EP Review: Chalk Hands – Burrows & Other Hideouts

Chalk Hands Burrows and Other Hideouts Cover
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Brighton crew Chalk Hands are newcomers in the scene, channeling the likes of Pianos Become The Teeth, Caspian and Envy to offer two songs in a mixed screamo/post-rock style on their début release, Burrows & Other Hideouts.

First song “Burrows” commences with a solemn, softly picked guitar passage, before transforming into a monster. It’s a blistering, furious ode to paranoia and deception, with heavy passages alternating against instrumental segments. The instrumental parts provide breathing room, a break from the anger. But strong emotions dominate the entire way through.

Likewise, “Arms” kicks off strong, offering intense catharsis. It’s a sombre affair. Gang vocals deliver the line “weakness is no curse”, but self-doubt still rings through.

The intense style of music draws strong comparison to modern hardcore acts like Octaves and Defeater, with instrumental post-rock elements breaking up the songs, similar to Winters Dust. The energetic delivery makes the songs seem short. They are fast paced with busy drumming, but the songs both last longer than your average hardcore jam.

Following the idiom of quality over quantity, Chalk Hands offer a short, furious taster of things to come in the vein of many other modern hardcore acts, yet stand out enough to avoid becoming clichéd.

Chalk Hands Burrows and Other Hideouts


Burrows & Other Hideouts will be released on the 25th of August through Future Void Records, available as a digital download, CD or tape.


Chalk Hands links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chalkhandsmusic

Bandcamp: https://chalkhands.bandcamp.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chalkhandsofficial/

Joseph James

 

Album Review: Body Count – Bloodlust

Body Count Bloodlust
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These days Ice-T is likely best known for his acting career, and then his solo rapping career. But his metal side-project Body Count deserves as much recognition – especially after having just released their intense sixth album Bloodlust.

Body Count started as a group of friends interested in heavy music at high school. And they sound mean. They combine gangsta rap mentality with heavy rock and metal music to create an aggressive sound verging on hardcore.

If my description doesn’t sum it up well enough for your liking, then try Ice-T’s explanation, taking from the vocal intro to their cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”

” Body Count is a band I put together just to let one of my best friends, Ernie C play his guitar. He’s always been playing guitar, we all went to Crenshaw High School together in South Central Los Angeles. And I had the idea of let’s make a metal band, let’s make a rock band, ’cause I had been to Europe and I noticed that the kids would mosh off of hip-hop. So we put the band together and I used the three bands that were my favourites at the time to set the tone. We used the impending doom of a group like Black Sabbath, who pretty much invented metal; the punk sensibility of somebody like Suicidal, who basically put that gangbanger style from Venice, California into the game; and the speed and the precision of Slayer – one of my favourite groups and always will be. “

Body Count Bloodlust Promo Shot

Not only do Body Count take inspiration from some of the big names in metal, but they also collaborate with a few of them on this album, including Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Sepultura’s Max Cavalera and Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe.

As you would expect from that explanation, the music is in-your-face. Tight, fast drums, distorted riffs, squealing solos, and punk-meets-thrash delivered vocals.

The lyrical and thematically content seems contradictory within the album, with Ice-T bragging about criminal activities on one track, whilst protesting black stereotypes on another. I acknowledge that maintaining a tough guy persona is an integral aspect of the band’s image, but I would argue that singing about violence would further perpetuate negative stereotypes. Ice-T tackles issues like racism, poverty, street violence and police brutality, but also paints himself in an intimidating light.

Sure Black Lives Matter is worth acknowledging, but singing that you “gotta get paid the ski mask way” and discussing your thirst for bloodshed is a surefire way to become another statistic at the hands of a trigger happy cop.

Not that this criticism is exclusive to Body Count. Many political charged rappers walk that line between voicing out against injustice and playing to clichéd hiphop conventions of being a drug dealing gang banger.

Body Count use voice to add variety to the tracks. The opening passage on the album features Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine taking on the role of the broadcaster who delivers a faux broadcast from a dystopian president announcing martial law, before delving into a blistering guitar solo. Samples from news clips in “No Lives Matter” paint a picture of how it many young black men are being shot and killed by police in America. Ice-T also switches up his own style, providing monologues to preface a few songs, aping Tom Araya’s bark in the cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, and acting out a bank hold up during the break down of “The Ski Mask Way”.

Bloodlust is a great introduction for those uninitiated to Body Count’s work. The slick production sounds great – especially when compared against the band’s early work from the ’90s. Ice-T gives a few explanations at the start of some tracks, which give insight into how the band came about and what drives them. The music is energetic and tight, and the topics touch on some issues that need to be addressed.

It is a real shame that the braggadocio attitude dilutes the genuine attempts to raise awareness for social issues, but the music and delivery on Bloodlust is killer. Mean metal with real gangsta swagger, loaded with memorable hooks and filled with intensity.


