Punk

All posts tagged Punk

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Artist: Idle Shades

Album: The Time is Now

Release Date: 3/3/17

Rating: 9.5/10

For nearly a decade, Youngstown punk outfit Idle Shades have been carving a unique niche across the scene and beyond. With several high-profile performances across the region, opening for national acts such as The Atom Age, Koffin Kats and former Misfits leader Michael Graves to name a few, the punk power trio have successfully won over a wide audience that’s continually expanding. By delivering a classic Punk sound with hints of Alternative and Post-Punk influence ever-present, they have latched onto and perfected a much-varied sound with broad appeal. Now, heading in 2017 at full throttle, Idle Shades are ready to unleash their sophomore full-length album, The Time is Now!

With a knack for infectious hooks, and a sound encompassing the strongest elements of 90s So-Cal Punk, combined with the occasional bouncing Psychobilly rhythms or The Damned-esque Post-Punk atmosphere, Idle Shades truly stand apart not only among the Punk scene, but the greater regional scene as well. The Time is Now is proof of this. It’s a collection of 12 meaty tracks that clearly indicate a band not only owning their finest qualities found on their debut, Picture Perfect, but pissing all over what made them great before, and taking it up several notches.

The Time is Now is a cohesive yet varied collection of material from a band continually reaching new creative peaks. Opening with the rousing “Prove Me Wrong,” a driving yet sparse riff leads the verse before building into a massive hook-heavy chorus. From there, the somewhat gothic sounding riff of “Dream” opens one of many of the album’s standout tracks, full of thumping bass, slick riffs and more massive hooks.

From there, tracks like “Listen,” “Worst in You” and lead single “Greater Picture,” find Idle Shades in familiar territory, combining personal and heartfelt lyrics, accompanied by a sonic attack that drives the point straight to the listener’s gut.

Idle Shades left to right: Bassist/Vocalist Angelo Scordo, Drummer Anthony Rapone, Guitarist Josh Wakeford. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By The Time is Now‘s mid-point, more shining gems surface. “Problems” features a mean riff with a slamming rhythm, while “Walking Away” and “Turn and Run” provide more Punk fury, with… you guessed it… more hooks that will stick with you for days! The album concludes with the driving “Moving On” and climactic “Losing Hope,” were vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo sings a message of urgency: “We never really take the time for the things we need the most, for the people, time keeps passing by and can’t help but start losing hope, until it’s too late.” This type of urgency concludes a general theme found across The Time is Now.

All in all, The Time is Now is the sound of band not only feeling comfortable in their own skin, but taking themselves to new heights. Idle Shades have successfully delivered an album that not only engages the listener, but demands repeated listens as well. It also feels like a natural progression for a band on a trajectory. Standout tracks include “Dream,” “Worst in You,” “Problems” and “Losing Hope.”

Physical copies of The Time is Now will be available Friday, March 3, as the band will be taking the stage at Cedars West End in Youngstown, OH for it’s official release party. An early digital release can be purchased and streamed via Idle Shades’ official Bandcamp.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Artist: Nervous Aggression

Album: This is Ragecore

Rating: 9/10

A great amount of noise has been made down in East Liverpool, Ohio. A group of punks have been studying their surroundings. And through the power of their ferocious, gut-punching music, they have turned their rage outward, aiming at a society on the verge of collapse.

Nervous Aggression are such punks up for the challenge. With their latest release, This is Ragecore, they carrying the old school Hardcore ethos as a badge of honor, while raising a voice for a new generation of disenchanted punks ready and willing to take a stand!

Clocking in at around only 10 minutes, This is Ragecore is a straight kick-in-the-teeth through six tracks. From beginning to end, the EP is an unrelenting blast of rage and, oddly enough, hope. Kicking off with a blast of Hardcore Punk found on opener “Attack” and leading into “Your Band Sucks,” Nervous Aggression quickly establish a raging declaration of independence from a scene that seldom has the balls to engage current events with such unflinching intensity.

