Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Live Review: Lehavoth/Dukatalon/MooM/Aphotik @ Tmuna Theatre, Tel Aviv [29th December 2017]

Lehavoth
Dukatalon
MooM
Aphotik


I think it's been a while since I've been to/reviewed a local metal show, so tonight sees me at the Tmuna Theatre in Tel Aviv to witness 4 local bands who all appear on slightly different parts of the metal spectrum.



Aphotik



First up tonight is local band Aphotik. I can't specify how local as none of their profiles suggest where they are from but Tel Aviv-ish would be a good guess. On stage, they are a very competent death metal band with the odd beatdown reminiscent of more metallic hardcore bands like Irate. Their Theocracy EP/demo is a bit misleading as the vocals lead more towards grindcore growling whereas the live vocals are so much more audible and therefore just a little bit more enjoyable. Think of a more death metal sounding Lamb of God and that's the kind of thing Aphotik do. As new blood goes, Aphotik are a nice surprise.

3.5/5



MooM














Not that it's too much of a surprise to anyone who knows me or even to anyone who reads this blog regularly, MooM are one of the main reasons I am here tonight. Consisting of people from other punk and hardcore bands, MooM are the most exciting powerviolence band in the country (there's just about enough of them for that statement to have any significance). Fronted by Sima (also singer for melodic punk band Not On Tour), MooM manage to blend powerviolence, sludge and hardcore punk perfectly in a way that they can not only play on punk bills like they have mostly been doing but also play a metal show like this and not seem out of place. Sometimes, it's all about the intensity and the enthusiasm put into the playing and MooM have that in spades, as everybody spasms about the stage ferociously hammering and shouting away. As well as regular crowd pleasers like Sacred Scripts and Piguey D'Kirot, there's some newer, more hardcore material which gets people head banging and pushing each other like crazy. MooM have definitely deserved their places on European festival billings and may they be met with many more!

5/5


 Dukatalon




As well as MooM, Dukatalon are my other main reason for being here tonight. Sludge and doom can be a bit hit or miss with me but sometimes I can just hear a band playing and get immersed in their grooves - this Tel Aviv trio is a prime example. I don't think I can name a single song of theirs...but I just know I love them nevertheless.
Although guitarist/singer Zafrir (Tsori)and the rest of the band don't really talk much on stage, it doesn't make the performance any less enjoyable. The band just blasts out their slow, low and heavy riffs which blend with pounding drums and echoey vocals to fill the venue like some sort of cloud of intensity over the crowd. Although the band's music in general has strong Crowbar influences, Zafrir's vocal are more gruff. The newer yet unreleased material even sounds like what Kingdom Of Sorrow (featuring Kirk Windstein of Crowbar and Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed
could have sounded like if the music leaned more towards Crowbar's sludge sound and had tons of reverb on Jasta's vocals.
It is good to see Dukatalon again after all this time. Although original drummer Yariv isn't around to make over-exaggerated expressions, set off confetti canons and generally hype up the crowd, new drummer Maayan does the job of knocking out the grooves with the greatest of ease. I'm now eagerly awaiting the new album!


4.5/5



Lehvaoth










I'll be honest, by the end of the night, I wasn't fully awake and can't remember much. However, what I can say is that I was quite pleasantly surprised by final act Lehavoth.
Having technically been around since 1995, the Tel Aviv band have gone through a few line-up changes. I think this is my first time seeing them. I can't be 100% certain but if I have seen them before, I must have been way more tired than I was tonight or else I would not have forgotten them. The band have a lot of life on stage and actually seem to have a lot of fun while playing their mix of grind and death metal.
Although there isn't normally much room for originality in those genres, Lehavoth are quite refreshing. There's almost a punk-like energy to their performance while still being very much metal - sort of like Napalm Death but sounding much darker. They might not be a band I would choose to see on a regular basis...but I definitely want to give them another go. I would definitely recommend listening to their latest EP Grinder.

4/5 


Photos by David "Doh Doh" Rosen - www.dohphoto.com

Monday, 5 February 2018

Review: Krang - Singalong [January 2018]




Skate punk might not be as big as it was in the 90s but fast paced, melodic and slightly tongue-in-cheek punk rock isn't dead. One example is the hugely fun Krang from Czech Republic, named after the pink brain-like alien from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While the artwork to Singalong does include said baddie, this new album has a more general 80s/90s' pop culture theme compared to it's predecessor Baddest Brain, with titles like IDDQD (a cheat code for the original DOOM game), Kick Ass or Chew Bubblegum (They Live quote) and I Ain't Got No Time To Bleed (Predator quote).

