National CD Reviews – September 2008

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31Knots
Worried Well
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 08.19
31Knots = Portugal. The Man + Of Montreal + DragonForce - the fantasy metal
This album possesses a few good aspects, but as a whole, it falls short of that thing which we look for whenever we listen to a new CD. Oftentimes, the songs start off quite well but drift into uneven chaos by the time they’re finished. Even if you’re a fan of the band and their former albums, this one doesn’t live up to them. I’m not even sure what category to put it into. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it seems so apparent that a band is trying to do just that, be unidentifiable with any category, one has to wonder if they’re worrying more about the music or the image that they’re trying to portray. The piano pieces and guitar riffs that trickle throughout the album make it an interesting listen, and sometimes the off-key vocals really work (“Strange Kicks” is a perfect example of that), but for the most part, the album is jerky and lacking in overall elements. –Erin Kelleher

The Acacia Strain
Continent
Prosthetic Records
Street: 08.19
The Acacia Strain = Bloodhasbeenshed + The Red Chord + Meshuggah
The Acacia Strain is one of those bands that I’ve known is out there, but never really gave a shot—kind of like the fascination with Battlestar Galactica. I gave Battlestar a shot last year and I’m currently making my way through season 3. So, did the Acacia Strain have the same effect? For playing a style of music that is overdone these days (the much maligned deathcore), they aren’t bad. The downtuned guitars are bass-ment heavy and their tongue-in-cheek lyrical content is worth the read. What’s funnier than a dead baby joke? How about a metaphorical one like, “I want the world to have my rape baby so when it’s born I can strangle it to death.” I’m going to have to try that one out at Thanksgiving dinner. As it stands, The Acacia Strain distinguish themselves from the rest of the deathcore pack, if not by much. It’s not as violently stirring as I had hoped, but it’ll do for a tough-guy arms-crossed slow nod/headbang. –Peter Fryer

Alghazanth
Wreath of Thevetat
Woodcut Records
Street: 02.25
Alghazanth = Anorexia Nervosa + Horna
Mikko Kotamäki joined Alghazanth in 2005, which makes this the first album the band has released with him. Some may be familiar with the more prominent Swallow the Sun, who write a digestible style of melodic doom. This is not doom, however. It is, however, a really tasty serving of black metal with heavy symphonic elements. Because Anorexia Nervosa have been on hiatus since the departure of their vocalist Hreidmarr, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for something similar to blast ever since. It’s finally here, and it’s quite good. The production is high quality, but it’s almost necessary given the fact that the music can be fairly brutal. But it contains a great deal of underlying melody from the keyboards section. Though Alghazanth isn’t exactly changing the face of black metal as we know it, they certainly are adding a worthy contribution to the already prominent style. Now I finally have something to spin when Anorexia Nervosa’s Redemption Process runs a bit thin for me. –Conor Dow

Alice Cooper
Along Came a Spider
SPV
Street: 07.29
Alice Cooper = the godfather of shock-rock
After 25 studio releases, you’d think Alice Cooper would start running out of ideas. Not even close. And Along Came a Spider is proof. The album does a stunning job at making Alice’s sound current while retaining his classic hard-rock sensibility. The album is a concept record reminiscent of Welcome to My Nightmare, about a serial killer that wraps his prey in silk and takes one of their legs; the storyline flows well and keeps listeners intrigued until the very end. I won’t spoil anything, but there are twists and turns throughout. Where many concept records fail or the songs can’t stand on their own without the next, any song on this record is a worthy classic cut just on its own. Alice’s lyric-writing has always been his strong suit; out of his last four records, Along Came a Spider has the catchiest songs within the lyrical content and just the great music. Other albums seemed to just have highlights; there is nary a bad song on this monster. Alice has had a solid band for his last few albums. Among the players are Eric Singer, who has drummed for Kiss. His ability to create rhythms is superb; it comes off as one of the direct highlights of the record, aside from the mighty Alice, of course. Not to take away any limelight from the guitars/bass, which are all written within the concept of the album, keeping to the classic nature of Cooper’s music and just melding it into rock legend. This album goes hand-in-hand with classic Alice albums like Killer, Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out, hell; the list of his records that is timeless goes on and on. In a perfect world, Alice will never die! –Bryer Wharton

Alias
Resurgam
Anticon
Street: 08.26
Alias = Boards of Canada + Odd Nosdam + Four Tet
Alias’s work follows the sample-heavy, drum-machined (note the title “I Heart Drum Machines”), bit-reduced formula of hip-hop, and though he’s also known for producing harder stuff for the likes of Sage Francis, here he prefers to package it all with a lighter, sometimes fey (á là his work with Tarsier) approach, dropping tripped-out folk guitar and softer sounds as well as crunchy snares into his MPC. He counterposes every big-beat (“New to a Few”) and spry “dance” track (“Well Water” with Why?) with pulpy pieces such as the spacious, piano-driven “Weathering” (Featuring The One AM Radio) and a droning, otherworldly radio transmission on “Place of No More Choices.” For all the Public Enemy and Wu-Tang you listen to all week, it’s nice to put on something that incorporates the same elements but does so at a languid pace, just to refuel or take a break on a foggy morning. –Dave Madden

American Music Club
The Golden Age
Merge
Street 02.28
AMC = Red House Painters + Pedro the Lion + a masculine Cat Power
American Music Club is often described as a slow-core band. While their music does mirror this trend in a lyrical sense, they seem much more talented musically than many of their contemporaries. And where 2004’s Love Songs for Patriots tilted a bit much to the side of the overproduced, this new disc feels a great deal more like it was recorded live—and this makes me like it more than other AMC albums. Frontman Mark Eitzel and long-time guitarist Mark “Vudi” Pankler are joined by a new rhythm section, and together, they take the band in a slightly different (and, dare I say, optimistic) direction. And while the 13 tracks on the Golden Age have their self-doubting and murky moments, there are energetic shots of mariachi horns and doo-woppish vocal harmonies just often enough to count this disc among their best. Good job, gentlemen. –James Bennett

American Speedway
Ship of Fools
Prophase
Street: 04.13
American Speedway = Butthole Surfers + AC/DC
So one day when I lived in Magna, I came home from school to hear a loud blues-filled noise coming from my basement and went down there to see what the source of the noise was. It was my dad and all his drunk buddies jamming out, trying and dreaming about getting the old band back together to relive the dream. I asked my dad what he was doing and he told me that he was getting the band back together and they were going to call it American Speedway. After he told me this I began laughing so hard that I fell over and died. – Jon Robertson

Anathema
Hindsight
Peaceville
Street: 08.19
Anathema = acoustic doom
Anathema started out as one heavy doom metal band 18 years ago. The UK act morphed their sound probably in the biggest direction to a more melodic yet still gloom-filled material with 1998’s Alternative 4. The fact that the band is coming out with Hindsight, a semi-acoustic album utilizing material from a good portion of Anathema’s career, is a bit strange, since the band’s last two records, A Fine Day to Exit and A Natural Disaster, used plenty of acoustic guitars and orchestral and piano arrangements. Hindsight is more of a restructuring of some of the newer songs, but then again, the older songs that did have fair portions of electric sounds have morphed into something different and astonishingly beautiful. There is one exclusive original track, “Unchained (Tales of the Unexpected),” which breathes life into the album and offers something refreshingly different and wondrously woven and full of strong emotions. There is also the classic “Fragile Dreams,” “Angelica,” and “Inner Silence.” We’ve all heard bands go acoustic or semi-acoustic and fail miserably; i.e., The Gathering, but the sound fits Anathema’s current style—the Cavanagh brothers that make up the majority of the band came to bat with this record and hit a grand slam. Daniel’s voice continues to be one of the most prolific in the melodic rock realm. The UK band showed long ago that they were more than a heavy guitar-based doom-metal band and were full of depth; Hindsight just reinforces the fact. Tans and newcomers will undoubtedly love this record the same as the rest. I know if I ever need a moment to relax and wallow in my doubt and despair, Anathema will be there. –Bryer Wharton

Anima
The Daily Grind
Metal Blade
Street: 09.02
Anima = Dead to Fall + Despised Icon + With Blood Comes Cleansing
When it comes to Anima, you’ve heard this one before—many, many times before. Anima is metal with a tinge of hardcore, with that super low-end bass boom before the breakdown, the growled and screamed vocals and the death-metal-inspired guitar lines. How do you describe mediocrity? How do you describe the feeling of driving a Ford Taurus? Anima is decent at what they do, especially for all of them being about high-school age, but that’s probably the most unique characteristic of this release. This CD will get you to that place where death metal and karate-kick breakdowns meet, but isn’t going to do much else. The songs all follow a pretty standard formula, with little in the way of innovation. There was no lyric sheet, and obviously, the lyrics were nigh impossible to make out, save two words: “Expensive Jeeeeaaans.” Not often can one laugh in the face of death, but now I have. –Peter Fryer

AntiSeen
The Best Of
TKO
Street: 06.24
Antiseen = An entertaining bar brawl that degenerates into a bloody mess
Hear’s the deal; it is almost pointless for me to write a review about this Best of Antiseen record. They’ve been playing the most brutal kick-in-the-teeth rock n’ roll for over 25 years now, and they’ve done it by not listening to a single critic. They couldn’t give a shit if I like, or if you, like their music. The point is, they like it, and they’ve managed to find other demented folk who get turned on by their self-described destructo rock. This band has been beating the hell out of audiences that can’t get enough since 1983, and the amazing thing about this two-disc career-spanning record is to hear how they’ve only gotten meaner and harder over time. Early songs like “Nothing’s Cool” and “I Don’t Ask You for Nothing” show just how this band couldn’t give a fuck about any trends, even early on. On the second disc, things actually get heavier and darker. This best-of record is great for fans because Antiseen have been so diligent in putting out records—there’s gotta be upwards of around 40 releases by now. So if you’re ready for some evil Southern destructo rock, then you know what to do, and everyone else can fuck off. –James Orme

Austrian Death Machine
Total Brutal
Metal Blade
Street: 07.22
Austrian Death Machine = As I Lay Dying – the whining + parody There is plenty wrong with this album, like the fact that Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying wanted to make a record with songs that he spent an hour or so each writing, then boasted about how much better the music is than many serious bands that are heavy. The record is a supposed tribute to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the fact that Arnold’s cheesy action movies are a statement about what is brutal and filled with testosterone. I do agree that there are some bands that take similar sounds and are highly serious and are total crap. Tim has guest guitar players perform a solo for every song who are supposed to be “world-class shredders” I’m not so sure the guys from Daath and Killswitch Engage are “world class.” The music is pretty run-of-the-mill metalcore, filled with pointless breakdowns … and those solos? Well, they are damned uninspired. The only thing that makes this record redeemable is the lyrical content, and even that gets a bit old quick. This isn’t the first time this concept has been played out by a band; there is the highly ass-kicking ArnoCorps and Goretorture. Yes, if you enjoy metalcore that was written with parody in mind with many shortcuts taken in the music lacking the key component a parody holds—humor—then this stuff will get your rocks off. Admittedly and sadly, though, I’ve enjoyed listening to this much more than any As I Lay Dying album. ¬–Bryer Wharton

