Friday, January 31, 2014

Artist Spotlight: The Twilight Sad

With three LPs in the bank and another well on its way, The Twilight Sad appear to have reached something of a crossroads in their ardent, noisy career. True, such conclusions are regularly leapt to with fresh music imminent, however, if the Kilsyth outfit's recent activities are anything to go by it seems they too sense a change in the wind. Given they're neither going through the motions nor hitting a notable anniversary, the decision to revisit debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters for a series of live dates was a curious exercise in nostalgia, but now that they're granting the same record a deluxe Record Store Day reissue it suggests a group bidding farewell to those elementary days. Indeed, having fulfilled childhood dreams by selling out Glasgow's Barrowlands Ballroom in 2012, the trio can justifiably purport to have "made it" as a band, but that didn't prevent them from accepting another prestigious live offer last October, this time in the markedly offbeat setting of Paisley Abbey.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Album Review: Ulver/Sunn O))) - Terrestrials

Album Score: B
“Like some lost pilgrim stretching before the sun…” - Rygg

Kristoffer Rygg has certainly made his musical pilgrimages, from black metal allegedly recorded in a forest to haunting ambient-electronic opuses. It comes as little surprise, then, that his lifelong project – the enigmatic entity known as Ulver – would wander into the path of another avant-garde behemoth in Sunn O))). Both bands have basically done as they pleased since their inceptions, and though the latter duo has perhaps alienated as many as it has enthralled, rumors of a collaboration between such creative forces seized the attention of experimental music fans everywhere. Born of early-morning improvisations at Ulver’s studio in August 2008 and painstakingly honed in the years since, Terrestrials is the sort of album that dreams are made of – particularly the kind from which you wake up hyperventilating in a cold sweat.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Album Review: County Drop - The Origin of Skeletons

Album Rating: A
Hailing from the heart of the New Brunswick, NJ basement scene, County Drop proves that sincerity is the best policy. Released in late August of last year, The Origin of Skeletons is a raw mess of emotions smoothed over with unusual song structures, intricate drum patterns, and hooky choruses. It’s a heartfelt record that fuses the likes of emo, indie, and punk.

Artist Spotlight: Amends

It is very rare at this point in my life that a band will honestly impress me beyond a certain level on first listen. Most new bands often need a sort of "warming up period," to both hone their skills and entice new listeners. On my first listen of Rochester's Amends first EP, Here, There and Nowhere Else, they completely shattered my preconceived notion of a young band needing this early period. Amends is a post-hardcore band, that is surprisingly melodic yet has ferocious tenacity. Reminiscent of Pianos Become The Teeth, Amends differs in blending aspects of alternative rock with post-hardcore. Songs are emotional and worm their melodies into your head, while still being heavy and
powerful. The band plays with the skills of long-term veterans and have already defined their unique style of post-hardcore.

Keep your eyes open for Amends, who are now working on new music. Their debut EP is now available on CD on Hockomock records, and cassette on Fear Not Records.

Download or stream their EP 
Preorder their EP on cassette here (limited to 55 copies)
Purchase their EP on cd here

Monday, January 27, 2014

Album Review: Alaskan - Erosion, Despair, Loss

Album Score: A-
The mountain stands before me: glaciers wracked with black crevasses extend for miles before windswept ridges jut upwards at jagged angles. Something inside tells me to go back.“A sacrifice!” scream the violins, shrill strings that rise and writhe like harbingers of doom.The storm descends; I forge ever onwards. My footsteps ring against the frozen earth, faster and faster, into the mouth of the sky. An avalanche – the drums, thundering; resonant and sharp, an unstoppable force to carry me to the foot of the behemoth. I pass the point of no return; the falling snow is a deafening blanket. I look around and find nothing familiar but the sound of my own voice as it is carries down the slopes to disappear into some godforsaken chasm. “Beg for forgiveness!” the mountain demands, its voice harsh, merciless.Why undertake this journey? Why here, of all places, when I could be in sunny fields or sandy shores?

Jukebox: VARNA - "My Heart"

As the origin story of Los Angeles rock trio VARNA suggests, life can be random; the members met while installing a fan in the vocalist's house. On the band's single "My Heart," however, the chemistry is undeniable. If the concept is a bit middle-of-the-road, the dynamic execution blows temptations of cynicism away. The verse-chorus structure is intact, but the band shifts things up right when you're settled in--a new rhythm here, a melodic tangent there. Drummer Rob Shin shifts from mellow, layered rhythms to ferocious, in-your-face ones; guitarist Rossen Pinkas riffs and shreds for his life; and vocalist Tiana Woods delivers anger and sorrow with a fiery elegance. It's a strong statement of intent and a good reminder that sometimes the best things in life come from sincerity and talent.

