National CD Reviews – August 2008

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Aesop Rock
None Shall Pass Instrumentals & Acapellas
Definitive Jux
Street: 06.02
Aesop Rock = Blockhead + The Dead Poets Society
This project came to be as a re-release of Aesop’s bangin’ album of 2007, None Shall Pass. It’s a two-part album that brings the instrumentals to you first, followed by the drone sound of a capella versions of the tracks featuring the not-too-soothing voice of Aesop Rock. The instrumentals are what really set this album off for me. The collection of instrumental tracks are produced by hip hop all-stars Aesop himself, El-P, Rob Sonic and of course, the mighty Blockhead. The instrumentals consist of ultra-jazzy, groovin’ beats intertwined with the scratch wizardry of DJ Big Wiz. Full of soulful tracks with breaks that make you want to relax in that red velvet chair sippin’ on some double malt. The a capellas are interesting, but not entirely my forte. They give me a very anxious feeling as I am constantly waiting for the beat to drop that never comes. I would have to say the instrumental section of this album is a must-have for any connoisseur, but I could do without the a capella versions. –Mike Reff

The Anniversary
Devil On Our Side: Rarities & B-Sides
Vagrant Records
Street: 06.24
The Anniversary = The Appleseed Cast + The Promise Ring + Mates of State + emo pop + hippie rock
In 2004, after only two full-length releases, The Anniversary prematurely disbanded, leaving their fans shocked and bewildered. Each record showed that the band had the talent and the know-how to move their music in any direction. Whether they played emo-keyboard/synth-pop l Designing A Nervous Breakdown, or psychedelic and brooding, classic rock jams l Your Majesty, they knew how to please the ears of any listener. Five years since their breakup and 10 since their inception, The Anniversary have opened the vault to bring us not one, but two discs of rarities and B-sides ranging from 1998-2003. Each disc showcases the band’s immense talent and genre-hopping abilities, some tracks sounding studio-polished and others raw and untouched. The earlier tracks have a DNB feel to them, while the later sound more along the lines of YM; several have their own undefined sound. A reunion tour ought to be their next move … –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Street: 07.07
APSE = Sigur Rs + Mogwai + cavernous drones
Even in this day and age of mass media, sometimes a gem slips through the cracks. Case in point: APSE’s Spirit. Originally released in 2006, Spirit has been re-released with bonus tracks by the kind souls at ATP and I couldn’t be more pleased. In Spirit are obvious comparisons to Sigur Rs, but don’t mistake APSE as a group of imitators. Certainly the vocals, high pitched and buried within the wall of sound, is similar, but the more aggressive rhythms, tone and roaming bass lines lean towards a Bill Laswell and/or Jah Wobble production with a little darkness and something sinister thrown in for variation. Fans of drone rock l The Warlocks and post-rock wonders Mono should also take note. Highly recommended. –ryan michael painter

Ot Serdtsa K Nebu
Napalm Records
Street: 07.29
Arkona = Falkenbach + Korpikalani + Russian flair
These days, with folk/pagan metal becoming an increasingly popular genre and bands that pretty much started the scene being copied massively by other bands, creating your own niche and style in the folk/pagan genre can be tough. However, it isn’t tough for Russian veteran folk/pagan metal act Arkona with Ot Serdtsa K Nebu, the band’s fourth full-length. Listeners are taken to another time and place; the record has this underlying atmosphere that many other artists strive to achieve but fail at. Just listening to this album at times conjures up images of old, almost as if the music was created centuries ago. The balance between folk/acoustic styles (utilizing a plethora of instruments while some synthesized all sound earthy and very organic) amongst the heavy, almost black-metal-style riffing is a sure treat for metal fans thirsting for something much more diverse than you average fare stuck in certain genre tags. This record is full of beautiful melodic passages, full-on ethnicity with brutality in emotions that any artist would bend over backwards to acquire; the entire album is a listening experience that will send your senses to higher realms. Definitely take this trip! –Bryer Wharton

Ample Fire Within
Southern Lord Records
Street: 05.27
Ascend = Iceburn + Goatsnake + SunnO)))
Sometimes I hate having to use the “band = other band + other band” equation, as it never really seems to do justice for whatever it is I’m reviewing, and this is definitely true in the case of Ascend’s debut release, Ample Fire Within. Starting off with “The Obelisk of Kolob,” a track heavy and dark enough to be SunnO)))’s bastard child with a drum kit, the album never fully allows the listener to breathe. Crazy guitar tones, trombone, Wurlitzer, the haunting vocals of Salt Lake’s own Gentry Densley and the outright creepiness of Hungary’s Atilla Csihar mash together to make an excellent listening experience-stew. Definitely not for the faint of heart, and not something you can “rawk out” to, but it’s an all-too-stimulating experience for those looking for something above cookie-cutter drone or doom. –Gavin Hoffman

Running Man
Nike +
Street: 06.11
A-Trak = Simian Mobile Disco + Para One + sweaty brow
What do Kanye West, Nike, Canada and David Macklovitch of Chromeo all have in common? Besides being somewhat awkward at times (Kanye isn’t cool all the time, right?), they are all tied to turntable extraordinaire A-Trak; real name Alain Macklovitch. He can obviously spin records (1997 Technics/DMC World Champion at 15 years old) but can he make a soundtrack that makes me want to shimmy my way out of my banana chair and run? The answer is decidedly no, nothing on God’s (or should I say Kanye’s) green earth could make that happen. The pacing seems a little off at 16 minutes in, where A-Trak tries his hand at hip-hop (is that Spank Rock?), but quickly picks up to running pace after that. The end result: a really solid collection of running tunes to complete your Nike getup. Wouldn’t you rather be listening to Kanye, though? –Andrew Glassett

My Soul For His Glory
Moribund Records
Street: 06.10
Behexen = Corpus Christii + Horna
After four long years since the release of By the Blessing of Satan, Behexen has finally besieged listeners with some new material. With close ties to bands such as Horna and with members who are also in Sargeist, Behexen didn't waste any time becoming another Finnish horde who demands respect and fear. Now, I rarely say this about black metal records, but one of my favorite things about this album is the bass guitar. Black metal, with simple yet interesting bass guitar, is a very rare and wonderful thing. I rest my case with the track “Born in the Serpent of The Abyss,” which looms subtly between guitar notes and snare hits during the verses. Although the production value here is quite clean and not exactly abrasive, the concise songwriting and tight instrumentation really complement it, even if the musical style generally defies it. This proves that Behexen can transcend the stigmas generally reserved for a vast majority of their peers. –Conor Dow

Bleed the Sky
Murder the Dance
Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.10
Bleed the Sky = Killswitch Engage + As I Lay Dying + All That Remains
Well, Bleed the Sky aren’t out to inspire other bands to tread into new territory; the band pretty much sticks to beefy metalcore, with emphasis on the “core.” Like breakdowns? There are plenty of them on Murder the Dance. How this band from Oklahoma City that doesn’t necessarily fit the Nuclear Blast mold got signed to their label is a mystery to me, other than that the label is trying to cater to some bands that are in the realm of trendy American metal/metalcore. The songs run the same gamut of breakdown, screams, melodic parts, then clean singing. The tunes on the record don’t really offer up any moving emotion and at best, are mildly entertaining. “Sleeping Beauty” is the most technical of the tracks; it carries an almost Meshuggah-like vibe, only not nearly as cool. Fans of this style will no doubt enjoy this, because it sounds pretty damn close to their other favorite artists. If you aren’t much of a fan of metalcore, i.e., me, then this will get old after a listen and a half or less. Missing this album is no big loss. –Bryer Wharton

Blood Stands Still
Salvation Through Struggle
Century Media
Street: 05.13
Blood Stands Still = Throwdown + Hatebreed
Oh boy oh boy, how many damn breakdown-based hardcore bands are there that have some variation of Blood in their band’s name? It makes them sound even more hardcore, full of brotherly power with the other blood-in-band-name groups and oh so scary. So onto the music—it is as one would expect; pretty damn tired and totally unoriginal, and you can get the gist of the whole record just from the first track, “Fight Harder,” which includes the lyric, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Wow, that’s a powerfully moving lyric. I’m going to go see these guys and get my mosh-aerobics workout for the day; I feel the need to get super sweaty and bump into other guys—watch out for my double roundhouse and windmills, though!! This has got me so damn pumped I’m going to go punch some holes in my wall and further display how hardcore I am! –Bryer Wharton

No Consequences
Burn Bridges
Street: 06.24
Braindead = Ambitions + Miles Away + Dag Nasty
Melodic hardcore has become such a bloated genre lately that for a band to elbow its way to the front seems like an almost impossible task. Hopefully, Braindead will be able to maneuver through the throngs of calculated and overblown acts to the front of the crowd. Passion isn’t something that just comes along with octave guitar riffs and melodic interludes; it’s earned and it’s sincere. Braindead are sincere and take their time. Some songs have minute-plus outros of excellent melodic and spacey guitar work which provide a respite from vocalist Chris Lynch’s assault. Others are singeing in their punk-rock firestorm. There is some occasional singing thrown in, and usually that’s cheesy, but with Braindead, it’s more Dag Nasty or Minor Threat than it is Top 40. This Philadelphia quintet has hit the passionate hardcore nail on the head; hopefully, the kids will be able to sift through the detritus and find this gem. –Peter Fryer

