National CD Reviews

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Alive In Wild Paint
Equal Vision Records
Street: 03.18
Alive In Wild Paint = Further Seems Forever + Radiohead + Jimmy Eat World (ala Clarity)
For me, Alive In Wild Paint's Equal Vision debut, Ceilings, is neither a triumph nor a defeat. Rather, it tends to be both. And while we here at SLUG are encouraged to take a stance one way or the other, I just don't feel that I can step on one side of the fence. Famed and former Jimmy Eat World producer Mark Trombino gives the record a very similar feel to JEW's classic Clarity album in various places—which is a good thing. There are many different levels of musical talent exhibited on this thoughtful, mellow-driven release, but that is also where it fails. There is simply not enough emotion outside of somber, sullen sadness exhibited by vocalist Travis Bryant to make me care too much. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Animus Mortis
Atrabilis (Residues From Verb & Flesh)
Mystic Arts
Street: 03.18
Animus Mortis = Dark Funeral + Satyricon (old) + Enslaved (old) Grim, dark and cold aren't the words you would use to describe Chile, although the Andes Mountains reside there. This isn't the story of Alive, though. This is pure cult black metal done to perfection, my friends. It has good production without sounding overproduced and coming off with heavy, heavy atmosphere. The screams and blasting black metal riffs couple to form this ultimately brutal blend. The vocals they are without question the best part of this album. They echo and reverb as if they're howling straight from the abyss, and it just literally screams evil and despair. Animus Mortis have taken a well-established sound and put their secret mix of spices in to make it sound like their own, and not a copycat band. I'm going to go toss on a big jacket because I'm freezing just listening to this record. –Bryer Wharton

The Bright Lights of America
RCA Records
Street: 04.01
Anti-Flag = Political Punk Gone Boring I was among those who cried foul when the anti-corporate Anti-Flag signed to RCA a few years ago, but their major label debut, For Blood and Empire, was actually pretty damn good. Turns out they were saving their crappy material for The Bright Lights of America. The band can still craft huge, catchy choruses, but that's about all they've got going for them. Tired themes, predictable lyrics and songs that are way too long make this a frustrating and ultimately boring listen. As if to offset the album's mediocrity, Anti-Flag incorporates everything from bells and chimes to cellos and children's choirs to give their songs an epic feel, but their attempts come off as excessive and unnecessary. Yeah, we know that war sucks, politicians are evil and we're all pretty much fucked, but it was nice when Anti-Flag could remind us about it in an enjoyable way. (In the Venue: 04.12) –Ricky Vigil

Moribund Records
Street: 03.03
Azaghal = Horna + Behexen
Finnish black metal always has had certain... panache to it. From Impaled Nazarene to Horna, it makes sense to me that a country with over 80 percent Evangelical Lutheran members could produce some of the most aggressive and hateful metal bands playing music today. Azaghal has certainly been making this quite clear for over 10 years and definitely do not fall short here on their seventh album. Although the music here is almost exclusively relentless and fast-paced, there are several moments of ritualistic creepiness that prove to me that they aren't exactly a one-trick pony. A standout track would be "Quetzalcoatl," which makes use of several elements including a (synthesized) flute, a wonderful crescendo and even some tasteful vocals that are wailed in a melodic manner toward the end. Though this album doesn't try to reinvent the wheel of black metal, it is excellent in presentation and performance. –Conor Dow

Go Away White
Street: 03.08
Bauhaus = A semi-unnecessary reunion. Did anyone else have no idea that Bauhaus was releasing a new album? Am I the only one that was taken completely by surprise? Having seen what I can only deem a "boring" live incarnation of the band back in 1998, I would have never expected them to actually do another album. "Go Away White" is pretty much why. It's through-and-through a decent release, but it suffers the same fate as other records by bands reuniting for the sake of doesn't have any bite to it. While it may grow on me over time, my initial reaction is that Bauhaus should have stayed in the grave. Sure, all the components are there (Peter Murphy's vocals are actually pretty good), but when compared to the earlier Bauhaus catalog, there is no possibility of this thing ever being as highly regarded. –Gavin Hoffman

Blue Ox
Wet Dreams & Nightmares
Lost Archives
Street: 01.08
Blue Ox = Suicide File + Eyehategod + Doomriders
There are a few things that Blue Ox does right. In my book, the lack of repetitive drumming and a beer drinking, rock and roll feel are both a good way to go. I'm not sure why metal/hardcore/heavy bands don't just use drum machines these days. It's all double time, mosh, repeat. Blue Ox doesn't fall into this trap. The drums do have that somewhat compressed snare sound that I remember 90s hardcore bands like Congress having. Blue Ox's lyrics are grimy, which is a good fit for the dirty rock and roll image, and the playing is competent. The unfortunate thing about this album is that it's pretty mediocre. It's not a bad listen the first time, but it doesn't make me get off my ass, either. It's kind of like settling on Jaws 2 on cable. Not terrible, but you wouldn't care too much if it wasn't on. –Peter Fryer

Southern Lord
Street: 04.08
Boris = Boris + Boris – Boris / Boris * Boris
Does Boris ever sit still? More to the point, do they ever get tired of experimentation? "Smile" is, to a Boris fan, a logical continuation of the band's previous Southern Lord full length, "Pink," but it's far more diverse and, dare I say, weird? Combining doom, pop, electronic, noise and even Japanese television theme songs, "Smile" never fully lets the listener relax. From the beautiful psychedelia that is "Flower-Sun-Rain" to the punk blasts of "Statement" and the electro-programmed breaks of "My Neighbor Satan," "Smile" is a definite must-have for any existing Boris disciple, but might be a bit hard to swallow for the uninitiated...although it would be a great way to test one's limits, musically-speaking. Enjoy. Thoroughly. –Gavin Hoffman

Burial Chamber Trio
Wvrm (picture 10" only release)
Southern Lord
Street: 01.08
Burial Chamber Trio = Pretty much what you'd expect from the sum of its parts.
I've come to the conclusion that there are some folks who will pick up anything Southern Lord releases strictly based on the fact that, well, Southern Lord released it. In all fairness, they mostly release fairly top-tier stuff, and the latest Burial Chamber Trio release is definitely that. Featuring Greg Anderson, Attila Csihar and Oren Ambarchi, this is some pretty damned good drone, especially for a live recording. The B-side is by far the more interesting piece of the two contained on the release, mainly because it seems to have more of an actual direction than the A-side, but most collector geeks will never actually spin the thing once they've received it in the mail. Apart from the music, the 10" itself is pretty fucking cool, featuring artwork by Greg Anderson's usual partner-in-crime Stephen O'Malley. Worth it if you like maddening drone, but if you're expecting to "rock," save your cash for something a bit more...friendly. –Gavin Hoffman

