National CD Reviews – October 2008

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Abney Park
Lost Horizons
Street: 10.14
Abney Park = Stabbing Westward + Gravity Kills + Skeleton Key + Gypsies
Yarr!! Abney Park is apparently jumping on the new artistic musical movement known as steampunk and this album is totally about pirates. Upon listening to this album, I got so excited about the pirate concept, that I went and got a hack saw and chopped half my leg off and jammed a pool cue into it so I could truly appreciate the swashbuckling that was going down on these 11 tracks. I was totally hop-scotching around on my new peg leg and bugging out to my industrial pirate soundtrack when suddenly I collapsed from a loss of blood and during my last moments of consciousness I was treated with the final track, "The Ballad of Captain Robert," a real traditional sailor song. Now that I'm back from the hospital, I miss my leg but, it was totally worth it for my one night of booty-snatchin' and eye-patch-wearin'. Thar be good Abney Park!! � Jon Robertson

A Breath Before Surfacing
Death is Swallowed in Victory
Mediaskare Records
Street: 07.22
A Breath Before Surfacing = Job for a Cowboy + Job for a Cowboy + Job for a Cowboy
Crap. Crap crap crapcrapcrap crap crap-crap? Uber-crap. Crap-crappity-crap-crap-crap. Utter bullshit. There I've said my piece. Go ahead and support this bullshit brand of crap-metal if your sole purposes in life is shopping at the mall, wearing a white belt, wearing gay-ass guyliner, and having a stupid fucking haircut. Fake-ass poser metal. Oh, did I mention how much this fucking sucks? - Gavin Hoffman

All Shall Perish
Awaken the Dreamers
Nuclear Blast
Street: 09.16
All Shall Perish = Arsis + A Life Once Lost + Suffocation
As I popped this one in the CD player, I thought to myself, "Great, another metal/hardcore hybrid; just what the world needs." And that sentiment was probably correct, the world probably doesn't need anymore metal/hardcore hybrids, but I have to say that All Shall Perish have put together a solid record. There are a few aspects that save this release from the doldrums of metal/death/hardcore mediocrity: first of all, the songs change up pretty frequently. There are still the all-too-prevalent breakdowns, but when the band takes the time to slow it down and showcase their unique riffs and lead guitar work, it sets them apart. Not every song is blazing fast, either, which is an asset and builds some much-needed tension for territory that is all too often about the punchline and not the lead-up. It's nice to see a band pushing the boundaries of an otherwise easily pigeonholed genre. Granted, this is not a perfect release, nor earth-shattering, but it is good, and if you are feeling the itch to get something in this genre, this won't disappoint. - Peter Fryer

No Sanctuary: The Spiderleg Recordings
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 05.06
Amebix = "The godfathers of crust"
This is gonna be a tough review, simply because I fucking love Amebix, and also because I've essentially had this exact "album" for years. Basically, what we've got here is a re-re-re-release of a semi-bootleg called "Beginning of the End" that combined Amebix material, the band best described as "The Bristol Years," which was a period that saw the band living an entirely unremarkable lifestyle, but creating what would essentially become one of the basic blueprints for crust punk. At once sounding like a strange mixture of Icons of Filth and Motorhead combined with The Cure's original rhythm section, the entirety of this release just feels plain dirty. If you're an individual who's into punk, doom/sludge metal, crust, or any kind of subversive, antisocial music and you haven't heard Amebix, you best get rid of your spikes and bumflap, poser. - Gavin Hoffman

The Anix
Demolition City
Chamberlain Records
Street: 03.04
The Anix = The Faint + 30 Seconds to Mars + redeeming qualities (if any) that those two bands have
The Anix, a Los Angeles band that seems to draw on a slew of influences, just don't really do it for me. Demolition City, their third full-length, has received quite a bit of press from the likes of Billboard, Absolutepunk, and IGN, but I don't see where these guys are coming from at all. This synth-pop/industrial crap is repetitive, boring, and not very original. Frontman Brandon Smith tries a little too hard to sound like Jared Leto on the hushed "Half the World Away." If these descriptions and influences sound appealing to you, check out this album by all means. But if you're looking for modern industrial synth-driven rock, you're not going to find it here. �Tom Carbone Jr.

Arabian Prince
Innovative Life: The Anthology 1984-1989
Stones Throw
Street: 08.19
Arabian Prince = Morris Day + Herbie Hancock's Future Shock
Just because you read "worked on N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton" does not mean you're about to hear the lesser-known KRS-One: titles such as "Freak City" and "Situation Hot" should tip you off that this is a guy who should have been the DJ in Purple Rain, spinning nasty 808 electro for dance-floor m�nage a trois scenes. On "Take You Home Girl," AP demandingly whispers, "My only desire was to take her home and set her body on fire (overwhelmed diva says "OK, I'll go")". Keeping with the running 80s theme that nerdy librarians are really sex-crazed chicken-heads, the title track details the evolution of a closet freak whose new party life outgrows her Dr. Frankenstein ("I never should have put her in my innovative world"). Meanwhile, the beat throughout is in full effect, setting the stage for the 90s New York club scene where an MC's shout of "scratch, scratch, scratch!" is followed by a screaming guitar solo. Sinister. �Dave Madden

Century Media
Street: 08.05
Architects = Botch + Bury Your Dead + all those new-fangled metalcore bands
They've been teaching math across the pond and the guys in Architect (who are between the ages of 18 and 20, depending on what you read (which is kind of annoying to see emphasized (like we're supposed to cut a band some slack or think they're more amazing than they are because they're young))) have been paying attention to their math lessons. There are quite a few mathcore riffs on this album, which really is a hardcore record just accessorized by math, melody, and some big metal riffs. This album was released a year ago in the UK and received a decent amount of praise. It isn't quite monumental, but for a style that is all too often bogwater-stagnant, it's nice to see a band let their hardcore roots come through while still concentrating on the metal. - Peter Fryer

Secret Crush Records
Street: 06.03
Baskervilles = The Apples in Stereo + Pavement + infectious indie pop
Well I'll be damned, Baskervilles sure are a fresh of breath air. Twilight is the sophomore release of the Harlem-based quartet, and it sure doesn't disappoint. Hand-claps and boy-girl melodies are the quintessential twee-pop staples, and Twilight doesn't lack in this department. Baskervilles used the Internet in an interesting way for this release by putting out singles for a little under two years on their website, which all eventually found their way onto this album. The songs were all shipped with a special sleeve designed by various artists. Veteran producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement) lent his helping hands on the record, and it sure shows. A brilliant release by a band that gives twee-pop a good reputation. - Tom Carbone Jr.

BB King
One Kind Favor
Street 08.26
BB King = the Mississippi Delta + humidity + cotton
The blues is constantly being watered down by white folks. Seriously, songs about hardship and sorrow shouldn't be covered by long-haired Caucasians for a Disney Channel special (I'm talking to you, Johnny Lang). It is enough to make an old bluesman hang up his hat for good. Thank God BB King had the presence of mind to take us home again. On One Kind Favor, King takes us back to the very beginning, covering songs that he remembers from his youth. Blues standards by "Blind" Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson and John Lee Hooker, filtered through the King experience, remind us of how much more power this genre of music has when it is nursed along by someone who has had ample historical reason to hang his head. And while the disc is a solid blues effort from start to finish, the song "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" seems especially apropos, considering King just celebrated his 83rd birthday. Blues this heartbreaking is made even more so with the BB Kind treatment. It makes you wonder why he ever stooped so low as to have played with Eric Clapton. Fuck Eric Clapton. - James Bennett

The Barry Sisters
Our Way (Tahka-Tahka)
Street 10.01
The Barry Sisters = the Carpenters + Burt Bacharach + Yentl
Stereophonic is a strange record label. Where some labels are unintentionally non-profit, these guys routinely lose money on purpose for the sole reason of getting forgotten music into the hands of the public. Enter the Barry Sisters, a pair of Bronx-based siblings from the 70s that made a career out of something called "Jewish Jazz." This disc is a re-issue of a 1973 release, on which Claire and Merna Barry do Yiddish language versions of contemporary pop songs. And where pairing a sloppy German dialect with a Frank Sinatra classic or a Bacharach/David composition may not seem like a wise choice, the end result is actually quite listenable. Sure it's kitschy, and sure it's dumb, but this is exactly the kind of thing that should be reissued. It is unique, odd and perfect for your upcoming Hanukah celebration. Let this be a clarion call to record labels: let the Billy Joel stuff stay out of print, and comb your archives for something this special. - James Bennett

Street: 02.26
Biomechanical = Iron Maiden + Dillinger Escape Plan + newer Carcass
To be honest, I'm completely on the fence with this one. On the negative side, the band's name sucks, and I'm definitely not feeling the Bruce Dickinson vocals over blastbeats and breakdown riffs. On the positive side, this is one of the only stop-and-go tech-metal releases I've ever heard that actually got my blood flowing. The guitar solos are things of beauty, and the rhythm section offers up an awesome chunk of low-end to complement said guitars incredibly well, but I can't help thinking that, other than being decent musicians and fairly good math students, Biomechanical just doesn't have much to offer in the realm of extreme metal. Of course, you'll need to judge for yourself as my review is solely my opinion, but other than an occasional drunken spin, I can't see this guy standing the test of time by any means. - Gavin Hoffman

Bleeding Through
Street: 09.30
Bleeding Through = Throwdown (old) + Dimmu Borgir + Bury Your Dead
Declaration is as pissed off as the band's first few albums; Bleeding Through are nowhere near sellouts to their style and are ready to annihilate again. The band continues their innovative drive by diversifying their keys with actual string arrangements the record's atmosphere is as dark as ever. While elements of black metal and death metal creep into the guitars and drumming, the album has quite a few more breakdowns than previous records. Normally, I'd call that a copout, but the breakdowns are stellar. Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad fame (also an extremely well-rounded producer), has gone outside his comfort zone with this album, but the job is one well done and then some. I miss the chaotic style of This is Love, This is Murderous, but this record is so well arranged, structured and passionate that by the end of the album, I beat myself in anger with this crushing new offering. A mighty hails to Bleeding Through for once more raising the bar for hardcore, metalcore, and heavy music in general. - Bryer Wharton

