Abstract Rude
Rejuvenation
Rhymesayers
Street: 05.05
Abstract Rude = James Brown + Project Blowed
Abby Rude comes correct once more, keeping the underground funk and soul hip-hop sound alive. Abstract Rude has been rhyming with Los Angeles hip-hop crew Project Blowed for over a century. The vibe throughout Rejuvenation is extra funky with production exclusively from Vitamin D. Abby Rude’s voice and smooth flow is as distinct and on point as it was the first day at the Good Life Café circa 94, but with more refined content, demonstrated in “Thynk Eye Can.” Keeping DJ Drez on the cuts and bringing several Project Blowed young guns into the limelight in “Thynk Eye Can,” Abby keeps bringing heat on his 18th overall release. An album for everyone to enjoy, standout tracks include “Thynk Eye Can,” “Nuff Fire,” “Rejuvenation” and “Diggin It.”
–JRapp

Afgrund
Vid Helvetets Grindar
Willowtip
Street: 05.19
Afgrund = Nasum + Rotten Sound + Napalm Death
Maybe I’m a bit out of touch with what modern grindcore is because Sweden’s Afgrund threw me a bit off guard with their sophomore album, Vid Helvetets Grindar. Many songs on the album shout “crossover,” mainly into the realms of thrash/speed metal and hardcore. Afrgrund’s tones and song structures rely plenty on groove-styled riffs with hardcore-type chants in the vocals and more punk/hardcore infused drumming than your typical grindcore blastbeat-o-rama. All that said, the record has a fresh new-car smell to it while retaining the old-school styles of grindcore and it works extremely well. Let’s face it, listening to an album that is all blastbeats can get pretty tiresome. Add to that a gritty buzzsaw-effect-sounding guitar tone and you get some tracks that are truly dirge-type affairs. Afrgund have come up with one of the few modern grind albums that not only stands tall as a whole, but has individual songs that deserve applause and repeated listens. –Bryer Wharton

Alestorm
Black Sails at Midnight
Napalm Records
Street: 06.02
Alestorm = Turisas + Cauldron Black Ram + Ensiferum
Thanks to the Internet’s current fascination with ninjas, pirates, zombies and bacon, various themes or gags tend to sprout up among music genres (I cannot confirm the existence of a bacon metal band.) Alestorm formed just two years ago and were quickly picked up by Napalm Records to release their first album, Captain Morgan’s Revenge. An EP and a split later, here we are with their second full-length. The material is as what you would expect: pirate lyric themes and drinking melodies to sing along to mid-tempo synth-heavy battle metal and … a ballad!? Yes, a ballad that would make even Alexander Selkirk proud. While the songwriting is solid and the music is fun, I can’t help but feel that it will probably lose its golden luster for most. Even still, it’s a nice addition to a small fleet of bands with the same ideas. –Conor Dow

Amber Asylum
Bitter River
Profound Lore Records
Street: 06.09
Amber Asylum = Grouper + Jarboe + Stars of the Lid
Amber Asylum are not metal. However, as a metal fan, I am familiar with their close relations with several of my favorite acts, such as Neurosis, Grayceon, and Giant Squid. Here are four ladies devoted to creating solitary, austere music which primarily relies on sparse piano, groaning cellos and operatic vocals, and has a tendency to quickly absorb the listener, offering no chance to escape. Even though this has a summer release date, the experience offered here is actually quite fitting for wintertime. It may have a warm, intimate atmosphere, but the music is bleak yet detailed and expansive enough to draw me in for repeated listens. The highlight for me is the last track, reaching almost 15 minutes in length—it draws out a long, fitting ending with some soft speaking and acoustic guitar work. Don’t pass up on this fantastic album. –Conor Dow

Amon Amarth
The Avenger—Bonus Edition
Metal Blade
Street: 05.26
Amon Amarth = God Dethroned + Hypocrisy + Dark Tranquillity (early)
The Avenger is the Swedish melodic death Viking-themed metal band’s second full-length album, released in 1999. The album isn’t much of a far cry from Amon Amarth’s current sound; it retains a bit rawer edge in production value and just overall sound, more rooted in death metal with a lot less of the polish the band displays on their more current records. I am of the opinion that these repackaged and re-released “Bonus Editions,” like March’s release of the band’s first album, are basically a tool for newer fans to pick up the band’s older records with a bit extra for the dollar—in the case of this version, the album comes with the album played in its entirety live. However, the album tends to run in circles with a high redundancy in most of its songs and a lot less memorable tracks. Even in its flaws, though, the album is still a solid effort in comparison to other albums one could purchase. –Bryer Wharton

Anaal Nathrakh
In the Constellation of the Black Widow
Candlelight Records
Street: 06.29
Anaal Nathrakh = Agoraphobic Nosebleed + Bergthron + Abruptum
Anaal Nathrakh have invited black metal, grind core, industrial and folk metal to the same orgy, producing the hideous and wrong-eyed hybrid of In the Constellation of the Black Widow. As harsh and borderline unlistenable as Stalaagh or Abruptum, as gravel-throated as Extreme Noise Terror, and as schizophrenic as Pig Destroyer or Agoraphobic Nosebleed, this release honestly shouldn’t work. And while the stitches nearly burst with so many writhing bodies under the sheets, the stinking fruit of all that effort manages to hold one’s attention from beginning to end. While the production reeks more of a studio’s console than a sweaty practice space, the synthetic sound somehow anchors and defines this band’s approach. Tentatively recommended for metal fans who prefer to be abraded and blistered by their musical selections. –Ben West

Arkaea
Years in the Darkness
E1 Music
Street: 07.14
Arkaea = Threat Signal + Fear Factory + Spineshank
I didn’t have huge expectations for Arkaea; the band is half Fear Factory with guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers and drummer Raymond Herrera and half Threat Signal with vocalist Jon Howard and bassist Pat Kavanagh. While I’m an admittedly huge Fear Factory fan, I despise Threat Signal; thus enters in a strange love-hate releationship for me with Arkaea. For the record, Arkaea is modern metal all the way: big emphasis on grooves and subtle melodies with Raymond’s trademark machine-gun-styled drumming and some small bits of industrial-styled programming. The riffing and drumming really isn’t that bad, but then again, it’s not Fear Factory, either. The mightiest crap factor with Arkea is the vocals; they are terrible-sounding, forced, whiny, ass-sounding screams and strangely awful-sounding attempts at melody. If it weren’t for Mr. Howard, Arkea would be listenable—not anything fantastic, but at least listenable. Every time he chimes in, my ears cringe and I instinctively run for the stop button. –Bryer Wharton

Big D and the Kids Table
Fluent In Stroll
SideOneDummy
Street: 07.07
Big D = The Pietasters + Rancid + Madness
Big D have apparently created a new genre: stroll. Yes, it’s kinda stupid to claim to invent an entirely new genre, and yes, it’s stupid to give said genre a crappy name like “stroll,” but Fluent in Stroll really is unlike any other ska-punk album out there. Big D has taken the blueprint from 2007’s Strictly Rude (traditional ska/reggae filtered through Boston punk) and made some interesting additions, most notably, three female backup singers called The Doped Up Dollies. Again, stupid, but the Dollies make a lot of the songs on Stroll really work. On the title track and opener, “Doped Up Dollies on a One-Way Ticket to Blood” (I know, stupid), the Dollies’ schoolyard chants combined with the band’s jerky, funky horn-driven instrumentation create some really catchy and unique songs, and the band’s incorporation of funk and soul into their sound makes Stroll feel as much like a progression as Strictly Rude. Fluent in Stroll isn’t for everyone and isn’t even for every ska fan, but it’s the most unique ska album released in years. –Ricky Vigil

Bob Mould
Life and Times
Anti-
Street: 04.07
Bob Mould = R.E.M. + Paul Westerberg
Anyone that’s in their early 40s that used to listen to “alternative music” will tell you they love Hüsker Dü. I heard this so many times from the guys that used to buy me beer as a teenager that I thought Hüsker Dü must be simply awesome. These same dudes also used to tell me that Bad Religion was the world’s greatest band. They taught me that when someone brought up Sugar, I was supposed to say “They’re OK, but I liked Bob better when he was in HD.” Then one day I heard these bands and I realized the older guys didn’t know shit about music. This album is about as tired as the title: Save yourself 36 minutes and some money. –Cinnamon Brown
 
