Music Reviews: June 2006

Living Things,"Ahead of the Lions" (Jive)
Is this the story of a meteoric rise to obscurity becoming the unknown band immortalized in an iPod commercial? Maybe I need to get out more, but the first time I heard these guys was when “Bom Bom Bom” came on the radio - when I was down in Puerto Rico last winter! I haven’t heard them on the radio since! After listening to the album (yes, I still call them “albums”) the lack of air play is more a reflection of so-called rock ‘n roll radio than the band.

Living Things “Ahead of the Lions” has war, anti-war, God, religion, and the obligatory anti-establishment sentiments, with a pinch of sex, wrapped in some solid hard rock. (Hey, maybe more sex next time, guys, and you’ll be on to something.) The riffs are simple, the chords are simple, the energy is high, the beat is driving, and the vocals are intense, but don’t go looking for any self-indulgent guitar solos here, the solo work is very sparse. With that, I found the album (“album”, mind you) a fun listen and a good shot in the arm. I’m on the road quite a bit and it has become a mainstay of my music selections, and I really haven’t gotten tired of it.

Highlights for me are the opening track, “Bombs Below”, “Bom Bom Bom” (the one in the iPod commercial), “March In Daylight”, and “Keep It Til You Fold”. “Bom Bom Bom” has a T-Rex feel to it and the singer has kind of a Marc Bolan thing going on in the video. The psychedelia in the video was interesting as well.

I’m giving the Living Things four and a half out of five stars. Hey, no one’s perfect, although the old Pink Floyd had a few moments. Check out three videos of the band’s tunes (and some wacked out writing last I looked) on their web site and decide for yourself.
www.livingthingsmusic.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Eric Scheie


Grave For The Fireflies,"Bitten" (Basement Records)
Harkening back to the days of bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, but with crisp, modern day production, Southern California's Grave For The Fireflies rip through eleven cuts of furious hardcore in just over nineteen minutes on their debut CD Bitten. Everything here from the tight musicianship and intensity of the songs to the dark lyrics are top-notch. Bitten is the perfect reminder of what SoCal hardcore is all about.
www.basementrecords.net
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Geoff Melton


Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs,"Under The Covers, Vol. 1" (Shout Factory Records)
After showing their love for 60's music performing as Ming Tea in the first Austin Powers movie, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs are back with a full-fledged tribute to the 60's with Under The Covers, Vol. 1. As solo artists (and in Hoffs case also as a Bangle) these two have always taken cues from the sounds of this era, so these tunes fit them perfectly, whether singing on their own, harmonizing or trading off on vocals throughout a song. As for the songs, their choices range from the familiar to the more obscure and while they tend to stick to psychedelia and pop they do amp things up a few times covering Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and The Who's "The Kids Are Alright". The musicianship here is also outstanding with Ric Menck handling the drums on the whole disc and with guest appearances from the guitarist Richard Lloyd (founding member of Television) and the legendary Van Dyke Parks (noted especially for his work with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys). While there's not a misstep in the bunch, my favorites include "Alone Again or", "The Warmth of the Sun", "Sunday Morning", "Care Of Cell #44" and "Run To Me" (a gem from the sadly underappreciated early days of The Bee Gees). Since the disc is titled as Volume 1, hopefully there's a Volume 2 in our future.
www.shoutfactory.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


Buckcherry,"15" (Eleven Seven Records)
If you've already heard their new single,the raucus, early Aerosmith flavored "Crazy Bitch", you know that Buckcherry is definitely back. After a 4 year break and a solo album from frontman Josh Todd, Buckcherry (actually Todd and co-writer/guitarist Keith Nelson with three new members) has released their strongest disc so far. The band wastes no time proving this point as soon as you hit play and the rip-roaring, in your face rocker "So Far" explodes out of your speakers before leading into the catchy "Next 2 You", another no-holds barred rocker with a slight funky back beat. Other highlights include the laid-back bluesy "Carousel", "Sorry", which was co-written by Marti Frederickson and is a classic power ballad in the making, the twangy blues of "Brooklyn" and plenty of all out rockers including "Onset" and "Broken Glass", which actually borders on hardcore intensity. 15 is a suprisingly welcome return to the music scene.
www.buckcherry.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


Steve Angel Project,"Find My Way" (Zing Music Group)
As a multi-instrumentalist handling everything from guitar and keyboards to trumpet and accordion, singer/songwriter Steve Angel once again shows his diversity on his sophomore effort Find My Way. Angel opens things with "The Good Life" and "If I Could Find My Way" a couple of fun and infectious upbeat tunes punctuated with ska-like horns and keyboards respectively, before slowing things down with "Fight" a laid-back cut reminiscent of INXS. Elsewhere you'll find the upbeat "Everybody Wants To Be A Star" with it's reggae beat, the horn driven jazz-rock of "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do", the slow introspective sounds of "Hopeless" and even a bit of hip-hip with "My Playground". Find My Way is definitely another top notch from Angel and one that will have you listening over and over.
www.steveangel.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


The Horrorpops,"Bring It On!" (Epitaph Records)
Picking up where they left off on their debut The Horrorpops are back (with former Tiger Army / AFI bassist Geoff Kresge in tow) for another dose of fun, high energy new wave/psychobilly on disc number 2. Led by the good girl gone bad vocals of Patricia Day, sounding like Debbie Harry fronting a 60's Girl Group (and also doing a killer job on stand-up bass) they show that their take on psychobilly is a bit different, showcasing a melodic, at times new wave element to their sound on some songs and a punk edge at others ("You vs Me" is actually almost pure new wave, while "Where You Can't Follow" and "Caught In a Blond" are all out pop/punk). Bring It On! is highly infectious and a whole lot of fun.
www.horrorpops.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Geoff Melton


Silent Civilian,"Rebirth of the Temple" (Mediaskare Records)
Following his departure from Spineshank, Jonny Santos decided it was time to return to his metal roots, so he picked up his guitar again, and along with Chris Mora, Tim Mankowski and Henno formed Silent Civilian. Rebirth of The Temple is an impressively heavy disc that continuously moves from thrash and power metal intensity to more melodic passages with excellent dynamics displayed through everchanging tempo shifts. What really sets them apart though are the shredding guitar solos and the other throwbacks to classic metal like the Maiden-ish guitar intros to cuts like the title track and "The Song Remains Un-Named" along with an occasional punk jolt ("Falling Again"). Now that he's a father Santos' lyrics have moved in a more positive direction than in the past, dealing with messages he hopes will help with our children's futures. My only complaint with the disc is that a couple of the songs are a little too long and stretch themselves too thin, but overall an excellent disc and welcome return for Santos.
www.silentcivilian.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by Geoff Melton


Finding Mercury,"Vehicle" (label)
Although only together for just over two years, this debut CD from California's Finding Mercury shows a band that definitely has their act together. Vehicle is a tight collection of 9 well-crafted songs that literally explode with emotion and passion. Opening the disc are "Closer" and "Whisper" a couple of cuts reminiscent of Coldplay accentuated with chiming U2-like guitars. Other highlights include "Where I Stand", an acoustic track with an ever present undercurrent of intensity driven by Joel Hundley's powerful vocals, the straight-ahead Brit-Rock of "Stay" and "Crazy", "One More Time", a laid-back tune that kinda sounds like U2 with a slight alternative country vibe and the short Radiohead-tinged closer. With a debut this strong expect to be hearing a lot more from this band.
www.findingmercury.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