Brother Von Doom
Deathcote Records
Street: 10.14
Brother Von Doom = Behemoth + The Black Dahlia Murder
This album is everything I enjoy about modern melodic death metal. Though there's plenty of hooks and catchy melodies here, they all feel a bit subdued and not simply there to make all of the songs catchy. This to me is one big sign of good guitar-writing in this style because they don't make the rest of the band take a back seat to the phallic wailing of the six strings. Another thing I appreciate about this album is there are no breakdowns or melodic vocals. Far too many bands these days are taking that direction to get their shirts on the shelves of Hot Topic, but so far, Brother Von Doom is clearly just here to slay. The vocals are lower than your typical death metal band to give it a somewhat familiar Behemoth sound, which isn't a bad thing at all. This album certainly isn't going to change the world, but it may just crack my car speakers. - Conor Dow

Record Label Records
Street: 08.04
Dalglish = Throbbing Gristle + nonnon (collegiate days)
Can someone say AudioMulch 1.0? Just kidding, it is more like Max/MSP. Manipulation is king in this second release under the Chris Douglas' moniker Dalglish. Douglas has released a dozen or so albums under various names since 1995. The best part of the Ideom release is the underlying strength of the structure. It allows my mind to leave the ground and to interact with the floating bits of metal clanking on the sides of the grain silo (reverb). Picture a room full of mechanics all working without the hand of humanity in suspended animation. The only thing that is human in this release is that each track eventually ends because someone decided to fade them out and turn them off. It is also surprisingly musical. The clanking metal is tonal but distant. There are many odd, comforting sounds here. - Andrew Glassett

Kemado Records
Street: 02.19
Danava = Witchcraft + Graveyard + Thin Lizzy
I almost hate to admit that I like this record, what with the bandwagon-jumping-on-of all these little kids onto current re-hashings of classic rock; worshiping Zeppelin and Sabbath but having to add their own little "twists" to whatever bile they spew forth. The latest Danava release, however, seems to be a cut above most recent Zeppelin rip-offs. Sure, some parts reminded me a little too much of Spinal Tap, but all in all, Unonou is a pleasant listen. The vocals are a dead-on mix of Robert Plant and Ozzy (in my opinion), and the keyboards add just enough cheese to let the listener think that this band doesn't take themselves too seriously. But it's just not quite memorable enough to warrant repeated listens. At some points, sounding almost totally electronic, the instrumentation kicks in and breathes fresh air into a recording that has perfect production for classic rock, but will most likely be lost in the ever-growing stacks of modern-day re-dos that lack the originality to equate to "staying power." - Gavin Hoffman

Darker My Love
Dangerbird Records
Street: 08.05
Darker My Love=The Dandy Warhols + Silversun Pickups + The Beatles
Amazingly enough, current tourmates with The Warhols bear some resemblance to each other. Some may not see the easy comparison, but vocals aside, there the similarities sit. That doesn't equate shit to or anything. To the contrary. Darker my Love is infectiously insidious, e.g., an intro like "Northern State" hints at superb things to come with well-distorted vocals and some ballsy beats. It is very fittingly a Silver Lake, L.A. sound; something you might expect from Dangerbird. "Pale Sun" has some "tits guitar" with psychedelic effects that resemble, or very well may be, a didgeridoo. Breeder's/Pixies/Kim Deal-inspired bass round out that song. Ultimately, some really trippy guitar abounds in 2: plenty to get expansive to. Sounds like a band you may want to see live, maybe? No go, amigo. Their show was scheduled for last month at Kilby and it was cancelled, regardless. Or, irregardless, as they say in Utah. - JP

Street: 09.16
Destruction = one of the originators of German thrash metal!
Ever since bassist/vocalist Marcel "Schmier" Schirmer rejoined Destruction back in roughly '99 and they released All Hell Breaks Loose, Destruction has had a distinct guitar tone. With Thrash Anthems last year, a stylistic change in the production began to change the guitar tone - it got thinner, while the drumming sounded louder and bassier. Now with D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N., that production change has basically updated Destruction's sound. Don't get me wrong, the record is still straight-up classic Destruction, yet this album is the most diverse since the 80s. There is, dare I say, some semblance of melody hinting in some of the solos, and a definite change of pace amongst the songs; all previous efforts with the exception of All Hell Breaks Loose were full-on speed affairs. Also, songs on past albums have always been hit-or-miss, but hell, every track here is a winner. You would think Schmier just getting done working with Headhunter wouldn't have had a lot of time to join his two bandmates and write something more complex than they've done in years, but they pulled it off. Brilliant, the best Destruction album of the new millennium. - Bryer Wharton

Project Destiny
Napalm Records
Street: 09.23
Dignity = Europe + Nightingale
Former drummer Roland Navratil, of the widely popular female-fronted symphonic power-metal act Edenbridge, left the band after five studio albums to form Dignity in 2006. He then entered the studio in early 2008 to make Project Destiny. The band's music hearkens back to the day of those oh-so-cheesy synth-oriented hard-rock bands, but they do it with a touch and style which comes off as fresh and modern-sounding. The guitar melodies displayed on the album are massive and terrifically infectious. The time it took to find one of the key components of the band, vocalist Jake E, was well worth the effort because of his range and overall emotional singing quality. The synths are intricate; one wouldn't think melodic hard rock could have so many layers, but Dignity will leave you rocking out while dissecting those layers and constantly finding something new in the music. - Bryer Wharton

Turning Season Within
Napalm Records
Street: 03.04
Draconian = somebody's idea of torturing me
Sometimes when I'm assigned crap like this for review, I wonder just who in the hell in the office I pissed off. First warning: this is on fucking Napalm Records. Second warning: "operatic" female vocals followed by grim-dude Cookie Monster vocals. Third warning: super-clean production and re-hashed riffs that would make even Weird Al Yankovic cringe. Seriously, people can you fuckers please get over the whole fucking crap "gothic 'doom' metal" thing already and get day jobs? I can't even think of anything else to say ... this just plain blows. - Gavin Hoffman

Early Graves
We are the Guillotine
Metal Blade
Street: 08.19
Early Graves = Apiary + Converge + Mouth of the Architect
Apiary was a short-lived project; to the best of my knowledge, the band released one record of metalcore wankery filled with pointless breakdowns. Well, the remaining members of Apiary, with a few newcomers, formed Early Graves, a much more potent concoction of metalcore, but it's still that, metalcore, a genre that's easy to get bored of quickly. The first listen of We are the Guillotine will strike interest in listeners, but after a few spins of the disc, the structure and style, aside from a couple tracks, gets mighty old. The band plays chaotic music, relying more on a crusty grimacing sneer than breakdown after breakdown; yes, there are some of those too, but not a horrific amount. There are some doom-type melodic tracks, but they sound more like filler than artistic ingenuity. The recycling of sound is too much and I just can't get into the false anger being spouted here. If I want some chaotic tunes, I'll gladly listen to some Converge or Today is the Day. - Bryer Wharton

Eban Schletter
Witching Hour
Oglio Music
Street: 09.30
Eban Schletter = John Waters + Frakenstein + Mike Patton
Eban Schetter decided it was time to get his crucible fire going and cook up a collection of gothic/Halloween-inspired songs to bring a little more ghoulishness to the season. Witching Hour is really silly and I find it enjoyable to listen to only when I'm doing something completely unrelated to its content. Like when I'm driving through Starbucks and Daamen Krall sings, "Send your chill through the murky night to whistle across the tombs." Or watching dog walkers in the park while listening to comedian Paul F. Tompkins sing about an evil devil doll who chases and eventually kills him. This album is all kitsch, fog and witches. I suddenly want some candy corn. - Andrew Glassett

Light the Fire
Blind Prophecy
Street: 02.19
EkoTren = Ill Nino + Nonpoint + From Autumn to Ashes
For the love, I can understand an artist's passion for creating a certain sound and not following trends. The trend being nu-metal is pretty much dead, aside from a few loyal followers. Then again, EkoTren follows trends previous nu-metal artists have set forth long ahead of them. Light the Fire just seems like a rehash of quite a few bands with a small screamo touch. The lyrics are utterly pointless dribble, giving off a big sense of false angst and well, just being overdramatic. I always say when you try and act angry and you really aren't, it shows, and brings down whatever music you play. Perhaps the most horrible portions of the album isn't the boring songwriting, it's the rap-type vocal rants the singer goes into; ugh! If you have any respect for the true metal scene. please ignore EkoTren (lame name and all) and discover what's really out there. - Bryer Wharton

The Man Closing Up
Sound Devastation Records
Street: 01.09
Ehnahre = Kayo Dot + SunnO))) + Fantomas
To be honest, I think my equation above sums this release up pretty well. Tottering lazily back and forth between de-tuned insane drone and crazy-weird death-metal brutality, This Man Closing Up is a fairly challenging listen, and it's probably the most fun I've had listening to something for review in a long time. To me, it's the audio equivalent of someone with Down's Syndrome having a seizure while doped up on heroin. Many of the passages on the album don't really seem to have any rhyme or reason for their inclusion, almost like really good, really doomy improv, and the cliched Cookie-Monster vocals actually fit with the music like a well-worn set of jeans. In fact, the only issue I have with this slab is that I can't really see myself choosing to listen to it all that often; it's entirely "mood music," and I don't really shoot up and flail on the ground all that much these days. - Gavin Hoffman

