Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feedback Comics End-of-2011 (mostly) Portland Records Round-up!

As the year comes to an end, a shitload of bands crap out a ton of dope records, emptying my wallet, and keeping local record stores in business. Thanks for making me broke guys! Like Jesus said, money is the root of all evil.

It Used to Rain LP

This is a concept album set in the near future during the upcoming water crisis. The lyrics are about guarding a water tank with an AK-47, riots, fires, thirst, and literally killing people for a drink. Folksy strumming kicks out the jams sounding like Against Me! or some catchy Avail singalong. However, all the mid tempo palm-muting and political / environmental content recalls bands like Fuel and Fugazi. Lastly, the singer has a nasally voice that sounds like Blink 182 or NOFX. Abolitionist is a trio (my favorite ensemble) and has crystal-clear song structures similar to pop punk trios like Jawbreaker. I'm already playing air guitar on the first listen! The vinyl comes with a CD and a poster. KICKING

No Hay Descanso LP

On the folk tip, the album begins with a countrified alternating bass line. Thankfully, the beautiful reverbed-out guitar work keeps up for a few minutes before breaking into gut-busting crust. I love the art production which is a brown cardboard gatefold screen-printed in two colors on both sides. Screen-printing the lyric sheet is so fucking punk. It's like, "I don't give a shit if you can read this or not but here it is!" Surprisingly, the lyrics are totally legible and translated from Spanish into English, so mad props for that. Alternating male and female vocals, a Central American perspective, and a fusion of musical styles make this a record that is furious, refreshing, and danceable. KICKING

Arctic Flowers
Reveries LP

Mint green vinyl is just awesome! Arctic Flowers continue their ripping trajectory of spiraling, spinning guitar melodies, chugging bass lines, ride cymbals, and driving beats. Quick, desperate tempos show a hardcore punk aesthetic while dark moods, suspenseful arrangements, and powerful singing vocals recall an era when punk barely even had a name. I wish everyone would play guitar like Stan. RIPPING

Blood Beach
The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost LP

This band inevitably gets a house party dancing with bouncy, psychedelic surf-garage pop involving theremin, mandolin, saxophone, and a host of instruments. Short and concise, none of the tunes drawl on for too long and a dizzying array of effects and tempos keeps them distinct and separate, each with it's own mood and attitude. The guitar tones are fuzzy and a low-fi jam aesthetic pervades the recording, but the arrangements have a seasoned pop sensibility reminding me of Weezer, BOOM!, or Big Black Cloud. Punk points alert: silk-screened album cover artwork by singer/guitarist/cartoonist Shane. The lyrics come as a folded-up little zine booklet. Oh, and it's a one-sided record. KICKING

Die on This Island LP

I saw Company play in an earlier formation known as Anchor Down. I decided they were ripping, kicking, and slamming, which translates to, "they sounded like Jawbreaker or Hot Water Music." Company sounds like a bunch of big dudes, with big bellies, who maybe drive trucks, drink whisky, and know how to fire a shotgun. I don't think any of that is bad. In fact, I'd rather be in their company than anywhere else when the shit hits the fan. They can belt out some big booming "whoa-oh-oh"'s while ripping shit up on guitar. KICKING

Hemisphere of Shadows LP

This reminds me of the Bubblepuppy video on where a cartoon puppy blows bubbles out of its butt while riding atop the Mystery Machine hippie bus. Endless riffage drips over an interstellar lattice of outer-space bass. Danava is so shredding they sound EXACTLY like Black Sabbath, fuckin' Nazareth, Pentagram, Thin Lizzy, Diamond Head, and all that sweet 70's vintage metal shit. This record will make you wanna wear a headband, sunglasses, smoke a doob, drive in a hot rod, smash things, and light shit on fire. Going through life without experiencing this record would be like missing out on your best teenage years. SHREDDING

Love Was Born to an Early Death LP

This is kind of like Ian Drury backed by a thrash band, or, as popular lingo would have it, "Death in June meets Discharge." Some of this is way too fast and furious to be considered goth music, but that just what it is: d-beat for goths. With a varied line-up over the years, Deathcharge seems something of a Portland institution. The slow, pensive intro to the last track makes it clear that this is the best track of the album. More gloom, less Doom! HITTING

Elitist LP
Fear in a Handful of Dust LP

This record starts out slow and heavy like stoner metal, but with no real groove. Instead, they play a slowed down death-metal drone filled with bends and false harmonics. I kept switching the record speed from 33 to 45 so it would play at a more upbeat mid tempo groove rather than dinosaur-stuck-in-molasses speed. The vocals and guitar tones are twisted and ugly, and the drums pummel and roll like a herd of bison going over a cliff. The art is just black on a white background and there's no insert or lyric sheet in the record. I have the feeling that Elitist don't care, so it's funny that there's a sticker on the packaging explaining what the album sounds like and that it "includes collectable dropcard with free mp3s." HITTING

Aesthetica LP

While not even from Portland Liturgy is a band with so much buzz, I had to check them out. If Battles and Lightning Bolt teamed up to play a howling black Metal math-rock opera, it would sound like Liturgy. The graphic design on the album artwork reminds me of Man Is The Bastard because of all the super-bold borders. Extensive use of arial fonts seem to spit in the face of pre-existing "black metal" imagery. MIND-MELTING

Into Oblivion LP

"There's a burning in the night / a siren's song to ignite / and it's alright." Ripper is some good time rock'n'roll. Fast beats and blues riffs spell the M-word, which I will try not to mention here, but the singer sounds like a younger Lemmy. Shredding on all three instruments, this trio packs such an energetic punch, you'll need to turn the stereo up all the way to do it justice. The best part is that the songs never slow down; the album plays with such unrelenting speed that you get swept up with it. No power ballads; just straight headbanging 'til dawn. The sleeve is a gatefold covered by the mad skills of heavy metal artist Halseycaust. RIPPING (Duh)

Witch Mountain
South of Salem LP

With rad cover artwork, which is a unholy map of Oregon by Skinner, this slab of wax features six tracks of smoky, stony, crushing, thunderous Blues-driven metal crooned over by the powerful female vocals. The heavy, lumbering groove of these tunes recalls Sleep without the psychedelic San Francisco vibe. Imagine of Sleep were even slower with long pauses between the notes, more massive, stark, and desolate. SMOKING

Releases either unavailable or beyond funding restrictions at time of press:

Bellicose Minds 7"
Bi-Marks LP
Murderess LP
Red Fang LP
Salted City 7"
Trauma LP
Yob - Atma LP

Key (It's all about the SONGS):
SHITTING * (zero-one stars) Shitty: Insulting
HITTING ** (two stars) Okay: No real standout tracks
KICKING *** (three stars) Good: A few good tracks
RIPPING / SHREDDING **** (four stars) Excellent: Multiple standout tracks make this an album worthy of purchase
MIND-MELTING ***** (five stars) What the fuck is this?: Redefines the boundaries of musical categories

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