anything that junkhead posts

Micro-Reviewery 6: Like Pacific, Yuri, Phyllomedusa


There’s still more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Like Pacific – Distance Like You Asked

’90s pop punk died so numb nuts like these guys would burn in hell, but like the bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atrocities inflicted upon innocents never really escape our consciousness, do they?


Yuri – Demo I

Blink and it’s over fastcore on cassette. It does a great job sneaking actual riffs into the hardcore punk mess, somehow making this two and a half minute demo feel as meaty as any thirty minute LP. Honestly, maybe speeding every album up until it’s two minutes would make the world a better place.


Phyllomedusa – Fijian Holiday

Jack-offs of all trades and masturbaters of none, goregrind was pretty bad before Phyllomedusa started playing it super slow. It’s honestly death metal nap time music, which has to be the worst kind of nap genre.


Your Enemy – Eradication of the Parasitic Hordes

D-beat crust-grind is rarely this consistent, although most won’t tell the difference. Like if you set one of those Sleep Easy Sound Generators and turned the dial to the “pretty good d-beat crust-grind” setting.


Hypnic Jerk – Live at the Precinct

Noisecore needs to be harsh, but this is just digital garble. It’d sound better if they used a single track tape deck instead of their shitty laptop mic, but I can still respect anything that punishes the listener without being annoying.


UFO – Live Sightings


junkheadv1tmbUFO – Live Sightings

For most bands, four disc live sets are never a good idea. There’s going to be too much track overlap, the original versions were better anyway, the singer sounds like he’s panting like a dog in heat half the time, the guitarist misses some crucial notes. That studio magic will always trump a sound board guy in some sweaty club in Raleigh.

That’s where UFO proved the world wrong. Their album Strangers in the Night raised the bar for all live albums to come by drastically improving the flaccid mixes of their studio work. UFO was always a little too tight for their own good and more than a little bland in their riffs, but get them on a stage and it’s like unleashing a starved Malawi Terror Beast out into a massive crowd of children and elderly people. Even clunkers like “Mother Mary” and “Too Hot To Handle” become rock ‘n’ roll juggernauts, morphing prosaic riffs into metal poetry.

So when Michael Schenker left UFO in 1980, the band took a huge plunge. After Strangers hit the UK top ten and US top fifty, the prospect of more mainstream success was like the band eating tons of cheese without their fiber supplements: the studio productions sounded more constipated than ever before. As far as listeners knew, UFO was the shittiest band in the world and couldn’t dump anything good if they tried.

That’s why Cleopatra desperately needed to release this collection. The post-Schenker era needs a brief revisiting, and their studio work is not the place to do it. These four sets from ’80-’82 will reveal the real truth of how the band sounded when Paul Chapman took over Schenker’s lead guitar spot. I mean, isn’t that why he’s prominently on the cover wagging that guitar over his groin?


The Chicago ’80 set that kicks things off is absolutely ball-breaking, at times better than Schenkers in the Night. The guitars are bloated and overpowering throughout, pushed up to the front right next to Phil Mogg’s never faltering voice, setting the tone for most of the following discs. Chapman’s solos are also the perfect blend between mid-range wankery and high-pitched meedly-mee, and the high-hats bleed into your ears in a way that only the most professional bootleg can. Most of the songs are Schenker-era tracks, but this proves the band were still power chord heroes after he split.

The second disc is another Chicago show from ’81. The opening tracks end up being the standouts, but this is mainly due to the continuously dropping sound quality. The first tracks are crystal clear, but the further you get, the more everything sounds like it was recorded on an answering machine strategically placed in a ventilation shaft. The closing classic “Doctor Doctor” gets totally neutered, a shame considering this is its only appearance.

A year later in St. Louis, the recording sounds almost studio quality. While it has a much needed harder edge than their then recent Mechanix album, every element is clearly mixed for maximum audibility. I’m proud to look at Chapman’s groin when I hear the solos, now mostly stuck in a higher register but keeping things melodic enough to hold interest. Almost the entire set is now Chapman period tracks, showing how awesome these songs are in the hands of real rock producers and not executive whores. If you’re interested in this era of UFO, this is easily its finest hour.

The final disc from Cleveland circa ’82 is pretty clean, but it’s only a little better than most modern cellphone recordings of Beyonce’s Super Bowl MXVLLIIILVMX performance. The set list is largely identical to the St. Louis recording except it sounds crappier.