Album Review: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

Album Rating: A
A band with a name like Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra can only sound this way. Ethereal, spiritual, and at times thematic, the Canadian experimental group swells and succeeds once again on their seventh studio album. Being as a bit of a lesser known side project to the critically acclaimed Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion differ in one key aspect. They feature vocals from band leader Efrim Menuck. Also focusing on a more string and orchestral feel than GYBE, Thee Silver Mt. Zion are completely different entity that deserves all the praise and respect of Godspeed You! On Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything, the band produces another full-length, emotional roller coaster of sound and energy. The record is everything that one would want from the band, and may be their strongest effort yet.

Fuck Off Get Free... can easily be considered a fully representative picture of Thee Silver Mt. Zion as a whole. Throughout its six tracks, the record takes you on a journey along a spiraling and mesmerizing path, through mountains of experimental punk to depths of gloomy minimalistic slow core. The band kicks off the disc with the roaring, distorted string section taking the helm, leading the title track on its way. Here the band displays their unique version of experimental punk rock, featuring orchestral strings, combined with driving drums and discordant guitars. Menuck's vocals are  pleading as usual, treading the line between singing and howling closely, but always on the brink of emotional dismay. Thee Silver Mt. Zion's lyrics are known for being closely tied to politics and worldly issues, and there is no difference here. Songs discuss their native Canada, and even expand into general human code.

At only six songs in length, Fuck Off Get Free contains a few drawn out tracks to fulfill its LP status. The aforementioned title track is only the first one, and "Austerity Blues" follows immediately, also  being the longest song on the album. While it may not be any new territory for the band, it's a track that can be welcomed easily into their catalogue. "Take Away These Early Grave Blues" comes crashing in next, with it's powerful and driving energy, making it very reminiscent of "I Built Myself a Metal Bird," from 2010's Kollaps Tradixionales. During these pseudo-punk tracks Thee Silver Mt. Zion define themselves and truly separate any comparison that says they are "just" a side-project of Godspeed You!

"Little Ones Run" delivers some breathing room next, letting the listener's ears relax over light piano and haunting vocals, and it serves as a prelude to the epic and heartbreakingly emotional "What We Loved Was Not Enough." Previously released as two tracks on an EP in 2012, the song sees new life here in a sort of remastered, rerecorded version that exceeds the original significantly. Building upon itself over its 11 minute timeframe, the song reaches an emotional boiling point where it overflows with beautiful sounds and longing vocals. Being such a highpoint on the album, it overshadows the gloomy closer, "Rains Thru The Roof at Thee Grand Ballroom (For Capital Steez)," which plays more like an outro than anything.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything can easily be seen as a definitive experience of Thee Silver Mt. Zion. It contains every aspect that defines the unique group, and finds the band at some of their highest highs. As swiftly as it came, the album has the opposite in staying power. The LP is one that will stick around in my mind for some time, and is hopefully just the beginning of an exciting 2014.

Track list:

1. Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island of Montreal)
2. Austerity Blues
3. Take Away These Early Grave Blues
4. Little Ones Run
5. What We Loved Was Not Enough
6. Rains Thru The Roof at Thee Grand Ballroom (For Capital Steez)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Live Review: Mogwai, Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre, Newcastle (22/01/2014)

The first thing which strikes you about Mogwai's live show isn't their visual impact, stage presence or sheer volume, but rather the mountainous technical setup by which they're surrounded. Opening their latest world tour at the Newcastle's Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre, the Glaswegians adorned the stage with stacks of keyboards, synths, drumkits and no less than 40 effects pedals; while their guitar tech sweated for his money, frantically readying fresh instruments for each and every new song. The quintet themselves, meanwhile, thoroughly justified the price of admission in a display of poise and proficiency very much befitting one of post rock's definitive acts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Live Review: RM Hubbert with Aidan Moffat, Mitchell Library, Glasgow (21/01/2014)

