Record Swap: Joe Vs. Christian
This week in Record Swap, I gave Joe Thrashnkill an impossible task: find a band wunderkind Christian doesn’t know. Joe’s response: “I will crush this nerd in my supple, normal-sized hands.” Will Papa Joe reign supreme, or will the crushing weight of Christian’s encyclopedic knowledge be too much to bear? Find out below! The rules are simple. No research. No foreknowledge. No mercy. – W.
Christian’s Metal Assignment – Tolar – Tolar Demo 2015 (2015)
It’s hard as hell to find a band Christian hasn’t heard before. Dude’s a walking Encyclopaedia Metallum. Thankfully, I don’t think he’s heard Tolar, a group of Texas boys who throw together stupid-aggressive thrash and punk. This band makes me want to quit my job and mosh for a living. – Joe Thrashnkill
Tolar do best when keeping things concise. Bangers like “Force Fed Fear” and “Tomorrows [sic] Trash” stay under the two- and three-minute marks, respectively, and are far better for it; opener “Rise to the Top” lingers on its (admittedly siqq) riffs for just a little too long as the guitarists trade bluesy solos. The band could probably use a good editor, but moments like the slower riff appearing about halfway into “Tomorrows Trash” that transforms into a wash of pinch harmonics and tremolo picking demonstrate Tolar are definitely onto something.
The thrashy, almost blackened intro to the demo’s final track, “Keep Fighting On,” and the groovy downtempo riffs that follow it are further proof that Tolar have the chops to be great, but the songwriting needs tightening. The guitar solos often feel like filler and the lyrics I caught were nothing more than the standard hardcore fare.
Still, Tolar obviously have a handle on the basics. If they can figure out what to do next, they’ll be a band to watch. – Christian
Christian’s Non-Metal Assignment – Rozwell Kid – Too Shabby (2014)
I went to see Courtney Barnett with a friend a couple of months ago and ended up seeing some group of really young folks called Rozwell Kid. It was an unexpected but welcome surprise. I’ve since listened to Too Shabby a few dozen times. – Joe Thrashnkill
Not even a minute into “Kangaroo Pocket,” the first track on Rozwell Kid’s Too Shabby, I had been won over by the band’s heavy, grungy riffs and Weezerian hooks (if Weezer wrote songs that weren’t wild hot trash though). When the dual guitar harmonies popped up just after the two-minute mark I was sold.
“Weirdo” and “Sick Jackets” sound like Torche if they reined in the “sludge” part and focused on the “pop,” and yet the riffs are still better than anything Steve Brooks has done since Floor’s self-titled. Though it’s only one riff the whole time, “Bangs” manages to keep its Far worship compelling throughout.
Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t last. The album is more than a little bloated around the middle, just like your uncle, but maybe not quite so directionless. “Halloween 3.5” has a catchy enough chorus, but it and the immediately following tracks just aren’t as strong as the openers–which isn’t to say any are particularly bad, just not quite up to the standard the band set for themselves early on.
Thankfully, the band tighten things up for Too Shabby‘s final tracks, particularly on the lilting, Pixies-esque “Armadillo” (the aptly-titled “Droner” could use some cutting down, though). With the center tracks removed, Rozwell Kid could have an excellent EP, but as an album it’s more than strong enough. – Christian
Joe’s Metal Assignment – The Clearing Path – Watershed between Earth and Firmament (2015)
Joe likes hardcore. I like black metal. Apparently we both like Santo & Johnny. The Clearing Path are kind of like all three, sorta. – Christian Molenaar
Here’s the thing about combining hardcore and black metal: it’s rad and more bands should do it. Here’s the thing about The Clearing Path: they’re rad, but I don’t hear the hardcore influence. Though this record is 6 songs, it’s more helpful to describe it as two separate song triptychs. The Clearing Path open up this pit (this pit being The Watershed Between Earth and Firmament) with peals of clean guitar lines before launching into blast beats and shrieks. This first track, “Holy Waters”, along with “Sacred Mountain” and “Godless Aura”, constitute the first half of the record and the first cycle. Each song presents a combination of blast beats, clean leads, atmospheric chanting, and tortured vocals. As a whole, these three tracks and their nontraditional take on black metal are compelling but not necessarily memorable.
“Atop the throat my glance cautiously surveys the depths” is a beautiful introduction to this album’s far superior second half. Delicate guitar lines lead to booming stomps and hand claps in this instrumental that recalls a nightmarish version of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk“. “My Wild Goose Chase” opens with the same bravado of the album intro before completely stripping itself apart from a crushing blast-fest to a progression of twinkling melodic lines. “The river will guide me towards the grandest light”, easily the best track here, is a journey that will thrill fans of Neurosis and Pelican. It even features a brief interlude that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early 90s Steve Vai record.
The verdict? The Watershed Between Earth and Firmament is well worth a listen, especially its bomb-ass second half. – Joe
Joe’s Non-Metal Assignment – Heat Dust – Heat Dust (2012)
Joe and I are also into not-metal-stuff a.k.a. dumb baby music (flush). I first heard this tape at the excellent Terminal Escape, and it’s remained in heavy rotation ever since. But what does Joe think?? – Christian Molenaar
I’m tempted to describe Heat Dust as “indie rock” but in the year 2015, indie rock is a pretty bogus and lazy way to label a band. Instead, let’s coin a new term: Don’t-Give-a-Fuck-Core. Despite the relatively upbeat sound and tempo on most of the tracks on Heat Dust, there is a pervasive nihilism throughout. Guitars are sloppy, production is muted, and the vocals are mixed further down than any other instrument. I’m pretty sure this record was created to bum you out. But it also kinda rules?
Heat Dust jumps in this motherfucker with “Sleeping Call”, one of the finest love letters to under-appreciated 90s rockers Seaweed I’ve ever heard, and follows it up with “I Was Afraid of Dying”, another song that could have been an unreleased 4-track demo from your favorite forgotten 120 Minutes band. “Let Them Give Up” then comes in to harsh your buzz with a heavy dose of slow-paced melancholy. “Priority Mail for an Asshole”, an alternate universe extra cut from the Angus soundtrack, brings some extra pep to the mix before everything plummets off the cliff. “Thick Distance” starts off like a fucking funeral dirge, and though the intensity picks up halfway through, this song is wicked bad vibes. The vocals are far too quiet for me to make out too many decipherable lyrics, but I get the feeling their vocalist is yelling about the thoughts I generally try to suppress.
With a few jammy, up-tempo numbers Heat Dust is a good time. But it’s also a really bad time. Use it to soundtrack your next all-night rager/all-day guilt trip. – Joe
Well, the utter lack of bloodshed there was disappointing. Maybe we can converse these nerds to duke it out in the comments. Want to get involved in Record Swap? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.