Dope Body – Natural History

Dope Body

Natural History
Drag City
The term ‘punk’ is more loosely defined than ever. Once a defiant statement of rebellion, its label has been applied to some many undeserving things that the lines of what is punk and isn’t punk are more blurred than ever before. Evolution is a welcome thing but the watering down of punk’s description certainly hasn’t been. These days, unless you really sound and look the part and chime in with an acidic bark and a sheer defiance of authority, the next best attributable thing is probably to acts which exudes a hint of apathy and a smattering of could-care-less what you think attitude blended with a penchant for excess. That’s perhaps how I could at least best sum up Baltimore‘s Dope Body, a quartet whose ‘Natural History‘ is perhaps one of the finest dangerous, reckless and indeed careless statements of arguable punk today.

What is noticeable straight away is Dope Body likes to mix things up. ‘Shook’ opens this album and is effectively their arising from slumber, really coming across with a Melvins and assorted slow punk vibe. The following track ‘Road Dog’ is a more straightforward rocker, with a fantastic pre-chorus chant of ‘do what you wanna do/see what you wanna se/go where you wanna go‘ before launching into a more passionate refrain. It’s hard to pick out what I like most about the album, with the fantastic tinkling riff of ‘Twice the Life’, the slow, brooding intent of ‘Out of my Mind’, the easy riding wit of ‘High Way‘ with the line of ‘I’m not hopelessly looking/I’m not hopeless but I’m not looking!‘ all proving to be addictive highlights. If its any justice as well, ‘Weird Mirror’ will be one of the feelgood hits of the summer, even if it were only for its ‘woah-oh’s and careening pace.

I’ve been listening to this record a lot over the last week or so and that I’m still enjoying it and still not tired of it speaks a lot for its quality. This was my first exposure to Dope Body and the results could not have been more stunning. I’m aware their songs were much more punchy and brief in their early days but they’ve evolved into a howling vortex of jarring noise and punk rock energy. It might all be effects and technical wizardry, but guitarist Zachary Utz seems to be able to contort and conjour all manner of noises from his guitar – I could’ve sworn ‘Twice the Life’s twinkling riff was a steel drum at first. The heady brew of sonic sounds is complimented by vocalist Andrew Laumann’s assorted yelps, howls and reverberations and makes for perhaps one of the most exciting bands of our time. Its punk rock thrown in the blender with the Jesus Lizard, Lightning Bolt and other assorted supplements, as if to celebrate your stupor. At the same time, it’s perfectly accessible, losing none of its quality for it either.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say its wholly original, but this experimental approach has certainly paid dividends and I don’t expect it will be too long (or so I hope) before Dope Body break out of the USA and over to Europe and beyond. ‘Natural History‘ is going to be an absolutely compulsory purchase when it drops, as high a compliment as I really give around here. Do it.
Peter Clegg

Graf Orlock – Los Angeles

Graf Orlock

Los Angeles
Having run the gambit on forging together classic action movies together with hardcore and grindcore noise, Graf Orlock can rightfully claim to be the undisputed kings of ‘cinemagrind’. Some might have thought they might have run out of good samples to use following ‘Doombox‘ and the ‘Destination Time‘, but Graf seem to keep unearthing them. And where better to turn to than 1995 action classic Heat for four tracks of surging violence that reminds us why Graf Orlock are one of the most exciting extreme bands of our ilk.
The artwork, riddled with bulletholes shot into the artwork by the band themselves, is classic Orlock (previous releases have come in packaging styled as a boombox and a facehugging Alien. It’s a tidy little homage to Heat but a marker on what the next ten minutes are going to do to you. Each song begins with a now trademark movie sample, followed by battering ram riffs. There’s something magical about hearing Robert De Niro’s voice prior to Graf Orlock bringing down the hammer – songs like ‘Dead Man Talking’ rage and thrash with all the intensity we’re used to from the band. For me though, the par excellence comes on the finale, ‘Quick on the Trigger’, a relative grind epic at four minutes, which begins in typical grind/powerviolence style, but around the 1:50 mark, introduces a plodding groove that morphs into a dredging hardcore riff punctuated by a hail of bullets. An awesome finish to a relentless ride.
Not many bands, when I’m just listening to them, makes me want to particular rock out. I mean yeah, I meant nod/bang my head occasionally but nothing too strenuous. Graf Orlock, on the other hand, is a different proposition. The more I listened to ‘Los Angeles‘, the more I wanted to go positively ape in the middle of the street. Seriously, there’s something about the insane riffage or the short wait for a riff following a delicious movie sample that grabs me by the throat and rags me about like Bulletstorm’s Grayson Hunt.
If anything, I’d like more from Graf Orlock on their next release, and by that I mean a proper follow-up to the ‘Destination Time trilogy. This EP is killer, but although it’s not the shortest EP I’ve ever listened to, ten minutes is still a short amount of time. Still, ‘Los Angeles‘ is the tiny sliver of cake required to have us hungry for more of the same. A bigger piece next time will do nicely.
Peter Clegg
Stream it below:

