Music Reviews:
January 2005

Cheese,"Enlarge Your Johnson" (Pink Hedgehog Records)
I know it sounds cliché, but the new Cheese CD really shows tremendous growth from their first CD. (Actually this IS their first CD, but that's a long story) Not many bands can actually progress, without the obligatory charges from the rock press of 'going soft' or 'lacking their previous edge' - just look at the Replacements for an example. However, Cheese has not lost their previous edge, which made their LET IT BRIE CD so endearing; While that CD had the band paying implied homage to such groups as 10cc and XTC, ENLARGE YOUR JOHNSON has Cheese sounding only like CHEESE! Of course there are those trademark harmonies, distinct guitar solos, and of course great lyrics and catchy melodies - but now add strings, more acoustic guitars and more diverse tempos. The wait was really worth it for this CD - let's just hope we don't have to wait as long for a follow-up!
www.pinkhedgehog.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Ronnie


Note: Since we had two reviews come in for Voodoo Glow Skulls, we decided to feature them BOTH!

Voodoo Glow Skulls,"Adicion, Tradicion, Revolucion" (Victory Records)
The long-running ska outfit Voodoo Glow Skulls return with a new album that sounds like the perfect mixture of every facet of Los Angeles street culture. From the old school punk rock blitz of “Mayhem and Murder” to the more rootsy feel of “Eville” to the straight-up rock steady ska of “Smile Now, Cry Later”, this septet cranks out the kind of evil ska that Memphiskapheles did back in the day. Only difference is that VGS performs with a decisive Latino flavor, as songs like the title track are sung predominantly in Spanish. However, the album isn’t without its problems: the crappy mix virtually jumbles the release’s overall sound and feel, yet down deep inside this 14-track disc, there’s a wild house party waiting to burst out of control.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS

Voodoo Glow Skulls,"Adiccion, Tradicion, Revolucion" (Victory Records)
Pissed off Latino, punk, metal, ska that’s as subtle as a Doc Martin to the head. For a band that’s been around this long you would expect them to be running out of steam but there’s no signs of that on “Adiccion, Tradicion, Revolucion”. As a matter of fact, they seem fresher than ever on tracks like “Mayhem And Murder”, “DD Don’t Like Ska”, “Eville”, “Cochino”, “Bastard Music” and the title track. They even throw in a Guns N’ Roses cover. Now tell me, how can you beat that? One more in a long line of very strong cd’s from the Voodoo Glow Skulls.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Jeffrey Foskett,"Stars in the Sand" (New Surf)
It's amazing that Jeff Foskett has enough time from his constant touring and recording as part of Brian Wilson's band to even think about a solo CD, much less actually record such a stellar one! STARS IN THE SAND shows that not only does Foskett have a firm grasp of melodic pop, but can effortlessly co-write memorable songs with a number of writers, including: Robert Lamm (of Chicago), Doug Fieger (The Knack), Jeff Larson, and Michael O'Rourke. There are also a few pleasant surprises like the Brian Wilson song "Everything I Need" (and a guest appearance by Brian), the Sunrays oldie, "I Live for the Sun" (faithful to the original!), a stunning a cappella version of Neil Sedaka's "Laughter in the Rain" and two Marshall Crenshaw songs. There is only one song out of the 14 presented that I don't care for, and that is "The Mystery of Moonlight". The song just sounds too much like a Chicago power-ballad of the early '80s (but then again, Foskett did write the song with Chicago member Robert Lamm). However, the remaining 13 songs are pure, power-pop bliss. As much as I hate to admit it, Jeff Foskett's CD has a more immediate, memorable feeling that Brian Wilson's recent pre-Smile studio endeavor ("Getting' In Over My Head).

The "CEO of falsetto" (as Jeff was introduced at a live Brian Wilson show in Atlanta) has a great voice that would even make his singing of the phone book sound interesting. So, you can just imagine the combination of great tunes and his voice on this CD! Looks like there are two best kept secrets within the Brian Wilson touring band: Wondermints and Jeff Foskett!
www.new-surf.com/foskett
Rating:

