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Chuck Ragan interview

Our buddy Ricky from Wrong Way Round recently sat down and talked to Chuck Ragan. We of course immediately leeched it from him. No thanks necessary. There's even some talk about a new Hot Water Music album... consider me psyched!

PRT : So we are here with the man himself Mr. Chuck Ragan. How are you today sir?
Chuck: Very well, thanks for having me!

PRT : I’ll crack straight into the questions...
Chuck: Sure fire away

PRT : So right now you’re on tour with The Gaslight Anthem and a few months ago you were here with Frank Turner. Do you find these short tours beneficial as you’re playing to a different crowd every night compared to your own shows in America?
Chuck : Sure, always. I think that's the case for any artist or band doing support slots. That's the key, that's what your trying to do, to have a chance and opportunity to share your music with an audience who have no idea who you are, don't care who you are and just to get out there and have that chance to put your music out there.
Whether they like it or not that is a whole other story. Some people care about that, some people don't. For me, I respect the fact that my music is not for everybody and I have always felt that way. If people get something from it that's wonderful, if they don't that's fine also. There's plenty of other artists out there!
We feel really blessed to have the opportunities we have over here. The UK has always been wonderful for us. From Hot Water Music to the solo stuff, we've got a lot of really great friends over here. Nowadays we come to different towns and see friends and feel comfortable and familiar, we feel really lucky you know.

PRT : Is this your first time in Southampton? I know you played with Hot Water Music years ago in a youth centre. Do you remember that at all?
Chuck : Ha! yea vaguely, I thought I had played at this venue at some point, it looks really familiar, but I’m not sure when.

PRT: Would you say it’s fair to say that you as Chuck Ragan is the next step for you after Rumbleseat when that became defunct?
Chuck: Yea sure, somewhat. But I was playing that sort of music before Chris and I ever started Rumbleseat. The stuff that I’m doing now isn't that far of a stretch from music I’ve been writing and playing for the past 17, 18 years. I just never put as much focus on it as Hot Water Music was always the main focus and not as many people cared (laughs).
So this music for me has been something ever since we (HWM) took our indefinite hiatus some years back. I never stopped writing and one day my wife said ‘hey, you should be recording some of this stuff’ and I said alright! Then Side One Dummy wanted to put some records out and so I stopped building houses and put more attention into writing and playing music. But yea, Rumbleseat is somewhat similar. I've somewhat progressed or least I hope so! Ha, if not I’m doing something wrong ( laughs )

PRT : So you’re doing this split with Brian from The Gaslight Anthem. Is it going to be full band or is it back to bare bones for you?
Chuck: Yea, it’s not even much of a split. We are doing a full length record. So far we've just been writing songs on our own and sending them back and forth and singing on each other’s songs and playing on each other’s songs. The game plan is to try and record some stuff on this tour. We will see what happens and if we are able and have time, we will write together which will be wonderful. He is a brilliant songwriter. I love his fire and his energy and he's a good fella all round.

PRT : Do you feel you have some years more experience when it comes to writing?
Chuck: To be honest I don't look at it that way at all, it’s all relative in time. These boys have been trucking so hard in the past 5, 6 years especially... you know? They've seen and done more than most bands will ever do in a lifetime.

PRT : Do you think the revival tour will ever come to the UK?
Chuck: Absolutely! Yeah, we attempted to put one together last year, but we got sidetracked because of all our other schedules. It’s been tough because my wife and I basically coordinate that whole tour and we have a little help from some friends here and there. For the most part my wife and I make the schedule and the decisions but just doing that and the solo stuff and balancing simple everyday home life and now hot water music is doing more stuff, it’s quite a juggling act.
We've been really excited to bring it over here. I’m not sure exactly when we’re going to be doing it but we are planning it for 2011. As far as what month I’m not sure right now, we are getting ready to lock in the US dates and the Australian dates and once that's locked in we will have a idea, we will do the UK, Europe then Canada then just repeat the cycle

PRT : With Ben Nichols and Tim Barry as well?
Chuck: Possibly ( smiles ) we will see what happens! I can tell you , you won’t be disappointed. A lot of the people that are good friends and artists i've never played with have shown interest in the tour, I mean if it’s half the tour that it seems like it’s going to be it will be amazing.

PRT: When you first sat down to record the 'blueprint sessions' did you ever plan to tour worldwide and release as much as you have?
Chuck: No I didn't, I wasn't thinking about touring at the time. I didn't want to tour at all. I was actually trying to get away from touring and my wife and I were actually planning on starting a custom home building business just on my own as a independent contractor & builder and then the music started doing better and we were able to get out.
Before I was making more money at home with my trade and then I would have to lose money to go play some music which was always fine and then it started getting a little better where we could make ends meet but the last thing I wanted to do was to get back into the machine of it all , the only thing that kind of rectified it for me you could say was that I was doing it solo and my wife and I could make the schedule and we were making our own rules and dictating our life.
It was a completely different feeling than being in a band because hot water music just got to this point where it was wonderful, we had great times and great shows and everything but definitely after a while we had the label and managers and all these people on payroll and all this going on, then you don't dictate your own schedule any more your just a piece of the puzzle.
There's pros and cons to it, its wonderful because you have this big family kind of thing but at the same time personal space disappears, personal agenda disappears, you miss birthdays and funerals and births and anniversary's you name it, its just extremely taxing.
So it was different then when I kicked it off again in my own way, but I had no idea we would have done as much as we have.

PRT: I remember the first time you came over you played by yourself, was there a point you decided to go full band?
Chuck: No not necessarily I still play by myself quite a bit, tonight its just Jon Gaunt and I. The Cool thing about it in a non selfish way but kind of a selfish way (laughs) is having the control of being able to say I'm going to do this show by myself or get just John or get a whole bunch of people and just go for it. Its just nice to be able to have those options to me it feels more creative and free all round.

