Music Reviews: July 2011

Richard Snow and the Inlaws,"Am I Really That Boring?" (Valley)
Sure, Richard Snow's previous two CD's were good...but things have finally gelled the third time around. His new CD, “Am I Really That Boring?” is a classic on all fronts: songwriting, playing, and production. The strength of the songwriting is what elevates the songs above the mere “retro” tag. There are subtle, but not overpowering nods to the power-pop greats (the Byrds, Mersey beat, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Badfinger, Buddy Holly, Beach Boys, and Wings), but the way Richard weaves these influences into his songs results in a unique sound all their own. Cleverness in his lyrics abound: “I put my records in order alphabetically cause I want them in the right place…am I really that boring? Yes I am and I don’t care!” And the sarcastic lyrics of “Middle Class Girl” border on Ray Davies brilliance.
If there ever was a renaissance-man-of-power pop, it is Richard Snow.
www.richardsnow.co.uk
Rating:

Review by Ronnie


Magic Hero Vs. Rock People,"Begin Thee Again" (Troun Records)
The follow up to their self-titled 20 song debut, “Begin Thee Again” is a 15 song meld of John Lennon, Straylight Run, Pink Floyd, The Fray, Cher’s “Gypsy’s, Tramps And Thieves”, Something Corporate, Burt Bacharach, Todd Rundgren and a whole bunch of eighties new wave bands like Echo And The Bunnymen. Their rage against the machine is much quieter and more laid back than say, Rage Against The Machine or even The Manic Street Preachers. This piano based, folk rock album will take more than one listen to absorb the full extent of what’s presented. It’s a somber, heady mix.
www.myspace.com/magicherovsrockpeople
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Kenny Chambers,"Under The Tracks" (Bad Blood Records)
Great new release that walks a fine line between acoustic ballads and mid-tempo rockers. The songwriting is top notch, and it will pull you in with the raw emotion that comes tumbling out. “The Kid,” “You Should Know,” and “Stone” are highlights here. But all of these songs will burn a hole in your brain cells like yesterday’s night out. Excellent record that you need to get pronto!
www.cdbaby.com/cd/kennychambers
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Buffalo Tom,"Skins" (Scrawny Records)
Boston power trio with another record a mere 3 ½ years after the also excellent Three Easy Pieces. After this long a time together, playing as a band must seem as natural as rolling out of bed in the morning. But you still need to have cool songs, and again this band delivers. “Down” draws you in with quiet precision and “The Kids Just Sleep” has a playful wistfulness that works well. Buy the deluxe version with an extra disc of demos that shows how Skins came to be. It’s worth it to hear the band in action. How about a live DVD next?
www.buffalotom.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Black Country Communion,"Self-Titled" (J+R Adventures)
4-piece hard rock band that features Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/Black Sabbath), Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin/UFO), Derek Sherinian (Billy Idol) and Joe Bonamassa (solo guitar ace). Produced with a chrome shine by Kevin Shirley, there simply is no let up on this record. Every song burns hard here, so it’s tough to pick any favorites. 2nd disc here is a great DVD with a video and in-studio footage. But this is only the tip of the iceberg for BCC. Record #2 should be out by the time you read this and they are making inroads on finally touring the US as well. So catch up and grab this before the next one is out.
www.bccommunion.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Thin Lizzy,"Live In London 2011" (Concert Live Recordings)
Original band members Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Darren Wharton unveil a new line-up on this 2-disc album. They are joined by Vivian Campbell (ex-Dio) on guitar along with Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake) on bass. The real ace up the sleeve here is Ricky Warwick on vocals and some guitar. The vocal resemblance to the late great Phil Lynott is so good it’s almost spooky. All the classics are here and sound awesome-from “Emerald” to “Jailbreak” and everything in between. Solid CD, here’s hoping they do a more extensive US tour on the next leg this year.
www.thinlizzyband.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


The Sid Presley Experience,"Anthology" (Self-Released)
Killer CD featuring Peter and Chris Coyne, who would later go on the form The Godfathers. All of their too brief studio tracks are included, along with John Peel sessions and various live tracks. From 1983-1985 there was still hope that England could once again rock out. This is the proof. Guitarist Del Bartle is in the latest line-up of The Godfathers, which is back in action and rocking the globe. Expect a new record from them sometime before the year is out. But contact the band about picking this up to complete your collection.