From there, the protest anthem “No Justice No Peace” directly reflects the times, with its title being chanted in protest over and over by the track’s end. “Offensive Noise” perfectly sums the band’s growing reputation toward “the man,” while “Heroin is Ugly” confronts a dark epidemic plaguing much of the band’s home turf. Featuring a rather rousing guitar solo smack (no pun intended) in the middle of the song, climaxing with “Why have all my fucking friends died!” giving a real glimpse into an issue faced by the loved ones of the disease.

Nervous Aggression concludes This is Ragecore with the sonic blast that is “We All Go.” A track that hints at resistance, and that resistance is hope.

All in all, This is Ragecore leaves you foaming at the mouth, wanting more. Despite it’s shirt runtime, it feels like stepping in the pit and sharing the rage with your brothers and sister. It’s pure adrenaline! And a must have for fans of classic Hardcore Punk like Black Flag, Bad Brains and Circle Jerks. Standout tracks include “No Justice No Peace,” “Heroin is Ugly” and “We All Go.” The EP can be purchased via Nervois Aggression’s official Bandcamp.

Annihilate performing at Freestock 2016. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

                                                    Annihilate performing at Freestock 2016. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Since its inception over three decades ago, Hardcore music has utilized extremity to take a stand. Through Hardcore, the voice of a misanthropic youth was given a primal yet intellectual platform, to rage against a society gone mad. And through this blast of angst and energy, a message of hope and empowerment is brought to light.

Such is the tradition of this extreme extension of Punk Rock, a tradition proudly carried forward by the likes of Mahoning Valley’s newest powerhouse, Annihilate!

Annihilate began roughly a year ago as its members began searching for something they just weren’t getting from their previous bands. It wasn’t until these individuals came together and begin making noise, that a clear path was to be set.

“This band is more or less the product of two previous bands breaking apart. It started off as The Event Horizon which only Billy (Russell, vocals) was a part of at the time. One day he messaged me on Facebook telling me he liked my drum covers and that he wanted me to be their new drummer and that was about it,” said drummer Andrew Blose of the band’s formation.

Blose also said that it wasn’t until co-founding member Nick Cavicchi jumped to lead guitar that Annihilate really found it’s stride.

“Nick was actually playing bass with us for a while. It wasn’t until Annihilate that he started playing lead in the band. As ATI we were still having problems with writing music as well as other personal problems between members so we made the decision to let go of one of our guitarists, rewrite all of our songs and change the name to Annihilate. This was when we made the decision to start writing more Hardcore-driven songs,” said Blose.

Of the music of Annihilate, Cavicchi said that it was very akin to the classic Hardcore bands of the 80s, like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys for example, for rallied against the establishment and emphasized the ideas of individuality and empowerment.

“The music we write is in my own opinion pretty true to the OG Punk bands as far as the meaning goes. It’s about staying true to yourself and your friends. It’s pretty much like how Dead Kennedys said ‘fuck you’ to the establishment and the weak-minded people around them. What I think it means to be a Hardcore/Punk band these days is about just being yourself,” explained Cavicchi.

Annihilate vocalist Billy Russell. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

Annihilate vocalist Billy Russell. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

He added that the band is more concerned with it’s message of unity and keeping in step with those who seek it, rather than fame or glory, or the multitude of negativity from those who perpetuate such negativity.

“This band was founded around being friends and playing shows to our friends. Personally, I’m not in this for fame or anything like that. I’m in it to make a stand. I’m in it to write against racism and all the bullshit fascist mentalities people have. If people don’t like how we have songs against racists and weak people who bully people, then they can fuck off,” said Cavicchi.

Interestingly enough, 2016 has proven to be a big year for extreme music, particularly Hardcore. Rightfully so, bands such as Nails and Full of Hell have been in the national spotlight being featured in mainstream publications like Rolling Stone and Vice. The members of Annihilate feel that this is an exciting time indeed to see this music begin to flourish.

