Dead Herring – “Drowned In Rock” (2017)

deadherringdrownedinrockI enjoyed Dead Herring’s debut cassette Tuna In Trouble (2016), so it was exciting to hear that their newest effort would be released on vinyl.  And they don’t disappoint, mixing hardcore and powerviolence into a wall of noise that will take the paint off your walls.  It’s not all brute speed – sometimes it’s heavy and slow like on “Sólaranus”, but even then the vocals bring the angst and put a razor’s edge on the whole thing.  After cramming 13 tracks on the A side, the B side is given over to one 15+ minute Sabbath-esque doom jam, which might be the most killer part of the record.

Digitally Drowned In Rock is available HERE.  I’m not sure how hard it will be to track down the vinyl as it doesn’t appear to be offered on Bandcamp, so good luck with that.

Rass – “Andstaða” (2005)

rassBy 2005 it had been a solid 10 years since the metal band HAM had put out a studio album, the last of which was (at that time) 1995s Dauður Hestur.  A pair of live CDs hit the market in 2001, but for all intents and purposes it seemed clear that HAM was a thing of the past by the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. (♠)  So what are a bunch of rockers to do when their rock band is no more?  Well, make another rock band, of course.  Or, if you’re so inclined, an old-school punk band.  And that’s exactly what HAM veterans Arnar Geir Ómarsson, Flosi Þorgeirsson, and Óttarr Proppé did in 2005 – form a band called Rass (“Ass”), put out an album called Andstaða (“Opposition”), take pot-shots at the old families that rule the nation’s fishing industry with an iron fist, play a few shows, then disband.  Which is all pretty punk rock.

I only learned of Rass’ existence recently while doing some research for a blog on the new Dr. Spock album. Andstaða is quite difficult to find, even in Iceland, typically selling online in the $50+ range.  Fortunately for me I was putting together an order with my friends over at Lucky Records and they had a copy, so a few weeks ago it arrived at my door.  And I’ve been playing the hell out of it ever since.

There’s a certain something, a sonic undercurrent, that to my ears defines the early Icelandic punk sound.  I can’t put it into words, but much like Potter Stewart once famously said about obscenity, “I know it when I see it” (♣), or in this case hear it.  What’s interesting to me about Andstaða, however, is that it lacks this element.  In fact, Andstaða is about the closest thing to first generation UK punk that I’ve ever heard come out of Iceland, especially “Lífsflótti”.  Of course, there are still clearly HAM influences here, not to mention a dose of Dr. Spock on “Pönk Familie”, which makes sense given that vocalist Óttarr Proppé is in all three bands.

At 12 songs and 20 minutes, Rass get in and out quick.  And it’s just the right amount for me.  Allegedly there were only 500 copies pressed of Andstaða, so if you see one you better grab it – you might not get the chance again.

(♠)  And remained that way until their phenomenal come-back album Svik, Harmur Og Dauði in 2011.

(♣)  Potter was a justice on the United States Supreme Court when he wrote that infamous phrase in a concurring opinion for the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964.  The suit arose from a movie theatre being fined for showing the French film The Lovers, which local authorities deemed pornographic.  Potter’s full quote was “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description {of hardcore pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Volruptus – “Homeblast” (2017)

volruptushomeblastLately I’ve been a bit selective on the electronic albums I write about.  Not because they’ve sucked or anything, but simply because I find the genre difficult to put into words.  But sometimes a record just clicks with me, and when that happens I feel the urge to dash off at least a paragraph or two about it, which is how I find myself writing about Volruptus’ four song 12″ Homeblast.

Iceland born and Berlin based, Volruptus’ style is some deep techno space UFO stuff, something little silver aliens with massive heads and huge eyes that are as black as the void would probably make if they made electronica.  The pulsar-like beats are overlaid with electro-strangeness that sounds like it’s coming out of the equipment in a mad scientist’s lab, like sonic waveforms flowing across the screen of some kind of 1960s era apparatus.  This isn’t high tech and fancy; it’s old-school and edgy.

You can listen to these tracks as well as some of Volruptus’ other work on his Soundcloud page HERE.  But watch out for those aliens.  I hear they’ll use probes on you…

Dr. Spock – “Leður” (2018)

There are two famous Spocks in the world today, one real, the other two fictional.

The real one was Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician and psychoanalyst who became a household name due to his seminal books on child rearing and behavior that influenced multiple generations of parents (and, subsequently, their kids).  He also won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics as a rower for the Yale 8-man boat that represented the United States, which is pretty cool.  Dr. Spock lived a full life and passed away in 2008 at the age of 94.

Depending on your age and where you live, though, the fictional Spock may very well be the more familiar of the two.  The Vulcan served as the first officer on the USS Enterprise as it boldly went where no man had gone before.  A brilliant scientist and cold logician, Spock sacrificed himself to save the crew of the Enterprise during their battle with the genetically-altered super-villain Khan… but then of course came back to life… and ended up in a time warp that later resulted int here being two Spocks, one old and one young, living simultaneously… and a whole bunch of other convoluted storylines that I can’t be bother to try to keep track of any more.  He’s pretty bad-ass, though, and has some musical cred as well, receiving various musical shout-outs (most notably by the Beastie Boys on “Intergalactic” and D.O.A.’s “Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty and Bones”) and even putting out his own album of sorts, Leonard Nimoy Presents Dr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space (1967).

