National CD Reviews – March 2010

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Normal.dotm 0 0 1 277 1584 SLUG Mag 13 3 1945 12.0 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false Aces & Eights
A Different Animal…
Downtown Academy
Street: 10.20.09
Aces & Eights = Anti-Heroes + Motorhead + Rose Tattoo + Casualties
It’s incredible that a band can actually bring good old honest rock n’ roll elements into their punk as fuck tunes. In the six years since their last record, these Boise, ID boys have gone from energetic street punk to a riff driven hard as hell hardcore punk rock n’ roll band—I actually felt sore after this record pummeled me from the speakers. The song “Death Before Dishonor” is a primal chest beating anthem that can’t help but pump my fist to, even in the car while people stare in confusion. This record reminded me of everything I love about punk rock and real rock n’ roll: belligerent gravel throated vocals, guitar that smacks like a brick in the face and bass that actually sounds pissed off,. So everyone go down to Raunch and tell Brad to get this for you, because he’s the only guy in this town with the balls to have something like this in his store. –James Orme

Disciples of the Unseen
Metal Blade
Street: 02.16
Aeternam = Orphaned Land + Nile + Therion + Dimmu Borgir
Canadian five piece metal crew Aeternam deliver the epic symphonic death metal goods on their debut album Disciples of the Unseen, originally released by the band last year and now getting worldwide distro via Metal Blade. For a self-released budget the record doesn’t play out that way, the production here is stellar, immersing listeners in every melodic note and heavy pummeling riff. Listening to the album feels like you’re taking a trip to distant foreign places mainly Egypt and the Middle East and plays off folk themes from both cultures with nicely done evil undertones. The album not only well produced but also well written and immediately draws in and retains attention. This is a promising, diversely rich debut record I’ll be tuning into throughout the year. –Bryer Wharton

The Album Leaf
A Chorus of Storytellers
Sub Pop
Street: 02.02
The Album Leaf = Lymbyc Systym + Arms and Sleepers + American Analog Set
A simple Internet search reveals that over 28 of Jimmy LaVelle’s compositions have appeared on television. His contributions range from Obama Public Service Announcements, Britney Spears television documentaries, Hummer commercials, to The O.C. (six songs total). There is something about LaVelle’s layering of vintage Rhodes piano, bowed strings, mournful guitars, and live drumming over skittering programmed beats that screams SUBTEXT! SUBTEXT! SUBTEXT! A Chorus of Storytellers follows a similar trajectory but reigns in Into the Blue Again’s obvious daytime soap overtures and builds quiet climaxes around classical compositions. “Summer Fog,” with its full string orchestra and horn section, is as majestic as an Album Leaf song has ever been— enjoy it now before it finds its way into a Nicole Kidman period piece. LaVelle’s best moments are when he steps away from the mic. Fortunately, only four songs have vocals, leaving the rest to wander in wordless beauty. –Ryan Hall

The American Dollar
Yesh Music
Street: 01.26
The American Dollar = Mogwai + Keane - vocals
The American Dollar have composed the perfect score for any teen drama on The CW. We all know the scenario. Someone, confused about their significant other/sexuality, goes on an evening walk through the city to clear their head, and suddenly comes to that monumental realization that we were all aware of from the beginning—cue a track from Atlas. The best thing I can say about these guys is that they are truly background-music-writing geniuses. However, the attentive listener can’t handle an album’s worth of convoluted beats under generic, atmospheric guitars and keyboards. The American Dollar would be smart to follow this advice: focus on releasing singles for soundtracks, not full-length albums. The CW could be your meal ticket! –Andrew Roy

Hells Headbangers
Street: 03.02
Armour = Accept + Running Wild + W.A.S.P.
It’s almost hard to accept that the man singing for Finland’s Armour, Vince “Werewolf” Venom (who goes by many different names), is the same guy that did vocals for part of Horna’s existence and is also the man behind Satanic Warmaster and numerous other extreme metal projects. He sings with stellar falsetto-ish metallic ranges that rank right up there with some of heavy metal’s early heroes, and the punk-fueled backing vocals just add to the awesome denim-and-leather-stud-clad, fist-pumping metal that is Armour. This is not only a homage to classic German and American heavy metal but a stand alone metal record that will have you picking up the choruses on the first listen and get you singing along and banging your head with the catchy rhythms on this fully engrossing metallic excursion. Anyone who calls themselves a metalhead should find Armour nothing less than badass. –Bryer Wharton

Starve for the Devil
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.09
Arsis = At the Gates + Witchery + Carcass (Swansong era)
Even though Arsis’ previous album, We Are the Nightmare, was a disappointment to fans, the band does not return to the style of their debut A Celebration of Guilt on their new album. Starve for the Devil is the most melodic the Virginia-based tech melodic death crew have sounded yet. As much as I didn’t like the band’s last album I still have respect Arsis’ willingness to re-invent themselves, which they have done with each of their full-length records. First impressions of this new offering might garner At The Gates clone feelings, but further listening is well worth the time invested. Aside from the rather stagnant and forced vocal performance, the album has a natural, hearty production with stylistic incorporations of classic and thrash metal amongst the intricate and dazzling melodic guitar work that will leave intrepid listeners wanting to give Starve for the Devil repeated listening. –Bryer Wharton

Western Vinyl
Street: 02.23
Balmorhea = Rachel’s + Chaz Prymek + Erik Satie
Haunting choir vocal samples float freely beneath swirling guitar drones before a mournful minor chord chimes through and hangs in the air just long enough to make it felt; the auditory equivalent of the pregnant pause. I want to live the rest of my life in the first three minutes of Constellations closing track “Palestrina.” Austin’s Balmorhea marry discreet folk with the aesthetic austerity of post-classical compositions. Not simply an expressionistic deconstruction coupled around a few known chords, Balmorhea’s classical roots underpin the entire album. Beneath the delicately picked banjoes, strummed acoustic guitars and sampled vocal choirs, Erik Satie’s minimalist chord bursts and Joseph Haydn’s stringed fugues hold commanding sway. Constellation’s accessible melding of classical and contemporary musical ideas is absolutely essential 2010 listening. In fact, if the world ends in 2012 this may be the album I put on to watch it all burn down. –Ryan Hall

Bestial Mockery
Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw (Re-issue)
Hells Headbangers
Street: 03.02
Bestial Mockery = Bathory (early) + Mayhem + Impaled Nazarene + Antaeus
Thank you Hells Headbangers for bringing this album back into the limelight. I don’t know much about Bestial Mockery but the album of theirs I own (Evoke the Desecrator) is played rather frequently and like an ignorant fool I never looked further into the bands catalogue. Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw is aptly titled—It sounds silly, but it befits the raw, hate-spewing, bile-pumping, face melting, flesh-tearing, raw black metal contained in the album’s 26 minutes. The factor that makes this record stand out amongst all the black metal one can relish themselves in is the diversity amongst the tracks—they’re laced with thrash, death and punk rhythms and the songs never get old, just rawer and nastier. –Bryer Wharton

The Black
Alongside Death
Pulverised Records
Street: 10.26.09
The Black = Craft + Katharsis + Tyrant
Someone must’ve pissed in my Cheerios today, because on any “normal” day I would be all about this release. My first inclination is to hype this band and this release, because it really is above averagelo-fi Swedish black metal…but today, it’s just sticking in my craw. Am I getting old? Probably. Maybe it’s just today, but the buzz-saw guitars and never-fucking-ending blast beats on this album aren’t giving me that normal, cold, grim feeling—Quite the opposite, in fact. This album makes me feel like some (most?) current black metal bands are trying way too hard to prove how “tr00” they are by sticking to the black metal formula, as opposed to actually making interesting music. If you like your metal black, however, give this bugger a spin, but don’t go out of your way to track it down. I’ll probably love this release tomorrow, but as of this writing it’s simply bugging the fuck out of me. -Gavin Hoffman

Blood Cult
We are the Cult of the Plains
Moribund Records
Street: 03.02
Blood Cult = Darkthrone + Venom + Satyricon + Guns N’ Roses
What do you get when you take dank, murky, basement-styled production, tremolo black-metal riffing, solos that could very well have been written by Slash and dirty n’ gritty punk and Venom-fueled beats? You get the sophomore album from Illinois’ Blood Cult. It’s an odd combination at times, but if you’re not a crier and devout worshipper of true black metal, We are the Cult of the Plains is a bluesy, psychotic rampage into a backwater brainwashing alcoholic demonic cult’s worship circle. The record has moments reminiscent of more recent Darkthrone and Satyricon, meaning it’s very black n’ roll, and did I mention Venom? But it’s got mud and coagulated blood churning in the wine of Satan’s spawn—traditional true black metal. If you’re looking for a tantalizing, sadistic, Southern-fried grim bastard child of the coldest Norwegian father and a trailer-trash, hillbilly truck-stop hooker, Blood Cult is that child. –Bryer Wharton

