National CD Reviews

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Across Five Aprils
Life Underwater
Victory Records
Street: 02.19
AFA = Shutdown + Death By Stereo
After listening to the first track on AFA’s latest record and first release for Victory, I was sold on their blistering brand of hardcore. Brandon Mullins’ vocals are very reminiscent of the NYC band Shutdown (R.I.P.), one of my youth hardcore faves. Not to mention their breakdowns and energy outbursts are original and when coupled with their group gang vocals, they seemed to be a new fave. Then they sang. In today’s world of singing and screaming, there’s only a few bands anymore that aren’t generic trash. Though it was a let-down, their “singing” wasn’t really close to other outfits of this sort and is more like Death By Stereo’s melodic vocals. In the end, I was able to look past it and relish in the face-pounding guitars and drums and throat-ripping vocals instead, although tracks like “In Photographs” and “My Sins Stacked to Heaven” bring the album down. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Ancestors
Neptune With Fire
North Atlantic Sound
Street: 02.19
Ancestors = Black Sabbath + Pink Floyd
Take a culmination of doom and progressive rock to new heights and you have Ancestors’ debut album, Neptune With Fire. There is a wonder and mystique to this two-song concept record that I haven’t come across in quite some time. When you have long songs instead of just short ones, it can be hard to capture one’s attention. Well, such is not the case at all with Ancestors. The playing is varied to the fullest extent of the word. Themes are played out with anticipation and subtle beauty. You never really know all of what to expect when hearing a brand new artist and it’s refreshing to hear something genuinely new. The thought that went into recording this epic astounds me; the transitions are not forced, the direction of the songs flows so naturally; as subtly as floating down a river. There are thick, thunderous guitars here coupled with a jam attitude in portions and some mellow “Planet Caravan”-style grooves. Once you commit to listening to the two very lengthy songs on Neptune With Fire, there is no going back; the record has that genius quality that says you’re done listening when the album is over. –Bryer Wharton

Antietam
Opus Mixtum
Carrot Top Records
Street: 02.08
Antietam = Joy Division + Burma
This record is neither totally horrible nor really great—kind of like purgatory (which, for some, may actually be worse than hell). I could proceed to describe this music with some really creative and ambiguous statements like, “Key surfs dark waves of rolling rhythm with her guitar,” (Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune) or “Tara Key is the feeling person’s guitar hero–capable of tearing fist-sized chunks from your soul with every ecstatic rush of notes,” (David Sprague, Village Voice)—but phrases like these run the risk of romanticizing the unspectacular. My fancy, all-encompassing music-critic statement for Antietam’s album reads as follows: “Opus Mixtum is like plain toast.” –Makena Walsh

The Arcane Order
In The Wake of Collisions
Metal Blade
Street: (Digital release only) 02.05
The Arcane Order = Darkane + Soilwork + Mors Principium Est
You won’t be able to find this album in store—why? Because it is a digital-only release, which means fans and interested parties alike will have to download the album. Interesting enough … no liner notes, lyrics, etc., well, that is, with the package I downloaded. As for the tunes of The Arcane Order, it is mostly melodic death metal with a big thrash vibe. Keyboards add a little atmosphere. But as far as melodic death metal goes, this treads a thin line between that and death metal. When you are in its fast moments with thickened guitars and no keys, it could be considered death metal complete with growls. The album reminds me a lot of early Darkane. There are some good melodies put forth here; fans of the genre would probably enjoy it. Nonetheless, as far as the songs go, the album takes the middle ground—nothing is out there experimentation-wise, but everything is precise and well played. –Bryer Wharton

Avantasia
The Scarecrow
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.05
Avantasia = Edguy + Masterplan + Helloween
Avantasia could be considered a side band of Edguy main man Tobias Sammet. Apparently the man has been busy with said band since 2002, because Avantasia has been in a period of slumber since then. The Scarecrow quite honestly puts the last Edguy record to shame. The real strength of this mostly-power metal album is its diversity in songs. For only listing three members as part of the actual band, there is a wide variety of sound intermingled with this power metal, catchy keys and a vocalist that uses his large range to the utmost capability. Quite honestly, you don’t have to be into power metal to appreciate the work and inspiration that went into this record. Of course, it helps the album a great deal to have a massive enlistment of guests, including Amanda Somerville (Aina), Jorn Lande (Masterplan), Alice Cooper and Michael Kiske (Helloween). Also enlisted in the band’s ranks is former Kiss and current drummer for Alice Cooper’s band Eric Singer. Please, all you power-metal outfits out there, top this album, I dare you! –Bryer Wharton

Averse Sefira
Advent Parallax
Candlelight
Street: 02.12
Averse Sefira = Impaled Nazarene + Dark Funeral + Marduk
Hailing from Texas, Averse Sefira not only have some big-time black-metal bands with a lot of talent to compete with in their home state, i.e., Absu, but with a worldwide distribution deal, there is the rest of the world as well. This new opus is strangely and distinctly European-sounding as black metal goes, unlike many of their US peers. It’s a big sound to take on, but the band gets the point across and their sound nailed to perfection. There aren’t many fancy frills here; no keyboards, just in-your-face black metal riffs. The shortest song on the record clocks in at just less than six minutes and like most of them, the longest at just over nine minutes. I could go on about how the band sounds much like other bands in the extreme metal world, but that would miss the true point. The band has great talent and while the songs do flow into a big lump at the end, they are all very well played and performed, not to mention the album has a great production value. The key factor with this record and their others is the live translation, which many won’t get to witness anytime soon, including yours truly, but just from the feeling and overall darkness of Advent Parallax, it seems like the live setting would be all that much more sinister and evil. All I can say is that the record is worthy of multiple listens even for varied metal fans. –Bryer Wharton

Beach House
Devotion
Car Park Records
Street: 02.26
Beach House = Mazzy Star + Slowdive
This is one of those albums that just makes everything feel alright. Each of the 11 tracks is slow and melodic, yet all of them still manage to have a unique charm unto themselves. Slide guitars, organs and more accompany old-timey female vocals that cover topics of love and its ilk under the proverbial mo onlight. The whole CD emanates with character and substance that doesn't seek to overwhelm. A thoroughly laid-back listen is what results from Devotion, which just asks to be played on those clicky old speakers your grandparents proudly display in their front room. Dim the lights and think of togetherness and snowy evenings in a fire-lit cabin with your lovey-dovey. –Ross Solomon

The Bled
Silent Treatment
Vagrant Records
Street: 09.25
The Bled = Still Remains with less guys wearing girl jeans
I’ll admit that I didn’t hate this. However, I also didn’t expect, or have a rewarding and inspiring listening experience, either. After a few listens, I can say that The Bled definitely have a better sense of direction and less of an affinity for bubblegum metal compared to colleagues such as Still Remains, Haste the Day, Killswitch Engage, etc. Don’t worry, though, this album is still full of catchy pop hooks and computer-generated melodic vocals to get the teen panties wet, but they are tastefully applied, rather than crammed into the ear with an old wooden spoon. I’m not the type that demands constant brutality, but my problem with melodic metalcore, or post hardcore, or whatever the kids are calling it these days, is that the style cannot decide what it wants to do except never lack in cute hooks and infectious drum patterns non-metal fans can dance to. –Conor Dow

Blood on the Wall
Liferz
The Social Registry
Street: 01.22
Blood on the Wall = Mudhoney + Superchunk + Pixies
When you say “indie rock” in 2008, it’s hard to come up with a stylistically coherent idea as to what that refers. For me, those words still conjure bands like Pavement, Archers of Loaf and Sebadoh, a sentiment I apparently share with Blood on the Wall. These guys rock like the last 14 years didn’t happen, cranking out short, loud bursts of melodic, punk-inflected high-energy rock n’ roll, the kind you’d expect to hear on your college radio station circa 1993. Normally I don’t go for throwback music, but these guys are so devoid of all irony and nostalgia that it’s impossible not to succumb to their charms. Besides, not every rock record has to be earth shattering; sometimes you just need to let loose and have some fun. –Jona Gerlach

Brain Drill
Apocalyptic Feasting
Metal Blade
Street: 02.05
Brain Drill = Dying Fetus + Necrophagist + Skinless
It is with a triumphant roar that I proclaim Brain Drill’s debut full-length the first great death (or be it) grind metal album of the year. The band is a relative newcomer to the scene with origins in 2005, with a demo in ’06 and now their masterful full-length. Some die-hard metal heads might recognize the drummer’s name, Lord Marco Pitruzzella, who made a name for himself with such bands as Vile and Vital Remains, to name a few. The true value with this album is its hearty balance and innovations in the grind scene. There are plentiful solos and lead work that should astound just about anybody, but they balance those out with some terrific meaty guitar shredding that binds each song into one and keeps things fresh from track to track. In this balance, Brain Drill finds a true harmony for grind and death metal and have crafted something worth listening to time after time. –Bryer Wharton

