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Record Reviews

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Shipwrecked: CDEP
These are three ladies from Seattle who sometimes sound like Joan Jett and other times like the Ramones. There are five songs on here with what I think is their best track saved for last – “At the Bar.” The cover photograph is of a pre-twentieth century sailboat. It looks like a pirate ship to me. Is this a pirate ship? I’m not sure. Are these young ladies really pirates? Amazonian zombie pirates? I like it. –bradley (www.amazombies.com)

Self-titled: 7"
Atonal, abrasive metal, mostly mid-tempo with guttural vocals. I reckon I’m a bit outside the desired demographic, but I’m guessing the seventeen and angry crowd will totally eat this shit up. –Jimmy Alvarado (Minor Bird)

Lovesaken: LP
When the idea was still fresh and innovative, I could appreciate heavy bands such as Isis delving into a more atmospheric, prog rock sound. But even that got boring in a heartbeat. At least they had the good sense to not try and mix in screamo vocals. Oh, how I wish Botch would come back from the dead to show bands like Amber how it’s done. –Juan Espinosa (Halo Of Flies / Narshardaa / Protagonist Music, weareamber.bandcamp.com)

Lovesaken: LP
Amber is a post-hardcore outfit from Marburg, Germany. The songs all fall into the genre’s typical trappings: reverb-drenched clean guitar sections, distorted crescendos, strained vocals, and songs on the longer side. (“Lovesaken” is a whopping ten minutes.) The more notable moments conjure Envy or City Of Caterpillar, but the album quickly grows redundant. Amber would benefit from tempo changes or musical variation other than the clichérise-then-fall patterns and absolute despair tone that is analogous with the genre. Otherwise, it’s a solid—but forgettable—addition to any screamo or post-hardcore fan’s collection.  –Sean Arenas (Halo Of Flies, halooffliesrecords.com, halooffliesrcds@hotmail.com / Narshardaa, narshardaa.com, info@narshardaa.com / Protagonist, protagonistmusic.com)

Split: EP
The minimalist packaging (unless an insert was lost in the mail) gives virtually no information about this record. Is this the birth of “mysterious guy” metal? A search on the web reveals this is a split on Halo Of Flies, who usually have some nice packaging. Anyhow, Amber are contemporary metal that has a bit of crust and hardcore swirling around, not to mention some emo-esque guitar parts. Throaty vocals devoid of much emotion blanket the song, but it doesn’t have my attention. Locktender are along the same lines, only with a touch more tension in their song. The throaty vocal thing here also blankets the song and buries some of the nuances in the music. On the whole, this record does nothing for me, as neither band does anything to distinguish themselves from others of the genre. –Matt Average (Halo Of Flies, halooffliesrecords.com)

Self-titled: CD
Hardcore punk that’s big and blustery in a Dillinger 4 kinda way, but just ain’t impressing me in the same way that band does. Their cover of “Amerikan in Me” was relatively painless. On the whole not sucky, just not particularly memorable. Maybe next time. –Jimmy Alvarado (Government Music)

Self-titled: CD
Hardcore punk that’s big and blustery in a Dillinger 4 kinda way, but just ain’t impressing me in the same way that band does. Their cover of “Amerikan in Me” was relatively painless. On the whole not sucky, just not particularly memorable. Maybe next time. –Jimmy Alvarado (Government Music)

Exile: 7"
Funny, the band looks like they should be playing something Weezer-esque, only a lot less radio-friendly. So: silly me for equating unheard tunes with photo of tune-makers. Instead of wry sarcasm and sharp and sometimes poppy tunes, I got four tunes that make me want to beat up the next thing that crosses my path and then wax poetic on why I had to do so. The vocals have this sort of angry-heroic feel to them, like you’d find on old straight edge records before low-end bellowing became all the rage—drawn out notes on the lead with the anger-spitters howling the backups. Ya, now that I hear this thing again, it sounds like a straight-edge band that’s flexing its musical chops. Ambitions are good. Me like, even though I’m not a fan of such vocals, since the tunes have a certain pneumatic effect on my bloodstream. –The Lord Kveldulfr (www.bridge9.com)

