National CD Reviews

Share this:Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0

Against Me!
White Crosses
Street: 06.08
Against Me! = The Gaslight Anthem + The Replacements + Alkaline Trio
For reasons that don’t really make sense to anyone who isn’t a self-righteous 17-year-old, thousands of fans felt betrayed by New Wave, the major-label debut of former anarcho-punk heroes Against Me!. The Butch Vig-produced album expanded the band’s audience greatly, garnering press from Rolling Stone and landing the band an opening spot on the Foo Fighters’ 2008 tour. Three years after New Wave, the band has returned with the even poppier and much catchier White Crosses—and I love it. The band draws influence from the Springsteen-ian school of punk rock that’s all the craze (the intro to “Because of the Shame” sounds exactly like “No Surrender”) and “Ache With Me” sounds like it could’ve been a Replacements’ album closer, but, unlike New Wave, there is some actual new wave going on in “We’re Breaking Up” and “High Pressure Low.” There’s a lot to like on White Crosses (especially with the addition of former Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo), but the standout is “I Was a Teenage Anarchist”: it’s exactly what you think it is, and it’s fucking awesome. (The Rail: 07.27) –Ricky Vigil

Andrew Jackson Jihad / The Gunshy
Split 7”
Silver Sprocket
Street: 05.11
AJJ / GS = Ghost Mice + Off With Their Heads / Leatherface + Filthy Thieving Bastards
Of the myriad of acousti-punk bands spawned in the wake of Against Me!’s early recordings, the only one really worth paying attention to is Andrew Jackson Jihad. The band’s dark and clever lyrics and willingness to expand outside of the sonic trappings of folk-punk make them one of the most interesting and entertaining punk bands out there, and this collaborative split with The Gunshy is a great addition to their catalog. The AJJ-fronted side (every member of both bands plays on every track, switching vocalists on either side) is expectedly awesome, featuring lyrics involving violently disassembling one’s own body (in a Neutral Milk Hotel kind of way) and an extra punch of diversity from The Gunshy. The Gunshy side, featuring gruff vocals over Gainesville-style punk combined with folky instrumentation and horns, is surprisingly good and probably my favorite non-AJJ side of a split featuring AJJ (take that, Apocalypse Meow!). This one will definitely be out of print soon, so snag it up quick. –Ricky Vigil

The Wicked Symphony/Angel of Babylon
Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.04
Avantasia = Edguy + Masterplan + Stratovarius
The official release date of both the Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon vary according to the country, etc., but as far as I’m concerned. the two records are a double album and should be judged together rather than as standalone records. Avantasia, the side project of Edguy’s Tobias Sammet, brings out the big guns as far as guest-appearance vocals and musicians, plenty from Germany’s power-metal elite. This is probably one of the more successful use of guest musicians on an album to accomplish a cohesive, epic and broad depth to the songs. I’m no power-metal junkie, but when it’s done right, power metal can be catchy and fun as hell to listen to. Both these records have some songs that in the future I’ll be skipping past, but the majority of the tunes are grandiose and about as catchy as they come. They explore so many different styles of melodies and heavier guitar riffing, and, with guest vocalists galore, listening to either record on its own or back to back never gets old, just better. – Bryer Wharton

Band of Horses
Infinite Arms
Street: 05.18
Band of Horses = My Morning Jacket + The Beach Boys + Neil Young
Every summer, an album is released that totally captures the vibe of the season. This summer, the album is Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms. I was a bit wary of listening to this record because their past records, while twangy and sugary sweet, always had this underlying tone that kind of put you on suicide watch. This time around, however, they have traded in their melancholy pouty pants for inspirational awesome pants. It seems that all that main member and frontman Ben Bridwell needed was a little brotherly love and collaboration to bring him out of his somber funk. From start to finish, this album is full of Brian Wilson reverbed-out vocal melodies and Kings of Leon-type raw emotion. If you listen to track four, “Blue Beard,” and don’t immediately want to be hanging out on your back porch with a beverage, then you need to move your frigid ass to Antarctica and freeze your balls off in the snow. –Jon Robertson

The Brains
Zombie Nation
Street: 05.11
The Brains = Nekromantix + Demented Are Go + Motörhead
Canadian horrorpunks The Brains are back with another solid, thrashy psychobilly album. Zombie Nation is brutally fast and catchy from start to finish. The requisite weedwacker triple-slap bass and guitar work drifts from being influenced by the classic twang of rockabilly and country-Western to sounding like shrill trailer park metal. Guest vocalists and musicians from psycho staples Mad Sin, Rezurex and the Blood Sucking Zombies from Outer Space do their damnedest to get you whipped into a vicious frenzy, and The Brains finish the album strong with a brilliant cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.” Otherwise, the band falls hard into marketable psychobilly stereotypes by wearing a specific brand of creepers and singing songs about drinking blood. Also, thumbs down on the sexist cover insert featuring tiny-waisted undead pinups.  –Nate Perkins

Brimstone Howl
Singles Collection
Rainy Road Records
Street: 05.18
Brimstone Howl = The Sonics + Howlin’ Wolf + Boston Chinks
If you haven’t dumpstered or five-finger-discounted a cassette player yet, this is the tape that will make you do it. Brimstone Howl, everyone’s favorite garage/blues/punk/gospel/rock n’ roll band, is back with their first cassette and 14th release in five years. This tape is full of rereleased tracks (minus “Red Glare,” which is new), but they’re all absolute classics, and a lot of the records that these songs came from are out of print. BH spits out clever, aching love songs like “Lynne” and “Bad Kisser,” but where the band really shines is in their haunting, apocalyptic, blood-red-moon gospel tunes. “Heat of the Beat,” originally released on Speed! Nebraska Records, is probably the wildest, most fuzzed out, perverse rock n’ roll song ever to be danced to by mod-haired goons in Wayfarers and dirty tennis shoes. –Nate Perkins

Mounds of Ash
Profound Lore
Street: 05.25
Castevet = Enslaved + Voivod + Twilight + Converge
This debut from Brooklyn, NY’s Castevet is a great push in the direction of the largely unexplored territory of post-black metal. Its seven tracks of sheer audible bleakness that stand strong alone or play out quite well as an entire album. An interesting point of contrast—which probably explains the notable freshness in the album’s lack of black-metal regurgitations—is the fact that the trio’s members have been involved in death/grind and even hardcore bands. There are progressive guitar/bass rhythms with swirling and dynamic drumming that goes far beyond the typical blastbeat fare found in the European realm of black metal. The post-metal tendencies of the record are conspicuous not only in the more bleak-than-brutal approach of the album, but in the multi-tuned guitar riffing that echoes and enraptures this album into an audible entity of somber atmospheres almost having an industrial-edged effect. Mounds of Ash is definitely something to mellow out to than get grim with, and deviations from genre standards are always welcome with me. –Bryer Wharton

