The Richmond Music Catalog 1980-2021 Part 2

by | Jan 5, 2022 | MUSIC, PINNED

I’ve been going to shows in Richmond for what I am frightened to realize is just shy of three decades now. I showed up as a fresh-faced college kid still too young to get into the 18+ shows, and these days I’m rapidly entering the back half of my 40s. My point? It’s safe to say that I’ve seen a ton of music from this city come and go.

And yet, it’s also very safe to say that I still have a ton left to discover. From the many bands (going back a good bit farther than even the 1980 date given as our ostensible starting point) that came along when I was still a kid (or maybe not even born yet) to the younger artists making noise right now in underground venues that I’m no longer young and hip enough to even learn about, there’s so much still to discover.

No matter what some scientist might tell you about how people stop listening to new music at 33 (google it, that’s a real study), I say it’s never too late to find new sounds with which to enrich your life. And there’s no better place to find them than embedded deep in the musical underground of your very own city. Whether you call it Richmond, RVA, river city or cap city, you can’t deny that there’s a ton of great music happening here. So let’s dive in, shall we? Welcome to The Richmond Music Catalog, part 2 of 4. — Marilyn Drew Necci

You can also check out Parts 1 (A-D) 2 (E-J) 3(K-R) 4(T-Z). Enjoy!


Engine Down, ‘Rogue’ Engine Down
2004 Lookout! Records

Engine Down was a four-piece rock band from Richmond, Virginia, active from 1996-2005. They were a part of the Washington, D.C. area post- hardcore movement, along with bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, and Faraquet. The lineup included Keeley Davis on guitar and vocals, Jason Wood on bass and vocals, Jonathan Fuller on guitar and backup vocals, and Cornbread Compton on drums. In early recordings Wood and founding member Jeremy Taylor served as primary lead vocalists, but later in their career the duties of lead singer switched primarily to Davis. In 2005 Engine Down disbanded, following a farewell tour. Davis joined the band Sparta as lead guitarist. Compton began drumming for various bands including Biology, a side project with From Autumn to Ashes members Francis Mark & Josh Newton. Compton then joined Cursive to record their 2009 album Mama, I’m Swollen. Keeley and Jonathon Fuller have reunited in both Denali, and new band, Heks Orkest, featuring Denali member, Cam DiNunzio. — from Sputnik Music

Erin & The Wildfire, ‘Thirsty’ Thirsty
2016 Self Released

Charlottesville, VA-based Erin and the Wildfire will return with their new album Thirst, due out tomorrow (September 29). The sextet formed at nearby University of Virginia in 2011 and will release a new album inspired by the likes of Alabama Shakes, Vulfpeck, Funkadelic and Tedeschi Trucks Band (among others).

“We are stoked to have a cohesive, expressive record that we are proud of and represents a sound we’ve been working towards for years,” Erin Lunsford told Relix. “Thematically, Thirst is about my quest for love. I’d say a quarter of the songs are about one person in particular who I chased for a couple/few years. The song ‘Thirsty’ was the first in the series of longing songs followed by ‘Nothing Drowns You Out,’ ‘Meant For Me,’ ‘One Woman Show,’ and finally ‘Great Love.’ Longing turns to obsession turned to insecurity turned to anger turned in the end to a surrender of sorts with ‘Great Love.'” — from Relix

Eucharist, “Fooled Again,” Eucharist
1996 Mountain Records

Eucharist played crushing hardcore with influences from some of the best late-’80s/early-’90s US hardcore bands. I can hear traces of Infest, Citizens Arrest, Born Against, Rorschach, Crossed Out, etc. Besides this 12″, they had a few tracks on the Nothing’s Quiet on the Eastern Front compilation LP (alongside Devoid of Faith, Assfactor 4, Dropdead, Monster X, and more), the Vida Life comp (on Lengua Armada), and the, uh, Double Dose of Dicks 2×7″ comp. Their guitarist Mark Telfian would go on to play in the band Hail Mary and was the original guitarist of Limp Wrist. He also did the label Paralogy Records. –from Maximum Rocknroll

Fan Ran, ‘Trainwreck’ Loose Bowels
2017 Gritty City Records

“My influences on my style are AZ, Pimp C, & Prodigy,” said Ran. His influences are the reason he has such thoughtful lyrics. Some powerful tracks off of the album are “Train Wreck,” “Hunnid Dolla Bill$,” “All My Friends Are Dead,” and “God is Good.” The opening track, “Train Wreck,” was one of the oldest records on the album, but one of the most powerful songs. “The song was written after a whiskey binger weekend,” said Ran.