Following RM Hubbert brings numerous benefits, among them the opportunity to experience the power of his music in offbeat, widely disparate settings. In less than two years as a convert, Glasgow's flamenco extraordinaire has drawn me to arts centers, great pubs on lively Friday nights and even a fucking launderette - and that's having missed the "play for food" deals which punctuated his early years. This show - organised as part of the city's annual Celtic Connections festival - however, was something of a crème de la crème. For one, the sold out Mitchell Library represented his biggest hometown headliner to date, and what's more was opened by long-time acquaintance Aidan Moffat, a handy bonus once the time came for their distinguished collaboration, 'Car Song.' Moffat, though wasn't the only guest, with former Delgado Emma Pollock checking-in for the scarcely heard 'Half Light,' and Scotland's Cairn String Quartet providing one-off backing to a smattering of familiar cuts.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Album Review: The Visit – Between Worlds

Album Score: A
In an industry where everything seems to be trending towards the more complex – faster, louder, overhyped, overproduced – it takes an act of understated beauty to remind us what makes something truly memorable. The Visit takes this concept and runs with it. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, The Visit consists solely of singer Heather Sita Black and cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne, who display stunning chemistry on their debut release, “Between Worlds.” Though containing only a single fourteen-minute song, it is, quite frankly, a tremendous opening statement from the duo. The piece traverses a number of peaks as it builds from a chamber-style lament to a progressive juggernaut and back with breathtaking ease.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Live Review: Old Gray & Lovechild, Now That's Class (1/18/14)

Nestled on the outskirts of the city, Cleveland's dive-bar-gone-music-venue Now That's Class! has played home to some of the best tours of the past couple years including Every Time I Die's fall tour and several Title Fight headliners. Harboring an eclectic mix of hardcore, punk, indie and experimental music, the small sub-300 cap venue is known for its cheap booze and rowdy crowds which were exemplified to the extreme at Saturday's show.

Jukebox: MONA - "Stand By Me"

Ben E. King based his famous '80s hit "Stand By Me" off of an old Christian spiritual, and the underlying connotations lent the song an unusual darkness. Though it bounced along on sunny guitar strums and cherubic string arrangements, King suggested more was on the line. He didn't deliver the title so much as he begged it, his voice fraying as he asked his "darling" to stay by his side--perhaps his love, perhaps his God, but who really knew?

The original left the tension as subtext, but Nashville rock outfit MONA brings it to the forefront on its haunting, visceral cover of the song, commissioned for the upcoming season of Hannibal. Church bells echo through the periphery like relics of a world lost, while frontman Nick Brown dwells on the apocalyptic implications of the lyrics, his drafty tenor wafting over the understated horror of each image. The further in we get, the more vividly the song draws the nightmare, adding in ominous bass drum, ghostly gospel harmonies, and arid guitar lines--and the more fervent Brown's voice grows, from a pained coo to a bone-chilling yowl. "Here comes trouble, won't you stand by me?" he thunders near song's end, a question rendered ethereal but impossible to deny.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Album Review: Backtrack -Lost In Life

Album Rating: A- 
Backtrack is quickly becoming one of the leading names in current hardcore music. With their furious debut, Darker Half, becoming a modern classic, they are taking no prisoners in their barreling spiral forward. With a touring schedule that rivals no other and a new album, their first on Bridge 9 Records, Backtrack is on path to take 2014 by storm. Lost In Life may only be their second full-length album, but it has the strength and stability of a band that has firmly rooted themselves in what they try to be.

Album Review: Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Album Rating: B+
Nearly a decade ago, alternative monoliths Jesse Lacey and company released a certain massive album to massive critical acclaim—an album so haunted by, so fixated on the universal cosmic internal dichotomy raging within themselves that hordes of worshipers couldn’t help but learn from it to question their own selves while simultaneously idolizing, myself included. Now, nearly eight years later, another two-sided internal struggle of equal (if not greater) weight has bubbled to the surface in the form of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the first full-length Against Me! album with an open, unguarded (and fierce) Laura Jane Grace at the helm.  If you thought questioning J.C.’s three-day disappearance in 2005 was powerful, wait until you hear this.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Album Review: Worms in Women and Cattle – Sick Road

Album Score: A-

“Worms in Women and Cattle.” It’s a name that sounds incredibly demeaning, but if you think about it, it’s true: there are worms in just about every living thing. It’s kind of scary and kind of creepy, but it’s also fascinating. Such is the Providence, RI quartet’s only release,Sick Road. Composed of nine bombastic black metal pieces from two to fifteen minutes long, the album conjures some of the most ghastly feelings possible. While the whole band sounds like they crawled out of a bog right before recording, the main culprit is Worms’ possessed frontwoman Pippi Zornoza, whose ungodly shrieks are bound to give even the most hardened black metal enthusiasts goosebumps. Combine those with some hair-raising and unpredictable compositions, and you get a black metal album like no other.

