Archive for the Riffs Category

Bone and Blood: Idles – Brutalism

Posted in Riffs with tags , , , , on March 17, 2018 by Ben

My faith in music is very transient. While there are plenty of euphoric moments, more often than not those quickly fade into memory, leaving my enthusiasm to stutter and calcify. This is followed by a long, slow fall into silent apathy, where I struggle to ignite excitement for anything musical, regardless of genre or age. These are bleak periods, ashen fucking wastes of dry cardboard and inane radio chatter. I stumble through these spells, hoping to find a new sound, something urgent and mentally violent, a blazing neon star that will shatter my pitiful reverie and wake me the fuck up. Several albums have done this for me in the past but few with the same degree of emotion and propulsion as Brutalism.

Image result for brutalism idles

I don’t maintain a social media presence (unless blogging to an audience of ten counts) and as such, tend to be several months behind albums that have already blown up and been devoured by the public hordes. I’m the lazy vulture, waddling over to the carcass after even the maggots have had their fill, slurping up whatever grease and sinew remains. Such is the case for the debut album from Idles, released last March to near universal acclaim that has already got them on a label and a sold-out set of North American shows (The current sold-out Toronto show is at Hard Luck, which makes sense for a band this size. However, the show was originally booked at the Smiling Buddha – a tiny venue that usually hosts locals. Whoever booked it there was either insane or a genius). With no background, no predispositions from the hype-machine in my subconscious, this album came crashing down on me like a tonne of liquid concrete.

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Benzedrine Dreams: Vypers – Champion 100

Posted in Riffs with tags , on March 15, 2018 by Ben

I find our long relationship with drugs and chemicals fascinating. For many years during our rapid industrialisation we had random concoctions brewing in labs, usually for nefarious ends. This synthesized magic was quickly adopted for whatever use it served best, spread among the population as quickly as the creaking infrastructure could handle it.

Now here is where these new substances could fall down two very different paths. The first path was the one of wanton greed, where company science men had found out their wonderful chemical child was actually quite bad for you (see; asbestos, lead, mercury, thalidomide et all) but the powers that be kept pumping that shit to you until enough people got fed up with the deformed babies.

The second path, the left hand path if you will, was when The Man eventually realized that certain chemicals were just too much fun. People could abuse these things, we should ban them for public safety, said they. So all these commonly available ways to spend a Saturday night became relegated to back alley street deals and confidential laboratories, like for example, the euphoric decongestant Benzedrine.

Vypers are one of Toronto’s garage rock alumni, a fashionable quartet providing venues with sweaty crowds and a wholehearted embrace of drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and more’n likely, sex. Flashy and tight, like a glitter-greased leotard sashaying through your amphetamine haze.

Champion 100 is their newest release, an EP of 4 tracks, some of which had been released previously (“Deepsave” & “Mr.Girl”) and others that are (probably?) new. All amble close to their established sound of lethargic, blissed-out melodies and a heavy stomping on the pedal board. While Vypers may exert the illusion of careless talent and impersonal fluidity, quiet frankly, you don’t write songs this tight without giving a damn.

This is a strong release, wiry, coked-up, unpredictable strength – princely glamour that would happily kick your knees in if you toyed with it wrong. A dexterous balancing act of memorable choruses (“Reaper”) and hazy instrumentals (“Deepsave”), they are more than capable of punching beyond the weight class of “psych” and shoving themselves some room around their contemporaries.

You can find Champion 100, along with their other release on Bandcamp and you can check them out at a show in Toronto whenever the mood strikes you.

A Vulgar Display: Power Trip & Mammoth Grinder

Posted in Riffs with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2018 by Ben

Bask in the glory of a textbook metal album cover. Not only do we have goat-headed demon gods, the cosmic spectre of death, tortured souls and mysterious hooded figures, we also get some sickly looking galaxies and a subterranean antechamber. This is some goddamn van mural territory and I love it.

The throwback renaissance that started with plain rock and roll has been slowly leeching its way down through the genre’s, boiling up a vulgar banquet of historical aggression and hero worship. Here’s two.

Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Crossover thrash is a hooligan genre, taking the best from both basements and blowing the brims back. Having spent many years in love with Tempo Of The Damned and Age of QuarrelPower Trip is like a blast of nostalgic whiplash, bringing me right back to teenaged years spent headbanging with a broken iPod.