Review by Ronnie


Denver Harbor,"Scenic" (Scenic)
Rock n’ roll in the same vein as Queens Of The Stone Age. Powerful and hook laden songs that have you humming along after just one listen. Laced with tinges of reggae ala the Police and the Clash, with just a bit of a raw edge like Nirvana. Will Salazar and company are going full tilt with their rock n’ roll visions and doing a damn fine job of it too. “Xenophobia” rocks hard as well as “Picture Perfect Wannabe”, “Satisfied”, “Move On” and “Twenty Seven”. Here’s something I would love to hear on the radio. You think there’s any chance of that happening?
www.universalrecords.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Red Giant,"Devil Child Blues" (Small Stone)
Red Giant’s debut for Small Stone is a perfect amalgamation of spacey psychedelic rock and fist pounding ‘70s hard rock, as this Cleveland clan manages to turn up the volume and crank out 50 minutes of sludgy success. From the fast-paced stomp of “Hoping for the Golden BB”, to the hypnotically laced rhythms of “Go It Alone” to the QOTSA-esque treble charge of “I Breathe Fire”, DEVIL CHILD BLUES shakes out the retro style grooves with a galactic gloss, finding fine company amongst the likes of Fu Manchu, Alabama Thunderpussy, and Clutch.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"Apocalypse" (Season of Mist)
Season of Mist unfurls its roster of meaty metal on this 17-track compilation CD, leaving no stone unturned. Spanning the metal genre from the malevolent to the elegant, established metal entities such as Mayhem and Carpathian Forest make auspicious returns, while groups like the female-led Gothic romp of Penumbra and the chaotic Blood Duster flaunt its metal wares. The most interesting of the tracks, however, comes from a band that calls themselves Macabre Minstrels, whose dead-on interpretation of the folk classic “Tom Dooley” doesn’t really belong on a metal collection, but whose subject matter of murder, retribution, and hanging, fits right along side songs like “Sluts of Hell” and “You’re Dying to Be With Me”.
www.season-of-mist.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Race the Sun,"The Rest of Our Lives Is Tonight" (Fidelity)
Race the Sun is a Virginia based quintet whose pop-punk delivery isn’t as undercooked as many other bands that attempt the genre. In fact, songs like “Vanity Score” and “I Hear the Book Was Better” hit harder than most of its peers, while “Dreams vs. Me” tugs at the heartstrings in a WB teen drama kind of way. The 11-track debut is slickly produced and should induce group sing-alongs in VFW halls and small clubs everywhere. In between Fallout Boy and Yellowcard, THE REST OF OUR LIVES IS TONIGHT is a non-threatening rock release chock full of dynamic choruses and heartfelt emotion.
www.fidelityrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cornerstone,"Once Upon Our Yesterdays" (Escapi)
Cornerstone is a progressive metal outfit that goes against the grain, allowing the masterful songwriting and not a virtuoso performance take charge. On the outfit’s third release, the balance between atmospheric keyboards, shredding guitars, and stalwart vocals is firmly established, with each getting its rich desserts and proper credits throughout ONCE UPON OUR YESTERDAYS. Songs like “Passion to Warfare” has the Dokken-era groove deep inside, while the acoustically driven “Some Have Dreams” screams power ballads sans the horrible hair-do. Majestic and meaty, allow Cornerstone the opportunity to rock you with both elegance and grit a la Dio and Deep Purple.
www.escapi.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Jumbos' Killcrane,"The Slow Decay" (Crucial Blast)
Jumbos’ Killcrane is a Kansas trio who have overdosed on too many Melvins albums, as well as a steady diet of crust rock like Eyehategod and Crowbar, all of which lending a hand in the making of the band’s latest skull crusher THE SLOW DECAY. The six-track endeavor is a weighty release whose subtle strengths hinge on the power of the almighty riff and the many speeds by which it can be delivered. And these guys exhibit quite the knack for dynamics, as tracks like “Locust Blanket”, flanked with its many time signature changes that go from slow to slower, truly make this band a qualified harbinger of doom. Ultimately sticking to the slower, churning edge of the spectrum, tracks like “Brown” corrode your ears with a constant stream of desperate vocal cries, pounding rhythms, and the type of unsettling music that stoner rock fans will have lucid nightmares about long after the high is gone.
www.crucialblast.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Ned’s Atomic Dustbin,"God Fodder" (1991)
If you lived in England during the late 80’s/early 90’s, then you know that the Grebo scene was all the rage. What is Grebo, you ask? The true definition of Grebo is ‘a British urban youth cult that favors heavy metal, punk rock, long hair, and anti-social behavior.’ The Mecca of this bizarre musical mix was Stourbridge, a dreary town in the West Midlands. But local Stourbridge favorites like the upbeat Wonder Stuff and the raunchy Pop Will Eat Itself brightened things up and gained worldwide notoriety for high-octane stage shows and quirky lyrics. Then there was Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, a 5-piece act blending standard Pop Rock, Glam, Metal, and Noise. Yet they did it all in a most unique fashion by inflicting a double assault of bass guitars into their recordings. Their 1991 debut God Fodder set the stage for what was to become one of Underground Rock’s most prolific acts.