“I feel like it is a huge time for extreme music. You see more and more fans of heavier styles of music showing up left and right and it’s a great feeling. We’ve kind of been the ‘black sheep’ of the music scene for decades so it’s definitely awesome that metal is becoming more accepted in our culture. The music we know and create is making a huge impression on people,” said vocalist Billy Russell.

However, they are unsure as to whether or not they would fit in with it completely.

“We don’t really know if we fit into the scene or not. We’ve never really thought about it that way,” said Russell.

“Deciding whether or not we fit into a scene is kind of funny when you think about it,” added bassist Graham Kirk. “The whole rise of Punk rock was based on the idea of not fitting in and that idea stayed true when it evolved into Hardcore. But if the entire Hardcore scene is just a bunch of misfits looking for a purpose then you can count us in.”

Cavicchi explained that although this scene is taking off nationally, and regionally, it’s yet to catch on in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

“Our local scene in Youngstown is not so great for Hardcore music and fans. Regionally it’s alright, but Cleveland is where it seems to shine. Most venues here in Youngstown aren’t the biggest fans of the energy hardcore brings but I can see their angle. Cleveland, on the other hand, is pretty good for bands like us to play. Personally I’d like to see more venues open-minded to Hardcore and Punk bands playing even if the shows get wild. Those are the shows people remember for years,” said Cavicchi.

Annihilate guitarist Nick Cavicchi. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

Annihilate guitarist Nick Cavicchi. Photo by Katlyn Jackson Photography.

He also expressed the important of house shows and more DIY situations where the fans can be more directly involved.

“So for me, 2017 should be a year of more bands playing in Youngstown. Hell, even new bands can play house shows and not worry about what people think. Most bands around here are out for personal gain and I want to change that. We should come together and support each other. That too should be a big change made within the next year,” Cavicchi said.

More so than almost any other genre of music, Punk and Hardcore artists have always maintained a direct and somewhat personal relationship with their fans. The members of Annihilate are fully embracive of this practice and utilize social media to its maximum potential.

“Social media is definitely a great tool for gaining more of a following. We have all of these resources like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. at our disposal to connect with people from all around the world. They didn’t have that opportunity before the Internet crawled into the mainstream, so I’d say we’re pretty lucky to be a band in the generation we’re in as far as publicity is concerned. And I think shows should have a huge impression on the audience,” said Blose.

However, they indicate that a strong live show will leave the longest lasting impression on fans above all else.

“You want to captivate them in that moment and have them leave with something that isn’t tangible,” said Blose. “It takes more than standing in one spot and running through the motions to accomplish that. I’ve seen bands play that have impressed the fuck out of me musically, but they had one or two people watching them because they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t moving around, they weren’t interacting with the crowd; they just looked down at what they were playing the whole time and walked off stage when they were done. You’re only as good as you make yourself look.”

“As far as live shows go, I remember playing with Hatebreed and Acacia Strain when I was in Cherry Poppins and talking to Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. He gave me advice on how to get fans to show more support and what it means to be a part of this scene and what he told me has stuck to me since. He said, ‘I remember playing in front of a crowd of 10 people. Going, setting up and performing, not knowing what is going to happen next, but it didn’t matter what happened next. All we wanted to do was give a message to people that we didn’t give a fuck what people think. Just go out there and make them want more every single fucking time.’ I remember that clearly because that showed me that the bands I look up to have been in the spot we are in and we have the potential of doing something great,” added Russell.

Annihilate has some big plans moving forward into 2017. As of October 2016, they’ve began work with Billy Duganne at Legion Productions on recording their debut EP, which the band hopes to release by year’s end. In the meantime, you can listen to Annihilate’s debut single, “3:15,” by clicking here.

Where's Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

Where’s Winona Now? left to right: Ryan Augustine, Lucy Sawyer, Connor Lane and Tyler Toporcer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the Mahoning Valley, one quartet is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.