Cavalera Conspiracy
Street: 03.25
Cavalera Conspiracy = Soulfly + Sepultura + Nailbomb
In the realm of the metal world this record is huge, since Max Cavalera left Sepultura he hadn't spoke to his brother Iggor, the drummer of Sepultura, in roughly a decade. On a one-chance night Iggor attended a Soulfly show and during one of the bands drum jams, Iggor game out and joined the band, re-uniting the brotherly bond. Hence the Cavalera Conspiracy. The record brings the best of both worlds of Soulfly and the old Sepultura sound. Gone is Max's tribal and spiritual style and the hardcore/political style of current Sepultura gone as well, and returning is the angry side of the brothers. Inflikted is a beast of an album, thrashier than anything Max or Iggor have done with their bands in the last 10 years. The riffs are full of creativity and pulsate and scream extremity unlike either artists band has seen since Seputlura's Chaos A.D. album. The drumming is what you would expect from one of metal's best. The same goes for the guitars from Max himself and his extremely talented Soulfly band mate Marc Rizzo. The passion has been renewed here without a doubt, and the end result is a record that is a throwback to old Sepultura in addition to a new angry and powerful vibe that brings a new originality to the music. –Bryer Wharton

Dark Fortress
Century Media Records
Street: 02.25
Dark Fortress = Naglfar + Belphegor
Thanks to acts such as Dimmu Borgir and the like, melodic black metal is quickly becoming the new melodic Swedish death metal (think In Flames just before getting huge). This hasn't exactly been my plight for some time now, but the style of melodic black metal was worn to a very thin thread many years ago. Dark Fortress is back with a new vocalist and what seems like a boost of artistic direction. While the lyrics seem to have a bit more of a conceptual theme, the music still doesn't stick out to me among the tall trees. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because like In Flames and their counterparts, I'll always check out these styles for the delicious melodic riffs and crunchy progressions. But I will most likely not be listening to this record, or its peers, regularly for longer than a few days, because it's all been done before. –Conor Dow

Dawn Landes
Cooking Vinyl
Street: 03.04
Dawn Landes = Imogen Heap + Cat Power
It seems like lately female vocalists just aren't getting it right. Whether it's poppy, rocky or in this case, folky something isn't working out. Dawn Landes is a typical female vocalist who is trying to play on the same team as talented musicians such as Chan Marshall or Frou Frou. If she thinks she can get a hit by teaming up with a southern folk band, then all is lost. Her place belongs in the background of a church choir, or a karaoke bar. Without even making a name for herself, she decides she can cover a Tom Petty song ("I won't back down"), and she doesn't do a very good job at it. Disgraceful! Landes doesn't even get an A for effort. Perhaps sitting down and doing some research could help her out in the next project. –Lyuba Basin

Staying In
Smalltown Supersound
Street Date = 03.11
diskJokke = I am Spoonbender + Antarctica + Kraftwerk
Atmospheric electro rarely escapes the realm of cheesy or embarrassing, and is often reminiscent of a velvet-covered douche bag-infested ultra lounge of some variety. Perhaps it is diskJokke's Norwegian heritage that allows the group to escape the clasps of mediocrity, and produce electronic soundscapes as inspirational as Antarctica yet as light-hearted as Jab Mica Och El. At the same time, the album borders on a dance record, with consistent Euro-disco beats accompanied by the analog and spunky melodies. Each instrument and layer of sounds demand attention, creating an almost cinematic effect throughout the course of the album. Staying In is an exceptional electro album, and is a landmark for the progression of the DJ style of writing electro, focusing on layers and breakdowns rather than traditional song structures. Well done, Norway, well done. –Ryan Powers

Sinners Prayers for Dying
Street: 02.26
Doublewide = Hank3 + Nashville Pussy + Social Distortion
I've never been a big fan of bands that flaunt their white trash heritage. That's something no one should really be proud of, so a band called Doublewide did not really get me excited, but after one listen, I knew that while these boys may be white trash they now how to incorporate that element with being ridiculous. Doublewide once called Salt Lake home, but now has moved on to Portland, Ore., and I have to say our loss is Oregon's gain. This band mixes heavy guitars and roots music with bad-ass attitude. The song "Death by Trucker" tells the chilling story about a trucker who seeks his own brand of justice against an escaped felon. "Whiskey Writes the Songs," is an ode to whiskey and all the things it'll make you forget. How we let this band escape our fair city I don't know, but hopefully the show they played at Liquid Joe's back in February won't be their last here. -James Orme

Throne of the Depths
Prophecy North America/Lupus Lounge
Street: 04.29
Drautran = Bethlehem + Enslaved (old) + Satyricon (old)
You always have to love the unexpected. Just reading the bio for Drautran before listening to the actual behemoth of an album, you would completely misjudge them. The band treads this crazy line of melody and darkness and ultimately has crafted something truly mind-blowing and awe-inspiring. It's hard to get past comparing to early Bethlehem because both bands are German, although I'm pretty sure Drautran actually sings in a Nordic language. But Drautran embodies their own style and sound full of Pagan and folk themes and atmospheres among some grim, brutal and ravishing guitar moments. The vocals are highly disturbed from black metal scowls filled with pain, sorrow and pessimism to wicked, higher-pitched shrills that break through the music, just slaying and hurting without relent. Fans of this genre, this record is one of those transcending moments in pagan/black metal that shatters your realm of comfort because as brutal as it is its haunting and frightening, all music should stir up your feelings like Throne of the Depths does. –Bryer Wharton

Economy Size goDD Costume
Fill In The Breaks
Street: 10.16.07
Ecid = Kristoff Krane + Impulse
Minnesota is home to a plethora of talented hip-hop artists thriving among the region's hydrogen-rich lake landscape. Particularly conspicuous in this fertile field is Ecid, an emcee who has taken the do-it-yourself lesson of the area's numerous success stories to heart. With a penchant for crafting sinister imagery and flipping American clichés into semiotic finger traps, Ecid shows a complex understanding of contemporary American identity. "You could have it all / and it still wouldn't be good enough." Economy Size goDD Costume is full of such Marxist critiques, not to mention experiments of the unconscious, American mythology and self-deception. Did I mention he makes his own beats: dirty, dusty, drum loops and weirdly appropriate esoteric samples? Ecid is a self-sustaining, dynamic artist who has something to say–whether or not the music industry's stagnant paradigm wants to hear it. –Makena Walsh