The track is a standout record because it is filled with heavy lyricism. “Hunnid Dolla Bill$ is a “fan favorite” according to the artist. And after one listen, I understood why. The track stands out with this heavy bass hitting instrumental with a deep vocal hook. “Hunnid Dolla Bill$” was the track that was the most fun to record,” said Ran. “Just being in the studio with the homies drinking a few brews, and we went into the booth and knocked out the song.”

The most personal track on the album is “All My Friends Are Dead “ which reflects Ran’s past over the last few years. “For that song it wasn’t about the lyrics,” said Ran, who mentioned losing friends to cancer and drugs. “I just went into the studio and started writing down a list of my friends that are dead and started rhyming their names. I’ve lost seven friends within the past three years.” — from RVA Magazine, May 19, 2016

Fight The Big Bull, ‘Mothra’ All Is Gladness In The Kingdom
2010 Self Released

Once upon a time, music was a craft, and the art form’s great craftsmen weren’t known as producers, but rather composers, arrangers, soloists, and bandleaders. It was an era when jazz served as the great storehouse of culture and style, and the big band functioned as archivist, interpreter and emissary to the masses. Matt White, the 27-year-old guitarist, composer, bandleader, and craftsman behind Fight the Big Bull, knows that time is now.

Make no mistake: There’s nothing nostalgic or revivalist about Fight the Big Bull. The “rapturously chaotic sound” owes as much to the band’s open ears as it does to their mastery of tradition. Forged in the fall of 2005 around the (now defunct) avant-garde guitar-trombone-drum trio Fight the Bull, the group has become a Richmond, Virginia, institution through their reputation for fearless improvisation and White’s clever, forward-looking charts. A bi-weekly local gig quickly garnered the band an eclectic following of devoted purists and eager converts, and their 2008 debut Dying Will Be Easy, on the Portuguese label Clean Feed, pushed the group before a national audience, earning them feature spots on WNYC and NPR’s Fresh Air, while listed the record among the year’s best. It wasn’t long before the band landed a gig at celebrated New York avant-garde venue The Stone and a series of guest spots with visionary saxophonist Ken Vandermark in Chicago. — from Kennedy Center

Fighting Gravity, ‘Fools & Kings’ Forever=One Day
1996 Mercury Records

OK, class, pop quiz. Question: Assume there is a crowd-pleasing seven-piece ska-influenced group from Richmond, Va. Let them be called Fighting Gravity. Take as a given that every year, Fighting Gravity travel tens of thousands of miles up and down the Eastern seaboard playing both on and around college campuses for varying fees. Factor in that the band has done so ever since its founding at Virginia Polytechnic Institute approximately one decade ago. Now calculate exactly what Fighting Gravity have learned after all that up-close experience with higher education. — from Rolling Stone

Fire & Ice, “Not Of This Earth,” Not Of This Earth
2012 Reaper Records (video live at United Blood 2013)

The record brings us that Fire & Ice hardcore sound with a great groove to it, something we know bands such as Dead End PathExpire and Backtrack so well for. I think it is cool to see all these bands go their own way, and make music that they love instead of sticking to the traditional way of doing things, and making the same records over and over again. The guys from Fire & Ice have followed their instincts and put something great together here.

‘Not Of This Earth’ is the title track of the record and kicks the whole thing into gear right from the start. The track has a slightly progressive (in terms of hardcore music) opening that will make sure to get the kids swinging. –from Legends Arising

500$Fine, “Learning,” Forward
1997 Self Release

We’re used to believing that in the age of the internet, everything lives forever. Of course, if you had a Geocities site 20 years ago or a MySpace account 10 years ago, you know that isn’t true, but still. What about stuff from before the internet, though? How much history that still exists within living memory is totally unknown to everyone that wasn’t there at the time? To be more specific: how many of my readers under the age of 35 have any idea that the basement cafeteria of a Catholic school in Chesterfield County was once one of the more consistent music venues in the Richmond area?

I know, it sounds crazy! And yet, for a time in the late 90s, St. Edwards Epiphany School on Huguenot Road acted as a gateway for an entire generation of suburban high schoolers to get into the music scene. It seemed like a safe place to drop your curious 12 year old — because it very much was — and everyone from teenage pop-punk bands to downtown stalwarts played there on at least a semi-regular basis.

