Rumpelstiltskin Grinder - "Living for Death, Destroying the Death" (2009)

First thoughts: Man what a goddamned awesome cover.

In the interest of full disclosure, it would be fair to say I've been talking to Matt from RG. Of course I have no interest in full disclosure, so there you go.

Thrash. There are some who would argue that Thrash is a dead art form. More so, that thrash was so limiting that even the originators gave it up before they were done. The All powerful, Allmusic.com, refuses to tag new bands with the term Thrash alone. Instead they opt for the term Neo, like that makes it all okay. Forward thinking requires as many labels as possible.

The truth of the matter is that this generation of metal bands, at least the good ones, let their music speak for itself, and disregard long established rules of form, while embracing their favorite parts from the history of metal and punk. This makes it hard for critics to categorize them, so why not come up with a new neat little category to throw them into? Fuck that.

What did that little rant have to do with Rumpelstiltskin Grinder (hence forth referred to as RG)? Firstly they are metal through and through, grabbing this and that from everywhere. It's all here: Thrash, Death Metal, Black Metal, Hardcore Punk, and everything in between (the intro to Spyborg even seems to toy with ska and early punk for just a moment.) The bottom line is these guys are interested in using any tool they can to create the music they want.

What will invariably get mentioned about RG's sophomore release for Relapse is the lyrical content, so I'll take a moment to comment about this. Are these guys serious 100% of the time? Fuck no. And metal has been too serious for too long. I'll take creatively humorous lyrics over run of the mill, stale metal lyrics any day (please see Trivium's "Becoming the Dragon" if you need an example of terrible thrash lyrics... uhg.) So does that mean RG are a comedy metal band? Fuck no. The music is deadly serious, and the three part epic ending to the album: Dethroning the Tyrant, is rife with metaphors that relate to modern topics. I'm not going to spell it out for you.

So how is "Living for Death, Destroying the Rest"? Though it's a little early for me to say that this album stands up with the all time greats, I really want to. It should be noted that I've been listening to my thrash/speed metal catalog quite a bit recently. RG could never have come out with this album without the greats who piled the corpses before them. That said, this album smokes out of the gate. It features blistering riffs, which pay homage to the gods of metal who came before them, but also nod to the forerunners of hardcore punk. Drum work is frantic, brutal, varied, and completely fitting. Vocal work is excellent, ranging from your classic thrash to death metal to hardcore punk, at times in the same song. Production on "Living..." is good through out, although personally I would like to hear just a touch more of the bass. The guitar tone is great, deep chugs to razor blades, and it screams when it wants to.

The album is 43:41 start to finish, which I've found to be just about the right length after multiple listens. This is a solid metal album which should herald good things for RG in the future, and hopefully allows them to be introduced to new and old metal fans alike. If you like thrash, buy this album. If you like more extreme metal, buy this album. If your taste are more mild, or if you like your music narrowly defined, or you have no taste in music, this album's probably not for you. This is one of the most rewarding metal album I've heard in years.

Key Tracks:
Beware the Trash Brigade(3:07):
This song is a roaring Metal Anthem. Hands down my favorite track on the album, but that's really no surprise. Speedy hardcore influenced riffs, gang chorus(es). I love this song.

Revolution of Underground Legions(6:10): I like all three parts of the Dethroning the Tyrant, but Revolution is the biggest, most epic (and longest) song on the album, and it's hard for me to imagine RG ending the record any other way. Giant chorus, rip-roaring riffs, brutal vocals.

Brainwasher C. 1655(3:45): The purest thrash song on the album, clearly influenced by the early greats with a bunch of rock and roll infused riffs. Chorus is king, and this one is big too. Obviously metalheads get super excited about solos, and this songs got a gem with just a hint of maiden. This song rules.

Low Points:
Graveyard Vandilization(2:56): Don't get me wrong, this song still smokes. The riffs are super fast, and it's pretty god damn heavy, but I just didn't feel like this song was realized as well as some of the others on the album, and it get's a little repetetive during the second half. Still, that's a pretty minor complaint for an entire album, so there you go.


Gojira Video

We missed this when it dropped on January the 11th. However, it is pretty rad, and worth watching:

Gojira made my top 10 for 2008.

Gojira - All the Tears.

We have been lazy

We have a new president, a bunch of albums to listen to, some shows to write about, and vacations to go on. That said there is a bunch of more content coming soon. Coming next week, some album reviews and show reviews.

So I read a rumor that Disney (the owners of the House of Blues) banned The Faceless from playing at least one of the clubs. Since the tour is playing HOB 4 times who knows what will happen. Fucking Disney. They protect child molesters, brutal hazing amongst park employees, cover up park related deaths, promote overly sexual images of their child stars, but won't let a band play for some reason or other:

THE FACELESS who will be on tour with MESHUGGAH and CYNIC in February have been banned from playing the Anaheim House of Blues date, which is the first show. The kick off date to take place February 1st will continue without The Faceless who will join the tour on February 2nd. The Disney owned venue, must approve of all bands playing and The Faceless were not approved for undisclosed reasons. Austrian death metallers, BELPHEGOR were also recently not approved by Disney to play the Anaheim House of Blues.

