Music Reviews: NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2011

Joe Matera,"Slave To The Fingers" (Self-released)
Engaging all instrumental record from this Aussie guitarist/songwriter. Tight arrangements and clean and cool guitar lines that move along nicely. The rhythm section supports the guitar without being overbearing. “Out Of The Blue” and “Face-Off” are my favorites here. Fluid and groove based everyone should check this record out.
www.joematera.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Various Artists,"Sing For Your Meat-A Tribute To Guided By Voices" (No More Fake Labels)
I know there are enough tribute records out there to choke a horse, but this one is a keeper. 17 tunes that do justice to the GBV legacy. Thurston Moore, Kelley Deal and Lou Barlow do some cool renditions here. I dig Supergrass’s “A Salty Salute”, where he even sounds like Uncle Bob at the beginning! Jason Isbell’s run on “Everywhere With Helicopter” is very heartfelt as well. Buy the CD and you get a link to a digital companion EP with 6 more songs and 27 more minutes of music. Bonus!
www.nomorefakelabels.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Warren Zanes,"I Want To Move Out In The Daylight" (Self-released)
New album from the former Del Fuegos guitarist. Atmospheric, moody, and catchy all at the same time. The songs are quick but to the point, they will end up sticking in your head for awhile. “That Looks Good To me” could be a new holiday favorite. But “Weaves and Drifts” and “Black Soot” are also stand-out tracks here. Hope he has some time for some more solo shows next year in between Del Fuegos tour dates. Pick this one up.
www.warren-zanes.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Rejection Fetish,"Dead Psalms" (Self-released)
From the frozen tundra of Racine, WI comes this rockin’ slab o’ tunes of the punk rock variety. Crunchy guitars, relentless drums and in your face vocals makes this one a real treat. It’s not for the faint of heart, as titles like “Psychotic Gynecologist” can attest. But if you like your rock with a dash of danger, than you need this one. Looking for new stuff from this band soon.
www.myspace.com/rejectionfetish
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Sproton Layer,"With Magnetic Fields Disrupted" (World In Sound Records)
A lost classic from the 1970’s get a sprucing up here on this re-issue. From the wilds of Michigan came this band that featured three brothers-Roger, Ben and Larry Miller. Roger would go on to front Mission of Burma. But from 1969-1970 this four piece blazed a wild sound that sounded like a space-age mix of Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett inviting a trumpet player (in this case-Harold Kirchen) to jam. There are 12 songs here and they will all expand your headspace-that’s guaranteed. Greg Ginn released this on New Alliance Records in 1991. But since he doesn’t believe in updating his back catalog, this German label raised the flag. The remastered sound is punchy and intense. Plus there is a booklet packed with updated information on the band. Get this; let it sink in to your bloodstream. Then look for a “new” release from this band in 2012.
www.sprotonlayer.yolasite.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


The Smithereens,"2011" (Entertainment One Music)
First new record of original material from these Jersey rockers in quite awhile. The proceedings start off with a bang with “Sorry.” Andrew Loog Oldham says the ending chorus ruins the song for him. He couldn’t be more wrong! It actually makes this song even more memorable. ‘Keep On Running” and “Viennese Hangover” are also some killer tracks here. Don Dixon keeps the sonic sheen up to his gold standards here. The band rocks as a whole and the songwriting is once again top notch. Don’t let this one slip through your fingers!
www.officialsmithereens.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Peter Lacey,"We Are The Sand" (Pink Hedgehog)
I just got back from a couple of days in rural America, nowhere near the beach. I had no internet or cell phone reception, but guess what I did have? The song, "We Are The Sand" was playing over an over in my mind (without my iPod mind you). That pretty much sums up the music of Peter Lacey - his songs enter your subconscious, attaching itself to some magical, musical synapses in the brain, until you'd swear it was a classic that you've heard for years. This after maybe three whole listens to the CD. The song, "We Are The Sand" leads off the CD of the same name, and it is Peter Lacey's 8th album. This time, Peter collaborates with both Stephen Kalinich and David Beard (Editor of Endless Summer Quarterly) as his songwriting team. The CD plays like a radio show, starting with the announcement,"LAC-FM on your radio dial, with new and improved Lacey-vision!" Like 1967's, "The Who Sell Out", the disc contains radio commercials and announcements in between songs.

