CD Review: Moral Straightjacket – I’ll Be Your Rainbow

“I’ll Be Your Rainbow” is a great example of how to change your sound without alienating your fans, because upon hearing it I immediately thought ‘This is MORAL STRAIGHTJACKET’, which was quickly followed with ‘But not as I remember them’. Much like the gorgeous album art, everything seems to be slightly more uplifting this time around, with more hopeful lyrics and upbeat rhythms. The three tracks of the EP all have different styles, making it more of a tasting platter than the hearty meal, but I’m always keen for a curious nibble of something new so I dived right in.

“Blue Wizards” is the song most reminiscent of their last album, but the melancholic vocals sound more like fighting words than a surrender against the increased tempo of the instrumental components. I don’t have much new to add from my review of “Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me” since this track is the closest in sound to it, but I will say that being the punkest of the three it was my favourite. I know taste is entirely subjective but I’d say this is a great development for MORAL STRAIGHTJACKET, and would love to hear much more of this in the future over the next two tracks.

“Evergreen” ditches the gloom for a much more uplifting sound, and features a guest vocalist by the name of M. M’s warm female vocals fit the song well, but even the sweet softness of her tone couldn’t distract me from the seemingly darker lyrics behind this song. ‘You seem forever green / Grow old by elder streams / I’ll die young it seems / I must be a fleeting dream’. I don’t know if my imagination is running a bit too wild on this interpretation, but I feel like this is representing a scenario such as a terminally ill child who is looking at their friends and family, considering how long their prospective lives will be which seem almost endless in comparison. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it though, either way it’s a great song that had me thinking on it for a while, and it also has an amazingly written outro.

The final track “Blood Orange” takes another new direction and leans to country influences. Again, it’s done well, although not so much as well as the previous two tracks. My main issue is with the mix, less guitar and more vocals would make this a good song, although there’s more to be done to make it great. The first chorus is difficult to listen to, it starts off very clunky with a slow tempo and the repeated line of ‘I’ll be your rainbow’, and then a response line immediately followed with the rainbow line before the tempo picks up. The guitar then goes through a few bars at the new tempo before the response line comes through and a pattern is established for the rest of the chorus. I don’t really get what the desired effect was with this, but I don’t think they got it, instead an otherwise good song just falls flat halfway through before picking itself back up.

As MEAT LOAF once sang, two out of three ain’t bad, and this is honestly more like two and a half out of three. It was a risky little EP that saw post-punk meet country and folk-pop, so credit must be given where it’s due and I applaud MORAL STRAIGHJACKET for this release. If their next album is done in any of these three styles or is a mix of them, I’d be happy to keep listening.

This album is out now digitally and on a very limited cassette run from ruined smile records, so don’t miss out!

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A Week In Reviews: Abbath, Guttermouth, Kvelertak, Tempest Rising, The Yard Apes

Abbath – Abbath
Season of Mist
Release Date: January 22nd, 2016
FFO: Immortal, I, Venom

Before you listen to ABBATH’s debut solo album, forget everything you know about his musical past. Forget about a certain iconic black metal band, forget about the blackened Motorhead worship side project, forget it all. From the very start of the first track ‘To War!’ you’re going to hear new styles and rhythms that are rarely played in black metal. It may challenge everything you know about the genre, but keep an open mind and you’ll see it for the brilliance it is.

Despite a modern sound and clean production, the first wave black metal influences are undeniable, with songs like ‘Winterbane and ‘Ashes of the Damned’ taking a VENOM style approach to making hard rock riffs into extreme metal. The latter of the two actually just sounds like a sped up ZZ TOP riff, and that isn’t even the biggest surprise of the track, the sudden dramatic horn section almost blew me away when I first heard it.

I wasn’t expecting a solo ABBATH album to be anywhere near this creative. I was expecting every track to be fast riffs and hammering blast beats start to finish like ‘Endless’, and that’s fine for one track but thank the gods above it wasn’t the whole album. Instead we got a breath of fresh air in the big players of the genre, and a record that shows ABBATH still has plenty of potential left in the tank. This is definitely up there with the top black metal albums of the 21st century.

Fav tracks: Ashes of the Damned, Fenrir Hunts, To War!

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Guttermouth – Got It Made
Rude Records
Release Date: July 15th, 2016
FFO: NOFX, Pennywise

GUTTERMOUTH are back and surprisingly in good form with new music that carries their undeniably unique style, especially in the vocals. I’ve always loved Mark’s vocals and was ecstatic to hear he’s still got it after all these years. To my ears his vocal style is the spiritual successor of Jello Biafra’s.

Moving on from the frontman, this EP is a delightful package of great riffs, and well written and structured songs. There are some parts where I’m not always sure if an old riff is being reused or if it’s just a throwback to their past styles, but that can be said for most older punk bands since there’s only so much you can do with 3 chords. Regardless, ‘Got It Made’ draws inspiration from different eras of their career, “Shitty Situation” is old school for example whereas “Frekles The Pony” sounds more like the later albums. Not all are winners though, ‘The Point’ is very lyrically weak but that could simple be a throwback to very early material maybe? Or maybe just bad writing?

