Music Reviews: FEBRUARY 2006

Madooo,"To The ‘Fab Four’ From Liverpool-A Tribute From India" (Madooo Records)
I admit that as a card-carrying Beatlemaniac I'm ALWAYS curious to hear new Beatles tribute albums! Although you can't really improve on the originals, I've heard some really cool interpretations like "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" by Allen Wentz. And the best are when you get to hear the artist truly make the song their own, not sticking too close to the original version. Already a star in his native India, Madooo (Madhukar Chandra Dhas) plays tribute to one of his biggest influences, The Beatles. When I first heard about his Beatles tribute I've got to admit that I was really curious, thinking that Indian versions would be really cool, especially with part of the title saying, "A tribute from India". So I was a little disappointed that the Indian influence was really toned back. This disc is sort of an East-meets-West take on the Beatles, with a healthy dose of techno thrown in.

The problem with this disc is that too many of the songs fall flat compared to other cover versions I've heard. "Norwegian Wood" doesn't take enough chances…I mean, what do you do to a song that already has Indian influences? Keeping a reggae rhythm, "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" adds nothing to the original, besides, it is not my favorite Beatle song anyway. When you hear the Indian effects in "Across The Universe", you wish you could hear more. While the "The John Lennon Tribute Medley" might sound like a good idea, combining the songs "Imagine"/"Watchin' The Wheels"/"Give Peace A Chance", the various inserted news soundbites about Lennon's death are distracting. There are four more tracks of "radio edits" "Norwegian Wood", "Gotta Get You Into My Life", "I Saw Her Standing There", and "The John Lennon Tribute Medley", but they add nothing to the longer versions on this disc.

Now to the good stuff. "If I Needed Someone" has a cool, trance-like vibe; "You Can't Do That" has a great driving rhythm; "With A Little Help From My Friends" is one of the few that has just enough Indian sounds. The best has to be "I Saw Her Standing There", with its trance mix! Overall, this CD is worth a listen for these four songs. I probably would have rated it better if he hadn't used "A tribute from India" in the title. I just felt taken.
www.bigdooker.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Ronnie


Talking Heads,"77" (Rhino)
This is the first album I ever owned by the Talking Heads. Well, not this one in particular but a copy when the album originally came out. This was completely different from anything I had previously heard in my somewhat short lifetime. It was almost a religious of drug induced experience to pop this in the cassette deck, crank up the volume and drive around town with my friends. Most of us were Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Van Halen fans for the most part but no one ever objected to what was pumping out of the speakers. “Psycho Killer” was sort of my theme song for a while but I digress. Anyway, Rhino had the foresite to put together this fine package for re-release. It comes with five bonus tracks that include an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer”. And, as though that weren’t enough, just flip this disc over for the dvd side and get a whole lot more like the original album in 5.1 surround sound, a photo gallery and concert videos of “Pulled Up” and “I Feel It In My Heart”. A very nice deal indeed.
www.rhino.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Talking Heads,"Fear Of Music" (Rhino)
“Fear Of Music” was another Talking Heads album that got a lot of play in my car when it originally came out. I stuck this re-release in the cd player this weekend while I was doing some remodeling on my house and it sounded just as fresh as it did way back then. The Talking Heads were the shit during this period which is odd for a band that was so far out of the mainstream. I mean, check out “Life During Wartime” and tell me another band that sounded anything close to this at the time. Hell, name a band that sounds anywhere near this now for that matter. It just goes to show that if you be yourself and stay true to yourself things will come around eventually. Again, just like the “77” reissue, this cd comes with bonus tracks that include alternate versions and outtakes plus dvd material on the flipside. If you don’t have anything by this band then you definitely should get your hands on these reissues.
www.rhino.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Crosby, Stills & Nash,"Daylight Again (Expanded & Remastered)" (Atlantic/Rhino)
From 1969 until 1982, Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) were a huge classic-rock act with plenty of chart-topping hits and even surviving the punk/new wave revolution with the hit album CSN. But by the '80s the band was fragmenting, in part to David Crosby's drug problems. It was in 1982 that Crosby, Stills & Nash gave their last gasp for musical relevance - their "Daylight Again" album. Spawning two big hits ("Wasted on the Way", "Southern Cross"), the album showed that they were still able to deliver the goods. While not as strong as their earlier albums, "Daylight Again" showed that their trademark vocal talents were still there. The expanded and remastered edition revisits this final glory of CSN with glorious sound, expanded liner notes and 4 bonus tracks. Three of the bonus tracks ("Raise a Voice", "Feel Your Love", "Tomorrow is Another Day") are excellent and only the bonus demo for "Might as Well Have a Good Time" is extraneous, it is just too much like the released version. In fact, "Tomorrow is Another Day" is my favorite song on this collection and I can't see why they left it off the original! This CD is a great way to revisit a sometimes-guilty pleasure that is CSN.
www.rhino.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Roberta Flack,"The Very Best of Roberta Flack" (Atlantic/Rhino)
Whether it was romantic ballads, jazz-infused R&B, disco or sappy '80s ballads ("Tonight, I Celebrate My Love"), Roberta Flack is one of those artists that covered many genres, and did so with continued success. Spanning the years between 1969 and 1991, THE VERY BEST OF ROBERTA FLACK captures both periods of this artist's career. I say "both" because the two sections of her career sound vastly different: the early years (along with her duets with Donny Hathaway) and her later years (duets with Peabo Bryson after Hathaway's suicide). This collection shows the diversity of her talents, and while I prefer to hear the hits it is great to have a complete legacy of her work to see her artistic growth. This CD is worth it just to hear: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", "Where Is the Love", "Killing Me Softly With His Song", "Feel Like Makin' Love". Pure '70s nostalgia bliss!
www.robertaflack.com
www.rhino.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott H. Platt


South Filthy,"Crackin’ Up" (Licorice Tree Records)
I haven’t even had breakfast yet and after a few minutes of listening to this amazing cd I have an almost indescribably huge craving for jalapeño’s and Budweiser and an uncontrollable urge to expose myself. “Crackin’ Up” has the honky-tonk feel that the Rolling Stones have been trying to put on tape for years. I’d love to hear these guys cover “Far Away Eyes” or “Before They Make Me Run” or better yet the whole “Some Girls” album. This is down home plate of Americana served up by an underground supergroup comprised of members from Jack O’Fire, Big Foot Chester, Gibson Bro.s, ’68 Comeback, Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers, Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Doug Sham. Amust have in my book.
www.licoricetree.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Eames Era,"Double Dutch" (C Student Records)
Warm and fuzzy pop from a Baton Rouge outfit that unfortunately had to cancel their upcoming tour following a violent car crash with a National Guard military truck. Luckily they escaped the accident with relatively minor injuries, the worst being guitarist Ted Joyner’s broken arm. The band set out to create music in much the same vein of Television, Talking Heads and Blondie and what they’ve come up with is a pretty nice mix with their own stamp on it. Their songs “Go To Sleep” and “Promises” nails Blondie in their early years. You can also catch the band on the soundtrack to the hit TV show Greys Anatomy.
www.theeamesera.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Boroughs,"Ostrich" (Indie Release)
Three guys with a half Ramones, half New Duncan Imperials work approach . This five song cd ep works for me. Sort of a ’77 punk / 70’s hard rock / pop mix. “Gone Too Far” has that classic old school punk guitar feel that Johnny Ramone made so famous. “Ostrich” is another song that leans heavily on that ’77 punk sound but has a hard rock guitar solo that blends everything together. They also remind of Dash Rip Rock which was a longtime favorite of mine. Any band that quotes Motorhead in their lyrics has got my vote so check them out. For fans of the Foo Fighters as well as the Ramones.
www.theboroughs.net
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Matthew Thomas,"Overrated Life" (Indie Release)
There’s a fine line between the music of Matchbox 20 and Dave Matthews and Matthew Thomas has found his niche walking that fine line. The eleven songs here on “Overrated Life” feel as familiar as an old friend. Thomas is blessed with a way of writing radio friendly songs that will appeal to a very large audience. There’s not much of anything here that will sound completely new to you but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the time because it is well worth the listen. The title track is very infectious as is the other ten tracks.
www.matthewthomasmusic.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Limit,"Eyes For You" (Indie Release)
This is a release of tracks recorded back in the mid-eighties by a band from Richmond, Virginia. The Limit has that new wave pop sound of bands like The Romantics, The Producers, The Bongos, The Knack and all those other bands around that time whose name started with The. This is pretty catchy stuff and it sounds like the stuff I was listening to back then. Fun, polished, new wave / punk / pop with a bag full of hooks from guys with spiked hair and cans of Aquanet in their dressing rooms. This is good for a flashback or two if you care to stroll down that lane.
thescottsandme@aol.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Lisa DeBenedictis,"Tigers" (Magnatune)
Whispery, seductive and yet somewhat innocent vocals that suck you into a world she has created just for your pleasure. Now how can anyone pass up something that was created solely for their pleasure? Well, I can’t do it so I’m just going along on the ride with DeBenedictis and I have to say that it’s a pretty enjoyable ride. Give her a listen and judge for yourself. For fans of Susanne Vega, Some Girls and such like minded bands. Soulful and jazzy pop with a laid back feel.
www.magnatune.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Julia Othmer,"Oasis Motel" (Indie Release)
I like this woman. I mean, I really like this woman. She has a voice that can only be described as Macy Gray meets Alicia Keys with a dash of Alanis Morrissette thrown into the mix. “Oasis Motel” is one soulful release and definitely worth seeking out if you’re a fan of any of the artists previously mentioned. After listening to songs like “Hey, Hey”, “Darling” and the reggae tinged “Intention” you’ll be hooked as well. A mix of jazz, rock and pop that just oozes with soul.
www.juliaothmer.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The A-Sides,"Sun Sessions EP" (Pint-Size Records)
Atlanta’s very own A-Sides are back again. This time it’s with a four song cd ep that will flat out put the swivel back in your hips. You’ll start off with a cool, low-key, Maynard G. Crebbs style finger snapping and before you know it your shaking your tail feather like it was 1965 and you’re a background dancer on the T.A.M.I. show. This is a really fun listen. I’ve got to make the two hour drive to Atlanta and catch one of their shows one day. Three originals and a killer cover of “Sea Cruise”. My favorite song is “Flip It Over”.
www.theasides.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Love Drunks,"The Love Drunks" (Alive Records)
Imagine a monster with the head of Jerry Lee Lewis and the body of Iggy and the Stooges. Okay, now fuel it with beer and you’ll get The Love Drunks. This cd is almost immediately infectious. It’s the reason it took me so long to review the stack of cds I had on my desk. The damn thing stayed in my player most of the day. I was happy to read these guys hail from Atlanta since I’m only a few hours away and can possibly catch a show in the near future. Full tilt rockabilly punk with enough garage bang to blow you off your barstool. Me likes what me hears!
www.alive-totalenergy.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


