Trash – Watch Out

Watch Out   1984 RCA Europe Recordings

Note before reading my review: I readily and proudly admit that Trash is one of my guilty pleasures from 1980′s metal. I got their lone American release (on Atlantic records in 1985) and only in the past 2 years became acquainted with its far superior predecessor, hence this review.

Alright, first things first.  I got Trash’s lone American release Burnin’ Rock when it came out in 1985.  I loved the fact that a band would be so brazen to call themselves Trash, so I just had to find out for myself.   Honestly, I felt that AC/DC was in a bit of a rut creatively at the time and it seemed obvious to me that Atlantic records was looking for someone to take their place and Trash halfways fit the bill whatwith their painfully simple toonz.  However, the album was half good (not great) and half crap for my ears…but dammit, the enthusiasm of the band whipping every mediocre riff to death halfway won me over.

Then I looked them up (don’t ask me why…I have no legitimate answer) on Spotify just for shits an giggles and lo-and-behold I discovered that they had a release PRIOR to the one I was familiar with.  I just couldn’t help myself.  Make no mistake, this is no steaming reinvention of anything, but I’ve been listening to it incessantly for the past couple of months and thought it deserved a good review.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for ANY band making an attempt at an English language album when English is very obviously their second language (i.e. album closer No More Rock Tonight…umm…WTF?).  I recently read the Wikipedia page on Jim Croce and saw a quote from him that sums it up for me…he and his band were picked to do a foreign exchange tour of Africa, Yugoslavia and the Middle East and he said “We just ate what the people ate, lived in the woods, and played our songs. Of course they didn’t speak English over there but if you mean what you’re singing, people understand.”

That really sums it up for me with this album.  As I stated earlier, it’s no steamin’ reinvention of anything, but as you will also read elsewhere in The Sonic Abyss enthusiasm and conviction win the day with me.  This album is full of both…riffs you’ve heard a million times before, but never like this.  Lyrics you’ve heard a million times before, but never like this.

I’ve got to agree with Martin Popoff (my fave music writer/reviewer, bar none) when he said that lead-off track Vicious is the most kickin’ cover of a Lou Reed song ever.  It is…in spite of lead singer Tony-Roy Taylor’s trouble enunciating the word (he pronounces it as “Wicious”)…and it just doesn’t matter because the song kicks ass.  That’s where the aforementioned Jim Croce quote comes into play…if you mean what you’re singing, people understand.

You can find fault with any song on here…you can also find some real sincere rockin’ joy if you put your prejudice aside and just let the music breathe into you.  Drop and Die has some tasty lead guitar licks all over the place that harken back to the best FM radio album cuts you love.  That’s really what drives this album…a sense of innocent wonder and joy with regard to the sound of a good, distorted electric guitar playing chords that are heartfelt.   Check out Name of the Game…tell me you wouldn’t just love hearing this song coming out of nowhere on your favorite station in the middle of the night.  Yes, the lyrics again showcase the fact that English is their second language but I just don’t give a shit.

Some albums are better for their imperfections, and I’ll take sincerity with imperfections over perfect insincerity any day.  Watch Out is a fun album that sounds to me like a pre-Internet age Scandinavian hard rock band trying to take full advantage of their one opportunity to crack the American rock market.  I can’t fault any band for that when the result is an album that sounds like, to reference the aforementioned Jim Croce quote, they MEAN it.

This is one of those albums that is better for its imperfections and innocence.  It brings me back to those glorious “music is everything” high school daze, and because of that I’ll always love it.   The English-as-second-language thing may take some getting used to, but I guarantee you’ll be laughing WITH them and NOT at them when it’s over.

Overcome your guilt and enjoy Abysmally:)

Rating:  3.5 – 4 out of 5  (I can’t decide, but on a good day it’s a 4.  Enthusiasm wins out.)
Download Trash’s album Watch Out from Amazon.com.

Order Trash’s album Watch Out from Amazon.com.

