425 Brant Street
Nothing more than sheer mind-numbing boredom drove me to Burlington to check out Looney Tunes' vinyl selection. Upon arrival I realized that I'd been there a few years ago and found PHIL LYNOTT's first solo record on CD - I was stoked and Jimmy was mystified. The shop looks to be about the same, maybe a bit messier than it was (aren't we all), but still jammed full of new and used vinyl and CDs. As you know, I find stores without a Metal section very disconcerting, and unfortunately Looney Tunes added to my disconcertment. I was forced, like every other schlep on the hunt for good Metal, to sort through prit'near every LP in the stinking place... and with very little pay off. Yeah I found SAVATAGE's "Fight For The Rock" for $5, but it's their worst album, and I really only bought it so that the entire trip wasn't for naught. There's some good classic Rock and Punk vinyl reissues, but I find it hard to pay $25+ for something you can find used, with a bit of legwork, at a fraction of the price. All in all a decent shop, but definitely not worth the drive to Burlington (from wherever you might happen to be).
425 Brant Street
Private/Indie 1988 & 1990
Few bands have the polarizing effect that North Carolinian Prog/Doom Metal meisters CONFESSOR have on people. You either love 'em or hate 'em, and I totally get why people don't like them. They just happen to be all the same reasons why I do: the ear piercing caterwaul of vocalist Scott Jeffreys, and Steve Shelton's impossibly complicated drum patterns. You've definitely gotta be in a mood for having your head fucked with when you listen to CONFESSOR. A recent post on Metal Inquisition re: "Condemned" (Earache 1991) got me to thinking about their phenomenal demos, and how much better they are than that record... so here they are. I taped these from the originals, so they're 1st generation and the sound quality is really good - unfortunately there's no cover scans though. These demos stood out above everything else that was being released at the time for a number of reasons, 1) the band was unlike any other, oppressively heavy, tight, complicated, and menacing, 2) the production was top-notch thanks to Dick Hodgin who also produced C.O.C.'s "Technocracy" as well as CONFESSOR's latest offering "Unraveled", and 3) the demos looked great - the artwork and design, though simple, was very classy... not yer typical photocopied affairs. So when the band released "Condemned" I was pretty disappointed - I'm sure it's mainly because I heard these demos first, and absolutely loved 'em, therefore anything else couldn't compare. Re-recording these tracks seemed totally unnecessary... especially when the new versions lacked the intensity and heaviness of the demos. No matter, here are the "Uncontrolled" '88 and "Collapse" '90 demos for your enjoyment and edification.
DOWNLOAD: Confessor-Demos.rar (52.69 MB)
When SNAPCASE (or SOLID STATE as they were initially tagged) first started playing shows around Buffalo, it was hard to not think of them as ZERO TOLERANCE lite. It was the same shtick, just done by younger kids. I guess it's not all that surprising since NYHC (with few exceptions) really is a one-trick pony: macho tough-guy bullshit, lyrics about being screwed over by your friends, blah blah blah... heard it once, heard it a million times. To their credit, it does seem like SNAPCASE were going for something a little different lyrically - some kinda new-age nonsense, or maybe it's just more of that Krishna business that was de rigueur at the time. Musically this is just what you'd expect: simple Metal riffs, John Joseph wanna-be vocals, lots of double bass drumming, gang backing vocals, etc. I absolutely loved "Die Laughing" back in the day, and after a few listens... I gotta say it still holds up. Apparently SNAPCASE became a hugely influential band (I've never heard any of their records), pretty surprising considering this demo is far from groundbreaking, but in '91 it was the shit!
DOWNLOAD: Snapcase-1991Demo.rar (20.81 MB)
Tantrum Records 1985
This is the third installment in my 4 part series of Buffalo reviews, and after all the macho NYHC posturing of ZERO TOLERANCE and SNAPCASE (demo coming next), this is a refreshing change. TENSION were a mystery to me when I was a kid cuz they were 3 parts from Buffalo, NY and 1 part from St. Catharines, ON (the crappy little Canadian town I grew up in). "What? A real live hardcore band from St. Catharines?" No one could believe it, and no one (I knew) knew the guy in the band... but whatever, he was from St. Catharines so we all bought the 7". Can't say that I loved this 7" either, but it was still cool cuz of the connection. TENSION play what I'd describe as European style 80's hardcore: ultra fast thrash with buzzsaw guitars, rife with poltical lyrics, and social commentary. The songs aren't mindblowing by any means, but the band is tight and furiously passionate. It's taken 23 years, but this one is starting to grow on me.