Erasure,"Union Street" (Mute Records)
Over their now 20+ year career this duo of Vince Clarke (founding member of both Yazoo and Depeche Mode) and Andy Bell have mastered their own brand of electronic music and along the way have done a disc of covers, an EP of Abba songs, a remix album and even delved into more experimental, almost prog-rock, but none of those things would prepare you for where they've gone with their latest disc. With Union Street they've take eleven of their lesser known songs and gone where you never expected them to go - acoustic. While that sounds like it could be a disaster, the result is actually far from that. With all of the electronics stripped away the quality of both the songwriting and the emotion of Bell's vocals along with the guitar work of producer Steve Walsh (his Union Street studio is the album's namesake) are allowed to shine through resulting in a very captivating disc. Opening the disc is "Boy" (taken from their Cowboy disc), the first single that is an absolutely beautiful tune with an outstanding arrangement. Other highlights include "Spiralling", a slower tune powered by nothing but Bell's vocals and a gentle acoustic guitar, the country flavored "Home", which is enhanced with pedal steel and the introspective "How Many Times". With Union Street this duo has once again managed to surprise and with extremely positive results.
www.erasureinfo.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


k.d. lang,"Reintarnation " (Rhino Records)
In the music biz for 23 years now, this new retrospective from KD Lang covers the earlier years of her career running from her first single in 1983 up to her contributions to the 1993 soundtrack to the movie Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Primarily known today for her more contemporary sound, her early days were initially influenced by her obsession with Patsy Cline as heard on "Friday Dance Promenade" originally available on only 500 singles and "Pine and Stew" and "Hanky Panky", a really fun sounding cut with an almost square dance feel (both of these are from her indie debut A Truly Western Experience). The Cline connection can also be found on "Diet Of Strange Places" from her Dave Edmunds produced Angel With A Lariat while other cuts from that disc venture into everything from the the Cajun vibe of "Got The Bull By The Horns" and the fun Viva Las Vegas flavored title track to the fast paced, hooks of "Turn Me Round" and the twangy "Pay Dirt". For her next disc lang teamed up with legendary Patsy Cline producer Owen Bradley for Shadowland, a disc that's surprisingly underrepresented here with only one cut, the excellent "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes", while it's follow-up Absolute Torch and Twang accounts for seven songs. Among these are "It's Me", "Luck In My Eyes" and "Big Big Love", all of which have a strong traditional country feel, the hilareous twang of "Big Boned Gal" and two tracks that are a sign of things that were to come, the stunning torch sounds of "Trail Of Broken Hearts" and "Pullin' Back The Reins". The last song from Absolute ... is actually a demo version of that album's "Nowhere To Stand", showcasing a powerful, very emotional vocal performance accompanied by just acoustic guitar and some overdubbed strings. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues is represented by a trio of songs that were written for the movie so they have a specific feel that fit their part in the movie from the cowboy swing/polka of "Don't Be A Lemming Polka" and bluegrass of "Cowgirl Pride" to the classic country of "Curious Soul Astray". The last song cut here is the unreleased demo of "Changed My Mind", a hook-filled tune with a honky tonk vibe that was the second song that she and longtime collaborator Ben Mink ever wrote together. Reintarnation is a very enjoyable look into the early days of this talented career.
www.kdlang.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


Sondre Lerche,"Duper Sessions" (Astralwerks Records)
If you're familiar with the beautiful Burt Bacharach flavored pop of Sondre Lerche's previous releases you'll probably be a bit surprised with his latest disc. The Duper Sessions is a well-crafted disc largely rooted in jazzy pop with a few slight variations here and there that's reminiscent of a modern sounding Chet Baker. The tone for the disc is set immediately with the swagger of opener "Everyone's Rooting For You', which leads into "Minor Detail", a laid-back tune with a hook so sharp that you'll find yourself singing the chorus days later. Other highlights you'll find here include the upbeat "The Curse Of Being In Love", which has an almost country vibe to it, the darkly haunting "Dead End Mystery", "(You Knocked Me) Off My Feet", "You Sure Look Swell" with it's soulful elements and excellent covers of Elvis Costello's "Human Hands", Prefab Sprout's "Nightingales" and a stripped down take on Cole Porter's "Night and Day". Once you get over the initial surprise of the direction he has taken here and give it a couple of listens, Lerche fans should definitely find plenty to like about Duper Sessions.
www.astralwerks.com
Rating:

Review by Geoff Melton


The Rewinds,"The Rewinds" (Livewire)
The Rewinds sound quite a bit like early R.E.M. Well, at least the leadoff track “New Shade Of Red” does. It reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Wolves, Lower” from their Chronic Town EP. Aptly dubbed as southern power pop by the P.R. honchos, this Birmingham, Alabama band plans on taking their sound to the masses via a non-stop tour schedule. If you’re a fan of Paul Westerberg, Superdrag, Guided By Voices, The DB’s, Big Star and other like-minded bands will probably love everything you hear on this debut release. I did.
www.therewinds.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


The Heavy Blinkers,"The Heavy Blinkers" (Endearing Records)
I once knew a guy that ran a record store that was a heavy blinker. I mean, this guy must have blinked at least a hundred times a minute. I bet it was like he was living in front of a strobe light twenty-four seven . After a few minutes of talking with the guy you would find yourself blinking in unison with him. I sure he thought everyone was just doing it to make fun of him but it was really involuntary. Anyway, I don’t know how these guys came up with the name or what it refers to but I do know that they are from Canada, they play a heady blend of pop music that brings to mind everything from Randy Newman to The Beach Boys and I know that the music is good. Very good.
www.endearing.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Bashi Bazooka,"Bashi Bazooka" (Electrokitty Records)
I like this. I like it a lot. Funky pop songs with a sixties vibe. I can’t tell you much of anything about the band or where they’re from. Their website has a cool home page but doesn’t list a thing as far as a bio goes. I guess they want to let the music do the talking and so far that works for me. Reminds me a bit of a laid back version of the Presidents Of The United States. Remember those guys and that song about peaches? Anyway, I would recommend this to anyone that digs a good pop song.
www.bashibazooka.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Dennis Bagwell,"A Random Litter Of Thought" (Batteryface Records)
Dennis Bagwell may seem like an angry man but I’d say he’s more of an observant man that knows his surroundings and isn’t too happy with what he sees. A struggling Orange County punk musician for ten years, Bagwell decided to trade in his guitar for a pen and paper and rhyme. Basicly, he’s a modern day beat poet and this collection of stories, poems, opinions and personal thoughts is a breath of fresh air in this stagnant politically correct world we pretend to live in.
www.batteryface.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Fabulous Rudies,"The Fabulous Rudies" (Cargo Music)
The Fabulous Rudies are a mix of Reel Big Fish, The Specials, Blondie, The Waitresses and The English Beat. Playing a mix of alternative, reggae and ska that infects your brain like a Dixie cup full of hunch punch and a pack of Marlboros did when you were in high school. This eight member line-up includes Cassandra Anderson on vocals, Tom Voris on vocals, Don Carter on trombone and trumpet, Milton Fletcher on piano and organ, Aaron Hudson on sax and vocals, Mark Booth on guitar and vocals, Glenn “Mann” Frazier on drums and Joe Hagins on bass. A big band with a great big sound.
www.myspace.com/fabrudies
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Chris Koza,"Patterns" (Indie Release)
This Minneapolis singer / songwriter has been compared to Paul Simon, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Mason Jennings and Conor Oberst. They’ve also said he is a unique voice with a genuineness that is hard to find. All I can tell you is that he’s pretty damn good at what he does and “Patterns” is a damn fine album well worth owning. My personally favorite songs are “View From A Pier”, “Family Gun”, “Jellyfish” and “The Departed”.
www.chriskoza.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Churchill’s Tractor,"Greatest Hits" (Mr. Meow Records)
Well, there may not be any “hits” on Greatest Hits but there’s quite a few songs on here that were a hit with me over the years. This DIY home recorder churns out material like he’s working on an assembly line and he has to meet production. It seems to work for him too. I mean, you have to wade through some so-so material sometimes but there’s always gold to be found on every release. Greatest Hits has a whole lot of that gold. Songs like “Jack Trippin’”, “What Else”, “Truckstopper”, “Mullet Man”, “Jersey ‘Til I Die”, “Tractor Nation” and “Ready To Rock” just to name a few. Fun stuff.
www.churchillstractor.tripod.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The Ralph Jones Band,"Just For The Scenery" (State Bird Records)
There’s no Ralph Jones in the Ralph Jones Band? Seems that Ralph was guitarist, vocalist Nathan Newberry’s dog. Ralph went missing about the time the band was trying to come up with a name so they thought it would be a fitting tribute. Sounds reasonable to me. Anyway, this trio from Kentucky plays a haunting yet catchy mix of folk and pop with a bit of an edge. Check out “The Ride’s The Reason”, “Fresh And New” and “Devil At The Breakfast Table” and you’ll hear what I mean.
www.ralphjonesband.com
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


