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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERAUDER: Demos



I know these demos have made their rounds on the blog scene for the past few years, but they're so god damn good that I had to post them myself. I'm not typically one to say "the demos are better" ... and I'm not even sure if I feel that way in this case ... but at the very least, these are DRASTICALLY different takes on some classic tracks.

Sometimes, I think, I just listen to a certain recording so many times that hearing even the slightest difference (like a remastering job) breathes new life into it for me. In the case of these demo sessions, however, it's a bit more enticing than your average remastering process.

The first demo was laid down in 1993 with their original vocalist, Minus, who had a slightly more relaxed style of aggressive vocalizing. Merauder has always been known for it's groove and these vocals compliment that aspect quite nicely. Most of these tracks would be re-recorded with Jorge Rosado on vocals for the legendary Master Killer album.

The second demo included in this package features the vocal stylings of Eddie Sutton from Leeway fame. Coming into the fold while Jorge was doing vocals for El Nino (who would later become Ill Nino and who I made a post on HERE), Eddie put yet another very unique spin onto these tracks which would later be re-recorded once again with Jorge Rosado as he would re-join the band shortly before the recording of the Five Deadly Venoms album. I'm not quite sure that I can summarize Eddie's style on these tracks ... so I'll simply let them speak for themselves.

To my knowledge, the band never performed live with Eddie on vocals ... but here is a considerably awesome live show from 93 with Minus performing live.




DOWNLOAD: The Unreleased Merauder Demos

INTEGRITY - Closure Interview

I've been browsing through some old hard drives and came across some old interviews I thought were worth saving at one point or another. Most interviews held within hardcore past tend to be quite mundane so I made a point to save the handful that I felt were worth the time spent reading. The following interview was done shortly after the release of the Closure album by Integrity. If you actually take the time to read the following interview, you might find a hidden Christmas present.


Integrity Interview with Dwid By Nathan T. Birk

Integrity have always been a tough one to pin down. Too hardcore for the casual metal listener, too metal for the casual hardcore one, just plain odd for those who are actually paying attention, Integrity have increasingly attracted the steadfast “individual” – in its purest sense, a person who appreciates taboo -transgressing and boundary-breaking, with an attuned ear for aesthetics – during the course of their 14-year career. Roughly, their shift away from hardcore toward more metallic territory – and, more specifically, from more traditionally hardcore themes toward ones that know no bounds in their plentiful dementia – started with the band’s Victory debut, 1995’s Systems Overload, and its more fever-heated follow-up, Humanity is the Devil, a year later. However, Integrity truly and traumatically cemented the “Integrity style” musically, lyrically, and visually with the none-more-harrowing Seasons in the Size of Days (1997), a poisonous, pummeling plaster-smash that mainlined a Slayer-sized system (overload) into the heaviest of hardcores, a dark and apocalyptic abyss that many a hardcore band have futilely attempted – that is, Slayer trying their hand at the punk-derived genre – but none have bested, let alone remotely equaled. Two years later came Integrity 2000, an album that, confusingly, remonikered the band the same as the record’s namesake and, perhaps consequently, left many disappointed due to its largely misunderstood repetition-oriented minimalism: overall, their most overtly “metal” album, but one that takes every last ounce of patience for its caustic fibers to sink in (possibly, for the better). Idiosyncratic, sure, but Integrity have always been privy to challenge the adventure-craving listener, a point not lost on neither the proceeding Project: Regenesis MCD (where, among similarly-styled new cuts, the band takes blackly humorous stabs at Donna Summer and Billy Idol songs alike) nor the ambient/experimental album-closers to Seasons in the Size of Days (the organic mantra of “Burning Flesh Children to Mist,” with a recording of Reverend Jim Jones’ final 15 minutes of spoken “fame” before mass-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana overlaid atop tribal drums and drones) and Integrity 2000 (the cold, harsh skitter-digitalism of “Nord Wars” and “Nord Wars 2”, both of which would make Alec Empire and Richard James crap their pants in fear). Individualism personified. But the one individual who’s been there through it all, weathering the storm and leading his troops down the path of enlightenment, is the ever-enigmatic Dwid. Integrity’s frontman from the very beginning (the Off the Bat demo from ’87), Dwid has helped shaped nearly every aspect of the band’s sound and vision amidst revolving-door lineup changes that have come to characterize Integrity. From his searing, sometimes-monochromatic grate to his unusually poetic lyrics that’d make an millennial-mad preacher blush with envy to even his industrial-tinged Psywarfare side-project and collaborations with power-electronics duo Lockweld – both of whom have trickled into the man’s ever-broadening scope – Dwid, for all intensive purposes, is Integrity much like Dave Mustaine is Megadeth and Robert Smith was the Cure. A man of a singular vision and frightening focus, and one of the founders of the Holy Terror Church of Final Judgment, Dwid is one of the most fascinating characters the world of extreme music has ever known, the coagulating lifeblood that spills onto its borders and singes them beyond recognition. And intimidating, he is, to say the very least.On the decade-long anniversary since they released their Those Who Fear Tomorrow debut album, Integrity (sans “2000”) prepare to unleash Closure, unarguably their bleakest and most troubling work since Seasons in the Size of Days – in some respects, even more so, in fact. Laced with subtle details and various barely-audible production nuances painted in the darkest black, Closure is the sound of a new Integrity, one that splits the difference between the gloom-punk/metal of Samhain and the proto-industrial trance of early Killing Joke. It rocks, it’s heavy as fuck, and it’s still Integrity: a triumph in every sense of the word, and well worth the two-year wait. Alas, for those expecting the band to break up as hinted by the album’s ominous title, well…yes, and no. “Integrity,” as we’ve known them by name, will be no longer – in their stead, Angela Delamorte (named after one of Closure’s many highlights) will continue plying this dark trade. Why? Take a stroll through Dwid’s world and find out…

----

First off, what’s your lineup right now?
The lineup is myself on vocals, Zunkley on samples, and then Brian, he plays guitar, Brandon plays drums, and Adam plays bass.

Where and with whom did you record the new album?
Actually, the drums were recorded at my house, and the rest of the stuff we recorded at Brandon’s house, with the exception of the quiet songs – we recorded those at Zunkley’s house. We’ve had two years [between albums], so we’ve been doing a lot of home recording.

With Closure, there’s a certain Samhain-meets-Killing Joke vibe going on. Was this deliberate? If not, what was your approach when writing the album?
We’re definitely all big fans of Samhain. Pretty much, with most records, it comes down to what kind of music we’re listening to at the time, and everyone in the band is big fans of most of the bands that work. So, anything that you’re really into will show up in some way, shape, or form. Rather than Killing Joke, I’d think more Joy Division.

Yeah, I can see that analogy, as far as how dense and dark the aura is. Altogether, what’s your satisfaction level with this new album?
Well, this is the record I’ve tried to make since I started recording, basically. I’m really happy with the way it turned out – I’m kinda surprised at how good it sounds. I try to write the records for myself, y’know?

Yeah, and it shows. Another two-year wait went by before a new Integrity album came out. Not that that’s necessarily a long time, but it seemed like Closure kept being pushed back a month or two at a time. So, were you more diligent this time preparing the new album?
Yeah, definitely. We spent over a year writing and recording the album. Since we had home studios to use, we were able to take our time, we were able to do everything the way we really wanted it to be. Plus, we did a lot of experimentation as far as the recording is concerned, but because of that, it probably took us a little more time. We knew, for example, what type of drum sounds we were looking for, but it wasn’t so easy to achieve. Even if we went to some big-name studio, it would’ve been difficult to do, so we had to do some tricks in order to make it sound the way we wanted it, as well as some of the other (production aspects).