DOWNLOAD: Tension-PericoloDiMorte.rar (20.16 MB)
BAPHOMET were one of those bands that I could never take seriously... not exactly sure why, they just seemed like a sad joke - even after they signed to Peaceville (a far greater accomplishment than any band I've ever played in could manage). They were super friendly, genuine guys, but as a band they were completely ghetto. Having said this... over the years I've discovered that being wrong is something that I'm really good at, and whatever I thought about BAPHOMET back in the day was way off base, cuz this demo is "sick dude" (in the parlance of the time and place). It's simple, barbaric Death Metal in the vein of "Morbid Visions" era SEPULTURA... and the vocals fucking rule! They have a South American feel to 'em (no not samba or merengue), with a bit of Tom Angelripper thrown in for good measure. He almost lends a Black Metal feel to proceedings, and I chuckle every time I hear his fucked-up ghoulish laughter at this beginning of "Infernal Invocation" - priceless. I find most Death Metal completely forgettable, but every track on "Morbid Realities" is memorable for something. It's the kinda stuff that might not be 100% stellar throughout, but every song has at least one cool part that you look forward to - a killer riff, or lyric, or drum fill, or whatever. Totally enjoyable basic US Death Metal - get it!
DOWNLOAD: Baphomet-MorbidRealitiesDemo.rar (37.51 MB)
If you had asked me, in 1990, which band from Buffalo was gonna "make it", it wouldn'ta been SNAPCASE, and it sure as fuck wouldn't have been CANNIBAL CORPSE (or Cannibal Crap as we lovingly referred to them)... it would have been Buffalo's finest NYC wanna-be's ZERO TOLERANCE. And of course I woulda been dead wrong. It's immediately apparent that the guys in ZT spent a few too many hours dissecting the CRO-MAGS' "Best Wishes" record, cuz 4 of the 5 tracks sound like "Best Wishes" outtakes, with the fifth sounding like a "Blood Sweat & No Tears" leftover. Yup, this is yer typical lunkhead, knuckle-dragging NYHC, and I ate this shit up when I was in highschool. The surprising thing is that I still dig this demo. As soon as I put it on it all came flooding back: the singer's blantant rip-off of Bloodclot's onstage antics, the bass player's Harley moves, and their "Face The Panic" rallying cry. These guys were top dog in Buffalo, but like tons of other promising bands the world over, they were big fish in a small pond, and it got them nowhere. Kinda too bad, cuz this is a great sounding demo full of flawlessly executed (if unoriginal) Metal/Hardcore.
DOWNLOAD: ZeroTolerance-FuelTheFireDemo.rar (25.87 MB)
I was a huge ENGLISH DOGS fan back in the day - loved "Mad Punx & English Dogs" when I was a Punk Rock kid, and loved "Where Legend Began" when I was a Metal skid. I really wanted an ED shirt, so I wrote the band, and after some delay got a reply from Graham 'Gizz' Butt himself. He informed me that the ENGLISH DOGS were no more, but that he had a new band... WAR DANCE, and that they had a demo available. We traded demos, cuz my band had just released one too (which Gizz didn't care for too much: "I like music with more melody" was his response if I remember correctly - haha), and soon the "None But The Brave" cassette showed up at my door. I didn't totally love it - I guess it's got a kinda Post-Punk feel (not that I really even know what that is), but it was cool to hear what Gizz & Co. were up too regardless. A few months later they released "A Short Sharp Shock", and this was what I was waiting for! Right off the bat there's no mistaking Gizzy's trademark guitar sound, metallic riffs and guitar harmonies. The first 2 tracks are full-on Thrash, and they make "Where Legend Began" sound puny by comparison. These are followed up by 2 tracks that lean more towards melodic Punk. They're still heavy, intricate songs, but the vocals are melodious and memorable making them slightly more accessible. "I Against I" era BAD BRAINS comes to mind a few times during these tracks, especially in the bass breakdown bit in "Hours Of Sunday". The last track "Against The Grain" successfully combines WAR DANCE's Thrash attack, with their Punk Rock leanings in a roaring conclusion to a masterful demo. When I think of all the shitty generic Thrash bands that were releasing material in the late 80's, the fact that WAR DANCE were never signed, and no one knew who the hell they were, is criminal. This demo is better than 75% of the records I own from the era.