The High Pink Clouds,"The High Pink Clouds" (All 11 Records)
The High Pink Clouds list their influences as The Velvet Underground, Nico, Brian Eno’s first three solo albums, Middle Eastern Dance Music, Soft Machine, Phil Manzanera, surf music, 1950s pop music, Adrian Belew, David Bowie. This 16 song album covers just about all of that ground and then some. Using guitar, bass, synthesizer, homemade oscillator, chord organ, tape recorder and guitar with “buzz” bridge, whatever that is, they created an album full of “pink-cotton-candy clouds of music floating in the upper atmosphere”. O.K., that sounds about right to me.
www.myspace.com/highpinkclouds
Rating:

Review by J.R. Oliver


Milky Ways,"Milky Ways" (Alive)
This is the shit. It rocks like sixties garage punk yet brings something new to the table. It’s got all the energy of the killer sixties garage punk stuff but it doesn’t sound dated or like some kind of revival band. The Milky Ways are made up of former members of the Spaceshits, Del-Gators and Sexareenos. So, I guess that explains it. Well, at least to anybody that’s familiar with any of those bands. If you dig garage punk then you have to get this cd and check it out. Favorite tracks: “Shattered”, “Lecherous Parasite”, “Where’s My Baby” and “Wanna Be With You”.
www.alivenergy.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver



Thee Crucials,"Instant Party!" [vinyl ep] (Smash Teen Sound)
Boy Howdy! Did they ever hit the nail on the head when they named this one Instant Party! These guys kick out some of the best sounding organ fueled garage punk I’ve ever had the pleasure of slapping on a turntable. It’s a given that any band that lists The Chocolate Watchband and The Standells as influences will automatically get my vote. Songs like “Your Damn Property” will stick in your brain like white bread and peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth. “Doe Eyes”, “You Ain’t The One” and “Crucials R Go” round out this four-song frat party. Guaranteed to get girlfriend off her ass and on the dance floor.
www.myspace.com/theecrucials
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


SSM,"SSM" (Alive)
Detroit’s avant-rock outfit SSM is made up former members of The Hentchmen, The Sights and The Cyril Lords. Their trippy reinvention of garage rock is so infectious that you’ll find you can’t get enough of this album. I’ve been listening to it almost all day and it still hasn’t got old yet. If I had to describe it in one sentence I guess I would say it’s sort of like a mix of the Amboy Dukes, early Rolling Stones and the Gang Of Four. “Candy Loving”, “Viking’s Daughter” and “The Fourth” are my picks on this disc but the whole thing sounds pretty damn cool if you ask me.
www.alivenergy.com
Rating:
and 1/2
Review by J.R. Oliver


Queensryche,"Operation Mindcrime II" (Rhino)
Arguably the best metal concept album of all-time, Queensryche’s OPERATION: MINDCRIME is lauded as the crown jewel of the veteran outfit’s collection and truly set the eclectic metal act on its way to worldwide recognition. Now, some 18 years later, the Seattle-based quintet return with the follow-up, aptly titled OPERATION: MINDCRIME II, easily the most passionate album Queensryche has released in years. That’s not to say, however, that the 17-track offering isn’t sans its problems. Starting out with a metallic anthem unlike anything off of the last few releases, “I’m American” hits heights usually reserved for power metal acts with bravado unseen from this act since the late ‘80s. From there, the storyline is carefully followed with proper musical accompaniment, as the band’s heavy musical prowess, somewhat off from O:M I and noticeably missing ex-guitarist Chris DeGarmo’s presence both on the axe and with the pen more than ever, nonetheless is the most focused and direct since EMPIRE. While the middle of the disc tends to meander, pandering to Broadway musical aspirations instead of chunky rock opera exhibitions, business really picks up on “The Chase”, where the pivotal role of Dr. X is convincingly played by the legendary Ronnie James Dio, whose interplay with Geoff Tate is slightly underwhelming but a metal vocalist fan’s wet dream nonetheless. While the sequel, like many sequels, fails to live up to the original’s massive appeal and overall exuberance, OPERATION: MINDCRIME II is by far the best Queensryche showing in a long time and despite it being overblown at times (especially towards the end), perhaps the band really did have a cinematic or theatrical scope in mind when crafting the second installment. Nevertheless, if you’ve enjoyed the band through thick and thin, there’s no reason why this disc won’t thrill you, but if you’re from the old guard, perhaps you should wait for part two of RAGE FOR ORDER.
www.queensryche.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Adair,"The Destruction of Everything is the Beginning of Something New" (Warcon)
St. Louis quintet Adair play the perfect music to compliment the likes of Thrice, Atreyu, and Story of the Year, which is probably why they were selected for a go-round on this year’s Taste of Chaos jaunt. The unit’s 13-track offering, heavily (in a good way) produced by Allan Hessler (The Used, Goldfinger, Story of the Year) displays many different sides of the band, from the introspectively progressive vibe of Coheed and Cambria on “The Diamond Ring” to occupying the melancholically metallic zone usually reserved for Thrice on “The Art of Staying Alive”. Exuding the kind of vocal angst usually earmarked for emo and armed with uncannily boundless and genuinely intriguing twin guitar attack, tracks like “Folding and Unfolding” mesh the heart on your sleeve feel of Thursday with the pop-punk jangle of Anberlin while the staccato sadness of “I Buried My Heart in Cosmo Park” juxtaposes Glassjaw’s writhing pain with The Used’s histrionic approach. Brimming over with brawny riffs, sensitive lyrics, crashing rhythms, and slightly annoying vocals to anyone that hates high-pitched male singing, there’s a good chance that if you denounce bands that exhibit their intimate side, you’ll hate this. However, if you’re a sucker for heartbreak and like your music doused with passionate vocals and rollercoaster-esque compositions, while Adair blows Story of the Year away, they’ll need a few more albums to catch up to Thrice to be considered top flight.
www.warconrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


