National CD Reviews – 2009

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Amon Amarth
Once Sent From the Golden Hall—Bonus Edition
Metal Blade
Street: 03.03
Amon Amarth = God Dethroned + Dark Tranquillity (early) + Hypocrisy (early)
For the first reissue of the now famous Viking-themed Swedish melodic death-metal crew Amon Amarth, Metal Blade records has made a package worth picking up even if you own the original. Critiquing a piece of music that has been around since 1998 is a fairly moot point; hardcore fans of Amon know where this record stands in the band’s timeline, but to sum it up for interested newcomers, the album shows Amon Amarth in their rawest state. It is the band’s least polished effort, but it still sounds pretty damn good. It has a hefty and majestic feeling that obviously helped propel the band to where they are now. Goodies within the reissue are one track that is a re-recorded German version of the song “Victorious March,” and a fantastic live recording of the band playing the album in its entirety from a performance in Germany in 2008, complete with crowd noise, stage banter and all. –Bryer Wharton

Another Cynthia
The Mannequin EP
Self-released
Street: 04.02.08
Another Cynthia = Radiohead × MGMT
I met Ian Mackintosh of Another Cynthia outside the Slamdance premiere party where he had played a show with his other project, Mackintosh Braun. Having heard Mackintosh Braun first, I expected Another Cynthia to have a side-project feel to it. Boy, was I wrong. The dancy beats, fuzzy bass, and melodic and affecting vocals combine with skillful musicianship to make the Mannequin EP more than just an impressive album. This is what DIY is all about, people. Another Cynthia sacrifices no quality in producing their own tracks. Their melodies will stick in your head for days. In fact, I’m already dreading the day when MTV and Clear Channel radio stations dig an early grave for catchy tracks like “Seven Years” through inevitable over-exposure. But for now, both of Another Cynthia’s albums—this EP and a 10-track release—are full of stylish, fresh, and highly enjoyable music. –Jesse Hawlish

Asa Ransom An Asa Ransom Release Self-released
Street: 04.10
Asa Ransom = David Bryne + Blondie + That Handsome Devil
Whistled birdcalls. It’s been too long since I heard a decent birdcall open a song, but Asa Ransom pull it off on “The Luck of Stoney Bowes” as some really low-pitched vocals underpin the pre-chorus and amp us up for the best chorus on the album: “If you are leaving, meet me on this highway/We can cut the cars off/We can do it our way/Vanish on the freeway burning with a grin/Darling, don’t you see, please just let us be” preceding some funhouse-inspired guitaritry. I do admit this quasi-full-length/EP is pretty good for some atmospheric background music—I’d say its tunes would fit a Friday night post-hipster/pre-scenester after-party at about 11 p.m. You can even pull off a hep shimmy or too; the majority of this album is high-tempo enough to bust out some Deborah Harry-inspired flourishes, ladies. –JP

Autumn
Altitude
Metal Blade
Street: 03.03
Autumn = The Gathering + Lacuna Coil + Green Carnation
To put things simply, Autumn is a progressive rock band with a female singer. I found it extremely difficult to not keep comparing Altitude with the more modern era of The Gathering; the record has that soulful, ethereal, atmospheric feel to it, but it also has some portions of heavier guitars, and there is a wealth of keys playing a variety of sounds. It creates a nice diversity, making Autumn stand out in the prog-rock world. However, not all is well with Altitude. There are many layered effects and sounds within the songs, which in most cases is a positive, but it also lends to a loss of fluidity and structure between the songs. The distinct and powerful melodies in the guitar work and keys wind up being lost either in a business of sound or just general fuzz. By the end of the CD, those fuzzed and fizzled melodies create an overall static and disjointed listen. –Bryer Wharton

Avantasia
Lost in Space, Part 1 & 2
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.10
Avantasia = Edguy + Labyrinth + Sonata Arctica
This re-release includes the two Lost in Space EPs; in other words, everything included on the release has been released in some form previously and not that long ago (the EPs were put out in 2007). Why they put these out together (other than an attempt to get some more record sales) is confusing. The fans of Tobias Sammet’s work are most likely going to already have these, so I guess this could draw some newbies in. Aside from the cheesy symphonic original material, there are cover tunes from Abba, Ultravox and Queen/Freddy Mercury. Avantasia are kind of like an industrial act in the way that the band releases the same material or different versions of songs on different albums; I don’t get it, but if the band gets some extra profit, then why not? –Bryer Wharton

Gabriel
Metal Blade
Street: 03.17
Believer = Voivod + Meshuggah + Destruction
With the first listen of Believer’s Gabriel offering, it was like walking down the street and getting decked in the gut by a priest. All I knew about Believer is that they are a Christian progressive thrash group, though ironically and interestingly, were part of Roadrunner Records’ early years, which was a huge purveyor of music opposing Christianity. Whatever your beliefs, it’s worth your time to experience Gabriel. The album is a challenging and demanding listen—its guitar tone alone, if played loud enough, seems like it could shatter bone. Song by song, listeners’ ears are thrown about with multiple tempo changes and stylistic metamorphosis. The songs are played in a jamming free-form style, though are collected enough to derive an organized and directed feeling. The moments of keyboard oddities and spacey sounds are the salt and pepper of the album, just adding one more element to an already flavorful plate of music. –Bryer Wharton

Bell Orchestre
As Seen through Windows
Arts & Crafts
Street: 03.10
Bell Orchestre = The Symphony + Explosions in the Sky + Fantasia
Instrumental music is very relaxing and wonderful. I can close my eyes and imagine a whole world coming to life. The As Seen through Windows adventure starts in a world of animals. The song, “Elephants,” is filled with horns to create exactly what’s expected, elephants in a ballroom with top hats and the occasional crashing of trunks as percussion and violin play. Now it’s off in a spin of waterfalls, twirling bicycle wheels, and a highly mechanical gumball machine. The album is best listened to as a whole instead of piece by piece. So set aside a nice quiet afternoon—preferably in the mountains where fresh air is available—and enjoy, as Bell Orchestre takes you away from the silly worries of the world. –Jessica Davis

Betty Padgett
Self-Titled
Ubiquity Records
Street: 04.17
Betty Padgett = Etta James + Tina Turner + Bob Marley + Sister Nancy
The digital re-release of Betty Padgett’s 1975 debut touches a bit of every music genre without sounding schizophrenic. Opening track “It Would Be a Shame” has a soulful R&B sound. My favorite song, “My Eyes Adore You,” is a mellow, relaxed reggae track, which is followed by “Sugar Daddy,” a straight-up disco hit. The album flip-flops between these three distinct sounds without ever sounding forced or subpar. Betty Padgett’s smooth vocal tracks mix funk and soul perfectly. And despite originally being released over three decades ago, the album never sounds dated. –Jeanette Moses

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Advance Base Battery Life
Tomlab
Street: 03.10
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone = Cars & Trains + Magnetic Fields
This collection of rarities has a few interesting pieces, such as the Missy Elliot and Bruce Springstein covers. Other than those (and the acoustic “It’s A Crime”), it feels like a pretty standard release from Owen Ashworth. It flows extremely well, considering that it is a compilation of sorts. If you are a diehard fan, you have probably heard all (or most) of these tracks, but it is still worth checking out. Even if you are only checking it out for the Missy Elliot cover, you will probably still enjoy “Holly Hobby” without the female vocalist. –Cody Hudson

Cauldron
Chained to the Nite
Earache
Street: 04.06
Cauldron = Savatage + Black Sabbath + Raven
If I wasn’t told so, I would have thought Chained to the Nite from this Canadian trio was a record straight from the early 80s. Also, just as interesting: The band rose from the ashes of a doom-metal band called Goat Horn. After a few listens, it shows: the guitars and vocals hint at a teensy bit of doom if you slowed them down. This record rocks simply yet diversely. Cauldron are doing what the new throwback bands should do—create original-sounding material in the vein of classic metal. Cauldron unites NWOBHM and classic hard-rock sounds. The guitar tone here is something to behold, since it screams old-school heavy metal and yet manages to sound clear enough to pick apart the chords and notes. If the tune “Chains around Heaven” were released in say, 1982, it would undoubtedly be considered a classic. Forget what year Cauldron formed—they play classic metal and that’s that. –Bryer Wharton

