EAR CANDY MAG
AUGUST 2009 ISSUE

Music Reviews: August 2009

Olde York,"Empire State" (Countdown)
Maintaining the classic NYHC sound and a no frills DIY mindset from the days of yore, Olde York comes barreling down the lane with an authentic 12-track tour de force entitled EMPIRE STATE. Embodying the spirit of hardcore’s CBGB Sunday matinee glory days while skillfully blending the styles of acts such as Cro Mags, Warzone, Sick of It All and Leeway (whose singer Eddie Sutton makes a cameo here) into one big gang chorus pile-on, this Big Apple quartet makes no bones about their roots or their allegiance to the underground by pumping out anthemic pit pleasers like “Five Year Plan” and “Still Believe”. Think hardcore died after CB’s shut its doors? Olde York will make you think twice.
www.countdownrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Candlemass,"Death Magic Doom" (Nuclear Blast)
Swedish doom metal pioneers Candlemass return with a refined sense of confidence with their latest offering, the eight-track DEATH MAGIC DOOM. Comfortably settling into yet another round of changes (most notably on the vocals), Leif Edling and company showcase that they are still able to conjure feelings of dread and despair straight from the Black Sabbath playbook (“Hammer of Doom”) with grace and respect but not without interspersing their own bells and whistles (as well as some kick ass solos) into the mix. This veteran unit maintains mid-paced mauling tempos for the most part, yet at times opt for the upbeat with success (“Dead Angel”) while the powerful tandem of killer vocals and memorable riffs propel tracks like “House of 1000 Voices” into the upper echelon of the slow, deep, and hard. Candlemass snaps back into fine form on their latest affair, exhibiting an unforeseen energy that boldly pushes their brand of doom metal into exhilarating new worlds.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Empire of Dust,"Promo 2008" (Self-Released)
Modern metal mayhem comes courtesy of NYC’s Empire of Dust, whose four-song sampler displays a unit who sharpened its teeth on a steady stream of Slayer riffs and Swedish thrash with a discernible New York death metal influence. Logistically laying down a genuine sense of brutality in between setting off an array of pummeling grooves a la Lamb of God at their most seething (“2”), this band, which boasts ex-members of NYHC fixture Indecision as well as Entorturement, steamrolls over the opposition with a healthy dosage of metallic melody for the heavier-minded.
www.myspace.com/empireofdust
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Human Quena Orchestra,"The Politics of the Irredeemable" (Crucial Blast)
Patience is required to properly experience the latest offering from The Human Quena Orchestra, as this Bay Area drone duo upkeep a sordid and suspenseful atmosphere throughout the duration of THE POLITICS OF THE IRREDEEMABLE. Immersed in dark waves and dissonant swirls of industrial feedback, this six-track excursion’s calculated slow-crawl accentuates an overall foreboding tone, intensified when scattershot screams of terror and dread rise from the abyss. Yielding a vacuous apocalyptic din, this tandem successfully serve up a sluggish soundtrack to the final days of mankind.
www.crucialblast.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


East Forest,"The Education of the Individual Soul" (Aquilo)
East Forest is NYC by way of Pacific Northwest entity that provides a unique musical endeavor that melds field-recorded nature sounds, pulsating New Age beats, and meditative piano into its framework of THE EDUCATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. Bolstered with a picturesque soundscape whose airy ivory tinklings and puffy bass lines radiate relaxing hues of transcendental light, this one-man project concocts an ambitious journey into the fragile human psyche, thwarting modern life’s static with a translucent barrage of calming music exposing the duality of the human existence.
www.eastforest.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ignominious Incarceration,"Of Winter Born" (Earache)
UK death metal mavens Ignominious Incarceration’s truncated technical torrents of dastardly death metal is bound to garner the quintet the well-deserved attention and accolades from those who appreciate bands who exercise the difficult task of balancing ferocity and brevity. Manning a full-on ambush with all of the expected death metal tactics and weaponry in tow, the path this neophytic unit follows seems a bit too well tread on the surface, but upon closer inspection this squad manages to expertly compose elements of old school devastation and beatdown deathcore together to coexist in utter disharmony (“In The Face of Absolution”), working in symbiosis in fighting the same battle to destroy at all costs. Explosive yet refined for such a young act, if you've ever pined for a cross between the brain-rattling dynamics of Suffocation and the warmongering malice of Amon Amarth (“Of Winter Born”, “Elusion of Mortality”), this band delivers.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Blinding Eye Dog,"Prologue" (Self-Released)
Maryland quintet Blinding Eye Dog exhibit a boisterous brand of punk on the troupe’s 18-track offering PROLOGUE. Fueled with an irreverent sense of humor (“Super Action Monster Man”, “Duck Duck Goose (In A)”) that matches the lo-fi high energy vibes (“Assassin”) and pervasive beer-swilling devil may care street punk attitude on cuts such as “Barbara” and “The Line”, this freewheeling act makes it pretty apparent that it doesn't take itself too seriously yet still pumps out a raucous strain of reckless rock (“Shame”). Definitely sounding best after a couple of pints while some of your more mischievous friends plot the ensuing evening’s shenanigans, Blinding Eye Dog reinforce the simple yet effective piss and vinegar punk rock straight from the back alley.
www.myspace.com/blindingeyedog
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Thinning The Herd,"Devil Mask" (Self-Released)
Scraping the seedy underbelly of the Big Apple with enormous rock riffs,NYC trio Thinning the Herd return with another batch of stonerriffic hard rock chock full of grit and substance on the five-track DEVIL MASK. Bridging the gap between the heavier side of grunge and the groovier side of metal, tracks like “Kitchen Sink” summon a ‘90s power rock vibe kind of like Monster Magnet meeting up with Soundgarden while “Uninformed” strikes with the subtlety of a punch square in the gut and “Simple Job” rocks like the best song your favorite Swedish stoner rock band never wrote. If you enjoy in your face music with an exhilarating rock ‘n roll aura, Thinning the Herd is a bonafide choice for a hellacious good time.
www.myspace.com/castrosbeard
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vanmakt,"Ad Luciferi Regnum" (Pulverised)
Far from reinventing the wheel yet capable to drum up some scare with their competent yet common strand of evil blackened metal, nefarious Swedish troupe Vanmakt blast their way through nine-tracks of misanthropic misery on AD LUCIFERI REGNUM. Dispersing a maelstrom of tremolo-picked madness (“Reincarnation Hatred”, “The Ascension”), this band employs a large sum of tried and troo genre tactics and nuances to hammer its menacing message through unsuspecting skulls, yet it should be noted that if you already pledge allegiance to the most sadistic from the Nordic states, there’s nothing here you haven't experienced before. Nonetheless, Vanmakt does an acceptable job of conjuring the spirits of the underworld and should appeal to those who like a mix of symphonic death metal with a bit more bite.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"Doorm (Transitive Verb)" (Self-Released)
A triple slab o’ doom oozes from your speakers courtesy of a three-way split disc from a caustic mix of bands rising up from the recesses of the deep sure to give little children nightmares and keep neighborhoods on lockdown. Up first is Evoken, a veteran New Jersey funeral doom troupe whose chilling offering “In Solitary Ruin” masterfully sets the bleak tone for this collection with a firm handle on down tempo despair. Oak take the reigns next with an understated touch of death metal sprouting up in between the detached devastating riffs heard on “Gates Are Open”. Rounding out the triad of tragic triad, Black Roller Crop Rotation takes the affair to a whole new level of grim thanks to “Prayers From the Rotten Soil”, featuring a bevy of experimental leanings forming a cacophony of undistinguishable vocal squeals, jet-propeller-esque swirls of dissonance, and hypnotic industrial noise. You've been warned.