North To Emerson,"…Anywhere But Here" (Indie Release)
Power pop punk from four freaks and geeks. That means it’s about ten times better than the same style music the pretty boy bands play. I loved the old days when bands were ugly and could rock your ass off. Video kind of screwed things up for all us, let’s just say, less than perfect looking people. Anyway, these guys will rock your ass off and they’re just going to keep getting better at it because all us less than perfect looking people have to prove our self every day. So, all you beautiful people have been warned.
www.northtoemerson.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Judy Klass,"Brooklyn Cowgirl" (Warp & Woof)
Hot damn! Who woulda thunk a bona-fide classic country album would come from a “Brooklyn Cowgirl”? Judy Klass delivers a country magnus-opus of now less than eighteen (!) songs on this release, with nary a bad song in the bunch. From classic country tear-jerkers to boot-skooting boogies, this album is so strong I just believe it could turn even the most skeptical music fan into a country fan. There are no less than three classics on this disc: “Drunk On One Corona”, “Sex With Your Ex” and “Elvis Lives”. Judy Klass has the talent so spread the word!
www.judyklass.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Kirsten Davies,"Unseen" (Indie Release)
With the explosion of female-led rock music acts in the last decade, it is really hard to rise above the pack and deliver something truly unique. Unfortunately, Kirsten Davies doesn’t quite rise above the rest. She delivers a mix of ‘90s female rock along with Pat Benetaresque songs. “I Still Hear You” is the one track where Kirsten really delivers – a great tune without obvious connections to any other artist. So, she has the knack, she just needs to amplify it.
www.kirstendavies.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott H. Platt


CSB,"Circles" (Rock Ridge Records)
This band begs to rhetorical question: just how many Dave Mathews Band/Counting Crows/Whitesnake clones does the world really need? Nuff said. Cookie-cutter rock taken to the extreme.
www.csband.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Jared Barkan,"Darkblue" (Indie Release)
The first song, "All I Know" grabs your attention just like a good opener should and the song sounds like a modern interpretation of Cat Stevens, but with better vocals! When I compare him to Cat Stevens, it is not a put-down - Jared's songs just take those unique twists that are Cat's trademark. And when I talk about the vocals, they are astounding, drawing you into the songwriter's realm. The backing vocals are the icing on the cake - perfectly complementary. But not all is acoustic-led, as the third track "Here We Go" adds distorted guitar to the mix along. "Darkstar" adds psychedelia to the acoustic mix with tantalizing effect. While some of the songs present what I would call a "dark tone", it’s not the kind to make you want to slit your wrists! This is just the right amount of gravitas that I like to see artists have - bending the expected to present something both unique and entertaining. If there is a new direction for the folk/acoustic-based genre, then Jared Barkan has found it!
www.jaredbarkan.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Andrei Arsene,"Where We Started" (Dream Shell Records)
The kick-off song reminds me Bruce Hornsby with its piano fills. Typical middle-of-the-road rock, not too hard and not too light. The use of synthesizers is a tad overbearing and when it is combined with string orchestration, it becomes a bit overboard. Several of the songs have a Santana and Grateful Dead groove going. The production is a little too polished and if it was stripped down a little they would be more effective. It is good that they showcase the vocals without harmony because they vocals really stand on their own. If they could stick to one genre, they would be on to something.
www.andreiarsene.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Scott H. Platt


Blind Corn Liquor Pickers,"Anywhere Else?" (Indie Release)
The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers deliver an authentic bluegrass sound and these guys are at the top of their game. One song delivers an authentic Sun sounding rockabilly tune, which sounds like the Stray Cats with an infusion of bluegrass. Plus, there is a great surprise to be found with their bluegrass version of the Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime”, very cool! As long as there are superb artists like these guys, the bluegrass genre will always be alive cause this is the real deal. The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers deliver one hellacious hootenanny!
www.blindcorn.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Tarentella,"Esqueletos" (Alternative Tentacles)
This is a little bizarre - "Esqueletos" by Tarantella is a release on the Alternative Tentacles label that has absolutely nothing to do with rock and roll. With a definite Spanish flavor in musical delivery, the lyrics alternate between Spanish and English. The music instantly transports you to a bar deep in the back roads of Mexico, after a 3-day psychedelic mushroom comedown, where you are sitting to escape the desert sun and your mouth is so dry that the taste of tequila that the bar serves quenches your thirst like an oasis. Tarantella is that tequila, sometimes quenching and sometimes taking your mind on a psychedelic spaghetti-western romp. This would be the perfect group for the next Quentin Tarantino film.
www.alternativetentacles.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


David Cousino,"Wind Over Texas" (Dasboots Records)
Cool country/blues groove going with great pickin’ and a great voice. I’m a sucker for a patriotic song and “Keep Old Glory New” is a good one. The standout track is “Auto Parts Store” with its hilarious with its ode to the working man. A great portrayal of “mom, love, apple pie” Americana, but not delivered in a sappy way.
www.cousinotes.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Gary Hankins Spot of Blue,"Livin’ Life This Way" (Indie Release)
A great mix roadhouse country blues and ballads that don’t swing to the slick pop-trendy country that permeates most country radio airwaves today. There is a twist of rockabilly and Appalachian bluegrass to give this the album a unique sound. "Just a Cowboy" starts out like a country version of the Beatles "Blackbird" giving a very interesting song. At times Gary Hankins has an Elvis Presley voice, especially on the slower songs. A great alternative to today's average country and special kudos to the excellent guitar playing.
spotofblue.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Relic Rust,"Relic Rust presents Relic Cuts the intro" (Indie Release)
Oh my gawd! It's the return of Aha! Not really, but the first ten seconds of "Get Away" make you think so. A classic case of a band not knowing just who they are. The main problem with this band is the substandard production. The sound levels jump from song to song, too much echo on the vocals on other songs, dissonant harmony vocals that distract from the lead vocals. Other songs put too much emphasis on lead guitar gymnastics. Its too bad because some songs like "Walk In the Rain" you just know would be stellar songs with better production.
www.relicrulst.com
Rating:

