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 Dying Scene Album Review: Forever Unclean – “Best”

Let’s give some love to the Danish punk scene. For years, the scene has become more and more noticeable and we have a lot of bands to thank for that. In September ‘19, when I was going through an insomnia-filled three days, I decided to go on a deep dive and that’s when I discovered […]

Let’s give some love to the Danish punk scene. For years, the scene has become more and more noticeable and we have a lot of bands to thank for that. In September ‘19, when I was going through an insomnia-filled three days, I decided to go on a deep dive and that’s when I discovered this band, and that might have been the second best thing to happen to me in that year. But let’s get on with this review. Back in January of 2022, a Danish skate-indie-punk trio called Forever Unclean released their first full-length LP via Nasty Cut Records (EU), Disconnect Disconnect Records (UK), and Hidden Home Records (US), consisting of 11 tracks. If you’re already familiar with Forever Unclean, they are pretty known for their short and one-worded title tracks, which we were introduced to on their EP’s Float, Woof, and Shreds. And that, much to my joy, is still the case with Best.

With Best, I took a different approach than starting from the top with “Dream.” When I first heard the record I decided to put it on “Shuffle” like some daredevil. The first song I heard, was “Kold” sung in the band’s native language Danish, and it became a favorite from the first guitar riff before the vocals come in. While it could fool one and sound uplifting and energetic, the lyrics do put another spin on the song. “Jeg er ligeglad nu”, translated to English “I don’t care right now”.  I’ll admit, speaking Danish myself, I do think it’s nice to see the band dabble in Danish, knowing that it might only be appreciated by their Danish fans. But they took a chance and it definitely paid off.

Next up is Mandy, a cute love note to someone special. “I really need a break from reality with you, with you”, this song is unbelievably catchy from the first verse, and then picks up its pace around the 30-second mark, once again showing off how the three-piece work so well together, from the supporting vocals laying a good background to Lasse’s raw, impressive vocals. This could become a fan favorite in no time. I’ll even go as far as saying, this song should be pushed a lot more; send it to someone you love next Valentine’s Day or Anniversary.

“Smile” is the penultimate song on Best, and opens with Leo’s carefree and rapid drumming. I find this song might be where he shines through, yet the way Lasse and Troels complement the drumming, with their talents on the guitar and bass, gives me at best, ‘90s grunge vibes towards the end, probably why it deserves a mention. While I love punk, getting that hint of grunge from anyone has me hooked when I pick it up.

While I could give a track-by-track review of the record, I believe you need to check it out yourself and not get too influenced by a review. I’ll say this: the record packs punch after punch and you’ll only be glad you heard it. Even from listening to their previous material for three years, it’s very clear how these guys have grown into the band and with each other, the raw emotions transferred in the lyrics, while the instruments play some more uplifting music go with them. Throughout the record, you will are met with short songs, but they pack a lot and there’s no dropping the ball on this record. The trio does know how to properly mash genres, borrowing from the early ‘90s rock, and fast-paced pop-punk, and showing how not all indie music has to be quiet and can take a punch to it. The emotional display that we are met with on the album really benefits the band lyrical-wise, as a few bands before them haven’t been shy of showing a different emotional range on their records. Forever Unclean does it differently, with shorter and more packed songs with lyrics that make you reflect since I could ask them if they were doing a lot of self-reflecting while writing.

From the first listening, I knew this record was going to be on my top ten AoTY List, and I’m glad to say it still is even with all the releases that came this year.

If you want to catch them, they are supporting ALLDEEPENDS and Sewer Cats on selected dates, starting already Friday, November 18th in Copenhagen!

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Hailing from upstate NY, Celtic rockers 1916 are an explosive concoction of the modern Irish Punk movement with an original mix of psychobilly which gives 1916 a sound that stands apart from other bands of the genre.

Starting as an acoustic duo in 2006, singer Billy Herring and original drummer Steve LaDue played the traditional Irish ballads of the Dubliners and Wolfe Tones in the local pubs in and around their home-town of Rochester, NY.  They decided to call themselves 1916 to get people interested in Irish history.  In 2010 they took the music to a new level with the addition of electric guitars, traditional instruments, and a full drum set.  Within a few months of trying their new sound, 1916 were opening for the likes of the Dropkick Murphys, 21 Pilots, and New Politics, among other national acts.

On St. Patrick’s Day of 2012, 1916 released their first studio album, A Drop of the Pure, to rave reviews.  That same year, 1916 became the first band from Rochester, NY to get their own Pandora station with the addition of their music to the Pandora genome project.  With their music now reaching a global audience, the boys would soon gain fans all over the world.

The following year, 1916 released their sophomore album, Stand Up & Fight.  This new album, featuring a collection of covers and originals, had a more polished sound than the raw punk feel of  A Drop of the Pure.  This new full length album also featured more traditional Irish instruments to give the new LP a fun and full sound.

As the band continued to evolve, they kept touring and playing as many shows as possible.  With bigger audiences came a larger fan base for 1916 to interact with.  The band has always enjoyed hanging out with the crowd both pre- and post- shows.

In November of 2014, the guys went back into the studio to begin recording their third album, Last Call for Heroes.  Released in December of 2015, Last Call for Heroes was met with great enthusiasm from critics.  Named one of the “best punk albums of 2016,” both home and abroad, the new album appeared to have given the band the momentum they needed to move forward.

Mandolin player Jon Kane joined the band in early 2016, just before the boys hit the road to join Flogging Molly on their Salty Dog Cruise.  After a whirlwind spring of touring through the Bahamas and Europe, Jon was just what the band needed as he brought his energetic and fun stage persona into the fold.

The sound had certainly become streamlined and unique, but it wasn’t until 2017 that upright bassist Ryan Hurley would join 1916 to give the band the final integral piece that gives the music its psychobilly flavor.  Ryan quickly found a new home in 1916 and the band now finds itself on the edge of yet another amazing year of recording and touring.

In 2019, the band welcomed the thundering drums of Tony Presutti to take over behind the kit. Soon after that, 1916 further expanded their sound by the addition of accordion player Sam Sarratori to the crew!

Bad Cop / Bad Cop

Bad Cop Bad Cop has done angry. The band’s 2017 full-length, Warriors, was recorded in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. The Los Angeles quartet’s new full-length, The Ride (Fat Wreck Chords, June 19th), shows what happens when you come out the other side of that anger.

“It’s not that I am just stoked or blind to suffering,” says singer-guitarist Jennie Cotterill. “I think anger is a legitimate and understandable reaction to injustice and wrongdoing. It’s just that for myself, I am trying to move past ‘reaction’ into productive ‘response.’”

The message BCBC is sending this time around is less about wagging your finger at others, or giving the middle one to the Man, than it is about self-love and acceptance. As Cotterill puts it, “Love is a more powerful truth than anger.” That positivity fuels many of The Ride’s tracks: “Originators,” “Simple Girl,” “Community,” “I Choose,” “Perpetual Motion Machine,” and “The Mirage” exude confidence, gratitude, and compassion. In 2020, such things qualify as contrarian.

“These are political statements—self-love is a huge fucking statement,” affirms singer-guitarist Stacey Dee. “Self-love means putting a fix on the problems at home before trying to fix everything in the world. It’s asking people to find it in themselves to create the life that they really want to have so they’re not in turmoil, so they’re not in a place of stress and sickness.”

Dee speaks from experience. In 2018 she was hospitalized twice for different ailments, then discovered she had stage one breast cancer at the end of the year. Fortunately it was highly treatable, but the experience was life-altering. Dee captures it with brutal frankness on “Breastless,” whose bright melodies belie the struggle described in the lyrics.

“Certain Kind of Monster” and “Pursuit of Liberty”—both written and sung by bassist Linh Le—are blistering repudiations of the current administration’s treatment of immigrants.

The former is an imagined conversation with an ICE agent, and the latter juxtaposes her family’s immigration to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975 to current events, something she’s never explored musically.

The perspective behind The Ride lends it an undeniable maturity, without losing its power. Recorded throughout much of 2018 and 2019 by Johnny Carey and Fat Mike of production team the D-Composers, the album boasts all of the elements of BCBC’s sound: big guitars, lock-step bass and drums (the latter by powerhouse drummer Myra Gallarza), intricate vocal harmonies, and plenty of attitude.

It’s just that this time, the attitude is encouraging, not raging. Nowhere is that more apparent than lilting album closer “Sing With Me.” Built around acoustic guitar, piano, and Cotterill’s voice, it’s an exhortation to “sing with me / or sing your own song / I don’t mind, just as long as you find / a voice.”

Dee adds, “If people are listening to our songs and they’re going to sing along to them, they’re going to start owning some of those words. And in owning some of those words that gives them some strength and power going forward. That’s really the biggest gift that I could give to anybody.”
“Stronger in every way” aptly describes Bad Cop Bad Cop in 2020. The anger may have taken a back seat on The Ride, but what’s taken its place is even more powerful.

