Holy shit, here are 34 songs (14 of which are unreleased) as well as their release information and links. Some of these have never been revealed before, so I'm beyond ecstatic over here. I'm making 125 of these cds and they ship out with Zegema Beach Records orders. You can stream it on bandcamp or download the entire thing for only $3. The art is by the amazing Tristan Jennings.
Label(s): Forge Records / Moganono Records / Jealous Butcher Records
This post's artist is from the December 2018 Mix. This is track #7.
You can download: the December 2018 Mix#12 right hereor get the new January 2019 Mix#12 here.
This review has been a long time coming...one might even say more than 18 years late. TIPPING CANOE were a sassy screamo/rock band from Massachusetts that released two splits and an LP in their short three years together. Instant comparisons in sound can be made to Aim Of Conrad and Wow, Owls!, but the best thing that I can think of is that TIPPING CANOE sound as if they were the screamo extension of where Rye Coalition could have ended up if they didn't take the 70s stadium rock/Thin Lizzy route.
Their first two releases came in 1999 with a split 7" and split 12". The 7" houses two tracks that were rerecorded for the LP so I'll just skip 'The Snacks split'. Their 12" split contains five jams, all of which are exclusive to their 'Ettil Vyre split'. Opener "Life's a Rearview Mirror" starts off sounding like the precursor to These Arms Are Snakes, as it writhes along awkwardly yet with an obvious groove. The bass carries the next section as yells turn to screams and the track shifts to yet another very danceable section that brings Logs and Bright Calm Blue to mind. "Nomos" is next and shares much more in common with Aim Of Conrad, The Exploder and Light The Fuse And Run, making it a frantic, drum-led dash through two minutes of sassy, screamy hardcore. "Annabelle" has a strong PG.99 and Malady flavour to the vocals as they switch between yelled/screamed and whined/sung. "Hangman" is much slower and jangly for the first half before closing out in their tippical (ha) fashion. Closer "Hansel's Drive Home" begins as a lo-fi jam with some sick bass and Yaphet Kotto-esque guitar interplay before spending the final 1:10 in blown-out, instrumental post-hardcore land.
Their crowning achievement would have to be their 'Tipping Canoe' 12"LP that was released, I believe, the year after they broke up on Forge Records. This release really hones their sound, mixing the vocals and sass of the early Rye Coalition 7"s and splits with a screamy emo/hardcore sound not unlike Indian Summer (although not as brooding) and The Exploder (albeit less screamy). This is quite obvious from the get-go on opener "Order to Stop Construction" but it bleeds into each track a bit differently every time. "Minute of Arc" is by far one of the most chaotic and abrasive tracks, boasting frantic drumming and some very Indian Summer guitars, making this one of my personal faves, especially from 1:40 onward when shit gets very melodic and dare I say post-hardcore. "Wicker Man" and "The Way" are both longer, darker and more restrained while the dancey, sassy rerecordings of "Rope Walker" and "Mourning Songs" show up, lighting the flame that may or may not have inspired Aim Of Conrad and Light The Fuse And Run to refine the sound further. There are seriously no duds on here and I strongly recommend grabbing this LP in the download along with the other two releases.
DISCOGRAPHY Click )==>here<==( to download the band's complete discography in mp3 form.
I am stoked to bring you the exclusive premiere of King's Lynn's KNOWPEACE and their new EP titled 'Resist'. After releasing their previous EP 'Revolt' on January 1st, 2018 the band decided it fitting to close out the year with these new, volatile and explosive three tracks. The band had this to say:
Callous Records have kindly agreed to issue the physical release on tape and we're very proud to be on a label that's home to so many awesome artists (Punch On!, Underdark, Perfect Blue and more). This release deals with issues such as the rise in fascism around the globe ("A Return"), ignorance and belittling of the crisis that is climate change (Denial) and the scapegoating and punishment of the poorest in society for economic recession (The Ivory Tower).
All three songs pack some serious heat but opener "A Return" is a great introduction, riding feedback for nearly 20 seconds before blasting full force into dirty, abrasive and dark metallic hardcore. The yelled vocals followed by dual screaming/bellowing that begin at around 35 seconds are fucking killer, as is the subsequent climax at 1:20. There's a slowdown, driving midsection that weaves in and out of the heavy before fully committing at the two-minute mark by shattering the listener with waves of sinister hardcore. "A Denial" is much shorter as it only reaches 1:34 and has much more of a Graf Orlock feel to it and could probably be labeled as crust and/or d-beat. Closer "The Ivory Tower" has the raw intensity and fury of Furnace, as it wastes no time going for the jugular. In fact, Satan himself shows up around the one-minute mark to provide some seriously hellish vocals, followed by (with what sounds like) every band member chiming in for gang vocals across the latter half. A seriously good EP with a strong message that you should probably heed. STOP FUCKING UP, PEOPLE.