Brainstorm
Downburst
Metal Blade
Street: 01.22
Brainstorm = Thunderstone + Iced Earth + Symphorce
The European Brainstorm is one of those prog/power metal success stories. The band originated in 1989 but didn’t release their debut record until 1997. Admittedly, this is the first outing of the bands that I’ve actually heard. With many highly successful albums throughout the years, I can’t imagine how much their sound has changed. That said, what we have with Downburst is prog/power done to perfection—powerfully heavy riffs backed by great guitar solos and leads and different keyboard melodies. The production is such that it gives off that heavy sound, making it extremely easy to enjoy over and over again. There is mighty emotion behind each lyric and vocal, creating that joyous epic feel. You honestly don’t have to be a prog/power metal fan to find enjoyment in this record because in the end, it is all just metal. –Bryer Wharton

Cachao
Cachao Descargas: The Havana Sessions
MVD Entertainment
Street: 01.22
Cachao = the Latin musical padre
For anyone unfamiliar to the name Israel “Cachao” Lopez, here is not only one of the first people to put Latin music into the Western spotlight, but also the father of the style known as mambo. Although the album does feature some of his standards such as the world’s first mambo (“Descargas Mambo”), this CD boasts a rare collection of Cachao’s Havana recordings, going back to the true roots of Latin jazz. This is not to be mistaken as the mariachi soundtrack to a Mexican restaurant, however. Cachao’s expertise on the bass, along with the blending of bright flute and trumpet solos (just enough, but never too much) is incredible. Whether you’re a long-term fan or just need a little more spice in your life, this two-disc Cachao collection is one of the finest around. -Kat Kellermeyer

Catastrophic
Pathology of Murder
Napalm Records
Street: 01.29
Catastrophic = Kataklysm + Misery Index – originality and technicality
Okay, I could understand Catastrophic’s creation just before 2000 hit. Obituary was considered broken up and guitarist Trevor Peres wanted to keep playing metal, unlike Obituary’s drummer, who joined up with Andrew W.K. Anywho, The band released their debut full-length The Cleansing in 2001 and got mixed reviews; however, they toured with some huge bands. So after years of a minimum of activity and Obituary back in full gear now. Catastrophic is attempting to make a comeback and they have fallen flat on their face in more humiliating ways than just one. Peres is gone and so with him the great Florida slow death-metal style he carried. Now the band has turned into a deathcore crapfest. The album is just downright boring and lacking any real emotion or power behind it. They seemed to have tried to make a hybrid of sorts, but it just backfired. I’ll say it again, the new record is completely and utterly boring. If you liked the band’s debut, stick with that and ignore this new lamewad of a CD. –Bryer Wharton

Centurions Ghost
The Great Work
I Hate Records
Street: 08.2007
Centurions Ghost = Crowbar + Down + Corrosion of Conformity
Sometimes, thee olde godz smile upon you and toss you a bone. I had heard OF this band for quite some time, but I was never motivated enough to actually track anything down. Mistake. This fucker is pretty much what you would get if you tossed the best of the Southern/NOLA metal scene in a blender with most of the current Euro-doom bands. Heavy, plodding, and with just the right amount of “take-no-shit”-ittude, Centurions Ghost just happens to be the best discovery I’ve made so far this year. –Gavin Hoffman

The Child Ballads
Cheekbone Hollows EP
Gypsy Eyes Records
Street: 04.15
The Child Ballads = The Shins + Bob Dylan + The Kinks
Cheekbone Hollows is the sort of album that is great to listen to on rainy days, hung-over mornings and almost any time during the month of January when the inversion blows into the Salt Lake valley. It’s easy to listen to and its simplicity allows you to slip into it with ease. It is mellow, mild and the six songs flow together perfectly. The instrumentation featured on the album is minimal; the acoustic guitars and viola stand out the most, which allows Stewart Lupton’s haunting vocals to really emerge. “They Hunt Us We Run” is the standout track of the album. ¬–Jeanette Moses

Cryptacize
Dig That Treasure
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Street: 02.19
Cryptacize=A Disney Movie + Kings of Convenience + Jean - Phillip Audin
Dig That Treasure is an album that reminds me of the awkward dreams that I so vividly remember. The unsystematic positioning of harmonica and what sounds like a washboard, as in the last track, “Say You Will,” could easily be placed in The Science of Sleep soundtrack. It also brings back childhood memories of classic Disney movies, the ones that had incredible, musical scenes that would get stuck in your head for days. Cryptacize captures the angelic voices of Cinderella and her Prince as well as sets the magical mood with a variety of stringed instruments. To stay away from childish audiences, you have to add a little edge, which they manage to bring in with an instrumental and lyrical talent similar to bands like Kings of Convenience; melancholy yet bittersweet. This album is one to listen to before bed or on a rainy day, so bring your pillow or an umbrella. (Kilby Court 4.03) –Lyuba Basin

Death Angel
Killing Season
Nuclear Blast
Street: 02.26
Death Angel = Anthrax + Nuclear Assault + Exodus
Old-school thrash all the way here, folks. The extremely young Death Angel burst onto the scene in the early 80s, releasing their first record in ’87, The Ultra Violence and many more in years to come. The band was broken up for a long period of time and wound up re-uniting in early 2000. That’s enough of the history lesson; on to the new record, their first in four years. This new outing puts their first album after they reunited, The Art of Dying, to school in so many ways. It seems as if the band found their outlet to play thrash like they used to; ultimately, what we have with Killing Season is the band’s ability to update their old sound into something modern and very well produced. When you’re not being pummeled by ultimate thrashing riffs there is a huge change in each song of tempo, feeling and musicianship, not to mention the oh-so-important wailing guitar solos. The biggest selling factor here is the fact that younger and newer metal listeners will easily enjoy and be able to listen to this new offering as opposed to the under-produced sound of the 80s. It always puts a smile on my face to know that a band from the 80s can still put out amazing albums. –Bryer Wharton

Dengue Fever
Venus on Earth
It’s Alive!
Street: 01.22
Dengue Fever = Cambodian Rocks + Nuggets
Dengue Fever consists of five indie-rock stalwarts and one Cambodian singer. Together, they play vintage Asian pop music with a 60s psychedelic flair. While their previous records were enjoyable but derivative, Venus on Earth sees the band updating its style, delivering their strongest record yet. They’ve slowed things down considerably, resulting in a moody, almost noir-ish atmosphere perfectly suited to Chhom Nimol’s lovesick crooning. Though the introduction of English lyrics makes for some potentially cringe-worthy moments, the music is seductive enough that you can just roll with the cheesier moments. Hey, this is pop music, after all. –Jona Gerlach

The Destiny Program
Subversive Blueprint
Nuclear Blast
Street: 01.15
The Destiny Program = Poison the Well + Skycamefalling + God Forbid
The Destiny Program hails from the land of bratwurst and sauerkraut and they do what they do well. DP’s style of metalcore is similar to many of the other bands playing the loud screaming/ soft-singing-melodic-interlude style, but their take is just a little more interesting; kind of like how you can get a Gardenburger anywhere, but the one at Fuddrucker’s just tastes better. There is enough variation in the execution of the loud/soft dynamics so they don’t sound contrived. Plus, the songs aren’t all fast/half-time breakdown/repeat, there’s actually some development, unlike so many metalcore bands these days that are just killing time until the breakdown—there are actually memorable riffs here! The lyrics are “English is my second language” revolutionary banter that are almost nonsensical, but at least they’re trying to say something. This isn’t going to break the mold, but it’s an interesting listen nonetheless. –Peter Fryer

Destroy All Monsters
Live In Tokyo
Compound Annex Records
Street: 01.22
Destroy All Monsters = Early Sonic Youth - song structure + paint on canvas
One of Destroy All Monsters’ founding members, Mike Kelley, is an artist whose work I follow regularly—not his music, his visual work. I mention this because you can better appreciate DAM if you consider it art before music. DAM began playing deliberately ugly, anti-rock, pre-punk noise rock as early as 1973 as a form of performance art. Band members changed and at one point, former members of The Stooges and MC5 involved with DAM caused them to receive some attention. In the mid 90s, the original lineup began playing shows again, usually accompanied by a gallery hanging of DAM artwork. Live In Tokyo is a re-release of recordings of a couple of those shows in Japan. Looking for comparison might lead to early Butthole Surfers or early Sonic Youth. I am not a fan of live recordings and since these are barely songs, Live In Tokyo is not something I will actually listen to, but DAM are an important and influential band for art’s sake, and I am glad they exist. –Davy Bartlett

Devian
Ninewinged Serpent
Century Media
Street: 01.15
Devian = Marduk + Dissection + Naglfar
As much as founding members Legion and Emil, former members of the seminal Swedish black-metal outfit Marduk, wanted to get away from said band, the sound still remains in that realm. Although I will give the guys some credit, they have added many new dynamics to Devian than existed within the confines of Marduk. The thrash tendencies are overwhelmingly heard throughout the record, yet Ninewinged Serpent still carries more of a black-metal overtone than anything else. Yes, there is a little bit of death metal seeping in along with some classic metal melodies popping up from time to time. Personally I would have enjoyed hearing more of those classic moments utilized on the record. The whole thing still distinctly carries that Swedish sound; not saying that is a bad thing at all. All in all, the first few listens draw big attention to the sound and what is going on, then it wears thin after a bit, then bang—give it time, spin it again and you’ll be picking up on more of the sound these extreme metal veterans have crafted. –Bryer Wharton