This is truly a "song cycle" (In fact "Our song cycle" are the lyrics in "Full Circle") which touches on: and elemental/seasonal theme; a maritime theme; philosophy ("This is the path to freedom..." from "Notes From Cornwall Pt. 1"); and youth and age in the cycle of life. Lacey returns to his Brian Wilson influences, with Beach Boys references found throughout, some in lyrics and some in sound. You hear a "Cabinessence"-like banjo on "Drinkin’ in the Sunshine" and the Pet Sounds-train sound effect on "Notes From Cornwall (Pt. 2)". Lyrically, are references such as, "Sunny down stuff" ("There’s a Feeling") and "The love that you give Returns to you" ("An Open Heart").

"We Are The Sand" is Peter Lacey's most ambitious effort to date and quite possibly his best album so far. If you are new to the Peter Lacey experience, THIS is the perfect album to get you hooked on his timeless songs!
www.pinkhedgehog.com
Rating:

Review by Ronnie



Art Institute,"People Like It When You Fail" (12" vinyl album) (Artificial Head)
The Houston trio, Art Institute combines the groove of Public Image, the vocals of David Byrne, the synths of Kraftwerk with a sometimes heavy dose of punk sensibility. Are they punk rock for the intelligent? Well, with bizarre song topics, fascinating and sometimes confusing lyrics - your guess is as good as mine if the lyrics are parody or social commentary? Art Institute keeps you guessing (both lyrically and melodically), and that is what is so great about them.
The vinyl album ends with a roulette song (remember Monty Pythons "Tie & Handkerchief" vinyl album?) - it will play one of two songs, depending on where the needle lands. The cover art by Raymond Pettibon evokes those cool Black Flag album cover of the '80s. "People Like It When You Fail" will remind those that can remember what a great vinyl album was like.
Question: Are we not punk rock?
Answer: We are Art Institute!
artinstitute.bandcamp.com
Rating:

Review by Ronnie


The Beach Boys,"The Smile Sessions" (5-CD version) (Capitol)
It only took 44 years, but we know have an official version of The Beach Boys Smile with "The Smile Sessions", sanctioned by The Beach Boys Inc. With 40+ bootleg Smile CDs (not counting tons of "fan mixes") in my collection, I was definitely underwhelmed at the scant uncovered gems that the box set supplied. However, the box set does put to rest one persistent myth - Smile was UNFINISHED - there was NOT just mixing left to do in 1967. So much for the, “album that would have beat Sgt. Pepper” myth. Maybe that's why the box set includes so much extraneous stuff – to pad out the set. And, the "recreation" of Smile at the beginning pales in comparison to 2004’s, “Brian Wilson Presents Smile”. It gives me more appreciation for “BWPS”, which now stands as the definitive statement on SMiLE. The marketing behind the box set is pure, crass, capitalism at its finest. If you are a true SMiLE fanatic, you will have to purchase THREE variations to have all the audio. If the Beatles had done this kind of marketing on a recent project, they would have been crucified in the press!
IF The Smile Sessions box set had been released in the '90s, it would be considered a classic. But as it was with the original Smile - timing is everything. Maybe it is just the fate of Smile. The iconic words of Johnny Rotten best describe “The Beach Boys Smile Sessions”: "Ever feel like you've been cheated?"
For our full review, click here
www.thebeachboys.com
Rating:

Review by Ronnie


The Beatles (with Tony Sheridan),"First Recordings (50th Anniversary Edition)" (Universal Music)
In June 1961 in Hamburg, Germany, The Beatles made their first series of professional recordings, playing backup band for Tony Sheridan. Seven songs were recorded. In May of 1962, The Beatles once again recorded with Sheridan, with only two songs being recorded (Only "Sweet Georgia Brown" survived, as "Swanee River" has been lost). Over the years, these eight songs have been reissued in a multitude of versions. With this two disc set, you can now own ALL the recordings done by The Beatles for Polydor. You might ask, "How did they fill two CD's with only eight songs?" First, there is one mono disc and one stereo disc. Then, you have all the "variations" that have appeared over the years - when first released in America in 1964, someone thought that Pete Best's drums were inadequate, so a session drummer was brought in (There were also some guitar overdubs added by session musicians).
If you are not a huge Beatles fan, you might want to avoid this set – Their studio brilliance is not yet apparent. There is only one song (“Ain’t She Sweet”) that even has a Beatle singing lead (John), and there is only one Beatle original (by Lennon, Harrison) with the instrumental, “Cry For a Shadow”. But, if you are a big fan, this is your one-stop-shopping place for all the Hamburg tapes. You can now listen to the original Pete Best version and then the overdubbed American version to hear for yourself why the sacking of Best was the right decision. There is also a 34-page booklet included, with many Hamburg pictures, including the infamous “Beatles high on Preludin” pic.
At Amazon.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Ronnie


