Album Review: The Vinyl Countdown

Shores of TundraScenester Credentials Vinyl

Shores of the Tundra Heart of the Beckoning 12-inch

Shores of the Tundra’s 12-inch is an impressive artifact before you even drop the needle. It’s a single-sided release, with the epic “Heart of the Reckoning” cut so that it plays from the label to the edge, with a stylized daisy pattern silk-screened onto the back. While they lay some claim to the Doom Metal genre, this long-form piece is too meditative, stately and elegiac to fit simply into any one genre. Raw oscillator drones drift in and out, rubbing against spare piano melodies, only to be interrupted by thrashing guitars and screamed vocals. Even the passages driven by metal’s trademark jackhammer kick drums are celebratory rather than doomy. Subtle noises and reverberated distortion bubble along in the background, and even the crackle and pop of the vinyl feels like it’s integral to the music. Originally recorded in several distinct pieces and then stitched together on the computer, the band has learned to play it start-to-finish live, in a version that extends to a solid half-hour. This record is not for everyone, but I completely dig it. And when the ending fades out into subtle bass tones, it ends on a lock groove–one I listened to for 10 minutes the first time through. This record is a trip, and it’s also a very limited edition, so snap it up–if you hate it, wait six months and it will be going for $50 on eBay.

Copeater & Murder of CrowsCop Eater/Murder of Crows Split 7-inch

Murder of Crows and Cop Eater are hardcore bands out of Madison, Wisconsin. In my rock genre ignorance, I don’t know what “Hardcore” means in this context–Murder of Crows, on the surface, sounds a lot like a cross between Melvins and Metallica, and can thrash out sludge and speed metal riffs with the best of them. Cop Eater is frantic musical mayhem; they deliver short, savage songs with sandpapered, incoherent vocals. The first song “Whiskey Mommah” seems to to start out with the lyric “I’m Eating Obama!” but I know that can’t be right. At any rate if this sort of music is your thing, I would guess that this 7-inch is crucial. For anyone after a sweet melody or delicate finger-style guitar, it should come with a warning label.

Black Market FetusBlack Market Fetus In Defense Split 7-inch

Black Market Fetus plays in a similar style to Cop Eater, but they’re less chaotic in their thrashing, though it’s a subtle distinction. If there’s any sense in using the phrase “subtle distinction” when discussing this sort of music. Listening to these records back-to-back, would it actually be possible to say “I love Black Market Fetus, but Cop Eater really gets on my tits?” For me, I feel out of my depth trying to draw distinctions between bands that both sound like getting beat up by riot cops while tripping, and I mean that in the best way possible. In Defense continues in a similar vein but they sound like they grew up listening to the Ramones and the Clash along with Megadeth and Metallica. And that gives an old school punk fan like me something more definite to hang on to; consequently the In Defense side is my favorite amongst the four bands represented here on 7-inch splits.

What these records represent is something much more than just music to consume. They’re unique artifacts, they’re snapshots of an aggressively anti-commercial scene, they’re a modern expression of a tradition of needles wiggling in grooves that goes back to Edison reciting “Mary had a little lamb.” Even if you hate their music, your world is a better place for them being around.