Label(s): Self Released / Zegema Beach Records / Ancient Injury Records / The Ghost Is Clear Records / Galt House Records / Endnote Records / Miss The Stars / Dingleberry Records
This post's artist is from the December 2018 Mix. This is track #6.
You can download: the December 2018 Mix#12 right hereor get the new January 2019 Mix#12 here.
LESSENER began as DISTRICTS but changed their name in 2016 after adding vocalist Mike Van Buren. Over their tenure they have released a five-song demo, a split 12", a 12"EP and contributed a song to the Jeromes Dream compilation. They have also toured parts of Europe and came up to Canada to play ZBR Fest 2017 at my request.
The first release is titled as (Demo) but I think of it as the debut EP, because it's very good and doesn't sound like a demo. It's called 'Revolt Freedom Passion' and marks the bands entry into the emo/screamo scene. Opener "Absurd Walls" is probably the strongest track, it sounds like LESSENER but less refined and a bit looser, although "Static" is another decent song that reminds me of a slightly sloppier Elle. The vocals may be done by Jake instead of Mike on this release, but the delivery is quite similar, although Mike has a bit of a thicker scream on the later material.
Two years later, in 2012, DISTRICTS released a 'split 12" with Regret, The Informer' which housed four new jams with much better recording quality and a much more confident sound. Opener "Disappearing Act" makes this obvious right from the get-go, sounding like the sibling of Coma Regalia until about 45 seconds when it jumps ship to the even more melodic-yet-driving Funeral Diner. "The Giver" sounds a heck of a lot like the material on their 2017 'Lessener' EP, so that means it sounds like it was written about 10-15 years ago (that's a compliment, by the way). I would go as far as to say that "Devils" is more of a post-hardcore tune than screamo, as it spends the first half subtly climbing to the second half's swelling climax, but in the end the genre categorization is irrelevant cuz it's a very enveloping jam. Closer "Better Places Than Here" clocks in at 5:27, making it the longest DISTRICTS/LESSENER track released thus far. It's a great tune with a bit of spoken word, an ambient outro and it follows the band's lyrical trajectory with a substantial amount of reflection, guilt and self-correction. If you like this split I would strongly recommend checking out Jake's newest band Reveries as this track sounds a lot like their 2017 record 'Reveries'.
Before the band released their first record with their new lineup in 2017, LESSENER contributed a song to the Jeromes Dream tribute compilation with an excellent cover of "A Well Documented Case of Severe Autism". I love how this cover pays homage to the original whilst simultaneously sounding like LESSENER. The vocals aren't pushed to the point of passing out and there is added instrumentation during the chill, instrumental outro. I wish more bands did this when doing covers and not just attempting to recreate the original.
I am aware that it took almost five years from their 'Regret, The Informer split' to the 'Lessener' 12"EP, but holy shit it was worth it. The self titled record is just the tops, and it takes all of the things that DISTRICTS were doing and hones them to the point of the Predator's two big-ass forearm blades. A Predator reference? Sure, why the fuck not? Both that first movie and this first LESSENER release kick major ass. Opener "Shape of Heart, Shape of Human" does the best of of it, too, with so many sick parts that you might have to see a doctor. A short feedback loop leads into wonderfully dueling guitars and Mike's harsh scream, but the syncopated breakdown from 40 seconds to a minute is amazing, and even better live with both guitarists and the vocalist screaming at the same time. "We've Lost Beauty" is next and much like the opener is a shorter song at only 1:42. The transition at 28 seconds reminds me of Ken Burns (Mike's old band) and the climax at 50 seconds is wonderful and perhaps more in the Kidcrash realm. "Our Form of Closure" is more than double the length of the first two songs put together but manages to expertly manage the voyage, incorporating an eerie, engaging guitar intro, some stormy post-hardcore parts, a jazzy center and more than a few chaotic screamo sections. You can also watch this sucker live at ZBR Fest here. "Gravesend" goes for the jugular right from the get-go with raging instrumentals and dual screaming, coming in at twice the speed of any DISTRICTS song, while closer "Sycamore" is more brooding, lending itself to a track three comparison, albeit much shorter.
