Music Reviews: December 2010

Various Artists,"Rockin' the Mistletoe" (SideBMusic)
Yes, I'm a hard-sell when it comes to new Christmas albums. Yuletide albums come in the wide range of the GOOD (Ringo's "I Wanna Be Santa Claus, or The Beach Boys); the BAD (Twisted Sister - although their Christmas album is so bad, it actually IS entertaining); and the UGLY (albums by: Chicago, Lynyrd Skynrd, 38 Special, etc). Usually, the artist drags out the same canon of tired, familiar tunes, yet ultimately NEVER delivering anything unique - the songs having the sincerity of unwanted regifting or cheesy infomercials.

Well, SideBMusic’s "Rockin’ The Mistletoe" is truly a collection of "new" holiday classics! The compilation by artist's on the SideBMusic label includes mostly originals and is surprisingly refreshing, mixing various musical styles. While there isn't a bad song to be found on this comp, I am going to highlight some of my personal faves:

  • "Christmas Bunny" by Alan Boyd is a fantasy piece of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"-meets-"Pet Sounds" in which the Easter Bunny saves Christmas one year (And I LOVE Santa's, "Come this Easter I am the eggman" line)!
  • Power-pop is represented by Richard Snow & The In-Laws' "Christmas With You" - with great harmonies.
  • On "There Won't Be A Christmas Without You" - The Zummos deliver a sentimental Christmas song that doesn't sound sappy! And the harmonica really drives this heartfelt ballad.
  • "Warm, Lovin' Christmastime" by Rob Bonfiglio reminds you of "Sunflower"-era Beach Boys. A real toe-tapper guaranteed to make you move! Catchy, Catchy, Catchy!
  • Jez Graham gives us a new Christmas classic with "Let's Make Every Day Like Christmas". The unique instrumentation just ads to this superb song - I wanna learn this song on guitar I like it so much!
  • "Cigarettes In Snowmen" by Nicholas Alan reminds me of a Simon & Garfunkle "Bookends" tune.
  • Anyone familiar with Stephen J. Kalinich's talent will love this poetry recitation, "One (My Christmas Wish)". The piano and french horn accompaniment make it hauntingly moving.
  • The one familiar song is "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" by Eric Matthews - but his interpretation makes other versions pale in comparison.
  • Finally, my favorite song of the collection is "Christmas In The Air" by Laurie Biagini - it is just too damn infectious - one of those songs that I find myself constantly humming!
So, turn OFF your car radio that is tuned to those "all Christmas song marathons" and put this ON your car CD player for a true Christmas miracle!
www.sidebmusic.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Ronnie


Al Jardine,"A Postcard From California" (self-release)
Back a few months ago I gave a review of the forthcoming album “A Postcard From California” by Al Jardine. The review was based on a 4 track e.p. that was sent out prior to the release of the full length album. Now that I have the finished album I’m going to have to bump the rating up a notch. I completely stand behind my “here’s an original Beach Boy for Christ’s sake; of course this is going to sound good.” quote but there’s a lot more here than just a good sounding recording. This is another chapter in the Beach Boys legacy. This bluesy cover version of “Help Me Rhonda” with Steve Miller on guitar and Flea on bass will put a smile on any music lover’s face. “A California Saga” with Neil Young, David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The guest list on this album is staggering. Not to mention the songs with Brian. Jardine may not like my take on it but he’s made one great Beach Boys album. And the best part is that isn’t just another stroll down memory lane, it’s a very relevant album.
www.aljardine.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Various Artists,"Natural Selections Vol. 1" (Umbrella Tree Records)
Take eight bands, fifteen songs and one brand spanking new label and you’ve got a good look into Asheville’s Indie Underground. Asheville, N.C. is the current buzz town with a hip and growing music scene that covers all types of music. This compilation is a great tasting slice out of the pie.