www.godfathershq.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Bad Religion,"The Dissent Of Man" (Epitaph Records)
The long running LA band returns with this new record that has everything you expect from Bad Religion. Thought provoking lyrics, tons of guitar riffs, pounding drums, and lots of “oohs and ahs” in the backing vocal department. “The Resist Stance” has a guitar line that reminds me of “Stepping Stone” for some reason…hmmm. “Pride And The Pallor” and “Cyanide” are barn-burners that will fit in well within their current canon. There’s even a guest guitar solo from Mike Campbell from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers. If these dudes keep putting out quality releases, I’ll keep buying. Maybe one day I’ll even see the 3-guitar Skynyrd line-up live too!
www.badreligion.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


OFF!,"First Four EP’s" (Vice Records)
Four-piece outfit that takes no prisoners on each song that hits your speakers. No need for me to give you a band member run-down. You should know that. If not-there is always the internet. With titles like “Now I’m Pissed,” “Full Of Shit,” and “Fuck People” you can probably guess what kind of ride you’re in for here. Like a rabid pit bull that lunges and hits its mark, OFF! does the same to your head. Crucial addition to your collection.
www.offofficial.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Night Birds,"Fresh Kills-Vol. 1" (Grave Mistake Records)
Compilation of all the band’s singles leading up to the release of their first full length later this summer. Here’s a great place to start for the unaware. Songs like “Bad Biology” will get you in the right mindset with lyrics like “I don’t care who goes down with me/it’s bad bad bad bad biology.” If you ever dug bands like The Adolescents or Angry Samoans but wished some surf guitar could be thrown into the mix-this is your new favorite band. Highly entertaining and a whole mess of good fun.
www.myspace.com/nghtbrds
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Wire,"Red Barked Tree" (Pink Flag Records)
Great new record from one of the innovators of post-punk excellence. They are down to a lean trio now, but all the songwriting essentials are still intact. Sonic consistency seems to be the aim here, but the end results are still intriguing. “Two Minutes” leans back to their early days, but “Please Take” and the title track are the standouts here for me. There is an “extras” EP called Strays from these same sessions that is also worth getting your hands on. Wire is band that you need to rediscover or start supporting now-you will be rewarded for your efforts.
www.pinkflag.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Daniel Isaiah,"High Twilight" (Secret City Records)
Bobby Bare, Jr., Bob Dylan, Violent Femmes, Beatles… The influences may or may not be apparent but the music has a hint of all of the above and more. Daniel’s vocals are like a conversation with an old friend. They don’t seem to be forced or fake or make you feel uncomfortable. I would describe it as Americana on a pop tangent that blends well with music made by four guys named John, Paul, George and Ringo as well as that guy that just goes by Bob.
www.secretcityrecords.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Dirty Americans,"Black Feather" (Self-Released)
Imagine Lenny Kravitz fronting the Supersuckers with everything mixed down by Rob Zombie. That got your attention? If you like heavy handed rock n’ roll “Black Feather” is right up your alley. There’s even a cover of the Bob Seger System's 1969 hit "Lucifer". Like a soundtrack to a fistfight or another Texas chainsaw massacre, these guys are all Les Pauls and big balls. Rock n’ roll for the masses made to kick their asses. Sorry… I may have had a little too much to drink.
www.myspace.com/dirtyamericans
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Budrows,"whatcha hear is whatcha get" (Self-Released)
The cigar box guitar is a cool little homemade instrument that has had resurgence in popularity in recent years. There are forums and internet communities dedicated to building and playing cigar box guitars and other homemade instruments. Jason Farthing built, and still builds cigar box guitars as folk art. He eventually started playing them for his customers to show that they were fully functioning instruments as well as art. This lead to the formation of The Budrows which consist of Farthing on cigar box guitar and kick drum and Macarena Rivera on vocals. “Whatcha hear is whatcha get” is an ep I can’t seem to get enough of. Macarena’s vocals remind me of the amazing Maria McKee and Jason’s playing is just as much White Stripes as it is front porch, foot stompin’ Americana. You owe it to yourself to check this out.