Centaurus-A
Side Effects Expected
Listenable Records
Street: 03.09
Centaurus-A = Necrophagist + Dew-Scented + Meshuggah + Carnal Forge
It is hard to imagine that Germany’s Centaurus-A took nine years to create a full-length album. Yes, creating a band and its own sound can be a task with all the solidification and recruiting of members that know what they’re doing. Hopefully the period of struggle for this tech-death metal crew will pay off. So all you eager death techies that can’t wait for the next Necrophagist album or the strange mix of drooling Arsis fans, Side Effects Expected will crush your cravings and then some. Lead guitar performances are the blow-your-head-right-out-of-the-water type stuff. The rhythm and tempo of the album includes a good thrash-styled ethic, meaning some of the songs are blazingly fast. “Incident/Accident” and “Resistance Ain't Futile” are masterworks for the genre. There is math-metal type tempo changes with futuristic themes portrayed. This is a fresh look into the modern tech-death scene and deserves the metal world’s ears. –Bryer Wharton

Chain and the Gang
Down With Liberty ... Up With Chains!
K Records
Street: 04.07
Chain and the Gang = Mojo Nixon + Modern Lovers + D.N.A.
Chain and The Gang is Nation of Ulysses, Weird War, The Make-Up, etc., founder Ian Svenonius’ latest punk outlet, and knowing his penchant for anarchy, this project is exactly what you expect: anything goes! Rooted in a learnedly-sloppy No-Wave aesthetic (I first mistook this for a 1980 re-release), Svenonius pushes his “I’m calmly pissed” vocal delivery over lackadaisical rhythms, studio clamor (i.e., background Greek chorus-style responses to his words), bored Blondie-esque backup work (provided by a host of indie-rock greats), occasional horn bursts and so-simple-they’re-cool keys and guitars. Svenonius still hates indie rock and explaining the obvious (“Interview with the Chain Gang”), capitalism (“What Is a Dollar?”) and loves conspiracies (“Deathbed Confession”), but speaks about the subjects in an incredibly clever way that’s free from “Rip The System!” clichés. The style might change, but the song remains the same: Svenonius’s 13-Point Program to Destroy America is still in effect. – Dave Madden

Clutchy Hopkins
Music is My Medicine
Ubiquity Records
Street: 04.21
Clutchy Hopkins = Lee Scratch Perry + Toots and the Mytals + Madlib
According to Ubiquity Records folklore, this Clutchy Hopkins album came from a bag of dusty LPs and a journal chronicling the mysterious artist’s quest to find Lord Kenjamin––a medicine man living in Barbados. Luckily, the album is good enough that I could care less about the silly marketing ploy behind this album. Moody beats float in and out through Music is My Medicine. Reggae, jazz, hip hop and even electronic-sounding elements mesh together seamlessly, resulting in a feel-good album that is real hard to burn out on. My favorite tracks are “Riff Raff Rollin” and “The Old Spot.” –Jeanette Moses

The Coathangers
Scramble
Suicide Squeeze Records
Street: 04.07
The Coathangers = Mess Up the Mess + The Black Keys + Sleater Kinney
With an album title and a band name that refer to scrambling the brains of an unwanted fetus, I assumed The Coathangers would be run-of-the-mill bratty punk rock. I’m happy to say that these four ladies have classed the genre up a bit, but not to the point to distort the genre. The caustic guitars and screams are broken up a bit with tambourines and keyboards and it’s clear that they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. The songwriting is tongue-in-cheek: On “Stop Stomp Stompin,” the Coathangers chant, “I don’t need an alarm clock cause I got yo’ feet/ It feels like an earthquake in my sleep.” Ultimately, this album is amusing without being too stupid. –Jeanette Moses

Cobalt
Gin
Profound Lore
Street: 03.09
Cobalt = Isis (atmosphere) + Goatwhore (vocals)
Coloradans Cobalt have received rave reviews since 2007's Eater of Birds release, being hailed as a hybrid of furious war metal and sophisticated post-rock. Gin, their third full-length, sadly isn't quite as good as the press would have you believe. Which is not to say that it isn't good—perhaps it’s even great. But this band is not the second coming of Swans' Filth, and other bands such as Caina are melding black metal and post-rock in a somewhat more mature manner. Overall, Gin is vicious and venomous, but feels somewhat unfinished. Perhaps it’s due to the distance between the band's two members (vocalist Phil McSorley is a sergeant currently deployed in Iraq; one imagines this leaves little time for face-to-face band practice). As a metal release, fans of Lair of the Minotaur and Goatwhore will find much to like, but I personally find Cobalt more interesting when the riffs slow down, go tribal, and get weird (as in the song “Pregnant Insect”). Here's to hoping they get weirder next time. –Ben West

Crimfall
As the Path Unfolds
Napalm Records
Street: 03.03
Crimfall = Moonsorrow + Nightwish + Turisas
European folk music and culture has influenced metal as much as light has influenced filmmaking. While many one-trick ponies insist on re-writing the same Odin tribute death metal, many metal bands dare to branch and embrace traditional folk song structures and melodies, creating effective atmospheres to pay tribute to the Old Gods and past traditions. Crimfall is a new band on the scene, but creates music as effectively as their peers, quickly proving worthy of the praise they’ve received thus far. Though this album is heavy on the female vocals, Helena Haaparanta isn’t there to be marketed as “the sexy lead singer”; instead she belts out some rather memorable singing, setting tones of both woe and triumph. The music is very much metal, and is heavy on the orchestral side, using everything from violin, cello, and accordion, progressing through an almost cinematic musical journey. This album is a wonderful surprise. –Conor Dow

Crippled Black Phoenix
200 Tons of Bad Luck
Invada Records
Street: 04.14
Crippled Black Phoenix = *shels + Grails + Pink Floyd
Crippled Black Phoenix shares band members with the likes of Electric Wizard, Mogwai, and Pantheist. If the equation above and the band list that follows after it do not already interest you, I am proclaiming you officially dead inside. This is a very strange, yet very coherent collection of songs and is the result of the band being required to release this one-disc version as a compromise so the label will also release the full intended two-album version as well. Will I be buying the intended version as a result of what I’ve heard here? You bet your boots. With the opening song’s chain-gang choral backings catching me by the neck, I was immediately enthralled with this nearly 80-minute offering. To know that there is another 80 or so minutes being released, as well as a previous album in existence, I am officially a new fan of this band. –Conor Dow

Crystal Antlers
Tentacles
Touch and Go
Street 04.07
Crystal Antlers = Les Savy Fav + Saccharine Trust + early My Morning Jacket
When it hit recently that this economy would force even the mighty Touch and Go records to significantly lower their music profile this year, the news hit us here at SLUG like a wet phonebook thrown from a balcony. And while this scaling back is being referred to as simply a “hiatus,” it is a very real possibility that this record will be the last new release ever from the Chicago-based label. Thankfully, the disc is quite good. The sounds on Tentacles will peel the paint completely off your walls. The garage-tinged, psychedelic pounding that Crystal Antlers deliver here seems to have expanded to the outermost boundaries of the recording—it is hard to image any more sound working its way into any of these songs. Extra percussion and the occasional horn complement the standard rock lineup. And where the sheer energy of this album recalls a live show by Les Savy Fav or even Comets on Fire, the music is just wild enough to inspire repeat listening. Oh, and I must mention that until recently, the percussionist was known as Sexual Chocolate. –James Bennett

