Best Albums: Jack White, Trap Them, Clipping, Sole & DJ Pain 1

This week’s best albums

Jack White follows his solo debut with another wide breadth of styles—though with less persistent panache.

– After its blistering 2011 album, hardcore group Trap Them returns with a new rhythm section and a slower pace, proving that it has more to offer than speed and raw power.

– Experimental rap group Clipping delivers full-throttle, noise-fueled dance-hop with a tune about a club-stalking female serial killer as well as the raunchiest last-call song ever.

Sole & DJ Pain 1 create something spectacular between the rapper’s socially conscious rhymes and the producer’s mainstream-tinged style.

Honorable mentions

The Algorithm: Octopus4 (Basick)

The Atlas Moth: The Old Believer (Profound Lore)

Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy (Mello Music)

Rival Sons: Great Western Valkyrie (Earache)

Tombs: Savage Gold (Relapse)

Vader: Tibi Et Igni (Nuclear Blast)

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Win 7 cassettes from Prosthetic Records and blast ’em through a holy tape deck

Hey, kids — did you know that a long time ago, we used to record sounds onto magnetic tape and listen to them on “Walkmans” that were like giant iPods and weighed almost a pound? They didn’t have screens or keyboards, and when you wanted to listen to something else, you had to insert a new cassette. (It’s true. Ask your parents.)

To prove it, Prosthetic Records, fine purveyor of extreme metal, is releasing seven albums on limited-edition cassettes, combining the best in thrashy tones with the best in analog imperfections. Sometimes the best way to listen to noisy music is with a noisy medium, and these cassettes deliver.

If you haven’t had the chance to experience magnetized metal, ALARM and Prosthetic are giving you the chance by giving away one of each cassette. As a bonus, we’re also including a tape player from an outreach program run by Aurora Ministries Bible Alliance, which almost surely didn’t intend for its gift to play tracks like Skeletonwitch’s “Sacrifice for the Slaughtergod” or Lamb of God’s “The Subtle Arts of Murder and Persuasion.” Analog blasphemy is the best kind of blasphemy.

Here are the seven tapes included in the giveaway:

Lamb of God: New American Gospel
Trap Them: Darker Handcraft
Skeletonwitch: Beyond the Permafrost
Ramming Speed: Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die
Castle: Blacklands
Holy Grail: Ride the Void
Mutilation Rites: Empyrean

To enter, “like” the Prosthetic and ALARM pages on Facebook, then comment here and send an E-mail to Good luck!

Oh, and here’s that holy tape roller:

Holy tape deck

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Review: Enabler’s All Hail the Void

Enabler: All Hail the VoidEnablerAll Hail the Void (Southern Lord, 7/17/12)



Enabler may be a relatively “new” name in metalcore, but it’s full of proven parts, including two ex-members of Shai Hulud as well as ex-members of Trap ThemToday is the DayHarlots, and more. Unfamiliar listeners may raise an eyebrow upon seeing Andy Hurley’s name listed, but the Fall Out Boy / The Damned Things drummer has long roots in hardcore, including a number of Midwest bands and a touring stint in Earth Crisis.

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Converge offers all-star Entombed cover on new Napalm Death split

Holy smokes! ALARM’s fan-boy meter is registering off the charts, and for good reason: hardcore quartet Converge is covering Entombed’s classic “Wolverine Blues” on a new seven-inch split with pioneering grindcore outfit Napalm Death. And it gets better, because the cover includes guests in the form of Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Disfear), Aaron Turner (Split Cranium, Mamiffer, ex-Isis), and members of The Hope Conspiracy and Trap Them. Calling it “epic” seems like an understatement.

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50 Unheralded Albums from 2011

In just one more trip around the sun, another swarm of immensely talented but under-recognized musicians has harnessed its collective talents and discharged its creations into the void. This list is but one fraction of those dedicated individuals — admittedly, based mostly in the Western world — who caught our ears with some serious jams.

For us, 2011 was another year of taking in as much as we could and sharing the best with you. Next year, however, will be a homecoming of sorts, a return to rock-‘n’-roll roots. We’ll soon be able to share the projects that we have in store — across multiple mediums — but for now, dig into this rock-focused list of must-own albums.

Presented in chronological order.

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Record Review: Trap Them’s Darker Handcraft

Trap Them: Darker HandcraftTrap Them: Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic, 3/18/11)

Trap Them: “The Facts”

[audio:|titles=Trap Them: “The Facts”]

To appreciate Trap Them‘s new album, Darker Handcraft, it helps to start with the Filth Rations EP from 2010.  Trap Them has consistently charged its hardcore side into a collision with metal that refuses to get dragged down in grime.