‘Got It Made’ is probably not for the PC punx, but that’s just GUTTERMOUTH being GUTTERMOUTH. They’re a band of rascally scamps that a lot of people love to hate, with lyrics filled with many casually offensive things that might stress out the overly sensitive. Those with a sense humor and a thicker skin will probably find a few chuckles in each song. Either way, it’s a fun EP and I really need to pick up the full length that followed it.

Fav tracks: A Punk Rock Tale Of Woe, Freckles The Pony, Shitty Situation

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Kvelertak – Nattesferd
Roadrunner Records
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
FFO: Certainly not for fans of Kvelertak, that’s for sure

Let me preface what I’m about to say, I am not a bitter KVELERTAK hater expressing his rage. I love the band. I’ve worn their tour shirt to more gigs than any other shirt I own, and when it finally falls to pieces I plan on getting the design tattooed on me so I can wear it for ever. This band and their first two albums filled a niche gap in my heart that no one else ever could. Now let’s continue.

There’s raw like a nice rare steak, a bit of dripping blood on your plate that you can soak up with your chips when you finish it, and there’s raw like under-cooked chicken. ‘Nattesferd’ is a big dose of salmonella.

I know not ever intro track can be a masterpiece, however having four terrible intros totaling 20 minutes before you reach the three good songs on the album is a bit much. What’s that? They’re not intros? They’re meant to be actual songs? Jesus Christ guys, what went so wrong after ‘Meir’?! I still hold out hope that they’ll announce they accidentally sent the demos to the pressing plant, because this album features their worst mixing yet and songs feel unfinished.

When the ‘1985’ single dropped, I wasn’t immediately impressed. Past albums had singles like ‘Blodtorst’ and ‘Bruane Brenn’, absolute bangers that get the crowd wild and randy. ‘1985’ is more likely to get you dad tapping his foot while fondly remembering his first URIAH HEEP concert. KVELERTAK were masters of mixing genres, but dad rock is not something it ever needed. ‘Nattesferd’ is a mistake that shouldn’t have been released. As a disappointment of a third child myself, I think I finally understand how my parents feel when I listen to this album and feel such overwhelming disappointment for what could’ve been.

Overall, this album made me want to re-enroll at uni so I’m not remembered as the ‘Nattesferd’ of the family.

Fav tracks: BronsegudOndskapens GalakseBerserkr

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Tempest Rising – Transmutation
Independent Release
Release Date: November 14th, 2014
FFO: Lamb Of God, Trivium, Machine Head

I feel like I’ve written the review for this album 100 times over, because every time I listen to this album I feel differently about it and rewrite parts. I even went all the way to Alice Springs to see them at Blacken, and sat there through the entire set not knowing how I feel about it. If TEMPEST RISING were a packet of chips, you’d finish the whole pack in one go but not know if you should still have dinner or if that was enough.

‘Transmutation’ combines a lot of metal styles, and honestly does it pretty well. Despite doing it well, there’s only so many styles you can try on one album and sometimes it feels thinly spread, a bit more focus would improve the music. It’s like if you tried to condense all of TRIVIUM’s discography into one album, and then put some PANTERA covers in for good measure.

All in all, listening to this album is a good time, as a whole doesn’t overstay its welcome, despite some songs being drawn out. It’s not the type of album that would see me going to watch TEMPEST RISING headline a show, but if they were a support act I definitely wouldn’t miss a chance to hear a set of the better songs from the debut album. Regardless, I’ll definitely keep these guys on my radar, and I’d recommend you do too.

I also award this album with bonus points for having the best album art of the lot! Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good copy, just the very dark version below.

Fav tracks: War, Wretch, My Ecstacy

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The Yard Apes – Night Of The Living Dead
Heart of the Rat Records
Release Date: January 20th, 2015
FFO: Misfits, Nekromantix, The Mummies

I absolutely adore THE YARD APES, they’re one of the closest things you’ll find to being able to watch Marty McFly tear through ‘Johnny B. Goode’ at the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance. Their release ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ will be less likely to have Marvin Berry calling his cousin Chuck though, and more likely to have Marvin Danzig calling his cousin Glenn.

The Ballarat garage rockers have taken a dark and fuzzy turn for their three-track 7”, giving the middle finger to modern-day audiophiles and bringing back that dirty, noisy analog feel. The tracks are powered by surf rock riffs with a lick of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. It really brings back memories of listening to old punk cassettes in my brother’s Datsun as a kid.

Despite loving some lo-fi goodness, I must say it’s definitely shooting yourself in the foot to push it so far to the edge listenability that the guitar solo in ‘Don’t Give a Shit Anymore’ is the worst part of the song. I’d probably have more of an issue with this if it was more than 9 minutes long all together, but in such a short burst, I thinks it’s more than tolerable for three wicked jams.

Fav tracks: I normally list 3 songs here, so all three!

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CD Review: Desecrator – To The Gallows

When I first saw DESECRATOR I could count the number of metal shows I’d been to on my fingers. It was at Sonic Forge Festival at the Espy in 2012, and I was suffering badly from the effects of not pacing my drinking early on. I just wanted to slump on the bench at the back of the basement stage, but I learnt that night something that would eventually become a lyric on their debut album: No one sits down at a DESECRATOR show. Despite all their energy and speed on stage though, DESECRATOR took nine years to put out a full-length studio album, so expectations going into “To The Gallows” were pretty high, especially after 2013’s amazing EP “Down To Hell”.

