Music Reviews: OCTOBER 2011

Teneia Sanders & The Highlands,"Confessions Of A Scorpio" (SonaBlast! Records)
Hands down the best looking album cover to come across this reviewer’s desk in a long time. Fortunately for this listener, the lovely Miss Sanders has the voice and talent to back up the cover. So, in this case, one can judge a book by its cover. I get the feeling that Teneia could breathe soul into just about anything. That said, what we have here is a country, pop, r n’b crossover album that should appeal to a very, very large audience. Everyone from Lucinda Williams fans to fans of Norah Jones to the folks that tune into “American Idol” every week. Her appeal covers a lot of ground. If you haven’t heard of her you should check this out. Also, do yourself a favor and check out her first album “Soul Catcher” as well.
www.teneiasanders.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Janet Robbins,"Song Of The Gypsy Tree" (Star 7 Records)
Robbins brand of ambient/space/soundscape music is nothing like her famous fathers music. But, to be fair, Marty Robbins was a trend setter and not a follower so she may be more like him than we’ll ever know.
I’m kind of new to this type of music to be honest, so I’m a bit at a loss for words to describe it. I will say it’s very soothing and quite therapeutic to be removed from the outside world, even if it’s only momentarily. Robbins has a beautiful voice that calms the savage beast. I guess a few years ago I would have shrugged this off as hippy music but I’ve come to appreciate things that reach beyond my comfort zone. I guess I’m growing up.
www.janetrobbinsmusic.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Soulless,"Isolated" (Earache)
All but shedding their death metal roots for a streamlined metalcore sound, The Soulless, formerly known as Ignominious Incarceration, have undergone a radical transformation both in their lineup and in their overall presentation, resulting in the 11-track release ISOLATED. Pumping out a well-executed strand of third rate cookie-cut metallic unoriginality (“New Perspective”), this troupe has opted to take the easy way out and jump on the trend wagon during their massive overhaul rather than challenge listeners with their chops as they did under their previous moniker, rendering themselves a blatant imitation of a smorgasbord of Hot Topic metalcore ironically devoid of soul.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Barn Burner,"Bangers II: Scum Of The Earth" (Metal Blade)
Barn Burner’s sophomore effort is aptly titled BANGERS II: SCUM OF THE EARTH for both logistics and style, as the aura this Canadian quartet commandeers picks right up where their debut affair left off. Chock full of doom-y stoner rock grooves with a classic metal foundation leading to thrash metal aspirations, this squad is all too eager to share their bongload of hard-edged rock ‘n roll with a melodic snarl that falls somewhere between the sludgy structures of Melvins, the off-kilter metal of CKY and the polish of Thin Lizzy (“Quest for the Cube”). Armed with an array of nonsensical song titles (“Skid Marks the Spot”) showing they don’t take themselves too serious with a bevy of snappy up-tempo heaviness (“Keg Stand and Deliver”) that shows they mean business (“Crushing Defeat”), the latest album by Barn Burner renders a headbanging good time despite the frivolity they display.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Morbus Chron,"Sleepers In The Rift" (Pulverised)
Firmly entrenched in old school death metal sound and ideology, Swedish squad Morbus Chron lovingly resurrects past evils to comprise their nine-track endeavor SLEEPERS IN THE RIFT. Unlike many of their counterparts however, this band draws influence from the American side of the continuum, as ample inspiration from the likes of Autopsy as well as a wealth from the early works from the vintage Morrisound Studios can be traced throughout the duration of this presentation. Paying homage with every fuzzed-out riff, rollicking bass line and piercing cymbal crash (“Ways of Torture”), this outfit exhibits an admirable representation of the salad days of death metal, recreating the smash and grab feel and mayhem-inducing savagery of the pioneering acts of the genre.
www.pulverisedrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Pyrrhon,"An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master" (Selfmadegod)
NYC death metal troupe Pyrrhon inject a cavalcade of metallic influences into their progressively structured and brutally bludgeoning eight-track endeavor AN EXCELLENT SERVANT BUT A TERRIBLE MASTER, eagerly taking extreme metal to strange and wondrous places. Exhibiting both an experimental edge (“The Architect Confesses”) and a penchant for vintage death metal insanity, this unit constructs durable yet chaotically complex musical arrangements with the feeling to kill clearly at the forefront (“Idiot Circles”), striking a hearty death metal balance between groove and savagery with a bevy of unorthodox methods at the helm of their assault.
www.selfmadegodrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


YOB,"ATMA" (Profound Lore)
Five tracks of unhinged doom metal is what ATMA, the sixth installment from the recently reformed Eugene. Oregon trio Yob delivers to the masses. Maintaining a trance-inducing slow-paced heaviness carried throughout each set of tortured howls and smoke-laced riffs, Yob doles out a foreboding array of crushing and voluminous rhythms kept intriguing by a fine-tuned sense of dynamics guiding the songs clear from the mires of redundancy (“Before We Dreamed of Two”). Anointed with a spiritual vibe that permeates from all points musically and vocally, Yob takes their metal down transcendental roads with a heavy hand and an open mind, resulting in the exhilarating display of passion conveyed via the fifty-five minute excursion that is ATMA.
www.profoundlore.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Eruptors / Culo A Boca,"Split CD" (Self-released)
An international punk rock incident comes crashing through the gates courtesy of English/Irish troupe The Eruptors and California’s Culo A Boca, joining forces to comprise their 11-track split offering. Up first are The Eruptors, whose hard-edged street punk appeal comes staggering straight from the back room of the pub, exerting a Motorhead meets Dead Boys vibe. From there, the wild and crazy Culo A Boca takes over with their theatrically-driven punk flair channeling everything from surf and psychobilly to horrorpunk with a spectacle of a live show that suits the maniacal nature of this guy/gal vocal outfit’s musical output. Bubbling up from the underground, these are two bands that deserve a spin for those jonesing for a shot of raw and unfettered punk rock.
www.eruptors.50megs.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hypoxia,"The Purge" (Self-released)
Hypoxia is a quartet from NYC whose classic death metal sensibilities shine through on their four-track EP THE PURGE. Drawing influence from the likes of Suffocation, Obituary, and Morbid Angel, this troupe features a powerful frontman with a noticeably belligerent bark while a maelstrom of misanthropic musical malevolence churns beneath his endless stream of wrathfully furious growls. Sparing flash for substance, Hypoxia provides a sturdy slab of death metal madness with a discernibly gritty Big Apple twist in the mix.
www.reverbnation.com/hypoxia
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Bong,"Beyond Ancient Space" (Ritual)
One definitely requires an attention span at full strength to enjoy Bong’s 79-minute, three-song endeavor entitled BEYOND ANCIENT SPACE. This prolific UK quartet supplies the listener with an intentionally murky minimalist menagerie of repetitive riffs over an undulating atmospheric clamor with a plethora of percussive strikes and intricacies successfully substituted for the diminished presence of vocals, sans a few mantra-like chants sporadically placed within this adventurously arduous excursion. Executing deliberate dollops of doom with a perennial experimental scope at the helm, Bong painstakingly documents each step towards their ethereal journey, resulting in the languishing pace and polarizing feel this musical experience garnishes.
www.ritualproductions.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Death Valley Driver,"Choke The River" (Diminished Fifth)
Canadian unit Death Valley Driver combines swampy sludge metal with bouts of metalcore tenacity on their eight-track affair CHOKE THE RIVER. Crushingly heavy, this squad pulls no punches when delivering a balls to the wall vocals and nasty riff tandem that keeps necks snapping, chock full of groove derived from the likes of Down, COC, and Hatebreed. This troupe demonstrates an unquestionable and well-executed heaviness, yet their overall presentation lacks the originality of the aforementioned, hindering the band from making the deviations from the formula in their songwriting necessary to really make an impact. Nonetheless, Death Valley Driver provides a perfect middle ground between Black Label Society and Devildriver with a whole lotta NOLA influence for extra flavor.
