Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only releases to PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609 USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1982 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Abwärts Amok Koma LP reissue

Reissue of the 1980 debut LP from ABWÄRTS, the influential West German post-punk group whose original lineup splintered not long after this album when half of the members defected for EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN. Much like early WIRE, ABWÄRTS relied on an urgent efficiency built around acute-angled guitar, buttoned-up rhythms, and tense/terse vocals—in particular, “Karo 1/4 08/15 Hoch 2” is 30 seconds of econo-punk agitation so close to the primary source that it might as well be a German-translated Pink Flag outtake. There’s enough detours that set Amok Koma apart from mere WIRE flattery, though, from the clattering, deconstructed “Monday on My Mind” (after the EASYBEATS’ ’60s smash “Friday on My Mind”), to the female vocals and mechanical stutter of “Bel Ami” that lean closer to ABWÄRTS’ Neue Deutsch Welle contemporaries like CARAMBOLAGE, to the group’s twin experiments with buzzing synth and processed violin squall in the more decidedly art-punk “Unfall.” This record is considered an ’80s Deutsch underground classic for a reason, and this is the first time that there’s been a pressing of it available outside Germany, so if you’re not already in the know, there’s one less barrier in your way now. (Weird side-note: for the reissue, the iconic original cover art was replaced by a completely different take as done by, uhh, Robert Pollard of GUIDED BY VOICES?)

Belly Jelly What It Is EP

Someone has idolized CONEHEADS and now we have another bedroom punk project about cell phones and whatever else. I wish I had a joke to tell about this band but all I can say is that “BELLY JELLY” just seems to be the butt of the joke about modern punk. If squiggly chipmunk DEVO t-shirt computer simulation punk is your thing, then gorge yourself. I appreciate the Bay State representation with the NERVOUS EATERS cover and the pace change on “Big Questions” is good but god damn this all sounds like Mark Winter scratching his pubes.

The Chisel Deconstructive Surgery EP

Here we, Here we, Here we fucking go; the CHISEL boys are here to kick your head in and neck your pint while doing so. Lightning fast, convulsing with an anger that only growing up in Blackpool can give you, this blistering EP stomps from track to track with a palpable sense of malice and righteous fury. Class warfare, the sad decline of the seaside town and the great British tradition of a pint and a fight are all covered, and backed with thunderous drums, hefty bass and riotous guitars. One of the best of the year so far.

Chubby and the Gang Speed Kills LP

The impressive cover from this London band’s debut full-length album has already totally caught my attention. Sound like exactly everything I have heard all my life—it is energizing, fun, aggressive with a few breaks for melodies and melancholy, like COCK SPARRER. As if SLADE had met MOTÖRHEAD in a perfect space-time.

Cran Samedi Minuit EP

CRAN is a French band that, at best, is trying to do some sort of melodic, more thoughtful Oi but end up sounding like a confused up-tempo goth band with shouted vocals. The artwork is bland, two of the three songs drag on forever and I don’t think the drummer plays a single fill. In CRAN’s defense I’m not cosplaying as some wanna-be skinhead who could somehow conceive this as good. Giving it multiple listens for the sake of a fair review was one of the more arduous parts of my day.

Crush Crusher I Wish Punk Was Dead cassette

A much delayed review for this 2019 piece of Bible Belt brilliance. Oklahoma City’s CRUSH CRUSHER sounds like a product of their environment, the result of their collective pasts. Frustrated and manic hardcore punk played with the conniving mystery that comes from needing to find alternate ways home sneaking through alleys, and the ferocity that is learned when you get caught. The songs (and delivery) are chaotic, with distant vocals as if shouted from a different room—the result is a primitive but massive sound that “bigger” bands struggle to replicate. Twelve tracks, clocking in around thirteen minutes with an indescribably weird CRASS cover as a closer. Recommended.

Cyclone Furies Cyclone Furies CD

My lads—twin boys, currently aged seven—have consistently, good pre-teen rebels that they are, asserted to their dad that they hate punk rock. This all changed last week while listening to the DAMNED’s Machine Gun Etiquette. Thus it came to pass that we were off somewhere and I was playing CYCLONE FURIES’ CD in the car…and the self-same music critics asked if this was punk, too. I assured them it was, and they repeated that they (still) like punk rock. This quintet isn’t quite up there with the majesty of that era of the DAMNED, but they definitely lean heavily on the early RAMONES, in terms of song structures, chord sequences, et al. And despite the addition of keyboards (hey, so did the DAMNED!), they carry it off well enough.