Ellen Allien
Boogy Bytes, Vol. 04
Bpitch Control
Street: 04.15
Ellen Allien = AGF + Luomo + Cluster
Be it Microhouse, Tech House, Dubstep, Glitch, Minimal or any other myriad of Techno, Berliners know electronica. While not all of the artists on this compilation are natives, the disc was, however, mixed by Bpitch owner, Mistress/High Pristess/Early Grandmother of Berlintech, Ellen Allien. So what's so special? Though these tracks contain a beat, familiar rhythmic couplings, synth stabs and the other basic elements of all dance music, there is a mysterious sheen, something just "off" that makes this gathering of sub-genres unique. For example, the bass drum isn't so up front and refuses to pummel, allowing a pleasant Sunday morning headphone mix if you so desire; dusty, swirling textures flicker in and out and make for something just as interesting to those who make this fare as well as those who sweat to it. Not your average party jam, Boogy Bytes might even undo the years American ruined electronica. –Dave Madden

Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.11
Eluveitie = Battlelore + Ensiferum + Tyr
This Swiss band, formed in 2002, features a lineup of nine members. The band's blend of Pagan and Folk metal is highly accessible to say, more mainstream metal outlets due to its emphasis on heaviness, tight production and very fluid songwriting. With as many members and instruments that the band utilizes, I was expecting something less guitar oriented and more in the folk realm. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. The blend is cohesive and catchy enough to peak interest in metal fans that might not normally listen to folk-inspired bands. Without question, the emphasis and heaviness in the guitars alone are purposefully heavy and meant to just plain rock. There isn't much leeway for fancy guitar leads or soloing—in all honesty, it would sound out of place for the band's Slania sound. Then again, there are solos and leads, but not many. Anyone looking for a varied heavy metal listening encompassing many styles, vocal ranges and themes can find that and more playing out on Slania, the second full-length, and probably, most notable work from Eluveitie. –Bryer Wharton

A Consequence Of Design
Metal Blade
Street: 03.04
Epicurean = Mors Principium Est + Symphorce
This offering from Minnesota fellows Epicurean is the very definition of modern heavy progressive metal. Not the prog metal that people expect though. The first big element to play out on the record is its melodic death metal feel, its main foundation. The band tosses out the current book about melodic death metal, crafting unique songs and a smorgasbord of great guitar work. The second element, the progressive one, is the use of epic and elegant keyboards coupled with clean singing reminiscent of both modern American bands and the traditional prog vocals. Overall, the combination is great and the band does extremely well at bridging many musical gaps between modern metal, progressive metal and many other genres. A Consequence of Design is so easy to enjoy, anyone to find a fault with it has got to be hugely cynical. –Bryer Wharton

Suicide in Winter's Moonlight
Autopsy Kitchen Records
Street: 10.07
Ensepulchred = Super Mario Brothers gone "evil."
Yawn. I had high hopes for this re-release of an album I had heard much about but had never taken the time to track down, but my hopes were dashed within mere seconds of spinning the disc. While some "bands" can get away with drum machines, Ensepulchred fails miserably. It's not only way too high in the mix, but when coupled with the extreme overuse of other synth, it sounds like They Might Be Giants attempting to play black metal. For my money, Ensepulchred's sole purpose is to serve as the model of how not to do black metal. Doughy suburbanites who discover black metal and re-discover the original Nintendo game console at roughly the same time should never attempt to record music, unless it's for the enjoyment of the rest of their semi-retarded gamer friends who think root beer, potato chips and World of Warcraft is an "exciting" way to spend their Friday nights. Any band who samples the John Larroquette intro from the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is pretty obviously trying far too hard. This worthless piece of plastic doesn't hold a fucking candle to TMBG's "Apollo 18." –Gavin Hoffman

Lupus Lounge
Street: 10.29
Farsot = Secrets of the Moon + The Ruins of Beverast
This is an extremely coherent and wonderfully written album. While there are only four full songs separated by interlude tracks of ambience, they flow together nicely in a direction that builds toward the epic finale, which is over 20 minutes in length. The great thing about the songwriting is it's nothing overly complicated, giving the listener a reason to return without feeling overwhelmed. Each track manages to stand out among the others and they have avoided any pretentious meandering which could have cluttered the experience. The production isn't necessarily raw or grim, but it isn't anywhere near overly processed or polished (think later Deathspell Omega). What makes this album work so well for me is that it's a genuinely rewarding listen. Each song builds slowly to the climax of the album, and the final track is certainly a large reason to enjoy forward-thinking black metal. Buy this immediately. –Conor Dow

Flat Duo Jets
Two Headed Cow
Chicken Ranch Records
Street: 02.12
Flat Duo Jets = Mark Robertson + The Love Child of Lux Interior and Eddie Cochran
Ever wonder why more bands aren't named after guitars? 'Cause those names sound stupid. That's why. Luckily, these guys are better than their name. Two Headed Cow is apparently a sort of live companion soundtrack to a documentary of the same name about the band. The track listing only goes to 17, but there are actually 19 tracks on the album, all of which are previously unreleased. The interesting thing about this band is that it only consists of two members. They manage to make a pretty big sound for just two guys. The drumming on the album stands out, which is pretty uncommon, as most drumming doesn't. Thus, it kind of reminds me of the drumming on the first Meteors album, since that is the most remarkable drumming I can think of and it is similar in style. Singer Dexter Romweber has quite the range, as far as voice is concerned, from deep growls to Eddie Cochran-style tremolo. This probably isn't the one to listen to if you have never heard Flat Duo Jets before. Old fans, however, will eat this thing up. –Aaron Day

Hello Destiny
SideOneDummy Records
Street: 04.22
Goldfinger = Less Than Jake + Millencolin + Reel Big Fish
It surprises the hell out of me that Goldfinger still exists, and not in a good way. Third-wave ska is trying like hell to make a comeback, but mediocre releases like Hello Destiny are all the evidence needed to conclude that aging ska-sters should just accept their fate and give up the game. Hello Destiny isn't all bad though. When Goldfinger's not trying to sound like Goldfinger, they're actually pretty good. The Jamaican stylings of "The Only One" and the hardcore-ish "Not Amused" are some of the most enjoyable tracks on the album. It's the tried-and-true, late '90s sounding tracks that make this album boring, and let's not forget the truly abhorrent, genre-jumping "Handjobs for Jesus" and the overly whiny "War." Goldfinger's continued output clearly proves that there's still an audience for their sound, but there probably shouldn't be. – Ricky Vigil

