Saturday, April 24, 2010

Possibly the best blog...

Considering I'm going to be pretty tied up with getting my Pittsburgh Mosh blog off the ground over the next few weeks, I am going to strongly suggest that you check out the Christian Hardcore Records blog for, by far, the most comprehensive compilation of Christian hardcore and metalcore from throughout the 90s. Have all the opinions you want on Christianity ... but the music from that era was by far some of the best. I am really blown away by the totality of this blog. I was fairly certain that I had attained mostly everything from the genre ... but Jesus, was I wrong.

Christian Hardcore Records Blog ... tell them the Devil sent you

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My New Blog...

I'll still be updating this on the regular ... but I decided to start a blog specifically to document Pittsburgh's heavy music scene over the past three decades. I already posted up a No Retreat discography which I've been promising for this blog for quite some time. There is going to be a lot of posts on here coming up in the near future considering I just loaded this blog with discographies for Catharis, Maroon, and All Else Failed.

Check it out HERE.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

xMAROONx: Discography

This is a post on a band that helped change my life. While Earth Crisis were obviously the first band to open my eyes to the atrocities of the slaughterhouse and were the main reason I turned to vegetarianism in 2001 (along with the lyrics to Poisoned Seeds by Buried Alive), for whatever reason I was lacking the final push into veganism. There were two factors playing into this as well: Arkangel's spoken word track on Prayers Upon Deaf Ears EP and the intensity of the gang chants in Still Believe What Has Fallen Apart on Maroon's Antagonist album. Plain and simple ... I wanted to be able to sing along to "a commitment for life ... VEGAN!!!".

Forming in Germany in the late 90s, Maroon released their debut EP in 2000 on Kerosene Recordings. Featuring six tracks (one of which would be re-recorded for the Antagonist album), this EP set the tone for what would be expected from the band from that point on: metallic hardcore from Germany. Not unlike their counterparts in Arkangel, Maroon was very centered in their vegan straight edge beliefs and were quite vocal about said issues. Both the Captive In The Room In The Conspirator EP AND the split release with Self-Conquest feature a rather lengthy writing explaining the band's stance on the militancy of their cause.

While "The Key" (the split with Self-Conquest) was released in 2002 after their debut EP in 2000, it featured older material that was recorded between 1998 and 2000. Self-Conquest were pretty similar in style despite not being as good (which is why the post is not about them). Upon listening closely to this split album featuring early Maroon material, one can hear quite a few Arkangel riffs spread throughout. Specifically, the riff at 2:18 into The Second When We Kiss essentially being the same riff as on From Heaven We Fall by Arkangel.

It was after these two releases that Maroon would release the classic album, Antagonist. Seeing its release in the United States by Catalyst Records, the album would go on to become a sort of cult-classic amongst an already obscure vegan straight edge scene. Despite the band never making a trip to the United States for a tour, the album has managed to go to press at least two times over this way.

While one could probably find a copy of Antagonist with a few minutes of online browsing (and I'd highly recommend doing so), tracking down physical discs of the debut EP or split is next to impossible. I had been looking for these album since I was first introduced to the band in 2002 to no avail. I'm a pretty resourceful guy yet came up with nothing. As mentioned in an earlier post, Keith from Hell Fest's CD collection was essentially donated to this blog and I managed to find copies of both discs within the crates given to me. Back when I would talk shit on Arkangel with one of the Maroon members on AIM in 2003, he informed me that they would fly over every year for Hell Fest and would give Keith copies of their albums and beg him to let them play to no avail. Eight years down the road, I would end up with these actual copies of their CDs that were being referenced in our conversation; proving that the earth is a very small place.

I consider this to be the xMaroonx discography due to the band deciding to drop the X's after the release of the monumental Antagonist album. All of their post-2002 albums on Century Media are obviously still in production and readily available. I haven't really kept track since the Endorsed By Hate album but have heard random tracks here and there that seemed to range anywhere from random black metal riffs to epic power metal-styled clean vocals ... who knows?

