Friday, November 16, 2012

10 Reasons Why Arizona Should Be the Next Heavy Music Scene to Blow Up Nationwide

It is often said that oppressive political climates produce the best in hardcore and metal music. Perhaps that explains the recent explosion in heavy music here in Arizona. While we've always had a tradition of producing some great, yet often overlooked, metal and hardcore bands here, a new crop of bands has risen up in the last few years and several seem poised to make the jump from local acts to nationally known names. Following in the footsteps of 80s forefathers like JFA, Nuclear Death, and Sacred Reich, not to mention more recent bands that have paved the way and put Arizona on the map, such as Landmine Marathon and Vehemence, most of the following bands have already released fantastic records and hopefully have bright futures. In no particular order;

Seas Will Rise. Starting life as a d-beat hardcore band called Cagematch, Seas Will Rise adopted a new name and heavier sound on their debut full length, "Disease Is Our Refrain," released earlier this year. While staying true to their hardcore roots, the band is not afraid to experiment with sludge and thrash metal influences. Their intense live performances and recorded output have gained them some national exposure, even landing them on a Scion showcase with the likes of Phobia and Morne, among others. The most recent show I caught them at revealed that they seem to have almost an album's worth of new material, so be on the lookout for a sophomore LP from them in the not so distant future.
For fans of: From Ashes Rise, Struck By Lightning, Trap Them

T.O.A.D. This band has been kicking around the underground for several years now, but line up changes and members' involvement in other bands have kept them from becoming a fully focused entity until recently. Last year's CD "Rotten Tide" was, in my humble opinion, one of the best things to come out of the AZ underground in ages. The band plays a unique blend of black metal, death & roll, and traditional metal that really can't be explained without hearing it. They did some touring in support of "Rotten Tide," before taking time off to produce their upcoming "Endless Night" album. I've heard the record, and all I can say is that if this band doesn't reach the next level with it, there is simply something wrong with people.
For fans of: Entombed, Darkthrone(later), Bathory

Lago. Death metal fans seem to fall into two camps lately, those who prefer the straightforward heaviness of bands like Incantation, and those who value musical technicality above all. Lago is the best of both worlds, showcasing their musical prowess while maintaining a decidedly old school heaviness on last year's debut EP, "Marianas." Line up changes have kept them out of the spotlight recently, but their latest line up has just done a run of out of state shows before entering the studio to record an internet exclusive single that will be available for download in the coming months. A full length album and some extensive touring should open people's eyes to this band's oppressively heavy death metal.
For fans of: Immolation, Nile, Morbid Angel

TWiNGiANT. A relative newcomer, this band has already self-released a fantastic full length LP entitled, "Mass Driver." TWiNGiANT's blend of heavy, fuzzed out hard rock and southern fried sludge metal has landed them several choice shows and catapulted them to the top of the growing stoner/doom metal scene. While always maintaining a level of heaviness, the band uses their twin guitar setup to great effect, with instrumental passages that often veer from Thin Lizzy-esque harmonies to drawn out psychadelia that would not be out of place on a Sonic Youth record. The band recently made their out of state debut at a festival in Colorado. While extensive touring may not be in their immediate plans, they'll likely be doing some short runs in support of "Mass Driver" as well as some upcoming shows around the valley.
For fans of: Mastodon, Clutch, Kylesa

GodAwfulNoise. Despite being plagued with line up problems, grinders GodAwfulNoise have become a staple of Phoenix's crust/grind scene. Blast beats, death metal inspired guitar riffs, and raging vocals are this band's tools of the trade, and they use them well. Their debut EP, "No Escape," displayed songwriting skills that set them apart from run of the mill grind bands. These aren't your average, forgettable 30 second blasts of noise, these riffs and venomous lyrics stick with you after the CD is done playing. Although they've drastically cut back on live shows, due to their newest drummer calling Texas home, they have an upcoming split 7" that is set to be released at any time now.
For fans of: Phobia, Terrorizer, Magrudergrind

