Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sharpen your knife

It must have been sometime in the fall of '97. We were hanging out at my friend Thorsten's house, who was the drummer of our band. I was flipping through his record collection - the nerd equivalent to comparing our dick sizes - when I came across a record by a band whose name sounded vaguely familar to me.

"Oh, Starkweather," he said. "That's a really good record. You have to hear this!"
"Yes," our friend Sven chimed in, "it's amazing!"

I remembered that I had indeed heard them before. A song of theirs, Hushabye and Goodnight, was on the Definitely Not the Majors compilation, out on Bush League Records, that I had picked up sometime earlier that year in Seattle. It was one of the songs, along with contributions by Bloodlet and Coalesce, that had particularly stood out to me. It was pure heaviness all the way through, with searing guitar solos and tortured vocals that ran the gamut from screaming and growling to snarls, as the singer alternately intoned them while breathing in and pushing the air back out of his lungs, especially toward the drawn-out end of the song. Their full-length, Into the Wire, was out on Edison, so it was probably at least okay, I figured.

Did it blow my socks off? No. I liked it, but it was one of those records that only grew on me over time. But I keep going back to it and I probably listen to it more now than I ever have. I've long been convinced, though, that Thorsten and Sven were right. Into the Wire is a great record, full of dramatic ups and downs, moments of pensiveness and bursts of aggression, though always in a very well thought-out, controlled manner, with every note and beat exactly where they need to be. You've probably read about other bands, like Converge, quoting Starkweather as one of their influences. It's not always apparent from the sound, but there is something about the, for lack of a better word, atmospheric density in Starkweather's music that is at least as inspiring as it was ahead of their time when Into the Wire first came out in 1995.

As you probably know, they're back, with a new bass player, a new record, Croatoan, to be released sometime soon on Second Nature (Hypertension will handle the vinyl) and a tour in Europe this Summer. For more info as well as a complete discography and a whole bunch of interviews, check out their site. Below are my three favorite songs from Into the Wire. They're largish files, but you will not be disappointed ... I'm tempted to keep rambling on about specific parts in those songs, but really, you should hear for yourself.

Starkweather - Shroud
Starkweather - Murder in Technicolor
Starkweather - Into the Wire

The next two are "newer" songs. 'Taming Leeches with Fire' was never properly released, while 'Hushabye' was on the abovementioned compilation. New versions of both songs will be featured on Croatoan.

Starkweather - Taming Leeches with Fire
Starkweather - Hushabye and Goodnight

Monday, June 27, 2005

Potential friends

I was just about to put up a mix of songs by another one of my favorite long-disbanded bands from the Northwest, State Route 522, when I saw that Status is putting out a retrospective CD with all of their recorded material. So go check out the mp3 posted on their site and buy the CD; I promise it's going to be worth every penny of your money.

We're going to stay in the Northwest for this update, though. In 1997, photographer and zinester Carrie Whitney put out an amazing compilation CD called All About Friends. Lovingly put together, the record features original material and cover songs from almost all of the most prominent bands from the area at the time as well as some other bands she was friends with. By the way, Carrie also appears in Dave Larson's movie Edge of Quarrel. I don't know what she is up to these days, but hey, if you're reading this, I hope you're well and thanks for all the rides!

The CD is long out of print - there were a thousand hand-numbered copies, packaged in a beautiful stapled cardboard cover with a 30+ page booklet - but you might still be able to get it from some distros. At least half of the songs - among the exceptions are Botch's Rock Lobster, a B-52's cover, CR's Moss and Indecision's Slave - were not re-released in any other format, to the best of my knowledge. That still leaves us with a great pool of material, and what the hell, I'm going to put up the Botch song, too, because you need to hear this.

Botch are easily one of my favorite bands ever. If you haven't, you need to buy all of their records, because they were one of the most original and innovative hardcore bands this country has seen, period. This cover song provides ample testimony; it's a great example for a band taking music that has already stood the test of time and turning it into something utterly new and unpredictable. Botch were masters at their craft in that respect - just listen to their covers of Carl Orff's O Fortuna or the Sabbath cover they did for Hydra Head and you'll know what I mean.

Below, you'll also find an original song by San Diego's Impel, my favorite of theirs, as well as a song by Seattle's Screwjack, Dave Larson's band that I'm pretty sure broke up by now, though they did release an LP on Excursion a year or two ago, as well as Trial's cover of Iron Cross's Crucified - with a straight edge twist.

Botch - Rock Lobster
Impel - Call it what you will
Screwjack - Artifact
Trial - Crucified

Monday, June 20, 2005

Scorn in Japan

If you're into hardcore or metal, the U.S. is probably not one of the best countries to be if you also like to see bands perform live. Why? Because bands from Europe or Asia come here far less frequently than bands from here go overseas. Now, I live in a big city, so I can hardly complain about a lack of shows to attend, but I can definitely think of a number of bands from other countries that I wish I would have had a chance to see play or that I would love to see again.

One of them is Hellchild from Japan. Okay, so I did actually see them once, at the 2000 Loud as Fuck at CB's, but as far as I know they broke up not too long after that. You probably know Hellchild from their split with Converge, but if you haven't heard them before, their two last full-length records, Circulating Contradiction and Bareskin (released in the U.S. by Ritual's Howling Bull imprint), on which they also recycled a number of songs from their EP releases, are a good place to start. I also remember seeing the split 7" with Bongzilla around in stores not too long ago, so you might still be able to find that and some of their other EPs at tolerable prices. Here is an overview of their releases, and this unofficial site has a fairly extensive bio and a short interview.

The three songs below are from the split 7" with Gomorrha (Per Koro/ Bastardizer) and the split 10" with Kilara (Rhetoric).

Hellchild - Soul of purity
Hellchild - Kill yourself
Hellchild - The change and the unchangeable

On a different note, I know the sound quality of some of the mp3s on here isn't particularly good. I've been using Final Vinyl to rip music, and it gets the job done, but if you have any recommendations of other programs to use or what else to watch out for, please let me know. I'm not much of a technophile, so I'd appreciate any advice.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Something wicked

Sorry for the recent lack of updates. Been busy, and I'll probably have to keep the updates shorter and more infrequent in the near future as well.

I really don't know anything about the band featured in today's update - Mayday. I picked up their 10" in Germany probably about seven or eight years ago. I don't know whether they ever put out anything else and I have absolutely no idea what became of them. All I have is this record, a four-song EP. It has the lyrics and a VA contact address printed on the back of the cover, so I assume that's where they were from (though if I remember correctly there is/was also a band with that name from somewhere in Scandinavia). Anyway, this is pretty brutal stuff. Think late-nineties Florida metal-core, a little like Ascension. Enjoy.

Mayday - Staplegun
Mayday - Vienna promises
Mayday - F(h)ollow
Mayday - Rust away