Good Riddance
Remain in Memory – The Final Show
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 03.18
Good Riddance = Bad Religion + Black Flag + Descendents
It'd be really easy to make a joke about a band called Good Riddance playing their final show, but I'll spare all of us by taking the high road. Besides, this live album captures what made Good Riddance a good band in the first place. Other bands were making melodic hardcore before Good Riddance, but these guys put out some of the most consistently good aggressive-yet-catchy punk rock since the glory days of Bad Religion. Weighing in at a massive 31 tracks, Remain in Memory grabs you from the opening chords of "Heresy, Hypocrisy and Revenge" and keeps a hold for almost an hour and a half. This is also a great introduction if you've never gotten into the band before. For as good as they were, Good Riddance never got big enough, but this record serves as a testament to the band's greatness, even in their final days. – Ricky Vigil

Baldr Ok Iss
Lupus Lounge
Street: 04.29
Helrunar = Enslaved + Kampfar
With this being only their second full-length album, Helrunar have already established themselves a great deal of respect among much of the metal community. Their style is primarily black metal, but there's a decent amount of folk influences interwoven throughout their music, which may appeal to a broader audience rather than just the "grim and frostbitten" kids. What I really enjoy about this is the high replay value, and because it has fairly pristine production, there are a lot of subtle nuances present that seem to reveal themselves the more I listen. However, I think Helrunar still has their best work yet to come if they can branch out just a little bit further. They include a decent, almost teasing amount of folky acoustic guitar and folk progressions into their tracks, but if they take that another step further, they could have a magnum opus on their hands. –Conor Dow

The Acrobats
The Static Cult Label
Street: 03.12
Helvetia = Built to Spill + Panda Bear + The Mercury Rev
Helvetia's second release, The Acrobats is, simply put, spacey. However, it is also hypnotic, complex and subdued¬¬––a collaboration of Built to Spill-style melodies interwoven with the hypnotic space vibes of Panda Bear. This entire album is, for a sophomore release, unmistakably solid from start to finish, honing in on an abstractly grounded thematic vibe that centers on exploration––fueled by vessels of creativity and experimentalism. Despite being a sestet, Jason Albertini wrote and produced all 12 tracks on this album, layering persistent bossanova-style drumbeats underneath whimsical, Flaming Lips-esque guitar riffs (and in some cases, noises). Listening to The Acrobats is like taking a round-trip to Dagobah, sans a seat belt, and arriving less than safely home, frazzled and ecstatic from the ride. The Acrobats is diverse, creative and systematically layered––making it a no-brainer for any fan of well-written space rock. –Kristyn Lambrecht

No Time For Sorrow
Blind Prophecy
Street: 03.18
Hemlock = Pro-Pain + Crowbar + Hatebreed
When I first came across Hemlock with their Bleed the Dream album, first impressions were that they were total Pro-Pain worship—hell, the vocals were so close, and so were the thrashy, yet hardcore guitars that it was eerily close. Now with No Time for Sorrow, the hardcore is even more hardcore, but then again there are some great thrash riffs and solos. The vocals are still in the Gary Meskil range, but more death growl-oriented. This is a no-frills, heavy sledgehammer to the face hardcore/thrash metal that anyone with a well-prepared neck can headbang to. Leave it to these Vegas guys to create a great album with Bleed the Dream, then come up with No Time For Sorrow and make it even heavier with more diversity and catchier breakdowns. –Bryer Wharton (04.11, In The Venue)

Pimeyden Hehku
Moribund Records
Street: 03.04
Horna = Darkthrone + Mayhem
These Finnish black metal fiends aren't out to re-invent the wheel—just to play a style that is worshiped by many black metal connoisseurs throughout the world. This demo, originally released in 2007, is getting the re-release treatment from Moribund. Strangely, the demo is better produced and higher in volume level than Horna's recent full-length. That said, it's not overproduced at all. The band retains their grim black metal feel with no frills attached a dirty guitar tone that shreds its way through the EP's four tracks with the bass very low in the sound mix. This EP has its own atmosphere and in many ways, I prefer it over the recent full-length Sotahuuto, mainly because I don't like having to turn the volume up for albums because of their production. You can still sound cult and lo-fi without sacrificing volume. Fans of the band will, without question, own this and if you'r ever curious about what Horna does, this is a much better starting point than Sotahuuto or any of the band's earlier efforts. –Bryer Wharton

Idiot Pilot
Street: 04.01
Idiot Pilot = Codeseven + Quicksand + M83
Finally, after six months of delays by lame-ass Reprise, the beautiful and inspiring second album by Idiot Pilot has finally arrived and to grace me with its presence, and I couldn't be happier about it. After reading about who was involved with this album last October, I totally had an instant wet dream. This album was produced by both Ross Robinson and former putz-it-up Blink-182 bass player Marc Hoppus. Chris Pennie (The Dillnger Escape Plan, Coheed & Cambria), provides all the drum work here, except for on the song, "Elephant," with drum duties being performed by Travis Barker (Aquabats, Blink-182). So all these names may seem lame, but the combo provides for some sweet electro post-hardcore backing, which is being led by the two-headed Idiot Pilot Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson. The duo more than makes up for its super-annoying debut album. If you listen to this album and don't like it, I think you are dumb. –Jon Robertson

Jordan Miche
Phantom of the Operation
Fill In The Breaks
Street: 07.01
Jordan Miche = Prom King Stigmata + Cadaver
Full of sporadic cadence and irreverence for rhyme, Jordan Miche's songs challenge the casual listener's short attention span. While some may shy away from his intimidating style, I'm willing to bet Jordan doesn't care about his music's inaccessibility–for that matter, neither do I. The listener who does make the effort to understand his carefully crafted verbal tapestries will be justly rewarded. If the artist is an individual especially sensitive to the unique feeling of the times–able to reflect that feeling through unique personal terms–then Jordan fits the definition perfectly. "My family once ran a plantation / I'm ashamed of these veins kid." Jordan abandons these kinds of caustic rap invectives only once on "Phantom of the Operation (in form, if not content)"–to sing a Sinatra-styled refrain of "I hate you." –Makena Walsh

Lair of the Minotaur
War Metal Battle Master
Southern Lord
Street: 03.25
Lair of the Minotaur = Matodon + High on Fire + Blessing the Hogs
Normally when a metal fan thinks of war metal, it's in the realm of something like Angelcorpse or Bolt Thrower, both of which are in the death metal realm. But then again, the purpose behind war metal is the lyrical content mixed with the music. Lair of the Minotaur has thoroughly crafted eight songs of sludged-out groove heavy metal with a slight stoner edge. If you have to go to war, this is a good soundtrack for it. The guitars here are big, really big, like shake the house with your sub-woofer big. The culmination of these efforts pay off in ultra satisfying ways. One is the fact that it sounds original as all hell, it's really hard to peg these guys in a specific genre. Another fun fact is just the use of monstrous riffs and the groove of them forcefully pummel their way into the heavy metal kill center of the brain. –Bryer Wharton