Rohnert Park
Bridge 9
Street: 06.08
Ceremony = Fucked Up + Government Warning + Western Addiction
Rohnert Park is a big, dark, ugly motherfucker. For a band who claims to be sick of Black Flag (as well as Obama, Buddhism and telephones, among many other things) on the opening track, Ceremony sure doesn’t stray far from the Black Flag formula. Vocalist Ross Farrar sounds like an especially pissed-off version of Keith Morris and the all-encompassing hatred and anger exuded by most of the album (especially on “Sick” and “Open Head”) would fit right in on Damaged. There are even hints of the not-so-good experimental side of Black Flag on the boring “Into the Wayside” trilogy of tracks, though the slowed-down, Stooges-y “The Doldrums” is among the best songs on the album. Even though the majority of Rohnert Park sticks to a simple, loud, fast and angry approach, that’s what makes it such a powerful and amazing album. –Ricky Vigil

Crystal Castles
Self-Titled Fiction
Street: 05.25
Crystal Castles = Sleigh Bells + The Knife
This album is one long car commercial, never approaching the brutality of songs on their first album, like “XXZXXCUZX Me? (the closest it gets is on “Doe Deer?). It doesn’t grind as much as Crystal Castle’s first album, either (also self-titled), and it isn’t nearly as visceral, but overall, it is probably the better album. The more aggressive, nonsensical songs in the first album placed in between pop songs like “Courtship Date? sort of fucked with the continuity (something I didn’t really notice until I listened to this album). Crystal Castles seems more focused on writing decent songs now and it sort of makes the first album seem like a novelty of a bygone era. They still sound like Crystal Castles, but they have refined their sound and trimmed off a bunch of unnecessary shit. I doubt anyone will be disappointed (are there a lot of 8-bit snobs out there?). After the first album came out, I heard it at every house party I went to. This album will probably have a similar fate and I am sort of looking forward to it. – Cody Hudson

Damien Jurado
Saint Bartlett
Secretly Canadian
Street: 05.25
Damien Jurado = Richard Swift + Lambchop + John Prine
Going on 13 years now, Damien Jurado’s slice-of-life tales of small town America and big city despondency have been exquisitely melancholy and often instrumentally stark—most of the time consisting of himself and a guitar and an occasional steady-rocking backing band. Saint Bartlett, however, starts mid-chamber pop orchestral swell with a Phil Spectre-like wall-of-sound production via Richard Swift. While the corners are brightened with gorgeous instrumentation on the doo-wop-sounding “Arkansas” and the noisy “Wallingford,” Jurado’s songwriting and husky voice is still filled with names, proper nouns, and a pervasive sense of world-weary sadness. After more than a decade, his songwriting and compositions have never sounded better. –Ryan Hall
Street: 03.01
True Panther Sounds
Delorean = MGMT + CSS
With a name for an album like Subiza, there’s only one kind of music it can hold, it seems, and these Spaniards have done it. The theme for the island of Ibiza is “party,? and party this synthesized creation does. Your average home DJ rarely has access to albums that can be played through their entirety while maintaining the energy needed to move a crowd. But the blending of vocals on every track with the chest-rocking beats of Subiza can be kept on repeat all night. It does an amazing job of combining the best parts of Oracular Spectacular and the Latin-based accents of CSS into undeniable hooks and en vogue instrumentation (the drums are programmed with what sounds like congas and plenty of maracas). If you’d like people to take off their sweaty shirts at your next dance party, play “Grow.? And thank me later. – JP

Denouncement Pyre
World Cremation
Hells Headbangers
Street: 07.23
Denouncement Pyre = Angelcorpse + Razor Of Occam + Hunters Moon
World Cremation is a welcome bestial sonic entity and abomination to melody for these ears"the Australian band has been releasing EPs and other small releases since 2003, and World Creation marks the band’s debut full-length and in all honesty, it really doesn’t get much better than this. The song-crafting on the record is meticulously done, with a vast amount of pristinely sharp and raw guitars that don’t overly rely on the genre standards of tremolo picking. The drumming, a crucial piece, keeps the tempo of the songs in line, but it’s the vocals, guitars and bass, all handled by Decaylust, that are the album highlight. The guitar tone, raw n’ dirty yet clear, only changes on some leads and soloing, and, along with underlying and highly valuable bass guitars, are the core of this mid- to mostly fast-tempo album with creepy atmospheric moments. All of it cuts through extreme metal mediocrity with supreme and awesomely evil domination. World Cremation demands repeated listens at high volume and is definitely a must-own for 2010. – Bryer Wharton

Diabulus In Musica
Metal Blade
Street: 05.25
Diabulus In Musica = Nightwish + Within Temptation + Theatre of Tragedy
It feels very much like the addition of Spain’s Diabulus in Musica to Metal Blade Records roster and release of their debut album was a reactionary choice to compete with the scene of bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil instead of a full-on love for the band. Diabulus doesn’t lack musicianship talent"there are plenty of moments of fervent blazing and catchy heavy guitar riffing with epic sweeping keyboards and decent but not overly fantastic operatic female vocals and growled male vocals. The gripe with this album lies completely in its execution and lackluster songwriting; there are only a few cuts I’d really want to return to listen to on this album; most of the other tracks are fairly forgettable or sound emotionally forced. Complaints aside, Secrets is worth a listen if you’re big into epic gothic-themed symphonic power metal, because while not perfect, there are far worse bands attempting this style. – Bryer Wharton

Discover America
Future Paths
Lujo Records
Street: 04.27
Discover America = Ben Gibbard + Saves the Day
Would you rather: Walk through dark alleys in the rain, or walk through a park in the afternoon on the first day of spring? If you chose the latter, consider throwing Future Paths onto your MP3 player of choice before you take that walk, because it will certainly contribute to the light-heartedness of your stroll. Honestly, I didn’t want to like this album. Its simplicity and vulnerable vocals had me worried at first (Chris Staples’ voice really is pretty Gibbard-y). But, Staples has put together a diverse batch of catchy songs"from lap steel guitar on the country “Time is a Bird? to the chilled-out hoedown feel of “1979? to the no-frills three-piece indie-band feel of “Force of Proper Wind.? Future Paths is safe eclecticism, and it’s definitely worth checking out. – Andrew Roy

Street: 04.13
Dosh = Pattern is Movement + Art Blakey + Son Lux
Dosh’s angular arrangements and dense, multi-layered instrumentation have always felt a little disjointed from Anticon’s skewed perspective on hip hop. His drum-and-Rhodes-piano compositions seem more informed by jazz great Art Blakey and jazz-prog legends Weather Report than anything remotely hip hop-based. As it is, however, Martin Dosh is a crowning jewel in Anticon’s crown of consistently jaw-dropping music. Tommy picks up where 2008’s Wolves and Wishes leaves off, packing thick layers of multi-tracked percussion (with a newfound muscular low end) beneath sheets of swirling instrumentation via a bevy of collaborators. Tommy’s percussion “swings? slightly more than his minimalist works in the past and opens up several tracks to loose, yet succinct, jam sessions. Andrew Bird’s elegant, vibrato heavy voice on “Number 41? is more than worth the price of admission, and the triumphant “Gare de Lyon? never ceases to send shivers up my spine. – Ryan Hall

