/ 2018

Ear Drilling Fun #6

Do you like horrible noise? I like horrible noise. In fact, I'm always stumbling on obnoxious music that I want to share around. That’s why I started this regular column, and while Ear-drilling Fun generally focuses on the filthiest strains of punk rock, other varieties of audio pollution also feature. Here’s Ear-drilling Fun #6… enjoy.

EDF62Kia ora, comrades. Usually, these Ear-drilling Fun columns are comprised of 20 to 30 thundering releases from New Zealand and overseas. However, the list below is an all-NZ/Aotearoa affair. Ear-drilling Fun #6 also features a number of longer write-ups than I’d normally include, because I wanted to dig a little deeper into some A+ rowdy releases. If you’re hungering for the usual mix of quick-fire blurbs covering blasting noise from around the globe, don’t panic! Ear Drilling Fun #7 will be jam-packed with musical mayhem from all over the world, and I’ll be publishing that column very soon. In the meantime, dig into some excellent/horrible music from Aotearoa’s shores.

Pvnisher: Pvnishment Demonstration II
I wrote about the first demo from Wellington punk duo Pvnisher in my last Ear-Drilling Fun column, and here they are making a ruckus all over again. To be fair, I was a little late covering Pvnisher's debut – which is a great chunk of ill-tempered punk, btw – and the band's latest release (Demonstration II) oozes equal amounts of raucous filth.

Demonstration II is released by Wellington punk label Razored Raw, and ear-splitting tracks like "Pit of Despair" and "Invoke the Rotted" are very much in keeping with the label's ‘keep it raw, keep it ugly, and keep it ultra-abrasive’ mantra. Anger-rupturing tunes like "Rentor Tormentor" and "Besieged" hurl battering percussion at stripped-down, feedbacking riffs and spitting vocals, and Pvnisher don’t worm their way under your skin as much as they chisel their way straight to your nervous system, and then piss acid into the gaping wound.

If you're looking for corrosive and cantankerous punk to soundtrack all those real-time horrors outside your door, Pvnisher bring all the ‘fuck you, fuck everyone, and fuck every fucking thing’ attitude you'll ever need. Zero hugs included. But maybe a wry smile or two.

Piggery: "Blood into Piss" and "A.R.T.K.D.A "
Wellington four-piece Piggery feature a veritable who's who of local punksters. It's no surprise then that the two teaser tracks the band recently dropped are absolute fucking mind-crushers. "Blood into Piss" and "A.R.T.K.D.A" pile big ol' bristly crust on top of filthy sludge and the resulting ten-tonne noxious noise is brutal AF.

Piggery's jagged and distorting riffs tussle it out with barked vocals and pile-driving drums, and the band's tar-thick dirges will clearly appeal to fans of underground punk and metal alike. Like the late and lamented Meth Drinker, Piggery combine a massive amount of sonic heft with palpable nihilism. To say I’m excited about hearing the band's upcoming album would be a massive understatement.

Decimating. Devastating. Disgusting. You know the deal. Dig into the negativity-charged trough below.

Mutation: S/T
Mutation is the latest creative venture from Wellington musician John Dimery. Dimery’s played in a number of notable punk bands – see the likes of Poverty & Spit, Numbskull, Downer Buzz, and Raw Panic – and he curates the much-loved DIY label Zero Style. However, Dimery’s also taken on more out-there endeavours with projects like Huge Mutant and now Mutation.

Mutation’s three-song, self-titled debut is touted as a tentative “foray" into the world of "primitive sonics". Such experiments can often be too hesitant and emotionless, but there’s nothing impassive or shy about Dimery’s work. He sets out to synthesize an "obsession with body horror and a lifetime of aggressive skin conditions” (something my lifelong pal eczema and I can sympathise with), along with painful issues of loss and hopelessness. That might sound bleak, and demons definitely lurk in Mutation’s recordings, but Dimery's artistic goals are to understand – or at least endure – the world’s myriad sufferings.

Crucially, that means catharsis sits at the heart of Dimery's music. The three songs here are constructed from scraps of haunting/demented electronics and fingers crossed Dimery explores the creative vein he’s tapped into here in future. Dimery’s more experimental music might follow a different audio route than his punk rock efforts, but Mutation is still very much punk at heart with its naked exposure of our crumbling lives.

Sere: S/T
I don't want to sound like a heartless fucking sociopath, but I don’t usually care when bands break up. Sure, maybe it's momentarily sad when one of your favourite bands expires. But I'd rather that happened than watch them desperately hanging on, well past their best by date, delivering ever-diminishing returns.

At least, that's what I've tried to convince myself of as I process my grief about the recent demise of Auckland "thug psych" band sere. Sere have decided to "dematerialise into another dimension" at the same time as their first self-titled full-length has materialised in this dimension. That falls somewhere in between a bittersweet and frustrating situation, because sere's first (and final) album is an acid-fried riot, custom made by genuine noiseniks, and set to be cherished by devotees of blown-out head-fuckery.

