Monday, February 28, 2011

The End of America – Steep Bay


“Today we ditched the city for a cabin in the woods.  Gonna write a record.”

With those words, the three friends of The End of America embarked on a journey of reflection, self-discovery, and finally redemption in a cabin in the Adirondacks.  And just as impressively, using nothing but acoustic guitars, a banjo, mandolin, and their voices, they managed to take me along with them.

Now, in truth, I’m probably going to over-analyze the heck out of this album, much the same way some bespectacled intellectual tries to find meaning in a drawing of a soup can hanging on a wall of a modern art museum.  I wasn’t in the head of Brendon, James or Trevor as they loaded up that threadbare canoe and paddled across Steep Bay to their cabin recluse.  I don’t know if they intentionally chose the order of the songs for the reasons that I hear.  I don’t know if they’ve ever felt a moment of existential angst in their lives.  But this is the way the album hit me, and that’s the most important phrase I can write in this whole review-- “Hit me.”  The album hit me.  And still does.

The End of America isn’t a political statement, it’s a literal one.  It’s what they did . . . journeyed to the end of America to find an answer.  With each song being written and recorded at that isolated cabin with the aide of a battery-powered recorder and two mics, the album has a loose, organic, incredibly warm feel to it.  Each song is a free-form meditative excursion into a moment of thought.  None of that takes away from the craft of songwriting and performing, in fact in only makes the beauty of the result that much more impressive. 

Starting with the mournful “Are You Lonely,” The End of America begins their quest with an existential question.  A deeper search for meaning amongst the chaos and impersonal nature of life.  I don’t know if the song is about a lost friend imagined in heaven, a disconnect with a lover, or a pleading to a higher power, but it starts the EP off with a meditative longing.  A search for something more meaningful than whatever they were finding in life.  Immediately, I’m hit by the lush gorgeousness of the harmony vocals.  The three cats blend their voices as effortlessly as Crosby, Stills and Nash, or Simon or Garfunkel.   Gentle acoustic guitar accompanies the thought as the voices linger and float off in search of an answer.  “Are you lonely up there?”

“Running” bursts out next.  Full of vitriol and sneer.  After the philosophical question posed in the opener, this is the theme statement for the EP.  Acoustic guitars strum with energy as the boys harmonize “I gotta get out/ Gotta find my way.  I’ve been running all my life.”  And later, “It’s freaking me out/ it’s a sideshow/ Ain’t no place that’s felt like home/ so I let it all go.”  I don't know about you, but I've sure felt that way before.  A longing to feel at home, a place where we belong.  But as is so often the case, the answer to that plea isn’t in a physical place so much as a mental/spiritual one.  And the rest of the EP explores their journey to find that place.

“These Things are Mine,” follows as the natural next step in that philosophical quest.  After running away and leaving it all behind, it’s time to take stock in what’s left.  What we really own.  What defines us.   Banjo jumps into the acoustic guitar fray adding a sense of lightness to the song that perfectly fits the frame of mind.  A sense of liberation comes from ditching it all.  Feeling no ties, nothing that binds.  Freedom.  Just the clothes on my back, my thoughts, my values.  I’ve been there, ditching it all to spend 6 months hitchhiking around the world.  In truth, there’s no better feeling.  But eventually, that euphoria wears off when we really begin to settle in with our thoughts and what we’re running away from.  That sense of melancholy rears it’s head near the end of “These Things are Mine,” when the joyful strumming evaporates, leaving behind the stark harmonies of the boys and a weighty guitar. "Home, lady, I’m leaving home.”  Both physically and metaphorically.  Now alone. 

“Oh Mousey,” is a brief meditative exploration of a mouse the guys encountered, which really serves as a space holder for their thoughts.  The liberation is gone, the weight is setting in.  Observing a mouse becomes a perfect way to reflect before the deeper meaning comes.  Which is what happens with “All, Nothing.”  Perhaps the most spiritually reflective song here, the boys have become to realize what’s important to them.  “I want to be the mountain freeze/ I want to breathe I want to teach/ I want to slip through life unseen/ I want to paint the scenes of dreams/ I want it all/I want nothing.”   The guitar picking is perfect here, somber, weighty, yet hopeful, hinting towards better days ahead. The baggage has been dumped, optimism remains. 

Normally, random sound effects thrust into the middle of an album annoy me, serving as nothing more than an ego statement by the artist rather actually fleshing out the songs, but the 32 seconds of “Diving Rock” seems perfect to me.  Following the liberating thoughts of “All, Nothing,” we hear the three friends leaping off the nearby rock into the Bay.  The splashing and cascading water sounds cathartic to me, like a spiritual cleansing.  A fresh baptism into the waters of healing.  The laughter that follows is a refreshing reaffirmation of the joys of life, the marvel of living, which leads perfectly into “Fiona Grace,” a song of wonder written about a precocious three-year old.   With gentle hand percussion and acoustic picking, they sing about the girl whose old soul somehow takes them back to a place deep inside themselves.  A place where they are capable of seeing and remembering deeper truths.

Which leads directly to “The Hardest Thing,” the heaviest song on the album and the moment of true philosophical discovery.  Just acoustic guitar and banjo, but heavy.  The moment when the real reason for the running away becomes painfully clear.   “Oh, how I wanted to keep this alive/ oh, how hard I tried/ Before it kills me first/ maybe it’s time to let it die.”  Is it a song about a toxic relationship?  A dying dream?  A shattered home?  It really doesn’t matter.  It’s a song about realization and release.  A glimpse into the blackened part of the soul that was driving the pain.  We’ve all been there, the midnight of our discontent.  We all know what it feels like to be driven to our knees by the pain of a situation and the terrible sadness that follows the sudden recognition . . . and the knowing you need to let go.

And with that, the album ends with another soundbite.  Banjo plucking languidly as rain falls.  And falls.  And somehow it all seems fitting.  No more false euphoria.  No more illusions.  Reality, stark and true.  Painful at times, but ultimately cleansing and life-affirming.  Thunder roars in the background as we all know it’s time for the boys to go back home.  They’ve discovered what they came there for.  Part of them has been lost, and they still have need to mourn that, but in the end, more has been gained.  Or rather, reclaimed.

A deeply organic, beautiful album.  And this whole thing was written and recorded in 7 days. 

Over-analyzing?  Again, probably.

But that’s the way the album hit me.  And really, how often does an album hit you?

--Racer

www.facebook.com/theendofamericamusic






Sunday, February 27, 2011

Music Writers Wanted! Come Join the Ripple

Well, here it is.

Our first call for writers brought us the stellar talents of Penfold, who's been regaling us with imaginative tales from the netherworlds of music writing.  Our second call brought us the wonderfully heavy world of Horn.

But, we think we're still a bit short.

The Ripple Effect is growing so big, so fast, there simply is no way for us to keep up with all the quality music that comes in.  Even with the stellar work of stalwarts Old School, and Woody.  We could use just a little help.

We've got openings for one or two more writers.  We'd love someone who has a mind for lots and lots of  emo, electro, and indy pop. We could also use another gifted metal writer. If it happens that both those minds are in the same person, then so much the better.

So, if you'd like to write about music, get lots of free music to review, and have your column syndicated across everything from GuitarWorld Magazine's website to USAToday, let us know.  And the Ripple now gets more than 1,000,000 readers a year.  And growing.

We can't pay ya, other than in good music, lots of love, and a lifetime membership in the Ripple gang.

All it takes is a desperate passion for music and the desire to tell people about it.  As fun as the gig is, we'll only take people with a serious commitment to listening and writing.  Nothing half-assed about the Ripple.

