National CD Reviews – December 2008

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Alaska in Winter
Holiday
Milan Records
Street: 11.18
Alaska in Winter = Beirut + M83 + All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors
I might be inclined to call this album pretentious if it wasn’t so damn good. Perhaps I’m thinking about the image of Alaska’s only member, Brandon Bethancourt (think posing for photos in tight jeans, G-Star jacket, and colorful high-tops amidst a beautiful Icelandic landscape while touring there), but that’s beside the point. It’s clear that this urban playboy can do just that—play. The album really is like spending a winter in Alaska, or at least it makes audible what I imagine spending a winter there to be like. Soothing yet powerful, adventurous and tinkering, the album’s echoey essence gives it a dreamy quality that sets it a mile apart from other synth constructions. There are no actual instruments being played on the album save for a small keyboard, which is why the outcome is very synthesized, but still, it’s never repetitive and it’s always invigorating, like taking a deep breath on a crisp Alaskan morning. –Erin Kelleher

Bible of the Devil
Freedom Metal
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 11.25
Bible of the Devil = Monster Magnet + Iron Maiden + Slough Feg
A couple years back, I witnessed what Bible of the Devil could do with their Diabolic Procession album, yet despite the album’s greatness, the band got pushed into the back of my head like too many bands. Thankfully, I am graced with the latest from the Chicago-based foursome, who bring about a stunning revelation. I forgot how much this band rocks! Freedom Metal isn’t your typical stoner rock, they are more in the realm of classic metal than anything stoner. Everything about this record is so far above the mediocrity level, making listening a great mental diversion rather than a chore. The lead guitar on most cuts is either playing one gigantic-ass solo or just lead after lead propelling the rhythm and bass into ultimate metal-domination. There are some semi-acoustic-type tunes that bring out some country styles. The entire record, is totally fresh and filled with great songwriting, fun and intricate melodies and a voice that remains in your head long after the album has ended. –Bryer Wharton

Bloodbath
The Fathomless Mastery
Peaceville
Street: 10.28
Bloodbath = Dismember + Entombed + Opeth + In Flames
Bloodbath was formed in 1999 by members of Edge of Sanity, Opeth and Katatonia in an effort to rekindle the dying embers of Swedish death metal. It’s undeniable that they’ve mastered the mechanics of this particularly melodic subgenre, as this 40-minute release is precise, crisp and relentless. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly memorable, coasting by fancy fretwork and neglecting the hooks. Fans of vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt (also of Opeth) will have their riff-hunger sated, but I’d point buyers towards the Nihilist demos collection as a superior specimen. Why watch the remake when the original is superior? I’ll admit this much, though; the cover artwork by Dusty Peterson is the finest I’ve seen in a long while. –Ben West

Born in Winter
Paper and Roses
Self-Released
Street: 08.22
Born in Winter = In This Moment + Flyleaf + Killswitch Engage
Denver-based Born in Winter fit right in with the current trends of popular metal; their music is catchy, the songwriting is solid and the female vocalist has a fantastic voice. It’s a wonder that a label hasn’t picked the band up, like Century Media, using a lot of their promotional resources on such a crap band as In This Moment. Paper and Roses could use some production help; the mixing of the guitars could be better … making the album come off much cleaner and precise, and unfortunately, the guitars at times overpower the vocals. Despite the production flaws, the album is solid; the lead guitar is thrashing at times, with melodies that are new and refreshing in a world of re-hashing sounds. My only real big complaint is the use of growled male vocals on the record are out of place and not that well done. In the end, Paper and Roses is a pleasing listen that does not tire; fans of melodic modern metal can easily enjoy this output. –Bryer Wharton

The Bronx
III
White Drugs
Street: 11.11
The Bronx = Turbonegro + Hot Snakes + Mudhoney
Behind the feminine album cover of a tripped-out flamingo lies a piece of punk magic. Released on the Bronx’s own label, White Drugs, III picks up where the last full-length, II, finished. The transition from II to III is like an unspoken promise to kick more ass—and certainly they have. The drive and enthusiasm that seeps from the tracks makes it seem as if they are aware of how significant this album will be. A majority of the album is hard, fast and in your system quick. There are more melodic songs, like” Young Blood,” that I promise in time you’ll be singing aloud. Singer Matt Caughthran has vocals of steel that translate lyrics you can understand by simply listening. III shows The Bronx aren’t caught up in making music any other way than what’s theirs. If you’re ready for an aggressive, seductive assault, you’ll find it here in one of the more pleasing releases of 2008. –Nicole Dumas

Cake on Cake
Hymns I Remember
Sleepy Records
Street: 11.18
Cake on Cake = The Cranberries
Singer/multi-instrumentalist Helena Sundin is truly talented. She takes lovely harmonies, tinkering chimes and magical instruments, and blends them for a starry lullaby ready to put you to sleep. Lyrics such as “Promise me we will make snow-angels in our backyards” show the innocence and simplicity of Sundin’s musical world. Each song surrenders its individual charm into one brilliant dream world. With so many different instruments ranging from flutes to bells to a xylophone, the only thing to add to this soothing blend is a pillow and a blanket. –Jessica Davis

Castanets
City of Refuge
Asthmatic Kitty
Street: 10.07
Castanets = early My Morning Jacket + Six Organs of Admittance + Harvey Milk This album scares my cat with songs that are eerie and haunted, although not creepy. It's the high pitch and droning that halts his napping—much like when I play Sunn O))). After awhile, the bleep and blips and chords become songs with gruffy vocals layered over high-toned guitar. There is an old Western feel to the way the strummed guitar and lyrics emerging like outlaws towards a City of Refuge. Castanets' Ray Raposa took his own refuge alone in a motel in the under-populated town of Overton, Nevada. There he constructed sounds and clever words of isolation or sought after redemption (as in the excellent song “After the Fall”). Synthentic overdubs were later added by friends Jana Hunter, Sufjan Stevens, Dawn Smithson (Sunn O)))) and Scott Tuma (Boxhead Ensemble). This ensemble successfully created an album to keep you (and my cat) from becoming too at ease by separating songs into movements entwined with interludes. Castanets will entwine you next. –Jennifer Nielsen

Catz ‘n Dogz
Stars of Zoo
Mothership
Street: 10.28
Catz ‘n Dogz = (a)pendics.shuffle + Alex Smoke
I have no desire to sort between hard house, deep house, progressive, trance, ambient, microhouse, dubstep, 2-step, etc., et cetera (!) when I can call purely dance music what it is: music that isn’t complete without a party of people I can’t stand falling over themselves (this party might take place in a club, a living room, a gym, or a car at a red light). Catz ‘n Dogz, a.k.a. Grzegorz (“Greg”) and Wojchiech (“Voitek”) make club music they bill as deep house with “harder techno roots.” Despite my gag reflex to this description, this music isn’t your typical fare; the duo overlaying interesting colors and interesting rhythmic shifts over the top of an insistent bass drum. And as I write this at 7 a.m. on a cold October day, I’m in an abnormally good mood and my foot is tapping—Catz ‘n Dogz brought the party to me. –Dave Madden

Chris Merritt
Pixie & the Bear
Scoopy Mouse Music
Street: 06.21
Chris Merritt = Coldplay + Five for Fighting + Billy Joel
Chris Merrit is an indie-pop artist who writes with nothing but heart. Fast paced and jazzily piano-driven, these songs are bright, warm and cozy. Merritt’s voice, a hybrid of the fragility of Chris Martin with the range of John Ondrasik, fits the songs perfectly, mixing just the right amount of enthusiam with intimacy. The best part is that Pixie & the Bear isn’t just one, but two full-length albums. Unfortunately, it also comes with the price tag of two full-length albums. However, it’s well worth the cash. It’s high-quality stuff, and a great addition to any indie-pop fan’s libarary. –Kat Kellermeyer

Closer
A Darker Kind of Salvation
Pulverised Records
Street: 10.14
Closer = Darkane + mid-era Soilwork + Nightrage
The great thing about music is if you enjoy a specific band, chances are high that there are other bands out there that sound similar or identical. This is a blessing and a curse in metal, and with so many potential subgenres, styles and directions a metal band could go, all too many of them stick with the traditional formulas. I am not at all opposed to the verse-chorus musical format, but when your band already sounds like you’re covering songs by bands that did the same thing 10 years ago, and did it better, it’s probably high time to find another avenue to express your art. If you’re new to metal, Closer will appeal to you, but why bother when their influencing bands are just as accessible and potentially less of a bore? Trust me on this one. –Conor Dow