Drunken Bastards
Horns of the Wasted
Hells Headbangers
Street: 07.23
Drunken Bastards = Sodom (old) + Barbatos + Kreator (old) + Tankard
Album length and song depth are definitely not what Hungary’s Drunken Bastards are about. The band’s dirty little punk/black/thrash album is over in an instant"it could almost be called an EP, since it clocks in at just less than 20 minutes. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t a thrashing good time in those 20 minutes. Horns of the Wasted is more of those listen-as-a-whole albums that gives off visions of hairy drunken metal dudes falling all over their instruments, yet somehow managing to pull off convincingly fun and shredding tunes. This stuff would definitely beat some asses in a live setting. Snarling and rotten black-metal rasps with punk posturing and attitude and even some harsher thrash-metal roars set the tone for speed, simple yet punishing and mosh pit-fueled guitar chords, all with a monster bass player. Drunken Bastards offer up a bloody and sweaty good time, bringing old-school metal and punk rock attitudes to defile your home stereo and your mother, too, if it had the chance. – Bryer Wharton

Napalm Records
Street: 07.13
Edenbridge = Nightwish + Within Temptation + Edguy
Nightwish, ha! Austria’s Edenbridge’s Solitaire album owns anything Nightwish has done in the last six years. That said, this record is definitely an acquired taste; you have to be at least a bit into symphonic power metal. The guitars on Solitaire have a gargantuan crunch to them and the keyboards bellow and wash over the songs in the epic fashion that they are supposed to. I didn’t quite enjoy Edenbridge’s last record, MyEarthDream, but this monster keeps playing in my head over and over again. Vocalist Sabine Edelsbacher is vastly ranged and full of grandiose and beautiful feeling. She can definitely keep up with the big boys of power metal and then some. The power of Solitaire is as straightforward as it gets, and is a great definition of what symphonic power metal should be"for one, it’s epic as epic can get, it has that larger-than-life fantastical fantasy feel to it. The guitars howl and wallop power-packed riffs, the drumming pounds the constantly morphing tempo into blissful oblivion and the vocals lure listeners in like a siren song. – Bryer Wharton

At Night We Live
Vagrant Records
Street: 05.25
Far = melodic Deftones + newer Chevelle
I wouldn’t want to be in Far’s shoes. Writing the followup to 1998’s underground staple Water & Solutions (has it been that long?) would be stressful. But Jonah Matranga and company are the Far I’ve been hoping for since I learned about their reunion on the slow-building “When I Could See,? demonstrating their ability to create something compelling out of something simple. “The Ghost That Kept On Haunting? has some unexpected spacey intervals and a huge payoff at the end of the song. At Night We Live really has its moments of brilliance, but it also has its moments of audio-camouflage where it blends in with a generic musical landscape comprised of bands they inspired. So while ANWL won’t be the classic that W&S became, Far is on the right track, and if they keep writing music, they’ve got another classic in them. – Andrew Roy

Flying Lotus
Street: 05.04
Flying Lotus = Radiohead + Two Fingers + The Bug
Samples of ominous laughter, ping-pong balls (on “Table Tennis,? featuring Laura Darlington), and Thom Yorke (of Radiohead) make strange bedfellows. Jazz samples and scatting on tracks like “Do The Astral Plane? elevate Cosmogramma to far-out levels⎯shoulders and giant heads above the dubstep community Fly Lo is sometimes discarded into. A track like his collaboration with Yorke makes for an almost perfect balance of starpower and his eventual potential. If you have never heard multiple harmonies and seemingly conflicted time signature combinations, you will probably not know what planet this shit is coming from (hint: Kolob, where god babies mix albums). But you should keep listening a mandatory minimum of five spins"then you’ll begin to grasp all the layers. To people dismissing Flying Lotus for his complexity⎯FUCK YOU, you impatient bastards. – JP

Glitch Mob
Drink The Sea
Glass Air
Street: 05.25
Glitch Mob = Flying Lotus + Massive Attack + I.U.D.
Glitch Mob is everything I really dig about music right now in the evolving world of electronic noise/dance/glitch. It retreads the old with some new technological touches, making music to relax or undulate to. And before I date myself entirely in this ever-shifting world of neo-pop, let me say that this release should hold up for at least a few years. “Between Two Points? featuring Swan is an auto-tuned bit of pure pop, admittedly, but one of the better songs from this album. “Fortune Days? is another standout, hooking symphonic samples to a steady dance beat and some glitchy female vocals. After a moment of reflection, I’d say there isn’t a track on here I dislike at all. – JP

Flower of Disease (re-issue)
Southern Lord
Street: 04.20
Goatsnake = Kyuss + Sleep + Black Sabbath
This is an appropriate reissue from Southern Lord, considering the band’s guitarist, Greg Anderson, runs the label. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess"it doesn’t seem like that long ago that this album was released, but it was 10 years ago. To put it simply, if you already own this album in CD or LP format, you don’t need to stress about snagging the reissue, because it doesn’t offer any bonus goodies or remastered stuff. But if you’re like me and never owned an actual copy of the record, the reissue is well worth the coin. In addition to Anderson on guitars, the vocals from Pete Stahl of Wool and Scream notoriety make Flower of Disease a doom/stoner metal album classic. Stahl’s epic voice propels the graveled and doomed sludged-out riffing of the record to massive heights. Yeah, the band’s influences are easily noted and praised on this record, but this decade-old record is a lesson in doom and stoner excellence for all the new bands on the scene today that are without question influenced by Goatsnake or even bands that Goatsnake influenced. – Bryer Wharton

Godless Rising
Trumpet of Triumph
Street: 05.25
Godless Rising = Vital Remains + Suffocation + Morbid Angel + Death
In terms of death metal, this third offering from Godless Rising is a breath of putrid, blasphemous and glorious air. Trumpet of Triumph is the best the Rhode Island-based band has sounded since they started five years back. This record of death metal excellence can definitely be attributed to new member Toby Knapp of Onward notoriety as well as an established solo artist. Knapp’s intricate, melodic and masterful guitar work is something to behold—not only does it push the boundaries of classic death metal, but it beats the modern death-metal newbies into bloody goo. Then add the heavier-ended, chunkier, death-metal riffing that is not only creative, but also worthy of being dubbed as a one-man demolition crew. Vocalist Jeff Gruslin changes up the standard Cookie Monster death growls into something much more sinister, with lots of scowling and twisted Satanic spewing dynamics that elevate the evil and anti-religious themes of the album to an unmatched level. Trumpet of Triumph is a ripping and refreshing jolt to the death metal scene and a must-own for this spring. –Bryer Wharton

Burial Ground
Street: 06.14
Grave = Entombed (old) + Unleashed + Dismember
For me, blasting Grave is like visiting an old friend; they haven’t changed a whole lot, but they manage to offer up some fresh takes on themselves that keep you well interested and definitely make you want to visit again. This classic old-school Swedish death metal band, born in the late 80s, is mainly the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Ola Lindgren. Throughout the years, the lineup has shifted, but Ola is the constant from the beginning and somehow manages to keep coming up with some sick-ass, ultra-bottom-end, heavy, down-tuned pummeling death-metal riffing. Burial Ground is much like its predecessor, 2008’s Dominion VIII, in the fact that the album transitions from some speedy grooving to blood-dripping, slow, sludge-styled tempos, all with some fairly inspired and howling solos popping in. I never really cared or expected Grave to change their core sound and I’m not making any complaints"it’s still heavy, decisively and thankfully raw, and still sounds more brutal than the majority of modern death-metal acts. – Bryer Wharton

