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.

Vile Spirit Scorched Earth LP

Scorched Earth is VILE SPIRIT’s debut LP led up by a demo. I knew and enjoyed the tape, due to its similarities to UNITED MUTATION. The LP, too, contains weird, even horror-esque excipients, haunted sore-throat vocals on music so detailed it becomes an unifying entity, that behaves in various tempers throughout the record. The edge of capital hardcore is deadened by shifting the hardness of the performers on the circumstanstances they perform against/about. Which makes the music tortured, but backs up the dense sound while avoiding any ridicule. The music is heavy because life is tough, instead of the members acting jock-ish. While the vocals are laid in mid-tempo, the instruments do not slack on their layers: The drums wonder into restrained blast-beat territories; the bass is distorted into a pulp filling up all empty spaces, binding the sound as glue; the guitars avoid both metal riffage and simplified three-chord hardcore notes; rather they function as a tidal wave, both loose and large. VILE SPIRIT is playful with pace, even if the artwork suggests some kind of still-in-the-basement, emphasis-on-core ’90s metallic hardcore. Scorched Earth is not an endless loop of chugga chugga, rather they imperceptibly mix with speed, blending different moods on a scale of hyper and almost zero tempo and remain confident no matter how shaky or swampy their ground is. Lately I have lost track of UK hardcore bands, no longer know whether this is still the new or now the neo wave of British bands, but due to the different references and execution, VILE SPIRIT differs the listening experiences I recall from their peers. If you tend to feel as the creature on their cover, you just as likely to enjoy the record. It’s a solid one.

V/A Th’ Gunk Stunk cassette

Experimental dirges, shit-fi noise and general sonic fuckery abound on this tape. Starting with a dose of formidable monotony from BONELIST, Th’ Gunk Stunk only gets weirder. Nine tracks in total, mostly enough outside the typical fray that it takes serious processing to even decide where to file them in your brain. One track is BRAINBOMBS through a Wheelchair Full Of Old Men filter, then before you know it you’re listening to no-fi no-wave DIY synth damage. As a sonic journey, this is exactly what you want out of a compilation tape.

V/A We Were Living in Cincinnati LP

Ohio’s punk pedigree simply cannot be fucked with, yet Cincinnati never gets nearly as much lauding as most of the state’s other major burgs. HoZac (with help from an esteemed CHROME CRANKS member) aims to change all that with this collection, assembling a wide swath of pretty killer punk to get our scholarly heads a-scratchin’. Lotsa seldom-heard stuff here—a even split between stray single Killed By Death style excavating and wholly unreleased nuggz. BEEF’s “Nosedive,” a rescued live recording from ’78, finds the obnoxo-teen singer mimicking some air-show sounds…What’s not to fuckin’ love? There are some recognizable names as well: the CUSTOMS, the ED DAVIS BAND and even TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS, whose inclusion here strikes me as a tad dubious, but if a technicality allows the now-generation to hear “Clubnite” again, I’m all for it! The great and hyper-detailed liners really convey a whole lotta punk love for this city and scene as well. As if all this were not enough, there is a download component that serves up an additional fifteen tunes—more punk Cin-sanity than anyone would ever need! Top to bottom, an ace collection and document of under-reported punk racket.

Acid Baby Jesus Selected Outtakes 7″

Two early versions of songs that were renamed when they appeared on 2014’s Selected Recordings album. ACID BABY JESUS are from Athens, Greece. They incorporate some of their hometown’s traditional musical styles into their psychedelic garage rock. The result is droning, repetitive and slow with an unique atmospheric feel. I can picture lying on a rock by the ocean as the clouds move slowly overhead while listening to these songs. Groovy.

Cheryl Killer Kiss / It’s Me 7″

Reminder Records is the new reissue label from one of the minds previously behind the similarly-focused Sing Sing, and among its first archival rescues is the lone single from the singularly-named CHERYL (a.k.a. Cheryl Powling), a London-based pin-up model who originally released these two trashy bubblegum-punk/power-pop rave-ups in 1981. “Killer Kiss” channels the ’60s-via-’80s bad girl sass of occupants of the Bomp! universe like NIKKI AND THE CORVETTES and JOSIE COTTON, while the more frantic flip “It’s Me” is all punky new wave jitters, arguably eclipsing the A-side with some extra-punchy snare standing in for handclaps and CHERYL’s loopy vocals that are almost closer to Su Tissue than Ronnie Spector. Absolutely giddy, disposable pop fun, perfectly suited to sneaking a flask into the roller rink and making out with some leather-jacketed troublemaker in the parking lot.