Street: 09.23
Evergrey = Mercenary + Brainstorm + Symphorce
Evergrey put the power in power metal? Well, that's somewhat true. Rife with heavy guitars, "Broken Wings" sets the pace on Torn, plundering you into a guitar-filled symphony for the senses. I missed the band's last release, but listened to Inner Circle quite a bit. The differences are subtle; the band plays with a dark edge with keyboards a-plenty and concoctions of catchy songs. I highly doubt Torn will alienate any of the band's fans, but it won't really bring any non-prog/power folk to the fold. The singing is an acquired taste and after multiple listens, it can come off as one-dimensional even though it really quite isn't. Evergrey is just one of those artists that require listening to in small doses. The real quality with Torn is in its heavy, low-end guitars mixed with the melodic style of the rhythm; thick, even brutal in some senses. - Bryer Wharton

Among Beggars and Thieves
Metal Blade
Street: 09.02
Falconer = Swedish medieval metal
Falconer trod a fine line between prog/power metal and folk metal. There was a flurry of lineup changes since the band's inception in 1999, including vocalist Mathias Blad, who left the band in 2003 because of his career as a stage singer. The opinion within the metal community is that the records suffered with his loss, but lo and behold, Blad returned to the fold in 2006, sang on Northwind and now Among Beggars and Thieves. Blad's voice commands power and superb melodies with mind-boggling ranges. The record is a perfect balance of heavy and melodic guitars; when things are a rockin', it's fast tempos all the way with crescendo-ed soloing full of intricacies. Then there are flat-out folk moments with synths and flute sounds, most notably on highlight track "Skula, Skorpa Skalk." Blad's voice propels the already hearty melodicism to soaring heights; the intro starts out with virtually no guitar, then bam, thunderous riffs pummel in. If there were metal in medieval times, Falconer is what it would've sounded like. The songcraft of atmosphere, strength, sorrow and battle-hymns portrayed on Among Beggars and Thieves is nothing short of glorious. - Bryer Wharton

Metal Blade
Street: 04.29
Fate = Necrophagist + Throwdown + Through the Eyes of the Dead
Fate does a great job at mixing traditional and technical death metal with metalcore. Though throughout the stop-and-go tempos of the album (with really stellar leads popping in from time to time as well as some finger-licking solos), it seems as if the band relies on their breakdowns to sound heavier than thou. The album has its really grandiose moments and then its boring "please do something" moments. There is even some thrashy guitars going on, but it seems as if the really good stuff is few and far between and when it is used, it seems out of place for the arrangement of the music. I don't necessarily understand why they crafted their sound this way; it can be very frustrating. When all is said and done, though, there are plenty of other dime-a-dozen deathcore acts out there that sound a hell of a lot worse and extremely bland. Fate has something going for them in their small nuances of musical technicality, There is potential here for something better, I just honestly wish they could have met that potential with Vultures. - Bryer Wharton

All The While
Gigantic Music
Street: 10.21
Frances = Camera Obscura + Elliott Smith + Autolux + Stavinsky
Close your eyes while you're listening to this album and at times you'll feel like you're flying high in the magical car on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or spinning round and round like a colorful toy top. All The While is an explosion of instrumentals, literally. Technically, the album falls into the "pop" category, but the orchestra of woodwinds, tubas, glockenspiels, bells, drums, and pianos tend to make the listener rethink their whole idea of what pop really is, or, for that matter, what any genre is. This album is a whimsical journey that waltzes through endless new musical territories. It's hard to believe that this is the talented band's first full-length album, but perhaps that's because the bandleader, Paul Hogan, was too busy achieving his Doctorate of music. This debut is a mystical, wonderful first attempt reminiscent of happy, haunting childhood reveries. - Erin Kelleher

The Girls
Yes No Yes No Yes No
Dirtnap Records
Street: 09.16
The Girls= The Cars + The Ramones + The Moving Units
Everything about this album got on my nerves. I will start with the vocals, though. I am not exactly sure what kind of accent the lead singer, Shannon Brown, is trying to replicate, but it sounds like a bad Johnny Rotten impression. I am pretty sure he only changed keys twice. Also, somebody needs to inform guitarist Vas Kumar that a guitar can be used for more than just fifth chords. This is what it would sound like if Ric Ocasek had gone deaf at 19 but decided to still pursue a career in the music industry. If you can dance to this synth-soaked mess, you deserve an award. - Cody Hudson

Doomsdayer's Holiday
Temporary Residence
Street: 10.07
Grails = Led Zepplin + Kyuss + The Crusade's
Doomsdayer's Holiday brings the heaviness. Grails never stop putting out good music. Grails music is the best evil devil-worshipping psychedelic avant-garde folk metal that I have ever heard in my life and that's saying a lot. Listening to this album is like experiencing a treacherous adventure through Satan's desert and getting the shit beat out of you by the sand, the wind and the crazy dehydrated hallucinations of sandworms just like the ones off Beetlejuice. You dodge all the sandworms and evil Arabian violin players and finally the end of your journey arrives. "Acid Rain," a tropical mirage-type theme song, begins playing and you finally get a drink of water. Grails plays vivid music and they can bury me in their brand of progressive metal sand all they want. I dig it. -  Jon Robertson

Let the Empires Fall
Moribund Records
Street: 02.12
Grimbane = Dartkthrone worship + better recording
Oh for fuck's sake ... bands really need to keep their sampled intros preaching Satanism and Anti-Christianity off their records and let the music attempt to speak for itself. Moribund Records never ceases to confuse me. On one hand, they have almost exclusive American licensing for such awesome bands as Horna, but then they turn around and put out any (and I do mean "any") crap black metal from the US that is sent their way. Grimbane, bless their black hearts, do their damnedest (no pun intended) to pay homage to their "tr00" and "kvlt" Norwegian forefathers, and, in some cases, pull off a pretty good Darkthrone impression; the problem being that Darkthrone has already been ripped off countless times, and we really don't need another clone (like we needed the first 10,000). I give these guys a pat on the back for effort, and nobody ever said that black metal and originality went well together, but this is release is completely passable, at best. - Gavin Hoffman

From Somewhere
Inside My Brain
Street: 07.2008
Gunsmoke = (12 step Rebels + Living End + The Peacocks) (but slower)
I love the idea of a band being influenced by both psychobilly and rockabilly, but not adhering to the images and/or mold that both those genres perpetuate. Unfortunately, Gunsmoke doesn't quite come through the way I had hoped. The vocals poke nauseatingly at your eardrums like an annoying child. The band chugs along quite well otherwise, cultivating a more modern rockabilly feel, and is obviously not willing to turn out the same old psycho shit that almost every new band of that movement seems to be content to play. The slinking guitar work is the best saving grace of the record and brings a lost and lonely feel to mind which so many bands fail to capture. This four-piece from Ontario have a lot of potential, but as long as the vocals are so weak, I'm afraid that the rest is a lost cause. Hopefully, this record is just the beginning of more original rockabilly-inspired material to come. - James Orme

Pro Tools
Street: 08.19
GZA / Genius = Gravediggaz + Mathematics
With the recent release of 8 Diagrams (2008) and RZA's album Digi Snacks (2008), the Wu-Tang Clan has shown persistency that is likely to keep hip-hop bumpin' for at least another decade. It's been about three years since the Genius/GZA dropped Grandmasters (2005) with DJ Muggs and almost two decades since his very first masterpiece, Words with the Genius (1990). GZA's newest release, Pro Tools, showcases his passionate commitment to writing rock-hard rhymes. The clan's own Mathematics, True Master, Bronze Nazareth, Arabian Knight and Dreddy Kruger supply fresh beats as well as the RZA. RZA creates the dark canvas, "Paper Plate," on which GZA artfully attacks 50 Cent. (GZA explained in an interview that the title "Paper Plate" is referring to lightweight or disposable rappers.) "Life Is a Movie" is produced by RZA and features Irfane Khan-Acito, the RZA and samples from Gary Numan's "Film" over a rockin' drum break while Black Milk creates the chopped-funk hood banger "7 Pounds." Aside from GZA's exceptional lyricism and distinct assortment of producers, various featured artists add Wu-ambiance to make the album borderline compilation. The GZA cleverly shares verses with his cousin RZA, clan member Masta Killa, and even his own son Justice Kareem. Pro Tools resurrects the clan's original rock-hard formula that engrossed so many Wu-Tang fans in the 90s. - SUPeRB

Death Prevails
Nuclear Blast
Street: 09.02
Hackneyed = Carnifex + Six Feet Under + gurgles + the same chord over and over again
These German phenoms aren't even of age to buy alcohol or tobacco in the US, but age doesn't matter. Hackneyed's debut has moments that shine, although those moments are for the most part, ruined by a horrible, triggered drum sound. Most of the album's nine tracks are highly groove-oriented and mid-paced; deathcore with breakdown-sounding riffs. It's cool the first few times you hear it; then you start wanting more speed or technicality. I think the guys, who you can tell are talented, were going for a fresher, more modern death metal sound, but sheesh, it's really hard to claim this record as death metal. Then again, I'm a cynical purist bastard. Ugh, and the vocals ... welcome to generic death metal guttural land. I'm left to keep scratching my head on this one; maybe these teens will learn a thing or two and realize the old-school is still mighty cool. - Bryer Wharton

