Music Reviews: June 2010

Mehran,"Angels Of Persepolis" (Self Released)
Flamenco is the music of the gypsies of southern Spain according to Mehrans website. “About a thousand years ago the gypsies started their movement from northern India, through the Persian Empire and northern Africa, and into Europe. They exchanged and absorbed musical ideas with the people in the lands in which they traveled. Eventually, many of these gypsies settled in southern Spain, where they formed a rich ground for their musicality, fertilized by hundreds of years of high culture.”
As a layperson I’m at a loss when it comes to flamenco music. But, its music, played on guitar, and I listen to all kinds of music played on guitar. So I figure, how hard could it be to review this cd. Well, evidently it’s pretty damn hard since I have absolutely nothing to compare it to. I mean, it doesn’t sound like anything I own. It doesn’t sound like Zappa, Chet Atkins or even Al Di Meola. But, I can say this, there’s lots of beautiful guitar playing on “Angels Of Perepolis” and if you’re a fan of flamenco or guitar you should definitely check it out.
www.flamencoguitarplayer.com
www.angelsofpersepolis.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Funky Knights,"The Funky Knights" (Hyperspace Records)
The Funky Knights were formed in the late ‘80s. They spent most of 1989 to 1993 injecting their disco/funk/blues mix into the Gotham City club scene and their weekly shows at The Continental Divide drew packed houses. So, why release a cd 20 years later? Well, the guys are trying to take their club act to the big stage and some opening slots. They’ve already landed opening slots for Savoy Brown and Leon Russell and are looking forward to corrupting a whole new audience. They admit that this cd isn’t as dirty or avant garde as the picture that their past press might have painted but it is quite funky and quite enjoyable. I’d love to catch these guys live. I bet its one hell of a party. Sounds like Dr. John fronting Funkadelic.
www.funkyknights.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Angelfire - Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer,"Angelfire" (Radiant Records)
Steve Morse is a legend among guitarist. His work with the Dixie Dregs alone should be enough to earn that title. Then there’s the Steve Morse Band, Deep Purple, and Kansas. No wonder he’s been nominated for a Grammy six times. When you melt his guitar work with the pure, angelic vocals of the young and beautiful Sarah Spencer you’ve got a winning combination. If you’re a fan of the Alison Krauss, Robert Plant collaboration then this cd should be right up your alley..
www.radiantrecords.com
www.angelfiremusic.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Stimulator,"Lovelier In Black" (Stimulator Records)
“Untouchable” is a heavy song laced with an electronic groove that just bores its way into your brain. This is a great track that would fit nicely on a James Bond soundtrack. The title track is another one that really digs in. Stimulator is sort of a Franken-mix of Fergie, Evanescence and the Chemical Brothers. “Saints Or Strangers” channels Sinéad O'Connor. “Me And My Rhythmbox” comes off a bit kitschy but should do well with teenage boys and girls. “Blow My Mind” sounds like the Go-Gos 2010. All in all this is a pretty good album. Not real sure they should have covered “The Beat Goes On” but I kind of like it as well.
www.stimulatortheband.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Inoculist,"Spells" (Heartbreak Beat Records)
“Spells” opens with a track titled “Holy Name” which sounds like a long lost Velvet Underground recording that someone “discovered” while digging through the vaults. Vocalist John Hunter gives a Bowiesque “ground control to major tom” delivery on most of the tracks here while second vocalist Ashlyn Davis has a bit more of an Alison Krauss approach. This Brooklyn based quartet creates music that is subdued, haunting, melancholy, mournful and yet hopeful and optimistic all at the same time. It’s not a party album by any means but it is something you could throw on the turntable when you’re hanging out with a few friends and you want a mellow soundtrack to go along for the ride.
www.heartbreakbeatrecords.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Expo,"She Sells Sea Shells" (indie release)
Wow, this is totally out of left-field! Another reviewer at EAR CANDY turned me on to these guys, knowing my love of the Beach Boys SMiLE album. SHE SELLS SEASHELLS by the band Expo doesn't evoke SMiLE as much as SMILEY SMILE. This is like a alternate universe where SMILEY SMILE didn't actually suck! Imagine that Brian Wilson shelved SMiLE, then started a whole new album of new tunes (Without any interference from Mike Love!). Perhaps it is the heavy organ on just about every song that reminds me of SMILEY SMILE. The vocals could be mixed a little higher, but then again, that gives it some of it's charm. "Katy Why" is my fave, with the beauty of a PET SOUNDS outtake. But while SMILEY SMILE always seemed like such a downer to me, SHE SELLS SEASHELLS has a cheerful, almost child-like charm, which makes me want to hear it over and over again. Can't wait to hear more from Expo!
www.myspace.com/expoh
Rating:

Review by Ronnie


Flourishing,"A Momentary Sense of the Immediate World" (The Path Less Traveled)
NYC grinding death metal trio Flourishing exhibit their set of unorthodox and raw wares on the unit’s five-track endeavor A MOMENTARY SENSE OF THE IMMEDIATE WORLD. This band’s unhinged abrasiveness and buzzing dissonance merges bleak black metal malice with apocalyptic post-hardcore, sounding like a cross between a harsher version of Helmet and a more spastic Bloodlet (“Watching Sparrows”) while implementing a lithe array of industrial metal’s clangs and bangs into the fray for an increased increment of malevolence. Capable of causing a big mess yet able to survive amongst the wreckage thanks to shards of melody that rise from the rubble long enough to be noticed before the tumultuous and dense attack starts up again, Flourishing presents a discordant delight for those who yearn for a dose of extreme noise terror every now and again.
www.thepathlesstraveledrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Walter Schreifels,"An Open Letter To The Scene" (Academy Fight Song)
Stripping down a bare essentials model consisting mainly of his voice, sparse percussion, and an acoustic guitar, NYHC and post-hardcore pioneer Walter Schreifels takes matters into his own hands, literally, playing nearly every instrument on his debut solo effort, the 10-track AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE. From melancholic (“Shootout”) to rousing (Civ’s “Don’t Gotta Prove It”) to nostalgic (Agnostic Front’s “Society’s Suckers”) and witty (“The Ballad of Lil’ Kim”), this departure disc veers into folksy indie rock territory with a pronounced poignancy while the majestic grace of Schreifel’s songs, normally belied by amplifiers set to stun, clearly ring with a newfound resonance. The man best known for taking part in some of the most incendiary acts to come from the underground of the Big Apple eschews the volume and volatility of his salad days for some “new scenery” (“Wild Pandas”), steering his masterful songwriting skills into places that naturally fit Schreifels’ never-fail emotional outpourings and snappy refrains. This intimate offering is a giant leap forward musically yet it looks back lyrically with many snapshots from yesteryear popping up topic-wise to appeal to both trained acoustic pop-rock ears and curious hardcore music connoisseurs alike.
www.academyfightsong.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Symphony In Demeanor,"Time Goes On" (Self-Released)
I hate the term “retro” so I’ll just put it this way. These guys would be ruling the airwaves if this were 1974. They’d be looking ahead at 3 great years at the top of the charts before punk rock comes along and blows their world apart. Three years of fighting it out with the Elton John, Paul McCartney and Wings and the Jackson 5 for the song of the week. Rubbing shoulders with Billy Preston and Ringo. Jetting around the world and appearing on American Bandstand and the Midnight Special. But… unfortunately… this is 2010 and none of the above is going to happen. They probably deserve every bit of it but it’s just not going down that way. “Time Goes On” is a collection of 10 superbly crafted songs about time, mortality and questioning ones own existence. In other words, grown up songs by grown up musicians. And yes, all the tried and true comparisons like the Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, Badfinger and Pink Floyd are dead on. I could think of worse company. Couldn’t you?
www.symphonyindemeanor.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Tygers,"Second Album" (Fairtone Records)
Recently my teenage daughter who is an oldies radio fan was saying how lucky my wife and I were to grow up in the 60's and 70's when the music was so great and fresh as opposed to the programmed synthetic auto tuned stuff top 40 radio plays today. Well here is a brand new record that exhibits all the great qualities of the classic bands of the 60's, well written songs, superb playing and production, wonderfully lush harmonies, it's all in this brand new album, the catch is that it is not a new group, in fact The Tygers released their first album in 1968 when they were discovered in Milwaukee by Les Paul and Herb Alpert. After the first album, the band went different directions fro many years, Tony Dancy and Craig Fairchild went to CA where they wrote music for "The Brady Bunch" and The Flintstones” and Lanny Hale became an ophthalmologist.

Now all these years later they have released their sophomore effort called "The Tygers Second Album". The sound will appeal to anyone who likes finely crafted pop. It has a soft gentle vibe that at times brings in hints of country, sunshine and power pop.

Some of the standout tracks are: “How Long Does It Take” - From the opening Wurlitzer electric piano chords this groovin' track lets us know we are in for a treat. I hear elements of The Carpenters and The Association by way of Poco with some nice chordal surprises and some way cool pedal steel; “VOO DOO” - interesting production, somehow merges a Creedence guitar driven vibe with subtle psychedelia and an really creative drum part, a couple of the chords remind me of early Steely Dan, exquisite vocal harmonies; “Never Met A Girl Like You” - Upbeat good time music; “Night Walker” - This one would have been an FM staple if it had been released in the early 70's. Nice Wurlitzer and organ playing, concise lead guitar, brings to mind The Atlanta Rhythm Section; “Just Enough Time” - Wait for the surprise ending and get a little bit of vocal heaven; “Never Too Late” - Rollicking vaudeville fun pop song with some awesome tack piano and sax; “Step By Step”- Once again wait for the cool and lush ending.

These are short and direct songs with lovely arrangements and lush vocal harmonies and if they weren't new songs I could easily hear them alongside the classic songs on the oldies station. It is great news for all of us that The Tygers have shared this new music with us.
www.thetygers.com
Rating:

Review by James Graham


The Dirty White,"Vs. Evil Circles" (Self-Released)
I really like this. It’s a bit like Queens Of The Stoneage fronted by The Beastie Boys. There’s all these little sonic blasts of old and new. You can hear Gang Of Four one minute and Red Fang the next. The Bloody Hollies urgent energy coming through the vocals one second and the laid back sound of Peter Buck’s guitar jangle the next. The hooks are there but they fly under the radar most of the time and that’s cool by me. I mean, I don’t want everybody and their brother walking around humming my new favorite album. That would suck. “Vs. Evil Circles” is the best thing I’ve heard this year. That’s not smoke up your ass, that’s truth smacking you upside the head. Check ‘em out.
www.thedirtywhite.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Joe Stuckey,"So Far" (Rga Records)
Joe Stuckey plays an emotional mix of blues, rock, pop, jazz and metal. Although he leans pretty heavily on the jazz, rock and blues genres, the other styles are sprinkled throughout for extra added flavor. Very cool stuff. One minute he may sound like Blues Traveler and the next he might sound a bit like Motorhead. He can definitely cover a good majority of the rock spectrum and proceeds to prove it on this album. He’s blessed with a good solid singing voice and is also capable of writing interesting and clever lyrics. Fans of jam bands, southern rock bands, blues bands, heavy rock bands and even ballad hair metal bands will enjoy Stuckey’s latest offering. Check him out.
www.joeystuckey.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver



Streetlamps For Spotlights,"The Room b/w Shout It" [vinyl single] (Off The Cuff Records)
I liked these guys the first time around and it looks as though I like them more this time around. Their latest slab of vinyl… Yeah, now there’s one of the reasons I like these guys so much. Their latest release is a 7” slab of vinyl with a nice but somewhat disturbing picture sleeve. You tell me which is cooler. Flipping through a rack of picture sleeve forty-fives or fumbling through a stack of cds in cracked plastic cases. At any rate, these guys came though again. “The Room” sounds like a hot summer night at The 40 Watt circa 1986. And the flipside rocks out with a hip flair that melds vintage Violent Femmes and Husker Du with whomever the latest hip underground punk/pop/rock band is.