So They Say,"Antidote For Irony" (Fearless)
A veritable hotbed for Hot Topic punk, St. Louis, MO yields another band in So They Say, a quintet whose 11-track album ANTIDOTE FOR IRONY comfortably fits the mold made by bands like The Starting Line, Taking Back Sunday, and Hawthorne Heights. Songs like the electronically-tinged hard rocker “A Beautiful Plan”, the hooky and melodic “In Essence We Are Falling”, and the minutely anguished vibe of “Good-Bye” not only give the kids a chance to pump their fists and scream in unison, but also gives the band a forum to display its contagious brand of heavy handed pop-punk. While the super saturation of the particular genre this unit belongs to coupled with the lack of distinction songs like “Anxiety is Setting In” share from the countless bands flooding the market ultimately dispels So They Say’s impending emergence from the rest of the pack, ANTIDOTE FOR IRONY may be far from original, but it definitely shines as bright as any band currently in heavy rotation on Fuse or tackling the VFW/ small club circuit.
www.fearlessrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Stavesacre,"How to Live With a Curse" (Abacus)
Southern California quartet Stavesacre are no rookies, as this hard rocking outfit have been making noise in the catacombs of the rock world for nearly a decade. On HOW TO LIVE WITH A CURSE, the group’s first effort in nearly four years, producer Matt Hyde brings out the best of these guys, whipping up a sturdy foundation of great rock songs laden with substance sans rock’s usual excesses and contrived clichés. Songs like “Kill My Darlings” and “The Trouble with Being Born” are prime examples of the hard driving yet slyly sophisticated rock tunes that these guys seamlessly string together, while “A Reason to Believe” taps the hard rock vein much like Creed and Godsmack, only with way more conviction and less of rock’s lowest common denominations. Uplifting throughout, Stavesacre rose through the ranks as a Christian rock clan, yet this 14-track endeavor does not once get overly preachy or religious. Instead, Stavesacre lets the music do most of the talking on tracks like “It’s Beautiful (Once Your Out There)”, a trait that secular and non-secular rock fans alike will be should be able to appreciate. If you dig bands like Alter Bridge, Pete, and Collective Soul mixed with touches of Foo Fighters and upper crust So Cal punk, then HOW TO LIVE WITH A CURSE won’t disappoint.
www.abacusrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Grey Skies Fallen,"Two Way Mirror" (Xanthros)
NYC’s much maligned doom metal troupe Grey Skies Fallen have had its share of revolving door members, crappy shows, and genuine bad luck that plagues 98% of the unsigned bands around the world (just ask for a copy of the unit’s comprehensive history to feel the pain firsthand). Yet, through all the tumultuousness, the project carried on, shaping itself to become the juggernaut that the eight-track release TWO WAY MIRROR exhibits. Running the gamut from death metal disembowelment to progressive rock freakouts, this band’s mostly pristine and sometimes punishing sound encompasses Pink Floyd, Type O Negative, Steely Dan, Queensryche, and Novembers Doom, usually all during one of their extensively thorough tracks such as “The Few”. Armed with a massive amount of musical prowess, songs like “Drift” and “Blue” are carried by shimmering guitar lines, prominently powerful drumming, and slightly ambient synth and keyboard work. While the vocals could use a bit of a boost in the range department, despite their limitations, they manage to provide a mechanically metallic feel (think Burton C. Bell meets Page Hamilton) that fits in rather well alongside the Rick Wakeman-esque keyboard solos of “Carry On” and the band’s overall methodically measured presentation. Persistent and bursting with talent, TWO WAY MIRROR highlights a band on the fringe whose vast influences and multitude of musical ability make this outfit hard to describe but fun for those that enjoy a great deal of variety.
www.greyskiesfallen.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Abominable Iron Sloth,"The Abominable Iron Sloth" (Goodfellow)
Featuring members of Will Haven and Oddman in its ranks, the monstrous eponymous debut by The Abominable Iron Sloth combines chaotic downtuned madness with concise songwriting. This crusty nine-track endeavor showcases this Sacramento, CA quintet’s penchant for playing in the sludge, as the foreboding guitar tones and brooding rhythms found on “A Distant Pond from the Rivers of Human Limelight” and “I’d Rather Die than Fly” emits the kind of sluggish subtleties normally reserved for the likes of Eyehategod and Crowbar. Armed with a vicious vocal assault whose caustic shrill is akin to a tortured animal’s desperate wail while backed by an impenetrable wall of sound, songs like “Hats Made of Veal and that New Car Scent” are as viscous and dangerous as the title suggests. And even though you’d be hard pressed to find anything incapable of leaving massive abrasions in your ear canal, songs like “The Family that Slays Together Stays Together” manages to retain an undeniable groove, a trait this bruising band of heavy music merchants will go down as mastering when all is said and done. If you like the ominous din of the NOLA-influenced metal scene, this one is for you.
www.goodfellowrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Smackdown,"Someone Has to Kill the Headwriter" (Goodfellow)
Swedish pro wrestling fans The Smackdown have made a frenetic 13-track disc that captures the energy of a Hell in the Cell match with the sting of a chairshot to the back of the head. Channeling the spirit of Refused for much of SOMEONE HAS TO KILL THE HEADWRITER, songs like “My Entrance Looked Better When It Had Firecrackers” and “Nothing to No-show for; Rewrite is a Dud” are deliberately dissonant, lyrically incomprehensible, and purposely on the verge of falling apart at any given moment, something that The Smackdown relies on a great deal to get its point across. While the wry song titles like “The Dave Mustaine Syndrome” and “Taking Over Primetime” are gems in their own right, ultimately this quintet’s barrage of sheer volatile punk-hardcore explosions heavily leant on steady diets of Black Flag and spastic crossover acts found on tracks like “The Game” and “Irwin R. Never Changed the World” is the stuff that makes The Smackdown not only different, but strangely enticing.
www.goodfellowrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mudley,"Destacando As Coisas Simples" (Indie Release)
Mudley is a Brazilian punk rock band whose heavily induced West Coast punk rock sound and Portuguese lyrical content sounds like the Warped Tour gone international. Likened to bands like Strung Out, Lagwagon, Unwritten Law, and Pennywise, tracks like “Perdas Imaginarias” and “Anseios” take fast-paced punk rock beats and melodic guitars south of the border for a shot of California sunshine. Despite this release missing the mark on some occasions, especially vocally, the overall vibe coming from Mudley suggests that this South American quartet has its fingers on the pulse of the Fat Wreck Chords catalog, showcasing its flawed yet highly spirited version of sounds you’d find at a California skate park.
www.mudely.cjb.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mower,"Not For You" (Suburban Noize)
San Diego metal clan Mower returns on a blistering note with its 15-track NOT FOR YOU, a massive beast churning out punishing beats, sledgehammered guitars, and a dual screaming match to boot. Tracks like the monolithic crunch of “The End” and the electronically grooving “Broken Hands” are where the band shines brightest, while the remainder of the album for the most part finds the quintet spinning its wheels on the nu-metal treadmill. Sounding like a hybrid of American Head Charge, Ministry, and Ultraspank, NOT FOR YOU patches together slithers of mechanically-inflicted metal that unrepentantly bludgeons yet provides little surprises.
www.suburbannoizerecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Herman Rarebell,"Too Late for Peace" (Selfmadegod)
Taking its name from the former drummer of the Scorpions, the Eastern European quartet Herman Rarebell gives props to extreme metal’s forefathers on this 15-track excursion. Wielding a flurry of crustily infused grindcore, tracks like “Alcoholocaust” hit hard, fast, and then exit, leaving your ears exhilarated and your limbs bruised. As an added bonus, they’ve included covers of Napalm Death and Doom to gnaw on, which perfectly complement the raucous din of original tracks like the blistering “Cage of Life” and “Firing Squad”. Looking for a quick fix of noise and aggression? Let Herman Rarebell’s extreme wares fill that void.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dead to Fall,"The Phoenix Throne" (Victory)
Consistency be damned in the world of Illinois metalcore titans Dead to Fall, whose third installment for Victory Records finds only singer Jon Hunt surviving from the previous VILLIANY AND VIRTUE disc. While the quintet’s sound has arguably changed for the better (thanks mainly to the durable guitar work by both former Nehemiah axemen), the band is still essentially a metalcore outfit, only with a way broader scope than other categorically lumped bands such as labelmates Atreyu and Bleeding Through. Drawing the bulk of its power from a dastardly bastardization of American and Swedish metal, tracks like the pulsating “All My Heroes Have Failed Me” and the ominous creep of “Corpse Collector” showcases two entirely different hues of heavy, both of which surprisingly work well with each other. Way more progressive than past efforts yet retaining its primal grit and gutwrenching nastiness, Dead to Fall has been reborn and THE PHOENIX THRONE marks a fine comeback for this metalcore unit.
www.victoryrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Darsombra,"Ecdysis" (At a Loss)
Meatjack’s Brian Daniloski’s solo endeavor titled Darsombra is as unsettling an album as you can get, as the one man band’s drone metal nuances and mechanically alluring atmospheres provided on ECDYSIS aren’t for the unadventurous. Entrancing swirls of guitar, thickets of delay, and an overbearingly foreboding vibe are put to good use across this six-track sojourn, as tracks like “The Place Where There is No Darkness” and the oppressive funeral home influenced sitar driven dirge “My House” displays the type of musical experimentations and journeys through sound reserved for only ears that appreciate ornately crafted doom rock.
www.atalossrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Mord,"Christendom Perished" (Southern Lord)
Mord is a black metal band that actually comes from Norway whose nine-track release’s songs are all titled in numerical succession with the word “Opus” in front, almost as an afterthought. Proving that the classic black metal buzz of bands like Immortal and Dark Funeral is alive and well, CHRISTENDOM PERISHED showcases the incessant drum and blistering guitar tandem that unleashes evil auras guaranteed to haunt the inner sanctum of your brain. Either that or it’ll give you one hell of a demonic headache. No matter, because this album isn’t intended to be music for enjoyment. Instead, this disc’s bleak sentiments radiate emotions made for those truly loathed by a convincingly two severely angst-ridden humans. Successfully executing its blasphemously brutal concoction of death, thrash, and black metal, this band, named after the Norwegian word for murder, lives up to its moniker in spades.
www.southernlord.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Five Horse Johnson,"The Mystery Spot" (Small Stone)
Any band that employs a full-time harp (harmonica for the layman) player has to be badass, and the bluesy swagger found on self-professed blues rocker’s Five Horse Johnson’s latest endeavor definitively exhibits just how dangerous these guys can be. From the whiskey soaked vocals found on tracks such as “The Ballad of Sister Ruth” and “Feed That Train” to the Motorhead meets Stevie Ray Vaughn vibe of “I Can’t Shake It”, to the soulful fretwork scattered amongst the 12-track experience, it’s a safe bet that this band has got one hell of a ZZ Top and early Aerosmith influence steering the ship, not to mention a gnarly record collection to pull inspiration from. Assisted by Clutch’s drummer extraordinaire JP Gaster, THE MYSTERY SPOT is an organically supercharged blues-rock album best enjoyed at a honkytonk with a side of whiskey and a barroom brawl pending.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Keep It Secret,"Hope Slide Viewpoint" (Black Kettle)
Vowing that their music is aggressive with a conscience, Vancouver’s Keep It Secret’s meshing of post-hardcore and screamo holds up on their six-track offering. Implementing a dual vocal sting that switches from singing to screaming and backed by a band whose dynamic mood shifts from slick punk to shoegazer rock rather effortlessly, songs like “Terra Incognita” and “Sting of the Arrow” combine the wares of bands like Alexisonfire and Thursday, while the initial aura set forth by “Somethings Always Wrong for Now” suggests these guys have been to their share of Warped Tours. Keep It Secret may be plagued by playing in a style maligned by many, but this band wields a couple more tricks than most of its peers on HOPE SLIDE VIEWPOINT, giving them a college rock jangle and the chance at attracting a wider range of ears.
www.keepitsecret.ca
