REVIEW: Cathedral Fever – “All Pit, No Pendulum”

cathedralfeverBefore I go into this review, I want to talk about horror punk. Like, as a concept. I, as a general rule, don’t like it. I didn’t always have such a dislike for the music though. I was never a fan, really. But I wasn’t always annoyed by it. In my younger years I lived in two different punk houses. The first was in Aurora, IL. I lived with three other people, two of those people loved horror punk and psychobilly. They would play it constantly. I am way more familiar with bands like Blitzkid and the Rosedales than I want to be.

Once the Aurora house died, three of the four of us from it moved to Bartlett, IL. The second house was actually the house of a dude who was in a horror punk band. I was pretty ok with the band before I moved in. They weren’t my favorite local band, but I liked seeing them. Once I moved in the house though, goddamn. I had to hear them practice all the time. I must have heard their setlist at least five or six times a week on a few occasions.

When either house had parties, it was almost always horror punk being played. I had to hide in my room and play my records loud if I wanted a break. Every decoration they had was somehow “spooky.” Shit, one of the cats that I now own was originally adopted in the first house. The two horror punk people named the damn thing Spooky.

Being surrounded by a thing you weren’t all that interested in to begin with is enough to put you off something. Never mind being surrounded by it for two years straight. Almost non-stop. You’d get sick of it too. It is with this preface that I do this review.

Cathedral Fever has now joined the very short list of horror themed bands that I will listen to.

All Pit, No Pendulum is a fucking beast of a record. It is very much a horror punk record at it’s core. The overall lyrical theme is definitely on some horror shit. What makes it different is that it isn’t the same old tired tropes. It’s not a bunch of vampire/zombie/1950’s horror kitsch. They aren’t writing the songs around the dusty old “whoas and ohs” chorus. No way. They fucking rip through shit in a really aggressive way. Coming with a hardcore/thrash/metal style, they have enough power to overcome the pitfalls that often come with the genre type. The drums fucking blast. The guitars are dirty and distorted. The vocals are loud, aggressive, and maybe even a bit guttural at times. Cathedral Fever is a pissed off sounding band, but they just happen to be playing in a horror theme.

The lyrics, by the nature of the genre, are a little cheesy though. It happens. They seem to be more influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe than they are Ed Wood or George Romero though. The record title is a reference to The Pit And The Pendulum for crying out loud. We’re getting references to charnel houses, Leviathans, and just awesome shit. It’s a lot more interesting than some “whoa-oh pretty in casket” bullshit that this genre tends to be known for. It’s a refreshing change.

It also feels pretty special on the music front too. There is more going on here than meets the eye. It it noticeable right out the gates. “Spiders Encircle” opens the EP in a great way. It has a short build, and then goes off at full blast. It sets the tone for the muscular, aggressive music to follow. It’s very much the kind of record that would have had 16 year old me wanting to get in the pit. All Pit, No Pendulum is also remarkably cohesive. The way “Synthetic Echo” goes straight into “Oblivious Bed” is absolutely perfect.

This is a killer record from start to finish. It’s horror punk for sure. But it’s not some shitty Misfits rip. It’s not some crappy Vanilla Ice haired psychobilly. It has way more power than anything those types of bands can muster. It’s fucking good. Hardcore fans, metal fans, horror punk fans, and whoever else can find something to appreciate here. Trust me. I may be a lot of things, but someone who throws praise at a horror record isn’t one of them.

Cathedral Fever
Buy It

REVIEW: Svalbard / Pariso – “Split”

SvalbardParisoI love when a record has a gimmick. Svalbard and Pariso definitely have a great one going on this split release. It’s not some cheesy bullshit either. It’s that, aside from their individual songs, they recorded two songs together. Those collaborations bookend this record in a really interesting way. There are two bands with pretty different styles of playing. Hearing them mix those styles together is an interesting thing that, on paper, shouldn’t work as well as it did. But, we’ll get to that later.

