Cave In – Final Transmission

Scofield’s coda.

June 14th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

The ominously-titled Final Transmission is a devastating and surprisingly optimistic work and homage to a fallen comrade.

The entire hardcore scene mourned the loss of Caleb Scofield, bands as far-afield as Young Widows, Converge, ISIS (as Celestial), Pelican and more rallied to raise money for the fallen musician’s loved ones. Scofield had already begun demoing songs for what was to become Final Transmission, and many if not most of those demos and ideas the band has incorporated and worked into the finished songs, building around the ideas of their fallen comrade just as they always have done.

From the opening chords–clearly rough licks and ideas recorded–you hear friends giving bittersweet goodbyes. If you already know the backstory this immediately brings a tear to your eye, not only for the loss, but for the love these friends all share and how integral Scofield was to the scene at large.

Similarly, “Shake My Blood’s” rejoinder “don’t leave…don’t leave me saying goodbye,” is just as heart-rending as can be expected, but lands in a song and a record that never feels despondent. It never feels like the band is wallowing in their well-earned grief. It sounds instead like a heartfelt, confused, and earnestly bittersweet farewell. Theres a sense of the bafflement when a loved one passes so suddenly and completely out of nowhere..songs can come and go abruptly (“Night Crawler”), or seem fuzzed out like a voice coming through the static in “Lunar Day” or “Led to the Wolves.” The variances in production to suit each approach, too, always seems absolutely appropriate. “Shake My Blood,” “Winter Window,” “Led to the Wolves,” and “Strange Reflection,” seem poised to be Cave in Classics for me personally, with some of everything of what the band has in their considerable arsenal on display.

Now, Cave In’s discography is long and largely flawless, but its also incredibly varied. Final Transmission, I think fittingly, nestles itself right in between my two favorite records of theirs–Jupiter and Antenna. With all the melody of Antenna, and some of the spacey-ness of Jupiter, albeit with some of the punch of Perfect Pitch Black (“Lanterna” and “Led to the Wolves,” in particular display a lot of the bands more metallic flourishes, with the latter’s instrumentation just as easily appropriate for Scofield’s other project, Zozobra).

While its hard to think of Cave In, much less a world, without as influential and vital a musician as Scofield, Cave In has produced one of their best releases around the sketches that their friend left behind, honoring his memory with a fitting, touching, and warm tribute. What the band has in store seems to be unknown to the band themselves, if optimistic, with Converge’s Nate Newton (a longtime friend and collaborator of Scofield) taking up his place for touring duties. Whether this is simply Scofield’s “last transmission,” or the band’s I’m not sure anyone really knows yet, but goddamn what a transmission it is.

Necronomidol – Scions of the Blasted Heath

Less Jpop, more rock, please.

Lex Voight
Category: Review

Listening to Necronomidol’s Void Hymn was an absolute rollercoaster.

My brain at first recoiled in horror at what the capitalist machine had spat out. Some ungodly fever-dream creature half formed of JPop and power metal. Dear god, I thought, could it be that Baby Metal was just the start of these abominations?

Gonzo-ian rants aside, it was absolutely mind blowing to me to do a deep dive into Japanese Idol culture and music. I spent several hours following some school-girl-skirted rabbit down a deeply off-putting rabbit hole where Baby Metal truly was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with groups like this. As fun and entertaining as that band is, and as deserving of accolades for their hard work and savvy gameplaying, every scumbag tr00 metalhead, I discovered, was just as deserving of their cynical outlooks. Idol Music is essentially music as made in capitalist dystopia–music engineered by committee for the maximum market impact. And not as necessarily as a group individually, but as a network of such, each individual unit catering to one certain demographic and frequently members are traded like sports players.

This is not to mention the seeming dogmatic control these PR companies exert over the young women who make up these groups. Groomed from a young age to inhabit a different role, in a band that in itself inhabits a role, and seemingly incapable of exerting creative or artistic control whatever, which is instead ceded to executives and hired musicians and composers.

This is truly the capitalist music nightmare, I thought. Horatio Alger would be proud.