First up is the Pallas Cats leading off with a Stooges, tried and true riff and a lot of punk attitude. You can’t help but like these guys. Grammer School weighs in with a quirky but rocking set of They Must Be Giants style madness. The Forty Furies are the Supersuckers and the Melvins rolled into one tight explosive package. Solito sounds like the Minutemen covering X and that’s a pretty damn cool sound. The Machiavillians have a Minutemen vibe with David Byrne meets Jonathan Richman vocals. Balloon Wars first song has a soulful groove that is instantly addictive, while their second song nails Queens of the Stoneage. The Spandrels take the Talking Heads and meld it with rap and folk. And last but not least we have the Muckrakers closing the show with a rip roaring punk ditty that occasionally shoots off onto Zappa-esque tangents.
So, when are you heading to Asheville?
www.umbrellatreerecords.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


White & White,"In Every Room" (Twin Palms Records)
Michael W. White and Terry Paul White are brothers from different mothers. Both are from the mid-west, both played in rock bands since they were in high school. They crossed paths through mutual friends which led to a casual set of meetings in a recording studio which in turn led to this 2 disc, 21 song album. The songs range from bluesy, jazzy, Neil Diamond-ish ballads to Jimmy Buffet, reggae tinged country to BTO rockers and back again. Loads of catchy songs that would sound perfectly at home if they were slipped into rotation on a classic rock station. If you like Springsteen, Zevon, John Hiatt, Mellencamp and other like minded sounds then you will dig this album.
www.cdbaby.com/cd/whiteandwhite
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Dot Dash,"Dot Dash" (Edition 59 Records)
Promising debut from this band of seasoned DC players. There’s jangle pop here, but also a darker edge to the songwriting that will take the listener in different directions. Lead singer Terry Banks (ex-Tree Fort Angst) has a subtle touch with lyrics that support the music interplay well. The rhythm section propels each tune along with precision, not surprising since bassist Hunter Bennett did time in post punkers Weatherhead, and drummer Danny Ingram was a road warrior with Swervedriver in the mid-90’s. This four piece is rounded out by Bill Crandall’s restrained leads, which recall Paul Weller at his peak. You will be singing along to “That Was Now, This Is Then” by the end of this EP, and be left wanting more.
www.myspace.com/dotdashdc
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Don McGlashan & The Seven Sisters,"Marvellous Year" (Arch Hill Recordings)
I was lucky enough to see Don open for Crowded House a couple years back. I was blown away by the raw emotion contained within his songs. Don continues down this road on his new solo record. “Bad Blood” and “You’re The Song” draw you in with their slow burning movements until they are over. “18th Day” and the title track also feature catchy melodies and solid arrangements. If you are a fan of talented songwriters like Jules Shear or Neil Finn (who guests on 1 song here), then Marvellous Year is a must have. Even if you have to order it from New Zealand like I did!
www.archhill.co.nz
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


The Spears,"Shove" (Jailhouse Records)
What happens when you get the lead singer of Pink Lincolns, the guitarist from Down By Law, and a rhythm section that prefers to pummel its listeners with a sledgehammer? The answer is of course, The Spears. Great debut that speeds along at 110 MPH from start to finish. “People Are Bad” and “She’s A Drug” will go into constant repeat for me. But if you like bands like Black Flag, Angry Samoans, or Wimpy-era Queers, then you need this record too. Shove kicks ass-that is all you need to know.
www.jailhouserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Sweet Apple,"Love & Desperation" (Tee Pee Records)
Debut from this band is a full tilt rocker with hard charging riffs, great vocals and sing-along harmonies on the chorus’s throughout this record. Things blast off with “Do You Remember” and fly off the handle from there. “Flying Up A Mountain” gets a bit bluesier, but still fits in with the rest of the set. “Hold Me I’m Dying” even finds the band veering into a bit of psychedelic territory. See these guys live and you’ll see that they are the real deal. I bet this also is the only review of Love & Desperation that does not mention the provocative cover art or the band’s famous moonlighting drummer. Oops.
www.teepeerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Street Dogs,"Street Dogs" (Hellcat Records)
New record from this Boston band has been a long time coming. But the band delivers the goods on this record, their best since Back To The World. It’s not just the expert production skills by Rick Barton (Dropkick Murphys/Continental) and bassist Johnny Rioux that ups the ante. The songwriting chops are presented here in full force.
