Review of Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Band: Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Album: Arc
Release Date: 22 January 2016
Record Label: Relapse Records
Buy on CD ($11) or digital ($6) or vinyl ($19) from: Bandcamp

Arc by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Locals Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been very active lately. They recently started performing their first live shows at various festivals around the world (including their first ever live performance at last year’s Maryland Deathfest). Now they’re working on putting out a series of EPs that each feature a different band member’s musical tastes. When I heard the first of these was going to be a slower, more sludgey album I knew that DCHM writer Buzzo Jr would be perfect to review it since he is a fan of both grind and sludge metal. What follows is his take on the first studio recording of this new era for Agoraphobic Nosebleed. And don’t forget to stream a track from it at the end of this post!

Grindcore legends Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been delivering hyperspeed audio assaults fueled by manic riffs and machine gun tempo drum machines since the early 90’s. The band have since experimented with harsh noise, power electronics, and crossover thrash. Their experimentation continues with Arc, the first in the series of EPs the band is releasing that will each have a separate style representing a different member’s musical taste. Driven by vocalist Kat Katz, Arc is definitely a major departure from the ultra fast grind/crossover style Agoraphobic Nosebleed is infamous for, and instead is a slow, heavy, 3 song slab of sludge metal. If this was your first time listening to them, I’m pretty sure you would be quite surprised to learn that this is the same band that released Altered States of America; a frantic 100 song EP clocking in at only 20 minutes.

Arc gets the ball rolling with “Not a Daughter,” a relentlessly groovy track that at some points sounds almost upbeat with its swaying, southern feel. I don’t think anyone has ever dared to use the term “catchy” to describe an Agoraphobic Nosebleed song, but I’ll be damned if I can find a better description for the bluesy, pulsating riffs that guitarist Scott Hull unleashes here. Hull, also of local grindcore band Pig Destroyer, has flirted with slower, doomy material in the past on some Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks and with Pig Destroyer’s Mass & Volume EP, but on this album it seems as if he’s actually been in at least 3 secret sludge bands. The riffs here are something I would expect from seasoned sludge veterans like Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod or Buzz Osbourne of the Melvins. The mid paced grooves of “Not a Daughter” soon give way to the next track, “Deathbed.” Any sense of slight optimism that may have been heard in the first track are now all but gone, with the pace coming to a slow dirge that creeps along with a spiteful sonic intensity. Agoraphobic Nosebleed has always been instantly recognizable for their use of incredibly fast drum machine blast beats, giving their early releases an almost machine like feel to them. Scott Hull’s programming skills have vastly improved throughout the years however, and on Arc the pounding drumbeats feel completely organic; at times I almost completely forgot that Agoraphobic Nosebleed didn’t have a drummer. The methodical pace of the drums on this album show that Hull definitely knows what he’s doing. Hull also handles the basswork on all of the tracks, and while not as exceptional as his guitar work, the flowing basslines on all of the tracks provide a great backbone to the rest of the music. The EP soon comes to a close with “Gnaw”, a mammothly crushing track filled to the brim with slow, sinister riffs and tormented screams. Vocalist Kat Katz is front and center on this album, with her howling screams and low growls echoing along with Scott Hull’s brilliant guitar and drum work. Kat is no stranger to doom and sludge, as many will remember her amazing vocals from her time in local doom band Salome. While not exactly a replication of past work, it’s great to hear Kat’s amazing vocals alongside slower material once again. Apart from the major change in tempo and number of songs, another huge change that listeners will notice about Arc is the subject matter of the tracks. You won’t find any songs like “Dick to Mouth Resuscitation” or “Druggernaut Jug Fuck” on here. The morbid comedy of past Agoraphobic Nosebleed tracks are instead replaced with much more personal tone. The lyrics on Arc are all written by Kat Katz, and revolve around her dealing with the death of her mother who suffered from schizophrenia. The intense personal meaning in the songs gives even more weight to them; with the emotional severity adding to the bleak tone the album already conveys.