Stranger: LP
Frustrating. If I had one word to sum up Stranger, that’d be it. The packaging is beautiful (wonderfully colorful and ambiguous artwork and some of the prettiest, multicolored splatter vinyl I’ve ever seen), the production is glossy and full, the lyrics are well written, and yet… it resounds with the impact of a band that’s restraining themselves. Firmly rooted in modern, smart hardcore but with enough variance in tone that a listener’s either gonna think a) “Mein Gott! They perform such brilliant and disquieting pretty parts before they go all chunka-chunka! And what a beautiful set of pipes the vocalist has, while other members of the band utilize their more rough-hewn voices to provide fist-pumping singalongs and choruses! Stranger is a true raison d’art!” Or, like me, you may think b), which is, “They sound like they’re a super-talented band that’s obviously good at songcraft. A band that’s totally got it within them to just go the fuck off every once in a while. I wish they would; chances are they’d lay waste to all around them and I’d like this record a lot more if I just heard one specific instance where they went flat out with the speed and shrieks and energy. But they don’t, and therefore I’m forced to flip the record over and over again, trying to hear it in a new way, searching for that moment.” There are bands that display passion and intent with breakdowns and well-placed pickslides and fairly tuneful melodies that cascade into midtempo hardcore songs that are trying like hell to become anthems but don’t quite make it. Then there are bands that just fucking go for the throat and everything’s at full tilt all the time, from start to finish. Ambitions has a lot of one and not quite enough of the other: the result is a band that sounds like they’re continually holding themselves back and, ultimately, the record falls short of being memorable because of it. –Keith Rosson (Bridge 9)

3 song: CD
Complicated Seattle nerd rock so chock-full of dynamics that it’s a regular science fair, as judged by No Means No (if they had anger). –Cuss Baxter (www.ambitiouscareerwoman.com)

3 song: CD
Complicated Seattle nerd rock so chock-full of dynamics that it’s a regular science fair, as judged by No Means No (if they had anger). –Cuss Baxter (www.ambitiouscareerwoman.com)

self-titled demo: CD-EP
Judging solely from the sound of this, one is led to assume they’re an East LA backyard band. Decent, mid-tempo punk marred by a limp four-track mix job. They thank god and beer in that order. Now that’s punk rock, man. –Jimmy Alvarado (no address)

The End of Our Time: CD
I would imagine they’ve got some sub-sub-pigeonhole they fit into, but what I’m hearing sounds essentially like death metal without the satanic/Texas Chainsaw Massacre lyrics. Although they’re quite proficient at what they do, nothing about ’em really stands out. –Jimmy Alvarado (Wasted Sounds)

Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel: LP
This record took me back to the days when The Anniversary were still putting out records, only these guys don’t use keyboards on every song. The Ambulars have the whole power pop trio sound down. All the songs are well crafted, and, as a whole, the record flows together nicely. There are a lot of male/female vocals harmonies which add a nice dynamic to the songs. A lot of the themes of the songs seem to deal with growing up, feeling disconnected, and heartbreak. Recommended for fans of true emo, indie rock, and pop punk.  –Ryan Nichols (Salinas, salinasrecords@gmail.com)

Blod Ser Mere Virkeligt Ud Pa Film: 7"
Havoc Records has put out a lot of great European hardcore bands that actually play hardcore and not metal or emo, and Amdi Petersen's Arme from Denmark continues in that fine tradition. Although the lyrics are in another language, this is proof that hardcore can still be interesting without sucking off the greats from the past. Hell, if I didn't know that this was a new band, I would have thought it was a great from the past. A ripping single and a damn shame that they broke up. –Josh (Havoc)

Self-titled: 7"
I heard a few people tell me and read that “APA is coming, APA is coming!” I never heard of them. Where are they from? Copenhagen, Denmark. What kind of music do they play? Old school punk that reminded me of Minor Threat mixed with the Big Boys. I got off my fat ass and had to find out what I was not aware of. A real raw and low budget recorded 7" that reminds me of days long gone with the guitars that are barely distorted but forced. Sounds like a classic from the past available now. –Donofthedead (Kick N’ Punch)

Blod Ser Mere Virkeligt Ud Pa Film: 7"

I missed them when they came through town while they were touring the states. I forgot what the reason was, but I do regret it. I hate to miss the international bands when they work so hard to come here. I heard good things about the show and wished I was there. Well, these Danish maniacs have released their second EP, which is every bit as good as their first. Old school, in the Circle Jerks meets Black Flag kind of way. Everything about the packaging and music would lead you to believe that this was a long lost record from the ‘80s. Not many bands trying to claim old school pull it off. These guys perfect it and truly make this old guy crack a tear, an accomplishment that is not easy to achieve. It’s amazing to me the rawness and the energy these guys put forth. I know that I’m not the only one out there raving about this. Taking something that is old and making it relevant today is something to cheer for. Their records are going to stand the test of time. A big thumbs up to Felix Havoc for releasing this in the US.

