Ordnance / Spermicidal – “Ordnance / Spermicidal” Cassette (2013)

Fort Evil Fruit accepts no responsibility for any existential distress or damage to sanity resulting from exposure to these recordings. You are alone in an indifferent universe.

Well, you can’t say the label that put out this split death metal cassette didn’t try to warn you.

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This was one of the tapes I bought in Galway, Ireland a few month ago.  It was a complete and utter shot in the dark, with nothing but the band names (and to be honest I figured the band was Ordnance and the tape was called Spermicidal) and the packaging.  It hardly seemed like pop or classical (or country), so for $5 why not.

Little did I know I was adding another black metal tape to my collection.  A disconcerting number of my tapes seem to be black metal, and I’m not entirely sure how this came to be.  To be fair, a lot of them are from the Icelandic label Vánagandr (and I have two more on the way from them…), but still.  For a guy who never listened to black metal until this year, I have a lot of black metal tapes.

So what of it?  Well, this tape (released in January, 2013) features two side projects of members of the Irish band Wreck of the Hesperus, both of which involve Cathal Rodgers.  The Ordnance side is some of the best metal I’ve heard in a while – it’s black and doom, but also very musical.  Vocally it tends to stay on an even keel, assuming of course you’re willing to accept that that keel involves torment and echo and pain and the rending of flesh.  But it stays in a consistent flow through each song, without crazy swings in pitch or speed, maintaining a steady, doomy course to the abyss, with the possible exception of the opening of “Cold Corners, Warm Blood I” which is downright disturbing.  Ordnance is heavy and sludgy throughout, never breaking loose into a torrent of guitars and speed.

I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what it is about Spermicidal that leaves me not quite liking it as much as Ordnance (but it’s still good).  It’s a bit trippier, perhaps nowhere more so than on “Defragmentation,” which also happens to be the best song on this side of the tape.  It’s just sort of creepier in a way, a more disorganized type of terror.  More industrial in a lot of ways.  I like my apocalyptic horror a bit more methodical, but that’s just me.

The cassette itself was a limited, hand numbered edition of 100 that is long since sold out through the label.  But I did find a copy for sale on Discogs for about five bucks, or you can just head over HERE and give the whole thing a listen for free.

Harvester – “The Blind Summit Recordings” (2013)

“Harvester are a Sabbath influenced band from Galway.”

That might be the most succinct one-sentence self-description by a band that I’ve ever read.

So far I’ve been pleased with the music I brought home from our recent trip to Ireland, and Harvester are one of the best of the lot.  This may say as much about me and the styles of music I like (in this case, metal) than the actual musical chops of any of the bands, but hey, it’s my blog, so I guess you have to take it all with a grain of salt.

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Harvester came together in 2011 and they recorded the six-song The Blind Summit Recordings in 2012 as something to post online, never intending it to be any kind of commercial release.  But the internet is an amazing thing, and people all over the world started finding their music.  They even came to the attention of the guys from Mastodon who asked Harvester to open for them at a pair of dates in Dublin.  There was enough interested that the band was approached by Freak Flag Records about putting the album out on physical media, which is how The Blind Summit Recordings came to be released on CD (50 copies) and vinyl (numbered edition of 250) in 2013.  Fortunately for me there was still a copy at Bell Book and Candle in Galway when I visited there a few weeks ago, and today it is rocking my Rega in a big way.

Harvester keeps it heavy with the bass and drums, and intricate and soaring with the guitars, the way metal is meant to be played.  They don’t fall into any of the extreme subgenres like black metal, doom, death, speed… I’ve seen them referred to as “stoner metal,” and maybe there’s something to that due to their sludginess.  Harvester put more emphasis on the “heavy” than on the “metal” part of the equation, which is certainly one of the things that appeals to me personally.  “Atom Splitter” may be the hardest track on The Blind Summit Recordings, if for no other reason than Gavin Grealy’s vocals, which here stylistically come close to hardcore and are a departure from his sound on the rest of the record.  The high point is the album, though, is the opener – “Cosmonautical Mile” is a relentless metal attack with some shredding guitar work to close out the last minute or so, a song that truly captures Harvester’s Sabbath influence.

If you like your metal, you can listen to The Blind Summit Recordings HERE.  It looks like they even still have copies available on vinyl for €12, a steal in today’s world of $30 new releases.

Ham Sandwich – “Carry the Meek” (2008)

hamsandwichcarrythemeekI came across this vinyl copy of Ham Sandwich’s 2008 debut LP Carry the Meek at, of all places, Tower Records in Dublin.  I was certainly surprised to find a Tower Records there… but slightly disappointed by the small size of their “Irish Vinyl” section (though, to be fair, the “Irish CDs” section was quite large).  Ham Sandwich looked like one of the more interesting bands in that bin, and since I was without any internet access most of my purchases were, out of necessity, shots in the dark.  The band had a certain 90s quality to their look and a girl with fangs on the jacket, plus the vinyl was a numbered limited edition of 300, so why not.

I’m not sure where to go with Carry the Meek.  Reviews from the time it came out were somewhat mixed, including at least one particularly snarky and brutal one on entertainment.ie.  I don’t mind cracking wise from time to time, but I try to make a point of not trashing albums, and not criticizing them in witty ways, which smacks of trying to make yourself look smart at the expense of someone else.  In the interest of full disclosure, early in the lifespan of Life in the Vinyl Lane I wrote and posted two or three such reviews, but I came to realize that I was being pretty douchey and took them down.  Feel free to be critical.  Just be respectful.  People work hard on these albums, certainly a lot harder than you did in writing the review.

