This post is years overdue, and the excitement I have for having listened to and to have witnessed several live shows by Brooklyn NY's short-lived hardcore band POLLUTION.
In summer of 2009, I had first heard of this band while hanging out after work with 3/5's of DEVOUR at some small house party in Raleigh, NC. They had played some select shows over that weekend with WORMEATERS from NJ. I sat there, sober at a party, gaining stimulus from hearing Matt LaVallee tell me about what in the hell they saw. The way he was talking was as if he actually saw a UFO. They literally could not describe Pollution to me at all. If we were speaking on the lines of influence and genre, then nothing they were saying made sense to me at all, and I immediately noted that as a great thing. Maybe something along the lines of "nothing can do justice to what they are live". "absolutely crushing", "seeing this band live will scare the ever living shit out of you", were select quotes I believe I remembered hearing that night.
This was reason enough for me to pick up the cassette copy of Pollution's NASTY DNA (limited to 100) at Richmond's No Way Fest 3. This was one of around 7 tapes I picked up that weekend. Skeptical of the hype, on my drive home, I rummaged my way through all the quick demos first which included a Total Wreck demo tape that was really cool, and much more. After hearing everything, I saved the Pollution tape for last, only because it was the longest one, and also due to the fact that I had developed expectations for it just a couple of weeks prior.
The first song "tiny.black.burns" hit and I immediately was putting my hand up to my forehead and my mouth was open. The second song, "Failure" starts with a guitar riff entirely dissonant, unsettling and tonally gritty; the drums begin and then I realize that I probably shouldn't be driving the car any longer. The crawling pace of "Upsidedown Trough" feeds back through the speakers what what can only seem as visually motioned tempos and vocal lines clearly illustrating a bleak and disgusting picture: 'capsized in the ocean // holy water wars // you can't just turn the thing around // how many times do I have to tell you // not to waste your time'. This can be related to on modern occasions and is immediately stark and realistic. The beastly mid-tempo slammer "drop.die" comes on next which makes me ask myself, "What in the hell am I listening to?" The songs were soul damaging, but carried these unforgettable hooks to them that seemed carefully, yet naturally written. I was nervous while hearing this and it actually made me feel like the world was ending. I was in disbelief of the riff in "shock.no exist". It carried itself with an ever-haunting tone and paced down to a crawl but everything cut just right in order to keep your attention.
This first listen unfathomably exceeded my expectations, and thus prompted me to drive the rest of the trip saying absolutely nothing and letting the tape automatically flip at least a dozen times for the remainder of the overnight drive back to Raleigh. The vocals were such a perfect balance of fury, poetry and clarity. No two songs were written alike each other, and also, no band ever sounded like this entire tape. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. When arriving back to Raleigh at around 5:30am, I pull out the lyric sheet and read through the entire tape. I don't think I was ever meant to sleep that night.
In 2009, picking up this tape was directly related to me wanting to start a new band. One month after waking up every morning and studying the careful writing, lyrical clarity, shocking guitar parts, and absolutely soul stealing drum parts, I remained on the edge of my seat for more of their releases.
About a month later at a Shards show in my basement in mid-July of 2009:
"Hey Ira, I like your drumming, do you want to try to play some music tomorrow? I play guitar and might have some riffs.", said to me, a 17 year old named Jeff Young. I had only seen him around at shows and had never hung out with him that much before.
"Come back over to my house tomorrow afternoon, you absolutely have to hear this Pollution record", I said back to him. I'm pretty sure this was how Jeff and I would end up starting a band called Stripmines.
When I heard the 2014 demo tape that was released by this band, I was immediately repeating the tape over and over. I haven't worn out a tape in under a week since Matt LaVallee (Stripmines, Devour) let me sort of borrow an early Kieltolaki discography cassette tape. This is the band I had hoped these guys would start when guitarist Ace Mendoza and drummer Connor Donegan both made an exodus from Raleigh into Washington DC, to seek their own animated and well-structured DIY ventures. At the time the demo tape came out, I literally had no free time to review how I felt about it on this blog, seeing as I was sort of living between two cities both 1200 miles away from each other on and off for a little while. Simply enough, this LP makes a great cornerstone for a Vile Discourse review.
After seeing Red Death live at Nice Price Books in Raleigh, the anticipation for their newest vinyl release was similar to that of a new Star Wars movie. I had followed many of their projects while living in Raleigh, and was fortunate to see nearly every set ever played by Abuse., Last Words, and fortunately played some cool shows short-lived Macht Nichts, all which are precursors to Red Death.