Lightspeed Champion
Falling Off The Lavender Bridge
Domino Records
Street: 02.05
Lightspeed Champion = Bright Eyes + The Good Life + Omaha on MDMA
Gay black emo. Never thought I'd see it coming, but here it is: bitterly transparent and full of fester. The arrangements are typically slow and exaggerated, allowing for Dev Hynes—Mr. Lightspeed himself—to croon about desperate desires and empty hopes. Here's a lyric sample: "Don't talk to me / Stay away unless you want me" Falling Off The Lavender Bridge goes on and on like this in clear tenor and simple rhythms, exposing the most bitter possibilities of post-ironic scenesters with rabbits as pets as emotions as yo-yos. —Spanther

Living Legends
The Gathering
Legendary Music
Street: 04.08
Living Legends = 3MG + Mystik Journeymen
The Living Legends have learned the veracity of the cliché saying "quality over quantity" (probably a natural result of its 17-track flop in 2004: Creative Differences). Accordingly, The Gathering is disappointingly brief, but acceptably so, given that almost every song is quality Legends fare. The crew takes experiments in electronic zaniness (a trait present as early in the group's discography as UHBV Legacy) to a new level on the catchy, synth-heavy "She Wants Me." Other notable highlights include Murs' loose command of the Spanish language and his rant at the end of the album where he calls out Jay-Z emulators, hipsters, and "Anteecon." In conclusion: Living Legends are the new, west-coast Wu Tang Clan. –Makena Walsh

Lorna Doom
The Diabolical EP
Lorna Doom = Beastie Boys + MS DOS and The Machine Guns
Lorna Doom's music sounds exactly like what you would expect from two white guys from Rhode Island (I don't see color). This is not a bad thing–indeed many aspiring hip-hoppers (*cough* especially local ones *cough*) could take notes on the group's candid approach to the genre. Although they preach "Providence dominance" Lorna Doom doesn't rap about Chrono Trigger, nor does it exemplify other "abstract cracker rappers." Instead, Lorna Doom spouts old-school battle rhymes like "Your DJ don't scratch / He stutters" over great beats. Actually, overall, Lorna Doom's beats are much better than its rhymes–which sound rushed in numerous places. Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile EP (and not just for the Pixies' sample on "Lorazepam"). –Makena Walsh

Los Campesinos!
Hold On Now, Youngster
Street: 02.18
Los Campesinos! = Tilly and the Wall + High School Battle of the Bands
The unnecessary exclamation point at the end of Los Campesinos! already gave me an idea of what the band was going to be like. I was right for the most part, except I didn't understand why a band from the UK would try to trick us and come off Hispanic... and with excitement! The co-ed vocals make me feel like I'm at a high school pep-rally, all that school spirit and shouting... with excitement! Not only does that exclamation point really annoy me, I find a track entitled "...And we exhale and roll our eyes in unison" and another called "this is how you spell: 'hahaha, we destroyed the hopes and dreams of a generation of faux-romantics.'" I guess they wanted to get all the lyrics out of the way. The music itself has a catchy Maximo Park beat, but even that doesn't push me into saving it for later. Thanks Los Campesinos! for scratching your nails on the chalkboard for me. Your spunky, unique antics ruined what could have been a potentially good band. –Lyuba Basin

Autopsy Kitchen Records
Street: 10.07
Marblebog = Burzum worship with a jaw harp.
On my first listen, Marblebog seemed to be little less than yet another run-of-the-mill "bedroom black metal" band relying far too much on the first three Burzum albums for reference and far too little on bringing anything interesting to an already watered-down genre. However, after spinning this sucker multiple times, what it lacks in originality is more than made up by sheer quality. To be completely honest, this is what Burzum's self-titled debut would most likely have sounded like had it been recorded after the turn of the century instead of before (buzzsaw guitars, blasty drums, highly-tuned bass and oh-so-agony-laced 'vokills'), and with the addition of a jaw harp (which is surprisingly well utilized). While not what I would deem an "essential" piece to anyone's already overflowing black metal collection, it's a great listen and a decent way to get in touch with your "tr00," "kvlt," and "grimm" self. –Gavin Hoffman

Infernal Eternal (live) & La Grande Danse Macabre
Regain Records
Street: 2006
Marduk = Gorgoroth + Dark Funeral
Here are two early 2000 releases that are being re-re-released by Regain Records. Marduk are quite old school as far as the second wave of black metal goes, responsible for pumping out many respectable releases in the past years including the often hailed Those of Unlight. Basically Infernal Eternal is a two-disc, 18-track live recording which sounds quite nice, and La Grande Danse Macabre is their 2001 follow-up to Panzer Division Marduk, which includes supplementary DVD footage of a nine-song set list recorded in 2002. There's nothing new here that hasn't already been released, but these re-releases are always a nice opportunity to pick up some work you may have missed performed by a very respectable band who still manage to write solid albums even almost twenty years after forming up. Just don't show them to your mom. –Conor Dow

Meat Beat Manifesto
Street: 04.08 Meat Beat Manifesto = Consolidated + DJ Shadow + Public Enemy
MBM's Jack Dangers has, from the beginning, continued to hone his panoply of ideas with each release, sometimes dedicating whole albums to just one of them (i.e. dub on In Dub, the use of his EMS Synthi 100 on R.U.O.K?). His practice makes perfect, as demonstrated on Autoimmune, a culmination of the 21-year-old MBM mythology. The hip-hop of "Young Cassius" tears apart your speakers with vocoders, spine-bending breaks and an MC (Young Cassius) tough enough to handle it. "Hellfire", "62 Dub" and "Guns 'n' Lovers" feature enough bass and lugubrious backdrop sounds to make Scorn blush. MBM's trademark scratchy spoken-word samples abound, particularly on "Solid Waste" where Dangers takes his fierce, punctuating, circa 1992 raps (Satyricon) and explodes, both politically and musically, alongside baller-ass turntable scratches. Some artists can get away with recycling concepts, especially when said old tricks are creative light years away from anyone else on the planet. –Dave Madden

Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.11
Meshuggah = originators of math groove/thrash metal
While many fans and newcomers alike acclaimed Meshuggah's past few albums and EPs as being experimental and fantastic, there are many that found it pretty boring. I took the middle ground. With Obzen, Meshuggah not only re-invents themselves, but brings back that festering destruction and anger of their earlier albums. If you like heavy, well-produced stuff, this is your ticket. The band has always had a futuristic feel to their music, lent mostly to the fact that they play technically well and very precise and machine-like with no crazy, full-on metal solos etc. Obzen is like their other albums in that it's heavy on the groove, but unlike their last albums, it is extremely accessible and a blast to listen to because they don't just rehash every song or riff like they've done before. Each song is unique; you won't get bored with this guy for quite some time. This is hands-down the band's best album in years. Hell, I'll base that statement on album opener "Combustion" alone. –Bryer Wharton (04.11, In The Venue)