Black Breath – Sentenced to Life

Black Breath

Sentenced to Life
Southern Lord
Seattle’s hardcore thrashers Black Breath have whipped up such a frenzy in the last two or three years after unleashing ‘Razor to Oblivion‘ and debut album ‘Heavy Breathing‘, while touring the blue hell out of both of them. Such is the fervour generated in this short space of time has inevitably led to ‘Sentenced to Life‘ becoming one of 2012’s most anticipated albums, but at the same time it’s anticipation that should be tempered with caution. No doubt there are still a few people sniping with the ‘Entombed-lite’ tag, not just at Black Breath, but at the entire hardcore/d-beat movement that has recently been forged with huge backing, particularly from Southern Lord. And the surprise that Black Breath caught people with on ‘Heavy Breathing‘ is no longer that. I hate to refer to that ‘difficult second album’ cliché, but it’s true.
Thankfully, Black Breath avoid any major pitfalls on album number two, and ‘Sentenced to Life‘, while largely more of the same as their back catalogue, is still is good thirty-odd minutes to let loose and bang your head to. The opener ‘Feast of the Damned’ has a nice drum and vocal chant of ‘my flesh, my blood, you’re dead, Feast of the Damned!‘ That is just one of many of the album’s highlights, which reveal themselves more upon repeated listens. ‘Home of the Grave’ has all the potential as a lead single from the album to propel the band into bigger leagues, while tracks like ‘Of Flesh’ see the band absolutely on fire with a full on death-metal blastbeat interjecting the track part way through. Conversely, ‘Obey’ is the band’s longest track to date, beginning with a creepy spoken word intro and leading to a slow burner mixing Black Breath’s dark riffage and intensity with a tremendous rock n’ roll solo towards the end.

Black Breath – Home of the Grave (official video)
There are more signature moments on the album but they’re too numerous to get into. I would advise people to give this album at least a couple of listens though – it didn’t hit me straight away like their initial releases, but it’s not a difficult album to get into at all, essentially just press play and headbang. Eventually you will observe the progress made by the band since ‘Heavy Breathing’, however subtle or however hastily-written this album apparently was. The result is still unmistakably Black Breath, reaffirming their status as one of the best new bands of the last few years. Obey.
Peter Clegg

