National CD Reviews – September 2009

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16 Horsepower
Secret South (Re-Issue)
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 07.28
16 Horsepower = Nick Cave + Devil Makes 3 + Gun Club
If this is something you haven’t heard before, you need to. This Denver band has captured the music of southern hill folk and propelled it to a new level by giving it dark and moody overtones. Secret South has been previously hard to find, so this re-release on Alternative Tentacles is great news for the band’s fanbase. The somber folk standard “Wayfaring Stranger” is stark and grey in its presentation here, but keeps the original spirit of the song, and the rough Appalachian edge of “Praying Arm Lane” stands out as the best example of what 16 Horsepower is able to achieve. It’s so tempting to call this “folk music with an attitude” or to give it some other stupid one-liner, but this music is so much more than that. The dark, earthy, moody 16 Horsepower will take you down a long shadowy road of American folk music. –James Orme

The 69 Eyes
Back in Blood
The End Records
Street: 09.15
The 69 Eyes = HIM + Monster Magnet + Billy Idol
With Back in Blood, the 69 Eyes’ 10th studio album, there are no signs of the Finnish crew slowing down. If this type of album were to come from a newer band, I’d probably give them some shit just because of the heavily vampire-themed lyrics, but these guys are always ahead of the trend. Back in Blood is a meeting halfway of the band’s older, more biker/glam rock-oriented beginnings and their gothic rock that fans have come to enjoy. The end result here is a catchy and groovy record full of hooks and vocal choruses that will leave you sinking your fangs into time and time again. There are some terrifically heavy guitar moments and just as pleasing melodic and calming moments. The 69 Eyes have been on the brink of breaking into the big time for a long time and this record could push them over the edge. Everything about the album is bad ass, be it the rock n’ roll mayhem or slick gothic grooves. –Bryer Wharton

Ahab   
The Divinity of Oceans
Napalm Records
Street: 09.22
Ahab = Nortt + Solitude Aeturnus + Herman Melville
“Funeral Nautic Doom Metal,” thy name is Ahab. Now, I’m no stranger to strange meldings of genres in order for bands to make themselves sound cooler, what with the recent emo-crustcore-electronica-powerviolence thing going on, but Ahab is the only band I can think of that uses the word “nautic” as a descriptor of their band. Sure, this is above-average funereal doom, but I somehow highly doubt it was recorded in the middle of the ocean on a whaling ship. If it was, you’d think the guys would have incorporated the crew’s shouts and the sound of harpoon guns being fired into the album somehow. Call me Ishmael. I am a fan of this here record. –Gavin Hoffman

Alvin Band
Mantis Preying
Intelligent Noise
Street: 09.22
Alvin Band = Bjork’s Medúlla + Beach Boys + Animal Collective
Alvin Band is a one-man band composed of Miniature Tigers drummer Rick Alvin Shaier. Remember when Bjork released her vocal composition Medúlla back in 2005? Well, Rick has taken a similar approach on his solo debut album, Mantis Preying, and has created every aspect of a band—bass, percussion and harmony—using nothing but his mouth. This album is like the Beach Boys harmonies being smashed together with some Timbalandish beats, packaged with catchy slurps and burps, which are very obvious on “Ate.” Highlights include “Cyberspace 2008,” full of heavy breathing and all of the oooos and ahs you could ask for, and the brilliant tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber, gathering up melodies and elements from The Phantom of the Opera on “Mystery of the Yellow Room.” Mantis Preying isn’t just a vocal album; it’s a composition trying to reinvent pop music. –Courtney Blair

Ambassador Gun
When in Hell
Pangea Recordings
Street: 08.11
Ambassador Gun = Nasum (post-Human 2.0) + Napalm Death + Discordance Axis
Don’t let the band equation throw you off—Minneapolis-based trio Ambassador Gun play in the realm of really fast metalcore, treading a fine line into grindcore—no, actually, I’ll call this style “clean grindcore.” Many tunes on this album have some semblance of melodies, almost in the form of punk-rock power chords. The style the guys have concocted for their 16 tracks of speedy grooves, blastbeats-a-plenty and punk-rock rhythms isn’t too bad. But I can be a musical snob. While the production on When in Hell can be downright stupendous, there are also times when it sounds as if the guitar and drums are having a fight and the musical picture gets blurry and distorted. That said, when not blurred, the guitar has some fancy riffs and while they do take the band out of the grindcore realm, the melodic-type riffs are a nice change of pace from an album that could’ve just become all-out blasting. –Bryer Wharton

American Steel
Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 07.21
American Steel = Communique + Alkaline Trio + The Lawrence Arms
Good news, punk fans: American Steel is fun again! Known for their raw, gritty sound, gravelly vocals and deeply emotional lyrics, American Steel's reunion in 2007 was welcome news. However, their reunion album Destroy Their Future proved that American Steel didn't quite remember how to be American Steel. The songs sounded too polished, the emotion seemed forced at times, and it just didn't feel like it should. Dear Friends isn't really a return to form so much as a new chapter for the band. The polish is still their, and the band still isn't as gritty as they were, but songs like "Emergency House Party" and "Tear the Place Apart" recall the early 90s Gilman Street scene and have an undeniable, fun, driving energy. "Your Ass Ain't Laughing Now" recalls the 60s pop influence of Jagged Thoughts, and "Lights Out" sounds just like the Alkaline Trio (but in a good way). American Steel is definitely back, and hopefully they'll stick around for a while. –Ricky Vigil

Ancestors
Of Sound Mind
Tee Pee Records
Street: 10.06
Ancestors = Iota + Neurosis + Farflung + Witch
Ancestors were well under my radar before I received this album to review, but boy, am I glad I did. These gentlemen have a nice heavy stoner-rock style, but most of their music is tuned low enough to be paired with various doom-metal acts. There’s an organ-heavy 1970s vibe here which is appealing, and the band pulls it off effectively with use of long, vocal-less jam sessions and interesting sections of ambient noise. The highlight of the album for me is the drumming, which doesn’t just keep the beat but instead drives each song forward from one progression to the next. Each fill and cymbal hit sound like they were all placed with a very specific and planned purpose. Even though much of the album feels like something straight from the dirty 70s, there are some nice moments that remind me of Neurosis’ recent material as well. Take heed. –Conor Dow

As Tall as Lions
You Can’t Take It with You
Triple Crown
Street: 09.15
As Tall As Lions = Blue Merle + U2 + Silverchair (circa Diorama)
I think now that Dredg has become poppy douchers and lost the majority of their legitimacy, many bands are following suite and realizing how easy they can make up-tempo psychedelic pop. As Tall as Lions is no exception from this trend. While this isn’t an entirely bad thing, I always listen to music like this and just wish that some of the light-hearted, fast-paced action would go away. While I feel like there are some extremely interesting elements on You Can’t Take It with You, I also feel the band is trying to be way too big and anthemic for their own good. It’s too bad, because there is some serious talent being put to waste here. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. –Jon Robertson

Astra
The Weirding
Rise Above Records
Street: 06.23
Astra = Pink Floyd + The Eagles + Camel + Hendrix
In all seriousness, if I didn’t know and I just listened to this album without any back knowledge, I would think it was some hidden gem album from the 60s, but alas, this is straight-up new music from a band based in San Diego. It’s quite difficult to call this record from Astra prog rock; it’s more psychedelic than anything. The songs contained are grandiose, all brimming with vivid soundscapes made up of a wide array of instruments and styles—from 60s-styled folk or classic rock (à la the type that has highly inspirational guitars) to an ultra-spacey, almost weightless feeling. The production quality of this album is one of its most astounding properties; it feels as though you are listening to the album on vinyl, embodying all the richness in sound that said format entails. In the end, all I can say, not simply but firmly, is “Wow!” –Bryer Wharton

Behemoth
Evangelion
Metal Blade
Street: 08.11
Behemoth = Vader + Nile + Melechesh + Immortal
The pummeling brutal death metal with tinges of black metal that Behemoth is now known for is in full force on Evangelion. Statements that band frontman Nergal made long ago about him wanting the band to be known than more than just a Polish death-metal band rings truest with this new offering. Whereas the last few records left a big emphasis on groove-styled death-metal force, Evangelion ups the black-metal ante and offers up a giant Sumerian/Middle Eastern sound. Plenty of the blasting chaotic moments are here, but there is an overall just epic feeling to the album and it doesn’t get tiresome–repeated spins will have listeners finding more and more within the songs. I didn’t really think Behemoth was going to top their Demigod album, but Evangelion’s evil and glorious lead guitars with a huge and diverse assault of songs is something that fans will be digging for years to come. –Bryer Wharton

Black Math Horseman
Wyllt
Tee Pee
Street: 04.21
Black Math Horseman = Jarboe + Red Sparowes
I dunno. It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish yourself in the wide, wonderful world that is doom metal. What sets Black Math Horseman apart is Sera Timms’ chanting vocals, which are truly creeptastic, beautiful, and painful: perfect Macbeth witch voiceover material. I would go so far as to say that her work on this album helps redefine the role of female vocals in metal. But as far as the guitar/bass riffs and drum parts, they’re solid, but fairly status quo (a nice exception is the ending riff of “Torment of the Metals.”) Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a good comparison here as far as the layered, yearning, reverb-pregnant guitar-picking that hypnotically revolves over and over like a good douse in the washing machine with slow builds into crashing rinse cycles and watery death. Buuuuuut … I’m not sensing any “source” feeling here. More like a tributary; a band standing on the shoulders of giants. –Rebecca Vernon

Bloody Panda   
Summon
Profound Lore Records
Street: 08.11
Bloody Panda = Khanate + Khlyst + Monarch
Sometimes I wonder about sludge/doom bands. I mean, really, how many more three-beat-per-minute bands can actually form and expect to release music that anyone outside of their little social circle would want to hear? Thankfully, Bloody Panda have thus far been smart enough to stay on the outer-rim of stereotypical sludge/doom. Sure, the detuned guitars and plodding drums are a major factor on Summon, but there are hints of industrial, noise, and classical strewn throughout. These elements, combined with Yoshiko Ohara’s gorgeous vocals, help Summon stand out amongst a sea of bogged-down (bonged down?) bands with no real idea of how to use music to set a mood. –Gavin Hoffman

Bone Gnawer
Feast of Flesh
Pulverised Records
Street: 09.01
Bone Gnawer = Vomitory + Denial Fiend + Malevolent Creation
Bone Gnawer is definitely as advertised, a death metal band blending the great styles of brutal Swedish death metal and Florida-styled death metal. That said, in the instance of Feast of Flesh, I’m actually going to complain that the solid production value of the record actually makes the album suffer a bit because this combination of styles sound more like the latest era of the aforementioned styles instead of the early 90s sounds. There are some truly killer groove-based riffs on Feast of Flesh and the lineup is a solid one made up of members that have plenty of band credits to their name; however, I see Bone Gnawer ending up as just another of their credits and not as a longstanding band. Everything on the album is done well, yet it still lacks a catchiness or raw vibe that makes you want to revisit the album. In a sense, it’s too clean and almost forced-sounding. Feast of Flesh isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t quite meet the highly demanding standards of brutal death metal. –Bryer Wharton

Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs
From Sumi to Japan
Triple Crown
Street: 08.14
Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs = Kevin Devine + The Matthew Good Band
The best word I could use to describe Brian Bonz’s debut is probably “lovely.” Brian Bonz sings folksy, soft-spoken indie pop, the kind of music that’s ideal to listen to on lazy summer afternoons. It’s loaded with bright jangly acoustic guitar and Bonz’s earnest crooning vocals, with his band adding depth through instrumentation. Each track is as pretty as the next, but even so, there’s plenty of variety. Bonz is a gifted songwriter, and most of the songs stand strong on their own. There are hints of intensity that I hope Bonz might explore in future albums, since “quiet,” “calm” and “lovely” do get old after a while. While From Sumi to Japan is easy to listen to, it’s definitely more than “easy listening” in the elevator-music sense. –Cléa Major

Celan
Halo
Exile on Mainstream
Street: 09.01
Celan = Unsane + Redux Orchestra + flu.ID
The ambition factor is definitely high for Celan’s debut album, Halo, and likely so are the expectations, for a band comprised of Chris Spencer of Unsane, Ari Benjamin Meyers (a classically trained composer and experimental musician), Franz Xaver and Phil Roeder (ex-flu.ID), and Niko Wenner (Oxbow). With my first listen, I was quick to judge the record as sounding like an offshoot of Unsane, because, well, there are plenty of noise/hardcore-driven moments filled with grit and harsh tones. But in the midst of those chaotic moments lies some subtle and strange melodies providing a juxtaposition of noise versus calm. The songwriting on Halo is hefty and well, makes the album far from run-of-the-mill material. Every track offers up something new and different, with each player having highlighted performances, and after being thrown through a noisy, distorted gauntlet of sounds, the end track of almost 13 minutes of instrumentation is ready to blow you even further off the traditional music map. –Bryer Wharton

Choo Choo La Rouge
Black Clouds
KIAM
Street: 08.18
Choo Choo La Rouge = R.E.M. + Randy Newman + Cake
If only they brought back the draft, and only drafted all the whiney, nasally, happily depressed alternative singers out there. Being a musician is tough and rewarding, yet it’s also so complicated, what with all the partying, chicks, unemployment and making your friends sit through semi-sweet sets and half-assed albums. Timothy Bracy of The Mendoza Line thinks that if CCLR “wanted to make hit records, they certainly could.” He could have just as easily said “they really aren’t very good” or “fame isn’t important to them”; you know, the stock lines shitty musicians spurt out at the drop of a hat. –Cinnamon Brown

Chuck Ragan
Gold Country
SideOneDummy
Street: 09.01
Chuck Ragan = Rumbleseat + Austin Lucas + Two Cow Garage
Chuck Ragan will likely never be able to escape the “ex-Hot Water Music” tag, but Gold Country finds the gruff-voiced, flannel-clad, bear-killing everyman at his most comfortable as a solo performer. Gold Country strikes an interesting balance in Ragan’s personal style, as it is more firmly rooted in country than earlier solo efforts, but is delivered with the intensity and urgency he displayed in HWM. “Glory” is a great example: The arrangement is sparse but full, with fiddles at the forefront, but Ragan sounds as though he might let loose with a full-volume scream at any second. “The Trench” finds Ragan & Co. making use of electric instrumentation, “10 West” takes the “hooh! hahs!” straight from Against Me!’s “Anarcho Punks” and “Good Enough for Rock and Roll” sounds like it could’ve been a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. Chuck Ragan is the real deal, and he just keeps getting better and better. –Ricky Vigil

Cobra Skulls
American Rubicon
Red Scare
Street: 07.07
Cobra Skulls = Against Me! + The Falcon + The Blasters
Not only are Cobra Skulls in possession of one of the best names and one of the best logos in all of punk rock, but they're also one of the most energetic, entertaining and just plain fun bands in punk today. The band mixes elements of country, rockabilly, reggae and punk rock to create a style that doesn't really sound like any of their influences, but is still familiar. The band tends to cram a lot of ideas onto each album, and as such the socio-political commentary comes off as a bit too scattershot, but that doesn't mean that the songs still aren't fun. Overpopulated has a jagged, ska-esque feel to it, "Problem With Preconceptions" starts with a Fugazi-inspired intro (and goes on to reference Ian Mackaye in the lyrics), and "One Day I'll Never" actually sounds like an Elton John song, but much more bad-ass. These guys still ain't perfect, but they're a lot of fun and definitely warrant a listen. –Ricky Vigil

The Crimson Armada
Guardians
Metal Blade
Street: 07.07
The Crimson Armada = Darkest Hour + The Black Dahlia Murder + Whitechapel
I was raised with the thought process of, if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. That stated, The Crimson Armada’s guitarists do a really good job at playing variations of a riff that sounds like this—deedle deedle deedle dee dee deedle deedle deedle. Unfortunately for TCA, I can’t really mind my manners at all. Guardians reeks of ProTools and drum trigger overuse—yes, ProTools is a great application for helping write and record your material, but it doesn’t write your songs for you. This entire record sounds like the same track rehashed again and again with fast At the Gates-inspired riffs with hardcore-styled breakdowns with screamed and growled vocals—oh, and some keyboard portions randomly tossed in for the epic effect. –Bryer Wharton

The Delfields
Ogres
Team Clermont
Street: 08:18
The Delfields = The Shins + Bells Will Ring
I enjoy this album. It’s sweet, fun, and upbeat. The vocals are wispy and high, but pleasant and catchy. They’re one of the baby bands heavily influenced by The Shins, for sure, with dancy guitars holding an almost keyboard-organ quality, bouncing bass and plenty of claps and oohs to sing along to. As the music world goes, though, I wouldn’t expect The Delfields to sell out any venue, or have their name chanted for a second encore. They will mostly likely be mistaken for someone else, eventually sway a small following and then, as many do, fade off as a nice memory. –Jessica Davis

Dethklok
Dethalbum II
Williams Street
Street: 09.08
Dethklok = The most metal fucking thing ever
This album makes Slayer look like Abba. This album makes Iron Maiden look like a bunch of Care Bears fucking in a puddle of rainbows. Seriously, imagine this: You pop this CD in your Civic or whatever shit-ride of a car you have at the time and all of a sudden, Jack Daniels falls into your back seat and stabs you with a piece of fucking beef jerky. Imagine the Great Salt Lake starting on fire and spewing midgets and strippers like a motherfucking goddamn volcano of fucking metal. Seriously, you little shit-squeaks: This. Album. Is. Fucking. Metal. Maybe, nay, definitely the most metal thing to ever grace this pathetic excuse for a planet. This album is Halliburton metal, motherfucksticks. This album is mermaid-killing metal. Fuck, they even have a song about that shit. –Ross Solomon

Dirge Within
Force Fed Lies
E1 Music
Street: 09.01
Dirge Within = Slipknot + Trivium + Stone Sour + Chimaira
I’m sorry, I rarely quote band bios, but this cannot be passed up. Dirge Within guitarist Shaun Glass (Broken Hope/Soil) is quoted as saying in the band’s official bio describing what Dirge Within sounds like: “Metal for the average dude, like the Starbucks of Metal!” Why anyone would go on record saying something like that is beyond me. Dirge Within play modern metal, nothing really new here, just another attempt to hack at the fanbase of Slipknot and their side project, Stone Sour, and other similar-sounding bands. I cannot say one positive thing about this record. For one, the production sounds like it was taken from an Internet stream—it has that choppy, fading-in-and-out effect. The guitar solos are laughable and the band’s attempt at clean singing sounds like a guy falling down the stairs while singing his favorite Life of Agony song. Everything on Force Fed Lies is interchangeable, rehashed-sounding and unmemorable. –Bryer Wharton

Disease Within
Killing Time
Deadly Sin
Street: 05.04
Disease Within = Tool (Opiate only) + Helmet + (a hint of Voivod)
D.C.-based Disease Within, to put it simply, play post-alternative/grunge, the “post-” portion meaning that many of the tunes on Killing Time are very metal feeling. There are plenty of lead guitar moments and soloing and a darkened atmosphere, but it’s also mixed with somewhat simple groove- and power-chord, punk-rock-styled core riffs. The music on the album’s 11 cuts is ultimately unique and not rehashed-sounding at all. “Invincible People” is probably the record’s strongest track. Unfortunately, the one weak point of the album is that the vocals, while attempting to capture a varied sound in all aspects, can be a gigantic turn-off to the good music. The cleanly sung vocals need a lot of work and the growls lack that “oomph” to push the tunes into more ferocious territory. But overall, Killing Time is a powerful mishmash of songs and styles with great potential that has the ability to appeal to a wide array of music listeners. –Bryer Wharton

Echoes of Eternity
As Shadows Burn
Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 09.22
Echoes of Eternity = Lacuna Coil + Sirenia + Evanescence + sleep drool
I’ll just say it right now: If the female member of your metal band is featured in Revolver Magazine’s “The Hottest Chicks in Metal” then you are officially removed from the artistic roll call, as Bill Hicks would say. Musically, the metal is here … barely … and the vocals are basically phoned in and the songwriting offers nothing rewarding. Look, I’m not exactly the misogynist type, but I’m really starting to feel like one, thanks to all of these pointless media princesses getting in the way of artistic expression that actually should be moving and fulfilling. The combination of metal and sex appeal will never get any second looks from me. –Conor Dow

Ensiferum
From Afar
Spinefarm Records
Street: 09.09
Ensiferum = Turisas + Moonsorrow + Equilibrium + Wintersun
Here’s a theory: The gentlemen of Ensiferum heard Equilibrium’s album Sagas, which was released this time last year, and like many others, including myself, later spent some time pulling their jaws off of the ground. It is rare that I get to say this about a band’s new material, but I am without a doubt convinced that this is Ensiferum’s best work yet in just about every way. Most notably, the keyboards and backing vocals contribute so much more, and the song lengths are more adventurous than most of their previous work. I truly didn’t know what next to expect from Ensiferum, but this is as wonderful as I would have hoped it to be. If you want some new, epic and triumphant metal that steers away from the cheese, look no further. This is a perfect album to climb summits to, and once again, metal from Finland shows its undying quality. –Conor Dow

Evile
Infected Nations
Earache
Street: 09.22
Evile = Metallica + Grip Inc. + Testament + (a dash of) Meshuggah
U.K.-based thrash crew Evile are fairly lumped in with the thrash-metal revivalism scene, mainly because the band’s debut, Enter the Grave, sounded like a massive Metallica clone. Well, thankfully, Evile decided to start building up a bit of their own identity for Infected Nations; hell, a good three-quarters of the album is mid-to-almost-down tempo. The songwriting for this record creates a darker vibe for Evile. The majority of the songs are centered around thick groove-based riffs as well as plenty of highlighted individual performances. The slower tunes actually makes me wish the band had tossed out any idea of playing fast, though, because when they do, it does sound rather copycat-ish. For example, the main riff in “Devoid of Thought” sounds like it was taken straight from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Evile is taking a step in the right direction to give themselves their own extremely important identity, but it’s still not quite there yet. –Bryer Wharton

Fool’s Game
Reality Divine
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 09.14
Fool’s Game = Symphorce + Mercenary + Evergrey
With the first few listens, Reality Divine is an intriguing listen even for the snobbiest of power metal fans. Fool’s Game plays power metal with a definite modern edge. The songs are fast paced, with thrashy, chunkier guitar rhythms and appealing, mid-ranged vocals with some growling going on, but nothing overbearing. It’s a nice concoction while it stays fresh, but after awhile, the redundancy factor kicks in. The songs start to run together and lose identity and ultimately, lands this record in the mediocre factory (which is much better than being in the dumpster). If you get enjoyment out of what Evergrey and Mercenary have been doing lately, Reality Divine is an appetizer at best; nothing to keep coming back to. The band, composed of members of other active bands or former members of bands (all of which are of the power/classic metal nature) play tightly together. For a first effort, a band could do worse, but then again, that syndrome of being good but not bad can be a curse in itself. –Bryer Wharton

Frank Turner
Poetry of the Deed
Epitaph
Street: 09.08
Frank Turner = Billy Bragg + Ninja Gun + The Loved Ones
Unlike most punk frontmen who decide to strike out on their own, Frank Turner has a rare advantage: Few US residents know of his former band, Million Dead, and have nothing to compare against his solo stuff. Despite this, Turner has made a name for himself over the past few years as a solo performer, and thankfully, Epitaph noticed and provided Turner with the resources to make a great album. If you’re tired of punk-rock types taking cues from Bruce Springsteen, there’s nothing for you here, but if you ever wondered what the bastard son of The Boss and Billy Bragg might sound like, “Live Fast, Die Old” and “Poetry of the Deed” may hold the answer for you. “Sons of Liberty” has an interesting Irish folk feel to it, and “The Road” finds Turner moving beyond his influences and establishing his own style. The album drags on a bit at the end, but there’s still a lot to like about Poetry of the Deed. –Ricky Vigil

French Miami
Self-titled
Self-released
Street: 08.18
French Miami = Cursive
French Miami has a nice sound overall. Singing and playing in minor keys adds an eerie sound to everything. Add the upbeat drums and the dancing starts. But in a way, it’s almost copycat Cursive. Even the vocals of Jason Heiselmann are freakishly similar to that of Tim Kashner’s low scruffiness. Sadly, copies are rarely as wonderful as originals. Each song is overly repetitive and lacking in lyrical creativity. In “All on Fire,” the lyrics “cause we are all on fire” are repeated 12 times. Yes, sometimes repeating lyrics is catchy, but here, it’s too much. Maybe if they were on fire with horniness (song explains) and literally in flames, I might say OK, but please make it a quickie and spare everyone the emotional coddling. Next is “Lil’ Rabbits”—but just skip it, and the album’s almost decent. –Jessica Davis

Gwar
Lust in Space
Metal Blade
Street: 08.18
Lust in Space = Scumdogs of the Universe + Beyond Hell + outer space
Yep, Gwar has been around for 25 years: That’s 25 years of fantastic records and glorious blood-soaked, mayhem-filled concerts. Some may say that Gwar only records albums to give them a reason to tour, which sadly, probably is somewhat true. There’s no question the band makes more cash touring than they do selling albums, which is a shame, because Gwar is still musically relevant and just as metal as ever. What better way to mark their return to Metal Blade than the balls-out metallic shred-fest that is Lust in Space? The album retains that spirit of the fantastic and classic Scumdogs album, while mixing it up with their modern styles, mainly in the realm of their last record, Beyond Hell. Take Beyond Hell, multiply its worth by 10 and you have Lust in Space. It is hands-down the best Gwar record in quite a long time. Where past albums have been hit-or-miss or contained only a few good tracks, this thrashing, punk rock-tinged record has nary a bad track. –Bryer Wharton

Hail of Bullets
Warsaw Rising EP
Metal Blade
Street: 07.21
Hail of Bullets = Dismember + Autopsy + Bloodbath + Bolt Thrower
On the hinges of a fantastic debut …Of Frost and War, Netherlands-based supergroup Hail of Bullets definitely keeps the momentum of the war machine churning and devastating with the Warsaw Rising EP. It contains two new tracks, the title track and “Liberators,” plus a cover of Twisted Sister’s “Destroyer”; and three live tracks. All in all, six cuts to wet your wartime whistle while you wait for the next offering of old-school-styled death metal. The new cuts are just as good as anything from the debut offering, with members from Pestilence, Asphyx, Thanatos and Gorefest, just to name a few. Hail of Bullets really should have a hard time disappointing. Warsaw Rising reminds me a lot of the early days of Bloodbath before they got all clean-sounding, playing off the strengths of classic Swedish death metal. They retain that raw and visceral guitar sound but with amped-up production, giving the old school sound a new, beefier taste. –Bryer Wharton

The Hi-Nobles
Shake
Zaentz
Street: 10.15
The Hi-Nobles = Pearl Jam (vocals) + James Brown + Faces
This is one of those things that sound great on paper—garage/mod guitar riffs with soul/blues influences—but it just doesn’t come together. I can’t handle this guy’s voice; he sounds like Eddie Vedder’s whiney nephew trying to grind out song after song, and it pulls the rest of the band down. Mediocrity is the battle cry on Shake. Instead of fusing the great genres of garage and mod together into something new and exciting, they’ve picked apart and stripped away pieces of somebody else’s proven formula and turned it into dull, imaginative fare. The actual instrumentation of the Hi-Nobles is alright, but I feel like most of its rehashed riffs and rhythms we’ve all heard before. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the fella on the organ—he has got chops to spare. Too bad it’s all for a losing effort. Shake is better left unshaken. –James Orme

Horisont
Två Sidor Av Horisonten
Crusher Records
Street: 09.25
Horisont = Ace Frehley + Flamin’ Groovies + Hawkwind
Unlike their futuristic disco countrymen ABBA, Horisont (Swedish for horizon), take us 30 years back and scrimshaw up some retro boogie rock. You could slip this album into any Woodstock-boasting Baby Boomer’s collection and they wouldn’t realize that it’s new rock, ’cept when they realize a few songs are in the band’s native tongue and freak out about those no good “peaceniks.” It’s unpretentious and refreshing compared to the enormous amount of soft-cock drivel record labels are churning out to the listless teen cutters. –Cinnamon Brown

Imelda May
Love Tattoo
Verve
Street 08.11
Imelda May = Amy Winehouse + Eartha Kitt + rockabilly swing
When it comes to picking music, the British usually get it wrong. A few recent examples of this would be Amy Winehouse and the Arctic Monkeys—both colossal buckets of shit. But sometimes our friends across the pond end up championing music that would otherwise go unnoticed (see: the northern soul movement, Gene Vincent, etc.). Such is the case of Dublin-born and big-in-England Imelda May. Where rockabilly, swing music and the blues go hand-in-hand, the addition of a boogie-woogie piano really transforms this disc into something that had to get its start overseas. I really wanted to hate it. I wanted the country-swing sound to clash horribly with the gravel-y Eartha Kitt-sounding voice, but it actually paired well together. The players on this one have the rockabilly thing down pat, and this, coupled with the simple, live-sounding recording ends up being a rather listenable record. It still isn’t my thing, but if you’ve been looking for a songstress that sounds like a rattled Billie Holiday fronting a band full of dudes with pompadours and chain wallets, then this is for you. –James Bennett

INF
The Go Round
Beats Broke
Street: 06.09
Inf= Blockhead + DJ Shadow
Infinite, a.k.a. INF, constructs a massive instrumental album with massive soul lingering behind every beat. Hailing from the Netherlands, INF fornicates with delicate jazz and soul samples, which are cleanly placed over compressed and tweaked loops. Starting off with a bouncy bass rhythm, INF sets the tone and delivers satisfaction to your tape deck in the form of tasty drum loops, delicious samples and mouth-watering bass lines—seasoned melodies are added for extra juiciness. Plain and simple, I have not been able to put this album down. Vibe out at your next barbeque and leave the bland music of yesteryear dusted and disgusted. Highly recommended. –JRapp

Infernal Stronghold   
Godless Noise
KVN Records
Street: 07.19
Infernal Stronghold = Discharge + Angelcorpse + Amebix
Whoa. Now this is what I’m talking about! Infernal Stronghold have released an album that melds the best elements of thrash metal, black metal and crust punk, and does it in a way that absolutely crushes skulls. Blasty drumming, hummingbird guitars, and droning bass flow seamlessly from hair-twirling, headbanging thrash into all-out-war circle-pitting crust anthems, and do so convincingly. The stagnating retro-thrash movement and overplayed, overhyped black metal hordes need to take notice of this band. While they’ll never be on the “new release” or “best seller” walls at your favorite CD shops, this is a band that has the means to blow up in underground metal circles, and blow up big. –Gavin Hoffman

Jay Reatard
Watch Me Fall
Matador Records
Street: 08.18
Jay Reatard = Lost Sounds + Nobunny + Box Elders
Jay Reatard’s style of dirty, simplistic, loud garage-punk has been getting a lot of attention lately, and Watch Me Fall proves he deserves all of it. The album starts off with a ton of energy on “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” and Reatard doesn’t let up through all 32 minutes of Watch Me Fall. Like The Cramps, Reatard’s songs are witty and have a seemingly evil essence, but the catchy lyrics and upbeat riffs keep it far from scary. Buzzsaw guitars, fuzzy bass, heavy drums and Reatard’s demented vocals are sure to keep anybody moving, and slower songs like “My Reality” help to keep the album from getting repetitive. I’m going to be humming this for weeks. –Jessica Davis

Joakim
Milky Ways
!K7
Street: 09.15
Joakim = Alex Moulton + LCD Soundsystem + Simian Mobile Disco
In the twilight of the short-lived indie dance movement, there are bound to be hundreds of albums released that are reaching out to what will be the next big thing. Joakim’s album, Milky Way, is a pastiche of psychedelic rock, New York dance, disco and new wave and falls victim to an identity crisis. Every track is deceptive because while they are completely enjoyable, the instrument combinations and melody lines are nothing but a conglomeration of current über-trendy bands. Joakim didn’t take the concept of experimental disco dance music far enough, and it makes for a frustrating listen because of what could have been. All of the hooks are there, but it is possible that there are no more fish to be caught. –Andrew Glassett

Kittie
In the Black
E1 Music
Street: 9.15
Kittie = Sepultura + a less-technical Arch Enemy + Arsenic Addiction
What angsty metal kid doesn’t remember when Kittie blew onto the scene with 2000’s Spit? Here we are nine years later, and the gothic Canuck chicks have a new album. Instead of blowing onto the scene with Into the Black, they just blow. Sure, the Lander sisters are older and musically more mature, but the raw feel of Spit is what made the girly metallers into something special. The new album attempts to ride the waves of modern metal, but the slow guitar sweeping on “Sorrow I Know” and faux groove in “Cut Throat” are regressive and completely forgettable. Since they’re signed to a major label, the album has obligatory sing-songy choruses that serve only as placeholders between chunky, road-to-nowhere riffs—much like the shitty guitar solos. The first half of “The Truth” is the only worthwhile spot on the disc with some bluesy groove, but three minutes out of 30+ isn’t worth the price of admission. Go check out locals Arsenic Addiction if you’re into the dark female vocal metal—they do it better than post-Spit Kittie. –Nick Parker

La Coka Nostra
A Brand You Can Trust
Suburban Noize
Street: 09.15
La Coka Nostra = Linkin Park + DMX + Cypress Hill + Wu Tang + Tech N9ne
La Coka Nostra is a super group of sorts. At least, if you consider the members of House of Pain super. That’s right, DJ Lethal, Everlast and Danny Boy are back together again. I bet you never thought the day would ever come and you probably just had an excited eruption run throughout your entire body. So LCN is basically the same as HoP, but they have added a few other MCs that no one should give a shit about and they changed their sound to rap n’ roll, whatever that is supposed to mean. The tracks that are produced by DJ Lethal, while buried by overly aggressive misogynistic lyrics, are creepy and cool, reminiscent of Wu¬-Tang’s first album. The most ridiculous song title from the album is “Fuck Tony Montana”–the most ridiculous lyrics are “I’m an American/ I need a blowjob and a pizza.” WTF!! How can someone seriously use that phrase as a chorus to a song? Basically, picture The Transplants, but more insecure. Maybe instead of having a theme song for a shampoo, LCN can have a theme song for the newest ED treatment. – Jon Robertson

Leaves’ Eyes
My Destiny EP
Napalm Records
Street: 07.24
Leaves’ Eyes = Theatre of Tragedy + Midnattsol + Atrocity + Evanescence
Despite the fact that similar bands are on my list of guilty pleasures, I’ve not until recently heard anything from Leaves’ Eyes. They are basically what I expected by looking at their album artwork: female-fronted pop-metal laced with fantasy tales, symphonic elements and everything else in the equation. This is a style that has absolutely been done to death and Leaves’ Eyes contribute nothing new or interesting to it. This really isn’t worth your time, unless you have one of those weird crushes on Edward Scissorhands. –Conor Dow

Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls
Self-Titled
Ubiquity
Street: 09.08
Lord Newborn= Phish + DJ Shadow
Lord Newborn is founded on the music that was taking the world by storm during the 1970s. The drug culture as we knew it was outlandish, experimental and euphoric. Lord Newborn is a product of the 70s, but has mastered the ability to combine genres of today, concocting a web of soulful electronic bounty for all to enjoy. Funky breakbeats are sampled, entangled with crispy keyboard melodies and guitar rhythms to set your brain into a hippie jamfest. A great change of pace for me, I was delighted and intrigued by the composition and saturation that is delivered with this album. Take a funky ride with Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls. Drugs not included. –Jrapp

Magrudergrind
Magrudergrind
Willowtip
Street: 06.16
Magrudergrind = Pig Destroyer + Discharge + Doom + Napalm Death (early)
The notion with this album is incredible—it’s just flat-out great new-school-meets-old-school. With a power-saw cutting through steel guitar sound and a greasy pulverizing bass guitar, the tone for grind destruction is set. The main appealing portion of this record is the songwriting. With many grind acts, you get an album that needs to be listened to as one piece of music, whereas with Magrudergrind, while the majority of the tracks are in the minute-and-a-half margin, they still feel like individual songs arranged in a specific order, and are just as crusty and venom-filled on their own as they are listened to in succession. Grind takes a lot of shit for being labeled just as noise music, but the groove-based riffs on this record are gloriously vicious, and dare I say, there are just as many down-tempo moments as full-on grindcore blasting, which interestingly, makes those moments that much more poignant. It’s safe to say that this is the grind record to get for 2009. –Bryer Wharton

Man the Helm/The Counterlife
Split 7”
Not Backbone
Street: Out Now
MtH/tCL = Quicksand + These Arms Are Snakes + Arkansas
Arkansas. What a fucking useless state. Hillbillies and moonshine may have ceded their place to hipsters and meth dependency as of late, but the Ozarks are still the Ozarks—overgrown, creepy and far from anything worthwhile. Thank God Bill Clinton had the sense to trade the governor’s mansion in Little Rock for the big house in DC before he had to listen to this steaming platter of shit come out of Fayetteville—a limited edition split 7” record, pressed on yellow vinyl, and without any information on the label or the two bands. Strike one. The first band, Man the Helm, should really be called Man the Helmet. Though heavy on the kiddie keyboards, the odd time signatures and repetitive rhythm section are way too reminiscent of Page Hamilton’s group. Strike two. The other band, the Counterlife, is a little better, but little is the key word there. They also sound like they’re trying to give Page Hamilton a handjob, but in more of a VH1 kind of way. Strike three. Get the fuck out. –Woodcock Johnson

Mariachi El Bronx
Self-Titled
Swami
Street: 09.01
Mariachi El Bronx = Mariachi + The Bronx
The Bronx have always been a rather baffling punk band. They’re from LA, yet named themselves after a New York borough. They’ve titled all three of their full-length albums The Bronx. And now they’ve started a mariachi band. A FUCKING MARIACHI BAND! The most baffling thing about Mariachi El Bronx, though, is that it’s really, really good. Rather than half-heartedly injecting a whole lot of punk attitude into mariachi, Mariachi El Bronx play it strictly traditional, complete with trumpets, guitarron, vihuela and even a string quartet. There isn’t a single ounce of sarcasm in vocalist Matt Caughthran’s delivery as he and the rest of Mariachi El Bronx aptly recreate all of the romanticism and melodrama one would expect from mariachi on tracks like “Cell Mates,” “Silver or Lead,” and “My Brother the Gun.” This album likely won’t transform many Bronx fans into rabid mariachi lovers, but it is surprisingly good for what it is. –Ricky Vigil

Nurses
Apple’s Acre
Dead Oceans
Street: 08.04
Nurses = Yeasayer + Bon Iver + Grizzly Bear
Having added percussionist James Mitchell to the project and moved their roots to the musically alluring city of Portland, Nurses’ latest has taken quite a departure from their previous album. In Hangin’ Nothin’ but Our Hands Down, many tracks tended to be overtly minimal, often leaving more to be desired. With Apple’s Acre, a more expansive sound can be found on nearly every track. The familiar resonance and drifting are still found throughout, but are manifested in much more cohesive manners. The result can certainly capture the interest of anyone with a fondness for such artists as Animal Collective and MGMT. The members of Nurses are moving toward a sound that is uniquely their own, and have made significant strides from their previous work. (Kilby Court: 10.20) –Ross Solomon


The Ocean
Fluxion
Metal Blade Records
Street: 08.04
The Ocean = Cult of Luna + ISIS + Dirge (FR) + Esoteric (UK)
If you enjoy sludge, chances are you’ve heard of Germany’s The Ocean, who are actually quite unique compared to their peers. This album was actually released several years ago, but has been re-recorded with new vocals. Rather than having one vocalist, they have many who are simply contributing to the cause, so to speak. There is also a consistent use of orchestral elements which add another layer to the already dense chaos without being intrusive or wanky. The Ocean’s song writing is consistent and each song stands out as an interesting entity of its own, which is something not all of their peers can pull off consistently. I’ve always been of the opinion that this band is fairly underappreciated, and I highly recommend this contemporary peek at some of their older work. –Conor Dow


Portugal. The Man
The Satanic Satanist
Street: 07.21
Equal Vision Records
Portugal. The Man= MGMT + Band of Annuals
Admittedly, it has been a while (since I listened to them, since 2007’s Church Mouth, to be exact)––but Portugal. The Man are still doing things their own way and doing it very well. This latest album is a bit less heavy, more focused on plumbing the depths of the sound pipes and seems to be leaning toward a more listenable vibe, but not in the same way that Portugal.’s contemporaries in other genres are crafting sounds. There are enough repetitive bits to satisfy the hook-hungry and enough pleasant synthesizers to defy the “catchy” moniker, making this release an almost unreachable level of good––possibly great. Usually I’m not one to fall for such things, but the folding/packaging of this release is quite notable and very beautiful in your hands. The whole thing unravels in a carefully constructed mass that needs careful re-folding to make it fit right again. A side note: This album is available sans vocals as The Majestic Majesty. If the previous three sentences don’t explain how very unique Portugal. The Man’s approach to music is (or at the very least, their design), you should re-read that shit and listen to these Alaskan natives. –JP


RAM
Lightbringer
AFM Records
Street: 08.25
RAM = Judas Priest + Savatage + Iced Earth (without the ballads)
Giving Lightbringer—Sweden’s RAM’s second full-length record—the listening treatment prior to reading its press sheet actually turned out to be a good notion for the way this review went. While rocking tracks “Awakening the Chimaera” and “Blood God,” it felt like I took a time warp straight into the 80s. The songs are brimming forth with classic metal goodness—you know, bombastic and glorious lead guitars wailing away in a cheesy-but-so-fun manner and falsetto vocals to howl along with. I figured I had come across a hidden gem of the 80s, but lo and behold, RAM formed in 1999 and released their first album in 2005, so in terms of relativity, the band is fairly new school. RAM is part of a small resurgence of newer bands playing classic-style heavy metal and so far, the majority of the bands I’ve heard hit their marks, so here’s a big thanks to RAM and a hope for more fun, air-guitar-worthy metal in the future. –Bryer Wharton

Robin
Thunder and Speedumb
Nickel and Dime
Street: 06.23
Robin = Os Catelepticos + Mad Mongols + Mad Sin
Robin are all the way to one end of the psychobilly spectrum, where there is practically no billy and all psycho, but that’s OK. Somewhere between Mad Sin and Demented Are Go, someone discovered the slap of an upright can and double-bass-pedal-drum type of effect, which sounds great if you’re playing metal-influenced rock at breakneck speeds. Highly aggressive-sounding, Robin are coming at you all the way from Tokyo, Japan. It’s funny how in just a short amount of time, psychobilly can go from kind of a rough rockabilly to this, which is actually some of the harshest-sounding rock I’ve been hearing. Hell and Armageddon all find thematic homes on Thunder and Speedumb, while Pantera-esque vocals, frenzied stand-up bass and thrashing guitars are pounded into your ears. If you like your psycho raw and rampaging, look no further than Robin. –James Orme

Royalchord
The Good Fight
Shark Party Media
Street: 08.04
Royalchord = Dido + Cake on Cake + Fiona Apple
Dreamy keyboards, electronic bass beats, and the slide of fingers across acoustic guitar strings—it’s a sound that doesn’t make you expect much more than simple and sweet. Add in the low, slightly reverby female vocals and Royalchord is laying you down for a nap. The electronic bits fade into the background, and somehow, a country twang enters. Luckily, it disappears quickly. “It’s Not Who” is the most memorable of all the songs, with a good mix of guitar and synth-keyboard. It’s a song with catchiness easily stuck in the subconscious for later mind regurgitation. –Jessica Davis

Sawyer Family
The Burning Times
Scary as Hell
Street: Late 2008
Sawyer Family = Danzig + Koffin Kats + Bauhaus
This is a lot of fun on a record. Songs about burning witches, being buried alive, Egyptian gods—this record has got everything a ghoul is looking for. The Sawyer Family is a hell of a psychobilly band from Eugene, Oregon. They seamlessly blend goth, metal, punk and a small hint of rockabilly to create some of the creepiest music around. Seriously, I don’t want to be alone with these fiends. Standout tracks are “Scream for Me,” which is so hedonistic you feel as though you’re the submissive in a bondage film just by listening, and “New England Fall,” a twisted tale about haunted New England-area woods told with energy and fury. Personally, as I want to be a werewolf, “When the Moon Shines Bright” hit right at home for me. On some of the tracks, the vocals seem to compete with the instrumentation, but innovations like playing a standup bass, both slap-style and with an orchestral bow, help the instrumentation to stand out. I think this may be the Halloween record of the year. Damn, I can’t wait for October. –James Orme

Shad
The Old Price
Black Box Recordings
Street: 06.30
Shad = Classified + K-OS
Gaining fame from YouTube video, “The Old Price Still Lives at Home,” Shad brings some stellar backpack rap to you by way of Ontario, Canada. Our neighbors to the North have been producing some solid hip hop and Shad follows suit. With standard boom-bap backpack raps, Shad bangs out verses with a creativity and style lacking in today’s bland and reused hip-hop game. I recommend taking a look at this YouTube video. It’s an interesting take on the fresh prince and Shad drops a nasty freestyle at the end of the video. The freestyle seals the deal on why you should definitely be on the lookout for Shad and give his album a look-see. French fries and gravy! –JRapp

Simon Joyner
Out into the Snow
Team Love Records
Street: 09.15
Simon Joyner = Lou Reed + Bob Dylan
For Out into the Snow being Simon Joyner’s 12th album, he does a remarkable job keeping it stylistically consistent with his previous releases. Everything is kept simple, with each song telling a story that will send most “back to the good ol’ days.” There are no fancy instrumentals or modern gimmicks, just a man, a piano and sometimes, a soft drum beat in the background. Joyner’s voice is not perfect, which contributes more to the charm this guy delivers with all of his songs. If you have any soft affinity for such artists as Nick Drake or Bob Dylan, or if Joyner’s previous releases have piqued your interest at all, then his latest could probably find a nice home in your collection. –Ross Solomon

Slaraffenland
We’re on Your Side
Rumraket
Street: 09.15
Slaraffenland = Animal Collective + Olivia Tremor Control
Through their previous two major releases and handful of EPs through the years, the Danish band Slaraffenland has managed to maintain a sound that is almost all their own. Yet, as their list grows ever longer, the complexity and delicacy of their music has scaled accordingly. Horns accompany percussion reminiscent of Caribou’s Andorra. Guitars and synths dance harmoniously with a multitude of other instrumentals. Everything just comes together so nicely, creating a refreshingly diverse album that can be listened to over and over again. Even though Private Cinema was a good album, We’re on Your Side tops it quite nicely. Fans of any sort of controlled chaos à la Broken Social Scene should definitely check this one out. –Ross Solomon

The Sorely Trying Days
Survival Mode
Useless World
Street: 07.10
The STDs = Vans Warped rejects. Face!
Getting your limbs sawed off slowly by a blunt aul might be more painful than listening to this CD, but it’s a real close contest. This CD is a steaming pile of shit. It is the worst CD I’ve ever reviewed for SLUG in seven years. The drumming is off-beat often enough to be noticeable about every 15 seconds, the production mashed all the sounds into some kind of padded mid-range zone that makes you feel like your ears are full of cotton, and the songwriting is about as interesting as watching pounds of algae blooms grow on a low-flow Koi pond. For goodness’ sakes, if kids want to churn out bland, disposable, puketastic, under-under-average pop-punk/rock in their parent’s garage, by all means, go ahead and waste your life doing something worthless, but maybe they should reconsider whether it’s such a good idea to unleash this trash on the world at large. What were they thinking? –Rebecca Vernon

Subhumans
Re-Issues
Blurrg Records
Street: 07.14
Subhumans = The Exploited + Conflict   
Many years ago on the Fourth of July, I bought my first Subhumans record. The record was The Day the Country Died and I was hooked immediately. I’ve claimed the Subhumans as my favorite punk rock band ever since. So naturally, I’m pretty hyped that their records have been re-released. EP-LP’s title should tip you off to what the record contains– four of the group’s early EPs. Some great tracks, like “Who’s Gonna Fight in the Third World War?” and one of my favorites, “Parasites,” is on this one. The Day the Country Died displays some of the group’s musical diversity and contains my all-time favorite Subhumans song, “Subvert City.” From the Cradle to the Grave’s too-visionary-for-its-own-good, three-act punk rock-opera title track shouldn’t be missed by anybody. Time Flies/Rats is another EP collection and contains my least favorite Subhumans song ever, “First Aid.” It also contains “Susan,” one of the band’s most striking tunes. Worlds Apart is another diverse one and sort of marks a turning point for the band to a more thought provoking, less-in-your-face style. “Can’t Hear the Words” is a classic and is contained on this one. Lastly, we have the decidedly different 29:29 Split Vision. Of all the albums, I suppose this is my least favorite, but still worth a listen or two. Overall, this is essential punk rock. When listening to these albums, I suggest that you pay attention to the ideals in the songs, which are solid, as opposed to the specific times and places contained in them. Yeah, it isn’t 1984 anymore, but the ideas are the same and they still apply today, so the Subhumans’ body of work is still pertinent. This is punk rock you can set your watch to. –Aaron Day

Title Fight
The Last Thing You Forget
Run For Cover
Street: 06.23
Title Fight = Crime in Stereo + Lifetime + Saves the Day
Between the ages of 17 and 20, all I did was eat a bunch of bad food, watch shitty TV, and squander whatever was left of my time playing video games. Between the ages of 17 and 20, the members of Title Fight have created some of the best, emotionally driven melodic hardcore this side of the year 2000. Collecting all of the group’s previous output plus four new tracks for a whopping 12 songs, The Last Thing You Forget is a short but sweet bit of post-adolescent, introspective punk rock. The new songs are a bit harder than past Title Fight efforts and sound similar in tone to Crime in Stereo’s Is Dead album and are, disappointingly, the worst songs in the bunch, but the Kingston 7" is still flawless, and Title Fight’s side of their split with The Erection Kids has held up surprisingly well. Believe all the hype these guys are getting, because it’s definitely well deserved. –Ricky Vigil

Tournament   
Years Old
Forcefield Records
Street: 07.19
Tournament = Drive Like Jehu + Form of Rocket + Rye Coalition
Dear Tournament, I don’t really give a fuck if you recorded your album live, to 2” tape, on a Studer A80 16-track machine at 15ips. None of that shit matters, so why bother flying it like a war banner in the liner notes of your record? All that matters is if you can put out a killer record. Does the 2” tape you recorded to automatically mean your band rocks harder than any other band? Does the fact that you recorded live on a 16-track machine give your band more cred in whatever scene you’re trying to be a part of? Granted, the record’s pretty good, in a pretentious, “check out what kind of gear we used” sort of way, but seriously guys, nobody gives a fuck. –Gavin Hoffman

U.D.O.
Dominator
AFM
Street: 08.21
U.D.O. = Accept + Jugulator/Demolition era Judas Priest + Two
I wish I could say the easiest way to describe U.D.O. was to say it’s a vessel for former Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider to rock his metallic voice, but the music is far from traditional classic heavy metal. U.D.O.’s Dominator album is the first I’ve heard from the band’s 12 albums, so maybe this is a new direction taking a more modern heavy metal approach with a fairly industrial-type vibe to a good hunk of the album’s songs. I guess claiming ignorance doesn’t help me understand this. Being a fan of Accept and the albums the band did with Udo, I was expecting much more than this record offers. Yeah, it highlights his vocal range, but the music doesn’t help balance out his voice—it’s full of boring, redundant guitarwork filled with one generic riff after another and half-assed guitar soloing and drum-machine-styled drumming. By all means, I’ve heard much worse than this, but after a few listens, I don’t really feel the need to go back to this album at all; it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. –Bryer Wharton

Vader
Necropolis
Nuclear Blast
Street: 08.21
Vader = Gorefest + Decapitated + Vader
Poland’s Vader is back with a new record apt to please longtime fans and hopefully ensnare some newcomers into their groove-based death-metal assault. Considered one of the elite Polish death metal bands, there is good reason why plenty of bands have attempted to borrow from Vader’s simple-yet-pummeling beat-riff beat-riff, duhna-duhna-duhna dun-dun style. Yes, it can get repetitive at times, but hell, what death metal band doesn’t? There isn’t really anything new on Necropolis, although the album sounds more like their mid-career album Litany than the last few offerings, be it in the form of a bit rawer production value or lots more guitar solos. Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek’s voice is one of the most definite parts of Vader and he’s in full form on the new record, with perfectly enunciated death growls. Vader is set to return to SLC in December, and Necropolis will satisfy the Vader hungry until the winter. –Bryer Wharton

Viatrophy
Viatrophy
Candlelight
Street: 08.25
Viatrophy = Whitechapel + Cult of Luna + Job for a Cowboy + Eyes of Fire
I’ll give it to Viatrophy, a UK-based deathcore troupe, for creating an album that isn’t a complete bore to listen to. The band mixes death metal and the core with breakdowns a-plenty, along with many melodic post-hardcore-sounding passages. The change-up is not fully a unique one, though, and manages to deceive listeners by creating a sense of varied, diverse songs at first, but then, after everything sinks in, the wool is pulled out from over your eyes and you realize this album could be the same two songs played over and over again. However, the band has some playing chops and seems to have a decent set of songwriting skills, so there is potential here and it’s a nice attempt at not completely going for the all-out heavy deathcore that the scene is used to. –Bryer Wharton

Whitesnake
Slip of the Tongue: 25th Anniversary Edition
Universal Music Group
Street: 06.30
Whitesnake = Cinderella + Slaughter + Great White
The ’80s are coming back in a big way. Steel Panther (a glam-metal tribute/parody band) is doing legitimate tours, Poison and Def Leppard have one of the biggest shows on the road right now and Twisted Sister still sucks. It makes sense that, in this resurgence of big-haired nostalgia, Whitesnake would release “Deluxe Editions” of their two biggest albums, Tongue and Slide it In. Unfortunately, the new package for Tongue is lackluster and only for the true, die-hard fan who still wears a Whitesnake jean jacket and smokes Marlboro Reds. The songs are the same, the videos are lame and the new liner notes are tame. As an album, Tongue is forgettable—it had hit singles, but none have stood the test of time quite like their self-titled album’s “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again.” The best part about the album is Steve Vai’s guitar work (this is the only Whitesnake album he appeared on), but even then, you can practically hear the record executive standing over his shoulder, telling him to tone it down for a hit. –Nick Parker

White
White
OpenNote/Ryko
Street: Summer.2009
White = Einstürzende Neubauten + Four Tet
Considering the duo’s punk and indie roots in past projects, the enigmatic electronica of White is quite a resonant shift for Shou Wang (Carsick Cars) and Shenggy (Hang On the Box). The album gets much of its sound from such unique instruments as the dome theremin, organ, pedals and others. All of those aside, the centerpiece could be said to be the KORG MS-20. Described as a “patchable semi-modular monophonic synth,” it is the driving force behind much of the dark grit and intriguing loops that give this album its charm. Many of the tracks also stand out due to Shenggy’s distinct vocals, which are sampled, looped and twisted throughout. As distinct players in the Beijing underground, these two certainly deserve a listen. –Ross Solomon

Wildbirds & Peacedrums
The Snake
The Control Group
Street: 08.25
Wildbirds & Peacedrums = Joanna Newsom + Bat For Lashes + Siouxsie & the Banshees
Swedish husband-and-wife team Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin have returned with their sophomore effort, The Snake. With this album, they have outgrown their previous simpler approach of percussions and vocals––they have shed a layer of skin and exposed new instruments like piano, xylophone, harmonica and flutes to deepen the richness of their sound. The album starts off with the haunting a cappella track “Island,” with the second track quickly snapping into place, full of Banshees-esque drums accompanied with Polly Jean-like yelps and screams on “There Is No Light.” The funkiest moment arrives on “Places,” with a hopping deep bass drum and Mariam’s voice shuffling across the speakers. The Snake is full of evocative transitions, but that’s what’s so unique about W&P. It’s time we all wait together in anticipation to see which layer the duo will expose next. –Courtney Blair