Hey guys, send me number three when it comes out.
www.streetlampsforspotlights.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Left Lane Cruiser,"All You Can Eat" (Alive Records)
If you like your blistering mind-searing rock with a little bit of Southern gospel fervor and righteous country flavor, this is a band you’re going to want to check out. To be sure, it ain’t your parents’ country rock. Nothing as stodgy and boring as The Allman-Skynyrd Band here and the Cruiser has obviously beaten the moisture out of poor Wet Willie who was then dried up and rolled into a big fat doobie smoked greedily by some hasbeen Outlaws while the emasculated Sea Level slides slowly back to the oblivion that band deserves, ok? This shit is Black Oak Arkansas on speed combined with Albert Lee on acid and R.L. Burnside with an ass pocket of rocket fuel! More staggering is the knowledge this “band” is only a two-man assault team comprised of Freddy J IV on guitar and vox and Brenn “Sausage Paw” Beck on drums and background vox. That this much ruckus could be caused by just two musicians puts most other bands to shame. Jack White himself should probably hang his head (and guitar) in shame and Meg White, well, she was never much of anything, anyway, was she? Not compared to Beck, who can actually drum in a John Bonham-in-a-haystack kind of way while Freddy J. need take a backseat to no one on guitar, having the chops to chicken-pick like the best of them only to then turn around and hit some vicious runs which would make Page, Van Halen, Satriani, Vai and any other guitar god you know take notice. Anyone who thinks the nasty has been taken out of rock and roll need to hear the tones Freddy pulls out of his guitar. Between him and Beck, Left Lane Cruiser is a careening, runaway rock and roll ride straight into the bowels of hell. And I love it!
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott Homewood


Culted,"Of Death and Ritual" (Relapse)
Destroying with a dastardly mix of doom metal for the digital age, the three-parts Canadian and one part Swedish quartet Culted return with a foreboding four-track affair OF DEATH AND RITUAL. This stopgap release by this unit who rumor has it have never ALL been in the same room at the same time doles out an arduous array of skull-crushing heaviness complete with a meticulously concocted barrage of sprawling tempos luring listeners into their chilling chamber of despair. Laden with an abundance of alluring yet disturbing atmospheres while enriched with lush instrumentation and a suffocating vibe that simultaneously channels Sunn 0))) and Celtic Frost, Culted latest offering yields a blackened blend of nightmarishly bleak metal excellence whose pointed attack assaults the psyche for days on end.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Ocean,"Heliocentric" (Metal Blade)
Exploratory German metal troupe The Ocean returns with a decisively mellowed-out vibe on the collective’s latest forward thinking 10-track endeavor (the first half of yet another double album from this prolific unit) entitled HELIOCENTRIC. Never ones to shy away from thinking out of the box, the topic of Christianity from its influence on the medieval period to its relevance in the modern world is what this ambitious crew tackles this time around, projecting a powerful poignancy both lyrically and musically. Imbuing a noticeably increased influence of the likes of Cynic and Opeth at the few interludes that find the outfit shifting into overdrive while siding with a piano-heavy and highly-orchestrated instrumentation approach overall, this disc’s luxuriously melancholic overtones come at the expense of the band’s decision to subdue their sinuous sludge metal sound and all but eliminate a fierce sonic crush in lieu of constant streams of apathetic ambiance. New lead singer Loic Rossetti’s displays a stellar range that follows dynamic shifts well while the rich compositions exert the softer side of post-metal with an adroit sense of gracefulness that allows tender piano and vocal deliveries to resonate with stark conviction. Those familiar with this constantly evolving band should proceed with caution however, as the soundscape has been significantly altered and is a much different release than expected, an aspect bound to turn off those expecting something similar to previous outings. Yet what HELIOCENTRIC lacks in syrupy density it makes up for by producing a sleek atmosphere that is fearless enough to veer off the grid to capture raw emotion from the other end of the scope.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Kivimetsan Druidi,"Betrayal Justice Revenge" (Century Media)
Finnish symphonic folk metal clan Kivimetsan Druidi blend traditional musical ideals from their homeland with soaring modern Euro metal and operatic imprints on BETRAYAL JUSTICE REVENGE. This nine-track affair boasts an epic quality similar to the like of Nightwish and Finntroll thanks to utilizing keyboard-drenched and traded off female/male beauty and the beast nuances that, when intertwined with a smattering of thrash metal speed and classic metal precision, stir up a theatrical emotional range that does both the metal realm and their native land well. Chock full of elegant interludes and choice moments of aggression, Kivimetsan Druidi showcase a brand of melodic metal with an Old World twist that should leave fans of the genre satisfied.
www.centurymedia.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Scorpions,"Sting In The Tail" (Universal)
After a pioneering four-decade career in rock, German metal icons Scorpions are calling it a day, and do so in top form on their farewell offering STING IN THE TAIL. This quintet plays it safe and sticks to the basic formula that yielded them worldwide success, unleashing a 11 track swan song chock full of the histrionically sing-a-long hard rock anthems (“Raised on Rock”, “No Limit”) and moving balladry (“Lorelei”, “The Best is Yet to Come”) that has defined this globally renowned group’s triumphant career through the years. With the classic tandem of Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs throwing down an abundance of vibrant six string energy (“Rock Zone”, “Turn You On”) and Klaus Meine’s vocals sounding as sharp as ever, it’s hard to believe that this is the end of the road for this veritable band of veterans, yet Scorpions leave the rock realm with dignity on their last studio effort, putting forth a durable album which arguably is their most raucous work in the past 20 years as well as proudly stands up alongside some of this legendary band’s most lauded work.
www.universalmusicgroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


TSI,"Hanging By a Thread" (Task Force)
Rebellious NYC rockers TSI (a.k.a. The Situationist International) crank out 10 cuts laden with angst-ridden rock ‘n roll righteousness on HANGING BY A THREAD. Mashing up the best parts of old school punk, hooky hair metal and cleverly crafted pop to form an unrestrained strand of danger perfect to bust out to keep the party going all night long, this Big Apple collective features only two full-time members yet relies on the rich NYC underground rock community to fill in the gaps, truly making their uncompromising efforts a Gotham City family affair. Throwing in a barrage of Guitar Hero-ready antics while employing a vocal sneer that falls somewhere between Iggy Pop, Warrior Soul and Bang Tango, TSI display a hard-edged AC/DC by way of Dead Boys delivery that celebrates the unhinged nature of rock right down to its chaotic core.
www.tsiband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hacienda,"Loud Is The Night" (Alive Records)
When checking out the picture of the band on the back of their CD, I thought this CD was going to be one of those modern bluegrass-themed things as the picture shows the members of the band standing together in a backyard of sorts holding stringed instruments such as violins and acoustic guitars. Well, imagine my surprise when I pop this sucker into the player and hear some of the most gloriously rocking, 60’s influenced pop this side of the Zombies? In fact, make that Zombies crossed with The Who as the first cut, She’s Got A Hold On Me is quite guitartastic and bassbombasteriffic, if I may coin some new terms. Socking punk bass on a swinging pop tune? Say what? This band’s delightful mix of chamber pop and guitar blast make for some quite delicious songs, all produced and engineered by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Not quite pop delicate, not quite punk overpowering, Auerbach and the band have found a great, if wonderfully skewed, mix of musical elements to draw from for these songs. Every song seems like a new genesis, and two new disparate influences are shoved into the music blender and out comes something gloriously melodic and beautifully twisted. No two of these songs sound alike yet they are all obviously anchored in ’60’s pop then seemingly “scuffed-up” by Hacienda and made into something new yet old, but catchy as hell. Vocal harmonies by the band are also gorgeous, probably because the four-piece band includes three brothers and nothing beats a great set of sibling harmonies, just ask The Everlys. Take for example the song “Hear Me Crying” – Flawlessly sung doo-wop mixed with The Sir Douglas Quintet then made modern. The band also does an admirably straight take of Sonny Bono’s classic ’60’s chestnut Baby Don’t Go and makes the oldie relevant once more. Damn! I am thinking only Sloan could match what this band is doing. Take that for what it’s worth. Each of these songs will stick in your brain as much for the intrinsic construction of the tunes as for their melodic grip on your earhole and brain. A wondrous album. I hope you already own it, but if you don’t, you just gotta pick it up!
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


The Telescopes,"Untitled Second" (Alive Records)
I’ve never been a huge, huge fan of dream-pop but I always liked the way The Jesus and Mary Chain conducted their melodic business and I’ve hearted My Bloody Valentine for a long, long while. Consequently, I feel I am able to give The Telescopes their just due as it’s obvious from their albums they’ve been enthralled by those same bands. Untitled Second sees the band starting this set of songs in a kind of dream-pop-derivative shoe-gazing way but one thing I’ve noticed about The Telescopes is their songs are a cut above the normal cookie-cutter shoegaze band. In fact, the songs sound as if they’ve seemingly gone back in time past their regular influences and embraced a more psychedelic kind of vibe, anchored in the ’60’s but given a post-modern twist both unique yet comfortably familiar. Maybe it’s a subtlety present in their songcraft which most bands never learn (and can’t really be taught), maybe it’s the wildly eclectic combination of influences giving their songs a special quality rarely heard. I’m not sure, but I know that I am digging it immensely. Sadly, the secret I’ve withheld about this record is that it was recorded way back in 1991 and has just been re-issued by the Bomp label in the US. So, the Telescopes, like most great bands, are defunct (take that, U2) yet this classic will (and should) live forever thanks to knowledgable music hounds like those at Alive and Bomp who know timeless music when they hear it. If you are a fan of this type of music you owe it to yourselves to check this album out, as it’s definitely one of the best I have heard in this subgenre and stands up to anything the Verve or Mojave 3 ever released.
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott Homewood