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Leviathan/ Sapthuran,"Split CD" (Battle Kommand)
The American black metal movement, thanks to the advent of the home studio, has seen a proliferation of bitter musicians taking matters into their own hands and laying down some on the brink black metal. Two such artists, Leviathan and Sapthuran, have aligned and released this lo-fi minimalist metal endeavor. Up first is Sapthruan, who sandwiches his utterly raw and purposely undercooked three-track venomous wrath with “And Autumn Sheds Its Final Tear”, an atmospheric acoustic guitar piece that breaks up the incessant hate quite nicely. The next five-tracks come from Leviathan, a project led by mainman Wrest, an artist whose general discontent and scorn for life blankets everything he does. Sinfully chaotic and armed with a more distinct guitar tone, songs like “Odius Convustions” actually sound like Satyricon jamming with Deftones, while the death gallop of “Another Sip of Fear” is mercilessly beaten into your head with pounding drums and the trademark black metallic guitar buzz. Two artists, eight songs, and pure hatred for humanity... What more could an extreme metal fan desire?
www.battlekommand.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Event Horizon,"Naked on the Black Floor" (Cruz Del Sur)
The intro to NAKED ON THE BLACK FLOOR is a bit misleading, as you’d expect an album laden with electronic nuances judging by “Everything that Begins...”, but the band quickly exposes its progressive and power metal one-two punch on “Deconstructed”. The sonic manipulations don’t cease though (just check out “Bited”), and neither do the classic metal compositions and headbanging rhythms that lead into impassioned guitar runs found on songs like “The Road to Myself”. Blending a mix of Blind Guardian, Fates Warning, and a touch of Dream Theater’s gawdy flare, and you’ve got this solid yet unoriginal Italian metal troupe pegged.
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Upon Infliction,"To Escape Is To Suffer" (Crash)
South Florida’s Upon Infliction lovingly covers Death’s “Mutilation”, which is no surprise after hearing the quartet’s technical yet treacherous brand of death metal. From the growling vocals to the churning guitars found on album opener “Order” to the ferociously flawless ode to the death penalty “State Sanctioned Execution”, the sense that you’re in for a tumultuous listening experience is pretty damn secure. Add in a furious flurry of percussive prowess courtesy of Malevolent Creation’s Gus Rios, more odd time signatures and breakneck changes in one song than most bands display on an entire album, and the type of twisted and contorted death metal madness that veteran acts exude, and the end result is a veritable diamond in the rough. Death metal fans that crave that distinctly demonic late ‘90s Florida metal sound, the wait is over…your new messiahs of mayhem have arrived.
www.crashmusicinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Anchors Away,"Nuckin' Futs" (Significant)
Despite the whimsical album title and animated cover that depicts Captain Crunch among other things, don’t be fooled by Anchor Away’s imagery. This Florida sextet’s six-track vehement hardcore vehicle plays like Good Riddance meets H2O at a Comeback Kid show, as Anchors Away finds the middle ground between punching the floor and pumping the fists in the air. Lightning-fast and explosive, tracks like “Shit Talkin’” and “Keep Dreaming” taps into the old school hardcore vein with a bit of tough guy bravado, almost like Gorilla Biscuits teaming up with Remembering Never. Short but by no means sweet, NUCKIN’ FUTS is an album long on intensity and brimming over with true crossover punk-hardcore spirit.
www.significantrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Various Artists,"Headbangers Ball: The Revenge" (Roadrunner)
Showcasing a virtual who’s who in today’s metal realm, the latest twin-disc installment of MTV2’s HEADBANGERS BALL compilation series is aptly titled THE REVENGE. Containing over 2 and half hours of proven superstars, rising acts, and the underground’s finest, this collection is the perfect primer for the casual mall metal fan who wants to encounter a good cross-section of what’s going down in today’s extreme music genre. However, a hardened fan may be disappointed, perhaps even upset with some of the choices included. Starting off Disc 1 with the latest singles from the potent nu-metal tandem of Slipknot and Korn, the endeavor pulls no punches from the onset, unleashing its commercially viable heavy hitters right off the bat. From there, classic metal gets a revisit via an Iron Maiden live track. The first of the few gems on the disc appears in the form of Roadrunner Records’s newest signee Hatebreed with the undeniably brutal “To The Threshold”, heard for the first time exclusively here. Some of the more questionable content via Mudvayne, Avenged Sevenfold, and HIM is next, guaranteed to utterly satisfy your little brother’s metal fetish yet probably won’t register for anyone over the age of 25. Following this lame triple threat are the revival metal of Trivium (just check out those guitar solos), the Pantera-esque groove thrash of Lamb of God, and the moody Tool-esque alternatively flavored 10 Years, a band whose slot on this comp is understatedly out of place. Everyone’s favorite whipping boys Disturbed, a band that continuously get no respect despite sold out tours and platinum album sales appears, followed by metalcore’s favorite Christian soldiers As I Lay Dying. Lacuna Coil is up next, featuring metal’s “it” girl, the angelic Cristina Scabbia, followed by yet another God-fearing metal act in Underoath. Saving up its arsenal for the tail end, Disc 1’s last five cuts include the mighty Mastodon, a blistering live offering from Killswitch Engage, a tender Dimebag tribute by Black Label Society, blackened metalcore courtesy of Bleeding Through, and rounded off by Swedish pioneers In Flames. Not bad, eh? But wait, there’s more… Disc Numero Dos starts off with the overrated Chimaira (recently severing its ties with the label), the UK sensation Bullet For My Valentine, and the always-compelling Arch Enemy. Delving a little deeper into the underground sounds, emocore upstarts It Dies Today, the grandiose Opeth, and the dissonant din of Norma Jean continue the descent into the catacombs. Devildriver, Still Remains, and God Forbid provide a good cross-section of how different American metal can actually be, while hardcore stalwarts Throwdown get their Sepultura on, as From First to Last unleash its Gothic metallic punk on the unsuspecting. 36 Crazyfists throws a new track from their forthcoming release into the ring, to be followed by UK power metallers Dragonforce and Philadelphia’s biggest goons since the Flyers, A Life Once Lost. The caustic tones of High on Fire help you pack the bong, while Bloodsimple’s metallic hardcore approach and Haste the Day’s Massachusetts metal impersonation trails behind. Ending the disc are brand new cuts from the female fronted hardcore troupe Walls of Jericho and the soulcrushingly heavy debut of the Jamey Jasta side project Kingdom of Sorrow (which includes members of Crowbar and Seemless). So, there you go, folks. Encompassing 38 tracks that span the metal spectrum, this installment of The Headbangers Ball compilation series is an awesome way to get acquainted with today’s metal akin to how the Cliff Notes version of any literary gem helps you brush up before the big exam. Unfortunately, if you are a grizzled metal fan, most of this stuff you either already own, discount as not being “metal enough”, or doesn’t pack the punch that your latest Manowar contains. However, chances are if you have a buddy, a smaller sibling, or a co-worker curious about the ways of the horned hand, this collection is a fine place to start, but don’t be offended if the most ardent metal fans rebuke this given the MTV stamp and the commercial metal acts sharing disc space with cult faves and legends alike.
www.roadrunnerrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Think I Care,"World Asylum" (Bridge Nine)
Want old school flavor? Allow the Boston quartet Think I Care to serve you up some of the toughest blue-collar work ethic hardcore this side of CBGB’s circa 1982, as WORLD ASYLUM contains all of the vitriolic madness of bands like Killing Time and Sheer Terror. 10 tracks of trim, lean and muscular hardcore brazen with venom, songs like “Heads Will Roll” and “Nature of the Beast” emit the kind of metallic firepower and floorpunching ferocity throughout the 21-minute endeavor to conjure up a good idea of how it used to be without blatantly ripping off its legacy. WORLD ASYLUM is highly recommended for the truly sullen and forlorn hardcore purist that needs a new soundtrack to break shit to.
www.bridge9.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Cronian,"Terra" (Century Media)
When two of Sweden’s more prolific metal musicians come together, you can usually expect an intriguing merger of the heavy music minded. Such is the case on TERRA by Cronian, a project featuring Borknagar’s Oystein G. Brun and Vintersorg’s Mr. V whose nine-track affair blends both men’s multi-faceted extreme musical influences with a keen sense of cinematic flare that is as much Dimmu Borgir as it is Dream Theater. Tapping into the prog-rock pretense yields results like the atmospheric seven-minute “Iceolated”, Cronian manages to showcase its orchestral nuances and black metal background simultaneously, a device which propels TERRA throughout this nine-track journey.
www.centurymedia.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Sigma,"Violence Speaks Louder Than Words" (Indie Release)
Holy crossover! Arizona unsigned upstart trio Sigma’s 11-track release finds this genre-hopping unit switching up between bratty punk, punky metal, and seething hardcore best displayed on “Stars and Fights”. With a keen sense for brawny riffs, punchy bass lines, and clever song titles like “God Hates Flags”, this group’s proclivity for provoking a mayhem-filled moshpit is Sigma’s most endearing trait, as they prove on “We Stand Alone” just how to go from Cro-Mags viciousness to Anti-Flag anarchy and back again without batting an eye.
www.shadowcasteredcords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Nihilist,"Call Down the Thunder" (Indie Release)
California metal trio Nihilist make no bones about its love for all things metal, from the pictures of studio rooms flanked with posters and half-stacks in CALL DOWN THE THUNDER’s album artwork to the outfit’s no-nonsense straight-ahead classic metal aural assault. They even cover Judas Priest’s “Freewheel Burning” for God’s sake, and if that’s not an indicator of what this full-tilt metal troupe whose inclinations lean between the guitar virtuosity of the aforementioned and the cleanly chugged chaos of late ‘80s thrash metallers like Flotsam and Jetsam is, then you my friend cannot call yourself a metalhead. If you dig revival metal a la Three Inches of Blood and even the kitschy wares of Manowar, then Nihilist is perfect to quench that insatiable hunger for over the top metal.
www.nihilistmetal.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Between the Wars,"Less We Believe" (Revelation)
Between the Wars hails from New Jersey, boasts Ensign’s lead singer and an ex-Thursday guitarist in its ranks, and makes the kind of urgent metallic hardcore that picks up where the legacy of Snapcase left off, with scatterings of newer mindful yet utterly scalding bands like Modern Life is War and Bleeding Kansas strewn about. This eight-track release unleashes a tumultuous hardcore trajectory whose post-hardcore fretwork and metallic foundations found on tracks like “In A Perfect World, You’d Be Dead” and the malevolent “American Mutiny” sound best when cranked to 11. Intricate enough for the tech head (especially guitar-wise), yet charged with the same scolding intent as old school hardcore, LESS WE BELIEVE is a masterful album awaiting fans of dense hardcore.
www.revelationrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Society's Finest,"And I, The Drunkards" (Hand Of Hope)
Society’s Finest’s frontman Joshua Ashworth recently spent some time yowling for metalcore titans Zao, a task that definitely rubbed this quintet the right way judging by the 12-track AND I, THE DRUNKARDS. Meshing the menacing wares of Darkest Hour, As I Lay Dying, and of course Zao, songs like the title cut mix six-stringed staccato chugfests and Maiden-esque cascading guitar licks with serpentine vocalizations and deep metalcore grooves that will have zero difficulty producing moshpits from coast to coast. If you like your metal arrantly abrasive yet strangely memorable, this disc delivers.
www.handofhoperecords.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Graves at Sea/ Asunder,"Split CD" (Life Is Abuse)
Bay Area doom merchants Graves at Sea and Asunder combine forces to produce a plodding, ominous three-track split disc. Up first are Graves at Sea, whose contributions leave an eerie aura complete with tortured vocals, foreboding composition, and a general sense of dread. Without losing an ounce of trepidation, Asunder takes the reigns for the closer, an unsettlingly perilous nineteen-minute affair that tests both your attention span and pain threshold. Dually displaying sinister urges and rambling dirges, this disc is prime meat for the gloom and doom set.
www.lifeisabuse.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


