Music Review: PASSAFIST – Passafist

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passafist - passafist

PASSAFIST
Passafist
R. E. X.
1996

The easier way to describe the brief appearance of the band Passafist is to refer to them as “Chagall Guevera without Steve Taylor and pretending to be Nine Inch Nails.” The first part is literal: Passafist was essentially the remaining members of the brief-lived Chagall Guevera after Steve Taylor jumped ship. Rather than fade off in the distance, they recorded an EP and released it on the still-thriving R. E. X. label under the amusing moniker of Passafist. Mmmm, that’s good wordplay, there.

Now, the “pretending to be Nine Inch Nails” part is due to the fact that the music on this 6-song EP is what I would call industrial rock. Although I do admit that this is really sounding more like label mates Leaderdogs For The Blind rather than straight-on Nine Inch Nails; let’s face it, though – most of you reading this would recognize the name Nine Inch Nails over Leaderdogs For The Blind.

But, even that isn’t an accurate description. You see, listening to this album, it seems strongly that the songs may have been unrecorded Chagall Guevera songs that were repurposed for this release under the Passafist moniker. Speculation, this is, but it has weight. You can tell what an actual industrial composition sounds like; the songs on this EP sound like 90s-era alternative rock songs that were ran through some kind of, I don’t know, Industrialization Processor? Was that a thing back then?

The album starts off with opener “Emanuel Chant”, which has an interesting Middle Eastern melody and rhythm, but seems to be stuck in a loop as it doesn’t change; the song could have been a nice brief intro cut, but man was I tempted to hit the “skip” button. This is followed by “Glock”, which is the heaviest song on here; it’s the closest cut to actually sound like an industrial song. The following cuts, though–“Christ Of The Nuclear Age”, “Lov-e900” and “Appliance Alliance”–are what lends credence to the whole “might have been written as CG songs in a previous life”, as there’s not much to hide the alternative rock sound to them. Then there’s the cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” which is…oddly straightforward. Finally, the album ends with “The Dr. Is In”, which is a decent 1980s-era David Bowie style song with clips from the movie Dr. Strangelove thrown in for amusement, and possibly to justify the title.

Overall, the Passafist release seems more of a one-off than a genuine attempt at getting a full band going. It was interesting, but not enough to get me to listen to it more than once ever few years. Really, it’s only my crippling OCD-like sense of completion that makes me keep it in the Music Dungeon, despite my lack of enthusiasm for this. Underwhelmed. Pass. Afist. Drat, now they have me doing that.

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Music Review: MARTYRS SHRINE – Martyrs Shrine

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martyrs shrine - martyrs shrine

MARTYRS SHRINE
Martyrs Shrine
Independent / Soundmass
2007 / 2008

Martyrs Shrine is the second project by former Mortification members Michael Carlisle and Mike Forsberg. Michael Charlisle, if you may recall, was the long-time guitarist for most of the “classic” era, playing on the first four albums, plus the Live Planetarium release, before heading off to do his own thing. Mike Forsberg was the drummer on the Brain Cleaner release in 2004.

Martyrs Shrine came about when–and this is just wild speculation here, not based on facts or anything–because Charlisle’s first post-Mortification project Cybergrind kind of sucked. And like Cybergrind, Martyrs Shrine operated for a few years, released one album, and then disappeared. The difference here, though, is that the death metal here is more basic, old-school and mid-paced, in the style of Bolt Thrower and Six Feet Under. It’s mostly riffs and heaviness, though, as there wasn’t any discernible solos in the music, so those of you who are more used to the technical type of death metal that has been populating the scenes as of recent might be turned off. But, for those of us who remember the early days of the genre, this would be a nice blast of nostalgia. Though, admittedly, that also works against the music at times, as the songs are long-ish, and tend to drone a bit after the freshness date.

Originally, this self-titled release was put out independently, with a basic black cover with the band’s logo. Then, a year later, Soundmass re-released it with different cover art and logo. The Soundmass version was the one I purchased from Amazon; I do believe the original independent release was limited to only 500 copies. Either way, it’s worth a look-see for some old school death metal injections.

Music Review: LIVING SACRIFICE – The Ghost Thief

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living sacrifice - the ghost thief

LIVING SACRIFICE
The Ghost Thief
Solid State Records
2013

With the release of The Ghost Thief in 2013, having been three years since the release of The Infinite Order, it’s rather apparent that there has been no loss of sonic bombast and musicianship with the band. With every Living Sacrifice album since discovering them back in 1993 (with the Nonexistent release), it’s been rather interesting watching the band’s sound evolve into something different with each successive release. The Ghost Thief continues with this mutation of sound, and it’s something to behold.

Beginning with the complex bombast of opening track “Screwtape”, which features guest vocals from Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark (who has named Living Sacrifice as a massive influence), you get an inkling that the music on The Ghost Thief takes what was done on The Infinite Order and expands upon it, greatly improving and (one could argue) surpassing the quality of \,,/METAL\,,/ contained therein.

