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INTERVIEW: Old Lines among must-see hardcore acts at MDF

One of the new features at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest is the addition of a second stage at Baltimore Soundstage for punk and hardcore acts.  One of the bands I consider a must-see at this stage is Baltimore’s Old Lines, who will perform on Friday, May 24.
Combining heavy with hardcore, Old Lines is able to strike that perfect balance that makes their music stand out from the pack. Add to this some crusty vocals, d-beat rhythms and political themes and you have band that sounds simultaneously classic and brand new.
Old Lines

Old Lines

Old Lines is Mitch Roemer, Jake Berry, Matt Taylor and Pat Martin. Pat and Matt  thoughtfully answered my standard MDF questions.

What will be the official lineup for Maryland Deathfest?

Pat:  The lineup will be the current version of Old Lines. Me, Matt, Mitch, and Jake. Nothing out of the ordinary over here, haha.
What do you consider to be one of your band’s most essential
recording?
Pat:  Well, haha, we only have one record out, our LP that came out back in January. That’d be our only, and for sure most essential recording this far. It’s also streaming on our BandCamp page all the time, so if you wanna check it out, that’d be awesome. We only have a few copies left, so if you like it, don’t hesitate to mail order one!
How does your band feel about playing Maryland Deathfest?
Pat:  We’re all pretty excited! Being a newer band, it’s really cool of those guys to ask us to be a part of such a rad weekend. Also, not a ton of local bands play it, so it’s a pretty special thing.
Matt: So stoked! MDF is something I look forward to every year, and I’m so excited we can be a part of it this time. Mega-thanks to Evan and Ryan for giving us the opportunity.
What other bands playing MDF do you hope to see perform?
Matt:  Oh man, there are so many:  Abigail, Carcass, Hellshock, Loss, Tragedy, Evoken, Pallbearer, Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Midnight, Pagan Altar, and of course… fucking Infest!  It’s really cool to see more punk bands playing this year, and I think the idea of having a punk/hardcore stage is super rad.  I’m also stoked that Ilsa is playing since they are our homies, and Rotten Sound is going to kill.
Pat:  I’m pretty pumped on seeing a ton of the bands on our stage. Weekend Nachos, Ilsa, Citizens Arrest, Gehenna, DOC, Tragedy, and Infest, for sure. Infest was a band I thought I’d probably never see, so it’ll be pretty cool to see them for the first time. I’m gonna be the dude smashing everything when they play Sick-o, haha. Seeing Pig Destroyer, Integrity, and Midnight over on the main stages should be pretty cool too.
Will you be doing other shows as part of your stop at MDF or is
this appearance exclusive?
Pat:  We’re only gonna be doing the Friday night of the fest, at this point. We kind of had a discussion about trying to do a short tour around it, but it wasn’t really feasible with everyone’s schedules. It’s entirely possible we might try to squeeze another show in right after it, but right now, it’s just the fest.
Will there be any unusual or special merchandize you will be
selling while at MDF?
Matt:  No, not really.  I think the special Pagan Altar patches they made are really cool though since they have “MDF 2013” on them.  I don’t know, maybe we’ll have a new shirt design or patch or something. Of course we’ll have records too.

Pat:  I’m not sure, we haven’t really discussed doing any special merch for the fest yet. We have beer koozies, that not a normal piece of merch, or maybe it is now, but whatever, haha. Gotta keep those beers chilly!

Is there anything else you want people to know about your band?
Pat:  We’re trying to stay busy over the summer. Me and Mitch are about to start writing songs for whatever our next release/releases are gonna be. We probably aren’t gonna play a ton of shows around town, and focus on writing the new jams. As far as touring, we just got home from our first tour about a month ago, which was really awesome, and a ton of fun. I think we’re going to try to go out again in the fall? We’ve chatted with the Ilsa dudes about maybe doing some weekends, but that’s just been bar talk so far, haha.
Matt: Big thanks to Ryan and Evan for putting us on the show, and thanks so much to everyone for checking us out. See you soon!

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REVIEW: Early Graves’ Red Horse

Usually when I go to a show, I make a half-assed attempt to listen to the bands on the bill that I am unfamiliar with. Such was the case with the San Francisco band Early Graves when I saw them open for Skeletonwitch last month at the Ottobar in Baltimore.

Early Graves @Ottobar 2012. Photo by M. Spiro

At the time of the show, Early Graves only had two albums in their discography, We: The Guillotine and Goner. So I listened to a few tracks from those albums. I liked it alright; they kind of had a blackened thrash-core thing going on.

What I did not know before the show was that they had lost their original vocalist, Makh Daniels, in a tragic van accident while on tour in August of 2010. Daniels’ voice was deep and rough. Their new vocalist, John Strachan, has a slightly higher pitched and “thrashier” sounding voice. The vocals don’t make a completely different band but they are distinct.