The first brick in this mammoth wall of sound is the thunderous ‘Kill Your Television,’ which sticks like glue in the listener’s head with its simple verse and chorus structure. It is a song whose deafening volume with either scare the crap out of you or inspire you to pick up a guitar. The solid foundation for this stronghold of an album continues to be laid out with tracks like the harmony-laden ‘Happy’ (Ned’s first proper single and their first taste of the UK Top 20), the raucous ‘Cut Up,’ the punk-inspired ‘Throwing Things’ and the unsurpassed ‘Grey Cell Green,’ which established Ned’s Atomic Dustbin as a favorite among college radio stations and whose video was in heavy rotation on MTV’s then-fledging underground show 120 Minutes. Of the 13 tracks on God Fodder, it is ‘Grey Cell Green’ that truly defines the band’s approach to their eccentric style, as demonstrated by the lightning-paced guitar work of Gareth Pring, the unique twin bass attack of Alex Griffin and Matt Cheslin, the pounding drumming of Dan Warton, and the ethereal yet angst-filled vocals of Jon Penney. The harmonies are tight and the timing is perfect as the band delivers one power pop punch after another. The album is a constant barrage of scratchy guitars, wah wah effects, and of course John Penney’s idiosyncratic lyrics. As a result, these ingredients place God Fodder among the cream of the crop of essential early 90’s Brit Rock albums.

At the time of their inception, there was no other band like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. To this very day, there still isn’t. No matter how many up-and-coming acts from England, or even America, have tried to fine-tune their sound to resemble that of Ned’s, it still falls utterly short of perfection. Although some front men have managed to incorporate Jon Penney’s breathy vocals into their resumes, the original is always the best. Thirteen years after they burst onto the music scene with God Fodder, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin is still wreaking havoc full-force. But in order to identify with them now, you have to travel back into the past to see where it all began. Perhaps it’s about time you took a trip inside Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

NOTE: For best results, this album is to be played at maximum volume. No exceptions.
www.nedsatomicdustbin.com
Rating:

Review by Heather Sterman


Chemical Burn,"Three Song Sampler" (Indie Release)
Chemical Burn’s music scolds much like the band’s name, as the three song sampler slugs out an array of power metal riffs not unlike Pantera, Machine Head, and Soil. With a hearty helping of guitar savagery, backed by a relentless rhythm section, tracks like “Follow” stomp a hole in your chest and will leave you wondering what the hell happened. Solid and brutal, Chemical Burn’s debut showcases a brand of in your face, uncompromising metal that is sorely missed.
www.chemicalburnmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hurry Up Offense,"Labor Day" (Indie Release)
Somewhere between Social Distortion and Good Charlotte lie Hurry Up Offense, a punk trio packed with vitriol and virtue, which will play anywhere, and will sacrifice anything for the sake of the music. On the outfit’s rapid-fire three-song endeavor, sneering ’77 punk meets glossed over WB melodrama rock for a potent mix of fashionable anarchy, especially on the brazen “Me Vs.”, which sounds like the meeting of The Dead Boys and My Chemical Romance, and features the memorable chorus of “the medicine goes down”. Indeed, after a few listens, Hurry Up Offense will seep through your system, too.
www.plusonemusic.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"SAW" (Koch)
The soundtrack for the gruesome horror flick SAW features heavy bands and some of maestro’s Charlie Clouser’s twisted electronica, making this 14-track release a mixed bag of sorts. Tracks by Enemy, Fear Factory, and Pitbull Daycare rock with predictable industrial metal fare, while the more atmospheric yet sometimes unsettling musical interludes from Clouser and friends (among them Danny Lohner and Page Hamilton) may have fit the film, yet don’t stand up well by themselves. If you want to creep someone out, this is an excellent soundtrack to use, but if you’re looking for a collection to raise both the hairs on your neck and your expectations, look elsewhere.
www.sawmovie.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Porn,"Wine, Women, and Song" (Small Stone)
When you put Billy Anderson (producer of the who’s who of the classic stoner underground), Dale Crover (Melvins) and Tim Moss in a studio together, it’s gonna be loud. And heavy. And spacey, and will quite possibly kick your ass in unforeseen ways. Such is the case with the trio’s latest project, formerly Men of Porn, renamed to the lascivious band name Porn. On the six-track stoner rock odyssey, you get it all, from ultra heavy riffs, to 12-minute epics, to guttural screams and ripping fretwork, to left of center, free-form instrumental magic. All in a day’s work for Porn, an unstoppable sludge rock entity whose latest release will please the innermost Sabbath devotee in us all.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Chasm,"The Spell of Retribution" (Wicked World)
The Chasm is a Chicago-based trio by way of Mexico whose gripping death metal stance is glorified on the outfit’s debut for Wicked World. THE SPELL OF RETRIBUTION is the title of this extreme metal opus, and the 10-track release harkens back to the days when raw metal, such as the introduction of Slayer, The Haunted, and Sepultura to the world, was a monumental metal moment. Menacing and unyielding, songs like “Conjuring the New Apocalypse” exhibit Swedish stomp, late ‘80s thrash wizardry, and the unfettered feeling of some of the more explorative black metal outfits, yet The Chasm retains its distinct identity throughout the entire disc. While the group plays in a style that has been lost in the metal shuffle for some time now, the uncompromisingly raw and brutal sound’s resurgence couldn’t find a more thirsty audience than today’s, who have been regulated to wading and wallowing in mediocrity. THE SPELL OF RETRIBUTION goes one step further than denouncing false metal: it slays it convincingly. A must have metal release.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