In celebration of getting Zegema Beach Records' copies of the LESSENER 'Lessener' 12"EP, I thought I'd throw them up on sale for a few weeks as most of the other labels have had copies for months. They are $10CAD right now (that's about $7US) so jump on that before the run of 250 is gone! I should also mention that the band has two more songs recorded for a split, but I haven't seen much activity from the band in the last six months. I'm hoping they will still get released cuz they are great. And the other band is noteworthyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Lastly, there is a Reveries interview and album review coming up next month!
This post's artist is from the December 2018 Mix. This is track #3.
You can download: the December 2018 Mix#12 right hereor get the new January 2019 Mix#12 here.
Every now and then I review a band and have trouble thinking of bands to stick in that "for fans of" section up there. My entry into false grind was only official as of this year, as I never even knew what the term meant. Although I have jammed The Great Redneck Hope, Ed Gein, Daughters and Clancy Six for more than a decade, my further education came when I asked some friends to help me find decent comparisons for bands such as Harlots and Robinson at about the same time that Connie from SeeYouSpaceCowboy and Chris from .gif from god brought them up as an influence for their bands. I found the HAYWORTH bandcamp and grabbed everything I could and but a mere week or two later someone posted that 2007 living room jam video of "new hayworth material". I watched this video too many times, simultaneously kicking myself for not finding the band earlier (I was over a decade late from their inception) as well as having my mind blown to pieces at the age-to-technicality inverted correlation. Oh...and they started as a fucking three-piece. It boggles the mind. It truly does.
Honestly, before continuing this review, sit back for 10 minutes and have your brain shattered. Just promise me to wait until at least 2:15, and if you aren't sold by then don't even bother with the rest of this review.
0-2:20 "The Industrial Park"
2:32-3:55 "Bad Dudes"
4:50-7:45 "My Legs Got Bit Off By a Shark"
8:45-10:15 "Hashslinging Slasher"
If you are wondering what the band sounds like, because you didn't watch that video like a chump-face, they play a volatile, frenzied, chaotic, abrasive and breakdown-soaked false grind, math-metal and emo-violence triad. If you'd like band comparisons, I very good mash-up in terms of sound would be Destroyer Destroyer meets Me And Him Call It Us. The first in the instrumental side, coupled with a mixture of shrieks and barks, and the second in their ability to create a song so violent and unstable that it can actually sound like the audio of multiple people burning alive. If you're a little confused as to what the hell I'm talking about, I urge you to jam "Innocent Bystanders Watched in Horror as Peter Jennings Drew His Murder Weapon" by Me And Him Call It Us and "Elder Body" by Meth.. The song titles are generally long and outrageous, while the tunage is short and...well, also outrageous.
As you may already know, I don't fuck around when it comes to discographies, so I've scoured the internet and found an entire release not on the HAYWORTH bandcamp page, as well as different versions of all of their 2008 and 2009 material that includes additional tracks. The only thing I didn't bother compiling (or paying for) was 'The Vader' live LP because it's $8 and doesn't sound very good.
"The Industrial Park" was the band's first release, and it's just a digital demo, but jesus fucking christ I bet people were shitting all over the house when they first laid ears on this. That breakdown halfway through is one of the most deafening things I've ever heard and is well worth your time. If you want to see it live check out the first song in the jam video linked above.
I don't know what the deal is, but HAYWORTH has all their releases up on bandcamp except the crucial first EP from 2007 titled 'License to Bill'. Seriously this shit is amazing and should be up, so I've included it in the full discography download. The stellar "License to Bill" shows up again and is just as devastating as the demo, if not more so. When "The Theme Music To The Revealing Of Wilsons Chin" begins you might think you're listening to Daughters or Ed Gein, but once that first metal breakdown hits at 30 seconds you might be thinking that you've accidentally played a Owen Hart track, cuz goddamn those are some seriously sinister growls. And then...holy shit, just after the two-minute mark everything stops and we hear, "Are you fucking kidding me? Pssht, nah." and then one of the mightiest breakdowns ever ensues. Good god I'm dead. "Dog Water" dips into some emo-violence with the first half, albeit a very metallic hardcore version of it. "Hashslinging Slasher" is one of the most straightforward HAYWORTH songs and includes a very chill, jazz/lounge midsection that is bookended by two fantastic, hyperactive screamfests. And then there's "The Mauve Avenger", an absolute mindfuck that includes jarring electronic samples amidst the destruction, as well as some of the best bass slides I've ever heard in conjunction with behemoth breakdowns.
