Cannabis Corpse @ The Star and Garter, Manchester, 07/09/2011

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Having arrived a little too early at the Star and Garter, I’m forced to contemplate, not for the first time, that this self proclaimed shit-hole should probably be avoided like the plague, as my wallet is raped repeatedly at the bar and we play pool on the world’s worst table. This is probably forgiven though, as upstairs is host to some of the best underground bands in town, and things look up as there’s movement on stage.

Hailing from the dark recess’s of a Rams-Bottom, Foetal Juiceare veterans of the UK death metal scene, back with vengeance after being off the circuit for a while due to a flesh eating bacteria generally found in the anus of a crocodile, claiming drummer Rob Harris’ third finger. Slamming into ‘Colostomy Baguette’, the atmosphere at first is slightly reluctant among the crowd. This is short lived as somewhere during the second song, vocalist Sam Read launches himself into the crowd provoking a reaction and people wake up. Songs such as ‘Bloodshot Eyes and Blistered Fingers’ and ‘Serpent of the Northern Lights’ (the tales of weed whores, sticking to the theme of cannabis parodies tonight) retain a catchiness, while also being disgustingly heavy and blackened in parts. This is death metal as it should be; not fast for the sake of it over technical riffs, no repetitive breakdown structures that bore the shit out of you, just pure groove and jittering aggression. As an unusually accessible band within their genre, their aggressively energetic and enthusiastic live performance make the pro life scourge easy to enjoy.
Next up are thrash crossover maniacs SSS. The fact that this band has recently undergone a major line-up change is definitely not apparent when the band unleashes a barrage of hardcore-style, incomprehensibly fast vocals and contagiously nasty thrash riffs upon a lively audience. The crowd, now riddled with thrash geeks, fully embrace the energy of the music, some maybe even too enthused, as several bloody faces stumble around the front, but then maybe I just don’t appreciate the thrill of blood pissing out of my nose. The tempo is generally furious with the bass notably clattering at breakneck speed. For me it’s the longer songs that gain definition during the mid paced breakdown sections, where the hooks can be fully appreciated. I fail to see that any thrash fan could be disappointed with the band, but neither are they one dimensional. While it is all thrashy, some sections lean more towards punk, while some are clearly influenced by some grind and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Magrudergrind record. Despite this, I do struggle to maintain the interest that the majority of people here are showing, but neither can I vouch for my interest in the genre.
After a grim intro reeking of high grade violence, Cannabis Corpsekick in with ‘Chronolith’. Just as things are getting fun with the first frantic notes descending into an infectious riff, there’s some issue with the bass guitar (I wasn’t looking at the time) and its out for the song. While they continue admirably, the sound doesn’t carry the same heaviness that the rest of the set does, fortunately its back for the rest of the set.
The band’s THC-injected parodies of Cannibal Corpse can be heavily reminiscent of the band themselves, bar the vocals sounding different, and people haven’t got bored with them yet. While heavily influenced, CC (Cannabis) aren’t just playing on a sound similar to corpse, Morbid Angel, Deicide etc; its clear they’re doing it out of  nostalgic love for death metal. The lack of pretence might be what makes it work so well; vocalist Weedgrinder, when not shrieking and growling in semi-spastic movements, banters and interacts with the crowd to the extent I could almost believe he wasn’t stoned. The guitar work and structures keep it interesting, with malevolent melodies punctuated by chugging, and songs such as ‘Where the Kind Lives’ that’ll throw you into psychosis-addled frenzy.
Unfortunately, at some point that may well of been around here, a certain drunken turd licker starts to make a nuisance of himself by charging full pelt with his pants around his ankles into the unsuspecting members of the crowd. The victims, unaware of the sparsely populated head flying at them, about to give them whiplash, rightly enough become very pissed off and it’s not long before the bastard’s lynched enough to be discouraged from continuing his game, and we’re allowed to watch the band again. The shitter also tried to pull the mic from Weedgrinder onstage.
The material from ‘Beneath Grow Lights…’ in the set has some crushing rhythmic sections and more creative moments that stand out for me, perhaps more so than the bands earlier material. The more traditional ‘Every Bud Smoken’ however, is a stomping tune that’s just about as good fun as metal gets.  Appropriately, the band finish on ‘Fucked with Northern Lights’, which was also apparently the strain which was their “cup of tea” while they were in Manchester. As a breath of fresh, un-pretentious (if not slightly comical) air in the death metal scene, Cannabis Corpse are ones to catch if you get the chance.
Michael Collins
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Review: SSS – Problems To The Answer