Capillary Action
So Embarrassing
Pangaea Recordings
Street: 04.09
Capillary Action = Daughters - Experimental Dental School + Xiu Xiu + Uranus
The spastic songwriting of Capillary Action is reminiscent of the on-again/off-again antics of Genghis Tron, with the musical stylings of a Katamari Damacy soundtrack. An exceptionally bizarre album, the weak vocal performance doesn’t help the lounge-singer style of the songs, and the occasional moments of glory are immediately offset by key changes, jazz progressions, or grindcore breakdowns. One can’t help but admire the range of talent within this group, but the conclusion is definitely less than the sum of the parts. Perhaps the problem lies with the immense amount of confusion generated by the song changes, which don’t seem to go anywhere or create any sort of contrast within the album—the spastic becomes so expected by the end of the album that it seems to parody itself. –Ryan Powers

In Stereo
Brainstern Publishing
Street: 05.13
Catfight! = 60s pop + The Dandy Warhols
When I first listened to this five-song EP, I thought it was shitty and not very inspired. Then, upon entering an “elevated” state, it turned into just OK. I will say this, Catfight! has managed to write one of the most infectious and repetitive choruses in the history of pop for their song “Candy Cane.” They repeat that title as a hook in such an incessant way I wanted to strangle a motherfucker with said cane. The organ is OK on that track, and on others, but I’m stuck wondering how they can produce that sound with only two people in a live setting. The album would be empty with just guitar if it didn’t have the organ blaring in the background giving it more girth. Either the guitarist is Shiva, or they might sound very boring live. –Jon “JP” Paxton

Celestial Bloodshed
Cursed, Scarred and Forever Possessed
Moribund Records
Street: 06.10
Cursed, Scarred and Forever Possessed is among the handful of releases brought to American shores by Moribund's distribution deal with the excellent French boutique label Debemur Mortii, who've been responsible for some truly scathing black metal releases, including Haemoth and Hell Militia. Debemur Mortii is a label that pays such attention to detail that I'm predisposed in favor of this release by Norwegian anti-Christian warriors Celestial Bloodshed. Referencing Burzum, Gorgoroth, and other classic black metal bands from the frozen climes of Northern Europe, the press sheet sets a high standard for this 34-minute attack on all things holy. While CS&FP doesn't blast quite as furiously or blaspheme with as much venom as the best of Gorgoroth, the comparison is fair and favorable. Unlike much of the jetsam in the current tidal wave of black metal releases, Celestial Bloodshed set themselves apart by composing songs that present a diverse range of foul expressions. Songs such as "Sign of the Zodiac" ramp up the level of intensity from fast to furious, while the vocals unhinge from deep bellows to crone-like croaking, maintaining one's interest for the full duration of the album. This is a release that I'll certainly revisit in the future, and one that, while unlikely to generate a great deal of hype, is solid enough to deserve a place in a collection. It is worth noting that Celestial Bloodshed's vocalist, Steingrim, is also the drummer and vocalist for the project Unbeing, whose 16-minute 2006 cassette demo Unbeing Black Draped in Unlife is an excellent specimen of warped, lo-fidelity, minimal grimness. –Ben West

Christian Weber
Walcheturm Solo
Street: 05.13
Christian Weber = Jolle Landre + Ray Brown + George Crumb
Despite a list of collaborators longer than your genealogy, upright bassist Christian Weber demonstrates his ability to go it alone for 38 minutes with no edits, no electronics and no loop stations on this live recording. Exploring the entire spectrum of the instrument’s ability—and then some—Weber begins his monolog by pinching and pulling strings deeply and intently enough to resemble the team of lumberjacks who first bore his bass. Continuing in this fashion, he slowly introduces his gamut of techniques, furiously juggling slaps, sul pont, scraped rhythms, pizzicato, felt-not-heard drones, sprinkles of melody, microtonal pulses and wood creaks into a lovingly tangled texture; despite this History of Extended Techniques, Weber is a master who manages these into a clich-free, hypnotic performance. After an intoxicating, growling climax, Weber descends into muted plucks and carefully paused punches of harmonic waves that echo through the Zrich concert hall as the curtain falls. – Dave Madden

The Curse of Company
Leo Magnets Joins a Gang
Dangerbird Records
Street 07.22
The Curse of Company = Eulogies + Silversun Pickups – publicity
This band has got something going for them. Unlike the similar artists I mentioned above, The Curse of Company has a more experimental and mysterious sound. This alone will exempt them from being overplayed at trendy coffee shops and Sub-Urban Outfitters unlike other bands on their record label. With the combination of smooth vocals similar to Kate Moss when she featured in Primal Scream’s “Some Velvet Morning” and the even smoother collection of keys and electric guitar on tracks like “Any Day” and “I Have a Simple Life,” you just can’t go wrong. However, any good album can go rotten if you’ve got it running through the speakers 39,387,953 times a day (I’m just estimating). Moderation, anyone? If at all possible, I’d like to keep this one my own secret so that the big corps can’t get a hold of it and use it to sell their cars and shoes. –Lyuba Basin

Dead Heart Bloom
Fall In
KEI Records
Street: 07.29
Dead Heart Bloom= David Bowie + Pink Floyd + Echo and the Bunnymen
It's not as bad as it sounds. The combination of the vocal style of Bowie with ethereal touches of Floyd make for some interesting songs. Skip the first track of this EP. It almost put me to sleep, not in the good way (like heroin). The last four songs keep the same theme as the rest of the disc, but get better as the disc winds down. They've got strings, piano, deep lyrics and an understanding of music lacking in other, younger groups. This genre isn’t usually my top pick, but Dead Heart Bloom does a nice job of it. If they can pull off an expressive live show, I’d say this is a band to expect stellar things from in the future. Unfortunately, they’re based in NY and they’re mainly on the East Coast right now. –Jon "JP" Paxton

The Dead Science
Street: 08.02
The Dead Science = Coco Rosie + Rufus Wainwright + The Mars Volta lite
I have a theory about why bands put the word "Dead" in their title (this rule excludes the Dead Kennedys) and The Dead Science do not buck that trend. Singer Sam Mickens plays the dramatic singer well, with every pitch change emanating from his mouth. The term vibrato does not do it justice: warble does. I mean, warble in a good way, like Rufus Wainwright with an even bigger emote pedal. It is pretty experimental: what sounds like a full string section and nicely placed jazz guitar combine in a surreal place where you'd expect to see water nymphs sucking men’s souls from their foreheads. Dead Science also don't hesitate to throw in noise and reversed tape at points. This is music I had to listen to a few times and ease into (like anal sex, ahem, I've heard). Aw fuck it, this album IS EXACTLY LIKE ANAL. –Jon “JP” Paxton

Delta Spirit
Ode to Sunshine
Rounder Records
Street: 08.26
Delta Spirit = Cold War Kids + The Shys + Whiskey + Boots
It’s about time Delta Spirit makes even the slightest ripple in the music world. Finally, they come out with a full-length album that actually makes it out of California. It’s been a while since I’ve heard boots hit the floors, and I’m glad they will be starting the beat. Their track, “People C’mon,” is sure to make you clap your hands, grab a tambourine and sing along until your voice gives out. But Ode to Sunshine isn’t just noise; it also gives us mellow, acoustic love songs. Oh wait, is this a tear coming from my eye? This album is the anthem leading the passionate rockers who grab inspiration from classic legends. Is it so wrong to say a band sounds a little like the Beatles? Like that could ever be a bad thing. –Lyuba Basin (Gallivan Center 08.14)

Reprise Records
Street: 06.03
Disturbed = Why isn’t n-metal dead quite yet!
Well, millions of rabid fans can’t be wrong, right? Disturbed are once again topping the charts with their latest, Indestructible. Well, when you create music that sounds pretty much the same record after record, you’ll keep your fans and bring more in. Yeah, the record isn’t the same as the band’s debut that had that catchiness to its songs and oh-so-stupid lyrics “Get down with the sickness”—anyone? However, this new offering sees a bit of progression; the technicality in the musicianship has increased and there are plenty more moments where the guitar leads stand out and are purposely meant to be heard. Some of the songs, dare I say, have matured a bit and are tighter because of this fact. That said, this horribly arrogant band remain with a lack of any real emotion or talent for writing truly great songs. For God’s sakes, the guitar solo is cool now; other n-metal bands have realized this; throw one in that lasts longer than five seconds if you dare, Disturbed. While I will say this record is more entertaining than anything they’ve put out since their debut, it’s still bland as usual and gets horrifically old and contrived. Good thing my wife loves the band or this thing would be getting tossed out the window. –Bryer Wharton

