Metal

Vow of Volition Make the Final Round of the Battle for Warped Tour

The Vans Warped Tour was the first festival for many of us back in the day. As young'ns, it's likely we didn't necessarily think about all that went into figuring out the bands to book and play the whole shebang. Part of that process, at least locally, seems to be through a series "battle of the bands" style competitions specifically for landing a spot on the fest. Quite a few Portland bands have been furiously playing against one another for said spot, and djent/prog metal act Vow of Volition are one of the acts that made it to the finals.

Warped Tour was always the type of festival that included much in the realm of pop punk, punk punk, emo and metal, so Vow of Volition's advancement to the final round is no surprise. Their incredibly technical, at times jazzy metal stands out in Portland's pretty linear popular music scene, and is much worthy of the attention its getting.

Those that want to support Vow of Volition in driving home the permanent spot can go to the Battle for Warped Tour finals Saturday at the Hawthorne Theatre.

   

Black Sites "Untrue"

Progressive Metal trio Black Sites has released their latest album, Untrue. This is the follow-up to their 2019 debut album, Exile.

Black Sites is the work of Mark Sugar (vocals, guitar), Ryan Bruchert (guitar, vocals), and Garry Naples (drums).

   

Bullet To The Heart "Heathen"

Bullet To The Heart has released their latest single, "Heathen". This is Hard Rock group's second single of 2021 following-up "Tortured Pleasure" which was released back in May.

On "Heathen" the group takes their sound in a darker and more aggressive direction while allowing vocalist Audrey Queen to demonstrate to the full power of her voice.

   

Contrition "Added Subtraction"

Black Metal group Contrition has released the second single, “Added Subtraction”, from their forthcoming debut album, Broken Mortal Coil, which is set to be released on October 29th via Disorder Recordings.

This is the work of Jerome Marshall (Vocals), Garry Naples (Drums), Jeff Wilson (Guitars, Synth), and Jon Woodring (Bass).

   

The Nuclears sail off into the Seasides

Warning: This blog entry is rated ‘R’ for rockist content and for frank discussion of cock rockery

The Nuclears make rock ’n’ roll about rock ’n’ roll and god bless ‘em for it. Led by the brothers Dudolevitch, Mike D and Brian D share vocal and electric guitar duties and are ably assisted by Bobby Sproles (bass) and Kevin Blatchford (drums) who function as the control rods to this long-running Brooklyn-based musical nuclear reactor with additional assistance from vocalist/tambournist Briana Layon who acts as the band’s steam generator with her Tina-Turner-meets-Valerie-Brown-meets-Julie-Brown-rapped-in-the-body-of-a-white-girl-soulful-belting-and-on-stage-shimmying-and-tambourine-shaking. 

Earlier this year the band released what is said to be their final studio album Seasides (Rum Bar Records) and last week they played a farewell-to-Manhattan show at Mercury Lounge that burned with a white hot molten intensity (check out the Deli’s Instagram account for a clip from the show in question alongside the super fun self-described "Maximum Oi'N'B" opening act 45 Adapters who shared sensible advice like "don't trust anyone who doesn't dance") and in case you missed that one their very very last NYC show will happen at TV Eye in Brooklyn-adjacent Ridgewood, Queens on 9/18—the giant centerfold portrait of Iggy Pop in the front room couldn't be more appropriate for this stacked bill alongside The Fleshtones (!), Televisionaries, and Spud Cannon—and really you’d be crazy to miss it. Over their decade-plus existence The Nuclears’ sound has been compared to everyone from Chuck Berry to the Stones, the Ramones to the Dolls, the Kinks to Kiss, Deep Purple to Black Sabbath and the list goes on—not to mention their own self-stated musical influences such as The Who, MC5, Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Radio Birdman, Turbonegro, and the Hellacopters. In other words, they don’t just rock. They rawk.

And speaking of “rock about rock” (sorry, make that “rawk about rawk!”) The Nuclears are/were essentially a living breathing rock ’n’ roll Hall of Fame traveling circus with intertwining stands of ‘50s rock und roll, ‘60s garage, ‘70s punk, ‘80s metal, and ‘90s grunge and the result is one hell of a lot more fun than staring at Mick Jagger’s slacks behind a glass case in Cleveland, Ohio (not to deny that “Cleveland rocks”) while still putting across their own singularly opened-hearted let’s-get-the-party-started vibe especially live. Speaking of which it’s a shame The Nuclears never recorded a live album because the band’s insane level of shreditude and kinetic livewire energy in the flesh can’t entirely be captured in the studio kind of like a vampire trying to comb his hair in a mirror.

