National CD Reviews – March 2009

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88-Keys
The Death of Adam
Decon
Street: 10.28.09
88-Keys = Black Milk + Little Brother + one of Kanye West’s proteges
88-Keys is a respected and talented producer, but as his MC debut, this leaves a lot to be desired. He’s good behind the mic and there are some fresh rhymes here, but they get buried beneath the staleness of his overall narrative. This is a concept album, and the problem with concept albums is that most musicians think that their precious concepts are way more interesting than they actually are - which is how we end up with travesties like Keys rapping about nothing but the sexual mishaps of some schlep named Adam for 45 minutes. The tracks devoted solely to genitalia were my favorite (“Morning Wood” and “Burning Bush”), and if this were a raunchy album devoted solely to sex jokes, it would be a lot more entertaining. As it is, The Death of Adam just chronicles this Adam character bitching about being unable to get laid, then getting laid a lot, then getting an STD and eventually knocking up his girl before dying. Not even Kanye West’s production can make that less bland. - Clea Major

Anchor Arms
Cold Blooded
Fail Safe Records
Street: 9.2008
Anchor Arms = Murder City Devils + The Explosion + The Nerve Agents
Sometimes, when you’re singing and you’re rocking really hard, words will become extremely contorted in the process. The same goes for Japanese kids singing “We Will Rock You” at karaoke. In both cases, the word “singing” may become “shingow,” the phrase “new reign of terror” may become “new renateeear,” etc. I haven’t seen these dudes live, and while Cold Blooded is pretty good, it doesn’t sound like they are rocking too hard. They don’t appear to be Japanese, either. So, I’m still trying to figure out why I seem to understand very little of the lyrics on the album. But, if you can get past the word destruction, it’s actually a pretty damn good album. It’s a short one at just over 20 minutes, but I hate (most) long songs anyway. Album-opener “Cold Blooded” is a great track. Other noteworthy tracks include “Poison Arrows,” which sounds a bit like older hardcore, and “Cocaine Cowboy,” which reminded me of 7 Seconds, ironically. Check this one out; it’s not too shabby. Plus, it has great cover art. - Aaron Day

Angil + Hiddntracks
Oulipo Saliva
Chemikal Underground
Street: 11.26.08
Angil + Hiddntracks= Soul Coughing + The Notwist + A Silver Mt. Zion
The addition in the above equation is misleading because Angil + Hiddntracks aren’t the sum of its influences as much as they are a collage of them. Oulipo Saliva is an idiosyncratic and unusual album that never lingers long on one mood. Though A+H has a distinctive sound - lead singer Mickael Mottet sings (and sometimes raps) his artsy-smartsy lyrics over muted horns and pianos - this sound is thrown into so many various twists and turns that listening to this album the first few times can be a jarring and difficult experience. So are they good enough to be worth putting in those awkward initial listens? My opinion: Yes - most of the time. Besides some repetitive dogmatic interludes and a few annoying wrong turns, this is a fascinating, artful and (sometimes) beautiful album. - Devon Hoffman

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Domino Records
Street: 01.06
Animal Collective = Avey Tare + Deakin + Geologist
This is the ninth album from Baltimore psych-folk engineers Animal Collective, possibly the most anticipated album of 2009. They return (minus member Panda Bear) to the fold, defying genre and musical stipulations alike, creating another experimental yet accessible album. With that, I’d also like to say that if you like AC, you’ll love this. If you don’t, don’t expect to be converted. Merriweather comes across catchier, somehow happier than past ventures, with the rhythmic percussion and Brian Wilson-esque sing-alongs still there. The album was named for a venue in their hometown, but I picture something more of a beach alongside Brighton checkered with rainbow towels, brilliant Roman candles and hippie children on poppers dancing in the tide beneath red-hot air balloons to tracks “Summertime Clothes” and “Brother Sport.” So if you like AC, you’ll once again be one of those dirty hippies stinking up the beach to this album. - Ryan Sanford

The Appleseed Cast
Sagarmatha
The Militia Group
Street: 02.17
The Appleseed Cast = Explosions in the Sky + The Casket Lottery + Moving Mountains
The term “post-rock” has always bugged me. As a society, we have not moved past rock music. Even practitioners and advocates of post-rock have to admit that the genre shares most of the aesthetics of pre-post-rock. The Appleseed Cast seems to understand this, as they deliver a brand of post-rock that is not beyond the rock, but of the rock. Sagarmatha is a solid piece of epic, atmospheric rock that is simultaneously simple, sprawling, dense and dreamy. Opener “As the Little Things Go” is pretty indicative of the whole album’s sound. It showcases the band’s ability to meld the traditional with the experimental through its strong and tight rhythm and the hypnotic guitar-work that sets a haunting mood, all before the vocals break in around the six-minute mark. There’s also some variety on “Raise the Sails,” which hearkens back to the band’s early emo days, and the heavily electronic “Like a Locust.” With Sagarmatha, The Appleseed Cast have created an album of post-rock that actually rocks. - Ricky Vigil

Bizzart
Future Stars and Small Wonders
Joyful Noise
Street: 02.10
Bizzart = Bleubird + Radiohead + Knifehandchop
I apologize to Bizzart for the following comparisons, but, the more I listen, the more I can’t ignore the parallels between Kanye West’s and his music. Both artists are 1) best (begrudgingly) labeled hip-hop though try to offer slices of newness to the genre 2) rap/sing with in a stream-of-consciousness fashion 3) wear their hearts on their sleeves. However, the big difference is that Kanye’s oddities only seem new to the casual music fan and his “heartbreaks” are eclipsed by an overwhelming ego. Arthur Arellanes III (a.k.a. Bizzart), on the other hand, grabs a suitcase full of sweated-upon samplers, a rusting microphone, puts his shirt over his head and blasts out buzzing beats, bashed-up guitar samples, contextual field recordings and a chest-punch vocal delivery. Working a cycle of dynamics - from tear-jerking piano medleys (“My Sister’s In Jail”) to anger-fueled grime (“Hookers and Bling”) - Arelleanes might not rule the roost, but he deserves the inheritance. - Dave Madden

Blade of the Ripper
Taste the Blade
Scarey Records
Street: 11.25
Blade of the Ripper = Venom + Death Angel + Antiseen
There is a terrifically evil, old-school vibe coming from Kentucky-based Blade of the Ripper. Taste the Blade, the band’s sophomore record, packs a nice wallop of punk/thrash spirit that will have you looking for your favorite 80s punk and thrash groups again, or just bring up a general interest in the sound and era. If I weren’t told so, I would swear this record was released in 1984. If you’re a punk rocker or a thrasher, Taste the Blade has everything you want and then some, great song craft, spiritedly amped vocals, speed and spiffy musicianship. With the slightly serious, yet strangely tongue-in-cheek Satanic, violent lyrics, you might start thinking of some of Slayer’s better punk covers. Dig this one up, friends - it’s one of the better albums of ‘08 that got passed up by press and fan radar. - Bryer Wharton

