National Music Reviews 3/13

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Southern Lord
Street: 02.19
Baptists = Skitsystem + Disfear + From Ashes Rise
Just when I thought the overproduced D-beat fad had gone the way of the dodo, Baptists come along and unleash something that, to the non-discerning ear, could easily pass for a re-working of Skitsystem’s excellent Stigmata album. It figures that Southern Lord would be releasing this, what with their recent history of snapping up every semi-decent D-beat punk band they can find, so it would be exceedingly simple to slam this release and get on with my day … but it’s not bad. I generally prefer D-beat releases that have a much dirtier sound to them, and this is almost too polished, but it’s a decent enough listen. Angry, fast and well-played, Bushcraft, although nowhere near an “album for the ages,” is good enough to warrant a place in any punk’s collection, even if it’s only spun once in a blue moon. –Gavin Hoffman

Black Member
Full Circle
Rabert Records
Street: 01.06
Black Member = Boris + Brian Eno
Full Circle is a four-piece set, clocking in at just under 14 minutes, and maintains a consistent sonic aesthetic throughout. It is the familiar, often welcome sound of tremolo and fuzz guitar (and perhaps keys as well) culminating in something beautiful with a slight haze. These pieces make ideal use of minimal instrumentation and repetition, creating a sense of movement and space for the listener to spend just enough time in before moving onto the next. Title and closing track “Full Circle” is the darkest and heaviest here, doing away with the prettier aspects of those before it in favor of a low-end drone, yet essentially maintaining their same characteristics otherwise. I was quite happy listening to this music. –T.H.

Burnt Books
At A Loss Recordings
Street Date: 01.29
Burnt Books = His Hero is Gone + Fuck The Facts + Kazu Makino
Putting it up in front here: if you’re looking for experimental crust punk, pick this up. This album is as close to a curb stomp as you’re going to get. The members of Burnt Books are bringing their A-game here. Interwoven with hardcore and punk riffs (peppered with banjo, and I’m being serious), this album is pretty crusty, like beer scum and scabs. Burnt Books ain’t your typical Southern punk band, and manage to pull from several different influences without muddying up the water. There are moments where you can hear clear doom influence, and then “bam!” you’re in the middle of a Blonde Redhead or a folksy Joy Division song. I don’t know how they pull it off, but they better come to Utah soon. –Alex Cragun

The Cannanes
Small Batch Records
Street: 03.19
The Cannanes = Jem + Honeybunch
The Cannanes are something special. You can tell from the first second of listening, and it all adds up once you complete the compulsory information binge that follows when you’re interested in a project—at least compulsory for me. Having been making music since the mid-’80s, this Australian indie band has developed a really great mix of sounds, somehow totally modern and in no way dated. There’s an electro-pop sensibility throughout, and the vocals are magical, floaty, little phrases, the delivery hinting at Mazzy Star or Portishead. It’s not dark, though. It’s the same vibe I get from watching the unicorn scene in Legend—sparkly, light, airy. I really love it. Even more delightful? If you, like me, were not previously aware of this little treat of a band, then you, like me, can spend some time going through their ridiculous catalog of previous releases while you wait for the new EP to drop in March. –Ischa B.

The Cave Singers
Street: 03.05
The Cave Singers = Deer Tick + Delta Spirit
For their fourth LP, The Cave Singers added more instruments and Morgan Henderson (Blood Brothers, Fleet Foxes) on bass. What was once a simple formula for raw folk with catchy harmonies has become a busier sound with less catchiness. It was really singer Peter Quirk’s striking voice that carried the songs on their last album. He sounds like a less nasally John McCauley with better vocal range. The tempos created by many of the bass grooves on this release fail to complement Quirk’s voice. The finger-picking in the first three tracks makes for an island folk rock sound like that of Lord Huron. They still sound raw, but lack their old appeal of simplicity. “Evergreens” is my favorite on the album and a good example of the band’s old formula for simple folk that emphasizes Quirk’s vocals. “Shine” is also a treat that places the bass nicely between the guitar and harmonica. –Justin Gallegos