The band is planning to release the rest of the EPs later this year, and I’m pretty psyched to hear how they differ from this and all of the previous Agoraphobic releases. Those of you who were expecting just another hyperspeed offering of grindcore may be disappointed, but if you’re open to a band experimenting with vastly different musical influences, and are a fan of slow, Black Sabbath worshipping tunes, then this is for you. Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Arc is a major departure from the sound we know them for, but it’s proof that experimentation can bring forth great results. For those still sad about Salome breaking up (myself included) this is a great way to appease your need for more local sludge driven by Kat’s peircing howls. Definitely give this album a listen and don’t miss Agoraphobic Nosebleed when they play their first ever local headline show at the Black Cat in May!

Review of The Insolent by Antigama

Band: Antigama
Album: The Insolent
Release Date: 7 May 2015
Record Label: Selfmadegod Records
Buy CD ($10) or digital ($8) or vinyl ($15) or cassette tape ($8) from: Bandcamp

The Insolent by Antigama

At the end of every year I like to give my album review writers the chance to write about not their favorite album of the year but the one they think was most overlooked and deserving of more attention. The albums don’t have to be from the local scene like most of the reviews on DCHM and the choice is totally up to them. Today is Buzzo Jr’s turn and, well, I’ll let his words do the talking from here.

There was a ton of awesome heavy music that was released this year, but an unfortunate amount of it went rather unnoticed by most people. One of those releases that I felt wasn’t given enough praise this year was The Insolent. The Insolent is the newest full length album from grindcore outfit Antigama; a band that has been delivering punishing tunes ever since the they formed in Warsaw, Poland, at the dawn of the millennium. With their seventh album, Antigama offers up a vicious array of grindcore tracks that that experiment with tempo and technicality.

The Insolent comes roaring straight out of the gate with the one-two punch of the tracks “Reward or Punishment” and “Foul Play,” both of which consist of blisteringly fast blast beats and energetic guitar riffs. Keeping within standard grindcore conventions, these first two tracks are very short; with neither of them breaking the two minute mark. Those who think that they are in for just another standard grindcore album are in for a surprise however, as they will soon realize that as the album progresses, the tracks get longer and more and more experimental. The next two tracks “Data Overload” and “Used To” bring the tempo of the album down slightly with distorted, industrial sounding grooves that are interspersed with sections of the familiar break neck speed found at the start of the record. Some grindcore bands often treat the bass guitar as a secondary instrument or shirks it in the production entirely making it all but inaudible and placing more emphasis to the lead guitar. This isn’t the case on this album however; Sebastian Kucharski’s bass is nice and audible, giving off a strong metallic twang. The flow of the album changes up again with “Randomize the Algorithm”; one of the more technical tracks on the album. The track opens with a brief audio sample from the 1995 supernatural horror film The Prophecy, (a pretty bad film in my not so humble opinion) and soon erupts into a barrage of start/stop riffage, dynamic bass lines, and tortured vocals roaring over it all. Sebastian Rockicki shows off his proficient guitar skills on this track especially; fusing traditional grindcore structures with more complex patterns to create a harsh, atonal sound that seems to take influence from the industrial sounds of Godflesh and the multi-layered, dissonant tunes found in GorgutsObscura album. The title track that soon follows is also jam packed with varying time signatures and corkscrewing riffs. The drumming on The Insolent is fantastic, and the title track provides the best example of Paweł Jaroszewicz’s incredible versatility on the drum kit. In the span of only two minutes, he transitions from hyperspeed blast beats to jazzy, polyrhythmic drum fills; meshing perfectly with the bass and guitar barrage provided by the two Sebastians.