“Yesterday” and ‘Bobby Powers” in particular showcase the thoughtful lyric spin of lead singer Mike McColgan. The first studio appearance by drummer Paul Rucker powers the songs along with crisp backbeats. Guitarists Marcus Hollar and Tobe Bean III (don’t forget the III-he gets pissed) continue to provide deft interweaving riffs on each song that complement rather than spar with each other. Other than an identical reworking of “Fighter” from their first record, there are no missteps here. Pick up this record pronto-you will be singing along to the whole batch in no time.
www.street-dogs.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Thinning The Herd,"Oceans Rise" (Self-Released)
Self-professed hard rock psyche metal troupe Thinning the Herd are hands down one of the most hard working and visible rock units working the Big Apple scene, as it’s difficult to not see their stickers plastered everywhere while romping through the Lower East Side or not run into them on any heavy music bill in the Gotham City clubs. Luckily this NYC trio backs their massive guerilla marketing campaign and ubiquitous presence up with a musical output that warrants all the fuss as evident on their latest endeavor, the massive eight-track OCEANS RISE. Honestly labeling their music, this act lays down a thunderous backbeat that shares as much with Blue Cheer as it does Soundgarden while a dastardly amalgamation of doomy blues (“Plight”), fuzzed-out psychedelics (“Defiler”), grungy post metal (“Wide Crossing”), and ‘70s arena rock (“My Wake”) pours from the bass and guitar like a molten lava mix of Danzig, Melvins, and Kyuss. Skillfully carving melodies from primal slabs of meat and potatoes rock while showcasing a fierce fearlessness to jam out whenever they please, TTH retains a sense of savagery without sacrificing catchiness, in turn creating a smorgasbord of sound that any self-respecting fan of heavy music won’t be able to deny.
www.myspace.com/castrosbeard
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Riotgod,"Riotgod" (Metalville)
New Jersey quartet Riotgod champions a serious desert/stoner vibe with a smattering of 70’s classic rock on their eponymous 14-track debut. Formed by the colossal rhythm section of Jim Baglino and Bob Pantella from Monster Magnet, it’s no accident that this troupe’s hellacious hip-shaking bottom-end heavy swagger bears striking similarities to their main unit’s cosmic offerings, as sinewy grooves heard on cuts like “Love it or Leave It” carries a vibe that just may have been birthed during a Monster Magnet soundcheck while “Collapsing Stars” emits a Beatles-esque feel, “Rift” launches the attitude of Led Zeppelin into the galaxy and “The Time is Now” meshes arena rock enormity with an aura of cactus and tumbleweed employed by the likes of Hermano and Nebula. Bolstered by a plethora of deft fretwork that keeps grooves buoyant and riffs razor sharp as well as a stand up and take notice vocalist whose volatile versatility and chameleon-like pipes channel everyone from Chris Cornell to John Garcia while carving out his own whiskey-soaked and space truckin’ identity (“Grand Design”), Riotgod is not merely a vehicle that runs on Dave Wyndorf’s downtime but a fierce retroactive hard rock force to be reckoned with.