Body Count links:

Website: http://bodycountband.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bodycountofficial/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BodyCountBand

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bodycountofficial/

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Alexisonfire at The Powerstation, Auckland

Alexisonfire Powerstation Auckland
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Alexisonfire

w/ Barracks

Powerstation, Auckland

Monday 23 January 2016

You’d think that with the amount of trouble I get into, I’d have learnt by now not to underestimate my ability to get lost in another city. But unfortunately I still find myself in situations like that today, in which I managed to get stranded on an island.

After an exciting day of exploring old army bunkers on Waiheke Island, I found the winding roads too hard to navigate, and managed to narrowly miss the ferry I needed to catch back to Auckland in time for the gig.

Sadly opening act Barracks had long finished their set by the time I got to the Powerstation, and Alexisonfire were already half way through their second song as I entered the venue.

I was kicking myself for showing up so late, but my excitement meant that I was soon caught up in the moment and forgot about the stress of trying to get there earlier. I’d been looking forward to this show for many months, and after an eventful drive up from Wellington I was finally here – albeit slightly late.

Alexisonfire are five piece post-hardcore act from Ontario, Canada. They released four albums between 2002-2009. One point of difference they boast is that they have three singers: George Pettit fronts the band on unclean vocals, Dallas Green sings clean vocals as well as playing guitar and piano, and Wade McNeil provides backing vocals whilst also playing guitar. In 2012 the band disbanded, with each singer going on to front other projects.

The Powerstation was well packed for a Monday night, with a generous turnout to see the newly reformed Canadians back in action. Here was a band that was most relevant a decade ago, but could still attract a decent audience on a work night.

And after seeing them play, I could see why. This was one of the more intense shows I’d been to in a while. The driving drums, high energy riffs and powerful roars all blended together to create a visceral experience.  I’m surprised that the mosh pit wasn’t more wild, between the music, Pettit shouting at us to “Fuck this place up” and McNeil telling us to punch Nazis in the face.

To be honest they could have said just about anything and the crowd would have lapped it up. People even tolerated  Green’s request for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the roadies. In fact, if I remember correctly, he also asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to his guitarist when City And Colour last played in Wellington as well. In my experience this seldom goes down well when a musician pulls this. But everyone was having a good time. People cheered when the band announced that the venue was a safe and tolerant space. People cheered when they heard that former local act The Bleeders lived near the band in Canada. People cheered when Pettit said he could see us all clearly after having had laser eye surgery.

The band covered a great cross section material, with tracks pulled from all four albums – predominantly 2006’s Crisis – and even the title track from their 2010 Dog’s Blood EP.

It was a dynamic set. The band ripped through popular hits and offered an all-out assault at first, but towards the end of the set they changed it up by introducing meandering instrumental sections and tender sing along moments. Encoring with some songs from the older two albums was met with favour, with many people noticeably running to the front to get closer during their old-time favourites.

Although the band’s punk pedigree was a big draw card, their slow burners and more melodic moments stood out. Green has enjoyed a fine career with his solo side project City and Colour, which is more folk/singer-songwriter styled. His strengths lie in vocal melodies and this was more than evident tonight, with his voice being far louder in the mix than the others. His voice is fantastic, and although he strained at times, his singing sections provided standout singalongs that brought balance to George and Wade’s double teamed shouting.

It was a brilliant gig. Varied, dynamic, and featuring all the expected hits. The band not only played their songs, but they put on a show. Nostalgia for well-written old songs were enough to draw the punters in, and excellent delivery kept them wanting more.

 

Joseph James

Interview: Incentives

Incentives Melbourne
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Melbourne based hardcore act Incentives have just dropped their début EP, Dusk, at the end of June. I fired some questions off to vocalist Kyle Adams just before then to see where the band was at prior to dropping their first EP, and to learn more about who they were.

Will Not Fade: I’ve visited Melbourne once. It was in 2012 and I stayed with my friends who were in the band The Voyage, and we all went to see Terror play that weekend. I got the impression that in Australia people take being in a band pretty seriously, whereas here in New Zealand it’s more like “hey let’s start our sixth side project, and I’ll play an instrument that I haven’t learnt because it looks fun!” Have you noticed much of a difference between NZ/AU bands?

Kylee: We were lucky enough to tour New Zealand early 2015 and made great friends with a band called ‘The Inquisition’. I don’t really feel like we picked up on any huge differences other than the fact that the New Zealand scene is considerably smaller. This probably means that as an Australian band you really need to put in a little bit of extra time and money to get yourself noticed and grab opportunities. End of the day I think both scenes really love their music it’s just a matter of scale.

How does the Melbourne hardcore scene feel at the moment?

The Melbourne hardcore scene is super, super, talented right now. We have heaps and heaps of bands coming out and continually impressing! I still think there is a bit of a gap between the “In group” and the rest of the scene but that’s always pretty standard for any kind of scene in any facet of life.

I read that many of your songs are written about girls. Which member of the band is the biggest ladies’ man? (You need a story to back up any answers to this question!)