After making fans wait nine years, the album doesn’t waste a single second on an intro before tearing straight into the title track. Immediately on the first track I fell in love with guitar tone, it has an amazing old school sound that doesn’t come off as something fake they were aiming for, instead it’s just what they are. Add in a blistering solo and a few pinch harmonics for flair and you are set from the get-go for a great album. Backing up the guitars are the thundering bass-heavy drums, and a bassist that easily keeps up with the guitars and injects the heaviness into it all. Song structures can’t be forgotten either, and there’s a feast of hooks, heavy sections to mosh to, lyrics you can shout along to; all the stuff that makes a good thrash album. If you’re reading an album review for one, I doubt I need to explain it to you.

Despite all that, one thing about this album bugs me. Having seen DESECRATOR about a dozen times over the last 5 years, I can’t help but feel frontman Riley Strong is holding back on vocals. Maybe he toned it down on the album so the live show seems better, maybe he just couldn’t get the same results without a live atmosphere, whatever it is only “Down To Hell” really shows his range and ability to hold notes. There is one other exception on the album, but I’ll touch on that in a bit. On to the more pleasant surprises in the album, anyone who’s seen me in a tank top knows I’m a big Mad Max fan, so I got pumped up the moment I hear the Road Warrior quote at the start of “Desert For Days”. Among songs about beer, moshing and the greatest Australian movies of all time it’s hard to pick just one favourite, but the top pick from the album happened to also be the biggest surprise.

After 3 tracks of relentless thrash, I figured this was the DESECRATOR I knew and loved, nothing more and nothing less, but then the acoustic intro to “As I Die” came in and showed me I knew nothing. This track completely shatters the mold, with the first half being slow, bluesy and melancholic, and the second half being effectively the same but with a lot more distortion. I wouldn’t have in a million years picked this departure of style for the band, but it’s pulled off perfectly. As I mentioned before, Riley’s vocals could be better on the album, but if his live vocals are 100% I’d say the album vocals are about 90%, with the exception of “As I Die” which is about 120%. It’s above and beyond what I thought he could do, and the same could be said about every other aspect of the song.

DESECRATOR have always had a special place in my heart. They’ve never been my favourite Melbourne thrash band, nor have they been the fastest, the loudest or the heaviest. No, what they are is one of the very few 21st century thrash bands that I can think of that capture the Big 4’s 80’s sound. Try as I might, I can’t really put it into words, there’s an X factor element they have that makes me think Master of Puppet, Among the Living, Reign in Blood, and Rust in Peace. I’m not saying it sounds like those albums, but as sure as hell feels like it’d fit in their clique. I don’t know how they do it, I don’t know why thousands of other thrash bands can’t do it, but I do know “To The Gallows” is full of it. It’s a throwback to thrash at its peak, so put on your old denim jacket and march your arse to the record store to grab a copy.

The album is on sale now, and the road warriors are out on tour! Check out the Facebook page to see when they’ll be playing near you!

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www.desecrator.net
www.facebook.com/DESECRATORAUS

CD Review: Valhalore – Voyage Into Eternity

There’s one easy way to tell if an album is great, and that is asking myself; do I want to review it? For those not keeping score, I haven’t done many reviews lately, and when I have they’re mini reviews in lots of 5 because I’m too busy to do a full one for each album. However “Voyage Into Eternity” after one listen had me taking notes to type up later just so I could tell the world how great it is. The debut album from Brisbane’s VALHALORE album isn’t just amazing, it’s actually inspirational, and it is my greatest pleasure to tell you why.

Now every good folk metal album needs an intro that pulls you into the world of the album. I am not any of my D&D, WoW or Skyrim characters, so when I’m sitting at my desk eating reheated spaghetti it’s going to take something great to pull my mind into the world of warriors and legends. “By Moon and Stars” is an intro which does just that, it’s not the best the genre has ever seen, but it definitely reminds me of it and gets me in the mood for what’s to come.

VALHALORE have taken the power/folk metal recipe, a tried and true formula of harmony and melody, and not only mastered it, but spice it up with some elements borrowed from other genres. A good example of this would be “The Winterstone” which features a very heavy breakdown, and every time I hear it I get the hilarious image in my head of hardcore fans crowd-killing each other while the whimsical whistle plays over top. The whistle also gets an amazing highlight in “Upon the Shores” which features a solo that can only be describe as the woodwind equivalent of shredding. It’s phenomenal and blows me away (pun not intended) no matter how many times I hear it. Add this to the DRAGONFORCE-esque guitars and the seamless blend of screams and clean vocals, and there isn’t really much more you could ask from the band, they’re a full package.

Don’t let the viking ship on the cover fool you, the tin whistle makes the folk elements feel much more Celtic than Nordic at times, although if any music history experts want to debate that I’d be happily proven wrong. Regardless of origin, it avoids all pitfalls of the genre, such as not fitting well with the metal aspects and being mixed far too quiet or loud. Too many folk metal bands force to folk elements where they don’t belong, but VALHALORE make it feel so natural, and that alongside the excellent production value is what puts the album in the same league as the big names in the genre.

