Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Triumph And Power For 2014

That moment that we have been building up to for the past 12 months is end of the year recap!

I love chasing down new music, and while a large part of my year was stuck in an 80's playlist, I still ended up buying 82 new releases in 2014. There are times when I wish that I could just ignore newer bands, and just concentrate on building my record collection of the older stuff that I know and love. At times, I would love to turn my back on what's happening today, and focus on acquiring more of those classic records...but in the end, that just isn't me. I love the chase of something new...that thrill of discovering a new band. Until that excitement is no longer there, I'll be keeping my ear to the ground...on the hunt for something new.

Still, I purchased 305 new records this past year, with only 40% of them being new releases. I think I'm making a good split in focusing on older and newer records.

Oh yeah, I also downloaded 106 other albums that were new to me...ummmm, yeah...I chase a lot of new music. Someday, I like to think that I'll get around to buying these too.

I made some solid efforts to control my spending this year. I'm not sure how successful I was, but my total numbers dropped quite a bit. In fact, I haven't seen numbers this low in the past five years. Man, it is heartbreaking trying to save money.

Still, let's not lose sight of the fact that I bought some great stuff over these past 12 months. Here are my top 5 pieces of vinyl that I bought.

1. Lights Out 'Overload' test press - I didn't expect to find this one, and I wasn't really looking. It was a surprise, and one that I wasn't going to pass up. This is one of my favorite Hardcore records from the past ten years, and I consider myself extremely lucky to own a test press.

2. Black Sabbath 'Paranoid' Vertigo first press - Easily the most money I've spent on a single record. Worth it for a legit first press with the Vertigo swirl labels, and the Jim Simpson/Big Bear credit on the gatefold cover.

3. Mos Generator 'Electric Nomads' - I fell hard for Mos Generator this year, and I was very happy to be given the chance to buy their this self released vinyl pressing containing some alternate takes and demo tracks. Nothing really earth shattering with the songs presented, although they are still very cool, but it was the handmade album covers with the personal touch that made this record really special.

4. Police & Thieves test pressings - Not one, not two, but three Police & Thieves test pressings. My first post for the year, and it started off with a bang with this lot from Carlos.

5. Metal Church 'Metal Church' Ground Zero press - I think that what made this one so special was that I had no idea that it existed. Sure it would have been easy to find the major label pressing from Elektra, but once I discovered that the first Metal Church album saw an independent pressing on Ground Zero Records, I knew that was the way I had to go. It was like uncovering a piece of Metal history.

Creating my Top 10 list is a process that I work on all year. I'm constantly rearranging it, adding new releases, and moving records up and down on the list. It is exhausting and thankless work, but someone has to get this shit right, and I can't trust any of you shmoes with this responsibility.

I'm going to be totally honest here, while there were some good Hardcore releases in 2014, a lot of the time I just couldn't be bothered to listen to them. While I recognize how great Praise and Sweet Jesus are, all I really wanted to do this year was listen to Black Sabbath.

Out of all the new Hardcore and Punk stuff I bought this year, OFF! was probably the only one that I reached for regularly, and for that, it gets the number one spot. we are talking! Fucking Metal! This shit dominated my playlists this year. When I wasn't spinning old Overkill and Judas Priest records, well, I was spinning new Overkill and Judas Priest records. It was damn near impossible to come up with only a Top 10 list, but really, a Top 20 list would have been a copout.

Since it was recorded back in '74, I couldn't justify considering it for this Top 10 list, but as an honorable mention, I will say that for a new release, the Queen 'Live at the Rainbow' album may have taken my number one spot. I'd never realized how good Queen were, and this record really opened my eyes.

At the end of the year, I love checking my charts to see which bands came out on top. To see so much Metal and Rock on this list just verifies where my listening habits have been. Typically my charts are filled with bands that have had a new release, but this year, less than half of them did.

So there we have it. That was my year of record collecting. This blog has always been about me and what I buy. Things have changed since I started this blog eight years ago. There have been times when I was heavily into buying only Hardcore records, and this past year has seen a lot of Metal. I can't control the ebb and flow in my tastes, or what I'm passionate about buying. I have no idea where things will go in 2015, but if you have been sticking with this for any amount of time, and enjoying the ride, I thank you.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Metal Sanctuary

Back in early '88, I had probably been in my first steady job, flipping hamburgers at McDonalds, for about a year. It was the first time in my life that I was pulling in a steady paycheck from working on the weekend, and any money that didn't end up in my savings account, was devoured by my growing addiction of buying music. Each Saturday night, you'd find me at the Mall flipping through the CD longboxes, sweating over which new Metal album I was going to buy with my hard earned money.

