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Tagada Jones – 20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière

Tagada Jones - 20 ansTagada Jones! Oh man! I last saw these punkers at the Belgian Durbuy Rock Festival in 2007. It was a killer experience with the finest of French commercial nostalgia. It seems like ages ago, and quite frankly it is! I’m getting older… And so does Tagada Jones. Yet, Tagada Jones has left way younger bands of the 2007 Durbuy billing – such as Pleymo, Unswabbed, MyPollux or Stereotypical Working Class Heroes – far behind. I kind of lost track with this band from the Eastern peninsula part of France. But they still were very active and kicking since. Furthermore, they inspired a vivid hardcore scenery, also far abroad. One should only glimpse at their impressive résumé: Since these Bretons punk hardcore flock together in December 1993 (and professional some five years later), they set up an astonishing account of seven studio albums, some EP’s and a split album, a best-of in 2004 and a concert DVD. They also toured with some friends from the alternative French rock and hardcore scene (think of the ‘Le Bal des Enragés’ collective with among others Lofofora and Black Bomb A). Doing so, they scored more than 1,600 gigs and music concerts in 24 countries! Tagada Jones simply became an ‘established’ trade name (even though this sounds somehow schizophrenic for a anti-elitism hardcore band). For their twentieth aniversary Niko (vocals and guitar), Stef (guitar), Waner (bass guitar) and Job (drums) want to inspire fans from the very beginning and a whole new generation with the peculiar Tagada Jones sound. That’s why they came up – together with the French At(h)ome label – with a double feature ‘20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière’: It is a DVD and audio CD with a sampling of the Tagada Jones best of songs, with a emphasis on the live concert experience. A must hear and must have for European punk-hardcore fans.

The documentary

The DVD brings a road documentary of director Hervé-Jacques Passard. He portrays the story of Tagada Jones, the authenticity and ‘do it yourself’ attitude, the band’s two decades of playing music and sharing a comradeship, while touring the world. ‘20 Ans d’ombre & de lumière’ stands for twenty years of shadow and light. Yet, the documentary shows more happy punk moments than shady times and line-up changes (for instance the wrangling with guitar player David (1994-1997)). First of all, the DVD lacks English subtitles. That’s a pity. It even doesn’t come with native French subtitles, and would you know: These Bretons really are fast talkers when having fun and drinking some beers. On tour travelling and conversation alternates with narrative parts on the band’s history and archive footage. The director even hands the floor over to ex-band members, like former bass guitar player Pepel (1993-2003) and the very first guitar player Pascal (1993-1994) and drummer Benoit (1993-1995). The documentary shows the changing ambitions and the flourishing of the group, the extending venues, and the musical shift from total eighties punkcore, to a more punk rock style with metal riffing. This story is accompanied by great footage of billing and pictures, and early videos. We get a career view by means of every music album – starting with their first self-released cassette-tape “Mortelle Rebellion” from 1993. As ‘masters of their own thoughts’, they portray their song texts with a distinctive message and a very recognizable Tagada Jones style of music. It illustrates the development of the band and its entourage, with many concert experiences and the collaboration with other French hardcore bands. The road trip movie begins with the preparation of the 2010 Festival des Vieilles Charrues, and the packing and trip to this concert in Brittany (France). It takes a while before we get a peek of the Tagada Jones music, but it’s worth the waiting. From the traditional dragging and pulling of flight cases and travelling with a minivan in the native region, Passard takes us by plane to 2009 Taiwan and Japan – Asian countries with a very different rock tradition, as explained by Niko in the documentary. The Tagada Jones lads suit the experience, while even teaming up with the well-known Japanese metalcore band Maximum the Hormone. But the members also witness the departure announcement of drummer Boiboi/David (1995-2009). A 2003 Canadian intermezzo shows former second vocalist and sampler Gus (2000-2007). Back to France, the story picks up Tagada Jones’s part in the acclaimed French collective ‘Le Bal des Enragés’. A great atmosphere! But we also get to see the charming selfmade spirit and the playing at tiny café concerts. Look behind the scenes of a great French punk hardcore band with a long history, and throughout a journey to different parts of the world. It’s a genuine experience, even though I would love to hear some more live acts and fans going berserk.
The second chapter of the DVD ‘Le Zapping’ has no real added value. It just is a perpetual mix-up of on the road conversations and concert preparation, bits of interview, lots of silliness and a succession of chatter ‘en français’. Very amusing to watch. With funny man Job as a leading actor. The third DVD part is more interesting, with eight live songs – almost every song is a first-quality gig recording. This live feature bundles Tagada Jones’s best songs (‘Combien de temps encore’, ‘Zéro de conduit’, ‘La traque’, ‘Cauchemar’, ‘Descente aux enfers’, ‘Cargo’, ‘W’ & ‘Le feu aux poudres’) and the concert sound really is bad ass. A very welcome warming-up for the added audio CD.