Cyanide Tooth Midnight Climax Operation cassette

If I were to create the Cold War-era industrial subgenre, then New York’s CYANIDE TOOTH would be the flagship act. Dark, disorienting sounds treated with newsreel voice-overs, aural assemblages that predate the world of laptop-push-a-button “noise” in both approach and execution. And ultimately, it’s the execution here that sets Midnight Climax Operation apart. The climax (wordplay intended) of the tape is the churning repetition of the absolutely filthy burner “Techno Animus,” and the entire B side is taken up by a 25-minute disorienting collection of sounds and samples that leaves you exhausted as it whirrs to a halt. I wrote years ago that CYANIDE TOOTH would become a force when their vision was fully realized, and that time has come.

Didaktische Einheit Dosis 6 cassette reissue

More seminal avant-Euro sounds unearthed by the folks at ZZK, Germany’s DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT lands somewhere between early ABWÄRTS and a damaged no wave/Krautrock experiment. Furiously cold and abrasive sounds, deceptive in their sheer subtlety, all recorded live in Holland and originally self-released in 1982. DIDAKTISCHE EINHEIT was short lived, but their output was formidable (at least six cassettes in 1982, before their lone LP the following year), and their ability to manipulate the act of experimentation should not be ignored. Highly recommended reissue.

Distants ii 12″

This 12″ features one side with five generic, gruff-vocalled pop-punk songs and a second side with a nice-looking screen print. The B-side might be the better one. This sounds like when a band tries to copy a band that tried to copy JAWBREAKER. So sure, easy way to go is to say it sounds like SMALL BROWN BIKE. It’s melodic, it’s kind of bouncy, but it lacks the solid hooks that this kind of music demands.

Eastie Ro!s The Peel Sessions 10″

These cheeky German chappies never actually recorded a Peel session, bless their hearts. But who’s to say that if John Peel was still alive, that he wouldn’t bring them into the studio? Six songs of scrappy, garage-inflected power pop with German vocals. Though clearly indebted to the more tuneful bands of punk’s heyday, EASTIE RO!S have much more in common with more recent Australian practitioners of the style, falling somewhere between the instant classic riffs of ROYAL HEADACHE and the casual, sun-baked EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING approach. Great stuff, I have to say. Peel would approve, I think.

Fuerza Bruta Verdugo CD reissue

I don’t know about you lot, but I, for one, am sick to bastard death of this trend of anaemic pop punk dressed in a cheapo relco button-down, creases from the packet still visible, being passed off as skinhead music just because the lyrics mention “the pub.” Thankfully, there are bands like FUERZA BRUTA kicking the teeth out of establishment with their unique blend of back to basics hardcore-tinged (proper) Oi. Blunt-force riffs, furious vocals, all underwritten by a rhythm section as tight as properly-laced derby boot. Vital stuff.

George Heroine TMYTLTL LP

So this is a solo album by Muzz Delgado (MEERCAZ)—although it doesn’t sound like what little MEERCAZ I’ve heard. This almost sounds like a CALVIN JOHNSON release. It definitely has a kitsch ’70s feel; a vocals-over-a-musical-backdrop versus a band feel. I can’t say I was into this. Not really my thing musically but if you want something off-beat, lo-fi, and retro give this a listen.

Glitter Tacos They’re Afraid of the Tacos CD

This San Antonio band is one big, sloppy party. Like all good Texas groups such as BANG GANG, they are hard to pin down in any square hole category. Musically ranging from hardcore to prog to metal to “Wooly Bully”?! Yes, it’s that kind of party. Personally I prefer the weirder numbers like “Backpage (Saved My Life)” but there’s something here for the whole dysfunctional family in your life. These are big men with big musical ideas and while it might not totally be what I’m into, a taco is a taco nonetheless.

Guerilla Poubelle L’Ennui CD

I believe this French trio has been around for a while. Indeed, looking through my CDs, I discovered a disc of theirs from several years ago. Who knew!? Anyways, sonically, they marry melodic hardcore with that HOT WATER MUSIC gruff-yet-anthemic, effortless driving rhythm. And they do it good. Real good. Even better, lyrically, they are spot on, and given that my French is getting rusty (to say the least), they have a handy paragraph (in English) about each set of lyrics—examining the themes of exploitation, alienation, capitalism, ageing, class war, and revolt! Plus a handy (and excellent) reading (and podcast) list—albeit in French. Fortunately, being from Paris and all, they actually sing in French. And, judging from the aforementioned earlier effort, which I dug out and (re)listened to in preparation of reviewing this one, musically, they’re going from strength to strength, while not losing any of the articulate lyrical rage over time. Like a good French cheese, or wine, if that’s your bag, they just get better and better over time.