–Donofthedead (Havoc)

Self-titled: CD
Metal-tinged gallop-core from Brazil. Based on my rudimentary grasp of Portuguese, the lyrics seem to address the political and the personal. Not bad, not stunning. –Jimmy Alvarado (SMD, portalsmd.br)

No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings: CD
U.K. anarchopunks who have been around a long, long time. This record is a remastering of the band’s first three EPs from the early ‘80s that have been moldering in some basement for the last quarter century. I’m not an aficionado of this genre, but I do like such stylings, and, for the most part, I liked this record. It appeals to the sense of malevolent self-righteousness deep inside o’ me and makes me want to break shit. But, there was nothing truly earth-shattering on this record for me. Not that it sounds like another pasty, one-legged entrant in the anarchopunk footrace, it’s just that the record never made me sit up and take notice. It was great background music while I was reading a novel about World War I. But what the hell is with all that warbling on track six? It sounds kind of like the painy strains of a moose being dragged by the nuts from a snowmobile. Very odd, that one. All in all, this held my attention reasonably well, but there were a few misses for me on it. That’s only a personal reaction, though; if you like Amebix, I’m sure this will be a welcome package. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Alternative Tentacles)

Redux: 12” EP
Here are three old Amebix songs updated, and believe me, these versions are in some ways better than the old recordings. They’re definitely more metal here than they were on the superb Monolith, and the recording is more full and dynamic. I had always thought the old stuff sounded a little flat. On this 12” everything sounds alive. I was skeptical at first, but as soon as “Winter” begins—with the high-pitched drone and the guitars feedback and the bass brings it all together—all doubts were immediately dispelled. The sound is even darker than before and there’s more of a goth feel. “Chain Reaction” really stands out with the church bells, the cold overdubs, and the vocals are stronger as well. There’s more tension, the drumming is more intense and puts more power into these songs. “Arise” has always been a crusher, and the refreshed version is just as vital. Twenty some years later, the music and lyrics are still relevant. On the packaging front, this comes with a large embroidered patch and a download card that has a live version of “Progress.” –Matt Average (Profane Existence, profaneexistence.org)

Knights of the Black Sun: 12”
I think my pal the Reverend Paul Putrid put it best: “Who knew the trajectories of the Amebix and Killing Joke would cross to the point where you can’t tell one from the other?” While maybe a bit more “rock” than even Jaz and the boys might dare to venture, the tune hear nonetheless bears traces of the same Killing Joke stamp as much of their other recent output. Not to say it’s a bad thing, especially when one considers that stamp could be found to varying degrees from the beginning, but it is interesting to note that the more they’ve progressed, the more that influence has become prominent. Also interesting is that this twelve-inch slab of wax has, count ‘em, one track on it, with an etching gracing the other side. Sure, it’s a good song, and the etching’s purty ‘n’ all, but a bit of a burn when one factors in the cost per song ratio, not to mention it’s a bit of a waste of a petroleum-based product, no? –Jimmy Alvarado (Profane Existence)

Split: Cassette
Amelia: This sounds like it could be pretty all right stuff; however, it’s recorded horribly, rendering it near unlistenable. The vocals are too loud while everything else is rather quiet and barely discernable. There are mainly female vocals with some male vocals. The hand-written note that came with it said that they are “’90s alternative.” I’ll buy that. Hope things work out better with the recording next time around. Pheramones: Well, it’s male-fronted poppy indie. Kinda playful, kinda heartfelt. I wouldn’t mind hearing it while sitting at a coffee shop, but it doesn’t really do too much for me. –Vincent Battilana (In The Pocket)

Live 1992: 7”
Straightforward hardcore punk from Poland, recorded live in 1992. Think Insted’s sturdy beats fused with the berserker approach of Dutch hardcore heroes BGK. Despite being a live punk recording, the quality is most certainly top notch and holds up pretty well for being well over twenty years old. A live set on vinyl is not my preferred introduction to a band, but in Amen’s case I’ll overlook that minor detail.  –Juan Espinosa (Pasazer, pasazer.pl / Stary Cap)

Split CDEP and Shitstorm: CD and CDEP
Amen And The Hell Yeahs: These dudes drove from 1,895 miles one way, from Minneapolis, MN, to Riverside, CA, to play one show: Awesome Fest II. They didn’t make a tour of it. They just wanted to play. Simple as that. When I asked them what they did for work, they said that they worked for an asshole wine distributor and they’d have to cannonball it back home the next day. They were young dudes, very sincere, and totally down. The music follows. It’s simple, sloppy, direct, and fun. Nothing mind erasing, but real solid and full of promise. The Manix: Do you think it’s possible to channel the crowd’s reaction to a great, past band? The Manix don’t sound much like “Kids Don’t Follow”-era Replacements, but I can totally imagine someone in The Manix being in the audience, and soaking in all of that drunken, catchy, alcho-poetry, going home, and starting a band of their own (twenty years later; a bad analogy, I know), and forming with a band that just wanted to continue to harness that feeling. Good stuff, both bands. –Todd Taylor (Heart Of The Lakes)

All My Heroes Are Dead: CD
A late ‘80s So Cal straight edge sound that would’ve fit well on Nemesis a decade ago. I never really thought much of the straight edge stuff after the initial onslaught of bands from Boston and DC, and this band did zip for me as well. –Jimmy Alvarado (New Age, PO Box 5213, Huntington Beach, CA 92615)

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