I want to say that some sort of sincerity leaks through this early material that wasn't there on a lot of other xVx albums coming out at the time, but I don't even know if this is true; especially knowing the current status of the band. There are a million different rumors concerning the band's current stance on veganism and straight edge, but I personally don't care at this point. At the end of the day, they wrote an awesome vegan sing-a-long anthem that totally brought me into the struggle and that's all that really matters upon looking back.

DOWNLOAD - "The Key" split with Self Conquest (2000)
DOWNLOAD - Captive In The Room Of The Conspirator (2000)
DOWNLOAD - Antagonist (2003)

Monday, April 12, 2010

CATHARSIS: Discography

There is plenty of information and posts on Catharsis in the blog world, but none of them are accurate or complete. I decided to take it upon myself to amend this with an informative, sort-of-discography from this band.

Catharsis was the project of one Brian Dingledine; notorious at the time for his contributions via the Inside Front zine ... also notorious for having vocals sounding like that of "the sound of a grizzly bear being raped by a dinosaur". Starting off in 1994; the band initially leaned moreso towards the "hardcore" end of the spectrum as opposed to whatever it was they progressed into towards the end of their existence. Debuting with a two song. cassette demo entitled "Fall", the band nearly simultaneously entered Mars Studio in Cleveland, OH to put what would become their debut, self-titled 7" to tape. Not long after, Catharsis returned to the studio where they cut their initial demo to record two tracks for various compilations. 100 Years In Solitary would be featured on the Area 51 Compilation along with "holy terror contemporaries" Integrity and two others while a re-interpreted version of Confront's (pre-One Life Crew) "Our Fight" would be contributed to a compilation 7" that would be included with a copy of Brian's Inside Front zine.

All of these tracks are included on the "Eponymous" CD which essentially served as compilation of all early material from the band. Also included on this CD is a cover of Breakdown's "Sick People" which rips possibly harder than the original. This was recorded at the same time of their self-titled 7" (which was released on Endless Fight Records, btw) but was not included on said 7". I'm assuming it's from a compilation. The CD also includes the entire album being played backwards along with some special effects. Sound familiar?

The band's first official full length would be released on the newly-founded "collective" which would be known to the world as Crimethinc. Initially starting primarily as a record label, Crimethinc would go on to become a sort-of umbrella in which many of Brian's efforts would fall under. Later evolving into an "ex-worker's collective", the initiative would gain much notoriety through the publication of many standard anarchist readings such as "Days Of War, Nights Of Love", "An Anarchist's Cookbook: Recipes For Disaster" and "Expect Resistance". While also continuing in the practice of releasing albums from musical acts, the collective also currently partakes in the distribution of free literature and other paraphernalia promoting everything from gender neutrality to small-time crime to straight up arson. Crazy to see what essentially resulted from a typical 90s fanzine.

Anyhow, about Samsara (the debut full length) ... it's perfect. Featuring re-recordings of a few of the aforementioned demo, 7", and compilation tracks; the album also features several new tracks which show obvious musical and lyrical progression. I would start quoting the lyrics, but there is absolutely no reason to post a single line without posting the entire album's worth; they're that good. With several tracks that would serve as the pre-cursor to many North Carolina metalcore acts (Undying), the album pushes further into the "metalcore" realm while still maintaining the intensity incapable of being matched by the crustiest of punk bands. One can only imagine the live show.

I also included the splits recorded with Newborn and Newspeak as separate downloads. I included both sides of the split because both bands rage ALMOST as hard as Catharsis. Newborn from Hungary present three tracks that are somewhat reminiscent of what With Honor was doing towards the end of their career. Melodic, progressive hardcore that sounds somewhat inspired by Shai Hulud with the occasional batch of clean vocals. While a bit more experimental than the sometimes-standard sounding American bands of the style, Newborn definitely holds their own on this split that was released by Scorched Earth Policy out of Germany.