Hooray For Earth
Momo EP
Street: 06.01
Dovecote Records
Hooray For Earth= Here We Go Magic + Jonesin
Half of this EP is very worthwhile⎯the other half is endurable. Overall, it’s a much tighter release than the last thing I heard from Hooray for Earth’s debut self-titled album. If bands can’t hack quality in a full release, they should take a page from Hooray for Earth’s book and cut a tighter EP. Track three, “Get Home,? may also be one of the better songs of the synth-rock genre. Booming drums, tambourine, sing-along backing vocals and really catchy hooks make Momo something worthy of the sound MOMA⎯if such a place exists. This EP has renewed my hope in this Boston four-piece, the ability of bands to progress, and has made me believe that Boston has more potential to come. – JP

Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult
Hells Headbangers
Street: 06.23
Inquisition = Immortal + Bestial Mockery + Burzum
Get it while it’s hot, folks"Columbian-born Inquisition’s debut full-length, Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult, has undergone multiple represses from the label that originally released it"Sylphorium Records. Hells Headbangers is giving this album a more-than-worthy reissue and remaster treatment. The album is now scarier than ever"the mid-tempo, raw, black-metal sound tinged with thrash elements comes in a bit clearer, bass tones are more audible and guitar sounds are sharper. All of it increased in volume and still is as amazing and relevant as it was when it was first released in 1998. Most importantly, the raw elements of the record remain intact. While the playing and song structures are an excellent and unique excursion into darkened black- and thrash-metal realms, it’s the vocals that make this album stand out, with their monotone, eerie screeching, as well as some nice atmospheric audio samples, all giving you that feeling of witnessing some bizarre occult or satanic ritual. – Bryer Wharton

The Blackest Curse
Deathwish Inc.
Street: 05.25
Integrity = Ringworm + Slayer + Living Hell
Integrity has been around. They’ve spawned legions of imitators, admirers and haters. So, nearly 20 years or so into their career, are they still relevant? Or, are they relegated to the annals of bands that get by on legacy alone? With The Blackest Curse, Integrity is still showing them how it’s done. Whereas their prior release on Deathwish, To Die For, was a throwback to Humanity is the Devil, The Blackest Curse finds the band expanding the experimental side of their music. The production quality isn’t slick, which is befitting of such a gritty, dark band, and epic tracks like “Before the VVorld VVas Young” show Integrity’s melodic chops. Never to fear; there’s still plenty of heaviness, screeching guitar solos and Dwid Hellion’s unmistakable vocal work. Tracks like “Simulacra” finally answer the question, “What would it sound like if Dwid sang for Slayer?”  Never toning it down, The Blackest Curse is Integrity through and through. –Peter Fryer

Metal Blade
Street: 06.08
Istapp = Varg + Immortal + Bathory + Darkthrone
Blekinge, the debut full-length from Sweden’s Istapp, is a concept album. The only text accompanying the press for the album was a conceptual story about how the sun is an abomination and Istapp is comprised of warriors to destroy said sun and return earth to a frozen lifeless wasteland; the very same text can be read on the band’s myspace page. Istapp’s tunes on Blekinge are bluntly cold, yet majestically melodic thematically, and musically, it borders on being pagan metal. Frankly, the brand of sounds Istapp display on their debut is a welcome change from the norm of Swedish melodic black metal. Blekinge at time blazes with a cold fervor and dense darkness (the absence of light), and the melodic and clean portions (the sun) give a sense of the theme of the record, as if the band is battling it out between light and dark and the dark is definitely winning. – Bryer Wharton

Ultra Records
Street: 05.11
Kaskade = Armin Van Buuren + Tiësto
With his sixth studio album, Kaskade returns to his trademark of calm, end-of-the-night euphoric house music. While perfectly situated in the field of house—with a nod to trance and electro-house—he has found a unique sound that I’ve yet to hear in any other producer’s work. Check out “Fire In Your Shoes” (feat. Dragonette), and “Don’t Stop Dancing with EDX” (feat. Haley). With each of these 12 tracks, he has created a serene environment with feel-good harmonies woven between simple beats that are oddly captivating. I say oddly, because while this album does achieve what it sets out to do, it’s fairly boring. Most of the songs would do better remixed than on their own. They just need a little juice. But I think that’s something that Kaskade understands because his DJ sets are outstanding and are infinitely more charged than what I’ve heard of his studio work. Oh, and cool trivia: He went to the U and at one point owned Mechanized Records. (Harry O’s: 07.09) –Jessie Wood

Kissin’ Dynamite
Addicted to Metal
Street: 06.15
Kissin’ Dynamite = Wig Wam + Edguy + Accept
Cheesiness in band name and album title aside, this second full-length from Germany’s Kissin’ Dynamite is a bombastic, loud, and just plain fun traditional heavy metal outing. The record does a great job of mixing the heavy punch of big guitars and epic tones of German power metal coupled with straight-up heavy metal posturing and falsetto vocals, plus some classic 80s hair-metal attitude. Addicted to Metal is a great upper type of album, chockful of meaty hooks and catchy choruses that definitely make you feel like you’ve entered some realm where the heavy metal of the 80s never really died, but the sound is also current and modern instead of dated, as some bands attempting this style can be. Fun is definitely the word for these tunes"fans of heavy metal, hard rock or power metal can easily find something to enjoy here. – Bryer Wharton

The Kissing Party
The Hate Album
Street: 10.01.2009
Kissing Party = Blondie + the Cure
The Hate Album is the perfect album title for a band called the Kissing Party. Really, that was enough for me to want to listen to this album. They have mastered the art of 80s-esque instrument pop, smothered in reverb. John Hughes would have made the Kissing Party richer than Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer. “The Heart of it All? is basically the perfect song, mixing Deirdre Sage’s sweet/soft vocals with Ringo Starr-inspired drums that will make you want to jump in place waving your arms side to side like an idiot. There’s a rhythmic hook on “Let’s Face These Times? that will cause car accidents as people passionately tap out the beat on their steering wheels. The songs are all fairly similar, but 13 of the album’s 15 tracks are under or around two minutes, so I can’t get bored. I want the Kissing Party to be famous. – Andrew Roy

Kottonmouth Kings
Long Live The Kings
Suburban Noize
Street: 05.10
KottonMouth Kings = ICP + Crazy Town + Weird Al Yankovic
I praise Jah with the strictest of disciplines. However, I refuse to bow to these clown-ass kings. Funny I should mention clown-ass, because these dudes are now down with ICP"a little Faygo should clear up that cottonmouth in no time. Really though, this album is awful. It is apparent to me that hip hop and anything closely related to it now comes in template form. “Rampage? sounds a lot like a Transplants song, and “Party Girls? sounds a lot like Eddie Muprhy’s “My Girl Likes to Party All the Time.? This album is filled with the same ol’ shit, nothing new: There’s a slew of reefer love songs and another song about how cops give potheads with ridiculous outfits a hard time. “Let’s Do Drugs? is clearly the most thought-through track on the album, but it’s still nothing more then a 3-minute-and-23-second sales pitch for the Taco Bell lifestyle. – Jemie Sprankle

Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions
Street: 07.13
Lantlôs = Alcest + Cult of Luna + Amesoerus + Neurosis
Lantlôs’ sophomore album, .neon, is an exercise of post-metal down-tempo riffing and some blazingly depressive down-tempo black-metal exorcisms. Lantlôs’ vocalist Neige, also of French post-black metal acts Alcest and Amesoerus, is a busy man. Alcest recently released Ecailles de lune back in March, and while both bands have definite comparative points with each other, Lantlôs explores harsher and more depressive tones than the more calming effect of Alcest. .neon is rarely without a distorted guitar tone, and lots of layered guitars as well as amazingly interesting bass guitar intermingle. There are moments of rising and falling crescendos and then there are completely raw moments of fast drumming, much harsher guitar tones and painfully howled vocals that feel like they’re screamed from pure and true agony. If you enjoy Alcest or Amesoerus, this is an easy fit, or if you like your post-metal bleak and blackened, .neon’s range of rich textures and harsh tones darkly serenades in one powerfully short album. –Bryer Wharton

Leng Tch'e
Season of Mist
Street: 06.08
Leng Tch’e = Nasum + Napalm Death + The Red Chord + The Aborted
This isn’t quite the chaotic grindcore of Leng Tche’s ManMadePredator and The Process of Elimination that I remember. Maybe it’s the fact that the band doesn’t contain an original member, but that’s quite all right, just look at Napalm Death. This Belgium-based grindcore crew are definitively modern grindcore. There’s still plenty of chaos blasting forth from the record, but there is also quite of bit of concise, fully thought-out guitar riffs and a few hardcore-type breakdowns that might make grindcore purists run in terror. But it’s called grindcore for a reason, and the breakdowns don’t bother me"they just add to the sledge-hammering style on Hypomaniac. I can’t come out and say this album is 100% fantastic, especially when there are plenty of old-school grind bands still devastating the hell out of shit, as well as mass amounts of newcomers that supremely pummel. But as mentioned before, this is a great album of modern grindcore; the fact that they have some straightforward, hook-styled riffing makes the album a bit more memorable and definitely appeasable to fans of different grind tastes, new and old. – Bryer Wharton

Suicides Don’t Commit Themselves
Static Station
Street: 06.15
Locks = Death From Above 1979 + Battles + The Beta Band
At their best moments, this accomplished duo manages to evoke masters of depth like the Beta Band. The bass lines are droning, thumping, loopy affairs, heavy and chugging like a cracked radiator.  The drums are the best and evoke jazz rhythms played on thick greasy trashcan lids, rich and cacophonous.  However, with lyrics and vocals that make WHY?’s nonsensical ramblings seem perfectly on-key and melodious, I find myself wishing that more of this record was instrumental. The songs are long and some are very repetitive with little that could be thought of as a hook.  Sometimes the words are genuinely disturbing and annoying. However, I plead for listeners to give a second listen.  The work crafted by these two musicians is as dense as a full band and shows an attention to detail that should be noticed.  I’ll consider this an avant-garde experimental record and hope their obvious devotion expresses itself with a little more energy and finesse and a little less indulgence next time around.  “The Sargeant’s Daughter” and “Priest” shine the brightest in this scruffy noise-rock, but if you don’t have the patience to dig, wait for the next release. –Rio Connelly

Maps & Atlases
Perch Patchwork
Street: 06.29
Maps & Atlases = Jimmy Buffet + The Dillinger Escape Plan + Pavement
At long last, Maps & Atlases have finally put out a full-length album. Sweet Jesus must be preparing for his Second Coming and I am sure he will be on his way down once he gets his ears in on this album. Perch Patchwork is one of the more ambitious, creative and engaging albums I have heard in a really long time. The band expands on their two previous EPs and add a bit more of a pop flare. While I miss the more organic, traditional sound from the past, these guys have upgraded themselves from amazing technical musicians to goddamn super geniuses. The thought and execution is right up there with Stephens Hawking’s theories on the universe. Hopefully, everybody will stop creaming their jeans over how good Animal Collective is and ditch those zeros and get with these heroes in Maps & Atlases. These guys are even better live. Check them out at Kilby Court July 11. – Jon Robertson

Blood Like Lemonade
PIAS America
Street: 07.14
Morcheeba = Nicolette + Beth Orton
The premise of Blood Like Lemonade, Morcheeba’s seventh album, is automatically intriguing: the much-welcome return of beloved vocalist Skye Edwards.  After the undeniably great Godfrey brothers (a.k.a. Paul and Ross) parted ways with Edwards (citing musical and personal differences) and after using a succession of guest vocalists—including Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner—this seems a rebirth of the band’s classic sound circa 1996.  And that’s not such a bad thing. “On the roadside/by the wreckage,” Edwards beckons on opening track “Crimson”—his voice as breezy and lovely as ever—and things are off to a nice start. The gorgeous first single, “Even Though,” simply showcases what Morcheeba has always done best: their unique brand of trip-hoppy folk music.  The title track’s lyrics tell the tale of a vampire bounty hunter and really shouldn’t work as a song, but because of the seamless way the brothers weave their sound and beats together (not to mention Edwards’ silky voice) it does.  Murder comes up again in the dinner party-themed (and quite enjoyable) “Recipe for Disaster,” but it is the ballad-ish “I Am The Spring” and the biographical confessions of “Easier Said than Done” that resonate the longest.  –Dean O Hillis

The Mullens
It’s Hard to Imagine
Get Hip
Street: Out now
The Mullens = Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers + Rubinoos + The Lambrettas
Dallas, Texas’s The Mullens have been around for almost 15 years, and they’re still vomiting out brilliant rock n’ roll like they can’t help it. It’s Hard to Imagine kicks you in the teeth in the first minute with tremolo-drenched backup vocals and tambourine deathshakes and doesn’t let you up until you’ve chewed and swallowed all 14 tracks. The Mullens continue the strong Texas punk and garage tradition started in the 60s by bands like The Blue Things and Mouse and the Traps, but songs like “Esmerelda? and “Cellophane? echo the influence of New York glam tunes. The guitar solos are perfect in that soulful Mike Ness sort of way, the vocals feel like they’ve been lifted straight off a Nuggets compilation, and the songwriting is gabba-gabba-hey simple and fun. I just wish they’d done something better with the album art, but I forgive them because this is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. – Nate Perkins

Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions
Street: 07.13
Nàttsòl = Ulver + Enslaved
Swirling tremolo rhythms and melodies, outright black-metal blasting with somber and haunting acoustic guitars: That sums up what Norway’s Nàttsòl have to offer on their debut full-length. Yes, there is quite a large gesture to the sound of the classic Ulver trilogy in the fact that Nàttsòl mixes harsh guitar tones with acoustic, and harsh and clean vocals but it doesn’t have a rehashed feeling; it’s quite fresh. Stemning’s production, crystalline yet raw, helps keep that fresh and new sound to everything. The sound also keeps Stemning in a realm of dense mystical and naturalistic feelings. The atmospheres portrayed here are key to the album, since song titles and lyrics are all in Norwegian. Nàttsòl offer a diverse and starkly haunting listening experience refreshing in sound as far as black metal goes"dishing out healthy doses of classic melodic Norwegian black metal with new takes and simple yet effectively layered, calming or painful atmospheres. – Bryer Wharton