Crushed Stars
Gossamer Days
Simulacra Records
Street: 02.19
Crushed Stars = Grizzly Bear + Red House Painters + Calla
“Closing my eyes, sleeping away, these gossamer days:” The soft tones and guitar chords of the album's namesake song create an image of a wet, glistening, rainy day. You can hear the pitter-patter of rain drops emanate from piano keys and see the image of a cold fall season as she brings forth a soft, falling snow: a sparkling, twinkling scene trapping musicians and lovers indoors. This is the scenery from “Snowy Day,” an instrumental ode to dreary weather. Not weather necessarily freezing or causing apathy, but slowing the hours—perhaps even the mood and musical crafting of Todd Gautreau. Gautreau's vocals are often muffled but deep, like Mark Kozeleck or Marc Lanegan. Gatrueau's guitar style is also like Lanegan’s—expertly sounding like lap steel and giving dreamy electronic numbers a folk show; also similar to the popular indie-dreamer Sam Beam (Iron & Wine). Crushed Stars give you another soft, romantic album for those days when you just want to gaze out a window. –Jennifer Nielsen

The Cure
4:13 Dream
Suretone/Geffen Records
Street: 10.08
4:13 Dream = The Head on the Door + Wish + Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
Yet another reason why review equations can be tricky … I mean, how do you equate The Cure to any other band(s) without sounding like a jackass? Regardless, 4:13 Dream is the record I’ve been waiting for since 2000’s seminal Bloodflowers. The mood of the music on this album tends to transcend extreme highs and then immediately drop off into abysmal lows, much like the underrated Wild Mood Swings, but it’s a far more cohesive and enjoyable record than almost anything The Cure has done in a decade. With more than one standout track, 4:13 Dream is an outstanding listen from start to finish, with the exception of the almost obnoxious track “Freakshow,” with the highlights being the album opener (the dreamy “Underneath the Stars”) and closer (the borderline-schizophrenic “It’s Over”). Cure fans, you will not be disappointed. –Gavin Hoffman

CYNE
Pretty Dark Things
Hometapes
Street: 10.07
CYNE= Shape of Broad Minds + Loer Velocity + The Roots + Juggaknots
The Black Eyed Peas and many other artists that went from making real hip-hop music to um … something else, are what made groups like CYNE possible. The group’s bold production, potent subject matter and innovative rhyme styles conserve the art of true hip hop. The four-man crew from Florida consists of Akin, Cise Starr, Enoch and Speck. CYNE is here to offer us something better that the shit we hear on the radio twice a day. They brand Kramer’s racist outbursts, African genocide and worldwide gang violence in “Never Forget Pluto” and “Pianos on Fire” as some of our human flaws. These controversial themes are what separate CYNE from the usual bubblegum rapper. While most of the album recaps our racist tendencies, the fourth track, “Escape,” can be used to cheer you up. Also, check out “Money Parade” for a pragmatic standpoint on the effects of a capitalist society. –SUPeRB

Cynic
Traced in Air
Season of Mist
Street: 11.28
Cynic = Dysrhythmia + Sculptured + Frantic Bleep
Cynic released one album, Focus, in ‘93 and disbanded soon after. Said album is one of those critic- and fan-acclaimed works that left Cynic in a legendary status, being one of the first bands to uniquely blend death and progressive metal. Well, with three of the original members intact, we have a new offering. Traced in Air is an entirely different output from Focus; the guitar tone is lighter, and the death-metal style is gone. The vocals are distinctly more progressive in style and the screams are few and far between and nothing close to death metal. Is this new offering bad? Well, for those expecting Focus part 2, disappointment will set in. For those willing to accept something new, they will find technical and fun-to-follow, great guitar work and a spaced-out vocal atmosphere. My gripe—the album is too scattered, and nothing stands out initially; the pacing can get distracting. Traced in Air takes extended listens before things begin to pop. –Bryer Wharton

Danielson
Trying Hartz
Secretly Canadian
Street: 11.04
Danielson = The Polyphonic Spree + The Pixies + Pedro the Lion
I'm sure Daniel Smith hears this quip often, but does Black Francis have a twin? Vocally, Smith (songwriter, singer, creative genius band leader of Danielson) conjures The Pixies with similar stylistic “yips,” “yelps,” “whoops” and “ahhs”—so much so that at first I thought maybe this was a new project for Black. I'm one of only a few persons who had not listened to Danielson before this summer—I had many friends tell me how entertaining their live show is and original their music. Previously assembled as The Danielson Famile, (which exhibited then-protege Sufjan Stevens), this greatest-so-far collection of hits includes rare and previously unreleased material. So far it has been over 10 years (1994-2004), with many cult-like incarnations of brothers and sisters—blood or musical relations (Deerhoof, Why?)—assisting in recording and practiced performances. If you're one of the few who hasn't yet heard Danielson, I recommend this album. Don't let others make you feel ignorant. –Jennifer Nielsen

Dead To Me
Little Brother
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.28
Dead To Me = One Man Army + Crimpshrine + The Explosion
I gotta tell the truth—I love this band. Even if the members of Dead To Me had taken a dump in a jewel case and sent it to me, I still would’ve given it a glowing review. Luckily for everyone involved, that was not the case, and Little Brother is a solid, if all too brief, follow-up to 2006’s Cuban Ballerina. The same combination of honest lyrical content and no-frills punk rock that made their debut so appealing is prevalent throughout most of this five-song EP, but the band also displays signs of growth. The four-minute title track is easily the standout, dipping into reggae to create an almost haunting atmosphere before building up to a gigantic final chorus that features full-on screams colliding with melodic “ohhhs” and chugging guitars. Dead To Me may not be the most unique band around, but their heartfelt conviction and connection to their music makes them stand head-and-shoulders above the pack. –Ricky Vigil

The Dears
Missiles
Dangerbird Records
Street: 10.08
The Dears = Serge Gainsbourg + The Arcade Fire + The Stills
Seasoned veterans of Montreal’s illustrious rock scene The Dears took a more relaxed (if not miserable) approach to making their fourth album, losing most of their members in the process. Missiles caught me off guard. I never expected a beautiful, mature and complex album like this to be made in our day and age. They eased back on orchestral, cinematic sounds in exchange for a warm, intimate breed of ethereal pop. Vocalist Murray Lightburn (dubbed the “black Morrissey”) is honest and melancholic, with the epically dysphoric “Lights Off” earning my highest praise. Lightburn and his wife, keyboardist/vocalist Natalia Yanchak, sing a bittersweet duet on “Crisis 1& 2” before the album gives way to more profound songs that seem despairingly in search of something dire, before ending with the transcendent 11-minute “Saviour.” A rocky album, I pray that this is not the last time we hear from The Dears. –Ryan Sanford

Dillinger Four
CIVILWAR
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.14
Dillinger Four = Off With Their Heads + The Lawrence Arms + Screeching Weasel
After six long years, Dillinger Four are back with another batch of alcohol-fueled pop-punk tunes about how much the world sucks. However, CIVILWAR doesn't hold up to the legions of D4-influenced bands (D4-core?) that have popped up since the release of 2002's Situationist Comedy. A lot of the songs on CIVILWAR don't feel finished, and the slick production makes these formerly rambunctious Minnesotans sound entirely tame. It ain't all bad, though—once you get past the super-clean sound, “Contemplate This on the Tree of Woe” has a pretty killer chorus and the gruff dual vocals on “parishiltonisametaphor” are pretty cool. The album does get better with repeated listenings, and at least the song titles are pretty funny, but if you're aching for something that sounds closer to the D4 of yore, you'd be better off buying the new Off With Their Heads album. –Ricky Vigil

