Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vinyl Album of the Day is THE .357 STRING BAND - "Fire & Hail"

Vinyl Album of the Day is THE .357 STRING BAND - "Fire & Hail". Originally released in 2008 on CD, "Fire & Hail" was the 2nd album from this Wisconsin group who were one of the most talented and most important bands in the Roots, Underground Country/Bluegrass scene. The group formed in 2004 and featured four guys who all had ties to Punk, Hardcore and Heavy Metal, but had taken to playing a rousing take on Bluegrass filtered through those other influences, and in doing so created what they liked to call "Streetgrass". They released their debut album "Ghost Town" in 2006. Its a great album that features a number of killer jams including several that are still performed regularly in the live set of former member Jayke Orvis, such as "Shot Down" and "Raise The Moon". "Raise The Moon" was also later recorded by THE GODDAMN GALLOWS, after Orvis became a member, on their record "7 Devils".

Two more years of playing together coupled with near constant touring led to their magnum opus, 2008's "Fire & Hail". It was everything great about "Ghost Town", taken even further. The musicianship of the individual players is even more skillfull, their songwriting abilities had grown exponentially, and as a group their were even tighter as their chemistry had gelled even further do to all the time on the road. Sadly "Fire & Hail" would be the last album to feature the original line up, as some internal conflict led to Jayke Orvis's exit from the group in June 2009. The group would bring in Billy Cook to fill the void, and this version of the group would record and release the final .357 String Band album, "Lightning From The North", in 2010. The .357 String Band would call it quits the following year, in November 2011. Despite the break up, their legacy lives on in the form of the 3 excellent albums they made, the profound influence on the Roots scene and countless other bands, and also in music created since the break up by the individual members. Jayke Orvis has gone on to record 2 stellar albums, 2010's "Its All Been Said" & 2013's "Bless This Mess" with his "Broken Band". Joesph Huber has released 2 solo records that are also killer, those include 2010's "Bury Me Where I Fall" & 2012's "Tongues of Fire". Derek Dunn has also continued on as a solo artist, and has recorded an EP titled "Poisonous Serpents" but I dont know if its been released yet or not, and I really dont know what Bassist Rick Ness is up to these days. 
Another thing that helps to keep the legacy and memory of this amazing band alive is this beautiful vinyl reissue of "Fire and Hail". This LP was self released by the band in the Fall of 2012, with only 500 copies pressed on red and white vinyl. It was remastered and remixed specifically for this vinyl release and it sounds better than ever. There is an astounding clarity and attention to detail, but doesnt sink to antiseptic levels of polish or anything. Andy Gibson's production shines as perhaps never before and it has that wonderful analog warmth that you just cant get with a CD or MP3.

Side A opens with "Little Black Train of Death", a blazing Bluegrass jam that shows the boys in top form from the jump. The song actually begins and ends with old samples of "Death's Little Black Train" by Reverend J. M. Gates. Its a great start to the album and it just gets better from there. Next up is the title track "Fire & Hail", another barn burner that shows just how great of pickers these guys were, and how great of songwriters they had become by this point. "One More Round" follows and is a classic drinking jam, and is a bit more mid paced compared to the speed blasts of the first couple jams. It's a great, fun song that is memorable as hell with a knockout chorus. The Traditional Bluegrass tune, "Cluck ol' Hen" is up next and is maybe the fastest song on here and that is really saying something. It was songs like this that really set .357 apart from many of the other bands that were Punk guys who attempted to play Bluegrass. .357 had the chops musically to play with anyone, including traditional Bluegrass groups. They could play lightning fast and surgically precise and this song is a perfect example. They perfectly bridged the classic Bluegrass and Old Time String Band sounds with Punk and Metal attitude and a street life mentality. The fire and brimstone speed attack finally slows down when we get to "Black River Blues", a beautiful, melancholy song about infidelity and depression. It's great in its own right, but it also works well as a break in the fast songs and adds a bit of contrast. "Down on a Bender" kicks the speed back up and is another killer ode to drinking and hard living. We close out Side A with the album's lone "cover" song, "Glory, Amen" by THOSE POOR BASTARDS. Its somewhat ironic though as many people believed the song to be a .357 original as it appeared on "Fire & Hail" a couple before THOSE POOR BASTARDS would ever get around to releasing it on their 2010 album "Gospel Haunted", but TPB had been playing the song live for years and it was written by the one and only Lonesome Wyatt.