www.riotgod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The High Confessions,"Turning Lead Into Gold With The High Confessions" (Relapse)
The High Confessions is a collective of avant-garde musicians from notable acts such as Sonic Youth, Revolting Cocks, and Minsk collaborating to create a tense and unorthodox five-track endeavor revealing a scattershot amalgamation of each member’s musical inclination. Containing fragmented elements of industrial, post metal, progressive rock, and drone that doesn’t lean in any one direction for long with a jarring drum and vocal presence pushing experimental nuances past the point of no return at the forefront, this disc requires an open mind and a long attention span to fully soak the richness of the creepy instrumentation and dissonant arrangements in. The High Confessions have developed a challenging experience laden with dark juxtapositions and electronically enhanced trips across the cosmos that should appeal to the adventurous.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Talking To Walls,"We Were Not So Tall" (Self-Released)
Talking to Walls is a quartet from Connecticut whose 12-track offering entitled WE WERE NOT SO TALL employs ample amounts of indie rock guitar jangle, strong vocal harmonies, and a soulful alternative rock appeal (“Crossed”) to make a noticeable dent on the college rock scene (“Running Out”). Stylistically steeped somewhere in the 90’s between Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms with a touch of gloom via The Cure for good measure (“Tomorrow”), this troupe maintains an infectious sense of melody and keeps interests piqued throughout yet it’s on cuts like the bagpipe-led “Song for Megan” and the lush instrumentation found on the dream pop tune “Chiaroscuro” that demonstrates a reach that goes far and beyond past the expected beer pong soundtrack circuit.
www.talkingtowalls.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


City of Fire,"City of Fire" (Candlelight)
City of Fire is a side project featuring Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell and Byron Stroud that opts to minimize the mechanical feel of their main act for a more organic delivery and streamlined sound heavy on grooves while exhibiting a brooding metallic atmosphere not unlike Soundgarden (“Spirit Guide”). On this quintet’s eponymous 12-track debut, a discernibly mellower vibe is audible thanks to a rash of dynamic acoustic interludes and atmospheric breakdowns peppered in (“Dark Tides”), yet City of Fire still engages the firepower and heeds the call to crank when needed with an alternative metal wallop smack dab in between grunge and arena rock (“Hanya”, “Rising”). Producing an album with moments that you can finger as pure Fear Factory despite placing an emphasis on melancholy and accessibility, City of Fire is a polarizing effort that only open-minded fans of the member’s other outfit should approach.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Park After Dark,"Sharkbear" (Self-Released)
Long Island quartet Park After Dark has labeled their music as “dark party rock” and judging by their recent five-song excursion SHARKBEAR, this eclectic act isn’t too far off the mark. Rumbling post-punk bass lines and freewheeling stream of consciousness tag team vocals make way for soaring choruses eliciting epic U2-esque sing along moments throughout while shots of quirky indie rock jangle and soulful blues guitar (“Pretending”) permeate between intentionally uneven rhythmic movements (“I’m Spent”) across the duration of this release. Embracing the aura and lifting some trick of fellow LI bands such as Taking Back Sunday and Brand New (“Simple Remedy”) while accentuating their presentation with touches of Sublime, Morrissey and Death Cab for Cutie, Park After Dark deliver an on the fringe fun time for the melancholic set.
www.myspace.com/parkafterdarkmusic
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dusted Angel,"Earth Sick Mind" (Mankind)
Cliff Dinsmore is a veteran of underground California hardcore punk scene and the founder of hardcore stalwarts Bl’ast whose latest project Dusted Angel sheds his hardcore skin to follow a stoner rock and doom metal template. The end result is the dastardly and driving seven-track offering EARTH SICK MIND a viscous and deliberate endeavor that nails the retro tumultuousness of bands like Monster Magnet, Kyuss, and The Obsessed with a riff rocking reverence (“Seeking the Dawn”), setting the time machine to 1975 and lighting up the rockets with the flame that sparks up their 30 foot bong (“Scottstober”). Ground shaking yet far from groundbreaking, Dusted Angel’s volcanic eruptions spurt a steady stream of cosmic lava yielding a hearty helping of heavy and upbeat grooves wrapped inside a doom-laden atmosphere.