Send in a writing sample about an album you love, 5 or 6 paragraphs.  Tell us why you love it, how it makes you feel and why the rest of the world should care.  Create some ripples.

That's what we do here at the Ripple Effect.  Create some ripples.

Ripple News - The Kut get Closure on their forthcoming video


The Kut, after facing a busy year in 2010, ended with a bang by headlining the 800 capacity Santa’s Xmas Ball at Proud Camden.  Having been making slow but steady progress the girls are now set for an exciting 2011 with the pending release of their new video for track ‘Closure’. Set to be released at the end of March the release itself initially appeared on the bands’ recent debut single ‘Doesn’t Matter Anyway’, however the b-side amassed a great deal of support that lead to the track being re-recorded at Cartel Studios. Earning support from fans of Incubus, Korn and Nirvana, ‘Closure’ demonstrates a darker and more mature side to the all female band, broken beats and dynamic emotive power. Having already been reviewed as “the best all female band the UK has ever produced,” the progression has been slow, but finally appears to be worth the wait.

The Kut themselves, are a trio of accomplished female musicians, with a dark indie rock sound. In 2008 their self-recorded demo ‘The Vision’ gained the band a great deal of attention from the credible sources, but more recently their support has spanned from Radio 1 Introducing in Northern Ireland, BBC Tees, BBC Liverpool and a number of key regional radio stations, but now also to high profile FM stations in the USA. Interest was amass towards the end of last year, when ‘Doesn’t Matter Anyway’ was shortlisted for inclusion in a US Ralph Lauren advert and cult series ‘The Good Wife’, while latest news includes negotiations with ‘Rock Band’ following the Marshall endorsement of lead guitarist and vocalist, Maha.  With comparisons describing frontwoman Maha as a Slash/Linda Perry hybrid, the band combine sultry vocals, basement rock licks set against solid bass and drums to make their own original sound.  Having featured alongside big names like 50 Cent on US Channel Pax TV, it is hoped the new video will help UK will start to support this London band in 2011.

Reviews:

“If your interpretation of girl power favours a Lynchian landscape crossed with Edward Scissorhands and fishnet stockings, and you have dreams where the Sugababes are locked in a cell for crimes of

aural assault while you crowdsurf in a sweaty venue to hard edged indie rock, then The Kut are definitely for you” Ken, Strummer Online, UK

“The Kut lay down a matchless melodic vibe that oozes edginess and attitude from every pore. If you are in search of a true rock band and not a pop band trying to sound like one, then look no further because the Kut is just that: a rock band and a damn good one” Drago, Froglix.com, UK

“From a smoky cellar club tucked in a back alley somewhere in London, enticement beckons and hypnotic lures. Hip cats aware of the sway; have flocked to take in the newest group that procures the latest basement rock sound... females grace the tiny stage hawking their musical wares. They go by the moniker of The Kut” Lucky, Sugarbuzz Magazine, USA

“The Kut... band from the future indeed! Girl power? That's so passé. Check this...” Cozzie Music

“Heavy, tight, punchy, punky and kicky....  I'm already anticipating having a new favorite single for 2011” The Ripple Effect, USA

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nucleus Torn - Travellers and Andromeda Awaiting


Travellers

Early morning mist lingers over the calm oceans as we push our handmade wooden boat into the icy depths. We softly drag our oars through the placid aquatic field, pushing the water and the land behind us. We leave our homeland knowing full well that we may never see her again, that the families we leave behind may never lay eyes, lips, flesh to their husbands, brothers, and fathers again. Yet we steer our craft through the vast seas in search of trade partners in our material goods and our cultural ideas, and we are at peace with our decision to leave the comforts of home firmly nestled amongst the bosom of our Earth Mother. If we return to these shores, then it was meant to be.

I have no idea if that imagery was the intention of Nucleus Torn when they crafted the four-part acoustic epic “Krähenkönigin I – IV”, but that’s the feeling I got as I sat back in my office spinning the first part of the Travellers album. I’ve come to find out that the song title roughly translates to “Crows Queen” in English. The songs are seamlessly strung together and come across as if they were treatments or exercises for the classical guitar, and then they got morphed into a romantic acoustic instrumental piece of music. Coming from Prophecy Productions, I somewhat expected Travellers to be on the ambient side of the musical spectrum, but I also expected it to dip a big, gnarled ugly toe into the miasma of black metal. Those tendencies arise, but for the most part, this album is sparse of superfluous sounds and instrumentation. Amazingly, I never find the music of the first four songs tedious or boring . . . in actuality; I’ve often found myself leaning forward, on the edge of my chair waiting for the drama to explode before my ears. Alas, Nucleus Torn never jump all over your face like an enraged monkey, it’s more like they infuse tons of emotional drama through carefully thought out notes and exquisite tones. One minute, it’s easy to get lost paddling across the great plains of the oceanic landscape, the next minute find yourself trudging through some overgrown hillside, and through it all, you’re embracing nature, feeling the wind blowing across the skin, the sun pulling the moisture from your flesh, the rain dowsing the fires of hope that once roared within you. Bleak, but never depressing.

The opening four-part track is laden with so much imagery and emotion that I can’t help but want to load up my backpack and hike to Bakersfield (it’s not the end of the world, but I hear you can see it from there.) These tracks have more to do with classical and folk music than any black metal that I’ve ever heard, and I’m perfectly fine with that. As Travellers continues on, more hope and uplifting moments creep into the music. “Silver” is a beautiful quasi-classical romantic piece, also played on acoustic guitars . . . sounds like nylon string . . . and in its short, abbreviated manner, ushers us listeners into the next part of the musical journey . . . the darker, electric, and narrated portion of the program! “Witness” is a beautiful track that starts off mellow and somber, acoustic guitars accompany the morose vocals, and then the song ultimately opens up in volume and electric tension. This is a truly fine execution of song craft!

For the most part, Travellers is a Spartan and barren album. But that’s not to say that there isn’t tension built in the songs. It’s more of an organic and natural tension, though . . . made more impressive and imposing by the lack of studio effects. Almost like there’s something inherently spooky about that twisted tree outside your window that you’ve been begging Dad to chop down coz’ it casts those freakish shadows on your wall during a full moon. Rather than chop that sucker down, embrace its natural and creepy beauty, regale in its frightening aspects, and sleep fitfully through the night. Unless you starred in Poltergeist, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Buy here: Travellers
Buy here mp3: Travellers

Andromeda Awaiting

After listening to Travellers over and over and over again, I found myself spinning the follow up album, Andromeda Awaiting. This is where things get strange. I was somewhat expecting to hear a continuation of Travellers, and in some way, I guess you could say that’s what I got. But it’s not a continuation in the sense of lack of bombastic emotion, it’s more like a linear continuation . . . where the musical ideas are given more instrumentation, more texture to convey even greater breadth of emotion. Where Travellers is sparse in sound, Andromeda Awaiting is lush in sonic richness.

Broken up into six parts or chapters, Andromeda Awaiting is a strikingly gorgeous record. It gets a little proggy in a symphonic nature, and I find that to be perfectly perfect. The incorporation of the various woodwinds, horns, strings, voices . . . it all builds on top of one another to create a sparkling tower of sonic splendor. As for the underlying meaning of the album . . . no clue. I haven’t the foggiest notion as to what this album is about, and I don’t care. With this particular album, I’ve found myself listening purely for the emotion of sound, not keying in on any lyrics or potentially hidden meaning within the words. Throughout the record, I’ve found myself uplifted; other moments, I’m hunched over preparing myself to weep.