Then I took a step back and tried to relax and just hear the music for what it was and…was with track one of Void Hymn, “Dawnslayer,” blown away by how goddamn fun it is. With backing musicians like the ones they have in Necronomidol, these are clearly technicians who’s mastery of their instruments rivals the talents of even powermetal lords like Dragonforce, similarly maintaining utter commitment with an irreverent and self-aware sense of the ridiculous.

Things went downhill after track one, though, and devolved into anonymous electronic-influenced JPop with the occaisional nod towards metal.

Despite the band’s reputation as the “darkest idol group around,” this still, at worst, sounds like bad bubblegum pop or, at best, the guitar-solo busting soundtrack to an anime fight scene–and too often its the former.

Scions of the Blasted Heath keeps this conflict up. The trappings of “darkness” and metal are there, but these seem only in a cynical “this is what the market responds to” way. What isn’t self awareness may just be utter slavish commitment to capital–from the short-skirted anime girl on the cover to the band’s bdsm-alluding promophoto (see below)…its a kind of bald-faced telegraphing of intentions that is almost admirable in its brazenness, until one begins to question how much of a stake, a role, or an investment the performers themselves have in these decisions.

The EP itself is more of the same of the back portion of Void Hymn, however. More songs-by-committee that don’t quite seem to jive until “Children of the Night.” This is ironic as it is unquestionably also the most “metal” song on the EP, as “Dawnslayer” was before it. The group clearly has a talent for this type of music if they would just shake the “Idol” aspects of their image altogether.

Give me a gut-busting powermetal record led by a couple of these women fully embodying their powerful roles as frontwomen and I would be first in line for the Necronomidol army.

Vale – Burden of Sight

Deadly, dangerous, and absolutely killer

Lex Voight
Category: Review

The Bay area has always been known for it’s incredible thrash scene, though though the scene has been quiet for what feels like awhile now. Vale are undoubtedly about to change that. Burden of Sight is a monster of a record that wears its Bay Area thrash influences emblazoned proudly on its standard.

Everything about this release immediately is in league with the current greats of the genre–Power Trip and Skeletonwitch undoubtedly being two of the most well known. Caustic vocals drip contempt and malice, feeling every bit as venomous and dangerous as Landmine Marathon (one of the few bands of the death/thrash scene that I was legitimately frightened by in college just from listening to them) did when they were around. An unholy blend of death, thrash, and black metal that ends up being everything you could possibly want out of all of those genres individually.

This is an album replete with desolation. Its the voice at the back of your head every time you read a headline about climate change that says that the sky really is falling. Its every curled lip in disgust at flagrant disregard for moral standards, or perhaps even standards in general its difficult to tell. It feels like a shot pure misanthropy handled by incredible musicians who revel in the genre’s they are playing in. One of the best records of the year thus far. Check it out.

Aggrolites – REGGAE NOW!

Rocking-steady for 15 years

Lex Voight
Category: Review

As I get older I find that more and more I don’t have as much contempt for records that aren’t deliberately trying to be confrontational and challenging listens. While I never held that same contempt for Reggae as a genre, its one that I passed over all too often in favor of deliberately less welcoming genres. Now I am starting to appreciate things better that simply…are. REGGAE NOW! is a great example of a record that is what it is, does what it does, and does it with love.
Continue reading…

Adrenaline – Adrenaline EP

Mosh heavy Ep for fans of Knocked Loose

Lex Voight
Category: Review

We are undoubtedly living in the midst of the 10’s hardcore explosion. Particularly in the last five years it seems as if every time you turn around there is another stellar hardcore band making waves. Adrenaline shares three members with one of this explosions most recent breakout stars, Queensway. Adrenaline seems to offer a slightly different approach to the genre, however, citing Vision Of Disorder, Bad Brains, Crown Of Thornz, and Burn as influences over some of the more obvious ones influencing the scene at the moment.