U.D.O,"Thunderball" (The End)
Standing alongside Halford, Meine, Dickinson, and Osbourne in terms of metal majesty would be Udo Dirkschnieder, the diminutive yet unbreakable lead throat of Accept and now his own project, U.D.O. The new album contains the standard formulaic hard rock you’d expect from this metal icon, with a few twists thrown in: the Russian flavored “Trainride in Russia”, complete with native instrumentation and lyrics is a tad cheesy, but hits the mark, as does the mid-tempo stomp of “The Magic Mirror”. Yet, that unmistakable yelp coupled with some potent power metal riffs is what brings ‘em back every time, and tracks like the title track and “Fistful of Anger” don’t disappoint. For a solid shot of classic metal, allow the veteran know how of U.D.O. administer your metal fix.
www.theendrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Throcult,"Stormbringer: Conjuration of the Nighthode" (Crash)
Despite the major changes this Colorado outfit has undergone in the past year, scaling down from a sextet to a quartet (losing both a keyboardist and a lead vocalist), Throcult have managed to pull together and make a tantalizing death metal release. On STORMBRINGER, the song structures and performances are dually intricate, making this nine-track release an album you need to hear many times over to soak in all of its nuances. And even though some of these pulverizing tracks are creepingly melodic at times, Throcult never lost sight of the big picture, which seems to consist of bringing apocalypse to the digital age. With blast beated drums in full effect, and the black metal ambience peeking through the carnage on tracks like “Order of the Lunar Temple”, STORMBRINGER displays one of the best examples of war metal this side of Eastern Europe.
www.crashmusicinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Denver Harbor,"Scenic" (Universal)
Rising from the ashes of Fenix, TX, Denver Harbor continues the tough task of bringing respect to the much-maligned pop-punk genre. On SCENIC, the quartet’s solid riffs hold up better than anything New Found Glory has offered, while the sinewy lyrics go deeper than The Offspring and Blink 182 combined, heard on the punchy “Outta My Head”. And when the boys decide to get a little melancholic on songs like “All I Want” and “Let You Go”, they opt to tone the whine down a whole lot and sing from the heart, a trait all of the fashion punkers out there should take note on. Sturdy songwriting with a bevy of hooks and memorable choruses is what Denver Harbor specializes in, and SCENIC won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a band in between Foo Fighters and Green Day.
www.universalrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Seven Witches,"Year of the Witch" (Sanctuary)
American power metal troupe Seven Witches is a project known for having many guests in its ranks, and YEAR OF THE WITCH is no exception, boasting the low-end skills of both Joey Vera and Dave Ellefson. Yet this time around, the same core members return, a first for Jack Frost’s clan. And these guys have created a swift metal assault in the process: throughout the entire 14 tracks, the sound of Seven Witches have an old school tone with some heavier elements a la Priest and Megadeth chiming in. This is especially evident on fast tracks like “Fires Below” and the soon-to-be metal anthem “Metal Asylum”, a track chronicling the history of metal and its legends with lyrical homage to everyone from Ozzy to David Lee Roth. Providing pure power metal sans any trace of disgrace, Seven Witches is a metal band you can proudly bang your head to and not worry about the band getting sappy or exploring new ground on your ass, and isn’t that a good thing to have in metal these days? If you dig Dio, Queensryche, Neverrnore, and Dokken, you’ll love the real metal styling of Seven Witches, whose latest CD is definitely its best to date.
www.noiserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Melvins + Lustmord,"Pigs of the Roman Empire" (IPECAC)
Underground kings of rock meet legendary noise terrorist for eight tracks of unabashed skull crushing. That’s what the headline reads for the release of the latest project between The Melvins and Lustmord, an unlikely combination on paper that bares stunning results. Just when you thought the grunge-rock feel of King Buzzo’s crew couldn’t be enhanced, enter ex-Throbbing Gristle collaborator Lustmord to the fold, who puts his creepy electronic spin on tracks like “Safety Third” and “The Bloated Pope” like a chef garnishes a fine meal. While, thanks to the programming genius of Lustmord, there’s a lot of ambient spaces throughout the duration of PIGS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, but it’s a welcomed addition and daresay a time to rest up before the metallic maelstrom that is The Melvins churn out another noise rock classic like “Pink Bat”.
www.ipecac.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Lake of Tears,"Black Brick Road" (Sanctuary)
Lake of Tears is a long running Swedish Goth metal outfit whose latest release celebrates a rebirth of sorts for the trio, who after a short hiatus, decided to give it another go. And the rock world is grateful, as BLACK BRICK ROAD spawns nine tracks of masterfully crafted, well textured songs that falls somewhere between the savvy of Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, and Opeth. Sonically charged with pronounced keyboards and shimmering guitar solos, tracks like “Making Evenings” and “Rainy Day Away” have that progressive rock edge without incessant musicianship distracting the listener, while the last track “Crazyman” showcases a heavier, yet still experimental outfit. If you’re bored with the stateside version of metal, tune in to Lake of Tears’ latest release and witness a mature, intelligent band blow you away firsthand.
