“Tales From the Pit, Vol. 3” Compilation (2013)

talesfromthepit3My buddy Travis liberated this record while vinyl digging at an antique mall.  It’s been a while since I’ve done that, but my recollections are groups of crappy records with asking prices about 5-10 times their actual value, with most of the records being very common or very obscure.  Travis has better luck in those places than I do, and when he came across this copy of Tales From the Pit, Vol. 3 he recognized immediately that, well, it didn’t belong there.  This is simply not the kind of record that does or should end up in an antique mall.  Plus there’s a local connection because the record was compiled by Whidbey Island Pyrate Punx and Whidbey Island is just a 20 or so minute ferry ride from Seattle.  And he knew just who would want such a record…  Thanks Travis!

I actually hung around on Whidbey Island a bit back in high school.  My friend’s grandfather had a small, rustic cabin on the water and sometimes we’d all pile into my Mustang and head out there on the ferry for an overnight.  When the tide was out a long sand spit would become exposed that was a very short rowboat ride from the beach.  Needless to say, there were some bonfires had on that spit.  And some beers may have been drunk as well.  I can neither confirm nor deny that last part (confirmed).  So I’ve always had fond memories of Whidbey.

As for Tales From the Pit, it’s crammed with 21 different bands.  Most of ’em are from the greater Seattle area, including four from Whidbey itself.  There are also a handful from Boise and one each from Portland, New Hampshire (?), and Bejing (???!!!).  Stylistically it’s a lot of punk, but there’s some thrash here (Coven’s “Mow ‘Em Down” is pretty rad) and even some high-octane rockabilly.  The recording quality varies a bit, but overall it sounds decent.  High points include the previously mentioned Coven as well as The Jerkwadz’s “Already Owned”, which is catchy as hell.

I don’t know much about the record itself, other than that my copy is on marbled orange vinyl, as is the one shown on Discogs.  No clue about the print run size or any of that.  So if you find it, and the price is right, grab it.  It’s worth the listen.

Kontinuum – “No Need to Reason” (2018)

I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen Kontinuum perform live.  Four?  Five?  We saw them at Airwaves a month or so ago and they sounded great, as always.  It’s weird though – I can’t remember ever going out with the specific intent of seeing Kontinuum… it’s more that they happened to be playing on the same card as other bands we wanted to see.  Inevitably we’d see them on the bill as well and say, “oh, and Kontinuum is playing there too, nice”.  And they’re certainly more than good enough to keep us around to wait for them as well.

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The quintet put out three albums, most recently No Need to Reason in 2018, an effort that was also their first on vinyl.  I picked it up during Airwaves because hey, Kontinuum are solid.  And that enjoyment I have for them live carries over onto the recording, albeit it in a somewhat different way.  The tracks on No Need to Reason are more polished than the band’s live sound, lacking a bit of their on-stage punch and taking on a smoother patina (“Warm Blood” probably comes closest to reflecting Kontinuum in concert).  But lest you think that’s a criticism, it’s not.  The sound is just a bit different, that’s all.  The three guitar attack is still here, though, creating a dense curtain of sound serving as the backdrop for what is often melancholy vocals, perhaps nowhere coming together as well as on the title track.

You can check out No Need to Reason on Bandcamp HERE.  On vinyl it’s available in three different colors – black (edition of 350), blue (300), and violet (100).  If my math’s right, that means the vinyl is limited to only 750 copies across all colors, so it’s fairly limited.

Une Misère – “Sermon” (2019)

We first encountered Une Misère at Iceland Airwaves 2017, and it was one of those magical examples of going to a venue to see one band (in this case Hatari) and being unexpectedly blown away by another.  Une Misère’s live performance hits you like a runaway semi truck, barreling along at breakneck speed with utter disregard for any obstacle in its path.  The sonic and psychic destruction is that complete, and we walked away that evening big fans.  We saw them again just a week ago (below), and trust me when I tell you they haven’t lost a step.  In fact they may even be picking up speed.

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I kept tabs on them after that first exposure and was surprised to find their only output were some digital downloads on their Bandcamp page (and I strongly encourage you to check out 010717 HERE).  How did these guys not have a deal, even one with one of the smaller Icelandic labels, to put out a physical release?  Well, it took a while, but earlier this year it was announced that Une Misère were releasing their debut LP Sermon, and on Nuclear Blast nonetheless.  I was lucky enough to track down a copy of the gold splatter edition while in Reykjavik last week (edition of 500), and this will be the first of many posts on Icelandic releases over the next few months as I dig through the pile of stuff we brought home.