Injustice Down,"Smoke And Mirrors" (Self-released)
Hailing from Seguin, Texas, Injustice Down is a quartet that unashamedly evokes the very best of the hard rock '70s and '80s - but with a modern twist. Kind of a cross between Iron Maiden and Metalicca. With their debut disc, "Smoke And Mirrors", the band takes no prisoners, delivering an onslaught of 10 well written and arranged songs. But, this ain't your average band debut - the production is stellar! The guitar riffs shred, the bass and drums are powerful, and the voice of Carlos is one of the best metal voices I've heard in awhile. I can't wait to hear more from these guys and they are gonna have alot to live up to with a sequel!
www.injusticedown.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Ronnie


Face the King,"The Burning and the Falling Down" (Self-released)
This four piece Long Island band made up of former members of Seer, Stereo Serenade and The Mercurial, has managed to fill every track on their latest ep with soaring vocals and lush guitars. Sounding a bit like Bono fronting Radiohead, not that sounding like Bono fronting Radiohead is a bad thing, they just sound very much like an arena band to me. Their sound is polished and they have hooks in all the right places. Again, these are not bad things. I can easily picture them playing for a sea of people, guys with their girl on their shoulders, hands waving back and forth in the air, an occasional exposed breast. You get the picture.
www.facethekingband.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Neal Smith,"KillSmith Two" (Self-released)
It’s nice to know that even time hasn’t changed Billion Dollar Baby, Neal Smith. Smith was the drummer for Alice Cooper from 1967-1974. He’s still every bit the same twisted soul that pounded out the voodoo hoodoo on such classic albums as “Killer”, “School’s Out”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Muscle Of Love”. Back with more mayhem, his latest release is a mix of macabre lyrics and good old hard rock sensibility. After one listen it’s pretty obvious just how big a part he played on those classic AC albums. New songs like “Cemetery of the Damned”, “Evil Voodoo Moon”, “Die for the Night” and “Squeeze like a Python” fit right in with the classic “School’s Out”, “Under My Wheels” and “Cold Ethyl”. If you’re a fan of early Alice Cooper then you’re already a fan of “KillSmith Two”, even if you don’t own it yet.
www.nealsmithrocks.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Blue Moon Harem,"Finland" (Roadside Records)
Blue Moon Harem is a Boston based, pop/rock, acoustic/electric band that is as familiar and friendly to the ear as Hootie & the Blowfish or Darius Ruckers solo outings into country/pop. The band was formed by singer/songwriter Jonathan Bix and guitarist Demetri J over a decade ago. This 11 song cd titled “Finland” is the product of a lot of time and effort and it’s a disc I’m sure they’re proud of. It’s a very radio friendly album with mass appeal potential. “Stay”, “The Dotted Line” and “Shadows” are my favorite tracks but there’s really not a weak track on the whole album. Buy the cd, your girlfriend will love you for it.
www.bluemoonharem.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Verismo,"Falling Up The Stairs" (Self-released)
Verismo is a NYC unit who earn the right to be labeled a power trio thanks to the intriguing blend of thunderous rhythms and razor sharp riffs that comprise their latest four-track release FALLING UP THE STAIRS. No stranger to the Big Apple music scene, this seasoned squad dishes out their eclectic barrage of brooding heaviness adorned with a keen scope allowing their music to soar into the galaxy (“Stealing Chromies”) as effortlessly as carry out a thrashing ground and pound (“Failure”). Progressively minded and heavy-handed, this affair showcases a discernibly modern sense of production without sacrificing a second of headbanging goodness, resulting in an enjoyable album that fans of hard rock and metal’s more forward thinking acts will have no issues getting into.
www.verismometal.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Interstelar,"On Black Waves" (Self-released)
California quartet Interstelar display a penchant for composing heavy melodies with an edge on their five-track offering ON BLACK WAVES. Bursting with rounds of fiery guitars and tightly-wound driving rhythms (“Luxury Car”), this troupe meshes the earnest of Foo Fighters, the cadence of Helmet, the contagious hooks of Chevelle (“Drama Queen”) and a touch of the sinewy stoner rock muscle from 90’s acts such as Sugartooth and Smile (“Defined By Opposites”) to complete a bevy of pounding yet groovy compositions bound to keep the head bobbing.
www.bandcamp.com/album/onblackwaves
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Humana,"In Case Of Ear Discomfort" (Self-released)
Hailing from Chile, Humana draws their sound from a formula served straight from modern metal’s massive melting pot on their 10-track IN CASE OF EAR DISCOMFORT. Meshing nu-metal bludgeoning with the histrionics derived from the current wave of hard rock’s forward thinking units, Humana delivers a composite of melody with a slightly jaded disposition while displaying the wherewithal to flesh out memorable melodic parts through discernibly heavy frameworks. Rivaling the likes of Trapt and Three Days Grace with the sinister strike of 40 Below Summer and Mudvayne intertwined, Humana utilizes a bevy of electronics and effects to round out a sound that heavy music fans from the mid-90’s on will dig on.
www.humanaband.bandcamp.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Voices Of Extreme,"Break The Silence" (Metalville)
Voices of Extreme do an admirable job of showcasing a rough and tumble sound with oodles of melody on the New York-based quintet’s 10-track album BREAK THE SILENCE. Despite choosing a band name that completely misrepresents the style they deliver, this commercial metal outfit demonstrates solid songwriting chops dripping with emotion (“Break the Silence”) and an impressive lead vocal performance that carries the load with clarity and conviction (“Tell Me What It Takes”). Fitting snugly between the hip swinging swagger of Buckcherry and the tumultuous din of Avenged Sevenfold with an authentic aura of hard-edged melodic bands from the days of yore like Savatage, Love/Hate, and Ugly Kid Joe in tow, Voices of Extreme have developed a melding of old and new hard rock elements exhibiting versatility with a bite.
www.metalvillerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Eat The Gun,"Runner" (Metalville)
German trio Eat the Gun are no strangers to the rigors of rock ‘n roll, as this experienced troupe has some impressive tours and a few albums under their belt in their native land from nearly a decade in the scene. The squad’s latest affair RUNNER is their attempt to take the rest of the rock universe by storm and spread their simple yet effective rock to the masses. This 11-track disc interjects a mountain of muscle into their slightly sleazy but thankfully rarely cheesy sound, with an arsenal of no-frills riffs and a powerful percussive presence at the forefront. This act showcases a barrage of contagious hooks with distinguishable roots in the hair metal era (“I Am Obsessed”, “365”), parlaying an approach chock full of rousing tunes that gets the blood pumping (“Not Dead Yet”).
www.metalville.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Grifter,"Grifter" (Ripple)
Get ready for a dose of unapologetically blues-driven boogie gloriously dripping with attitude courtesy of Grifter. On their eponymous 11-track offering, this UK trio produces groove-laden tunes brimming over with soulful guitar work (“Preacher and the Devil”, “Bucktooth Woman”). Ripe with a menagerie of bad ass lyrics (“Unwelcome Guest”) and the sinewy stoner rock shuffle melding the freewheeling energy of Clutch, the cosmic crash of Nebula, and the raucous rock ‘n roll temperament of Motorhead (“Strip Club”), Grifter deliver a rebellious collection of hard rocking songs bound to shake listeners down to their core.
www.grifterrock.co.uk
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


