National CD Reviews – June 2010

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The Abominable Iron Sloth
The Id Will Overcome
Blackmarket Activities
Street: 04.27
The Abominable Iron Sloth = Unearthly Trance + Ed Gein - fast
The following is an excerpt from AIS’s first band meeting: “Let’s start a metal band.? “What should we play?? “Doom.? “Grind.? “Gut-rock.? “K, let’s just mash those together, I guess. What should we be called?? “Something horrendous.? “Something metal.? “Something slow.? “K, let’s just mash those together too: Abominable, Iron, Sloth.? “Perfect.? Come on, their name alone is epic enough to hook someone into buying this album. Luckily, The Id Will Overcome comes very close to living up to their grandiose moniker. Most of the album’s tracks are under three minutes, which is perfect for Sloth’s straightforward brand of smash-a-hole-in-the-wall metal. “Kilimanjaro Dreamin’? has the raddest 7/8 meter section I’ve heard in a long time. “Tramp Stamp? is one minute and 10 seconds of no-nonsense guitar work, with a classic buildup to an enormous ascending riff. “Andrew, should I pick up this album?? “Dumb question. Yes.? -Andrew Roy

AC/DC
Iron Man 2 Soundtrack
Capitol Records
Street: 04.19
AC/DC = rock legends
AC/DC are actually not a stranger to doing movie soundtracks; they did the soundtrack for the Stephen King 80s flick Maximum Overdrive. The Iron Man 2 soundtrack, unlike the aforementioned movie, does not feature any new material from the band. So basically, this “soundtrack? plays out like a Greatest Hits record. It’s full of some of AC/DC’s most powerfully fun and rocking tracks, and I really have no complaints. I’m not a hardcore AC/DC fan by any means"I own a few records and have a good chunk of the songs that are on this soundtrack, but there are some I don’t have. There are a multitude of reasons to pick this up. Hopefully, one big one will be that when the younger audience that sees the movie will like the music and this will become a gateway for them to discover a love for a great and definitely legendary band. -Bryer Wharton

Acid Tiger
Self-Titled
Deathwish
Street: 04.27
Acid Tiger = Converge + Queens Of The Stone Age + Valient Thorr + Black Sabbath + Mastodon + Witch + Motörhead + Form Of Rocket
Usually, bands have names that don’t have anything to do with how they actually sound—I’m sure that wooly mammoths sounded a lot less cool than Mastodon. Acid Tiger, on the other hand, sounds exactly like its name. With lysergic genre synesthesia, the band mauls you with technical guitar riffs and equally tricky drumming. Right from the get-go in “The Claw,” Acid Tiger lets you know that this trip is not only going to make you head bang, but also keep you interested, with inventive chord structures and sometimes-atonal leads that coalesce with sporadic drum rolls. In “Big Beat”—out of NOWHERE—Ben Koller busts a fatty drum solo, after which the band returns to a thumping chorus like it’s no big deal. “Death Wave” is a stoner-metal epic poem with killer dynamics, and “Feel It” forces your hand down your pants. Dear Acid Tiger, Salt Lake will love you. –Alexander Ortega

Asher Roth
Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberry
Mixed Tape
Street: 03.23
Asher Roth = Eminem + MC Paul Barman
The production lineup on this mix tape is mind-bending. Some of the beat-makers are Madlib, J Dilla, 9th Wonder, Kanye West, Jake One, Just Blaze, and Pharrell. All the beats have been already made and used for previous songs and artists as per usual on a mix tape. You gotta admit, though, the lineup is fresh! The mixing by DJ Wreckineyez was done fairly clean and simple. One small annoyance is that the songs run together and overlap, so it’s one giant recording without many breaks. The biggest annoyance, though, is Asher Roth himself. The whole thing has awkwardly pushed lyrical content. He has no real flow and natural rhythm to his rapping and he gets irritating to constantly listen to. But for people who are fans of this fading one-hit wonder, it’s a little dose of medicine while waiting for a follow-up on his first album. Bon appetit! "Bethany Fischer


Angel City Outcasts
Self-Titled
Sailors Grave
Street: 05.11
Angel City Outcasts = Black Crowes + SuperSuckers + Zeke + Guns and Roses
I don’t know what it is, but I always am surprised how this band sounds more like a hard rock band than a street punk band. It’s like they’re trying too hard not to sound like the band they’ve been billed as. The Angel City Outcasts have this reputation of bringing all these outside influences to a base of punk rock and all I ever hear is lame hard rock that makes AC/DC sound like the Exploited. Lyrically, it’s clichéd so poorly that it’s like a patchwork of lines from 80s and early 90s hard rock songs. “It’s a shakedown, better hear what I’m sayin’/You better get down, and start praying,” is how this record begins, and it just gets worse. There is an element of blues to their songs but when all is said and done, their music comes off as watered-down bullshit. I’m told about innovation and creative approaches, but all I hear is regurgitated rock that wasn’t that great when Axl Rose was singing it the first time. Every time I come back to these guys, I think maybe it’s different than I remember. I want to like them, but I’m always let down. –James Orme

Arma Gathas
Dead to This World
Metal Blade Records
Street: 04.27
Arma Gathas = Earth Crisis + The Ghost Inside - speed
There are really only three options for every band in the world:  1) Work hard to be distinguished from other bands.  2) Work hard to blend in with other bands in an effort to inherit a portion of a genre-driven fan base.  3) Play shows a few times a year to get laid.  In an effort to be a slightly slower, less interesting version of The Ghost Inside, Arma Gathas has chosen option number two with Dead to this World.  On “The Rise and Fall,” Arma give a taste of what can be expected during the following 11 tracks––big, distorted guitars, flawless drumming and monotone growling.  No metal fan will dispute that this is a solid album, worthy of any Vin Diesel movie soundtrack.  But many bands have forgotten that sounding perfect is the industry standard.  Note to metal bands:  It’s ok if your album sounds live—it’s refreshing. –Andrew Roy

Ava Mendoza
Shadow Stories
Resipiscent Records
Street: 04.01
Ava Mendoza = Max Ochs + Kaki King - enjoyment
Two things stand in the way of Shadow Stories being a listenable solo acoustic guitar album. First, on an album made up largely of songs written by other musicians, Mendoza’s loyal takes on Skip James and Louis Armstrong standards hardly warrant an almost hour-long record.  Sure, she slaps some reverb on there, and loops a few distortion-laden passages, but these come so infrequently that most of the album can be passed as a perfunctory exercise. Like a jazz musician going over scales. Second, and most importantly, is the lack of virtuosity. I am not the most demanding listener—I don’t demand to be floored—but I do expect some level of “how-they-do-that?” type flourishes of pure musicianship. Instead, Mendoza sticks close to the script on her confident finger-picked blues numbers on one hand, and pummels us with discordant, screeching 12-minute expressionistic segues on the other. –Ryan Hall

 

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Speak Fula
Sub Pop/Next Ambience
Street: 02.02
Basseko Kouyate & Ngoni Ba= King Sunny Ade + African newgrass - hippies Christening Sub Pop’s new world music offshoot “Next Ambience,? the indie super-label wisely heads to Africa to bring us the gentle highlife fusion of Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba. Kouyate grew up in a family of griots (poets/traveling musicians) in Mali, one of the West African ancestral hotbeds of blues music. Kouyate became a virtuoso & innovator on the ngoni, a small plucked instrument with a resonating skin predating the banjo. His wife, Amy Sacko, performs the lead vocals, delivering soothing meditations over the almost orchestral wall of lilting traditional instruments. It is rich music for a poor world, and Kouyate & Ngoni Ba are fine ambassadors of music’s spiritually uplifting power. -Davey Parish

