Hits Underground

Compiled by the merry band of promoters at Hits Underground, this CD attempts to feature underground extreme music from several genres in the same exposure package without compromising the intensity of the bands that have no commercial aspirations for the image of those that do. On the whole, given the nature of compromise that must be achieved to satiate record label demands to push the latest of their "more likely to be popular" wares, this compilation achieves its goals and sets a precedent for more showcasing of the bands likely to jump outside the underground.

Book I: Induction 1998
Production: Consistently well-engineered this album compares tracks at reasonable levels of minimized distortion and attention to sound quality.

Highlights: The Haunted, Soilent Green, Meshuggah, Floorpunch

1-2) A spoken introduction covering the formative topics of underground anger and the subcultural resentment of weakness in current society brings an abrupt start to the album with a militant background piece from "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh" by Morbid Angel.

3) Will Haven "Stick Up Kid" - Simultaneously slamming with dynamic response and lulling into melancholy melody, this track represents the confrontation of human rage with doubt in a simple but engaging rhythmic ride into the linear disorder of battering violence in both harmony and percussion. Its origins in hardcore showing, the track also features becalmed segments of bass and drum minimalism and energetically anti-enthusiastic choruses of phrases sung to harmonize the recursive riff centering itself on a 4/4 power chord stomp.

4) Dillinger Escape Plan "The Mullet Burden" - Shuttering rant-beats drive a single-chord guitar riff over vocals thrown to the furthest extension possible of a normalized distorted human scream, but the continuity is lacking despite alternating mellow sequences with the linear slamming of this track's main emphasis.

5) Converge "The Saddest Day" - Opening with a ranting sequence of dissonant notes repeated, this song then diverges into a series of metalesque riffs in which chords rollover tonal centers into themselves, keeping the riff open in effect so that more variations of its essential harmonies can be played out with the tight whipping-strum in the percussive style of Pantera or Meshuggah. While the song is unified by a sequence of rhythmic and vocal cues that pull it together nicely, its confusion and derivative nature make it incoherent by nature. The dry-throat constant-over-extertion scream of the vocalist loses intensity after the first verse, and the buffeting banter of rhythm guitars exchanging variants of the most conclusively violent parts of metal songs forget what made those songs relevant: context.

6-7) Whirlpool throb interludes by Namanax predate the consciousness in a low-fi experiment in surrealist imagery within a forty-second glimpse of confusion.

8) Dayinthelife "Sign of the Times" - Another band built on the rhythms of polarity found in percussion riffs over which a vocalist sings tonally-unambitious phrases of anger and yet complacency in their simple harmony and ambient placelessness within the song; each recycled riff is well-placed and extremely well-played with emphasis on forms outside the major chord to embed melodic tension within the linear drive of the song from verse to chorus.

9) All Else Failed "Burster" - With a wailing single note piercing the background a vocalist grunts out a sequence of phrases while guitars blast on a single chord in a Rage Against the Machine meets Pantera style, then relaxes as the music diverges into heavy hard rock for a series of simple melodies played against hop-y seventies metal riffs. Since each element of the song is so well crafted one is led to expect more from this energetically pulsing tune that goes nowhere and misses any extremity it might have developed simply through over-playing the commodity it can identify as extreme.

10) Soilent Green "Sewn Mouth Shut" - Older style metal verses built on vocal rhythms to stacked power chords alternate with picked up choruses where speedy death metal- and grindcore-influenced riffs dash through a series of harmonic points established by said verses. Elements of groove are inducted under the ostensible edges of each riff structure and despite the tendency of the band to vary structure by associating similar riffs in narrative style, enough returning consistency shows through to build an intensity throughout the song.

11) Meshuggah "Sane" - Like gates in a computer circuit, riffs open and shut power chords while moving the harmonic focal point slowly through a limited range of chords within a pentatonic interval. Exceptionally well-played and destructive but suffers from too much focus on the hoarse shouted stand-off vocals, which ride single chord riffs over a complex but linear shuffle-blast. Song structures experience some variation but not enough to demonstrate this band moving from anything but a point of well-documented anger expression. Jazz fusion solos ramble through variations on the patterning of chosen notes to produce an effect of emptiness and wandering, while a meat machine of percussion and guitar rants out a lost tome over periodic melodic counterpoint.

12-13) Namanax - Radio static feedback burns in the background in a stagnant freneticism while a commentator delivers a rant in praise of metal in its solid drive toward a point hammers in the pride and determination of the loud.