www.reverbnation.com/thebudrows
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


XII Boar,"XII" (Self-Released)
For some reason I’ve always liked the dynamics of a three-piece band and these three guys from the UK just seem to confirm that even more. This is heavy hitting, stoner metal or what I like to refer to as plain old kick ass rock n’ roll. I can hear the Sabbath, Motorhead and Zeppelin influences as well as Corrosion of Conformity, Metallica and Crowbar. The four song demo is free to download from their website so you have absolutely nothing to lose here. Do yourself a favor and go check them out! \m/
www.xiiboar.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


David Lightbourn,"David Lightbourn" (Self-released)
The debut solo offering by David Lightbourn showcases this Queens, NY singer’s amalgamation of the dark end of modern rock and the heavier side of the electronic oriented music spectrum, employing a slew of atmospheric synth work as often as throwing down heavy guitars and thunderous percussion (“Vanity”) across this 11-track disc’s duration. At times sounding like a cross between electronica and down tempo (“Me and My Shadow”, “Loveless and Disarmed”) while sprinkling noticeable hip-hop influence (“Freedom”, “Enjoy Your Sleep”), Lightbourn provides stylistic shakes up quite a bit here yet manages to retain a predominant synthetic pulse allowing his vocal flow to switch up between streetwise rap to angst-ridden rock without skipping a sampled beat.
www.davidlightbourn.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rotten Sound,"Cursed" (Relapse)
Finnish grindcore veterans Rotten Sound steamroll the senses on the squad’s latest 16-track endeavor CURSED. Supplying an array of blistering heaviness scraped from the bottom of the bleak and foreboding spot on the metallic continuum, Rotten Sound vehemently follows the densely derived velocity-driven paradigm with little deviation, wavering between chaotic cacophony (“Addict”) and viscous viciousness (“Hollow”) as a solid grind offering should. Capitalizing on this back to basics approach with a chest-caving bass tone (“Declare”) and a rapid-fire percussive presence (“Doomed”), the brutal assault plotted by this quartet is familiar to those in the know, maintaining the savage brevity and destructive dissonance to assist the overall goal to obliterate everything in its path.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Lecherous Gaze,"Lecherous Gaze" (Tee Pee)
Lecherous Gaze succinctly doles out an authentic blend of 70’s hard rock muscle and bare-knuckle punk rock swagger on their short and sweet eponymous four-track affair. This Oakland, CA quartet pack the bowl and put the pedal to the metal, whipping up a bastardized batch of catchy songs evoking a retro blues-based rock ‘n roll vibe chock full of the hip-shaking riffs and driving rhythms of yore in the process. Organically grown for their pleasure, Lecherous Gaze sets up shop in the middle ground of Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Ramones and AC/DC, packing an undeniable core-shaking wallop with an ass-kicking delivery that is far from revolutionary yet works like a charm.
www.teepeerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vicious Rumors,"Razorback Killers" (SPV)
Entering their fourth decade as a band (despite consistent lineup changes and only Geoff Thorpe left from the original squad), resilient Bay Area outfit Vicious Rumors has arguably outdone themselves on their latest endeavor RAZORBACK KILLERS. This blistering 10-track album boasts a cavalcade of righteous six-string metal heroics, finding the journeyman unit’s rambunctious power metal predilection and over the top thrash metal influence at its creative zenith (“Axe to Grind”) while new lead singer Brian Allen shores up the endlessly tumultuous vocal slot with a powerful and versatile performance that is as confrontational Rob Dukes and as soaring as Ripper Owens (“Razorback Blade”). Melding aggression and melody with the metallic acumen of seasoned pros, Vicious Rumors bust through the gates with an arsenal of galloping riffs (“Rite of Devastation”) and thunderous rhythmic blasts that celebrates their longevity as much as showcases their tenacity.