The Batusis
Self-Titled EP
Smog Veil
Street: 05.04
The Batusis = New York Dolls + the Dead Boys
Sometimes when a band comes together, it just makes sense. When Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys and Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls decided to join forces and put a band together, the planets aligned and the demon gods of rock n’ roll smiled. Their first output is this four-song EP, which I hope is the beginning of a lot more material to come. Two of the tracks are instrumentals where both proto-punk guitar luminaries rip it up and show just how raunchy and primal rock n’ roll can get. The track “What You Lack in Brains” is a sexually driven tribute to the kind of girl that gets by on looks and sex instead of her mind. “Bury You Alive” is a dark and ominous rock song about the sad future we could be headed for. Great songs by a great band, and hopefully they keep ’em coming. –James Orme

Bleeding Fist
Macabrum Bestia Ex Abyssus
Moribund
Street: 04.13
Bleeding Fist = Impiety + Beherit + Hellhammer
As much as fans and cynics may bitch about the lack of originality in the black metal scene, I really I can’t find a damn thing wrong with this EP. It’s six songs of straightforward, no-frills, black fucking metal tinged with a bit of thrash. Macabrum Bestia Ex Abyssus is fast. Frosty. and cold black metal"yeah, taking many notes from Hellhamer and Beherit, but I don’t care. It’s all so damn face-ripping good, it makes you want to dawn your corpsepaint metal studs and spikes and go smash the hell out of something. What’s so wrong if a band wants to continue playing those themes of hatred and chaos brought forth in the first and second waves of black metal? Music is all about emotion and these guys nailed the pissed-off, hate-fueled, anti-religion emotions right on the head and it downright destroys. -Bryer Wharton

Braid
Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5/The Age of Octeen/Movie Music Vol. 1 & 2 Reissues
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 04.13
Braid = Cap’n Jazz + Fugazi + Christie Front Drive
Used record stores in Southwestern Denver received a deluge of terrible pop-punk albums after I listened to Movie Music Vol. One for the first time in 2001. The mathy time signature change-ups, frentic yelps, shrieks, and “yeahs? from emo’s finest hype-man Chris Broach, as well as the undeniably catchy melodies of “Sounds Like Violence? made me forget everything I thought I knew about what punk/emo was capable of. These early Braid albums are cauldrons of sweaty exuberance and barely-contained post-adolescent angst tempered by the sensitive charms of Bob Nanna’s poetic songwriting and Rob Ewing’s experimental tempo shifts. These early recordings are crucial because they represent critical links between their chaotic salad days and the anthemic emo band that they would later become. Braid’s characteristic knack for melodies, dual guitar and vocal attacks, and accessible experimentalism in genre are all here, albeit surfacing often in waves of lucidity. The Age of Octeen, by far their most cohesive and underrated early album, sounds great remastered and gives the most convincing case for the band Braid would turn into. In my opinion, however, “Divers? (off the The Age of Octeen) was as perfect as Braid ever sounded. After 10 years, countless tours, shows in 46 states (including Wyoming and Hawaii), Braid called it quits in 1999, but their legacy would extend far beyond that as countless musicians would count the first time hearing Braid as a communal touchstone of life-changing music. -Ryan Hall


Brain Drill
Quantum Catastrophe
Metal Blade
Street: 05.11
Brain Drill = Necrophagist + Odious Mortem + Centaurus-A + Origin
Quantum Catastrophe for what it is, isn’t bad"a brutal slab of death metal with some technical lead guitar and soloing. A year or two ago, Brain Drill was basically done as a band, since three of its four members left, but guitarist Dylan Ruskin decided to keep it going and added some new blood. Brain Drill’s debut album, Apocalyptic Feasting, was a love-or-hate type album, with production flaws and ho-hum tech-guitar playing. With the follow-up, Quantum Catastrophe, the guitar-playing is tighter as a whole, although there are some moments that seem to be a bit overdone instead of giving the music an added jolt. The production is far superior to the debut, with awesomely audible bass guitar and overall thicker guitar and drum sounds, which if you’re in the business of playing brutal tech-death metal production, is a huge factor. In the end, if you’re not massively finicky about how your tech-death metal should be, Brain Drill’s sophomore album is a safe bet. -Bryer Wharton

Celestia
Archaenae Perfectii - L'Arche Arcane des Parfaits
Apparitia Recordings
Street: 04.06
Celestia = Beatrik + Drudkh + Imperium Dekadenz + Pestilential Shadows
The French black metal scene is killing right now, full-on kicking ass and taking names. Celestia’s third full-length album, Archaenae Perfecti, is just another band and album to add onto the list of fan-freaking-tastic black metal coming out of France. At the helm of Celestia is Noktu, a musician who seemingly is just adding another notch to the belt of bands he’s been associated with"Gestapos 666 and Genocide Kommando are to name a couple out of many. This record from Celestia is a greatly textured album, with some tracks containing lingering acoustic guitars playing out subtly in the background as the mostly mid-tempo tunes rage on in their tremolo glories. The tempo on the album completely sets the tone and feeling of the record"it’s supremely dark and depressive, yet there are moments where the hatred flies and it never tires the listening senses. There are great differentiating beat patterns and standalone guitar riffs to make each track memorable. This album is one not to miss. -Bryer Wharton

Coffinworm
When All Became None
Profound Lore
Street: 04.27
Coffinworm = Invdrs + Unearthly Trance + Deathspell Omega + YOB
Not only is Coffinworm an excellent addition to the doom-laden roster of bands on Profound Lore, they excel and raise the bar for other bands on the label or any band in the land of doom, death, black or sludge metal. The doom and sludge are the most prevalent factors on When All Became None, but the album is also a full-on disharmonious concoction of aforementioned genres that’s all ass-kicking and no name-taking, because it already owns you from its first listen. The riffing here is majestically and epically heavy as all hell and continues to pour salt on wounds opened up from previous tracks. There are a few bands combining these genres together, but none of them have tackled it quite like Coffinworm. The black metal undertone is superbly menacing and doesn’t rely on any frantic tremolo picking, just disenchanted discord with completely bleak darkness wrapped up in devious swirling down-tempo mind-maddening sonic exhibitions. -Bryer Wharton

Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip
The Logic of Chance
Sunday Best
Street: 05.18
Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip = Why? + The Streets
Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip is a producer/MC duo. Together, they are best known for 2008’s “Thou Shall Not Kill,? a hilarious track that poked fun at British music pop-culture. On The Logic of Chance, they return with another view of the British culture, with topics ranging from knife crime on “Great Britain,? with Pip spitting statistics over drum n’ bass beats and bleeps, or the sadness of “Five Minutes,? about a homicidal wife seeking revenge on her abusive husband. The album has plenty of bright and silly spots as well"“Cauliflower? featuring KiD A supplying a nice complement to Pip’s quick wit rhymes, as well as the self-motivation track “Get Better,? with lines like “I ain't sayin' be celibate, go out and have your fun, but there's plenty you can do without impregnation.? The true highlights not to be ignored are Dan’s infectious beats, which line the album. -Courtney Blair


Devin The Dude
Suite 420
E1 Music
Street: 04.20
Devin the Dude = Snoop Dogg + Too $hort
Devin the Dude basically does what any good artist does: he raps about what he knows best and what he knows best is weed and hoes. I didn’t think that after putting out five other albums it would be possible to write any more about these two particular subjects, but I was wrong. Although the subject matter of his lyrics has been about the same since his first album in 1998, his actual lyrical form and rapping style is done with a serious dose of finesse. Put that together with some classic, slowed-down, gangster-type beats and you get a winner every time. His new gems like “What I Be On,” “We Get High,” and “I Can’t Handle It” will send you straight back to that mid-90s “playa” mentality.  –Bethany Fischer