OSI,"Free" (Insideout)
OSI is the second installment from this progressive metal project that features members of Armored Saint, Dream Theater, and Fates Warning. Don’t expect the usual instrumental wankery and self-gratifying solos from FREE though. Instead, envision a musical landscape laden with industrially-charged electronic rock elements not unlike Peter Gabriel meets Fear Factory on such cuts as “Bigger Wave” and “Sure You Will” and a subdued acoustic piece akin to late-era Floyd on “Our Town”. These two nuances are the most prominent here, giving FREE the odd yet workable pairing of a nu-metal edge with a fertile prog rock backdrop. This disc is geared for the forward thinking metal fan that wants a bit of ear candy.
www.osiband.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Tower of Rome,"World War I" (Hewhocurrupts)
Illinois grind gurus Tower of Rome get all crusty and chaotic on your unsuspecting ass on their eight-track excursion WORLD WAR I. Equipped with blast beats and harsh bottom ends galore, throat-ripping screams, and the kind of manic guitar and bass work that scares small kids and household pets, with songs titled like “Save Art: Kill An Art Kid” in their arsenal, Tower of Rome must be a hoot to witness live as well. WORLD WAR I is the perfect soundtrack to piss off your neighbors, cause property damage, or bang your head incessantly to.
www.hewhocorruptsinc.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Body Part Trophy Case,"Killing Without a Motive" (Indie Release)
New Jersey metal is alive and well, as the Garden State’s Body Part Trophy Case does its part on KILLING WITHOUT A MOTIVE to prove this theory true. This nine-track aggressive offering exhibits a wide range of influences from classic to thrash to death metal, as this quartet keeps itself occupied with odd time signatures, crushing spurts of chugging guitars, in your face vocals, and rhythms that run from spastic to stringent at the drop of a dime. Imagine the imagery of Cannibal Corpse with the sound of Dark Angel, Pantera, and Carcass propelling the madness, as songs like “Welcome to the Hatchet Wound” contain all the metal goodness you desire and more. Horned hands up high, folks, as these guys crunch with the best of them.
www.bodyparttrophycase.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