Hymn And Her
Major Domo/Shout! Factory
Street: 07.01
Earlimart = Elliot Smith + Ivy
Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray return with another album that mixes wistful vocals with warm melodic instrumentals producing a lovely dream-pop record that drifts along like a lazy summer day. This is both Hymn and Her’s greatest strength and ultimately, its overwhelming weakness. The only real variation of style comes when Ariana takes on lead vocals, but the mood never shifts as time slurs along like a pleasant daydream; kind in the moment, but it never really gets you anywhere. –ryan michael painter

Nuclear Blast Records
Street: 06.27
Equilibrium = Wintersun + Windir + Turisas
Despite having only one other full album under their belts, Germany’s Equilibrium quickly gained the respect of metal fans for their adept mix of folk, power, and Viking metal, all tastefully spread over the flexible black-metal style. Though Sagas has a slightly cleaner production value compared to 2005’s Turis Fratyr, it doesn’t waste any time when delivering 79 full minutes of stunning, absolutely epic songwriting. What’s amazing to me about this album is that it quite literally has something for everyone who enjoys metal without compromising any artistic integrity, nor crossing the invisible line into “power-metal cheese.” It simply melds the aforementioned styles together perfectly and has many catchy and beautiful tracks which keep me coming back for more. The album also features Ulrich Herkenhoff on the panpipes, who can be more notably heard on the score for The Lord of the Rings—Return of the King. You can bet your Viking runestones that this album will be on my top albums of 2008. –Conor Dow

Extra Life
Secular Works
Planaria Records
Street: 05.06
Extra Life = Overall weirdness in sound + Tool
Extra Life is lead by Charlie Looker of ZS, Ocrilim and formerly of Dirty Projectors. The band sound is based in minimalist noise for the most part, though there are melodies popping in from time to time and then all-out blast-guitar moments that are very fleeting; you have to pay close attention or you may miss them. Trying to sound interesting while playing experimental music is a hard task to accomplish when so many experimental groups just sound like, well, noise and lack any direction, mood or in some aspects, talent. Aside from the vocals, the bass guitar plays a huge role in the music. When tangents aren’t being repeated or driven into your skull, there is some mad playing going on with the bass. There are tons of repetitive sounds playing out on Secular Works—sometimes it even sounds as if the song/CD is skipping, though it’s not. The vocals are completely and totally out there, and some jazz influence pops in—there are moments that sound like jazz scat. The voice portrayed on the album can sound monotone at times; sometimes the emotions don’t match the music, but all this strangeness seems fully intentional. Overall, a mood of disparity is captured. As for Extra Life, the group is one of those artists you either understand and can enjoy for its full artistic strength or you just plain can’t figure out and want nothing to do with. I challenge listeners to not give up and instead discover some truly amazing and stunning soundscapes. –Bryer Wharton

Fat Skeleton
Street: 08.12
Fat Skeleton = MC 900 Foot Jesus + Pink Floyd + with a twist of lemon
Alright, here’s the deal—if you want to chill and listen to some creepy tunes with a bit of Danny Elfman mixed in, Fat Skeleton is the band for you. If you like XTC mixed with the new songs from High on Fire’s latest disc, then Fat Skeleton totally wants to take you out for a nice seafood dinner and never call you back. I have to say that the vocals and the keyboards/synthesizer definitely add an intriguing element to this dark music. My favorite aspect of this band is the vocals. J. Esinger and C. Pratt are totally sneaking up on you, sexual predator style, and whispering in your ear. Come to think it, that sounds like a secret fantasy come true. Fat Skeleton, you can take me out to dinner any time. –Jon Robertson

From a Second Story Window
Blackmarket Activities
Street: 05.27
From a Second Story Window = From Autumn to Ashes + Bury Your Dead + a bit of Cave In
Well, for some reason, From a Second Story Window seemed a bit more intense on their last record, Delenda. Although this particular style of modern metal can turn me off in a hurry (which in fact, first impressions from Conversations were just that, a giant turn-off). After further listens, I found a depth in the music and that technicality seeping in for moments that I remembered from Delenda. When this “screamo” style is done right, it reels me in like the need for a morning cigarette. At first I found myself longing for the heavier moments in the music, the screaming, the breakdowns, the technicality in brutality, but that strangely wore off and I found myself excited for the melodic portions; they seemed to be filled with more technicality than the heavy stuff, with lots of interesting guitar leads and melodies creating a sound unique to the genre. I’m not going to tell everyone to go out and buy this, or if you didn’t like screamo before, this will change your mind, because it won’t. If you enjoy the style and hunger for something different and more challenging than your average sad-core, then Conversations is an effort well worth discovering. –Bryer Wharton

The Gaslight Anthem
The ’59 Sound
Side One Dummy
Street: 08.19
The Gaslight Anthem=Bruce Springsteen + The Killers + The Loved Ones + The Draft
Almost never is it possible to be completely sold on a band or album you’ve never heard within 45 seconds of the first track. However, don’t be surprised if this happens when putting in The Gaslight Anthem’s latest, The ’59 Sound. For a band whose inception is only close to three years ago, TGA have found a sound so prolific this early on in their career that it makes you wonder/hope there is more to come. Mindblowing tracks like Great Expectations and The ’59 Sound (the first two songs on the album), cause salivating and a craving for more and thankfully, each of the rest offer the same excitement. This record is a great addition to a small but great back catalogue (yes, I checked out prior stuff after falling in love with this album), and sets some great expectations for what lies in the future for these NJ boys. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Gentlemen Auction House
Alphabet Graveyard
Street: 08.18
Emergency Umbrella Records
Gentlemen Auction House= The Polyphonic Spree + Arcade Fire on SSRIs
These guys, and one girl (seven total), are as poppy as your nephew on Jolt Cola. That being said, the songs aren’t that bad and do the job of exploring the multi-vocalist/instrumentalist wave of right now. The bridges are some of the best parts; well done, incorporating varied rhythms and plenty o’ organ. This band is pleasantly pleasing at everything they do. It was pleasing in the way that makes me want to wash myself bloody ’til I'm cleansed of the pop-demons. Think Baby Jesus on a cross for pumice stones and Band-Aids. Somewhere a model binged on a bunch of indie and chamber-pop albums, then discreetly went to the powder room and made Gentlemen Auction House's latest. A label rep must have knocked on the door, perhaps expecting a rail of pearly decadence, only to discover his latest band in the sink and a passed-out bulimic. –Jon “JP” Paxton

The Order of the False Eye
Napalm Records
Street: 07.22
Gigan = The Dillinger Escape Plan + Converge + Botch
Gigan are labeled as experimental death metal. I find them more in the metalcore/grindcore realm, although they tend to use more growled vocals than your average metalcore band. There is a spirit on The Order of the False Eye—Gigan’s debut full-length record—that has been sorely missing in metal, let alone the subgenres you could toss this American band into. While utilizing many moments of controlled chaos, there are also moments of clarity and crushing riffs. The guitar lead work is head-spinning overall; everything is structured in a way that listening becomes a joy rather than a chore. There is an overall atmosphere of despair and depravity on the album, all showcasing an amazing knack to impress audiences full of cynical folk that are tired of the same old same old. To make things even more impressive, there is a wide array of different guitar tones and sounds that one doesn’t normally hear from standard metal guitars. Gigan have taken a genre that has become slightly stale in recent years and turned it into something new and worth coming back to again and again. –Bryer Wharton

Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators
Goof Off Experts
Street 04.01
Street 04.01
Greg Ginn/JAMBANG = Black Flag – hardcore edge + Phish
To understand how far someone has fallen, it is necessary to first look at where they used to be. Greg Ginn was one of the most innovative and daring figures in 1980s hardcore. As THE founding member of Black Flag and owner of SST Records, Ginn’s entire professional and musical life served as the template for generations of aspiring punks. Ginn was absent from music for most of the past decades, but started to play in bands again, two of which are JAMBANG and the Taylor Texas Corrugators. Both are jam bands at heart, in the typical Phish-like style. TTC has an almost swing tinge to its deep groove—a result that remains both serious and whimsical. JAMBANG is a more straight-forward jam-style funk outfit who are rumored to have an emphasis on the audio-visual (something that does not come through on the CD). The sad part, though, is that neither band really shines. In fact, if Ginn didn’t lend his (somewhat limited) star power to the project, no one would feel strongly enough about it to even review it. With any luck, these two discs will convince Mr. Ginn to hang up his spurs and make that phone call to Henry Rollins that we’ve all been waiting 20 years for him to make. Because the last thing this world needs is another Trey Anastasio. –James Bennett

Guns are for Kids
It Takes a Nation of Morons to Hold Us Back
Fourth World Records
Street: 03.01
GafK = The Mae Shi + The Paper Chase
Guns are for Kids’ new EP forecasts a doomed future, in which world leaders refuse to go to work and the people begin to seriously get down to the business of regressing into a primal, violent state. But, good God, does it have a bitchin’ soundtrack. Nation exudes pessimism—things are not going to be all right—but never mopes. The album is not exactly a celebration, but a pledge to stand defiant and artful among a deteriorating landscape. Vocalist Oswald Mainstream sounds like a singing no-wave poet who keeps getting stabbed in the stomach. The instrumentalists simultaneously revolt against a steady beat and search wildly for new ways to make melodies chaotic. The effect is close to what the first Suicide album may have made you feel — darkness, danger, paranoia, and the inextricable coolness that accompanies all those things. –Nate Martin