Bahimiron
Southern Nihilizm
Moribund Records
Street: 08.12
Bahimiron = Corpus Christii + To Scale the Throne
Texas gave birth to David Koresh, Charles Whitman, and hosted the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Out among this bleak, unforgiving landscape lies a little town known as Houston, which is home to Bahimiron. Though this is their first release on a “major” black metal label, the band has been putting out limited releases regularly for nearly seven years, most notably, a split with Finland’s Sargeist in 2006. The music in this release is your fairly standard hateful black metal, which apparently was recorded live. The writing is adept, but truthfully, the most memorable thing about this band is their semi-apparent fascination with whiskey and violent American culture. While this may not be a terrible release, it really doesn’t do anything but fill various stereotypes that have been pounded into black and pink gut-shit for the past many, many years. Sort of like Texas. –Conor Dow

Beehatch
Beehatch
Lens Records
Street: 04.29
Beehatch = cEvin Key’s Music for Cats + Coil + Cabaret Voltaire
A tenuous collaboration spawned by a “Hey, you want to make a record?” Beehatch is the duo of Mark Spybey (Dead Voices on Air) and Phil Western (platEAU). As you can read by the abovementioned description, the album is rooted in electronica, but that can mean just about anything to these two guys—they’ve worked with everyone from Skinny Puppy to Faust to Can. The tracks weave together like (bear with this) a sailing trip in the Pacific; on the surface, there is a cooling sheen of sun and crisp air, though an unnamed, gorgeous uncertainty lurks below. Subdued, Orb-like (and occasional drum n’ bass) beats drive half the works, but for every head-nod you have a “God Is So Good, God Is So Dub,” a transparent gossamer that visually recalls an early scene in Close Encounters … where the tribes gather and chant the five-note alien theme together in the desert. Mysterious and magnificent in scope. –Dave Madden

Beck
Modern Guilt
DGC Records
Street: 07.08
Beck = Beck (nobody is like him)
I cannot believe that Beck is still making such innovative music after all his years in the biz. It seems like every record he puts out has a similar feel to his previous release, but he at the same time expands your ears to new genres never heard. Obviously, the title track, “Modern Guilt,” is amazingly produced (thanks to a little help from Danger Mouse) but the whole CD jettisons you through a sound universe that few people have ever experienced. He must read the dictionary on a daily basis for new words to use for rhyming, because each song has such a different feel than you would expect. Big-ups to Beck on actually making good new music to listen to, rather than releasing something that you will listen to once and throw in the recycling bin. –Adam Dorobiala

The Black Ghosts
The Black Ghosts
I Am Sound
Street: 07.08
The Black Ghost = Jamiroquai + 90s dance club
Whenever the world creates a genre of movie or music, it seems there will undoubtedly be a noir version. The Black Ghosts could very likely be considered the noir version of the indie dance world. Unlike film, though, music’s noir versions have nothing to do with moral ambiguity or sexual motivation. The album is produced very well, with contributions from DJ Touché and Simian vocalist Simon Lord. The Black Ghosts may sound dark, but they are really just a minor version of the Brand New Heavies. Lyrically, they are nothing more than your average pop flavor of the moment. It is guaranteed that their tracks have found their way into British night clubs, but that might be the end of the darkness. –Andrew Glassett

Born In Winter
Waiting in the Dark
Self Released
Street: 07.21.07
Born in Winter = In This Moment – the screaming + Flyleaf + the Gathering
Denver’s Born in Winter picked a pretty damn good name from the hat of band names; the dark suggestion perfectly fits the group’s music. The group actually played Utah’s Dark Arts Festival, but as to what year, their bio doesn’t say. However, I wouldn’t consider their music fully gothic or even like the nü-metal acts they compare themselves to. The sound comes off as a female-fronted progressive metal band, kind of a heavier version of some of what The Gathering did years ago. Better production would suit the band better; the bulk of the guitars come through as quite thin in the mix, while the bass as excellent as it is comes in quite clear, even at times overbearing. The vocal mix from Michelle Huerd is fantastic, though, her voice is haunting, beautiful and emotionally packed. Waiting in the Dark is the band’s third record, with a supposed 2008 release coming soon. The group would do well to ditch the tags of being compared to bands like Sevendust or Atreyu. The music is in a completely different realm and for the fact of the matter, more heartfelt, honest and deserving of attention. –Bryer Wharton

The Black Angels
Directions to See a Ghost
Light in the Attic Records
Street: 05.16
The Black Angels = Spacemen 3 + Brian Jonestown Massacre
In the five months of 2008, I have yet to stumble across an album that completely blew me away until The Black Angels came into my possession. For a while I was so incredibly jaded to music that you couldn’t get me to tap my feet to a beat if you tried. Then, before I knew it, Directions to See a Ghost ripped my pants off and impregnated me with a new love for the psychedelic sound. The album’s hypnotizing guitar could easily be a fresh replacement for strobe lights, in case you are an epileptic. Before the album was even finished, I was committed to joining whatever demonic cult the Black Angels were secretly a part of. The melancholy vocals, which could be compared to Anton Newcombe of BJM, are convincing and sometimes even a little frightening. But it never hurts to be intimidating, and it’s about time for acid rock to come out of the shadows and do just that. –Lyuba Basin

Black Flame
Imperium
Regain Records
Street: 06.23
Black Flame = Morbid Angel + Vader + Dark Funeral
I first heard the Italian blackened death-metal band Black Flame on their 2006 album Conquering Purity, released by the excellent Norwegian boutique label Worship Him. Conquering Purity was a promising, if somewhat unfocused, album made by a band that seemed close to bringing all its influences into a cohesive whole. The new album, Imperium, erupts as a thoroughly focused affair, its edges honed razor-sharp, its riffs taut as a garrote. Unfortunately, this excellent album has already been made, 18 years ago, by the Polish band Vader. Sharp a weapon as it is, Imperium handles much like Vader’s 1990 The Ultimate Incantation. If your musical arsenal is already stocked with the best releases from A-listers like Morbid Angel and Deicide, and you’ve exhausted yourself on bands that followed in their wake, such as Vader and Krisiun, then you might just be ready for Black Flame. Otherwise, Imperium will likely remain in its sheath. –Ben West

Blackwinds
Flesh Inferno
Regain Records
Street: 05.18
Blackwinds = Emperor + Dark Funeral
Blackwinds is a Swedish two-man black metal band containing at least one member of the long-running Setherial. With Flesh Inferno, their second full-length released in 2008, Blackwinds present a convincingly played take on black metal performed in the cold Northern European style of the early 1990s. In the 10-song, 56-minute album, one hears the icy influence of Emperor, the martial dirge of Marduk, and even the theatrical bombast of early Cradle of Filth. Flesh Inferno is quite an accomplished performance for two musicians, even considering the degree of studio gloss and synthesized finesse present on the album. The problem, however, is that Blackwinds performs the 90s style so well that they’ve rendered themselves redundant. I honestly can’t suggest this album to anyone who already owns Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse, Dark Funeral’s Secrets of the Black Arts or Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina. If you own those albums, there is no reason to ever reach for Flesh Inferno, and if you don’t own those albums, buy them instead. –Ben West

Blessed by a Broken Heart
Pedal to the Metal
Century Media
Street: 09.02
Blessed by a Broken Heart = Avenged Sevenfold + Journey
In an honorable reference to Homer Simpson, I’ve heard bands suck before, but Blessed by a Broken Heart are the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. My friends and I suffered through multiple listens of this album just for you, now I’m not quite sure what to do with the disc; it’s not even a worthy coaster for a frosty brew. I am not really quite sure what the band is trying to do with their sound, but it comes off as highly annoying. The Montreal act tries to create some fun metal anthems, mixing in really bad 80s style keyboards, then tossing in some hardcore moments, then—oh yes, it gets worse—clean singing that makes you want to take the singer out in the street and hang him from a tree by his toenails, and finally, tons and tons of lavish guitar soloing that doesn’t fit anything going on with the music at all. The mix is terrible as well; the rhythm section is virtually unnoticeable at times and when you can hear what’s going on, it’s completely pointless. Oh yeah, the lyrics—you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to ram a Q-tip in your ear. “Move Your Body,” boasts the chorus, of “Throw your hands up like you just don’t care/Move your body to the beat”; “Show Me What You Got” screams out, “So take your best shot/Show me what you got/Is that all you got?” I heard what you got, Blessed by a Broken Heart, and I pray that the music world will ignore it and not find it camp or fun like you’re trying to be. I know some bands that would gladly show you what they’ve got and bash a guitar over your head. –Bryer Wharton

Bloodbath
The Wacken Carnage CD/DVD
Peaceville
Street: 06.24
Bloodbath = Grave + Dismember + Unleashed
Oh yeah, Bloodbath live, the time finally came at Germany’s infamous Wacken Open Air on Aug. 6 2005. The Swedish supergroup formed in 1998 and never played a live show until this one, and this CD/DVD captures that first show in all its old-school death metal glory. If you loved Bloodbath on CD, just hear/see the guys live. The band pretty much started from bands that weren’t really involved in death metal anymore, and they wanted to mess around and make some good old-fashioned gory stuff; the guys even admitted back in the day that they blatantly stole some riffs they loved from classic old-school death-metal bands. This live CD/DVD contains material from the band’s first EP and two full-lengths. Vocalist of Opeth fame Mikael Akerfeldt handles all the vocal duties for the show, Peter Tagreten of Hypocrisy sang for the band’s second record, Nightmares Made Flesh. Martin “Axe” Axenrot, also of Opeth, blazes along on the drums at hyperspeed. Anders “Blakkheim” Nystrom on guitar and Jonas Renkse on bass, both from Katatonia, are a stellar pair playing a style that doesn’t resemble Katatonia at all. Then rounding out the band is the mighty Dan Swano of many bands and styles; he also handles some guitar duties. The mix is fantastic here, with great stage banter from Akerfeldt. The DVD of the show shot during the day at Wacken will have shredders imitating the band’s songs in no time. The fact the package is together in a CD-case format, and most likely lower priced, is even better. –Bryer Wharton

Blue Skies for Black Hearts
Serenades and Hand Grenades
King of Hearts Records
Street 05.20
Blue Skies for Black Hearts = John Cusack in Say Anything + The Strokes
The blue skies definitely overpower the black hearts when it comes to this album. It’s hard to imagine anything close to the dark side went into putting this record together. Serenades and Hand Grenades brings back the once-ideal mop-top band, fully equipped with harmonized vocals. Like before, the serenades seem to overweigh the hand grenades or any tool that could be used in violent acts. (Is the darkness and weaponry supposed to add an edge?) The album is jam-packed with modest love songs. Let’s just say if The Strokes had a secret lollipop twin that had just come out of years of hiding, Blue Skies for Black Hearts would be it. They have created a sweet, safe and yet still surprisingly catchy record, just in time for the horny youth that blooms in spring. Here’s to the new age of holding your boom box outside your lover’s window. –Lyuba Basin

Bumtech
Beware of D-G
Self-Release
Street: 09.09
Bumtech = New Wave circa 2006
While I wish I could tell you that Bumtech were able to channel Devo and the B-52’s effectively, the truth is that they come off as the opening band that think they’re far more clever than they really are. Surely geek-rock fans deserve something more intelligent, subversive or blindly fun than this collection of mindless drivel. But wait! At least there’s “1000 Days” and “Waiting,” which sounds like a Lush outtake and “Out of Range,” which throws in some R.E.M., but hey, that’s progress. If they jettisoned the unwitty witticisms and set their sights on dream pop, they might actually have something. –ryan michael painter