Hail of Bullets
... Of Frost and War
Metal Blade
Street: 05.13
Hail of Bullets = Dismember + Gorefest + Bloodbath
Hail of Bullets is essentially a supergroup containing vocalist Martin van Drunen (formerly of Asphyx and Pestilence and currently in Death by Dawn), growling to his heart's content with former Houwitser bassist Theo van Eekelen, Gorefest drummer Ed Warby and both Thanatos guitarists Paul Baayen and Stephan Gebadi. Hailing from the Netherlands, Hail of Bullets's record sounds just like it could have come out of the early 90s Swedish death-metal scene from every element, even down to its production. Hell, according to their bio, that old style of death metal is why they created Hail of Bullets. The album has some slow grungy and gritty cuts, which leave a more evil-than-thou effect. Then there are speedy guitar passages, all of which carry that trademark old-school gritty death-metal guitar tone. In a way, the sound is similar to that of another supergroup that relishes in the old-school death-metal style (Bloodbath) yet comes off more raw and unabashed than Bloodbath's efforts. The sound is genuine and the whole record is done to perfection for its style of groove-riddled death metal; there are some riffs here that will stick with you for quite a while. - Bryer Wharton

Hand to Hand
Breaking the Surface EP
Street: 07.22
Hand to Hand = Underoath + Thrice + whine + scream + pop tarts
I fully understand there is a scene for this style of music, and admittedly, I like some of the stuff, yeah, my ass has owned an Underoath record or two and much every From Autumn to Ashes release (noted, they're collecting dust now, but I bought into the style a while back). Now it's really just starting to get old; one band comes after another spouting the same song structure, hence Hand to Hand's so-innovative style of melody, screaming, heavy guitars, melody, clean peppy singing and so on and so forth. Ironically, I really haven't heard any emo/screamo band actually sound "emotional"; they just sound like they're appealing to the people that like the sound. There isn't really much else to say about this tripe other than that it sounds like every other screamo band out there with even more pop-styling incorporated, which begs the question: "How do you sound sad and happy at the same damn time?" Maybe they're bipolar. Good thing this is only an EP; a whole album of this stuff and I'd be breaking the surface of more than just this CD's title. - Bryer Wharton

High Places
High Places
Thrill Jockey
Street: 09.23
High Places = Panda Bear + The Blow + Psapp
What do you get when you cross a bassoon performance major and a lithography teacher? That isn't a joke, that's the duo Mary Pearson and Rob Barber, a.k.a. High Places, a pair whose seemingly disparate influences yield a very interesting result of melodic lyricism and blotchy, coloring-outside-the-lines collage work. Pearson's vocals, offering subject matter that often reads as childlike and nursery rhyme-esque, meet a barrage of panned hand drums and kitchen sink percussion, murky samples (the soaring counter-melody from Kate Bush's "Woman's Work" is cleverly integrated into the broke-down drum n' bass of "From Stardust to Sentience"), island-meets-hip-hop dubby rhythms (i.e., steel drums, marimba) and delayed psychedelics, a perfect complement to keep the record away from saccharine sweetness. "Fun" is not always the most positive descriptive, but that's what goes through your head during these 10 tracks; they must have been as enjoyable to make as they are to listen to. - Dave Madden

Holy Hail
Independent Pleasure Club
Kanine Records
Street: 11.11
Holy Hail = Le Tigre + a more modern ABBA + a speed-induced New Order
Holy Hail is gritty, screeching, bizarre, and in your face, and I'm still not sure whether I love it or abhor it. IDP is definitely danceable, but it's not bubblegum pop or your average electronica outfit. Although, speaking of outfits, this band seems like some effectual hipster handpicked these four out of an Urban Outfitters in New York City, stuffed some tabs of ecstasy down their throats and told them to play, dance, and sing. However, these enlivening cats have got something to say. There are heavy lyrical topics at hand, such as Hurricane Katrina and other national atrocities. But believe me; these dark topics don't take away from the groove. Whether these guys really mean what they're writing about or if they're just trying to dig their own niche in the music industry, they're certainly making a buzz. I'm sure we'll see them popping up in Nylon Magazine one of these days. Until then, keep dancing. - Erin Kelleher

Holy Moses
Agony of Death
Street: 10.07
Holy Moses = Destruction + Kreator + Sodom
Generally, there're two types of thrash metal; American and German. Holy Moses is German, been around since roughly 1980, accomplishing that same punishing speed as Destruction. Agony of Death does not relent or give you any breathing room whatsoever, except in the song intros. Holy Moses has one of the most famous female metal screamers ever, outdoing any woman new to the scenethe mighty Sabina Classen. She screams from her gut about all things violent and mentally anguished. Whereas some of Holy Moses's later albums sort of lacked a certain "zaz," Agony of Death is a full-on assault of pure, unbridled, old-school thrash. The production, however, remains clean and clear, though sometimes when a song starts and only one guitar is going, it sounds like everyone's favorite thrash record from 1983. The band is heading to North America next year, and I can just picture the madness of circle pits enveloping the clubs they'll trash. - Bryer Wharton

Holy Sons
Decline of the West
Partisan Records
Street: 10.14
Holy Sons = Beck (Sea Change) + Deerhunter + Neil Young + a slice of the Meat Puppets
Holy Sons is compromised of only one guy and that guy is the drummer for Grails and OM, the one, the only, Emil Amos. Amos has been releasing recordings under the name of Holy Sons since 2001, and if you are looking for some intelligent acoustic art, Holy Sons is exactly what you need. Amos seems to be all about making good music. Decline of the West is no exception. All the songs are their own little head trip. Every song is based around a somber acoustic vibe, but it's all the extra sound blips and samples Amos puts into his albums that makes this business special. Favorite track is "Song from the Conscience." Emil Amos is my hero. - Jon Robertson

Howlin' Houndog
Loud and live (in the studio)
Street: 09.2008
Howlin' Houndog = Howlin' Wolf (no relation) + Scott H. Birham
This rockin', stompin' bluesman from Seattle gets down and dirty with his blues. Songs about trains, whiskey and regret are plentiful on this record. This ain't the watered-down blues Eric Clapton's been peddling; this also ain't just a copy of the original stuff, although it pays plenty of homage to the old boys like Lead Belly and Robert Johnson. What's so great about this record is that Houndog has interpreted the blues for himself; not for an audience, but just for his personal joy. Tons of different musicians show up to make their mark on this record as well; Chris Morda's slide guitar work is essential to the sound of these Seattle blues. The vocals are a little hard to get through, Houndog seems to think his character and personality will more than make up for what his throat lacks in melody, but for the most part he does just that. Hey, after all, everyone can sing the blues. - James Orme

Iced Earth
The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked, Part 2)
Street: 09.09
Iced Earth = classic apocalyptic metal
The Crucible of Man, part 2 of the Something Wicked concept release, is astoundingly different from part 1, Framing Armageddon, (released last year) and material for both records was written at the same time. I've always been somewhat of a fair-weather fan of Iced Earth; I still believe their third full-length, Burnt Offerings, cannot be topped, although 2001's Horror Show was fantastic in its theatrics and epic scale. The new effort has grown on me in leaps in bounds; maybe it's the fact that longtime Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow returned to the fold, replacing Tim "Ripper," Owens, who, though a great classic metal vocalist, never really fit with Iced Earth's sound. Matt was one of the big reasons I listened to Iced Earth at all; the man is an amazing classic/power-metal singer, full of range and conviction. The Crucible of Man is sincerely darker than anything the band has done since Horror Show. It's massively epic, filled with beautifully mesmerizing guitar work. This is a return to classic form for the band and I'm sure I'm not the only fan whose interest in Iced Earth is renewed, in all their sci-fi fantasy story-telling brilliantly powerful metal! - Bryer Wharton

Pulverised Records
Street: 07.29
Impiety = Impaled Nazarene + Absu + Angelcorpse
I purchased Singapore's Impiety's Kaos Kommand 696 2002 album a while back and loved the battle metal, totally evil, satanic war-mongering speed the band delivered. From there I backtracked to the Asateerul Awaleen record, the band's debut full-length and was impressed further; actually enjoyed the more raw sense of it than the later record. The band has released two more full-lengths since Kaos, so for comparison's sakes, I could be off. Dominator is an MCD, and for fans and collectors alike, this thing will go fast (it's limited to 1000 copies only). The MCD is in the vein of what I've heard from the band before, just outright slaughtering of your ears. The bulk of the fast guitar tone, while a bit more produced-sounding than my war-faring soul prefers, is still damn visceral, cutting through silence like a handsaw through steel. Drumming is as it should be, oh so speedy, with plenty of cymbal crashes. The blastbeats seem to be triggered (please inform me if I'm wrong), but the sound is thick and with a good subwoofer in your stereo system, it will easily give your home a good vibrating massage. The only complaint is the vocals; Shyaithan sound a bit like he's just going through the motions for this release. Aside from that, any satanic nihilistic war-metal fanatic or just violent music lover will be pleased by this offering. Oh, and did I mention there's a nifty cover of Sarcofago's "The Black Vomit"? - Bryer Wharton

Jason Willett
The Sounds of Megaphone Limited
Megaphone Limited
Street: 08.08
Jason Willett = The Can Openers + The Jaunties + X-Ray Eyes (a.k.a. having a cerebral aneurysm)
I felt like I was being crushed underneath a semi-truck while listening to this album. That's not to say that my heart my exploding with joy, I literally felt like I was suffocating. The Sounds of Megaphone Limited is full of noise. Endless sounds roar throughout the album, and half the time, you don't even know what's producing them because there's way too much going on. Some might call it a "creative project," but putting your head into a paper shredder doesn't seem very creative to me, nor does it seem like a good idea. From what I've gathered, this album is a collection of songs from various bands on the Megaphone Limited label, a label which must pride itself on only signing bands that can make a whole bunch of chaotic noise. Willett is in most all of the bands. He's like a kid that never grew out of the screaming while banging on pots-and-pans phase and decided to make an entire album out of those very sounds. Some songs, such as "Chewing Gum," I found myself able to listen to without grinding my teeth, but for the most part, The Sounds of Megaphone Limited are sounds that will result in needing some extra-strength aspirin after you're done listening. - Erin Kelleher