Dir En Grey
Uroboros
The End Records
Street: 11.11
Dir En Grey = Tool + Evanescence + Sigh + Ackercocke + Fantomas
The End Records favors metal music leaning towards the lacy, experimental and progressive. While their discography is not always to my liking, I respect the label as an outlet for musicians pushing their own boundaries. Unfortunately, Dir En Grey is too sour a cocktail to swallow. This Japanese band apparently has five previous full-lengths, and I have to wonder if they’re all a hodge-podge of current trends. While balanced and well-composed, overall, Uroboros is just a pastiche of vapid, romantic, neo-goth, nu-metal breakdowns and dashes of technical death metal, the entire affair as carefully styled as the member’s frosted hair. Jonesing for romantic metal with goth influence? Break out the Amorphis, Borknagar, or Cradle of Filth and skip this mallrat bullshit. –Ben West

Ereb Altor
By Honour
I Hate Records
Street: 05.08
Ereb Altor = Enslaved + later Emperor + mid-era Ulver
By all rights, I should be raving about this record. It’s slow, it’s heavy, and it’s dissonant, almost to the point of being an excellent doom-metal record. The problem is that, rather than letting the doom flow freely, Ereb Altor tries too hard to be Enslaved minus blastbeats. Granted, they never stray into cookie-monster territory with the vocals, instead relying on Viking-metal-style singing, and the music is rock-solid, but goddammit, it’s more Enslaved than Enslaved. I can easily see this record growing on me with multiple listens, but that could prove to be an interesting feat, since I’d honestly just rather listen to Enslaved. Heh. Enslaved. –Gavin Hoffman

Fall From Grace
Sifting Through The Wreckage
Bunk Rokk
Street: 12.16
Fall From Grace = AFI + Poison + Offspring
Fall From Grace are the biggest posers of all time. I hate when bands dress up in all black and try to look all tough and depressed. These guys probably were the biggest doofuses when they were younger. Then one day they all got together and they figured people would think they were cool if they started a bogus pop-punk metal band. The thing that is probably most disturbing about this album is that Terry Date (Deftones, Pantera, White Zombie, Dredg) produced it. He must be doing a favor for somebody because this band is horrible and Date usually picks really good bands to be involved with. It’s sad to see one of the best producers tarnish his reputation and have his name associated with these dorks. Bad form, Terry. –Jon Robertson

Fall of the Idols
In the Seance of the Spirits of Grief
I Hate Records
Street: 05.08
Fall of the Idols = Centurions Ghost + Black Sabbath + Ereb Altor
I couldn’t resist … so much of the latest Fall of the Idols release reminds me of what Ereb Altor is attempting to do with their latest release that I just had to throw it into the equation. The difference is that Fall of the Idols has their own identity and does a masterful job of presenting their brand of Finnish doom to the world on this release. Plodding guitar riffs made ever more dreary by a steady, heavy and slow backbeat, and vocals that are set just right in the mix, In the Seance… is a release that demands multiple listens, and something new is easily discovered during each one. Worthy. –Gavin Hoffman

False Icons
God Complex
13th Planet/Megaforce
Street: 11.11
False Icons = Ministry + Thrill Kill Kult + Revolting Cocks
What a surprise that a record produced by Al Jourgensen sounds like every project Al’s had a part in during his musical career. The problem is just that, however—False Icons is a band trying far too hard to be an Al Jourgensen’s project and falling short of the mark. Sure, it’s a decent listen for anyone who worships Ministry, but it’s not a release that should garner much long-term praise. The music is decent, albeit rather cookie-cutter, hard industrial with a habit of repeating itself, but the vocals are ultimately what leads to this record’s downfall. The vocal delivery sounds half-assed, like dual-vocalists John Bechdel and Brian Broadt are still learning how to sing and end up half-singing instead of actually forcing their points across. If you can snag a used copy somewhere, it’s worth checking out, but don’t lose any sleep over not owning a copy. –Gavin Hoffman

Fiasco
Native Canadians
Impose
Street: 12.09
Fiasco = Pixies + Nirvana + At The Drive-In
This album sounds like it was recorded in a tin can. But it’s the noisiest, most hardcore tin can of all time. The first track, “Steve Herman,” comes charging out like it’s trying to scramble your brains with the flashiest and most chaotic instrumentation of all time. The highlight of this post-punk mess is most definitely the drums. Julian Bennett Holmes must have a really unhealthy obsession with Zack Hill. He probably stands outside Zack’s window and imagines what it would be like to cuddle with him at night. These dudes are really good all around. I wish they would leave their home town of Brooklyn and come play a show here in SLC. –Jon Robertson

Gamma Ray
Hell Yeah: The Awesome Foursome Live In Montreal
SPV
Street: 11.04
Gamma Ray = Iron Maiden + a less wimpy version of Stratovarious
Fans of Germany’s mighty popular Gamma Ray will without question own this double-live album along with its companion DVD. For the non-followers, well, if you feel the need to jump into a gigantic experience of speedy classic-style power metal or just are generally interested in Gamma Ray, this is a worthy exploration. As far as live recordings go, this sucker is finely produced; you can hear crowd singalongs and every instrument is clear as day. And the band … well, they don’t mess up. Live albums sometimes can be a struggle, especially in the instance of Hell Yeah because of the double-disc nature of it; the length of both CDs together clocks in at just about two hours. That’s quite a bit of, well, I’d call it happy metal. The songs don’t stir up anger; they’re upbeat, full of great power chords, supercharged riffs and a hell of a lot of masterful solos. I’ll be listening to the album in bits from now on, since two hours of anything can be hard to stomach. –Bryer Wharton

Gates of Slumber
Conqueror
Profound Lore/I Hate Records
Street: 05.08
Gates of Slumber = Saint Vitus + Trouble + Rainbow
Simply put, this is one of the best records of the year. Initially released on Profound Lore, Sweden’s I Hate Records made a wise move in re-releasing this doom metal gem … although I’m still unsure why a re-release was necessary. Ranging from down-tempo, classic doom a la Saint Vitus on the title track to more upbeat and powerful heavy rock on tracks like Ice Worm and Children of Satan, Conqueror should be destined for “classic” status in doom-metal circles, and if you’ve somehow managed to allow Gates of Slumber to fly under your radar, do yourself a favor and track this release down. –Gavin Hoffman

Goddamn Electric Bill
Topics For Gossip
99X/10
Street: 10.04
GDEB = Red Sparowes + NIN + Mum
Goddamn Electric Bill is goddamn fantastic! As lush and colorful as Explosions in the Sky, the music builds as instruments and tenor layer. Elasticizing, songs crescendo and without crashing down, stay lively. All music is performed, written and recorded by Jason Torbert, who creates melodies for toy robots via “The Morning Commute” and “Hermits.” The second track, “Our History, Part 2,” includes vocals, which are sparse over the entire album. All the while, ambient electronic loops, drum beats and acoustic guitars dance with percussions and unusual instruments to meld into a more jovial harmony, like the epic “The Shallows.” Nothing on Topics for Gossip is really shallow, but quietly immense. GDEB has remixed Sigur Ros in the past and recently had a few songs played on MTV and Etnies commercials. There is no persona or politics to dilute the music on this sophomore album. Drift away into his ocean of sound. –Jennifer Nielsen

Greyboy
15 Years of West Coast Cool
Ubiquity
Street: 11.04
Greyboy = Nightmares on Wax + DJ Shadow
Fifteen years is a big chunk of time for a DJ to be around and have survived the decline of the solo turntable spinner that boomed and busted in the 80s and 90s. Greyboy, Andreas Stevens, made it out alive and long enough to release this best-of to fans of the hip-hop-spliced jazz he is respected for ushering in. I enjoy this shit and don’t have many gripes with it. I could do with just the instrumentals, though; I respect the guy’s ability to sample without having MCs and vocalists—which a few of the tracks do feature. If you could imagine a release of such chill beats and mellow interludes that would render your being utterly jazzed, you have Greyboy’s latest. This is fine spirit drinking music meant for makin’ rugrats and memories and not for those fiending for Adderall and tricked-out club computery. –JP