www.diminishedfifth.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Origin,"Entity" (Nuclear Blast)
Origin returns after a lead singer lineup shakeup, replacing James Lee with ex-Skinless singer Jayson Keyser (even though bassist Mike Flores and guitarist Paul Ryan split the workload behind the microphone here) with their most cohesively written album to date. Don’t fret, tech heads, this Kansas clan of chaos still whips up a flurry of blistering guitar and bass explosions with the usual masterful display of skill firing at peak levels on the 11-track ENTITY. Only this time around, a stronger emphasis is placed on song structure than sheer shred across the board, rendering a decisively less clinical aura than expected with an enhanced sense of dynamics that allows Origin to explore new terrain without sacrificing their most revered characteristics.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


A Fucking Elephant / El Drugstore,"Split CD" (Nefarious Industries)
Two experimental New Jersey bands share a nine-track split disc here, as A Fucking Elephant and El Drugstore team up for a noisy excursion. Up first is A Fucking Elephant, who provide five tracks of freewheeling progressively derived post-rock served both with and without vocals, each showing equal amounts of intensity with a plethora of fretboard intricacy. Up next are El Drugstore, a Garden State trio with a meatier guitar tone and a similar disposition for dissonant rhythms and non-linear structures, exhibiting deconstructive jazz with a sinister snarl. Definitely not for the average listener, this duo challenges the senses with dazzling dabs of musical non-conformity for those who enjoy a bending of the rules now and then.
www.nefariousindustries.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Shraphead,"Blind And Seduced" (Metalville)
The debut from Norwegian-based unit Shraphead delivers a slab of sleek modern metal that pulls heavily from the histrionic snarl of the gilded age of thrash metal. BLIND AND SEDUCED contains a plethora of cleverly intertwined metalcore by numbers nuances(“Revelation”) in between a barrage of blackened riffs (“Evilberry Jam”) while the liquid yet hard hitting rhythm section’s jackhammer cadence maintains the overall metallic thunder, taking structural cues from the likes of In Flames (“The Life, The Path to Choose”) and Trivium while balancing a formulaic yet spirited blend of rousing melody with a sizable stream of headbanging crunch.
www.metalvillerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Whitehorse,"Progression" (At A Loss)
Australian quintet Whitehorse subscribed to a slow and low method when making their catastrophic metallic din, churning out five-tracks of extreme metal oppression on PROGRESSION. Providing plodding rhythms aplenty with destructive tones dealt with doom metal deliberation (“Time Warn Regression”), Whitehorse’s lethargic style fuses black metal abrasiveness, noise metal guitar trickery, and sludge metal slow crawl to administer a colossal crush capable of mass devastation. Truly warranting the privilege of being labeled an acquired taste, Whitehorse demonstrates a sense of anguish and despair via their overwhelmingly unsettling and voluminous offering.
www.atalossrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Enablers,"Blown Realms And Stalled Explosions" (Exile On Mainstream)
San Francisco avant-garde rock unit Enablers accomplish the arduous task of making spoken word vocals over an eclectic mix of soaring post-rock appear fluid and seamless on their latest excursion BLOWN REALMS AND STALLED EXPLOSIONS. This quartet’s 10-track release exhibits a wealth of atmospheric musicianship with a sinewy stream of conscience narrative in tow that adds a unique texture on this complex presentation. Featuring freewheeling musical interludes chock full of spiraling rhythms while frontman Pete Simonelli keeps listeners engaged with poetically geared phrasing and cadence channeling everyone from Jim Carroll to Henry Rollins, the output of Enablers can be daunting initially, but after a few listens, the act’s intriguing artistry becomes evident.
www.exileonmainstreamrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Methodist,"Methodist" (Self-released)
Volatile Brooklyn trio Methodist displays a penchant for angst-ridden punk rock with edgy indie rock inclinations on their eponymous six-track excursion. Demonstrating an abundance of stinging riffs whose healthy balance of vitriolic virtue and jagged melody allows the deft rhythm section the freedom to flavor up their aggressive attack as they see fit, the hard hitting demeanor and general sense of disdain this act exhibits propels a musical journey reminiscent of acts such as Black Flag, Fugazi, and The Bronx. Methodist doles out serious punk rock attitude with electrifying immediacy and wiry fury spearheading their cerebrally minded attack.
www.myspace.com/methodist
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Einvera,"In Your Image" (Self-released)
Los Angeles, CA trio Einvera covers miles of musical ground on their eight-track release IN YOUR IMAGE. Consistently switching up styles and methods to form an exhilarating yet unfocused hodgepodge of metal that settles somewhere in between run of the mill folk metal and predictable metalcore. Ambitiously approached yet shoddily carried out, this squad displays an undeniable bevy of quality chops yet comes off as trying too hard to be different, resulting in a strain that affects the album’s overall cohesiveness. Nonetheless, adventurous metal fans that enjoy rich instrumentation and oddball elements will surely be pleased with Einvera’s potpourri of modern metal.
www.einvera1.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cousin Sleaze,"Cousin Sleaze" (Self-released)
Cousin Sleaze is a balls to the wall quartet from Brooklyn, NY whose sound straddles the line between modern commercial hard rock and heavy influences from the ‘90s. On their eponymous four-track debut, this fearsome foursome’s thunderous din combines the might of Pantera with the downtrodden spirit of Staind, aggressively assaulting listeners with rounds of by the book riffs custom made to bruise right down to the bone. Providing a structurally straightforward attack with little time for excess, Cousin Sleaze delivers a lean and mean EP chock full of copious chunks of hard rock and metal goodness.
www.cousinsleaze.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Desalmado,"Hereditas" (Grey Haze)
Brazilian quintet Desalmado supplies listeners with a brutal barrage of grind, death, and thrash metal on their six-track, 15-minute offering HEREDITAS. Sharing as much in common musically with fellow countrymen Sepultura as they do Napalm Death and Brujeria, this squad’s consistent breakneck pace, relentless riffs, and endless stream of tormented vocals are delivered with a sharpened sense of neck snapping brevity (“Manto de Sangue”), allowing Desalmado to blast your head clean off your shoulders with assassin-like precision. While Desalmado does little in the way of innovation, their scalding display of aggression warrants repeated visits into the moshpit.
www.desalmado.com.br
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Impostor Syndrome,"Block Party" (Self-released)
Seasoned NYC rock troupe Impostor Syndrome return with a five-song presentation furthering the hazy amalgamation of vintage rock chops, sinewy rhythms, and Kristen Persinos’ alluring vocal style that this troupe has shared with the Big Apple music scene for quite some time now. Taking as much influence from the desert rock stomp of Queens of the Stone Age as they do the sophisticated poignancy of Pretenders (“Don’t Hesitate”), Impostor Syndrome generously doles out memorable sugary melodies with a restrained hard rock snarl bubbling up from underneath (“Courtesy Call”), carving out a spot all to themselves with a decisively NYC feel amongst female fronted bands that boast both bark and bite.