World Under Blood,"Tactical" (Nuclear Blast)
Formed by CKY mainman Derrick Miller, World Under Blood is a melodic death metal project whose debut eight-track offering TACTICAL displays a comprehensive array of dastardly blast beats (courtesy of Tim Yeung), furious guitars (“I Can’t Stand His Name”,“ Pyro-Compulsive”) and a fondness for 90’s death metal in the vein of Death. Rounding out this quartet’s ferocious fretwork and flurries of percussive power with dashes of incongruous clean singing and melodies a bit too similar to Miller’s other work, World Under Blood still manages to administer a monstrous presence that fans of bands like Arch Enemy and Fear Factory will dig, yet the emphasis placed on vocal melodies creates polarizing elements that detract the album’s overall impact and are bound to turn hardline followers of extreme metal away.
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The New Black,"II: Better In Black" (AFM)
The New Black return with their sophomore effort, the aptly titled 12-track II: BETTER IN BLACK. While this German quintet offer very little in the originality department, their surprisingly Americanized hard rocking blend of dirty guitar grooves and catchy vocals finds a home in between the snarl of Black Label Society and the polish of Shinedown (“The King I Was”). Equipped with a colossal sound begging to be played in sports arenas and commercial radio (“My Favorite Disease”), this troupe builds their sound from the Nickelback paradigm (“Second Chance”) and backs it all up with a punch that fans of the aforementioned groups should heartily embrace.
www.afm-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Lies Beneath,"Death Of The American Dream" (Self-released)
NYC metal squad Lies Beneath exhibit a metalcore and thrash hybrid that packs a powerful punch of pummeling percussion with neck-snapping riffs aplenty on their 10-track album DEATH OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Fusing the soaring crush of Lamb of God, the progressive acumen of Nevermore, the dexterous twin-guitar assault of Shadows Fall, and the opaque melodies of Machine Head (“Acirema”), this unit whips up a maelstrom of melodic metal fury, topped off by a dynamic vocal delivery that supplies the histrionic hostility for songs like the modern thrash structured “Devil Beside You” and the chug-happy Pantera-esque title cut to reach their maximum impact levels. Lies Beneath provides a potpourri of contemporary heaviness boasting both strong songwriting savvy and well-executed performances to warrant the attention of fans of today’s post-thrash metal movement.
www.liesbeneath.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