Blatz/Filth
The Shit Split
Alternative Tentacles Records
Street: 01.20
Blatz = X-Ray Spex + I Object + D.I.R.T.
Filth = Nausea + Poison Idea
Thanks to Alternative Tentacles, younger generations will continue to discover music from punk bands that would otherwise have fallen from the punk scene’s collective conscious years ago. The Shit Split was originally released on Lookout Records in 1991 and featured seven songs from Filth and eight from Blatz. The album highlighted some of the more volatile talent that oozed from the East Bay’s 924 Gilman Street. The Alternative Tentacles reprint features the original tracks from The Shit Split plus all the other material that each band ever released. The Filth disc features Nausea-influenced crust-core. Their cover of Peter and the Test Tube Babies’ “Banned from the Pubs,” “Freedom” and “Filth” are some of my favorite tracks. The Blatz side is sloppy three-chord punk rock with screechy, hair-raising female vocals and ridiculous lyrics. Their rendition of Fear’s “I Don’t Care About You” is classic and so is “Roadkill.” This album is a nice slice of history. - Jeanette Moses

Blut Aus Nord
Memoria Vetusta II - Dialogue with the Stars
Candlelight
Street: 02.24
Blut Aus Nord = Ved Buens Ende + Deathspell Omega + Glorior Belli
Fuck me. Those French folks know how to push the limits of black metal and do so in such a fashion that it results in music that actually transcends the black-metal label. As with most “standard” black metal, Blut Aus Nord have unleashed an album that is exceedingly up-tempo and loaded with blastbeats and guitar riffing that would surely destroy the forearms of even the most seasoned players, but, as is their wont, they allow their magic to shine through during the slower, more majestic, passages of this release. As the title suggests, this album is intended to be a sequel to 1996’s Memoria Vetusta I - Fathers of the Icy Age, and although I can see the continuation, it is not a requirement that listeners be familiar with precursor when submersing themselves in this release. Incredible. - Gavin Hoffman

Bosque Brown
Baby
Burnt Toast Vinyl
Street 03.03
Bosque Brown = She & Him + The Silver Desert
Just like the black and white of the piano keys that grace the tracks, Baby is a classic portrayal of true romantic telling a story through song. Bosque Brown has a strong emphasis on female vocals, the instruments take a backseat in the ride. The vocals echo loud in what seems like a giant stadium with great acoustics, similar to the sultry and innocent styles of Shay Thompson from local band The Silver Desert, featured at last month’s Localized. Without the complexity of overpowering drums and guitar you are able to truly hear a songwriter at her best. Bosque Brown is a great example of what you can do with natural talent. - Lyuba Basin

The BPA
I Think We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
Southern Fried
Street 02.03
The BPA = Fatboy Slim + Iggy Pop + David Byrne + several other guest vocalists
It is always a little worrisome when a CD from a band you’ve never heard of comes complete with an unbelievable back story. How do you filter musical content when you don’t really know the source? This one’s back legend mentions a box of old recordings, long rumored to exist, discovered in a warehouse that was slated to be demolished. Bullshit. This is a contemporary recording of Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim) with a series of guest vocalists. Iggy Pop, David Byrne and Martha Wainwright each do a track, as do several UK singers that will be unfamiliar to most. Much of the music has an older, 1970s feel to it. This works well with some singers and poorly with others. Overall, this BPA record will appeal to Fatboy Slim fans, but I don’t really see much of a chance for crossover success. Still, the disc is addictively listenable, even if the history is a little too grand. - James Bennett

Broken Spindles
Kiss/Kick
blank.wav
Street: 02.17
Broken Spindles = Cricket Engine + The Faint
The Faint’s longtime bassist, Joel Peterson, is back with another release with his side project, Broken Spindles. As far as side projects go, this one doesn’t branch out much. A lot of these songs and the ones on earlier albums sound like rejected Faint B-sides. The vocals are even similar to Todd Fink’s. That being said, it is still pretty solid. Comparatively, this album has a more human feel than his previous release. It is pretty enjoyable; it’s like a (slightly) lo-fi version of Wet From Birth. - Cody Hudson

Call It Arson
Moth Wash: The Old Flames Seven Inch
Kill Normal Records
Street: 09.01
Call It Arson = The Spill Canvas + Death Cab For Cutie
This two-song release has graced the minimum of EP expectations. With generic, competent riffs and a clever use of whiny lyrics, Call it Arson is ready for mainstream radio. This is where it gets exciting. They will receive plenty of exposure, and comfortably fall into the consistent blah of popular music. Yay! By reaching this level, they have the benefit of having their catchiest songs played (at least 10 times) every hour on your favorite corporate radio station. Good job, guys! There’s nothing better than blending in with the popular kids. - Jessica Davis

Cannibal Corpse
Evisceration Plague
Metal Blade
Street: 02.03
Cannibal Corpse = Gore Obsessed + The Wretched Spawn + Kill + the E chord played to its utmost extent
Cannibal Corpse are at a point in their career where they can do no wrong, unless George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher starts rapping or the band decides they should do some breakdowns. They’re pretty safe using the formula they’ve used for their last three albums - it’s consistent and accessible to newcomers, although in that level, there is plenty of mediocrity. However, with all the interchangeable songs on the new record, the blatant overuse of the mighty E chord and Corpsegrinder’s tried and true death vox, I can still find some highlight tracks. “Carnivorous Swarm” is probably the track I’ll listen to the most from the album, and the title track is enjoyable in its use of some slow grooves, something that has actually been missing a bit in the past few albums. On a different note, I’ve come to the conclusion that CC have all but given up on selling a worthwhile CD or vinyl package: It started with the Kill album and is continuing with Evisceration Plague. The band’s CD packaging, once notoriously known for having some of the best gory and offensive artwork, is completely gone. - Bryer Wharton

Cattle Decapitation
The Harvest Floor
Metal Blade
Street: 01.20
Cattle Decapitation =Carcass + Circle of Dead Children + Deaden + Leng Tch’e
The Harvest Floor starts out all guns blazing with the diverse sounding “The Gardener’s of Eden,” that has some progressive elements, even hints at some black metal, in its blast beats and vocals. But hey, this is Cattle Decap. They’ve been gore-grind since they started eating their veggies without the beef. There is an interesting conundrum whilst listening to this new offering - it sounds great and there are some nice technicalities in the guitars. But the drumming sounds like every other grind drummer and when the album is done and over with, the only tracks I really remember are the last two - the title track features Jarboe and is nothing grind at all, and the last cut, “Regret & The Grave,” features some nice cello work from Jackie Perez Gratz of Grayceon/Amber Asylum. In all honesty, if it weren’t for the guest appearances on the album, this would just be another grind album for the pile. - Bryer Wharton

City of Ships
Live Free or Don’t Tour
Forcefield Records
Street: 01.27
City of Ships = Planes Mistaken For Stars + Cave In + Seaweed
On an awesome 12” press of yellow and black rorschach, City Of Ships trio have split two separate recordings. Side A’s tracks are from a self-released tour EP and side B’s, from another recording, Live Free or Don’t. If you are a fan of vinyl like myself, be happy to know that this package comes with a digital download. With four songs on each side, I couldn’t tell a significant difference between the recordings; in other words, the choice to put both together worked well. Most tracks have a lonely 80s ballad-metal atmospheric energy to them with a kick of romance. The vocals are close to those of Burt McCracken’s of The Used if he were more dramatic. Their style grabs from many genres and makes a mold of its own that reference many “post”-what-have-you genres. They’ve connected bridges stylistically without sounding like they purposefully crammed all of their influences into one. This one is a keeper for 2009. - Nicole Dumas