Self-titled EP
Monkey Wrench
Street: 07.01
Jumpercable = Only Crime + Shook Ones + New Mexican Disaster Squad
If you love fast tempos, discordant guitars and lots of loud-yet-discernable yelling, but can't be bothered to listen to music for more than 10 minutes at a time, Jumpercable's debut EP is perfect for you! Actually, almost any melodic hardcore band's debut would be perfect for you, but that's not really the point. Jumpercable follow in the footsteps of bands like Paint It Black and Western Addiction by creating songs that are simultaneously harsh and catchy, but also throw some more traditional hardcore elements into the mix like gang vocals and mosh-tastic breakdowns. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, this EP is over too soon, but every single song here is a keeper. Let's hope they keep it loud, fast and simple on future releases. - Ricky Vigil

Beast Within
Napalm Records
Street: 08.29
Katra = Nightwish + Within Temptation, etc
I often struggle with a slight bias in my mind when I see a band who has their generically attractive (or not) female vocalist on the cover of every album they release. So far, Katra is one of the bands who are guilty of this, right along with Within Temptation, Midnattsol, Epica, Leaves Eyes, and countless others. It's as common as seeing lense flare on album artwork of artists signed to No Limit Records, but I think it mostly annoys me because it is a huge, obvious sign of what to expect, and I've never been wrong. It's basically just more mid-tempo metal and hard rock with ethereal keyboard work and operatic female vocals spread over a light gothic or fantasy setting. I don't mind some Nightwish at times, but all of the copy cats who just fit themselves right in that niche can stop now, and Katra is no exception. - Conor Dow

Football Chants & Angry Rants
Mental Records
Street: 08.08
Killroy = The Business + Cockney Rejects
When I opened up this CD, the first thing I saw was a picture of three dudes in their forties trying to look tough with their middle fingers in the air. I immediately knew I wouldn't like this band. Even if it were the early-80s, which was supposedly Killroy's heyday, I still wouldn't like this band. It's bad enough to hear young boneheads sing about drinking, kicking heads in and being otherwise rebellious/stupid, but hearing a bunch of old boneheads doing it is just plain sad. Shouldn't these guys have matured with age? I do have to admit that a couple of these Oi!-esque tunes got my feet tapping, but the sheer lyrical stupidity is just too much to overcome. It wasn't good 25 years ago, and it isn't good now. - Ricky Vigil

King Tuff
Was Dead
The Colonel Records
Street 10.07
King Tuff = The Furs + Tyrannosaurus Rex
At first listen, I was sure that a new and local Furs album had secretly replaced King Tuff. The only things that convinced me it hadn't was the CD cover and the fact that the Furs don't have a new album out. As I continued to listen, the resemblance of the two bands was incredible. The same strained Marc Bolan-esque vocals, the same upbeat tempo, and the same fuzzy guitar, except King Tuff is like the cute twin who joined the cheerleading squad and won Prom Queen, while the Furs hung out behind the bleachers to drink beer. Was Dead is an album that displays all the characteristics of powerpop. It's bubbly, quick, and sure to start a dance party, and though I cringe at some of the more sugarcoated songs such as "A Pretty Dress," the record was 38.1 minutes of enjoyment overall. - Lyuba Basin

Profound Lore Records
Street: 07.29
Krallice = Weakling + Mars Volta prog-noodling
This is a surprisingly interesting release for a number of reasons. Krallice contains an assortment of creative minds such as Colin Marston (Behold ... The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia) and Mick Barr (Orthrelm, The Flying Luttenbachers). Both musicians and the bands they're in are somewhat notorious for being highly technical and adventurous when it comes to song structure and technique. So what do you get when they form a black-metal project? Well, it can mean a number of results, ranging between "too technical for raw, primal black metal" and "so technical it transcends black metal," and honestly it achieves both of them. The record is actually a real pleasure to listen to, despite an almost overwhelming amount of guitar noodling. My main problem with the record is that several of their songs seem to overstay their welcome, not giving in to much variety aside from the heavy focus on the guitar leads, leaving little room for any atmosphere or feeling. Regardless, I still return to this album, and enjoy listening to it entirely. - Conor Dow

I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 08.19
Lagwagon = Yet another 90s punk band past their prime
Over the last few years, Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape has proven that he is capable of escaping the confines of mid-level pop-punk through his various side-projects. Cape's increasingly introspective lyrical style, as featured in Bad Astronaut, even found its way into the last couple of Lagwagon albums, providing a stark contrast to the band's earlier, juvenile output. However, too much introspection can make any band sound boring, and this EP is undoubtedly boring. Even when the band is trying to have fun, as in the bouncy intro to opener "B Side," Cape's subdued delivery brings things down. It's a good song, but it just doesn't feel enough like Lagwagon. In fact, none of these songs really feel like Lagwagon. I'm all for musicians evolving and honing their craft, but sometimes side projects should stay on the side in the name of fun. - Ricky Vigil

Love Spirals Downward
Street: 07.25
Love Spirals Downward = Lycia + Lush + Delerium
Love Spirals Downward. Kind of a clever name for this type of band, which I would lump into the "dreamy/romantic gothic" sub-sub-sub-genre. Both of these albums are reissues, though I can't exactly imagine there's a huge demand for either one. But hey, I've been wrong before. For the most part, the songs on both albums are fairly minimalistic musically, relying on decent amounts of reverb of the acoustic guitars, drums, and vocals. The main problem, as tends to be an issue for most bands of this ilk, is that sooner (as opposed to later), all of the songs seem to run into each other and everything sounds exactly the same. Decent enough reissue efforts, but if I want to hear depressive gothic gloom, I'll hit the Lycia discography. No question. - Gavin Hoffman

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog
Party Intellectuals
Pi Recordings
Street: 06.22
Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog = Nine Inch Nails + angst + "huh?"
Avant Guard's favorite jazz guitarist has taken a stab at something new, but as we know, new isn't always better. That's the case in this instance. It's not that the album is bad, it's just something that's so "cutting-edge" experimental that rather than creating something totally new and amazing, it all just seems a little a) over everyone's heads or b) like the artists had no idea what they were doing. The notes are all over the place, and the rhythm both instrumentally and vocally are out the window. While the lack of structure and experimental freeform might have sounded like a good idea at the time, the cacophony that follows falls drastically short of what was probably a much grander vision. There are a few decent tracks on here, but not enough to justify getting the whole thing. - Kat Kellermeyer

The Melvins
Nude With Boots
Ipecac Records
Street: 07.08
The Melvins = The fucking Melvins, douche!
The Melvins are a band that some people hold in almost godlike esteem, and deservedly so ... this is the band that brought us Bullhead, Stag, Stoner Witch, and countless other highly influential slabs of vinyl. And while I fully applaud the essential melding of The Melvins with their brothers in volume, Big Business, the second offering of this Frankenstein-esque creation, Nude With Boots, just doesn't have quite the same swagger as previous Melvins releases. Oh, sure it's most definitely still The Melvins: catchy, de-tuned riffs, larger-than-life drums, and enough low-end to blast the entrails out of a living cow, but it's just not quite awesome enough to hold up against the old stalwarts The Melvins have bestowed upon a (mostly un-) listening public over the years. Absolutely worth checking out, but most likely not a release that will be on continuous repeat. -Gavin Hoffman

Metal Church
This Present Wasteland
Street: 09.23
Metal Church = Dio + Judas Priest + Iron Maiden
So what if Metal Church was never as popular as Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio? The fact that a band born in the early 80s that suffered numerous lineup changes and a breakup can still play fantastic music is definitely metal through and through. The songs crafted for this album rarely tire, are full of the band's trademark potent political content and are full of diverse sounds and so many headbanging moments that satisfaction is guaranteed. "War Never Won" is a definite record highlight, with thunderous riffs and a rhythm only a band born in the heavy-metal 80s could have created, plus some nifty melodic portions and, very importantly, Ronny Munroe's ultra-high Halford-like falsetto screams. Wasteland captures that classic metal sound that made Metal Church popular back in the day and frankly, is the band's best effort in years. So my friends, kneel down, put your heads up high and give offering to this Metal Church. - Bryer Wharton

The Last Sucker
Thirteenth Planet/Megaforce Records
Street: 09.18.2007
Ministry = If I have to explain, you've been under a rock for the past 20 years
The third part in Ministry's "Dubya" trilogy, as well as their last studio output (according to mainman Al Jourgensen), The Last Sucker comes off as extremely weak when compared to 2004's return-to-form release Houses of the Mold, and 2006's Rio Grande Blood. Don't get me wrong: this is the pissed-off version of Al and the gang that we've all come to know and love since they stopped being poofy and released The Land of Rape and Honey in 1987, but it's nowhere near as good as a "final" Ministry release should be. The buzzsaw guitars are still present, but the programming, bass and drums are all much too tinny when compared to earlier releases, and the songs seem like they were originally all unused tracks from recording sessions over the last 14 years. If nothing else, check it out and give Ministry respect for being one of the best industrial/metal bands of all time, but this one isn't really anything to write home to mom about. - Gavin Hoffman

The Mint Chicks
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
Milan Records
Street: 10.21
The Mint Chicks = The Futureheads + The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower + Be Your Own Pet
Before hearing this album, the only music I had heard from New Zealand came from Flight of the Conchords. I really like Flight of the Conchords, and since they parody music popular in New Zealand, it stands to reason that I would really like popular music from New Zealand, right? Well, maybe not. That's not to say that this is a bad album, but it definitely has problems. The band can't decide whether they want to write pop songs with a post-punk influence or post-punk songs with a pop influence. Sometimes the fusion of these styles works ("Funeral Day," "Back on Crack") but most of the songs are a mess. Take "Walking Off a Cliff Again:" it starts as a fast, fun pop song, but inexplicably gives way to heavy distortion that stops dead in its own tracks. When the songs work they're good, but they don't work often enough. - Ricky Vigil

Mirror Mirror
The Society for the Advancement of Inflammatory Consciousness
Cochon Records
Street: 9.18
Mirror Mirror = Air + Akron/Family
Not to be confused with Mirror|Mirror, Mirror Mirror are a five-piece out of Brooklyn that create sort of a hypnotic and haunting sound that doesn't really remind me of anything. These guys cannot be classified, and that isn't a bad thing. "New Horizons," the band's first single, is an acoustic-driven tune that creeps and crawls all over the place. Although I'm a bit skeptical, they claim to not be a cult, and their "join us" chanting doesn't help their case at all. Their hippie vibe and 60s influences are prevalent, but they don't seem shy about it at all. Very interesting. Check out this release if you're in need of some new finger-picking acoustic jams that remind you that joining a cult might not be such a bad thing after all. - Tom Carbone Jr.