NEU! Vinyl Box
Gröenland Records
Street: 07.27
NEU! = Kraftwerk spawned Krautrock Monster Legends
When Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother left the more psychedelic 1971 version of Kraftwerk to create NEU!, they probably didn’t realize the impact their music would have and continues to make, inspiring such modern acts as Wilco, Radiohead and U2. Their name literally translates to “new,? and their experimental and joyous music was first co-produced and engineered by the late studio maestro Conny Plank (Can, Eurythmics) and resulted in three albums before the duo disbanded in 1975. They regrouped between 1985 and 1986 and recorded an album that they shelved due to their mutual dissatisfaction with the results. Upon Dinger’s death in 2008, Rother gathered the original tapes from these sessions and for the first time, they are being released (as NEU! ’86) in this deluxe boxed vinyl set, the most comprehensive overview of their career thus far. In addition to the first thee albums, the box also contains an unreleased live 12? entitled ’72 non-public test, a 36-page picture book, a NEU! stencil and a download code for digital versions of all the songs and a T-shirt with activation. And what of NEU! ’86, the previously released album? It can be described with only one word: incredible! Experimental and exciting, it is an album made in the 80s that doesn’t quite sound like an 80s album. Dinger’s hypnotic drumming is a highlight of the catchy “Dänzing,? which continues into the equally divine “Crazy.? There is a mash-up of several sounds and voices on “La Bomba (Stop Apartheid World-Wide!)? but behind it all is that deliriously infectious beat. Godfathers of the more modern-termed “ambient? music, Dinger and Rother are equally adept during slower"yet no less intriguing"tracks like “Wave Mother? and the gorgeous “November.? But mainly, NEU! ’86 is about joy, as evidenced on the appropriately titled “Euphoria? and “Good Life.? But it’s on the album’s final track, “KD,? that this is perhaps most relevant: a reprise of Dinger from “La Bomba,? stripped down to just his voice, drumming and minimal backup. – Dean O Hillis

Traditional Failures EP
Kill Of Death
Street: 03.26
NO FRIENDS = Adolescents + Minor Threat + Gorilla Biscuits + Municipal Waste + The 13th Victim + M.D.C.
Municipal Waste’s Tony Foresta has taken his gruff vo-kills from thrash to the raw realm of 80s hardcore. NO FRIENDS’ Traditional Failures EP delivers six fast-as-hell tracks that thump along with driving D-beats and chunky power chord progressions. Yet, even though NO FRIENDS hearken back to the early days of hardcore, they don’t hesitate to throw in some rhythmic pivot points where drummer Richard Minino inserts fierce breakdowns without throwing off a song’s momentum. As far as the trajectory of the EP itself goes, NO FRIENDS has the right approach by throwing down the pounding piss n’ vinegar tracks first. Puts hair on yer chest. Ironically, the more aggressive tracks at the beginning include humble lyrics with cathartic tones, whereas the more musically thought-out songs at the end"with some interesting guitar work"depict trench fights and maniacal control freaks. Traditional Failures thrives in its brevity and sums up the feel of the release with the concluding title track"angst, restlessness, and our relationship with time and speed. – Alexander Ortega

Death Culture
Street: 07.13
Noctiferia = Fear Factory + Meshuggah + Darkane
Slovenia’s Noctiferia have morphed their sound consistently since they began in ’92, but the band is definitely focused on the here and now with Death Culture taking modern metal to new depths. It sadly took me too long to fully immerse myself in this record, catching a few tracks here and there, but when it got my full attention, man, this is about as good as modern metal can get. Death Culture is a healthy breed of groove, industrial and thrash metal with an astounding production sound. If the thickness and groove of the guitars and massive bass guitar tone seeping through weren’t dense enough, the drumming beats your cranium senseless. Be careful while blasting Death Culture—you crank this through your home or car stereo too loud and you could have a problem. The swirling organic and fast, thunderously heavy drumming and sledgehammer groove of the guitars all wrapped up in bustlingly brilliant industrial atmospheres will not only blow the hell out of your speakers, it’ll make your eardrums bleed. –Bryer Wharton

Nox Aurea
Ascending in Triumph
Napalm Records
Street: 07.13
Nox Aurea = My Dying Bride + Theatre of Tragedy (old) + Swallow the Sun
Damn, this is one gloomy record"it makes me want to go dig a hole, cover it up and sit in it until somebody gives me some Zanex. The guitar leads are so sparse that the down-tempo riffing has a massive bottom end and one huge mood-altering effect. This is the second record from Sweden’s Nox Aurea, and its strength strangely is its weakness"a repetitive nature that makes it hard to stomach in one listen. But that same repetitiveness and drowning sense the record provides gives it the atmosphere that is honestly unique to the sound of the band. The album definitely has the whole “beauty and darkness? vibe, with juxtapositions of harsh growled death vocals and gracefully yet depressively sung female vocals, as well as the peaceful and calming guitar and key effects mixed with soul-crushing, heavy guitar riffing. – Bryer Wharton

Audio-Visual Carnival Fragments
Dine Alone Records
Street: 04.17
Parlovr = Tangiers + Tokyo Police Club + Surf City + Pomegranates
This album is quite the surprise and a small treat with continued listening. The instrumentals are dancey and the vocals/lyrics are quite catchy. The faceless howling singer takes a new step to help you shake your shoulders and swing your hips. Songs like “Sever My Ties? with lines of “what would you say to a dead man with no face?? yelled between upbeat riffs are strangely refreshing. At times, the attempted smooth singing almost makes me want to stop the album, but with a swift push, the scratchy yell is back and the shoulders are swinging again. This will be a band worth investigating further. – Jessica Davis

The Pirate Signal
No Weak Heart Shall Prosper
Street: 08.24
The Pirate Signal = Judgment Night Soundtrack + Sole + Blueprint
On a recent trip to Denver, I noticed The Pirate Signal’s dual-sickle symbol plastered all over the Mile High City. This street-level promotion speaks to the presence that Yonnas Abraham, the raspy-voiced Denver MC, commands across all fronts in the Denver underground. Given the incredibly massive and visceral combination of Abraham’s in-your-face vocal delivery with the even more bombastic reversed-nuclear-explosion rhythm section-meets-shoegaze-guitar work production, it’s no wonder that “the streets is A-R’ing this.? While NWHSP may be hard to take in one sitting for your casual FM radio hip-hop fan, give this album some time and it could reach legendary status among SLC hip-hop phenoms ready to break free from the stranglehold of no-coast hip-hop mediocrity. – Ryan Hall

Randy Thunderbird
How to Talk to Kids about Robots
Bermuda Mohawk Productions
Street: 03.30
Randy Thunderbird = Midtown + The Movielife
This album bums me out so hard. Randy Thunderbird has managed to create something more than just a really dumb band name and goofy album title. They’ve cultivated and reproduced perfectly the sound that pop-punk had from about 1998 to about 2003. Remember what that sounded like? Me, too. It was terrible and boring. This album is Drive-Thru Records worship in its purest form. OK, OK. I’ll try to not be completely negative. Everyone has a little good in them, right? Let’s see. The bass lines are pretty dope. It’s a relatively short album. Uh-huh. Don’t bother. – Nate Perkins

Street: 06.08
Ratatat= Sleigh Bells + Hotchip
Hopefully, we can all agree that LP3 (released in July of 2008) was shit. LP4 is way more interesting than the previous release. Ratatat even got creative enough to use a guttural vocal melody as the bassline in one of the songs (“Neckbrace”) in what I can only assume is a tribute to that Yello song that plays when Ferris Bueller first sees that Ferrari. Ratatat always sounds like Ratatat—they are so easy to identify amongst the mass of instrumental bands out there. They always have a voice (if you will) and it hasn’t sounded this good since Classics. The songs have all become more complex, sacrificing the simplicity but not the pop sensibilities—there is just so much more going on in each of the songs than before. –Cody Hudson

