more and more as time goes on. Here's a few of the albums I've looked at last year, and how I feel about them now.

Foxy Shazam - The Church of Rock and Roll

This album didn't age too well over the months since I first heard it. I found that it kind of broke down into two components, much like a mixture of oil and water where the lead single of the album is really the only track that has a lasting impression on me, rising above all of the filler content.

"I Like It" is a fucking amazing track. It's groovy, it's fun, and you can't not dance listening to it. Sure, it isn't the classiest or most politically correct song ever written, but if you toss it on, I'll be screaming along and air guitaring the entire time. I kind of wish the rest of the album had this kind of staying power, but most of the other songs kind of fall to the background because of their lack of reckless energy. I fell in love with Foxy Shazam through their self-titled album, a no holds barred slab of Queen worship, filled with arena rock anthem after arena rock anthem. They're a band known to be a bottomless pit of over-the-top intensity, not giving a flying fuck about what anyone else thought. They were supposed to be The Casualties meets Queen, but The Church of Rock and Roll really feels like a half-assed attempt at just that.

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

 This was my number one album of last year. I crowned All We Love We Leave Behind as the best piece of music of 2012. I know what you're thinking, you're expecting me to regret giving this album such a title. You're expecting me to say how much I hate this album now, but the joke's on you. I still freaking love this album. Not only that, but Converge kicked off my love of hardcore, deepened my love of grindcore, and catalyzed my love of powerviolence, and every other kind of noisy, chaotic, make-your-ears-bleed shit I listen to now.

I honestly believe jumping down this hardcore rabbit hole has made me a better person since last year, and as I dig deeper through all the local and underground scenes I've found this music and culture to make me a more motivated, open-minded, easy-going, humble, and generally happier person. So while my position on All We Love We Leave Behind's musical content hasn't changed, this album's emotional force has proven to be much more powerful than I ever thought before.

Jason James & Rodney Hazard - Pyramids in Stereo

Maybe you remember my review of this album, and maybe you don't. Essentially, it boiled down to the fact that this was the album that should have shown up on my Best of 2012 list, and it didn't only because I listened to it after I had published my list. The reason Pyramids is on this list because three months later, I still firmly believe it's one of 2012's best. I jam this album easily two or three times a week, and I kick myself in the ass daily for not having listened to it earlier last year.

I consider it one of my favorite hip-hop albums (just behind Childish Gambino's Camp, Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers, and Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), and ever since discovering Jason James' weekly column for RefinedHype called This Is My Rifle, I only find that I dig it more and more.

So there you go, some of what I called 2012's best, and where I stand on them now. Are there any albums in 2012 that you feel totally different about now? How about albums that have taken on new meanings since you first heard them? Let me know, I'd love to hear it!

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Album Review: Bovine - "The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire"

If there are two things I've been jamming of late on the ol' iTunes, they'd be the new totally rad Clutch album, and  last year's Rare Chandeliers by Action Bronson and The Alchemist. To get a promo for the Birmingham-based sludge band Bovine that quotes Alex Baker of Kerrang! for saying they sound like "Clutch on steroids" really piqued my interest. I wasn't sure what to expect really, because I freaking love Clutch, but I also think everyone at Kerrang! is full of shit. It could have gone either way.

First thing off the bat, is that Bovine sounds nothing like Clutch. Bovine sounds more older Baroness, back when they were sludging away with meaty riffs and John Baizley's caveman bellows. I hear some later Dillinger Escape Plan worship happening in a couple songs, with awesome guitar work that builds tension with dissonance before throwing you back down into a mudpit of fat, downtuned riffage. Even the vocals start sounding like Greg Puciato at some points, with pitched yells and veinpopping screams coming through the chaos. I'm not sure which of the three vocalists do what, but at least one of them is a great singer as well. Tracks like "Thank Fuck I Ain't You" showcase some awesome singing which is really reminiscent of System of a Down's Daron Malakian.