Random Touch,"Through The Lens Of The Other Dimension" (Token boy Records)
Random Touch is a trio that plays experimental musical pieces. I really have no point of reference to base any comparisons on except maybe some of Zappa’s experimental compositions. Members Christopher Brown, James Day and Scott Hamill definitely explore the outer limits of sound using conventional and non-conventional instruments to create their sonic mayhem. This album is very hypnotic. I mean, it’s hypnotic to the point of sometimes feeling that you’re under the influence of a drug. Founding members Brown and Day have been collaborating since their high school days when they worked together on an original rock opera. This album melds jazz drum riffs with layers of psychedelic flashbacks and haunting background noises to create some very emotional sonic moments.
www.randomtouch.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Big Daddy Love,"To The Mountain" (Little King Records)
I love the eclectic mix of bluegrass, country, soul and rock n’ roll that Big Daddy Love delivers. This band is Americana personified and “To The Mountain” is about as close as you can get to perfection without sounding too polished or sounding too produced. Did I mention that it’s one hell of a fun and moving listen as well? You just feel better after giving these guys a spin in the cd player. Weather you’re a fan of the Bottle Rockets or Keith Urban or Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Drive-By Truckers or all of the above you’ll want to find a place in your collection for Big Daddy Love. Great stuff for sure. Favorite track: “Mountain” and about six others.
www.bigdaddylove.net
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Abominable Iron Sloth,"The ID Will Overcome" (Metal Blade)
After numerous lineup changes and other problems that plague many bands flying below the radar, the much delayed sophomore release by The Abominable Iron Sloth finally gets to see the light of day. Retaining a harbingering sludgy doom metal slant while applying a loose garage punk veneer to their caustic mix striking a not so surprising middle ground between Nirvana, Gaza and Entombed in the process, the unit (now whittled down to a lean and mean trio) present an excruciatingly heavy excursion entitled THE ID WILL OVERCOME. Buzzsaw guitars, thunderous percussion and thick layers of bass collide to comprise 12 tracks of mid-paced mauling with decisively decreased levels of metallic heft trading spots with an unsettling slathering of dissonance whose moments of grungy melodics yield the band memorable hooks underneath the harsh apocalyptic aggressiveness. Relentlessly exuding nihilism through sonic punishment while a rash of shorter song lengths suggest a significant punk hardcore sphere of influence working in the band’s psyche, this disc provides followers of the more abrasive end of the metal spectrum a potent and at times psychotic post metal experience.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Kings Destroy,"Kings Destroy" (Self-released)
review goes here...
www.myspace.com/kingsdestroy
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Solution 45,"For Aeons Past" (AFM)
Beloved ex-Scar Symmetry frontman Christian Alvestam resurfaces with a fierce new band that sounds pretty damn similar to his last project on FOR AEONS PAST, the debut album by Swedish quintet Solution 45. Boasting members of Miseration (one of Alvestam’s other bands) and Essence of Sorrow in addition to Alvestam in its ranks, this experienced and capable squad delivers a cohesive strand of textbook progressive aggressiveness that follows melodic death metal blueprints with a reverence that comes off as a bit too stringent (“Lethean Tears”), often at the expense of breaking out of the box to do something bolder than blend redundant nuances of choice acts together. Nonetheless, this disc boasts a winning array of sanitized metal tones complete with keyboards (“Through Night-Kingdomed”) and is bound to do the trick for both the loyal fan base that enjoys Alvestam’s patented back and forth singing and screaming and those who favor the super clean yet pummeling sound of modern Euro metal.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Forecast,"The Forecast" (Eyeball)
After splitting with Victory Records and taking some time away from the road to shore up their musicianship, Peoria, IL-based indie rock quartet The Forecast have returned with a jubilant eponymous 12-track effort in tow that packs the band’s trademarked two male and one female triple-harmony singing (“Life’s a Garden, Dig It”) with a seemingly endless supply of hook-laden pop-punk melodies direct from the heartland of America (“Illinois”). Tugging on heartstrings with punchy emo-punk guitar trajectories and driving indie rock rhythms meshing the wares of Hot Water Music, Jimmy Eat World, and Against Me (“I’ll Set You Free”), this reinvigorated band showcases its knack for composing steady streams of head-bobbing rock with a twinge of country twang, genuinely sounding as liberated and unhinged as ever (“A Better Man”, “Lost At Sea”).
www.eyeballrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Unholy Grave,"Grind Killers" (Selfmadegod)
Prolific Japanese grindcore quartet Unholy Grave champion a relentless work ethic that has yielded a staggering discography as well as helped this veteran outfit survive in the underground metal scene for almost two decades. This act’s latest effort is a 23-track excursion entitled GRIND KILLERS and it displays the squad’s raw delivery and contagious crusty energy from end to end, sounding like the fitting marriage of Discharge and Napalm Death. Benefiting from being recorded live in the studio sans any sense of production sterility, songs like “Murderer” and “Morbid Dark Angels” demonstrate this group’s explosive intensity and in your face volatility that is both something to behold and be afraid of. Exhibiting a furious barrage of blast beat drums, jabs of primal garbled grunts and generally unhinged vocalizations, and riffs oozing with depravity, Unholy Grave continues to provide authentic and passionate punishing music while upholding the core values of grindcore.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Bison BC,"Dark Ages" (Metal Blade)
It seems as if crushing Canadian quartet Bison BC closely followed the heavy footprints left by the likes of Baroness, Mastodon, and High on Fire when developing their third offering, the seven-track DARK AGES, and tweaked the influences with just enough of their own flavor to comprise a cohesive concoction of epic metallic proportions. Dousing listeners with a salvo of skull splitting sludge metal and dollops of doom metal atmosphere, this unit showcases the innate ability to merge metal sub-genres together to form a hulking entity capable of wreaking havoc and causing utter destruction with a few sweet NWOBHM moments and a strain of hardcore punk attitude strewn in for good measure (“Two-Day Booze”, “Die of Devotion”). While some may dismiss this troupe’s combination of twisty compositions, tortured howls and tumultuous layers of thickness as merely jumping on the modern metal gravy train or go so far as to accuse them of trying a bit too hard to emulate what’s hot in metal today, the confidence exuded by Bison BC when executing these similar shifts in style and tone cut through any beleaguered comparisons that can be made which label these guys merely as a knockoff and instead assists this act to stand proud alongside the very bands they draw inspiration from.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cathedral,"The Guessing Game" (Nuclear Blast)
While Doom metal trailblazers Cathedral never shied away from experimenting with their musical output, this daring British veteran unit always managed to dole out sufficient slabs of doom metal in the process, and their latest offering, the 13-track double disc endeavor entitled THE GUESSING GAME displays this well-versed crew’s artful balancing act working on overdrive. Laden with a smattering up-tempo grooves associated with the band’s latter day work (“Casket Chasers”) and enough slow and plodding riffs to please longtime followers of Lee Dorrian and company’s rides through the cosmos (“Requiem for the Voiceless”) accompanied by eccentric dashes of trippy instrumentation and radical stylistic shifts that dial inspiration up from the drop acid and love everyone psychedelic era (“Funeral of Dreams”, “Cat’s, Incense, Candles & Wine”) as much as from the cauldron of Sabbath (“One Dimensional People”), Cathedral ambitiously tries its hand at juxtaposing conflicting styles here with a jarring array of progressive rock nuances that lend an odd yet intriguing flavor exhibiting an discreet charm yet dilutes the band’s trademarked foreboding aura considerably. Presenting an eclectic mixed bag of metal, folk, acid rock, and doom, even though the rich hues and vibrant textures this aptly-titled album radiates are bound to make fans looking for something a bit more traditional disappointed, THE GUESSING GAME is an album that when given undivided attention toward renders a ripe experience for adventurous fans to delve headlong into.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Kills and Thrills,"Liars" (Hotfoot)
Long Island post-hardcore quartet Kills and Thrills deliver a non-stop white-knuckle joyride on their sophomore effort LIARS. This 10-track endeavor is packed with a plethora of meaty riffs (“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World”), dastardly bass and drum punch, and invigorating vocals inducing as many pile-on sing-alongs as raised fists in the air (“Liars”). Exhibiting a barrage of nasty twists and turns with a rapid-fire rawness that reveals noticeable touches of The Bronx, The Hope Conspiracy, Everytime I Die, and Cancer Bats intertwined, Kills and Thrills blend crunchy melodic punk tendencies with a multi-faceted frenetic hardcore approach with a pugnacious old school attitude fueling this Strong Island unit’s assault.
www.hotfootrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Danko Jones,"Below the Belt" (Bad Taste)
After taking a bit of a musical detour, veteran Canadian trio Danko Jones crank out the jams and returns to form of old with a characteristically ballsy and raucous rock ‘n roll record on the 11-track offering BELOW THE BELT. Keeping the hard rock riffs flowing freely with sleaze rock swagger (“I Think Bad Thoughts”), this crunchy collection of tunes dutifully echoes the waist-down philosophy of KISS and adds in a slew of fuzzy Thin Lizzy meets UFO six-string sting to the mix, resulting in a head-bobbing rock stomping good time that once again succeeds in resonating a retro vibe without coming off as dishonest or forced. Featuring an endless supply of thinly-veiled lyrical innuendos that scream rebellion, hook-laden choruses that are custom made for rock radio takeover (“Active Volcanoes”, “Tonight is Fine”), and Frehley-esque solos (“Like Dynamite”), Danko Jones unleashes a cowbell happy and down and dirty rock album that plays up sturdy subtleties from the likes of AC/DC or Motorhead with a heightened punk rock energy supercharging the entire affair.
www.badtasterecords.se
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Straphangers,"Straphangers" (Self-released)
NY Hardcore punk outfit Straphangers are known for their capacity for developing dizzying songs that hit harder than the average punk band, but now they have considerably beefed up their sound thanks to a newly acquired twin guitar attack, giving the fierce troupe a discernibly tighter and overall more intense sound. On their latest six-track excursion, the buzzsaw six-string presence assists the band’s pounding bass and drum tandem to drive home the pummeling rhythms while the patented female/male vocal dynamic continues to project punk rock at its most coarse and dangerous. Making a volatile concoction of furious beats, sneering vocals, and rapid fire riffs that righteously fall smack dab in the middle of punk and hardcore, Straphangers proudly fly the DIY aesthetic with a bombastic soundtrack behind their charge.
www.myspace.com/straphangers
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Jessica Delfino,"I Wanna Be Famous" (Loudmouth)
Jessica Delfino’s songs are meticulously crafted, contagious as a cold and glide through a wide array of styles from folksy acoustic (“No More War”) to bluesy shuffle (“I Was in Love With You”) to poppy hip-hop (“My Pussy is Magic”) without a hitch, but use caution when sharing with small children or the easily offended, as Delfino’s purposely filth-driven and ribald lyrical content is bound to be an intentionally surefire dealbreaker. The 15-track endeavor I WANNA BE FAMOUS boasts a host of sharp songwriting that matches Delfino’s fork-tongued retellings about her clumsy sexual exploits (both real and surreal) and other controversial situations, implementing intriguing instrumentation such as ukulele, handclaps, and Moog organ to assist these tracks in being memorable for more than their outrageous refrains and down and dirty main topics. If you can handle the truth, this disc’s dark and twisted sense of humor provides a musically appeasing yet comedically shocking jolt to the system that requires a penultimate tolerance for blue material from the listener.
www.loudmouthrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Armas Gathas,"Dead To This World" (Metal Blade)
German metal unit Armas Gathas provides the brutal yet done to excess balance between Pantera-esque grooves and modern metalcore tonnage on their debut offering DEAD TO THIS WORLD. Featuring former members of Euro metal acts such as Cataract and Born From Pain, this brazen outfit turns to bands such as Hatebreed, Kataklysm, and Throwdown when churning up a slightly stagnant chugging metal inspired experience while tweaked hardcore-tinged sensibilities draw out rashes of anthemic group chorus parts perfect to start up some moshpit activity to. Unleashing an all too familiar stream of sonic excess, this release’s ruthless sense of modern metal aggression is aces but the disc’s glaring lack of originality ultimately fails to establish a distinct identity for this squad, thrusting them headlong back into the oversaturated and faceless metal middle ground.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gypsyhawk,"Gypsyhawk" (Creator Destructor)
Adding a blues-laden and jazzy sense of swing to their NWOBHM-inspired stoner rock shuffle, California quartet Gypsyhawk have developed an intriguing aura teeming with the majesty and wonder of yesteryear’s heavy metal heroes and the gargantuan melodies of 70’s arena rock staples. This unit’s eponymous eight-track endeavor is a collection of tunes steeped in the bell-bottom era of hard rock, complete with stinging guitar lead fills, fluid bass and drum runs, form-fitting whiskey-throated vocals and an underlying charm that gets away with the sheepish admission of the owners of sound and style they heavily employ (“For Those Who Love the Lizz”). Doling out an authentically organic blend of heavy music that references everything from Sabbath to Skynyrd with a vintage reverence, Gypsyhawk triumphantly beefs classic tones up without losing any hint of their hard-charging retro vibe, giving traditional hard rock fans something meaty to gnaw on.
www.myspace.com/gypsyhawkusa
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Damsel,"Queens of Royale" (Self-released)
Long-running Queens, NY based unit Damsel aim straight for the melodic hard rock heart on their latest 10-track endeavor QUEENS OF ROYALE. Displaying a knack for writing catchy rock containing a startling amount of bite while employing an adaptable style that switches from reggae to alternative to hard rock, Damsel’s soaring choruses and keen use of dynamics reinforce their versatile delivery and ready for rock radio presentation. This trio’s powerhouse drumming and tasty guitarwork combination displays a blend of the primal drive of Lita Ford with the stark grace of Lacuna Coil sans the imagery, while pinches of bubblegum Top 40 magic frequently resound in the sharp vocal lines, keeping mainstream ears tuned in. Expressing a musicality that hard rock with a female perspective usually skips over, Damsel’s latest effort is as well rounded as it is big sounding, showcasing the band’s penchant for making memorable melodies that rock with toe tapping tunefulness.
www.damselband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


D.I.S.,"Critical Failure" (Deep Six)
Comprised of scene veterans from notable acts such as Exhumed and Phobia experienced in the art of apocalypse, California extreme metal troupe D.I.S. unleash a menacing 10-track excursion that displays the firepower of their tenured positions entitled CRITICAL FAILURE. This disc supplies devastating D-beat style malevolence a la Discharge and Entombed with a couple of hardcore, thrash and doom detours strewn in for good measure, complete with blasts of blistering tempos, quality crust-laden rhythms, and filthy guitar and gruff vocal tones abrasively dispensed for maximum discomfort (“CF”). Far from original yet equipped properly with the nefarious nuances necessary to dole out palpable portions of pervasive punishment (“Legion”), this veteran unit has developed a disc tailor made to throw on when the desire to destroy everything around you requires a soundtrack.
www.deepsixrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Woe Of Tyrants,"Threnody" (Metal Blade)
Ohio based Christian metal troupe Woe of Tyrants return with a 10-track offering entitled THRENODY. From the standout devastating percussive performance to a somewhat formulaic yet at times complex twin guitar assault, this quintet reveals an arsenal fully stocked with brazen metallic devices from streams of tweaked-out tech metal (“Tempting the Wretch”) and rage-induced blackened thrash (“Descendit Ad Inferos”) to textured keyboard fills (“Threnody”) and beefed up galloping rhythmic bursts, dexterously straddling the line between metalcore and melodic death metal (“Lightning Over Atlantis”). Emulating the style of Black Dahlia Murder and All Shall Perish with a smattering of their own progressively punishing perspective added, Woe of Tyrants presents a potent potpourri of modern melodic death metal placing them in the thick of the endless mix of bands vying for the metallic crown.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Pain,"Cynic Paradise" (Nuclear Blast)
Prolific metal master Peter Tagtgren takes time from his seemingly endless schedule and fires up his industrial metal machine once again, resulting in the creation of the 11-track CYNIC PARADISE. Dispersing digitally diabolical pulses of throbbing bass and drums with rounds of distorted guitars and manipulated vocals steeped in electronic heaviness (“I’m Going In”, “Don’t Care”), this disc resonates with the clinical songwriting atmosphere Tagtgren favors when working on this project, as songs like “Not Your Kind” falls somewhere between Static X, Mudvayne, and NIN while departures like “Have a Drink On Me” display a cowboy-esque merger of Ministry and Depeche Mode. Delivering a cyber friendly hybrid of sinewy synthesized metal that wouldn’t sound out of place in a futuristic action movie scene, Pain sounds off with another brash pairing of electronics and metal with a two-track guest spot from Annette Olzon that steals the show, adding a stark new dimension to Pain’s single-mindedly sinister plan of attack.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Aun/Habsyll,"Split" (Public Guilt)
This affair offers three songs by two projects clocking in at over 42 minutes with a singular goal of creating atmospheric drone metal layered in despair, and while each band takes different stylistic routes, each artist comes up successful. Up first is the Montreal-based unit Aun, whose Hawkwind-y acid rock predilection and loopy cosmic leanings launches their mechanized metallic thrust to the furthest reaches of the galaxy known to man. Up next is the more ominous and mysterious French project Habsyll, whose one-track contribution takes up more than half the total running time while emitting a decisively creepier and foreboding vibe thanks to its doom-laden sludge metal tendencies. Requiring an increased attention span and a basic comprehension of the genre’s nuances in order to appreciate in full, this split disc celebrates the art of drone metal with a disjointed defiance tying this collection together.
www.publicguilt.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Aluk Todolo,"Finsternis" (Public Guilt)
Monolithic and foreboding, French black metal trio Aluk Todolo utilize repetitiveness and minimalism to the fullest on their latest two-track offering FINSTERNIS. Broken down into five movements retaining a singular drumbeat while progressively shifting evil via waves of shimmering guitars and haunting synth-like sounds along the way, this release draws strength from its lo-fi mechanized soundscape lulling listeners into a hellacious hypnotic state while unloading a maddening blend of redundant Krautrock, swirling reverb and delay, and avant-garde black metal shrieks both vocally and guitar-wise. This affair is best absorbed in a solitary sitting with the lights dim and the weather gloomy, as the tedious TELLTALE HEART vibe and the incrementally creepy instrumental manipulations make for an menacing listening experience that needs to be taken in its entirety at the risk of significantly altering the overall effect of this boundary breaking squad’s latest aural experiment.
www.publicguilt.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