Side B begins with the ripping Bluegrass of "Holy Water" and quick jam that Orvis really shines on with his amazing Mandolin playing. It also happens to be the shortest song on the album at 2:11. "I'm Gone" continues the fast pace and is yet another awesome song led by Joseph Huber and his Banjo picking. Next, "Hold Me Tight" is the first song written by Jayke Orvis on this album. Its a beautiful and tender duet between Jayke and the always amazing Rachel Brooke. This song was my first introduction to Rachel Brooke, who Ive since become a big fan of, and it also foreshadows some of the great things Jayke would show us on his debut solo album, "It's All Been Said". "Darlene" comes next and is a return to faster territory. Its an awesome "woman done me wrong" type song and creates a nice dynamic with its placement between 2 slower songs. The next song, "Long Put Down That Gospel" is probably my all time favorite .357 STRING BAND song. Its a slower song with great fiddle work from Donnie Heron and probably one of the only Anti-Religion Bluegrass songs ever written. The lyrics are awesome and so well written, only to be backed by killer laid back picking and some sharp harmonies. Now, here there is a bit of weirdness.

The tracklisting on both the back of the album sleeve and the record it's self list the next song as "Two White Horses" followed by "Rollin' Down The Track", however, when you actually listen to the album these songs are flip flopped. "Rollin' Down The Track" plays first and is a great Banjo led jam that is entirely instrumental for the first half or so. It is followed by "Two White Horses" a shorter tune and again has solid Banjo presence. Its a great tune about being on the road, running, rambling, etc. Its got a killer underlying darkness to it as well. Finally, the album closes with "Blackship", written by Orvis, a cool little song that features the whole group singing in harmony on the chorus and also as backing for Jayke who sings the verses himself. There is no instrumentation in the song, only the vocals I mentioned, clapping, and what sounds like a metal pipe striking another metal object, in the background. Jayke has continued to perform "Blackship" as part of his live show with his current backing group, The Broken Band, and they also recorded the song for their newest album 2013's "Bless This Mess". The song closes out that album as well. This brings us to the conclusion of the album, and goddamn what an album it is. It remains the best album .357 ever did, as well as being one of the best and most important albums to the Roots/Underground Country/Bluegrass scene as well. As I mentioned before only 500 of these LP's were pressed and so they may be all gone now, I'm honestly not sure. I got mine from Jayke the first time Jayke Orvis & The Broken Band came through Terre Haute. All 500 copies are hand numbered as well, so that's another cool little thing. My copy is #189. So get "Fire & Hail" one way or another. At the very least get the CD but if you can find a copy, by all means, get it on wax.

PS if you did Jayke Orvis and would like to read more specifically about him, here is a piece I wrote a bit ago http://dodobirdzine.blogspot.com/2013/06/awesome-bands-you-should-know-jayke.html

Andy Sweitzer

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vinyl Album of the Day is OTESANEK - Final 12"

Vinyl Album of the Day is OTESANEK's final release. I guess its technically maybe self titled, but so is their first album, the one with the rams heads on the cover so this one has a sort of unofficial title of Final 12" as its a 12" record and it was their last release. It was released only on vinyl, in 2009, jointly, by Nancy Jo Records, Otesanek  and Reification of Misery Productions. OTESANEK was a band from Philadelphia that existed in the 00's, but called it quits before the end of the decade. They played a powerful combination of Doom, Death Metal, Drone, Sludge, etc and are one of my favorite "slow", heavy bands.

There were 500 copies pressed, with the first 111 copies including an extra linocut insert stenciled in human blood. It features 2 songs, both of which were recorded by Mick Mullen at Super 8 Studios in April 2007, the same session that their track "Seven Are They" comes from, which was released as part of "Fo(u)r Burials", the 4-way split with LOSS, MOURNFUL CONGREGATION, & ORTHODOX. The tracks were mastered by Prairie Cat Mastering. This 12" album features 2 songs in total, as I mentioned, with one track on each side of the record. Side A is "Resonance of War" and Side B is "Sanguinary".
The amazing cover artwork was done by Pippi Zornoza, who has continued to make killer art and music, so check her stuff out as well if you get the chance. The beautiful artwork is truly stellar and these pictures dont do it the full justice of actually holding the album in your hands and looking at the detail, but this will give you an idea.