Dirt Communion
Antique Mechanic
Plastic Sword Records
Street: 04.06
Dirt Communion = Monster Magnet + Brand New Sin + Kyuss + Fu Manchu
Nevada’s Dirt Communion derives imagery of a crowded smoky bar filled with leather-clad biker guys, where the beer and hard liquor is flowing like a river and there’re brawls constantly breaking out. Antique Mechanic is a groove-churning machine that lies on the edge of a blade that just sliced up some doom, stoner and classic rock to flavor up your beverage of choice. This is a quite appeasing debut that encompasses plenty of rock and classic heavy-metal genres that will feed disconcerting rock appetites. Yeah, it might ring a bit too close to the mighty Monster Magnet, but that’s fine with me. This album has the great rocking-out and having-a-blast feeling to it, which is something too easy to appreciate and embrace. -Bryer Wharton

Dodsferd/Mortovatis
Until Your World Go Down
Moribund
Street: 04.27
Dodsferd/Mortovatis = Nadiwrath + Wold + Darkthrone + Dodheimsgard
This spilt EP from Greece’s Dodsferd and Mortovatis is one giant tease that leaves listeners only wanting more. The album opens with a blazing, new, hate-punk-fueled cut from Dodsferd, followed by more depressive, almost melodically new territory for Dodsferd, which slows things down appropriately before exploding with a third devastating live track from the Cursing Your Will to Live album. The split concludes with the relatively new Mortovatis, who contribute one 20-minute-and-30-second track which, after repeated listens, is still leaving me unable to find a band comparison because of their uniqueness, other than a combination of other black metal and noise bands. It’s down-tempo and spacey, with effects and sounds that give you the very notion that you’re staring at the stars and wondering what chaos is ensuing in the massive bodies of violent gasses. It’s ethereal, it’s visceral and it’s a mind-altering piece of music well worth its 20 minutes of girth. -Bryer Wharton

Exodus
Exhibit B: The Human Condition
Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.18
Exodus = Testament + Metallica + Slayer
Thanks to the Metal Gods, Exodus’s Exhibit B is far more enjoyable as compared to 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition … Exhibit A, which was horrifyingly awful, boring and way too long. The production on Exhibit B enjoys some perks that thrashers can enjoy, like a meaty yet raw guitar tone (almost German thrash-styled) that has a great shredding value, and a nice, audible bass guitar sound. The songwriting also endures, with plenty of all-out speed/thrash metal glories or slow-wound opening grooves. However, while this album is far better than its predecessor, it is still flawed. The songs are still too long—the band should’ve taken the short and sweet approach, because listeners can easily tire of Exhibit B after time. The guitar soloing is also mostly rather stale. Also, the vocals are painfully uninspired and downright annoying. In the end, though, I’ll take this album for what it is rather than have no Exodus album at all. –Bryer Wharton

The Fall
Your Future Our Clutter
Domino
Street 05.04
The Fall = The Birthday Party + Joy Division + 34 years
I recently saw a Joy Division T-shirt on eBay mistakenly paired with the face of the Fall’s Mark E. Smith.  I was appalled that the seller didn’t know that the front-man emblazoned on his product was not Ian Curtis, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Smith had many of the same qualities as Curtis, and even one more important one: longevity.  Smith has been performing with The Fall since 1976.  This latest record, on a British indie label, has a rapid and simple vibe to it.  It is tempting to use a word like “lean” to describe it, but that would imply a slenderness that really doesn’t fit.  The songs aren’t skinny.  Some are downright bold.  And some are even compound.  The second track, a song called “Bury Pts. 1 + 3” is actually three different versions of the same song. The third time through adds a little more grit than the first two, and the resulting track is actually quite listenable.  Other highlights include the almost spoken word, spaghetti-western-sounding song “Cowboy George” and a lyrical reference to killing off the cast of Murder She Wrote.  And where name-checking Angela Lansbury will do nothing to close the age gap between Smith and much of his audience, that singular bizarre act shows just how odd of a record this really is.  –James Bennett  

The Flatliners
Cavalcade
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 04.13
The Flatliners = Thought Riot + Youth Brigade + Against Me!
Every now and then, I hear a record that reminds me just what punk rock is capable of. The amount of creativity and high-level energy that can be pulled out of a band when they are really hitting their stride is astounding. Just such an event has been documented here on the Flatliners’ newest, Cavalcade. Gang chorus vocals intermixed with gravel-throated lead singing bring charm and character to each track. Aggressive yet thoughtful progressions run through the entire record. Lyrically, Cavalcade gives a bleak outlook of the world while remaining colorful and entertaining. “This morning crawls, my motivation’s been snowed in and I finally caught that glimpse of the edge I’ve been avoiding.” A few lines of “Carry the Banner” display just one of many of what I would call anti-anthems on this record that the Flatliners have perfected. Just when punk rock couldn’t get more stale and boring, a record that preserves a band’s youthful antagonistic approach, but also displays a band that has gained a veteran’s perspective while touring this country the last three years, comes along and changes the game. –James Orme

The Gaslight Anthem
American Slang
Street: 06.15
SideOneDummy
The Gaslight Anthem = Against Me! + The Replacements + The Loved Ones
Don’t misunderstand what you’re about to read, because I mean it in the best possible way: Your dad will love this album. Building (a little bit, at least) on the punk-meets-classic-rock formula they mastered on The 59 Sound, The Gaslight Anthem return with an album that is even more indebted to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Seger and a bunch of other people you probably didn’t give a shit about until you heard TGA. At a few points, American Slang retains the speed and energy of previous Gaslight outings (particularly on “Stay Lucky” and “Orphans”), but this album primarily showcases vocalist Brian Fallon’s ability to craft stories over slower, more sparse arrangements like in “Bring It On” and “The Queen of Lower Chelsea.” However, a lot of the album (at only 10 songs) just doesn’t have the punch and pull that made The ‘59 Sound such an appealing and enjoyable album. This isn’t the earth-shattering, mind-blowing follow-up many may have been hoping for, but it shows definite progression for The Gaslight Anthem.  –Ricky Vigil

The Ghost Inside
Returners
Mediaskare Records
Street: 06.08
The Ghost Inside = Avenged Sevenfold + Arma Gathas + speed
I’ve heard that there are only three options for every band in the world, but I don’t believe it.  There are actually only two-and-a-half options:  1) Work hard to blend in with other bands in an effort to inherit a portion of a genre-driven fan base.  2) Be groundbreaking.  2.5) Pretend to be groundbreaking.  In an effort to be a slightly faster, more interesting version of Arma Gathas, The Ghost Inside have chosen option number 1, with the release of Returners.  The last 30 seconds of “Overlooked” is ripe with big guitar bends and some welcome pauses between palm-muted riffing, and as a result it shouldn’t be overlooked.  And how do all of these metal bands have such solid, but similar drummers?  Maybe they all use the same guy... For the most part, Returners is another over-produced release by another indistinguishable metal band. –Andrew Roy

Gift Horse
Mountain of Youth
Self-released
Street: 05.04
Gift Horse = The Breeders + Low + Autolux
Never overlook a Gift Horse album in the months after you read this review, especially if you’re judging an album by its cover.  Don’t be fooled by the italic font and child’s face on the cover––this is not an inspirational Christian program’s fundraiser album for children.  This is a resonant, less-is-more shoegaze experience.  The album opener, “Not the Only One,” has simple, eerie instrumentation as a perfect backdrop for Hunter Morris’ unassuming vocal, and is the strongest song on the album.  “Missionaries” sounds like a reverb-ridden B-side on Pinkerton, with its pop melody and upbeat but droning tempo.  A lot of the tracks would benefit from just a bit of trimming-of-the-fat, since the back-and-forth between two sections can get distracting, but this is just a small red dot on the cashmere sweater that is Mountain of Youth. –Andrew Roy