Dismember
Dismember
Regain Records
Street: 02.18
Dismember = Benediction (old) + Grave
There is a lot of discussion as to the relevance and quality of Dismember’s older albums as compared to their newest efforts. Well, fans, most likely we’ll never hear anything quite like Like an Ever Flowing Stream or Death Metal again. But from the standpoint of this reviewer, since Where Iron Crosses Grow and slightly even before said record, the band has been releasing punishing, top-notch Swedish death metal. The fact alone that their guitar tone is still as raw and shredding as it always was shows that the band is dedicated to their sound. Yes, there isn’t a huge difference in sound and songwriting from this new self-titled, ripping blasterpiece from their last The God that Never Was. Regardless, when you have a formula that fits and does a good job at getting your head a’-banging, why change it? The new album is as fast and shredding as you could ever want and most importantly, trademark Dismember raw! The songs themselves are extremely cohesive and flow well together. To put things very simply, the new record embodies the classic old-school death-metal sound and is simply and very technically brutal. –Bryer Wharton

DJ Dolores
1 Real
Crammed
Street: 04.01
DJ Dolores = Mundo Livre + Nacao Zumbi
Everything I’ve heard come out of Recife, Brazil, has been solid, and 1 Real reconfirms this notion with 13 tracks that, despite being disparate, are wildly tenable. DJ Dolores’ (a.k.a. Helder Aragão) vocal content is informed predominantly by local sociopolitical concerns whilst his rhythms and electronics are completely dance oriented, but neither of these elements sound heavy-handed or amiss as Dolores strings together his mixes with a buoyant bounce and the occasional female vocalist. –Spanther

The Dodos
Visiter
Frenchkiss Records
Street 3.18.08
The Dodos = Beirut + Ben Gibbard + Neutral Milk Hotel
Visiter begins with a simply beautiful bluegrass melody, “Walking,” which leads to a masterful addition of drums and xylophone building into the more multifarious second song. Layered multi-instruments and voices, arranged by Meric Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber, are the set for this second full-length. I haven’t heard their first album, but firmly believe this one is great enough to deserve the comparisons to a few of my favorite bands. Much like the phenomenal NMH, songs churn into complex, rhythmic, proper dancing melodies. If Beirut released a third traditional folk album featuring salsa or bossa nova, Visiter would be a fine example. Both Long and Kroeber studied drumming (West African Ewe and progressive metal), which they use to pronounce guitar-picking at the core of their songs. As the album continues playing, percussions and strings meld together more within each song and each song melds more to one another; dancing from folk to more psych-folk that doesn’t drone, but kept my body swayin’. Jennifer Nielsen

Donita Sparks & The Stellar Moments
Transmiticate
Sparksfly Records
Street: 02.19
Donita Sparks & The Stellar Moments = L7 + Garbage + The Cliks
Donita Sparks’ first solo album isn’t just a rehash under a new name; it’s a new sound. While former L7 contemporary Dee Plakas is also featured on drums, The Stellar Moments will seem familiar, but there’s a definite shift in the sound of this group. It’s the same grrl/grunge, but with a softness about it. Not that the edge is gone off the music so much as Sparks has grown past rage-induced tampon-tossing and into a newer style. From near-jazzy tracks like Creampuff to grungy Dare Dare, this album is a blast to listen to for both L7 fans and newcomers. Transmiticate is a fantastic way for Sparks to remind people just what Grrl rock really sounds like. –Kat Kellermeyer

Drag The River
You Can’t Live This Way
Suburban Home
Street: 03.04
Drag The River = Gin Blossoms in a dive bar drunk on Wild Turkey hanging out with Thelma and Louise
Drag the River’s 7th album is inspiring and uplifting. If I was all bummed out and stuck in a trailer park, this album would motivate me to get up and get on out of my dead-end life and do something productive. To let me be me. On my way out of this small town, I would crank this album in my beat-up convertible while driving topless and let my hair down so it could blow in the wind. This album is all of John Cougar Mellencamp’s positivity mixed with all the sappiness of Neil Young. So forget about all the hardships that have happened in your life; go buy this album, get inspired and triumphant and go drive around in a convertible with no top on. –Jon Robertson

Earth
The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull
Southern Lord Records
Street: 02.26
Earth = Godfathers of droning doom
With nearly twenty years under their belt, Earth continues to be a household name for doom, and that’s really saying something. This recent release picks up pretty much from where last year’s Hibernaculum left off, but with a bit more sense of purpose and almost twice as long. With their slow, blues-driven rock, they effectively satisfy my occasional “unsocial and not giving a fuck” mood. This album is by no means a disappointment, but like all other Earth releases, it is definitely not for those who lack any attention span whatsoever. While the songs aren’t terribly long, the tempo they’re played at could make a listener either let the bleak moods sink in, or feel frustrated. But that’s what both drone and doom are known for, and Earth has stood the test of time long enough to prove that they aren’t done yet. –Conor Dow

EkoTren
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 nü-metal, is pretty much dead aside from a few loyal followers. EkoTren follows trends previous nü-metal artists have set forth long ahead of them, with a small screamo touch. The lyrics are utterly pointless dribble giving off a big sense of false angst and over-dramaticism. 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 the genuine stuff that is really out there. –Bryer Wharton

Endstille
Endstilles Reich
Regain Records
Street: 10.05
Endstille = Nargaroth + Watain
I have a soft spot for black metal that comes from Germany, simply because I’m fascinated with World War II and feel that Germany’s recent history perpetuates any feelings of alienation from other cultures. This is to say that Endstille is not affiliated with any Nazi dogma, but I think that this position of pseudo-underdog tends to add a special layer of hatred and rage to their music. While gushing hatred isn’t a necessity for me to love a black-metal project, it can coax me into enjoying it if expressed with proper layers of subtlety and direction. Though most of this album is pure rage and vengeance, I was able to discover a few moments of bleak beauty toward the end of the album, underneath the swirling darkness. Overall, this took several listens for me to get into, but has become quite a rewarding listen. –Conor Dow

Evangelista
Hello, Voyager
Constellation
Street: 03.11
Evanvelista = (literally) Carla Bozulich + Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Hello, Voyager is not some cliché of healing, yet there is a sense of satisfaction in the growl of this disjointed flotilla of mangled orchestration, string quintets, stark intimate songs and eidolic production. There is a moment a few minutes into the last track, a determined pile of percussion, trumpet, hushed feedback, shouts-turned-to-screams, background yelps and staccato guitar discharges, when you hear Carla Bozulich, say “Ow!” (a drumming injury, I’m told). This is the same word going through your head as you peep from behind your hands during the previous eight tracks. It is not, however, the “ow” as in “ow, what a broken-hearted song” you felt on Bozulich and brilliant company’s previous record, Evangelista (so much to communicate, still, they named the band after the album, perhaps). Now, the “ow” is the one you scream as you jump from the window of your drunk daddy’s burning house. Yes, he is inside. –Dave Madden

Excepter
Debt Dept.
Paw Tracks
Street: 03.21
Excepter = Wesley Willis + Emmanuel Goldstein
If you ever feel like spending a night listening to Marilyn Manson read you 1984 while lying on a bed full of nails and snorting a quarter-pound of shitty blow, your blurred evening might end up resembling the latest excuse for an album from Excepter. Musically, this CD falls somewhere between being tasered by a fascist cop and listening to Wesley Willis while hanging from hooks threaded throughout your body. Conceptually, these guys want you to think they're more progressive and enlightened than your feeble mind could possibly imagine. Too bad their execution is so god-awful that it'd be easier to endure Ann Coulter's Skeletor-like body rub up against Carlos Mencia for 24 hours than listen to this shit one more time. —Ross Solomon

Ex Reverie
The Door into Summer
Drag City Records
Street: 01.22
Ex Reverie = Sinead O’Connor + Fern Knight
These days, female rock musicians are expected to have attitude to kick ass in the industry. Gillian Chadwick, vocalist and mastermind of Ex Reverie, seems to be influenced by controversial broads like Alanis Morrissette and Fiona Apple or more recently, Amy Lee from Evanescence. Like Evanescence, The Door into Summer has a mythical and dark vibe to it minus the alternative guitar. Chadwick’s lyrics seem to come straight from Pagan rituals; if you listen to the album long enough, you might experience hallucinations of fairies, goblins and gnomes, or other woodland creatures. I picture the album being inspired by naked jam sessions around a campfire, slamming tambourines and blowing the flute. In my eyes, that certainly does kick ass, enough to give Chadwick and her band of mystics a good listen to. –Lyuba Basin