The second half of The Insolent starts with the track “Sentenced to the Void,” a mid paced stomper filled with crunching grooves and thunderous vocals. Lukasz Myszkowski is a force of nature on this track, delivering cataclysmic roars that are soaked in distortion and vocal effects. The experimentation on the record comes out again in “Out Beyond”; a spacey track that makes good use of electronic effects to create an otherworldly atmosphere. The track is almost completely instrumental but for the last few seconds when the sample of a countdown to a launch is heard, perfectly leading into the track “Eraser”; another hyperfast display of technical riffs and vocal terror that slows again near the end to segue into the final track; “The Land of Monotony.” At over seven minutes long, this track is a slow, crushing slab of sludgy riffs and pounding drums. It provides a stark contrast to the balls to the wall speed of the majority of the album, giving a terminal sense of finality. The track at some points seems to be ticking down to its very last moments before coming to a void-like silence after the last echoes of Lukasz’s vocals fade away. There isn’t a single bad track on this album, although people who are looking for a more straightforward grindcore album may be put off by the slower, longer tracks near the end. That being said, if you were ever wondering what it would sound like if you took the spacey experimental style of Voivod and merged it with the balls out fury of Pig Destroyer, look no further than right here.

The Insolent is one of the best releases of 2015; grindcore or otherwise. If you consider yourself a fan of grindcore and experimental music, then give this album a spin and make sure to catch Antigama live if you ever have the opportunity, because I can say from first hand experience that they always put on one hell of a show. Here’s to another year of great underground music!

Review of Psychic Warfare by Clutch

Band: Clutch
Album: Psychic Warfare
Release Date: 2 October 2015
Record Label: Weathermaker Music
Buy CD ($9.79) or digital ($9.49) from: Amazon

Psychic Warfare by Clutch

Clutch has come a long way since their days on a major label. They show no signs of slowing down now that they release their albums through their own label, Weathermaker Music. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr breaks down the blue collar heroes’ latest call to arms in the following review of Psychic Warfare. Be sure to check out the music video at the end of this post.

For over 20 years Clutch has built up a dedicated cult following in the DMV area and beyond with their hard hitting brand of rock n roll. Now Maryland’s favorite band is back with their eleventh album Psychic Warfare, the much anticipated follow up to the immensely successful Earth Rocker from 2013. Like their previous album, Psychic Warfare is jam packed with high energy, blues driven stoner rock that’s begging to be played loud and is sure to get your head banging.

After a short intro track entitled “The Affidavit,” where frontman Neil Fallon’s deep voice asks the listener to take a seat and “Just start from the beginning,” the album gets off to a powerful start with “X-Ray Visions” which is filled to the brim with groovy riffs and hard hitting drum beats. The next track, “Firebirds,” is a song with an unbelievably catchy chorus aided in no small part by Neil Fallon’s fantastic vocals. Fallon is arguably one of the most charismatic and talented frontmen in music right now, with his deep, bellowing vocals and imaginative lyrics. His singing gives every song on the record its own sense of character; its own unique feel. Clutch start showing off their blues influences on the track “A Quick Death in Texas.” The blues laden riffs give off an undeniable ZZ Top vibe, but at the same time guitarist Tim Sult manages to inject his own style into the mix, perfectly blending melodic soloing with just enough grittiness in the riffs to ensure that at the end of the day it still sounds like a Clutch song. Tracks like “Sucker for the Witch” and “Your Love is Incarceration” has bassist Dan Maines utilizing his skills by laying down some infectiously funky bass lines that work in flawless unison with Sult’s guitar work. Fallon’s aforementioned lyricism is front and center during these two tracks, with great lines such as “It goes against my Catholic upbringing, I admit it, I’m a sucker for the witch!” or “As to the charges of gettin’ it down, Hey! Before the court, how do you plead? As to the charges that are laid before me: I confess, I am guilty in the first degree!” that are prime material for the crowds to chant along with the first time these tracks are played live.

