The Shortlist: Demos, EPs, Splits, and Reissues (Issue 46)


BAT | Axestasy | Hells Headbangers

Hells Headbangers serves up a vile heap, as we thank the dark lord that the boys in Richmond, Virginia’s BAT are back. Those dudes are, of course, Felix Griffin, the drummer for D.R.I.’s first four iconic albums, joined by vocalist and bassist Ryan Waste and guitarist Nick Poulos, both of Municipal Waste. Their upcoming EP, Axestasy, will be out April 26 on CD and 12” vinyl, available in black or bone-colored wax.

Their version of super-tight, thrashing-mad metal blends Discharge, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Venom, The Accused, and Bathory. Over their 2013 demo, Primitive Age; 2015 EP, Cruel Discipline; and debut 2016 full-length, Wings of Chains, BAT have been slinging S&M sleaze in a dirty, rotten version of NWOBHM mixed with d-beat and American crossover. On Axestasy, BAT spew forth five songs—plus an interlude—of splattering mayhem in under 14 minutes, redoing “Ritual Fool” from their LP. Here, the rage is topped with gruffly barked vocals—sounding like X-Cops!—set to horrible tales of the darker side of rock ’n’ roll. The cover art and song titles like “Long Live the Lewd” and “Wild Fever” let listeners know that BAT are here to continue their disgusting onslaught. –Hutch


Zvi | “Dear Pink” b/w “Undenied” | Nefarious Industries

Zvi is the solo project of vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Ron Varod of Kayo Dot, Sabbath Assembly, Psalm Zero, and more. Engineered, mixed, and produced by Randall Dunn, who has worked with Earth, Sunn O))), and Boris, the A side of Zvi’s Feb. 22 single, “Dear Pink,” conjures melodies strewn over cringing distortion to elicit feelings of abandonment and disarray, like navigating an electric storm wrought by paranoia and remorse while your vision is plagued by Repulsion-esque cracks in the wall. On the B side, “Undenied” illustrates Varod’s interpretation of a classic Portishead track. This single comes before Zvi’s third full-length, Deer Pink, due on April 12 via Nefarious Industries. Extremely limited-edition vinyl features 60 pressed on translucent tangerine pink and 40 on translucent violet pink. –Hutch


Bad Brains | Black Dots | Wax Audio Group

In 1996, after they reformed and released 1995’s God of Love on Madonna’s label, Maverick Records, an album with a thick, clean, measured mid-tempo rock sound, Caroline Records unearthed the first recorded work of Bad Brains, Black Dots. It was appropriately created in June 1979 at the nexus of D.C. history, Inner Ear Studio, founded in Don Zientara’s basement in Arlington, Virginia.

Many heralded the D.C. natives as the birth of hardcore and the greatest live band ever, and many more would argue about the recorded triumphs that followed after the Brains moved to New York City. Their first official release in 1982, Bad Brains—also known as The Yellow Tape or Attitude: The ROIR Sessions, recorded by Jerry Williams at 171A Studio in NYC in 1981—was lauded and worshipped, while many thought the Rik Ocasek—yes, of The Cars—produced Rock for Light in 1983 was too polished, though it’s still pretty nasty.

All that was quashed when Black Dots was released. With each member perched in a separate room—vocalist H.R. by the bulkhead, drummer Earl Hudson in the bathroom, and guitarist Dr. Know and bassist Darryl Jenifer in their own tight space—Bad Brains’ electric spirits and raw passion unleashed the kind of brilliance and sweat that could only be emitted by these four men. We mere mortals were blessed with 16 tracks and the spur-of-the-moment synergy: someone yelling, “Can you hold it for it a minute?” or Zientara’s kid tugging and asking, “You remember when Rick had that red tape-recorder?” to H.R. as the vocalist’s growing moans and Dr. Know’s feedback ascended in the mix. This is one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll treasures that was ever given to the Earthlings.

If you didn’t get your hands on either the black or white vinyl—only 1,000 were pressed—Wax Audio Group rereleases Black Dots on April 12, one time only, on white vinyl, limited to 1,500. –Hutch