Infinite Pizza Escape from Pizza Monster Island LP

At first encounter, all visible signs point toward totally embarrassing juvenile pizza thrash. While the latter is accurate, it would be a mistake to write this off as novelty considering such righteous, nerdy, critical and unapologetically feminist and queer perspectives. “Patriarchy Is a Pyramid Scheme,” “Pizza Crust as Fuck Existence,” “Pussy Grabs Back” and “Make America Smoke Razors Again” are just a few examples. “Make America learn some common sense / Make America electrocute Mike Pence / Make America rethink immigration and tear down that fucking fence.” I’m sorry but I’m just…like…fuck yes. I laughed out loud several times reading through the lyrics—er, the “Captain’s Log.” Also included is a map of Pizza Monster Island, which is arguably cooler than a punk photo collage or some chains and skulls and spiked bats. It’s satirical political punk at it’s best, not taking themselves too seriously. Musically mostly hardcore/thrash, with a few interesting devious punk tracks thrown in for variety. I certainly didn’t expect this to be the case but I recommend putting aside whatever hyped punk trash the algorithm is telling you that you need and pick this up instead. It would be a truly radical act.

Inkwizycja XXX 12″

One of Poland’s longest-running DIY hardcore bands, INKWIZYCJA has been active since the late 1980s and have only gotten heavier over time. The sound is decidedly commercial—sometimes resembling SYSTEM OF A DOWN (or HELMET?) more than anything from the North American “punk” scene/s, but the approach and delivery are nonetheless rooted in early Polish punk, and that influence is evident on tracks like “Pogrom” that closes the first side. Flip it over though, and “Wilk XXX” is a crushing modern hardcore number with a swarm of guitars that demands attention. Even though there are elements that I don’t necessarily dig, I appreciate the ability to veer in and out of easily definable genres, and the last song on the record could easily make me a commercial heavy/alt-rock apologist. Let there be no doubt that XXX is good—it’s very good—you just have to decide if your mind is open wide enough to let it all in.

Living Rigormortis Medusa and the Kiss EP

While this band hails from the Rose City, it feels like their hearts are in a mid-’80s New Jersey wood-paneled basement lounge with a TV cranking out horror classics and a mom screaming “keep that racket down” in a thick Jerseyesque accent. Think SAMHAIN, MOURNING NOISE, KRYST THE CONQUEROR, and the BEAST with some early OFFSPRING thrown in when they were still on the spookier side of things. It’s not super punk, but spooky and catchy nonetheless, and they have an adorable YouTube video for the superior opening track as well. Crawl out of  your basement or cozy condo and pick up a copy.

Massgrav / Proteststorm Alter Schwede! / Din Tid Kommer Inte split EP

Six more blasts from Swedish grind mangel legends MASSGRAV—20+ years in the game and no signs of slowing down. There’s something special about the low-end Swedish DM guitar attacking the breakdowns like a buzzsaw, and when they tease your ears with a straight D-beat for the start of “Årets Rövhal 2018” and “Gasen i Botten” before exploding into machine gun blasts…just: ugh. On the flip, two-man recording project PROTESTSTORM features LIVET SOM INSATS and KRIGSHOT/NASUM members. Should come as no surprise when I say that the five songs on their side are a brutally stripped-down dose of unhinged Scandicrust. RAPED TEENAGERS cover to wrap up their portion of the assault—all of these dudes are just really good at this shit.

Mesa Lanes Red Wine & Yellow Pills LP

This is a Southern California band who was formerly known as DODGE DART that formed in 1995. I don’t know the specifics of how close the current lineup is from the previous band, but there seems to be a lot of crossover, especially as far as songwriters go. Honestly there are many songs on this release that I just don’t understand what their message is. The lyrics are so vague that they don’t quite tell a full story, though there are some simpler ones that poke fun at American bros, the guy who is president, senators, and drug use. There are songs that covertly reference what seems to be heroin withdrawal in “Bobby Pin,” desires for casual hook ups in “Action,” and violence spurred by jealousy in “Gonna Fuck You Up.” While I don’t love all the words in every song, I definitely do love how absolutely catchy each one is. Their drummer is a powerhouse and keeps a tight, snappy beat. They trade off vocal duties between four different members! My favorite singer being the soulful Audrey Sjobeck. This is a record written by folks who have at least 25 years put into making music and it shows.