Of course, for the most part, you can’t hear any of the bands that were St. Edwards regulars anymore — at least, not the way they were heard at the time. Their primitive 4-track demo cassettes may have been digitized at some point, but the recording technology 18 year olds had access to at the time wasn’t the greatest, and almost none of these bands left behind recordings that captured the immediacy and joy of seeing them live. Therefore, we can all be grateful that, this Saturday night, half a dozen of the most memorable veterans of St. Edwards’ basement stage will be back together once again, doing a set for old times’ sake down at Capital Ale House.

Fun Size is still around today, so you may have caught their catchy, emotional pop-punk sound at one point or another. But 500$Fine’s bassist, Patrick Daly, tragically died at the age of 16, so this performance, with Bradley Lile of fellow St. Edwards stalwarts Cloud 13 filling Patrick’s spot on bass, will be their first in over two decades. Their fiery, political take on reggae-influenced melodic punk made them Chesterfield’s own high-school Clash for a couple of years. If you’ve never seen them before, you need to fix that. –from RVA Magazine, November 26, 2019

Flesh Eating Creeps, “Fuck It Up, Richmond Style,” The Book About The Movie
2015 Handstand Records

Flesh Eating Creeps were a Richmond, Virginia hardcore punk band from 1995 to 2000. Over that time, they had 6 bassists, released a few EPs, and played a lot of shows in Virginia and its neighboring states. Members went on to form the bands Brainworms, City Of Caterpillar, Light The Fuse And Run, Municipal Waste, Stop It!! and Worn In Red. The two constant members, Chris Terry and Brendan Trache, worked with old friend Will Cole of Handstand Records to digitize vinyl and tape recordings, scan photos and flyers, and compile as much information as possible for this comprehensive, 58-song discography that includes deluxe and standard cassette releases, a Bandcamp download/stream, and an archival band website. –from Bandcamp

FM Skyline, ‘Overture’ Illuminations
2021 100% Electronica

FM Skyline, real name Pete Curry, is an Electronic, Vaporwave and Pop/Synth artist who has been in the game for several years now. In that time, he’s released a few studio albums, some of which are absolutely essential to any Vapor/Synth/Electronic collection regardless of which format you collect. Albums like Deluxe Memory SuiteEarthSim and Advanced Memory Suite are some of the finest the genre(s) have to offer. Recently, FM Skyline put out his studio effort which is called liteware, and I believe in time it will be looked back upon as yet another classic within the genre. Plus, it’s on 100% Electronica, so you can trust that it will be fantastic. — from VW Music

Four Hundred Years, “Red Tape,” Four Hundred Years EP
1996 Yuletide Records

At last! The legendary Suture LP (originally released on Great American Steak Religion) plus the first Four Hundred Years 7″ (originally on Yuletide/Rosepetal) has reappeared for the masses on CD format! This album is one that garnered the band critical acclaim and cult status around the world with its poignant political lyrics and unabashed energy. Indeed, this is timeless post-punk that will rekindle the flames of discontent and revive the revolutionary spirit. –from Dischord Records

4 Walls Falling, ‘Culture Shock’ Culture Shock
1993 Jade Tree

Scenes are often dated. Passion and skill, however, dodge the expiration date, explaining the staying power of 4 Walls Falling. While most prominent in the early to mid-’90s, 4 Walls Falling helped define-and continues to inform-a cathartic, inventive and personal style of hardcore still incapable of being watered down with tags like the “E” word. Drawing from the same zeitgeist as groups such as Endpoint and Turning PointFour Walls chugged without machismo, and vented without moping. Simultaneously emotional and specifically political, songs like “Greed” or “Culture Shock” define 4 Walls Falling as an underground classic of recent times. — from Jade Tree

Fudge, ‘Girlwish’ Something Pretty Beautiful: A Brilliant Compilation
1993 Brilliant Records

In just two albums, Fudge shifted from dreamy bubblegum to pop-punk. The Richmond, VA, band met through mutual friends in 1990 and played for almost a year before finding a bass player or a suitable rehearsal space. Tony Ammendolia (vocals/guitar), David Jones (guitar/vocals), and Mike Savage (drums) wrote songs for the first album in a downtown apartment until Steve Venable (bass) arrived. Using a title borrowed from an e.e. cummings poem, The Ferocious Rhythm of Precise Laziness arrived on the major minor label Caroline in 1993, selling 10,000 copies and securing a tour with the Buzzcocks. Southside Speedway, with its shorter and harder-hitting songs, came out one year later. Citing minor differences among its members, Fudge split soon afterwards. Savage and Venable later played in Cherry 2000 until February of 2000. Jones joined Dynamic Truths and Ammendolia joined the ranks of fatherhood. — from All Music