There’s definitely more detail and nuance this time around, especially, as you said, the drums and even the way the album begins – those odd pulses in “Trial of Adonis,” which are especially cool. Lyrically, what were your inspirations for Closure?
Well, lyrically, as far as the root of everything [goes], the heart of it all was [that] I just got out of a long-term relationship with this girl, so I got to draw from a lot of that [laughs]. It’s official [laughs], so that had a lot to do with it. And then, thematically, we have the song “Angela Delamorte” – that’s kinda the theme to the whole album, this demon who comes to earth to destroy all the sinners. Actually, this is our last record, and after this record, we’re gonna call ourselves Angela Delamorte.

Really?
Yeah.

Damn, that’s pretty fucking cool. So, are you guys gonna…well, I don’t want to say repeat, because in most respects I’d hope you wouldn’t, but are gonna elaborate on the direction you took with Closure, then?
Yeah, I think the formula we came up with the current record is really great, and we have some new ideas as far as where we’re gonna take it from there. And, pretty much, it’s gonna be something similar, but not obviously the same. We always try to make the (newest record) sound different than the ones before. We actually have a couple songs written – we’re doing an EP right now as Angela Delamorte. Actually, those songs start off acoustically and progress into something heavier. On the [new] album, we have the acoustic songs on their own and then the heavier songs on their own – we’ll try to integrate the two a little bit more, so it has a better feel. Basically, these are the things we’re gonna try to do [with Angela Delamorte].

So, when does Angela Delamorte become official?
I guess it pretty much already has. We’re gonna do one final Integrity show this summer, and then that’s it – there will be no more Integrity. We’re doing an EP for a local [Cleveland, Ohio] label called SMDC Records, which is Jayson [Popson] – he was in a band called In Cold Blood.

And he did vocals on the last album.
Yeah, he did. He also has a band called Mushroomhead.

Oh, yeah. Actually, I have a promo of their new album coming in the mail.
Do you? Actually, that’s him and the drummer [Skinny] from the [Integrity] 2000 record, he’s in it, too.

Excellent – I’m looking forward to hearing it. I read in an interview some years back, probably around the time of Systems Overload, that you said your lyrics were more horror-based than anything else. Where in modern society do you find horror, and how does that filter into your lyric writing?
Well, I think that true horror can be found anywhere. There’s a lot of different aspects to it, especially when it comes to my perception of it. But…the breakup and everything that I just went through had a lot of horror elements to it, as well as a lot of other particulars about my mind – the way that it works, sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s really awful, actually [laughs]. Aside from that aesthetically, I’m interested in things that are darker, a bit more scratched-up, and almost, in a sense, like the old horror films, the “classics” – Nosferatu, Dracula, things like that, and that’s pretty much imagery-wise. That’s how we treated the packaging [of Closure], how it came across, which is a parody.

A parody?
Yeah, of the first Danzig album.

Ah, I see. I was wondering why the cover and insert art was so minimal. I think his artwork is phenomenal, but why didn’t you use Stephen Kasner [artist – did covers for both preceding albums] this time around?
The reason for that was that Steve just got married, so he’s really busy with all that, and [I] didn’t really have the time to hang out with him. He’s just getting his life together, so that was pretty much the reason for that. Besides, sometimes I think that if you keep using the same art or the same formula with a record, then it becomes a little more drab, although Steve always comes up with something brilliant.

So, with that in mind, sound-wise, what’s your satisfaction level with the new album compared to all the others?
Well, with each record, I think they took on their own personality as it starts to evolve. And with that still, aside from the way the guitars were written or the drums or even the vocals, the production [on Closure] plays a major part in the recording process, in which, production-wise, we spent a lot more time making sure that everything was there, especially things that are there that you can’t necessarily hear that were extremely important to where we want them to belong. We spent hours and hours in the execution of it, making sure that all those elements were there. Then, we had a [female] friend of Brian’s do an Italian opera, which was very cool. So, we wrote this Italian opera piece for her, and she sang it and I did some kind of Latin thing over the top of it, which kinda comes in and out of the picture – a lot of filling, I guess that’s you want to call it.

Yeah, after the first few listens to the new album, I listened to it on headphones, and that’s when it really struck me how densely layered it is, almost in a post-apocalyptic manner.
We really tried desperately to make it that way, and the drums were the thing that we did the most intentionally – a lot of the weird sounds that were hidden in there relative to everything else. It turned out really well.

Yeah, I agree. Would you say these more experimental production techniques carried over from your work with Psywarfare and Lockweld?
Oh, definitely! That’s where I started out with that, and that was kinda the goal as far as doing that band [Psywarfare]. Psywarfare, for me, it kinda started out with just using effects and feedback and different sounds that I recorded with 30, 40 dollars worth of equipment. I really learned a lot from the start to (Closure) in creating sounds I wasn’t used to hearing, and because I learned all that, then I was able to bring that knowledge to the new record. All the time, when I was doing Psywarfare, it was like giving us a task I wasn’t up to the level I’m at now. I think it just came across [as] forced and obvious, whereas now, you can hear things very well – it’s more noticeable. It’s not so electronic, it’s not so, y’know, another band trying to do electronic music [laughs].

So, these projects were more or less a playground for you to try out new ideas, then.
Yeah, definitely.

Basically, what I’m trying to say, I know you pretty much run Integrity, but is there any sort of diplomacy as far as, “I’m trying out this stuff in Psywarfare and Lockweld, why don’t we try it out in Integrity”?
Well, that’s pretty much what we did with (Closure). I always looked at my work with Psywarfare as being sorta like training, to get to this level. I do still like a lot of the songs that I made – I kinda think a lot of them aren’t just doodles or sketches or anything. But, in a way, they kind of are, in a way that I’m using instruments that are not normal, things that aren’t even instruments – like, being able to bring to that to, for a lack of a better word, a “rock” formula.

Following up on Psywarfare and Lockweld, how did you get interested in, loosely, the power-electronics scene? Did you get your hands on some equipment and decide to fuck around, or were there some certain bands you heard and thought, “Damn, I want to do that”?
A little bit of both. Ultimately, when I was a kid, electronic music used to be called industrial, and I always thought of that as very similar to punk rock and hardcore and metal music – I felt very akin to it. I tried to pursue that, like I said before, as a sort of training…I always try to make records I can’t get – if I can’t get a record I want, I’ll just make it myself! That was pretty much the approach musically [with Psywarfare]. With Lockweld, I was mainly just a producer for that. I had a home studio, and Steve [Makita] and [wife] Karen would come over and I’d record them and they’d be like, “What do you think this needs? What do you think of this? Would you mind doing this?” and I ended up doing a couple records with them and just didn’t have the time to do it anymore. Now, I don’t do Psywarfare, either. There’s no real need for the outlet anymore – I can do everything I want to do in one, and be able to focus all my attention on one record instead of having all my time and energy spread across many.

On your earliest demo, Integrity were a very Negative Approach-styled hardcore band, and now with Closure, you’ve evolved into a very dark, sinister punk-metal one. From your standpoint, how would you characterize Integrity’s evolution?
Pretty much, it’s weird to say, but to think we started this 13 years ago, I always wanted to try to make a record like what we just made. It’s really hard to get everything right, to be able to put the music in my head onto a little CD. Luckily, with time and perseverance, I was able to get closer – I still haven’t really found it exactly, but I’m getting closer. Hopefully, by the album next year [laughs] – I’m looking at many factors. At the time, when we started out, we didn’t really know how to play our instruments or anything – the whole thing’s always been quite a blessing that we were able to record from, pretty much, the beginning. We appreciate doing a little bit of touring, [but] we’re predominantly a studio band, without having to do all the leg work, travelling all the time, and all that.