Despite my love for the album, it’s not one I can listen to on repeat over and over again. A folk metal album like that is comparable to something I could binge watch, like Adventure Time, and a full play through of “Voyage Into Eternity” is more like watching a Lord of the Rings movie. There’s a sense of completion and satisfaction at the end that doesn’t drive me to right back to the intro and start again.

In summary, I have a problem called World of Warcraft Syndrome, and no I’m not talking about my addiction. My problem is I use the word epic so much it’s lost all meaning. So let me tell you, the debut album from VALHALORE is legendary. It’s a folk metal must-have and outclasses any other Australian folk metal by miles. I’d go as far as saying this is Australia’s first world-class folk metal album, and is easily on the same level as bands like ENSIFERUM and WINTERSUN.

The album is on sale now, and the band has set sail on tour! Check out the Facebook event to see when they’ll be playing near you!

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www.facebook.com/valhalore
www.valhalore.com

Interview: Frank Grudge of GRUDGE! discusses Grudgefest!

For the first time ever, I am doing an interview! Local festivals have always been a key part of the “supporting your scene” experience to me, and are always an amazing time with plenty of bands, booze and buddies. For that reason I was thrilled to speak to Frank Grudge, vocalist of Melbourne grindcore/hardcore band GRUDGE! and organizer of Grudgefest!

Grudgefest! is an extremely good line up of Australian underground extreme music, at an extremely good venue (the Brunny) for an extremely good price (FREE!!!). It’s next month on 11/03/17 and you can read all about it on the Facebook event. Now here’s what Frank had to say about it.

What inspired you to start your own festival?

It was just a natural progression I guess. I’ve kinda just fallen into the roll of band booker and sometimes it’s just as easy putting on ten bands as it is four. If you pick the right bands and the right venue, certain things just seem to take care of themselves.

What makes Grudgefest! different to other festivals?

I guess with show lineups they are always going to the sum of their parts. I try to pick a group of underground bands that I really like and I think gel well together. I strive for some variety and elements that will make a good show. I try make it undeniable for punters, it’s down to the lineup and a good price. Grudgefest! is always free so winner winner chicken dinner.

As the Grudgefest! organizer, which bands on the line up are you most excited about?

So much to be excited about on this lineup, with 13 bands from 4 different states.
FACEGRINDER from WA with a new vocalist in tow, cricket-inspired punk rock from SA SHAME WORN, Melbourne’s DEAD ROOT, metallic hardcore sounds from DISASTERS, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Mathcore heroes DRIVETIME COMMUTE are right up there as one of my favourite locals. The GOOD TIME AUSSIE BOGALARS from Ballarat are the perfect blend of speed and bogan, they are good value also.

If you could have any Australian band come play Grudgefest! 18, who would you pick?

I have some ideas and you will just have to wait and see.

Would you ever want to have Grudgefest! anywhere else, or are you loyal to the Brunny?

Trying to get the same result elsewhere wouldn’t really be possible. So many upsides to booking the Brunny.

If you had to make a drink that summed up Grudgefest!, what would it be?

If Grudgefest! were a drink it would simply be coffee.
Do you want coffee? Where do you want to go?!? Degraves Street? 7/11? You got pods? Want a short black? Sugar? Soy? Iced? So many combinations, it doesn’t really matter how you look at it coffee ain’t ever lame and it’s never boring, well for me it’s not anyway.

After Grudgefest!, what are GRUDGE!’s plans for 2017?

We have a few splits in the works with some friends up the east coast DISPARO! and POVAROTTI. Most likely some east coast shows to follow.

Finally, should fans bring their dancing shoes for a wild night in the pit?

Correct footwear for Grudgefest! will always be drinking boots. Might be some kung fu slippers? As for dancing shoes, sure why not I’m sure there will be some argy-bargy on the floor.

Well there you have it folks, grab your coffee, put on your drinking boots, and get yourself down to the Brunswick Hotel next month for Grudgefest! A showcase on extreme music from all around the country!

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Gig Review: You Dirty Rat 2!, The Eastern

I don’t think there’s anywhere I’d rather be on a hot day than in one of my old favourite watering holes with some of my favourite local punk bands, and that’s exactly what I did in Ballarat this weekend at In A Row Promotions second annual You Dirty Rat festival. If you’ve never heard of In A Row or have never been to any of their shows and festivals (Spot Fest, Via Melbourne, In-A-Palooza) then you’re missing out on being a part of Victoria’s amazing folk/punk community.

As I entered The Eastern I was straightaway seeing familiar faces and friendly smiles, and there was just enough time to say some hellos before heading to the band room with a crisp cold cider to take the edge off the heat. TIM HAMPSHIRE was first on, and like most people I’ve met from Portland he was a man who enjoys the simple things in life, like banter with his mates and a beer holder on the microphone stand. His folky acoustic punk is catchy and relatable as the genre always seems to be, I guess the genre is like horoscopes in that way, but lyrically he could turn a phrase like few other punks with an acoustic guitar I’ve seen before. It was a nice easy start to the festival that all those who got down early enjoyed, but I’m still not sure what was the most punk thing about Tim; his contempt for the current government, or his desire to trade albums for beer rather than money.