The following year they released 'Don't worry about it, I'm not worrying about it', a great follow up EP that includes what is arguably the greatest HAYWORTH song ever recorded aka "The dog walked itself home ate a pizza and took a nap". The first breakdown hits hard 26 seconds with the repeated shrieks of "196 degrees, it's not a fever!" and then slides into some light and breezy jazz wankery before coming back at it at 1:28. At 1:34 the songs shifts into kill mode and billds to an utterly inconceivable breakdown that might go down as the best end to any song ever. The guitars in "Late Night, One Night In The Ghetto, My Man Got Shot In His Ear Like 8 Times" sound a hell of a lot like Oktober Skyline to me, as do those throaty growls. The final song "Pizza Clock" is another noteworthy track, as it screams its way through the first half and then breaks down into subatomic particles by use of gargantuan chugs and banshee death cries.
HAYWORTH's first full length LP is titled 'I hope the thunder and lightning kill you' and houses 10 slaps to the cerebellum, beginning with the opening track "Bad Dudes", which is just a clusterfuck of awesomeness with a traditional climax right at the end that'll knock your socks off. "Zibiza Lame-O" is another short shock to the system that causes long term damage, especially to the vocal chords come 43 seconds. "The Friangles Go With the Friangles" is perhaps the quirkiest HAYWORTH song, for that jazzy section at 1:23 is quite humourous. "Squirrels Were Running Around Homeless From The Death From The Sky" has a strong resemblance to The Locust and An Albatross due to those wacky synths. "Bun Guy" and "My Leg Got Bit Off By a Shark" wreak absolute havoc, are two of my personal favourites and give a solid indication of the heaviness to expect with their 2009 LP, with the latter beginning like mid-90s Converge but the breakdown at 1:30 is reminiscent of Me And Him Call It Us. "Industrial Park" makes yet another appearance with yet another recording and, you guessed it, improve upon it yet again...although one might argue that the explosive breakdown at 53 seconds takes a hit with such good production, and almost loses the "holy shit my speakers just fucking broke" sound. Almost.
'INPYFAD' was initially titled 'I Now Pronounce You Fucked and Depressed', and the version I have included in the discography download includes 13 jams, not the 11 on the HAYWORTH bandcamp. This is the final recorded material by the band and at this point (2009) everything had been sharpened to the point of inducing spraying blood from the ears should you hear a mere few seconds. The vocals have the perfect screams, whether it be high or low, and the instrumentals are tighter than ever with the best production that the band landed. I mean, the ending of "15 Seconds Alone in the Hot Tub" is devastating, "That Ain't Lake Minetonka" houses a plethora of breakdowns, "Fuck Church" annihilates for its 2:24 entirety, much of "Domestic Violence Rules" will leave your body rather pulpy, "Middle Aged Couple Engaged In Consensual Missionary Style Sexual Intercourse, With the Lights on For Procreation Purposes Only" is a righteous display of extremo-violence (ha), "I Don't Want To Be a Ninja Anymore" manages to blend the overtly heavy with a sassy, dancey vibe, "Boy With a Goat Head Thats Just Trying to Fit In, But He Has a Goat Head So Its Not Really Working Out" is the most deathly as well as intricately timed and that closer, good lord, "The Municipal Incinerator" is one epic sonuvabitch. There's so much to love about this record, just like the entire HAYWORTH discography.
If anyone from the band ever reads this and decides, "hmmm...yeah, discography" please hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give this material the vinyl treatment it deserves.
DISCOGRAPHY Click )==>here<==( to download the band's complete discography in mp3 form.
2007 - The Industrial Park (Demo) digital single (stream/buy here)
2007 - License to Bill digitalEP (download here)
Label(s): Moment Of Collapse Records / Triton's Orbit
This post's artist is from the December 2018 Mix. This is track #2.
You can download: the December 2018 Mix#12 right hereor get the new January 2019 Mix#12 here.
I first encountered NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION when I ordered a bunch of cds from Shove Records and 'Womb' was included as a freebie. I checked out a bunch of said freebies and came across a few decent cds, but this one was more than decent. It was excellent. It's like a mixture of Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, The Ocean, Meshugga and early From A Second Story Window, so essentially, it's heavy as fuck.