Fight Amp
Hungry For Nothing
Translation Loss
Street: 02.19
Fight Amp = Unsane + Kylesa + Discharge
Well, these New Jersey fellows have come up with an interesting arrangement of songs and unique style with Hungry For Nothing. The vibe of the mighty Unsane is undeniable, but the songs portray a less angry vibe and almost more of a doom element to some of the cuts. The guitars are dirty and so is the production; don’t get me wrong, it’s mixed well and sounds great, but things sound hazy and give off that live, one-take recorded feeling. It is almost as if you’re listening to a live album. The consistency within the songwriting is not what you would expect from artists playing music like this. There is a lot of diversity and mix-up going on. Some tracks are ultra fast and visceral; some are slow and sludge worthy. Don’t forget a heavy amount of nice grooves; some just go off into these strange musical tangents where things are off on purpose. I can’t think of a better way to spend 30 minutes than rocking out to what Fight Amp have unleashed. –Bryer Wharton

Flogging Molly
Float
Side One Dummy
Street: 03.04
Flogging Molly = The Pogues + Sham 69
It is unsurprising that Flogging Molly has obtained the cult-like following they have from their dedicated and diverse fans. Their albums are consistently memorable, haunting and infectious. Float is no exception to the high persistence that they have set up with their previous releases. The album opens with the upbeat and punk-infused “Requiem For A Dying Song,” “Paddy’s Lament” and “Lightning Storm,” which are highly reminiscent of many of the songs featured on Drunken Lullabies, while “Float” has more of a traditional Celtic feel to it. This album won’t disappoint longtime fans of Flogging Molly –Jeanette Moses

Foot Foot
Trumpet
Aagoo Records
Street: 02.26
Foot Foot = The soundtrack to the next great indie film
I have decided to make a movie. Scarf-clad scenesters will line up for tickets and text tiresome cliques to spread the word of this new indie classic. This will be the story of two boring, love-struck characters who have read too much philosophy while refusing to put enough energy into being interesting. They will languish in their own trite definitions of modern love while watching reruns of popular television shows from the 1970s. For this soon-to-be indie must-have, I will obtain the exclusive rights to Foot Foot’s Trumpet for the soundtrack. It has the slow, boring sound so appealing to the current tedious throng of moviegoers. The characters in my film will imbibe coffee and ingest lettuce wraps while Foot Foot’s country and western-influenced mildness wafts into the ears of an aimless audience. If independent film companies refuse my project, I will simply begin piping Trumpet at Two Creek. –Joey Richards

Fluorescent Gray
Gaseous Opal Orbs
Record Label Records
Street: 02.29
Fluorescent Grey = Yellow Swans + Autechre + Aphex Twin
A calliope of traditional instrumentation, shattered beats, and analog electronics, Gaseous Opal Orbs’ most outstanding moments are the slow builds and exhilaratingly surprising introduction of bizarre sound elements. The overbearing mood of the album is very ambient in spite of its experimental and avant-garde soundscape. Relying more on unique sounds as tools for production rather than confusing or absent song structures, the album is more rhythmic than his previous works, I felt as if I were in an underwater robotic nightmare for much of the album—and enjoyed it. –Ryan Powers

Four Letter Lie
What a Terrible Thing to Say
Victory Records
Street: 02.19
FLL = From Autumn To Ashes + Atreyu + Dashboard Confessional
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when bands like Poison The Well, BoySetsFire, Thrice, Thursday, etc., began dabbling in mixing halfway decent singing with pounding hardcore riffs, it was new and not half bad in my book. It was a breath of fresh air because they were treading new ground and for the most part, what they were doing they were doing well. Around 10 years later, this whole scene has been inundated with garbage like FLL and their latest crap-fest, What a Terrible Thing to Say. Who knew that a handful of bands trying something new, and each with their own individualistic twist, would create a plethora of worthless copycat music? If FLL cut out the sissy Dashboard choir boy singing in their songs, they’d be a mediocre hardcore band. As it stands, though, this album should be used as an example of what needs to end. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Fuck Buttons
Street Horrrsing
ATP
Street: 03.18
Fuck Buttons = Kevin Drumm + Jim O’Rourke + Liars
The Fuck Buttons are two UK dudes with sweeping, perfectly parted bangs. With Street Horrrsing, they sound to be operating exclusively on hip vocoder synthesizers and Hi-C, though despite the chaos this could create, Street Horrrsing stays simple. It’s repetitive, droney, epic noise molded into monochromatic melody with the interlay of shrill, muted screaming. Due to the very monitored progressions and lull, these six tracks have the ability to hypnotize and zombify. –Spanther

Galactic
From the Corner to the Block
Anti
Street: 03.11
Galactic = Blackalicous + Jurassic 5 + Medeski, Martin & Wood + Ben Harper
If James Brown’s ghost rose from the grave and started dancing the merengue, that’s what Galactic would sound like. Galactic is an instrumental band similar to Ozomatli but with a hint of Ben Harper thrown into the mix. From the Corner to the Block is 14 tracks of funky ass-shacking grooves with all your favorite MCs dropping the lyrical flow on you until you get so excited that you slip in it or you dance so hard that you pass out or your booty falls off. The coolest track on the album is track three, “The Corner,” featuring Gift of Gab. The lyrical picture he paints is so capturing that I think I’m going to give him a call and ask him if he’ll start telling me stories before I go to bed every night. –Jon Robertson

george&caplin
He Really Got Through to Advertising...
Beta-lactam Ring Records
Street: 06.08.07
george&caplin = Stars of the Lid + Boards of Canada + Tycho
george&caplin have done an amazing job balancing instrumentals with dynamic and organic samples, creating an album that is clearly influenced by Boards of Canada while avoiding being just another clone. Self-described as “psychedelic electronic shoegaze folk,” the album consists of warm tones that texture together marvelously throughout. The progression from their previous releases is very subtle, but still makes for a sound that is overall more honed and together. The result doesn't stray too far into new territory, but is still an incredibly mellow and pleasing listen. –Ross Solomon

Gilles Peterson
In The House
Defected Records
Street: 02.11
Gilles Peterson’s In the House = Earth, Wind, & Fire + Jon Lucien
Who knows what possessed geriatric Gilles Peterson to release this less-than-relevant album (I have a hunch it may have something to do with the buying power of nostalgic baby boomers). The record is an extensive (over 50 songs on a triple-CD set) collection of tracks thrown under the wide umbrella of the term “acid-jazz.” The album could be called “Mildly Popular Songs of The 1980s”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rufus as much as the next 21-year-old, but for some reason, groups like this don’t exactly resonate with me¬—due possibly to the last 20-plus years of music history. Think zany and embarrassing uncle ranting about “real music” while doing the Electric Slide. –Makena Walsh

Hate Eternal
Fury and Flames
Metal Blade
Street: 02.19
Hate Eternal = Morbid Angel + Ripping Corpse + Dim Mak
Well, there’s no doubt about it, Hate Eternal’s newest offering to the death metal gods, Fury and Flames, definitely sounds like it came from the madman behind the band Erik Rutan. The man has been producing a boatload of albums ranging in genre styles as of late, so to hear he has a new record with basically his baby of a band, Hate Eternal, was a surprise—a good one, though. The record, thankfully, is much more intriguing than the last album, I, Monarch. It seems as if Rutan has put that one behind him even though fans mostly enjoyed it. There is a certain element to Rutan’s guitarwork in previous bands and with his vocals in Hate Eternal that has always been appealing. His guitars are in the mid-paced to fast range. This new record is on par with the astounding debut, Conquering the Throne; there is quality, consistency and the utmost brutality. The guitarwork is just plain fun to listen to and amazing enough to want to dissect and inspect layers and riff structures. Don’t count out the great hyper-speed drumming which Hate Eternal is also known for. The technicality here is fantastically done. Thanks, Rutan and Co., for bringing back that fire that was on the debut album—it was missed in previous records which weren’t bad, but weren’t truly amazing, either. –Bryer Wharton

Heaven Shall Burn
Iconoclast (Part 1: The Final Resistance)
Century Media
Street: 02.05
Heaven Shall Burn = Himsa + Caliban
Heaven Shall Burn literally burst onto the metalcore scene in their home country Germany as well as worldwide. They’ve been putting out album after album, each one with its own flavor. Their previous effort, Deaf to Our Prayers, was chaos-filled and riddled with technicality and extremity. Iconoclast sees a turn to a bit more melodic territory. Don’t get me wrong, the record is as extreme and heavy as it gets. But when the band isn’t blasting away with huge and epic riffage, there are melodic introductions to songs, and purely melodic songs utilizing keys is really a first for the band. The whole package is cohesive and blends to a certain atmosphere and feeling of despair and angst. Where most metalcore acts fail is putting emotion behind their intensity—Heaven Shall Burn is the opposite; these guys are mad and want to be heard. There is a concept behind Iconoclast, be it revenge related to God, or just plain ol’ revenge, it works and is translated well. Fans won’t skip a beat with this new offering and where listeners before might have been turned away, they can find enjoyment with this entirely brutal effort. –Bryer Wharton