Up next was my favourite acoustic punk act in all of Victoria and self proclaimed sad-sack, JOE GUITON. Joe may not be the best musician on the line up, in fact I’ve seen him make so many mistakes on stage that he manages to just roll with the punches now and make the screw ups seem like parts of the songs. Regardless, his lyrics are personal and the emotion shines strong with every word, and this day’s performance of ‘Juchie’ was the best rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. At the emotional climax of the song he stopped playing his guitar, and just yelled his way through the lyrics, stammering and powering through some deeply personal lines. I was beyond impressed, I was awe-struck. He closed his set with the help of festival organizer and AGENT 37 frontman Dave Grimson for some duets by what I consider to be one of the Victorian punk scene’s greatest bromances.

The first full band of the night took the stage after, the young guns LETHAL SOUND DIVISION (points for the rad name). Although new on the scene, these three showed some mad potential with all three members sharing vocal duties with widely different styles, and the drummer playing more interesting rhythms than most drummers I’ve seen in the Melbourne metal scene. Despite the dynamic vocals, I’d still love to see them with a dedicated vocalist as none of them seemed comfortable with playing and singing at the same time. I could probably nitpick more but any downfalls they had were just things that come with experience on the stage, and they’re obviously on the right path to getting that experience. Now I can’t move on without mentioning one of the most memorable moments of the night, a cover of KORN’s ‘Shoots and Ladders’ complete with a live bagpipe player in full formal kilt attire, I think Jonathan Davis would be proud of that. Keep an eye on this band, the future looks bright for them.

TRUCKS rolled in next for some noisy yet upbeat emo punk, which sounded great even if the noisy element does drown out the vocals for the most part. If you’re going to have guitars over vocals though, you can at least have the tone right, and they definitely did. The infectious positive vibes from the band got the crowd moving a little bit with bobbing heads and tapping toes, but none were more mobile than bassist Rick Murphy and his pop punk jumps. While never being a big fan of the band, I must admit I really enjoyed their cover of VIOLENT SOHO’s ‘In The Aisle’, it was both a nice change and a good fit for the set. Having lost one of my favourite emo punk bands earlier this year (RIP FOXES) I think TRUCKS could really fill the hole in my heart right now, so I’m glad I discovered them.

Now most of GOOD FOR WEDNESDAY’s set I’ll admit I saw and heard from the beer garden in between talking to an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, but my trusty partner in crime (read: girlfriend) helped me fill in the blanks. These guys got the positive vibe of TRUCKS and amplified it tenfold, there was not a single time I looked at the guys on stage without seeing at least one big cheesy grin, they were loving it up there. They also gave the crowd no choice but to love it by dragging them in for some crowd participation. Whilst writing this review I was shocked to find out how new this band is, since their sound was so tight and their energetic stage presence and interaction with the crowd was at such a professional standard. I just kind of assumed these guys had been around and played many shows on much bigger stages than little old Eastern. I hope one day all the great accomplishments I assumed these guys had are one day a reality for them.

The final band before the break was Adelaide’s horror punks DEAD JOE, and I assume Joe was cremated because these guys looked cooked when they hit the stage. Despite their guitarist having both a MISFITS shirt and a Fiend Club patch on his vest, I am very sad to report there were no MISFITS covers in their set, which is a shame because I thought that was a requirement for all horror punk bands. Despite this their own material was pretty damn good, even if at times their apparent inebriation got in the way of their musical talents. It was pretty disappointing to see the bassist’s wireless pack go to waste, but when one of the highlights of your set is a band member ripping down the lighting above the stage with his bass, it’s probably a good time to rethink your live show. I’m sure I’ll give DEAD JOE a second chance next time I see them, but I doubt they made any new fans with this set.

After a quick Maccas run for dinner, it was back to the bands with THE SECOND SEX, and while I’ve seen many feminists rock this slogan on signs and tshirts at rallies, this band shows that in punk, the future is female. Over the duration of the set I was blown away by the dynamic styles of frontwoman Zarah who could do just about every vocal style in punk; screaming or singing, it didn’t matter, she nailed it despite being unwell at the time. Vast amounts of admiration and respect are due for giving 110% when your body’s not operating at 100%. THE SECOND SEX were probably the truest punk band on the lineup as they were passionately furious for social change, the way hardcore should be. The women in the crowd were loving what was happening on the stage, and the men were as silent as they were uncomfortable over the typical male behaviour Zarah was calling out. Regardless, everyone in the room cheered with vigour at the mind-blowing performance these women gave. This band is exactly what I want to see more of in the punk scene, girls to the front, but more importantly girls to the stage.

I felt sorry for NORTHWOOD having to follow what just went down, but these guys managed to bring it hard and fast in their own way. Now I have to admit that melodic punk vocals bore me, however the mixing did them no favours as all I could really hear was the riffs. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because the guitar work was definitely the pillar holding up NORTHWOOD, it was as fast as it gets and broke the mold of punk guitar work supposedly being simple. Looking back they were probably the best riffs I heard all night. Other than that there’s not much else I can say, they were great and I don’t think the crowd would disagree with that, but they’re just not my type of punk rock.