www.noiserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Eternal Flight,"Positive Rage" (Cruz Del Sur)
Eternal Flight is by far one of the most uplifting metal bands to come down the pike in a very long time. Despite the fact that this outfit plays the kind of power metal usually relegated to songs about dungeons, dragons, swords, and sorcerers, this French outfit is equipped with both lyrics and an attitude that emanate all-around good feelings. 11-tracks of Primal Fear meets early Queensryche majestic yet operatic metal is what you’ll find on POSITIVE RAGE, and with a sunny outlook to boot. If you like your metal progressive a la Dream Theater with power metal parts which fans of both Nevermore and Helloween would appreciate, then this quintet is for you.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rachel Fuller,"Cigarettes and Housework" (Universal)
Rachel Fuller is a classically trained musician making a foray into the pop rock genre with some help from Pete Townshend (yes, that Pete Townshend). On CIGARETTES AND HOUSEWORK, Fuller mixes up the variety from the Tori Amos/ Alanis Morrisette type balladeering of “Outside My Window” to the sultry delivery of Sarah McLachlan on “Eat Me”. While a lot of the album is basically stuff your mom and aunt would die for after hearing it in the new Julia Roberts flick, the music is pristinely composed, if not a bit overblown, and should appeal to the misled populous that have kept Michael Bolton and Kenny G household names.
www.universalrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sparta,"Porcelain" (Geffen)
Sparta’s sophomore effort is a glistening display of post hardcore brilliance, as PORCELAIN showcases the El Paso quartet rolling up its collective sleeve and dishing out some of the most elegantly displayed anger this side of Radiohead. Traces of early U2 and Fugazi can also be traced across the entire 14-track collection, as the shimmering “Death in the Family” yields more angst that ten hardcore bands could muster while “Breaking the Broken” dually showcases a vibrant wall of sound and a graceful delivery. Jim Ward and crew still show the remnants of At the Drive In (especially on the coarse “Splinters”), yet do so without bastardizing the mystique. For a dosage of breathtaking hardcore, look no further than the aptly titled PORCELAIN.
www.geffen.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hot Water Music,"The New What's Next" (Epitaph)
Hot Water Music is a band at a crossroads of sorts. Having been around for a while (this is the Florida quartet’s ninth full length), do they appease the hardcore fan by rewriting past gems, or do they follow their guts and write as they feel? A tricky, and sometimes fatal position to be put in for any musician, HWM decide to dabble a bit in both of THE NEW WHAT’S NEXT. Songs like “Ink and Lead” show a more subdued, even mature side to the powerful punk band, while the usual urgent guitars still ring loud and clear on tracks like “All Heads Down” and “This Early Grave”, while the tense rocker “The End of the Line” unleashes off the venom of past releases. Yet, the difference is that now, Hot Water Music is a band with over a decade of the hardcore life under its belt, and is well-equipped to sing about it in a way that packs in both wisdom and angst.
www.epitaph.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Dillinger Escape Plan,"Miss Machine" (Relapse)
For every extreme metal band, there seem to be a template by which to compare to. And for the last few years, the template has been the New Jersey quintet The Dillinger Escape Plan. While other bands simply mimic what this juggernaut does, no one does it with the fiery passion or the utmost conviction that these guys radiate. The 11-track MISS MACHINE is yet another raise of the extreme metal bar, yet not by the band blazing through intricate guitar and drum parts or by being the most technically proficient band out there (even though they arguably are). DEP raise the bar because, besides the chaotic cacophonic shooting sprees of “Sunshine the Werewolf” and “Panasonic Youth”, they’ve included real, honest, heavy melodic tunes to the mix. No doubt thanks in part to the band’s collaborating with Mike Patton on the outfit’s previous EP IRONY IS A DEAD SCENE, songs like “Phone Home, while still way out of range in terms of being mainstream, include unmistakably memorable parts. Adding this kind of depth to an already top-rated aural assault rightfully places The Dillinger Escape Plan in the enviable position way atop the extreme metal genre as the most dangerous band on the planet.
www.relapse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tsjuder,"Desert Northern Hell" (Season of Mist)
When your drummer’s stage name is Anti-Christian, you can pretty much derive what the music sounds like. Such is the case of Norway’s Tsjuder, a black metal trio that dresses up like it’s Halloween and who plays with the kind of apocalyptic fury that scares young children and church groups alike. Bleak, brash, and blisteringly heavy, tracks like the maelstrom “Ghoul” and the blast-beated madness of “Possessed” go best with a lamb’s carcass for the offering to all of the netherworld’s demons. If you are enraptured with the early ‘90s black metal scene, Tsjuder does its part to summon the evil back to the year 2004.
www.season-of-mist.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