Dakiniz Raging Shouts CD

Spastic angular noise rock from France. Borderline ’90s emo with a bit of DRIVE LIKE JEHU and JON SPENCER in the mix. I couldn’t get into this. It’s so loosely arranged and drawn out I kept getting lost in the songs. Oh well.

Degollada Demo

DEGOLLADA is a new band from Buenos Aires with members of VENENO and FORRA, and just released their demo through Corona Rx, a label created during the quarantine. With a primitive and very effective punk sound, their influences are from German punk bands like DEUTSCHER ABSCHAUM. DEGOLLADA brings drumbeats and cymbals that sound like broken glass and a hypnotic and catchy guitar sound that blends perfectly with the vocals. Just four songs that are passed around as if they were just one. Anxious waiting for more material, hopefully soon!

Disable …Slamming in the Depths of Hell EP

Damn—a solid decade of disbeat noise from Atlanta’s DISABLE? I welcome it just like I welcome these six bursts of manic distortion into my life. It would be easy to keep cranking out amped-up, mindless D-beat distortion (and I wouldn’t mind), but DISABLE pays attention to the little things: the bit of weird chaotic melody before the stop in the title track, the start/stop that opens “False Flag,” turning “Death’s Head” into slow-motion robotic repetition instead of making it the mandatory mid-tempo stomp that every D-beat record seems to have. The closer, “Whistling Death,” is interrupted by noise, but it sounds like it was actually interrupted instead of some calculated electronics-not-music exercise to prove they aren’t just a run of the mill D-beat band. All of this is to say that DISABLE are, in fact, another D-beat band, but that they’ve used their ten years (and counting) in the game to create something different (and dare I say “interesting”) within the confines of the genre. Killer slab.

Fellini A Melhor Coisa Que Eu Fiz (84-90) LP

A collection of alternate versions and previously unreleased tracks recorded between 1984 and 1990 by cult Brazilian post-punks FELLINI, who formed out of São Paulo’s thriving underground scene in the mid-’80s. The group’s initial influences skewed toward greyscale UK post-punk in an early Factory Records fashion, with spindly guitar work, bass-driven melodies, sparse drum machine, and somewhat oblique vocals tracing similar lines as the ones drawn by the DURUTTI COLUMN, early NEW ORDER, and even JOSEF K, without really sounding overtly like any of them (see some of the earlier tracks on the LP, like “É Chato” or “Premonição”). And just as nearly all of the most interesting early post-punk bands ultimately needed to push back against what quickly became a too-rigid genre orthodoxy if they stayed together for any extended amount of time, with the ’80s giving way to the ’90s, echoes of Brazilian samba and Tropicália started surfacing in the still-stark FELLINI sound, with the incorporation of acoustic guitars, breezy vocals, and jazzy rhythms in songs like “O Destino” and “Por Toda Parte” that owed more to OS MUTANTES than, say, JOY DIVISION. That progression is made apparent in the way that A Melhor Coisa Que Eu Fiz is sequenced, but it’s also such a gradual and natural evolution that all of the tracks could have just as easily been the product of one recording session, rather than pulled from half a decade’s worth of material. This is a really solid and lovingly assembled anthology for a group that hasn’t gotten a ton of recognition in more Euro/US-centric narratives of second-wave post-punk in the 1980s, and well worth investigating if you’re unfamiliar with FELLINI and at all interested in dismantling that particular canon.

Fist Fight on Ecstacy The Next Batch EP

Drug-fueled SoCal metallic punk. The majority of the songs are fast, but they are most interesting when they slow down (“Being the Elite”). Vocals are just slightly off time some of the time, which gives them a realistic feel. Like a weird doll facsimile of a thing that you thought you liked until you saw the fake version. Maybe you work with some squares who know about commercial punk, like, just enough to know the difference between radio “punk” and BLACK FLAG and stuff. Well, this is what they think you’re into when you tell them you’re a punk.

Fragment Serial Mass Destruction EP

Maddening raw D-beat out of Nova Scotia that leans toward the ANTI CIMEX side of things. They take the Raped Ass sound, cut the guitar leads, and add blast beats, vocal echo, and even a breakdown into the mix. None of that, however, takes away from the crashing chaos that drives this record full speed ahead towards a sheer cliff with the brakes on fire. If you’re ready to take that ride, then give this a whirl.

Garrapata Demo

MRR continues to accept interviews, so please, someone, go out and ask GARRAPATA about the recording session of this demo, because it makes zero sense. The music is the lowest lo-fi noise-core à la KUOLEMA and PSYCHO SIN. The drums are as recognizable as listening through thick walls to how your neighbor destroys his flat. The tape sounds so dumb, if a group of people’s first introduction to music was SIEGE and without any skills or experience of playing on instruments they were set free to express themselves. It is best demonstrated with how detached the flow of their music. The fragmented, stop-and-go structure lets the instruments breathe, just as the vocalist does, making them sound as separated attempts to notify angry existence. Hard to process that someone reached out to this aesthetic in current times, yet it avoids being gimmicky. Real primitive music for the lovers of barbarian art.