Breakneck the Mage
Breakneck the Mage is Dead
Sonic Swings Records
Street: 06.03
Breakneck the Mage = Overcast! Slug + Heiruspecs + Eyedea
First off, props to Breakneck, who did all the production, mixing, writing, artwork and album-pressing. Recreating Midwest swagger can be tough with all of its predecessors. Breakneck the Mage swings straight to the jugular with his sophomore album. With a combination of all the gritty musical elements of backpack raps, Breakneck reminds me of a version of Atmosphere, Eyedea and Hieruspecs with a downtrodden twist. Breakneck tells stories revolving around love, misery and angst in every song on his album. If this is appealing to you or you are just having one of those rough days, then Breakneck might be the cure for you … or he might just make it worse. Production value is high and lyrical creativity and storytelling ability is up there as well, but are expressed in a very depressing tone. Standout tracks are “True Stories,” “Nowhere to Go,” “I Don’t Mind” and “Drunk Driving.” Something for the emo folk, peep. –JRapp

CarCrashLander
Mountains on Our Backs
Jealous Butcher
Street: 07.15
CarCrashLander = Kayo Dot + The Deers + Nirvana
CarCrashLander is legit. This is some seriously experimental, dissonant, beautiful music. It has a beautiful art rock feel to it, with all the horns and flutes that come in and out. Yet it’s tough and dirty at its core, with the guitar, drums, bass and vocals sounding raw, gnarly and distorted. Kinda like your favorite drag queen. The band recorded and mixed all nine songs on the album in just two days. That is amazing to me, judging by the complexity of the songs and amount of instruments included. These guys put out music faster then anybody around. Their fist album came out last year and they already have a new album that is waiting to be released. These guys are my heroes. –Jon Robertson

Chase Pagan
Bells & Whistles
Esperanza Plantation
Street: 06.09
Chase Pagan = Broadway
Ewe. Maybe it’s the ready-for-musical style, but there’s something in Pagan’s voice that makes my eyes go all squinty. The music is just dandy. That’s right, dandy. The old-time summer boop-di-boops could have a drama kid ready to twirl with the damn jazz hands out in seconds. It took me a couple tries to get past track three, “Warrior,” without shutting it off, and was even harder to get to the end without destroying something. I really liked the end of the last song, “Train-a-coming.” It was probably the best part of this whole experience. –Jessica Davis

Clock Hands Strangle
Distaccati
Chocolate Lab Records
Street: 06.12
Clock Hands Strangle = High School Talent Show
This is not bad, but it’s not really in the good category, either. I don’t like their name. It doesn’t flow, and chunkily makes my tongue move slowly. That could be the purpose, but if they become famous, a crowd is not likely to want to shout a name that causes slobber to hit their mumblesome chin. Musically, I don’t mind listening, but liking their sound is definitely an acquired taste, as a drinker of hard alcohol might say. That’s not what I want in music. I want to crave it. Not be thinking, “OK, if I listen to this for three days straight, I’m either going to be sick or start going through withdrawals.” The folk-country “Oompa Oompa” with its drawl vocals, and an occasional yell to add “feeling” is sure to pull someone in for a trial period. –Jessica Davis

Cool Devices
Cool Devices
AAM
Street: 07.21
Cool Devices = Jesus Lizard + Shellac + Toast
OK, apparently there is this dude named Jason Fredericks and he likes to think of himself as this way popular iconic legend in the Chicago and Ohio area. Well, I guess one of the bands he founded got back together without him and he is way bummed and since he thinks he is the god of the Midwest, he wrote a record to vent about his former band, The Means. This self-titled EP is nothing special, just like ol’ JF. It’s a bunch of half-baked post-rock songs that sound like someone worked on for like two days and put no effort into making it original. I get that post-rock punk stuff is supposed to sound cheap and sloppy. But when it’s obvious there is nothing cool going on, it’s whack, just like Fredericks. Maybe that’s why his old band ditched him. –Jon Robertson

Crescent Shield
The Stars of Never Seen
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 06.09
Crescent Shield = Destiny’s End + Onward + Black Sabbath (Dio era) + New Eden
With guitars superbly precise, razor-sharp Crescent Shield cut through metal mediocrity like butter. The Los Angeles-based four piece are apt to keep traditional metal more than just alive, but downright awesome. The Stars of Never Seen is the band’s second full-length, comprised of members of Destiny’s End, Onward and New Eden—all bands with a wealth of experience. The album treads a nice line of traditional heavy metal with some small but effective doom-metal elements mixed in, as well as some progressive metal-type guitar-riffing (only in the spirit that some of the riffs get outright technical and massively pleasing). Vocalist Michael Grant’s range echoes the music in their epic scale and diversity. Crescent Shield’s dynamic songwriting keeps the album popping and flowing, never feeling redundant or rehashed. The Stars of Never Seen is a firm reminder that classic metal is alive and well with a record of top-shelf tunes. –Bryer Wharton

Cursive
Mama, I’m Swollen
Saddle Creek
Street: 3.10
Cursive = Braid + Murder by Death + Bright Eyes
Cursive’s music has always been characterized by a certain disjointed and harsh quality, by disharmony and Tim Kasher’s wavering or screaming vocals. On their breakaway album, Domestica, they channeled this through harsh post-hardcore, but this latest effort has them sounding a lot more harmonious—almost catchy. Mama, I’m Swollen has lush horn sections, lyrical complexity, keening ballads, and a rich musicality that makes this album flow much easier than previous albums. There’s still the experimental and edgy intensity that makes this band stand out, but overall, this album is smoother and more complex than their earlier stuff. Even if part of me would be perfectly happy if they continued to record material exactly like Domestica, it’s a good change. –Cléa Major

The Darbuki Kings
Been Laden You Too Long
Darbuki Kings Records
Street: 06.30
The Darbuki Kings = Oregon + Mickey Hart
Been Laden You Too Long is the third album by The Darbuki Kings. The Kings are a collaborative project between Antonio Albarran and Robin Adnan Anders, who create modern and traditional world music ranging from Indian to Moroccan. Within the first 10 seconds of the opening track, “Berber,” you find prog-rock-infested guitar riffs that are so incredibly annoying that they take away from the great hand-drumming action in the background. Three tracks in on “Mango Tango,” it sounds like the soundtrack to the fourth Aladdin straight-to-DVD movie. The damn prog-rock guitar makes another appearance on “Gilgamesh”; this time, it’s more like an episode of Animusic. The best thing about Been Laden is the fantastic drumming, but the rest of the album may make you feel like there’s a fly stuck inside your head trying to find its way out. –Courtney Blair

Defeatist
Sharp Blade Sinks Deep Into Dull Minds
Willowtip
Street: 05.19
Defeatist = Terrorizer + Napalm Death + Phobia + Eyehategod (just a hint)
Going into listening to Sharp Blade Sinks Deep Into Dull Minds from NYC-based grind three-piece, I wasn’t expecting one cohesive grind album. Yeah, it’s a bit scattered, but expectedly so—the release is the band’s previous EP releases compiled onto CD. The set of tracks is a precursor for the band’s upcoming full-length debut, Sixth Extinction, stirring up great memories of grind tunes from the old school—yes, I’m talking more Scum-era Napalm Death than the modern version. This release is a good idea of where the band lies in their sonic realm, comprised of two former members of Anodyne and the other from Kalibas. The drumming from an ex-Anodyne member showcases one of the big strengths of Defeatist—the blastbeats are not the prevalent factor in this grind; there is actually a good bulk of hardcore-styled drumming brimming forth. Consider Defeatist classic grind for the new school; it’s noisy, crusty and peppered with down-tuned, greasy, almost doom-like moments. –Bryer Wharton

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
Domino
Street: 06.09
Dirty Projectors = The Microphones + CTFPA + Bonnie “Prince” Billy
This album is fucking great. From “Temcula Sunrise” that starts out sounding almost like an R&B love song, to “Stillness Is The Move,” which has the simple electronic feel of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Both vocalists have a very interesting style, and like I have previously stated, I hate anything with a snatch and a microphone. They do a great job finding a midway between folk and indie dance. With intricate song structures formed around catchy hooks, it isn’t hard to believe that Dave Longstreth is a former Yale student. –Cody Hudson