The Heavenly States
Delayer
Rebel Group
Street: 02.19
The Heavenly States = The Long Winters + Ted Leo + The Shins
Saying goodbye to their aggressive pop-punk roots, The Heavenly States introduce a whole new feel in their third release, Delayer. Combining witty lyrics with crunchy, catchy and non-cliché guitar riffs, The Heavenly States reach levels of feel-good summer nostalgia laced with unparalleled originality. Delayer kickstarts with several gravelly pop anthems that slowly wind themselves down into sweet but not domineering melodies balancing somewhere between the insightful, poignant lyrics of David Dondero and the quirkiness and unpredictability of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. This album is incredibly pleasing from start to finish in that it does not waver somewhere between watery indie-rock and post-punk washout. No; instead, Delayer sets a new standard for indie-rock criteria in that they innovatively combine fresh guitar riffs over searing pop drumbeats, posing an unrivaled challenge for similar bands surfacing in the indie scene. –Kristyn Lambrecht

Howlin Rain
Magnificent Fiend
American
Street: 03.04
Howlin Rain = What Lynyrd Skynyrd would sound like if Ronnie Van Zant hadn’t died in a plane crash
This is a good ol’ rock n’ roll/country-tinged torcher. I feel like I’m being transported in time to the mid 70s and being forced to listen to the most generic Southern rock band of all time. The one thing that is really cool about these guys is the organ lines. I think the organ player Joel Robinow should leave the band and join an Iron Butterfly tribute band. These guys could be really cool if they would try and get a little more experimental; they’re just too generic-sounding. I want to really like this band and I think I secretly do, but I’m just not emotionally prepared or stable enough to admit it to myself. Maybe if I can get in touch with my inner Skynyrd, I will be able to accept Howlin Rain. –Jon Robertson

Ilya Monosov
7 Lucky Plays, or How to Fix Songs for a Broken Heart
Drag City Records
Street: 01.22
Ilya Monosov=Paul Cantelon Score+ DeVotchKa
Gypsy music isn’t just for the vagabonds anymore. Gogol Bordello has already paved way for Eastern European sound by mixing traditional flamenco with a new, punk vibe. Unlike Gogol Bordello however, Monosov keeps the gypsy, leaves out the mohawks and tight pants and just sticks with simple tradition. The title says it all; if there is a way to tell that this man’s heart has been broken, it’s through the sound of his sultry, hushed vocals. If there were anyone to truly put honest emotion on an album, it would be Monosov. The album is more like a book on CD, each track reading a chapter of his life accompanied by tricky mandolin and acoustic guitar. With all the crazy, technical tunes these days, it’s refreshing to hear undemanding music in a free, spoken-word arrangement. If artists like this continue to pop up, we might just be able to hear literature and culture put back into music like they once were. –Lyuba Basin

Isole
Bliss of Solitude
Napalm Records
Street: 01.29
Isole = Funeral + Katatonia + Type O Negative
I find it strange that a band that (to me) draws heavily from bands I really like can be so boring at times. While this sucker definitely has its interesting, “doomy” moments, I don’t see it as Napalm sees it: “epic doom metal.” For the most part, it’s pretty cookie-cutter Euro-goth/doom, which isn’t entirely bad, but it’s just not my cup of tea. If I want to hear this type of stuff, the last Funeral record would be the first thing I put in … whereas this release is destined to be something that comes up randomly in iTunes as something to help pass the time. –Gavin Hoffman

Justice of the Unicorns
Angels with Uzis
Little Lamb Recordings
Street: 03.08
Justice of the Unicorns = a desire to be Wayne Coyne + a love for strange song titles
Howdy, friends. Welcome to another episode of “The Synonym Game.” Ready? Here we go. Surfeit. Surplus. Excess. Overabundance. Superfluity. Angels with Uzis. There now, kids. Do you see a pattern emerge? You obviously all realize that the world of music is bursting at the seams with mellow indie rock that anticipates a person being too taken aback by titles such as “Jesus Had a Girlfriend” to realize that the music to which they are listening is the same music that every band is pumping out with a tirelessness that would make even the most virile rabbit feel impotent. “McCarren Pool” may as well be an anthem for all the privileged “indie” devotees who blandly stand in loud bars dressed in headbands and tights and sway to and fro with stupid fists raised high in some false camaraderie. That said, this album is tolerable. –Joey Richards

Kid Kishore
The Social Club No. 9
The Social Registry
Street: 02.19
Kid Kishore = DJ Funk + Bollywood + Northern European Bmore Club
Uhh … what? was the immediate reaction to this latest release in the Social Registry’s ongoing series. The cranked beats and chopped repetitive choruses were trademark Detroit Ghettotech, while the instrumentation is straight-up Bollywood soundtrack. To further complicate matters, Kid Kishore hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Despite this potentially cacophonous mash of styles, the execution is freshly brilliant—developing a distinct style that avoids the pitfalls of novelty. –Ryan Powers

Lafcadio
Kibosh
Joyful Noise
Street: 01.22
Kibosh = High on Fire + King Crimson
The liner notes for this record show the band members decked out in Eddie Bauer-chic gear at a backyard barbeque ravenously devouring grilled stuffed animals. This strikes me as an appropriate images to the accompanying music; that is, not nearly as evil, threatening or amusing as the band thinks. Not that all heavy music needs to be evil and threatening (my favorite metal band is called Harvey Milk, for Christ’s sake), but these guys are so self aware that their attempts at intensity and faux-prog noodling just fall completely flat. Give this one a pass. –Jona Gerlach

Liars
Liars
Mute
Street: 03.18
Liars = Joy Division + Dick Dale + A 10-X cooler version of The Raveonettes
The new Liars album is dark pop at its finest. If you could overdose on reverb and fuzz, this album would for sure do you in. Track eight, “Clear Island,” is one of the catchiest songs I have heard in a long time; it makes me want to ask Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth to dance with me Beach Blanket Bingo style. I think that if you surfed in the sewer with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this is what they would be rocking out to with their Ninja Turtle iPOD’s while they carved some sewer waves. These dudes are the big kahunas of artsy punk. If you didn’t go to their show a couple months ago at Urban Lounge, you are totally bogus. –Jon Robertson

Lion’s Share
Emotional Coma
Locomotive Records
Street: 01.29
Lions Share = Dio + Tony Martin + a powerful prog-metal attitude
When first spinning this fifth full-length from Lion’s Share, the vocals immediately had me thinking “Dio amped-up slightly.” That said, the music held more of a prog/power feel with speedy energetic songs. These guys have some big friends, judging by the guest appearances from within the metal world that pepper the album. You have Glen Drover (Megadeth), Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and Mats Leven, (Yngwie, At Vance, Therion). This only adds to the diverse and healthy dosage of great guitarwork. The fact that the vocals sound so much like Dio makes the album sound slightly like a throwback to the 80s, but couple that with fresh guitars and smooth production and you have something modern-metal lovers and fans of the old school can both enjoy. The end result is a solid record done by solid musicians. –Bryer Wharton

Little Women
Teeth
Sockets
Street: 03.04
Little Women = Crom Tech + Coughs + Health + Ornette Coleman
I dare any motherfucker on the block to comprehend this album—a speed-metal barrage of saxophones and uplifting climaxes reminding me of a modern-day Glen Branca. Simplistic by design, yet horrifically complex by execution, Little Women’s combination of free jazz with the Brooklyn-inspired speed of Mick Barr and the brutal intensity of Coughs puts more feeling and saturation into every track than most bands’ entire discography. Additionally, the wall of sound is immediately palatable to the ears, leaving the mass in between confused and scared to death. –Ryan Powers

The Loved Ones
Build & Burn
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 01.28
The Loved Ones = all the other crap on Fat Wreck Chords that likes to call themselves punk
If I were to be a person who uses tact, I would say that Build & Burn is a decent record released by a band that has some pretty apparent talent, though their music is not my cup of tea. However, tact is a social skill that I rarely exercise and with that in mind, The Loved Ones’ new album makes me sicker than a dog in heat with a bad diet. To call this music “punk” (or “people’s punk,” as it says in the press sheet) is a complete disgrace to any punk group that has ever released an EP or a full-length. Build & Burn consists of your typical generic rock melodies—although some of the solos are decent—that all sound the same, and multi-pitch vocals that sound more whiney than anything else. These type vocals can also be heard in much better rock groups like The Hives, who don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Even if the group did away with the incorrect label of “people’s punk,” this CD is still not worth much of a listen. –Josh McGillis

