It is incredible that even with the absence of record companies (they still exist but they are doing jack), local recording artists continue to put out independently released albums. A sure sign of a healthy scene variegated in genre and style.
The past week, two bands put out their debuts. I was able to attend the album launch of one, Off the Chain’s self-titled album at the Darkside Bar in Malate, but was unable to go to Bonifacio Republic’s album launch at Cabin 420 in Makati (as I was watching the Late Isabel in Marikina). I have though, listened to both records quite a bit and here are our reviews.
“Off the Chain” by Off the Chain (Still Ill Records)
Off the Chain takes its name from unleashing dogs for a fight, and this self-titled extended play album, from the aggro get-go, aims for the jugular. The result is eight brutal and punishing songs about loyalty, drawing a line in the sand, and staying true to one’s principles that demand your attention. The fact that all messages strongly reverberate throughout the 22 minutes of relentless hardcore means something.
Without a doubt, Off the Chain – both the band and the album — is a declaration. And it’s powerful stuff, after all, what the band stands for is critical to punk’s ethos. And whatever the band went through in their hiatus, they have returned badder and more hardcore than ever.
Their two vocalists of JR and Sox allow for different dynamics and interplay. The infusion of hip hop helps set them apart too. In “Protect,” the last track (featuring Armas ng Lias and Nico of Payback), I love how the band slows it down a bit late in the song before unleashing that manic salvo for that pulse-pounding finish. As much as I enjoy the fun, thrash, discordant chaos, I always have an ear for solid musicianship.
Having said that, the twin axe attack of Raymond and Melvin with their metal leanings add to the aggressiveness in Off the Chain’s sound. And the manic bass and drums will finish you off.
If you like Madball, Agnostic Front, Converge, and Cro-Mags to name a few, Off the Chain is your local pitbull you’d be proud to place alongside those hardcore legends. This is a solid debut for hardcore fans. And their live show is even more explosive. Like someone lit the fuse on a powder keg.
Check out the Facebook pages for both Still Ill and Off the Chain on how and where you can get their compact disc.
“Unang Sigaw” by Bonifacio Republic (Rocket Ship Productions)
This Caloocan/Las Piñas quartet sounds like they stepped out of a time warp from the late ’70s and early ’80s when the Pinoy rock sound gave way to the nascent punk rock scene. And Bonifacio Republic sounds caught somewhere in between.
I find it interesting that the band was named after the Bonifacio Monument at the rotunda in Caloocan where the landmark sits still amidst the chaos of the streets, and that Aldwin Tolosa, the band’s lead singer, is a media colleague of mine. How does someone in media interpret the news and issues through song?
The answer is in the band’s debut, “Unang Sigaw”, that has that garage feel to it. As I said, it harkens back to different time. And that isn’t bad at all.
The six-track “Unang Sigaw” calls attention to various concerns that plague our country – just as Andres Bonifacio did more than a century ago — to environmental concerns (“Woodman” and “Lumot”) and corruption (“Sa Diyos”, “The Cause”, and “Magnanakaw”).
The best track though — in my opinion — is the last one, a Wuds-esque bonus song titled “Butterflies” (that is untitled and uncredited in the sleeve notes of the compact disc).
As I said earlier about the band falling somewhere between ’70s Pinoy rock and punk, the songs aren’t the riot sort of the latter. The band prefers to play the structured pop-punk. The venomous bite though is in Tolosa’s lyrics.
Not a bad debut.
Check out Bonifacio Republic on June 2 when they headline a show at the Roadhouse Manila Bay with Pusakal, Black Wolf Gypsies, the Class, and Gin Rhum N’ Truth or the band’s FB for details on how to get their self-produced EP.
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