www.impostorsyndrome.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Book Of Black Earth,"The Cold Testament" (Prosthetic)
Book of Black Earth is a Seattle-based metal quartet whose latest eight-track offering heavily borrows from the tried and true Swedish melodic death metal sound on the unit’s third album THE COLD TESTAMENT. While the group also implements elements of Motorhead by way of Entombed inflections of punk as well as demonstrates a decisively blackened disposition, many of the sharpened riffs and rumbling rhythmic patterns as well as the production’s overall feeling of rawness are cut and pasted from the early days of the Swedish metal movement almost to a fault, resulting in the album’s derivative feel. Nonetheless, Book of Black Earth execute their homage with a venomous vigor, complete with engaging vocals that contain the winning balance of dread and melody, warranting a few choice spins when the urge to destroy comes around.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Autistics,"The Autistics" (Self-released)
The Autistics are a no frills punk rock trio from NYC whose unhinged attitude, carefree point of view and straightforward musical approach shines through on their self-titled 12-track album. Blending a smidgen of punk rock styles to comprise their raucous sound, this boisterous squad’s strong street punk sensibility allows their music the freedom to dabble in garage, surf, horror, and oi without losing focus from laying in a killer hook (“Hand of Doom”) while their twin vocal delivery proves effective both in harmony (“Pity the Fool”) and discord (“Can’t Go On”). Armed with solid songwriting and a passionate display of punk bravado, The Autistics provide a naturally derived potpourri of punk rock direct from the bowels of the Big Apple.
www.facebook.com/pages/theautistics
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Iron Lamb,"The Original Sin" (Pulverised)
Don’t discount the debut by Iron Lamb as merely another Swedish squad comprised of death metal dudes moonlighting with another genre of heavy music. Their debut endeavor THE ORIGINAL SIN contains a very apparent wealth of Motorhead-inspired attitude (they even cover Lemmy and boys’ “Poison”) as well as a hearty injection of simple yet effective punk rock influence (“Dead Inside”, “Dubious Preacher”) that fuels this band’s relentless fires. Featuring members from the likes of Repugnant, Dismember General Surgery, Insision, and Bombstrike in its ranks, Iron Lamb presents an unbridled punk/metal 10-track collection whose cut-above delivery and sturdy fretwork gives fans of raw and unapologetic punk and metal something new to rock out to.
www.pulverised.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Quill,"Full Circle" (Metalville)
The Quill returns after a five-year hiatus with a new lead singer and a 13-track collection of hard rocking tunes with the aptly titled FULL CIRCLE. This Swedish troupe’s comeback finds the powerhouse unit continuing to heavily draw its sound from an amalgamation of both majestic hard rock of the 70’s and the as tough as nails 90’s metal sound (“Running”), striking a meaty middle ground where dynamic rhythms drive with a slightly-sleazy but always gratifying swagger (“White Flag”, “Bring It On”). Jam-packed with contagious hooks reminiscent of fellow countrymen The Hellacopters and adorned with the gritty riffs and soulful crooning expected from Soundgarden (“More Alive”), the latest installment from The Quill’s renders the outfit’s auspicious reemergence back into the hard rock realm.
www.metalville.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Backwoods Payback,"Momantha" (Small Stone)
Pennsylvania quartet Backwoods Payback pours out a delectable stoner rock cocktail on their 10-track affair MOMANTHA. Meshing fuzzy riffs and protracted tempos while peppering hints of southern stoner style a la Alabama Thunderpusssy (“Timegrinder”), these guys and gal maintain a slight sense of shuffle even when downshifted into full doom mode (“Velcro”), successfully keeping the mood from becoming overly oppressive. This unit also finds clever ways to place shards of grunge and alternative metal into their mix, giving tracks like the Nirvana meets Cathedral inspired “Poncho” and the COC by way of Goatsnake “Parting Words” a stronger sense of buoyancy. While Backwoods Payback does cover a lot of ground here, but they do it with little distraction, displaying the capability to dole out soaring vocals (“Lord Chesterfield”) with as much confidence as delivering the bruising riffs over pummeling rhythms combo that keep the head bobbing (“Flight Pony”).
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Iron Claw,"A Different Game" (Ripple)
A DIFFERENT GAME is the end result of Scottish veterans Iron Claw first trip to the recording studio since the mid 1970’s as well as their first properly released album ever. This 13-track offering demonstrates the classic hard rock sound stripped down and done right with just the right amount of brash blues-rock and arena-rock rhythmic thunder (“Falling Down”). Unloading a supply of tasty guitar licks into simple structures not overloaded in cliché or redundancy, fans of UFO, Bad Company, and vintage acts of the sort will enjoy this triumphant troupe’s collection of straight ahead hard rock from tip to tail.
www.ripple-music.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Pathology,"Awaken To The Suffering" (Victory)
San Diego deathcore squad Pathology unleashes a bonanza of groove-oriented slamming riffs, gurgling vocals, and mechanical rhythms on the band’s latest endeavor AWAKEN TO THE SUFFERING. This 12-track collection features endless streams of completely unintelligible vocals that range from guttural growls to tortured shrieks where a lyric sheet is a must-have to follow what s being sung, truly creating a polarizing effect that is sure to turn off a good portion of listeners from the get-go. Throw in a hunk of leftover Suffocation and Six Feet Under (“Opposing Globalization”) riffage stuck in between clinically-sounding typewriter rhythms that all lead up to the almighty breakdown, a characteristic this outfit dispenses in droves and generally excels at, and you’ve got an idea of how this devastating quintet chooses to crush. Assaulting with a barrage of genre-redundant chugging rhythms and relentless percussion with little bits of melody thrown into the guitars for variation (“Humanity’s Cesspool”), Pathology demonstrate standard levels of brutality in a tight-knit presentation with little regard for much else.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Desolate,"EP" (Self-released)
Desolate commemorates a decade surviving and thriving in the unforgiving NYC scene with a blistering four-track EP. Blending the confrontational demeanor and contagious groove of Pantera with a smorgasbord of metal influences ranging from tenacious NYHC to modern metal’s bruising crunch, Desolate maintains an unabashed sense of heaviness with the right balance of melody to round out an uncompromising aural assault that commands attention.
www.desolatenyc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Red Eyed Devil,"Consequence Of Time" (Self-released)
Red Eyed Devil serves up brutal NYHC-inspired rage with subtle experimental nuances on their callous 11-track affair CONSEQUENCE OF TIME. Mixing violence-inducing volatility with a blistering showcase of musicianship, this NYC outfit doles out a sinisterly prepared collection of pummeling rhythms and vocal hostility (“Self Medicated”) that enhances their undeniable foundation of slamming hardcore with an eclectic mix of odd effects and left of center turns embedded into the ferocious framework, truly set this band of seasoned musicians from the Big Apple underground apart from the hardcore sect.
www.myspace.com/redeyeddevil01
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Burning Caskets,"To Burn a False Prophet" (Self-Released)
The band kicks off their debut release with “Kill the Pacifist”. It’s a catchy little ditty that has the double bass fluttering as fast as the wings of a hummingbird and as loud as thunder. The vocals recorded directly from a sound booth somewhere in the pits of hell and the guitars chuggin’ along like a Sherman tank rolling through a suburban subdivision on a Sunday morning. The band came about when former Rotting members Korey Arnold and Mike Belfry recorded a few songs in Mike’s living room and posted them on MySpace. The resulting band and album is a potent mix of Death Metal and Hardcore. If this is your thing then this is your thing. Warning, this is not for the faint of heart.
www.burningcaskets.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Wounded Men,"All The East Bay Misses You" (Self-Released)
Mike Flynn and guitarist Mike Assenzio got together in the fall of 2008 and were later joined by bassist Brad Assenzio and drummer Mark Dungey. Their goal was to make an album and “All The East Bay Misses You” is the end result. Singer/songwriter Mike Flynn shares lead vocals with four different women on this album. Flynn covers the lion’s share of the lead vocals but their contributions break things up a bit and make for a quite enjoyable listening experience. Amanda Chung’s vocals on “Don’t Make Me A Window” reminds me of the Pogues when Caitlín O'Riordan would sing. “Gimme Everything” has Kat Bukanc simultaneously channeling Lucinda Williams and Chrissie Hynde. Heather Wood takes “Little Odessa” into pure alt-country bliss and Beth Keener’s vocals melt together beautifully with Flynn’s on Anti Pain. Flynn’s retro pop flair helps to propel his songs along at a nice pace and the ladies voices keep things fresh.