The “bookends” of the album, part I and VI, are the most dramatic, and also the longest portions of the program. Part I clocks in at over fifteen minutes and is like sitting in the cockpit of some interstellar spacecraft as it’s hurtling through the depths of the cosmos. Brilliant lights shows exploding into the visions, streaking stars criss-crossing the crafts path, all of the radiance from the heavenly bodies surrounding us acting as an exclamation as to how insignificantly small the human race truly is. The female vocals leading the first track feel so vulnerable and fragile, ready to crack at the slightest bump . . . and conveying an emotion of sad loneliness. The song weaves through some ethereal passages, ultimately falling into the lap of what I can only describe as choir music without the choir. The male voice that enters the song makes me feel like I’m sitting in a pew during a Catholic mass. It’s gorgeous and engaging, and oddly enough, makes me want to go to church once in awhile. The final chapter of the album is much like the first, sprawling and elegant in its instrumentation, always drawing some emotion from deep within. And sandwiched between these two songs are four tracks that take the listener on a journey that won’t be forgotten. In particular, I’m a big fan of the Middle Eastern modes that these guys use in the latter half of the album . . . every time I hear these tones, these particular scales, I get lost in the romantic world of my minds design.

Pope

Buy here: Andromeda Waiting

Friday, February 25, 2011

QUEEN’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION KICKS OFF WITH DELUXE REISSUE OF FIRST FIVE STUDIO ALBUMS, PLUS GREATEST HITS II, “STORMTROOPERS IN STILETTOS” GALLERY EXHIBITION AND MORE


Queen’s 40th anniversary is now upon us, and the band plans to pull out all the stops to celebrate this historic occasion. “2011 is an important year for Queen,” said Brian May “and there will be a lot of activity.” Adds Roger Taylor, I can’t believe it’s been that long and that we are still around in such a big way. I’m amazed and grateful!” This yearlong event will be marked by a series of releases, re-releases, special limited-edition items and events around the world.

As the centerpiece in the 40th anniversary celebration, Queen’s entire 15-album studio catalog is being reissued in a series of deluxe editions. Every note is being tweaked, every piece of artwork is being cleaned, freshened up and resourced, wherever necessary, with the legendary Bob Ludwig doing the remastering, working from the original source material. The albums will be released in three waves, staggered over the next year, with the first wave—comprising the first five LPs—coming this spring.

Each studio album will be released in a new two-CD edition, the first containing the updated, remastered original LP, the second disc packed with rarities—and we don’t use the term lightly. Some of these gems have never before seen the light of day, even in crappy bootleg form. To cite a particularly fascinating example, five first-album demos recorded at London’s De Lane Lea Studios in December 1971 were pulled from the only existing copy on the planet—an acetate from May’s personal archives. Not even his bandmates had a copy.

In other anniversary activity, the gallery exhibition “Storm Troopers in Stilettos” opens in London on Feb. 25, with plans in place to tour the exhibit around the world. According to May, this unprecedented event “will highlight in some innovative ways the growth of the ‘Early Queen.’” On April 12, Hollywood will reissue Queen’s debut single, “Keep Yourself Alive” b/w “Son and Daughter,” on seven-inch vinyl in a limited edition coinciding with Record Store Day. And on April 19, the label will issue the band’s Greatest Hits II for the first time in North America. This classic collection includes the rock standards “Under Pressure” and “Radio Ga Ga,” plus  many other classics from the second half of Queen’s run, including the worldwide smashes “I Want It All” & “Innuendo.” Additionally, the “Queen on Vinyl” reissue program will be completed this year with the release of the final five studio albums.


Bonus Tracks on the First Five Studio Albums:



QUEEN (1973)

1. Keep Yourself Alive (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

2. Great King Rat (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

3. Jesus (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

4. Liar (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

5. The Night Comes Down (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

6. Mad The Swine (June 1972)



QUEEN II (1974)

1. White Queen (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975)

2. See What A Fool I’ve Been (BBC Session, July 1973 - 2011 Remix)

3. Seven Seas Of Rhye (Instrumental)

4. See What A Fool I’ve Been (B-side Version, February 1974)

5. Nevermore (BBC Session, April 1974)



SHEER HEART ATTACK (1974)

1. Now I’m Here (Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975)

2. Flick Of The Wrist (BBC Session, October 1974)

3. Tenement Funster (BBC Session, October 1974)

4. Bring Back That Leroy Brown (A Cappella Plus)

5. In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited (Live at Wembley Stadium, July 1986)



A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1975)

1. Keep Yourself Alive (Long-Lost Retake, June 1975)

2. Bohemian Rhapsody (Operatic Section A Cappella)

3. I’m In Love With My Car (Guitar & Vocal Version)

4. You’re My Best Friend (Backing Track)

5. ‘39 (Live at Earl’s Court, June 1977) TBC

6. Love Of My Life (Live Single Version, June 1979)



A DAY AT THE RACES (1976)

1. Tie Your Mother Down (Backing Track)

2. Somebody To Love (Live at Milton Keynes, June 1982)

3. You Take My Breath Away (Live in Hyde Park, September 1976)

4. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (Top Of The Pops, July 1977)

5. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) (HD mix)

Havok’s Time Is Up & Helstar’s Glory of Chaos: A new version of classic, and a classic version of new

Havok are bay area thrash throwbacks/ revivers, i.e., youngsters playing the old stuff: Helstar are old-school power/thrash metal: their new album's out now.

Both Havok's Time Is Up and Helstar's Glory of Chaos have wonderful production: clear, powerful without clipping.... Both have great overall musicianship; speaking as a 25-year guitarist weaned on bay-area thrash metal, thrash can be very difficult shit to play, especially as a group. Both bands do well here, and seemingly easily.

First up: the newbies from Denver, Havok, and their second LP (after 2009's Burn), produced by James Murphy: Time Is Up drops March 29.

Havok have (the requisite?) generic song titles: for example, "Prepare For Attack," It doesn't matter, though:  generic or not, it launches out of the gate with a chorus riff difficult to forget, something like "Motorbreath." It's furious, articulate shit.

"Fatal intervention" (see with the titles?) parades some nice double kicks, further showcasing the obviously-athletic musicianship.

"No Amnesty" has a cool Djent riff and is a furious song overall, much like "Scumbag in Disguise" (which also has a nice pre-solo break around 2:00), sounding like Forbidden's "Chalice Of Blood." I've listened to it over and over-- it causes air drums every time. You know what I'm talking about.

"D.O.A."(with its Tom Araya scream at 2:45) has a chorus sounds like something off Vio-lence's Eternal Nightmare, and "The Cleric" has an "Am I Evil?"-ish flatted fifth intro. "Scumbag in Disguise" is simply great: furious, technical, groovy-- everything you could ask for in thrash metal. They're experts at near-homage: they're clearly heavily influenced by bay-area thrash (specifically second generation, like Testament or Forbidden), who were heavily influenced by the NWOBHM.

Downside: they've got the fairly typical thrash singer: raspy intense talking rather than singing. Think Sean Killian.

Highlights: "The Cleric" (which is somewhat unique musically) and "No Amnesty" (which is totally generic but rocks as hard as anything Testament or Forbidden ever did).

(Also: album cover is perfectly Ed Repka-ish and utterly Metal.)

Next up: Helstar.

For those not in the know, they formed in Texas in 1982. They featured at one time Mike Howe, who went on to front Metal Church, and in return briefly had David Wayne as frontman (who came from Metal Church).

Point: they've been around forever, and were at the beginnings of 80s metal. They're old.

Greatest part: there is no way you could goddamn tell that they're old: Glory of Chaos rocks like it was 1987. More importantly, Helstar have that something, that uuuh!that Havok don't.

Havok rock (and they do rock) like they're great students of the Thrash Metal Experience.