PRT: A lot of the older bands I talk to such as yourself, lagwagon, NUFAN etc, I always pose the question do you still actively follow the punk rock scene? And where do you think its gone in the last 5 years since its died down a lot in England especially!
Chuck: Yea I always feel like i'm completely saturated with music and sometimes a little over saturated to me I feel punk rock to me has always been more of an ethic rather than a style or a fad or even a genre, punk rock to me when I learnt about it 24 years ago was a completely different thing to what it is nowadays, it has some of the same elements but it was more frowned upon more than anything else.
You weren't accepted at school, we just weren't you know the punks , the skateboarders we were the ones that were always hassled, it was cool to us but it wasn't cool to anybody else ha!
Over the years as i've grown older i've believed a lot of those ethics are still there with some people, and some of those people who I believe still hold those ethics may not be considered from a outside perspective punk rock people at all! Some of the most punk rock people I know are more farmers and ranchers, its more about this DIY ethic of knowing how to grow their own food and knowing how to hunt and fish and live off of the land and be completely self sufficient. Growing up when I learnt about punk rock it was more about rebelling against the norm, rebelling against society, church and school and all the rules, and I was this 12/13 year old kid that happened to know everything in the world! So for me the best part about it one way or another there will always be an underground and they'll always be that undeniable ethic of doing things yourself and maintaining and sustaining on your own.

PRT: When you play live you tend to have a lot of stories behind your songs, I love this because its educational and its not just a song, where do these tend to come from? Books? Family? Friends?
Chuck: All of the above really, i've just always felt like song writing for me is something that I always more or less have to do rather than a choice, I say that meaning its like therapy to me its more or less like someone keeping a journal or a diary its something I need to do to get it off my chest, I do it for that first and foremost and I love releasing records.
I love to make these journals and diary's into a song and get them out and I feel like when I put them on a record and I them 'out' away from me its almost like i'm able to step forward with my own life and choice.

PRT: So essentially your records are history books?
Chuck: Absolutely , as far as where the stories come from think about what effects you everyday from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, all these people that you see, the positive things, the negative things just everything you've faced throughout the day just like day to day life.
With your family, job and society to me i've always felt that if something, anything effects you in an extremely positive or negative way most likely for me its worth getting it off my chest and telling a story about it.

PRT: Last question... what's going on with Hot Water Music at the moment? I know you've done random shows, but George is playing for Against Me etc. Are there plans to record?
Chuck: yea we are actually writing a new record, so that's kind of new and it’s fun and the best part about it for us is that it’s like the beginning again.
We don't have any contracts, no label, we have no managers, so no one telling us when and where, even though we have always done a good job in doing what the hell we want to, ha! But still it feels like we are not expected to do anything and it definitely got to that point when you’re this band and you’re going and you put out a record and you tour on it and you let everybody know yea we are going back in the studio, everybody's waiting for the next record and the next tour and there's that pressure there and for us.
The main focus now is just to write new songs and when it feels right and ready to record we will do it , and when we feel like getting a label we will do it.

PRT: Do you feel records come out better without the pressure and having no time limits?
Chuck: yea, if we just relax and we do exactly what we want to do it'll come out great. And if it doesn't, at least it will sound good to us aha! No one else may like it but as long as you’re happy that's fine! Ha ha!

PRT: Ha! OK Chuck... huge thanks for your time and we shall see you soon
Chuck : My pleasure! I appreciate it!

Samiam – Orphan Works

It’s been a while since we were treated to a new Samiam album. And while “Orphan Works” is not a new album, it’s good to hear from these guys again. I don’t know about you but I’ll take Samiam outtakes over the latest screamo band any day of the week!

If you’re new to the band, then this is as good of an introduction as you can get to what these guys are all about. And if you’re a longtime fan, then I’m pretty sure that the energetic as fuck live versions of songs like “Bad Day” or “Clean” will win you over. Oh, the covers of Iggy Pop’s “Search And Destroy” and Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” in the middle are pretty cool as well.

In the end what you get is an 18-song document covering the six busiest years in the history of a great band who attacked everything they did - whether it was a live show or recording in Billy Joe Armstrong’s basement - with the same amount of energy and sincerity. Only a completely new album could’ve made me happier!
Score: 8.5 out of 10

The Arrivals – Volatile Molotov

Chicago’s The Arrivals are back with a new album called “Volatile Molotov” and it needs to be said, the band is on fire on this one. Whether they’re pounding away in pure punkrock mode in songs like “Two Years” and “Children’s Crusade” or when they slow things down a little, the hooks and the energy are always there., making this album nothing but a pleasure to listen to.

I’m not sure how to describe these guys because they’ve got a bit of everything going on. It’s kinda like a mixture of Midwestern punkrock with British pop influences thrown in for goo measure. I can compare these guys to Dillinger Four (bassist Paddy is in both bands) and Naked Raygun with touches of Elvis Costello. But I can just as well tell you that they have this American Steel vibe going on mixed in with some of The Clash and The Jam.

Whatever you make of it, there’s no denying the quality of these songs. They’ve got the hooks and melodies to reign you in before hitting you over the head with intelligent lyrics that are actually worth spending a thought or two on.
Score: 8 out of 10

Screeching Weasel – Television City Dream

“Television City Dream” originally came out in 1998 and while arguably not their best album, this is still a Screeching Weasel album worth listening to. Ben Weasel apparently felt the same way, made a couple of adjustments and re-released the whole thing. The re-mastered and re-sequenced version comes with new artwork (way better than the tripped out original) and five outtakes that didn’t make the album back in the day.