Headless Machine of the Heart
The Static Cult Label
Street 07.20
Helvetia = Viva Voce + Mew
Helvetia has joined my collection of tunes that I choose for late nights staring at the ceiling in a “daze.” For those who don’t know me too well, that means that I give this band five stars and total stoner credibility. Even if you aren’t into that kind of thing, listening to this album will put you in a spiraling abyss of pure enjoyment, without the feeling of nausea or dizziness. However, these guys aren’t just midnight music for the induced. Put on a pair of blue blockers and take a mini road trip; before you know it, you’ve forgotten that you have bills to pay and your girlfriend’s being a nasty bitch. Isn’t that what we’ve all been looking for this summer? Headless Machine of the Heart is musical morphine for the mind, and it’s hard not to get addicted. –Lyuba Basin

Rifle, I Knew You When You Were A Pistol
Exit Stencil Recordings
Street: 06.05
HotChaCha = Garbage + Rogue Traders + The Sounds
This all-girl Cleveland foursome packs a helluva punch, with loud, edgy pop/rock and no apologies. The tracks are huge and in your face and frontwoman Jovana Batkovic’s vocals are spot-on with any other female lead in the business. To top it all off, HotChaCha is bilingual. These tracks come in English, hints of French, and a whole lotta German. The only downside is this album is only four tracks long, playing more like an EP than a full-length. On the plus side, it boasts a skinny little price tag and the album is definitely an all-out bang for your buck (pun not intended). Definitely plan on giving this one a spin. –Kat Kellermeyer

Imaad Wasif with Two Part Beast
Strange Hexes
Self Released
Street: 03.18
Imaad Wasif = Deer Tick + Sun Kil Moon + Pavement
After touring around the world in support of his self-titled debut, Imaad Wasif penned down thoughts and verses of loss, hope, and love on scraps of paper that would later become Strange Hexes. At times it sounds like we’re listening to a psychotic, hopeless individual, while at other times it sounds like a freakier Stephen Malkmus. If the press sheet didn’t tell me what year this album was from, I would have guessed sometime in the late 70s, l Zepppelin, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Production quality is not at its finest, but who really cares? Wasif’s quirky and eccentric personality gives this album plenty of character, evidenced by his sudden and irrational fear of death when he’s about to complete an album. He didn’t die this time, which is a good thing. I want to hear a third album. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Jex Thoth
Jex Thoth
I Hate Records
Street: 04.28
Jex Thoth = Witchcraft + Graveyard + Coven
In a genre that has already begun to become extremely watered-down and boring, Jex Thoth actually breathes some new life into the stoner/classic-doom world. For every Priestess or The Sword that record labels claim to be frontrunners of the scene, there’s a band like Jex Thoth, who take everything that’s good about classic doom, toss in mesmerizing female vocals, and unleash a perfect rock smoothie. This release doesn’t exactly break any new ground; Sabbath’s been there and done that with almost the entire record, but Jex Thoth manages to put a stranglehold on the music they’ve created and make it their own … at least for the length of the album. Definitely worth tracking down and listening to when you’re in the mood for Witchcraft, but you don’t want to actually listen to Witchcraft. –Gavin Hoffman

Joan As Police Woman
Honor My Wishes
Cheap Lullaby Records
Street: 06.09
Joan As Police Woman = Amy Winehouse + Fiona Apple + Dido
It’s hard to find an equation that really fits singer Joan Wasser due to the fact that although you could probably pick up her CD in the same section as these other artists, her voice and style are very much her own. In fact, comparing her to anyone else doesn’t really seem fair. This album is dangerously cozy, with minimalistic jazz tunes ranging from the warm and sensual (“To Be Loved”) to the creepy and almost foreboding (“Honor My Wishes”). Wasser’s voice and songs are a welcome departure from the status quo. Anyone needing more dark, sexy jazz in their home should pick this one up ASAP. –Kat Kellermeyer

Kathy Griffin
For Your Consideration
Red Ink
Street: 06.17
Kathy Griffin = Carrot Top + an octave pitch-shift up
Plastic surgery was a great idea for her! She almost looks like that MILF country singer … what is her name? Martina McBride? Sadly, this album is a miss and is completely nonsensical. I get the whole irony of “I really want a Grammy, so I’m gonna joke around and make it painfully obvious so that I can cover up the fact that I will never get one.” That point was understood during her first year on My Life on the D-List, which was actually quite entertaining. But now it is getting scary, like my uncle who didn’t win his high school championship but is still trying to find a way to make it happen! I’m obviously not the target demographic, but I just don’t think this should be interesting to anyone. Her style of comedy lacks any sort of revelatory antidotes nor any type of recurring theme that ties it all together in any type of cogent form. All I hear is “my life is so quaint and sometimes people drink and sometimes people get mad.” Not funny. Even her play with the audience is rudimentary. Just because the ugly girl is now pretty, it doesn’t mean she is any more engaging. –Andrew Glassett

Southern Storm
Century Media
Street: 08.05
Krisiun = your head + a blender + the pure button
There have been a multitude of great death-metal releases thus far this year, although none so far have truly blown me away. Yes, we’ve had new records from the top-tier of Swedish death metal, Unleashed, Dismember, and Grave. American efforts haven’t been really strong, mostly deathcore, with the exception of a new Deicide album. However, none of them compare to the latest from Brazil’s Krisiun. From the first track in, you are in uncharted territory here for the band and the genre alike. To best describe this latest offering from these Brazilian masters of metal, I’d say it’s a fair mix of the unbridled and relentless speed of the band’s early albums, although the album does conjure fond memories of the great Conquerors of Armageddon, then some of the groove of the band’s last full-lengths, Assasination and Works of Carnage. That said, when you didn’t think death metal could get any more brutal, along comes this album. Riddled with technicality unseen from Krisiun, amongst the speed and great riff creation there is an astounding display of guitar leads and solos. Acclaimed for being one of the fastest death-metal bands in existence, they live up to those expectations. It’s almost as if when they went to mix the record, somebody hit the fast-forward switch accidentally. This is a definite album-of-the-year contender and a breath of new life into the death-metal scene for 2008. –Bryer Wharton

Left to Vanish
Versus the Throne
Lifeforce Records
Street: 07.22
Left to Vanish = Bloodhasbeenshed + A Life Once Lost + BetweentheBuried and Me
Jug Jug Jug. Jug Jug Jug. That makes up about 75 percent of this album. It’s pretty straightforward, extreme metalcore death stuff that the kids are going wild about these days. It’s the other 25 percent that really counts, when it comes down to it. So, how does Left to Vanish fare? Since they are obviously not trying to reinvent the wheel, they are doing pretty well. There are some catchy melodic interludes and some quirky guitar riffs and vocal change-ups thrown into the mix to make things a little more interesting. It’s apparent that they are aware of the conventions of this genre and are trying at least a little bit to reach beyond that. Left to Vanish isn’t treading new ground, but the ground they are treading they tread competently and without as much monotony as their peers. Plus, the artwork on the album is pretty badass. –Peter Fryer

Where You Go I Go Too
Smalltown Supersound
Street: 08.18
Lindstrm = M83 + The Field + Mannheim Steamroller
Patience: something that has been lacking from the latter days of electronic beats. Lindstrm, i.e., Hans-Peter Lindstrm, probably never drinks coffee or does meth or does anything the kids do these days to speed up their life. I’m guessing it’s due to the slow sunrise on winter days in Oslo, or maybe he’s just one chill bro who knows that slow and steady wins the race. Where You Go I Go Too contains three tracks expanding across 55 minutes of psychedelic post-electronic landscapes. The chord changes are surprisingly traditional, even new-age sounding, but with an indie-electronic edge. There is nothing surprising or jolting about the orchestration, but it is definitely consistent and intoxicating. Like standing on a moving walkway for hours at a time. –Andrew Glassett