Leather Lickers Spit EP

If you were in Melbourne, Australia and dug a hole all the way to the center of the earth and went straight on through to the other side, you’d end up in Cleveland, Ohio, which is in America. I have a degree in geography, you can trust me on shit like this. If the 9 SHOCKS TERROR compilation CD from Havoc Records is being played relentlessly in your car/van cause you’re too poor or stupid to buy anything else, if your reaction to someone pouring a beer on your head in any given situation is to punch them in the mouth, or if you still actually enjoy hardcore punk then LEATHER LICKERS may appeal to you. I honestly wish they played faster more often but beggars can’t be choosers.

Low Rats The Corner / Weird Tales of the Falling Down 7″

LOW RATS have a proto-punk meets ’90s garage rock style. Rockabilly-ish guitars with boogie-woogie piano playing topped by a crooning singer. “The Corner” is IGGY meets NEW YORK DOLLS, while “Weird Tales of the Falling Down” moves into the early CBGB’s meets Goner Records scene. The music is well-played with a bit of grit, and the vocals are drawling and whiny in interesting ways. Both songs are pretty catchy, too. Available in a super limited, handcut run of 25 copies. Probably too late.

Lvger Fvll Villain LP

Have you ever wondered what it’d sound like if HIGH ON FIRE’s Matt Pike decided to stop dicking about and get into full MOTÖRHEAD worship instead? Me neither, and as it turns out it’s a question that probably should remain unanswered; in the ether. LVGER’s debut full-length only clocks in at six songs but feels about six years; with several tracks pushing an agonising four minutes in length, the sheer lack of urgency or any self-control really begins to drag at stages. While the riffs are undoubtedly robust, there’s more than a little of the bootcut jean about this record and it’s hard to ignore. Not for me.

مراة بركان (Mara’a Borkan) Demo cassette

MARA’A BORKAN (“Volcano Woman”) is from Tunisia, with female members. Fortunately, this review does not have to emphasize the political relevance of the previous sentence, since A) I am fucking dumb regarding world politics, and B) MARA’A BORKAN’s music is just as interesting as probably their background story is. The sort of low-key, rudimentary metal punk, paired with determined, loud, yet trying to be melodic singing is just as a weird mix as it was to hear G.I.S.M. for the first time. The stripped-down, raw radicalism of the music reminds me of FIRMEZA 10 and how they interpreted the core idea of D-beat; here MARA’A BORKAN, no idea what to try to reference, but it’s loud, visceral and entertaining. The vocals tend to employ melody bends, familiar from ’00s bro-core, that here, out of context, are one of the most memorable vocals I have recently heard. The band builds their sound from a few elements, still they are able to make it dense, the rawness of the minimalism resounds in each song. The glue between the instruments is the devotion that shines through the demo. MARA’A BORKAN comes from an uneasy place to play punk and to be a woman that is translated to their music. Reintroducing the power of this subculture.  

Methmatics Methmatics LP

This band appears to consist of mostly aged punkers with probable knowledge of the Ohio classics they emulate, as well they should, since they hail from Columbus, home of the NEW BOMB TURKS. The PAGANS and RUBBER CITY REBELS, as well as non-Ohioans like the LAZY COWGIRLS can be felt here, but in a lukewarm Burger Beer sort of way. Totally competent, but never quite moving one from a shoulder dance from a barstool. Pittsburghers often hate on their neighbor state, but I’m pure Californian and this just doesn’t rock me out of the lazy Midwest coma it induces. Better luck next time.

Powerplant A Spine / Evidence EP

Demento synth noise from the creepy depths of a dank basement. The first song has an art-prog vibe, PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY meets DEVO with a BRYAN FERRY on ’ludes drawl. The remaining tracks are more direct in their delivery: post-punk but skewed and warped like a carnival mirror. The closing track, “Hurtwood,” sounds like the MISFITS channeling MAGAZINE—now that’s magic, folks!

