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wmmberger on 05/31/2014 at 03:37AM

Coffin Nail Kickout; Through Thorn and Brier LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 5.7.2014

Wm. Berger / Tracy Widdess

WFMU, among a great many other things, is about community, i.e., presenting and promoting local musicians / artists / humorists, in addition the great International performers we present. My Castle of Quiet has always been about the business of seeking out exceptional local musicians, and it doesn't get too much more local for us than Through Thorn and Brier, their craft honed in our shared County of Hudson, NJ. At one time, WFMU's staff was chock-full of NJ-bred radio personalities, many of whom lived and or passed through nearby Bayonne, including late-great broadcasters and good friends of mine, Terry Folger and Frank "Vanilla Bean" Balesteri, both of them taken from us way too soon. Bayonne borders directly on WFMU's home town of Jersey City, and offers great pizza, good bars and a decent standard of living for a largish NJ city. All that considered, if you told me that Bayonne had bred a strong, talented, one-of-a-kind punk / metal band, I still might have doubted the veracity of your claim, not sure why though. That is, right up until the first time I heard Through Thorn and Brier.

Originally stumbling upon their songs on bandcamp, in a position I now often find myself in, checking out a band that I missed live for no good reason except that I generally like to stay home. Sporting twin brothers on vocals and guitar, amidst a mighty, accomplished lineup, TTAB play a threatening, driven brand of metal-infused punk music, with arcing guitar melodies, swinging, thudding riffs, and ominous, almost tribal beats; add roaring vocals and a general mood of rolling with reckless abandon. If punk-metal hybrid bands can be "catchy," TTAB certainly ARE, their riffs immediately inspiring head swirling; one of those physically motivating bands that make me wish that I had long, straight, flowing hair to swing in time. 

Every Through Thorn and Brier song is something like a mini-suite, blasting through multiple inspiring riffs and you-must-pay-attention time signatures in a matter of minutes, taking you on a ride you can't fully absorb the first time, and isn't that the way? Shouldn't a band's numbers be such that new pleasures reveal each time you listen?

Call them screamo (don't!), call them hardcore, or metal—all those genre labels quickly dissolve in the hands of the best of bands—and TTAB's songs cover a wild breadth of punk and metal styles with purpose and ease, such that the hops are never gratuitous and always contribute quite naturally to the sum of their parts.

I was very pleased to present this excellent band, well-deserving of more widespread notoriety, as evidenced here. (Note: Where songs were played without a complete stop in between, they are presented here as such, i.e., tracks 1 and 3 consist of three songs apiece.)

Thanks and much appreciation must go to engineer Juan Aboites, for working his ass off, and making everything sound full and ferocious. Thanks too, to Tracy Widdess of Brutal Knitting, who for maybe the 100th time, pieced together a handsome band portrait from my miserable iPhone captures.

You can hear the Good Grief EP and Failure Prone MLP (both worth owning) and purchase hard copy of the same at Through Thorn and Brier's bandcamp page. There, you'll also see their use of non-typical, decidedly un-metal imagery, a move well appreciated by this DJ / writer. Also visit ttabhc.com for more up-to-date band info.

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wmmberger on 04/21/2014 at 05:39PM

The Rapture, in Several Shades of Orange; Future Death Toll LIVE on My Castle of Quiet, 4.9.2014

Tracy Widdess / Wm. Berger

The concentrated joy of this set by Future Death Toll is its own reward. Fresh off of tour, the band sounded a-frickin'-mazing, and I was immediately confronted with a familiar feeling, of "O, Lucky Man!" ...I dig deep into the underground, bobbing for those most-artistic of apples, and this time came up with the OUTSTANDING sounds of FUTURE DEATH TOLL!!! Indeed, I am fortunate, to have this incredible OUTLET wherein I can extend invitations to artists such as these, and they just show up and play! Sit in that Studio B chair sometime, and you'll begin to understand how good the years of MCoQ weekly broadcasts have been to me, and my colleagues at the station, and to WFMU's devoted listeners. The kiss of WFMU is GOLDEN, and I need to remember to utilize this opportunity, in order to bestow upon all who care the rareified talents of artists like these.

Based on a barely labeled cassette tape I had received a long time ago, different from this set (more "home studio," obviously), I knew this band would make good use of the opportunity for a live radio set, and I was not disappointed. Though the tape is generally "lighter," as might be expected, as well as more song-oriented, F-DT do a lot of different things, and as with Slasher Risk before them (see this set from 2010), the variety of their capabilities just meant that playing live on the radio revealed another layer. They were noisy, dense and intense, but not entirely free-form, with themes that arose, dominated and then dissipated, as you will hear.

Though I did not have a pile of hard releases to muse over and absorb, there's quite a lot posted online, both to the band's Web site, and their YouTube page, and I've been at this long enough, that I knew for certain that F-DT's radio set would not disappoint, and it went far beyond that, into dazzling territory, rousing a hearty, enthusiastic response from Castleheads on our playlist comments.

So sit back, listen and enjoy. Massive props to engineer Juan Aboites for applying his considerable and diverse talents to making Future Death Toll radio-ready; whatever I throw at him, he makes the very best of it, rising to every challenge. Thanks also to Tracy Widdess for again making excellent, memorable photo art from my on-the-quick iPhone band captures.

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