Hey! For those of you who live anywhere near western Pennsylvania, western New York, or eastern Ohio (you know who you are) — if you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, you won’t find anything better than this: the Gem City Fest which will feature a ton of hardcore/metal bands. It’s happening all day Saturday in Erie, PA — just a couple hours’ drive from anywhere in this region, and once you see the line-up they’ve put together, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s worth the trip.
Wisconsin. America’s dairyland. The Badger State. Home of the Packers. And next weekend, the site of one of the summer’s biggest showcases of filthy, ugly, underground metal.
Gilead Media has made quite a name for itself, mostly by issuing highly sought after vinyl versions of some of the best names in bleak, black noise. And for three days (18-20 July), a huge collection of those will be converging on the city of Oshkosh. I know several people who are making the trip out there, and every year I wish I could too because they always have an incredible “no filler” line-up. This year is no exception, and I’ve got all the details for you below.
But many of the bands playing at the fest have also arranged a series of shows in various other cities on the dates before and after next weekend. Several of these will be hitting Pittsburgh over the next week or so, and chances are some of them may be coming near where you live too. I’ve got details of those tours too (at least, I’ve tried to make this as comprehensive as possible). So check it out.
Monuments Collapse / Bréag Naofa – Split LP (Halo of Flies / Shove Records, 17 December 2013)
Good afternoon. On one hand, I’m pleased to note that this week is about halfway over. And on the other hand, it feels as though three or four weeks should have passed since Monday. I am so ready to be done working. I feel like if I don’t find something else to focus my attention and energy on for a little while, I’m seriously going to lose my shit here. And honestly, I don’t know if there’s anything that would fit the bill better than blasting some music through my headphones to drown out everything else (both externally and internally). I think it’s about time to take another dip into the pool of my favorite releases from last year.
You’ll want to pay attention to this — because what I’ve got for you today is the sort of release that too-often gets lost in the shuffle: a split record put out by a not-exactly-huge label (Wisconsin’s Halo of Flies for worldwide distribution, and Italian Shove Records in Europe), involving two not-that-widely-known bands (Monuments Collapse from San Francisco and Bréag Naofa from Seattle) who each had previously put out a self-titled album (each of which had a limited release of a few hundred copies, through smaller independent labels); and to make matters worse it was released in late December when most music publications and websites have already wrapped up their coverage for the year, compiled their year-end lists, and have already started looking ahead to the upcoming spring releases.
But I always try to be on the lookout for gems like this that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks, and then we pass the savings on to you. Or however that saying goes. Anyway, stay tuned for some great post-apocalyptic post-sludge-doom from a pair of west-coast bands you’ll likely want to get better acquainted with.
Mortals – Cursed to See the Future (Relapse Records, 08 July 2014)
I don’t know who wrote the official band bio for Brooklynite trio Mortals (the one that accompanies their press kit and also appears on their record label’s website), but I don’t think I really understand what it’s trying to say. It starts off by contrasting this band with the way most other bands come together:
Many heavy bands follow a straight line — they start a band with some people they know, they pick a well-worn genre, they write riffs and drum beats that sound pretty similar to all the other riffs and drum beats that have been written. That isn’t Mortals.
…but then it goes on to explain how the three members met when they were involved with various other bands (for example, two of them were in a Slayer cover band together, two of them were in a math-rock band together) and eventually the three of them found they had enough common interests that they decided to form a new band; chemistry developed and gradually they found themselves evolving into their own style. Which, in essence, sounds like a variant of the history behind almost every band I know. So that’s got me feeling slightly confused.
But anyway, none of that really matters. What the band sounds like is far more important than any written description, when it comes to me picking what I want to write about and share with you, and the music should be able to speak for itself. And here it certainly does. It also helps that I’ve been watching for news from this band over the past couple of years — on the advice of Meat Mead Metal (whom you should absolutely familiarize yourself with immediately if you aren’t already a regular reader, because not only is this without a doubt the best music journalism you’ll find here in Pittsburgh, but this guy churns out high-quality writing with a consistency that could rival just about anyone else out there!), who has had plenty of good things to say about Mortals on several occasions (like here, for example). About a year after that particular article was written, the band had signed a deal with Relapse Records, and today marks their first release with that label, the full-length Cursed to See the Future.
Sunwølf – Beholden to Nothing and No One (30 June 2014)
Hello out there, and Happy Monday everyone! My original plan was for this review to be published last Friday, but that was the 4th of July, aka Independence Day, which is the American holiday commemorating the time when some folks who lived here decided to send a letter to England saying they wanted to get a divorce. And I realized that it would be very un-patriotic of me to finish writing this on that date. Not because it’s about a British band, but because it would have involved actually doing something productive on a day off from work. In this country, we take our leisure time very seriously. But now it’s Monday and time to jump right back in. So here’s Beholden to Nothing and No One, a massive 80+ minute collection of post-metal/ambient music (spanning two CDs) by Leodensian band Sunwølf.
Good afternoon, everyone. Today I’ve got two different albums to introduce to you, which coincidentally have a common thread between them. Released just a week apart, one of these was conceived as the soundtrack to an imaginary western movie, while the other features incidental music that was recorded for the score of an actual western film.
Both of these are purely instrumental affairs, and they’re both more on the mellow side. If that sounds appealing to you, then there’s a pretty good chance one or the other may be right up your alley. So just pour yourself a tequila sunrise, grab a pack of rolling papers, kick off your boots and relax.
Cowards – Shooting Blanks and Pills (Throatruiner Records, 30 June 2012)
Good afternoon, readers. How are you on this fine Wednesday? I’m glad that I’ll be leaving work shortly, but I’m also dreading walking outside into the terrible heatwave we’ve been experiencing this week. But I’d rather not think about that — right now I’ll just sit here and enjoy the air conditioning and listen to something especially nasty and dark and angry. At the moment, I’m listening to one of my favorite hardcore records I’ve heard in a long time, which just happened to be released two years ago this week.
The album came out through Throatruiner Records, a label I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a lot of respect for, and that I’ve also discovered some incredible underground bands from — most of which are European and many of which play in a dark-toned style of hardcore that I’ve really come to appreciate.
Parisian quintet Cowards is no exception, I found when I downloaded their debut album Shooting Blanks and Pills (for free, as per usual for this record label). As I listen to it now, perhaps for the fiftieth or hundredth time, it occurs to me that I’ve never written about this band or this album before, which is really a shame because more people should get the chance to enjoy this piece of fine art. So here we are.