Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Monument To Thieves and XRainX.

"Prepare for the free fall..."



It was 2001 and I was driving around Daytona with my friend Mike in his beat-to-shit Honda Civic. We'd been listening to Poison the Well, or something equally awful, when he popped in another CD.

First there was nothing. Then distant feedback. Then a single word, repeated:

"unite... Unite... UNITE... UNIIITE..."

Throwdown's You Don't Have To Be Blood To Be Family was one of those records I loved from the get go. The band had such a unique sound - a ridiculously low-tuned, unrelenting, ballsy groove. Family was leaps and bounds ahead of the band's 1999 full-length, Beyond Repair, as well as 2000's Drive Me Dead EP.

But it was a high point the band never seemed to reach again.

2003 saw the release of Haymaker, a good hardcore record, but with an uncharacteristic Pantera tinge. This time around, vocalist Keith Barney switched over to guitar giving his spot to Dave Peters, who - as of 2014 - remains the band's singer. Haymaker's a fun listen, but it doesn't pack the same punch as Family.

The remainder of Throwdown's discography ventures further and further into the realm of Pantera-worship. I don't hate the band's latest stuff, it just leaves me feeling underwhelmed. And I always missed Keith Barney's vocals.

When Monument To Thieves originally got together in 2008, I wasn't privy to their existence. At the time I was on a bit of a musical sabbatical. Regardless, it's hard for me to understand how I let a band containing former members of Throwdown and Adamantium, among many other Orange County hardcore greats, slip by me.

At the time I was aware that Keith Barney and Ken Floyd of Eighteen Visions had put together a side-project a few years earlier in the mid-2000's called XRainX. The demo tracks had that undeniable Throwdown Family vibe, but a proper band never materialized. Looking back, XRainX could be considered the proto-run for what became Monument To Thieves.

Originally, Keith Barney only played guitar for Monument To Thieves. Their first two 7"s, The Apology and Anyone But You, are fun listens. But it was only when Barney took over the vocals that the band really became something special.

Monument To Thieves' 2010 self-titled full-length is a modern hardcore masterpiece. Not only does it rip by today's standards, when I listen to it I get that same feeling I got from You Don't Have To Be Blood To Be Family. Monument's one and only proper record is incredibly heavy and polished, but it still contains the signature, unique groove of old Throwdown.

What really sets Monument apart, however, is their lyrical content. On the full-length, Barney tackles a variety of societal issues like gay rights, the media, and corporate greed. Between almost every other song is a sound byte relevant to the topic. He even went so far as to include a digital booklet with the record download containing song explanations and further sources to check out. Perhaps this commentary is partially a response to Throwdown being relegated to meathead, joke band status for so many years. Whatever the reason, Barney's sincere lyrical approach is inspiring.

I'm not sure when the band called it quits, but it wasn't long after the digital release of their full-length. A few years ago, the band had all their music available for free on Bandcamp. As of today, their site doesn't exist anymore and I just think it's a shame that people can't listen to these songs.

I've taken the liberty of uploading Monument To Thieves' two EPs and one full-length (booklet included), as well as the five XRainX demos. Hopefully, I can keep it available as this is some of the best metallic hardcore of the past ten years.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

No Denial - Discography.



No Denial was a Dutch hardcore band active in the early 2000's. Aside from the ability to do a dead-on Cro-Mags impression, the band was also notable for counting Lord Bigma - who did time in Mainstrike, Abusive Action, and Birds of A Feather - among its members.

No Denial released two EPs with Crucial Response (Soundtrack of Decline in 2001 and Crossing Beyond Illusions Currents in 2004). In between releases, the band contributed an exclusive track - "No Fear" - to CRR's One Track Mind comp in 2003.

If the Cro-Mags are too broad of a sound comparison, it's accurate to say No Denial shares common ground with True Blue and Icepick (the Netherlands one) - two great European hardcore bands. So, if you're like me and you've all but worn out your copies of The Ice and Goldrush, meet the next best thing: No Denial.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Retaliate.