The four songs on Filth Rations give as sure a sign as ever that the band’s craft and tightness can always match its sheer impatience. The third track, “Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds,” keeps up a gimpy, stumbling trudge as the drums gradually thud harder, and vocalist Ryan McKenney bellows himself up to a pitch that invokes scalding tears and unforgivable injuries. There’s a sense that Trap Them is in a desperate frenzy to repeatedly overload their songs, lest a single McKenney roar or screech of feedback from the guitar go unused. Even the cramped handwriting of the lyrics in the EP’s liner notes looks more like a dozen rows of snaggled teeth than a sequence of words.

In retrospect, it’s as if the band that made Filth Rations was gearing up to achieve a height of directness and focus. Darker Handcraft is a plenty accurate introduction to Trap Them; it once again captures a sonic force that’s both furiously commanding and remains bitterly hurt no matter how feverishly it tries to expiate its demons. This time, though, that force resolutely says, “Look, one fucking thing at a time.”

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ALARM Dispatches: Trap Them

Once a week, photo journalist Brian Leli has a brief behind-the-scenes encounter with a compelling band, musician, or artist and reports back on the experience.

Trap Them: Darker HandcraftTrap Them: Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic, 3/15/11)

Trap Them: “The Facts”
[audio:|titles=Trap Them: “The Facts”]

Chicago, IL: Ryan McKenney is wearing a faded red sweatshirt with a faded black Swans patch on the back. He is sitting in the raised area that overlooks the stage at Reggie’s Rock Club. It is pitch black except for a few dim, red bulbs hanging nearby. The other members of his hardcore metal/punk band, Trap Them, are loading their equipment onto the stage — plugging this into that, turning this one up and that one down, this one left and that one right.

As with most bands, they have done this many times before. And they do it very quickly. But McKenney stays seated upstairs, leaning forward with his hood up, his face and his hands pumping slowly together. He is rubbing his head. Yes, it won’t be long now.

Soon, the tides will turn; the waves will come crashing down. McKenney’s sweatshirt will be just a rag strewn across the stage. His hands will climb the heads of those standing in the front of crowd. They will push up from their legs, to lift him higher. In 30 minutes, McKenney will be bleeding from his forehead, from his microphone. A small river of blood will stream down his face. And there will be peace in the valley.

Trap Them

“It’s just a half an hour a day to let yourself go,” McKenney says. Now, in the balcony, in a dilapidated red chair, he leans back and looks out at the spot where it just happened, now flooded in a harsh burst of unnatural light. “Unless you’re dead inside, you’re always looking for something,” he continues. “And that’s the thing — this is something for me.” He gleams with excitement when talking about his band’s upcoming album, Darker Handcraft. But mostly, he remains calm, polite, well spoken. He has, after all, only just a moment ago, just toppled the heavens. “I always feel better once I get off the stage,” he says. The skin on his forehead is pink and beginning to heal.

“I do three sets of lyrics,” McKenney explains. “But when we go in the studio, I do things sporadic, in the moment. And when we play live, I change them up again.” Emerging from within these lyrics: a running narrative, an entire cinema; setup, confrontation, resolution; a commentary on society. “Everything is involved with one town that I created — a working-class town,” he says. “I decided that this town all gave up in one day. And what I’m trying to do is tell the individual stories of everyone within it.”

Trap Them

McKenney notes how he divides their stories into days, their days into songs. (For example, day seven is “Digital Dogs with Analog Collars.”) Some have given up and grown very confused. (Day twenty-five is “Guignol Serene.”) Some have given up and grown very angry. (Day twenty-six is “Angles Anonymous in Transit.”) And others still have given up and simply grown dead inside. (Day two is “They Followed the Scent of Jihad all the Way to Thieves Paradise.”)

It is a lyrical technique influenced in part by a love of film and fiction. McKenney reads more than 100 books a year, he says. He worships Stephen King. He goes on about French new wave — Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, and so on. He tells how Italian film director Dario Argento helped to shape the way that he writes.

“One of the most important things that I ever heard,” McKenney says, “[was] when Dario Argento was interviewed about Suspiria, and how confusing the movie is.  He basically said, ‘There is a linear story line. There is something there. But I only take about 15 minutes of the movie to tell the story. Because I consider the rest of it to be art. You can extend what you want to do. And sometimes things don’t make sense. But within the context of the movie, they make sense to me.’ And when I read that, I knew — that’s the way I want to do it. I don’t know if anybody’s ever going to get certain things; whether they’re ever going to get titles of records; whether they’re ever going to get what the lyrics mean. But as long as I feel it fits within the context of what I’m doing, then it works for me.”

Trap Them

“If there’s a phrase connected to art, it’s ‘I don’t get it,'” McKenney concludes. “And that’s the way it should be.”

It is at this point in the night that the human voice, a must in any conversation, becomes almost indecipherable. There is yet another show tonight and, therefore, another sound check. One will find that it becomes nearly impossible to hear anything over the continuous wail of a snare drum. And so, McKenney stands to leave. He turns left out of the front door at Reggie’s, and walks off in search of his band. Tonight they sleep in a hotel. Tomorrow they conquer Hollywood. And, as Thomas Dorsey said, “the skies will be clear and serene.”

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