Discipline
Anthology
I Scream Records
Street: 06.09
Disciplines= Resist + Pennywise + Murphy’s Law
European working-class gents, Discipline are another old-school streetcore band picked up by I Scream Records. This is an anthology with two discs, for a total of 28 songs about working proud, being young, talking about the streets and a bunch of other things I don’t relate to. I’m not the biggest fan of working class “oi” and never will be, but this anthology will probably be a great addition to your library if you are an old fan or actually live the kind of life they’re talking about. Discipline’s light-hearted punk and faint rockabilly sound may also please you. The song I liked more than any of them, “Hooligans Heaven,” sounded like an old Rancid song, and that’s about as good as it got for me. –Nicole Dumas

Double Dagger
More
Thrill Jockey
Street 05.05
Double Dagger = Future Islands + Ponytail + Fugazi
Is it possible for a noise band to be completely on their game and still have a fair amount of melody? Apparently so. This guitar-free trio from Baltimore manages to make hectic, active music while still maintaining a certain level of pop melody. On this, their third full-length disc, Double Dagger whips together 10 songs that are both really loud and exceptionally listenable. The bass, drum and Ian MacKaye-style vocal combo is augmented by the sounds of a broken kid’s keyboard and various other droning machines. And even though there is no guitar, the ensemble sound doesn’t seem to be lacking anything at all. Some songs are louder than others, and some take a little time to hit their stride, but the head-splitting feel of the record never wanes. The end product is reminiscent of early Fugazi—the band’s proximity to D.C. must be a factor. Much of the lyrical content of the songs is lost in the muffled vocals of singer Nolen Strals, but with song titles like “No Allies” and “Surrealist Composition with Your Face,” there’s no reason to believe that the music won’t be mean as hell. One listen and your suspicions will be confirmed. –James Bennett

Eminem
Relapse
Interscope Records
Street: 05.15
Eminem = Dr. Dre + 2Pac + Nas
Four years have passed since Marshall Mather’s last album, Encore, and the Motor City motormouth wants you to know that a) he’s back, and b) he still wants to be hated. Mather’s flow and wordplay are as sharp as ever—he still possesses all the technical skills that make him one of rap’s best, and Dr. Dre’s instantly recognizable production is similarly on point. Lyrically, the album follows a fairly repulsive storyline, beginning with Mathers in rehab, relapsing, and then committing a series of murders, rapes, acts of cannibalism and celebrity insults.

•    Number of tracks describing murders: 8
•    Number of tracks describing rape/being raped: 6
•    Number of tracks describing cannibalism: 4
•    Number of tracks containing celebrity insults: 6
•    Number of tracks not deleted from mp3 player after this review: 3 (“Beautiful,” “Crack a Bottle” and “We Made You”) –Ryan Fedor

Evenstar
Through the Seasons
BMR
Street : 07.07
Evenstar = Hawthorne Heights + Braid + Jimmy Eat World
These four guys from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have some good melodies and voices that remind me of the good “emo” indie music from the late 90s. But unfortunately, they have mixed in some of that horrible emo/screamo guitar-shredding that is so prevalent now. It’s unfortunate, because I think they have the potential to make some good-sounding tunes, but they are too caught up in trying to sound tough. There is hope, though. Maybe if these dudes would become more in touch with their emotional … (ha!!) side, they could make The Beatles’ White Album of our time. Good luck, Evenstar; hope you guys figure it out and quit following lame trends. –Jon Robertson

Everyone Everywhere
A Lot of Weird People Standing Around 7”
Evil Weevil
Street: 03.10
Everyone Everywhere = The Promise Ring + Braid + Bridge & Tunnel
I’m not usually a big fan of 7”s, but there’s a lot of stuff I enjoy about A Lot of Weird People Standing Around. First off, it has a great title. Secondly, the cover artwork, consisting of a lot of weird people standing around, is pretty great, too. And the packaging itself, which is a weird cardboard fold-over job, is a nice and sturdy alternative to the packaging of most 7”s. Once we get past all the aesthetics and boring shit that dorks who are into records care about, it actually works as a 7”. All four of the songs here are winners, and Everyone Everywhere’s combo of distortion, intricate guitarwork, smooth vocals and quirky lyrics is highly entertaining, even if it is pretty derivative of all of those pre-eyeliner emo bands. Only 200 of these bad boys were pressed, so if you’re into stuff like Look Mexico or Scream Hello, pick this one up before it’s too late. –Ricky Vigil

Ex Deo
Romulus
Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.30
Ex Deo = Kataklysm – the speed + a whole lot of keyboards
Ex Deo is pretty much a side project of Canada’s notorious hyperblasting Kataklysm; it features the entire lineup of the current form of Kataklysm, though it’s being sold mainly as the brainchild of the band’s frontman/vocalist Maurizio Iacono. The band could’ve easily called this just a conceptual Kataklysm record, but in their wisdom and probable appetite to stay true to their fans, they created the conceptual Romulus under the moniker Ex Deo. The music has a massive amount of keyboards, atmospherics and plenty of stuff that is the glue of most of the songs. The album is based on an intriguing concept about ancient Rome playing on themes of war, power and an overall epic feeling. While the last few Kataklysm albums have been cut and dry, Ex Deo’s Romulus has a surprising depth to it—the focus on songwriting instead of just creating heavy music works much better for the guys. I’ll listen to this record over the last four or five Katalysm albums any day. –Bryer Wharton

Flying
Draw it in the Dark & Collected Videos DVD
Four Paws Media
Street: 04.28
Flying = The Solvents

This multimedia project consists of a 7” 4-track album and a DVD. Draw It in the Dark showcases a variety of musical styles and experimental sounds that range in tone from soft-sung vocal folk to more instrumentally driven indie rock. Even the more upbeat songs are minimal in their execution by offering softer male and female harmonies over a melodic and repetitive instrumental composition. All of the tracks from the 7” can be found on the Collected Videos DVD, along with several other tracks from the band. Each video has a different director, so there is a wide scope of creativity and independence in how Flying’s music is interpreted visually. Some of the videos remain musically driven with more of a music-video tone, featuring the band dancing around and wearing silly outfits, while other videos use the music as something in the background to complement the images on the screen. They are all very creative and interesting, and I found myself feeling surprised by how easily I was drawn into just sitting and watching every video straight through. Other projects like this that I’ve seen have seemed more like something that would be interesting playing in the background at a party where people would only give it glances of attention This collection was fine on its own. –Ben Trentelman

Foreign Born
Person to Person
Secretly Canadian
Street: 06.23
Foreign Born = Rogue Wave + B.R.M.C. + Beach Boys
The mass sing-along qualities of this album are apparent early on, in one of my already-favorite tracks this summer, “Vacationing People.” It never fails; I’m a sucker for the galloping handclaps, cowbells and chimey guitar combos. The album comes complete with the Vampire Weekend-esque Afro-pop song, “Early Warnings,” Richard Ashcroft-laced vocals on “It Grew on You,” and the intertwined Verve-like guitar riff on “See Us Home.” The downfall of the album hits during the last three tracks; it’s as if the band hit their naptime and it becomes a bit sluggish. As a whole, Person to Person is a pleasant enough listen to keep you singing all summer long. –Courtney Blair

Gallows
Grey Britain
Reprise
Street: 05.05
Gallows = The Bronx + Every Time I Die + The Vipers
In 2007, Kerrang! proclaimed Gallows to be the best British punk band since The Clash. I’m of the opinion that anytime you drag The Clash or Hitler into any argument, you automatically lose. Also, the first Gallows album sounded like a shittier version of the first Bronx album, and Leatherface is totally the best British punk band since The Clash. Still, Orchestra of Wolves wasn’t horrible, and though Grey Britain is better, it still isn’t great. Gallows have retained the intensity of their first album while abandoning the angular, reckless nature of it, for a tighter-but-heavier sound on Grey Britain, even though the band seems neutered by the production a lot of the time. “London is the Reason” is a good example: it’s heavy and catchy, but if mixed differently, it could’ve been heavier and better. Grey Britain isn’t bad, but these guys still haven’t quite found their own sound. –Ricky Vigil