What else is there to say about this one? Screeching Weasel was one of the best-known snotty pop-punk bands around and you either loved or hated them. Apparently the band is back in full effect (without Jughead) and are working on a new album. While waiting for that one, you can always pick this one up.
Score: 7 out of 10

V/A – Fat Music vol. 7 : Harder, Fatter, Louder

It’s been a while since we had one of these… eight years to be exact. I remember when vol. 2 came out in the mid 90s. It taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about punkrock and I never looked back since.

It’s 2010 now… that means there’s no more Hi-Standard or Diesel Boy to be found on here. Fat Wreck mainstays such as No Use For A Name and Good Riddance are still featured on here along with the Mad Caddies and Swingin’ Utters. In today’s music scene there aren’t a lot of bands that stay with the same label for a long time, yet over at Fat Wreck they prove that it’s still possible.

The newer bands on the label’s roster are represented as well of course. And listening to the songs by Old Man Markley, The Flatliners, Pour Habit and Cobra Skulls, everyone can rest assured. Even if all the trusty Fat Wreck names should call it a day tomorrow, the future of the label is already guaranteed.
Score: 8 out of 10

Down – Diary Of A Mad Band

Back in 2006 Down was barely back together again after some time apart, when they decided to come over to Europe for the first time without a new album or without a label backing them. The result of that tour is the live CD/DVD “Diary Of A Mad Band”.

It has a very seventies-feel to it with lots of shaky handcam shots and gritty sound quality. Could’ve been better but that’s cool… Down is a gritty kind of band. And you are treated to a shitload of material from the all-star band’s first two albums. “Lifer”, “New Orleans Is A Dying Whore”, “Stone The Crow”, “Bury Me In Smoke”… they’re all featured on here.

What could’ve been done a whole lot better is the documentary part. Pretty much all it shows is lame backstage footage with inside jokes that are probably only funny to the band members themselves. Oh, and there are a couple of monologues by Phil Anselmo that are pretty much meaningless. Probably a result of whatever he was strung out on at the time.

As a live album, I’m all for this one. But for those of you who were hoping to get a better understanding of what was driving this band at that point in time, you’ll be in for a bit of a disappointment. I’m sure album number four will be a lot better than this one!
Score: 6 out of 10
Down Records

Young Guns – All Our Kings Are Dead

Things went pretty fast for this UK outfit. Barely a year after the release of their first EP (“Mirrors”) they’ve already played shows with everyone from LostProphets and Taking Back Sunday to Bon Jovi. They’re tipped as one of the hottest new acts in the UK and have now just released their debut full-length. Does it live up to the hype? Fuck yeah!

Opener “Sons Of Apathy” and single “Crystal Clear” kick down the door without knocking. These guys sound huge and powerful, they have a knack for writing catchy hooks and anthemic parts and vocalist Gustav Wood has a solid voice that at its most powerful sounds a lot like Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue. It perfectly accompanies the crushing wall of sound that the rest of the band whips up. It has to be said though… they sound a little less convincing when they slow things down (“Meter & Verse”, “After The War”) but quickly redeem themselves every time with songs like “Weight Of The World” and “Winter Kiss”.

Things may sound alike as you get near the end of the album but by then Young Guns have already shown that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Fans of LostProphets and early Funeral For A Friend can rest assured, they’ve got another band to fall head over heels in love with. Hell, 30 Seconds To Mars could already learn a thing or two from these guys.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Live Forever Records / PIAS

Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

30 Years. 15 Albums. It sounds insane but Bad Religion is still going at it. And what’s even better… “The Dissent Of Man” is another kickass album that even trumps the last two albums and one that goes back to their heydays.

They kick things off in high gear with the opening combo that is “The Day That The Earth Stalled” and “Only Rain”. As you work your way further down the tracklisting you’ll find Bad Religion with their foot on the gas on even more occasions (“Meeting Of The Minds”, “Avalon”). But they’ll just as well slow things down though here and there. Like on “Won’t Somebody” which reminded me of Social D. All the while Greg Gaffin is still stringing lyrics together with words that sometimes have more than three syllables. You heard that right. That’s pretty much the same amount of chords they’ve been using all these years to play their songs.

It’s the combination of great hooks, vocal harmonies, energy, intelligent lyrics and 30 years of experience that makes “The Dissent Of Man” another must. It also accounts for the fact why Bad Religion still is one of the biggest and best punkrock bands on the planet.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Kingfisher Sky – Skin Of The Earth

Thank god for the internet because I didn’t know the first thing about this band. Apparently Kingfisher Sky is a Dutch outfit that was started after drummer Ivar De Graaf left Within Temptation to make his own music. Apparently “Skin Of The Earth” is not the band’s first release. They’ve already been going at it since 2001 and this is their second full-length. And apparently… no, not apparently… this I found out while listening to the album… they like their gothic metal with some proggy twists and a slight medieval-sounding touch.

While listening the album, you’re bound to pick up on some influences by De Graaf’s previous band and it also made me think of Evanescence. That’s not hard to explain… every female-fronted band that has a bombastic sound like this, makes me think of them.

I seriously dislike both Within Temptation and Evanescence so listening to “Skin Of The Earth” was pretty much pure torture for me. But I guess that if you’re into this kinda thing, they’re not half bad at what they do.
Score: 3 out of 10


Best of 2010

Awesome picture, right? It shows you that tackiness is still very much alive in 2010. Luckily we had a lot of good tunes this year as well to counter all that bad taste. Here’s what we’ve been listening to for the past 12 months.