The band's self titled debut 'Noise Trail Immersion' was released, as far as I can tell, digitally back in 2014. Alright, first things first, calling your first ever song on any release "Grand Finale" is fucking sick, even if it is just a 43-second intro. The first track that is your typical-sounding NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION is actually the second, titled "We are Sleeping" and holy shit there's no way this doesn't knock you on your ass. It's literally every major metal tangent of the last 20 years compressed into 3:13 - death metal, math-core, metallic hardcore, etc. and every screaming/growling variant possible. I find "40 Days" to be especially dark and deathy, while "No Eye to Reality" is way shriekier and therefore more up my alley. If you jam "Drowsiness (ft. Fede of Be The Wolf)" be prepared to think you've switched albums to the newest Mars Volta endeavor. It's a cool song but may be a tad out of place...or has been inserted perfectly. Fuck me I don't know. "Wolves In Plain Clothes (ft. Alex of Napoleon)" gives me hella The Ocean vibes, especially in the vocal department. Closer "The Drift of Perceptible" is this record's only track that eclipses the six-minute mark, stretching itself to 7:45. Don't let the track time fool you though, the first half is not slow, plodding or dreamy, it's huge, unrelenting and mathy as hell, although there is a chill, instrumental passage from the song's midsection onward.
NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION's sophomore effort is a much more honed effort that was released on cd by Triton's Orbit and is titled 'Womb'. The overly lengthy noise/opener "Border" leads into, perhaps, my favourite NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION song. "In Somnis" is just the tops, boasting incredible guitarwork that sounds like whatever the new Psyopus record might, paired with vocals that never get too death-metal but are pretty much the harbinger of non-life. "Light Eaters" is a tad more straightforward in its songwriting, but holy moly does it pack an evil punch. "Placenta" is a clusterfuck of Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, Meshugga and Ion Dissonance and is gets the album back on jaw-dropping level. That trippy, solo guitar that looms around 2:25 if freaky as hell and an awesome transition into the song's close. The title track "Womb" is a whopping 7:32 that is the album's somber, ethereal breather while "Organism" and "Hynagogic" are chaotic whirlwinds of metal that perk my ears up every time. "Tongueless" is pretty eerie and brings Dillinger Escape Plan's material to mind, both heavy and ambient, while finale "Birth" is nearly 9 minutes of western-tinged doom metal, not entirely unlike some Old Man Gloom songs.
In late 2018 the Italian math-metal gods continued their trend of dropping fire every two years with their latest LP 'Symbology of Shelter', a much longer, varied and fluid record. It opens with the mindnumbing "Mirroring" that is some of the most abrasive and erratic NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION written and released thus far. The start/stop drumming in this (as well as numerous other tracks throughout the band's career) is painfully good and will keep you guessing for the song's five-minute entirety. The first of two parts titled of "Repulsion and Escapism I" is 3:30 of pummeling drums and driving instrumental work, complete with venomous snarls by the vocalist. The second and even better second part "Repulsion and Escapism II" rides a wave of noise before hitting hard from 1:20 onward, led by those fucking intense drums, wowza. And then there are those vocals at the end, shrieked like rabid vampire...wait, can a vampire even be rabid? Well, regardless...holy shit. "Acrimonious" is the last dense track, as afterwards things shift to 8-minutes plus for each of the final three jams. The first, "The Empty Earth I", builds on a brooding, spacey, subtle guitar for almost three minutes before incorporating more instrumentation. The vocals get dumped on the song just before the four-minute mark with the song quadrupling in speed soon afterward. There's a nice swing in the breakdown at 4:30, and the subsequent 4:30 takes on a sound that seems like it suits the band even more, and that's the dark, unsettling noise/metal that is wrapped around the song like foil blanket in hopes to reduce the shock of the first few tracks. "The Empty Earth II" goes back to the spaghetti western/doom metal that reminds me of Sunn O))) and Old Man Gloom. It isn't until the seven minute mark that the song gets to where I wanted it to, but I'm an impatient son of a bitch, and that ending is pretty damn epic/sweet. The closing and title track "Symbology of Shelter" is a fitting close and hits some seriously next-level shit when the six-minute mark hits and the climax seeps out of the speakers.
So yeah, good, heavy-ass stuff. I wouldn't be surprised to see 'Symbology of Shelter' on any math-metal fanatics best of 2018 list.
Screamo is a stupid word. I hate it. For one thing, it sounds goofy and contributes directly to people not already initiated into the scene for this tiny subgenre thinking that all of the bands under this label are crappy and everyone involved with the scene is stupid. For another thing, it's based on a false premise.