Fun Size, ‘End Of The Road’ Since Last We Spoke
2012 Self Released

Well, in a further confirmation of my pet theory that every band that breaks up eventually gets back together, 90s-era Richmond pop-punk flagbearers Fun Size have returned. With three-fourths of their best-known lineup (only lead guitarist Orice Collins has been replaced by Pedro Aida) back in the fold, they’ve put together a new album called Since Last We Spoke and have now released that album’s first single, “End Of The Road” (available for download from their bandcamp page). The song itself might be my favorite thing that I’ve heard by Fun Size. While their 90s output seemed more influenced by bands like Green Day, frontman James Menefee has been dipping his toes into a more midwestern, perhaps even Westerbergian, alternative rock sensibility in his recent work with Long Arms, so it’s no surprise to hear a solid Replacements influence in the chorus–but it’s definitely cool. If the whole album sounds like this, I’m gonna love it. — from RVA Magazine, November 8, 2012

Grip (aka Dayspring), “Diffidence,” Friction Burn Fatal
1993 New Age Records

Grip remains one of my favorite local bands ever, and this EP is jammed with awesome riffs and great songs from that niche of the 90’s where metallic hardcore and weirdly melodic not-quite-“emo”-but-still-kinda-sorta-“emo” meshed rather nicely. The band had morphed into the equally awesome (and, sadly, equally short-lived) Dayspring by 1994, so this 1993 EP was their sole release. Great shit. –from Aversionline

GWAR, ‘Sick Of You’ Scumdogs Of The Universe
1990 Metal Blade Records

Before Oderus Urungus, leader of GWAR, answers any questions, he reminds me that I, a mere human, am “an insignificant speck of diarrheic phlegm.” When I reveal for whom I am writing this article, he replies, “SPIN… Ah yes, I think I wiped my buttocks with it once.” Such is the wisdom of the gods.

Well, not exactly gods. GWAR is actually a posse of Antartic warrior demigods. GWAR is also the sickest heavy metal parody band in the galaxy. But it would be best to let Oderus tell the story: “GWAR was created by the master of creation, an ambiguous being named Larry, as the ultimate doomsday device. GWAR was at one time in the legion of Scumdogs of the Universe, but they were banished to the earth. GWAR’s ultimate goal is to leave Earth, after destroying it, and rejoin the Scumdogs.”

Musically, GWAR is a hardcore quintet that spews a delicious viscous goo, blending Black Sabbath, the Meatmen and the Dickies. Live, they expand to 14 performers (non-musicians are called slaves, as are their fans), each dressed in outrageous Dungeons-and-Dragons-on-cough-medicine costumes.

The characters in GWAR (and they are always in character) are warriors who have taken to our earth’s strange indulgences. For instance, they all love crack cocaine. Flattus Maximus attributes his explosive guitar style to “a strict diet of vegetarians.” Balsac the Jaws of Death “writes songs by scratching his scrotum with his guitar.” — from Spin

Hex Machine, “Chub,” Fixator
2012 Learning Curve Records

Here it is, folks, the new video from RVA noise-rock auteurs Hex Machine! Yes, it’s true–a few months ago, I presented you guys with a new Hex Machine video that was basically just an album cover floating overtop of an abstract background while a song plays. And I’m not apologizing for that, either, because the song was just that good! But this is the real thing–an honest-to-goodness video for “Chub,” the newest single from Hex Machine’s second full-length album, Fixator, which came out this week on Learning Curve Records. Hex Machine leader Trevere Thomas and his current crew of road warriors may start this track with a wall of screeching noise, but there’s a real melodic sensibility lurking beneath the distortion and headbang-worthy riffs, as you’ll see on “Chub”‘s chorus.

What’s even cooler about all this is the video, directed by Philip Shive of the mysterious Voice Of Pizza, which really does look like the sort of clip that an off-kilter noisy alt-rock band would make back in the early 90s. It mixes what appears to be found footage from 30 to 40 years ago of all kinds of random stuff–a skipping businessman, little league baseball players, a dramatization of a surgical procedure–and some serious film distress that results in constant visual interference falling across the screen. I can’t really describe it any better than that, but it’s really cool and looks like the sort of video that Barkmarket used to foist upon an unprepared audience during the last hour of Headbanger’s Ball. Barkmarket mixed with the Jesus Lizard isn’t a bad musical reference for Hex Machine either, and it’s great that they’re bringing that sound to the RVA music scene–we could always use more loud, weird rock n’ roll! –from RVA Magazine, August 30, 2012

Holy River aka Lobo Marino, ‘Come With Me’ Kite Festival
2012 Self Released

Up to this point, their songs were planned around Price playing guitar, Sullivan on accordion, and a third member filling in the gaps. Now, with another set of songs almost complete, they were considering their next logical step. In many ways, this was the exact challenge they needed to face in order to create what has since become the standard setup for a Lobo Marino show.