Top 20 of Best albums of 2010 (in alphabetical order):
Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man
Ceremony – Rohnert Park
Cruel Hand – Lock & Key
Gatorface – Wasted Monuments
Gringo Star – All Y’All
Heartsounds – Until We Surrender
Johnny Cash – American VI : Ain’t No Grave
Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Leatherface – The Stormy Petrel
Middle Class Rut – No Name, No Color
Off With Their Heads – In Desolation
Spanish Gamble – It’s All Coming Down
The Flatliners – Cavalcade
The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
The Menzingers – Chamberlain Waits
The Riot Before – Rebellion
The Wonder Years – The Upsides
Trash Talk – Eyes & Nines
Trigger Effect – Versitis Maximus
Young Livers – Of Misery And Toil

Top 3 of best EP/7” of 2010:
Defeater – Lost Ground EP
The Lawrence Arms – Buttsweat And Tears 7”
Atlas Losing Grip – Watching The Horizon EP

Best live album of 2010:
The Weakerthans – Live At The Burton Cummings Theatre

Best re-issue of 2010:
Refused – The Shape Of Punk To Come

Best live show of 2010:
Trigger Effect at The Fest 9 (Gainesville, FL)

Most misguided promo sent to PunkRockTheory in 2010:
Chemical Brothers - Further


Weezer – Death To False Metal

Weezer hit the vaults and came up with a bunch of songs that for some reason never made the album they were originally recorded for. Now, normally there’s a good reason for songs like that not to be released. It could either be a good idea that never reached its full potential or it could just be a bad idea.

Whatever the reason may be, I don’t think these leftovers are supposed to sound as good as they do on “Death To False Metal”. The opening trio of “Turning Up The Radio”, “I Don’t Want Your Loving” and “Blowin’ My Stack” rock in vintage Weezer style. There’s really no denying the quality of these songs. I doubt we will get everyone on the same line when it comes to pure silliness like “I’m A Robot” or the cover of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart”… fuck it, this is pure fun and I’m soaking up every second of it. It’s like a little bit of summer in the middle of winter.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Megadeth – Rust In Peace: Live

I could bitch about how live albums are easy money for a band like this. But when watching and listening to Mustaine & co play their landmark album in its entirety on its 20th anniversary, it’s easy to relive puberty when I still had the long hair to bang my head to songs like “Hangar 18” and “Poison Was The Cure” which I played as loud as I could at every possible moment.

Yes, the stage looks cheesy as fuck and Dave Mustaine’s intro is as ridiculous as the band’s wavy hair. But this is thrash metal the way it’s supposed to be played and I’d rather hear a band churn out their classics with this much enthusiasm than having them release a new album that sucks. Oh wait, they did that last year. Oh well…

The DVD also comes with some select choices from other albums, including “Skin O’ My Teeth” and “Symphony Of Destruction” along with some behind the scenes material.

It’s a nice package that does the thrash classic that is “Rust In Peace” more than justice.
Score: 7 out of 10

Bullet For My Valentine – Fever

When I first heard the insanely disappointing “Scream Aim Fire”, I was convinced that kids these days know shit. The album sucked big time and it was a complete mystery to me why Bullet For My Valentine became a huge name. They pulled a complete 180 though on “Fever” and give other current metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold a run for their money. Attitude-wise that is because musically nothing much has changed.

The drums still come storming out through the gates and are quickly followed by relentless shredding that leads up to a chorus that their audience will love to belt out at the band’s shows. It’s that same audience that will no doubt identify completely with the lyrical content that deals mostly with girls and relationships gone wrong.

This is normally not my cup of tea but when it’s brought with this much energy and enthusiasm, it’s very hard not to get sucked in and see why Bullet For My Valentine became as big as they did.

Check ‘em out live at the Ancienne Belgique on December 1st.
Score: 8 out of 10

Fistful Of Mercy – As I Call You Down

History repeats itself. It’s true. When George Harrison joined Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan in the Traveling Wilburys, he probably never thought that one of his sons would someday partake in a similar project. Yet that’s exactly what happened when Dhani Harrison joined forces with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur to start Fistful Of Mercy.

“As I Call You Down” is the name of that collaboration where the three of them hit the studio running and wrote and recorded all nine songs in just three days. Maybe it’s because of that short period of time that this didn’t become the masterpiece you’d expect if you base yourself solely on the names attached to Fistful Of Mercy. The material on here is good enough though to make you wonder what this could lead up to when they take a couple more days next time around with the country/blues stomper that is “Father’s Son” and the instrumental “30 Bones”. But it’s especially the breathtaking vocal harmonies that draw the attention in songs like “In Vain Or True” and “Ad I Call You Down”. Very CSN&Y and I’m loving every second of it.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
Hot Records

The Scabs – The Singles

The Scabs are basically Belgium’s version of the Rolling Stones. This year they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary and in those years they’ve done it all. Even calling it a day when egos started clashing and everyone was battling either an alcohol or a drug addiction. They’re back now though… playing a couple of big shows, releasing a book called “Dirty Years Of Rock ‘n Roll” and by releasing this compilation.

This double album comes with a whopping 31 songs, including the new single “Why?”. It’s a good enough song but listening to “Matchbox Car”, “Hard Times” or “Nothing On My Radio” one more time, I’m reminded even more why this was at one time the very best that Belgium had to offer when it came to rock ‘n roll.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Such Gold – Pedestals

I love it when Windows Media Player fucks up… according to that silly software I’m listening to the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band! Instead Rochester, New York’s Such Gold does the whole hardcore/pop-punk thing on ”Pedestals” that helped set bands like Set Your Goals on the map as well. The only difference with Set Your Goals is that these guys manage to maintain a rawer edge. Is it on purpose or because they don’t have the same studio budget to smooth things out? Guess we’ll find out after they’ve been signed to a bigger label and released a full-length there.