Bomb The Bass
Back To Light   
!K7 Records
Street: 03.10
Bomb The Bass = Coldcut + The Beatmasters
I have to confess that when I first gave legendary Tim Simenon’s new Bomb the Bass release a spin in early January, I didn’t know what to think about it and put it away for a bit. Perhaps it was the omnipresent digitized voice reminding me exactly what I was listening to every few minutes (and while I can appreciate the industry’s need to protect its releases from being leaked early, it doesn’t make it any less annoying) that left me undecided. Or maybe it was the frequent Bomb the Bass vocalist Paul Conboy—who is featured on four tracks here, with his voice that’s hard to warm to—that did it. Revisiting it now, as it is finally set for release, has made me appreciate it a little more. Certainly the music is great (being both bouncy and melodic) and Simenon picked the right co-producer in Brazil’s wondrous Gui Boratto, who definitely enhances the tracks he touches. I really enjoyed “Price on Your Head” (featuring the more agreeable vocals of Richard Davis) and while the Conboy-sung tracks really aren’t horrible (especially the delicious “The Infinites,” from which the album’s title is derived) it would have been interesting to hear someone else’s vocals on them, or even none at all. The pretty instrumental track “Milakia” rounds the album out and not too surprisingly, features Martin Gore on keyboards (since it was originally demoed after Simeon produced Depeche Mode’s Ultra album) and is a pleasant conclusion to the proceedings. –Dean O Hillis

Brendan Kelly/Joe McMahon
Wasted Potential
Red Scare Industries
Street: 03.16
Wasted Potential = The Lawrence Arms + Smoke or Fire - electricity
The announcement of Wasted Potential a few months ago undoubtedly resulted in many a ruined pair of jeans for dorky perusers and Fat Wreck fans, and for good reason: Brendan Kelly has become the prototypical pop-punk vocalist in recent years and Joe McMahon ain’t too shabby, either. This split features 14 songs split down the middle as Kelly and McMahon render acoustic versions of some of their bands’ best songs, plus a cover apiece. Kelly’s side is charmingly sloppy, especially his take on fellow Lawrence Arm Chris McCaughan’s “Blood Meridian,” which features a Smoke or Fire shout-out in its closing moments. Speaking of McCaughan, he’s shafted in the credits, but appears on three of Kelly’s songs, totally stealing the show. Joe McMahon’s side is more straightforward (and probably less drunk), but it definitely left me clamoring for a new SoF full-length. This one’s strictly for Lawrence Arms and Smoke or Fire fans, but it’s definitely something to be excited about if you fall into either camp. –Ricky Vigil

Canis Dirus
A Somber Wind from a Distant Shore
Street: 08.25.09
Canis Dirus = Burzum + Wigrid + more Burzum
Whoa. These guys really like Burzum. And I mean “really” with a capital fucking REALLY. I almost wonder if these guys purposefully tried to emulate the guitar tones and drums sounds from Burzum’s “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” on purpose. This is a super, super lo-fi recording with an almost non-existent bass and drums that sound like they were recorded two decades ago for a Bathory album, but holy good god damn, enough fucking Burzum clones already! This release is definitely on the moody side of black metal, and my guess is that these guys would want you to treat this album as some sort of close-your-eyes-and-let-your-mind-wander type of thing, but it’s just not working. In the slightest. Remember when black metal was something interesting and special? The kind of thing that you almost felt privileged to know about and listen to? So do I, but the bands that are rehashing 15- and 20-year-old releases without even trying to put their own spin on them is just getting boring.  -Gavin Hoffman

Charred Walls Of The Damned
Metal Blade
Street: 02.02
Charred Walls of The Damned = Iced Earth + Beyond Fear + Tim “Ripper” Owens
This debut album from former Iced Earth and Death drummer Richard Christy which contains bass virtuoso Steve Digiorgio of Sadus and Testament and vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens of Judas Priest and Iced Earth, really isn’t as amazing as it could be but it’s still a solid thrash-tinged heavy metal offering. The production lends itself to Christy’s well executed and written drumming along with some great riffs. The album enjoys some fantastic tracks such as the heavier toned “The Darkest Eyes,” that sounds like it could’ve been written by Nevermore or the darker melancholy yet heavy “Manifestations,” the easy answer here is if you enjoyed Tim Ripper Owens in Iced Earth, you’ll like this album more than the albums he sang on for Iced Earth, because the guitar riffing that Christy has come forth with here take the cake from said IE albums. –Bryer Wharton 

Common Enemy
Living the Dream?
Horror Business/DRP/Overdose On Records
Street: 09.08.09
Common Enemy = JFA + (early) Suicidal Tendencies + (early) NOFX
Well, one thing’s for sure: Common Enemy is still having fun, and they REALLY want to make sure you know it. This is straight up skate punk, complete with immature, almost asinine, vocals that sit way too high in the mix. But that‘s what Common Enemy is going for, methinks. 20 songs on this here release, none of which touch the 2-minute mark, and I can guarantee these guys have played more than their fair share of house shows, and destroyed untold amounts of other peoples’ furniture in the process. Sometimes I find myself wishing that this type of stuff made me feel the way it did when I was 13, but it just doesn’t. In fact, it makes my knees and ankles hurt just listening to it and thinking about old skateboarding injuries. If you’re into light-speed, seizure-inducing beer punk, this is most likely up your alley, but it’s extremely difficult to take it seriously—which is probably a good thing. Enjoy. -Gavin Hoffman

Creature with the Atom Brain
The End Records
Street: 02.02
Creature with the Atom Brain = Queens of the Stone Age + Alice In Chains + The Doors
This Belgian four-piece have, at the very least, successfully crafted an infectious and trance-inducing jam/psychedelic rock album, but they’ve done more than that. Influences are easily heard on Transylvania but not so overbearing that it sounds like a recreation of style. In the forefront of the music is its psychedelic, incense-fueled, smoky-haze-of-herb-smoke, calming rhythms. If you can successfully re-create a vibe that feels like you’re on drugs when you’re not, it’s pretty damned fantastic feat. There is also a grunge influence best comparable to Alice In Chains. Standouts “Darker Than a Dungeon,” and “The Color of Sundown,” will let you let the entire album sit and sink in all culminating in one great trip. –Bryer Wharton

Crime in Stereo
I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone
Bridge 9
Street: 02.23
Crime in Stereo = Brand New + Cave In + Able Baker Fox
Crime In Stereo could’ve played it safe with their new album. After polarizing fans with their 2007 album, Is Dead, Crime in Stereo could’ve written an easy, by-the-numbers melodic hardcore album more attune to their first two full-lengths to win back old fans and convert kids discovering Kid Dynamite and Bad Religion for the first time. Instead, Crime in Stereo made the album they wanted to make—and it’s awesome. Using Is Dead as a foundation, CiS has stretched further away from their roots while remaining firmly planted in them, creating a cold, sparse and darkly atmospheric sound that is anchored in melody and driving intensity. Much of the songs on the album deal with feelings of distance and loneliness—“Drugwolf” and “Not Dead” ain’t exactly pick-me-up tunes, but they’re great songs worthy of any band’s musical canon. This album is Crime in Stereo’s album, and something tells me they don’t really care whether or not you like it, but you definitely should. –Ricky Vigil

A Badly Broken Code
Doomtree Records
Street: 01.19
Dessa = Fiona Apple + Lauryn Hill + Atmosphere
At first listen, this jazzy, subtle piece of hip-hop wasn’t upbeat enough for me. Now I can’t get enough of its emotionally demanding soul music. This woman pours herself—sarcastic wit, throaty purr, brick-wall honesty and all—into these songs. There are hymns here, jumpers, and floaters too. Listen to her croon on “The Chaconne” and then shake your fist to “Dutch.” Several songs read like someone’s stolen diary, or an obscure Russian novel, whichever. Longtime fans will recognize motifs, especially direct references like “Mineshaft II.” Precision plays a big role here—the rhymes and rhythms are tight, on time, beyond solid. You can tell Dessa is as comfortable in prose as over a beat, which is fitting, as she recently released her first published book, Spiral Bound, and has another in the works. While the talented producers of the Doomtree collective (Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger, MK Larada, Cecil Otter) all provide excellent backgrounds, the beats are just that: a canvas where Dessa can express what she pleases. Like she says in “Alibi,” for this one, she “put on her best fresh little black dress,” and got seen. It’s going to take something tsunami-grade to knock this from my “favorite record of the year” position. –Rio Connelly

