Lest ye readers read the forthcoming praise and subsequently turn upon us scribes in our lofty ivory tower, brandishing pitchforks and torches whilst profusely bleeding through wretched earholes, let me make something clear. Treading Water, the debut LP from Milwaukees’ two-man grind unit LIFES, is not a pleasant listening experience. Both in conventional and unconventional sense.
Treading Water is a brief but pugilistic cacophony, a squealing and burping punk-ridden grindy mess. LIFES carry themselves with the boisterous aggression, powerviolent attitude, and hardcore gravitas of Iron Lung or Dropdead, combined with the wild grinding invention of (my personal scene faves) The Locust. But sonically, the closest comparison I can draw is the vocal delivery of Liberteer's Matthew Widener. That said, both Zak Rudnik and Dave Holochwost handle vocal duties; I'm not sure which is which. Both are pretty damn excellent, it should be worth noting, and no matter who is roaring, the message comes across clear.
There are two (non-original) versions of Dolly Parton's immortal "Jolene" that I can, in good faith, recommend. The first is the hauntingly beautiful 45-at-33rpm monstrosity that some madman decided, quite accurately, was a good idea. The second is Turkey Vulture's rompish take on the classic--this track being the b-side to their debut release, which descends on ragged wings at the end of this month.
The joint effort of Jessie May (of Owl Maker) and Jim Clegg (of Lobsterface), Turkey Vulture blends grimy Americana with pedal-to-the-metal...well, metal. The entire 5 minute affair is distinctly flavored with bloody punk rock 'tude, leaning into the unbiased and seemingly belligerent anger of the 90's punk scene. On single "Boxer," Jessie May's abrupt fluctuations between harsh and pseudo-clean vocals sound like the bastardly combination of Lemmy's grit and Poly Styrene's sing-song menace. Meanwhile, rollicking--dare I say bouncy--riffage leads the charge, and Clegg's wild drums lend the affair an appropriately unrestrained maniacism. "Boxer" is a cautionary tale, filled to the brim with a pertinaciously punky verve and vigor.
Promo material cites, among others, Motorhead and Social Distortion; if we're going the route of gritty leather-clad rock + rockabilly pun, Danzig and The Distillers feel like an equally apt comparison. The same can be said of the aforementioned "Jolene," which feels like a wholly unique take on the song we all undoubtedly know and love. It's fast paced, it's startling, and yet it still maintains that hooky Parton charm. This is punk rock operating at it's finest. Lastly on the docket is bandcamp exclusive track "Bee Avenger," a humorous slice o' life in the lives of May and Clegg. It's upbeat, fun, and merits inclusion if only for the grin-inducing goofiness. Punk doesn't do so well when it takes itself too seriously. Turkey Vulture can be angry and still have a good time, and that's nothing to scoff at.
Prognosis? Boxer is, like, 5 minutes. Even if it weren't so short, it would certainly merit your attention, cuz this thing is fun as hell. When Turkey Vulture's next release hits, we'll be waiting.
Turkey Vulture - Boxer will be released June 28th, 2019
As of late, reviewing anything under the voluptuous roster of Kansas City’s The Company has become a bit of a struggle--it’s honestly difficult to come up with constructive criticism to balance out the radiant fanboyism. Young Bull’s excellent Midnight Climax came out last year, but I'll be damned if it doesn't fit the pattern of relentlessly high-quality content, contributing to a certain, well, bullish trajectory. Worth a review? You bet.
If you don’t like music of the pugilistic variety, get ye gone. Characterized by coursing coarse-grit riffs and rhythms that recall Motorhead at their harshest, this debut takes genre expectation by the horns and wrestles it into submission with merciless mud- smeared aggression. Gravel gargling roars punctuate a rowdy, rollicking, and otherwise uproarious atmosphere. With a vicious punky streak and a sludgy swagger, Young Bull is like unto stoner metal as a Panzer is unto motor vehicles. Not transcendent, so much as willing 'n' able to pulverize anything in its massive path.
Given the quality of standout tracks “Horned One, “13 Reasons,” and “Chainwhipped,” Side B tips the scale, resulting in an album that feels slightly off-balance. That said, the break in formula these tracks provide is welcome. Tempo changes aplenty, combined with a distinctly hard-rockin’ and high-octane approach, pave the way to a satisfying…title track. As it were.
YOUNG BULL - Midnight Climax was released June 2018 from The Company, and comes highly recommended.