We all know what "screamo" breaks down to -- "emo, but with screaming." But look back at the bands who were first tagged as "emo-core" or "emo" in the mid to late 80s (and try to ignore the fact that they were as appalled by the "emo" tag as I am by "screamo"). What do we find? Rites of Spring and Embrace in the mid 80s, Still Life and Indian Summer in the early 90s... for the most part, these bands were already screaming. And that's because emo was just a subgenre of hardcore.
The confusion started in the mid-90s, when emo-the-subgenre-of-hardcore birthed a bunch of melodic bands with overt pop tendencies who were nonetheless obviously post-hardcore. Sunny Day Real Estate were probably the first of these; more obvious examples would include Texas Is the Reason and The Promise Ring. None of those bands screamed at all, and they were way more successful than the earlier bands that had, so most people's understanding of emo didn't include screamed vocals.
Then when people, especially people who were outside the scene and unaware of its underground roots, heard At The Drive-In or The Used, they thought "Oh, this is emo but with screaming -- screamo." And here we are, 20 years later, dealing with the consequences.
But look, I've accepted it. I get that almost anyone involved in the screamo scene in 2018 is gonna use the word screamo to describe that scene (I have NOT accepted this about the word "skramz," but that's another column). What bugs me more than any of that is the lack of historical knowledge in the world of 2018 screamo. And now that I've said that, you're gonna wonder who the hell I am and what the hell I know about it.
OK, here goes. My name's Drew, I'll be 43 next month, and I've been involved in the scene that was retroactively named screamo since the dawn of the 90s, when I was a teenager in high school. If you, the modern young reader of David Norman's completely overwhelming but always excellent blog, know who I am, it's because I sang and played bass in the short-lived Richmond, VA-based band Samarra, and helped book the second and final Swampfest in 2016.
If you dig for my history beyond that, you won't find it, because even though it's there, I used to be a different person in the eyes of the world at large. Instead of being an out-and-proud trans woman I was an overly-sensitive closeted weirdo who spent more time bowing to the pressures of social anxiety and hiding in my room than I ever spent engaging in music-related activity. Despite that, I did sing in a hardcore band for seven years, and though we barely ever managed to tour (not for lack of trying) we did do a couple of things, and the records are still out there. But while other members of that band went on to play in Light The Fuse And Run, The Catalyst, and tons of others, I spent the years after our breakup in 2002 working in bookstores, trying to repress my gender, and doing a lot of downloading on Soulseek.
When I finally hit a psychic wall in 2014 and started going through a long, drawn-out gender transition I didn't even understand was happening for the first year or so, I also started going to shows a lot again. I needed somewhere to be, and something to be involved in. I ended up at Richmond's Haunted Mansion for a Loma Prieta show in early 2015 and discovered that there was a whole huge scene of young kids playing music they called screamo, right here in Richmond.
Even though I related to everything they were doing, and thought the music was great, I had a ton of trouble matching up my frame of reference with theirs enough to even have conversations about our musical loves and influences. It felt like I had survived some sort of technological apocalypse, only to stumble out of a cave like Rip Van Winkle 20 years later to discover a new community attempting to re-invent the wheel.
I mean, our conversations weren't entirely hopeless -- I could tell them about seeing the Blood Brothers in 2005, and they got why that was awesome. But I was already 29 when I went to that show. When I tried to talk to them about bands that I'd loved when I was the age they were at the time (21 to 23), they had no idea who any of them were.
What I realized as part of this whole encounter was the long-term damage the lack of regard for a genre called "screamo" was having on our history as a musical community. As someone who not only took part as a wide-eyed teenager but also as a 40-year-old, I can see this process happening. But the reason it happens is that "screamo" is regarded as a phase. Unlike the punk and hardcore scenes it branched off from, it produces very few lifers, very few who care enough to record and pass down the history of the genre. Knowledge is mostly being lost. Frames of references aren't growing. And the scene risks becoming recursive, turning into a musical oxbow lake from which no evolution is possible.
And it's not even that there's no attempt at history -- it's just not written by anyone with firsthand knowledge of the scene. Even the fifteen-year-old website Fourfa, which a few of the kids I met around Haunted Mansion a few years ago were aware of but didn't really relate to, was written by someone (Andy Radin, formerly of Funeral Diner) who seemed a bit less-than-informed about how the whole thing evolved than I feel he should have been.
