Friday, December 19, 2014

Best of 2014

I know I don't do reviews regularly on here anymore, but I still like doing my annual "Best of..." post. So what you get is a detailed review/list. Obviously I would highly recommend all of the releases on this list, please support the bands and labels making things happen currently. I feel like this year I didn't get as many records as I normally would. But despite starting a new job and moving to a new apartment, I feel I still gotten a ton of great new records. A lot of amazing bands have been coming from Boston and the UK (most having some connection to the Rival Mob and Violent Reaction).
*In the time it took to write this, some of my "Anticipated Releases for 2015" got released. Not to say they don't warrant a spot on this list, but I haven't had a chance to fully digest them.*

On the label front, Bleeding Edges Label released 5 tapes (only one being a demo). I've made a Bandcamp page for people to listen and download everything, and made some cool new wholesale connections. I got to do a new EP for one of my favorite 2000's era edge bands, Black SS. I got a new band of my own, Blunt Force, which has started playing shows. Did 2 promo cassingles- for Protester and Razorheads' new 7"s, which got a great reception. It's always good to see the bands I worked with grow, and do more records and gain more notoriety. No plans of stopping in 2015, so keep an eye out!

Best 7"s of 2014:
1. Protester- s/t (Trash King Productions)
Protester has been pretty productive the past year; toured the US this summer, did a promo tape with me (for this EP), and even announced their next EP will be on BBB Records. This band started out as the brain child of Connor, who currently plays in Red Death, Genocide Pact and others. The Protester sound mixes the hardness of bands like Confront, with the early 80's more punk sounding HC from Boston and NYC. Their intro on here is killer, definitely going to be turning some heads this year

2. Violent Reaction- Dead End (Painkiller / Quality Control Records)
The boys are back with their first record as a full band. It's a bit more full sounding, but same VxR we know and love. Musically there is a bit more oi/punk than HC vibe, which was hinted at on songs on previous records, just more prominent now. Crazy that their next LP will be out on Revelation Records, which hopefully means they will come back to the USA again. This band, and their associated projects are all great.

3. Peacebreakers- Everyday Battle (Rock N Roll Disgrace Records)
Peacebreakers' demo had some killer songs, but sounded like it was recorded in a dumpster. This 7" blows it away though with a lot more power. I get a heavy Out Cold vibe from some of the riffs, but there is some more sing along to the choruses. This band has 3/5 of Boston Strangler, so it should already have your attention Anyway, this record rips, and worth tracking down.

4. Savageheads- s/t (Twerp Records)
The Savageheads demo was so good, really catchy heavily influenced by the Partisans punk. The 7" has one song re-recorded plus 3 new ones. Aside from a cleaner sound, the song writing doesn't diverge further from the demo. Apparently this band is 3/4 of Bloodkrow Butcher, but sounds totally different. I really like this band, hopefully they do an LP soon.

5. Oblivionation- Cult of Culture (Man In Decline Records)
Being a huge Out Cold fan, Oblivionation was immediately on my radar (since they share a drummer). They actually recorded this after their LP, which as of now still isn't officially out yet. This is their first with their new bass player, and they continue playing punishing hardcore without missing a beat. Hopefully their LP receives a more wide release soon, because that is great as well.

Best LPs of 2014:
1. Boston Strangler- Fire (self released)
I have loved The Boston Strangler since their demo a few years ago, loved their Primative LP, and been following the various demos and promo tapes in the mean time. Despite having heard most of these songs in some form or another, this LP really blew me away. I feel like their sound evolved, and in a good way. The recording is a bit more polished, and the songwriting got a bit more complex. The album ends with a piano part, like a Faith No More song, but that's not a bad thing-it's great. The first press sold out pretty quick, but it's definitely worth waiting for, if you have to.

2. The Flex- Wild Stabs In The Dark (Video Disease Records)
The Flex has really evolved over the past few years. I was lucky enough to catch them 3 times on their recent US tour, and each time was awesome! The recording is a lot cleaner than their 7", and the song writing has definitely gone toward the late 80's NYHC sound. This record was my go to gym record for a few months, (only to be replaced by the Hounds of Hate LP) and I definitely got caught treadmill moshing more than once. Their next record will be on Lockin Out, which is crazy.