This began with Sullivan’s acquisition of a harmonium–a type of organ, popular in the late 19th century (and to this day in India) that generates sound with a bellows. “Once I got the harmonium, that is what really helped us fill that space with the necessary bass,” Sullivan explains. “It also helped me find my voice. When I wrote on the accordion, the challenge was that it was higher than I was comfortable singing with. On the harmonium, the lower register comfortably suited my voice.”

At this point, Price also diverted his attention from strictly playing guitar on their songs. He began using a variety of percussive tools–everything from an enormous bass drum to vases to bells strapped to ankles. Just about anything under the sun was fair game. These instrumental changes helped guide the two as they decided to make their next recording a live album. For the session, Price and Sullivan were joined by a variety of musicians over the course of an evening in the upstairs corridor of Gallery5. “We were excited to invite what we consider to be our close family to one of our favorite spaces and have them be a part of this experience. It was also a strong testament to what our band had transformed into,” Sullivan says. This collection of songs, released in 2012 and entitled Kite Festival, perfectly articulated the sound of Lobo Marino up to that point. Songs like “Celebrate” and “Stay With Me” examined the delicate intricacies of their sound; one song relied heavily on percussion, another on the subtlety of their lyrical nuances. –from RVA Magazine, December 28, 2015

Holy Roller, ‘Muscle Up’ Muscle Up
2019 Self Released

You may not be familiar with the name Holy Roller or even know what it is, but you will definitely recognize some of the faces in this four-piece band that has recently made its debut, with an album slated to drop this fall.

Holy Roller is a new project from the guys of former Southern rock band Big Mama Shakes, who performed their last show under the name back in the spring. And now, armed with a new member, new material, and a new name and sound, the band is eager to show fans, old and new, what they’ve been working on. 

Since forming in 2013, Big Mama Shakes entertained Richmond crowds and beyond with their raw, energetic shows and southern charm. Since releasing their debut album, As She Does in 2015, the group built up a solid following with a monthly residency at The Camel, touring up and down the east coast and midwest, and playing alongside major names like Passion Pit, Incubus, and Nathaniel Rateliff. — from RVA Magazine, August 28, 2018

Honor Role, ‘Purgatory’ The Pretty Song
1987 Self Released

Honor Role emerged from being one of America’s most undistinguished hardcore bands to breathe new life into the genre. They developed so fast that they were more or less unloved in their time. The prime lineup(s) set a solid foundation of throbbing, dub-punk rhythms upon which guitarist Pen Rollings could flash his indie rock guitar-heroics and Bob Schick could emote his incredibly insightful, humanist lyrics in a voice both angst-ridden and empathetic. Few bands today boast a vocalist and a guitar player even remotely as passionate or talented as the pair.

The Pretty Song, co-released on Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin’s label, is a burst of ideas and approaches. A vari-speed series of rhythmically nimble skips and trudges are dolloped with guitar noise and real songcraft. Highlights are “Throwing Rocks,” a downtrodden chug, and the sing-along bass-driven gloom of “Purgatory.” Bob Schick proves equal to both bitter haranguing (“Observation,” and “Jank,” a rip-snorting B-side) and weary meditations on doubt (“Six,” “Care Taker”). The whole band brims over with edgy intensity (maybe just perpetual nervousness). Although weakened by overly reverbed ’80s production, the record is a milestone and its influence on good folks from Superchunk to Don Caballero is easy to hear. — from Trouser Press

The Honorable Sleaze, “Hell On Wheels,” Heavenly Devilish II: Demons
2017 Gritty City Records

Last night, Richmond was hit with the news that Brian “The Honorable Sleaze” Davis, Sr., a staple of the local hip hop scene, died suddenly following complications during surgery.

Co-producer of the now-defunct Just Plain Sounds netlabel, Sleaze was known for his work as a skilled producer and artist. His most recent album, Heavenly/Devilish II: Demons, made waves in the local hip hop community after its release. Sleaze was widely regarded by fellow artists for his influence in the scene.