The Ghost Collector
Pulverised Records
Street: 07.18
Netherbird = Cradle of Filth + Chthonic + Oathean
About three songs into this, I was reminded of something: I absolutely love cheese in metal. But it has to walk a very thin line to be appealing to me, and I think this album does it handsomely. The bombastic gothic black-metal style has always been something that I can appreciate in a satanic, comic-book-hero sort of way, but there are very few albums in the style that I actually enjoy on an artistic level as well. Another example of this would be Cradle of Filth's Midian. Netherbird incorporates several methods into this album, from your typical blastbeats and growly vocals to choral vocals and piano, and almost always with the ever-present tremolo guitar weaving throughout. None of the songs overstay their welcome, including the 14-minute epic at the end, which digs up themes from moments earlier in the album. Definitely a sleeper-hit album here. - Conor Dow

Of Montreal
Skeletal Lamping
Street: 10.07
Of Montreal = Michael Jackson + Prince + molestation and creepy mustache
Lead singer Kevin Barnes is a mutha-fucking headline and he bets you don't even know it. This album is similar to last year's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? brimming with infected dance grooves, but instead of singing happily about this cold, depressing world, Of Montreal delves deep into their own sexuality. Whether singing about being a slut, a black she-male, a prude, a romantic or just being sick of sucking the dick of this cruel city, Barnes' vocals are intoxicating. They express to the listener that no matter how dark, complex or different our sex lives and fantasies may seem to others, each of us has beautiful and unique psyches that we can't or shouldn't let society dictate or extinguish. (Murray Super Theater: 11.17) -  Cinnamon Brown

One Day as Lion
One Day as Lion
Street: 07.22
One Day as Lion = Rage Against the Machine + Mars Volta
For years and years, I endured Zack De La Rocha's lack of output; he scraps his DJ Shadow/El-P/Dan The Automator/etc. collaborations and his 20 Trent Reznor-produced songs, nearly starving me with meager morsels (a guest spot on a Roni Size track, one of the Reznor tracks, "We Want It All," for a compilation). So the super group I waited for is Zack and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore? Don't get me wrong: this EP is raw (mixed by bonus Beastie Boy Mario Coldato Jr.), immediately seizing, minimal-yet-complete and heavy enough to carry De La Rocha's lyrical rampage, but they might as well have called the band "Rage Minus Tom Morello Plus Keyboards" (though this beats the hell out of anything Audioslave could muster in 1000 years). Those waiting for something innovative (isn't revolution focused around change?) might want to revisit Evil Empire and hang on for the full-length. - Dave Madden

The Ascension
Koch Records
Street: 10.30
Otep = a wimpy nu-metal version of Crisis + Kittie
Months ago, I received a promo copy of The Ascension via Capitol Records and it was given a review. But lo and behold, the album didn't make its original release date due to the merger of Capitol Records with Virgin Records and everyone that had worked with Otep was fired, so the band went label-shopping again, to get the promotion they wanted for their new album. Unfortunately for Otep, no amount of promotion can save The Ascension from being boring nu-metal filled with false angst and its female singer Otep Shamaya trying to be poetic or one of "those" hard-ass girls. Most of the riffs and breakdowns sound like they've come from Korn records. The album was a waste when I got it and it still is, chockful of filler. How this band keeps trudging and has fans I'm not sure, but then again, there are lots of poor bands with a good fanbase, so I won't worry myself about it. - Bryer Wharton

Reborn to Kill Again
Metal Blade
Street: 8.19
Overcast = Shadows Fall + Killswitch Engage + Starkweather
I've been a fan of Overcast since high school, so I was curious to see what the story was with Reborn to Kill Again, since Overcast disbanded 10 years ago. Many people might not be familiar with Overcast, but they probably are familiar with the two major bands they spawned: Shadows Fall (vocalist Brian Fair) and Killswitch Engage (bassist Mike D'Antonio). Overcast was at the forefront of metalcore, which was a much different beast in the 90s than it is now. This album is comprised of all new recordings of old material, plus two new songs. It draws heavily from Fight Ambition to Kill, but contains material from all of their releases. Personally, I liked the urgency and darker feel of the original releases, but isn't that how it goes most of the time? In any case, this band should appeal to hardcore and metal fans alike and is a good introduction to Overcast and a worthwhile purchase, even if it does seem a little bit like the band is trying to use their current fame to capitalize on the Overcast name. - Peter Fryer

Pale Young Gentlemen
Black Forest (Tra La La)
Science of Sound
Street: 10.07
Pale Young Gentlemen= Andrew Bird + Beirut + DeVotchKa
Ever wonder what it would have sounded like if Andrew Bird would have collaborated with Gogol Bordello on the Everything Is Illuminated soundtrack? Wonder no longer. Even when Black Forest (Tra La La) slows down, it will make you want to throw on a sweater vest, grab a partner and waltz. The faster stuff sounds like A Hawk and a Hacksaw found a vocalist, while the slower stuff hearkens back to early Arcade Fire. Hopefully they take advantage of the gypsy-folk genre's popularity before Beirut releases another album for everyone with an ironic moustache to rave about. - Cody Hudson

It's Midnight in Honolulu
Rare Book Room Records Inc.
Street: 09.09
Palms = Cerveris + Moldy Peaches + Originality
Ever since former Moldy Peaches member Kimya Dawson helped whip up some of the tracks for the movie Juno, a swarm of bands has suddenly swooped down, trying to adopt the Moldy Peaches movement and run with it. That's what makes this so sad: maybe a year ago, Palms would have sparked my interest, but now they just blend into the background of hipster lookalikes with voices and tunes that, while interesting, lack any pulse or real personality. Don't feel too bad passing on this one; there's plenty of other people out there for you to listen to that are doing it better than this group.  - Kat Kellermeyer

Plan 9
Manmade Monster
Nickel and Dime
Street: 07.08
Plan 9 = Misfits + (just a touch of) Samhain
For those who don't know, Plan 9 started out as a Misfits tribute/cover band that eventually created a few original songs in the style of the greatest horror punk band of all time, and after enough of these original Plan 9 songs came to fruition, the record 8 Hits From Hell was released not long after. Now these guys dress like 'em, play like 'em, hell, even the original songs sound like lost tracks we never got hear from Danzig & Co. This release is sort of a collection that mixes covers and original songs, all in the Misfits style, of course. This band emulates the Misfits so well that the untrained ear couldn't tell the difference between the imitator and the real thing. This band does a great job of playing like and looking like the Misfits, but eventually, you'll just want to get out your copy of Walk Among Us and rock out. Any serious Misfits fan will hail this as spectacular, but just remember; these guys are only pretending, and nothing beats the real thing. - James Orme

Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Too Thirsty 4 Love
Goner Records
Quintron = Magas + RL Burnside + Hawnay Troof + Bayou Billy
Street: 10.14
The fourth track on Too Thirsty 4 Love is called "The Boss Wants to Party with You." You know who the boss is? Quintron is the fucking boss. His tenth album is replete with more mind-blowing gems than a gypsy carnival. Its production credits include "snake wrangler," and they're not joking. Quintron is an iconoclast inventor par excellence: Whether he's building his own instrument hybrids like light-activated drum machines, finding ghetto-rig solutions to electrical problems in his New Orleans venue, the Spellcaster Lodge, which was ravaged by Katrina, or crafting the most contagiously catchy numbers you've ever witnessed slither out of the swamp, everything Quintron touches turns new and magic. He and his puppeteer mistress, Miss Pussycat, take their bizarre show to the road in support of Too Thirsty 4 Love this fall, but, as of this writing, their Salt Lake City date remains "venue TBA." I pity the city that neglects to provide for the mighty Mr. Quintron. (TBA: 10.21) - Nate Martin

When Shadows Fall
Cruz Del Sur Music
Street: 09.26
Reflection = Candlemass + Iced Earth
Germany's Reflection, if you had to categorize, would have to be prog/power, although the band should probably be labeled "epic metal." The picture painted by these guys is massive; some tracks are drearily slow, in the doom-metal range, but with a singer that yells out at the top of his lungs. Think Candlemass, but without the stoner/Black Sabbath vibe; with more of a Bruce Dickinson-type voice at the helm. Then there are mid-paced tunes that just plunder and have these underlying riffs that build down as they build up, escalating things in strange crescendos of full-on heavy metal riffing. The atmosphere is plenty full, with sweeping keyboards in tune with the whole epic feel. The record, while slow to mid-paced, doesn't descend your soul into the depths, but is glorious and battle-worthy. When the album is done, you'll be ready to bust out your broadsword, scream, "By the power of Grayskull," and charge into any fight. - Bryer Wharton

