Music Reviews – Quicksand, Aeges

A bunch of albums by bands I like came out in the last few months, some of which were from bands I thought I’d be over by now, some by bands I loved and wasn’t expecting new releases from. I don’t have a star or numerical rating. Everything is on a basis of two coffees up to two coffees up. That means everything I’ve been listening to since September has merit and, in my opinion, worth checking out.

Quicksand – Interiors

Quicksand’s Slip is one of my all time favs. It’s also an acquired taste; the vocals are a little screechy in a pre-emo screamy way, and the whole experience might be sour for people who have been raised by radio rock and mainstream hair metal. Quicksand’s Slip (the “2nd” album, even though 3 of the 4 songs on the 1st are repeated on Slip) appeared on a major label in an era when Grunge was taking over the airwaves, and maybe if you were in those grunge bands yourself you were more familiar with “hardcore,” more aggressive and noisy punk/metal hybrids taking up a weird place in both of those scenes in the 80’s. It’s also a brilliant album on several levels, starting with those stunning basslines that ring out of the mix. The album has something missing from a lot of the heavy brands of the time: groove. There’s an aggression that the grunge fans would hear later on in the vein of Helmet that would be missing from their Seattle counterparts, many of whom produced radio friendly hits as they toned down self-indulgent and flashy metal.

I’m so old I remember when metal had a lot of flash and style to it. Sad.

The AV Club has a great write up of Slip. The band later released Manic Compression, but I can’t tell you much about it other than the guitar tone is a bit harsher, the vocals a little dryer, and the bass lines that not only stand out from the rest of the instruments, but the band’s music unique from others, are missing. The band broke up and then got together to work on a follow up, but supposedly deleted those efforts when breaking up again. Demos for the 3rd album are out there, but it’s not clear if those are an actual effort by Quicksand or songs that were demos for Rival Schools, one of the bands founded by a Quicksand member.

The band reunited for a tour a few years ago, and then this year announced they had recorded Interiors, which was released last week. I enjoyed the songs that were released between then, though nothing really stuck out with any of the same impact Slip had. “Illuminant” and “Cosmonaut,” the first two singles, represented a shift to more spacey material, provided by a low-key vocal delivery and reverb-y guitar tones. There’s an odd flow to the album, and I found myself skipping round, so like some other recent purchases I’ll have to come up with my own track listing. The positive is that it’s a mostly good album, with a few songs I’m indifferent to. The last “Normal Love” is pure gold, my favorite of the entire release. A little more chaotic than the first singles would suggest with an uneven presentation, but otherwise a pretty good release with some great cuts. Two coffees up.

Aeges – Weightless

Here’s another band that easy to misunderstand. I liked their debut, The Bridge, which had some great songs wedged between material I couldn’t remember much after several listens. For a band influenced by the likes of Quicksand and Helmet and that scene, you’d have a hard time telling. Sure, it’s aggressive, but more in a hard rock meets emo kinda way. And there will be no forgiveness for me calling it emo, I’m sure, but it goes down light compared to some of the rough and almost atonal bands they claim to be influenced by.

The band followed up with Above & Down Below, a way more consistent effort that shreds where it counts and has plenty of catchy guitar and vocal hooks. There’s also a beefier guitar tone with a hard-impact backline, but nothing that gets out of line where the lighter vocals sound out of place. Last year the band released Weightless, which continues on with the beefy sounds yet comes off a little less heavier than Above…, like a healthy mix of their first two albums. It’s weird how shoe-gazery a track like Save Us is despite starting off with a big arena rock intro you’d expect to hear as KISS floats down to the stage. There’s a lot of material with that kind of feel, but there’s also songs like “Another Wasteland,” “Nothing To Prove,” and the incredible “Listening” where they lay on the riffage and aggression throughout, letting you know they are not afraid to rock.

THEY ARE NOT AFRAID, I TELL YOU!

Maybe not my favorite of the three albums so far, but definitely a good continuation of Above & Down Below, and worth checking out. Two coffees up.

BONUS! Free music!

The Elvi – Indestructible Suit

Since we’re talking about the aggro rock scene, can I share one of my other all time favorite releases with you? They are officially giving it away, as they haven’t been an active band for the last few years. They’re The Elvi, and I met them many moons ago when I was editing a rock zine in Chicago. We had them on one of our compilations, and they even donated time to do graphics for it. They were a big believer in scene support when such a term is vapidly thrown around by bands who want you to hand out their flyers at your show but never show up to see you play (bitter much?). They put out their own compilation with other bands from their north suburban area, so it was great to have them in our zine and appear at one of our shows and contribute a song.

I thought I’d get my loose association with them out of the way so you can accuse me of some favoritism or conflict of interest…but they are favorites, and I’m totally interested in this album. It’s a great mix of heavy and catchy, and, about 16 years or so after it came out, it’s free! I don’t know what national reach it ever got, but now’s as good a time as any to check them out no matter where or when you are. It’s lively, it rocks, and it’s a lot of fun…and you can get it here on bandcamp until they wise up. Enjoy! Also…two coffees up.

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