Gunfinger – Gunfinger EP

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Gunfinger
Gunfinger EP

We’ve covered seemingly countless excellent Scottish bands on this blog who produce no end of audio atrocities that feel like a venerable wake-up call each time they come along – whether its been noise rockers like Fat Janitor, or death metallers like Cancerous Womb or Man Must Die. Yet its grindcore and powerviolence that seem to be one of the Scottish underground’s consistently excellent streams, having previously delivered gold with the likes of Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair, xHaroldShitmanx, Sufferinfuck, in fact, all manner of disgustingly named bands have spewed forth from that area. Glasgow’s Gunfinger might not sound particularly wretchy, but their s/t EP is a blast of powerviolence that serves up as a reminder of the power that Western Scotland seems to hold right now.

This particularly record starts off with an intro to build up to the sonic violence that’s about to go down, and for the next few minutes they provide some razor sharp riffs and culpable rage on songs such as ‘Great with Words’ and the brilliantly named ‘Glasgow Pecker Violence’. Curiously, it finishes with ‘It Is A Sin to Kill a Mockingbird’, a six-minute plus sludge track riffed underneath Atticus Finch’s speech to the jury in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. There is no doubting what a classic film that is and indeed what a classic character Finch is. And it feels like a fitting and nice way to finish an explosive album, though I feel Finch’s character is so great it carries much more weight than the music itself.

Still, Gunfinger are a fine addition to come from the Scottish extreme scene, and have followed up on the ‘Youth Disillusionment’ demo predictably well. This is available as a name-your-price download direct from the band’s Bandcamp page, so don’t you dare miss out on this wee bit of tartan terror.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Gunfinger’ here
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Vit – The Dry Season EP

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Vit
The Dry Season
Handshake Inc.

Ohio’s Vit have stewed on ‘The Dry Season’ for a little while – the demos for this record were originally put out in December 2011, but only now has Vit decided to make it a full release after signing with Handshake Inc. And on the evidence of this record, they don’t seem exactly sure what they want to be – hyperblasting, or hyperslow? But that’s not a detrimental thing in this case, as they showcase all their abilities supremely. The first couple of tracks straddle the blackened doom line and ‘Sixteen Bodies’ is pure doom at its heaviest and most crushing. Every stomp of this nine-minute plus beast is thunderous and evokes Morbid Angel and Grief at their slowest. It’s a slight culture shock with the relatively melodic title-track rearing up after that onslaught, though it still sits comfortably within slow parameters.

Its ‘The Dry Season’s closing pair that really turn things on its head, going from one tempo extreme to another as it morphs into a more primal black metal beast during its third track, ‘A Hymn of Benediction’, which thrashes away with a nod to the genre’s Norwegian heritage, before the violins start up, courtesy of Johan Becker (from Chicago black metallers Austaras). He fiddles away while the tempo of the hymn itself refuses to relent, getting faster and faster until it reaches a crashing finale. Its quite appropriate after that storm that ‘… and the Rain That Soon Followed’ should come to wash over precedings. Vit’s labelmate A. Lundr, aka Panopticon, he of 2012’s wonderful ‘Kentucky’, brings forth his multi-faceted talents, armed with a resonator guitar and a banjo, with another delightful nod to the classic sound of the American marshes and swamps, as rain does indeed fall over the track. Vit are a band of many faces, all of which have great treasures to show for it.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Dry Season’ here (name-your-price)
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Dope Body – Saturday 7″

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Dope Body
Saturday 7″
Drag City

Last year saw Baltimore’s hybrid noise/punk/rock machine Dope Body emerge amidst a hail of smoke and luminance as they came into further consciousness following the thoroughly brilliant and diverse ‘Natural History’, which showcased dazzling guitar work, foot to the floor rock anthems with punk rock intensity and hip-swaggering joy. I caught a bit of them live when they toured the UK last October, and though I only saw three songs, it proved what a phenomenal act they are in the making.