MM & the Peculiars Paean 12″

I am always a fan of the 12” 45 RPM EP, especially when the sound is big. MM & THE PECULIARS’ big sound comes in the form of singer Maegan Mills. Her vocals are emotive, powerful and overly dramatic. The music punctuates the singing perfectly. It is grunge-y and math-rock-y and flows and rolls along keeping the words afloat. It’s an impressive combination.

Orphan Riot American Endgame CD

High energy pop-punk that is a little more along the lines of Epitaph or No Idea Records than punks who lived through it the first time might be comfortable with. But that’s kind of the point. Everyone in the band is under 21. It makes sense for them to be writing super-fast, super-melodic, super-angry and idealistic songs, and they are kicking ass at doing that. The melodic riffs and gruff vocal style remind me of BAD RELIGION and JAWBREAKER. There’s also a bouncy vibe that could have as much to do with Oi! influences as it could be taking a cue from early GREEN DAY and RANCID.

Pretty Matty / Sad Baxter Why Not Be Something That You Are? / Lately split 7″

This is a two-song split with PRETTY MATTY on first. Their track is gritty and their singer is really going for it. You can hear their voice ready to give out but it never does. It’s not exact, but the opening riff on the PRETTY MATTY track really reminds me of the distorted sounds of JESUS AND MARY CHAIN’s “The Living End.” I love this track. It’s raspy, poppy, and quick. They get straight to the point. And the backup vocals are perfect. Now on to side two! SAD BAXTER is quite different than the first band’s track. It’s slower, and has a brighter melody, plus rich, breathy singing that reminds me of the singer of BULLY but with far less rasp. There’s a set of lyrics towards the end of the song that goes as follows: “I blame myself for thinkin’ and feelin’ / Blame myself for hating you / Blame myself for sleepin’ too much / Blame myself like I’m not enough / Blame myself for thinkin’ crazy / I blame myself for all things lately,” and boy is that awfully close to my quarantine experience. So I’m going to stop blaming myself for not knowing this band and instead go listen to all of their songs now. That goes for you too PRETTY MATTY. Both of y’all are fantastic.

Primitive Teeth Bubble of Me EP

Wow! PRIMITIVE TEETH appears to be staffed by a gaggle of Chicago DIY scene vets, and they clearly know what they’re up to. Out of the gate, the first song sets the tone with propulsive bass and off-kilter drums driving their anthemic, atmospheric post-punk. The band sits somewhere at the intersection of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, SLANT 6, and SAVAGES. There are only four songs on this 7” but it still manages to feel epic; destined for bigger things, methinks.

The Rabies Adderall Girl / You’re the Glue 7″

The RABIES released two singles in 1982. This is their follow up 38 years later. The vocals have the same nonchalant, monotone style. The music is a bit more slick than their early three-chord punk way, but it still maintains that ’80s-college-rock-meets-post-punk style. Not bad for a band that hasn’t played for decades. Plus, I found it completely cute that they include a CD version of the two songs with the record. I haven’t seen that in a while.

Savage Beat Trench Warfare EP reissue

The Deadly Dutchmen SAVAGE BEAT are back with a reissue (including two added tracks) of their debut 12” of extremely fun bootboy rock’n’roll. Reminiscent in parts of ROSE TATTOO or turbo-charged SLADE, all with a glam stomp running through the middle of this record like a stick of Blackpool rock. Daft yobbo music for people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Spells Stimulants & Sedatives LP

This Colorado band cranks out some cool guitar indie rock and melodic punk. This reminds me of later HÜSKER DÜ and BEACH SLANG but there’s also good female backing vocal interplay going on here. This is their second full-length and it’s pretty damn solid. There was a lot of this guitar punky pop coming out in the ’90s and it’s done well here.

Världen Brinner Vi Äger Natten! CD

The second full-length release from Sweden’s VÄRLDEN BRINNER, this album vacillates between  heartfelt, singalong anthems to more brooding moments of overflowing emotion. A thread of thoughtful, dynamic songwriting ties the collection together. This will likely appeal to fans of Scandinavian melodic punk, but has a very polished production style that sounds like it is geared more toward mass appeal than to basement-dwelling DIY punks. Even so, there are moments when singer Malin’s velvety vocals break open and pour out into a maxed-out, raw singing style that resonates with grittier punk sensibilities.