But there’s another Spock out there.  Like the first a doctor; like the second capable of taking you down with a neck pinch.  This Dr. Spock resides on a volcanic rock in the North Atlantic, a place where people used to think the entrance to Hell could be found, in a city aptly named “Smokey Bay” by its founders but better known today as Reykjavik.  And this Dr. Spock is not here to fuck around, let me tell you, launching songs at you like shells from a howitzer to pulverize your brain into oblivion and leave behind a tear in your consciousness that will cause you to never look at the world the same way again.  A band that in 2009 rolled through the streets of Reykjavik in an open-sided cargo trailer, swilling Jack Daniels and spewing forth their brand of punk-funk to the enraptured masses in something that resembled a bizarre religious ritual.  Their live shows are characterized by high energy, swirling mosh pits and beer and yellow rubber dishwashing gloves.  They are one of my favorite bands to see in concert.

This is the Dr. Spock I’m writing about today.  The howitzer guys.

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It’s been a long time since we were last graced with a new album by the good Doktor.  They followed up their 2005 debut Dr. Phil with the brilliant Falcon Christ in 2008, and then radio silence for almost a decade.  They unleashed a new single into the world in “Namenakutsame” in 2016, a tease for what many of us hoped was a forthcoming album, but then it got quiet again.  Until a few months back, that is, when we learned that the Dr. Spock’s long-awaited third album was coming soon.  And that is how, my friends, we arrived at their latest release, the rubber-glove-fisted Leður (Leather).

And it was worth the wait.

To prepare myself for this review I went back and took a journey through Hell through Dr. Spock’s back catalog, as it’s been a while since I listened to their first two albums.  And man, I forgot how great they are.  Whether it’s the funky rhythms, the crazy organs, or the bizarro covers of “Strawberry Fields” and “Private Dancer” (♠), you never know what’s around the corner on a Dr. Spock album.

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Leður opens with the track Dr. Spock opened their sets with the last two times I saw them live, an instrumental entitled “Intro” that sets the stage of what is to come by simply building tension, a somewhat repetitive musical passage that picks up velocity as it accelerates towards the rocket launch that will be the rest of the album.

It’s hard to slap a clean genre label onto Dr. Spock.  Maybe a filth encrusted one would work better… but I digress.  Part punk attitude, part metal speed, a heavy dose of funk in the rhythm section, and an organ that sounds like it’s being played by the creepy clown from Stephen King’s It in some kind of demented circus, everything that Dr. Spock does is intended to keep you off kilter and out of synch.  Perhaps the closest that we get to something mainstream is the metal-esque “Gamli Maður”, but that’s immediately followed by the completely whacked-out “Elefanto Be”, which opens with Finni doing some kind of crazy lo-fi urban yodeling as an intro for Óttarr Proppé’s barking-frog-like vocal delivery that makes you begin to question your own sanity.  And when that transitions to Óttarr’s creepy-as-hell grunted laugh at the start of “Sexsexsex”, well, hide the women and children, my friends, because something dark has come to town.

While Finni and Óttarr tend to get the most attention for their roles at the front of the stage with Dr. Spock, the musicians behind them are an incredibly talented group.  Driven forward like runaway train by the rhythm section, the band effortlessly pivot on a dime to go from punk to metal to funk to something crazy like a quiet piano interlude.  They cover a wide range of styles and speeds, making it all seem easy.

My favorite track after a dozen or so Leður listens is “Pabbatagl”, a song featuring lo-fi vocals from Finni (My head is gone / Your head is on / My head is on / Your head is gone), some samples, and the occasional familiar-sounding metal guitar riff.  It drives forward while maintaining a healthy amount of that Dr. Spock weirdness.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been enjoying the digital download of Leður, which is available on iTunes and a bunch of other places.  It’s my understanding there was a plain black sleeve super limited edition vinyl (20 or 30 copies) sold at the album launch show a few weeks back, and I was certainly bummed to have missed out on that.  BUT… the boys have put out another super limited run of vinyl (not sure how many copies…) with an actual printed jacket and fortunately for me a friend of mine in Reykjavik got his paws on one for me.  As far as I know, THIS is the only place to get one, so grab one while you can.

(♠)  Hearing massive Dr. Spock frontman Finni sing that he wants to be your private dancer, dancing for money is an unsettling experience, especially when it’s live.

xGADDAVÍRx – “Lífið Er Refsing” 7″ (2017)

xgaddavirxI wasn’t planning on writing about xGADDAVÍRx’s four-song 7″ from last summer, Lífið Er Refsing.  Not because I have anything against xGADDAVÍRx, or hardcore, or the town of Akranes, Iceland where they’re from.  It’s because 7″ records are short and that often makes them hard to write about.  But after hearing how catchy these songs are, I had to tell you at least a little about them if for no other reasons that hopefully a few folks will read this and checkout the record.

Hardcore isn’t normally my thing, and it’s also not something you generally associated with the word “catchy”, which I wrote in the above paragraph.  The vocals are pure hardcore, and the musical pace careens back and forth between hardcore and West Coast thrash.  The riffs on the second half of “Kýldur” are reminiscent of early Megadeth, while the pace of “Harðir Tímar Kalla á Hart áfengi” could easily be mistaken for Suicidal Tendencies.  That’s not, however, to imply that xGADDAVÍRx sound like either of those two bands; they’ve got their own thing going on, and it works.

Give ’em a chance on Bandcamp HERE.