Daaaammmn, this is tough but good old Jezza (bassist) is currently the only single member so best for the future of all four other relationships I don’t disclose a great deal. Jezza has a pretty neat track record when it comes to Tinder, and has been known to pull some local girls when we pull up in their town. Currently boasting a 100% strike rate down in Tassie!

The Dusk album cover features a picture of a faceless man with a gorgeous beard, but I see in your publicity pics that none of you have beards. What gives?

Well you see before our drummer Joe moved to Melbourne he lived in the mountain ranges, and whilst stalking his Facebook to ensure this new drummer was a legit person I stumbled across a few photos. These photos depicted a wild Joe two weeks after his 18th birthday. Where Joe grew up you aren’t considered a man unless you trek through the bush for two weeks either side of your 18th birthday., and so these photos our dear drummer was sporting one fine beard and that’s basically where the inspiration came from.

You came to NZ last year to tour with Depths, Hand of Mercy and The Inquisition. Tell me what you enjoyed/learnt during that trip.

We loooooove New Zealand! Everyone was just so genuine and kind to us throughout the entire trip it was quite incredible. We made some lifelong friends in The Inquisition so that was great. One thing we did learn though was that our New Zealand friends weren’t all that great with the local geography and with an adventure that ended in Papatoitoi. I feel we Australians have a better idea when it comes to such matters.

Do you prefer playing all ages or R18 shows? 

I really don’t mind! Over ages is fun because everyone can get drunk and have a bit of a time, but then it’s equally fun playing to younger crowds too. It’s all a good time really!

Joe’s dad built his drum kit for him. How did he learn how to do that?

This is the question I have asked myself a million times, but again I think it comes down to the coming of age ritual. Upon Joe’s return he had a fully constructed guitar he had built out of tambark and other fauna, so my tip is that Joe’s dad managed to do something similar but in the form of a drum kit.

You’ve been playing for three years, but have only just recorded your first EP. Do you think this will open many doors for you?

One can only hope! It’s been hard for us to keep things consistently moving given that we have had so many lineup changes but now things have got a bit of a move on and we just want to keep the momentum rolling.

You’re just about to drop your first EP, and have a tour lined up. What else is on the cards for Incentives?

I guess just more of the same! Everything bigger and better would be the goal. Creating memories that we can always look back on is my biggest wish. I understand bands aren’t the be all and end all, so really I just want to do as much as I can during this short little time frame we have. Then when my kids give me shit for wearing cardigans I can whip out some old photos and music and say “your dad had a half decent run back in the day” hahaha.

Which song do you think I should share with readers who aren’t familiar with your music?

Hmmmmm possibly “Dawn”. We’ve had a great response to that track and Jezza has a sing on it too! It’s pretty much the only song on the entire EP with a chorus so perhaps this chorus trend may continue with the new stuff.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Hopefully I’ll catch you next time you cross the ditch to play in New Zealand again!

Thanks heaps for the interview man! Probably the most fun I’ve had with an interview this entire time (had over 50 of the buggers). Hopefully we can make it out to New Zealand again soon and see you at a show.


 

Incentives links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncentivesMelb/

Bandcamp: https://incentivesmelbourne.bandcamp.com/

Tour: https://www.facebook.com/events/1752335758369622/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/incentives-band 

 

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: La Dispute – Eight

La Dispute Here Hear
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

Melodic hardcore band La Dispute just dropped their new track “Thirteen“, so this is a good time to shine a spotlight on some of their non-album material.

La Dispute have three EPs in the Here, Hear series that are wildly different from their regular output. Rather than the intense hardcore we are used to, these EPs include untitled experimental spoken word songs based on literature, poetry, philosophy and prose. When I saw La Dispute play with Balance & Composure in Wellington a few years ago I was delighted that they even included the song ‘Nine’ into their set by playing it as the first encore.

La Dispute here hear liner notes

Setting up for recording in a garage. Picture taken from the Here, Hear II EP liner notes

The series is delightfully low-fi and creative. Most of the tracks use unconventional objects as instruments, like clapping wooden blocks together in a basement. Other examples that stood out as interesting were using a pocketknife as a guitar slide, flipping book pages, or using a pencil sharpener for percussion. You can even hear a dog howling in the song “Seven”.

They draw on a variety of literary sources for inspiration, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic Annabel Lee, and Kenneth Grahame’s charming The Wind in The Willows. My favourite though, is the song ‘Eight’, adapted from the afterword of J. Michael Straczynski’s graphic novel Midnight Nation.

Written in the form of a diary reflection, Straczynski explores the dichmidnight-nation-cover2otomies of his city, with the characters that feature during the day and during the night seemingly from two different worlds. This theme provides the basis for the graphic novel, a story of the lost and forgotten trying to find their way out from beneath the cracks of society.

I love listen to this track through headphones as I go for walks. I picture the narrators story as I explore my city, and try to see the places I’ve walked through hundreds of times with fresh eyes, trying to notice the hidden and forgotten.

Go and listen to Here, Hear series to fall in love with the blend of brilliant music and literature.

Joseph James