Rhapsody Of Fire
The Frozen Tears Of Angels
Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.11
Rhapsody of Fire = Blind Guardian + Avantasia + Dragonforce + Manowar
Epic is too small of a word to describe this seventh full-length album from Italian symphonic power metal crew Rhapsody of Fire. Epic is becoming an overused word"no, this record is brobdingnagian. The crew that comprises Rhapsody of Fire take most symphonic metal bands to school in terms of scope and depth of music. Not only is there plenty of blazingly fast and intricate guitars that feel very baroque in sonic excess, but the keys and orchestration with The Frozen Tears of Angels are some of the most well done I’ve heard. They give listeners that sense they are witnessing a grandiose metallic operatic symphony. The vocals change up the feelings and atmospheres of the songs from falsetto howling to choir-type singing, as well as some gritty snarls, not to mention spoken word portions by none other than Christopher Lee. Pure and simple: If you don’t mind a bit of heavy metal cheese, this record will get every hair on your body standing on end. – Bryer Wharton

Rockabye Baby!
Lullaby Renditions of Kanye West
Street: 05.2010
Rockabye Baby! = Kanye West + Sandman + Boogie Man
If you’ve ever heard any of the many hit songs off any of Kanye West’s albums and thought, “Well shit, I wish my child could slip in to nighty night land to the sounds of “Jesus Walks,? or “Golddigger,? now you’re in luck: Rockabye Baby! has the lullaby renditions of Kanye West’s top hit songs. They are all there and they sound just like before, only in lullaby form. “Goodlife,? “All Falls Down,? “Stronger? and even “Through The Wire? get a little throwback on there. Really, it’s just Kanye West in lullaby form. I may have never made it through all of 808s and Heartbreak, but I already like this lullaby album more. – Jemie Sprankle

Mad Decent
Street: 05.04
Rusko = Stagga + Diplo + Acid Jacks
A strikingly diverse set of tracks, Rusko’s new album is a shining example of the new dubstep. In the past year, dubstep has exploded in popularity, leaving some people, myself included, wondering just how much is hype and how much is unique, worthwhile, intelligent music. I’ve been doubtful if the genre would be able to grow in a meaningful way, but after absorbing this new album, I’ve found the answer to be an overwhelming yes (at least in the hands of the right producers). Influenced by his recent move from the UK to LA, this album is absurdly catchy, a move away from the darker dubstep like Datsik into a more poppy sound—just enough for all the songs to have mass appeal, but not to where it feels like the original genre or intent is being compromised for the sake of popularity—while still incorporating elements of dub, reggae, Euro house, electro, and drum & bass. –Jessie Wood

Coat of Arms
Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.29
Sabaton = Edguy + Freedom Call + Hammerfall
You want some power metal that lyrically isn’t spouting off about elves, goblins and all that fun D&D stuff. Sweden’s Sabaton delivers their epic songs that are appropriately epically themed about mostly modern warfare, either around notorious moments in the history of war"for instance, the Polish uprising in 1944, the battle of Midway"the list goes on. This approach gives the already more modern power-metal sound of Sabaton that extra edge to stand out in the densely populated world of power metal. Each instrument plays crucial roles on the album"the pulse-pounding double-bass drumming, the metallic crunch of clashing guitars, loudly sweeping and epic keyboards, and mid-ranged, almost gruffy vocals instead of falsetto howling. Coat of Arms is catchy in every way, shape, and form"there really isn’t a bad track on this metal monster. I’m hooked beyond hooked and keep pumping these tracks, all while head-banging and air-machine-gunning. – Bryer Wharton

Regain Records
Street: 06.01
Setherial = Dark Funeral + Marduk + Naglfar
Setherial offers what one would expect from the Swedish black metal scene and then some. Ekpryrosis has mid- to fast-tempo black metal tunes that rely just as much on black-metal extremity with solid riffing and a bit slower tremolo picking and strong efforts in songwriting and atmosphere. The production sound for this new offering offers its only real flaw"when the tempo goes up, the drums get that overly triggered sound. But the good part is that the guitar tone is pristine and sharply clear, yet retains the raw edge that black metal requires. That said, the epic, almost 13-minute “The Mournful Sunset of the Forsaken? is a grandiose affair that offers up some new ground from the band and some of the best atmosphere on the record. The cynics may be displeased with the more melodic guitar efforts from Setherial, but they haven’t heard Ekpryosis, a darkened and beautiful work that balances the rawness of cold black metal with brilliant atmospheres and complex melodies. – Bryer Wharton

The Silver Seas
Chateau Revenge
Record Label
Street: 07.06
Chateau Revenge= Hall and Oates + The Beach Boys + Keane
Ten years into their career, The Silver Seas (formerly known as The Bees) have released their third album, Chateau Revenge"the first album to be released under their new name. However, unlike their name, their music has yet to change form. From the beginning of their career, The Silver Seas have been known for their melodic and sweet 70s pop stylings. The one thing that does set this album apart from their previous efforts is the fact that it is a narrative concept album. Lead singer and main songwriter Daniel Tashian wanted “to make a soundtrack to learning about the world of adult emotions, or romance, through the prism of television and movies.? That being said, this record accomplishes what the band set out to do; it successfully captures the essence and mixed emotions they sought to detail from the beginning, with each song covering different aspects of a relationship. “Jane? details the development of a crush, while “From My Windowsill? has Tashian singing about getting over having his heart broken. As a whole, Chateau Revenge feels very romantic and dramatic, but that seems to be the exact outcome that The Silver Seas intended. – Vanessa Wardy

Metal Blade
Street: 05.11
Skyforger = Arkona + Ensiferum + Týr
It’s been seven long years since Latvia’s Skyforger have unleashed any pagan/folk metal goodness to the world. Kurbads fits more into the modern realm of pagan metal, whereas their older records had a distinctive black-metal core to them. What caused the progression? Well, you could blame a multitude of things, but the fact is it has been seven years and this is a metallic return from the all-acoustic 2003 record Zobena Dziesma. The harsher black-metal undertones the band had utilized before are basically gone (though some do linger sparsely) and morphed into a superbly heavy thrash monster. Fans of modern pagan metal can easily get into this album and while the more thrash- and groove-oriented tracks on Kurbads might have older fans weary, just give it a listen"Skyforger still deal out their loyal Latvian-themed lyrics with catchy, crunchy guitar riffs, and a variety of folk string and wind instruments, along with upbeat drum tempos"all just as infectious and glorious as previous efforts. – Bryer Wharton