Brooklyn Based Hardcore Act MAAFA Releases Track-By-Track Breakdown of Upcoming Debut Album “Because We Are”

NYC hardcore act MAAFA are releasing their debut full length album Because We Are this coming Juneteenth on Fuzz Therapy Records and to get you hyped for that impending release, the bad-ass Brooklynites sent over a track-by-track breakdown, giving insight into their writing process and the inspiration for each song. Read through this exclusive ‘peek […]

NYC hardcore act MAAFA are releasing their debut full length album Because We Are this coming Juneteenth on Fuzz Therapy Records and to get you hyped for that impending release, the bad-ass Brooklynites sent over a track-by-track breakdown, giving insight into their writing process and the inspiration for each song. Read through this exclusive ‘peek behind the curtain’ provided by lead vocalist and lyricist Flora Lucini whilst enjoying their latest Single ‘Welfare’ and remember to snag the LP on Tuesday!

1. “Origém (Intro) 

The word “origém” translates to “Origin” in Portuguese and it is also the name of my father, Leonardo Lucini’s (Bassist/Composer) Brazilian Jazz band which he shares with my Uncle Alejandro Lucini (Drums/Composer.) For their album, they used their grandmother, Dora Muniz’s, painting (she was a painter) as their album cover. She thankfully lived long enough for me to spend time and live with her before her passing when I was a kid. Every morning before school I would sit next to her while she painted at our breakfast table. So, the artwork in the album for the page dedicated to this song is of one of her original paintings. 

When I started MAAFA, I knew that I wanted to incorporate/reference these influences on the record and tribute my paternal family, but I also wanted to tribute my maternal family as well which leads to the music. 

Originally the song had a sample of this style of music called “Tambor De Crioula” from my mother’s hometown in the northeast of Brazil São Luis, Maranhão. Which both myself and all the women in my family grew up dancing and participating in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get permissions for that sample in time for this release. It was going to start with that sample from Brazil into the intro with Batá that you hear on the track now, to showcase the similarities and connection of the traditions through its African origins.  

The Batá drums and rhythm on this track reminds me of the instrumentation and even some of the drum patterns found in Tambor de crioula. It’s very similar in the sense that both traditions use 3 double headed drums, “small, medium and large” that are all assigned different functions and both traditions are African Traditions brought through “THE MAAFA” to Brazil and Cuba (then to other parts of the diaspora later) and used traditionally in African traditional religious ceremonies. This was one of the ways to incorporate a tribute to my mother’s hometown as well. All the references from the album art to the actual musical styles point to my “Origins” in some way. 

I also split playing the bass on this track with my Bassist Ray Russell. He plays the majority of the bass lines on the intro and I play the Tumbão Groove in the second half of the “Batá” section in the intro. 

2. Welfare

This was the first song I ever wrote specifically for MAAFA. The lyrics really embodied where I was/still am politically and in terms of what I wanted the message of this first record to convey. 

I wrote all the songs on this album on classical/acoustic guitar because I couldn’t afford an electric one at the time. I also just write everything on acoustic LOL. 

Welfare was not intended to be an “anthem” like song but it has definitely grown to that. I was trying moreso to mash up some of the more traditional styles of Hardcore and Punk into one song while the lyrics ushered in a perspective that called out a lot of the more problematic ideologies that plagued/continue to plague both our scene and our society, seeing as how music is a reflection of culture. 

3. Deficit

The intro to Deficit was written before the song was. I had this idea for the intro after being inspired by a call and response pattern I had heard in an African Drum and Dance class in 2008. I slowed it waaaay down and translated the inspo from it into a heavier style. I had always heard Kora in the intro too and am so glad it worked out where the professor of the class, Amadou Kouyaté, who is also my friend of almost 20 years and is one of the original members of MAAFA is playing Kora in the intro. He is also playing a series of drums such as 2 Djembes, Dudunba, Sangban, Segesege and more. This same Djembe pattern repeats in the outro and slows down even more as it transitions to a more typical “beatdown hardcore” feel which is when the gang vocals start screaming “Reclaiming my time.”

I wrote the lyrics after a frustrating experience with a former colleague who kept abusing their access to me by constantly bombarding me with requests to correct their problematic behavior, specifically around racism and homophobia. They never asked me, they demanded, they never offered to pay me for my intellectual labor, they never gave me credit for said labor and the entire interaction was transactional and unwarranted. Just kind of kept messaging me over and over again until finally I had to block them.

This led me to reflect on the history of QTBIPOC interactions with folks like that, especially sense this happned during the height of social unrest around the murdering of unarmed Black folk. It remonded me of how often we all are constantly being put in positions like this to do all this labor and are expected to do it for free. 

This song was written in 2017/2018, around the time that U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (a Black Woman)  went viral for standing up to her problematic colleagues in government by “Reclaiming Her Time” during a house committee meeting.  She was coined #AuntieMaxine shortly after. The visual of a Black Woman in power stating “I’m Reclaiming My Time” from problematic “colleagues” fit perfectly with the messaging of this song. It’s really about paying BIPOC for their labor, self-advocacy, boundaries and self-care.

3. Libation

There is a theme about water here: cleansing, ritual, baptism, sacrifice, rebirth, death, legacy, tribute and worship. Libation is a reflection on the legacy of what our ancestors have left for us and what we are responsible to build moving forward as the descendants/survivors of Chattel Slavery. It’s about ancestral worship, ancestral memory, a moment to reflect on our loved ones who have passed. 

It is part poem, part prayer, part ritual and of course, part call to action.   

I wanted to give myself space to write a song both musically and lyrically where I can depart from the typical lyrical styles and song structures we find in Hardcore but while still pulling from influences like Spoken word, Reggae and Hip-Hop influenced-Hardcore. For example, Lyrics like “Black is the river now. So much flesh in the waters, the waters have changed.” Was inspired by a statistic I read that said so many African bodies were thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean during the middle passages/ The Maafa, that it changed the temperature of the water forever. 

Naming the song “Libation” was inspired by the history of the Black American ritual that some of us do when one of our loved ones passes away i.e. “Pour one out for our homies” and the fact that some in the States who practice that and learned that from Hip-Hop didn’t or don’t know that pouring Libation is African Ancestral Memory, it can be traced back to many of our ancestral nations on the continent as an important ritual across many religions and cultures it is also not exclusive to Indigenous African Nations but also to Indigenous Nations in the West. It has been said that for many Africans & her descendants “Nothing important happens without Libation.

I am of Yoruba (Nigerian) descent, and a lot of the lyrics reference ritual/aesthetics still present throughout my family and that can be found in some African Traditional Religions (ATR’s for short) such as Black American Hoodoo/Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Lucumí/Lukumi etc. But also Black American Christianity/Southern Baptist + Pentecostal references. 

I wanted the overall feel to take the listener on a journey and for it to be like spoken word meets hip hop influenced hardcore in the verses then the Reggae part allows you to meditate then finally resolving on a metal/opera like ceremonial vibe that centers hope in the end. 

It was important to me to make a moment for meditation that musically centered the real, Black African tradition of Reggae. The whole song touches on the connection of the spiritual and the political being in balance for true resistance. Which we see in historical victories such as The Haitian revolution, for ex. Very rarely do I hear true stories about uprisings and revolts of enslaved Africans where we did not seek the guidance of our ancestors and the spirit world/our religions to see them through. 

All the way to the civil rights movement and how a lot of organizing happened in the church, (regardless if everyone was actually Christian or not.) So many of our diasporic African religions are practiced under the guise of Abrahamic Religions because we were forced to hide our practices during enslavement. Take the saints of Catholicism for example (i.e. where “santeria” came from and that many feel should not be the appropriate term to use) in order to avoid being murdered by slave owners because our religions were considered “savage, primitive and of the white Judeo-Christian Devil.” Our political resistance and our god(s) have always and to this day remain connected for many of us (with all due respect to our very powerful atheist siblings who fight very hard on the frontlines and some even while trying to heal from religious trauma) and this song sheds light on that. Which is what “Libation” is really about: how the spiritual and political are connected when it comes to our living, our afterlife and our fight here on earth against systemic oppression and religious (ATR) prosecution.

The breakdown pays tribute to the traditional Rastafari community I grew up around in D.C that are responsible for some of my earliest exposure to Pan-Africanism and Militant Black Liberation Politics very early on in life.

The end of the song is an extension of the meditative reggae break, but the vibe changes into a more metal influenced, almost operatic style to evoke the feeling of a ceremony/ritual chant for the hope of where we are headed as a people and that the deaths of our ancestors were not in vain, instead their legacies fuel our resistance and our “big dreams” to this day. One that factors in the entirety of our history and “The Legacy They Left Here for Us” (the very last line of the song) a lot of our traditions teach us that when we die we then are promoted to “ancestor” and have to begin our duties as an ancestors over our descendants that are still here on earth. The overall feel is about hope and how we must carry on to a better world, which is a great segue into the next song “A Luta Continua.”