Whipping Post Cheating the War Game LP

This is pretty solid hardcore that maybe sounds a little more like SWIZ than it does like POISON IDEA (that’s not to say it doesn’t sound like both). Yelled vocals, backed by heavy guitars and some pretty good hooks. The mostly up-tempo tracks are broken up nicely by a couple of slower, trudging songs. That is, until you get to the six-minute piano-intro snoozer toward the end. Altogether, a pretty good record and definitely better than their previous one in terms of songwriting, recording and guitar tone.

Wlochaty Zmowa 2xLP

This band has produced a ton of material to sink your teeth into in their 30+ years of existence, but today we’re focused on the reissue of their fifth album which originally came out twenty (!) years ago. Zmowa (“Collusion”) holds a massive amount of music and retains many of the qualities I recall from the couple records I’m most familiar with. Frequent intros and outros elongate many of the tracks, and the additional instrumental interludes stretch it out even further, hence the double-LP format. At the center of each song is usually hard-hitting, fast melodic punk, save for a squat-skankin’ ska breakdown here and there. Their style is very long-winded, passionate European anarcho-punk…I think of them as the CONFLICT (UK) of Poland. I can see that as a turn off for many punks these days, which I totally get. I have a deep appreciation for and connection to this style of contemplative and poetic socio-political punk, despite the fact that I typically crave something more direct. This is the first time Zmowa is on vinyl, with a gatefold jacket and insert slathered with photos and all of the anti-state, animal rights, anti-war lyrics in Polish and English. 

V/A Stay Home CD-R

A compilation of RAMONES covers from a variety of bands that I’m completely unaware of (which I’m sure says more about me than said bands). One of the beauties of the RAMONES is that it’s really difficult to make such a great collection of tunes sound bad. While those folks doing more or less faithful renditions still sounds great, those doing something a little different (female backing vocals, a bit of slide guitar and a country twang, electronic drums and keyboards), or radical reinterpretations (CHRISTIAN BLUNDA’s “I Remember You” stands out) just further enhances the majesty of the originals. Indeed, the only disappointing (somewhat) tracks on this effort, all recorded under lockdown, are those couple of folks who did even less lo-fi iterations than the originals. Personal faves of mine are DRAKULAS “Carbona Not Glue” and HAYBABY’s “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” but anyone that loves the RAMONES (which is everyone, right!?) will dig this, indeed.

Angustia Demo cassette

What I like most about this band is that it is impossible not to move. I felt the same thing when I first heard GAG and the desire to jump over the walls. This Chilean band’s demo tape comes at a perfect moment with an aggressive and dancing punk. Even though I don’t like the vocals very much sometimes, the guitar and the punk pogo drums hypnotize me. Keep an eye on the Chilean punk scene!

Antibodies 2019 + 2018 LP

There’s a quote from some old Jello Biafra interview that’s stuck with me down the years, where he suggests that many great punk bands come from small, remote or unfashionable towns and so develop their own identity rather than replicating a big city’s prevailing trend. Now, anyone who grew up or indeed still lives someplace with a five-figure population count and a scene of wall-to-wall mediocre dogshit will know that it doesn’t work out that way every time, but ANTIBODIES, from Charlottetown on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, prop up the notion majorly through the medium of chaotic weirdo hardcore. As per the title, this is a comp of two tapes from last year and the year before that, brought to vinyl by Drunken Sailor, and despite the 20-song totality averaging little over a minute there’s a freaky psychedelic vibe threaded all the way through in ultrafuzzed guitars, trippily reverbed vox and occasional gloopy electronic interludes. The drummer sounds perpetually on the verge of kicking his kit to bits and more often than not there’s a great essence-of-HC riff that cuts through all the noise. I hear the spirit of anyone from the GERMS to NEOS to HOMOSTUPIDS in this but soundwise, ANTIBODIES have their own sweet niche going on.

Bromure / Squelette Aux Bon Amis split EP

Two of the finest contemporary Oi! bands from la Ville Lumière join forces for this split EP. There’s some real firepower behind these two, consisting of various members of the formidable Bastille Skinhead Crew as well as RIXE, LIONS LAW and MARABOOTS between them. SQUELETTE’s side presents a more rough ’n’ ready approach to Oi!, with fists-in-the-air gang vocals and pleasantly lumpen riffs; whereas as soon as BROMURE’s tracks start we get the reassuringly gallic saxophone lick, and are treated to some fine Oi! in the vein of CAMERA SILENS or WARRIOR KIDS. Great stuff.