Dead Heart Bloom
The Chains
KEI Records
Street: 12.30
Dead Heart Bloom = Iron & Wine + Elliot Smith
I really like how The Chains starts as another folk mix to add to the rising numbers, with their up-and-down bounce, soothing unison vocals, and “Do do ahs.” It starts as a good album to blend into the no-names of the scene, but wait—the third track, “Halfway Gone,” takes a turn to acid whiney vocals and chinky electric piano. The switch continues into track four, “Farther than You,” with distorted, acid vocals and low backups done possibly by Oompa-Loompas as they roll Miss Violet Beauregarde away to the juicing room. Then they turn it around again to low, soothing vocals and try to make you forget the whole ordeal by causing you to fall asleep to “Impossible New City Dream.” After releasing two other EPs, the quest is still on for Dead Heart Bloom to find the golden ticket for a set style of music. –Jessica Davis

Deathspell Omega    
Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon
Southern Lord
Street: 01.27
Deathspell Omega = Clandestine Blaze + Musta Surma + Blut Aus Nord
I’ll be buggered if I don’t love me some Deathspell Omega, and this one-song, 22-minute experimental-black release only helps solidify their standing amongst the underground black-metal elite. The dissonant guitar-riffing sounds almost out-of-tune, but melds perfectly with Mogwai-esque breaks scattered throughout this release. Harsh, demon-summoning vocals and absolutely barbaric drumming push this track quickly through its allotted time and make the listener automatically crave more. Thankfully, this isn’t all that different sonically from the last few DsO releases, namely Kenose and FAS, so it’s relatively easy to keep the black flame alive by simply tracking those releases down as well. –Gavin Hoffman

Deceiver
Thrashing Heavy Metal
Pulverised Records
Street: 03.03
Deceiver = Sodom + Kreator (Endless Pain era) + Possessed
It is always frustrating when you discover a band that deserves more credit than they’ve gotten. In the case of Deceiver, aside from the vocalist, the lineup stayed consistent; but it seems as if the band never generated enough momentum to outweigh the other bands members are/were a part of, such as Maze of Torment, Flesh, Serpent Obscene and Thrown. Deceiver play thrash metal in the vein of early European acts, distinctly in the vein of German styles, where there is an obvious Sodom influence, but all those influences aside, Deceiver’s final opus that is Thrashing Heavy Metal is its own menacing beast. The 10 tracks recorded as a three-piece are scathing and nice and raw. Since there is no rhythm guitar, the lead guitar holds the momentum and the pacing of the record. There are subtle hints of black and death metal here, creating an intense darkness, but there is also plenty of NWOBHM influence. The songwriting and constant tempo/style changes drive THM to stand out. If anything, own this album for “Graveyard Lover” alone. –Bryer Wharton

The Decemberists    
Hazards of Love
Capitol
Street: 03.24
Hazards of Love = The Tain + The Crane Wife (Parts 1, 2, and 3) + Tarkio
Hello, my name is Gavin, and I am a Decemberists homer. This is one of only a few bands I feel can do no wrong, and The Hazards of Love does nothing to deter me from my stance. The words “rock” and “opera” generally should not be combined as a descriptor, but The Hazards of Love is just that—almost what I would have expected had 2003’s The Tain been a full-length instead of an EP. Colin Meloy’s band of minstrels has left no stone unturned in creating as close to a masterpiece as is humanly possible. Take the heavy break riff from “A Bower Scene,” a children’s choir, guest character appearances, overly catchy choruses (“The Rake’s Song,” “The Wanting Comes in Waves” parts 1, 2, and 3) and add steel guitar with more country-fried twang than should ever be allowed on an album, and you have The Hazards of Love. This is the album of the year thus far, without question. –Gavin Hoffman

Derek Sherinian
Molecular Heinosity
Inside Out/SPV
Street: 03.24
Derek Sherinian = Dream Theater + Zombi + Zakk Wylde
Derek Sherinian is a well-rounded keyboardist, notably playing for Dream Theater from 1994 to 1999 as well as rock acts Billy Idol, Alice Cooper and Kiss, along with a slew of other progressive-type bands. In Molecular Heinosity, Derek’s fourth solo album, there are two stars playing: Zakk Wylde adds his shredding to a good portion of the songs. Instrumental prog-rock is a tough genre to tackle (though there is a song with Wylde contributing vocals). Sherinian does a decent job with the record in keeping things interesting, structured and—more importantly—short (as opposed to the dreadfully long songs prog rock can be known for). There is the typical guitar wankery and jam/jazz-fusion vibe songs. It is the shred-rock/metal type songs such as “Wings of Insanity” that ultimately make the album appealing. Everything is technical and rhythmically challenging and produced finely. As a whole, the record can be a bit much to take in at once, but in small doses, it is an interesting diversion—especially for Zakk Wylde fans to hear him doing something outside his regular box. –Bryer Wharton

The Devil Makes Three
Do Wrong Right
Milan Records
Street: 04.21
The Devil Makes Three = The Quakes + concern and banjos + sketchy-ass homemade moonshine
When I was assigned to review Do Wrong Right, I must admit that I was dreading it. I thought to myself that I didn’t really want to have to listen to another thoughtless, pseudo-rockabilly, music-to-listen-to-while-you-soup-up-your-hot-rod record. But, to my surprise, that description doesn’t fit here. The first song on the record, “All Hail,” covers more content than a lot of bands that do fit the description cover in their whole discography. The Devil Makes Three can probably more accurately be described as an indie band that lacks the fear to get creative with the types of instruments they incorporate into their music: lots of banjo and slide guitar (not generally heard in anything even broadly defined as indie music). It’s hard to find music these days that is done in a style that hasn’t been completely driven into the ground. The Devil Makes Three has carved out a style that is pretty nearly their own completely, and that makes them worth checking out. –Aaron Day

Edguy
The Singles
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.10
Edguy = Avantasia + Angra + Thunderstone
A singles compilation is obviously another form of a “best of” compilation, since singles are technically songs a band releases throughout their career to be played on the radio. While that remains true for this collection, there are also the B-sides and alternate versions of the “hit” included. So there are two reasons that one would want to look into purchasing this collection of tracks from one of the scene leaders of modern power metal: You have your fan completion type collectors or, if you were ever interested in checking out the band, the singles is a career-spanning song sampling. If you don’t have the two versions of the butt-rockingly funny tune, “Lavatory Love Machine,” it’s just about worth buying this disc for those two tracks alone … the acoustic version is fantastically cheesy. If only more power metal acts made fun of their styles, maybe the genre would be taken a bit more seriously. –Bryer Wharton

The Ettes    
Look at Life Again
Take Root
Street: 09.09.08
The Ettes = Dressy Bessy + The Ramones
If the Go-Gos and the Black Lips were to travel back to post-WWII London, conceive children, and 20 years later, those kids formed a band in the 60s, they would be The Ettes. Garage-pop at its finest, lead singer Coco has an adorable and addicting voice—just listen to “You Can’t Do That To Me” and try not to fall in love with this band. –Cinnamon Brown

Fireworks
All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion
Triple Crown
Street: 03.24
Fireworks = New Found Glory + Broadway Calls + Four Year Strong
There are a lot of eras and styles of music that it’s perfectly OK for up-and-coming bands to draw influence from. Radio-friendly pop-punk circa 2003 is not one of them. Fireworks are firmly rooted in the not-too-distant past, and Confusion is as nasally and annoying as pop-punk comes. Fireworks manages to bring the goods on a few tracks (most notably “Detroit”), but David Mackinder’s vocal delivery totally ruins this band for me. I don’t know how, when or why it became cool for hardcore and punk kids to be into this stuff in a non-ironic way, but I’m not OK with it. Yeah, I liked New Found Glory too, but like the rest of the world, I’ve moved on. Fireworks should probably do the same. –Ricky Vigil