www.myspace.com/oakdoom
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Celan,"Halo" (Exile On Mainstream)
Celan is a noise rock supergroup of sorts, featuring musicians from flu.ID, Unsane, Oxbow, and Einsturzende Neubauten collaborating to form a massive musical force which defies convention yet keeps an hand on the aggression throttle. This collective’s debut offering HALO melds acerbic abrasive noise rock, atmospheric ambience, bluesy melancholy, and clobbering hardcore into 11 engaging tracks custom made for those who demand post-hardcore explorations to plow deeper. With Chris Spencer’s trademark belligerent bark leading the charge, tracks like “All This and Everything” pack a familiar yet ferocious wallop while a judicial keyboard presence float in and out, allowing for an unpredictable array of shapeshifting moods to proliferate (“One Minute”, “Sinking”, “Washing Machine”). Ambitious without alienating its built-in audience, Celan boldly goes into new lands with all of the member’s strengths on full blast.
www.mainstreamrecords.de
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Impiety,"Terroreign" (Agonia)
As brutal as a Singapore cane shot to the skull, Impiety does their homeland proud once again with another blistering blackened thrash release entitled TERROREIGN. Laden with a diabolical attitude which assists the impending decent into hell (“As Judea Burns”), this 10-track sojourn into the chasm of evil melds crass old school death metal ideologies a la Hellhammer and Morbid Angel with a genuine sense of hatred fueling the apocalyptic one-two vocal assault and divebomb friendly guitar combination (“Bestial to the Bone”). Maintaining a frantic pace throughout while summoning the minions of the underworld to rise and fight the light to the death (“Goatfather”), Impiety’s caustic delivery and over the top metal wares catapult this veteran unit back to the head of extreme metal’s most sadistic acts.
www.agoniarecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Slough Feg,"Ape Uprising" (Cruz Del Sur)
Veteran underground traditional metal outfit Slough Feg have been known to walk a bit on the wild side throughout the course of their twenty plus year proto-metal existence and this unit’s latest release bares no exception. Interspersing the squad’s patented eccentricities with a confident swagger straight out of 1978 for all to see, the triumphant and tumultuous eight-track endeavor APE UPRISING takes it back to a time when metal was still in its gestation stage, slugging it out with punk rock rebellion and glam rock excess. Customarily springing from an impenetrable foundation of Sabbath, Maiden, and Thin Lizzy, Slough Feg have comprised a sci-fi concept album based around a simian overtaking of the world to a pulsating old school metal soundtrack laden with the sort of killer vintage tones and stellar musicianship that marvelously melds the dazzling twin guitar and pounding rhythmic wares of UFO, Judas Priest, and other luminaries from the seminal NWOBHM days. Slough Feg’s most recent disc renders a durable and dependable lesson in metal with a smorgasbord of exhilarating twists and turns along the way.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Burial Hordes,"Devotion to Unholy Creed" (Pulverised)
Greek black metal merchants Burial Hordes employ the primitive approach on their evil eight track sojourn into the abyss titled DEVOTION TO UNHOLY CREED. Armed with raw production values for an authentic black metal in the basement feel (“Hellborn”), a slew of skewered guitar riffs that range from jarring to muddy, and an unearthly vocal presence that sounds as if it crawled out of the catacombs, tracks like “Infernal Necromancers” beguiles diabolical urges to come to fruition while “God’s Cutthroat” and “Abysmal Goatfeast” carry an impact to stand on their own, yet are forebodingly sandwiched in between a disturbing chant whose ominous tone solidifies each track’s morbid sense of dread and despair. Sinister and sinewy with a vicious bark and venomous bite, Burial Hordes have unleashed a vitriolic album that gives praise to its predecessors while unrepentantly damning the rest of society.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Oceano,"Depths" (Earache)
Chicago-bred quintet Oceano stake a claim of being the most pissed-off band on the planet, and if you could decipher the cavernous musings of vocalist Adam Warren and what he was screaming and growling about, they may be right, as the viscous racket adorning cuts like the slow-churned "Disgust for Your Kind" and the frantic fury of "District of Misery" do work as evidence for a lively debate. Make no mistake, the vocals (despite hard to comprehend) are a strongpoint, solidifying this outfit's abrasive viciousness with a twist to rival peers like Emmure, Misery Signals, and All Shall Perish for the new heavy crown. The 13-track debut DEPTHS firmly stands its ground with a batch of rote yet bombastic low-end grooves, keeping things both excruciatingly bottom-heavy and brutal, yet resonate with an all too standard delivery within the deathcore paradigm. Luckily, Oceano picks up momentum as the album rolls along, managing to venture a bit off the threadbare path of palm-muted breakdown bliss in key spots to implement nuances such as symphonic black metal texture and crisp solos, yet ultimately fall flat in relying on prototypical old hat genre maneuvers that undoubtedly score big in a moshpit of dayglow shirts and bad haircuts yet yield overwrought results on disc.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Devils Whorehouse,"Blood & Ashes" (Regain)
Devils Whorehouse unashamedly mimic virtually every significant nuance from the Danzig playbook, starting with the rebel punk of The Misfits, bridging into the experimental discord of Samhain before culminating with a hybrid of the multitude of sounds from Glenn's eponymous offerings through the years, so if you're looking for something original, you've been warned. If you want to hear worship and tribute done to perfection (by a band who were once a Misfits/Samahain cover band no less) however, this Swedish squad's admirable affection of the works of the Evil Elvis is spot-on, covering all eras faithfully while producing an uncanny vocal likeness that this lot (featuring members of Marduk) nail down with howling furies intact. In fairness, this crew conveys a bit more than blind Danzig homages, as their admirable death 'n roll packs a wallop here as well, but BLOOD & ASHES' most glaring point of reference precariously sits as its biggest strength and crippling weakness.
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mothra,"Dyes" (Selfmadegod)
Polish metalcore quartet Mothra present a succinct seven-track excursion on DYES. This offering blends a potpourri of extreme styles together to form a math-y, sludgy monster that channels death metal aggression and hardcore abrasiveness with hints of grindcore madness ("Squant") and dastardly dissonance for an extra bite ("Hooloovoo"). Creating a sonic atmosphere where brevity and brutality go hand in hand, this unit fuses a slew of off-kilter elements from all corners of the extreme metal paradigm forming a brash offshoot of band reminiscent of the likes of Poison the Well, Entombed, Gojira, and Botch, making this act essential for those who champion a heavy hybrid spirit.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Destroy Destroy Destroy,"Battle Sluts" (Blackmarket Activities)
Destroy Destroy Destroy's sophomore effort showcases a multi-faceted metal attack that blends Viking metal might and symphonic black metal grandiosity with a perpetual classic metal vibe running throughout this unit's 12-track affair entitled BATTLE SLUTS. Meshing the styles of 3 Inches of Blood, Manowar, and Children of Bodom within the confines of a war-torn battlefield, this battle-hungry sextet bash out a histrionic blast of fantasy metal that goes perfect with a pair of 12-sided dice and a stack of Conan the Barbarian novels ("Agents of Hypocrisy"). Borrowing a chunk of their style from the epic and power metal fields (especially referenced via the atmospheric keyboard presence permeated throughout) while slaying with a convincing twin guitar battering ("Born of Thunder", "The Wretched Forrest"), those who enjoy metal with a medieval twist will have little problem tuning into this band of warrior's theatrical offering.
