Friday, February 27, 2015

Mindkill – Society Skam Demo...Hardcore that conjures violence!

Although I had already been listening to this demo online, I picked up a physical copy at a recent live performance. Obviously my attention was drawn immediately to the cover artwork. I really like the style. It reminds me of the old Earache Records collage-driven covers such as Napalm Death’s Enslavement to Obliteration  and Scum…also Terrorizer’s World Downfall. The composite images of out-of-control government and big corporation corruption set the tone of what is expected in the audio assault!
The opening track “Enemy”, with no hesitation, rips into an eerie, rumbling, distorted bass solo painting a picture of a desolate landscape. I am not going to do a track by track review, but overall the music toggles from mid-tempo catchy, groove riffs to heavy breakdowns and fast, old style hardcore. I definitely sense an early Biohazard vibe going on. On a few of the fast parts I can hear a slight taste of Power Violence. Definitely circle pit material. The lead vocals are delivered in a short, raspy shout. The backups are a higher pitched yell. The two definitely work great together.
The recording itself is done rather well. Everything can be heard clear and evenly. The sound is heavy and perfect for the band. However, after seeing them live, the recording does not grasp the intensity they exude live. Don’t get me wrong, the recording is great, but live they blew me away. They do a great job of keeping the adrenaline high by balancing the heavy and fast parts. I don’t get out in the pit anymore, but they made me feel like smashing everything in my path!

I really dig this band and their demo. Go check out their FB,, they have a lot of live dates coming up. Also, go listen to the recording yourself:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

¡BLUNT! - Rough, Attitude-Filled Houston Hardcore!

Interview with  Harry Stokes.

First off, the typical question, can you tell us about the thought process on the band name?
Ha. Well, it's a double entendre. Of course, the drug reference, but also, the upfront in-your-face aspect. I don't believe much thought was put into it, really. The story goes; everyone was sitting down at a local tex-mex, trying to come up with a band name. All of the ideas were either taken or too stupid. So we split, and Gerardo is smoking a blunt on the way home when he calls us and says, "BLUNT dude!" So we stuck with it.

Overall you have an 80s hardcore image, everything from your sound to the look. My take is that you remind me musically of Wrecking Crew and vocally of BL’AST and Damaged era Black Flag. What is your take on that?
We all grew up in Houston during the Attitude Era. Lots of fuck you's, and not taking shit from nobody's. There's a ton of dicks in Houston, so the only way we know is to be a dick back. We take liking to no gods or masters, and enjoy the evil side of things. The REAL side of the story. People want to live arrogantly and rely on what they hear from People Magazine and Fox News. Life is not happy.
Your lyrics cover a variety subjects from rebellion to rough sex with sluts. Is there a concept you try to stay with or are the lyrics whatever comes to mind?
I like to call "Hardcore Fuck" a filler song. Haha. It's not really meant to be taken seriously, but it packs a punch and gets the crowd moving, and that's what I love to see. We've gotten a couple girls to take the mic to fake an orgasm right before we play and it gets a lot of laughs. But our other songs, like "Fraud" and "Fuck With Me, Punk" deals with shitty relationships with people over the years. Kind of like a feeling of betrayal. People you thought had your back but turn out fake as fuck. "Authority Fight" is about police brutality and giving the finger to all that get off on belittling the real hard working people that go in everyday 9 to 5 to make a living.

I really love your Pass the Blunt demo. The recording is clean, yet still rough enough to complement the music. Where did you record it and how was the process?
I bought a Zoom R8 from Guitar Center and we recorded it in our jam space, much like a garage. We modded it by hanging up used carpets from vacated apartments. It was a pretty neat, yet extraneous, DIY project. 

I also like the cover art. It has a vintage Suicidal Tendencies feel. Who came up with the idea and artwork?
Our drummer Gerardo is a professional graphic designer and going to school for it. He's a natural artist with the mind of a demon. He's always coming up with dope designs for flyers and such.
Pass the BLUNT Demo! cover art
Blunt seems to be hot on the local live music scene. You have a great animated stage presence and seem sincere on your delivery. You are definitely not one of those bands that look bored while performing. Mentally what is your approach to playing live?
Man, I live for our Saturday night practices. It's the only time in the week I look forward to. I'm off work, I get to jam out with my friends, and turn that shit up wicked loud. When we play live, we just try to go up there with that PMA and have a good time. Show people what we're about and do our best to get a good reaction. 