Brant Bjork | Keep Your Cool | Heavy Psych Sounds

Riff-rumbler and stoner el jefe Brant Bjork worked with longtime collaborator Heavy Psych Sounds to remaster and release his third solo LP, 2003’s Keep Your Cool, on April 12. Bjork and the fuzzlords at Heavy Psych Sounds reissued Bjork’s back catalog in 2018, starting with 2004’s Local Angel and 2007’s Tres Dias, to celebrate Bjork’s 2018 solo LP, Mankind Woman. Now, the spotlight turns to Keep Your Cool, remastering classic tunes like “Hey, Monkey Boy,” “Johnny Called,” and “Gonna Make the Scene.” Originally released on Duna Records, the album spans eight catchy, attractive stoner rock songs spiced and goosed with soul and funky, laidback grooves. Available on digipak, digital, and vinyl: 40 test pressings; 250 on ultra-limited clear blue; 400 on limited white with marbled blue, dark blue, and clear silver; and black. Heavy Psych Sounds also announced the release of Bjork’s mythical but vaulted LP recorded in 2010, Jacoozzi, on April 5. –Hutch

Leviathan | The First Sublevel of Suicide and Unfailing Fall Into Naught | Devout Rcrds

Devout Rcrds presents two essential Leviathan collections, 2017’s The First Sublevel of Suicide and 2018’s Unfailing Fall Into Naught. Leviathan, the dark sonic conduit of Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, is American black metal’s lone soldier. Whitehead’s fiercely solitary ethos emits myriad tracks of stark misanthropy and enraged brutality. Defined by the lo-fi aesthetic, pulverizing speed, and icy tones, Leviathan stands out in the U.S. scene. Whitehead has a revered work ethic, and his continuous output has rendered a library of 30-plus releases: demos, splits, LPs, and EPs. On Feb. 22, his own label, Devout, presented double-LP reissues of The First Sublevel of Suicide, which is comprised of unreleased demos from 2003’s The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, and Unfailing Fall Into Naught, which combines Leviathan’s split releases with Sapthuran and Xasthur and features new artwork by Whitehead. Both collections were mastered by James Plotkin. –Hutch


Various Artists | Brown Acid: The Eighth Trip | RidingEasy Records

On 420—ahem, April 20—RidingEasy slings up 10 more fuzzed-out tracks in the eighth installment of the Brown Acid series, which focuses on curating ripping ’60s and ’70s tunes that predicted stoner rock and metal. These proto powerhouses often only dropped one 45, but RidingEasy does its part in exposing their forgotten—actually, never known—classic tracks. The laborious digging of Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi unearthed splendid gems and astonishing feats of blues rock, and RidingEasy honcho Daniel Hall then contacted label owners and band members to fully license and compensate all involved. The comp kicks off with the fretboard gymnastics of Attack’s “School Daze” before bringing some max R&B with a harder edge via White Rock’s “Please Don’t Run Away.” Also included are psych garage covers of Cream with Inside Experience’s “Tales of the Brave Ulysses” and Elvis with Grump’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” The Eighth Trip is available on CD, digital, and vinyl: 100 on clear, 400 on orange, and black. –Hutch


Duster | Capsule Losing Contact | Numero Group

Lo-fi was not solely a production approach for Duster. It was an ethos, describing both their sound and their aesthetic: quick repairs on used gear to project somber “slowcore” played in home studios after work. Duster are the lauded trio from San Jose who released two classic LPs, 1998’s Stratosphere and 2000’s Contemporary Movement, plus 1999’s 1975 EP and a smattering of other records.

Sometimes called “space rock,” Duster’s members were Canaan Dove Amber, Clay Parton, and Jason Albertini, who went on to play in Built To Spill and Queens Of The Stone Age. Amber and Parton were also in Clam together, and Amber and Albertini formed Helvetia after Duster. The vibe is slow and morose, but the chemistry of the three is evident and sparks in its own way. Numero Group again employed exhaustive tactics to thoroughly celebrate their catalog with the extensive box set, Capsule Losing Contact, on March 22. Choose four LPs or three CDs, and you get 51 tracks totaling 163 minutes, plus a 32-page, full-color, perfect-bound book. –Hutch

New Order | Movement (Definitive Edition) | Rhino    

Long-running new wave pioneers New Order came out of the great early U.K. punk band Joy Division, whose visionary singer, Ian Curtis, died in the spring of 1980. The remaining members, guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris, decided to keep going after the tragedy, bringing on new recruit keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. They released their first single as New Order, “Ceremony” backed with “In a Lonely Place,” which were both written before Curtis died, in 1981. This effort, along with the band’s debut full-length, Movement—released the same year on Factory Records and showcasing the same beautifully icy, stark ambience as their Joy Division work—are featured in this April 5 box set from Rhino. Furthermore, this set also includes the vinyl LP and original sleeve, the CD version, another CD with previously unreleased material and a bevy of singles and B sides that foreshadowed their future prowess as new wave heroes, a DVD featuring live performances, and a hard-backed book. –Janelle Jones

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