Cadenaxo Lenguas Podridas 12″

Direct from Tenochtitlan in Mexico, CADENAXO finally releases their LP, full of energy, fast punk, aggressive like a cadenaxo in the teeth, the definition of hardcore. Impossible not to think of a sweaty pogo in a small gig during the summer time. Perfect blend of POISON IDEA and ATOXXXICO.

City of Industry Conspire Conspire Conspire LP

Gasping, anguished and anthemic indie rock hardcore from Seattle. The rock-steady pace is exciting and optimistic, contrasted by the dooming tone of the bass. Guitars play longer than usual bridges that create a more unique landscape of reflection between the chorus moments and attacking vocal verse. Lyrics are confident, romantic in the renaissance sense, and poetic, almost delivered with hip hop flow and NYHC aggression. Parts ACRID grinding doom, FOURHUNDREDYEARS creativity, CAVE IN post-hardcore vibes in all their forms. CITY OF INDUSTRY opens up the flood so you may walk right in and collapses with tidal wave form. Production is pummeling. Toward the end I’m feeling some elements of MORAL SUCKLING and FUCKED UP. To be totally transparent, this is not the style of hardcore or punk I generally go for, but I am thoroughly impressed with the pace of all songs, the meter and the passion in this release. The cover art is romantic again, and well designed from a graphics standpoint. A tapestry of florals, harkening back to my renaissance comment. This may be renaissance-core.

The Elite Reason for My Sin EP

Debut outing from this new Buffalo trio, which starts promisingly with a BLITZ-esque riff but soon devolves into some bog-standard Oi!-tinged hardcore. It does whip along at a rate of some knots and there’s enough of a germ at the centre to suggest they might do something decent in the future. Fans of the BRASS and NO TIME may find something to like in this short EP, but sadly likely to be the last time I think about it.

Faz Waltz Rebel Kicks LP

I don’t know what’s in the water in Italy, but they’ve been responsible for some of the finest cuts of pure bovver glam in the vein of peak-era SWEET (R.I.P. Steve Priest) or T. REX in recent memory. Like fellow compatriots GIUDA, FAZ WALTZ are of the particular school of thought that music peaked in about 1974, clearly worship at the altar of His Sainted Majesty Noddy Holder, and wholeheartedly believe that too much thinking gets in the way of having a good time; and this could not be more evident in their latest effort. Eleven tracks of defiant, hip-swingin’, foot-stompin’ glitter boogie aimed squarely at your pleasure centres. Do yourself a favour, put on your best clobber, switch off your brain and have a good old mirror strut for the next half hour or so. You won’t regret it.

Illya Microcosmos LP

Spaced-out psychedelic hardcore from Japan that edits at all the right points. Think PAINTBOX, KRUW meets ABIGAIL, JUDGMENT and some undertones of American West Coast ’80s skate punk, strangely enough. This is an artistic endeavor that I’m having a hard time classifying. Screeching vocals are sung wildly, weaving through entirely guitar-soloed tracks. ILLYA sounds like freedom in its most subversive form, unified within its own community of acceptance; epic without being too grandiose. With all of the dread and helplessness in the world today, Microcosmos revives the spirit of fervent fire. With songs like “Open The Window,” “Burning Heart Burn The World,” “Pebbles,” “Blind Dancer” and “Go Forward Into The…” Microcosmos is a good idea for you if you love Japanese hardcore, taking a deep breath, laughing maniacally in the face of evil, and are trying your damnedest these days to love life.

Infekcja Singles 1997 LP

Ghastly screaming vocals combined with a guttural crust racket, bring a lashing of squat-punk fury from Poland. This is a combination of the band’s self-titled EP, Symbioza EP, and their tracks on the split with SO WAR. Dual vocals remind of some Japanese influences around that time, as well as European crust from SEDITION, SCATHA, FLEAS & LICE while sharing some of the optimistic chords of POST REGIMENT and the irreverence of DEZERTER. INFEKCJA plays it close to the vest—with some stressful blast beats, post-punk breakdowns, rotting metallic ride-out riffs. Throughout the play there are totally chaotic moments and artistically deliberate avant-garde moments. This is by no means generic crust-core forgotten from the ’90s. And if I just have not heard enough memorable hardcore punk from Poland to make further comparisons that is clearly my problem. It just gets better and better as it plays through. Glad to be introduced.

