Apologies for the slightly cheesy title, I've not written one of these label spotlight pieces since June 2015. I wanted to kick them off again because a lot of new labels have been coming to my attention recently and while a lot of them won't be "new" to everyone, I thought it would be a great chance to throw some light on them anyway for people who may not have encountered them yet. The format's a little different from previous spotlights with three releases (instead of four) getting reviewed, to try and make it a little less wordy. I'll also be including the usual bandcamp streams, as well as merch links.
I'm beginning with Baltimore, Maryland hardcore punk label Flatspot Records. They came to my attention because since their inception in 2004, they've released music by a couple of bands that are close to home; Deal With It and much more recently Higher Power. There's always a Yorkshire connection in there somewhere! Anyway, they're well regarded in the global hardcore scene and have worked with many other notable bands and have seen many of them play alongside legends like Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All. As well as that they've been opening new ears to bands via their "Extermination" comps.
Friend Or Foe - Foe EP
1. Foe/Paid The Price
3. Battle Scarred (War Dogs III)
5. Earn It
First up is the third EP from Richmond straightedge-hardcore band Friend Or Foe. The band is made up of current and ex-members of Bracewar & Fire & Ice amongst others. Their previous EPs "Know Your Rights" and "Outsider" were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The "Foe" EP was released in August 2016 and in support of it, they went out for a run of dates with Sick Of It All.
I was getting heavily into hardcore when I first started this blog and listening to Friend Or Foe takes me back. EP opener Foe/Paid The Price is fast and hard-hitting, reminiscent of early-No Turning Back and UK band xCurraheex for me. There’s no pointless fretboard heroics going on here and the vocals are shouted with proper conviction. N.L.Y.G is the perfect example of straight-to-the-point hardcore, with less than ninety-seconds of precise riffs, percussion and typically positive lyrics. There’s equal urgency on Battle Scarred (War Dogs III) and those riffs are more than pit-inducing. Semi-clean melodic vocals are employed during True and sound a bit odd next to the hardcore of Friend Or Foe, but certainly don’t detract from it. EP closer Earn It is one final rallying cry from the band and it rounds “Foe” out in the same way it started. Five short and sharp hardcore songs full of impact. That’s all you really need.
Stream and download "Foe" here`:-
Friend Or Foe Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/FRIENDORFOEHC
Countdown - Demo
1. Live For Now
3. One Of Two
4. It Haunts...
Next up comes the demo by New York/Boston hardcore band Countdown, which was re-released by Flatspot Records in September 2016, after it was originally self-released. It turns out that the band broke up around the time of it's release. Far too many bands seem to call it a day after recording demo but at least Flatspot Records were able to get this out so more people could hear it.
This is great. The melodic guitar really hits you during the first song Live For Now. It’s decidedly old-school, especially in the vocals and it’s hard not to nod your head to it. Delusions is a quick-fire punk song. It’s nice to hear a band that don’t just take on that “tough guy” persona when playing hardcore. There also seems to be a bit of Dimebag coming through in the lead guitar. One Of Two settles on a more mid-paced tempo and still contains a lot of punk influence. Countdown certainly weren’t tied down by sub-genre when they wrote this and it’s that unwillingness to be pinned down that makes their music unique and interesting. It Haunts… finishes the demo with a wall of distorted 80s punk riffs and raucous volume. A fitting end to what is the only recorded output from Countdown to reach the ears of hardcore-punk fans. It’s a pit they called it a day when they did because hardcore punk needs more bands like them. Not afraid to stand out from the crowd.
Stream and purchase a download of Countdown's demo below:-
Mizery - Absolute Light
2. One Kiss
4. Absolute Light
5. The Bvtcher
6. Execution Style
7. Discrimination Of Eye
8. Power Of Peace
9. injustice 4 All
10. The Hard Goodbye
This is the latest LP from San Diego's Mizery, who're currently touring the US with Power Trip. It was released last July. They're another band that holds the old-school close to their hearts and channels that influence into making hardcore dangerous again. "Absolute Light" follows the release of a couple of EPs and a special tape promo, also released via Flatspot Records.
“Absolute Light” begins with a 90s metalcore vibe on Paramatman. It’s easy to hear the influence that bands like Metallica, Biohazard and Cro-Mags have all had on their sound. There’s plenty of crossover into thrash going on in their riffs on One Kiss and there’s a deliberate attempt to stay clear of a polished, modern production. That doesn’t mean that the production on the album is bad because it’s not at all. Mizery (the song) takes more from hip-hop than hardcore-punk and sound hella groovy. They ratchet up the urgency on the title-track, which is furious but in a controlled way. Must be great live! They break things up with instrumental song The Bvtcher. Their musical ability stands out a lot more on Execution Style. The guitar work is more intricate and blurs genre lines for the better. Discrimination Of Eye goes by pretty quickly as is it’s precision, while Power Of Peace could well have been written and performed by Pantera back in the day! In fact the band share a lot of their traits musically. They have a sense of humour as well and Injustice 4 All is a clever song-title. The song itself features more of their now familiar groove and after the moody atmosphere at the end, they close out “Absolute Light" with The Hard Goodbye, which begins with mid-paced riffs that help create the heaviest song on the record. Mizery proves that there is a real breadth of variation within hardcore and show it’s well and truly alive and well, as do Flatspot Records.
Stream and purchase a download here:-
Mizery Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Mizeryhardcore
As I mentioned earlier in the piece, Flatspot Records have released three compilations, both digitally and on vinyl. Streaming links from their bandcamp page are below:-
In terms of future happenings, Flatspot Records will be releasing Higher Power's debut LP "Soul Structure" alongside UK label Venn Records in May. Here's a link to the video for Can't Relate - http://smarturl.it/SoulStructure.
You can stream and download their back catalogue of releases via their bandcamp page and you can grab physical records, tapes and other merch from their All In Merch store here - http://www.allinmerch.com/flatspot-records.
Flatspot Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/flatspotrecords/
Cheers for reading and I hope you've enjoyed it and more importantly, I hope you've discovered some new bands and music because of it.