5. A Luta Continua (Interlude)

“A Luta Continua” translates to “The fight goes on” in Portuguese. This interlude was an instrumental bass and percussion duet I wrote and am performing on. It is a duet featuring me playing the bass (everything you hear on this track that is not vocals or percussion is the bass. There are no guitars) and me singing/harmonizing with myself. The only other musical instruments are Traditional Brazilian percussion played by my friend Everton Isidoro who is also from Brasil. The style of music is a mix of Traditional Capoeira percussion & rhythm and the lead Bass lines were inspired by a style called Baião .

Overlayed is a sample of Councilwoman Marielle Franco’s speech (SPEECH HERE) at a hearing on violence against women in the Favelas, given about a week before she was assassinated. This interlude is to usher in the song “Filha Da Luta” that also features Afro-Brazilian Musical elements. 

6. Filha Da Luta

“Filha da luta” translates to “Daughter of the fight” in Portuguese and is a saying I saw become popular on protest signs during uprising against Bolsonaro’s election and when Marielle was assassinated. “Filha da luta” is a play on words for the insult “Filha da puta” (which translates to what in the U.S. we would say “son (Filho) of a bitch” but in this case it’s daughter(filha) of a bitch lol) activists changed it from the cuss word “Puta” to “Luta” which means fight. “Puta” is also a misogynistic slur in Portuguese for Slut/Whore. 

The song’s intro features a rhythm called “Samba-Reggae” that is very popular in Brazil during carnival especially in the northeast of Brazil so places like my mommy’s hometown and Bahia, considered the “Black state of Brazil” which has similarities we can find in some Afro-Caribbean cultures. 

My friend Everton recorded the Brazilian percussion for this song as well, he played a bunch of the traditional instruments that go along with this style like the surdo, agogo, pandeiro, atabaque and more. 

The choruses and the breakdown at the end features a rhythm that is very dear to my heart called “Afoxé”  (Here’s a video of my cover of that Afoxé song I arranged, choreographed and sang for Harry Belafonte at my Almer Mater, Berklee College of Music) which is an African-Brazilian Rhythm that my dad uses a lot in his songwriting and which has a long history with Black resistance and enslaved African uprising during the Maafa. It is also a rhythm that primarily is used in religious ceremonies and rituals in the ATR- candomblé. (Video of my uncle and friends back home in DC playing Afoxé)

I dedicate this song to Marielle every time we play it live and to all Black/Brown, Non-Cishet male activists globally that we’ve lost and whom are still here fighting and organizing. 

7. Not Your Exotic (CW: Sexual Assault) 

The inspiration for this song’s title and for some of its lyrics is the poem “Not your erotic, Not your exotic” by Palestenian-New Yorker poet, Suheir Hammad. She and I have become really good friends after I wrote this song when one of her homies happened to come to one of our shows and connected us. This poem changed my life and finally made me feel “seen” and most importantly she found the words I had such a hard time formulating over the years. It unlocked my voice about this issue, and I owe it all to her. 

The song is simple, straight to the point heavy punk rock. I wanted to write a groovy, still “Maafa” style punk song, that emphasized the lyrics more than anything else. 

The lyrics are about the violence that Women/Femme identified and presenting Black and Brown people like me face from being hypersexualized/fetishized/Other’ed etc. 

Hypersexualized for being a Black Woman, A Brazilian woman, lightskinned/mixed race presenting Woman/ for my body type etc. You name it! We’ve heard all the gross and highly offensive things “Spicy, Sassy, pretty for a Black girl, Pretty for a fat girl etc.” my darkskinned siblings have to then add colorism on top of that like “Pretty for a Darkskinned girl” or fetishized statements like “You’re the Only/first Black/Fat/Brazilian etc. Girl I’ve ever been with/liked” etc. or “why are you so Angry/Emotional/Hysterical/Crazy/Irrational/Sensitive/Moody” etc…AND the FAVORITE one they use for Black Women: “You have an attitude.”  

The album art for this song features the song title super imposed over a picture of one of the signs used to announce the auction/arrival of an enslaved Black Woman named Sarah Baartman aka Venus Hottentot who was enslaved and treated by her capturers as like a zoo animal they paraded around the world naked, on display like a circus freak show/side show so that white people can come and stare and violate at her “exotic” body. (This is a gross over simplification of her life and legacy, due to the sake of time.)

It’s wild to think this actually happened and that a body type that is extremely common amongst Black and some Brown folk (and that she and I both share similarities with) is somehow “exotic” and “freak-ish” “abnormal” or a “deformation/illness” that it needed to be literally caged and put on display. 

DISGUSTED is the first word that should come to mind, which is exactly how I feel and how many folks like me feel regularly. Sexual harassment is part of my everyday life. My safety is something I have to factor in when I get dressed, what time I leave my house, what kind of clothes I want to wear or go shopping for etc. Shopping is a lot of “Damn, I shouldn’t wear that, I COULD GET HURT.”  I have been assaulted more times than I can count, I haven’t taken the subway alone in 6 years because I was sexually assaulted on the train 3 times in broad daylight. 

I, like many BIPOC femmes, have survived sexual assault, being followed to my house, to my car, to public bathrooms, physically sexually assaulted at shows, cat-called on the street, etc.  My friends have to literally make sure I make it home all the way in the door when dropping me off in an Uber. I’m required to check in via messages with my homies as soon as I’m in the house just so they know I’m ok and they are also required to do the same. None of us drive off until everyone is inside their homes with the doors locked and accounted for in the group chat. If one of us forgets to check in, we can absolutely expect several missed calls the next morning. 

In fact some of my girlfriends and I have a group chat that we all send “I’m home” or “I’m on so and so street, with so and so, his/her/their license is…and I’m wearing…. etc.” even though we all live in different states. We all have access to our parent’s/spouses’ information, address, emergency contacts etc. and we all carry emergency contact and information cards with info like “I’m allergic to penicillin.”

Having to live like this since I was little which was taught to us by our mothers/sisters/elders/community and theirs to them and so on for survival, is absolutely normalized. And this song feels like a collective “exhale” for 2 minutes and some change that we can all take and scream all the pain and frustration we feel that is constantly being dismissed. 

NOTE: Most CisHet masculine Men and Boys NOT having to ever think about stuff like this is a type of privilege I speak about in “Welfare”: “To Inhabit your skin without fear (white privilege) / To inhabit your body without shame (Fatphobia/skinny privilege/Masculine body privilege) / To love who you want (Hetereosexual Privilege) /  TO WALK AT NIGHT ALONE (that part) / To be standing on the outside looking in / THAT’S PRIVILEGE!” 

8. For The Culture

My hometown here in the states is Washington, DC. And D.C. has its own original style of music called GO-GO that I grew up on. Go-Go and D.C. Hardcore have a lot of history together and sometimes , many many moons ago traditional Go-Go bands would play Hardcore shows.  

So this song musically is a love letter to my hometown. Go-Go, like Hardcore, has also evolved tremendously; for example, THIS is one example of what modern Go-Go can sound like with more rock influences. I love everything about Go-Go, especially all the obvious ancestral memory you see in every element, down to its own dance called “BEAT YA FEET.”

The artwork on the album for this song depicts the Bucket drummers that perform at the metro stations in DC that I also grew up listening and dancing to – also another example of ancestral memory. 

“For The Culture” is a phrase some Black folks use when we are acknowledging something that is being done strictly for the sake and the betterment of Black culture and Black people. 

The lyrics are calling out gentrification, posers and people that want to exploit how “trendy” being Black and “punk” or “alternative” is now a days all of a sudden. When most of us grew up getting beat up or harassed for listening to “White people music” and it was actually dangerous for us to “dress punk” back in the day. Oftentimes the violence came from our own people as well as racists that we faced at shows, so we caught it from both ends. But now a lot of those same people want to dress like us and study what we’re doing in our scenes cuz they think it’s “cool and trendy.”

The song was inspired from my rage against corporate “alternative music” festivals that exploit the word PUNK and the people in the community in order to chase “clout” and be trendy, when their festivals have absolutely nothing to do with our communities and do nothing but erase actual Black punks and Hardcore kids like Maafa and our sibling bands.

9. Dichotomy

This is my break up song, but you know I can’t do a break up song without making it political lol. Relationships bring out things in you in a way that only they can, because of the unique things it forces us to face when having to deal with other people in a romantic way, like during talks about the future, children, expectations etc. It will bring up your own traumas and sometimes your partner can treat you so badly that they become a trauma themselves that you’re forced to heal from. Which is in part what happened here as well: this was written after I got out of an abusive relationship.

Things like infidelity & betrayal trauma are also experiences that inspired this song. It’s my most vulnerable song & most personal.