Idle Hands
Victory Records
Street: 01.22
Continents = The Plot In You + The Ghost Inside
This was a surprising post-metalcore record that shows a lot of promise, even though it doesn’t quite work. There are a lot of competing elements, inspired by both the early days of the genre and more modern bands, that never quite meld together to make a completely cohesive and original sound, as if the band is cherry-picking from influences to build a Frankenstein monster instead of making sweet love with their own creativity and producing a new, beautiful baby. The musicianship is competent and, at times, perfectly enjoyable, but the songs just feel half-baked. Expect a lot of dissonant chugging guitars, group chants, breakdowns, thumping beats and switches between screams and clean vox, as comes with the territory. Fans of the genre will probably find it a worthwhile experience. Hopefully, future efforts will see the band trusting their own creative vision a little more. –Megan Kennedy

Dad Punchers
Sea Legs
Street: 12.18.12
Dad Punchers = Get Up Kids + Joyce Manor + Cub
This S/T is a slice of life jangle-jangle in the vein of fat kids with Tumblrs who like sing-a-longs and the inane revisiting of unsung ’90s pop-punk. The fact that this is manned by Elliot Babin (Touché Amoré) shouldn't get too much hype, as this doesn't really call on any of those same stylistic cards. Instead, mega-catchy cuddle-core anthems running the gamut of topics like post-coital reflections, childhood homes, shitty romantic comedy films and having to work retail jobs on Christmas Eve. Certainly evocative of something (even if it is just pent up adolescent anger), the album’s success mostly lies in its propensity to dull your resistance, worm into your brain and spread its saccharine gooeyness like self-righteous smugness at an atheist pep-relly. What I'm saying is, try as you might, you'll listen…again and again. Slayer can wait for an hour. –Dylan Chadwick

Langsom Dans
Modern Outsider Records
Street: 01.22
Gliss = Blonde Redhead + Beach House + Depeche Mode
Langsom Dans is Danish for slow dance, and slow is the common thread throughout the third full-length from the Danish/American trio, Gliss.This album is whispery, moody, and perfectly suited for an icy winter. Boisterous drums make a great sidekick to the atmospheric echoing of “A To B.” The word lush doesn’t quite capture the fluttering whirls and dreamscape of “Into The Water,” and the richness of the string instrumentation on “Waves” sweeps you into a sea of emotion, which leads into the inviting, upbeat melodies of “Sea Tonight.” Delicate guitars, ghostly vocals and sonic beats echo and fade on “In Heaven.” The songs on Langsom Dans are lyrically abstract, artistically beautiful and rich with genuine emotion. –Courtney Blair

Gloria Morti
Lateral Constraint
Metal Blade Records
Street: 02.05
Gloria Morti = Negator + The Forsaken
This band’s past work was far more brutal and creative in a single song than in this entire album. Song structure is a melodic death metal paint-by-numbers and includes quite a bit of repetition, which took a lot of power away from what could have been some sweet atmosphere. There was hardly any experimentation or risk taken with the song-writing. The probably-triggered drumming is speedy as fuck, but so stupidly formulaic that it makes the result as dull as a brown paper bag. Vocally, this somehow reminds me of a consistently rougher Randy Blythe, but a lot less dynamic in both expression and range. The vocals are made all the more unimpressive by the so-often-repeated lyrical themes of how religion sucks and people are mindless idiots. There’s just no heart in it, and as such, it’s almost immediately forgettable. If your curiosity about this band must be sated, check out their past albums instead; they’re both heavier and less boring. –Megan Kennedy

The Growlers
Hung at Heart
Everloving Records
Street: 01.22
The Growlers = Not in the Face + Allah-Las + Beach Boys
After multiple release-date delays, The Growlers’ third full-length finally arrived and features some of the group’s strongest material to date. I was infatuated from the opening track “Someday,” a love song where lead singer Brooks Nielsen croons to a lover to “hang on for the ride,” because better days are just around the corner: “When tall boys turn into champagne, when bologna turns into steak,” he sings. The lyrics are salty, but the sentiment is sweet and the theme carries through the rest of the tracks. Hung at Heart is a collection of love songs that only a shit-bag rock n’ roller could appreciate. Production value is as key as consistency here. The band sounds tighter, Nielsen’s vocals pop and the variety is even greater than their earlier albums. I’ve had this 11-track gem on repeat since I got it. Like a caustic lover, The Growlers have a way of sliding into my heart, nestling in and becoming impossible to let go of. –Jeanette D. Moses