Gay Beast
Second Wave
Skin Graft Records
Street: 05.26
Gay Beast = Sightings + Health + Deerhoof
After seeing that Gay Beast was on Skin Graft Records, I knew exactly what I was getting into. Skin Graft is home to Aids Wolf, Melt Banana and The Chinese Stars. I came up with a mental list of peculiarities before listening to the album: loud atonal guitar, spastic drums, Pythagorean time signatures, jarring melodies and repetitive off-beat stabs. Gay Beast fulfilled every expectation to exacting measurements. Unlike Aids Wolf or Melt Banana, Gay Beast pulls back a little and control themselves more. There seems to be more mutual respect between the players—instead of continually stepping on each other’s toes, they have tremendous unity that was present in many early punk rock bands. This is not punk rock, though, it a strangled mess of ideas and sounds crawling through the subsoil only to reach the sunlight for mere moments. ¬–Andrew Glassett

Glittertind
Landkjenning
Napalm Records
Street: 06.02
Glittertind = Månegarm + Fejd + Ásmegin + Kampfar
With two other albums under their belts, here we have Glittertind’s first full-length with Napalm Records. Much like the bands listed above, the work these Norwegians create can basically be considered Nordic folk music with a light metal garnish. Glittertind is not shy on using men’s choral vocals or wind instruments, and the result here is excellent. Though the group only consists of two members, the result is impressive and not at all watered down or cheap-sounding. In fact, the quality of recording here is very robust and organic-sounding. Much of the lyrics are in Norwegian, but there’s also one in English, and there is a handful of instrumental material as well. I’m really rather excited to see this form of metal proliferate, and this band is certainly among some of the best. –Conor Dow

Hand to Hand
Design The End / Follow The Horizon
Lifeforce Records
Street: 5.26
Hand To Hand= Coheed And Cambria + Thrice + 30 Seconds To Mars
This is the kind of heavy music kids can probably get away with when they want to dominate their parent’s car stereo. Hand to Hand really seem to know how to abuse their instruments with love, lots of tough love. I’m a presumptuous person that judges a CD by its cover, which I did here and got something different than what I expected. I must say HtH have some star power. There’s a great deal of vocal range and it’s not overdone; in fact, the singing is good and the screaming efficiently placed. Track one, “In This City,” pulls you in and prepares you for wild guitars and heavy sing-along tunes. Musically, everything is tight and unpredictable and pretty damn metal. If other screamo rockers out there could be as advanced as HtH, I don’t think this genre would be criticized by non-listeners as often as it is. –Nicole Dumas

PJ Harvey & John Parish
A Woman a Man Walked By
Island Records
Street: 03.31
PJ Harvey & John Parish = Dance Hall at Louse Point (1996) + 12 years’ marinating + The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited
Dude, did you know PJ Harvey has been buds with John Parrish since she was 19? She joined his then-band Automatic Dlamini in 1988 as a saxophonist/guitarist/back-up vocalist. The air of two vet musicians who are as familiar with each other as family members shines through here. Parrish’s music-writing and PJ’s vocals and lyrics suture together sans stitching. A Woman A Man captures the same broken, old-timey, jangly, epic softness of Dance Hall, but gets more brave, varied and funnily enough, accessible. “Black Hearted Love,” the first track, is without a doubt the “hit” of the album, with its rich, pounding pop hooks. However, every song thereafter draws you in, not with a huge striped stage cane, but with bands of choking silk. PJ’s vocals seem to have taken a cue from the understated, wispy White Chalk vocals in many tracks (“April,” “The Soldier”) but continue to foray into uncharted realms of musical no-man’s-lands as in the title track, her vocals running the gamut from high, mocking falsettos to abrasive, abusive, mocking cursing, not to mention rancid bellowing in “Pig Will Not.” “Passionless, Pointless” is my favorite track. All in all, a solid treasure (bonus: 12 years’ personal evolution) from John & PJ once again. –Rebecca Vernon

Holiday Shores
Columbus’d the Whim
Twosyllable Records
Street: 07.28
Holiday Shores = Grizzly Bear + Evangelicals
Dreamy reverb, awkward explosions, and distant, tangy guitars seem to be the new faze. Not bad if it’s done right. Many attempting to fit in get lost in the one-sound-for-every-song rut. Holiday Shores is a penciled name on the to-be-forgotten list. They have a lovely feel, but each song sounds like the last, and holds very little for my imagination. The song “Bradley Bear” is a little fairy tale of happiness, and another vessel for their loved “Whoahoo’s,” and lazy “la-la-la’s.” Columbus’d the Whim is not an attention-grabber, but serves as a pleasant filler in a quiet workspace. –Jessica Davis

Hoods
Pit Beast
I Scream Records
Street: 06.09
Hoods= Disembodied + Agnostic Front + 108
Since ’95, Hoods have been singing about the joys of hardcore. Pit Beast possesses everything that hardcore is—fun, friends dancing, talking smack and being goofy. The album cover even looks old school, with a cartoon mosh pit of people losing their minds. When I listen to this, I can close my eyes and see a mosh pit with many old faces in it. They are well seasoned and it’s blatant that they’ve been there, done that and are still doing it today. I like a good hardcore album and it’s not something I’ll listen to every day, but for the sake of good memories, killer guitar riffs and man growls, Hoods feed that fire. They’re totally serious about their lyrics too, as you can tell from the song titles: “Let’s Have Fun, F.U.N,” and a good ’ol hater song, “Punk’s Dead—Emo Kids Next.” That’s the spirit of hardcore I remember and I like to keep it that way. You’ll have a guaranteed good time with this one. –Nicole Dumas

Horde of Hel
Blodskam
Moribund
Street: 05.09
Horde of Hel = Dodheimsgard + 1349 + Marduk + Khold
Well, I can’t tell you what musicians make up the Sweden-based semi-industrialized black-metal crew because they want to be anonymous. They want Blodskam’s music to be the focus, not the musicians. That said, Horde of Hel take a genre where industrial atmospheres in black metal turn into sideshow circuses with parades of silly loops and beats into much darker and grittier territory. At its core, Blodskam is a mid-paced atmospheric black-metal album with emphasis on songwriting, not the typical sheer black-metal blasting. Tracks that some may call filler I found to be extremely enjoyable; a sort of industrial-type noise-dispensing imagery of some sort of evil machine that sucks in light, creating darkness all around it. The black metal purists may scold or scoff at this record for not following traditional senses, but this is a nice form of sonic hatred that takes machine elements, molds them into hell-bound sounds and creates a diverse and hatred-fulfilling effort. –Bryer Wharton

IQ
Frequency
Inside Out/SPV
Street: 06.02
IQ = Peter Gabriel + Camel + Genesis
Wow, I just stepped into my own personal elevator to hell and IQ’s Frequency album is the muzack playing while I await my eternity in flames, and no, I’m not saying this as a compliment. What’s the deal with bad prog-rock bands from Britain this month? IQ’s Frequency album is dreadfully easygoing on the ears; not only is the album an hour’s worth of an easy-listening-type rock affair, the keyboards make me want to run my face across a cheese greater. Putting the soothing, happy and calming melodies in juxtaposition to some of the extreme noise/drone type stuff I listen to, you’d think I’d be able to stand this syrupy sweet, formulated-type music, but no, I’ll listen to somebody screaming for an hour instead of this crap. I wouldn’t be nearly as hard on this album if it had some sort of bulk behind it or elicited any type of emotional response other than “eew.” Maybe I could go a bit easier because there is some technical merit to the guitar-playing, but come on; bird sounds in the background? Why? –Bryer Wharton

Jeremy Enigk
OK Bear
Lewis Hollow
Street: 05.12
Jeremy Enigk = Rufus Wainwright + Radiohead
Jeremy Enigk’s voice flows over the piano and percussion bursts as a needle to a favorite vinyl. Similar to Bob Dylan, it’s a voice you either hate or you love. Parts of Enigk’s voice can be as enjoyable as being pulled up by the little hairs on the back of the neck, while others soothe and draw you onto a lover’s boat ride. I enjoy the beginning and the end the most. The middle is there for a bit of flavor, but combined, there’s not a definitive taste. “Mind Idea” and “Late of Camera” start a nice picture for the album to follow, as the last song ends as a carousal ride through “Sant Feliu de Guixols,” which is sure to claim a smile. –Jessica Davis