The Shivvers The Shivvers LP

Break out the Rickenbackers and skinny ties, Milwaukee’s favorite cult power pop quintet is back on wax. This LP of vintage recordings was first released a little over five years ago, but with the apparent demise of the Sing Sing label had fallen out of print. Rerun Records’ welcome reissue is remastered and a good deal if you’re not looking to blow $50+ on Discogs. For the uninitiated, the SHIVVERS orbited the Midwestern scene circa 1980, releasing a classic single before disappearing into relative obscurity for the next few decades. Fortunately, the band recorded an album’s worth of studio material back in the day. Their sharp, ’60s-pop-influenced tunes were heavy on the hooks, and while production values are undeniably slick, the SHIVVERS shrug off the new-wave limpness of your typical KNACK/CARS wannabes by virtue of their sheer enthusiasm. There’s no filler to be found. Recommended for fans of the NERVES, early GO-GO’S, etc. I dare you to listen to “Please Stand By” once and not have it echoing in your head for the rest of the week…

Sirkka Kuluttava Kone cassette

I love Finnish hardcore, but I would assign the exploriation of the legendary scene on labels who help archiving and sharing those wonderful demos, recorded by teens decades ago. When I saw SIKKA is from New York and seem to refer on the classic sound my instant reaction was: here is another band with the annual renaissance fair for Finnish hardcore. Even if that was their master plan, fortunately it failed—and as experienced, in punk failures lead to great things. SIRKAA employees nonsense speed, short-tempered guitar parts mixed with occasional no wave-ish confusion, a mountain-high wall of feedback but they do it in a loose way and the extra space offers room for originality. Therefore they experiment a bit. They remind me of a less crazy CUNTROACHES or nosier PYHÄKOULU, if we have to name a classic. The primitivity is the difference, which lacks here, as SIRKKA has control over the notes they play, furthermore they are thoughtful with the noise they generate—therefore it differs, while does refer on predecessors, yet they don’t copy the exact aesthetics, but translate how they might hear these bands, which is the best approach to form your own sound. This demo is a real surprise.

Street Weapon Quick to Die EP

Multiple eras of ’80s New York street music are represented with nods to the ABUSED, A.F., and CAUSE FOR ALARM as well as breakdowns reminiscent of ALTERCATION and MADBALL. Aping the early NY sound isn’t exactly new or surprising but STREET WEAPON actually gains intrigue by doing a decent job of balancing the early and late ’80s styles without being tied down to anything. Ultimately the name is corny, the artwork’s forgettable and they provide another straight edge song about abandoning people with addiction issues but they’re also kids in high school so chalk it up to them being impressionable, possibly excitable boys. Buy it for a teenage punk in your life.

Taste the Floor Scam EP

The art reminds me of the Facts And Views 7” by UPRIGHT CITIZENS, while the music makes me imagine this is probably what RAW POWER’s most current albums may sound like. This is thrash with a skatecore vibe. Quick guitar leads, plenty of palm muting and almost non-stop blast beats which make it feel like it should’ve been out on Party Time or 625 Thrashcore records. The vocalist has a Roger Miret quality to him and all true intensity is lost in the double kick drum and super clean production.

Veneno Justicia Argentina

Justicia Argentina is the second release from this almost-new band from Buenos Aires and brings a brutal and evil sound, not often seen in the scene on this side of the globe. Just like DEGOLLADA, they also released their record during this quarantine here, by the label  Corona Rx. Imagine GBH but with a devilish voice and a delay pedal in eight songs, very well recorded in ten minutes. Compact and demolishing. We must keep an eye on VENENO and their next steps.

The Vibrators Hunting for You LP

This is a “first time on vinyl” release of this 1994 full-length. Don’t expect Pure Mania or V2 here. Hunting for You is tuneful rock and alternative which was par for the course in the ’90s, I suppose. This is well done with good production from these UK punk originals; it’s just a little light on punk.

Vile Reality Detached cassette

Sooner or later, someone was gonna hit “Vile” and “Reality” when throwing darts at the wall to choose their hardcore band’s name, and I’m glad it was these San Diegans, because this tape is fierce as hell and sounds like a band called VILE REALITY should. Six speedy cuts that generally come in around the 90s-second mark (“Immobilized,” which concludes the tape, is slightly longer) and bundle chuggy mosh parts, air-punching rocker moments and reverb-y, slyly psychedelic touches, topped off by the gruff-not-tough vox of Aaron McQueen. Deserves a vinyl release, although I appreciate the age of just pointing at things and saying “deserves a vinyl release” is not our current one.

Violent Christians No Speed No Punk cassette

Once again, we reach into the “hardcore band name imagery” lucky dip bucket and pull out VIOLENT CHRISTIANS, an Austin ensemble whose debut tape comes via the frequently good Roachleg. You could probably convince someone that No Speed No Punk is an authentic unearthed artefact from some Midwestern scene circa 1984, assuming that wasn’t their specialist subject to start with. “Body Bag” exhibits relatively melodic tendencies to kick us off, but thereafter it’s the kind of ramalama blowout where the vocalist nearly-but-not-quite falls over his lyrics, guitar solos enter and leave within a few seconds and at the end of “Up Your Arse” (these MFs said “arse”), a DIE KREUZEN-like shredder, someone asks, “Are we done?” Hopefully not!