Destroy Nate Allen   
Perfect Recipe For A Smile + Don’t Let This Smile Fool You
Street: 09.08.09
Destroy Nate Allen = Paul Baribeau + Jeffrey Lewis + Adam Green + Kimya Dawson
Couples are gross. Mainly the ones with their touchy feely “just can’t get enough” of each other ways. You’ve seen them, the couple that somehow finds a way to slow dance to punk rock music. It’s freaky. Even freakier is when one of these four-eyed monsters decides to create a sing-a-long folk punk album, made up of weird “couple” banter and overly forced tremolo vocals. Imagine a less melodic version of the Moldy Peaches, with lyrics and chords included, incase you couldn’t get enough. With two albums combined you get to hear Nate-Tessa Allen, or Nate with banjo. The latter is much more tolerable, but songs about being made for each other are better played only to each other. –Jessica Davis

Dirty Dancing
Mediocrity Is the Strongest Inevitability
Street: 10.08
Dirty Dancing = Interpol + Les Savy Fav + Blues Control
Though proving to be more than a derivative Interpol, Austin’s Dirty Dancing don’t garner the minimalist dread nor the deep personal loathing to warrant the Joy Division comparisons they desperately seek. While we are still waiting for the second coming of Ian Curtis, we will have to settle for some occasional inspired moments of acute-angled post-punk riffs bolstered by a snarling blues stomp and swampy lo-fi atmospherics. When I say moments, I mean flashes, because as a whole the album crawls at a glacier’s pace. 14 songs, most of which clock over the four minute mark, are visited by glimpses of clever songwriting on “Delicate Chains”, catchy hooks on “Magnet Kisses,” in the surprisingly strong middle of the album. The album bookends, however, feature overindulgent tracks that should have been left on the cutting room floor or shortened to manageable lengths. Here’s hoping the sequel is better than Havana Nights. –Ryan Hall

Disfigured Dead
Visions of Death
Hells Headbangers
Street: 03.02
Disfigured Dead = Autopsy + Death + Repulsion
There’s no getting around the fact that New York’s Disfigured Dead are a throwback death metal band with their debut full-length Visions of Death—It’s a homage to a fantastic time and style of American bred death metal. The albums production gives the feeling of a late ‘80s/early ‘90s death metal record that you just missed hearing during that time. The playing is pleasantly sloppy (intentionally or unintentionally), gritted and grizzled with dirty street punk beats and rhythms as well as hints of grindcore and early American thrash, all with lyrics focused on none other than death. Two members of the band contribute vocals, which range from snarls to growls. Once you get over the fact that Disfigured Dead are worshiping the fathers of American death metal, it’s quite easy to enjoy the down and dirty tunes the band has come up with for their first offering to the metal gods. –Bryer Wharton

Temporary Residence Ltd.
Street: 02.23
Eluvium = Brian Eno + Hammock
Eluvium, the recording moniker of Matthew Robert Cooper, returns in a good way, breaking a three-year silence with Similes, a collection of eight meager and pale tracks that often draw upon neo-classical minimalism to create his own trademark ambiance. The album begins with the aerial tracks “Leaves Eclipse the Light” and “The Motion Makes Me Last,” in which Cooper shows us a delicate, monotonous voice much akin to Ian Curtis. Some listeners may be disenfranchised by the vocals, but they’re few and far between on Similes and the next tracks are a gossamer of faint, atmospheric textures and soundscapes backed by melancholic piano playing. The album lulls and drones all at once and is a welcome addition to an ever expanding ambient music genre, and a genre in which Eluvium has firmly made its impression. –Ryan Sanford

Eyedea & Abilities
By the Throat
Street: 7.21.09
Eyedea & Abilities = Sage Francis + The YMD + P.O.S.
These all feel like fight songs—it’s the super-fuzzed snarls for basslines, the car alarm delivery from MC Eyedea and the headache-hard beats from DJ Abilities. Nasal lines of off-rhyme phrases, some of which are so shoutable, are right next to something so fast you can’t sing along and others that make you want to cry. I think we’re lucky Eyedea is obsessed with science, emotional scar tissue, and odd diction rather than money, hos and rims. On “Time Flies When You Have a Gun,” he weaves a short but potent vignette about owning a firearm, finishing with surprisingly catchy chorus, singing “You can own it but mostly it will own you.” Other favorites include “Spin Cycle” which contains my favorite line from the record: “I’m not another shin to kick.” The raucous “Junk” and “This Story” are destined for slamdancing pits, unfamiliar at most hip-hop shows. “Smile” is a reflective existential crisis resolved. One of the best parts of the record is the scratching of Abilities, while not common, it really show off how talented this DJ is. I have to agree with Eyedea, as he says in the first line of the record: “I’m not shit, I’m champagne.” –Rio Connelly

Fear Factory
Street: 02.09
Fear Factory = Godflesh + Sybreed + Napalm Death
Behold the amazing industrial strength of Fear Factory. Mechanize is the best the band has sounded since Obsolete. It’s a well-oiled concoction of precision in its machine-gun-style guitar-riffing mixed with the best damn double-bass drum sound ever. It’s a style the band has basically trademarked— yeah, it may be unofficial, but they made it sound the best—absolutely devastating, like having one of those auto-hammer power-tools pounding on your very brain. The guitar riffs on Mechanize are not only damn catchy, but the most diverse and interesting they’ve sounded in over a decade, and that’s easily attributed to the return of Mr. Dino Cazares coupling his riffs with the laser-like-jackhammer-heavy precision drumming of none other than Gene Hoglan. The result is humans skillfully crafting songs that sound like a demonic machine could’ve created them, and that’s truly the point with the futuristic, apocalyptic and technology-fearful-themed Fear Factory. The most humanly raw element is vocalist Burton C. Bell’s harsh screams and haunting, clean vocals. If ever there was a time to rejoin the love for Fear Factory, it’s with Mechanize—it’s an audio war of the future, it’s the grease in the treads of tanks. As the song “Powershifter” exclaims, “If you want war, you’ve got war.” –Bryer Wharton

Four Tet 
There Is Love In You
Domino Records   
Street: 01.26
Four Tet = The Orb + a dash of DJ Shadow via Lemon Jelly
As a genre, electronica is sometimes boringly interchangeable. To succeed in the sound, the artist must not only bring their unique slant to the equation, but must also execute it with an equal passion. London born Kieran Hebden more than rises to the task with his fifth full length foray under his Four Tet moniker. What sets the prolific Hebden apart from his contemporaries are his skills as a musician and a DJ. With the exception of the hypnotic first single, “Love Cry,” the occasional vocals here are mostly unintelligible, which actually serves the music quite well. It isn’t explained who Pablo is (Hebden’s son perhaps?) but there is a cool short sample of his heartbeat, simply entitled Pablo’s Heart. The standout cuts are “Angel Echoes,” “Sing” and “Plastic People,” all of which excel with their unique beats and minimal vocals. There Is Love In You plays out mesmerizingly as sophisticated electronica and easily lends itself to repeat listenings. –Dean O Hillis

Fucked Up
Couple Tracks
Street: 01.26
Fucked Up = Black Flag + Cloak/Dagger + Career Suicide
In addition to being angry and Canadian, Fucked Up is also one of punk rock’s most interesting and prolific bands. Couple Tracks compiles 25 hard-to-find Fucked Up songs, and though it isn’t comprehensive and is already outdated by at least three releases, it showcases near-perfect, straightforward punk fury. The experimental (and sometimes self-indulgent) tendencies the band displayed on their pair of full-lengths are mostly absent on Couple Tracks, replaced by hardcore straight outta 1982. “No Pasaran,” “Dangerous Fumes” and “I Hate Summer” are among the best songs the band has ever written, and the pair of songs featured from the band’s Daytrotter session (a psychedelic interpretation of “Magic Word” and a crazy disco version of “David Comes to Life”) should appease those only familiar with the band’s latest album. And good news, twee fans: there’s an Another Sunny Day cover. If you enjoy any form of aggressive punk rock, Couple Tracks is essential listening. –Ricky Vigil