While there aren't any four octave vocal acrobatics happening here, every vocalist manages to pump out the passion and energy necessary for this kind of music. And really, that's all it comes down to and everything you need for what's on The Sun Never Sets. Everything here is about stampeding power and spacey atmosphere. If they're not kicking your face in with crushing riffage, pounding drums, and barbaric screaming, then they're sending you out on a journey to Mercury and back. The title track kicks off with some tribal drums and bass priming your ears for the trip to come before some chorus laden guitar fills the void. Then before you know it, you go shooting off through the stars as everything comes crashing together into a big, gooey wad of space-progginess.

All of this crushing and space-progging wouldn't happen without the solid production. Bovine sounds fucking massive, being driven by what sounds like Odin's own war drums underneath the rest of the bottom-end heavy mix. Everything is audible and clear too, which is key for any sort of sludgy music. No muddiness here. Bovine deals out a six foot thick wall of sound that can beat your ass harder than Macho Man Randy Savage.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Thank Fuck I Ain't You, The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire, Military Wife

On a Playlist With: (early) Baroness, (early) Mastodon, (later) Dillinger Escape Plan

Score: 3.5/5

So in the end, "Clutch on steroids" wasn't quite that, but was still enjoyable nonetheless. The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire is for anyone who digs fat, groovy sludge with a spacey/ proggy twist. Bovine are taking up the sludge mantle that bands like Baroness and Mastodon have left behind, and they're holding high above their heads.

You can pick up The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire from the always incredible FDA Rekotz on April 12th, and you can check out Bovine on Facebook and Bandcamp.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rad Alert: The Grind Show and SFLHC

I've always found YouTube a great resource for finding new music. Tons of users upload full albums, and if you listen to some album you've been meaning to check out for a while, afterwards the related videos section usually has a whole host of other full-album uploads that you can check out. After those albums, you see another album on the sidebar that tickles your fancy and you go for that one next.You can go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until you're listening to some Malaysian dude's one man experimental noise album that he recorded using a 4-track in his uncle's basement. Point is, there's a shit ton of music on YouTube just waiting to be tapped and today I'm gonna show you a couple of my favorite channels.

Both of these are hardcore/ grind heavy channels so if you aren't into that stuff, tough luck. Make yourself a nice big cup of whiny-ass bitch and go drink it in the corner while the rest of us listen to our music at reasonable, non-intrusive volumes and discuss our world's pertinent sociopolitical topics.

"By jove, Terrance! I do believe that hooligan over there struck me with his torso! How primitive of him., but I am not bothered. Let us continue our conversation on the United States' barreling economy and the fiscal cliff, old boy."

Whoever runs this channel is a champion. They've got almost 600 full releases from a shit ton of hardcore, grindcore, and powerviolence bands from all over the world, ranging from small-town acts to the heavy hitters of the genre. I've found countless wicked bands from this channel, and I think he (or she!) deserves all the support she (or he!) can get. Every release is organized into a YouTube playlist, so you can pretty much listen to every entire album in order, and you can check out which songs are which if any one of them stand out to you. The Grind Show's channel is here, and they've got a Facebook page here. Here's one of the mind melting albums I've found through this channel.



South Florida Hardcore is similar to The Grind Show, but instead of uploading full albums, they upload full sets of bands that play in any of the local venues. They've got sets from bands like Magrudergrind, Maruta, Cloud Rat, and Pig Destroyer, and they've also got the occasional non-hardcore show captured as well. I remember watching a full Action Bronson set on the channel once, and I've seen links to a set done by GZA, too. Recording quality varies from show to show, but generally it pretty solid, and they manage to capture a good amount of the entire band, rather than just the bass player's shoulder or something, like most amateur live recordings do. Check 'em out here, and below is an embed to the awesome Magrudergrind show they filmed.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blastbeat Reviews: Clutch, Nails, Wandersword

School sucks. Since I don't have much time to write full reviews consistently, I'm going to run a series of posts called Blastbeat Reviews, which is going to be a bunch of really quick reviews of albums I was planning on reviewing but never got the time to, all together in one post. Since a majority of my in depth reviews are lesser known/ obscure/ hipster bands, I'll include some more mainstream stuff in here, too.