Back in the 80's, Dave Mustaine's name carried a lot of respect, and with him producing the debut Sanctuary album, it created a bit of hype. I was looking forward to getting my hands on a copy, and that thing did not disappoint...well, maybe the exception being their cover of White Rabbit...I think that we all could have done without that song. I clearly remember sitting on the edge of my bed at that time, surrounded by the four walls of my bedroom, which had been plastered with hundreds of pictures cut from Metal magazines, and listening to this album. Goddamn...fucking Battle Angels is still an insanely good song.

When Sanctuary's follow up, Into The Mirror Black, was released in early 1990, I thought it was pretty good, but honestly, I was more intested in bands like Slapshot and Sick Of It All, and was quickly moving away from Metal.

By the time Sanctuary broke up, and singer Warrel Dane started up Nevermore, I couldn't have cared less. Even after getting back into Metal over the past ten years, I still never bothered to check out Nevermore. Yet, when it was announced that Sanctuary were reuniting and releasing a new album in 2014, for some reason I held hope that it was going to be solid. Hey, for most of this past year I'd been riding a Metal high like I was 17 all over again, so I was allowed to hold out some hope that Sanctuary would meet my expectations, not matter how unreasonable and unfounded they might be.

Slightly worried of facing disappointment from my high expectations, I stepped up to check out the band's new video for Frozen....and within the ten seconds it took to bang out a drum into, and then get knocked over by the lead riff, I was on my ass...when Warrel comes in at the 30 second mark, growling his matter how foolish he looked wearing that stupid cowboy hat...I was fucking hooked. I was transported back to those Winter months of early 1988, and I was a 17 year old kid again, excited for another solid Metal album. If this Sanctuary album is this good, it makes me wonder what Warrel Dane has been up to with Nevermore over the past 15 years or so.

Not making the same mistakes of my 17 year old self, I skipped the CD release with The Year The Sun Died, and went straight to the vinyl. I was tempted to go for the good looking orange vinyl from Century Media, but since they wanted to charge a ridiculous $10 in shipping, I decided to just buy it local, and I ended up with black vinyl.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Seven Inches Of Fury

Of course, just because I mentioned that the Big Contest record was probably my last Hardcore post of the year, Triple B had to come along and prove me wrong.

This past month, I've been diligently working on tightening up my year end lists. Because this stuff is so important, I've been spending my time repeatedly listening to this years output of new releases, trying to nail down a Top 10 list for 2014. This shit is a science, and not to be taken lightly. Then, just when I think I've got things complete, Triple B has to fuck it all up with a new package in my mailbox for the last week of December.

I must have heard some good things about the Fury 7 inch, because even though I'm cutting back on buying multiple copies of every Hardcore record, I still felt the need to buy three copies.

Man, there is something about this record that really hits me. Triple B describes Fury's sound as influenced from Battery and Turning Point, but the vocals really remind me of Issac from Amendment 18 as well. This record sounds like it wouldn't have been out of place on New Age Records around 1990. I'm digging this much more than I expected to. Time to adjust that Top 10 list...again.

Black vinyl was the more limited pressing at 150. 250 were pressed on red vinyl, and the "Dodger Blue" vinyl was limited to 600.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tis The Season Of... Goatwhore

I've never really been into Death Metal. I'll eat a steady diet of Thrash, Doom, and Traditional Metal, but outside of the band Death, I've never been able to really get into this growling vocal style. Last year, I was in the mood for something a bit uglier than what I'd been listening to, and since the newest Cannibal Corpse album was getting high praise, I figured that I'd check it out. While I really liked it, I assumed that it would really be the only Cannibal Corpse album I'd ever need. When the band released their new album, A Skeletal Domain, this year, I couldn't resist checking out the zombie filled video for Kill Or Become. I absolutely loved it, and the album has raced up my Best of 2014 list. Surprisingly, I found myself in an unfamiliar position of needing more Death Metal, and I turned to my Metal brother, Doug, for help.

Doug soon directed me in the direction of Goatwhore, and I was sold on them within 10 seconds of the video for Baring Teeth For The Revolt. The pentagrams, the spiked forearm guards, and the roar from the vocalist (who reminds me of either early Sepultura or Celtic Frost)...oh, fuck yeah, I had no idea what I'd been missing. Goddamn, either that song or their song FBS are probably my favorite new songs at this point. Those riffs...Fucked. By. Satan!