Hidden Towers
Olympus Mons
Defiled Under Music
Street: 01.08
Hidden Towers = Queensryche + Soundgarden
Hidden Towers is an advanced species of grunge and power metal, but more than that. Words don't fully describe what this duo (assisted on drums by Jakub Svoboda) from Vancouver are up to. I spent a good part of a week researching power metal bands from years gone by to nail them, but alas, I'm still stumped. Some moments, you can catch Ratt lurking in the verses, then find Symphony X in the breakdowns and Mudhoney all over the place. However, that description falls all to shit when you take into account the drums—they're straight up math rock, proggy. Dream Theater and At the Drive-in fans alike can listen to the beats in here. Hidden Towers turn the overly showy, technical aspects of power metal down and gives you music worth listening to. Though the album sags a bit at the midpoint (see “Nobody Knew How High She'd Get”) and the lyrics are a bit cheesy, it's an example of properly executed anti–nu metal, hybrid rock. Finally, if just for the laughs, check out “Son of the Dragon”—that track is pure Viking Metal. I'm not sure Chris Cantrell's intentions were sincere or semi-humorous, but it totally reminded me of “Daffy Duck the Wizard” from Looney Tunes (yes, I watch cartoons, fuck off). –Alex Cragun

Il Sogno Del Marinaio
La Busta Gialla
Street: 01.29
Il Sogno Del Marinaio = Mike Watt solo + Nels Cline's Destroy All Nels Cline
Mike Watt was invited to perform six shows in Italy with guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi. The music on La Busta Gialla is what the trio composed. Watt's wonderfully obvious and enduring enthusiasm carries through his compositions for a seemingly endless number of projects, personality in live performance—even in interviews—so the prospect of hearing this enthusiasm brought to a largely improvisational project with seemingly equally-excited musicians is naturally quite appealing. I really appreciate the idea of this new band creating new music, rather than someone proposing covers by one of Watt's previous groups. While Mike Watt is the known name on this recording, both Belfi and Pilia are deserving of mention, having contributed some great guitar lines and intricate rhythms. "Funanori Jig" is a highlight, somehow actually making use of a steel drum outside of Caribbean music enjoyable. In fact, this album is worth checking out in its entirety. –T.H.

Infected Mushroom
Friends on Mushrooms Vol. 1
Dim Mak Records
Street: 01.22
Infected Mushroom = Major Lazer + Prodigy + Daedalus
This new collaboration-based EP from Israel’s Infected Mushroom seriously caught me off guard, but in the best of ways. Friends on Mushrooms Vol. 1 is an array of musical masterpieces that shows off the producing skills of the infamous duo. From the reggae-fused “Where Do I Belong?” to the techno-charged  “Astrix on Mushrooms,” there’s something for everyone to fall in love with on this EP. With its deep bass and sweet melodic synths, “Astrix on Mushrooms” (a collaboration with Astrix) is a banger that every DJ should have in their arsenal. “Where Do I Belong?” featuring Hope 6 reminded me of Sublime if they were to ever have a baby with Major Lazer. Easy going drums, fun reggae influence synths and a Rasta rapping over it all make it the perfect track to either dance or just get high on Mary Jane to! This four-track EP may be small, but it packs quite the wallop! –Mama Beatz

Ed Banger Records
Street: 01.08
Justice = Michael Jackson + Sebastián
Sweet, sexy disco gods, Justice has done it again, this time with their new EP Helix, which is based off the single from their last album, Audio, Video, Disco. It’s pretty much just an extended version of “Helix” plus “Ohio,” and the secret track, “Presence” (all from their last album). The soulful, groovy, smooth melody combined with Vincent Vendetta’s beautiful voice, makes the track “Ohio” absolutely breathtaking. “Presence” is beyond epic. It would have fit perfectly into the soundtrack for the movie Drive. My new favorite song this year is the devilish, seducing remix of “Helix” by Frenchman Gessafelstein. I adore the way he can take a track and give it this evil, dark techno feel so flawlessly. Helix is awesome and a must-buy for any fan of Justice or disco funk! –Mama Beatz

Kait Lawson
Until We Drown
Street: 03.19
Kait Lawson = Woody Guthrie + Nanci Griffith
Kait Lawson has the kind of aching in her voice that draws a listener in closer. Until We Drown is a mostly somber record—something I usually have low tolerance for—but here touches of soul and country keep my interest. The best thing about this record is the marriage of the songwriting and production. The album has thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics in a colorful melodic gift-wrap that pulls in roots elements in an easy way that keeps everything fresh. “Omaha” is a country tune that stands out because it’s up-tempo, and expresses the freedom of escaping all your troubles. Lawson’s lyrical and actual voice is fantastic, and and is up to par with the tremendous work in the record behind it. –James Orme