End Of Level Boss,"Eklectric" (Exile On Mainstream)
Returning after a four-year hiatus, a rejuvenated End of Level Boss boasts a new lineup (only mainman H. Armstrong remains) and a celebration-worthy collective-effort entitled EKLECTRIC. This lauded underground UK squad perpetuates the same mixture of Soundgarden-esque grunge, psychedelically-enhanced progressive metal, and avant-garde stoner doom that has garnished the quartet accolades around the globe, highlighting this set of musical adventures with a heaping of syrupy guitars, soaring vocals, and unorthodox rhythmic patterns that elicit a Voivod-like aura (“If Not All”). Unleashing a captivating metallic crunch with a clinically executed cerebral edge (“As the Earth Forgets Us”), End of Level Boss have created a dynamic and complex slab of heavy music chock full of gargantuan grooves and forward-thinking musicianship.
www.elob.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Exhumed,"All Guts, No Glory" (Relapse)
California death metal veterans Exhumed are back with a vitriolic vengeance as heard on their first studio album in eight years, the 11-track ALL GUTS, NO GLORY. Matt Harvey and company strip the grinding gore-laced death metal they helped pioneer down to its most primal form, summoning the power of Slayer and Carcass simultaneously to arrive to the heightened level of devastation songs like “Dis-Assembly Line” and “Your Funeral, My Feast” conveys. Serving up a more streamlined sense of melody than previous offerings with their savage grindcore tendencies locked on overload (“I Rot Within”), Exhumed features an abundance of rousing solos and buzzsaw riffs aplenty that expertly play off of a devious twin vocal bombardment that assists the sonic crush of this depraved offering to fully fracture your skull (“As Hammer to Anvil”).
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gentlemans Pistols,"At Her Majesty's Pleasure" (Rise Above)
Purveyors for the preservation of heavy classic rock take note; there’s another band to get to know if you haven’t already. Their name is Gentlemans Pistols, a UK outfit that has been on the scene for a while now whose latest endeavor AT HER MAJESTY’S PLEASURE welcomes the succulent six-string sting of Bill Steer (ex-Carcass, Firebird) to the band, adding an extra layer of oomph to the group’s fortified structure of 70’s arena rock bombast anchored by blues-laden boogie rock predilection (“Lethal Woman”). Displaying a discernible NWOBHM influence with a penchant for breaking into soulfully introspective musical moments whenever it feels right (“Midnight Crawler”), revivalists of vintage metal sounds will absolutely love the latest version of the band and the muscular proto-metal minded music they effortlessly pump out (“Sherman Tank”).
www.riseaboverecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Isolation,"Closing A Circle" (Eisenwald)
Isolation trade in black metal malaise for listless post-rock atmosphere on their debut full-length affair CLOSING A CIRCLE. This German trio evokes a deluge of melancholy with every bass-heavy plodding song structure and redundantly predictable echo of musical dullness spearheading their deliberately bleak musical delivery (“Fan the Flames”). Devoid of any energy whatsoever, this 10-track disc renders an arduous listening experience for doom adoring downtrodden folks yet contains signatures of desperation that should be approached with the utmost caution by those on the brink of depressive actions.
www.myspace.com/churchofisolation
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Fear Is Dead,"Fear Is Dead" (Self-released)
On their eponymous five-track debut, NYC quartet Fear is Dead display a dynamic amalgamation of hip-hop and hard rock. Even though the rap-rock genre has been run into the ground, this squad adroitly avoids pitfalls from the past by combining a rash of tough as nails riffs (“Undead”), driving grooves from a monster rhythm section, and a strong and skillful flow on the microphone with a catchy and convincingly assertive cadence that meshes the imminence of Atmosphere with the earnest of Everlast (“Labor Pains”). Exhibiting solid compositions delivered with a confrontational sense of empowerment, Fear is Dead breathe much needed life into a fading style with a proper balance of head bobbing hard rock and brooding hip hop.
www.fearisdead.bandcamp.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Nami,"Fragile Alighments" (Season Of Mist)
Even though their homeland of Andorra is not recognized as a hotbed for metal, Nami turns out an impressive and diverse nine-track affair chock full of forward thinking heaviness entitled FRAGILE ALIGNMENTS. Meshing the rage of Gojira, the experimental aggressiveness of The Ocean and the lustrous instrumentation of Opeth, this quintet exhibits a comprehensive command of modern progressive metal structures with stunning songwriting and ambitious performances at the cusp of their attack. Expansively interjecting dramatic acoustic guitars and ethereal vocals into their driving rhythms patterns and shimmering guitar runs before exploding into dexterous death metal savagery, Nami displays the ability that allows this rising unit the privilege to stand tall amongst the upper echelon of the brave metal warriors that consistently push the envelope.