www.blackmarketactivities.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ensoph,"Rex Mundi X-IIE" (Cruz Del Sur)
Industrial Italian act Ensoph create a chaotic cybermetal experience on the 12-track REX MUNDI X-IIE, setting their apocalyptic visions to a frenetic soundtrack that chillingly juxtaposes harsh electronic noises, Gothic overtones and metallic aggression ("Shame on You!"). Tracks like "Dance High and Shine, Shiva!" shares as much in common with the eeriness of Marilyn Manson as it does the synthetic throb of KMFDM, while "Thir(s)ty Pieces of Silver" sounds like a Dream Theater track defiantly trapped in a Tron-like maze. Championing a futuristic tone chock full of Front Line Assembly-esque mechanical madness leading the charge, this sinister shapeshifting unit's presentation is far from fresh yet it yields enough intriguing moments (their cover of "Would" by Alice in Chains in particular) to keep the middling PVC-donned EBM and darkwave contingent content.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Orcustus,"Orcustus" (Southern Lord)
An authentic blast of malefic black metal arrives from the depths of depravity courtesy of Norwegian troupe Orcustus, whose eponymous full-length debut comes some seven years after this troupe's initial introduction. Serving a barrage of vintage buzzsaw riffs ("Jesus Christ Patricide") and hellacious vocal rasps that wouldn't sound out of place from lauded black metal affairs of yesteryear ("Of Sophistry, Obsession, and Paranoia"), this unit (who can't seem to keep a lineup intact) project grim ideals direct from the bowels of the abyss. Featuring ex-members of groundbreaking outfits Gorgoroth and Enslaved, this squad's display of volatility and viciousness renders a bleak and raw old school assault ("Conversion"), conjuring an ominous sense of hatred and dread with every drum blast and bombastic bass reverberation ("Death and Dissolution"). Perfect for those who flock to the darkness, Orcustus has made a simple yet effective album cloaked in chaos and evil to the bone.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Arise,"The Reckoning" (Regain)
Swedish death thrash outfit Arise provide 10-tracks of straight from the textbook Gothenburg-style metal on THE RECKONING. Despite this nimble quintet far from groundbreaking delivery, the spot-on fury ("No Memory of Light") and enormous arsenal of breakneck riffs and melodic breaks they employ are cleverly composed with a well-proportioned mix of familiar twists and meat and potatoes mashings which effortlessly fuses The Haunted and In Flames ("End of Days"). Exhibiting metalcore sensibilities with a reverence for the genre's pioneers in mind, the latest from Arise is a solid and satisfying affair whose unwavering by the numbers approach rings out with sinister sincerity.
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Deceiver,"Thrashing Heavy Metal" (Pulverised)
There's nothing deceptive regarding the 10-track lean and mean high-grade meets lo fi old school assault Sweden's Deceiver lays on the ears, as this trio's tumultuous din captures the darker nuances of the golden age of thrash without sounding rehashed or forced. Whether it be the tortured vocals and primitive skin bashing tandem heard on "Dead to the World" and "Machinery of God" or the grimly grandiose feel emanating from "Graveyard Lover" and the instrumental "Legacy", even though THRASHING HEAVY METAL yields a strange sensation that you've heard this all before if you own a Priest, Entombed, or Mercyful Fate album or two, this squad's inspired interpretations rise above usual reference points to provide an enjoyable travel back through time. Tacking on a vicious streak laden in vitriolic vehemence, this unit's display of vintage metal will get the job done for fans of the rawer side of extreme metal's first wave.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Landing Project,"Here Goes Everything" (Self-Released)
NYC poppy punk rock troupe Landing Project return with HERE GOES EVERYTHING, a solid seven-track excursion that exhibits the unit's versatile array of angsty anthems bursting with melody ("Yea, Exactly"). Taking cues from acts like Against Me, this quartet writes hook-laden tunes sizzling with barbed lyrical bite, opting to sing about more personal topics instead of social messages ("Turn Up Your Stereo"). Tapping into the sound of punk rock's bare essentials with a flair for dramatics ("Butterscotch"), Landing Project inject their simple yet effective approach with an honest heaping of soul, giving the slightly undercooked production with punchy delivery a raw emotional rush that copiously spills from the speakers.
www.myspace.com/landingproject
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Endstille,"Verfuhrer" (Regain)
Warmongering German black metal squad Endstille attack once again with VERFUHRER, a scathing and abrasive nine-track affair. Incessantly blasting your skull with pounding percussion and decaying your ears with blood-curdling vocal rasps, this maliciously militant outfit doles out diabolical doses of mid-paced malevolence ("Symptoms") whose razor sharp buzzsaw guitars cut to the bone ("Depressive/ Abstract/ Banished/ Despised"). Assuredly exhibiting a keen sense of dynamics by implementing slower waves of intensity to its arsenal ("Endstille") while maintaining the band's trademark penchant for administering skull-crushing barrages of monolithic crust-laden fury ("Hate Me...God?"), Endstille 's blackhearted single-minded approach conveys intense waves of blast beated and tremolo picked madness with just the right touches of innovation to shape this release's belligerent battlefield aura.
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cauldron,"Chained to the Nite" (Earache)
Canadian metal trio Cauldron provide a traditional slab of metal that conjures up a slew of intertwined influences on the nine-track CHAINED TO THE NITE. From the album's Spinal Tap-esque artwork depicting a naked woman bound in chains to the unit's darkened blend of 80's melodic metal and NWOBHM, Cauldron's points of reference are prickly and don't always gel well together, resulting in quite a few instances of clunky cheekiness whose waning flashes of power quickly fizzle out before they can attain any sense of momentum. While displaying moments of promise ("Midnite Hour"), this release takes a while to warm up to, ultimately rendering a confusing listening experience that radiates with an oddball sense of familiarity that keeps only the most ardent of metal purists intrigued.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Samael,"Above" (Nuclear Blast)
Decisively leaning towards the black metal roots of their early endeavors, Swiss metal veterans Samael return with a pummeling 11-track offering entitled ABOVE. Toning down the industrial elements commandeering the band's more recent discs (although a protruding electronic drum trigger is seamlessly inescapable) while amping up the vitriolic black metal velocity to previously unheard levels ("God Snake", "Virtual War"), Samael's brazen assault is adorned with layers of symphonic keyboards and bludgeoning tremolo guitars ("Illumination") fortifying a listening experience laden in scorn. Realizing their sojourn back to the glories of their early days while carrying over a handful of the strongest nuances from their latter-day releases for a modern twist on old themes ("On the Top of it All"), by manipulating metal's darker side and embracing their past, Samael snaps back to a furious form that leads the quartet back into the depths of the abyss.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ephel Duath,"Through My Dog's Eyes" (Earache)
Experimental Italian outfit Ephel Duath are renowned for developing collections of distinct metallic left turns, but this time this now-reduced down to a trio readily take on a different yet equally daunting task of conveying a canine's perspective of the world to music on their latest disc THROUGH MY DOG'S EYES. This ambitious nine-track excursion is chock full of dizzying riffs that part the seas between noisy jazz and avant garde metal ("Guardian") woven into a barrage of non-linear compositions stockpiled with heady interludes and juggernaut vocals ("Bella Morte") set to a warped array of odd-time signatures ("Bark Loud") . Despite the album's preposterous premise, Ephel Duath manage to keep the subject matter blunt and concise. turning out an provocative batch of progressive metal in the process. Challenging to novices, Ephel Duath continue to carve their own unique marks into the metal tree of life.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Prong,"Power of the Damn Mixxxer" (13th Planet)
Tommy Victor turned the original mixes from Prong's latest disc POWER OF THE DAMAGER over to some of his technically-advanced musician friends to remix and POWER OF THE DAMN MIXXXER is the end result. This 13-track endeavor showcases the behind the boards prowess of metal peeps such as Jon Clayton (Pitchshifter) and Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) whose cosmetic cleansings and synthesized twiddlings give tracks like "The Banishment" (a song covered by two different mixes here) a throbbing makeover that pulsates with a bastardized concoction of industrial metal heft and electronic bounce ("Changing Ending Troublng Times"). Providing a ton of opportunities to take the rage to the dance floor ("Looking for Them") while laying a virtual perfect soundtrack down to a dark and futuristic action-adventure flick, Prong's latest is not only is a show of respect from the artists who contributed their own spin to Prong's genuine rawness but supplies a great deal of industrial strength metal to take the party into the morning light.