Regardless of the redundancies, this really puts Chapman UFO in a new light. It proves the band wasn’t the Michael Schenker Show gone bust, with solid new tracks and a bruising power guitar sound. It’s essential listening for anyone who loves UFO, and while the uninitiated will scratch their head wondering why they have to listen to “Too Hot To Handle” four times, they have no taste in music and I hope they accidentally scratch their heads so hard that a finger sinks through their skull and pushes the part of their brain that makes people want to rock.

Individual disc ratings:

1: A-
2: C+
3: A
4: C-

Final rating: B

Micro-Reviewery 5: Catacombed, Cranial Crusher, October Falls


And yet even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Catacombed – Cave Beast

This one track does it’s best to sound like a cave beast in some catacombs and gleefully succeeds. In reality, it’s just a french guy recording echo drips and bass blorps, but the guttural sewer monster vocals really help the listener suspend disbelief.


Cranial Crusher – Necrópole

Pretty generic thrash from Brazil. The best thrash never experiments, but here something’s off. Maybe the song’s suck. The last track in particular manages to bury itself over the course of six minutes with its repetitive riffs. Still, over the fourteen minute run time, only sixty seconds are slow.


October Falls – Kulo

There’s a small group of metal bands that want you to believe that hundreds of years ago, acoustic guitars were the shit. Everyone crowded around medieval campfires eating their greasy turkey legs and drinking mead out of goblets studded with random gems, listening to some guy pluck one some strings while the wind blew through the wooded forests and castles of yore. They’re wrong, and so is this two track single.


Black Kirin – National Trauma


junkheadv1tmbBlack Kirin – National Trauma

It takes a lot to weird me out. I’ll listen to hours of throat singing, musique concrete, harsh noise, whatever, and I won’t bat an eye. If anything, radio music is what makes me feel uncomfortable. What’s truly grotesque is the notion that mainstream music has a cosmic appeal and objective acceptance. Godspeed to anything that lashes out against the norm, at least I can relate to being anti-everything.

Even so, Black Kirin is pretty strange. Their first full length has a truly unique sound that sounds simultaneously familiar and foreign.

On the most base level, National Trauma is melodic death a la Carcass’s Swansong, a style that’s as palatable as extreme metal can get. The vocals are mostly high shriek, the guitars play tuneful and dexterous evil riffs. You’ve heard it a million times before, and there’s little imagination left in the style.

Normally I’d give it a D- and dismiss it as derivative, but the very dominant folk elements are impossible to ignore. Rather than hopelessly boring renaissance fair acoustic masturbation, Black Kirin is into traditional Chinese folk flourishes. For the western listener, it will initially sound very corny and cliché. Your great grandfather would probably say it sounds oriental. You’ll either love it or vomit all over. The first track bears all: if the dizu flutes and erhu guitars don’t turn you off, the strange woman screeching like a cat in heat will.

But both style’s are well integrated. If you took out the metal, the folk would play on and vice versa. After awhile, the flutes, plucked guitars, and pentatonic pianos end up being essential to the formula, and you almost wish the Carcass singer would go away so the scary cat lady could whine and croon you to the metal heavens. Easily my record of the year so far.


Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon


junkheadv1tmbJesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon

Collaborations are a big deal among the washed up underground rock star crowd. This one features the two main guys from the Red House Painters and Godflesh, albeit with their two post-’90s bands that nobody really cares about.

It’s the typical post-metal/shoe-gaze din, with bloated down-tuned guitars grinding away like the apocalypse happened yesterday and you didn’t even hear about it. Near the middle of the album, there’s a few crappy electronic tracks in a row and all of them are pretty boring. The whole thing struggles to be vaguely ambient with repetitious ten minute romps through the same synth lines, but mostly it comes off as boring and too structured.

The vocals aren’t much better, a shame considering that the Red House Painter guy never shuts the fuck up. He mumbles through spoken word observations on life, touching on various topics including women, life on the road, women, existence, women, and women. I’m guessing Red House Painter guy’s had sex with ten women his whole life and wrote each of the album’s ten stream-of-consciousness gabs about one of them. There’s a lot of nickel-and-dime romantic irony stuck deep in the ’90s, but at least it’s honest.

And that’s the one cool thing about Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: nobody’s lying here. Just two old washed-up indie-rock guys having a few brews and banging out an album. You can even figure out the middle-aged hipster conversations that went on during the production.

“Dude, check out this cool six second loop I made in FL Studios.” “Whoa! Man, loop that for eight minutes and call it quits, I have to stop off at Trader Joe’s and get some Organic Baby Spinach.” “Alright dude. Hey, have you tried their Cookie Butter? That’s my shit right there.”