Los Fancy Free
Nevergreens Vol. 1
Intolerancia Records
Street: 2008
Los Fancy Free = The Rolling Stones + Modest Mouse + Dungen
God, this band is weird—in a mind-blowing, trippy zone-out way. I threw this album in on the way to work, and I almost crashed on the freeway. I couldn’t concentrate on the road because I was busy paying attention to these psych-out sessions by born-and-raised Swede Martin Thulin’s brainchild Los Fancy Free. He transplanted himself to Mexico, and this album touches on many cultures; yet the themes are ones that everyone can relate to, like friendship and love. The first band I could think of to compare them to was Dungen, and sure enough, they’re on the same label. Sometimes he sings in English. Sometimes Spanish. But always in a Dungen-esque Swedish-Mexican voice quivering voice that is A-OK with me. The first track, “The Nave Heat,” is especially haunting, with a Modest Mouse-style intro, and an Isaac Brock-style mumble. Definitely check this out if you’re into unique stuff that you never expect to be something worthwhile. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Flashlights EP
Street: 08.05
Loxsly = Belaire + more testosterone + AM Syndicate
It’s always a pleasure to hear another Austin band that pleases me the way bands like Explosions in the Sky do. However, these guys are nothing like Explosions in the Sky. I’m not even sure why I just compared the two. However, this band is pretty awesome. Losxly started out as the solo project of Cody Round, a Waco native who recorded lo-fi tracks in his home with keyboards and various samples. These experiments eventually turned into a record that was released in 2003. Fast-forward 8 years from the humble beginnings to now and you’ve got a 5 piece collective based in Austin that creates pop pieces that strikingly incorporate sinister lyrics that aren’t expected. What I’m trying to say is I wasn’t expecting to hear songs about carnivores and poison by these guys. Ground’s unique voice really sets this band apart from others of the like. I really enjoyed this EP, which gives a taste of their next LP slated for a later time. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Maniqui Lazer
I Learn Everything on TV
Street: 08.15
ML = Chinese Stars + Agape + XBXRX
The modern sound of punk that has been festering for years in San Diego inside the likes of The Locust, The Plot to Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, and 31G Records’ roster has found its way past customs and infected Mexicali’s Maniqui Lazer. Three seemingly pleasant boys now succumb to fits of screaming, dancing, and demolishing electronic instruments to a catchy drumbeat. Once exhausted, they twiddle knobs on keyboards to create sparse instrumentals here and there, which all descend into confusion. At its apex, the disease turns the boys into suave killers. They charm and sexify their victims with cryptic, spoken lyrics, then slice them to bits with a knife pulled from behind the bass guitar’s neck, while the music blasts into cacophony and the crowd burns down the building. –Nate Martin

Panzer Division Marduk (re-release)
Regain Records
Street: 05.13
Marduk = Gateway black metal at its fastest
Marduk is, in my opinion, the epitome of “beginner” black metal, and Regain Records’ re-releasing of most of the past Marduk catalog does little to dissuade me from feeling this way. After all, isn’t black metal supposed to be “grimm,” “kvlt,” and more underground than the river of slime from Ghostbusters 2? Still, this particular Marduk release will always have a place in my collection. Impossibly fast, brutal from beginning to end, and just evil enough to make sure your next-door neighbors get the point, Panzer Division Marduk, in my mind, marks the pinnacle of the band’s existence and signifies the end of Marduk’s “underground credibility” and the beginning of their descent into suburban-guy wannabe “tr00”ness. –Gavin Hoffman

Heavy Duty
Reluctant Recordings
Street Date: 05.13
Mattress = Birthday Party + Tom Waits + Chromatics
Mattress minimalist offering Heavy Duty is often so stripped down I wonder if there are missing instruments or the record is on the wrong speed (despite it being a CD). This approach is not necessarily bad, as executed in “Eyes,” where the sufficient atmosphere allows the song to reach a mood that is creepy and satisfying, sort of like a Halloween-themed ice-cream cake, or sleeping with your stalker. In many cases, the droning simplicity of the album does not achieve a level of emotion or ingenuity to translate what is happening musically—it equates to a psychedelic band recording as if they were punk rock; lots of dry sounds, cheap recording, and poor mixing take a lot away from this otherwise unique album. –Ryan Powers

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Have Another Ball!
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 07.08
Me First = The World's Worst/Best Cover Band
This album is dumb. Of course, if you've heard any of the past output of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, you already knew that. Billed as Me First's "Unearthed A-Sides Album,” Have Another Ball! is just a whole lot more of the same. Again, if you've heard more than one Me First song, you probably already knew that. If you've ever wondered what crappy songs by John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow would sound like if played by a mid-’90s pop-punk band (and who hasn't?) then this is the album for you! While sped-up cover versions of "Only the Good Die Young" and "Coming to America" are entertaining once or twice, it seems like this joke of a supergroup (featuring members of NOFX, Lagwagon, and Swingin' Utters) should be putting their efforts towards something equally dumb, but more original and entertaining. –Ricky Vigil

Michael Dean Damaron & Thee Loyal Bastards
Bad Days Ahead
In Music We Trust
Street: 08.12
Michael Dean Damaron & Thee Loyal Bastards = Drive-By Truckers + I Can Lick any SOB in the House + more ass-kickin’
Michael Dean Damron, also known as the frontman of I Can Lick any SOB in the House, has unleashed Bad Days Ahead, his solo follow-up to Perfect Day for a Funeral. This is admittedly my first listening pleasure for any of his material and it’s great fun. Mike D.’s songwriting is fluid and the mix of rocking songs and ballad-type tunes is well balanced. His lyrics for every song tell a story and are poetic for a county/blues/rock musician, which means they’re pretty damn poetic, in a sense. There is nothing abnormally deep about them, they’re just simple and pleasing. His voice alone croons and weaves intricate styles, and the diverse playing and wide array of instruments make for something that any musician would love to conquer. I could easily listen to this album all day, and in fact, today I have been. It’s just a blast—soothing or just relaxing yet fully rocking. Immerse yourself in Damaron’s melodies, grab a PBR on a hot day and chill. –Bryer Wharton

The Monocles
Out of Yr Mind 7"
Street: 04.18
The Monocles = River City Tanlines + The Ramones + Dead Boys
There's an old adage about not judging a book by its cover, but surely, whoever came up with that shitty old clich never expected to see the cover of this 7". Featuring a sunglass-wearing, leather-jacket-clad alligator charming pyramid-headed snakes with his guitar, it's one of the cooler and odder covers I've seen in a while. What does that amazing scene have to do with this Houston band's 7" debut? Shit-nothing-at-all. The Monocles combine the chugging guitars of early punk with the laidback swagger of garage rock on the three songs on Out of Yr Mind, and though it's nothing revolutionary, it's definitely solid. The title track is, expectedly, the best of the bunch. The murky production that would hold back other bands totally suits The Monocles, making their dirty-sounding tunes even dirtier. Perfect music for drunken, basement-dwelling nights. –Ricky Vigil

Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1
Century Media
Street: 06.10
Nachtmystium = Sigh + Dodheimsgard – before mentioned bands cultural influences + a whole new post-black metal influence
This Chicago-based band is definitely out to challenge the very fundamentals of what black metal is. In my opinion, there are quite a few bands that, instead of tagging black metal, should be called post-black metal; they all feature elements of the traditional black metal but also bring forth new sounds and experiences to the table. Nachtmystium definitely fits this mold. There are some fast-paced tunes on Assassins, but most of the songs are slow to mid-paced and have a highly atmospheric element to them with a diverse keyboard assault assembling different moods throughout the album. The guitars, while not overly simplistic, aren’t overly technical. The first track guitar tone and sounds like Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave,” but that is fleeting. The best part about this album is its extreme diversity. The group doesn’t stick to one sound or atmosphere; the styles jump all over the place and with that fact, the music stays new and consistently different with every listen. There is plenty going on with Assassins that any open-minded metal fan can keep coming back to this record for; renewed experiences or just discovering different atmospheres altogether. Post-black metal is definitely a force to be reckoned with. –Bryer Wharton

Seeing Sounds
Star Trak
Street: 06.10
N*E*R*D = Stevie Wonder + Quincy Jones + The Jungle Brothers
Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, a.k.a. The Neptunes a.k.a. N*E*R*D. (it’s rumored that third member Shae really does all the work): geniuses or a couple of dorks who accidentally made a musical footprint as large as Timbaland? Whatever, as their hit-and-miss history over the past couple of years is mostly forgiven on this third album. After a brief skit, the album does exactly as the first title suggests: it’s “Time for Some Action,” the band ripping into slinky bass guitar, snare and panned whispers; apparently the duo recently discovered drum n’ bass, or simply decided now is the hour to bring it back, as evidenced on the scratched-out “Everyone Nose,” the swaggering “Spaz” and the Check Your Head meets E40 mix of “Anti Matter.” Except for the ersatz pop-rock number, “Happy,” and the bored ballad “Love Bomb,” fans who embrace the group for their eclectic nature will celebrate and give thanks that Hugo and Williams still save the most interesting beats for their solo work. –Dave Madden

Nico Muhly
Street: 07.22
Nico Muhly = John Adams + Robert Ashley + Michael Daugherty
You can usually anticipate the quality of talent by the thickness of an artist’s press packet; Nico Muhly’s is huge and he namedrops like a pro (i.e., Antony, Philip Glass, Bjrk and her husband). Certainly, the music of this Julliard graduate with a string of commissions “that would be notable for a composer twice his age” is technically fascinating, but there are two glaring problems: He falls into the category of “trained composer gets sick of Schoenberg, writes tonally with lots of pop hints, finds favor with people with 1) money 2) enough brain meat to have opinions 3) a desire for something different, but not too different)”. Worse though, Muhly treads in nearly the exact steps of the previous guys who fit this bill during the past 40 years (see above-mentioned artists) by churning out an imitative remix of Down Town Minimalism meets Ashley-esque opera. Wearing your influences on your sleeve is one thing, but come on, man. –Dave Madden