Like before, the tracks on here are pretty short, fast and bouncy with vibes akin to Satanic Surfers, Millencolin and even Sum 41's more melodic side only with slightly more..er..European sounding vocals. Although I've heard stronger accents on records before, you can't help but notice it, especially when mixed with the odd grammatical error. This isn't an entirely bad thing, though - at least they're not pretending and it makes them distinguishable. 

Besides the movie quotes and retro references, the odd song tackles slightly more relatable subjects. King of a Dancefloor, for instance, is an anthem against violent dancing at punk and hardcore shows. Personally, I don't think hardcore dancing is something to be complaining about so strongly but it's clearly an important enough problem for the band...and I respect them wanting to get that message across. Ironically, the song is pretty kick-ass and might make you want to break things!

Other songs of importance include the short and anthemic No Fun In Fundamentatlism (where the Sum 41 vibes are most prominent), the fun and catchy Indian Jones Hates Nazis and Snakes and the band's impressive twist on The Beatles' classic Help! which still keeps the song's original essence while also being faster, harder and generally...more punk! 


I had the privilege to see Krang live in Tel Aviv last year. I meant to write about it but..yeh..never got around to it.. Anyway, as fun as they are on record, they are definitely a band to be experienced live for all their energy and on stage antics. Singalong in particular is just missing a little bit of that magic but is still an album worth checking out, especially if you're not into most modern day "pop punk".



3.5/5

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Review: Social Virus - Social Virus EP [20th December 2017]



Although Tel Aviv (and Israel in general, for that matter) has quite an intimate punk and hardcore scene, there has been a lot of new bands popping up lately. Not just ones with members of already established bands but actual NEW BLOOD. One of them is possibly one of the youngest hardcore bands EVER - Social Virus. With an average age of about 15, these 4 friends have already been getting attention for their age alone but as their debut self titled EP proves, the hype is not totally unwarranted.


Social Virus might be young but they have some actual hardcore chops. Consisting of 3 songs in English and 3 in Hebrew, the music on this EP incorporates the musical simplicity and aggression of old school hardcore punk mixed with the more lower tones and breakdowns of more modern tough-guy hardcore. Sticking to what hardcore should be, the songs are all quite personal and from the honest point of view of a teenager, as opposed to just being random songs about hardcore, unity and other such clichés.

Although the song HaShomeret Bat Zonah (The Bouncer is a Bitch), written about an incident involving the boys being refused entry to a punk show, has already gained a huge following alone, I personally wouldn't consider it the EP's stand out track. The 30 second long Still Here might be super short but is the best song by far, from its frantic intro by drummer Guy right to singer Atir's "Bleh!" (which is a bit of a cliché but I'll let it slide). I Was A Kid is also a highlight, not only for the catchy "So much different, so fucking different" chorus but also for the relatable content. Even at the age of 15, you start to realise that life isn't all that easy.

The overall production is more "demo" quality than sounding like an EP. In a way, it works well with the material as it makes the songs sound a little "gritty" but you can't help but think that they could sound even better and fuller with a higher quality mix.

Social Virus as a band are definitely going places but have a bit to learn. One suggestion I would like to make (not that my word really means anything) - you don't need to swear so much to sound "punk" or even more "adult". Obviously, it helps accentuate our frustration but if it gets overused, it can get less effective and cheapen everything. That was advise I was given which I've learned to appreciate more with time.

3/5

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Review: The Driers - Sad Party [August 2017]



It has been a while since I've written about Tel Aviv based alternative/rock trio, The Driers. Their 2015 EP, See You In Never, impressed me with its blend of punchy rhythms and beautiful harmonies (read my review here). Their long awaited debut album, Sad Party, provides very similar vibes.

Like on the EP,  Sad Party flirts with the likes of disco-tinged indie, alternative rock and even proto-punk; sometimes within the same song. Although all 10 songs on here are toe-tappers, there's still a bit of diversity among them. Songs like The Slides and Day One use interesting rhythm patterns provided by (previous) drummer Ben which'll get some hips a-shaking, while album opener Delayed, Fifty and Heartworms deliver faster and harder hitting punk rock beats which could have easily caused mass pogoing at mud-drenched music festivals in the 90's. The Invisible Girl also has a 90's feel but far more laid back, reminiscent of the Ash classic Oh Yeh! (the verses actually feel quite similar.)

