Heccra – Heccra​-​Kazooie

Heccra - Heccra-Kazooie

With every new year comes a catalogue of great music, yet I always find that I am surprised by a few releases, either from musicians I am already familiar with or at least aware of and sometimes from a few entirely new acts but rarely does a project seemingly materialize out of nowhere and really grab me quite like the one man experimental post-hardcore project, Heccra did when it released the out-of-the-blue debut, ‘White Eagle’. After the stunning short-but-sweet debut Heccra went beyond expectations with a solid follow-up EP, ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’. Both albums were well received and gained the project a growing following in a matter of a few months. The project made a name for itself for its short to-the-point songs packed with an energetic presence and a combination of daringly unorthodox production choices along the likes of triggered drums, bubbly synths, glitchy bits of electronics, and the projects signature chipmunk-esque vocals, all of which are a combination of things that shouldn’t work but in Heccra’s case couldn’t have work more perfectly. Earlier on in the winter it was announced that the project had began recording for an upcoming full length; ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ being the result of those sessions.

If you are unfamiliar with video game culture, or more likely, you had a miserable childhood the title, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ takes its name from the classic Nintendo 64 game, Banjo Kazooie, in which themes from the game are lightly applied to the music, mostly in the form of a few samples.

Where ‘White Eagle’ was an album that focused on the harsher aspects of post-hardcore and ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ showed Heccra transitioning  to a midwestern influenced sound, inspired by bands such as Algernon Cadwallader, it appears that this latest effort attempts to fuse the two contrasting styles together in a way that only Heccra can, with catchy songs and glistening glitched-out electronics that will have you re-listening to the album like a playlist of top 40 tracks (that’s a good thing). The album’s opener, a track that is brimming with flavorful synths and an anthemic chorus practically begs for repeated listens while the melodic roller-coaster that is ‘Homemade Halloween Costume’ make it difficult to not want to listen over and over just to let the weaving guitars wrap themselves around your ears.

With ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ there are plenty of notable stylistic changes to be heard, particularly toward the end of the album with the last two tracks, ‘Smelling the Vents with the AC On’ and ‘Life Sux Pt.2’, those of which are completely clean tracks that discard the thick scooped distortion and replace the aforementioned with gently strummed acoustics and sung vocals. For me, it isn’t really a favored changed but it is certainly one that I welcome, as with all forms of experimentation. Although this new set of tracks is yet another in a series of Heccra’s constant search for a style of his own the project still retains the familiarity of previous works. If you’re here for the more abrasive side of Heccra’s music you’ll be happy to know that there are a few tracks, namely ‘Corium Leak’ and the end half of ‘Pissed Off Kids in the 90’s’ that go back to the teeth-gnashing screams set alongside the helium induced Alvin in the Chipmunk style vocals that gained the project it’s attention from the beginning.

While this new release still sounds just as fun and fueled as the project’s past work, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ is an album that sounds just short of finished. The few samples that make an appearance don’t add to the music as much as they detract and while it is nice to hear all of this variation, this new set of songs doesn’t feel like as much of an adventure as the name of the album alludes to.  For new listeners I recommend either starting with ‘White Eagle’ or ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ but for those who have been listening this album is still a decent collection of tracks that continue to take a stab at breaking up the convoluted state of post-hardcore music as it is today.

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Overall Rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Banjo-Kazooie’, ‘Corium Leak’, ‘Homemade Halloween Costume;

Recommended: Check out Algernon Cadwallader

Released: 02 January 2013

Links: Hear it here.

-Tyler Thompson

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist – Relief (Track Review)

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist just released a new track entitled ‘Relief’.

‘Relief’ shows the band continuing to explore their style of sludgy dirges made up of the same intense songwriting and crushing riffs and chords found on their debut EP, ‘You See All Kinds of Things When You Are the Only One Awake’. The guitar tone is once again ridiculously heavy with a lot of low end that makes for a very muddy tone which may be a negative aspect for some but I think it is a good stylistic difference that separates their sound from the hundreds of other bands they share the scene with. The vocals transition in a smooth almost unnoticed way between a sort of half baked yell and full fledged screaming; lots of emotion here. This band’s ear for composition and steady pacing between these frequent short burst of aggression and small pockets of breathing room are what really makes this song work for me. When looking back at their debut EP ‘Relief’ isn’t anything new in terms of being different from their previous material but it is a good tune nonetheless.