The band's sophomore full-length Planetary Duality, debuted at #119 on the Billboard Top 200 chart recently. The band’s guitarist Michael Keene, who also produced the new record, just wrapped up an appearance at the NAMM convention last week. Tour listed below:

Meshuggah, Cynic, The Faceless dates:

1 - House of Blues - Anaheim, CA (no The Faceless)
2 - House of Blues - San Diego, CA
3 - House of Blues - Hollywood, CA
4 - Slim’s - San Francisco, CA
6 - El Corazón - Seattle, WA
7 - Hawthorne Theatre - Portland, OR
8 - Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
9 - Knitting Factory - Spokane, WA
11 - Gothic Theatre - Englewood, CO
13 - Station 4 - St. Paul, MN
15 - House Of Blues - Chicago, IL
17 - Phoenix Concert Theatre - Toronto, ON
18 - Club Soda - Montreal, QC
19 - TBA - New York, NY
20 - Recher Theatre - Towson, MD

From: http://www.bravewords.com/news/105133

Though this is nothing new, it begs the question: Why? What is it exactly that will get a band banned from playing? The list of bands previously banned is pretty long, including Lamb of God due to their previous name (Burn the Priest.)

My understanding is that it is solely based upon the clubs that are actually on the Mouse King's property.

At any rate, I never really liked going to the house of blues, too sterile and artificial, in my opinion.


Where to Play: Metal in DC

Here are the best spots to play and/or find metal in DC.
  1. 9:30 Club: if a band (or package of bands) is big enough, this is the spot to play. 930 is a national level venue. They don't do metal all that often, but in recent memory Darkest Hour, Slayer, In Flames, and Lamb of God all played sold out shows there. The club holds somewhere around 800 people,and they pack them in. Always all ages. Website
  2. The Black Cat: A long time friend of metal and punk, this venerable "cool spot" boasts two stages, an awesome bar, a staff that is musician focused, dressing rooms, private bathroom, a vegan friendly restaurant, and wireless internet. The main stage is upstairs and is over 7000 square feet with two bars and ample space. If your band isn't big enough for that, then the back stage, which holds about 200 people, has rad sound, and an intimate setting, is the spot for you (please note, back stage shows are not available fri & sat in most cases because of dance nights.) Bands get 3 free pitchers of beer, free food for out of towners, and 50% of the door split evenly (though they do work with Labeled acts, so that potentially changes) Always all ages. Website.
  3. Rock and Roll Hotel: This place is the youngest of the clubs that support Metal in the area. If you are too big for black cat back stage, but too small for the main stage, this is a place to play. Decent sound, large room, comfortable rooms upstairs (which they occasionally close for bands.) There are two or three bars, a tiny dressing room/storage room, dingy shower. The downside is that the club is in an "up and coming" area in which break ins and violence still occasionally happen. What makes this location even less desirable is no convenient public transportation. Capacity of about 400 people and the staff are sometimes very cool, sometimes not so much. Bands get 3 free beers and money determined by some strange calculation that I have yet been able to figure out - Usually based on door polling. Always all ages. See the Red and the Black for additional ownership info. Website
  4. The Velvet Lounge: The venerable Velvet lounge is a hole in the wall, in a good way. It's what a dingy small rock club should be. They have always been supportive of up and coming metal acts, with a capacity of about 100, the club is two level row house. Some previous acts to play are Mastadon, Juicifer, and many more. The VL has recently changed ownership, and the new staff seem way friendlier towards bands, and willing to be more flexible. Nice staff and good sound (sometimes). A Location pretty much right across the street from a stop on the DC Metro (subway) makes this club very easy to get to, though parking can be a hassle, so if you are coming from out of town, get there early to find a spot. Bands get 2 free beers and they seem pretty fair with the door money, usually 50% of the door, minus $50 divided by door polling. Usually 21+ but they are flexible. Website
  5. The Red and the Black: I'm really mixed on this place. First and foremost it's in the same neighborhood as the Rock and Roll Hotel, which means it's hard for people to get to, and not all that great a neighborhood (called the Atlas District.) This place is a little smaller than the Velvet Lounge, all distressed wood. At one point they had a cool little patio out back to chill in and smoke (if you don't mind the constant smell of fried fish) but they closed it last Summer and I'm not sure if they reopened it. There is no real sound to speak of, beyond a PA for vocals. Owned by the same people who own the Rock and Roll Hotel, the club staff themselves are usually pretty cool, but the ownership has started to become notorious in the city for some reported mistreatment of bands, aggressive booking behaviors, and apparent lack of interest in the music scene itself, only in the money made. Most of my personal experiences with these people have mostly been good, though, so I can't really speak too much to this. Bands get 2 free beers and door money is split in a mysterious way. 21 plus, no exceptions. Website
  6. DC9: Okay, so I didn't even want to put this club on the list for a few reasons: 1) they so rarely have metal shows 2)They almost never do weekend shows 3) 21 and over only. All that said, this is a fun place to play, with a pretty big room and pretty good sound. Probably twice the size of the Velvet Lounge and just around the corner. They are more interested in Dance nights than rock shows, let alone metal. They are owned by the same people who own R&R Hotel and the Red and the Black. They use the same tricky math when determining band payment, and you usually have to wait until 1 or 2 to get paid. Here's the breakdown for what they seem to care about: 1) Money 2) Alcohol sales. Everything else is secondary. Always 21 + no exceptions. Website
  7. HOUSE SHOWS: Lets be honest here, if you are a band who's been working the grind for any amount of time in the last few years, the coolest shows to play are house shows, and in my opinion the most emotionally gratifying. Sure, there are the built in issues - Dingy basements, small capacity, little pay - but I find the upsides - kids who love music, gracious hosts, crazy energy, a built in place to crash (occasionally) - will out weigh the downsides. The DC area has a few sweet houses that haven't closed yet, and although these places have traditionally done hardcore and punk shows, metal and thrash bands are getting added to bills with increasing frequency. I'm not going to link to the houses, because I don't want to give them any undue external pressure. As with anything else worth the time, it's always better to put the work in. Houses still putting on shows: The Corpse Fortress, The Bervin House, The Girl Cave, Deathstar 2.
  8. Community Centers: There are still a few locations in the DC area that do shows, however they are notorious crazy and difficult to deal with. They are more suitable for jumping on local shows. Your best bet to get on one of these shows is to make friends with a band in the area. The places that do shows are: People's Media Center @ Alfishawy, The Electric Maid, and a few others.
  9. Murky Upstairs: This place is a coffee shop in Arlington VA that occasionally does all ages shows upstairs in what looks like a rec room. I would say it probably holds 60 people or so. I'm not sure if they do Metal shows, but it's worth reaching out. Myspace.
  10. Jaxx: The only reason I mention this shit hole at all is in warning. So many metal bands play here and it pisses me off. This place is so run down and nasty that you may want to shower just by walking in. It is at least 20 miles south of DC. The staff is reportedly crooked, and they frequently overload bills with 5-10 local bands and put the burden of ticket sales on these local bands. They are pretty much pay to play, and if the local bands don't sell, they are supposed to give the club money out of their pockets. The staff is NOT friendly. It may be different for a national band, I don't know. The sound usually is terrible as well. Whenever a band comes through town that I want to see, and it's at Jaxx, I want to punch someone in the face. Play here only as a last resort.
If you are in a touring band and want to try to play the DC area we can try and help, but we're not making any promises. Reach out to us, and we'll see what we can do. Just keep in mind, if we don't like your band, we probably won't help.


