BRIDGE NINE 2015: A YEAR IN REVEW BY BRIAN SHULTZ
13th: BoySetsFire - The Misery Index: Notes from the Plague Years [vinyl reissue]
BoySetsFire's bold and ambitious fourth album is one of my favorites of theirs, with anthems like "Requiem" and the bravely horn-addled yet intense "So Long and Thanks for the Crutches", so it was cool to have a hand in its release history with this new reissue. I remember seeing them live for the first time touring on it almost a decade ago and despite the small crowd at the time, they played their hearts out. This unintentionally almost-10th anniversary reissue is basically mandatory for fans--it looks good on complementary teal and white variants and includes a big poster insert.
27th: Caravels / Octaves - Split EP
This split EP is a rare co-release from B9, as we teamed up with Topshelf Records and their band Caravels to release new material from them and our own Octaves. Neither band had come out with new stuff since 2013, so it was nice to have two acts that play unique strains of modern post-hardcore in harmonious ways deliver fresh songs.
10th: War On Women - War On Women
Our first proper full-length release of the year was a total powderkeg: a fierce and volatile album that garnered quite the reaction--some ignorant Facebook users, sure, but mostly spiritual liberation as summed up by this one fan's feedback: "HELL FUCKING YEAH! EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH HARDCORE MUSIC!". The co-ed Baltimore punk quintet made their first huge musical statement, releasing a record that, per their name, tackled a wide array of contemporary feminist issues in both confrontational and humorous ways without skimping on Propagandhi-style aggression or riffs. There's an occasional theater to this record that revives Dead Kennedys' necessarily over-the-top social critique, too, while also melding punk, metal, and hardcore influences in newfangled ways.
24th: Alcoa - Parlour Tricks
Alcoa's sophomore full-length is actually a strong contender for my personal favorite album we released this year, so it's natural to say it deserves more recognition. Derek from Defeater has been quietly progressing this project since its genesis in the mid-2000s or so, and it's really seemed to peak on his fleshed-out full-length releases, a consistently enjoyable blend of alt-country and more generally alternative pop-rock leanings. His second album here tones down the bright recording of 2013's Bone & Marrow a bit, but the songs are somehow more powerful in subtler ways. I love the earnest, sadder stuff on here, like the stripped-down, darker "always chasing me" and the chamber feel of "come & go". Then there's my favorite track, "for holden", with the best chorus Gin Blossoms forgot to write during their heyday.
24th: Agnostic Front - Police Violence EP
Our relationship with Agnostic Front has yielded a prolific amount of cool stuff, including reissues of their classic foundational releases, the United Blood EP and Victim in Pain LP, as well as their seminal Live at CBGB album. This teaser EP we did for their new album, just as we did for their last one in 2011, steals some of the more old-school-leaning, thrashy material from their 11th (!) full-length, The American Dream Died, and includes an anthemic, burly B-side, "Same Old Story", exclusive to the release. The colors are sick, honestly, complementing the EP title and theme in a pretty brutal way (black and blue, pool of blood, and blood spatter).
14th: Gallows - Desolation Sounds
We had to sit on this album for a while before finally letting this side of the world hear it, as we helped Gallows get their new record out to U.S. fans for the second time in a row. This is another neat chapter in their evolution, bringing in more of the occult feel they've developed in this stage of the career with an accessibility that make certain moments sound like radio rock from an alternative universe. It's still dark and has plenty of punk bite, though: standout "Leather Crown" is a Fucked Up-style ripper, and the heavy, brooding "Chains" pounds the pavement hard.
12th: After the Fall - Dedication
After the Fall are actually old friends of mine--namely singer/guitarist Mike, whose band I've been following and watching play live since at least 2004, before we met. A genuine guy that just values friendship, loves punk and the power manifested in a short, well-written and aggressive but melodic song, it shows in spades on their fifth and newest album, Dedication. The whole thing is a heartfelt memorial to one of their original members, Brian J. Peters, who lost his battle with cancer in 2013. Every song tackles a different angle of Peters' personality or untimely passing, and it all ties together to paint a portrait of a seemingly great guy who touched everyone around him in profound ways, and it does so with a bright, melodic and catchy veneer the band have developed impressively over their decade-plus tenure.