Yambag Posthumous Pounce! LP

This is this shit that my jaded-ass reviewer ears are looking for: relentless fastcore. Guitars are clean and super fukkd up sounding, drums have a HELLNATION-meets-teenage-blastbeat awkwardness (and they are kinda recorded like shit in the most endearing way), and just 25% of the tracks top the 60 second mark. Put me in a space machine and send me back to 2001, but with all of the anger I feel in a 2020 reality, and boom I’m ready for some fucking YAMBAG. Choice track: “(O)Possum,” but there are seriously no clunkers to be found here. Thank you!

V/A Oi! L’Album Volume 2 LP

Libertoi, égalioi, fraternitoi! Nearly ten years after the first installment, Nantes-based label Une Vie Pour Rien has put out a second course of delicious Oi morsels from the francophone world. Absolutely zero fucking about here, as the first track from parisian stalwarts BROMURE is straight in with the saxophone, because is it really French Oi without it? Stand-out tunes from ULTRA RAZZIA, BOGAN, COUPE-GORGE, follow and if you like your riffs hard as nails, your vocals gruff and your saxophone inexplicably present then this is the comp for you. Marchons! Marchons!

Aargh Fuck Kill Ruled by the Insane LP

Better start cooking up that Knox gelatin, because this band out of Germany is throwing down some straight-up UK82 hardcore that will have you pissing cider all over your plaid bondage pants after passing out from too much glue. Some of the songs sound like DISCHARGE, some sound like VARUKERS, and others sound just like GBH. Does it break new ground? No, but they’ve got some pretty good riffs, and avoid the cheesiness that this sound can sometimes imply. If you’re one that likes to stick to the classics, check this out.

Benny and the Roids Predictions EP

I am soooo stoked I get to review this. My favorite tape of 2015, and maybe one of my favorites of all time, gets committed to vinyl so it doesn’t get all warbly and warped in your crappy boombox. Originally released on the unequaled Silenzio Statico label, this is now given the deluxe treatment by the supreme folk at Discos MMM. I was lucky enough to see this band tear it up in the backyard of the Poor Kid’s Mansion in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles back then, and the singer cried and crooned the whole time, wearing a twelve-pack box over his head. Touching and memorable for sure. This release, to me, cries out classic late ’70s/ early ’80s LA punk: the EYES, PLUGZ, ALLEY CATS, and BAGS are all represented in spirit. There’s also a big helping of ’79 UK working class shout and melody thrown in, like SHAM or CHELSEA, even though I kinda hate CHELSEA. I guess super street and super LA is what I’m trying to say here, and if “Passive Aggressive” doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re too fucking hard, man, and should chill. Buy this now! And someone please send me a decent burrito. I’m dying.

C.H.E.W. In Due Time EP

You’re flung backwards down some stairs into another room, sprung into the middle of a pit. You come to, thinking maybe four bands are playing at once but it’s all C.H.E.W, there’s just an extra frequency in there that pops up like an intrusive thought, real wacko sound only the baddest saliva animals can creepy crawl to. Doris’s nasal recriminations give way to a full sputtering throat and suddenly there are duelling riffs in five dimensions. A fastidiously choreographed meltdown executed with a similar deranged flair to IMPALERS, but way more petulant. Fuck!!! There’s an extra sub woof-woof-woof of vicious stomp. A song named for a disease you can only get from eating cat shit. Hot feedback. Is that a mosh part played backwards? You can’t feel your head. C.H.E.W have taken the hardcore palette and gone full Abstract Expressionist with it. There’s echoes of that GELD LP from last year, which makes sense because thinking about it Iron Lung put that out too. Exactly the type of factoid some punisher will whisper in your ear as you’re squeezing out the juice from these insane fractal solos. Maybe I am the punisher. Now my sweat is in your eyes and you forgot to shield your kidneys from the mass of feet and elbows and now things feel leaky but hey, that’s why you have two. Emboldened, you rip one out as an offering.

Cell Rot / World Peace split EP

Here’s a quick little ripper from two bands out of California that hits like a brick to the forehead. CELL ROT lays down some beefy mid-tempo, crust-ridden hardcore. There’s plenty of oozing sludge breakdowns and blasted-out fury thrown in to keep it interesting, but it’s a steady ride to bleak oblivion throughout. WORLD PEACE delivers some bare bones, bass-and-drum powerviolence that is all low and all go! I’m talking about that four-songs-in-three-minutes type of shit. Like if early GODSTOMPER were more into NO COMMENT than NAPALM DEATH. Don’t pass this up!