For background on the band I refer you to a feature from earlier this year in the English language Reykjavik Grapevine HERE.  The wide-ranging interview included all of the band members and provides a solid background into their history together and motivations.

Sermon captures Une Misère’s live intensity, a crossover of hardcore and thrash, aggro and insightful, the embracing of life’s pain that is necessary in order to overcome.

Struggle to fight the pain within,
I won’t give in,
I won’t give in.
Push on,
Push every word you say,
They won’t hear you,
Blame me,
Feel my vengeance. 
— “Voiceless”

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The power of the music comes at you from every direction.  Pounding drums that sometimes transition suddenly to double bass and then back again, rage-fueled vocals, and not one, not two, but three shredding guitars fill the sonic space.  But Sermon is well mixed and there’s room here for everything.  “Failure” is the song that sticks out the most, a jam that maintains the core elements of Une Misère’s sound while being very intentionally structured.  Yes, it has speed and power, but it doesn’t rely on them so much as it does sculpt them in a way that creates a specific shape and form.  “Overlooked/Disregarded” is one of their earliest works, dating back to 2016, and it’s as powerful as ever on Sermon.

This is a killer record and a must-listen-to for those of you who like the hard stuff.  You can sample it online HERE.

Judas Priest – “Hero, Hero” (1981)

Record labels have been screwing over both artists and consumers for about as long as there have been record labels.  The 1981 Judas Priest release Hero, Hero, is one example of this, though to be fair it retains a certain amount of interest for fans.

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I’m not going to pretend to have any new info about Hero, Hero, so we’ll stick with what has been reported just about everywhere this album is discussed online.  It was put out by the band’s former label, Gull Records, and included all the songs from Rocka Rolla, a good chunk of those on Sad Wings Of Destiny, and a cover of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds & Rust” that appeared on The Best Of Judas Priest in 1978.  So you’d think that if you had those three albums already you’d have no need for Hero, Hero.  However… for whatever reason the label remixed the Rocka Rolla tracks as well as the Baez cover.  From what I see online from Priest fans some of the differences are subtle but others are more significant, including re-ordering lyrics in at least one case.  So if you’re a Priest completist, you clearly need this album.  Plus that cover – that cover!  I almost had to buy it for the cover alone.

I’m definitely more of a “greatest hits” fan when it comes to Priest.  Why that is, I have no idea… for whatever reason I just never got around to buying any of their stuff back in the day other than Defenders of the Faith, which I bought at the time exclusively because I thought “Love Bites” was a bad-ass song. (♠)  In the last few years I added a vinyl copy of Point of Entry, but that’s been it.  And I still don’t know why, because every time I hear Priest I like it.

Case in point:  Hero, Hero.  I’m digging this album.  A lot of these jams are pretty groovy and even a bit spacey, though there are some heavier moments on tracks like “Victim of Changes”.  But even these have a bit of funk in them.  I’ve had this record in my hand any number of times over the last few years, but finally find one in the right combination of condition and price to warrant pulling the trigger.  And since all these songs are pretty much new to me, all the better.  I doubt I’ll ever be familiar enough with the original Rocka Rolla versions to be able to do a meaningful comparison, but that’s OK – I like these mixes just fine.

(♠) A fact that remains true to this day. 

Blóðmör – “Líkþorn” (2019)

I first connected with Haukur Valdimarsson on Facebook back in 2017.  The thing that an Icelandic teenager and a guy from Seattle on a collision course with turning 50 had in common was our mutual love for the metal band HAM. (♠)  We are HAM!  We’ve stayed in touch both via Facebook and on Discogs over the last few years, generally to commiserate about Icelandic metal and punk, particularly favorites like HAM and Skálmöld.

Then out of the blue a few months back I see Haukur tagged in an article about the 2019 winners of Músíktilraunir, a.k.a. Icelandic Music Experiments, a.k.a. Iceland’s Battle of the Bands.  Could this be the same Haukur?  Did I even know he played guitar?  It was, and he does, and his metal band Blóðmör took home this year’s top prize.  Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, Haukur was also recognized as the event’s top guitarist.  Damn!  I mean sure, if there was an award for the most valuable Microsoft-Excel-user-guy at my company I’d have an outside shot of winning (♣), but to be named the best young axe-wielder in an entire country?  That’s pretty great.

Blóðmör (named after Icelandic blood sausage) just put out a five-song digital EP on Bandcamp (HERE) back in June, and I have to say it’s some damn good stuff.  I strongly encourage you to head over there, download it, and kick the kids a few bucks – yes, they’re offering it up for free, but I’d be willing to bet any cash they get will be spent on gear, studio time, and other music related stuff, so help ’em out.