The best way to describe the overall sound and feel of this album? Take the extreme death metal you’ve come to expect from this highly underrated band, throw in some thrash elements and a strong groove undertone, along with some shredding guitar work that conjurers up that of At The Gates and In Flames, and craft each song to have a unique quality to keep the entire album from bleeding together and loosing cohesion, and you’ll get the idea of what kind of awesome The Ghost Thief is.

I’ve heard it said that Living Sacrifice is the greatest metal band that no one’s ever heard of. I would, unfortunately, agree with this sentiment. There’s the underground, and then there’s the underground of the underground, and it always seems that LS dwells in that area. Fortunately, there’s those like myself who keep the word of this legendary band alive; and also as fortunate, they seem to just get better with age. The Ghost Thief is proof of this. Highly recommended.

Music Review: NYVES – Anxiety

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nyves - anxiety

NYVES
Anxiety
Spartan Records
2015

For fans of either Demon Hunter or Project 86 (or both), NYVES is a project between Demon Hunter vocalist Ryan Clark and ex-Project 86 guitarist Randy Torres that is decidedly nothing whatsoever like the two’s respective bands. Instead of the pummelling modern metal assault of Demon Hunter, or the alternative metal approach of Project 86, we have here a collection of dark electronic music that’s drenched in melancholy and emotion, more for sitting in the darkness and contemplating…whatever it is you would contemplate in the dark. I could tell you what I would contemplate in the dark with this album playing in the background, but that would leave you screaming for a few hours, trust me.

I first came about discovering the existence of this release by way of the Neverwas Podcast, which featured a two-part interview with Ryan Clark, and played a few cuts from the Anxiety release. I liked what I heard, and thus hit Amazon Digital Music for a purchase and download of the album. Sure, there were some great-looking vinyl formats of the album available, but unfortunately I’d have no place to store them without beginning to look like the subject episode of the show Horders.

I once described the music on Anxiety to be like the more downbeat, melodic songs of Demon Hunter as interpreted through Depeche Mode, and you have a decent beginning idea of what the music is like. This is dark electronic music that’s best listened to in the dark, through a higher quality set of headphones, rather than cranked on your car stereo. Though, there have been more than once where I had this cranked through my stereo, driving home in the dead of night, my window open and the lights of the city creating a nice visual ambiance that melded with the music.

What I’m trying to say is, Anxiety is a really good album. This is coming from someone who doesn’t necessarily listen to straight up EBM all that often. It hasn’t transformed me into a fanatic of the genre, mind you, but it’s a solid listen to throw on some nights for something different to decompress to. Here’s hoping that this isn’t just a one-off project, and the guys are planning to keep it up with NYVES for the future.

Music Review: MALCOLM & ALWYN – Fool’s Wisdom

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malcolm + Alwyn - fool's wisdom

MALCOLM & ALWYN
Fool’s Wisdom
Myrrh Records
1973

For the life of me, I swear I had a review of this particular album done and posted years ago. Maybe it was only done for my former ‘zine publication–STATIC–that I did back in the 1990s, and never really did one for my forays into online blogging. But, going back thorough my highly prolific list of music reviews I have in my personal collection, I came upon the realization that I don’t have a review posted for British Jesus rock duo Malcolm & Alwyn’s debut release Fool’s Wisdom. Consider this my rectifying of the problem.

I first came across the music of Malcolm & Alwyn by way of the elders in the church I was attending in the 1990s, who all lived through the Jesus People movement in the 1960s and 1970s. They had a copy of this on vinyl, and since I was going through my neo-hippie phase back then (as a lot of college-age kids groping to find their identities sometimes do, I make no apologies), I recorded off a copy for my own listening enjoyment from the well-loved vinyl record they had. Later on, Word, Inc. (who bought up the label this album was originally released on) re-released a lot of Jesus Rock-era albums onto CD, and Fool’s Wisdom was one of the titles, which I bought…and then gave away to someone who really liked it better than myself. Now, here we are in the second decade of the 21st Century, and this debut album is now available for full download on Amazon and various other legal download sites. Now all we need is one of those Vinyl Revival re-issues to bring things full circle.

As far as the music on this release, I actually kind of like it, in the capacity of something to throw on when I’m in that Hippie Rock kind of mood. Yes, “Hippie Rock” is a genre in my head. Quit looking at me like that. It’s acoustic-based folk rock that typifies the era, and strong comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young pop to mind, as well as asides to pre-electric Bob Dylan. The musicianship is quality, the songs are rather memorable, and–while I have to be in a very specific mood to throw this on–the entire album is solid front-to-back. Mind you, nowadays, I don’t throw it on nearly as many times as I had in my younger days, but it’s still a strong presence in my collection. I recommend this for fans of older classic folk-stylings of the previously mentioned Simon & Garfunkel and CSN+Y, as well as James Taylor, and acoustic music in general. Not as big on the pretentiousness, though.