Street: 02.09
Galactic = NOLA
Jazzy funk group Galactic—or Galactic Prophylactic, if you want to go way back—is in the second half of its second decade of music. Like the previous album, From the Corner to the Block, Ya-Ka-May is a collaborative effort. Featuring artists intended to embody the musical styles present in modern-day New Orleans, Ya-Ka-May has a new feel in every track. This album is a damn fun romp through New Orleans’ musical subgenres, and the diversity here is surprising, even for a Galactic record. I must say, though: the “bounce” style of hip-hop present in a few tracks is now my quintessential example for everything I hate about hip-hop. Nevertheless, fans of Galactic will find all the fantastic funkitude they’re hoping for, and new listeners are sure to find something to shake their boot heels at in such a diverse lineup. Barring the “bounce” bullshit, the rest of the record is bitchin’. –Jesse Hawlish

The Heligoats
Goodness Gracious
Greyday Records
Street: 02.10
The Heligoats = The Ladybug Transistor + Beachwood Sparks
Originally the solo moniker for artist Chris Otepka, The Heligoats has undergone numerous additions and transformations since its original inception over 10 years ago. With each year has come a new release from the project, each different than the last. While Goodness Gracious isn’t going to change any lives, it still is a very satisfying listen. Otepka’s songwriting has improved drastically, resulting in a solid and melodic album with no lulls throughout. The other members that have joined the project since—Mike Mergenthaler, David James and Steven Mitchell—round out the quartet, producing a sound that is not unlike a less-gritty Blitzen Trapper blended with the random musings of The Apples In Stereo. –Ross Solomon

Hellish Crossfire
Bloodrust Scythe
I Hate Records
Street: 01.26
Hellish Crossfire = Iron Angel + Sodom + Poison (the thrash band from Germany)
As much as I’ve bitched about a good chunk of thrash revival bands, I still think it’s a good thing because it has metal fans new and old interested in the genre again. Hellish Crossfire delivered a throwback to the early/mid ‘80s German thrash scene with their debut album in 2006 and have returned with not only a awesomely titled sophomore effort but eight songs of iconic thrash madness that any old-school metal fan can enjoy without end. I have it on good authority that Hellish Crossfire got their name from ‘80s German thrash heroes Iron Angel and they also got some of their sound inspiration. The production for Bloodrust Scythe is down-and-dirty, yet pristinely clear enough to relish in every bloody fast riff and echoing vocal screams or howl for the devils guitar soloing. I don’t care what year you started your band—if you successfully capture a classic sound without sounding forced you’re a damn good band. –Bryer Wharton

Heroin UK
Conquest Beyond Belief
Street: 01.05
Heroin UK = Helmet + Ty Segall + The Jesus Lizard
This is one of the strangest albums I’ve ever picked up. It’s too garagey to be metal, too stonery to be punk, too spaced out and psychedelic to be southern rock. What it definitely IS, however, is really, really dirty. Not crusty, Choking Victim dirty or even cute, Shitty Beach Boys dirty, but, like, I-spent-my-unemployment-check-on-methadone-so-my-water-got-cut-and-now-I-can’t-bathe-myself dirty. Sid and Nancy dirty. Hepatitis dirty. I seriously can’t even believe this thing exists. The band broke up right after the album was recorded, and MT6 put out exactly forty hand-numbered copies on CD-R. I dig “Route 666” and “Creekbeast” for their straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll simplicity, but the lyrics are pretty unimaginative from start to finish. Sure, it’s interesting, but I don’t know if “good” is the right adjective. Either way, it costs five dollars including shipping, and there are only thirty-nine copies left. –Nate Perkins

Street: 01.26
Ihshan = Emperor + Enslaved + Opeth
Ihsahn, one of the main members of Emperor, has given the metal world something to relish in: lush atmospheres with layers upon layers of mesmerizing, heavy, angry, somber and avant-garde music are all encompassed on After. The record is the last part of a trilogy of planned solo albums from Ihsahn and, as expected, it’s progressed from the other albums but still contains ideas and themes from his previous solo albums. There are extreme, blazing, black metal moments as well some as the melodic progressive moments where Ihsahn utilizes his clean voice which is stunningly brilliant and ranged. There is a large epic sensibility to After—something that will keep listeners returning to dissect layers some songs have free form jazz saxophone playing in juxtaposition to chaotic guitars and drums. Each track is different and musters up different feelings for listeners, After is a great way to conclude a trilogy of thought provoking music. –Bryer Wharton

Majesty and Decay
Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.09
Immolation = Morbid Angel + Incantation + Drawn and Quartered
There’s brutality and then there’s Immolation, pure unrivalled devastation— looking into the abyss and having it stare back at you with fervent hate and disdained power. That’s what Immolation is. The song structures, rhythms and drumming is all very psychotropic in nature, possessing your mind and initiating a hateful trance, beating your aural senses into submission until the noise of the down-tuned guitar riffing ruptures blood vessels in your cranium and everything on Majesty and Decay becomes your darkest and most delightful focus. Each track is like dragging you by your feet down the steps to hell and it’s not torture in any form; it’s pure monolithic death metal that disturbs and violates the core of your imagination, transcending any death-metal trends or fads. No blood and guts, just a disarray of dissonant guitar soloing amongst pummeling after pummeling of the heaviest bottom-end riffing one can handle without their ears bursting with blood and sinew and lyrical manipulations that will make any God-fearing folk run for the hills and rejecters of the faith empowered. –Bryer Wharton

Imperium Dekadenz
Procella Vadens
Season of Mist
Street: 01.26
Imperium Dekadenz = Bethlehem + Agalloch + Fen
Epically heavy and melodic is the key behind the success of German down-to-mid-tempo black metal band Imperium Dekadenz. The album broaches on themes of nature that envision dark forests, vast abysmal oceans and tumultuous shorelines with hints at ancient Egypt on the aptly titled “The Decent into Hades,” along with some downright wrist-cutting depressive tracks. Procella Vaden is populated with atmospheric and full-fledged black metal opuses that don’t invite a generic bands snooze but welcome and enrapture aural and visual imagery that leaves a lasting impression long after the almost hour-long album is done. Fans of nature themed and depressive black metal take heed :Procella Vadens is worth the price of admission. –Bryer Wharton

In Mourning
Pulverised Records
Street: 02.16
In Mourning = Opeth + Katatonia + Daylight Dies
Yet another progressive melodic death metal band to add to an increasingly large list, Sweden’s In Mourning don’t offer much in terms of any new stylistic changes, though they do offer some memorable tracks and some nicely done outright heavy guitar moments. It’s fairly safe to say that if you’re an Opeth fan Monolith will float your boat, they’re similar but not copycat-ish in many ways from their heavy breakdown guitar parts or the intermingling of acoustic and down-tuned guitar. Unlike Opeth the songwriting is more direct and instantly appeasing than having to allow time for the music to grow and set in, the melodies catch right away as do the groove heavy type guitars. The clean singing is standout and should’ve been utilized more because the death growl is oh so generic. All in all if you’re a fan of the style and genre Monolith is a good catchy listen. –Bryer Wharton

Jason Collett
Rat A Tat Tat
Arts & Crafts
Street: 03.09
Jason Collett = Broken Social Scene + John Mellencamp + Bob Dylan
When Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning released their solo albums, they used the endorsement “Broken Social Scene Presents” in the album title. I am not sure if Jason Collett feels he doesn’t need the association or if the band won’t let him use it, but this album is pumped full of corny shit. “Long May You Love” sort of makes me queasy, especially since he just repeats that line in the chorus. The most exposure the single “Love is a Dirty Word” can hope to receive will be on a shitty B-list movie soundtrack. This feels like an aging rock star’s attempt to get in on indie. I am probably going to give my mom this CD, and I have a feeling she won’t mind. –Cody Hudson

Beasts Among Sheep
Translation Loss
Street: 09.29.09
Javelina = Torche + Boris + High On Fire
This is, simply put, OK. It’s nothing groundbreaking, and it’s not underwhelming, either. It’s just…OK. It’s heavy, it’s dirty, it’s gravelly and it’s simply everything I love about rock music, but it’s just not grabbing me by the nuts. Javelina is the kind of band I’d probably enjoy seeing, beer-in-hand, at Burt’s Tiki, but on record, they miss the mark. But not by much. Am I being a bit non-committal? Absolutely. Javelina do a swell job of bridging the stoner/sludge - rock gap, and you can almost hear the bass strings flop around on some of the slower, heavier parts due to down-tuning, but they aren’t quite to the point of garnering favor from yours truly. So…maybe check it out if you’re into heavy stuff. Or don’t. OK? OK. -Gavin Hoffman