Funeral Party
Bootleg EP
The Agency Group
Street: 12.02.08
Funeral Party = The Rapture + LCD Soundsystem
In the three songs that I’ve known them, Funeral Party has proven themselves as energetic and infectiously danceable, and I’m excited to hear more of them. But they do not sound original. Their sound—funky cowbells and lighthearted dance-punk guitars—is old news, and in the face of genre innovators like LCD Soundsystem or the Liars, it is tiresome. “NYC Moves to the Sound of LA,” the last and best track on this short EP, implies that the band is aware of this weakness: “Now I know that it’s all been done before/It’ll all be done again,” Chad Elliott yell-sings with sardonic flair. But with so much refreshingly experimental music popular today, I find this hard to believe. I’d bet that if Funeral Party stopped being so complacent, their talent could pioneer something that hasn’t “been done before.” Here’s to hoping they’ll do it as soon as their full-length. –Devon Hoffman

General Surgery
Corpus in Extremis—Analysing Necrocriticism
Listenable Records
Street: 03.09
General Surgery = Carcass + Impaled + Morbid Angel + Ghoul
The Swedish five-piece that is General Surgery have just released the best death-metal record of the year so far; yes, there is a good amount of gore and grinding included, but this is a death-metal record. There are plenty of influences that can be heard in the band tunes, like the obvious old-school Carcass sound, but General Surgery take all their influences and blend it into their own medicinal gory cocktail. There are multiple facets of sound on this album: dense and thick, groove-styled riffs, grinding blasts, hardcore/punk-inspired rhythms, Jeff Hanneman-styled howling solos. The vocals are pure brutal death metal, no gore-grind gurgling or grunting. This beast is as fresh a kill as you get and it just set a new bar for death and grind metal. If you thought the last Aborted album was the shit, sorry, General Surgery just cut that record down into tiny, gooey pieces. –Bryer Wharton

Gnaw    
This Face
Conspiracy Records
Street: 02.09
Gnaw = Khanate + Burning Witch + GOD (the band, not the deity)
This is the aural equivalent of being ear-fucked with a rusty spoon, but in an extremely pleasurable way. Vocalist Alan Dubin (formerly of Khanate) and ex-Burning Witch drummer Jamie Sykes have teamed up with instrumentalist Carter Thornton and two award-winning sound technicians to create the perfect melding of doom metal and hard industrial, leaning more toward the doom side of the spectrum. Sykes’ tribal drumming combined with Thornton’s homemade instruments and Dubin’s “nuts-being-crushed-by-a harpy” vocals make This Face an exhausting listen, and many folks may not be able to make it through the album in its entirety. However, for those who crave insanity, heaviness, and who are still pissed that Khanate bit the dust, Gnaw is a must-own. –Gavin Hoffman

Giant Brain
Thorn of Thrones
Small Stone Records
Street 02.17
Giant Brain = Kraftwerk + Kyuss
I am not usually a huge fan of stoner rock, even when it is mixed with another genre, and this is no exception. These songs kind of drone on in a fairly repetitive manor until some (very typical-sounding) stoner-rock guitar solo comes busting through the dark and edgy background noises. The only interesting thing about this album is the way they incorporate electronic music; not that they do it well, but you usually don’t hear that in this genre. I would like this a lot more if I was into having my face melted at gothic dance parties. –Cody Hudson

God Forbid
Earthsblood
Century Media
Street: 02.24
God Forbid = All That Remains + Mudvayne + Shadows Fall
Phew! Light a match because something stinks; how about a courtesy flush, at least, God Forbid. I recall back in 2001 when the band made its Century Media debut, hence the band’s debut to the metal masses. That record was a big, angry, raw ball of thrash-tinged melodic death metal and hints at metalcore. Some reviews of the new album say the band has drifted from their further metalcore leanings that began on their other albums. Such is not the case; there are a share of breakdowns on Earthsblood, which I can forgive. No, the main gripe with this album is the whole false angst that so many bands are putting forth these days; yeah, they’re trying to sound pissed, but the whole package winds up sounding uninspired and whiny. Add some clean vocals that would make a seasoned screamo fan cringe and that’s basically Earthsblood. If things weren’t crappy enough, the album’s title track went and ripped off Opeth, though the heavy parts are metalcore. Ugh. –Bryer Wharton

Hammerfall
No Sacrifice, No Victory
Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.24
Hammerfall = Manowar + Dream Evil + Iron Maiden + Dragonforce
No Sacrifice, No Victory’s first track “By Any Means Necessary,” is the right track to lead into this epic album from Hammerfall; it’s one of those gloriously catchy, fun songs. Hammerfall’s loyal world following and deep roots within the Swedish metal scene put them in the limelight as a purveyor of all that is metal. Hammerfall has always been more rooted in traditional heavy metal, though they do have some power-metal tendencies. This new offering feels much more classic in its approach; I can’t find much fault with it either. The songs are well written and played; they just carry that traditional metal banner with honor. However, I would have preferred the song “Between Two Worlds” be excluded from the album; it is one terrible power ballad not even bad enough to laugh at, though that song’s awfulness is made up for by the heavy metal(ized) cover of “My Sharona.” –Bryer Wharton

Ignominious Incarceration
Of Winter Born
Earache
Street: 04.07
Ignominious Incarceration = Necrophagist + Trigger the Bloodshed + Behemoth
There isn’t much information on the web or coming from the label about Ignominious Incarceration. Who needs background info? The band is from the UK and play modern melodic death metal, or so they say. There are hints of metalcore on the album, mainly in the form of some very minimal breakdown-type groove-riffing. The lead guitar is the star for this record, it’s pretty much the only thing making it worth listening to at all. The groove rhythm is decent; it holds the pacing of the album somewhere in the realm of mid-paced or somewhat fast, but doesn’t really do anything else. However, this band could be the next big thing; after all, it does beat the hell out of some of the other well-produced records calling themselves some form of death metal these days. –Bryer Wharton

Iron Thrones
Visions of Light
Self-Released
Street: 11.21.08
Iron Thrones = Disillusion + Becoming the Archetype
A humble little release from clean-cut Minnesota kids, this has come pretty much out of nowhere and it is quite good. Although they are self funded, self released, and with few PR advantages, they seem to already have a strong following. While some of the band members have close metalcore ties, this album has a very decent progressive death-metal style to it, but doesn't fall into the typical death-metal clichés or traps, which keeps the songwriting surprisingly fresh and rewarding to listen to. The tracks all vary in length, with the longest one, and the pinnacle of the album, being just over 12 minutes. This album might not change the world, but I won’t be surprised when I see this band get signed. Pro-tip: you can acquire this album for free on the band’s website—just make sure to click the “donate” link as well. –Conor Dow

Isole
Silent Ruins
Napalm Records
Street: 03.09
Isole = Novembers Doom + Anathema (Silent Enigma era) + Ereb Altor
Sweden’s Isole are getting the label of “epic doom metal,” which is correct for the band’s 2006 album, Throne of Void, the only other Isole release I’ve heard. Silent Ruins does have slow song pacing and some growled vocals, but I just have to throw my two cents out and say that this album is not “epic doom metal.” Now Candlemass, that’s epic doom. Silent Ruins has almost a gothic doom feel about it. The sung vocals are heavenly and ethereal. There are some lead guitars and soloingp; the bulk of the guitars is a clean, down-tuned effect. The best way to listen to and view this album is as a whole, instead of by certain tracks. The sounds and feelings that I got from Throne of Void is missing from the current incarnation of Isole. Doom metal is supposed to be depressing and dark, but Silent Ruins sound pretty darn calm and soothing to me. –Bryer Wharton

Joe Coffee
When the Fabric Don’t Fit the Frame
ISream
Street: 03.10
Joe Coffee = Roger Miret & the Disasters + Mark Lind + the Street Dogs (A tiny bit) + the 01ners
Joe Coffee is a band that takes a minute to wrap your brain around. At first they come off as this old-timer punk band, but after listening to the finer points, more comes out than just another three-chord progression—influences that reach beyond the normal punk rock variety. I hear more street rock n’ roll than I do Sex Pistols. It’s interesting to think about this kind of music coming from a more mature point of view. For instance, lead singer Paul Bearer did time all through the 80s New York hardcore scene in the band Sheer Terror, but now I get the feeling with this band that he’s trying to bring his life’s experiences to the table in a manner that reflects who he is today. That’s not to say there’s no bite to this record. It hits hard when it has to, but unlike the old days, Joe Coffee’s in no rush—they just play from the gut. –James Orme