WASP,"The Neon God: Part 2 - The Demise" (Sanctuary)
Throughout his illustrious career, Blackie Lawless has always gladly raised a middle finger to the establishment, challenged authority, and fought the powers that be. On the second installment of his rock opera THE NEON GOD, Blackie and crew once again trail boldly down that road. Sounding like the vintage WASP of old, only now with a lifetime of experience at their dispose, the nine tracks adorning PART 2- THE DEMISE wrap up Lawless’ grandiose parable in true form. Emblazoned with a ferocious wall of sound and fury, the larger than life guitar work and grandiose heavy metal rhythms of “The Demise” and “Tear Down the Walls” not only work within the framework of the story, but also have no problem standing on their own merit as ass-kicking hard rock anthems. Whether you’re a casual fan or a diehard, this disc proves that WASP is still bucking the system while laying down prime slabs of glorious heavy metal.
www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


I.C.E.,"Apocalypic in White" (Crash)
No, I.C.E. isn’t another rap troupe (although there’s probably a lawsuit brewing as we speak), but instead are a malicious black metal clan who seem to be obsessed with the frigid temperatures and arctic conditions that occur in the tundra. Imperial Crystalline Entombment, for those keeping score at home, is what the acronym stands for, and the outfit’s harsh 11-track black metal assault contains all of the blood curdling screams, pounding rhythms, and searing guitar riffs you’d expect from a band that dresses up in white cloaks with porcelain masks. Yes, you read that right. For I.C.E., white is the new black, and they’ve brought the soundtrack.
www.crashmusicinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Never Enders,"Air Raid Romance" (Indie Release)
The Long Island music scene has had its share of limelight as of late, breeding some of the dirtiest musical genre description (emo) finest bands. Add The Never Enders to the list, as this suburban quintet dually slam down catchy choruses and bitch-slapping rhythms a la The Used and Lostprophets in the most pristine of ways. Never losing sight of the throngs of ladies while keeping the guys punching and sweaty, tracks like 2 and 5 keep both at an even keel, while a more sensitive side of the band can be found on 4, a moody, pensive piece. In short, these guys can scream and get really emotional, and damn if they don’t look like any in-tune Warped Tour band, but they’ve got the means to transcend that god-forsaken label that’s bound to plague many of The Never Ender’s peers.
Neverenders2000@yahoo.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Used,"In Love and Death" (Reprise)
The sophomore effort from The Used further distances the Utah quartet from the rest of the emo rock pack, thanks to the vocal gymnastics of Bert McCracken as well as some excellent production work. IN LOVE AND DEATH finds the band sounding like a towering giant on tracks like “I Caught Fire”, while more tender moments are beautifully captured on tracks like “All That I’ve Got”. Armed with a humungous sounding section and a dense guitar tone, McCracken’s trademark shrieks and wails sound that much more imminent. Even though some can argue that telling the difference between The Used and many other punk bands that combine the metal’s impact with emo’s lush undertones (AFI, Coheed and Cambria) impossible, tracks like “Take It Away” and “Listening” show signs of distinction no band in the pack have shown thus far, while “I’m A Fake”, containing a spoken word intro that whips into a frenzied punk rock anthem, makes for not only a proper closer, but the album’s most daring track.
www.repriserecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Annal Nathrakh,"Domine Non Es Dignus" (Season of Mist)
The demonic duo comprising the blast beat behemoth known as Annal Nathrakh claim they’ve made the ultimate soundtrack to Armageddon. They make a good case, as the outfit’s latest 10-track offering sounds like the amalgamation of Napalm Death, Nasum, and Emperor in the cemetery at midnight with a hapless farm animal in tow. Evil guttural vocals, if you can even call the sounds made vocals, dominate the 40-minute affair, as the ominous black/death metal riff machine spits out guitar licks with machine gun precision. Tracks like “To Err is Human, To Dream…Futile” and “Swallow the World” showcase the true carnage, as relentless pounding rhythms and frenetic vocals collide, making for one of the most sinister listening experiences heard in a very long time.
www.season-of-mist.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Jorn,"Out to Every Nation" (The End)
Power metal meets blues-rock on Jorn’s latest release, as OUT TO EVERY NATION rocks like the arena rock of yore. On the 10-track collection, the massive rock sound, rounded out by keyboards and shred guitar, takes a discernible turn into the Whitesnake/ Deep Purple territory, with a solid hard rock foundation complementing Jorn’s strapping vocal delivery. Tracks like “Living With Wolves” and “Vision Eyes” contain deep grooves, melodic hooks, and searing vocals a la Ray Gillen (Badlands) and Ronnie James Dio, while the more subdued mood of “Behind the Clown” sounds similar to the melancholy material of Queensryche. For a sturdy smattering of balls to the wall, fist pounding hard rock, give a listen to OUT TO EVERY NATION.