Guillotine
Blood Money
Pulverised Records
Street: 10.27
Guillotine = Destruction + Slayer + Kreator
From two power metal bands—one highly notorious in the scene, Nocturnal Rites, and one not as known, but just as killer, Persuader—comes Sweden’s Guillotine. A surprising output, considering both bands play distinctly different styles than what Guillotine is peddling. The band wears their influences on their sleeves without question; upon the immediate listening of Blood Money’s opening cuts, you hear all brands of thrash, but the strongest style coming through is German-style thrash metal. These guys basically have two speeds of playing: fast and even faster, with plenty of nice grooves and wailing solos. The neo-thrash movement may still be coming, but many of the bands I’ve come across are playing the Americanized thrash stuff, with lots of punk rock influences. Guillotine have more of a classic metal effect in their tunes. Once you’re done listening to this sucker, you’ll just go straight back to track one and love it all over again. –Bryer Wharton

The Happy Hollows
Imaginary EP
Heart
Street: 10.21
The Happy Hollows = The Eyeliners + Ditty Bops + Tilly and the Wall + Pixies
The Happy Hollows were on the brink of something amazing. Sadly, someone stepped on a booby trap and sent them tumbling into an out-of-tune, overly repetitive, screeching mess. Singer Sarah Negahdari has a sneaky way of using her voice. She starts sweet and only slightly annoying, then back-kicks you in the face with stalker ex-girlfriend rage. Take out the whiney screeches and lazy back-ups and there’s something great below. Negahdari’s guitar and simple “ooo-hoos,” mixed with quick rampaging bass to drumbeats, show that The Happy Hollows have talent—they’re simply trying too hard to be “abstract” to use it well. –Jessica Davis

Head Resonance Company + Peter Pixel
19 Tracks for Unknown People 1980-1984
Beta-lactam Ring
Street: 08.08
Head Resonance Company + Peter Pixel = Can + Tones on Tail + Psychic TV
Benjamin Heidersberger and Peter “Pixel” Elsner founded the Head Resonance Company in the late ’70s, an organization they used to explore space and time in visual and aural arts (the collective is still going strong today, as you can see on the accompanying DVD). This collection of dusty musical archives bears a resemblance to the global attitudes of the time (i.e., Berlin, New York), HRC using whatever instrument at their disposal to craft deft non-music in a post-punk/no-punk era. Scrappy drum machines crackle under walking basslines, synth bells and bit-reduced news reporters (“4”), delay pedals feedback wildly with horn fragments, thunderous brass and “warning!” sirens (“6”), and robots make they own version of jazz via Moogs and energy stabs (“10”). The Peter Pixel portion (the last five tracks) is less improvisation, more song structured, but about as pop as Einsturzende Neubauten. –Dave Madden

Hellveto
Neoheresy
Pulverised Records
Street: 10.27
Helvetto = Satyricon (old) + Bathory (melodic era) + Fear of Eternity
Hellveto is a one-man project from Poland, and the creator, L.O.N., has a few other projects, most of which he is the lone performer. Hellveto is the most active of the projects, formed in 1995, with quite a large discography. After plenty of listens to Neoheresy, I’m still on the fence about the artist, Hellveto is pagan/folk/black orchestral metal. I give L.O.N. credit where it is due, since I can’t fathom how it would be to write all the instruments in the music and have it all come together in the end. The songs on Neoheresy are highly atmospheric, and surprisingly diverse in instances, but also redundant in instances. Hence, my main gripes within the record: I am not a big fan of the creation of vocal-choir-type sounds with synths; it sounds like what it is: fake. At times, the main guitar is scathingly terrific, but then there are songs where the riff is just repeated. Initial listens will satisfy, but in the end, you, like me, may need something more. –Bryer Wharton

In This Moment
The Dream
Century Media
Street: 09.30
In This Moment = Evanescence + All That Remains + Breaking Benjamin – the male vocals
In This Moment do such a great job of trying to sound like so many other artists that their own originality seeps away. At times, the music is bearable (be it more pop rock than any other form of music), though there are plenty of attempts at melodic metalcore or worse, nu-metal. In the end, it’s musical mediocrity with guitar melodies/piano and vocal arrangements that don’t differentiate from track to track. Vocalist Maria Brink is the worst aspect of the band; her singing style is grating, too clean and produced-sounding, which wears thin quickly. Brink’s range lacks diversity; I picture the singer as an American Idol reject that attempts to scream. Her emotions fall flat and give you the feeling that you’re listening to something meant to come off as pleasing to hear, yet it expresses no emotion. –Bryer Wharton

Ironweed
Indian Ladder
Small Stone Recordings
Street: 10.08
Ironweed = Witchcraft + Milligram + Down
Hell, yes! This is what I need more of—heavy, dirty rock. The surprise was the inclusion of almost hardcore-sounding screams laced throughout this record, but they fucking work! This is beer-drinkin’ music at its finest—catchy riffs, solos that are quick and to the point, and a rhythm section with its head in the proper place. Indian Ladder is an excellent way to kick off any night of boozing and should serve as a template to the throng of bands who try so hard and fail so miserably at this type of music. Just try to tell me that lead singer Jeff Andrews doesn’t do a spot-on Phil Anselmo impression in “Lost and Forgotten”—I fucking dare you! –Gavin Hoffman

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid
NYC
Domino
Street: 11.18
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid = Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi + Sun Ra + Tortoise Aptly named, this latest offering from Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden (samplers, software) and Steve Reid (acoustic percussion) is the result of two days in New York’s Avatar studio, where the duo soaked in the ghosts of previously recorded works by artists such as Steve Reich to Chic to Missy Elliot. Most importantly, the album reflects Reid’s hometown experience in conjunction with Hebden’s first real visit to the Big Apple, letting the food and urban explorations inspire tracks with titles such as “25th Street” and “Lyman Place.” This all translates into an eclectically charged mix of psychedelics (“Between B & C”), ‘60s Funk (“1st & 1st) and Stockhausen electronics vs. downtown minimalism (“Departure”). In other words, Hebden and Reid’s version of jazz fusion, something they’ve honed live and on record (Tongues, The Exchange Sessions Vols. I and II) to a point beyond casual collaboration: this is their language, and a fascinatingly experimental and enjoyably listenable one it is. –Dave Madden

Kill the Client
Cleptocracy
Willowtip Records
Street: 10.28
Kill the Client = Watchmaker + Martyrdod + weapons grade hatred
Are your ears ready to have their pink little assholes tanned like an old civil war belt? Look no further than Kill the Client, or really, nearly every band Willowtip Records has on their fine roster of hate. Fueled by 18 tracks, not a single one exceeding two minutes in length, and a mere 23 minutes total, Cleptocracy picks up right where their highly respected first album left off. Imagine how Metallica would sound to your grandfather if you had him listen, except this band is what they would really sound like to him. This is pure soul-crushing and aggressive, grinding death metal that never relents or allows you, the innocent listener, to catch your breath. All of this and a Glengarry Glen Ross sample to boot! Your ears say, “In the name of science, please, no!” but your heart and mind say, “Oh fuck, yes” to Kill the Client. Give in! –Conor Dow

Klangwart
Stadtlandfluss
Staubgold
Street: 10.14
Klangwart = Zeljko McMullen + John Adams’s Shaker Loops
An equal mix of classic minimalism and techno-savvy, duo Klangwart make wonderfully patient music. Divided into seven tracks, this marvelous piece begins with an anticipatory hush, a sustained major chord, hardly swelling with harmonics, and obviously pointing somewhere. Slight digital detritus (i.e., clicks, tufts of studio resin) tampers with the sound, gently caressing the sonic world before taking over and allowing printer sounds (a la The User’s Symphony for Dot Matrix Printers) and human office ambience a turn. Around the 28-minute mark, the tension further mounts, processed bells mixing with nerve-wracked string orchestra ostinatos and crashing headlong into meticulously crafted buzzing feedback. A genteel coda of female German whispers restores balance to the arc of the piece, the perfect denouement to a virtuosic display of texture and form. Klangwart, please do not wait another eight years between albums. –Dave Madden

