Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bad People make for good company...

So, again, when I had that fleeting moment of clarity around my junior year of college, I happened to randomly order several records from a small Colorado hate/noise/grind label called Bad People Records. Before that time I was utterly clueless, and would not transcend that position again until I moved to DC years later. However, as with purchasing an original Burning Witch LP on Slap a Ham by happenstance, I managed to grab a few choice items and gain some worthwhile knowledge before falling back into the fog. First and foremost was the No Le$$/Agents of Satan split 7", but more importantly than that, I grabbed the Hymns for the Hearing Impaired comp (which sadly is now lost somewhere in my belongings; hopelessly scratched). Not only was I unaware of how rare this find was, but also of what a wide selection of, for the most part, little known, extreme underground grind bands were on it. Beyond the above mentioned No Le$$ and Agents of Satan, there were the soon-to-be legendary bands such as Noothgrush, Agathocles, and a very rough and early track by a little side project band named Dystopia. There were also however, over the top bands that for the most part, only released the track on the comp, and would fade away into eternal obscurity. Such bands were named things like Spewgina, Jack With Killer, Forced Tumor, Crack Pipe Death, Captain Three Leg, Homesick Abortions, and my favorite over-the-top band track, Gaunjareeha - What the Fuck is you Sayin. Now, before we go on, let's get one thing straight, it's not called Bad People, because you want to take these people home to meet your parents, it is indeed, bad people, and I'm well aware of that. So, no social commentary on this one please. It's not like I'm going to review, or even listen to a Mentors, or Graveland record. The point is, this was some of the most primitive, raw, and intense grind that I have ever heard, even to this day. Which is why, while randomly flipping through the To Live a Lie records distro, I stopped dead in my tracks when I discovered this:

One of those little known, never heard from again, insanely intense, Bad People bands. I immediately snatched it up as fast as my little clicks could carry me. Of course, it is a split, and Crisis Rebirth is interesting as well. But Artortured was one of those bands I specifically remember pawing over from the comp. As soon as it arrived on my doorstep I dropped it on my turntable and evaluated the packaging. Artortured have four brutal songs, lyrically very much in the fatalistic vein of Dystopia. The music chaotically stays just on the verge of spiraling out of control the entire time. It's lo-fi, sporadic, and peppered here and there with the usual samples. I'd say that this is much more akin to a band like Fear of God than the tighter, more controlled power violence that most of us are used to listening to. (Coincidentally, Chris Grind, from Magrudergrind, was always enamored with the Bad People comp. And has crazy stories of being with some of that crowd in Colorado, when Magrudergind first got started, and literally watching them smoke crack!....) I suppose you have to be open to that type of less-produced, raw attack, but if you can let that all go, the Artortured side is pretty amazing indeed.

The flipside of Crisis Rebirth, while not quite as exciting to me as the the former, is still a good listen. Foreshadowing the more popular heavy music to come, it is one "long" song that at times reminds me a lot of Coalesce. Called Kleptocracy, it is another long ode to a dying world of bad bad bastard people. I really don't want to short this band, but the appeal for me in this split is much more in line with the gruff spirit of Bad People, and this song, is, well, probably much more accessible to the average listener. Which is not a bad thing at all.........

As for the packaging, it could not be more apropo. All hand drawn and photocopied with crude drawings and scribbled lryics for Artortured, and deeply hewed pictures of the band on the Crisis Rebirth side. Truly, all the best aspects of the old school.

While looking up Artortured on the internet yields nothing more than an info less myspace profile, this split appears on quite a few distros. It looks as though someone stumbled across a large batch of the original copies. The surest sign of this, and the most heart wrenching, is that there is a new release insert for Bad People/Riotous Assembly Records inside. And as much as I would desperately love to order, say, the AK47/Forced Tumor split, I know all too well that this order form has not been valid for many years......However, somehow, this one split still is, so I'd urge you to stop by To Live a Lie and grab a copy while they still exist.

I also feel like I could not finish this out without a brief word or two about the other Bad People 7" I am fortunate enough to own.

The Distorted Transmissions EP split between six feet underground heavy, devil worshiping, Agents of Satan, and the sample heavy, ever spastic No Le$$. You know it's going to be a good listen when the cover has a demon holding a baby, a yin-yang anarchy symbol, a black power fist, and an indeciferable photo of what appears to be chained bodies, that underneath, proudly proclaims this album to be "Dank Core."

I first heard both of these bands on the recorded account of the amazing fests that Chris Dodge put on annually for a while called Fiesta Grande (which, incidentally, is another great record to grab if you ever come across it...). So, it's a no brainer that I ordered this as soon as I saw it. And, come to find out, for good reason too. Now, while the Agents of Satan song on the Fiesta Grande comp,Castigo del Brujo, is, to this day, one of the most savage and brutal things that I have ever heard, the songs on this 7" sound entirely different. Fortunately, they are equally punishing in their own way. All of them (with fantastic names like, Black Metal Bat), are muckishly low and dirty, with bowely guttural vocals, and crushingly punishing musicianship. Heavy, deep, and plodding, despite the tongue-in-cheek viewpoint, you certainly feel as though you've been drug to a very horrific place.

As for No Le$$, they are equally amazing in a totally different way. Absolutely in line with powerviolence of the time, there are lots of samples, a constant flipping back and forth between grooving parts and blast beats, and of course the "big monster little monster" vocals. But No Le$$ does this all in their own unique way. Their groovy parts really are just that, and they prove that they really know how to play their instruments. Which is great when they spastically switch into chaotic blast beats, a lot of which seem to be tom heavy. I have to say that I love the vocals here. The deep gruff vocals are barked out at the same time as a piercing falsetto (think Bathtub Shitter, or, if you've heard of them, Cambodia). Of course, what seals the deal is the obligatory inclusion of their "big hit", Balls Deep. What can I say, this song defines the No Le$$ sound, and is a downright killer track as well. I'm fairly certain that you can, at the very least, find this track somewhere, and give it a listen.