That’s probably the way it’s going to go for these guys because the material on “Pedestals” will most definitely appeal to all the fans of the genre. And while the guest vocals by the likes of Kenny Vasoli (The Starting Line) and Karl Buechner (Earth Crisis), Such Gold doesn’t need them to make this a release that will turn more than a few heads.
Score: 7 out of 10

The Mad Trist – Pay The Piper

Looking at the cover, I thought I was going to be in for some folksy indiepop. Rather than strumming a banjo though, Holland’s The Mad Trist come out rocking with their cocks out on the opening trio of “Juvenile”, “Alibi” and the title track. Sure, it sounds a lot like Queens Of The Stone Age. But seriously, is that a bad thing? It’s all kind of seedy, sexy and swinging… I’m all for it.

“Pay The Piper” did not become a flawless album thanks to songs like “Like A Perfume” which sounds a bit too sugary and the 8-minutes long closer that drags on forever, but it does show plenty of promise. A name to keep an eye out for!
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Winnebago Deal – Career Suicide

I doubt Winnebago Deal’s third album will turn out to be a real career suicide. After all, if you know what these guys are all about, this album will hold little surprises for you. None actually.

Ben Perrier’s voice is - unlike the water brand with the same name – is gritty as fuck and he treats his guitar like the damn thing cheated on him. In the meantime, drummer Ben Thomas (yes, they’re both called Ben) is making his drum kit sound like a blitzkrieg. No idea where that came from… but it sounds about right.

Things get kinda monotonous after the first couple of songs but hey, the fourteen songs are over before boredom really sets in. If you’re into high-octane punk ‘n roll, then you might want to check out these dudes.
Score: 6 out of 10

Dreamend – So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite

So there’s this band called Black Moth Super Rainbow. Never heard of it? That’s okay. Neither have I. Apparently they play a kind of music they themselves once described as follows… ‘deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania vocoders hum amongst the flowers and synths bubble under the leaf-strewn ground while flutes whistle in the wind and beats bounce to the soft drizzle of a warm acid rain. As the sun peeks out from between the clouds, the organic aural concoction of Black Moth Super Rainbow starts to glisten above the trees’. That right there spells W-A-N-K-E-R-S if you ask me.

Dreamend is the solo projectof BMSR’s bassist Ryan Graveface. While he tells the story of a murderer who’s spiraling into madness on “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite”, he uses some elements from folk (acoustic instruments) mixed with some electronics and a lot of well, questionable songwriting. “So I Ate Myself, Bite By Bite” sounds like a bad acid trip. While I’m sure indie scenesters all over are cumming in their undies while listening to this, I think it falls under the ‘pretentious crap’ moniker.
Score: 3.5 out of 10

Knucklebone Oscar – Welcome To Trash Vegas!

Straight from Helsinki comes Knucklebone Oscar with album number four. “Welcome To Trash Vegas” lives up to its title with raw vocals, rockabilly guitars on speed and rhythms that will get your hips moving in no time.

With a raucous mix of rockabilly, punk, surf, blues and everything in between, these guys plow through eleven songs in barely 28 minutes. They cut out all the crap they didn’t need and ended up with an album that is as fun as watching James Brown’s stage moves and as over the top as Little Richard’s haircuts.
Score: 6 out of 10


Black Sleep of Kali - Our Slow Decay

by Christophe

Well, when these guys decided on their band name, they should've known that every interview and every review would at some point refer to "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", as Indy suffers from the Black Sleep of Kali Ma after he drinks some kind of potion. It's some kind of trance.

And musically, these dudes almost got me there, with very groovy down tuned riffs, sludgy stoner metal and headbang-able material reminiscent of, ehm, Remission. You know, the Mastodon album;

So if you're into the old Mastodon and Torche, you'll love this rocking album.

But I would love the vocals to be a little more intense. Because now, at some points, they just downplay the awesomeness of Black Sleep of Kali's debut full-length.
Score: 7 out of 10

Final Prayer - Best of Times

by Christophe

Oh dear.... Germany... Why do you have such funny accent when you speak English? And why do you make hardcore the way you do?

Yeah, "Best of Times" is a collection of the first and long out of print releases from Berlin's finest: Final Prayer.

So you get twenty songs: the first demo, songs from two split records, the first full-length and a new song.
Those demo songs are really funny, by the way, with the singer sounding as if he wants to be in Cannibal Corpse, while the band plays like they wanna be in Madball.

Since those days, not much has changed. The band is touring a lot, still putting out albums, and the vocals changed. Thank god!

Still, this is a nice overview of Final Prayer's early days. And fans of the Eurocore and other moshable hardcore subgenres will be happy to pick this up and get acquinted with one of Germany's finest hardcore acts.
Score: 6 out of 10

Red Giant - Dysfunctional Majesty

by Christophe

Red who? I thought the Americans only had Green Giant, a lovable lug who sells sweetcorn in a can to anyone who's too lazy to nibble it off the cob.

So I guess this Red Giant must be the not so friendly enemy of the Green Giant. And they don't sell corn, but hard rock.

"Dysfunctional Majesty" is their third album, and although I can't compare them since I haven't heard 'em - duh- I can only give my thumbs up to some awesome riffing and very cruisin'-in-my-car kinda grooves on this record.

However, I'm a little bummed that lead vocalist Alex Perekrest is at times trying to hard to sound like Kyuss' John Garcia. And face it, no one can sound like that guy.

Also, in accordance to my ridiculously short attention span, the songs and album could've been a little shorter.

Other than that, yeah, I rocked out listening to "Dysfunctional Majesty". But unfortunately, I was not compelled to have my cock out.
Score: 6,5 out of 10

MSWhite - Squares

by Christophe

Ah nuts... When a sticker on the cover notes that this is for fans of Underoath and Refused, I was pretty much afraid I surely was the wrong person to review this album.