As if I needed more proof that my finger is far from the pulse, I just discovered that Oxnard's Retaliate released a three song EP back in 2015. I was under the impression that they'd called it quits in 2012. Anyway, check out Infidel above and make sure to download at least one of the band's three LPs.

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And while we're on the topic, here's an e-mail interview I conducted with Zack Nelson of Retaliate and In Control back in 2011. At the time, Retaliate had just self-released their new LP, Thorns Without A Rose, for free online. I’d always loved In Control so my friend Karim told me to check out Zack’s new band and I was not at all disappointed. Yes, this piece is a few years old, but it’s far from dated. Even if it was, Zack's answers are some of the best I've ever received during an interview. He's a true lifer.

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"I don’t think anyone holds claim to what 'it’s really about.'"


1. Who are you and what do you do in Retaliate?

My name is Zack Nelson and I’m the vocalist.


2. Tell me about the demise of In Control and how Retaliate started. Were there any specific bands that influenced your sound?

In Control broke up because I was tired of constantly having to get new members. Our last lineups around CA were awesome and we finally sounded how I wanted us to sound but we could never get a good touring lineup together and I didn’t want to turn into just a local band. I always wanted to be writing, creating, touring, and moving forward. When that seemed to be drying up it was time to put it to rest.

The final nail was IC was finally going to go to Europe and we were going to do a record on Reflections. The day before we were set to buy our airline tickets, our drummer at the time flaked. I didn’t want to hang Reflections out to dry or the booking agent so we backed out of both. Then I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore, and we played a few last shows and broke up in late 2004.

With Retaliate, I just wanted to do a band in drop D because it’s so easy to write and simple shit sounds heavy. We recorded our demo before In Control put out The Truth Hurts, and one of the songs off the Truth Hurts was a Retaliate song. Writing for Retaliate was the same as writing for In Control, except our guitarist Andy helped with riffs instead of having me do everything by myself. Same shit as IC basically, except less pussy songs.






3. You guys just put out a new record called Thorns Without A Rose. Tell me a bit about the writing and recording process and the idea behind the title. Why'd you chose to give it away for free online? Is Indecision Records involved in some way?

We started demoing songs for the album in the summer of 2010. We took so long between the first and second LPs that it almost became a running joke at shows with us teasing to play a new song. We didn’t want to do that this time and right when we were done with We Are One we started fucking with ideas.

The title was lifted from the Tom Waits song “Downtown Train.” To me, it means everything ugly with nothing beautiful and that’s really a metaphor for how I feel sometimes. I think it sets a good mood for the record as well.

We gave it away for free online because people were going to download it anyway if they wanted it. You can’t stop the internet at this point. We’re not a big band and if people want to hear our band, I guess we should just be thankful for that. The music industry is in an interesting spot right now, not that I have much sympathy for it, especially majors. Those motherfuckers were trying to charge us $18 a CD before file sharing came along, so fuck them.

I feel bad for the independent labels and record stores and it really sucks that no one can help us with a recording or art budget, but that’s how it goes. Adapt to survive. For the people who love this music, we keep moving forward.

Indecision was not involved in this release. Dave is very busy with his non-music endeavors but I’m thankful for all the help he gave both Retaliate and In Control for almost a decade. The vinyl for this one came out on Mind Disease Records out of Chula Vista, CA and I put out the CD myself and built our website to give out the MP3s for free.


"[The music industry was] trying to charge us $18 a CD before file sharing came along, so fuck them."


4. Do you guys have any tours lined up? Is Retaliate something you do full time? Or has the time for that passed? I know with me, even at 28, working full time makes doing a band almost impossible.

Retaliate is not a full time band although it is a full time passion for me. I put everything I have into crafting songs and lyrics for this band. It’s not a gimmick or a flash in the pan, or something I do “for fun.”