www.theendrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Catch 22,"Live" (Victory)
Catch 22’s live CD does its part to dispel the myth that ska is dead, as the Long Island crowd that this CD/DVD combo was captured in front of is a raucous, rabid bunch. As for the New Jersey sextet, they sound on the top of their game, as the crisp horns and heavy rhythms that pervade this 21-track disc pulsate on tracks like “Lamont’s Lament” and “Chasing the Moon”. While the third wave of ska may not be the “in thing” right now, no one told these guys. Catch 22, like its peers in Less Than Jake and Voodoo Glow Skulls, effectively giving off that feel good vibe with the punk rock backbeat, making Catch 22’s bouncy and brash live show perfect for the prepubescent Warped Tour purveyors.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hoods/ Freya,"Split" (Victory)
Teaming up for a split CD are two of hardcore’s unsung heroes, Hoods and Freya. Up first are Hoods, whose West Coast tough guy stance and blistering guitars emanate pure rage and fury, especially on the malice-filled “In Love With a Whore”, documenting another blissful relationship gone awry. Direct and to the point, Hoods mince no words and deliver the goods as raw as humanly possible. Freya, on the other hand, display a different kind of heavy, leaning on the metalcore side of the fence while implementing melodic guitars into the molten mix of songs like “Immortal Beloved”. Not unlike former band Earth Crisis, the outfit’s explosiveness is benchmark, as the dynamic twists and turns Freya utilizes make songs like “Ashes of Troy” boil over with aggression. For an abrasive assault on your ears, look no further than this split CD.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Hidden Hand,"Mother Teacher Destroyer" (Southern Lord)
The king of underground doom rock returns with The Hidden Hand, as Wino and company bring the sludgy, stoned goodness back again for an 11-track sojourn. This time around, The Hidden Hand dabbles in other genres besides the usual doom/stoner rock areas, with prime results, without alienating the trio’s massive freewheeling foundation. Tracks like the epically dismal “Sons of Kings” are true to the doom metal genre, placing churning riffs at a dirge-like pace. Other standouts such as “Desensitized” juxtapose thick, meaty riffs with metaphysical space metal jams, while the psychedelic swirling instrumental “Draco Vibration” contains more trippy value than ten hits of acid. Pushing the boundaries of heavy without sacrificing an ounce of creepiness, MOTHER TEACHER DESTROYER is yet another sonic success for this group of metal veterans.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hopesfall,"A-Types" (Trustkill)
Hopesfall latest release is a much lighter affair than previous releases by this North Carolinian quintet, as A-TYPES contains many more radio friendly moments. Although, the band’s Glassjaw comparison can still be drawn at times, especially on the staccato riff stacked “Start and Pause”, the band strayed far away from getting any more tense than that, opting to go the route of bands like Codeseven and become a bit more melodically driven. At the end of the day, despite the sprinkling of muscular guitars and screamo vocals, the change of style coupled with the slick production merely lumps Hopesfall in the heap of bands who use the same tricks, hoping in turn to shed their hardcore skin for more mainstream appeal. While the outfit’s heart may still be in the music, stadium rock choruses found on tracks like “The Ones” fit a bit more snug on bands like Story of the Year opposed to Hopesfall, who at times sound jagged and disjointed, but for all the wrong reasons.
www.trustkill.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Wobblies,"Undesirable Citizens" (Terra Forma)
The Wobblies are an Oregon based punk rock outfit whose nine-track release sounds very homemade, yet righteously encompasses the DIY punk spirit. Not one of these songs, containing all of the charm of a beer hall dance floor late on a Saturday night, runs over two and a half minutes (how’s that for brevity?), a la Misfits and Ramones. While there’s nothing earth-shattering here, The Wobblies are fortunate: where else can you find four friends that really enjoy banging out punk rock from the heart?
www.thewobblies.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Circus,"Circus" (Locomotive)
Circus is a metal band that hails from Spain whose latest 12-track endeavor is a melodic trip through Goth metal. And, it’s sung entirely in Spanish, yet the distinct vocals help to set songs like “Otra Voz” and “Interior” apart from the usual Goth rock pack. Lumbering riffs, spacious rhythms, and impassioned vocals propel Circus to heights, rivaling Paradise Lost and Lacuna Coil for the coveted dark rock championship.
www.locomotivemusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