I am.

These Italians have some things going for them. The screams are good. The guitarwork is more than decent. But just when you think you've got an above average interesting album, the clean vocals kick in and you know why Underoath is mentioned on the sticker.

And honestly, where's the Refused that was mentioned?

Yeah, there just isn't enough Refused.

Then again, there never is enough Refused. So I'll be lenient and give these dudes the benefit of the doubt. "Squares" isn't half bad. And for a band in this genre being reviewed by me? Well, that's an accomplishment;
Score: 6,5 out of 10

Touché Amoré - ... To the beat of a dead horse

by Christophe

Now here's a band that has been garnering a lot of attention lately. The "hype" around this band has even sealed them a record deal with Deathwish Inc.

Well, of course it's not all hype. This record also has a lot to do with it, as well as their hefty tour schedule.

Anyway, with some obvious similarities to Modern Life is War and Give Up the Ghost, Touché Amoré did find a way to combine two of hardcore's most revered bands of the past ten years. But on top of that, there are some really cool screamo parts. And I don't mean the Alesana-kinda screamo. I'm talking about Swing Kids, or Hot Cross, or Funeral Diner.

Now, Touché Amoré doesn't really touch (oh, bet you didn't see that one coming huh?) me in a way one of those bands mentioned.

But it must be said that Touché Amoré did make a very cool record that found the perfect mix between heartfelt screamo, modern hardcore and even some punkrock-y moments. And it all clocks in at just over 18 minutes. Which makes it hard to get bored with a versatile album like this one anyway.

So far, this might just as well be the most interesting new punk/hardcore band since Ceremony.
Score: 7,5 out of 10

All Out War - Into the Killing Fields

by Christophe

Maybe it's got something to do with growing old. But since age stuffed a 30-burger on me, I crave for a return to the feeling I had listening to punkrock and hardcore in the late nineties, early naughties.

Well, no, honestly? I've always had a soft spot for the stuff I listened to back then.

I still remember spinning "For Those Who Were Crucified" for the first time. And grinning because of the violence and rage contained on that little disc, despite my disdain for the moshcore.

Why? Because All Out War was just better than other bands in an otherwise very boring genre.

And you know what? They still make me grin. And they're still full of rage and violence. Honestly, I think Mike Score's voice is one of the grittiest and hate-filled throats around. And I dig it.

So yeah, this is a nineties-record. But with maybe a little more Slayer in it than back then, and definitely a better production than they had back then.

I love nostalgia... And Slayer.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Peter Pan Speedrock - We Want Blood

by Christophe

"We Want Blood" is the eighth studio album from the Dutch speed rock legend Peter Pan Speedrock. They've been terrorizing all kinds of stages, bars and festivals alike around Europe since 1997.

But the past couple of years, they finally manage to terrorize all stereo's and cd-players and record players as well. Their previous efforts, "Spread Eagle" from 2005 and 2007's "Pursuit Until Capture", already took the band to a next level in my humble, yet honest opinion.

Well, this one is definitely their best effort yet. Of course, they'll never match the intensity of yours truly's favorite speedrock band Zeke. But with the title track kicking off a good 33 minutes of high octane punkrock'n roll , it's very hard to discover any dull moment on this album.

Until you get to "Gotta Do the Catching" and "Bad Energy", two songs this album could do very well without.
Score: 7 out of 10


Middle Class Rut interview

If you haven't heard of these guys yet, you're missing out on a treat! I'm not going to tell you more about it... just do yourself a favor: read this interview, watch the video for "New Low" and go out and pick up a copy of "No Name, No Color".

PRT: First of all, congratulations... "No Name No Color" is hands down one of the best albums I've heard all year. You've been working on these songs for close to four years . it made me wonder when and how you decide that a song is finished?
MCR: We usually write the song pretty quickly, over the course of a couple of hours sometimes. As soon as we’ve got the basic outline, even before we’ve really solidified all the details, we record it. We’re not necessarily sure if this is the last time we’re gonna record the song or not. Nine times of out of 10, we become attatched to the energy and spirit that results from recording a song when its freshly written, and just learn to live with the mistakes. Every once in a while we give a song some extra time to develop, play it live a few times, then record it once we feel its fully mature, but 90% of the time its done really fast with not much thought.

PRT: After several EPs ('Red EP", "Blue EP") there is now the first full-length, which is appropriately titled "No Name No Color". It seems almost like a statement, like you're saying you want to let the songs do the talking, not the other stuff that comes with it. Does that sound about right or am I completely missing the ball here?
MCR: That sounds so right, I think I will use your answer from here on out every time someone asks what the title means. We’re not really a conceptual band when it comes to making records, not yet anyway. We’re lazy, we hate naming things, commitment issues obviously. No Name No Color was a way to name the record without really naming it anything.

PRT: Having previously played in another band and having already been on a major label, did that help a lot in terms of knowing what you were going for with Middle Class Rut and how to go about it?
MCR: Yeah our history and our experiences prior to this band gave us something really valuable. It gave us a “what not to do” perspective so basically as long as we’re doing the exact opposite of everything we’ve done in the past, we’re fine.

PRT: Reason I'm asking is because I read somewhere that you immediately record everything you write yourselves. How come you started doing that?
MCR: We did the 300k record in our old band, spent almost a year on it, mostly with the singer doing vocals, and at the end of the process, were so burnt out on it that we basically fucking threw it in the trash and started over. The way we go about writing and recording songs now is almost like our own defense against ever making that same mistake again. For better or for worse, our songs should never sound overwritten or over produced because we literally don’t give them the oppurtunity to come out that way.

