Dope Body – Lifer

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Dope Body
Lifer
Drag City

Despite having that hipster vibe about them that would normally give me a few second thoughts about whether there is substance beneath the style, Baltimore’s Dope Body confounded that odd notion of mine by letting loose ‘Natural History’, an album that rode all the way into hell and back out the other side leaving behind rubber tracks, broken glass and the odd black eye. That’s generally how the record felt as it battered at one end of the scale and went for foot to the floor kaleidoscopic energy at the other. It was such a breathtaking mix that admittedly resulted, in my humble opinion, in the feeling that ‘Lifer’ wasn’t up to much, on first listen. Or at least it didn’t to me. I was perhaps hoping for a bit more of the seemingly hedonistic vibe that went on with ‘Natural History’, but that only made me more blinkered I suppose. I was finding the first half of the record a bit of a drag, lacking the desired punch, taking a bit long to get going, and the second half feeling better, but not up to the level I was expecting.

But I encouraged myself to give it a few more listens, and what resulted was pleasant discovery in that I actually do like this record. No, I actually love it, as much as anything they did before. What grabbed me before was some of the insane noises that Zachary Utz was able to strangle out of his guitar. There’s not really an element of surprise like that any more nor any vast experimentation, but once I removed those blinkers, I noticed there’s a definite progression in their sound. Although the quiet-loud dynamics of their sound remain, there’s a definite ear cupped towards melody – indeed Andrew Laumann’ is as much a proponent as anyone in the band for this – his vocal performance on ‘Rare Air’ and the closing ‘Even In The End’ is the construct that propels these tracks along, while the lead single ‘Repo Man’ showcases the band’s progression in those aforementioned dynamics through its almost stalking tension before the inevitable explosion of distortion.

Dope Body – Repo Man (official video)

Perhaps the biggest similarities to their previous work lies in the track ‘I’d Say To You’, the shortest track proper (bar the ‘Intro’ track), with a pulsing guitar-bass riff exploding into a memorable chorus, and the fantastically on-edge ‘Day By Day’. Otherwise there’s ‘Echo’, which creeps along like a panther stalking its prey astride a simple, slow, lounge-esque bassline, before going all savage in the chorus as it pounces into anarchy, and the excellent ‘Nu Sensation’, which rides across a jangling, galloping electric twang before Laumann goes all Marc Bolan-like towards the end.

Despite initially making me feel a weird double-take, Dope Body have quite brilliantly managed to progress their blueprint into slightly more mature boundaries, but without losing the primal edge that made them stand out to me a few years back. It would have been very easy just to go balls-out wild and free all over again but the proof in a good album is how much it opens up to you as you listen to it over and over. ‘Lifer‘ is an affirming testament to that, as cerebral as it is primal and as smart as it- is reckless.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Lifer’ here

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Water Torture – Pillbox

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Water Torture
Pillbox
Nerve Altar

The Buffalo powerviolence trio Water Torture recently dropped their debut full length ‘Pillbox’ into the world and if you’ve been following their early adventures, mapped across various EPs and split releases, this record marks the fruition of true promise and then some. ‘Pillbox’ is seventeen tracks long, and its refreshing in its variation – it can loosely be described as grind/powerviolence but barely any two tracks are the truly the same. Numerous tracks and passages of the album see noise elements swathed between low-end sludge grooves and guttural grind, often tacked onto the end of short blasts of despairing energy, almost like white noise or the dying noises of a machine, and occasionally marked as single tracks of pure noise, e.g. ‘Product One’, a cavernous, drenching wall of howling noise. Not too dissimilar from the approach of acts such as Iron Lung, and fans of that sort of stuff are bound to get into this. Indeed this makes for a much more dynamic grind album – not just stuck at one pace, but taking in sludge and dark acoustic elements – the track ‘Creature of Repetition’ is free of noise and grind elements and owes more to classical in its foreboding arrangement. Having cut their teeth on numerous split releases since forming in 2011, ‘Pillbox‘ is the record that should really get people to sit up and take notice of Water Torture. A band willing to take risks and make primal mechanical animals of us all.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Pillbox’ here
Pre-order the vinyl LP here
Stream it below:

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Bongripper – Miserable

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Bongripper
Miserable

Following their split adventures in 2013, with hardcore/grind mob Hate and British doom compadres and everyone’s new favourites Conan, Chicago, Illinois’ Bongripper step back into their own shadows with their latest new album ‘Miserable’ comprises ‘just’ three tracks; ‘just’ because the shortest times at 17:48, while the album closes with a monumental 28:25 monolith. And that’s not without mentioning the supreme Mike Miller artwork, which combines to make a thunderous stallion of a record.