www.spv.de
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Darkest Era,"The Last Caress Of Light" (Metal Blade)
Northern Ireland quintet Darkest Era share as much in common with fellow countrymen Thin Lizzy as they do the NWOBHM hoard as demonstrated on their eight-track endeavor THE LAST CARESS OF LIGHT. But the three guys and two gals (drummer and guitarist, by the way) that comprise this troupe go beyond being more than a mere retread of the past by displaying a modernized melancholic stomp on cuts like “Heathen Burial”. Despite the good argument that can be made that Darkest Era borrows an abundance of their influence as well as shares more than just a similar strand of folk underneath a decisively metallic foundation from the likes of Opeth and veteran Celtic metal merchants Primordial, differences such as vocalist Krum’s classically derived and dynamically lacking clean singing technique separates the bands on the metal continuum just enough to push Darkest Era into a murkier middle ground between where all of the aforementioned reside. Earnestly supplying a wealth of ominous tones with battle ready bite that assist to flesh out their simple yet effective overall heaviness (“Visions of the Dawn”) while exhibiting a barrage of doom, traditional, and Celtic nuances in their solid songwriting, Darkest Era dials up a majestic feel that carries this disc into being its own distinct niche.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ektomorf,"Redemption" (AFM)
Shamefully derivative of all things Cavalera, Hungarian metal squad Ektomorf exhaust their choice of style on the veteran band’s latest excursion REDEMPTION. This 12-track release sounds like leftovers from latter-day Sepultura sessions with dashes of riffs directly from Max’s modern day project’s cutting room floor. In fact, sans the haunting flannel acoustic vibe on “Sea of Misery” and the Danko Jones guest vocal heard on “The One” and a slice of nu-metal rap rock that sounds about 10 years too late (“Revolution”), this disc could easily pass for the new Soulfly album with really simple lyrics and a lowest common denominator mentality on at full capacity.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Horned Almighty,"Necro Spirituals" (Candlelight)
Danish black metal mavens Horned Almighty provides a spirited yet predictable sense of evil on their latest nine-track endeavor NECRO SPIRITUALS. Intertwining shards of death ‘n roll with a pervasive punk rock flair into their demonic descent into depravity (“Age of Scorn”), this squad demonstrates a versatility within their tremolo-picked chaos and garbled growled mayhem that few bands manage to properly utilize as well as they do (“Blessing the World in Pestilence”). Displaying strong ties to the first wave of extreme metal via their unfettered rawness, this corpsepainted crew strikes with an eviscerating vengeance whose razor sharp execution makes songs like “The Illuminated Void” the kind of tunes that demand attention.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Made of Hate,"Pathogen" (AFM)
Melodic death metal is the order of the day from Poland’s Made of Hate on their eight-track endeavor PATHOGEN. Sticking closely to the formula employed by Children of Bodom to the point of plagiarizing, this unit’s batch of middle of the road Euro metal anthems falls flat thanks to a ill-fitted vocal performance and a self-absorbed guitar presence whose superfluous slabs of righteous shredding come off as clinical and weighed down by convention. Nonetheless, Made of Hate provide an unimaginative no-frills metal assault that is a bit too rough around the edges in crucial spots to be considered anything above second rate.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tia Carrera,"Cosmic Priestess" (Small Stone)
Bringing the glory back to how true heavy psychedelic jams should sound, Austin, TX trio Tia Carrera delivers a rollicking four-track offering that excitedly embodies the essence of the headtrip aesthetic entitled COSMIC PRIESTESS. Comprised entirely from jam session improvisations recorded with an Otari MX-70 1" tape machine at the band’s home studio, this near 60-minute affair pays homage to the heavyweights of mind altering music by implementing a bevy of familiar elements and subtle tones of bands such as Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and Black Sabbath into their free-form presentation (“Sand Stone and Pearl”). But don’t mistake this excursion as merely a retread of days gone by or another listless knockoff cashing in on sacred scriptures, as this trippy instrumental endeavor sizzles with tremendously adventurous musical interplay, dazzling guitar and drum tradeoffs, dependable slabs of bass guitar and a vivid organic texture that modern smoke and mirror studio techniques just can’t replicate. Tune in and burn one to this and you’ll be riding the rocketship with these cats in no time.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Betzefer,"Freedom To The Slave Makers" (AFM)
Israeli metal merchants Betzefer unleash an undeniably down and dirty groove metal ambush with FREEDOM TO THE SLAVE MAKERS. Unabashedly raw from the polarizing tortured screaming vocals (“Doomsday”) down to the primal rhythms, this 10-track album takes more than a liberal amount from the Pantera playbook to comprise their sound, but follows other avenues of heaviness as well, borrowing from a diverse mix of the likes of Black Label Society and Korn to hammer their menacing assault into your cranium. While this band isn’t necessarily breaking any new ground, they do possess the savvy for keeping an aggressive edge at the forefront of their multifaceted approach by any means necessary, helping songs like “Diamond Director” and the scorching opener “Best Seller” reach their maximum levels of impact. If you dig Hellyeah, Every Time I Die, or Soulfly, you’ll be sure to find this something here to bang your head to.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


My Inner Burning,"Eleven Scars" (SPV)
My Inner Burning is a female fronted Goth metal unit from Germany whose 11-track endeavor ELEVEN SCARS stringently employs virtually all of the components needed to make a cohesive blend of the styles of the countless bands that they share commonalities with (“Demons”, “Gone Wrong”). Charming yet too cookie cutter to stand out, this album contains an abundance of clichéd nuances (especially the overwrought beauty and the beast vocal tradeoffs) that are played well and come off as cool but fail to etch any long term effect into the memory bank, especially rendered during the poppier moments (“When I’m Gone”). If you’re looking for a cross between In This Moment, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence, welcome to the world of My Inner Burning.