Where’s Winona Now?, a fresh-faced teenage punk rock outfit, is carving quite the niche into the local scene. With memorizing high-profile performances throughout the area including Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in Youngstown, Dave Grohl Alley in Warren and the Outpost Concert Club in Kent, as well as a slot on one of 2016’s most-hyped events, Revive Arts and Music Festival, the band continue to steamroll their way onto the scene, picking up fans at every turn.

Through heartfelt and empowering lyrics, partnered with powerful music, the band are set to lead the next generation of the Steel Valley music scene.

Consisting of vocalist Lucy Sawyer, guitarist Tyler Toporcer, bassist Ryan Augustine and drummer Connor Lane, Where’s Winona Now? formed out of friendship, and a general love for music. The band’s sound is primarily in the vein of punk rock, with the influence of the fuzz-soaked alternative scene of the 1990s.

“Lucy is into a lot of Nirvana and Bikini Kill, Ryan likes Nirvana, Green Day and classic rock, Connor is into more metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica, and I’m all over the place,” said Toporcer of his influences.

Despite coming from a much younger generation, Sawyer said that growing up, classic rock radio was a staple in her home.

“Definitely! My dad was always playing non-stop music,” said Sawyer.

“My dad listened to a lot of Metallica, and we’d listen to Rock 104, and I got into music that way,” added Lane.

13083262_1077137332366103_3834212062576275466_n

Much like the band’s key influences, Where’s Winona Now? connect with their audience through deep personal lyrics that reflect where they are in their lives. Through long jam sessions, the band carefully sift through their music and piece together each song.

“I write all the lyrics. Definitely about personal events, relationships and not-so-good relationships. They jam and I pick out the parts that I like,” explained Sawyer.

One of the recurring themes through the band’s songs is the idea of embracing imperfection and being comfortable in one’s own skin.

“I think the point of [the band] is that we’re not perfect. And we want to reach people like that, we want to make sure everyone knows they have somebody,” said Sawyer.

“It’s a nice thing to relate to,” added Toporcer. “Not being pressured to be perfect, just be yourself.”

This is a sentiment that Sawyer said is lacking in popular music today.

“It’s just really general stuff, and I get that. But there’s not much that’s real personal that makes you feel that way too,” said Sawyer.

12729032_1013751682038002_5396774955497923609_n

The members of Where’s Winona Now? all agree that they are at their best in a live setting, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Original songs such as “Tell Me Why,” “Bad News” and “Her Song” capture the raw emotion the band conveys through both their music and lyrics. And with a slew of noteworthy, attention-grabbing live performances already under their under their belt, the band has successfully hit the ground running.

One area the band have most successfully carved a niche into is the revived downtown Youngstown music scene, where the band feel most at-home.

“I definitely think it’s better that the scene is coming back here, because we had to drive up to Kent and Akron to play shows a lot,” said Sawyer.

It’s nice to play shows where people around here are excited to hear us rather than try to get 20 people to pay for tickets to drive up to Kent to see us,” added Augustine.

Sawyer said that she believes it’s very important to have a strong scene in a central location such as that of downtown Youngstown with all of the great culture and talent that surrounds it.

“I think it’s important just because locally it feels like we were culturally starved for a little bit, especially after the Wickyards shut down,” said Sawyer.

As the downtown Youngstown scene continues to expand and rebuild, Where’s Winona Now?, along with a handful of their peers, find themselves smack in the middle of an exciting new movement.

While band look to hit the studio for their first proper recording in the near future, they have a few high-profile performances to keep fans satisfied for the meantime.

“We’ll be at the BuzzBin Arcade and Music Ship in Canton on June 3 and Revive Arts and Music Festival in downtown Youngstown on July 16,” finished Toporcer.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/4fBdnKuJcYo” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

untitled

Artist: Refused

Album: Freedom

Release Date: 6/30/15

Rating: 6.5/10

The late 90’s were indeed a great time to be into Punk Rock. While acts on the Pop-Punk end of the spectrum (Blink-182, Reel Big Fish, Eve 6) where gaining mainstream attention and a shit ton of airplay, there was something even bigger about to burst from the underground. And it was Swedish Post-Hardcore outfit Refused and their seminal classic, The Shape of Punk to Come, that blew the doors wide open!