www.mikeflinn.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Claudine,"Wrestling Consciousness" (Self-Released)
Claudine is the Pat Benatar for the Lady Antebellum generation. She’s got the voice, she’s got the look. The songs work for pop radio as well as country stations. She’s poised for greatness as the saying goes. “Wrestling Consciousness” is a strong first at bat and I have no doubt that she’ll be knocking them out of the park before you know it.
www.claudinemusic.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Solito,"Rabbit Marines" (Self-Released)
The list of influences on their myspace page pretty much says it all. Any band that lists Thelonious Monk and Punk side by side or The Clash and Fast Times At Ridgemont High or The Rolling Stones and the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a band that has to have something to offer. I find their music very refreshing and yet a bit reminiscent of a few of the punk bands from the early eighties. Think Gun Club, Public Image Ltd., Sonic Youth, Violent Femmes, Minutemen, Gang Of Four, etc… In other words… good stuff.
myspace.com/youhavetheshitz
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Black Sheep Band,"A Chicago Punk Rock Collaboration for the Kids-Vol. 1" (Underground Communiqué Records)
Great new benefit record whose profits go to a local hospital in Chicago. Plus it is also promoting the opening of a new restaurant in that town as well. The local all-star players include Dan Schafer (ex-The Methadones, Noise By Numbers), Eric Spicer (Naked Raygun) and Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers) among others. The originals rock and there is a slick Damned cover too. My only issue with this record is that it is too short. But Vol. 2 is coming. So go buy this on vinyl now, it’s for the kids dammit!
undercomm.org/blog/
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Taggart,"For What It’s Worse" (Self-released)
New album from the long standing Philly rockers. Full of sonic blasts and bittersweet songwriting, this will sound fantastic cranked out over the speakers. It starts off with a band here with “Good Intentions” and doesn’t let up until the last note fades off into the ether. ‘Me and Sweet J” and “Starting Now” are some of my other favorites here. Taggart has been cranking out great indie rock for awhile now, and the end result is this new release, which is rock solid and worth picking up.
www.taggartrocks.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Tommy Keene,"Behind The Parade" (Second Motion Records)
Keene returns with another stellar record of straight up guitar rock that will glue your eardrums to the back of your brain. “Deep Six Saturday” is a perfect summer single type tune, and it only gets better from there. “La Castana” provides keyboard shimmerings first hinted at with “People with Fast Cars Drive Fast” in an expanded format to great effect. Everyone will have their favorites here. But for me Behind the Parade blows all the competition away with the 1-2 punch of “Running for Your Life” and “The Long Goodbye.” Fans of great guitar riffs, raw and emotion-filled vocals, and superb songwriting need to pick up this disc now. Then start saving up for any gaps in your Keene collection.
www.tommykeene.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Tim Easton,"Since 1966/Volume 1" and "Beat The Band" (Campfire Propaganda Records)
Both of these albums were released together, so I thought I would go for the double whammy here. First record is all acoustic, recorded in Joshua Tree and the Yucca Valley. Nice mood is set here, where the theme seems to be treasuring the gift of life. There’s a song about Joe Strummer and going to outdoor festival shows. The lyrics here will make you sit up and think, especially on songs like ‘The Weight of Changing Everything” and “California Bars.” Easton knocks another one out of the park on this record. The question is will you be caught in line at the popcorn stand during the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs? I hope not for your sake.
As the title suggests, this is a full band outing, with Easton backed up by The Freeland Barons Band (Aaron Lee Tasjan, Mark Stepro and Alex Livingstone). Well produced and fully engaging, you’ll be drawn into this record from the start. Even a quick glance at some of the song titles will show you this will be a good one-“Did Your Mother teach You That,” and “Nobody Plays Piano In Athens, GA.” If you’re looking for great songs with superior musicianship to back it up, then look no further. Go buy both of these in the ever popular “bundle” at his website. You’ll feel better at the end of the day.
www.TimEaston.com
Rating:
(For Both)
Review by Sean Koepenick


Dot Dash,"Spark>flame>ember>ash" (The Beautiful Music)
Do you like your guitar pop with a bit of bite attached? Then Dot Dash should be on your wishlist. This hearty band of DC rockers deliver on this, their first full length. If you ever owned vinyl by The Jam or Joy Division, then this record will fit right into your collection. Lead singer/guitarist Terry Banks has a clever way of writing lyrics that any music fan will recognize straight away. The ultra-cool rhythm section of Hunter Bennett and Danny Ingram anchor each song’s proceedings expertly. Finally add the lead guitar flourishes of Bill Crandall and you have a winning combination. “Learn How To Fly” and “Unreal” are some of my favorites on this album. But I think the whole thing will do a number on you after one listen. Guitar pop is back with a vengeance. Get the message from Dot Dash now.
www.facebook.com/dotdashdc
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Grant Hart,"Oeuvrevue" (Hazelwood Records)
Thoroughly engaging “rarities” compilation by this accomplished songwriter. Some old favorites are reworked here, both solo and with former Nova Mob members. The sound is crisp here and the production is strong, which helps the flow from track to track. ‘Evergreen Memorial Drive” and “Ballad #19” are some highlights for me on this one, but they all sound fantastic. If this is a “stop-gap” between 2009’s Hot Wax and the next record, we should all be kissing the ground for joy. Solid release, pick it up soon it looks like it may be one of those limited edition type deals.
www.granthart.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Lifeguards,"Waving At The Astronauts" (Serious Business Records)
2nd full length from this project which features Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard. They did a 3rd record together, but for whatever reason it did not come out under the Lifeguards moniker. “You’re Gonna Need a Mountain” features some John Cale like piano playing that creates a somber mood. From there it revs up a bit with “Sexless Auto” featuring some speedy licks from Gillard. “Trip The Web” sounds like a Nuggets outtake-which is a good thing. Great record here that will reward repeated listening whether you are a previous Pollard nut or not.
http://seriousbusinessrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Lonero,"JFL" (Nightmare)
Lonero is a guitar driven instrumental quartet hailing from California whose 10-track affair JFL emits a serious ‘80s metal guitar hero vibe. From the sweeping lead guitar solos to the driving rhythms, this troupe does an exemplary job of presenting memorable music (“Giant”) despite a lack of a frontman, often allowing band leader Bill Lonero’s distinct six-string tones and phrasings to perfunctorily pick up the slack (“New Song”). While not as flashy or technical as a Vai or Satriani, Lonero finds a comfort zone between shred and groove, providing a subtle self-edited excursion of soaring instrumental hard rock and metal that focuses on song structure rather than unnecessary noodling (“Oblivion”). Striking a balance between George Lynch, Kirk Hammet, and Eddie Van Halen, Lonero cranks out the kind of album that begs to be taken in a fast car on the open road.
www.nightmarerecords.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dekapitator,"We Will Destroy You Will Obey" (Relapse)
WE WILL DESTROY YOU WILL OBEY is the re-release of the relentless 1999 debut album by Dekapitator, a Bay Area squad that featured members of Exhumed. This 15-track reissue showcases a merciless demonstration of thrash metal at its most raw and visceral by a unit that thrives on keeping things moving at a breakneck pace. Even though much of this affair tends to blend into each other with little derivation, the sheer velocity, unfettered aggression, and tumultuous thrash acumen channeled by this unit is undeniable, seemingly teetering on the edge of the verge of full collapse at any given moment (“Make Them Die”). Akin to early Slayer, Vio-lence, and Destruction, those who like to bang their head with reckless abandon will completely fawn over this album.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Weird Owl,"Build Your Beast A Fire" (Tee Pee)
Weird Owl enjoys a good pop melody as much as a trip to the moon as their 15-track sophomore endeavor BUILD YOUR BEAST A FIRE clearly indicates. This Brooklyn, NY collective gets their groove on with the laid back aura of Neil Young and My Morning Jacket seemingly inspiring their musical movements, intertwining their own poignant psychedelic predilection to the mix to create an amalgamation of trippy ‘rock with a slew of folk and Americana influence flowing back and forth between sci-fi freakouts (“Skin the Dawn). Choosing to soar in the cosmos with their chilled-out sound leading their foray through galactic exploration, this outfit shares its time wisely both in space and on a southern plantation, hopeful to build that ever-elusive bridge between the two via their unique sound.