Next was easily the best set of the night, MESA COSA, with their chaotic garage punk attitude that really got the crowd moving. Now I’ve seen MESA COSA a few times and while always fun, their wild antics often affects their music, making them sound a bit sloppy, but it’s garage punk so who really cares? Well this time, they had the same energy as always but their sound was really tight, and the songs were a thousand times better for it. It was so good that I’d say all it’d take is a set like that and big support slot with someone like VIOLENT SOHO and these guys could blow up. Their set crossed over from wild to insanity in the last song though when the tambourine and guitar being used on stage were passed to the audience, luckily the guitar went to EBONIVORY guitarist Jake Ewings who ripped out some amazing improv that was so good I had to ask afterward if it was planned before the show. Just remembering it now as I write it down, it seems almost magical in my mind that it all happened so naturally and flawlessly. If you’re a fan of full on party bands like THE BENNIES, you’ve got to check out MESA COSA, you’ll never know how you lived without them once you do.

Finally the man behind the day, Dave Grimson, got to take the stage again as three quarters of AGENT 37 set up, plus JOE GUITON filling in for missing guitarist/vocalist Curt. The band was quick to remind everyone that if they didn’t sound good, blame Curt, but despite a replacement who didn’t know all the songs and Dave’s voice not being 100% they powered through song after song. The setlist was shorter than most of their shows as Dave took some time out to humbly thank everyone who made the day come together, but it still contained a healthy dose of both their Ramonescore punk rock originals and a few covers, including that MISFITS cover I’d been craving! Despite not always knowing the songs, it was great to see Joe always helping out whether it be watching Dave to learn the songs as they’re being played, doing backing vocals, or helping Jamie with percussion on the cymbals, he was always there to add his little part. With the stress of organizing a show like this I doubt Dave had much left to give, but as always he and AGENT 37 gave it all and I hope he’s enjoying a long hard-earned rest this week because of it.

The final band may or may not be larger than life, but they were certainly larger than the stage at The Eastern, as THE RAMSHACKLE ARMY spilled over the stage and onto the floor for a much more up close and intimate setting than I think they’d planned on. There’s something about celtic punk that always manages to get people moving, and I’m 99% sure it’s the fiddle which Kat plays so well, and this show was no exception as people in the crowd had a merry jig. The setlist was full of new songs from their upcoming EP ‘Whitewashed Graves’, and it sounded fantastic live so I can’t wait to hear it next month when it’s out on CD. Once again the community came together when guitarist Nath broke a string, he had a replacement in no time and his old faithful back and restrung shortly after, showing there was nothing that could stop them or even slow them down.  As they finished up I was barely able to drag my sweaty body to the bar for a glass of water before the audience starting begging for an encore, and so THE RAMSHACKLE army took the stage once more to give everyone a final dance for the festival, and dance they did!

There’s a special charm to these punk festivals, the communities around them are the best in all of Australia’s live music scenes, and You Dirty Rat 2 was certainly no different. There’s nothing better than mates, drinks, and bands who are all about their mates and their drinks. A massive congratulations to In A Row Promotions on another great show, and I can’t wait for your next one!

A Week In Reviews: Facemeat, Grand Magus, Involuntary Convulsion, Jack The Envious, Tower Of Fire

Facemeat – Questions For Men
Art As Catharsis
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
FFO: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Frank Zappa, keeping strange pets like spiders

Listening to FACEMEAT for the first time is like waking up during sex with a supermodel with no memory of the last 6 months. It’s great, you’ll want to tell your friends about it, but you also have to stop and think how you got to this point in your life.

With no knowledge of the genre at all to make comparisons, I can only sum their album ‘Questions For Men’ as the jazz equivalent of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN’s ‘One of Us Is the Killer’ (I really want to call it djazz, y’know, djent meets jazz). It’s like grindcore for people with good taste in music. A brilliant mix of male and female lead vocals, saxophones, trumpet, cello and keys show that each of the nine musicians behind this album are talented in their own right, how ever their combined effort is beyond fabulous.

Describing themselves as jazz folk rock funk punk fusion, I struggle to find better words for this madness (excluding djazz), but it doesn’t quite cover how dark it gets. Adultery, addiction, revenge, rape, and even bestiality make up just some of the lyrical themes, and yet at the same time it can stay surprisingly camp throughout the darkness.

This is an album for the weird kids, the minds so open that very little unsettles them, the tastes that passed eclectic miles ago. I strongly recommend checking it out, most people I’ve shown it to have dug it, but approach with caution.

Fav tracks: My Wife and Children, In Time, I Shouldn’t Have Killed You.

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Grand Magus – Sword Songs
Nuclear Blast
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
FFO: Black Sabbath, Amon Amarth, riffs for days

Grand Magus’ 2012 masterpiece “The Hunt” was one of the first albums I gave a perfect score to when I used to score albums. While the follow up “Triumph and Power” was a good album, “Sword Songs” is the true heir to the legacy “The Hunt” left behind.

If you only had a copy of the lyrics and guitar tabs, I could forgive you for thinking this was an AMON AMARTH album, and honestly it sounds like what they’d sound like with less distortion and clean vocals. In fact “Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel” is pretty much the new anthem for the viking metal genre, and a monster workout jam too!