Clutch - Earth Rocker

Clutch, for those of you  who don't know, is one of the best bands on the planet. It doesn't matter if you're into brutal, bone crushing deathcore, whimpy-ass indie hipster shit, or swagalicious gangster rap, you like Clutch. If you think "Gee willikers David, I don't like Clutch!" You clearly haven't listened to enough Clutch loud enough, yet. This four-piece lays out the best groove laden rock I've ever heard, and their classic albums like Blast Tyrant and Robot Hive/ Exodus get near-daily plays from me.

I think Earth Rocker is a step up from their previous effort, Strange Cousins from the West, and shows the band laying out those danceable grooves and riffs all over the place. You can't listen to songs like "Crucial Velocity", "The Wolfman Kindly Requests", or the title track, "Earth Rocker" without shaking your hips, bobbing your head, and tapping your feet. Earth Rocker allows you to adjust your pants so that you may dance the good time dance, and send the onlookers and innoccent bystanders into a trance. Score: 4.5/5

Nails - Abandon All Life

Man, oh man. Nails. Fucking Nails. Abandon All Life is the 2013 follow up to 2010's Unsilent Death, which I thought was flippin' amaze-balls. Abandon showcases even more pissed off grindy, powerviolence-y hardcore than before, causing a massive outbreak of fist sized wall-holes across the nation.

Kurt Ballou of Converge has used his production wizardry to make Nails sound even heavier than before, which I thought wasn't even possible. The drums and guitars are freaking huge on this record. I have to be honest and say that I prefer the vocals on Unsilent compared to Abandon because while Todd Jones still sounds like a maniac on the brink of causing a mass homicide, his voice just gets lost a bit in the giant wall of sound pouring out of your speakers. Overall, it's still a great album that will destroy necks everywhere.

Wandersword - Waiting for War

Wandersword is a Russian melodic death metal band with a viking/ folky  theme. Taking cues from bands like Equilibrium, old Wintersun, and Ensiferum, Wandersword bust out some catchy and energetic tunes on Waiting for War. The musicianship is really tight and the songwriting is pretty solid to boot for the band's debut release.These guys really remind me of local folk metallers Unbowed, but with a slightly less atmospheric sound. Wandersword plays a more straightforward style of metal based more firmly in old Scandinavian melodic death metal.

I've got to pick on the vocals a little bit, though. The harsh vocals don't vary enough for my tastes, and sound a little too thin to me as well. They're deep growling vocals, but I feel like the vocalist doesn't show any dynamics, so they wear out their welcome before the album finishes running its course. Other than that, I think Waiting for War is a solid, lean release from these guys. I hope to see where Wandersword go from here.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Friday, March 15, 2013

Album Review: Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt - "Dys/Closure"

There's a certain finesse required when choosing your band name -- especially if it's a metal band. In my opinion, it's usually better to keep things short, simple, and to the point. Slayer, Carcass, Dying Fetus. Long winded names like Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky, Iwrestledabearonce, and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, can get a quick laugh or a small "that's pretty cool, actually", but usually wear out their welcome and become cringe and eye-roll worthy by the third time you say the band's full name. A name like Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shift seems like one of these names at first glance, but the more you read it and say it, the more hilarious it becomes. I love it especially, because every time I think of the name, this image pops into my head:

Say what you want about him, this man is more of a boss than you and I could ever be.
I'm running out of words to slap together for an intro, and by now I usually show you guys the album cover, so... uh... here.

Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt is a three piece hailing from South Wales, Australia who play a sort of off-the-wall and chaotic style of grindcore/ powerviolence which to my ears boils down to what you'd hear in a Weekend Nachos and Dillinger Escape Plan collaboration. Keep in mind, this is old Dillinger that I'm talking about. The same Dillinger that thought that things like melody and rhythm could be replaced by things like sheer sonic chaos and running on people's faces (Spoiler alert: They thought right).

While I can definitely draw parallels between old Dillinger Escape Plan and Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, the latter has a strangely accessible sound for the style of music they play. The spastic and chaotic parts don't sound like they're there to confuse and overwhelm, but rather make the songs on Dys/Closure rise and fall, ebb and flow, and build and release tension. The dissonance makes things sound twisted, sound... wrong. Not wrong as in they're playing the incorrect notes. Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt couldn't hit better combinations of notes and tones if they tried. P's cacophonous chords ring out over C's fluid drumming, making the hairs stand up on end and holding your attention in a sort of disturbing suspended state while you wait for the music to explode back into a comfortable key. Eventually you get the musical release you crave, only to have it robbed from you again in a heartbeat. Dys/Closure's pushing and pulling is what really makes me enjoy it each and every time I've listened to it. It also doesn't wear out it's welcome, with 15 tracks across just over 22 minutes, which is a decent song-to-album-length ratio for a grind band.

Organizing awesome instrumentation is one thing, and making it really engaging is damn tough, but full on emotional rollercoasters can come to flying stops if the vocals can't carry that same presence in the mix. Whether it's a weak lead or ill-suiting backup, bad vocal delivery can ruin an otherwise great album in a heartbeat. Fortunately for Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, K is a fucking amazing frontman. He really reminds me of hardcore hero/ vocal powerhouse Jacob Bannon of Converge in his raw delivery and ability to translate emotions. They're not too similar in timbre, but even if you can't understand a word they say, you can always figure out what emotion they're trying to convey.

Production on Dys/Closure is pretty solid to boot. Things are pretty jangly and bright, which took me by surprise the first time I took a listen, but a mix of P's Fender Telecaster and no bassist leave all the low end to C's kick drum and lower toms. It sounds a bit odd when I explain it like this, but once you take a listen, you'll know what I mean. And don't worry; just because production is bright, doesn't mean things sound thin and weak. Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt still manage to get in some good old fashioned face-smashings in throughout the album.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Dividing Line, Instrumental, Voir Dire, In Defence Of, Within

On a Playlist With: Dillinger Escape Plan, Weekend Nachos, Converge

Overall Score: 4.5/5

It's grindy. It's spazzy. It makes me want to chug a litre of gasoline and claw my own face off. Dys/Closure is for fans of engaging, visceral and emotional music, and for those who don't mind starting a circle pit in the middle of their room while blasting it at 2AM.

Dys/Closure comes out April 15th on Art as Catharsis RecordsFat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt has a million social media profiles, all of which can be found through their Facebook page, and you can listen to the first two singles off of Dys/Closure, as well as pre-order the album and merch on the Art as Catharsis Bandcamp page.

That's all for now, folks. Believe in your dreams.

-Grave Dave

Friday, March 8, 2013

Interview: Dustin and Justin Ordinario of Termination Force

For anyone who doesn't know Termination Force and their latest offering Grind Thrashing Death, get on that shit. That album was wicked, and I was lucky enough to score an interview with the guitar playing duo of brothers. I was planning on interviewing them over Skype, but neither of the brothers knew what Skype was (come on guys, get with the times!), so we conducted the interview over Facebook chat. Keep that in mind when my questions start to get pretty choppy. This is going to be a long post, so for the first time, I'll be using a jump break.

Without further ado, below is the interview!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Blastbeat Reviews: Pig Destroyer, Devourment, Hatebreed, Social Studies

School sucks. Since I don't have much time to write full reviews consistently, I'm going to run a series of posts called Blastbeat Reviews, which is going to be a bunch of really quick reviews of albums I was planning on reviewing but never got the time to, all together in one post. Since a majority of my in depth reviews are lesser known/ obscure/ hipster bands, I'll include some more mainstream stuff in here, too.