SSS
Problems To The Answer

Earache
 
SSS were originally part of the spate of thrash bands that Earache Records signed as thrash metal once again gained a head of steam and briefly rose back to the fore. Some called it ‘The New Wave of Thrash Metal’, some called it ‘Thrash 2.0’, and detractors simply called it re-thrash. Meh. I could care less for snidey labelling. Or indeed labelling at all. But while Evile and former labelmates Municipal Waste have gone strength to strength and emerged dangerously close to mainstream waters, SSS have remained slightly under the radar and haven’t quite taken off in the same way – a shame, as they deserve at least as much recognition. That said, they’ve stuck to their uncompromising crossover thrash and continue to do so again on album number three.
It starts off pretty well, opener ‘The Kill Floor’ bringing in Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway on guest vocals to provide a great riotous 2-minute plus romp. The tracks then come thick and fast, and SSS sound just as pissed off and nonplussed as ever, with some insane musicianship on all instruments (‘Sick Pleasures’ and the instrumental ‘Future Primitive’) and combative songs such as the 5-second ‘Direct Action’, and ‘Here Comes The Neighbourhood’, in which Barney appears with his trademark roar once again.
Its not all same old, same old; SSS do try a couple of new things with some whispered vocals from Foxy in ‘Man Against Man’, and closer ‘Strangenotes’ is the band’s longest song to date, another instrumental that sounds hardly like crossover thrash but even shows hints of progression, as it recesses into a quieter, but unsettling, piano-driven middle section before returning to the main riff towards the end. It could well be the soundtrack to wandering lone through the creepy streets of a dispirit inner city suburb somewhere in rundown Britain – that middle section alone gives off that vibe.
Problems to the Answer’ deserves repeated listening. Particularly as long time SSS fans might be taken aback slightly by the forays into instrumentals, and there’s a few more punkish riffs as opposed to shredding thrash. The songs aren’t all as fast and furious as they were on ‘The Dividing Line’. That said, ‘Problems…’ is definitely a grower and in actual fact, SSS have managed to carve out a cracking album with a few experimental forays that don’t compromise their style, free of gimmickry. Hopefully, this will be the album that might inspire more thrash fans around the world to pay SSS a little more attention.
Peter Clegg

Review Roundup: Bowling For Soup/Maruta/Extreme Mental Abuse

DISCLAIMER: I told you my questionable musical taste would become apparent, for which I make no apologies! I’m not ashamed to admit I indulge in Bowling For Soup once in a while – at least they don’t shaft their fanbase like some other aging pop-punk band…

Bowling For Soup

Fishin’ For Woos

Que-So/Brando

Bowling For Soup return for yet another album filled with party anthems and stupidity. If it’s progression you’re looking for, you won’t find it here. But BFS have always done silliness very well and don’t go out of their way to change the formula, even on album number 11. As far as potential anthems go – well, they certainly have potential, even if they’re not as immediate as previous hits such as ‘Girls All The Bad Guys Want’ and ‘I’m Gay’. But the singalongs are here in spades – ‘S-S-S-Saturday’ is going to be a live anthem for sure, and ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love’ is catchy as.

Obviously it’s not everyone’s bag, it’s not going to win them any serious awards, and you wonder how old they’ll get before they realise they’re getting a little too old for these shenanigans. – but hell, summer’s here, and it’ll be a soundtrack for a few pool parties and barbecues at least. And if you’re still not convinced, go see them live – that’s where they really excel.

Maruta
Forward Into Regression
Willowtip
Maruta’s biggest claim to fame lies in former drummer Nick Augusto, who now thumps the skins for Trivium. Both those bands are a world away from each other of course – Trivium are still struggling to wrestle away accusations of aping Metallica; on the flipside, Maruta are in no danger of this at all. ‘Forward Into Regression’ is a snarling, heavy beast and one designed at that to destroy the senses.

Forward…’ certainly has its moments – it starts off pretty well – ‘March Forward (Into Regression)’ and ‘Strain’ are explosive and tracks like ‘Solace (Through Self-Annihilation)’ and ‘Blood of the Luddite’ are vicious rippers to show exactly what Maruta are capable of. The guitars are nice and low in the mix as well and that serves to beef up their sound. That said, while it’s a nice step-up from debut album ‘In Narcosis’, it still feels as though Maruta are in the chasing pack, especially considering there’s already been some spectacular grind releases this year. They’ve got the potential to make that leap to the bigger leagues, but they’ve got to do a little more to stand out.

Extreme Mental Abuse
Extreme Mental Abuse
 
Finally in this round up, we have crusty death-grinders Extreme Mental Abuse. I don’t have a great deal of info about this band yet, other than that SSS bassist Mark Magill produced this album – I discovered them through an SSS Facebook update. It’s a mish mash of the aforementioned crust punk, death metal and grindcore to make up twenty politically-charged tracks in just over eighteen minutes. Everything’s low in the mix – the production is low-key, vocals guttural, everything suitably muddy indeed. Bish bash bosh. It’s not going to set pulses racing but its heavy and gritty and these guys do the job well. Fans of the early crust/grind eras may well find something to enioy here.
 

Extreme Mental Abuse’ is available as a free download from the band’s Bandcamp page.

Peter Clegg