Every Time I Die – Ex Lives

Every Time I Die

Ex Lives
By now, the law of averages says that Every Time I Die ought to have a bad album by now. With each album comes a further upward swing in a seemingly endless trajectory skywards, and the amount of awesomeness their previous releases have brought coupled with their fans rabid enthusiasm and indeed, expectation, you could argue there might be one or two expecting ETID to hit a snag somewhere. Yet within moments of Keith Buckley yelling ‘I want to be dead with my friends!‘ in the opening to ‘Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space’, its business as usual, setting the tone for ‘Ex Lives‘ to become the best album of ETID’s career to date.
I could easily leave it there having pretty much summed up that you need this album right now. But that wouldn’t do the album’s many highlights any justice. Keith Buckley’s trademark wit is still rife: ‘I refuse to be the only man/put to rest in a mass grave‘ (‘Underwater’…) is one such delight from many and his voice lends itself to many other the album’s catchy moments, of which I’m sure you’ll be able to pick out.
Every Time I Die – Revival Mode (official video)
Ex Lives‘ displays a huge range of ETID’s influences old and new merging themselves to blistering effect. ‘Holy Book of Dilemma’ ups the speed and intensity, one of the heaviest songs on the record. The rockabilly beginnings to ‘Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow’ offer a brief respite but by and large this is perhaps the heaviest ETID record yet – Keith Buckley’s howl at times conjures pure hell, evidenced by a blistering roar of ‘I have declared a war’ on ‘Drag King’. For all its intensity, at times ‘Ex Lives‘ does change the pace, and while fairly melodic in contrast to the majority of the record, the darkness of ‘Revival Mode’, with its catchy refrain of ‘Thanks Lord/but I don’t need any more/poor advice‘, is one of the record’s stand-out tracks, while ‘Indian Giver’ even sees the band steering into Melvins territory with a hypnotic psych-tinged sludge riff.
It’s still the same Every Time I Die we know and love six albums in, fourteen years down the line. Arguably their defining album, they’re still loaded with swagger and packed with more answers than any questions that could be asked of them at this stage of their career, whilst making one unholy din. ‘Ex Lives‘ is, to repeat, ETID’s most accomplished album to date, still managing to stay one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to merging heavy-ass grooves and punk rock intensity with a bloody good time.
Peter Clegg

Failure to Follow – Wasting Away

Failure To Follow

Wasting Away EP

It’s my own personal opinion that British hardcore is in need of a band who doesn’t just scream anger and basically play with complete punk energy all the time. There’s no harm in doing that particularly, but however much maligned old-school hardcore seems for its focus on brutal breakdowns and slam moments, I really don’t think it would harm for one or two bands to real smash listeners’ faces in by supplying these moments more often, rather than retreading what seems to have become old ground. If Bristol’s Failure to Follow are anything to go by, my message is perhaps somehow transmitting across.

The intro track ‘B.C.H.C.’, is designed to get you, the listener, pumped and ready for action, chugging and twin pedalling as it lurches back and forth on the edge of an all out assault. It leads nicely into ‘The Burn’, a furiously raging hardcore anthem that would literally be that if this band were of the ilk of acts like Madball or Agnostic Front. It screams, growls and surges through three minutes, even allowing for a rock n’ roll style outro at the end as if to celebrate their achievement – whether that be an awesome song or pit destruction is anyone’s guess.

So satisfying is that opening salvo, ‘Wasting Away’ often fights to keep up the momentum. Though main vocalist Tom Williams and shared vocals from the rest of the band do their best to maintain the fury, some of that raw energy is lost during ‘No Unity’, thanks to a section of high-end melodic shredding that, while showing a diverse side to the band, chips away at the momentum gained during the opening. Not that I find it terrible, far from it, but its an effect that to me feels to have been done to death and I’m not sure I can find anything beneficial to that technique here, particularly with the song verging on a five-minute length, longer than most hardcore bands aim for in terms of song duration. Still, that doesn’t stop Failure to Follow from plowing ahead, and the incredible power rage of ‘Strike Back’ is plain to see, with clenched teeth screams and gang vocals alternating a cry of ‘WE WILL STRIKE BACK!’ following a fantastic shift from the main riff into a monster breakdown.

I will say that there are parts about this release that I hugely enjoy, and others not so much. It’s incredibly difficult to stand out in a scene which is absolutely full of bands wanting to get their voice heard, and I don’t think ‘Wasting Away’ is without its flaws. Melodicism can be great, but in a scene done to death it can be as much a curse as a blessing.

Despite my slight complaints, I am without doubt that Failure to Follow will surely become a major player, not just in Bristol City Hardcore, but in UK Hardcore as well. And who knows, maybe beyond? Its still early days for these guys yet and I’m not sure such pressure is welcoming. That said, ‘Wasting Away’ is, at large, an impressive first step, and Failure to Follow are certainly a band with huge potential. I do feel that UK hardcore sometimes gets lost in falling over itself to stand out. If more acts actually got the simple aspects right, those being the energy, the passion, the quality of the music and the ability to possess its listener combined, you’d have more acts as dangerous, exciting and worthy of huge circle pits as Failure to Follow.