Recommended: Melancholic sludge influenced sounds. Circle Takes the Square

Released: 19 February 2012

Links: Listen here

-Redntoothnclaw

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist – You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the product of Anthony Ivosevich on drums and vocals  and Craig Smith contributing guitar and vocals. Together the duo makes a unique blend of crusty and sometimes melancholy punk. ‘You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake’ is the bands first EP and overall release.

Unlike their contemporaries, The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist aim for something much slower, focusing on brooding atmosphere over the fast grindcore-esque brand of hardcore that was pioneered by bands like Orchid. The tone of the guitar is thick and full bodied, at times it feels as though their music has actual density in a physical sense. One may even be so bold as to refer to the music here as ‘sludge’. A good deal of the sounds on this recording are unforgivingly heavy but You See All Kinds of Things When You Are The Only One Awake does have a fair amount of tastefully placed cleanish breaks.  A great example can be heard about half of the way through ‘We Bow Our Heads’, which begins with simple slow building chords that evolve into chugging heavy guitars and tortured screams. A clean section interrupts with a simple guitar melody and some great drumming to match before the band continues to elaborate on their dirge driven sound. Another strong example can be heard on ‘William Wilson’ which consists of spoken word-like vocals. These short but sweet let ups really allow the listener to breathe and I understand that sometimes for the sake of mood and consistency, especially with intentionally claustrophobic music such as this it may not always best to give the listener air but do not be fooled, these moments are not light hearted sing alongs; lyrically and atmospherically they are nearly as heavy as the band heard in full force, teeth showing, unrelenting and cathartic as ever.

Perhaps the most distinctive trait attributed to The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist is the cutthroat and downright brutal vocals. ‘Stay Awake’ is an intense affair that is full of some of the most biting vocals I’ve heard in a while, proving that the band’s music lives up to the name. I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys were spitting blood after recording these tracks. There are multiple layers of vocals; overlapping and interchanging, screaming over and slightly out of time with one another which creates a really nice sense of chaos without playing maniacally fast. For a band consisting of only two members they do a really great job of sounding louder than you would expect. It would be interesting to see how these guys hold up live, especially taking into account that they consist only of two members.

The Pessimist Hangs the Optimist sound mad as hell, and it is obvious that they want you to know that with every fiber of their being. Although there is only so much screaming and shouting that one can take before it becomes redundant, in their own right this release does a good job of knowing when to let up and let the listener breathe a little before sinking back into the insanely heavy music that they excel at producing.

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Overall Rating: 8.3

Favorite Track: ‘Buzzards’ ‘Stay Awake’ ‘We Bow Our Heads’

Recommended: Think Circle Takes the Square vs. Neurosis

-Redntoothnclaw

Onde Natur – Cowards

Basically, a good metal EP, quite a bit blackened and pending towards doom, but with strong sludge influence as well in some sections. You’ll find a healthy dose of structure and variation, even though the doom/blackened aspect of it makes it more oriented towards focusing on a general oppressive atmosphere. Basically that means that, if you want that awesome metal listening experience, you’ll get it, but if you pay attention to what’s going on, you won’t get bored either.

Nothing overly complex though. Synths and vocal processing are used to make up for that with an extra atmospheric push. The riffs are heavy as fuck, as usual.

Now something about the lyrics – as present in the bandcamp page of course, I can’t understand shit the guy is actually singing. Some verses are very cliche, like “Will you choose to be a sheep or will you become a wolf?”, but no one expects for Shakespeare or anything, so they didn’t strike me as specially corny. They play their part perfectly though, for example: “When did we become afraid to be free? Let them choke with their words, cut their hands with our deeds. Will to power behind love messages and empty promises”. That’s perfectly adequate, heavy and compliments well the music, even if it sounds more like a teenage rant than a wise man’s rebuttal against modern society.

Anyhow, easy recommendation if you are into the genre, I certainly enjoyed it a lot. Preparing my ears for Black Metal November.

-Carpeaux