Also, over the years, Integrity’s always had a huge crossover appeal to both metal and hardcore fans. What do you think it is about your band that draws two relatively disparate groups together?
I’m not sure. I’ve thought about it before, and the only thing I can ever come up with was the fact that we try to do something that’s extreme. I think that’s the underlying element that makes both genres interesting to the listener, that there’s something extreme there. Our influences are so, so varied – we like a lot of metal bands, we like a lot of hardcore bands, we like a lot of industrial bands – we like everything, even down to country. Sometimes it shows up [laughs]. I don’t know…I’m really grateful that people from different genres of music appreciate what we do, which is wonderful, but I don’t know why [laughs].

So, loosely, being associated with Victory and coming from a hardcore background, what are your thoughts on the modern hardcore scene? I mean, do you even feel a part of it anymore?
Honestly, I don’t. I don’t really listen to any new hardcore at all, and I’m probably the worst person to ask a question about any knowledge of it. I mean, but because we’re on Victory, we’re considered to be sometimes hardcore, sometimes metal, sometimes both, sometimes who-knows-what [laughs], so I don’t know.

Hey, as long as you’re good, y’know? [laughs]
Yeah, we try to make the records the way we want to hear them – luckily, people tend to enjoy them.

How old are you now?
30.

Being the age you are now, would you say you’ve moved away from hardcore’s youthful idealism, to a point that’s maybe furthest away from that?
Well, I think that the reason I was interested in hardcore in the beginning was because I was angry, and as I grew up, I realized that there were other means to express myself, to exorcise the demons inside me, without being so pissed off. Although, it’s still kinda pissed, y’know?

It kinda necessitates it, in a way.
I think it’s maybe not as belligerent, if that makes any sense.

Yeah, maybe a bit more cerebral.
That’s definitely true, and I think that’s maybe a more menacing approach.

Over the years, then, has Integrity shifted from being a musical tool for you to being a philosophical one?
I think it has elements of both. I think that, obviously, if the music isn’t good, you’re not gonna be able to put a philosophy behind it – it’s like trying to polish shit. For me, although I do have some sort of part in the writing of the music, putting my philosophies into songs – that’s pretty much the core of where I’m coming from, it’s a very important part. But, for me, that’s probably one of the most important things in writing [lyrics], that that’s my little grandstand [laughs].

Philosophies notwithstanding, but Integrity’s been subjected to countless outrageous rumors during the better half of the ‘90s. I’m not even gonna bring any of them up, but why are people so privy to talk shit about you guys?
The only thing I’ve ever been able to come up with for that is, we always try to do something a little different than what’s coming out. Sometimes people see something a little different and have to change it, y’know, so that is that. But that’s the only thing I can ever come up with. In a way, it’s kinda fun, y’know, and in a way, the people who work for Victory Records, it does their job for them [laughs]. You don’t have to buy an ad in a magazine, because everybody’s talking about something outlandish – nine times out of 10, not true, and the one time out of time, scarcely true. But, y’know, it’s funny, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Perhaps you could do integrityrumors.com or something – I’m sure the message board would be brimming! Speaking of which, I’m almost certain Closure is going to alienate most people familiar with Integrity even more than your preceding records, which is probably a good thing. Not to sound elitist, but if the average listener can’t handle a record as aesthetically pleasing as your new one is, well…maybe they shouldn’t be listening in the first place.
Well, thank you. We’ve always tried to target our music towards individuals instead of towards any type of genre.

Not “groups.”
Yeah, maybe that also ties in with your question about metal over hardcore. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve never really included lyrics in the packaging, aside from the fact that it destroys the imagery. The other side, there’s been a lot of times when we’ve played shows and people will come up to you afterwards and analyze what you wrote, and it’s totally not it at all [laughs]. It sounds pretty interesting anyway, but then this person applies it to their life and uses their imagination, and that’s great – that’s the best.

That’s probably one of the things you’re striving for as an artist.
Definitely.

After so many lineup changes over the years, how have you remained so focused?
Y’know, I’ve just been lucky, I guess. A lot of the people we work with, they’re a lot younger and they grew up listening to our band, so they have their interpretations of what the band means to them. We have people who started out as, for a lack of a better word, “fans” of the band, and then they joined the band and were able to bring their own individual vision of the band with them – to make this great collage.



So, a collage then: What a dark one it’s been so far, and with the onset of Angela Delamorte, what an even darker one it’s about to become. In parting, Dwid promised that the band’s new website www.delamorte.com will see his collective (truly, a none-more-appropriate term at this point) moving into more multimedia forms of expression, with expanded art, writing, lyrics, even short films and exclusive tracks making their mark this new palate of theirs. A daunting task for a lesser band, but to paraphrase the title of Integrity 2000’s finest moment, such is the burden of purity.

New Living Sacrifice Album

I'm not one to get super excited on new releases and pre-orders and whatnot ... HOWEVER, the new Living Sacrifice album came out last month, I ordered it and I think it's sick enough to warrant mentioning.

Another reason I decided to post about this album is because of this awesome interview I read from these guys about ten years ago which drastically changed my outlook on being in a band and the responsibilities that come along with it.

While we have some obvious fundamental differences, this is a band I will always be first in line to support for a multitude of reasons I can't summarize in even a few paragraphs. Hopefully the interview below speaks for itself.



How hard or easy was it to make a living in a band at the level that Living Sacrifice was at? Please explain, especially if there were particular areas of struggle... 

It was actually not very easy at all.

We weren’t actually able to make any kind of living or be full time until after our fifth album, The Hammering Process . After we did that record we pretty much just jumped out there and decided to do it, not quite sure if we’d be able to our not. At the level we were at, we sold a decent amount of records. The Reborn record, which sold around 25,000, which is really good for an indie label, but not huge or great or anything like that. We’re not massive, That allows us to go around and tour the country and have at least a couple hundred people at your show, and maybe up to 500 in some markets.

When we went out there and decided to do it, we just did it. We supported ourselves in hopes that promoting The Hammering Process record would continue to grow and grow and grow and we’d sell more records and the shows would be bigger, we’d make more money and we could come home for longer periods of time. Because we were making more off the shows and weren’t having to constantly tour. As it was during that time period in making a living, basically we had to play, like, constantly. If we weren’t playing a show, we weren’t making money anywhere else. You don’t see money off of record sales at that level, because it’s still recouping. You might see some mechanical royalties, but they’re not...it’s not enough to quit a dayjob kind of thing. But they only come twice a year and it’s just kinda like a bonus, really. It’s not really worth... It’s not the kind of thing that you could stop what you’re doing and live off it awhile. So it was like this perpetual cycle of, ‘We have to tour to make the money.’ It’s just the huge trade-off. If you’re 19, 20, 21 with no wife or anything . . . nothing tying you down at home or anything like that. It’s fine. It’s no problem. You don’t even really need a place to live. You just keep all of your stuff at your parents’ house and just stay on the road. Some bands get pretty big. They can make decent money. They can even, at some point, just have a bunch of guys move into a place and keep an apartment or whatever for when they do come home, but they’re all splitting the rent, so it’s dirt cheap – nothing, and no other bills, so it works out. For us, by the time we got to our fifth album we’re all married and some of us had children and stuff like that, so it was a struggle. After a couple years of touring full-time, we just kinda started going into debt. But we actually had... We were set up pretty good. We had, like, health insurance and everything for our band and we paid for that for a year. But we figured out that we couldn’t afford to do it anymore, so we quit. As far as what all that had to do with why we broke up: For me, I just didn’t want to be... I didn’t want to live on the road away from my family anymore. After touring that much I realized that we actually weren’t getting any bigger tours or anything like that. The tours were pretty much staying the same. The markets were staying the same. We did sell more records because we toured more, but not significantly more – to where it really really made a difference as far as the shows becoming huge things where we could make a lot of money off of each show. That’s probably part of the reason we came off the road. Another reason we came off the road is because we were going into debt. In order to pay off the debt, we just had to come home and get jobs and then do weekend shows where we basically would go out and play and not pay ourselves anything – just put all that money that we made towards merchandise bills or whatever debt we had accrued – credit card debt and stuff like that from just being on the road – hotels, gas, stuff like that. We were able to do that within about a year, pretty much pay everything off. As far as the rest of it, I just didn’t really see... For me, my heart was in it less and less, because I just wanted to be with my family and it was too... For me it was too much time to put towards something that really wasn’t going to be able to provide. Also, I felt that my heart wasn’t in this much anymore, which was kind of like God showing me, ‘Hey. This isn’t where your heart is anymore. Your heart’s more with your family and looking for an outlet that’s going to provide for them and stuff like that.’