But hey don’t let it discourage you from giving Seasides a spin because for one thing it contains a couple honest-to-Abe “rock about rock” songs that truly rawk (both feature Briana on lead vox) right smack in the middle of the album. First there’s “Mystery Slinger” about meeting a guitar slinger “down at the crossroads” (could it be…Satan?!?) who “possessed a magic in his fingers” (not to be confused with the Magic Fingers™ at your finer hourly rate motels) and Bonnie Raitt oughta cover this song on her next record because there’s some insanely groovy blooze clues to be detected here; and then next comes the equally self-referential “Bow To The Queen” (“I’m the best this world has ever seen…burn it down with gasoline”) with some serious-as-a-sheer-heart-attack heavy metal wailing both vocally and in the Dudolevitch's truly juicy Judas Priesty twin leads. 

All of which raises the question: Should the Nuclears be classified as roots rockers; or is it more accurate to call them meta-rock postmodernists? Which raises the answer: Who cares?!? Because Seasides should convince any remaining skeptics not to “knock the rock” with songs that measure up majestically next to classics by Queen and Zep and Joan Jett (and of course “The Tap!”) when it comes to rock songs about rock that also happen to rawk. ROCK! And not to worry they don’t forget to throw in some sex (“Make the First Move,” “Small Talk”) and drugs (“Siamese Connection”) for the masses with that lastly mentioned song adding some social commentary into the mix with lyrics about the CIA importing narcotics into the USA (“it’s not a crime / if you’re on the right side”) but don’t worry this isn’t a message album unless that message is "let's rock!" 

Speaking of postmodernism, the next song is called “I Just Wanna Have Nothin’ To Do” which is a title the Ramones somehow never came up with and they make doing nothing sounds pretty fun (especially when they wanna do nothing with you) but peel back the onion and it’s a straight-up deconstructive text about wanting to want nothing, desiring to be free of desire, because desire is akin to being stuck on a “hamster wheel…going nowhere slow” and I’m starting to wonder if these boys and their side chick are Buddhists or maybe they’re just students of Schopenhauer. This impression is only solidified in the next song on the album “Doin’ the Same Thing Twice” which further explores the futility of striving with lines like “one day you’ll find / you’re just a cog in the machine / trying to turn into a bigger cog / well that’s the American Dream.” And once a band’s arrives at this stark realization well how can they not break up so yeah it’s all starting to make sense now.

The Nuclears fittingly bow out with two truly head-banging-devil-horn-displaying-fist-pumpers. The first of which being “Slash Run” which opens with the lines “There’s a place that speaks right to my soul / the best parts of rock ’n’ roll / a drug (drunk?) house full of degenerates like me / and I never wanna leave” and admittedly I may be misinterpreting a word or two in there but misinterpretations can be revealing and then the song segues into a cover of KISS’s “Strutter” and it's hard to misinterpret a couplet like "everybody says she's lookin' good / and the lady knows it's understood" so of course she struts her stuff and I mean wouldn't you. And then finally comes “Flat and Nasty” where The Nuclears look back to a pre-Internet-porn era when rock ’n’ roll jollies could only be had by non-Paul-Stanley-types through such primitive rites as heading to your local ShopRite to buy a pack of smokes then going back to your bedroom and shuttering the blinds and, well, “the only way I could get my release / was all the flat girls on the TV screen.” 





So lest you accuse these New Yawk "rock about rock" meta-rock-masters of being masturbatory musically or otherwise, well guess what, they just beat you to it (!) by writing a terminal song that’s literally about “beating it” but which also speaks directly to this particular band's artistry. Because in typical Nuclears fashion they make the love of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll sound like the most wholesome thing you could ever aspire to—especially, again, at their tent revival style live shows—a Hellfire Holy Trinity suffused with a nostalgic cathode glow that's as "All American" as that well known perv Norman Rockwell eating a slice of warm apple pie and then using the rest of the soft yielding pastry to pleasure his love gun American Pie style. (Jason Lee)

Photo by Kem Ettienne (@primo34)