Pariso is a band that leans pretty heavily on metal and hardcore. They have interesting guitar lines that play more to the former, but the heart and passion of the latter. They stay fairly true to hardcore, but aren’t afraid to totally own their metal influence. This is especially evident on “Helios, The Demise.” While tearing through as a hardcore song, they build up to a really great lead about a minute into the song. In general, Pariso plays a dissonant style of hardcore and metal. It avoids being crossover bullshit, it sure as fuck isn’t metalcore. It is delivered with anger. The vocals are guttural and growling. They are cathartic and deliberate. The four songs they have on here don’t mess around.

Svalbard, on the other hand, is a much different beast. While sharing certain things in common, they are, generally, a much faster and melodic band. They are making music that feels more rooted in punk and post-hardcore. Where Pariso went for it right out of the gates, Svalbard allows more room for the songs to grow. “Allure” is the embodiment of this. It is a song that has a 5:15 run time. It starts off quietly, with clean guitar, light drums, and vocals low in the mix. It explodes come the two minute mark. It’s that divergence in style that helps them stand out. The three songs they have on this split are really the ones I was more initially drawn to.

But, like I said earlier, my favorite part of this split would be the two songs the bands recorded together. These are two solid songs, not some jam session bullshit. The opener is a song called “Floating Anchors,” the closer is called “Faceless.” The former is more of the style of Pariso. It is more blunt and deliberate. The tempo doesn’t get too fast, and the music doesn’t get too melodic. The latter has more of a Svalbard feel, but definitely feels like more of an amalgamation. It opens with the speed of Svalbard, with the immediate zeal of Pariso. It also feature more metal inspired leads, and a hardcore breakdown. Both songs mix the sensibilities of both bands together in a very encompassing way. The next best example of this would have been that My Fictions/The Saddest Landscape collaboration on the split those bands put out last year.

Overall, this is a split that could have just been another split. It could have been a co-release of seven songs and nothing else. Those two collaborations put it over the top. It’s a hell of a record.

Holy Ground (US)
Tangled Talk (UK)
Swarm Of Nails (FR)
Through Love (DE)
Smithsfoodgroup (NL)

REVIEW: Flesh Born – “Han”

fleshbornhanI might be one of the least qualified people to review a record like this. I don’t listen to metal, and I really have no sense of what is considered good or bad in regard to it. Things that take influence from, and use tropes of, that genre are outside of my wheelhouse. Flesh Born is, in this regard, an interesting band to me. It’s a bit of a challenge. Promotional material paints this band as “screamo-meets-black metal.” I certainly can’t argue with that. I’m really familiar with screamo, but don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch when it comes to metal. I can’t talk about this record as an example of a wider genre, but I can talk about it as something I like.

Han is a killer of an EP, and you can tell the band has put a lot of effort into what they’re doing. It also serves as a great introduction to the band, especially for people like me who hadn’t heard them before. There seemed to be more of a grind influence on their earlier releases. While Han is still in line with All The Pain I Built Up and their split with Cara Neir, it does allow for a bit more space. Though, let’s be real, it is still aggressive as fuck. This is especially apparent on “Unforgivable,” which was originally released on that aforementioned split. They added an extra 20 seconds or so to the song, did the vocals in a different range, and more or less changed the very feel of the song. Jumping a song to 1:12 from 0:55 might not seem like a lot, but it is really noticeable. That is the strength of this EP. Flesh Born is building on the material they’ve released, but aren’t afraid to try things in a different way.

The music is chaotic. The songs are short (the longest being 2:40). The lyrics are the expression of anger and hate. Han is a lot like the soundtrack to the most fucked up, frustrating day of your life. Like, look at the song “Lament.” It is 40 seconds long, and the lyrics are “I want to rip the heart out of people who hate those whose only crime is being themselves. I get so much joy in knowing that they, like me, will die.” “The Fever of Feeling” is another short one that consists wholly of the lyrics ”I am miserable with hatred for you, for me, for everything.” This is not a happy record. This is a pit of frustration.

Is this a metal record? Maybe. Is this a screamo record? Definitely. Genre purists can sit and discuss that shit, this certainly isn’t the place. It fucking rules though.