Album Review: Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Album Rating: B
It's easy to forget in 2014 that listening to Mogwai once felt like domesticating a dangerous animal. Sure this specimen was docile for the most part and carried a sense of serene worldly beauty, but its presence always brought with it an underlying tension; a realisation that at any given moment it could revert to type, wreaking havoc with its terrifying array of natural weaponry. Now, though, the beast is well and truly tamed. It can still be prone to the odd noisy temper tantrum, however, the sense of dread precursing these outbursts has long since dissipated, as have their volatility and sheer explosive power. Unfortunately, the aura and majesty surrounding the creature have faded slightly together with its destructive tendencies. These days, it simply resembles another item of furniture - still dearly beloved, yet somewhat taken for granted, and certainly missing the thrill and danger of years gone by.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Live Review: Against Me!, Cat's Cradle (1/14/14)

Photos by: Erin Kennedy
No dimming of the lights.  No intro music.  No bullshit.  Without so much as a "Hello," Atom Willard, followed by Laura Jane Grace, Inge Johansson and James Bowman, respectively, popped out from the right side of the stage and donned their instruments just a few minutes before ten.  Each member was dressed in all black, just as past members had adorned themselves in the earlier years, and Grace ducked her head under the strap of her signature black and white Rickenbacker with one of the biggest grins imaginable.  This was my sixth time seeing Against Me!, and it was the happiest I had ever seen her.

Jukebox: Tideland - "Starblood"

There has been a lot of talk of "revival" these past few years, be it grunge, Midwestern emo or whatever combination of the two seems most appealing at the time.  While certainly capable of slipping into that problematic label, Tideland, whose noise originates in Sterling, Va., seems a bit more wont to operate outside of modern sonic de rigueur and simply play the music they want to play.  "Starblood," the opening track on their third proper full-length, is a dreamy, textural lapse into the cloudy chaos of the 90s—nostalgic, but far from dependent on convention.  Methodical guitar bends skillfully slip the track in and out of focus as mbv-redolent walls of fuzz overtake the consistent, crisp cymbals.  Once the post-rock tremolo hits about halfway through, the purity of Tideland's purpose outshines any moribund talk of revival with something far greater: rejoicing.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Album Review: Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed

Album Score: B+
Everyone knows that thrash is all about teh riffs, but what’s behind great riffage? If you’re going by Skeletonwitch’s latest effort, the answer is pure energy. With eleven songs clocking in at less than three minutes apiece, Serpents Unleashed is a dissertation on explosive songwriting from the Ohio blackened thrash veterans. Arguably the group’s most cohesive effort to date, the album meshes a variety of influences and styles while showcasing some of the strongest pieces in Skeletonwitch’s catalogue. Purists need not fret, though, for Serpents Unleashed leaves no doubt that it’s meant to get mosh pits moving and hearts racing in proper thrash metal fashion.

Artists to look out for in 2014: SOHN

While it would be tempting to flex whatever constitutes as music knowledge muscle and pull out the crystal ball of “next big things,” predicting SOHN will be one to watch in 2014 is like concluding the day of a tsunami isn't the best moment for a beach trip. The Vienna-based English producer only has an EP and a couple of singles to his name, yet has somehow managed to get himself 800,000 soundcloud followers. Eight, hundred, thousand. For comparison, James Blake has 23,000. It's just silly.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jukebox: Galimatias & Sorrow - Subside

No sooner had I finally gotten off my arse to buy a cable to connect my laptop to two pretty nasty speakers (previously they only connected to a record player, so spent most of their time as paperweights) than this little beauty decides to swan its way into Soundcloud.

Sorrow did all kinds of wonderful things to dubstep last year: Dreamstone defied all expectations to solidify itself as the best dubstep release of 2013 and the later Warring EP made a very good case for the harsher, heavy side of the genre in a scene now dominated by the emotional style of Asa et al. Galimatias, on the other hand, has been producing a series of super-smooth singles for a while now, culminating in the lovely little beat-based Young Chimera last year.

