I know that it’s easy to talk a lot of crap about Facebook as being a wasteland of baby, cat, and food photos. But it’s also a great way to stay in contact with your favorite bands, and even your favorite record stores. I still “like” stores from all over the world that I’ve visited, and even though in most cases I’m highly unlikely to ever visit them again, every now and again doing so pays dividends.
Last summer I spent some time out in New Jersey visiting a friend and we made a day trip into Philadelphia, my home town. While we didn’t visit my old neighborhood (which didn’t sound like it would be particularly advisable, unless we kept the car moving and the windows rolled up), we saw the sights, saw the Liberty Bell, and had cheesesteaks at Geno’s. And we hit up some record stores, including a great little metal and punk shop called Sit & Spin Records. The other day the folks over at Sit & Spin posted about the new Philly punk comp tape being released by the Suicide Bong label that sounded cool, so I emailed and asked about getting a copy and if they had any other Philly tapes for me to check out. Which is how I came to find a box on my doorstep yesterday with not one, not two, not three… but seven tapes. All for less than $30. This is where FB is good – it’s good for the indie record shop, and it’s good for the random music fan who would otherwise never get their hands on this music (at least not on physical media).
So let’s take a look at what was in that box, shall we?
Toska – EP I
This six-song EP by Toska is some serious hardcore, with a noticeable metal influence. The opening track, “Pound of Flesh,” hit me right between the eyes and sounded like an old school Black Sabbath LP played at 78 rpm. It comes at you fast, and it comes at you hard; it’s heavy, it’s growly, it’s agro. In the finest punk tradition EP I is very much a political album, a social commentary about the ills of the modern world – consumerism, the grind of working for the man, and the pure desperation of life. It’s heavy stuff and Toska bring it at you with both barrels. You can listen to the whole thing for free HERE and download the whole thing for just three bucks. The cassette, if you can find it, is apparently limited to 50 copies per Toska’s Bandcamp page, though the tapes themselves aren’t numbered nor do they mention the limited nature of the release. Good stuff.
Xatatax – Demo 2014
OK, Xatatax aren’t from Philly, they’re from Boston, but the kind folks at Sit & Spin thought I might dig them so sent along the band’s Demo 2014 tape. And I’m really, really, really glad they did. Because this is radical. Xatatax’s Facebook page describes their genre as “very fast//very slow,” and that’s actually pretty accurate. The opening song “Isaiah 14:14” is a perfect example, with the opening two minutes slow and heavy and sludgy before exploding into overdrive and attacking your ears with some power vocals and guitars. All five songs on this album combine slow and fast parts, but regardless of the speed one common element remains: pure mass. If I laid on the floor and put this cassette on my chest, I probably wouldn’t be able to breathe because it’s so… damn… heavy. The cassette is limited to 60 hand numbered copies, but you can check out Demo 2014 for free HERE, and even download the whole damn thing for $1. That’s right. Five heavy duty metal monsters for a buck. Do it. Do it now.
Repellers – The Coming Storm
Crust. Straight up crust.
Recorded a bit low, there’s a lot of emphasis on the bass to power the music forward like runaway train. And this isn’t a clean-burning, environmentally friendly bullet train; this one has a coal-burning locomotive barreling down the tracks and blowing thick black smoke. Vocally The Coming Storm is on the deep growly end of the spectrum, adding additional oppressiveness to the already powerful music. The pace is both quick and heavy, each of the five songs a burst of rage, the whole thing coming in at under 13 minutes. “Withering” is my favorite with its outstanding, driving guitar riffs, though the super heavy “The Ghost” is a close second, a more doomy number that’s like the soundtrack to a nightmare. The Coming Storm grew on me as it progressed – I think there was an initial shock factor that I had to get over before I was able to settle down and groove on it, so I’ll definitely be playing it a few more times. Like the previous bands discussed, the Repellers too have a Bandcamp page where you can listen to (and buy) the entire album HERE.
Haldol – Demo 2014
Originally from Nashville, the three-piece Haldol now calls Philly home. Haldol are certainly punk rock in their approach, but this is on the darker, gothier (is that a word?) side of things, more like sped up post-punk. The recording itself is a bit muddy – it was recorded at The Slow Club in West Philadelphia which, as near as I can tell, is actually some dude’s house. It sounds like it could very well be a live recording, though if not it may as well be because you get the sense that there’s no post-production work on the tracks – it’s raw, the way it was meant to be heard. I’m particularly partial to “Time’s Not on Our Side,” the most Warsaw-like track on the tape. Demo 2014 is short at three songs and less than 10 minutes, and of course you can check out the whole thing online HERE and maybe kick the guys a few bucks if you like it. I’m not sure how many of the tapes were made, but my guess is not a lot.
No Stayer – Rogue
Oh hell yeah! Hell. Yeah. Now this is what I’m talking’ about! This is in your face, driving hard rock ‘n’ roll, coming at you like a nitrous oxide burnin’ muscle car, all heavy riffs and power. Songs about living life on your own terms, chicks, and riding free. Mick’s vocals sound two-pack-a-day raspy and his guitar shreds out some sped up, blues-rock-influenced energy. “Ride Free” is an classic hard rock/metal driver, the kind of thing that if you played it while driving (or god forbid riding…) you’d probably look down and realize you were doing about 90 mph. Flip this puppy over and it just gets better and better. Mick is flat out barking vocals at me on “Inferno Road,” almost mocking me for my stupid white collar job and sensible car, making me think that some tallboys and Jack might be a very good idea. It’s just relentless. And like the others, available to listen to online for goddamn free right HERE. The cassette release just came out this year on Suicide Bong in a limited edition (the cassette itself is numbered) of 100. But seriously, even if you can’t get the tape, go download this right now for five bucks, spend the other five on beer, and see what the night brings (note that I will not post your bail, sorry).
Spent Flesh – Slave Hymns
There’s hardcore, and then there’s hardcore. This is the latter.
At eight songs and less than 14 minutes, don’t blink or you’ll miss Slave Hymns. Spent Flesh isn’t here to screw around – they’re in, they hit it, and they’re out. It’s blindingly fast, aggressive… and then done. “Cruel Sundial” is the winner here, possibly out of sheer weirdness that channels sort of Persian vibes crossed with like a hardcore Butthole Surfers kind of thing, though honorable mention for the pure punk rock intensity of “This City,” which is surprisingly melodic for being SO INSANELY FAST. This is another release on the Suicide Bong label, with the cassettes limited to 100 numbered copies and the entire thing available to stream online HERE.
You can literally go right out there and check out all of these bands for free, right now… and if you wanted to buy all of their downloads you’d be out less than $20 (some are “name your price”). That’s a lot of great music, and awfully cheap. If you’re only going to check out two bands though, I recommend No Stayer and Xatatax, both of who play some killer hard rock/metal. The scene in Philly is obviously filled with a lot of talented bands, because in all honesty I liked every single one of these tapes – and I still haven’t listened to the 40+ song Suicide Bong comp tape, which is what started this whole thing. So get out there, get connected, and get some new music! Oh, and make sure to check out Sit & Spin Records. Tell ’em Life in the Vinyl Lane sent you.