PRT: I'm guessing that way of working leads to a whole lot of songs that are already finished? If so, will those ever see the light of day as well you think?
MCR: We’ve got more songs than we know what to do with right now. That being said, not EVERY single one necessarily deserves to be released, but who knows. If we feel like people really want to hear some of the unreleased stuff we’ll have to find some way of getting it out there.

PRT: These days bands seem to get formed, signed and then dropped in no time without ever being given time to evolve. You on the other hand have already been playing together since your teens. Do you think that's one of your biggest strengths as a band?
MCR: Well yeah by now we’ve definitely figured things out. It also makes it hard for a band like us to get used to having to constantly come up with new and different ways of doing things. That’s definitely a struggle for us. We’re still holding on to the idea of the album, and we want to sell physical versions of the album, be it cd, vinyl, laserdisc, whatever. We’re finding it difficult to adjust to the new model.

PRT: You're a pretty eclectic band and the album shows a lot of different sides of Middle Class Rut. Is "No Name No Color" a way to introduce people to all those different sides of the band and then build from there? Or are there completely other sides of the MC Rut as well that you haven't even begun exploring?
MCR: We deliberately put together an eclectic mix of songs hopefully so people wont get too used to any one thing that we do. I like the idea of being able to flip things 180 degrees from one song to the next yet still sound like the same band, and I’m guessing we’ll continue to try and do that on records in the future. I can only hope theres things that we haven’t discovered yet, that’s what ininitally sparked this thing in the first place was getting together and writing music that we felt like we’d never heard before.

PRT: You still have a couple of shows to go in October but after that I was unable to find any immediate tours for you. Is there a lot more in the works? Maybe another European tour?
MCR: We’re doing a few radio things, then we’re doing 3 weeks with filter, followed by some stuff over in the UK. Idealy the next year is gonna take us all over the place includng Europe and Asia and Australia.

PRT: Any last words for our readers?
MCR: Come out to a show!


Night Horse – Perdition Hymns

From Los Angeles comes Night Horse, a band that likes their rock ’n roll bluesy and timeless. They do a pretty good job of rocking the fuck out at high speed while incorporating tons of catchy melodies and slick solos. The production job by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Pearl Jam) didn’t exactly hurt things either, even if I do think these guys are better experienced in a live setting. Preferably one where there’s a lot of beer at hand.

Think Dirty Sweet or Priestess and you’ll know whether or not you’re going to like these “Perdition Hymns”.
Score:7.5 out of 10

Frank And Earnest – Old Francis EP

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one of these guys is called Frank and which one is Earnest. What I can tell you is that this Lansing, Michigan outfit plays some pretty solid punkrock tunes on their EP that are both frank and earnest.

Call it gritty pop-punk or Midwestern beer belly despair rock, it sticks and while they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel with songs about drinking and relationships gone wrong, they bring their material with so much energy and honesty, that you can’t help but get sucked in. I still haven’t figured out if the lo-fi recording is a positive (it does provide more of a raw sheen) or a negative (it doesn’t sound as crispy as would like) but fuck it, the songs on here are good and the lyrics are even better.
Score: 7 out of 10

NOFX – The Longest EP

Leave it to NOFX to releases the longest EP known to man! It’s no new release if that’s what you’re hoping for, but don’t let that stop you from getting a copy… it’s way cheaper than picking up all of the separate releases where these songs were released on originally.

Kicking things off are the tracks from the “Longest Line” EP, quickly followed by the “Fuck The Kids” EP, the “Bottles To The Ground” EP, the “Regaining Unconsciousness” EP, the “13 Stitches” EP, a couple of “War On Errorism” outtakes, the “Never Trust A Hippy” EP… you still with me?... the “I’ve Become A Cliché” EP and the “Cokie The Clown” EP. And finally there are a couple of old songs at the end from when these guys were just starting out. Personally I could’ve done without those because they aren’t that good… and that’s really putting it mildly. But hey, by that time you’ve already endured NOFX for well over 20 songs so kudos to you!

Oh yeah, check out the artwork… you can play the game ‘guess the release’ 
Score: 7 out of 10

Your Demise – The Kids We Used To Be…

Your Demise is a UK hardcore band that has already been around the block a couple of times. The first time I – and a whole mess of other people – heard of them though was with the release of 2009’s “Ignorance Never Dies”. It was one pissed off hardcore album that did Jamey Jasta proud. Shortly after that release, frontman George Noble was kicked out of the band and then replaced by former Centurion vocalist Ed McRae. It luckily didn’t affect the band’s sound. Something that’s proven as soon as opener “MMX” bursts out of the speakers and punches you straight in the face while yelling ‘Your Demise 2010 bitches’!

That song is quickly followed by “Miles Away”, probably the band’s best song to date. It’s powerful as fuck and comes with the kind of chorus that you just need to yell along. They manage to keep you all riled up throughout the rest of the album as well using a smart combination of thundering drums, crushing riffs and tons of spat out vocals, dipped in pure vitriol intermixed with the occasional clean vocals or some nice melodic riffage.

The best thing about Your Demise is that they aren’t doing anything new. You can pick on some Hatebreed as well as a fair amount of Comeback Kid to name just two bands… but these guys are bringing so much energy and enthusiasm to the table that you can’t help but get sucked in. More power to them!
Score: 8 out of 10

Alice Cooper – Theatre Of Death CD/DVD

If you’re really young and still think the Murderdolls are onto something new with their mix of horror and rock ‘n roll, then you might want to check out Alice Cooper’s “Theatre Of Death”. This is the recording of his show on December 6, 2009 at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, both on CD and DVD.

It’s all recorded very nicely even though it’s a bit of a shame that the DVD looks so bright. It’s as if someone left all the lights on, rather than just the stage lights. Another downside is Alice Cooper’s voice which seems to have lost some of its power over the years. Something that becomes especially clear as you work your way further down the tracklisting.

