Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare (Warner Bros)
When Avenged Sevenfold started, their James Hetfield-ian vocal mannerisms helped their take on metalcore stand out in a cookie-cutter scene. Since then, though, they've followed in Metallica's footsteps in all the wrong ways. This new album is their Load, and I mean that in the most negative sense possible.
Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire - Songs Of Ill Hope And Desperation (Prosthetic)
Harsh, scathing grindcore. The sort of overdriven production that sounds loud even when you turn it way down, combined with blistering speed and harsh guttural screams. Abrupt tempo changes and technical riffing help avoid monotony, but this is still straightforward enough to be terrifying. I'm hiding under my bed now.
Cruel Hand - Lock And Key (Bridge Nine)
This record is proof that good production can go a long way. Cruel Hand's modern hardcore is undistinguished in every way--cliche lyrics, generic song structure, workmanlike musicianship--but it sounds so great that it can fool you at first. Boredom inevitably sets in, though. Great production can't fix everything.
The late ‘90s weren’t exactly a creative pinnacle for hardcore. Many of the bands who had created the best material of the previous decade had either broken up (Los Crudos, His Hero Is Gone) or started turning out subpar material in an attempt to curry favor with larger crowds (Integrity). A great number of people were enraptured by metalcore and pop-emo, genres that would soon use underground music as a stepping stone to Hot Topic and MTV2 “success.” But there were exceptions, and Oakland, California’s Talk Is Poison was one of the most notable. In their brief existence – the band released only two and a half EPs worth of material between 1998 and 1999– they managed to put to shame pretty almost all of their contemporaries with a combination of unbridled aggression, off-kilter songwriting, and a lyrical approach which offered a defiant, scathing vision of the degradation and abuse inherent to late capitalist society, without relying on cheap sloganeering or cliché.
Here in Richmond we have truly hit the doldrums of Summer. Sizzling days give way to equally humid and unforgiving nights that leave us wanting nothing more than the power of freon. Nevertheless, I still find the courage to walk to favored watering holes on steamy nights. After a few blocks on foot, my need for a beer becomes abundantly necessary. Upon entering, my gaze desperately turns to tap hands, combs the beer menus. What do I need? Frankly, I am looking for light beer.
No, not the tasteless domestic fizzy stuff, but beer that is golden, flavorful and hopefully independent. I better be able to get four or five down and still be able to wake up early the next day without a headache. What I am looking for is what is commonly called a "session" beer, and many Richmond bars and retails shops are happy to give me this fix. A "session" beer commonly refers to beers that will not overtly punish the drinker if he or she were to take one pint after another over the course of a few hours. It should have flavor, but never become the center of attention. For the sake of stamina, it should be under 4.5% alcohol by volume (but under five gives more options.) And that last one of the night should taste better than the first.
"On the internet, there is no real underground anymore. So if you wanted to create an underground for yourself, the first thing you might do is generate a sort of lexical darknet by using keyterms search engines can’t parse."--Warren Ellis
Genre neologisms piss me off. They're invariably used as the hook for a trend piece based around bands whose musical etymologies are clear and obvious--at least they are to me, the consummate music nerd. I rage at articles about chillwave or glo-fi. This isn't a new development for me--twenty years ago, as a high school student who thought I knew everything, I found the term shoegaze nauseating. And don't get me started on screamo. No, seriously, don't.
To review a new Charles Manson album in 2010 without certain preconceptions is a difficult, and perhaps impossible, prospect. Four decades of revulsion, adoration, and every type of sociological and psychological speculation imaginable have turned Manson into a living symbol – to his detractors, an incarnation of man’s capacity for evil and ability to manipulate weaker minds; to his supporters, a representation of the manner in which society as a whole can persecute those whom they fail to understand; to his analysts, an argument for the latter half of the “nature versus nurture” debate – the extreme end result of broken homes, unsupportive foster care, and a criminal justice system bent on incarceration rather than rehabilitation; to a nation of armchair sociologists, an example of peace, love, and happiness turned askew by the diseased underbelly of American society, a poster boy for the century that Günter Grass summed up with the phrase “barbaric, mystical, bored.”
A stunning--and welcome--development: on July 15, 2010, the Spacemen 3 played a short reunion set at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen in London. The show was a benefit for former Spacemen 3 drummer Natty Brooker, who has cancer. It was the first live performance by the band in two decades, and while the band was led by founding member Sonic Boom, it unfortunately did not feature the participation of co-founder Jason Pierce (aka J. Spaceman), perhaps better known at this point for his work in Spiritualized. His absence wasn't as upsetting as it might have been, though, since he was replaced for the evening by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields.
They call themselves The Wave: a collective of like-minded bands from different parts of America who have joined together in an ongoing collaboration. The link between these bands is not necessarily musical, and The Wave isn't a "new wave" of some genre or another. There are uniting factors between all of the bands--emotionally-centered lyrical content, dual musical emphasis on both melody and distorted intensity--but to write them all off, as some have, as "just another bunch of screamo bands" is to miss out on an inspired new development within the realm of underground music.
Do you like records? How about records 6 feet tall? A hipster's wet dream?
If you have never seen one before, the Anderson Gallery can help you knock on off your bucket list with the upcoming Imaging South Africa: Collection Project. VCUarts professor Siemon Allen has giant records, postage stamps, thousands of newspaper clippings from his homeland of South Africa collected over a 10 year period. Taken as a whole they help explain the complexities of his South African identity. On view from August 27th through October 31 the exhibit will hold its opening reception on Friday, August 27 from 6-9 with a related VMFA exhibition Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa Since 1950 going on the same night at the Visual Arts Center. That night a shuttle will be provided between the 2 exhibits so you don't have to miss anything.
More information can be found at www.vcu.edu/arts/gallery.
VCU Anderson Gallery, which is located at 907 1/2 W Franklin St, is free and open to the public.
Fall gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10-5 and Saturday & Sunday, noon-5.
There is a sort of sonic sweet spot that the best rock bands can manage to wedge themselves into at their more inspired moments – where songs are possessed by an unhinged energy and dangle over the precipice of incoherence, remaining adhered only by force of enthusiasm. Technical accuracy is all well and good, but it’s this inspired shamble that has acted as a sort of prankster deity in the often narrow confines of the rock and roll canon – offending sensibilities while challenging preconceptions and pushing the cultural envelope to new extremes. While the Stooges, Pere Ubu, early Sonic Youth and the like may have been unlistenable to the masses of music fans of their respective eras, one would be forgiven a cringe or two when considering what music would be like in their absence (it’s debatable whether those bands’ subsequent approval and incorporation by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame/Spin Magazine establishment supports or refutes their revolutionary status, but that’s a whole different article). Because so many bands err on the side of caution, when an album pops up that chooses to walk a different path, a wise listener would do well to pay attention. And this different path is exactly the one chosen by Cleveland, Ohio’s This Moment In Black History.