Bongripper have always been one of the most compelling instrumental doom bands to listen to, because this know how to harness a riff and then some. ‘Endless’ is a positive reminder of this – that first riff is thick and chewy like beef biltong, the second a sweet doom chugger – but of course I could go on describing every riff and it would get a bit tedious. Simply, Bongripper still retain the knack of knowing when to dispense with one riff and move onto the next of their seemingly abyssal stack of them, moving from a sense of grooviness to one that sounds ominously evil, and this one is no different, eventually culminating in near enough white noise. ‘Descent’ is equally malevolent, with some of the most thunderous booms ringing in from about nine minutes in, before dropping into a spacey, cavernous outro than perfectly sums up the songs title – it feels lonely, foreboding, even despairing, how you should feel when descending the depths. ‘Into Ruin’ caps off the whole thing with some superb headbang-inducing riffs and more low end crawls before unexpectedly alley-ooping you with a fast stoner-thrash section before dropping back into another tormentous riff. I just love how much they can pack into a song like this when their minds are at it.

This has been available for a little while now and I strongly urge you to check it out if you haven’t already. Links are below – you can stream the whole thing too and you too will find yourselves descending into ruin endlessly.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Miserablehere (download); or here (CD – vinyl presently sold out)

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Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn

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Nightfell
The Living Ever Mourn
Southern Lord/Parasitic

Nightfell is a new band comprising of its two core members Todd Burdette (Tragedy, His Hero is Gone) and Tim Call (Aldebaran, Shadow of the Torturer), collecting here as Nightfell, a two-piece project which has recently released their debut album ‘The Living Ever Mourn’. As members of some of their respectively critically acclaimed and loved underground work, you would expect Nightfell to meet those high standards, and ‘The Living Ever Mourn’ doesn’t let anyone down. It’s a mix of Burdette’s and Call’s collective experience, leaning more towards Call’s doom worship in more ways than one, but underneath some of the trudge and plaintive mood is some ripping riffs and thunderous strikes. The guitar tone, particularly during the shredding, has a whiff of Amon Amarth about it, though you won’t find any odes to vikings or Norseology here. Burdette’s vocals are often deep growls if not guttural and connect with some wicked moments – yes, the black metal ‘ugh’ is often overused but even in its sheer simplicity, it boosts the first part of ‘The Last Disease’, which moves at a fast if not quite frenetic tempo before shifting into a slower dirge to finish. Much of the material here works in pretty much the same manner, barring ‘Empty Prayers’, an incredible dirge featuring clean, chanted vocals, a heavy, almost weeping riff, occasionally punctuated with a bit of slide for that added punch. They could have made that song twice as long and it would still be perfect. And ‘Altars To Wrath’ is one hell of a track that twists and writhes its listener into enduring pain. I’m not sure whether this will be a one-off project from Burdette and Call, but I would be happy for more Nightfell in future. Splendid stuff.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Living Ever Mourn’ here
Stream it below:

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Old Skin – :consume:

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Old Skin
:consume:

Owing very much to my lack of activity towards the end of last year, I missed the debut release by Mancunian hardcore/metal crew Old Skin, highly anticipated for it containing members of Esoteric Youth and the brilliant Knife Crimes, who we reviewed posthumously after they left the world behind with, for my money, one of the best demonstrations of hardcore of recent years. So Old Skin came with a degree of expectation, but they showed that anyone expecting Knife Crimes mark II on ‘Mære’ that they’re anything but – what this band and that band have in common is an eye for darkness; but Old Skin were open to elements of post-metal, Old English folklore and a slight air of mystery. Whatever your take, Old Skin quickly became a flagbearer for UK hardcore, a scene which is bulging at the seems as it stands. That’s partly what makes the release of ‘:consume:’ such an interesting one.

Anyone following underground hardcore and metal right now, and everyone with an interest in the digital format should take note. For Old Skin have decided this release will only be available from 26/05/2014, up until 01/06/2014. It’s now 29/05/2014, which means there’s only a few days of this left before you properly miss out. And while these two songs don’t open up in the way that ‘Mære’ did, certainly not by way of experimentalism or reflection, it’s still a release worthy of the frenzied hype going around the social networks in a bid to get as many people to check it out before the band take it down forever. ‘Swordcharmer’ starts with a slow build-up, vocalist Michael Ribeiro showing exactly what a beast of a roar he has as the riff coarses and pumps up until 2:23 when it’s very veins explode in a brief crusty shred n’ blast out before dropping back into the main riff. The B-side, if you will, entitled ‘Snakeswallower’, is a more usual affair, albeit a corker, going at the jugular acrest a slight technical lick, before dropping into a mid-paced chug-groove and a satisfying hardcore rodeo to ride out to the finish.

This release will undoubtedly please fans of the genre and anyone into acts like Converge, Integrity, Oathbreaker, etc. who might be looking for something new can’t really do much better than this right now. A full length is planned by the end of the year and the blogosphere is sure to lose theirselves in it all again. One day, we’ll all have old skin, an inevitability, but we could all do with Old Skin in our lives, and the time is now to consume ‘:consume:’, or to watch it disappear forever. Time is ticking.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘:consume:‘ here (name-your-price, until 01/06/2014)

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