Godhunter. Tucson's Godhunter have been kicking around for quite some time now. While they already have several splits and their excellent "Wolves" CD under their belts, it is live that this band truly excels. Their crushingly heavy take on sludge metal is absolutely explosive live. This extremely hard working band has already done some touring in support of "Wolves," and can regularly be seen opening for national acts, as well as headlining their own shows, all around Arizona. I'm not sure of their upcoming recording plans, but I know they have a tour coming up early next year.
For fans of: Buzzov*en, Weedeater, Bongzilla

Inducing Terror. One of Phoenix's longest running death metal bands, Inducing Terror has remained largely unknown due to their constantly evolving line up. Having finally secured a stable line up over the last year or so, the band is currently in the midst of recording an EP at Arcane Digital in Chandler. This band is a brutal death metal fan's wet dream. The drumming is ridiculously fast and the guitar playing extremely technical, but they never lose their heaviness, unlike some of the over-triggered leaders of this genre. This is fast, heavy, guttural death metal at it's best. Their live performances are sporadic at best, but hopefully they'll start to pick up again when they release their new recording.
For fans of: Dying Fetus, Broken Hope, Suffocation

Monger. Crust has seemingly always been a thriving sub-genre in Phoenix. This band is something of a Phoenix crust supergroup, being comprised of members of Pay Neuter, Warfair?, and ETTS, among others. Monger's self titled debut 7", released earlier this year, blends the kind of sludgy crust punk that the southwest was known for in the 90s with the chaotic noise of bands like GISM. Most of the tempos stay mid-paced and heavy, but occasionally speed up into a gallop, and the four pronged vocal attack creates an almost dizzying effect. The band has done a bit of touring and plans to release a split 7" with Coaccion soon, but sadly may be reducing their activity due to their guitarist's recent relocation to San Diego.
For fans of: Misery, Amebix, His Hero Is Gone

Rituals. Rituals' music alternates between crushing heaviness and hypnotic ambiance. While there are roughly 18 billion bands playing this style right now, Rituals' ability to create a memorable tune sets them apart. Where so many bands seem to just noodle away and go nowhere, these guys understand the importance of delivering an explosive payoff after a tense build up. Their self titled debut LP contains many of these moments, and the band is just as good live. The band has done some sporadic touring and recently released a split LP with DeZafra Ridge, but has curtailed their live performances of late due to a line up change. They should be back in action before long.
For fans of: Morne, Light Bearer, the Atlas Moth

About a hundred other bands. Seriously, this state is crawling with death metal, crust, sludge, and hardcore at the moment. Some bands have been around for ages, while new ones pop up seemingly weekly. Despite not being the touring machine they once were, Vehemence continues to play shows and has plans for a new record soon. Landmine Marathon have established themselves nationally, and are constantly growing in popularity. Death metal continues to thrive, with great bands like Six Million Dead and Necrambulant building names for themselves both locally and nationally, while newcomers like Clawhammer Abortion are starting to pick up steam. The crust/grind scene always has new bands and crazy shows going on, with Biocidio, Oust, and Blodskam leading the way. Tucson has recently begun to challenge Phoenix as the state's heavy music capital. North has been a leader of the Tucson scene for quite awhile now, with several full lengths and national tours under their belts, plus up and coming acts like Methra, FDP, and Why Bother. Also, lets not forget the Southwest Terror Fest, which made its debut in Tucson just last month and will hopefully become a growing annual event celebrating all things heavy. Even Flagstaff is getting back in on the action. Once boasting a pretty cool scene, northern Arizona has been pretty quiet for a few years, until the metallic crust of Swamp Wolf began turning some heads over the last year.