Chris Letcher
Harmonium EP
2feet Music
Street: 06.30
Chris Letcher = The Arcade Fire + John Vanderslice
After Letcher’s highly acclaimed debut album, Frieze, was released in 2007, he went to work touring and writing more music for this EP. The South African toured all around Europe, Canada, and the US and recorded a few songs while he was on the road. Between songs about the music business and a song from the perspective of an individual on the operation bed about to get a lung transplant. This EP is strange, but a great strange. This EP is going to garner a lot of attention after Letcher’s constant spots on College Radio Top 20 last year. Check it out if you’re looking for another singer-songwriter that’s doing something unique. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Chrome Division
Booze, Broads and Beelzebub
Nuclear Blast
Street: 08.05
Chrome Division = Motorhead + ZZ Top + Clutch + Norwegian flair
When I first came across Chrome Division with their 2006 debut, Doomsday Rock N’ Roll, I was pleasantly surprised. The band consists of Shagrath playing the rhythm guitar and contributing some vocals. Shagrath is best known for being the vocalist of one of Norway’s biggest metal bands, Dimmu Borgir. The surprise was the fact that Shagrath was a part of the reason the band came to be; out of his and his buddies’ love for old-school rock á là Motörhead, ZZ Top and AC/DC. While I enjoyed Doomsday Rock N’ Roll, this record puts that one to bed and them some. The thing is basically just plain fun; not really intended to be all that serious; there are a ton of “biker rock” bands that wish they could come up with songs this raucous and fun. The guitars shred through you like an old cleaver hacking and hacking away on a cutting board with a broken whiskey bottle, until you’re bloodied, bruised and running around doing things you would only do when you’re inebriated beyond all perception. Every track hear is worth a sing-along, and the vocalist Eddie Guz of The Carburetors sounds like he’s swallowed a bunch of razor blades. Production is slick without losing any of that gritty down-and-dirty stuff that a rock n’ roll band should portray. This piece of music is filled with groove where guitar riffs and bass lines go hand in hand, and a wealth of howl-at-the-moon type guitar solos. The album title describes it all; I’m ready to hop on my bicycle with “Raven Black Cadillac” blaring from a boom box and pretend I’m a leather-clad big-bearded biker dude. – Bryer Wharton
Cock Sparrer
True To Yourself
TKO Records
Street: 08.19
Cock Sparrer = The Clash + Cockney Rejects
Although it has been 30 years since Cock Sparrer crashed onto the punk scene and became some of the firsts in the oi! movement, they’ve still got it. Side A of this 7” features “True to Yourself,” a teaser from their upcoming album Here We Stand, which will be released later this year by TKO. The song is a catchy anthem that sounds as if it could have been written in the same era as many of the tracks on Shock Troops. Side B––a live version of the classic “Chip On My Shoulder”––is the real treat of this 7”, though. The recording quality on this one is crisp and no band member overpowers the rest. Fingers crossed that Cock Sparrer can maintain their classic sound on their upcoming release without sounding like they’re simply going through the same motions over and over again –Jeanette Moses

Daniel Ahearn
Pray for Me By Name
Riparian
Street: 06.17
Daniel Ahearn = Chris Carrabba + Jesus
I thought the Dashboard Confessional phase was over and done with years ago. It seems a few of us still need some catching up to do. Ahearn, full of sugar and, well, sugar … could book a huge show here in Salt Lake. His song “Jesus Saves” would be a big hit at the Rock Church. This EP, however, is not a big hit with me. The choirboy vocals and lyrics just don’t sit right in my ears, or my stomach. It could be the atheist in me, or my dislike of anything anywhere near Chris Carrabba. The five tracks on this EP seem like a huge reminder of the reasons I will be going to hell. The last song, “Whitewashing,” might as well be a subliminal message referring to Ahearn’s plan to start a religious and racist cult. The label that put this record out is called Riparian. Hmm? Warning to all the people still listening to Dashboard; he’ll recruit you first. You’ll soon realize what Pray for Me By Name really means. –Lyuba Basin

The Dark Romantics
Heartbreaker
Lujo
Street: 09.09
The Dark Romantics = dark-sounding dance poop!!
The Dark Romantics sound exactly like every middle-aged dance glam-goth rock band. I’s crap! Just because you make it dark and moody still doesn’t make it good. There are way too many bands that have a sound exactly like the sound of the Dark Romantics. This shit was cool in, like, 2004—get over it, ya losers. I wonder how long it is going to take for this whole dance-glam electro-rock fad to die out. Between this kind of music and emocore, it’s enough to make me lose faith in music all together. A pointer to bands like the Dark Romantics—incorporate some different influences, original sounds and quite acting like cookie-cutting sheep. Played out!! –Jon Robertson
Death to Anders
Fictitious Business
Unsigned
Street 07.15
Death to Anders = every generic indie band that has had a few minutes of fame on MTV
In an age where every band decides to classify their band as “indie,” I have found myself tuning out a pretty big handful, maybe even a boxful, of them. Death to Anders doesn’t meet the exception, and they don’t deserve to, either. I wish that I could come up with something interesting, whether good or bad, to say, but it’s one of those situations where I feel like I’m one of the Peanuts and all I hear is “wah wah wah wah wah.” There must be some sort of secret book that these bands live by religiously. It’s not even that they aren’t talented; it’s just that every creative piece of DNA has mysteriously been extracted or permanently dumbed and dulled. Let me know when it’s time to wake up from the music industry coma. –Lyuba Basin

Deerhunter
Microcastle
Kranky
Street: 09.02
Deerhunter = The nicest, dirtiest, sleaziest, most gentle person you will ever meet
Deerhunter are currently on tour opening up for Nine Inch Nails and on first finding this out, I looked the band up expecting to hear some gnarliness; instead I was pleasantly surprised to find some filthy-sounding pop music. This band is so drenched in reverb they sound like they’re hanging out in the sewer. Deerhunter’s musical compositions are mixed with cotton-candy choruses and sing-along vocal melodies while simultaneously containing dirty industrial noise and distortion. Microcastle sounds like bubblegum that you picked up off the street and started chewing. The band is opening up for Nine Inch Nails Sept. 3 at the E-Center and I hope they are as cool live as they are on CD. –Jon Robertson

Destiny
The Inside
Lifeforce
Street: 06.24
Destiny = Mors Principium Est + Darkane
France’s Destiny have been treading along since 1996. This album is my first encounter with the band, as is probably the same with most of the world, since this is their first of four records to get a worldwide release; all the others have just stayed in France. Playing a sort of melodic death metal, the band has a way of bringing something new to the genre, one that is quickly becoming stale and full of copycats. The guitars are incessantly heavy, more so than what In Flames have been doing. There isn’t a lot of soloing; the playing runs more in realms of thrash á là Darkane with a little bit o’ straight-up death metal seeping in. Vocals are mostly growled/screamed with a bit of clean singing thrown in. The unsung highlight of the record is the keyboard work, giving the songs a highly modern feel and a more distinct edge in comparison to other bands in the genre. The end result is a cohesive album, not brimming in technicality, but riddled with plenty of speed and melodic passages that are few enough that when they happen, they’re that much better. –Bryer Wharton

Dethbox
Oofdal!!!
Self-Released
Street: 09.08
Dethbox = Some Girls + Gorilla Biscuits
Littleton, Col., locals Dethbox appear to be a musically educated bunch fueled by punk-rock roots. They have a comedy-esque play on grind hardcore/punk, which you wouldn’t unmask unless you did some research. Titles like “slumpadump” and “xcatfartsx” are of their 19 songs. Between Dethbox’s track names and Myspace page, it’s clear these dudes are all about being zany. The goofy metal/punk commodity usually bothers me; I usually just don’t think it’s funny. However, Dethbox has planned their small amount of time well and the comedy is not overbearing because it doesn’t come through in the music itself. With speedy drums and crunchy guitars, Dethbox’s sound has a Black Flag punk-era feel to it intersected by hardcore. The total time on the album is 8.3 minutes, with the longest song in at one minute six seconds. In the age of “thinking green,” use Dethbox for your body-friendly chemical fix. –Nicole Dumas

The Dreadful Yawns
Take Shape
Exit Stencil
Street: 08.06
The Dreadful Yawns = The New Pornographers + Dandy Warhols
Take Shape reminds me of the runt of the litter. You know, the one you’re pushing for because that cute little guy has so much potential, but regardless of team spirit, he just can’t make it. Each track on the album pulls through more than the last. It’s like when The Dreadful Yawns were recording this, they were thinking to themselves, “I think I can, I think I can.” At one point, during the song “Saved,” I thought they could make it up that hill. It nearly saved the entire album with its psych-organ solo and tambourine back-up. Then a couple tracks later, my hope was lost by the lollipop vocals in “Expecting Rain.” “I think I can” turned into “I think I did.” All they really did was get stuck with a so-so record that made their band name more noticeable than ever. It really was a dreadful yawn all the way through. –Lyuba Basin

Duchess Says
Anthologie des 3 Perchoirs
Alien8
Street: 09.02
Duchess Says = DNA + early Devo + The Vanishing
Now that the circa 2000 generation of so-called no-wavers found favor with major labels and can afford slicker production, you might ask “who will fill these shoes?” Taking it back to the beginning; Montréal’s Duchess Says is here now, spitting on your trust fund and in your Pro Tools rig, bouncing and sweating like East Village kids circa 1980. DS begins “Ccut Up” with a subtle imitation of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” then slinks into overdriven bass guitar, analog stabs, sci-fi leads and singer Annie-C’s fusion of shouts and synthesized Mariah Carey high notes (the cool ones); “A Century Old” groans under how-low-can-you-go bass, a chugging backbeat, echoey vocals, shrieks and organ lines eviler than anything in the early-middle Siouxsie oeuvre. Nodding to their influences while adding enough of their own dynamic flavor, Duchess Says takes their music (and careers, hopefully) far beyond the usual disposable spasticity of the genre. –Dave Madden

Einstürzende Neubauten
The Jewels
Potomak
Street: 07.15
Einstürzende Neubauten = Harry Partch + Throbbing Gristle
For this release, Einstürzende Neubauten created a deck of 600 cards, each with an idea or motive the band members have previously covered in their music; each would then draw before the beginning of each recording session (kind of like John Cage with the I Ching) and try to musically interpret the queues on each card. Barring the slicker production and more elaborate ensemble, The Jewels comes pretty damned close to the excitement of EN’s pre-1982 work (a.k.a. their best stuff). From the thumping metal sheets over the dark ether of “26 Riesen” to the 1950s tape collage of “I Kissed Glenn Gould” to the trickling waterfall field recordings on “Mei Ro” to energy spikes and spacious low rumblings on “Die Libellen” to danceable Kraftwerk blips and broken clay pots on “Ansonsten Dostojewsky,” this working method proves a breath of spontaneous fresh air for a band whose heavy-handed concepts often overshadow the results. –Dave Madden

Emily Wells
The Symphonies: Dreams, Memories, and Parties
Creative Control
Street: 07.08
Emily Wells = M.I.A. + E.S. Posthumous
What would happen if someone dared to lock a handful of hip-hop divas in the same room with a string quartet for an extended period of time? Probably this album. Emily Wells takes these beautifully crafted orchestral pieces, adds in some sweet rhymes, and tops it all off with some Middle Eastern percussion that will get those subwoofers in your car working overtime again. Sure, that classical stuff might sound like something your grandma would listen to, but you won’t feel uncool cruising the streets of SLC cranking this album. Go ahead, give it a spin. –Kat Kellermeyer