The King Khan & BBQ Show
Invisible Girl
Vice Records
Street: 11.03
The King Khan & BBQ Show = The Sonics + Bo Diddley + The Dells
Garage rock gods King Khan and BBQ return with another nostalgic gift of pure rock and roll, tinged with their infectious brand of doo wop, soul and punk. Paying homage to the greats and embracing their musical heritage, Invisible Girl is a gem of an album that seemingly does no wrong. The album begins with "Anala," a free and easy, lo-fi, doo wop ballad with Mark Sultan's sweet croon and King Khan's baritone backing vocals before going into the cathartic title track which sounds like a fuzzy Byrds b-side. The next track is the amusingly pornographic "Tastebuds," which in turn gives way to a light-hearted and rocking "Animal Party." "Third Ave." is a soul-filled, heartbreakingly sweet song with displays some of the best collaborative efforts from the duo. More of the same feel good rocking continues with "I'll Be Lovin' You" and ending with the catchy "Do the Chop." –Ryan Sanford

Present Passed
Postfact Records
Street: 03.30
Librarians = Glass Ghost + The Dodos + Animal Collective
If Animal Collective’s Sundance debut taught us anything, it is that they are the real deal. Shouldering a decade’s worth of critical aplomb and criticism, AC has consistently proved that they can master shifting grounds from bombastic experimentalism to perfect pop songs. With all this cultural weight, the Collective is bound to influence several bands, or in Librarians case, inspire outright theft. West Virginia’s Librarians move from dancey post-punk of 2006’s Alright Easy Candy Stranger to polyrhythmic, synth-heavy, derivative Merriweather Post Pavilion cash-ins is as laughable as when Skabba The Hut became The Bravery. These days musical trends have the life span of sea-monkeys, and Librarians are willing to ride every wave that come at them. –Ryan Hall

Little Freddie King
Gotta Walk with Da King
Made Wright
Street: 02.16
Little Freddie King = Little Charlie & the Nightcats + Muddy Waters + Albert King
I usually despise jam records—my punk rock, three-minute-song lovin’ attitude rears its ugly head and I go off—but Little Freddie King has managed to sooth that savage beast in me. Sophisticated arrangements, accomplished players, and rhythm to spare come together to create blues of a level rarely paralleled. Songs over the eight minute mark would send me screaming into the night if it weren’t for the fact the nothing is better than the blues played well. I’d put this on in my house and go about my business and before I realized it I was humming along and bobbing my head to the beat. Nothing too fancy just a four piece band playing their guts out, like harmonica that brings tears, guitar that clinches your heart, and vocals that awaken the soul. To many the blues have changed and can never be what they once were, but I am here to say Little Freddie King has changed that opinion in me, and he’ll do it for anyone that will listen. –James Orme

Street: 02.02
Marionette = Disarmonia Mundi + The Duskfall + Callenish Circle
It’s near impossible not to think of Gothenburg, Sweden’s Marionette as a clone of modern melodic death metal—the band sounds way too close to Disarmonia Mundi and some of their other Swedish peers to call them anything fully original. That said, the album for what it is, is a decent offering of melodic songs with fast guitar riffing catchy melodies and keyboards. The Tomas Lindberg styled vocal screams and clean singing wear rather thin with repeated listens. And the moments that resemble guitar breakdowns are a bit too frequent. It’s hard not to want more from this record, the instrumental skills are there and vocals are close behind but it all sounds flat in the end like a band emulating others styles instead of creating something fully new. Negative aside you could do a lot worse in finding modern melodic death metal bands if you like the style, Enemies will appease your melo-death appetite. –Bryer Wharton

The Mean Jeans
Are You Serious?
Dirtnap Records
Street: 11.07.09
The Mean Jeans = The Ramones
The Mean Jeans are full of non-stop energy creating a Ramones flashback with each “oh-oh.” From the moment you push play you might as well forget smelling great, cause you’ll be drenched in dance sweat before “Born On A Saturday Night” ends. Other than that there’s not much to think about—but that’s the point of the party. Eat your pizza, oh-oh, drink your beer, oh-oh, keep going oh-oh! “Let’s Pogo Before U Gogo” marks the end of something sweet, but holds on with catchy repeating lyrics worth yelling at every future departure. –Jessica Davis

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 123 705 SLUG Mag 5 1 865 12.0 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false Name
Internet Killed the Audio Star
Lifeforce Records
Street 02.10
Name = Psypus + Cursed + The Chariot
If you like Between the Buried and Me half as much as the members of San Francisco’s Name do, then you’ll get a kick out of Internet Killed the Audio Star. That’s not an insult—Name truly have crafted an album worthy of your time, combining legitimate musicianship with smart songwriting and unconventional lyricism. Wes Fareas’ versatility as a vocalist is apparent, and though his attempts at melodic singing come across a bit emo, he hurls everything from a guttural growl to a strident screech like a pro. The album opener, “Killer Whales, Man,” dazzles with technical prowess, then ends so thunderously that after first listen, I had to restart the track just to get my fill before moving on. I will say that this album is long, at almost an hour and 20 minutes, but despite the fat, IKAS is a healthy portion of tasty metal worth the chewing. –Andrew Roy

Illusion's Parade
Street: 02.02
Nostradameus = Masterplan + Iron Savior + Symphorce
You know those albums that are neither terrible nor anything really fantastic—“Mediocre” is the word for Nostradameus’ sixth full-length album. The band plays fairly typical melodic German power metal and has some hit and miss tracks throughout the album’s nine tunes. The key factor that makes the record mediocre is the fact that once you’ve listened to it all the way through, you’ve all but forgotten it. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not a bad record by any means. It successfully combines the heavy crunch and punch of heavier power metal acts with ear-pleasing melodies, and while you’re listening to the songs they’re actually enjoyable, just not fully memorable. In the end listeners are left with a double edged sword: one could do a lot worse for the genre then again one could do a lot better. –Bryer Wharton

Oh No Ono
Friendly Fire
Street: 01.26
Oh No Ono = MGMT + Flaming Lips
Eggs is the sophomore release by this Danish superstar group, and it’s a trippy one. One listen and it will have you hallucinating into a psychedelic-prog rock utopia - a visually colorful land where everyone plays ELO, Pink Floyd and Queen. Lead man Malthe Fischer’s voice is high-pitched and nasally—you might wish someone would press the slow-mo button—but in reality it's the perfect prescription for these Danes. Mew-esque “Internet Warrior” is the key track, complete with illustriously high tempos, which folds brilliantly into the pop-opera-ish “Icicles.” The pounding drums and keys come in strong on “The Wave Ballet,” sweeping you into the delicate layers and losing you in the beauty. It’s hard to believe this is Oh No Ono’s sophomore release; Eggs sounds more like a well seasoned and impeccable breakfast. –Courtney Blair

Okapi & Aldo Kapi’s Orchestra
Love Him: Okapi Plays the Music of Aldo Kapi (1914-1952)
Illegal Art
Street: 02.23
Okapi = Kallikak Family + The Caretaker + Faust
DJ Shadow’s 1996 album …Endtroducing single-handedly legitimized sampling as an art form. I am not saying that sample based music wasn’t considered an art form before 1996, but …Endtroducing blew the doors wide open and showed a mainstream audience that an “original” arrangement could be composed entirely of pre-recorded music. Since then there has been no looking back. Italian turntabilist Okapi takes over 100 pieces composed by the pseudo-legendary Kyrgyz composer Aldo Kapi and plunders them, extracting moments of gorgeous classical music to underpin his avante-garde sample based collages. When confronting his subject head-on Okapi emerges with flashes of lucidity, bowed strings over a frantic break-beat or plucked violins and horns put through a blender. At its most abstract, however, Love Him turns into a gimmick, a scattershot of Balkan punk, ‘20s commercial jingles, kitsch vocal samples and 8-bit glitch breaks. Fans of weird music everywhere rejoice! –Ryan Hall