www.prongmusic.com
Rating:
Review by Mike SOS


I See Stars,"3-D" (Sumerian)
Young Michigan troupe I See Stars have melded elements of modern hardcore and screamo with electronica on their debut 3-D to create a catchy but disheveled 11-track affair. Haphazardly cut and pasting modern dance synths into power punk rock songs, this quintet's ready for Warped Tour juxtaposition of styles comes off forced and even clumsy at times (especially during the heavier moments) yet renders momentary flashes of triumph when the vocoder-enhanced vocals meeting chugging choruses that alt rock radio crave come a knockin' ("3D", "The Big Bad Wolf"). Throw in a cameo from one of the rappers from Bones Thugs N Harmony and instant street cred gets applied, yet this troupe's tepid attempt to get to the top of the Hot Topic list falls flat, especially when redundant breakdown parts from screechy melodies rears its worn head.
www.sumerianrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Crescent Shield,"The Stars of Never Seen" (Cruz Del Sur)
California power metal unit Crescent Shield display a gallant galloping metal assault on their latest nine-track disc THE STARS OF NEVER SEEN. Championing a traditional metal style bursting with steel-plated melodies, this quartet's histrionic choruses are contagious ("Temple of the Empty"), rivaling those at the top of the power metal mountain ("The Bellman", "10,00 Midnights Ago") while the rampant guitar and soaring vocal combination elicits a much-warranted delight for headbangers of all ages to embrace ("The Grand Horizon"). This troupe exhibit the versatility to both shred and alter mood, shifting focus between rousing metal and pensive moments of reflection for a well-rounded all killer no filler feel. Seamlessly meshing the best of Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and Queensryche while contorting elements from metal's pioneers such as Dio and Maiden, Crescent Shield's formidable flurry of aggression is fortified with an articulate attention to detail which ties their thunderous heavy metal roar with a supple dash of passion.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ebenezer,"A Triumph of Colossal Achievements" (Self-Released)
Taking the DIY hands-on approach with their music to the extreme, Pennsylvania instrumental duo Ebenezer provide a well-measured blend of style and substance on their six-track offering A TRIUMPH OF COLOSSAL ACHIEVEMENTS. Besides teaming jaw-dropping flashes of virtuoso percussion and fretwork with a wise beyond their years sense of composition that channels everyone from Maiden to The Fucking Champs ("Warlock Owl"), this tandem's release comes inside of a hand-sewn fabric case, rendering an exquisite hearftfelt vibe that most run of the mill locals just can't match up to. If you have a hankering for vocal-less music with an eye opening showcase of balls and bite, look no further than Ebenezer's latest affair.
www.myspace.com/epicebenezer
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Bakerton Group,"El Rojo" (Weathermaker)
Bonafide 21st Century bluesmen The Bakerton Group unleash their second experimental musical adventure the 10-track offering EL ROJO. Yielding a galactic listening experience chock full of heady jams and wicked instrumental breaks, this alter ego outfit of alt metal kingpins Clutch (with vocalist Neil Fallon trading in cunning lyrics and clever vocal deliveries for rhythm guitar) perfectly displays the sound of world class musicians collectively digging deeper, unearthing a smorgasbord of styles that implementing dub rock ("Work 'Em"), funk ("Chancellor"), and freewheeling jazz rock laden with '70s keyboard explosions (thanks to Opeth's Per Wiberg ), and alto sax flourishes. Taking their main band's patented left of center approach off to uncharted territory, The Bakerton Group's odyssey is undeniably constructed from Clutch's impenetrable foundation, yet EL ROJO independently stands as a next level triptastic delight for fans of groovy improvisational rock to imbibe and enjoy.
www.weathermakerrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Closer,"A Darker Side of Salvation" (Pulverised)
Swedish metal squad Closer aren't ashamed to wear influences on their sleeves, as A DARKER SIDE OF SALVATION purposely plays like an amalgamation of Soilwork and later-day In Flames with dabs of Scar Symmetry and The Haunted strewn in ("Chaos Internal"). Despite this 10-track release containing its fair share of cringeworthy similarities to the aforementioned ("What Am I"), this modern melodeath troupe pull off a spirited yet formulaic effort that adroitly follows their fellow countrymen's crushing template to a headbanging fault ("Hell is Where the Heart Is", "A Darker Side of Salvation").
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Necroblaspheme,"Destination: Nulle Part" (Agonia)
Necroblaspheme delivers a vicious barrage of muscular death metal intensity and foreboding doom metal juxtaposing on the nine-track DESTINATION: NULLE PART. Chock full of slamming grooves ("Sorry for Us") and brazen flashes of technicality within a well-structured metallic paradigm ("Descent's Genesis"), this French outfit's off-kilter atmosphere stems from the ferocious flurry of tempo changes and dynamic shifts woven into the framework, rendering exhilarating demonstrations of extreme metal ( "2h40am", "=????>I"). Take the exploratory nature of Gojira, sprinkle in some Celtic Frost, and top it off with precise devastation a la Suffocation and Necroblaspheme is the end result, a menacing beast whose bastardized blasts grip tightly on the jugular throughout the album's entire 36 minutes.
www.agoniarecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sylosis,"Conclusion of an Age" (Nuclear Blast)
Newbie UK metal mavens Sylosis employ a myriad of modern touches to their latest offering, a disc heavily steeped in thrash metal's golden era of double-barrel ambushes. CONCLUSION OF AN AGE blends the musicality of Trivium, Strapping Young Lad, Shadows Fall and Megadeth with a bevy of blistering Exodus-esque solos ("Stained Humanity"), volatile vocals ("Withered") and complex arrangements ("Blackest Skyline") fortifying this 12-track affair, rapidly placing Sylosis alongside metal's most elite craftsmen. Striking a balance between crunchy and razor-sharp thanks to their metalcore meets Bay Area merger ("Transcendence"), this act eagerly doles kudos to elder statesmen such as Testament and Kreator without sounding like a retread while embracing a slew of contemporary metalcore nuances for a well-rounded attack that skillfully references the good old days without going full-on retro.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Esoteric,"The Maniacal Vale" (Season of Mist)
Sinewy streams of unrelenting funeral doom come courtesy of veteran UK unit Esoteric via their latest offering, a two-disc, over 100 minute affair entitled THE MANIACAL VALE. Adorned with a twisted sense of ambience and an eerie aura that creeps into your head and takes control, this ambitious endeavor's hypnotic waves of dissonance resonate with schizophrenic aggression played up by a vocal performance laden with ferocious growls and blood-curdling shrills while the music's gradual slow crush, armed with a vitriolic array of swirling keyboards, dirge-like rhythmic poundings, and majestically ornate riffs overtake hapless souls in its path. Ripe with raw emotion and dripping with despair, this release oozes an ominous strain of doom and dread that fans of the slow, deep, and hard will easily tune into.
www.season-of-mist.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Billy Club Sandwich,"The Usual Suspects" (Dead City)
Stalwart NYHC crew Billy Club Sandwich return with another EP containing eight tracks of crushing beatdown-laden grooves with THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Fans of Madball and Sheer Terror (who BCS lovingly cover here with "Ready to Halt") now have another record in their collection to bust heads to, as tracks like the pummeling "Far From the Truth", the relentless assault of "Shark Tank" and the Spanglish stomp of "Bodega" can definitely rally the troops to get involved on the dancefloor. Despite this release's short length, there's no shortage of aggression or BCS' trademark sense of humor (just check out the spoof movie posters included in the album's artwork) from this veteran unit's latest endeavor, making this disc a perfect choice to accompany a rowdy night out.
www.deadcityny.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Landmine Marathon,"Rusted Eyes Awake" (Level Plane)
Arizona metal merchants Landmine Marathon hammer out a potent death metal meets grindcore jamboree on the quintet's most recent effort, the eight-track RUSTED EYES AWAKE. Taking cues from beloved acts of '90s extreme metal, this squad lovingly pays homage to the likes of Carcass, Napalm Death, and Bolt Thrower on menacing cuts such as "Certain Death" and "Skin from Skull", pounding out a slash and burn approach able to whip the pit up into a frenzy. But it's the vocals of the vivaciously venomous Grace Perry that make this band one to watch, as the raven-haired beauty channels Beelzebub with a fervor and fury that male counterparts surely can only dream of ("Xenocide"). While some of their tunes would benefit from straying from their initial formula to provide a well-rounded assault, Landmine Marathon does an adequate job of carrying the torch while supplying the ferocity necessary to run with the pack.
