02. Struck Down by Me
01. These Eyes Are on the Exit
02. Optical Portions
Between Earth and Sky:
01. Skin and Stone
01. Immaculate Deception
02. Anak Krakatau
2009 At Both Ends
Simply put, this has got to be one of the best releases to ever show up in my mailbox over the past four years of this gig. Great content, attention to detail, creative packaging -- it's all there in this combo. The music half of the package is a pair of 7" records that feature two tracks each by hardcore mainstays Bane and Grade, as well as Between Earth and Sky (featuring ex-Trial vocalist Greg Bennick) and relative newcomers Unrestrained. Additionally, a double-issue of the At Both Ends hardcore zine (#9 and #10, respectively) that's chock-full of interviews and features with the likes of Bane, Verse, Sick of It All, and A Perfect Murder is included. Overall, the level of collaboration required for the release (as well as the man-hours needed to pull together enough content for the 148 pages of the zine) is quite staggering and certainly in deserve of much praise. Color me impressed.
There is no weak link to be found on either of the records. The Bane tracks, one new and one re-recorded ("Struck Down by Me" is originally from 1999's It All Comes Down to This) are exactly as accomplished and tight as you'd come to expect from the band. I'm most excited by the inclusion of Grade's first recorded tracks in roughly a decade. "These Eyes Are on the Exit" would be right at home on Under the Radar or Separate the Magnets, thanks to its patented mixture of underlying melodic bass lines, complementary guitar work, and sharp vocal lines. "Optical Portions" doesn't necessarily stray too far from that formula either, but the group "whoa-oh"s at the track's close are so unbelievably catchy and passionate that it's immediately catapulted into the upper echelon of the band's work.
The success of Between Earth and Sky's offerings rides strongly on the back of Greg Bennick's unparalleled lyrics and immediately recognizable spoken word delivery. "Flow" exhibits the latter, as Bennick articulates precise verses in a manner that digs up fond memories of both Trial and -- one of my personal favorites -- his track on Parallax's Mediums & Messages record from a few years back. And with such a recognizable roster, it might be easy to overlook the pair of tracks from Portland's Unrestrained, but that would be a major mistake. The band's material showcases a slightly more discordant approach with a touch of metallic influence that is reminiscent of '90s hardcore à la Indecision. And, oh yeah, they nail the sound.
If you're remotely into hardcore, picking this up is a no-brainer. I'd hope that new material from Bane and Grade would be enough of a selling point, but stellar supporting tracks from Between Earth and Sky and Unrestrained and a healthy dose of high-quality reading material make it impossible to argue against the value of this package. I'm into it.
Bottom Line: Eight excellent tracks from four noteworthy bands. Great packaging. A double-issue of an excellent hardcore zine. This is top-notch stuff.