What Cheer? Brigade,"We Blow, You Suck" (Anchor Brain)
Billed as an alternative marching band, the 19-piece Providence, RI collective known as What Cheer? Brigade proves to be a raucous mob whose debut 11-track album stretches the band’s already waning novelty way past its elasticity point. While the music captured here is executed with a jubilant cadence necessary to rile up college football games and holiday parades, this unit’s weepy ragtime and woozy Dixieland gone metal and punk references everyone from Slayer to Squirrel Nut Zippers, going beyond the threshold of hip to border on mildly uninspiring when laid down on disc. Undoubtedly way better experienced in a live setting (of which this band is known to raise quite a stir with their guerilla styled impromptu performances) with a cavalcade of visual stimulus at the most or a lawn chair and your grandma at the local fair at the least, What Cheer? Brigade’s brand of fun time translates awkwardly in the recording studio, resulting in an uneven offering.
www.whatcheerbrigade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rusted Dawn,"The Black Tides of War" (Diminished Fifth)
Canadian metal enthusiasts Rusted Dawn do an admirable interpretation of the golden era of thrash metal with a couple of intriguing tweaks along the way to freshen it up on the quartet’s debut full-length offering THE BLACK TIDES OF WAR. Combining pure thrash a la Exodus and Kreator with hints of crossover and hardcore punk like Municipal Waste and Cancer Bats, this 10-track disc packs a potent thrash metal punch chock full of chugging guitars, rapid-fire drum patterns, and rabid vocals set to keep heads banging all night long. Despite coming off a bit formulaic, Rusted Dawn’s presentation is an honest and heartfelt recreation of the breakneck pace and devil may care attitude exuded by the elite of thrash metal, both in the past and from today’s current wave of revivalists.
www.diminishedfifthrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Howl,"Full of Hell" (Relapse)
The Rhode Island fearsome foursome named Howl has released a rhythmically charged nine-track gritty and raw debut properly entitled FULL OF HELL. This sinewy squad comprises their furious foundation with slow-churned sludge metal heft, Swedish death metal at its most sinister, and deliberate doom metal pacing, allowing for every massive percussive rumble, bellicose vocal snarl, and blackened guitar riff to blow a hole through your chest and resonate with wicked resolve. Striking a middle ground between High On Fire’s warmongering tones and Mastodon’s southern-fried sonic crush, Howl conjures up an organic rage sounding akin to the summoning of nature’s most destructive forces to wreak havoc on the Earth, kicking off the apocalypse in fine form.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Through the Eyes of the Dead,"Skepsis" (Prosthetic)
South Carolina’s Through the Eyes of the Dead have endured a revolving door’s worth of lineup changes in their short span, yet have held enough together to unleash a seething 10-track death collection of songs entitled SKEPSIS. Shaded with more hues of traditional death metal while keeping its deathcore sensibility intact, songs like “The Manifest” and “Dementia” display the troupe’s newfound concoction firing at all cylinders. Bolstered by new vocalist Danny Rodriguez and his menacing phrasings and malevolent bark, while some this quartet’s self-produced output utterly reeks of a cross between retreads from the glory days of Swedish death metal and stagnantly standardized deathcore (bring back Erik Rutan behind the board, guys), their lethal blast-beat lunges bear a jugular-grabbing intensity matched by few currently on the circuit. Featuring some of the most skull-rattling rounds of pummeling double bass drumming and nimble yet nefarious guitars, SKEPSIS is a relentless record that strikes a brutal balance between modern and classic extremes.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Aldaaron,"Nous Reviendrons Immortels" (Paragon)
Radiating their brand of malicious mayhem with a majestic hue that sheds light in the shadows in the forests of black metal, France’s Aldaaron deliver a glacial eight-track offering steeped in traditional rawness entitled NOUS REVIENDRONS IMMORTELS. While an arsenal of unabashed regressive tendencies screaming for blood kick out at full blast (“Nirnaeth Arnoediad Part 2”), this unit also demonstrates the knack to throw in a barrage of well-placed atmospheric downshifts and clever dynamic tempo fluctuations that keep the listener intrigued and stick true to black metal ideals (“Nirnaeth Arnoediad Part 1”). While the album’s muddy production can be taken a breaking point for some, the band’s overall presentation contains its share of standard accoutrements from panicked vocal shrieks to solid accompanying keyboards (“En Route Vers La Bataille”) while sharp enough to exhibit a grim and foreboding aura draped in black metal’s shimmering bombast.
www.paragonrecords.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Annotations of An Autopsy,"The Reign of Darkness" (Nuclear Blast)
Reinvigorated UK metal upstarts Annotations of an Autopsy return with an unrequited mix of brutality on the 11-track THE REIGN OF DARKNESS. While this quintet has endured its share of growing pains, their strong allegiance to the deathcore sound has shifted somewhat to include noticeable nuances of classic death metal destruction a la the likes of Suffocation, Morbid Angel and others from the vintage Tampa sound era, bolstering the squad’s overall ambush significantly (“Impale the Sun”). Yet there’s still pieces missing throughout AOAA’s overall attack despite blood-thirsty thrusts on songs like “In Snakes I Bathe” where things grind to ho-hum halts and become monotonous beyond normal standards, almost as if the band made an outline of a drawing and forgot to color it completely in, especially glaring on slower-paced tracks (which the disc is heavy on). Even though it seems that this group is headed on the right path of death metal destruction, they’ve got a long way to go before being considered in the same league as their newfound aforementioned influences, but should appeal to the under 21 crowd that likes to mosh it up.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Charred Walls of the Damned,"Charred Walls of the Damned" (Metal Blade)
Iced Earth alumni Richard Christy and Ripper Owens work together again on Charred Walls of the Damned eponymous offering. This nine-track offering serves up a smattering of traditional heavy metal with an emphasis on presenting a progressive and powerful platter, complete with Owens’ histrionic vocals and Christy’s clinical percussion work at the forefront of the strike (“Fear in the Sky”). Providing a well-balanced metallic assault of neck-break paced technical excellence and memorable melodic sweetness (“The Darkest Eyes”), Charred Walls of the Damned deliver a solid slab of raise your fist and yell heavy metal executed with a sniper-like stealth (“Creating Our Machine”) that ardent fans of metal can definitely latch onto.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vicio,"War On You" (Self-released)
Vicio is a punchy female-fronted pop-rock quartet that features members from both Brazil and the United States. Adorned with eclectic personal and musical upbringings, this band’s multiethnic rock ‘n roll middle ground is reflected on the four-track endeavor WAR ON YOU. Despite the presence of sleek modern production with cutesy hand claps aplenty and a seemingly endless stream of feel-good vocal hooks, this band showcases a daring experimental flair and a keen sense of musicianship that propels songs like “Knock One Two” straight from dance rock bliss into something way less fleeting. Surprisingly substantial and endearingly engaging, Vicio’s solid guitarwork and penchant for writing songs with good melodies that also take chances helps this crew stand out amongst the sea of other bands championing their common sound.
www.myspace.com/vicio
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Renae,"...And Hell Follows" (Hotfoot)
Illinois-based post-hardcore quartet Renae demonstrates an impressively slanted rage channeled full on through the five tracks from …AND HELL FOLLOWS. Effortlessly juxtaposing the best parts of screamo, metalcore, and emo punk with intense barrages yielding to suave transitions which aid this batch of lengthy songs from overstaying their welcome, Renae exhibits the ability to draw their own musical conclusions from influences such as Poison the Well, Glassjaw, and Norma Jean without sound like a cheap rip-off, injecting their own quirks along the way. Fortified with a strapping vocal presence with a raucous range that falls somewhere between enraged and enamored leading this grip on the rail modern heavy rollercoaster ride, Renae’s knotty jam band mentalities and kaleidoscopic blend of aggression combine to force the listener to feel the battering brunt of this band’s unorthodox assault on the ears.
www.hotfootrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