Dimension Zero
He Who Shall Not Bleed
Candlelight USA
Street: 01.27
Dimension Zero= At The Gates + Dismember + Enslaved
With a notable lineup of Scandinavian rockers created by In Flames members Jesper Strombald and Glenn Ljungstrom, Dimension Zero’s fourth release, He Who Shall Not Bleed, is worth getting giddy about. I’m not very familiar with their earlier releases besides knowing the hype around band members, but with He Who Shall Not Bleed, my ears were easily satisfied. Fans of thrash and Swedish metal don’t have much room for a letdown. You can quickly pick out comparable artists, but the tightness, speed, black-metal styled vocals and overall construction of the album should give Dimension Zero their own place in your heavy-metal heart. From start to end is a solid whiplash of thrash and I found myself listening to the CD on repeat, liking it more each time. My favorite track, “Way to Shine,” has riffs related to Enslaved and gothic vocals that sound like Dracula, an overall pleaser. - Nicole Dumas

The Drones
Havilah
ATP Recordings
Street: 02.17
The Drones = The Birthday Party + Tom Waits + The Dears
Ah, Australia. A throne hidden from humanity where Aussies perch on high, sometimes releasing beautiful albums. We've heard Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and Robert Forster, and now The Drones' frontman Gareth Liddiard uses his crackled accent and hungover, bluesy outback storytelling to create a helpless and homeless form of distraught rock. Havilah can be abrasive and frenzied, as shown in the album's closer “Your Acting's Like the End of the World”. Other times, it's hushed and warm like whiskey on a Sunday. It shifts between night and day freely, all the while projecting tormented characters over their original breed of angular, agitated Australian rock. The intimate songs and lyrics are easy to identify with as he sings of a girl in New South Wales or calming nerves with a pack of cigarettes. Havilah, The Drones' fourth album, comes as a peculiar breath of fresh air and I highly recommend it. - Ryan Sanford

Edguy
Tinnitus Sanctus
Nuclear Blast
Street: 01.27
Edguy = Avantasia + Angra + Thunderstone
Vocalist Tobias Sammet is without question the glue of Edguy; if he wasn’t singing, Edguy would be just another pop-oriented-sounding power-metal/rock outfit. The music isn’t bad; it’s just not stunning. Actually it’s pretty fluffy and full of sunshine even for the genre. A big reason (for me at least) for listening to bands in this genre is how catchy the songs are. Well, after plenty of listens, the only thing that stands out on this album is the second track, “Sex Fire Religion,” which has one of those fun, misunderstood lyrical moments where the song title is sung and the lyric “Visionary position” follows; when listened to at first sounds a lot like “Missionary Position.” It would be nice to say Tinnitus Sanctus is a nice diversion from the usual of the genre, but this sound is what the power-metal/rock bands try to sound like - so in that statement, better to go with a leader instead of a follower. - Bryer Wharton

Edie Sedgwick
Things Are Getting Sinister And Sinsterer
Dischord
Street: 01.11
Edie Sedgwick = Panther + Dirty Projectors + At The Drive-In
Don’t even try Googling this band, it’s a bitch (not literally). They’re like a lo-fi dance party fueled by hatred (or fascination) of public figures. Lyrically, this album is like a Chuck Klosterman book. It is just entertaining and erratic. This transgender reincarnation of the 60s Warhol icon sings about things like the Olsen twin with an eating disorder, your favorite brat-pack member, and/or everybody’s favorite penguin documentary. The best part, though, is that it is done well, it’s fucking clever and you can dance to it. - Cody Hudson

Faunts
Feeling.Love.Thinking.Of.
Friendly Fire Recordings
Street: 02.06
Faunts = The Notwist + Film School + Chapterhouse
The opening track of this album comes straight out of the 80s; but before you know it, you’re going back to the future, those wonderful days of the early ‘00s, where bands like The Postal Service and The Helio Sequence were winning us over with their fresh electro-pop. Feeling.Love.Thinking.Of. is a very dreamy, lush album full of textures and soundscapes. It sounds as much like shoegaze at times as it does IDM. Hushed vocals and gentle, restrained, low-key guitar riffs simmer over animate, oblique electronic noises making this album, the third from these Edmontonians, an ideal choice for quiet nights or the morning commute to work. More concise and fluid than their past albums, I would recommend this album to fans of any of the above-mentioned groups, and anyone who wants to hear what a child of M83 and Logh might sound like. - Ryan Sanford

Fol Chen
Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made
Asthmatic Kitty
Street: 02.03
Fol Chen = Fiery Furnaces + The Blow + Grampall Jookabox
This album has so many fucking hooks. Every song is catchy while avoiding vapidity. The instrumentation seems to be on a pretty grand scale, with 22 musicians credited in various capacities (percussionists, numerous vocalists, and various parts of a brass section) . The first time I put this album in, it sent me into flashbacks of the first time I heard Mates of State’s Team Boo. The whole thing sounds so upbeat (musically, not lyrically) and catchy that I almost felt guilty liking it. Dreamy indie-pop at its best. - Cody Hudson

From Monument to Masses
On Little Known Frequencies
Dim Mak
Street: 03.10
From Monument to Masses = Trans Am + Fugazi + Red Sparowes
From Monument to Masses’ fourth studio album is a cinematic and politically charged post-rock endeavor, in which they’ve carved their name in the tree with precise, clockwork drumming and intricate, driven guitars. Opting for samples rather than vocals, the voices and clips that flicker in and out over the tightly wound instruments call for social change and everyday questioning. Starting where they left off, this is the perfect installment to their catalog. Always practicing what they preach, they also prove themselves to be very adept instrumentalists, putting to shame any other boring drivel called instrumental rock. This eight-track album is the perfect continuation to their last release, Schools of Thought Contend, and sounds like what I’d imagine a fast-paced documentary on riots or the French Surrealist movement might, with triumphant and harrowing tracks (“Beyond God & Elvis”) as well as explosive and demanding tracks (“The First Five”). - Ryan Sanford

Gentleman Reg
Jet Black
Arts & Crafts
Street 02.24
Gentleman Reg = Iron & Wine + Kevin Drew
Known in Canada as a celebrated musician, Gentleman Reg is getting ready to make himself well-known Stateside. He’s played with Broken Social Scene, toured with Stars and Tegan & Sara. Plus, he’s a favorite performer of famed bands Sloan and Arcade Fire. Bands we’re so familiar with here - how could we have missed Gentleman Reg? Maybe it’s his unique look - think albino New York hipster. Maybe it’s Reg Vermue’s soft voice - similar to Sam Beam (Iron & Wine). His music probably isn’t being blasted from many speakers. Not that his songs aren’t catchy - they’re dancy tunes in a slow, indie-rocker way; optimistic songs with romantic undertones or party overtones with bizarre wording. When you hear him, you’ll probably start nodding your head “yes.” “Yes,” you like it and you’ll remember him from now on. - Jennifer Nielsen

Goblin Cock
Come With Me if You Want to Live
Robocore
Street: 01.27
Goblin Cock = The Sword + Torche - sincerity and balls.
I want to have a chat with Rob Crow, Pinback guru and driving force behind Goblin Cock. I find this band to be somewhat insulting to the genre it tries so desperately to be a part of, almost like what I would expect if Atom and His Package attempted to play doom metal. It’s a silly band with a silly name, silly lyrics, silly stage names, and extremely silly album packaging, and yet Rob, purposefully or not, tries so hard to be a part of the waning stoner-rock hipster crowd with the music Goblin Cock plays. Thankfully, the album falls flat on its face. Although the album’s production may initially fool a doom-metal novice, Goblin Cock can’t escape weak riffs, weak composition, and a completely soulless effort from the entire band. - Gavin Hoffman