Put them together and you get the catchiest track of the year so far. I realise this might not be saying too much, but this is no doubt about to explode across the net. With all that slow, bouncing bass and soft melodies this may as well hail itself as the ultimate end of the night experience. It's free as well. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Watch This: Circuit Des Yeux - "Lithonia"

Something sinister is brewing in Chicago chamber pop artist Circuit des Yeux's new video for "Lithonia": while the strings begin in elegant swoops before slowly fraying into discord and guitar static makes a harsh intrusion, Haley Fohr's voice wrangles with big existential ruminations and questions ("What's freedom, and what's reality?"). The video plays with the way intimacy feeds into darkness, offering us an almost voyeuristic glimpse into Fohr's personal space as she changes clothes, camera honing in on the pimples on her back, chops off her hair, her hands trembling as she grips a pair of scissors, and drenches herself in sticky-sweet syrup. The liquid coats her face as if raining tears as she stares into our eyes, and even if the moment is uncomfortable the video still plays it as a moment of liberation.

Album Review - You Blew It! - Keep Doing What You're Doing

Album Rating: A-
Last year, emo was all the rage. Major mainstream publications wrote articles about the "emo revival," focusing on the subdued instrumentation and heartfelt lyricism expressed through the technical stylings of bands like Dads and The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. Many fans in the "scene" (whatever that is) chimed in, and debates ensued over what bands were emo, when emo went away, and if it ever went away at all. The proverbial genre bastardization "twinkle daddies" was spewed over Tumblr referring to this new generation of bands influenced by the likes of American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, and the Promise Ring. Now it's 2014, and we have a whole new box of sadness to pry into. Enter Keep Doing What You're Doing, an album from Orlando's own You Blew It! that's quirky, depressing and anything but derivative.

Album Review: Indian - From All Purity

Indian - The Unquite Sky
Album Score: C+
As a rule of thumb, when a band lists Waylon Jennings and Lynyrd Skynyrd as influences, you shouldn’t expect to hear funeral doom guitars and banshee screams. Apparently, Indian didn’t get that memo. The Illinois quartet’s fifth album From All Purity may not sound particularly Native American, but it’s not hard to imagine that it was born of a thirst for Fire Water and retribution as the band rips through six gritty tracks with the subtlety of a tomahawk. Riding the dirtiest guitar tone this side of Thou and a terrifying performance by vocalist Dylan O’Toole, From All Purity is, for better or for worse, as relentless and overstated as modern metal gets.

Jukebox: Big Jesus - "Cold Fire"

Forever a Thrice fan, I tend to not take recommendations from Riley Breckenridge in stride, but when one of my favorite modern musicians additionally offers up his praise, how can I resist?  After repeated listens of their debut album, One, I can confirm with flying colors that Big Jesus, hailing from Atlanta, deserves every ounce of this big name adoration they can muster, even if my recommendation carries nowhere near as much weight as the aforementioned alternative music gods.  Record opener, "Cold Fire," serves as a fantastic introduction to the band's refined blend of huge, spacious sludge.  While the guitars are aggressive and dripping with fuzz, Spencer Ussery's dreamy singing is a perfect counterpoint to them, lulling listeners into a comfortable sleep just before jolting them awake again with the solo's generously applied wah.  Featuring Aaron Wamack, a former guitarist of O'brother, on drums with his explosive snare and crash cymbals, Big Jesus' talent only continues to build with each passing second.  When "Cold Fire" inevitably catches your attention, check out the accruing "My Being" and expansive "Ought to Take" for refined multiplications on the sound, and then purchase One from their Bandcamp for endless enjoyment.  Atmosphere this carefully cultivated won't stop delivering any time soon.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I've Been Feeling Sinister: Indie Pop's Bizarre Affair with Existentialism

Is this you?
“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.”