So why should you pick this up then? Well, because Alice Cooper did write some fuckin’ amazing songs and most of them are featured on this release. Yes, I’m talking about “School’s Out”, “Poison” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”… and the Coop performs them with a solid back backing band and it’s all accompanied by his usual Grand Guignol-style stage antics. It makes “Theatre Of Death” a fun Halloween release and after seeing all of those young faces in the crowd all dressed up like Alice Cooper, it’s just more proof that the good man still has what it takes to entertain a crowd.
Score: 7 out of 10

Middle Class Rut – No Name No Color

Listening to Middle Class Rut’s debut full-length “No Name No Color”, you’d never guess that this act is a duo. The sound is nothing but massive, but behind it all you’ll find just two guys. They’re called Sean Stockham (vocals, drums) and Zack Lopez (vocals, guitars) and they’ve been playing music together since their teens. First in the band Leisure and now in Middle Class Rut (or MC Rut).

Opener “Busy Bein’ Born” immediately sets the scene for the rest of the album, showing off the band’s potential for rocking the fuck out while injecting the song with melodic hooks that rival the best of 90s alternative rock with a twist of Rage Against The Machine to spice things up even further. First single “New Low” with its mellow vibe is up next, after which “Lifelong Dayshift” bursts out of the speakers and wins you over completely. And that’s just song number four. By then you still have “Sad To Know”, “Are You On Your Way” and “Dead End” to go.

Their strength is that they offer a little bit of everything for everyone while staying consistent with Lopez sounding like a dead ringer for Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell after a particularly hard year of partying. On top of that they convey equal parts angst and anger and succeed in making you believe every single word they utter.

“No Name No Color” is the result of four years of writing songs and then finetuning them on the road during tours with The Bronx, Social D, Them Crooked Vultures and Alice In Chains. And it’s a result that deserves to be heard… one of the contenders for album of the year? I sure as hell think so.
Score: 9 out of 10

Restorations – Strange Behavior EP

You might still remember Dave Klyman and Jon Loudon from their previous outfit, Jena Berlin. If you don’t, I suggest you check them out. They were awesome. On “Strange Behavior” they took a slightly different approach and recorded a bunch of tunes under the moniker Restorations.

What that different approach is exactly? Well, they’ve gone rootsy on our asses with some shoegaze thrown in because it’s all the rage again these days. And they probably thought fuck, why not add some jangly indierock riffs in as well while we’re at it. And there’s simply no going round the gritty vocals of a man who sounds like he smokes two packs a day. So there’s that as well.

It makes for a sound that sounds as mellow as a summer jam session on the front porch yet at the same time it manages to keep you walking on your tippy toes throughout the four songs because you’re afraid they might throw a fit at any given time. Think of what the bastard child of The Constantines and Lucero would sound like and you’re getting close. But not quite.

Restorations is in the studio now recording a full-length and based on “Strange Behavior”. I’m already looking forward to it.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Mad Caddies – Consensual Selections

One can argue about the value of a ‘Greatest Hits’ album when nowadays everybody can download just the songs they like from a certain release on iTunes and then create their very own greatest hits album by any band in about half an hour. What one can’t argue about however is that the Mad Caddies have written some damn fine ska songs over the years.

On “Consensual Selections” you get a whopping 24 songs that span the band’s entire career. The songs were chosen by the fans who could vote on their favorites on the band’s site. While 24 songs may seem like an awful lot of ska (and with 70 minutes it really is a lot of ska), the Mad Caddies were never strictly a ska band and so you’re treated to some reggae, dub, polka, piratecore (yup!) and even Dixieland jazz just the same.

It all makes “Consensual Selections” a cool collection that is perfect as an introduction to the band. For the real fans who already all own all of the band’s albums, this is hardly a necessity. Or it would have to be for the two new songs, “Save Us” and “Why Must I Wait”.
Score: 6.5 out of 10

Raunchy – A Discord Electric

On “A Discord Electric”, Denmark’s pop metallers most definitely don’t live up to their name. The songs on here are anything but raunchy. Sure, they’ve still got the heavy riffs and the thundering drums going on throughout the entire album, but the poppy synth sound and catchy choruses are taken to new extremes.

It seems this time around they went into the studio with an ‘anything goes’ (or a ‘fuck them all’) attitude and threw whatever they could think of at the songs, hoping it would stick. It actually works for them and rather than sounding overtly poppy or bombastic, they ended up with an album that has a little bit of something for everyone. And while listening to opener “Dim The Lights And Run” or “Nght Prty”, the things you don’t love at first are more than likely to grow on you as time goes by. Okay, so maybe “Big Truth” is a little too cheesy but let’s blame the synth pop band Dune for that… after all two of its members are helping out in the song.

If you’re into the likes of Sonic Syndicate, Lacuna Coil or Threat Signal, you should do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
Score: 7 out of 10

Ashers – Kill Your Master

If you’re wondering why it’s been kinda quiet around the streetpunks of The Unseen, then the reason you might be looking for is called Ashers. This Boston hardcore outfit features Unseen vocalist Mark Civitarese and the rest of the band is rounded out by members of Crash And Burn and Deadly Sins.

On “Kill Your Master” they are rather relentless and wreak havoc on the dozen or so songs like a fat man at a baked goods sale. The songs are fast, straight to the point and are loaded with gang vocals and the occasional solo. The only song that changes up the pace halfway through the album is “Blood And Grain”, sung and written by guitarist Billy Brown. Okay, and then there’s the 33-second long “Class Of ‘94” where the band goes for a barbershop quartet kinda sound. It shows they’ve got a sense of humor… the rest of “Kill Your Master though is no joke.
Score: 7 out of 10