Basically, the inspo for this song is how a break up was the catalyst to my journey with mental health that saved my life and how during that journey the issue of mental health in the Black community came up i.e. still not having a therapist or the right meds because they’re low income; how HR from Bad Brains is/was treated/talked about during his battle with mental health; and the stigma in the Black community around mental illness and seeking help, especially amongst Black men. 

My experience with depression and anxiety during this period felt like I was possessed by a demon or something really dark that had more control over me than I did so there are moments in the lyrics that reflect that down to the very last line that says, “Release Me, Please,” as if pleading with the demon to exorcise itself from my mind/body. But the song is also about healing and about taking control and responsibility for my healing which is how I reclaimed my power over the “demon.” Which is also reflected in the lyrics and in the aesthetic of the album art depicting items one would find in an apothecary to symbolize healing with medicine and healing with spiritual/religious ritual. 
My parents and I are best friends and my father is my guide post in all things “life.”  So to tribute him and how much he supported me during that time I made the song’s intro my interpretation of the intro and outro of my dad’s song “PEGA” – the sample is from the outro of the video in that link, so the Jazz sample at the end of the song is actually my dad and his band playing.

10. Blindspot 

White boys get to make angry chugga chugga music to “bitch” about the things they hate all the time and they get praised for it, even though 99.99999% of the time the things they sing about hating are people and ideas that are different than them. They also love to gatekeep Hardcore for white straight men who are hyper masculine and violent. Well, this is MY angry chugga chugga song about the things I hate the most which are problematic white boys who make chugga chugga Hardcore and are put in a position of power to control the entire narrative of who and what Hardcore is and looks like and then, being true to their nature, they cry victim and get defensive when someone calls them out on how they protect and perpetuate harmful ideologies and behaviours in our scene. Hence: DECOLONIZE HARDCORE. 

Now, I absolutely love and grew up on chugga chugga hardcore MUSIC* ( i.e. Beatdown Hardcore/ Traditional NYHC/ or my favorite as I like to call it “That Castle Heights shit” lol) so I’m not coming at the music, I’m critiquing SOME of the bands and their content, who are really the minority in the scene but because of privilege and supremacy are glamourized as not only the majority, when they’re not, but as the only “true” definition of Hardcore. As I often say, it’s “bullshiterious.” (I got that from a Black Feminist FB group) 

Decolonizing Hardcore is also about reminding Black people in our scene and those who are new to our scene that they should NEVER have to negate their Blackness to be here. Manipulate their appearnce or the way they “talk”  just to “assimilate.” That it’s about re-educating my own people about the Black history of Hardcore and Punk, that everything hardcore is and stands on comes from Black people who invented rock n roll, call and response, oral history keeping, communicating through dance without words, singalongs and pile-ups and spinkicks. 


This is a house our ancestors built for us too, we are not guests here, this is part of our birthright and if anything, like any other subculture, it’s usually the descendants of our colonizers and the ones who benefit from white privilege who are the “guests.” 

Decolonizing Hardcore is about centering the QTBIPOC presence visibly and loudly and unapologetically reclaiming not just our time but our rhythms, our dances, our styles, our languages, our lands, our spaces and our scene.

Batá Drums, Yoruba Tradition, Babalawo, Lucumi religion (aka Santeria, we do not Call it Santeria because that term is a colonial term and can be seen as offensive. The actual name of the tradition is called “Lucumi”or “Lukumi” Loo-koo-me)

The Batá drum is a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass[1] with one end larger than the other. The percussion instrument is still used for its original purpose as it is one of the most important drums in the yoruba land and used for traditional and religious activities among the Yoruba.[2][3] Batá drums have been used in the religion known as Santería in Cuba since the 1800s, and in Puerto Rico and the United States since the 1950s.[4][5] Today, they are also used for semi-religious musical entertainment in Nigeria and in secular, popular music. The early function of the batá was as a drum of different gods, of royalty, of ancestors and a drum of politicians, impacting all spheres of life in Yoruba land.[6][7]

The drummers on Batá and Djembe for the intro song. One of them is Jabari Exum. He and our Friend Amadou Kouyate who is not only my former mentor but my former professor and one of my best friends and is an original and current member of MAAFA, he is on this album, they both were best friends with Chadwick Boseman from The Black Panther Movies (Wakanda Forever) so when it came time to make those movies Chadwick hired Jabari as choreographer, Lead Djembefola and to be his right hand man meaning every time he was on set, at a red carpet etc. Jabari, who is on this album, was playing Djembe next to Chadwick. Jabari was also in both movies in several Djembe scenes and as an extra in a few scenes in the second movie. 

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DS Album Review: DRAIN – “Living Proof”

“Stemming from humble DIY beginnings, Drain built up their scene alongside friends who would go on to form bands like Scowl, Gulch, and Sunami and in the process of paving the way for hardcore to thrive in their beach town of Santa Cruz, CA, they’ve cemented a legacy that transcends their California roots.” The small […]

“Stemming from humble DIY beginnings, Drain built up their scene alongside friends who would go on to form bands like Scowl, Gulch, and Sunami and in the process of paving the way for hardcore to thrive in their beach town of Santa Cruz, CA, they’ve cemented a legacy that transcends their California roots.” The small excerpt quoted there was from the email that I received in preparation for this review, and while this excerpt feels like it says it all, I can’t help but feel the need to point out how similar these dudes started their journey to so many of my hometown local bands here in Alaska, and feel like I can say something worthwhile about them!

The first track of the album, “Run Your Luck”, gives me Godsmack vibes. They give off a unique rock sound, bringing in multiple styles of guitar riffs to their songs. I’m loving that in one song, I can get Godsmack, then the next I get Metallica vibes that slide back and forth with Suicidal Tendencies-like riffs and vocals. It’s a band that absolutely keeps you on your toes when it comes to the song’s dynamics. Drain genuinely reminds me of a few of the bands I went to see at our only all-ages venue here in Anchorage, Alaska, called Anchorage Community Works (at the time it was the only all-ages venue and it has since closed down). Not just in the way they came out of the woodwork, but also when it came down to the vibe. When I was introduced to this scene in 2014-2015, 85% of the bands that I saw, or that opened for the larger names, had a similar sound and intensity to their performances as Drain gives in this album. “Evil Finds Light” and “Imposter” both have equally in-your-face vocals that bring me back to my freshman year of high school at my first show and I truly appreciate how it sort of just slams into your ears without warning, much like those bands at Anchorage Community Works did at my first show.

“Intermission” features Shakewell and hits a different sound entirely. Throwing in an artist like him out of left field and mixing the rap/rock genres had me thrown into the back of my seat in shock, just to hear the callout to Drain and the breakdown, and headbang like it was my first metal show. It was a pleasant surprise, but might be an even more of an acquired taste when speaking in terms of the metal/rock community. Having “Intermission” followed by “Weight of the World” and “Watch You Burn”, which both throw us back to the sound of Suicidal Tendencies, is a cool transition that just seems to work well with the flow of this album. “Watch You Burn” has an ending that has you headbanging so hard, I couldn’t imagine anyone’s hair that’s in a basic bun or ponytail staying in, the chug in it is just too good to not give it all you got each beat.

“Good Good Things” changes the pace almost as much as “Intermission”, but in an entirely different direction. It goes to the softer side of the rock scale and has a sound that throws me back to middle and high school when I listened to Type-O Negative and Sick Puppies. The song has a sort of comfort sound, personally, and I love that it gives the listener a small break from the intense vocals that are forefront and in your face in the majority of the others!

Last, but absolutely not least, we have the title track for Living Proof. This track brings it in hard with everybody’s favorite instrument… THE COWBELL. With a very Metallica-esque intro and the cowbell assist, it gave the title track its own unique spin that would absolutely make it easily distinguishable as its title track. I personally love when the title track is distinguishable in albums and the way this one progresses as the album comes to its end, I can honestly say, I personally have never heard a band or artist fade an album out the way they did and I am HERE for it.

Killer job on this album, Drain. I generally think that to some, this album may be a bit of an acquired taste. Despite the fact I feel the technique is pulled off beautifully with the slow, chugging moments in the guitar that will unexpectedly pick up and give a perfect segway for the vocals to come tearing in. This album has a seriously cool dynamic. With the few songs that just come out of left field and transport the listener to an entirely different genre, to the style switches and how smooth they all are, it makes me excited to see the growth of this band and see if they bring any other styles into their music discography.

Living Proof is out now and available on Spotify and Bandcamp!