This Moment In Black History,"Public Square" (Smog Veil)
The third release by taut punk rock outfit This Moment in Black History yields the monstrous 13-track effort entitled PUBLIC SQUARE. This Cleveland, OH quartet mesh terse shards of hardcore punk with dollops of stoner rock fuzz, robot rock precision, jazz-induced atmosphere, and garage punk experimentation unleashing a hellacious attention-getting hybrid sound chock full of bastardized screams and clever call and responses (“Makes My Teeth White”), anarchistic keyboards, and jagged rhythmic patterns that transcend across generations of rock ‘n roll genres. Unafraid to either rip the room to shreds (“About Last Night”) or push an extended musical jam towards the outer limits (“Pollen Count”), TMIBH exhibits an appetite for destruction with the organic soulfulness missing from the majority of music today, developing a brand of unabashed and raw music all their own that rarely misses the mark in delivering something that knocks you flat on your ass.
www.smogveil.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Heathen,"The Evolution of Chaos" (Mascot)
After a near 20-year absence, Bay Area thrashers Heathen return to the metal world with a hard hitting11-track studio album entitled THE EVOLUTION OF CHAOS. This quintet’s comeback rings true to form with the classic thrash metal feel of yore at its core, complete with a majestic feel laden with solid twin guitar harmonic interplay, effective progressive metal movements, and a vocal presence graced with both NWOBHM’s soaring melodic tactics (“A Hero’s Welcome”) and old school thrash metal’s unmistakable malevolent snarl (“Dying Season”). Rather than taking a quick stab at the thrash piñata, this veteran act’s well-built excursion is a genuine example of revisiting roots the correct way, coming off as well oiled and refined rather than a hapless retread attempt to cash in on the genre’s revival. If you dig the most recent works of vintage squads such as Exodus, Overkill, and Testament, there’s no reason why Heathen’s latest shouldn’t be in your collection.
www.mascotrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Fozzy,"Chasing the Grail" (Riot)
CHASING THE GRAIL is the album that helps you forget that Fozzy is a terrible band name and the unit’s lead singer is pro wrestler Chris Jericho with three-quarters of Stuck Mojo behind him, as the squad’s latest 12-track batch of tunes proudly showcases a killer band that bring a wicked amalgamation of metallic styles helmed by Jericho’s assured vocals to the table. Gelling as a band like previous albums never showed, Fozzy comes into their own here with a hearty smattering of heavy and melodic songs with a bevy of influences yield from Ozzy and Metallica to Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch that display an increased intensity, especially in the guitar department (“Pray for Blood”) while blending a steady stream of classic and modern influences from Blind Guardian to All That Remains (“Under Blackened Skies”). Retaining the patented Atlanta metal stomp guitarist Rich Ward helped to pioneer (“Grail”, “Martyr No More”) and going as far to include an 11-minute epic complete with a rash of twists and turns that would make Dream Theater proud, Fozzy’s latest album truly covers all bases and delivers a top to bottom solid shot of metal with a grab-bag, something for everyone disposition that erases the stigma placed on the band since their inception.
www.fozzyrock.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tribella,"Thirteen" (Rocklittleface)
Austin, TX all-female trio Tribella dole out a shimmering serving of psychedelic pop-rock with hard edged underpinnings revealed by a powerhouse percussive performance on the unit’s latest album THIRTEEN. Underneath smooth ripples of guitar (“Mister Mister”), unorthodox bass grooves and a muscular yet miniscule female vocal lie an undercurrent of imminent distress, almost as if breathy vocals act as the messenger breaking the news to you about the end of the world without an ounce of panic (“13”). Reminiscent of a cross between riot grrl rage and steady shoegaze with dashes of garage rock charm strewn about (“CSUS4”), Tribella’s post-rock potpourri constructs a luxurious realm where sticky sweet and unsettling pop strike a tenuous middle ground that manages to keep it all together even when indicating it’s all falling apart.
www.tribellatheband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Stellar Vector,"A Flock of Cowards" (Self-released)
Quirky Minneapolis, MN quintet Stellar Vector provide a 11-track excursion laden with a bevy of stylistic shake-ups coupled with a prevalent pop sensibility and an electronica edge (“Fall-Out”) that gives A FLOCK OF COWARDS a well-rounded and contemporary feel. Staying in line with today’s alternative rock structures while falling back on a totally 40’s vibe on occasion (“Closing Notes” “February 14th”), this cerebral unit juxtaposes bouncy melody lines (“The Boy Who Cried Wolf”) with intricate borderline prog rock elements to create a complex and wistful strand of keyboard-driven rock music with a scope whose broad range leaves the listener on their toes anxiously awaiting the next cleverly picked genre jump or tricky musical passage.
www.stellarvector.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gamma Ray,"To The Metal!" (Earmusic)
German power metal kingpins Gamma Ray return with their 10th studio effort, appropriately titled TO THE METAL! This 10-track affair features the quartet’s signature musical maneuvers and retains the outfit’s traditional metal approach, keeping a fever pitched energy level (“All You Need to Know”) and melody lines soaring high in the sky (“. Branching out a bit this time around to include an orchestral introduction before kicking it up a notch (“Chasing Shadows”) as well as a tender piano-led (“No Need to Cry”) in between dollops of Euro-heavy racing power metal and groove-laden Priest-esque rockers (“To The Metal!”), Gamma Ray presents a solid yet unspectacular slab of metal that stays true to the veteran group’s classic metal predilections.
www.gammaray.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Psycho,"The Grind Years" (Selfmadegod)
Seasoned Boston grindcore pioneers Psycho have been at it since the early 90’s, maintaining an endearing DIY mentality with an unquestionably staunch disregard for anything that foolishly gets in the way. Digging through their vaults to excavate a cavalcade of d-beat bashings with hardcore punk sensibilities complete with razor sharp riffs and a guitar solo or two thrown in for good measure, foundational grunts and growls, and lightning fast tempos, the 22-track offering THE GRIND YEARS is a lot to take in at once yet provides thick chunks of classic brutality. Revisiting their salad days without removing a spec of grit and crud from the recordings from 20 years back, Psycho’s prolific presence and the primal power demonstrated on this collection allows for a consistent stream of unfiltered ferocity to shine, firmly fitting in between Nasum and early Napalm Death without an ounce of reservation.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Enthroned,"Pentagrammaton" (Regain)
Belgium black metal merchants Enthroned are a seasoned unit who have been marred by a checkered consistency with both maintaining a lineup and producing advanced output through their long-standing career, but this curse seems to have bypassed their latest 11-track affair PENTAGRAMMATON. Showcasing a step in the right direction, Enthroned’s barrage of blistering riffs, blazing drums, and bellicose vocal work especially intense during periods of the vicious triple vocal assault with a tenacious tact, ripping through your speakers (“Rion Riorrim”) with a panic-stricken aggression black metal requires (“Pentagrammaton”). Despite feeling a bit genre-standardized at times, Enthroned’s overall presentation endearingly exhibits all the necessary brutality to get the job done with a bombastic sound, a firm handle on controlling atmosphere from track to track and an arsenal of clever nuances sprinkled throughout that traditional black metal fans can’t help but appreciate (“Unconscious Minds”).
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Wormrot,"Abuse" (Earache)
Singapore grindcore trio Wormrot doles out a superior blast of authentic and substantial hyper-speed insanity on the aptly titled 23-track, 22:42 excursion ABUSE. Mercilessly expounding the values and virtue of developing short and sweet blasts of bass-less quickness while dialing volatility up to maximum thresholds, this affair is laden with relentless drums that jackhammer your skull while thick riffs bludgeon what’s left of your face and the chaotic vocals varying from scintillating shrieks to caustic Cookie Monster rumbles assault every cavity in your body (“Good Times”, “Condemnation”). Proudly following in the footsteps of bands like labelmates Insect Warfare and elder statesmen Napalm Death, Wormrot’s raucous racket make it simple to surrender to the breakneck paced tumultuousness this triad of rapid-fire technicians employs, implementing a slew of dastardly d-beats and infusing jagged fragments of hardcore punk (“Blasphemy My Ass”) into their centrifuge of carnage that you’ll find yourself sideways and broken because of in no time. Essential for speed freaks.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Anima,"Enter the Killzone" (Metal Blade)
German deathcore troupe Anima makes a return back to the scene with another run of the mill offering in the form of 12-track disc ENTER THE KILLZONE. While songs like “I Am Sick I Want to Kill” display touches of metallic maturation with an increased death metal vibe prevalent, this quintet ultimately falls prey to the familiar genre trappings with many of their peers with a horrendous array drum triggers and unrealistic guitar tones at the forefront of this mind-numbing attack (“Welcome to Our Killzone”). Despite a beefed-up Black Dahlia Murder-esque approach (“The Omnipotent Torture King”), Anima is still playing catch up with the likes of The Acacia Strain and Job for a Cowboy in terms of providing something more than a shot of banal brutality.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Unleashed,"As Yggdrasil Trembles" (Nuclear Blast)
Swedish death metal mainstays Unleashed return with their 10th endeavor, the 13-track affair AS YGGDRASIL TREMBLES. This renowned squad continues their quest to praise Odin while lacing into your skull with some of the grueling and grooviest death metal gallops this side of Amon Amarth (“Far Beyond Hell”), complete with crushing guitars (“Dead to Me”) and seething streams of diabolical death metal growls leading the charge towards Nordic enlightenment (“Cannibalistic Epidemic Continues”). While Unleashed does their usual perfunctory job of laying Viking imagery on thick, this veteran outfit’s unquestionably thunderous poundings, versatile viciousness (“Wir Kapitulieren Niemals”) and precision-driven solos (“This Time We Fight”) render a cohesion strong enough to void any lyrical schlock and appeal to fans of all types of extreme metal.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The August Infinity,"Voices of a Generation" (Self-released)
Skillfully straddling the line between larger than life hard rock musings and multi-faceted modern rock malaise, NYC quintet The August Infinity exhibit a diverse sound that strikes a few familiar chords throughout yet doesn’t solely belong to any one particular genre on the 13-track VOICES OF A GENERATION. Adorned with a powerful vocal presence whose broad range and higher register resonates a superstar ‘40s metal edginess with a soulful pop-rock side, the music behind the pipes finds itself spanning across many shades of the rock spectrum as well without losing an ounce of melodic bliss, adroitly skipping from Warped Tour pop punk bounce (“Feel This”) to shadowy pseudo-metal boom (“My Confession”) to alternative rock contagiousness (“Push, Pull, Shove”). Merging the wares of Coheed and Cambria, The Killers, Sevendust, Avenged Sevenfold, and Story of the Year into slickly produced explosive tunes that sound way too good to have been done at a home studio, The August Infinity stands out amongst the pack thanks to their undeniably fiery delivery and clever genre juxtapositions that are bound to appeal to a large cross-section of rock fans.
www.theaugustinfinity.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rifoki,"Sperm Donor" (Dim Mak)
Taking the notion of presenting an EP to heart, the tandem known as Rifoki have produced an explosive five-track, six-minute endeavor entitled SPERM DONOR. Brimming over with intensity while maintaining its strict sense of brevity, the duo comprised of Steve Aoki (Dim Mak Records founder) and Bob Rifo (The Bloody Beetroots mainman) step back into old skins, ditching high-profile positions in the music biz and spots behind the wheels of steel to let loose and immerse themselves into a self-induced hardcore punk time warp chock full of meaty morsels moshpit angst and aggressive angularity (“Zombie Attack”). Way too short but ultimately rewarding, Rifoki is a combustible entity that allows this twosome the luxury to shamelessly revisit their roots and show the scene they still got it in them to boot.
www.dimmak.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ragnarok,"Collectors of the King" (Regain)
Veteran Norwegian black metal clan Ragnarok return to the frontlines of the battlefield with a tried and true black metal offering in the form of the relentless nine-track COLLECTORS OF THE KING. Despite a major lineup reshuffle and a solid yet unspectacular arsenal of raspy demonic growls, diabolically crafted riffs, and frantic drums, this corpsepainted crew’s unmistakable disdain for humanity, sinister sense of raw aggression, and heinous lyrical viewpoints help thrust songs like “The Ancient Crown of Glory” from the commonplace to something totally crushing. Effortlessly comprehending the evilest chapters of the metal handbook only to spit them with a bloodthirsty sense of destruction heading their learned surge, the latest from Ragnarok offers few surprises yet unleashes a beastly slab of punishing yet predictable rage straight from the lungs of hell (“Wisdom of Perfection”).
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Stark,"Race to the Floor" (Self-released)
NYC female-fronted trio Stark unleashes a pretense-free slab of snarling yet simple rock directly from the gut on their latest nine-track excursion RACE TO THE FLOOR. Crammed with a gaggle of foundation-shaking riffs (“End of the Line”) and the gritty no nonsense Joan Jett meets Pat Benatar-esque vocal presence of Lani Ford leading the entire affair (“What It Is”), this release is anchored with an unabashed rock ‘n roll spirit (“Get It”) that so many modern bands lack today. Stark resurrects the punk rock attitude the Big Apple used to own with their own spin, injecting a slew of muscular hard rock elements (“Drunkaholic”) and a loud and proud DIY aesthetic that rounds out this unit’s punchy and infectious four on the floor stomp.
www.starknyc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Crinn,"Dreaming Saturn" (Nuclear Blast)
Minneapolis mathematic metal mavens The Crinn hurl out a hodgepodge of technically advanced heaviness likely to induce repeated bouts of brain dizzying on their latest nine-track affair DREAMING SATURN. Building their fertile foundation from likeminded acts such as Dillinger Escape Plan and Psyopus, this fluid quartet cram an excessive abundance of extreme complexity into a relentless aural assault that merges jazzy sensibilities and twisty forward-thinking elements with the feral strike from the most uncompromising metal to render a listening experience reminiscent of the works of seminal units such as Death and Cynic. Bolstered with a manic sense of musicianship spawning volatile spurts of velocity and drop on a dime tempo shifts, The Crinn’s aggressively progressive experimental approach results in a frenetic cerebral attack custom made for metal fans who can withstand the impact of this squad’s jarring juxtapositions.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mason Reed,"You Can't Come Back From Heaven" (Self-released)
Bridging a Grand Canyon sized gap between folk and outlaw country, Mason Reed surely has his work cut out for him on his latest five-track EP YOU CAN’T COME BACK FROM HEAVEN. This self-professed dirty hippy (indignantly claiming to be the bastard child of Charles Manson), tackles the daunting task before him with a gritty gravel-throated delivery and a quirky style that finds a middle ground between ZZ Top, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle, and Hank Williams Jr. Embracing modern alt-country moodiness without leaving two-step shuffling behind while waves of rich instrumentation boost the overall power from expositions of heartbreak and woe, Mason Reed’s unorthodox and haggard style even finds itself traveling towards Van Morrison-like rhythm and blues rock ‘n roll, furthering this bluegrass and folk hybrid’s ability to do more than merely elicit a few tears in your beers.
www.masonreed.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Lair of the Minotaur,"Evil Power" (The Grind-House)
Chicago’s metal warriors Lair of the Minotaur return with a triumphant full-fledged metal assault in the form of EVIL POWER, yet another donnybrook perpetrated by this colossal Midwestern trio of metallic maulers. This sincerely sinister offering contains the primal rage that fueled the works of death metal progenitors Celtic Frost and Hellhammer with sonic blasts of raw and ruthless sludge metal and bouts of D-beat harshness to create viscous streams of whiplash-inducing melodies chock full of crunching riffs, bastardized screams and rounds of bass and drum rhythms custom built to dole out pure punishment (“Blood From the Witch’s Vein”). In your face and to the point is what this band is all about (“Let’s Kill These Motherfuckers”), maintaining the dastardly demeanor necessary to deal with the diabolical side of the metal spectrum throughout. Rollicking through 11 tracks of heinously hard hitting heaviness which containing an increased array of memorable hooks (“Riders of Skulhammer, We Ride the Night), this brutal unit’s fourth full-length is a focused release gushing with the rabid intent to destroy everything in its path while striking the battle-ready middle ground between Cannibal Corpse, Carnivore, Entombed, and Discharge.
www.thegrindhouserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Nekrasov & Aderlating,"Nekrasov/Aderlating Split LP" (Chrome Leaf)
A complacent yet chilling dose of ambient metal comes courtesy of a four-track, near 50-minute exploration into unearthly realms of bleak noise by not one but two one-man bands, Nekrasov and Aderlating. First up is the Australian-bred Nekrasov, whose 24-minute single-track contribution featuring a methodically malefic pace and a slew of suppressed terror in the form of spooky faraway screams that sound as if coming from a freshly buried coffin with a live body inside. From there, Aderlating, the project of Gnaw Their Tongues mainman Mories, takes the reigns with three tracks of subhuman scree eschewing all sense of melody to create vacuous waves of foreboding drone that is sure to leave scars on your subconscious. This split disc’s sprawling nature and industrial distortion properties definitely make it not for everyone, but if horror movie background music is up your alley, this release is right for you.
www.chromeleaf.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mike Pacheco,"Peaces" (Self-released)
No stranger to the NYC scene, former Mortal Remains leader Mike Pacheco unleashes his second solo offering in the form of a versatile self-produced 46-minute adventure entitled PEACES. Chock full of catchy rock cuts that run the gauntlet from teeth gnashing heavy tunes to wistful pop melodies, Pacheco’s divergent interests benefit from a keen attention to detail that realize when to accentuate songs with lavish instrumentation or maintain a simple yet effective traditional hard rock paradigm (“Sweet Nikita”). With a firm grasp on progressive-minded outfits such as Rush or Tool with a decisively ripping guitar presence reminiscent of classic metal peppered throughout (“Peaces”), this endeavor encompasses numerous vibes and auras from arena rock enormity to coffee house intimacy (“A Promise”) to cosmic rock exploration without losing an ounce of sincerity or undermining any sense of identity.
www.myspace.com/michaelpacheco
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Armored Saint,"La Raza" (Metal Blade)
After a near-decade long layoff, arguably the biggest hard-luck metal band ever Armored Saint return with LA RAZA, an infectious multi-layered metallic creation brimming over with a deep wealth of hooks while retaining the ahead of their time eclectic heaviness that made the band stand out amongst swarms of bands from the ‘80s. This Los Angeles quartet first rose to prominence in 1984 and have endured many hardships (most notably the passing of original guitarist Jeff Duncan to Leukemia in the resulting in some major sabbaticals throughout their tenure, yet this 10-track release shows no sign of rust or stagnation. Instead, this veteran troupe sound rejuvenated, incorporating a more decisive hard rock flavor (“Chilled”) while keeping the listener intrigued with a barrage of melodic and crunchy tunes with a genuine reverence for the band’s middle of the road old school sound. Blasting out an impressive array of tasty solo work and powerful riffs (“Left Hook from Right Field”) while vocalist John Bush’s recognizably gritty delivery anchors the entire affair, Armored Saint displays an affinity of their former selves with a contemporary kick, resulting in another solid offering by a band known best as a squad who inconsistently deliver strong albums.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