We’ll play anywhere if we can get off work and break even. We went to Sweden in 2010 when the guys from Law & Order brought us out. We went to Mexico in 2007 when our friend Rene brought us down. I don’t care about making $ off this band obviously, but the days of driving 10 hours to play to 20 kids night after night are pretty much over. In Control toured the country four times and did a bunch of smaller trips and its something that I dearly miss though.


5. If I'm not mistaken, In Control started sometime in '99. What have you noticed about hardcore that's changed significantly, if anything, over the past thirteen years?

In Control started in 1999 but I joined my first hardcore band in 1996. Hardcore changes all the time, that’s why as you get older you get a crazy amount of respect for the old guard that keeps pluggin away. I saw Agnostic Front last week and they played a sick 45 minute set to probably 75 kids and sounded as good as any other time I’ve seen them. That’s seriously inspiring, but they’re the real deal.

It’s hard growing up in this scene to be able to figure out if it’s changing or if I’m changing. In the 90’s it definitely seemed like hardcore was more than music and the music was the vehicle to the message. In the early 2000’s, a lot of it got kind of dumbed down lyrically and it’s remained that way… at least for bands playing straight forward hardcore. I’m guilty too. The lyrics for our song “In My Life” are some of the dumbest lyrics that can be written, but I wrote them tongue in cheek and thought they were kinda clever. For our other two releases, I really worked hard on writing good lyrics that were if not groundbreaking, at least creative with our spin on them.

Of course, the other major thing that’s changed is what we brushed up on earlier… kids don’t buy music anymore. Also, it seems like everything is a package tour or a fest now. And hardcore is less regional than it ever was.


"It’s hard growing up in this scene to be able to figure out if it’s changing or if I’m changing."


6. What do you think of the current crop of bands, the big fests, the heavier focus on merchandise and selling records? Have they lost track of what it's really about?

I don’t think anyone holds claim to what “it’s really about.” And I don’t fault anyone for being merch-centric or whatever. They gotta make money to continue to put out music and shirts are a tangible item that can be sold to finance other projects. Bands are still touring and doing their thing. It’s just a different time and people have to do what they gotta do to survive. Fests are great as long as kids know that you gotta support hometown shows too if you want the scene to survive. It can’t be just a big internet gathering of keyboard pounding nerds who just want material to shit talk about for the next year.

There are still bands that get me really excited. Take Offense out of Chula Vista is an amazing band and all the guys in the band are dedicated to hardcore and them and their friends really kept San Diego alive for the last handful of years. Downpresser out of Santa Barbara is another one of my favorite bands. Their song structure is really unique and Dan does a great job of writing lyrics that fit that style. I really like the new Naysayer record too. I always get excited when Wisdom in Chains puts out something new.






7. On your previous record, We Are One, there's two songs: “My Hate Is Real” and “My Love Is Real.” Is it important for you to show both sides of the coin?

I was working for a theme that is pretty simple, but pretty real to me. I’m angry and negative a lot so the former was a logical song. And hardcore is a perfect platform for getting out anger, aggression, negativity, etc. But I wanted to close the album with a positive spin, talking about how much I love hardcore and I’m glad it came in my life to give me the platform to get all my demons off my chest. So that’s the idea behind that song. It was inspired by the short downtime that I took between In Control and Retaliate that I thought that I couldn’t wait for, but when I wasn’t doing hardcore it made me miserable. I also wanted to shout out to some of my favorite hardcore and punk records and compare them to iconic hip hop records.


"I saw Agnostic Front last week and they played a sick 45 minute set to probably 75 kids and sounded as good as any other time I’ve seen them. That’s seriously inspiring, but they’re the real deal."


8. You've been at this a long time. What was it that got you into punk rock and hardcore? What keeps you playing in bands and being involved?

It’s part of who I am. I really don’t know how to explain it. I’m 31 and I’ve been playing in punk and hardcore bands for more than half my life.


9. Even with In Control, you guys always showed a lot of pride and love to your hometown of Oxnard, CA. Is there anything about it that you'd like to comment on? Are there other bands coming out of there that you want people to be aware of?

