National CD Reviews – June 2009

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Revelations of the Black Flame
Street: 05.26
1349 = Funeral Mist + Satyricon + Gorgoroth
Since I first heard 1349’s debut full-length, Liberation, back in 2003, I haven’t been able to decide if I actually like the band or not, and Revelations of the Black Flame isn’t exactly helping my decision. The opening track, “Invocation,” is a little over six minutes of noise which flows into sickeningly slow black metal, and the tempo never really changes until the end of the following track, “Serpentine Sibilance” … and then segues directly back into noise on the third track, “Horns.” Ultimately, this release ends up like a Satyricon album (for better or worse) jumbled with noisy passages that I imagine are supposed to be “spooky.” It’s … good, but it’s not the kind of good I keep hoping for with 1349. –Gavin Hoffman

Homo Homini Lupus
Chorus of One
Street: 03.14
400Colpi = XXXXX
The more I hear the hardcore/metalcore chug-a-riffic sound of the 90s mixed with millennium hardcore (basically the same thing), the harder it is for me to understand who is listening to this stuff. Don’t get me wrong—I can appreciate a great hardcore band, but that appreciation lies in few recordings, whose days have passed. 400Colpi is an Italian band paying homage to American hardcore and are without a doubt passionate, but I was left yawning from redundant breakdowns and one-dimensional vocals. The singer screams in Italian and that’s the only hint of originality. Simply said, if you can’t reinvent within this genre, than you’re beating a dead horse that’s been beaten so badly that it’s come back to haunt. –Nicole Dumas

Aeroplane Pageant
Even the Kids Don’t Believe Me
Street: 06.23
Aeroplane Pageant = Broken Social Scene + Flaming Lips
I had some high expectations for this album. I had heard of Aeroplane Pageant around town and how pimp they were supposed to be. I have to say that I was mildly impressed. They are sweet and poppy-sounding with a tinge of noise mixed in. However, they are lacking some serious drive and direction. These guys need to hire a really good drummer to give the music some cajones! The atmosphere and experimentation is there, but it has no energy and just seems to meander on and on. Much love to Aeroplane Pageant, but I would suggest giving Zach Hill a call. –Jon Robertson

The Aggrolites
Street: 06.08
The Aggrolites = Symarip + Toots & The Maytals + James Brown
Nothing says “Innovation” like titling your album after the order in which it is released in relation to your other albums. So the title “IV” is a bit formulaic. So what? The Aggrolites have created a potent mixture of reggae, funk and soul delivered with punk-rock attitude perfect for any number of illicit and non-illicit summertime activities––there’s even a track called “Reggae Summertime.” “Firecracker” is one of the band’s funkiest and best songs to date, and the delivery of vocalist Jesse Wagner is as strong as it has ever been. The drumming on IV isn’t quite up to par with previous Aggro albums and skinhead reggae fans will be disappointed by the inclusion of only two instrumentals (though “Soul Gathering” is fucking amazing), but there is still a lot to like about this album. Formulaic or not, IV will help keep you cool as summer temperatures rise. –Ricky Vigil

Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.02
Amorphis = Paradise Lost + Opeth + Sentenced (post-Frozen)
Creating the band equation for Finland’s Amorphis was a difficult task––they have a unique sound for which they deserve some credit. The band has played gothic/folk rock more than they did the death-metal thing. For me, the band’s rock-type albums were hit-and-miss, especially with the former vocalist having the tendency to become nasally and annoying. Tomi Joutsen changed my mind about Amorphis when he joined the band about four years ago. It made listening to the albums easier. Skyforger is more of the same stuff from the band’s last two recordings. There is a wealth of good guitar melodies, a thick and heavy sound with plenty of clean vocals, it’s easy to enjoy while listening to, and “Sky is Mine” is a catchy track. Though it has positives, nothing remains in my memory too long and while unique, Skyforger still remains one of those records that isn’t bad, but isn’t great enough to shout about from the rooftops, either. –Bryer Wharton

The People or The Gun
Street: 06.09
Anti-Flag = Rise Against + Good Riddance + Bad Religion
To completely enjoy Anti-Flag’s new album, there are a couple of prerequisites: You must forget the overindulgent snooze-fest that was last year’s The Bright Lights of America and you have to dismiss their political commentary as at least partially ridiculous. Anti-Flag has good intentions, but song titles like “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC” and “The Economy is Suffering ... Let It Die” should let you know that their political approach is equal parts sensationalist and 15-year-old gutter punk. Once you get that out of the way, The People or the Gun is a solid punk-rock album. Anti-Flag hasn’t sounded this angry in a long time, and more accessible songs like “This is the First Night” and “Great Depression” (which almost sounds like a Clash song) keep things interesting. Plus, at only 10 songs and 30 minutes, this album goes down a lot easier than the band’s last effort. If you want to find out how and why our world is broken, you’d be better off reading some Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play this album in the background. –Ricky Vigil

Apostle of Hustle Eats Darkness Arts & Crafts Street: 05.19 Apostle of Hustle= Broken Social Scene + John Vanderslice Thank God for the Canadians in this current drought of originality in the states. Broken Social Scene’s Andrew Whiteman once again heads this group of creative fucks through a journey of different styles, including some casual horns, grunting bass lines and some really creative male voicings. I’m glad to see this collective still forging ahead with their by-now signature approach to tackling the biggest question in the music business these days: “What the fuck is up in the Great White North?” Usually sound bytes/audio clips are cop-outs for artists to put on their albums to fill track time, but this album utilizes the concept very well and creates sonic jumping-off and transition points for the tracks they are sandwiched between. Especially the more topical bits about the current state of events and “attitudes needed in ‘life during wartime’.” –JP

Salvation like Destruction
Pulverised Records
Street: 01.19
Assaulter = less exciting than Deströyer 666 + Shackles
You know that feeling you get after eating an entire loaf of bread? Oh sure, the first six or so slices are pretty tasty, but after a few more, you start chewing slower and pretty much fall into a catatonic state. After you finish the loaf, you’re sprawled out on the floor, your stomach hurts, you’re tired, and probably feel really unmotivated to eat another loaf of bread any time soon. That’s pretty much how I feel listening to this record. While it may have a merit or two, after a few minutes, I really just feel like I’ve had enough. An example would be the guitar tone, which is especially obnoxious and sounds like a dirt bike revving up in your uncle’s garage. Like the music, the production is mediocre and everything just falls completely flat. Basically, this is disappointing and fairly monotonous. Just like wolfing down a whole loaf of bread. –Conor Dow

Axis Powers
Marching Towards Destruction
Street: 05.12
Axis Powers = Dismember + Entombed (first two albums) - depth
There once was a throwback band that apparently wanted to sound like classic Autopsy. That drive wore off and that band decided they wanted to sound like classic Dismember. That band is Sweden’s Axis Powers. Marching towards Destruction is a fairly obvious throwback to early Dismember and Entombed, and a bad throwback at that. I kind of liked the record out of the get-go, aside from the power-lacking, repeated pattern/range death vocals. The novelty of that nice, gritty guitar tone, speed and rawness that made albums like Left Hand Path and Like an Ever Flowing Stream death-metal essentials, wore off very quickly with Axis Power’s second full-length. Listening to the same song nine times isn’t much fun. No, I’m not saying that in the style, the songs are similar, I’m saying the riffing, drum beats and patterns are the same. Axis Powers should’ve stuck with sounding like Autopsy; it worked much better for them. –Bryer Wharton