Black Breath – Sentenced To Life

Black Breath Sentenced To Life album cover2012 Southern Lord Records
Oh my God, where do I even begin?  From the Kill ‘em All meets Power of the Night album cover to the mercilessly relentless onslaught of primed and ready buzzsaw guitar to the completely OTT vocal spewages of lead throat Neil, Sentenced to Life is one of the few albums I’ve ever heard that can rival the levels of pure electricity created by Slayer or Entombed at full throttle.  The fact that the band proudly pays homage to their impressive metal roots only makes me love the album more (check out the Celtic Frost font they use on the Razor to Obliveon EP…aces!).
All this rave and I haven’t even gotten to the music…yet.
To get right to the point, this relentless and most welcome migraine headache of an album never lets up for a second.   Feast of the Damned kicks things off in style and you immediately know what you’re in for.  Never sacrificing groove when they hit the accelerator, the title track keeps the party going as the impossible power and energy abuses your woofers and tweeters like an unstoppable sledge with nary a second to spare for solos.
In fact, one of the coolest things about Sentenced To Life is the underlying punk/hardcore ethic with the emphasis squarely on the power and delivery of the riff.   This works in spades for Black Breath, as all too often a band like this overstates the point with songs that are longer than they need to be either through over-repetition of riffs or long noodling solos.  Now I love a good guitar shred as much as anyone, but sometimes it’s just not necessary.  In the case of Sentenced To Life, brevity works in the band’s favor as every song is as long as it needs to be, making for an album that is admittedly short but also demands repeated listens because of it. This ain’t music for the faint of heart.
The white-hot mix puts brutal guitar and bass up front with the tight and powerful drums beating the hell out of everything in their path and the aforementioned Neil letting it all out in unrestrained fashion that would make Tom Araya and LG Petrov proud.  “Sentenced to life…terrified of living, too scared to die.”  Has there ever been a more ridiculously hopeless OTT line in any lyric?  So OTT that I really get the sense that I’m laughing with them…certainly not at them.
I dunno…from the unchained electricity of the mix to the brutally spirited performances and a raft of kickin’ tunes, this album is a workout of the highest order.  And the brevity of it all doesn’t bother me a bit…I’d rather just have a half hour of excellence than an hour long disc that I have to skip through to find said treasured half hour. This one’s a winner.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Buy Sentenced to Life at Amazon.com.

Download Sentenced to Life at Amazon.com.

Coroner – Mental Vortex

Swiss death metal Coroner1991 Noise Records

One of the all-time great death metal albums and probably THE most underrated and overlooked.  I’ll never forget buying this CD right before a peaceful vacation trip to Arkansas in 1991.  I literally bought the CD as I was heading out of Baton Rouge for some time in the mountains in Arkansas to camp, hike and look for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park (I found one, too…a quarter carat).  It still makes me laugh to this day that this CD was basically my soundtrack for quality time with nature.

I followed Coroner from the time I saw the video for Masked Jackal on MTV, as there was something different about them that drew me in to their sound.  While their first 3 albums got progressively better (No More Color really set the table for this feast), there was no way to be entirely prepared for the total brilliance here.   Heavy as hell, tight as Stewart Copeland’s snare drum head, razor sharp, technically superb and an absolute embarrassment of (hook) riches, Mental Vortex sounds every bit as fresh today as it did in 1991.  Some music is so well done that it just transcends everything.

Starting off with Divine Step, Coroner showcases a true rollercoaster of rhythm and velocity, never collapsing into the sometimes hysterical and meandering speed-for-speed’s-sake that made previous albums a tad uneven.  This disc showcases a band firing on all cylinders and finding a sound they can call their own.  Whereas thrash and speed metal bands at the time often lost all of their power when they sped up the tempos, here Marquis Marky commands all velocities with equal power.   After the the speedy and stop-on-a-dime tight opening track, we get the first taste of Coroner’s relentless power groove on Son of Lilith…which is improved upon even more on my fave track Semtex Revolution.

I have only come across one list of essential thrash metal bands that has includes Coroner, much less this album in particular…I’m sure there must be more, but this is the only one I’ve personally seen.   Damn if every song on this disc isn’t almost letter perfect…the kinds of riffs you dream about and then can’t remember when you wake up.  Not a wasted track or a wasted note to be found anywhere and Tommy T. Baron’s performance is pure Guitar Hero from razor-sharp riffs to his technically dexterous yet amazingly melodic solos.