For a band at our level, it’s incredibly difficult. If you’re married and stuff like that, it’s pretty much not gonna work out. You can do band as a hobby, part-time, and stuff like that, but there’s still this huge division, because you have to have a day job and any kind of day job... Unless you’re self-employed and can make really good money doing your own thing, it’s going to be hard to juggle. You’re not gonna tell your boss, ‘Hey, I’m going on tour for two months and I’ll be back and get my job back.’ You’re relegated to, like, construction and restaurants. And I did both. When I was home, I painted houses during the day and I waited tables at night. Not every night, but a lot of nights. That’s how I supported my family when I wasn’t on tour. That’s a hard way to live, at a certain point. If you consider those being two jobs, the band was another job, because I handled all the business and the management aspects of it.

God’s blessed me. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I had fun. For me, with the things I learned and the things that I was allowed to participate in, just led me up to being able to do what I’m doing now, which is helping younger bands and smaller bands actually make money. Even if they’re not on the road, just to get set up through online merchandising sales. And through just managing them and doing more career management type stuff. Helping them avoid some of the pitfalls that we walked into, and stuff like that.

Some Christian artists, if they’re more pop oriented, are doing really well. I mean, Living Sacrifice was in a sub-genre of a sub-genre. We were a death/metalcore band, which is a complete total sub-genre even of metal. On top of that, we were Christians, so it really narrowed our market down to being really niche. A lot of bands are able to cross over and not be necessarily penalized for having Christian beliefs and stuff. But we were always really ... had the Christian label, because we’ve been around for so long, and stuff like that. So we had this perception about us and people didn’t ever really want to look past that. So that kept us kind of in a certain spot or position. Whereas a lot of bands... some bands these days, if they’re pop enough or radio friendly enough, they can sell a whole bunch of records and make a much better living than we did – bands like Kutless or whoever, who do really well. So, I would say, at this point, being a hardcore band of any style, really – whether you’re Christian or not – it would be pretty difficult to support a family or make a decent living, unless you’re Hatebreed. They’re the exception, too. One band out of however many hardcore bands that exist today. They actually sell a good amount of records and all that stuff.


Why do you think that stigma hurts you? You’ve probably thought the same thing: “Man, if only everybody in the world could hear this band... because they’re tough and they’re ... It wasn’t a false dream to think that Living Sacrifice could hold their own against whoever.

Absolutely. We were told time and time again that we were every bit as good as Soulfly or Slipknot or other bands that were Gold-selling and Platinum-selling bands and stuff like that. We weren’t off the mark in thinking that what we were doing was ... that we could be as successful, but for whatever reason we weren’t and we didn’t... We weren’t able to make that jump or switch or break out of that. It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of great bands that don’t do that – a lot of good bands. You think, ‘Oh my gosh, they should be the best band in the world. They should be selling so many more records.’ And then, on the flipside, there’s a lot of really really bad bands that are selling a lot of records for whatever reason. It is what it is. It never hurts to try. Ultimately, when I talk to bands, I tell ‘em, ‘If you’re going into this to make a lot of money, then go back to college. You need to do it, because you love it, period. If you like the music, if you believe in the music, then do it. That’s the only reason.’ If they are a band that feels like they have a calling to minister or witness through their music, then that, too. Of course. By all means. That’s what we did. Living Sacrifice completely and totally started to be ... to glorify God and to be a band that promoted life and abundance of life through Christ and through Jesus. To do something completely different than what every other band in our genre was doing at that time, except for a few, like Deliverance and Believer – bands like that. That was totally our goal and our calling, I mean, what we felt we needed to do. And that remained up until the very end. It’s just that the older we got, the business kinda just... It kinda chokes everything... It doesn’t choke everything out, not really the vision or the calling or just being true to yourself, but just the fact that, ‘Okay, we can’t really do this tour unless we can pay for this, this, and this.’ And there was just a lot of times we didn’t know whether or not it would out. We just kinda went out and trusted God. And God always took care of us in that sense. But He also gave us brains to know when it’s time to look at other options or ways to do what He’s put inside our hearts, and stuff like that. Or also, just desires change. People change. When I was 18, I didn’t think, ‘Am I going to be in a Christian metal band when I’m 31?’ I just didn’t think about that. When I’m 31, I’m thinking, ‘Am I gonna stay in a Christian metal band right now?’ No. It’s not what God’s got for me right now. And those type of things... It kinda goes back to, ‘If that’s what you feel in your heart and that’s what you feel like you need to do. If you believe in the music and the message you have, then do it for that. Don’t do it for financial reasons.’ At some point, if you have to choose between that, then choose. Most bands start when they’re really young, like we did. We were 17 and 18 and we did it because we loved it. I loved it all the way up until the end. I just knew it was time to do something else.

Sometimes that comes as a shock. The kids who think their favorite band’s going to last forever.
Yeah, most bands are pretty short lived. A lot of bands keep going and should quit. I didn’t want to be that band, either. I felt like, We probably put out one of the best albums of our career last year. I was like, ‘Awesome. We’re going out good – we’re going out strong.’ That’s kind of ... our fans would testify to it. It’s probably not going to sell as well because we’re not touring, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

When we were talking earlier, you mentioned Christians that were... Or artists that were playing at Christian festivals and being sold through Christian venues that maybe shouldn’t have been. What are your thoughts on that as well as things going on behind the scene that shouldn’t be?