My favourite thing about sere, and it's written all over their album, is that the band approach psychedelic rock via punk's filthy pathways. (And not via some sterile, cleanly swept neo-psych avenue.) That gives sere's sound a harder and dirtier edge, and you can hear the grimier psych rock icons sere's cited as inspirational (Chrome, Blue Cheer, and Acid Mothers Temple etc) on the lengthy ear-bleeding jams, "Smoke" and "Return Trip", which bookend sere's debut.

Essentially, sere's synapse-stirring music wraps amp-fusing mayhem around inner-space chaos, and their album, which was mixed and mastered by Wellington studio wizard James Goldsmith, sounds (and more importantly feels) magnificent. Red-hot riffage and echoing vocals rocket through space and drill deep into your lizard brain, and there's no question sere are leaving some scorching sonic voyages in their wake.

Leaving on such a high/sky-high note also means sere's mission to mess with our minds is made manifest twice over. Well played, amigos. Gracias por la música.

Bodyache: Vehement Suffering
Christchurch noise-merchant Bodyache delivers a power-grind barrage on their Vehement Suffering debut. With an aesthetic focus on capturing/conjuring the anguish of mental health struggles, Vehement Suffering tracks like "Ostentatious Decoration", "The Flesh Part 1" and "The Flesh Part 2 & 3" compress swarming riffs and corrupted vocals into punishing torrents of sound. Grind geeks will likely love all the corrosive hyper-blasting here, and noise freaks will likely adore Vehement Suffering's uncompromising nature. Personally, Bodyache's ultra-harsh vision rings very true. Mental health battles often feel like an endless grappling nightmare, and Bodyache's music evokes the truth of that tale time and again.

Methchrist and Self Harm: Split CS
Dunedin trio Methchrist make harsh and hateful war metal, and their strident split with antagonistic Australian outfit Self Harm feels like a meeting of minds. Self Harm's raw black metal is also driven by incalculable amounts of enmity, and much like Methchrist, they forgo studio tricks and polished riffs in favour of making an ultra-obnoxious racket.

Self Harm contribute three crude eruptions of noise to their split with Methchrist, including a cover of "Slaves", originally performed by raw punk band Warthreat. Self Harm's music is built from buzz-sawing guitars and throat-slit howls, which sound like they’ve been dunked in acid and flayed alive. It's all a fucking ugly mess, of course, and by 'fucking ugly mess' I mean an A-grade rampage of berserker black metal.

Methchrist's caustic contributions feature equally grotesque blasts of dissonant primitivism, and the band's never been one to shy away from making violently polarizing music. Methchrist's intractable lo-fi approach channels loathing, hostility, and swaths of nihilism, meaning their tracks are all bloody and blasphemous battlegrounds, soaked in vitriol and iron-willed belligerence.

As I said, Self Harm and Methchrist’s ferocious split is a meeting of minds, and all of those minds are apparently warped as fuck. FYI: Self Harm's full-length debut, Adapt to Self-Inflicted Chemical Torture, was recently released as well. Check it out if abrasive, amphetamine-fuelled black metal tickles your fancy.

The All Seeing Hand: Syntax Error
Most of the music we enjoy in life riffs on very familiar themes. There's no real issue with that – I mean, we like what we like for good reason – but Wellington trio The All Seeing Hand don't hold to that ideal. The All Seeing Hand construct genuinely imaginative music that mixes electro-concussive exhilarations with psychedelic thrills, and the band's latest release, Syntax Error, maximises their mind-bending and genre-blending potential.

In essence, Syntax Error blends punk-driven percussion with head-spinning turntablism, all manner of multilayered sound manipulations, and traditional Mongolian throat-singing. It’s a high-energy mix of experimentalism and far-out futurism. But even though The All Seeing Hand's music is often indescribably unorthodox, they always maintain a consistent and intimate connection with their audience.

Syntax Error is as uncompromising as any of The All Seeing Hand's other releases, and the band fill the album with inventive and evolving hooks. The All Seeing Hand's brain-boggling arrangements are admirably clever. However, in the end, what’s most impressive about the band is the way they amplify the transformative power of nonconformity via eccentric yet engaging music, filled with ecstatic surprises.

Molenaar: Hate Not Phobia – Demo 2018
Gravel Pit: S/T EP

One of the things about being a bona fide hermit is that I write a lot about niche NZ music but I’m not an all-knowing insider. I'm also fucking awkward and genuinely socially phobic, and I hardly ever communicate with the bands I write about. I'm not looking for sympathy –– I'm just trying to explain why I know virtually nothing about the inner-workings of some of the bands I cover. Case in point: Wellington crusties Molenaar and fellow windy city hardcore crew Gravel Pit.

I wouldn’t have a clue who’s in Molenaar, but I can tell you that the release of the band’s Hate Not Phobia demo is timed to match their first show supporting Australian punks Darkhorse and Tired Minds in NZ. I'm guessing Molenaar are named after Jan Molenaar, who shot and killed an NZ police officer, as well as wounding two other officers and a civilian, back in 2009. So far so punk. And it's no surprise to find that Molenaar's music is sick as sick gets, right to its rotten little core.