The album comes to a slow interlude with “Doom Saloon;” an atmospheric instrumental reminiscent of the western inspired tunes on Earth’s album Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method. The instrumental flows seamlessly into the beautiful “Our Lady of Electric Light.” The track is almost melancholy sounding with its slow tempos and clean melodies, and showcases Fallon’s vocal range by having him hold back his usual booming hollers in exchange for a reserved, southern croon. The tempo soon gets back into overdrive however with “Noble Savage.” Definitely the fastest song on “Psychic Warfare,” the track has the band playing at top speed with Fallon belting out lyrics like the life of his almighty beard depended on it, Sult letting solo after solo come loose, and Jean Paul Gaster beating his drum kit like it owes him money. JP’s drumming is the final piece of the puzzle that makes Clutch who they are. His drumming manages to work in influences from the area’s past music scenes such as the speedy kick pedal work found in the DC hardcore scene, and the simple yet effective beats found in gogo music. The next two tracks “Behold the Colossus” and “Decapitation Blues” continue on with the same great quality found on previous songs, with plenty of groovy riffs and foot stomping beats continuing to drive the album forward. Finally the stage is set for the closing track “Son of Virginia.” Clocking in at seven minutes in length, it’s their second longest track ever, surpassed only by the twelve minute “Dragonfly” from their Elephant Riders album which was released back in 1998. “Son of Virginia” is definitely what one would call an epic; starting out with a clean, southern tinged guitar line working in unison with Fallon’s ever so powerful voice that soon builds up into a tumultuous cascade of riffs and deep bluesy bellows, leaving us with the parting words of the album repeated as if it were a form of mantra: “Truly we are living in an age of wonder.”

While I think this album falls a bit short of Earth Rocker in terms of overall memorability, Clutch’s newest output is still one of the best records I’ve heard all year, from a local band or otherwise. Whether you’re already a fellow Clutch fan or this is your first time hearing about them, I highly recommend this to you either way. I can say with absolute certainty that I’m going to have Psychic Warfare playing on repeat for a good amount of time. And then probably Clutch’s entire discography. Pick up Psychic Warfare and turn up those speakers, because you’re in for a damn good time.

Review of B.C.G.C. by Clay Davis

Band: Clay Davis
Album: B.C.G.C.
Release Date: 11 August 2015
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy cassette ($5) or digital ($4) from: Bandcamp
Buy 7″ vinyl ($6) from: Fake Crab Records

B.C.G.C. by Clay Davis

Next week there’s another new release coming from local label Grimoire Records! DCHM writer Buzzo Jr got his hands on a copy and reviewed it, though you can stream the release at the bottom of this post. It comes in a few different formats (listed above) and all are pretty cheap so if you dig it then send them a few bucks and get your very own copy.

Taking their name from the corrupt, profanity spewing senator from The Wire, Baltimore powerviolence two-piece Clay Davis make their full length debut with “B.C.G.C.” As the name of the genre may suggest, powerviolence is a genre that is built upon a foundation of tumultuous anger, furious noise, and relentless aggression, much like the similar genre of grindcore. Clay Davis fully deliver on all of these fronts, putting forth what is one of the best local releases this year so far.

It’s become almost standard nowadays for powerviolence and grindcore bands to either bury the bass in the mix or reject the idea of having a bassist altogether, opting for a drum and guitar setup. Clay Davis does the reverse of this, and instead goes without a guitar and lets the bass do the work. The lack of a guitarist doesn’t hold the sound back at all, with Thor Buntin’s monstrous bass lines and thick sludgy tone pummeling through and doling out incredibly intimidating riffs. The drumming is fantastic, with Mike Barth’s explosive blasts and hyperspeed fills giving a frenzied feel to the songs. Mike also switches up his style on the songs “Hit with a Brick” and “Construct of Ruin,” playing at a much slower pace. These tracks may not be as fast as the the others, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re any less intense. If the faster tracks are a series of stab wounds from a butterfly knife, then these slower tracks are a blow to the face with a steel toed boot. Thor and Mike’s alternating vocals go between belted hardcore-style shouting, pained, high pitched shrieking, and deep deathgrind style growls. The variety in the vocal styles keeps the flow going, and prevents the tracks from blending together.