I feel like, if a band’s comfortable with the tag of being a Christian band or even just Christians in a band, that’s fine. Art definitely shouldn’t be limited. It shouldn’t be thrown out of Christian bookstores because it’s not maybe evangelistic. But if the members of the band and the band itself is comfortable with that, then by all means, sell it in the bookstores, play all the festivals you want. But there’s a lot of bands that want no affiliation with it and are vocal about it and let people know. They say, ‘We’re not a Christian band. So and so is a Christian in the band, but the whole band’s not Christian,’ or ‘We have no agenda of being a Christian band,’ then at that point, that’s like, ‘Why is it being sold in Christian retail?’ I would say it’s a pretty clear line. There might be a little bit of grey area, because I don’t want to say... It’s not like I’m saying, ‘Oh, if you’re a Christian band that’s what you have to sing about,’ but you just have to be conscious that that’s how you’re being marketed and perceived and there are certain expectations that go along with that. As far as our band was concerned, we took it all very seriously. We had certain ways that we ran our band. We didn’t... things that we wanted to keep straight-forward. We had full knowledge that these kids came to the show and looked up to us and we... They followed us as we followed Christ and our example. Because we put our name out there and our band out there as, you know, as a Christian band. We knew full well we were doing it. We never ever wanted to break out of that or leave that, we just wanted to go beyond it – as far as general market sales and popularity – simply because we could only go so far as a Christian metal band. But there’s just a lot of bands that have nothing to do with it or maybe a member or two that have those beliefs but maybe aren’t even strong in those beliefs, or maybe the songwriter, the lyricist is that person and so, for that reason, and that reason alone, it’s just being sold into the bookstores. I think it’s a disservice to people that go to those places, and it’s also a disservice, kind of, to the bookstore itself or the Christian retailer who thinks they’re getting a type of product and they’re not. Even though there’s probably absolutely nothing wrong with what is being sold in, it’s just kind of like, that’s not the intention of the band, whatsoever. But, obviously, it’s the record label that makes that call. It’s the intention of the record label to do that. That’s kind of who’s doing that. There’s just certain bands that have no business being there. Actually, some bands that would have no problem being there, it’s just that they, for whatever reason, they don’t feel like they should on a personal level. Like The Militia Group has no Christian distribution, though there are certain bands that would be fine in a Christian bookstore, because those bands are fine with being sold there and all that and they’re okay with that market base, it’s just something that he doesn’t feel like – that’s not the vision of his label. His vision is to basically just put records into regular mainstream retail. Unfortunately, he cuts off a small, segregated market, because the reason those places have sales is because some kids’ parents won’t let them buy records anywhere else. That’s probably why certain labels make sure that their bands go there, whether they should do it or not. As long as there’s no vulgarity or stuff like that, it’s not a problem; but even beyond that. It should be the heart of the band – either to be okay with being there and having their records marketed that way. And, at the same time, some bands know full well what they’re doing and they do it because the kids are there. They go do the festivals knowing full well. If it’s a festival that’s more of a well-rounded festival, which a lot of them are not well-rounded... That’s kind of a bad word to say, but it’s a festival that caters to bring in certain bands that aren’t necessarily Christian but there’s nothing evil or wrong with their music or whatever; that’s one thing. But if it’s like a full-on exclusively Christian festival, than certain bands are still playing it or are going there and playing it, then it’s kind of... I don’t know. It’s not what I would do, let’s put it that way.

A lot of bands just don’t have a problem with it. I talk to some bands that they’re okay with it, but they feel bad themselves. They kinda feel like, ‘I just don’t know that we belong here or that we should be playing or marketed this way or passing ourselves off as one thing.’ Because, I guess, honestly when it comes down to it, with that label comes a lot of expectations which are to varying levels and degrees. Some people have... or some Christians or groups or even churches have unreasonable expectations that they place upon a band, just because they got the record at the store. It goes both ways. It’s probably good to explain to the bands, the 19 or 20 year old kid who believes in God and believes in Jesus but isn’t really active in church and stuff, ‘Hey, your records are going to be sold in this Christian bookstore, and because of that, there’s going to be kids that are going to come to your show and they’re going to expect you to be a certain way. You should know this before you commit to it. If they’re not okay with that, then... Everybody’s at a different level, probably, with their walk with Christ. If somebody has this desire, this urging to write songs and create great music and glorify God with it, that’s one thing; but it’s not the same as being part of the five-fold ministry – pastor, teacher, evangelist, prophet, (apostle)... It’s kind of a different thing. I mean, we’re all called to the Great Commission, to be witnesses unto Christ, but we all do that in different ways. It’s kinda like... A lot of expectations. Bands should be aware of that. I don’t think any of them are, really. And they get all upset about it and they start not liking Christians, simply because a certain segment of them have these weird expectations of them. And the only reason they got those expectations was because they bought their record at the Christian bookstore. It all comes down to lack of communication.

I think there’s a lot of cool things that can be accomplished, because I think... If a band’s okay with being sold in a Christian bookstore and understand what that entails and they are creating really good music – good art – then awesome. It gives those kids a chance to hear something great, instead of something lame. Cause there’s a lot of lame stuff out there, too. As in ‘not good music,’ or whatever. I understand that’s all subjective, so I won’t go into that.

Is there anything else that’s bugged you for a long time or something you thought should be said about this whole scene?

Yeah, the labels should be offering better deals for the bands. Christian labels should take, instead of basing their contracts off of the world, which are completely unfair... The way the worldly labels have set up recording contracts and stuff like that... They (Christian labels) should be the first ones to be offering more fair and balanced deals to where, even if a band doesn’t sell that many records, they will still receive some royalties. I mean, record labels have to recoup. That’s fine. They’re the ones putting up the money. That’s totally and completely understandable, but contracts today are set up to where bands won’t see a dime. They can sell 20 or 30,000 records and not see one penny of it. According to my calculations, a band that’s sold 20,000 records has made the label $140,000. They’re wrong for that.

Some of the contracts that are out there today have been compared to the things that black R&B artists were offered in the 50s. Those are record contracts that are given out today. And the entire way that the industry was set up... small things, like ‘Packaging Deductions.’ Packaging deduction came from vinyl records being sent out. There was a Packaging Deduction because a certain percentage would break in shipping. That’s not longer the case, because nobody sells vinyl anymore; but Packaging Deductions are still there and they’re actually higher. They’re stupid high now. They’re, like, 25% or something like that. I’ve heard that there are some labels, even major labels, that are starting to get rid of some of these things, but Christian labels should be at the forefront of offering fair deals. They’re not.

Stuff like marketing doesn’t make sense either – rolling in marketing costs. The fact that you’re the big investor that has all the cash to pay for the studio recording, you deserve to get paid back first. Okay, that’s fair. But to have to make me, the artist, pay for my marketing as well, when the marketing is what you should be doing to make your investment pay off...

Exactly. And not only that, but with the percentages, the way they’re set up, they’re making the money, so they should be paying for the marketing. A lot of labels... Some labels are changing and aren’t doing that now. But it’s still, more like third person, when they go out and hire independent marketing firms, like The Syndicate, or something like that, they’ll split it. They’ll do a 50/50. Half of it goes to recoup, the other half doesn’t. That’s a little closer. There’s a lot of things that are just not only unfair, but grossly unfair. To a certain extent. It should just all be different. The labels who primarily work in the Christian market and stuff like that should be at the forefront of completely offering fair artist deals and making the first steps to changing the industry. Because it’s all going to change no matter what – whether the labels like it or not. It’s gonna change. They’re slowly and surely going to be cut out more and more, I feel. There’s still going to be a place for them, but it’s their own fault. You reap what you sow.

I just think it’s silly that some Christian labels are offering the worst deals.

ORDER Living Sacrifice - Ghost Thief

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Millvale Industrial Theater

This will probably only be of interest to the local readers, but I just now found this "mini documentary" on a venue that I spent a lot of formative hardcore years at. It drags after the first three minutes, but for those that were there ... this is a great trip down memory lane.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

YouTube Takeover

In case you've been wondering why the blog has been slow again lately ... it was a combination of work, getting our album and merch ready for our release show and, most importantly, because I've been uploading my entire show video collection (along with some great contributions from Adam Royon, Kent Sinkler and Scott Raphael) to YouTube. I'm currently at 350 videos and am only about 1/3 of the way through. I have the next week off of work and I'm hoping to get that number up even further.

If you have show videos you'd like to have transferred to DVD and subsequently uploaded to YouTube ... get in touch as I've already borrowed three peoples' collections and returned their original tapes. I can also mail back DVDs as well. My only request is that the videos can't TOTALLY suck ... I have enough bad videos in my own collection.

Check the channel and Subscribe if you want to keep posted on the daily uploads I've been adding.

Here is a link to the Video page of my account and below it is one of my favorite videos.


Friday, September 20, 2013

DISARMAMENT RELEASE




There will be 100 hand-numbered discs available at Sincerity Fest but there is an unlimited amount of downloads available at our BandCamp. Please check out the link and offer your support as this was entirely self-funded and released. We typically do everything for free ... but breaking even on this venture would be pretty cool.