Langhorne Slim
When The Sun’s Gone Down
Narnack Records
Street: 09.30
Langhorne Slim = Bob Dylan + Mathew & The Arrogant Sea + Nothing you’ve ever heard
When I heard a rumor that the rock/folk Langhorne local had plans to reissue his first LP, I was ecstatic. I have been trying to find it for the last two years, even though it has been out of print. But alas, Langhorne Slim’s first critically acclaimed album is finally out on the shelves again. Lucky me … and lucky you! His ability to narrate his personal stories into song form, whether they metaphorical or literal, will pull you right in and never let go. “She Played Piano” sounds like a noble tribute to Bob Dylan, while the title track, “When the Sun’s Gone Down,” gives the listener an extensive look into Langhorne Slim’s soul. Every song on this album is full of sincerity, foot stomps, pronounced mids, effective lows, and damn good songs to dance to. The twang of the banjo and simplistic vocals, which complement his stringed hunk of Maplewood, reminds me of the trail-blazing legends from the days of truth and change. –Lance Saunders

Lords
Fuck All Ya'll Motherfuckers
Black Market Activities
Street: 10.07
Lords = Black Flag + diet Anthrax + hilarious nihilism
Well, if the wall-worthy album artwork didn’t sell me, the hilarious intro track did, and I still had the music to look forward to. I’m not sure if Lords are intentionally trying to be hilarious, but that mysterious question is actually what sells me on them. The music is fairly basic, as you might see in the above equation, but it’s catchy and enjoyable. With track titles such as “Why I Don't Give a Fuck,” “Cause All of You Are Fucked” and “This Isn't a Song Dumb Ass” (which surprisingly, isn’t a real song, if you didn’t guess), the complete package here is a quick but fun 23 minutes of sarcastic hardcore punk acrimony. –Conor Dow

Los Difuntos
Born and Raised in East LA
Nickel and Dime
Street: 12.05
Los Difuntos = Tiger Army + Left Alone + Madsin
This band has actually been able to get quite a buzz about them even though this is their first full-length release; they got a 7” out on Rancid Records and were rumored to have a deal on HellCat Records, but have apparently landed on Nickel and Dime. The record itself is a surprising one when you hear country, ska and 77 style punk built around a psychobilly engine; it makes for a fun listen. “Lucy” is a track that comes blazing straight at you and even boasts a rare vocal guest appearance form Rancid’s Matt Freeman. Lead singer/guitarist Christian, who has really made this band his baby, puts his heart into each track which is mostly about the experiences of a kid growing up in the rougher parts of east L.A. Blistering stand-up work accompanied by two versatile guitars that switch from hard-charging distortion to more mellow vintage sounds on a dime show that this band is not only talented, but is not willing to step into some pre-cut psychobilly silhouette. –James Orme

Maruta
In Narcosis
Willowtip
Street: 10.28
Maruta = Assuck + Pig Destroyer
I’m legitimately depressed that I missed Maruta when they opened for Phobia and Impaled in September, since they play ferocious grindcore in the best 90s powerviolence mold. Remember? Hardcore right before emo loosened its white-belted bowels all over everything? Sure, Maruta are perhaps a touch too tech, and a few of the songs suffer from studio compression, clueing one in that this is grind from a post-Nasum world. Although they don’t quiet capture the aggression of Crossed Out, they still savage the landscape and leave your eardrums with bloody noses. This’ll fit in your collection nicely between those Insect Warfare and Pig Destroyer albums. –Ben West

The Mansfields
Cramp Your Style
Gearhead
Street: 11.04
The Mansfields = the Cramps + the New York Dolls + Sun Records area Elvis
How could such a band even exist? The Mansfields have taken the most pure moments in rock n’roll history and sewn them together, not seamlessly though more like Frankenstein stitches all sloppy and such. The two songs “NYC Rock –n- Roll,” a tribute song to all the marvelously notorious music that came out of New York in the late and mid 70s, and “Half Way to Memphis” which is all about the brilliant tunes that Sun Records produced in the mid 50s, pin point the 2 major influences of this band. This trio does it up right when zombies, lipstick killers, and creepy organs all make the scene and come together quite nicely. There are two Elvis covers that are good but I’d rather hear the band’s garage punk style come through than have just a straight boring rockabilly cover we’ve heard so many times. Other than that The Mansfields turn in a knock out record. –James Orme

MF Doom
Operation Doomsday (re-issue)
Metal Face Records
Street: 10.12
MF Doom= Madlib + Kool Keith + D. Swain + Slick Rick
This was once one of the hardest MF Doom albums to find because of the controversial use of Marvel Comic’s Dr. Doom on the cover. Now that the comic book guys are cashing in on big box office flicks, the masked man has had a chance to marvel over achievements. He has also taken the initiative to re-distribute some of his and KMD’s greatest records on his own label. Originally released in 1999 on Fondle ‘Em Records and then again in 2001 by Sub Verse Records, Operation Doomsday, serves as an impressive first solo project. Daniel Dumile’s unique style of chopping and rearranging samples has put him at the top of the beat making realm. This album specifically displays some of MF Doom’s best beats, sampling everything from Scooby Doo to Sade. Take a look at his discography and then try and tell him to drop the comic book villain pretense. -SUPeRB

Mitch Hedberg
Do You Believe in Gosh?
Comedy Central
Street 09.09
Mitch Hedberg = George Carlin + Steven Wright + LSD + rose-colored sunglasses
Where posthumous releases are normally reserved for the likes of Tupac Shakur, there are the occasional non-hip-hop artists that die before their time. Mitch left us far too soon, falling prey to a ridiculous heroin habit. At the time, he was preparing material for a new record, and this disc offers a sketch of what the album might have been. The material on Gosh was gleaned from several nights at the Improv club in Toronto, California. Much of the new jokes have already made their way into the hands of fans through live bootlegs and performance transcriptions, but it is still good to hear it here. Some of the best parts of this disc are the audience interactions, Mitch’s reaction to hecklers and his fearless way of trying new material on the unsuspecting crowd. In all, this is a stellar effort from the guy that helped us see the absurdity of Smokey the Bear, and made us wonder what would happen if we planted sesame seeds. Goddamn it, man, why couldn’t you have stayed clean? –James Bennett

Miwon
A To B
Staubgold
Street: 11.25
Miwon = Her Space Holiday + The Orb + Mum
In James Elkins’s Why Art Cannot Be Taught, he writes “Some people would say they make art that imitates ‘better’ art…making art that is roughly emulating more successful art being made elsewhere.” After a few listens to A to B, you might argue that Miwon aka Hendrik Kroz’s music suffers from these symptoms. Or maybe being an electronic artist in Berlin for a “very long time” means he is the one the others are influenced by. Regardless, his methods closely reflect (without adding much to) the abovementioned artist’s aesthetics: supple dance rhythms mingle with the occasional fey ala Postal Service vocal (“A to B”, a plagiarized version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”), cinematic string swells, soaring arpeggiations and occasional pleasant anomalies such as the crunchy, filtered drums on “Round and Round” and Boards of Canada-esque microtonal organ lines on “Daylight Promise.” –Dave Madden

The Model
Physical
Playloop Records
Street: 11.18
The Model = The Faint + She Wants Revenge + INXS
The groove of this record makes me want to direct The Model’s music videos with leather-clad, 80s rock-gods like icon Michael Hutchinson (INXS) staring into the camera and singing/whispering with eyes as intense as their motive for creating music. You can picture it, can’t you? The motive in the case of The Model (frontman Markie and keyboardists Ziggy, Jason, Johnny) began as a semi-annual philosophic-pop-costume party in Philadelphia—where it’s always sunny. Today, The Model is exactly as their name implies: a perfect example for dance parties they (and Girl Talk) have made infamous by mixing their own synth-noise into sexy, 80s, I-am-who-I-am-movie-attitude, like their anthem “I Won’t Be Hanging Out Anymore.” They play new-wave synth very well, blending that style with modern techno effects and beats for hopeful romantics (or those just swaying alone), like the Simple Minds-influenced “Do You Believe In Angels.” Markie’s deep, haunted vocals are similar to Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), only lacking the self-loathing which is replaced with a becoming maturity. Expect to hear The Model at every club/dance party this next year. –Jennifer Nielsen