Squeeze, a personal highlight from the album, teases you into thinking it's a sweet indie-pop song before erupting into an almost Weezer-meets-Violent Soho style chorus which conjures up images of long-haired teens jamming out their angst in someone's garage. The album's title track has one of the most infectious choruses which makes perfect use of guitarist Ronnie and bassist Tomer's breath-taking male-female vocal harmonies (similar to Band Of Skulls or Belle and Sebastian), a trait prominent throughout the band's work.

Although other bands do come to mind at times, The Driers are doing something very special; they manage to have one foot in the British indie scene of the last decade and the other somewhere in California in the 90's. While some Israeli bands who sing in English can come off sounding either too Israeli or like a poor imitation of their influences, The Driers sound totally natural, including some interesting and thought-provoking lyrics (e.g. The flight to my brain got delayed, And when it landed, it was too late..)

Although the mix of the drums, in particular, could do with being a lot cleaner on occasion, Sad Party still shows that the band has the potential for success abroad. Anyone who is a lover of beautiful harmonies, up-tempo beats and the odd dose of straight up rock thrown in will not be able to resist cracking a smile while listening.

4/5


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Live Review: Nasty + support @ Levontin 7, Tel Aviv [25th May 2017]

Nasty
03
Ostra Torn


There are some bands that I thought might never come to this country and when they actually do, it's not something to miss out. Tonight, a variety of people from the different hardcore scenes in Tel Aviv have gathered at Levontin 7 to witness the crazily heavy beatdowns of Belgian hardcore crew Nasty.



Östra Torn




Starting off tonight's proceedings is Haifa trio, Östra Torn. I've already reviewed these guys recently when they supported Zaga Zaga and I was really impressed by their doomy/sludgy hardcore. They did a very similar set tonight, set up in a triangle and just making the loudest noise possible. The band walks the fine line of playing loose enough that the music feels more natural and free-flowing but tight enough that no-one is loosing their place and they're all on the same page. The band hasn't got anything recorded yet (soon to come, though, I believe..) but watching them live is essential. You find yourself in some sort of tennis-spectator mode, as your eyes bounce from screaming bassist Nir to more growly guitarist Dean while drummer Ofer goes crazy amidst the heavy riffs and rumbling bass. I think that even when they do eventually release something, this is a band that can also be solely enjoyed live without needing to be familiar with the material. As long as you like things slow, heavy and energetic, you'll be smiling the whole show.

4/5


03



It was quite disappointing to hear shortly beforehand that tonight is 03's (Efes Shalosh) last show, so I think there's a lot of people who have come almost exclusively in support of them. Like Östra Torn, I have reviewed 03 before but with varying reviews. They've definitely become the tough hardcore powerhouse that they are now since the addition of guitarist Lemmy, who always jumps about the stage like his guitar's a kid's toy! With the recent release of their first album This Is Survival, Not A Revival, more people have gotten to hear exactly what this band does and have therefore gained more recognition. I still wouldn't go as far as saying that they're breaking any new ground in hardcore but they've certainly helped bridge that gap between hardcore and metalcore in this country, even bringing both fanbases to their shows.


As always, singer Jenia struts about the stage and the venue floor with his razor blade vocals blasting out of the speakers while the band delivers their Born From Pain meets Madball hardcore with infectious energy that rubs off on the crowd. The track Bruce Lee will forever be the band's Clobberin' Time; like the Sick Of It All song, it's less than a minute's worth of thunderous instrumental hardcore that just gets everyone pumped, making it the highlight of every show. They definitely have the right grooves to get people moving and a general likability but it just always feels like they're lacking something that separates them from the rest of the hardcore world.

 Hopefully, the band are not splitting up completely but just taking a break for a while and will come back with some fresh new material.

3.5/5



Nasty



All these years, I've wondered what kind of people would turn up to see some proper European beatdown hardcore. Tonight, there's a bunch of faces I've never really seen before as well as a few familiar ones. I was still unsure by what the reaction would be as normally any form of hardcore show out here tends to be still pretty "punk" in terms of the dancing and the general attitude. Although 03's set saw a bit of "violence", things went up a notch for Belgian posse Nasty.


