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These Arms Are Snakes – Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelopes Go Home

So my ride in the car and my experience with the latest from These Arms Are Snakes made it a weird night



Is this a Beastie Boys CD? I thought, listening to the echoing drum effects after putting in These Arms Are Snakes latest release Oxeneers or The Lion Sleeps When Its Antelopes Go Home. But, in fading, I heard the guitar and I knew that I did put in the right CD after all.

I immediately liked the guitar and bass riffs on “The Shit Sisters,” I was grooving behind the wheel while driving to work. “Ride, dark cowboy, ride / ride into the night,” and riding my in my good old ’95 Mercury Tracer, I looked in my rearview and saw the “100,000 dollar horses” that Steve Snere was commenting on—the shiny new hummer coming to plow me down like road kill. It is an intriguing social commentary on the progression of the human race. Snere says “I was born too deep,” into the mess things have become.

The second track reminds me of the late nights when that guy, who lives above me, is playing his Nintendo. “Angela’s Secret,” turns out not to be so cartoonish when the verses start. Usually while I am driving to work I don’t like songs that depress me, going to work is depressing enough, so I try to focus more on the music than Angela’s sad story. This song is musically simple but very nice to the ear, which is always a good strategy. The bass riff still won’t let me forget Super Mario Brothers and those dark levels with all the pipes; maybe that was the inspiration for the song.

“Big News” is my anthem. “I’ve got a life and desires / and it’s more than to retire / I trust there’s more in a life to lead.” While I was driving I felt the urge to be spontaneous and not even go to that prison. My job is not my life so I took the next exit and I was done with that racket. I ended up in very desolate area that I hadn’t ever seen before. There was a very energetic and carefree feeling to the music, but only until the next track emerged. I suddenly felt sad. I don’t even know if the track has a name but it made me regret my decision to skip out on work.

The short track turns out to be an opener for “Tracing Your Pearly Whites.” The lyrics are quite despondent but, at the same time, he is talking about going to the dentist. I think it is a big metaphor for the injustice of society because, hey, it fits with the rest of the CD. The actual beauty of this song is that anyone could interpret this metaphor however they want to fit their own situation, so I have done the same for my purposes.

After taking a strange exit and driving down a two-lane highway for what seemed like eternity, I began looking in my mirror about every 10 seconds. I kept expected to see that van from Stephen King’s The Night Flyer come rolling up behind me; now that was a creepy movie. “Gadget Arms” with all the effects and very few lyrics could be in the soundtrack to a horror movie; a mad sense of paranoia. 

The music of “The Great North Woods,” is back to the energetic mood the CD started on but after hearing the lyrics I became worried again. Snere is talking about a Canadian farmer who kills people and feeds them to pigs. The intense repetition of sounds in “La Stanza Bianca” is intense. I like it but the lyrics are about how the mentally ill are treated in our society. I love smelling “the mischief in the air.” It seems like I know the party he is describing in “Darlings of New Midnight.” The music is party material while the lyrics are obviously pointing out the inferiorities of the party mentality. The rhythmic melody and chanting lyrics could bring about some cult suicide to innocent partygoers. It is a song that is played at parties to make the people there think twice about what they are doing—it’s great.

Then of course “Idaho” would play for slow death procession in the suicide party TAAS has created. The organ fits perfect and Snere almost sounds like a belligerent high priest who is no doubt describing hell and a beings arrival home. But—who knows maybe he is just talking about Idaho. So my ride in the car and my experience with the latest from These Arms Are Snakes made it a weird night. Oxeneers has a range of moods and sounds that make it pleasing for an array of different people and, it makes a perfect soundtrack to a crazy night.

(Jade Tree Records)


Good Riddance – Thoughts and Prayers

The fire still burns brightly for Good Riddance



good riddance

It would seem that the current US administration has proven to be fertile fields for political punks. If there is a positive to have come out of the past few years, it is in the form of angry punk rock records. The aptly titled Thoughts and Prayers, the new record by Good Riddance, could very well be the best of them. For many like myself, Good Riddance was the gateway to a world of punk rock socio-political commentary; wrapped in aggressive, melodic hardcore that opened your mind as much as it punched a hole in the wall. 1996’s A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and the really terrific 1998 record Ballads from the Revolution, were eye-opening propositions for a wide-eyed kid. Good Riddance resonated because their songs were hard-hitting commentary that sounded like broken-hearted punk rock songs. They sang intelligently about inequality, human despair, and the sometimes broken system in which we live in. And when their broken-hearted punk rock songs weren’t about society and politics, they were broken-hearted punk rock songs about broken hearts (don’t think there have been love songs as good in the genre as “Jeannie” and “Not With Him”).

Four years since their comeback record, Peace In Our Time, we get the much more furious Thoughts and Prayers. 12 songs of trademark breakneck melodic hardcore that talks about the divisive current political climate without going as far as saying things like “Trump sucks”. But that’s never been the Good Riddance way. Vocalist and chief lyricist Russ Rankin has always found a way to express his anger and disappointment with poise and intelligence- sounding more like a well-read poet than a man yelling on a street corner.