Review by Scott H. Platt


Mistic Rein,"Deja Voodoo" (Indie Release)
This could easily be the soundtrack to a Bond flick. It has a real exotic feel. The vocals sound a bit like Shirley Manson from Garbage only more seductive somehow. This would be a great make out cd. This is their third album, “Karma” being their first, followed by “Cobwebs” and now “Deja Voodoo”. Their song “The One” from “Deja Voodoo” has received great responses from VH1's Song of the Year committee and they even placed "The One" in the top 5 of their International Song of The Year Competition. Like I said, it has a real seductive feel that’s infectious.
www.misticrein.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Stranger Lazy,"The Cox Sintrific" (Indie Release)
This is somewhere between Love & Rockets and Love Tractor with a little Tom Verlaine thrown in for good measure. It kind of has an early eighties alternative feel to it. Sort of like The Connells or Camper Van Beethoven without the quirky side. Hell it sounds like half my record collection during that time. It’s actually quite good and extremely catchy. My favorite tracks were “And I Punched It”, “3..4..5..” and the Syd Barrett styling of “Kidneystones And Palindromes”.
www.strangerlazy.net
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Accident That Led Me To The World,"The Accident That Led Me To The World" (Nobodys Favorite Records)
A haunting collection of melancholy songs written by Mark Mandeville and recorded by Jerry Fels. This is as relaxing as it is captivating. Songs like “Tell Me Something”, “The Accident…”, “All My Ghosts” and “Take My Life” sound like the Violent Femmes visiting their backwoods cousins for a few country death songs. I really like this! It’s definitely not you everyday top forty spoon fed crap that radio has to offer. Check this out and check out the Nobodys Favorite Records catalog as well.
www.nobodysfavoriterecords.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Richard Butler,"Self Titled" (label)
Richard Butler is known to most music fans as the lead singer of The Psychedelic Furs. Except for a 2 record stint with his Love Spit Love project he has rarely stepped out of this role. Until now. On his first solo record, Butler explores sonic areas that were only touched upon during his band days. Aided by multi-instrumentalist Jon Carin, this record overflows with melody and innovative soundscapes on each song. “Good Days Bad Days” features soothing acoustic guitar as Butler sings about everyday issues. “Breathe” has background effects that enhance rather than distract from the tune. “Milk” has a soaring chorus that you’ll want to hit repeat on again and again as Butler croons “don’t wake up baby/or breathe a word of anything/don’t wake up baby.” Even the close to 7 minutes “Nothing’s Wrong” doesn’t lose momentum with its Bowie meets Floyd vibe. The album ends on a high note with “Maybe Someday” with somber piano in the background as Butler ponders life’s limitations. You will too especially if you throw this record on at 3 AM to go along with the last glass of wine in that bottle. Choose yr own poison-but bring this disc along for the trip.
www.burneddowndays.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Various Artists,"High School Reunion-A Tribute to All Those Great 80’s Films" (label)
Ah, the compilation collection. Everyone will have their favorites and argue over the clunkers, but that’s what I’m here for kids. The CD starts out with John P. Strohm (what the hell happened to this guy?) giving a cool take on Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby”-minus the bowl cut of course. Dipsomaniacs turn in a rousing version of The Plimsouls’ “Million Miles Away” that captures Peter Case’s raw energy. Then comes Matthew Sweet’s “American Girl”, a song in the movie but not on the soundtrack of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Trust me-I bought the double vinyl when it came out. The vocals are a little weak on this one but musically it’s OK. The Bennies conjure up a twisted stew on “Weird Science” that Anthony Michael Hall would dig. Speaking of Hall, no love for his classic No Way Out on this release-oh well! Lori McKenna provides a little Southwestern twang to excellent effect on “In Your Eyes.” An in an interesting bizzaro world transformation-Kristen Hersh (of The Throwing Muses) does a better Frank Black on “Wave of Mutilation” than Frank does Iggy Pop on “Repo Man.” The heavy hitters on here-The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen are treated to limp versions of their songs. And did we really need another cover of “Melt With You?” Burger King beat that dead horse until it contracted herpes and died. Bury it. Only The Replacements make it out alive with Bastards Of Melody’s tuneful run on “Within Your Reach.” So stop by High School Reunion-as long as you’ve gotten rid of your Flock Of Seagulls haircut by now.
www.americanlaundromatrecords.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Ryan Adams,"29" (label)
Before you start sending me volumes of hate mail, I want to state for the record: I like Ryan Adams. I have most of his records and a fair amount of bootlegs that I listen to semi-regularly. Maybe Ryan was tired in 2005-I would be too if I had to put out 3 records. But this one has yet to grow on me. The title track is way too Grateful Dead-ish. “Strawberry Wine” has a nice flow to it. It’s not that it’s too mellow either. But it just lacks the dynamics that something like Love Is Hell had. “Carolina Rain” tells a cool storyline in the vein of Neil Young. But that’s not enough to save 29. Sorry-maybe I should be reviewing Jacksonville Nights instead. We’ll see what 2006 brings us.
www.ryan-adams.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Robyn Hitchcock,"Spooked" (label)
Robyn Hitchcock has made acoustic records before-Eye is an underrated classic, but with the help of some friends in the studio, this record is mesmerizing from start to finish. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch were brought in to produce and play a majority of the instruments as well. “Television” is so light and fluffy it will feel like a Milky Way poured into your ears-it’s that good. “Everybody Need Love” is a jangly melody with some psychedelic sitar thrown in for good measure. “Sometimes A Blonde” is another stellar track on this record-haunting and reflective at the same time. “Trying To Get To Heaven Before They Close The Door” has shades of Dylan but still carries the Hitchcock stamp. If you were wondering if Hitchcock is still quirky-we get “Welcome To Earth.” Condi Rice gets a shout-out! Spooked wraps up with the subtle “Flanagan’s Song.” This is a great record. Buy it if it’s your 10th Hitchcock purchase or you’re first. Either way you’ll be satisfied.
www.robynhitchcock.com
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


John Doe,"Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet" (label)
Raw, rustic, and feels like it was recorded in a dumpy motel in Reno, Forever... has a very cool vibe. Guests include Grant Lee Phillips, Dave Alvin, Neko Case and Kristen Hersh among others. Doe’s current X bandmates are represented by DJ Bonebrake on vibraphone throughout and Exene co wrote one tune. But Doe is running the show here-and it hits all the right cues. “The Losing Kind” has a nice bluesy feel, while “Mama Don’t” has some nice vocal harmonies courtesy of Veronica Jane. “Hwy 5” is probably the most commercial tack on here, but it still sounds like nothing on the radio today. “Twin Brother” is striking in its simplicity and that’s what makes it work so well. Doe double tracks his vocals to give the song that added intensity. Forever… draws to a close with the sadly beautiful “She’s Not.” John Doe is a great American songwriter that deserves your full attention-this CD is a start.
www.yeproc.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


Paul Weller,"As Is Now" (label)
Still shining light from 2002’s Illumination, Weller returns with a ballsy, rock record that will break against brick walls like your empty beer bottles-loud and with a crash. The up tempo numbers bolster the more introspective tracks perfectly. “Blink and You’ll Miss It” and “From The Floorboards Up” are the driving tunes here. “Floorboards” probably is the most melodic of the bunch and could cross over to the mainstream in a more forgiving world. But the record is balanced by some more somber songs as well. “Start of Forever” features some nice horn arrangements that add to the mood nicely. “All On A Misty Morning” is a cool acoustic based tune that Weller handles with real emotion. “Savages” does have a social message but manages to avoid being preachy. The record winds up with “The Pebble and The Boy”, a piano based song that will have you reaching for your hankie. As Is Now is a complex CD, but will reward fans after repeated listenings. For a few bucks more there’s also a deluxe version that has a DVD with some cool studio footage and a short film.
www.paulweller.com
Rating:
and 1/2>
Review by Sean Koepenick


Robert Pollard,"From A Compound Eye" (label)
First solo record after the break-up of the fantastic Guided By Voices, Pollard continues here on this 26 song release. And just like always he already has the next record “in the can” as evident by his recent solo show. But back to the main event. No radical departures here-the experimental songs are balanced by the more pop offerings. So really it just depends on your mood. Pollard handles vocals and some guitars. Producer Todd Tobias juggles just about everything else. “Dancing Girls and Dancing Men”, “The Right Thing”, “Blessed In An Open Head” are the stand outs here. And for songs 2 minutes and under you can’t go wrong with “I’m A Strong Lion” and “Payment For The Babies.” Don’t be scared by the length-this is an engaging and varied record from Mr. Pollard. Pick it up at his next tour stop in your town.
www.robertpollard.net
Rating:

Review by Sean Koepenick


Mark Gardener (with Goldrush),"These Beautiful Ghosts" (label)
Solo debut from ex-Ride frontman finally hits both shores and it was well worth the wait. Backed by the more than capable band Goldrush, Mark offers 12 great tunes since returning back to music. The hiatus hasn’t hurt his songwriting chops that’s for sure. The CD starts off with “Snow In Mexico” which has a cool little backbeat. “Magdalen Sky” has more of an acoustic flavor to great effect. “Summer Turns To Fall” has some nice background harmonies that elevate the song to new heights. The title track sports many textured layers that make the song stand out on the disc. There’s all top notch on here. Pick this up right away-Mark Gardener has proven that he’s a force to be reckoned with for smart atmospheric pop being made with conviction. Grab your ticket to ride.
www.oxfordmusic.net
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Sean Koepenick