Hundred Pockets Records
Street: 03.26
Lapland = Timber Timbre / Mayor Hawthorne
Before I listened to this album I heard it described as otherworldly. There’s music that sounds like it intends to take you somewhere. Then there’s Lapland, which actually sounds like it came from another place. It’s not technically experimental music but it’s vast and sounds unaffected by our material world. If anything, Lapland finds itself in the realm of psychedelic jazz. I love the piano grooves in “Overboard” and the guitar riffs in “Soldier” echo in the background like soft drips of water. The crowning touch to each song is Josh Mease’s layered vocals that echo delicately. Mease’s combination of reverb and high quality production suck me into a peaceful state of being every time I listen. You can hear the album at –Justin Gallegos

Masked Intruder
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 02.05
Masked Intruder = Teenage Bottlerocket + The Riverdales + The Steinways
The fastest way to a girl’s heart is through her bedroom window… while she’s sleeping. At least, that’s what the debut self-titled album from Masked Intruder has led me to believe. Masked Intruder create sugary-sweet pop punk, but with the conceit that they are a quartet of home invaders, girl stalkers and general miscreants—it’s really quite brilliant, actually. “25 to Life” conveys the same general heartache and desperation that permeates the Ramonescore style of pop punk, but with an added level of creepy obsession. “Hello Beautiful” is a tale of a home invasion that turns into love at first sight, while “Breakin’” is pretty much the opposite, as one of the Intruders breaks into a girl’s house after she breaks his heart. Plus, these guys are fucking great and incorporating some ‘50s inspired elements into their sound that’ll get you singing along in no time. Masked Intruder is fun, weird and definitely a little bit unsettling—but that’s what punk rock is supposed to be anyway. –Ricky Vigil

The Marriage of True Minds
Thrill Jockey
Street: 02.19
Matmos = The Books + Squarepusher + Throbbing Gristle + Mouse on Mars
Somewhere between tone poem and demented bubblegum pop, Matmos resides in an aural world all their own. The Baltimore-via-San Francisco experimental duo has found a happy residence on Thrill Jockey’s roster of fearless outsiders. Filling out their madcap shuffle through genreless fields of musique concrète, The Marriage of True Minds tackles some ambitious terrain. Moving seamlessly between found sound art, glitched-out ambience, neo-classical clang, squiggly synthesizer solos and doom metal, The Marriage of True Minds can be wholly and ferociously engrossing during projects that take little mental concentration, like cleaning the house, but is overbearing and downright irritating during tasks that take more concentration, like checking your e-mail. Matmos is a group that demands your time and concentration––and really nice headphones. –Ryan Hall

Truly Alive   
Future Classic
Street: 02.19
Mitzi = Crowded House + Level 42
An unexpected—though not unpleasant—sound comes from this Aussie quartet’s full-length debut, and from that, they’ve created a relatively simple-sounding background groove. Defiantly rooted in the 80’s, but with disco flashes, repeated listens of “Funk-lite” reveal it to be a good decision in both its composition and execution. The synths on the lead single “Who Will Love You Now” make it sound like it is indeed 1985, and it isn’t until their slightly funkier debut single, “All I Heard,” with its deliciously upbeat vibe, that they sound only slightly more current. Speaking of the past, handsome “Like It Was” has a very nice Carpenters-esque layered harmony that is sadly absent from the rest of the album, but it’s a small point. The cheery delivery of “Down” belies its negativity wonderfully and closer “The End,” with its grand reverb build-up, reveals another layer to the lads’ talents. –Dean O Hillis

Off With Their Heads
Street: 03.12
Off With Their Heads = Dillinger Four + Banner Pilot + The Brokedowns
Others’ misery is rarely therapeutic, but Off With Their Heads pick their angst back up with familiar, three-chord punk and gruff yet melodic vocals in Home. OWTH lend a poetic quality to those nerve-ridden, sleepless nights, and eschew any “show, don’t tell” paradigm of wordsmithing for being honest about neuroses and anxiety. I feel like when vocalist Ryan Young sings, “My only retreat is falling asleep/but I lie awake every night of the week/and think about how much worse it’s become” in “Shirts,” that’s how he actually feels, which makes Home especially relatable. Home’s song-to-song dynamics hit the spot as the high-energy, gang-vocalic “Nightlife” bleeds to ballad “Don’t Make Me Go” (which took a couple listens, but sunk in). After “Always Alone” and “Stolen Away” illustrate partner-less and childless foreboding, respectively, “Take Me Out” closes Home out solidly with hearty “whoas,” to which I can emote with fervor or insomnia. –Alexander Ortega