In the track “Don’t Have Time”, he sings about the futility of repeating history to trumpet nationalism; “And those same old fears arise / With eyes too drawn to counteract / The ghost in you comes rushing back / Too caustic to subside / Just what have we done? / We killed a mother’s only son / Just to remain at number one“. And lyrically, much of takes a similar route of well-written stanzas that question a lot of what is going on in the world at the present time. Songs like the opening “Edmund Pettus Bridge” (let’s hope everyone knows the significance of this landmark), replete with Michael Douglas Wall Street sound byte, sings of social inequality but does it with a trace of hope. While songs like “The Great Divide” are an example of melodic hardcore’s finest moments; unrelenting sonic pummeling that is as melodic as it is potent. “Wish You Well” takes cues from Good Riddance’s “softer” tones of catchy choruses and mid-tempo verses; akin to the track “Saccharine” (from 2003’s Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection). Perhaps the best thing about the 12 songs here is that they are all very succinct, potent, with rarely a moment of filler. The album is consistently good, and while it rarely deviates from the Good Riddance sound, it never lacks in the fire and fury we’ve come to expect.

The album itself SOUNDS fantastic, credit again to Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room for their production. The guitars rip at the right levels while the percussion work hits just right. The mixing levels are as close to perfect as you can get without any one element dominating over another- a constant the band have found since 1999’s Operation Phoenix (no surprise, the first of their albums to have been produced at the Blasting Room).

The appeal of Good Riddance has always been two-fold. Firstly, their music has shown steadfast quality, and the albums have found longevity due to the way Rankin and company write their songs. With lyrics referring to and talking about a multitude of humanist issues without having to directly reference them, they remain political, timely, writing music as urgent as it was through the 90s as it is today. That may be a sad indictment of society itself, but it doesn’t take away from their effectiveness and influence. Rankin himself has said that their music may not have changed the world per se, they continue to open eyes and minds. This writer can attest to the latter- and the importance of that can’t be underlined enough. Their early discography spoke to my generation about life, self, and the interconnected reality of the world we live- no matter how hard to try not to believe it. Thoughts and Prayers is a furious, timely, and potent slab of hard-hitting melodic hardcore and shows that the fire clearly still burns as passionately for Good Riddance as it did all those years ago. And perhaps it’ll be what A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion and Ballads From the Revolution was to me for a whole new generation.

(Fat Wreck Chords)

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Hatriot – From Days Unto Darkness

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities




When it comes to Bay Area thrash metal, there are two bands that sit atop the mountain forever entwined to its history; Metallica and Exodus. Both bands linked together by Kirk Hammett, both bands crucial to the Bay Area’s most destructive form of music. Exodus may not have their name in lights as Metallica does, but Exodus’ influence cannot be mistaken- and many point to them as being the one true progenitor of Bay Area thrash. Hatriot, a band that was started by Exodus vocalist Steve Souza in 2011, are a real chip off the ol’ block. Surprisingly, it isn’t just musically that Hatriot follows suit from Exodus, its a family thing too. While Steve Souza left Hatriot in 2015, his sons Nick and Cody continue on percussions and guitars with the latter taking on vocal duties once the older Souza returned to Exodus.

Hatriot does more than just follow on the Exodus path; they’ve loudly carved their own slice of the thrash pie. Led by Kosta Varvatakis shredding guitar work and Cody Souza’s blistering (sometimes ominous) vocal work, Hatriot may have found their Fabulous Disaster, ironically, also three albums in.

From Days Unto Darkness is a relentless pummeling of thrash metal’s best qualities; machine gun percussion work (I’m a sucker for some great double bass drums), shredding guitars, soaring solos, and vocals that does the growling well, and the screaming even better. Tracks like “Organic Remains” and the blistering “Carnival of Execution” showcase the band’s ability to craft songs that are equal parts urgency and solid musicianship. Thematically, From Days Unto Darkness covers the usual thrash metal spread; the end times, death, destruction, and humanity’s failing graces- all done with equal breakneck, ear piercing destruction sonically. “World, Flesh & Devil” is perhaps the album’s best outing- a raging beast of a song, that if carnage could be written in music form, this is it incarnate. At 4:26, it is one of the shorter tracks of the release, but much of the album features in at the 6-7 minute mark- a trademark of thrash metal’s desire to not only showcase talent but to do it over extended periods.

What the album lacks perhaps is that one magnum opus of a track. Sure, it’s not easy for any band to write “Master of Puppets”, but From Days Unto Darkness rarely takes a breather. It’s mostly positive, but while Master had at times, slow interludes to let you catch your breath, Hatriot takes absolutely no prisoners- staying true to their thrash metal heritage. If you’re not quite up for it, this album will hammer you into a stupor.

The halcyon days of Bay Area thrash metal may be long resigned to nostalgic documentaries, but Hatriot are not interested in just being a throwback to their roots. From Days Unto Darkness is not for the weak and if this is the sign that thrash metal is alive and kicking, then the future and present are in damn good hands.

(Massacre Records)

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