The album

This best-of CD truly honors the Tagada Jones zest. It is a genuine best-of, with great alternative metal and punk acts. All the pieces of music are live, and were recorded recently: Most of them at the 2013 Betizfest. The band members gave their best, no doubt about that: The listener will embrace this punk music with a lot of body, speed and energy. The disc simply forms a great fit, as ‘Un kulte’ proves (track 11): The thundering drums and massive guitar play only is swamped by the power – who will disagree? – of the leading man vocals Niko. These vigorous screamo, powerful punkish guttural sounds really lead to the core of Tagada Jones’s sound. At the very end of this live track, you are only given a short round of applause and bam! No compromises made, you better be ready for the next firm burst of energy ‘Les connards’ (track 12). This summarizes the intensity of the audio CD. The drive of the sixteen track disc always is fast and with a no-nonsense flavour. From the start of the first track ‘Les nerfs à vif’, accompanied by some samples you can also discover on other tracks (such as track 3 ‘Pavillon noir’), the listener faces the Tagada Jones soundwall. The band brings non-stereotypical and no-nonsense live music, and always is generous with its energy. It has an American style hardcore punk, but with themes true to the band’s world view, and with some surprising melodious guitar riffs and drum playing metal hints. The live experiences of course are much to the good. My favorite ‘Cargo’ (track 9), and probably the best known Tagada Jones song, is the sing-a-long track which really captures the concert’s drive. What an awesome sound tuition! But Tagada Jones also regards some newer songs, e.g. track 2 ‘Yec’hed mad’. Other great live pieces of music are ‘Le feu aux poudres’ (track 15) and ‘La traque’ (track 16): Songs with lots of body and echoing enthusiasm. Before you know it, the CD has ended, and you will give it another spin! This brings me to the (only) weak spot of this best-of CD. Over more than one hour of footage, it often struggles to capture the live concert atmosphere. Maybe because the sound recording is just too smooth – I would have liked it to bring a more rough, crunchy and raw sound. With some more bass and stronger drums. OK, we sometimes hear the interaction with the crowd, like on the intro of track five ‘Descente aux enfers’ and the yelling of the fans. Niko’s live screaming does the trick. Yet I also want to hear and feel the mass, the cheering of the audience, the enjoy of the hoards of punk lovers. But I don’t want to cavil at minor details.

Someone can see this double album – DVD and CD – as an anthology of one of the finest French alternative/hardcore punk bands, with a tidy, smart collection of their most inspiring works. And yes, the discs really form a well crafted best of compilation. It also suits for a smart leg up for the next album ‘Dissidents’, in the pipeline for Spring 2014. This double feature ‘20 ans d’ombre & de lumière’ really gives zest to the crème de la crème songs and history of Tagada Jones. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the band is ready for another twenty years!
DVD guide

  1. ‘Le Film – 20 ans d’Ombre et de Lumière’
  2. ‘Le Zapping’
  3. Live songs: Combien de temps encore, Zéro de conduit, La traque, Cauchemar, Descente aux enfers, Cargo, W & Le feu aux poudres

Tracklist CD

  1. Les nerfs à vif 4:22
  2. Yec’hed mad 2:15
  3. Pavillon noir 3:27
  4. W 3:18
  5. Descente aux enfers 3:40
  6. Zéro de conduite 2:57
  7. Combien de temps encore 3:02
  8. Manipulé 3:59
  9. Cargo 3:06
  10. SOS 3:12
  11. Un kulte 4:13
  12. Les connards 2:33
  13. Contre courant 3:11
  14. Ecowar 3:42
  15. Le feu aux poudres 3:56
  16. La traque 4:57

+ bonus songs

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Kali Yuga – Wrath Of Durga

358760Their previous album (2011) was quite decent, and the good news is that the band haven’t gotten worse over time. My only major complaint was the drummer, who, in my experience then, was like a machine without a spark of creativity. The funny bit is that he got replaced in 2012; so I was expecting a change for the better on this album. I don’t know why it still sounds like a programmed MIDI line; but it’s always something like this: the same goddamn snare pattern and cymbal for the entire riff, and a small roll in the final measure. It’s probably an instruction from the other band members.
Anyway, that was perhaps an unorthodox start due to that earlier review. To comment on the remainder of “Wrath of Druga” – I suspect the band to have continued in the same vein, although I haven’t pulled out their “Slaves to the subliminal” to compare. What I’m hearing is the metalcorish approach in melody and harmony, mixed with some genuine Swedish lines. During “Oblivion” I even had the impression of hearing Amon Amarth. The guitar parts are rather traditional, and then the beginning riff of “The Black Wall” suddenly steps in from an completely different angle. That kind of twists (with a Dissection feel!) really heighten the replay value – but they’re in the minority. The vocals are floating somewhere inbetween both genres. Although not quite booming enough to really convey a death metal feeling, they’re absolutely fitting the music.
Again, a solid album that is in no way special, but still sufficiently fun to listen to now and again.