Pretty much from the start, the pit has opened up and we see some 2-stepping, spin kicks, windmilling and stage diving as Nasty plough through their low-tuned, boisterous, hip-hop tinged hardcore. Frontman, Matthi, roams about the stage, getting everyone fired up and encouraging all the pit-action. The rest of the band also give it their all on stage, with Paddy (guitar) and Berri (bass) bouncing around and Nash smashing the kit behind them.

To be honest, the rest of the show becomes a bit of a blur as it just gets so crazy (and a literal blur because I took my glasses off to avoid any mishaps). As the band plays hits like Shokka, Lying When They Love Us and Slave To The Rich, bodies start flying all over the place, knocking the monitors off the stands in front of the stage. This leads to Matthi deciding to move all the monitors to the side of the stage and leave the front completely free for stag diving and sing-a-longs.


Whereas you can sometimes come across bands who are in the mindset of just turning up, plugging in and playing, it seems as though Nasty are genuinely excited to be experiencing a show in Tel Aviv, making sure that everyone's having a good time and especially that there's some carnage. There's very minimal talking between songs and nothing gets too "preachy". Even when it gets to the finale of anti-fascist anthem Zero Tolerance, Matthi mostly spreads some PMA instead of getting political.



This has to be one of the most "hardcore" shows I've ever been to in Israel, in terms of seeing some of the dancing I grew up seeing in the London scene. Maybe it's because of my age but I actually felt too intimidated to join in as much as I would have liked to. That said, it was still cool to just watch from the sidelines. Where I once originally thought of Nasty in a similar way as a band like Emmure (i.e. immature heavy music for college jocks), my views have changed. Nasty are simply a tough hardcore band with some solid beatdowns and try to touch upon serious topics in the most aggressive yet also fun ways possible. 



4/5

All photos courtesy of Miguel St Labao



Monday, 3 April 2017

Live Review: Zaga Zaga Album Release Show @ Levontin 7, Tel Aviv [18th March 2017]

Zaga Zaga
Östra Torn
Mitromemot

Noisy Tel Aviv hardcore punk outfit, Zaga Zaga, have released a new full length album. In order to celebrate it, they have invited their fanbase and friends to Levontin 7 to witness the new material live. They have also invited two new bands to open up for them.


Mitromemot


Up first is Tel Aviv based Mitromemot (which apparently means "faggots"). As I'm sure happens in most small scenes, sometimes new bands will pop up made from members of other popular/once-popular bands. Mitromemot consists of drummer Oneg (also the current Haium HaDeomgraphy drummer), guitarist Adi (Deaf Chonky), bassist Benjamin (Almonim Metim) and vocalist Mati (ex-Erev Rav). Having only just put out their debut self-titled EP, this is also their debut show. However, there's already a lot of people eager to see them. The band plays all of the 8 rapid and aggressive songs from the EP (no longer than 1 min 30 secs each) which run in a similar vein to the aforementioned Almonim Metim and Erev Rav. Out of those songs, Savta Coeset (Grandma's Angry/Angry Grandma) stands out the most. Although a song I cannot personally relate to, it simply speaks of the true and familiar generation gap between modern Israeli liberals and their Jewish/Zionist elders. As an added bonus, the band also treats the crowd to an interesting Hebrew rendition of the straight edge classic Minor Threat by the legends of the same name. I didn't actually recognise it due to never having heard the song in Hebrew before but those who get it are singing along and holding Mati aloft. All in all, it might not be the type of hardcore punk I would normally choose to listen to but the band has the right amount of passion behind the music and Mati has turned into one hell of a performer, screaming his lungs out and owning the stage.

3/5


Östra Torn


Man, Haifa has been giving birth to a lot of heavy shit! As one of the bands to have been born out of the demise of Haifa hardcore heavyweights Barren Hope, the next band on, Östra Torn (which I believe is Swedish for "East Tower"), similarly play low-tuned, fuzzy, metallic hardcore. On stage, the trio align themselves in a triangle so as guitarist, Dean, and bassist, Nir can both see equal amounts of each other, the crowd and drummer, Ofer. As they aggressively plough through a thunderous set of Nails/Trap Them/Soulground heaviness, Dean and Nir share vocals, with their different styles complimenting one another well. I basically had a grin from ear to ear throughout most of the set; it just hits that spot in my brain that really responds to crushingly angry music. If these guys can stay around longer than Barren Hope, I can easily see them as a welcomed addition to either Prosthetic or Nuclear Blast roster.