www.level-plane.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Eruptors,"Microwave Massacre" (Fixing A Hole)
UK punk metal trio The Eruptors clean out their vault to deliver a 10-track affair of odds and sods titled MICROWAVE MASSACRE. With songs like "Skate Fast! Die Hard!" and "Cannibal Holocaust", you can basically tell that these guys like to keep the mood lighthearted. Yet don't be cajoled by their sense of humor, as their Misfits meets Motorhead by the way of The Exploited style will stomp a hole in any unassuming bystanders, best shown on cuts like the garage rock vibe emanating from "Tow the Line" or the vintage raucous punkabilly aura of "Theme From The Eruptors" . Gritty and direct, The Eruptors forcibly drag punk rock back through the gutter and come up with fists full of punk rock gold, embodying the spirit the way it was intended to be taken.
www.fixingahole.jpn.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"Heavy Metal Killers" (Earache)
Dust off your denim jacket and polish up those spiked wristbands thanks to Earache's latest compilation installment HEAVY METAL KILLERS, a 13-track excursion that spans the globe to unveil a new breed of followers to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. Featuring a multifaceted cross-section of groups (that interestingly enough boasts not one band from the United States) that worship at the altar of metal, this disc offers a rousing array of musicians that have studied their craft to summon the moves, nuances, and aspects of the glory days right down to the last guitar gallop. Brimming over with heaps of histrionic falsetto vocals (just check out the mid-paced Cast Iron and the nimble Enforcer for two radically different examples) and flurries of fancy fretwork, much of what's heard here can be directly traced back to Maiden, Manowar, Saxon, and the ilk, though there are some surprises, such as the doomy King Diamond-esque delivery of Portrait and the thrash-influenced elements H.O.D throw in. Nonetheless, if it's speedy rhythms, tantalizing solos (every song showcases at least one bit of guitar gymnastics), whammy bar abuse, and high-pitched vocal caterwauls aplenty you crave, this compilation will catapult right back to 1982, leather vest not included.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gnaw,"This Face" (Conspiracy)
An industrial black metal mindset laden with despair propels the malignant madness audible from Gnaw's debut nine-track affair THIS FACE. This unconventional quintet (featuring members from avant garde metal troupes Khanate and Burning Witch) unloads an hateful assortment of non-linear noise rock, soul crushing doom, and exploratory electronics to create an eccentric and possessed sonic explosion. Led by a vocalist whose screeching rage fuels insanity ("Backyard Frontier") while the band's two bold sound designers create a cacophony of sound by implementing barrages of haunting feedback and gloomy overlays ("Ghosted", "Talking Mirrors"), this unsettling endeavor emits an apocalyptic feel of being caught in the middle of the world crumbling down.
www.conspiracyrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


From Jupiter,"No, Seriously" (Third Eye)
Despite their cosmic name, the spawn of Taking Back Sunday and New Found Glory has no interplanetary connections, as From Jupiter's 11-track offering NO, SERIOUSLY follows in their proud parent's footsteps to a fault. This Vermont-based outfit churn out power pop punk with panache, as tracks like the keyboard-assisted "Karmaward", the sappy yet effective "Slow Motion" and "Take Me Back" contain all of the sticky sweet melody and contagious hooks you'd find on a Yellowcard or Simple Plan disc. Providing an innocuous listening experience, this well-polished batch of tunes have all the makings to make an impact on the audience that finds themselves too old for The Jonas Brothers yet primed to rock out at Warped Tour.
www.myspace.com/musicfromjupiter
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rumpelstiltskin Grinder,"Living for Death Destroying The Rest" (Relapse)
Fortified with a well-rounded extreme metal assault, the sophomore release by Philadelphia, PA's Rumpelstiltskin Grinder merges classic metal aspects with a blistering delivery on the 10-track LIVING FOR DEATH DESTROYING THE REST. Meshing galloping black metal, thrash metal guitar runs, beatdown breakdowns, death metal rhythmic devastation and a hardcore punk attitude ("Revolution of Underground Legions"), this quartet's versatility warrants automatic crossover appeal ("Beware The Thrash Brigade", "Fiends in the Mountains, Ghouls in the Valley"). Putting modern spins on sounds from thrash's golden age ("Darkness Never Ending") while injecting a bastardized sci-fi by way of horror movie lyrical slant that gives off a charming storyteller-like vibe and permits a form of chaos made famous by the likes of SOD ("Spyborg"), RSG's stylistic switch ups will keep you guessing while their persistent headbanging crunch manages to project a vibe that is both seriously furious and a whole lot of fun.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cold Northern Vengeance,"Domination and Servitude" (Bindrune)
The two man black metal tandem known as Cold Northern Vengeance hail from New Hampshire, a place not usually factored into a metal equation per se, especially one of extreme proportions. Yet this unit's 10-track offering DOMINATION AND SERVITUDE does justice to aural desolation and dread, as this duo's heavy-handed delivery is bolstered by lush piano pieces ("The Black Silence"), darkwave industrial ("The By-Paths to Chaos"), moody acoustic guitars ("The Shores of New Hampshire"), and crusty bass guitar surges ("The Abraxas Trance"). Displaying a fearlessness to bend black metal's rulebook while maintaining scathing traditional tones ("A Past Forgotten", "Hidden 93"), Cold Northern Vengeance's adventurous nature invokes a break from USBM rigidity, giving this affair an edgier and earthier vibe.
www.bindrunerecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Buried Inside,"Spoils of Failure" (Relapse)
Canadian squad Buried Inside return after a four-year layover with SPOILS OF FAILURE, a viscous and vitriolic affair curiously titled only in roman numerals. Produced by underground guru Kurt Ballou, this eight-track offering yields an elaborate mix of sludgy guitars, gut-wrenching vocals, and mammoth percussion, at times breaking through with the majestic fury of Isis on steroids ("III"). Intertwining post-hardcore venom with a doom metal oppressiveness ("V"), these menacing merchants of despair demonstrate a searing array of progressively structured blackhearted hardcore mired in cascading waves of hypnotic hopelessness and unrelenting sheer ferocity, painstakingly laying down groundwork to the soundtrack for those at the end of their rope.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Netherbird,"The Ghost Collector" (Pulverised)
Dark and dramatic, Swedish symphonic metal trio Netherbird adorn their latest 13-track effort with a brash production chock full of the accoutremental bells and whistles similarly heard by acts such as Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir. Championing a sound that distributes black metal malevolence ("Blood Orchid"), classic metal composition, and doom metal heft, THE GHOST COLLECTOR also implements a flurry of grandiose ideas into its songwriting paradigm to reinforce their metal at the opera aura ("Carcass Symphony", "Forever Mournful"), at times sounding like a bastardized concoction of Amon Amarth and Nightwish. Meshing a theatrical vibe with a broad palette of metal, Netherbird provide a mental metal escape into another landscape that screams for a screenplay to be written.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Narcosis,"Discography 1998-2007 Best Served Cold" (Earache)
BEST SERVED COLD is an all-encompassing posthumous offering by revered UK grindcore gang Narcosis. Containing 51 tracks chronicling all of this face-shattering troupe's split 7"'s, EP's, and full-lengths, this disc is perfect for completists, as no stone is left unturned when this noise mongering squad scoured their vaults. This caustic affair does a fine job of prepping the new jacks and satisfying diehards, as the reintroduction of classic bits of frenzy such as "Broken Finger Stranglehold", "It's Not a Birthmark, It's a Bruise" and "If Being a Cunt Was People, You'd Be China" still sounds relevant and utterly relentless. Throw in a set of liner notes which runs down Narcosis' tumultuous run of endless lineup changes and broken spirits written with a casual narrative that charmingly radiates as if you're having a conversation over a pint, and this collection's flaws (disparity in sound quality and repeated tracks) nearly becomes forgivable, as you're too busy banging your head to care.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Darkane,"Demonic Art" (Nuclear Blast)
When a band replaces a lead singer, issues with identity are bound to arise. Yet Swedish powerhouse metal squad Darkane, who are no strangers to singer shakeups having undergone multiple changes behind the microphone since their inception, appear to be a rare exception to the rule judging by the quintet's fifth installment of extreme metal excellence DEMONIC ART. This 12-track offering, which finds the band settling in with Jens Broman (The Defaced) at the helm, pushes this unit's brand of thrashing brutality with melodic inclinations further down the darkened metallic path forged on previous outings ("The Killing of I", "Demigod"). As for the vocals, expect the patented blend of harsh growls, maddening yells, and Eurodeath melodies that truly fits within the framework of the compositions to remain intact ("Leaving Existence"). Retaining both their progressively-minded and savage aspects ("Still In Progress", "Impetious Constant Chaos"), Darkane shows no signs of a lull period, as they've effortlessly picked up where they left off, cranking out another declarative round of crushing thrash metal technicality while radiating a murky brutality rivaled only by melodeath's top-flight acts.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Architect,"Ghost of the Salt Water Machine" (Black Market Activities)
Laying down a confrontational and caustic foundation of apocalyptic heaviness, Architect's abrasive metallic hardcore tackles weighty sociopolitical issues while crashing through aural receptacles with the grace of a piledriver on their nihilistic nine-track affair GHOST OF THE SALT WATER MACHINE. Channeling the red-faced, well-informed aggression of Deadguy, Coalesce, and Ringworm, this sextet boasts the scathing guitar tones and seismic rhythmic rumblings ("Uninventing the Wheel") that come sans fancy haircuts and energy drink endorsements, opting to keep an eye on society's ills rather than on the TMZ ticker ("The Dog and Pony Show"). And when this act's heartfelt screamy gang shouts ("I Am Become Death") and sludgy atmospherics kick in ("Camelot in Smithereens"), be prepared to spiral through the depths of urban decay and modern era blight while this seething troupe paves the way.