The Epitaph Records act had a major hit on their hands in 1998. Led by the success of the single “New Noise,” Refused were poised to be the next big thing and the band to possibly take down Nu Metal before it had the chance to break onto the bastardized Alternative scene of the late 90’s. Unfortunately, it all imploded from there.

Refused called it quits just about a year after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, leaving a massive void on the emerging Post-Hardcore scene. Although bands like At The Drive-In, Glassjaw, Zao and The Dillinger Escape Plan saw success at the turn of the decade, it wasn’t until the scene’s bastard cousin, “Screamo,” broke through to the masses that a sound pioneered by the band could really be recognized by a mainstream audience, albeit a very watered-down version of it.

However, the impossible happened in 2012, and the all-but-dead Refused returned from out of no where for a triumphant reunion. And after a few years of “will they, won’t they,” in 2015 Refused announced a full-scale second run along with a new album.

On June 30, Refused released Freedom, their first album in 17 years. The hype surrounding the release has been quite circumstantial, given that the band released on of the most influential pieces of music in the last 20 years.

With this being no easy feat, Freedom doesn’t exactly live up to all the expectations. Most lacking on Freedom is the sense of experimentation the band had come to be known for. Any experimentation that is present, feels forced.

Kicking off the album is the semi-lackluster, “Elektra,” leading into the awkward chant-along rocker, “Old Friends/New War.” Following this, the album slowly kicks into gear, with the scorching lead single, “Dawkins Christ;” an almost Faith No More-esque heavy rocker that captures, or recaptures, the band in the artsy-angst that made them legends.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

Refused, circa 2015. Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com.

From here, “Francafrique” and “War On the Palaces” come up somewhat flat, sounding as the band is trying to find some balance between a good poppy hook and a blast of Hardcore rage. Luckily, the final four tracks of Freedom really offer up something special.

“Destroy the Man” is a true rocker, boasting the trademark energy fans have come to expect from Refused. And although the following tracks, “366” and “Servants of Death” take on a more electronic-ish danceable role, they boast just as much Punk Rock as they do anything else, proving the band still have some new tricks up their sleeve. Finally, the album concludes with “Useless Europeans.” As the tension builds throughout ” Useless Europeans,” Freedom climbs to a satisfying climax.

All in all, Freedom is not exactly the follow-up to The Shape of Punk to Come. Refused take a step back at moments, several steps actually, allowing melody and hooks have more room than the blast of energy one may expect. However, nearly two decades have passed between the two records, and the band have undeniably grown as songwriters. With so many years missing in between, there’s no telling what baby steps where missed from Shape of Punk to Freedom.

Nonetheless, the record has some very solid tracks. Highlights include “Dawkins Christ,” “Servants of Death” and “Useless Europeans.” Conversely, “366” and “Francafrique” offer terribly catchy hooks that may just have you revisiting them, whether they strike you initially or not.

 

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

After putting out five albums in 10 years, most bands would probably feel like they’ve “made it.”

Though they have accomplished a lot in the past decade, The Gaslight Anthem feel they still have a lot to do in order to cement their place in Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

“I feel like, bands that think they have settled into some sort of groove, or that they have mastered this whole music thing are the ones that usually become stale pretty quick,” said drummer Benny Horowitz in a recent interview with The Raw Alternative.

“Being complacent can be an artistic curse, not just in music, but with pretty much anything from a painter to a film director. We are critical of our own work and we push ourselves to do better with every album and every performance.”

The quartet did indeed push themselves on their latest effort, Get Hurt, which was released in August and peaked at number four on the US billboard 200 chart.

Their fifth album is perhaps their best to date as it displays the bands growth and maturity more than anything else they have released in the past.