Obnox Savage Raygun 2xLP

Pretty rare to complete a calendar year without a new record by OBNOX—a.k.a. Bim Thomas, formally known as Lamont Thomas, formerly known as a drummer for bands including the BASSHOLES and PUFFY AREOLAS—but that’s what we got, or rather didn’t get, in 2019. Dude is back in a big way here though, with a blazing 20-song double-LP that zips by to the degree where the running time isn’t any kind of drag. There are more boom-bap hip hop beats than on any previous OBNOX release, with Thomas showcasing his MC skills with justifiable confidence, but these jams are never any kind of purist anything, with bolts of reassuringly raw garage guitar setting multiple midpaced bumpers aflame. Conversely, psych-punk melters like “Catbird” and “She (Was About That Life)” are bolstered by sick headnodder funk backbeats, and there’s even a NEIL YOUNG homage in the form of “Young Neezy,” not that you’d imagine Neil’s fanbase would much approve.

Sin Ritmo Sonidos Barbajanes EP

This part Mexican and part Californian band with members of CADENAXO, FUGA, and others finally puts out their second release and first 7”. Sonidos Barbajanes has a raw punk and rock’n’roll sound (a little bit of garage, why not?), drums as a machine, crunchy guitar, compressed vocals, powerful female backing vocals. With touches of tropical punk and plus tremendous artwork. (Cassette version on Junko Records.)

Skeleton / Svaveldioxid split EP

Oh, wow! I was very excited to be assigned this split as a fan of both bands, the genre in general, and holy fuck! SVAVELDIOXID rages forth with a railgun D-beat attack, the most grisly and monstrous vocal effect I’ve heard from the band yet, sizzling bass fills and scorching guitars. Seriously, this is one of the more ferocious raw käng recordings I’ve heard in a while, and I listen to a lot of them, but I keep coming back to this to hear the subtle levels that make it stand out. Compared to previous records, this side from Sweden’s contemporary hardcore kings sound more MOB 47/DISCARD in pace at first, then exceedingly drops tune and tone finishing up in the DISPENSE/BOMBANFALL zones…this is 100% bombarding “Vevarsle”! Love! SKELETON lowers the miserable vibes even further with echoing Dis-gruntled death-beat. This is burning more from the gut than the fists, if that makes sense. Thinking MARERIDT, INFERNÖH, BRAINCELL. Four tracks of gruesome paroxysm from Canada. Always with the most imaginative crusty-life existence drawings, Robin Wiberg (SVAVELDIOXID drums) graces the cover with his gnarly pen. In short, get this—both sides rule.

Skitklass 世界の平等さようなら EP

Another fun little banger from Japan’s SKITKLASS. As with their many previous releases, this is energetic råpunk putting you in a time machine to Sweden in 1982. One of the most endearing things about this band is their retro guitar tone. Rather than a tuned-down, blown-out wall of distortion, we get the raw, jangly tone of the early ’80s. You could best compare this to bands like MISSBRUKARNA or HEADCLEANERS. The song structure fits in more with the aggressive style of ANTI CIMEX or SHITLICKERS, but the overall vibe is one of punk rather than hardcore—a subtle but important distinction to my ears. Lyrics are in Japanese, but I don’t think they are making any bold political statements. They continue the bondage mask motif from previous releases (which was TERVEET KÄDET’s skeez when you think about it). The standout track for me was “Animal Ghost.”

United Mutation Dark Self Image LP

The specs on this years-in-the-making collection: complete sessions for UNITED MUTATION’s three earliest studio recordings, selections from which comprised the band’s Dischord EP and Mixed Nuts Don’t Crack LP contributions. Most of these 26 tracks have already resurfaced on various ’90s German compilations (the hype sticker notes six previously unreleased cuts) but the presentation here is meticulous enough to warrant interest from anyone who’s already got their other records. The gatefold jacket is covered—inside and out—with UNITED MUTATION’s bizarre collages, and the artwork continues alongside photos, flyers, and liner notes in the massive booklet. Geographically adjacent to the Washington, DC scene in the early ’80s, UNITED MUTATION lacked the musicality that marked many of their Dischord contemporaries (MINOR THREAT, the FAITH, SCREAM, etc.), instead crafting a rawer, more abrasive sound. The comparisons to VOID are not unfounded, especially on the unhinged Mixed Nuts tracks on side B. Check this one out.