www.blackmarketactivities.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Headie Berrie,"Morning Toast" (Self-Released)
Long Island quintet The Headie Berrie return with a freewheeling full-length follow-up to their recent four-song EP. MORNING TOAST further flesh out their love of hardened jam rock with an emphasis on guitar heroics and vocal histrionics, playing the riffs like they own them (even if Hendrix and Clapton really do) while implementing the harmonica in key spots with the attitude that the love is still free and the drugs are still pure believed by all. Referencing everyone from Phish to Blues Traveler to Mother Love Bone ("Musicism"), The Headie Berrie boasts a brother guitar duo whose intriguing interplay never gets stale, bolstering their boisterous brand of modern boogie rock with shards of straw-chewin' country and a dash of revolution rock a la Credence Clearwater Revival to smooth out this topsy-turvy tie-dyed tirade ("Souless Shoe").
www.headiemusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tombs,"Winter Hours" (Relapse)
NYC trio Tombs masterfully juxtapose metal subgenres to develop a blend of bleak yet menacing shoegazing sludge on the 10-track disc WINTER HOURS. Post-hardcore pondering and black metal brutality collide many times over on this stirring affair ("Filled With Secrets", "Gossamer"), creating explosive waves of intense aggression laden with dense dollops of doom and darkness ("The Divide"). Channeling the corpsepaint contingent, the experimental voyager and the esoteric metal crew for inspiration, Tombs embrace each party's unique sense of bombast without giving into genre excesses, resulting in this lean and mean 37-minute endeavor emblazoned with sweeping tempo changes and dramatic dynamics shifts ("Story of a Room").
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


New Day Dawn,"The Company We Keep" (Botti Parts)
New Jersey outfit New Day Dawn showcase a mature rock sound that finds a balance between tough and tender on the well-produced 10-track offering THE COMPANY WE KEEP. Led by the vocalist Dawn Botti, whose strong pipes are reminiscent of a modern day Pat Benatar, this unit portrays all the pop appeal necessary for mass adoration ("Over You", "Daddy's Song"), yet unlike most, exhibit the ability to dig down deeper to hit a more decisively rock vibe ("Paralyzed", "Misunderstood"). Fortified with a bevy of hooks that stick in your head ("We Are"), this seasoned quintet (from Slushpuppy and Latch respectively) exude the virtues of dynamic songwriting and wise composition ("See Me Fall", "Follow"), finding a most comfortable position between rolling out fist-pumping anthems and laying down refined melodic rock with bite.
www.newdaydawnband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Insect Warfare,"World Extermination" (Earache)
Re-released from 2007, Texas grindcore trio Insect Warfare's WORLD EXTERMINATION gets the re-release treatment courtesy of Earache, and hail Satan for that! This disc yields a blindingly-fast and corrosively abrasive metallic mauling, essential for fans of Brutal Truth, Napalm Death and Nasum to get their crusty claws on. Broken down into 20-tracks clocking in at a violent 23-minutes, this now-defunct squad blasts through a hellacious barrage of musical misanthropy ("Hydraphobia"), savagely ripping apart your aural cavity with an endless stream of drum pounding and crushing guitar riffs ("Nuclear Deterrence", "Self Termination") while the demonic rasp proceeding over the battle barks with belligerent grunts and yowls with desperate wails ("Enslaved by Machinery", "Mind Ripper"). Insect Warfare's warmongering shredding and rapid-fire tempos are not for the weak-willed metal fan, as this band solicits a primal need unapologetically rip off your face like a vicious animal would without a shred of remorse.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Blood of the Black Owl,"A Feral Spirit" (Bindrune)
Blood of the Black Owl is a one-man metal band whose latest disc A FERAL SPIRIT embraces the worship of nature and its aesthetic beauty but not before it takes you by the throat to drag you down into the depths of the abyss. This sprawling nine-track excursion enlists unorthodox Native American instrumentation, animal and nature soundclips, enlightening use of organ, and crushingly slow funeral doom tempos to comprise a haunting aura ("Void") while the troll under the bridge spoken-word into hysterical-crying vocals chronicle the painful journey from the throes of addiction ("Forest of Decrepitude"). Setting a deliberately straggling pace dripping with fuzzed-out black metal despair interspersed with left of center interludes, Blood of the Black Owl's malice-filled ambience and steady streams of atmosphere illuminate a mystic journey from damnation to salvation.
www.bindrunerecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Kylesa,"Static Tension" (Prosthetic)
After a tumultuous eight-year run, Savannah, GA quintet Kylesa have come into their own on the outfit's latest 10-track disc STATIC TENSION. Fully realizing their unique spot in between Isis and Mastodon on the metal continuum, this act has struggled both through wallowing the underground as well as in the shadows of some bigger hometown bands, having endured the kind of major setbacks (such as deciding to forge on after original bassist Brian Duke's sudden passing) that destroy bands with lesser perseverance and ultimately coming out musically richer in the process. With the aid of two drummers (whose stunning interplay adds a refreshing nuance as well as an added fury on cuts like "Said and Done") and a slew of swirling psychedelics flying in an out of memorable guitar and bass lines freshly woven into the dank downtuned stoner metal meets sludge-ridden doom rock tapestry hanging on their wall ("Almost Lost"), Kylesa manages to supplement without losing any ground, maintaining its trademarked voluminous viscosity throughout ("Running Red"). Burying the alternating female/ male vocal just deep enough in the mix to render a haunting yet intelligible presence that makes it easier to absorb the abrasive rhythms, burly riffs and thick percussion ("Insomnia for Months") while executing exercises in songwriting self-editing to keep the entire entity on a disciplined track of discourse, for a less expansive yet more rewarding exploration into the realm of gutwrenching metallic melodies, STATIC TENSION is hard to beat.