Recently, lead singer Brian Fallon said that Pearl Jam’s No Code was a huge influence on this album and after giving it a listen, you can see why.

It’s no wonder, as Pearl Jam is one of those rare bands that continue to change and evolve.

“Brian sometimes pulls influences into his songwriting and we all kind of pull from Pearl Jam,” Horowitz said. “Pearl Jam has a lot of records and they have changed and taken chances throughout their career. No Code represented a change for them, just like Get Hurt does for us, we need to keep expanding.”

Eddie Vedder and company is not the only band that Horowitz is into. He also stated that he likes bands such as the openers on the tour, the Northcote and the Scandals, as well as some hip-hop. Another well-documented influence has been Bruce Springsteen, but gone are the days of fans chanting “Bruuuuuuuce” at the band, expecting to hear a cover of the fellow New Jersey native.

Finally fans and critics alike are starting to see the band for what they are: Themselves.

“Sure, it got old hearing those chants and we struggled a bit creating separation, but it turned into something that we took as a compliment. To be lumped in with one of the greatest musicians of all-time really isn’t a bad thing,” said Horowitz.

The Gaslight Anthem's fifth album, "Get Hurt," is out now via Island Records.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth album, “Get Hurt,” is out now via Island Records.

New Jersey has a rich tradition of great music. From Springsteen to the Misfits and Frank Sinatra to Ricky Nelson. The question is: Will the Gaslight Anthem ever be mentioned amongst those greats?

“If we’re lucky, yes,” Horowitz added. “It’s cool to think about, especially growing up a Rock ‘N’ Roll fan. Actually one of the coolest experiences for me, so far, was after we released our third record (American Slang) we officially started being cataloged at record stores.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but I use to work at a record store and I remember the rule of thumb is, once a band has three full-length albums they get their own tag with the band name on it. It was a feeling like ‘hey, we made it,'” said Horowitz.

Though the band is happy with the way Get Hurt turned out, Horowitz said they are still hungry and want to expand their music in ways they have not done yet. Though it’s tough, for any band, to predict how the future will turn out, or even if they will still be a group, Horowitz also indicated that he doesn’t focus too much on the future.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that you can only control what you can control. The stuff I can’t control I don’t even worry about. Right now we are focusing on touring and the whole creative process,” said Horowitz. “In a perfect world, I would hope that 10 years from now we would still be relevant and making albums and it would be the same four members in the band.”

Currently on tour, the band will make a stop at Cleveland’s House of Blues on Wednesday for what will undoubtedly be an energetic show. Canadian band, the Northcote, as well as fellow New Jersey punk rockers the Scandals will be opening as mentioned earlier. The Gaslight Anthem will be switching up the set list every night and sprinkling in new songs, with all of the classics to keep things fresh.

Horowitz added that the entire band loves playing in front of their fans and hope that all that come can enjoy themselves and leave all of their troubles at the door and just have a good time.

Tickets for the Cleveland show are $36.00 and $42.50.

By Frank Myers (Opinion Nation)

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

Artist: Masked Intruder

Album: M.I.

Release Date: 5/27/14

Rating: 8/10

Back in 2012, our hearts and attention were stolen by a group of four guys who had just gotten out of prison. Whether released on good behavior or a successful escape is still unsure! The guys I am talking about are Masked Intruder if you were unaware. Having broken out and stolen our hearts and attention already, they have returned to do it again with their newest album, M.I.

After their self titled first release, most if not all of their fans questioned their ability to be able to keep up with the amazing things they pulled off. The first album was full of witty lyrics, awesome guitar, bass, and drum tracks, and the harmonizing was just impeccable. Even I myself was very doubtful that they could ever put something else out worth listening to after coming on so strong with their debut release.