One-Way Mirror
Metal Blade
Street: 07.22
One-Way Mirror = Mnemic + Raunchy + Lyzanxia
Trying to stick a definite tag on One-Way Mirror is difficult. One would say it is n-metal, but it’s much more than that, athough it has some of said genre’s elements. I’d call it modern melodic metal. The band is a super group of sorts, featuring members of Mnemic (the vocalist) Lyzanxia, Phase I, and Soilwork. This is one catchy record—despite its obvious rehashing of certain riffs, sounds and themes, there is a distinct fact that they can play their instruments with talent. The vocals are the best part; maybe it’s because I’m slightly biased and love Mnemic, or maybe it’s just because the guy can sing clean, extremely well and sound like he has an original voice. But it’s actually his screams that get annoying. One-Way Mirror basically has taken melodic death metal and morphed it into something cleaner, a bit more accessible to fans of—dare I say—radio rock, although the band retains a fresh and original sound, with exception to the stupid 80s cover “Relax.” Damn, that gets annoying about one vocal verse in. If you enjoy the other bands that One-Way Mirror’s players are associated with, there is probably no question you’ll be rocking out to the group’s debut record in no time. –Bryer Wharton

In Silico
Street: 05.13
Pendulum= Prodigy + A dash of Muse + a dash of feces
Down south they like to say, “That dog won’t hunt.” I don’t really understand that phrase firsthand, but it does apply to this album. These Aussies recently dropped a semi-dud onto the worldwide scene in the guise of a drum n’ bass fusion record. Sometimes that electronic medium can be almost impossible to meld with rock—at least successfully. A few of these tracks are spot on, but only when Pendulum sticks to one genre and doesn’t straddle multiples. I’m all for merging styles/innovating, but when artists do so for radio playability and “that sound,” you can tell they’re off base. These guys are off the drum n’ bass by a good margin on some of these tracks and it’s noticeably forced. An A&R asshole probably got to them and told them more pop vocals were somehow a great idea. Two jarringly different vocal styles don’t help the confusion, either. –Jon “JP” Paxton

In Music We Trust
Street: 08.19
Perhapst = Cat Stevens (just a hint in the vocals) + Elliot Smith + indie rock + indie pop + tinges of alt county
Decemberists (and former Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Elliot Smith) drummer John Moen emerges from behind the drums for his solo debut with the self-titled Perhapst, and perhaps this record will win your heart over the way it has mine. Each of the 11 tracks has a different vibe; some rousing, some solemn, some whimsical, exuberant, carefree and earthy, while others combine elements of each within a single song. Moen’s vocals hit on many of the same levels as the instrumentation of the songs, creating individuality for each, yet binding them all together by the same token of originality and uniqueness. Some of the catchiest and most infectious tracks include “Quote,” “Blue Year,” “Incense Cone,” “Alamand,” “Bornless One” and “Aren’t You Glowing.” Perhapst is a layered album, with much to be discovered and appreciated in each listen; that being said, I’d recommend listening on repeat for the first several plays. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

We Ate the Machine
MySpace Records
Street: 08.19
Polysics = Devo + Poison + Electric Eel Shock
Haha, MySpace Records. Did you see that Pennywise is now on MySpace records? I guess things change when there are mortgages and child support to pay. Lucky for us, Polysics is a good fit for MySpace, mostly because they aren’t from the U.S. and because they could possibly be a freakin’ machine. I’m sure Tom saw them in concert and just had to tie that one down. Their live show is completely mesmerizing, but may not help with the stereotype that Japanese people are computers walking around. This album sounds like a PC that wishes he was born a MAC but can’t change, so instead is rebelling by listening to punk rock. I am also surprised with how much Polysics have incorporated metal into their sound. The music is ridiculous/fatuous, but for some reason, gives me goose bumps. Maybe not the best album to be listening to on a day-to-day basis, but their live show is an absolute must. –Andrew Glassett

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
The Whole Fam Damnily
Side One Dummy
Street 08.05
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band = Charley Patton + Mississippi John Hurt
To start off, how many bands do you know of that use a washboard and can actually get away with it? I can name one, and I bet you’ve got none. Now with that in mind, travel to the deep ol’ South with me and I’ll show you The Rev and his Big Damn Band. I have never wanted to take down a bottle of moonshine and chew some tobacco as bad as I did after listening to this album. With a track titled “Your Cousin’s on COPS,” you’re probably thinking this is an album for the hicks, but you’re horribly mistaken. The Whole Fam Damnily is a true-blue authentic Southern blues album compacted with soul and innovation. If it wasn’t for watching this band perform live, I would have never been turned on to the old sound. Hallelujah to you, Reverend Peyton, hallelujah to you! –Lyuba Basin
All Those Wrists
Black Market Activities
Street: 06.10
Romans = Converge + Coalesce + Isis
Back when I was in high school, it was quite trendy to try and sound like Converge (Petitioning the Empty Sky/When Forever Comes Crashing era). But lately, I haven’t really heard that comparison. (Who could’ve tried to sound like You Fail Me or No Heroes anyway?) Instead, it seems like heavy music has kind of split into two camps: you are Myspace chug/revival/melodic or you are doing something out in left field. Romans are trying to take elements from some of those left field/unique bands and throw them on top of convention. For the most part, it works pretty well for them. There are some sludgy and melodic parts, some modern punked-up Converge-esque pieces and then some more typical metalcore syncopated sounds. It all works fairly well; it just doesn’t grab interest the way it should. My other gripe with the album is the recording sometimes sounds like it was filtered through a tin can. However, with a little more polish, this band could be going truly unique places. –Peter Fryer

The Rotted
Get Dead or Die Trying
Metal Blade Records
Street: 06.30
The Rotted = Gorerotted + Prostitute Disfigurement
First, Gorerotted became a bit less brutal; now they’ve decided to change their name to The Rotted and move toward a new direction. Full of play-on song titles and a good helping of fairly melodic death metal, The Rotted don’t exactly disappoint me with this release. Oh sure, they aren’t the goregrind band they used to be, but I think I like the fact that they’ve moved beyond that one-trick pony, even if it’s just over to a different pony. The lineup is still the same, including John Pyres of the “decent Cradle of Filth era,” who I’m convinced is responsible for a great deal of their solid songwriting. All but two instrumental songs are filled with fast-tempo, aggressive death metal that won’t exactly make waves in the scene, but doesn’t feel like it’s trying to re-live the glory days again. If you want a solid 40 minutes of relentless no-brainer metal, this is a decent release. –Conor Dow

Run Chico Run
Rocket Surgery
Reluctant Recordings
Street: 04.15
Run Chico Run= The Doors + The Fiery Furnaces + Something unique, for once
I haven’t enjoyed this much psychedelic organ since I thought dreads were an appropriate hair style, tie-dye was gnarly and The Doors were the raddest cuz my parents didn’t like Morrison’s long hair. Yes, 2007 was a good year. It can be challenging as a two-piece to create a large sound, yet the Victoria, B.C., duo of Run Chico Run still manage to discharge a very recognizable sound on their sixth release. Bands can do this by messing with their pickups or using synthesizers and organs. These gents do the latter and really explore multiple synthesizer sounds. The music is a bit eclectic and well constructed throughout: something experimental music fans can definitely appreciate. I’ve listened to enough sounds like Tori Amos (before she got into MILF/early cougar territory, i.e., the mid-90s) and Yes to understand and respect the keys on this release. And for myself and “those types,” Rocket Surgery is fuckin’ gnarly. –Jon “JP” Paxton

Scar Symmetry
Holographic Universe
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.08
Scar Symmetry = Soilwork + Mercenary + Strapping Young Lad
First impressions: Scar Symmetry sound a hell of a lot like what Soilwork has been doing their last few albums, although the prog metal vibe is much stronger and prevalent. Holographic Universe, like the band’s other records, is nothing to get blown away by, but it’s nothing to shake off as an imitator or something lackluster. When the band is in prog metal mode, the music soars and the clean vocals have a great range; it’s just when there is this sort of death growl singing when things run into mediocrity. Also, the rehash factor is big on this record. A few songs in, it seems as if you’ve run into the same melody before. Even guitar solos start to sound the same after a while, which suggests a lack of sturdy songwriting or just plain old ideas. It’s troubling to see what audience Scar Symmetry is trying to tap into; modern melodic death metal fans will stick to Soilwork and In Flames, and as far as prog metal fans go, I think the most death growls they can stand in their music is most likely in Mercenary. Weaknesses aside, the record is entertaining for an occasional listen; repeated ones will tire any seasoned metal fan out quickly. –Bryer Wharton

The Shaky Hands
Holocene Music and Kill Rock Stars
Street Date: 09.09
The Shaky Hands = Kings of Leon + Clap Your Hands Say Yeah + The Who
This indie-rock, jangle-pop album is the lovechild of Kings of Leon’s Because of the Times and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Some Loud Thunder. It’s the perfect album to throw on when you’re cruising up the canyon for a summer hike or while you’re drinking a beer on the porch. Although it’s been said that Lunglight is “darker” than their previously released self-titled debut album, it seems that they’ve merely developed a more rock n’ roll feel instead of that sugarcoated, smile-while-you’re-dancing-but-don’t-really-think-about-what-you’re-listening-to type of music. Granted, it’s not an extremely innovative album—The Who went there with My Generation over 40 years ago and Kings of Leon has been doing it since 2003—but that’s not to say that it isn’t worth listening to. True, the guitar riffs and drum beats are pretty repetitive, but this makes their songs catchy rather than annoying. The vibe is good and these guys have really come a long way since their last album. Listen to the tracks “Loosen Up” and “We Are Young” for an especially groovy time. –Erin Kelleher