Phat grooves and tight, rhythmic riffs that will be stuck in your head for years.  Arrangements and constructs are just perfect.   Even an ill-advised but quite bold cover of I Want You (She’s So Heavy) by the Fab Four (Phab Phour?) comes off with a nudge, a wink, a punch in the gut and some melody that makes it work in its own weirdly charming way.  Elsewhere, this is simply Coroner’s finest hour where the planets aligned and everything sounds progressive yet effortless.

Absolute masterpiece.  And right up there with Obituary as two of my all-time favorite death metal band names.

Rating:  5 out of 5
Download Corner’s Mental Vortex

Buy Coroner’s Mental Vortex CD

Trackside Productions

Trackside Zachary, LA

It’s amazing how when I was in high school in the 80′s, it was virtually impossible to do a decent home demo tape unless you had the bucks to buy a TASCAM or other 4-track tape recorder.  Even then, unless you mastered the art of bouncing tracks and mixing properly, you wound up with usually a muddy mess of sound that didn’t properly represent the song you were hearing in your head.

My how times have changed.   My son has been promoting young artists in his school and community, from acoustic to hip-hop, under the name Trackside Productions and it’s amazing what people as young as high school age can do in home studios these days.  Check out the Trackside Productions website and sample music from their artists including Aaron Day, Crisis, Tweezy, Pluto and more.

Visit Trackside Productions website.

Electric Love Hogs – Electric Love Hogs

Electric Love Hogs   1992 London Records

One of my favorite things about the early-mid 1990′s (when alternative was struggling to find its identity) is albums like this. Albums that exist outside of trends and manage to sound like they were created in a vacuum. Influences are abound and evident, yet the music and album sound fresh and quite original.

Mind Bomb, Nudeswirl and others come to mind. Bands that released one, maybe two albums and kinda disappeared…and the one or two albums they left are timeless and arguably classics. Once you hear how excellent and, in some cases, innovative the music is, it becomes all too evident that the marketing department at said band’s label just had no clue what to do with the finished “product.”

In the case of Electric Love Hogs, in my not-so-humble opinion, they were just too real and just too good to fit in with the then in-vogue hair metal bands.  Problem was that they were also just a tad too accessible to be embraced by the alternative/grunge collective.

Too bad for both, as this debut album (their only output that I’m aware of) is just alive with cool riffs and licks.  Tribal Monkey kicks off the proceedings with a capital PARTAAAY and shows two guitarists juiced and primed to kick some ass.  Lead throat John Feldmann sounds great when using his normal range but can grate at times when he does the fortunately-only-occasional scratchy helium squeal.

Mr. Fun, I Feel Like Steve (great title), Keep Getting Up and the almost-Metallica The Fix are just a few highlights from what is a really fun album.  The twin-guitar solo work on the latter just levels the place.  Just Another Day  closes out the album in fine schizophrenic fashion with both successful and failed experimentation that once again wins with conviction.

Making this even more cool is the “Where Are They Now” with regard to Electric Love Hogs.  Check out their Wikipedia page and read about their close ties to Goldfinger, Orgy, Handsome, Lit, Sugartooth and the Sons of Anarchy show.

There are a few letdowns in terms of hooks on a slight few tunes, Pud in particular cramming in way too many pointless changes and even more intelligence-insulting lyrics.  But there’s never a letdown in energy, and the guitars on the weaker songs still shred.  Totally committed performances, just enough cool fwap bass, and (to quote my fave music journalist of all time, Martin Popoff) absolutely paint stripping axework.

Rating:  4 out of 5
Buy Electric Love Hogs

Download Electric Love Hogs [Explicit]

Which Bands Should Have Been Bigger Than They Were?

(Note from Moosejuice:  It’s really cool sometimes to find out from other writers who they think are the best unknown or overlooked bands.  Robert here came up with some really good ones.)

The history of the music industry is littered with bands that looked as if they had everything in their proverbial locker, but never really made it big.

How do we define making it big?

For the purposes of this argument, we’ll look at selling out stadiums on world tours, having albums that went multi-platinum, and just the general sound that a band produced.

Which bands should have been bigger than they were, and what got in their way?

Super Furry Animals

It is perhaps easy to identify where it all went wrong for this Welsh group, as they started out in 1993 just as the likes of Pulp, Suede, Oasis and Blur were riding the crest of the ‘Britpop’ wave that many who were growing up in that era still cling to today.