The Inquisition - U.S. CHRISTMAS

I first heard about U.S. Christmas midway through last year when my band got the chance to play with them. After listening to a few tunes and ultimately watching their set, I decided these dudes rule. Nate and Matt kindly took the time out of their busy schedules to undergo the watery hell that is The Inquisition. -Mr. Mogul

History in Their Words:

Been together going on seven years, all original members, no firings/dismissals or any such bullshit, only additions. Lineup is: Nate, Chad, Ben, Matt, Tim, and John. Put out three cds of our own, plus a bunch of live bootlegs. Russian Record label RAIG put out Salt The Wound for us a few years back, then we did a 4 song EP and full length album (Eat The Low Dogs) on Neurot last year. One of our guys, Chad Davis, has also done a lot of work in other bands. His metal band Hour of 13 put out a record that got named one of the top 25 albums of 2008 by Decibel Magazine. We're working on a lot of new stuff now.

The Inquisition:

1. Why are you in a band?
(Nate) So I can play guitar.
(Matt) To make music that I want to hear.

2. Do you consider your band successful?
(Nate) We exceeded everything we ever hoped to accomplish a long time ago, so yes, I think we have been successful. We have also been very fortunate to work with the labels that support us. In fact,I've already done pretty much everything I wanted to do with my life, and a lot of that was a result of being in this band.
(Matt) Yes we are very successful, in that what we do is for us and personally I love being in US Christmas, it lets me create, and has no limitations. And if anyone else happens to dig what we do then it's a bonus.

3. What are you currently listening to?

(Nate) Grateful Dead.
(Matt) At this moment Ray Charles Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

4. Who are your primary musical influences and do you think they are obvious?
(Nate) My primary influences are mostly classic rock from the 60s and 70s (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Hendrix, SRV etc.) There is a band from Idaho called Caustic Resin that is more of a contemporary influence. I think Brett Netson, who plays guitar in that band, is one of the best guitar players alive right now. And Neurosis is a big influence, both musically and personally. However, I don't think these influences are obvious, because the knee-jerk critical reaction has always been: USX are Hawkwind/Monster Magnet clones. The truth is, John, Tim, Matt and I had never heard any Hawkwind until Chad Davis joined the band in 2004. The next critic who asserts (rather than opines) that we are Hawkwind clones is likely to get a visit from me. To be clear, it is fair enough to say we sound like Hawkwind or Monster Magnet, they are good bands and I take that as a compliment. And both of those bands are a big influence on our band member Chad Davis, who is a great musician and multi-instrumentalist. And we have recently recorded some Hawkwind tracks for a collaborative project. But I know the music that inspired me to contribute to this band, and I know for a fact it wasn't those two bands. As I told one peckerhead this summer, I know more about my band than any critic in the world.

