You have to tip your hat to the few DIY labels that have managed to not only survive, but flourish throughout the massive transition the record industry has undergone over the past decade. And by flourish, we’re not talking about getting rich. We’re talking about hard work and a true dedication to an art form that inspires with a consistent output of meaningful creativity. With iTunes and electronic media surpassing physical sales, and even such mainstays as Spin magazine pulling its hard copies from shelves, it is evident music fans are becoming more niche oriented and knowledgeable. There’s no more gamble when purchasing a record, chances are you’ve heard an album streamed from various online sources long before you purchase, so content and quality has become more of a focus (in some cases). With less smoke and mirrors or plain bullshit hype behind industry marketing strategies, successful underground labels are having to support and work with artists that excite and inspire their audiences. One such label that has offered an almost unparalleled string of exciting, timely, and poignant contributions to the music world is none other than Baltimore’s A389 Recordings.
Boasting a roster of current artists and alumni that includes Integrity, Pulling Teeth, Full Of Hell, Masakari, Eyehategod, Ringworm, Weekend Nachos, Xibalba, Sick Fix, Trapped Under Ice, and scores of others, A389 Recordings and patriarch Dom Romeo, provide a haven for the extreme with a knack for tasty nuances that separates their artists from the rest of the pack.
Last weekend, Romeo and crew hosted their 9th Annual A389 Recordings Bash at Ottobar in Baltimore with special showcase performances dropping throughout the city all weekend. We caught up with the Bash for Day 1 as legendary metallic punks, Catharsis reformed after a 12-year hiatus for a special run of 3 shows. If that weren’t enough to blow your wig back, Canada’s Left For Dead (members of Cursed, Burning Love ) descended upon the city for their first ever and only set of US performances.
Day 1 kicked off with solid grip of showcases by Old Lines, Ilsa, and Cynarae, who despite the early billings, found themselves playing to standing-room only crowds. The chaos truly began as Maryland’s explosive quartet, Full Of Hell hit the stage with vengeance. Having seen this band a string a times, I was not surprised to see them once again evoke a strong emotional reaction punctuated by a sharp and flawlessly executed performance. One of few new extreme bands on the circuit truly exciting audiences right now.
Gehenna hit the stage full of piss and booze and proceeded to tear through one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from these mainstays ever. Lots of smiles and ball-breaking as the band was billed with Catharsis for the first time in well over a decade.
If you’ve never heard of Catharsis, consider this your late pass. Catharsis is extreme political music personified. With a infallible focus on real-world issues including corporatism, race, animal rights, and more, Catharsis live what they preach. Having founded and maintained the ex-workers stronghold, Crimethinc.com, there is no separation between the music and the activism. With this foundation, it’s not hard to see why the band’s performances look like a frenzied sermon of the true believers. The band evokes one of the strongest emotional reactions you will find at any live show. The one and only downside to the show being that Catharsis’s merch man got into a car accident on the way to the show and none of the new Catharsis compilation albums made it to the venue. Good news, you can order and download them puppies online as of today.
Last and certainly not least, Cleveland’s influential metallic hardcore band, Integrity blazed through a punishing set as the band prepares to tour Europe and release an new LP this summer.
I had the pleasure of shooting this performance next to my friend Sunny who runs Hate5six.com, where you can check out live video of all of the performances.
We’ll be catching up with almost every band mentioned above in the coming months and we know you are here for the pictures, so without further ado.
Words and pictures by BTS Editor-in-Chief, Joshua T. Cohen