In conclusion, I hope some people outside AZ read this and give some of these bands a chance. Arizona may have disgustingly hot weather, horrible sports teams, and laughable politics, but our music is awesome!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Album Review: Phobia - "Remnants of Filth"

     At this point in the band's 20+ year career, anyone familiar with Phobia pretty much knows what to expect whenever a new record hits the streets. While "Remnants of Filth" won't do anything to alienate the grindcore faithful, it's safe to say that new guitarists Dorian Rainwater and CeCe Loessin, as well as sometime drummer Bryan Fajardo(Noisear, Kill the Client, Gridlink) have breathed new life into the band. All the familiar elements are there, the straight up grindcore assault of tracks like "Conviction" and "Plagued by the System," to the punk as fuck singalong of "Filthy Fucking Punks." For those who want a little more from their grindcore, look no further than the Slayer-esque intro to "Resolution." "Submission Hold" features a breakdown that would not be out of place on a Dying Fetus record, and the mosh part on "Infraction of Pride" should get anyone with a pulse dancing in a circle. "No Sympathy For the Weak" contains possibly the most death metal riff ever featured on a Phobia record. Fajardo keeps the whole thing flowing with a relentless performance behind the kit. The man has truly become a beast on the drums. While this all may sound like the band trying too hard to expand on its signature sound, it all works perfectly within the Phobia mold. Unencumbered with instrumental duties for the first time in Phobia's long history, main man Shane McLachlan uses the opportunity to put forth a truly venomous vocal performance. There are few better frontmen in the genre, and I can only imagine that these tracks will be even more vicious in a live setting. The simple fact is that no matter what Phobia puts out, it's live that the band really excels. This album contains a number of songs that are destined to become setlist staples. I can't imagine any established Phobia fan being disappointed with this record, and the more varied sound might earn them a few new ones.

Album Review: Propagandhi - "Failed States"

     My 15 year old self would probably kick my ass for saying this, but despite how classic Propagandhi's early material may be, their more recent output is light years ahead of anything they did on their first few records. The pop-punk of their first two albums is a distant memory, having long since been replaced with a lethal, thrash infused hardcore attack. The band's sixth full-length effort, "Failed States," is the next logical step from 2009's near-masterpiece, "Supporting Caste." The slow build of opener "Note to Self" quickly gives way to the all out speed metal of the title track. The rest of the record alternates between relentless thrash and melodic passages that remind the listener that this is still very much a Propagandhi record. There are a few moments, such as on "Cognitive Suicide," when the guitar and bass lines weave into each other in an almost Fugazi-esque fashion, only to seamlessly launch back into a breakneck pace. The intro to "Rattan Cane" finds the band slowing down to a lurching, near doom metal groove, while "Hadron Collision" embraces the spirit of 80s crossover, complete with a wah-pedal soaked guitar solo. Lesser bands would fail miserably at mixing up so many sub-genres, but Propagandhi not only excel at it, they have used it to create a sound unlike any other band over the course of their six albums. Lyrically, this band has no peer. I have often made the mistake of comparing my own lyrical output with Propagandhi's, and that will always be a fatal mistake. No matter what it is you feel like you need to say in a song, chances are these guys have already said it better. While still directly taking on certain subjects, this album seems to have more of an underlying theme of personal responsibility. Many songs seem to share a common thread of the problems being faced in modern society being caused by the general population's inability, and sometimes unwillingness, to care about anything until it is too late. As always, the words are not only clever, but make you think about issues in a way you may not have before. Chris Hanna and Todd Kowalski spit out their respective vocal parts with venom and conviction rarely heard in music these days. All in all, I'm very tempted to call this record Propagandhi's finest hour, but, as with their previous two albums, I'm holding back simply because I feel like this one is another stepping stone towards something even greater.