Well, about a week ago, M.I. was released and it was time for the fans to see if their doubts were valid. After hearing the first single “Most Beautiful Girl,” I will admit I was becoming less enthused and less hopeful on the outcome of what I was going to hear. After sitting and listening to the new album three times straight when I got it, I was disappointed, but only in myself and the fact that I wasn’t expecting anything great. Masked Intruder somehow was able to put together a follow up album that was actually almost as good as the piece of gold they have us back in 2012. I will not say it is as good, but it is damn close and I have listened to over 12 times within a week! If you are a fan of the first album and putting off listening to the new one for fear of disappointment,

I will tell you to go into listening to it with that attitude because on first listen you will be mad at yourself for doubting them. I know I was. If you have never heard them before, you definitely have to give these guys a listen, they are a great shot of originality and fun in the vein of punk rock today!! So, get online and buy yourself a copy of M.I. You won’t regret it.

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

Off! left to right, Dimitri Coats, Mario Rubalcaba, Keith Morris and Steven Shane McDonald. Photo courtesy of alternativepress.com.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Cheif)

Punk outfit Off! can easily be described; simple and powerful. In an era of bloated production and YouTube stardom, Off! provide a minimalist blast of fresh air. Their intensity and DIY attitude say it all, and no where is this more prominent than on their latest release, Wasted Years.

Formed in 2009, Off! is comprised by punk legends Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes). Their vintage punk rock sound incorporates elements and ascetics of early 80’s hardcore, proving refreshing in a moden musical climate.

Many in the punk community can attest that the national scene has been in decline since the rise of corporate punk-pop acts like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte in the late 90’s and early 00’s. The punk revival of the mid-90’s had taken a backseat, as emo/screamo, punk-pop and quasi-hardcore acts rose to dominance over the last decade. However, the punk scene, like a plague of cockroaches, refused to die off despite how popular and commercial said genres became. However, as a sign-of-the-times, Off! are at the center of yet another resurgence, and an even more grassroots punk rock movement.

Off! released their second album, Wasted Years, in April 2014 to overwhelming positive reviews. Fans of the members’ previous projects are been embracive, as the sound varies little, yet stands on it’s own just enough to allow Off! a unique and memorable sound.

Wasted Years is in many ways a very complex record. Although all of the tracks don’t meet or barely meet the two-minute mark, the range of emotions vary. Lyrically, the album travels into dark territory, particular near it’s closing. Leading off with tracks “Void You Out” and single “Red White and Black,” Wasted Years comes out swinging offering no apologies. Tracks like “Legion of Evil” and “No Easy Escape” represent the tried and true classic punk ethos of nonconformity through constructive angst.

Lyrically however, more personal themes come into play with mid-album tracks like “It Didn’t Matter to Me,” “Death Trip on the Party Train” and “I Won’t Be a Casualty.” The honesty and emotional depth of the original hardcore movement becomes more obvious as the album soldiers forward. Finally, Wasted Years takes a twist of darkness on closing tracks “Time’s Not on Your Side,” “Meet Your God” and “Wasted Years.”

Wasted Years comes at the right time in music. As corporate rock continues to take hold, spouting out endless reunion tours of many acts prematurely past their prime, or a slight oversaturation of rock bands who are still making great music (Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters and even Queens of the Stone Age), Off! find ground not common settled in recent years. Their underground buzz has continued to grow, and mainstream attention is not far. Perhaps a little of that attention would not be so bad; to shed light on a new raw movement. The attention comes and goes. What remains consistent, is the pure intensity and raw emotion that is Off!

Entering the mid-2010’s, the influence of real punk and hardcore is as evident as ever. As long as fans are still pissed, still have something to say, still have something to believe in and still know a machine to rage against, Off!, as well as the subsequent movement, will always have a place among leather and spike-clad punks and hole-in-the-wall dive bars. And what better place to be!?

Idle Shades, left to right: vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo, drummer Anthony Rapone and guitarist Josh Wakeford.

Idle Shades, left to right: vocalist/bassist Angelo Scordo, drummer Anthony Rapone and guitarist Josh Wakeford.