I was loving this album, and couldn't wait to pick up the colored vinyl from Metal Blade...and with the label having a sale on the Goatwhore vinyl, I'm just counting down the hours until I can head back to their store and buy another album.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Big Contest

I still have a few more posts lined up to close out the year, but unless something else arrives in my mailbox in the next week or so, this may be my last Hardcore post in 2014.

I'd heard a bit of hype around Big Contest recently, so when preorders went up over at Moshers Delight, I figured that I'd take a chance on it. The band contains members of Disengage and Intent, so it wasn't really much of a doubt as to if the band would be good or not.

I love that Hardcore bands wear their influences, literally, on their sleeves. Glancing at the back cover, with band members wearing shirts for Dead Kennedys, Chain, and Stop And can tell if this band is for you or not. Great NYHC sound from a time when bands were on the verge of moving to a more Crossover sound. In some ways, this Big Contest album reminds me of the Crumbsuckers Life Of Dreams LP, so I'm expecting their follow up to be similar to B.O.M.B..

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life. Love. No Regrets.

In addition to the regular Record Store Day extravaganza each April, the industry also attempts to sell us on more over-hyped reissues on Black Friday: Record Store Day 2.0. I've never participated in this second Record Store Day as it had the stink of greed all over record companies found a good thing with RSD, and they had to take advantage of it, and force it down our throats a second time each year. It felt dirty and corrupt...or maybe I'd just never had any interest in the previous Black Friday releases.

There were a few things that caught my attention with the BF RSD this year...but nothing that I was going to go out and fight through mobs of people packing the stores looking for Christmas sale deals. Fuck that. Maybe I'd venture out to the stores the following week, once things had died down. When I noticed on Instagram that someone had posted a picture of the 20th anniversary pressing of Unbroken's Life Love Regret LP, I was suddenly very interested. I'd had no idea that this was coming, but I definitely wanted one. Still...I figured that I could wait and pick one up at my convenience. A couple of days later, I'd started to hear some rumblings about the Unbroken record being sold out online, and how prices were starting to climb. I was sure that my local record store would have a copy when I stopped in, but small seeds of doubt had been planted, and soon I was starting to get nervous about missing out on one. As the minutes ticked by, my panic grew, and soon I had to get to the store as soon as possible. A couple hours later, I was flipping through the vinyl racks and had secured myself a copy. No big deal since the store still had around seven other copies of the Unbroken LP in the bin. Oh well...better safe than sorry.

When Judas Priest released their excellent Redeemer Of Souls LP earlier this year, there were five bonus songs that were included on the CD. For Black Friday, we finally get those songs pressed on vinyl...a ten inch record titled 5 Souls. I've heard people say that these five bonus songs are just as good as the songs from the LP. I don't think so. They are still good songs, but I find them to be a step down and I can see why they were cut from the regular album release.

Metallica got in on the Black Friday game this year as well, offering us a 12 inch single for their new song Lords Of Summer. The band previewed this song live at their summer shows, and decided to press it to vinyl to tease us with what is to come as they write and record a new album. As a Metallica fanboy, I love the new record a new album already!

A simple b side etching for this one sided Metallica single.

I guess I didn't really need to pick up the new AC/DC 7 inch, as both of these songs are included on their new album, but I got wrapped up in the hype of Record Store Day, and bought one anyway. Two solid songs from the band, and after all they have been through with Malcolm Young's dementia, I'm glad to see the guys are still at it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

City's Gonna Burn

It happens every year at this time. As the year winds down, I start feeling the effects of my record spending and the savings account sinks dangerously low. I scale back on what I'm buying, and try to stay away from the temptations of eBay...limiting myself to only new releases...but some days the call is too great, and I can't resist picking up a record that won't stay off my daily playlist.

I grew up listening to Laaz Rockit, and loved both the Know Your Enemy and Annihilation Principle albums as a teen. I'd never bothered with the band's debut from 1984, City's Gonna Burn, until I downloaded it around 10 years ago...but even then, I hardly spent any time with it. For some reason I queued it up in my iPod over the summer, and suddenly I couldn't get enough of it.

Laaz Rockit formed in 1982, shortly after Metallica, and played that same Bay Area scene...Hell, Metallica even opened for them at one point. While they may have been outcasts within the Bay Area Thrash scene for not being as fast or as raw as what was quickly gaining momentum at the time...Laaz Rockit perhaps borrowing more from Judas Priest than Motorhead...there is still no denying that their brand of Speed Metal was still intense and valid.