As you eagle-eyed readers may recall, the Sleeping Village featured, some months back, a grisly music video for “Feeling Dead,” the lead single from Doors & Fours’ second LP. At the time, I described--in tantalizing detail, I’m sure--the process of rubbing together gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation of said album’s release. Well, well. Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has been here for a week, so it’s certainly high time we talk about it. The mosh beckons.
From an instrumental standpoint, Black Majik is, as "Feeling Dead" indicated, decidedly solid. The formula of hefty bass, angular riffage, and forward-facing drums remains, as my grandmother might say, built like a brick shithouse--no flair, but going above and beyond in the utilitarian department. If this comes off as a coy way to state that this Ontarian trio meet the bare minimum, that certainly isn’t the intent. While there are few flashes of technicality, this genre, and the Doors & Fours brand in general, necessitates a reliably bludgeoning and high-energy display of technique. To this end, this trio delivers in spades.
As alluded in the original track review, Paige McAleney’s drums maintain a delicious momentum and a vivacious energy. While accolades usually go to the dirty riffs n’ vocals, punk is so dependent on a percussionist who is able to maintain a consistent and ferocious output. In this respect, McAleney feels incredibly central to the success of Doors & Four’s stability. The guitars, which remain crunchy and jagged throughout, lend the entire affair a head-bopping groove, particularly in the overtly punk-influenced riffage of “Full Moon Tonight” or “The Weather is Nice in Purgatory.” These particularly aggressive tracks serve as focal points for the album, and would remain my recommendation for anyone looking to test the waters.
An interesting strength of the production is the tendency for the guitar (and, in particular, the bass) to move, from track to track, further behind or further forward in the mix. This allows for a certain sense of dynamism that often loses hold on your average punk album. A minor misstep in this regard is outro track “Bad Philosophy,” which significantly slows down the pace. Despite being enjoyable in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it exists within the same universe. Looking at the big picture, however, the ability of the riffage to provide space where needed allows Adam Peach’s boisterous vox the ample room it requires.--and indeed deserves. In a similar vein, the subtle melodicism that weaves and wends through the vocals is provided the occasional moment to shine without being buried beneath crushing riffz.
Speaking of the album’s overall construction, the length is worth note, but not worth criticism. At under half an hour, Black Majik is a very brief ride. Brevity fits the bill, and a longer runtime may have reduced the punchiness of the package as a whole. Given the multiple surprises Doors & Fours offers, the consideration given to depth in the course of composition is most impressive.
Beyond all this, however, there’s an overarching reason that Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has graced the halls of the Sleeping Village fairly incessantly these past few weeks. As someone who conquers a slog of heavy music on the daily, most of which is attempting to be as ANGRY and ANGST-ridden as possible, fun is an absolutely essential component. Doors & Fours is refreshingly jubilant, and sound like they are having as much fun playing as I am listening. Here’s an example: Doors & Fours is so infused with this spirit of gleeful irreverence that, upon mistakenly hearing the chorus for “Dead Bodies” as “make love to dead bunnies,” I left the engagement utterly nonplussed. This fun-loving ambiance is a decidedly lovable quality, and in a world filled with bands vying for attention, taking yourself too seriously is sometimes a bit of a turnoff. A little humor in the lyrical arena goes a helluva long way at drawing the listener back in, and little gems like “we're here for eternity/cause we're fuckin' zombies/we're already deeeeeeeaddddd” only serve to reinforce a tangible sense of glee. But yet, these tracks carry themselves with a serious horror aesthetic weight. That’s a hard combination to nail.
Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs is simultaneously fun and menacing, jubilant and aggressive. Not to mention utterly addictive. Albums like these make for very welcome encounters, and Doors & Fours will undoubtedly remain in heavy rotation for the sheer enjoyment they deliver. The grisly bottom line? This satanic orgy comes highly recommended.
Doors & Fours - Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs was released on Feb. 1st from Aborted Productions
Desperate for some entertainment of the visual persuasion, we here at the Sleeping Village have constructed ourselves a venue, of sorts--a public playhouse designed to house the raunchiest productions around. Our first feature presentation comes courtesy of Doors & Fours, Ontario's grungiest (and in the running for most prolific) punk rock outfit. The track is entitled Feeling Dead, and the video is, appropriately, a lo-fi zombie flick featuring the inevitably infected band members being picked off one by one. It’s a grisly affair, and an absolute delight to watch. See for yourself:
The track itself, dare I say, is one of Doors & Fours strongest up until this point. While Generation Vex, their previous outing, had lots of verve and energy, a noticeably DIY production reined it in. Here, the sound is still infused with a vivaciously punky attitude, but the drums and vocals in particular sound quite excellent. An underlying full-steam-ahead momentum defines the track, spearheaded by crunching guitar buried deep in the mix. The aforementioned vocals are an aforementioned strong suit--they remain surprising melodic, given a boisterous full-front delivery.