Griftegård
Solemn. Sacred. Severe
Van Records
Street: 05.25
Griftegard = Candlemass + Solitude Aeturnus + My Dying Bride + Isole
The Mass of doom is in session with Griftegård’s debut full-length, Solemn. Sacred. Severe. Listening to this record is like going to the most gloomy and religiously contradictory or questioning church ever. Unlike some Masses, though, this Swedish band’s sermon won’t bore you to death with uninspired songs; no, this shit is epic as epic gets. Slow grooves populate the album that never really moves quite past a snail’s pace"it’s slow, depressingly slow, bordering on funeral doom. Griftegård is like spinning a Candlemass record on a slower speed. The riffing washes over listeners in waves of sonic despair. If you’re looking for gloom and doom that is more disheartening than the norm of doom metal bands yet a touch above the massive downward qualities of funeral doom metal, Solemn. Sacred. Severe bridges that so-small gap and you’ll never be so delighted to be depressed. -Bryer Wharton

Hacavitz
Metzli Obscura
Moribund
Street: 06.22
Hacavitz = Morbid Angel + Impiety + Blasphemy + Absu
It played much to my extreme metal excitement to hear that Mexico’s Hacavitz have unleashed their third album upon my death metal-loving ears. That excitement was initially drowned out by a fairly large stylistic change, an addition of some black n’ thrash to the band’s usual lower-end guitar riffing and slower, more steamroller-styled blastbeats. Well, the disappointment was just an initial thought, because once the album got rolling, things started smashing into my skull, like the band’s mighty, super-sped-up swirling and awe-inspiring blastbeats surrounding the off-melodic black metal-styled guitar riffing mixed with a raucously fast-rumbling death-metal punch. Metzli Obscura acts as if lightning struck this two-piece band and turned their normally pummeling death-metal efforts into hellish, speed-driven songs with their only purpose to cause insane neck damage with the added speed and raw brutality within the instigation of the new style. -Bryer Wharton

HEALTH
Disco2
Lovepump United
Street: 06.22
HEALTH  = (Goteki + New Order) x (Fischerspooner + Freeland)
Cool, funky grooves and dark yet strangely uplifting island beats punctuate this album, featuring songs from the band’s 2009 GET COLOR, remixed by electronica gurus Small Black, Tobacco, Crystal Castles, Gold Panda and others. The standout opener, “USA Boys (CFCF RMX),” produced by Alan Moulder (U2, Depeche Mode, NIN) is a quiet explosion of glitchy electronica that would be killer on a dark noise dance floor. The rest of the CD is a gorgeous compilation of relaxing chill-out lounge—a solid repast of filthy, languid grooves delivered in bored new-wave tones like Annie Lennox on tranqs. “Severin (Small Black Rmx)” recapitulates the Tom Tom Club in all its dance-crazy glory, while “Before Tigers (Blindoldfreak rmx)” brings to mind some of Laurie Anderson’s minimalist experiments. Listen to this at 4 a.m. with a glass of red after clubbing all night with beautiful people. –Madelyn Boudreaux

The Henry Clay People
Somewhere on the Golden Coast
TBD Records
Street: 06.08
The Henry Clay People = The Hold Steady + Free Energy + The Replacements
Somewhere on the Golden Coast transplants the blue-collar, ne’er-do-well, PBR-guzzling slacker anthems of Midwestern bar rock to the nihilistic epicenter of hipsterism, L.A. Loud, dumb guitar riffs are played over the ever-present major chord-ascending solo while lead singer Joey Siara does his best Craig Finn talk-sing impression. Lyrics don’t stray far from the topics du jour of their influences: getting drunk, being poor, Saturday night ragers, etc. Aside from losing originality points, Somewhere on the Golden Coast is loose, fast and fun, with a “recorded live” production level that sounds fantastic. The immediacy and swagger of the album gets diminishing returns upon further listening, but the first time hearing that throat-tightening, fist-pounding chorus on nearly every track makes it clear that The Henry Clay People listen to the right stuff and know to recreate it on wax. –Ryan Hall

The Hold Steady
Heaven is Whenever
Vagrant
Street 05.04
The Hold Steady = Springsteen + Cheap Trick + Minneapolis
God, this is a great album.  It is certainly a transitional piece, as band members float between a few different cities these days and as the departure of longtime HS piano/accordion man Franz Nicolay has lead to a more 1970s guitar-heavy rock sound.  The music is far more expansive and layered than earlier albums.  It sounds more like 2005’s Separation Sunday than it does either of the other two more recent albums, and I, for one, couldn’t be more delighted.  Much of the reviews I’ve seen have been disparaging, but I don’t understand why.  Lyricist and singer Craig Finn seems a little further removed from the youthful, nostalgic and transgression-laden scenes that he describes, but that perfectly reflects the band’s current reality.  And where it would be easy to focus on the album as if it were a destination, and to say that it had fallen short, the songs all seem to point to Heaven is Whenever as being more of a journey.  It focuses on the illumination that comes with the responsibilities and realities of growing up.  It focuses on finding heaven in everyday situations and conversations.  And it does it by recounting stories of breaking up with waitresses, listening to records, working through problems and talking to reformed skinheads about Hare Krishna.  And where some might not find what they want to hear, they will find the truth.  And the truth sounds pretty good.  –James Bennett

Hollowpoints
Old Haunts on the Horizon
Sailors Grave
Street: 05.11
The Hollowpoints = One Man Army + the Unseen + Social Distortion
The first time I laid ears on the Hollowpoints, I was downtown waiting around to see one of Duane Peter’s (U.S Bombs) bands—I can’t remember which one—and opening the show that night was this band I had never heard of and as their set got going, only half a dozen people had showed up so far. They played as if the place was packed. Their set took so many interesting turns into folk and rock n’ roll and back to hard-as-nails punk, that I can’t say I’ve ever been more impressed by a band I’d never heard of. Now, after a couple releases and many tours under their belt, the Hollowpoints hit us with a new record that shows polish and maturity. A commentary on regular life, the faceless masses, the drudgery of work and the escape of alcohol are themes running through this record that anyone living with even a touch of dissatisfaction can relate to. This Seattle-based quartet have put together 12 punk-rock tracks that make the hairs on my neck stand up, and blasting these songs as I drive to work helps me get through another day. These boys live it, and tour constantly, so look out for them playing here soon. –James Orme

Hooded Menace
Never Cross the Dead
Profound Lore
Street: 03.30
Hooded Menace = Coffins + Asunder + Acid Witch
Do you enjoy your guitar riffs slowly churning heavy on the bass and drenched in horrific themes? Finland’s Hooded Menace delivers the death/doom goods on their follow-up to their damned awesome debut album, Fulfill the Curse. The songs never move past a sloth’s pace; there are some jamming-type groove moments that do occur and they plain and simple just friggin rock. The album surpasses the band’s debut in accessibility and just flat-out more enjoyable songwriting that has enough doom/stoner-type elements with groove and acidic guitar melodies to make repeated listens quite enthusiastically welcome. The band’s very name, Hooded Menace, perfectly fits the imagery of what is displayed on this record; something cloaked in darkness stalking the innocent, and when it reaches said victim (the listener), they wail on you with a two-by-four, never breaking the skin, just bruising the hell out of your cranium with their monstrous riffing and molasses-thickened death growling. There is really no going wrong with this record. -Bryer Wharton

I Shalt Become
Poison
Moribund
Street: 06.22
I Shalt Become = Xasthur + Velvet Cacoon + a black symphony
With I Shalt Become’s fifth full-length album, Poison, the mastermind behind it all, S. Holliman, has in a way reinvented his core sound with a renewed multi-dimensional passion. Poison very much feels like one piece of music undergoing some metamorphoses as it meanders along a weary, dim-lit path, split into 10 tracks clocking in at just over 55 minutes. ISB has always been highly atmospheric and ethereal, painting a distorted, dark composition and Poison is magnificently black yet also brilliantly beautiful. The distorted layered and echoing guitar sounds take a back seat to the orchestration of the album, which can easily compete with compositions of classic symphony composers. The record’s ability to haunt and enchant is a valuable commodity and makes for an album full of dreary depths with layered and textured sounds that will easily have cynics saying that ISB is one-dimensional pulling their feet out of their mouth. -Bryer Wharton