www.mankindrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Black River,"Black 'N Roll" (Armoury)
Polish unit Black River provides a vehicle for death metal dudes from the likes of Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Neolithic and Rootwater to strip off the corpsepaint and rock out on the down and dirty hard rock side of the spectrum, documented on the 11-track affair BLACK ‘N ROLL. Keeping the songs chock full of simple and not to be taken seriously cock rock leanings galore, a genuine sense of good times radiates from songs like “Too Far Away” and “Barf Bag” while “Lucky in Hell” showcases how this quintet throws down a batch of gritty riffs, sleazy southern rock charm and hard to resist headbanging rhythms. Sounding like a cross between Hellyeah, Volbeat, Danzig, and Shotgun Messiah, this unit’s carefree delivery and punkish plug in and play mentality (“Black ‘n Roll”) is easily traced and criminally copied at times, yet the fun this band has mustered by stepping away from their more disciplined outfits shines above all the obvious comparisons drawn to make this disc a solid offering for fans of tough as nails hard rock.
www.eaglerockent.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Horseback,"The Invisible Mountain" (Relapse)
For all intensive purposes, Jenks Miller is the sole proprietor of Horseback, a multi-faceted project that twists stoner, ambient, doom, and black metal together with an overpowering sense of melody cutting through the dense swirls of eccentric metallic extremity. Miller’s latest musical offering THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN is a slow burning four-track expedition laden with fuzzed-out guitars, hypnotic drone rhythms, and raspy demonic vocals that surprisingly renders a complex and cohesive form of ethereal music equally suitable for deep introspection or widespread destruction. Horseback isn’t reinventing anything here, but his composition’s arrangements and the prioritizing of instruments on this album supports a new outlook and a fresh perspective on experimental metal that is engaging to take part in.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sasquatch,"III" (Small Stone)
Southern California trio Sasquatch continues to crank the volume and smoke the van out on their third offering, the aptly bare bones titled III. Meshing fuzzy riffs with bluesy rhythms is far from groundbreaking, yet Sasquatch makes it all work by delivering a dose of cosmic charm (“Pull Me Under”) with an underpinning of unabashed rock ‘n roll savvy that takes all the necessary precautions that gets the job done. Employing a no frills and fancy-free slab of stoner rock with a freewheeling 70’s rock swing (“Walkin’ Shoes”), if you dig organically grown hard rock, you’ll love this unit.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ashers,"Kill Your Master" (Thorp)
Boston-based hardcore punk troupe Ashers features the singer from The Unseen and follows a similar musical path as well judging by the quartet’s aggressive 13-track, 25-minute excursion KILL YOUR MASTER. Fast and heavy is the name of the game here with some killer vocals to boot (“Blood and Grain”), and songs like “End of the Rope” and “Watch it Burn” don’t disappoint, doling out abrasive shots of scathing street punk with a metallic edge reminiscent of an Americanized version of Gallows (“Now So Clear”). Relentless and wild, the latest by Ashers yields a surefire supply of brutal brevity containing a bevy of pit friendly mayhem inducing tunes bound to keep bodies moving.
www.thorprecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Malevolent Creation,"Invidious Dominion" (Nuclear Blast)
Despite a plethora lineup shakeups and bad business deals, Malevolent Creation trudges forward with the seasoned quintet’s unadulterated anger remains as a force to be reckoned with in the death metal realm as audible on the squad’s 11th studio offering INVIDIOUS DOMINION. Stacked with vicious blasts of velocity and a barrage of enraged vocal rasps leading the charge (“Compulsive Face Breaker”, “Lead Spitter”), this veteran unit’s unwavering death metal stance finally gets its just desserts thanks to the righteous production skills of extreme metal guru Erik Rutan dialing into the classic Florida tones and shaping their hate-fueled explosiveness into razor sharp yet predictable shards of old school heaviness that deviates very little from the original blueprint yet sounds as full and thick as any of their contemporaries still in the game (“Slaughterhouse”).
