Monday, October 31, 2011

Gig review: 12xu, Old Growth

Wow, quite a lot of gig reviews this month. Indeed, this was a month full of great concerts and some I will even fail to write about, that being the "Went" show I attended a few days ago. Thought about writing some words for that gig, but I was completely wrecked that night and basically fell sick due to a weakened immune system, so my time was spent in pain, despite the band kicking in its usual fashion. I'm basically still in bed and recovering, so I'll keep even this review short, but I just had to mark it on the blog in any way possible since the bands definitely deserve it.

The gig took place on last Tuesday, namely 25 October 2011, in good old "CK13", Novi Sad. Initially this was supposed to be a house show set up in a practice room by my friend Vuk, but once the local guys from Novi Sad heard "12xu" they were so infatuated with their music that they decided to back him up and organize the gig in a proper venue. I, of course, was happy to see the band play wherever, but I was thrilled that they are booked in one of the best venues in Serbia after all. I won't be talking about the venue here again, since I recently covered how awesome it is in the "Downfall of Gaia" gig review, found some lines bellow this post. Once again the venue proved to be a flawless place to host a gig, yet the only thing that was lacking in contrast to the "Gaia" show was the number of people. There was not a lot of time to promote the show properly due to the sudden change of plans, plus it was a working day, so in the end there were twenty something people, if I recall well. In any case, my friend and I arrived an hour or so earlier, yet the time flowed fast ever since I threw my gaze onto the distro brought by the bands, resulting in insane amounts of drooling, staring, touching and generally pondering about what to buy from the amazing batch of records. If my wallet was deep enough, I seriously think that I would just purchase the whole damn box filled with vinyl. In the end, a hard decision had to be made, so after the gig I walked out with two "Daitro" records...which was kinda funny since I had my "Daitro" shirt on and a button as well, so I looked like a complete fanboy. Not that I ain't!
Onto the show itself, "12xu" jumped up on stage first, grasped their instruments and took the audience for an amazing ride. Their whole set was just an enormous emotional bomb being detonated with wave after wave of extremely melodic and passionate tunes flooding over the venue. Ever since I first heard their material from the "Single Series" I tried to imagine what would their show look like, because the tunes seemed to be overtly driving and fast, rushing so much that your brain needs some time to figure out what just happened. Needless to say, the trio made out of ex-"Daitro"/ex-"The Flying Worker!" members completely overcame my expectations and put an unbreakable seal on my love for their music. They mostly played songs from their newly released LP, which I am yet to take a listen to at home, so sadly I can't accurately comment about which songs were played. Additionally, since my brain was ultimately stunned I can hardly recall which songs from the "Single Series" were included in the set, but as much as I remember "Oregon, Place Du Pont" and "Des Voix Qui Reasonnent" were performed. It was just so incredible witnessing them live and being completely carried away by the music, so much that once their audio claws stopped slashing I realized that my mind was so relaxed that it didn't pay attention to details. At one point Julien was even complaining and making fun on his own account about how his throat hurts and can't properly sing, but to me everything seemed beyond perfect. In the end, the band wanted to get off stage, but the amount of cheering just didn't want to let them go so easily, so we got a bonus song. All in all, amazing performance, one which I will definitely remember fondly.
After "12xu" it was time for "Old Growth" to leave an impression on the audience...and they carved the most positive of marks. To be honest, I briefly took a listen to them back in May when the tour was announced, so I didn't have any particular thoughts about their music and last Tuesday I wasn't aware in the slightest of ways how much I would be shaken for my lack of an opinion. So the three guys got up on stage and after some pretty sweet jokes, about woodland rain perfume and how the crowd is composed of the prettiest people they ever saw, the jam began. It all started in a slower fashion, mid tempo tunes with a sound of old rock and some interesting vocal performance, yet I needed some time to adjust my ears to something slower than the storm which was following "12xu". As their set progressed, their music somehow evolved, getting a bit heavier and faster, at times reminding me of a rock version of some of "Kylessa" work, roughly said. Their songs were extremely long, bearing several repetitive tones, yet being highly complex and detail oriented. I was standing there in front of the stage and literally enjoying and analyzing their tunes at the same time and simply providing that ability to the listener is an unbelievable merit of the band. As I mentioned above, I didn't listen much to the band prior to the gig and the song names are unknown to me, but it is remarkable how specific riffs and track sections got stuck in my head, being highly impacting and inspiring in the moments when I heard them live. I was trying to find some of their albums online, but aside of their splits with other bands my search proved futile...shame on me for not buying their records. In any case, the entire set was purely entertaining and just a huge enjoyment to watch. The last song was worth the note, since the guitar player played it without one string which previously broke. After the show when I was raiding the distro, my friend and I talked to him and he additionally said that he was way out of tune as well, so the song was horrible. In my opinion, the entire set was beyond great despite the technical difficulty, especially in the end when they managed to pull out a good song in face of various issues. The dude was so friendly and being overtly surprised that we came from another city just to see them play and in the process making fun of my shirt in front of Julien, which was additionally funny because of the bought records. In any case, I said how impressed I am with their music, so now I really hope this review reaches the eyes of "Old Growth" somehow.
All in all, great night and an amazing gig. I was really happy that I met some new nice people and also grabbing some time to talk to Julien again, to whom I previously had the privilege to talk to after the "Daitro" concert in Belgrade in 2008 and the "Baton Rouge" interview...which means he should definitely come back with "Baton Rouge" so that I can say I saw all his bands! And bring back "12xu" and "Old Growth" again, this show sparked an enormous wish to see these bands play again some day. Thank you all for a lovely show!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gig review: Downfall of Gaia Eastern European Tour 2011, day four