Wipers Land of the Lost LP reissue

Some fascinating detours notwithstanding, the WIPERS’ output from 1978 to 1984 is pure RAMONES-based punk rock of the highest caliber. But by the time he released his first solo work, Straight Ahead, Greg Sage had shifted gears, and WIPERS albums from the second half of the ’80s onward were generally slower, moodier, and altogether more rock than punk. 1986’s Land of the Lost, reissued late last year, still retains some of the drive of their early records—“Let Me Know” and “Way of Love” could have been outtakes from Over the Edge—yet the standout is undoubtedly the title track. Heavier and riffier than anything the WIPERS had previously attempted, “Land of the Lost” hits like a steamroller on an inexorable march forward. Throw in the incredible head-scratching artwork and this album is a welcome reissue for anyone who’s worn the grooves of the first three LPs.

Antibodies LP 2019 cassette

This tape (along with the LP 2018 cassette) are getting the very warranted vinyl treatment from Drunken Sailor soon, and I look forward to dropping a needle on these shit hot grooves when that happens. Hailing from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, these mutants do a lot to cement my feeling that the Atlantic Provinces are producing some of the most engaging hardcore punk music in the fucking world (certainly per capita, but I digress…). Raw, high energy, blown-out hardcore punk rock in the most classic sense of the term, with just enough of the modern weirdness to make sure you know this isn’t just generic ’80s worship. It’s manic, it’s full of fire, and these jammers stick to you like glue. Certified banger.

Chat Pile This Dungeon Earth cassette

A sonic trash compactor squeezing the life out of all of their predecessors, CHAT PILE takes HELMET’s ability to riff and churn and BIG BLACK’s harsh industrial punk bent and manages to make it simultaneously inaccessible and infectious. I’m talking about a goth PAILHEAD or a black metal drum machine NIRVANA here, and it’s dragging me back to a completely different place and melting my mind. Both of the band’s 2019 cassette releases are to be put to wax by Reptilian soon, and I think the large scale format will suit them extremely well. And for the record, “chat” is a mining byproduct that has rendered parts of Northeastern Oklahoma toxic that belong to Native tribes and were destroyed by white capitalists. So a “chat pile” is a very repugnant thing…and that kinda sums up their sound.

Es Less of Everything LP

The only previous release by London’s ES, the Object Relations 12” back in 2016, was a more-than-fine intro to their biz, but if it showcased the singularity of this quartet’s sound, I don’t think I appreciated that—not like I’m doing with Less of Everything, their debut album, anyway. Nine songs of slashingly dramatic post-punk with goth, Euro coldwave and Neue Deutsche Welle touches might have you expecting some gloomy plod—and heck, plodding gloomily ain’t illegal yet—but a consistent factor of this album is how energetic it is, bouncy even. ES’s lack of guitar plays a big part in this perception, the three musicians a unified force of rhythm while vocalist Maria Tedemalm talks in ominous tones of closing-in walls and slippery slopes, and if you’ve encountered the individual members in bands past and present (PRIMETIME, SCRAP BRAIN, PUBLIC SERVICE, to name only three) their collective tiger in the tank will come as no surprise. Way more original sounding than music made with these basic ingredients ought to be, and just a blast generally.

Kalou The Sculpture Garden cassette

This is a compelling project—a collection of dreamy home recordings spanning five years and two continents—moments worthy of commercial stardom woven into ten indie/pop tracks. There’s a JESUS AND MARY CHAIN lilt to the vocals (especially on cuts like “The Thin Line”), and then a few songs (“Santa Rosa Transit Mall” particularly) descend into straight electronica. The seamless movement between twee, pop punk, and lo-fi DIY synth underscores how thin the genre lines that separate us really are…so perhaps KALOU is all of us? Or maybe I’m overreaching…probably not, but maybe. Almost every track here could be a “single” in the most traditional sense—just a cassette packed with hits.

Kissed by an Animal Kissed by an Animal LP

Driving rock music from Brooklyn. I guess I understand why people like these kinds of reassuring sounds—not everyone wants ELECTRIC EELS or ALBERT AYLER or DISCLOSE or whatever—but this is the most bland possible NPR-core. Reminds me of a pop-punk YO LA TENGO for dads who golf? But YO LA TENGO is light years better/more interesting than this boredom! Something about this record makes me think of that goofy pop-punk/emo collision that happened in the late ’90s/early ’00s, when people were ready to tie their DIY dreams to a package tour featuring a bunch of bands who exist only on Warped Tours.

Lebel Passe à l’Assaut! EP

FrancOi!phone rage from Montreal. Rough and raw, but with skeletal basslines that don’t sound dissimilar to the spartan noise of Lille’s TRAITRE or Brest’s SYNDROME 81 in parts. Short and to the point, like a proper haircut, and at under a tight ten minutes it doesn’t outlast its welcome either. Just the right side of unpolished, too. Worth your time.