Jurassic 5
J5 Deluxe Reissue
Decon Records
Street: 11.11.08
Jurassic 5 = Unity Committee + Rebels of Rhythm + Mos Def
This reissue features a reprint of Jurassic 5’s 1997 debut album, J5, a bonus CD stuffed with hard-to-find tracks and a DVD that includes footage from their first world tour. Talk about luxury, eh? The reissued debut album is a nice reminder of why Jurassic 5 has landed where they are today––their parallel lyrical lines, gang vocal choruses and mellow beats. Although the album is over a decade old, it doesn’t sound dated. The tracks remain as powerful as they did when initially released. The bonus disc features rarities, vinyl-only and exclusive online releases. It’s more DJ-based than the first disc, but includes epic tracks like “Ducky Boys,” “Rubber Tires” and “Long Road to Glory.” This set is a testament that sometimes not following trends is the best way to hold your own. –Jeanette Moses

Karl Sanders
Saurian Exorcisms
The End Records
Street: 04.14
Karl Sanders = Ancient Egypt (in musical form)
Well, death-metal fans know who Karl Sanders is, the lead guitarist and songwriter for notorious Egyptian-themed death-metal crew Nile. To put the question to bed for those who don’t know (I include myself in this category), Mr. Sanders’ solo work has nothing to do with death metal or anything metal. Saurian Exorcisms is one of those albums that if you’re not giving it your full attention, it will become background music, which it should not be treated as such. There are layers upon layers of rich and elaborate music here, a wide array of instruments being played by Sanders that—plain and simple—aren’t played by a lot of musicians. Everything is Ancient Egyptian-themed. It’s either haunting or soothing. Either way, Sanders takes listeners on a trip to a time and place that one can only visualize; the attention to detail is unprecedented. –Bryer Wharton

KMFDM
Blitz
Metropolis
Street: 03.24
KMFDM = Van Halen + Kraftwerk
“Lucia, I love you,” says KMFDM founder Sascha Konietzko. “Let’s get married.” “Alright Sascha, but I want to sabotage your 25-year legacy. I want to sing whatever I want on the albums—no matter how shitty. Remember that solo album I did, the one that sounds like ersatz Shirley Manson and features a single on American Pie 2? That was great, wasn’t it? Don’t spend so much time programming intricate beats because it’s my turn to shine! Please don’t call anyone talented—like Bill Rieflin, ohGr and Ray Watts—because these people steal my thunder. Oh honey, I want to water down that Ultra Heavy Beat! Let’s take that really stellar MDFMK album and do the complete opposite. We need to take our kitsch, put it and everything people tried to ignore on the other albums (namely, my singing) to the forefront and start taking ourselves too seriously.” “I do!” –Dave Madden

Lazarus A.D.
The Onslaught
Metal Blade
Street: 03.03
Lazarus A.D. = Metallica + Shadows Fall + Lamb of God + Exodus
The Onslaught has technically been slaughtering for a little over two years now; the band’s first pressing of their debut was limited to 1,000 copies, so if you own one of said copies, hope the band makes it big because you have a collectible. While I don’t find myself being enamored with The Onslaught, it doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with bands like Toxic Holocaust or Municipal Waste. The tunes lying in wait for this album are fast and carry plenty of melodies; the guys bring forth a bit of originality to their more-fastcore-than-thrash-metal approach; add to that a distinctly modern sound. James Murphy did a damn fine production job. In a sense, it was almost too fine; I personally enjoy my thrash gritty, dirty and noisy. The lead, rhythm and bass guitar are all easily heard and played a bit safe. If you think Ride the Lightning is one of the greatest albums ever, then this shouldn’t disappoint. –Bryer Wharton

Luna Mortis
The Absence
Century Media
Street: 02.10
Luna Mortis = Arch Enemy + In This Moment + All That Remains + Killswitch Engage
The Absence is a perfect title for Luna Mortis’ first label-released full-length album. There are plenty of things absent in terms of the music and feelings it derives, like songwriting—any sort of meaningful emotions coming from the singer, song structure, etc. … the list goes on. The band says the record is supposed to portray themes of “destruction and darkness”; well, if it’s the destruction of an empty box at night, that would seem right. The overall sound comes off as if Arch Enemy and In This Moment got in a car crash. To give some of the band’s performers credit, there are some decent guitar solos, but they still can't save this album from its redundancy and scattered, unorganized melodies. There is one main, thrashing riff that is recycled song after song, to further add annoyance. Vocalist Mary Zimmer shouldn’t have attempted to sing; her clean voice is pure ear poo, and her screams just sound like an Angela Gossow imitation. –Bryer Wharton

Lunatica
New Shores
Napalm Records
Street: 03.09
Lunatica = Within Temptation + Nightwish
If I had heard previous albums from Lunatica, I may have a better understanding of the Within Temptation pacing and keyboard use and Nightwish-like wannabe guitarists that make up New Shores. Whatever the reason for the sound on New Shores, for Lunatica, it’s pretty bad, even for the genre of symphonic melodic metal. New Shores is bubblegum metal full of syrupy, happy, too-sweet-to-choke-down-after-one-taste metal. The songs may initially be appealing and it’s easy to get swept away in the catchy, cheesy choruses that come one after another. That’s all the record is—pure fluff, no substance. Andrea Datwyler is an interchangeable vocalist in that she could sing Christina Aguilera songs and probably have some sort of career—actually, when the album is all over with, you might just feel like you listened to a Christina Aguilera album. –Bryer Wharton

Mantic Ritual
Executioner
Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.10
Mantic Ritual = Exodus + Slayer + Metallica + Nuclear Assault
Pittsburgh’s Mantic Ritual, formerly known as Meltdown, took their first offering, Executioner (a self-released album), and kept the album title but re-recorded the songs for the label debut. I’d like to hear the original material, since it’s decisively difficult to really get an old-school feeling from something that is well produced. With Mantic Ritual’s Executioner, it should be noted that the band doesn’t add anything new to the Bay Area thrash style, though unlike many of the bands breeding like rabbits now, Mantic Ritual have a knack for crafty songwriting, keeping things fun, heavy, simple and most importantly, fresh. The musicianship is a level above much of the competition; the overall speed and rhythm of the album is its most redeeming quality. The guitar solos wind up coming off as, “I’ve definitely heard this before,” and the same theory applies with the vocals, which sound heavily forced and sung because it’s the way the vocalist wanted to sound. In summary, Executioner winds up in the middle of the thrash revivalism pack being neither horrible nor fantastic. –Bryer Wharton

Oceano
Depths
Earache
Street: 04.20
Oceano = Carnifex + Cannibal Corpse + Meshuggah (tuning their guitars) + stolen atmospheric portions of Isis
Here’s a sarcastic hooray for deathcore! Now folks, let’s get ready for some moshaerobics: swing those arms in a windmill fashion and kick your legs erratically! There you go! Am I one of the few that is feeling like actual real hardcore music is becoming dead (you know, the stuff that populated the Hellfest in America)? All those hardcore guys are just adding metal to their musical stylings. I’m not quite sure how the band’s name and album title fits into the music they play, but all this album is, is a breakdown-based hardcore record with blastbeats and some atmospheric moments tossed in. There isn’t any real organization amongst the songs. Hell, when I first listened to the album, I thought, “Damn, this song is really long,” and looked up and realized I was on the fifth track. I was completely fine with hardcore having its own scene and shows, but now everything has gotten mixed together. It’s frustrating. –Bryer Wharton