The Lemonheads
Varshons
The End
Street: 07.07
The Lemonheads = Screaming Trees + Wilco
90s throwbacks The Lemonheads have released an album’s worth of covers. Holy shit! This is going to be the most relevant record of all time. The Lemonheads seem like a band that should have never been popular. Their only popular song was a freaking Simon & Garfunkel song. Maybe that’s why they decided to release this record, hoping they can get big again by covering some other people’s songs some more. There are some vocal guest appearances by cocaine model Kate Moss and Miss Elvin Princess herself, Liv Tyler. Surprisingly, both ladies do a fine job, so they are hot and can sing. Fantastic! I just wish The Lemonheads would try and get famous off their own material instead of other people’s songs and hot guest stars. –Jon Robertson

Levinhurst   
Blue Star Advance EP
Self-released
Street: 05.28.09
Levinhurst = (early) Cure + Siouxsie + The Glove
Levinhurst is a creative collaboration between founding Cure member Laurence (Lol) Tolhurst and his wife Cindy Levinson. The band has heretofore released two rather enjoyable studio albums and an EP, and Blue Star sees Tolhurst reuniting with fellow original Cure member Michael Dempsey with particularly mellow results. Tolhurst’s signature (albeit rather simplistic and plodding) drums permeate the release, and Levinson’s vocals are extremely reminiscent of early 80s Siouxsie Sioux. Dempsey’s contributions seem to mainly be in the orchestration of the release, and by combining these traits with beautiful guitar and keyboard work, Levinhurst have put together an awesome release, although it will most unfortunately go unnoticed by those who are not die-hard Cure completists. This is excellent Sunday morning music, and I can’t wait to hear the full album. –Gavin Hoffman

Lights
Rites
Drag City Records
Street: 07.21
Lights = Chic + Fleetwood Mac + Black Sabbath
Rites is the second album from the Brooklyn band Lights, and I have to admit that it confused me upon first popping into my car’s CD player. It consists of lazy guitar lines sprouting through the cracks of loose song foundations, airy production that left little to no impression, and a general feeling of being led through a dew-drenched forest by a group of stoned and possibly unreliable fairy children, all the while being sung tales of raindrops, giants, dreams, and pale wings, voices harmonizing beautifully as we stumble towards some unknown destination. As we amble along, the bass line from the song, “Fire Night,” jumps out in front of us, begging us to dance. We boogie briefly and continue moving diagonally—past the gentle current of “We Belong,” around the charred metal skeleton of “War Theme,” and suddenly, we’ve arrived—a reverent and wonderfully executed cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me A Place.” Worth the trip. –Ryan Fedor

Living with Lions
Make Your Mark
Adeline
Street: 07.21
Living with Lions = Ryan’s Hope + Set Your Goals + Latterman
I’m rarely invested in the present. I’m in the exact same state of mind whether I’m taking a shit, seeing a show, eating pizza, or getting a tooth pulled. When I look back, though, I get nostalgic. Man, that was some really good pizza. And that tooth? It’s only now that we’re apart that I truly cherish the time we had together. Living with Lions, on the other hand, deliver their songs with a sort of instant nostalgia, as though any given moment is truly the greatest of their lives. Admirable, but it makes every song on Make Your Mark too similar. The basic formula is solid, if not unique (loud/fast/melodic/aggressive), and it would probably be a blast to see these guys live, but on record, you get the whole experience after three or four songs. I’m sure someday I’ll look back on Make Your Mark fondly, but listening to the album again would kill the nostalgia. Ah, memories. –Ricky Vigil

Mad Sin
20 Years in Sin Sin
Hepcat
Street: 06.26
Mad Sin = The most insane psychobilly that blends elements of metal, punk, ska, and what ever else this one-of-a-kind outfit can think of
I can’t believe that Mad Sin have been around for over 20 years—know they have only gotten better with age. Starting out as a three-piece, the evolution of this band to the six-piece beast it is today has been one to watch for anybody who wants to hear some of the most creative tunes imaginable. These German boys actually hit the 20-year mark back in 2007, but it’s taken some time for them to see a proper US release. Landing on Hepcat Records, us Yankees finally get a chance at this double-disc set that contains new studio tracks along with hard-to-find and unreleased tracks, and that’s just disc 1. Disc 2 contains live audio from a sold-out show in Hollywood—this is where Mad Sin shines. Songs spanning their entire career are here as evidence that more than anything else, this is a live band. When the intros for fan favorites like “Communication Breakdown” and “Scarred Ol’ Heart” start up, it’s like the fuse to dynamite being lit; you just know the explosion’s going to hit at any moment and goddamn, does it ever. Mad Sin is at the top of their game and only continue to get better. I’m looking forward to 20 more years of sin! –James Orme

Magnum
Into the Valley of the Moon King
SPV
Street: 06.16
Magnum = Survivor + Journey + Night Ranger + The Scorpions
More often than not do I come across releases to review that, having a general idea of the SLUG readership demographic, I know you the reader are most likely either 1) not going to read the review or 2) just not going to give a shit. Alas, on to the review of the latest album from Birmingham, England, rock act Magnum, who interestingly enough, began their career in the early 70s. How a city can produce the doom and gloom of the mighty Black Sabbath and then churn out this syrupy sweet happy dribble mixed with laughable ballads, I don’t know. To be fair, this is the only album from Magnum I’ve heard. I’ll also agree that there is an audience for this form of rock music and I’m not it. I mean, the band’s songwriting is fair enough; they have pleasing melodies and just as pleasing vocals and all that fun stuff; it just runs way too close to the line of bland pop music for my musical palate. So if somehow a fan of Magnum actually reads this review, accept my apology for my ignorance in advance. –Bryer Wharton

Maker Shalal Hash Baz
C’est La Derniére Chanson
K Records
Street: 07.21
Maher Shalal Hash Baz= Sufjan Stevens + Cornelius
Intriguing. That one word may be the only––and best––way to describe the songs on the double disc serving as conductor Tori Kudo’s second K release. Two hundred “songs” were originally recorded for this work, but only 177 made the cut. The lost 23 were probably equally intriguing. This whole release is aimed straight at expanding and challenging common ideas of what music should and shouldn’t do. Two to three seconds of a bassoon playing a discordant note with a clarinet may not be a song to some people, but it qualifies in Kudo’s mind. As Kudo’s handful of French studio musicians play strange interludes with the mindfulness of jazz and punk rock’s ideas of song length through my stereo, I began thinking about what my own interpretation of music was and felt gladdened at the end of my multiple listens to hear an artist still exploring the sonic playground. Thank you, Mr. Kudo. –JP

Miss Derringer
Winter Hill
Nickel and Dime
Street: 07.14
Miss Derringer = The Ravonettes + Chris Isaak + X
“My heart is like a mausoleum carrying the memory of a dozen lost loves.” The beginning of Miss Derringer’s song, “Mausoleum,” is just one of the poetic verses where vocal harmonies and fascinating musicianship meet to form a beautifully downhearted record. The band, Miss Derringer, is a diverse combination of dark, melancholy atmosphere and vintage characteristics from 50s and 60s pop groups, conveyed in a punk-rock mind set which is then heavily frosted by the vocal talents of lead singer Liz McGrath. Although each of these 10 tracks is solid, an obvious standout is “All the Pretty Things,” which sounds like the song Johnny Cash and June Carter should have recorded right after their famous hit, “Jackson.” Rich, twangy guitar works in a colorful country feel which just adds to the color and vibrancy that Miss Derringer has crafted. Smart, gloomy, melodic songs are the winning recipe that calls for you to devour. –James Orme

The Most Serene Republic
… And the Ever Expanding Universe
Arts & Crafts
Street: 07.14
The Most Serene Republic = Broken Social Scene + Arcade Fire
“Gadzooks, gadzooks, gadzooks, what have you got to lose?” sing MSR vocalists in “Heavens to Purgatory,” from their upcoming album. It’s easy to say that what you will lose while listening to this album is all sense of direction. I’ve always had a soft spot for this younger, more hyperactive version of Broken Social Scene, but after10 listens, most of this album still sounds like a mess. Their unique layer-upon-layer instrumentation makes its usual appearance, but my hell, were they preparing for 50° below extreme weather? It’s like every band member had a brilliant idea and every idea has been used. It’s too scatterbrained and overcomplicated. There are a few nice moments, like the breathy beat box action on “Phi,” or the night-at-the-symphony-esque track “Patternicity.” Maybe I have outgrown the young lads and lass, or maybe their ever-expanding universe has expanded a few too many belt sizes. –Courtney Blair