The Fiction,"Names" (Waking)
The NYC trio known as The Fiction play a brand of disjointed hardcore that art students clamor over, as the outfit’s 10-track release liberally apply touches of Refused, System of a Down, Fugazi, and Jawbreaker as shards of razor-sharp post-hardcore. Dissonant riffaging on “The Ballad of Tim and Dawn” gives the band that left of center feel, while “27” displays the band’s ability to bring the atmosphere down without losing an ounce of intensity. While The Fiction isn’t providing anything overly provocative or unique, this unit’s spurts of maddening metallic angst and subtle unmelodic punk rock stance make a fine listen for the louder times of the day.
www.wakingrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Creozoth,"Creozoth" (Escapi)
Creozoth is a side project for two members of the seminal doom metal troupe Candlemass, but don’t expect the same kind of gloomy feel on this 13-track disc. Instead, this Swedish quartet employ the classic metal sounds of the bands of the mid ‘80s metal movement like Iron Maiden and Helloween with a darker edge a la Danzig and Black Label Society, as songs like “Intoxicatedead” supply a flurry of heavy riffs to gnaw on. While the album is a bit long, this self-titled debut is well executed and truly portrays the spirit of classic metal, complete with a tasty metal guitar crunch that fuels tracks like “Watch ‘n Wait” and “Mind”.
www.escapimusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vile,"The New Age of Chaos" (Unique Leader)
Embarking on its third album of carnage, death metal mongers Vile once again brandish its brand of technically sound brutality with THE NEW AGE OF CHAOS. Changing it up by blending slower, churning riffs found at the end of “Deafening Silence” with the blast-beated bruising of “Suicide Warfare”, Vile’s array of styles and musical prowess stands out the most here. Where other bands rely on blowing you away with blinding speed, Vile instead slides in some neat black metal nuances that complement its Floridian death metal and European extreme metal sides and adds another interesting twist to Vile’s already vast arsenal of mayhem. If you dig Nile and Morbid Angel’s techniques and Cannibal Corpse’s gore, you’ll flip over this one.
www.uniqueleader.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


With Resistance,"Real Hardcore Kids Have Day Jobs" (Imigrant Sun)
Does the title of this disc suggest why these guys have called it quits? Regardless, the posthumous release by With Resistance is a heavy handed eight-track endeavor whose beefed up metallic hardcore is bursting with crazy guitar effects and off the wall screaming vocals. Songs like “Nathan Larry and the Money Shot” showcases this quartet’s controllable chaos, while “That’s Seven” evokes the latest release by Cave-In by way of Every Time I Die and “Spacemaster LSD” exhibits the band’s spacier, jam rock side. It’s a shame that this band called it a day, because they make engaging music that dabbles in many different genres without sounding forced or contrived unlike many of their peers. RIP, With Resistance.
www.immigrantsun.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tommy and the Terrors,"Unleash the Fury" (TKO)
Boston punkers Tommy and the Terrors bring it back to the golden age of punk rock on the quintet’s 15-track offering. UNLEASH THE FURY is a brash, no-frills album filled to the brim with piss and vinegar, as songs like the fast and furious “Pay You on Tuesday” and the blue collar anthems “The Gorilla Song” and “Here We Go” portray a band that loves its city, punk rock, and having a good time. This sophomore effort is long on attitude and while it may be a bit short on heady themes, there’s no shortage of kicked in the head, anti-establishment punk rock that the common man can have a few brews and pump his fist to.
www.tkorecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Nuse,"Hungwell" (No Joke)
With a name like Nuse and an album title like HUNGWELL, you can only fathom what kind of sound is going to come from this veteran New Jersey trio. What is unsurprisingly dispersed is a bevy of punk-tinged metal with some crossover appeal a la SOD and DRI, as songs like “Death of Flesh” meshes the wares of Propain, Leeway, and Prong while “Wrong” gets in touch with the band’s inner shredder. Providing both furious firepower and whimsical overtones (especially lyrically), Nuse understands how to have fun without forfeiting heaviness, a trait that much of today’s heavy music misses the boat with. For a thrashing good time, check out Nuse’s most recent 12-track endeavor.
www.nojokerecords.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Taken,"Between Two Unseens" (Goodfellow)
Orange County, CA hardcore troupe Taken choose to say goodbye with this CD, a five-track release that thankfully contains oodles less of what we’ve recently heard come from the area. Emblazoned with a way more substance and displayed with painstaking precision and a grand emotional investement, BETWEEN TWO UNSEENS joins a relentless vocal attack with passionately performed music underneath. Tracks like the atmospheric “Treaded Paths” bridge the gap between Thrice and Dredg, while the soulfully infused fretwork found all over this disc comes to a head on the lush “Eternity Was On Our Lips”. Shame that this band is no longer active and never received the accolades that they deserved, as this disc has a little something for fans of heartfelt heavy music everywhere.
www.goodfellowrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Catheter,"Dimension 303" (Selfmadegod)
Merging sludge, grind, and crusty punk into an undeniably brutal concoction to be served with a side order of beatdown, the three dudes from Denver that comprise Catheter aspire to lay your sorry carcass to waste. With an explosive 18-track disc such as DIMENSION 3O3 on their hands, it shows that this band of gritty grinders have studied their Sepultura, Nasum, Eyehategod, and Brutal Truth. What comes out on tracks like the scoldingly fast “Sit On This” and in the chunky churn of “Waste Time” is a uncompromising array of heavy that seeps from every underground pore, and will undoubtedly bestow a delectable yet dastardly fun time for those that have no issues with pushing boundaries and taking their musical tastes to the limits of the metal spectrum.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Smashup,"Being and Becoming" (Warcon)
NYC outfit The Smashup has risen from the ranks of the emaciated NYC club scene to their first release, the 10-track BEING AND BECOMING. Sounding like the ruffian offspring of My Chemical Romance and The Used, this energetic quartet play their brand of rock with vibrance and grit, thanks mainly to the vocal gymnastics of singer Watt White, a voice that can wail like Axl, growl like Hetfield, and command an audience’s attention like Billie Joe. Songs like the dynamic dipping and tumultuous twisting roller coaster ride of “No Name” take the dramatics of Meatloaf and update the vernacular and attitude for the Warped Tour kids, while “Murder to the Mattress” displays a somber, more introspective side aside from the showmanship with stark results. The Smashup started as a DIY band scraping by for recognition. Now, by the sounds heard on BEING AND BECOMING, this talented band is poised to take their incredible work ethic, stellar songwriting skills, and intriguing merger of classic hard rock from the ‘80s and today’s current crop of punk rock pinups that don’t just look good but play phenomenal to the next level.
www.warconent.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