Nightmare Logic is their second album after 2013’s Manifest Decimation and continues the brawny trend of clubbing together the shaved heads and greasy locks, a bloodshot monster of guitar worship and forehead bruising enthusiasm.

Mammoth Grinder – Cosmic Crypt

Conveniently, Mammoth Grinder makes a great pairing even without the aesthetic similarities, as the drummer of Power Trip fills up the front of Mammoth Grinder (along with members from Iron Reagan). Apparently this same guy, Chris Ulsh, is also in Impalersso yeah, he seems rad.

Cosmic Crypt is badass slab of classic death metal worship carried out by a bunch of shitty punks. Short, to-the-point, propulsive rippers, no air is spared for artistic indulgence or mindless wankery, with all 11 tracks sliding in just under the 30 minute mark. Just mid-tempo charge, charge, FUCKING CHARGE.

Blurry Eyes: Cedell Davis – The Horror of It All

Posted in Riffs with tags , on February 21, 2018 by Ben

All albums I listen to always take some time to “click”. For most it’s usually an extremely brief period, completed within the first track of an album. On occasion it may take three or four listens to fully sink in. Even rarer still, there are some albums that will take months before truly setting in. In the case of “The Horror of It All” it took damn near half a year before the right collection of events fell into place.

I woke up on a Sunday morning feeling out of place. My throat pulsed with agony every time I swallowed, my eyes were blurry, breathing erratic and thoughts muddled. However, I wasn’t so far gone that I could write the day off and hide in my filthy blankets until I levelled out, so into the tepid grey air I went. I wandered around aimlessly for a couple hours, skipping through songs until by a random impulse I put this album on.

All the previous times I had listened to this I never really fell in love. Something was always disconnected from the jagged guitar and laconic drawl, but on this day, with my head spinning and body in some form of turmoil, it drove right in and staked a butter knife through my heart.

Cedell Davis is a bluesman from the old guard who died last year. Born in 1926, this man had seen some shit over his 91 years on this rock. Aside from growing up in a depression and living through a world war, he was also struck with polio at a young age, loosing most control over his left hand and ragged remains in the rest of his body. Having just started learning guitar, he was committed to continuing and developed a style of slide playing using a butter knife clutched in his hand. Then, even after developing his musical career and garnering some success, he had both legs broken in a stampede cause by a police raid of a gig, resulting in his confinement to a wheelchair from 1957 onward.

The blues have always had some harsh stories in the background but damn man, that is a pretty shit run. These aren’t just such ‘n’ such blues, it’s a goddamn punishing crawl through life that gave his music an extremely distinct warp. As you also might have guessed, the butter-knife slide guitar style is scathingly unique due to the unequal pressure the handle of the knife puts on the strings. This gives his playing a very challenging and dissonant vibe, splintered and off-balance chords that reflect a man’s broken body but unbroken will.

This fragmented dissonance was one of the major reason this album took so long to take hold. These riffs are fucking bent man. It’s not like this is just out of tune wanking, more like everything is tuned to an alien ear and you need to adjust your thinking to suit. He has a complete mastery over his instrument yeah, but mastery more in the sense of tortuous domination than mutual technicality. Further driving the point home is the minimalist instrumentation present on very few of the tracks, at the most there’s a ragged kick drum getting stomped into the background but precious little else.

As someone who had only heard blues from the mainstream standards, this album was a revelation, an introduction to an underappreciated legend that fought through setbacks that would maim lesser men. Even if you listen to this album now and hate it, curse it as so much noise, I urge you to give it several chances, because when it hits just right, it hits deep.

The Abyss Gazes Also: Thantifaxath & Primitive Man

Posted in Riffs with tags , , , on February 20, 2018 by Ben


Escapism has long been a part of our society, from the first time an imagination was flexed to move someone beyond their own, miserable, circumstances. As time went on and the methods advanced from the written word, to film, to music and to the digital salve used today to lubricate atrophied imaginations, so did the degree of horrors that these pleasures of the mind were fighting against.

