This is Hell
This is Hell = Terror + Anthrax + M.O.D.
Heavy metal and hardcore have mixed with varying degrees of success over the years. Some strike gold, like D.R.I. and Integrity, while others are utterly forgettable, like the current wave of deathcore bands. On This is Hell’s latest effort, the crossover thrash influences are front and center and meld easily with their established New York sound. It should be no surprise how thoroughly heavy metal is integrated into the album, though—This is Hell has hinted at it for years (they have opened sets with the opening riff of Anthrax’s “Among the Living,” after all). Touches of Megadeth and Anthrax can be found throughout and complement vocalist Travis Reilly’s unique vocal style well. Reilly is one of the few vocalists in hardcore who is easily discerned from other acts, which is part of the draw of This is Hell. However, the sung vocals of the album, which aren’t necessarily clean, are a mixed bag, but work in most instances. Altogether, this release sits as well on the shelf next to Terror as it does Suicidal Tendencies, and should please hardcore fans and metal fans alike. –Peter Fryer
Night of Hunters
Night Of Hunters = Tori Amos + Broadway musical + a backing orchestra.
It’s been years since Tori Amos did anything risky with her music. Her last three albums were almost play-by-numbers catered to easy-listening fans and watered down for consumption. Suffice it to say, the “cornflake girl” has been soggy to longtime fans. But Night of Hunters might just be the next chapter in Amos’ career that she sorely needed. On this album, Amos crafts songs from classic compositions, making almost every track a solo piano piece with occasional orchestral support. To be blunt, this is not radio friendly and that should be applauded. The songs are as experimental as her Boys For Pele days, without the baggage of being cut down to three minutes. Night of Hunters sounds more like a haunting musical soundtrack than anything pop-oriented, and Amos deserves credit for at least taking the chance. If this album doesn’t finally earn her the elusive Grammy this year, nothing will. –Spencer Ingam
Tycho = Yeah Yeah Yeahs + DJ Cam
The San Francisco native Tycho has been MIA from the scene for quite a while, focusing more on his design work and blog under the pseudonym ISO50. Fortunately for me, he took time off to focus on his new album Dive, which has left me with stars in my eyes and a yearning to explore the unseen world. From beginning to end, the album felt almost like a dream to me, taking me into a world of pure bliss. Impeccable production and the album’s fluidity speaks volumes of Tycho’s skill. It’s poetry to the ears, even though there isn’t a single lyric featured on any of the tracks, except for an ad lib on the title track. My favorite track, “Coastal Brake,” made me feel as if I was surfing in an ocean blue with the sun rising as I caught that first wave. Beautiful synths, captivating riffs and catchy drums kept me until the last song played out. This is the kinda album you can relax to after a long stressful day, or if you need something pretty in your ear while you trip. Definitely worth the legal download. –Mama Beatz
Audio Veve Part 1
Unity = Talib Kweli + Lifesavas + Boom Bap Project
While I love hip hop, it’s hard not to get tired of a record with almost no new notes. Rhyming is great, but if you keep re-hashing that same old stuff, you gotta be next-level good with it. What I’m saying is that Unity is a good MC, but not a great MC, and without that extra, his album comes off as totally forgettable. Songs like “Gangsta,” with its click-track beat and funeral-like organs, are par for the course: plenty of authentic hip-hop style, but nothing unique enough to grab me. Lines like “We keep it gangsta” and “My block is hot” come off sounding cliché, not hard. The production leaves a lot to be desired here, too—with all that’s available to the modern producer in terms of tools, simple boom-bap seems a little played out. There is talent here, and I’d gladly listen to this MC over some hotter beats ... if he toned down the fake style and tried to spit something real. –Rio Connelly
Mad Decent Compilation Vol. 1
Diplo’s handpicked compilation of artists on the Mad Decent label is a fun look at the boundless creativity of electronic dance music producers. Every Mad Decent compilation is stunningly diverse across countries, cultures, moods, tempos, arrangements, genres, instruments and vocals used, coming about as close to a comprehensive sample of mainstream EDM today as humanly possible. There are a few misses, sure, but this album truly has something for everyone. Diplo’s insanity is infectious, and he knows how to always leave the audience screaming for more bizarre and crazy shit. The compilation starts off at a sprint with Diplo’s “Horsey,” a wild and crazy two-step electro song that sounds suspiciously like the James Bond theme. There are a few choice downtempo dubstep songs, notably “Shoulda Listened,” by Derek Allen. A progressive, simplistic fidget house track by the unstoppable Boy 8-Bit, the reggaeton/electro-styled “Pero Que Lo Que Mujer” by Munchi, a deep house and trance track by Dillon Francis and a beautiful, slow, piano-based melancholy track (“White Sun”) exemplify just how diverse—and significant—this record label is. –Jessie Wood