Monday, August 6, 2012

     Tomorrow night I will be attending my seventh performance of the band Iron Maiden. For as long as I live, Iron Maiden will always be a band that I count among my all-time favorites. I was a late comer to them. When I was around 12 years old and first getting into music, it was right around the same time that they were going through a transitional period, line-up changes, a few weak albums, etc. I had a cassette of "Piece Of Mind" that I played often, but never really explored their music much beyond that. As the years went by, I heard more and more of them and began to appreciate their music more, but it was still a time period when they weren't touring extensively, and when they did it was limited runs in smaller venues. I recall them coming to Phoenix once during that period, playing the Celebrity Theater with Blaze Bayley on lead vocals, but for whatever reason, I didn't go.
     It was around this time, however, that they started to affect me a bit more. I had started collecting some of their old LPs and listening to them regularly. I bought a "Best Of" CD that went in to extremely frequent rotation on my stereo at work. At the same time, I had left my punk rock band, Misled, and begun playing with Sea Of Deprivation. Phil and Ben were two of the most talented musicians I had ever played with, so I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to keep up with them. In previous bands, I had always played with a pick, but had decided to change my style to finger picking. The main reason for this was that, although he played guitar in the band, Phil was a phenomenal bass player. One must only listen to his bass work on the Misanthropic 7" for proof. Phil and Ben had a large amount of material already written when I joined the band, and many of the songs had basslines already written in Phil's finger picked style. The only way they would sound right would be if I played them how he did, which meant putting down the pick.
     Basically, I trained myself to play a whole new style by playing along to my Iron Maiden records. As I started to get deeper into their music, I discovered one of my all-time favorite players, Steve Harris. I had always known him to be a world-class musician, but really listening to every note the man plays brought my appreciation to the next level. I felt myself developing a whole new relationship with my instrument, and I owe it to Phil Hansford and Steve Harris, two of my biggest musical influences.
     It was around this time that Maiden reunited with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, released a new album, and went on their first large-scale American tour in years. I got to see them finally in September of 2000, with Queensryche opening. Even from the lawn it was one of the best shows I had ever seen. I've since seen them five more times, and every show was memorable in some way or another. They are always the one band that brings out everyone. It's rare that all of my friends are in the same place at the same time. Funerals and Iron Maiden concerts seem to be the only times. I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow, to revel in this joyous occasion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

     A few nights ago, I had the misfortune of being in a situation that involved the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. I won't go into details, but as the night wore down I wound up having a bit of a debate with one of the deputies at the scene that left me sad and disgusted. Maybe it's just me, but I will never understand people who are so set in their views that they can't even consider the opinions of others. I'll admit, I'm pretty tough to sway when it comes to my ideas on things, but I have the utmost respect for people who can at least make me think.
     I haven't traveled nearly as much as I would have liked to at this point in my life, but I relish every chance I get to do so. I've been enough places and interacted with enough people that I've come to the conclusion that people are people, no matter what their race, nationality, religion, or economic standing may be. Sure, there are quite a few bad ones, but most are just trying to get by the best they can. This is why I've come to hate things like racism, nationalism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia so much. It's also why I've become increasingly critical and intolerant of laws designed to keep people poor and fighting among themselves.
     I think it would do the vast majority of the population some good to let their guard down and stop building walls and fences between each other, maybe try and think of the ways other people are affected by the state of the world these days. Leave our little bubbles we live in and go visit another place and see how other people get by, even if it's just the next town over for a day. Maybe we should all try and strike up a conversation with a person from another country instead of looking at them and calling them "terrorist" or "illegal."
     Perhaps if we all go out and try these things, try walking in other people's shoes, we'll all wake up and start to care where our world is going. Maybe we'll actually take the time to learn about the terrible things being done by the ones we elect to lead us, so that when the next election comes, we'll care enough to turn off our televisions for a little while and go out and get these people out of the offices they don't deserve. I know trying to explain this to a cop, who's probably never left his home town, was completely pointless. I just hope other people aren't quite so ignorant.