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Marche Funèbre – Roots of Grief

MarcheFunebre-RootsOfGriefMy review of this band’s debut album concluded with the statement: if the band improves their riffing creativity and clean vocal steadiness, the next album should be killer. Well, they are and it is. It’s clear already from the thirteen minute mastodontic opener “These fevered days”. Vocal variety is abundant – apart from the traditional growls and cleans, we have them dual-tracked and also a sort of cleanish, tormented yelling. Simply superb. Although they’re always performing very decent, I’m still not one hundred percent convinced by the clean vocals. Sometimes they’re hitting the spot, other times I think them too flat and static. But that’s about the only thing striking me as a potential (minor) issue.
The instrumental section is usually pure and staunch – I’m getting hooked to riffs and progressions the more they get repeated; I wasn’t bored for a second – and when I almost was, the song promptly changed direction. The third and “final” song (self-titled) is divided over a few tracks. Here, the songs have some dauntless passages in terms of structure – like the break and reprise in “L’Avenue des Coeurs Passés”. The creativity (or haste?) was obviously itching here, as the songs display unrest and capriciousness in their flow. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s more difficult to get enthralled by continuously changing melodies and rhythms, regardless of how great they are.
That being said, “Roots of Grief” is a worthy sophomore album – no pretenses, loads of contents.

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Demogorgon – Where is he…?

demogorgon_whereThe Polish Demogorgon’s second album is frank and direct: its cover art is completely indicative of the contents. The lyrical themes (well, just anti-christianity really), the matching graphic design and even the logo style: they’re all revealing this band to be one of the many Deicide progenies.
The musical style is of the equally blunt and unsophisticated kind – brute force riffs with long runs of blast beats. The alternating power chords and tremolo picked riffs provide little to no surprises, although they fulfill their basic role perfectly in most songs. Sporadically, they did get on my nerves like in “Set on fire”. Really guys? That’s the kind of riffage my granny comes up with, for which reason alone I wouldn’t ever dare to record it. For the vocals the verdict is similar: the dual grunt-scream has its desired effect but they’re otherwise your default bland death growls.
The drummer has solid speed, which gives this album the mandatory backbone to prevent if from collapsing. Next time though, I’d like to hear some more badass rolls and finishing touches. Oh, and a heavier mix to really get those tom rolls pumping. When first spinning the disc, the flatness and lack of low end where conspicuous enough for me to hear.
All in all, cool album for anti-christians and/or fans of intense yet somehow insipid death metal.

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Noctisdark – The Roots of Dreamers

Noctisdark200The Spanish Noctisdark is all about atmosphere. Doom/death influenced, they unleash a combination of heaviness and melody.
Musically, all the material is sonorous – the spectrum is adequately filled with guitars and synth alike; each in turn showing off some dragging, melancholic tunes. The lead guitar has, in some songs, virtually no effects applied – I’m not finding the dry distortion terribly convincing at times. It strikes me as an odd choice, but other than that, the whole sounds coherent. In fact, it’s the basic formula for doom put into practice.
Especiall when considering the vocals: the deep, full grunt is as good as archetypical for this music. The most soothing and ethereal passages are often accompagnied by clean vocals. They’re perfectly in key, but lack fulness and breadth. So that’s at least one point that needs fixing for the upcoming full-length.
The album counts seven tracks, of which three (!) are bonus. Anyway, I can say that the band definitely have their own vibe going – even when a certain passage feels a bit empty, the progressions are spot on to keep the flow going. There’s room for improvement, and if Noctisdark turns that to their advantage, they’ll advance from good to great.

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Female Teacher Hunting (Impulse Pictures)

female-teacherThis almost feels like a subversive, sexualized version of one of those old cautionary juvenile deliquent pictures. Except that this is a helluva lot higher in quality and has more going on brains-wise behind the camera than those old things probably did. I may speak unfairly, given that I have only old trailers as my source of information. At any rate, this is a tale of innocence lost and the descent into the maelstrom of wickedness. A journey into the tenebrous, the gritty underbelly. And such. Where’s Nicholas Cage? Skinny Dipping is harmless enough but lashing out violently against a teacher is not. The middle piece between (A) skinny dipping and (C) teacher assault is the important fact that a boy is accused of an ugly assault against a fellow classmate. And so the boy leaves school and haunts the seedier side of things. One can’t blame him for feeling rejected. Regarding his guilt or innocence, I’m not into spoilers. Moving on. While our boy is busy discovering the dark side, the teacher is hiding away, recovering – and killing time until her lover, a married man, comes to entangle himself in her arms. This schocker layers atmosphere, stylishness, artful erotica and violence into the tradiational Nikkatsu formula. I say formula, but the only thing forumlaic, really, is the fact that Nikkatsu keeps brains behind the camera – as well as a good eye – thus turning out some seriously cinematic erotic thrillers back in the day. This, part of the studio’s FEMALE TEACHER franchise, is one of them.
1982, not rated, color, 16:9 (1.85:1), Japanese with English subtitles, 66 min.
www.synapse-films.com

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