www.myspace.com/namiband
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Serianna,"Inheritors" (Bullet Tooth)
Wisconsin metalcore quintet Serianna present a spirited yet generic 10-track endeavor entitled INHERITORS. Directly deriving their bombastic sound from the foundation created by Unearth, Underoath, and All That Remains, this squad formulaically goes down the list of heavy bands that played the Warped Tour to concoct a hybrid style short on originality, right down to tired gang vocals and plagiarized twin guitar melodies aplenty. Following their influences to a fault, Serianna displays a thunderous roar and a wealth of solid musicianship yet treads familiar ground too often and lacks the unique qualities necessary to garnish attention for being anything except a carbon copy of countless other groups.
www.bullettoothrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Bringers Of Disease,"Gospel Of Pestilence" (Translation Loss)
Black metal unit Bringers of Disease hail from the very un-black metal locale of Dayton, Ohio, but don’t let their geographic position discourage; this four-track EP plays as if comprised in a Nordic town, complete with ominous slow crawling rhythms, menacing fretwork and blood-curdling vocals leading their descent into the abyss (“The Plague to End All Plagues”). Featuring members of area metal bands Mouth of the Architect and Acheron, this group manages to maintain a genuine sense of despair thanks to the traditional raw production values employed that yields a diabolically straightforward approach from the catacombs direct to your headphones (“Your Prayers Remain Unheard”).
www.translationlossrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gideon Smith And The Dixie Damned,"30 Weight" (Small Stone)
Beefed up with a distinctly darker disposition than what country-tinged blues music normally delivers, Gideon Smith and The Dixie Damned hails their return to the circuit with a jarringly eclectic mix of styles on latest release 30 WEIGHT. This 11-track endeavor finds the North Carolina-based Smith dabbling with a number of different vocal approaches, channeling everyone from Danzig to Hank III over a drastically altering musical landscape skillfully switching from Damned-esque doom rock (“Shining Star”) and brawny biker rock (“Ride With Me”) to jangly acoustic guitar twang (“When I Die”) and a Gothically-charged St. Vitus cover of “I Bleed Black”. Presenting this mixed bag of swagger with a cosmically fortified stream of consciousness (“Born to the Highway”), Gideon Smith reveals a shadowy side to his musical repertoire without dropping the accolade-garnishing stoner rock chock full of southern charm.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Demonical,"Death Infernal" (Metal Blade)
Swedish death metal squad Demonical devastates ear canals with a relentless yet completely unoriginal nine-track affair entitled DEATH INFERNAL. Formed from the ashes of long-running Swedish metal mavens Centinex, this grizzled unit rigidly derives its buzzsaw sound from the same blueprint as their former band, taking liberally from the works of Entombed, Dismember, and Unleashed (“Black Inferno”) to comprise a collection of highly unoriginal yet extremely potent downtuned and accelerated metal mayhem (“Through Hellfire”). Exploding with viscous riffs, thunderous bass, and versatile percussion expertly fluctuating between syrupy slow crawls and blistering blasts (“Ravenous”), Demonical does an admirable job of maintaining old school Swedish death metal principles while featuring the style’s unmistakable signatures to their fullest advantage.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Stand Your Ground,"Despondenseas" (Rites Of Passage)
Stand Your Ground is a Tennessee quartet whose modern hardcore and metalcore amalgamation offers little to the imagination but guarantees a chugging good time as heard on their 11-track affair DESPONDENSEAS. Cramming oodles of melody into a by the book assault chock full of chest-beating sing along choruses and formulaic breakdowns, Stand Your Ground follows the guidelines carefully to create a predictable yet enjoyably chaotic mix of raging vocals and moshpit ready riffs (“The Deadlands”). Thanks to their strong sense of dynamics and the ability to take it down a few notches for variety (“Dispatch”, “A Sudden Breath”) before lacing into your skull with their catchy and heavy brand that fits snugly between Bury Your Dead and Comeback Kid.
www.riteofpassagerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Unkind,"Harhakuvat" (Relapse)