What also did not know, though I could have suspected it from the songs I heard, was that Early Graves’ live performances completely destroy a venue. Everything about their performance that night–from the punchy drums to the crushing riffs and searing vocals–was a flaming ball of utter awesome aural devastation.

So it was with palpable excitement that I awaited the release of Early Graves third effort, Red Horse. I bought the digital copy from iTunes and devoured all 32.6 minutes of it twice in a row. Here is my quick and dirty impression of the album.

Hardcore and thrash are subgenres of metal that can be easily married. A bad marriage results in something barely listenable, but Early Graves merges styles with finesse. Songs like the title track “Red Horse,” with its literal galloping drum beat, possess the right amount of catchy melodic riffing framed by an appropriate structure of visceral brutality capable of branding the chords into your frontal lobe.

Other tracks like “Days Grow Cold” churn through each measure like a guitar-powered locomotive, that pauses briefly to let you reflect before rocketing off again. The track ends like an acoustic balad. Very surprising.

Another track, “Death Obsesssed” wormed its way into my psyche. I found myself playing the song repeatedly before moving on to the next track. There’s something sinister and looming in this song–maybe like death itself–and yet endlessly relentless. This song represents everything that I love about hardcore metal–raw vocals, desperate lyrics, riffs that grab you by the throat and drums that make you want to bang your head.

My favorite song on the album, “Quietus,” is also the longest track. The first two and half minutes plow forward ferociously like much of the rest of the album. Then the song spirals into this melancholic, almost doomy section. The music builds to a soaring crescendo and closes out the album on a thoughtful note.

On the whole, I found the eight tracks on Early Graves’ Red Horse to be thoroughly satisfying and packed with heavy hardcore goodness. As much as one can view hardcore as “catchy” Early Graves has figured out the formula while maintaining music that inspires a respectable mosh pit.

This album is masterful and brutally beautiful. Go check it out.

Countdown to MDF X: (17) Coke Bust

 There are a bunch of sweaty teenagers down in the basement knocking into mom’s storage containers and stage diving off of the washing machine. Must be a Coke Bust show.

Coke Bust describe themselves as a straightedge hardcore punk band. And being from the Washington, DC area I would say they have some big shoes to fill in that arena, the nation’s capital being the birthplace of such iconic punks bands as Fugazi, Government Issue and Minor Threat. They seem to be doing pretty well though. And, no they don’t always play in basements.

Since 2006, when they put out their first demo, the group has released a little something –a cassette, a 7 inch split, an EP–every single year. They play consistently and are ready to go to Europe to play the Obscene Extreme Fest in the Czech Republic this summer.

Coke Bust is Nicktape (vocals), James (guitar),  Jubert ( bass) and Chris (drums). They play the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Sunday afternoon, May 27.

Countdown to MDF X: (45) Unsane

As a child of the 80s, punk has and always will hold an honored position in my musical heart. Therefore I am happy to report that defining noise rock band Unsane will perform Friday, May 25 at the Maryland Deathfest. Formed in New York in 1988 when the members were still in college, only original member Chris Spencer  (vocals, guitar) remains in the trio. Other current members include Dave Curran (bass/vocals) and Vinnie Signorelli (drums).

Presently on tour with The Melvins, Unsane is credited as being one of the pioneers of noise rock, infusing elements of punk, hardcore and even rock-a-billy and blues into their songs.  The unrelenting backbeat, in your face vocals, and often times twangy and distorted guitar riffs will set them apart from most acts at MDF X. No corpse paint and spiked gauntlets here.

Unsane swaggers through each song with impressive violence and grace. Their sound has barely changed over time. They have maintained their brutal punkish roots for nearly 25 years, unbowed to the trends in music around them. This is a good thing. They are like a rough roll in the hay* with a familiar lover, you know exactly what to expect, but you won’t be bored and you’ll leave thoroughly satisfied.

*that is, fuck 🙂

Here’s something brand new from Unsane….

And something from their first self-title recording….

Countdown to MDF X: (57) Rorschach

New Jersey’s Rorschach blends elements of punk, hardcore and avant garde dissonance to come up with the so-called “power violence” sound and screaming vocal energy you see here. They perform Thursday, May 24 at MDF X.  Current band members include Keith Huckins – Guitar; Andrew Gormley – Drums; Nick Forte – Guitar; Thomas Rusnak – Bass; Charles Maggio -Vocals.

The band first got together in 1989, sort of at the tail end of the hardcore punk scene, extend the genre well into the early 90s. They took a break, some members going to play in Deadguy. In 2009, they reformed and have toured sporadically since.

Following the Maryland Deathfest,  Rorschach will play at on May 26 Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. If you remember hardcore punk from back in the day, or if you are making the nouvelle version of hardcore punk now, Rorschach satisfies.

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