20 October, day four - Sofia, Bulgaria

Here we are at the final day of my tagging along to the tour of "Downfall of Gaia" and it revolved in not a really glorious fashion, for me personally at least. I had high expectation for the gig itself, which was scheduled in the capital city of Bulgaria and luckily everything happened as I thought it would, though there were some problems along the way, both personal and technical, resulting in me attending the gig in an overall bad mood.
The caterpillar mode managed to fail me during the night, since my cocoon was constantly penetrated by the freezing air floating around the room, thus my sleeping hours were cut short. As a result I was at least looking forward to a revitalizing warm shower in the home of our host, though the splash of the cold water from the seemingly full water boiler managed to make me regret ever entering the bathroom. Spending one millisecond in the wretched tub, packing my stuff and the rest of the guys getting ready as well, we went to "Bingo" once again to pack the equipment in the van, during which the band received a massive amount of cash from last night's show, a glorious sum formed out of one digit...glorious in contrast to the three digit of euros needed to enter the country in the first place. Complete fail. In the process of filling the van, we found out that "Rosa Parks" have also confirmed that they will play and I was so excited about that, since I missed their shows a couple of times when they played in Serbia. Packing up everything and running away from the venue as fast as we could, Lucas, Bjorn and I went to the supermarket in search for some food, though we quickly decided that we should in fact nom the pizza once again. After I managed to randomly impress and cause laughter from a bunch of passerby girls with my English skills, we hunted down the pizza and met up with the rest of the group and hit the road. Soon enough we set our roots onto a gas station yet again and devoured the food and once more being approached by several insects, though no screaming and panic this time.
The road through Macedonia toward the Bulgarian border was fast and smooth, accompanied by listening to some tunes in the van and looking at the outside scenery. At the border there was no big trouble, but still I needed to act with my Serbian speaking skills. For some reason I feared that they might not let me enter the country, but to my surprise the border patrol was actually....happy and surprised in a positive fashion that a dude from Serbia is travelling with a bunch of Germans. Thanks to the fun factor the time on the border crossing was minimal and painless, so we were on the open road again very soon, once again enjoying the lovely landscape found in Bulgaria. Due to the outside entertainment provided by nature, the ride seemed short and we arrived to the venue quite quickly. But once we arrived, the curse of Kumanovo struck once again, this time attacking the van itself in the form of the back door being stuck closed and unable to be opened. The fact making the whole situation worse was that the show would start a bit earlier, due to three bands playing and a sound check was scheduled prior to the gig as well. Time was short and the door was stubborn. The van's insurance company was called and it took first one dude, then two dudes and two hours to fix the stupid lock. In the meantime, the seats inside the vehicle were butchered so that the massive equipment would be dragged out. Add to that a "minor" incident where a box of records was almost run down by one idiot driving by in a car and you have the whole scenario for a frustrating pre-show catastrophe. During all these trials, I hanged out with my travelling companions from this Summer's trips, the dudes from "Tigersuit" zine, as well as meeting some more people who happen to accidentally know about my blog and enjoy it!
The gig took place in club "The Box", quite a modern and neat little place. Going through narrow and low ceiling staircase, you enter a sort of balcony which hangs above a big gig room where a small stage is set, in front of which there is a dance floor of sorts and to the right a raised up platform with tables and chairs. There is not a lot of light present and the overall ambient is quite nice and comfortable. Despite the problems which occurred, the gig started on time and all was well. "Rosa Parks" played first and they absolutely blew me away in a completely unexpected fashion. Back in the day when I was still involved with the previous music blog, I posted their EP which was filled with mellow, dreamy post rock melodies sculpted into long tracks. The storm of sound that was unleashed from their instruments in "The Box" caught me by surprise since it proved to be like nothing I expected to hear. Extremely fast songs bursting with