LSD-March
Nikutai No Tubomi
Beta-lactam Ring
Street: 11.13
LSD-March = Guru Guru + Faust
These guys take their name from a song off Krautrock band, Guru Guru’s debut record, and an apt name it is. Much like their German inspiration, these Japanese guys traffic in loud, druggy, feedback-drenched psychedelia. In fact, the first disc of this set is occupied by one 40-minute song that’s all plodding tribal drums and acid-fried guitar heroics that could be an extension of their namesake. The second disc sees the band getting more playful with a handful of clattery, strange experiments in rhythm & texture, suggesting the sound experiments of Faust. While they bring nothing new to the table, this is nevertheless an entertaining listen for fans of hallucinogenic exploration. –Jona Gerlach

Martriden
The Unsettling Dark
Candlelight
Street: 02.02
Martriden = Zykon + Dimmu Borgir
There is a certain precision about Martirden’s The Unsettling Dark that is wholly satisfying. The majority of the record is fast and heavy as all hell. Scathing black/death metal riffs shred away with a machine-like drummer blasting it up with the likes of Nick Barker. There is also an atmospheric element in the keys; the diverse use of them, in fact, keeps the songs from completely blending together into incomprehensible mush. The precision and execution in the songs is enough to peak interest for any extreme metal fan. The portions of the record that stand out amongst all the brutality is the melodic moments, staving the record from sounding totally destructive. There is a mellow peace added within these melodic moments. Is the album brutal? Yes. Haunting? Yes. True excellence? An enthusiastic yes! –Bryer Wharton

MGMT
Oracular Spectacular
Columbia
Street: 01.22
MGMT = Tubeway Army + MSTRKRFT
Immediate, seemingly shallow lyrics with step-on-your-genitals vocals over sophisticated, early-era Gary Numan style synth-pop? Here is a list of who will (or already does) dig MGMT: girls, girls on coke at clubs, dudes in tight jeans who think it is acceptable to copulate in club bathrooms with girls on coke, girls who like Erasure, dudes who like Burial, dudes who can pick house and progressive and trance out of a lineup, people who think Moby is underrated, people who know one Aphex Twin song, people who claim to love electronica but have never heard of Autechre, people who love Justice, droves of people who like it for all the wrong reasons (see above), critics who want something new but just barely new (see Burial), critics who will, eventually, secretly concede that the disc “has some worthwhile traits” after hating it because so many stupid people like it for the wrong reasons. –Dave Madden

Mike Patton
A Perfect Place
Ipecac

Street: 03.11 Mike Patton = what it would be like to live in the psyche ward in hell
Apparently Mike Patton isn’t content with going berserker on just music anymore and wants to corrupt movies and videogames with his ADHD brand of vocal stylings. In between contributing vocals for the creatures in “I Am Legend” and supplying voices for video games, he now has moved on to scoring films. This is the soundtrack to the movie A Perfect Place, which is being released with the movie as a double-disc and Mike Patton’s first crack at writing music for a movie. I couldn’t think of anyone more qualified; this soundtrack sounds like evil carnival music. The album is mostly instrumental, but with a few melodies thrown in for emphasis. –Jon Robertson

Ministry and Co-Conspirators
Cover Up
13th Planet/Megaforce
Street: 04.01
Ministry = Ministry, douche
Ha! This is actually pretty much what you’d expect from Ministry doing a record of cover tunes. While I think it’s kind of a cop-out for Al Jourgensen to include the 1000 Homo DJs cover of “Supernaut” on this collection, as a whole, this album’s still worthwhile. I found myself really enjoying the cover of “Under My Thumb,” and kudos to the kids for not covering songs that most Ministry fans would “expect.” Hearing Al sing “What a Wonderful World” is absolutely fucking priceless! And when the payoff comes at about the halfway mark, it gets all over your face. –Gavin Hoffman

Miwagemini
This Is How I Found You
Addictive
Street: 03.18
Miwagemini = Lightning Dust + Bjork + Cat Power
Miwagemini, a New York native, can be easily recognized for her eccentric use of a mandolin and her eerie, haunting vocals reminiscent of Black Mountain’s Amber Webb. On her second release, This is How I Found You, Miwagemini strings together a combination of love songs—or love spells, rather—that echo with the detached aura of Bjork and the offbeat diction of Tom Waits. This album, consisting of a mere nine songs, is lyrically heavy and straightforward, similar to her only previous release, Forgetful Ocean and Other Strange Stories. This album is a continuation of Miwagemini’s haunting and uncanny ability to spin shadowy stories out of sinister piano tunes, simple guitar riffs and an array of string instruments. Although this album occasionally borders on overbearing, it never crosses the line, making This is How I Found You a delightfully eerie journey of passion, pain and prose. –Kristyn Lambrecht

Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia
Pain Disappears
Buzzin’ Fly Record
Street: 03.04
Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia = Postal Service + Mirwais + John Digweed
Often, the type of person that refers to all electronic music as “techno” is most familiar with shitty, canned and polished electrotrance that is so boring it requires stroke-inducing amounts of drugs to enjoy. Well, apparently, that particular sound, which I had hoped had died over a decade ago, is still produced, and still sucks. The moments that most stand out in this album are the moments the duo shoots for—a more indie-pop sound, á là Postal Service, but even these tracks are dreadfully boring. Pain Disappears sounds like the soundtrack to a melodramatic advertisement for satin pants. -Ryan Powers

Monster Island
Dream Tiger
Book Beat
Street: 01.22
Monster Island = marijuana + a sitar
Dear reader. I must apologize. Joey had been prepping to write the review of this album for several weeks when he made the mistake of listening to Dream Tiger. You see, the sounds of Monster Island have placed him in a comatose state, incapable of even stopping the string of drool plummeting from his mouth like some Victoria Falls. Therefore, it is up to me, his unconscious self, to write this review. I want to take this space, then proffer a warning. Please, do not listen to this album if you are operating heavy machinery, have big plans for the evening, or simply enjoy not being catatonic. With that warning, I must admit that some avant-garde psychologists have used these opium-influenced sitar drones to bring people down from intense episodes of mania. Nonetheless, I cannot overemphasize the mind-numbing effect of Monster Island on the unsuspecting. –(an unconscious) Joey Richards

The Mumlers
Thickets & Stitches
Galaxia Records
Street 2.12.08
The Mumlers = M. Ward + Ray Charles + The Ghost is Dancing
Much like the popular indie bands of this day, the Mumlers have numerous players performing an array of usual and odd instruments. However, their performances are more close and intimate, like a hometown marching band performing at the town park. There are a few male vocalists spotlighted on different songs that parlay into the overall feeling of the album. One gent sounds like Tom Waits’ (with less friction in his voice) theatrical Alice. Another, like Ray Charles (especially on “Shake that Medication”), adds a 70s soul shakin’ to piano tunes. Frontman Will Sprott pens punchy lyrics with a blues inflection about the absurdity and hopefulness of humanity. Known along the West Coast from touring with labelmate Tommy Guerrero, The Mumlers are getting great national reviews, including on NPR. Thickets & Stitches is a charming, original album that won’t make you cry or cringe. This feels good. Jennifer Nielsen

Nadine Mooney
MouseHouseWormHole
Tender Loving Empire
Street 02.22
Nadine Mooney = Cartoon Monster + Starving Daughters + Edith Piaf
I don’t know what’s going on these days in Portland, but I don’t think anyone there listens to music anymore. Maybe they spend all their time drinking espresso, smoking weed and staring at the closest wall. Otherwise, a record like this one could never have been made. Rudimentarily recorded, and with sparse instrumentation, 10 mysterious songs appear twice on this disk—once forward and once in reverse. When played normally, the songs take on an “Edith Piaf with a bong” feel, whereas the backward renditions sound like a tripped-out Bollywood film about Edith Piaf smoking a bong. So, honestly, it’s kind of a lose-lose situation. –James Bennett

Neil Young
Chrome Dreams II
Reprise Records
Street: 10.23
Neil Young = A Lionel Train
Chrome Dreams II, the long awaited follow-up to Chrome Dreams (which was never released), is a well-balanced album chockful of that unsurpassable and rustic Neil Young sound. This album has a cozy folk side that is offset nicely by a few muddy electric ballads. I love how Young is able convey mounds of pain, anger and placidity all in the same record. Several tracks had been on the shelf for some time, like “Ordinary People,” an 18-minute declaration narrated by Young’s famous Gibson Gold Top. My favorite cut is “The Way,” a nice change of pace with Young on piano and a choir accompaniment. There is no doubt of Neil Young’s ongoing passion and need for songwriting. Chrome Dreams II is a fulfilling and multifarious album that you won’t want to put down. –Michael DeJohn

Neutralboy
Everybody Dies
Fivecore Records
Street: 01.01
Neutralboy = any band featuring Duane Peters + any band featuring Roger Miret
The press release accompanying Neutralboy’s Everybody Dies claims that this band is the epitome of Seattle punk. Now, either the publicity folks over at Fivecore Records have never heard of The Briefs, or they and I have strongly differing opinions on what makes punk rock good. If you think a band featuring members with nicknames like Hal9000 Beers and DJ That’s Bullshit make punk rock good, then this is good punk rock. If you prefer your punk rock to sound like a non-innovative, non-exciting and non-interesting Die Hunns cover band, then this is good punk rock. That said, this album isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t really have anything going for it besides an appearance by Jon Snodgrass of the great alt-country band Drag the River on “Dead Guys Sing Sad Songs.” I’ve got a feeling that Neutralboy won’t be venturing too far from Seattle in the near future. –Ricky Vigil