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DS Album Review: Hot Mulligan – “Why Would I Watch”

Hot Mulligan is well known for their buoyant pop-punk sound with an emo seriousness behind their lyrics. These guys have been a huge favorite of mine for so many years. Getting into the local scene, a lot of bands here seemed to pull inspiration for their sound from these guys (or bands similar to them). […]

Hot Mulligan is well known for their buoyant pop-punk sound with an emo seriousness behind their lyrics. These guys have been a huge favorite of mine for so many years. Getting into the local scene, a lot of bands here seemed to pull inspiration for their sound from these guys (or bands similar to them). They never fail to bring such a fun and upbeat tempo in their songs, despite having a song or two that start soft and then pick back up into the pop-punk sound we are familiar with from them. Why Would I Watch is an incredible album as far as lyrics go, throwing in a song about a lost pet that had me bawling in my car on my way to work one morning. Absolutely worth it.

This album kicks off with a decently long song title (as are many of their song titles, but whatever) called “Shouldn’t Have a Leg Hole But I Do”. It’s a very happy-go-lucky-sounding song that will throw you way back to the original pop-punk sounds that we all grew up with. I found myself finding this song almost familiar and comforting. They did a phenomenal job in capturing the “old sound” of pop-punk and going back to the roots of the genre (which will also be a recurring theme throughout the album). Lyrics for this song speak volumes on trying to escape a situation or leave something behind that you know you should and need to live your life for yourself, but something will always bring you right back until you face whatever it is that needs to be addressed.

Powering into the next track is a beautiful transition that tells the realities of life not going as you expect. “It’s a Family Movie She Hates Her Dad” is largely about breaking cycles and being aware of the toxicity that is to be able to change and grow from it. My biggest indicator of that is the more than relatable line in the song that jumped out at me where he sang, “Sit down and give me the confessional // Stay together for the kid // Isn’t that original?” Having been faced with that situation, this song hit home and had me hooked on the rest of the album to follow. The instrumentals of this track scream the classic and familiar sound of Hot Mulligan’s original tracks from when they formed in 2014. I love how consistent they’ve always seemed to be while making their music. Always staying somewhat in line with what they’ve always done, yet making it just different enough to keep us on our toes!

Moving into the next song, it almost has a sense of urgency in the tone of the entire thing. It really brings together the lyrics’ theme of just trying to survive in a world that’s so different from where you were. “And I Smoke” might be relatable for more of us than we may realize, just pay attention to the lyrics and see if you may find a sense of familiarity in the feelings this track has to offer. My personal favorite being almost the start of the song, 00:22 in he sings, “Move out, a new place that I don’t know // Its smallest details are unfamiliar // Sit in the shower until I feeI alone”. I moved to a new city I wasn’t super familiar with not too long ago and so this song really resonated with me on that. The unfamiliar and the fear of the unknown is a real thing to battle with when moving out and on your own, especially if you have children in tow.

The song that has everyone’s brains trying to process the way the band will have to announce it while on tour. “This Song is Called it’s Called What it’s Called” is one of my favorite tracks. It beings with soft instrumentals and vocals that bring the most comforting sounds I’ve heard from a punk band. Reminiscing on a few spotty memories, seemingly with a fond tone. Then 60 seconds in the realization hits that it’s all gone by in a blink of an eye and the time lost is nearly crippling. The regret of not doing things just slightly different and leaving things unsaid that could have changed the entire trajectory of your life. “Oh, there’s so much I would change // Take more pictures // Oh, I left so much to say // All the missed connections.” I think everyone can relate to this in one way or another and this band has got a serious knack for finding the perfect instrumentals to not only match the mood of the song, but also keep the listener engaged with their tempo changes and execution of the lyrical melody! Easily one of my favorite tracks on the album.

“No Shoes In The Coffee Shop (Or Socks)” is an upbeat song that kicks the vibe back up to a more fun and lighthearted feel, telling the story of looking back on what is expected to be an epic journey that ends up being filled with regrets. This title track has a deep undertone to it if you’re willing to listen close enough, and maybe you’ll catch the placement of the album’s title and appreciate its weight when you do! It’s followed by a slightly higher energy, good-vibed track named “Christ Alive My Toe Damnit Hurts”. It’s honestly about the back and forth of addiction and how hard it can truly be to ignore the intrusive thoughts that come across the mental when you’re trying to fight the urge of needing just one more. The admiration I have for artists like Hot Mulligan that have off-the-wall track names to go with songs that have a 50/50 shot of being deep and meaningful, or just a good chuckle with the randomness of the analogies chosen with no serious direction to be left open to interpretation.

Then we get to “Betty.” If you’re ready to bawl your eyes out to a beautifully soft and wholesome ballad to a best friend…this is it. I was completely blindsided by a single line around the 1:11 timestamp that had the waterworks start almost immediately. If you’ve ever had a pet, and had them cross that rainbow bridge without you, this song is going to have you severely deep in your feelings and reminiscing those best friends that you cherished once upon a time.

This song’s title is a bit deceiving. Maybe you’d read “Cock Party 2 (Better Than The First)” and think it’s going to be a heavy and upbeat track, like myself. Much to my pleasant surprise, this song starts out pretty low-key and mellow. Then I went back the second time through and really listened to and read the lyrics along with the track, finding the meaning behind it. Beautifully written, and something ALL of us pop punk babies who have grown up can easily relate to this. The first verse screaming the song’s meaning of growing up and wondering where the hell all the time went and how we wish we could just not be adults and see our missed childhood loved one(s) as if we didn’t have responsibilities to worry about now. “When did we stop laughing? // Feel sorry for us now // Paying rent, calling home again // Routine and tedium now.” Its ending having a very Panic At The Disco!-esque ending of emphasizing the last two lines almost word for word. It’s a beautiful punctual ending to the overall feel of the track.

“Shhhh! Golf Is On” is an immediate classic vibe of instrumentals for throwing us back into the nostalgic sound pool. Then it brings in the instrument that will spice up ANY band’s sound, the cowbell. The love I have for bands that find some clever way to incorporate the cowbell, let alone subtly and in an extremely tasteful manner, will have me applauding the artists every time. It only makes an appearance a few times throughout the track, so it isn’t an incessant sound they try to force to work throughout it, just enough to give it a unique and fun spin.

“Gans Media Retro Games” is a title I didn’t fully understand, which in turn made me immediately go check out the lyrics to maybe get a better understanding on how this song was going to maybe sound like. When I read them and found it was about blacking out and wondering if you’re the problem when things go wrong nights you don’t remember. The next morning regret being strong and trying to come to terms with figuring out the story to find the root of the problem. It’s definitely relatable for some people (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few nights like that myself) and the vibe of the song is upbeat, but with enough of the urgent and somber feel of realizing you just may be the problem due to how you choose to cope, was a strong play for them to throw so bluntly into a song. It’s absolutely admirable to see a song about trying to take accountability and get to the root of their issues.

This is one of those tracks that has an opening line that had me replaying it a time or three to make sure I heard it right. To say I was not expecting to hear “Sucking blood out of a canker sore” come out of Nathan’s mouth, had me double taking, then laughing a little bit. Then getting into the rest of the lyrics, they seem like they may just be gibberish with random meaning, but if you really listen, there are a few lines in there that hint at what the true meaning of the song is about. Watching a loved one deteriorate to a memory-stealing disease is never easy. I have loved ones who suffer from conditions and diseases that are similar and it’s taxing to your mind, your body, and even your soul.

“John “The Rock” Cena, Can You Smell What the Undertaker.” To be entirely honest I had no words when I saw this track title, just straight confusion. I assume that’s the entire point, but, as I mentioned before, these off-the-wall names are just leaving no room to even try to guess what it could bring to the table instrumentally or lyrically and I love the mystery. I’m not 100% positive about this interpretation that I’ve gathered from the song’s meaning, but it seems to be the toxic expectations of the organized religions in the world. It doesn’t name any specifically, but it touches on key points and the lyrics, to me, screamed the struggle to fit the mold of what the religion had for its followers and the intrusive thoughts that followed when you’ve been taught toxic “rules” to life based on how they think you’re supposed to live.

Overall this album is incredible. Nathan and the guys did a great job bringing us back to the original roots of punk and giving us that nostalgic feeling of being in middle and high school again blasting the artists who started it all. Three years was well worth the wait for this band to drop another solid vibed album that came with some deep and heavy topics that I wholeheartedly believe the world needed songs for. Beautifully done, Hot Mulligan, and we can’t wait to see what else you’ve got in store for us!

Why Would I Watch? was released everywhere on May 12th, 2023!

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DS Album Review: Samiam – “Stowaway”

Holy shit I love this record… Okay, so I suppose that’s maybe not the most professional way to kick off an album review, but whatever. This is a punk rock website and reviewing albums isn’t exactly my profession in the technical sense… Anyway, let’s start over. Back in September of 2011, just a day before […]

Holy shit I love this record…

Okay, so I suppose that’s maybe not the most professional way to kick off an album review, but whatever. This is a punk rock website and reviewing albums isn’t exactly my profession in the technical sense… Anyway, let’s start over.