A good description for “B.C.G.C” is that it’s the sonic equivalent of getting beaten down in a seedy alleyway. It’s grimy, filthy, and pissed off. While some listeners may be left wanting more due to the short running time, I personally feel that the short length is what makes it so effective. At only ten minutes long, with tracks averaging just under a minute, this album kicks you square in the teeth and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened. I probably listened to this in full four times back to back, loving it more and more each time. The majority of the tracks on “B.C.G.C” whiz by at an incredibly fast pace, offering the listener little to no room to catch their breath and prepare for the next round of chaos. A track that definitely stood out to me was the humorously titled “Poser Disposer,” which starts out with a great breakdown and then erupts into a full speed barrage of crushing riffs and insane blast beats.

I definitely recommend you pick up this record if you’re a fan powerviolence and grindcore similar to Weekend Nachos and DC’s own Magrudergrind (who are now based out of Brooklyn). Clay Davis’ “B.C.G.C” does not mess around. This album is gritty, vitriolic, and straight up angry. Look no further than right here when you need a soundtrack to getting jumped for your wallet and shoes in Pigtown. There’s a pretty good chance that the first thing out of your mouth upon hearing this record will be senator Davis’s favorite exclamation.

Review of Black Ocean Waves by King Giant

Band: King Giant
Album: Black Ocean Waves
Release Date: 30 June 2015
Buy on CD ($10) from Big Cartel: Here
Buy mp3s ($7.92) from: iTunes or Amazon

Black Ocean Waves by King Giant

Yesterday locals King Giant released their third album, Black Ocean Waves, which you may have heard previewed at our Metal Night at Fair Winds Brewing back in early May. DCHM writer Buzzo Jr got his hands on an advance copy of the album and below is his take on it. Be sure to check out a couple of the songs on the album at the bottom of the post too!

Pimmit Hills, VA quintet King Giant is back with their third album, Black Ocean Waves. This record is a follow up to their release of Dismal Hollow, released back in 2012. King Giant continues with their familiar brand of southern influenced stoner metal on Black Ocean Waves. Fans of the band will find it does not stray much from the path set by the band’s first two albums, but as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Like their DC counterparts Borracho, King Giant’s sound is deeply rooted in the blues, and boasts tons of great guitar work. Todd Ingram (also of Sixty Watt Shaman) and David Kowalski make an excellent team here, with their guitars churning out heavy riffs filled with that southern groove, and vibrant solos that compliment the darker parts of the album’s sound. Todd and David often change the pace of their playing on the record, going from mid paced stomps on “Red Skies” and “Blood of the Lamb” to faster paced gallops like on the song “Trail of Thorns.” The basslines are unfortunately lacking in effect, often being just barely audible over the rest of the band. This is kind of disappointing, seeing as one of the reasons I love stoner metal is how much the bands utilize the bass guitar. The drums make up for this however, with Keith Brooks laying down beats that are somehow laid back and energetic at the same time. While relatively simple, the drumming on the album works well by adding to the swampy atmosphere of the record.

The part of this album that stands out the most here are the vocals. Dave Hammerly’s vocal style has been compared to Glenn Danzig’s style of singing and while the resemblance is undeniable, Dave manages to make the style his own. With his brash, bellowing shouts, and his deep drawls, he brings the record to life by encapsulating the sounds of the filthy south, perfectly meshing with the rest of the elements on the album. Like most music based in the blues, Black Ocean Waves is filled with emotion. Each track has its own tale, whether it be anger and lament towards past addictions on “Requiem for a Drunkard,” perilous journeys at sea on “Red Skies,” or mournful farewells to loved ones on “There Were Bells.” The album’s overall mood is far more melancholy than your standard stoner rock release, but that’s also what makes this album stand out among every other stoner album that’s been released this year. The brilliant mix of catchiness and grit culminates in a fantastic album that is one part Black Sabbath with its doomy riffs, and one part Lynyrd Skynyrd with its melodic twin guitar lines. A standout track for me on this album was one of the album’s most aggressive songs; “The One that God forgot to Save.” The track showcases some of the best drumming on the album, and Hammerly at his most intense; belting out lyrics like a madman.