I love Oxnard and we did take pride in it because we built a great hardcore scene that wasn’t established at that time. IC was also dedicated to reminding kids that Nardcore was actually about music and we wanted to remind them or show them how great the OG bands were. The big 4 were all amazing and in their prime didn’t sound like each other at all, which I thought was awesome. It’s funny, when In Control put out our first LP we got some bad reviews from morons who would say shit like “I thought this would sound more like early Nardcore or Ill Repute.” Well, dumbshit…Ill Repute, Stalag 13, Dr Know, and Aggression all sounded different. I loved that they didn’t copy each other and all forged their own sound. That’s what made it so great, in my opinion.

There are still awesome bands in Oxnard but I’ve lived in San Diego for the last five years. A good Oxnard band to check out is Never Meant. They played our record release show up there a couple weeks ago and that’s the best I’ve ever heard them sound. They’re fucking awesome. In San Diego, people should check out Take Offense, Deadlined, Fed To the Wolves, Let ‘Em Rot. Those bands are the shit.


"It’s part of who I am. I really don’t know how to explain it. I’m 31 and I’ve been playing in punk and hardcore bands for more than half my life."


10. What's the one thing you want people to remember Retaliate for when you're gone?

There aren’t many bands that put out three solid LPs. We did and I’m really proud of that. I also think each one got better and it was a good and positive progression. We weren’t a flash in the pan. The band started 9 years ago and we’re still good friends and love hanging out even though our lives are a lot different now than they were then. We currently have the original lineup of us four, plus Roger on second guitar, and Roger is the guy who recorded our demo and all three LPs. Plus I’ve played in bands with him off and on going back to 1997. He was basically already an important member of this band before he joined…just like our friend Aaron Belchere who does all of our art, and Juan Zaragosa who is our perennial sixth man.


11. Thanks, shout-outs, etc.?

Thanks for the interview.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Goldfinger - "Here In Your Bedroom"


See the Skeletones sticker on the keyboard? Now go download The 2K Solution. Or just wait a while and I'll probably upload it.

Goldfinger - Richter

"I can see from my mind's eye. I make up scenarios in my head. I remember the things I did. I know I fucked up and I wish I was dead."

In my experience, when people my age are asked the question, "What's your favorite punk rock record?" the answers usually come back as one of these: Energy, Dookie, ...And Out Come the Wolves, Punk In Drublic, Suffer, Against the Grain, Earth A.D., American Psycho, Age of Quarrel, Damaged, Built To Last, Scratch the Surface, Black Sails In the SunsetStart Today, etc., etc. etc.

So it tends to surprise people when I say Golfinger's 1996 self-titled full-length.

"Really? The band from Tony Hawk?"

Yeah, them... let me explain. This might take a minute.

When I discovered punk rock in the mid-90's I was in middle school. Green Day was on MTV and they were one of the coolest things I'd ever seen - even cooler than Nirvana, if you could believe that. But if you're in your early to mid-30's like me, you lived through an event back in 1995 that made a lot of kids shift their musical focus.

It was called the "ska explosion."

Now, ska music has a rich and storied history going back decades before I was born. There were two initial waves, the first emerging from Jamaica in the 1960's. It was a musical style that combined calypso with American rhythm and blues, among other genres. This wave popularized the term "sound system" which Operation Ivy was yelling about in the 80's. Sound systems were basically big stereos on trucks that people would set up for neighborhood dances in Kingston.

The second wave was a revival in the United Kingdom in the 1970's. People call this the Two Tone era. This is where we get the Specials, the Selector, Madness, and all that. I won't get into any more detail about this era because I'll end up writing a book that no one wants to read.

The third wave of ska started in the late 80's, but really came to prominence in the mid-90's. It was a U.S.-based sub-genre, lacking the subtlety of the previous generations. Third wave ska is characterized by big horn sections and guitar riffs. Sure, a lot of modern ska bands play the old styles (the Slackers, Hepcat), but a good chunk of the third wave bands just threw some upstroked chords and horns into their fast punk songs. Sounds a bit lazy, right?