This one is really for the headbangers, the riff lords, and the air guitar extraordinaire. GRAND MAGUS have served up another album of monstrous heavy metal the way BLACK SABBATH designed it to be. It’s definitely in for a chance to be my album of the year considering how much it’s been played in my car since it came out.

Buy it for yourself, buy it for your friends, buy it for a stranger and bond over how amazing it is. But also, buy the edition with the bonus tracks, because the cover of DEEP PURPLE’s “Stormbringer” ventures into the realms of stoner rock and it’s so rad.

Fav tracks: Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel, Born for Battle (Black Dog of Brocéliande), Stormbringer.

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Involuntary Convulsion – Tempus Edax Rerums
New Standard Elite
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
FFO: Nile, Suffocation, new school death metal, old school death metal

Like it or not, death metal is changing, and at the forefront of the new world is New Standard Elite. That’s why I was super stoked to see Melbourne brutal death metallers INVOLUNTARY CONVULSION releasing their debut EP through such a label. Being one of the first local death metal bands I ever saw, it’s great to seem them come this far.

Structure wise the songs are brutal death metal, but there’s definitely tech death influences in that, and possibly a hint of slam? I’m not entirely sure, death metal subgenres are confusing. Regardless, old school death metal fans will froth over the low tuning, guttural growling, and unclean mix. The mix is a risky move, it deters the casual metal fan who isn’t well versed in extreme subgenres, but those with a more developed taste for filth will find themselves agreeing with THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER’s Trevor Strnad when he says the mix is “raw enough to send some of you wimps packing right from the get go.”

A special mention on this one also has to go to the album art, I fell in love with this monstrosity at first sight. I was stoked when the pre-orders had album art flags, now I get to hang this on my walls and look at it every day. Amazing band and an EP that’s truly love at first sight!

Fav tracks: I’m not going to pick my favorite 3 out of only 5, they’re all killer, go make up your own mind!

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Jack The Envious – Pull You Down
Independent Release
Release Date: February 9th, 2016
FFO: Funeral for a Friend, Panic! At The Disco, Make Them Suffer

I don’t know what’s more shocking in 2016, the fact people are still making post-hardcore bands, or the fact some of them are actually good. Despite the letdown of an amazing intro with a disappointingly weak follow through, JACK THE ENVIOUS is one of those new and very good post-hardcore bands.

Utilizing keyboards to build an atmosphere to project the music into, the songs are powered through the choruses and verses by melodic alt rock vocals that are strongly reminiscent of PANIC! AT THE DISCO, making this album as much of a guilty pleasure as they are. The keyboards also bring something new and epic to the genre, symphonic breakdowns, it’s breathtaking to hear it for the first time.

While not a massive fan of the genre, I feel I’ve seen enough friends post-hardcore bands at the local on a weekday night to know that this above the standard. From the soft melodic parts to the intense hardcore sections, JACK THE ENVIOUS remains well composed and sound consistently tight as a band. It’s hard to believe this is a debut release, but I’m keen to see what they have to offer in the future if this is just the starting point.

Oh, and just as a little bonus, the album also comes with the greatest “Feel Good Inc.” cover you’ll ever hear, and it’s in the style of those lovable Punk Goes Pop albums.

Fav tracks: More To Life, My Beloved Target, Feel Good Inc.

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Tower of Fire – This Time It’s On Fire
Independent Release
Release Date: March 15th, 2016
FFO: Gloryhammer, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Chicken

Now I know TOWER OF FIRE say “This Time It’s Serious”, but I don’t quite buy it… I would buy this album though if it ever got a physical release. I would buy several copies because I’d very likely wear it out from constant repeats.

This album is the second full-length dose of silly, over the top power metal from the mind of Dale Williams (formerly known as Ultralord of LAGERSTEIN). Just like the debut album, it’s a worthy piss-take off the genre, and it details the type of Lord of the Rings epic with Monty Python humor that Terry Pratchett would be proud of.

Despite been more cheesy than France, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Germany combined, the actual instrumentals are genuinely amazing, as is the production. It’s very akin to STEEL PANTHER or TENACIOUS D, but without Jack Black bankrolling the band (also no movie, but a TOWER OF FIRE movie would kick ass…).

Now if you don’t mind I need to show this album to my parents so they stop saying that me dropping out of uni was a massive waste of talent, because it’s nothing compared to this much skill being used to write clever parody albums. This album is probably the best album you’ll legally pay nothing for this year.

Fav tracks: Beware the Dragonchicken, The Swordsman of Outspoken Misc, And Back Again.

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CD Review: Pokémon Liberation Army – TM101

Every gamer knows that the Pokemon universe is based somewhat on our own, with regions in game representing places in the real world. What you might not know is the Pokemon universe has its own version of underground punk legends LEFTOVER CRACK, and they’re called the POKEMON LIBERATION ARMY. Currently living off Silph Co.’s grid in Bristol, England, the skacore band brings anarchy to everywhere from Kanto to Alola with their catchy rhythms and clever lyrics on their debut EP ‘TM101’.