NAAM,"NAAM" (Tee Pee)
Brooklyn’s very own psychedelic delight Naam are a hard rocking yet trippy trio with an abundance of garishly galactic effects judiciously dispersed throughout their eponymous 10-track expedition. From their methodical 16-minute opener “Kingdom”, it becomes crystal clear that the key to fully enjoying this troupe requires either a lot of patience or a handful of hallucinogens. Adorned in blues-soaked swirls of mystical hard rock with its fair share of acid-induced reflective moments strewn about, Naam’s dipped in distortion and drenched in reverb presentation is bolstered with moody instrumentation and an organic vibe that emits welcoming waves of hypnotically-charged warmth while shards of tribal doom and sedated and meditative drone encompass your headspace (“Fever if Fire”). Secured with a sense of spirituality that launches Naam’s rocket ride towards the outer limits, this squad’s righteous musical projections showcase lush qualities typical of praise songs from Eastern philosophies with barrages of sprawling and sinewy rock that adroitly dodges across the extreme spectrum without landing in one place for too long, creating a head-spinning and soul-reaching array of transcendental heaviness.
www.teepeerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Psycho Enhancer,"Two Song Sampler" (Self-released)
The two-track sampler disc from Long Island’s Psycho Enhancer showcases this fearsome foursome’s wares as merchants of the moshpit. Fueled by a carefree get drunk and fuck shit up attitude and a nasty mix of deathcore, punk, and hardcore blasting out the speakers, this crew must be a spectacle to witness firsthand, as their breakdown-friendly structures, steamroller song structures and Cookie Monster vocalizations are angled to drum up chaos at any cost.
www.psychoenhancer.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Descender,"Descender" (Self-released)
NYC quartet Descender makes sure the flames of early post-hardcore are burning strong on their eponymous six-track introduction to the world. Creating music that is well versed in the tradition of NYC underground heaviness, this unit does a solid job in projecting a relentless sense of immediacy with enough lung-ripping refrains that stick in your head for days while implementing the kind of Sick of it All-esque moments of infectious melody that call for immediate pile-ons (“Crooked Teeth”). Fusing the indomitable spirit of DIY hardcore with a jagged blend of modern hardcore punk brutality and indie rock dexterity, Descender has developed a specific strand of blunt heaviness that doles out qualities you can still feel ok about throwing elbows to with rounds of stellar musicianship that transcend the throwback tag.
www.descendernyc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Overmaster,"Madness of War" (Cruz Del Sur)
Italian metal quintet Overmaster tackles the theme of war through the ages headlong on the group’s 11-track debut MADNESS OF WAR. This offering boasts a modernized twist on traditional metal histrionics, implementing a thrash-laden bite and a touch of a mean streak that juxtaposes the mighty gallop of Hammerfall with the brash temperament of Nevermore (“Marble King”). Technically proficient without sounding sterile, tracks like “Nameless Hero” manages to maintain its dark edge despite standardized acoustic guitar and keyboard power metal ballad flourishes while “Jungle of Madness” grabs for the jugular from the get-go with a standout blast of menacing double bass drumming and “Revolution World” lays down a touch of today’s vibe from the Swedish metal sect. Steeped in the power metal paradigm with oodles of catchy choruses that employ a decisively balls-out delivery, Overmaster produces an aggressive slab of music exploding with melody with hints of malice, progressing the power metal sound past the Helloween and Blind Guardian points on the spectrum into harder and darker areas.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Year Long Disaster,"Black Magic/ All Mysteries Revealed" (Volcom)
Year Long Disaster’s sophomore effort BLACK MAGIC; ALL MYSTERIES REVEALED continues this prominent Los Angeles powerhouse trio’s quest to revert rock ‘n roll back to the period when heavy, loud, and a bit mysterious was the order of the day with 11 tracks teeming with the indomitable grit and unencumbered spirit of classic hard rock acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream and AC/DC with touches of current acts like The Hellacopters and White Stripes sneaking in through the back door (“Major Arcana”). This album, produced by Nick Raskulinescz (QOTSA, Foo Fighters), is a no frills well-built groove-laden experience bolstered with dollops of vintage analog-esque warmth, allowing the guitars to snarl and bite with a convincing bluesy retro vibe (“Venus at the Crossroads”) while the bass and drums produce a bounty of rollicking rhythms that soulfully shake and shimmer throughout the duration of the record (“Love Like Blood”). Picking and choosing their spots to explode with rounds of hard rock histrionics (“Sparrow Hill”) or pensively withdraw with swirls of acoustic guitars (“Seven of Swords”), Year Long Disaster aim for the top of the hard rock mountain with the authentic sound and the subtle smoothness that should help achieve this group’s lofty goal.
www.volcoment.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sayyadina,"The Great Northern Revisited" (Relapse)
The latest endeavor from Swedish grindcore unit Sayyadina collects all of the band’s odds and sods from the years (plus four new cuts) and gives them an extreme metal makeover thanks to Pig Destroyer mainman Scott Hull’s studio savvy. Compiling 30 tracks of b-sides, seven-inches, and live performance recordings, the sprucing up of the tracks on THE GREAT NORTHERN REVISITED casts a whole new shade on this squad’s ruthless assault to your existence, molding blackened crust punk, well-paced power violence, brutal d-beat movements, and raging grindcore tendencies into tightly wound combustible devices capable of massive destruction. This terrorizing trio, featuring members of General Surgery, Nasum, and Victims in its ranks, are a threatening lot with a pedigree that speaks for itself whose significant contribution to the extreme metal spectrum has deservedly called for the warranted remodel of their back catalog to go down, in turn making a release guaranteed to leave a devastating impression whether you’re a rabid fan or a first-time listener.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Raven,"Walk Through Fire" (Metal Blade)
A cornerstone act of the NWOBHM movement, Raven has returned in 2010 with an intense fire fueling their 12th studio offering, emitting nothing but the purest intentions on the throwback to their heyday release WALK THROUGH FIRE. Relying on their trademarked tried and true “athletic rock” nuances of intertwining undisciplined vocals, nimble fretwork, and of course, loads of speed-driven but neatly compiled compositions together, this storied trio pull off a formidable task of coming through with a winning batch of amped-up metal that is both cohesive and kicks much ass without sounding tired or dated. Thanks to a heartfelt application of songwriting that fires on all cylinders keeping the band on track from repeating their disastrous directional mistakes from the late 80’s on, this 16-track affair tacks on a few live cuts and a Montrose cover for kicks, but it’s the meat of the recording where Raven’s expedience with experience shines brightest. If you long for the days of yore, Raven’s latest disc contains all the charm and grit of their most moderate successes and should pique the interest of old fans and curious newbies alike.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Shazam,"Meteor" (Not Lame)
Not only does this new album from rockers The Shazam mark the long-awaited return of one of the best power pop groups of the past twenty years or so but it also marks the return of THE best power pop label ever, Not Lame, if only temporarily. Two great treats in one! Seems the great folks behind Not Lame have decided to partner with The Shazam on this new CD but have no plans to revive the label outside of this release. Boo! Then again, if there was ever a reason to bother to start (or revive, as in Not Lame's case) a label it is for a band as deserving and overlooked as The Shazam. For over a decade now, this powerpop juggernaut led by guitarist/songwriter/singer Hans Rotenberry have been at the forefront of the New Power Pop which sprung up in the mid-'90's thanks to pioneering bands such as Jellyfish, The Posies and The Smithereens - bands who took the combination of melody and guitar bombast The Beatles, Badfinger, Big Star, and early Who represented and decided to bring it forward while giving it a much-needed kick in the ass with some modern technology and post-punk attitude. That the band hasn't become more of a household name is very unfortunate as their distinctive blend of arena rock with razor-sharp pop hooks should have been the perfect bridge betwen the kind of FM hard rock fodder listeners have suffered through for over thirty years and the alternative rock of the mid-90's and beyond. In fact, if Fountains of Wayne, Weezer and Foo Fighters were combined, it would sound like The Shazam.

Based in Tennesee, Rotenberry and band have eschewed all evidence of their Southern country roots, concentrating on the rock and pop Rotenberry and his bandmates (drummer Scott Ballew and bassist Mick Wilson) favored during their youth. Formed in 1994, the band's first release was a cassette demo called Shake 500 comprised of the first ten songs the band had finished in the studio with producer Brad Jones. The band's first CD was released in 1997 and included many of these same songs, only re-recorded and showing much better production values, with Brad Jones still at the helm. While the band's second CD Godspeed the Shazam is generally regharded as their best, their subsequent longplayer Tomorrow the World and their newest Meteor, both top it, in my opinion, with Meteor showing all the pieces finally in place and a knowledgable producer at the helm to help them get to the next level.

Meteor sounds just like it's title suggests: a mighty planet-shaking whooosh of pure molten rock and roll with a generous helping of melodic goodness at its' core. Helping craft the mighty '70's "big rock sound" on this album is the legendary producer Mack (Reinhold Mack to be precise) who has helped twiddle the knobs on albums for ELO, Queen, Billy Squier, and Sparks among many others. While Rotenberry and band have always managed to take it to the next level rock-wise while retaining a strong melodic thrust, bringing in Mack to help harness this Meteor not only brings Rotenberry's vision to fruition, but also gives the band a certain new air of legitimacy. Mack manages to polish The Shazam's ample popcraft into a sheen that belongs on radio, had rock radio not totally abandoned anything of melodic substance long ago for the safety of mind-numbing repitition of the top five songs from the top twenty dinosaur bands making up their playlist. Am I the only one sure the Shazam's guitar firepower, with it's bedrock of pop smarts, would have made a great complement to bands like The Kinks, The Who, and the harder-edged Beatles tracks? Which song is the best? Why, the last one you just listened to, my friends. This is an album for air guitarists and crunch-pop lovers everywhere!!

Needless to say, this album is not going to be leaving my player for a long, long time. Priceless power pop like this is hard to find these days and I am going to relish devouring this new release like a starving man at a free buffet. It's no secret among power pop aficianados the "revival" of the genre did not go as well as planned, sort of like the alt.country movement which was equally hyped and fawned upon but relatively ignored by the masses. Still, a lot of great bands were inspired by Jellyfish, Posies et al. and there is a small movement that exists to this day among artists who seem to chafe at the words Power Pop but nevertheless seem to worship at it's altar. By all rights, Shazam should be known as one of the best hard rock bands in recent memory and have thousands of screaming fans at every venue they play. Perhaps they still shall. But, in any case, if you're looking for that record to sing along to, to play air guitar with, to play whilst driving over to the local bar, this is the album you should be playing and hopefully you're playing it LOUD!
www.notlame.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Frank Sinatra,"Strangers In The Night" (Collector's Choice)
I know, I know - the first thing you're going to say is why is there a review for a Frank Sinatra reissue on a website called EarCandy! You're thinking about how his career started in the 1940's about a decade or so before rock and roll, all the jazz, standards and American Songbook stuff he recorded, one of his famous quotes that called rock and roll music for cretinous goons, his tailored suits. I get it, I get it, I get it. But think about this - rock and roll has always been about rebellion, women, and substance abuse - not necessarily in that order, by the way. Well, even though he was a singer and not a bandleader don't think for a minute Sinatra didn't call all of the shots and do things his own way, traditions be damned. He made a hit out a song called My Way for chrissakes. As far as women go, he fucked just about every woman between Hollywood and Atlantic City including Marilyn Monroe and he drank as if there wouldn't be any more alcohol left after he ate breakfast. In other words, Sinatra embodied rock and roll before there was rock and roll, which is no mean feat. The world saw the man's attitude and had to create a whole genre of music based on it. Take that Motley Crue!

By the time Sinatra recorded Strangers in the Night, Sinatra had been a famous crooner and movie star, a has-been down on his luck, and had famously resurrected his singing and acting careers thanks to a huge amount of talent but an even bigger sense of self and an inhuman amount of willpower. Consider, if you will, a man who so believes in himself, believe he deserves to have all the wealth, adulation, fame and pussy in the world, that he pulls himself out of the gutter and makes himself more famous than ever before. And then, finds a way to keep doing it. First, in 1955 (after a five year slow period) when he found himself at the top of the charts and more popular than he had ever been in the 40's. Then, once again when Strangers In The Night was released, giving him his first number one hit in over 11 years and causing the album to sell over a million copies thanks to his newfound strategy of embracing his elder statesman status.

More than anything else in his career at the time, this album marked a comeback of sorts for Sinatra, and it propelled him to the top of the charts once again after a drought many thought would extend for the rest of his career. Though the Rat Pack deal he had going was big, it didn't really help his singing career much. Many in the business thought Sinatra had finally become a has-been or, at least, an artist who had seen better days. On the contrary, though Sinatra would never ring up the hits like he had a decade earlier, this was the beginning of another notable run of hits, albeit small, and served to both further cement his legacy and show his critics he was still able to make hits if the songs were right and if Sinatra felt like it. Most recognized for the title track and the masterful, glorious Summer Wind, this album would be Sinatra's last with sympathetic arranger Nelson Riddle, but it's success inspired Sinatra to expand on the album's thematic approach for many years and many albums afterward. One of his very best, for sure.

You might ask yourself, 'so what, the guy's a legend - should I bother listening to this?' but bloody hell, it's Sinatra for chrissakes, arguably one of the best singer's ever. I mean, shit, the guy's been dead for years and I still feel somewhat nervous about writing anything about him for fear of repercussions. Or concussions, for that matter. Like I sort of alluded to earlier, I have always personally considered Sinatra the King of Rock and Roll and always felt Elvis Presley was sort of a very distant runner-up in that department. Sinatra may have not had the dance moves, but he had more swagger than anyone before or since. Though this album features a more sedate Sinatra, one that has realized his mortality and has reconciled his advancing age, Sinatra knew switching his game from fast-player to wizened veteran would give him a longer life at the top of the heap and make him even cooler as his old fans advanced in age themselves. He managed to morph from star to legend in a way only a true veteran would be able to make happen. For that alone, anything he did during this time period would be required listening. That this album is fucking great only makes it that much easier to enjoy.
www.ccmusic.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott Homewood


Tom Petty,"Live Anthology" (Reprise Records)
To me, Tom Petty will always be the quintessential every-day guy who ended up making it big. But not because of his possession of exemplary songwriting talent but because of his irrepressible spirit and pure rock and roll heart, the true power of which may never be known but which will always be felt, which has always guided him throughout his career. Whether it was involving members of his old band Mudcrutch in his original record deal instead of simply going solo, riding out a record company buyout and the personal bankruptcy it caused to rally his band and create Damn The Torpedoes (ie - one of the best rock and roll albums ever), fighting his new record company to lower the list price on his album Hard Promises, punching a wall and breaking his hand just because he hated the producer's mix of his album Southern Accents and on and on, Petty has consistently done whatever it took and made the right choices, not just for personal economic/monetary reasons but personally and for his fans. This is a man who lives and breathes rock and roll, but seems to love his fans even more and is a genuinely nice guy to boot. A life lived in the spotlight with very few scandals to speak of and nothing but admiration from your peers is a very rare thing indeed in the rock and roll business. If he didn't bring the rock like a sonofabitch he would be this generation's answer to Pat Boone for chrissakes. But he does, and people know it. Like AC/DC, Petty's albums are not going to lead to the next big thing or make waves with any musical innovations but people who love true rock and roll know he is the real deal and bands looking to capture the spirit of what makes rock and roll great will no doubt be listening to and studying his albums until the end of time...at least.