“Man, I keep thinking about how me and my girlfriend circa 1988 listened to Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du all the time.” “DUUUUUDE, PUT THAT IN THE LYRICS!!!”

“Dude, it’s so hard to come up with good guitar parts when all I can think about is how I still need to grind my own coffee, wash my Miniature Schnauzer with some Purple Urchin soap, and ride my Amsterdam-style bike all about town.” “Whoa, what’d you say man? Sorry, I was spinning my own yarn to make this totally rad fleece. I can’t even imagine not using all natural fibers.”


Micro-Reviewery 4: Lethargic Euphoria, Napalm Ted, etc.


Still even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Lethargic Euphoria – Standstill

Black-gaze is a genre so formative that you never really know what to expect from band to band. Lethargic Euphoria has an instrumental style like Ghost Bath for a good while, but the last twenty minutes is like ’90s emo without the whiny vocalists. As a result, I now understand that the only reason I didn’t like ’90s emo was the whiny vocalists.



Remember That You Will Die – Remember That You Will Die

Remembering that these guys will die brings me some solace. Vaguely experimental in nature, all four of these tracks are hampered by their repetitive structure: silly part that recalls another genre, black metal boredom, back to silly part. In order, the sandwiching sections are Depeche Mode gothic, crappy electronica, and Slint-style math rock times two. You’ll barely be able to get past the second track’s intro.



Napalm Ted – Into the Black Ooze EP

Grindish blast from Finland, the high points are definitely the punkiest parts, which all die near the four minute mark of this twelve minute short play. After that, there’s way too much death metal in the mix, featuring a lot of that awful dun-dun-CHUG dun-dun-CHUG riff.



Porreria – Noise Carnage EP

Weird noisecore album. First couple tracks are inaudible digital garble with a couple shrieks, breaking into a much more conventional grind noise sound. Rather than laying into power chords, the guitarist does a lot of high-pitched noodling with some dexterous finger randomness. When mixed with the ultra tinny cymbal sound and the vocalists shrill BLAH-BLAH-BLAHs, this can get pretty grating, but at least it’s something I haven’t heard. Pretty unique for such a worn-out genre.




SOTO – Divak


junkheadv1tmbSOTO – Divak

I was really, really excited about this album. Jeff Scott Soto should be a class act, having lent his talents to Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Shenker, Axel Rudi Pell, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. After decades of rockin’, why hasn’t he been elevated to legend status?

Divak is a woefully pathetic answer to my question. Based on his pedigree, you’d figure this would be an epic, pompous slice of melodic rock. All the trimmings should be there, tuneful guitars, high-pitched vocals, the works.

Instead, SOTO sounds like Nickelback. Jeff Scott Soto puts on his best Chad Kroeger impersonation and lets it rip. I’ve never listened to Nickelback outside of whatever they play at Meijer when you’re looking for adult diapers, so I put my investigative journalist hat on to see if SOTO really was Canadian rock clonery.

I picked a random sample of Nickelback’s popular albums: Silver Side Up, All The Right Reasons, and Here and Now. All of them are pretty indebted to ’80s hard rock, but they’re way, way too polished. The hooks are never that good, a little too informed by grunge for comfort. They’re all calculated for mass radio support and lack any sort of soul as a result.

So yeah, that’s Divak.


Brünndl – Brünndl


junkheadv1tmbBrünndl – Brünndl

In the world of metal, a little sense of melody goes a long way. All the NWOBHM bands understood this, and that’s what made them such an enduring influence on metal across the world. Nothing beats a memorable riff, an afterthought vocal line, and a driving beat.

Few other genres can really nail this combination, which makes Brünndl so bizarre. The album was simply labeled pagan black metal, which made me assume it was going to be the standard tremolo-guitar blast beat orgasm. While black metal is easily the strongest influence on their debut, there’s a lot more going on under the hood.

Out of the blue, the songs will effortlessly shift into standard rock beats. The vocalist randomly starts doing one of those folky wails, and the guitars start playing discernible riffs. You’ll start tapping your toe, and then you’ll start moving your head. Then, out of nowhere, you’ll realize you’re on full-out gonzo metalhead mode, spitting blood from your mouth and air-guitaring this shit until the walls cave in. And finally, when the riff’s about to grow tired and return you to reality, the whole switches up again and you get all hyped to slaughter some more goats and rub them all over your effigies of Vlad Tepes.

The only real way to understand is to do a thorough analysis, so take “Magaan”. It starts with black metal, twists into a folk-metal crawl, returns to black metal, turns into a sea-shanty, and ends up as melodic barroom death metal complete with a shrieked oi ending every verse.