Sieges Even
Inside Out
Street: 07.29
Sieges Even = Rush + Fates Warning + Dream Theater
Well, this live album from longtime progressive metal band Sieges Even is the first music I’ve ever heard from the band. This fact makes the live aspect of the record hard to judge. The music is highly jazz inspired in its bass lines especially. With that fact, one can only speculate that a live album would bring massive amounts of room for improvisation from the original sounds of the songs. The live element, however, seems to be missing. The crowd noise is next to nothing; usually you just hear it with song beginnings and endings. The music, however, is tight and enjoyable, although if you have no desire or interest in prog metal, you’d really have no interest in actually hearing this. At times, the lyrical direction runs into Christian realms, which I don’t think is intentional, but it reminds me a lot of listening to those cheesy upbeat Christian rock bands. Basically, the highlight of this live record is the incredible and technically proficient bass lines; other than that, it sounds like a hell of a lot of other progressive bands and can wear thin rather quickly. I’d have to say this album is definitely a fan-only record. –Bryer Wharton

The Slow Poisoner
Roadside Altar
Street: 07.01
The Slow Poisoner = David Bowie (Little Bit) + Ghostwriter + the Pine Hill Haints
The one-man band is an anomaly to me. More of a performance art piece than musical act, it’s rarely done well, and I do have to say that The Slow Poisoner got my blood up when I saw his gothic vaudevillian flair. Accompanying the CD is a press kit full of cartoons and comics which intrigue the hell out of me. Caulked full of headless chickens and one-eyed skulls, not to mention ads for the Poisoner’s own miracle tonic, made with pure Egyptian oil. After perusing all this, I get to the actual music, and I have to say, what a letdown. Not that there aren’t some odd goodies like the song “Eye Hand of the Carolinas,” which made me ponder the twisted mind that created such a tune, and the blues folk track “TB Blues,” which evokes a strange, sad atmosphere. But so many of these songs are weird for the sake of being weird and never really get around to pulling the listener in. I do have to say that actual production is better the any other one-man-band record I’ve heard, but once again, that’s the problem: with just a guitar and a kick drum, there’s very little subtle nuances to grab you. Maybe the Poisoner's live show is better. With a style he’s created which is all his own I can’t imagine you’d ever see anything like it—like I said, I think this is more of a performance-piece thing. –James Orme

Sweet Cobra
Black Market Activities
Street: 06.24
Sweet Cobra = Mastodon + Baroness + Planesmistakenforstars
Sweet Cobra’s music exists in that small, dark and claustrophobic space between aural bliss and discomfort. Their music reminds me of being at a dark and dank basement show with cigarette smoke hovering in the air, staining the walls. Long hair, black shirts and beards would adorn the attendees watching this dark band play their sludgy rock hardcore fusion. It’s heavy, growlingly melodic at times and ensures a ringing in the ears at the massive decibel plane this band exists on. At first it took me a minute to understand what was going on; track one left me a little underwhelmed, but then things started to kick into gear and Sweet Cobra brought their dark riffing and stripped-down Mastodon with-Hot Water Music-vocals sound and I was hooked. Everything about Sweet Cobra is dense, from the music (most songs clock in between six and seven minutes) to the dark lyrics. This is a great release. –Peter Fryer

Last Time on Earth
The Control Group
Street: 08.05
Telepathique = Stereo Total + M.I.A. + breakbeats
The comparison to Stereo Total is uncanny; guy DJ, woman singer, keyboard-driven, culturally tinged electro-pop. Telepathique is from Brazil, Stereo Total is from Germany, and both sound as if they have come from France in the late 90s. I wouldn’t necessarily say they sound dated; the tiniest infusion of Brazilian rhythm makes Telepathique stand out amongst the onslaught of electronic beat music. This is the best kind of bedroom album, accompanied by the sweat and frustration of using a space that isn’t a proper studio but making it sound like it is. The two members of Telepathique aren’t newcomers by any stretch—Erico Theobaldo (aka DJ Periferico) remixed a song for Brazilian cult film City of God. Thankfully, there is no child violence on this release, only a sweet breakbeat refreshment from a genre that has gone the way of the banger. –Andrew Glassett

Thomas Dolby
The Sole Inhabitant (CD/DVD)
Invisible Hands Music
Street: 06.10
Thomas Dolby = Vince Clark + Howard Jones
Who could guess that Thomas Dolby would be the one to bring polyphonic ring tones to the masses? He seemed to be nothing more than a silly man behind a keyboard. Unmistakably intelligent, but the problem with being the smartest kid in the room is they’re nearly impossible to connect with. As such, the genius of Thomas Dolby escaped most of the world as one-hit-wonder-cheek in the form of “She Blinded Me With Science,” because they couldn’t see past the gimmick. Had they listened to “I Live in a Suitcase,” they might have seen a highly intelligent musician. Then again, had they heard “Airhead” or “Hyperactive,” would they have gone back to the gimmick? Sole Inhabitant is a live CD/DVD release that not only showcases Dolby’s sense of humor; it reminds us that he actually knew what he was talking about. The songs still sound remarkably fresh; I’m as in love with “One of Our Submarines” as the first time I heard it and the aforementioned “I Live In A Suitcase” is simply stunning. While I could have done with “Goodbye I Love You,” it wouldn’t have fit within the set list, which is all of his better-known hits pulled from the early, less orchestrated albums. This to accommodate the fact that he performed the songs alone behind a rig of keyboards and samplers, using loops and samplers to layer each song live in performance rather than relying on pre-recorded backing tracks. It’s a remarkable, humbling exhibition of skill (most evident on the DVD). A stroll through the special features on the DVD provides a brilliant how-to on looping and sampling, not to mention a personally guided tour of the equipment Dolby uses. It’s an essential tutorial for electronic musicians and classic synthpop fans. –ryan michael painter

Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.27
Tiamat = one of the originators of “goth” metal
Well, five years in absence of a new studio record for Tiamat has made a distinct difference. The album is massively ambitious, where the bands Prey and Judas Christ albums were very gothic, playing the same themes and musical styles. With Amanethes, we hear an almost completely new Tiamat. At the root, the band still plays their gothic fare, but the music is highly diversified, full of a multitude of different styles, guitar solos, astounding melodies and the most vocal range Johan Edlund has displayed in years. Whereas previous albums had some good songs and were catchy and a good listen, the rest of the records seemed to drone on and lost your attention very quickly. This new record stays clean and new throughout. There are even some death growls brought back into the fold; nothing like the early incarnation of Tiamat. But with multiple listens of the album under my belt, I’m still finding myself dissecting layers of the music and most importantly, a barrage of different emotions. Tiamat hasn’t sounded this amazing in quite a while, and five years was a wait worth taking for this stunning new piece of music. If anything, listen to “The Temple of the Crescent Moon” for something to cherish from these longtime metal vets. –Bryer Wharton

Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!
Be Yr Own Shit
To Lose La Track Records
Street: 01.18
Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!= American Rock - Tour of Italy
When someone says “Italian Indie-Punk Band,” certain sounds come to mind. But they shouldn’t. Just think of your average American punk/pop/rock/indie band and you’ve got Tiger! Shit! etc. (I won’t be forced to type their ridiculous name anymore). I was hoping for a little bit of Italiano on this bitch, but I got nothing. If I wanted to hear a whiny guy choose to not finish his words (enunciate, jackass!) I could pick up an American band doing the same affected retardation on their disc. Then I wouldn’t have to pay the import fees for some Italian douche’s take on what sounds hep. You know what sounds cool? Whole words. To be fair, some of this album could have Italian insights or colloquialisms adding something revelatory/semi-interesting, but I’m pretty sure 75% of it is unintelligible English. There are lyrics in contemporary music for a reason. Bands of the world, take note. –Jon “JP” Paxton

Tilly And The Wall
Team Love Records
Street: 06.17
Tilly And The Wall = Tegan & Sara + Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Shirley Temple
When “Tall Tall Grass” started playing, I was less than excited. It is a good song, don’t get me wrong, but it is what I expected to hear. However, when the second track, “Pot, Kettle, Black” came on, I began to get excited. O sounds more like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs or even Peaches than Tilly and the Wall. They weren’t willing to change their optimistic attitude no matter how disgruntled they became, but that worked in their favor. Even though the album has a couple more aggressive tracks, they maintain their innocent approach to indie rock. Tracks like “Jumbler” and “Dust Me Off” help the band show off their ability to write catchy hooks and fun melodies. This album makes it pretty obvious why they tour with CSS and Lightspeed Champion. –Cody Hudson