Khoma
A Final Storm
Selective Notes
Street: 04.09
Khoma = Callisto + The Cure + The Ocean
Khoma are an anomaly in today’s heavy music. These Swedish fellows actually make artistic, heavy, original music without falling into the trap of growled vocals and chugging arpeggios. The band consists of three members: pop vocalist Jan Jämte and guitar players Fredrik Kihlberg and Johannes Persson from one of the better post-metal bands around, Cult of Luna. The diverse heaviness of the music mixed with the clean, soaring vocals is a match made in heaven, and overall, the band has made improvements from the previous album, The Second Wave. One drawback that still remains, though, is that Jan Jämte’s vocals become a bit monotonous and repetitive throughout the album. Come, Jan, mix it up. -Jon Robertson

Kings of Nuthin’
Old Habits Die Hard
Sailors Grave
Street: 05.11
Kings of Nuthin’ = Little Richard + the Ramones + Bill Haley and the Comets + Angelic Upstarts
“Out of time, out of luck, out of tune and drunk as fuck? is a fitting battle cry for the originators of the punk rock-rhythm and booze. An eight-piece band playing rhythm and blues with punk rock aggression and infusing it all with working-class themes"there is only one band in the entire world that plays music like this. The Kings are musical outlaws notorious for on- and offstage antics; they’ve been banned from clubs and bars in this country and abroad, been arrested, and even stolen a piano or two, and through it all, they’ve managed to keep creating fantastic record after fantastic record. Old Habits Die Hard delivers in every way; it is 18 tunes of heartbreak, hardship and loss, set to a wildfire arrangement of saxophones, standup bass, piano and guitar. Representing the vocal aspect of this maniacal crew stands Torr Skroog, with a voice that reminds me of cinderblocks being smashed by a sledgehammer. The Kings of Nuthin’ are a force to be reckoned with, and if they have anything to say about it, these old habits will become your new ones. -James Orme

Kivimetsan Druidi
Betrayal, Justice, Revenge
Century Media
Street: 05.04
Kivimetsan Druidi = Turisas + Tristania + Nightwish + Ensiferum
I really wanted to like this record from the Finnish band Kivimetsan Druidi. I tried and I tried, really, but it’s almost as if some of its successes wind up being part of its downfall as an album. The band plays a nice eclectic mix of folk, symphonic and gothic metal. There are lots of keyboards playing against heavy folk and gothic guitar-riffing, even some thrashing moments thrown in for good measure. There’s also the standard juxtaposition of operatic female vocals to snarled, rough male vocals. It’s a fairly ambitious album to contain a various mix of styles and at times, it works, it really works, and but those moments can be overshadowed by some generic, rather dull-sounding tracks that leave more to be desired than what’s going on. Flaws noted, it’s still a fairly solid effort that listeners of the genre can enjoy; they just might find themselves skipping through some of the tracks. -Bryer Wharton

Masaoka/Chen/Grusel/Nagai
Self-titled
Resipiscient Records
Street: 01.2010
Masaoka/Chen/Gusel/Nagai = John Cage x Nurse With Wound
A decidedly avant garde album, signaled by the studious 60s, electronic music style and throwback cover art. If electro-acoustic or musique concrete mean more than just stylistic reference points, than this music is worth your investigation. Think noise for grownups minus harsher electronics. A traditional Japanese instrument, the shamisen, is played, along with plucked & bowed violincelllo, handmade electronics, & a laser kimono (?!). Not only are Kenta Nigai, Audrey Chen, Hans Grusel, & Miya Masaoka good at their respective instruments, among others they play, but they may be the only people to play at least some of these unique instruments. Warmly recorded live at Baltimore’s High Zero festival, these are sound scientists in their lab, splayed out, in bright light, testing, experimenting, and crafting a unique audio sculpture. -Davey Parish

MGMT
Congratulations
Columbia
Street: 04.13
MGMT= Avi Buffalo + Of Montreal
Nothing on this album is going to get as much radio time as “Kids,” which makes me unspeakably happy. If I hear that fucking keyboard intro again, there will be hell to pay. Honestly, if you heard “Electric Feel” on X96 and decided that this was your new favorite band, you are going to be disappointed. Think less “Time To Pretend” and more “4th Dimensional Transitional.” It’s an OK album, though they really decided to explore the whole 60s psychedelic thing. However, if you are into the 60s psychedelic thing, you are probably not going to MGMT to get it (it would be like going to Pizza Hut for Italian food). –Cody Hudson

Michael Hurley/Ida
“Ida Con Snockâ€Â?
Gnomonsong Recordings
Street: 10.06.09
Michael Hurley/IDA = Mississippi John Hurt + Cowboy Junkies
With a voice smooth as maple syrup on hobo camp flapjacks, Michael Hurley croons on numbers new and old, over his new album, Ida Con Snock. This man is a treasure of lost musical styles, warbling over quiet, sophisticated back country rambling by—gasp—NYC’s IDA. They weave purdy textures like a grandma blanket, wrapping Michael’s songs and covers even further into cozy comfort. The ladies of the group also croon along softly in “Wildgeesesâ€Â? amidst the drone of harmonium & violin, Mr. Hurley offering up a unique yodel to the sky. The happy song + sad lyric equation is demonstrated nicely in “The Valley of Tears,â€Â? featuring trumpet, though none is listed in the credits. I believe it is just Michael Hurley, aping one with flexed lips, possibly tasting of sweet wine. Oil drumfire pit not included. –Davey Parish

Minus the Bear
Omni
Dangerbird
Street: 05.05
Minus The Bear = Bay City Rollers + Pinback
Let me just start off by saying that I have always been a fan of Minus the Bear. Their first four releases were amazing, especially They Make Beer Commercials Like This. But with their two most recent releases, they sure have been blatantly dropping their pants in public and declaring their ineptitude. I can see why longtime keyboardist and fancy-pants producer Matt Bayles left the group after Menos el Oso: he realized that frontman Jake Snyder had become severely addicted to Viagra and now his only goal in life was to sing creepy love songs about bonin’. The next time you go over to your parent’s house and you can’t find them, but you hear something in the background that vaguely sounds like MtB mixed with pervert disco, leave immediately, because chances are, your folks have Omni on in the background as the soundtrack to your new younger sibling’s conception. Bad news. –Jon Robertson

Miracle Condition
Self-titled
Tizona Records
Street: 02.16
Miracle Condition = Caspian + Explosions in the Sky + ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
The debut from Miracle Condition features epic sheets of guitar over cacophonous drums and a tempo, sometimes devastating, like a slow-motion knockout punch, and other times bristling with industrious tension"on par at least with a whole load of recent post rock. Miracle condition is three guys but can sound like an orchestra, and they’re at their best when the music is lush with reverb. On the minority of tracks where vocals are present, adherence to traditional structures hurts rather than helps the songs. Erratic, improvisational and sometimes atonal, the moments of build are what are best here. Like you wait the whole song for that one release. “Alphaspectra Rising? is the best of these, an eight-minute long suite of layered guitar and dissonant melodies. Other times, the drone overwhelms everything else and the music is suited for floating on your back in motor oil. Miracle Condition should stick to the complicated arrangements and stay away from unnecessary vocals in the future, but overall, a solid release. -Rio Connelly