The Cowboys Room of Clons LP

I don’t think I was familiar with this Bloomington band before I put their new record on, despite it being their fifth album or something. I must have listened to it five or six times since; I’m stuck at home with thousands of records and every song on the internet but I find myself coming back to this one over and over, and I discover something new each time. Ostensibly a garage punk act, this ambitious effort by the COWBOYS sees them traverse many songwriting styles, from the terse, staccato science-fiction post-punk of “Wise Guy Algorithm” to the pop-glam BOWIE worship of “Devil Book.” It’s unlikely there’s another record reviewed in these digital pages that spreads itself across so many genres. Part DEVO, part SPARKS; part ENO, part SOFT BOYS: Clever, but not too clever; art pop for the now generation.

Dasterds Cherophobia CD

First full-length from this Michigan quartet. They describe themselves as a power pop/pop-punk band. Which I guess is kind of fair enough. They also claim that they have emotionally-driven lyrics about stuff like conservative relatives and toxic masculinity, but my aged eyes can’t actually read the tiny font that the lyrics are printed on. Though I’m happy to take them at their word. Musically, I reckon they’re like a cross between later-period DAG NASTY and classic-era HOT WATER MUSIC. They possess fantastic chiming twin guitars that old fuckers like me would claim is very reminiscent of the last SKIDS album (i.e. the one before Stuart Adamson went on to form BIG COUNTRY—as in those kind of chiming guitars), though a lesser hack would just assert that there are lots of IRON MAIDEN-ish twin guitar solos…which’d be fairly accurate, too. Which is a long way of saying this record fucking rocks.

Dead Cells I LP

With their brooding and dark sound on the aggressive end of the melodic punk spectrum, it’s actually surprising to me that this band isn’t from Portland. DEAD CELLS are from Vancouver, BC, which, it turns out, actually gets even more rainfall than the capital of brooding, melodic punk. Drenched in chorus effects, with desperate, panicky vocals and melodramatic drum compositions, this record delivers a sound likely to appeal to fans of angsty Northwestern punk like the OBSERVERS and the WIPERS. This record stands apart from the pack with a strong leaning toward classic death rock and a subtle surf vibe that peeks through intermittently. The vocals forgo cool guy slickness, instead veering toward Roz Williams territory—a welcome break from the norm. Definitely an aesthetic that is relevant in the current historical moment and not to be missed for fans of punk that runs on melodic, bittersweet, joyous despair.

Disavow Disavow LP

Total collision of preconceptions and aesthetics here, and the dust is still settling. Sweden’s DISAVOW are nothing if not impactful, which is to say that I bolted up straight as soon as the intro was over—the demand was instant and undeniable. Modern straightedge hardcore, with roots that reach for MODERN LIFE IS WAR instead of the first (or secod, or third?) waves of ’core, and with a serious fire lit under their ass, and DISAVOW sound real, which is what makes them feel special. I think the term “post-hardcore” probably applies here as well, but this is just an altogether massive slab: intense, honest, emotional, powerful music that needs to be listened to from start to finish, and repeatedly.

E.A.T.E.R. A Momentary Relapse For No Reason CD

There’s some serious latitude given here, since ERNST AND THE EDSHOLM REBELS were responsible for a couple of crucial ’80s Scandinavian slabs, but this disc is utterly forgettable. The guitar leads are interesting, and are mostly enough to hold my interest, but the majority of this is artificially overproduced slog that actually sounds like a record made by some dudes who recorded a killer EP in 1984 (fun fact: they did), and then developed a taste for commercial stoner rock as adults. I like a couple of the modern releases, most notably 2013’s Abort the System EP, but this one just doesn’t do it, and that’s before I even get to the twelve-plus minute “Dirty Waters” that closes the CD.