And that's the best reference material that's out there. Meanwhile, have you read the "screamo" wikipedia page? That shit is horrific. Not only does it mix names like Pg. 99 and The Used together indiscriminately, as if they were from the same scene (lol as if), it contains "factoids," in the original sense, that I can tell you right now are completely wrong.
The statement on that page that horrifies me the most is the one that says screamo started in 1991 with Heroin and Antioch Arrow. This is roughly equivalent to saying punk rock began with The Velvet Underground and the MC5 in the late 60s, or that rock n' roll began in 1950 with "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. Sure, you can trace the roots of these genres to those times, places, and bands. But none of the people in any of these bands would identify with those genre terms. "Rock n' roll" as a genre term wasn't used until 1955 or so. "Punk rock" didn't enter the lexicon (other than as a random term Lester Bangs threw around in his more loquacious moments) until 1976. And no one was saying "screamo" until 1997 at the earliest.
If you're gonna pick a cutoff point, you've got to pick the point at which the genre was first named, defined, and codified. If you start tracing the roots, you're going to find yourself digging up crazy stuff. If the MC5 or the Velvet Underground were doing punk rock in 1969, who says the wild Pacific Northwest bands like The Sonics and The Wailers weren't doing it in 1963, or that German-American maniacs The Monks weren't doing it in 1965?
And by the same logic, who says no one was doing a sound that could be traced forward to today's screamo until 1991?
Heroin put out their first EP in 1991. But Heroin wasn't the beginning of the story for San Diego's chaotic hardcore scene. Three of its four members had previously been in a band called End Of The Line, along with vocalist Cory Linstrum, later of John Henry West. End Of The Line's sole release, a 12 inch EP, didn't come out until 1993 (on Ebullition Records -- you'll hear that name again), but their active period was the end of the 80s and the dawn of the 90s -- by the time that 12 inch was out, they'd been broken up for a while.
If you listen to End Of The Line, you hear a lot of the same hardcore-derived musical chaos that became Heroin's signature. In fact, the early Heroin EPs were if anything more conventional hardcore -- they didn't really come into their own until their second EP, 1992's notorious "Paper Bag 7 inch," which was also the first release on Gravity Records. Meanwhile, End Of the Line had been crafting loud, fast, and out of control music for a couple of years by then. You can hear it on their EP, if you can track it down.
On it, you'll find speedy tempos marked by Aaron Montaigne's loose jazzy fills, Cory Linstrum's unhinged bark applying itself creatively to lyrical patterns, and the guitars and bass generating noisy riffage, full of pick-scrapes and bent notes. It's heavier and a bit more conventional in tempo than Heroin, and there's far less structural experimentation than you'd find on that band's landmark LP a couple of years later, but the basic elements are all there.
Unlike a lot of other bands of the era, End Of The Line have never gotten any kind of revisitation or reissue. The versions of their EP that exist online today are vinyl rips of intermittent quality. And despite being one of the first San Diego bands to launch that city's chaotic hardcore sound -- which is universally acknowledged as the origin point for screamo -- End Of The Line have been completely left out of screamo history.
Another band whose been left out of the history is Born Against, but not because no one knows who they are. This New York band is universally acknowledged as important, but they've been placed on the "hardcore" side of the dividing line, despite the fact that their pioneering musical (and onstage) chaos, mixed with incessant touring, was a crucial element in bringing the chaotic sound to America and Europe.
Born Against started in 1988, broke up in 1994, and had a steadily rotating cast of bassists and drummers. Their last few releases featured Tonie Joy and Brooks Headley of Universal Order Of Armageddon as rhythm section, and the chaotic bona fides might very well be established by this lineup (though I am appalled to realize that David never has written about them on OMSB, so for all I know you may have no idea who UOA were -- we're gonna have to fix that). But Born Against were dishing out raw chaos well before the two of them even joined.
Indeed, their hallmark manic intensity is there from their very first releases, as you will hear if you ever check out the posthumous colllection The Rebel Sound Of Shit And Failure. But it's their sole LP, 1991's Nine Patriotic Hymns For Children, that I think really shows what these guys were capable of. At this point the rhythm section consisted of longtime bassist Javier Villegas and Greyhouse drummer/crucial New Jersey show-booker Jon Hiltz. While the album definitely has its share of the rumbling dirges that were often Born Against's stock in trade, they know how to get things moving here, and a great example of that is the opening track, "Mount The Pavement."