Saturday’, a 7” single, is the first new material to emerge from the band since that album. The A side features ‘Leather Head’, a song they’ve been wheeling out live up to now; a brooding track riding a bass-driven pulse and a primal beat before jumping into a refrain of ‘could’ve been anybody/should’ve been nobody’. If this track was an animal, it’d be a panther, its slinky dark body stalking its prey in the shadows of the night, before racing out for a swift kill. Conversely, the B-side ‘Youth Relic’, is much like the Dope Body of ‘Natural History’, beginning a little like ‘Road Dog’ with a build-up on the hi-hat, crescendoing with more sonic fireworks from the supremely talented Zachary Utz.

Saturday’ drops on Monday 18 th March through Drag City, and this feral beast keeps on kerb-crawling through the night. I’ll be well pleased if this confirms a new album for this year, as right now I can’t tire of this band. This release might not be the joyous celebration that was ‘Natural History’, nor the skronk-punk days of old, but it’s a super fine morsel of meat to savour for now.

Peter Clegg

Dope Body – Youth Relic/Saturday promo
[vimeo 60007514]

Pre-order ‘Saturday’ 7” here

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The Bronx – The Bronx (IV)

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The Bronx
The Bronx (IV)
ATO/White Drugs

When I read the blurb about The Bronx shifting from their hardcore/punk roots to a more ‘polished hard rock’ sound, I was a tiny bit concerned. After all, they’d made three albums and an EP in their original style and their raucous punk n’ roll is what made them what they are – aside from a flamboyant mariachi band with is what these also achieved with aplomb in Mariachi El Bronx. Well, after listening to their fourth – you guessed it…self-titled album, I have to question what on earth was I concerned about? They haven’t made the biggest shift –they’ve simply modified their sound a little and its as refreshing as it is still gloriously raucous. After running with their body-shaking salsa for two albums in a row, its great to see them going back to their main musical personalities – but The Bronx in 2013 are an altogether reinvigorated beast, and ‘IV’ is not what I’d call polished, still retaining its punk verve but adding is monstrously heavy, yet melodic and triumphant dimension, seemingly transferring to their new skin in a glorious blaze of concrete riffs and victorious refrains.

It’s a whole new set of Bronx anthems that are begging for live treatment. ‘Along For the Ride’, featuring a corking chorus including the line ‘we used to control the world/but now that’s died/now we’re just along for the ride’. Then there’s ‘Style Over Everything, in which Matt Caughthran proclaims ‘I shoot to kill, I don’t fuck around!‘ – so many memorable lines to quote, too numerous to list. Even the slightest shift to a harder edged sound hasn’t altered The Bronx’s dynamic too much, with the rest of the band conjuring frequently stomping riffs between them. The only real changes in pace are ‘Torches’, which could be a Mariachi el Bronx song but for its soaring and righteous chorus, and ‘Life Less Ordinary’ which provides the only restraint from the heavy hitting action, the two guitarists going lo-fi over Caughthran’s sublime croon, before firing up the burners one last time for ‘Last Revelation’.

So there it is. Whatever was I concerned about? Here is a band fresher for submitting to the charms of Mexico, back to wreak joyous punk rock havoc in our lives once again. The Bronx may be a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a little bit more refined, yet no less of an animal. It’s a beautiful relationship.

Peter Clegg

The Bronx – Ribcage

Buy ‘The Bronx (IV)’ here

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Black Veins – The Cycle Will Cease to End

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Black Veins
The Cycle Will Cease to End
Speedowax

Black Veins emerged from the catacombs of the UK underground last year with a frankly brilliant five-track EP entitled ‘…And Hell Followed’, evoking the classic styles of Converge, Napalm Death and the like with a blistering twelve-minute barrage. They have returned again with a new six-track called ‘The Cycle Will Cease to End’, which marks the progress the band have made over the last year. The band still come out of the traps flying when necessary, but when they hit the brakes they plough into some fantastic sludgy territory – such as on ‘Stone Sun’ –and their will to evolve (if only slightly) is evident on the combined ‘The Cruel Mind of Man/Through the Depths of Reality’, the former building up with trepidation, before the band leap back into one final assault on the eardrums after the switchover.