Harlem Shakes
Technicolor Health
Gigantic Music
Street: 03.24
Harlem Shakes = Neutral Milk Hotel + New Pornographers
The album starts out quite nicely before someone had the dreadful idea to add in choir-like backup vocals and a cowbell. Luckily, the tangy lead vocals similar to Jeff Mangum’s stand out enough to exploit the small downfalls. Each instrument bounces off one another, creating a small breakthrough in each song. From “Niagara Falls” are catchy piano bits, to the unsettling Cher-like bursts in “Sunlight,” and “Winter Water” runs complete with the creepy dream intro of a super-nun’s healing power during a 50s dance entourage. Throw in the electric-island dance beats, and a great new body-shaking experience has arrived. - Jessica Davis

House of the Heavy
House of the Heavy
Metal Blade
Street: 02.03
House of the Heavy = Dokken + Warrant + Cinderella
Just within the first few songs of House of the Heavy, it sounds more like House of the Cheesy. I’m not surprised Metal Blade is releasing the album as a digital-only release; then again, I’m surprised they’re releasing it at all. House of the Heavy sound like the oh-so-common 80s throwback bands that play weekly at a local club, i.e., for Utah, it would be the Metal Gods. No question that the songs were written over long periods of time, possibly even recorded in different sections, because the production doesn’t match at times. This is silly at best, dripping with cheesy vocals and generic guitar work that sounds like so many riffs just recycled from classic 80s hair-metal bands. The drums don’t even match the guitar rhythms at times, there are cymbal crashes that don’t go with anything; oh, and there is also some randomness in keyboards popping up in songs from time to time. I normally wouldn’t be this harsh, but at least give the record some sort of flow or direction. House of the Heavy, in short, is some guys stuck in the 80s, jamming poorly. - Bryer Wharton

Insect Warfare
World Extermination
Earache
Street: 03.02
Insect Warfare = Nasum + Pig Destroyer + Napalm Death
This album was technically released a couple years ago, but it was limited on a small label and the band parted ways in 2008. World Extermination is the only full-length the Houston-based troupe ever released. Earache made a good choice in giving this record a re-release; maybe it’ll bring the group together again, considering the fact that they should at least get some sort of money for the re-release. With World Extermination not really offering anything new to the grindcore table, the album does a great job at infusing different styles of the genre from different parts of the world. It’s a typical grindcore release in that it has the fast, blasting moments, punk rock and hardcore-inspired moments, the slow groovy riffs, and vocals that consist of gurgling and a higher screech. So why get excited about a typical grind release, you ask? Well, grindcore has undergone some bad changes recently, so it’s actually refreshing to hear it done in the classic way. We’ve heard the sound before, but it’s still a blast. - Bryer Wharton

I.U.D.
The Proper Sex
The Social Registry
Street: 03.24
I.U.D. = Growing + Gang Gang Dance
The dream combination of Sadie Laska of Growing and Gang Gang Dance’s Liz Bougatsos reads as a no-brainer collabo. But it’s a tad different than you might expect from the pedigree of this group. I.U.D. is dark and brooding. Some of this shit is really sonically bizarre but entrancing at the same time. “Please let me in,” a sampled line from some frightful movie, is replayed under Liz’a iconic reverberating vocals and some industrial beats on “Monk Hummer,” creating an altogether disturbing vibe. But it’s good. Not party music but something for the more depressed side of your manic depression or something to play at a wine-tasting in Brooklyn for you hip fucks. I say more Gang Gang, less Growing next time, please. - JP

IXXI
Elect Darkness
Candlelight
Street: 03.17
IXXI = Ondskapt + Mortuus + Zavorash
IXXI is one of those bastardized black-metal bands most would refer to as “black n’ roll,” and although this release has a ton of potential, it ultimately fails to deliver a knockout punch. It’s heavy on the blackened growls and blastbeats, but it seems like it could have a bit more thrash interjected into the songs to make them more noteworthy. Most of the tracks end up sounding like one another - if not outright stepping on each other’s toes, so to speak - so attempting to single out any standout songs is damn near impossible. While Elect Darkness is definitely a release that’s great for a listen, it’s nothing I would deem mandatory. Newer Satyricon delivers the black n’ roll far better. - Gavin Hoffman

Jeremy Jay
Slow Dance
K Records
Street: 03.24
Jeremy Jay = Joy Division + The Smiths + Buddy Holly
It’s obvious that Jeremy Jay has put a lot of effort into sounding like his favorite bands. He’s put so much effort into it, in fact, that his music is void of nearly any individuality. Not only that, but his work lacks the inspiration to be even appropriately derivative. While Joy Division used their dark new-wave atmosphere to deliver unsettling and provocative lyrics, Jeremy copies that same atmosphere for generally meaningless tripe like “Canter canter canter/ Over star streams/ In the night air/ Going somewhere.” His music does not make up for these lyrics, either. His songs consist of dreary, uninventive synthesizer hooks that repeat themselves ad nauseam, so the first 20 seconds of a song is nearly indistinguishable from the last 20 seconds. At best, Slow Dance is terribly mediocre. It’s good background music because it’s so easy to ignore. - Devon Hoffman

Lars Horntveth
Kaleidoscopic
Smalltown Supersound
Street: 01.27
Lars Horntveth = Jaga Jazzist + James Horner
Have you ever had a really intimate experience with a soundtrack? After the film, you immediately seek out the music, hoping to relive the experience, but find it all a bit deflating without the accompanying visual affect. Despite the fact that the 37-minute Kaleidoscopic is only the soundtrack to Jaga Jazzist leader Lars Horntveth’s chronological “state of mind … an open, endless score, similar to a diary,” the music garners the same feel. There are pockets of interest, such as the dark pulsing synthetics and string section counterpoint (Hornveth hired the Latvian National Orchestra to help out) beginning at the 17-minute mark and the polyrhythmic, typical Jaga Jazzist flavor of bass clarinet, acoustic guitar and percussive stomp around 23 minutes in, but you can’t help feel that the expansive, aimless portions of this piece would be better labeled Music to Watch Closing Credits To. - Dave Madden

Leathermouth
XO
Epitaph Records
Street: 01.27
Leathermouth = Refused + Ink & Dagger + Angelhair
Leathermouth is the side project of My Chemical Romance’s Frank Iero - and to his credit this release has little in common with MCR. Iero’s whole purpose for this release was to create a politically charged outlet for his rage. RAGE! Unfortunately for Iero, temper tantrums, suburban grievances and violent murder fantasies are not poignant political statements. Even eloquence-challenged hardcore acts still have a sense of urgency, intention and thoughtfulness to their misanthropy and nihilism. These 24 minutes of asinine bile, on the other-hand, lack the authenticity Iero is so obviously seeking. Musically XO isn’t half bad, and if he reigned in his screams a little more there might be something to this side project. Perhaps for release number two, Iero will take some time to write some lyrics that aren’t completely ridiculous (instead of tired themes of high school shootings and murder). Shock is only shocking when it’s not expected. Too bad Iero telegraphed his plan from a mile away. - Peter Fryer

