Violent Minds- "Paincave Sessions" Cassette (Blastphamous)
First Edition, 2015
The story behind this cassette isn't a short one. As the bulk of this bands material was released somewhat before this blog existed, bar my post from a few years back about a questionable demo tape secured on eBay, I have never really had a proper chance to blog about Canada's Violent Minds. All of the groups material prior to this release is some of the best modern hardcore that exists (and their first two EP's are easily the best releases of the 2000's), though for me, this tape has really turned my ideas about this band on their head. For the entirety of VM's lifespan, until this year that is -without throwing out there the label of 'mysterious' hardcore- this band certainly had existed in the realm of 'less known about' acts, due mainly to their active avoidance of things like social media, message boards etc. For years the only information I could find out about them would be from blurbs written up on various labels websites when pushing their goods, some coverage in Town of Hardcore, and from people I knew who had closer personal connections to central member, vocalist and main song writer Zach Amster. Other than a limited set of live photos of a menacing looking, heavily tattoo'd Zach, not much else existed. And then after a batch of releases in 2007 everything went even quieter for an extended period and I think most of us just assumed that he had dissolved the group.
Fast forward to 2012 and a few photos starting floating around online of Amster in the Paincave recording studio accompanied by hints that what we were seeing could be new VM material. And then everything went quiet again. Another shift forward to 2013 and No Warning announce plans for a new reunion EP that references VM heavily, accompanied by a back story eluding to the fact that the release would be employed to build funds for a certain member of a prominent Canadian hardcore band -and friend- who had been incarcerated in California for an undisclosed crime. I knew who they were were talking about immediately, I think some people missed it.
To much excitement on my behalf, earlier this year I started hearing about a new label that would be releasing all new VM material along with stuff from a new up and coming rapper with the stage name of Stretcherous. Driven by my natural curiosity I investigated this new label -Blasphemous Records- and the rapper. A white guy, long hair, heavily tattoo'd, though most of any pictures of him online had him hidden behind a pair of thick black sunglasses and a woollen beanie and as a result he certainly didn't look overly familiar. Much to my surprise it eventually dawned on me that this rapper was in fact Amster and he'd recently been released from his stint in prison. Since, he has been investing a lot of effort into trying to get his rap act off the ground- an EP, an LP -both that exist only in the digital format at this point-, heavy social media presence, a very cheesy film clip, many rounds of typical rap group esque promo shots etc etc. Simultaneously, through the label he's also finally released that long hinted at VM material in the form of this cassette, while also committing to an LP of brand new material before the end of the year.
All in all these new songs are by no means bad, and perhaps the very fact that this tape is being pushed purely as a 'sessions' release should be indicative enough of the vibe attempted at, but I have certainly struggled to take to this stuff in the same way as any of the bands previous material. While normally I am completely stoked on the recording work of Chris Corry and the countless acts he has documented over the years, here his work comes through as thin and half done, and when comparing it to something as monstrous as the blown out recording of the "Riot" EP, it's hard not to be a little disappointed. Stylistically, Amster (backed by some of the all stars of the Boston Nu Scene) is gunning in the same direction that the later era VM music eventually mutated into- heavy doses of a gruff, no compromise early 80's East Coast USHC (most comparable to Negative Approach, Poison Idea and some of the Boston greats) spliced tastefully with a pretty prominent Motorhead scuzz rock vibe. Captured with an appropriate recording, I'm confident that promised LP could be a total ripper. Time will tell I suppose.
Like I mentioned though, my ideas of the band have been heavily altered this year with the reemergence of Zach and his very clear decision to push hard at making things work musically. Though I don't think I properly realised it until recently, I'm sure that a good portion of my attraction to VM since I first heard "Know It All" was my perception of Amster's total disinterest in any kind of sociality online or otherwise and my weird appreciation for it. I loved how the bands relatively heavy underground popularity had been achieved almost exclusively through the sheer quality of the material, and how it had nothing to do with any kind of networking, circle jerking or dick sucking. Not to say that this is what's happening these days -Amster has clearly made the decision that he needs to support his family somehow and perhaps a proper music career is his best option- but the fact that I know more about him now than I ever have has definitely detracted from that 'less known about' aspect of the band that piqued my interest more than 10 years ago. I suppose I'm the one that needs to get over it and just cross my fingers that any new music will be quality. Regardless of everything though, probably just because of association and history, this tape is a sure shot to make my top 10 of 2015.