Owen Pallet
Owen Pallet = Final Fantasy = Parenthetical Girls + Andrew Bird
Formerly known as Final Fantasy, Owen Pallet has finally decided to go by his own name. It seems like the name drop, brought about a slightly less formal sound. In the Final Fantasy albums his violin was always in the forefront, it was the main draw—I feel like old Final Fantasy videos should have ballet choreography. Now the songs have interesting beats and even a few synthesizers. It’s odd to hear this guy make a song with a bass line in the forefront like in “Oh Heartland, Up Yours” or a sweet keyboard line like in “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.” Don’t worry though, the dramatic orchestral build ups are still there. With every listen I enjoy this album more—it’s good enough to make me forget that I slightly dislike his voice. –Cody Hudson

Owen Pallett
Street: 01.12
Owen Pallett = ThouShaltNot + Mozart + (Laurie Anderson – Lou Reed)
The latest release of Toronto-based indie-rock violinist Owen Pallett (who has retired his Final Fantasy moniker to avoid confusion), this album is truly impossible to pin down. Absurdism melds with emotional violence (and emotional violins), drawing out a strange narrative of a Lewis, a “young, ultra-violent farmer,” and his one-sided conversation with God, presumably about laying down righteous fury on cabbages and carrots. Lest that sound too heady, the baroque tracks—equal parts pop and classical-tinged works backed by none other than the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and New York composer Nico Muhly—will not bring you closer to earth. With titles like “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!” and “Tryst with Mephistopheles,” Pallett covers broad territory, from X-Ray Spex to Dante, dragging Philip Glass along for the ride. -Madelyn Boudreaux

Demon Metal
Hells Headbangers
Street: 03.02
Perversor = Burial Hordes + Revenge + Diocletian + early Sodom + Bathory
Don your battle-worn apparel and get ready for some ripping black-thrash from Chile and hold on—Once this mini-album is done after 17 and a half minutes, you’ll be bloodied, battered and ready to jump right back into the mayhem. Forget the fact that the songs are worshiping early Sodom and Bathory, it’s a style that is well worshipped and for good reason. The songs have a nice raw production sound but are clear and loud enough to do some eardrum shredding. With razor-sharp, fast guitar riffing as well as no-frills, cuts-to-the-chase delivery, the demonic beating echoes from hell that is the albums drumming keeps the momentum of the tracks flying so fast your head won’t feel straight for a while after listening to the dizzying warfare-like assault that Perversor delivers. –Bryer Wharton

Pistol Whip
Smog Veil
Street: 11.17.09
Pistol Whip = New York Dolls + T. Rex + Richard Hell and the Voidoids
Emerging in 1972 and recording their first 7” in 1977, Pistol Whip boasts being Erie, PA’s first glam band, and this CD/DVD set documents two years of their short, chemical fueled career. Terminal is a collection and re-release of 12 riot-inciting tracks that were previously impossible to find, but will now become an essential part of any serious rock historian’s collection. They range in sound from Kiss worshipping glam and proto-punk to “Havana Affair”-influenced punk primitivo. The violent, nerve grinding guitar riffs and Hammond organ howls betray the band’s heavy ‘60s punk/psychedelic influences while the vocal style is largely reminiscent of a pre-Buster Poindexter David Johansen. The accompanying DVD is mostly boring with tedious narration, but the hilarious interviews make it worth checking out at least once. Terminal is indispensable to music nerds who feel the urgent need to show off an elitist knowledge of punk rock obscurity. –Nate Perkins

The Resurrection Sorrow
Hour of the Wolf
Midnight Dreams Productions
Street: 10.01.09
The Resurrection Sorrow = Place Of Skulls + Black Album-era Metallica + Pantera
Someone throw me a fucking bone. Have you ever had one of those musical experiences that starts off totally promising, and then is completely ruined by vocals? That’s what happened to me when I spun this fucking thing. Vocalist-dude wants to be either James Hetfield, post-Black Album, or Phil Anselmo, but he can’t quite decide which. Unfortunately, this totally ruins a promising band. The music is actually pretty good, in a rocking, Wino-worship type way, but fuck me running—this vocalist needs to not only stop trying to be something he’s not, but he also needs to lay off the “YYYYEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHH”s. Like right now. And now he’s tossing in a whisper-track in there. Fuck this. I’m out. Dudes, drop your singer, and you might have something. -Gavin Hoffman

Seth Augustus
To the Pouring Rain
Porto Franco Records
Street: 02.16
Seth Augustus = Tom Waits + Bukka White + Captain Beefheart
When I first listened to To the Pouring Rain I was certain I wouldn't like it. It seemed too Real Gone, too Mule Variations and it didn't seem to hide it.  Perhaps the style has just been spoiled, but I was hoping it would be another thousand years or so before someone else tried to ride on Tom Waits' coattails, but I must take that back, because while the comparisons are undeniable and perhaps grating at times, Seth Augustus proves to be an accomplished musician with merit as a songwriter. To the Pouring Rain is nine filthy tracks of aching blues, rustic melodies and gravelly vocals with a dash of avant garde or your textbook shuffle, while in the meantime his storytelling fills in the gaps until, after a while, you really appreciate what you're hearing, if you didn't already. –Ryan Sanford

The Golden Archipelago
Matador Records
Street: 02.23
Shearwater = Talk Talk + Vic Chesnutt + Nick Drake
I fell in love and nearly melted away while listening to the brilliant 2008 album, Rook. This year sees the release of Golden, the final album of a trilogy about a man’s impact on the natural world. The album starts off with aborigine chants on “Meridian,” quickly giving way to Jonathon Meiburg’s falsetto voice. The piano keys rattle and Thor Harris’ drum thunders on “Black Eyes,” bruising our emotions. “God Made Me” shows their delicate side and “Castaways” has the band continuing their signature taste for the sudden changeover from quiet to loud. The subtle surprise is hidden towards the end on the Pink Floyd Final Cut-esque “Uniforms,” sharing subject matter of war and delicate string arrangements leading to a dramatic build. The Golden Archipelago may not be superior to Rook, but it’s damn close. –Courtney Blair

The End
Street: 02.02
Shining  = AC/DC + Ornette Coleman + Emperor
"I have no idea what to do with this, but the cover is black. Give it to the goth." This must be how I ended up with the third CD by the critically acclaimed Norwegian quintet, and the little soul death that came with it. I'm being unfair. Excellently produced and engineered by Sean Bevan (Nine Inch Nails, Slayer), the CD is rawk solid, offering serious blunt force trauma to the ear canals. These guys can play, obviously, and they've got passion to spare. They make their guitars scream like the souls of the undead out for a stroll on the Glomma river. But it still feels like Thelonious Monk and Marilyn Manson got hopped up on PCP and drove a semi right across my eardrums. If experimental metal is your thing, you will like it, but if you'll pardon me, I need to go find some gauze and holy water. —Madelyn Boudreaux

Scenes from Hell
The End Records
Street: 01.19
Sigh = Venom + Sabbat + Unexpect + the soundtrack to a 70s Western/horror/sci-fi film
Devilishly artful-minded avant Tokyo black/dark-metal crew Sigh are at it again and have crafted not only their best album since their 2001 Imaginary Sonicsape, but the most listenable offering since said album. At times, the guitars and creepy keyboard, which entails brass and string variances, can sound like they’re doing two separate things at once, but it’s not confusing, it’s downright awesome. Almost like getting the satisfaction of listening to two albums’ worth of music in one sitting. Other times, they’re toe to toe with each other, crafting intricately eerie or devilishly silly sounds, like some 70s TV show or movie from hell, or the evil Star Wars-sounding “The Soul Grave.” The compositions crafted for Scenes from Hell are the kind that will keep you running back for more. I cannot stress it anymore—this album is just full of good shit. If you’re a fan of keyboard-driven avant-styled black/dark metal, this will not disappoint. –Bryer Wharton

Six Feet Under
Graveyard Classics 3
Metal Blade
Street: 01.19
Six Feet Under = Obituary + Cannibal Corpse + the worst death metal vocals ever
I understand the concept and desire for covers albums and I think as long as you have a successful band you’re allowed to do cover albums, but the third time is not the charm for SFU’s latest installment of Graveyard Classics. The thing that bothers me the most about this set of covers is how extremely half-assed it feels—the music portion of the songs are basically straight covers of a plethora of different musical styles. SFU didn’t even bother to try and change the music up and put their own spin on things like making Van Halen’s “On Fire” or the Ramones ‘“Psycho Therapy” sound like death metal instead of the normal song just with Chris Barnes terrible death vocals. Please do SFU a favor so they stop making these damn albums and don’t buy this offering or even give it the satisfaction of being heard. I sure as hell want the time I wasted listening to this suckfest back. – Bryer Wharton