DOWNLOAD: WarDance-AShortSharpShock.rar (42.14 MB)
PS: Oh yeah... "Giveaway" is one helluva song!
From the album: Remembering Part 1 (Decca Records 1976)
When you're dealing with the greatest Rock band of all time, it's pretty hard to say that one song is better than the next. "Sitamoia" may, or may not, be better than "Bad Reputation", or "Vagabond Of The Western World", or "Are You Ready?"... it's hard to compare perfection with perfection. Yeah I know that not everything THIN LIZZY did is pure gold, but between the years of 1973 and 1980 they could do no wrong, and at this very moment, I can think of no better song. To my knowledge "Sitamoia" first appeared on the 1976 Decca compilation "Remembering Part 1" and features Gary Moore in one of his early stints with the band. Aside from his work in THIN, I couldn't give two shits about Gary Moore... his solo records are boring white-boy blues, but while in THIN LIZZY he played with a blistering originality and metallic flair that is rivaled by few. "Sitamoia" was recorded during a period that bridges the gap between LIZZY's prog/folk beginnings (the Eric Bell era), and their rise to becoming the greatest Hard Rock band of the 70's (the Robertson/Gorham era). The tribal beat layed down by Brian Downey, Moore's Celtic melody line and mid-song gig, the soaring, intertwining fiddle parts, and Lynott's plaintive vocals and vague lyrics, all combine to make "Sitamoia" the most dramatic track THIN LIZZY ever recorded. I say this without any hesitation, humour, or irony... if you are unable to appreciate the splendour of this song... you, my friend, are awash in a sea of your own stupidity. Listen, and bask in the glory that is one of THIN LIZZY's... nay, music's finest moments.
Metal Blade Records 1986
My first exposure to KRANK left me with the distinct feeling that I'd just heard the worst band of all time... and I'm not totally unconvinced that that wasn't their goal (fuck that's a few too many double negatives to unravel). KRANK deliver a nasty Metal/Glam amalgam that's hard to pinpoint and even harder to dislike. At once sounding like rock'n'roll dregs just up from the gutter, and the next a well-oiled Metal machine. KRANK's raison d'etre is not unlike INFERNAL MAJESTY's was a few years later: to combine Glam aesthetics with heavier Metal musicality... of course INFERNAL MAJESTY were considered little more than a joke (at least that's how they were viewed in Toronto), while KRANK are in on the joke, never taking themselves too seriously. The sleaze factor is high on "Hideous", which led me to assume that KRANK were L.A. through-and-through, but no... they hail from the cock rock mecca of Philadelphia, PA. Go figure!
DOWNLOAD: Krank-Hideous.rar (69.47 MB)
4 Garden Park (Unit 1)
St. Catharines is a desolate wasteland of bleakness and despair... and as such, it's no surprise that vinyl shops are few and far between. I spent the first 20 odd years of my life in St. Catharines, and during that time there were some great record stores (T.N.T. Records absolutely ruled - far too good to survive in this podunk town, Records On Wheels, Dr. Disc, Tantrum, and some others I'm forgetting), but today (as far as I can tell) there's only one proper record store in the city... Atomix Records. Atomix is a nice shop with lots of well organized LPs, and a great Soul/R&B section, but there's nary a Metal record to be found - profoundly disappointing. In addition to peddling vinyl, the friendly folks at Atomix also repair and sell parts for turntables, which I thought was pretty damn cool. There's a lot of good quality vinyl crammed into a relatively small space, but no Metal = little chance of a repeat visit.