unexpected spasm like riffs, exploding track sections and occasional screaming without the use of microphones, all enveloped with in epic proportions associated with post rock, managed to leave me completely speechless. There was just a nonstop pounding on their instruments and an amazing display of dancing and body movement on stage, going so well with the speeding music that was flooding the room. The impact hit of the sound was really inspiring, making your body feel the desire to just jump around and go with the flow of the music. Sadly, the band played only half of their usual set because of the lack of time, but they succeeded in leaving the biggest of positive marks on me and putting an impressed look on my face. I don't know which songs were performed, since I only listened to the above mentioned EP and it was actually hazy in my memory even on that night. After their set I just had to approach one of the members and just congratulate on a wonderful show. We talked a bit and I even had the guts to ask them whether they would be interested in doing an interview, the bravery spewing from the fact that they also know about my blog! What is wrong with you people?!?! (serious ego boosts for me) In any case, they seemed overtly surprised with the offer and I guess we should definitely talk more over email, so maybe one day you get to read about them here. All in all, a flawless performance and I really hope that I will grab a chance and see them once again in the future.
After "Rosa Parks", a local Bulgarian band named "Expectations" got up on stage. I have heard a lot about them previously, though I never got a chance to take a listen. In any case, what I saw that night in Sofia was really impressive and entertaining. A melodic, emotionally charged hardcore swinging between mid and fast tempo, at times having some slightly metallic riffs, the band had quite a turbulent performance. I'll be honest and say that their music isn't one hundred percent my cup of tea, since I don't enjoy those slower hardcore sections a lot, but their overall performance was extremely high quality and their tunes carry strong potential. Those violent outbursts really throw a nasty punch and the crowd seemed to constantly respond in a similar fashion. The funny thing was that, despite me being generally impressed by the band, the locals and the band itself stated that this was definitely not their top show and that they weren't quite happy with the performance, which definitely sparked a wish in me to see them again. Worth the note was that Hannes was extremely impressed with "Expectations", which he told me during the show in a very infatuated way.
"Downfall of Gaia" was the last to conquer the stage that night of course and finally they got a chance to shine after the gig last night. The Sofia show was on par with the one from Novi Sad, though the latter one I personally enjoyed more. They had an ultimately clean sound provided by the venue, so the entire tale they told through the performed melded songs flowed in a magnificent fashion. Gentle, soothing and highly melancholic in the slower sections, yet world shattering and emotionally powerful during the aggressive moments, the crowd got to see and hear the band in all its beauty. The audience was weird a bit to me, since I somehow find moshing to "Downfall of Gaia"...unnecessary to say the least. From my standing point as a listener, their music manages to hit and play an extremely deep personal chord in the bottom of one's being, which results in just experiencing the tunes in your own mind and emotion, rather than expressing it outright through body movement. Still, those are just my demented thoughts and as I said the crowd had a different way to show their amazement and enjoyment. An absolutely stunning and perfect performance, plus I was really glad that the band itself was happy with the audience and everything happening that night.
After the show it was sadly time to say farewell to my four day family, since I was about to depart on my own path, so after a group hug and goodbyes I left the club. I have to admit that I felt completely mellow in those last moments, since I really felt bonded with all of them, simply because they are all unbelievably nice people and I am proud to call each of them a friend. I'd like to thank them all for accepting an outsider into their van and home, in the process making me feel like we already know each other for years and not experiencing a single moment of awkwardness. Thanks for all the shared food, toothpaste, all the scheisse and fun times, cool talks and retarded yet amazing humor, just everything. Hope to see you all once again some day, junge, but until then.....macheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gig review: Downfall of Gaia Eastern European Tour 2011, day three