New Tomorrow
We’re Counting on the Youth
Skeleton Crew Records
Street: 10.07
New Tomorrow = The Used + Strung Out + Anti Flag
The New Tomorrow should have left their pseudo-punk rock sounds in the early 2000s, when music like this was being consumed by the masses. Their sound is incredibly dated and predictable. The songs run into one another, all sounding so similar that it’s hard to distinguish one from the next. The lyrics are all “youth-centered” and deal with changing the world; there is whiny singing and chanted group choruses, too. It’s not aggressive enough to make a circle pit to, but angsty enough to encourage kids from the burbs to do that strange jumping-up-and-down salmon dance. This band is another Warped Tour mold and probably won’t gain much popularity with people over the age of 16. I bet they wear old-school Vans, studded belts and do a ridiculous amount of jumping with their instruments during live shows. –Jeanette Moses

Nick Butcher
Bee Removal
Home Tapes
Street: 10.14
Nick Butcher = Microstoria + Can’t + Andrey Kiritchenko
Have you ever left a record on a turntable, and let it keep playing after the last song while the needle revolves around those last crackling hints of life? Upstairs, your cat paces on a hardwood floor, chattering at some birds who taunt back with their own voice. You listen from a distance, however, and the Doppler off the stairs transforms this conversation into something a bit more alien. Next door, someone tunes a guitar and plunks out single notes with pauses in-between. From softly glitching, augmented Casio melodies to machine hum to the sound between AM radio stations to all the sounds most people look past for something more immediate, Nick Butcher calls this music, crafting these elements with transparent editing into a thoroughly compelling, intimate experience when given the proper reception (e.g., put everything down, stare at the wall, headphones on). –Dave Madden

Nothing Project
one man rock band
Self-released
Street: 05.01
Nothing Project = Queens of the Stone Age + White Stripes + Xavier Rudd
Do not let the above equation fool you: Nothing Project sucks sauna-sweaty scrotums from track one to track 12. The music really does sound a lot like QOTSA, strangely so, and that’s about the nicest thing I can say about it. In Nothing Project, Marcus Connor is a one-man rock band (drums on his feet, guitar in hand, mic, you know, Xavier Rudd-style). But a semi-original gimmick just doesn’t go far enough to save this album. The first problem: Connor seems to need to keep strict time with his feet drums in order to multitask correctly. The resulting drum beat is a “bass-snare-bass-bass-snare” that is the foundation for at least TEN (are you fucking kidding me, ten?!?!) of the album’s tracks. The second problem: if one has lyrics that read like the poetry of a middle-school nerd with stage fright, one should probably not print those lyrics in one’s album jacket. Overall, the vocals fail miserably. I haven’t disliked an album so strongly in many moons: thank you, Marcus Connor, for reminding me how badly shit has the potential to stink. –Jesse Hawlish

o’death
Broken Hymns, Skin and Limbs
City Slang
Street: 10.27
o’death = Gogol Bordello – the accent
I don’t know how to accurately describe such a blatant lifting of style, but I’ll try. Something can always be said for imitators, all music deriving from works before in this century of repeated styles—not this time, though. At least o’death could have tried to throw in some Russian, or whatever the hell hodgepodge it is that Eugene Hutz speaks, to add some real “gypsy-ness” to the sound-byted fiddle they employ. No such luck. So what do you get with a Gogol Bordello “cover” band with no true Slavic influences? A Bordello cover band with no soul. I can’t imagine these pseudo-gypsy rockers spend any time anywhere close to the kind of enclaves you see Hutz journey to in the fantastic documentary, The Pied Piper of Hutzovina. For a real glimpse at gypsy music, don’t look to New York hepcats like o’death for realism. Look to the source. –JP

Order of Ennead
Order of Ennead
Earache
Street: 10.13
Order of Ennead = (Sons of Northern Darkness-era) Immortal + (Angela Gossow-era) Arch Enemy
Risen from the ashes of Council of the Fallen, Order of Ennead have burst onto the scene with a debut blending black metal, thrash and technical Florida death metal. Order of Ennead's strongest sales point is precise musicianship radiating from the drummer outward. For the debut, they've retained drummer Steve Asheim, also of the legendary Deicide. Unfortunately, the combined talents add up to a less-than-stellar whole, as this release is a dry and by-the-numbers affair. It’s as if a group of session musicians came together and executed a musically perfect rendition of songs outlined on a pie chart. Diehard fans of the Sunlight and Morrisound studios style likely can't be talked out of buying this, but I'll take mistakes with my death metal as long as it retains some soul. –Ben West

Outlaw Order
Dragging Down the Enforcer
Season of Mist
Street: 11.28
Outlaw Order = Eyehategod + High on Fire + Arson Anthem
There is no avoiding comparing Outlaw Order to Eyehategod, considering the output is from four of the band’s five members; the only one not included is Eyehategod’s drummer, Jimmy Bower, who is playing with Down at the moment. Hence the side-project here, and the output is, well, more accessible than Eyehategod. The guitars are still down-tuned to sound like hell pounding from the depths, but added is a bunch more groove-oriented riffing and well, more direction with the songs; just picture Eyehategod with hardcore and some stoner influences popping their heads in. I personally am a big fan of Eyehategod and this beast does not disappoint in the least; it impresses. Saying it again, the guitar-tone is wicked, Mike Williams does his best at spewing hate and fire tinged with Jack Daniels. It’s violent, it’s drudgingly ear scathing, it’s fast, and you can’t stop listening to it. –Bryer Wharton

Pee-Pee
Castile Jackine is Vooded at Broonus Mousin: Volume 1
Helmet Room Recordings
Street: 11.11
Pee-Pee = Connor Oberst + Pee
The only reason SLUG hired me to write reviews was to dump the stupid-named bands on me. It’d be hard to make music that sounds worse then this band’s name. So am I saying this album’s good? No, fuck no! Actually listening to this album just pisses me off. Even worse then the band’s name is the grandiloquent album title; I won’t even lift a web-browsing finger to find out how cute, abstracted or stoned Pee-Pee was when they came up with it. Even the song titles of this band piss me off, like “Love Needs A Quivering, Restless, Aching Fire to Lay its head On.” Gawd, I feel dirty after listen to this album. I need a shower—a golden shower. –Cinnamon Brown

Phobia
22 Random Acts of Violence
Willowtip
Street: 10.28
Phobia = Napalm Death + Nasum + Pig Destroyer
Grindcore has never been about songwriting, or playing your instruments well, it’s always been about playing fast, ferocious, pissed off and obnoxious. First spin, I didn’t have the volume on my stereo up that high, but with repeated listens, I turned it up, and what a difference just volume makes. With the volume low, the album sounded bland, lacking that grind violence and hatred, but with the volume up, it’s as blasting and devastating as grind should be. 22 Random Acts of Violence’s best quality is the punk rock and hardcore leanings, mainly in the vocal department; there’s a bunch of hardcore-type chants, which gives a pleasing diversion from other grind acts that just blast n’ scream. There are also plenty of chunky grooves, with a few leads and solo-type guitar sounds and screeches. It’s not the greatest grindcore record I’ve heard, but hell, the band has over 18 years of experience, so it’s better than the vast majority of imitators out there. –Bryer Wharton

The Points
Self-titled
Mud Memory Records
Street: 11.10
The Points = The Stooges + The Ramones + The White Stripes
Washington, D.C., has been the birthplace of many legendary bands of punk, hardcore, rock, indie and other various genres over the years. Simply mentioning a band comes/came out of the D.C. scene lumps them in with many greats. I mean, let’s face it, it sounds much more promising than hearing a band originated from North Dakota. Regardless of scene associations, the D.C. duo The Points really aren’t half bad. Are they and their self-titled punk/garage rock record good enough to hang with the D.C. crew of iconic bands past and present? It’s debatable. One thing for sure is that they know how to rock your eardrums raw and aren’t the least bit bashful about it. Their frenzied guitar, drums and vocals combine into a sort of static cling on your brain, making it hard to focus on anything else except their chaos. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Reino Ermitano
Rituales Interiores
I Hate Records
Street: 07.08
Reino Ermitano = St. Vitus + Drain STH
Peruvians Reino Ermitano dip their ladle deep into a bubbling witches' cauldron of crushed-velvet 70s hard rock and current stacked-speakers doom. While extremely charming, the entire album is just too long, and the songs aren't varied enough to sidestep boredom. This band is at their best when the music wears bellbottoms, as on “El Despertar,” which swirls with the keyboard-heavy influence of early Deep Purple. If Reino Ermitano took a step back from the Acid King influence and do some gigantic paisley bonghits, they could put some real meat on their bony bar-band frame. –Ben West