"Resonance of War" begins with slow, massive, downtuned slabs of Droning Doom riffs, feedback, and low growls in the background. Its the patented sound of the mighty OTESANEK, slow, menacing, tortured and ominous. About 2 and a half minutes in the drums finally come in, and the corrosive destruction gets even uglier. Things continue on in uber slow and ugly fashion until about the 6 minute mark, when this Philly based crew of destroyers, kick into a speed burst that has been basically unseen from the band since their Demo days. The band had always played extremely slow, brutally heavy music that combined Death Metal, Doom, Sludge, and Drone with a sort of Experimental streak, but on their Demo, they also included a few faster parts even incorporating Blast Beats. So this fast section is something different from what OTESANEK had been doing, and the dynamic it creates is killer. Due to the slowness of the first 6 minutes, the fast part seems even more extreme and blazing, and when the slow, bone crushing heaviness returns about a minute later, it seems even slower by contrast. The vocals following the fast section are some of the most disgusting, gutwrenching vox Ive ever heard too, so thats another high point. They trudge slow and low again til about the 8 minute mark then kick off another fast section to take us out to the end at about 8:28.

"Sanguinary" opens with a bit of feedback and then a short fast section which is again kind of different for these guys. They alternate between their usual slow and devastating sound and these short blasts of faster stuff for a bit, then about a minute and a half in, everything pretty much comes to stop, and it just crawls for a bit, then we kind of return to the back and forth between the quick bits of chaos and the Death/Doom. Between 3:30 and 4 minutes we pretty much slow all the way down to nothing again, and we have just this tense minimalistic section where there is just a chug here and there from the guitar and very little else save a percussion hit here or there. About the 6 minute mark, shit gets super heavy again, and the vocals come back a bit different than usual, in that some of it isnt super low and guttural but more strained and wretched. Its just slow and crushing here for a couple minutes, then by about 8:30 we've slowed almost down to a stop again. From there it gets noisier and nosier until the finish at just over 9 minutes.

And that's it, the record is over and so was the band. The band had actually called it quits prior to the release of this record and so this release was basically their swan song. Some of the liner notes are also imbued with the finality as there is Thank You's for those you "understood". OTESANEK was a killer band that existed in the deep Extreme Metal Underground and during their existence, never got the recognition they deserved, and still are largely unknown.

They only put out a handful of songs spread across 5 releases, but I suppose on the upside, all those songs are pretty long, so you get more material in a few songs than you would alot more tracks by a Grind band with 30 second songs. Its interesting that this record, their final release, has 2 of their "shorter" songs, compared to previous material. These tracks, and the one from the same session that was used on the "Fo(u)r Burials) split are all shorter than anything else they released except for a song or 2 on their Demo. OTESANEK released a total of 9 songs in their existence, The Demo tape from 2002 features 4 songs (clocking 32:35), the 2004 self titled CD features 2 songs (clocking 30 mins), the 2007 split with COFFINS features 1 song (clocking 22 mins), the 2008 4-way split "Fo(u)r Burials" features 1 song (clocking 8:33), and finally this 2009 final record features 2 songs (clocking 17:29). So when you break it down, they released only 9 songs, but its just over 100 minutes of music, so they average over 11 minutes in length. This group did something truly powerful and unique and if you're a fan of extremely heavy, visceral, ugly music then I encourage you to check these guys out. Particularly if you're a fan or Extreme Doom, Funeral Doom, Death/Doom, Drone, etc. If you are interested in OTESANEK and would like to read a more in depth piece about their entire existence, check out this "Awesome Bands You Should Know...OTESANEK" piece I wrote, here.... http://dodobirdzine.blogspot.com/2013/03/awesome-bands-you-should-knowotesanek.html .

If you would like to here one of these jams here is "Sanguinary"...

If you would like to purchase this record, here is a Discogs link...