Moonlit Sailor
So Close to Life
Deep Elm Records
Street: 11.17.09
Moonlit Sailor = Explosions in the Sky + Slow Six + (additional post rock band)
It’s almost ridiculous how much good post rock is coming out these days. By saying “post rock,? I mean anything that has sweeping progressions, layered instrumentation, little-to-no-vocals, climactic finishes, and complex patterns. This foursome out of Sweden is an excellent young example of what collaborative energy can do with simple melodies. This record listens like a soundtrack in the best ways. Quiet, contemplative piano, lush cymbals and the occasional gunshot burst of distorted riffage all have moods of their own. This isn’t anything we haven’t heard before, especially for fans of Explosions in the Sky, but the fact that it is so consistently awesome is unique. Lots of bands get close; this band makes it look easy. This is the kind of record I like to give to someone who’s never heard this type of stuff before, because I know they’ll like it anyway. It’s also a great record to throw in your headphones and go for a long walk or bike ride or simply enjoy alone in your room with a lit candle. -Rio Connelly

Necronomicon
The Return of the Witch
Napalm Records
Street: 06.08
Necronomicon = Old Man’s Child + Blood Red Throne + Fleshgod Apocalypse
Napalm Records isn’t really known for a weighty list of death metal bands, but whoever chose to sign damn Necronomicon is a wise person. I had zero expectations going into this album and was blown away by its straight-up death metal brutality, awesomely heavy production value and unique dynamic that utilizes a minimal yet effective amount of keyboards and female vocals. The horror/death theme plays out not only in the band’s name, Necronomicon (a book talked about in famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft’s stories) but in the sheer weight and darkly epic sound that Necronomicon embodies. It just feels nicely evil and has some downright scary undertones. The changeup with the album’s pacing also helps with repeated listens, ranging from almost down-, to mid-, to blazing fast tempos. With great death-metal variance, thrilling guitar performances and bluntly brutal songs, The Return of the Witch is a worthy album to have in any death metal fan’s collection. –Bryer Wharton

The New Pornographers
Together
Matador
Street: 05.04
The New Pornographers = Immaculate Machine + Tilly and The Wall
Well, it is not nearly the masterpiece Twin Cinema was, but rest assured, it is not nearly as boring as Challengers, either. The New Photographers seemed to have abandoned the idea of not making sunshine pop music. The smiles are there, and the choruses are hard to get rid of. A.C. Newman can write a hook better than most, and Neko Case sounds great. It is a pretty epic album. Considering that the three anchors of the band—Dan Bejar (Destroyer), Neko Case, and A.C. Newman—have all done well in their solo careers, it is impressive that this band can still get together and create something this good, as opposed to a self-indulgent fap fest. The songs are sounding a little lush, but they aren’t overextending their reach just yet. The Neko-heavy songs like “Crash Years” sound amazing, and Bejar’s songs provide a nice contrast to Newman’s melodramatic pieces.  If you are too optimistic about this release, you might be underwhelmed, but enter it with no expectations and you will certainly enjoy it.– Cody Hudson

Off With Their Heads
In Desolation
Epitaph
Street: 06.08
Off With Their Heads = Dillinger Four + Screeching Weasel + Rivethead
Oh, Epitaph Records, I just can’t stay mad at you. I know you’ve been going through a weird phase over the past few years and replaced most of the punk bands on your roster with haircut-core trendsetters, but I’m willing to forget that. You signed the world’s most depressing pop-punk band, Off With Their Heads, and that’s the only thing that matters now. Vocalist Ryan Young’s lyrics sound like a manic-depressive’s therapy sessions delivered over bass-heavy, bubblegum-and-beer Midwestern punk rock, and that’s what makes OWTH so great. “Drive” and “Their Own Medicine” are typically solid happy-dark OWTH tunes, but the best moments are when the tempo slows and the band holds back the hate a bit, as on “My Episodes” and “Clear the Air.”  Whether you’re in an alcohol-induced shame spiral or simply think the world is bleak and heartless, In Desolation has plenty for you to latch onto. –Ricky Vigil

Thee Oh Sees
Warm Slime
In the Red
Street: 05.11
Thee Oh Sees = Coachwhips + The Fresh and Onlys
Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer puts out so many fucking releases, it is surprising that a great deal of them don’t border on awful. Warm Slime is fucking great, though. The opening (title) track is over 13 minutes, and while I usually feel that rock songs over six minutes are self-indulgent, hippy-bullshit album filler, this isn’t. It sort of plays like four separate songs, and each is pretty engaging. The album is pretty fucking visceral, and even when it slows down (“Flash Bats”) or gets poppy (“I Was Denied”), it stays interesting. It’s at least as good as Help. –Cody Hudson

Passion Pit
Manners: Deluxe Edition
French Kiss Records
Street: 04.13
Passion Pit = Miley Cyrus + LCD Soundsystem
I think I have had this entire album stuck in my head for a year now. When it came out (last June) it wasn’t received quite as well as it should have been; it took people a minute to catch on. It’s caught on, though"even Miley Cyrus is ripping off the catchy synth lines (the chorus of “Party In The U.S.A.?). The main additions to this deluxe edition are the “Stripped Down? versions of “Moth Wings? and “Sleepyhead? and the cover of The Cranberries “Dream? (since The Cranberries are fucking awful, it goes without saying that this version is better). The “Stripped Down? versions are so pretty and intimate, it’s almost hard to believe they are dance songs. -Cody Hudson

Pro-Pain
Absolute Power
AFM
Street: 05.11
Pro-Pain = Crumsuckers + Pantera + Agnostic Front
The well-oiled machine that is NYC’s Pro-Pain rages on still in heavy thrash, groove and hardcore territory. Yeah the sound is familiar and hasn’t morphed much since the band began, but there is always solidity in consistency. It feels like the band has released a record every year since 1998. While not quite true, it’s actually pretty damn close. Absolute Power, while dishing out the same old fast, thrash-n’-groove-em'-up tunes that Pro-Pain has come to be known for, I’ll be damned if the set of songs on the record aren’t catchy as usual for Pro-Pain. I’ve come to realize the band knows how to dish out one tasty-meaty riff after another and the catchiness lies mostly in the songs’ choruses. The only thing that’s fairly stagnant but forgivably acceptable is the guitar soloing. Basically, if you enjoy any album Pro-Pain has released, you’re going to like Absolute Power. -Bryer Wharton

Prosanctus Inferni
Pandemonic Uluations of Vesperic Palpitation
Hells Headbangers
Street: 06.23
Prosanctus Inferni = Profanatica + Conqueror + Black Funeral + Archgoat
Do you enjoy your black metal with tinges of blood-curdling death metal culminating in an album of sheer violent force that pounds its message in your skull like a sledgehammer? Look no further than this debut full-length from Prosanctus Inferni, which also serves as homage to Antischristus, the band’s late drummer’s last recorded work with the band. It’s a shame, because his deviously blasting drum beatings propel the viscerally raw and distorted, swirling, chaotic guitar work into the realm of devilishly fast sonic violence. Pandemonic Ulations don’t make any exceptions to give any sort of atmospheric or niceness to their songs; it’s just pure wickedness, with various guitar tones and playing styles, giving the album that extra oomph to stay memorable long after you’ve heard it. US black metal fans that enjoy the extra punch of death with their black metal, revisiting glories of bands like Conqueror and Slaughter (Can), will have no problem stomping their boots to the insane semblances of rhythm that this debut offers. -Bryer Wharton

Public Radio
Sweetchild
Deep Elm Records
Street: 04.13
Public Radio = Corporate Radio Top 10
To be quick and to the point, Public Radio, better suited Corporate Radio, is the kind of music I try to avoid—not only for my sanity, but so as not to encourage the continued production of such awful behavior. Cheesy, generic lyrics (ironically about not becoming generic) dramatized with extended repeats and crescendos as they yell, “Yes, sing it,” as if we would really want “the whining of life” to be amplified by a crowd. Attempting to see a positive in this album, I tried blocking out the lyrics to focus simply on the music. I suppose potential is a good word to use to describe it, but I have yet to find a good way to shock life into the growing population of mindless musician zombies. –Jessica Davis