What follows is an ep of perfect for Knocked Loose fans–a mosh-heavy 2-step beast of an EP that seems to pull back in genre touchstones that have been out of the limelight of late. Throughout the brief EP you can hear not only the aforementioned Burn influences but also bands like Bane or maybe even Body Count in the instrumentation. “In Dreams” pulls in a soul segue that could have easily been on a Trapped Under Ice track. It is with “In Reality” that Adrenaline really have a standout track however, with a groove-heavy banger that doesn;t outstay its welcome while “The Real You” finally shows some of those VOD influences that are sorely missing from the current scene.

Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips

Drone not meant for the masses

Lex Voight
Category: Review

“Full upon her burning lips” seems a line pulled from the pages of a taudry romance novel–full of verve and passion and sweeping lust. Turbulent and denoting almost a kind of violence. Its ironic, then, that the storied drone metal band Earth has chosen it as the title for their 9th full length. Not that the band doesn’t contain within them multitudes–on the contrary, nothing but passion and love for music and the genre could have propelled them to this, their 9th release over what is quickly approaching 30 years as a band. It’s just that dynamism and turbulence is at odds with the drone band’s oeuvre, for better or worse.
Continue reading…

On Amanda Palmer and the Meaning of Music Heroes

Amanda Palmer fights for us all.

Lex Voight

There is a war going on right now. For the world, for the environment, for our rights.

And we are losing.

We are losing ground every day. The rash of anti-choice legislation being rammed through state courts and the appointment of anti-choice judges by (republican controlled) senatorial appointment are just the latest and among the most egregious examples of our loss. But there are heroes in the battle for the heart of American culture fighting for us.
Continue reading…

Inter Arma — Sulphur English

A slow start can’t stop crushing greatness.

May 16th, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Inter Arma aare one of those groups that excel at challenging listens. Each one of their records has been better than the last and have been consummate examples of the slow burn, each listen revealing more nuance and intricacy in the bludgeoning walls of sound. Sulphur English, at first, is no different in that respect. But displays the band with synthesizing and perhaps even perfecting the perfect alchemical mix of doom, black, and death metal into a cohesive bit of vibrant gold.
Continue reading…

Back to the Beach II in Review

The second iteration of Huntington Beach’s Back to the Beach Fest is officially in the rearview. The seeming last bastion of ska descended upon the OC beach city over the weekend, rounded out by a healthy dose of pop-punk mastery by headliners Blink 182 and The Used (as well as The Story So Far, The Wonder Years, and Story of the Year). The sold-out fest attracted massive crowds and managed to remind everyone why this genre is just so damn good.
Continue reading…

Nana — Save Yourself EP

Vulnerable and poignant, Nana’s new EP is great

April 22nd, 2019
Lex Voight
Category: Review

Nipsey Hussle’s untimely passing was deeply felt in the LA music worlds. His brand of DIY mixed with commercial appeal was a vital voice in popular music and his altruistic extracurriculars was unparalleled. But then LA hip hop has always had an amazing tradition of being grounded deeply in the real world. Where so much of the popular rap scene can fall prey to needless posturing, wealth flaunting, or empty commercialism, LA rappers have seemingly always bent their rhymes for the greater good, mostly through telling personal stories from their experiences. NWA, Snoop, Kendrick, Nipsey–all standard bearers of the west coast sound as it evolved.

That tradition is alive and well, and no better case for that is there than Crenshaw’s Nana. The rappe’s second EP follows closely on the heels of his debut, boasting just as much vulnerable truth telling as the Nana EP.

“heaven and Hennessy” starts it off, cutting the deepest. He seemingly takes benevolent aim at lyricists who boast so much about new wealth. “The only thing i’ve been stacking lately is stress/put that on top of bills,” he states, before launching into ways he could and hasnt chosen to make those means.

“Kings Blvd II” contains some of the heaviest beats he has yet released, while maintaining that theme of “Family over everything,” a theme he will return to on “On My Momma,” where he gives credit to his mother for his drive and success. The next three songs take a bit of a downturn as the subject turns toward relationships with “Her Song” and “You and I.”

The EP’s closer, “Save Yourself,” goes back to the storytelling aspect–detailing the story of the fallout of an assault. Its brutal track, but one where the storytelling is truly on point, and a fitting closer for the record.

Nana’s Save Yourself EP is streaming everywhere now. Be sure to check it out ASAP.