www.spv.de
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Exit 53,"It's About Fucking Time" (Self-released)
Long Island quartet Exit 53 mash up a bevy of aggressive styles on their four-track offering IT’S ABOUT FUCKING TIME. Displaying punk rock bravado and hardcore grit with a detectable sense of modern metal crunch, this band comprised of childhood friends exemplifies the unbridled spirit of what making music with your buddies should sound like with a smash and grab punk hardcore foundation that veers into metallic terrains without skipping a beat. Despite an obvious self-financed basement tape quality weighing down the recording, this unit’s musical potpourri exhibits the passion and determination needed for a young and hungry group looking to make a name in the NYC underground scene.
www.reverbnation.com/exit53
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Total Fucking Destruction,"Hater" (Translation Loss)
Brutal Truth drummer Rich Hoak launches his side project Total Fucking Destruction once again with another celebrated batch of socially aware yet tongue in cheek crossover grindcore madness entitled HATER. This 27-track offering pummels the senses with a searing degree of velocity-driven heaviness (“Nekropunk”) dominating throughout the duration of this album, yet Hoak craftily finds subtle ways to implement a slew of other influences from punk (“Everything You Need But Nothing You Want”) to black metal (“I Not Pose”) to thrash (“Meat Without Feet”) into the unrelenting centrifuge of chaos, resulting in a hellacious hybrid of rapid-fire metal with an alarming array of variety, truly leaving a little something for every part of the metal realm to get into. Doling out just as many contagious hooks (“Murdernumber”) as skull crushing blast beat patterns, Total Fucking Destruction bulldozes musical barriers with their trustworthy experimental mindset propelling their endless search for fresh perspectives to define the current sound of brutal.
www.translationloss.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Abject,"Abject" (Self-released)
Abject is a NYHC band whose four-track demo is a not so friendly reminder that the underground scene in the boroughs and beyond is still alive and well in the Big Apple. Apparently, it’s also still very pissed off judging by the venomous approach and time tested old school style this quartet employs while taking the frustration of the everyday struggles out on their microphones and instruments. Bolstered with a traditional punk hardcore flair that mashes the best qualities of the early DC and NYHC scenes together without any apologies or explanations needed, Abject exhibits a confrontational quality that meshes the tenacity of Sheer Terror, the bounce of the Bad Brains, and the bare knuckle melody of The Exploited to make an album sure to keep the dance floor moving.
www.reverbnation.com/abject2011
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Abysmal Dawn,"Levelling The Plane Of Existence" (Relapse)
Los Angeles death metal troupe Abysmal Dawn keeps death metal flames burning on the quartet’s third offering LEVELLING THE PLANE OF EXISTENCE. This 10-track release strikes a balance between bludgeoning, gurgling brutality and shred-tastic technical prowess (“Leveling the Plane of Existence”) with a plethora of dissonant guitar solos surging through the jackhammer rhythms for added texture (“Rapture Renowned”). Channeling the mid-tempo mauling of Vader (“Perpetual Dormancy”) and the blistering presence of Decapitated (“My Own Saviour”) with a strong classic death metal influence permeating through (“The Sleeper Awakens”), Abysmal Dawn have constructed a solid death metal album that maintains both complexity and brute force with a relentless sense of savagery at the heart of its foundation.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Bloodshot,"Murder The World" (Scarlet)
Administering a bruising batch of tough guy hardcore, Belgium’s Bloodshot deliver a punishing yet utterly derivative 12-track endeavor chock full of bone crushing predictability. Channeling the likes of Hatebreed, Sworn Enemy, and Full Blown Chaos, the unmitigated sheer brutality this quintet unleashes rarely takes break here, but it follows the tried and true playbook featuring every cliché from movie dialogue to gang vocal shouts too close to be considered anything more than second-rate. Even though this unit can whip up a ruckus and demonstrates a proper expedient attitude that gets the job done, the lack of creativity and cautious songwriting Bloodshot exhibits leaves a bit too much to warrant this disc multiple spins.