Copyright © 1998 Hits Underground
Length: 73:48

14) Emperor "Ye Entrancempirium" - Later Emperor seems marked by the lack of epic riff structures that distinguished earlier work and by the newfound reliance on narrative song structures which, punctuated at parts by blasting interludes of driving manic energy, expand on romantic themes in a style that limits itself by its unwillingness to extend the melodic complexity of the song to unify its disparate parts. The result sounds unpracticed and technical without expressing any emotion beyond the immediate longing of its riffs which gesture at unresolved harmonic goals.

15) The Haunted "Undead" - A cross between the rigid driveahead riffing of Sepultura and the riding oceans of turbulent recursion that hardcore invented, this song keeps a bouncing simplicity of beat holding up riffs cut from clearly distinct but often somewhat chaotically combined chords to make a feast of rhythm and melody that, although rarely variant, manages to continue its energetic dissent long enough to leave its impression. Excellent, powerful, but built mostly from the past.

16) Living Sacrifice "Reject" - High speed strumming phrases alternate with paddleball open riffs and several other types of structure which, while inventive, are entirely discohesive and intensely incongruous portions of recycled derivative metal-tasting pattern.

17) Battery "Laeve It Behind" - An absolutely stereotypical punk song. Using one of the basic harmonic returns that is a canon in punk's ideabase, Battery inject the cynical-youngster vocals used by Orange County hardcore bands and vary neither melody, harmony, nor structure at all from the norm. Well-executed butů intensely derivative, boring.

18) Dayinthelife "Self Serve" - Emo callout vocals over rising harmonic fragments that spell out power chord thunder in their return to a beginning, and tireless trying again: although varied in song structure, the essence is an alternation between extremes, and despite its excellent execution it remains entrenched in emocore history.

19) All Else Failed "Despair" - A classic punk riff evolved into a melodic ambient fill that carries itself on in the style of Motorhead's "Orgasmatron" with a self-possessed certainty that supports the sung but chanted vocals and alternations to structures emphasizing the melody beneath the harmonization of the riff. More intense than the track earlier in this compilation by this band.

20-21) A barely audible Namanax underlude covered by more praise for metal. Good to hear!

22) Mindrot "Clemency" - Overly emphatic in dynamic rhythm and vocal stress but engaging in its simple melodic crawling of basic harmony, this track runs the gamut from prehistoric punk riffs to pop singing over elemental strumming patterns, establishing ground as far as songwriting competence goes but thrasing into repetition the flag of its artistic bankruptcy.

23) Training for Utopia "A Good Feeling" - Along a houselike bass beat the screaming and strumming of more hysteria than musicality achieves an extremity only in how quickly it can reduce dynamic structures in music to unexciting stimulus. A chanted vocal is punctuated by narrative blasts of drum and beat variation but never speaks its case as it churns into repetition for the sake of demonstrative cyclic fatalism.

24) Floorpunch "Not For Me" - Microsong of a very fast punk tune in the style of early hardcore bands which broke from speed tempos of drumming to riot vocals over chorus strum-cadenced riffs. Although not groundbreaking, its centering of its overstructure around a rippling bass riff qualifies this as interesting enough for a discerning listener to allow it room for appreciation.

25) Stuck Mojo "Enemy Territory" - Variations between a consistent strum ending its phrases with a bent note and an unfolding redemption of speed in slow harmonic breakdown of germaine chords to the root of each phrase, the contents of this song exist to support the rap-influenced cadenced vocals which alternate with sung or deep-throat-chanted sloganesque lyrics. While this band play their instruments with proficiency and put together engaging rhythms from repetition of a handful of chords, the hybrid fails in its lack of direction or definition to its anger.

26) Face Down "Waste" - Using stop start dynamism to exchange melodic injection riffs with shuddering recursive strum Pantera-style choruses, Face Down disguise very ordinary melody under Hetfield vocals and the rhythmic clothing of aggression but fail to hide how derivative this song really is.

27) Dillinger Escape Plan - A shrieking combination of bouncy funk and fast metal riffs, this song ricochets from fusion jazz diminishing harmony to sandblasted metal lead riffing, putting together its simple choral rhythm behind a sequence of embellishments which, despite the flourish and accuracy of their playing, lead to nothing more than a riff composed of a two chords emphatically holding opposites in a polarity while fragments of melody are strung between them. Impressive technically but artistically irrelevant.

28) A final combination of sounds from Morbid Angel with percussion leading a keyboard melody uncovering its innermost hope and fear.

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