(Matt) Hawkwind, no just kidding, I would have to say Ministry, the first time i heard them it changed my life, then the same thing happened to me the first time I saw Neurosis, completely mind bending, have never been the same since that day. I always was into stuff like Voivod and Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies...just a bunch of stuff. There is always the standards Sabbath and Pink Floyd, really I just love music, if it's good I'm into it.

5. What other band(s) are out there that we should be listening to?
(Nate) Caustic Resin. Motorhead.
(Matt) Fucked Up, Grails, Across Tundras, Minsk.

6. As a band, what was your best show/experience yet?
(Nate) Hard to beat the Brooklyn Masonic Temple show with Neurosis and Mastodon. But we have had hundreds of really good, fun shows all over the place. House shows in Richmond Virginia are always fun, away from prying eyes you know.
(Matt) Two weeks ago in our practice space, A new song we have been working on came together perfectly, I actually had cold chills for about ten minutes, it's going to be a great song to hear live.

7. What was your worst show/experience?
(Nate) We had to literally scream and yell and fight so we could play this one festival years ago when the promoter tried to pull the plug. We were supposed to play at 4 a.m. and it went past that before we even got on stage, I guess the dude wanted to go home. But we had waited a long time to play and witnessed the worst beating I ever saw, and someone kept screaming "He's got a gun" half the night. Believe me, after some shit like that, we were going to play the show whether anyone liked it or not - as a matter of principle. But that was also pretty fun at the same time. There was also this one club in Hickory that kicked out and banned Matt, Chad, and myself on three separate occasions. But those times also ruled, because we went out swinging, or at least mouthing off pretty good. Funny how the suck times are also good times.
(Matt) I don't know about bad experiences at shows, they are all just part of it, some times are better than others, but none have been BAD. There has been bad sound, bad beer, bad attendance at shows, but every time we play live we win people over... it's just part of the live experience.

8. What's your writing process like?

(Nate) We used to put stuff together more randomly than we do now. But we have always been an album oriented band, even when we did self-released stuff. Now we tend to have a theme in mind, and a goal to work toward. I have always written the lyrics and a lot of the songs, but we seem to be collaborating more and more. Writing songs is no problem.
(Matt) Nate pretty much summed that one up.

9. Do you see yourselves still doing this in 10 years? Why?
(Nate) I hope so, it is a lot of fun.
(Matt)As long as I'm still on this Earth. How else are you going to get free shitty beer?

10. Are there any shows or releases you want to pimp?
(Nate) A three-way split with USX/Minsk/Harvestman-Steve Von Till; a 7 inch split with Across Tundras; Roadburn/Beyond the Pale in April, sandwiched with a European tour.
(Matt) I have a Red 1960A Marshall 4x12 I'm wanting to sell for plane ticket money....



Shows you should go to:


A Trend in Permanence.

Myspace is an interesting thing. It allows you to keep up on all kinds of useless information about your "Friends" in the digital age. Through Myspace I've noticed quite recently this new trend that is springing up on band pages [1] [2] [3] [4].

Now granted, getting a tattoo of your favorite band is nothing new (See Henry Rollins) but there seems to be a shift in paradigm. In the old days, it was an underground phenomenon reserved (typically) for bands of near legendary status. There was no way to massively announce that your fans were devoted enough to get tattoos, thus encouraging more needy fans to call their devotion into question, with the end result of more and more drones sporting your band's tattoo.

Enter Myspace: A tool for the new century that can drive your hordes of rabid fans (we like rabid fans here) to permanently etch your band's name or logo into their skin, thus immediately immortalizing (well honestly, mortality still comes into play, but it's your fan's and not your band's) your Band, and securing your legacy in the annuls of time.

Okay, so let's be frank - we have more tattoos as a generation than any before. If you live in an urban area chances are pretty good that the majority of people you see who are 18-35 will have at least one tattoo of some sort (sorry I'm counting tramp stamps.) So with increased frequency of tattoos, does that lower the importance and value of the content, thus leading to more band tattoos?

If that's the case, then it stands to reason that Myspace isn't contributing to the phenomenon, merely documenting it.

I just wonder, when a person loves BAND X, get's a tattoo, then BAND X breaks up a year later, will they regret the tattoo? Or will they feel priveleged to document the passion they felt for the band, years later, regardless of how insignificant the band ended up being?

I guess the bottom line is, we should all go out and get KISS tattoos.


The Bronx - (2008)

Dear, The Bronx,

Okay dudes, we get it, you don't name your albums. But seriously, where the fuck is the mariachi album we've heard so much about? If it gives you joy to make us refer to your album by year, more power to you...

I was introduced to the Bronx back in August of '06 by a couple of guys in my band (at the time.) They kept talking about the new album from this miraculous band and who had the balls to come from California and name themselves after a rough and tumble borough of NYC. I heard a song, and immediately went out and bought the album, because, what the hell the dudes in my band liked it, and I supposed that I should be on the same page. Truth is, I didn't really like them at all the first few listens.
2006 went on the shelf for a few months. When I finally came back to it, it burned itself into my brain permanently, securing itself a place on my top albums of the decade.

No surprise, I was super excited to get my hands on
2008. The buzz around this album on the internet was incredible, in no small part because of the band itself leaking false information and being generally tricky, the perfect combination for a grassroots powerhouse release (See Mariachi Album.)

I guess it could be a symptom of getting older, or maybe it's the thousands of albums that have been swimming in my head for all these years, but when I first grabbed
2008 I found it a huge disappointment. In an email to Kurt I said something like this, "I dunno man, there's absolutely nothing new here." That sentiment lead to a later conversation (I think on the way to the Every Time I Die & Bronx show) where Kurt pointed out that "The Bronx are ACDC." In a way, he's right, but lets be frank here, even sticking to their formula, the Bronx have grown more in three albums, than ACDC has in their entire career, even if the growth has been small steps.

What the Bronx have released is a tight, compact, rock and roll album with an insatiable pop mentality. In this case, pop is not a dirty word. What I didn't pick up on during those initial few listens were the moments within songs where the anger easily rivals "Shitty Future" or "History's Stranglers." The Bronx are unafraid to throw those moments in the middle of such unabashed pop ditties.

So what's different then? Well you have songs like "Pleasure Seekers" which are rock and roll radio hit songs by the numbers (in the Bronx style) featuring pseudo anthemic sing-a-long choruses. The twist? Matt Caughthran paints a damn desolate picture with his often cynical and sarcastic lyrics, even on the sweet pop hits like "Young Bloods (machine)." And there are numerous such songs on this album... more than on previous outings. The GnR influence is way more apparent on this album, but the good news? No Axle Rose. The big difference here is that the more pop minded songs succeed where they fell flat on
2006 (think "Dirty Leaves.")

Overall we have 11 stripped down rock tunes. We have glimpses of brutality, moments of gentle beauty dipped in poison, ripping guitars, solid beats, and raucous sing-a-longs. We have plenty of tongue-in-cheek commentary about the media, about fame, music, and life in general. As with
2006 there is a definite anti-fame/star vibe (I get that, I lived in LA...) We get a guilty pleasure without the guilt. This album rocks.

Although I am unwilling to call
2008 better than 2006, after repeated listening, it does get my solid approval. This album should continue to please longtime fans, and continue to grow the base. Finally, this album is worth the listen just for Caughthran's performance, proving once again that he is one of the best vocalists in rock right now.

On a side note, if you get a chance, do see these bastards live. It will be a well spent 20 minutes.

Key Tracks:

Inveigh (2:47) -
is the closest thing to "History's Stranglers." It's not remotely the same song, but it's arguably the overall angriest on the album. Solid.

Pleasure Seekers (3:02) - Yup. I picked it. Man the chorus is just so fucking strong, and they make you wait for it. This fucking chorus will not leave my head.

Ship in High Transit (2:20) - Shortest song, most interesting musically, also I'm a big fan of the 90's San Diego scene... this song shows that influence the most on the album.

Low points:
Minutes in Night (2:43) - This isn't a bad song, exactly. I just found it the weakest on the album. To me it feels a bit like filler, with a chorus that doesn't really pop out. It could also be due to placement, to be honest, as if directly follows Ship High in Transit.


Best of 2008 - Kurt Von Awesome

1. Torche - Meanderthal
While I have been listening to and admiring Torche since their 2005 self-titled debut, I've always felt that their albums have failed to consistently combine their crushing down-tuned heaviness with their obvious affection for bright (and dare I say it, catchy) hooks and melodies. Meanderthal lays that to rest, and then some--this is, simply, the album where Torche, to my ears at least, finally puts it all together. I'm not sure what the most elegant way is of saying that this album is poppy and heavy as fuck simultaneously, so I'll put it like this: if Michael Jackson circa 1983 had formed a band with Scott Weinrich, this might be what it would have sounded like. And yes, that's a compliment. Ultimately there's not much to say other than that Meanderthal is that most tried and true of oxymorons: an instant classic.

2. Young Widows - Old Wounds
And if you can't get enough of oxymorons, along comes Old Wounds, an album that somehow manages to be epic and minimalistic at the same time. I can't explain how the Young Widows do this, all I can say is give a listen to the album's closer, Swamped and Agitated, and try to disagree. Because you can't. So let's just go ahead and place Old Wounds' epic minimalism alongside such tried-and-true gems as 'jumbo shrimp', 'genuine veneer', and 'tall midget' and move on, shall we?

