Vonbrigði – “Vonbrigði” 7″

vonbrigdisingleMy acquisition of the 1982 Vonbrigði 7″ revisits two former themes on the blog… buying Icelandic, and meeting and buying records from Iceland’s pop music historian Dr. Gunni.  I was super lucky enough to get first crack at Gunni’s vinyl while visiting Reykjavik a few years back and picked up some fantastic gems.  None of those, though, were from Vonbrigði… surprisingly the two records of that band that I’ve bought over the years both came to me via eBay.  Go figure.  But somehow the other night I found myself looking for Icelandic vinyl on Discogs (I blame the wine…), and who did I find selling a few more choice slabs of wax but none other than Dr. Gunni.  The record I was actually on the prowl for was a metal album by the band Bootlegs (which I also bought – review forthcoming), but once I saw Gunni was the seller I had to go through all his listings, and that’s how I came to own this very reasonably priced, acceptable condition copy of Vonbrigði’s first (and only) 7″ release.

Icelandic musician and sometimes Life in the Vinyl Lane reader (and subject!) Þórir Georg posted on my Facebook page in response to seeing a photo of this, “…So good,” which confirmed what I already suspected.  That I was in store for a punk rock treat.

OK, so the opening track of this four-song nugget “Sjalfsmorð” was not at all what I expected – very post-punk, with emphasis on the post!  This has that weird Þeyr-esque quality about it that I find so hard to describe other than to say “I know it when I hear it” or “it sounds like downtown Reykjavik on a windy day.”  Certainly not the agro of “Ó, Reykjavík” for which Vonbrigði are so deservedly famous.  This and the other side A song, “Eitthvað Annað,” have more in common with perhaps early Talking Heads than anything else I can put my finger on.  The B side tracks, “Börnin þin” and “Skitseyði,” both appear on the 2010 compilation mini-album Ó, Reykjavík and are more punish with faster tempos and more attitude.  There’s still a post-punk/early new wave element at play, but the B side has a certain sneering quality about it that seems to fit.

There’s just something about the Icelandic music that was coming out in the early 1980s… there wasn’t a lot of punk/new wave, but what was there was outstanding, so any time I get to add something new from them to my music library I’m a very happy boy (and reminded why I work for the man…).  Thanks Dr. Gunni!

Aggrovators – “Reggae Stones Dub”

This is a first for me, as I’m writing this entire post on my iPad, without an external keyboard. So please forgive any blatant misspellings or words that don’t seem to fit!

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I went to the record show in Seatlle with my friend Norberto this weekend, and while I didn’t find anything super-exciting, I still came home with some vinyl.  I was surprised by how much dub and reggae was there.  It wasn’t a ton, mind you; just way more than I expected.  And I brought one home, a $5 copy of “Reggae Stones” Dub from 1976.

Since typing on the iPad is so weak, let me just say that this is a nice, groovy dub record.  The songs have a lot more vocals than what I’m used to in my dub, but that doesn’t detract from them in the slighest.  It even includes a dub version of a reggae cover of “Get Ready” by The Temptations called “Ready Steady Dub.”  It’s a good time record, one that begs for a cold cocktail while you just hang out, mon.

Metal and Hardcore (Tapes) from Philly

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Pink Military – “Do Animals Believe In God?”

Most of what I’ve been able to find about the short-lived Pink Military hits on a few pertinent facts, making it seem very much like the band sort of came and went before anyone noticed.  Fronted by former Big In Japan member Jayne Casey, Pink Military formed in mid 1978 and were gone by 1981, leaving behind a pair of singles, an EP, and one full length record, Do Animals Believe In God? (1980).  They also recorded a pair of Peel sessions for good measure.  A number of musicians cycled through the lineup, both coming from and eventually going to some well known groups like Deaf School, The Durutti Column, Simply Red, and The Slits.

I came across Do Animals Believe In God? during what turned out to be a surprisingly productive visit to Seattle’s Georgetown Records, where I also left with Venom’s Possessed and a cool three record Sonny Vincent anthology.  I’ve done OK there in the past as well… I may need to get that shop into regular rotation if for no other reason than to check the new arrivals section.

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Do Animals Believe In God? strikes me as an album from a transitional period, one moving away from post-punk (but holding onto to some of that genre’s gloom) and towards new wave.  The roots are certainly post-punk, clearly evidenced by the first three tracks, which are all excellent.  I particularly enjoyed “Degenerated Man,” which felt like a downtempo Devo number, slow and low enough to almost make you wonder if you shouldn’t be playing this on 45.  At other times the new wave comes right to the front, like on “Wild West,” a number that easily could have been done by early Blondie.  The darker numbers are the most intriguing, though, and I could play “I Cry” and “Did You See Her?” over and over again.

The weirdest songs are reserved for side B.  “Living In a Jungle” comes at you with a sort of electronic jungle beat and some modulated vocals, almost more like a proto-electronica track, not something with a real lyrical structure.  That’s followed by the surreal “Dreamtime” and it’s “ding dong” vocals, a song with a nighttime stickiness that makes me think of the feeling you get when you have too much Nyquil.  “War Games” keeps it weird, but this time in a much more electro-poppy way, with a militaristic drum beat and carried along but very chip-tuney keyboards.  “Heaven/Hell” and “Do Animals Believe In God?” keep the trend going and close out side B leaving me feeling slightly unsettled.