Religious Knives
The Door
Ecstatic Peace
RK = Faust + Beach House + Neptune
Street: 10.14
Religious Knives is a band that never made it out of the basement. Not to say they're not good enough to play shows, get label deals or record albums with the help of Thurston Moore, they simply sound permanently accustomed to dark, cramped urban depths, where they spend their days and nights (who knows what time it is down here!), fashioning together layers of mantric rhythms, drones and slow melodies that are at once sinister and inspiring. Vocals occasionally close to death rattles repeat lines that seem more of a threat upon each utterance, while industrial Kraut-style tunes brew in the background, sloshing up and out of the experiment pot. Organs flutter ghostily in and around pounding bass lines and drums, and fuzzy guitar riffs and plucks insist themselves into songs at intermittent intervals. The Door instills a sense of psychedelic uneasiness in its listeners, more than a few of who will be grateful Religious Knives never spent much time in the sun. - Nate Martin

Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band
Last Man Standing
Montage Music Inc.
Street: 05.27
Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band = part of the problem
In my own defense, I like country music. I like Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson: the good ole stuff. Groups like Band of Annuals and Bronco give me hope for the future, while Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band could be known simply as what I consider to be part of the problem. Nowadays, if you tune the radio to a country station, you won't hear country. You'll hear pop songs with steel guitars and twangy voices pretending to be country. Shupe falls very neatly into this category, and would make bands like Rascal Flatts proud. In my book, that isn't saying much. But if you like your country tunes bland and sounding like all the other ones already out there, this album's right up your alley. And if that's the case, you're part of the problem, too. - Kat Kellermeyer

Santa Claws And The Naughty But Nice Orchestra
And Christmas for All! The Holiday Tribute to Metallica
Christmas Rock Records
Street: 10.23
Santa Claws And The Naughty But Nice Orchestra = a holiday bastardization of Metallica songs
Call me Scrooge, but is there any holiday less metal than Christmas? Taking the angst and darkness of classic Metallica songs and turning them into delightful holiday tunes is no easy feat, and this tribute ultimately fails its goal. The lack of varied instrumentation gets annoying extra quick. The underlying melodies from Metallica songs, like "Fade to Black," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and "Wherever I May Roam," are there, but this orchestra's use of bells in every damn song is horrific. I mean, not every Christmas tune has jingle bells dancing along with it. Not only has the orchestra butchered Metallica tunes, but they have put out Christmas tribute albums to AC/DC and Green Day. It all seems like a ploy to buy into fans of said bands. This attempt would be mildly entertaining if they stuck to the more melodic Metallica tracks, which wouldn't be bad for holiday party background music, but trying to take the speed from "Master of Puppets" and "Battery", sheesh! The songs don't even remotely resemble the originals. Bah Humbug! - Bryer Wharton

Satan's Host
Great American ScapeGoat
Moribund Records
Street: 02.12
Satan's Host = pick any of the nameless throngs of ripoff black-metal bands, and voila!
"Satan, I summon thee ... Satan, I conjure thee ... Open wide the gates of hell ... Come forth, Satan ... Manifest thyself ... Hail Satan." Wow. I sincerely thought black metal couldn't get any cheesier; I was most definitely wrong. The intro to the latest slab of whatever from Satan's Host is just plain dumb. Sure, the trio, for the most part, offer up a decent brand of what can only be termed "American-anarcho-blackmetal-core" (hehe take that, purists!) but it's pretty standard fare that hardly anything stands out amongst the throngs of bands pledging their allegiance to the Horned One. Hardly even worth describing, but suffice it to say, if you enjoy blastbeats that give way to generic breakdowns and feature semi-guttural vocals throughout, or if you're a HUGE Moribund Records nut, go for it. Otherwise, stick with your second- (and first-!) wave of black metal and call it good. - Gavin Hoffman

Scott Arford
Zombie Dub
Street: 08.19
Scott Arford = John Zorn + Merzbow + Tribes of Neurot
Don't get me wrong, I love noise/experimental "music" as much as the next geek, but sometimes it just doesn't quite do the trick for me. Maybe it's just my mood as I listen to this, or maybe it's just because it's simply not all that good, but Scott Arford's Zombie Dub doesn't exactly cut the mustard on my initial listen. Simplistic beats that almost seem like an afterthought buried under layers of noise and skewed samples/vocals, this offering would best be enjoyed (or not enjoyed, for that matter) under the influence of something mind-altering and mellow. Thank you, drive through. - �Gavin Hoffman

The Sea and Cake
Car Alarm
Thrill Jockey Records
Street: 10.21
The Sea and Cake = Unwed Sailor + Belle & Sebastian + Minus the Bear
Go happy and get lucky. This album is airy, light, and definitely new. These guys have been around the block a time or two-eight times, to be exact. This is The Sea and Cake's eighth full-length album, and it doesn't disappoint. The music fuses all of its aspects together with ease and doesn't feel forced or too experimental. They've outstepped the boundaries that they previously set, but it doesn't seem like they're trying to reestablish themselves as an entirely new band. The music reflects the changes they have undergone both as individuals and as a group, a group that is willing to take chances and throw some new ideas around. In all truth, I don't think that this album lives up to some of their others, like 2000's Oui or 2003's One Bedroom, but still, it's a successful experiment and a great go for it being their eighth stint in the studio. - Erin Kelleher

Fallen Sanctuary
Napalm Records
Street: 09.09
Serenity = Sonata Arctica + insert European symphonic prog/power metal band name here
OK, I might be a bit cynical here; I've had a considerable amount of prog/power/symphonic stuff to review this month, which generally isn't really an issue because I'm a sucker for sugary pop-inspired keyboard work with epic melodic guitarwork and cheesy, crooning mid-ranged vocals. So what's bugging me about Serenity? Well, the Austrian troop have been at it since 2001, so they do have some experience backing them, and this is the only album of theirs I've heard out of four records, so my ability to compare is compromised. My issue is the band just sounds way too much like every other symphonic prog-metal act out there. The track "Fairytales," with guest female vocals lent from the singer of Elis, is one silly tune, so syrupy and cheesy. With one listen you'll laugh; the next listens will inspire uncontrolled vomiting. The music contained on Fallen Sanctuary is catchy at times, annoying at others; just depends on your mood. It's just something that's not going to garner many repeated listens, unless you're one of those people that are super-duper happy all the time, which if you know me, I'm far from it. - Bryer Wharton

Self Titled
Street: 08.19
Shwayze = Sublime + Weakness + Kanye West
This Shwayze shit is ridiculous. The main mistake that Shwayze made was hooking up with the biggest doucher of all time. The big doucher is Cisco Adler. This guy is a serious cheeseball. Adler is just another cling-on L.A. putz-it-up that got famous because his pops was successful. So Adler has been trying one way or another to find some musical vindication and now he's exploiting poor Shwayze. The music isn't horribly bad, it's just the fact that this Adler dude is involved that rubs the wrong way. The dude is posing in all the pictures like he's part of the band and he always makes sure that his chorus hooks are the loudest part of each track. Cisco Adler sucks!! Shwayze, save yourself and ditch out on the doucher. Oh, fuck it!! Who am I kidding? This music fucking sucks, even though I secretly like it. Ha! -  Jon Robertson

Death-Pierce Me
Autopsy Kitchen Records
Street: 11.07
Silencer = Shining + Tormentor + Abruptum
Silencer seem to have been following the same path as fellow countrymen Shining, in that it's pretty much blast-beaty blackened death metal to kill yourself to, but the vocals tend to be disconcerting in an entirely different way. Shrill and almost downright obnoxious, it took me awhile to warm up to what was going on. After the initial impression of sounding like a scream track from a bad horror movie, to the next feeling of out-and-out hilarity, finally Death-Pierce Me results in something completely unexpected: this sucker's pretty damned creepy if you allow it to be. The melodic piano and acoustic/clean guitar interludes at first seem to be extremely premeditated and unwarranted, but upon further listens, it begins to make perfect sense. This will undoubtedly be either reviled or revered in the metal community, depending on the individual's perception, and also depending on what version people hold in their mitts, seeing as this is a re-re-release of the band's first-and-only full length, originally on Prophecy Productions. - Gavin Hoffman

Simon Bookish
Street: 10.28
Simon Bookish = Roxy Music + 1971 David Bowie + 1977 David Bowie
Simon Bookish calls this a "big band cycle about science and information," commenting on the subjects at a rate similar to taking an encyclopedia pill (a play on "the flood of information"). Bookish's proper, quaint accent gives weight to his lyrics while his boundless Eno-meets-Broadway ensemble gives further proof of his mad scientist nature. Like the Luther Burger, this idea is so horribly wrong, and I can imagine that listeners either worship or vehemently loathe and boo Bookish offstage as he opens for, say, Franz Ferdinand (he remixed their "Michael"). However, those who spent a long time acclimating to the abovementioned artists, slowly learning to not skip over "Oh! You Pretty Things" in favor of the more immediate "Rebel Rebel" and finding beauty in Bryan Ferry's uncontrollable warble on "If There Is Something," will stop the snickering and soon appreciate what a brave (but cracked) individual could release an album such as this. - Dave Madden

Sixteen Horsepower
Live March 2001
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 03.25
Sixteen Horsepower = Nick Cave + Gun Club + Joy Division
Something tells me that the people present in March for this live recording look back on this night like it was dream; elements of this dark folk music make it seem as though they were conjured out of the sounds of a cold wind. It's hard to even think of this record as a live release because everything comes through so vividly; the most subtle nuances are fed straight to the listener's ear. Sixteen Horsepower play music that has direct heritage in the American folk tradition, but then has laced each track with unsuspected explosions of dark wave and post-punk-type rock. The brilliance of this band does not simply lie in its juxtaposition of genres, but in its carefully constructed sound that would leave anyone with a yearning to walk the night. Usually, music as pure as this could only be known as folk music, because once you strip away all the bullshit, that's what you get. - James Orme