Empire Auriga
Auriga Dying
Moribund Records
Street: 06.10
Empire Auriga = Sol Invictus + The Austrasian Goat + William Basinski
Well, this is definitely one of the more unique albums I’ve come across in awhile. Despite being compared to various black-metal projects in the press release, Empire Auriga is not exactly black metal at all. In fact, there’s nary a blast beat or tremolo riff in the entire 38-minute duration of this recording. What you will hear is some rather adept dark, atmospheric, and moody music that plods along at a nice, slow tempo. The theme of the album seems to be toward the cosmos (Auriga is a constellation), and this attracts me even more, since several of my favorite metal projects, such as Darkspace and Vassafor, express their awe for the skies above us. Each track is unique from the rest, and there are several moments on the album that drew me back for repeated listens, such as the mournful melodies in “Sorrowsong,” which are very reminiscent of the neo-folk masters Sol Invictus. If you like dark, moody music that isn’t too overbearing, you owe it to yourself to check this very cool album out. –Conor Dow

The Empty Mirror
Overwhelm
Landowner
Street: 09.09
The Empty Mirror = Kayo Dot + The White Strips + Marcy Playground
OK, here is the deal with the Empty Mirrors. If Nirvana was really lame and contrived and played directionless, non-driving grunge pop, you would have half the songs on Overwhelm. For the other half, you would have to imagine a completely bland Toby Driver acting like a complete putz and writing some cheeseball lyrics. This is two crappy albums all rolled up into one sweet-ass piece of shit. This album is so inconsistent I feel like all five members specialize in being bi-polar all the time. So I totally recommend picking up this album if you would like to torture yourself with passionless, contrived psychedelic mood music or if you’re into your 40-year-old uncle’s grunge band. Either way, you’re in for some serious musical abuse. –Jon Robertson

Eric Avery
Help Wanted
Dangerbird Records
Street: 08.04
Eric Avery = Dark melodic rock
Ex-Jane’s Addiction bassist (the only original member not to team up with his old mates for all of those reunions) returns with a dark, wandering plunge into the rabbit hole. Fueled by rock-driven drones laced with electronics, Help Wanted is more akin to Jane’s Addiction’s goth/art/punk recordings than anything that came post-Nothing Shocking. Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson shows up for an atmospheric duet on “Maybe,” but the album works best on the more distorted numbers like “Belly of an Insect,” “Beside the Fire,” All Remote and No Control” and “Porchlight.” Easily my favorite of the numerous post-Jane’s projects. –ryan michael painter

The Evaporators
Gassy Jack and Other Tales
Mint
Street 11.06
The Evaporators = The Smugglers + Scatterbrain + Canadian college radio
Led by Nardwuar the Human Serviette, the Evaporators are the greatest thing to ever come out of western Canada (fans of D.O.A., the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Stampede can go to hell. Seriously, straight to hell). Nardwuar, known mostly for accosting and interviewing celebrities, penned 14 new tracks for this release. The songs range in theme from Canadian history education to flexi-disk records. There is even a song about Bigfoot. Musically, Gassy Jack is similar to others Evaporators releases—a solid mixture of pop, punk and 70s rock played by ridiculously talented musicians and fronted by the closest thing Canada has to Regis Philbin. If that weren’t enough, the band features members of the Smugglers and the New Pornographers, and the disc includes a bonus interview with Courtney Love and EIGHT music videos. The vocals are a bit whiny in parts, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fantastic. –James Bennett

The Faint
Fasciinatiion
Blank.wav
Street: 08.05
The Faint = Frankie Goes to Hollywood + Hot Hot Heat
Long credited for bringing electroclash to the ears and hearts of the hipster youth, Fasciinatiion follows this tradition with yet another series of danceable electro-rock coupled with juvenile lyrics and synth-heavy bass. For longtime fans of the group, this album will provide no surprises—the same trademarked monotone vocals, synth blips and houserock drum beats. In fact, the continuation in this style begins to sound a bit repetitive, and lacks the catchiness of Blank Wav, or the hard-hitting sounds of Danse Macabre. Except for a couple of catchy tracks (“Forever Growing Centipedes”), this is a mostly ignorable album with some embarrassingly terrible hooks (“Psycho,” “Machine in the Ghost”). Ugh. Mediocrity. –Ryan Powers

Fake Problems
Viking Wizard Eyes, Wizard Full of Lies 7”
Good Friends
Street: 02.12
Fake Problems = Dropkick Murphys + Social Distortion + the (wannabe) Clash
I’m a little divided by this record. On one hand, it is really good, fusing Clash-style slow-to-fast song-building with almost Hold Steady-like guitar riffery. On the other hand, it is not as good as either of those bands, and seems to bring almost nothing to the table. That being said, it is good for what it is. Some of this 7” single teeters on the edge of being called folk-punk, with mellow songs that remain both pure and energetic. I can easily imagine Fake Problems playing sold-out club dates to rooms full of frat guys and crusty punks, but I still wish they did more to further this style of music instead of just miming past bands. Because honestly, I already have a grip of English punk records, and see no reason why I would need to pick up a single by a US band that does the same thing but with less conviction. In short, they sound FAKE, and I have a PROBLEM with that. –James Bennett

Fates Warning
Perfect Symmetry
Metal Blade
Street: 06.10
Fates Warning = Progressive metal pioneers
Fates Warning have and still are being followed religiously throughout their career by the loyal prog-metal legions. This two-disc r-issue of the band’s classic 1989 album is full of goodies for longtime fans. The actual release also includes a DVD with a plethora of old and new live footage; unfortunately, my promo copy did not. Accompanying the original re-mastered record is a disc containing demos of all the songs on the album and some fully instrumental versions of songs from the record. Prog metal often gets laughed off as too cheesy, especially with the vocals; it’s a sad fact, because the musical material is something that so many fans of technical music would enjoy. I had never really been quite familiar with this record, but as luck would have it, I had the pleasure to discover it; there are so many great songs filled with all kinds of amazing guitar styles, like in “Chasing Time” a song filled with spectacular melodies. If ever there was a time to give prog metal a chance, it’s with Fates Warning. –Bryer Wharton

Gang Green
You Got It
Older…Budweiser
Can’t LIVE Without It
Street 11.20
Gang Green = Jerry’s Kids + Agent Orange + Murphy’s Law
Gang Green surfaced in Boston in the mid-80s and released several albums on Taang! Records. As the hardcore punk scene slowly waned, the hybrid skate-punk movement was thought by many to be the next big thing. Sadly, Van Halen and hair metal all but killed off the post-hardcore sound, but not before Gang Green had left Taang! and signed to the national label Roadrunner Records. These three records, originally released during the span of time between 1987 and 1990, contain all of the material put out on Roadrunner (including the two tracks from the King of Bands compilation and the entire I81B4U EP—included, respectively, on Can’t LIVE Without It and Older … Budweiser). These reissues are limited to 2000 copies each, and the new packaging includes extensive liner notes that recount both the band’s history and the story behind each album’s original release. This is a great example of the way reissues should be done. –James Bennett

Girl Talk
Feed the Animals
Illegal Art
Street Date: 06.19
Girl Talk = Lil Wayne + Queen + Travis + Radiohead + Black Street + Cassidy + Tag Team + Kenny Loggins + Jackson 5 …
Not a DJ, not a remixer, Girl Talk is a composer; using popular music clips as instruments, he mashes hundreds of songs to create a recognizable clusterfuck of popculture somehow inciting dance parties the nature of which the earth has never seen. An outcast from the blog house scene, the DJ scene, and most musicians, this marginalization has created a sort of openness to all genres of music, despite their inherit lameness (Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani). As a result, Girl Talk has been able to follow up the seminal Night Rippers with an equally outstanding calliope of super-mega-hits. The samples are a bit more relaxed, letting the crowd relax for about 25 seconds before the next transition hits. Leaning towards the dirty, sexy hip-hop lyrics and stadium-hit rhythm melodies, the album is intensely enjoyable and incomparable. Your parents will not understand. –Ryan Powers

Glenn Patrik
Mr. Blues Jr.
Shakehouse
Street: 01.08
Glenn Patrik = Otis Grand + Bobby Murray + any bluesman nicknamed “Freight Train”
As a rule, one must be wary of bluesmen who label themselves as being big in Asia. Because honestly, as hard as life can get in Singapore, folks there are not very often known for their mastery of American blues music. Almost without exception, if an American musician does better abroad than they do at home, it means they aren’t good enough to make it here. This is sadly the case for Mr. Patrik. Sure, the music is bluesy, and sure, the man can belt out a mean B.B. King-sounding, tortured ballad—but B.B. King does it better, and Patrik brings nothing at all to the mix. This is the blues equivalent of arena football—clean, derivative and with padded bumpers keeping the athletes from hurting themselves. There’s a reason why those guys never made it to the NFL, and there are similar grounds keeping this guy from blues stardom. –James Bennett

Gorgoroth
True Norwegian Black Metal: Live in Grieghallen
Regain Records
Street: 06.28
Gorgoroth = Watching Passion of the Christ and cheering for the Romans
As bloodsoaked black metal posterboys from the frozen north, Gorgoroth have never shied away from controversy or the media. Through lineup shifts, trials, jail sentences, roundtable discussions, documentary appearances and modeling sessions (prominent in Peter Beste’s True Norwegian Black Metal photobook), Gorgoroth have maintained a stony expression while dedicating themselves to broadcasting evil. Many metal purists have cried foul at the band since the late 1990s, believing that their more mature and progressive direction since 1998’s Incipit Satan equates a betrayal of underground ideals. I, however, have followed them with interest, enjoying the hybrid of blasphemous theatricality, media savvy, and the slicker production they’ve implemented while sacrificing relatively little brutality. But now internal strife may have undone the band. Founding member Infernus recently split from members Gaahl and King ov Hell, both camps now laying claim to the Gorgoroth brand. As the two factions battle for the copyright in Norwegian courts, Regain Records has released this stop-gap recording of several Gorgoroth classics by the pre-breakup Gorgoroth lineup. So, how necessary is this recording? In short: not very. As a live album, Live in Grieghallen is an utter failure. “Live” in this instance means only “live in the studio,” not “live in front of an audience.” Those hoping to hear a sonic record of vocalist Gaahl’s corpsepainted muleface shaking blood droplets into an audience had best look elsewhere. Further, fans interested in hearing new takes on classic Gorgoroth songs would be better off sticking to the original recordings, as Live in Grieghallen’s production is either slicker than the original artifacts (robbing them of their unique, low-fidelity sizzle), or not slick enough, with awkward rather than intimidating results. While True Norwegian Black Metal: Live in Grieghallen is by no means an embarrassment to the Gorgoroth legacy (that shall surely come later as the factions continue to battle for control of the Gorgoroth brand), it simply doesn’t contribute anything to it, either. Buy a copy of Under the Sign of Hell or Incipit Satan instead. ¬–Ben West