www.teepeerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Fall Of The Albatross,"Entanglement" (Self-released)
Schizophrenic Queens, NY quintet Fall of the Albatross serve up a soulful smorgasbord of eclectic heaviness as heard on their six-track 26-minute excursion ENTANGLEMENT. Fusing mind-blowing funk, smooth jazz, headstrong progressive rock and blistering technical metal into a surprisingly tidy package, this troupe of versatile musicians exhibit an adept ability to seamlessly shift styles despite their ADD-riddled nuances (“Mace”) to comprise cohesive songs that captivate the senses (“Enjoy Yo’Self”). Not just another band that mixes a few elements of different music together to form their own sound, Fall of the Albatross intertwines an arsenal of wise beyond their years musical knowledge and prowess together to form a jawdropping listening experience custom made for the adventurous ear.
www.fallofthealbatross.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Weekend Nachos,"Worthless" (Relapse)
Chicago squad Weekend Nachos unloads a punishing 14-track endeavor that combines the brevity of grindcore, the annihilation of powerviolence, and the viscosity of sludge entitled WORTHLESS. Discovered as soon as the d-beat drum pattern drops on album opener “Hometown Hero”, this album’s unbridled aggression propels a jagged sense of disdain via endless streams of harshly delivered screams over a plethora of rapid fire riffs and bombastic bass rumblings that consistently keep things loud and heavy. Able to both slow the pace to near doom metal proportions as well as whip up a frenzied attack, Weekend Nachos dole out an extreme metal ambush chock full of the voracious velocity and brutal breakdowns that will surely catch the attention of those who enjoy a more abrasive metallic approach.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Heirs,"Fowl" (Denovali)
At a quick listen of the seven-track sophomore effort FOWL, Australian instrumental quartet Heirs seem to owe a bit of gratitude to both Isis and Neurosis, as this relatively new act definitely demonstrates many €of the heady traits from both squads while brewing their own cranial cramming concoction of skull bashing oddities laden with cascading melodies and well-textured build-ups. Implementing much of their sound and fury from the aforementioned units, this band also exhibits an impressive industrial edge that gets repetitive without being boring with a resonant dark rock aura underneath, juxtaposing seminal acts Godflesh and Swans to form a modern slant on avant-garde heaviness. While the lack of vocals may find it hard for listeners to latch on to, Heirs have created an adventurous album brimming over with an unsettling quirkiness for folks that enjoy the more experimental elements of metal.
www.heir.com.au
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ikillya,"Recon" (Self-released)
The heavy music scene in NYC is enjoying resurgence of late and Ikillya is one of the many talented acts involved in this Big Apple groundswell. The troupe’s latest endeavor RECON renders a monstrous 10-track melodic metal meltdown, combining the technical aggression of Lamb of God with the contagious fury of Devildriver to comprise a high-octane hybrid of thrash, death and metalcore. Fusing intricate fretwork and brawny bass (“Razorblades”), balls to the wall ferocity, and memorable hook-laden heaviness, Ikillya keeps their pace quick yet bruising, maintaining a thrash metal backbeat which allows the band’s fits of rage to be properly exhibited while Jason Lekberg’s rabid vocals lead the rush (“Escape Plan”). If you dig modern metal taken from the Pantera family tree, Ikillya is right up your alley.
www.ikillya.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vried,"V" (The End)
Norwegian squad Vreid steps their game up considerably on the unit’s properly titled fifth effort V, importing a wealth of influence from a bevy of both predictable and left of center sources to bolster their brand of ambitious black metal (“The Sound of the River”). Implementing a slew of styles from black ‘n roll (“Fire on the Mountain”) to ethereal (“Then We Die”), this quartet formed from the ashes of Windir mixes their maelstrom of malice up with volatile degrees of variation from folk-inflected serenity to mayhem-inducing rage to comprise a richly textured nine-track extreme metal endeavor. Armed with a bountiful bunch of changes in shape and feel without disarming the harsh tones and bold presence of black metal, Vreid pushes past genre constraints to create a marvelous display of forward thinking black metal that fans of Opeth and former tourmates Enslaved would definitely approve of.
www.vreid.no
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Assaulter,"Boundless!" (Metal Blade)
Australian trio Assaulter pays homage to the darker edge of NWOBHM with their eight-track blackened thrash presentation entitled BOUNDLESS! This disc showcases a gritty and raw sound taken from the archives of Celtic Frost and Kreator with a primitive corpsepainted vocal rasp and the kind of menacing rhythms and demonic riffs that get the blood pumping and the neighbors nervous fueling the band (“Slave to King”). Despite this squad’s lineage (Assaulter features former members of Destroyer 666 and Razor of Ocam), Assaulter decisively dials in an old school sound complete with authentically lo-fi production values to comprise a solid yet unspectacular affair geared primarily for purists from metal’s first wave of aggression and brutality.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Charetta,"A Nation Distracted" (Self-released)
NYC female fronted quintet Charetta doles out an emotionally charged five-song excursion demonstrating this burgeoning unit’s modern rock wares on A NATION DISTRACTED. A powerful vocal presence of Angelina DelCarmen coupled with the combination of the band’s hard-hitting mainline metallic riffs and driving rhythms channel an amalgamation of Chevelle, Sevendust, and Evanescence (“Fighting Blind”) while a barrage of dramatic songwriting nuances and sweeping transitions assist this group to take their music to the next level (“Lights Out”). Charetta’s latest musical output displays a handle on the mid tempo malaise that commercial hard rock radio craves while containing a bevy of heavy hooks poised for mass adulation.
www.charetta.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mongrel,"Declamation" (Self-released)
Mongrel is a seasoned Boston-based band that, like most bands in the DIY underground that have stuck it out through thick and thin, has seen its share of ups and downs throughout their tenure. Yet this undaunted troupe always comes back hitting just as hard as ever, even when the chips are down as indicated on their latest five-track EP DECLAMATION. Losing a lead singer is always a very tricky situation to overcome, yet Mongrel recruited powerhouse Jessica Sierra to join the fold and seem to have regained any steam they lost in the process (“All Coming Down”) while administering some of their heaviest riffs to date to boot (“Fucked it All Away”). This punk-metal quartet rolls with the punches and puts out the kind of music that they want, a blend of melodic heaviness with a spiky edge that allows them the conviction to pull off a cover of “Dig Up Her Bones” by The Misfits off as well as present their bold blend of punk and metal.
www.mongrelband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Blitzkid,"Apparational" (People Like You)
Blitzkid does an admirable job of juxtaposing unavoidably contagious pop-punk with horror punk attributes on their latest offering APPARATIONAL. With obvious influence of bands like Misfits and AFI (“Moonlite Vein”) at the forefront of this veteran squad’s repertoire (“The Perfect Sleep”), Blitzkid’s rehashed style is durable and produced well but worlds away from groundbreaking, sounding a little too much like the artists they aim to emulate at times. Nonetheless, this unit provides a slightly nefarious nostalgia trip through 90’s punk rock a la Alkaline Trio and Lagwagon (“The Bat Whispers”) that old school Warped Tour attendees should have no problem getting down with.