Helstar, however, are the Thrash Metal Experience.

"Alma Negra" (black soul) is fucking awesome, and worth getting if you ignore everything else I've written here. A 10 out of 10 power/ thrash metal song. If you're still interested get "Summer of Hate" and "Monarch of Bloodshed" too.

Metallica: THIS is how you age well. Goddamn.

Singer James Rivery sounds uncannily like Sanctuary/ Nevermore's Warrel Dane but with more aggression. It's Rivera that truly makes the album: he can really, completely sing, in all senses of the word, and his articulate voice highlights and accentuates the riffs on Glory of Chaos-- when he's screaming on "Alma Negra" it sounds almost upsetting, like he's so angry he's shredding his talented voice to make a point.

Either way, with either album, you're Golden.

--Horn
 
Buy here: Time Is Up

Buy here: Glory of Chaos
Buy here mp3: Glory Of Chaos




Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Might Could - S/T


Truth in advertising is always a nice bonus and the debut album from The Might Could is a perfect example of it. The front cover is an homage to Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum with 4 ugly dudes instead of the Cheer’s 3. And one guy is wearing a Sun Gods In Exile hat. Before hearing a note I knew I was going to be all over this like 69 on a summer’s day.

Richmond, VA’s Might Could play straight ahead, no nonsense kick ass rock just like I expected. Fans of contemporary loud rock losers like Backwoods Payback, Roadsaw and the rest of the Small Stone roster probably already own this by now. After a few spins I definitely picked up a strong Blackfoot influence, especially on a slow song like “When The Spirits Take Control.” This one rivals Sun Gods In Exile’s “495” as the best “Highway Song” re-write in several decades. In addition to the Blackfoot influence, I also picked up a whiff of forgotten Louisville creeps Kinghorse. “Mad Dog Blues” uses their “whoa-oh-oh” Elvis/Danzig chorus style to great effect.

Their overall sound is flat out pissed off. Recorded, mixed and mastered in 3 days it’s obvious they went for the “set it and forget it” method of making a record. Most of the songs are pretty fast but won’t make you drive too far over the speed limit because you’ll be too busy banging on the steering wheel. The 2 guitars blend well into 1 big punch to the nose while the tight rhythm section knees you in the groin at the same time. Vocals are suitably gravelly and destined to get you funny looks from the John Mayer fan next to you at the red light.

Despite all the riffing frenzy, there are a few surprises to keep things interesting. “Let ‘Em Up Easy” starts with nice bluesy lap steel guitar playing before the rest of the band comes pummeling in. “The Widower” is a heavy dirge to counter balance the faster songs. The Might Could also win song title of the year award with the brilliant “I Don’t Even Like Pantera No More.” Excellent title aside, this might be the best song on the album.

Another winner from Small Stone and another excuse to spend too much money and call in sick to work the day after these guys blow through your town.

 --Woody


Buy here: Might Could

http://www.myspace.com/mightcouldrva

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And The Wiremen - S/T


Finally, I’ve reached the end of another long work week.  What a doozy this one was too!  One thing after another queued up to slap me in the face.  No seriously!  A woman hauled off and slapped me right in the face when I could not sell her the item she wanted.  As if it’s my fault other people wanted the same thing she did, causing me to be sold out?  Come on!  At least I could take pleasure in watching security escort her out of the building.  But that slap hurt!  She did not hold back.  All in all, it was high time to go drown my troubles in multiple glasses of liquid courage.

After calling up a few friends a bold plan was put together.  One of my friends had heard of an amazing new bar with a completely unique gimmick.  He would not tell me what the gimmick was exactly, but he did assure me that I would be impressed.  Due to my sour mood I also required assurances that the atmosphere of this establishment was not manic and high energy, with flashing strobe lights and booming house music.  That was not something I could handle on this night.  My friend lent me significant piece of mind by informing me that our destination was simply a bar, not a nightclub, and thus did not possess any of the nightclub trappings I was worried about.  To make a long story short, we met up at my place and set off.

We arrived at ‘The Wireframe Bar’ around 9:30 PM.  From the outside, it looked entirely normal.  Plain brick exterior, standard booths and tables, and lights lowered.  When I asked my friend who recommended this place what was so special about it, he smiled and walked to the entrance.  Upon entering the bar we were each handed a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses with think lenses by the waitress/door-greeter.  Well…that was different.  My friend told me to put the glasses on.  Not wanting to argue I followed orders, and that was when the evening really began.

I’m sure you have heard of someone seeing the world in a different way.  That saying always seemed a bit farfetched to me, until now.  Don’t ask me how it works, or how it is even possible, but when you put on these glasses the world you see changes.  Everyone and everything became flat, highly detailed, two dimensional wire outlines.  The world itself was still three dimensional, but all of the objects and people in it appeared not to have any mass.  Let me tell you, it was trippy!  After allowing myself a moment to adjust to my newly perceived surroundings, I approached the bar and the exceptional stick figure standing behind its flat surface.

Similar to all good barkeeps, this one could tell that I was troubled.  He told me to take a load off and asked me what I would like to drink.  I made my selection and asked him if he knew of a good remedy for tension and stress.  His response was that outside of what I was being served, there was no better cure than to listen to the bar’s house band.  Fittingly, their name was And The Wiremen and they were going to begin their evening performance in just a couple of minutes.  Superb I thought!  I tipped back my glass and swiveled my stool to face the stage that was set up in the back corner of the room.  As promised within five minutes a group of fifteen figures, all of whom were carrying some kind of instrument, emerged from a back room and gathered around the stage.  Whistles and appreciative shouts accompanied their appearance.  Wasting no time, several of the figures climbed onstage and commenced playing.  The show had begun.

One thing is for certain.  And The Wiremen know how to ease a listener’s worried mind.  The music is not overly happy or sad.  It’s just flat out cool.  Cool as ice.  No…scratch that.  It’s cool as the darkest reaches of space.  Yeah, that’s the appropriate level of cool for who we’re talking about here.  And The Wiremen play songs heavily indebted to vocal jazz / lounge music.  When I say lounge I don’t mean to imply that the singer stops every few measures to thank the audience, or that the music is at all corny.  No, I mean that this music would be right at home inside of any establishment boasting a relaxed vibe, where carefree audience members could sit back and take in all of the musical nuances at their leisure.  You know…a cool place to be on any given night.

When I said that this group was jazzy, I wasn’t kidding.  Jazzy elements seep through every pore of their being.  One of the more obvious examples is the singing style of vocalist Lynn Wright.  He clearly treats his voice as an instrument that at times anchors the melody line, and at other opportune moments adds interesting flourishes that enrich the song.  Whenever he is singing however, his voice takes center stage and every other instrument fades into the background.  Mr. Wright is also responsible for the guitar playing on the album.  Minimalist is the label that comes to mind most often.  There are no wasted efforts and each strum is deliberate.  Further reinforcing the jazz elements are wonderful cornet / trumpet accompaniments from Paul Watson in eight of the eleven songs on offer.  His playing adds enormous amounts of color and feeling, painting beautiful lines for the listener to follow along with.

As for the songs themselves, there really is quite a bit of variety on offer.  On the one hand you have your up-tempo numbers such as the ear-grabbing album opener “The Names”, the joyous and celebratory ensemble piece “Rayuela”, and the gallivanting closer “Lines”.  Complementing those are slower numbers such as the beautiful / lilting “Sleep”, the appropriately titled and plodding (in a good way) “Pick Myself Up Slowly”, and my favorite song on the album “Before He Gave Up The Ghost”.  The composition of this song features majestic, elongated trumpet solos over tastefully sparse guitar work, with a few vocal spotlights for good measure.  Honestly, it sounds to me like a lost Miles Davis track from the Sketches of Spain album.  Utterly captivating!  To top it all off there is the musical curveball called “Pineland”, a fantastic interlude accomplished solely with bass clarinets.  On most other albums this would produce questions in a listener, but here it fits in perfectly and is absorbed as par for the course.