The Obsessed,"Lunar Womb" (Meteorcity)
Let’s face it, Scott “Wino” Weinrich is a legend. Although many of you may not even know who the hell he is, your favorite bands sure do, as guys from Phil Anselmo to Dave Grohl exalt the man’s achievements to the hilt. The good folks at Meteorcity have dug through the archives and bring you up to speed on LUNAR WOMB, showcasing Wino’s underground heroics with The Obsessed at its most visceral. Brimming over with Sabbath-esque intensity and Black Flag-esque urgency, this 12-track re-release retains the imminence that it surely conveyed some 15 years ago. If you’re unfamiliar with Wino and his many musical ventures, or if your old copy of this release is ransacked, then now is the time for a refurbishing or an underground rock history lesson that’s worth every hard earned penny.
www.meteorcity.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Maximum Penalty,"Demo 89 & East Side Story" (I Scream)
NYC hardcore pioneers Maximum Penalty’s early days are documented on this 14-track re-release, some of which haven’t seen the light of day in over 15 years. From DEMO 89 & EAST SIDE STORY, the strains of no frills, pure late ‘80s-early ‘90s hardcore a la Agnostic Front, Bad Brains, and Cro-Mags are pumped through your speakers as these veterans dig through their archives and give the kids a glimpse of where the stuff they dig today comes from on tracks like “Brutality” and “I’ll Save You”. With a reunion in the works, Maximum Penalty’s reissue is a fine way to get reacquainted to one of the scene’s founding members.
www.iscreamrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Defcon 4,"File Under Fuck" (Black Box)
Comprised of stalwarts of the Boston hardcore and punk scene, Defcon 4’s FILE UNDER FUCK meshes crusty sludge metal and volatile punk rock throughout 15-tracks, keeping the listener in step with this quartet’s deliberate sonic abrasiveness. Providing a truly disconcerting listening experience laden with dissonant melodies found on the title cut, fast punk laced with a vicious bite on “Fast Car”, and the disparate disjointedness on “Berzerker’s Rage”, Defcon 4’s output is perfect for the punk rocker that fancies some left of center aggression and a plethora of twisted chaos.
www.myspace.com/defcon4
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Killing Joke,"Hosannas From the Basements of Hell" (Cooking Vinyl)
England’s veritable metal machine Killing Joke has been in the game for over 25 years, and their experienced acumen is very much the driving force behind the nine-track HOSANNAS FROM THE BASEMENTS OF HELL. Progenitors of the industrial metal movement and undeniably one of the most influential bands you probably never full realized, songs like the Gothic electro-punk punch of “This Tribal Antidote” rivals Ministry and Sisters of Mercy, the mechanically pulsed “Walking With Gods” are hits both on the dancefloor and in the moshpit, and the spirit-esque vocals on top and atmospheric electronics underneath on “Gratitude” make for quite the cold, harsh hypnotic trip. Adorned with captivating artwork, a keen sense of composition, and a total disregard for the mainstream, Killing Joke always did things their way, and by doing so, continue to carve out a niche that no one else will ever come close to touching, If you’re disenchanted with the music industry, allow HOSANNAS FROM THE BASEMENTS OF HELL to reaffirm your faith that there still are warriors of the rock world releasing pertinent and utterly amazing records.
www.cookingvinylusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Incarnated,"Pleasure of Consumption" (Selfmadegod)
Polish gory grindcore merchants Incarnated unleash its second release in 14 years with PLEASURE OF CONSUMPTION. This 13-track offering lays down strikingly buzzing guitars, merciless drums, and the kind of guttural vocals that straddle the death/gore metal fence. “Disturbance of Consciousness” and “Rotten Visions” are just two among the carnage-creating tracks that mesh the wares of brutal early Swedish underground metal, while cuts like “Dead House” are a blatant homage to the grind metal genre. Keeping it raw and unrepentantly yet redundantly heavy throughout, this disc has few memorable moments, but should leave a few new bruises in the process.
www.selfmadegod.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Set Your Goals,"Reset" (Eulogy)
Set Your Goals is a hardcore act with an unmistakable pop-punk edge that hails from San Francisco whose melodic bounce and gang choral vocal assault sounds like the joining of Saves the Day, H20, New Found Glory, and Hazen Street. Armed with heavy guitars emitting catchy hooks, songs like “Goonies Never Say Die” combine an old school approach with some Warped Tour punk rock traces, while “Latch Key” keeps the rhythms chugging and the vocals easily sing along-able for all the kids. Yet, despite all the sweet guitar riffs found on “Sharptooth” and implemented dual vocal punch, the lyrics and overall gloss of RESET suggests these guys have a lot more in common with Simple Plan and Green Day than Gorilla Biscuits, a trait which may automatically turn many straight away.
www.eulogyrecordings.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Throttlerod,"Nail" (Small Stone)
Relocating states and scaling down to a trio since their last release, the essence of Throttlerod’s tumult is not only self-explanatory, but also very much apparent throughout the course of the 10-track NAIL. Yet through it all, the unit perseveres and kicks out a most radical stoner rock fusion. Summoning Nirvana, Deftones, and Chevelle as much as Skynyrd, Alabama Thunderpussy, and Molly Hatchet here, songs like “Rabbit” twist into a hybrid of heavy Southern rock and gentrified punk rock boogie much like latter-day Rollins Band, while “Big Name” maintains the blinded by moonshine riffages with a pronounced metallic underbelly a la Fireball Ministry. Keeping it refreshingly nubile yet satisfyingly seething, tracks like “Stand ‘Em Up” merges Throttlerod’s protean stoner rock with a barrage of goodies from the rest of the rock realm for an astonishingly uplifting yet substantially left of center angst-ridden ride.
www.smallstone.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Threepeace,"Empire of the Sun" (Sheehan)
Reggae-infused rock is what Michigan-based outfit ThreePeace rolls out on the unit’s eight-track endeavor. This band really focuses on delivering the goods a la Sublime and 311 with some classic rock leanings, meshing the island sounds with a discernible rock backdrop, especially when they pick up the jams on tracks like “Somer’s Time Reggae”. Despite much of EMPIRE OF THE SUN sounding a bit undercooked, the overall breezy vibe is impressive for a bunch of dudes from Michigan, even if they sometimes lapse into the cliché and lackadaisical on tracks like “Woman is the Root of All Evil”.
www.threepeace.org
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Vena Amori,"The Seduction of an American Housewife" (The Death Scene)
Kansas crossover act Vena Amori shift gears from full-on screamo (used most annoyingly and sounding like an aped-up mix of Atreyu and The Used) to fierce metalcore (think Darkest Hour) to cascading punk metal (My Chemical Romance meets Iron Maiden). Yeah, these guys are definitely all over the place, and even go so far as to make this 12-track endeavor a concept album about a 1968 Kansas massacre to boot. So far, so good. With startlingly good riffs and a juggernaut of a rhythm section, tracks like “Rotting Beef Carcasses” and “Marilyn Merlot” stand out as choice cuts and Vena Amori seem destined for greatness. Then the terribly (and terrible to boot) raspy vocals assaults the ears, and damn near ruin the entire escapade, sapping all of the chaotic pleasure of tracks like “Fin” and “Jesus Wasn’t Loved in His Hometown Neither”. A band with this kind of heavy melodic acumen and versatility deserves a much better fate that a less abrasive singer can bring.
www.thedeathscene.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Thyrane,"Travesty of Heavenly Essence" (Candlelight)
Chalk another one up for Finland, as Thyrane’s dastardly symphonic 11-track black metal concoction strikes with imminent danger and a foreboding sense of ferocity. TRAVESTY OF HEAVENLY ESSENCE masterfully blends intentionally evil black metal vocals and guitars with a myriad of dramatically tinged synths and symphonic elements, whipping up a menacing maelstrom of metal in the process. Tracks like the swirling epic “Legacy of Saints in Disguise” and the rollicking riffs and cascading keyboards of “Prisoner of Pain” are prime examples of how this quartet masterfully juxtaposes beauty and brutality. If you dig Dimmu Borgir and old school In Flames and ever wished for an amalgamation of the two, rejoice as Thyrane has answered your call.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