Leif Edling
Songs of Torment, Songs of Joy
Candlelight
Street: 12.08
Leif Edling = Candlemass + Krux + Neurosis
Whoa … this is some seriously heavy shit right here. The bass tones on this record are fucking ungodly. I would absolutely love to see one of those fucking retarded West Side wannabe gangstas with 20 woofers and a million-watt amp in their shitty Chevy Cavalier try to “bump” this thing - it would absolutely destroy them. For those who are unaware, Leif Edling is the bassist for doom-metal legends Candlemass, and this is his solo debut. What is it with me reviewing solo debuts and Candlelight stuff this month, anyway? Back to the point, this record is insanely heavy, and is one of the most claustrophobic releases I’ve ever heard. It’s so slow and deep that it makes you feel like you’re drowning in an algae-covered swamp somewhere, screaming for someone to pull your stupid ass out of the muck, but nobody’s around to hear you. And that’s a good thing. - Gavin Hoffman

Lethargy
Purification
Powerage Rock
Street: 02.10

Lethargy = Alice in Chains + Shinedown + Pearl Jam + The Foo Fighters Modern rock fans take heed: Lethargy sound like they could have come straight from the Seattle grunge style almost two decades ago, just with a more positive attitude. This Wales foursome doesn’t come off nearly as whiny as many grunge bands did, though; when the record is done, you’ll feel more uplifted than you did before. That said, the record sounds a bit too clean and peppy. I’m sure there is some raw emotion the band could purvey, but it feels as if they’re holding back for the sake of creating a sound. The music is mostly power chords and rocking riffs, although worthwhile solos meander through from time to time. Overall, though, the album is played refreshingly well. The vocalist at times sounds like a dead ringer for Eddie Vedder. Lethargy deserve much more attention than many modern-rock outfits today. But although Purification is worth listening to, like Pearl Jam in their early years, the sound wore out on me quickly. Now that I’ve given it my attention, I’m not going to go back and listen to the album in my leisure hours any time soon. - Bryer Wharton

The Loved Ones
Distractions
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 02.03
The Loved Ones = The Bouncing Souls + American Steel + The Gaslight Anthem
The Loved Ones were riding a whole lot of hype when they released their first full-length, Keep Your Heart, in 2006, and though their brand of heartfelt pop-punk was good, it wasn’t until last year’s classic-rock tinged Build & Burn that the band really found their voice. Distractions finds The Loved Ones somewhere in between those styles, featuring three original pop-punky songs and three roots-rocky covers. Of the originals, “Spy Diddley” is the best, as it’s a Keep Your Heart outtake, while the other two just seem to wish they were. None of the covers are spectacular, but it’s interesting to hear the early Loved Ones covering Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg, two artists who undeniably influenced Build & Burn, and the present-day Loved Ones do a solid interpretation of Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl.” This is a great little distraction for die-hard Loved Ones fans, but casual fans and newcomers should stick to the full-lengths. - Ricky Vigil

Mirah
(a)spera
K Records
Street: 03.10
Mirah = Rilo Kiley + Hope Sandoval + Gregory and the Hawk
This album is brimming with warmth and truth and blossoms with beauty and generosity. Strangely enough, its fragility is one quality that strengthens the album as a whole. It’s full of variations, too. Some songs are the kind you’d be likely to hear in a spa or in the waiting room of your psychiatrist’s office, while others are more upbeat and have the type of sound that you can really groove to. On some tracks, Mirah’s voice is timid and delicate. Others bring forth a more powerful tone that’s even on the verge of sexiness. At times the acoustics are reminiscent of such acts as Cat Power, but Mirah brings her own distinctions to the mix. From strings to drums to horns to the mandinka kora, (a)spera is full of supernatural variation. - Erin Kelleher

Morrissey
Years of Refusal
Attack/Lost Highway
Street: 02.17
Morrissey = The Smiths - Johnny Marr + Boz Boorer (and 20 years)
Yeah, yeah, yeah … so I’m an unabashed Morrissey fan. So what? For as whiny and “Kermit-the-Frog”-ish as he can sound sometimes, the man’s released some excellent music, both on his own and with The Smiths. Years of Refusal is somewhat of a conundrum, though. I’ve come to expect near-perfection from Moz as opposed to filler tracks, which unfortunately seem to engulf this album. Of course, there are a few strong tracks, particularly the singles “All You Need is Me” and “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” as well as the Jeff Beck-guested “Black Cloud,” and his lyrics are particularly biting this time around, but this album stands as a footnote instead of a shining star in his solo career. It’s definitely worth owning, but it’s also not as memorable as it should be. - Gavin Hoffman

Mouthpiece
Can’t Kill What’s Inside
Trustkill
Street: 11.11.2008
Mouthpiece = Youth of Today + Chorus of Disapproval + Judge
“Hell Yeah!” is what I thought when this baby showed up in the mail. Can’t Kill What’s Inside collects all of Mouthpiece’s output in one package (that looks nice to boot) and includes a full live set of .mp3s from CBGBs and a video for “Cinder”. (Not to mention that every show they ever played is listed in the liner notes!) Mouthpiece was a crucial band that bridged the gap between late 80s Youth Crew and mid-90s hardcore. Although Mouthpiece’s influences can be heard in their music, it’s apparent they were moving things forward, through darker guitar tones, slower songs and more developed song structures. Melody comes into play on some tracks, “Cinder” would be at home on any release in ’09, and a good amount of heaviness balances it all out on tracks like “What Remains”. This is a must have for any hardcore fan. Period. - Peter Fryer

Nashville Pussy
From Hell to Texas
SPV
Street: 03.03
Nashville Pussy = Lynyrd Skynrd + Motorhead + ZZ Top + Turbonegro
It seems like ages ago, I was an 18-year old kid walking into the Heavy Metal Shop, when my musical collection and tastes were thin. One of the featured-selling items was Nashville Pussy’s Let Them Eat Pussy. Nevermind the fact that I was an awkward teen and the CD came with a bonus VHS tape that had some busty women on the cover, I thought I’d try something new. Now with the band’s latest, not hearing any of their albums since, I was hugely surprised. The band’s initial sound was raw, which was fun, but everything here has tightened up within the songwriting. Each rocking cut is its own and the riffs are a blast, with lyrics that just scream rock n’ roll. The whole album has that classic yet modern feel to it. Everything flows naturally and just yells at you to keep coming back for more. The song “Lazy Jesus” is my new favorite song of the year. The regular rock n’ roll songs of the album are fun, but the real quality is in the songs that go outside the box, with harmonica or that good old country twang. - Bryer Wharton

Obscura
Cosmogenesis
Relapse Records
Street: 02.17
Obscura = Cephalic Carnage + Hammerfall + Death (Symbolic era)
Hating, as I so violently do, the jazzy pretensions of technical death metal, this release featuring ex-members of Necrophagist and Pestilence took an unlucky turn finding its way to my inbox. And, true to form, within two minutes, Cosmogenesis’ rapid staccato riffing, intricate songs, and “out-to-impress” musicianship had me scratching these Germans’ name on my shitlist. But as the album played out, Obscura, surprisingly, won me over. Rather than relying on technical ability alone, this band exhibits an astute sense of pacing and song structure. In fact, I’ll go so far as to favorably compare the best songs on Cosmogenesis to Symbolic-era Death and Spheres-era Pestilence. Track four in particular, “Incarnated,” is a swinging, leather-lunged song that does the ghost of Death’s “Evil Chuck” proud. There’s some dross here, to be sure, but if Obscura can improve on this, they might just make a fan of this tech-metal-hating hesher. Obscura opens for Cannibal Corpse on April 6 at the Avalon. - Ben West