4/5

Zaga Zaga




Yes, yes..I'm having to write about Zaga Zaga again! To be honest, I'm writing this review more to give some publicity to the supporting acts. I've written about Zaga Zaga a lot over the passed couple of years. Although my views on them did change after the first couple of times seeing them, they've since just been consistently fun to watch live that there's never really been nothing new to say. With the release of their self titled album (which some are calling their debut, although I personally consider Year One their first proper album), they've now just added more crazily fast, heavy and noisy songs to their set. Joining classic crowd-pleasers such as The Dancer, (I Just Called To Say) I Hate Your Band and Industrial Estate (my personal favourite due to its interesting question-answer guitar breakdown), new tracks such as Black T and Cancer Man are already seeing the crowd get involved. Razorblade Razorblade, although from the new album, has been in the band's repertoire for quite some time. It's jagged, dissonant groove always manages to get my head moving.

There is still a part of me that finds some of the faster songs flying right by me like a barrage of shouting and shredding, but there are at least songs which have enough balance of groove and rapid intensity which make them one of the more interesting bands in the scene at the moment. Also, every time I watch them, I'm reminded of a quote that a friend read in a band's biography (I think it was The Sonics). It was something along the lines of "If you haven't sweat enough from a show that you can throw your shirt at a wall and make it stick, then you didn't give a good enough performance." Tonight, I was worried guitarist Ben was going to create a fire hazard with what was pouring out of his face onto his pedals! Even if the music isn't your thing, everyone can admire how Zaga Zaga give 110% on stage.

3.5/5


Photos by David "Doh Doh" Rosen

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Review: Kids Insane - Cluster [10th March 2017]


Breaking out of the Israeli music scene is quite a difficult feat. In the Israeli punk and hardcore world, it's even more difficult. However, one of the bands that have been making waves in recent years is Tel Aviv's Kids Insane. Having secured themselves European tours with the likes of Defeater and Slander, played shows with bands like Gnarlwolves and Bane and also getting on a few festival lineups, the band have slowly but surely been gaining some attention. I even met a German guy at a festival in The Netherlands wearing a Kids Insane T-shirt. That's some solid recognition right there!

With the addition of Dust guitarist, Ofek, the band are about to release their 2nd full length album, Cluster. The band's debut album, All Over, garnered the band a firm following with their slightly dark, angst-ridden Defeater/Touché Amoré style hardcore. With their Frustrated EP and Split EP with Slander, the band's sound has been seen to be evolving bit by bit. As previews of newer songs in recent shows have already suggested, that process has continued and taken them into new realms.

On Cluster, the band still have some of the same energy as before but with an added "rock n roll swagger" similar to Every Time I Die, John Coffey and even The Bronx. Frontman Corey has always been able to hold a note but here his voice has more melody and takes on a more rock timbre, as do Ofek's dirty riffs, Nadav's solid bass and Yoni's thunderous drumming. Songs like opening track, Left Right Left, Killing Us (which features overly British guest vocals by Thom Weeks of Gnarlwolves) and Not A Slave provide infectious melodic singalongs which differ from their previous more shout-worthy anthems.

Overthinking and Full Tank are similarly more tuneful in a way that is odd to hear. While the former utilises back-up oohs and an organ like a spooky 6os garage rock song, the latter can easily be mistaken for Trent Reznor fronting Deftones at the start but then everything changes when those mighty riffs kick in. 

Even with the vocals and riffs bringing something new to the table, Cluster still includes songs like Varicose and Not Yet which hark back to their classic aggressive hardcore sound. The band have managed to experiment and keep some sort of consistency in quality (of both musicianship and production) and style throughout the record. Nothing sounds out of place and it all strings together pretty well. However, it could be questioned how natural this all is. Not only is their usual subject matter about oppression and hating where you live starting to sound a little cliché but some of the empowering choruses come across as forced attempts to create the next best hardcore anthem. That said, who isn't guilty of that?! As a fan of The Bronx and Hot Damn! era Every Time I Die, I actually embrace the Kids Insane's musical detour and find Cluster to be an interesting record as a whole, with some songs even getting stuck in my head. For others who fell in love with the simple angst of All Over, it might take some time to fully appreciate it.


3.5/5