Sage Francis
LI(F)E
Anti -
Street: 03.10
Sage Francisis = Bob Dylan + Buck 65
Hip-hop with a folksy twist to it? I’ll take it. Sage Francis dug deep, did some research and brought a banger to the table. Not since “Hurricane” have I been this interested in researching a song.  “Little Houdini” is the story of Christopher Daniel Gay, the multi-prison escapee. It’s a banger. Gettin’ open over a sunny day is the heavenly beat in “I Was Zero Keeps it Rollin’”. Every beat on this album is so far from the last that you really can’t help but get sucked into the storyline, from “Slowman” sounding like a chain-gang beat to “The Baby Stays” sounding real down south. “London Bridge” for some reason reminds me of Boston; think I’m nuts? Listen to it. The ender track, “The Best of Times,” is slow rolling, a nice and easy exit. –Jemie Sprankle

Salem
Playing God and other Short Stories
Pulverised Records
Street: 05.25
Salem = Atrocity + Orphaned Land + Kittie
Salem has a long history; hell, they’ve been around since 1985 and are considered one of the first extreme metal bands to come from Israel. They’ve probably had a hard go at things using Jewish themes in their music in and during times when utilizing any religious themes in a harsh-toned metal band is a hard move to do. So I openly admit respect for the band sticking to their guns and continuing with what they do. Unfortunately, Playing God and other Short Stories runs into the ballpark of “what the hell was the band thinking when they wrote and recorded these songs?? I wish I could say the atrociously triggered drum sounds were the only album-ruining factor in this mishmash of gothic, folk and death metal. But no, the clickety-clack drumming also suffers from some horrible, single-toned guitar riffing that actually makes some nü-metal bands sound diverse. Salem, I truly hope this is just a bump in the road for you and after this record, you definitely get a new production team and focus on the other styles that previously made you stand out. -Bryer Wharton

Salvador
Cleansed Through Fire & Blood
Self-released
Street: 11.13.09
Salvador = Mastodon + Sleep + High on Fire
I highly admire and respect the DIY ethic of Portland, Oregon’s Salvador. Even though this EP has been out for a good seven months, they still sent SLUG their full-on 10? vinyl release of Cleansed Through Fire & Blood. Yeah, it’s fishing for more press, but still, they could’ve just tried to schlep a digital download, but thankfully, I got to listen to the full vinyl-spinning, stoner-sludge-groove grittiness that is this EP. Salvador aren’t out to re-invent the notion of stoner or sludge metal and that’s not the intended point here; it’s intent is just to satisfy lurkers and worshipers of the groove church and the three tracks delivered here provide those grooves and complexities that give repeated listens only more satisfaction and desire for more"exactly what an EP should do. -Bryer Wharton

Secret Cities
Pink Graffiti
Western Vinyl
Street: 06.08
Secret Cities = The Beach Boys on the DL
I just knew when I looked at the cover of Secret Cities’ debut that I would love it.  Proudly wearing their love of Beach Boy Brian Wilson on their sleeves, band camp compadres MJ Parker and Alex Abnos, alongside drummer Charlie Gokey, have created an experimental and wildly inventive sound that is more akin to the idea of Wilson and his influence than merely a tribute to him.  Album opener “Pink City,” with its buried instruments and distorted vocals, is atypical of the disc’s sound, but that’s what’s so great about it.  It’s almost like “Good Vibrations” at 50,000 leagues under sea level.  The charming whistling of “Boyfriends” (which actually name checks Wilson) leads itself to one of the trio’s other strengths: their grand melodies. There are two tracks with the album’s title—“Part 1” and “Part 2,” respectively—with the absolutely glorious latter one dropping first.  Psychedelic electronica swirls around the intriguing lyrics and its haunting chorus.  Part 1 is more straight-up pop-sounding, but no less striking. “Aw Rats” begins with a xylophone and the sound of children playing before giving way to its pretty melody and unintelligibly awesome vocals.  The end literally comes too soon on the otherworldly The End, but since Pink Graffiti is one of those intriguing listens that begs to be repeated, it hardly matters. –Dean O Hillis

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
I Learned the Hard Way
Daptone Records
Street: 04.06
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings = Tina Turner + the JBs
Bold soul sister Sharon Jones returns with her band the Dap Kings and another spectacular album.  The go-go boots are put away for an album of reflection, the perfect rainy day record.  It was recorded at Daptone Records’ House of Soul, with master song-crafting on a warm 8-track.  Since the group’s inception, they have been dedicated practitioners of soul music firmly rooted in the 60s classic era.  They are the only soul revivalists whose music can be confused with the true artifact.  Additionally, their music is so good that their work holds up next to such masters as James Brown or Ike & Tina.  Never derivative, Ms. Jones & the DKs seem to channel this era’s vision into new statements of love’s bitter edge and life’s hard-learning moments amidst sonically rich textures in the tracks “The Game Gets Old” and “I Learned the Hard Way.”  On “Money,” they tackle the problem du jour, in the sound of yesterday, a juxtaposition that makes you realize it was no cakewalk for those that came before us.  They have breathed some much-needed life into a genre (soul) that may have been losing some of its own.  Look out for Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings tearing up the stage at Pioneer Park on August 5, as part of the Twilight Concert Series. –Davey Parish

Sick of It All
Based on a True Story
Street: 04.20
Century Media
Sick of It All = NYHC + H20 + Madball
Over the last 10 years, the reunion tour and the comeback album became a mainstay of the independent genre, from indie rock to hardcore punk. While other bands came back with new material that harkens back to their glory days (Earth Crisis comes to mind) Sick of It All doesn’t have to worry about regaining their cred because they’ve been around for 25 years. They’re all the glory days for them. Based on a True Story has everything you want from a NYHC record—sing-alongs, heavy guitar riffs, punk rock and the ability to envision the mosh pits and stage dives. While this record isn’t going to move to the head of the class in the SOIA catalog, it’s a strong entry, no less. Harkening to their tenure, SOIA covers topics from CBGBs in “A Month of Sundays” about matinee shows, to the false hope of the Obama administration on “Good Cop.” I’m inclined to trust their stance more than most; they’ve been around for every president from Reagan on. That’s hardcore. –Peter Fryer

Stephen Egerton
The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton
Paper + Plastick
Stree: 05.11
Stephen Egerton = All + a bunch of people who weren't in All
As a former Descendent (as well as a former member of SLC's Massacre Guys), Stephen Egerton has immediate cred in my book, but his solo/collaborative album just feels a little bit off"kinda like when The Descendents turned into All. For The Seven Degrees, Egerton recorded all of the instruments on 16 songs of Descendents-y pop punk and recruited 15 guest vocalists to sing over them. The instrumentation is pretty good, but, expectedly, a lot of the vocalists disappoint. Some of these guys (from Rise Against, Alkaline Trio) aren't suited to this kind of music, and some of them (Less Than Jake, Lagwagon), just don't seem to be trying very hard. But there are some pleasant surprises, like the contributions from Bill McShane and Jesse Cole (I've never heard of them, either), plus a rare appearance from Milo Aukerman and solid tracks from two former All vocalists. Buy it if you love The Descendents or All, but don't expect the same from this. -Ricky Vigil

Triptykon
Eparistera Daimones
Century Media
Street: 03.23
Triptykon = Celtic Frost (Monotheist era) + Cathedral + Nachtmystium + Funeral Mist
Switzerland’s Triptykon formed from the ashes of the re-united then disbanded Celtic Frost"since the man Thomas Gabriel Fisher, basically the voice and principle member of Celtic Frost, started Triptykon. It’s also a fairly easy assessment that if you enjoyed the reunion album, Monotheist, from Celtic Frost, you’re going to like this a lot of the same themes from said record played out on Eparistera Daimones. It’s great, heavy, blackened doom metal with forcefully heavy guitar riffing which can be nicely pummeling at times, or just dark and doom-laden. The first three quarters of the album seem to run through the same styles, but it sticks, and Mr. Fisher’s voice is just as ominous and brutal as ever. The last quarter of the album sees some changes, adding a bit of almost progressive and psychedelic themes, like the track “My Pain,? offering calm waters with soothing vocals before the totally heavy-ass, epic, and mighty doom closing"a near-20-minute track called “The Prolonging.? This is one album well worth its purchase price, my metal friends. -Bryer Wharton