The opening three tracks of side A are definitely the winners here, but I still respect the oddness of the rest of Do Animals Believe In God?  It seems to fit right into 1980, and while I’m not sure it’s going to have a lot of appeal to anyone who isn’t seriously into that period of post-punk, I found it to be pretty interesting and worthwhile.

Venom – “Possessed”

Ask a non metal fan for their thoughts on “black metal” and you’ll likely get responses limited to Satanism and church burnings.  There is certainly an anti-Chirstian/Satanist (or even Pagan) element to some of the genre, and while the church burnings in Scandinavia happened they’re kind of a historical footnote at this point with most of the incidents having occurred back in the 1990s.  Ask people about the music itself, and they’ll probably simply guess “fast” and “loud”.  It’s certainly a genre that falls well outside of the mainstream, and chances are most people have never heard a song by an actual black metal band, so they only know what they’ve read (probably sensationalized) or been told (definitely sensationalized).

When the discussion turns to the origins of black metal, a handful of bands are typically identified as part of the first wave.  In Lords of Chaos:  The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind single out three progenitors:  Bathory, Mercyful Fate, and Venom.  And it’s Venom that holds the distinction of having provided the nom de genre with the release of their 1982 album titled simply Black Metal.  Like with any other type of music you can play the “but those guys were influenced by so-and-so,” and keep doing that back in time until you get to cro-magnons living in caves and banging sticks against rocks, so at some point you just need to find something that seems to fit and move on.  And it’s apparent that any way you slice it Venom was among the earliest black metal band.

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The irony, of course, is that it doesn’t appear that the members of Venom were true believers.  Instead they cultivated an image, both lyrical and visual, that theatrically used Satanic and dark themes.  Moynihan and Søderlind note, “Early interviews with the members of Venom make it clear they themselves were beer-swilling Rock and Rollers out to have a good time.  The Satanism projected in their presentation and lyrics was primarily an image they stumbled upon, guaranteed to assure them attention and notoriety.” (p. 13)  But obviously those words and images struck a chord, because they inspired the next generation of bands that took things to the next level in some pretty serious ways, so their influence is indisputable.

I found this copy of Venom’s 1985 record Possessed while flipping through the new arrivals at Seattle’s Georgetown Records this weekend, and since I have at least a passing interest in black metal (see prior posts on Burzum and Mayhem) I figured I’d pick it up.  Possessed was the last studio album recorded by the original lineup of Cronos, Mantas, and Abaddon.  While it’s not their most acclaimed record, it does represent a sort of end-of-an-era, and the material is actually earlier than the release date would indicate with much of it dating form before their 1984 concept album At War with Satan, and it certainly pre-dates the early Norwegian albums I’ve heard.  So why not.

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Lyrically you get what you’d expect from a band seeking to shock you with their evil – repeated references to Satan, devlis, hell, death, and virgins.  I’m not even going to bother quoting any of them here because there’s no point – the rhyme structure is very basic and straight-forward, and frankly most of it is hardly shocking today.  Of course, in 1985 it was horrifying enough for the Parents Music Resource Center (remember them?) to include the title track of Possessed on their Filthy 15 list of the most objectionable songs in popular music.  Which is pretty cool, right?  Well, keep in mind that “Possessed,” a song that includes a line about drinking a priest’s vomit, was ranked #14… which is somehow four spots behind Def Leppard’s “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night),” a song you very well might hear played over the PA if you were to go to a shopping mall later today.  At least they finished ahead of Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop,” which was #15.  Seriously kids.  This is the crap we were dealing with in 1985.  People were worried about what listening to “She Bop” and Prince might do to the poor children.

Musically my copy of Possessed sounds a bit “flat” – it’s low in the mix and lacks depth to the bass, giving it a bit of a tinny quality.  There’s a good balance of faster and slow/heavy pieces, though the heaviness lacks a bit of weight due to the absence of depth, so the faster parts come off sounding better than the heavy parts.  Songs like “Powerdrive” that are primarily pure speed coming straight at you are the best fit for the mix, which is a factor that contributes it to being my favorite song on the record.  I’d like to hear a richer sounding version of “Flytrap,” a solid slower and heavier number that just leaves you wanting that little bit more.  The vocals don’t fall into the indecipherable growl-fest, reminding me more of a cross between Kill ‘Em All era Metallica and early Phil Anselmo Pantera, like Vulgar Display of Power.

If you replaced the lyrics with more typical metal fare from the era, like chicks, drinking, chicks, motorcycles, chicks, rocking, and chicks, Possessed would have fallen on the border somewhere between the better and heavier glam acts like Mötley Crüe and the early thrash scene of Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax.  There’s a fair amount to like in the overall sound, and while I know I sound like a broken record, if the mix was a bit better Possessed would be a solid metal album.  As it is, it’s still pretty damn good and can certainly rage on songs like “Possessed,” so there’s plenty here to like.

If you’re into the harder 1980s metal scene, or just interested in checking out some of the more approachable early black metal stuff, Venom is worth a listen, and Possessed is a decent one to give a spin.