45 Greve,"Only the Good Die Young" (Restless)
45 Grave, along side The Damned, TSOL, and The Misfits, were one of the progenitors of the punk scene in the early ‘80s, meshing Gothic looks, haunting melodies, venomous vocal outbursts, and a dark sense of humor to boot, and sparking the death rock genre. They met their demise after a member’s overdose in 1991, but lead singer Dinah Cancer has recruited a whole new crew and is making a comeback, sparking this re-release. Capturing the band at its essence at a live performance from Hollywood circa 1988, ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG puts you in the front row for the entire 16 song set, and while their take on the jazz classic “Take Five” is damn near unlistenable, 45 Grave more than makes up for it with repeated shots of pre-riot grrrl angst, crossover riffs that still stand up today, and the commandeering attitude of punk rock that gels it together on cuts like “Party Time”, “Bad Love”, and “Dream Hits”. Wanna see where bands like Hole, AFI, and countless others have gotten its groove from? Look no further than this band’s live disc that, if nothing else serves as a history lesson of the origins of the death rock scene as well as the early punk rock from the left coast.
www.rykodsic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Destruction,"Inventor of Evil" (Candlelight)
German metal veterans Destruction’s sound hasn’t changed very much over the years, yet no one really gives a damn, especially its most ardent supporters. This indestructible beast continues to churn out some of the finest molten slabs of metallic thrash glory this side of Kreator and Exodus. INVENTOR OF EVIL finds the thrash pioneers returning in fine form, and while some parts may be deemed dated or feel like the trio is trying too hard, try and find a band whose riffs still illicit the same power as “No Man’s Land” or get the pit moving like “The Chosen Ones”. Even going so far as to bridge the gap between schools of metal with “Alliance of Hellhoundz” by enlisting some of today’s metal greats from bands such as Soilwork and Dimmu Borgir to scream their asses off, some may argue that the band is desperately grasping for straws to rekindle audience’s affection. Cynics be damned, because this band still has a lot of gas left in the tank and can still present a thrashing groove like “Seeds of Hate” with the conviction of any other band on the planet. Put them in the pile with AC/DC, Motorhead, and a select few of bands that you know are known for their durability than their elements of surprise.
www.candelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Gojira,"From Mars to Sirius" (Listenable)
The bruising French outfit known as Gojira (named by a derivation from Godzilla, play a brand of technically proficient death metal whose crushing smorgasbord of sound encompasses everything from blistering death metal to ambient industrial to suffocating doom metal. 12 tracks that run over an hour long may make some listeners wary, however this quartet keep the intensity consistently flowing and the changes jaw-dropping and staggeringly brilliant until the last note of “Global Warming”. To top it all off, this band take on heady issues like environmental misuse to their credit, truly meshing heavy topics with extreme music. If you ever wished an amalgamation of Fear Factory, Morbid Angel, Death, Sepultura, and Meshuggah was to be created, FROM MARS TO SIRIUS is the closest thing that makes that fantasy a reality.
www.gojira-music.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Reds,"Is: Means" (Waking)
Reds is yet another Brooklyn, NY based noise-laden hardcore band whose Fugazi meets Hot Cross delivery seems to be all the rage amongst the hardcore hipsters these days. Screaming over a batch of frenetic tunes that sound like kids with ADD were let loose in the studio after a sugar feeding, songs like “The Blind Believe” contain four musicians all over the place that seemingly lock together, while the U2 gone underground vibe on “Vikings of Progress” displays the band’s unnerving knack for hammering out engaging riffs. “Do It. Do It” supplies a hearty serving of raging, Bronx-esque punk of today and “Waiting for the Barbarians” lays down spastic rock for the moppy-haired contingent to get their ya-ya’s out on the dance floor. While Reds is by no means reinventing the wheel, they manage to create a hybrid that is at times interesting when on the verge of collapsing.
www.wakingrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Thieves,"Tales from the White Line" (Liquor and Poker)
Three guesses what this English band means by the white line they speak of from the album title. Well, just pop in TALES FROM THE WHITE LINE and feel the Jet by way of Oasis rock seep through your pores for a turn and you can read between the lines more clearly. 12-tracks of sanitized retro rock adorn this disc, whose main mission seems unclear, but contains a slew of the ghosts of rock ‘n roll’s past to steer you through a voyage that you can just as easily obtain by watching an hour of VH1 Classic Rock videos. While not at all devoid of talent or style, when it comes down to it, these guys are merely translating an FM rock radio station’s playlist to a throng of eager ears, taking the WB melodrama route a step further. .
www.liquorandpokermusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Doomriders,"Black Thunder" (Deathwish)
Aside from showcasing one of the most badass album covers in recent memory, Doomriders kick out the jams with the hard rock histrionics of yore, complete with Motorhead’s undeniable smarmy charm, the bastardized brevity of Misfits, and the painstakingly verbose guitar assault of Thin Lizzy. BLACK THUNDER is a 13-track wet dream for the hardcore rock ‘n roller whose LP collection warped from overexposure, as the NWOBHM sound is aped here, but accentuated with a punk hardcore aesthetic that is unsurprising when you consider this outfit’s members boasts stints in Converge, There Were Wires, Cast Iron Hike, and Hallraker. Steady streams of the evil of Danzig (“Midnight Eye”, fuzz rock a la Fu Manchu, and heavy things like COC and Entombed rip through your speakers with the unencumbered sense of demonic possession via rock music. Deliciously dastardly, dirty, and utterly diabolical, Doomriders have made a bestial offering brimming with everything dangerous about rock music, and it needs to be in your collection if you like it hard, dark, and real.
www.deathwishinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dragonlord,"Black Wings of Destiny" (Escapi)
The 10-track release by American black metal troupe Dragonlord features an accurate depiction of the genre. Handling guitar and vocal duties surprisingly is none other than Testament’s Erik Peterson, who, alongside the four other members, provides a searing black metal disc that rivals Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth, almost to the point at times of out and out plagiarism. Emblazoned with strong songwriting, wonderfully placed atmospheric keyboards on “The Curse of Woe” that make the song, masterful performances from top to bottom, and a solid production not unlike the band’s at the forefront of today’s extreme scene, BLACK WINGS OF DESTINY’s captures an overall ominous feel throughout, even on the juiced-up closer, a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald”. This disc may unfortunately be written off as yet another endeavor by a band trying too hard to emulate a certain style, but if you dig the genre that much and don’t mind yet another outstanding band with a similar sound, then this disc will put you in black metal heaven.
www.escapimusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


I Farm,"So My Kids Won’t Have To" (Blackout)
I Farm’s contagious concoction of metallic-tinged punk with an emphasis on speed has placed this Brooklyn by way of Ithaca, NY act on the lips of the snotty punk rock contingent, and with good reason. This re-release takes the frenetic pace of West Coast punk and aligns it with a heaping helping of attitude that only the most grizzled East Coasters can muster. The end result is a smashing 18-track punk rock explosion that melds NOFX, Misfits, F-Minus, and Propagandhi into blistering nuggets of socially aware punk rock like “All Punks Go To Hell” and “No Thanks To You”. While these guys are far from doing anything unique, the passion displayed is genuine and the band’s intentional sloppiness gives SO MY KIDS WON’T HAVE TO that punk rock edge that so many bands miss the boat with today. Worth a listen if you dig the more chaotic Warped Tour acts.
www.blackoutrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Earthride,"Vampire Circus" (Southern Lord)
Earthride hail from Maryland, the unofficial capital of doom, and feature former members of Spirit Caravan and Internal Void in its ranks. The quartet’s second syrupy sojourn, produced by none other than Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean, is a 10-track menacing exploration into the inner sanctum of your mind, complete with slow churning riffs, dynamically displayed dirges like “Loss” hypnotic rhythms, and a gravel-throated vocal delivery that reveals many a drug induced evening. The title track includes both huge hooks and a hedonistic hellfire guitar solo that severely summons Sabbath, while “God’s Own Medicine” tells the tale of the worst hangover you never had the pleasure of feeling. But, the guys in Earthride sure did, and when they crank out the stoner rock growls and hazy rumblings like it was 1975, stand clear of the carnage. Crowbar plus COC times Clutch equals the hellacious offering by this mid-tempo monster.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Suplecs,"Powtin’ on the Outside Pawty on the Inside" (Nocturnal)
The New Orleans rock scene has always been produced some of the most exhilarating bands, and the latest album by the trio known as Suplecs fits right in. The 10-track endeavor finds the NOLA outfit fine tuning its metallic punk crunch thanks to producer Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity’s expertise, as “Gotta Pain” starts as a molten metal attack before the sinewy sludge seeps through while the moody instrumental “Cities of the Dead” eerily resonates the spirit of the band’s hometown, currently picking up the pieces from the disastrous Hurricane Katrina. While not everything here hits the mark, such as the trite “Black Cloud”, for the most part POWTIN’ ON THE OUTSIDE PAWTY ON THE INSIDE succeeds by fueling its rock machine with a voracious display of sludge-ridden versatility that fans of Zeke, Motorhead, and stoner rock everywhere will be glad to tune in and burn out to.
www.suplecs.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Severe Torture,"Fall of the Despised" (Earache)
Cookie Monster vocals, incessant blast beats, and rapid-fire guitar runs galore is what Severe Torture deliver on its latest gore infested release. With subject matter that ranges from sawing off body parts to killing for the mere thrill of it all, this Dutch quintet isn’t likely to be asked to play the community church service any time soon, unless Anton LaVey is presiding. With lyrical content firmly entrenched in the grotesque and the musical acumen to play on par with Cannibal Corpse and Impaled, FALL OF THE DESPISED showcases this veteran act flawlessly grinding out the death metal grooves and detonating the explosive beats and guitar runs with savage grace. If you pine over Deicide and Suffocation, add this band now.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Rosetta,"The Galilean Satellites" (Translation Loss)
The City of Brotherly Love treats your ears to a debut twin-disc from a quartet whose ambitious nature spawned a atmospheric hunk of ambient metal. Rosetta is the name of the aforementioned outfit, whose expansive sound and grandiose delivery is liberally taken from luminaries such as Isis, Neurosis, and Swarm of the Lotus without simply creating a carbon copy. Instead, songs like “Absent” paves its own way using these templates, drumming up tension and intrigue within every movement of the piece. 10 tracks, two discs, and two hours later, when the smoke clears, THE GALILEAN SATELLITES leaves an undeliable impression on your psyche, nestling deep within the recesses of your mind all of the swirling riffs, multi-textured rhythms, bombastic exhibits of metallic glory, and serene soundscapes that emanate from this collection. Connecting arthouse flare and trailblazing metal, Rosetta’s promising introduction to the world unleashes a futuristic vision to the unsuspecting. You’ve been warned.
www.translationloss.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hacride,"Deviant Current Signal" (Listenable)
France’s Hacride fancies itself as a technical metal clan, yet a more appropriate classification may be metalcore a la Caliban with a Gothenburg metal spirit a la Entombed intertwined with a strong dosage of hi-tech metal. Not to say this quartet doesn’t have the aptitude to roll out some complicated tricks, but songs like the dynamic “This Place”, with its stop-start tempos sound more Diecast than Death. However, tracks like “Flesh Lives On” emulates Meshuggah channeling Strapping Young Lad, albeit through a sheath of hardcore and the jagged riffs and crushing sonic slam of “Protect” merges Pantera, Fear Factory, and Candiria into a torrential assault. Never a shortage for ideas or afraid to experiment, yet at all times retaining an aura on the attack, DEVIANT CURRENT SIGNAL is an album laden with impressive heaviness and provocative new variations on old standbys that should garnish this band much well deserved attention from the metal realm.
www.listenable.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