Gravity Propulsion System
Days Like Razors
Ascetic
Street: 03.11
Gravity Propulsion System = Sonic Youth + Mclusky + Velvet Underground
Gravity Propulsion System takes equal parts psychedelia, post-punk and good ol’ rock n’ roll and throws them into a blender to create a challenging, fuzzed-out sound that can be at times noisy and at others, almost poppy. It’s nice to see a band that is not trying to make music within the confines of any genre—oftentimes post-punk and its ilk are one-trick ponies. GPS, on the other hand, seems to be making music for the sake of making music. On “Floated,” a trombone makes its way into the soundscape in the background, while in other tunes, straight balls-to-the-wall rock is on tap. The tunes that work best feature a juxtaposition of melody and fuzzed-out noise. Not in the start-stop-clean-then-messy way, but the I-can’t-believe-this-is-melodic-because-all-other-signs-point-to-no way. GPS are going to rock. And they’re going to rock however they see fit. –Peter Fryer

The Great Northwest
The Widespread Reign of the Great Northwest
The Kura
Street: 07.29
The Great Northwest = Dead Meadow + Viva Voce
Strange things have happened to me before, but I’ve never had an album give me goose bumps every time I play it. The first time, sure … understandable. But this never ends. The Great Northwest is nothing like I’ve heard before. They might as well change their name to the Bermuda Triangle, because it’s on a whole different scale. It might be because the album was recorded over many years with around 20 different people involved. Their simple combination of keys and guitar could make anyone melt into an abyss of serenity. As a contributor to Dead Meadow, lead vocalist Brian Oates certainly has got down the ability to produce fluid vocals that echo through each track like the patriotic “Western America.” –Lyuba Basin

Growing
All the Way
The Social Registry
Street: 09.09
Growing = Black Dice + Panda Bear
This sounds exactly like Black Dice. Surely you’ve heard Black Dice’s recent collection of B-sides, Load Blown. Don’t file the previous declaratives as negative; I’m simply stating a fact. This sounds like the essence of Black Dice. The real story here is how they think they can get away with it. All the Way is a solid collection of atmospheric growling electronics sounds. It is much more focused than their previous release, Vision Swim. I can say that their music is much more meditative and less abrupt than Black Dice, slowly revealing itself in six-minute segments. Maybe this album is more focused because it is the first without a proper drummer. It reminds me of another band that came into its own once they went without a drum kit—I’ll give you one guess on what band that could be. –Andrew Glassett

Hecuba
Sir EP
Manimal Vinyl
Street: 06.24
Hecuba = Brazilian Girls + Excepter + David Lynch - darkness
Minimalism never sounded more cartoonish. The music of Hecuba is simmering with the theatrics of a post-modern play while staying rooted in a colorful exchange of electronics and simple vocal melodies. Most of the samples used are painfully bedroom dub, but fit with the overall cheese of the album. I worry that they might be trying a little too hard to share their weirdness—like that weird girl in your high-school English class who dressed up like Betty Boop and drew pictures of animals dancing or killing each other. Hecuba is the Devendra Banhart of indie dance music. –Andrew Glassett

H20
CBGB OMFUG Masters: Live
MVD Audio
Street: 07.08
H20 = Bouncing Souls + Strung Out
This live CD exploded through my stereo a few moments into “Family Tree” and the next 44 minutes were as close as one can get to experiencing an actual show. Recorded live at CBGB’s on August 19, 2002, and not suffering from the pitfalls of many live CDs, this release’s sound quality is stellar and the rowdy crowd rarely overpowers the members of the band. However, the feedback, small talk between songs and handful of times you hear members of the crowd singing into the mic recreates a live H20 performance. “Thicker than Water” and “Guilty by Association” were some of my favorite tracks on the album. The release ends almost as suddenly as it began and left me wanting more. Ultimately, this live CD was the perfect tease to get ready for the band’s performance with Rancid later this month. (In the Venue: 09.17) –Jeanette Moses

Head on Collision
Ritual Sacrifice
Beer City Records
Street: 08.05
Head on Collision = Slayer + Exodus
Head on Collision’s debut album came a few decades too late; I can see that if this album was released in say, ‘84, it might be considered classic. Now it comes off as complete Slayer worship; funny how things change with time. So many bands have come and gone that play music that sound the exact same as Slayer. If you don’t mind that fact and like music played really fast, with wailing guitar solos and a vocalist that sings as fast as he can about nothing other than violence, then by all means meet this collision head-on. The whole thing has an almost bad cover-band feel to it; yeah, the songs are original material, but the riff structure and pretty much everything else sounds like so much I’ve heard before from the thrash world. Admittedly, sometimes that actually works if the songwriting is decent, but this is not the case with Ritual Sacrifice; everything just melds into one big festering pot of stinky cabbage, not to mention some of the solos sound like they could’ve come from a group of 15-year olds’ garage heavy-metal band. –Bryer Wharton

Hellbound Glory
Scumbag Country
Gearhead
Street: 07.29
Hellbound Glory = Hank III + Jesse Dayton + Waylon Jennings
This record is not going to be talked about on CMT; it’s not going to win an American Country Music Award, but it is the best representation of what country music should be. Hellbound Glory aren’t from Nashville, shit, they’re probably not even allowed within the city limits, but this honky-tonk, stomping outfit hails from the biggest little city in the world—Reno, Nevada. Songs about drugs, hating cops, and just being a wrong-side-of-the-tracks kind of guy are coming straight at you anytime you put this thing on. Now, don’t go thinkin’ that this is just a punk band with a cowboy hat on; this is the real deal. Steel guitar, banjo and Waylon Jennings hero worship are all signs of a band that understands this music and where it has gone terribly wrong—at least, the shit on the radio, that is. Hellbound Glory has the sound, the attitude, the balls, to put you on your ass; let’s just hope there’s enough brains left among the current lobotomized country music scene to notice. –James Orme

Human Host
Exploding Demon
MT6
Street: 09.26
Human Host = Monster Mash
Picture a costumed Halloween dance party under the sea with the majority of the patrons being evil sea creatures and sea monsters similar to the monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Everyone at the party is buggin’ out to a live band fronted by Aquaman, who is dressed up as Cedric Bixlar-Zavala from Mars Volta and backed by SpongeBob and other Bikini Bottom characters who are dressed up as Ministry and Sonic Youth. Someone has spiked the punch with LSD. The party is doing fine and everybody’s acid trip is being good to them until Aquaman and The Bikini Bottom Band play a cover of the fifth track off this album, “Alien Fire/Birth Cycle,” and everybody goes fucking bananas and tears each other apart. Imagine this and you might have an idea of what Human Host sounds like. –Jon Robertson

The Instruments
Dark Smaland
Orange Twin
Street: 05.13
The Instruments = Peter Gabriel’s Passion
Made up by Heather Mcintosh and a host of guests, The Instruments are neo-folk music in the loosest of terms. Weaving world influences via a dulcimer and the occasional electric guitar to juxtapose the ever-present acoustic one, Dark Smaland is a well-crafted album with one major flaw: Heather isn’t an engaging vocalist. She sings as if she is in a smoked-out trance where everything is so mystical and shrouded in smoke that to sing with any sort of personality or feeling might disrupt the mood. Certainly she’s passable, and while the album is dominated by instrumentals, it’s hard for me not to imagine how brilliant it could have been if The Instruments had gone the October Project route and courted a brilliant vocalist to rise above the music and produce something that demands to be listened to. –ryan michael painter

Into Eternity
The Incurable Tragedy
Century Media
Street: 09.02
Into Eternity = “extreme progressive metal”
Into Eternity is one of those bands that have received critical acclaim worldwide, but have never really gained as much respect in the metal community. It may be because they’re too progressive for extreme metal fans and too extreme for the progressive fans; but if you’ve heard Into Eternity and that is the case, get off your metal rocker and open up your ears because the band is hands-down amazing. With one listen of The Incurable Tragedy, you’ll have cold steel running through your veins; this sucker is metal through and through. Be it the classic influence with falsetto vocals screaming to their utmost glory, or the blasting riffs full of groove and violent speed with growled vocals, or the melodic guitar work and wicked soloing and clean singing, it’s all so damned great. Whereas past albums came off as a bit disjointed and kind of threw listeners around in a stupor, this one is balanced within the styles infused together. The technical prowess displayed on this record just builds and builds. One of the main songwriters and founding members Tim Roth wrote the record as an outlet to deal with his grief of losing close family members to cancer. Those emotions and feelings push through in the music; it’s a metal album about death and tragedy, but it’s in no way emo, and it’s not morbid. Tt times it’s just pissed the hell off and at times it’s as if the band is screaming “why?” over and over again. –Bryer Wharton

Juan Prophet Organization
Cocktails with Carnivores
JPO
Street 04.08
JPO = Camper Van Beethoven + Devotchka + Black Heart Procession
This disc has been floating around for almost a year now, but it’s only really available at live shows. Since the band is playing SLC in mid-April (Burt’s Tiki Lounge, 04.16), this seemed like a good time for a CD review. JPO is a fantastic band—well rehearsed, well intentioned, and as gypsy-folk-carney-flavored as a good Parisian sidewalk-café band. At times, this six-song EP sounds like a Tom Waits-style funeral dirge. At other moments, it feels more like an upbeat Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum tune played in a small, smoke-filled room to a crowd of strong men, bearded ladies and midgets. It is chaotic in a good way, and somehow filled with both disappointment and optimism. And though I can almost always do with a little less accordion, I must admit that everything on this EP seems well placed. Damnit, man, it looks like I’m going to have to go back to Burt’s. –James Bennett

Karl Blau
Nature’s Got Away
K Records
Street: 09.23
Karl Blau = Mt. Eerie + The Microphones
Karl Blau, an integral part of the http://www.wikiupload.com/images/olympics.php collective based in Olympia, Wash., has released another full-length that sticks to what he does best—unconventional songwriting. The first few tracks are basic little jams with guitars and drums. Blau’s lyrics are, as usual, stunning and the delivery is spectacular. The last half of the album is equally great. “2 Becomes 1” is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year, and I’m constantly humming it hours after I listen. If you haven’t heard Blau before, think of someone that would collaborate with Phil Elevrum and http://www.wikiupload.com/images/olympics.php, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of this guy. Definitely check him out. –Tom Carbone Jr.