Let there be a Massacre
Street: 05.22
Sol = Skepticism + Sunn0)) + ultimate doom! Sol is the lone project of Emile Brahe handling all vocals, guitars, bass, drums, accordion, clarinet, banjo and other instruments. This is top-notch funeral doom at its best, the darkest and most diverse I've heard in quite a long time. The music is painfully slow, with demonic vocals spewing forth hatred that is creepy as hell. I cannot get over the heaviness of the album; it just plows you over, leaving every bone shattered. The guitar tones are almost inhuman, beastlike; setting up an atmosphere that is truly sinister and new to the ears of this reviewer. If you have an inkling to get sonically punished or just love the funeral-doom genre and have been looking for something in the same realm, only with added flair and total despair, do whatever you can to find Sol, turn out the lights and get it on with the darkness! - Bryer Wharton

Sonic Devastation
Imago Mortis Demo
Street: 06.10
Sonic Devastation = Deicide + Darkthrone + Death
There is no doubt about it; Sonic Devastation is off to a great start. Relative neighbors to Utah, the band got their start in Idaho Falls in roughly 2006. This two-track demo shows a massive progression from the band's self-released debut album, The Proliferation, released last summer. Playing a death/black-metal mix, the style infused in these tunes is captivating, sinister and carries with that evil atmosphere that many bands try to capture. The vocals are visceral, taking some strange middle ground between a death growl and a black-metal shrill. While there is a foundation in the band's blastbeats and the main structure of the songs, the band excels to astounding territory in its leads and solo work. There is a somber melody to them and a showcase of some great technical prowess going on. Listening to these two tracks will undoubtedly leave listeners ready for more. The songwriting here is fantastic; the music truly Sonic Devastation. - Bryer Wharton

Cult Fiction
Goodfellow Records
Street: 04.29
Spitfire = 18 Visions + Turmoil + Botch
Spitfire's recent release, Cult Fiction, is a claustrophobic dark roller-coaster ride of dissonant metallic-tinged hardcore. This style isn't anything new and borrows heavily from its predecessors, but in a game where a lot of acts are stale, it's nice to have an album that's pleasantly scattered and tries to do some different things with its sound. The artwork on Cult Fiction is creepy as all hell. Pictures of satanic rituals, snake sermons and dead animals provide the photos for the booklet and the lyrics are fitting to the visuals. Although this isn't the most original release, and at points not the most gripping, it is musically interesting and heads and shoulders above a lot that is out there right now. They reference many of the off-time bands of the late 90s/early 2000s like Botch, and that makes their sound interesting, if not as inventive, as it could be. Hopefully, they will be able to move out from the shadows of prior acts and come into their own with subsequent releases. - Peter Fryer

Eyes At Half Mast
Arena Rock Recordings
Street: 09.16
Talkdemonic = Album Leaf + Pattern Is Movement

The simplest things often require the most effort to get perfect. You are likely to fail more often than you succeed. Bless the flowers and the weeds, my birds and bees. From an outsider's position, Talkdemonic might seem like a clusterfuck of cliches folk music combined with subtle electronics is no more refreshing than a stuck pig. Thank the Lord Almighty that Talkdemonic side-stepped a lot of trite references by incorporating a little more mind than heart, using methodology to get through their various ins and outs rather than the blind stabbings of emotion. It isn't all brain and math though, there is wonder and awe in their songs, as well as a bit of straight-ahead rock n' roll. Points to them for incorporating violin, drum kit, Rhodes and banjo in a futuristic way while still remembering the past. - Andrew Glassett

Those Who Bring the Torture
Tank Gasmask Ammo
Pulverised Records
Street: 07.29
Those Who Bring Torture = Impaled + Deathwitch + Grave
Swedish death/grinders Those Who Bring Torture have crafted one of the more pulverizing albums of the year with Tank Gasmask Ammo, the band's second release. The majority of the songs are fast-paced punk-infused headbangers. There is an attitude coming from the band that many death/grind artists can only wish to achieve. While the band doesn't really offer much new up on the table, it's still funtastically brutal and simple. Like other bands within the style, TWBT don't have many guitar leads or solos, but when they do rear their head, they're well worth the wait. The album has that live-one-take feeling to it; the bulk of the groove-oriented guitar plays out thoroughly thick and the war-themed lyrics add that much more violence to the sonic devastation already going on with the record's 13 cuts. "All Hail the Goat (Lord of Great Mutation)," encompasses all paces of the album, with haunting and killer leads and solos. In a metal world that is increasingly becoming one cookie-cutter band after another, along comes a band like TWBT, dismissing all the trends, taking influences from old-school death, modern grind and the band's own menacing panache. Bring on the torture, because this record is chockful of highly memorable tracks and sheer brutal bliss. - Bryer Wharton

Time Has Come
White Fuzz
Regain Records
Street: 05.21
Time Has Come = Harlots + The Red Chord + Psyopus
Given that Germany's Time Has Come is signed to Regain Records, I was immediately interested, as the label is notable to me for having a fairly good roster. As you can tell from the equation above, the band is more on the math / technical side of the death and metalcore spectrum, but they do a pretty good job on this little outing. Many collectives with a high technical caliber in their writing often sound like they're relying on computer wizardry too much to convey their sound on the album, but THC sounds quite a bit more natural than most. I think my only complaint is that the melodic guitar monkey-work gets a little too ridiculous at times, and the vocalist has a certain scream where he sometimes builds up to it by sounding like he's about to cry. Otherwise, if you dig bands in the above equation, you'll enjoy this. - Conor Dow

Uli Jon Roth
Under a Dark Sky
Street: 09.23
Uli Jon Roth = hard rock symphony
Going into listening to this album, about all I knew about German guitar virtuoso Uli Jon Roth is that he replaced Michael Schenker's position in the Scorpions in 1973. Uli's bio states he left the Scorpions in '78, formed his own band called Electric Sun, then started making custom guitars in the 80s and has been experimenting with hard-rock compositions ever since. Under a Dark Sky is the first release in a series called Symphonic Legends. I've never really heard anything quite like Under a Dark Sky. It's classic rock guitar melded with all forms of classical music. The soundscapes are brilliant, the orchestration is, in fact, orchestration, and not keyboard-generated, which adds further depth. Everything has been arranged to a T. The last track of the album, "Tanz in Die Dammerung," has 12 parts and is one long fantastic rock journey. If you're tired of listening to the same old hits from your favorite classic bands, then look to Uli Jon Roth, you will find something entirely different, intriguing; just sheer listening amazement. - Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
Pagan Fire
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.05
I've never been big on compilation releases from Crass Records' "A-Sides" being the one exception,and this particular compilation is yet another reason why. While featuring excellent "Viking metal/pagan metal" bands such as the mighty Bathory, Enslaved, Unleashed, and Primordial, several wank-bands such as Korpiklaani and Bal-Sagoth almost totally ruin what (apparently) the folks at Nuclear Blast thought was yet another moneymaking idea: exploiting the extreme metal subgenre of "pagan metal." While this may be a decent starting point for entry-level metalheads who are attempting to get in touch with their inner Scandinavian, for anyone even remotely well-versed in metal, this is little more than yet another wasted piece of plastic. - Gavin Hoffman

The Walkman
You & Me
Gigantic Music
Street: 08.19
The Walkman = The Strokes + The Coldwar Kids + Arctic Monkeys
I've witnessed a noticeable trend that is followed by many musicians. As newer albums are recorded, the instruments seem to mellow and become more detail-oriented and the songwriting seems to exhibit a more meaningful message. A group's lifespan is much like a dog's; they tend to live less years than you unless you're the Rolling Stones and just never die off. Watching a band grow and mature is an interesting experience. Your musical child could become a delinquent and end up committing musical felonies or they can go on and become lawyers or doctors. You & Me proves that over the years, the band has gained wisdom and creativity. The vocals have continued to be capturing and the big-band drums still continue to excite and awake me, showing that though their sound isn't as youthful, they still know what they're doing. - Lyuba Basin

With Dead Hands Rising
Expect Hell
Mediaskare Records
Street: 04.29
With Dead Hands Rising = With Blood Comes Cleansing + Job for a Cowboy + All Shall Perish
I'd like to take this opportunity to ask anyone wanting to start a new band to please avoid the deathcore genre. It's full. Yup, 100 percent full, there is no more space, and not much that can be done. Please move along to the next trendy, bloated genre. With that out of the way, With Dead Hands Rising are still rocking the deathcore for all its worth, which isn't much. Expect Hell plods along with more competent playing than others in the genre, but ultimately doesn't do a whole lot. The band has been through a couple of lineup changes in the last few years since their last release mainly, their vocalist. I can't say I'm familiar with the old work, but the new gentleman on the vox has a flat mid-range growl/scream that would be better suited to tough-guy moshcore than a genre that actually has the potential to be slightly more dynamic. This is a release that you can definitely pass up. If you've heard one, you've heard them all, and WDHR isn't much different. - Peter Fryer

Yuppie Pricks
Chicken Ranch
Street: 07.08
Yuppie Pricks = Dead Kennedys + DOA + Rush Limbaugh
The Yuppie Pricks may be a gimmick band, but their gimmick works so well and they rock so hard you won't even care. Posing as conservative millionaire douchebags, the Pricks deliver ironic, scathing and often hilarious indictments against the ruling class. Vocalist Trevor Middleton sounds like Jello Biafra at his snottiest, and the rest of the band takes more than a few cues from the Dead Kennedys and other early-80s punk rockers. "Greed is Good" and "Fraternity Days" are funny, if a bit predictable, but one of the best tracks is "Collars Up." Who ever would've thought there would be a punk rock song that advocates the ever-so douchey practice of collar-popping? Protest songs are all over the place these days, but they're rarely as clever or effective as the 10 tunes found on Balls. - Ricky Vigil