www.prosetheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Leprous,"Tall Poppy-Syndrome" (Sensory)
There's good reason why ex-Emperor mainman Isahn handpicked the members of Leprous to be part of his touring band besides sharing the same hometown (Notodden, Norway), and this quintet's daunting eight-track affair firmly backs up Isahn's choice. With a strong set of '70s symphonic pomp and a darkened dollop of progressive metal's usual suspects' wares in place from Opeth ("Dare You") to Emperor ("Not Even a Name"), this troupe remain elegant, elaborating with punch and purpose without going overboard ("Phantom Pain"), tastefully borrowing from many different sources ( Deep Purple pipe organ on "White", anyone?) to develop an intriguing slant to a well-tread entity. Emotionally-stirring and masterfully played,with bass guitar especially standing strong, the sophomore effort by this squad fits snugly between Pink Floyd, Strapping Young Lad, and Porcupine Tree as an outfit that understands how to launch into the stratosphere while still keeping an eye on Earth.
www.lasersedgegroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Wolves in the Throne Room,"Black Cascade" (Southern Lord)
Throwback Pacific Northwestern trio Wolves in the Throne Room apply old fashioned recording techniques as well as the unit's avid spiritual connection to nature to achieve black metal bliss on their latest four-track, 45-minute atmospheric excursion BLACK CASCADE. Using vintage gear to capture the rich tones protruding from the guitars on cuts like "Ex Cathedra", this album's majestic aura and dazzling ambient shifts prevail thanks to this recording being made on 2-inch tape, a method allowing the instruments to resonate with the depth and warmth digital cannot replicate. Reawakening the soul with a stirring blend of pagan ritual and melancholic malevolence, BLACK CASCADE reveals a desperate cry to return back to a simpler life sans the value systems of modern society under a backdrop of tremolo-picked guitar and crashing drum mayhem.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Leaf,"First Kill" (Self-Released)
Texas quartet Leaf really dig on the spectrum of '90s alternative rock, as this group's six-track endeavor harkens back to a time when Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains were gaining ground ("Who Is It?") with a few of today's tricks fleshing out their recently deemed retro sound. FIRST KILL showcases the wares from a troupe whose ready for rock radio melodic side is accompanied with everything from snarling guitars and carnival keyboards ("Game Box Kid") to a clumsy attempt at industrial ("Bear Tracks"), displaying a retread of bands like Filter and Gravity Kills with scattered shots of quirkiness mixed in ("See What Happens") that salvage this offering from being totally cast as a watered down version of a music from an era gone by.
www.leafmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"Punk Rock Karaoke" (MVD)
West Coast punk veterans Eric Melvin, Greg Hetson, and friend's pet project PUNK ROCK KARAOKE have released a slamming CD/DVD version of the clever live band karaoke shtick, aptly self-titled and bursting with punk rock fun. The CD portion contains 10-tracks of punk rock luminaries from Dicky Barret and Dave King to Mike Herrera and Matt Skiba belting out classic anarchistic anthems by the likes of Bad Religion, The Adolescents, and Black Flag, but it's the DVD when it all comes together, craftily featuring the option to remove vocals from the mix so that you, yes YOU can be a punk rock rebel, right from comfy confines of your couch while making the Guitar Hero-like love come alive right before your eyes. Even though doing this on stage at a real club with a unsuspecting crowd is definitely the optimum way to experience this whole shebang, the collection does a fine job to give a little for those yearning to take the party home.
www.punkrockkaraoke.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Veer Union,"Against the Grain" (Universal Motown)
There's not a shred of anything remotely AGAINST THE GRAIN about The Veer Union's current three-song sampler that you don't learn at Chad Kroeger 101, yet this fellow Canadian quartet's advanced placement yields an angst-ridden vocal and action-movie hooky punch whose youthful exuberance and slick package demands attention, even if for a fleeting moment ("Seasons") to check the screen and see if it's Theory of A Deadman or Hinder pumping out the mediocre hard rock.
www.universalmotown.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Millions,"Gather Scatter" (Seventh Rule)
Spastic and noisy hardcore with underpinnings of melody best describe the racket exerted by Chicago quartet Millions, whose eight-track offering GATHER SCATTER goes from the gutter to outer space in approximately 27-minutes. Emblazoned in dissonance, songs like "Saddle Up and Ride" exhibit the rhythm section playing like a wrecking crew drunkenly demolishing a skyscraper, while "Pickpocket" channels QOTSA for a shot of fretwork freakouts and "Life is Satisfactory" reveals the might of Millions' ever-shifting three-pronged vocal delivery with the sandpapered bark leading the neurotic charge. If you are partial to early post-hardcore and get misty-eyed for the noise rock days of yore, this crew has got the fix you need.
www.seventhrule.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Seance,"Awakening of the Gods" (Pulverised)
Old School Swedish death metal troupe Seance return with their third endeavor, a durable slab of classically-rounded raging madness complete with the gutwrenching growls, dastardly drums and demonic riffs straight out of 1992 (around the time of this unit's debut). AWAKENING THE GODS is an explosive 11-track exercise in evil whose malevolent metallic mayhem leaves holes in the walls while summoning netherworld spirits thanks to the crushing low-end rhythms and drop on a dime precision this quartet employ ("Your Time Has Come", "Prisoner 666"), not to mention the incessant feeling of getting punched in the head songs like "Murder" bring on. Tasty solos, technical playing laden with grooves galore, slivers of variation (the gonzo acoustic track "Flight of the Wicked" is self-indulgent yet aces), and a threatening combination of malice and aggression allow Seance to make good on the promise to dutifully dole out something more sinister than the rest of the pack.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Julie the Band,"An Act of Communication" (Baby Bird)
Championing an eclectic blend of indie rock teeming with instrumental depth and acerbic wit, savvy Los Angeles quintet Julie the Band present a boundless 15-track effort whose fearless compositions stir up an exhilarating sense of intrigue. AN ACT OF COMMUNICATION skillfully straddles between contagious pop-rock jangle and oddball quirk ("Do Si Do"), finding a comfort zone somewhere between the cautious expansiveness of Incubus, the Bic-lighter drama of Dashboard Confessional, and the zany resourcefulness of Beck ("Catch a Feeling", "Lonely Streets"). Showcasing a knack to adorn heady lyrics with the right mix of horns, strings, and whimsy ("Un-Tongue-Tied"), it's no surprise that the members of this band have ties in the entertainment industry in a behind the scenes capacity, as their endearing music reveals the kind of advanced production sensibilities and clever cohesiveness reserved for those working from the inside.
www.julietheband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gollum,"The Core" (Rotten)
A heart-stopping shot of Southern discomfort arrives courtesy of viciously versatile Wilmington, NC metal crew Gollum, whose 11-track batch of tainted tuneage renders an acid-soaked musical adventure that's both evil and expansive a la Goatwhore, Bloodlet (whose Scott Angelacos appears here), and Soilent Green. Raging hardcore rumblings and technical death metal sensibilities bolster this unit's sonic foundation while an oddball agenda containing psychedelic overtones, foreboding electronic manipulations and a devilish use of dynamics launch at all angles from Gollum's viscous superstructure, setting an ominous atmosphere akin to being stranded in the swamp as dusk becomes nightfall ("The Core", "Omens"). THE CORE relentlessly shifts gears and styles, yet keeps it heavy throughout, examining every heavy-handed riff method to savagely crush your skull ("Blacksmith") while utilizing multiple guest vocalists to further impose the jumpy point of view of "The Burden of Ubiquitous Scars" and "Diggin'". Settle in with some strong substances and enjoy a sullen and sinewy schizophrenic stomp delivered by a juggernaut brimming over with avant-garde abrasiveness and unabashed fits of metallic fury.