The Microphones
The Glow, Pt. 2 (Remastered)
K Records
Street: 04.08
The Microphones = Robot Ate Me + Swans
For those who missed out the first time around in 2001, The Glow, Pt. 2 is Phil Elvrum's magnum opus as far as his The Microphones project is concerned (currently, he's Mount Eerie). His approach for this album is a complex simplicity that few singer-songwriters get right: diary-style lyrics that silence everything around you, supple acoustic guitar and ornate orchestration that pours shame into those who didn't try harder during sound recording classes. Panned guitars, field recordings, room noise and all manner of "kitchen-sink" instruments are all manipulated and made subservient to Elvrum's words and concepts ("Something" and "Something (cont.)" also stands as one of the greatest sad-and-gorgeous to noisy-and-ominous interludes ever recorded). For those who already own it: you get a splendid bonus disc of "other songs" and "destroyed versions" Elvrum wrote during that time. Rarely has being so lonely, cold and heartbroken felt and sounded so wonderful. –Dave Madden

My Children My Bride
Solid State Records
Street: 02.26
MCMB = Another in the slew of metalcore bands on sale at Hot Topic Oh great, another no-name, might have 15 minutes of fame, death metal influenced metalcore band. But wait! Is this something different??? Could it be? A new page in the metallic hardcore realm? Nope. Had you going, though. You've heard this one before. The first 200 bands that played this sound were barely palatable (with a few exceptions). So, adding this to the pile should be no biggie. Everything is here that you'd expect: over-produced, generic pseudo-death metal guitar riffing, growling vocals, some blast beats followed by unnecessary breakdowns and "profound" lyrics with no substance. Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage) did the mix on this and he didn't do a terribly good job. It's muddy and the instruments sound computer programmed. This isn't un-listenable, just spiritless. Next! –Peter Fryer

Metal Blade
Street: 03.04
Neaera = Heaven Shall Burn + Caliban
German metalcore has become a staple in the metal scene, with obvious frontrunners Heaven Shall Burn and Caliban. Neaera blend both the brutal style of Heaven Shall Burn with the melodic guitars and clean singing style (what little there is) of Caliban. It is nearly impossible to listen to Armamentarium and not compare the album with said bands since their styles are so similar. In addition, slick, clean and tight production sound and guitar tone are very familiar. Nothing against the style, the band plays the songs tight and precise with enough diversity to keep you listening. Upon first listen, one may think re-hash of the bands that are leading the scene, but if you actually listen, you will find subtle differences. The band has the chops to do something amazing, though they're not quite there yet. Like anyone, I'm partial to bands that do their own thing instead of sound-alikes. Though if you tastes lie in this genre, there is no question this record will find a nice home in whatever form of media you use to listen to music. –Bryer Wharton

The Old Haunts
Poisonous Times
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 04.08
The Old Haunts = David Bowie + Modest Mouse + Led Zeppelin
Poisonous Times is something that I would probably have never heard if I didn't have to review it, but I'm glad I did. I was hooked from the first song all the way through the end of the record. The drummer for The Old Haunts is Tobi Vail, of Bikini Kill fame. This album is full of moderate tempo songs, though and none of them clock in under 3 minutes. So in that respect, there isn't much of a punk rock flavor on this record at all. Sometimes, though, just for a split second here or there, singer Craig Extine's voice adopts a tinge of rasp that doesn't sound altogether unlike Ian Mackaye's. Also, the downbeat nature of the songs coupled with the fact that a fair number of tracks on the album are bass driven, might remind you of Joy Division. This isn't fight music, but it's not gonna sap your energy either. My favorites are "Volatile," "Sister City" and "Hurricane Eyes" and that's just off the top of my head. All in all, this is the best record I've heard this year, and I can say with no hesitance that you should probably go get it right now. –Aaron Day

These New Puritans
Beat Pyramid
Street: 04.20
The Pyramids = Quarashi + The Streets + Beck + Minus The Bear
"What's your favorite number, what does it mean" are the words that changed my life forever. Singer Jack Barnett continues repeating this phrase over and over while the rest of the band drops their Clash-like dance fever, drop by drop, into your ear drums. The music has an urgency and rawness that I haven't heard in a new band for some time now. It's hip hop flavored post punk at its finest and tops any band out there in this genre. When I listen to this album, I totally want to run out of my house and scream "Revolution! Viva Das Boots!!" Because everyone knows that the only cause worth fighting for is the right for everyone in the world to have freedom to listen to These New Puritans and knock the boots. –Jon Robertson

These United States
The Picture of the Three of us at the Garden of Eden
Self Distributed
Street: 03.08
These United States = Aloha + Walt Whitman + Wilco
Ever feel like you're not truly human? Take a listen to this record and come back down from solitary space and plant your feet on a world made of an empire gone Titanic over the purples mountain majesty. In this world, These United States floats on by in a life raft, looking for people who have a hunger for hearing, and a soaring regard for beauty. Mixed and recorded with thirty different musicians, this album stands out as one of the top new releases this year; for me, anyway. Without being overly enthusiastic, T.U.S. have mastered the Andrew Bird composition and mixed it with a David Bowie charm, only to throw it down the rabbit hole of a "gonzo-journalist-turned-troubadour" tunnel. Not a party album by any means, but this is record definitely something to grab when you find yourself at a record shop with time to kill and money to spend. –Lance Saunders

14kt. God
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 04.27
Panther = !!! + Portugal The Man + Pinback + The Talking Heads + Red Hot Chili Peppers
14kt. God by the Panthers is the most soulful, groovy white boy funk that the body can handle. It's funk on the beach and it can't be beat. The music on this album just makes you want to pull your pants and down and do the penguin shuffle around your living room. I can't help but think what Panther's live shows must look like, with the two members of the band, singer/cello player, Charlie Salas-Humara (The Planet The), and drummer, Joe Kelley (31 Knots), on stage performing with their pants around their ankles to a crowd of foolish concertgoers all in the pit with their pants around their ankles and all simultaneously doing the penguin shuffle. It must be quite a sight. –Jon Robertson