Fleshies / Shellshag split EP

FLESHIES and SHELLSHAG have both been at it since the late ’90s, and both prove it’s possible for bands to keep moving forward, trying out new sounds, and continually recalibrating the things they know they do best, rather than resting on their punk laurels. Bands come and go, and there is value in the constant flux of a subculture built on ripping it up and starting again. But sometimes bands stick together and end up with not only the longest tour journal on the planet, but a cumulative consciousness of all the stuff that worked: all the sonic and social experiments that went right. So it’s not too surprising that they’d put together a record that is comfortingly familiar yet also weird and courageously original. The first track enfolds FLESHIES’ new downtempo, heart-wrenching, rock’n’roll anthem inside a cozy wrapping of what sounds like the influence of SHELLSHAG’s signature fuzzed-out dreamscape. The second track, also featured on FLESHIES’ most recent full-length, Introducing the Fleshies, changes gears with a brief but intense blast of unstoppable, furious punk mayhem. SHELLSHAG’s first track offers up a new take on their sound: way more dark and driving, but still incorporating distortion-laden team vocals and infectious melodies. The second track descends into an intense unraveling and re-tangling of all the brainwaves. If SHELLSHAG were a rock, this track would be all the cool, mucky, squirmy stuff living underneath it, and we are the excited five-year-old who can’t resist picking it up.

The Globs The Weird and Wonderful World of The Globs LP

Whoa, what a mess of noise! And I mean that in the most positive way. There is a lot going on here, and I’m way into it. Helmed by Mike of the BANANAS, he is joined by two other vocalists, and the male and female vocals mix with each other so well. One is gruff and loud, the others pitchy and shrill, both so warmly melodic. OK, now that we covered that part, let’s get to the music. Uhhhh, this is going to be way more of a challenge. They say they were attempting to make a punk version of the E STREET BAND and By George, I think they’ve done it. We’ve got keys, sax, tambourine(?), fast drums, rad riffs, and thundering bass lines. I mean, where the hell are the maracas and egg shakers? I have to say, I’m disappointed that they didn’t go fully to the nines on this one. Just kidding, this band is bananas! Do you need some cheering up lately? I fucking bet you do. Put on the GLOBS and forget the world for as many times as you loop the record.

Headsplitters Headsplitters LP

Mad, clean blasts of highly aggressive D-beat hardcore fury from NYC. Vocal cords strained and lost, and the hopeless abandon in its essence sounds metaphorically lost as well. The drums piledrive through with tumbling, slightly sloppy fills, and I mean that in a good way. Solo piano moments break up the assault of furious hardcore. Some metallic crust riffs from HEADSPITTER on this one contrast with their earlier, more Scandi-style recordings, and classic hardcore riffs with optimist attitude are abound, counteracting the bleak tone of everything else. All the songs hit all the marks between two and three minutes, keeping the adrenaline pedal pinned. “At What Cost?” is my favorite track, with lots of variety. Sixteen tracks of quintessential jaded, brooding NYC hardcore from this powerful three-piece.

Internal Rot Grieving Birth LP

It’s noteworthy that a record label run by two members of a grindcore band so rarely releases the stuff, but it’s not hugely surprising. Grind (like most genres) attracts the type of people obsessed with it to the exclusion of anything else, and to the inclusion of some pretty generic crud; IRON LUNG’s Jensen and Jon are clearly not that type, so when they help a grindcore record into the world, expectations are of elite tier material. INTERNAL ROT, from Melbourne, matches that expectation. The trio’s past offerings hardly slouched, but Grieving Birth ascends a level again with relentless precision blasts, hideously thick downtuning and vocals that might veer a little far into the “slam death” style for some tastes (suits me fine, personally). Needless to say, you’ll need to take the lyrics on trust, but they’re excellent: gruesome apocalyptica and grouchy scene politics in psychedelically strange syntax, not unlike some of Chris Dodge’s musings in SPAZZ. This album might be considered a standard-bearer for grindcore in years to come.

Kriegshög Paint It Black / White Out 7″

Latest release by Tokyo’s hardcore veterans, with almost fifteen years under their belt. As with their previous release, their sound has changed a bit from the raging Mangel thrash-esque “Magma Beat Hell” approach. Perhaps due to the lineup change, the approach has shifted from blown-out noisy hardcore to mid-paced hardcore with a cleaner guitar tone, reminesent of DISCHARGE’s non D-beat mid-tempo songs such as “Decontrol” or “State Violence State Control” more than something you will hear from the kangpunk approach like “Victims of a Bomb Raid” or “Nitad.” Still, seeing that they’re a raging hardcore band based out of Tokyo, it’s hard to say they’ve toned down a bit; the sound has matured in its unique manner. It’s not overtly noisy or intense sounding like their earlier releases, but focused more on subtle intensity that is quietly building up. Perhaps it’s their long career or maybe it’s the cultural influences that it has, seems like it’s an output of aggression that is rather unique to an environment like Tokyo. The B-side still carries on with their no-bullshit, raging hardcore punk.