It’s all over the place, but none of the seams show. They don’t bat an eye, like they’re veterans who’ve churned this stuff out for decades. I think Brünndl’s rockin’ attack will have a longer shelf life than the blackgaze and post-black atmosphere trends. While eventually artsy-fartsy dudes with face paint always go out of style, dudes with face paint who rock the fuck out will live forever.


Micro-Reviewery 3: Ceifador, After the Burial, Blood Ceremony, etc.


Even more stuff from the past few weeks that deserves no more than a brief paragraph.


Ceifador – Heavy Metal 666

A lot of people forget that Brazil is one of the biggest d-beat countries in the history of punk. Even their thrash just ends up sounding like Discharge: fast, repetitive, and totally awesome. You’d assume these guys are punks who think putting Heavy Metal and 666 in their album title will give them instant international appeal, but they draw heavily from Bathory and Venom in terms of gutter slime sound. That’s a good thing.



After the Burial – Dig Deep

This band sucks. Half the time they sound like In Flames and half the time they sound like Meshuggah. They don’t even bother meshing the sounds, it’s just one or the other. I’d say you’re better off making a mixtape of your favorite In Flames and Mesuggah songs, but they suck, too.



Blood Ceremony – Lord of Misrule

Listening to new music has quickly put stoner rock into my no-no category. There’s so much crappy drugged-out hippie shit coming out, it’s getting difficult to really follow along. I swear to God, if I discover another band with a name like Acid Yeti, I’m going to puke all over their souls, causing their souls to get grossed out and vomit some of their own ecto-spew, causing all sorts of spectral anomalies. If you think that description’s trippy-cool, then you really ought to Blood Ceremony. It’s like a metal version of Jefferson Starship’s or HP Lovecraft’s good songs with lots and lots of flutes. Crisp and clean metal for the sober psych fan, even if most tracks overstay their welcome.



Mordbrand – Hymns Of The Rotten

How can people stand this shit? Vanilla death metal’s just bad, and Mordbrand’s “best-of” does nothing to change my wise and objective opinion. At least they don’t use blast beats.



Fillwithlight – ???

I was looking really hard for a lo-fi folk album in the spirit of The Mountain Goats or some other crappy band. Two decades after the height of said awful genre, I was figuring it got better. Instead, we have this nameless, faceless album that tries to break itself up into four pieces using German words for different seasons and act all great about it’s non-existent concept. Why are the titles German? So half the audience will just look at your song titles and drool and pick their nose and not give a shit? What does it matter when all the tracks sound the same? Herbst isn’t more balls out rockin’ than Sommer or anything, and when a lo-fi album is twenty-seven minutes and feels three epochs long, it’s just a poser piece of trash devoid of any creativity. This guy better watch out, because the hackneyed garbage police are going to come to his door some day, drag him into the street, beat him senseless with a mallet, and shoot him like the dog he is with one of those enormous cartoon rocket launchers.

Be sure to check out the album here.


Boris with Merzbow – Gensho


junkheadv1tmbBoris with Merzbow – Gensho

Japanese freaks Boris have reinvented their sound one too many times. My girlfriend and I saw them during their Heavy Rocks 2011 tour, and they played all their awesome stoner rock classics. The band was hyped, the crowd was hyped, and it was worth every dollar I spent to get the tickets. All eighteen of them. Elated after the experience, I nabbed two discs that had just come out. One was straight J-pop, and the other really wonky shoegaze. Boris makes great drone, doom, stoner, and noise boom, but not garbage disposal pop. I swore off the band, never to return. Until now.

Honestly, this collaboration is probably the worst time to come back. Merzbow is easily the most boring high-profile noise artist ever. Crappy laptop bzzzzzt is the name of the game, and that’s about an hour of this release. Merzbow’s portion is meant to be played in tandem with the Boris part, but you could mix anything else and it would be way more entertaining. Boris with Fleetwood Mac. Boris with N*Sync. Boris with Englebert Humperdink.

Fuck Merzbow.

Boris’s side is pretty meaty. Most of the tracks are new versions of older songs, played loud, slow, and almost exclusively with soaring guitars. It’s another shoegaze assault, but the lack of a rhythm section and light noise touches keep everything anti-pop enough to hold interest.

Still, a lot of tracks still totally blow. “Resonance” contains two minutes of pure digital silence, something the Melvins did better twenty plus years ago, while “Vomitself” sneaks in a bunch of Merzbow laptop bzzzzzt. The best track ends up being the My Bloody Valentine cover.

So yeah, fuck Boris too.

A very high D+