Orcustus
Self-titled
Southern Lord
Street: 03.09
Orcustus = (later) Mayhem + Aura Noir + Gorgoroth
Lifting their name from the zine of infamous Emperor drummer Bard “Faust” Eithun (who served time in prison for murder), Orcustus’ immediate goal is to live up to the “kvlt” implications of this appropriation. Fortunately, with members whose pedigrees include Gorgoroth, Carpathian Forest, 1349, Gehenna and Craft, these Norwegians exit hell’s gates knocking down nuns and spewing black blood. Presenting black metal filtered through the thrashier side of Aura Noir and Urgheal, the production is sharp and melodic in the manner of Mayhem’s Grand Declaration of War and later releases (but unmarred by the experimental stumbles plaguing them). Fans of Craft, Elite, and all things necro-black-metal should take note: Orcustus will no doubt become a force to be reckoned with. –Ben West

Outclassed    
This Might Be Coincidence …
Forcefield Records
Street: 01.27
Outclassed = Orchid + Ampere + Angel Hair
When powerviolence merged with what ended up becoming known as “screamo,” I found myself becoming extremely picky with the bands that chose to play that type of music. For my money, that stuff began and ended with Massachusetts’ Orchid, who never really got the chance to make the music they should have made. Outclassed comes very close to picking up where Orchid left off, combining hardcore punk with off-time breakdowns and light-speed riffing. The song structures are all over the place, and the incessant feedback and shouted (rather than screamed) vocals do this release a great service. Outclassed is definitely a band to keep an eye on. -Gavin Hoffman

Persona Non Grata
Shade in the Ligh
Sensory Records
Street: 02.24
Persona Non Grata = Vanden Plas + Fates Warning + Poverty’s No Crime + Kings X
With Shade in the Light, this Greek five-piece aren’t out to break the prog-rock mold within their debut offering. Prog rock has always been a love-it or hate-it type genre. While I’m on the fence with many artists, PNG gave me plenty of good listens. The main appealing factor for my prog tastes is that the songwriting has clear direction, yet there is plenty of room for fusion of styles and sounds; the album has a clear and focused sound, yet has some of the jam-style vibe that prog rock is known for without all the guitar or keyboard wankery. The vocals are your typical falsetto and higher-range style, but they come off with a sense of purpose behind them instead of the going-through-the-motions feel that plenty of artist try to pass off as art. Prog fans easily can enjoy this effort—the amount of work that went into its creation shows and pays off. –Bryer Wharton

Peter Broderick
Home
Hush
Street: 09.23.08
Peter Broderick= Bon Iver + Jose Gonzalez + Eluvium
Peter Broderick, a man with an impressive indie-cred resume—he plays with Efterklang and he’s produced for She and Him and M. Ward—gives us a solo album that is, at its core, just a guy-with-his-guitar album. In fact, Broderick deliberately simplified Home to only his guitar and his voice (plus percussion and a pan flute). In this simplification, he made an album that draws beauty from emotional straightforwardness: Melodically chanted vocals and the light plucking of his guitar. Commanding both the orchestral ambience of bands like Stars of the Lid and the gentle songwriting of his collaborator, M. Ward, Home transcends the expected “singer-songwriter’ clichés”: Instead of relying on confessional lyrics to make up for simple music, Broderick envelops his songs with the full potential of his instruments, creating an impactful sound that echoes in the mind even when the headphones are off. —Devon Hoffman

Phantom Limbs
Accept the Juice
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 03.02
Phantom Limbs = The Damned + Hellbound Saints + The Germs
I always thought “The Phantom Limbs” would be a cool name for a band and here they are. Turns out this band broke up in 2005. A lot of people (Jello Biafra included) seem to think that listening to this CD is going to make you cry because this band isn’t active anymore and you won’t get the chance to see them play. Accept the Juice is all right, but people have a way of glorifying things that aren’t around anymore. The sounds contained on this album all sound like dark, keyboard-driven show tunes performed by Darby Crash. The first track, “Murder Us Windpipes” is a standout track. My favorite is “Shut Up Old Man.” This album didn’t make me sigh out of exasperation that I’ll never get to see The Phantom Limbs play. It’s pretty good, though, and maybe at least your eyes will well with tears as you experience this one. –Aaron Day

Psyopus
Odd Senses
Metal Blade
Street: 02.17
Psyopus = Dillinger Escape Plan + Melt Banana + Behold ... The Arctopus
Music geeks finally have a new band to believe in. Enter Psyopus. Odd Senses is Psyopus’ third album, but with eight or so ex-members (guitarist Chris “Arpmandude” Arp is the only original member) each album is in many ways a new musical project. Although Psyopus has things in common with all of the “sounds like” bands above, their music is their own unique blend of the three. It’s grindy with mathcore elements and so much technicality and experimental use of samples and sounds that it takes a few listens to absorb the musical landscapes they are exploring. The hyper-technical spazzing-out on the guitar can sound noisy at first, but upon repeated listens, it all kind of starts to make sense. Plus, there is a nine-minute chamber music piece titled “A Murder to Child” that Arp composed while in college. I can’t remember the last time anyone did that. Highly recommended. –Peter Fryer

Razor of Occam
Homage To Martyrs
Metal Blade
Street: 03.17
Razor of Occam = Maze of Torment + Destroyer 666 + Impiety + Adorior
Razor of Occam is made up of half Destroyer 666 members joined by members of Axis of Advance and Skythian. One might ask, what’s the difference between RoO and Destroyer 666? Well, more thrash of course, and a bit better production. RoO could easily call Sodom’s early albums an influence, but then again, so can the entire genre of blackened thrash metal. I’m not going to say this album is a one-of-a-kind original by any means, because there are artists upon artists playing this style. Razor of Occam, however, play the hell out of their instruments; the dual guitar assault just adds depth and animosity to the already ear-crushing drumming with vocals spewing hate and all that is vile. To keep it simple, if you get enjoyment out of sonic punishment that includes no melodies, just outright evil, ass-kicking, raw thrash metal with black-metal tendencies, you’ll have no problem, as I didn’t, loving Razor of Occam’s first full-length album. –Bryer Wharton

Roger O’Donnell    
Songs from the Silver Box
Great Society/World’s Fair
Street: 01.20
Roger O’Donnell = XXXX
One of the worst mistakes Robert Smith ever made was firing Roger O’Donnell from The Cure … twice. O’Donnell’s third solo full-length is an absolute pleasure through and through. O’Donnell’s minimalist compositions automatically bring Boards of Canada to mind, and ultimately beg the question “What if?” as in “What if Roger O’Donnell was still in The Cure? Would his additions made the latest album better or worse?” simply because each piece on this album sounds like it could have been a Cure song in some way, shape, or form. Not that it matters—O’Donnell’s carving out his own place in electronica just fine with little help … in fact, there are only four other contributors to this album, two of which are guest vocalists, and one of them is O’Donnell’s girlfriend, Erin Lang. “Maestro, I say write on!” –Gavin Hoffman

Samael
Above
Nuclear Blast
Street: 04.04
Samael = Graveworm + Naglfar + Dimmu Borgir
In terms of musical ideologies, Samael’s Above album is the career equivalent to Metallica’s St. Anger. Above has been hyped as a “return to roots,” and like St. Anger, Above isn’t really a return to any roots of the slower-paced black metal Samael played on their first three full-length albums. And like St. Anger, the music in terms of substance and production is literally painful to listen to. Samael have been playing industrial-type metal longer than they have black metal, so whatever the reasoning to go back to a heavier black-metal style, it really shouldn’t have been done. The record is full of rehashed riffing and drumming, and effects-laden vocals that lack any power. There is also just an overall lack of substance with everything. The production provides a wall-of-sound effect which just comes off as sloppy. At best, this is a mediocre symphonic black-metal album, but it’s not even that—it’s a metal blunder. –Bryer Wharton

Saros
Acrid Planes
Profound Lore
Street: 02.17
Saros = Enslaved + Agalloch + Death (Symbolic era on) + Amber Asylum
For Bay Area-based Saros’ first full-length album, Acrid Planes, the rawer edge and blackened meanderings that were more focused on in the Five Pointed Tongue EP have progressed to, well, a more progressive metal sound than anything black metal. There are good hunks of Acrid Planes that remind me of the current incarnation of Enslaved, but are even more proggy. The majority of the album is mid-paced—the moments when there is black-metal blasting are few and far between. It’s really hard to label Acrid Planes as a dull or uninspired album because it has some great melodic and layered guitar moments. Leila Ruaf is a talented front woman doing some black-metal screeching yet mostly clean singing. The question that lies in how fans or newcomers will react to this new record is plainly where their tastes lie. Acrid Planes is a cleanly played and produced album; also, it is progressive and folk-metal oriented first and black metal second. The basic point is, you’ll either hate it or get a good enjoyment out of it. –Bryer Wharton

Seance
Awakening of the Gods
Pulverised Records
Release: 01.19
Séance = Death + Bloodbath + God Macabre
Although most of the band members have managed to keep busy in other projects such as Satanic Slaughter and Witchery, this is the first Seance album release in a whopping 16 years. Back in the early 1990s, when death metal was really starting to come to fruition and bring some formidable bands to the table, Seance released a pair of respectable contributions of their own. Now that they’re back and unearthing some old tricks, the question is, “Does it hold up?” Fortunately, I think it does. Of course, death metal fans will always remain divided when it comes to old bands releasing new shit, but this isn’t exactly a genre that demands a lot of branching out in the first place. While you won’t find Seance competing with newer bands such as Portal or Dead Congregation for a spot in my rotation, this still is still something I will likely enjoy during a few beers. –Conor Dow

Seneca
Reflections
Lifeforce
Street: 03.27
Seneca = Through the Eyes of the Dead + Carnifex + Linkin Park
The Wikipedia entry on Seneca (the philosopher for whom the band is named) states: “While his ideas are not considered to be original, he was important in making the Greek philosophers presentable and intelligible.” The same could be said about Seneca, minus the part about Greek philosophers. Nothing original going on here—typical deathcore. Reflections gets off to a decent start, actually sounding like it might be death metal with teeth, then 2:28 hits and the Linkin Park vocals kick in and it’s over. This album is so terribly mediocre, from the predictable bass drops to the monotonous vocals and the forgettable guitar work, that finding the most generic aspect of the music becomes the most interesting part of the album. These boys can play their instruments; they just need to breathe some life into them. The instrumental acoustic track that caps the album is one of the few engaging pieces. Maybe they should look into that more. –Peter Fryer

Sirenia
The 13th Floor
Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 01.23
Sirenia = Evanescence + American Idol + Morten Veland mocking me like a jerk
Okay, I do sometimes enjoy older Sirenia albums. The first two were an infectious mix of crystal-clear female vocals with growly male vocals layered over the top of digestible song structures. The band still remained mildly heavy and occasionally fun to listen to. But Sirenia’s previous release fell completely flat, focusing too heavily on the overly processed female vocals which were much too loud in the mix, making me feel like I’m listening to a diet metal band where Kelly Clarkson was influenced by crap such as Lacuna Coil. This album is more of the same and although it has some catchy moments, it still feels entirely pointless and forgettable. At this point, the only gothic metal band still writing material that is worth listening to is Tristania, because Sirenia now belongs in the flippant hands of the Evanescence-listening, Twilight-reading, low self-esteem high-school girl. –Conor Dow

Slave Traitor
Man Infest Destiny EP
Self-Released
Street: 06.01.08
Slave Traitor = Crowbar + Acid Bath + Pro-Pain
While Seattle’s Slave Traitor my not offer up a whole lot of originality to their brand of heavy groove and thrash/hardcore-oriented doom metal on their second EP, Man Infest Destiny, the songwriting and pacing of tracks keeps thing interesting and, well, worth listening to. There are strong similarities to certain Crowbar albums, in specific, Odd Fellows Rest. I find myself not getting bored to death like I did with the aforementioned album while booming Slave Traitor. Again, the pacing within this EP is the best part it has: those drearily slow moments with juxtaposition within its speedy moments. Don’t let the band’s location deter your judgment, either—there’s no grunge influence in the sound. The EP has its Southern-fried nuggets and the vocalist at times comes out with sort of a stuttering growl, creating an almost psychedelic atmosphere at times. All in all, the EP offers up a diverse listen for six songs’ worth of music in 25 minutes’ time. –Bryer Wharton

Spindrift
The West
Beat the World Records
Street: 11.02.08
Spindrift = Calexico + Darker My Love + Ennio Morricone score
The difference between great and merely good music is the ability of the medium to take you to other places. When one can come across bands like Spindrift, that conjure images in your head, it can be a bit of a modern miracle. Most music these days is happy enough to leave you with sore eardrums and a rattled noggin. But Spindrift assists the listener in transportation to an intriguing realm of melting clocks and silent, screaming figures on impressionist canvases with a twisting Spaghetti Western theme. There’s even reference to keeping a pistol close to your side on a later track. Prepare to go on a little trip, kemosabe. And listen to “La Noche Mas Oscura” for some Spanish-language education and further soundscaping of adobe structures and dirt-devil storms in the distance sprouting in your mind. (Spindrift play the The Urban Lounge 04.07.) –JP

The Telescopes
# Untitled Second
Bomp Records
Street: 1994
The Telescopes = Ride + The Velvet Underground
Originally released by Creation Records and almost still unknown to this day, The Telescopes were doing what so many other British shoegazers were trying in the early 90s. Throw in any album by The Verve, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, or Spiritualize and you notice a similarity: one or two cool songs and a shitload of snooze-gazing. But # Untitled Second can actually be listened to the whole way through, honest. Twist one up, sprawl out on the carpet and prove me wrong. –Cinnamon Brown

 

Tribulation
The Horror
Pulverised
Street: 03.09
Tribulation = Nihilist + Necros Christos
These young Swedes have embraced everything that makes death metal exciting (agression, sharp riffs, harsh but memorable vocals) and rejected everything that has made the genre weak in recent years (abuse of melody, screamo vocals, technicality in place of composition). In short, this band is fantastic, recalling better Sodom (think Persecution Mania), Nihilist, and other newjack death-metal bands such as Necros Christos and Throneum. Über-producer Tore Stjerna (you likely saw him playing bass for Watain in Salt Lake in February) keeps the leather creased without sacrificing the edge. This is far better than weak sisters such as Bloodbath or Meshuggah. You shouldn’t need much more convincing than that. –Ben West

Trinity Forbes
Saltwater
Unsigned
Street: TBD
Trinity Forbes = Jewel + Norah Jones
Although the packaging was hard to get around due to the lack of information (just a simple white CD slip), the album itself was a great mixture of sweet, female vocals, breezy guitar and soft percussion. Free of fluff and full of passion, all the aspects of the tracks seem to balance each other out with a sense of harmony. Saltwater is relaxing and melodic, with Forbes’ flowing voice leading the way to a serene listening experience. The vocals are put in the front line, emphasizing their strength and talent. This album is a skillfully done musical interpretation of the ocean; hence, the name. –Lyuba Basin

WAU y Los ARRRGHS!!!
Viven
Slovenly
Street: 03.03
WAU y Los ARRRGHS!!! = The Mummies + The Trashmen + The Stooges + Phantom Surfers
This band is party! Each song is a garage punk runaway train of guitar, bass and organ. These five guys play each song as if it were their last moments on this earth. All the songs are sung in Spanish, but each has so much style and just rocks along so well that each track could stand on its own as an instrumental. That’s not to say the vocals are not worthwhile—even though I can’t understand them when the vocals hit, they bring so much flavor to the record. This band holds nothing back from song to song. I couldn’t believe the sheer energy that was coming out of my speakers. The guitar work is especially well done throughout, but when I got to the last track, “Viva Link Wray,” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Taking several masterpieces from the Link Wray catalogue and mashing them together in homage to the guitar-welding legend came together so beautifully I think even the Linkster would be impressed. These guys just bop the hell out of this record, and it not something to be missed. –James Orme