www.scarletrecords.it
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dragged Into Sunlight,"Hatred For Mankind" (Prosthetic)
Depraved and vile, UK metal mavens Dragged Into Sunlight have developed an unsettling yet versatile metal excursion that creepily fuses doom metal slow crawls with blistering death metal brutality on their utterly filthy seven-track affair HATRED FOR MANKIND. Possessing the forward thinking attitude that allows sampling of serial killers’ dialogue to be dispersed amongst their juxtaposed cacophony of misanthropic black metal and oppressive sludge metal (“Buried With Leeches”), this sinister squad never fails to release an eerie vibe no matter what tempo they employ or level of heaviness they choose to pursue, truly earning the right to position themselves at the forefront of the underworld’s musical upper echelon. Diabolically depressive, Dragged Into Sunlight have concocted a grim and bleak sound encompassing all things evil (“I, Aurora”) while demonstrating a dastardly sense of demonically driven despair that chills straight to the bone and make even the most hardened listener contemplate leaving the lights on at night right before bed.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Turisas,"Stand Up And Fight" (Century Media)
Finnish metal squad Turisas return with their grandiose sound coming off as larger than life than ever on STAND UP AND FIGHT. This polarizing sextet’s third album contains nine tracks of warmongering metal fused with rounds of bombastic movie soundtrack symphonics to create a brass and cymbal heavy sound that spans the entire endeavor. Contorting their Viking metal sound with a noticeable focus towards the histrionic, Turisas have diminished their metallic output considerably yet haven’t seen a decrease in overall power, crafting a collection of songs whose unfiltered sense of pomp is better suited on a Broadway stage rather than a stage at Wacken or Hellfest, Nonetheless, this outfit are on point at all times, doling out their sword-wielding orchestrations and sweeping cinematic compositions with an epic aura that begs for a film companion.
www.centurymedia.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Woods Of Ypres,"Woods 4: The Green Album" (Earache)
Originally self-released, the massive near 80-minute offering WOODS IV: THE GREEN ALBUM by downtrodden Canadian quartet Woods of Ypres gets a re-release courtesy of Earache Records. This cult squad boasts a bleak disposition with a morose sound that melds morbid Goth rock, glacial black metal, and haunting doom metal, sounding like bastardized concoction of Type O Negative, Paradise Lost, and Katatonia (“Don’t Open the Wounds”). Heart wrenching lyrics and gloomy clean vocals over a thick mainly downtempo rhythm section are the most prominent weapons in this band’s somber assault, yet crisp guitarwork adds elements of melodrama to the album’s overall melancholic nature. Depressively laden in despair, despite the tendency to meander at times, this album resonates with a discernibly down and out vibe while championing a drab outlook that comes off clunky at times but hits the marks of misery and self loathing more often than not.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Until Your Heart Stops,"Errors" (Creator Destructor)
Northern California unit Until Your Heart Stops take great liberties with the hardcore style as heard on their nine-track release ERRORS, interjecting an abundance of textures and elements from a hodgepodge of modern heavy music. Adroitly supplying an array of off-kilter influence into their sharp set of confrontational short and sweet songs (that successfully play out without any break), this act throws down a lion’s share of slamming grooves and chaotic parts with an intriguing intensity that spans the hardcore continuum from Black Flag to Converge to Comeback Kid. Exhibiting an experimental edge without losing sight of the principle purpose to keep the floor moving and the energy level at a fever pitch (“Longest Flight Home”), Until Your Heart Stops displays a well-balanced bounty of true grit and forward thinking composition that puts them in prime position to garner a wealth of listeners.