I left ‘The Wireframe Bar’ that evening feeling totally relaxed and refreshed.  All of my stressors had been forgotten.  The music had effortlessly washed away all of the negative energy surrounding me, leaving me at peace with the world.  It seems funny to say, but the whole two dimensional gimmick really helped put things in perspective.  And the Wiremen know what they are about waveriders.  They’re here to help you.  Give their album a listen, and you’ll see what I mean.

-- Penfold

Buy here: And The Wiremen


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George Benson - White Rabbit


I was standing in line at the North American Music Makers (NAMM) Convention to get George Benson’s signature on a pickguard.  There were dozens of people in front of me and hundreds behind me.  As we waited people in the queue reminisced about Benson.  Many fans appeared to be about my age and had stories about how they “discovered” him back in 1976 when his hit crossover album “Breezin’” was released.  Some also recalled his hit single “On Broadway” from 1978 - a cover of a 1963 hit by The Drifters.  Others recalled his 1969 album of “Abbey Road” Beatles covers called “The Other Side of Abbey Road.” 

By 1969, Benson had fallen in with some amazing musicians and his music reflected it.  On “The Other Side of Abbey Road” Herbie Hancock played keyboards, Ron Carter played bass and, among the cast of “A” list sidemen, Hubert Laws played flute.  Benson had found a niche of doing covers of other people’s hit music with a top notch jazz band and had cemented his relationships with the “creme de la creme” of modern jazz.  These artists would frequently sit in with George on his later albums.

As a modern jazz guitarist George Benson is unparalleled.  His music often takes rock of the day and gives it smooth jazz class.  He is a guitar virtuoso and this has allowed him to crossover and meld genres.  He has recorded jazz versions of the Monkees’ hit “Last Train To Clarksville,” Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade,”  War’s “The World Is A Ghetto,” Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze,” Eric Clapton’s “Let It Rain,” and Darryl Hall’s “Everytime You Go Away” in addition to dozens of other rock tunes.  He has also recorded jazz standards by Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Al Jarreau, James Moody and a host of other jazz masters.   Benson has written and recorded his own music. Best of all, for us, he has been doing it since he was 8 years old in 1951 and has a large library of recordings.

It is funny how there is so much you want to say to an artist, especially one like Benson whose musical skills leave you in awe, but when approached you cannot put a simple sentence together. When I met him I could only come up with praise and niceties.  The man is a gentleman.  He helped me calm down and then we slowly discussed why I wanted him to sign a pickguard.  It was for Guitars not Guns to auction.  That is how the organization funds its not for profit work. Guitars not Guns is an organization that provides guitars and guitar lessons to foster kids and at-risk youth as an alternative to violence.  Benson was impressed.  He wanted to know more and he wanted to help.  He signed the pickguard as I blathered on almost incoherently until my time with the guitar hero was up.

I left the line and made my way to the Ibanez guitar exhibit.  Benson has been endorsed by Ibanez guitars since the 1980’s.  I walked around in a fog, sat down next to a display of Ibanez acoustic guitars, and listened to another guitarist who was trying the guitars out.  The guitarist asked me what I thought about the guitar he was playing.  I again blathered on about just having met George Benson and that I hadn’t really been listening too closely.  He seemed amused and he asked if I played guitar.  I told him I did and he handed me the guitar and again asked my opinion.  I played a little bit and nodded with approval giving the instrument the “Old School” endorsement. I asked him who he was and what type of music he intended to play on the instrument.  He laughed a bit and told me he was Michael O’Neill, the rhythm guitarist with Benson’s touring band.  I went from blathering to dumbstruck.  We spoke for several minutes about Benson, his music and the band.  He told me that I should really listen to some of Benson’s more obscure releases.  He has recorded 35 or so albums.  O’Neill advised  that the obscurities is where you truly hear the guitar master.  Our conversation ended. We shook hands and went our separate ways.  

I returned home and, shortly thereafter, a re-issue of George Benson’s 1971 album release “White Rabbit” appeared in my mailbox.  Talk about obscure.  Here was Benson performing jazz versions of “White Rabbit,” the hit by the Jefferson Airplane written by the the San Francisco rock band Great Society; “Theme From Summer Of ‘42,” the Michel Legrand instrumental from the 1971 hit movie; “Little Train,” a masterpiece by the early 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos; “California Dreamin’,” the 1965 hit by The Mamas and the Papas; and “El Mar,” a George Benson original. I had never before heard this album.

Michael O’Neill was absolutely right.  Forget the hokeyness of the particular selections.  This is jazz played by the masters.  The song titles are merely suggestions for where Benson starts his instrumental explorations.  He is accompanied by some of the best jazz musicians to ever grace the planet.  Jay Berliner, a jazz guitarist with a penchant for Spanish guitar who played for Charles Mingus, Stephane Grappeli and Milt Jackson, and on recordings for everyone from Frank Sinatra to Andrea Bocelli, accompanies Benson on acoustic guitar and gives the entire recording a classical Spanish feel.  The guitar master Earl Klugh also plays acoustic on Benson’s “El Mar.” Ron Carter plays bass. Herbie Hancock plays piano. Billy Cobham mans the drum kit. Percussion master Airto Moreira adds his talents and occasional vocals. Phil Kraus plays vibes and helps out on percussion (Kraus is a xylophone legend who can be heard on many a Percy Faith, Hugo Wintherhalter, and Benny Goodman album. and whose musical career dates back before his appearances on “Your Show Of Shows,” “Ed Sullivan” and “Jackie Gleason.”)  Benson also employs the late classical harp master Gloria Agostin; a woodwinds section that includes Phil Bodner, Hubert Laws, George Marge, Romeo Penque and Jane Taylor; and a brass section that consists of Wayne Andre, Jim Buffington, John Frosk and Alan Rubin.

This album focuses on a side of Benson rarely heard in his hit music.  Gone is his smooth jazz persona.  This is exploratory jazz performed by virtuosos. It precedes Miles Davis’ 1972 “Bitches Brew” by a year but is clearly a precursor and inspiration for that historic album. 

Listen to this album.  Afterward, you too may find yourself blathering as you stand in line for an autograph.

- Old School 

buy here: White Rabbit



Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Metal Report Featuring Psycho and Horned Almighty

Gods . . . it seems like forever since I’ve had to use a seemingly lethal dose of heavy metal to get my ass roused out of bed, especially on a Monday morning (I love Mondays!) But nevertheless, this particular Monday morning, the bones were a little more stiff . . . the muscles that much more achier . . . the head crammed with more cobwebs than usual . . . it was a morning that just seemed best fit for the aggressive crunch of guitars set to hyper-distortion, drums cranked up to four times faster than the standard rock fair, and vocals so possessed by the devil that the smell of brimstone permeates from the speakers. Either album will get the blood flowing, and both played back to back is a concoction akin to a 5-hour energy, two tall cans of Monster, a case of Red Bull, and a venti latte with a couple of espresso shots. WHAM! See the colors rush back into your world!