This won’t be the only action from Black Veins this year, as they have a forthcoming split with Narratives, also through Speedowax Records, coming out later in the year, in a Europe-only release. And I expect they’ll continue a fine pedigree too – sure, Birmingham didn’t invent grind like it did metal – but like metal, it produced its defining act. Black Veins are following a well worn path, but ultimately on the right road of pain and doom.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘The Cycle Will Cease to End’ here (name-your-price)
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PLF – Devious Persecution and Wholesale Slaughter

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P.L.F.
Devious Persecution and Wholesale Slaughter
Six Weeks

Did you know that P.L.F used to stand for Pretty Little Flower? Me neither. Not the most brutal name a deathgrind band could give itself. But beyond that dainty moniker – since changed to Pulverizing Lethal Force – there ain’t nothing quaint about the Houston, Texas crew or their sixth album ‘Devious Persecution and Wholesale Slaughter’. Indeed, this record hits you like a massive slap in the face right from the off, blasting and grinding its way through 14 tracks of no-nonsense intensity. I don’t have to say much about this record, other than that if songs like ‘Grinder of Fools’ and ‘Dissolution of Human Rights Part 4’ are anything to go by, then P.L.F have got their shit nailed down tight. They have ex-Phobia/Gridlink/Kill the Client drummer Bryan Fajano in their ranks, and he is a beast on the kit behind the rest of the band. It’s fairly short but at fourteen songs averaging a least a minute if not more, there’s plenty of gunpowder in this cannon to lose yourself to. Its a fair bit samey in places but with plenty of shifting between blasting and thrashy riffing it comfortably avoids dropping into stale territory. Wake up and smell the greenery, this is a phenomenal grind bomb, go get yourself some now.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Devious Persecution and Wholesale Slaughter‘ here

 

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Hey! Hello! – Black Valentine free for limited time!

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It’s Valentine’s Day, and to celebrate, Hey! Hello!, the new project by The Wildhearts and all round solo genius Ginger and Victoria Liedtke, have presented a Valentine’s Day gift with a name-your-price download of the track ‘Black Valentine’. As usual, it’s a quality pop rock gem with great interchanging vocals between the two. But be quick, it’s for a limited time only and won’t be as cheap as you like forever! Head here for the catch.

‘Black Valentine’ is taken from the forthcoming album ‘Hey! Hello!‘, which will be released soon through PledgeMusic. Any of you non-pledgers will be interested to hear a commercial release of the album is to come in April. More info via Hey! Hello!’s Bandcamp page.

Peter Clegg

Hatebreed – The Divinity of Purpose

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Hatebreed
The Divinity of Purpose
Nuclear Blast

It’s true. I’m a pretty big Hatebreed fan. And I don’t feel any shame in saying that,. Hatebreed are undoubtedly an easy target for metal fans, presumably because of their heart on sleeve, hardcore pride lyrics and the assumed predictably of their songs. That doesn’t make them any different from a number of bands from over time, and while Hatebreed aren’t quite legends of their era, there can’t be any denying that, love them or hate them, they’ve done a lot to bridge the divide between hardcore and metal in the new millennium, for better or worse, as well as encouraging a new wave of hardcore bands to emerge, from the likes of Sworn Enemy, Terror and more recently, Trapped Under Ice, to name a few.

Even as a ‘diehard’, it’s my own personal opinion that I haven’t found a Hatebreed album as compulsive and empowering as 2002’s ‘Perseverance‘, though that’s not to say they’ve put out bad records since. Still, ‘The Divinity of Purpose‘ is, for me, the band’s best release since that album. That it’s their first in four years, their longest gap since the five years between ‘Satisfaction is the Death of Desire‘ (their other magnum opus) and ‘Perseverance‘, perhaps gives this impression – the breather in recorded activity feels to have given the band chance to gather on their collective experience and channel it into new vitality.