Newspeak was from Brazil and present 7 tracks of what would roughly be described as "screamo" if the description had to be given in one word. Screamy, fast, and thrashy tracks are put up against a three-song, live basement recording by Catharsis featuring two tracks from Samsara and a track called Unbowed. A lot of spoken word is included throughout the set. The same set of songs were originally included as part of a split with Gehenna, only to be re-released a year or two later in South America and on Crimethinc with Newspeak. While Catharsis' contribution to this split is nowhere near as poignant as the exclusive track, Arsonist's Prayer (from the Newborn split), it is still quite intriguing to hear the band's re-interpretation of older tracks.

While I wish you best of luck on finding copies of either Samsara or Eponymous (sometimes referred to as self-titled), I strongly urge you to go over to Crimethinc's site and pick up a copy of Passion while its still available. There are actually a lot of other thought-provoking albums and books on the site that are worth your time. While I'm not 100% in accordance with the outlook of Crimethinc, select readings and artists are definitely worth your time. Browse around and check for yourself.

DOWNLOAD - Eponymous
DOWNLOAD - Samsara
DOWNLOAD - Passion
DOWNLOAD - Newborn split
DOWNLOAD - Newspeak split

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ZAO: Early Demos

I've always been curious as to how certain Christian bands manage to write the most disgusting music of all time. The answer, I've realized, is that whenever you are crazy enough to believe in the lord OR the devil ... then you should probably be pronounced legally insane and, in turn, are also probably capable of writing some seriously evil music.

Putting myself in a mindset that allows me to believe that the devil is a legitmate being has made me realize how some christian bands feel so fucking motivated to write the insane music that they do. Seriously ... how the fuck did Zao write Liberate Te Ex Inferis ... and how did Disembodied come up with If God Only Knew The Rest Were Dead? By the grace of god and/or Lucifer; that's how.

As for why I'm talking about all of this; I essentially realized that a lot of my recent compositions mirror that of early Zao. I'm not talking Splinter Shards The Birth Of Separation ... I'm talking about their first two demos and split seven inches. I'm assuming that most people aren't even aware of the existence of these releases. Well, that's what I'm here for ... let me tell you all about them.

Zao's debut demo was titled "Author" and was self-released in 1994 on the almighty cassette format. Of course there were some black and white stickers of some obscure angels on the thing. To be honest, the thing sounds like dog shit and most of the songs suck. As with most of the albums I post on here, the feeling is just there. The energy seeping through the poorly played metallic riffs and dreary acoustics is what gets me. You really have to be a fan to get through this one, but if you truly are ... the gems are there to be found.

The follow-up offering was entitled "Sustained" and was actually worth pressing to a legit cassette. The progression made between 1994 and 1995 was quite noteworthy for this young Christian outfit from West Virginia. The band focused on fewer songs (5 on this one as opposed to 9 on the debut) and it apparently paid off. It wouldn't be until the release of their split with Outcast that the band would truly find its stride, however. Also released in 1995, the songs "Flight" and "Security" are light years ahead of anything found on the Sustained demo.

This split would prove to be the final recording featuring their original vocalist. Just in time for the recording of their split with Through And Through, the band happened upon the best thing that ever happened to them ... Shawn Jonas. Owning possibly the sickest vocals in hardcore at the time (and possibly even today), this guy has gone on record saying that he wanted Zao to become "the Earth Crisis of christian hardcore". This guy was not kidding around when it came to proclaiming the name of the Lord. I think the Lord, our saviour, knew this guy was going to be preaching his word because he was certainly blessed with quite a set of lungs. While Zao only got one track on this offering, Repressed (which would also be re-recorded for their debut LP, All Else Failed) makes it impression right off the bat.

The intensity of a militant Christian band from the backwoods of West Virginia in 1994 can never, and will never, be topped.