El Buzzard,"Tranquilizante Del Elefante" (The Electric Human Project)
Halfway between noise metal and stoner rock lie El Buzzard, the crushing California quartet hell-bent on fusing The Melvins, Black Flag, and Black Sabbath into a six-song, almost 11 minute affair. And goddamn if these guys don’t do an admirable job, as they deliberately cut the typical, drugged-out fat and cut right to meaty riffs like the one found on “I Got Shot”, showing that sludge rock doesn’t have to move like molasses to smack you upside the head. A quick, yet low-ended, jolt to the system, El Buzzard’s messy brand of metallic space rock is perfect for a quick fix.
www.electrichumanproject.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The New Spain,"The New Spain" (Indie Release)
The Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is cited as one of the hotbeds of indie rock, and coincidentally, that is where the eclectic trio known as The New Spain hangs their hats. The outfit’s latest self-titled five-track disc showcases a band that seems to know a thing or two about the usage of dynamics, sounding like a cross between Quicksand, The Police, and Interpol on “Caveat”, while “America Was a Project” radiates waves of At the Drive In meets Thursday at a Fugazi show. A melting pot of counter culture with massive guitar layering to boot, The New Spain’s latest is a captivating listen to those who enjoy left-of-center rock.
www.thenewspain.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hirax,"The New Age of Terror" (Mausoleum)
Emanating from the same scene that spawned Slayer, Testament, and Exodus, veteran metal troupe Hirax have been through quite a bit in the band’s career, yet THE NEW AGE OF TERROR finds the quintet in fine headbanging form. The 11-track old school sojourn has all of the blistering solos, pure metallic vocals, and bone-crushing rhythms you’d expect from a band that started back in the infant stages of the thrash metal movement, but without sounding overblown or cheesy like so many comebacks do. Instead, tracks like “El Diablo Negro” and “The New Age of Terror” may date the band a bit, but finds Hirax in the kind of fighting shape that makes you proud to wear your denim jacket and delightfully bang your head.
www.mausoleum-records.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Born From Pain,"Sands of Time" (Blackmarket)
Hailing from the Netherlands, Born From Pain play the kind of beatdown hardcore that you’d expect from an East Coast tough guy crew, allowing this quintet to give bands such as Hatebreed and Bury Your Dead a run for their money. Tracks like “Under These Skies” and “Stainless” (complete with an old school death metal breakdown that cries for violence) teem with pummeling rhythms, guttural vocals, and the kind of vitriol that you just don’t find from your average hardcore clan, putting the 11-track SANDS OF TIME in a different league. If you are looking to add an album chock full of chugging riffs, chest-pounding screams, and overall metallic shellshock, welcome Born From Pain to your collection.
www.blackmarketactivities.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Saint Angeles,"Sampler" (Indie Release)
The style of California quartet Saint Angeles sounds something in between 7 Seconds, Pennywise, and AFI, with a little bit of metal dynamics thrown in for good measure. The five-track disc exhibits an outfit unafraid of blending genres for the sake of writing good music, and showcases an overall upbeat vibe. Despite the CD being extremely homemade (not even a track listing enclosed), the music sounds crisp and sharp, especially the excellent drum sounds. The music of Saint Angeles contains a good intense energy that the band can hopefully catapult to the next level.
www.saintangeles.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Four Years Strong,"Sampler" (Indie Release)
This California based outfit have got the act down to a science: one part screamo, one part emo, one part dual vocals, one part synths, and one part big, hooky choruses. Meshing Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, and Story of the Year, Four Years Strong’s four-track release came with not a shred of info, yet from one listen you can pretty much get the general idea that these guys are another pop punk band further clogging the system.
There is no website for this artist...
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Paria,"Misanthropos" (Blackmarket)
Bombarding your ears with menacing skill is the mantra from Nebraska metallers Paria, a quintet that transcends the metalcore moniker much like Dillinger Escape Plan and Between the Buried and Me have managed to do. By implementing wicked signature changes, chaotic guitar parts, intricate rhythmic patterns, and all around sheer musical terror, Paria have found themselves in the company of the finest of the underground metal community. Juxtaposing the crushing grooves of Mastodon with the blatant death metal disdain of Slipknot with the ornery delivery of Burnt by the Sun, MISANTHROPOS is an adventurous journey through destruction.
www.blackmarketactivities.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cradle of Filth,"Nyphetamine" (Roadrunner)
The morbid metal offerings of Cradle of Filth have never sounded so accessible than on the stalwart outfit’s latest release. But don’t blame Dani Filth and company, as the trademark gloom and doom that pervades the band’s catalog is still prevalent on the 14-track NYMPHETAMINE. Only this time around, the boys have stacked its operatic modus operandi with a bit more American metal approach, making songs like the title track skull crushing and luxurious, while allowing the galloping guitars of “Coffin Fodder” to emulate its best ‘80s metal pose while Filth yowls in the background. This may be the outfit’s most complete album to date, as it craftily welcomes new influences without leaving the Goth and black metal influences the band is steeped in behind. When it comes to this style of metal, there are many bands that keep their heads down and keep banging out the same old savagery. Thankfully, Cradle of Filth isn’t one of them, as NYPHETAMINE keeps one eye on the grave and another at the scene and in turn, makes an epic metal album.
www.roadrunnerrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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