www.peoplelikeyourecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Acephalix,"Interminable Night" (Southern Lord)
D-beat destruction meets death metal deviance on INTERMINABLE NIGHT, the savage seven-track affair from California’s Acephalix. Welcoming crust metal, Swedish death, and hardcore punk into their sphere of influence with open arms and broken bones (“Warm Flesh”), this quartet repeatedly draws from the bag of old school extreme metal tricks to relentlessly hammer out track after track of filth-laden brutality, adroitly accentuating every blood-curdling bellow and punishing rhythmic pattern with enough venom and vitriol to maintain the heightened level of malevolence (“IN Arms of Nothing”) that is carried throughout this short and swift assault. Acephalix has produced a solid slab of metal steeped in the mindset of the days of yore and custom made for those prefer the nasty and grimy underbelly on the spectrum.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Across Tundras,"Sage" (Neurot)
A band who describes their sound as containing psychedelic country and western doom metal may sound like a mess to experience just by reading the description, yet the seasoned troupe Across Tundras intertwine the styles with their usual cinematic grace on latest affair SAGE. This seven-track release (the band’s first for new label Neurot) once again carefully mixes dollops of desolate prairie drone metal with an Americana twist (“Buried Arrows”), throwing in dashes of sludgy cowpunk and dusty spaghetti western elements in to arrive at an authentic Southwestern flavor with a shaman-esque vibe that allows the music to transcend towards something more spiritual than what appears on the surface (“Hijo de Desierto”). Effortlessly doling out melancholic melodies that reveal the secrets of the plains with an enhanced presence of the ceremonious sounds of Native American music, this trio mash it all up with their wistful potpourri of ethereal rock nuances to create an edgy and haunting mix of traditional folk with an organic heaviness derived from the stoner/doom side of the spectrum (“Tchulu Junction”).
www.neurot.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Seven Witches,"Call Upon The Wicked" (Candlelight)
Seven Witches is back with their latest endeavor CALL UPON THE WICKED. Rejoining Jack Frost and company this time around is James Rivera, whose high-pitched wailing vocals set the tone for this 12-track release, assisting the thrashing backbeat and sharp riffs in liberally borrowing from all things Judas Priest to create this 60-minute metal marathon. Chock full of histrionic vocals and blazing solos with a touch of progressive metal’s inexplicable buoyancy, the latest album by Seven Witches serves up a hearty batch of durable heavy metal that offers few surprises but yields a whole lot of room for headbanging and horn throwing (“End of Days”).
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sylosis,"Edge Of The Earth" (Nuclear Blast)
UK modern metal troupe Sylosis return with a dramatic shift in their lineup, as they’ve ditched their singer and now operate as a quartet with the guitarist assuming the vocal duties as well as the tactful six-string shredding. Despite the turmoil, this squad delivers a mauling multi-faceted metal assault that fuses Bay Area thrash and Euro melodeath with an endless supply of the stellar musicianship present-day metal demands on EDGE OF THE EARTH. Pounding out with explosive movements of double barrel aggression without sacrificing technical prowess (“Empyreal”), Sylosis administers a fine amalgamation of growling heaviness, blistering fretwork, and forward thinking compositions to strike a medium between Trivium, Arsis, and Scar Symmetry (“Kingdom of Solitude”), making this 14-track tour de force something worth checking out for those who enjoy today’s metal sound.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Trap Them,"Darker Handcraft" (Prosethetic)
Frantic grindcore trio Trap Them does an exemplary job of keeping their music ensconced in the nefarious clutches of metal’s seething underbelly as heard on latest release DARKER HANDCRAFT. Meshing pulsating D-beat drums with ‘90s Swedish death metal buzzsaw guitars (“The Facts”), Trap Them merge dark, heavy, and catchy (“Evictionaries”) to create a maelstrom of unsettling uneasiness. Possessing the ability to punish both with velocity (“Saintpeelers”) or a dreaded slow crawl (“Scars Align”), Trap Them has developed an organically derived form of misanthropy that provides the perfect soundtrack to obliteration. If you dig Converge, Cursed, and Entombed, this is your new favorite album.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Radio Dead Ones,"AAA" (SPV)
Berlin, Germany is the hometown of the punk unit Radio Dead Ones, a raucous quartet whose sophomore effort AAA vitalizes the purity of the punk rock aesthetic with 15 bare bones tracks of no frills come as you are and do as you please rebellion (“Emerging Market:”). Displaying a knack for knocking out the kind of rabble-rousing songs perfectly crafted for both the club or the pub (“Angelina”), Radio Dead Ones emit an oi punk vibe full of reckless abandon with an abundance of dirty gang vocals and unpretentious street punk attitude (“Marry Me or Bury Me”) that offers a refreshingly filthy antithesis to what gets passed around as punk rock in this day and age.
www.spv.de
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Xibalba,"Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias" (Southern Lord)
Southern California quintet Xibalba demonstrates how to administer a deliberate and destructive downtuned modern metal beatdown of the highest order on the 12-track affair MADRE MIA GRACIAS POR LOS DIAS. Punishing listeners with barrages of syrupy low end fury (“We Deserve to Die”), this troupe combine bruising West Coast grooves of Will Haven with a flurry of dark and ferocious hardcore and metal tendencies that repeatedly kick the listener in the head without an ounce of remorse (“Obituary”). Throwing everything from flamenco acoustic guitars to a trying amount of plodding audio savagery into their malicious blend of abrasive extreme metal, Xibalba exhibits an impressive array of brutal breakdowns that appeal to the lowest common denominator dudes and chicks that need to bleed as much as those who want to rip their face clean off their skull (“Cursed”). While Xiblaba treads a well-documented musical ground stocked with dozens of both pretenders and contenders, their hybrid brand of massive buildups and wrecking ball breakdowns never bypass the underlying groove (“Time’s Up”), giving this album the edge over their sound-a-like-minded peers in the songwriting department and making this disc something to spin when black clouds hover.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Twisted Tower Dire,"Make It Dark" (Cruz Del Sur)
Virginia’s traditional heavy metal mavens Twisted Tower Dire have been toiling in the underground for over 15 years, plying their craft of producing histrionically rousing anthems directly derived from the ‘80s metal playbook. This quintet’s latest album MAKE IT DARK showcases the stellar skill set this troupe has acquired through the years with eight tracks of hard hitting melodic metal that will have you digging through your closet to break out your old school denim jacket with all the patches on the back in no time. Delivering a worthy checklist of elements from dexterous twin guitars (“White Shadow”) to a powerful lead vocal presence guiding the music through lands of enchantment and wonder (“Snow Leopard”) to an upbeat power metal vibe permeating throughout the album’s duration (“Torture Torture”), if you long for the days of Priest and Maiden in their heyday, Twisted Tower Dire is a band that warrants your attention.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vomitory,"Opus Mordi VIII" (Metal Blade)
Swedish death metal veterans Vomitory celebrate their 20-plus years in the extreme scene with latest release OPUS MORDI VIII, a savage yet blatantly unoriginal 10-track affair. Citing Slayer, Bolt Thrower, Vader, and the early Florida death metal scene as influence, this quartet picks and chooses through the vast vault of past metal glories to comprise their version of death metal depravity, often times bordering on out and out plagiarism as a result. Nonetheless, if you can get past Vomitory’s obvious tributes to their inspirations and total lack of creativity, then strap yourself in and enjoy this squad doing what they do best, replicating the pummeling percussive work, dastardly guitars, ground shaking bass, and raspy vocal growls to evoke obligatory comparisons to the pioneers of the genre.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Backslider/ Nimbus Terrifix,"Split CD" (Give Praise)
Two of Pennsylvania’s more expedient and abrasive bands team up for a split 7” release, as Backslider from The City of Brotherly Love and Nimbus Terrifix from Scranton join forces to share their metallic viewpoints with nine-tracks running a little over 11 minutes. Up first is Backslider, a slow and low guitar and drum duo whose hazy take on hardcore punk fluctuates in between blistering grind, caustic crust and deliberately paced doom metal. Nimbus Terrifix enters next with a lot more static and chaos, striking with spiky riffs and spastic rhythms with an alarming array of elasticity that stretches from floor punching hardcore to adventurously composed punk-tinged freakouts brazen with odd time signatures and a freewheeling vocalist at the helm. If you dig heavy music that borders on crazy and have 11 minutes to spare, this split release will hit the spot.