Andy Sweitzer

Vinyl Single of the Day is N.W.A. - "Panic Zone"

Released in 1987 by Macola Records and Ruthless Records, "Panic Zone" is an EP from the legendary Rap group, N.W.A. was the very first release from the legendary group. This EP basically introduced the world to Eazy E, Dr. Dre, & Ice Cube, although pretty much the whole crew is on the cover. The cover photo is also the same image as was used later on the first N.W.A. album, "N.W.A. & The Posse" which was basically a compilation of tracks from this EP, a few from the Fila Fresh Crew and a couple others marketed as a full on N.W.A album. The "Panic Zone" record features only 5 songs, "Panic Zone", "Dope Man (Radio Edit)", "8 Ball (Radio Edit), "Dope Man", & "8 Ball".

The record opens with "Panic Zone" which is not really a "normal" N.W.A. type song, and in truth was written by a Mexican rapper known as Krazy Dee, with it's original title being "Hispanic Panic". This title was changed to "Panic Zone" after Dr. Dre suggested that the "Hispanic Panic" title would potentially hurt sales. The next 2 tracks are the Radio Edits of  "Dope Man" and "8 Ball", followed by the regular versions. "Dope Man" is a classic track was remixed and included on "Straight Outta Compton". This original version is largely an Ice Cube track although Eazy E does appear for a verse toward the end. "Dope Man" is also notable because it was the first collaboration between Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince. "8 Ball" is another classic that would be remixed and used on "Straight Outta Compton" as well. It is essentially an Eazy E song as he delivers all the verses but does feature Dr. Dre's production. Really this record is not an "Album" but rather a Single, although its ironic in that it was a Single for "Panic Zone" the weakest song on here. The other 2 songs would become classics, while "Panic Zone is largely forgotten". However, regardless of how good this record is or whats on it, the most important thing about it is its historical significance, in that it was the very first release from N.W.A., a group that would have a profound impact, at the very least, on Rap music, if not Music in general or even parts of American culture.

Andy Sweitzer

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

7" of the Day is FUCKING INVINCIBLE - "Downtown is Dead"

FUCKING INVINCIBLE is a band from Rhode Island, featuring current and former members of DROP DEAD, SOUL CONTROL, DAUGHTERS, SWEET JESUS, etc. The group released a debut EP through Atomic Action Records on 7" vinyl, "Very Negative" on December 31, 2012, as well as 2 tracks on a comp called "You Cant Kill Me I'm Already Dead" featuring other RI bands. "Downtown is Dead" is the groups most recent release. The 7" EP was released by Atomic Action Records May 24, 2013. The effort features 8 new jams, as did the debut EP. "Downtown is Dead" is definitely inline stylistically with what FUCKING INVINCIBLE did on their debut in that they play violent Hardcore with elements of Powerviolence and Grind, but they do bust out enough new bits to add something different on this release.

The record opens with "Await Further Instruction" which starts off with some Doomy riffs and a sample from "Rosemary's Baby" then kicks into a short fast bit, before going into a midpaced, groove oriented section. "Too Much Black" follows and is a fast, ripping jam that tears through its run time in just under a minute. Next, "Ingested and Infested" is another blazing jam that incorporates a bit of Punk rock into its Powerviolence and Hardcore romp. "Coffin Chaser" opens with shrill feedback before exploding into a blasting fast section then resolving in a nice groove, all in less than 30 seconds. "On Paper" follows and opens with some slow, Doom riffs and Lex screaming "What the fuck!", from there we go into a fast blitzkrieg attack, before returning to slow Doom style bit for the close. "The Both of Us are Dying" is next and is the shortest track at only 13 seconds. Its a killer little Punk jam that is one of the most memorable songs Ive ever heard that was less than 15 seconds long. Now we have "A Coma" that alternates between fast Grind/Powerviolence parts and more midpaced grooving parts. The album closes with "Stand Perfectly Still", which opens with another sample, this time from the excellent film "Under The Volcano". The sample is the awesome line, "Hell's my preference. I choose Hell. Hell is my natural habitat. The song is the longest track on the record at about 2 and a half minutes and it brings the album to a fittingly violent end.