All told, if they keep putting out tracks of this caliber, Doors & Fours are going somewhere mighty fast. Their new album, arrestingly entitled Black Majiks & Other Aphrodisiacs, arrives sometime next year. I, for one, am rubbing my gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation.
Doors & Fours can be found:
The process of reviewing a split is informed by an intrinsic complexity, when compared to an album or EP proper. On one level, a split relies on both band’s individual abilities to deliver the goods. On another, however, a split is also dependent on the interaction between the bands, their capacity to communicate with the other in a shared environment to create a mutually beneficial experience for themselves & the audience. In an ideal situation, the two sides either serve to concretely reaffirm the other (such as this year’s Vastum/Spectral Voice EP), or to expand upon their counterpart by presenting a foil. A good example of the latter might be Windhand’s recent split with Satan’s Satyrs, or Iron Reagan’s work with Gatecreeper. In both cases, the sonic quality each band brings is distinct, but the entire package has an utterly unique quality, greater than the sum of its parts. This is the arena in which a split will tailspin or triumph. It is with visceral joy that Sleeping Village confirms: Coffin Rot & Molder work together with a grisly voracity.
Both bands contribute three tracks--two originals & a well-curated cover each. First up is the Rottin’ Coffin, whose demo EP released earlier this year has been re-appearing in my rotation with a respectable resilience. Putting the “Old Skool” in OSDM, these Oregonian underground plague merchants display an instant maturity. Living Cremation brings the rabidity, & the significantly lengthier Unmarked Shallow Grave contains distinct movements, a sure sign of sophistication in the death metal universe if e’er there was. Their cover of Hung, Drawn, and Quartered brings plenty of grit, maintaining an exfoliating intensity in the guitar department that rivals Cancer’s original--a feat in & of itself. Here, Hayden Johnson’s vocal quality is particularly forthright & (dare I say) repugnant. The strongest suit of an already disturbingly competent cover.
Purveyors of the B Side, Molder are no less grisly in their offerings. Indeed, their approach feels more primitive than their counterpart’s. While Coffin Rot is digging up bodies with a steam shovel, Molder resorts to using their ragged fingernails. The result is a welcome contrast, a lo-fi expression of underground death. Across the split as a whole, Condemned to the Catafalque is a standout track, due in large to the simplistic belfry-burning riff & Aaren Pantke’s straight-to-the-point distressed bark. The general approach is one of few excesses--this is death metal reduced to the essentials, exemplified especially in their version of (the aptly titled) Repulsive Death, by fellow Chicagoans Morgue.
Sonically, of course, there are distinctions between the two. Coffin Rot’s production is as ripe as, well, a rotting corpse, whereas Molder’s half sounds like it has been pulled from the locked jaws of a dusty cadaver. In other words, Side A sounds like compost, Side B sounds like a crypt. The latter has the appeal of a hand-me-down cassette, with strangled dynamics & a dry tonality. This, combined with the breakdown on Sulker, evokes a certain DIY punk aesthetic. With a tendency for rumbling monotony, neither crosses the threshold of professional production, but if this isn’t appealing to you as a listener, we here at the Sleeping Village suspect you might have stumbled into the wrong neighborhood.
The world of underground death metal pulls few punches, but all to often flounders in derivation. While the covers of classics are the primary commercial draw here, Coffin Rot & Molder add a whiff of fresh air into the formula by way of sheer energy. In some ways, it’s odd to associate such a violent form of metal with a feeling of jubilation, but fans of underground death will undoubtedly pick up what I’m layin’ down. Listening to this split is an absolute grin-inducing joy, made only more enjoyable by each band’s tendency to highlight a different aspect of the fetid death metal aesthetic. If we can expect this kind of music from both Coffin Rot & Molder in the future, we’re in for a treat. Standing before you are, undoubtedly, the genre’s forthcoming (lich) kings. Highly recommended!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!