So I had to Shoot Him,"Alpha Males and Popular Girls" (Crucial Blast)
If Blondie fronted Mr. Bungle, it’d sound something like ALPHA MALES AND POPULAR GIRLS by So I Had to Shoot Him, the New Jersey quintet’s debut full-length endeavor. Boasting 10-tracks of avant-garde metal with strains of dramatic pop, operatic rock a la Diamanda Galas, and subdued noise, songs like “King Diamond in the Rough” fleshes out a hauntingly dissonant dirge, while “Contusion Shematics” mashes dance rock, industrial metal, and System of a Down’s left of center approach into a jarring listening experience. Chances are most people won’t stick through this disc long enough to appreciate all of its merits, yet if you’re seeking a musical adventure that encompasses a cavalcade of styles while sounding utterly unique, songs like the disjointed harmonics and hybrid histrionics on “John Cleese and the Fountain of Youth” will leave you yearning for more.
www.crucialblast.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Shattered Realm,"rom the Dead End Blocks Where Life Means Nothing" (Eulogy)
Talk about bleak. Read aloud the title of Shattered Realm’s album title, and one can only fathom what this 11-track collection holds. If you guessed a durable display of tough guy hardcore a la Bury Your Dead and Blood for Blood, give yourself props, because that is exactly what this quintet unleashes without an ounce of remorse. Chugging guitar riffs leads the charge on “Endless”, while gravel throated pleas emblazoned with passion propel tracks like “Fallen” and “Eat Shit”. Despite the disc clocking in at a mere 22 minutes, and raking over the wares of Hatebreed, Madball, and Terror without a shred of regret, if you need a soundtrack to pillage and destroy to, look no further than this presentation of pent-up bruising hardcore.
www.eulogyrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Bronx Casket Co.,"Hellectric" (Candlelight)
This metal outfit holds members of Misfits, Savatage, and Overkill in its ranks, so it may surprise people that HELLECTRIC contains a slew of Goth rock overtones. So many, in fact, that the 11-track offering gives bands like Lacuna Coil and Type O Negative a run for their money when it comes to laying down finely written, moody keyboard driven rock anthems. Discernibly darker than any of its member’s main acts, yet retaining a metallic crunch throughout, songs like “Sherimoon” embody the spirit of Rob Zombie, while “Motocrypt” chugs along with eerie connotations. They even go so far as to take a page straight from the Pete Steele playbook by putting a Gothic spin on Skynyrd’s “Freebird”, something which is bound to evoke a reaction, either good or bad. Bronx Casket Co.’s latest presentation goes down much like Halloween candy a few days into November does, still strangely satisfying but a bit devoid of the initial thrill of the score from the day of reckoning.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Zero Hour,"A Fragile Mind" (Sensory)
One of the many stigmas involving progressive metal is the over the top-ness of the genre, complete with overblown solos and ridiculous song lengths. San Francisco’s Zero Hour combats these negatives by creating A FRAGILE MIND, a seamless nine-track exhibition in prog metal that feels more like an applied science than a piece of music. While many use Dream Theater as a measuring stick by which to judge, Zero Hour’s commonalities like more within the Fates Warning/ Queensryche realm (perhaps it’s a West Coast thing), often throwing down pummeling riffs and drums like on “Brain Surgery” instead of glitzy instrumentations. Grittier than most bands in the genre, yet not at all lacking the agility to twist and turn tempos inside out on such amalgamations as the piledriving instrumental “Somnecrophobia”, Zero Hour can also take it down a few notches without sacrificing intensity, like on the somber title cut. Substantial without being too showy, and at every helm solidly put together, this disc provides a prog metal fan with everything necessary to be blown away.
www.lasercd.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Black Halos,"Alive Without Control" (Liquor and Poker)
Grizzled Canadian punk vets The Black Halos pay homage to the punkers of the days of yore on ALIVE WITHOUT CONTROL, a 13-track tilt-a-whirl ride that takes the punk out of the mall and puts it back in the gutter where it belongs. Displaying equal amounts of attitude and musicianship, songs like the fist pumping title track and “Three Sheets to the Wind” stick in your head like gum on the bottom of your shoe, and are just as hard to remove, while the Social Distortion-esque “Darkest Corners” echo sentiments of a band that has been through the ringer and still stands today to tell about it. Sneering its way back from the dead, The Black Halos have lovingly recreated the days of too much booze, too little sleep, and maximum rock ‘n roll onto an album whose sleaze rock leanings and live fast/ die young creed will have protectors of the punk rock crown sighing in relief knowing there are a few bands like them still around.
www.liquorandpokermusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mors Principium EST,"The Unborn" (Listenable)
Finnish metal troupe Mors Principium Est (translation: Death is the Beginning) takes the melodic death metal path to new and exciting territories on the group’s latest 10-track offering. Melding the perfect combination of dastardly metal riffs with harmonic keyboards and lush arrangements, songs like “Parasites of Paradise” fuse the collective wares of Soilwork, Children of Bodom, and The Haunted into an impenetrable force that any self-respecting fan of European metal will stand up and take notice of. Supplying ample dollops of death metal demonics, thrash metal carnage, dazzling technical metal, and an overall layer of melody that seals the deal, THE UNBORN can dually split your head open and sweep you away in epic fashion, sometimes in the same song, like the chameleon-esque “Two Steps Away”, which goes from sadisitic metal assault to anthemic stadium rocker at the change of a chorus, An unbelievable release that uses all of the faculties of the genre expertly, Mors Principium Est has raised the melodic death metal bar to majestic new heights.
www.listenable.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Scum,"Gospels for the Sick" (Candlelight)
Casey Chaos is living out his dream on this project, as he gets to play with some of extreme metal’s elite in the new project dubbed Scum. The 12-track death punk metal excursion, which includes members of Emperor, Turbonegro, and Mindgrinder, unfortunately seems like another day at the office for Chaos, as a lot of the material heard on GOSPELS FOR THE SICK sound more at times like more polished outtakes from an Amen session, while others take on a darker punk skin rather than something totally earth shattering. Perhaps this is the intention, but to dub Scum a supergroup is kind of a misnomer. However, if you’re in the market for some lo-fi frenzy that broods like Venom versus Sex Pistols at a DRI show, songs like “Night of 1000 Deaths” deliciously deliver the deviance, while the mid-tempo monster “Truth Won’t Be Sold” is brimming over with evil. Crusty, raw, and rude, Scum’s death punk stance is for real, and exemplifies the spirit of the dark side of rock.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sinaloa,"Footprints on Floorboards" (Waking)
Remember when emo wasn’t so goddamn commercial? Sinaloa does, and this trio (who work sans a bassist) have channeled the progenitors of the genre on the outfit’s 10-track sojourn such as Rites of Spring and to an extent, Fugazi. “Only In Dreams” showcases a twin guitar cacophony over a tortured vocal, as “Tracing Portraits” displays the band’s social consciousness as well as their stellar musicianship and “Static” explores the staleness of corporate America from a Proletarian focus yearning to break those heavy chains with jangly guitars and off-time drums in tow. Emblazoned with an excellent visual presentation (the booklet has both lyrics and explanations for each track) and an impassioned performance captured, Sinaloa gives out a blueprint by which to not only understand its music, but hopefully comprehend humanity on a whole as well. Captivating and enchanting, if you dig At the Drive In’s barrage of sound and the discord of early post hardcore, then Sinaloa is worth checking out..
www.wakingrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Slave to the System,"Slave to the System" (Spitfire)
A rock supergroup of sorts, the members of Slave to the System have spent time in Queensryche and Brother Cane respectively, as Scott Rockenfield, Kelly Gray, Damon Johnson, and Roman Glick comprise this project. On the outfit’s 12-track debut, a teeth-gnashing display of hook-laden hard rock hysteria collides with traces of the band’s day gigs, whipping up some of the most organic hard rock heard since Velvet Revolver and Audioslave burst on the scene from the ashes of celebrity excess. When cagey veterans join forces, hopefully songs like the Southern rock twang of “Gone Today” or the unabashed stompbox special that is “Disinfected” blast through the speakers, and thankfully, there is no shortage of intriguing instrumentation, fervent performance, and a sense that these guys are finally able to work outside of the box and let loose, both in mind and in practice here. In fact, Slave to the System explores arenas each member’s main band touched upon in much greater depth and breadth (especially the ‘90s-era Queensryche material), yielding compelling compositions like “Walk the Line”, ready for the radio tracks like “Abyss” and driving grooves like “Cruze Out of Control” without reprise and sans sounding forced or contrived. Feeling and sounding comfortable in their new skin, this self-titled debut merges darker edged progressive and Dixieland hard rock with a substantial sum of soul and is worth a spin for those craving a powerful hard rock release.