Odd Nosdam
T.I.M.E. Soundtrack
Anticon
Street: 02.17
Odd Nosdam = Jel + Alias + Tobacco
The coupling of fast, screaming guitars and skate/snowboard/ski videos is a puzzling marriage. Thankfully, Element Skateboards agrees and hired a more suitable artist, David Madson, a.k.a. Odd Nosdam, to take on the challenge of crafting the soundtrack for “polyurethane pounding pavement.” Madson’s signature work, full of bit-reduced thumps, backwards scratches, minimal melodies and gravelly textures, already lends itself to slow motion, smoked-out apparitions - so why not? Each track is assigned a different skater (i.e., Bam Margera, Mike Barker, Levi Brown), Madson’s machines chugging behind rail slides, gnarly missteps and otherwise outrageous tricks with bastard dub (“Time Machine”), Middle-Eastern inspired drones (“Top Rank”), gritty slide guitar and near-rock stomps (““We Bad Apples”), chalky flutes (“Root Loop”) and synthetic, slash-and-burn string swells (“Fly Mode”). A stellar mix of interesting sounds, hooks and finger-tapping beats, Madson’s music might actually get you on your own decrepit half-pipe. Keep those crutches ready. - Dave Madden

P.O.S.
Never Better
Rhymesayers
Street: 02.03
P.O.S. = Atmosphere + Dalek + Sage Francis
The worlds of hip hop and punk rock have collided in the past with mostly disastrous results (Transplants, anyone?), but with each release, P.O.S. has proven that the two seemingly disparate genres can be combined without compromising the integrity of either. Never Better continues the Minnesota rapper’s nearly flawless track record and will appeal equally to open-minded punk rockers, Pitchforkers and backpackers. “Drumroll” is a standout as P.O.S. spits fire over a droning guitar, gang vocals by The Bled and of course, an unrelenting drumroll. There are a few other particularly intense tracks (“Purexed,” “The Brave and the Snake”), but the album is firmly rooted in hip hop. Songs like “Savion Glover” and the autobiographical “Out of Category” prove that P.O.S. fully deserves to stand proud next to Aesop Rock, El-P and Slug as one of underground hip hop’s most talented and unique MCs. No matter your genre of choice, you aren’t gonna hear many albums top Never Better this year. - Ricky Vigil

Pronto
All Is Golden
Street: 3.10
Contraphonic
Pronto = Badly Drawn Boy + Wilco + Amos Lee + Biirdie + French Toast + Sleepercar
Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen, alongside members of Iron & Wine, Cat Power, Antibalas & Califone, form the indie-rock/pop group Pronto. Don’t write off Pronto as just another side project, though; their sound reaches out and grabs those ol’ eardrums to make them smile and itch for more. All Is Golden compromises 13 tracks of pop-sensibility indie-rock laden with soft-spoken-though-emotionally charged vocals, as well as soothing piano and guitar work. Tracks such as “Good Friends Have Gone,” “Had And Have,” “When I’m On The Rocks” and “Say It all Night” bring together Pronto’s mellow tendencies, while “I Think So,” “Monster” and “Unexpected Vex” are clearly a bit edgier and get the heart rate up a bit … but not too much. For a debut album from a band who is considered a part-time side project, Pronto exceeds all expectations - and would even without any name-dropping. - Jeremy C. Wilkins

Reigns
The House on the Causeway
Monotreme Records
Street: 03.17
Reigns = Ready Aim Fire + Forest for the Trees + Tosca
This album is good enough to not be easily defined. It has touches of modernity in its instrumentation (very electronic) but harks back to a simpler time in music with additional suspenseful piano-tinkering and very efficient finger-plucked guitar. The majority of tracks eschew the use of vocals but they aren’t missed - the structure and craftsmanship are that engaging. The lyrics are also very interesting: “I am your father/Please don’t go out there/Everything beyond these walls has been razed,” (cut 4) portrays a post-apocalyptic world where corpses are picked clean and poison “will take hold if you cross the threshold.” This isn’t for everyone, but I immediately gravitated toward its neo-new-wave stylings and dire lyricism. The melancholy overall tone suits the mood for the middle of winter. This is shit to succumb to; don’t fight it, you will only suffocate all the faster. - JP

Richie James Follin
Battle
Red Bear Recordings
Street 03.20
Richie James Follin = Jack White + The Willowz
It seems that the frontman of The Willowz decided to go out and Yankee his doodle by putting out an album that’s a little less rock n’ roll and a little more country. Fortunately, his strained voice fits well with the acoustic instruments and at times you can even hear the Willowz’ yell that is so distinct. Everything works so well on the 12 tracks of the record, so smooth, and then … all of a sudden, completely from beyond the depths of Satanic ruins, comes another 12 hidden tracks, looped backwards. Now I’ve lost my mind and I’m hearing messages that are telling me to rape, plunder and pillage. No, I didn’t really hear anything along those lines, but what the hell? You’ve got this great bluesy album equipped with pedal steel and soul and it’s ruined just because Follin had to be weird and “creative.” It gave me the heebie-jeebies so bad I forgot that the first half was actually worth listening to. - Lyuba Basin

Roxy Epoxy and the Rebound
Band-Aids on Bullet Holes
Metropolis Records
Street: 03.10
Roxy Epoxy and the Rebound = The Epoxies + Siouxsie Sioux + Pointed Sticks
From the ashes of the defunct Epoxies come Roxy Epoxy and the Rebound. The new project sounds strikingly similar to the Epoxies, but it’s expected because, let’s face it - it’s Roxy Epoxy’s stunning voice that made her first band so noteworthy. The synth-pop creeps in and out of Band-Aids and Bullet Holes instead of overwhelming it. Roxy Epoxy and the Rebound are more rooted in rock, which is a good match for the darker songs. Ultimately, this entire album showcases her voice more than any Epoxies song ever did, and I think that’s the point. - Jeanette Moses

Static X
Cult of Static
Warner Brothers
Street: 03.17
Static X = Ministry + Godflesh (on crack) + disco turned evil
Cult of Static marks the 10-year anniversary for Static X’s career (well, as far as record releases go). And what better way to mark that decade than creating an album that is the biggest return to the band’s original sound from 1999’s Wisconsin Death Trip? (Although this time around, there are plenty of guitar solos.) Static X have always been unfairly labeled as nu-metal, but they never did the hip hop & metal thing and didn’t rely on breakdowns. They’ve always been industrial metal. Fortunately, two years ago, the band’s original guitarist, Koichi Fukuda, rejoined the band and breathed some new, heavier life into the band. With the exception of the band’s debut, this album is by far the most diverse, less hit-song oriented album of the bunch. As a whole, the album is solid; there isn’t a bad cut on here, though “Skinned” is a definite old-school-sounding highlight. Cult of Static plays out nicely and comes off as original and listenable as all hell. I’ll be rocking this record for years to come. - Bryer Wharton