Peter Clegg

Iced Out – Demo 2012

Iced Out
Demo 2012

I’m not saying I totally dislike the UK hardcore scene, but it largely falls on the melodic side, whether it be acts like Gallows, The Ghost of a Thousand, etc. It’s not really like the US scene which features a fair whack of tough guy hardcore, full of bruising beatdowns, self-motivating/depreciating lyrics and macho pride. You can’t really say one is better than the other in general – its how you do it that counts.

Iced Out fall more towards the bruising style, but don’t completely fall into the stereotypical trap, and this demo certainly insists they have the attitude to leave more than a few scars. This is four tracks of crunching riffs, with lyrics spit with intent and occasional power. Each song is moshtastic, opener ‘Jukai’ spewing with beefy riffage and beefier breakdowns. The most personal it appears to sound is the final track ‘Terrors’, which sounds particularly pissed off judging from the words being venomously aimed at its intended target.

There’s more than a few sludgy elements in their sound but for the large part you won’t want to dissect it, instead you’ll just wish to wallow in its disgust at the world. This demo suggests a band with potential, albeit one still rough around the edges. Still, rough is fine if you’re handing out a bruising, and Iced Out will surely be on hand to provide plenty of those in future.

Demo 2012‘ was available as a free download and may well still be out there. However, as the band are stating it was available, I will link you to their webstore where you can buy a limited edition CD, or to Bandcamp where you can stream it. A cassette tape rerelease is forthcoming with a brand new track too, so keep in touch with them.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Demo 2012‘ here
Stream it here

Official store

Coilguns – Stadia Rods

Stadia Rods
Dead Dead Dead

I hadn’t heard much from Coilguns before, despite their links to The Ocean, so when around two minutes in to the opening track, ‘Parkensine’, my ears and my mind were suddenly alert, that had to be a good sign. ‘Stadia Rods‘ is some heavy shit indeed, mixing elements of Dillinger Escape Plan-esque mathcore, sludge metal and more. It’s slightly disappointing that this is just an EP – I’d love to hear a whole album of Coilguns if this is the sort of quality we’re going to get from them.

Stadia Rods‘ is a fine mixture, with the guitars and bass buzzing at the lower end of the spectrum, chunky when required but always discordant. ‘In The Limelights’, the sole instrumental track, busts out a heavy groove akin to earlier Pelican or Isis locking horns with Botch, offering sort-of a respite before the vocals return on ‘Witness the Kern Arc’, unquestionably one of the finest songs on the album, swinging like a post-hardcore anthem at first, thrusting like a shark smelling blood, angling through many turns, before finishing like its ragging through its prey’s festuous blubber, ending violently, powerfully and aggressively.

I hadn’t seen this record coming until it dropped in my inbox a few weeks ago, and its been an unexpected surprise in waiting. But then, with members from a band of such calibre as The Ocean, its not shocking at all. For fans of TDEP, Cursed, Botch and the like, this is a treat. For people who aren’t fans of those bands, this is a treat. That’s how highly I recommend it.

Stadia Rods‘ is released on Monday 15th March through Scottish DIY label Dead Dead Dead Records.

Peter Clegg

Pre-order ‘Stadia Rods‘ here (12″ vinyl + digital download) 


The Well music venue in Leeds is closing down

It was announced last Sunday evening (26thFebruary) that the team behind music venue The Well in Leeds are to pull out of running the venue and that their doors will close for the final time on Saturday 10th March. A statement by The Well’s general manager Kevin Berry was put out explaining their reasons for the closure:
‘Hi all, with deepest regret, we as a team are going to be pulling out of The Well music venue after March 10th. We’ve loved helping rebuild this once great venue’s reputation back up these past few years, and would like to thank all who mucked in.