My Heart to Joy
Seasons in Verse
Topshelf Records
Street: 06.30
My Heart to Joy = Pelican + Minus the Bear + Angels and Airwaves + Now We Breathe
It’s a little disappointing when a band’s best track is its instrumental opener. Seasons in Verse begins with the moody, ambient twang of droning guitars and building cymbals. Isis, Russian Circles and mostly Red Sparowes come to mind during the first song, “Time Spent Breathing,” and the first 25 seconds of “Empty Homes.” Unfortunately, the vocals come in and shift the mood from ambient, experimental drone to tear-inducing fits of angsty Kleenex-hugging. These Connecticut natives have impressive guitar tone and slightly interesting bass lines, but the drums are stock (at best) and the vocals are raspy in that trying-to-sound-hip-and-angsty way, sounding more like 14-year-old Timmy yelling at mommy and daddy through his door between sobs. There’s nothing wrong with sad, introspective music, but My Heart to Joy brings nothing new or mildly appealing to those tear-stained pillows in Timmy’s bedroom. –Nick Parker

Necrophobic
Death to All
Regain Records
Street: 05.29
Necrophobic = Cadaver Inc. + Dissection
Necrophobic have hovered at the scabbed fringes of the Swedish metal scene for approaching 20 years without yet achieving the name recognition of Grotesque or Bloodbath. Hopefully, the better distribution and promotion of Regain Records can change that, because this Swedish five-piece have birthed an album as sinful and sharp as the blackened death-metal genre has yet produced. Imagine Dissection had Jon Nodtveidt not taken his own life after stumbling with Reinkaos, or Destroyer 666 with some serious in-studio grooming. Each song slashes throats, gliding across the eardrums on razors of melody without wallowing in the radio-friendly muck of most modern Swedish death metal. Songs “Celebration of the Goat” and “For Those Who Stayed Satanic” spurt venom with adolescent glee amidst intricate thrusts of guitar and chorale inversions. This metal is dead-on target, lyrically and musically. –Ben West

Nifelheim   
Nifelheim (reissue)
Regain Records
Street: 05.05
Nifelheim = Angelcorpse + Dissection + Merciless
Originally released in 1994 on Necropolis Records, the good folks at Regain Records have re-released Nifelheim’s eponymous debut with the bonus track “Die in Fire,” much to the delight of black-, death-, and thrash-metal fans worldwide. I’ve always found Nifelheim to be vastly underrated, as their brand of hellishly blackened thrash metal stands head and shoulders above imitators, and makes the majority of recent thrash renaissance bands seem rather foolish by comparison. This re-release is nine total tracks of no-holds-barred, blasphemous thrash metal, the likes of which Nifelheim has conjured masterfully since the early 1990s, and it has easily withstood the test of time for the ever-so-picky metal elitists out there. For the metal fan who has never heard Nifelheim, this is a perfect way to become acquainted with them, and you’re full of shit if this release doesn’t have you throwing goat horns in your car or living room when it’s turned up to 11. –Gavin Hoffman

Obituary
Darkest Day
Candlelight
Street: 06.30
Obituary = Autopsy + Six Feet Under + Brutality + Possessed
Obituary were a huge part of the basically now-defunct death-metal scene that was brimming forth in the Tampa area of Florida in the early 90s. Darkest Day is by far the best of the three albums since the band’s reunion in 2005, but like its predecessors, it’s a shell and a clone of what Obituary’s first few records were. I’m not by any means saying Darkest Day is a bad album; there actually quite a few great songs with great death-metal, groove-based riffing and a fantastic drum sound. But when you listen to Darkest Day if you are even remotely familiar with the band’s 90s-era albums, there is no avoiding comparison. You will think to yourself, “I’ve heard these type of riffs before.” Unfortunately, the thing that truly holds the album back is its moot attempts at guitar solos that for one thing, don’t fit the core guitar sound, and also have that tossed-in-at-the-last-minute feel to them. In the end, new Obituary is better than no Obituary, right? –Bryer Wharton

OSI
Blood
InsideOut Music/SPV
Street: 05.19
OSI = Porcupine Tree (post-In Absentia) + Pain of Salvation + Fates Warning (FWX era)
OSI, or Office of Strategic Influence, has basically been a super-group and still is, by all means, currently featuring members of Dream Theater, Fates Warning, and Porcupine Tree. As an occasional prog-metal/rock listener, I am finding a strange gap in what the fans may want/expect from a project like this and what they’re getting. Blood is more of a modern rock album than anything really fitting prog-metal/rock stereotypes. The majority of the tunes have the modern, almost nü-metal chugga-chugga riffing. There are also a few mellow-type tunes that feature a massive dose of keyboard piddling, experimentation and some really horrible, almost techno beat-oriented programming. Tying it in as a whole with initial listens, the album can be catchy. But further listening and explorations leaves a sour, highly redundant feeling, as well as a sense of musical identity limbo. Prog metal fans generally want depth and music that stirs up complexities, intricacies and layers; Blood just sounds overly simple and in the end, is a laughable affair. –Bryer Wharton

Passion Pit
Manners
French Kiss
Street: 05.19
Passion Pit = Cut Copy + Animal Collective + Black Kids
Since the release of Passion Pit’s 2008 EP, Chunk of Change, they have been on the tip of the blogosphere’s tongue. The EP introduced the helium-pitched voice of singer Michael Angelakos, and included the contagious gem, “Sleepyhead,” which left everyone begging for more. Now, with the release of their debut album, Manners, I ask, could you really handle an entire album of that voice? They’re like a modern-day Bee Gees, with the falsetto voice and disco-dusted songs, so damn catchy that they may get old quick. You will also find hints of Hot Chip on “Folds in Your Hands” and The Ruby Suns on “Moth’s Wings.” For many, Manners will be the soundtrack of the summer, much like MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular was last year. The band will receive praise and talk of album of the year; however, the smell of backlash is on the horizon. –Courtney Blair

Pine Hill Haints
To Win or Lose
K Records
Street: 07.21
Pine Hill Haints = 6oz. of eerie ghost stories + 1 cup of runaway train + ½ a cup of junk yard musicianship + a dash of strange deep Southern culture + mix vigorously and bake in the kitchen of a haunted house for three hours
The Haints are like a legend that when you’re first told, you get all excited and then reality sets in and you realize that there is no way that such a band can exist, a band that keeps old music traditions like storytelling alive, a band that can bring their music to life with a passion that you can’t help getting up and dancing to, and feel something real. Well, I tell you, my friend, that’s just the type of band that the Pine Hill Haints are. They’ve taken the exemplary fractions of music and placed them together to form this lean combination of blues, folk, acoustic indie, and even a touch of punk. Elements such as a washtub bass (which is basically a stick, a wire and a big tub), awesome accordion, and plenty of snare drum give the record that old-time funeral march feel while at the same time getting the blood pumping. Songs like “Never Gonna Die” are so different than anything we’re used to that it’s something that sticks with you. To Win or Lose is another impressive record from a band that stands out, to say the least. –James Orme

The Rippers
Why Should I Care About You?
Slovenly
Street: 07.28
He Rippers = Jet + The Vines + The Hives
It is strange that so many bands try to sound like the Rolling Stones in the early 60s.
Is it because they are trying to make music that their parents can relate to? Is it because they want their moms, dads, uncles and aunts to come out to their shows and rock out? It boggles my mind that music like this was ever popular, and if you think about the bands that were totally biting on this style, they are all gone. This was a stupid little su-genre of music that I am very grateful went away. So if you’re a dork and you like jamming out with your pops to your new old-school garage-rock album, then go on with your bad self and buy this album. –Jon Robertson

Sean Bones
Rings
Frenchkiss
Street: 07.21
Sean Bones = Satori + Bedouin Soundclash + The Wailers
If you ask any white person between the ages of 17 and 30, chances are they are “really into reggae.” What this really means is they own a copy of both Bob Marley’s Legend and Sublime’s 40 Oz. to Freedom. Sean Bones is an anomaly: he’s a young Caucasian hipster who totally knows his shit when it comes to classic Jamaican music. From the rocksteady stylings of “Cry Cry Cry” to the Island-era Wailers feel of “Act so Casual” and the, uh, dancehall-ish “Dancehall,” Bones runs the gamut of reggae styles on Rings more aptly than most established artists of the genre. A few of the songs feel like they would work perfectly well as non-reggae songs, and some probably shouldn’t have been forced into a reggae framework (“Visions”), but overall, Rings works surprisingly well. Here’s to hoping all those “reggae” enthusiasts get rid of their Jack Johnson albums and give Sean Bones a chance. –Ricky Vigil