The chaos kicks off with ‘No Pokémon Gods No Pokémon Masters’ and on first listen I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of music. It’s not that I expected them to be bad, but some people think a gimmick is all you need to get big, luckily POKEMON LIBERATION ARMY seem to know that a gimmick will get you known, but talent is what will make you remembered. As you can expect from a punk band’s self-produced debut release, the sound has room for improvement, but look past that and you’ve got a lot to work with. It starts off with solid ska riffs on both guitars and bass that you can really get into, well written lyrics performed by dual vocalists trading lines back and forth, and a catchy chorus that’s easy to sing along to.

The intro to ‘World At War’ might confuse some because it’s hard to tell whether it’s a horn or keyboard being used, but it’s actually a hybrid instrument called a melodica, and it’s kind of like a harmonica with a keyboard on it. Having only ever seen two of these before, I was slightly shocked and thoroughly impressed at how good it can work with ska punk. Its sound works particularly well on ‘TM101’ because it fills the need for horns while still sounding like something a gameboy could produce without going fully electric (is chiptune ska punk a thing? It should be). Sadly it doesn’t work amazingly in every track, ‘Meowth, That’s Right!’ would be the best track on the EP by far if it wasn’t for the melodica letting it down, but other than that song it’s a great addition.

Following from my last sentence you might be asking what the best song on this album is, well it’s very f**king simple, ‘Stop Burning Squirtles’. It’s got an easy beat, simple lyrics that are fun to sing along to, and my favourite part of ska, the part where they yell “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” It’s a fun song, and POKEMON LIBERATION ARMY are a fun band, they even make other bands more fun with their version of THE TOASTERS ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down’ which they titled ‘Don’t Let The Bastards Catch ‘Em All’, and it contains part of the PokeRap in it. I don’t think ska gets any cooler than that.

‘TM101’ might not be the best release you hear this year, honestly it’s rough around the edges, but the charm is in how clever it is. None of the references feel forced, it genuinely feels like an anarchic skacore punk rock band straight out of the world of Pokemon. When you listen to these songs you genuinely believe POKEMON LIBERATION ARMY want to bring down fascists like Giovanni and big businesses like Silph Co., and that’s why I love it so much. This is a must listen for all geeks, punks, and anything in between.

Did I mention this album is free? Why haven’t you got it yet?

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www.facebook.com/pokemonliberationarmy

CD Review: Merchant – Suzerain

Making doom metal isn’t too hard, tune low and play slow, right? In a way yes, but plenty of bands in Melbourne tune low and play low, and few of them could make an album like ‘Suzerain’. Psych-sludgers MERCHANT are new blood on the Melbourne scene but already I find their debut album exceeds all expectations. In less than two years as a band they’ve put out an album that earned them the main support on the upcoming WEEDEATER and CONAN show in Melbourne. If that doesn’t get your attention then you might not understand doom enough to continue past this point.

‘Seed & Soil’ had me sold on MERCHANT within 10 seconds, straight a way I could tell from the filthy sludge tone and the riff that feels like it’s physically crushing you down that I was going to enjoy this album. The raspy vocals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to me it helps paint an image of a man sore from screaming as he’s crushed under riffs that fall like heavy rocks, it is a figurative aural avalanche. At a decent 9 minutes it doesn’t get stale, but also has enough substance to satisfy, in the same way an appetizer satisfies you until the main course.

At the end of the first track I was thoroughly impressed, I couldn’t possibly imagine it was just foreplay compared to what was about to come in ‘Mourning Light’. The eerie guitar clears the palate as the Japanese taiko style drumbeat builds it back up before the vocals and distortion come smashing through like the Kool-Aid Man. It’s slower, heavier, and has hints of psychedelics in a very MONSTER MAGNET way. I’m particularly glad for the drumming getting the spotlight in sections of ‘Mourning Light’ and the title track, as its brilliance gets lost behind the wall of bass and distortion when the guitars come in.

During the title track legendary acts such as YOB come to mind as the morose 20 minute tapestry unwinds. The pace transitions with harmony between fast and slow, riffs crush to earth as solos soar through skies, and as it progresses you feel although you’ve lived to see mountains crumble and stars fade. As it all winds down, you return to earth only to find you’re just past the halfway mark and this wonder still has 10 minutes left to blow your mind again, and it does just that.

Despite already having one of the best local albums of 2016, MERCHANT finish it off by breaking formula with a bit more speed, a bit less flow, and a face-melting stoner rock guitar solo to top it off. ‘Black Vein’ sounds like a death metal band covering THE SWORD, and I’m sure chiropractors everywhere will love the damage this song does to necks once you’re done headbanging. It’s different to the rest of the album but works as sensational capstone on this monolith of a release.

‘Suzerain’ isn’t just a great record, it’s a bar-raiser, all other local bands in their field will now have to put out a debut like this to gain credibility, and I’m stoked to see what that brings. MERCHANT are a snowball rolling down a mountain, picking up speed and size, and this album marks the point that snowball reaches a big enough size it’ll leave a destructive impact. Hopefully this band will only grow from here, because they obviously have the potential and know how to use it.

You can buy Suzerain now, and check out Merchant’s facebook because they heaps of gigs coming up!

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doommerchant.bandcamp.com