Hate Not Phobia is a prime piece of crusty and d-beaten hardcore, which I’ve now listened to 11 times in a row because, apparently, I’m a masochist. The seven trampling tracks are all feral, fired-up, and filled with nasty barks and nastier instrumental batterings. A fair few raw and blistering metallic riffs are hurled at you throughout as well. Meaning Hate Not Phobia will definitely appeal to fans of crushing crust and hefty crossover punk.

Again, I don’t know any in-depth details about Wellington four-piece Gravel Pit. I literally saw the band’s self-titled EP posted on someone’s Facebook page, noted it was partly recorded at punk rock bunker Scumbag College, and thought I’d better check it out, forthwith.

I’m glad I did too. Gravel Pit deliver two-minute squalls of dynamic hardcore, and their self-titled EP is filled with rapid-fire guitars and shout-a-long choruses fuelled by Bailey Palmer’s powerful vocals. Gravel Pit’s EP reminds me a lot of rip-roaring 90s skate-friendly punk – think the breakneck tempo and phrasing of a melodic hardcore band like Good Riddance. I don’t mean to diminish Gravel Pit’s contemporary relevance by saying that. Clearly, the band are here to talk about today’s climate, not yesterday’s news. But there’s an undeniable echo of classic hook-filled hardcore here, and I bet it’ll snag you too.

Contenders: "Teenage Crybaby"
Way back at the beginning of 2018, Hamilton punk crew Contenders released their debut EP, React, which was loads of scuzzy fun. “Teenage Crybaby”, the ‘new’ track Contenders recently uploaded to Bandcamp, originally featured on React, and the band knock it out of the park with their newer version of the track, which is faster, tauter, and more honed-to-the-edge.

The newer version of “Teenage Crybaby” serves as a taster of Contenders’ upcoming debut album, which, based on the evidence here, I’m now doubly excited to hear. The band’s grungy mix of late-80s punk and vocalist Cilla's super-catchy singing is undeniably addictive. Something “Teenage Crybaby” ably illustrates, time and again.

Decimation Hammer: Nuclear Dawn demo
Black and death metal band Decimation Hammer originally formed as an offshoot of raw NZ black metallers Sabbatic Goat, but these days the band features members from both NZ and Australia in their line-up. Decimation Hammer’s Nuclear Dawn demo is released by Aus-based label Antipodean Darkness, and the demo's appeal will rest on your tolerance for barbaric and oppressive metal.

Nuclear Dawn's mix of guttural grimness and primordial riffing will be familiar to fans of the darkest veins of Southern Hemisphere metal (and there's no question Decimation Hammer lean hard on the 'no trends, no fun' side of the metal equation). Unsurprisingly, unhinged atavism coupled with an extremely dim view of humanity take precedence on Nuclear Dawn, and if you're a fan of such murky and abrasive black/death metal, Antipodean Darkness has got a number of similarly bleak and bestial projects lined up for release.

ColdxWar: Culture Shock
I’m what you’d call ‘inadvertently’ straight edge. It’s the kind of straight edge where alcohol and drug problems send you to rehab, and you emerge a teetotal salad obsessive who kind of sorts out their life, but you also still end up with diabetes and you can never afford to get your fucked-up teeth fixed.

Anyway… I get the impression that Wellington hardcore crew ColdxWar are way more straight edge straight edge, if you catch my drift. The band’s Culture Shock debut features bulldozing metallic riffs, gruffer-than-gruff vocals, and 50-foot-drop breakdowns. It’s all a thickset wall of noise that’ll tick the boxes for fans of heavyweight Aotearoa hardcore – or hardcore from anywhere else around the globe, for that matter.

It's clear that ColdxWar bring plenty of burly beatdown credentials to the table, and Culture Shock is definitely a confident debut. However, if you need a little more temptation, then note that ColdxWar features members from equally bruising punk bands like Starving Millions and Nailgun.

Grown Downz: S/T EP
Raaark it: 4realz. Mount Maunganui-based (and brother/sister) two-piece Grown Downz pile on the rip-roaring punk 'n' roll fun on their three-track self-titled debut. There's garage punk here, and gutter punk blues, and even a touch of hardcore's punch thrown into Grown Downz's driving sound. Mostly though, the guitar and drums duo just lock into classic scrappy-ass punk mode, tearing through their first recording with unabashed enthusiasm.

Wakhan Corridor: Wakhan Corridor
Wakhan Corridor are a four-piece band based in Hamilton, featuring most of the line-up of screamo crew Hedge Fund Trader. Wakhan Corridor share a few sonic similarities with Hedge Fund Trader – meaning if you like one, you’ll probably like the other – and Wakhan Corridor’s self-titled debut features six blink-and-you’ll-miss-em explosions of passionate post-hardcore.

Everything here is harsh in tone and texture, and all the bone-rattling riffs and volatile howls keep the temperature on the boil throughout. Wakhan Corridor display a lot of raw intensity, and that clearly bodes well for future efforts from the band.