Slow Six
Tomorrow Becomes You
Western Vinyl
Street: 1.26
Slow Six = Explosions In The Sky + The Stove + Cougar
Do you like slow string melodies? Or sweeping organ landscapes? How about tight minimalist drums? All backed up interesting resonances and glitches from custom designed software? You do? Want to go out sometime? Oh, you have a boyfriend? That’s cool, I’ll just go to a Slow Six concert. Their new record starts out with this killer song, “The Night You Left New York”—an echoey and tantalizing piano intro breaks into a flurry of double violins and staccato drums, finishes in a breathless climax. It almost makes me wish I smoked cigarettes so I could light one up after listening to it. Other songs like, “Cloud Cover (part two)” and “Because Together We Resonate” are almost entirely ambient, while still entertaining. Think “Treefingers” from Kid A-era Radiohead. With seven songs and clocking in and just under an hour, this release is saturated with the addictive quality of dreams and things half-remembered. Peaks and feints lead the listener along while never being demanding or overly pretentious. The two violin players are my favorite aspect of this band and I can’t wait to see if their 2010 tour in support of Tomorrow Becomes You is coming through Salt Lake. Oh, now you do want to go out sometime? –Rio Connelly

Sons Of Azrael
Scouting The Boneyard
Metal Blade
Street: 01.19
Sons Of Azrael = At the Gates + Darkest Hour + Goatwhore (pre-A Haunting Curse)
It had to happen sooner or later: black metalcore—and melodic too. Sons of Azrael offer their rendition to the core trend mixing typical At the Gates worship with hints of black metal. It’s not as bad as it could be—there are small moments of raw talent and decent songwriting but the production for the album feels scaled down quite a bit (intentionally) with a raspy paper-thin guitar tone, which at times works and at times fails the record along with a rather unpleasant drum sound and vocals that sound too forced with some awfully cheesy, over-the-top Satanic lyrics. It’s all very forgettable, and thankfully all it takes is listening to some Darkthrone or Bathory and the stain left behind from listening to the record is washed clean. –Bryer Wharton

The Souljazz Orchestra
Rising Sun
Street: 02.16
The Souljazz Orchestra = Budos Band + Antibalas
Hello, my name is Courtney and I am a Strut Records junkie— please don’t judge me. Let’s just say it’s a damn good thing I have this fine magazine to support my ear addiction. Ottawa’s own The Souljazz play their own brand of Afro-funk-jazz. Their third album, Rising Sun, opens with “Awakening,” which is lacking caffeine. Don’t worry though, the funk-confident “Agbara” rapidly takes the stage with Afrobeat horns sending good vibrations straight to your belly. “Lotus Flower” will seduce you with its mid-tempo smooth bass line and soaring trumpet solo. By far the best track is Guinean-rhythmic “Mamaya,” which includes the 12/8 Afro-jazz time signature. Souljazz Orchestra simply rise to the occasion on their Strut debut, and deliver that debut perfectly. –Courtney Blair

Strange Boys
Be Brave
In the Red
Street: 03.16
Strange Boys = Mojomatics + King Khan and the Shrines + Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
You know that immediately post-orgasm buzz where just the smallest amount of further physical stimulation will send you over the edge into an uncontrollable, mushbrained fit? That’s how singer Ryan Sambol pushes out every word—like it feels so good it almost hurts him. His sensual howls are backed by beautifully sloppy guitar parts and low pressure drumming that hints that the whole experience is just seconds away from falling apart completely, but by some miracle, it never does. Though much of the album is plagued with that indie/neo-folk-influenced, softly strummed “quiet is the new loud” mentality, it redeems itself with a handful of solid garage tunes, all of which are infused with soulful blues and traces of bluegrass. Be Brave is full of the kind of dirty harmonica and saxophone solos that you might hear on a Jonathan Richman record. The loving, clever lyrics peak in the song “Laugh at Sex, Not Her.” (Urban Lounge 03.08) –Nate Perkins

Struck By Lightning
Translation Loss
Street: 08.31.09
Struck By Lightning = Mouth of the Architect + Neurosis + Disfear
After gleaning through a few nationally (and internationally) distributed magazines which shall remain nameless, it’s apparent that quite a few people have sizeable chubbies for Struck By Lightning...quite possibly because of vocalist/guitarist Gregory Lahm’s past involvement with Mouth of the Architect. I, however, am thoroughly unimpressed. Struck By Lightning comes across as a band that can’t decide whether they want to be Neurosis or any number of Swedish D-Beat hardcore bands, and the results are far from palatable. Oh sure, these dudes are talented enough musicians and songwriters, but, like most other Translation Loss releases, this sucker seems destined to be hyped for 6 months and then disappear forever. Honestly guys, I’ve had just about enough of “bro-metal,” and I’m hoping this crap crests soon. -Gavin Hoffman

Surfer Blood
Astro Coast
Street: 01.19
Surfer Blood =Vampire Weekend + Weezer + Real Estate
You know the story: freshmen dormmates at the University of Florida record album in their room, the appropriate hype machines take notice, release single, we salivate over the debut. Now the debut drops and I apologize, I just can’t get behind this young band. I just can’t get past the distinct Vampire Weekend influence. And I am not saying that Vampire Weekend is the worst band in the world, but when is the whole precious, polyrhythmic, Afro-pop thing going to run its course? I can’t even get into the whole 90s alternative rock tag without getting caught up on the staccato guitar-playing and start-stop time changes that come close to Talking Heads worship. I mean, a pan-flute?! Come on! The album’s saving grace is “Swim (To Reach the End)”, easily one of 2009’s best singles, but where is that aggression on the rest of the album? Very misleading. –Ryan Hall

The Pulse Of Awakening
Street: 02.02
Sybreed = Fear Factory + Mnemic + Meshuggah
Self-proclaimed death-wave Swiss rockers Sybreed have delivered the goods and more with this, the band’s third full-length album. The record is a fantastically rich and lavish plethora of industrial groove, stop and go polyrhythmic riffing with detailed and layered metal soundscapes that fans of melodic death metal and industrial metal can easily enjoy. The vocals on the record, however, take some growing. The singer has a great voice, which he doesn’t utilize near enough. On the album he uses a different singing style more often that sounds like he’s singing through his nose and first impressions are not that great, but after a listen or two you’ll forget all about it and get sucked into the rich keyboard programming and terrific songwriting that propels the band’s futuristic metallic sound into top territory for the genre. –Bryer Wharton

Tim Barry
28th & Stonewall
Suburban Home
Street: 01.26
Tim Barry = Scott H. Biram + Chuck Ragan + Steve Earle
Yes, Tim Barry is the former frontman for Richmond punkers Avail. Yes, he now plays acoustic folk and country music. But unlike the seemingly innumerable aging punks suddenly discovering Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash, this is the kind of music Barry was born to play. More than any of his previous albums, 28th & Stonewall showcases Barry’s songwriting versatility. The album may not be as consistent or impressive as Rivanna Junction, but it’s interesting to hear Barry explore his own emotional peaks and valleys from the lighthearted (but still vaguely pessimistic) “Thing of the Past” and “Dowtown VCU” to the heartbreaking weariness of “Walk 500 Miles” and “11/7.” The upbeat songs are fun, but it’s in the darkest moments that Barry is most successful, as he explores overwhelming sadness in such an enthralling way that you can’t help but relate. Throughout 28th & Stonewall, Barry is occasionally funny, sometimes grumpy, usually endearing and often affecting, but he’s always human. (Burt’s: 03.25) –Ricky Vigil

Falling Down a Mountain
Street: 01.25
Tindersticks = Lambchop + Bryan Ferry + Blanket Music
If it weren’t for the Brits’ stressing of hard consonant “t,” the touching ballad “Peanuts,” off of the Nottingham trio’s eighth studio album, would be a semi-pornographic novelty track. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, Tindersticks keep things classy and offer a beautifully subdued slowburner of an album. Stuart A. Staples’ characteristic vibrato-heavy baritone leads the heavily orchestrated backing band through bouncing, Stax-style soul, smoky Americana, heartfelt ballads, and two delicate instrumental tracks. The bottomless instrumentation can be missed at first blush or buried under Staples’ late-night lounge croon, but a dedicated listen reveals some brilliant stuff happening beneath the surface. A Hammond organ and Rhodes piano pretty much have their way with your headphones, placing melodies in your subconscious that take days to get out. If the adjectives “tender,” “delicate,” “chamber-pop,” or “British” make you want to throw up, Tindersticks are not for you. Your loss. –Ryan Hall