Flesh Born
Skeletal Lightning
Buy It

REVIEW: Orphans – "Pack Mentality"

I don’t fuck with hardcore too often. I mean, I really only partake of it when filtered through something else (or with the “post-” prefix). I know this sounds kind of dumb. Especially given my affinity for music that is, by it’s very nature, rooted in hardcore. What does any of this have to do with Orphans?

Well, Orphans play screamo/hardcore with a bit of metal in there too. Think somewhere in the middle of Circle Takes The Square and Botch. Leaning more towards the former than the latter, this band employs a similar vocal and music style. While it can get a bit by the books, it is still rather enjoyable.

Musically, this band is tight as hell. They can play towards the chaotic, angular style, and then merge right back in to the straight up hardcore/metal stuff. Through this ability, they are able to meld a number of genres together in a short span of time. This is really noticible on “Dark Satanic Mills” and “White Guilt.” The latter being the total standout on here.

This kind of stuff is hard to peg down, as it has been done to death over the years. Orphans are certainly very adept at making it their own. It’s not anything new, but it is still enjoyable.

Never Lost Records

(crosspost from my music blog)

REVIEW: Circle Takes The Square – "Decompositions: Volume Number One"

It has been eight years since Circle Takes The Square last put out a full length. The perfect As The Roots Undo came out way back in 2004, and has been many people’s only exposure to the band. Going that long between records is always a dangerous proposition. Bands will either maintain a cult following, or else people will just kind of forget about them. Personally, I was kind of in the middle of those options. I never forgot about them, as their self titled EP and aforementioned full length were pretty much on constant rotation until about 2010. I did, however, give up on ever getting a new full length. Even when the Decompositions: Volume Number One, Chapter I: Rites of Initiation came out back in 2011. I figured it was a one and done EP. Needless to say, when the new record dropped on 12/21/12, I was not even expecting it.

Decompositions: Volume Number One is a very dense record. It is a super cathartic release, and not really a record you put on just for fun. It is a record that one has to actively listen to in order to fully appreciate. As they are wont to do, Circle Takes The Square are all over the map with influences. There is metal, screamo, powerviolence, and even a little indie folk influences throughout. This much going on at once would be fucking disastrous in the hands of a lesser band. People generally use the term “atmospheric” to describe mellow, ambient things. This is an atmospheric record, but that atmosphere is more apocalyptic than calming.

Nine songs blast through in about 56 minutes. There are some sparse moments. Album opener, “Enter By The Narrow Gates”, starts with about a minute of chanting. The remainder of it’s almost seven minute run time is spent building to the release that is the second cut, “Spirit Narrative.” And, when it explodes, it fucking makes it count. It is a slow burn, but it keeps your attention. Once your work yourself into the record, it is business as usual. Business as usual for this band is not such a simple business.

The thing that sold me on Circle Takes The Square was the chaotic nature of their records. It would go from calm to full on chaos multiple times within a song. It can make things a little disjointed at time, but it keeps you involved. That is the only problem I have with this record. Everything seems more calculated. Nothing on this record feels very spontaneous. All the slow parts are where you expect them to be. It ebbs and flows in a way that would be comfortable in any other record, but seems out of place on a full length from this band. This isn’t a knock on the band, as this record is still amazingly engrossing. The problem is that they are so honed and aware of what they are doing that nothing stands out above all else. The record starts really strong. With the exception of album closer, “North Star, Inverted,” the bottom half of the record is a little less strong.  However, that fucking closer is one of the best things this band has done.

Pushing 11 minutes, “North Star, Inverted” is beautiful. It starts with a building drum, into a post-hardcore guitar part. Everything is generally what you expect, and then it throws a curveball. Two minute and 15 seconds in, you get a very calm acoustic guitar lead. It is basically a perfect song.

To wrap this overly long review up, this record is great. While it is lacking some of the exuberance of As The Roots Undo, it still fucking kills it. I didn’t even need to write this review, as anyone who is a believer in this band has already checked it out anyway.

Circle Takes The Square
Gatepost Recordings