www.nuclearblastusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Antogonist,"World In Decline" (Prosthetic)
Southern California quartet Antagonist displays a comprehensive knowledge of modern metal know-how with a sense of history on their side on their hybrid 10-track presentation WORLD IN DECLINE. Tasty thrash riffs, technical guitar runs (“God on Fire”) and bruising metalcore breakdowns (“New Human”) coexist across the duration of the affair, while a harsh vocal tone commands attention and demands respect throughout the barrage of pounding rhythms and pummeling tempos (“Disguised in White”). Ever imagine what a molten mix of Trivium and Testament would sound like or what a jam between Exodus and Lamb of God would render? Wonder no more, as this crew puts doubts to rest with an above average amalgamation of old and new school thought properly executed with a seething nature that places a tumultuous twist on the standard formula.
www.prostherticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Shapes,"I Feel...Therefore I Drink" (Self-Released)
Touting their music as gutter glam, the nightcrawling NYC sextet known as Shapes embody the sounds of the DIY hipster rock scene while showcasing a freewheeling buoyancy which permeates across their raucous five-track offering I FEEL…THEREFORE I DRINK. Commencing contagious melodies with a garage rock engine pumping out The Stooges’ attitude, My Chemical Romance’s catchiness and the The Ramones’ simplicity blended with a shot of punk pizzazz via Dead Boys and Sex Pistols, this troupe keeps the energy level at fever pitch and still hold it all together musically, fueling their odes to after hours with whatever substance they can get their paws on and a side order of the down and dirty rock ‘n roll that made NYC infamous (“Bash!”).
www.myspace.com/shapesband
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Generators,"Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (People Like You)
Prolific punk rock quintet The Generators return with their seventh full-length endeavor BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, a by the book 12-track disc launched from the sturdy West Coast punk rock foundation this band helped to shape. Delivering a straightforward and durable array of power chord and group sing-along anthems, this disc provides a bare-bones yet pleasantly predictable punk rock attack that rarely deviates save the country flavor of “Somewhere in the Rain” and champions a thunderous street punk tenacity that adroitly balances Bad Religion’s boisterous nature, Pennywise’s driving guitars, and Social Distortion’s snarl.
www.the-generators.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


System Divide,"The Conscious Sedation" (Metal Blade)
Featuring members of bands Aborted, Abigail Williams, and Malignancy, expect a barrage of unhinged brutality and unorthodox heaviness given the diverse places these musicians arrive from on System Divide’s 11-track debut THE CONSCIOUS SEDATION. The biggest surprise nestled within this multi-faceted sextet’s juxtaposed Euro metal platter however is a prevalent female singing presence courtesy of Miri Milman (who just so happens to be involved with band leader Sven de Caluwe), whose soaring angelic vocals throws off the metallic momentum in spots, yet overall make a formidable extreme metal Beauty and the Beast tandem when coupled with de Caluwe’s belligerent bellows coarse growls. System Divide takes some time to settle into, as the disparity of styles at times can be a bit polarizing, yet thanks to the excellent musicianship behind the entire album and a swift pace taken throughout, there’s no reason why songs like “Repent/ Forget” and “Lethargy” wouldn’t appeal to both the Nightwish and Soilwork crowds.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Return to Earth,"Automata" (Metal Blade)
An adventurous modern metal affair comes courtesy of the trio Return to Earth on their sophomore 15-track effort AUTOMATA. Featuring the percussive power of Chris Pennie (Dillinger Escape Plan, Coheed and Cambria), this fearless unit binds a bevy of familiar styles together to form their own twisted take on electronic rock referencing the jittery nature of a Mike Patton solo project, PSALM 69-era Ministry, Linkin Park dramatics, the histrionics of Strapping Young Lad, the rousing spirit of Muse and the darkness of NIN without batting an eye. Unafraid to toy with dynamics, insert a haunting piano break for atmosphere, or push the limits beyond the point of excess without sacrificing the tasty hooks bound to stick in your head for days (“Edge of Forever”, “The Replicas”), Return to Earth has successfully created an album that defies convention yet emits a tunefulness custom made for the masses while preserving an intriguing left of center heaviness throughout.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Iron Thrones,"The Wretched Sun" (Self-Released)
Iron Thrones is best known for winning the Scion No Label Needed unsigned band contest, allowing them major label luxuries of recording, promoting, and visibility while making their sophomore effort THE WRETCHED SUN. This Minnesota-based quartet’s stunning six-track 41-minute affair is custom made for fans of forward thinking heaviness and showcases just why their victory is well deserved. This squad’s progressive meets post metal hybrid sound is flawlessly executed and has been masterfully captured to highlight this unit’s cohesive shifts in mood and atmosphere, allowing Iron Thrones to confidently stand up amongst the works of influences such as Mastodon, Opeth, The Ocean and Between the Buried and Me. Bolstered with an ingrained sonic savagery able to effortlessly crush skulls (“Ever Flowing”) yet demonstrating an innate ability to dynamically dial back the attack with acoustic interludes and orchestral elements creating titanic ebbs and flows (“I Once Had the Crown”), it is refreshing to see that a contest judged primarily on musical merit still exists today and moreover, that it has been won by a band whose musical output is nothing short of sensational.