Nifelheim
Envoy of Lucifer
Regain Records
Street: 11.19
Nifelheim = Impaled Nazarene + old Bathory
Even though this is their first full-length in seven years, Nifelheim have been paying tribute to Satan for quite some time now. What I love about these guys is they have metal perfected, not only musically, but also through the image they portray, which makes them fun. It’s pretty difficult to not stomp around my room listening to this while scowling and gripping invisible oranges. Though there isn’t any innovation here, Nifelheim are one of those few bands who don’t need to write an opus, simply because they already do what they do incredibly well. Of course, this puts them in the “hate them or love them” category with many, many other black metal bands, but somehow I think these spike-wearing Swedish gentlemen would prefer it that way. If you like metal, and you’re in the mood to do nothing but drink beer and slaughter angels, this will definitely do. –Conor Dow

Once Nothing
First Came the Law
Solid State Records
Street: 01.15
Once Nothing = DO NOT WANT
In the past, Solid State Records has had some bands on their roster I’ve enjoyed. Once Nothing won’t be one of them. This material is your typical metalcore formula with obvious influences, double bass, poor-man’s Iron Maiden hooks, chunnerific breakdowns, growly vocals and obnoxious transitional tough-guy speak. Not only is the cookie-cutter worn out, but the slower-than-normal tempo of the songs gives me pause, as if someone leaned on the wrong button during production. The band sleeps their way through nearly an hour of songs that sound all too similar for me to give a shit. But wait! The South Texas stomp influences are sure to coax the bros into pumping their fists skyward when taking a breather from the circle-pit-ceremonial-mating-dance. Now I REALLY want six shooters tattooed on MY hips! I’ve spent an hour on the toilet after eating Beto’s that was more entertaining than this. –Conor Dow

Plastic Crimewave Sound
No Wonder Land
Prophase Records
Street: 01.22
Plastic Crimewave Sound = acid + drill + frontal lobe
I love obnoxious music. I love music with a lot of buzzing distortion and repetitive measures that drive the listener into a trance. I also love experimental, psychedelic and forward-thinking music that breaks any type of mold or expectation a listener had set up for themselves. While I love all of this, Plastic Crimewave Sound’s “No Wonder Land” is very hit-and-miss with me. There are several good solid tracks, but there is also a great deal of obnoxious meandering nonsense that after a handful of listens, I found myself eventually reaching for the “seek” button once I got the point. Although this is something that will likely not grow on me, I can’t discommend it for the journey they tried to take me on. I just don’t think my brain is wired for that kind of aural bludgeoning. This is recommended for those who are casually interested in lobotomies. –Conor Dow

Protest the Hero
Fortress
Vagrant
Street: 01.29
Protest The Hero = Dillinger Escape Plan + AFI + The Mars Volta
Ever just look at an album cover and automatically know it’s gonna suck? Protest The Hero, welcome to that pile. Take the technicality of Dillinger Escape Plan and mix it with the pussiness of The Mars Volta and voila! Protest The Hero. Homeboy just tried to emulate Mike Patton during this song, too … fuck. This is undoubtedly huge in the under-16, white-belted girl-panter crowd, which means it’s pretty much not worth the time it’s taking me to type this review. I could go on and on about how much this thing sucks, but I’ll not waste your time. You get the point. Hopefully. –Gavin Hoffman

Salt the Wound
Carnal Repurcussions
Rotten Records
Street: 02.05
Salt the Wound = Black Dahlia Murder + Lamb of God + Cannibal Corpse
Wait … haven’t I heard this record before? Done like 10,000 times better and more originally? Oh, yeah—back in 1997. I’m fucking SICK of metalcore. Ever take a good look at the typical kid that’s into metalcore? Yup—it’s the same kid that was all up on nü-metal’s nuts five years ago. Angry, suburban white-kid music that’s been done to death. Will this genre please fucking die already? –Gavin Hoffman

Sculptured
Embodiment
The End Records
Street: 02.19
Sculptured = pure progressive metal innovation
This album has been long awaited from fans of the rabid metal world. I am very proud to exclaim and say that this is the best metal offering of the year and quite possibly, it will stay that way. Led by Don Anderson, also of Agalloch, the band hasn’t released an album in10 long years. Like any true progressive metal band, Sculptured has created a record distinctly different than anything they’ve done before. There is a more avant garde sound to this album among the likes of Arcturus masterpiece, The Sham Mirrors. Also new to the band sound is some slight death vocals, although easily heard and enunciated. The record is a total creative culmination and journey through five lengthy songs, each one embodying elements and sounds not heard in the previous. There are layers upon layers of instruments and musical arrangements brought forth with utmost passion and creativity. There are guitar tones, structures and arrangements you will hear nowhere else than on Embodiment. You don’t have to have a handle on the metal scene to enjoy Sculptured’s musical and artistic blend of atmospheres, feelings and technical mastery; anyone can hear the genius and passion lying in these five amazing songs. –Bryer Wharton

She & Him
Volume 1
Merge Records
Street: 03.18
She & Him = Pop + country + folk
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward make up She & Him and are set to be the next Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (Once) duo due to the acting/music switch-a-roo. Deschanel, better known for acting, alluded to her vocal talents in the movie Elf, teasing those who took notice and leaving us wondering when we’d hear more. Finally, here it is. In a world of over-produced and clichéd music, Deschanel and Ward have created the most natural-sounding and remarkable record so far this year. Ward, who has collaborated with greats like Neko Case, Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis, to name a few, lends his instrumentality and backing vocals to this album, humbly titled Volume 1. It’s refreshing to listen to a record that showcases the talent of the performers and not the talent of the producers. If you claim to be a real music lover, you will buy this album. –Jeremy C. Wilkins

Singer
Unhistories
Drag City
Street: 03.25
Singer = US Maple + TV on the Radio
I have it on good authority (i.e., Drag City’s PR lady) that these guys put on one hell of a live show: engaging, unpredictable, and by the sound of it, interactive as well. Frankly, I’m inclined to believe her; unfortunately, very little of that excitement seems to have transferred onto Unhistories, their debut record. Singer’s deconstructionist take on rock music is conceptually interesting and does cause the listener to wonder at their methodology. Sadly, this curiosity yields very little in the way of pleasure. Their songs are too fragmented and process-oriented to make for a satisfying listen. While I applaud Singer for trying new approaches to the traditional rock quartet, this first go-round just doesn’t translate well to record. Maybe if I check them out live, I’ll change my mind. –Jona Gerlach

Sons & Daughters
This Gift
Domino
Street: 03.04
Sons & Daughters = Cat Power + Nick Cave + Johnny Cash
I first discovered this band when they opened up for Bright Eyes. I thought that Satan’s rockabilly band had taken the stage. Then soon realized that these guys were not Satan’s band, they were actually a double Scottish version of Bonnie and Clyde. These guys are gritty—the rhythm section of Ailidh Lennon and David Gow have the toughest, thickest sound of anyone around these days and are a perfect complement to Adele Bethel’s voice. If you got in a bar fight with these guys, they would dominate your face. Then the angelic voice of singer Bethel would totally whisper insults into your pulverized ear about how weak you are. They prolly go to the bar and beat people down for fun. –Jon Robertson

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks
Real Emotional Trash
Matador Records
Street: 03.04
Stephen Malkmus = The Most Important Pacific Northwestern Artist of the 90s (believe me, I just had this argument)
This is the fourth installment from Malkmus since Pavement, the second credited with The Jicks, and it is arguably either his most solid “solo” album or the most boring. Musically, this is the most mature-sounding thing Stephen has ever released; the lineup now includes Janet Weiss, and her huge drums really contribute to a very full sound. But also possibly a boring sound, because no one ever listened to Pavement looking for maturity; we wanted the signature goofy lyrics, blissful noises and of course, Stephen’s unmistakable guitar leads. Real Emotional Trash is not lacking any of these qualities, but I wouldn’t say they define it. I think die-hard Pavement fans will find the same disappointment here that they did with Pig Lib. But I wanted to forget all that was the 90s and judge Real Emotional Trash independently, and can therefore say that overall, I like it. Right from the heavy opening I was sold; this is a great-sounding, really well-written album. You should at least give it a listen. –Davy Bartlett