King Giant don’t reinvent the wheel with Black Ocean Waves but they do bring forth a great record comprised of heavy riffs, soul, and attitude. If you like loud stoner rock with a southern twinge, don’t miss out on this record.

Review of Stratagem by Fulgora

Band: Fulgora
Album: Stratagem
Release Date: 24 March 2015
Record Label: Housecore Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XIII: 12:15pm Saturday at Edison Lot B

Cover of Stratagem by Fulgora

Maryland Deathfest is almost here and that means we’re beginning our coverage of MDF XIII. And since everyone keeps asking me, yes, our annual unofficial Maryland Deathefest Survival Guide will be back again this year, ETA on that is Monday, May 18th. But first I’ve asked my writers to pick a few albums by bands playing the fest that may have been over looked and deserve more attention. First up is this piece by Buzzo Jr. about the debut album by Fulgora. Read it and start getting pumped for this year’s Deathfest, it’s almost here!

Fulgora is a deathgrind band from St Louis, Missouri, that formed in 2012, and as you may already know, the band features locals Adam Jarvis from Pig Destroyer and Misery Index on drums, and his cousin John Jarvis from Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed on bass. On top of that, Fulgora also features John “Sparky” Voyles, formerly of Dying Fetus and Misery Index, on guitar. That pedigree alone should reassure you that these guys know what they’re doing when it comes to good deathgrind. Phil Anselmo even liked them enough to sign them to his record label, Housecore Records. For those of you wondering what “Fulgora” actually means, it’s the name for the goddess of lightning in Roman mythology. They’ve played the area a few times before, and even had their first live show at the Ottobar in Baltimore last year, but their upcoming performance Maryland Deathfest XIII is sure to be the biggest show they play in the DMV area this year. Fulgora will be the first band to play on Saturday, taking the stage at the Edison Lot at 12:15pm.

When it comes to the music on Stratagem, what we have is some fairly standard, albeit great quality, deathgrind. The riffs are very reminiscent of local band Misery Index; full of furious grooves that pack a mean punch. The drumming is top notch as well, with Adam Jarvis showcasing his trademark style full of lightning fast complex drum fills and vicious blast beats. The element that sets Fulgora apart from most other deathgrind bands however are the vocals. Unlike the usual affair of low end growls, the vocals here are much more in the realm of hardcore influenced shouts. It’s refreshing to see more metal bands embrace their hardcore roots like this, and it definitely makes Fulgora stand out among other bands. Two of my favorite tracks on the album are “Splinter” and “Crutch.” These tracks are more mid-paced than the other songs on the album, with both of them featuring devastatingly heavy riffs and some great hardcore influenced breakdowns. (The music video for “Splinter” is pretty NSFW by the way.) One drawback is that this album is extremely short, even for hardcore/deathgrind standards. The album has seven tracks and lasts only around 20 minutes. Two of those tracks are audio samples; the first one from the movie Scanners at the beginning of the album, the second one is a quote from the late journalist Christopher Hitchens at the midway point. Hopefully they will play some new material during their set at the Edison Lot. I’m really looking forward to catching their set, since the video I saw of their performance at Housecore Horror Film Festival shows that they put on a hell of a show.

If you’re a fan of pissed-off deathgrind and hardcore, then Fulgora are right up your alley. The pummeling riffs combined with frantic blast beats and those Hatebreed-esq vocals are guaranteed to get the mosh pits started early at the Edison Lot, so make sure to get over there in time to catch them play Saturday at this year’s Maryland Deathfest!

Splinter:

Meridian:

Live at Housecore Horror Festival: