REVIEW: Middle Part – “Middle Part”

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Middle Part is pop and noise. They are where those two sensibilities intersect. It’s weird, it’s abrasive, and it’s not for everyone. It’s really fucking good though. Let’s not bullshit around with some long write up. Middle Part is making aggressive, lo-fi music. There is a lot of noise, a lot of yelling, and a whole lot of muscle. This two piece from Harrisonburg, VA isn’t holding anything back this EP. They have a drum and a bass, but are way more than the sum of their parts.

There are a number of things this band excels at, not the least of which is the ability to make a hard left turn out of nowhere. Songs like “Dip Dip” and “Like Before” pull you in with an almost dancey, post-punk sound. The former shifts back and forth between that and a killer hardcore/noise combination. It’s disjointed and jagged, but it works. The latter is probably the most accessible song on the record, but even it plays around with time changes and styles. It’s shift is almost a pop to dirge to pop thing.

“Fight Song” is all aggression. Musically, vocally, whatever. In fact, Judy Hong’s vocals are what makes this record work for me. They can range anywhere from melodic and halting (“Like Before”) to just fucking shredded (“Fight Song” and “Dip Dip”). The vocals work so well with the distorted bass and pounding drum. The production work from Tristan O’Shea, who is the other half of the band, absolutely nails the mood of this record too.

There isn’t a whole lot more that needs to be said. If you want a record that will keep you on your toes, this is absolutely it. Check it out.

Middle Part
Too Far Gone Records
Bandcamp
Buy It

 

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REVIEW: Blame Mary – “Blame Mary”

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There is something to be said for straight ahead punk rock. It’s a style that, regardless of how much weird shit I get stoked on, will always have a place in my heart. Blame Mary is a band that just goes. No frills, no bullshit. Blame Mary’s self titled EP is very much an archetypal punk rock record in a lot of ways. It’s an encapsulation of the short/fast/loud aesthetic that this kind of music was built around. It’s literally the kind of record that you could show anyone, and they’d say “yeah, that’s a punk rock record.”

The band burns through four songs in about eight minutes. It’s there and gone, and every song has a raw intensity. Most of this stems from how it was recorded. It was recorded live in studio, and the live on the floor style works perfectly for them. How you hear it is how they play it. It’s not been produced to death.

The trio is very adept at making a well worn genre sound fresh and vital. This isn’t easy to do, especially in the world of melodic hardcore or garage punk. Blame Mary’s stated goal is to create “simple music that is raw and soulful, while keeping to a very basic set-up.” They nailed it.

Blame Mary
Bandcamp

REVIEW: Kaji – “What Safe Means”

kajiwsmSincerity and authenticity matter. There is a lot of hubris and noise coming from bands. The music and delivery is intense as fuck, but they aren’t really saying anything. It’s a problem. Sincerity counts, everyone. This is what makes Kaji is a very compelling band. It’s what makes What Safe Means is such a promising record. They are sticking close to the genre staples in terms of sound, but they’ve got more than enough going on to be very engaging.

It’s a very good EP. It touches on a variety of topics, but it all that fall in a similar theme. It’s a record that discusses the concept of feeling safe. It’s a vulnerable record that filters the overall theme through topics like abuse, identity, and self worth. It can get a little heavy, but never overwhelmingly so. It’s not really a record that invites itself to quoting random lyrics out of context, and it’s not a record that really allows itself to be pigeonholed when it comes to content. This is an absolute strength if ever there was one. It shows that Kaji have made a singular piece instead of some random collection of songs.

It is, on the other hand, very easy to discuss from a musical standpoint. It definitely excels in the realm of post-hardcore. It also has a fair amount of a screamo influence as well. It’s really not hitting all the genre touchstones of the latter, but it has enough for it to be an apt description. The music is heavy, the vocals are forceful, and everything has a lot of muscle behind it. There is something here for anyone who enjoys music under the greater umbrella of hardcore and punk.

It would be easy to overhype things here, but I’m not going to bullshit you. This is an EP that is worth your attention. It has a lot of heart. It has a lot of passion. And, ultimately, it’s worth a listen based on that alone.

Kaji
Band Camp

REVIEW: Cathedral Fever – “All Pit, No Pendulum”

cathedralfeverBefore I go into this review, I want to talk about horror punk. Like, as a concept. I, as a general rule, don’t like it. I didn’t always have such a dislike for the music though. I was never a fan, really. But I wasn’t always annoyed by it. In my younger years I lived in two different punk houses. The first was in Aurora, IL. I lived with three other people, two of those people loved horror punk and psychobilly. They would play it constantly. I am way more familiar with bands like Blitzkid and the Rosedales than I want to be.

Once the Aurora house died, three of the four of us from it moved to Bartlett, IL. The second house was actually the house of a dude who was in a horror punk band. I was pretty ok with the band before I moved in. They weren’t my favorite local band, but I liked seeing them. Once I moved in the house though, goddamn. I had to hear them practice all the time. I must have heard their setlist at least five or six times a week on a few occasions.

When either house had parties, it was almost always horror punk being played. I had to hide in my room and play my records loud if I wanted a break. Every decoration they had was somehow “spooky.” Shit, one of the cats that I now own was originally adopted in the first house. The two horror punk people named the damn thing Spooky.

Being surrounded by a thing you weren’t all that interested in to begin with is enough to put you off something. Never mind being surrounded by it for two years straight. Almost non-stop. You’d get sick of it too. It is with this preface that I do this review.

Cathedral Fever has now joined the very short list of horror themed bands that I will listen to.

All Pit, No Pendulum is a fucking beast of a record. It is very much a horror punk record at it’s core. The overall lyrical theme is definitely on some horror shit. What makes it different is that it isn’t the same old tired tropes. It’s not a bunch of vampire/zombie/1950’s horror kitsch. They aren’t writing the songs around the dusty old “whoas and ohs” chorus. No way. They fucking rip through shit in a really aggressive way. Coming with a hardcore/thrash/metal style, they have enough power to overcome the pitfalls that often come with the genre type. The drums fucking blast. The guitars are dirty and distorted. The vocals are loud, aggressive, and maybe even a bit guttural at times. Cathedral Fever is a pissed off sounding band, but they just happen to be playing in a horror theme.

The lyrics, by the nature of the genre, are a little cheesy though. It happens. They seem to be more influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe than they are Ed Wood or George Romero though. The record title is a reference to The Pit And The Pendulum for crying out loud. We’re getting references to charnel houses, Leviathans, and just awesome shit. It’s a lot more interesting than some “whoa-oh pretty in casket” bullshit that this genre tends to be known for. It’s a refreshing change.

It also feels pretty special on the music front too. There is more going on here than meets the eye. It it noticeable right out the gates. “Spiders Encircle” opens the EP in a great way. It has a short build, and then goes off at full blast. It sets the tone for the muscular, aggressive music to follow. It’s very much the kind of record that would have had 16 year old me wanting to get in the pit. All Pit, No Pendulum is also remarkably cohesive. The way “Synthetic Echo” goes straight into “Oblivious Bed” is absolutely perfect.

This is a killer record from start to finish. It’s horror punk for sure. But it’s not some shitty Misfits rip. It’s not some crappy Vanilla Ice haired psychobilly. It has way more power than anything those types of bands can muster. It’s fucking good. Hardcore fans, metal fans, horror punk fans, and whoever else can find something to appreciate here. Trust me. I may be a lot of things, but someone who throws praise at a horror record isn’t one of them.

Cathedral Fever
BandCamp
Buy It

REVIEW: Øjne ​/ ​Улыбайся Ветру – “Split”

ojnesmiletothewindLanguage doesn’t really exist when it comes to music. Let me rephrase that. Music can exist beyond language, because music is it’s own language. It’s why you can be moved by sad song in another language. It’s why Italian opera has sustained its popularity for so long, even outside the Italian speaking world. What this all means is that I am going to talk about a record by two bands that make music in a language I don’t speak. Alright? We’re talking about Улыбайся Ветру (also known as Smile To The Wind) and Øjne.

Улыбайся Ветру opens the split. They go through four songs in about 5 minutes. Hailing from Saint Petersburg, the songs are in Russian. They play short, aggressive songs. The longest song, “Смерть Прометея” (“Death of the Prometheus”), clocks in at 2:11. They play a more chaotic type of screamo. They definitely pull more from the hardcore roots of the genre.

Øjne, on the other hand is from Milan. As such, you guessed it, their song is in Italian. They also play screamo, but in a more melodic variation. While they only provide one song to the split, it is about as long as the four songs by Улыбайся Ветру combined. “Sotto i Tigli” (“Under The Lime Trees”). While the last band was driving forward aggressively, Øjne gives the song room to breathe. It is still aggressive as fuck, but it a different way.

The overall production on this thing is fantastic. It is very cohesive. This despite it being recorded and mixed in three different places (two in Russia, one in Italy), only to be sent to the US to be mastered by Will Killingsworth. There were a lot of hands on this record, and everyone did a great job. Genre fans absolutely need to give this one a listen.

Øjne
(BandCamp)

Улыбайся Ветру (Smile To The Wind)
(BandCamp)

It’s a Trap! Records [US]
Pike Records [DE]
Flood Records [BE]
Zegema Beach Record [CA]
Unlock Yourself Records [RU]
La Agonia De Vivir [ES]
Pure Heart Records [CZ]

**All translations came courtesy of the bands. Via their respective BandCamp pages.So, you know, check that out.

REVIEW: Castaway – “Space To Run”

castawayspacetorunPunk rock is a very versatile genre. No matter what the “ugh, it’s just three chords blah blah blah” assholes says. It is a genre that has evolved, adapted, and become more and more interesting over time. A lot of things have grown out of the bare bones roots the genre has grown around. Hardcore, grunge, and emo are especially interesting. Having themselves spawned a million subgenres. This is an important fact when talking about a band like Castaway.

See, Castaway is a punk rock band that is very heavily built on those subgenres. They make music that is forceful, but still has an underlying melody. It is heavy, but not in a particularly metal kind of way. It is hardcore, but combined with some elements of grunge and alternative. There is a fair amount of heavy distortion and effects that brings out a bit of a shoegaze influence. It’s a mixture of things that work together perfectly, but it isn’t really any one of those things.

If nothing else, Castaway are probably more hurt by the constant need to genre label everything than helped. Space To Run is not a record that is going to be easily boiled down. That isn’t a big deal though. The only thing that matters is if it’s good or bad, right? Rest assured, Space To Run is fucking good. It is a solid 24 minutes of great riffs, great vocals, and overall great songwriting. Think somewhere between Lifetime and Daylight.

Space To Run is also a deceivingly adult record. The music has a certain youthful exuberance to it, but the lyrics are more mature than the sound would lead a listener to believe. It is a personal record that doesn’t necessarily play like one. You can put this on and treat as a melodic hardcore record. Just get hyped up on the music of it. You can also play it as a emo record, and focus on the stories told in the lyrics. It’s a great example of how your mood going in can change how you hear things.

Don’t let all the genre name dropping get confusing. Space To Run is a record that anyone who likes punk rock, or any of the various offshoots, can get behind. Castaway is a band who knows how to make a fucking record. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Just give it a listen, You’ll love it.

Castaway
BandCamp / Buy It