I believe your band is over a year old. In that time you’ve made quite an impression. What’s next? Any planned new recordings?
We're always making changes to our songs. Adding bits and pieces to enhance the songs. We just finished up recording our full length LP over at 360 Studios. Big Ups to Jessica Garcia for all the hard work. Right now it's in Tennessee getting mastered by one of the homies, so we're just waiting for it to come back.

Final greetings and contact info…
Thanks to everyone who comes to our shows, buys the merch, and digs our music. Couldn't do it without them, and thanks Jeff for the interview. Hope to play more shows with Khobretti soon, bud.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FORCED FEM - Art hardcore with a unique twist.

Interview conducted with Dennis.
With each release your band seems to evolve a bit into a different sound. For example, The Voyeur EP and Black Coffee split had more of a screaming-noise post hardcore sound. Then The Safe Word EP has a more rocking sound with distinct gothic-like baritone vocals. I am a fan of your varied releases, but is your goal to keep your listeners in suspense of what is coming next?
No, not really. Although I like the idea that people wouldn't know what to expect from us with each release, but it's not something we have really done on purpose. The person who actually got the band going as far as picking members and setting dates for practice was Jaron Sayers. He's no longer playing with us but he played with me for years in Fight Pretty and had always been real into fast raw punk rock. He was singing in the band Guilt Party and wanted something he could play guitar in, so he asked me to do vocals in his fast punk band. I didn't really have any input into the style or writing of the music at the time but when I heard what he was doing it sounded fast and mean and had alot of weird youth crew vibes going on but at the same time it was heavy and noisey, so that's just how I sang as well. I already knew what kind of aesthetic and theme I wanted the band to have and that hasn't changed much still. I just screamed when the music would lend itself to screaming and sang when that became more fitting with the next record.

The lyrics have a thoughtful dark aura to them. I like how you don’t use the boring, straightforward approach to writing. Take us deeper into the words. What auditory picture are you trying to paint for the listener?
I have always liked story telling lyrics and song writers that would mention a strange detail or describe something in a overly exaggerated, dramatic way and in Forced Fem I wanted to tell stories from a woman's point of view instead of the standard guy singing about how he's hurt his woman and feels bad but still manages to make himself look cool in the process. I also wanted to write from the perspective of a man singing about a woman without it being sappy love songs. I have always found the psyche of a lot of men to be pretty scary and disturbing and I include my own at various times in that. So sometimes the lyrics will be inspired by something I read or heard about and sometimes it's about something or someone in my own life, or about myself. A lot of times I write a song and it's a situation from my own life and I will just tell it the way it should have happened. I think the best lyrics are the ones that are vague and can mean many things but still sound honest and real at the same time.
I also want to bring up your personal discography. All your previous projects have been all over the spectrum as far as styles, but upon listening one can definitely decipher your personal touch. Give us some reflections of your past groups….No Visible Trauma, Fight Pretty, Peloton, etc.
I love a lot of different genres of underground music and I am not really the kind of person that feels the need to completely stick with one style of music and attach myself to it until I get tired of it and then abandon it completely and move on to the next thing I discover. I pretty much have just kept loving everything I have loved to listen to since I first discovered punk and all of its sub genres. So I think that's why when I sing in a band regardless of the genre, people can hear me in it because I bring a little bit of everything I've done already into the next thing I do.
You also have a great hand for video editing. I really liked the promos you created for Peloton "My Life as a Sleep Study" (Which I believe you directed) and also Black Coffee’s “The Critic.” They all have a very art oriented vibe. What goes into the thought process of creating a concept and what programs do you use?
Thanks a lot, I have had an obsession with video cameras and photography and movies since I was four years old. My dad made weird movies with his friends and when I was a kid and I was just as obsessed with them as I was real studio made films and watched them constantly for many many years. He would make a movie with a cast of friends and family and whatever props were laying around and make copies for people and they would get passed around for years and I think that's where the DIY movie making thing started with me. I had access to video camera's my entire life and made lots of little short films that were mostly completely stupid but also pretty creative. So once digital camera's, editing software and online videos came became a thing it became so much easier to make things look pretty good and actually make something look the way you want it to. As far as concepts and how they come to me, I just get really inspired by certain movie I love sometimes and sometimes someone will tell me just to make their video something simple and I will shoot them playing live and then add my style to it. That was the sort of thing I did with the Black Coffee video and the Knights of the kingdom video and same with Omotai ''Throat of snakes'' and a few others. I just shot them live and tried to get them doing what they would usually do live and then take it home and focus more on my style of editing. The videos I did for Peloton are probably my favorites. The first one ''Of hoses and horses'' had no concept. I just wanted to show a day in our lives hanging out and playing a show but show it in what I saw as a romantic way with a little sadness in the focus and lighting and such because to me that's what parties and things like that always feel like. You are having a good time but you look around and someone is pathetic and someone is throwing up and someone is getting old and someone is young and confused and someone is doing drugs and someone is there you'll never see again. So I guess the concept was that parties are kind of sad haha. With ''My life as a sleep study'' I wanted to recreate one of my favorite movies ''Don't look now'' but make it DIY and more punk looking instead of trying to do something huge and over the top that I couldn't pull off. That one was a lot of fun to shoot and it is definitely my own ''November Rain'' haha. ''Black metal shirt'' is based on a short story ''cruising'' that also inspired Brian de Palma's Dressed to Kill so that one is basically just an homage to one of my favorite film makers. As far as programs I have used just about everything from sony vegas to after effects . I really don't rely much on the program or software as much as I try and shoot things the way I want it to look as I'm shooting it. The most important thing about a editing program for me is it's ability to not freeze up and crash.