Music Review: The BOONES – First Class

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the boones-first class

The BOONES
First Class
Lamb & Lion Records
1978

Have you ever gone through your music collection and come across a title that makes you pause and think, “How did that get in there?” This particular title that you see here? This is one of them that I came across in the Archive Dungeon that houses my personal collection. The kicker is, I can’t recall when and how this thing came into my possession. It’s not something I would want to actually have in there. But, lo and behold, here it is. And since it’s there, I have to listen and review the thing. It’s the law of Uncle NecRo, you know.

For those not up on their Middle-Of-The-Road Soft Rock of the 1970s, The Boones was the all-girl group made up of the progeny of Pat Boone, the entertainer/evangelical preacher who once made rock and roll safe for white kids in the 1950s. They released a couple of albums as a group, before Debbie Boone decided to rebel and “go secular”, unleashing the AM Radio favorite “You Light Up My Life” upon an unsuspecting public. The 1970s were an odd time. I’m glad I don’t remember most of it.

Anyway, First Class is, for the most part, the type of 70s-style Soft Rock you would expect from that era: lukewarm and slathered in a nauseating schmaltzy gravy of the type that only a Ned Flanders type can stomach. I say “most part”, because there are a couple of songs where they attempt to “rock out”, like how the adults at the school assembly try to appear hip to the kids. Interesting, but comes off as more embarrassingly adorable. And no, I’m not going to tell you which ones they are. You’re going to have to listen to the album to satiate your gnawing curiosity.

As you could probably guess, listening to this was an exercise in lame. The thing is, this is a collection of music that was contemporary at the time, not something that was released in the following years, like most CCM, so really this could be considered “innovating”, I guess. Doesn’t matter. I listened to it once for the obligatory review, and here it is. Now, to flush out this from my head with some proper \,,/METAL\,,/. Gads, my skin is crawling…

Music Review: OVERDRIVE – Remembering The Basher

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overdrive-rememberingthebasher
OVERDRIVE
Remembering The Basher
Independent
2006

Okay, let me see if I’m able to explain this without losing anybody in the process. Overdrive was a band hailing from the state of Virginia that began life in 1985 as kind of an ELO/Styx type rock band called Damascus. Then, a short time later, they renamed themselves White Knight, then again to Heaven Quest, until finally they went with the name Overdrive. Why Overdrive, you ask? Because, and I’m quoting from the Firestream Music Vault entry here, “we were driven by the One OVER us!!!” I wonder if they used that many exclamation points when they were saying that out loud. Anyway, by the time they settled on Overdrive, they were playing a more straight-forward style of melodic metal and hard rock, and after releasing three demos as Overdrive, they called it a day in 1991-ish.

Remembering The Basher is a two-disc compilation of the three Overdrive demos, as well as the three-song demo released under the name Damascus, plus a radio interview thrown in to top things off. Instead of being a Retroactive Records release, which would have been expected back then, this was an independent release that apparently headed up by bass player Joe McLaughlin. I remember purchasing the download maybe a couple of years after the initial release on CD Baby, not really knowing much beyond what the description on the site said. I still don’t know much now, beyond the entries in both the Metal Archives and Firestream Vault site entries.

Disc One of the collection consists of the tracks from the 1989 demo Overdrive (“Bring Out The Big Guns”, “Hellbound”, “Shelter And Strength”, “Living Sacrifice”, “Mark My Words”, “Rodent Of The Piper”, and “Crusade”) and the 1990 demo A Grave Mistake (“When The Saints”, “Standing In Line”, “Light A Candle For Me”, and “You Need A Friend”), while ending the disc with a track titled “Applause”, which is exactly what it says it is. Disc Two contains tracks from the 1987 demo Sacred Heart (“Gotta Have Faith”, “Shelter And Strength”, “Never Too Soon”, “Child Of The Father”, and “High On God”), and the Damascus demo from 1985 (“Animate”, “Think Of Me” and “Don’t Worry”), and ends with a radio interview track titled “Rock 105 Interview”.

Of the two discs, I would say Disc One has the definite better selection than Disc Two. While the songs on the Overdrive demo are more melodic metal in style, on the A Grave Mistake demo they adopted a style of metal that sounded a lot like Armed And Dangerous-era Anthrax, kind of thrash influenced with the metal, which I found very much to my liking. And it’s a good thing they decided to lead with those two demos, as Disc Two’s selections are…subpar at best. The music on the Sacred Heart demo is poorly produced middle-of-the-road rock that only the 1980s could produce, whereas the three Damascus songs are just horribly made keyboard rock with off-tune singing that made me cringe the entire time. I actually had to hit the stop button before I got to the end of the last actual song, and I haven’t actually listened to the radio interview cut, but I’m certain that’s not going to matter as far as this review goes.

I can’t remember what I paid for the download of this album back when I bought it. I do know, having double-checked the CD Baby site now while pounding out my complete thoughts on this release, it now shows to be available for only two bucks. I would say, that would be worth it, if only to get the first disc of songs. Otherwise, it’s $.99 per song, and even I can’t justify paying roughly twelve bucks for the first batch of songs. As far as listenability…maybe the A Grave Mistake section, but otherwise it would be understood if you passed up this one.

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