19 October, day three - Kumanovo, Macedonia

Oh here we come to the black sheep of the tour, or at least of the four days which I have spent next to the band. There are so many things that went wrong on this day that in the end there was nothing else to do other then make as much jokes about it as possible and somehow cloud and scare away the unbelievable amount of crap. Scheisse junge, but for now we will take it one step at a time...
The day started in a perfect fashion, getting up early to Bjorn's lovely wake up message, realizing that my hair looks insane due to falling asleep while it was wet from the shower (not so perfect), having a lovely breakfast in the courtyard of "CK13" and packing up everything on time. After we said our goodbyes to our great hosts of the day/night, the road was well under our tires. The path led us through a part of my hometown, so I tried to be entertaining and offered some random facts about Belgrade as we drove by. Our drive through Serbia seemed quite fast and easy, despite it actually demanding quite a lot of time to reach Kumanovo, simply put just smooth sailing.
But then troubles flew in on the wings of a wasp! ("OH MY GOD!") Jokes aside, the following event could be considered a funny introduction to the real issues of the day. So, while nomming some food on yet another parking lot of a gas station, a small swarm of wasps started creeping up on our ajvar. Once the numbers started reaching critical mass and several people began running away, we entered the van...yet one of Gaia's little flying fiends followed us inside. Thus que some screaming and more laughing tears from yours truly thanks to Hannes and the upper quote hailing from him. The wasp felt overtly not amused and flew away, thus the bold travelers continued their journey.
And then came the border. At first, we were just held there and pinned down in the van, since the border control was busy raping the brains and nerves of the vehicle owner in front of us, so it seemed that some troubles will be looming ahead. The wait took extremely long, yet your dear writer was struck by a more internal problematic, that being the vast sea of pee rising inside of my body and reaching alarming levels quite fast. While my struggle took epic proportions, the others sat there and waited patiently, except for Lucas who went to check the green card or whatever the name of that thing is. A lightning bolt struck the van in the moment when he returned and told us the price of the damned piece of paper, the number bearing three digits of euros! Once the money was vomited out of the pockets, the border patrol took notice of us. Of course, the morons didn't speak a word of English and decided not to use their manners, if they have them at all, and insult us on their native language, not knowing yet that a person from Serbia is travelling with the Germans. Macedonian and Serbian are quite similar, so one of the "junkies" understood what they were saying. They didn't bug us that much, so we were granted passage quickly, only to get to another border crossing. This time I had to jump out and use my verbal skills and clear the way, luckily I was successful.
Soon enough we were in Kumanovo, receiving a text message that the organizer will be late to meet up with us. I was preoccupied with just finding a place to relieve my body of the ever increasing liquids, so I didn't pay much notice to the text. Once I calmed down, three of us decided to hunt for some food, though we were faced with a hard task of finding something vegetarian in the nearby area. Close to the parking lot there was a pizza place, with corpses on them, so it took all my talking skills to explain that we want some food without meat on it. Shortly after, the giant 5 euro pizza was ours!
Que some more waiting for the organizer to show up and once he finally arrived, we got to the venue, which was basically around the corner from where we were parked. In a nutshell, the place is awful. If you remember my description of the "Bigz" venue in Belgrade, found here, something similar could be applied here...just, minus the cool horror factor and plus the place looking like a crack house. Completely dirty and crumbling interior, a sexy "backstage" filled with garbage and lack of lights to provide some surprise rape. Yes, total fail. The backstage held a treasury with some food provided by our host, noodles with noodles, and at that specific moment I wished that god exists so that I can thank him for blessing my gut with the previously devoured pizza. After that lovely welcome, our dealings with the host were cut, since he crawled to the other room and decided to take a nap on the floor... The entire experience left all of us baffled and it managed to invoke a certain rage inside of me, much like the one shown in the above linked review concerning the host. It seemed that the dude simply forgot that he booked a show (genius) or that he just didn't care. In any case, we decided to fill our time with watching a funny dubbed episode of "Star Trek" and just ponder about what to do if no one shows up. At a certain point around 10 PM only a guy and a girl were present and it seemed that they would be the audience for the night. Luckily some more people showed up later, so the gig started a few minutes after 11 PM to still a low number of people, slightly more than in Backa Topola.
The sound of the venue was awful and unbelievable amounts of crunchiness and chaotic crackles managed to stick to the sound of "Downfall of Gaia". Despite the sabotage, they succeeded in pulling out a good show, yet not as powerful as they could otherwise and this gig made me really appreciate the fact that the band's recordings have such a superb sound quality. There isn't much that could be said about this gig, since I already saw a better performance by them and the overall bad day left a stronger mark in my brain. As I said, despite playing in a horrible environment, their set was good and powerful, although the venue itself took away a large part of the enjoyment. The slower song parts were amazing in the standard fashion of the band, but once aggressive sections took the stage the point and impact would be weaker since you are left with just a huge wall of sound crashing over your head, not having that emotion wrenching merit. If I haven't seen them before, I would definitely be mind blown though. That being said, the crowd was happy and satisfied, actually being the first audience which I didn't have to inspire for an encore ovation.
Once the show was over and we packed the equipment, the group was taken to the organizers home for rest, though the curse of the day extended to night as well for me, resulting in not so abundant sleep time. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gig review: Downfall of Gaia Eastern European Tour 2011, day two