Pissed Jeans
Sub Pop
Street: 02.12
Pissed Jeans = Young Widows + Future of the Left + The Jesus Lizard
Honeys could very well be the soundtrack to a breakdown. That isn’t to say that Pissed Jeans’ other albums are devoid of the noisiness, the chaos and the general feeling of absurd despair conveyed within these 12 songs, but on Honeys, the band sounds like they are teetering on the edge of society/sanity/adulthood. Opener “Bathroom Laughter” evokes the gnarliest of early ‘80s hardcore—Negative Approach, Naked Raygun, even The Germs–but played by dudes who have been listening to those bands their entire lives. “Cafeteria Food” should appeal to anyone has experienced the mundane tedium of an office job and shows the band at a more restrained (and slightly more creepy) pace. “Health Plan” and “Teenage Adult” also lend to the mood of how ridiculous and shitty adult life can be. This is punk rock for people too old to be listening to or making punk rock. This is the real shit. Punch your boss, drink a beer, and pop on some headphones. –Ricky Vigil

Poppy Ackroyd
Denovali Records
Street: 01.22
Poppy Ackroyd = Philip Glass + Julianna Barwick
For the variety of sounds that are included on the album, it’s awesome to realize that Ackroyd used only the piano and violin (aside from a few field recordings) on this release. The experimental yet ultimately simplistic use of these classical instruments allows Escapement to cover a plethora of emotional realms. The visual soundscapes created are mystical in nature, and are demanding of focus. “Rain” uses sounds recorded from driving in the rain in Scotland, and just how on a rainy day, I may crave a warm cup of tea and solitude in my house, I feel that same sort of quiet peace on this track. Even the artwork on the CD cover is appropriately paired with the music, being in grayscale with a minimalistic design and geometric patterns. –Brinley Froelich

Profound Lore
Street: 02.19
Portal = Immolation + Ulcerate + Teitanblood
Australia’s Portal have been trouncing all over the ideas of death metal for a good time now—it’s what they’re known for. In effect, this album is a fucking bitch to listen to. There aren’t many records I’ve heard that physically mess me up or are just hard to make it through to the end. It’s uncomfortable on purpose––it plays with your sanity and takes the idea of how most folks listen to music to points of almost a mockery of your senses. This is the best and worst thing Por tal have done. I say worst, because the tones the band creates can be harsh, but that’s part of death metal and why people listen to it—to hear some crazy, harsh shit. The bass tones on the album alone are enough to murder someone. I don’t want to really use the term layered, but Portal always have a way of seriously creating some weird guitar/drum/vox concoctions. Honestly, I don’t feel much need to describe this album a whole lot—just listen to it and you’ll take away your own experience. It’s humbling, but at the same time, after it’s done, it’s something that you can sit in awe of. –Bryer Wharton

Primitive Man
Street: 01.31
Primitive Man = Pallbearer + Eyehategod x 10
If I had the chance to reenact the Crocodile Dundee knife scene–except with sludge metal music instead of actual weapons—with an unknowing stranger, then this album would be my equivalent of a huge-ass bowie knife. Primitive Man modestly describes themselves as just doom metal, but that’s like describing Burning Man as an arts-and-crafts festival. With the exception of two tracks on the album (which serve as discomforting, atmospheric intermissions) Scorn is full of horrifying slabs of aggressively blasting bass, incoherent vocalized growls, static-covered guitar drones and ground-shaking drum beats. Although the album is short, “Stretched Thin” and “Astral Sleep” successfully and succinctly display the band’s raw carnage without needing any padding. Bands like Primitive Man don’t measure success by how many plays they get, but by how many buckets of blood seep out of fans’ ears by the end of the record. –Gregory Gerulat