Steve Kilbey
Painkiller
Second Motion Records
Street: 02.17
Steve Kilbey = The Church (circa “Forget This”)
It’s great when good artists refuse to lie down. Steve Kilbey, frontman of Australian rock band The Church, has been making music for 23 years. In that time, he’s been successful at many things, having lived vegan for 30+ years, becoming a published writer, bus driver and music producer. He now adds to that, including his work with The Church, this, his eighth album, which contains both the agitated, edgy songs that Kilbey is known for, as well as his bleak, quiet and spacey songs that are imitated so frequently nowadays. The latter make up much of the album (see “Crystalline Rush”). He hasn’t lost anything over the years. In fact, age has given him a raspy voice, which adds a nice touch. Anyone who fancied the dark, moody feel found on previous albums Starfish or After Everything Now This will feel at home when listening to the 11 tracks here. - Ryan Sanford

Suidakra
Crogacht
Wacken Records
Street: 03.03
Suidakra = Ensiferum + Equilibrium + Wintersun
Through their 15 years and 9 full-length releases, Suidakra has certainly created a name for themselves. In the few years I’ve been familiar with them, I’ve always felt that they’d be a great band to introduce folk metal to a new listener. While they still have a hefty chunk of fairly standard death metal as the core backbone of the songwriting, there are quite a lot of interesting traditional folk structures and some fantastic melodies that carry most of the tunes into repeated listening territory. The album doesn’t necessarily take a long time to digest, but it might take a few listens to fully appreciate. Just make sure to not pass this off as another band jumping on the victorious battle-metal bandwagon like many of the current lackeys. Suidakra are completely fucking legit at what they do. - Conor Dow

Tardy Brothers
Bloodline
Candlelight
Street: 03.17
Tardy Brothers = Terror + Metallica + Metal by Numbers
The first thing that popped into my head when this started playing was the shitty “joke metal” band in Brian Posehn’s hilarious “Metal by Numbers” video. You know, the band that he’s watching on TV at the beginning of the video and he says “I hate this new stuff. Dude, you are not metal.” While that may seem a bit harsh, I shit you not - this is equal parts Terror and the crap-Metallica of the 90s and ’00s, right down to the drum patterns and weak guitar solos. “Here comes the mosh part, so … mosh. Or don’t. It’s your call.” - Gavin Hoffman

Telepathe
Dance Mother
I Am Sound
Street: 03.31
Telepathe = DJ Krush + The Chemical Brothers + Tegan & Sara
Telepathe are totally the hippest thing out right now. If you were to categorize one band as the cat’s pajamas, this would be the band. Anybody who is anybody listens to this band and knows how freaking cool they are. Serious. The album is produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek and features Kyp Malone - oh so cool! This music is actually good beyond all the hype and business that everybody has been preaching about this band. They use super experimental beats and random chorus structures to make original and trance-type pop songs. It’s like Kruder & Dorfmeister but a lot sweeter. If you are looking for some tunes to mix up the daily hoo-haw, then grab this album and try not to hate on them for being associated with the overrated TVotR. - Jon Robertson

This Ending
Dead Harvest
Metal Blade
Street: 02.03
This Ending = Dark Tranquillity + Pissing Razors + God Dethroned + Meshuggah
There is no question - This Ending have plenty of experience and talent. Some of the main members played in A Canorous Quintet, straight from the middle of the Gothenburg melodic death-metal scene, and I somewhat enjoyed the band’s debut as This Ending in 2006. However, aside from a song or two such as “Parasite,” Dead Harvest falls flat, and I mean flat - production and all. I know there are layers in the music, but the way everything was put together for this album just sounds like one-dimensional muddiness. The vocals can pack a wallop, but the melodic parts sound terribly mediocre and the machine-like drumming got the brunt of the production flaws. The use of lots of double-bass kicks just sounds like they recorded one beat session then reused it again and again. There are also these strange clapping and clanging noises that don’t fit the music, and the playing can start sounding redundant when the band does the Fear Factory double-bass with guitar-riffs thing. - Bryer Wharton

Throne of Katarsis
Helvete/Det Iskalde Morket
Candlelight Records
Street: 02.24
Throne of Katarsis = Watain + Mayhem (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas era)
In 2004, the excellent UK boutique label Paradigms released Throne of Katarsis’ first 3-song demo, Unholy Holocaustwinds. That 23-minute demo has remained among my favorite black-metal releases. Loud and raw, the youthfully blasphemous Unholy Holocaustwinds had rasping venom and glorious acoustic interludes, with a gravelly 4-track production that perfectly suited the music. Their following full-length on Candlelight, unfortunately, robbed those near-perfect songs of much of their charm with too-bright production and extra, needless filler. And now their second Candlelight release is another step in the wrong direction. Helvete/Det Iskalde Morket presents an echoing, windy sound and overlong songs that pale in comparison to better bands of similar ilk, such as Watain. Throne of Katarsis could become something special - he potential exhibited on Unholy Holocaustwinds is undeniable - but these young Norwegians should return to their 4-track and focus on their strengths. Candlelight’s bigger budgets and better production is severely diluting their effectiveness. - Ben West

Thunders
The Sympathetic Oscillations EP
A Squared Industries
Street: 03.03
Thunders = The Velvet Underground + MGMT
I really want to like Thunders. I mean, these guys openly plagiarize Joy Division (“MagicSick”), Faith/Pornography-era The Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain (“Somnambulist”), T. Rex (“83”) and The Velvet Underground (everything else), marginally updating each sound with a few tricks and cleaner production. There is a snag, however. Our generation demands a lot: the house that took our parents 30 years to afford, we want it now - and we don’t care how we get it (hence this fake-ass recession). By the same token, saying “baybay” 146 times doesn’t automatically make you Robert Plant or Mick Jagger. Thunders wants the glory of some seriously holy relics, but their empty-headed, cliche-laden lyrics, Ryan Reidy’s ridiculously slurred swagger (note: unless you are Jim Morrison, the word “hair” does not contain five syllables) and the lack of contribution to this template all overshadow any potential. You just haven’t earned it yet, baybay. - Dave Madden

Thursday
Common Existence
Epitaph Records
Street: 02.17
Thursday = Poison The Well + Boy Sets Fire + The Cure
In music’s ocean of bands, Thursday is no small fish. Forming in 1997, they led the so-called “post-hardcore” movement with force. Their freshman album, Waiting, changed the landscape of music forever and a budding sound was brought into bloom. Full Collapse, the bands’ follow-up, then scattered the seeds of perfection and grabbed the attention of many. But Thursday didn’t stop there, and most impressively, they have never put out the same record twice. Their sound has matured without losing its signature qualities and Common Existence is evidence of that. Easily their most diverse and tight yet free at-the-same-time recording, Existence brings trademark Thursday to the table in a new light. Tracks like “Resuscitation of a Dead Man” and “As He Climbed the Dark Mountain” lean toward traditional sounds while still sounding different, while “Circuits of Fever” and the amazingly epic “You Were the Cancer” break ground into a thick and full sound. - Jeremy C. Wilkins