www.creator-destructor.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Roger Miret And The Disasters,"Gotta Get Up Now" (People Like You)
Agnostic Front vocalist Roger Miret and his side band The Disasters return with the 14-track affair GOTTA GET UP NOW. This album showcases Miret’s unique vocals within a number of different stylistic situations radically different than Agnostic Front, taking the listener on a discernibly upbeat trip that pulls heavily from the street punk scene and skims over a few others to comprise a convincing blend of no frills punk (“We’re Gonna Find a Way:”). This troupe’s approach to simple and catchy punk is bolstered by their chameleon-esque quality to smoothly switch up and pull it all off without a hitch, diversely delving headlong into reggae (“Gotta Get Up Now”), country (”JR”), and pub hardcore (“The Enemy”) while firmly steeped in the raucous and rowdy gang vocal led rock ‘n roll of the likes of Rancid and Dropkick Murphys (“Bare-Knuckle Brawler”). Providing a punchy batch of fiery anthems (“Tales of a Short Haired Boy”), Roger Miret and The Disasters maintains a high level of energy with unsurpassed integrity, creating a punk album with both street credibility and stellar musicianship.
www.thedisasters.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Architects,"The Here And Now" (Century Media)
Architects are a young UK quintet who have undergone a bit of an overhauling, as their latest endeavor THE HERE AND NOW marks a noticeable departure from the band’s roots of tech metal and deathcore in favor of a streamlined and slick modern metalcore sound more in line with 36 Crazy Fists, The Bled or Funeral for a Friend (“BTN”). While this new direction is executed with undeniably confrontational guitars (“Stay Young Forever”), momentarily vicious vocals (“Delete, Rewind”), and tiny shards of the sound they left behind (“Year In Year Out/ Up and A”), fans accustomed to the band’s more dastardly nuances and menacing tones don’t have much to look forward to from this encounter, as cleanly sung choruses bursting with memorable melodies stand tall in this squad’s attack with touches of acoustic guitar (“Heartburn”) and mild electronica (“An Open Letter to Myself”) coming into play. Nonetheless, Architects does an admirable job by spreading their wings and experimenting with heavy music’s dynamics and compositions, creating an album that will undoubtedly alienate old school fans but may open the door for a whole new following.
www.centurymedia.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Arkhum,"Anno Universum" (Vendlus)
Arkhum is a Portland, OR quintet whose kaleidoscopic extreme metal assault renders a mixed bag of modern heaviness on their eight-track endeavor ANNO UNIVERSUM. Demonstrating an inherent need to structurally turn compositions upside down yet remain unflinchingly brutal and bludgeoning, this unit supplies an amalgamation of run of the mill deathcore and exploratory death metal that yields both dazzling tech metal displays and hackneyed modern metal techniques rendering an overall hit and miss atmosphere that never reaches the punishing depths they aim for.
www.vendlus.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Condemned?,"Condemned 2 Death" (Nuclear Blast)
Having the dubious distinction of being the second official release from Nuclear Blast, Bay Area crossover act Condemned? are now not only back on the scene after a lengthy hiatus but back on the very same label with a new album CONDEMNED 2 DEATH. This 13-track affair picks up where the band left off, literally lashing out with a definitive yet dated hodgepodge of hardcore, punk, and thrash that dons the old school banner for one last victory lap but peters out somewhere in the middle of the disc. Despite a standout Lemmy-esque bass presence and a resonantly sharp guitar and drum sound captured, the unadventurous songwriting and basic delivery heard on these tunes is a bit too pedestrian to get excited over in the year 2011 but should satisfy fans that want a dollop of traditional crossover unfettered by current trends.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Roadsaw,"Roadsaw" (Small Stone)
Grizzled Boston squad Roadsaw make their sixth album an eponymous affair crammed with a hearty helping of an enjoyable retread of meat and potatoes hard rock that shoots first and ask questions later (“Long in the Tooth”). This veteran unit sticks to the template they set nearly two decades ago by packing a powerful punch with simple yet effective guitar crunch (“Thinking of Me”), rarely straying from a tried and true linear design proudly echoing the FM radio grooves from the days of yore (“The Thrill is Waiting”). Roadsaw predominantly doles out four on the floor tunes that get the blood pumping (“Weight in Gold”), yet songs like “Electric Heaven” find the band taking a detour into doomier territory while “Too Much is Not Enough” pounds out with punk brevity, showcasing touches of variation that make this album a solid offering from top to bottom.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Clandestine,"The Invalid" (Nightmare)
Los Angeles female fronted quartet Clandestine develop an admirable amalgamation of electronically enhanced heaviness on their release THE INVALID. Synthesized beats, progressively minded arrangements and anguished guitars collide throughout most of this slickly produced 10-track affair (“Phantom Pain”), sounding like a cross between Lacuna Coil and Dream Theater with a discernible sense of modern aggression a la Sevendust in the mix (“Dead to the World”). Powered by Julie Park’s stirring vocals, this troupe fluidly crosses multiple genres together to create a cohesive yet clinical array of pristine tunes that more often than not strikes a balance between heady progressive metal and contagious goth metal.