Back in September of 2011, just a day before my 32nd birthday, I had the privilege of reviewing the then-brand-new and incredibly stellar Samiam album Trips. I loved it. I loved everything about it. It finished the year right near the top of my Best of 2011 albums list, and if I were to rerank that list a dozen years later, it’s probably the album that holds up the best. Sometime after Trips was released, I remember commenting on some social media platform – I think it was MySpace honestly rofl – that hopefully it wouldn’t be another five years before the next new Samiam record (Trips is preceded in the Samiam discography by 2006’s Whatever’s Got You Down) and the band’s lead guitarist and artistic force Sergie Loobkoff just responded “LOL” or something like that. At the time, I interpreted that as “LOL, don’t worry, we won’t wait that long next time.” Yet here we are, just about a dozen full years later, and we’ve finally got the follow up to Trips in our midst. It’s called Stowaway and it’s out this Friday (March 31st) on Pure Noise Records and saying that it was worth the wait is a bit of hyperbole because I wish we didn’t have to wait 11.5 years…but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth the wait.

Stowaway kicks off with “Lake Speed,” a track whose introductory air-raid siren dive bombs are soon met with a frenetic energy that shows that musically, Samiam have not only not lost a step but are in fact as charged-up as ever. It’s as tight and concise a post-hardcore-style ripper as you’ll find in the Samiam catalog complete with a pretty awesome guest spot from *SPOILER ALERT* none other than Hot Water Music’s Chris Wollard. It’s a damn-near perfect track, with Wollard and Samiam frontman Jason Beebout layering their unique voices over Loobkoff and Sean Kennerly’s dizzying guitar runs while the comparatively new rhythm section of Colin Brooks (drums) and Chad Darby (bass – more on that later) push a blistering pace. The whole thing is controlled chaos and creates the sense that it could careen off the rails at any moment, but then it’s over somehow just as quickly as it began. (Oh, and its lyrical tip of the cap to the longtime NASCAR driver with whom it shares its name is just the icing on the proverbial cake).

“Lake Speed” gives way to “Crystallized,” one of the three singles that was put out in the leadup to the album’s release. In many ways, it’s a perfect single: it’s got a big, classic Samiam sound that’s been charged up by Brooks and Darby the latter of whom you may recognize from his time in one of Chris Wollard’s other projects, Ship Thieves. If you’re an astute follower of Dying Scene, you’ll recall the time that he and Wollard joined us on the (*both laugh*) podcast, during which he may or may not have indicated that he was working with Samiam on new music and may have short-circuited my brain in the process…

Lights Out, Little Hustler” follows and continues in the vein of charged-up, instant classic Samiam tunes. Oodles of vocal harmonies adorn the verses before frontman Jason Beebout’s inimitable voice powers through on the powerful, introspective singalong chorus. “Shoulda Stayed” would have been right at home on 120 Minutes or on a certain skateboard-inspired videogame series in a previous decade, as do the chunky guitar in the verses of “Shut Down.” “Scout Knife” features another appearance from Wollard, which makes sense given that some of the album’s components were recorded at Gainesville’s Black Bear Studios with frequent HWM/Ship Thieves collaborator Ryan Williams.

Monterey Canyon” features probably the album’s best examples of the Loobkoff’s trademark single-note atmospheric divebomb melody lines. “Natural Disasters” is maybe the brightest sounding track on the album to this point, in some ways belying the songs vocals which, if taken literally, lament that the damage we’ve done to our home planet is probably irreparable at this point. “Stanley” is a fun song with a lot of different stylistic layers and sonic textures. “Highwire” starts somewhat down tempo for a Samiam song but turns itself into a a bombastic anthem with what are probably Beebout’s most soaring vocal performance. “Something” is a sneaky contender for my favorite track on the album that isn’t called “Lake Speed.” It’s a no-nonsense, four-on-the-floor, downstroke heavy punk rock ripper with Loobkoff and Kennerly again trading catchy guitar melodies over an even catchier shoutalong outro. The title track closes out the festivities in a way that probably best encapsulates all of the album’s different layers and textures and sonic directions in one four-minute package.

There has been talk at times over the years since Trips that part of the reason that there wasn’t new Samiam music was due to concern over whether or not Beebout still wanted to sing and to write new lyrics; there’s a quote out there somewhere about “maybe people over the age of 50 should admit they’re probably too old to be in the music business” I think. To state it emphatically and for the record, I’m really glad he decided to keep at it. Beebout’s voice has long been one of the most powerful and unique in the game and that’s just as true a statement now on Stowaway as it was at any other point in the band’s thirty-five year tenure. There’s a feeling and an urgency and an introspection and a devilish humor in both his vocals and his lyrics that are unmatched and that have the ability to provoke both goosebumps and long, honest looks in the mirror, sometimes within the same song. See “Shut Down” or “Monterrey Canyon” on this one, for example. When added to Loobkoff and Kennerly’s urgent guitars and, lately, Brooks and Darby’s punishing grooves, it’s part and parcel to what makes Samiam Samiam after all this time. It’s fair to say that Stowaway will be tough to dislodge from the #1 spot on this year’s end-of best-of list, and it’s fair to say that if I revisit this album in another dozen years, when I’m in my mid-50s (woof…) it’ll still feel as vital and compelling as ever.

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DS Album Review: Sleep Token – “Take Me Back To Eden”

Sleep Token. Everyone knows their name by now, as they’ve taken the world by storm with their latest songs. The first 5 singles that they dropped in anticipation of the full release of Take Me Back To Eden gave us all a teaser that still left us blindsided by the incredible taste of the main […]

Sleep Token. Everyone knows their name by now, as they’ve taken the world by storm with their latest songs. The first 5 singles that they dropped in anticipation of the full release of Take Me Back To Eden gave us all a teaser that still left us blindsided by the incredible taste of the main course. Before getting into the review, I’ve got to be honest, I re-wrote this at LEAST three times. The third time restarting being because I got to experience Sleep Token at Aftershock 2023 from the front bar. Their set was incredible and to experience 5 out of the 12 songs from Take Me Back To Eden was easily something I’m never going to forget. I had the absolute pleasure of hearing 2 of my 3 favorite songs on the album and will keep those memories forever. The album is incredible to begin with, but to now have heard some of them live and know that Vessel sounds just as amazing live as he does on track makes it that much better in my opinion.

Getting to the review now, overall, I love this whole album. Cover to cover, this album flows so beautifully and makes me wish I knew how to do production stuff like this personally. They opened the set at Aftershock 2023 with “Chokehold”, which is how the album also starts. Easily one of my favorite songs on the album, musically and lyrically. Having someone in your life that you’re so infatuated with that you can say they’ve got a “chokehold” on you is an incredible, yet unnerving, feeling. I’m sure some can listen and relate to the song on some level, whether it be a passion, person, hobby, place, etc. There’s typically ONE thing most people can say has a hold on their love and affection to this seemingly extreme degree.

“The Summoning” came further in the set at Aftershock, but hit just as hard as it did when it took the world by storm last year. The lyrics of the song still ring true to many and had the entire crowd at Aftershock screaming along to the lyrics. This song’s seductive and sexy vibe makes it a crowd favorite and I don’t see it leaving their setlist for live shows for years to come. “Granite” is the third song up on the album and it brings a different perspective lyrically than a lot of the others. Speaking of a person who chose to take advantage of their loved one and treat them as though they are just another body in their world, and not someone who is supposed to mean the world to them. It’s a song that I fear many can relate to and I can say I, too, have been there.

“Aqua Regia” is a smooth and vibey song that gives the listener a nice buffer between the heavy and intense instrumentals of the previous tracks. The intensity of most of the tracks are greatly appreciated by many, I’m sure, but having these breathers that give us a nice little break from the intense heavy topics, and into a chill and calmer vibe. Then they launch you into “Vore.” One of the heaviest songs on the album for sure. I love to go listen to this song when I need to just sit back and let the music scream for me. It’s got a slightly haunting, yet angry and broken, feel to the vocals and it genuinely seems to help relieve some of my anger when I’ve had a bad experience/interaction in life since it hit the streaming services.

“Ascensionism” is easily my top favorite song on the album. I have loved telling people that it’s been my anthem since the album was released. Not only did the lyrics speak volumes to me, but they more or less describe an individual who desires both redemption and ascension, but at the same time, a longing to escape from reality with a person who understands them, and potentially even one that shares the same dark desires they have. Asking who made them like this to have them feel so “broken” and trying to show they understand who the individual is at their darkest. Inviting them to dance in the darkness they find themselves in together and take to the broken skies with their soulmate, hand in hand. It may be a hopeless romantic outlook on it, but this depiction is a large part of why I love it and it’s been my anthem since it hit our ears when the rest of the album dropped on May 19th.