18 October, day two - Novi Sad, Serbia

Being wrapped in sheets like a caterpillar and near the core of the source of warmth provided a really good night sleep. "Panta Rhei" was an excellent place to crash and in the morning it managed to get everyone up and running quickly. Morning rituals were done, some of us even washing their hair with cold water despite the existence of a warm batch ("C" is "H" and "H" is "C", isn't that obvious, backwards universe?) and pretty soon we started packing up the equipment into the van. I was given the task to help with packing the merch and I succeeded in not breaking/burning/destroying anything in the process. Once everything was done and we said our goodbyes to the owner of the club and the cuddliest dog on the planet, we went to hit the road.
There was a quick stop at a nearby supermarket and when the first gas station was in sight the parking lot was ours! What followed was a beautiful vegan feast on the sunny concrete and more proof of how much sharing food with people can be astonishingly bonding. After lots of coffee, bread, ajvar and all sorts of delicious food, the open road was hit again...though only for a short while, since the van was stopped by the forces of law and chaos. Of course the high IQ policemen had no knowledge of English, thus I had to quickly jump out of the van and try to save the day. Luckily, they weren't being overtly hostile, so after a confession from one of them that "he can understand everything, except a nose piercing", we were free to continue the journey to Novi Sad. Largely uneventful, except for an instance when I laughed so hard that I started crying (you sexy Bjorn you) the trip was fast and short, thus we pretty much arrived to the venue earlier than expected. We were greeted by Aleksandar, drummer of "Reflections of Internal Rain" and my look-alike brother from another mother, a running joke connected to us in the Novi Sad scene. I was quite surprised and happy to see him, finally being able to talk in person a bit and spend some time together, so the van was closed fast and we set off to guide our German guests through the city.
After a long walk toward the Petrovaradin fortress and surrounding area, we returned to the heart of the city to grab some delicious food from Dule, singer of "Reflections of Internal Rain" who had a perfect fitting job of feeding the travelers. He pretty much managed to make me want to eat the plate itself due to the inexpressibly delicious food, so a quick note to all worldwide bands: if you have a tour over Europe, drop by to Novi Sad if only just to taste Dule's dishes! The band and the rest of the tour companions seemed to be tired and sleepy, so I took the task of washing the dishes and give them a chance to chill out a bit. Later, equipment was set and a sound check performed at around 7 PM, which I had the privilege to attend and offer my ear skills.
Some notes concerning the venue, since I now realized that I haven't mentioned it so far. The hanging out, eating, sleeping and the gig itself took place in "CK13", the famous Youth Center in Novi Sad. I have talked about this venue in some previous gig reviews, but it has been a while since my last visit and as much as I saw the venue changed a lot, in the most positive of ways. Even in the past, this gig space was one of my favorites in Serbia and I was extremely glad to see it evolve even further. This time I got to see the "backstage", as well as the small library connected to the gig room, which is filled with some alternative/underground books and zines, the kitchen and the sleeping quarters/offices which are nested a floor higher. The entire venue provides a really comfortable feel to the visitor, since it is somehow secluded from the rest of the city, despite it being in the heart of it and literally offers you with everything you need. As for the actual gig room, it managed to impress me a lot, radiating with the most clean and excellent sound during the show.
In any case, prior to the concert and during the show, I had the chance to meet up and talk to some friends from Novi Sad, as well as meeting the good friend and colleague on the blog, Luka, with whom I haven't talked in person for more than a year. I also grabbed the chance to get to know some new nice people along the way, especially the youngsters of the scene. Haha, it was so funny when dear old friend Vuk addressed me as "the screamo god of Serbia" and promoting my blog in the process. In any case, I was extremely glad to see new faces, especially younger ones, being interested into the whole underground music, since in Belgrade it is somewhat stagnant and dying.