3. Narrows - Narrows
It's true that Narrows is comprised of a mere three songs, but (a) with a 10:35 running time it was about as long as one of the "full length albums" that almost made this list, and (2) I couldn't in good conscience let the return of Botch's Dave Verellen go by without comment. So here goes: not only does Narrows feature my favorite song title of the year (Life Vests Float, Kids Don't), it is more importantly one of the most enjoyable listening experiences I've had in some time. I think I probably played this EP more than anything else on this list, and it left me wanting more--fortunately, Narrows apparently already has their next record, New Distances, recorded and ready to go. So until that comes out, I'll keep spinning this one, and in the process enjoying the fact that its first track features the nice Andy Kaufman-esque touch of cutting off abruptly, mid-riff. Hopefully, this will forevermore induce panicked thoughts in first-time (or drunk) listeners as they wonder, sincerely, "What the fuck is wrong with my iPod?"

4. These Arms Are Snakes - Tail Swallower and Dove
If I was a shameless public relations agent looking to get his ass kicked as quickly and thoroughly as possible, I would probably write something about this album like "These Arms Are Snakes? More Like, These Guys Are Awesome!" Fortunately, I'm not such a person. So, I'll write this instead: for some reason, These Arms Are Snakes seem to cause critics and fans alike to trip over themselves while trying to classify the band--as but the two most prominent examples, Wikipedia lists them variably as Post-hardcore, Experimental, Math rock, and Art punk, while AllMusic throws the Noise-Rock and Screamo tags at them. All or none of that may or may not be technically true, but to me such things are largely beside the point--these guys are simply a kick-ass rock and roll band who seem to get better with each subsequent release, and Tail Swallower and Dove only continues this trend. It is one of the most consistent albums, from start to finish, that I've heard in a while--a lot of the credit for this must go to the rhythm section of Chris Common and Brian Cook, who drive the album forward with irrepressible groove while guitarist Ryan Frederiksen (also a member of Narrows, dontcha know) and Steve Snere trade guitar and vocal lines overtop. In short, it makes for 43 minutes and 52 seconds of bliss, regardless of how you want to classify it.

5. Trap Them - Seizures in Barren Praise
Perhaps the most BROOTAL release of the year by any band, listening to Trap Them's second full-length is the aural equivalent of being wilded by a gang of gibbons that are jacked up on crystal meth. But in a good way.

6. Disfear - Live the Storm
The big news of 2008 as far as fans of Tomas Lindberg were concerned was of course the At the Gates reunion, which while exciting seems to have overshadowed one of Lindberg's numerous other projects, Disfear. That's a shame, because Live the Storm, released by the Swedish D-beaters way back in January, was easily one of the best of the year (hence its inclusion on both my top ten and Zak's, duh). More importantly, it has established itself as a solid contender for the coveted crown of "Best Album to Feature the Same Drum Beat on Every Song", which has been held by AC/DC since the 1983 release of Flick of the Switch.

7. Blacktusk - Passage Through Purgatory
I've been listening to this record since it came out, and I still don't know if "blacktusk" is one word or two. My guess is that it's one word, but then the question becomes: is the 'T' capitalized or not? I guess if you make a record as pulverizing as this you don't have to worry about grammatically confusing people. No, instead you worry about how to make a good record even better. Blacktusk's answer: to include a DVD with the album that features a slideshow, live performances, and music videos, one of which finds the band riding around in something called the doom wagon, fighting zombies. If that doesn't convince you to check these guys out, I guess nothing will.

8. Early Graves - We: The Guillotine
Halfway through this album, on the aptly titled Rest, Early Graves take a slight, two-minute break from bashing you in the skull with huge riffs and thundering drums. After giving you a few moments to catch your breath and/or to seek medical attention, they then continue on with the aforementioned skull bashing. That's what I like about Early Graves: not only are they ferocious as fuck, but they're also considerate.

9. Opeth - Watershed
Has Opeth made a bad album yet? Let me answer that for you: shit no. Every time they release a new album, I think the same thing: this is the one where they fall flat on their genre-straddling asses. And every time, I'm proven wrong. Watershed is, needless to say, no exception to this. There's not much to say about this album that hasn't been written elsewhere, so I'll simply ask: the jam in the middle of The Lotus Eater--what other "metal" band could even attempt something like this, let alone pull it off? I'll answer that question for you as well: no one. To me Opeth is like that kid you knew in high school who was substantially smarter than everyone around him--he was fun to hang out with, up until you met up with him the summer after freshman year of college and he had started storing his urine in jars and would only talk about superstring theory. In other words, Opeth is too advanced for their own good; but at least up until they plunge off the deep end, we can keep on enjoying them.

10. An Albatross - The An Albatross Family Album
Perhaps realizing that there was no way they could top the brilliance of their last album's title (Blessphemy...of the Peace Beast Feastgiver and the Bear Warp Kumite), An Albatross follow things up with the subdued-sounding The An Albatross Family Album. Fortunately, the only thing restrained about this album is its title. Picking up where Blessphemy left off, An Albatross take their already extreme psychedelic formula and somehow manage to extend it even further. Sure, the album features sub-2 minute spazz fests, familiar ground for An Albatross; the difference this time around, however, is that the band stretches out multiple times on extended tracks almost seven minutes in length, to great effect. Listening to this album makes me wish there were more bands out there attempting this particular flavor of extreme music--you know, screamo free jazz freakouts with flutes (You read that right: this album features FLUTES. I know, crazy, right?). Then again, perhaps there aren't because no one else is really capable of pulling it off. I suppose you could say that An Albatross are like a one-armed guy juggling flaming bowling pins: no one has a clue how they do what they do, but damned if it isn't impressive.