While on a creative topic, you also use the design moniker of Imbalance Arts. Over the years you have designed numerous show flyers and album covers. Your art is very abstract and I totally dig it! As with the previous question, tell us about your process in putting it all together. Also do you use programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop?
When I'm working on a poster or record cover or just design in general I try and show the feeling of what the image is trying to promote. I call it imbalancearts because it's non balanced work. It is art and it's not. A lot of what I do is hand drawn or painted and a lot of what I do is collage work or photo manipulation. It really all depends on what the outcome calls for as far as how I go about creating it. I have hundreds of magazines and books that I will thumb through until I find an image that fits to me and then I will sometimes recreate it by drawing it and then perfecting it with photoshop and sometimes I will just create something new with photos I've taken. Sometimes I make things digitally and sometimes I use glue and scissors. I really just try and get an image from the band or product or company or whatever I am creating for in my head and start trying all the methods I work with to create it until I feel like it represents what it needs to.

Back to the band, I heard that recently at a gig you almost lost your vocal duties to an intoxicated fellow that stumbled on the stage singing “People are Strange” haha. How did that go down?
HAHAHA I'm not sure how that went down but it was at a place where I noticed at least half of the people there looked like they had not seen a band before that was weird or different in any way and when I notice that at a show I usually try and make it as weird of a performance as possible because when I was younger and would see a band play that confused me it would really get me excited. I tend to go to a different place mentally when I am performing live and I usually can't remember much of it afterwards so all I can remember about that at this point is arguing back and forth with a random guy about covering ''People are Strange'' and then shouting at him to ''grow up'' so he got up on stage and started trying to prove to me that he was grown up and somehow he got his hands on the microphone so I walked off stage and turned around to see him trying to take Lance, our guitarist's guitar off of him.

What is next on the horizon for the band? More shows, new releases….potential tours?
We have a new guitarist Lance that has been writing new songs along with Nick and Darrell and we have been demoing those for an E.P. we will be recording soon and then we have another E.P. we wrote before he joined all written and ready to record and we should be recording our first proper LP in Oakland California sometime this year if all works out. Our first seven inch '' the safe word'' is out now and available through the great Agro Wax records.
Present your last words…
Thanks for the interview, keep up the good work with the site.

Friday, February 13, 2015

CRO-MAGS – Alpha Omega….the hidden gem.

Here of late I’ve been constantly listening to the Cro-Mags’ album Alpha Omega. I’ve had it in my collection for many years and every so often it becomes saturated in my car speakers for a few weeks.

I would say Alpha Omega is an overlooked gem in the band’s discography. Most prefer their fantastic debut, Age of Quarrel. There are also the diehards that stand by the thrash metal monster Best Wishes. However I rarely hear anyone say anything positive about their 3rd LP. Most people consider it along with Near Death Experience their worst output.
When first released, the album had some hype behind it. Century Media was the releasing label and had high hopes for the record, especially since it was almost a reunion the original line-up. I remember seeing many full page ads for it in major metal publications. At the time it was somewhat of a broadening of boundaries for Century Media because they were known mostly for death metal productions.
They released a video for the song The Path to Perfection and I first saw it on the Headbanger’s Ball television show. I was disappointed. I hated it. I expected some grand comeback.