Whatever else it was, I thought it was awesome.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sublime, Save Ferris, the Suicide Machines, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and Goldfinger were the first third wave bands I heard. And I was obsessed. I'd beg my parents for allowance loans to buy Let's Face It or Tragic Kingdom at the local F.Y.E. I'd rush home from school and stare at MTV until they finally showed something with a horn.

As is my tendency to do, I dug around for more bands. I was also discovering underground punk simultaneously, but for me, ska was still way ahead in the running. In the 8th and 9th grade Asian Man Records received almost every penny of my allowance. My room was overflowing with CDs, posters, and tee-shirts of bands like Slapstick, Potshot, MU330, Mustard Plug, and Less Than Jake. Once I started going to local shows, I was enthralled to discover that Daytona had our own ska punk band: Skif Dank. I'll be posting about them soon.

There's just something so uplifting and uncomplicated about this music. Even as I discovered heavier styles and eventually found myself mired within the hardcore scene, I still loved ska (mostly second and third wave) and listened to it on a regular basis. I still do.

I just don't think there's anything wrong with taking a break from the Cro-Mags and putting on 40oz. To Freedom or Turn the Radio Off. I've done some stupid things in my life, but apologizing to some bandwagoning, hipster dickhead for liking what I like has never been one of them.

Which brings me back to my initial claim at the beginning of all this. My answer to, "What's your favorite punk record?"

Answering with Goldfinger elicits the worst response from people. And to be fair, my favorite record of all time changes from week to week. I've got five or six desert island discs I wouldn't want to live without. But Goldfinger's self-titled is always one of them.

From the colorful artwork, to the gold-foil logo, to the inlaid live photo of the band, before I even listened to a note of the record I was already enthralled. Then "Mind's Eye" ripped me a new one. It's such a shame Goldfinger is only remembered for their poppier radio tunes like "Here In Your Bedroom" and "Superman." They're great songs, yes, but most of the band's self-titled effort is fast, melodic punk rock. Songs like "Only A Day," "Nothing To Prove," "Anxiety," and "Miles Away," not to mention "The City With Two Faces," are full throttle, fist pumpers. Musically the band blew me away with their speed and precision (I was thirteen and I hadn't heard actual metal yet). The way Darrin Pfeiffer's drum rolls sound on that popcorn snare is one of those musical nuances I'll never forget. And Jon Feldman's sneering, yet gruffly melodic vocals have always been an inspiration to me. The band are experts in what they play, style-hopping without losing the frenetic pace and upbeat glee that makes them who they are. And I always thought it was so cool how they borrowed Reel Big Fish's horn section for the ska numbers.

I still listen to Goldfinger's self-titled once or twice a week. Once I hear "Mind's Eye," I can't stop until I've reached the end of the hidden track.

Rather than upload the band's debut major label release (which should be no problem for anyone to locate and purchase), I thought I'd make Goldfinger's out-of-print 1995 EP, Richter, available. The record contains early (and not so great) versions of "Here In Your Bedroom," "Anything," "Miles Away," and "Mind's Eye." But there are two great tracks that didn't (officially) make the cut for the LP: "I Believe" and "Fuck You and Your Cat." "Fuck You" appears hidden at the end of record, but it's nice not to have to fast forward to hear it. And "I Believe" is an exclusive worth the download alone.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Doctor Evil - Better Living Through Mutation

"Little man how do you stand so tall? Angry man I wonder how you even stand at all."


I started listening to punk rock in the mid 1990's, when I was in the sixth or seventh grade. Back then, of course, internet access was extremely limited. You would find out about different bands from buying a CD or cassette with a cool cover, reading an interview, or perusing the thanks list of an album. That was really it. You couldn't Google anything. In the 90's, punk was this big vague thing to me. I didn't understand the concept of touring, or being a part of a local scene - least of all geographically.