Anyway… musically Carry the Meek has that sort of 1990s indie sound to it even though it came out a decade later.  It’s somewhat low key, though at times the sound can get fuller and richer.  The real defining element of Ham Sandwich’s sound, however, at least on Carry the Meek, is the sonic relationship between the male and female vocalists, Podge McNamee and Niamh Ferrell.  Truth be told I have a hard time with this combo.  It’s sort of like Ian Curtis and Frances McKee teaming up, and their voices never quite mesh for me.  Both are good on their own, particularly Ferrell, who is in fact excellent in her solo segments, but together I just never come away feeling like it all fit.  That being said, a lot of people love how this pair sounds together, and McNamee has since moved on and been replaced by another male voice so I’d be curious to see how Ham Sandwich sounds today – they’ve sort of renamed themselves Hamsandwich, and their newest album Stories from the Surface just came out last month. There’s enough to like on Carry the Meek to warrant at least giving Stories from the Surface a listen.

Woven Skull – “Fat Baby Blues” Cassette (2014)

The section of Galway’s Bell Book and Candle devoted to Irish bands was a goldmine on our recent trip to Ireland.  Records of every size, CDs, and yes, even a fair amount of cassette releases were packed onto that rack.  It was bit of a crap shoot in terms of making purchases, having to rely on covers and any jacket notes I could find to give me some insight as to what type of music was hidden away behind that cellophane wrapper.  So far my batting average has been pretty good, though I did put on a record the other day that I thought was either going to be electro or hip hop and it turned to be more folk/singer-songwriter type stuff.  Not bad, mind, but unexpected.

Which is, of course, how I came to be in possession of Woven Skull’s 2014 cassette “Fat Baby Blues.”  I couldn’t really glean anything from the cover, though the band does have the word “skull” in its name.  Punk perhaps?  Maybe metal?  I didn’t know.  But it was quite reasonably priced, and there’s a good chance I’ll never see another copy again, so I figured “why not.”

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It turns out Woven Skull is psych.  Which I didn’t see coming.  But that’s cool, because I like me some psych from time to time.  Fat Baby Blues is basically two long tracks, each lasting just under 18 minutes.  They describe their sound as “minimal psychedelic repetitions made inside of haunted forests and burning bogs.”  I’m not sure it’s as dark and gloomy as that, but it’s still a trip.

“Fat Baby Blues Part I” is a combination of folk and minstrel instrumental, but with an obviously Eastern influence, reminding me a bit of some of the stuff that Led Zeppelin did and that Robert Plant got into during his solo days, especially the No Quarter:  Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded album he did with Jimmy Page back in 1994 (which is killer).  It has a hypnotic quality to it, with repetitions that slowly and steadily build in tempo until reaching a crescendo that makes you feel like a whirling dervish.  Drums, flutes, chimes, mandolins, and all kinds of sounds that I can’t identify took me down a trippy and groovy path that was all too easy to get lost inside.

“Fat Baby Blues Part II” is musical, but in a different way.  Here Woven Skull use some field recordings as part of their song.  You’ve got birds chirping, random sounds of people doing things (crinkling some type of material, putting things down on a wooden table…), and other environmental sounds, accompanied by some music elements and somewhat random sounding percussion.  This is definitely the more challenging material, because it’s less traditionally song-like, but it’s still captivating.

You can hear all of Fat Baby Blues for free HERE.  Woven Skull have a new LP due out in June 2015 entitled Lair of the Glowing Bantling, and based on the strength of this tape I may try to track down a copy.

Cosmic Funk Band (C.F.B.) – “Take It To The Limit One Last Time” (2014)

“Unauthorized reproduction and use of this record as a frisbee is strictly prohibited but inevitable.”

So sayeth the disclaimer on the reverse of C.F.B.’s 2014 EP Take It To The Limit One Last Time.  At least they don’t take themselves too seriously.

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Cosmic Funk Band are from Ireland, and are somewhere between eight and eleven members strong depending on the source you look at (and probably the day of the week).  They’ve got all the instruments covered, including stuff you’ve never heard of, and even credit a “Groove Adviser” in the liner notes.  Their self-claimed influences are funk, soul, and disco, and that fits the sound of Take It To The Limit One Last Time to a T.  This six-song EP is everything that was great about AM radio in the 1970s (and yes, there was some greatness on the AM dial), that combo of folk / soul / funk / disco / contemporary.  You can hear some James Brown band in the horns, a touch of salsa, a little Jackson 5, a dose of Lionel Richie and Hall & Oates, all in a big band format.

I believe Take It To The Limit One Last Time is all original material, and if you asked me to describe it in just one word, that’s easy:  Fun.  This is a fun record.  It’s a record for a party, or a BBQ, or sitting outside on a beautiful day having a drink or three, or diving in your car with the windows rolled down and the stereo cranked up.  Most if the songs sound like their straight from 1975 with the possible exception of “Alone,” which could make it onto any “adult contemporary” type station out there today – it sounds current, like something that Taylor Swift might have recorded (and I mean that as a compliment).

They’ve got a handful of videos up on YouTube, including a cover of “Sexual Healing,” and I recommend you check them out if you’re into light funk / soul.  Good stuff.