A lot of their work was critically acclaimed, too, it just happened to be the case that a lot of bands were releasing five-star rock and roll at the time, and someone had to miss out.

Still, the Super Furry Animals maintain something of a cult following around the world to this day, although they tend to make their living from being a ‘recognized name’ support act rather than headliners in their own right.

The Music

The Music’s problems could easily be seen as similar to those of the previous band. Although their brand of alternative rock was fresh, snappy, and great to listen to, they suffered from the likes of Muse and Coldplay emerging in the UK at the turn of the century.

Elsewhere around the world, the emergence of the Foo Fighters as global stars, a reborn Green Day, and a questionable liking of American ‘nu-metal’ meant that there weren’t many places left for them to go.

They still got three great albums into their career and played some great venues as support for top bands, but there’ll always be the feeling they should have been a main headline act themselves.

The Darkness

Don’t get us wrong, The Darkness did well, but after bursting onto the scene with frontman Justin Hawkins’ staggering falsetto voice in late 2002, world domination seemed to beckon.

What followed was a string of controversies and an ill-advised attempt by Hawkins himself to become the UK representative for the Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago. The band split, reconciled, and are now touring and recording once again, but there aren’t any grand proclamations over how far they’re going to go this time.

The Hives

The Swedish rockers have had cult success around the world, and have some of the most definitive, instantly recognizable songs of the last fifteen years.

Truth be told, that is probably the way they would have wanted it to be – nothing about the band has ever screamed ‘mainstream’ – but there is no doubt that they could have been a dominant musical force in another time.

Why didn’t it happen for them? It is hard to day, but perhaps the biggest reason has been the number of bands trying new sounds and ideas in recent years.

What do you think? Should these bands have been bigger, or did they find their level where they belong?

Robert is an online content writer with a passion for the music industry, and has been inspired by some of the bands listed to the extent that he started to learn guitar online for himself, although it remains to be seen whether he’ll ever make it big!

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Nocturne

Nocturne live albums1983 Geffen Records

I can still remember getting this album as a senior in high school at Paradise Records and Tapes in Baton Rouge, LA just off the LSU campus.  Paradise isn’t there any more, but man do I have a lot of great memories of that place, from going in every Tuesday to check out the new releases (mainly metal) to store owner (and all ’round good dude) Sam Irwin tolerating me playing some metal albums on the store sound system when I worked there.

This album is my very first memory from there and I still laugh when I think about it.  Being a metalhead and rockhead, I was more than unfamiliar with Siouxsie and the Banshees other than their name at that time.  When I walked in the store, I heard a song playing that sounded to me like a live Robert Plant recording and asked the store clerk if that was a new Robert Plant live album.

Yep.

The fact that she didn’t laugh hysterically at the question is a minor miracle, but hey I was a senior in high school and wasn’t well versed in very much music outside of my beloved heavy metal and classic rock.  And she was quite pretty…I believe her name was Eileen Vicknair…and she was very nice when she told me that it wasn’t Robert Plant, but rather a woman named Siouxsie Sioux.  For the life of me, when I listen to the album today I don’t know how the hell I thought it was Robert Plant singing.

The song was Night Shift and the album was Nocturne, their double live album.   It wasn’t until several years later that I could begin to appreciate the album as a whole rather than just a handful of songs.  With each passing year it sounds better and better and I have to rate it as one of my favorite live albums of all time.   Very few live recordings can create a mood the way this one does.  Absolutely engaging and at times spine chilling.

This is Siouxsie and the Banshees at their goth best, all songs sounding better with a totally committed live treatment.  Drummer Budgie steals the show at times (especially on the concert video) with his adroit and ambidextrious creation of rhythm, while Robert Smith of the Cure uses his guitar for color, shade, texture and overall mood.  A bass, drums, guitar trio of sound unlike much of what you’ve ever heard, this is pure classic from opener Israel to Melt!, Painted Bird, Cascade, Sin In My Heart, the aforementioned Night Shift…I could name them all.  Even more cool is the inclusion of Pulled to Bits, a track which is actually debuted here live.  Why don’t bands do that anymore?

If you want a live album that actually takes you somewhere and makes the mood real, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than this.  Criminally overlooked and vital listening!