By Frank Meyers (Opinion Nation)

I just got a chance to sit down and take a listen to Idle Shades recent album release Picture Perfect. and I first want to say way to go guys. The Idle Shades are one of the few bands still around that I remember from when I first started going downtown to local shows. I have plenty of memories watching them open shows for Johnie 3, who as we all know is no more. I can honestly say that over the years they have done a great job at fine tuning their material and working their way into their own little thing. Their live shows are high energy and non stop rock, so I was anxious to see how that transferred over to CD.

From the opening chord on the first track, “Leaving Me Behind,” to the final chord of the 11th track, “Tomorrow,” Idle Shades put together a very tight and great sounding record of straight up rock and roll. The music is upbeat and energy driven, the vocals are very fitting for what they are doing, and the lyrics are well written and for the most part give the feeling of real thought and a sense of sincerity to some extent. There are moments in a few songs where I can catch a slight reminder of old school Bad Religion vibes in there, which I really enjoyed. All around this album was worth the wait.

I am glad to see that another great band from Youngstown has put out some take no prisoners rock and roll and didn’t conform to anyone else’s standards but their own!! The music scene in Youngstown is looking up people, and the Idle Shades have been working their asses off for years now and are a big part of what is going right in it, and Picture Perfect is definitely an album that is right there at the top and will be in my playlist for years to come. So, I just want to say thanks to the band for their hard work they put into what they do for our listening pleasures!!

The Days Before Empires, left to right Devon Arend, Brad Witherstine and Billy Page. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page.

The Days Before Empires, left to right Devon Arend, Brad Witherstine and Billy Page. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

As the seeming endless pool of unique original talent continues to pour out of every corner of the MahoningValley, one trio is bringing the raw intensity of unrefined punk rock to the forefront.

The Days Before Empires, a new-to-the-scene three-piece punk outfit hailing from the likes of Salem, Ohio, is stripping it back to the bare bones of rock and roll. Consisting of Guitarist Brad Witherstine, bassist Billy Page and drummer Devon Arend, the trio take a simple yet powerful approach to their music. And while most major rock acts are racing to the controls of Auto Tune and ProTools, these Northeast Ohio punks just want to make pure, unfiltered rock and roll.

“We want to bring the raw energy of rock and punk back into focus,” said leader singer and guitarist Brad Witherstine.

Taking influence from Americana-punk act The Gaslight Anthem, contemporary punk masters Against Me! and Hot Water Music, and classics like Black Sabbath and Bruce Springsteen, The Days Before Empires look to make real music with a real message. Much like those whom they draw inspiration, the band have a knack for sonic blasts of energy with substance. Rather than worrying about what exactly it is to be punk in today’s musical climate, the band focuses on delivering powerful and heart felt anthems.

“It has to come from the heart. That’s where the best art begins, from the heart,” said Witherstine.

“Anything that really goes against the norm, that’s punk rock. Going your own way and doing things your way,” added Page.

Formed in 2011 by Witherstine, the band has evolved out of several incarnations and lineups. Witherstine and Page spent the next few years finding their sound. After parting ways with their founding drummer, the group’s final lineup was rounded out with Arend slamming behind the kit. As stated on the band’s official Facebook page:

“Arend brings a tight and aggressive drumming style to the mix.”

These points are proven with the bands live performances. Songs like “Holding Ground” and “Something In the Night” deliver the intensity of punk in a manner like that of Social Distortion, with thought-provoking lyrics that echo Against Me! On “Radio Streets,” a Gaslight Anthem-meets-Springsteen fist-pumper is employed, indicating that band’s capability of captivity it’s audience.

With a unique blend of originals and adapted covers, The Days Before Empires have already begun their assault on the scene. With highly anticipated live performances schedules for Chipper’s in Austintown, Ohio on March 15 and Fernengels Tavern in Salem, Ohio in Aoril, the buzz is continuing to build for the these new comer punks. However, as those who’ve witnessed their fury in the flesh, The Days Before Empires never disappoint.

1743712_10152267470100987_1392080305_n