La Scala
The Harlequin
Highwheel
Street: 02.26
La Scala = Gogol Bordello + DeVotchKa + The Killers
I’m not sure when or how the whole “gypsy rock” thing started, and I don’t really understand it, but it sure can be fun. La Scala are a lot more restrained than, say, Gogol Bordello, but there’s a definite Eastern European influence on the four tracks of The Harlequin. The songs are well-crafted and a lot of fun, particularly “Bon Vivant” and “The Harlequin,” which feel like mini-epics, perfect for some crazy gypsy musical. However, when the wacky guitars and syncopated rhythms take a backseat on “Love!Love!Love!” one gets the feeling that La Scala might just be a mediocre indie band hiding behind a gypsy gimmick. Still, the tracks that work on The Harlequin work well, and La Scala are a band with a whole lot of potential. –Ricky Vigil

The M’s
Real Close Ones
Polyvinyl Records
Street 06.03
The M’s = Beck + Marc Bolan
Some may think creating music is similar to painting. If you mix two amazing colors together, you don’t always come out with the most pleasing product, but if done right, you can give birth to something incredible. The M’s took the eccentric style of modern artists like Beck and added a classic-rock spice from T-Rex’s ashes and made their latest album, Real Close Ones. When blending red and green, it ends up coming out brown, but when put into the hands of The M’s, it comes out like a Christmas present for my ears. The best part about it is that somehow, they got word of my nudist fantasies and decided to make it into a track entitled “Naked” (my favorite on the record). The M’s surely do know how to mix paints and tap into the subconscious. They’ve certainly pleased me with this one. –Lyuba Basin

Makeout Party
Lenghts and Limits
Make Music Collective
Street: 09.16
Makeout Party = Sigur Rós and Minus the Bear doing it while Braid watches
Not to be confused with the fruit-bowl action of Anaheim’s Thee Makeout Party, this is the New Jersey version known just as Makeout Party, which is definitely the better of the two. This whole album has a very complex yet organic vibe, at times sounding like The Get Up Kids trying to math rock out and at other times sounding like a younger hipper version of Built To Spill. The highlight of the album is the second track, “Back To Your Ways,” which has a sound that is chill yet awesome, kind of like those big yellow, red and orange popsicles that the creepy ice-cream man used to sell to you. If the Makeout Party asked me to make out with them, I would seriously consider it, as long as they promised to sign my chest. –Jon Robertson

The Man from The Moon
Rocket Attack
Black Mark
Street: 07.08
The Man From the Moon = Nightingale + Pink Floyd + Depeche Mode
What would you expect from a band named the Man from the Moon? Spaced-out prog rock, maybe? Well, that’s definitely the case with Rocket Attack; plenty of synths that sound like they came straight out of the 70s and 80s. At its core, the record musically is tight and solid, full of great melodies, diverse songwriting and just those happy rhythms that go hand-in-hand with most prog rock. The moon man has a message in his lyrics as well; most of the songs have a political feel to them, but some also run in philosophical realms. Regardless, they’re quite easy to catch onto and start singing. The singing is also not your standard prog-rock high-pitched stuff, either, it’s more of a pleasant croon. All of the songs have their own voice, atmosphere and distinct sounds. “Eagle Free” sounds like a straight-up classic 70s rock song; by far the most fun song and most nostalgic. –Bryer Wharton

Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s
The Daytrotter Sessions EP
Sony BMG Music
Street: 07.29
Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s = Death Cab For Cutie + The Lionelle + Sondre Lerche
While it’s not really a new album, it is the first thing Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s have released since their last CD, The Dusk of Retreat. Therefore, fans should be happy, right? Sort of. The Day Trotter Sessions EP leans more towards the band’s folk side rather than their usual quirky indie-rock. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, fans looking for more tracks like “Quiet as a Mouse” or “Barfight Revolution” will be disappointed. The EP does feature a nice reworking of “Bookworm,” and some decent new tracks. While there’s nothing truly catchy here yet, it does enough to sate your appetite if you just can’t wait. At only five bucks, it’s money well spent, but you might as well wait for the full album release late next month. –Kat Kellermeyer

Mark Mathis
We Both Was Young
Freshwater
Street 11.29.06
Mark Mathis = Johnny Cash + Josh Ritter
Coming out of South Carolina, it’s no surprise that Mathis sings about good ol’ Southern values. The record is full of love, faith, and hard times. It makes you want to laugh, cry, and hug your mom. All the veteran instruments of the Deep South back up this folk singer: banjos, Jew’s harps, and pedal steels, to name a few. The band matches Mathis’ deep and hardworking Johnny Cash-esque vocals perfectly. Thankfully, Mathis lacks the overproduced, twangy sound most country music is known for. We Both Was Young keeps it O.G. with traditional songwriting and performance. This album is more about getting a feeling out than it is about getting recognition. A true-blue acoustic track is refreshing after all the digitalized nonsense that has been going around. Mathis is a rare breed of musician, honest. You can hear it in his voice and through his guitar. –Lyuba Basin

The May Fire
The List
Rock Whores Recordings
Street: 08.05
The May Fire= Patti Smith + The Pixies + Sonic Youth + Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments
As third in a trilogy of self-released and self-recorded EPs over the space of a year or so, The May Fire’s The List, is proof that in this time of instant superstardom, there are still DIY bands that start from the ground up and work hard to reach their goals. These three EPs come after already releasing the full-length debut Right and Wrong in the not-so-distant 2006, once more showing their valiant work ethic. Is it all worth it, though? Well … that depends on what stance you take. Is their work on The List groundbreaking and new? No, it’s not. Is it good? Yes, it is. Just because there’s nothing overwhelmingly original about The May Fire’s sound doesn’t mean that they don’t create their noise in a way that is original to them. Make sense? Their indie-laced rock n’ roll is catchy and familiar-sounding enough to keep you wanting more … enough said. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Monotonix
Body Language
Drag City
Street 04.22
Monotonix = Mudhoney + Les Savy Fav + Curlyoxide
God bless Drag City records. It takes a keen set of ears to hear the promise in a 24-minute EP from an Israeli garage band that essentially plays krautrock filtered through their Tel Aviv life experience. And while Monotonix is mostly known for their raucous live shows (and their lack of a bassist), Body Language manages to capture a lot of their live music savagery—real teeth-grinding punk rock. If you listen to it with your eyes closed, you can almost feel your head starting to split, and you can almost see the bearded singer lighting his pants on fire and drinking beer out of someone else’s shoe. If only it had more than six tracks. In any case, tuck in the braids of your prayer shawls, folks, we ain’t goin’ to the synagogue tonight! –James Bennett

Motörhead
Motorizer
SPV
Street: 08.26
Motörhead = iconic godly metal!
Everyone’s favorite metal band (if they’re not one of your favorites, you have problems) have another classic album on their hands with Motorizer. The record is the 24th album recorded by Lemmy & Co. and it’s straight-up Motörhead. The album actually reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Motörhead records, Bastards; the songs embody that classic feel with many that are extremely catchy. While Motörhead have always stayed true to their sound, they’ve always left room to try out new things and different sounds. I loved the last two albums, Kiss of Death and Inferno, but Motorizer tops them both in pure infectious nature. Many fair-weather fans think of Motörhead as just output by Lemmy, but the band has been a solid three-piece for quite a while now, with Mikkey Dee on drums and Phil Campbell playing guitar. The guys definitely hit a groove with this album, each playing at their best; Lemmy’s bass seems a bit more prevalent than on the last records and his lyrics are fantastic. “Runaround Man,” and “Rock Out” are surefire classics musically and lyrically for the mighty Motörhead. If there was any question as to Motörhead’s integrity and the respect they’ve gained, this record will only answer it further that Motörhead are far beyond legendary. –Bryer Wharton

Mouth of the Architect
Quietly
Translation Loss
Street: 07.22
Mouth of the Architect = Mogwai + Isis + Explosions in the Sky
The ever-narrowing field of “trance metal” is treading on dangerously thin ice with me. While I have always been a fan of this type of stuff to one degree or another, the most recent releases from this sub-sub-genre have been nowhere near what I would dub “fulfilling,” and the most current offering from Mouth of the Architect isn’t exactly giving me hope. Sure, it’s a pretty passable stab at “NeurIsis,” and it’s even enjoyable in spots (the guest vocals courtesy of Julie Christmas on “Generation of Ghosts” being a highlight), but when the game has been played, Quietly goes out just as its titled. Possibly worth picking up used somewhere, or better yet, borrowed from someone, but nowhere near required listening. Just listen to Neurosis’ Times of Grace and be happy that it exists. –Gavin Hoffman

My America is Watching Tigers Die
Stone Age
Pluto
Street: 07.08
My America is Watching Tigers Die= Refused + Swing Kids + Botch
The Stone Age experience is like stepping into a time machine and it’s up to you to decide if it’s time well traveled. My first impression was reminiscent of screamo gems Swing Kids. This album resonates hardcore released 10 years ago without much evolution. My America is Watching Tigers Die’s creation is a memory of what happened when hardcore stopped being chuggy and repetitive and emerged into more progressive song-writing (hallelujah for that). MAIWTD demonstrate faithfulness to their raw sound with non-stop give-all screaming accompanied by heavy, sloppy bass lines. That I can appreciate, but where the album falls short is in the quality of the recording. I doubt MAIWTD wanted a crispy-clean over-produced album, but the poor quality robs Stone Age, making it sound like a long-lost demo tape. Perhaps a live show could prove me wrong, because what I’ve unearthed has left me uninspired. –Nicole Dumas

Nocturnal Fear
Code of Violence
Moribund Records
Street: 07.15
Nocturnal Fear = Destruction + Kreator + an Americanized sound
Nocturnal Fear are straight to the point with their brand of death-tinged thrash metal. There are no frills here, not a lot of fancy solos; just a straight shot to the nuts. With the no-frills approach there is an obvious homage to the old-school thrash sound, in particular German thrash. They don’t embody the current incarnations of Destruction and Kreator, but more the bands’ older sound, which is positive in any aspect. There is also a distinctly American sound underlying the mayhem. The band definitely aren’t out to be copycats; the speed, visceral vocals and relentless drumming, while rooted in old-school thrash, come off as violently inspired, raw and harnessing an extremely current sound. The production with Code of Violence is magnificent; metal is becoming overly produced these days in many aspects, and the record maintains a live-one-take feeling. This album makes me regret saying such good things about many of the neo-thrash American bands out there today, Nocturnal Fear, dare I say, makes bands like Municipal Waste and Bonded by Blood sound pretentious and actually wimpy. This Detroit three-piece ram their music down your throat and with no question, you will be gagging with joy. –Bryer Wharton

Nurse With Wound
Huffin’ Rag Blues
Durtro/Jnana
Street: 06.24
Nurse With Wound = Ambient-jazz inspired grooves dipped in LSD
Never daunted by the idea of experimentation, Steven Stapleton & Co. return with a genre-bending mix of atmospherics, spoken-word snippets, barnyard sound effects with some jazz and, as the title suggests, blues á là Nick Cave thrown in to completely confuse the casual listener. At its most restrained, you’d call it experimental; unhinged, it becomes a chaotic mix of soundscapes. It’s the record that Tortoise have been edging around for quite a few years but probably never could actually dare themselves to make. Those looking for just another batch of manipulated sounds will be disappointed to find that Huffin’ Rag Blues is surprisingly approachable in an avant-garde way. Strange, but rather exceptional. –ryan michael painter

Ol’ Cheeky Bastards
Bag O’ Tricks
Vagrant Records
Street: 08.03
Ol’ Cheeky Bastards = The Pogues + Filthy Thieving Bastards + Joe Strummer Ol’ Cheeky Bastards, although kind of an obvious name for a Celtic punk-influenced rock band, is a perfect name for this group of mainly two men who play this wonderfully interesting music. Celtic punk is nothing new and plenty of bands like The Tossers or the very popular Flogging Molly are already out there, but OCB aren’t content to just churn out some watered-down version of what’s already worked; they expand on the idea and bring in some interesting ideas … like two instrumentals that show these boys can play their instruments, and the song “Church of the Holy Spook,” which uses element of gospel music to make it jump. These guys have a winner here because they didn’t worry about the right mix of punk and Celtic folk, they just worried about using whatever they could to make a good record. –James Orme

One Win Choice
Never Suspend Disbelief
Jump Start
Street: 02.20
One Win Choice = Anti-Flag + Boys Sets Fire
One Win Choice makes me want to jump all up in the pit and start skanking it up and maybe flip off a picture of the President. Every song seriously rules my life 100,000 times and 100,000 different ways. The songs sound identical to each other; they all have the same three power chords and the singer brings it consistently along with the same repetitious drumbeat. I don’t get why people who listen to this don’t realize that they are hearing the same song over and over and over. Maybe we could all get together and drop a Hot Carl on One Win Choice and call it good. That would be punk! –Jon Robertson