Thyrfing
Hels Vite
Regain Records
Street: 01.27
Thyrfing = Moonsorrow + Enslaved + Manegarm
Straight away, the best thing about this album for me is you can distinctly hear the bass guitar moaning and plodding throughout each song, which creates some wonderful atmosphere. The music here is fairly mid-paced Viking metal as you might deduce from the above equation, with a nice and clean production and some rather adventurous song writing. Thyrfing has been cranking out quality releases for quite some time now and aren’t showing any sign of losing their footing atop much of the forgettable muck out there. I guess my only criticism is that I wish they’d attempt some more epic song structures and perhaps increase the length of their songs. This doesn’t necessarily work out for everyone, but when bands such as Moonsorrow go from fairly good to incredible by attempting such things, I imagine Thyrfing could effectively pull it off as well. - Conor Dow

Various Artists
Dark was the Night
4AD
Street: 02.17
Dark was the Night = buttery compilation goodness
Are you tired as I am of all those shitty compilations full of shitty artists and their painfully mediocre excuses for songs? Me too, which is why I was more than a tad surprised when I saw what this 2-disc set had to offer. Produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, this album goes far beyond what I would typically expect from any compilation. Featuring previously unreleased songs from artists such as Andrew Bird and Beirut makes Dark was the Night worth picking up right there, but the steamy action doesn’t stop there. Plenty of side projects are featured, too, such as Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio and Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros. What I’m getting at here is that there are 31 great songs to be had here, and chances are you probably haven’t even heard half of them yet. - Ross Solomon

Vinnie Stigma
New York Blood
I Scream Records
Street: 02.03
Vinnie Stigma = Agnostic Front + Madball + H2O
Vinnie Stigma is a legend of NYHC. He is a member of hardcore stalwarts Agnostic Front and served time in Madball. New York Blood is his first solo release, which finds Stigma performing both on vocals and guitar. Anyone familiar with the NYHC sound will have no problem understanding exactly what this album is about. Stigma’s more straightforward hardcore tracks hold up well, but the slower tunes are hit or miss. The New York story has been played over and over in hardcore lyrics, and so almost 30 years after the advent of NYHC it gets a little tiresome. Stigma has obviously earned the right to sing about New York in any way he chooses since he’s been there, but the messages grow monotonous. In the end, New York Blood feels like a commemorative piece rather than a standalone artistic achievement. Either way, I don’t think Stigma particularly cares. - Peter Fryer

Volbeat
Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
Mascot
Street: 03.03
Volbeat = Danzig + Lame of God + Social Distortion
Imagine the most metal Cadillac of all time. Like a Cadillac that has zebra-seat covers and black leather trim with tassels and what not. Then imagine what Mike Ness and Glen Danzig’s male offspring would look like if he were in his late 30s or early 40s and he was driving around in the metal Cadillac listening to Five Finger Death Punch while pulling a poo-poo metal face and pumping his fist really hard. That is exactly what this album sounds like. It is enough to make you want to watch Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg and put lit matches to you nipple rings. Good times. - Jon Robertson

The Vox Jaguars
Self-titled EP
Anodyne Records
Street: 02.09
The Vox Jaguars = Cold War Kids + The Ramones
When I was 15, I went through a music phase that included mediocre rock bands like The D4 and The Hives. It was the type of music that sounds a little like punk and a little like classic rock, but not as interesting. I would have loved The Vox Jaguars when I was 15. I’m not 15 anymore and I don’t love this album, but I do like it. They are a young band - this is their first EP and two of them are in high school - and they sound like one. On one hand, their youth is exciting. The music is energetic and arrogant. I imagine they put on a good live show. But this energy feels hollow because it isn’t surprising. With its lyrics about girls and dancing and its predictable rock hooks, this 4-song EP lacks the substance for anything more than a quick dance session. - Devon Hoffman

Vulcano
Tales From the Black Book
I Hate Records
Street: 12.10
Vulcano = super old Slayer + Desultory
There’s something about most of the death metal that comes out of South America that has such an endearing old-school quality to it. This isn’t a bad thing at all, either, as Vulcano originally released this album in 2004 and somehow makes it sound straight from mid-1990 in both style and production, back before death-metal subject matter cornered itself into “surgeries and misogyny” and could still be considered evil and occult-based. This is definitely an album that will beg for you to break out your old denim vest with all the patches. Vulcano has been around for almost as long as I’ve been in existence and they still manage to deliver some great music for those of you who might be living as if it was still the Reagan administration. - Conor Dow

Wheels On Fire
Get Famous!
Big Legal Mess
Street: 02.17
Wheels on Fire = the Tears + the Faces + the Stooges
Man, these kids get you moving. Garage blues with infectious energy and melody in every track is always going to be a lot of fun. Songs like “Hit You with a Kiss” and “Corkscrew Blues” especially get in your head and force you make some sort of rhythm. The dual guitar attacks are blistering and are only enhanced by Susan Musser’s keyboard work. There really isn’t anything here you haven’t heard before, but because WoF make no apologies and play what they want, it come across fresh and new. Song subjects that range from UFOs to adolescent sex are just the spice to make this recipe stand out. From this studio recording, I can tell this is one hell of a live band and that’s how much energy comes through. Revved-up white-boy blues, come and get it. - James Orme

Wino
Punctuated Equilibrium
Southern Lord
Street: 01.20
Wino = The Obsessed + Saint Vitus + The Hidden Hand
Take note, you legions of doom-metal posers - it doesn’t matter what you do, you will never do it as well as Scott “Wino” Weinrich. For the past 25 years, Wino has almost single-handedly written the modern doom-metal handbook, and every project the man has participated in has been fucking gold, Jerry - GOLD! With the untimely demise of his masterful Hidden Hand project, Wino wasted no time in getting back to work and releasing his first solo album, and it’s a motherfucker. The guitar leads in the album’s opener, “Release Me,” and on each and every track afterward, leave no doubt that Wino is in top form with Punctuated Equilibrium. Let there be doom. - Gavin Hoffman

Workers
Workers
Bleeding Death Records
Street: 02.06
Workers = The Black Angels + Joy Division + The Cult
Formerly known as Your Black Star, I had the privilege of seeing these gentlemen perform when they came through town supporting Pelican. They were easily the highlight of the night for me, with their large arena rock sound that somehow manages to still keep a bit of an indie rock feel to it thanks to the slightly Ian Curtis-tinged vocals that hover just barely above the instruments. The music is diverse as can be, with infectious drum beats and bass, and large, loud guitars that sometimes even teeter toward psychedelic or space-rock jams. This album is really even better than I remember the band being on stage, and definitely a bit of a step up from their only release as Your Black Star. This very well could be one of the best sleeper hits of 2009. - Conor Dow

Yahowa 13
Sonic Portation
Prophase
Street: 11.11
Yahowa 13 = Father Yod + the Source Family + hippie improvisation
People tend to forget about the spiritual side of psychedelic music. This is mostly because the scene got too druggy in the late 60s and the music reflected that. Attempts to combine music and meditation were often forgettable, and so much of the psych lifestyle became divorced from its Eastern roots. But some hippies got it right. Yahowa 13, originally a collaboration with the late spiritual leader Father Yod, really knew how to walk the walk. Formed while members were running the first major vegetarian restaurant in L.A., Yahowa 13’s late-night jams are now the stuff of legend. They disbanded in 1975, but came back together recently to capture some of the old improvisational fire. And honestly, it is as if they never stepped away. The music reflects an almost unconscious channeling of old-world hippy charm. And where hypnotic group chanting, tribal drums and driving bass lines may remind some of Animal Collective or even Enigma, these guys are so much more sincere. Plus, they have cool hippy names like Sunflower. - James Bennett