My only big apology here is that, well, I have no idea if you'll be able to find this record anywhere. Then again, I don't know how hard or easy it may be........I already own it. But above and beyond both of these splits, if you want to find some real deal, out of control, raw as fuck, and totally sketchy intense grind, look high and low and anywhere you can to grab anything Bad People Records ever put out............

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ättestupa - s/t LP

When I think of Swedish music, I usually think first of its disproportionate influence on the punk and metal scenes in the last 25 years (Anti-Cimex, Mob 47, Nihilist/Entombed, At the Gates, etc., nearly ad infinitum); but recently I've been listening to a lot more out-music than anything directly influenced by the above bands. Among my favorites at the moment are Sweden's Skull Defekts, who are passable as a rock band but really extraordinary as a noise/drone unit. I have the Release the Bats label to thank for multiple Defekts releases, and now they're responsible for the debut record from Ättestupa, who lay out two side-long trance-inducing jams on this LP. The comparison that comes immediately to mind is the Religious Knives "Bind Them/Electricity and Air" 12", the first RK release I ever acquired (and still my favorite). The Ättestupa record is more dense and varied, but similarly repetitive and lumbering. Both sides (there is no way to discern which is A and which is B) have a fuzzy, hazy drone as their foundation with a repeating keyboard line riding along over top. And in similar fashion, both tracks eventually give way to vocals and primitive drumming. The vocals are really the only connection to what could be considered folk music to my ears, but I wonder whether some of the keyboard lines (which really open up at the end of one of the tracks and seem to by supplemented or replaced by string instruments) recall regional folk melodies. The cover photo and three photos presented on large inserts depict rural peasants posing during their work days in what I would guess to be the latter part of the 19th century. Is there a connection between the music and the images? Are these field songs warped and corroded by a century of wind and ice and sediment? Could be. Personally, I hear captive zombies being marched to a mass execution. Regardless, this is a recommended release, and I believe that those on the lookout for the next Ättestupa release should keep an eye on another Swedish imprint, Klorofyll Tapes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back in the saddle with dark down under...

Well, we aren't dead here just yet, and no, we haven't sworn off music for the monastery. John and I were both born at the tail end of Gen. X, and we'd like to live up to that reputation.......

Having put my Evan Dorkin comics aside for now, let me pick up a, not new, but very interesting 7". A while ago now, Southern Lord put out a great slab of little vinyl that was a split between ambient/suicide, outsider black metal legend Striborg, and an unknown ambient black horde called Scurshahor who are only described across the internet as "shrouded in mystery"....

I first heard tracks from this split on War Goat Radio. Dimitri was so impressed with it, that I believe he played the entire record. And I'll have to admit, after hearing these psychotic hypnoses, so was I.

Starting with the Striborg side, I think this is some of Sin Nanna's best work to date. At just two songs, I like it much better than the recently released Black Desolate Winter/Depressive Hibernation 2LP (which is not to say that I don't very much like that album as well). It begins with a slow, ominous, jangly guitar riff, which gives way to pure black metal pounding, before reverting back into a dark ambient echo chamber in another dimension. Aptly titled Psychedelic Nightmare, it certainly is indeed. What I like about this and the next track, Syncopated Pandemonium, is that they get right to the point. Black Desolate Winter actually takes an entire side before it starts "going somewhere," but with this 7" we are beamed into Sin Nanna's bizarre ireality instantly. Going back to Psychedelic Nightmare, once it locks in it's laying deep in echos upon echos, reverb, pure white ambiance, and skittering in and out, random sounds. It finally builds to the height of night terror breakdown with bubbling cauldrons, sonic cries, and a clear but initially un-discernable voice that you can finally comprehend saying "I was never born" before falling back into obscurity.

After a single beat, the record pounds into Syncopated Pandemonium. The tempo overall is much faster in this track, but it's hard to tell exactly where it's falling due to all the ambient discordance mentioned above. Except this time, the vocals are even more distorted and buried, as if creatures from beyond were desperately trying to come through. There is much the same bouncing between slow and fast tempos that is found on Nightmares. However this makes the two tracks less repetitive, and more suited for each other. Finally the waves of sound and fury roll down the tide until they crash upon the shore leaving the listener quiet and alone, back in the real world.

The Scurshahor side is only one long song (no, not nearly as long as other ambient black metal songs, but none the less.....). Fittingly titled Malicious Resplendence, it definitely sounds as though they and Sin Nanna both escaped from the same part of the sea in hell. The vocals' sound and thick laying are very similar to the other side, but there is something harsher here. Not so much being swayed in the tide, as being drug along the bottom, over the rocks. The deep layers here are rumbles, and groans; the sounds coming in and out are clanging metal. Multiplying and dividing all of this keep the track moving along, and give it a kinetic dynamism. I would not at all be surprised to find out that these mysterious heathens had a history in the noise scene, and this definitely seems to come from that sphere. Once these grim demons feel that you have been sufficiently put through the wringer, the cruel din drops away to leave the listener with one long and peaceful, soothing tone, which takes you gently to land before dropping you off back in your own unfortunate life.

This flat, black, escape pod stayed on my turntable for days when I first got it. I'd say a must have for collectors, and a great gateway drug for newcomers. I'm fairly certain that it's still available through Southern Lord, so grab it already.