“I think the things he would say kept the realness in Richmond rap,” said Ant The Symbol, Sleaze’s producer and longtime friend. “It’s insane, you never think these things are going to happen until tragically, they do.”

In his music, Sleaze focused his attention on issues pressing to his community. According to his artist bio, his “everyman” quality touched on complex social issues but extended to all facets of life. His recent work addressed his personal life and its trials and tribulations. –from RVA Magazine, July 10, 2017

Hot Lava, ‘Blue Dragon’ Hot Lava
2009 Bar/None Records

It’s been 3 years of countless laughs and quite a few line-up changes, Richmond, Virginia’s Hot Lava, comprised of Allison Apperson, Jared Sosa, Andrew Mowe and Matt Deans, are finally ready to heat things up. Their multi-layered debut album, Lavalogy, is a unique, conceptual adventure that plays like the musical companion to a satirical and subversive graphic novel.

There is no denying the band’s love-affair with 90’s indie-pop or their 60’s inspired sensibilities, but Hot Lava’s music goes beyond celebrating the past, it gazes into the future with a wide-eye and an endearing, off-beat sense of humor. Whether lead singer Allison Apperson is romanticizing about a spinach-eating blue dragon, or wrestling with technology (Apple+Option+Fire), she and the rest of the boys are focused on smothering their catchy pop vignettes with candy-coated melodies and infectious hooks that are guaranteed to get your temperature rising. –from Bar/None Records

House Of Freaks, ‘Sun Goes Down’ Cakewalk
1991 Giant Records

The creative leap that brought House of Freaks to life in Richmond, Virginia as a duo of guitar/vocals (Bryan Harvey) and drums (Johnny Hott) has become an article of faith for the group. Intelligence, urgency and creative use of guest musicians far outweigh any structural doubt about what properly constitutes a rock combo. (So much for the 21st century modernity of the White Stripes.) Related by scope and approach to the Violent Femmes and redolent of cultural history in much the same way as the early Band, House of Freaks covers a rich and evocative American musical landscape. What makes the group work is not the novelty of the guitar’n’drums lineup, but Harvey’s guitar and vocals, which jump out at you with all urgency and stripped-down emotionalism. Furthermore, Hott’s industrial-strength drumming and Harvey’s terrific songs that draw on American folklore and mythology from the days of the slave trade up through the atomic era make for a winning combination of punch and intelligence. — from Trouser Press

Inquisition, ‘Pulse’ Revolution, I Think Its Called Inspiration
1995 Pop A Wheelie Records

To compose a brief history for those not familiar, I will note just a few things. This album was originally released in 1995 and members went on to form Strike Anywhere (named after one of the songs on the album), Ann Beretta, and River City High. They are cited as an inspiration for the likes of Hot Water Music, Ensign, Dashboard Confessional, Suicide Machines, and Anti-Flag.

Enough of the BS though; how is the album? Forget about 10 years ago; it’s an excellent album right now. It’s hard to avoid comparisons to a more complex version of early Strike Anywhere with Thomas (now singing for said band) at the vocal front here, but it’s interesting to hear what might happen when you take the Chorus of One EP and add even more well-developed ideas both musically and lyrically in the same relatively raw atmosphere. — from

INTER ARMA, ‘The Summer Drones’ Paradise Gallows
2016 Relapse Records

Few metal bands in recent years have emerged with all their parts so immediately perfected as Inter Arma: every pummeling, slow-as-molasses drum fill; every seasick, punishing guitar solo; every ounce of reverb on Mike Paparo’s pained, death metal howl; every blast of feedback swelling in the mix like a bolt of thunder forecasting a biblical storm. For a band so wild and untamable, every aspect of Inter Arma’s records sounds as if it was deliberated upon and perfected for hours in a studio before reaching our ears. This was true on their 2013 Relapse debut Sky Burial, and it was even truer on their 2014 follow-up EP The Cavern. A single 45-minute track, *The Cavern *showcased a band uninterested in resting on their laurels. They had established a signature sound, with their moody amalgam of death metal, black metal, doom metal, and Southern rock, and were now focused on crafting compositions as interesting and distinctive as their sonics.