Psycho – Pain Addict Pigs

With song titles like “Meat Slit Grinder”, “Dr. Satan”, and “Lords of Slaughter”, one would think I would have be better prepared for the aural assault that I was about to undergo. No . . . no . . . I casually pushed play on my listening device of choice without a care in the world, almost as if I was expecting silence to continue coming out of my speakers. The first sound that came seeping out, however, was creepy wind sound effects and a few backward voices uttering something incoherent, yet in tones that were undeniably dastardly and filled with ill will. In classic metal fashion, as soon as those voices faded back into the gloom, the music burst out and the bludgeoning began in earnest. But rather than casually stumbling into a crossfire of blastbeats, I found myself in the midst of a circle pit, elbows up to protect my fragile noggin from the miscellaneous haymakers and randomly hurtled shoes. The double bass drums were thumping like the heartbeat of America’s disenfranchised youth and the groove quickly had me rushing in time, high stepping my way to oblivion with my metal cohorts of destruction. The title track from this album has less to do with the black metal that we’ve all come to know and love/hate, but more to do with the crossover thrash of the mid to late 80’s. Yeah, it’s dark and fast and heavy and demonic, but the typical black metal elements are lacking . . . and honestly, I’m okay with that. I’ve always gravitated to the groove more than screeching hypersonic ministrations of Satan’s minions anyway, so Pain Addict Pigs is a welcome change of pace!

Most of the tracks on this album are mid-tempo moshers with bursts of speedy destruction, and the intensity that this Singapore outfits brings to the mix feels authentic enough and not like these guys are trying to fit into some scene that they read about in a local ‘zine. The dynamic shifts in the music are great, key into “All Are Dead” and bob along with me to the next track. Psycho are heavy and murderous, but inject just enough class that you are forced to take them more serious that you might have thought on the outset of this journey. Listen to the guitar work . . . great solos, not just in execution and production, but also in creativity. Yeah . . . the more I listen to this album, the more it sinks into my being.

Further highlights on this gem are the aforementioned “Meat Slit Grinder” and “Lords of Slaughter,” the former track with its diabolical intro and mid-tempo sludgery, outstanding guitar solo, and esophagus rupturing vocal attack, serves as notice to the metal world that there’s a new cast of bastards ready to bust skulls. The sinister “Lords of Slaughter” opens as an out of control rolling war machine bent on the destruction of all living beings and then shifts into a bouncing moshable ode to murder that will have you retching from the constant torque you’re putting your body through. Don’t even get me started on “Mater Lachrymarum . . . Mother of Tears.” Fucking brilliant! As I listen to this beast over and over again, I keep looking for similarities to others and I can only find a few . . . Lamb of God, Gollum, Lair of the Minotaur . . . all bands that I’ve come to adore for their complete and utter disregard for human safety in the creation of the music. High marks for Pain Addict Pigs!




Horned Almighty – Necro Spirituals

Where Psycho comes across as a hyper, out of control adolescent simply reacting to the world in an organic and natural manner, Danish metal outfit Horned Almighty are more focused in their assault on our senses. Necro Spirituals is as irreverent an album (and Horned Almighty a band) that I’ve heard in awhile, incorporating thrash-y elements with big waves of blackened death. Again, no massive flurry of blastbeats, but dense walls of double bass drums, a steady barrage of guitars, and phlegm hurtling vocals . . . so, with all of that, I’m having a hard time resting these cats next to the black metal legends, but I’m okay with that. Horned Almighty immediately reminded me of Norway’s Khold because of the pure heaviness of the music and the mid-tempo pace they use opposed to the breakneck race so many seem to go through to get their message across.

“The Age of Scorn” is a great example of how Horned Almighty weave so many different elements from so many different sub-genres of metal . . . and this morsel is only three minutes long! It opens in a flurry of chaos, kinda’ blastbeat-ish, but more staggered and technical, the guitars shift from super speedy to monstrously chunky with every tempo shift . . . and then the song moves along in an up-tempo fashion, rolling along like a stampeding herd of cattle, decimating everything in its path . . . then breaking down to a heavily distorted bass groove before kicking into high gear again. Then, midway through the tune, they shift gears again, pushing the guitar more into the front of the mix to give the track a more death n’ roll vibe, and then back once again to the stampeding frenzy. Damn . . . steamroller!

There’s not a track on Necro Spirituals that lacks, the whole album is a high octane thrill ride of devastation.  The title track, “In Jubilation and Disgust”, “ Illuminated Void” and monolithic album closer “Absolved in the Sight of God” are the stand out tracks, though there really isn’t a song on this disc that I’d ever turn off if it came on. Though there isn’t much deviation stylistically, Horned Almighty have crafted a bludgeoning classic of deathly metal that flirts with accessibility despite its absolute irreverence. The sacrilegious aspects of the album will forever entrench Necro Spirituals in the darkest crevices notched within the abyss, and from time to time, one may even hear the faintest “Ooohh . . . Yeeeaahh!” from Tom G. Warrior. With an album like this, coffee is so passé!


--Pope

Buy hereNecro Spirituals
Buy Mp3 Necro Spirituals

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stone Axe Storm the Shores of Europe and UK with New Tour and Deluxe CD/DVD Package




Classic rock preservationists Stone Axe have officially announced that they’re hitting the road through the UK, parts of Europe, and wrapping up the tour with a night at the illustrious Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland! Starting on April 8th in Oxford, England and running through April 16th, this will mark the third time that the band has ventured to foreign soil with the aim of converting new ears to their sonic-brand of classic rock, but this time they’ll be doing it in support of their first CD/DVD package.
Scheduled for release on April 5th and in time for the tour, Stone Axe has put together a Deluxe Edition of their self-titled debut album. The CD portion of the package features eight bonus live tracks, while the DVD portion features more than 70 minutes of videos, interviews, and live footage! Released through Ripple Music, Stone Axe – Expanded Edition CD/DVD will be available for pre-order beginning February 18st, 2011 on the label's web site. www.ripple-music.com

Tour Dates:
8th April -The Wheatsheaf, Oxford (with Stubb, Trippy Wicked, Desert Storm)
9th April- The Unicorn, Camden, London, UK (with Stubb, Trippy Wicked, Grifter)
10th April- The Earl, Sheffield, UK (with Stubb, Trippy Wicked, Groan)
11th April- The Captains Rest, Glasgow (with Stubb, Trippy Wicked, Low Sonic Drift)
12th April- Asylum 2, Birmingham (with Stubb, Trippy Wicked, Alunah)
14th April- The Vortex, Siegen, Germany (with Stubb)
15th April- MTC, Cologne, Germany (with Stubb+more)
16th April- Roadburn Festival, Tilburg, Holland
Stone Axe has also contributed a song to the Heavy Ripples double vinyl 7” compilation that will also feature three other acts that have put their own unique spin on the sounds from a by-gone 70’s era, showing that rock n’ roll hasn’t died, but simply has gotten better! The compilation record will include tracks from the UK blues-based bike rockers Grifter, Brooklyn-based stoner-fied punks Mighty High, and New England’s southern-rock-tinged Sun Gods In Exile (on loan from incomparable Small Stone Records). The record will be officially released on April 19th to a world-wide audience!


www.
stoneaxeband.com

www.ripple-music.com

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Music Writers Wanted! Come Join the Ripple

Well, here it is.

Our first call for writers brought us the stellar talents of Penfold, who's been regaling us with imaginative tales from the netherworlds of music writing.  Our second call brought us the wonderfully heavy world of Horn.

But, we think we're still a bit short.

The Ripple Effect is growing so big, so fast, there simply is no way for us to keep up with all the quality music that comes in.  And now we could use just a little help.

We've got openings for one or two more writers.  We'd love someone who has a mind for lots and lots of  emo, electro, and indy pop. We could also use another gifted metal writer. If it happens that both those minds are in the same person, then so much the better.