Skold vs. KMFDM
Self-titled
KMFDM Records
Street: 04.07
Skold vs. KMFDM = Tim Skold + Sascha Konietzko
(Note: Tim Skold was a member of the group for five years and guests on nearly every recent album, so just consider this a KMFDM record.) The template of so-called industrial music is similar to that of the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. How many times have you heard it—and how many times did you laugh? Though Skold vs. KMFDM is Skold and Konietzko’s continuation of their “to get to the other side” (a.k.a. beats, bass and growling vocals), this is one of their best collaborations since Adios. Barring a few missteps (i.e., the ridiculous R&B flavor and auto-tune choruses of “Error 404”), the numerous fascinating instrumental interludes, penchant for found sounds rather than Doepfer and JoMoX presets, and an aim for headphones, not necessarily the dance floor, gives the album a refreshing dynamic aesthetic amidst a genre—and their own catalog—of tired homogeny. –Dave Madden

Sir Richard Bishop
The Freak of Araby
Drag City
Street: 5.26
Sir Richard Bishop = Arabian Music
As much as “Girls, Girls, Girls” is a staple of any strip club, Sir Richard Bishop makes the soundtrack to any given harem. The sixth solo release by this famed Lebanese musician delves into historical Arabian guitars, specifically influenced by Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid. If you have some belly dancing to do, or want help digesting the two dozen stuffed dates you just gorged on, or you just need driving music for the desert, this album is right up your alley. –Cinnamon Brown
 
Soul Made Visible
Innocence Lost
MEI Records
Street: 06.02
Soul Made Visible = Stone Sour + Mudvayne + Alice in Chains + The Deftones (early) + Separation of Self
There is no question that if Soul Made Visible were to have written this album in the time period of early Deftones, Mudvayne and Slipknot, they would have been doing the Ozzfest thing and would be household names, so bad timing aside, Innocence Lost reminds me a hell of a lot of the initial spirit and strengths that those artists had in the beginning, before they got watered down. I particularly don’t like the term nü-metal for those artists—for me, that term was always meant to describe artists that used rap vocals with chugga-chugga riffs. Soul Made Visible do a good job at not relying on breakdown after breakdown to give them a heavy edge. While they do have them, they’re not the bogged-down snoozers that one would expect. The album is simplistic and clean in its melodies, but does have a raw edge. If you like the bands in the band equation here, by all means give Soul Made Visible a listen. –Bryer Wharton

So Many Dynamos
The Loud Wars
Vagrant
Street: 06.09
So Many Dynamos = Cursive + Minus the Bear + Sparta
I remember when I first listened to Minus the Bear, I thought to myself, “This guy’s voice is fucking boring.” Slowly, the catchy hooks caught up to me, though. I had a similar first thought about this band, but the catchy hooks have yet to catch up with me (except on the track “New Bones”). It sounds like shit that you have heard before, regurgitated through a much less interesting filter. They have some pretty tight song structures, with very little experimentation or originality (again, except for on “New Bones”). If you are really into bands like Minus The Bear or Sparta, then check it out; if not, you will be bored as fuck. They accomplish nothing new or worthwhile (again, “New Bones” is an exception). –Cody Hudson

Spheric Universe Experience
Unreal
Sensory
Street: 05.19
Spheric Universe Experience = Threshold + Pain of Salvation + Green Carnation
Spheric Universe Experience play progressive metal while defying normal traditions of massive amounts of guitar wankery and dry and overly long songs filled with cheesiness. The style of France’s SUE is a modern one and surprisingly infectious in its groove-filled concocted melodies and intricate keyboard explorations. Rarely do I find myself actually rocking out in full force to prog metal; no, the majority of the time is spent waiting for the album to end, with a sigh of relief when all of it’s over. With Unreal, I’m left with that satisfied yet yearning feeling of wanting more. While rooted firmly in weighty, groove-heavy riffs, there are plenty of technically interesting leads and solo guitars here with a big ol’ bass sound. Leave the assumptions of typical Dream Theater prog leanings at the door and enjoy this Universe—it’s heavy, it’s catchy, and most importantly, it captivates you, the listener. –Bryer Wharton

Spindrift   
The Legend of God’s Gun
Tee Pee
Street: 07.21
Spindrift = The Velvet Underground + Brian Jonestown Massacre + The Outlaw Josey Wales
Whoa … I think The Man With No Name just rolled back in to town, six shooter a-blazin’ and one-liners oozing from his cigar-stuffed maw. This is the soundtrack (literally) to 2007’s Spaghetti Western timewarp The Legend of God’s Gun, which I apparently must now track down and watch. Complete with a full narration of the film, including character introduction and plot summary, Spindrift have recreated the feel of the old classic Western, and have taken no chances, and few liberties, in being true to the spirit of movie soundtracks for films like Pale Rider, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Twangy guitar, rusty old harmonica, and horse-gallop drums invoke dusty trails, lynch mobs, and tavern brawls. “I think I’ll take me a walk in the desert … catch me a breath of fresh air.” –Gavin Hoffman

Stratovarius
Polaris
Eagle Records
Street: 05.26
Stratovarius = Thunderstone + Masterplan + Helloween
Once again this month, I’m feeling out of my element with Finnish melodic power-metal act Stratovarius’s Polaris, the band’s 13th studio album. I have never listened to one of the band’s albums in full, mostly because the songs I had heard I always thought were über-cheesy. Well, Polaris isn’t changing my mind about that aspect, hell, you could call Polaris pop-metal in the sense that every track is comprised of pleasing melodies, accessible falsetto vocals, oh-so-80s-sounding keyboards, and plenty of thick power chords. Admittedly, I’ve enjoyed bands of this nature in the past, but it’s always a brief enjoyment, it’s nothing I never really come back to after listening to a few times, it for me is always a novelty that wears off. That said, it’s just my opinion—this is a widely listened-to genre and by all means, Polaris is played with excellence, instrumentally, and has a great bit of songwriting. If I could get past the cheesy feeling in the music, I’d be all for this. I’m sure fans of the band won’t skip a beat with Polaris. –Bryer Wharton

Starring Janet Leigh
Spectrum
Metal Blade
Street: 05.12
Starring Janet Leigh = The Dillinger Escape Plan + Botch + December + Necrophagist
In all fairness, I won’t dump the typical metalcore tag onto SJL because there are a few layers of influence on Spectrum—it’s mostly metalcore, but with many hints of grind and a tiny bit of death metal. There’s plenty of chaos and technical guitar work, which is hefty on the jazz influence, along with too many chill, jazz-styled improvisation song portions. Though it illustrates their ability as musicians, this style has been done so much better with bands like Botch, Dillinger and Candiria. They gave us records with direct paths and feelings, but Spectrum is scattered and has way too many hardcore breakdown moments to pull them out of mediocrity. As for their name, they must have been stumped to use a film reference. Since the only thing really violent that Janet Leigh ever starred in was 1960’s Psycho, I’m going to make a good assumption that her role in the movie and the infamous shower-scene murder is what inspired the name. –Bryer Wharton

Suffocation
Blood Oath
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.14
Suffocation = Morbid Angel + Hate Eternal + Autopsy
A massive, bottom-end, mid-paced to slightly fast, nicely played and placed guitar solos, and guttural yet enunciated vocals fairly sums up the style of Long Island, New York-based death-metal crew Suffocation. The consistency amongst Suffocation’s albums is their truest quality. Yes, the guitar sounds have changed from album to album, while songwriting hasn’t changed or progressed a whole lot—it’s still the same basic principle. In that consistency, I find comfort. If only Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, or Deicide could have released a new record like Blood Oath, a truly brutal and technical death-metal album with a wickedly old-school yet modernized production and a vibe and diversity amongst heavy, skull-pounding, bass-heavy core riffing with solos that earn utmost attention, I’d be an extremely happy death-metal fan. Suffocation easily take many of the newer death metal acts gaining high praise to school. Not only did they help create the tech-death style, they are a definitive band in the history of not only American death metal but death metal in general. –Bryer Wharton