Friday, May 4, 2012

     When I was very young, I had the good fortune of going to school and living right down the road from the best record store in New Jersey, Vintage Vinyl. My great grandmother came to live with us when I was 7 and she used to pay me $6 a week to walk her dog every day after school. I used to use this money to go hang out in Angelo's Pizza, which was right next to the record store. I didn't have too much interest in music in those days, mainly just whatever was on the radio. I had a few tapes, mainly stuff like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, but nothing that was ever more than background music. 
     I know I've often gotten nostalgic about my introductions to hardcore, death metal, or grindcore, but in my youth the first band that ever seriously captured my imagination was a rap group, the Beastie Boys. Their videos for "Fight For Your Right" and "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" were inescapable. They quickly became the soundtrack to all my youthful misadventures. It was with this newfound love of music that I, for the first time ever, walked into Vintage Vinyl one day after school armed with two weeks worth of dog walking money and purchased my first record ever, the Beastie Boys "Licensed To Ill."
     Over the years, as my taste in music leaned more towards the heavy side, I always followed what the Beasties were doing. "Paul's Boutique" wasn't exactly my thing when it was released, but I grew to appreciate it in later years. They won me back when they embraced their early hardcore influences on "Check Your Head" and "Ill Communication." I finally saw them live, twice actually, in 1994. First, as headliner of that year's Lollapalooza tour, and second at a headlining gig at Compton Terrace with the mighty Bad Brains as the opening act. Due to insane circumstances involving Arizona's eternal inability to build roads that can accommodate large amounts of traffic, I missed all but two songs by the Bad Brains, but the Beasties killed it both times. They were a fantastic live act, even if they did shy away from performing their earlier material at that time. 
     It was with great sadness that I heard the news of Adam Yauch's death today from cancer. Even though I haven't really kept up with their more recent output, the Beastie Boys music has always been, and will always be, a big part of my life. It saddens me to see someone who was not only a gifted, pioneering performer, but also a well rounded producer and director, be taken away.