Pack A.D.
Funeral Mixtape
Mint
Street: 08.16
Pack A.D. = The Black Keys + The White Stripes + Rachel Nagy of Detroit Cobras
I like broads who can kick ass. I especially like broads who sound like they can kick ass. Broads that sound like they’ve been smoking and drinking whiskey since they were 10 years old. I’m not talking about Sylvia Brown. I’m talking about some downright soulful vocals, much like the ones Janis Joplin would grace us with. Now when you’ve got that and some blues guitar as hypnotic as that of the Black Keys, you’ve got yourself a killer album “packed” with a punch. The similarity between the Black Keys and Pack A.D. is quite uncanny, actually. You can hear it best in the track “Oh Be Joyful.” The only difference is instead of two guys making love to their guitars, you’ve got two ladies. Hot? Yeah, so is every song on this record. Although I’ve always had a thing for rockers, Funeral Mixtape kind of makes me want to switch teams. –Lyuba Basin

Poopy Necroponde
Charly
Wheelchair Full of Old Men Records
Street: 07.01
Poopy Necroponde= Beck + Reggie and The Full Effect
Poopy Necroponde, originally from Ohio band Sockeye, is at his best when he’s talking about American society, not necessarily playing music. Music is sometimes an afterthought. “Big Truck” is a good example of this: a long monologue about the problems with modern civilization backed by a silly electronic groove. He reminds me of old Beck when he was very experimental; the K Records days. I wouldn’t call all of Poopy’s stuff music: I would call it experimental audio. He transfers from metal, reggae, and electronica (with a dab of cartoon sound effects) without any hesitation. And his vocals change for every genre he trips through. This is music I would play for a certain type of someone if I wanted to blow their mind and inspire them to leave wherever we were listening, which to some people in certain situations, like a bad date, is perfect. Poopy will fill that niche. –JP

The Psyke Project
Apnea
Lifeforce Records
Street: 08.08
The Psyke Project = Boring mishmash ripoff of decent bands
As soon as I saw this fucking thing was on Lifeforce, I immediately wanted to trash it. I am so goddamned sick of the kind of cookie-cutter “metal” this label seems to excel in vomiting up that before I even listened to this release, I was trying to think up new and exciting ways to utterly destroy it. Then I read the release sheet: these guys apparently are trying to mix Neurosis, Will Haven, Converge, and early Isis “while applying their own unique approach.” Mission. Fucking. Failed. Sorry guys, but detuning your guitars and trying to figure out how to meld D-Beat punk rock and metalcore just doesn’t work for you. Can someone please give me something interesting to review? –Gavin Hoffman

Rafter
Sweaty Magic
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Rafter = Presets + Michael Jackson + !!!
Street: 09.09
Sweaty Magic kicks off with glitchy Jock Jams equally cheesy and experimental—confusingly mixed to focus on bleeps and orchestra hits instead of the beat or bass line. Shortly thereafter, this mix starts to make sense—Rafter isn’t out to make the next big dance album. In all courts, this is one of the first legitimate indie-pop albums, with catchy hooks, straightforward song builds, and perfectly simple lyrics. Sweaty Magic justifies itself with its exciting diversity and dichotomy between the electronica and singer-songwriter vocals that are well written and sung. Take a lesson from Rafter, kids; although we all like those neat sound effects and glitches, they work even better if you can actually write a song around them. --Ryan Powers

Raunchy
Wasteland Discotheque
Lifeforce
Street: 07.08
Raunchy = Mnemic + In Flames
I’ve followed Raunchy since their debut, Velvet Noise. The Denmark-based band has been an ever-evolving machine since said record. The group has a new vocalist, Kasper Thomsen, and synth player as well as clean vocalist Jeppe Chistensen. While Raunchy’s last effort, Lifeforce Records debut Deathpop Romance, reminded me severely of the current sound of In Flames, the band here seems to tread back a bit and add the futuristic touch that made their debut and Confusion Bay such standout albums. Wasteland Discotheque melds that futuristic sound with great synths and heavy guitar work with plenty of fervent groove and fantastic melodic moments. Traditional metal fans wouldn’t even call Raunchy metal, yet there is a new breed of bands out there ramming this style and making it metal. What fits into the genre is debatable; metal has always been a statement more than a sound and Raunchy are making that statement with their unique style. With songs like “The Bash,” “Warriors,” the truly rocking title track and the epic album closer, “The Comfort in Leaving,” fans of modern metal will be left wasting away for more from Raunchy. This record is by far the band’s tightest, catchiest and best-arranged yet. –Bryer Wharton

Serena-Maneesh
S-M Backwards
Smalltown Supersound
Street 09.23
Serena-Maneesh = My Bloody Valentine + Spacemen 3
The other side of the world has a lot to offer; for example, this double album from Norway’s Serena-Maneesh. Two for 1! I wish I could get that type of deal every time I bought a pack of smokes. These re-released tracks are the perfect blend of mystery and shoegaze. There is something super alluring about the hardly understandable vocals that seem to be one with the instruments. Even with melodic harmonies, Serena-Maneesh is a band that is as tough as nails; not something for swoopy bangs and Nightmare Before Christmas tees. Both albums stay balanced, with a combination of mellow tracks and ones filled with heavy-duty noise. With that kind of variety, this double-whammy has a life span in the stereo far larger than most. You can count on S-M Backwards to not fall into early retirement. –Lyuba Basin

Shugo Tokumaru
Exit
Almost Gold Recording
Street: 09.02
Shugo Tokumaru = Cornelius + M. Ward + Hayao Miyazaki
He wears his influences on his sleeve but doesn’t seem to mind. Tokumaru is a home studio musician, performing and tracking everything himself. Although this is not a new concept, he was very successful in making the music sound like it was recorded not only in a proper studio, but possibly a studio buried within an enchanted forest. On the outset, this may appear to be predictable modern folk music, but it is put through the prism of Japanese oneirology and anime. The result is something unexpected and wonderful. Lyrically, Tokumaru draws heavily from his dream journal and sings about “Green Rain” and “Future Umbrellas.” There is a lot of tricky guitar plucking weaving its way through familiar chord progressions and interpretations heavily influenced by the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Sonically, this is an album of tremendous variety and harmony. –Andrew Glassett

Sic Fucks
CBGB OMFUG Masters: Live October 13, 2006 The Bowery Collection
MVD
Street: 08.05
Sic Fucks = Fear + The Dictators - anything good about those bands
For a label that tends to half-ass everything they do, MVD’s CBGB Masters series was actually going pretty well. Releases from The Queers, H2O and The Toasters may not have been incredible, but they were at least entertaining collections for die-hard fans. So, how could MVD fuck up this no-brainer of a series? Enter the Sic Fucks: a band more known in the late 70s for selling hair dye (Manic Panic in particular) than for making music. As far as I can tell, this is the only official release by the band, and I’m not exactly clamoring for more. Predictable crappy tunes like “St. Louis Sucks” and “Fags on Acid” are bad enough, but where the band truly fails is on their nightmarish, summer-camp sing-along version of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Seriously, how do you fuck up a Ramones song? This one should’ve stayed in the vault. –Ricky Vigil

Stars like Fleas
The Ken Burns Effect
Talitres
Street: 06.03
Stars Like Fleas = Sigur Rós + background noise
When I say background noise, I literally mean background noise. The majority of The Ken Burns Effect is simply a clanking of pans, birds, walking, coughing, squeaking and nails on a chalkboard. Sure, every now and then he’ll bust out in a little song, sweet and subtle, like the vocals of Sigur Rós, but then back again into strange sounds from what I’m assuming are his living quarters. The album is confusing and poorly done. I’ve heard of mind games like this before, artists trying to seem eccentric and unique by making obscure noises in their basements. I don’t get it. I never have, and I doubt I ever will. There is enough racket in the world and in my life; why would I or anyone else willingly decide to listen to it on a record? Stars like Fleas shouldn’t get credit for playing with toys. –Lyuba Basin

Static Thought
The Motive for Movement
Hellcat
Street: 09.09
Static Thought = The Unseen + Societys Parasites + Black Flag
For a while, Hellcat was nothing more than a Rancid clone factory (I’m looking at you, Time Again and Left Alone!) and it transformed from one of my favorite labels to one I just didn’t care about. However, it seems those days have passed, and though Static Thought may not be the harbinger for the second coming of Hellcat’s glory days, they’ve definitely put out a solid street-punk record with The Motive for Movement. The Unseen’s influence on this band is apparent, especially on “Vindication,” with its anthemic chorus and wailing guitar, and “The Reason I Breathe” sounds more than a little like Black Flag. Album closer “Conquest of Saints” is the standout track, featuring a creepy acoustic intro that gives way to the album’s most explosive and exciting track. This album’s no masterpiece, but it’s loud, fast and fun, and sometimes that’s all punk rock needs to be. (Avalon: 09.23) –Ricky Vigil

The Stills
Oceans Will Rise
Canvas Media / Arts & Crafts
Street: 08.19
The Stills = The Postal Service + Placebo + The Police in their early years
Experimental pop music has never been a favorite of mine, but then again, I’ve never heard it turn out this well. Oceans Will Rise is a multi-dimensional album with a multitude of layers. Some of the songs, specifically the first track, “Don’t Talk Down,” are impossible to listen to without swaying back and forth and having the urge to get up and dance. Others, like the last song, “Statue of Sirens,” are slower, more contemplative pieces that are perfect for listening to on your iPod when you’re riding on the subway (or Trax) or while you’re doing things around home on a rainy afternoon. The lyrics are thoughtful throughout and, although the instrumentals tend to be a bit repetitive, the vocals are always fresh and varied. Oceans is a big step up from the band’s previous, less innovative albums. Have a listen and you just might find yourself longing for another couple of rounds. –Erin Kelleher

TAB the Band
Long Weekend
North Street Records
Street: 08.12
TAB the Band = Aerosmith + Deep Purple + The Kinks
TAB the Band’s sound immediately brings an early Aerosmith to mind. I guess I could be a little biased, because I actually read on their press sheet that two of their members are Joe Perry’s very own sons, but whatever. In fact, I hear a lot of classic rock in these guys, and surprising, it’s pretty enjoyable for what it is. Their debut album was highly acclaimed by critics all over the place, and I’m pretty sure Long Weekend will follow suit, appealing to modern rock fans and classic rock fans alike. These guys are noisy, but not so much to turn away novice listeners. Catchy riffs abound, and my favorite track, “Where She Was on Monday,” actually lays off the heavy guitars and places a bit more emphasis on vocals and bass. Pick this up if you’re an Aerosmith fanboy, or if you’re a little disappointed with the modern rock scene today. These guys are sure to please. –Tom Carbone Jr.