Psychic Ills
One Track Mind
Sacred Bones Records
Street Date: 02.19
Psychic Ills = White Fence + Allah-Las
This is the fourth LP from the psychedelic New York band, Psychic Ills, and it is one hell of a great trip. From the opening track, “One More Time,” the fuzzed-guitar tones and ghostly vocals from the band’s lead singer, Tres Warren, mesh beautifully together to produce a hypnotic and groovy feel. Another psychedelic jam is a tune called “Depot,” which features some haunting organ sounds throughout, along with even more fuzzy guitar melodies. But despite the name of their band, they manage to squeeze in a nice, mellow acoustic song towards the end of the record, called “City Sun.” Although they’re still floating around in the underground psych scene, this album may just be the group’s big break, as similar acts like Ty Segall have found a bigger audience recently. –Jory Carroll

Street: 02.11
PVT = (Metronomy + Talking Heads) x Hot Chip
Smooth, octave downsteps litter this modern masterpiece. Homosapien is an inexhaustible starscape. Purling keyboard elements represent pinpricks of light and bass octaves are the tenebrous black vacuum surrounding them. “Shiver” is awakening from a dream. Three-piece PVT constructed an album that murmurs a story of intergalactic love. Lo-fi, baritone, and electronic drones overlay a hissing drum and bass background. Grinding guitar undertones flow throughout. I was exceptionally pleased with the balance of airy and guttural sounds. Subtle crescendo, such as in “Evolution,” propel the album to its final number. “Ziggurat” fades away into the void. –LeAundra Jeffs

Rotten Sound
Species At War
Street: 01.22       
Rotten Sound = Nasum + Defeatist + Carcass (old)
Listening to Rotten Sound lately is like opening a bag of plain potato chips—you know exactly what it's going to be like. That's not a bad thing. The speed (not the drug) addicted Finnish grindcore crew have been blasting people's faces with sand and other harsh elements for a good while now. This EP to tide fans over until the next full-length is a whole eight minutes of music. It feels graciously and thankfully longer. The pacing changes up a bit helping things feel more varied. The buzz saw guitar sound the band is known for is loud and clear, but tempo changes go nuts—I think the drummer would have a hard time playing these eight minutes of tunes straight through. Cuts like “Salvation” and “The Solution” slow the pace into groovy territory. Oh and for the vinyl folks, the first press of this EP has an etched B-side, and some pretty sweet artwork. –Bryer Wharton

Rotting Christ
Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy
Season of Mist
Street: 03.05
Rotting Christ = Septicflesh + Moonspell + Nightfall
Without necessarily saying this is what I expected, Rotting Christ’s newest offering sounds like it is pretty much a welcome follow-up to 2010’s Aealo album. I’m far from an expert of all things Rotting Christ, other than knowing they were a band that started recordings with black metal, then morphed into gothic and just good, harsh and melodic dark metal. This album is quite a bit harsher and more possessing than the last. It starts out and holds interest well. Songs run in similar rhythmic and melodic forms, but that is the point of it all. The album feels like it’s telling a story—with a beginning, middle and end—and fully engaging the listener to the end. Vocals come hard and strong in the mix, while adventuring in a few different languages as well. Don’t ask me where the album fits into Rotting Christ’s discography. It’s a worthy listen for fans of epic-natured metal intent on a beefy and layered studio sound. –Bryer Wharton

Known Flood
Street: 02.19
Sannhet = Mogwai + Deafheaven + My Bloody Valentine
I’m not sure why Brooklyn has become the center of hipster black metal, but it’s not a good thing—and Sannhet comes dangerously close to being slapped with that label, and unceremoniously thrown under the bus for the unnecessary-glasses-and-too-tight-cutoff-jean-shorts-wearing masses to consume and declare their new favorite band. However, unlike their almost universally reviled neighbors Krallice and Liturgy, Sannhet has much more in common with the likes of heavy, dissonant instrumental music, à la Mogwai, than they do with mid-era Burzum. For their own sake, I hope that’s the direction they choose to steer the ship. That said, Known Flood is a solid release if one can mentally separate themselves from the desire to write them off as another terrible Brooklyn fad and enjoy the album for what it is: noisy, heavy and, yes, catchy. –Gavin Hoffman

The Holy Testament 2
Svart Records
Street: 02.08
Sink = Sunn O))) + Einstürzende Neubauten + NON
I first listened to The Holy Testament 2 around 1:30am. I was tired, the air outdoors was disgustingly toxic. This album began and a vortex to a netherworld opened in my kitchen floor. There's more than a slight possibility that Sink's vocalist drags people to their imagined doom in his spare time—everybody has a way to unwind. The active word here is "doom." It can't be anything else. Nothing on The Holy Testament 2 is pleasant in the very least, in sound or mood. "Necropolis" is the equivalent of a ballad in the context of Sink's discography—it will still blow out a speaker. Two songs later, "Into The Current" is bashing us all to death with a large staff made out of minotaur horn. The same fate is assigned to a blinking, 8-bit note sequence at the beginning of closing track "Dominion." I had a difficult time finishing this album in one sitting. It's painful. –T.H.

Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 01.08
Snuff = Public Image Limited + The Specials + One Man Army
Snuff has always been the band that never got the recognition they deserved, as cliché as that may sound. Starting up in ’86, Snuff were one of the first to gravitate back towards a more melodic style of punk, while keeping it aggressive, and years before third wave ska they pulled in horns to the mix and made it work. Well, it’s been a decade since their last studio release, so the much anticipated new record somehow displays this band elevating themselves from their already successful history. Right off the bat “In the Stocks” hits like something else—tons of energy, and a mix of sounds so rich it’s addicting. A big addition to the band is Lee Murphy on organ and piano, who plays a big role in how the dynamic of how this record rolls out. Snuff may have gotten passed over by some people in the past, but I doubt that’ll be the case for long. –James Orme

Images Du Futur
Secretly Canadian
Street: 03.05
Suuns = Blonde Redhead + Lotus Plaza
With intensity, Suuns are at it again with an album that fits the zeitgeist of turmoil amid younger adults. The chord progression in “2020” (or rather, a chord degression), feels like the centripetal force that you experience in carnival rides like The Gravitron, with breaks in the circular notes that seem to hold still, akin to the feeling of being completely upside down and smashed by the force of gravity. The guitars scream and the drums beat like a heavy heartbeat and everything for you. A highlight on the album for me was the title track, coming in toward the close, which is less of a melody than a filling of space with empty ambience. –Brinley Froelich

This Town Needs Guns
Sargent House
Released: 01.22
TTNG = Colour + Tubelord + Ween – annoyance
Its been over four years since the Oxford math rock band released an album, and for many bands who have changed out a lead singer—like TTNG has—there has been a long a lull between albums, which usually changes the dynamic and sound that originally earned them an audience. But four years didn’t mean shit to this trio, who essentially picked up where they left off with Animals and continued their intricate songwriting style. The great majority of this album is instrumental, showing off fantastic drumming patterns and time signatures, sweetened bass lines to guide every track, and melodic guitars that nearly become a second vocalist in their own right.  When the time calls for it, new lead singer Henry Tremain can add an emotional element that not many could capture in this same situation. It’s a fine sophomore album, and a testament to the band’s tenacity. –Gavin Sheehan

Ascending to Red Heavens
Street: 02.18
Terminate = Dismember + Morbus Chron + Entombed
There was a time when I would have said what Chicago's Terminate are doing is balls out bad ass. The old school Swedish death metal thing is definitely something to love. But the style is getting tired, worn out and a bit overdone. There are some that still meander in that gritty rusted guitar sound and make it work, but this record would be about ten times better if it wasn't recorded in the Swedish death style. Great songs and great riffs, but distracted by a guitar sound that feels unneeded. There's a good bulk of thrashy bits—kind of a mash up of Dismember and a plethora of D-beat goodness. Lead guitars here scream a lot in a good way, but the tone seems to off to be as strong as it could be. This is all subject to listeners and their tastes—I know lots of folks are loving this style to bloody pieces. All in all, death metal junkies or crust fiends might not want to look the other way on this one. –Bryer Wharton

Svart Records
Street: 01.18
Viisikko = Nuclear Assault + Cryptic Slaughter
It may come without surprise that this band hails from Scandinavia, aka the new Zion of metal (and everything else awesome) except for the fact that Viisikko is less metal and more punk than their geographical neighbors.  This Finnish band’s newest release, IIII, is the perfect fix for crossover thrash fans who’ve been hungry since the early ‘90s. The album opens up with “Mari Huonona,” which simply  illustrates the band’s unrestrained punk sensibilities. The band’s heavy bodied guitars and emphatic percussion begins to show face when you get to the next track, “Paetkaa!”. Those who are still on the fence by this point should wait until “Jumissa,” a growlingly maniacal yet incredible marriage of thrash metal and punk. We know the US is currently one-upped by the Norse on most forms of metal, but thanks to bands like Viisikko, they could probably add this genre to the list as well. – Gregory Gerulat