www.spitfirerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Carbomb,"Carbomb" (Indie Release)
Blasting out of the gate, Long Island’s Carbomb’s aural assault intertwines industrial, death metal, and hardcore, creating a chaotic cacophony that rivals Candiria and Dillinger Escape Plan in terms of sheer volume. Pushing the boundaries with constant tempo changes and vicious mood swings, this three-song smattering whips up an amusement park ride’s thrills and chills in under seven minutes, truly providing a sonic bang for your buck.
www.carbomb.us
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dogs of Winter,"Cut Down to the Quick" (Exotic)
Embodying what a rock ‘n roll band should be about, NYC’s Dogs of Winter play a kind of sultry, sinewy hard rock devoid of pandering or excess. Instead, this trio opts to get down and dirty like Motorhead meeting the Foo Fighters on the bong-induced groove of “Natasha” and the All versus Nirvana crunch of “Thumbscrews”. Armed with sweeping choruses, guitar fuzz galore, and an airtight rhythm section that solidifies the foundation, CUT DOWN TO THE QUICK is an album whose hypnotically hazy riffs and thick delivery transcend metal, punk, and stoner rock, drawing up something substantial for the kids to load the bong to.
www.dogsofwinter.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Khold,"Krek" (Candlelight)
Norwegian black metal troupe Khold keep the evil at a medium pace and the overall sound clean but heavy on its latest endeavor KREK. On the group’s 10-track offering, rather than blind your senses with blistering guitars and rapid-fire rhythms, songs like 4 maintain an ominous beat which allow the guitar’s diabolic progressions to ring out in a semi-doomy state, while 6 finds the outfit toying with blast beats before nestling into a nefarious pattern of slow churned devastation. Weighing in with mid tempo majestics and metallic might combined, Khold’s brand of pronounced extreme metal appeals to the Sabbath folks on down to fans of Dimmu Borgir and Emperor.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Divine Empire,"Method of Execution" (Crash)
Florida death metal trio Diving Empire have both an impressive pedigree and battering delivery, as their 16-track release showcases a band that hammers out traditional death metal nuances with groove and melody a la Cannibal Corpse. Not even the lush string arrangement of “Prelude to the Storm” provides enough solace for the dastardly death metal attack of such cuts as “Random Beheading” and “Surgical Strike”. Channeling that staple southwestern death metal sound made famous by Morbid Angel and Deicide, Divine Empire display the kind of music nightmares are made of on METHOD OF EXECUTION.
www.crashmusicinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Berzerke,"World of Lies" (Earache)
The Berzerker’s latest drastic death metal foray WORLD OF LIES relies on sound alone, as the uber visual Australian clan disavows itself from its much maligned masks, tosses out live drums and amps in exchange for a computer to handle the workload, and recorded the entire 14-track collection in a week. The end result yields a technological threat whose inorganic incantations and menacing metallic maulings combine Nasum’s grind, the gory virtue of Carcass, and the insane industrial of Atari Teenage Riot, encapsulating a synthetic synergy whose spastic brilliance is nearly impossible to escape from.
www.earache.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Supervillain,"Earthquake Machine" (Indie Release)
NYC hard rock heavies Supervillain take the harrowing sounds of Gotham City’s underbelly and incorporate them into the quintet’s latest 10-track offering EARTHQUAKE MACHINE. Unleashing a Soundgarden-esque flurry of slash and burn guitars, headbangingly solid rhythms, and husky vocal utterances that accentuate the rock ‘n roll attitude, songs like the cowbell-infused “You Ain’t Got a Prayer”, the fist-pumping stomp of “Prey to Me”, and the sprawling “Drowning” harkens back to the days when Circus of Power and Warrior Soul ruled the club circuit. Emblazoned with monstrous riffs and dollops of decadence. EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is an unabashed album bursting with hard rock’s raw powered histrionics.
www.musicrealms.com/supervillain
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hinder,"Extreme Behavior" (Universal)
Chances are Hinder’s anti-hard rock malaise stance and pro-party like it’s 1987 position will find the Oklahoma quintet heirs apparent to the Nickelback throne, especially if they keep the pace set forth by the band’s debut EXTREME BEHAVIOR. Exhibiting anything but on this slickly, arena-rock ready set of anthems for the disenchanted teenager that finds Papa Roach and Three Days Grace records too edgy, this band of merry men, whose love for sex and the art of the party shine through on tracks like the bluesy and brainless “Room 21” and love for balladeering comes through most of the other 10 tracks on the disc, have given the rock world yet another faceless band for frat boys and MTV-influenced kids everywhere to adore. Yippee.
ww.universalrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Fenix TX,"Purple Reign In Blood" (Adrenaline)
Progenitors of the pop-punk genre, Fenix TX return with a live endeavor jokingly titled PURPLE REIGN IN BLOOD. The high-energy 13-track set captured in front of a rabid Arizona audience however is no laughing matter, as the quartet’s brawny yet bratty style still translates well enough to satisfy longtime fans and the MTV crowd alike. Pumping out anthems such as “Threesome”, “Pheobe Cates”, and a scorching cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son”, this feel good foursome rivals today’s pin-up punks by melding muscular riffs and sophomoric banter between tunes, showing just why so many still clamor for a full-scale return.
www.fenixtx.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Fall River,"Lights Out" (Thorp)
Ferocious female fronted metal is what the quartet Fall River bring to the dance, complete with searing metallic breakdowns, jagged hardcore rhythms, and a true sense that something bad is about to happen. While the incessant screaming gets worn quickly, the stop-start chugging of “”If We Knew Then What We Know Now” and the piercing guitar tones that pervade throughout the 10-track collection hold it together enough to elicit bedlam on the dance floor. Looking for something in between Otep and Arch Enemy? Fall River is the answer.
www.thorprecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Boils,"From the Bleachers" (TKO)
25 tracks of streetwise punk rock is what Philadelphia’s The Boils churn out on FROM THE BLEACHERS, blending oi screams, boot-stomping chord changes, and drunken sing-along choruses like the ones found on “Bullies”. Infusing reggae, ska, and a convincing punk rock scowl into songs like the high-octane “All I Ever Need” and the country-fried “Summer’s Brightest Day”, this versatile quartet aren’t afraid to get as heavy as Blood for Blood on “Declaration of War” or bring the Carribean vibes on “Skinhead Reggae Beach Stomp”. Constantly shifting gears with relative ease and keeping the hardcore spirit alive throughout, The Boils’ bevy of influences create a solid mix that open-minded punk rock fans will undoubtedly enjoy.
www.tkorecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Spiritu/Village of Dead Roads,"Human Failures" (Meteor City)
After a four-year hiatus, the long awaited return of desert rock mavens Spiritu is here, and they’ve even brought company. Splitting their four-song sojourn with Pennsylvania’s Village of Dead Roads, this New Mexico based stoner rock clan continues its hearty hypnotic jam rock blend with slow burners like the impassioned “Object of Desire”, sounding like the bastard spawn of Clutch and Kyuss. Armed with acidic grooves aplenty, “Throwback” moves with a Sabbath-esque acumen, and is the highlight of Spiritu’s contributions. From there, a darker, bleaker atmosphere takes over, akin to a foreboding storm engulfing the daytime sky, as the sinister sludgecore of Village of Dead Roads takes over. Taking liberally from Crowbar, Sourvein, and High on Fire, this group’s four-track offering takes a sharp left from Spiritu’s good time flow and allows a touch of evil to enter your headphones on cuts like “Descendants of the Dendrites” and the punishing crunch of “Woman of Ill Repute”, their best showing. Stoner rock comes in all shapes and forms, and the eight-tracks which adorn this split CD display some of the best by two bands that can dually load a bong and get their groove on.
www.meteorcity.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cave In,"Perfect Pitch Black" (Hydra Head)
Boston’s Cave In rose from the Boston underground to major label disaster. Now, the band is coming full circle with the 10-track PERFECT PITCH BLACK, which finds the quartet juxtaposing its crushingly heavy sounds of yesterday with the savvy songwriting they fine-tuned while on tour with Foo Fighters. Songs like “Paranormal” brilliantly combine the shimmer of Oasis and U2 with the dastardly hardcore of Converge, while the album’s top track, the ass-shaking “Trepanning”, puts the pedal to the metal and boogies like Sabbath meets Soundgarden at a COC gig. Perhaps radiating the perfect blend of heavy and melodic ever, PERFECT PITCH BLACK is a must have release for any self-respecting rock fan.
www.hydrahead.com
Rating:
(actual review went off our scale at '10'!)
Review by Mike SOS