Street: 04.01
Peroxide = a bottle of ambien
Pittsburgh's psychedelic duo Peroxide is mellow beyond mellow. These guys play as slow and creepy as possible. On first listen to the album, I was straight up bored, but after a few more listens, I began to appreciate the calm moping that was going down on the first track, "Fascist," (which is the only song worth listening to on this four song EP) that just made me want to self-induce a lobotomy. Singer Dustin's voice sounds as if he has spent his life mimicking Chevelle singer Pete Loeffler's vocal style, which, I guess, is better than trying to mimic Bette Mideler's vocal style. So I have to hand it to ol' Dustin there for picking someone halfway decent to rip off. –Jon Robertson

The Phenomenauts
For All Mankind
Springman Records
Street: 04.08
The Phenomenauts: The Aquabats + The Epoxies + Devo
If you have ever considered yourself "cool" at any point in your life, this band is probably not for you. If, at any point in your life, you have seriously considered building a robot boyfriend or girlfriend, then you should probably check out this band. Specializing in uber-nerdy, synth-heavy, super-cheesy Sci-Fi Rocket-Roll, The Pheonemnauts might be one of the coolest dorky bands that has ever existed. For All Mankind doesn't offer anything new if you're already a fan of the band, but it's still a really fun, solid record. Highlights include "Cyborg," a tale of robotic heartbreak, "Make a Circuit With Me," which features a killer chorus and "Tale of Europa," chock-full of enough whoa-oh's to put any pop-punk band to shame. The Phenomenauts may be a one-trick band, but that one trick is a pretty damn fun one. (Burt's Tiki Lounge: 04.21) – Ricky Vigil

A Place to Bury Strangers
Killer Pimp
Street: 10.07
A Place to Bury Strangers = The Jesus & Mary Chain + Joy Division + The Cure's first four albums + Bauhaus's In the Flat Field
To all the babies who pine for the Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine to reunite, I have one thing to say: move on. How can you whine when terrific artists such as Autolux, Liars and Voyager One exist? Now A Place to Bury Strangers, one of the purer, more nostalgic shoegaze outfits, competently picks up the discarded fuzzy, spaced-out, heavy pieces shattered by your heros. The band covers its already gritty tinny-to-shrieking guitars, picked bass, post-punk-rhythm-spewing drum machines and reverb-soaked vocals with even more grit, volume (!) and otherwise raw production. The harmonies and solos are frugal yet meaningful, and the lyrics are mysterious and hard to hear; in other words, it's the ultimate homage to the aforementioned legends. Unoriginality is rarely a pleasant compliment, but only because it never sounded this perfect! –Dave Madden

The Plastic Constellations
We Appreciate You
Street: 04.15
The Plastic Constellations = 31 Knots + Cursive
Listening to this album gave me a nostalgic feeling, one I got about two years ago when local band Loom was just starting out, before they were blessed with Kim's amazing violin talent. Not only does it bring back memories of Loom, but it brings back memories of that time period altogether, when bands like Head Automatica and Cursive were fresh on everyone's tongue. More simply put, this album has already been done, more than once. Sure, there is a lot of similar bands out there, but I feel like I've heard this so many times before. In fact, I'm sure of it. So why go on and try to describe the music when we know what it is and we know that there are other people who do it better? – Lyuba Basin

Quiet Life
Act Natural
Safety Meeting Records
Street: 03.04
Quiet Life = Drag the River + Ryan Adams + acoustic Bright Eyes
The musicians who make up this alt-country quartet are unmistakably talented fellows who, despite today's trend in the folk-rock genre to go cliché sappy, compose sweet melodies that stand uniquely pure and untainted against most "folk rock" today. Their sophomore release, Act Natural, flows with all of the cynicism of Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker, yet still maintains an emotionally driven, honest center of wholesome folk, complete with banjo, trumpet, baritone sax and organ, creating a swirling river of melodies that make you want to cry as much as dance. This record deserves a place alongside the likes of Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker and Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. Anyone with a place in their heart for twangy, alt-country folk ought to check out this album. Act Natural is an emotional ride, bulleted with crafty guitarwork that speaks directly to the soul, with no compromise, from start to finish. –Kristyn Lambrecht

Regain Records
Street: 04.01
Sahg = Stoner Metal with 80's butt rock vocals
When this album first came on, I was down with the fast-paced thick fuzz of the stoner metal. Then the vocals came in with this screeching 80's flair and I think I had to pinch myself in disbelief. The vocals on this album are hilarious. I listened to the rest of the album, giving it a decent chance, all the while thinking that they were purposefully trying to blend this Fu-Manchu ¬type fuzz with the Ozzy Osbourbne type vocals on purpose, but then realized that they were doing this on accident and didn't know any better. This band is straight up foolish. Picture a slow-motion, sloppy version of Dragon Force and you have an idea of how amazing this album sounds. Make sure you check out each song's guitar solo! Ha! –Jon Robertson

The Phoenix
Street: 03.08
Renminbi = Sonic Youth + Slint + That Dog
OK, this release threw me for a loop. The first track, "The Shore," instantly reminded me of Explosions in the Sky on PCP, and the remainder of the album seemed to be pretty straightforward indie-hipster garbage after my first listen. In a nutshell, my initial impressions were only 50 orrect. Yes, the first track really does remind me of Explosions in the Sky on PCP, but the remainder has more of an interesting shoegazey quality to it than most throw-away indie crap. The drums are really busy throughout, and the monotonous vocals actually make for an engrossing listen. The dual guitars play nicely off one another, and there are muted allusions to the later new wave movement scattered throughout. "The Phoenix" is one of the more catchy releases I've heard thus far this year, and while it might not end up making any top 10 lists for the year, it's on the threshold. This is a release that you'll be able to essentially re-discover throughout the year and wonder how you ever forgot about it in the first place. –Gavin Hoffman

The Secret
Street: 04.13
The Secret = Cult of Luna + See You Next Tuesday + The Chariot
Imagine Satan working feverishly in the kitchen trying to make the most intense and insane beef stew ever, and you have what The Secret sounds like. The drums are Satan's hellish hands chopping all the vegetables and the guitar represents the dead human flesh he is mixing in with the rotten, drum-diced vegetables. After working for many evil and hellish years stringing up the beef stew of torture. He forces you to partake in his damnation stew and your throat and mouth melt away and you start hooting and hollering about your misfortune and your screams sound exactly like Marco Colsovich's hardcore black thrash metal screams. The production is done by ever popular Umeå Sweden producer Magnus Lindberg (Hells spoon) at Tonteknik studios (Hells bowl) which every heavy band seems to be flocking to these days. So if you're in the mood for Satan's Beef Stew buy The Secret's new album and head on over to Hells' Kitchen in Manhattan and listen to it. –Jon Robertson