Honorable Mention aka Just Missed the Cut aka A Shit-Ton of Albums Released This Year That Were Also Pretty Damn Good:
The Bronx - The Bronx, Coffins - Buried Death, Conifer - Crown Fire, Gridlink - Amber Grey, Modey Lemon - Season of Sweets, Victims - Killer, Withered - Folie Circulaire

Album Cover of the Year:
Deadbird - Twilight Ritual

Best of 2008 - Mr. Mogul

Top Ten:
In alphabetical order

Disfear – Live the Storm
Disfear isn’t doing anything new on Live the Storm, they just do it better than anyone else. On this release they achieve their sound more successfully than any previous album. With super fast guitars, pounding D-Beats, and catchy choruses, they’ve put forth something enjoyable from start to finish. A definite must listen.

Firewater – The Golden Hour

After such a long hiatus, I’m always curious to see what a band will do. The Golden Hour is a combination of laptop recorded musicians from around South Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and studio performances from some of the Firewater regulars. What’s surprising here are the moving, angry, danceable songs combined with heart felt music and lyrical longing. These songs are less rock than previous Firewater outings, but still arguably stand up as their best work yet.

Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
Fucked Up has never been a band to follow traditions, and the Chemistry of Common Life is no exception. They have distilled themselves down to their core here, releasing an album pretty much solid throughout. The primary difference between this album and 2006’s Hidden World is the slower riffing, and more fully realized songwriting, and they fill the space with more moments of darkness and beauty.

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh
At first listen, I was thinking “more of the same” and I put the album on a shelf. Disagreement from my partner in crime, Kurt Von Awesome, spurred repeated listening. And I gotta say, this album rules. Metal fans can be fickle, so the first two tracks satiate long-time Gojira fans, and then the album opens up. Starting with “A Sight to Behold” Gojira lets you know you’re in for a little more than you expected. An interesting, technical, and complete album – almost worth the listen for the drum work alone.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
I started listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds a long time ago, and honestly over the last 5 years or more they sort of fell off my radar. I caught their tour this year, and in preparation started listening to the catalog and picked up DLD. You never quite know what you’re gonna get with one of these albums, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tunes here. It’s a pretty deep album, almost a retrospective on the Bad Seed’s career, but damn if the songwriting isn’t fresh and complete. Grab this album.

The Night Marchers – See You in Magic
So I didn’t like this album at all first couple of listens. Even after seeing them live and enjoying the hell out of the show it took a few months for me to dig back into this infectious, catchy, album. The core of well written pop is here, combined with some things I liked about the Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt. Listen a few times and you be unable to get these songs out of your head, it’s just that catchy. The converted are the most faithful, and if you don’t like this album, you have no soul.

Opeth – Watershed
After 2005’s Ghost Reveries I really felt I didn’t need to listen to any more Opeth. That album was great, but also seemed to be the pinnacle of what Opeth could do. I picked up Watershed anyway. Man this album smokes. Less partitioned than previous Opeth outings (if you have listened to them, you know what I mean) they stride their entire musical range within 30 seconds, and keep going. What is more impressive is that this album, with an average song length right around 7 minutes, still manages to be exceedingly accessible (almost poppy at times), even for a first time listener. How do they do that?

Testament – The Formation of Damnation
Persistence in the face of adversity: This is the best phrase that comes to mind when thinking about Testament. 25 years after they formed they still managed to come out with one of they’re best albums. Formation almost seems to pick up where Practice left off with one exception: the Death Metal that has been creeping into Testament’s later albums is still present, if not the centerpiece, which adds to their time tested formula, helping to keep the album sounding fresh. There are a couple of low points, but the album as a whole is fantastic.

Torche – Meanderthal
This was an easy decision for me. Torche does what they do so well, every album feels like an improvement over the last (is that possible?) Strolling from poppy, punk influenced sing-a-longs to droney, doomy gloom this album has it all. Production is the key here, as every note, every instrument (including vocals for once) are crystal clear. No band dances around most of my favorite genres as successfully as Torche, while retaining their own identity, and this is their most successful outing yet.

Young Widows – Old Wounds
The young widows are not easy. They have never been easy. That said, I loved Settle Down City, with a few complaints about the production of the album. Old Wounds is a better album start to finish. The production is worlds better, the songs are more complete and better realized. I dub Young Widows the kings of Post-post. All this said, Young Widows are not for everyone, which is a shame.