“Are You Really Okay?” I’m sure had thousands of people bawling their eyes out and eating their comfort foods. I know I was at least once since the full album’s release and I will shamelessly admit that. Getting vulnerable, slow, and all around deep into those feelings like they did for this song, really hit home for many of us music lovers. If I really need a good cry, but I can’t quite figure out how to get it all out without waiting around for something to make me cry. I just throw on this song, and by the time he says the title for the first time, I’m bawling. 10/10 recommend if you need a good cry or just a wholesome song to listen to.

“The Apparition” is about two-thirds through the album and I love the low-key aspect of it, giving us a two out of three song breather from the heavy and intense instrumentals. It’s got some good higher notes that have beautiful orchestral music behind it and is a perfect segway into the next song, “DYWYTLM” (Do You Wish That You Loved Me). The low-key sound of “The Apparition” flows into “DYWTYLM” with such ease and keeps that slow and less intense instrumentals while bringing the lyrics back to a bit more of a relatable feel. There is one line in this song that resonates with me, though. At the 3:14 mark there’s a line where he sings “But I cannot hope to give you what I cannot give myself.” That line alone had me replaying the song a few times and really sitting with it and wondering how many people heard it and did the same. It’s a powerful reflection to have two-thirds of the way through the song, if you ask me.

Moving on to my last favorite song of the album, “Rain.” This song is about finding your soulmate and having their touch wash away all your problems, getting hurt by them was something you could deal with because they’ve got their hooks in you. Knowing it’s a two-person game and wanting to give what they’ll take and take what they’ll give. Having this feeling that you’ve come together for a reason and seeing them in your future has to be a fateful sign of your unification. Acknowledging that it could all just be a part of life’s game, but looking forward, you can swear they’ll be there. I’m in a spot in my life I can confidently say I can relate to the feeling of finding a soulmate, and that feeling was only solidified further getting to experience this song from front bar at the festival.

Now for the title track… “Take Me Back To Eden” was such a rollercoaster of a song. Genre-wise and lyrically. I love the analogies and the cryptic messages that seemed to be sprinkled throughout it. The song seems to be about wanting to go back to the start when life wasn’t confusing. Losing yourself and not knowing where you’re going can be disorienting and will absolutely send many into feeling like if they could just go back to the start of a situation or experience, then all would be fixed. It’s such an incredibly produced song and I’m absolutely impressed with the instrumentals’ seamless transitions throughout the track.

Last, but absolutely not least, “Euclid.” This song was an homage and revisit to a previous song in a previous album. If you’ve been listening to Sleep Token long enough, maybe you’ve heard the song “Night Does Not Belong To God” from Sundowning. This song has a very deep and heavy meaning behind it. This struggle with his relationship with Sleep and wanting its eternal embrace, but also having that person that he doesn’t want to leave. The back and forth in his head in accepting eternal sleep or pushing forward to continue on. Finding the beauty in the darkness and he’s handed over the darkness to his love to survive. At least, that’s my interpretation of it.

Overall, this whole album was a banger and I absolutely loved that they wrapped it up with a song that references another previous album/song. I’m not sure I’ve known a whole lot of artists to do that and it’s refreshing to hear something uncommon. Their multitude of genres and the seamless transitions into each style is mind-boggling and I am constantly recommending Sleep Token to anyone who will give them a chance.

You can stream Take Me Back To Eden on all streaming services as of May 19th!!

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DS Album Review: The Real McKenzies – “Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea”

The Real McKenzies are celebrating thirty years as a band with a brand new album, Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea (Fat Wreck Chords). The album itself was preceded by the release of the single “Leave Her Johnny”, a traditional 19th-century sea shanty that has been performed by many folk acts over the […]

The Real McKenzies are celebrating thirty years as a band with a brand new album, Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea (Fat Wreck Chords). The album itself was preceded by the release of the single “Leave Her Johnny”, a traditional 19th-century sea shanty that has been performed by many folk acts over the years, and a fitting example of what the album has in store.

Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea is an album of 12 traditional shanties and folk tunes; the title really gives it away in that some are songs of the Scottish Highlands, and others are songs of sea fairing and the sailor’s life.

Time-honoured Scottish drums and bagpipes open the album, with distorted guitars soon joining in, setting out the classic Real McKenzies sound of Gaelic punk rock with a strong traditional folk feel. Foot stomping, fist pumping, hey! shouting, “Scotland the Brave” is one of the unofficial national anthems of Scotland and is as good an opener as you’d expect. I know if I were Paul McKenzie I would open every live show like this!

“A Red, Red Rose”, a poem by the famed Robert Burns, is one of several songs on this album penned by the legendary lyricist and voice of the true Scotsman; “Ye Jacobites By Name” and the stomping “My Heart is in the Highlands” are also penned by his hand. The expected Real McKenzies sound continues on through “The Green Hills of Tyrol” and the lead single “Leave Her Johnny” and “My Heart’s in the Highlands”. 

These songs are legendary for a reason and were written to be performed. I can well imagine a live show, unexpectedly finding myself in the pit, singing my heart out for Scotland in much the same way I sing for Ireland with the Dropkick Murphys. It is important that these folk songs remain as folk songs; that is, songs for the people, to be performed by and for the people, interpreted as needed for the time and audience. While nationalism and pride in your home are often negative traits, these songs remind us that we can be proud without it being at the expense of others.

At this point, the album takes a step down for me. We’re halfway through, I’m fired up, I’m ready to rock and next we have “Sloop John B” performed with acoustic guitar. It’s perfectly good, but I don’t see what it offers above or beyond every other version (Beach Boys excepted). There’s nothing wrong with it, and perhaps those with more polished taste will appreciate the darker feel than the Californian Pop version, but I keep waiting for the electric guitars to kick in with a big fast chorus in the style of so many 90s punk covers. Maybe it would sit better, grouped with other slower songs?

“Drunken Sailor”, picks up where it should be going for me: fast, mean, the way a shanty should be delivered, with the pounding drums and distorted guitars, and shouted lyrics and the cold sea wind rattling the windows, fogged with the breath of a crowd of drunk sailors.

“The Bonnie Ship The Diamond” takes a more traditional folky sound, which is to be expected for the band, but isn’t really to my taste. The Real McKenzies have always felt more like a folk band that listen to punk rather than a punk band that listen to folk, and in that is the uniqueness of their sound. I fear I lean more toward the punk than the folk, so perhaps it is lost on me.

“Dead Mans Chest” caught me out, opening with the riff of “American Jesus” by Bad Religion, complete with pick slide into the first verse. It’s an interesting take on both songs, but the familiarity of the Bad Religion classic takes away from the familiar “yo hoho and a bottle of rum” lyrics for me. I honestly wondered if they had chucked in a Bad Religion cover, and although it is a classic in this scene, it’s not what most would consider a traditional anthem!

“Swansea Town” is sung by Brenna Red from the Last Gang, and it takes the song in a similar direction to “The Bonnie Ship The Diamond”, with winsome melodies and a feeling of sadness that carries the words through the song.

Closing track “Blow the Man Down” is another traditional shanty sounds like it was a lot of fun to record, but I’m not sure where its place on this album really is. Much as with “Sloop John B”, it is a faithful performance, but it doesn’t feel like the Real McKenzies have really made it their own in any way, and in part that sums up this album. In places it is a Real McKenzies album that just happens to be traditional songs rather than originals, but in part it is also the Real McKenzies playing some traditional songs in a traditional way. I am almost certain these songs would be incredible live, and since they are on tour in Europe from January 2023, I shall make the effort to get out and see them and confirm my suspicions! 

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DS Exclusive: Interview with Gina Volpe of Lunachicks and BANTAM

The first full-length solo album by Gina Volpe, of the seminal NYC punk band Lunachicks, is scheduled for release on February 23, 2024. Delete The World was produced by Barb Morrison, and will be available on all streaming platforms. The first single off the record – “Drink Me” – and its accompanying video dropped on […]

The first full-length solo album by Gina Volpe, of the seminal NYC punk band Lunachicks, is scheduled for release on February 23, 2024. Delete The World was produced by Barb Morrison, and will be available on all streaming platforms. The first single off the record – “Drink Me” – and its accompanying video dropped on November 3, 2023. A second single, “The Plan,” follows on December 1, 2023. I caught up with Volpe via email to discuss her new music, her legacy, and more.

DS: What inspired you to do this album at this time?

GV: I had always intended to record a full-length album. It just took a little while to find the time and come up with the funds. I started releasing my solo stuff in 2017 with a 5 song EP followed up by several singles over the past couple of years. An LP was a long time coming so I’m pumped that I’m now finally able to release a full body of work.

DS: How is this album different from the music in Lunachicks?

GV: My solo stuff is different in that it’s more diverse stylistically and not as easily categorized into one particular genre. Sometimes it’s pop, sometimes it’s punk, indie, retro, or rock. Sometimes it’s more singer-songwriter. I have the freedom to shape-shift and experiment. I use synthesizers, acoustic guitars, and samples – along with heavy guitars when called for, so I get to color outside the lines and be as messy as I wanna be.