Heavy music has traditionally lent a hand to the darker side of our psyche, frolicking in the corpses and taboos of the masses. It does not give a clear escape from whatever ails you, the degrees of escape may vary depending on genre or topic. However, there are some bands that fail to offer even a fleeting respite, apex predators in the field of drooling terror and existential nihilism. These bands turn to face the encroaching tides of the abyss with open arms and toothy grins.

Last year saw the release of new albums from two of these bands; Primitive Man released Caustic in October and Thantifaxath with Void Masquerading as Matter in November. These two bands take very different routes to their end but tread the same thematic waters along the way. Taken together the effect is quite fetching, alternating between blast of schizophrenic adrenaline and lethargic mass destruction, both bellowing the truth in their roles as screeching prophets of bloodthirsty clarity.

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Psychotic Reaction: SUNFLOWERS – Castle Spell

Posted in Riffs with tags , on February 15, 2018 by Ben

It’s been a damn traditional winter up here in the frozen yonder. Steady streams of pecker puckering temperatures and steadily rising snowbanks, coupled with an unhealthy vitamin D deficiency, have made this season a real drag.

So in the spirit of staying sane, warm and generally well adjusted, let’s melt back some of these winter demons with the almighty blowtorch of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. The blowtorch tonight goes by the name SUNFLOWERS and hails from the substantially warmer locale of Porto, Portugal (12 degrees and partially cloudy tomorrow. Not like I’m bitter).

This band is one of many that was led to my ears via my aimless Bandcamp sojourns. One of these wanders yielded me their previous release, The Intergalactic Guide to Find The Red Cowboy, securing itself a solid rotation through my personal playlist over the last couple months. Now we have the fresh sheen of 10 new tracks to abrade down to a familiar patina through repeat listens and feral earwax.

Castle Spell continues on with the jittery two-step psych rock established on their earlier albums, smacking the formula around a little bit but otherwise staying relatively true to their form of a pizza eatin’, reefer tokin’, mangy lookin’ duo of delinquents. Y’all have a good time sloshing beer around and dancing like you’re in the depths of an ether binge? Y’all will like the album.

Simple, almost rooty, rhythms on the skins are paired with the usual fruity notes of buzzing riffs and vocal reverb. The psych in the garage is given more weight this time around, with looping melodies, whacked-out drones and some decidedly atonal slices. The warbling guitar bender on the back half of “The Siren”, goes on just longer than you think it would, or the hardcore favourite of ear-piercing feedback that closes out “The Maze (Act 1-2)”. It’s the skronky bit in the soup, which is always a risk when the chef is out to fuck with your mind man.

All-in-all it’s a welcome addition to the rapidly swelling ranks of top-notch garage and psych rock that’s been sweeping through bands like reefer madness or the plague of Hell’s Angels. Blast out the winter blues below.

Plastic Genitals: MANNEQUIN PUSSY – Romantic

Posted in Riffs with tags , on February 15, 2018 by Ben

Yes sir, here we are. Where? Thursday.


I could have a more interesting or in-depth reason why I found this band but, I don’t. Quite simply, the words MANNEQUIN PUSSY come hollering outta of the screen like few others. It’s not often that I’ve pondered the smooth, interrupted plastic that graces the crotch of those milky white sentinels of fashion but here we are.

Having reeled me in with their salacious shouting, I perused the tracks on offer from their 2016 album, Romantic, and found myself quite taken by their angst-riddled assault on pop punk. Twitching between syrupy ballads and screeching catharsis, they strike a nerve somewhere between SLOTHRUST and PUNCH (The upper-case band name trio, if you will).  However, instead of trying to blend the ingredients together in each song, this album is full of abrupt delineations between emotions.

The cut from the booted stomp and unhinged howling of “Ten”, to the damn near radio skater boy chorus of “Emotional High” is exceptionally disjointed but not altogether hard on the ears. While track to track might flop between melancholy and anger, from galloping hardcore to fresh-faced pop, the overarching feel of the thing is cohesive enough to make it all work.

The tracks are short, only two have the audacity to stretch beyond the 2-minute mark. Which is a good thing! A barrage of fresh, sharp ideas is better than trying to stretch something out more than it should be, thinning out what could have otherwise been a concise banger into a dreary plastic sheet.

In short (literally), an excellent use of 17 minutes.