So, after a lot of social mingling and just having a good time, the gig started, "Reflections of Internal Rain" breaking the murmur of the audience, since sadly "Furtive Forest" couldn't play that night. Most of you know by now that this band is one of the most loved Serbian acts by yours truly and it was a real pleasure seeing them live once again. They recently returned from a tour with "Birds In Row" and I was amazed with how much energy and strength they managed to bring back. The stage was constantly bursting with movement and jumping and dancing around, their music even driving the audience maximally, which was quite cool since I remember the Novi Sad crowd being not much into expressing body movement before. Their set featured the majority of tracks from their latest release, "Answers" and some older songs such as "Resurrection", "My Promise" and "Sunset of the End". I'll be honest here, of course, and repeat myself that the new songs didn't manage to completely impress me, as much as the "Last Flood" material did. Those songs are absolutely top notch and make me really proud that the band hails from these parts, though they didn't grab my attention that much. I really settled down to this band being a bit depressive and with a slightly melancholic, yet aggressive and direct tone, which somewhat changed on the new recordings. "Answers" provides a lot of experimental sounds and extreme amounts of melodic and twisted tones, which I am not yet used to hear under their name. Guess I just need more time, right? All in all, their set was excellent to behold, most importantly because of the amount of passion which materialized in front of your eyes while you look at them and it is really beautiful to see the band being so alive and kicking after all these years.
"Downfall of Gaia" came up next and managed to blow my brains away. I thought that the Backa Topola show was astounding, but this gig just left me stunned and shaking. The venue and its clear sound and acoustic came to aid the band, morphing their tunes into a incredibly strong thunderstorm of tones and emotion. Songs which were performed were the same as on the previous gig, but the sheer experience was increased a tenfold in the most positive of ways. Every drop of emotion that could have possibly been present when the songs were written was transferred to the crowd in the purest of forms, an impact hit that simply can't be forgotten. From the very opening sound and all until the end, I was standing as if on needles from the intensity of the music wrapping around me. The switch between "Prolog" and "Odium" was so powerful for instance, that it made me literally confused at what to do with myself at the given time, creating a wish to just meld myself with the sound and somehow aid it. Their entire set was such a pleasure to watch and it was definitely the best show for me in the duration of these four days. I was so happy with the reaction of the audience as well, everyone just sticking around and being entranced with the soundscape, releasing the deserved ovations toward the band after each song. In the end, the crowd cheered, but went silent quickly and it was so funny how after my initial screaming of the word "more" the audience rippled with more claps and yells, resulting in us getting one additional song.
All around, this was an amazing show, both for the audience and the band. I was really happy that the band was satisfied with everything and it is so nice that they went away with a great experience in their hearts. After the gig, we hanged out around the venue, grabbed the chance to talk to some more friends of mine and FINALLY grasped the chance to get a "Reflections of Internal Rain" shirt and once again being faced with the joke of Aleksandar and me being twins. The funniest thing was that Toni from "Downfall of Gaia" reminds me of Aleksandar, who also agreed on the fact when I told him, so now we are actually triplets! Later, the weary travelers went upstairs into the resting quarters where the possibility to finally take a shower emerged. Caterpillar mode again ensued and a night filled with rest.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gig review: Downfall of Gaia Eastern European Tour 2011, day one