My favorite song on the album has to be UNHOLY AGONY II. When they played it live, I could feel the beginning out, and heard the snare crack into a vicious down-tempo, I was in the middle of the floor spinning my hair around like Andrew WK. It's great on record, but still doesn't do justice to how I saw it live when they played Minneapolis two weeks ago. The breakdown tempo change in UNHOLY AGONY II is, to me, immediately noted as a clever tip of the hat from Ace to Raleigh's Jeff Young for his brutal and clever down-stroke riffing in Last Words. To me, that's probably the coolest thing you can do in respect to your previous bands, is add simple notes and clever homage to what you've done before. Instead of naming an ex-members list for themselves, the actions of Red Death speak much louder than words. You can feel and undeniably understand where they came from and what bands they were probably in or liked without creating a "for fans of" section at all. This LP does so perfectly!
The song Strategic Mass Delirium starts an intro of subtle limitations that immediately changes gears, and hits the nitro boost in what feels like a Celtic Frost style tempo change. Straight forward hardcore slamming riffing and writing on the bass on the song ALLEVIATE by Coke Bust's Nick Candela bring you an evolution of what sounds like a structure that couldn't fit on their Degredation EP, but twisted to fit the style of Red Death's more rock n' roll feel. The untamed guitars and feedback between and during tracks have clear nods to classic Raleigh hardcore titans such as Double Negative and CoC, but there are probably enough blogs and reviews saying the same thing already.
Chad's vocals are menacing and professional in a very tasteful way. Ranging dynamics from proto-thrashers and the diaphragm charges you may have heard on Infest's "No Man's Slave" LP (see the fast kick-drum tag in Unholy Agony II). Menacing and highly energetic, riotous snarl.
Connor slams one out of the ballpark with both the drum sound on the record and his keen ability to write great parts. The second song RUINOUS WRATH shows a nod to Raleigh's Brian Walsby and Reed Mullin which seem meaningfully intentional and logical for the song to have it's "Raleigh feel", while incorporating an evolution of it all by rewarding us with certain methods gained from Sepultura's Igor Cavalera. I remember seeing Connor play drums in a living room when he was like 16 or something and the only thing I could say to Jeff was, "Holy shit we have a new Brandon Ferrell now." It was like finding a long-lost Skywalker in a world that really needs great hardcore punk.
The brutality and fine production of this record pick up right where the fantastic and absolutely punishing LP by 'Abuse.' left off at the end of their band, and this offers something different and just all around cool. Every note is clear and concise, and it was everything I was hoping for when these guys started packing their bags. This record takes everything we've learned from Raleigh hardcore history and crams in together on wax. They just "get it". I can't recommend this record enough.
The velocity of this 7" beast matches the intensity and cutthroat tempos done by predecessors such as The Neos or Koro. This San Diego hardcore punk group is 80's revival style hardcore punk band done kind of perfectly in this frame of time. Most of the lyrical content focus on political state and current events for around the time the record came out (2005?). Definitely a step ahead of its time. Very broad and nothing too specific, and definitely nothing personal in the lyrics at all, giving it another fine touch in its accessibility. The production of this EP is outstanding, actually. It's simply recorded, relying on the simple fact that the entire thing is audible and hits hard. Frantic guitars kept in frame just well enough to make the songs have hooks and feel "right".
The transition between the first song (Slave) and second song (For What?) is that which will have you rewinding and possibly punching a wall. Especially the best notes are in the tempo changes you'll find in the song Warstarters. Unbelievably on point and absolutely ripping. I think I've seen this in record stores go for like $2 or $3, yet when you actually put this thing on, it's a blazing eye opener. This is kick ass American hardcore.
Would love to see any of these members in some new bands, or perhaps get ahold of some unreleased material from this band. From what I can tell, this is their only release. But it's kind of how Koro's 700 Club EP might be in the sense, that everything you need to know about what they're putting together is all crammed into one slam dunk of an EP.
Blackball is a new Raleigh/VA hardcore band that is absolutely killing it from only the two shows I've seen them play thus far. Twice, I have taken a break at work just to roll down to Sorry State Records and bug Jeff to play this demo for me start to finish. I literally have freaked out the entire two times I've heard the rough mixes of this demo. A couple of the songs are already stuck in my head, in full anticipation of what's going to probably be my favorite demo in years.
The vocals by Richmond's Ericka Kingston belt out like a venomous war machine, placed atop the songs with concise strategy and fury. The drumming by Anthony Williams is exactly measured out, and delivered with brute force, tastefully. It's clear that 100% of this band is obsessed with Out Cold, Poison Idea, Government Warning etc., except the riffing is layered on with Jeff Young's chorus sounding sunnO))) amplification and David Gallagher's invincible downstrokes. That kind of guitar playing they do has a feel of Articles of Faith meets A Place in the Sun era YDI, and early Riistetyt. Christophe Bequet from the almighty and defunct Abuse. makes an appearance on bass, and couldn't be a better fit for the section. Both shows, I noticed he played a couple feet standing behind the drummer Anthony, as he would watch closely, holding the root notes down, tight and professional. He literally doesn't miss a single note. Blackball holds together as tight as their absolutely great previous acts they've played in such as Last Words, Future Binds, Crooked Teeth etc., but the best word for this band is "evolution". The cover they played in the set was originally done by Dutch hardcore band Nog Watt, who is also a very fitting influence from the sounds of their set. I have no idea what to expect from Blackball next, but I feel like this band will be a primetime Raleigh hardcore staple and I pray they go on full out world tour so that everyone in the world can freak out to them like I did the other night. I'm on the edge of my seat to get a copy of their demo.