Sleepy Sun
Street: 06.01
Sleepy Sun = Fleet Foxes + The Devil Whale + The Dead Weather
Fever re-ignited what was a becomingly failing interest in the more mainstream neo-psychedelia/roots-rock movement, with its amazing harmonies and ability to conjure up imagery. “Desert God? is laced heavy with enjoyable sound segments⎯it’s one of my favorite tracks of the year due to the Mojave desert that shimmers in the mind’s eye as it plays. Sleepy Sun isn’t afraid to delve into longer form work, as well. The last track, “Sandstorm Woman,? is nine minutes and 50 seconds long. The shorter stuff is infinitely more listenable than most of the imitators that swim on the surface of the realm that Sleepy Sun fuck, sleep, eat and rock in. Note the use of the fabulous female singer of the group, Rachel Williams, on tracks like “Freedom Line? and “Acid Love,? as she adds sexy “ooohs? in the higher register to the wilderness landscape of drums echoing off rock walls at night. (06.12: Kilby Court). – JP

This Sheltering Night
Deathwish Inc.
Street: 05.25
Starkweather = Candiria + Overcast + Iceburn
Well, hell. Four years after Croatoan melted minds and faces alike, Starkweather comes out swinging with This Sheltering Night. Starkweather is the antithesis to everything you hate about progressive metal, hardcore and aggressive music in general. There’s no pretension here, just art. No tough guy posturing, just aggression. Starkweather have the market cornered—sorry folks, you’re going to need to take your business elsewhere. Soundscapes by Sophia Perennis and Oktopus (Dalek), and seven-minute epic masterful tracks that seamlessly combine hardcore, metal, experimental, jazz and melody? Check. It’s all here and crafted by artisans of the genre. “One Among Vermin” begins as a slow gloomy burner, then diverts into melodious jazz-inspired metal and follows that with drumming that would make Brann Dailor sweat. Each track shows the same wide range of compositional style and it makes for one intense listen.  This Sheltering Night is an album that needs to be listened to repeatedly to absorb all of its nuances and sift through its density. It’s well worth it. –Peter Fryer

Wife of God
Death By Audio
Street: 06.08
Starring = Battles + Comets On Fire + King Crimson
You should usually never trust a prog band. No matter how tacit they claim their connections to the landscape of 70s progressive rock are with 10-minute guitar solos, and five album-long sci-fi story arcs, they will hardly ever tackle the genre sincerely or with the same ambition and scope as their forefathers. Good. Like we need another prog band. So, whatever you call Starring’s massive freak-out jams, frantic surf riffs, over-the-top displays of virtuosity, and harmonized vocals, the fact is that this Brooklyn quintet completely owns it … whatever it is they do. Recently signed to Oliver Ackermann’s consistently awesome Death By Audio label, Starring consists of Pterodactyl drummer Matt Marlin as well as members of Skeleton$ and Brooklyn’s incredible noise-jazz outfit Talibam!. While Wife of God is consistently tight, the B-Side contains the lion’s share of swirling, instrumental long-players, as well as the hardest won, but most thrilling, moments on the album. –Ryan Hall

The Streets on Fire
This is Fancy
The Currency Exchange
Street: 07.20
The Streets on Fire = Interpol + Block Party + The Jesus Lizard
The Streets on Fire are nuts. Listening to this record is like being super wasted and on the verge of having the spins. This danced-up, fuzzed-out warbly music is nauseating, yet at the same time, it has so much raw energy and punch that you can’t help yourself from respecting it. The guitar playing on this album is definitely what sinks its intoxicating teeth into you; through each song, there is some new noise and hook that keeps you interested and waiting to hear more. The best song on the album by far is the opening track, “No One’s Fucking to the Radio.? If they start playing these gnarly dudes over the airwaves, everybody will for sure be getting down and probably puking on each other at the same time. Sexy! – Jon Robertson

The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt
Dead Oceans
Street: 04.13
The Tallest Man on Earth = Modern-day, Swedish version of Bob Dylan
The Tallest Man on Earth’s name is a bit misleading. He isn’t really the tallest man on earth; he is Kristian Matsson, a folk singer-songwriter hailing from Sweden. Don’t be surprised if after one listen to The Wild Hunt, Matsson’s second album (and the first to be released in the US), you find yourself enthralled by his crooning, daft guitar-plucking and stellar songwriting. Remember the first time you heard a Bob Dylan song? Well, listening to Matsson for the first time will likely make you feel the exact same way. Matsson’s music is comforting and familiar in its similarity to Dylan, but is still strikingly his own. From first to last track, The Wild Hunt proves The Tallest Man on Earth is a master of his craft, exploring and expanding the realm of his genre. “You’re Going Back? is an upbeat ballad, with quick guitar strums and loud, gruff vocals, while “Love Is All? has delicate guitar-picking and tenderly sung lyrics. This album will undoubtedly make countless year-end lists, but let’s hope this album isn’t the peak for this modern folk marvel. – Vanessa Wardy

Fallen Angel’s Dominion
Napalm Records
Street: 06.08
Thulcandra = Dark Funeral + Trident + Forest of Impaled + Gräfenstein
Germany’s Thulcandra may be an outlet for guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer (of the up-and-coming, acclaimed tech-prog-death-metal act Obscura) to get his black metal face on, but I’ll be damned if I’d much rather listen to this debut full-length from the band than anything Obscura has released. Yes, the album does contain some of the genre standards for blackened death metal. Thulcandra plays the black metal hand a bit more heavily, with blackened hyper-pulse blastbeats pummeling almost constantly, except for some fantastic acoustic guitar breaks. There’s also plenty of epic and ferocious tremolo picking; then again, there are plenty of great discernable and heavy thundering guitar riffs with thick, darkened atmospheres. It doesn’t matter much to me that I’ve heard quite a few bands that play this style before, for their debut, Thulcandra have nailed down some excellent songwriting, making for one of those records that you’re always in the mood to listen to. – Bryer Wharton

The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza
Danza III: The Series of Unfortunate Events
Blackmarket Activities
Street: 07.06
The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza = Pig Destroyer + Meshuggah
Here’s proof that there are still bands trying to be interesting.  I couldn’t help but smile a few times per song while listening through Danza III. This is quirky, unpredictable metal. On “Sammy Jankis” (maybe the raddest song on the album), the Extravaganza demonstrates their mastery of start/stop riffing and unrelenting brutality. So many frontmen are indistinguishable these days, but Jessie Freeland defies the current metal standard with his interesting, varying snarl. Danza III has the intensity of Psyopus, with the smarts and intrigue of Meshuggah. “Vicki Mayhem” manages to get a non-melodic screaming pattern stuck in my head, since they seem to know exactly which accents to stress. Danza III is angry, mathy and dissonant––a few of my favorite things. –Andrew Roy

A New Era Of Corruption
Metal Blade
Street: 06.08
Whitechapel = The Acacia Strain + Stigma + The Red Chord
Adding a bunch of heavy, hardcore-styled breakdowns to average death metal doesn’t make your music oh-so-brutal, it dumbs it down to the point of monotony. I really do not understand nor hear how and why Whitechapel has three guitarists. Maybe it’s because it’s being heard through a cynic’s ears, but I only hear the depth of sound that two guitarists could easily provide. Admittedly, A New Era of Corruption has a greatly progressed sound as compared to Whitechapel’s past two albums, mainly in the fact that there is so much more by way of guitar leads and actual soloing. Yes, in the realm of deathcore, there is so much worse crap out there than what Whitechapel offers. But alas, therein lies my main gripe with this record and the genre it entails"the sheer lack of real-sounding emotion and anger. Whitechapel’s sound is forced and each song feels like a regurgitation of the one before it. – Bryer Wharton