Stuck Mojo
Southern Born Killers
Napalm Records
Street: 03.04
Stuck Mojo = killer southern rock + Body Count
Well, Stuck Mojo fans, it finally happened—the band got back together. Quite honestly, the new record sounds like the band never missed a beat in their over six years of not releasing any music. Guitarist Rich Ward is as amped and tough as ever, producing some truly catchy and meaty riffs. The hip-hop elemen, however, has come forward in a higher light—longtime singer and frontman Bonz is gone, replaced by Lord Nelson. Bonz basically set Mojo apart from other rap-rock artists out there, although Mojo came long before said trend set in and were always underdogs. Bonz had a power behind him lyrically and in the strength of his vocals. That said, the band could have made worse decisions on who to use as a new lead singer. Yeah, it’s not the same, but the vocals and lyrics are infectious, full of politically charged and distinctly American themes instead of what the regular rap or rap-rock artists use. The point here is if you’ve been a fan of the band since the beginning, there is no doubt you will find a massive amount of enjoyment listening to Southern Born Killers. If you don’t enjoy rap-rock at all, then don’t listen to it and don’t bitch about it. –Bryer Wharton

Take
Plus Ultra EP
Inner Current
Street: 12.07
Take = Flying Lotus + Nobody
Dublab, darling Take works a slab chipped off the instrumental hip-hop (a.k.a. stonertronica) genre: at once, the music reflects the soft, frigid aspects of IDM, the rhythmic snap of hip-hop and the spiritual free-flow of Sun Ra. And yes, it could be the soundtrack to a mushroom-fueled camping trip, dreamy enough to calm your anxiety but intricate enough to give those dancing lights on the tent corporeal mass. This EP is a collection of remixes from Take’s Earthtones & Concrete, all worked by fellow L.A. beatologists such as Daedelus and Ras G. A problem with a lot in this brand of music, the mellow nature here is sometimes too self-effacing and subdued, rendering the music as background noise for a hip sushi bar. However, the tracks wrapped in arresting personality (the game-show disco of “You High (Daedelus RMX),” the wah-wah-ed, bass-driven “Slouched Over 12” Edit”) overshadow any weaknesses and warrant the price of the purchase. –Dave Madden

To-Mera
Delusions
Candlelight
Street: 02.26
To-Mera = Ihsahn + Arcturus + pure originality
What was pretty standard gothic metal with their previous record, Transcendental, To-Mera has truly upped the intensity, originality and just overall diversity. Delusions sees a true progression encompassing realms of black metal, avant styles and gothic metal. The band has truly set their standards high for this record and are sure to reel in more than just the gothic-metal tangent with this new opus. On Delusions, there are tempo changes all over within the guitars and keys, even some jazz tempos. Amongst the chaotic portions, there are plentiful melodies driven by pianos and mellow, soothing female vocals. The band is no stranger to experience, with bassist Lee Barrett of Extreme Noise Terror and vocalist Julie Kiss of Without Face. The album is highly progressive in nature and with every listen comes a discovery of sound melody or layer you have not heard before. Here’s kudos to To-Mera for ditching a standard sound for something more relevant and diverse. –Bryer Wharton

Volcano the Bear
Amidst the Noise and Twigs
Beta-lactam Ring
Street: 11.13
Volcano the Bear = Akron/Family + Comus + The Residents
Volcano the Bear’s latest sounds like it was recorded in a trance-like state. Guitars strum repetitively, hand drums bang out pseudo-tribal rhythms and vocals are sung-chanted. This meditative state continues through the album’s run time, occasionally interrupted by blasts of confusing noise and crying children. One can almost imagine them in the studio, huddled around a bonfire, waiting for the mushroom tea to kick in before hitting “record.” Fans of Animal Collective, Akron/Family and other folk-infused psychedelic weirdness should take note of this. –Jona Gerlach

Warbringer
War Without End
Century Media
Street: 02.05
Warbringer = Thrash. Plain and simple.
I have to admit that the whole “thrash renaissance” has been somewhat overbearing (mainly because most nü-thrash bands seem to be parodies of the bands they try so hard to emulate), so I’m a bit hesitant to want to review most new thrash stuff. Warbringer, however, is a different story. They seem to know that they aren’t bringing anything new to the thrash-metal table, so they’ve opted to stick with the tried-and-true buzzsaw guitar and triplet bass-drum thrash attack while being able to come across as far less than cheesy. The vocals and “gang backups” are more hardcore than thrash, but they actually fit perfectly with what Warbringer is attempting to get across. Bravo. –Gavin Hoffman

Winds of Plague
Decimate the Weak
Century Media
Street: 02.05
Winds of Plague = Bleeding Through + Dying Fetus + Dimmu Borgir
Winds of Plague first came off as a bit too much, like the band was mixing too many different styles. After multiple listens, though, the sound that at first annoyed me, grew on me. The band is a tight unit and makes good on an attempt to cross-over hardcore with death metal and even a slight inkling of black metal. For fans of very tight production and music that is heavier than anything else, Decimate the Weak should have you drooling in no time. The Bleeding Through influence seeps into the mix of the band big time, mostly with the style of the band’s keyboard usage, though there are hardcore vocal stylings as well as plenty of hardcore-style breakdowns thrown into the realm of death metal. Among those breakdowns are some good solos hiding amongst some overpowering meaty riffs—listen enough and you’ll hear them. –Bryer Wharton

With Blood Comes Cleansing
Horror
Street: 01.22
With Blood Comes Cleansing = The Black Dahlia Murder + Bloodhasbeenshed + The Faceless
*Sighs*. If the Christian metal/hardcore community wants to be taken seriously, then it needs to stop resting on the laurels that it’s Christian and therefore interesting because it co-opted styles of music typically relegated to the anti-religious or demonic. Most people don’t like Burzum because of what he says, and people don’t think Morbid Angel are great because of their Satanic lyrics; it seems that people like them despite these facts. Same rules apply to their Christian counterparts, WBCC is proficient at the deathcore (cringe) genre; they’re just not terribly interesting. The vocal variations are nice, which move from a throat-shredding scream all the way down to pig growls, and the music is fast and heavy, with obligatory breakdowns. All of the mechanics are there; unfortunately, after about eight minutes, it all starts to bleed into one. Music first, Jesus/Satan second, folks. –Peter Fryer

Various Artists
Local Anesthetic
Smooch Records
Street: 02.12
Local Anesthetic ¬¬= All the gems from the early Colorado punk scene Local Anesthetic was an in-store record label formed in Colorado in 1981. This release is the culmination of all of the releases put out by Local Anesthetic, plus a few other early underground acts from Colorado that were released on other labels. It is highly eclectic, but you get the feeling that this compilation captures the highlights of what was going on in the Colorado punk scene from 1977-1983. It opens with “My Dad’s a Fucking Alcoholic” by Frantix, a noisy, drug-damaged punk-rock band that sounds similar to many early 80s hardcore acts. “The Abyss” by Your Funeral is highly reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Balad of Ronnie Raygun” by White Trash sounds like a combination of M.D.C. and Minor Threat, while tracks like “Bird Brain” by Glusons (featuring Alan Ginsberg on vocals) is so weird that the only thing it comes close to is Jello Biafra’s work with the Melvins. This compilation is all over the map as far as genres go, but manages to remain cohesive and interesting throughout. –Jeanette Moses

Various Artists
Thrashing Like a Maniac
Earache Records
Street: 02.05
Thrashing Like a Maniac = thrash mayhem!
Compilation records are always a gamble, but like the comps of old, i.e., Metal Massacre, this surveillance of bands is a true picture of new thrash bands with an old-school sound. I give massive props to Earache for being brave and putting bands on the comp that aren’t signed to their label. There is a total of 16 cuts featured on the album, all unique but without-a-doubt pure, unadulterated thrash metal. And like I mentioned before, they are all new bands, which makes things even more unique and offers a real piece of the current scene and a way for new fans and old to discover a few artist they might not have heard yet. There are your current fan favorites from the likes of Municipal Waste, Fueled by Fire, and Evile. My favorites come from Bonded by Blood, Dekapitator, Send More Paramedics and Gamma Bomb. So in short, if you’re looking for some great thrash metal from the new breed, this comp is a great way to discover it. Not to mention the arrangement of songs and artists (some of which are extremely similar) on the album is great and keeps things fresh and listener attention at its peak. –Bryer Wharton

Xasthur
A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors
Hydra Head
Street: 01.29
Xasthur = atmospheric black metal
This, my friends, is the beginning of the mighty Xasthur. Initially released on 150 CD-Rs in 2000-01, A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors has seen a highly limited release until now. Fans and collectors are rabid to snatch up something so limited, even with this release. Also included in the package (not my promo pack, though) is A Darkened Winter. The music is not really that surprising—it’s trademark Xasthur atmospheric black metal—although with this early material, the atmosphere is slightly thicker and the pace on many of the songs is a bit slower; almost in the funeral-doom genre area, but not quite. After sorting through this re-released CD’s 15 plus tracks, your mood will be filled with gloom and darkness and that strange feeling that only Xasthur can create. This is an essential portion of the one-man act that is rising in popularity continuously throughout the underground black metal world. Die-hard fans have either invested money in tracking down some of the original releases or downloaded this material, but if you’re like me, as a collector and rabid fan, you’ll want to own this chunk physically just for posterity’s sake. That said, amazing music must be acquired regardless of the conditions in which it has been made available. –Bryer Wharton