 R.I.P. Adam "MCA" Yauch 8/5/64 - 5/4/12

Thursday, April 19, 2012

     Throughout most of my life, music has always been the one thing I can always count on to be there when I need it. No matter what I was feeling, there was a song or a record that made me feel like I wasn't alone, that there were other people out there who had been in the same places and felt the same things as me. As a young punk rocker, I never really had a focus on the things I felt, I just knew when something resonated. I knew I was pissed off, but didn't know at what. I knew I was always depressed, but didn't know why. But there was always some piece of music that struck a nerve, whether it was Henry Rollins screaming My War or J Mascis mumbling through Freak Scene, all I knew was that I felt a connection with these people, with every word and every chord. When I was about 15 was when I found the band that I would feel that connection with the strongest.
     A bunch of us worked at a little mom and pop pizza joint in Glendale called Ralph's La Hacienda. The place was legendary among all the West Phoenix punks at the time. Myself, plus my friends Ryan, Vito, and Matt all worked there, and everyone else would hang out at back until we either got off work, or Ralph got mad and kicked everyone out. The dish room where we worked was always filled with the sounds of whatever punk rock we were into at the moment. Circle Jerks, Pennywise, The Vandals, Propagandhi, and Guttermouth were all bands that were on our regular playlist. It was in that tiny, hot, cramped dish room that I heard Avail for the first time. I remember Ryan bringing the tape, I don't think it was actually his though since I'm pretty sure he didn't like them. It looked cool enough, simple black cover with a stick figure holding a flag. We always used to joke that he was taking that flag to burn it somewhere. The music wasn't like anything I had heard before. It was definitely punk, but something about it stood out. The music was a bit more melodic and had more of a southern rock feel to it and the vocals were very clearly sung. Then there were the songs. On The Nod, Southbound 95, Model, Tuning, and for me especially Beliefs Pile, all became songs that I would never forget after a few listens.
     Avail "Dixie" quickly became one of my most played tapes. I remember I didn't have much money to buy music, so my buddy Doug taped it on one side of a 90 minute cassette with Propagandhi "How To Clean Everything" on the B side. I played that tape constantly. I think I still have it somewhere. I found out they had another album, "Satiate," so I tracked that down at Eastside Records and became hooked on that one too. Our friend Ian had been the one to initially show them to our group. He had seen them play at some venue that was in the basement of a church not long before my first encounter with them. This bummed me out a bit, because back then bands like that didn't come through town several times a year like they do now. Luckily for me, Avail was a touring machine back then and that summer they came to the Nile Theater in Mesa.
      That was a crazy week. I can't remember if it was the night before, or the night after, but there was a Ska/Punk festival with the Circle Jerks that we all went to, and I'm pretty sure Pennywise played that week too. I took all three nights off from Ralph's and wound up getting fired when the kid who was supposed to cover my shift never showed. It was worth it. The openers were a local called Those Meddling Kids, who we had seen before, and a band from Canada called Gus. I'll never forget how amused Doug was by the name "Gus." Their names are pretty much all I remember about them though, Avail made every other band seem like a distant memory. They were the most intense, yet fun, live band I had ever seen. Nothing before or since even comes close. It was the first time in my life that I had been completely entranced by a band. Their set is a blur. I remember hearing Virus, I remember hearing Tuning, I'm pretty sure they closed with Connection. Somewhere in there was a short cover of Sweet Home Alabama, they were kind of known for throwing random covers in their set. It didn't matter what they played, the performance was pure catharsis. The band never stopped moving once. Beau, the band's official mascot/cheerleader, climbed on top of the PA, jumped in the crowd, seemed to be everywhere at once. But most of all, I'll never forget Tim Barry. I had never seen a frontman who delivered with that much conviction. His words meant so much to the people in the audience that they were all singing as loud as he was. So was I. I couldn't talk the whole ride home.
     As the years went on, they put out great new records and I saw them play many more amazing shows. Every one was memorable in some way. Their songs have only become more meaningful as I've gotten older. Tim's lyrics have always been open for interpretation, and I think every person who is touched by them takes something different from them. Awhile back I was in a very dark, depressing place in life, and their song Taken randomly came on my iTunes shuffle. It was like that song was waiting to make me pull myself back up. My friend Valerie was going through a tough time as well, and I was inspired to make her a CD of some of their songs that I felt applied to her situation, particularly the song Nickel Bridge. This wasn't the first or last time that their songs have gotten me through a hard time, but it felt great to not only try and help a friend, but to turn someone on to a band that has meant so much to me over the years. It's hard to explain what it is about them for me, or any band that moves someone for that matter. I don't understand people that have never been moved by a piece of music. In the course of one record, I've felt the urge to get up and throw my fists in the air one minute, and have had to fight back tears the next. It's that powerful to me.
      It's been a few years since Avail has put out a new record or played any shows. "Indefinite hiatus" is what I keep hearing. Tim Barry has gone on to create several excellent acoustic albums, and the other members have played in various other bands. But none of it is Avail. Nothing will ever match the beauty of those five people together. I hope they can find a way to do it again, if only for one night.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In order to properly introduce this blog, I feel I should explain the origin of the name. Back in my teens and early twenties, I had a close friend named Phil Hansford. We were in two bands together, Opposition and Sea of Deprivation. I made my first record with Phil and we did our first tour together. Anyway, Phil had a way of summing things up quite brilliantly. As anyone who knows me should be aware of, I am quite prone to rants on just about any subject. I honestly can't remember what I was even talking about on the particular day in question, but we were on our way to Sea of Dep practice and I was going off about something. Phil let out one of his understated, mischievous laughs that anyone who knew him will remember well, and looks at me and goes, "Tim, you are just a seething cauldron of hatred." It was a perfect statement that I'll never forget. So this page's title is a tribute to Phil. I'll be using this page to write about everything I love, music, food, beer, touring, hockey, pretty much whatever comes to mind. There will be stories, reviews, and yes, ranting. Lots of ranting.