Thank you in advance. Spread the word. Come to our release show/Sincerity Fest. That one is free.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Disarmament EP Preview

I chose to spend my "moment of silence" at 8:46 AM this morning to reflect on how drastically my outlook on life changed 12 years ago today. In turn, I choose to no longer remain silent. These new tracks mostly represent this.

REALTORS OF THE PLANET (ft Karl Buechner)




UPROOTED EXPLOITATION




UNEXTENDING APPREHENSION




HUMAN CULTIVATION


Download Link Available Soon

Friday, September 6, 2013

BURNT BY THE SUN: Discography



Thinking back I have no idea how I found out about this band. All I really remember is that they were responsible for luring me to my first show at The Mr Roboto Project ... which, at the time, was a very revolutionary action in my life. I was attending shows almost every weekend at the time (2001) but mostly at the larger clubs ... or the Millvale Industrial Theater (another story for another day). The venue struck a chord with me and would actually become very instrumental in both my life and the Pittsburgh Hardcore scene for close to a decade. But enough about the venue and more about the band.

At the time, Burnt By The Sun had released both a 4 song, self-titled EP and a split with a New Jersey outfit named Luddite Clone. In a day before music was readily available on the internet, I always made a point to search out CDs of the bands BEFORE they came through so that I could be at least somewhat familiar with what I was getting into. These discs, however, grabbed my full attention and I had memorized all of the songs and lyrics before the show even happened. I remember their vocalist giving a brief explanation behind the lyrics to You Will Move ... and that was something I hadn't become accustomed to yet. It was a very unique experience at the time; having someone playing on the same floor you were standing on, speaking to you like an actual human being on a somewhat personal level. Needless to say, this set formulated a lot of my idea of what hardcore should be.

All of that being said; the EP and the split remain my favorite material from this band. Unlike most bands, these early songs do not possess the typically primitive sound you expect to hear from a band's debut offering. These short-lived discs contain some of the most vital material the band ever put to tape, in fact ... and that's not to discredit the later material!

The debut full length, Soundtrack To The Personal Revolution made quite a wave when it was released. At the time it was a pretty big deal when a "metalcore" band got signed to a label like Relapse or Century Media or even Metal Blade (funny, huh?). To Relapse's credit, they put a fair amount of promotion behind this album. I'm fairly certain every hardcore kid from 2002 had at least heard the opening track, Dracula With Glasses. If you don't believe me, just watch the following YouTube video from Hell Fest 2002.


The band would tour quite frequently at the time and started to break into the metal scene with the momentum from this release. While diehard fans would embrace the  follow-up full length, The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good, a lot of the hardcore scene seemed to lose interest with the release of this album. While the sophomore full length explored into the experimental realm, a lot of the key hooks and obvious breaks found amongst the chaos of their earlier material were not present on this release.

The band seemingly faded into obscurity with the lack of new material/touring and the members seemingly all partaking in different musical endeavors on the side when, out of nowhere, it was announced that the band would be recording a final album before officially disbanding.

Heart Of Darkness essentially sets the tone right off the bat with the very first notes. By the time the track Inner Station is complete you have been made well aware that the band had made a conscious decision to go out with a bang. With an obvious return to their style of old, this album would have potentially turned Burnt By The Sun into a household name had it been the follow up album to Soundtrack To The Personal Revolution.

The band played their final show at Webster Hall in 2011 and, unfortunately, nothing has been heard from them since. Anyone with information as to what the members are currently involved in should speak up in the comments section.

DOWNLOAD Part 1 (self-titled, Luddite Clone split & Soundtrack To The Personal Revolution)
DOWNLOAD Part 2 (The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Good, Live From Contamination Fest & Heart Of Darkness)

PREMONITIONS OF WAR: Discography



This is a criminally underrated band that, despite having an album on Victory Records, never quite got the attention they deserved. The debut EP (self-titled) remains to be one of my favorite albums from the era. The six short songs contain some of the most brutal riffs ever put to tape (yes, this was recorded analog at Mars Studio in Cleveland, OH).

The follow-up EP entitled The True Face Of Panic on Goodfellow Records was also a landmark in brutality for its time. The two EPs would later be re-released on the same disc entitled Glorified Dirt. This time around, however, their replacement vocalist Nate Johnson (Deadwater Drowning, Fit For An Autopsy) would be featured on a re-recorded version of the debut, self-titled EP. The True Face Of Panic tracks remained untouched from its original state. While this version is quite awesome in its own right ... I'm not too sure you can top a metalcore recording coming out of Mars Studio.

The full length album on Victory entitled Left In Kowloon contains most of the tracks you would hear the band playing live if you ever caught them in the small timeframe in which they actively toured. The release on Victory Records still puzzles me a bit as there is not anything remotely close to a "single" on the album. I suppose Victory did have a shred of credibility remaining in 2004.

The band would round out their career with a split release with Benumb. Once again featuring their latter vocalist, Nate Johnson, this release would only feature 4 tracks ... two of which were covers. The final release still slays anything else that was coming out during it's time frame yet left something to be desired in comparison to their other releases. 

There is always hope in my mind that the band will return in some form or another as the band has never officially broken up. In fact, I convinced the band to come out to play the first installment of my fest (which totally bombed, sorry) in 2007. I have heard of low key performances taking place in their hometown and actually drove to see them in Syracuse in 2009 with Architect (insane show) so here's to hoping for new material to surface one day.

I love metalcore.

Friday, August 30, 2013

BandCamp



Just wanted to let you know that the Path To Misery full length has been moved over to the BandCamp page that we made in preparation for the release of our upcoming EP.

The EP was recorded two months ago with Dave Piatek in Cleveland, OH. The final touches are being put on as we speak in regards to mixing and mastering. For once in our career we took our time on the recording process and the results have proven to be well worth it.

Get pumped for the guest vocal spots on the new EP.

Check it out at our BandCamp page ... pathtomisery.bandcamp.com

DESTINY: Diving Into Eternity



Every now and again I start to feel like I've heard EVERY metalcore band that's ever existed. I love being proven wrong when I find an obscure gem like this. This album serves as a great reminder of how much enjoyment I can sometimes get from browsing the dollar bin at the local record store.

I'm honestly totally unfamiliar with this band ... but I'm not really too sure how I am considering they seemingly came up in the same area and era as Heaven Shall Burn, Maroon and the likes of the German metalcore scene from 2000-2005. A bit of online researching unearthed this information on this act with an annoyingly generic name (hard to search!)

"Formerly known as just DESTINY, THE DESTINY PROGRAM released two records under their former name, The Tracy Chapter (2004) and Diving Into Eternity (2001). The band embarked on some pretty extensive touring for those releases which included Europe, Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, the With Full Force Festival in Germany, and the Spirit X-Mass Tour together with Caliban, Fear My Thoughts, Neaera and others. It was more than the band ever expected but 2006 proved to be a difficult year for the band. Lineup troubles were followed by problems with copyrights and ultimately the band had to change its name to THE DESTINY PROGRAM."

Apparently the band would later morph into a more typical "metal" band along with the name change and signing to Nuclear Blast Records ... but this album serves as a pinnacle example of metalcore from the era. Chaotic riffing, instrumental tracks, emotional lyrics and an obvious desire to tread new water in the then-burgeoning metalcore scene. The few tracks I am hearing from their follow-up album The Tracy Chapter are sounding very quintessential themselves.

Anyone with any extra info ... feel free to post in the comments section.