Taylor Hollingsworth
Bad Little Kitty
Mass Music
Street 07.29
Taylor Hollingsworth = Jack White + The Deltones
As an artist who has played with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Maria Taylor, I expected Mr. Hollingsworth to be a passive, whiny snob with little talent. His introduction to the album proved me wrong right off the bat. This Bad Little Kitty needs no punishment; it is the perfect amount of high-energy drum lines and raw vocals. The track “10 Good Reasons” gives us a glimpse of early garage rock. Although not from California, Hollingsworth and his band put out catchy surf-guitar riffs that remind me a lot of the legend Dick Dale. Reinventing classic sounds is a dangerous road, but this record proves Hollingsworth and company know how to steer without going on to the raunchy retro highway. It has been cleverly tweaked to make sure that it’s progressive for our generation. –Lyuba Basin

Templars
Out of the Darkness
TKO Records
Street: 08.19
Templars = Cockney Rejects + The Clash + Agent Orange
Although neither song on this 7” is particularly infectious, this release did give me a craving to hear more from a band that I never properly took the time to investigate when I was younger. Both songs featured on this 7’ are both brand new efforts from the band. “Weighed Down,” featured on the B-side, was by far my favorite track, even with its abrupt ending. It’s hard to imagine kids that have never heard of the Templars eating this one up, but longtime fans will probably take interest in the new material. And now it’s time to play the waiting game to see if either of these brand new songs will end up on an upcoming alum. –Jeanette Moses

This or the Apocalypse
Monuments
Lifeforce
Street: 09.16
This or the Apocalypse = August Burns Red + Shai Hulud + Misery Signals
I call for a widespread organic music movement similar to the organic foods movement (if one can call it that). I call for recordings by bands that haven’t Pro-Tooled and compressed the hell out of their sound until it becomes a processed music product. Until that day comes, we will end up with the musical equivalent of Jimmy Dean Sausage. This or the Apocalypse will need to drastically change if they are going to get the organic seal of approval. While they are technically proficient recorded, it’s so canned that all of the feeling and rawness afforded by a more natural recording is lost. This is another in a long string of passionate metalcore releases that ape the sounds of Shai Hulud but contain little of the interesting song structure or passion. The vocals on this album are good and are one aspect that does stand out. This should satisfy anyone looking for a technical emotional metalcore record. But, as with Jimmy Dean Sausage, a little goes a long way. (09.27 Studio 600) –Peter Fryer

Tindersticks
The Hungry Saw
Constellation Records
Street 09.16
Tindersticks = Tchaikovsky + Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
I learn over and over again you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a band by its band name or an album by the silly little picture of a saw going through a heart. I was expecting nothing more than a sad little boy crying about how high school is rough and how his heart is broken (the saw through heart, maybe?). I have never in my life been so happy to be mistaken. To my surprise, a deep voice came bolting out of the speakers, accompanied by what seemed to be a whole orchestra filled with strings, wings and all sorts of things. Though it wouldn’t be a personal pick, I was easily impressed with the romanticism that came from this album. Like the saying goes, you don’t have to agree to appreciate. Plus it’s always good to freshen your ears with something on a whole different plane. –Lyuba Basin

Trigger the Bloodshed
Purgation
Metal Blade
Street: 08.19
Trigger the Bloodshed = Six Feet Under + Deicide + Dismember
Seventeen songs in less than 40 minutes—that’s what Trigger the Bloodshed deliver with their debut originally released on Rising Records now getting a bigger release treatment with Metal Blade. The band has a simplistic tone to their gritty death metal, based mostly in blasting than anything else, although moments of technicality and groove step in on occasion. There are also filler moments, at least some would consider them such, though they do set a nice dark, foreboding atmosphere for the hate-spewing tracks. Trigger the Bloodshed aren’t out to deliver something new, though they do like to carry forth some old-school sounds: a mix of European and American death metal. The UK band does what they do quite well and when the leads or strange guitar tones are going, they really excel. There is great promise in this simplistic yet brutal band; it may take some time to wander in the bloody waters the band has crafted, but once you adjust, you’ll be feeling nice and comfy in a violent sort of way. –Bryer Wharton

Tussle
Cream Cuts
Smalltown Supersound
Tussle = Outhud + Chromatics
Street: 08.26
If a gigantic robot ate me and there was a party in its cavernous pre-digestion chamber, there’s a good chance that Cream Cuts would be the last music I heard before the metal beast’s synthetic stomach acids dissolved my body into energy and waste. High-pitched tones swirl atop straightforward dance beats and kitschy synths at irregular intervals — they swell and flux, dissipate into what sound like echo chambers, and drop off until all one hears is what might be a mechanical heartbeat before a steady, stylish buildup brings the whole song back to a pinnacle of gastro-intensity. Tussle is on the way up—the four-piece amalgam of electronic and traditional players has toured with YACHT and Hot Chip, and the latter’s singer collaborated on one of Cream Cuts’ tracks. Watch for Tussle to begin to infiltrate SLC hipster parties as soon as those fools learn what’s good for them. —Nate Martin

Vader
XXV
Regain Records
Street: 06.24
Vader = the ultimate Polish death-metal band
Vader have been around for yes, 25 years. XXV is two CDs’ worth of re-recorded material from the band’s Beast album and back—a great big bloody, violent collection of songs spanning the older part of Vader’s career. A good chunk of the songs, while retaining the power that the originals had, have had some things added from Vader’s current sound, such as synth moments and vocalist Peter’s diverse assault. There are a slew of guest appearances on the record, mostly in the vocal department. Liner notes are essential reading material chronicling each track’s history. The production as like Vader’s production on their recent records—ear-shredding and beefed-up; it totally slays. There is so much force behind these songs that you’ll be beheaded if you listen to both CDs back to back because of the incessant banging that the tracks inspire. This is a massive amount of pulverizing, trademark Polish death metal, showcasing the band’s illustrious career. It’s a great anniversary gift from Vader to their fans. When it comes to death metal, it doesn’t get much better than Vader. If anything, listen to “Tyrani Piekiel,” and you’ll be starting a mosh pit in your living room. –Bryer Wharton

Varghkoghargasmal
Drowned in Lakes
tUMULT
Street: 07.01
Varghkohargasmal = Burzum (post-imprisonment) + Ulver (the folk album) + Super Mario Brothers
I’ll make you a guarantee: If you’ve ever cracked the covers of any issue of Guitar Player magazine, downloaded a Steve Vai tablature, or even nodded your head along to a Dream Theater song, you will absolutely despise Varghkoghargasmal with every fiber of your guitar-choad soul. Shit, if you’ve even raved about the start-stop technicality of Terrorizer or the grandeur of Deathspell Omega, you might be wise to avoid this marvelous slab of jaw-droppingly clumsy folkish metal. Although “Drowned In Lakes” is decorated with all the trappings appropriate to a black metal album (misty naturescape, aggressively jagged band logo, scaly dragon whose fiery breath becomes an ouroboros), what awaits the listener is much more akin to Burzum’s Daudi Baldrs or Ulver’s Kveldssanger. Meaning that those expecting music appropriate to beer-swilling and teeth-gnashing will be sorely disappointed by Drowned in Lakes. Varghkoghargasmal is bound to be despised by metal purists and defended by ironic hipster retards like myself. Step outside yourself for a minute and take a chance on a charming and blissfully clumsy novelty. –Ben West

Various Artists
Video Games Live: Vol. 1
Angel
Street: 07.28
VGL = 3-track midi + full-size orchestra + an arena audience
If you played video games as a kid, you probably have a few game themes that are close to your heart. If you’re still playing video games, you probably have a ton. But whatever you’re expecting, this isn’t your normal “game music” or “various artist” compilation. Based on the concert series created by game composers Tommy Tallarico (Earthworm Jim, Advent Rising) and Jack Wall (Myst, Jade Empire, Mass Effect), VGL: Vol. 1 not only features fully orchestrated versions of your favorite game themes, but also features them in the medleys that have been specially composed for the concert series, including their much demanded “Castlevania” medley. In addition, the album features several live tracks from their show in Brazil. Even if you own the soundtracks to these games, this album is definitely worth buying. –Kat Kellermeyer

Vultures United
Dirt Hearts
Basement Records
Street: 07.08
Vultures United = The Bronx + Sick Of It All + The Nerve Agents + Refused + Hot Snakes + Cancer Bats
With eight songs clocking in at close to just 15 minutes, Dirt Hearts is a face-pounding hardcore/punk record with old-school flavor and new-school appeal. Peppered with enough of the right ingredients like throat-bleeding screaming, a hint of melodic frills and all the while a hardcore focus—which isn’t easy to do these days—along with the occasional gang vocals, hard-hitting guitars and drumming, Vultures United looks many of the so-called hardcore bands of recent years in the eyes and spits in their face. This is music made with a purpose; it has something to say with no regrets or apologies for saying it. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Young Widows
Old Wounds
Temporary Residence
Street: 09.01
Young Widows = Fugazi + Rabbit Ears
Despite the thoughtful craftsmanship, varied song structures, and top-notch production on Young Widows’ second release, it sounds about as fresh as … well, an old, crusted-over wound. Widows, which is three-quarters of former Louisville hot-shot noise four-piece Breather Resist, has taken a turn to the stoney side, and Old Wounds will most likely appeal to thirtysomethings who took enough acid during the 90s that their brains stopped developing at the apex of their Jesus Lizard phase. Even the drums sound fuzzed out, and the often-repetitive lyrics cover drugs and rock n’ roll with none of the poetics of Craig Finn or Nick Cave. Widows’ up-tempo tracks succeed most and resemble something like a muddled Murder City Devils, but these all inevitably descend into reverb jam sessions. It’s surprising such a progressive label as Temporary Residence would release something that sounds so tired. —Nate Martin

Xu Xu Fang
The Mourning Son EP
Self-Released
06.16
Xu Xu Fang = The Black Angels + Yeasayer + Sigur Rós + the soundtrack to a David Lynch film
The Mourning Son is a dreamy, psychedelic journey reminiscent of floating in deep, dark waters surrounded by hundreds of pulsating jellyfish. From the moment I picked it up one rainy afternoon, I haven’t been able to stop listening. The album itself is oozing with wetness; the opening track begins with the sound of ocean waves and thunder that leads marvelously into the second song, “These Days.” The singing, synths, and guitar sounds are from another world—one that’s all draped in silk and velvet. Xu Xu Fang is the new project of The Warlocks’ ex-drummer, Bobby Tamkin. There are some threads of similarity between the two bands, but they are few and far between. Xu Xu has a much spacier, ambient sound than the former, and it’s definitely more experimental. The album was mixed by world-class mix engineers and music producers Mark Needham and Rick Parker, who have produced albums for bands like Fleetwood Mac and BRMC. This tiny, seven-track EP packs a BIG sound that will both soothe you and make your heart beat twice its normal rate—all in one sitting. – Erin Kelleher

Zero Hour
Dark Deceiver
Sensory
Street: 04.29
Zero Hour = a different breed of progressive metal
Before the vocals chime in with Zero Hour’s Dark Deceiver, one might think the album is a full-on technical death-metal album. The majority of the riffing on the record is massively heavy, not to mention about as technical in its playing as anything I’ve heard from the prog-metal world, let alone the metal world. These guys can downright play circles around so many bands it is ridiculous. Bass lines go flying around in strange mathematic rhythms. Some of the songs are basically one gigantic guitar solo, pulsing and swirling in stupor-inducing effects. “Tendonitis” is an almost minute-and-a-half bass solo, which is just cool for any metal album; you don’t hear bass solos often. “Inner Spirit” is one epic tune, over 12 minutes of shuttering guitar work coupled with mellow jam-type moments. Even if the prog-metal vocals usually are a turn-off for you, Zero Hour offers up their own version. Yes, most are in the higher-pitch area, but there are plenty of low moments, as well as fast. If you are looking for a simple, ear-pleasing, happy go-lucky record, Zero Hour will give you a kick in the pants and make you realize there is more to progressive metal. –Bryer Wharton