DS: Will there be more to come from BANTAM?

GV: We got together last year and messed around in the studio for the first time in over a decade. We even released a single entitled “Yo-Yo.” I’m not sure what the future holds for us though. We’re kind of spread out across the country now but none of us would be opposed to playing some shows and putting out more new music. We left the door open so anything is possible.

DS: How did your work with Lunachicks inform you as a musician and prepare you for solo and other work?

GV: I received a hands-on education coming up in the ’90s with Lunachicks. We started very young so I was able to cut my teeth on writing, arranging and recording songs (as well as learn my instrument) throughout our career. Plus, just watching all of the amazing bands we got to play with over the years really brought so much insight and inspiration to me.

DS: The trippy and surreal video for “Drink Me” reminds me of some of the technicolor joy of the 1980’s MTV heyday. Was that intentional?

GV: I came across Stanzii‘s work on Instagram and was immediately drawn to it. It’s very much my same artistic sensibility with all of the bright colors, details, and surrealism she uses. I was so mesmerized by it that I sent her a DM not sure if she would get back to me being that I was a complete stranger. To my surprise, she did get back to me and was totally into making a video for the track. I feel like I hit the jackpot by getting to work with her.

DS: How did the idea come about? Did you approach Stanzii with your own ideas about it or did Stanzii come up with the concept wholecloth? How collaborative was it? 

GV: I trusted her to do whatever she wanted. It was important to me that she have the freedom to create in her style and employ the imagery she envisioned for the song. I would put my two cents in here and there but ultimately, I left it up to her to steer the ship. I helped with some of the editing and grunt work – like wiping the greenscreen from the clips and photos but the creative work was all her genius.

DS: Please describe what the video is trying to say, or the ideas being communicated.

GV: The song is about obsession, addiction, and escapism. It relates to the vices we use to check out. Maybe it’s the use of a substance or maybe it’s an addictive relationship with someone who is no good for you but you can’t let go of. I wanted the video to be a trip down the rabbit hole of self-destruction, then coming out through the other side only to go through the whole process all over again. The secondary reference is to Alice In Wonderland. “Drink Me” is labeled on the bottle she drinks in order to make her small enough to go through the door, which is clearly (to me at least) a metaphor for exiting the world and entering into another portal of being.

DS: What is it about NYC, especially at the time Lunachicks was formed, especially the part of NYC from which you hail, that sprouted so many punk legends?

 GV: I think what makes NYC so special is the pure infusion of ideas and cultures from all over the world. There is always so much happening here. So many creatives are drawn to this city and with them comes all of the contributions to music, art, performance, etc. that they make continually laying a foundation for the next wave of artists coming in to build upon. There seems to be an endless supply of inspiration due to the sheer number of artists packed into this one crowded city.

DS: Do you see the same spirit there now with newer musicians?

GV: I do and it’s always cool to see all the different generational influences the up-and-coming bands are drawing from. Sure, it may look different from an older generation’s perspective but really, the kids are alright.

DS: I first met you at Riot Fest 2022 . From what I heard around the park so many people agreed with me that Lunachicks were one of the highlights of the weekend [I agree. Plus, I found the band members to all be so nice and fun].

GV: Love to hear that. We had a blast playing Riot Fest. Although it was really hot if you remember [I do recall that it was an absolute scorcher all weekend long]. Chip. our drummer had heat stroke during the set and puked so stealthily in the middle of a song that none of us noticed what was happening lols.

DS: That must feel pretty damn good to know that decades on you are still making such an impact and garnering new fans.

GV: It really is an amazing feeling. We didn’t realize that we had so many younger fans that became aware of us well after we had stopped playing. So for a lot of the people in the audience it was the first time they had ever seen us live even though they had been listening to us for a decade or so.

DS: What was writing Fallopian Rhapsody like, and do you feel it was a comprehensive history of Lunachicks or is there still much to say? 

GV: Writing that book was such a great experience. It was hard though and it gave me a newfound respect for authors. It’s a long arduous process and a lesson in patience and grit. In the end though I feel like we got it all in, said what we wanted to say with the expert help of co-author Jeanne Fury and overall I’m super proud of it.

DS: How did you see the response to the book?

GV: We were happy with all of the positive responses we got. People really seemed to enjoy the book whether they knew the band or not. A lot of fans wrote in to say that they identified with a certain story, experience, or feeling and that it impacted them, inspired them, or simply gave them a new perspective to try on.

DS: What has it been like to create an identity outside of Lunachicks with the music you do as a solo artist and with other bands? Of course, even with these questions, there are a lot of references to Lunachicks

GV: Well most people know me because of Lunachicks which is fine because I’m super proud of our band and our history but it can be also tough to get away from that label and just be a solo artist without the qualifying “Gina from Lunachicks” tag. I do understand though that people need reference, they want to know “Who is this person?” and I totally get that. But, my solo music doesn’t always translate over to the Lunachicks’ fanbase, some of my fans don’t even know who the Lunachicks are (most do) but in a perfect world I’d just be able to be me -insert terrible Sammy Davis Jr. impression, “I gotta be me…!” sing-along folks!

DS: How is creating music for a film different from creating music for a more traditional record or band?

GV: It’s certainly a different exercise in that you’re not actually songwriting, there’s no lyrics or any kind of verse/chorus song structure necessarily. It’s also a practice in pairing down and being mindful of where and how you place certain textures and sounds so they don’t step on dialog or feel too intrusive in the scene. I lean towards less happening in a score than more. I’m not a fan of music scores that overdo it.

DS: You played most of the instruments for this record? How is that experience different from playing in a full band or having a full band contribute to an album?

GV: I usually record most of the guitar, bass, and synths in my home studio. Then I bring it all into a professional studio with my producer Barb Morrison and their engineer to finish the track. We do vocals, drums and adding all the cool layers and textures. It’s quite the opposite experience of recording live in the studio with a band. This way I have a lot of room to manipulate the track, try different arrangements etc. and change my mind a hundred times about it all–which is not always a good thing!

DS: Are there newer bands, up-and-coming bands, or artists that excite you at this moment? 

GV: I’m obsessing over the UK’s post-punk explosion that’s been happening in the past couple of years. I love Idles, Shame, and Dry Cleaning. I also love Viagra Boys, and FIDLAR, and Turnstile. This year I’ve been listening to Yves Tumor and Nilüfer Yanya.

DS: Can you see any influence you might have had on them?

GV: Hmmm, doubt any of the bands listed above would have known who we were!

DS: You came up as a musician when there were not as many female-fronted, or mostly female-comprised bands. How much of an improvement has there been in the way such bands are accepted? Is there still a struggle to be known less as a female-fronted punk band and just a punk band. Or is that label something you are ok with?

GV: I’m really glad to see so many more women in bands. It really doesn’t seem to be such a novelty anymore. When we played Riot Fest last year there were some women kicking ass both in mixed-gender bands and all-female bands. But as you mentioned that was one of the things that was the most maddening for us, no matter what music we were making we were always categorized by our gender instead of musical genre. “All girl band music” became the genre we were placed in, what the fuck does that mean?!

Sadly (that) element is present today when I listen to Spotify’s algorithm. If you were to put on a Lunachicks radio on Spotify, the algorithm will mainly stick to suggesting only other female-fronted bands, then conversely, if you were to start a Rancid radio station the algorithm won’t be offering any recommendations for bands with female singers therefore reinforcing this gender separation in rock/punk music.

I am proud to celebrate being a woman and if women and girls (and non-binary people) find inspiration in seeing people up onstage rockin’ out that look more like themselves (as I had when I went to see my she-ros play live) then I am all for it. But we need to do away with thinking that there are two different musical genres solely based on gender.

DS: There is still so much toxicity in the punk scene as we have seen with recent disbandings of decades-old groups. Anti-Flag situation, of course, being the most recent example. How have you tried to confront that? Is it something you have still encountered?

GV: Have to admit that I literally just heard about this, I don’t want to comment until I read more about it. But from what I’ve seen over the years things have gotten better – I mean we wouldn’t even be having this conversation back in the ’90s – or even the ’00’s. And I do believe it will continue to get better and that we will evolve. Sometimes that’s hard to see and there will certainly be setbacks and shitty humans messing it all up but I’m an optimist and I do think eventually we’ll get our shit together, may not be alive to see it, but we’ll get there.

Gina Volpe’s new record will be released in February. A documentary film “Pretty Ugly- The Story of The Lunachicks,” directed by Ilya Chaiken, had its world premiere in NYC in November and just finished an initial online run.

Many thanks and cheers to Gina Volpe!

Photo Credits: featured portrait by Barb Morrison; Dying Scene images at Riot Fest 2022 by Meredith Goldberg; and additional stage images by Hillery Teranzi.

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