Lifelock 2018 EP

2018 EP is a vinyl version of their tape released on Brain Solvent Propaganda. Just by looking at their logo, it’s obvious that LIFELOCK from Singapore pays homage to late ’80s/early ’90s UKHC DISCHARGE worshippers DISASTER. Simply said, LIFELOCK does sound like DISASTER meets DISCLOSE. For the majority of the punks out there, it usually just starts and ends with “Oh, it sounds like DISCHARGE.” DISASTER indeed was an early-era DISCHARGE worshipping punk band (so was DISCLOSE). Yes, the beat, distortion, chords, song structure, and lyrics are all more or less the same as that one band we keep hearing about, but the specific atmosphere is executed quite well. LIFELOCK gets that very specific intense weight in the air that DISASTER had, but DISCLOSE or even DISCHARGE lacked. LIFELOCK continues to deliver their fear and anxiety driven anthem of the apocalypse. The final song is a DISASTER cover.

Litovsk I’ll Never Forget You / Dit Will Ik Nooit Vergeten 7″

I scoured MRR’s list of reviewable records and stumbled across this band I had never heard, and decided to review it based on the cover art: some youth soccer game with a kid going-one-on-one with the goalkeeper. “I’ll Never Forget You” has a tough rumble, making you think you’re dealing with some Oi!-type attack, and then the guitars come through with those big melodic strums. It all comes together like a quicker, leaner track off of Second Empire Justice. The B-side is more focused on getting goths to dance, with a drum machine and synth pushing the tune. Maybe I should break edge and do ecstasy or whatever club drug to really understand how the cover art relates to the music? I originally thought this was going to have a real running-down-the-back-streets vibe (I’m fine without it), but they use the soundbite of a football crowd much more subtlety than Cut the Crap-era CLASH. You’re gonna need this shit for your darkwave Instagram Live DJ set.

Lost Puppy Forever Year of the Dog 7″

San Francisco wife/husband duo, featuring Boom of BOOM & THE LEGION OF DOOM and the IDIOTS, and Scarlet from the MEAT SLUTS. Four songs of catchy, lo-fi, trashy punk rock. Simple rhythms emphasized by Scarlet’s screeching powerful vocals. As the band says: “lots of bark, sweat and treats on this EP,” indeed.

Lost System Left Behind LP

Doom and gloom rain-soaked goth punk here, drowned in atmospheric synth and chorus-inflected bass. Blank, disaffected vocals intone over a downward spiral death-disco of chopped and sped-up CURE riffs, the concoction owing much to contemporaries like DIAT or TOTAL CONTROL. “You Won’t Find Me Now” builds into a chaotic maelstrom of psychotic drums and sax blurts that for some reason reminds me of the first ICEAGE album, more in the claustrophobic feelings generated than actual sound. The album closes with the nine-minute long epic title track, which rather than take the group into new sonic dimensions, simply takes the ideas of the previous seven songs and spaces them out, murdering one riff and repeating to infinity. A bleak but not unenjoyable listen for these dark times. 

Malos Tiempos Bastardos ¿No Lo Ves? ¡Muerto Estás! CD

Traditional anti-authoritarian, Basque radical punk. A thick, sturdy rhythm section and huge throaty vocal delivery bring to mind R.I.P. That may seem too obvious of a comparison but the spirit and delivery are uncanny, though they tend to stay more on the melodic side. Song titles like “Soy Anarkysta,” “Anti-Fascista” and “Revolucion” are no surprise to listeners of punk from the region. I’m not writing MALOS TIEMPOS BASTARDOS off as a mere tribute band. Their sound is familiar in a feel-good sense, inspiring one to dream of downing a couple kalimotxos and dancing the night away at a Basque squat.

Man-Eaters Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul LP

MAN-EATERS emerged from the corpse of TARANTÜLA who emerged from the corpse of CÜLO and if you know the lore of those bands you’ll be primed for Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul being a sinewy salvo of chemically-altered rocking hardcore punk. You’ll get that, to a point, but you may be unprepared for how vast and preening the riffs are on this thing. A clear-as-daylight love of ’70s arena rock and proto-metal is baked into each of these ten songs: some of the solos could have been ripped from a NAZARETH record, or something equally archaic and pointedly pre-hardcore. The movie sample intros are like something you’d hear on an ELECTRIC WIZARD joint, and “Man-Eaters” (who among us doesn’t love a self-titled song?) tips things into FU MANCHU levels of gum-chewing dudeliness, but tempos here are generally amphetamine-fast. Danny Babirusa—formerly of BLEEDING GUMS, and the only non-ex-TARANTÜLA member—is the perfect vocalist for this sound, one which plenty of bands from POISON IDEA to TURBONEGRO to ANNIHILATION TIME have offered up before, but if anyone’s doing it as well as MAN-EATERS right now they’ve evaded my ears.