I love finding these little independent labels from the 80's. I'd never heard of the Target label prior to this, and they didn't really release anything noteworthy, outside of a couple of Laaz Rockit records...but discovering stuff like this is like digging into the history of Metal and I'm fascinated by it.

Another piece of history from these old records is the merch sheet insert, and I needed to insure that the copy of City's Gonna Burn I bought came with one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Runaway Girls Got Limits

Rise Above Records has been releasing some pretty cool 7 inch records this year. We've seen some cool shit from a couple of favorites of mine...Blood Ceremony and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell...and recently the label has given us three more.

I initially ignored the first Death Penalty release, the Sign Of Times 7 inch. I wasn't interested in another female fronted band, so I didn't bother checking it out this little two song record. When the band released their self titled LP a few months later, there was enough buzz for me to give them a shot. It ended up being worth my time, and after buying the LP, it only made sense to go back and get the 7 inch as well.

500 pressed on purple vinyl.

When I can, I've been trying to avoid the high shipping prices from Rise Above. The records get some solid distribution in the US now, so I tend to only empty my wallet when Rise Above has a solid Die Hard pressing with some cool extras. The new Uncle Acid 7 inch, Runaway Girls, did not count as one of those Die Hard editions that I needed to have...but since I was picking up something from the Rise Above store anyway, I figured "What the fuck", and I bought the clear vinyl pressing that was limited to 100.

I haven't really listened to any Uncle Acid lately. While I enjoyed most of their last LP, there were some songs that kind of dragged a bit at the end, and because of this, they haven't showed up on my playlists lately. This 7 inch, makes me rethink that stance. The Runaway Girls song is really good, and the acoustic version of Devil's Work is haunting. A great reminder that I need to move this band back into rotation.

The final 7 inch in this trilogy is for Horisont. The band has yet to disappoint, so I was really looking forward to this release. The artwork for the record seemed like an odd choice for the band, but a quick peak at their video for Break The Limit, and I was sold. Classic hard edged 70's rock.

200 pressed on red vinyl.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jesus In A Box

Ever since Sweet Jesus released their demo back in 2012, I have been itching for them to do a proper release. There have been a couple of songs to show up on compilations here and there, but it is good to finally have a piece of vinyl with the band's name on the cover.

Sweet Jesus play a style that is similar to fact on the inside sleeve of this 7 inch, it even directs you to "Now listen to Swiz". Subtlety is not a strong suit for this band. I've always thought that Swiz was a bit underrated, so maybe this helps introduce the band to a new audience. Although it seems that Triple B is far from selling out on even the limited white vinyl, so maybe Sweet Jesus will be the best kept secret from 2014.

330 pressed on white, and 770 pressed on red vinyl.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

God Save The Queen

Repeatedly, I've looked down on live albums on this blog. With some very rare exceptions, I've always found them to be a pointless waste of time. This point of view was challenged on several occasions this year, with Stone Axe, Rush, and Kiss Alive I and II proving me very wrong. After hearing the latest Live At The Rainbow '74 album from Queen, it has become apparent that I really need to change my position on live albums.

My friend, Jeff, has been trying to get me into Queen for as long as I can remember. Six or seven years ago, he made me a mix CD with the heaviest Queen songs, but that failed to get my attention. I really had no interest in the band, and force feeding them to me wasn't going to work. Then a couple of years ago, in the middle of a 70's rock obsession, he played me some of the Queen II album. I liked what I'd heard, and I even downloaded a copy of the album, but in the end, it just didn't stick with me and I ended up deleting it. Then, this year Queen released their Live At The Rainbow set from 1974, and once again, Jeff was all up in my grill, talking about how amazing the songs sounded on this live recording. Sigh. Well, he'd recently proven me wrong with the two Kiss Alive albums, so I finally broke down and grabbed a download to check out...and to shut him up.

I loaded it up on my iPod, and decided to give it a listen on my way to the gym one morning. The live set starts off with Procession...yup, okay...very much what I expected from Queen. Father To Son kicks in next, and it certainly has my attention, and I'm kind of impressed. Next up in Ogre Battle...oh fuck, this is really good. Then we move into Son And Daughter, and with that Tony Iommi-like riff, I was absolutely hooked. By the time I pulled into the parking lot at the gym, adrenaline was pumping through my veins as I was so excited from the realization of how amazing Queen could be.