I knew NOFX was from California, but I didn't really think about it. Bands were just bands. Now I think of groups in context of where they're from, who came from their area before, who they sound like, or emulate. Back then, I just knew band names. And I thought all bands were the same in terms of popularity. NOFX was a punk band. Doctor Evil was a punk band. I didn't understand what a local band was. I didn't get how one band could be more popular than the other.

Doctor Evil hailed from my hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida. Well, to be exact, they came from Holly Hill which is a suburb of the greater Daytona area. At any rate, Holly Hill's right next to Daytona and they're both basically the same: middle to lower income neighborhoods, a dusting of trailer parks here and there, and a lot of sand and drugs.

But, as I said at the beginning of this write-up, I didn't care where Doctor Evil was from. I just liked the way punk sounded. Whatever sounded good was what I liked. To me, Doctor Evil was operating at the exact same level as Bad Religion, or Black Flag. And, to be honest, I saw Doctor Evil play, which at the time I couldn't say about many of the other bands I listened to. So, in my young brain, I liked them better than other bands. And though I don't feel as strongly today, I do still love this band.

Doctor Evil played fast punk rock - as was the sound of the day - but with a slightly darker bent. Think Good Riddance with a hint of Graves-era Misfits. Eric Evil had a fantastic voice and the band's one and only full-length - Better Living Through Mutation - is brimming with whoa's and catchy sing-a-longs. The guitar riffs incorporated everything from thrash metal and even third-wave ska, but still managed to remain coherent and anchored in a punk rock framework. Drummer Benjamin Boyce and bassist Lance Ferguson keep the rhythm section running like clockwork and lead guitarist Jeremy Varao delivers a face-melter or three throughout the course of the record.

I got to see Doctor Evil a handful of times. The very first time was at a local record store called Atlantic Sounds, which is still open today. The band just pushed the CD tables aside and set up in the middle of the store. I didn't really understand what I was seeing, but I knew I liked it. Doctor Evil often covered the Misfits (on Mutation they covered "Astro Zombies") and I believe at this show they did "Last Caress." In fact, it was Doctor Evil that got me into the Misfits. I already liked American Psycho, but I had no idea about the band they were before they reunited with Graves instead of Danzig.

It was also said that on Halloween, if the mood was right, Doctor Evil would throw in a punk version of "The Time Warp" from Rocky Horror. I never saw it though.

Now that I'm thinking about it, at that Atlantic Sounds show Doctor Evil shared the bill with another long-gone, Daytona favorite: Pu Tang Clan, who weren't as terrible as their terrible name suggested. In fact, they were quite good - they sounded like a faster Screeching Weasel. Their live shows were distinguished by the lead guitarist lighting his head stock on fire for a solo, then dunking it in a bucket of water as he fretted the last note.

I also got to see Doctor Evil once or twice at Orbit 3000, the first real venue I ever frequented here in Daytona Beach. Of course, there were others before, but I was too young to go to the shows. Orbit was a formative time in my punk rock growth. - an era of fun that I'll never forget. And local bands like Doctor Evil, Skif Dank, and Fortitude (the latter two I'll be posting about one day) will always be forever intertwined in that musical growth spurt.

Incidentally, "Butterflies," the first track on Mutation, was one of the first songs I learned to play with the drummer of my very first band (we couldn't decide whether to name ourselves Middle Finger Salute or Die Trying). We also learned "Army of One," along with a slew of Epitaph and Fat Wreck bands' songs.

Next year, Mutation is going to be 20 years old and Doctor Evil are long gone. For me, it's kind of mind blowing. I don't know exactly when they called it quits, but it wasn't too many years after their record came out. For a long time, I thought I'd never be able to listen to this band again after losing my copy of Mutation in a move. No one I knew still had the CD. Or so I thought. After a drunken night on the town, my friend and band mate many times over, Justin Lauer, dug through a bunch of boxes in his garage looking for some movie to let me borrow. Lo and behold, he pulls out the Doctor Evil CD.

And now, thanks to Justin and the double-edged sword of the internet, I can make sure Better Living Through Mutation never gets lost to time.