Ripping through a diabolical concoction of caustic D-beat hardcore with doom metal predilections and sludge metal atmosphere, Finland’s Unkind showcase their impressive range of oppressiveness on the eight-track offering HARHAKUVAT. This unit’s North American debut record and fifth overall displays Unkind’s penchant for creating auspicious intros that build a crust metal frenzy before dropping into metalgaze low gear (“Ylpea Perhe”), exhibiting the tenacity to administer a proper hardcore thrashing a la Tragedy and Converge as well as exude the gloomy expansiveness that gravitates towards ethereally heavy realms visited by the likes of Neurosis and Isis. This seasoned squad comprises a harsh and viscous listening experience for fans that enjoy an experimental metal crush.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vangough,"Kingdom Of Ruin" (Nightmare)
The third album from Oklahoma quartet Vangough displays a versatile blend of progressive rock influences driven by piano and keyboards with a strong emphasis on melody. KINGDOM OF RUIN features 15 technically proficient and structurally complex tracks chock full of power metal pretense (“Abandon Me”, “The Garden Time Forgot”), completed by soaring vocals, gritty guitar crunch with a rash of tasty solos, and rock solid rhythms holding the whole shebang down. Drawing comparisons to a cross between the arena rock savvy and melodramatic balladeering of Styx and the modern metal snarl and punch combo of Evergrey (“Sounds of Wonder”), this troupe demonstrates an abundance of skill with their wealth of contagious compositions yet Vangough’s unhinged musicianship is the group’s greatest asset, transcending parameters to create a diverse musical expedition geared for the more adventurous listener.
www.nightmarerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Necrodeath,"Idiosyncrasy" (Scarlet)
Fresh off of their career-spanning previous offering, Italian underground metal squad Necrodeath have returned from the studio with IDIOSYNCRASY, a one-track, 40-minute metallic experience broken up into seven-parts. Armed with a vitriolic nature rivaling that of acts who possess half their tenure, this veteran unit disperses a venomous firestorm of blackened death metal with progressively minded intrigue and thrash metal imminence at the crux of their attack. Creating a realm where dastardly vocals dripping with demonic overtones and blistering percussion blasts reign supreme while driven by an authentic sense of demonic depravity that eagerly guides the endless supply of diabolical guitars and thunderous rhythms to the altar of evil, Necrodeath’s latest affair is the band’s most challenging and rewarding to date, bearing a broad appeal with the extreme metal chops that cross metallic boundaries with assured reverence.
www.scarletrecords.it
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ramesses,"Possessed By The Rise Of Magick" (Ritual)
UK psychedelic doom trio Ramesses have been very busy of late, as POSSESSED BY THE RISE OF MAGICK is the unit’s second release of 2011. Continuing to build a sonic battering from the netherworld with the depraved downward spiraling paradigm of suffocating guitars, unearthly bass rumbling, warfare-enticing percussion, off-kilter vocal invocations, and syrupy rhythmic trips comprising their gloomy presentation, the coarse and hypnotic metallic black holes Ramesses develops on this seven-track sojourn wallows in sludge metal despair while punishes with a rash of depressive doom metal that lies miles away from a chance of sun or warmth to appear, creating a cold and callous listening experience draped with evil intent.
www.ritualproductions.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Powerwolf,"Blood Of The Saints" (Metal Blade)
German power metal mavens Powerwolf, who may have the most appropriate name for a power metal band ever, unleash an infectiously fist-pumping hell-raising poser-free metal experience on the squad’s fourth studio offering BLOOD OF THE SAINTS. Bursting with a vulgar display of histrionics (especially evident from the lead vocal performance of Attila Dorn) everything from dazzling guitar solos and volatile gang vocals to the commandeering use of organ works at full force here to create a Hessian atmosphere where axes and loincloths are optional. Veering towards the campy side of the metal realm with tongue firmly in cheek on tracks like “All We Need is Blood”, Powerwolf spreads the cheese without decreasing the fury, making an epic metal album in the process that fans of Manowar, Blind Guardian, and Helloween can sink their teeth into.
www.metalblade.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Malefice,"Awaken The Tides" (Metal Blade)
On their fourth release AWAKEN THE TIDES, UK metal unit Malefice display a hodgepodge of modern metal styles ranging from Lamb of God-esque groove to stock metalcore chug to comprise their brawny sound. Songs like “Flood of Red” and “Minutes” demonstrates this quintet’s successful juxtaposition of hostility and melody, taking nods from Killswitch Engage and Soilwork (“Baying for Blood”) to craft a by the book blend of heaviness that employs a watershed of retread riffs and worn out structures. Well-executed yet unoriginal, the latest offering from Malefice features some sweet spots in between a whole lot of mediocre plodding.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