I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying this, and I knew that I was going to have to buy a copy. To took a trip over to the local record store, and pulled a copy of the vinyl from the racks. As I was studying the packaging, I noticed that the songs seemed to be out of order from the download that I'd loaded to my iPod. Wait, my download contained two full shows, but the double vinyl pressing that I was holding only had select songs from each set. I put the record back on the shelf, and set out to do more research before buying the vinyl. That was when I discovered that, in addition to the double vinyl, there was also a four LP box set. This contained all the songs from both shows, and this was the one that I had to have. The problem was that it was only available in Europe, and sellers were listing them with prices ranging from $150 up to $300. When one popped up on eBay, in North America, for around $80, I jumped on it.

In addition to having all the songs from both shows, another major selling point on the box set was that each piece of vinyl comes with it's own record cover. For the March '74 show on the Queen II tour, we get Freddy Mercury and Brian May on the two covers.

I'm really impressed with the packaging on this entire thing. Job well done all around.

The second show that was recorded at the Rainbow was from November of '74 for the Sheer Heart Attack tour. For the album sleeves on these records, we get live photos of the two guys that aren't Freddy Mercury or Brian May.

While I really cut my teeth with Queen on the first show, and really have spent most of my time there, make no mistakes, this second show is a ripper as well. You can never go wrong with Stone Cold Crazy.

Because this is a live recording from '74, it won't be eligible for my Best Of 2014, but honestly, this box set may be one of my favorite releases this year.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

World Peace Can't Be Done

I know that I've lost a little touch with what it hot and what's not in the Hardcore scene today. Still, the buzz around the Peacebreakers 7 inch was not lost on me. When I was in the Fun With Smack store picking up the new Boston Strangler record, I also dropped the Peacebreakers record in the cart and quickly checked out.

There are a couple of reasons for the notoriety behind the Peacebreakers record. First up, the band has three members from Boston Strangler, and with that alone, people are going to sit up and take notice. Second, there is a bit of controversy surrounding their song Foreign Exchange. With lyrics containing lines like "go back to where you came from" and "build a big wall, put up a fence, stop your kind from getting in", the song seems to have a strong anti-immigrant/racist vibe. Damn...the first time I read the lyrics I was extremely uncomfortable. I don't believe that shit attitude has any place in Hardcore. However, after scouring the internet for more info and background on this song, it seems that it is more about their attitude toward the horde of college kids that overrun Boston when school is in session. And since the insert lists photo credits to Martin Sorrondeguy from Los Crudos, I'm going to give the band the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Man, this record is simply intense. Hard, fast and ugly. This shit just eats you up and spits you out. Great record.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Strangled And Burned

Back in October, I was out with my wife celebrating our 21st anniversary. It was a great night out, just the two of us, enjoying a movie and dinner. It was very romantic as we walked around the city, giggling and holding hands with little hearts floating over our heads, while cartoon baby animals followed us around playfully. It was one of those moments when the two of you are just locked in, and you know that you were meant to be together. While dreamily staring into each others eyes, I got distracted as my phone started buzzing furiously, as notifications popped up one after another from Facebook. Seems as though I was in on a group message with Doug, Marcus and Sandwell, who were going back and forth over the pre-orders for the new Boston Strangler LP that was due to drop in the next 30 minutes.

Oh fuck. How am I going to my phone, and get this record ordered, without appearing like a selfish douche on our date?

Unless you are new to Hardcore in the past six months, you remember the difficulty in tracking down the first Boston Strangler album. It's not that the label was keeping it to a limited was just that they couldn't press them fast enough. Each time they would appear online, in some distros store, they would be sold out in minutes.

I did not want to be in that same position this time around, and I needed to secure a copy as soon as the first pressing was available. I had no interest in playing the waiting game again.

As luck would have it, my wife and I finished dinner, and decided to stop at the Whole Foods store around the corner before heading home. After picking up a few vegetarian treats, I quickly whip my phone out before starting the car...a minute and a half later, I've bought myself the new Boston Strangler album. The date then continues with whispers of sweet nothings.

Truth be told, I put off listening to this new album for a while. I didn't bother with the Jokes On You preview cassette, because, well, it is a cassette. But even once the vinyl arrived, I shelved it and didn't bother listening to it for weeks. Sometimes I have such high expectations for a new record, that I delay listening to it out of fear that I'll be disappointed. As I neared the time for this post, I finally pulled out the vinyl for a spin. While I was a bit underwhelmed with the first listen, it has grown on me quite a bit. The first album, Primitive, took everyone by surprise with a sound that was urgent and full of angst...the bar was set high, and it would be tough to follow it up. While Fire feels like it comes up a little short, it is only because you have to measure it up against that debut. This thing still rages.