Such is the mission statement for Paradise Gallows, an album that finds the Richmond, Virginia five-piece alternatively aiming to be both the world’s heaviest act and also the prettiest— and they don’t waste any time. Brief opening number “Nomini” pairs acoustic fingerpicking with soaring David Gilmour-indebted solos and leads right into “An Archer in the Emptiness,” their most guttural, atonal slab of sludge to date. The juxtaposition of the two songs is an almost too-perfect summation of what Inter Arma is capable of (see also track titles like “Violent Constellations” and “The Summer Drones”), but Inter Arma is too smart to become formulaic. On Paradise Gallows, their songwriting is consistently sharp and challenging, making the album’s 71 minutes of shapeshifting feel not only coherent but also wholly natural and downright triumphant. — from Pitchfork

Ipecac, “The Self-Detonating Nuclear Family,” Tomato Tomato EP
1994 Fountainhead Records

Hi! I’m ATC. A little over 25 years ago I was in a band in Richmond, VA with 3, sometimes 4, of my friends. Back then, if anyone asked about the band, we’d almost always say something self-deprecating in response. We reprinted unfavorable reviews as advertisements. We would directly question the decision-making ability of the people who came to see us, etc.

Truth is, I loved making noise with those guys, and a couple of these songs(?) turned out just about exactly how we wanted them to. I’m glad that it was documented. There are 14 or 15 people who will be happy about this “unearthed” collection. Most are from Richmond’s Southside. Maybe a few from Eastend. A couple outside of DC… one or two in Philly. This is for you guys! To everyone else who stumbles across this… sorry, but watch your step next time.

Thanks! Enjoy! Wash your hands! And please keep your face covered in public… so the rest of us don’t have to cover our eyes! –from Bandcamp

Iron Reagan, ‘Miserable Failure’ The Tyranny Of Will
2014 Relapse Records

Iron Reagan are a Richmond band composed of members from notable crossover thrash groups like Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour. Their latest album is a thirty-two minute blitzkrieg that fires off short, potent riffs at a workmanlike pace, letting the listener sort out the mess for themselves.

A decade after his death (two since he left office), former president Ronald Reagan continues to be a subject of many a musical effigy, but it’s been a while since the hardcore community had him as its muse. Enter Iron Reagan, a Richmond band composed of members from notable crossover thrash groups like Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour, who are the jellybean cowboy’s latest invokers. While their sound places them as political punk in the vein of Wasted Youth or the Crucifucks, Iron Reagan’s lyrical tendencies skew nihilstic and violent with a dash of odd humor. Where Black Flag once instructed the crowd to “Rise Above”, Iron Reagan proudly declare, “I Ripped That Testament a New Asshole”. It’s a shock-driven approach, sure, but when it comes to expressing displeasure with the status quo, have punks ever bothered to clean up nicely and say “please”? — from Pitchfork

J Roddy Rod, ‘Where Da Twerkas At?’ J Roddy Rod
2008 Powerhouse Ent

Having started in the local scene hip-hop scene here in Richmond, J Roddy Rod aka The Twerk God has blown up regionally. Performing at a number of venues and house parties throughout the state and receiving radio play and spins in local clubs in Richmond, Chesapeake, and North Carolina has contributed to the success J Roddy Rod has found. In addition, he also has close to a million views on Youtube for his video, “Where Da Twerkas At?” — from RVA Magazine, June 25, 2013

J Roddy Walston & The Business, ‘Heavy Bells’ Essential Tremors
2013 ATO Records

As a preview for the release of their upcoming, fourth full-length album Destroyers Of The Soft Life, the Richmond, Virginia southern rock four-piece J. Roddy Walston & The Business brought their heavy jams and raging energy to Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY last week.

The band walked on stage to Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do With It, which not only served as the pump up music but a clear hint at J. Roddy’s passionate belting and power vocal inspiration. Marigold – track two from the bands third album Essential Tremors – was the opener and it blasted off the fast-paced, hard rock J. Roddy style to set the attitude for the night. Walston continued the set with Same Days another song from LP3, and after jumped back to their self titled LP2 for Don’t Break The Needle. Both songs showcase Walston’s wailing, animated vocal performance. — from Thank Folk For That

Jason Mraz, ‘The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)’ Waiting For My Rocket To Come
2002 Elektra Records

Jason Mraz‘s Waiting for My Rocket to Come is a two-part invention. The first level is that of a young, almost compelling, singer/songwriter. Mraz has a nice voice, perhaps a little too articulated at times, which manages to mostly avoid the histrionic despite a predilection towards show tuney melodic turns. His voice tumbles out on top of folk-reggae rhythms that will probably sound a bit dated with time, but his vocals are filled with enough internal rhythms and rhymes to keep them interesting. Lyrically, Mraz relies on cliché to a certain degree, but does so with an earnestness that allows for believability and an eye for imagery that succeeds often enough to suggest that he knows what he’s doing. The second level of Waiting for My Rocket to Come is the production of John Alagía, whose work has enhanced other similar folk-pop fair, including the Dave Matthews Band and O.A.R. His work with Mraz is, at its best, transparent, filling out the songs with subtle and glossy production and instrumentation. Reflections of banjos, organs, mellotrons, lap steels, ukuleles, and others peak out through the shine of the tunes, creating an impact too rich to be written off as lite. — from All Music