This sounds contradictory to my earlier words. So after it had been out in the market for a few years, I finally bought it and the music definitely grew on me. Overall the album is a mid tempo metal style that is filled with that signature Cro-Mag guitar crunch sound. The dual vocals of John Joseph and Harley Flannigan compliment the music perfectly. Although pure metal, when listening one can definitely tell it is the Cro-Mags. Of course there is the rap/DJ record spinning part that totally ruins the song “Eyes of Tomorrow,” but a CD player makes it easy to skip that song. Oh the only other complaint is the terrible band photo. I suppose they were trying to look less "hardcore" and more "metal." Not sure, but it is a pretty hilarious image.
The follow up, Near Death Experience is a lesser effort. Easily the worst release of their catalog. Then of course there was Revenge, which I really like. The mixture of pure hardcore and melodic punk works for me. However, I feel it should not have been a Cro-Mags release. It was basically a continuation of the band White Devil.

Throughout all the band’s releases, other than the debut, they have all been splintered pieces of the core line up. It is definitely interesting to wonder how the band would have fared had they just gotten along. Regardless, the Cro-Mags is a legendary name in independent music. They will continue to attract new fans with their records and the partial line up tours.

Here's a another one from the Alpha Omega photo shoot, hilarious.

Monday, February 9, 2015

BLACK HOLE CARAVAN - Heavy Doom Rock with Melody!

Interview conducted with Sylvester.
Since starting in 2009, the band has accomplished quite a bit, especially on the live circuit. It seems you guys always have something lined up. Has it been a slow pace to get to this point?
Yeah, it took some time getting things off the ground, making time to practice and all that. We all have jobs, kids, significant others, etc.. Family comes first and we work around that to do what we do. It works for the most part, haha!

Over time you’ve had multiple line-up changes. Do you feel the current is your strongest?
Well, it's the strongest to date in my opinion. Everyone is on the same page, all working together to make things sound good. We don't fight very often, we're all adults over 30 and have been in other bands before so we know how to approach things in a way that is productive as opposed to fighting and bickering and bringing on a lot of unnecessary negativity.

The first time I heard your band you definitely had a classic stoner rock/doom sound. Now it seems to have evolved more into a commercial, but still heavy sound. Your thoughts?
I think the classic/stoner metal elements are still there, we've just added some more influences and streamlined things a bit. More focus on writing good, heavy, catchy songs. Of course we still have our longer, more epic songs and always working on more. We just try to mix things up and write songs that we want to hear.

Talking with you guys it seems that your personal tastes range from Seattle rock to black metal. How does that factor in with your song writing?
We try to take a little bit of this and that and make it all work together to craft good songs. When you have a band where every member is influenced by the same bands/genres, it tends to sound like it. They kinda paint themselves into a corner. It would be like cooking with the same ingredients every time, you end up getting bored with it no matter how much you like that combination of ingredients. So we bring it all in so to speak. Chase is very influenced by Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and more mainstream stuff while Dave and myself are into classic doom/stoner metal like Sleep, Cathedral, Solitude Aeturnus, etc..T Bone and I both love old school death metal and Kevin is into all kinds of classic and modern metal. Overall we're rock and metal fans and there's bands that we all share a love for and bands that maybe only guy in the group likes. But it all gets thrown into the pot and we work on writing songs that we all want to play and hopefully people will enjoy hearing.
I must commend you for the great self promotion that is being done for your band. You have a nice website, cool logos/band art, and merchandise. With free social media available, most bands abandon the idea of paying for a website. With all that being said, it gives the impression that you guys take this serious. What goes into getting your name out to the masses?
Mostly just playing shows and getting in front of an audience and putting on the best live show that we can. And we're all very accessible whether it be in person or social media, always happy to talk to people that enjoy what they hear from us. Having some cool merch and a good website always helps as well. And again, we try to write the best songs we can and present them in a way that people will dig them and seek us out. It's always nice to go from constantly seeking out shows to being sought out to play shows. Another thing important to us is getting out there and actually supporting our local scene. We all try to get out there to shows and support our fellow bands, buying and wearing their merch on stage and in public, and all that kinda stuff whenever possible.