40 Watt Sun,"The Inside Room" (Metal Blade)
THE INSIDE ROOM is the debut from UK trio 40 Watt Sun. This squad of seasoned musician’s five-track excursion yields a passionate and brooding display of deliberately-paced doom metal despair with a touch of shimmering metalgaze in its reserve, creating an unusual radiance to remain constant throughout the otherwise ominous atmosphere set by the tonally-crushing instruments. The vocals from bandleader and ex-Warning member Patrick Walker here are also very different than the accustomed raspy growl or expected belligerent bellow normally utilized, as Walker sings with stark clarity and a heartbreaking apprehension, allowing songs like “Between Times” to take a radical departure without losing the music’s inherent depressiveness (“This Alone”). Gloomy and oppressive yet curiously contagious, 40 Watt Sun have crafted a wistfully heavy journey with universal appeal.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Metal Feathers,"Contrast Eats The Slimey Green" (Rare Sex)
Portland, Maine quartet Metal Feathers roll out an unorthodox smorgasbord of savvy indie rock as heard on the 10-track CONTRAST EATS THE SLIMEY GREEN. This troupe precociously delivers righteous jams loaded with angular alternative rock bravado (“Swan Attack”) and slacker rock malaise, meshing the wistfully sleepy meanderings of Dinosaur Jr. and the crunchy distress of Weezer with a discernibly messy garage rock thrust keeping the entire collection slightly off-kilter (“City Hall”). Freewheeling and unconventional, Metal Feathers manage to maintain a slew of melodic sensibilities throughout their jagged compositions, making ears with a penchant for non-conformity with a soft spot for a sweet hook very happy.
metalfeathers.bandcamp.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Korperschwache,"Ignore The Need" (Public Guilt)
Projecting unsettling ambience, the prolific Austin, TX duo Korperschwache doles a dastardly dollop of drone out on their 45-minute, three-track endeavor IGNORE THE NEED. Providing more of a headtrip than a headbang, this haunting affair finds the duo locked in a brain-melting battle where swirls of psychedelic guitar dissonance and atmospheric noise rock vie for control, distorting conventional musical comprehension and regular brain patterns in the process. Earmarked for the adventurous, this offering’s experimental swirl of sludge, noise and post metal challenges the most ardent listeners of unorthodox heaviness to hang in and follow along.
www.publicguilt.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Knuckle Up!,"Motivation From Misery" (Mediaskare)
New Jersey quintet Knuckle Up serves up a tough as nails 10-track excursion that wholeheartedly exudes both the sounds and virtues of East Coast hardcore on MOTIVATION FROM MISERY. Pulling a predictably ornery sound from a hearty supply of Hatebreed, Terror, and the unmistakable rage of NYHC (“Altered Rage”), this rough and tumble squad pulls no punches while keeping their formula simple and uncluttered to provide a solid blend of pit anthems (“Never Looking Back”) with proper levels of contempt and scorn in place to keep dance floors moving and diehards satisfied.
www.mediaskarerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Noothgrush,"Live For Nothing" (Southern Lord)
Seminal Oakland, CA sludge metal doomsters Noothgrush unearth two live college radio appearances from the archives to comprise an oppressive 18-track collection entitled LIVE FOR NOTHING. Resounding with surprising lo-fi clarity for a radio broadcast, the live performances featured on this 80-minute endeavor convey the sonic crush Noothgrush’s punishing style of music requires, successfully rattling skulls with slow churned doom rhythms and tortured snarling vocals. Demonstrating the genuine sense of downtrodden menacing this unit showcased when firing at full-strength, this disc is worthy of the attention for those who enjoy a dose of slow, deep, and hard intensity.
www.southerlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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