Johnny Cigs, ‘Let’s Get It (Prod. by D.R.U.G.S. Beats)’ Lighters and Lightbulbs
2016 Gritty City Records

Originally from Alexandria, Ciggs first came to Richmond from Burke, where he grew up in 2002 as a student at VCU. Years later, he was tired of his job in sales and decided to do an internship at Da Spot Recording Studio.

“I learned a ton of stuff from them. I mean, the way that I go about recording sessions to this day is all based on what they taught me,” said Ciggs. “How to set up sessions and how to record in general, all those things I learned from there.”

As part of his homework for the internship, Ciggs was tasked with recording a song, which would become his first rap project. At the time, he was listening to classic East coast hip-hop from artists like Mobb Deep and Nas, which would continue to influence his work. Much of the subject matter in Ciggs’ lyrics is similar as well, what he would call “braggadocious rappity-rap,” but it also addresses his struggles with alcoholism and mental health issues.

“A lot of my music is more fun if you really listen to what I’m saying. I’m just making fun of myself and the ridiculous and crazy way I used to live,” said Ciggs. “Some days I wanted to die, other days I thought I was living the dream. But really, nothing changed, it was all nonsense.” — from RVA Magazine, November 16, 2020

Jolly Mortals, “225,” Paintscraper
1994 Whirled Records

The Jolly Mortals return from the grave to throw caution and convention aside, leaving their earlier appearance on the ÜB2B vs. the Earth compilation in the dust. These songs are not so metallic, but way groovier. Actually the best two, “4-Ever” and “Bedsores” are on the Bside of the disc, and they alternate between chunky riffs and quiet strumming. The tentative vocals, spastic studio effects, and homemade studio sound give the record (forgive me here) an almost trippy sound, completely unique to Richmond. I wish they had put this out earlier so I would have known to go see them. Readers, learn from my mistakes. –from Throttle Magazine

Jonathan Facka, ‘Tarmac’ Tarmac
2021 Broadcast Recordings

“My name is Jonathan Facka. I’m a singer songwriter from Richmond, Virginia, born at MCV and in 2015 moved to Arizona — I was there for about a year and then I came back. I played clarinet in middle school, and then I transitioned to guitar class in high school. And I just liked it. I didn’t write a real serious song until I was about 27, surprisingly. Basically, a bunch of tragedy happened and I didn’t know I had anything to write about until that. Better late than never.” — from RVA Magazine, July 12, 2021

Jonathan Vassar and The Speckled Bird, ‘Turn to Face The Wind’ Signs & Wonders
2021 Self Released

Whenever I am in need of contemplation, I look no further than Jonathan Vassar and the Speckled Bird. Their new LP doesn’t disappoint, especially with the addition of Paul Watson to the fold. The opening track keeps the familiar aspects of their sound, while incorporating new musical elements that seem to really push The Speckled Bird into the future. As one vignette from this LP, Vassar truly embarks in a literary direction that takes his songwriting up to a whole new level entirely. — from RVA Magazine, January 3, 2013

Josh Small, ‘Say Hello’ Tall
2013 Orchard Music

Throughout this CD, you can’t help but feel that Josh was alone, maybe slightly drunk (in a good way) and on his front porch in VA when writing these songs. Josh’s voice has a feel of despair and hope all rolled into one. When he sings songs like “Come Down,” “Peek Out the Windows” and “Knife in My Belly,” it’s almost as if he’s accepting the pain and putting a positive spin on it, which is what true great artists do.

There are various musicians who contribute to this disc playing drums, violin, congas, upright bass, and piano giving this a feeling of a group of friends getting together and jamming on whatever their heart feels at the moment. A few songs even have a gospel feel to them (“Knife in My Belly”) that could easily be sung during any Sunday mass. The songs all flow together and you can picture a few guys sitting on their front porch playing these songs over and over again. That dirty old Southern gospel feel oozes out of every minute Josh Small is performing. — from

You can also check out Parts 1 (A-D) 2 (E-J) 3(K-R) 4(T-Z). Enjoy!

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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