DKLIMB,"Defy Define Definition" (Hand of Hope)
From a casual listen, DEFY DEFINE DEFINITION sounds like the handiwork of one of Daryl Palumbo’s (Glassjaw/ Head Automatica) projects, yet instead the serious emotional strains come from DKLIMB, a Florida quintet who model their sound very closely after the aforementioned. Luckily for these gentlemen, they display not only the unadulterated passion of one of Long Island’s finest, but also a similarly strong sense of stellar musicianship, closer in the vein of Incubus goes screamo, as songs like the ultra-hooky and ever so slightly emo warble of “What I Want Vs. What I Need” and the soulful gutwrench of “Said and Done” indicate this band’s songwriting prowess and enthusiastic delivery. While songs like “Charlton Heston Ain’t Got Guns Like These” may consist of too much girl jean wearing chord progressions for the laymen rock fan, cuts like “The Montauk Project” redeem this band’s firm grasp of creating poignantly powerful and punchy post-punk.
www.handofhoperecords.net
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Amoral,"Decrowning" (Candlelight)
Finnish outfit Amoral provides a steady stream of substantially seething metal on their sophomore affair. DECROWNING is a monstrous 10-track endeavor whose sinewy grooves gel magnificently with the headbanging rhythms found on tracks such as “Tiebraker”. Building from the wondrously prolific template of extreme bands from Finland, Sweden, and Poland, yet managing to lay its own distinct sound down in the process, songs like the title cut switch between blast beated thrashings to swirling breakdowns to six-string brutality with relative ease. With the omnipresence of a discernible guitar-drum lockdown and fitting death growls topping it all off, the new sound of melodic death metal has arrived courtesy of this juggernaut.
www.candlelightrecordsusa.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Hollis Browne,"Hollis Browne" (Indie Release)
Hollis Browne is a NYC quintet whose convincing Southwestern twang and spaghetti western cowboy rock via the garage displays tinges of Neil Young, Pearl Jam, The Supersuckers, Stevie Ray Vaughn and The Mars Volta on its five-track offering. From the dominating Santana-esque fretwork on “Don’t Mean No Harm” to the impassioned falsetto vocal which fuels the melancholic “Portrait” and the moody shuffle of “Nothing and the Famous No One”, the way which this unit fuses the sounds of the desert with a punk rock backbeat is what makes Hollis Browne such the captivating entity.
www.hollisbrowne.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Dog Fashion Disco,"Adultery" (Rotten)
Talk about a band whose diverse musical output completely matches the tumultuous events of their career and Baltimore’s Dog Fashion Disco definitely comes to mind. Carelessly (though not inaccurately) contrasted to Faith No More throughout the band’s run and seemingly at odds with everyone from tourmates to record labels, the odds have always been stacked against them. Yet, the venerable clan continues to not only persevere, but also provocatively thrive in the process. ADULTERY is the act’s latest offering of what the band calls “movie metal”, which makes perfect sense, as this 13-track release is a concept album about an everyday man’s sudden spiral and ultimate descent into a life laden in broken hope and carnal decadence. Hopping genres as routinely as track stars clear hurdles, the band jumps from alternative metal to avant garde jazz to rootsy Johnny Cash-esque balladry to full-on brutality on the drop of a dime while implementing a plethora of wind and brass instruments usually not associated with metal gives ADULTERY a truly cinematic flare. Adventurous and ambitious, if you dig Dredg, System of a Down, any Mike Patton project, or metal music whose boundaries are endless and continuously pushes the envelope, this CD is an absolute must have.
www.rottenrecords.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Spielerfrau,"The Sad Part" (Indie Release)
This 11-track release by four transplanted Europeans convening in NYC is a wondrous experiment of dark pop and murder rock. From the multi-layered melody of “Meringue” to the impending violent lyrics tamed by a musical lull on “November Third” to the deep bass groove and electronic overlays on “Dear Leader”, Spielerfrau’s melancholic meanderings and mopey musings make nice for fans of Nick Cave, Peter Murphy, Interpol, and other depressive acts that enjoy the edge of night, film noir, and the color black.
www.spielerfrau.com
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


Godamhate,"Godamhate" (Indie Release)
Westchester County, NY’s Godamhate’s four-track release showcases a band whose love for metalcore is very much apparent, as the shredding guitarwork on “Blood, Sweat, & Tears” and the fierce vocals on “I Swear” could be compared to Shadows Fall and Arch Enemy amongst many others. Pounding rhythms and an overall blistering presence makes Godamhate an act to be on the lookout for, as this band compactly compresses a wide spectrum of heavy music into its mix, creating a ferocious metal blend easy to bang your head and raise the horns up to.
www.myspace.com/godamhate
Rating:

Review by Mike SOS


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