19th: Modern Pain - "Peace Delusions" b/w "Kill Yr. Idols" single
This early version of "Peace Delusions" was the first sneak peak we got from Modern Pain's forthcoming full-length, which was initially self-titled before the band decided to go with the first single's name anyway. There's a slightly different aural aesthetic to this earlier version of the track, giving the short two-track single its own vibe--the exclusive B-side, a cover of Sonic Youth's "Kill Yr. Idols" offers insight into the band's unique approach to hardcore (more on this later), and is pretty spot-on as well.
H2O - Four Song 1995 Demo [reissue]
Before we started rolling out promo for H2O's new album, we did this fun little thing that looked back at their very beginnings. This was a reissue for the fans that weren't around the first time in 1995 for the release of their original demo tape, putting all four songs from the Don Fury demo session (recorded just after Christmas 1994) on a yellow tape limited to 200 and hand-numbered by Toby Morse himself.
14th: Crown of Thornz - Nothing But Tragedy EP
Holy Christ did this 7" take forever to press. I guess if you were waiting for new Crown of Thornz material, a few more months was nothing at that rate--the NYHC act hadn't delivered new music since 1998. It was very cool to work with a classic and forward-thinking act of the mid-1990s NYHC scene, but it was cooler to have them come back and not just rehash what they were originally doing or pander to fans. These are two longer and still aggressive songs that really are in their own category of hardcore.
4th: Modern Pain - Peace Delusions
Modern Pain are another band that have certainly fashioned their own category of hardcore, and it's quite a good one--noisy, fuzzy and blown out, sounding like a lost relic of the '80s underground. This album is sick from start to finish, maintaining a blistering intensity through all its noisy divergences. It's unpredictable and rather hostile, leaving the listener with a weird, unsettling feeling by its end--in a good way. though. At this moment in hardcore, there's no other band out there quite like them.
11th: H2O - Skate! single
This was another teaser single we did, featuring two tracks from H2O's then-forthcoming and looong-awaited album, Use Your Voice, so we could finally get some new H2O out there sooner rather than later. There was a "Skate!" music video that came out around the same time as well, which the band roped in friend and pro skateboarder Steve Caballero for (he plays guitar on the track too!) and which features some pretty interesting footage of a teenage Toby Morse. These are definitely two of the faster songs from the record, making for a quick appetizer, and the limited-to-1000 7" seems to be a pretty sought-after item now.
25th: BoySetsFire - BoySetsFire
BoySetsFire proved their reunion album wasn't a fluke with this new self-titled effort, which also probably came out of nowhere for fans as it was announced just a month-and-a-half in advance. It's packed to the gills with sterling examples of their signature sound, running the gamut from huge anthems ("Savage Blood") and desperate-sounding numbers ("Cutting Room Floor") to upbeat, Rise Against-style cuts ("Heaven Knows") and juddering, Snapcase-esque hardcore ("Coward"), all with their incensed, politicized rage retained.
9th: H2O - Use Your Voice
H2O hadn't released a studio album of new material since 2008, so Use Your Voice was a long time coming--luckily it was worth the wait. The band came back hard with this jubilant and honest album that touches upon every enjoyable stripe of the melodic hardcore and punk spectrum while elaborating on all sorts of topics clearly important to frontman Toby Morse's heart. He expounds on the pure joy of skating as a young misfit, his love of pop music, social unrest, and even an ode to his wife (which mixes things up a bit, offering a different chorus tone from the band than we normally hear). They definitely cut 11 tracks any fan of H2O should love without pandering or phoning it in.
20th: Malfunction - Fear of Failure
The phrase "demo submission" has become sort of a misnomer, as most bands who get in touch with the label about working with us tend to offer fully-formed, finished releases without a home (and they're often terrible, or make no sense for us to release). Malfunction was the rare case of a demo submission being an actual demo submission, from a band that had been on our radar for some time, and also, actually good. They gave us three pre-production demos that showcased an exciting new chapter in their musical evolution, and the resulting album, Fear of Failure, fully delivered. Their first full-length is harsh, heavy and uncompromising, a fantastic entry of '90s metallic hardcore revival that pulls a little bit from an often overlooked scene.