Beginning with a complex guitar riff that loops back in on itself and is eventually joined by crashing bass/drum chugs, this one starts out with the sort of unpredictable approach to songwriting that first got me interested in all these "noise bands," as my teenaged friends and I called them back then. I had heard a lot of straightforward fast hardcore by 1991, and it was starting to sound a bit old-hat. The new bands coming out of the mainstream hardcore scene were all in the mold of Judge -- hard, metallic, midtempo, and more focused on getting people to go hard in the pit than in keeping them guessing.
Born Against kept me guessing, which is exactly what I wanted. "Mount The Pavement" has multiple points at which the tempo changes without warning, the guitars double back on themselves, the verse-chorus pattern is disrupted in favor of song structures that don't start to make sense until you've listened through a few times. I loved this, and chances are the readers of this website will too, if you can handle the fact that Sam McPheeters doesn't have a high-pitched screaming voice and that the guitars and bass have a muddy chugging thud to them rather than a sharp, metallic bite.
One more narrative-defying pre-1991 band needs to be mentioned here before I will feel my work is complete, and that band is Moss Icon. These guys have been given some shine in recent years by people completely outside the screamo world, even receiving a deluxe discography reissue on foundational post-rock label Temporary Residence. All this might make you think they have no place in a discussion of the roots of today's screamo scene, but such an assumption would make me think that you haven't heard their work. And you need to.
Moss Icon's earliest recordings date from soon after their formation in 1986; they were roughly contemporaneous with Youth Of Today, if you can imagine that. While the full impact of this Baltimore band's work wasn't felt until years later, some credit must be given to them for what they were coming up with when most of the country was still X-ing up and starting the pit to Champion-sweatshirted youth-crew kids.
To really understand the groundbreaking nature of their work, you need only hear their 1988 LP, Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly. It wasn't officially released until 1994, but then the Portraits Of Past LP didn't come out until three years after it was recorded, and no one ever tries to take away that album’s historical impact and importance. Right?
I tried to avoid picking this track to spotlight, since it's such a bold move, but I can't get away from the fact that Moss Icon's true magnum opus is the title track to the LP. "Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly" is a long song, even for a band known for their extended lengths. Specifically, it runs to 11 and a half minutes. But don't hesitate to press play on this one -- this song more than justifies its length. Musically, this is an epic; the slowly shifting and evolving riffs laid down by guitarist Tonie Joy (this was his first band -- we'll talk about him a lot more in future), backed by Mark Lawrence's excellent drumming and Monica DeGalleonardo's intuitive approach to her complex, melodic basslines, are enough together to make a modern listener understand why this stuff appeals to the post-rock types over at Temporary Residence.
But Jonathan Vance's lyrics and vocals take this one to another level entirely. Lyrically, this song is a literary horror novel of sorts, a Nathaniel Hawthorne-style period piece about a funeral on some unspecified 19th century American frontier for a teenage girl whose cause of death is never given. Vance first gives voice to the words of the preacher, then as the music slowly grows louder and harsher, explores the dark underside of the religion that keeps these tiny communities under control of a harsh, arbitrary authority. By the end of the song, as the band is building up to a scathing crescendo, Vance is screaming poetically about freedom and death and the conqueror worm and if chills don't run up your spine as the band finally, 10 and a half minutes in, returns to the opening riff you haven't heard for eight minutes, well, I'm not sure you're alive.
I don't know if you young kids weaned on a diet of Envy, Jerome's Dream, and -- I don't know, Touche Amore? -- will even see the connections here. It certainly looks different to me, as someone who has spent most of the past 30 years watching these evolutions and hearing these advances in real time, than it does for people who've been aware of this genre for a decade, or even less. But I've been thinking for years about the lack of historical knowledge and preservation within our little community, about how, if our history isn't set down and our many different roots and branches documented in a unified fashion sometime soon, it will all be irrevocably lost.
Maybe I'm not the best person for something like this, but I think I'm a pretty good one. I have a huge bookshelf filled with pre-internet zines that often contain facts and quotes that never made it onto the web. I've been obsessed with this genre, whatever you might want to call it, for over a quarter century now (thinking about how literally true that is makes me feel a million years old). I've been writing about music in some capacity or another since 1991, when I started my first zine at the age of 15, and I've been making my living as a music journalist for most of the past decade.
Plus, David asked me, and offered me this lovely forum in which to pontificate. So what the hell. I'm not gonna live forever, so I guess I better get to it. I hope I haven't alienated you too much with all this confrontational babble... because I'm gonna be here for a while. We've got a lot to talk about.