So, if you'd like to write about music, get lots of free music to review, and have your column syndicated across everything from GuitarWorld Magazine's website to USAToday, let us know.  And the Ripple now gets more than 1,000,000 readers a year.  And growing.

We can't pay ya, other than in good music, lots of love, and a lifetime membership in the Ripple gang.

All it takes is a desperate passion for music and the desire to tell people about it.  As fun as the gig is, we'll only take people with a serious commitment to listening and writing.  Nothing half-assed about the Ripple.

Send in a writing sample about an album you love, 5 or 6 paragraphs.  Tell us why you love it, how it makes you feel and why the rest of the world should care.  Create some ripples.

That's what we do here at the Ripple Effect.  Create some ripples.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Bros. Grindcore: Featuring Total Fucking Destruction, Rotten Sound, Cephalic Carnage & Phobia

Who's killing Comrade Music*? Which of his four sons?

And how do I, your utterly-reliable narrator, the Grand Inquisitor, I, Torquemada and his band, the Howlin' Inquisitors, fit into these proceedings?

"Grindcore" might be defined as... pretty much any other extreme genre, compressed to its maximum energy and its dominant characteristic: beit anger, aggression, anxiety, etc. (and usually in microsong form).

"Grindcore" (this is me saying this after nearly 4 hours listening to it), is almost so far beyond "music," as it's usually defined anyway, that it becomes sonic massage, like sound waves blasted at your sore bones and muscles. It's actually relaxing me a little, like one of those vibrating chairs.

Speaking Karamazovly (yay for new adverbs!), as the title suggested, Total Fucking Destruction (and their newest, Hater), would be closest here to being the sensualist oldest Karamazov brother, Dmitri: joking, multi-faceted, with the most ideas, but also maybe too jokey, and sometimes off-topic-- the coked up religious exhortations of a confined psychotic? [Note to self: why isn't Psychotic Mantra a band name?] The whole album is very cool, and articulate by grindcore standards, particularly "Human Is The Bastard." There's an obvious sense of humor usually absent from extreme music.



Ivan (or Vanya) then, the very serious, brooding, seething next-in-line brother, is black metal taken to an even more distant extreme, as Rotten Sound and their album Cursed have managed to do (I didn't actually think that could happen....)

[Sidenote: Jazz fans have been looking for the "next thing" for decades now and wondered why there's no new Coltrane or Miles Davis to innovate the genre: this is because Coltrane broke genres; the new innovator wouldn't be in jazz at all--  s/he'd show up in something like grindcore,or at the very least extreme music, just as bebop jazz was "extreme" 50 years ago; it makes you wonder what could possibly happen to music in the next 50 years to make grindcore seem tame. Actually, it makes one shudder....]

AND we're back. So-- brother Aleksey (Alyosha), the youngest, most earnest brother might equate to Cephalic Carnage, who, with their newest album Mislead by Certainty, are in their way progressive metal taken to its logical endpoint; there's a more obvious breadth of musicianship, there's more ideas than the previous bands, more color (like the cover, even) overall. They manage to play what can be readily classified as grindcore, and yet simultaneously ignore its conventions: they have, for instance, a 12-minute song ("Repangaea") that's almost ambient, and they also occasionally use alto saxophones, managing to sound in spots like a furious Glenn Frey. "Power and Force" hits back to traditional grindcore, and is as fast and rageful as anything else here. "A King and a Thief" goes all Watchtower on you for about a minute, lest you pigeonhole CC.

Who then, is Smerdyakov, the illegitimate son of music, the young psychopath, the killer of cats...? Who's left? Phobia. I'm thinking their album Unrelenting. Dark, like maxed out death metal (complete with heavily distorted bass guitar), Phobia are as black and white as their cover suggests: pure, punishing speed and rage, like Nails played even faster and more aggressively. Highlights-- "Killing Time," Strive Conception," "Life's Animosity," specifically the brief breakdown at 1:00, "Tradition of Power," and "Enemy Within"-- though if you like one, you'll like all.

James Joyce famously said, of Dostoyevski:  "Madness you may call it, but therein may be the secret of his genius... I prefer the word exaltation, exaltation which can merge into madness, perhaps. In fact, all great men have had that vein in them; it was the source of their greatness; the reasonable man achieves nothing."

Grindcore is distinctly mad.

Is it genius...?

Sometimes. For a minute.

But maybe that's enough.


--Horn

[As a sidenote on the whole "violent music leads to violence" issue: speaking for myself at least-- utter crap. You ever listen to four straight hours of goddamned grindcore? At the end I wanted to groove on Celine Dion and rub bunny's fur. True story.]

*Shut up. I'm not overreaching with this analogy. And I'm using this goddamned English degree somehow.

http://www.myspace.com/totalfuckingdestruction

http://www.myspace.com/rottensound

http://www.myspace.com/cephaliccarnage

http://www.myspace.com/phobiagrindcore

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nails - Unsilent Death


Fast, loud, angry and to the point. That’s really all one I say about Unsilent Death by the band Nails. Their 10 songs in 13 lucky minutes makes Blood, Guts & Pussy by the Dwarves seem like a Dream Theater concept opus. I’m sure crusty types can rattle off the names of hundreds of “d-beat” style bands that they sound like but to me Nails taps into the dirty source of Discharge, Motorhead, Hellhammer and Poison Idea.

Since this album is so short, the songs run one into another as sort of a brutal musical suite. The fast ones are very fast and are usually a minute or less. The opening pair of “Conform” and “Scum Will Rise” are over so quickly you barely have time to figure out if you like them or not. If those 2 annoy you then you certainly won’t like the longer, slower ones. The title track is over 2 and a half minutes of a slower Hellhammer/Celtic Frost grind with a bit of a Slayer chug thrown in at the end. The 28 second “Traitor” manages to squeeze in some tempo changes before crashing into the next blitz. The album wraps up with the lengthy “Depths” (almost 4 minutes!) with screechy feedback and negativity for all.

Production on Unsilent Death is heavy as hell. Guitars crunch all the time but squeal nicely when they have to. The bass sound is massive and the drums hit hard and fast. The vocals are guttural and screamy but never venture into cookie monster territory. Overall this is a winner if you need a speed fix and need to break a lot of shit in a hurry.

 --Woody

Buy here: Unsilent Death
Buy here mp3: Unsilent Death
Buy here vinyl: Unsilent Death

Band website

http://unsilentdeath.com

Ripple News - GEEZER BUTLER STATEMENT ON RUMORS OF BLACK SABBATH REUNION


In today at the Ripple office, some news for all Sabbath fans.

Responding to ongoing rumors surrounding a possible Black Sabbath reunion, Geezer Butler has issued the following statement:

"I would like to make it clear, because of mounting speculation and rumours, that there will be definitely no reunion of all four original members of Black Sabbath, whether to record an album or to tour."

Butler's most recent musical outing was with Heaven & Hell, a four piece featuring Black Sabbath band mate Tony Iommi as well as one time Black Sabbath members Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice.  The band released Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell in November of 2010.

www.geezerbutler.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Greenhouse - Electric Purgatory Parts 1 And 2


RUN!

RUN QUICKLY!

MUST RUN FASTER!

I make it through the cabin door and slam it shut seconds before the wall of snow comprising the body of the avalanche engulfs everything.  After the tremendous initial thud, produced by the snow bashing into the cabin, everything goes eerily quiet.  Also the light in the room is quickly extinguished when the snow buildup outside the windows turns them opaque, precluding any sunlight from shining through.  Not having been in this situation before, I’m struggling not to fall into a state of panic.  My hand jumps up and flips the light switch.  Amazingly, the lights come on and my nerves are slightly eased.  Okay, I still have electricity.  That’s good. 