3. Battle Ruins- s/t (Rock N Roll Disgrace Records)
One of the more popular of The Rival mob's side projects, Battle Ruins released a demo a few years back (later put on a record). One time I described their sound to a friend as "skinheads at Medieval Times," and I stand by that. The music straddles a Oi meets NWOBHM sound, in that the vocals are sung and the music is mid-paced. When this record went up for sale, it sold out of 500 copies in a few hours. Definitely worthy of the hype, maybe they'll play a show one day.

4. Hounds Of Hate- Hate Springs Eternal (self released/BHF)
The Hounds are back with another smokin' LP. They've been putting in a lot of touring, including the US and Europe, and somehow found the time to release a new LP on their own label. Their sound definitely has that late 80's NYHC "New Breed comp" sound. I love that stuff, but find that 99% of bands that stick just to that sound suck, but HOH have a more punk backbone. They can easily play a show with some punk band in a basement, or with some hyped hc band in a club. They should be touring all over this year, make sure to catch them.

5. The Combat Zone- s/t (Side Two Records)
I caught The Combat Zone at some random show last winter, when they were on tour with Lude Boys, and both bands blew me away. They play some gruff oi influenced hardcore. Definitely staying more to the punk side of the 86 Mentality sounding bands. This is one of those hidden gem records I haven't seen too many people talk about, but it's great and the songs will get stuck in your head.

Best demos of 2014:
1. Arms Race 
Arms Race dropped their demo late last year, but had a US release this year (this is how I'm justifying it). The band has a few members of the now defunct Stab, but taking more influence from early Agnostic Front and Crucifix. The vocals are brutal and sung in a thick British accent, which makes it definitely stand out from the pack. Their new 7" is out in England, with a US release on Painkiller, and it is incredible. Stoked to see them in the US next year.

2. Ajax
This demo may have also come out late last year, but I got it this year (it was also released on vinyl by Even Worse Records). Ajax is a new band from NY with some people from Creem I believe. Musically, it reminds me of Totalitar, but with a more USHC slant. Very cool

3. Red Death
Red Death is a new Washington DC HC band, taking heavy cues from Corrosion of Conformity (particularly the Animosity LP). Definitely more metallic than hardcore, but sure as hell ain't metalcore. I grew up on metal, and that crossover stuff was always super cool to me, and these guys to it really well, mixing in a Cro-Mags vibe. Stoked for their LP coming out on Grave Mistake.

4. Crown Court
Members of Violent Reaction playing some awesome oi punk. Bands like Sham 69, Menace and the early (pre-bonehead) Skrewdriver come to mind, since it is very melodic and catchy. This isn't some hardcore/oi hybrid, it's pure UK punk. Really great, stoked for their 7", which should be out in early 2015

5. Response
Some badass straight edge hardcore punk from CA right here (can't remember the last time I could have said that about a band). Musically taking big cues from early Youth Of Today and Side By Side style NYHC, but with some Negative Approach bite to it. Definitely some good singalongs, without some of the overly cheesy typical straight edge lyrics.

Honorable Mentions:
V/A- Stomp-I-Lation, Razorheads- s/t, Cardiac Arrest- In The Mouth Of Madness, Pure Disgust- s/t, Body Count- Manslaughter, Missionary- American Strike, OblivionationJock's Blood demo, Shrapnel demo, Pitfall 7"

Best Reissues:
Autistic Behavior- Shattered Cattle, SOA- First Demo, Sacrilege- Time to Face the Reaper, Lip Cream- s/t, Lovely Lads- The Best You've Got, Offenders- Endless Struggle /We Must Rebel, YDI- A Place in The Sun

Anticipated Releases for 2015:
Violent Reaction LP, Vacant State- Chained EP, Spine- Time Has Gone LP, Arms Race- Gotta Get Out 7", No Tolerance LP, Mental Abuse- Streets of Filth reissue, Barge LP, Forseen- Helsinki Savagery LP, Night Birds LP, Protester 7", Red Death LP, Shrapnel 7", Ajax 7", Crown Court 7", Chain Rank LP