DOWNLOAD

Blog Consolidation

I used to run two other blogs in addition to the Path To Misery blog: Pittsburgh Mosh & MoshSpot. These blogs were obviously a bit more centered on ... well ... mosh & Pittsburgh ... but that's OK because those subjects are fun to talk about.

I will be re-uploading both blogs' worth of material onto the Path To Misery blog. Sorry if you already have these uploads or aren't interested in them ... but I've been getting a lot of requests for them and now have a MediaFire Pro account with more storage space (thanks, Brent). The download links have all be inactive for a while so hopefully this is new to some of you, at least.



NO RETREAT: Discography



Running neck and neck with Hatebreed, No Retreat was the band most responsible for both my introduction to hardcore and mosh addiction. It was seeing this band every other weekend (primarily at the Millvale Industrial Theater) that really got me connected with the DIY, local hardcore scene back in 2000. They were the first band to show respect to my friends and I who were all of 14 and 15 at the time. They even went so far as to put my first band, Down To None, on a handful of their shows and gave us chances where very few others would. They embodied everything that I loved about hardcore at that time in my life and will forever remain one of my favorite hardcore bands because of it.

The earliest material from the band was their 1995 demo entitled "Familiarity Breeds Contempt" which was self-released on cassette. I've managed to track down several copies over the years but it is still quite rare from what I can tell. The band was centered in the Slippery Rock, PA area at the time due to several of the members attending college there. I've heard many tall tales of their shows from this era from everyone ranging from scene vets to substitute teachers at my high school. There was a much different line-up on this early material than what most of you have come to know from their final few offerings. While Shaun Below was always the drummer for No Retreat, this demo features "Mike" on guitar, "Steve" on bass and Cliff Dean on vocals (who also appeared on their infamous split with Passover). Being the original drummer for PAHC legends Krutch, Shaun Below brought an obvious influence over from the other side of the state for the early years of No Retreat. While No Retreat has always retained a somewhat similar style over the years, this earliest material has a sound moreso focused on the signature break-beat drumming made famous by the one and only PAHC. While the band was done playing these songs by the time I was starting to see them, I have visualized quite a bit of mental mosh to these tracks if I were to ever see them played live. The true beauty of the demo is that on the insert, it gives an e-mail address for contact purposes, but notes that it will only be checked between the months of September and May due to it being a school e-mail address. E-mail was quite luxurious back in 1995 apparently.

Next up for the band was the legendary split with Passover. I have actually already written up an article on this release earlier in the blog's history. While the blog primarily focuses on the Passover section of the split, you can view it HERE. As for No Retreat's contribution, it is essentially in the same vein of the 95 demo, but with a slightly heavier sound due to the addition of a second guitarist and a new bass player who would be responsible for writing most of the Rise Of The Underdog full length. Possibly one of the rarest CDs I've tried to come across, I have also managed to track down several copies of this release. Don't ask for one, though ... they're in the archives for all eternity.

Somewhere after this split release, several of the members exited the band, leaving Shaun Below and JC Moran to continue on with the project. JC's brother, Tommy, was brought into the mix as the guitarist while Frank Piontek was found as the new vocalist for the band. These new members brought an entirely different dynamic to the band and it was shown on their never-released-until-now demo they put together in 1998. I don't think this was ever officially released in the same manner of the 1995 demo. If my informants have given me correct information, this essentially served as a sort of pre-production for the Rise Of The Underdog full length. 4 out of 6 tracks on this demo re-appear a year later on the debut full length. The main difference in the demo and the full length however was the addition of a second guitarist. Codename: Diggums.

While No Retreat was preparing for the release of their Da Core Records debut, the other hardcore staple from the area, in the form of Built Upon Frustration, was in the process of breaking up. Guitarist Derek Kovacs joined up with No Retreat just in time to finish out the writing and recording of the Rise Of The Underdog full length. Recorded by Eric Klinger of Pro-Pain fame in his living room, this album proved to be the breaking point for No Retreat; finally reaching the crown of Kings of Pittsburgh Hardcore.

There isn't a person today (who still pits) in Pittsburgh that wouldn't speak highly of Rise Of The Underdog. One of the few albums (along with Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire) that could be moshed to in its entirety, No Retreat essentially wrote the book on beatdown hardcore as it stands today. With drumming that rarely reaches above mid-pace speed accented by death metal influenced guitar chugging that rarely reaches above the middle of the fret board, the album is destined for pit brutality from the first note of Facewreck. Featuring guest vocal spots by Chris Henzel of Mushmouth and Karl Krutch, the album is a mosh pinnacle in the PAHC history books.

The split release with Krutch was released not long after Rise Of The Underdog yet showed significant improvement in the song-writing and precision aspect of the band. Presumably credit for this can be given to now lead song writer Diggums. Vocalist Frank Piontek started to experiment slightly with more interesting vocal patterns that would eventually become essentially the trademark sound of the band. It would be on their next full length album that he would fully recognize and utilize his seemingly hip hop influened vocal patterns. 5 tracks were offered from both bands and saw its release on Thornz Records. Krutch served up possibly their finest material on this split as well.

As previously stated, the band would play out literally every other weekend and I was literally at every single performance. This trend continued for a few years until several of the members moved, got married and/or had kids and the band stopped playing out. The band had been placing new songs into the set gradually over time for the few years after Rise Of The Underdog had been released. Almost simultaneous with Hatebreed continually delaying the release of Proven, No Retreat had been promising a new album for several years before it actually came out.

Regretfully the Pray For Peace album was not released until nearly a year after No Retreat had unofficially disbanded. Most of the songs had never been played out live and still remain in this same state years later. The second full length shows much more musical diversity than on Rise Of The Underdog. I really feel that if the band had played out live on this album as much as they did in support of their first full length, these tracks would be every bit as legendary, if not moreso, than their predecessors.

Regretfully the world will never get to see a No Retreat reunion according to some sources. Claims that the time simply isn't there is the common reasoning amongst the ex-members who still mostly preside in the general Pittsburgh area. The one question that remains ... which of the four intros found on this discography would you mosh hardest for?


DOWNLOAD - Part 1 (1995 demo, Passover split, 1998 demo, Rise Of The Underdog)
DOWNLOAD - Part 2 (Krutch split & Pray For Peace)

THROUGH THE SHADOWS: Demo

I have been promising someone on a message board recently that I would post up the Through The Shadows demo that I own. He was under the impression that members of this band went on to form Kamikabe, which is definitely not the case. Through The Shadows was from Greensburg, PA and played out live from roughly 1999 until 2002 probably. They released a 4 song demo in 2000 and did not record again until the band was nearly broken up in 2002. There have been multiple different reports as to how many songs were recorded during this final session. Varying people in varying degrees of sobriety have sworn to anywhere from one to five songs being recorded in this final session. I've been constantly pestering for the past few years in hopes of acquiring more than one of these final recording session tracks if they actually existed.

I've come to the conclusion that they really only recorded one track, I Once Possessed, which IS included in this download. If the band truly only ever recorded one more track after their initial demo, it would be a true shame as the band genuinely started coming into their own towards the end of their existence. Reaching the point of having three guitarists and two vocalists, the live set from Through The Shadows in 2001 and 2002 was top notch. Essentially playing nothing from their initial 2000 Demo, the band has created an entire new set of songs which I have on multiple live show videos. I am going to work on uploading these within the next week or two.

Working in reverse, I'll now mention the band's style and debut release. Taking notes from local hometown heroes in Zao, the band crafted their own style through adding more standard hardcore influences than their Westmoreland County peers. A very dark sound was captured on this initial recording that is not often imitated in recent memory with most demos being recorded through computer programs and electronic drum sets. Also captured on this recording is a pretty accurate glimpse at what the band's live show was like. Rarely caught on tape in the world of hardcore, the intensity heard on the demo is respectably close what was experienced in a live setting.