www.givepraiserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hail! Hornet,"Disperse The Curse" (Relapse)
Hail! Hornet is a quartet featuring an all-star lineup of T-Roy Medlin (Sourvein),“Dixie” Dave Collins (Weedeater), Vince Burke (Beaten Back to Pure), and Erik Larson (Alabama Thunderpussy, Birds of Prey) whose 11-track effort DISPERSE THE CURSE demonstrates the level of excellence and confidence a band labeled as a supergroup should exude. Bombastic bass and thunderous drums lead this unit’s surge from the crust-laden underground (“Blacked Out in Broad Daylight”) while an incessant barrage of gargantuan riffs and scathing vocals (“Dullards Creed”) keeps the atmosphere brutal throughout (“Shoot the Pigs”). Providing an arsenal of suffocating compositions chock full of misanthropic slow crawls of sludge (“Disperse the Curse”, “Kill The Liars”) with a sufficient share of good old southern rock jams crammed in (“Beast of Bourbon”), Hail! Hornet delivers a seething blend of downtrodden metal with dollops of backwoods charm and unsurpassed ferocity.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Impiety,"Advent Of..." (Pulverised)
Singapore’s most brutal export Impiety blast out a three-song EP entitled ADVENT OF…, doling out another round of the blasphemous death metal this troupe has administered for nearly two decades. From the hyper-speed title track, it’s pretty evident that this prolific and punishing squad is not veering off the script and intends to obliterate everything in their path with their trademarked bevy of pummeling drums and tremolo picked savagery at the forefront of their blackened assault (“Ave Satanas”). Providing a perfect stopgap between full-length releases, this endeavor finds Impiety continuing their tireless quest to spread evil around the globe with their blend of raw metallic aggression.
www.pulverised.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Exes For Eyes,"The Amsler Grid" (Year Of The Sun)
Canadian troupe Exes for Eyes fuse gritty groove metal a la Pantera and Pro-Pain with the synthetic modern metal styling of bands like Scar Symmetry and Soilwork on their nine-track debut THE AMSLER GRID. While this unit’s durable stance isn’t exactly fresh or groundbreaking, this outfit does an admirable job of shifting mood and tempo to include intriguing interludes in between their sledgehammer riffs and driving rhythms (“Romanticize the Struggle”, “A Horrible Mistake”), all the while balancing both melody and sheer heaviness to comprise a predictable yet enjoyable strand of metal that you can both sing along to and bang your head to (“Dig for Higher Ground”). Keeping things simple yet effectively heavy throughout (“Stop Thinking, Start Feeling”), Exes for Eyes showcase a potpourri of heavy sounds that fans of the aforementioned bands should have no problem digging.
www.yearofthesun.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Aurvandil,"Yearning" (Eisenwald)
Aurvandil is a one-man black metal project from France whose authentically chilling take on genre subtleties commandeers attention from both longtime fans and new ears as heard on the nine-track YEARNING. From a pervasive supply of haunting acoustic guitar (“Walking”) with both melancholic majestic overtures (“I Summon Scorn”) and underground acrid abrasiveness (“Gylfi’s Journey”, “End of An Age”) creating the well-textured depressive assault, Aurvandil captures the sorrow with a well-balanced presentation of netherworldly harshness and glacial melody to leave the listener a lasting impression of dread and despair (“Reign of Ice I”). If you’re in the mood to be down and out with a black metal backbeat, this disc is a perfect soundtrack to perpetuate the desired forlorn atmosphere.
www.loomofthevoid.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Conny Ochs,"Raw Love Songs" (Exile On Mainstream)
Conny Ochs is a German singer songwriter whose 10-track excursion RAW LOVE SONGS is aptly titled for this starkly produced collection of bare bones emotionally charged songs. Featuring only a man and his guitar sans a few deviations like the occasional harmonica and percussion accoutrement (“Don’t Know Her Name”), Ochs shores up his influence via a firm foundation of American folk and stripped to the bone acoustic rock (with an pronounced emphasis on rock) to pour his heart into the microphone while passionately strumming the guitar (“Burn Burn Burn”). Sounding a lot like an episode of MTV Unplugged from the grunge era, RAW LOVE SONGS is an album for the coffeehouse set with an undercurrent of rock ‘n roll edginess permeating through both Ochs’ simple and effective guitarwork and poignant and powerful vocal presence.
www.mainstreamrecords.de
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ipsissimus,"The Way Of Descent" (Metal Blade)
New Haven, CT black metal trio Ipsissimus summon up a maelstrom of malcontent on their six-track release THE WAY OF DESCENT. Juxtaposing blood curdling shrieks and tumultuous tempo shifts with savage grace, this act vehemently defends the dark side of the metal spectrum by stringently following the tried and troo black metal playbook to form a predictable yet convincing slab of fast and heavy music with a purely evil disposition. Featuring incessant bouts of blistering guitarwork and cacophonous chaos rivaling some of the best from Norway and Sweden’s finest, Ipsissimus declares war on your senses with their blasphemous blend of bold black metal whose harsh tones and demonic cadence is sure to cause a disturbance within your head.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Believer,"Transhuman" (Metal Blade)
One of the pioneers of progressive death metal along side Cynic and Athiest, Pennsylvania’s Believer follow up their comeback album GABRIEL two years later with TRANSHUMAN, a 12-track affair that marks this quartet’s quest for excellence. Diminishing their thrashier elements in favor of a pronounced technically advanced progressive metal attack complete with a rash of keyboard and synth accoutrements (“Currents”) and a wealth of discernibly cleaner vocals that will leave long time fans surprised, this squad blends their sense of adventure into their forward thinking metallic arsenal like never before to develop a new level of intrigue within their already challenging music. But fret not, Believer still showcases the wares to hammer out gnarly old school thrash when necessary (“Clean Room”), just not as often as some of their earlier works or as rabid fans may approve of. Nonetheless, Believer maintains an undeniable sense of heaviness (“Being No One”) while enjoying the luxury to go off on tangents and discover new musical directions to share with their loyal fan base, demonstrating another successful shift from a band that perennially aims to go above and beyond their prior offerings.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Seven Sisters Of Sleep,"Seven Sisters Of Sleep" (Southern Lord)
Bruising Los Angeles squad Seven Sisters of Sleep administer a smorgasbord of caustic sludge hardcore on their eponymous eight-track excursion. Dark and heavy, this album rumbles with damaging low-end ferocity (“Passed Out Standing”), carefully treading the line between volatile hardcore punk (“Swamp”) and oppressive sludge metal (“Tide is Rising”). Mixing slowcore tempos into the mayhem to give off a NOLA-esque metallic edge (“Christmas Morning”), Seven Sisters of Sleep have created a familiar yet rewarding brand of unsettling music drawn from a wide pallet of abrasive aggression and uncompromising heaviness.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ancestors,"Invisible White" (Tee Pee)
Ancestors take a radical turn towards psychedelic rock on their latest three-song endeavor INVISIBLE WHITE. This Los Angeles based unit decreases their metallic output dramatically in favor of a trip-laden, discernibly mellower Pink Floyd-esque flavor (“Epilogue”), completed by a wealth of soothing atmospheric keyboards and a pronounced set of echoed vocals (“Dust”) prominently displayed in each song’s fabric. Despite featuring only three songs, two of the songs run over seven minutes while the last clocks in a little over 14 minutes, definitely giving listeners a bang for their buck. Comprising a hypnotically repetitive post metal vibe with trip-laden experimental overtones, Ancestors may be deemed a bit too complacent for the average metal fan for those with patience and a predilection of the avant-garde are bound to find common ground here.