Richard Cranium
S/T
Self
Street: 11.11
Richard Cranium = Bedouin Soundclash vox + We Versus The Shark guitars
This is one of those rare groups I don’t “get” right away, but along with stretching my ears and musical grey/white matter, I find a happy medium in most of these situations. If I can temporarily remove the sanctions placed on my old standards of what makes music inherently and immediately likable, I usually find that it is worth the time. Richard Cranium is a group that may require some aural calisthenics to really resonate, but they certainly do. Only so much can be written about some of these songs that lack a certain cohesion, but at least half of this EP is solid and inventive—something most seriously lacking in “modern rock” music. Investigate the first track, “Bury St. Edmunds Behind the Royal Exchange,” and its awesome guitar and bass meanderings, which will definitely stretch the bounds of most brains. “Televangelist” is also a track that I enjoy, especially the intro. –JP

The Rollo Treadway
The Rollo Treadway
Team Clermont
Street: 12.16
The Rollo Treadway = The Beach Boys + The Zombies
Ah, 60s psychedelic pop; ask any musician and they’ll tell you it’s the happiest way to tell a sad story. This concept album about two children’s kidnapping sounds like it was stolen out of Brian Wilson’s cut pile. Sunshiny and happy from beginning to end, this album could be the soundtrack to any Ferris Wheel or merry-go-round. At first listen, it seems so fresh and new, but after a few times through the wash, you realize that there’s a reason oldies stations only allow one Zombies song per hour. –Cinnamon Brown

Sian Alice Group
59.59
The Social Registry
Street: 02.19
Sian Alice Group = Rachel's + Mistress of Strands + Steve Reich
I am sad for all dreamers, stoners, lovers and rockers who missed Sian Alice Group's recent performance in SLC, because I experienced a monumental set more epic than headliners A Place to Bury Strangers' set would have been. Rupert Clervaux and Ben Crook formed SAG with vocal chanteuse Sian (Welsh, pronounced “shean”) Ahern in London, where they performed shows with Spiritualized and released a few highly praised EPs. Besides adoring reviews from critics, admiration is gushed from John Coxon (Spiritualized) and Brian Degraw (Gang Gang Dance), who both perform on “Complete Affection.” Douglas Hart (The Jesus and Mary Chain) contributes to their live show. –Jennifer Nielsen

Silent Fate
Burned, Buried & Forgotten
Mei Records
Street: 11.11
Silent Fate = Bleeding Through + Zao + Cradle of Filth + Killswitch Engage
Long Island-bred Silent Fate play what many new fans of metal are right jumping into. Burned, Buried & Forgotten’s sound is distinctly American. The use of keyboards seems like an attempt to lump the group into the black-metal realm, but there is nothing black metal about Silent Fate. The band is straightforward melodic metalcore. The guitarwork, when it comes in the form of melodies, solos and leads, is the standout of the record; it hints at a sound that, if Silent Fate picked a direct path and didn’t try to lump so many sounds together, could help them find their own niche. The screamed/growled vocals in the vein of someone imitating Zao and the clean vocal style are definitely an acquired taste, and for my tastes, they’re not appealing, so picky metalheads may be turned off by them; i.e., me. Yet the atmosphere Silent Fate creates is enough to reel in modern metal fans; there is talent here, and the band plays a style with emotion and atmosphere that comes off better than many modern metal bands today. –Bryer Wharton

Six Feet Under
Death Rituals
Metal Blade
Street: 11.11
Six Feet Under = Cannibal Corpse + Obituary
Six Feet Under is one of those bands that is either loved or hated, and hated horribly. I’ve affectionately come to call the group Six Feet Blunder. Formed by former Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes and Obituary guitarist Allen West, who left the band in 1998, the group is still going and has a dedicated fanbase. Why, I have no clue. Barnes, for some reason, stopped being a fantastic death-metal vocalist after Corpse, and now with West gone, the band still sounds a lot like a crappy version of Obituary. Death Rituals is more of the same dumbfounded tripe they’ve been spewing out for the last decade, with virtually no technicality in the music at all; the guitars are almost all low-end, groove oriented, and every song sounds like the one before it. When they do change things up, it comes out even worse—listen to the track “Bastard,” and laugh your ass off. I think SFU is starting a new trend with Death Rituals, though, the invention of the death-metal breakdown, ugh! –Bryer Wharton

Slaraffenland
Sunshine EP
Home Tapes and Rumraket
Street: 10.11
Slaraffenland = Sufjan Stevens + The Vile Blue Shades
There is a big problem with this release—it’s too short. And the cover of A-Ha’s “Take on Me” infused with a flute—a fucking flute!—isn’t the first track. I say open with A-Ha, who wouldn’t? Perhaps they are trying to shake that much covered song’s reputation, but they change it up enough to not warrant unfavorable comparisons. Slaraffenland’s style in general is pleasurably unique and well-rounded. The layered choruses of soft noise, horns and electronic bips add to the aural mystique of these Denmark denizens and make me interested in their full-lengths. This is one of four releases, so there’s opportunity to dig deep into their past catalogue before this EP as I have begun to. And that isn’t by mistake. This is one of those random-ass releases that I was really excited to listen to the first, second, and every other time. –JP

Smartbomb
Diamond Heist
Think Fast!
Street: 09.16
Smartbomb = No Trigger + Bigwig + New Mexican Disaster Squad
There are only two kinds of melodic hardcore: fucking incredible and boring. Strike Anywhere? Fucking incredible. Hit the Switch? Boring. Bad Religion? Fucking incredible (mostly). Smartbomb? Sadly, boring. Featuring a few members of No Trigger (fucking incredible, for those taking notes), Smartbomb seem like they would be inherently awesome, but there's just nothing interesting on Diamond Heist. This album features the chugging guitars and rapid-fire drumming one would expect of the genre, but there's nothing here that hasn't been done before, and done better. There are also a couple of pretty bad covers (“PCH” by surf-rock legends The Ventures and the horrible old standard “In My Dreams”) that will completely repel listeners. Maybe it's because No Trigger is an awesome and legitimately good band that Smartbomb fails. Maybe the members of this band are too good to be playing this kind of music. –Ricky Vigil

SSS
The Dividing Line
Earache Records
Street: 10.20
SSS = Municipal Waste + Stormtroopers of Death
Well, if you enjoy crossover pioneering bands such as Stormtroopers of Death, this will immediately appeal to you. But there is absolutely nothing new here and in a genre already well covered by the first few bands that attempted to branch out from their punk roots, there really is no need to plunder from their gumption. If you’re having fun writing music and playing with your friends, that’s just fantastic and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. Unfortunately, however, I just feel that listening to this is a big waste of time. –Conor Dow

Swinging Utters
Hatest Grits
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.28
Swinging Utters = the best punk band of the last 20 years!
My hell, this band has never once made a bad record. Every single outing is like a fresh fist to the face, and more than 16 years later, they’re still doing it. Oh, but it’s not like the Utters are living off some fat royalty checks; they’ve had to work shitty day jobs like truck driving, working in a cinder-block factory, and singing in Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, to keep things going, but every couple years, a new brilliant record comes around just to let us know they’re still kicking. This release is a big ol’ collection of B-sides, rare tracks, and demos that takes you through the band’s evolution. If you’re a fan, you already know to get this, and if you’re a fan of punk rock, you should be a fan of the Swinging Utters. I’m on the fence about collections ‘cause I don’t think collecting music should be made easy; but on the other hand, there’s some shit here that is unreleased, and not everything has made it onto this 26-track plus (wink, wink) collection from a band bound to release more of the same celebrated unflinching punk rock. -James Orme

Tim Barry
Manchester
Suburban Home
Street: 11.04
Tim Barry = Avail + Chuck Ragan + Drag the River
Many a punk-rock frontman has taken up the acoustic guitar in an attempt to reveal their sensitive side, but few have done it as well as Tim Barry. Unlike many of his peers, Barry doesn’t try to mold his sound into any sort of framework or to censor himself. Manchester features the introspective, sparse songs one would expect from such an album (“On & On”), but also features barn-burning bluegrass (“C.R.F.”) and even some all-out rockers, such as opener “Texas Cops” and “This November,” an unreleased Avail track. The album runs the gamut from folk to Southern rock to bluegrass, all with a solid foundation in punk rock. Manchester’s impact isn’t as great as Barry’s solo debut (2006’s Rivanna Junction), but it’s a great example of a punk-rock solo album done right. –Ricky Vigil

Tom Gabel
Heart Burns
Warner Brothers Records
Street: 10.28
Tom Gabel = Against Me!