Swashbuckle
Back to the Noose
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.24
Swashbuckle = Slayer + D.R.I. + Destruction + a pirate theme!
One wouldn’t think Jersey to be the home of pirates, but lo and behold, we have thrash trio Swashbuckle ready to swab the deck with the lot of the thrash revivalism bands. Back to the Noose, the band’s Nuclear Blast debut, is their follow-up to the awesomeness of the pirate-thrash that was their debut record, Crew by the Damned. Swashbuckle are largely a mishmash of just about every thrash-metal style, American and European. Not only is the music fast, heavy and just plain old ass-kicking, it has its own little pirate humor, i.e., the song “Cruise Ship Terror” has a short vocal sketch preceding it in order to set up the tale of a pirate crew attacking a cruise liner. The fact that these guys definitely don’t take themselves too seriously leads to a creative energy and fresh offering of thrash-booty. While bearing obvious influences, Swashbuckle creates their own sound and make for an album worth blasting and blasting and blasting some more. –Bryer Wharton

Tim Ripper Owens
Play My Game
SPV
Street: 05.19
Tim Ripper Owens = Judas Priest (w/out Halford) + Beyond Fear + Heaven & Hell
I’ve been listening to this solo debut album from Tim “Ripper” Owens repeatedly and still can’t get a handle on if I truly like it or not. The songs, which Ripper wrote, are played by a vastly talented group of guest musicians. For the record, Ripper basically got his big break in the heavy-metal world for being Rob Halford’s replacement in Judas Priest for two studio albums, tours, etc. The music Owens composed for this album is tight and has a nice flow in its songs yet with an interesting diversity, almost as if he wrote the songs knowing which musician would be playing each of them. As for Ripper’s vocals, that’s the portion of the album I’m not sold on yet. I know from hearing his other projects and bands he’s associated with that he has a great range, but he uses a lot of drawn-out howling moments in the songs and not enough straight-up singing and it can wear the album down. Overall, Play My Game is a fair effort and a good start for a solo career. –Bryer Wharton

Tortoise
Beacons of Ancestorship
Thrill Jockey Records
Street: 06.23
Tortoise = I’m Not a Gun + Cul De Sac
With plenty of synth and elements of electronica thrown into a faux-indie mix, one cannot deny that Tortoise’s latest carries on their longstanding trend of making unique music. Having been around for nearly 20 years now, though, their sixth full-length just doesn’t deliver what I was expecting. Many tracks just drone on for uncomfortable periods of time, often sounding muddied and boring. I got the impression several times that these guys just recorded some of their jams and threw them into the mix to fill up space. It’s not to say that this album is a complete failure, but it just doesn’t live up to the name these guys have made for themselves. If you want to really get some enjoyment out of Tortoise, go pick up one of their previous releases or try and catch them live. –Ross Solomon

Trail of Tears
Bloodstained Endurance
Napalm Records
Street: 06.02
Trail of Tears = Tristania + Sirenia + Tiamat
I have a terrible secret. If I started my own family, it would be riddled with silent resentment, fear, emotional neglect and secrets. What is that secret, you ask? I am a big sucker for gothic metal. No, not the Evanescence trash that you hear pumping on your 13-year-old sister’s radio, I’m talking about the stuff from across the Atlantic, from countries that actually have castles. Trail of Tears is one of these bands, and after hearing the slow demise of Sirenia, I started to look elsewhere. With connections to Green Carnation, Tristania, and Sirenia, I may have been wary, but Trail of Tears really writes a fine album here. The songs pack a punch with Ronny Thorsen’s recognizable growl, which appeared on the third Tristania album in the forefront. Don’t expect a reinvention of the wheel here, but if you liked World of Glass, check this out. –Conor Dow

Týr
By the Light of the Northern Star
Napalm Records
Street: 06.02
Týr = Svartsot + Finntroll + Amon Amarth – the death metal vocals
For a band from the Islands of Faroe, in their 11-year career, Týr have achieved quite a bit. They just finished up a round of touring in the US, which some international bands that have been around for longer haven’t achieved. Týr have unleashed their latest Viking/folk-themed release and as the subject matter suggests, it’s an album of epic tales and feelings. While the band’s last album, Land, felt like a lengthy output and got a bit boring, with the new offering they’ve ditched that feeling and created an album folk-metal fans will go back to again and again. Actually, I found myself feeling like this record is the most accessible of Týr’s albums yet. Many of the songs have some nicely heavy core riffing and just fantastically written melodies that stick in your head and inspire some outright headbanging and attempts to chant along with the different languages the bands sings in. If anything, own this album for the track, “Hold the Heathen Hammer High”; it’s seriously one of the best metal songs of the year. –Bryer Wharton

UFO
The Visitor
SPV
Street: 06.02
UFO = Bob Seger + ZZ Top + Accept + Thin Lizzy
I feel a bit silly attempting to review this newest studio offering from UFO. I know they’re basically rock legends, beginning their career in 1969, and have been cited as helping form the NWOBHM scene. They’ve always been a band I wanted to check out but never knew where to start. Well, I guess I’m starting with the new record, aren’t I? So for any die-hard UFO fans reading this, forgive my ignorance of the band’s history. I think it’s fairly safe to assume The Visitor has different styles incorporated into UFO’s classic sound. The album is definitely a blues/jazz-oriented fair with some Southern-fried classic rock thrown in—it sounds more American than anything from Britain. But that’s not a bad thing; the quality of the songs on The Visitor had me hooked from the beginning. They’re full of catchy melodies, guitar hooks that make any seasoned rock act salivate, fun lyrics and downright amazing guitar work from Vinnie Moore. In all honesty, there isn’t a bad song on this record. Classic rock fans will no doubt have a hard time finding any flaws in it, either. –Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
We Just Call It Roulette Volume Two
Russian Recording
Street: 03.29
We Just Call It Roulette Volume Two = Medusa + Kentucky Nightmare + Trio in Stereo + others
Limited to 500 copies. Hand-silk-screened and die-cut. “Carefully and painstakingly sequenced.” All just a bunch of words and gimmicky nonsense that distracts us all from what a decent compilation this really is. It features a solid collection of bands most of you probably haven’t heard of and adequately showcases a lot of good music coming out of Russian Recording’s Indiana-based studio. Most of the bands are comprised of the standard drum/bass/guitar rock combo, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some catchy tunes to be heard. If you can find one of the limited copies around here, I’d recommend picking it up. Of course, these guys would be much wiser to just release the comp on eMusic, since I doubt many people who haven’t heard of any of these bands will be willing to pay top dollar for a hand-cut, limited-edition comp. –Ross Solomon

War from a Harlots Mouth
In Shoals
Lifeforce
Street: 4.24
War from a Harlots Mouth = Dillinger Escape Plan + Gaza + Cephalic Carnage
Berlin, Germany’s War From A Harlots Mouth’s music is saturated with perpetual amounts of tech-savvy grindcore painted subtly with hardcore, and they creatively stick to that. They stay far from redundant metalcore vocals and let the music be the main focus and that alone separates them from being easily categorized. The songs weave radical metal patterns of chaos dominating, offering some jazz appearances with “Justice from the Lips of the Highest Bidder,” being a two-minute play on that. It’s not smooth jazz like the press-release claims, but mellow, dark, lounge-ish jazz that makes a delirious kind of heavy. “No Hi 5 for Coward” and “The Certain Nothing” are some of the most outstanding tracks. I predict that WFAHM will be on the radar of many. –Nicole Dumas

War Pigs
Degeneration
Staggered Works Music
Street: 04.17
War Pigs = Electric Wizard + Cavity + Sick of It All
So, War Pigs, it seems you’ve decided to lift your band’s name from one of the heaviest, most recognizable song titles of all time, and to incorporate almost line-for-line cribs from that legendary band’s discography into your songs? And then, when the mood strikes you, to rap. That’s right, to rap. Are you fucking crazy? What in the name of Tony Iommi’s missing fingertip would make you think raspy-hardcore rapping vocals could be married to riffs from Master of Reality? Sure, your Sick of It All-style vocal breakdowns work well, and while your production is a little shimmery and could use some dirt, you’re obviously a competent hardcore band. But 25 Ta Life could never open for ZZ Top. You’re three bands on this release: a decent hardcore band, a fair Sleep cover band (I won’t further sully Sabbath’s name by using it here) and a weird Dad-rock boogie band. Be the good band. Wear headbands and jerseys and circle pit. But for the love of God, please don’t boogie or groove. –Ben West