www.rottenrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Man In Black,"Man In Black" (Self-Released)
NYC punk rock unit Man In Black play with a retro echo-heavy style and the authentic no frills fuck the world grizzled attitude that time long forgot intact, skewering bits of Oi, reggae, and lo-fi in their tasty three-song sampler smorgasbord. Simple yet effective, this unit's sharp-tongued attack is aided by standout bursts of shimmering guitar and garage rock keyboards that emit warm tones, providing the right touch of texture to this squad's sneering brand of old school flavor. Championing the sounds of yore, Man in Black fits nicely in between your Toasters and Buzzcocks discs.
www.maininblack.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Persona Non Grata,"Shade in the Light" (Sensory)
Greek progressive metal troupe Persona Non Grata glide along the familiar melodic path tread by bands like Edguy and Circus Maximus while traces of the moodiness of early Queensryche and Fates Warning lurk about on their 10-track offering SHADE IN THE LIGHT. This quintet's reliance on composition dramatics rather than instrumental acrobatics helps this unit make a durable batch of songs that permit the group's standout soaring vocal over dominant walls of keyboard charge to confidently lead through the light and dark hues of the prog metal prism. Stamping songs like "Stillness" and "Longing" with a chilling aura while naturally crunchy riffs ("Dual Unity") drive a spike through the heart during heavier tunes, this act's atmospheric delivery cuts out genre excess down to bare essential so things like tasty solos can shine ("Before the Reason"). Containing its fair share of punchy musical interplay while exhibiting an reverence for the edge, this disc will appease those who like to stick close to the gameplan.
www.lasersedgegroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Assaulter,"Salvation Like Destruction" (Pulverised)
Harkening back to metal at its most primal, Australian outfit Assaulter bang and smash their way through seven tracks of crude buzzsaw guitar explosions and blackened death rasps on SALVATION LIKE DESTRUCTION. Pounding away with the savage fury of bands like Hellhammer in plain sight ("Glory Alone"), this trio terrorize with an old school death/thrash hybrid chock full of hatred ("Awe of Fire"), yielding a warmongering tone that permeates through cuts like the ferocious "The Axiom Star" and the militaristic amalgamation of High on Fire and Sodom on "Talon and Teeth", making this throwback entity an enjoyable yet predictable slab of raging crust-laden metal.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Crown the Lost,"Blind Faith Loyalty" (Cruz Del Sur)
Merging power metal prestige, classic metal history, and technical thrash prowess, Pittsburgh, PA quintet Crown the Lost blast through 10 tracks of intricate guitar infused heaviness, sounding like the bastard child of Nevermore, Trivium, and Iced Earth ("Finality"). Despite their excessive sonic output, the forced juxtaposition of vibes and incessant solo breaks sound clumsy at times, almost as if the group is trying too hard to make unlike things work in symbiosis. Armed with a wailing metal screamer whose Dark Angel meets Dickinson caterwaul leaves an indelible mark while a sturdy rhythm section valiantly holds the tumultuous and twisting twin guitar assault down ("Hollow Refuge"), Crown the Lost's do an admirable job of sounding complex yet lose momentum by leaving listeners more overwhelmed than engaged.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Raygun Girls,"Dirt Collector" (Killzone)
NYC alternative metal vets The Raygun Girls capture the shadowy desolation of Gotham City's dark recesses on the squad's latest three-song sampler taken from their forthcoming full length DIRT COLLECTOR. Combining a flurry of industrial electronic elements into their female fronted Goth metal blueprint ("Ones I Denied"), comparing this quartet's throbbing flourishes and concrete melodic metal foundation in the vein of acts like Lacuna Coil and HIM wouldn't be out of place, yet the hypnotic quality to songs like "Intentions" display a band whose savvy songwriting prowess can lift his band out of the dark long enough to enchant ears by dishing out something different besides the genre's prototypical processed angst.
www.theraygungirls.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Unknown Instructors,"Funland" (Smoke Veil)
Unknown Instructors continue to inspire with their third effort, the 12-track FUNLAND. This free-form jazz punk jamboree isn't going to get the party started, but it will guide through tough times after one listen of the discernibly sadder and more morose tales told in spoken word Beatnik meets film noir style ("Last Waltz", "Afternoon Spent at the Bar, Sunny"). But it's not all gloom and doom at the old man's tavern, as sometimes the bass and drums (courtesy of Mike Watt and George Hurley of Firehose) morph into a razzmatazz blues groove, providing a backdrop for some righteous soapbox preaching ("Lead!"), then switching into a herky-jerky bounce ("C'mon") . Rendering a way above the cut listening experience best taken in headphones, FUNLAND is a divine disc for those with the headspace to spare.
www.smogveil.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Edguy,"Tinnitus Sanctus" (Nuclear Blast)
Streamlining their trademark power metal might with a healthy dose of melodic hard rock, German quintet Edguy return ready to rock with their eighth release, the 11-track TINNITUS SANCTUS. Cramming crunchy guitars with an enormous drum sound ("Sex Fire Religion"), this veteran unit's typically over the top delivery has been dialed down considerably here, long enough for fans of hair metal to be able to find solace within cuts like "Nine Lives", "Dragonfly" and especially the power ballad "Thorn Without a Rose". But don't fret fans of Edguy's early fantasy metal phase, they haven't lost it all completely, as the instrumental breaks on "Speedhoven" and the Queensryche-esque "Wake Up Dreaming Black" gallantly mark a reprise to the speed-driven pomp roots you've come to expect from this crew.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Unanimated,"In the Light of Darkness" (Regain)
After a 14 year slumber, the Swedish beast known as Unanimated has awaken from hibernation with a feral 10-track strike in the form of IN THE LIGHT OF DARKNESS. Boasting former members of incendiary metal acts Entombed and Dismember, this brazen unit's mayhem-fueled melancholy is bolstered by a bombastic variations of mid tempo to blasting black metal beats ("Enemy of the Sun", "Serpent's Curse") and throaty growls directly from the bowels of the netherworld ("Diabolic Voices"). The guitars succinctly maintain an evil and foreboding aura ("The Endless Beyond"), throwing moments of melody in for good measure ("In the Light of Darkness") to make this disc a noteworthy addition to your darkened collection.
www.regainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Egoist,"Ultra-Selfish Revolution" (Selfmadegod)
Egoist is a one-man band (naturally) from Poland with a somber yet schizophrenic take on heavy music. ULTRA-SELFISH REVOLUTION features a sobering eight tracks of avant-garde acuteness complete with a jarring dissonance and clinical angularity, as if machines manipulated man to make this music happen rather than the other way around. Striking a middle ground between NIN, Helmet, Clawfinger, Bjork, and Protest the Hero, these songs are difficult to decode upon first impression, yet reveal an off-kilter undercurrent of abrasiveness thanks to the funk on drugs basslines and choppy rhythmic parts employed ("Bright Shift"), not to mention a few choice guest solos courtesy of Patrick Mameli ("(Not) the End") to emit an ultimately unsettling listening experience reserved for the most open-minded of the prog metal contingent.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Lord Mantis,"Spawning the Nephilim" (Seventh Rule)
Punishing and pummeling from the get-go, Chicago's Lord Mantis have developed an apocalyptic amalgamation that merges sludge, post-hardcore and black metal elements on the quartet's begrimed seven-track affair SPAWNING THE NEPHILIM. Relentlessly menacing the eardrums with assaults of furious sprawling riffs and explosive low-end rhythms rendering a thunderous sonic crunch ("Hit By a Bus"), this hulking beast thoroughly scours the depths of the depraved, unabashedly bearing teeth and claws ("Unnatural Dwarfism", "Zealot") while a cavalcade of tortured vocal shrills and bellowing growls guide the descent into darkness ("Push Tug Wipe"). Despite this nefarious unit's obvious aping of Neurosis spaz-outs, Mastodon rumblings, Today is the Day uneasiness and Bloodlet quirk, Lord Mantis wisely uses the aforementioned's wares to introduce their own unique vertigo-inducing discord ("Abducted by Aliens"), exuding a thorny and tumultuous bludgeoning for those who enjoy unapologetically getting run over.
www.seventhrule.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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