Chapter VII: Hope and Sorrow
Street: 04.01
Sevendust = one of the forefathers of nu-metal
I was just a metal newbie back when Sevendust's self-titled debut album came out and I loved the thing, still do. The band has never really had the same intensity throughout the years they have evolved, much to my dislike, to a more melodic sound, yet with a singer that has a really good voice. I've always respected them. So, I can give a fair look at this new record because I've heard everything they've put out. With the last few albums, it seems as if they were just putting out material to have a new record and reason to tour, songs were the same, and nothing stood out. Now with Chapter VII, there is a great diversity in complex melodies displayed in its tracks. Amongst the plentiful melodies, there are some heavy grinding moments and a riff that sounds like it came straight from Korn. So for older fans that haven't given much credence to the band lately, this is the record to listen to. If nothing else, the song with star Chris Daughtry guesting will be a surefire hit in the modern rock realm. – Bryer Wharton

Death-Pierce Me
Autopsy Kitchen Records
Street: 11.07
Silencer = Shining + Tormentor + Abruptum
Silencer seem to have been following the same path as fellow countrymen, Shining, in that it's pretty much blast-beaty blackened death metal to kill yourself to, but the vocals tend to be disconcerting in an entirely different way. Shrill and almost downright obnoxious, it took me a while to warm up to what was going on. After the initial impression of sounding like a scream track from a bad horror movie, to the next feeling of out-and-out hilarity, finally Death-Pierce Me turns out to be something completely unexpected: this sucker's pretty damned creepy if you allow it to be. The melodic piano and acoustic/clean guitar interludes at first seem to be extremely premeditated and unwarranted, but upon further listens, it begins to make perfect sense. This will undoubtedly be either reviled or revered in the metal community, depending on the individual's perception, and also depending on what version people hold in their mitts, seeing as this is a re-re-release of the band's first-and-only full length, originally on Prophecy Productions. –Gavin Hoffman

Ghetto Angel EP
This Dark Reign
Street: 02.08
Sourvein = Buzzov*en + Electric Wizard + Eyehategod
I kind of hate having to do the "this band = this stuff" for SOURVEIN. They're veterans of the southern sludge/doom genre, and, in my opinion, are pretty underrated and under-appreciated. "Ghetto Angel" is supposedly the second in a line of a trilogy of EPs they're putting out on This Dark Reign, and it's well worth tracking down. Absurdly heavy, the plodding tempo and simple 1-2 attack of the drums in the opener, "Nightwing," should give even the most seasoned and elitist sludge aficionado a stiffy. This, children, is music to murder people to. –Gavin Hoffman

Spyder Baby
Let Us Prey
Blind Prophecy
Street: 03.04
Spyder Baby = Dope + Ministry + Marilyn Manson
Upon first listening to Sypder Baby's Let Us Prey album, the impression was that this is pretty standard nu-metal. Upon multiple listens, the damn thing grew on me like a parasite, even the grating nasally vocals stuck; so, go figure. I'm not going to blurt out words like innovative or groundbreaking to describe Spyder Baby's sound, just solid Industrial nu-metal. The Ministry influence sneaks up on you, but you catch that slightly punk vibe, because it's just catchy. I can't help myself that this sounds so much like some other bands that are total crap and it's frustrating because all signs should say stay away from this, but again, I'm drawn in with great riffs and vocal choruses that may be silly but are fun. Fans of the genre will enjoy this while, undoubtedly, fans of true metal will stay away at all costs. I guess sometimes I'm just a sucker for good power chords and catchy songs. –Bryer Wharton

Steve Stevens
Memory Crash
Magna Carta
Street: 03.04
Steve Stevens = Joe Satriani + Steve Vai
Believe it or not, Steve Stevens fits right in there with groundbreaking hard rock guitar gods. Memory Crash is mostly instrumental and chock full of great hard rock guitar moments. The variety of the CD is its best feature; some guitar rock albums kind of sound the same after multiple listens, but this member of Billy Idol's band utilizes many styles, ranging from electronic, Satriani-infused shredding to bluesy tunes to mellow, chill, style grooves all flowing together in a great blend of hard rock that could be labeled traditional, but also experimental and highly progressive. The fact that the album has a new and refreshing sound lends the sound to more experimental without sounding too off the wall. If guitar rock normally bores you quickly, try Steve Stevens on for size. –Bryer Wharton

When Midnight Strikes
Pivotal Rockordings
Street: 03.25
Stimga = The Crown + The Black Dahlia Murder
If ever there were a time to say that modern metalcore can be done well, this is it. The visceral guitar tone is hellishly pleasant. The key factor with Stigma is that they can write good songs that strive to get your attention instead of songs trying to fit a specific format. There are wicked death metal moments that remind me a great deal of the last few moments that The Crown offered up. Then, good chunks of melodic, yet brutal, guitar work, pretty much the only thing that slaps this record in the metalcore genre are the vocals, and even those work for the album. It's a shame that bands that made this genre popular in the first place sound like crap now, I guess it is just time to pave new ground for new bands. –Bryer Wharton

Subwaste / Tommy Gustafsaan & the Idiots
Street: 02.26
Subwaste / TGATI = 2 bands that have no hang-ups breaking new ground, and are just out to play some great '77 punk rock.
These 2 bands are going about punk rock exactly how bands should. They're just playing, no bullshit, and no fluff, just punk rock done right. Buzz saw guitars and growling vocals are present on both bands' tracks. Now, a split record is usually better when the acts are different enough to show wider range of the music they play, but similar enough not to alienate each band's fans. These two are so similar that most listeners would have trouble telling when Subwaste stops and the Idiots start. Sure, Subwaste is slightly heavier, and TGATI are a little more rooted in rock 'n roll, but it's only after a couple listens that these subtle differences become apparent. If you dig on street punk that doesn't hold back, here it is by the truck load. –James Orme

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
Street: 03.25
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra = Godspeed You Black Emperor! + Vic Chesnutt
ASMZ has always brought to light the apocalyptic falling out that our world has experienced since the appearance of humans of earth – and our trend to destroy anything in our way. 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons addresses this issue on a never before seen vocal level unique to ASMZ's discography. Singer Efrim forcefully pounds poetry above chaotic violin solos that crescendo, break apart, and reunite as Beckie's cello follows like rain in a roof gutter, ready to fall at any point. These four tracks slam a variety of issues at hand – most directly, the United States' involvement with Black Water in Iraq, and our apparent desire to pillage our earth's natural resources. It seems as though the current state of affairs is so terrible that ASMZ have shed some of their opaqueness and attacked openly – making 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons an opinionated, glorious, and wrathful album. –Kris