Apparently, Tom Gabel didn’t get the message … typically, when a lead singer from a popular band makes a solo record, they strive to at least make it a little different then the material they release with their band. Heart Burns may as well be called New Wave Part II. The songwriting that was heavy on the verses with choruses that were sometimes indistinguishable in Gabel’s early work seems to have been dropped. Instead, it appears that Gabel has opted to begin writing songs that all rely on repetition––easier for the masses to consume, I suppose. Heart Burns is only seven tracks long, but starts to get boring after one or two listens. I’m positive that the kids and Clear Station alternative radio stations will all fall in line to score this solo project, but I’m perfectly content with my early Against Me! albums. –Jeanette Moses

The Tossers
One Fine Spring Evening
Victory Records
Street: 12.12
The Tossers = The Pogues + Flogging Molly + Filthy Thieving Bastards
The Tossers are the preferred Celtic punk-influenced band among listeners that have an ear more towards the traditional folk side of things, but also need a good kick in the ass to keep them interested. Banjos, mandolins, violins, and tin whistles are more prominent in their arrangement than the blaring guitars of similar bands, so it’s attitude and energy alone that the band brings to the punk side of things. Just listen to “Whisky Makes Me Crazy” and you’ll hear why the Tossers are the best at what they do. A mix of Irish sing-alongs and serious instrumental work takes it to the next level. The traditional song “Rocky Road to Dublin” exemplifies what I’m saying; this track is pounded into you with rhythm and vigor seldom heard. Lead singer and mandolin player T. Duggins leads his south Chicago band into a more positive outing than on previous releases, which has brought up the energy level, and can even be heard in Duggin’s usual rolling growl. It’s pretty clear that this highly talented band is going to be around for a very long time. –James Orme

T. Raumschmiere
I Tank You
Shitkapult
Street: 10.14
T. Raumschmiere = Marilyn Manson + Pole
Marco Haas, a.k.a. T. Raumschmiere’s superpower, continues to serve him, that power being the ability to transmogrify the mundane into something entertaining and unique, punishing the absurd until it turns clever. “111 kg DNA” is otherwise shitty, diva vapidity, vocalist Barbara Panther intoning cliched lines such as “when will you be mine?”, but Haas’s Butch Vig-like production and vocal manipulation turn the track platinum. Likewise on “Animal Territory,” a B-boy jam a few steps away from Limp Bizkit, if it weren’t for drums as heavy as the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want” and Berlin’s parallel-universe version of De Lench Mob, the Puppetmastaz, on the mic. His take on Nu Rave (“E”) is just as amazing, Haus spinning idiosyncratic arpeggiations and disco rhythms with beautiful distortion and global mod-wheel cranks that literally tilt your dance floor. In the case of I Tank You, a negative plus a positive always equals a positive. –Dave Madden
The Week That Was
Self-Titled
Memphis Industries
Street: 07.08
The Week That Was = (Field Music) + 3
Have you heard of Field Music? They’re a talented threesome from across the pond who’ve decided to congenially part ways for a time. So that’s sad, but hey, now we have The Week That Was! The universe has a way of working out, doesn’t it? Peter Brewis, one third of Field House, decided one day to live without his television—to cut himself off from the current events that were pervading his existence. So began the experience that constitutes the lyrical backbone of The Week That Was’ self-titled debut. With nine credited band members, the band’s sound is lots of noises all together, but surprisingly clear for it. I’d call it melodramatic progressive indie-pop rock if I had to call it something, but there’re still other elements for which this name is incomplete. The sound is crisp and clean, with violins and numerous percussive elements. I liked almost every track on the first listen-through, which is very rare for me, and it has since become my favorite album of this summer. Go check it out, and if you’re in the Portland area on Nov. 28, be sure to catch these guys at Doug Fir. –Jesse Hawlish

Vivian Girls
Vivian Girls
In The Red Records
Street: 09.30
Vivian Girls = The Cranberries + Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The best part of Vivian Girls, besides their amazing vocals, is the sheer rawness of their songs. While very melodic, the band’s first full-length release plays out like one of the best punk albums of yesteryear. While the songs are steady and well-paced, there’s a sense of disorganization to their sound. However, this only adds—rather than distracts—from their tunes and really gives them a specific flavor. It’s nice to see a group finally get it right, let alone get it right on the first try. –Kat Kellermeyer

Von Iva
Girls on Film
Warner Brothers
Street: 10.15
Von Iva = Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Franz Ferdinand + The Soul Sisters
Von Iva, one of the most recent figures of contemporary dance music, is revolutionizing the art of soulful and eclectic drunky-disco-dance grooves all over the world. Put this CD on and close your eyes … this is the closest you will ever get to a private discotheque. Von Iva has developed a hype-generating door scene full of swaggering ass-shakers with this record. Girls on Film makes the grown-up 70s flower wild-child orgasm in nostalgia and the average R&B/Motown lover pick up the five pace (in their dance shoes). The bread and butter in this album is the up-tempo soul, disco and dirty rock n’ roll sound. From the sweetest pop to the darkest, druggiest dance rock; from good-time party funk to trancey electronic soundscapes; Von Iva makes the music that screams in the name of the night. –Lance Saunders

Wallpaper
On The Chewing Gum Ground
K Records
Street: 11.04
Wallpaper = The Pixies + The Furs + Women (less bad-ass)
It’s nice to hear a new band with no ego … maybe it’s just the drugs. Some Opium Den in Washington, birthplace of Wallpaper, just brings confusion and the conviction of a few druggies who know their instruments, if that makes any sense. This album is very pure and fun. On the Chewing Gum Ground is filled with deep and warm pop songs with innocent lyrics. The beauty is in its simplistic melodies made out of low-toned SM57’s and Postal Service-esque synth-pop drums; oh, don’t forget about the multi-layered acoustic guitar riffs in the background. Listening to this record and knowing that it is the first installment, I wonder how many come after this. Wallpaper speaks in a language that never ends and I truly do not see an expiration date for their approach to the music they make. On The Chewing Gum Ground is good ol’ college rock—dance party music. –Lance Saunders

White Fang
Pure Evil
Marriage Records
Street: 10.21
White Fang = Touchers + Ad Astra Aspera
White Fang for a band name? Really? That name instantly brings to mind the Disney dog-wolf movie, based on the Jack London book that I saw as a young kid. The actual music, however, couldn’t be farther from the novel and movie. While the album’s title of Pure Evil is a bit overboard, this self-proclaimed “gnar-shredding” band dishes up some interesting rock n’ roll noise, complete with horse-screaming, shouts, a bit of talk-singing, some gang vocals and the occasional horn for good measure. For a self-proclaimed “gnar-shredding” band, it would be pretty ridiculous if there wasn’t a track entitled “Gnar Shred,” right? Well, don’t worry—it’s there in all its shredding glory. The biggest downfall or strength of the album, depending on how it’s viewed, is the lack of a cohesive energy of the record overall. Nevertheless, the band White Fang sure kicks the poop out of the sappy London novel. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

White Zombie
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
Geffen Records
Street: 11.25
White Zombie = Rob Zombie solo material, except awesome
Look, I don’t expect everyone around here to love the world’s best horror-disco slasher-scumbag porno-stalker sludgy-stoner white-trash motorcycle-mayhem monster-mash metal band. But, if you love music and haven’t listened to White Zombie, we can no longer be friends. LOOK AT MY FACE. White Zombie has given you ample time to check them out, considering their last and best album, Astro-Creep 2000, unearthing itself from the grave more than 13 years ago. Aside from singles and negligible remixes, this is everything the band has ever released, including wonderfully terrible 1985 demos and a DVD with every music video and plenty of live footage. This is essential for you diehard fans who don’t have everything, or those looking for a great dose of 1990s nostalgia. –Conor Dow