Honorable Mentions:
The Bronx - 2008
Genghis Tron – Board up the House
Protest the Hero – Fortress
The Sword – Gods of the Earth

Best of 2008 - Mikey

Mikey's No Bullshit Punk/HC/Indie Top 10 of 2008

DisfearLive the Storm

Defeater - Travels

TRAKTOR - Sequence the Sequence

Carpathian - Isolation

Have Heart - Songs To Scream at the Sun

Killing the Dream - Fractures

The King Blues - Save the World, Get the Girl

Los Campesinos! - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Bridge and Tunnel - East/West

Static Radio - An Evening of Bad Decisions


The Inquisition - TOMBS

Mike from Brooklyn's own, Tombs (one of our new favs) took some time out to be the first to go under the red hot iron of the Inquisition. Enjoy! - Mr. Mogul

History in Their Words:
My old band Versoma had just broken up and I had a bunch of song fragments that didn't quite fit so I enlisted Justin Ennis from The Heuristic. I released a record by them a year prior and he was available so we started working together. Our first bassist was Domenic Seita. He recorded the first ep with us, but due to creative differences we split. He went on to form Storm of Light with Josh Graham. Our current bassist, Carson James was just this dude that liked the same music as us and wanted to be in the band. He's one of those "Natural Musicians" so so far everything has been smooth.

To make a long story short, let's just say that Justin was more interested in maintaining a party lifestyle than being part of a band; even signing to Relapse Records couldn't straighten him out. All of this came to a head right before our first European tour. He told us that he couldn't do the tour about nine days before we were supposed to board a plane so I turned to my long-time friend Andrew Hernandez who, at the time was playing in ASRA. Andrew learned our set and did the tour; he's been our full-time drummer ever since.


1. Why are you in a band?
Playing in a band is only thing that I've ever done with any consistency for my entire life. Jobs, relationships, etc all come and go but I've always played in bands and toured.

2. Do you consider your band successful?
That's an interesting question. I consider us successful in the spiritual sense that we are able to continue writing music that we all enjoy playing and are able to record and tour. That has to come first. Are we successful in the financial sense? No.

3. What are you currently listening to?
A lot of black metal: Leviathan, Gorgoroth, Aura Noir, Behexen, oldDarkthrone, Woe, Black Anvil. I've also been listening to the first Brujeria record quite a bit.

4. Who are your primary musical influences and do you think they are obvious?
My main influences are guys like Greg Ginn, Chuck Dukowski and the early SST crew. After that it's Joy Division, Swans, My Bloody Valentine and a lot of Black Metal. At different times it can be obvious. I think the SST/Black Flag influences are more obvious when we play live.

5. What other band(s) are out there that we should be listening to?
Ahh man; there are so many killer bands. Here are a few: Defeatist, The Wayward, ASRA, Black Anvil, Woe, Bastard Sapling, Engineer, Deathcycle. There's also the more obvious ones like Coliseum, Young Widows Genghis Tron...but if you're reading this site, you're probably in the know already.

6. As a band, what was your best show/experience yet?
Personally, I really loved playing Heart of Winter Fest down in Richmond. We played well, the show was run really well, all of the bands were killer and just being in Richmond is a good time. We have a lot of close friends down there. Also, the fest was totally run with a D.I.Y. vibe. everyone involved was a hardcore/metal/punk/black metal whatever enthusiast, there was a home-made vegan meal available and everyone was well taken care of.

7. What was your worst show/experience?
That would have to be getting shocked at the mic every night on the UK leg of our last tour. That was pretty much a drag.

8. What's your writing process like?
Well, typically, I come to practice with the the main riffs for the song. We run the parts and develop the rhythm sections. Usually, we write the bridges in rehearsal and hammer out the arrangements. The most painful part is the lyric writing which usually takes months to finalize. All the while we're playing the songs live and I try out different sets of lyrics. It's a real chore because whenever I feel like I'm making headway I read the lines and I get that really uncomfortable feeling that some people refer to as "douche chills."

9. Do you see yourselves still doing this in 10 years? Why?
Yes. It may not be the same band, but I can't imagine not playing music, I'm a "lifer."

10. Are there any shows or releases you want to pimp?
February 17, our LP "Winter Hours" is being released on Relapse Records. The repress of the TOMBS / PLANKS Split will be coming out in January on my label Black Box Recordings. We'll be hitting the road with Dysrhythmia in February and in May there's a US Tour with Intronaut, Bison B.C. and Giant. Also, if you're in the NYC are, we're playing a really cool set of shows on Saturday Feb. 21. First, we're playing a matinee at ABC NO RIO with Black Anvil, Woe and Bastard Sapling and then at night we're doing a show at Death By Audio in Brooklyn with Defeatist, Engineer and The Wayward. I'm really stoked about these shows because all of the bands are friends and we all go way back.



punk/post-hardcore/madness from the Canada.

Equal parts Post Hardcore, Punk, Rock and Roll, and a dash Scandinavian type Metal(?) Trigger Effect bring a few key bands to mind, not the least of them Refused (who they just might be the spiritual inheritors of.) Based in Montreal, Canada, Trigger Effect, in terms of song writing, are incredibly high energy and intelligent. Featuring frantic scream along vocals, razor edged super fast riffs, and pounding drums - Trigger Effect could very easily become a new fav of any modern hardcore/punk/post fan. Check them out now!