This Friday night I returned home from four days spent with "Downfall of Gaia", who were on their two week long tour over Eastern Europe. I actually don't know how detailed (or not) this review will be, since this is the first time I followed a band for a number of consecutive days and not only did a lot of things happen, but also there are quite a few personal elements that occurred. Spending several days with the same bunch of amazing people, sharing food, laughter, mischief, sleepless nights and everything in between really manages to bind a group of individuals. So I'll just go with the flow of my own thoughts and write what first comes to mind.

17 October, day one - Backa Topola, Serbia

My journey began with a three and a half hour drive by train to the town of Backa Topola, located in the far northern regions of Serbia. The train arrived somewhere around five o'clock to the town, which meant that I was destined to wander around alone and kill several hours prior to meeting the guys from the band and actually have some company. Since I never went to Backa Topola before, I armed myself with a map and once I arrived, a trek to find the venue ensued. The town, with its low population and generally countryside feel, was quite eerie due to the fact that while I was walking to the show space I haven't encountered a single person, nor was any store open or light turned on in the surrounding houses. A distant echo of barking dogs followed my wake and the overall weather which was really gloomy made this whole experience like that out of a horror movie. After a good half an hour of walking in the cold scenery I finally reached the venue, hanging out a bit outside with a dude from Subotica whom I met in front of the place and soon the owner let us in.
The venue in question is called "Panta Rhei" and from the moment I saw the exterior it grabbed my interest completely. On first glance the red brick-made building seems like a combination of a medieval house, mountain home and a church, with walls decorated with stone columns of sorts and windows which seem to be erect from the house, making it have a peculiar looking shape. The interior extends the medieval feel, with tight, dark corridors, high walls and a lot of woodwork. There are several wooden benches and tables inside, as well as a brick bar, a small stage which was used only for the drum set and even an inside balcony looking down from the upper floors. I had a lot of time to analyze the design of the place, since I spent my time in the company of people who were speaking in Hungarian, the town being so close to the border with Hungary that the languages meld with one another. Aside of the design, my attention was focused to the unbelievably cute dog of the owner, which was just sitting next to me and demanding to be played with. The moment you I would retract my hand from petting her, she would immediately push her snout under my hand and desire more attention. Animals > humans.
Eventually, "Downfall of Gaia" arrived, along with their driver, Lucas, who is actually the bass player of the German band "Finisterre" and Bjorn, one more friend of theirs, the self proclaimed "useless tour guy". (hope I spelled your names right guys!) In any case, I searched for Dominik and/or Peter first, since they are the ones with whom I exchanged most of my mails. After some mingling with them, getting introduced and me generally being completely retarded and not being able to speak English correctly due to shyness and excitement (fanboy alert!), I was asked to join them for diner and a round of drinks. It was totally amazing how nicely I was accepted by the entire group, especially since no one except Peter and Dominik knew I would be joining them in the days to come. Through those first couple of conversations prior to the gig and me finding out that this little blog of mine is actually way more popular than I thought it was, I realized how we all click well together and how overtly nice these people are. These four days were bound to be great.
After some cynical jokes, serious discussions and getting to know each other better, the gig was about to start. There was an extremely low number of people, somewhere around seven not counting the three of us following the band on tour, due to both this being a small town and the fact that the gig was on a working day. Luckily the organizer "warned" the band that this will likely be the case, so it was not a bad surprise for them. The venue got quiet while the band was setting up and soon the silence was broken with the sound of “Prolog”, the intro song of “Epos”. The eerie tone crept around the people present in the darkness filled, cold complex, building up with the chilling guitar playing and finally exploding when the tunes melded with the song “Odium”. That tone metamorphosis between the songs is brilliant when witnessed live, thanks to the soundscape which constantly increases with tension and strength. What was once just a creepy, yet gentle tune in front of you now stands as a massive, unstopable behemoth eager to pick you up and continually smash you to the ground. I never reviewed “Epos” and will be completely honest here and say that prior to the tour my liking of the said release was not that strong. The demo recordings were an amazing neocrust creation packed with aggressive beats clashing with melancholic sections, an overall great release. By chance I failed to listen to their “Tour EP”, so the transition from short bursting songs of the demo to the brooding and epic tunes on “Epos” was quite a shift for me. There was a seeming lack of violent chrescendoes and the slower sections appeared to be too long on the latter album which made me not really like it that much at first. Witnessing “Epos” being performed live changed my feelings for it, literally skyrocketing and sealing my love for it. My initial dislike was probably due to my loved neocrust band being turned into an epic, dark post-rockish project all of a sudden, but thinking about it now that metamorphosis is simply magnificent. “Downfall of Gaia” managed to break out of its ordinary crust coocoon and come out as an astounding and unique band which offers a superb story to tell. The amount of passion and emotions they succeeded in transfering toward me through their music for the duration of the tour is something that I will seriously never forget.
In any case, after the amazing “Odium”, which in the course of the tour turned out to be one of my favorite songs by the band, “Zerfall” continued to attack the venue. Once the ten minute monster was finished, the two songs from the split with “In The Hearts Of Emperors” were played. It was so enjoyable to see and hear the band play songs which always meld into one another, giving you the feeling that the tracks are actually crafted into one gigantic song. As the band continually radiated with tunes, the “crowd” offered some movement, though it was overtly...strange, to say the least. There was some dancing around, one girl even trampling over Peter’s mircophone and not giving a fuck about it in the process, yet the audience was generally silent when a particular song would end, which left the venue filled with some awkward silence. The end of the set was the stupidest thing ever, since the band started leaving their instruments and everyone in the venue was just standing there, Bjorn and me exchanging some confused stares and offering claps, me yelling “more” and trying to flame up some thanks from the people present. Luckily, we woke up the crowd and a bonus song was played, that being “Silere”.
After the excellent set, the gig was over and we moved to a table and shared some more drinks and talks about some pretty interesting stuff. It was cool to see the guys, especially Toni and Lucas, being intrigued by some problems and general situation in Serbia, talking about Fascism, Nazism and all those retarded extreme social movements and other idiotic problems plaguing the system, plus having Hannes telling the epic tale of how he chose art over social activity. Deep in the night, we moved into the sleeping quarters. I set off completely hardcore on the trip and not bringing a sleeping bag, which I soon realized I couldn’t do without, yet luckily the owner of the venue was prepared even for tards like me and provided me with a warm matress and sheets. Crawling inside the room designed for sleeping and huddling around the heater, dreams followed soon, ending my first day of the tour.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Downfall of Gaia Eastern European Tour (2011)