If you like fast, noisey, violent Hardcore with elements of Powerviolence, Punk, and occasionally a slower more Doomy bit for a few seconds, then you should get this right now. I would definitely also recommend this record to fans of the members previous bands. I first checked out FUCKING INVINCIBLE because I'm a huge fan of DAUGHTERS and I heard F/I was their vocalist, Alexis Marshall's new band. Now, that said F/I doesnt really sounds a whole lot like DAUGHTERS as its not nearly as weird and spazzy as that, but both groups are excellent. Another big difference is that Lex is not using the "drunken Elvis meets drunken Southern preacher" vocals he used on the last 2 DAUGHTERS albums, "Daughters" and "Hell Songs". Here he employs a much harsher, shrill scream that fits quite well with the jams at hand, and so in that context, its cool to hear Lex screaming his guts out for the first time since DAUGHTERS' first album "Canada Songs". 700 copies were pressed of "Downtown is Dead", with 100 White, 100 Clear, 200 Blue, and 300 Black. The Clear 7"s were only sold on tour and are now sold out, as are the White records. My copy is Blue and I believe there are still Blue and Black available. The 7" is only $5 and comes with a free Digital Download as well. You can also choose to just do the Digital Download for only $3.50. You can listen to the jams and see what you think or complete a purchase here.... http://atomicactionrecords.bandcamp.com/album/downtown-is-dead , and there are also links for the "Very Negative" EP, the Compilation I mentioned, and their Demo.

Andy Sweitzer

Saturday, August 3, 2013

7" of the Day -- KATA SARKA & BODDICKER - "The David Lee Gorgoroth EP"

 7" of the Day is the KATA SARKA // BODDICKER split, "The David Lee Gorgoroth EP". This 7" vinyl version was released just this year by Reality is a Cult, a killer little label based out of Bloomington, IN. It was previously available on Cassette, through 18 is 9,  in a limited run of 100 tapes, which are long sold out. This vinyl 7" edition is still available I believe but is also a limited run of only 500 copies, all on Black vinyl. So lets get to the actual jams at hand.

Side A is sees Indianapolis's lords of Crusty Black Metal, KATA SARKA, deliver 2 killer jams. The first track is "Mired In Spleen", as savage romp through Black Metal, Crust, Hardcore Punk, & a bit of D-Beat. Its raw, visceral, and violent. It clocks in at a little under 5 minutes and is pure devastation throughout. This track is also the opening jam on their most recent release the amazing, "Crucible of Misanthropy". "Poaching The Boar" continues the onslaught, and is no less intense. Its about a minute shorter, clocking in around 3:38, and again proves why KATA SARKA are one of the Underground's most promising bands.

These 2 tracks were recorded by Carl Byers in April 2012. Byers continues to get excellent recordings from bands under his Clandestine Arts Recordings banner, when he's not killing it in another of Indy's most devastating bands, COFFINWORM. If you check this out and dig what you hear, definitely check out KS's other releases as they have a few of them now. I would especially recommend the "Existential Oblivion" cassette or the "Crucible of Misanthropy" cd.

Side B of this little monster record comes to us from Indy's  BODDICKER. These guys deliver 4 jams on their half of this split, with the opener being "Every Crime A Trophy". Its fast, raw, and just fucks you up with Crust covered Powerviolence and Grind. For a little over 2 minutes, they absolutely assault you with this aural beatdown. If you dig NAILS, you have to check out this fucking band. "Choice" is up next and is the shortest track on here. Its a 26 second blitzkrieg that melts faces. "Rise of the Downtrodden" follows and is a killer battle between bad ass groove ridden sections, and faster paced blasts. Its the longest track on the BODDICKER side, but still is only about 2 and a half minutes. They close things out with the filth ridden Grind of "They Fix Everything". Aggravated Battery never sounded so goddamn good.

BODDICKER's tracks on here were also recorded by Carl Byers, but in Detroit, with The Clandestine Arts Mobile Studio, in May 2012. If you dig Extreme Metal, particularly Black Metal with a helping dose of Crust, and Crust infused Grind/Powerviolence, then you must check out this split EP. From there you can check out KATA SARKA and BODDICKER's individual efforts.

Andrew Glen Sweitzer