www.nightmarerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Beast Of The Apocalypse,"Henosis" (Trascendental Creations)
The Beast of The Apocalypse is a Danish black metal duo whose sophomore assault HENOSIS guides listeners through a soundtrack of utter dread and despair. Featuring a guttural lo-fi production with scores of faraway demonic growls and evil rasps behind viscous walls of depraved guitars and primal percussion (“An Enlightenment Aeon”), this pair whips up a seven-track excursion that chills to the bone with harsh tones that come off like a cross between the intensity of Godflesh and the fury of Mayhem (“Henosis”). Truly embodying the bleak and ominous spirit that fuels their nihilistic compositions without any of the theatrics usually associated with this style of music, The Beast of the Apocalypse champions an authentic aura of terror and carnage that frightens as much as enlightens.
www.transcendentalcreations.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Defaced,"Anomaly" (Scarlet)
The Defaced is a veteran Swedish metal quintet comprised of two members from Darkthrone whose 11-track endeavor ANOMALY is anything but out of the ordinary, as much of this disc’s output could be interchangeable with material of countless bands from their genre (Soilwork, In Flames) without anyone really noticing. Displaying the knack to create anthemic metalcore choruses (“Renewal Defined”) with a fair share of sonic crush within its midst (“Blood of Emeralds”), The Defaced follow the Euro metal formula too faithfully to be considered original, yet does a decent job of recreating the modern metallic paradigm pioneered by their peers (“Circle VIII”).
www.scarletrecords.it
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Macabre,"Grim Scary Tales" (Willowtip)
Veteran Chicago trio Macabre unveil a new batch of murder metal tunes on the unit’s latest 14-track offering GRIM SCARY TALES. Known for fusing folksy unorthodox Nursery Rhyme-esque melodies (“Bella the Butcher”) into a bizarre death/thrash/grind blend while singing about serial killers and mass murderers and their depraved and heinous methods, this cult squad shows no sign of letting up or going light on this release with their polarizing lyrical content and quirky juxtaposing of musical styles on full blast from end to end. Songs such as “The Sweet Tender Meat Vendor” and “The Ripper Tramp from France” feature the band spewing morbid tales with a traditional metallic menacing while the two-step style employed on “The Bloody Benders” exhibits this band’s versatility and morbid sense of humor. Enduring over two decades in the underground with the same lineup intact is no easy feat, yet this prolific band has stuck to their guns to create a niche that finds their latest endeavor a strong addition to Macabre catalog.
www.willowtiprecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Pale Chalice,"Afflicting The Dichotomy Of Trepid Creation" (Flenser)
San Francisco outfit Pale Chalice produce a four-track excursion rigidly exploring the depths of black metal’s abyss with sinister larynx-ripping vocals (“Ascend the Idyllic Sphere”) and atmospherically bleak compositions on AFFECTING THE DICHOTOMY OF TREPID CREATION. This unit’s malevolent blasts of aural mayhem radiate with misanthropic intensity from every tremolo picked riff and rapid-fire percussive movement, resulting in a credible demonstration of demonically driven chaos that gets the point across using familiar methods and often heard nuances from bands like Watain and 1349. AFFLICTING THE DICHOTOMY OF TREPID CREATION is a diligent and disciplined mini album whose eerie outlook leaves no question regarding the self-imposed predilection of evil by Pale Chalice.
www.theflenser.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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