Pig Destroyer - Mass & Volume

A digital EP released by Relapse Records, where all proceeds go to the college fund of Pat Egan's daughter. Pat was a loved member of the Relapse crew, and the international metal scene will miss him dearly. Rest in peace, Pat.

This was recorded during the Phantom Limb sessions, and shows a departure from Pig Destroyer's grind sound, much like Natasha. Mass & Volume is a crushing doom/ drone EP with the immense 19 minute long "Mass" which gives off a huge Sunn O))) vibe, and the more traditional "Volume" which sounds like Jucifer on steroids. This is definitely one of the heaviest things Pig Destroyer have ever released, but if you aren't a fan of disgustingly sludgy doom, you might not dig it. If you're up for supporting a good cause, you can get it here. Score: 3.5/5

Devourment - Conceived in Sewage

Guttural, slamming sickness. Devourment is back with way better production, pit riffment out the ass, and lovably incomprehensible vocals. The riffs are catchy, the slams are brutal, and even though it's just a refined version of what Devourment have always sort of done, it's still a killer death metal record. Not one of the year's best, but definitely fun as hell to listen to. I couldn't really stand old school Devourment, but Conceived in Sewage is something I could see myself listening to on my own free time.

This is the album you play when you invite your conservative, Christian neighbors over for dinner Sunday night. Make sure your CD is somewhere easily seen, so their kids can truly appreciate develop waking nightmares by the artwork.
Score: 2.5/5

Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose

Ah, Hatebreed. They've been the soundtrack to every hardcore kid's workout since Satisfaction is the Death of Desire dropped in 1997. They haven't changed a single damn thing for the almost 20 years they've been around, and I fucking love them for it. This is music to bleed, sweat, and cry to, chock full of all the classic Hatebreed tropes like infectiously cheesy, but ultimately empowering lyrics, gang vocals, tough-guy breakdowns, and caveman riffing. It's damn catchy. I'm warning you right now, you'll be chanting lines like "WHO'SE GOT MORE HEART THAN YOU? NO ONE!". All. Damn. Day.

This album is essentially 12 anthems of pure inspiration, penned to be screamed and chanted with your metal/ hardcore brothers and sisters after a night filled with beer, and much like any other Hatebreed album, it's begging to be blasted at the gym. Bro, do you even lift? Score: 3.5/5

Social Studies - Proxemics

Social Studies is a hip-hop project between producer Chris Devoe and MC Zano Bathroom. If there's any reference point I can find for Proxemics, it would be that it's a lighter version of Death Grips. It's experimental and abstract in it's production, with layers and layers of sounds piling up into tracks that definitely need to be listened to three, four, or five times to be fully absorbed. There are some awesome samples across the album, and everything stays pretty dreamy and mind-fucky across its near hour long running time.

Zano offers really entertaining and thoughtful lyrics across the seven tracks, each dubbed a numbered Assignment. What's really interesting about Zano on Proxemics is that every verse is either totally written before recording, or freestyled during recording. I can't tell you which ones are written or not. That's definitely a testament to Zano's rhymesaying skills. You can pick up Proxemics from Daddy Tank Records. If you want a taste of Social Studies, check out Devoe's BandcampScore: 4/5

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I've been wrestling with the idea of releasing a podcast every couple weeks or so. Nothing too fancy or official, just me and a couple friends blabbering about all the stupid movies, music, and other things we're into. Just a simple recording, maybe half an hour to an hour long.

This is just an idea; I want to see if people think it would be cool to get a podcast going. Hell, I might even be able to get some folks from different metal/ hardcore/ whatever-the-fuck scenes to Skype in or something.

Let me know what you guys think.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave