National CD Reviews – November 2009

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A Storm of Light
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Neurot Recordings
Street: 09.22
A Storm of Light = Neurosis + Godspeed You Black Emperor! + Isis + Battle of Mice
It’s pretty damn hard to carve a niche for oneself in the world of post-hardcore music without drawing a comparison to Neurosis, and being on Neurosis-member-founded label Neurot Records doesn’t help that fact. Also, since A Storm of Light contains two members of Battle of Mice, I can’t avoid that comparison, in which A Storm of Light sound a lot less chaotic than Battle of Mice can get. Ignoring band tie-ins and what members are part of what bands and who does guest spots on the album, it’s a worthy listen for fans of the genre; it’s quite easily better than the last Neurosis record. A Storm of Light play dreary sludge filled with down-tempo tunes with large weighted guitar riffing and even more weighted Godspeed-type melodies, the kind that don’t offer much happiness, just a feeling that the world is a miserable place. When all is said and done, I feel like I’ve heard this album many times before and it all winds up being very forgettable and not really that miserable. –Bryer Wharton

The Aliens
Luna
Birdman Records
Street: 10.20
The Aliens = The Verve + Beta Band
The second release from former members of Beta Band blooms with satisfyingly experimental sounds. Where their former band hit a wall and quit growing, The Aliens pick up and deliver a new yet familiar sound. The more I listen to this album, the more I sense it working into a regular rotation on my iPod. The only thing that could ruin this band would be landing in another John Cusack movie. –Cinnamon Brown
 
All Leather
Hung Like a Horse
Dim Mak Records
Street: 08.18
All Leather = See below
Recipe:Take one dude from The Locust (Justin Pearson) and mix with two other dudes (Nate Joyner, formerly of Some Girls and Jung Sing from Maniqui Lazer). Add keyboards (preferably ones that sound like a farting and dying Atari 2600). Add guitars (preferably ones that sound like a farting and dying Atari 2600). Heat drum machine in separate pan until crunchy. Add to keyboard/guitar mixture and beat until thick and sinewy. Add bratty cheerleader vocals. Fold in edgy song titles, such as “I don't hate fags, God does.” and “Please Jesus, send me someone to fuck.” Bake until chewy, the crust should feel and smell like horse jerky. Throw away in garbage, away from where your pets might accidentally poison themselves. –ryan fedor

Arrington de Dionyso
Malaikat dan Singa
K Records
Street: 11.03
Arrington de Dionysus = Tom Waits + Kongar-ol Ondar
This is Old Time Relijun front man Arrington de Dionyso’s third solo release and it’s miles away from being accessible. This is bizarre avant-garde jazz with Arrington’s eerie throat singing (all in Indonesian). There’s something about a repetitive, layering goose-like squawk of the bass clarinet on “Mani Malaikat”: after a while it begins to sound like you’re surrounded by 50 ships blowing their foghorns at you all at once. It’s abrasive and it’s fucking creepy. The instrumental “Mencerminkan Mahkota Kotor” is like a confrontation between two rival gangs of African elephants fighting over territory. “Rasa Sentuh” has a killer psychedelic intro— too bad it’s short lived. Point being, this is not for everyone. Arrington is always looking for a listener who’s up for the challenge. –Courtney Blair

Austrian Death Machine
Double Brutal
Metal Blade
Street: 09.29
Austrian Death Machine = As I Lay Dying – the whinning + Arnocorps
Ever since the solo project from As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis’ Austrian Death Machine hit the scene last year, there has been plenty of internet chatter amongst fans and haters about the validity of the Arnold Schwarzenegger parody/worship concept since there have been other bands before using Ahnold and his classic movies as inspiration for bands and songs. Well I’m not going to join the debate, just note it. This time around, Double Brutal has a longer-lasting memory than its predecessor, Total Brutal, while the music is your average overproduced-sounding metalcore dribble. Lambesis’ vocals and Arnold impersonation from Chad Ackerman of Destroy the Runner play out better and offer plenty more entertainment than the previous effort. After all is said and done, you’ll remember the Arnold chatter and the lyrics of the songs more than you’ll remember any portion of the music. The seven cover songs and introductions are the best portion of Double Brutal, doing a decent job of mustering up laughs and giving diversity in the style of Austrian Death Machine’s original songs. –Bryer Wharton

The Avett Brothers
I And Love And You
American
Street: 09.29
The Avett Brothers = Tom Petty + Old Crow Medicine Show
This is the Avett’s “Big Deal” record. There has been so much hype revolving around the band that Rick Rubin got all chubby and decided he needed to snatch up the original-sounding backwoods punk country band. I was nervous when I found out that the Avetts had signed to American and that Rubin was. Because when I fell in love with the band, it was when I heard the Four Thieves Gone … album and that album is all kinds of raw and unpolished. So when I heard this record, some of my worries came to fruition. The band is a lot more polished and now they have a pseudo-raw vibe that Rubin is famous for giving bands. They lost a little bit of their originality. But the more and more you listen to this album, you realize that the band doesn’t care about being polished or the hype they’re received—they just want to write some kick-ass, heartfelt songs and they have definitely accomplished that. – Jon Robertson

Axxis
Utopia
AMF
Street: 10.06
Axxis = Thunderstone + Masterplan + Stratovarius
I had never heard of Germany’s Axxis prior to listening to Utopia, a fairly typical effort of melodic power metal heavy on the keyboards. Judging by reading some reviews of the band’s past albums, even though Axxis has been around since 1988, it seems like they’ve had trouble sticking with a style. Utopia isn’t a terrible album for its genre, but it’s far from anything above par. While Utopia does offer up a few memorable tracks in the end, its cheesiness, hokey-stuck-in-the-80s-sounding keyboards, power chord after power chord and awfully bland guitar solos all culminate into something that quite resembles easy-listening metal. It’s fairly disappointing, because the band’s vocalist who’s been sticking it out with the band since the beginning actually has a good-ranged traditional/power-metal voice and it’s wasted on highly mediocre tunes. –Bryer Wharton

Blackhole
Dead Hearts
E1 Entertainment
Street: 10.27
Blackhole = Bring Me the Horizon + Cancer Bats
[Note: The national, not local band.] Every Time I Die just finished up a tour with Bring Me the Horizon, which is perfect because they must’ve fucked on a tour bus in West Virginia in order to bring Blackhole to life. Seriously, B-hole vocalist Richard Carter sounds EXACTLY like BMTH’s Oli Sykes (on Suicide Season) without a dick in it. The riffs are very ETID-style Southern metal, but what the fuck do the tea-and-crumpet-sucking English know about dirty Southern groove? A few unexpected chord shifts are the only things keeping this album from being completely forgettable. Sure, the production value and guitar tones are spot-on, but there’s nothing in the actual music beyond a clever melding of styles on this album from the cockney-speaking thrashers. –Nick Parker

Bear in Heaven
Beast Rest Fourth Mouth
Hometapes
Street: 10.13
Bear In Heaven = Portugal.The Man + Crystal Antlers + Growing
This album is super fun if you can deal with more jazzy/tribal-based drumming and really reverbed vocals. If you’re of a high-minded energy when tripping out on whatever illegal substances your mother/grandma/nosey sister doesn’t want you to consume, this is really good music for that, hypothetically speaking, of course. Sustained organ chords with rhythmically enticing, slightly proggy bass lines meld with those previously mentioned layered vocals to send small spikes of music ecstasy into a brain, as on track three, “You Do You.” It’s expansive, lush and very 2010. –JP

Brother Ali
US
Rhymesayers
Street: 09.22
Brother Ali = KRS-One + Jedi Mind Tricks + Atmosphere
Brother Ali is without a doubt one of the best in the industry right now. In a time when hip hop gets progressively worse, Ali delivers. In his latest album, US, Ali lets you know just how versatile his storytelling is. On “Fresh Air” he lets you know much he loves his life. On “Babygirl” he tells the story of convincing a girl who was sexually molested to feel genuine love again. Ali touches on subjects most rappers wouldn’t dare. Even on a track titled “The Travelers,” Ali tells the story of slavery from both sides and does it over a beat that involves a xylophone. Taking a huge step forward, Ali talks less about himself and more about socially relevant issues without sounding like he’s preaching. Not a feat easily accomplished. Not only is Ali lyrically ahead of the game, but with beats provided by Ant of Atmosphere, the entire album rises to a different level. US is Ali’s best album yet. –Jemie Sprankle

Capgun Coup
Maudlin
Team Love Records
Street: 11.03
Capgun Coup = Fresh & Onlys + Kill Surf City
Punkrockabillysurf seems like a just word for the works of Capgun Coup. Screeching vocals mixed with old-time rock n’ roll in “Computer Screens And TVs” are followed by bearded, hillbilly-pitched vocals and tinkering piano in “Ari Are We.” “When I’m Gone” and “Breaks No Heart of Mine” bring the use of spooky reverb, vintage synth and a bit of banjo. Inconsistent or maybe drunken-experimental–there isn’t a definite genre to attach to all 14 songs. If you think about it too much, then you are defeating the purpose. Have fun. Start dancing, dammit! –Jessica Davis

Capybara
Try Brother
The Record Machine
Street: 11.03 Capybara = Sufjan Stevens + Pattern is Movement
Capybara has created a folk renaissance whirlwind on their debut, and it’s pretty damn impressive. This album is so alive and warm that it will most likely keep your toes toasty this chilly season. It’s packaged with effervescent melodies, a light brand of synth beats, Sufjan string-like arrangements, and impressive drumming that’s so snappy it’s worth the workout to keep up. If only I had gotten my hands on this earlier. –Courtney Blair

Chll Pll
Aggressively Humble
Porter Records
Street: 10.20
Chll Pll = Hella + Hexlove
They totally should have called this band “Zach Attack” (Zach Hill from Hella + Zachary Nelson from Hexlove are on it), but “Chll Pll” does have a lot of Google-ability going for it, so props for that. As you might expect from an album featuring Hill, many of the beats are over-caffeinated and hyper-busy, treading dangerously close to the “dude, too much” line that separates Neil Peart and his ilk from everyone else. Fortunately, most of these busy moments are matched in intensity and sheer volume by a rainbow of keyboard sounds, disintegrating static textures, and pancake-stacked vocal hooks set against them, forming an enormously massive and detailed wall of brightly colored grit. ROYGBIV, ya’ll. Some of the down-tempo moments are almost pop, even if the chorus “no dick moves” probably wouldn’t fly too far on the radio. Next time your fixie gets a flat and you can’t make it over to No Brow, blast this album as a substitute. –Ryan Fedor

CoCoComa
Things Are Not All Right
Goner
Street: 11.17
CoCoComa = Rolling Stones + XTC+ Agent Orange
Good ol throwback music. CoCoComa sounds like they are right out of the early 80s and all Clashed up. There is energy to this power trio that is refreshing. Apparently, the guitar/drum duo of Bill and Lisa Roe (married) wasn’t exciting enough, so they decided to spice up their marriage and make it a threesome by throwing in Tyler Brock. Kinky! Now that the marriage consists of three, I think it is helping things, as now Bill and Lisa are on their best behavior musically and trying to impress Tyler, all the while still vying for each other’s attention and affection. Oh, the complications of music and marriage. I just hope that they don’t break Tyler’s heart. –Jon Robertson

Devandra Banhardt
What Will Be
Street: 10.27
Warner Brothers
Devandra Banhardt= Summer Camp + the 70s
It would be easy to hate anyone on Warner Bros these days, but it’s hard to when the artist is dreamy-eyed Banhardt. His pop confections can be consumed on tween/mini-hipster movies like Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and other shitty movies I’ve seen, but let’s not get carried away with hating just yet. Sometimes artists can transcend their media, i.e., MJ, Gloria Estefan, etc. Banhardt really should be given that shot. His music is a relaxing combination of Latin-influenced pop-folk with some really self-affected vocals—he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn sustaining a note if his life depended on it (whatever the fuck that means). His warbles aside, songs like “Angelika” are really very sweet and his romantic pinings don’t go unnapreciated, nor do his songs that just make you want to pull a flourish and shimmy like the King of Pop. –JP

deVries
Death to God
Noise on Noise
Street: 11.09
deVries = The Turn-Ons + Built to Spill
Indie rock has been in a sad state of affairs as of late. For some reason, every douche in the scene gets a rager everytime they hear the same whiny low-fi shit repackaged again and again and again (read: MGMT, Of Montreal). For those of us who still have a taste for indie rock with some actual depth and good instrumentation, deVries might be a nice change of pace. Former guitarist and vocalist Travis deVries has created an especially pleasant indie-rock affair. Much of it reminds me of Built to Spill, with heavy guitars and lyrics that aren’t just throwaway garbage rhymes like so much else out there. Notable tracks include the remarkably orchestrated “Black Thursday Repeat,” as well as “Mountain Meadows Massacre,” a somber look at some Mormons of centuries past. This is definitely a rad album that deserves some attention. –Ross Solomon

Diablo Swing Orchestra
Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious
Sensory Records
Street: 09.22
Diablo Swing Orchestra = The Brian Setzer Orchestra + a big dose of evil + Stolen Babies + Apocalyptica
Sweden’s Diablo Swing Orchestra’s second full-length album is an exercise in refreshing originality for a metal or swing-type band. One minute you’re ready to bust out some dancing shoes, and the next you’re banging your head. DSO do a magnificent job at meshing swing, jazz, metal, country western and almost operatic vocals all into a cohesive, poignant, delightfully decadent collection of sinister-edged songs. One normally doesn’t think of a metal-type band as being upbeat and dark-minded at the same time, put damn, the band pulls it off with a vast array of sounds and instrumentation coming from guitars, strings, brass and massive percussion. The juxtaposition of the swing and metal guitars makes the metal and the Diablo portion of the Swing Orchestra so much bigger and grandiose. Sing-Along Songs… is one hell of an entertaining set of songs for anyone with an open musical mind. –Bryer Wharton

El Perro Del Mar
Love Is Not Pop
Control Group
Street: 10.20
El Perro Del Mar = Maria Taylor + Goldfrapp
Sarah Assbring, no jokes please, follows up last year’s From the Valley to the Stars in a really fucking righteous way with her latest. Listening to the two albums side by side makes the differences notable and effective. From the Valley was more organ-ic and ethereal. This shorter “mini-album” is more concise and, appropriately enough, poppy. The really exciting part of the album is what happens after track seven—three great producers, among them Dirty Disco and J Rintamäki, remix tracks from the album. Unlike other release methods, these tracks aren’t B-sides or available only in weird places people pretending to be DJs can find—internet blogs, or wherever the fuck they go—nay, these mixes are right on the goddamn album. The “L is for Love” remix by Dirty Disco, track eight, is one of the better ones. If From the Valley was too slow and boring, take Love Is Not Pop for a spin–it will change your mind about the lady going by the Spanish moniker The Dog of the Sea. –JP

Evergreen Terrace
Almost Home
Metal Blade Records
Street: 09.29
Evergreen Terrace = Casey Jones + Bad Religion + Killswitch Engage
Wolfbiker was the defining album for Evergreen Terrace. With its melodic vocal hooks and aggressive screams, the album perfected the band’s sound. Almost Home is the next logical step in the Floridians’ journey. This disc provides a similar scream-sing dynamic to their previous releases while improving on production quality. “The Letdown” is a hardcore-inspired breakdownathon that clocks in at less than two minutes with no singing (Andrew Carey gets a chance to fly solo with the screams), but most of the songs stick to the formula of screamy, brutal verses and softly crooned choruses. A polished mix of punk, metalcore, hardcore and even moments of shred can be found among the 35-plus minutes of Almost Home, but it seems as if Evergreen Terrace may be hitting a creative wall. –Nick Parker

The Fall of Troy
In the Unlikely Event
Equal Vision
Street: 11.10
The Fall of Troy = Rush + Mars Volta
I have always had high hopes for The Fall of Troy. I feel like they’re one of the newer bands around that are actually trying to create some interesting and genre-bending music. However, I feel like this band tries too hard to be creative and interesting. They are going full speed all the time, without really slowing down in their songs to let all three members lock into a nice solid grove. I am not completely hating on these guys, though. There is part of me that loves the fact that they don’t let up and consistently make some serious music. The older and more refined the band gets, the closer and closer they become to being the band I want them to be. I’m not giving up. Maybe when I am 69 they’ll make my favorite album of all time. –Jon Robertson

Faust
From Glory to Infinity
Paragon Records
Street: 09.09
Faust = Death + Atheist + Morbid Angel
The idea of Italy’s Faust has been kicking around since the early 90s; guitarist/vocalist Aleister has been a player in mostly underground Italian bands and is currently a live session player for Norway’s Ancient. In any case, I have the inkling that the stars aligned in favor of the frontman, because the band’s debut, From Glory to Infinity, has some big players associated with it. Steve DiGiorio of Sadus fame and Darekd Brzozowski (Dimmu Borgir, Vesania) joined other notables to make this record happen and the end result is something that is more than worth listening to again and again. The record has great juxtapositions of brutal death metal goodies mixed with some truly fantastic, oh-so-evil sounding melodic portions, both with DiGiorio’s bass-playing having an almost jazz improvisational sound. All the kinds of music play off one another throughout the album to perfection. From Glory to Infinity is a nice break from the death-metal norm. –Bryer Wharton

The Feelies
Crazy Rhythms / The Good Earth
Bar None Records
Street: 09.08
The Feelies = The Talking Heads + Television + The Velvet Underground
If you don't know who The Feelies were, now is a perfect time to find out. Bar None Records has finally reissued the first two Feelies albums: the classic Crazy Rhythms (1980) and The Good Earth (1986), complete with bonus tracks that are available through download cards tucked inside the discs. Aside from some minor complaints about the flimsy packaging, these are excellent reissues—the remastering sounds clean and clear and the liner notes do an excellent job of filling in the details for all of us who weren't there at the time. Crazy Rhythms is the one you really need to hear, the title being a fairly accurate description of the music within—from the blistering cover of The Beatles “Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)” to the funky and also aptly titled “The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness” to the Tom Verlaine-inspired guitar lines and Iggy Pop vocal imitations of “Loveless Love.” However, if Crazy Rhythms is their Marquee Moon, then The Good Earth is their Adventure: a solid album for just about anyone else, but a bit of a letdown when compared side by side with their classic debut. Jangly and relaxed, with occasional fits of fuzzy angst, The Good Earth fits well alongside the REM releases of the time, which makes perfect sense when you consider that REM were big fans of the band from the beginning. Overall, you really can't go wrong with either of these albums, so get out there and get acquainted. –ryan fedor

Frank Turner
The First Three Years
Paper + Plastick
Street: 09.22
Frank Turner = Billy Bragg + Tim Barry + Shane McGowan
After touring stateside with roots-punk heroes The Gaslight Anthem and selling out a string of shows in his native United Kingdom, Frank Turner's rise to the top of the acousti-folk-country-punk scene has been nothing short of meteoric. Of course, none of this success would've been possible if Turner wasn't talented and entertaining, and even though The First Three Years is predictably uneven, it's an interesting chronicle of his progression as a songwriter. "Nashville Tennesse" and "The Outdoor Type" reveal Turner's desire to be a rugged, whiskey-nourished manly man with a penchant for mountain climbing and the steel guitar, even though he's a rail-thin hardcore kid from urban England. What he lacks in grit Turner makes up for with charm and humor on tracks like "Thatcher Fucked the Kids" and "This Town Ain't Big Enough for the One of Me," and a variety of covers (from Black Flag, Bad Brains and, uh, ABBA) keep things fun. This isn't essential, but if you enjoy Turner's work, it's at least interesting. –Ricky Vigil

Fuck Buttons
Tarot Sport
ATP Records
Street: 10.20
Fuck Buttons = Spacemen 3 + Mogwai + Rave beats
Reviewer admission #1: I’ve avoided listening to this band up until now because of their incredibly stupid name. Reviewer admission #2: I was bored by this album the first two times I listened to it. (while driving around in my car). Reviewer admission #3: I was wrong. So wrong. Wrong to avoid this band, wrong about the album being boring, and wrong to judge it after only hearing it through my car’s crummy speakers. This is an album that needs to be appreciated through a powerful stereo system or headphones; the truth is in the details. Oscillating drones writhe and pulse with and against each other, burning white waves of beautifully damaged noise emerge, die, and resurrect out of their own ashes, the rhythmic hull taking a beating but constantly propelling itself through the sonic storm. Joyous and melancholy, sometimes simultaneously, one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. (Note: produced by Andy Weatherall, producer of Primal Scream’s classic Screamadelica) –Ryan Fedor

Giest
Galeere
Prophecy
Street: 11.03
Giest = Drudkh + Pestilential Shadows + Fen
While maritime themes in metal aren’t exactly new and Germany’s Giest don’t exactly take the theme to new territory, they do a fantastic job at telling a story within the album’s five tracks and over 50 minutes of abysmal music. Even if you have ADHD, you can easily fall victim to the lurking and menacingly dark tones portrayed on Galeere; each song is diverse and fluid enough to retain attention to every little detail and atmospheric nuance. Giest takes the atmospheric black-metal approach on extremely well here; the album enjoys crystal-clear-like production but embodies huge feelings of darkness and the feelings of dread and solitude the open ocean—stormy or calm—can provide. The atmospheric portions of the music come in synth and samples, which just heighten this audio experience. I highly suggest spinning this album while in a pitch-black room. Not only will your auditory experience be enlightened, but your imagination will run rampant with images of dark, vast spaces and epic and blissful, calming solitude. –Bryer Wharton

Goonies Never Say Die
A Forest Without Trees
Deep Elm Records Inc.
Street: 09.07
Goonies Never Say Die = Explosions in the Sky + Muse
This young group of British post-rockers has ambition. That much is evident from their debut album, which is rich with crashing symbols and droning guitars. A little bit of that grandeur seems to get lost in the execution though. A Forest Without Trees is a solid release, but not quite as full of the dramatic moments that make Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor records so addictive. When all the songs start to sound the same, I lose interest. That being said, the talent is there. I can’t wait to see what these kids will do with a little more time to develop some creativity. This record is worth picking up for those new to the genre and interested in getting a gentle transition to some of the more difficult-to-digest stuff like A Silver Mt. Zion or Joy Wants Eternity. Otherwise, a little lackluster. –Rio Connelly

The Gossip
Music for Men
Columbia
Street: 10.06
The Gossip = Debbie Harry + Glass Candy + Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Music for Men features 12 highly polished tracks produced by none other than Rick Rubin. This type of major label debut treatment might hurt some bands, but in the case of Beth Ditto and The Gossip, it only seems to have made them stronger. Music for Men is a disco dance party that manages to stay grounded in punk and garage rock found in past albums. The dance party really shines on “Love Long Distance,” “Vertical Rhythm” and “Four Letter Word.” On other tracks, the band takes it back to their more punk rock-inspired roots on songs like “2012,” “Dimestore Diamond” and the bonus track, “Spare Me From the Mold.” It’s a much different album than they’ve created before, but it seems like an evolution that’s headed in the right direction. –Jeanette Moses

Handful of Hate
You Will Bleed
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 11.03
Handful of Hate = Immortal + Mayhem + Dark Funeral
There’re two routes to go with extreme metal—or any musical genre for that matter—the safe route, which is play a tried-and-true style that already has fans upon fans, or try to break the mold. In the day and age of everyone bitching about the lack of original ideas and all that garbage, I’ll admit I’m fine with either route as long as you play it with fervor, passion and do it pretty damn well. Italy’s Handful of Hate dish out the traditional black-metal worship with a wallop and intriguing, not so run-of-the-mill lyrics, all building itself up and down in swirling chaotic fashion, resulting in a nice, non-dizzy head-spinning effect. So what if the record feels like you’ve heard it before? It sounds good for what it is. You Will Bleed packs mostly mid-tempo black-metal tunes with some blazers, all of which have that most important factor: repeated listenability enjoyment. –Bryer Wharton

Hawnay Troof
Daggers at the Moon
Retard Disco
Street: 10.22
Hawnay Troof = Dan Deacon + Why? + Peaches
Daggers at the Moon, the new album from Vice Cooler’s solo project, Hawnay Troof, can best be described as an eclectic mixture of experimental rock, electronic dance music and hip hop. The vocals vary from repetitive singing to rap. The raps are laid over feel-good instrumentals, similar to Mickey Avalon or Kid Cudi. There is excessive repetition of single words and notes that call to mind some of Animal Collective’s most disruptive songs, and broken, chopped-up beats juxtaposed with classic melodies, which is fast becoming a staple in today’s expanding world of indie electronica. Overall, the album has its strong points, but it’s not fantastic, or any more groundbreaking than any other experimental dance music already out there. I get the sense that it would be fun to dance to live, but as a studio recording, it doesn’t have the qualities to stand out in its genre. –Jessie Wood

Hiems
Worship or Die
Moribund Records
Release: 07.24
Heims = Farsot + Corpus Christii
Remember Italy's Forgotten Tomb? Bass player Algol started his own solo black metal project, making this his second full-length release, and it's pretty awesome. It took me quite a while to warm up to this, though, as I initially felt that it wasn't very unique. But after many repeated listens, I've realized that Algol is quite adept at creating his own brand of black metal. The aggressiveness here is what really sells it, because it's actually rather unorthodox for black metal. The riffs are heavier, and tremolo is used sparingly compared to many of his peers out there, and there are even several parts that break down to some pretty awesome death-and-roll moments—not to mention the proggy synthesized solo toward the end of the album, and the final, double-take-inducing track, which I promise is not at all what you will be expecting by then. Personally, I'm still not totally sold on Hiems, but this album kicks a lot of ass. –Conor Dow
 
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions
Through the Devil Softly
Nettwerk
Street: 09.29
Hope Sandoval = Mazzy Star + Mojave 3 + Galaxie 500
We’ve waited eight years, but oh … my … God … she’s back and it’s time to prepare yourself for Sandoval to invade your personal space. Please, make yourself comfortable and take in that sultry whispering voice while it sends you on a journey into a mysterious slowcore world. On Through the Devil Softly, she teams up once again with her backing band The Warm Inventions featuring My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig. Just as the title suggests, the imagery of Beelzebub pops up frequently, a guardian of the underworld on the tinkering music-box rhythmic track, “Sets the Blaze” and the guaranteed-to-melt-your-heart, twang-tinged “Bluebird.” “Trouble” hits and you find yourself once again paired up with Lucifer himself in a hazy and seductive waltz. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the album is no departure from previous works, but why change something that’s been perfected? –Courtney Blair

Hypocrisy
A Taste of Extreme Divinity
Nuclear Blast
Street: 11.03
Hypocrisy = Abducted + Arrival + Virus
Peter Tagtgren, you’ve been damn busy somehow, what with cranking out two albums with your industrial-edged modern metal band, Pain, and the extensive touring you’ve done in the last two years. Yet still you’ve managed time to give the world a new album from the mighty Hypocrisy. If you’re a fan, you know this album isn’t going to sound anywhere close to the oldies but goodies, but aside from the snafu that was Catch 22, Hypocrisy and Tagtgren are the go-to band for Swedish melodic death metal that doesn’t sound like it’s been infused with pop rhythms and lame keyboard crap. A Taste of Extreme Divinity is a pleasing listen for Hypocrisy’s modern standards; it’s pretty much a continuation of where the last album, Virus, left off, although that being said, the songs lack a memorable feel, when all is said and done. I’m telling you I listened to this many a time and still, nothing has clicked, so yes, it’s pleasing to listen to while it’s rocking, but it has a high burnout factor. However, if you enjoy what Hypocrisy’s been doing in the last decade, the latest won’t disappoint. –Bryer Wharton

Immortal
All Shall Fall
Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.06
All Shall Fall = At the Heart of Winter + Damned in Black + Sons of Northern Darkness
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not to say I was expecting the return of Norway’s notorious black metal trio Immortal to sound exactly like it does on All Shall Fall. The album picks up exactly where the last, Sons of Northern Darkness, left off. While I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of the last three albums, I’m hard pressed to call it straight-up black metal. Immortal have taken the pace down a hell of a lot and are quite content with creating slow rhythms and beats, creating war-like battle hymns that are nice and epic in sound, especially for a three-piece. All Shall Fall is a record of hits and misses, all played pretty safe for black-metal standards. There will be some toe-tapping and head-banging moments, but in the end, it feels like extreme metal-lite and in these days, when there’s so much stuff to listen to, you’ll be moving on rather than coming back to this album. –Bryer Wharton

Islands
Vapours
Anti
Street: 09.22
Islands = Sondre Lerche + The Flaming Lips
Nick Diamond has been around. He has been involved with The Unicorns, Human Highway, and now album number three with Islands. On Vapuors, the band tests out simpler indie-pop ground. Opener “Switched On” runs like a calypso-tinged pop song done more properly than anything Vampire Weekend could ever do. They pull out the cheese on “No You Don’t” with the opening line, “Don’t buy dope from the man you don’t know,” over cheap blips and beeps as if they were pulled from an 80s Atari game console—listen closely and you’ll hear a game of Pong. The technology improves on the drum machine-filled, techno-inspired “Devout,” promising to send you to the dance floor. “Shining” sounds as if Ratatat was hired to play backup. Oh, and then there’s “Heartbeat”; it looks like the band received the auto-tune requirement memo—at least it’s used well. –Courtney Blair

J Dilla
Dillanthology 3
Rapster Rec.
Street: 10.13
J Dilla = The Roots + A Tribe Called Quest + Peanut Butter Wolf
The Dilla legacy lives on. Three years after his passing, J Dilla remains one of the most talented producers and DJs that hip hop will ever see. The Dillanthlogy 3 showcases his solo work and collaborations with hip hop’s elite, like MF DOOM, Ghostface Killah, Rza and even Atmosphere. Known for his raw style of beat-making and ability to play numerous instruments, Dilla’s style will forever be sought after. Anyone whose claims set to hip hop will already be aware of what’s on this album, but regardless, this album is impressive. Tracks like “Reality Check,” featuring Black Thought from The Roots, represent what hip hop would have sounded like if some rappers “who shall forever remain nameless” didn’t fuck it all up. Just as a good warning, “So Far to Go” is one impressive song. With a strong baby making beat and lyrics from Common and D’anaglo, it’s without a doubt the track to play as you take home the 7-Eleven Slurpee girl. –Jemie Sprankle

Jookabox
Dead Zone Boys
Joyful Noise Recordings
Street: 11.03
Jookabox = Puscifer + Stereopathetic Soulmanure-era Beck
If you have access to a sound system with a great subwoofer, put Jookabox on. Their tribal-infused drumming and pummeling bass lines will dip you into a deeply resonating universe. The Indianapolis rockers’ third release is scattered, full of dissonant tones and interesting voicings that appear to have no grounding––that’s what makes it a relief to listen to when your inbox is flooded with weird electro-dancey shit. You can dance to this, but it’s less Starfucker and more Social Registry. The group is obviously very creative, as you can see from their song titles: “Evil Guh,” “Zombie Tear Drops” and “XXXiawn Shell,” and their themes equally intriguing––dealing with soulless dedication to a partner and, well, zombie tear drops to boot. –JP

Leave’s Eyes
Njord
Napalm Records
Street: 09.29
Leave’s Eyes = Theatre of Tragedy + Within Temptation + Epica
You remember that feeling of your first piece of Halloween candy? It’s oh so sweet, and even the next few pieces are just as sweet and so satisfying. Then you get to the point where it’s just morphed into the feeling of eating sugar-coated sugar with a sugar nougat center. Well, that’s pretty much the feeling of attempting to listen to Leave’s Eyes third full-length album, Njord. The first few songs are all fine and good; pleasing melodies wash over the listener amongst hits of nice groove, heavier-oriented guitars and some death growls to top it off—but then about three or four songs in, it becomes way too much. This fact isn’t that Liv Kristine’s vocals are too high and cheery and get old quite quickly, it’s the fact that they’re coupled with oozy, happy, calming, easy-listening melody after easy-listening melody and it bombards you so much that in the end, listening to the full record is a chore rather than a pleasing affair. –Bryer Wharton

Lewd Acts
Black Eye Blues
Deathwish Inc.
Street: 09.01
Lewd Acts = NAILS + Modern Life is War + Black Flag
Black Eye Blues is as well crafted as you could hope a hardcore punk record to be. In the early days, hardcore punk wasn’t a meal ticket, it was a form of expression for a whole generation of lost youth who couldn’t really play instruments and needed to candidly shout their frustrations. Lewd Acts shouts their frustrations loud and clear, and candidly, but also with poetic delivery. The musical abilities of hardcore musicians has improved since the 80s as well, with Lewd Acts playing fast and dirty, but musically interesting and dare I say, “progressive.” Songs like “Night-Crawlers” start out in the familiar punk rock vein, but then inject a harmonized guitar line that simply nails it. Other tracks delve into emotional melodic crescendos but never lose their edge, due to the gruff vocals of Tyler Densley (who incidentally, is from UT) and gritty production (courtesy of Kurt Ballou, God City Studios, Converge). Black Eye Blues isn’t a classic, but it’s a solid, and surprisingly deep, foray into updated 80s hardcore. –Peter Fryer

Litany for the Whale
Dolores
Teenage Disco Bloodbath Records
Street: 09.01
Litany for the Whale = Mastodon (early) + Chaldeon + Glacial
The first song on Dolores, “A Wake,” starts out the album with a chugging, hardcore thrashfest and quickly becomes an epic build to what will typify the seven-song EP—epic, quick sludge that is as cerebral as it is visceral. The brooding feedback swells accentuate the pounding rhythms of heavy momentum, but simultaneously beautify the soft, droning guitars without emaciating them. Though LFTW resides in the state of The Governator, their sound evokes memories of long-lost SLC band Chaldeon. Scratchy vocals and an equally broken-up cadre of guitar distortion complete the aural aesthetic of Dolores, which finally brings something exciting to the independent heavy music world. –Nick Parker

Madraso
Van Horne
Pseudo Recordings
Street: 07.14
Madraso = Weed Eater + Melvins
Not since the glory days of Steve Harris (that one dude from Iron Maiden for you losers who didn’t know) has an album in popular music been so bass driven as Madraso’s Van Horne. The vinyl version of this record is warm and really brings out the beef of the Fender P bass pickups on this beast. The guitar is drowned out a bit, but the four-stringer finally turns the table. The axe work isn’t substandard, though. Riffs abound from wall to wall with tightness usually reserved for the rhythm section. Moments of Van Horne reminded me a bit of SLC’s LOOM—the vocals are slightly akin to Josh Devenport’s raspy yell, while Jarom Bischoff’s kit must’ve been stolen for this recording. Balls and oomph make up for much of the album’s substance, but finesse is in no short supply, making Van Horne a worthy purchase—beautiful picture vinyl or no. –Nick Parker

Marduk
Wormwood
Reagain Records
Street: 10.13
Marduk = Dark Funeral + Antaeus + Arkhon Infaustus + Bathory
I’ll admit I am not familiar with Marduk aside from their 2003 World Funeral album, though there is no denying the fact that aside from the mighty Bathory, Marduk is one of the pioneers of Swedish black metal. For the sake of giving a worthwhile review just for you, the reader, I bucked up on some Marduk history and research. Wormwood is a finely produced slab of black metal, with blasting tunes that actually pleasantly deviate from the standard black metal blastbeat formula, which Marduk are more than guilty of overusing in the past. There are some fantastically epic and dark mid-tempo tunes with some in-between screaming and singing vocals that are an extremely pleasing deviation from the norm, along with lots of bass guitar portions standing out as well. All these factors vary in to give Wormwood a nice identity. It would be highly safe to assume that if you’ve enjoyed the last few Marduk records, this album won’t disappoint. –Bryer Wharton

Mumiy Troll
Comrade Ambassador
It’s Alive! Media
Street: 04.07
Mumiy Troll = Talking Heads + Gogol Bordello
I will admit, I laughed a little in the first few seconds of starting this album. Dance beats and Russian lyrics deserve a giggle. Continue listening and this becomes a very interesting album. Lyrics in English are included and are definitely worth taking a look at, but they are not necessary to enjoy Ilia Lagutenko’s rolling accent. The first half stays interesting as each song switches¬¬––from spooky rock to funky madman bouncing. “Musician” is by far my favorite––it starts with a croaking circus bounce, followed by a creepy wah-ing organ. The second half lulls into slower “romantic tempos,” but there are plenty of quirks worth checking out. You may be surprised. –Jessica Davis

Nazxul
Iconoclast
Moribund Records
Street: 07.28
Nazxul = The Ruins of Beverast + Drowning the Light + Ondskapt
Down in Australia, there is a thriving scene of black-metal musicians who create some excellent records. Some of these bands include several of my down-under favorites, such as Pestilential Shadows, Drowning the Light, Austere and Funeral Mourning. What I didn’t expect is for members of the mighty Nazxul to step aside from these aforementioned projects of theirs, and to release some of the most suffocating and relentless black metal this year. But here they are proving that they’re on top of their game. The dense miasma of atmosphere created here makes everything sound completely massive and crushing. Most of the music includes some non-intrusive synthesizer work which is layered beneath the blasphemy just enough to contribute an epic symphonic feel. What I like most here is that the drums sound absolutely pummeling, and with a bass guitar that you can actually hear, the rhythm section just might be the most important factor of this creation. If you listen to only one black metal album this year, this is the one. –Conor Dow

No Friends
Self-Titled
No Idea
Street: 10.06
No Friends = New Mexican Disaster Squad + Dag Nasty + Career Suicide
Featuring three members of Orlando’s woefully underrated New Mexican Disaster Squad as well as Municipal Waste vocalist Tony Foresta, No Friends are just about the most bad-ass punk band from the 80s, formed 25 years too late. Recorded in just four days and after No Friends had only three live performances under their belts, this album captures the reckless enthusiasm of punk rock at its best. Throughout their 19-minute debut, No Friends mix the anger of Black Flag with the snottiness of Circle Jerks and top it all off with the more melodic aspects of Gorilla Biscuits to create one of the most refreshingly familiar punk rock albums in recent memory. Don’t expect to see these guys embark on a full-scale tour anytime soon, but the old-school fury provided on No Friends’ debut is a great reminder of punk rock’s glory days that shouldn’t be missed. –Ricky Vigil

Nile
Those Whom the Gods Detest
Nuclear Blast
Street: 11.03
Nile = Vital Remains + Hate Eternal + Anata + ancient Egypt
Being of the opinion that Nile peaked back in 2000 with their Black Seeds of Vengeance album and that they’ve kind of been coasting on their name and not really challenging what they could do since then, Those Whom the Gods Detest is a glorious tech-death surprise. The production for the album is one of its key qualities, with Neil Kernon at the mixing helm along with drum production coming from Erik Rutan. Nile got out of third gear for this record finally: it’s superbly diverse, rich and lavishly heavy and most importantly, an enjoyable death-metal listen. It has echoes of the ancient epic war themes and brutality that the band displayed on their debut, Catacombs, guitarist Karl Sanders hit quite a stride in dishing out one punishing lick after another. The only real complaint I have coming from this album is that the drum sound feels a bit overdone and has that clicktey-clack effect going on, especially when the double bass is blazing, all of which, after a few listens, is pretty damn forgivable. –Bryer Wharton

Portal
Swarth
Profound Lore
Street: 10.20
Portal = Immolation + the mindset of SUNN0))) + Blut Aus Nord
This monster is drenched in atmospheric, black, gooey, grit-filled sludge. It may not be the most innovative form of extreme music but its attitude takes hold of the listener and spins you around, smacking you repeatedly until you leave it in a daze and stupor wondering what you just heard and trying to make sense of it all. Australia’s horrifying Portal have been perverting, and bastardizing death and black metal since 1994, but this is my first full-length encounter. The fact that the album is so non-linear and doesn’t follow any sort of path just makes things that much scarier and confusing. Every note played on the guitar sound is just off kilt from actually sounding like a normal note. Very frequent and pulsating beats swirl and swirl into manic frenzies. Portal may get the death/black metal tag, but they’re just as much an atmospheric drone noise band as they are anything resembling death metal. Swarth is one of those records that challenges and dares listeners—whether they choose to like it or hate is up to them. –Bryer Wharton

The Raveonettes
In and Out of Control
Vice
Street: 10.06
The Raveonettes = The Ronettes + My Bloody Valentine + B.R.M.C.
The Danish duo continue to show their love of 50s girl groups, Phil Spector and Mary Chain-like fuzz on In and Out of Control, with a little more variety than their previous efforts. The album starts with the absurdly catchy “Bang!” sounding like it’s a jingle for the latest toy that’s keeping it “fa-fa-fun all summer long.” The Raves also head into darker lyrical territory, but still manage to make everything infectious. Take the hyper-revenge track, “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)”–it leaves you asking, is it proper to bop around as Sharin Foo sings, “You’ll never forget/Those fuckers stay in your head”? or, “Empty-hearted boys by your side/Lick your lips and fuck suicide” on “Suicide?” Yes, the Raves wear their influences on their sleeves, and seem to never change their wardrobe much, but it’s clear they are comfortably in control of this prom-pop album. –Courtney Blair

Root
Zjeveni (re-issue)/Temple of the Underworld (re-issue)
I Hate Records
Street: 10.13
Root = Bathory (Viking era) + Burzum
The Czech Republic-based Root has a long history and are an often overlooked portion of the early black metal scene. As well as playing metal filled with Satanic overtones, the band’s vocalist started up a branch of the Church of Satan in the Czech Republic. Zjeveni is the band’s first full-length and is sung completely in Czech. As far as being released in 1990, the album actually has a nice clean production sound, though it is rawer in its tones and speed as compared to the more down-tempo and epic-sounding Temple of the Underworld. Said album enters a type of progression for Root, not so much purposely setting themselves apart from the black metal realm, but proving that you can play black metal and not have to shriek like a banshee. Both albums come with a variety of bonus cuts and either one of them is a sure trip to the evil store—hell, both of these albums have a creepy and darkly satisfying sound. –Bryer Wharton

Sea Wolf
White Water, White Bloom
Dangerbird Records
Street: 09.22
Sea Wolf = Department of Eagles + Arcade Fire + The Shins
White Water, White Bloom may be one in my Top Five this year. The album starts out bold with “Wicked Blood,” a brilliant medley of guitar, piano, cello and chest-wrenching bass. Similar to Sea Wolf’s last release, Leaves in the River, this album flows together like a soundtrack to a movie you wish you could live in. The soft “Orion & Dog” counters to an almost dark storm in “O Maria!” and back again in “The Traitor.” As the instruments catch you in a pleasant memory, Alex Brown Church’s vocals blend a new appreciation for love. –Jessica Davis

Stationary Odyssey
Sons of Boy
Joyful Noise
Street: 11.24
Stationary Odyssey = Godspeed You! Black Emperor + Sigur Rôs + Mogwai
There are so many instrumental bands out now that it seems like everybody and their creepy neighbor has started an instrumental post-metal ambient prog band. While part of me loves the eclecticism and prowess of these bands, it does become a little ho-hum when every other band is making this awesome music but without vocals. Part of me feels that these bands are lazy because the hardest part of being in a band is finding a vocalist that complements your music and that others want to hear. So I think these bands are just skipping the hard part and taking the easy route. That being said, Stationary Odyssey is definitely interesting to listen to. They mix elements of Sonic Youth and Behold… The Arctopus all into the second track, “Torticline”. So even though instrumental prog bands are becoming commonplace, it’s bands like Stationary Odyssey that do add some refreshment within the genre. –Jon Robertson

Strike Anywhere
Iron Front
Bridge 9
Street: 10.06
Strike Anywhere = Bad Religion + Propagandhi + Rise Against
After 10 years in existence, three albums and thousands of live shows, it’s amazing that Strike Anywhere is able to release an album as full of fury and righteous anger as Iron Front. Strike Anywhere build upon the blueprint of 2006’s Dead FM for Iron Front, combining the melodic tricks they learned while part of the Fat Wreck Chords roster with the unbridled energy of their earliest releases. The result is one of the best pure punk albums of 2009. Fist-pumping anthems like “I’m Your Opposite Number” and the circle-pit-ready “Invisible Colony” are tailor-made for the live setting, while “First Will and Testament” could’ve fit in perfectly on Dead FM. If you’re tired of all of the blatant Jawbreaker and Springsteen worship running rampant in punk rock today, Iron Front will definitely help restore your faith in the genre. –Ricky Vigil

Syrach
A Dark Burial
Napalm
Street: 07.22
Syrach = Katatonia + early Paradise Lost
Doom metal is often hit and miss with me. Syrach have been around for more than a decade, and seem to have a tight little following. Their particular brand of death-infused doom metal isn't anything to scoff at, but after spending a lot of time with this album, I just can't get into it. My main issue is that it seems to balance between uninteresting aspects of doom metal and death metal, resulting in an unmemorable experience. Even after many repeated listens, I can't really pinpoint any moments that I find interesting. The band members are clearly great musicians, but as far as songwriting goes, there just isn't anything here for me to come back to. –Conor Dow

Talk Normal
Sugarland
Rare Book Room
Street 10.27
Talk Normal = DNA + Cocteau Twins + Kim Gordon-sung Sonic Youth
Let’s call it no wave. There’s really no way around it. Sludgy, noise-riddled music made by a two-piece, all female art-rock band from New York City. Maybe not as musically severe as the stuff put out by Swans or Lydia Lunch’s edgier, primal songs, but similar to the 1980s sound nonetheless. This disc is Talk Normal’s debut full-length record and comes out just a year after the release of their Secret Cog EP. And where Cog fleshed out the post-punk side of this duo, Sugarland hits quite a bit harder. Nine original songs and a Roxy Music cover (“In every dream home a heartache”) make for quite the listening experience—a bit like getting hit in the chest with a bag full of hammers. The songs are never lacking in rhythm or complexity, though these really aren’t the types of songs that you find yourself humming along to later. You experience it more than you hear it. The vocals are a bit too screechy in parts for me, but overall, this droney-yet-solid release is certainly worth your while. Weighty, deafening and even punishing in parts, there’s nothing normal or sweet about Talk Normal’s Sugarland. –James Bennett

Tape Deck Mountain
Ghost
Lefse Records
Street: 11.17
Tape Deck Mountain = The Beta Band + The Pixies + Explosions in the Sky
Listening to this record is like stock footage cut into a creepy David Lynch-esqe movie, but more fun. The music consists of noisy loops, distorted melodies, cacophonous drums and almost-chanted vocals, all smashed together to a dull beat and sloshed out your headphones. A plot is there in the way Ghost builds from an almost pastoral quiet in “Scantrons” to a darkly euphoric climax in “Ghost Colony,” eventually resolving into a dreamy credits-rolling feel with “Bat Lies.” A few zone-out sessions (with or without chemicals) would help you get into the slippery fuzz of it. This one will grow on you—it’s well recorded and aurally lush, while remaining unpolished enough to accent its disturbing edge. Now that I’m in, I can’t get enough of it. This eerily coherent epic from Travis Trevisan and friends is a strong first work that’s half nightmare and half the morning-after. –Rio Connelly

Teenage Bottlerocket
They Came from the Shadows
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 09.15
Teenage Bottlerocket = The Lillingtons + Screeching Weasel + Groovie Ghoulies
Even though I couldn't name another Wyoming-based punk band if you held a gun to my head, I can confidently say that Teenage Bottlerocket are the best band to ever emerge from the Cowboy State. Taking a cue from the likes of Screeching Weasel and The Queers (who were pretty much ripping off The Ramones), Teenage Bottlerocket deliver simple, fun punk rock using only three chords. The subject matter is predictably juvenile topics such as skateboarding ("Skate or Die"), arena-rock blowhards ("Bigger than Kiss") and B-movie caliber sci-fi ("Forbidden Planet" and "They Came From the Shadows"), but that's exactly what this type of music warrants. Teenage Bottlerocket are entirely derivative of music created more than 30 years ago, but They Came from the Shadows proves that being young, dumb and dorky will always be appealing to somebody. –Ricky Vigil

These Are They
Who Linger
The End Records
Street: 11.10
These Are They = Novembers Doom + Anathema (pre-Eternity) + Corpus Mortale
Chicago-based death metal yet highly doom-tinged These Are They have entered a pleasant limbo with their debut Who Linger, blending the doom-and-gloom atmosphere with traditional styles of American death metal. There are plenty of moments where it’s quite hard to not feel like you’re listening to the heavier portions of Novembers Doom, the members of which make up the majority of These Are They. When it comes down to the matter of fact with Who Linger—ignoring other members’ bands, etc., the album is a refreshing listen of mid-tempo death metal tunes that either give off really gloomy feelings or thick, heavy, bottom-end grooves that can appease any death-head. The approach here is clean sounds instead of adding a bunch of technical guitar doodling. So what if there are a lot of moments when you may think you’re listening to Novembers Doom? A good album is a good album. –Bryer Wharton

Tiesto
Kaleidoscope
Ultra Records/Musical Freedom
Street: 10.06
Tiesto = Paul Oakenfold + Darude + Boys Noize
Sigur Rós frontman Jonsi Birgisson’s ethereal croon is featured on the title track of Tiesto’s newest release, Kaleidoscope. The man who performed for the Dalai Llama is now partnered with the Dutch DJ best known for producing post-rave trance and electronica and procuring a massive corporate endorsement from Armani––a calculated business move cashing in on the mainstreaming of indie rock. To raise your ire even more, Tiesto has recruited members of Bloc Party, Metric and Tegan and Sara. But don’t let these affiliations fool you, aside from these collaborations (which are pretty awesome), you are still getting something the douchebag in the BMW at the red light is blasting. The album filler features huge backbeats and an occasional interesting sample or instrumental flourish under diva-esque vocals. Although dropping “DJ” from his name, Tiesto is still married to electronica. Pander all you want, but you can’t fool us kids. –Ryan Hall

Various Artists
Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade & BYO Records
BYO
Street: 09.22
Let Them Know = Someone Got Their Head Kicked In + Another State of Mind + 25 years
In the 1980s, the only way punk bands could put their music out was to form their own labels. Minor Threat had Dischord, Black Flag had SST, Dead Kennedys had Alternative Tentacles and Youth Brigade had BYO. Even though BYO and Youth Brigade are often overshadowed by the bigger names of the early 80s punk scene, Let Them Know proves that both the band and the label deserve their spot in punk rock history. This ambitious project consists of a documentary film, a coffee table book and a 31-track album on which new and old punk bands cover classics from the BYO catalog. The documentary is the best part of the package, as it offers a concentrated vision of punk rock history by focusing on a single band and their efforts to run an independent punk label in the 80s rather than briefly touching on a number of different bands without going in depth. The accompanying album is fun, if a bit overwhelming. It’s cool to hear NOFX, Anti-Flag and the Bouncing Souls cover old BYO tunes and to hear current BYO bands like Nothington and Filthy Thieving Bastards pay tribute to the past, but the album is about 10 tracks too long and features some disappointments (American Steel’s Alkaline Trio cover is boring, while Krum Bums’ is just weird). All in all, though, this is one of the most impressive and entertaining chronicles of punk rock history, and definitely deserves a spot in any serious music enthusiast’s collection. –Ricky Vigil

Weapon
Drakonian Paradigm
The Ajna Offensive
Street: 08.10
Weapon = Dead Congregation + Watain + Nunslaughter
This is the heaviest black metal album I have ever heard. A record label that is 100% accurate in having an aesthetically pleasing roster of bands is a rare and wonderful thing to me, and every time The Ajna Offensive puts something out, I pay attention. Weapon are a new project from Canada and they create an extremely effective combination of death and black metal, while adding a few atmospheric surprises to keep things interesting. The songs on the latter half of the album tend to spread themselves a little further than the rest with extended, spaced-out song intros and transitions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the songs lose their death metal temperament—they simply explore their territory a bit further. I think this is an album that could easily be negated by those searching for metal of a higher order, but it has a pace and a mood that just insists on burying itself into your cerebral cortex. File this next to black metal bands who take what they do very seriously and have something to show for it. –Conor Dow

Whiplash
Unborn Again
Pulverised Records
Street: 10.27
Whiplash = Exodus + Headhunter + Sanctuary + Kreator
One of the best things about all the thrash revivalism going on in the metal realm is bands that never really made it big in the heyday of the 80s have the great opportunity to return to the metal fold with more attention and press. The new aptly titled Unborn Again album is the band’s first in over a decade. While I’m a sucker for faster-than-fast thrash metal, which Whiplash did display early in their career, this new offering is a mix of mid-tempo-type heavy metal tunes along with good thrasher tunes, though never really getting up to the speeds they achieved in the 80s. That said, I’ll take substance over sloppy speed any day. The songwriting for Unborn Again is nicely done; each track is quite memorable, no matter what style is being played, and repeated listens are a must. The album also enjoys some nice, raw but clear production, lending a nice fit to the vocals’ rough-and-tumble edge. –Bryer Wharton

White Denim
Fits
Downtown Records
Street: 10.20
White Denim = Les Savy Fav + Cousteau + Eagles of Death Metal
Oh my goodness! The first four tracks off Fits are mouth-punching and aggressively sonic, off-beat, very white and soulless, but so good. Once you hit the fifth track, “I Start to Run,” the album takes a different direction, sometimes showcasing Steve Terebecki’s bass or just White Denim dishing out their unique mix of jazz, pop, or rock. The first couple trips through this album, I wasn’t impressed–it seemed like there were just too many different-sounding songs. Now I realize it’s brilliant and I’ll hurry and dub it their seminal album. –Cinnamon Brown