The Deacons,"Brooklyn Towne" (Made in Brooklyn)
Hardened punk rockers The Deacons boil over with passion and conviction on the quartet’s 12-track old school offering. This outfit, born and bred from Brooklyn makes a firm point that the borough offers much more than trendy Williamsburg, as songs like the blue collar stomp of “Don’t Need a Reason” or the rejuvenating “29” display some mighty fine street punk. Keeping it simple, energetic, and interesting, songs like “I Feel Fine” and “Of My Father” provide the kind of insightful expositions behind crashing power chords that your new fangled punk band couldn’t muster even after repeated listening of Social Distortion. The Deacons would fit best in between your Dropkick Murphys and The Casulaties.
www.brooklyntowne.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Classic Struggle,"Feel Like Hell" (Metal Blade)
It’d be hard to classify The Classic Struggle as run of the mill only because this South Carolinian beast play its brand metalcore with the utmost precision, but at times, this 12-track disc sounds a bit too sterile. It could be the robotic drum triggers or the standard serpentine vocal delivery that countless bands employ, but there’s not a lot of unique identity here. What lies beneath, however, is a simmering showcase of molten metal, such as the face-breaking “Amen to Artillery” and the thrashy “Unsacred”. This quintet has undoubtedly studied its metalcore and has in turn unleashed a potent, yet a bit tattered, album that moshpit mavens can get their rocks off to.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Swimmers,"We Swam as for Behavior Our Behavior" (Louisiana Purchase)
Left of center rockers Swimmers have released a five-song sampler highlighting the outfit’s penchant for creating noise-laden punk rock nuggets. “Hot Pocket” sounds like the end result of a collaboration between System of a Down and Talking Heads, while “Domicile, Where I Live” provides a tense surf rock vibe under spastic vocals. Jagged, dissonant, and very bouncy in a thrift store t-shirt kind of way, this disc smartly combines the exaltations of a carnival with the omens of a rock ‘n roll show firmly in tow, making palatable rock music for the ADD crowd.
www.swimmerspdx.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Devildriver,"The Fury of Our Maker’s Hands" (Roadrunner)
Formerly of nu metal poster children Coal Chamber, vocalist Dez returns with a 20-ton vengeance with the quintet known as Devildriver. Dez and company’s sophomore effort attacks metal with Swedish precision and a thrash attitude, culminating in 12-tracks of unrelenting heaviness. While some of the nu metal gloss is still apparent, flurries of death metal guitars heard on “Hold Back The Day”, the undeniably crushing staccato riffs and rhythmic gallop of “Before the Hangman’s Noose”, and the buildup on the caustic opener “The End of the Line” reveal a love of Euro metal as well as a tip of the hat to the underground metal scene. Sounding similar to In Flames meeting mid-era Testament, and produced by Colin Richardson, this disc is a metallic monster that’s hard to ignore.
www.roadrunnerrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Twenty Four Hours to Live,"We’re Loudmouths" (Surprise Attack)
Miami, FL hardcore troupe Twenty Four Hours to Live take much of its influence from the NYHC scene, namely Madball, Sworn Enemy, and Cro-Mags. On the quintet’s eight-track endeavor, a high-pitched yowl leads the menacing assault packed with breakdowns and an occasional guitar lick thrown in between the chunky guitar riffs and bass rattlings on tracks like”We’re Bringin’ It Down” and “Dragnet”, whose ending is the best part on the disc. There’s nothing earth shattering or incendiary here, folks, just five guys letting loose and churning out some heartfelt hardcore with a metallic coating.
www.surpriseattackrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Kola Koka Death Squad,"Kola Koka Death Squad" (Wife)
Ohio duo Kola Koca Death Squad take the template set forth by Local H and Death From Above 1979 and put a little White Stripes blues jam action into its 13-track offering, resulting in some minimalist yet spirited rock tunes. “W.T.F.” channels the bends of Stevie Ray Vaughn, while the slow crawl of “Trying to Remember” and the cowbell induced groove of “Power Stroke” are reminiscent of arena rock circa 1976. Sounding like Violent Femmes crossed with Queens of the Stone Age, especially on the rumbling “Let’s See”, this outfit may be small in numbers, but they sure do pack a plethora of grooves into its bag of tricks, making the listening experience enthralling throughout.
www.wiferecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Six Feet Under,"Decade in the Grave Sampler" (Metal Blade)
Taking snippets from the four disc/ one DVD box set, this 13-track disc highlights just a fraction of what it has to offer from this seminal death metal band’s most recent collection. Six Feet Under’s decade long career is chronicled on DECADE IN THE GRAVE with live cuts, rare demos, and of course, all of the group’s best known works. Taking the Cookie Monster vocal to new levels courtesy of Chris Barnes and laying down some of the sickest death metal grooves ever heard, if you have a mind for the macabre, this collection is worth the investment.
www.metalblade.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Inked in blood,"Lay Waste the Poets" (Facedown)
Portland, OR residents Inked in Blood’s debut full-length will have metalcore fans frothing at the mouth, as this quintet succinctly combine the wares of Zao, Killswitch Engage, Darkest Hour, and As I Lay Dying into 12 well-crafted songs. Bursting with emotion and chock full of masterful lyrics, these guys have been heralded as the next big thing, and with good reason. Despite playing within a saturated genre, LAY WASTE THE POETS has surpassed the rest of the bands by laying down some beautifully mapped out, poignant heavy music emblazoned with intelligence and fervor.
www.facedownrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sputterdoll,"Pipe Down the Pied Piper" (Incomplete)
Sputterdoll returns with a full-length endeavor laden with the same punk infused garage rock that has made this female-fronted Bay Area outfit all the rage. Songs like “Dumb Dumb Girl” and “This is Not an Anthem” retains the three-chord assault and straightforward musical output that overcomes your body and makes you wanna dance, while “Total Isolation” showcases the sneering vocals and overall jaded punk rock attitude prevalent on PIPE DOWN THE PIED PIPER. If you can’t wait for The Distillers new disc, Sputterdoll’s most recent release will sufficiently hold you over.
www.sputterdoll.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Once For All,"Down for the Getdown" (Harvest Earth)
Midwestern hardcore quartet Once for All embody the tough guy hardcore persona over 10 tracks of searing breakdowns, angst-ridden yowls, and simple yet effective guitar chugging. With obvious influence by Madball and the harder bands in the genre, this quartet blasts through songs with unbridled intensity while staying true to the spirit of the music. By no means are Once for All reinventing anything, but they do a fine job of emulating their heroes while putting a hometown spin on their brand of aggression.
www.harvestearth.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Obituary,"Frozen in Time" (Roadrunner)
Seminal death metal mavens Obituary have returned with a new album, the quintet’s first in nearly seven years. FROZEN IN TIME is the name of the 10-track collection, and the title truly reflects the mindset of this release. Sticking to the same formula of slow, grinding grooves, insane solos, tortured vocal screams, and midpaced metal madness, this Florida fivesome has stuck to its roots so well, after a listen of this album, you’ll swear they never took a sabbatical. Displaying the same ferocity and level of decimation as its previous works, this album will knock you back to the early ‘90s in fine form.
www.roadrunnerrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Himsa,"Hail Horror" (Prosthetic)
Decisively darker than previous efforts, the Seattle outfit Himsa’s latest offering exhibits the band’s versatile approach to abrasive music. Hardcore’s brevity and metalcore’s fury collide head-on across the 10-track HAIL HORROR, resulting in tracks like the pummeling “The Destroyer”, the classic metallic gloss of “Wolfchild”, which has hints of NWOBHM all over, and the very Gothenburg-esque metal of “They Speak in Swarms”, a track that could easily be mistaken for a cut by In Flames or The Haunted. Himsa has made an alarmingly crushing offering this time around, pulsating with pounding drums, frenetic guitars, and a guttural growl that puts the evil authority in the driver’s seat. If you’re craving triumphant tumultuousness, this quintet delivers in spades.
www.prostheticrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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