Born in the city of Gainesville in Florida, Petty had a rather normal upbringing compared to most rockers. Though Petty recently revealed in an interview his abusive childhood at the hands of his father due to the younger Petty's love of rock and roll and his supposed slacker ways, his childhood of semi-successful high school studies combined with playing bass guitar in several local garage bands was mostly without major incident. Eventually, Petty and several friends (including future Heartbreakers' guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench) formed the band Mudcrutch which soon became one of the more popular Florida rock bands of the early '70's, playing throughout the state and into Georgia. The band realized it accomplished as much as it could playing the circuit in Florida and Georgia and decided to relocate to California to look for a record deal. The band began sending demos to every label in existence and immediately began getting offers, but Mudcrutch soon splintered, with some of the members returning to Florida. Petty stayed on in California, eventually playing with several other bands until he procured a solo deal from Leon Russell's Shelter Records. While beginning work on his solo album, Petty fortuitously hooked back up with Campbell and Tench, who had remained in California. The pair brought with them bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch, as the four were working on forming a band and needed a vocalist. Suddenly, Petty had a full band and the newly christened Heartbreakers assumed Petty's deal with Shelter as their own, keeping Petty's name out front as it was originally his deal. It was a great move by Petty to get those guys too, as not only were they people who were his trusted friends but they have each individually been responsible for many hit songs outside the Heartbreakers either by producing them, playing on them or even writing the songs. Even drummer Stan Lynch has written a couple hits for The Eagles. In a relatively short order, the band's self-titled debut was released, only to be tagged as part of the new wave movement currently making waves in Britain and the US. While it is thought today because of the hit song American Girl that Petty's first album sold well right off the bat, the album actually only took off after receiving rave reviews during a Heartbreakers tour overseas. When the great notices started trickling back, the label began pushing American Girl and the record took off. The band's second album, You're Gonna Get It fared less well due to lack of promotion, unfortunately something for which Shelter was notorious. See the career of Dwight Twilley for proof. Petty found himself at a crossroads. Shelter had been bought by MCA and the resultant corporate turmoil left Petty's second album DOA and Petty himself felt restrained by the oppressive record deal he had signed and was hoping to renegotiate with MCA for a more workable deal. Instead, MCA fought back and Petty had to file for bankruptcy while everything was worked out. Eventually, both sides came out with a workable solution and Petty handed over the tapes after a lengthy court battle that involved the band's roadie Bugs moving the tapes all over town so Petty could truthfully say in court he had no idea where they were. That album, Damn The Torpedoes, would eventually become one of the most influential albums in rock and roll. Surely it was a milestone for Petty and his Heartbreakers, as the album was immediately embraced by not only Top-40 but by album rock radio as well, who were eager to add something to their aging playlist. The followup, Hard Promises, also scored a bunch of singles in the wake of Petty's battle over the list price with MCA. Petty's next batch of albums (Long After Dark, Southern Accents, Let Me Up I've Had Enough) were very solid efforts, if not up to the the exemplary standards of Damn The Torpedoes.

It took Petty's newly-burgeoning friendship with Geroge Harrison to bring his career to the next level. Befriending the ex-Beatle led to an association with the leader of then-defunct band ELO, Jeff Lynne, which would shape Petty and his band's music and career trajectory for many years. Through the Harrison-Lynne connection, Petty was brought into projects by Lynne, George Harrison, and also Roy Orbison's final album. Together with those alliances, Petty was also friends with Bob Dylan as Petty and the Heartbreakers served as Dylan's backup band on Dylan's album Knocked Out Loaded and the subsequent tour. If you look at these names, you will guess what came next: The Traveling Wilbury's supergroup and their two hit albums. Simultaneously, Petty and his band (well, most of them. Drummer Stan Lynch was left out of the proceedings) were working on Petty's solo album Full Moon Fever with Lynne and some of the other Wilbury's. Full Moon Fever became Petty's best selling album to date, scoring a huge hit single in Running Down a Dream. Next came Into The Great Wide Open, again with Lynne at the helm. Though it sold rather well, it did not match up to Petty's solo recording and was looked at as something of a disappointment. Part of it was due to Lynne's seeming ubiquitous presence on the charts for the past four to five years. His sound was becoming overexposed (as was Petty - having been a part of over ten major projects in roughly five years) and with the grunge movement beginning in Seattle, people were finding the Lynne sound a little old hat. It would be the last time Petty worked with Lynne on an album project until his most recent studio CD Highway Companion, about fifteen years later. Wildflowers followed after Lynne's departure from Petty's circle. It was another Petty solo album and another best-selling set that rivalled only Full Moon Fever for sales numbers. For the rest of the '90's and up to the present day, Petty has become a little more experimental in his choice of projects yet his songwriting has retianed it's same basic feel. The Soundtrack to She's The One was next, followed by Echo, The Last DJ and last year's Highway Companion featuring Jeff Lynne's return as Petty's producer and co-writer. While none of these albums was on a sales par with Petty's best selling discs, each one shows Petty stretching not only his musical vocabulary but also the boundaries of his own work. As it stands right now, Petty's time as a best-seller has probably past due to age and familiarty, moreso than quality, which in Petty's case has always remained high. Petty and his band have now entered into the territory of Legendary status. And that's not to throw the term around lightly, but it's true. When your career is over as a hitmaker but you're still doing your best work, you become a Legend. Like Johnny Cash. Like Frank Sinatra. Like Little Richard. Like Elvis Presley.Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have ascended into that strata and anyone who's followed his career knows it's true. The great thing about it is Petty and his band are still relatively young, love to ROCK, and, Petty especially, still carry around their righteous anger like a badge of honor. Shit, he's the man who wrote I Won't Back Down - do you think he could turn tail or relax with something like that to live down? Not that he would anyway, but he's sort of boxed himself into a corner a little bit, hasn't he?

This set is comprised of four CDs worth of live cuts culled from various points in Petty's career, with most of the performances occuring in Petty's birth state of Florida but with plenty of cuts included from elsewhere starting from 1980 and up until the present day. There is a more expansive and (much more) expensive version of the set avaiable from Best Buy but since I am against certain stores having certain versions of albums, I am going to ignore that set (though I have seen it and it does contain a decent amount of extra items including additonal live material) as I feel most Petty fans will no doubt go with the four CD set which, while not having too many extras, is musically substantial and very affordable considering there are four CDs in the package as well as a great booklet with rare photos. Not much to say about the music here other than it is typical Petty and the Heartbreakers, with guitars blazing and Petty's unmistakable nasal whine leading the barrage of rock. While The Rolling Stones have garnered the moniker The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band, Petty and his band could take it from them on any given night. Most interesting are the covers, which range from a smoking version of Bo Diddley's I'm A Man to an intense run-through of Booker T and MG's' Green Onions. If you didn't know Petty and his band had soul, well, now you know!

If you love Tom Petty, hell - if you love Rock and Roll - you will love this package. From the first song to the last, this 4 CD set just smokes and is filled with the sort of energetic performances rock and roll fans may have thought were gone forever. Yes, the older performances are more frenetic and rocking but, for the most part, Petty remains unchanged as his years have seemingly not diminished his love for rock and roll and, while not angrier, seems more confident and at ease with himself and his skills as an artist. Tom Petty, if nothing else, has always been a true believer in the spirit of rock and roll, as corny as it sounds. I mean, how else do you put it? Not known for being a gadfly, partier or someone who wants to be seen around the right parties or clubs as a rocker more than he wants to actually be doing it, Petty is someone I've always felt was doing it for the right reasons and was always always self-aware as to his place in the rock and roll pantheon. His only headlines have been about his music, not drug problem-oriented or of the relationship-circus variety. For that alone, he deserves some sort of anti-drama award. This set will make a fine addition to my collection of Petty discs - at least, if I can stop listening to it long enough to get it on the shelf!
www.reprise.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Isaac Hays,"Shaft Soundtrack" (Stax)
Concord Record Group, the relatively new owners of Stax Records, continue to rebuild and revitalize the classic Memphis soul label by uncovering and (even better) sharing rare sessions which have never seen the light of day and re-releasing the best of their voluminous catalog of classic soul albums. One of their most recent re-releases resurrects what many feel is the pinnacle of soul albums, Isaac Hayes' glorious soundtrack to the movie Shaft. While a big hit in the early '70's, a mere decade or so later it was relegated to a mere musical milestone of the brief but influential blaxplotation film era. Subsequent generations, no doubt encouraged by the late Hayes' comeback as Chef on the hilarious Comedy Central South Park television series, thankfully have recognized Hayes' soundtrack as one of the biggest developments in black music. Not only could a popular black artist be accepted to write a soundtrack for a movie (and win an Academy Award for best score), but Hayes himself was starting a trend of longer, yet still danceable songs that together with the innovations of James Brown, would form the backbone of disco (and even rap! I can't be the only one who's noticed Hayes' honeyed soliloquies bear a distinct resemblance to what became rap music). Yes, let's be truthful here - no less than the Godfather of Soul watched Hayes' success with Shaft and quickly turned out two blaxplotation soundtracks of his own which, while being much less successful, only served to emphasized the influence Shaft had on soul music. And while Hayes success seemed to almost come from nowhere, Hayes was a seasoned, successful songwriter for the venerable Memphis soul label and, with partner David Porter, wrote many hits for the likes of Sam and Dave, Carla Thomas and many other artists on Stax. Besides writing the songs, the recordings would often feature Hayes own dynamic keyboard work. And if Hayes had any desire to sing, he kept that to his demos, recording scratch vocals so other artists would know how to sing his songs, often singing both of Sam and Dave's parts so the artists would know when to get gruff and when to sing it sweet.

But Hayes' career behind the scenes changed when Stax lost its' distribution deal with Atlantic Records. Under a warped deal that could only be made by a record company, when Atlantic terminated the deal, they were able to walk away with every master recorded during Atlantic tenure as distributor. Thus, after close to ten years in business and many hits, Stax had to start over as they had absolutely no catalog. Someone at Stax got the bright idea to have every Stax act record an album in quick fashion. That way, Stax would have an immediate catalog and could rebuild itself in the marketplace. Close to thirty albums were recorded for this project, many of which were throwaways by artists who didn't really have enough material or may not have been ready to record an album but were told to get an album done quickly anyway. Hayes was one of these hopefuls, stepping out from behind his anonimity as a staff writer and producer to record his first album, to take his chance at becoming a star. And, while not as succesful as some of his later discs, that eponymous album set the stage for his greatest triumph, the disc we're talking about right now: the soundtrack to the movie Shaft.

To listen to this album today is to be immediately transported back in time to a world where there are no cookie-cutter R&B acts who have to try their hardest to squeeze the smallest amount of soul into their sound. Something tells me Hayes just went in and did his thing, real easy-like. The clue is in his voice. Hayes was not only smooth sounding, he made the whole deal seem easy, as if soul music oozed out of his pores straight onto the vinyl. Just listening to his voice, you felt the machismo and the sex dripping from it. The old saying men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him says it all. I can't see Hayes having to try too hard at anything, y'know? Just like you shouldn't have to try too hard to love this album. It will come naturally. I don't know one guy who has listened to this set of songs who hasn't walked away without thinking Hayes was the coolest motherfucker around. The only thing negative about this set is apart from a remix, there are no additional songs or unreleased tracks. I understand preserving the integrity of an album, but there's no reason an extra disc of outtakes couldn't be including seeing as the label is trying to hype up the re-release. Ah well, Shaft is still one of the most fantastic, influential soul albums ever and probably the soundtrack music not only to Shaft, but to hundreds of thousands of couples getting it on. Maybe you out there were conceived to Hayes' buttery voice saying 'Shut yo mouth'! Glorious indeed.
www.concordmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Nathaniel Mayer,"Why Won’t You Let Me Be Black?" (Alive Records)
Though christened with what could be misconstrued as a controversial title, this CD is nothing more (and certainly nothing less) than one of the coolest R&B singers ever firing it up one last time for the enjoyment of his fans. Sadly, Mayer passed away in 2008 and this, the second posthumous release issued by Alive, should be the last “new” release Mayer will ever have aside from whatever live recordings can be unearthed from Mayer’s legendary club gigs in his hometown of Detroit and elsewhere. This CD’s title came from a remark Mayer made while being served some food in Europe during one of his tours there. Tiring of the never-ending platters of cheeses and French bread waiting for him backstage at every show, Mayer shouted the title line in exasperation due to his longing for some home-cooked American cuisine. On board this go-round are guitar players Matthew Smith of Outrageous Cherry and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who also share in the production chores for this album, wrapping up their friend’s last known studio tracks in fine style. The centerpiece of this set is two live tracks Mayer and Smith recorded together while doing a radio interview/performance in 2007. They are Mayer’s only known acoustic performances and show Mayer could be funky under any circumstances. Though his voice was ravaged after years of “personal issues” (check out Mayer’s first hit Village of Love from 1962 to hear one of the sweetest R&B voices ever recorded that didn’t belong to Sam Cooke) there was nothing strong enough to hold back his immense soul and I find just as much to like about his latter-day vocal style than I do with his voice during his earlier years. If you have never heard him before, this CD will be a revelation. If you have, then you know you already need this CD.
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Brimstone Howl,"Big Deal, What’s He Done Lately" (Alive Records)
Wow. Just…wow. You know, I’d like to be in the room when bands pick out their names. You know? Just be a fly on the wall because a lot of bands have the craziest names that don’t make any sense or are just simply unrelated to the music they make. And it’s not just recent bands. It’s been a funny thing throughout time to check out a band’s name, listen to their album, and discover that the music you thought the band was going to be about because of the name they chose is totally 100% wrong. Not this band. Not Nebraska’s Brimstone Howl. This band (Nick Waggoner – guitar and vocals, John Ziegler – guitar and vocals, Calvin Retvlaff – drums, and a guest bassist) lives up to it’s name by sounding pretty much like a garage band from hell. And that’s not just an expression. They sing and play as if they are actually living in hell and only playing guitars and drums as fast and loud as possible is the only thing to get them out. The term ‘gutbucket’ does not do it justice and “frenetic” doesn’t justify the pace of these songs. I mean, Jack White should just quit right now as Brimstone Howl has perfected what Jack and Meg have been only partially succeeeding at for the past ten years. In fact, the title itself could very well be referring to Jack White as far as I am concerned. Think the Ramones tearing apart the corpses of Jack and Meg and you’ll get the idea where this album is going. Some of the fiercest rock and roll I have ever heard in my life. If you buy this CD, tie yourself to your chair before you put it in the player or you’ll just get blown clear through the walls of your house. The MC5 sound weak compared to this band. Okay? I said it. You buy it!
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Buffalo Killers,"Let It Ride" (Alive Records)
Some heavy Hendrix/Clapton-circa-Cream-style guitar sounds here with a sort of country-rock edge to the band, at least on the first song Get Together Now Today. The Buffalo Killers consist of Zachary and Andrew Gabbard along with Joseph Sebaali and this rocking threesome manages to conjure up some great fucking blues riffs! This, their newest release, is produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys (damn, this guy gets around, doesn’t he?) who ingeniously tempers the band’s muscular rock with the Gabbards’ sibling harmonies, adding an extra dimension to their homespun psychedelic Southern blues rock! Whew, think I hit them all! Sounding incredibly like a Southern rock version of Cream, the band’s swirling drums, pulsating bass and brain slicing guitar have an enormous power and energy to them which makes you want to jump up and begin dancing in full-force Trustafarian boogie mode. Excellent stuff, and while not groundbreaking in the least, this is music best listened to outdoors as the band’s songs just have sort of a rustic, pastoral rock sound to them that suggets you almost have to have no walls around you to listen to them properly. I would compare them to My Morning Jacket with the reverb removed. Very cool stuff. This will be played a lot at my house this summer, especially when dusk hits and I am chilling outside. Perfect for parties too!
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:

Review by Scott Homewood


Landmine Marathon,"Sovereign Descent" (Prosthetic)
In their relatively short lifespan, Landmine Marathon have carved out a niche for themselves for both fully embracing the traditional grindcore and old school death metal sentiments of the likes of Carcass and Bolt Thrower as well as unassuming-looking frontwoman Grace Perry’s utterly seething vocal delivery. On the squad’s latest nine-track offering SOVEREIGN DESCENT, the Arizona quintet manifest increased intervals of both strengths while fortifying their crunch on your cranium with rounds of crushing riffs and non-stop percussive punishment (“Foul Revolt”). Championing a bestial hammer to the face approach that steamrolls through your listening receptacles without a sign of reprieve (“Chained by the Same Fate”), there is little fancy, flashy or overtly technical to be had from this act, just a series of nasty rage-driven tunes wound tight and ready to explode once the pin is pulled when play is pressed. Like a charging rhino, Landmine Marathon is a dangerous entity that has unapologetically created music that will run you over without an afterthought.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Batusis,"Batusis" (Smog Veil)
When a band made up of Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvan forms, it’s bound to make waves in rock circles worldwide, and this seasoned six-string tandem’s collaboration entitled Batusis does just that on the eponymous four-track debut. Solidified with the rhythm section of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, this conglomeration of lifer rock ‘n rollers stay true to their instincts and stick to their strengths, intertwining punk rock fury, surf rock serenity, and classic rock swagger while playing like their lives depended on it to pump out a rip roaring rock music dripping with the brazen attitude of days gone by. Featuring two instrumental cuts and two balls-out tunes with vocals to match, Batusis unleash a batch of snarling songs with huge guitars, rendering the most smoking hot in your face rock ‘n roll history lesson of 2010.
www.smogveil.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Haken,"Aquarius" (Sensory)
UK prog metal unit Haken do an exemplary job at juxtaposing a decisively heavier histrionic Dream Theater modern slant and a Marillion meets power metal revelry on their lengthy seven-track debut AQUARIUS. This collection of tunes by this newly formed squad are a bit challenging despite a first-class production value and a driving rhythm section anchoring the entire affair, and are totally smothered by prominent keyboard and synth work that drag the entire affair down numerous make or break points between magnificent and meh. Yet this sextet reveal the knack for creating a type of white-knuckle composition comprised from a balance of obvious influences and divergent musical styles with an abundance of rousing choruses and oddball musician charm to come off as an awkwardly fresher alternative than the usual sect of prog-metal merchants.
www.lasersedgegroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Exodus,"Exhibit B: The Human Condition" (Nuclear Blast)
Exodus unleashes a vicious collection of thrash metal driven by anger on the 12-track EXHIBIT B: THE HUMAN CONDITION. This underrated veteran Bay Area quintet raise the bar and deliver an intense slab of aggressiveness under the guise of metal guru Andy Sneap with the colossal twin guitar presence of Lee Altius and Gary Holt tenaciously throwing down catchy and crushing streams of razor-sharp riffs and over the top solos (“The Sun is My Destroyer”, “Class Dismissed”). Vocalist Rob Dukes really comes into his own here, reverberating with a harsh and menacing tone that sits squarely between former singer’s Steve Souza and Paul Baloff while the rhythm section pound out a flurry of the blistering and brutal tempos that Exodus helped to spawn nearly 30 years ago (“Burn, Hollywood, Burn”). Chock full of neck-snapping fretwork, jackhammer rhythms, and dizzying thrash metal expedience, the latest affair from Exodus portrays what the epitome of thrash metal excellence sounds like and is a must-listen disc for any self-respecting headbanger.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Haverstman/US Christmas/Minsk,"Hawkwind Triad" (Neurot)
Seminal UK psychedelic rock outfit Hawkwind’s cult appeal is widespread and bountiful, especially within today’s tripped-out post-metal circles demonstrated by this three-band, appropriately titled 11-track split disc homage HAWKWIND TRIAD. The most stunning aspect regarding this release is far and away the this album’s seamless flow which all but disregards the fact that this is the input from three separate bands yet sounds as fluid and cohesive as if one band comprised the whole endeavor, as US Christmas, Harvestman, and Minsk nail the tracks they tackle with a respectful regard towards the original version’s cosmic visions acting as each band’s foundation to renovate the overall sonic resonance of classics like “Master of the Universe” (done by US Christmas) and “Assault and Battery/ The Golden Void” (as interpreted by Minsk). Truly capturing the essence of their subject while giving the pioneer unit’s rich music a meticulously conducted modernization that virtually remains authentic to the original compositions, this release ensures the spirit of Hawkwind’s unique musical freak outs are still a major influence and will continue to flourish.
www.neurotrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Icarus Witch,"Draw Down the Moon" (Cleopatra)
Pittsburgh, PA traditional metal squad Icarus Witch provide an ample alternative to today’s modern metal with a turn back the clock blend of TOO FAST FOR LOVE-era Motley Crue, the hard rock edge of the NWOBHM movement and a case of dramatics a la bands like Dio and Savatage on the nine-track effort DRAW DOWN THE MOON. Maintaining a well-manicured balance of half-doom/ half hard rock heavy riffs that meander between middle of the road and magnificent and a set sneering vocal warbles that fit yet stigmatize the entire affair as a bit dated with a durable rhythm section keeping the tempos steady and strong, this quartet’s borrowed musical output is strictly compiled from influences prior to 1987 with enough King Diamond, RAGE FOR ORDER-era Queensryche, and Candlemass bits installed to maintain the soaring levels of classic metal copiously flowing through this 35-minute affair, going as far as to include an efficient cover of the well-tread Judas Priest classic “The Ripper” to further exhibit just where this troupe’s allegiances lie.
www.cleopatrarecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Wuthering Heights,"Salt" (Sensory)
Danish progressive power metal crew Wuthering Heights return with their fifth installment of melodic metallic fare, an epic nine-track offering that takes to the sea for inspiration this time around entitled SALT. Comprised of exercises in symphonic speed metal with a propensity for galloping harmonies and interludes derived from both forest-dwelling folk metal and eclectic progressive metal, this sextet exude virtuoso chops with painstaking attention paid to the rousing and detail oriented power metal characteristics which allow melodies to soar with a distinct hard-hitting gracefulness (“The Desperate Poet”). Imagine the uplifting atmosphere of Blind Guardian with the technical prowess of Dragonforce (“The Last Tribe”, “Tears”) with a fiery lead vocalist leading the affair through the vast waters of the metal world for a reference point of what to expect from this passionate and boisterous bunch and their latest theatrically-driven metal affair.
www.thelasersedgegroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Slam One Down,"The Basement Demos" (Self-released)
Taking equal cues on how to make folks move from both hardcore and metal, New Jersey quartet Slam One Down throw down a familiar yet heavy-handed blend of hard nosed music on their eight-track offering THE BASEMENT DEMOS. Striking the fertile middle ground between the brutality of Pantera and Hatebreed, this outfit is hopped up with a hellacious fury that surges through each pummeling riff (“Music, Money & Girls”) and gravel-throated growling vocal (“What I’ve Done”), giving the kids in the pit a soundtrack they feel proud enough of to beat the hell out of each other to. Despite the Hellyeah-esque missteps found when the band opts to change tempos (“Hell Doesn’t Want Me”), Slam One Down provides a barrage of musical firepower that contains the metallic muscle to summon a full-scale riot on the dancefloor.
www.reverbnation.com/slamonedown
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Order of Ennead,"An Examination of Being" (Earache)
Order of Ennead doles out another installment of technically inclined blackened metal on their latest nine-track expedition AN EXAMINATION OF BEING. Ripping out streams of blistering guitars, tortured screams, and relentless double bass pummeling that reaps the benefits of this quartet’s broad extreme metal scope and advanced sense of composition, Order of Ennead’s blend of modern technical death metal and belligerent black metal yields numerous flashes of excellence, especially when John Li shreds a solo mid-tune, yet may not sound as diabolical as you’d imagine. In fact, this unit offers a unique take on extreme metal’s darker elements, opting to thrust levels of musical aggression and overall velocity to overload while keeping a menacing element constant but never overpowering the inner workings of their complex music. Melding skull-crushing heaviness and a morose gracefulness with a sleek sound that many metal fans may frown upon as too sterile, the latest album from Order of Ennead showcases this band’s experimental nature while dishing out a proficient slab of well-structured extreme metal.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Trident,"World Destruction" (Regain)
Featuring members of Dissection and Necrophobic in their ranks, it’s not too difficult to figure out what Swedish black metal unit Trident is going to deliver. Whipping up a guitar-heavy and furious yet all too familiar blend of anti-Christian aggression, this troupe’s 10-track debut WORLD DESTRUCTION yields a solid yet unspectacular mix of the elegant malevolence you expect from groups who cross-pollinate across the metal spectrum. Imbued with a genre standard rasp-ridden darkness, this quintet’s musical output contains a smattering of razor-sharp thrash that brightens the brutal blasts of blackened metal blasphemy significantly on the title cut and the standout “Stockholm Bloodbath”. Unlike their peers, Trident uses a rash of slower tempos yet still maintains the necessary ominous atmosphere (“Nemesis”, “Slaves to Anguish”) that when coupled with the discernible melodic edge tacked on, gives this album a boost without tampering with the overall harshness factor.
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rotten Sound,"Napalm" (Relapse)
Paying homage to pioneers while displaying their own destructive wares, Finland’s Rotten Sound blast through a high quality yet short and sweet six-song EP comprised of three new songs and three covers of Napalm Death tunes on the aptly titled NAPALM. Designed to split skulls open, Rotten Sound’s menacing mixture of depraved tones, distorted rhythms and blistering speed make for a vicious listening experience chock full of the crusty chaos grind fans crave (“Dead Remains”), while the faithful recreations of classic Napalm Death tracks “The Kill”, “Missing Link” and “Suffer the Children” come off as proper tributes to one of the undisputed pioneers of the movement. With a noticeable increase in speed and power, this veteran act churns out a deadly dose of skillfully executed grindcore goodness leaving listeners exasperated and begging for more.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Uffomammut,"Eve" (Supernatural Cat)
Italian progressive sludge metal trio Ufomammut propel their bruising and burly psychedelic sound dipped in doom deeper into the vast cosmos on this forward-thinking unit’s latest body of work, a multiform 45-minute long single track dedicated to the first woman on earth entitled EVE. This ambitious Pink Floyd meets Isis by way of Electric Wizard offering renders a mass of mammoth musical movements laden with molten metallic monotony that doles out waves of heavy hypnotics while the accompanying buried in the back vocal presence emits a desperate scream from faraway effect, strengthening this act’s galactically-minded creepy crawling vibe. While an untrained ear or those unaccustomed to the type of zoning out this squad is capable of mustering can easily write this album off as tedious, the syrupy swirls of technically manipulated multi-layered guitars, the smidgens of unorthodox synths, and the filling-rattling rhythmic explosions chisel through your cranium until bone is broken and the oppressive sounds infiltrate your brain, resulting in a trip-laden series of intense sludge metal oscillations and moody atmospheric shifts perfect to throw on when ready to run away from the outside world.
www.supernaturalcat.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Jon Oliva's Pain,"Festival" (AFM)
Giving loyal fans languishing through year after year of Trans Siberian Orchestra’s heavy metal cash in on Christmas concerts something to rejoice about, the latest offering from prolific metal musician Jon Oliva fully revives the complete package of luxurious instrumentation, driving tempos, sinister symphonics, brooding atmosphere and dramatic heaviness from his best known band Savatage at their peak on FESTIVAL, a decisively dark and stimulatingly stirring 10-track release chock full of teeth-gnashing hard-edged rockers and soulfully heartfelt ballads. This release is an intense endeavor steeped in a traditional heavy metal mindset with Oliva’s trademark emotionally raw vocal delivery and soaring melodic composition skills working on overdrive to create the closest thing resembling a full-on Savatage reunion sans the actual members reforming.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Orwell,"Endeavors" (Zero Budget)
Midwestern metal maulers Orwell provide a sturdy yet predictable form of modern metal on the 10-track ENDEAVORS. Doling out a standardized heard it all before blend of death metal and metalcore that an endless stream of bands seems to employ, this quintet makes no bones of heavily borrowing from the playbooks of expected influences, as snippets of everything from Hatebreed to Black Dahlia Murder can be found here. Orwell manages to juxtapose the nuances of Killswitch Engage, Darkest Hour, and As I Lay Dying with sparks of ingenuity though, drawing tastefully from both their Swedish metal CD collection and the second stages of every summertime American metal festival to create an unoriginal yet spirited album showcasing a talented band whose tremendous metal acumen would benefit greatly from finding a distinct identity.
www.zerobudgetrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Our rating system:

Flawless...
Almost perfect...
Moments of brilliance...
Slightly redeeming...
Worthless piece of $#%@...
Extremely BAD! Should be illegal to possess...

Format Denotation:

Note: mp3 "albums" count as CD's. All reviewed collections are CD's unless tagged with the following images:

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