I of course took full advantage of my relationship with Haukur and asked if he’d do an interview for Life in the Vinyl Lane, and he readily agreed.

Haurkur, you and I originally connected due to our mutual love of HAM. What metal bands drove your passion for the genre?

My biggest inspirations for writing songs for Blóðmör have been all kinds of bands. Mostly Icelandic but also bands from other countries. HAM has obviously had a massive impact. Then I would have to say the Megadeth has affected me a lot as well. Icelandic punk bands from the 80’s have had an impact on my writing. That would be bands like Purrkur Pillnikk, Fræbbblarnir and Þeyr.

How did Blóðmör come together as a band?

Blóðmör started right after another band I was in called it quits. This was in the fall of 2016. We just wanted to make punk music but we struggled a lot and quit after just a few months. Then in 2018 we got a new drummer and started playing again. Soon we played our first concert and have been in the scene since.

Blóðmör recently won Músíktilraunir, and you were recognized as the best guitarist.  What was that experience like, both preparing for it and ultimately winning the competition?

We prepared for Músíktilraunir by rehearsing the songs we were going to play over and over.  Even when we knew them 100% we just pushed them even more until they sounded perfect. When we made it to the finals we were so happy but after winning the whole competition we were left speechless. It was an amazing experience.

Your new five-song EP Líkþorn came out in June. How was the experience of recording that album?

Recordings of our EP started in October last year. We went to the studio very inexperienced and basically just didn’t know anything what we were doing. It took a few months to finish the recording, they were over in February this year. After that our friend Biggi from Alchemia started mixing the album and after that Oculus mastered it. Then on June 14. it finally got released.

How were you able to get Óttarr Proppé to join the band on “Frumskógurinn”?  How was it working with one of your idols?

I’ve known Óttarr for some time now for a few reasons. So it was easy for me to contact him. He was very open for the idea so he came. It was an amazing experience having him in the studio with us. When I heard him sing to our song for the first time I just couldn’t stop smiling.

What’s next for Blóðmör?

Our next step would be writing enough new material to record a full length album. We have almost 3 new songs ready at the moment, 2 of which we play live already. But I think we will not go to the studio again until we have at least 8-10 songs ready. We will take as much time we will need. I think it’s better to wait rather than doing this in a hurry.

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blodmorI was intrigued when Haurkur mentioned Purrkur Pillnikk and Fræbbblarnir as influences, because even at first glance there’s more than a bit at punk at play with Blóðmör – after all, the longest song on Líkþorn clocks in at a very un-metal-like 3:04, definitely a departure from the ambitious lengths of so many metal tracks these days.  Stylistically there are punk elements as well, though make no mistake – this is guitar-driven metal through-and-through.  Right from the opening of the title track “Líkþorn” we’re treated to driving riffs, followed by growled vocals, then right into a classic metal instrumental interlude before reversing course and taking us to the finish line in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee.  But lest you be afraid the guys are going to stay in this zone for the next 12 minutes, au contraire mon frère, because “Klósettið” is a pure rocker, its vocals cadenced in pop punk fashion and slightly at odds with the brief metallic solo burst in the song’s second half.  “Skuggalegir Menn” takes us in a doom direction, the vocals going lower and more primal, the rhythm section pulsating with plodding weight, a HAM-esque crusher that still maintains a dose of youthful enthusiasm.

The first time I heard “Frumskógurinn” I stopped dead in my tracks and said out loud to no one in particular (I was home alone at the time), “wait, that’s Óttarr Proppé“, the one and only vocalist for HAM and Dr. Spock!  And I have to say he fits perfectly into this track, probably the most punk jam on Líkþorn, one reminiscent of some of the finest first wave Scandinavian punk bands.  Óttarr takes the middle of the song in a raspy, accusatory direction before the guys bring it back home perfectly, picking up right where they left off before his vocal interlude.  The album closes with “Barnaníðingur”, another rocker characterized by a driving rhythm, though one that picks up speed along the way like a car with no breaks heading down a hill, going faster and faster until the collision at the end that brings the whole thing to a sudden and jarring stop.

I suspect that we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from Blóðmör in the coming years, and hopefully they’ll land a few shows during Airwaves this year so that I can check them out live.

(♠) And the English language, because mercifully for me Haukur’s English is probably better than mine.

(♣) OK, maybe I’d be in the top three… or maybe the top five… but spreadsheets are cool, dammit!