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Download Nocturne here

Buy Nocturne CD here

Congrats Clutch For Breaking Your Own Record

2013 band pic for Clutch, part of their promotion for the Earth Rocker CD

All I can really say is congratulations to my fave band on Earth, Clutch, for breaking their own record with the release of Earth Rocker last month.

In case you weren’t aware, Clutch set a record back in 2009 with their Strange Cousins From The West CD, which became the first totally independently recorded and released album to chart in the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 Albums chart (chart peak position: 38).  Earth Rocker shattered this record by entering the chart at #15…getting glowing reviews from all over the place certainly hasn’t hurt, either.

Couldn’t happen to a better band, and if you haven’t heard the music, you’re missing out.  Check it out and/or buy it here.

 

Indie Artists Can Release Music On A Very Limited Budget

(Note from MooseJuice:  This is a guest post with some nice info for any aspiring bands wanting to do it in true DIY style. A lot of the bands here in the Sonic Abyss didn’t have the technical resources back in the day, though many of them are still able to live the dream because of it.  Our guest writer’s info is at the bottom of the article)

When musicians used to dream about being signed to a label, it was partially because it meant that they could record, advertise and sell their albums with a huge budget behind them. For indie artists, getting noticed has always been a challenge. Playing in underground clubs, by definition, doesn’t reach a large audience and having to sell your albums alongside major releases with huge promotional budgets was oftentimes futile.

Things have changed.

Recording Does Not Have to Be Expensive

There are two things about modern music that have made recording professional quality albums possible without a large studio facility. First, many of the instruments used in modern music are electronic and that means that there is no actual recording that needs to be done in the traditional sense. You don’t have to worry about mic placement when you’re using a DAW. Second, many of the tools that musicians need to record are very affordable, leading to them being in the hands of musicians around the world and freeing up the means of production to the masses.

You can record a professional-quality album, but remember that a budget still does count. The advantage that musicians have today is that they can at least record and album that showcases their music in a way that makes it sound great instead of relying on very low-fi recordings to try to get noticed. The tools are out there and many of them are even free.

Distribution Is Easier

If you were an indie musician a decade or more ago, distributing your albums would have been very tough. For those who produced their own music, it sometimes meant going to every record store in town and putting the albums on consignment. While this could move a few discs here and there, it was unlikely to really get anyone noticed unless they were very lucky.

Digital distribution changed all that. Because music can be distributed on many different sites, there is a worldwide audience for just about everything. If you were an indie band in Cincinnati in 1999, the chances of you ever selling an EP in England were directly related to your ability to get CDs in British stores. Today, these boundaries really mean nothing, but make sure you get with a good distribution site. Not all of them are particularly high traffic. You can check out which ones get the most traffic on Alexa to get an idea of what sites are worth working with.

Preorders Minimize Risk

If you’re trying to sell music in CD format, you’re likely wondering how many you should order. There’s actually a better way to go about ordering your CDs: wait until someone commits to buying them.

Before your release, start promoting your album and make it available for preorder. If you want to purchase a small quantity—100, for instance—you can fund some of that purchase with your preorder sales and cut down the amount of risk you’re taking printing up CDs.

Remember the Playing Field

The playing field is much more level today than it was in the past. Indie artists have tools to promote themselves that have changed the musical landscape. If you manage your money intelligently, put the time into making a good product and make sure it’s available in as many places as possible, you’re likely to find out that you can get your music out there and have a real chance at breaking into the big time without signing a record contract with anyone.

Mark of Soundista.com offers tips and information on music production, download loops, download sound and more.

New Amorphis Album “Circle” Next Month

Our fave Finnish progressive folk metalists Amorphis are back in late April with Circle, the follow-up to 2011′s solid but somewhat anti-climactic The Beginning of Time.

Circle has already been described as a concept(?) album based on an original story, marking the first time in Amorphis’ 20 year career that they have not based an album’s worth of songs on the Finnish national epic poem The Kalevala.

The first track is Hopeless Days, which you can sample for yourself right here.  Initial reviews I’ve read of the album basically describe it as not breaking any new ground and have given it middling-to-upper middle grades.  Amorphis is in possession of a sound and concept that is all their own, and I’m okay with them not breaking new ground since they broke major ground in their early days honing their sound.

Production on the new album from Hyprocrisy’s Petr Tagtgren roughens up some of the polished edges quite nicely here, though.  Enjoy Abysmally…