Yes, next Friday is the start of a fifteen day long tour of "Downfall of Gaia", the amazing epic crust band from Germany. This is here in case you haven't heard anything about the tour thus far, so hopefully they are playing in your town or close by and you can attend a show. I'll have the pleasure of travelling with them for four dates, so maybe I get to see some of you on the road!
 In case you missed it, I did an interview with "Downfall of Gaia" some months ago which you can check out here. For all your other needs, check out the band's website found here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ruined Tongues and Colombian Necktie

Got to admit that my writing energy is being drained by another project I have going at the moment, plus I am doing the world a favor by raising five cute little kittens and being their mom is a full time job. Since the furry critters are asleep now, I thought about merging two review requests into one, especially since both these bands asked to be hosted on the blog and later they did a split together. Don't be fooled though, this seemingly cool idea is just present to mask my inability to write properly these days. Read at your own risk.

Ruined Tongue - All Of My Bad Habits 7'' (2011)

First in line is "Ruined Tongue", a five piece band coming from Las Vegas which brings along some quite demented and wild tunes. The dudes got together in 2009 and after a lineup change, a demo and a split with "Residuals" here we are today. I still haven't listened to those recordings, but this 7'' was enough for me to get interested, start writing and promise to check those tunes out as well. This record bursts with seemingly typical hardcore punk, but along the way you notice a really weird twist. A combination of extremely eerie lyrics, raving vocal performance and crazy melodies promises to provide you with an intriguing ten something minutes, which is the duration of the five songs present on this release. Staying true to their description on, "All Of My Bad Habits" catches you in a whirlwind of sound, leaving your brain boggled in its wake. 
The thing that initially caught my attention is the vocal, more specifically the lyrics.  All written words on this release are short and simple, yet really bizarre. I don't know if it's just me, but the words managed to spark quite a gloomy mood. It is probably the way the texts are written, since in essence they aren't anything spectacular, it is just that they are overtly direct and without anything holding them back. Completely in your face and the lyrics manage to create a great melancholy filled image whilst you listen. I think that just quoting a part of "Daylight Wastings" will be enough as a preview: "I live my life like a piece of shit, running through bowels of our youth".  What further adds to the overall atmosphere is the vocal performance itself, since the singer sounds like a raving maniac. Once again, it is nothing spectacular or revolutionary, just a scream, bit it is the way he howls and wails, combined with the above mentioned lyrics that make this excellent. At this point you realize how this band is great at sculpting an amazing song with typical tools, since this simple/effective clause applies to the instruments as well. The riffs are flowing excellently, but are cut with unexpected outbursts of violence or nutty sections. A good example is the opening song, "Son of a Biker/Ghost Rider", which is slowly building up only to explode in the last couple of seconds in a completely unexpected fashion. 
This album was really a neat surprise and I really enjoyed it. Needless to say this release is actually old news, since this year has been quite productive for "Ruined Tongue", the band releasing a live album recorded in "Texas Toast Haus" and a split with "Colombian Necktie", about which you will read in a few moments. In the meantime, follow the band and get in touch via their website found here. One last important note, the band is collaborating with three labels, those being "Reckless Minds Collective", "Radical Friends" and "Irish VooDoo Records".

Colombian Necktie - Self Titled (2011)

Yet another band from Las Vegas, "Colombian Necktie" is a quintet or much rather a sextet if you include Tim, the band's "spiritual advisor". Much like their mates from "Ruined Tongue", this band is also signed to "Irish VooDoo Records" and "RMC", through which they plan to release three upcoming splits (one of which is the split at the bottom of this post). Prior to this self titled record, the band has yet one more split release behind them, done with "Pariah" from Southern California. You can take a listen to those tracks on the band's bandcamp page, which I am also yet to do.
The self titled recording brings us five songs with roughly eighteen minutes of tunes, during which "Colombian Necktie" manages to lash out some truly excellent metallic hardcore punk. I was reading some tidbits about the band online and several times they were compared to acts such as "Converge" and "His Hero Is Gone" and I can definitely say that they rise up to those names. Their influences are easily recognized, with a trace of technical playing and some start-stop rhythms of "Converge" and the dirty, unpolished aggression of "His Hero Is Gone", though the band successfully transforms the sound into something rightfully theirs. These eighteen minutes are full of constant violent pounding on the ears, with a minor break in the form of the piano song "Lirit", the aggression taking various shapes. The sound is constantly morphing, one second you have a fluid, melancholic tune and the other second a massive breakdown-like beat which pummels upon you...after which a sluggish tune crawls away and finally turns into an almost gentle harmony. The songs have great twists and turns and really keep the listener under tension and eager for more.
One great addition to all this mayhem is the very production of the release. As I said before, the tracks seem as if not polished, thus you have a constant crunchy sound which goes perfectly with this kind of music, since it gives the instruments a deep, menacing growl. I really had the pleasure to just sit and listen to a specific instrument, being amazed at how I can easily discern every part of the band, despite the chaos of the songs. This extremely added to the overall enjoyment, since you can find some really interesting melodies inside...or just forget about the philosophical stuff and let yourself loose side by side with the aggression unleashed by "Colombian Necktie". Get in touch with the band through their facebook page found here and thank them for an amazing release.

Ruined Tongue & Colombian Necktie - Split 7'' (2011)

This seven inch split, which you can listen to on the above posted bandcamp pages, came out this July. It features four songs, two per band, and I have to say that both names continue doing what they do best.
The two tracks from "Ruined Tongue" come rushing in with that cool eerie style which they imprinted so well in my mind. Their songs dedicated to this split are more punkish in comparison to their "All Of My Bad Habits" and the tracks are both shorter than two minutes. Additionally, I think that here there is a bigger accent on the clash of melody tempos and much less on that unexpectedness trait which their previous release had. Both songs start fast, but moving toward the end they get dramatically slower and dragging. In any case, if you enjoyed the above posted release, you are bound to like their side of the split for sure.
As for "Colombian Necktie" side, their songs are much longer, not just compared to the "Ruined Tongue" side, but to their self titled release as well. Like their split mates, they pretty much remained good at what they do, so if you liked the previous recording you will like this one as well. However, the two songs present here bear much less tension and sudden melody shifts, those being replaced by either flowing and greatly melded melodies (like in the song "Gemini part 1") or the constant effort of producing as much noise as possible (song "I can feel everything......"). Where the former song is in the vein of their self titled release production wise, the latter song took the crunchiness on a whole new level and we have just a giant buzzing wall of sound in front of us.
Either way we get to hear some slight changes in sound and cool details from both bands, which makes this split quite interesting. Both bands are pretty much active today and I am really eager to hear more from both projects, hopefully they will continue pumping out releases like they did so far. Check them out, you won't regret. Enjoy!