www.ironthrones.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tangents,"One Little Light Year" (Restricted Release)
You can now add ethereal and atmospheric rock to modern metal mercenary drummer Derek Kerswill’s vast resume (Unearth, Kingdom of Sorrow) courtesy of his progressively minded new project Tangents. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, this New England duo compiled their entire 12-song debut release via collaborations while never in the same room, though the musical cohesion and enormous sound heard from cuts like “Static” and “Nothing Left Undone” would lead you to believe other wise. Meshing the influence of Anathema, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, and Dredg together (“Homecoming”), Tangents provides an alternative offering chock full of standardized cosmically-charged lush melodies powered by an underlying rhythmic rock ‘n roll drive (“Fall Asleep Again”) showcasing another facet of Kerswill’s distinct style.
www.myspace.com/tangentsofficial
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dead Emotion,"Of Beauty and Madness" (Self-Released)
NYC Goth rock contingent Dead Emotion have endured their share of ups and downs throughout their tenure, having undergone an endless stream of lineup changes and band shakeups since their inception, yet this resilient troupe has weathered the storms and have returned with the 12-track release OF BEAUTY AND MADNESS. This self-produced offering displays both the band’s new lineup reworking a number of the unit’s previous songs (“Nothing to Die For”) as well as marks the last chapter in the Dead Emotion saga. Yet the band isn’t breaking up; instead, they will change their name to the title of this collection after this endeavor’s cycle ends and forge ahead with the female fronted elegance colliding with dark rock mystique that the band has been crafting for over a decade with a reinvigorated attitude and a new batch of tunes in tow. This album does more than tie up loose ends however, as it highlights a band’s refocused agenda looking ahead to the future with a more pronounced symphonic rock stance and a discernible female vocal shift guiding their embarking on a new musical journey (“Time Has Come”, “New Brooklyn”).
www.ofbeautyandmadness.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Sleeping,"The Big Deep" (Victory)
Long Island’s The Sleeping presents a post-hardcore smorgasbord crammed with curveballs on their fourth album THE BIG DEEP. Drenched in reverb and chock full of echo, this 11-track excursion relies big on texture and atmosphere with elements of electronics (“Deafening the UK”) and keyboards leading the way (“Oh, Gloria”) towards the unit’s progressively leaning pop-rock form. Despite vocals seemingly thrust towards the back treated almost as an afterthought, this quintet’s rich musicianship and experimental nuances commandeer the controls to wash over your ears with a plethora of intriguing nuances whether it be via a bouncy reggae bass (“Get You Back”) or a arena rock anthemic drum beat (“Beautiful Gloom”). Emitting a satisfying stream of left of center nuances within their emo-tinged mainframe keeping listeners on their toes, The Sleeping has honed in on making music that retains their identity with enough twists that makes this band’s latest release a cut above the norm.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hello Nurse,"Pharmagicians" (Self-Released)
NYC power pop quartet Hello Nurse plays the kind of quirky and clever sing along jams that sound as if they ended up on River Cuomo’s cutting room floor as evident on their latest six-track EP PHARMAGICIANS. From the raucous horn section presence courtesy of High School Football Heroes blaring on “Hideaway” to the tongue-tying lyrics spat out Barenaked Ladies’ style on “Plastic Guns” to the funky keyboard and punky instrumentation audible throughout, this squad is determined to keep the mood uplifting and spirits high with their bodacious blend of ultra catchy pop music melodies that span through the ages filtered with a modern edginess that guarantees a good time for those who haven’t checked their head at the door.