I can't exactly put the words into place to properly describe this band, which is always a good thing and, in fact, will probably be quite common amongst my posts featuring bands from this area. I will do my best to post up accompanying video for as many posts as I can so that people outside of the area can maybe form some sort of understanding as to what bands from this area were going for.

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THE ZIMMERMANN NOTE: Discography



The Zimmermann Note started off in 2005 as a project between ex-members of Broken Free, Better Off Dead and Commit Suicide. Their take on the Swedish-inspired metalcore was lightyears beyond most of what was going on at the time. Despite being signed to Inner Strength Records (a Century Media subsidiary) for their debut EP, the band was highly underrated and probably were never too well known outside of Pittsburgh.

A 3 song demo was cut in 2005 and was quickly followed up by the 5 track EP offering, The New Deception, which was released on the Century Media subsidiary label. Two of the three initial tracks were re-recorded for the EP which was tracked by Eric Klinger of The Spudmonsters, Pro-Pain, and Built Upon Frustration who was recording most of the decent sounding metal albums coming out of Pittsburgh at the time. Facilitating not only perfectly structured melodic metalcore songs, the album also features great production and possibly an even-better bass tone. The technicality showcased on this EP was unparalleled by most of their contemporaries as members were coming from a tech-grind band amongst other projects.

Not long after the release of EP, the band saw the departure of both bassist Carey Davenport and vocalist Travis French ... both from the Broken Free aspect of the band. They were replaced in time for the band to record another three-song demo which was once again recorded by Eric Klinger in 2006. Despite similar bass playing, vocal stylings and recording environment, the effort was not as note worthy as the preceding EP. Don't get me wrong ... it still ran circles around most other metalcore floating around at the time, it was just not as appealing to me as whatever magic was contained on the New Deception EP.

The project disbanded not long after the recording of the 2006 demo. The dissolution of the band saw guitarist Damian returning to Gutrench, his long-standing hardcore project from the late-90s (which preceded Commit Suicide). Drummer Jordan Vilella would go on to join various other metal bands from around the city including Wrathcobra, Mammoth Bath, and most recently, Peregrine.

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KAMIKABE: The Early Years



The band started off in 2003 with their first show in my basement. Regretfully I have everyone's set from this night on video except for theirs. The earlier songs had a bit more of a screamo influence than probably anyone remembers. The debut 5 song demo featured two vocalists, one of which being the infamous "Dad" of the band. The band's core influence can still easily be recognized as the melodic metalcore that was happening at the moment on Lifeforce Records. Endthisday, The Year Of Our Lord and Beyond The Sixth Seal can be attributed to many of the riffs on this debut demo as well as their sophomore effort, The Eternal Fire EP.

Released just in time on the infamous Preserving Silence Records for their big gig opening up for Zao in 2005 at St Vincent's College, this new EP saw the band move moreso in the direction of moshy metalcore. While still maintaining the Swedish melodies and death metal inspired vocals, this recording saw the band head into a bit less serious direction than where their demo was leading them. Home Alone and Jurassic Park sound clips round out this offering to set off most of the relevant mosh parts on this album. As previously stated, Dad did not partake in this recording as vocal duties were left solely to Mikey Foster. The songs on this album were graced with song titles (as opposed to the demo in which the songs were numbered 1-5) and some clean vocal parts remained present.

The band would later re-record this EP with a new vocalist alongside a more death metal vibe. Each version has their likable qualities. The re-recording serving as a precursor for what was to come in the form of a stronger death metal influence with the original being the final testament to the band's early screamo influences.

Before the recording of their next demo EP, the vocalist who had re-recorded The Eternal Fire EP for the band (later re-released as The Anguish And Onward) had already quit to go full time with his other band, Sabreteeth. This new recording for 2006 would feature the vocal duties of Steve Jarret (previously of Black Hills) and would take the band one step further into their death metal journey. Featuring more gutteral vocals and blast beats than ever before, the band was essentially re-invented with this new effort. This line-up (as with most Kamikabe) would not last for long though as the vocalist would once again leave the band. Several years later, the band would once again re-record the vocals as a re-released offering with Geoff Ficco from Sabreteeth on vocals. This time around, what was previously known as Demo 2006 would be re-released as the Strength To Carrion EP.


At this point in time I think it would be safe to consider the band to be of the technical death metal persuasion. With a new full length offering that has been released on Unique Leader Records, the band continues in its progression towards whatever it is they are progressing towards.

With top notch musicianship always being the driving force of the band, one would wonder why this band has never really left southwestern PA during its earlier incarnation. It amazes me that Lifeforce Records didn't released The Eternal Fire alongside the aforementioned acts ...or that Relapse Records did not wise up enough to release  the Demo 2006 at the same time bands like Brain Drill were blowing up. The band is finally getting the recognition they deserve, however, alongside the release of their debut full length on Unique Leader Records and nationwide tours.

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REDLINE: Discography



I got to thinking about a Redline post whenever I posted about Black My Heart. I only found out about Black My Heart by seeing them open up for Redline in eastern PA at their final show. Before I even start writing, however, I just want to make it official that Redline was and is the most underrated hardcore band of all time. Mostly unheard of and mostly disrespected ... this is one of the best hardcore bands of the 2000s in my mind.

Redline is one of those band's who deserved/received the notorious every-song-mosh in Pittsburgh. I initially saw them when No Retreat brought them out for a show at The Millvale Industrial Theater in 2000. They were playing out on the weekends to support their self-titled debut full length. This album is actually better now when I listen back to it in comparison to all of the "beatdown hardcore" going down these days.

They played Pittsburgh multiple times (probably 6 or 7) over the years and I was either booking the show or at the very least moshing at it. While the album featured guest vocals by Sal Lococo from Sworn Enemy ... the live show in Pittsburgh usually consisted of the infamous Zane taking the mic for a good minute or two to perform the vocal spot. Redline always considered Pittsburgh be their second home and never played a bad show out here ... even when they played to 23 people on the 4th of July, 2002. Still to this day, the only show I've attended with 100% mosh participation.

Not long after this full length, the band did a split with Born From Pain out of Holland. Gangstyle Records would release this (as well as re-releasing their self-titled offering) in Europe without any sort of domestic release. It was on this release that Redline would both define and perfect their own sound within the "tough guy hardcore" realm. The band somehow managed to create an immense amount of energy despite never moving their songs out of the mid-paced realm of riffing and drumming. If you don't believe me, check out this video that was put together for the infamous Guerilla Warfare video of them...


It would be a short while before the band would return to the studio to record the Portrait Of A Mirror Image full length. Recorded in 2004, the album featured a style popularized by bands of today. While some songs would be re-recorded from the split with Born From Pain, a much more metallic feel was founded for this album.

Once again, the label duties would be handled by Gangstyle Records out of Holland. I pretty much accredit their label choice as being the main factor as to why Redline never got the recognition deserved in the US. In the early 2000s, Mp3s weren't available at the click of a finger (more like three clicks), so if there weren't copies of a disc floating around in distros to get kids talking ... you went relatively unheard of outside of the area in which your band played. I'm fairly certain Redline never toured either, so the extent of their legacy was pretty much confined to the tri-state area of PA, NY and their home state of NJ.

The band broke up only a month or two after the release of this album. Most copies would remain out of circulation and the band once again never received the credit deserved for the masterpiece album that they released. The band has yet to play a reunion show ... but if they do, I'm hoping it will be in one of the cities they always considered a second home: Pittsburgh.


DOWNLOAD ... and if you want a glimpse of what most hardcore band websites looked like in 2000... check out Redline's Angelfire page lol