Thursday, March 17, 2011

Graf Orlock - Doombox EP

     Gor-lock returns with another round of 'cinema grind'.  This time the movie theme is the late 1980's and early 1990's, which is a great choice when you think about it.  Race was a volatile issue back then, with situations such as the Tawana Brawley case, the Bensonhurst NY riots, the OJ Simpson case, and the Rodney King verdict  and subsequent riots in LA.  The movie samples chosen capture the time period well and invoke their nasty anger and hatred.  So we have an awesome theme once again, and to further amplify the nostalgia effect the good men of Graf have packaged the doombox ep in the most ridiculous vinyl packaging ever (no joke).  The 10" and discography cd(!) comes housed in a fold out cardboard 1980's era ghetto blaster (see picture above)!  Even the liner notes are written in an 80's style electronic equipment instruction manual.  The Torche vinyl from Robotic Empire has always been the most impressive vinyl packaging that I've seen, but this might take the cake. 

     So we have the theme and spirit of the age and totally over the top packaging, but what about the tunes?  It's the typical fare of their older albums, so don't expect anything new or innovative.  Their punky grind is produced extremely well which gives the ep a bludgeoning sound.  The highlight track for me is Watts 93 B4 Graduation, which is killer grind with some southern/sludge breakdown parts.  Overall, their attack rages, yet is still lacks staying power.  Like their previous releases, Graf Orlock write great parts, but not memorable songs.  For me, Graf once again will be remembered more for their embrace of cinema and excellent vinyl packaging, and less for their actual tunes.  Packaging: 2 stars; Music: 1 star; Overall: 3 of 4 stars. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Doomriders, Unearthly Trance, Sweet Cobra at Union Pool, Brooklyn, 2/12/2011

     My second show of the year was yet again at my favorite NYC venue, Union Pool.  My last entry has a detailed description of the this fine establishment.  Since I arrived early and didn't have dinner yet, I made my way over to the El Diablo taco van.  This time around I decided to expand my horizons by trying a vegetarian taco in addition to a shrimp taco and a Jarritos pineapple soda.  The vegetarian taco was really not for me due to the fact that the main ingredient is refried beans.  I have to admit that I am a novice when it comes to Mexican food, as this was my first experience with refried beans.  The texture was as if someone chewed a mouthful of black beans and spit them out into my taco.  Due to my hunger, I reluctantly shoveled it down and then I was rewarded with the delectable shrimp taco.  The Jarritos is super awesome too with it's natural sugars and not overpowering pineapple flavor.  They even carry it in supermarkets now!

     With my hunger satisfied, I made my way into the venue.  Sweet Cobra was setting up when I walked in and the place was already packed.  After the show I read that it did indeed sell out.  As for Sweet Cobra, are the metal?  Are they punk, or is it hard rock?  Their sound and style is hard to pin down.  They sort of remind me of a less bad-ass version of Karp or Big Business.  Don't get me wrong, their mid-paced groove and the bassist's punchy rhythms got quite a few heads to nod along.  The band has had a taste of hardship too with the death of guitarist Matt Arluck last year.  It also happened to be their first show in NYC and they received a generally warm reception by the crowd.  As for me, they were fun live but I wouldn't buy any of their stuff.  It's interesting to note that the ridiculously awesome label, Seventh Rule, has put out some of their material.  They have also released the excellent Invisible City album by NYC vets Wetnurse (highly recommended).

     About 1/2 way through Sweet Cobra's set, my friend Brian arrived with his buddy Raffi.  Attending shows is one of my life's greatest pleasures, but it's that much more sweet when shared with friends.  After Sweet Cobra's set, Brian suggested that we head to the bar.  Raffi claimed that he wasn't drinking and that he only wanted to hang out and watch the bands.  His planned sobriety ended quickly when when Brian came back from the bar with two cans of PBR.  I settled on the much less 'metal' pint of Guinness.  Oddly enough, the bar tender opened the pub can and put the entire can in the pint glass.  Maybe it's a new way to serving it to increase it's flavor or possibly she was too lazy to pour it out, but at any rate the dry Irish stout was enjoyable.

     Up next were Long Island New York's godly doom kings Unearthly Trance!  The last time I saw them was when they opened for Eyehategod with Tombs at Europa last year, and they were equally devastating if not better tonight.  They opened with a slow and sinister atmospheric track with vocals by drummer Darren Verni.  After that they really hit their stride with the track Permanent Ice off of The Trident.  Most of the songs were from their latest effort, Electrocution, and possibly newer stuff like the split with Endless Blockade.  If you've never seen them, definitely check them out as their cold and crushing version of Khanate meets Warhorse is not to be missed.  Word of their awesomeness has spread due to their inclusion on the 2011 version of the prestigious Extreme the Dojo tour of Japan, where they will be opening for The Melvins and High on Fire.  I have to say though that UT seemed out of place with the other bands on the bill.  Given the extreme nature of UT, it was weird seeing them paired with the hard rockin' sounds of Sweet Cobra and Doomriders.  With that aside, UT delivered the black acid goods and were clearly the finest band of the evening. 

     After their set I remarked to Brian that I felt like I was crushed by a glacier of ice and now I'm trapped in a freezing tomb for the rest of eternity.  He quickly remarked, "stop being so melodramatic!"  That was followed by another round of PBRs and a fresh pint of the oddly poured Guinness for me.  Since the Pool is low on quality beer, I decided to stick with something consistently satisfying although familiar. 

     Nate Newton's Doomriders took the stage soon after our second round.  Doomriders is a serious departure from his work in Converge.  They seemed similar to Sweet Cobra with more of a Danzig feel.  Some tunes were catchy, especially the title track off their new album, Darkness Comes Alive.  The melodic and mid paced main riff of that song got the fans into the pit and crowd surfing.  Despite being well received by the crowd, in general I wasn't all that impressed with them.  After watching the set, it was hard to think that Nate is also a member of the unreal hardcore band Jesuit, who will be reuniting for the Unbroken show at Santos' Party House in April.  At one point, Nate asked the crowd, "how's your vibe?" which I thought was a little odd, or maybe I missed his sarcasm.  Later he told a joke about a kid having AIDS which made Brian yell, "you've killed my vibe!"  That joke more or less solidified my dislike for the band, their sound and their attitude. 

     In retrospect, it was worth it to see Unearthly Trance, but I could have done without the other two acts.  At least I was in the presence of good company, which helped elevate my 'vibe'.  The next show on my calendar is Portland's black/folk masters Agalloch with Worm Ouroboros at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC.  Cheers!