Sadly The Well isn’t a viable business due to our brewery superiors & building owners Enterprise Inns’ rates and J Pullen and Sons and the restrictions they implement on us running our music venue. Everyday has been an uphill battle from day one and frankly we’re all tired of this vicious circle and fighting with two other companies to carry on. There has been no leeway with either company over the years and have had to find ways of working around them. Sadly with the sheer level of restrictions (partly due to the building possibly being turned into a restaurant in the future) there is no way to break even never mind make anything which resembles a profit. I, Anthony Mortimer, Chris Flynn and others in the past have worked endless weekly hours with no wage to try and make this venue work, sadly all our efforts have been for nought.
…I’d like to thank everyone for supporting us in the past and with the wealth of familiar faces I’ve seen in the bar night in night out, you’ve been more than patrons but family to us (mainly as we barely ever see our families, never mind the outside world).’
On a personal note, this news saddens me as much as anyone else. I can’t say I was that regular a visitor to The Well, but I had attended since 2004 when Chimaira performed there. I’ve only been sporadically since, but will always remember in particular going to see Rufio, a damn fine pop-punk band, Eyehategod in April 2010, where I think I nearly died, such was the beating I took in the pit, and Black Breath last year, which was an awesome experience in so many ways. That this part of my life is to be no more, at least in this particular part of town, is extremely sad. The Well in particular offered something vibrant and varied to the area, not just hosting international calibre acts but by regularly hosting up and coming bands from Leeds, West Yorkshire and indeed the wider area, giving them a chance to make a name for themselves. I’d have never got into The Afternoon Gentlemen or End to Empires, for example, if they weren’t given the chance to perform there.
I’m also sure that I can speak for everybody when I say what a sad indictment this is of the times we live in. The Well was a fantastic independent gig venue which has fallen by the wayside like so many, all in the name of the Joseph’s Well complex’s greedy owners, J Pullan and Sons Ltd, whose pie-in-the-sky idea for another restaurant in a city already containing so many food establishments is surely a crock of crap, all in the name for a quick buck, and I really feel more needs to be done to protect venues like these from going by the wayside. When The Well first announced the news of J Pullan’s request to pubco Enterprise Inns, fans and supporters of The Well rallied, but I had a very uneasy, sinking feeling when that news was made public, like it was only a matter of time. I’m dejected to say the least to discover my hunch was right.
The final gig at The Well will indeed be this coming Saturday, when US metalcore stalwarts The Acacia Strain head into town with Brutality Will Prevail, TRC and Martyr Defiled. Tickets are still available at £10 advance, with a free aftershow party being hosted by The Well going into the early hours with special guests. The team are also in discussions with other venues around Leeds to relocate all upcoming gigs that were booked, and will endeavour to ensure these dates go ahead as normal.
I’ll leave it there because I could go on and on about this, but it would only make for more depressing reading than it already is. Hopefully the guys have something planned for the future and I guess we’ll have to wait and see. From We Must Obey, thank you guys for running a damn fine venue under such circumstances and making it into a quality name over the years. You will be missed.
Peter Clegg

The Well, Leeds official site

Black Veins – …And Hell Followed

Black Veins

…And Hell Followed
Witch Hunter

The guys at Witch Hunter Records have been hyping this one up for a while on the social networks, and upon listening, it would appear they have damn good reason to. Solihull/Walsall noise merchants Black Veins have returned with ‘…And Hell Followed‘, the follow-up to their self-titled demo, and boy will it beat the living crap out of you.

Over the course of twelve minutes, Black Veins lay into five tracks of vicious Converge-esque hardcore occasionally punctuated with a savage frenzy. Brutal is an all too frequent used word to describe heavy music but at times its hard to find another superlative. The way the final track, ‘Suffer’ turns from a menacing crawl to an all-out crusty speed/blast war on a sixpence, before slowing the tempo as if to stand over your broken body, laughing maniacally. This template is evident through the EPs course, slower dirges with occasional spikes in tempo, but to the band’s credit it feels fresh throughout and not too samey.

Often EPs can get lost in their own brevity and individuality, meaning the potential for a weak track or two. ‘…And Hell Followed‘ certainly has standout moments, but never a dull one. Unquestionably one of the filthiest sludgecore/grind releases you come across this year, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘…And Hell Followed‘ here 

Official store