www.hellonurse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Adicts,"Life Goes On" (People Like You)
Boasting a 35-year career with all of the original members intact (though they’ve added members along the way), The Adicts are an undeniable staple of the global punk rock scene. This Clockwork Orange garb wearing veteran squad’s latest release LIFE GOES ON celebrates their lauded feat of sticking to the gameplan for so long with a rabble-rousing display of tumultuous tavern-ready working class punk rock (“Full Circle”, “I Love You But Don’t Come Near Me”) with a bouncy three chord and the truth delivery that harkens back to the group’s glorious salad days. Contagious as a cold yet as simple as basic math, this troupe’s freewheeling nature and devil may care attitude shines across their latest 13-track endeavor, sliding in and out of fits of snide and controlled upbeat recklessness that punk purists will undoubtedly enjoy.
www.theadicts.us
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Valdur,"Raven God Amongst Us" (Bloody Mountain)
Valdur is an American black metal unit that features a Norwegian-born singer/guitarist in its ranks, adding a slice of acerbic authenticity to their bleak and malevolent nine-track endeavor RAVEN GOD AMONGST US. A bastardized combination of blustery blast beats and brutal riffs are at the forefront of this squad’s assault (“Wound Fires in the Afterlife”) while a ghastly death rasp leads the mayhem into the deepest recesses of the abyss on cuts like “Berserrker” and “Vicious Existence”. Demonstrating the cranial carnage bouts of vicious velocity, majestic time signature shifts and a throwback Euro metal style can cause, Valdur’s sophomore effort is a grim triumph for fans that enjoy black metal at its most visceral.
www.bloodymountainrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Black Anvil,"Triumvirate" (Relapse)
NYC trio Black Anvil returns with a sophomore effort entitled TRIUMVIRATE that comprises a hellacious hybrid of black, death, and thrash metal relentlessly ripping through speakers while voraciously seeking souls to drag to the slaughter (“Dead and Left”). Ambient chord changes, relentless rhythmic pummeling, and a raspy vocal presence that all of the members take part in guides this album’s primrose path straight to hell, maintaining a firm grasp on the darker side of the metal spectrum along the way. Sharing as much in common with Celtic Frost and Immortal as they do At the Gates (“Angels to Dust”), this act may get snubbed by purists yet the undeniable truth remains that Black Anvil is a crushing metal entity that warrants the attention of any metal fan of the extreme genre.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Decembers Fall,"Awakening" (Self-Released)
Queens, NY female fronted outfit Decembers Fall is a rock troupe whose latest offering AWAKENING showcases this unit’s dramatic flair, intense elegance and cinematic scope. Led by vocalist/pianist Francesca, this group has developed a sound rooted in metallic despair (“Falling Away”, “Words”) accentuated with electronic flourishes for added texture (“Absence of Yourself”). This quartet maintains a sturdy rock foundation thanks in part to a bashing rhythm section and some strong guitar work reminiscent of bands like Lacuna Coil and Evanescence while Francesca’s luxurious vocals echo both melodic bliss and hard rock grit. Bolstered by tight arrangements with instrumental piano and guitar interludes in between songs to keep the flow at a constant state of movement, Decembers Fall have created a well-planned and expertly performed album perfectly crafted for fans of edgy modern rock.
www.myspace.com/decfallnyc
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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

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