-Albert Camus, The Stranger

“There’s a tombstone right in front of you and everyone I know”

-Vampire Weekend, “Don’t Lie”

This article primarily exists to explore one of popular music’s most disturbing oxymorons. The moniker "indie-pop" speaks far more to the public consciousness than a literal reading of two impossibly ambiguous words shoved together. Sweet, earnest, cute, pretty, it’s music for modern teenagers to fall in love with. It may be a bit off-color, a bit off-key, but it never strays far from that pop anchor. It’s music to tap your foot to, music to smile to, music to feel good about. The question is, then, why is some of the most life-affirming, inspiring music so depressing in content. More specifically, why does indie pop seem so especially fixated on death. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Film Review: Filmage - The Story of Descendents/ALL

Film Rating: A
Music films somehow always manage find an audience, despite their water droplet existence amidst the endless sea of superhero movies, sequels and remakes these days. On the punk end of the spectrum, SLC Punk and Riding in Vans with Boys often come to mind as widely regarded near-perfect visualized staples of the genre, regardless of their usual juvenile, hyperbolized nature. When I first learned of Filmage, a colorful documentary on the history of pop punk legends, Descendents, I thought, if handled properly, it could certainly find its place among these preeminent fundamentals, and after a serendipitous (and crowded) screening a few miles down the road at Motorco in Durham, N.C., all (har har) of my hopes were handily confirmed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jukebox: Confluence - "Awaiting"

The word "math" comes with connotations of calculation, as if everything is but a series of numbers and equations scrawled onto some apathetic kid's test paper: Denver math-rock band Confluence, however, defies that easy pigeonhole, offering brimming warmth to go with technically impressive rhythms and songwriting on its new single "Awaiting" (also available for free download below). Though the song's cadence is complex, going from 5/4 to 6/4 and everything in between, there's a resilience to its restlessness. The sunny bass melodies and the sharp bits of guitar swirling in here and there put the song firmly in Enemies territory, bubbling with tension even as they wash over the listener, while the vocal--more prominent here than in the work of most math-rock outfits--lends the ragtag arrangement gravity, outlining a relationship circling the drain before ending on an abrupt possibility: "They knew that they could make it happen." Sounds like something interesting is already happening here.

Confluence will be touring through the spring of 2014.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Live Review: Slow Warm Death, Ultramantis Black, Fake Cult, War Emblem, Manbeast (12/28/13)

The final show I happened to see this past year, also happened to be the final show for two very talented groups. One of my favorite bands (who won the top spot in my year end list), Slow Warm Death headlined what would be their last show for some considerable time, as frontman John Galm is moving out west. Hardcore band Fake Cult, who were a local favorite disbanded after their energetic set.

Taking place in a small, local fire hall in Bethlehem, PA, the show kicked off with a rousing set from Manbeast, who's unforgiving thrash style of hardcore was relentless for the length of their set. War Emblem took the stage next and played a fantastic set of traditional hardcore music, featuring a variety of new songs off of their upcoming record. Fake Cult played after, and while I had never seen them play before, I was able to appreciate their talent and following during their final show.

What occurred next was something that took everyone by surprise. While every other band on the bill were smaller, locally based groups, Ultramantis Black is something a bit larger. Featuring the synonymous  professional wrestler as frontman, who lead the band through some of the best hardcore music I've heard in a long time. Full of energy and leadership, he captivated the crowd and put on a jaw-dropping performance.

To cap off the night, Slow Warm Death set up for the last time. A somber mood was in the air as John Galm, a long-time Bethlehem native prepared to play his last hometown show for quite some time. Playing a set consisting of almost their entire full-length album, plus the "soon to be released on a 7" " track "Madonna," Slow Warm Death became one with the crowd, as the fans and band morphed into one. During "Sleep," the entire crowd crooned the intro before the band kicks, and during "Kill You," the entire room seemed to pulse with the sludgy-rock beat.

While I can only hope that someday Slow Warm Death will play again, they ended the first part of their life as band on a extremely high note with a performance I'll never forget.


1. Alone
2. Liar
3. Conversation
4. Kill You
5.Holy Ghost
6. Sleep
7. Crack
8. Madonna

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Alex Newton's Top 50 of 2013

1. The Ocean – Pelagial

In the wake of The Ocean’s polarizing duo Heliocentric and Anthropocentric, their next album was bound to be a make-or-break affair. With Pelagial, however, those fears about the Ocean’s future can finally be laid to rest. Based around the very cool concept of descending through the ocean, Pelagial feels more natural than anything else by the new lineup. Songwriter and guitarist Robin Staps’ original idea was to start with a clean, ambient “surface” feel and move steadily towards a “distorted and abrasive sound for the doomy depth-passages at the end of the album”. Indeed, the serene major-chord piano of “Epipelagic” sets a tone unlike anything in The Ocean’s catalogue, despite seascape sounds that otherwise whisper of Fluxion’s opener, “Nazca”.