I decide to see if my cabin’s phone is still operational.  I pick up the receiver and hear the reassuring dial tone fill my ear.  Thank goodness!  I call the local emergency number, and an operator takes my call.  She already knows about the avalanche and asks me if I am all right.  After I check myself for any obvious injury I might not have noticed, I inform her that I am unharmed.  She then asks for the address of my cabin.  When she receives the answer, she asks me if I have any provisions to hold me over until a rescue crew arrives.  Thankfully I had just stocked up on food, water, and other essentials the day before so I inform her that I will be fine for a little while.  The operator calmly and politely informs me that due to my location it will take at least a couple of days for the rescue crews to work their way to my cabin.  I tell her I understand, and she takes my phone number reassuring me someone will call me back with regular updates.  Thanking her profusely, I hang up the phone and decide how to entertain myself. 

I know.  I’ll listen to some music.  But what music should I choose?  I walk over to my music shelving knowing full well that my current frame of mind is going to eliminate some of my regular selections. Let’s see, I don’t feel like listening to something bright and cheerful.  I also don’t want to hear something crushingly heavy.  Say, what’s this on the top shelf?  It’s the two newest EPs from the hip hop group Greenhouse.  I recall that I wanted to listen to those again now that we’re in the middle of the winter months (in the United States) due in part to the atmospherics of the music.  Yes, that’ll do nicely.

Greenhouse, formerly Greenhouse Effect is a well established hip hop act from Columbus, Ohio.  While there have been a couple of lineup changes over the years the group is currently made up of two people; rapper/producer Blueprint (the only constant member), and rapper Illogic.  These two EPs, Electric Purgatory Parts 1 and 2, have a rather interesting genesis.  As stated previously, these artists call Columbus, Ohio home.  That means that they brave some very harsh winters.  Not one to let the climate affect his productivity, Blueprint is always working on new music.  On the other hand, the brutal cold does indeed affect the mood of his productions.  Prior to the release of these EPs, Blueprint had never shared any of his dead-of-winter creations with any other artist, let alone the general public.  That all changed after Illogic heard this music, and the two decided it was high time to make some magic utilizing this untapped resource.

All of the songs that comprise these EPs share one common denominator.  The music sounds dense.  There is an implied weight, almost as if a stifling, oppressive blanket has been thrown over the speakers to keep them warm.  At times the music simply sounds ominous.  That’s not to say that the beats aren’t propulsive or energizing.  Far from it!  My entire upper torso, not just my head, bobs and grooves uncontrollably throughout the EPs combined running time.  It’s just that the music doesn’t lend itself to thoughts of sunshine and flowers.  Nope, this music sounds like winter.  It’s the perfect soundtrack for my present situation.

Of course, all of this unique musical content would fall flat on its face if the lyrical content failed to hold up its end of the entertainment bargain.  Fear not waveriders, because Blueprint and Illogic never disappoint.  Yes, you read that right.  They never, ever fail to bring their A-game.  I’ve been following both of these artists for a number of years, and my faith in their work has always been rewarded.  Every release.  Every time.  Blueprint is a wicked storyteller with honesty and wit to spare, and Illogic has one of the most unique rhyming cadences I’ve encountered to match his oftentimes ridiculous and complex lyrical content.  Ah…you need samples?  All right.  Here is Blueprint’s verse from the song “Step Aside” off of Electric Purgatory Part 2.

We got what you missin’, buy the disk and take it home / Slave to the rhythm, find a system, play it on / Feelin’ it, killin’…it, until the break of dawn / Play it strong, then admit that it’s your favorite song / You feelin’ them? Shit, I wonder what you base it on / Whether braided long I go until they faded gone / I mean their fad is gone, my bad I’m on some say it wrong / I owe it no regret, think I’m gonna let it stay in song / This is what you dissin’, on a mission hatin’ on / Then state your intentions, get explicit, make it known / Makin’ a song is like the dame you want to make your own / But never can, because I always seem to take her home / Never obey the norm, they was born to break the mold / That’s why they find your anger so entertaining…clone / Now the famous show, gratin’ though, frontin’ make it rain / I’m goin’ to brainstorm until it’s rainin’, go.

Pretty sick, huh?  Yeah, I think so too.  To complete the picture, here is Illogic’s verse from the song “Never Gonna Make It” off of Electric Purgatory Part 1.

Laminated emotion, is shooting from the storm / You…fabricated devotion in smiley face packaging / I always notice the insanity you wore / Under your jacket so I shouldn’t be surprised this is happening / Friendships a burning bush, faith is a parted sea / Blindfolded ocean till the waves crash, swallow me / Sacrifice is a double edged sword / I never understood it, till I understood that my sons follow me / Spoke every move I make into existence / This throne of independence shakes till the levees brake / It’s amazing that drowning in serenity’s only penalty / Is…falling in the arms of divinity / I’m no…longer grazing in the pesticide valleys / Now I answer the snow capped mountain peaks call / I don’t question the investment of who surrounds me / My biggest problem is deciding which masterpiece to draw.

Wow!  If you don’t think that verse is terminally ill (pun intended), you’ve got major problems that need a doctor’s attention…stat!

Needless to say, I’ve had these two EPs on endless repeat since my ordeal began.  When I receive a phone call from someone updating me on the progress of the rescue crews, I always graciously tell them that I’ve got everything I need, and that if someone else urgently needs assistance they can take priority over me.  That’s the power of great music.  It can make any situation tolerable.  And this waveriders is great music!

-- Penfold

Buy here: Electric Purgatory, Part One
Buy here: Electric Purgatory Part 2 [Explicit]



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Harlan Pepper - Young and Old


These up and coming, deadly talented, barely post-pubescent, BC Dinner Jacket and Bunny Hug clad Canucks are Harlan Pepper - a band named after Christopher Guest’s backwoods North Carolina bloodhound raising character in his 2000 movie “Best In Show.” The band (Jimmy Hayes (guitar, pedal steel, harmonica), Dan Edmonds (banjo, keys, vocals), Thompson Wilson (bass, vocals), Marlon Nicolle (drums, vocals)) was formed by kids at Westdale High School in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. They’re still hitting the homo milk and are not yet old enough to buy a two-six.

Harlan Pepper has been called “[j]ust another Hamilton-based hillbilly boy band” by contributors to the Canadian Music Wiki, however, it is more than that. The  new CD, “Young and Old” is stripped down, old-time, acoustic-based American folk music with a youthful twist.  There is a hint of Bob Dylan and the Band (in fact, Edmonds looks like a young Dylan), a smattering of Gram Parsons, a pinch of Hank Williams, and a helping of Buck Owens mixed with a taste of acoustic Neil Young and Jack Johnson.  It is a band that would be right at home at venture capitalist Warren Hellman’s wonderful yearly musical gift to San Francisco, the “Hardly, Strictly Bluegrass” festival.

The nine track CD is a mixed bag.  Some of the music soars with wonderful bare melodies and folk instrumentation.  Others show that the band is just learning how to write for the masses, perform and make the sum total of the band more than its constituent parts.. The nine tracks cover topics ranging from home to travel to love to drugs to overwork.  In other words, it is a rather good reflection of the experience of a young working band trying to break into the popular music business.  In a recent interview that you can hear on the Harlan Pepper website, the band members even say they are still learning to play their instruments.   

You can stream the entire CD directly from Harlan Pepper’s website.  If they are this good right out of high school can you imagine what they will be like in the future?  I suspect they will make quite a few loonies if they stick with it. This dog, unlike Christopher Guest’s bloodhound, can hunt.

- Old School

Buy here: Harlan Pepper