Things not to expect: blast beats and dumb breakdowns.
Things to expect: a furiously blazing demo promised to get worn out in your tape player
No exaggeration, this record has spun on my turntable at least 350 times ever since I picked it up back in early 2008. I saw them live on their final tour when I was still a gullible youngin'; I had no idea who they were, I actually went to this show to see one of my area favorites, Government Warning, who were always great to see without question. The show was at this terrible bar full of dimwitted employees called the Double Down in Raleigh, NC. The staff was rather brood-ish and ego-scary.
From memory, I could only remember seeing this band feeling like my jaw had dropped to the floor. I could have died happy at that moment, while I observed this five-piece monster of a rock n roll band completely destroying this shitty bar, and playing a seamless, uncompromising 30-35 minute set that left me wanting even more at the end. There were absolutely no breaks between songs, and the guitar player crawled on top of things, did a lot of scary things, went outside during a guitar lead, and scared the hell out of all of us attendees by coming inches short of slashing our necks with his guitar neck. The vocalist, Cam Popham had a firm stance in the middle of the floor, belting out terrifyingly genuine feelings through the microphone. Driven by lyrical content on par with modern poets, his voice was straight low-end diaphragm. I was immediately shifted.
I specifically remember the bartender telling the band after their set, "Hey, ya'll can't play here ever again!", and the response from one of the band members being something like, "Um okay, we were never going to anyways, we are from fucking Canada." One month later, this bar closed forever and became the Black Flower. Good job guys.
Under Pressure (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) was definitive for what they were performing. The drummer Dan Ryckman (I probably spelled that wrong, whatever) wrote parts that were directly inspirational and influential to my drum parts for bands I would later be a part of, such as Stripmines (NC), and later, some of the more recent Much Worse (MN) stuff I'll be doing on the new LP. Back in 2008, seeing Under Pressure, and listening to their records didn't make me want to create more of what I was doing, but instead inspired me to completely destroy it and start all over again (i.e. quit the band I was in, which I did quit it, gladly and for the better). In that area in life, the timing could not have been more perfect as a means for self-improvement and musical discipline. From what I understand, that dude also plays in a bunch of sick grindcore bands such as Violent Gorge and Archagathus, thus making for Ryckman's such perfectly practiced pacing and drumming language.
Another great thing I remember about Under Pressure playing in Raleigh was smuggling pizza out of my job's kitchen (don't tell my boss) for this band the day after their show. This action would very well be my foot in the door for doing DIY hardcore show stuff later on down the road. These habits and understanding for the needs of touring bands would quickly create great contacts for me and, only a year later, would send me booking really neat DIY hardcore shows of my own all over Raleigh. I can tell any of you first hand, that sometimes bands come through and they can be a true catalyst for members of the audience, and for me it took a band setting an example of "how to do it". This would keep me excited enough to understand that I would diligently keep at this stuff for years, and that I would care about doing it for a very long time. It also made me practice drums nearly every day and still does, and it made raised the bar for me deciding on what kind of bands I would eventually be doing for my years after seeing them.
I genuinely felt like this band was pushing the boundaries of what's actually possible in songwriting while still making hardcore punk that sounded so completely perfect and musical. Riff heavy rhythm parts, minus too many leads, much like the Ramones were so popular for. This band was the equivalent, or more, of seeing something like a mix of Japanese hardcore or Bl'ast, but with a grimy melody carrying every part uniquely, just like in the song "Muddy Waters". The songs carry a fine distinction from one another and contrast tempos frequently throughout the record. Perfect guitar tone, and the vocals belt out in a realistic, non-contrived format, laid out in a well thought out process. I feel like this entire record builds itself up to the punishing track "Sick/Sinful" and closes perfectly with "Tired Eyes". To say that I recommend this record to you is a criminal understatement, for I actually feel like you have not been alive yet until you've heard this record start to finish. Their other LP that I have called "Black Bile", is just as good, I promise. As soon as I find a digital version of Black Bile or upload it myself, it'll definitely be up.
This is a video I put together from my first tour with Minneapolis hardcore quartet MUCH WORSE.
We did another tour in 2014, and you can expect to see a video from that around the time of the release of our new LP. We did a five song tape before we left for tour that I will find a way to include in the next post. We are counting down about 3 weeks remaining until we hit the studio to record an entire 12 new songs. The tour tape and this upcoming LP are my first releases with them, and maybe first of many. It's been a good run, and I plan to return to Minneapolis in the spring-time to finish up some more possible tours and definitely a lot of great shows with the new material, which we are all very excited about. Anyways, this video is pretty cool, and is worth checking out if you've got 27 minutes to watch a cool DIY HC video.