Wavves
Wavvves
Fat Possum
Street: 03.17
Wavves = Smile-era Beach Boys + Wipers + The Shaggs
When I first laid eyes on Wavvves, I was immediately drawn to the logo. It was similar to one used in the late 70s by the Greg Sage-fronted band the Wipers. I wondered if the music would also be similar to the fuzzy, left-of-left-field punk sound that the Wipers had so gleefully hammered out. And thanks be to God that it is. On this album, Nathan Williams, the only member of the band, puts together over a dozen songs that are both harmonious and yet somehow completely devoid of harmony. It is really hard to explain how extraordinary it is. The vocals draw heavily from the doo-woppy style forever tied to surf music by the likes of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. And musically, it rocks somewhere in between 60s pop and early 80s new wave, but with a nod to current acts Digital Leather and Jay Retard. But imagine that recorded underwater by a psychedelic-punk symphony orchestra without any trace of fidelity in the recordings whatsoever. Yeah, it’s that good. –James Bennett

We Are Hex
Gloom Bloom
Hex Haus
Street: 04.07
We Are Hex = The Cure + Peaches
This band is fantabulous. The term “genre-bending” does not do them justice. Banshee-like wails erupt (without much-needed early warning system––budget cuts won’t allow it) from lead singer Jilly’s lips and rain sonic volcanic bombs down around your ears with most finding a resonating purchase in your crown region. Much later, these bombs will make beautiful front yards for people in Hawaii that do not know their illustrative career as enchantingly crooned Hex tunes. I can’t say that I’ve been this entranced with vocals from a female lead in quite some time; they just haven’t been hacking it lately. But thanks be to the gods of rock (the only kind worth believing anymore) for giving me something decent to listen to from a gutsy female lead. The music backing her is also very well done—some haunting, electronic-inspired beats backed by excellent reverberating guitar and some plinky-plinks make for a very rewarding listening experience. –JP

Winfred E. Eye
Til I Prune
Antenna Farm
Street: 04.28
Winfred E. Eye = Tindersticks + Black Heart Procession
Til I Prune is one of those really humble albums that we don’t get enough of. This is a band that doesn’t need to show off to prove they have talent. Soft percussion, gentle strokes on guitar and nonchalant vocals give the songs a sweet yet somber reflection. It spreads out homemade recording acoustics like jam on toast—no crust, no nonsense! My favorites were the upbeat tracks like “Two Baby Moths” that take it to the South with a banjo and a little more stress in the harmonies and “Lil Peck,” a song that takes concern for spilling whiskey and turns it into a contagious dance number. This record is an easy-listener, comfortable as well as enticing, giving anyone that gives it a listen 12 tracks worth of much-needed daydreaming. –Lyuba Basin

Wolf
Ravenous
Century Media
Street: 03.24
Wolf = Dream Evil + Mercyful Fate + Hammerfall + Judas Priest
Sweden’s Wolf have been a purveyor of heavy metal to the world for 14 years now, and with Ravenous being my first experience hearing what the band has to offer, I kept finding myself thinking of numerous traditional heavy-metal and power-metal bands that sound just about the exact same as Wolf, so naturally one would think, OK, they’re a copycat band. A portion of that could be true, with those similar sounds of typical falsetto vocals, howling guitar solos and the outright blatantly heavy power chords. Then the powerful songwriting shone through the mist of influences on cuts like “Mr. Twisted,” “Love at First Bite” and “Whisky Psycho Hellions.” Wolf gave me a firm reminder that first impressions can throw listeners off far too many times and once the songs are explored, further satisfaction and originality can be found. Overall, Ravenous is a greatly produced, classic-yet-current-sounding, all-out, fun-as-shit heavy-metal album. –Bryer Wharton

Wolves in the Throne Room
Malevolent Grain EP
Southern Lord
Street: 02.17
Wolves in the Throne Room = Drudkh + Agalloch + Velvet Cacoon
Is this EP an appetizer of what’s to come for WITTR’s upcoming full-length, Black Cascade? Well, by the time SLUG has published this review, the album will already be released, so I’m setting that notion aside and critiquing this EP’s two tracks as their own, and in comparison to the band’s previous two full-lengths. Side A of the EP is a 13-minute atmospheric and experimental (even for WITTR)-type cut, and it’s about 12-minutes, 55 seconds too long. The band does succeed at being experimental, but the themes and atmospheric styles coupled with female vocals have all been played out before and done a lot better. Aside from relief when the track ends, the only real feeling left for the listener is boredom; maybe this is in hopes to make side B sound a hell of a lot better. Indeed, side B sounds better, though it’s like comparing diarrhea to a turd. The track is 10-minutes of standard artsy, atmospheric, US black metal more in the comfort zone of what fans have come to enjoy WITTR for, though it still lacks the feeling and originality that Two Hunters put forth. –Bryer Wharton

Wolves in the Throne Room
Black Cascade
Southern Lord Records
Street: 03.31
Wolves in the Throne Room = mid-era Burzum + Philip Glass
Often when writing reviews, I feel that I am playing music Mad Libs, weaving empty adjectives to accomplish the subjective task of describing music that is mostly subjective itself. WITTR are one of the few transcendental bands who avoid pitfalls of banality because of their conviction. What is done so well isn’t necessarily the black-metal aspect of their music, although it is quite good, but rather the feelings that they manage to conjure. Many great musicians utilize layering of repetitive structures to entrance a listener, which tends to make time pass by quickly. Among the layers are many subtleties that demand repeated listens to appreciate, much like a good jazz record. Though WITTR’s albums evoke mournful feelings, to me there’s often a bit of optimism hidden in there also. Whether this is intentional or not is why I enjoy them: because their music is honest, allowing the listener to interpret it honestly unto themselves. (WITTR plays 04.02 at Club Vegas.) –Conor Dow

Yoñlu
A Society in Which No Tear is Shed...
Luaka Bop
Street: 04.14
Yoñlu = The Unicorns + Os Mutantes + Xiu Xiu
The story behind the music of Yoñlu (the cover for late 16-year-old Vinicius Gageiro Marques) nearly intrigues as some of the songs littered throughout this rough, lo-fi mix of experimental tracks. The lyrics reveal the age and problems of the songwriter; however, the music itself gives way to reveal a maturity and delicate touch that will sadly now go unrealized, lost forever to suicide. One of the most tragic parts of this story is that these cluttered gems of tracks will never be built upon again. We’ll never know if there was some true potential hidden beneath the elements of Brazilian Tropicalia and samba mixed with gentle acoustic guitars (think Seu Jorge), backed up by samples of television clips and ocean waves. I would recommend listening to this, if you can find it, particularly the miserable “Polyalphabetic Cipher” and the groovin’ “Olhe Por Nós.” Rest in peace. –Ryan Sanford

Zonaria
The Cancer Empire
Century Media
Street: 01.27
Zonaria = Dimmu Borgir + Cradle of Filth + Old Man’s Child
Listening to The Cancer Empire from Zonaria is much like going out to eat at the Olive Garden or Applebee’s; it might taste alright when you’re eating it, but when you get home, you’re giving up whatever it was that you ate to the porcelain throne, and by the next day, you can’t even remember what dish you had. Zonaria play what most would describe as symphonic death/black metal, though there is more death than black with this record. Even with tossing aside my bias of disdain for the multitude of Dimmu Borgir’s career and all the bands that copied that sound, The Cancer Empire really just isn’t that enjoyable. When you actually find yourself separating the music—in this case, the synths/keys from the guitars/drums/vox—that’s a bad thing; the two don’t go together at all. They’re on different levels playing different music and themes entirely; it’s terribly confusing and quite annoying. If you are a fan of the Dimmu Borgir style and need help filling the void until their next album, this could help. –Bryer Wharton