Untied States
Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
Distile Records
Street: 02.16
Untied States = Failure + Liars + Fugazi
Untied States have forged a whirling and atonal sound, drawing heavily from post-hardcore, 90s grunge and indie to create an abrasive, raucous and brooding album that seems much akin to something Dischord Records would love to get their hands on. The album is full of tracks that pirouette and bark, drawing sometimes from a Jawbox vein and sometimes from a place The Jesus Lizard used to dwell in, while the vocalist is at time reminiscent of Stephen Brody circa Antenna. The band dabbles in the sonic, as seen on the track “Bye Bye Bi-Polar,” during their exploration of the discordant side of rock while still maintaining a sense of subdued melody, shown on tracks “These Dead Birds” and the album’s opener “Gorilla the Bull.” Fans of dissonance will get on rather well with this. –Ryan Sanford

Metal Blade
Street: 01.19
Valkyrja = Marduk + Secrets of the Moon + Naglfar
Well Swedish black metal act Valkyrja have two things going for them on their sophomore effort Contamination the big thing is fantastic production, crisp and clear yet still raw to be regarded as true black metal add some vocals that don’t sound like every other black metal band on the scene, forced as they may sound they aren’t all shrills and shrieks there is some disparity to them. That’s about all the band has going for them, the songwriting for Contamination is fairly bland and redundant and very typical of the Swedish scene it pretty much sounds like Naglfar’s last couple albums, mostly in the fact that you can’t really pinpoint anything horrible about the songs, they just don’t get the black metal blood flowing as much as all the listening options that exist. If you’re looking for a mediocre album that’s almost perfectly produced Valkyrja is a good bet. –Bryer Wharton

Vampire Weekend
XL Recordings
Street: 01.12
Vampire Weekend = Tokyo Police Club + GIVERS + Abe Vigoda
An album titled Contra, with no thinly veiled video game references, was an awful idea, but the execution was pretty decent. It seemed like everyone liked Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut, and the same will probably be true of Contra. It is everything you enjoyed about the first album, but with more interesting sounds, like on “Diplomat’s Son,” when they sample M.I.A. Even the single, “Cousins,” is more White Denim than Tokyo Police Club. The experiments in style do cost the album some of the cohesive feel their debut had, but it is definitely worth it. They are still the Vampire Weekend you remember casually dropping Louis Vuitton references into their songs, only this time it’s a “ski in the Alps” or a “sweet carob rice cake,” and now they seem slightly sarcastic about their blatant rich-kid remarks. It is still the same tropical Afro-punk, but this time they were shooting for a more cohesive album lyrically. –Cody Hudson

Various Artists
Next Stop… Soweto: Township Sounds From The Golden Age Of Mbaqangwa
Street: 02.02
Next Stop Soweto = Vampire Weekend + Paul Simon
Strut Records has a new three part series focusing on the forgotten South African sounds of the 60’s and 70’s. Part one, Next Stop…Soweto, highlights the township jive genre combining Zulu music, western pop hooks and vocal harmonies. This is where Paul Simon picked up his Graceland sound and Vampire Weekend later expanded and moved it to the upper west side. Listening to Next Stop… you can hear the melody of Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” on the accordion heavy “Wenzani Umoya” by The Big Four. Vampire Weekend's “A-Punk” echoes in the high-pitch jangly guitar of “Mr. J.S. Mpanza” by Lucky Strike Sisters . There’s something sweet and calming about the hopping drum and droning deep bass on “Jabulani Balaleli” from Amaqawe Omculo. Every track is a three minute gem. Forget the imitators, it's time to go straight to the source. –Courtney Blair

Various Artists
Untitled 21: A Juvenile Tribute to Swingin’ Utters
Red Scare
Street: 02.16
Untitled 21= A tribute by many terrific bands to the greatest working-class punk band of the day.
I would like to start off by saying that the fact that anyone calling themselves a fan of punk rock that is not a Swinging Utters fan can fuck right off. This is a band that never let up—they’ve made great punk rock for decades and it’s only fitting that they receive a tribute record. A testament to how great the Utters are is that every track on this album is listenable, not because the bands are so great (some of them are and some aren’t), but because the songs are so fantastic. Bright spots on this 31-track monster are the new Celtic kids on the scene, Flatfoot 56, doing “Something to Follow”; Off with Their Heads adding a dramatic touch to one of the greatest songs ever written, “Next in Line,” and Johnny Two Bags (Social Distortion) stepping out of his sideman roll to lay down a hell of an acoustic version of “Pills and Smoke.” But I’d have to say the best track award goes to the Street Dogs, who turn in a rampaging live version of “Dirty Sea.” Honorable mentions should also go to Dropkick Murphys and Blag Jesus & the Druglords of the Avenues, which contains members of the Swinging Utters. As many amazing bands and ridiculously awesome, fun songs as there are on this record, it only gets me fired up to hear the next Swinging Utters record, which as of writing this review, they’re supposed to be in the studio. Fuck, I can’t wait! –James Orme

Veil Veil Vanish
Change in the Neon Light
Street: 02.23
Veil Veil Vanish = Early Cure + Joy Division + The Bolshoi
A real stunner of an album, this first release by San Francisco-based dark- and cold-wave outfit Veil Veil Vanish instantly dragged me back three decades. The lost releases of Robert Smith? Ian Curtis’ suicide notes? Nope, just really excellent, restrained yet somehow lush creations reminiscent of The Chameleons and their entire genre of shoegazing Britpop. This is a band who consider guitars to be “brush strokes of a painting” and disavows rock, yet write hard, musically witty tracks like “Exhile City” and “This is Violet,” that scream at you to just stand up and pogo like a moron in a skinny tie, monkey! DANCE! The vocals are, if anything, too close to Robert Smith’s, and the chiming instrumentation on “Anthem for a Doomed Youth” is so similar to “The Walk” that I think an intervention—or an exorcism—might be in order. However, this CD is staying in my player for a while, and I can’t stop wiggling to the songs at my desk, and that’s about the best thing a band can ask for a debut CD. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 132 755 SLUG Mag 6 1 927 12.0 0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false W-H-I-T-E
Swill Children & Aagoo
Street:  01.28
W-H-I-T-E = HEALTH + Dan Deacon
Cory Hanson, the man behind W-H-I-T-E (White Horses in Technicholor Everywhere), might very well put on a live performance of huge and epic proportions. The massive soundscapes he paints with his samples remind me of HEALTH's GET COLOR, yet somehow a whole lot less directed. There's potential here, I know there is, but to find it in this album really requires some imagination. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy—glitchy, low-fi sounds of “space-like” objects zooming around. Some of the other ones sound like Hanson just recorded himself breathing into a mic and endlessly sliced it up until it was barely recognizable. His voice sounds a little bit like Thom Yorke after a few drinks—not terrible, but still just another piece in a puzzle that never fits together. –Ross Solomon

White Wizzard
Over the Top
Earache Records
Street: 03.09
White Wizzard = Iron Maiden + Saxon + Judas Priest
The New Wave of British Heavy metal—or as it’s affectionately known, “NWOBHM”—is alive and well in all parts of the world, even Los Angeles. White Wizzard showed a large amount of promise in their debut EP, High Speed GTO, and there’s no shortage of killer Iron Maiden-style bass and guitar riffs, even vocal patterns and ranges, that sound close to classic Maiden, which at first sounds a bit too similar, but Over the Top is a grower. The majority of the songs’ goodness doesn’t sink in until repeated listens, but, ultimately, being similar to IM is a good thing for White Wizzard, because they don’t exactly copy classic Maiden, they just take the influences of said band and other classic British heavy metal bands and run with it. They use the best of NWOBHM to craft the infectiously gloriously guitar-driven Over the Top. –Bryer Wharton

Xiu Xiu
Dear God, I Hate Myself
Kill Rock Stars!
Street: 02.23
Xiu Xiu = Former Ghosts + Zola Jesus
Jamie Stewart has whispered his dark and perverse confessions into the lives of unsuspecting lovers. From deep depression, hatred is birthed and begins to walk, soon meeting love at the backdoor to create a brilliant work of art. Dear God, I Hate Myself explores a dark pop creation full of self-loathing accompanied with dancey whirrs and springing explosions. Abstract starts and crashes follow Stewart’s subtle serious vocals, then swoon into Nintendo beeps. Whether you focus on the lyrics or the instruments, you must stay attentive not to miss each intense switch from sweet to demonic. (03:26 Urban) –Jessica Davis