My Electric Family
Drag City
Street: 05.26
Bachelorette = Frou Frou + Animal Collective + Of Montreal
Ninety-five percent of the time, I hate girl voices. Sorry, ladies, but you all sound the same and sing about the same shit. There are far too many Jenny Lewis-esque indie girls out there. That being said, this album is pretty good. New Zealand’s Annabel Alpers isn’t your typical indie girl, admittedly by taking too many mushrooms and playing with synthesizers. Most of the songs are epic soundscapes with a decent female vocalist. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it is worth a listen to even if you, like myself, despise anyone with a vagina and a microphone. –Cody Hudson

Thresholds of Imbalance
Translation Loss
Street: 03.31
Battlefields = Neurosis + Isis + Red Sparowes
Right time, right place, right market … right bunch of rehashed tunes for people who still haven’t realized that Neurosis do this type of music best, and the rest of the bands that try to brazenly rip them off will never measure up. Formulaic and, well, boring, Thresholds of Imbalance is the absolute epitome of a genre that has (hopefully) crested. Sure, these kids can write a tune, and apparently put on an excellent live show, but for me, Battlefields lack everything it takes to stand out in an overcrowded room of heavy/quiet/instrumental/OK-here-are-some-mean-vocals/now-we’ll-get-pretty-for-a-second bands that don’t really deserve my hard-earned buck, let alone deserve the time wasted listening to this when I could have been listening to Oasis’s Dig Out Your Soul. That’s right, I said it. And I stand by it. –Gavin Hoffman

Black Moth Super Rainbow
Eating Us
Graveface Records
Street: 05.26
Black Moth Super Rainbow = Caribou + The Flaming Lips + Air
Black Moth Super Rainbow is fucking weird, and this time they had access to a “modern studio,” as they called it. Along with the new studio access, they had the help of producer David Fridmann (MGMT, Flaming Lips). So it’s fucking weird, but in a bubblegum-on-acid kind of way. The vocoder vocals get on my nerves on a fairly regular basis, to be honest, but the crazy, entrancing melodies make up for the annoyance tenfold. You can tell there is more behind this album than there has been with previous releases. Even though I am sure that this isn’t quite as radio-ready as MGMT, the new producer has certainly helped make their sound more accessible. –Cody Hudson

Booker T.
Potato Hole
Street: 04.21
Booker T. = The M.G.s + Otis Redding + Neil Young
Mankind has long benefited from the Booker T. Jones’ pounding of the Hammond organ. Ever since he recorded the song “Green Onions” with the M.G.s in 1962, Jones has been a staple of American soul music. His association with Memphis-based Stax Records led to his playing with the likes of Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding and Sam and Dave. His departure from Stax in the 70s allowed him to work with artists as diverse as Willie Nelson and Bobby Darin. This new disc continues to expand Jones’s musical reach. This fully instrumental recording features Jones at the organ with the Southern rock bad-asses the Drive-By Truckers filling out the rest of the band. The result is an abnormally hard rock album for Memphis soul’s golden boy. And though it sounds nothing like much of what Jones has done in the past, it still has that taut organ work that only comes from a man who can craft a great story without ever uttering a word. Hard rock charging and yet still somehow meditative and introspective, Potato Hole is the cleanest and most well-put-together record that Mr. Booker T. Jones has put out in a very long time. –James Bennett

Blood Red Throne
Souls of Damnation
Earache Records
Street: 06.30
Blood Red Throne = Vader + Belphegor + Decapitated + Morbid Angel
Norway’s Blood Red Throne have been kicking for over a decade. It is my understanding that the band is more of a side project effort than a full-time band––the group has had a revolving door of notable musicians. Probably the best part about BRT is guitarist Tchort, who has the biggest credits to his name, playing with Emperor, Carpathian Forest, Satyricon and Green Carnation. Souls of Damnation has some great lead guitarwork, but not a boatload of solos. The guys are pretty content with groove-death metaling it out. Unfortunately, the lineup myriad hurts the band a bit—every album has been borderline really good, but winds up as mediocre death metal. Initial listens to Souls were pleasing, but further exploration harnessed that redundant feel. If you like your death metal produced thick and brutal, Blood Red Throne will deliver, just be warned that it may turn stale after sitting on the shelf for a bit. –Bryer Wharton

Blood Tsunami
Grand Feast for Vultures
Street: 05.05
Blood Tsunami = At the Gates (Slaughter of the Soul) + Destruction + The Crown
If the band cut the first three tracks of this album and called it an MCD or an EP, I’d be giving Grand Feast for Vultures much more praise. In all honesty, the first three tracks feel like boring filler and are completely forgettable, especially when the fourth track, “Nothing but Contempt,” kicks in and I start scratching my head wondering where this good shit was in the beginning. The Norwegian-based crew does feature drummer Faust, best known for playing for Emperor and Thorns, among other acts. While his drumming is good, it isn’t the focal point of the album. Everything goes together and when it doesn’t sound like a blatant rip-off of other death-thrash acts, it’s actually quite good. The album’s last two tracks are epic; the instrumental “Eceladus Rising” is a nice change of pace for the record and the closer, “One Step Close to the Grave,” gave the album the identity it needed instead of sounding like a total copycat band. –Bryer Wharton

Bob Dylan
Together Through Life
Columbia Records
Street: 04.28
Bob Dylan = Bob Dylan
Together Through Life ambles along like an aging man tells a story. You’re never quite sure where Dylan is going next, but regardless of the direction, you keep your ears peeled so you don’t miss anything good. The album’s sound bounces around. The opening track “Beyond Here Lies Nothin” has a dirty Cajun feel, the second track “Life is Hard” is gloomy and seems to meander on, while “My Wife’s Hometown” plays like old-school blues. The album sounds stream-of-consciousness. The mood of the album seems to change often and quickly. Luckily, it doesn’t come off feeling schizophrenic at all. There is nothing wrong with Together Through Life, but I doubt it will be remembered as one of Dylan’s masterpieces. If anything, the album is one more notch on the belt for a musician who’s already gained legend status. –Jeanette Moses

The Boy Least Likely To
The Law of the Playground
+1 Records
Street: 04.14
The Boy Least Likely To = Sesame Street
I would feel like a terrible person giving this CD a negative review. It is so full of childish happiness I want to puke. Just as I do when small children are around, crowding the swing area at the park with their crusted pizza sauce and booger faces, pulling big, sad eyes when I refuse to share my delicious fruit snacks. As if they need any more sugar. Ha. The music is actually quite peaceful in a weird-guy-who-dances-about-on-Sesame-Street-trying-to-get-children-to-interact-and-be-‘fit’ kind of way. So it’s good if you are into that kind of thing, and I can just remain as a partially terrible person. –Jessica Davis

Burial Hordes
Devotion to Unholy Creed
Street: 03.03
Burial Hordes = Bathory + Beherit (The Oath Of Black Blood era) + Conqueror (CAN)
Let’s face it; it’s near impossible to create old-school-sounding, straight-up black metal without sounding like the bands that created the genre. We’ve all heard the Mayhem, Bathory and Burzum-clone black-metal acts and listening to Greece’s Burial Hordes’ second full-length album, Devotion to Unholy Creed, you get that old-school vibe. However, it doesn’t come off as a copycat sound –– it truly is its own war-treading, Satan-spawning, evil-as-shit, beast-of-black metal. The production value is raw enough to give it that grim edge that old-school black metal needs, but thick enough not to sound like a spork ripping through paper. Burial Hordes’ guitar and bass tones are the sonic equivalent of a knife cutting through scarred flesh, opening a gaping wound with blood gushing through the sonic pain. There is also a great wealth of diversity on the record’s riffing and pacing, with a few added evil-sounding samples. Burial Hordes have succeeded where so many have failed. Devotion is an album you’ll be coming back for, beating after beating. –Bryer Wharton

Camera Obscura
My Maudlin Career
Street: 04.20
Camera Obscura = Belle and Sebastian + Magnetic Fields’ Distortion
The reason why I include the Magnetic Fields’ late 2008 album Distortion in the above equation is because everyone says Camera Obscura sounds exactly like Belle and Sebastian and I disagree with them. Camera Obscura is a band that has fallen into the shadow of B&S, but it’s a worthwhile band nonetheless. Indie-pop music as a rule explores a narrow aesthetic, but what this band has done with that aesthetic is impressive and often beautiful. Like with Distortion, Camera Obscura uses its dreamy 60s pop sound to its artistic advantage: The album stands out as a whole and as a collection of songs. Granted, the band hasn’t changed its sound much, but it has kept exploring what it can do with that sound. –Devon Hoffman

Does You Inspire You
Street: 04.21
Chairlift = The Knife + Yeasayer + The Bird and the Bee
I can do without neon sunglasses and mustaches. I rarely feel nostalgic for programmed drums and Casio synthesizers. And I would probably live if I never heard another generic “dream-pop band.” Propers where propers are due though, Chairlift made a record. It impressed Kanine Records so much that they picked them up and re-released it featuring two extra songs—one produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. As far as albums go, Does You Inspire You feels confused and out of place. It has its moments, though. Songs like “Make Up Your Mind” and “Don’t Give a Damn” are hypnotic ballads destined for daisy field frolics. It took strong will and dedication to make it through the first couple of tracks, but once you’re through the barricade of bad ideas, you get a few pleasant jams, but, I’m sorry to say, that’s it. –Ka

The Infection
Street: 04.21
Chimaira = Fear Factory + Slipknot + Killswitch Engage + Hatebreed + Lamb of God
The mystery of how Chimaira is so damn popular in the mainstream metal scene and media still perplexes me––they are one of those bands that has never had a good album. The Infection displays more of what I’ve come to know this crappy, metalcore garbage band for: boring, bland music filled with false anger, playing heavy riffs for the sake of trying to sound super brutal. There isn’t even a catchy song on this record––it follows the same formula throughout; heavy, chugging riffs, tons of metalcore-styled breakdowns, terrible screamed and growled vocals, even some lame-wad programming that does nothing to provide any sort of emotional atmosphere, and a whole boatload of overly triggered, double-bass drumming. Buying a Chimaira album is like ordering one of those ground chuck steaks at a steakhouse—no matter how hard it tries to be a steak, it’s just ground beef. –Bryer Wharton

Pulverised Records
Street: 05.12
Conspiracy = Unleashed + Burzum + Morbid Angel
This one-man blackened death-metal project from former Melechesh bassist Alex “Carpathian Wolf” presents third-tier metal that is surprisingly not third-rate. Unlike the majority of single-member “bedroom” metal bands, Conspiracy contains enough variety and such excellent musicianship that the album remains engaging and enjoyable through back-to-back listening sessions. Splicing together Burzum-esque fury, death-metal breakdowns, swollen lung-bursts, wailing solos and croaked vocals, each song on Concordat contains individual flourishes and displays a personality of its own. Concordat’s obvious weakest link is the sometimes cheesy “Lost in Translation” lyrics, but the album’s musicianship is strong enough even to overcome this obstacle, as when the guitar solos of “Die in Style” drown out the insipid chorus. Conspiracy haven’t produced a masterpiece by any means, but this entry into the blackened death-metal canon is a comfortable fit, like an old, threadbare sweater. —Ben West

Cross Stitched Eyes
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 03.31
Cross Stitched Eyes = Rudimentary Peni + Subhumans
Cross Stitched Eyes features members who have played with Sworn Liars, Zygote, UK Subs and Subhumans. They could be labeled as an anarcho-crust punk super group, breaking ground and bringing the genre into this century. Coranach isn’t terrible, but it isn’t terribly interesting, either. Jason Willer’s voice isn’t terribly interesting also and the 14 tracks all meld together to form something kind of doomy, melancholy and very very droney. I’d rather stick to the forefathers of the crust genre or anything being released by Profane Existance than listen to this. I might give their live show a shot, though. –Jeanette Moses

The Darlings
The Darlings
Street: 05.12
The Darlings = The Mercy Killers + Pennywise + The Offspring
Punk rock should be risky. You know going in it should be pissing some people off; that’s the fun. When I listened to The Darlings’ self-titled seven-song EP, it hit me that I don’t know one person that would get riled at the sound of it. It’s fast, it’s melodic¬¬––the band isn’t bad, it’s just bland. In a world where there are thousands and thousands of bands, I’ve got to move on to the ones that are taking a chance to show me something new. Back in the early to mid 90s, the core Epitaph bands all kind of sounded similar, but because it hadn’t been pounded into the ground by everyone looking to make it big, all those bands were successful with that sound. However, 10 years later, even those bands have moved on. Here come acts like The Darlings slapping a new coat of paint on that brand of punk rock, trying to pass for original, and it just ain’t doing it. While they put a dark tint in most of their songs, like “Cruel World” and “Dead Light,” it just isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. –James Orme

The Devin Townsend Project
Street: 06.16
The Devin Townsend Project = the antithesis of Strapping Young Lad
SYL is known as an unabashed assault of anger, hatred and just being plain pissed—Ki is about controlling anger. Apparently after disbanding, SYL’s Devin went through a sort of detoxifying progress, eliminating the negativity in his life. Ki is the first record in a series of four albums under the name The Devin Townsend Project. Townsend is no stranger to progressive metal. He’s created more albums of it than SYL stuff. Townsend is one of the truly progressive yet manic musical minds in metal today. Each work is its own entity, and Ki lives up to what it is about. The anger is restrained at times, songs build into crescendos that sometimes feel like they could explode and at times do, but also they can fizzle out. Ultimately, this is a mind-trip into Mr. Townsend’s maddened inner world full of diverse textures and layers of atmosphere with perplexing melodies and chaotic and soothing vocals. This is the prog-metal album that doesn’t sound much like prog metal to listen to this year. –Bryer Wharton

Suicide and the Rest of Your Kind Will Follow
Moribund Records
Street: 05.05
Dodsferd = Leviathan + Burzum + Judas Iscariot
I sometimes get funny images in my head of black metal folk sitting in their parents’ basement(s), all decked out in corpse paint, jotting down laundry lists of people they think they’d like to kill, and the reasons they’d like to do so, all while pining for the “glory days” of the early 1990s Norwegian black metal scene. Wrath, the man behind Grecian entity Dodsferd, could very well fit this image, or he could be serious with his humankind-hating music and nuts-in-a-meat-grinder vocal delivery. This release consists of a whopping two tracks, albeit rather long tracks, that very well may be unreleased Burzum songs from the Filosofem era. Either Dodsferd is an extremely underrated bedroom-black-metal act, or Wrath just has an uncanny knack for rewriting songs that have already been recorded by other artists. Ambiguous? You bet. –Gavin Hoffman

The Classical Conspiracy
Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 05.08
Epica = Within Temptation + Leaves’ Eyes + Anathema
In their six short years, Epica has had a pretty impressive career, so it’s about time they release a live album, and what a whopper it is. Or is it? This is two discs, which consist of music from the band, a 40-piece orchestra and a 30-piece choir. The first disc is classical, with the band’s instruments joining in to perform classical songs from composers such as
Giuseppe Verdi, and even some movie soundtrack songs such as John Williams’ “The Imperial March” and a Spiderman medley by Danny Elfman. The second disc is decidedly Epica’s time to shine, playing material from their back catalogue. Even if you don’t enjoy the style, the orchestral additions add an enjoyable dynamic to Epica’s material. One could compare this to Metallica’s S&M effort, but with a choir and specifically focused orchestral material, it’s one step beyond that. The band clearly has strived to release something really special. –Conor Dow

Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 03.25
Fejd = Heidevolk + Nebelung + Dornenreich
It says a lot about the metal community when a purely folk band is signed to a metal label and releases an album that is fairly anticipated by metal fans. Fejd is a perfect example of why folk and metal are so closely related, and you can hear this clearly in their music. Though the guitars are purely acoustic and there’s no screaming, the music could very easily be metal with a few minor adjustments. In fact, this album really reminds me of Dornenreich’s most recent effort, In Luft geritzt, due to the rather stripped-down and intimate feel that is conveyed. There are also quite a lot of wind instruments here, performed by the very talented vocalist Patrick Rimmerfors. This includes such instruments as the Swedish bagpipe, hurdy gurdy, and willow pipe, among others. To anyone who likes good music in general, or anyone who is curious about metal’s folk roots, this is where you want to look. –Conor Dow

The Field
Yesterday and Today
Street: 05.19
The Field = Lindstrøm + Prins Thomas + Phoenix
It is too early for a trance comeback, but Swedish electronic dance producer Axel Willner is busy tilling the soil for a replanting. The formula is simple: airy synths and dreamscapes are pitch-shifted and chopped up in a very calculated scale pattern and then side-chained against a punchy kick and hi-hats. Yesterday and Today is a bit of a departure from his well received previous work, From Here We Go Sublime, because of the addition of live instrumentation and guest drummer John Stainier from Battles. The result is a more rounded and alive-sounding album, like a kaleidoscope that has been projected on a proper-sized movie screen—psychedelic but very logical. –Andrew Glassett

Fleshgod Apocalypse
Street: 04.21
Fleshgod Apocalypse = Vital Remains + Behemoth + The Faceless
Normally with listening to records that initially sound pretty damn good, that feeling grows and only gets better. Fleshgod Apocalypse enter into a middle ground as far as my tastes lie. The guitars are clean and crisply produced, the Italian brutal death-metal trio have an interesting depth to their sound and add plenty of elements of technical death metal considering the current trends popping up in the scene of tech death. I can bear with the album’s slight guitar-wankerish solos and leads. There is also an addition of some symphonic moments a la Dimmu Borgir; I can see the appeal with the juxtaposition of classical music and death metal, but it comes off as cumbersome. Fleshgod’s biggest problem on Oracles is the clickety-clack racket of drum sounds; I’ve seriously heard drum machines sound more natural than the drum sound on this record, i.e., Limbonic Art. All pitfalls aside, the album isn’t unlistenable, it’s just frustrating. There is a little nagging voice inside me saying this could’ve been so much better. –Bryer Wharton

Glorior Belli
Meet Us at the Southern Sign
Candlelight Records
Street: 06.06
Glorior Belli = Watain + Ondskapt + Corpus Christii
I’ve always been picky about the black metal that is signed to Candlelight Records, but France’s Glorior Belli remain among the elite in their roster of still-active bands. I am always inclined to check out anything from France, thanks to the endless flow of fantastic bands that seemingly comes out of nowhere. This is Glorior Belli’s third full-length album and a highly anticipated follow-up to their rather excellent Manifesting the Raging Beast. It pretty much picks up where the last one left off, with similar production and song lengths. While it might take a few listens to get into, there’s actually a surprising amount of layering and subtleties to each track, which definitely gives reason for repeated listens. While I think Otargos’s Fuck God-Disease Process so far is still my favorite France black-metal release of 2009, Meet Us at the Southern Sign is definitely worth some attention. –Conor Dow

Chorus of One
Street: 06.16
Gonzales = Coyote Shivers + The Bacon Brothers
It is amazing to me that bands like this exist. It boggles my mind that four people will get together and pump out the most generic music possible and actually feel confident putting it out and having their name associated with it. Gonzales is a perfect example of this modern-day tragedy. This is the most generic, blues-tinged, bar-rock music of all time. Seriously, I want to meet the person that actually takes time out of their day to go purchase this album and listen to it. I just feel bad that bands like this are around because it takes attention away from creative, original bands that deserve it. –Jon Robertson

Great White
Street: 04.21
Great White = Whitesnake + Blue Oyster Cult + Alice Cooper
Unfortunately for Great White, the popular 80s act will forever have the stigma over their heads as the band that played the concert at the club that caught fire due to poor fire code regulations and bad pyrotechnics. While the indecent was tragic indeed, the band has made massive attempts at playing benefit gigs, etc. Onto the review of Rising—I was surprised by the album, expecting some sort of reliving of their former glory and attempts at stupid ballads to tug at the heartstrings or pop-hard rock oriented hits –– the album is nothing of the sort. There is actually a huge 70s rock influence flowing throughout the record’s 11 cuts. It’s a fairly upbeat rock album with some bluesy moments and plenty of catchy and easily pleasing melodies. Is this something I’d personally listen to again and again? Not really, but it does show Great White in a light that they’re playing music that they want to play, and not catering to certain audiences. –Bryer Wharton

Street: 05.19
Havok = Exodus + Metallica + Testament + Bonded by Blood
Thrash revivalism, neo-thrash, whatever you want to call it—damn, this shit is bleeding out the orifices of every scene and coming from every label. I review at least one album of the stuff every month and I usually come to the same conclusion: It’s been done before and it’s been done better. Denver’s Havok actually had a cool rough-and-tumble raw sound from what I heard on their Pwn ’em all EP. The band’s debut full-length, Burn, isn’t a terrible album by any means, but it’s not anything close to thrash-metal perfection. One of my biggest gripes with many of the thrash revivalism artists are that many of the albums are over-produced. The biggest flaw on Burn is the drum sound. The double-bass sound is triggered to all hell and back, which doesn’t match the guitars, which, while clean-sounding at times, does have a nice bite. –Bryer Wharton

Hope Lane is a Dead End
Street: 02.17
Hope Lane is a Dead End= Thursday + Poison the Well + Coalesce + Death by Stereo
Nine out of 10 times, I don’t believe it when metal screamo bands claim they are different from the rest in their genre. If a band has to point out how different they are, most likely they aren’t. Finally, once out of the 10 times, I can agree that Hope Lane is a Dead End is different. With Illuminate, I think HLIADE will avoid being tossed and lost in Myspace and are far from your average watered-down metalcore band. They don’t mimic their influences, but instead, use those elements in a savvy way. The production is impressive and the bass player and drummer keep the album technical and ever-changing. The vocals bounce from scream to sing to growl, making the range fit in without being awkward. “Up To Our Necks” and “1984” are nonstop rock-your-socks tracks. I’ve never used the term before, but this is a fun rock n’ roll hardcore album well worth a listen. –Nicole Dumas

J Dilla
Rapster Records
Street Date: 05.31
J Dilla = Classic D-Town hip hop at its finest
Anything J Dilla touches turns to gold. This album showcases Dilla’s immense talent with 13 hip-hop sure-shots. If you have no idea who Jay Dee a.k.a. J Dilla is, think Slum Village. Think Black Milk. Think Yancey Brothers. Think “the D”. He’s nitty gritty hip-hop superiority at its finest. This album features no rarities or hidden gems, just pure Dilla-produced classic collabs like Common’s “The Light,” The Roots’ “Dynamite,” The Pharcyde’s “Runnin” and “Drop” and De La Soul’s “Stakes is High.” This is a no-brainier, classic hip-hop material for the soul. –JRapp

Joan of Arc
Street: 06.16
Joan of Arc = Cap’n Jazz + Owl + American Football + Ghosts and Vodka + Everyoned + Make Believe + Friend/Enemy
Good ol’ Joan of Arc—so flashy, so experimental, all the pizzazz that you could ever want from a band. Tim Kinsella is so fresh and so clean. I really have tried to love this band several times and every time they pull me in and then Timmy starts throwing down his blunt semi-ironic lyrics and it totally turns me off. All I really want to do is spend one romantic evening getting all sultry to the sounds of Joan of Arc, but Tim’s stank lyrics keep ruining the moment. I think that he needs to mellow out on the poignancy. –Jon Robertson

John Paul Keith and The One Four Fives
Spills and Thrills
Big Legal Mess/ Fat Possum
Street: 05.12
John Paul Keith = Jerry Lee Lewis + R.L Burnside + Jimmy Vaughn
Every time I pick up a supposed blues record with a white guy on the cover, I start to cringe, but from the get-go, John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives got me rolling. White guys generally can’t play the blues—the best they can do is steal them and tweak them into something that makes sense to them. Blues is the music of oppression, depression, misery and a big “fuck you” to those who might try and keep you down. White people don’t know what that’s all about, and if they do, they’re not used to it. The exception to that rule has arrived and his name is John Paul Keith. This record hits every sweet spot your ears got, from the sweltering sex of “Pure Cane Sugar” to the force of energy that is the last track, “Doin’ the Devil’s Work.” John and his band put across the rockin’ blues sound so well, it’s uncanny. John Paul Keith had banged around the music biz a few times over and to the detriment of his wallet, has not given an inch on what his vision of his music is. That stamina has paid off in the dividends of a great record that any fan of any kind of blues can enjoy. –James Orme

John Vanderslice
Romanian Names
Dead Oceans
Street: 05.19
John Vanderslice = Death Cab For Cutie (but less catchy) + Flaming Lips (but more bland)
Do you ever feel like certain genres are just getting more and more watered down? John Vanderslice is like Vitamin Water after you have been drinking Gatorade for months. Sometimes his songs have good hooks, usually about his love life, sometimes they sound like Cure B-sides (especially “Too Much Time”). I am usually down for some depressing relationship songs, you know, because I am a pussy, but I never listen to more than like three or four Vanderslice songs. He just gets old pretty quick, plus, he will probably remind you of a band you would prefer to listen to. –Cody Hudson

Jungle Rot
What Horrors Await
Napalm Records
Street: 05.19
Jungle Rot = Divine Empire + Six Feet Under + Autopsy
I hadn’t really heard anything about Jungle Rot since their 2004 Fueled by Hate record, which for the attention it got, wasn’t really all that super. The group has been smoldering along for almost 15 years, suffering lineup changes galore, which never really helps any band. What Horrors Await isn’t a bad death-metal record by any means, it’s actually quite refreshing to hear bands still playing good old classic death metal. Songs range from fast to mid-paced and the vocalist actually enunciates his growls, which is fun to understand the war-themed lyrics, silly as they may be. The record seems to lack depth at the times it needs it most. You have a song that has everything you need and enjoy, and then you get a bleh, boring tune with a grooving riff and really uninspired solo. One could easily do worse than the latest from Jungle Rot, but that same thought applies in reverse, because one can easily find better. –Bryer Wharton

Kevin Devine
Brother’s Blood
Favorite Gentlemen
Street: 04.28
Kevin Devine= Bright Eyes + recent M. Ward + Pablo
I’ll admit that sometimes my own musical biases get in the way of really listening to or understanding some artists. Every dog has his bone, or whatever they say. Confessions aside, Devine’s new record is not all that bad. I’d be willing to bet that most listeners will love every second of it. Girls will just eat up his acoustic confessions, and any one who appreciates a good guitar freak-out will love the deeper side of BB. As for me, I thought it was a nice little record. I think I’ll leave it at that. –Ka

The Lava Children
Street: 05.26
The Lava Children = Deerhoof + The Pixies
I am apathetic about The Lava Children. Clattering combinations of drums, guitar and assorted ambience trundle among abstract female vocalizations, and this album makes its way from beginning to end ponderously, dreamily. The five-track album, a scant 20 minutes long, maintains a middling effect of slow, indifferent haziness throughout its short existence, and when it is over, it fails to be very effectual. Perhaps The Lava Children serve a purpose like long, warm summer days when getting nothing done serves a purpose, but listening to them, all I can think is how much more exciting it’d be to listen to something else. –Devon Hoffman

Lay Down Rotten
Gospel of the Wretched
Metal Blade
Street: 05.12
Lay Down Rotten = God Dethroned + Callenish Circle + Gorefest + Amon Amarth (early)
Germany isn’t really known for producing great death-metal acts, though my first encounter with Lay Down Rotten was an interesting one. Gospel of the Wretched is the band’s 5th full-length record and their second album released by Metal Blade. It’s catchy and just straightforward—heavy with many melodic moments. I’m thrown off a bit by the fact that 1) I had never heard of the band, and 2) They don’t seem to have much recognition. I’ve heard band after band attempting to play this style of simple yet heavy and infectious death metal and fail miserably. I had my doubts listening to the record, but I’ll be damned, it caught me off guard––it has great groove riffs with pounding drums and fantastic production. I came to the realization that modern death metal can have a simple sound to it and be quite good. This reminds me a lot of the earlier Amon Amarth albums, and that’s a good thing. –Bryer Wharton

The Legion
A Bliss to Suffer
Street: 05.12
The Legion = Dark Funeral + Dimmu Borgir + Limbonic Art + Vader
I recall listening to Sweden’s The Legion’s debut six years ago and I promptly forgot about it. Now it lies dormant in my collection of promo CDs. Point being, I didn’t really have any expectations for this record. The Legion plays a sort of symphonic, blackened death metal. I cannot get by the redundancy of the songs on A Bliss to Suffer, especially with the drumming, which is odd because it comes from Emil Dragutinovic of Marduk and Devian. I would place a bet that if you could just hear the drum tracks for each song, they’d be interchangeable for every song on the album. The guitar riffing, leads and scarce soloing that are all typical of the genre don’t really hold any special power or even heaviness. Then there are the keyboards, which apparently aren’t even credited to any of the band members. I wouldn’t want them credited to me, either; they’re the worst part of the album. –Bryer Wharton

Leonard Cohen
Live in London
Street 03.31
Leonard Cohen = Bob Dylan + French Canada + Buddhism
After churning out several decades’ worth of the best music Canada has ever produced, Leonard Cohen has earned the right to rest on his laurels and sit at home counting money. But his chronic need to bring music to the people and a history of hiring dishonest accountants has put the legendary crooner back in the spotlight. This recording, from a sold-out 2008 concert in the UK, proves just how wonderfully a man in his seventies can lay it all out when he needs to. Cohen really is the coolest cat that the Great White North has ever produced—the perfect mix of Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Cat Stevens. And the sincerity and pure romanticism of Cohen’s music has lost nothing over the years. Of the 26 songs that span this rather lengthy two-disc set, there is not a single sour note. Some of the songs could have been done without the big area treatment, but even when the setting seems a little large for the tune, the lyrics and the musical integrity manage to hold up just fine. There is a little too much soft-rock saxophone in some parts, but how do you argue with a French-Canadian Jew in a fedora? You don’t. –James Bennett

Loop 2.4.3
Zodiac Dust
Music Starts from Silence
Street: 06.16
Loop 2.4.3 = Brian Eno + Eluvium
Loop 2.4.3 does something very admirable in its approach. They are a sprawling jam band of minimalists, a Grateful Dead of stark European minimalism. Clearly taking notes from Steve Reich, this mostly-percussion ensemble breathes new life into the minimalist aesthetic of subtle repetition and slow-evolving themes by endowing them with a fresh enthusiasm. Instead of straightforward composition, Zodiac Dust expands and contracts with the unpredictability and veracity of a living creature—spontaneously composed but exactingly precise. Sometimes the redundancy can get boring, but Zodiac Dust’s approach is too exciting to let that deter you. –Devon Hoffman

The Mary Onettes
Street: 04.29
The Mary Onettes = The Cure
The Mary Onettes are smooth and calming, very similar to the soft side of The Cure. The distant strings and guitar make me feel dreamy, as if I’m in a feel-good movie at the point when the guy finds the girl on the beach and they look at one another and smile. Kind of cheesy, but that’s the feeling right there. With only three songs to this little EP, it ends leaving me feeling empty. I would like to hear more. –Jessica Davis

Crack the Skye
Street: 03.24
Mastodon = Neurosis + Metallica + Dream Theater + Kyuss
The best word to describe Mastodon’s musical career is overrated. I have never really understood why the media and fans have been drooling all over these guys, basically since their Lifesblood EP. Yeah, the guys can play their instruments well, but it’s just a big self-satisfaction festival: “Dude, check out this intricate epic riff I wrote.” I’m sure the recording process of a Mastodon album entails each band member stroking each other’s egos. Crack the Skye is the most progressive the band has sounded and that isn’t really a good thing. It reminds me of another overrated band called um, oh yeah, Opeth. I mean it’s not terrible music, it’s just damn boring. There is no continuing theme or feeling behind the songs, it is just one gigantic self-fulfilling jam. The only feeling I’ve ever gotten while listening to a Mastodon album is the desire to listen to something else. –Bryer Wharton

Adios … Puta Madres
13th Planet/Megaforce
Street: 03.31
Ministry = Ministry
Um … yeah. Another fucking Ministry album. You know, for a band that supposedly ended over a year ago, they’re sure good at releasing a record every 3 months. Adios … Puta Madres is supposedly Al Jourgensen’s latest attempt to bury Ministry, but something tells me there will be at least 20 more Ministry releases in the next two years, so his attempt will fail yet again. Regardless, this is a live record that comes with a DVD of the performance, which I admittedly can’t even bring myself to watch, much less give a fuck about. Good fucking Christ … In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up was so much better than this shitpile. So much for sending Ministry off on a high note, Al. Kill the fucker already … please! -Gavin Hoffman

God May Show You Mercy … We Will Not
I Hate Records
Street: 03.06
Minotaur = Kreator + Sodom + Possessed + Dark Angel
Minotaur has been around since 1983, the era of the dawn of thrash metal. It must have taken some challenges, but apparently the band financed the release of their ’88 full-length debut, Power of Darkness, which fits excellently with the darkened thrash-masters of the era a la their German peers Kreator and Sodom, yet they never got their break. After periods of inactivity, what’s left of the band is giving it a go in the thrash revivalism era. Call me a sucker for German thrash metal, but I’ll take God May … over the entire damn Exodus and Metallica clone bands that are invading the scene now. I don’t care what brought Minotaur back from the abyss to create this album, but it owns and feels like something that came out of the mid 80s. Chockful of gritty, fast riffing with black metal-type screams, thunderous, echoing drumming, and fully audible bass-playing, these dudes were there in the middle of the amazing early thrash scene, so grab a beer, spin this album and know the meaning of thrash fucking metal. –Bryer Wharton

Kingdom EP
Tee Pee
Street: 04.21
Naam = Pink Floyd + Blue Cheer + Earthless
Fuzzy, psychedelic, sexy rock and roll—things that many bands in the past few years have attempted to recreate and have failed miserably at. Naam, however, ripped a page straight from the late 60s/early 70s psych-rock handbook and have followed it to a T. The drums sound like they were recorded during a Jimi Hendrix session, and with wah-wah pedals galore, are punctuated with clean and driving basslines that just beg for the listener to tune in, turn on, and drop out. This EP is the poster child for the 60s rock revival, and thank-the-fuck-Christ for that. –Gavin Hoffman

New Distances
Deathwish Inc.
Street: 05.12
Narrows = Botch + Isis + These Arms are Snakes
It’s impossible to talk about Narrows without talking about Botch. From minute one, you know it’s vocalist Dave Verellen, and the comparisons start. Although dwelling on the past really isn’t a good way to go about a review, it needs to be said that a few tracks certainly have a Botch-like flavor, but the album moves in many other directions, establishing Narrows as their own entity. (Not to be unfair, other members played in Unbroken, Some Girls, These Arms Are Snakes and Tropics, which isn’t too shabby for a musical history.) The album itself plays exactly as it was constructed: by mature veterans of the hardcore/punk scene who live in various parts of the US and UK. Because of this, the album is musically tight, but comes up short in the passion department. The urgency is gone from Narrows, and what is left is a stripped-down, sometimes plodding, sometimes straight-ahead punk rock that never comes forward and slaps you across the face. Rather, this release simmers and stays hot, but never boils over as any truly moving punk album should do. –Peter Fryer

Nic Fanciulli
Global Underground
Rephlektor Records
Street Date: 04.27
Nic Franciulli = Progressive House + Miami Nights + Mini Skirts
Global Underground brings us a thumping progressive house mix put together by Nic Fanciulli. Global Underground brings a great, flowing, progressive house double-disc with a bit of a harder edge, making this album more appealing to me. I tend to find progressive house music very repetitive and dull, but Fanciulli brings electro-inspired progressive bangers for those really yearning for some harder crossover progressive house. Highlights fall at the end of the first disc and carry over to the beginning of the second disc. Fanciulli throws down heavy-hitting tracks from King Pin Cartel, Rolando, Photek and Chateau. Fanciulli’s album is one to check out if progressive house has been rattling your skull lately. –JRapp

Devil’s Force
Regain Records
Street: 05.05
Nifelheim = old Dissection + old Bathory + Impaled Nazarene
This is a re-release of Nifelheim’s second album, which is actually about 12 years old. How does it hold up? Let’s just say Nifelheim manages to remain more relevant than much of the forgettable black metal out there today. These tracks are full of vigor and don’t waste a single second trying to be something other than totally blasphemous and well written. It also features contributions from Dissection members Jon Nödtveidt (RIP) and John Zwetsloot, which says a lot about the album’s sound. The production is really quite similar to early Dissection, most notably the large-sounding drums that echo as if they were recorded in a stone chapel, and an overall energy that was very unique in the 1990s. If you have yet to hear this band, make this album your gateway. –Conor Dow

Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 04.28
Coaster = Pump Up the Valuum + War on Errorism + So Long and Thanks...
Despite being hugely successful and stupid-fucking rich, NOFX are still one of the most punk bands on the planet. Rather than force themselves to come across as equals to the pubescent punks in the pit, they embrace their elevated status and they’re more than happy to spit on the kids when they deserve it. Coaster has the feel of the last couple of politically driven NOFX albums, but the attitude of their post-mainstream Epitaph albums. It’s relentlessly funny, damn clever and even heart-wrenching. What other band could mix songs about Iron Maiden (“Eddie, Bruce and Paul”), trying to score drugs with the unreceptive Tegan & Sara (“Creeping Out Sara”), unabashed alcoholism (“The Quitter,” “First Call,” “Alcoholic”), unabashed God-bashing (“Blasphemy—The Victimless Crime,” “Best God in Show”) AND childhood abandonment issues (“My Orphan Year”)? No one, that’s fucking who. After all these years, NOFX are still champions of NOFX, and that’s exactly what they should be. –Ricky Vigil

Pillow Queens
Monofonus Press
Street: 09.02
Pillow Queens = The Drones + Maps & Atlases + Adam Sandler
The Pillow Queens have a quality I could almost get into; the jazzy grunge that keeps a crowd dancing, bouncing, out-of-tune vocals, and a bit of stringy, scratchy yelling. The song “Regional Flute” is a pretty good song. The low reverb bass and nasally vocals made me think of Maps & Atlases if they were having a bad day. Compared to “Difficult House” or “Mongoloid,” the Adam-Sandler, childlike singing in “T.V. Song” was quite tolerable as well. My favorite part of this package, though, is the little storybook titled “Clear Violet” by Karen Davidson. It’s definitely a sweet idea, if nothing else. –Jessica Davis

Between Noise and The Indians
Joyful Noise
Street: 06.09
Push-Pull = Jackson 5 + Melvins + My Balls
I gots mad respect for Push-Pull. Bands that try to bring it and make creative, challenging music are way too few and far between these days. You can tell these guys actually care about bringing something new to the world of music. These sweet pieces of action are the perfect combination of the Pixies and Primus, with Isaac Brock rocking the mic on vocals. It’s good stuff and if you listen to these dudes and don’t like it, you are lame and need to pull your head out and get down to the gratuitous rhythms of the pulse-pounding, funk/punk rock of Push-Pull. You know their name and you know how they be living, big up to Push-Pull for the jams. You guys have definitely gained a new fan. –Jon Robertson

Moribund Records
Street: 04.07
Ruins = Celtic Frost + Averse Sefira + Darkthrone
Tasmanian's Ruins toured Australia as support for Immortal, and the North European influence certainly shows on Cauldron. However, rather than harnessing the shrill and trebly spectre of the Norse hordes, Ruins shovel spadefuls from the underground, channeling early Darkthrone, Celtic Frost, and early Mayhem. Cruddy and gravel-throated, Ruins establish an easy lope, punctuated by relentless drumming and snarled vocals. Cold, frozen, and thoroughly authentic, Ruins surprisingly accomplishes more with only two members (including the drummer from Psycroptic) than many full-fledged black-metal bands. One to watch for. –Ben West

Running Out of Time
Self Released
Street: 04.26
Schleusolz = Super NES + Rugrats (The T.V. Show)
Running Out of Time is the most annoying CD I’ve ever listened to all the way through. I wish I could listen to it for more than 30 seconds without wanting to end its existence, because Schleusolz is, if nothing else, pretty interesting. They’ve mastered the style of the great 80s video game 8-bit composers, and they’ve raised the bar on how annoying that sort of music can get, and to that they get credit––at least this crap is unique. I don’t want to write Schleusolz off entirely, though. They create really annoying music, but they create annoying music quite well. If you could ever get over the shrill impossibility of listening to their music, you might find that Running Out of Time isn’t that bad. –Devon Hoffman

Loss 4 Wordz
!K7/Gold Dust
Street Date: 03.26
Scratch = Rahzel + Jay Dilla
The beat-boxing DJ extraordinaire from The Roots returns with his highly anticipated sophomore album. Scratch brings us a diverse album with bangers such as “Let’s Go,” featuring stellar verses from Peedi Crack, “Ready to Go,” featuring Kanye West and Consequence, and “Get the F… Out of Here” featuring MOP and Showtime. Scratch has concocted some soulful joints as well with “Tonight,” featuring Musiq Soulchild, “If Our Love was a Song,” featuring Daniel Bedingfield and “The Man,” featuring Terri Walker and Estelle. A phenomenal album starting with two strong bangers, then mixing it up with some soulful joints, then more bangers, all layered perfectly with one another. This album is diverse and flows great from top to bottom. Definitely an album to look out for. With the beat-boxing talent that Scratch displays and the powerhouse collabs, you will not be disappointed. –Jrapp

Shelter Red
Strike a Mortal Terror
Sound vs Silence
Street: 02.03
Shelter Red = Cave In + Baroness + King Crimson
Here we have an instrumental 7-track album with an alluring peppering of progressive rock. All tracks are designed with repetitive high-pitched noodling guitars and more repetition snaking in and out. I like the instrumental road chosen, but I craved to hear some form of vocals. Not only do I think it would be more complementing, but without them, the album as a whole comes off slightly as a demo recording. Oregon’s Shelter Red is said to have their own sound and I can agree with that; they make their own atmosphere of simplistic jamming-out. There is nothing exceedingly special about Strike a Mortal Terror, but they do create a certain presence that makes this album notable. You can check them out here in Salt Lake Aug 4 and 7, both venues TBA. –Nicole Dumas

Slough Feg
Ape Uprising
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 06.02
Slough Feg = Iron Maiden + Black Sabbath + Dio
In the longstanding tradition of the mighty Slough Feg, Ape Uprising continues the band’s sci-fi heavy metal extravaganza in epic form, both musically and lyrically. Well, boys and girls, if you’ve heard Slough Feg, you pretty much know what to expect from them, and the band isn’t out to disappoint with this record. Some of the tracks have a bit of a doom-metal feeling to them, though the roots in traditional heavy metal are still firmly planted. There are some gigantic, and I mean gigantically awesome riffs on this record. I’ve listened to the record for hours on end and I’m still not sick of the thing. Every instrument is in tune with each other, continuously opening doors to new sounds and structures and just sheer guitar greatness. Add Mike Scalzi’s unique and overall kick-ass vocals, and the package just bursts with metal goodness. My only complaint is the record is too damn short. With eight songs, it clocks in at just over 37 minutes. –Bryer Wharton

Sons of Otis   
Small Stone Records
Street: 03.24
Sons of Otis = Sleep + Electric Wizard + Neurosis
Somewhere between the extremely played-out Neur-Isis and stoner/doom genres of modern-day metal exist Toronto’s Sons of Otis, and it’s a good thing they fall “somewhere between,” believe you me. Exiled combines the sheer heaviness and tone of the trillions of Neurosis-copycat bands with the bongwater-induced convulsions of Sleep, and they do a masterful job at it. The recording is absolutely massive, complementing the guitar riffs and near-tribal drums perfectly. It’s hard to say whether this band, whose moniker is derived from the character of Otis in the cult flick Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, who is in turn based on real-life creepy guy Ottis Toole, will ever be able gain the fame and notoriety of, say, an Electric Wizard, or even an Orange Goblin, but Exiled is worthy of a place in any pot-smoking metal dude’s collection. –Gavin Hoffman

Monuments & Dimensions
Southern Lord
Street: 05.26
SUNNO))) = Monarch + Earth + (early) Boris
Using the word “ambitious” to describe a release usually seems to me like a cop-out, or an easy way for someone to say that a record sucks without actually saying it sucks. This, however, is not the case with SUNNO)))’s latest release, which is their most ambitious to date. Making use of such long-time collaborators as Oren Ambarchi, Attila Cshiar, and Dylan Carlson, SUNNO))) have also employed a choir and full orchestra on Monuments & Dimensions, and have done a masterful job at adding these elements to their signature dual-guitar drone … the final piece on the album signs off with a harp-and-horn duet, for fuck’s sake. This isn’t, for better or worse, the same band that released Flight of the Behemoth, or even Black One … SUNNO))) are not only one of the founders of the drone/doom genre, but they have completely rewritten the rules with Monuments & Dimensions. –Gavin Hoffman

Street: 05.19
Susperia = Testament + Dimmu Borgir – the keyboards + Metallica
I find it fairly hard to criticize Susperia’s vocalist for sounding like a Testament/Chuck Billy clone, considering the guy suffered a heart attack in March of this year. Regardless, his vocals do sound like Mr. Billy, just with a bit more range and interestingly enough, Billy does make a guest appearance on the album. The Norwegian-born Susperia is made up of plenty of ex-Old Man’s Child members and guitarist Cyrus, who also played for Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon and Sarke. The experience within the members definitely shines on this groove-styled, modern thrash metal with subtle hints of black metal. There are also plenty of interesting and original-sounding melodies throughout Attitude. The record is a modern thrash album that has its own style, though imbedded in influence from legendary thrash artists. The most appealing factor in all of the music is that it sounds like it’s played from the heart and with a certain fervor that many bands that wear influences on their sleeves attempt to do but fail at. –Bryer Wharton

Everything is Fire
Street: 04.07
Ulcerate = Immolation + Anata + Knut + Meshuggah
The current tech-death metal scene is turning into a gigantic, jazzy, guitar-wankery festival, and is being dubbed as extreme and new, which it most certainly isn’t. Me happening upon this second full-length from New Zealand’s Ulcerate is quite a refreshing dose of what brutal tech death metal can be. Everything is Fire is a barnburner. The sheer, grimy, napalm-fueled guitar sound literally sounds like if you could touch the riffs, they would instantly incinerate your fingers. There is a nice balance of faster songs, but an almost greedy wealth of amazing dirge-type tunes where the guitar rhythms—a bit math metal-inspired at times but also just full-on chaotic and visceral—grab you by your hair (or skin) and pull it until your head is raw. This is a noxiously brutal effort for tech-death metal and I’ll be content if the style doesn’t turn into much of a trend because at the moment, Ulcerate own it. This record is enough to turn the heads of people that laugh in the face of death metal. –Bryer Wharton

Ad Luciferi Regnum
Pulverised Records
Street: 05.12
Vanmakt = Behexen + Azaghal + Arsis on Methylphenidate
Sweden always manages to consistently put out some quality black metal. Vanmakt are a relatively new band, with members from varying projects such as Nidrike and Nae’blis, and they make it very apparent that they are more than capable of writing good black metal. The songs here are quite melodic, but are far too aggressive to be anywhere near catchy. Though the production is a little too clean for my taste, the speed and sheer vehemence of each song still manage to create a fairly overwhelming atmosphere without trying to muck things up with unnecessary filler or interlude tracks. They might not dominate my rotation for a long period of time, but this is definitely a band I plan to keep an eye on. –Conor Dow

Various Artists
Black Rio 2: Original Samba Soul 1971-1980
Strut Records
Street: 06.23   
Black Rio 2 = Jimmy Castor + Gerson King Combo + João Gilberto
Once you erase the thought of what the guy on the cover seems to be receiving, you will find an album that is full of underground funky-ass music from the 70s Brazilian Black Rio Movement, a time when young Brazilians looked to American soul and funk for a new voice and sound. In 2002, Strut Records released the original Black Rio to highlight the movement’s prominent artists. On Black Rio 2, the series continues with lesser-known artists. The album starts slow, but by track two, get ready for the sweatfest to start. The collection is highly enjoyable, like the Bar-Kays-infused track “Faz Tanto Tempo” by Renatat Lu, and the infectious cover of Gilberto Gil’s “Bananeria” by Emilio Santiago. By track seven, the James Brown impact on the movement is clear. Rio 2 will make you wish you heard these tracks ages ago, but you will find pleasure listening today. –Courtney Blair

Witch Hunt   
Burning Bridges to Nowhere
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 04.28
Witch Hunt = Discharge + The Gits + Bad Religion
I dig on Witch Hunt, and Burning Bridges to Nowhere is exactly why. Bridging the gap between crust punk and early pop-punk (think Husker Du, not NOFX) immediately seems like a treacherous path to take, but Witch Hunt somehow manage to do just that without becoming a laughingstock. Moving easily from medium-paced sing-alongs (“Everyday”) to screamy punk anthems (“Counting Down the Days”), Witch Hunt take everything that is now, and was once, awesome about punk rock and make it, well, awesome again. Crusties, spare-change the 11 bucks or so and buy this fucker. (06.24: Baxter’s) –Gavin Hoffman