Napalm Records
Street: 06.10
Tr = the ultimate Viking metal
Initially, this Tr fourth full-length record sounded pretty much like all their other records, though upon further exploration, a natural progression is discovered. The band still plays heavily on Viking themes; well, that’s pretty much all the band focuses on lyrically and in a musical sense, with the majority of the music based in certain realms of folk. Don’t get me wrong, much of Land is full of heavy melodic guitars. The band this time around seems to be focused on the folk elements a bit more, with pretty much every song sung and titled in Faroese, though the musical differences are few and far between. There are plenty of stellar chanting moments going on in the vocals. The music is slow to mid-paced with a handful of speedy rhythms. The guitars are a bit tighter and more technical than before and when I say a bit I mean a bit; it’s hard to tighten up your playing when you can play pretty damn technical to begin with. The whole album has an ethnic feel; not saying previous records didn’t, this one just seems more based in the band’s roots of their homeland. After listening to Land, I’m ready to jump ship to Scandinavia and Faroe, grab a huge mug of ale and sing along to the epic tales that Tr deliver. If you haven’t gotten into this wonder of a band yet, discover them now and unleash your inner Viking. –Bryer Wharton

Valient Thorr
Street: 08.05
Valient Thorr = Holy Shit!!
Oh my God, these dudes are classic. Ha!! It’s like the epitome of what Guitar Hero 4 is going to be. I can’t believe people make music like this and that other people buy into this shit. It’s astounding. This sounds like a commercial for a Black Sabbath disrespect-athon. There are so many classic heavy-metal rock bands out now like this and they all sound exactly the same. One day, Jesus Christ is going to come back and bust all these doofy-ass bands right in the face for being lame-o. The most entertaining thing about Valient Thorr is the booklet with some sweet pics of five hairy, sweaty dudes grinding and getting all caveman on each other on stage. Foolishness!! –Jon Robertson

Warmer Milks
Soft Walks
Animal Disguise Records
Street: 06.17
Warmer Milks= Folky early Bowie + Six Organs of Admittance
I was such a fan of Warmer Milks' 2006 album Radish On Light that I asked SLUG to request a copy of their most recent release, Soft Walks, for me to review. What a difference two years has made in this band's sound! Expecting more of the Birthday Party-inspired, angular, creepy-crawling textures of Radish On Light, I couldn't have been more surprised by the folky, gentle sounds Warmer Milks have generated for Soft Walks, and even more surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Gentle John Fahey-esque acoustic guitar has replaced careening no-wave bombast. Vocalist and bandleader Michael Turner has forsaken the Lydia Lunch and Diamanda Galas-inspired vocal acrobatics of Radish On Light for a crooning, Jim Morrison (at his most drunken and bloated) approach. Not being very familiar with the genre of (and somewhat shuddering at the very term) “freak-folk,” I'm unable to place this release squarely in the genre. What I can admirably compare Soft Walks to, however, is the drugged-out, early 1970s solo output of David Crosby and Stephen Stills. Like these bleary-eyed troubadours, with Soft Walks, Warmer Milks have offered up a scruffy hand of friendship clad in a frayed denim sleeve, their eyes rimmed with just enough drug-binge mania to keep things interesting. –Ben West

This is Exile
Metal Blade
Street: 07.08
Whitechapel = Cephalic Carnage + Carnifex + The Black Dahlia Murder
Frankly, I’m surprised Whitechapel has had time to record a new record. Since the band made their debut on Metal Blade records last year, they have pretty much been touring relentlessly. So what is different in a year for the band? Well, the technicality in the music has increased. The band still plays deathcore fast and furious. The new tunes are just as fast as the old and in fact more brutal, with help from a thicker production sound and likely a year’s worth of experience. Thankfully, Whitechapel does what they do well and don’t fully fade into obscurity in the realm of other deathcore and metalcore bands; the sound comes off as fresh despite a vocal performance that sounds oh-so-familiar in comparison to many other artists. The guitar work and songwriting, especially in the riff department, has gotten much better than before; the guys’ live shows must be that much more entertaining to watch. Congrats guys, on getting better, not worse, successfully smacking the sophomore syndrome in the face. –Bryer Wharton

Object 47
Pink Flag
Street: 07.15
Wire = Post-punk originators
While the majority of reunions are artistically disappointing and quickly become sticky sweet-nostalgia exercises, Wire return with their second full-length post-break-up album and remind us that it’s never too late for a second stroke of genius. Call Object 47 Wire’s pop record; as such, it took a couple listens before I could get my head around it, but my patience was rewarded. Opening track “One of Us” is an absolute classic; Colin Newman has rarely sounded better. Closing track “All Fours” also proves there’s still some venom left. Sadly, it should be noted that guitarist Bruce Gilbert appears nowhere, making this the first proper Wire album without all of the original members (some may recall the Wire project when drummer Robert Gotobed gave his job to a drum machine before returning as Robert Grey in 1999). Gilbert’s absence is notable in that throbbing bass lines dominate the majority of the album, with guitars playing second fiddle, and the album lacks any epic sonic experimentation that tended to sneak into Wire’s previous work (much like 2007’s Read & Burn 03 EP where Gilbert was also mostly absent). –ryan michael painter

Various Artists
A Weevil in a Biscuit
Street: 02.08
A Weevil in a Biscuit = All kinds of shit!
A label sampler should be like a good mix tape: clever sequencing, enough variety and a few interesting turns that keep you guessing. This compilation of international relatively unknowns from relatively unknown Edinburgh-based label Bearsuit Records meets these needs. Beginning with 80s electro-light (Anne King’s “Unknown Us Apart”), continuing with hyper-MIDI’d piano and dance-inspiring vocoders (Alone Together’s “Human Beings”), jumping to flamenco-meets-industrial (Pndc’s “Pick Up Your Tears”) to percolating, decrepit drum machines and sped-up, Bjrk-like, nonsensical vocals to … you get the point … all over the map! There's just enough diversity here to keep you interested, but not so much as to adversely affect the disc's pacing; the album does lilt a bit from the 3/4ths mark to the end with a string of ambient tracks, interrupted by DM Stith’s brilliant tear-jerker “Be My Baby”, but who says a mix shouldn’t end with you curled up in bed (or a ditch)? –Dave Madden

Various Artists
The Reprogramming Project
Plastic Sound Supply
Street: 07.15
The Reprogramming Project = Space Time Continuum + newer Scorn
You can’t churn out lazy IDM and expect anyone to care anymore—this isn’t 2001! Yes, following the “crisp beats/chimes/glitch” formula will assuredly earn you a slot on some iTunes Internet station and loads of Burning Men/Women fans that just discovered that you can dance to this genre, but if you want to convince the real fans, you need to innovate. This compilation gathers three Denver-based artists who offer originals and collaborative remixes, music best compared to pioneers Plaid (with whom they have worked) and Bola. The problem is that the trio (Wayne Winters, CacheFlowe and Scaffolding) have nothing to offer but a predictable clich of the abovementioned formula, cyberpunk samples, lackluster strings, bleeps and stuff that sounded fresh before 5000 laptop musicians did the same thing. New art usually happens at the beginning and end of a particular era: I guess IDM isn’t waving goodbye yet. –Dave Madden

Various Artists
Solos in Stereo II
Street: 07.15
Solos in Stereo II = Keak Da Sneak + Madlib + cLOUDDEAD
Solos in Stereo II is the latest compilation from Bay Area label Solos, a collective with as much in common with Anticon as it does with Oakland’s Sick Wid It Records, or southern neighbors Stones Throw, or further east at Ghostly—you get the picture. Javelin’s “I’m a Kidputer” stomps like an RZA instrumental geared for ODB during his surf phase; Roche, Pugslee Atomz and Wes Restless cruise over a piano and chipmunk voice beat like Snoop meets Isaac Hayes on “Only When I Dream”; CB Radio pops and locks to the influence of Kid 606 and Brazilian disco; Roche returns once again with Livingston Gains who rhymes about Ian Curtis, then spits “I’ve lost control, again” to a steaming, distorted crump beat; “Conscience Observer” finds Jovian and 10z bouncing in a six fo’ of crisp hats, snaps and flute loops. Solos is further proof that Afrika Bambaataa continues to mess with the fluoride in Oakland’s water supply. –Dave Madden

Self-titled (Red Album)
Street: 06.03
Weezer = Weezer (come on, if you don’t know what Weezer sounds like, you’re a moron and must’ve been in a cave since before 1994)
Weezer put themselves in a predicament early on in their career by starting with the Blue Album” its crunchy guitars and undeniable catchiness bringing them into superstardom. Following with Pinkerton, a masterpiece—in my mind—that would put them in a position for many (myself included) to wonder if they could ever top those two first releases. Since then, they’ve released three other albums that critics love to hate, and by comparison, you can see where they’re coming from; though those, too, are very good records, I think. The Red Album has its strengths and is reminiscent of past material while trying new things (Rivers Cuomo rapping, other members lending their writing and singing for the first time), but the album also has some low points (the slow and lagging Cold Dark World, etc.). All in all, it’s a Weezer record and it’s good. Sometimes being too critical only ruins the fun. –Jeremy C. Wilkins