The sixth album begins with the usual fire and is clearly still in good effect, with the toast to longevity ‘Put It To The Torch’, very much like the Hatebreed of old, before settling into their style shown on more recent albums. ‘Honour Never Dies’ and the pit anthem-in-waiting ‘Own The World’ are satisfying slabs of brutality in their own right. However after a few listens it begins to chafe a little though as that conundrum of everything bleeding into another presents its ugly mush. It’s not a bad album by any stretch, but save for a slamming breakdown at the end of ‘Boundless (Time to Murder It)’, there’s no change of pace, which might have helped a little more here. Still, it’s not a bad return from a band approaching the magic twenty years in existence, still at the forefront of hardcore in the 21st century. So while the wider hardcore/metal community will mull over whether to bother with this album, diehards will likely need no invitation to get on board. And that still includes me.

Peter Clegg

Hatebreed – Put It to the Torch

Buy ‘The Divinity of Purpose’ here

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Biffy Clyro – Opposites

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Biffy Clyro
Opposites
14th Floor

If you’re a true fan of underground British rock, then Biffy Clyro have to be one of its biggest success stories. Three albums in with a huge underground following, they signed up to the majors and made the transition to the wider mainstream with relative ease, sacrificing a little, but not all, of their proggy, angular style , finally becoming household names along the way. It’s been an incredible ride, so without question this is the most anticipated Biffy Clyro album yet. The coming-up-on-the-rails success of ‘Puzzle’ and ‘Only Revolutions’, in addition to sold-out stadium shows and even a Mercury Music Prize nomination for the latter of those two albums, as well as that annoying fucker who maimed ‘Many of Horror’, destined for supermarket aisles everywhere, has done nothing to deflect attention away from arguably the UK’s biggest rock band right now. And before this review was published, it became the band’s first number one album since their inception.

The first CD, dubbed ‘The Sand at the Core of our Bones‘, charts the negative of Biffy’s unstoppable rise over the last few years, and is by and large excellent, though the forays into stadium style anthems with the title produced mixed results – initially ‘Different People’, the opening track, gives off the impression of a band listening to their fair share of Jesu before diving into the sound we’re used to. The angular rock flourishes are still there on the likes of ‘Sounds Like Balloons’, and there are huge choruses aplenty in that track and the now familiar ‘Black Chandelier’, though stuff like the title track are a little hard to stomach for its cringy foray into lighter rock. Still, the frankly huge ‘The Thaw’ is proof they can get this megastar thing right if they hit the right formula – fair enough it’s boosted by a big orchestra but it sounds fecking massive, and even the hardened metalhead in me found this strangely irresistible.

Biffy Clyro – Stingin’ Belle

The second CD, ‘The Land at the End of Our Toes‘ is more of a mixed bag. We should all have heard ‘Stingin’ Belle’ by now, and it feels like a genuine successor to ‘The Captain’, with the rallying call of bagpipes heralding the opening to the second half. As it wears on, it becomes evident this is the superior side of the album, through its more positive approach, with the more traditional Biffy-sounds of ‘Modern Magic Formula’ and ‘Woo Woo’, the mariachi rock of ‘Spanish Radio’, and the slow waltz/stomp of ‘Trumpet or Tap’. It’s by no means perfect, but the majority of the second side is an uplifting force majeure, executed succinctly by the biggest thing to emerge from Kilmarnock since the Killie Pie.

I wouldn’t dare call this Biffy’s finest album, not compared to the band’s underground era, and ‘Only Revolutions‘ was such an incredible album it was always to be a challenge to top that. My opinion of course, but outselling the competition is a serious statement that says this band haven’t yet peaked, in one sense at least. And while the jagged, angular days of old resonate only with those who truly can hark back to the early days of the phrase ‘Mon the Biffy!‘, there’s still enough of their integrity intact to show they haven’t sacrificed everything they forged to get to where they are, even though the compromises get larger with each release. I’m probably not the only who feels this may have worked better as two separate albums as well, given how tiring ‘Opposites‘ can feel when played front to back.

But for all its narks, it’s niggles, it’s flaws and fault lines, ‘Opposites‘ is still an all around great album, a textbook and occasionally daring approach that is all the more certain to cement Biffy’s place on the throne of British rock for some time to come.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Opposites‘ here

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