www.teepeerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Primordial,"Redemption At The Puritans Hand" (Metal Blade)
Ireland’s premiere metal export Primordial are a veteran unit who have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity thanks to the bold and brooding brand of emotionally-wrought pagan metal they have crafted for over two decades as heard on latest release REDEMPTION AT THE PURITANS HAND. Decisively less upbeat and ornate than their peers, Primordial dexterously demonstrates the proper way to strip to bare bones melodies and gritty guitarwork without eliminating any of the structural grandiosity necessary to maintain the epic feel of each composition (“Lain with the Wolf”, “The Mouth of Judas”). Skillfully serving folk and pagan metal without a trace of the bells and whistles most bands in the genre over-employ, Primordial deliver a foreboding sense of Celtic and traditional metallic darkness directly derived from metal’s pagan and folk underbelly on their latest eight-track album.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Symfonia,"In Paradisum" (V2)
The lineup of power metal supergroup Symfonia reads like a who’s who of the genre, as former members of powerhouse groups Stratovarius, Angra, Helloween, and Sonata Artica have joined forces to take the world over with a preposterous penchant for pomposity on their debut nine-track endeavor IN PARADSIUM. Over the top from tip to tail, this presentation produces more cheese than the state of Wisconsin in a month’s time, totally overloading on clichéd bombast (“Forevermore”) from commercial hard rock and hair metal to develop a triumphant strand of power metal whose superfluous supply of rousing melodies and vocal histrionics are undeniably stuffed with saccharine (“Alayna”) yet contain an abundance of the kind of stellar virtuoso-esque musicianship that packs a punch amidst the typical power metal balderdash.
www.symfonia.fl
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Shakra,"Back On Track" (AFM)
Switzerland’s hard rock machine Shakra return and comes back out swinging on their latest album, the 13-track BACK ON TRACK. Even though Shakra has undergone a lead singer shakeup, this release hasn’t deviated too far away from the seasoned unit’s hard rock and commercial metal foundation, sticking to their tried and true formula of writing melodic metal bursting with humongous hooks accompanied by rounds of snarling guitars (“MMTWGR”). Attaining an admirable level of consistency throughout their tenure by keeping their sound protected from most modern influences in the hard rock realm, Shakra is a proven commodity that you can rely to turn towards when you need a buffer between your Firehouse, Winger and old school Def Leppard listening sessions (“Yesterday’s Gone”).
www.afmrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Suidakra,"Book Of Dowth" (AFM)
German metal veterans Suidakra’s tenth album BOOK OF DOWTH demonstrates this experienced troupe’s unwavering ability to drum up reliably rousing blackened folk metal (“Fury Fomoraigh”). Merging Celtic elements and traditional instrumentation with a menagerie of heavy influences, this trio mixes up mood and atmosphere well, effortlessly shifting from somber introspection (“Birog’s Oath”) to classically influenced folk (“Stone of Seven Suns”) to hostile melodic death metal (“Dowth 2059”) with conviction, cleverly alternating styles to create a listening experience ripe with hard to overlook cinematic overtones. If you are partial to the dramatic side of the metal spectrum, Suidakra’s latest 10-track release provides an abundance of exhilarating metal laden with intensity.
www.afmrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Baptists,"Baptists" (Southern Lord)
Grinding hardcore from Vancouver, Canada is what the band Baptists unleash on their ferocious eponymous four-track debut. A dash of Converge, a pinch of Napalm Death, and a smidgen of Black Flag are just some of the ingredients this unit sweetens its caustic brew of malevolence with, and while it’s a safe bet that followers of this particular style are most likely well-versed enough to be accustomed to hearing the combination of speed, fury, and explosiveness Baptists dole out, the relentless flow of this short and sweet endeavor raises the levels of brutal brevity into a decisively more ornery and nasty realm.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Untimely Demise,"City Of Steel" (Sonic Unyon)
Canadian upstarts Untimely Demise display a predilection for thrash with a slashing melodic death metal edge on their seven-track affair CITY OF STEEL. Meshing the modern day skull crushing tactics of Skeletonwitch with a hearty smattering of the sonic explosions from the classic Bay Area thrash metal scene, this troupe provides an up to date interpretation of velocity and aggression with a blackened attitude permeating through the double bass blasts (“Hunting Evil”) and expedient guitar chugging (“Streets of Vice”). Despite a skewed sense of identity, Untimely Demise bust out of the gate armed with the forward thinking chops and chaotic structures to evoke comparisons to bands like Death, Testament, Exodus, and Carcass, extracting a menacing menagerie of heaviness from a bevy of top-line influences to comprise their colossal slice of metal.
www.sonicunyon.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Harm's Way,"Isolation" (Closed Casket Activities)
Even though they are labeled as a hardcore band, menacing Chicago outfit Harm’s Way doles out a punishing blend of crust metal and sludgy metalcore that mercilessly pours on the pain on their eight-track offering ISOLATION. Exhibiting a thick low-end attack with a vitriolic vocalist leading this squad’s venomous aural assault, this troupe displays a fair amount of Hatebreed-esque violence-inducing chugfests (“Breeding Grounds”) with a dastardly D-beat disposition (“Isolation”) and a curious penchant for Ringworm-like doom-laden explorations (“Becoming’), creating a foreboding atmosphere straight from the darkest corners of the moshpit. Projecting an abundance of hostility with a solid yet simply delivered dose of brutality, Harm’s Way melds modern hardcore aggressiveness with a predictable yet effective bludgeoning assault to form a slightly redundant yet completely crushing musical experience.
www.closedcasketactivities.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Pentagram,"Last Rites" (Metal Blade)
Doom metal pioneers Pentagram latest offering LAST RITES features the reuniting of hard-living and hard-luck frontman Bobby Leibling with longtime guitarist Victor Griffin after over a decade, culminating in the graceful and powerful 11 tracks that adorn this release. Pentagram delved through their vast archive of unfinished business to gather a wealth of this collection’s material, unearthing nearly three decades of tracks for Griffin’s soulful six-string delivery (“Walk in Blue Light”, “American Dream”) and Lebling’s commanding croon (“Treat Me Right”, “Into the Ground”) to majestically re-stake their claim at the top of the doom metal heap. Despite a tumultuous history of lineup changes and Leibling’s well-documented substance abuse issues, this latest installment of Pentagram finds the band reinvigorated with the spirit of doom and all members cleans and sober to properly deliver that scintillating spark of metallic magic (“8”) as only the pairing of two complimentary elements can muster.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Peste Noire,"L'Ordure A L'Etat Pur" (Transcendental Creations)
French black metal unit Peste Noire pushes the boundaries of avant-garde on their latest five-track affair L’ORDURE A L’ETAT PUR. Clocking in at 60 minutes, this album schizophrenically morphs its misanthropic black metal roar into a plethora of off the wall musical diversions from operatic female vocals to accordion-based carnival music, creating an intriguing yet disjointed flow bound to alienate purists from the get-go. Add in an adventurous set of vocals that stray far from the left hand path and it’s pretty much a guarantee that this unorthodox outfit will receive a polarizing reaction from the hordes of the netherworld. Nevertheless, Peste Noire does deliver a bevy of black metal malaise within their cinematically ready long, strange trips through the forests and the tundra but not nearly enough to rise above the novelty act ranks.
www.transcendentalcreations.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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