Triumfall
Antithesis of All Flesh
Regain Records
Street: 05.18
Triumfall = Dimmu Borgir (early) + Satyricon (early) + Deathspell Omega + Evilfeast + Emperor (early)
Serbian black metal outfit Triumfall offer somewhat of a return to the classic symphonic/atmospheric black metal sound, as well as some new deviances in audio cruelty, all crafted in a way to create a highly memorable listening adventure. It opens with an ominous and brooding intro track that haunts to its very core and gives hints at the beauty and beast of an album to come. The keyboard work is a prevalent factor in Triumfall, but it definitely doesn’t overtake the hefty, face-incinerating tremolo speed or the coldly melodic straightforward guitar riffing that help give each track a clear identity. The album reminds me quite a bit of Dimmu Borgir’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant album mixed with some earlier works of Emperor and Satyricon, with the modern foresight and atmospheric touches of Deathspell Omega culminating in sheer blackened delight. If you hate what some of the bigger names mentioned prior in the review have morphed into and want what made them the powerhouses they are, Antithesis of All Flesh is apt to provide. -Bryer Wharton

Twilight
Monument to Time End
Southern Lord
Street: 05.04
Twilight = Isis + Alcest + Agalloch + Fen + Leviathan
What do you get when you mix some members of elite US black metal bands such as Krieg, Leviathan and Nachtmystium with doom/sludge acts Isis and Minsk and the Atlas Moth? You get the all-star act Twilight, who, as expected, are a fantastic melting pot, with sludgy, weighted-down guitar passages, cerebral and somber melodies, gloriously grim tremolo picking and psychedelic atmospheres. To fully enjoy this record, go into listening to it with an open mind, because while it’s mainly vested and rooted in melancholy, grim-frosted black metal, there is so much else going on track by track, with progressive, slugged droning and crazed, trance-inducing atmospheres, that it’s hard to call Twilight full-on black metal. The band’s name superbly sums up the feelings of Twilight’s music; light fading to complete darkness. If you’re willing to go outside the straight black-metal box, Monument to Time End enraptures the mind and wills weaving and pounding sounds together in a darkened bliss completely unique to Twilight. -Bryer Wharton

Vampires Everywhere!
Lost in the Shadows EP
Century Media
Street: 04.13
Vampires Everywhere! = From Autumn To Ashes + AFI + Underoath + Cobra Starship!
As much as I try to have an absolute disdain for this two-track EP which is a precursor to the LA-based band’s summer debut full-length, I really can’t deny the breakout possibilities this band has. I personally don’t like the pop sensibilities the band display and the screamo aesthetic at all, and the pop/hip-hop-styled, distorted vocals are an atrocious idea, but I’ll be damned if the songs don’t pop and catch and stick in my head. The EP is already being well-marketed"being sold probably for less than 5 bones in every Hot Topic in the country is going to turn folks on real quick. What’s my point amongst my ramblings; if you enjoy pop intermingled with screamo, you will enjoy what Vampires Everywhere! have to offer. Like I said, I have a massive disdain for the styles meeting in the music here, yet the two songs showcased have stuck in my head like a damn tumor. -Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
Good God! Born Again Funk
Numero
Street: 01.26
Good God! Born Again Funk = Bootsy Collins on a Sunday Morning
Oh Lordy! Four simple words describe this; righteous, funky, soulful and obscure. Numero Group strikes again, supplying another brilliant collection similar to 2006’s Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal. This time around, they focus on the bands during the 70s that updated their gospel sound with funk. Some tracks are more captivating than others, but none are forgettable. The collection opens perfectly with T.L. Barret backed with a very moving youth choir on “Like A Ship.? The collection really starts moving on the club-worthy “Packing A Grip? by Golden Echoes, which is followed up with the Stevie Wonder, “Superstition?-like keys on “Pray A Little Longer? by Lucy Rodgers. My personal favorite is Sensational Five Singers with “Coming On Strong Staying Along.? Regardless of your own personal faith, this isn't just gospel, this isn't just funk; this is rapturous, transcendent art that demands attention. Hallelujah! -Courtney Blair

Various Artists
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 2: Soultown. R&B, Funk & Psych Sounds from the Township 1969-1976
Strut
Street: 05.11
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 2 = James Brown + Booker T + Jimmy Smith
Next Stop Soweto Vol. 2 is the sound of rebellion. During the 60s, South Africa was becoming isolated culturally and politically, and leaders did not want “bad” influences from the outside to make their way in, so the doors were closed. The use of English in black music was banned. Rock, soul, or any other form of popular music was discouraged. Of course, imported U.S. music found its way through and was shared at house parties and underground sheebeens (pubs or bars). The music on Next Stop 2 explores the sound that was created during this time period, fusing the traditional and the Westernized. Producing a range of high-quality results: heavy, organ-infused grooves, funky bass lines, distortion, spacey psychedelic guitars, chunky horns and danceable soul rhythms. It’s music with confidence. There’re too many standout moments to list in a 150-word review, but Vol. 2 leaves me excited for the next history lesson in this three-part series. –Courtney Blair

Viernes
Sinister Devices
Kanine
Street: 06.08
Viernes = Chromatic Flights + Memory Tapes
Song titles like “Regressive Soul Pollution? and “Sinister Devices? sound more like metal than glo-fi, but this album is as dreambeat as it gets. The more minimalistic drone songs like “Enhance Pendulum Channel? and “Sinister Love? provide a stark contrast for standout tracks like “Entire Empire? and “Glacial Change of Pace.? The main keyboard line in “Entire Empire? sounds like a glo-fi cover of an old Ratatat song; it is pretty intriguing. The vocals aren’t extremely interesting, but the beats are compelling like Burial without all of the awesome Ray J samples. -Cody Hudson

Warbeast
Krush the Enemy
Housecore Records
Street: 04.27
Warbeast = Rigor Mortis + Gammacide + Tankard + Exhorder
Warbeast easily defy the neo-thrash trend of sounding like a carbon copy of some classic 80s thrash act. The fact is that the majority of Warbeast’s members were thrashing it up in the 80s, notably and quite awesomely is the band’s vocalist, who sang for Rigor Mortis as well, and the band’s guitarist, who played for Gammacide. This album isn’t the shell of thrash metal that it could have been, it’s fantastically played, groove-laden, furious thrash metal that feels like it’s still the mid-80s and thrash remains one serious beast of music to be reckoned with. No backward trips into the past here, just outright well-played thrash that can’t be ignored. Newcomer or old-schooler, there’re plenty of riff goodies and face-melting guitar solos here, all accompanied by a mighty drum performance, enough to please any enlightened thrash-metal connoisseur. -Bryer Wharton

Wuthering Heights
Salt
Sensory Records
Street: 04.27
Wuthering Heights = Dio + Skyclad + Symphony X
Built upon a solid reputation of strong albums, Danish prog/power/folk metal crew Wuthering Heights have nothing but good stuff to offer genre fans with the band’s epic fifth album, Salt. Wuthering Heights successfully blend the multiple styles of prog, power and folk metal into a cohesive album that from the very beginning feels like you set sail on the maritime-themed album in the beginning and take a tumultuous journey that only ends in Armageddon. Songs transition well from upbeat, folk-styled tunes to prog-guitar shred fests to hugely epic, thunderous riffing that echoes throughout wherever the record is being played. Fans of epic metal or anything in the realm of the three genres Wuthering Heights tackle will only find enjoyment from this highly textured, engrossing and fantastic album. -Bryer Wharton