I really like your t-shirt designs. Who creates the artwork?
The first design we had was acquired from a British guy whose name escapes me at the moment, and the second design (our current shirt) was put together by our vocalist, Chase West. That same design will be on some drink koozies soon as well.
With all the live shows, do you plan in the future to venture outside of Texas?
Hopefully! We're working on possibly doing some road trips this year. Touring/travelling is a difficult things as we all have solid jobs and responsibilities at home. We definitely enjoy playing live though, so hopefully we'll be able to spread our disease qzs
a little farther out of Houston soon!

I saw a cool video for the new song Here There Be Death. That song is a great example of your evolving direction. It is definitely heavy-doom, but with an Alice in Chains influence. When can we expect an official release?
We're actually going back in the studio in February to record a few more songs and an E.P. should see the light of day by the summer if all goes well. Ready to unleash some new stuff upon the world!

Thanks for the interview. I now give the final word to you.
Thanks for helping to get the word out there and thanks to our fans and anyone willing to give us a listen! Hopefully people out there enjoy hearing our songs as much as we enjoy writing and playing them! Stay metal and support your local scene!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990 Book Review


This is a nice read put out by Bazillion Points. As the title states, the book focuses entirely on NY hardcore. For me, the music from that era has always been influential, so it was imperative that I got this book.
The format is similar to another book, American Hardcore, meaning that it consists of interview pieces with many of the key players during the time. So it’s a pretty easy, quick read. The narrative does place the reader into a time warp and gives a great account of how it was. Many interesting stories are covered, everything from histories of classic albums to street level commentary.
All the well known giants are covered: Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, Gorilla Biscuits, etc. To my delight, many lesser known bands are covered such as Even Worse, False Profits and Straight Ahead. The book does a great job covering every worthwhile band that existed during that time. The only key players that were not covered are Youth Defense League.
Over all I do recommend this book. For those people who only like books with pictures, this will be for you. It’s lavishly illustrated with photos and old flyers.

Monday, February 2, 2015

ACTION FRANK - Houston Heroes Gunning for the Golden Age of Pop Punk

First off, I must complement the clean sound your band creates. It is very reminiscent of late 90s/early 2000s pop punk. Is that genre your main influence or do you have other tastes? I know a generic question, but just interested in what you’re listening to.
-That era of pop punk was most definitely a big influence on us. Mikey and I are really big on bands like NOFX, Less Than Jake, No Use For A Name and Bad Religion. Jake is into bands like Death, D.R.I, Bad Brains and Slayer, so we are kinda all over the board. We are really into the ska/reggae scene too. I've been on a Cherry Poppin Daddies/The Brian Setzer Orchestra kick lately as well. Maybe throw some Wu-Tang in there.

Your band seems to be pretty active on the live circuit. Any plans on touring?
-I've been wanting to hit the road for a long time now. It is definitely time to. We've been holding off for a while. We have been talking about planning on doing a week or so around Texas but it's only a matter of time.

Your lyrical content seems to be lighthearted. Tell more about inspirations in your writing.
-A lot of our songs are really about people/things that piss us off like politics and people that come and go in our lives. Even when we were kids our songs were about our parents and girls and stuff, but we are not 17 anymore and our songs are more about being told what to do, society, politics and partying.

The name, Action Frank, what is the origin?
-Just some shitty cartoon show on TV Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Haha yes I remember Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Was there any particular reasoning behind using that character’s name or was it just to be sarcastic?
-Just kinda sounded cool really. No real meaning behind it. Shows you how deep and sensitive we are.

So far you have a nice discography with 2 EPS and 1 LP. What’s next on the recording agenda?
-Who knows? Mikey and myself are constantly writing and putting ideas together with Jake so I guess you could say we will have another full length eventually.

Your group seems to be seasoned players. Were any of you involved in other bands?
-I was in another band called Last 2 Weeks and Jake plays in a thrash metal band called KTCM. Mikey started a cool band called The Agreement Frequency but all roads seem to end up right back with Action Frank.

Touching back on an earlier question, you stated that the classic era of pop punk was very influential. What do you think about the current wave of the genre? Also, how is the pop punk scene in Texas?
-The pop punk coming out nowadays seems to be pretty solid. Lots of bands coming out of the Midwest and all the bands that play The Fest and shit are all really great. Not too many bands coming out today that are going with the old school Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound though that i think we also carry a little bit in our sound. There is plenty of pop punk in Texas but I will not be the first to say punk rock in Texas could be a lot stronger overall. Hopefully we will be able to change that.

Finishing off, anything else you would like to add?
-Nothing other than thanks for interviewing us for the blog and we will see you around the scene for sure.